Here there be dragons...

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

Week 3 of the piano adventure

Honestly I'm mostly writing this post to kill time till Chris is asleep enough to play my piano (with headphones on thankyouverymuch ;).  He won't hear me hitting the silent keys if he's asleep but it seems he does notice if I'm doing it while he's trying to fall asleep.  The sole reason this is worth mentioning is that I'm the lightest sleeper on the planet and this - and the light of my kindle - are the only two things I've ever seen that can interrupt his zzz's.   So mostly just amuses me.  But since I am a super light sleeper, I'll also respect the ask and wait till he's out enough to not notice.  It should take about 30 seconds or so ;-P. A skill I'll forever be envious of!

*had a great pic here of a dog sleeping through everything but a treat bag, 
but Blogger has apparently decided not to allow pictures today :(*

So interestingly, when I practice at night I play for longer and get better results.   BUT - I can’t do any of the classes (my headphones can only hear one source at a time) so slightly limiting.   I'm a few days "behind" in the 20 days as a result.  Not that that actually matters at all.  The bigger risk is that if I wait till night to play, the odds that I’ll decide I’m too tired are super high.  So most of the time I practice while C is watching the news, which I - and the dogs apparently - are quite happy to avoid.

When you’re teaching riding (and I imagine most sports, maybe most things in general) there’s a point where you accept less than perfect and don’t ask for “one more time” because you know horse or rider or both are past the point of improvement and will spiral down from that point.  Could be physical or could be mental, but the results are the same and a good coach will catch it and only push for more when there’s more to be gotten.  Well I’m learning the hard way that this applies to piano too.  And I’m sure nobody’s shocked that I push past that point and then get frustrated at how quickly things deteriorate.   Ah well - at least I’m learning the signs and since the bar is at least at ground level now there are a couple things I can actually do correctly so when I hit that point I do one of those to finish with something - anything - correct and move on.  But I’m a LOT happier and more pleased w myself when I manage to self regulate and stop on a legitimate high before I cross that line. But that doesn’t happen often ;).  It’s a fine line that’s v easy to trip over and for a complete beginner everything is hard so it’s a challenge to tell if it’s hard cause it’s new or if it’s hard cause I’m burnt.  A skill that’s *almost* transferable.

While I'm almost through the 20 day program and have gotten some stuff out of it for sure, but admittedly not as much as I'd hoped, I'm just finishing week 2 of the 20 week program.  And it's painful.  It will definitely be the "what you do before the fun stuff" part of playing.  However, I was moderately amused when I flipped back through the program materials to discover it's broken into phases.  They have proper names and real info to them but they’re also labeled: Fun, Not Fun, Fun, SUPER Fun (emphasis is theirs).    Lol and I totally get why as I’m right in the middle of not fun and can say it’s aptly labeled BUT said labels give me hope for sticking it out.

Alright - time to go play now ;).  

So... How long do I have to be a beginner for?

Okay so I'm now at two songs that I can play at full speed - sometimes.  You know, if the stars align and the moon's in Jupiter, and I'm home alone, and Sasha's not trying to get my attention, and, and, and...  lol. Except the list of songs I want to learn is piling up MUCH faster than my ability to learn them.  Let me tell you, it's a PAINFUL process.  Once I get to 50% speed, pretty much the next day is 75% and the following 100% -- but getting to that 50...  Ouch.

But anyways - I'm enjoying myself and prouder than I should be of my sincerely pathetic playing when, for some reason, I went into the app on my computer (aka web based) instead of on my iPad - which I play from.   Well this is all good, except of course none of my filters were set.  What filters? you may ask...  Well, the most important one is "BEGINNER" lol.   OMG.  My little two songs that I was oh so proud of....  Yeah, they also have intermediate, advanced, and PRO, versions.   And the pro versions sound AMAZING.  So much more texture and depth to them.  *sigh*.   Also, they're longer.  Lol I guess they realize beginners are going to be glad to get through anything -- they're not wrong ;-P.   Like kids don't start out reading War and Peace (I hope!).   

It turns out not all songs have all the levels - in fact most don't - but it seems that both my first two have all four.  SO, I've decided that in order to not be totally demoralised by this, I'm going to use it to track my progress.   At some point around the 30 day mark I will record the beginner version of each...   Then go away and learn a bunch of other things and some day when I'm ready for the intermediate version, I'll have a comparison...  Rinse and repeat ;). This is my new plan.

Oh WOW.  πŸ˜‚ so I went back and looked at the vids I took the day I found a plan to learn from and "officially" started (just checked - date stamped Nov 11) - I wanted to see if I had either of the songs (spoiler alert - I have 30 seconds of both) - suddenly I feel WAY better about where I've gotten to.  Which means if I ever get to the advanced level, these are going to be golden.  Right now they're just horrifying, but it already made me laugh, so that's a win. 

Also, I had a random classical song in my head that I had no idea what it was but decided I wanted to learn it.  lol well just clicking through the classics, I found it (for the curious - turned out to be FΓΌr Elise).  Alas, it does not have a beginner version.  Intermediate here I come ;).  Fortunately the other classic that I love (Cannon in D) IS available in beginner.  And every other level ;)  So there's that.   Alas, the only Christmas song I have any interest in playing is also a minimum of intermediate so you know - I'm sure that's reasonable between now and Christmas ;-P.  Brute force and stubbornness for the win?   We'll see.  

I do have hopes that eventually as I get better the learning curve for each song will be slightly less.  It'll also help if/when I get better at reading bass cleft.  Argh.  Still gets me every time.

In other news, I'm on day 14 of my 20 day course -- today was the first one I found really challenging.  I definitely took more than one try to get through parts of it and will likely have to repeat.   I'm actually pleased I made it this far without getting stuck.  While it's certainly not going to have me playing hundreds of pop songs, it DID make a lot of things click and make sense, so my "Super Easy Hit Songs" book that I purchased I actually CAN play a number of them.  Albeit slowly and painfully.  But it's fully credit to my 20 days of YouTube that I can even do that.  

