Here there be dragons...

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

Cause the Spanish language isn't fast enough...

So was moderately amused the other day in my Spanish lesson when my prof opened up a youtube video and went to the speed selection -- I, naively, thought he was going to show me how to slow the native speakers down so I'd have a hope at understanding (which I acknowledge is an option I may have utilized previously ;). But no, no that was not his intent at all.  Instead, he SPEEDS THEM UP!  Wtf?!?!  Spanish is already the second fastest common language in the world, but sure, let's make it faster. lol.  I have to give him credit though - it was an interesting exercise.  He wanted me to just pick out any words I could -- apparently even one would be acceptable.  The like five I came up with was a shocker ;).  We repeated it a couple times then he slowed it down to 1.5x normal and I got a few more.  By the time we got to normal speed I had enough to figure out context.  Admittedly not an exercise that's super-useful on my own as it requires somebody who can actually understand it to identify if the words I think I hear are actually there, but still good.


I've also discovered that SO many of my DVDs and BluRays have a Spanish option :). This is particularly awesome for animated movies where the misaligned speaking (which generally drives me insane) doesn't matter at all.  So I've been playing with that and have to say I have a HUGE respect for the translators dealing w musicals.  Lol not only do they have to translate, but also in a rhythm and rhyme that works with the English songs.  Now to be fair, I have no idea how much of these I'm "understanding" because I already have the movies memorized.  I may or may not rewatch favourites on a regular basis.  But I'm getting enough to acknowledge that the meaning if not the literal translation are generally pretty close to the original.  For instance, Be Our Guest was moderately amusing in Spanish as "Guest" has 3 syllables in Spanish so credit to the translators on that one.  No closed captioning with this option though, so I’m thinking my knowledge of the story helps balance out the fact that I can’t read to cheat ;).  With stories I don’t already know, I definitely still need the text option to get anything more than the gist.  Ah well.


I also learned how much I generally just listen to movies I already know.  Was watching Anastasia in Spanish and paying much closer attention than normal; SO many details on screen that add to the story that I’d long since forgotten.   But when you don’t really understand the words, any hints help ;).  


The challenge continues…. 

Embrace your inner unicorn


Theme for the day

Long time readers of this blog, or people who actually know me in person, will know that when I get bored or frustrated with life, dramatic change is generally my thing ;).  That being said, dramatic change is a lot harder when one has to consider one's husband and is taking place the midst of a global pandemic.  So what I *really* wanted to do, like finding a job in Spain so I can learn and apply Spanish, is not actually feasible at this time.  Said husband is enrolled in school and can't just pick up and move, and well, global pandemic -- nobody can just pick up and move.  Lol and realistically, even if I could, there are few places with as low numbers as Canada atm, so I'd probably just prefer to stay here.

I *am* going to be doing my MBA, so that will likely take up most of my time, but that hasn't started yet and because I know it's going to take much of my time, I'm disinclined to find a new hobby to amuse myself.  So....  Other options...

The photo that started it all

Back about when the pandemic started I saw this (or a photo very similar) and absolutely loved it.  And my hair is super long these days, so why not...   Well, firstly, job interviews.  *sigh*. I work in just about the most traditional industry ever and I very much want to find a more challenging job (sooner than later). Which means interviews.  And while hair colour should not play a role in people's decision making...  People are human, and it just might.   So I didn't seriously consider following up on it.   And then pandemic -- everything closed and I couldn't follow up on it even if I wanted to.

But then things started to open up again and I realized A - the job market is dead, so odds of many interviews are slim.  AND, B - due to pandemic work-from-home conditions, even if I do manage to get an interview, it will be via video conference and thus I could tie my hair back and have it be very not-obvious that it was dramatically coloured.  Win.

So off I go on my quest.  Call my favourite salon and get "that's stunning, but we don't do that here."   Second choice salon, similar answer.   Insert sad Lauren here :(.  

Fail.  So I ask Kennedy, who almost always has fun coloured hair, if she has any suggestions and she did!  Win :).  And one of them was in Oakville - extra win.   Less than 10 mins from my house.   I scroll that shop's Facebook and see ALL the colours.  lol and admittedly many are not to my taste, but many are gorgeous.  Sweet.  

Contact the shop (Beloved Hair Studio) and they say yes absolutely they can do it, but it will depend on my hair and they need to see me first.  So we arrange for a free consult and in I go.  To sad news -- there's no way they can do it on my hair.  Too much red for the colour to be accurate and too fine to bleach to the degree required to get rid of all the red.  Sad. 

But, I had plan B.   lol I had screen shotted (is that a word?) the images on their site I liked best that were not just variations of red (don't get me wrong, I *loved* some of those, but the idea was change), and asked if any of those were possible.   And Yes!  Woohoo!  Most were.  The general rule seemed to be no blue -- but turquoise might be okay...  hmmmm that's fine, I like turquoise.

So price discussed (yeah birthday money from Mum and Dad! ;) and appointment booked for...  I think it was about 3 weeks out.   Book the time off work and wait.

And wait.

But life's busy so it wasn't toooooo bad a wait.  

Although getting through a particularly aggravating morning at work the day of the appointment was definitely a challenge.   But I made it.

I was told that due to covid they couldn't serve food or drinks so make sure I bring something as it would be 4-6 hours.

The shop was small but super-cute, spotless, and very bright.  We had a quick chat about what we were going to do and then headed downstairs to the basement.  Underground but somehow still very bright and cheery.

One wall of the downstairs

I was the only client due to covid restrictions so felt very spoiled :).  And a little like hanging out a girlfriend's place for the afternoon.  A girlfriend who happens to be *very* skilled with hair dye and colours ;). And whom I'd only met once before for the consult.

