Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

Week 3 of Virtual Fitness Adventures

So this week was the first real challenge of my virtual fitness journey in that both work and school have returned to their full time states, so I'm pressed for both time and energy.  That being said, while I switched the order of some days, my participation was decent.   

Josh and I were having some trouble in Ireland this week, so we went to Arizona instead.  I didn't love this ride -- partially it was choppy but mostly it just got boring quickly.   It did have some nice moments though.

I've found a great online community for FitXR (the boxing game) which makes it way more fun.  I've done a couple workouts with them -- I find the breaks between exercise are longer as people chit chat and get organized, but I do more workouts than I would on my own.  Also it's more fun.

I've also added a non-virtual component of a treadmill desk, which I kinda love, that I can walk on during meetings.   This is more to break up the "sedentary hours" than improve fitness and it definitely helps with that.  Also to help with that, I've set my Fitbit to buzz every hour from 9-9 if I haven't moved so hoping that helps too.  I used to come home from work and then do stuff, but now work is at home and the only stuff to do is school -- which is sedentary.  So yeah, I'll take any help I can get.   

Last Fri vs this Fri.  Still not *good* per-say, but creeping toward better.

I've dialled back the amount of water -- still *way* more than I was drinking pre-adventure but not quite the crazy amount of last week, and I feel like this is a much better balance.  My weight is sorting itself out now too -- I dropped the extra I picked up last week and even a little more, so pleased about that.

Tomorrow I'm planning to cycle from Sea to Sky (or -- the Vancouver part of it anyways; realistically, that's a very long ride ;).  It's the first ride I've created (on Jael's recommendation and trusting Google) so we'll see how it goes.  Lol wish me luck!   The intelligent thing to do would probably have been to start with a ride I actually know *g* or even a short trip, but really, when have you known me to do things the easy way?

Is it really procrastination if I'm writing about Finance?

Honestly, the best thing about this course is
I now have a valid reason to use this image,
which I've loved from the day they first put the girl statue up :)

Lol so I had to laugh that Finance is the only course I’ve taken so far that hasn’t claimed to be the most important function of any business, when arguably it’s the only one who could truly lay that claim.  I mean, if you’re not trying to make money, why are you in business?

I don’t love finance.  I will never love finance.  But I am gaining an appreciation of how much truly brilliant financial people can gleam from financial statements.    While I will never enjoy the analysis portion of this and am dreading the assessments, I am learning a ton and definitely have a new appreciation for what can be ascertained if you know how and where to look.   The assessment for this course involves taking financial statements from two companies in the same industry and doing a bunch of analysis on them in comparison to one another.  I am *painfully* slow at this.  And struggle to get beyond the obvious; it’s going to be a challenge to get to master’s level skills in the next few weeks for sure!

On the other hand, it is making me appreciate the skills and knowledge I do have that have made such analysis in other subjects super easy.  Marketing was even fun.

HR has been sidelined in the same way that Marketing was sidelined so I could focus on Ops.  But I did start the assessment for that the other day and had a few exchanges with the prof who I’ve so far been super impressed by.   He answered a question for me on the weekend before the class had even officially started - bonus points!  Lol or maybe he was just bored.

The one fun thing this term?  A classmate has introduced me to the GoodNotes app, which combined with an Apple Pencil has revolutionized my life.  Lol.  I use it endlessly both for school and for real life.  And side bonus - have saved a small forrest in paper as a result.  Win!   I’m also impressed by how well the app can translate my scribbles to text and also by how well the scribbles that I choose not to make text can be searched.  Very cool.

Alright that was fun procrastination, but must get back to finance now.   Key learning of the day: “the major objective is to avoid insolvency”.   Lol welcome to MBA 101. I’m not even kidding - that’s a direct quote from our materials.  So now you’re caught up too.  You’re welcome.

Virtual Fitness Challenge week 1.5 ;)

 So week one results, so to speak, have been less than thrilling :(

The main dietary change I've made is drinking bucketloads of water.  

