Here there be dragons...

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

A fantasy break

"You're a wizard, Harry" -- a line that spurred the imagination of a generation.   Alas, the invites to Hogwarts are few and far between.

However, today...  I had my opportunity to be a wizard... the VR game aptly named "The Wizards" lol.   It is a "fight the bad guys" type game so not sure how far I'll make it; traditionally this kind of game doesn't hold my attention for long, but we'll see.  But the actions are kinda fun -- flip your hand over and a fireball appears.   Push both hands forward and you shoot lightening bolts.   All the drama ;)   And - at least in the first level - you have a disembodied mentor of sorts who offers advice and training in a reasonably facetious manner.   Lol made me laugh a few times.

Okay the pic is atrocious and all pixely (which it was not in the game), but DRAGON! 

I got through the first level with no problems.  Actually played it a few times, mostly by accident, as I was figuring out the controls (eg - if you stop for dinner in the middle of the level, you start over again at the beginning.  And at the end instead of selecting the next level, I replayed this one once more -- MUCH faster - and injury free - on the second effort for sure).

I died promptly on the second level.  Suffice to say there's a definite difficulty jump.  I also, to be fair, forgot I can shoot lightening bolts (now there's a sentence I never thought I'd type!) which would have definitely taken care of that issue so will try again another day.

The actions at times fail to register which is super frustrating, but when they work, they're all kinds of fun :)

Anyways - it's my week off class, so thought I'd try something new.

Another two done :)

So Wed night I submitted my last papers for Corporate Governance and Business Consulting.

Corporate Governance I went into expecting, well, very little from in reality.  I expected to be bored out of my mind and check a few boxes.  And in reality I really enjoyed the class.  Learned a ton, and all of it immediately relevant as RBC was the company I chose to use for analysis.    So this one was good.  The papers were relevant and I learned a ton.  I'm not super confident on the last paper - mostly cause life was chaos (between new job and pita other course not nearly as much got done), but at least it's submitted.  We'll see in a couple weeks.

Business Consulting, otoh, was a frustrating waste of time.  Instead of being, as the description suggested, about consulting - practices, frameworks, dealing with consultants, engagement models, etc...   The whole thing was about setting up a consulting business.   So I had to spend many many hours creating a business plan that I have zero interest in pursuing.  Learned next to nothing since A - I've done it before, and B - most parts are covered in other courses already.   The final "paper" felt more like a high school assignment, because the volume of questions they wanted answered meant within the required wordcount you could only provide the most superficial of answers.  And two of the parts were cut and paste duplicates of the first paper - like that's both time and word count that could've been better spent potentially learning something.  The whole thing was a waste, and even more frustrating in that work was SO swamped that I bitterly resented having to give time to this.   But it's done.   I have no idea how it'll score since the requirements seemed to contradict each other.  I'd be interesting to see the course feedback on this one since I was on three different whatsapp study groups for it and all three seemed to feel the way I did.   I will pass, just not sure if I'll maintain my HD (85+) average.   Which in reality doesn't actually matter for anything, but still nice to have lol.

Have a week off and then Change Management.  Only one this term as the second would be Project Management I got exempted from that.  Good timing for an easier term for sure.

Double Digit Day

lol my boss today mentioned that it was my "double digit day" (10th day on the job) and it made me laugh.   So now I have a couple "triple digit" goals ;)

So right - the last two weeks have been INSANE.   Primarily because it was not ideal timing to take on a new job the week before both term papers were due *sigh*  But here we are...

Right - so the work aspect; I had the advantage that a long transition meant I had time to meet my team and a bunch of stakeholders before ever beginning (to put in perspective - I had 90 pages of notes) but even though I had some idea of the workload awaiting me, I didn't *really* know.  

When I used to have the opportunity to teach riders to gallop for the first time, I'd tell them they're going to think they're galloping, be pretty sure of it actually, and then they're going to *know* they're galloping.  This...  This was kinda the work version of that.  Albeit somehow not nearly as much of an adrenaline rush lol.

So yeah, there's a lot more than I'd expected...  I mean - the words "blank slate" had been thrown around, but while I theoretically got it, some baseline assumptions I'd made were proven dramatically false.  On the plus side -- I'm a builder.  I *love* creating things and so I'm super excited about this whole concept.  The only slight stressor is how much of it we need yesterday.  It really is playing catchup and slightly insane.

