Here there be dragons...

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

Spanish Shenanigans

So I've been working with a new Spanish teacher who I've been learning a TON from.  I went to her specifically because she's known for aiding in pronunciation, and that was my specific request.   Biggest down-side I've found to my self-taught first year or two is that I never really learned proper Spanish phonetics or syllables.   Which means I often pronounce letters in English, without even realising it, and I'm super hit or miss on which syllable should be stressed.   Suffice to say, the end result is I often am not understood when I speak even when what I say is theoretically correct (aka - if it were written down, it'd make sense).   I've been looking for almost two years to find a teacher to help me with this.  In all that time, I've only found one (she was awesome!) but the company I found her through disappeared and I've not found her anywhere else since.  Fail.   

Regardless, new teacher has reignited my enthusiasm for Spanish, and my learning.   And while I've definitely got a long way to go, at least now I can see a path forward.  Also it's accidentally making me aware of other "unwritten" aspects of spoken language.   

The first homework exercise new teacher gave me was based off a children's song.  It's got a single line of silly lyrics, and the concept is they repeat the sentence changing all the vowels in the sentence each time (so one time all the letters are a, next time e, etc etc).  Her challenge to me was to be able to do each sentence of made up stuff to help train the sounds.  No singing required ;).  But she also gave me a YouTube video so I could hear how it's suppose to be.

Okay so I wrote each line out with all the vowels changed, so I'd have a hope of reading it.  Nonsense words are no problem when the real words don't mean much to begin with.   Listened to the song to make sure I had the general concept and started trying it.   But it got to the point that I could say all the words reasonably well, but for the life of me I couldn't "sing along".   Every time it was off.   Almost as though I had extra syllables (which would've been possible - see above challenges - except said teacher had prepped for this and broken the sentence out by syllables in the example already).   And so I focused on what they were doing and realised they were merging words together.

Well f.   😂 I know better.  I KNOW we do this in English, because once upon a time I had to teach it!  When I was learning to teach ESL, I remember having to explicitly teach about things that people SAY that are not how we write.   Consider:

  • triple contractions:  I wouldn't've done...   That is 100% wrong in writing, but we say it, and other things like it, all the time.
  • Ida gone to the store but... - I would have.   Like wtf?  How is a non-native speaker supposed to get that? 
  • Squishing words together and merging sounds -- Is he busy? = Isi busy?   Cats or dogs = catserdogs;  next door = nexdoor; anything where the last letter of one word is the same as the first of the next (this is the same in Spanish I've realised): social life = socialife
  • Adding sounds (as if it weren't enough to squish them):  Do it = dowit;  Go out = gowout 
I'm sure there are more and I seem to recall they all have fancy names, but for the life of me can't remember what.   But somehow it never occurred to me they do this in Spanish too.  And suddenly so much I struggled with made sense.    I listened closely to what they were doing (easy enough when you play the same 6 sentences over and over again) and wrote what they were actually saying, NOT what the words were.   And it was mostly dropping a syllable when the last and first letter were the same and squishing the words together.

So yeah - I felt ridiculous that it's taken me SO long to realise that.   And then I extrapolated that to practicing with songs I actually like (conveniently apple provides lyrics to most songs ;).   And it's like a huge light went on.  But man did I ever feel stupid for not having made that connection earlier.

And follow up - I had a good laugh in my next Spanish lesson when my teacher took my notes (google doc, so she could see what I'd done) and corrected my spelling?!?!  lol of nonsense words.   But even that was super learning - her point was that what I'd written (literally changing the vowels and squishing words together) wouldn't be pronounced the way they should be, because squishing them that way sometimes changes the pronunciation.  So she walked me through a bunch of those which was super helpful in wrapping my head around some random pronunciation things, but I still shake my head that I was even spelling nonsense words wrong ;)

Aligned with my new enjoyment of lessons, Amazon recommended a "book I might like" that the description really appealed to me.  And it's on Unlimited (which means no extra cost to me).   And also in Spanish.  hmmmm.  So I've been reading in Spanish for a while now, but always tween or YA level, or "level-appropriate" learner books.  This one was definitely adult.   So downloaded it and it's slow going, but I'm mostly getting it.   But it's painful.