Also - you read that right - I purchased sheet music?!?!  πŸ˜‚ that might be a first since I'm quite certain my parents and/or high school financed all of my flute music way back when.  I also purchased some online which is great cause in that app it'll play it for you so you can hear how it should sound and play along at different speeds.   The only down side is flipping pages.  Wtf?  How is this still a problem.   I mean it's getting there.  In that the app is still set up like pages of music, which it flips when you get to the appropriate note automatically, but you still have that gap where you can't be reading ahead to the next note.   I mean serious first world problems here ;-P. The learning app the music just scrolls constantly so you can always see what's next.   I feel like all the apps should do that.   As to the actual book with physical pages - it's beginner level and as aforementioned, beginner songs are shorter.  In this case - they all fit on two pages, so no flipping required.  Also it's so beginner level the chords are just printed on top and the treble notes even have the letters in each note πŸ˜‚.  Does solve my inability to read music issue though.  There is clearly a market for beginner adults out there.    All kinds of opportunity for short term success.

Anyways - I think that's enough for tonight ;).  Thanks for joining me on the adventure!

My music room AND my reading room happen to also be Tucker's sleeping room.  
And he would really prefer it if I'd please turn the lights out now.

Getting stronger - tomorrow ;)

Google verifies the weight lifting stat; not sure about the donut part ;)

It's that time of year again when it's dark both when I start work and when I finish work.  AND it's cold and often miserable outside.  Which means all of my general activity level, motivation for fitness, and options for any form of fitness I might enjoy all plummet at exactly the same time.  And I wasn't as fit as I'd like to be when it hit.  

So to ensure my fitness actually improves rather than slides this winter, I am once again on the hunt for an activity to help (piano, while challenging, is not likely to give me Apollo arms or a booty that makes my husband happy when I wear leggings).   I've decided this will be a two-pronged approach.  So for Cardio, I'm using VR fitness again, but this time I'm trying a rowing app called Holofit.  It technically works with a bike, an elliptical (which I don't have), a rower, or freestyle.   But I haven't figured out how to make it switch between (admittedly I've put zero effort into discovering that at this point) and it was designed for the rower so that's what I'm doing atm.

So let's see...  So far - while I don't have the fancy rower with the bluetooth computer that apparently connects and works brilliantly, I haven't had any problems using my old school non-tech computer so that's good.   I love that the app doesn't require controllers to function -- that was one of the down sides of the cycling app I used last year.   This one is fully reliant on where you look for controls.   Which is both very cool in a new-to-me-tech kinda way, and also useful when your hands are both needed to keep the rower going.

I enjoy the "explore" mode best, where you go at whatever pace and collect things...  Really random things...  But I don't get much of a workout from it so I *really* wish they'd combine that with the "train" mode.  I find the training actually effective and helpful -- but I want my things!  lol.  Training has multiple levels (I've been working on medium and seems about right; probably will go up in the next week or two), and different approaches (cardio, hitt, etc).  Alternately there's race mode which is literally a race.  I definitely get the best workout there, although currently I only race AIs as I suspect I'm too slow to be competitive with real people.   There is also a mode where you can race shadows of your past self to try to best your former times -- I know that mode exists, but I haven't found it yet to actually try.

You can tell that the designers are listening to user feedback, because if you go in any of the first couple worlds they designed, you row backwards.  As per real life, but not much fun when the whole point of the app is to be able to look around at stuff that's not your basement.  They took that feedback seriously and in all the newer worlds, you row facing forward :)   I do wish the graphics were a little more mature.  I am enjoying it for sure, but they are not nearly as impressive as other VR environments I've been in.  Although I will admit I did enjoy rowing at night under the northern lights.  That was pretty awesome.

The biggest downside for me is that I struggle with motion sickness using this app.  There was a little when I first started with the cycling app too, but this one is more so - especially in the cityscapes (when you're "rowing" an odd bike/land boat of sorts).  I know most of the tricks to combat it, so trying that for now, but ultimately it might make it so this one gets shelved.   The other thing is that once I've found all the "things" in each world, I'm not sure it'll hold my attention.  I've never been one for repeating myself.  The bike app I could ride literally anywhere in the world.  So after a couple months, I may switch back to that one.

So that's cardio, the other aspect is strength.  I've signed up for a 30 day strength training program that starts tomorrow (this is not me procrastinating, it's actually not available till tomorrow).  I've done both their ab program and their flexibility program and been super impressed with both.  So I have hope for this one.  And if it goes well, abs are next up.

Anyways - I have 30 day plans for both, so lets see how it ends up :).  I suspect next week by about Wed, moving will be a challenge!  lol but hopefully by Christmas I'll be feeling a lot more like myself again.

10 Day Check In

Okay so on my piano adventure, I'm 10 days into the 20 day program and 1 week into the 20 week program which I started a few days in.  So far I've gained a new appreciation for parents who manage to convince/force their offspring to do scales and other such things on a painfully regular basis; and am forever grateful mine were not so inclined.  At least as an adult, I'm doing it because I can see theoretical benefits ;).  But it's the opposite of fun.  Alas, it is also a cornerstone of the 20 week "technical skills" program.   I don't doubt it'll force some solid basics into my little brain (and fingers!) but yeah - it's what I do before I get to the fun part.   

Every day.

It IS moderately satisfying when I manage to up my speed record though.  Which compared to people who actually play, I'm sure is still painfully slow, but compared to a week ago is pretty damn impressive.  It's easy to raise the bar when you start with it buried under ground ;)

Conversely, the 20 day program I'm doing is supposed to get you to play pop songs -- but what it's really doing is teaching the background chords.  So for me, starting from zero, this is also super useful.  But also disappointing as I cannot sing and have no interest in learning, so I'm counting on being able to play the melody on piano as well.  It does also have some good rhythm exercises which is helping my coordination.  And, well, only 20 days.   If or when I ever develop some sort of ear, this'll likely be far more useful.

