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5 Skills for Old-School Retro Geeks

by Kevin Bellah

Do you pride yourself on the fact that you can recite the times tables aloud from memory, or know how to say the alphabet backwards? Some people who function perfectly well in the modern, digital world like to have a few oddball skills just for the sake of having them. Other strange forms of adeptness serve useful purposes, like being able to survive in the wilderness when you’re lost, or being able to quickly get away from wild animals. In any case, what are often referred to as retro skills can come in pretty handy, if not for saving your life, then for amazing friends at a party. Here are five uncommon talents that you can pick up and store away for a rainy, or dull day.

Navigating By the Stars

Okay, you won’t find yourself needing to use celestial navigation very often, but it’s a fun, and easy thing to learn. All you need to know is how to locate the position of the north star from where you live, and you can do that on any astronomy site. Then, once you can identify the north star, you’ll always know how to calibrate true north from your home location, whether on a road trip or while camping. Mariners in the Middle Ages used this technique to get from place to place, and combined with a sextant device were usually quite accurate in their estimations.

Driving a Stick-Shift Car

This is one of the more useful retro talents. And, when the time comes that your car conks out and your friend offers theirs, you won’t need to panic when you realize that it’s a stick. In fact, you can learn to drive a manual stick shift vehicle in just a few minutes by reviewing a simple online guide that explains the process. Plus, if you travel globally, you’ll find plenty of car rental agencies in African and Asian nations that only offer manual transmission cars.

Baking Bread

Combining salt, flour, water, and yeast to bake homemade bread is a simple thing to learn, but it does take a bit of trial-and-error practice. Expect to make at least three or four underwhelming loaves before you hit on the right technique of kneading, panning, and baking for just the right amount of time. Be careful, because once you get good at bread baking, it’s easy to get hooked. Many amateur bakers end up with refrigerators full of uneaten loaves, so remember to only prepare as much as you need for your family or yourself.

Rotating Your Car’s Tires

Most mechanics do this chore for free if you’re having other work done, but it’s handy to know how to use a single jack, along with a lot of elbow grease, to rotate your car’s tires. The term rotating means (for a front-wheel drive vehicle) moving the front tires directly back, and then placing the passenger-rear to driver-front, and driver-rear to passenger front. Rotation, when done every six months, can make car tires last much longer than usual.

Times Tables Through 20

Even if you’re not adept at math, use a chart to learn the times tables from zero to 20. The secret to this surprisingly useful skill is spending about 15 minutes a day for two weeks until the numbers are permanently burned into your long-term memory.

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