Okay, maybe not a bucket, but a *huge* amount

For she who generally drinks a 600ml bottle over two days, this beast is a challenge, and definitely does not leave me feeling all that great.  I do love the bottle though and am ridiculously motivated by the time stamps.  On the plus side, drinking that much has lead to far less snacking and far less coke consumption (the pop people!).  On the down side -- I've gained weight?!?!?   I'm assuming it's literally water weight, but that seems so unfair.

Exercise-wise -- since Jan 1, I've ridden 55km in an hour and 45 mins.  That's not super impressive for sure, so I'll try to up that next week (not the speed, the distance).  I've been doing longer boxing attempts, and oh shape with weights.  Those I think are helpful, but again, trying to build stamina to go for longer.   Also trying to obey the Fitbit and move every hour.  Not far, but at least a little.  Haven't yet gotten every hour, but I'm getting pretty good at a consistent 6h's.  

A huge improvement from day 1.

Still stationary most of the day; not sure realistically that'll change given the whole desk job thing.  But we'll see.  Focusing on the breaking up of the day since that's apparently important.   Also not really focusing on step count cause Beat Saber can falsely inflate those numbers ;)

I did film an Oh Shape workout as a demo, but having ALL the technical issues transitioning it here, so I'll try another one another day.

Okay - back to school now.

This term's adventure

Alright so we’re into the new term - Finance and Strategic HR this term.
  HR I’m kinda indifferent to.  I actually expected to like it more than I do so far but the content they’ve chosen is just *yawn*.  Finance otoh, thankfully has excellent modules but omg it’s brutal.   The last question I did required 22 calculations.  Ugh.  So far I mostly get the calculations easily enough - it's not difficult math as long as I can figure out what number is required, but it's going to take me a bit to figure out what the numbers actually mean.  The ability to be able to do an in-depth analysis based solely off the numbers is the primary objective of the course, and honestly - a super useful skill.  But it's a big learning curve for me in the next 8 weeks!

And of course, given this school's complete inability to manage administrative manners, both classes are at the same time again.  Here's hoping we can convince one of the profs to move it *sigh*

And in the meantime, Spanish continues.  I’m still frustrated by crawling progress at times, but this the other day I finished both a book and a series of listening exercises that I haven’t done in a while; they used to be hard and were reasonably easy today, so I'm deeming that progress.   This year's focus is definitely going to be on improving my listening skills.

Can virtual reality create real fitness?

That is the question for this month.  So I was reading a book about how the brain works and the number of correlations between exercise and improved memory and exercise and learning suggest that maybe exercise would be useful in my current life.  And then I looked in the mirror this week and ugh.  Well, suffice to say I decided something needed to be done.  The gyms are closed and C really doesn’t like the mat I need to do the Beachbody programs.  So instead, given that I’ve been enjoying my Quest, I’ve decided to see what kind of results you can get from VR.

And I’ll tell you - after today’s workout, I’m betting you can get decent results.

So I’ve done the pre-test measurements.  Ugh - that was eye opening in an less than ideal way.  I also dug my Fitbit out of storage.  That was even more disturbing.

11h and 38min stationary?!?  Yikes!

So my goal is to see what changes with VR directed exercise.  The tools:

  • my Oculus Quest
  • stationary bike
  • cadence sensor (lets the Quest know what the bike is doing)
  • 5lbs weights for use on the bike (this is a slight cheat to the straight vr but I like my arms to do something other than take pics on the bike)
  • weighted wrist bands for use with action games (except Fit XR because I tried that once and it didn’t end well).

Alright, so I figure target 6 days/week - 3 “real” workouts and 3 “I got off the couch” workouts.

As to what those workouts involve - subject to change but definitely cycling both around the world and the games.  I’ll also track how far I cycle this month (this is not hard - my phone tells me ;).  

The primary VR game is FitXR, which is boxing (or dance, but for me boxing) based.  I bought the “intense” level - a $10 upgrade.  And my ego took a huge hit when I did it today as it destroyed me!  I was so proud of myself the first 5 mins or so and then I died over the next 15.  Lol so on the plus side, I have high hopes it’ll contribute to results.  