So decision time; we chatted about what I wanted to happen (dark purple on top, blending purple/pink the rest, and - in a perfect world, with a subtle turquoise flip that you could only really see if my was pulled forward.  This last piece I saw in one of her pics online and fell in love with).   

We had a brief discussion about how to do the top colour - to bleach or not to bleach.  Since I'm lazy about getting it dyed and mostly broke, I asked her not to bleach the top so that when it grows out it'll be less obvious -- and in her words "you won't be a slave to your colour".  lol

Good to go.  Started with the dark purple dye and then bleaching where the rest would go (and was interesting to watch the meshing of the two so she'd get a good transition).   She had an apprentice working with her so I got to learn more about the process than I otherwise would (apprentice for me was just doing washing / cleanup type work but she is getting hands on practice with other people apparently.  At one point she left to do a trim on somebody upstairs -- that was the only other client all day ).

Okay so...  Poor apprentice had to get my now very chemicaled and not conditioned hair knot free...   That was a challenge and I give her credit for her patience.  But eventually we ended up with dark purple on top, bleached on bottom.

Right - so it turns out my hair *really* wants to be red

Yeah - I was expecting the bleach to have no colour.   And even the stylist acknowledged she expected it to have a lot less than that.  But she warned me that doing it again or using a stronger remover would destroy my hair.   Ah well.

So she brings me over the colour pallet she wants to use.   I loved the purple, was meh on the pink -- I really wanted brighter, it was drifting just a little too pastel for me, and - she had a turquoise!  Win.   She assured me the pink would be bright - it was on a white paper towel so not showing quite accurately, and warned me the turquoise was a maybe.   She said it *should* work, and if it didn't, would be an easy fix, so worth a try.

Okay - well hire a pro and then trust them to do their job right?  Let's play this game.   ALL the colours went on and then we got to sit and wait while they did their thing.  Sok - I had both my phone and a kindle, the world is good.

Then time for the rinse and reveal ;).  Down side -- colour requires *cold* water only.   Brrrrrr.  Possibly the least fun rinse ever -- although credit to them, they were good about keeping it off my skull as much as possible.   

And of course while it's wet, you can't really tell the colour.   And the turquoise was hidden from my sight.  As the stylist was doing her thing, I was pretty happy with what I could see but still not sure...  There were two stations across from one another -- and at one point I was surprised that the apprentice had another client cause I hadn't seen anyone come in.  Until I realized - wait!  That's me!  lol I legitimately didn't realize the hair I'd been admiring was mine ;).  So that was my first real indication that I was really going to be happy.

Anyways - she finished up and added some curl (lol those who've ever seen me try to get my hair to hold shape will appreciate more than half was gone by the time I got home, but one lone curl lasted all night!) and I got to see the finished product.  I really had no idea I could be so excited about my hair.  lol such a silly thing, but two days later I still grin any time I catch sight of it, or it drifts in front of my eyes.   The turquoise worked, and exactly as I'd hoped -- it's super subtle and only shows if it's pulled forward, or at the bottom of my pony tail.   AND on the super plus side - should I actually manage to have a job interview any time soon, pulling it back hides all the colour and, just looks like it's black.   Win.

Before and After

I wanted a change.  I expected it would be well done and it would amuse me; I didn't expect to absolutely LOVE it.  But I do.  I very much do.

Before and After 2

Lol Chris just asked me if I was writing all about how we're a studious household these days.   Nope.  Priorities.  While I am excited to do my MBA, I've been through many many years of school - that's not new.  I've never had exciting coloured hair before ;).  

I'm not usually one for selfies, but I feel in this case it's justified ;)

Life is more interesting when you're easily impressed

So I was playing w my VR for the first time in months (looks like May was the last time I logged in) and discovered two things - my fitness level is horribly pathetic right now (yeah gym opens tomorrow!)   Anyways - yeah I was getting a workout from my games so that’s both sad and amusing at the same time.  

But what was really cool is the second thing -- they’ve updated the nav system so you don’t need controllers?!?!?!   This was SO cool.  Just point at what you want and use the usual pinch gesture to select and good to go.  No gloves, no wires, no buttons.  Really incredible.  So that was my fun thing I learned tonight.   

Both games I played still needed controllers - but both games you’d be holding something anyways (light sabers in one and a racket in the other).  I have one game there’s no logical reason to hold something but it needed a big update so I just let it go and will test it out another day.  I’m betting that’s why it needed the update ;)

First Aid during a pandemic

So as a requirement of my coaching insurance, I have to keep my first aid current.  That was a bit of a problem when it expired in March *sigh* but now that we’re in Phase 3, it’s an option again.  I did “blended” learning which means all the theory was online.  For me this was *awesome* as it took a fraction the time doing it in class would’ve ;).   Might not have been as useful for someone new to it or who doesn’t learn well through reading (there were videos too but I didn’t have the patience for that).  But for me it meant as fast as I could read and pass the tests I was done.  No listening to other people’s endless questions - which is an act of patience sometimes, let’s be honest.

Then the practical in class was only half a day.  A couple things we couldn’t do because they require a partner and it was strictly hands off due to covid, but credit to the woman instructing - she did a great job within the rules she had to follow.

The dummies have improved since I last did it - more pressure required for CPR and felt more real (well I’m sure it’s the same amount that was always required but the previous ones took a lot less to push down).  And what definitely wasn’t real but was a super learning aid was the feedback lights on the dummy’s shoulder that tracked speed and pressure.  So that was cool.

Sadly my dummy was horribly ill and required a throat and lung transplant before we could even start CPR.  Lol that made me laugh.  He was definitely not having a good day.

