Here there be dragons...

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

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...

Why you should never look through a writer's search history

So I drafted this post way back in 2013, when I was still writing regularly -- it was an ongoing list I figured I'd post someday...   I guess I didn't really expect at that time to stop writing.   And then by the time I realized I had, it was out of date.

This brought back fun memories

But I saw this floating around online the other day and it reminded me of this draft post.   And when I looked at it, it made me realize it was all from one story.  So from way back when, things I had googled recently:

How to hire a hitman
How much does a hit cost
How do snakes kill
What happens when you have multiple snakes together
How big is a burmese python - how long, how heavy
Can you suffocate a snake
How long does acute stress disorder last
What is the slang term for a gay man who's never had sex with a man
How much does it cost to rent an exotic car
What insurance is involved
What kind of cars can you rent
What guns are most often used in russian roulette
What is involved in basic training
Correct way to stand at attention
Interrogation techniques
Psychology of interrogation 
How fast does the average person run
Public storage lockers  (did you know you can't store a corpse?)
Training schedule for 10 k run
Fitness goals for men
Staff fighting (I never thought it could be made boring:  101:   Advanced:
All about guns
Female assassins in comic books (I was amazed how many there were!)
Parapsychology, telepathy
Mind control drugs
What does a gunshot wound feel like?
TOR (aka how to hire a hitman and other various criminal activities online)   Creepy. 
  •  -- scary scary scary!

Lol yeah - the lists would be amazingly different but equally random for some of the other stories - esp magic realism.

Next Stop: the Olympics ;-P

So RBC is a primary sponsor of Run for the Kids, which is a family-friendly event that takes place every year in several major cities around the world.  A walk/run of 2.5, 5, or - I think - 10km.  The primary purpose is to raise money and awareness for kids’ mental health, but in reality there are *many* charities you can pick from to support, all of which have something to do w children, but not all of which have a mental health focus.

So there is a *huge* push at work to be involved every year and every year my contribution is at most monetary - like visit the bake sale level.   Why?  Well...  A) I hate fundraising w a passion.   I did it all in for R2CC but never doing it again would be ideal.  B) My hatred of fundraising is met only by my hatred of commuting, so the odds that I’m getting up early on a wknd day to commute are not favourable.   C) It’s very actively billed as family friendly and generally I avoid situations that involve multiple small people.  D) It’s in the fall and weather could be *very* hit or miss.

So all in, this is very much not my thing.   But this year...   This year it’s 2020.  Which means A) the focus was on participation not fundraising.   I managed to raise about $100 (thanks to my contributors!!!) with my single FB post about it.   B) I don’t currently have to commute so I wouldn’t mind going downtown so much, but *even better* the race was virtual - just do the distance anywhere you want.  Sweet.  C) Social distancing means no children in my world.  And D) Somehow it was a stunningly gorgeous fall day.

So Mum, Bailey, Sasha, and I did just over 5km together, enjoying the weather, and the world was good.

But then!

A few days later I get an email at work...   They’d done a random draw of participants for 3 prizes - and I won one!!!!   Woohoo!!!  Lol I’m not known for my luck w winning anything, so I was disproportionately happy about that.  My prize was admittedly a little random -  a training session w an Olympic athlete.

Sure - why not?  Lol I’ll take any opportunity to improve fitness, although not sure how helpful one session would be but cool.

So I’m put in touch w Olympic sprinter Gavin Smellie, who says we can do the session online or in person - depending how far away (remember RBC is international - the winner could be living in China) and comfort level with COVID concerns.  So it turns out he’s about half an hour away and deemed that an okay drive so came in person.

Which means that today I had a 1-1 training session w an Olympic athlete.   And I suppose years of riding with Olympians on a fairly regular basis has taken any real sheen off of that for me, except of course “that doesn’t count” lol.  I have no idea why, but somehow it’s different when I’m in a gym (even if said gym is in my basement) than on a horse.   Maybe because I’m more confident in my ability to execute the exercises on horseback?  Idk.

Anyways yeah - he came and was super positive.  I think slightly surprised by the setup we have going, but happy enough to modify his plan to use.   He had a whole thing planned out and then used weights etc to help modify difficulty.