Not my best effort, but so you can see some of the game

This is one of the “warmup” options - I filmed it cause it’s short lol.  And full transparency- I did this *after* the workout that destroyed me so this is definitely not a perfect round.  If you scroll part way through you’ll see some of the obstacles that cause squats and side bends.   Dawn - if you happen to watch this - I’m working on keeping my hands up lol but definitely still a failure more often than not.  It’s a very good thing I don’t punch anything that’ll punch back!

Other options include Oh Shape - sometime this month I’ll film this one.  The idea here is that a wall is coming toward you with a human-shape hole in it and you have to move your body to fit through the shape.  Also occasional balls to hit out of the way and walls to duck under or around.  Apparently this one is based on a Japanese game show.  Some of them I find are some exercise, especially if I have arm weights on.  Some not so much.  And the scoring is super random and very frustrating so I have to convince myself not to look at the score.

RacketNX and Beat Saber are *tons* of fun and involve movement.  I’m not convinced they qualify as "exercise", but they’re on the list.  I’ll try to snag a vid of each at some point.

I have a couple other games that have movement aspects to them but they’re so little they don’t even pretend to count (think mini golf ;)

So yeah - it’s one week into Jan.  We’ll see how this goes...   If anybody reading has a quest and wants to play, I’m LaurCH on there.

Stupid should hurt

Okay so as you may be aware, I'm currently working on my MBA.  And this term I decided to do a full-time student course load.  While still working full time.  But I'm a reasonably good student and ridiculously good at sticking to a schedule, so I worked out the study plan and decided I could do it.  All good.   Remember that ;-P

Now while I'm actually getting a ton out of the courses, the school's admin is a disaster.  There are SO many problems and it's super-frustrating.  One of these nightmares is acknowledgement of capabilities.  One of the courses is project management.  The curriculum listed is within my ability to teach, and all stuff I can do in my sleep.   So I applied for an exemption.  They said I'd need to submit my resume and proof of meeting the learning objectives.  Okay cool.   So I send my resume, proof of various courses I've taken, documented how I address all the learning objectives in my day job, sent some sample artefacts w made up data, AND got two sponsors, my current manager and my past manager to all write letters of recommendation specifically addressing the items listed in the "learning outcomes".   Thanks to my awesome people, they were detailed and targeted.  Should be good to go right?

Nope - I get back an email saying that what I sent "demonstrates that she is an experienced and knowledgeable project manager. However, more supporting documents are needed".   So I kept reading to find what they wanted -- well apparently I needed to "provide a list of PM techniques and concepts that you have applied in your work. Also briefly reflect on your experience and explain how utilising these concepts helped you to effectively managing projects as a program/project manager. To support your claims, please submit additional supporting documents which can clearly demonstrate your understanding of the following topics:

- Project definition

- Project scheduling and estimation

- Risk management

- Strategies for successful implementation of a project"

I'm not even kidding.   WTF?   So I have to basically write a fluff paper (which, if I wanted to write a paper, I'd just do the course), and submit artefacts, that I can't submit because they're all confidential and owned by RBC.  And in the school's own policy it says never to use work items without explicit approval.   So yeah - I was super annoyed.  They basically say they know I can do what they're supposed to be teaching, but too bad.  Oh - and on top of that 'we're updating the curriculum so you'll have to resubmit to meet the new objectives'.  I was not amused.

Except -- somebody else let me know if you have your PMP, it's an automatic exemption.  Hmmm okay.  So I verified that and got it in writing - it's a true story.  Right, so I've actively avoided doing the PMP because I really strongly feel it's a test of memorization more than competency.  BUT, it is the most recognized certification in North America (it exists elsewhere too, but other ones outrank it across the pond).  So my options are - do the MBA course, roughly twice the cost of doing the PMP, bitterly resent every minute of it, and not get anything extra out of it.  Or do the PMP, have extra letters after my name, and get out of doing the MBA course.   Right - kinda a no brainer.