But what I'm really enjoying is thoroughly butchering actual songs.  It's like my own personal challenge - make it all the way through with one hand or the other -- that I'm getting there (although bass cleft is still pretty brutal, at least treble is coming back).  But both hands together πŸ˜‚   That's a challenge that's either amusing or frustrating so I try to make sure it stays in the amusing category.  Totally addictive though: "just one more time" is as much a thing with my piano as it ever was with riding -- with equally predictable results ;). 

I've gotten to being able to play the Game of Thrones theme at least most of the time accurately at full speed.   It started with the mode that doesn't let it move until you get the right notes, then took a LONG time to get it at 50% speed; like more hours than I wanted to admit.  But after that I got 75% the next day, and 100% the day after so that was promising.  I'm moving onto Sound of Silence for my second effort.  Currently at the 'butcher my way through one note at a time' phase.  We'll see next week ;) 

The next adventure

Grab some popcorn and settle in for the latest adventure.  This is the story - or rather the introduction to the story - of the year completely tone-deaf me decided to learn to play piano.   You know, I had SO many things I wanted to do after finishing my MBA, ranging from actually making a serious effort at leaving the intermediate plateau in Spanish, to clearing out my work-in-progress pile of stabbing, to playing through a few different video games which I own but have never actually played.  But no, because I'm desperate for something new in my life and travel isn't a realistic option these days, what else is there?   Lol well I've always wanted to play piano, so why not?   Surly that's reasonable.  I will admit when I first started to write this, I had full intention of delaying publishing till somewhere in the 30-90 day range as a look back, but here's to being brave and publishing as I go.  Hence, the introduction ;)

Google says that 20% of kids learn to play music; 70% of adults wish they had.  Idk if it's true, but I do know that it's slightly ridiculous cause as a gainfully employed adult with zero children, I can learn whatever I want.  So yeah - I decided I wanted to learn, did a ton of research on best keyboards for adult beginners in my price range (alas- this is one of those things where to a significant degree $ = quality.But I learned there were some really solid options in the range I was willing to spend on a hobby that I have ZERO idea if it’ll stick).

This is actually a step up from where I started;
Mine was flat on the floor 

On Nov 2, my keyboard arrived but not the stand - which wouldn't arrive till the 8th, so for the first couple days I was Charlie Browning it on the floor.   During this time I did all the googling on best apps to learn piano and settled on Flowkey as the right fit for “never touched a key” beginner and both verified they had lots of songs I was interested in (conveniently filterable by level) and found the first few lessons useful.

My new toy and gratuitous Sasha picture ;)

Okay, but then there was a gap - I finished the beginner lessons in a couple days but was really phenomenally horrible at it.  And definitely can't play even the beginner songs (although the app is certainly helpful - you can set it to practice either hand or both, define the section you want to work on, and speed can be 75%, 50%, or don’t progress till you hit the right key lol aka painfully slow).

Also realized v quickly that while I knew how to read music as a teen, A - it was only ever treble clef and, well, piano uses BOTH.  And B - I’d long since lost the ability.  I knew where the letters were (yeah mnemonics!) but couldn’t actually read them at all without going through the chant.  And for bass clef?   I had nothing.  Frig.

And oh yeah - while I’ve generally felt reasonably coordinated after years of riding (even arial silks - my atrociousness was due to lack of flexibility and strength, not lack of coordination).  It turns out my hands don’t like to work in different rhythms.   They can do different things (yeah transferable skills from touch typing and beat saber) but they like to do different things at the same time.  Hmmm

I played w the idea of actual lessons, but it turns out that’s a frill and we live in a sadly no frill area :(.  And covid.  And $.  So hard no all the way around.   I had a vague idea that I should be learning scales of some sort….  YouTube for the win.  Turns out it potentially matters which finger hits which key.  Who knew?  lol So I found the easiest scale and started working through that one - two weeks in, it's definitely less painful, but wow.  Then a friend was over and showed me you actually need very little theory to learn some basics.  So that seemed like more fun - but… tone deaf, remember (autocorrect made that tone dead lol).  So the whole "play what you hear" thing seems fairly impossible atm, but we'll see a few months from now.

Anyways.  After picking random things off YouTube and my app for a few days I had to acknowledge I had zero idea of how or what to train.  So Google to the rescue :).  Suffice to say I found a plan that appeals to me - it has a 20 day program to play pop songs from scratch which I started this week, and a 20 week program to build technical skills that complement each other which I'll start next week.  I like the coach, it targets adult learners, and from what I know of adult learning, is doing a good job of incorporating best practices.   So….  Before starting, I took these atrocious “before” videos of where I’m starting (which sadly is significant progress over the first few days when I hit a key for the first time).  I let myself try three times and picked the best one of the 3 - we're burying the bar in the sand here lol so I will not be posting these until there's a reasonable after vid to go with them.  Bravery only extends so far ;)

So stay tuned - we'll see how it goes :).  To put in perspective - this week I learned what the pedal does *g*.   So I'll be sitting on the Spanish intermediate plateau a little longer and spend the next few months focusing on this one.  ;)

MBA Wrap-Up

So as some of you may know, my keyboard gave out just as I was starting to write my thesis.  The 'n' key stopped working entirely (do you have any idea how often we use the letter n in the English language?!?!) and the o key chose to make up for that lack by offering two os (ohs?) for every one push of the key.  And then occasionally the x, c, and command keys would choose not to work.