2 person CPR / AED was moderately entertaining as we all had to stay in our social distancing squares.  So the theory was while we each had a dummy, pretend we were working on the same one.  Some pair could *not* get that through their heads and it was a riot to watch (eg - you can’t both be doing chest compressions at the same time).  Fortunately I was paired with somebody intelligent so he and I got through it quickly w no issues.

The end exam was beyond painful as they can’t hand out booklets anymore, so the questions were put on the screen one at a time and read to us.  And then, any questions anybody missed were repeated at the end.  I don’t know how it was possible to miss them, but hey - this is the same group who couldn’t figure out how to coordinate using two dummies to simulate one.

Anyways - all in, it was a far less painful approach than it usually is and I’m free for the next 3 years :).  Win.

Cause learning Spanish wasn't hard enough ;)

So it's definitely an interesting time -- and not just cause it's 2020 ;)

If you’re following the adventure you’ll know that:
  • Chris returned to University starting in July
  • We sold our house in the middle of a pandemic
But really, that’s not nearly enough excitement to write home about ;)

So with Chris at school, we’re down to one reliable income and one flexible one.  And I have a funny feeling the economy is going to be doing some unfriendly things over the next couple years.   So instead of buying something cheaper and risk getting stuck w something we really don’t like for several years, my ever-amazing parents have very generously agreed to let us move in with them while C is in school.

This gives time to discover what the post-COVID world will look like; if I don’t have to commute anymore, it opens anywhere with viable internet as a possibility.  Logically, I know it’s the right thing to do.  Emotionally I really struggled with the idea.  But okay - it’s to lead to better things.  

And then I clued in…. If we’re living there, it’s prob the best shot I’ll ever have at being able to do my MBA.  Hmmmm. 

So back into researching mode.  The one I *really* wanted to do was the EMBA from McMaster / DeGroot.  I loved the curriculum, I liked the balance of in-class vs online, and the location is just around the corner.  BUT - it’s just shy of $100K.  Ummm no.   

I immediately eliminated any university that required a GMAT score and wouldn’t accept a MA as proof of competency at that level.  Especially for a degree that many people do years after graduation, the GMAT is a little ridiculous.  I was also really bitter that UofT wouldn’t accept a master’s from their own university instead of it.  Lol not that I could afford UofT anyways, but still.   AND, what I had liked about their program (namely that it’s either before or after work) is actually a detriment if I’m not in TO every day.  Hard no.

Shifted my focus to online.  The only one that seemed to be 100% online in Canada is Athabasca.  I’ve taken other courses from there, and talked to a bunch of MBA grads, who all spoke very positively about it.  BUT several things about their program didn’t appeal to me.  You have to do the whole thing with a single cohort — same courses in the same order.  The curriculum didn’t really appeal to me.  Lots of group work and “participation” marks.  There’s a mandatory residential component.  And - it’s still more than $50K (before the residential piece!).  Meh.

But wait — if a degree is truly online, it doesn’t have to be local.  Welcome world.   So more research.  There are a LOT of degrees online once you leave Canada.  So criteria required:
  • Credentials recognized in Canada (not doing this if I don’t get those little letters!)
  • Reasonable timeframe (I’ve seen a range from 1-5 years!)
  • Interesting and at least vaguely relevant curriculum
  • Decent local and international reputation
  • Not in its first five years
  • Price 
Well, let me tell you, that laundry list helped pare things down quickly.  The last three alone eliminated the entire US lol.

I did a lot of research and narrowed it down to Aston University (UK) and the Australian Institute of Business.  Both met all the list of requirements.   Similar timeframe (~2 years).  Aston had the plus of a very long and established reputation (with a physical school as well as online).  Their admissions person was amazing (whereas AIB’s was awful).  AIB has been around for 38 years so certainly not new as a business, but definitely new in terms of a school.  Doing some research it has an excellent reputation both in Australia and outside.  Okay.   Interestingly *both* schools were specifically targeting Canadian students and have brochures etc that target Canada specifically (it’s possible they have for lots of countries — but for AIB I got to see their “brochure library” and they had Australian, Canadian, and Global).  For AIB I was able to locate Canadian students who are also RBC’rs and connect with them (LinkedIn win!).   For Aston I could not, and they could not provide me with any current students to connect with due to privacy restrictions.  This was, at least partially, a deciding factor.  The other deciding factor is that I had slightly more interest in the AIB curriculum than the Aston one and AIB is the more affordable of the two (~$7k cheaper depending on exchange rates.  Not a huge difference given that they’re about $70k cheaper than Mac, but still more than a couple paycheques! ;)

So I messaged a few of the RBC people who are currently attending AIB and picked their brains about a wide range of topics (also - all were incredibly generous with their time and open in their responses).  The two biggest cautions were — it’s a greater time commitment than you expect, and classes will be at inconvenient hours.  Apparently they do keep Canadian students in mind, so they’re not usually in the middle of the night, but they’re not ideal timing either.   However, they are recorded.   Okay - I can deal with that.  I also reached out to a friend in Australia who kindly tagged some of her friends so I got a little more info that way as well which was super helpful.

So yeah - after all of that, I have applied and have been accepted to  AIB for my MBA.  Class starts the last week of Aug.

You know - the same week we move ;)

Studies show that people who have more birthdays live longer!

Happy birthday to me :)

Wasn’t sure how COVID bday would go, but still booked it off work - worst case I’d spend the day in my backyard w a book :)
I had never noticed this park before.  Enjoyed wandering around it.
It was stunning, and the only person in it was the gardener.

But instead, Chris and I went to Niagara Falls and did a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt :).  It was phenomenal weather and once we got over the eerieness, the lack of tourists was awesome!
The view from where we thought we were supposed to start

We had a bit of a false start with our hunt - we were decidedly in the wrong location - but once we sorted that out it was a fun way to wander around Niagara.