And then on Day 8, I got to present my plans to my boss' Town Hall.   To steal a line from Rebecca: "Here's the deep end, start swimming."   And you know, other than that writing a speech for a few hundred people wasn't really what I wanted to do to kick off week two, that part - sure.  Don't ask too much depth, but I can give you the theory.   The challenge came with teh Q&A.   😂   It was to cover the *whole* Townhall, so honestly I'd entirely dismissed it.  I mean who *really* cares about what the PMO is doing in the grand scheme of things...   Uh a bunch of people apparently.   "I'll let Lauren answer that", "Lauren would you like to take this one?"  "Oh look, this one has Lauren's name in it - I'll read it out and then let her answer" *sigh*.   To be honest, none of the questions were unreasonable, and I got through it, and the feedback I got back was pretty good.  But OMG.

But in two weeks -- the team has come together and created a vision statement that they're all aligned to, I've prioritized which order we need going to put fires out (the ones people are enjoying roasting marshmallows over can wait a bit ;-P), I've met a ton more people, and I'm slowly learning how things work at GAM (which is very much it's on little world).  It feels like my old job was a lifetime ago, and yet at least a few times a day somebody will say something that will make me realize how very new I still am.

But I am super excited about it.  Like to the point that I keep getting up in the middle of the night and making notes of things I've thought of and things to do...  Fortunately next term I only have one class and it's change management, so lots of time for the extra hours work's going to require for  a few weeks.

Ghost Kitchen

A kitchen that's invisible that magically makes yummy goodness appear in front of me?  Sign me up!

So tonight's adventure began when Rebecca texted me about the existence of Ghost Kitchen's - and more importantly, that they come with Cinnabon ;)   And I googled, mildly interested cause, well, Cinnabon...  And really didn't find what exactly it was beyond shared kitchen space, but okay - there's one in Burlington.   And they also have Cheesecake Factory?!?!   What is this craziness of wonderful expensive calories?

But it's Friday night after an INSANE two weeks (that'll get its own post) and Chris was settled into a night of gaming...   A drive out to Burlington, by my own, tunes rocking...  AND a survival treat at the end?  Suddenly that seemed an excellent idea.

So off I go with Spanish Alexa giving me instructions -- I'm getting much better at understanding those now.  Although honestly, all I wanted was the last few blocks to tell me which of a ton of stripmalls it'd be in ;)   And when I got there, I realized the instructions were entirely unneeded.

It's neither small nor hidden

I definitely had a moment when I pulled in to park as the store was empty.  In fact, other than that the lights were all on, it didn't look much like a store?  No people, no cash register, no...  Anything really.  I think I had in my head that'd be like a gas station convenience type store with diff types of fast food in different sections of the store.  Suffice to say it was not.   And the parking spaces all had a QR code for car pickup.  But of course, I hadn't ordered anything.  hmmmm

So I was about to go to read all the COVID type signs on the door and find out how I should acquire food when two young women pulled up and parked next to me, seemed to have the same discussion, but much faster than I (admittedly I may have been still rocking out a bit - ME time, remember ;) - decided too try to go in the store.  They also paused at the door but then went in, so I deemed that was probably the right solution.

Inside there are two ordering screens and one marketing wall mostly showing ALL the yummy things.  Then at the far end an old-school (think Blockbuster movie rental) popcorn machine and a tiny counter.   There were just the three of us there, so I stayed well back while they made their choices.   Honestly - perfectly laid out for social distancing, that's for sure.

LOTS of space - IDK what the marketing wall was showing here? 🤷‍♀️ 
When I actually bothered to look at it while waiting for food, it was all food.

When it was my turn to order I learned of just how big the range of yummy  goodness is (or will be anyways).   All kinds of options and very easy menu to navigate.   Alas, they were all out of Ben and Jerry's, but I did successfully acquire celebratory cheesecake and tomorrow's breakfast complements of Cinnabon ;)

Lots of things to pick from

Then I waited all by myself for a bit - no signs of life anywhere...  But I figured food would magically appear as it had for the two women ahead of me.   And sure enough, a disembodied voice announce my number, then a person appeared for a second or two to deposit my bags on the table and quickly disappeared again.

And it was done.  Total human interaction = brief sighting of another human and that's it.   AND the Cinnabons were warm!   I mean, not super helpful as they're for breakfast and honestly just made me want to eat them now.  But conceptually it was a lovely touch ;)   Even when you get them actually *from* Cinnabon, they're not usually warm.

So yeah.  Not a bad, if very unexpected, way to spend my evening.

Beware of the Monster

So with work and school both being chaos last week (drinking from not one but TWO firehoses simultaneously) my workouts became...  Essentially nonexistent.

This week is going to be similarly crazy - until Thurs am.  But I decided today it was important to get at least one workout in, and because it'd been a while, it should be a *good* one.   😂 

Right.  So I picked one that was 34 minutes long, Hard, and a "Monster".  hmmmm maybe that last category should've given it away.  Oh - and then I decided to wear my weighted boxing gloves.  Cause, why not.