Okay so I look into what it takes to do the PMP.  Need to document formal education and 3 years of PM exp, and need 35h of formal training.  Okay no problem.   PM course for MBA is in April, so have to be done PMP by then.  Say by Feb ideally to give ridiculous admin time for back and forth.

Right - except the PMP exam is being revised; the new exam starts being issued Jan 2.   And the new material to learn for the new exam?  Yeah - it's being released in March.   Awesome.  Right, so I don't want to do that.   Sooooo need to get my PMP before Dec.  It was the last week of Nov at this point.

Okay sure.  Look up exam options first of all - is it even possible?  Well COVID win - exam is now done online and very flexible scheduling.   Sweet.  Then course options, found one that runs four days from Dec 7-10.  Huh.  Okay.  So reach out to my boss, "I haven't had any training in 3 years, could I go on this course that's specifically targeted to my job and enables me to get the certification you want me to have?"  While they weren't able to fund said course, they were able to support me going during work time.  So win there too.  And they would pay for the exam if I passed.  Sweet.

Alright so scheduling...   Google says one should study for 3 months for this exam.  I'm sure five weeks will be fine.   And it probably would've been...    Except...  Well, I don't really want to stress over this over Xmas, so let's do it before.  Okay so 4-ish weeks...    So I order a couple textbooks off of Amazon (after a quick research to pick the best ones) and add to my study schedule of how to get this done in with all my course work.   Final assessments are due Dec 10, and the course starts on the 7th.  So I figured out what I'd have to do to have the textbooks read and be prepped for the course and good to go.

bwahahaha right.  Remember that whole FT student thing?  I drastically underestimated what that would take.  The term papers destroyed me.  I put SO much time and effort into getting them done, that there was about one chapter of PMP prep.   *sigh*    Less good, but such is life.  Rejig the calendar to get all my studying in and target exam Dec 21.   Are you tracking with the dates?  We've gone from 3 months to about 3 weeks...

And then the course was the absolute biggest waste of time I've ever been subjected to.   On the plus side, one of the textbooks I bought was *amazing* - like to the point that I looked up the series to see if they taught any other subjects I might want to learn (I'm moderately considering physics.  I always enjoyed physics till it required calculus *sigh*).  Sadly though most of their subjects are programming related, which I have zero interest in.   If anyone else is, look up the "Head First" series.  It's ridiculous and simplified, and -- actually worked.  So win.  The second textbook was far more traditional, but it balanced out that one and between them I was forcing knowledge into my little brain.   Every moment that wasn't otherwise booked was being used to study and do practice tests.   

And I was a little panicked at first as I wasn't scoring all that well on the practice tests.  A pass is somewhere around 65 and they say you should be doing about 80 on the tests before you do the exam.  At the start I was barely making the 65 but by the end I was pretty consistently over 80, so that helps.

So okay, finished the course, went to book the exam and...  It turns out the whole world wants to get the exam in before Jan 1.   Frig.  My only reasonable time of day option was on Thurs the 17th.  Right -- This was Tuesday and I still had 5 chapters left in both textbooks (out of 10).  Much less time for overall review.  Sure.  Why not.

Well my brain is broken.  But about 2 weeks of studying, 1310 pages (of which I read Every. Single. One. -- I've never been so glad I read quickly), several hours of online videos, 17 formulas memorized, and 1200 practice questions later...  I passed the exam.

I am *the* most relieved person right now.  Also, my brain is done.  It's a good thing work isn't super busy this week ;-P.  I won't get my term papers back till next week, but I'm hoping they'll be reasonable.  Oh and new class work is released tomorrow.  I'm going to ignore it till at least Mon lol.  I feel that's fair.

Also - those 17 formulas I memorized?   I didn't get to use a single one.  I was counting on those as gimmies.   Sheesh.   

And tomorrow I have a Spanish lesson cause I definitely haven't even pretended to study that for the last two weeks (unless working out w Spanish music playing counts?)

But this weekend, there will be no brain power used.

Sometimes you just need a sugar break


They might love me;
Or they might want my Rice Krispie Square...