Where we were actually supposed to start!
We got *very* wet walking here, but it was >30 degrees, so almost pleasant
One of the stops was the sky wheel so we hopped on that for a spin lol - got an extended ride cause there was nobody there.

On the way home, stopped to pick up birthday cheesecake from the wonderful Laila (seriously - if you’re in Halton, you should try her creations!  Actual store coming soon :)

View from the Sky Wheel
Got home to find actual birthday cake and ice cream complements of my awesome parents :).  So yeah - all round excellent birthday.

I hadn't seen this view before either...  It was the last stop of the scavenger hunt.
Couldn’t do the family dinner thing with social distancing restrictions still in place; was more disappointed by that than I would’ve expected, but still a great day with my husband and tons of cake!   

And I didn’t sign into work once :)


Not a bad way to spend a summer evening...

Last night I was teaching Kennedy on Callie and they did an awesome job.  Great rhythm, jumping grown-up fences in an incredibly uphill canter and then fun playing in the field...

So it was all kinds of fun to watch and I was kinda looking forward to playing myself (I’m riding Cal once a week for now - helping with fitness and fine tuning).  Now let’s be clear - I’m not even remotely fit.  I acknowledge this in theory but in reality I struggle with it ;)

Yesterday was the first day the field was open so I headed out there today - in jump tack rather than dressage just in case Cal wanted to play.  Was pleased I didn’t have to adjust the stirrups until I realized that while K and I ride w the same dressage length, this was her XC length that I “didn’t have to adjust” - but for me it was flat-in-jump-tack length.  Lol - I would’ve had to go up 3-4 holes for XC.

But we won’t be doing that anytime soon cause omg am I ever unfit!  I made all of one round of the field in a strong canter in 2-pt and less than that in trot.  Ugh.  Methinks next wk will be fitness building for me.  Sadly it is still progress over the first ride a few weeks ago ;). That was just embarrassing.

Only had one serious discussion w Cal, and that was when I insisted that she canter up the speedbump (it can’t even be called a hill...  2-stride slope maybe?) anyways canter up this, properly connected, AND with her shoulders directly in front of her hindquarters.  OMG the epitome of unreasonable requests let me tell you.  The appropriate authorities have been informed.  Lol she stopped, let out the biggest cow-kick she could w no forward momentum whatsoever (which in the grand scheme of Callie’s capabilities is negligible), then begrudgingly continued on her way.  Was quite the traditional mare f-u.   Other than that though, not much.  She was more tired than I expected after her superstar performance last night, but fair enough.  I’m not particularly fit so just as well she didn’t need a long ride ;). And definitely had enough of the MONSTER bugs by the end - to be fair, she wasn’t exaggerating and I was done with them too!   She was at least sensible enough to realize I was helping her when using the dressage whip to flick them away from her ears and face ;).  That could’ve ended poorly but Cal’s sense of self-preservation is usually pretty good; her person made sure she had real life experience as a youngster which definitely helped form a grownup horse with a brain.

So yeah - short ride, but fun.  I was pretty horrified by my lack of fitness (previous rides have all been in dr tack - also highlighted some fitness issues, but nowhere near as dramatically).  I also learned I cannot be trusted in any field w XC jumps ;).  Just too tempting, even if they’re so tiny they’re buried in hay *g*.  It’s just been far too long...

Working from... a random bench outside Service Ontario?

So I ventured to TO last week, primarily to get my work laptop - which was successful.  However, in order to set it up to connect to the network remotely, I need to be connected to the network.  Hmmmm - anybody else see a problem with this situation? 

So now I’m sitting on a bench outside the local RBC - I could’ve theoretically gone in but A) the weather’s nice, B) I’d prob need a mask, C) there was a long line I didn’t see the need to wait in, nor was I inclined to cut in front of all those people, and D) why would I?  There’s literally zero advantage to going inside.  

Plus side - my computer connected right away.  Down side, it went “oh my god you haven’t done updates in months!” And then promptly shut back down.  It’s on its third reboot as I type this.

So my strategically located bench is next door to a Service Ontario.  I’ve been watching the whole time as the Service Ontario lady greets people.  It appears her *entire* job is to tell them they have to come back at 8:45 the next morning to get a ticket that will tell them what time their appointment is and that all of today’s appointments are already taken (it’s about 10:30 as I’m writing this).  People are being amazingly respectful of this, even by Canadian standards, but I can’t help but feel this process could be automated.  Have the process clearly outlined on the website (ideally w the ability to get a ticket there)...   A sign on the door for people who don’t check the website.  And person could be serving actual people to get more through... Alternately, she could have tickets for tomorrow so at least these people could secure a time for the next day.  But no.  

Okay so just went through the entire process documented on the website to set up my computer.  Completely unnecessary as I had all that info (RSA token etc already on my phone).  HUGE pita and no instructions on how to use said access - which was the whole point.  Fail.  I basically did some random poking around, located an old VPN sign on and that seems to work?  Lol okay - really wish they’d just skipped right to that step.  So now going away from the RBC network (this bench was really not meant to be sat on for hours at a time) and see if it works for real....

Update - home and connected!  Win!  That whole kerfuffle (I definitely had to look up how to spell that!) could’ve been shortened to a 5 min activity.  Sadly the RBC network access prob was needed so the bench would still have been involved, but my day would’ve been much more productive overall.   Ah well - a good day to darken my tan :)

On the move again...

Those of you who’ve been around the blog for a few years or who actually know me in real life, may be familiar with the concept that I rarely do things in half measures.  So when you combine that with 2020…. Well let the games begin :)

All that’s about to come transpired because neither Chris nor I were happy in our current jobs.  For me to progress my career much farther, it’s looking like an MBA would be a really good idea.  And Chris didn’t want to progress his career so much as change it entirely.