And then on top of it - I'm a touch typist.  So I was often well past the word before I realised there was a problem.  It's the first time in my life strong typing skills were actually a negative.  BUT - I couldn't send my computer away for two weeks, so I managed with a combo of cut and paste, lots of editing, and the occasional back up of a bluetooth keyboard (less helpful given that I almost always write with the laptop on my lap, thus no space for said keyboard, but really - I don't actually *need* to be able to see the screen if I can trust all the keys to work ;)

Anyways - I really wasn't sure how it'd go as the expectations were fuzzy at best and unrealistic at worst, but I ended with a 92, so I'm going to say I guessed right.  And it turns out I pulled the top mark of the term, so I was pretty pleased about that ;)

Seriously - they sent me a certificate and everything ;-P

So it'll be a few weeks yet before they've done all the administrivia, but really, I'm done.   And it's sorely anticlimactic really.  I'm starting to understand why graduation ceremonies are a thing (in non-covid times, AIB has grad ceremonies too - the first Canadian one was supposed to be last year. Alas...  2020 happened).  We had plans to at least go out to dinner to celebrate, but even that didn't work out.   It's a little depressing in its way.  Ah well - first world problems at their finest ;)

Overview of the whole experience in purely the order in which they occur to me:

- almost every class had a very practical component where the learnings were applied to your own org (or whatever business you chose to study).  I found this super helpful and made the learnings immediately applicable even for courses that are nothing to do with my real life.  I used RBC for courses where a big organisation and/or publicly available data were useful (eg finance, corporate governance) and learned a ton there.   So, excellent.  I used a fictional tack store for a couple courses where I needed a much smaller org and a traditional business would make life easier (eg operations -- bank operations is a whole world in itself and way beyond the scope of one course!).  And lastly I used a riding school based on a combination of GRS and one other school I have respect for for courses I could just play with (eg Marketing - I had a blast with that course).

- teaching quality varied wildly and the good profs don't seem to stay long.  And even within one course, the expectations and requirements of the various profs vary wildly.  This can be particularly confusing when study groups cross classes as the instructions for completing assessments are different.

- those study groups were awesome.  Whether for clarity, discussion, further learning, or just suffering through together, the WhatsApp groups got me through the degree.

- full time work and full time school at the same time is not a good life choice.  I can go pretty hard for quite a long time (GRS anyone?), and I actually *like* school, but by the end I was really burnt and completely disengaged.

- I have zero patience for operational issues in a business school.  The fact that Every. Single. Term. I had to fight to get a course changed because two were in conflict is a real problem.  You can only take two at a time.  With the courses they offer it is literally possible to offer every single class so that it doesn't conflict with another and is still available in a time that works with both Canadian and Adelaide timezones (I know - it took me like 5 mins to put it together to prove it could be done).   Similarly, course selection is not clarified and courses are only offered once a year.  Totally reasonable that the student be expected to plan that out -- BUT, they need to be told about it.  It was only a fluke that I found out in time to manage mine effectively.

- that being said, if you escalate high enough, problems get resolved.  Sr leadership does appear to actually really care what their students think.  I'm not sure that messaging trickles down all the way, but at the top of the house, it's there.

- the first course was *horrible* - they wanted fluff and personal reflection.  Actual academics was penalised.  And even the fluff I ended up writing was fictional because the truth wasn't fluffy enough for them.  I almost quit then.  Fortunately that was the only course like that.  But if I hadn't pre-paid the entire degree, they would've lost me there.   And it was a course on a topic I'm passionate about, so it wouldn't have been a hard sell.

- the focus on career experience rather than academic experience for admission leads to many students without academic experience.  This was rapidly frustrating and boring as the questions asked were repetitive, irrelevant, and the opposite of thought provoking.  It was not something I expected to find aggravating, but here we are.  Compared to my last Masters at UofT where the expectation was that all students maintain grades above 80, there I always felt everyone else was smarter than I was (go imposter syndrome!) but also that I was in an environment where I’d always be challenged and where I could grow and evolve very quickly.  Conversations were interesting, challenging, and face paced.  Here… mostly it was a test of patience.  That being said - the three people I learned the most from are all non-academic types and from varied backgrounds.  And one in particular beat me in grades as often as not (we're both competitive enough that it was a thing -- I honestly think he won overall, but I won the final project so that counts extra ;-P).  With those couple people I had some great discussions and from them I learned a ton.  But that was three out of the entire cohort.  Multiple cohorts actually since until the last few courses, I was changing groups every time since I was doing double-speed.

- write a forum post and comment on someone else's is the worst assignment ever.  If you really want me to publish my work online, I have no objection.  But forcing me to read through other students' work until I finally find something worth responding to is neither appropriate nor contributing to my learning.  Unless you fix the point above first and get everybody working to a similar level of competency; at that point, maybe.  But it took me forever to find something meaty enough to write a useful response to.  And the only comments I ever received were things like "that's really insightful" or "I never thought of looking at it like that" -- pleasant, but super unhelpful and still not contributing to learning.  All that exercise did was demonstrate to me how big the gap in competency is.

- I did LOVE that we weren't stuck with one cohort and could speed up (or slow down) if needed.  That is often not a choice in MBA programs, so it was a definite win here.

- Most courses did an excellent job of offering really up to date literature, videos, and learning materials.  Not all, but certainly the ones that are changing quickly (eg - AI), everything was to the minute current.  They're well curated and there are a lot of sources, so I greatly appreciate the amount of work that went into that.  And in many cases I was able to repurpose sources for use at work.

So yeah - it was an experience.  Some good, some bad, lots of indifferent.  But I learned some stuff and picked up both my MBA and my PMP which are letters people in my line of work tend to care about.  And somewhere in the process managed to land a job I really enjoy.   So overall I'm deeming it a win.

Onto the next adventure!

A week in a day

I don't even know where to start today -- I feel like I lived a week in a day.   And it's only Wednesday - I'm not sure what to do with the rest of the week.

We'll start with the absolutely wild dreams last night -- the kind most people need copious drugs to achieve but I'm "lucky" enough to get for free occasionally.  Alas, also the kind that leave me the opposite of rested in the am.

Then at work my old job interrupted my new job when my old world imploded.  This made a couple of people ecstatic but most either upset, stressed, or both.  The end result being I spent most of the day providing an ear, while trying to ensure my actual responsibilities of my current role were met -- including interviewing a candidate for a new role, which I always find tests my introvert side, and an exec meeting which ended up being super productive and positive but it had a 50/50 shot of going just as far the other direction. 

I had my lunch call sitting on our back steps and throwing the ball for Sasha.  This was a helpful counterbalance, esp as it was bright and sunny.   At which point I realised it was possibly the last nice day of the year and determined I had to find a way to get a walk in before dinner.