I remember when one of my cousins was very young, he was trying to read Harry Potter and the deal was he would read a page then his mom would read a page (or maybe paragraph?  chapter?  I don't remember the details, but conceptually...).   Anyways - I decided I could do the adult version of the same.   This particular book was a best seller in Spanish and has since been translated to English (English version here if anyone is interested).   So I got both versions, and am currently reading a chapter in Spanish then a chapter in English.  😂.  Partially it keeps it moving and partially it fills in some blanks if I've missed something critical.   I believe the book is part of a trilogy, so maybe by the time I get to book 2, I'll be fluent enough to read more in Spanish.   I hope so, because I'm not convinced books 2 and 3 have been translated *g*

Wish me luck! 


Actively not running this summer ;)

So for reasons I still don't understand, I signed up for not one but two activities that theoretically involve "running" this summer?!?!   Yeah, really not sure what that was about.   Suffice to say, neither event actually involved running ;).  Which is, absolutely, the best type of running event.

Before Bronte

The first was the Bronte 5K which I did with Rebecca.   This was an absolutely lovely morning.  Perfect weather.  A gorgeous trail through the park.  Not too many people.  Just a fun morning with a good friend and some exercise.   To be fair, Rebecca was a lot more committed to the exercise portion than I was -- she ran, I chatted.  Given the complete lack of training I did leading up to it, this was probably for the best since we all know I'm not particularly good at rating myself and the odds of me pushing very hard and then seriously regretting it, was pretty high ;).   Would definitely do this one again -- was just such a nice day.


After Bronte

The next one was "Mud Girl" which is a women only event.   I did this one with Jill and her friend Edith.


Before Mud Girl

This one was a mud run that was WAY more committed to the mud idea than Mud Hero that Steph, Kirby, Chris and I did many years ago.   This one, the very first obstacle involved being chest-deep in muddy water so yeah, there was no way of getting through it without being absolutely filthy.   It was ideal weather for the adventure - overcast and not super hot, but warm enough that we weren't freezing if we were waiting.  There was no way this was going to be a "run" -- the footing was super treacherous so running would not have ended well.   Which was all good for me -- to put in perspective, I had named our team "A Walk in the Park" lol.   The event had been put on hold for ...?  I want to say half an hour or so?   Which meant they'd abandoned any semblance of start times by the time we got there and were sending people out in waves every two minutes.  This was actually ideal as there was basically no wait once we made our way to the start and not too many people all together.   

Obstacles included - navigating through mud puddles under nets (never shallow enough to force a crawl, although many people did), climbing mud mountains and sliding down mud hills, climbing over / across nets, inflatable obstacles (I found these a riot!) and slides, slack line (I *loved* this and very much want one in my back yard now), and other similar things.   I had a TON of fun with the obstacles -- far more than I'd expected!  I didn't so much love the organisation and planning of the event.  Was a good day though and since it was on a lake, a quick way to get a lot of the mud off in the end.   Not that there wasn't still mud *everywhere* when I got in the shower later, but much better than it would've been!

After Mud Girl :)

There were photographers on course,
but despite MUCH searching, apparently no pics of our little team.  

Continuing the trend of brilliance or disaster. And, umm, a little light on the brilliance ;)

So it’s amazing how I lose the ability to play as soon as the camera is on. Even though I *know*, logically, that I can record as many takes as I like, AND that my sole audience is my dad, I still slide backwards significantly from what even the last effort was. Super frustrating and makes me glad I never have any inclination toward being on stage! 

The one significant advantage of the video though, is for the songs where I’ve gotten past the “just able to play the right keys” stage, it really helps me to hear it and then I can see what I need to do differently. It helps me pick out which areas aren’t smooth, or where dynamics need to change. I’m loving that that’s now a component of it. It’s only the last couple songs where ‘just get the right notes’ hasn’t been the WHOLE objective.