Thinking through the options for Chris, he landed on teacher’s college.  He was really enjoying teaching at Sheridan, however there was no opportunity there for FT or consistent hours.   So while I am - if not happy, at least not miserable in my current role, Chris hates his with a passion.  MBA might help further my career but it’s not an immediate catalyst for dramatic change.  Whereas a teaching degree/certificate/? (I’m not entirely sure what he graduates with since it’s not a BEd - but the power to teach at HS level tech) definitely makes and instant and complete career change for Chris.  It is also imminently more affordable than an MBA.  He wins.  

So we do some research, it looks like there is a demand for tech teachers, so we apply and are not surprised when C is accepted (he was way overqualified AND had already been teaching at Sheridan).   Woohoo!  Win.  His school started first week of July — all online due to COVID, but at least in progress.

Okay but that means that C is now working part-time hours because he’s in school full time.  And, well, in reality I can’t carry the mortgage on my salary alone.  So we can either slide into debt (which we had accepted — essentially the cost of a mid-range car by the time all is said and done) or we sell the house.   I love the house and will be sad to see it go, but C really does not.  And we’d both like to live in a more rural environment.  So okay.  List house.  In a pandemic.  That’s fun.

We actually listed the day before the world shut down.  And, obviously, got nowhere.  So after a week or two we pulled the listing — there was just no point.  When things started to ease up a little, we listed again.  

Had to of course sign all the COVID forms “haven’t been out of the country” etc etc.  And, anybody who comes to see the house also has to sign on.  No open houses, only showings.  Everybody has to wear masks.  They can’t touch anything so make sure all doors are open (you’re supposed to anyways but more extreme now).  Etc etc.   And of course, I was working at home during all this so every showing the dogs and I had to get out.

Then we got an offer that had a home inspection condition.  Okay.  We’re cleaning up the basement so the home inspector can get where we need to and…. Finds minor evidence of a leak.  Frig.  One that’s out of range of C’s tools to fix (ie - need to chip up concrete).   Classic.  So okay, their person isn’t coming till Tuesday, get somebody non Monday to fix.   Done.

Home inspection goes well, except he finds *another* leak.  Wtf?!?!  One that has never leaked the whole time we’ve been there.   Call plumber back — he looks at it and is not touching it.  Not a good sign.  All signs point to very costly and horrifying repairs.   Our realtor finds a different plumber who will come out.  He takes a look, makes a minor tweak, problem solved. ?!?!?  Yeah I still don’t quite believe it, but I’m pretty thrilled.  We’ve had a paper towel under it since then and not a single drop has passed soooo…. Win :)

And with that, the house is sold.  Now we just have to pack up and move by the end of Aug.  No problem.

Road trip?

So as you may know, I've recently readopted stabbing things as a hobby.  I'm finding it remarkably therapeutic :).   And a couple weeks ago I got linked into a FB group doing a "stitch along" that releases weekly.   It's not cross-stitch, and I wasn't sure if it was something I'd love or hate...  But I was toying with the idea of joining in -- only 27 weeks late ;). And then I saw one done in a colour scheme that I *loved*.   Hmmm suddenly want to join.

Well of course Michael's doesn't carry this brand of thread.  Amazon does, but it's got an insanely long wait time.  Oh well, order it and continue my search.   Lots of places in the States have it.  But apparently only one in Canada.  Down side -- it's in London.  Plus side -- it's in London.   Lol as in London is about 1.5h drive from here -- so it sucks for a $5 purchase but is way better than Vancouver would be!   They do have online ordering, but shipping was going to be 3x the cost of the product and weeks to deliver.

So I check to see if I can cancel my Amazon order.  Nope - shipped.   Still weeks out, but shipped.  And then I looked closer -- I had selected the wrong weight.  Not a thing with thread I'm used to, but this is a company that mostly sells to a different market -- including crochet. Yeah - my "thread", if or when it arrives, is going to be closer to the size of wool.   Fail.   Fortunately Amazon has an excellent return policy ;)

Wake up this morning and was just kinda thinking through what I wanted to do today; Chris was already at work, so I decide I'm going to London to get the thread I want.  Why not?  lol.  Look on their website -- you have to book an appointment?!?!   Thanks COVID.  And the only remaining times are 10:45 or 4:00.   Well 4:00 sucks.  10:45....  hmmm mad googling to see if I can make it by then (it was about 8:45 by this point).   Yes, if I leave in the next 15 mins.  lol np.   Text Mum to see if she wants to road trip to a craft store on zero notice (as in, we have to leave now) and she's in -- and even offered to drive!

So yes -- all of this to say I drove 3h today to pick up thread.  I am both highly amused and horribly saddened by this realization.

Worth the drive to London

A ghost city

So it’s 9:30 am on a Monday and I’m in downtown Toronto for the first time since March.  I’m here because we were assigned one day which we could come get anything we left at the office before shut down, since it will likely be a long while before we’re back.  And, well, I left my computer.  lol while Citrix is awesome for occasional usage it’s really not holding up to full time work.

So okay - the first challenge was how to get here.  Trains are only running once an hour and I was really not sure I wanted to attempt public transit so I checked the traffic before leaving...  35 minutes?!?!  That’s like middle of the night drive time.  Driving it is...

Now I hate driving in the downtown core so fully planned to park at one end and walk (it is 30 deg and sunny out :).  The hwy moved the whole way to the exit ramp.  Seriously - free range speed until the Gardner and then about 80 till my exit.  Exit for Spadina was packed and it was stop and go from there to Front st.  But Front was clear?!?!  Of cars AND pedestrians - it was really eerie.   Had half a garage floor to myself...   Walking the rest of the way to work I passed maybe 4 people?!?   To put in perspective, on a normal day at this time there would be hundreds.  Even right outside Union was deserted.   