Very enthusiastic, very positive.  I was working hard enough to be sweaty (tbh that doesn’t take much) and short of breath (sadly also doesn’t take much these days!) but at no point felt like I was dying.   Nor was I watching the clock.  My abs are sore now though so I suspect I’ll feel them tomorrow ;)

After we were done he gave me some examples of specific exercises to do to strengthen certain areas, which is super helpful, and some hints on how to reach my pull up goals.

So yeah - overall was a great workout and surprisingly enjoyable.  And now I have someone to cheer for in the next Olympics (assuming they get to happen).

FridayFlash #75 – The Letter

"So, have you read it yet?"

Janine looked down, flipping the opened envelope slowly in her hands.  She shook her head.

"Why not?"

She looked up and met my eyes briefly, before flicking away.  "I don't know," she said, her voice hardly more than a whisper, "what if...  what if there's something horrible?"

"There could be," I acknowledged, "but what if there's something amazing?"

She started at the letter, the letter we all get on our 18th birthdays.  I'd get mine next week.  The letter from our future selves.  Written on paper -- for some of us the only actual paper we'd ever own -- every adult got one opportunity, just one, to write a letter to their 18-year-old self.

For some it was an opportunity to change their lives, to undo past mistakes.  For others it was a reassurance that things would turn out okay, or share lessons they wished they'd learned earlier in life.   And there were some who never got the chance.  They either didn't have a letter in waiting when they died, or they'd actively chosen not to send one.  Their younger selves would receive the same envelope, but inside it would simply read "your future is unwritten."   

I was curious both what I'd read and what I'd someday write; theoretically those two were the same, but everyone knew someone who knew someone who said the letter they wrote differed wildly from the one they'd received.  Urban legend or actual fact?  Did it happen, or did we just need to believe it could happen?  I knew I would read mine as soon as it arrived, but there were some who didn't want to know.  It was easier, always easier, not to know how things would end.  And Janine was one who wasn't sure if she'd risk knowing something she'd rather not.

"Do you want me to read it?"  It was taboo to ask someone to read your letter, to put the weight on them of knowing what you might not want to know.  But I could volunteer.  

The envelope shook slightly as she handed it to me.  I pulled out the letter -- it was yellowed, the author had lived many years and likely refolded it many times, and short - she hadn't had much to say.   The paper threatened to tear as I unfolded it; I read quickly and then exhaled the breath I hadn't realized I'd been holding.  

"It's okay," I handed the envelope back with a smile, "nothing to worry about."

Janie's shoulders dropped, and her eyes softened as she took the paper back.  "I'll read it at home," she said as she folded it up to fit in her purse.  She got up and left without so much as a goodbye, walking quickly in the direction of her home.

The following week was both the fastest and the shortest I could ever recall.  And then it was my turn to stand there, Janine at my side, with my envelope.  Despite what I'd always claimed, I still hesitated.  I shook my head to clear my thoughts then tore the top of the envelop pulling out what was inside.

One sheet.  Only one.  It wasn't new at least, but it wasn't wildly aged either.  The paper was folded in three, but not many times over -- it looked like it was one of the rare ones that had been written once, folded, and sent.  

I glanced up at Janine, suddenly glad she was there.  She nodded once, slowly.

I flipped it over and read.  My brow crinkled as I looked up at Janine.

"What does it say?" she asked, head tilted slightly.  I handed her the paper.  She read just as quickly and looked up at me.  "I don't get it."

"I know."

I looked over at the paper she still held.  The most important thing my future self could think of to tell me.

Never Visit:

- The Louvre at Christmas

- The Hopewell Rocks under a full moon

- Hadrian's Wall at Hallowe'en

- Urulu in the rain

- Kilimanjaro in the sun

Today, on my 18th birthday, I'd never been more than two hours from my home town.  Travel seemed a lot of work and effort for no real benefit -- I'd seen all those places in VR.  There was no need to go in person.  There was no reason to imagine I would ever even consider going to one of those places, much less all of them.  So why such a note?  Why warn me against such places.

I pulled out my phone and did some quick searching.  The Louvre wasn't even open at Christmas?  And Urulu, Ayer's Rock, was in a desert.  So the odds of me ever being there, and getting rained on, were pretty slim.   Hadrian's wall was a crumbling relic; there's zero reason I'd ever be there, and Hallowe'en was a child's holiday.  What did that matter?