Also, my tendency in riding to go for brilliance or disaster definitely carries over to piano ;). The happy safe middle won’t do. At least in piano, it’s unlikely that I’ll end up covered in mud as a result ;). So for example, my current challenge is learning to play hands at different volumes. Otherwise even the nicest sounds sound horrible. But I can’t be happy with just slightly different. Oh no. So instead I have cases where one hand is SO soft that sometimes I don’t actually get any sound, while the other sounds like somebody let a toddler loose with a hammer.

Still having fun with it though, so deeming that a win :) I wasn’t sure I’d keep going once the weather was nice enough to go outside, but I still seem to be making time for it.

I HAVE dropped off on the theory portion though. Lol I know I really need to get back into that or I’ll regret it eventually, but atm I’m enjoying songs, and when I get stuck, I go learn the theory I need specific to that moment to get unstuck. It’s pretty much what I’m doing with Spanish too so hey, why not? ;).

I also don’t love that if I don’t play them regularly, I lose them and have to start over again. It comes back fast, but definitely can’t just sit down and play.

I’ve been writing what I’ve been learning from each song in YouTube - going to paste it here in order just for posterity’s sake:

Day 1: Game of Thrones / Sound of Silence:
At this point I had vague memories of how to read treble clef, zero knowledge of bass clef, and only vague ideas of where the keys were.

Month 1: Game of Thrones / Sound of Silence (beginner):
Very rough, but better than Day 1

Month 2: Cannon in D (beginner)
One of my favourite classics, but missing my favourite part :(. Apparently it's not beginner-friendly.

Month 2: Piano Man (beginner)
The end of this one destroyed me!

Month 2: Harry Potter (beginner)
Simple and pretty - this was the first time I got to play with the higher notes, and the first time both hands were in treble clef.

Month 2: Demons (beginner)
Had fun with this one - it was the first one with chords in both hands simultaneously ;)

Month 2: Cannon in D (intermediate)
My first Intermediate!!! Woohoo! lol I LOVED this one, but only cause it's one of my favourite songs and I was *so* disappointed by the beginner version.

Month 2: Havana (beginner)
LOVED learning this one. ALL the black keys and interesting combinations.

Month 2: 7 Years (beginner)
I love the change in rhythm half way through - 2nd half is way more fun :)

Month 3: Let it Be (beginner)
Recorded early just so it could be at exactly 3 months

Month 3: River Flows In You (Intermediate)
This song is super pretty, and I only got through it for the first time ever yesterday, so still a LONG way to go before it should be on here, but staying true to recording the learning journey.

Month 3: In the Hall of the Mountain King (intermediate)
This one gets both faster and louder as you go, which I really enjoyed. I'm not sure the volume comes through in my iffy recording but it was definitely there in my little room!

Month 4: Game of Thrones (intermediate)
Started learning this one after a week's vacation. Don't know if it was brutal because of that, or because it's harder but yeah, it was painful. The parts that I *thought* should've been easy, were hard. On the plus side, super proud of the comparison to the other versions of this song I've done so far!

Month 4: I’m Yours (intermediate)
This one was about learning to play slowly, learning chords (and how to still hear the melody!), and my first ever effort with a pedal.

Month 5: Despacito (intermediate)
This one introduced more complicated chords, triples, notes on a syncopated beat, a new key, and more pedal practice.

Month 5: Pirates of the Caribbean (Easy Piano)
First time with "real" sheet music. Challenges learning not to stall when I need to switch pages, and on the 2nd portion of a repeats going to the right end bar. I am grateful to be learning in a time when tech allows for switching pages digitally via a Bluetooth foot pedal and not needing to actually lift my hands off the keyboard to do so ;)

Month 5: Für Elise (Intermediate)
I read a (plausibly fictional) story that this was composed for a beginner student Beethoven loved. Something she could play that would still sound pretty. He proposed to her but was turned down. So he added a part that she would find very challenging 😂. There is no accurate source I could find that vouches for that; most just propose the three potential Elises. But it still amused me.
This version, suffice to say, does not have the complicated parts. More advanced versions in the same app do.  For me the learnings here were: 
- playing different volumes with each hand (still ridiculously hard for me!)
- having hands overlap without getting tangled

Month 6: Moonlight Sonata (Intermediate) 
This one was a challenge, and I admit I recorded before I probably should 😂 There's a fair bit of polish still required. BUT. I got through it :) New learnings for this one were octaves, so many octaves, and rhythm changes. Also learning to read really low notes in both clefs.