There would usually be bumper to bumper cars and
a couple hundred people in this photo

Indoors masks are required, outside seemed to be about 50/50 usage, and the “hanging around the neck for when I go inside” style was being rocked by a good portion of the population (myself included).  To be fair - there were so few people out, social distancing was easy.  I saw more people walking the dogs this am.

I did learn the new life skill of how to tie the mask so it sits snugly when on but hangs loosely when dropped down.  Win.  

In the office again - just deserted.  Where I’m used to hundreds of people and having to fight to get anywhere was an easy stroll.   The elevators had signs for 4 people max - which does not enforce social distancing at all, but was irrelevant as I was the only one there.
Prime time on a Monday and not a soul to be seen

I had a brief moment of concern that my badge wouldn’t work - both cause it’s day one of the “you can go get your stuff” trial AND because my badge had broken and I still had a temp.   No idea if they’d expire!  It seems not...

I did hear one horn honk - so some city people are clearly still out an about ;).  But mostly it’s eerily deserted.

And now for my return commute...

Lol edited to add - return commute was harder than expected - doors to parking lot were locked so I had to find a different entrance...

Still no problem - I had foreseen this and taken a pic of my area - E1.  Great right?  Except I went to the second entrance I know and it was also locked.  Asked random stranger and got directed to a third entrance that worked!  Woohoo!  Except I walked all around E1 with no car :(.  Finally decided to go ask parking attendant (thankfully still there!) and told him I parked next to the stairs and where the stairs let me out; he told me it was actually an attached garage (ironically I’d wandered into the RBC parking?!?) - I had to go down to E3, cross a barrier, and then I’d be at my E1...  Lol so down 2 flights of stairs to get to level 1.  Not sure how that worked but his directions were perfect and my car was right where it should be.

Virtual Cycling Adventures

So last year I got myself a VR headset, which I generally really enjoy.  Well it turns out this is a good year for one ;).  Especially as the gym is closed and it's *snowing* out.  Ugh.

Yesterday I connected with VZfit -- which is VR cycling that can work with any stationary bike that has one of several sensors (conveniently the one I have is one of the viable options).   Win!  They have two options:  Explorer, which essentially lets you ride anywhere in the world that has google street view, and Play, which is games - some racing, some shooting, some both.  From what I can tell.

So step one -- getting everything set up.   Email company and they send me the relevant link.  Click on it, connect to my Quest and...  It worked?!?!   Lol I really had doubts but sure enough both games were in my menu.  Download and good to go.

Tried Explorer first.  It gave me a registration code which I needed to put in their website (a bit of a pain since the code is in VR and website on computer but okay) -- however, it worked and away I went.  It has you start peddling so it can identify your sensor and focus on a certain point so it can "centre" your bike (eg - have the handlebars look like your handlebars).

Then it was just a matter of picking where I wanted to ride; there are a series of recommended rides, so I started with one of those -- Sedona, Arizona.  So...  Pluses and minuses.   BIG plus -- in 15 minutes I was puffing away and sweating.  So it definitely is giving me a good workout.   Less good -- the graphics are definitely first generation VR.   While it's stunning to look around, close graphics (eg road signs) look like they're lying flat down, and the graphics refresh about every two seconds and everything pixelates while that happens.   Less fun, but I've high hopes for as the tech evolves.

You can choose to have a trainer -- my workout increased exponentially when I did that.  Trainer can do interval, HIIT, or ...  something else -- Heart I think.    I tend to hate HIIT with a passion, so I was going with Interval, and quite enjoyed it.  Basically pedal to keep up with him/her.  You can set the level of difficulty which changes how fast you have to pedal to keep up.  Of course you can also change the tension, which in my completely non-tech bike, has no impact on the game whatsoever (to be fair, I don't think it has that capability for anything yet, but I suspect it will come).   You steer by leaning -- the first time I nearly fell off the bike.  Lol -- my VR bike reacted more strongly than I'd expected and since it really does trick the mind into thinking you're really riding, my body reacted accordingly.   lol less effective when you're not actually tipping over!   Once I got the hang of it though, I kinda love it.

I learned to be careful if I sit up (and let go of the handles) because when I lean back down my bike handles are not *exactly* in the same position as the VR bike handles.  If I reach for those, I will miss.    It's also slightly creepy to look down and see the shadow of your bike peddling away with no shadow of rider and no feet in the pedals ;)

I also tried a trip in Italy that I'm enjoying WAY more.  So will take a while before I get to try all the ones I want to.  In the Arizona one, I was disproportionately disappointed when I cycled past a DQ and couldn't stop for a treat!  lol - Italy is safer ;).  At least the area I'm cycling in has nothing I recognize.

So let's see, what else...  You can see how far is left in the ride, but no way to see how far you've gone.  Sad.  Apparently that's in the backlog.  Can switch several views and first-third person.  Trainers are optional and available both male/female.  Apparently there's music, but I haven't found that yet (nor do I really want to).  Some stats available on the website which will be nice long term.

Customer service so far has been amazing.  Both via email and on their FB page.  Super impressed with the FB correspondence.

Down side -- I can't make the game work.   Apparently a known bug with my combo of tech -- which, plus side, the fix is being released sometime today.  So will hopefully be able to update tomorrow :).  Where I may go back to Italy, or I may ride a unicorn...   Time will tell ;)

#FridayFlash 74: A moonlit stroll

There was a time, once upon time, a long time ago, when I lived in a world of stories.  When I couldn’t sleep amazing things would play out in my head – dragons, and magic, and myth; stories to escape reality and make me wonder where they came from.  Or sometimes the simplest, most average of stories, that would resonate with people because, let’s be honest, most of life is average.