I had an hour scheduled for desk work, and I deemed that hour could be flexible and done *after* walking, so Sasha, Chris (his days usually end, not surprisingly, with the end of school, so he was home by then), and I did the lock 7 loop - which I haven't done in ages and made me realise I have *not* been walking enough (the treadmill came back into play yesterday).  But it did let Sasha get a swim in, so she was a very happy puppy.  It is much too long a walk for Tucker, who wasn't interested in getting out of bed anyways.

Go back to work when we get back and somehow that hour takes me till 8:00?!?!  Not even kidding.  And I only stopped cause it was time to go to Arial Silks class.  But as I was getting ready to go, I got a message that thesis scores were posted.  So yeah - had to sign into that!  But - new computer (oh yeah - haven't told that story yet - will do its own post) - so login info wasn't stored and took a bit to figure out how to access (by this point I was definitely heading toward being late.   Signed in.  Final score?  92!

I tell you - the relief, and happiness, all at the same time.  Wow.   I'll give it its own post later, but add that to counterbalance the stress of work and I *really* didn't feel like going to class.  Tried to convince C we should go for celebratory ice cream, but he basically told me to go to class ;-P.  Sheesh.

Which I did.  And had an awesome time.  Because while it's hard to convince myself to go some days, esp on days like this, I actually LOVE it every time I'm there.  I am atrociously bad at it, but I do enjoy the effort and I quite like the other women in the class, which obviously makes a huge difference.  I was not planning to continue, so I told the coach she could give away my spot (last time she had a waiting list).  But I also told her if she doesn't fill the class, let me know and I'll take the open spot.   I feel less guilty missing classes if nobody else wants it, and I'm happy to support a small business in something really unique that I'm enjoying.   Also got some pics today just in case it does end up being the last day.

This was the trick we learned on Day 1
Haven't done it since then till today, but proof that it happened ;)

And, the amusing part - I finally found a trick I'm *really* good at, and everybody else (well, of the beginners) was struggling.  Why?  Well this is a sport that requires significant upper body strength and flexibility - neither of which I have, but this one particular move (which is a setup for some drops - which is partially why I want to stay in the class) requires leg strength and balance.  Which, even after not riding for entirely too long, I still have.  Win!

There is no way to make this attractive,
but I was disproportionately pleased at my ability to do this!

Coming home I really wanted that celebratory treat, but of course everything was closed by then :(.  Sad.  I could've made it to Ghost Kitchen before it closed, but that's really far away, and before going, C reminded me there was Hagan Daaz in the kitchen.  Win!   He was asleep when I got home, but Sasha and I enjoyed the last of the ice cream :).  I feel we earned it.

Coffee and Curiosities

We went on a road trip today.  Not because we had anywhere to go, but because it was the first Saturday in more than a year that we had nothing that we absolutely had to do.  So because it's almost Hallowe'en, and because Chris has a great love for coffee (I'm definitely his second in his affections - to be fair, he's known Coffee longer ;) we decided to visit Deadly Grounds -- a "coffee and curiosities" shop in Oshawa.   The coffee appealed to Chris.  The Curiosities caught my attention...

This was the first thing we saw when we walked in....

So right away the atmosphere was established.  Definitely not the type of place to appeal to me -- it was dark, tight, and crammed full of stuff.  But looking around there were some details I appreciated, even if not quite my style.   For instance, there was a room in the back that had a wall of mugs

Odd lighting and no apparent organisation, but essentially a room of mugs and stuff.
So much stuff.

And anyone who knows me will be aware, I can't walk past a wall of reading material without, well, reading it (there's a reason I only go into bookstores when I have a ton of time to kill ;)).

One of many mugs

So as I was poking around I found this one mug -- I don't know if you can read it or not, but it says something about "the shelf this mug sits on is not really a shelf... But a door opened by the black handle..." and other instructions I don't exactly remember but that basically encouraged the reader to open the door.

Sure enough, just below the mug was a handle

Right - you're not new here.  Of COURSE I opened the door.

And just about died!

This was angled this way, so it's what you see with the door only cracked open that much, and life-size -- it was taller than I am by a reasonable amount.   I'm pretty sure only my in-my-head voice screamed, but my heart def skipped a couple beats before it made me laugh.   Very well done setup.   Although I'm super curious to know how many people actually read the mug and open the door...   I feel like it's probably not the majority who go in that room.

I brought home some unicorn dust (aka bath bomb)
because it was so the opposite of the shop's vibe that it made me laugh ;)

Anyways both the coffee (according to Chris) and the hot chocolate (according to me) were quite disappointing and definitely not worth the more than 2h drive to get there.  But it was at least a different experience ;)

They even made the rocking-horse mildly terrifying!

Also - unrelated but made me laugh -- on the drive we realised that bridges on this stretch of the 407 are decorated with images with a different theme per bridge.   We drove under one that was academia and I made some comment about "that's my bridge" -- then when I looked back from the other side once we passed it, the other side was decorated with horseback riding.  Definitely my bridge.  

I mean, I appreciate that I got through the chaos first but...

So my first weekend after 14 months of FT work combined with FT school, and I get sick.  Nothing tragic or exciting fortunately- nope, my first truly free weekend was spent medicated fighting a cold armed only w a box of Kleenex *sigh*.  Idk if my body just decided I had free time so it could have a meltdown or what.  I mean - I don’t even get to see people?!?!   Lol I leave the house twice a week for very socially distanced activities and that’s about it.  But oh well.  And of course I had reasonably important meetings (like important enough to be coloured red) on each of Mon, Tues, and Wed this week.  For perspective - I usually have two to three reds per month.  And I’m generally in meetings all day every day, so that’s a v small percentage. BUT thesis AND the vast majority of my YE responsibilities were complete.

So Mon I cancelled / relocated all but two meetings and put all my effort into being conscious and moderately coherent for those.  Did nothing else useful that day and I think was in bed by 8pm.  Tues the powers that be made it so all my meetings, while not super flexible, were at least with friendlies.  And with the aid of long expired cold meds, I made it till about 3:00.  My apologies to the everyone after 3 lol.  I got through them, but with far fewer brain cells than usual.  Gave up at 4:30.