Month 6: Bohemian Rhapsody (intermediate)
SO many challenges, and so much room for improvement still. Next challenge - hands playing with different volumes! lol ah well.  Challenges to learning this song:
- changing key signatures
- changing clefs randomly
- very little repeating sections so way more to learn in a comparatively sized piece

Month 7: Sound of Silence (intermediate)
This one was all about hand independence: partially is each hand doing the right thing at the right time, but primarily getting the left hand to volume down and the right hand to be louder so that the melody can be heard clearly. Also smoothing the notes out while doing that. Lol apparently when too much is going on at once, I can only play super-staccato ;-P

The new normal?

So...  I was back in the office this week.   Was that ever a surreal experience.   I was there for three days; my boss was having an offsite, that included his whole team (which means people flying in from UK, US, and Vancouver), and since so many were coming to Toronto, a few other teams came in as well.   He arranged the schedule so while there were workshops, there was also lots of networking time.

Not sure this post will have any coherence, but my random thoughts over the last few days.

  • Getting up more than 2h before the first meeting *just* to get to the meeting on time...  Less fun ;-P. No dog walk, no exercise, just to get there.   And that's when staying in Oakville.
  • While there aren't nearly as many people commuting, they've shortened the trains and made them less frequent, so end result is still over-crowding.
  • However, since the platforms haven't moved, the doors still open in the same spots they always did. And turns out the same trains are still on the same tracks.  End result, I knew where to stand to ensure I pretty much always had a seat.  Win.
  • On the flip side, the GO parking lot is empty.   I'm loving the non-reserved "reserved" spots.  And the fact that with half the lot closed, I could still get an ideal spot mid-rush-hour.
  • Remembering what to bring in my train bag.  lol headphones, water bottle, etc
  • The train was busiest on Thursday by a LOT.  The couple people I know who've started going back into the office have mentioned that, but I hadn't really expected it.   I'm slightly confused as to why (I prob would've guessed Tues or Wed) but evidently Thurs is the day.
  • I haven't worn adult shoes in years.   Let's be honest - I rarely wear *shoes*, much less grown-up ones.  My feet.  My poor feet.   Before I even got to the office, I had to find a pharmacy to buy band-aids, just to make it through the first day.   Also, that was more of a challenge then it should've been since most of the PATH (for non-TO people, it's actually very cool) is out of business :(.  Random stranger gave me directions - thankfully accurate as I was hobbling by that point, so exploring was less fun.
  • Day two I wore flats instead; I noticed the vast majority of the women did the same.  To be fair, I can count the women on one hand -- it's still a very male-dominated area -- but we were all shorter on day 2 ;)
  • In the "before times" if you were in a hybrid meeting, the people who were remote would always be causing delays and struggling with technology.  Here it was the people in the room, every time.   Couldn't connect computers, had no idea how to make the speaker work.  Ironically as the least technical person in the room, this was something I had no issue with since my last world was also hybrid, I'm well used to the tech.  But *this* office had been 100% in-office before the world shut down (like think actual desktops) so it's all new to them.  Moderately amusing as it is, in fact, a tech team.  The remote people needed a lot of patience this week ;)
  • Where I failed in tech was the elevators.   More often than not I'd push the button to call the elevator and forget to check the screen for which one to get in.   This is the reverse of what used to happen when I was super-used to that, but then I'd go into a building without it and just stand in an old-school elevator wondering why it didn't move 😂 
  • When you've only met people online, even though we always have cameras on, you have no real idea of size: either height or weight.  There were people *way* taller, skinnier, or heavier than in my mental image.   Apparently they thought I'd be taller 😂 
  • Pre-commuting me: packs tank top blouse.   Current me: remembers I didn't have a reasonable jacket to wear and put off going to Winners too long, just accepts I'm going to freeze.   Put on tank top and underneath is a neatly folded office-appropriate sweater.  Thank you past me!
  • The quick downward slide amused me.   Day one: set alarm an hour early, transition into an adult, have breakfast before leaving, etc.  Day two: set alarm 45 mins early and 30 mins early.   Wake up at first alarm, get up at second alarm, eat breakfast, and go.   Day three: set alarm 30 mins early.  Get up at 15 mins.  Out the door with time to spare.  Not a ton of it, but some!
  • It was really great to catch up with some colleagues from previous teams that I haven't seen since before the world shut down.