Well cause my arms aren't that strong - that's why not!  Lol I lasted two songs.  Two.  Honestly I lasted through one and suffered through the second.  My "power" scores -- usually in the 90s -- were in the 50s.  Yikes.  

Okay so ditched the weighted gloves and went for weighted vest instead.  Let my legs take the workout.  Although right atm, I kinda wish I had stalls to muck and hay to throw - I'm missing the casual fitness for sure.

The weighted vest was good.  Had a great workout, was sweaty and tired at the end, and probably will be sore tomorrow - we're deeming that an all-round win.

For perspective - with gloves, my power dropped to the 50s,
even after taking them off I was only in the 70s.

In other news - Facebook/Oculus introduced new subscription models this week which caused quite the furor...  But of the games on the list, I'm not too concerned.  The ones I have included:

- VZFit - this is the cycling app, it's been subscription all along (there is a free option that I'm pretty sure still exists) the only thing that changed here is now it's "legal" - on the Oculus store - as opposed to a side option.  I pay for the subscription in the winter, cancel it in the summer.  Pricing and offering didn't change so all good.  They do constant updates and I like being able to leave my basement, so all good.

- Tripp - this one I personally don't think is worth a subscription.  The free version is moderately interesting.  I bought a "lifetime subscription" at one point when they were super-cheap, and they're honouring that, so I'm good to go either way.  But really, I almost never use it so don't see any great value.

- FitXR - this is the boxing / dance app.  I would be concerned about the subscription model since the original game was not cheap (the others the original game is free) - BUT they're honouring prior purchases.  So anybody who currently has the game gets to keep it and any added packs they purchased as well as a 90 day trial of the subscription version.  So for me that's perfect.  I'm moderately interested in the HIIT portion of the subscription and will try that out, but for my handful of workouts a month, the content I already purchased will last me for years.   And if I wanted to do it more seriously, the subscription might be okay.  My issue with this game is I was starting to hurt myself by putting too much power into punches that never hit anything...   So I don't play very often anymore.  It's still a better workout than SN, but I was afraid I might do something serious...

So yeah - for me personally, no big deal.  I appreciate the approach FitXR took in honouring prior purchases so that's good.  I'm a little concerned if more games go this way, I won't be able to afford to play very much :(   But we'll see how it goes...   Most of the games I play are once and done, they don't evolve, so I'm hoping that means they stay flat rate.


Next day follow-up, so that workout was just about right.  I definitely feel in my shoulders, abs, and butt (those 117 squats!) but not so much that it impact function.  I'm aware I did something but not dying.  Just did a short one today to make myself move (and fit it in with food), with no weights of any form, and the scores came back up.   I was actually really enjoying it, so may do a longer one later when I have more time.  Class tonight though so we'll see.  

For comparison - this from today is where my scores are more normally;
This was a medium, non-monster, and much shorter.

The next adventure begins

So tomorrow I start the new job.  The only time I've been this excited about a new role was when I started GRS.  lol and tbh, I suspect it's a little for the same reason -- not anywhere near the whole 'thing I've dreamed of doing all my life' of course, but essentially, I'm getting to build something.  While GRS was solely a figment of my imagination, this one comes with at least an expectation of where it should end up.  But what we do and how we do it to pull that off....   Pretty much a blank slate.

I'm also inheriting a team of 10 -- all of whom appear to be exceptionally good at their jobs, and none of whom currently consider themselves a team *sigh*.   So yeah - coming up with a common vision, goals, value statement, etc is pretty high on the priority list.   And then the internal marketing to sell whatever it is we decide we do for a living ;-P

I've met with a LOT of people over the last few weeks...  Team members, extended team members, stakeholders, random people somebody said I should talk to...  lol and through it all a picture is emerging. Everybody (even those who've left the org) speak highly of the culture.  So that's an exciting bonus.  Also, everybody seems pleased with the people they work with.  Another win.  Not that there aren't a TON of opportunities ("tell me what you'd like to see happen" or "tell me what you wish was different" or "tell me how my team can add value" lol lead to some very detailed feedback of what could be different ;-P), but... All of those things are structural.  They're process issues or technology issues.  And while they're certainly not super-easy to fix (let's be honest, if they were, they wouldn't be problems), they're definitely easier to fix than low-moral, general dissatisfaction type challenges.  So yeah - it's going to be a very busy few months and I'm really looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, I'm so *not* into my MBA courses this term *sigh*.   I have Corporate Governance and Business Consulting.  I expected to have zero interest in Corp Gov, but am actually really enjoying it???  lol who knew?  And learning a ton of moderately relevant info.  If nothing else, I use RBC for my analysis so the stuff I'm digging into is all at least connected to work.   And Business Consulting I was really looking forward to.  I was expecting to be about consulting - frameworks, expectations, types of engagements, etc.  Instead - while there was 1 module about that, all the rest is about creating a business.   Which I have zero interest in doing.  For one thing, I've done it before -- I know intimately what's involved.  And for two, I actively have zero interest in being a consultant at this point in my life.  So this is proving to be a TON of work that's adding no value and no learning.