Wed the powers took pity on me and all my am meetings cancelled or moved of their own volition.  It was the most productive day I’ve had in ages!  Lol and at year end (for the banks anyways) and not feeling well, this was ideal.   More cold meds got me through the afternoon feeling human and on the mend.   But since I’d yet to stay awake past 9 (anyone who knows me in person knows this is definitely a sign of things nqr), and because sniffling in public is definitely frowned upon now, I decided prob needed to cancel arial silks class :(.  Still sad about that.

Today is Thursday and I’m pleased to announce it’s almost 10pm and I’m still awake lol.  My brain isn’t there enough to read, hence this post instead.  And I decided driving all the way out to teach was definitely not an okay life choice :(.  But - maybe tomorrow I can have a full day with no cold meds?!?!   That would be really awesome.   Especially as we have plans w actual humans on Saturday and it would be really nice to participate in them *g*

So yeah - nothing exciting, just mildly bemused that my body apparently waited till the moment I was done the worst of work and school before shutting down on me.

"If it's easy, you're doing it wrong" -- Arial Silks Coach

I'm currently typing this lying on a mound of pillows because the nice hot bath I set up to soak in hurt my shoulders too much...  lol just to levelset where we're starting.   IDK what was different in class last night - partially, I was exhausted going in, and partially for whatever reason they (that’d be coach and advanced students) decided it was conditioning day?   Right.

Perspective - this is an adult class.  We are grouped by the fact that we are all over 18, nothing to do with capability.  The class has shrunk since it started but of those still around there’s all the advanced ones, the two intermediate, and me.  Which, tbh, I  actually love cause it's super fun and interesting to watch the advanced work.   Esp when they're learning new things.  Like, that is theoretically within the realm of possibility?!?!   Way more interesting than what we're doing *g*  

At least one of the other intermediates is closer to my beginner level.  She gets it faster as it’s a reminder rather than new, but she’s working for it ;)


So for instance after the normal warmup (which - yeah - I’ve been promoted out of the beginner version and boo - it’s WAY harder now) we started with a hang (basically grab silks above your head and pick your feet off the ground) which you’re supposed to hold 10 seconds in each of 3 consecutive poses without putting your feet down.  Like wtf?!?!   Lol the only thing that made me feel better about lasting all of about 3 seconds was that the other two dropped moments after me.  The advanced participants made it all the way through all.  Like WAY more sheer upper body strength than we’ve done to date.

So then we did the class, which felt pretty normal except I was really dragging.  And I’m laughably bad at it.  So for each move there’s a number of steps.  My problem is I can’t remember what to do next, and I’ve got a 50/50 shot each time.   I can usually remember whether the next step involves legs, hands, or twist - but rarely which leg, hand, or direction.   The number of times I’ve ended up literally tied in knots cause I twisted the wrong direction is….  Excessive ;).  “Uh no, that’s not quite right…” lol one of the more frequent refrains.   On the plus side - most of them I can do if either someone talks me through it OR I’m cheating and following someone else’s attempted step by step ;).  For now, that has to be a win.  Maybe I’ll get to independence next month *g*.  It’s the silks version of being on the lunge line - I need to be supervised till we’re reasonably certain I won’t hurt myself lol.  In my own defence, we learn at least one and sometimes two or three new tricks every week, and - well - I haven’t actually learned any of them effectively.   It’s like trying to memorize a dozen different first level dressage tests at the same time.  You only have a certain number of options to work with, but when there’s too many of them it’s really easy to mix them up (is it test 1 or test 2 that tracks left after the centre line?)

This was me being more successful in 2010!

So we went through all those adventures and at the end of class is always two exercises - a box for one minute and then a hang as long as possible.  So far I’ve failed reasonably badly at the box each time (I can get the legs but usually not the arms) and the hang has been between 3 and 14 seconds.   Well today I gave up entirely on the box - I couldn’t even get my legs to stay in place.  BUT that gave me a slight cheat in that I had like a 45 second rest before the hang, which I made a new record of 24 seconds!  Woohoo lol

lol looked up the box from my previous adventure, and first of all, they called it a star, which makes way  more sense to me, but secondly, this is what I wrote: 

So we went from the easiest to one of the hardest. And this one was NOT worth the effort it took cause it didn't look all that impressive. hahaha difficult things should at least look kewl! This was a star -- so stand on the swing, spread your feet aside, push the silks away from you with your arms. No problem. Except that you're on two ropes tied at the top and the bottom, so the wider you spread them, the shakier it gets. My balance and core strength is reasonable, but I was shaking trying to hold that one! 

I am betting if we did this at the start of class it wouldn't be nearly as difficult lol.  But at the end when your body is already on strike, it's pretty brutal.

Anyways - usually after class I’m WIRED but I was just fully exhausted.  Tried to have a bath and couldn’t stay awake enough so just went to bed.

And my ego was super full of itself when I woke up not at all sore.  Like how is that even possible?   I expected to be dead today.  Win!

Right.  Fast forward to the end of the day.  Part way through the drive home from teaching my side was really sore and I couldn’t seem to get comfortable.  Odd.  And it was getting *really* hard to keep my hands on the wheel.   Hmmm.  Went in and sat down on the couch and realized my abs were done.  Like couldn’t even sit up done.  And shoulders, back, and arms too.

Hmmmm okay so maybe a hot bath is necessary?   Except leaning against the tub hurt.  Omg I’ve literally never felt that before.  And my ego drowned in the tub.

So now I’m typing this reclining against my comfy pillow cause I can’t sit up straight.  And I have some significant concerns about how functional I’ll be tomorrow which is the day after the day after and we all know traditionally way worse.   Wish me luck!

Oh - and on top of it - coach wants to extend class an extra 30 mins to allow more conditioning.  I mean, apparently I need it, but I have to live through it first!

