Summer is coming, and for many that means breaks, vacations, and general lulls in our lives (well, those of us without kids, and full-time jobs). Even if you don’t have a ton of free time this summer, I think there’s just something about the season that speaks to casual learning. The weather’s great, the trees are in bloom, and I don’t know—maybe it has to do with lingering memories from childhood, but I always feel like summer is the best time to learn, you know, Emerson and Thoreau style.
So here’s five geeky things you can do this summer to add to your geek repertoire. Let’s think outside the motherboard on this one. Low-tech, but high-geek. Yes, sir. It can be done!
Memorize a poem. Wait! No, don’t go away. Don’t skip to the next one. While many people have a knee jerk reaction to hating poetry, you really ought to give it a second chance. I was like you once. I hated poetry. More pointedly, I hated Emily Dickinson’s poetry (with apologies to my high school English teachers). But then I found poetry that I liked, not that I was told I should like. The thing is, memorizing anything is good for your brain, and you’d be surprised how much gorgeous poetry there is out there which is far from antiquated, downright sexy as hell, and more like rock lyrics than the kind of poetry you were subjected to at an early age. Try Allen Ginsburg’s Howl or Sunflower Sutra if you want something that will blow your mind, but personally I think there is nothing as awesomely geeky as being able to recite Chaucer’s introduction to the General Prologue in Middle English! Breaking out of your usual brain routine is good for long-term memory, and definitely feels like an accomplishment.
Go to a Drive-In. There are two ways to go about this. In their heyday, drive-ins were the movie experience, far before IMAX was even part of our lexicon. And while many of us are used to seeing the abandoned versions, there are still many in operation today, often for far cheaper than you get at a regular theater. Sure, there are bugs to consider during your viewing. Sure, it’s not exactly weather-proof (though, you would have a car to retreat to). But, in my opinion, the drive-in experience is not to be missed if you can help it. I was lucky enough to grow up within driving distance of a really cool drive-in that served awesome food and showed great films. If you can’t find one that’s in operation, you can always visit one of the ruined ones—it’s really like a scene straight out of Fallout. Either way you get a good dose of history and entertainment, all outside. If you want to find a drive-in nearby, check out Drive-ins.com.
Learn to identify mushrooms (or any other growing thing of your preference). I say mushrooms because I do think they are the geekiest of the forest floor. They’re weird looking, they’re shrouded in myth and history, some of them glow, and some are nourishing while others might kill you (or give you one heck of an experience). There’s something really impressive about meeting someone who can take a hike and come back with enough mushrooms for dinner. We’ve become so far removed from nature these days that I’d say 90% of us couldn’t identify a poisonous mushroom to save our lives. Seriously, as geeks this should be an imperative. If we ever do suffer a zombie apocalypse, don’t you want to be the one chowing down on roast forest mushrooms over the fire rather than retching in the corner? Yeah, thought so.
Chart the stars. Sure, maybe we can’t venture boldly where no man has gone before… yet. But we sure can learn about the constellations. There are hundreds of books and charts to teach the standard sky chart, but you know what? There’s a lot more than the standard constellations we’ve come to know, commonly known as the “Western” sky. All around the globe various cultures have named and charted the stars. What’s cooler than being able to tell someone special what a particular constellation is called in China, the Artic, and in Egypt? And once you’ve covered the globe, why not start to learn the constellations in fictional universes? When I was a kid I tried to rearrange my fake glow at night stars on my ceiling to reflect the celestial heavens in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia books…
Map it out! Having recently moved to a new neighborhood in a new city, I’ve been a little map obsessed. For some reason I love knowing what the streets used to look like and how they’ve changed over the years. Many libraries have digitized their collections of old maps, and in many cases you can even purchase old map copies which make really rad decorations. Plus, GoogleMaps is absolutely sweet with things like street view. If you’re visiting a new city this summer, you can always walk the routes you want to go before even getting there. That way you’re prepared and you might not even need GPS.