The Saturday Miscellany: How to achieve (fast); dirty money; Simon Singh's bookshelf


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How to: Achieve (fast)

By Oscar Quine

Ah, the year ahead. So much to do; so little time. Fear not, Josh Kaufman, author of 'The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything... Fast!', shares the secrets of swiftly tackling those dastardly resolutions...

1. "Set your 'target performance level' – a concrete goal. What exactly do you want to do? Why? How skilled do you need to be? The biggest barrier to getting started is often deciding what to achieve."

2. "Most of the things we think of as skills ('cooking' or 'playing the piano') are actually bundles of smaller sub-skills. Breaking it into manageable parts makes practice easier and less intimidating."

3. "Make time for 20 hours of practice. Include an hour of research, identifying the most used sub-skills, which you should practise first. Eliminate distractions, then practise by the clock. Practise the skill in context, as you're planning to use it in daily life."

Rotating column: Penny thoughts

By Simon Read

Plastic money's on the way, bringing cleaner notes by 2016. But when it comes to dirty money, surely it's time to do something about coppers?

Have a look at your small change. It'll be old and tarnished, with some unusual-looking growth embedded in the grooves. If we did away with coppers, shops would cut prices as the smallest change they had would be 5p. So no more £19.99, hello £19.95.

But scrapping coppers would be catastrophic. There would be no more penny-up, that enduring game of chucking coins at a nearby wall with the nearest taking all.

Even worse, it would hit magicians. The sleight-of-hand involved in making a penny disappear takes years of practice. Think of those hard-working entertainers and fight to keep the coppers.

Micro books extract: Getting older

"'Keep young and beautiful, if you want to be loved', we sang mockingly when young; we do not sing it any more. It is certainly challenging for an older woman to know how to talk about and deal with desire."

Taken from ‘Out of Time – The Pleasures and the Perils of Aging’ by Lynne Segal (£16.99, Verso)

Instant ethics

By Ellen E Jones

Dear Ellen

Q. My evil mother-in-law has created a family photo collage including pictures of everyone except me. How should I retaliate?

A. The best tactic for dealing with passive aggression is active pleasantry. Apologise profusely for failing to provide a picture of yourself, then make her a gift of a framed one and invite yourself round to hang it.


Four play: Fleming name origins*

1. James Bond (ornithologist)

2. Ernst Blofeld (Eton school chum)

3. Felix leiter (combo of two us friends)

4. M (MI5's Maxwell knight)

*Real James Bond born this day, 1900