An interesting literary experience

Thesis submitted yesterday -- I'm sure there will be a post about that, but I'm not there yet.  Today I had booked off work just in case I needed extra hours to finish said thesis on time, but since it was submitted early, it meant I had an entire day off.  Like really off.  With nothing hanging over me that needed to happen.  It was also like 25 degrees and sunny out, so clearly the only appropriate use of a day to celebrate the end of studying is to spend it reading for pleasure instead (while throwing a ball endlessly for my favourite dog).   I slept in this morning, took the dogs for a walk, and then settled into the back yard with a book.  A really fascinating one -- but fascinating from a writing perspective as well as a story perspective.  It has some interesting literary twists that as a writer I appreciate but as a reader I’m unsure of.  It’s definitely somewhat uncomfortable, but I feel like maybe it’s supposed to be.

Book 1

The series is The Broken Earth by NK Jemisin  and there is one spoiler below so if you’re actively reading or have in your tbr pile, stop here ;)  It's one I actually bought, probably on the recommendation of one of the book groups I follow, and have been looking forward to reading.

The prologue starts off with a narrator addressing the reader directly.  The narrator sets the stage while very carefully revealing nothing about their role in it.

Not a bad start ;)

So first off - it’s a series that jumps between different characters’ viewpoints each chapter. I’m generally not a fan of this approach but I can deal w it if needed.  Except that one of the characters is written in the second person?!?!  

The first intro to "you" and your story

As I read more I’m becoming accustomed to it so it’s slightly less jarring but it was really disconcerting for quite some time.  Idk if I’ve actually read fiction written in second person before.

Then the interesting twist - spoiler alert - part way through book 1, it’s revealed that all the personalities are the same character at different points in her life.  Which I actually thought was awesome. 

In book 2, the different voices are different people and every once in a while the narrator makes an appearance, still speaking in first person.  Narrator’s identity is eventually revealed and, not surprisingly, he’s not the most trustworthy narrator.

Our unreliable narrator justifying his choice

I haven’t gotten to book 3 yet.  I’m fascinated by these and it’s an exceptionally well crafted work, but I wouldn’t say I’m exactly enjoying them.  These are not light, fun, reads.  But they are definitely interesting and I am absolutely emotionally committed to finding out how it all ends.

Maybe I should go as a flailing octopus for Hallowe'en

So I finished 21 Day Fix and figured I'd redo the first two weeks which would take me to Thanksgiving and find a new program after.  Right.  Turns out I'm *really* bad at repeating things *sigh*.  So for the first week I did nothing.  Fail.  So I decided I'd start the new program even if it needed a minor break in the middle, and learned it's only 5 days/wk - I can take the whole weekend off and not miss a thing.  Win.

The program in question is 10 Rounds.  It's by the same person who did Core de Force, which is still one off my top two Beachbody programs of all time.  And I definitely accept I like punching shadows, so should be good right?

So some learnings from this one lol.  Keep in mind, it's only Day 1.

First - early into 21DF I purchased mirrors that I could strategically put around my basement gym area (think super-cheap Amazon-basics quality full length). These don't cover a whole lot of space, but with strategic alignment I can arrange it so I can see front and side view at the same time.  This was 100% so I could ensure my form (particularly fun things involving any form of plank) where it actually makes a difference if you do it correctly.  I know, historically, my body excels at finding unusual ways to cheat and to compensate (much to the general bemusement of many a trainer).  So yeah - there are mirrors.  And in 20DF it was even slightly inspiring -- I was doing basically what the iPad people were and actual muscles were pretending to almost vaguely consider making an appearance.  Win.

Right.  Fast-forward to day one of 10 Round.  So first of all - I turned the iPad to face the mirror since unlike most of these programs, it's neither mirrored nor equally balanced (eg do everything left, then do everything right).  So to follow along without confusing myself, I watched in the mirror ;-P   Win.

The exercises themselves, I was somewhat disappointed.  They were nowhere near as much fun (or confusion) as CDF, and very slow moving.  I get that they're teaching the basics so it can become more complex, but meh.   But I did break a sweat and my core got a workout so good start.  But those mirrors.  They were painful.  So while I felt strong and athletic with them in 21DF - it turns out I look absolutely embarrassingly ridiculous punching at shadows.   The people on TV look like strong fighters you would not want to be on the wrong side of.  Me?  not so much.   Like the average toddler swinging at the adult with a palm on their forehead looks more formidable.   It made me *really* glad I work out alone in my basement ;-P    

Super-fierce, let me tell you.

And then on top of that, for some reason when I throw a cross I drop my left shoulder.  Like, why?  Where and how did I decide that was a reasonable thing to do?  πŸ˜‚ so completely random, but at least the mirrors showed me that, so I watched the pros for a bit to verify that no, in fact, that is not part of the move, and then spent the  rest of the time trying to not do that.  Sheesh.   Self-coaching 101.  If I could figure out how not to look like a drunk octopus I'd get on that too.

And then we have today.  Where my ego now hurts as much as the rest of my upper body.  Cause yeah - that disappointingly easy workout hurt muscles in my back and shoulders that I didn't even know existed.  Which, perversely, makes me way more excited about the program since it tells me it's working.  But yeah.  Will be an interesting 6 weeks ;-P

Being brave enough to suck (thoroughly) at something new ;)

Alright, so I decided that w the start of Sept, I should get my life back under some semblance of control (my keyboard, however, disagrees and the letter 'n' stopped functioning a few weeks ago.  So it's a ctrl-v for me, but I'm a touch typist so super-frustrating as I'm often way past before I realize an n was involved.  All that to say, please ignore ridiculous typos.)

So school still exists.  Final term!  And it's a lot less than fun.  But I decided I couldn't let it be my WHOLE life anymore.   So two things - new fitness routine and a new hobby of some sort.  Fitness was easy - I have all the gear after several years of collecting little bits at a time, so I signed back up for Beachbody and picked a routine I've had reasonable success with.   Two key criteria: short workouts and short commitment.  I'm much better at doing three, three-week programs than one nine-week one, esp when starting out.  I accept this and move on.   Had a friend doing it with me but she had to stop due to injury :(  Sad.  Anyways - those are going very well and I'm quite happy with the results.  I'm not at all happy w how far I've slipped but at least moving the right direction now.