I kinda wish I did have a company just so I could use the logo again!

The only fun part is that for my fictional company I got to reuse the GRS logo.  So I was pleased about that :)   Also, once again, my powerpoint presentation skills significantly upped my grade.  😂  I know I can write, but I never realized that after three years in a role where I did nothing but powerpoints, how far my presentation skills have come.  But that's two in a row now, so I'll go with it.  I no longer dread presentation assignments.

Honestly I've done so much work on this ridiculous fictional company I almost wish I *did* want to be a consultant just so I could use it!  Also, I miss the GRS logo.  It's awesome :)

I am, however, actively avoiding writing the two papers I *need* to be doing right this very minute.  So I guess that's enough of this.

Right so I built a Dragon Library, what did you do this weekend?

Honestly, what could possibly be more targeted at me.  Dragons and books are among my top three favourite things (Sasha always takes the number one spot :)

ETA: As you can imagine, this turned into a novel length post.  TLDR: I made a thing.  Scroll for pics.


So there exists a miniature dragon library?  Designed to fit on my bookshelf?  Take my $$$!!!  😂   But because it's me and A - I don't actually have any $$$ and B - I never got over the toddler phase of wanting to "do it myself" I did not, in-fact, just buy a new toy.

Instead, I bought the kit to make the new toy.

So on the plus side, the kit arrived super-fast -- like weeks ahead of the expected delivery date.  Win (down side - I was supposed to write a paper this weekend.  Oops).  Opened it and it appeared to be of excellent quality materials.  Double win!

Now - I knew before ordering that said kit would have zero instructions re painting.  I reached out to the seller to see if he had any pics or examples or suggestions re paint, and while he responded immediately, it was to acknowledge his own lack of painting skill.   Lol so fair game.  As I also have zero painting skill, I was slightly concerned, but I figured Google could give me the 101.  

However, the other instructions were also not as idiot-proofed as I might've liked.   Keep in mind, in my entire life, I have built a grand total of ZERO models.   And while I'm pretty self-sufficient when I have to be, I'm not in any stretch of the imagination, handy.  More of a duct tape and binder twine kinda gal.  It'll stay together, but it might not be the "correct" way of doing it ;-P   So yeah, instructions would be necessary.

They *did* say if you're going to paint, do that first.  I too had already come to that conclusion, so off I went to Michael's to find paint.  Also brushes, sponges, and whatever else I might need 😂   Now it turns out that as with most hobbies, there is a wide variety of price range for these supplies.   Given that it's my first attempt, I went with cheap.   And you know what - for me it worked.  I found a little package that had a few sponges (including one that looked like a plunger?!?!) and a few brushes.  Perfect.   Also a $2 plastic painter's tray.  OBVIOUSLY I need one of those.   Lol my inner voice was being completely sarcastic and mocking me as I gleefully bought that (clearly I'm a painter now!) and honestly, it turned out to be my single best purchase of the trip.   Classic eh?   And while I definitely understand why anyone who did this more than once wouldn't want the cheapest option, the only thing I had to buy a second set of was equally cheap plunger sponges cause I destroyed the first one.


So this is a library, which means there are a LOT of books.  I decided to colour rather than paint these (thanks to seller advice!) and set about to work...  And then I decided they didn't look enough like books and needed to be decorated.  Now keep in mind, I knew the whole time that when this was complete nobody would EVER see them again.   This is the part that still astounds me.  I willingly put hours into these little books knowing full well I could've painted all but a couple all one colour and been done in seconds.   It was this week's meditation.   And when it came time to give them titles I had a blast -- some are just scribbles, but most are things that have importance to me.  My immediate family members each have their own books, as do the pets, and some of my closest friends.  GRS got a wide book, while my favourite horses over the years are one set of books and my favourite schoolies are another.  Some favourite fantasy books and movies are there, as is the one I wrote.  Some phrases I use a lot or that mean something to me got books (even one or two in Spanish).   One series is places I've visited that are top of my list, another is just random things that matter to me.   So yeah - who needs a therapist?  😂 

Tilt your head left cause it's late and Blogger doesn't have rotate abilities
and I can't be bothered to fix and re-upload ;-P  Maybe in the morning.