But over time the painful monotony of 9-5 killed the world of dreams I once loved so much.  My creativity all but vanished, and I’d sit in front of a blank screen with 26 letters to choose from and no rules to follow, and yet, nothing.

But some nights, like this night, I wake up out of a deep sleep and feel just a flicker of what once was.   As though I can almost hear the waves of a magical island crashing, and see the moonlight reflect off the fairy’s wings.

Tonight is one of those nights.   It’s been an awfully long time, and I’ll prob regret it when the alarm goes off for work in the am, but maybe, just maybe, there’s a story here…


She didn’t know why she awoke, so suddenly and completely.  She’d only been asleep a couple hours, but she knew she was up for a while now.   Stumbling in the dark, she grabbed some clothes and left the room so as not to wake her partner.  The old house was quiet – not even the furnace was running, so every creak of the floor was magnified.  The highway, almost never heard in the distance, sounded as though it were right next door.

She dressed quickly, and her curious dog – always up for an adventure – sleepily came to investigate.  “Want to go for a walk?” she whispered, instantly animating the dog who started spinning in circles.  She smiled and ushered her out the door before the excited scrambling would wake her sleeping partner.  

It was eerily light outside – the harvest moon far brighter than the widely spaced streetlights.  It was a safe neighbourhood – she wasn’t overly concerned about being out alone, even so late.

She and the dog made their way along their habitual route, as one does, the dog eagerly leading the way.  Something seemed, not quite right – it took her a moment to figure out that all the noise had stopped.   That which had been so loud in her house, was silent outdoors.  She couldn’t hear her footsteps as they scrunched the gravel, nor her dog panting with excitement.    She shook her head once to clear her ears, but it did nothing.  Up ahead, she saw a woman walking toward her.  Odd, given it was the middle of the night and she never even saw people on this road during the day.  The moonlight framed the woman in such a way she appeared to glow.

She felt a shiver go down her spin, and shortened the dog’s leash, pulling her closer.  “Hello,” she said as she passed the woman.  The woman tilted her head and looked at her as though studying her, before continuing on her way without saying anything.

Weird she thought, and turned toward home, suddenly far less interested in being out alone at night.  But when she turned the corner, it wasn’t the houses she walked past every day in front of her.  Instead of her nice suburban neighbourhood, all she could see were farms.   Sound returned, but instead of the mildly aggravating growl of the highway, she heard the quiet occasional scurry of a small nocturnal critter.

She spun around, but the corner she had just turned was gone.  Her dog was sniffing eagerly, pulling on the leash, clearly enjoying this new landscape, but she felt her heartrate accelerate as panic quickly set in.  What the…. This made no sense.  It wasn’t possible.  And yet, it had happened.

She continued walking toward. Where her home should be, having no idea what she’d find.   She felt a huge relief when she got to her street to see her house was still there; it was the only one around, but it was there.  It was, however, not quite right…. There were no cars in the driveway for one thing.  Even if for some odd reason her partner had gone out, her car should still be there.   And the For Sale sign that waved wistfully in the darkness when she’d left, was missing.

She was not terribly surprised when she tried the door, to find it locked.  But she had noticed that not far from where her garage used to be there was now a barn, so she led the dog that way, figuring they could stay there for the night and figure out what was going on in daylight.

“When did you get here?”   She was awoken by a pre-adolescent boy wearing clothes she’d only ever seen in the movies.  “Mom!  We’ve got another one,” he shouted.

“Another one what?” she asked, hearing the mother’s faint reply from the house.   

He just shook his head, “Mom will tell you,” and went deeper into the barn.

“Oh dear, you must’ve had a rough night.  When are you from?”

“Uh, what?” The boy’s mother stood before her, a heavyset woman with an easy smile who smelled slightly of fresh bread.

“What year is it?” the woman asked, as though that were the most natural question upon finding someone sleeping in her barn.

“Uh 2020?” hating that it came out as a question, but suddenly doubting the truth she knew.

“And this is your house?” she asked.

“Well, yes….?  Although we don’t have a barn…” 

“Okay, well it’s 1852 now child, why don’t you come have breakfast and we’ll talk.”

She followed, flabbergasted, into the house she knew so well and yet not at all.  Everything seemed to suit what little she knew of the time period.   The woman gestured to sit down and put a plate of biscuits in front of her.

“You crossed the ley lines under the harvest moon and greeted the traveler,” she said as though that made perfect sense.

“Uh, I took my dog for a walk in the moonlight?” 

“That’s okay child, it happens more often than you’d think.  Fortunately, we know how to send you home.”

The relief she felt was instant and overwhelming, but followed almost immediately by intense curiosity.

“Wait, you mean this has happened before?”

“Oh yes, at least a couple times a year we get visitors.  The first few were a shock – a couple of them stayed and it took a while to figure out how to send the others home.  All of them live in this house in their time, and all of them walked under the harvest moon and met a woman who said nothing to them.   You’re here for a week, but on our next moon, we can send you home.”

“Are you sure?  I mean, if people leave, how do you know they get home?”

“We don’t for sure, but we had one visitor that wasn’t surprised to be here, which makes us think it works.   There’s a diary – I’ll show you where it’s hidden, that we ask all the travellers to write in.  One person had found it while renovating the house – apparently inside it, are references made by people who returned home.  That’s the best I can do.   But if you don’t want to risk it, we can help you find a life here.”

She spent the week as their guest in a house she considered her own, in the most fascinating history lesson ever.  The family asked many questions about her time, interested more in daily life than in world events, and they shared what little they knew of the magic surrounding their farm.  They’d had visitors from farther in the future than her, but didn’t have any details to share.

When the week was up, she followed their directions, holding tightly to her dog, and woke to her alarm buzzing in her ear.  Rolling over she grabbed her phone, which confirmed it was really the next morning. 