As to actual work?  Nothing got done.  It was a great week of networking, actually super helpful as far as building relationships, having casual conversations, and generally getting to know people as humans rather than work-only squares on a screen.  But now it feels like I've been on vacation for a week; it's all the catching up of the work that didn't happen in all the rest.

Chris did a thing!

2020 changed the world in a lot of ways.   For us, it gave Chris the final push he needed to change careers.  His career change, however, required a return to school.  


The adventure began!
True story!  The acceptance letter came with actual confetti ;-P
I feel like I was way more amused by this than Chris was.

The ceremony was similar to other ceremonies I've seen.   I had prime seating right on the aisle.  This meant both good picture taking options and I got to watch some of the behind scenes organising ;)

The entry procession

*insert a bunch of speeches and people we don't know here*

Chris was in the second group of graduates to cross the stage.

You've heard of the "walk of shame"?  I'd like to introduce its opposite.
The only objective is "do not trip" ;)


Somehow I figured not having kids, I wouldn’t be sitting through any graduation ceremonies, but here we are.  And honestly, possibly even more proud.  In my world, it's normal for kids to go to uni and graduate; it's a lot harder to do it as an adult.

Judging by the amount of chairs set up for graduates, they expected about twice as many people as attended; that being said, it ran almost exactly on schedule. 


So my husband is now a university graduate!

 Some differences from other ceremonies I've seen, cause that’s always what interested me: 

  • Graduates weren’t separated from audience in advance — Chris came to visit after he had his gown, and others were taking pics on the stage in the formal chair. When I’ve attended before, once guests and graduates went their separate ways, they didn’t reunite until after the ceremony.  And definitely we were not allowed on stage until we were invited.
  • Instructions weren’t super clear to the graduates or the audience. The poor woman in charge of making sure people went where they were supposed to (and doing so subtly) was really earning her (likely volunteer) paycheque that day. At the very end, she gave up completely. It did work out, just not quite how they’d intended.
  • Lots more setups for photo ops than in my past — to me this is a sign of the times; the last grad ceremony I attended was 2005, selfies and social media weren’t even really a thing yet. So setting up photo ops wasn’t required either. I actually would’ve enjoyed this, but would not have wanted to wait in line for it :) - They weren’t as strategic about portions of it — for instance, the degree framing was hidden indoors where graduates return the gown; it wasn’t where the parents were with their kids (given that in *most* situations it’s parents who are likely to pay for that particular piece).
  • Chris humoured me and let me take a pic with the badger ;)

  • Graduates didn’t receive their degree on stage — they had their colours draped over them instead. They got their degree when they returned the gown. lol. This, to me, combines with the photo ops and the structure. I don’t recall exactly how they enforced getting the gowns back when I did it, but I suspect it was the room we went to right after the ceremony, before going outside again. Photos were taken before, and far less of a “thing”. 
  • I really enjoyed people watching after the ceremony, while Chris was off collecting his degree. Brought back some happy memories for sure. It’s a day for positivity and enthusiasm and, well, we can use that once in a while. 
    Success.  Woohoo!

Toronto Tourists

Team Al's Adventurers

Took the day off work today and went downtown to do a Let’s Roam with Dad.  Really enjoyed this one --  it’s the first one I’ve done where I knew the area, which circled my former office building. It also had a history focus, which generally fascinates me. The puzzles were good, although a couple we definitely struggled with — one, because the statue in question had moved lol and the other cause clearly we didn’t find the right plaque to get the info from, and Google even led me down the wrong direction. Fail! 

Even statue cats are independent;
this one was not where it was supposed to be ;)

Coolest for me was the old court square — which was less than 5 min walk from where I used to work, and I still never knew existed. It’s a gorgeous park now, well kept up, with some random art.

How could I not love a sculpture of books?