I shrugged at Janine as I folded the paper and stuck it in my pocket.  "Well, if that's the only advice my future self can give, I guess things will be okay?  I mean, it's not like any of that would ever happen."

"But," Janine hesitated.

"But what?"

"Well, you must've had a reason for writing that...  Which means, somehow, you must've ended up there, at some point.  So maybe just..."

"Just what?" 

"Just keep it in mind.  Someday, if it seems you might be in one of those places, just...  remember.   There must've been a reason."

"Yeah okay."

I tried to put it out of my mind.  Why would I have ever written such a thing?  What would possibly happen if one of those circumstances was to occur?  I was taking a gap year next year.  My parents were pushing me to travel but I’d been planning to work on my music.   But maybe...   Maybe I should go to some of those places at times that were not aligned with the list.  Just to see what the big deal was.   Scotland -- I could go there first, in September, and be long gone by Hallowe'en.  Surely there'd be no risk to that.  And once I'd seen it, there'd never be any reason to go back.  Crisis adverted.

And as I booked the tickets, I wondered, briefly, if future me had any idea the impact that letter might have?

Right.  Well it turns out my future self knew 18-year-old me better than I ever imagined.   For what was the number one way to make me do something?  Tell me not to, under any circumstances, do it.  That letter got me out of my town, showed me the world, and opened my mind to imagination and wonder.  I would never know if future me originally wrote that letter as a reflection of the most important parts of my life, or merely in hopes of making important things happen, but as I sat down to write the letter that would change my life, I'm forever grateful I did.


So potential longer work would be to explore exactly what happens in each of those places with the narrator to impact their life so profoundly, but under the rules of flash, I had to wrap it up quickly ;)

Based off the following writing prompt:

My first course taught me that Leadership is fluff; they may be right ;-P

So my first course was Leadership, and I've conflicting feelings about it.  As it's officially complete, I can now post this ;). The course itself was good - interesting and current collection of sources, good facilitated discussion, multiple perspectives of different issues, touched on cultural diversity and how the role of the leader (and followers) change depending on where you are in the world, etc.  As it's an area I'm very interested in, I really enjoyed all of this.

What I really did *not* enjoy was the writing.  I can see the question marks in your eyes from here ;).  As some of you may know, I *love* to write.  And by the end of my academic career, I was picking courses somewhat based those that have you write papers rather than exams.  So my first paper I wrote a reasonably strong academic paper, and, because the requirements were somewhat ambiguous, threw in a paragraph of what I deemed to be "fluff".   I got an atrocious grade and the comment was basically the fluff was excellent and the rest all academic.  Uh - yeah, it's a masters program.  *sigh*.  But no, it was clear they wanted fluff.

So at this point, I'd already finished my second paper, but with that feedback went back and rewrote it all to be fluff.   One of the hardest things I've done in recent times was to turn in this paper, that I considered crap -- especially knowing that I'd also written a good one.  But I was reasonably certain they wanted fluff - and, well, I can write for my audience.

Sure enough, that paper did much better, albeit still not the grades I'm used to getting.   So then paper three.  Bring on the fluff.  There was *nothing* redeemable in that paper.  Honestly, I'd be embarrassed to share it.  It was a combination of fluff and fiction.  And it did well enough to significantly improve my final grade.  *sigh*

I do recognize and acknowledge that what they're trying to ensure we can apply the academics - which, fair enough.  But the approach was the opposite of useful for me and just turned into an act of frustration.  Although admittedly very real-life business scenario.  I can't imagine there are too many of us who haven't had to write, say, or do something we know is wrong to stroke the ego of someone who didn't read the leadership textbook ;)

So yeah, while I liked the learnings of the course, I was very frustrated with the assessment process.  I would've learned and internalized a lot more by writing about the academics rather than how it applies to my little world.  I'm taking this program to expand my world, not be stuck in it.

That being said, now I'm into Marketing and Operations.  Which both claim to be the most critical process to any business ;).  Onward and upward.

Eventing adventures

While I was not thrilled at setting my alarm clock for this am, in reality, I had so much fun at Eventing Kindergarten today :).   Chilly but sunny and perfect weather.  Today was schooling w the show tomorrow and they were grouping schooling by coach, which was super convenient.