She laughed at herself for the intensity of her dream, and then realized she was dressed.  Eyes wide she got up and went up to the attic.  In a hidden cabinet, she’d never known about before, she found an old leather journal.

With shaking hands and complete disbelief, she sat down on the dusty floor and started to read.

People are happier when they're apart?

So interesting side effect to social distancing and lock down -- people seem to be friendlier?   Lol out walking the dogs -- people wave from the porch or front yard every few houses.   That's just not a thing usually, with the sole exception of the occasional other dog walker.  Couples walking together, families with kids, everybody always smiling and waving safely from the other side of the road ;)

I've also been impressed that the last few days, everybody I passed was observing social distancing rules; lots of people stopping to chat with each other (a safe distance away), or situations where someone is on the front porch chatting with someone in the driveway (a couple cases with both in lawn chairs - settled in for a long chat).

I pulled Sasha and Tucker up into somebody's driveway to allow a woman pushing a stroller with *three* children in it to pass on the sidewalk and she was so appreciative.  Uh of the two of us, I think it's significantly easier for me to get out of the way.  Sheesh.

Sasha's loving this but Tucker's exhausted.  lol he's super-excited to go for walks, but has about a 20 minute time limit.   Sasha, otoh, would rather play all day.   When we go for walks she knows all the decision points along the route that decide whether we're going home or continuing the walk and she consistently tries super hard to herd me in the "keep going" direction ;)

I've also learned that the walks we go on are a lot longer than I think they are ;).  Lol now that I'm working from home, I'll often take her before work or at lunch -- but then I have to be back for a specific time.  Turns out that I mentally estimate about half the time it actually takes for a walk (eg - I expect the route to be 15 mins, takes half an hour).   Oops.

I'm still working full time (and grateful for it!) so I don't have the tons of free time lots of people do.  A shame on the one hand, cause my list of things I'd love to get done is fairly long, but good otoh because - employed.   LOVING working from home, although mildly amused that I'm actually working longer hours than when I was in the office -- mostly trying to keep my team functional, engaged, and pointed the same direction when they have little to no experience working from home.

I never realized before that running a remote meeting is an actual skillset.  lol until these last few weeks when I've painfully sat through meeting after meeting with people who lack that skillset.  Also the things I've been coaching people on that I never thought I'd have to say ("mute" is your friend! and if you share your full screen instead of just one app, make completely sure your IMs are blocked ;).  Lol ah well, mildly entertaining.

I don't feel stressed, but I suspect I subconsciously am...   Little things let me know -- I've had all kinds of sleep, but still had a coma-level nap this afternoon for several hours.   In my free time I can't focus enough to read or study, which are my usual go-tos, instead am baking or cross-stitching (which I've randomly become addicted to?!?!).   Read an interesting article about why people stress-bake or craft (which apparently I'm doing both of) -- having to do with the emotional high of creating something, without the need for actual creative skills ;).  Works for me.  Only thing with the baking is, it's followed by the eating.  Oops!

Current WIP - who knew eh?

It's the little things

So it's definitely a stressful time for all.

I had a whole paragraph here outlining the stresses impacting my life personally, but, well, you don't need to know.  So deleted and summarized in 3 words:  $, people, work.


Now, the positives.  Despite what the deleted paragraphs would suggest, I am working *really* hard to stay focused on the positives and keep my mental health in check. (hence deleted ;)

So - I now get to work 100% from home.  I *love* working from home.  I get more sleep; I'm a more functional human; I save money; I have a lot more patience and productivity for work.   All wins.

When I'm stressed on a call,
I just have to look over and see this and my blood pressure drops :)
I'm exercising every day and Sasha is often getting two walks a day now that I don't have to commute and I'm home at lunch time.   Tucker often snuggles next to me while I'm working -- a constant hug :)

Sasha also is a lot easier to live with when she's getting all the walks :).  And, better yet, sometimes Chris comes too :). And I never feel guilty leaving Sasha alone to go to work cause, well, she comes with me.

I've found a fitness program that I admittedly don't love, but it's only 30 mins a day and is getting results, so win.

I'm being very careful what I view on social media and how much news I consume.  I try to share primarily positive and light items for those who need a break from the constant negativity (lots of critters!).  It's the little I can contribute from my place on the couch ;)

The weather's decent and I can step outside at lunch or on breaks, and when I'm done work I'm home immediately and can go soak up sunshine before it goes away (hence the multiple Sasha walks :)

Almost everybody is having similar financial challenges.  *Hopefully* this will be short term and we will all get through it.  But if not, we'll be going through it together.  Government measures are getting closer and closer to helpful, so maybe...   5-year rule:  5 years from now, will this matter?   Hopefully not.

But most importantly, at this point, everybody I love is still healthy.   Here's hoping by following the isolation rules, all will remain that way.

For the win :)

So I did a thing :).  This is the second time I've won the CHOW (challenge of the week) -- note, as the name might imply, there is one every week.  Twice is good, but certainly far from superstardom ;)

What amuses me is that it's in the same round as last time.  Which is *not* a round that involves punching anything *sigh*.  It would seem I'm reasonably good at lifting weights quickly ;).  This time around 1 rep included -- squat, bicep curl, press -- all holding dumbbells.  As many as possible in 3 minutes.

The CHOW moves from round to round each week and the different rounds have different challenges -- but 6 of them involve punching things.   I'll be very happy the day I get one for punching something lol.  I think I'm currently in second for this week -- but it completely toasted me so no chance of a redo being of any use.  I did it on Monday and today is the first day I haven't felt it.

Wrecked my hand punching something this week though.  Scrunched it from the side.  Less fun. Although tbh, I'm somewhat surprised I haven't done it before now...