Now, I wanted my library to be stone.  Of course I have no idea how to accomplish this.  Googling gave me all kinds of non-relevant answers and a few suggestions that involved shades of grey and a sponge.  Fortunately, thanks to my earlier shopping adventure, I had these supplies.  Unfortunately I had no idea what to do with them.  Fortunately, the way the pieces were stamped in the wood left lots of scrap.  Woohoo - trial and error for the win.   I tried flat dark with sponged light and got a mess.   Then flat light with sponged dark and got a different mess.    I covered both of those with medium.  Cause, why not?  Maybe it would look better when it dried?   Nope.   


Chris suggested using a wash -- which tricky since there was no texture but at this point pretty much no harm in trying.   And it helped -- still wasn't quite what I wanted but it definitely helped.   So with that new knowledge I found the magic sauce, and I'm writing it here not cause I think you could care less but because if some day decades from now I decide I want to repeat this foolishness, I'll have a record of how I did it!   Feel free to skip the rest of this paragraph.   So  - it starts with using a big square sponge to apply a medium grey.  Using the sponge like a brush and a fairly light coat -- a little bit of the wood showing through is actually a good thing as it adds variation to the colour in the end.   Then a round sponge (yeah plunger!) to dab the darkest grey.   Trying to get it to dab somewhat evenly but not too stressed about it cause adding texture isn't a bad idea.   This isn't a full coverage event but most of it.   And then with the lightest grey, a wash.  So severely watered down, using a big flat sponge, painted the whole thing.   Then with a plunger or the end of the wedge, dabbing it for texture and to break up the lines.

Ready to go....

This looked *awesome* in the end.   I was so pleased with it :)

So I had stones and books and needed shelves.   These would be brown.  But I didn't love my brown so I mixed it with black -- much better.  Not sure where I randomly decided mixing colours was a good idea, but why not?  lol it's fun and there are literally no rules.   So pure paint on the shelves, but there are dragons with the shelves and I didn't want them to be brown, nor did I want them to lose the detail engraved in them...    Okay so back to the wash idea.   I went with red, but it was coming out pink...  So I added black and got... purple?   Sure - why not?  lol   Watered it all down and did the book shelf dragons that way.  Now there are also 4 wall dragons and 2 front dragons.   So I did the four wall dragons like that, then mixed another colour to get it less pinky purple for the two front dragons.

Shelves, with assembled arches in the background

Right - for future note, make VERY sure you know exactly how things go together BEFORE painting.  Sure enough, I had two dragons facing the same way of the front colour and I needed two dragons facing alternate ways.  Fail.  I considered just using two purple dragons instead and burying the mistake, but I decided to honour it.  I made it slightly less obvious with a grey wash on top, but if you look closely, the front dragons do not match.  And that's okay.   There's a tradition in sewing crafts to always leave an intentional "error" -- I feel it can carry over here too.  And I mean, dragons obviously aren't all identical, so it's more realistic right?

ALSO under the category of making sure you know how things go together -- there were parts on the arch board that I merrily painted with my new stone technique, only to realize much later when I tried to put them together that, while they actually weren't horrible in stone, they'd look so much more stunning if they were wood colour.   Fail.   Fortunately that was a 30 second fix with some brown/black mix paint. AND I got to mix more paint ;-P

AND - if you still haven't learned the lesson about making sure you know how things go together - after finishing all the stone and thinking it might be time to put stuff together, I realized the tall arch pieces (of which there were 3 -- arches had way more pieces than you would imagine) needed the backs painted as well.  *sigh*   Rinse and repeat the stone painting.

And while I was at it, the stone section I had painted to go behind the bookcase, wouldn't go all the way up the wall...   Okay - go locate walls, and while I'm at it roof and floor, to turn them all stone too.   Also - there were NOT good instructions for this.  All the finicky parts (bookshelves, arches, etc) were exceptionally well labelled.   The walls, floor, and outside casing - not at all :(   It took longer than I'd like to admit to figure out how that was going to work and which pieces actually needed to be painted *sigh*.  But I did!  So please about that.   And I got all the extra pieces painted.

Bookcases ready to be assembled. 

Okay so with everything painted, it was time to put things together.  I started with the arches (in reality, I did these while waiting for paint to dry on the bookshelves ;).  I still didn't entirely understand the instructions and there weren't useful pictures, so I sent a message to the seller about both that and a question I had about the bookshelves.   To his credit, he answered almost right away (and acknowledged his instructions might need some work).  His message clearly answered my question so I was good to go.  Put the arches together and put them off to the side.   Put the book cases together and load up the books.  hmmmm more books than bookcases.  That seems too real life for a fantasy library 😂  But it did allow that I could choose not to use some of my earlier designs / colours that didn't really work out so well.