So I definitely made Rice Krispie squares tonight solely cause I found a bag of marshmallows this am when I was looking for something else and have been craving them ever since.

To put in perspective, in order to acquire the Rice Krispies to made said squares, I ended up leaving class half an hour early (to be fair, it’s recorded) so I could get to the grocery store before it closes lol.

So yeah - it turns out I make really good RK Squares, so I’m pretty pleased at that.  It also turns out if you let the dogs lick the bowl, it’s the same result as when they get peanut butter stuck to the top of their mouths ;)

So today I visited Ireland and got to ride a Pegasus -- what did you do?

So today I visited Ireland.   Or, well, as much as one can travel in 2020 anyways.  Let me tell you, I'm really glad 2019 was the year I invested in VR.

My VR photography skills need some work,
but this is what I managed on my first efforts

But yeah - technology is fun.  My entry-level (non-electronic) exercise bike has cadence and speed sensors duct taped to it (I'm not even kidding) - a relatively inexpensive addition (certainly less than purchasing a fancy bike!).    Combine that with my Quest and some fun software, and I'm set :)

This was today's route
All from my basement.

So today I decided to ride in Ireland -- which I never realized was so hilly?!?!   Yeah, I'm going to be tired tomorrow.   And it was grey and theoretically drizzly at times but given I was indoors, way better than the -3 and rainy that Google tells me it was there today.

My trainer, Josh, accompanied me.  I failed to get a picture of Josh -- I've posted in one of the forums to find out what the trick is to good in-game photos cause I'm definitely missing something.  Lol most of them don't have the obnoxious menu blocking shots and can clearly get action shots, which I cannot.   So new skills to develop ;).  But yeah, Josh randomly tells me when to increase the difficulty or relax for a bit.  It's not actually in any way, shape, or form connected to the terrain, but I could definitely see that coming in another generation.

It is somewhat eerie to glance down and see the pedals spinning on your bike with no legs or feet, lol but otherwise it's v realistic.  Can even see your and/or your trainer's shadow.

The software is admittedly first-generation lol.  Lots of obvious refreshing and semi-regular glitchiness.  But still WAY more interesting than staring at a wall in my basement.   But then, far more fun, are the games.  lol the other day I was racing a car, but honestly going in circles is both boring and frustrating.  So today I flew a pegasus!  lol.  I seem to recall playing a Pegasus game where I actually got to ride it (and there's definitely a horse game that you get to ride) but this one was a weird - slightly behind/above view.   Still did get a reasonable feeling of flying though and certainly exercise time passed quickly as I was flying around collecting coins and other things...  Why?  I have no idea.  I honestly am not sure what the objective of the game is.  lol but it was good exercise that didn't feel like exercise so I'm deeming that a win.

This just in - FB forum told me the trick to taking pics without the obnoxious menu.  Win :)   So next time I'm adventuring I'll try to get some more interesting shots.

Down the rabbit hole

So I've been having way too much fun with my marketing assignment.  Lol that might be a first — and this is my *cough* fourth degree, so that’s saying something ;).  And no, it's prob not actually a first, but a rarity at least. 

So here’s the thing — it started with “create a persona” — which, let’s be honest, is just creative writing.  So I was moderately entertained doing that.  But then you need data to back up all the details of your persona.  

This is Sarah, my persona.  
Turns out Marketing papers can include pictures!

Now usually I hate finding sources.  I always write my paper first and then look for other people who’ve said roughly the same thing (let’s be honest, for better or for worse, you can find research to support pretty well any opinion you want).  And I pretty bitterly resent the fact that somebody else saying it legitimizes it, but me saying it isn’t good enough.  I am totally fine with it when they do actual work to prove it though.  lol - a lot of these are science-based research, in that case, I'm all for it. Proof for the win!   But when I was writing English papers and it was their opinion about a dead guy's writing vs mine...   Really?  Less interested.  Arguably if they already thought of it, it meant to me that my paper wasn't creative or interesting enough.  lol I had some interesting debates with my profs in uni.