Horses were wired when I got there so we took it easy - just as well as stad was running a little late.  Warmup went well then down to show jumping.  Course was beautiful and there were awesome volunteers there to help adjust fences for the level.  K went first at entry height and they were absolute pro stars!   Then we adjusted to tadpole and E and Jake jumped around.  Double clear rounds - even the skinny :)

Also - can I just say how much fun tadpole is?!?!   Lol what a great idea for rusty riders or new riders or riders who’ve never been outside of a ring.  SO inviting and “trip over it tiny” lol.  Essentially XC will be a trot hack with a few things to step over - except the things are beautifully decorated so they feel like a designed course, not just scraps from the bigger jumps. (Seriously how many PE courses have you seen that are log, log, tires, log, log, log...) but this was even lower than PE and had a wide variety including a ditch and water.  Amazing.

Also loved that the ditch had a skeleton in it - not that my riders would know that since they would *never* look down.   You believe that right?  Lol

So yeah from stad we went straight to XC and other than a little bit of map confusion (based mostly on the map being left at the barn) we figured it out.  Kennedy and Callie were *on* today.  Like the PT course would’ve been a legitimate option.  And while Jake was doing tadpole, there was also some pre-entry and he did both the entry bank ditch like a pro star!!!   

Both horses adopted this mentality today :). It was awesome!

Let’s just hope they have some energy left to do it all over tomorrow ;)

I miss eventing.  What I wouldn't give for a sainted horse to just bomb around the PT course ;).  Doesn't even need to be big or exciting, just PT...  Lol times like this I miss Athena.  Ah well - I'll just have to live vicariously through others for now.

Also - did I mention how jealous I am that the show tomorrow is only stadium and xc?  I expect there will be a lot of ties for first with no dressage to decide things ;)

Leveling up

My first MBA course is complete -- but the final grades aren't up yet, so I'll save my summary of that until after that point ;)

So I've decided to double up on courses this term -- making me a full time student with a full time job.   Good thing we're going into hibernation season and thanks to COVID I've got an extra 10+h/week that I don't have to commute ;)

First up is Marketing, which so far I'm really enjoying.  Their definition of Marketing is arguably questionable, but it actually makes the topic far more interesting as it leads into business strategy as opposed to marketing strategy that I was expecting.  To me, business strategy would incl things like “these are our values”, “this is our product”, and “we’re going to expand globally”; then the maketing strategy would be built to support the business strategy with “this is our approach”, “these are our key messages” etc.   This course is claiming the entire thing falls under the realm of marketing lol.   And while I don’t agree at all, the business strategy side of things fascinates me, so I’m far happier learning more about that - under whatever title you want to call it - than about marketing-specific strategies.  So yeah, I’m actually loving that course atm.  One actual marketing thing I am enjoying is it's giving me increased insight and understanding into the campaigns we're subjected to all the time.  

Operations I'm not as into admittedly.  I don't know if it's really this simple or if I'm missing the point -- will find out soon enough I guess ;). It's a prerequisite to the Project Management course which I expect to be exempted from based on career experience, so I'm not AS concerned about this one.  Essentially seems to be about efficiency gains.  Which I'm reasonably good at to begin with, and certainly it's a helpful skill to have, so happy to learn more.   Although I'm slightly concerned that the first assessment is an oral presentation that still somehow needs to reference at least six external sources?  lol that will be an interesting deviation from reality.  Am definitely amused that they too position themselves as the critical component of the business around which all decisions should be made; unsurprisingly they don't do nearly as good a job of selling it as the marketing people.  But yeah - could you hear my eyes roll?   Ah well.

So yeah - I'm currently a full time student with a full time job, but really - what else is there to do this term anyways?   Trying to get in as many courses as I can before we have to return to the office :).  Which means clearly there will be a ton of blog posts as, well, it's a fine means of productive procrastination.  I can even do it sitting in front of my textbook ;-P

To zen or not to zen...

