I have 240 hours to kill
July 12, 2010 7:44 AM   Subscribe

I have a 40 hour/week desk job that requires nothing from me. What's something epic I can do this summer?

So, unfortunately I waited half the summer to ask this, so I only have about six weeks left. But still, that's 240 hours of time.

I have a job that requires me to sit at a desk all day. Beyond that, other than the occasional phone to answer, I can basically do whatever I want. I have a computer and internet access. And if possible, I want to do something epic.

Examples I have in mind are things like 5000 piece puzzles, stop-motion animation videos, Rube Goldberg machines, etc. Something that's not necessarily technically demanding or complex but that requires such vast amounts of time to construct that it overwhelm the senses with its sheer scope.

Unfortunately, as I said, I'm behind a desk, which severely limits my possibilities. I'm willing to spend some money, but I don't want a huge budget.

posted by resiny to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Make your own personal (smaller-scale, obviously) Terracotta Army out of papier-mache.
posted by sallybrown at 7:52 AM on July 12, 2010

Not technically demanding or complex, but requires vast amounts of time to construct and overwhelms the senses with its sheer scope?

Hmm...how about a diorama? You could even build a pretty awesome one using just paper, scissors, and glue. That wouldn't be too technically demanding, you just take it step by step and buy pre-designed with instructions.

Or even just a scale model. Say you ended up with something like this on your desk at the end of the summer. That would be pretty awe-inspiring :-)
posted by circular at 8:00 AM on July 12, 2010

Fold 1000 origami cranes. Crochet an awesome pixelated blanket of a sprite or screen shot of your favorite video game. Do a one-a-day blog of something slightly ridiculous - anything done long enough becomes epic. Short reviews of what you eat for lunch, or books, or letters to your office supplies.
posted by lriG rorriM at 8:05 AM on July 12, 2010

Do you have a word processor? Write 2,000 words a day. By the end of the summer, you'll have written a novel.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:09 AM on July 12, 2010 [7 favorites]

Learn things that will wow people for years to come. For example, in 240 hours behind a desk you could:

Develop an unparalleled command of world geography.

Memorize some or all of Shakespeare's sonnets.

Learn Morse Code.

Learn American Sign Language.

Memorize the list of all 44 U.S. presidents.

The possibilities are endless.....
posted by googly at 8:13 AM on July 12, 2010 [10 favorites]

Go to the library and get a book! Try to read some of those classics. Sure, you could fold 1000 cranes for some reason or do a one-a-day blog of this boring existence you've etched out... But if you could read just a few of those classic novels that shaped our culture, you'll be a better person for it. Best of all, you'll go home at the end of the day feeling you've accomplished something. If you can't be bothered to read, download an audio-book.
posted by mateuslee at 8:18 AM on July 12, 2010 [5 favorites]

Build an entire city out of toothpicks.
posted by millipede at 8:31 AM on July 12, 2010

stop-motion animation videos

Could you download Blender and learn how to 3D animate and model things?
posted by edbles at 8:34 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Draw a really, really complicated maze. Design a really, really complicated level for some video game.
posted by callmejay at 8:51 AM on July 12, 2010

Where I live, there is an organization that offers help to the local elderly population through volunteers. One of the volunteer tasks involves being a letter writer and talking on the phone with some of their clients. Pretty sure there is a lot you could to to help even if you're stranded behind a desk- as long as you have access to a phone. Perhaps there is something similar in your city?

Also you could make an epic flip-book by the end of summer.
posted by palacewalls at 8:53 AM on July 12, 2010

Learn alternative writing methods. Change the way you interact with language, for instance Shorthand or the IPA, or how to type 120 wpm by learning the Dvorak keyboard and then amaze people with your abilities for the rest of your life.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 8:57 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Teach yourself how to draw and then make whatever you want.
posted by The Whelk at 9:03 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

(er that website, now looking, has some buy-our-package deals crap around it. The book ,and the workbook, to another extent, should be all you need. Pick up some second hand copies of Jack Hamm's Drawing The Head And Figure after you finish Drawing On The Right Side...)
posted by The Whelk at 9:06 AM on July 12, 2010

get rosetta stone or something similar and teach yourself a language. do lots of vocab flashcards. 5 years from now would you rather have gotten paid to make a rube goldberg machine or to teach yourself mandarin chinese?
posted by nathancaswell at 9:34 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

You could volunteer for Project Gutenberg at Distributed Proofreaders.

You could go virtual touristing: look up a place on Wikipedia, Flickr, Youtube and more.

You could learn stuff at Khan Academy or at Youtube/edu.

Or my most honest suggestion, be proactive and look for something productive to do that is related to your job. Impress the boss, get a raise or promotion, and build your career.
posted by msittig at 9:40 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Or my most honest suggestion, be proactive and look for something productive to do that is related to your job. Impress the boss, get a raise or promotion, and build your career.

To clarify, I'm a rising college senior. This is temporary summer employment on campus.
posted by resiny at 9:42 AM on July 12, 2010

Temporary summer employment or not, you could do - things.

Automate the file system.

Redesign the intake forms.

Help the people you work for become more proficient in the internet, social media, etc.

Redesign the office's web page/site.

At the end of the summer, you will then have a blurb on your resume that reads, "Temporary office Staff, University office of Foo. Hired as temporary help, assumed responsibility for projects X, Y and Z which improved the efficiency of the office/allowed us to serve more students/added to student life on campus."

or you can build a rube goldberg machine.

Given the current job market, I'd opt for the former.
posted by micawber at 9:59 AM on July 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

I was in a similar situation years ago. It was a weird situation. I was a temp, working as the liaison from the temp agency that had the main contract at that institution. People would call me looking for a temp, I'd take their requirements down and relay it to the agency. I couldn't help out in the office where I was situated because I didn't work for that institution and since I wasn't situated at the company for whom I worked, I couldn't do extra work there either. So I understand that there are some work situations where you really don't have a lot to do, and can't take on anything else.

I managed to read all of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. I think that I was there a little over 3 months though, but as others have suggested, there are other classics, most not quite so long that you could plow your way through in 6 weeks. I can't really see building something or doing a puzzle on your desk. It's one thing not to have enough work to keep you busy, it's another thing to advertise it quite so blatantly. If you want to do something more "active" than reading, perhaps learning some computer skills or studying a language.
posted by kaybdc at 10:23 AM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

First, as a rising college senior, you might be looking for things like references and letters of recommendation. So finding just one constructive thing to do that helps others will help you. And it would probably only take a day or two.

Other than that, learn something. There are a ton of free online lectures. Lifehacker has a list of free classes. And TED talks are 5-25 minutes of interesting things you've never heard of.

Seriously, it takes about two weeks of reading or listening two the top 5 books/people in a subject to know more than 80% of the population.
posted by jander03 at 11:32 AM on July 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

Why don't you try to learn some foreign language or brush up on whatever one you studied back in high school? That can probably fill up as much time as you'd like, and there are all sorts of resources available online (although in most cases it's useful to get at least one textbook for the beginner levels).
posted by that girl at 4:56 PM on July 12, 2010

If you are allowed to install software on the computer, and you don't already know, learn how to program computers. It is very fun and rewarding if you're inclined towards mental puzzles, and a useful job skill. Get Python or Ruby running on your machine and start with an online tutorial such as Learn to Program by Chris Pine.
posted by scose at 7:25 PM on July 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

If I had a bunch of free time at my job I would devote this summer to getting my cat famous on the internet, but that is just me.
posted by Juicy Avenger at 12:02 AM on July 13, 2010 [4 favorites]

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