All the best libraries have too many books

Okay so still with me?   By this point I have bookcases, filled with books, and with dragons attached.   I have walls, 2 floors (cause why would one be sufficient?), ceiling, and arches that have been painted stone.  Arches are assembled.  And stone floor has been washed and turned into stone.   Time to put it all together.

Okay so that's roughly how it'll work ;)

Right.  So attach mirror to back wall, and floor to floor.   Then centre arch to side wall, then side wall to back wall, and we get:


The instructions don't really say when or how to insert the book cases so I deemed this was a good time:

Then a second wall and some more bookcases:

And then very cool - the lights!!!   Dragon's fortunately don't require qualified electricians.

I love the eerie green tinge they give everything.

Then the outside box, which was way more of a challenge than it should've been, and the front arch attaches as the final item.
It amused me more than it should to have a dragon
helping build the dragon library
And in the end...

I'm really pleased with this

In-situ.  Alas, all my fantasy shelves are currently in storage
so the dragons will have to suffer in Spanish for a while
Rest assured, it will one day have a proper home.

In darkness...

And at a distance for size comparison

ohhhh Idk if I'm ready to be a teenager?!?!

Apparently Stardust keeps its name in Spanish

So on one of the Spanish Learning forums I'm on on FB, somebody posted that Neil Gaimon's Stardust, in Spanish, was on sale for $1.99 (for Kindle)...


Well alas, it appeared to be only on US Amazon, BUT it does at least *exist* in Canada's Kindle store (Kindle books can't cross border shop for reasons that will forever frustrate me).  And is not terribly expensive.


Now this put me in a bit of a curious position because while I really like a lot of what NG says and does as a person, and truly appreciate how he interacts with his fans, in reality, I don't actually love his writing.   But, in a weird twist of fate, I've enjoyed almost every movie/tv variant based off his writing that I've seen.   Often I like both the book and the movie for different reasons, but if I'm going to enjoy one and not the other, it tends to be the book.  Except when it comes to NG's work...

And Stardust is a favourite of mine.

So I read the first couple pages and they aligned pretty well with the movie -- at one point I could hear the narrator translating it to English for me, so it must've been pretty close -- so I think I might've found this year's Spanish reading challenge.

But more entertainingly, I found this:

Yup - Kindle has reading info about their books.   And I know I struggle with teenage TV, but maybe ready for teenage reading? lol we shall see.   

Then of course out of curiosity I went looking for the others I've read in Spanish.   Harry Potter was first and comes in with this combo:

ohhhhh so Stardust will be noticeably harder than HP was.  Hmmmm.   Then I went looking for The Never-ending Story.  Alas, I couldn't find it in Kindle form in Spanish (I have a hard copy) but I *did* find it in English and decided the reading level was likely to be similar so....:

The Never-ending Story I found much harder than HP solely because of all the description.  HP is more action and conversation -- that's a lot easier for me to follow.  I've no idea how Stardust will compare -- the levels seem to suggest to me it'll be the hardest one yet, but also the shortest so maybe that will balance out ;) 

I did think maybe these things only appeared when looking for kids books (I do vaguely recall having books with the 'reading level' stamped on the back), but it appears to be just for kindle - switch to the hard copy version of any of them and that info goes away.   So out of curiosity I looked up a couple of the books I've read recently in English - turns out they have all the info except Age and Grade level; I guess once you hit theoretical "adult" those don't count anymore ;)

Anyways - first I have to finish the "level appropriate" *yawn* novel I'm reading now.  Really I could do that in a couple hours, I just am not super into it.  But now I have something fun to look forward to.  Well, potentially.  I downloaded the free chapter first -- figure I should read that and then decide :)   

Wish me luck!

Spanish Boot Camp

So with all the excitement of the new job, I somehow neglected to acknowledge this year's Spanish Boot Camp!   lol but I did it, and it was way better than anticipated, so I feel like it deserves its own blog post.  In English, cause, well, the focus of boot camp was speaking not writing and zero people who read this (that I'm aware of) also speak Spanish.  

So yeah - the first week of March I had off of school.  I had really hoped to find another Spanish school to attend this year (like in Costa Rica 2 years ago) but alas, COVID.   So being completely implausible, I decided to find a way to do this at home.  Tricky given that this is an entirely English speaking area and still on lockdown.

So I scoured the internet for Spanish boot camp, and even reached out to the Spanish school I attended in Oakville last year to see if they had anything.  Alas they did not, and the Internet failed me completely *sigh*.  Lots of boot camp, all of it in person, none of it offered this year.  Fail.