Anyways -- I was somewhat confused why I was enjoying this one so much, until I realized it’s very similar to when I was writing and went down random rabbit holes to ensure the accuracy of some obscure, likely to be cut in the editing process, detail.

For instance — the first part of the persona needs to be “A day in the life”.  Cool, flash fiction 101 - no problem.  Had to keep it marginally reality based, my “semi-fictional” persona couldn’t stumble upon a magic coffee shop, or find an air-conditioned cape on a hot day, but other than making for a remarkably boring story it’s the same premise.   But then, anything that you’ve stated in the story, needs data to back it up.   AND data goes in footnotes, which means it doesn’t go against my word count, which means Win!

Lol so let’s see….  She wakes up, rolls over, and turns off her alarm on her phone.   Okay - well CRTC says 90% of Canadian’s have cell phones.  Win.  She gets up and dressed, and on her way down the stairs pounds on the doors of her daughter (age 14) and son (age 12).    Oh so much there — I had the average age a woman is when she has her first child (hint - in Canada it’s 28) and did the math to validate daughter’s age.   Average number of children.  Sleep cycles and circadian rhythms in teenagers and impact on their parents.

You get the idea.  So far my google hole searches have found such things as:

  • Sleep patterns in adolescents 
  • Most popular Canadian sports for boys
  • Top selling luxury vehicles
  • Motivations for participation in equestrian sports
  • Use of internet in higher-income households
  • Commuting within Canada’s largest cities
  • Commensal eating patterns (this was to justify my persona having lunch w a girlfriend to vent about work/family/etc)
  • Eating out - how often and why
  • “Fertility — Fewer children, older moms” - seriously, that's what the stats can article was called
  • Average number of pets in households where at least one person rides (in Ontario it’s 1.8 dogs and 2.5 cats.  I’m not even kidding - I found the stat for that.  Well, as of 2010 anyways ;)
  • Body Image Distortion in women
  • Productive laziness?!?!   This sounded like it would be awesome.  It was not.  And arguably more applicable to my ops paper than my marketing one.
  • Physical and mental impact on working mothers
  • Imposter syndrome
  • Impact of exercise on stress
  • Impact of animals on stress levels
  • Equine Assisted Therapy

Admittedly the sources I need to have in the next section of the paper are the far more traditional text-book marketing theory type references, but this section was all kinds of entertaining.   Also my max 3000 word paper is currently sitting at nearly 6000 words - but thanks to the magic of footnotes, I only really have to cut about 400 of them ;).  And, well, 10% margin, so really, 100 of them.  That's not even a challenge (to put in perspective, I cut nearly 800 words from my first draft of my ops paper).   But that game is for tomorrow Lauren to play.

Spanish spin cycle

Some days...

Had a great Spanish lesson today, but was moderately amused how I swing wildly in degrees of capability and frustration.  Lol like today were talking about significant social issues in Colombia (well everywhere really) -- crime, corruption, and poverty, and what things could be done to break said cycle.  All very good and moderately interesting if not super cheerful.   And then I remember the last time I was in CR (right before the world shut down) and couldn't remember the word for "knife" when I needed more cutlery *sigh*. lol my practical vocabulary swings wildly.

But what I desperately need is conversation and listening practice and I did get that, so deeming it a win.   Why do I need listening practice?  Well I was slightly annoyed w myself the other day when I looked up lyrics to a song I was enjoying in Spanish and realized I knew pretty well all of them, but hadn’t been able to identify any while listening.  *sigh*.  So yeah - definitely need *all* the listening practice (uh and speaking - I figure my speaking is a solid 2 levels below my reading).

On the flip side, lacking anything “real” to read, I picked up one of my learner novels that’s B2 (the level I’m theoretically in as long as I don’t need to talk ;) and was super pleased that I’m finding it quite easy to read.  Esp as I vividly recall not *that* long ago really struggling with the A2 series...  

So pluses and minuses I guess ;).  Trying to focus on the wins and drag the minuses along by sheer stubbornness ;).  Esp as my available time and brain capacity for Spanish study is drastically reduced these days due to the MBA.  Ah well, poco a poco...