Pleasant surprise a couple times when we appeared like lost tourists that people offered to help.  Faith in humanity at least partially restored.  At the end of our adventure, we stopped to grab a hotdog -- classic downtown moment -- before catching the train home.

Completely random anniversaries

 So many things going on this week.

It's my one-year anniversary at work.   Other than GRS, it's the only role that I can recall having that I haven't been looking for "what's next" by the one-year mark.  So that's awesome.  More of a challenge than I'd expected, but that's also exactly what's made it interesting :).   Great combo of awesome people, interesting work with enough leeway to make a difference, strong leadership, and flexibility to work remotely.  Solid win.

Then more recently, it's the five-month anniversary of my piano learning adventures.  I am also still really enjoying this one.  I keep expecting the novelty to wear off, but so far so good :).  I will admit I've become very lax about the lesson book and the "technique mastery" portions of things and am very much focusing on learning songs.  I do at least try to strategically pick songs that build skills on each other.   The songs I'm learning are still super-short but noticeably longer than the ones I started with.   The five-month video is here.  Be kind - I'm still a beginner!

That makes it about my four-month anniversary of you-tube 😂.  They switched their settings/rules at one point that super annoyed me because I would've structured differently if I'd known and there's nothing I can do about it now, but sobeit.  Definitely not the end of the world.   I have finally - I think - figured out the "right" sound setup.   Video could definitely still use some help, but it at least works.  Since I can count on one hand the number of people who view it, and I figure half of those are related to me, I'm not going to stress too much about the videography yet ;-P.  Maybe that can be the year-2 challenge.

And not an anniversary, but switching hobbies - I recently purchased a new pattern that was quick fun and easy.  I was super excited about an easy win.  Except that in the pattern it suggested a different type of fabric because of multiple half-stitches.   Now, tbh, I don't mind half stitches.  But I did think it'd be interesting to try a new fabric.  And how hard could it be right?


About that.  *sigh*. It is significantly harder.  What was my 'quick and easy' is the opposite of that now.  BUT - I get to learn something new, and it's a very pretty fabric (Lugana?  Idk - it's mostly cotton ;).   I do think once I learn it, working on this kind of fabric will likely LOOK way better.   I also have a GIANT project to start that I still haven't even started cause I'm slightly overwhelmed by it.  There will be no recording of that one 😂. But some day, a few years from now, there might be a completion post.

So this is two evening's worth of work.
With usual fabric, all the letters would be done by now ;)


A different type of puzzle

I go through phases where I really enjoy puzzles, and then when I don't do any at all.  Sometimes they're tied to weather, but really not so much.  The other day I stumbled upon one that I swear could've been made for me ;).   It's a book, a murder mystery, but the pages are shuffled.   I'm not even kidding.   I heard about it in random social media, of course ;), and went to Amazon.  Sure enough...



So yes, I ordered it :).  You can't be surprised.

When I got it I found out that not only is it indeed a puzzle book, but it's a puzzle book with a potential prize!

So if anyone else wants to join me in this adventure, lmk!

So far I've:

  • torn all the pages out of a book.   The first page was hard.   Like went against pretty much my soul to do so.  Unlike the pages of my cookbook which just jumped out of their own volition - as though they knew being associated w my kitchen would not end well ;)   Anyways - the rest of the distruction was fun and remarkably therapeutic ;-P.   Although I was about half way through before I figured out how to get clean page removal, so that was frustrating.  I would've preferred all the pages be pretty.  Ah well ;)
  • read a few random pages.
  • discovered the writing is not modern; knowing the background of the book, this should not have been even slightly a surprise, but it was.  I have read more centuries of the English language than an reasonable person ever would, but I have to admit, it does make the puzzle just slightly more complicated.
  • learned the novel has an unreliable narrator.  Of course it does.  I fewer than 20 unrelated pages, the narrator has admitted to killing 2, if not 3, of the victims.  SO there are either multiple narrators (plausible) or one completely unreliable one.  And either way, until the pages go together, it's very unhelpful.  And all in the first person.
  • realised I do *not* currently have the time for this adventure.  It will require some heads down hours.  But might be a summer deck project :)

So yeah - mostly just sharing in case anyone else is as amused by this as I am.  May the odds be ever in your favour.