I was considering maybe just booking a TON of lessons on Italki, but that was going to get very expensive very quickly.   And part of the point is to talk to *other* people, so I didn't just want a ton of lessons with the teacher I usually work with.  If nothing else, I know he doesn't correct accent, and I've been informed mine is atrocious, so I wanted help with that.

But then I stumbled upon BaseLang -- which offers unlimited Spanish lessons for a monthly subscription price.  AND the first month is a refundable trial.   hmmmm okay.   The price is higher than I currently pay for lessons, but if I were actually taking advantage of the unlimited - there are definite possibilities there.

So I signed up a little over a week before my boot camp was to begin.  And I did a couple lessons in that week to learn how it worked and understand the system.  Long story short, I was less than impressed and did cancel my subscription well before the month was up.  And there was no hassle about a refund so all good.  I'll give it a legit review in its own post in the next day or two.

BUT what it was actually great for was boot camp!!!   Lol.   In that week I spent more than 10h speaking with 11 different people in Spanish, more than half of whom had no English.  About half were from Venezuela (where the company is located), some in Colombia, one each from Argentina, Guatemala, and Ecuador.  Honestly though, my ear isn't good enough to tell the different accents.  All of them were super positive and friendly, although I would say of them all, only two of them actually taught.  The rest were more like conversation partners.  But for what I wanted it was great.   There was only one I really struggled to understand and I truly feel that was at least partially cause he mumbled the whole time.  But I was really pleased that I could carry on a number of conversations with a ton of different people - and while there were definitely awkward moments and a ton of errors, I could at least understand and be understood.  It was a HUGE confidence boost!   

Individually - two people stood out.  There was one woman who I just had a blast chatting with -- every lesson just flew by.  She seriously could've been my new almost-best friend.  lol she even likes dragons!  I met her fairly early on and got to chat with her most days and actually really miss it now.  But she works two jobs so I def don't want to take her outside-of-work time.   One of the other women was definitely the best Spanish teacher I've had to date.  Alas, she doesn't teach outside of Baselang and the way their system works (see my review post when I get around to writing it ;)) I wouldn't be able to get enough lessons with her to make it worthwhile.

But yeah - I had the small talk thing down, was able to explain my background and what I was trying to accomplish, and with some teachers had some amazingly random conversations that I completely loved.  Mixing and matching tenses to create real grown-up sentences, and sometimes using really creative descriptive vocabulary to get around the fact that I didn't know whatever really simple word I was looking for.  lol but it worked.   And was part of the reason I looked specifically for teachers who didn't speak English - so I couldn't cheat.

So it was amazing, my listening and conversation skills definitely improved, and I was super excited.  BUT - two weeks later back to my usual schedule, I feel like I've completely regressed *sigh*   Had a lesson today and I couldn't find any of the words I needed :(    So sad.  BUT that rate is also unsustainable.  2h/day for 5 days - by the end I was done.  Like really done.   Exhausted and just not into any more.  lol  I feel like there's a happy medium - like maybe 1/2h/day would be better - and after I'm done my MBA it's something I might consider trying again. But as long as that's a part of my life, there aren't enough hours to make good use of it.

So yeah - that was my boot camp adventure this year.  Not nearly as exciting as Costa Rica for sure, but arguably a LOT more conversation and faster advancement (although to be fair, I'm also two years farther along now so more capable).  As for Baselang, it has a lot of potential, but just too many things that really annoyed me for now.

Hopefully next year I can try actual immersion again.  We shall see...

Baselang Review - high potential but not achieved

 Okay so I said I'd do an in-depth review of Baselang, so for the curious - here it is...   

The premise is basically a flat rate for unlimited Spanish lessons.  And that is accurate.   Now the details:


It says you can book any time from 5am-midnight, EST.   This is *almost* accurate.   In reality you can book on any half hour in that range (or multiple half hours in a row if you want).   And you can book up to literally the last minute (I may have done this a couple times - and never any issue).   I noticed the 11-midnight block was often 'sold out' (as in all teachers blocked).   My guess is that this is people in PST trying to get evening lessons.  In my boot-camp week, there were only two instances where I tried to book a lesson and couldn't; one was an evening slot and the other 10pm.

You can book your "favourite" teachers (of which you can have up to three) up to six days in advance, others only four days.  This is a royal pain when trying to schedule in advance.   Also, favourite teachers were almost never available and it meant I had to sign in every morning to see if I could get them 6 days later.

All lessons end five minutes before the class time to enable the teacher to write notes -- makes sense as you'll have multiple teachers.  However, you never get to see these notes.

