What and how to learn on a commute?
November 7, 2012 6:33 AM   Subscribe

What is a good skill to learn on a commute? 90-120 mins each day, subway/bus, mostly sitting without a table. Kindle/IPod/iPad available. Preferably looking for NON-language suggestions.

I have a reverse commute, which means ~80% of my time can be spent sitting down, but only on a subway/bus so no table and no ability to write; likely relatively crowded so no room to spread out, or talk significantly/gesture to myself.

For my commute, I've been reading lots of novels on my kindle, I've read newspapers and websites - I also have access to an iPad and iPod.

However, I'll likely have this commute for the next 5 years-ish so would like to make a PLAN to improve myself somehow and learn a SKILL or a FIELD rather than just reading random books.

What kind of thing should I learn?

What audio or text/graphic learning PROGRAM/SYSTEM could be useful APART from learning languages. Are there types of learning that function better in small bites? Are there interactive things available that are not just passive that would work in a crowded environmnt like a subway/bus?

If languages are a must, make suggestions for good programs that will work under the above. If you can think of a good language (that is not german, spanish or chinese) for a Scientist to learn in the 21st century, that would be great !

If people have suggestions on how to keep focus, especially in the morning or at night when sometimes you're tired and want to veg out with an easy novel, then that would be good too....

I realize this is a broad question, but am keen on links to other learning-on-the-go success stories, forums/bulletin boards, weird suggestions.....
posted by lalochezia to Education (15 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
How about a game like chess or go? You can play online with others or against the computer, study openings etc. Or something like Trachtenberg Speed Math?
posted by ianso at 6:38 AM on November 7, 2012

Magic. You can practice a lot of the sleight of hand stuff with ease. A table is useful if you are doing card tricks, but it is not necessary for magic in general.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:39 AM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Have you heard of Coursera.org? Free online classes taught by college profs. Loads of subjects to choose from. I'd check it out and see if any of the classes strikes your fancy.
posted by saffronwoman at 6:42 AM on November 7, 2012

Online college classes (there are a bunch of them out there - many free) would probably be the way to go.

And not exacty 'audio or text/graphic learning PROGRAM/SYSTEM,' but I think the ideal commute learning experience is knitting! Or crochet, if you prefer.
posted by Dojie at 6:47 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I came to suggest slight of hand magic. Coin tricks in particular are what I would focus on.

Also, agree with above with crocheting. I have spent many an hour listening to music/audio books while crocheting. I usually made hats, since they're simple, but you could do all kinds of things. maybe just keep making a bunch of granny squares and eventually turn them in to a blanket. Regardless of what you make, you can then keep, gift, or donate your crocheted creations.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:00 AM on November 7, 2012

You could learn how to program - very useful for a scientist if you don't already know how already. I'm starting out, and Codecademy has been a fun and informative tool.
posted by fermezporte at 7:25 AM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

Learn Morse Code, unsurprisingly there's an app for that.
posted by zinon at 7:27 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

how about digital sculpting? the video game market just keeps getting bigger and 3d printers are really starting to take off...i just got sculptris, which is free, fun, and really easy to use (though i am still getting the hang of it, i was able to get started in minutes)
requires a mac or pc...is there a laptop or netbook you could bring?...
posted by sexyrobot at 7:58 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Can you download TV shows you might miss otherwise? I watch People's Court while I trot on the treadmill, but perhaps something more enlightening would be up your alley.

Movies are another entertainment option.


I play shitloads of Scrabble on my iPhone. Hours of endless fun.

Sales/People skills. Neural Linguistic Programming, that kind of stuff.

I'd learn a language just for the hell of it, because knowing a bunch of languages would be my super-power of choice. Don't learn Mandarin because you need it for work, learn it so you know what to order off of the good part of the menu at Golden Pagoda. Actually, Korean might be a cool language to know, or Japanese (I took it in collage, I can order sushi and say, "What is your home telephone number?")

Pick something esoteric, but interesting to you and become an expert in it. Husbunny is kind of a dude in the world of Women's Basketball.

Learn how to program in Ruby Rails or Java or some language that suits you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:10 AM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about a music appreciation course on CD?
posted by mareli at 8:55 AM on November 7, 2012

For languages, RosettaStone is great.

I second online courses.

Other ideas:

- Audio books
- Drawing applications to learn to draw
posted by Dansaman at 9:44 AM on November 7, 2012

Mindfulness meditation. I can't think of a better investment of time and energy. And it would leave you with plenty of time (and much better focus) to pursue some of these other neat ideas too, and would allow you to refresh yourself when you're tired.
posted by Corvid at 10:27 AM on November 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

I challenge myself to read books that require lots of undivided attention, the type of book you 'should' read, but if you try at home you get too distracted. I read the Bible, one BOOK at a time, not chapter but Book. ALso the Quer'an, The Odyssey and Ilyad, other olde English type books, and Shakespeare. It's amazing how often all this world knowledge comes in handy...in real life and in conversation. It's changed my outlook on life...really.
posted by msleann at 8:27 PM on November 7, 2012

Philosophy. Art History. Graphic Design. Sign Language.
posted by vecchio at 8:50 PM on November 7, 2012


The two simplest ones from my experience;

Language; I would suggest the Michel Thomas courses, they're very rudimentary, but also very short (8 hours in total) and actually teach you a LOT of structure. It completely kickstarted my Dutch, after the beginner's and advanced courses, it was only vocabulary acquisition, smooooottthhllyyy

Drawing, if you're inclined. Drawing people, their faces, their poses, everyday for 90 minutes will make you an excellent draftsman in a month, guaranteed!
posted by ahtlast93 at 2:45 PM on November 8, 2012

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