For the new hobby, I wanted to find something that I didn't have access to anywhere we've lived before.  Something that might make here slightly more appealing.  I tried swimming...  Fail.  I tried adult gymnastics - actually found one, but I really didn't love their coms, and couldn't get any concept of their program, and the only timeslot was 8-9 on Sat nights and it was a 14-week commitment.  So overall, I was less inclined.  Then I looked up the indoor skydiving, which C and I did in Niagara once.  I recall it being fun and a reasonable workout.   Yeah no - they are strictly for tourists.  Zero reasonable packages or groups for people actually wanting to learn or do on any regular schedule.  Sad.

And then I remembered Arial Silks.   I've tried this twice before (I just looked it up - in 2010 and 2012 if you want to see what I'm talking about), both times in Toronto and both times when I was uber fit.  Lol but I enjoyed it, so maybe?   So I googled and sure enough, there's a school in Niagara Falls.   At the time their website said they had adult classes, but had no classes listed, so I was afraid they might've been a victim of COVID.  But when I checked back a couple weeks later there were classes!  Woohoo!  And the website *really* wasn't working well but eventually I got signed up.  7 weeks on Wed nights.   Starting today.

This is on the home page of the school I signed up with.
We lear
ned this move today.  Suffice to say, it did not look like this!

So there were eight of us in the class.  It is definitely an all-levels class πŸ˜‚  One was far and away better than any of the rest, with two others being what I'm going to class as strong intermediate (how do I know what levels are for this stuff?!?!  Expert-chicky was doing super-impressive falling from the ceiling in the most graceful manner and stopping inches above the ground.  The other two were starting the spinning and dropping and impressive in their own right, just clearly not *quite* the same level).  Myself and two others were complete beginners, and the last two I'd say somewhere inbetween us and the int crew?  I get the impression they had done lessons before but several years ago.  So brushing off rust.

Warmup involved a series of back summersaults (on the silks of course!) and hanging upside down.  lol so let's just dive right in!  Us beginner crew had a knot tied in our silks, so this was not at all hard, just made me slightly dizzy!  But the others were doing it with no knot - thus nothing to flip over and needing to hold themselves up.  We then abandoned the silks to do some stretching and such.   All but one other person are vastly more flexible than I.  One of the other beginners is a gymnast.  I suspect 3/4 of the class are either gymnasts or dancers.  That grace and flexibility doesn't exist in adults who haven't had many years of training.

Then was on to learning stuff.  Our instructor set the people who knew what they were doing to practicing stuff and then came to us.  The first step was learning how to tie a knot around our foot, and then to climb. She acknowledged this is one of the more difficult ways to climb, but the knot around the foot is a base skill required for a lot of others, so she wanted us to practice it.  I really struggled to climb this way, but got reasonably confident with the knot at least.  

This is how you do the knot according to Wiki How
The fu
n part is doing it around the second foot, while in the air...

Then we did some weird twisty thing which I actually got?!?!  lol I'm still not sure how that worked but okay!  It requires a fair amount of back flexibility though, so while I could do 1 twisty-thing (I'm sure it has a real name but I'm equally sure I don't know what it is) the second one hurt, and there was no way I had the flexibility for the third (they're cumulative).   Getting untangled from that - esp the first time, was a whole lot less than graceful and left me laughing.     

This is the end result of the weird twisty thing at the level I did it;
Each time you repeat it, the back arch becomes more 
significant (see above pic).

Then the next one.  Oh dear god.  It started with put both your feet in their knots - okay, that's a skill in itself - one is doable, but the 2nd one is a bit of a challenge.   Then just go into the splits, then...   Well suffice to say this is when we learned I'm far too sarcastic for this group πŸ˜‚   Oops.   I had to tell the coach not to be concerned or take me seriously ;-P   But I also had to tell her there was zero possibility of me doing the splits successfully.  Ummm that is something I couldn't even do as a child.   So coach told me I could still do it it'd just be harder, the higher up I was and might restrict how many iterations (again, cumulative).  Sure.  lol I did manage what she was asking...?  Sort of ;)   But only one step worth and I'm pretty sure you need two just to start most of the moves *sigh*.   We'll see ;)   

Yeah no.

So we did a bunch of practicing of these new skills, in-between watching the brilliance going on on the other side of the room.  I'm surprised by how much my fingers hurt!  We were warned we might feel like we have horrible arthritis for the next few days.  Also the foot with the knot around it is the opposite of comfortable, and I'm sporting a lovely rope burn that I'm still not entirely sure how I  earned it (it had to be in the twisty-thing cause that was the only time my rope went behind my arm, but still).  And of course pure core and upper body to haul yourself up.  So yeah - might be feeling it tomorrow.  Apparently your feet get used to being squished pretty quickly, and C has grips to strengthen, well, grip, so I'll borrow those ;)

We finished by tying most of the silks out of the way and turning two sets into trapezes (I definitely double checked that plural with Google ;)).  Theory was and jump super high a couple times (with a back arch on then back swing) and then just flip yourself over.  lol now the flippy flippy moves were the ones I did best on earlier (turns out I like being upsidedown - not something that was ever applicable in riding!) and of course this *looked* super-easy when all the others did it...  Yeah, not so much.  I *could* at least get a good swing and rhythm going - which was more than the other beginners, so I'm deeming that a win, but there was *zero* chance I could get my legs anywhere over my head :(    I honestly thought laws of physics would've made it easier with the motion, but, well, physics has never been my friend ;-P   Anyways - I was also exhausted by that point so I admittedly didn't try that many times.   I'm sure there will be other opportunities.

Biggest downside is that evening activities for me mean I won't sleep.  I come home wired and am up for hours.  Oh well - this week a blog post, maybe next week I'll be productive and put effort into my paper.