Here there be dragons...

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

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.  😂 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 Für 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?!?!  😂 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 😂.  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 😂   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!