They have a handy feature that lets you privately rate the teachers, so when deciding going forward, you know what your previous scored for them was.  This is super useful, but a royal pain to find / navigate.  It should be accessible from the history (eg - see the teacher's name, click on them, select score) - but it's not.  It's so buried it's essentially useless and super frustrating.  Also, there's nowhere for comments.  I ended up just keeping my own notes so I could remember when I was lessoning with a ton of people.

Grammar and structured classes:

They have a TON of grammar lessons, BUT you cannot select your own level.  I was super annoyed at this and it is one of the reasons I will not continue with this service.   So you do an assessment in your first class -- mine was broken between two teachers; the first gave his assessment, which generally aligned with my own.  The second decided I needed to be in a very low level because I needed practice.  Well yes, absolutely - that's why I'm here.  But if that's the standard, I should be in level one.  I need practices with EVERYthing.  But that doesn't mean going through basic level grammar powerpooints is going to be a good use of time.   For grammar lessons, I want the focus to be on topics I still need to learn.  Like, you know, actually teaching me ;-P

For practice, that - to me - is what the conversation classes are for.  Applying all the concepts, and especially being ale to switch in-between them.  I *know* my grammar knowledge is way beyond my ability to apply; that's literally the whole point of boot camp.   But - I'm also very checklist focused.  Had they put me in a level where they were actually teaching me new concepts, I likely would've stayed and worked my way through them all.  And there's 9 levels through almost native level proficiency - like, that would've been a solid commitment.   But by saying I had to take a ton of classes on stuff I know inside-out at this point...  Not into that.

I did try taking a couple of their "elective" courses, which cover a huge range of topics.   The range was impressive -- topics you'd expect like Work, Medicine, Pop Culture, or Travel, but also a whole category of "random" which included superheroes, nanotechnology, and volcanoes.   So yeah - tons of things to learn about that *could've been* excellent.   Alas, it's very poorly set up for online learning.  Essentially a powerpoint, several slides with a vocabulary word on each page and a picture.  Okay - except sometimes I wasn't even sure what the picture was of?  So less useful.  Then a slide or two of match the word to the definition - moderately useful...  Then there would be "use this word in a sentence" but often the word in question wasn't the vocabulary word?  lol so random.   The next slide is what did me in from uselessness.  A word search.  Like seriously?   You want me to sit here and look for words while you watch me in a 25minute class?  This is *not* a good use of time.  Happy to do it as homework (I even have a Spanish wordsearch app of my phone! lol) but for teaching time?  What a waste.   Then read a text and answer questions about it -- this was generally reasonable.   And some discussion questions.   If they fixed the vocabulary and moved right to the discussion questions it'd probably  be stronger.

Other Misc:

Several teachers identified quickly that my pronunciation is a problem.  This I've heard before, BUT here is the first time I've had teachers who actually helped me correct it.  They were able to call out very explicitly what I was doing and how to fix it, one or two easy changes at a time.  Obviously still a long way to go, but at least they gave me a start.  Not all teachers do this, but I specifically picked teachers who said in their profile they had a conversational style and focus on pronunciation, too that helped.  That was the single biggest win I had from this.

Some of the teachers follow curriculum options for the conversation classes (basically pick a topic from a list and then there are questions about it), there are also listening practices lessons (pick a topic, listen to a thing, then answer questions), but must just had a conversation, which was honestly exactly what I needed.

Unlimited really is unlimited.  I gave it both a "normal life" test -- how many lessons would I take in my usual world if $ made no difference, and a "boot camp" test -- how many could I take in a week.  Lol boot camp, were that an ongoing thing, would be worth the cost.  But in reality, the number of lessons per week wasn't much more than I take through Italki, at more than double the price with lower quality instruction.  So yeah - not worth it for me right now.   The only plus was that I got in a few extra lessons that I wouldn't have in italki because of the combo of 25 minute lessons (it's easier to squeeze that in than an hour) and book last second ability.  However, not being able to book out more than a few days was super frustrating. Like I want every Tuesday at 6pm -- I can do that on italki.  Here, not so much.

I tried a TON of teachers -- if for no other reason than to practice talking to a bunch of different people.  I think about 11 different people in total, and I have to say, all but one were super positive, friendly, and helpful.   Also, it says next to their name when you're selecting a teacher whether or not they speak English.  My non boot-camp week I picked teachers who did, just in case ;)   Boot camp though, I went for all Spanish except the one teacher I found earlier who was so phenomenal I wanted to continue with her, and I just asked her to stick to Spanish, which she did.

The website says if you cancel in the first month, they'll refund your money.  I did this and it was refunded no problem.  They also say they'll give you  $20 extra for "wasting your time" -- I did not request this as I did get some value from it and I may someday try it again.  When I'm not also doing an MBA ;-P   Esp if they fix a few of the issues that were just not quite there....