Random update on my zenness...   Or lack thereof.  It *really* doesn't exist during the day.  It takes everything I have to convince myself to meditate during the day and I'm super not enjoying it.  However, meditating right before sleep -- this has been awesome.  I still don't like it, but it absolutely makes a difference.  I fall asleep faster and stay there longer.  I don't do it every night, but I notice a significant difference on the nights that I do.  As with the daytime ones, some resonate more than others and some are more effective than others, but in general, I'm finding it helps significantly to quiet my mind and give me a pause before my mind has all night to spin.

Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time

So I set up a space in the basement that I can play my Quest.  To date, all the spaces I've been playing in have been restricted (there's paint on the controller from being walloped into a door at one point) and so I mostly restrict my games to ones where I'm unlikely to move my feet to lessen the instances of dramatic crashing.   But now, there's enough space in the basement to really play.  AND my workout mat is also conveniently a good size to play, so I know if I step off the mat, I'm out of bounds.  Yes, the game tells you that as well, but usually not early enough to avoid damage ;-P

With my new found freedom I turned on 360 mode in Beat Saber and it was So Much More Fun!  Lol a whole other dimension ;).  It was toned down slightly in that I generally plan on expert and the songs I was playing were only available on hard.  But it adds enough of a twist that the lower level is still highly entertaining.

Also played some Racket Nx, which I haven't played in ages due to lack of safe space (this would be the game that resulted in paint on the controller -- okay in an empty room, less okay in any room with a TV or computer ;) -- it actually has a warning to make sure all loved ones are out of range lol.  So that was fun except that I'm really bad at it so it gets frustrating after a little while.  Highly entertaining just for the VR experience though.

In non VR games, I'm playing my first game since the end of the Kings Quest franchise.  Chris has got me hooked on Zelda -- I am so completely addicted and, since it's on a Switch, I love that I don't have to take over the TV to play, instead I can play while something else is on in the background or while Chris is playing other games.

That one made me laugh cause I was wandering around and there were horses in the field.  There was no way I was going to hunt the horses, so I snuck up on them to see if I could pat one -- and when I got close, "mount" was an option.  Woohoo!  I did that, and promptly got bucked off.  When I stopped laughing I tried it again, to similar results.  Eventually I managed to stay on one, and now I have a new pony ;).  In the same game, you need to "cook" and more than once I've made "dubious food" which is arguably even more accurate than me getting bucked off the horse I randomly climbed on in a field.

So yes - I'm highly entertained by these, mostly cause after working full time and going to school full time and still teaching and at least occasionally going to the gym, I have zero brain power left and games are good for that.  The VR ones could even pretend to be exercise.  Multitasking win ;)

My new addiction

When I signed up for boxing, this is not at all what I expected.

 Today's question:  who is "the glue that hold the organization together"?

  • according to my leadership course, leadership fulfills this role
  • in my marketing course, marketing fulfills this role
  • and in operations...  you guessed it, operations fulfills this role

Just made me laugh as I had all three state that within 48h of each other ;)

I'm current procrastinating Operations writing this blog post :).  I've finished the Leadership course but final grades won't be in for another week or two.

Completely unrelated -- GOLD STAR TO ME!!!   Why?  Because I managed to do a box jump on the "big" box at the gym today ;)

Just like that!

Right - except my box was not quite knee high ;).  lol but it WAS bigger than the shin-high one which is usually scary enough.  Both physically and mentally I struggle with this one.  I've never been the kid who could jump high.  Or at all ;-P.  For those of you who've been around a while -- why do you think I was so excited to be able to run up the wall?  Cause that I've got a shot at!  A long shot, admittedly, but it's vaguely possible.  (lol for the curious - adult recess was So. Much. Fun.).   Anyways - jumping is not a skill I possess; I'd much rather climb.  And mentally it just seems like a horrible idea to try to defy physics.  I've had too many run-ins with physics before and I almost always lose.

However, today it was at the second station, which means I was warmed up and hadn't actually done any exercise yet.  So I had a better shot.  AND, not only was I not the only person in the gym today - but the other person was on her first day and requiring actual instruction.  So I got to play a little more on my own, which made me braver.  Which was all awesome till 4 stations later when the whole thing was donkey kicks?!?! :(  That emoticon is insufficient for my degree of :(.   I'm already sore; I don't imagine I'll be able to move much tomorrow.   Things I never needed to know -- I can do 120 donkey kicks in 3 minutes.   Nowhere near the gym record of 298, but oh well.

Okay - back to school with me.