Production 101

Right so, if you've been following the story, you'll know that my latest hobby (of 4.5 months now!) is learning to play piano.   In hopes that there will someday be an "after" for comparison, I've been recording videos.  Never having recorded anything in my life, this in itself has been an adventure.   

So it started with just the iPhone.  And that was okay, but the sound was really dodgy - it actually manages to make my playing sound worse?!?!  I mean, it's pretty bad to begin with, comeon...  Just not fair.

So then I figured okay, maybe I need a better microphone.  I have a good microphone thanks to 2020 and the work from home evolution, so usb to lightning converter and away we go.   Yeah no.  Not so much.  The phone just completely ignored the mic and went on about its business.  Fail.

Bought an external bluetooth mic that would wirelessly pair with the phone.  Worked great - once.   Then it would never pair again.  Returned that one and got a wired one.  This one is pretty good and makes a significant difference in sound quality.  Win.  You can see that one in Friday's GoT video (linked below).

Except...  The room my piano currently in has road noise.  And almost always the dogs are with me - Sasha pants.  Loudly.  And Tucker snores.  Loudly.  And occasional video-game commentary can also be heard in the background.  The new mic picks up all of it.

Okay but... it's a digital piano?  Like the app I'm learning from "hears" what I play from a midi-lightning cable.  This isn't hard.  I should just be able to plug that into my phone and get sound from there.

hahahahaha No.

Cute idea, but no, it most definitely does not work.  The regular speaker still recorded, but since the audio was now gone all it recorded was the sound of silent keys clicking.  And Sasha panting.  Perfect.  

I am not even kidding.  I saved this just cause it made me laugh.
And yes the screen is black; this was an audio-only test.

Dr Google told me that it would work if I used the GarageBand app -- well A, no - still failed, and B - GarageBand doesn't have video.   And I am most definitely not dedicated enough to record both separately and spend time merging.  I'm doing well to remember to upload them and that takes all of about 30 seconds.

So the keyboard has bluetooth; my phone has bluetooth; surely, that's a reasonable solution?   See hahaha above.

I did find one YouTube video that looked promising until they put in a headphone jack.  Like how old is this video????  Could we have some time relevance please?

Okay so then I decided if you used to be able to go through the headphone jack, why not?  I got a headphone splitter, sent one signal to my actual headphones so I could hear what I was playing and the other to the iPhone via a connector cable.  This one earned me silence.  It wasn't picking up what it was hearing, but it also wasn't picking up piano sounds.

Continue my Google/YouTube adventure and eventually discovered that to go from piano to phone, you need an in-between conversion step.  Well awesome.  This time, instead of just ordering more stuff to return to Amazon, I went to the local music store.  Well not the actually local music store because they have retiree hours and are basically never open when I want them to be, but the slightly farther away music store.

So first of all - it was packed?!?!  And staffed accordingly which makes me suspect it's often packed?  In my entire 4.5mth music career, I've yet to see more than one other customer in a music store, so definitely surprised at this.

Suffice to say I didn't bother with the DIY version, and asked for help from the first sales person I found.  Taking from lessons learned at work, I didn't tell them what I was there to buy, I told them what the problem was I was trying to solve.   And I say them, because this created quite the adventure.  By the end I'd say 3.5 sales people were involved.  lol the .5 was because one of them asked this particular person if he had any experience with X and he just said no and laughed.   But essentially between them, they had a solution they were certain would work until one of them recalled *which* keyboard I'd told them I had; being far from the most expensive on the market, it lacks any output other than a headphone jack.   And they were most definitely not convinced their solution would work that way.   Clearly entertained by the challenge, one of them realised they had the same keyboard in stock (Google says it's hard to find these days, so hence the surprise) -- pulled out the gear, set it all up, and ran a test case.   They were not able to test connecting it to a phone (something to do with having to register the product) but they were able to connect it to an amp, and were very convinced that if it worked with the amp, it would work with my phone.  It was also entirely refundable.

So off I went on my own merry way (withOUT buying any of the many many many appealing books of beginner-friendly sheet music might I add), detoured by the last store to return the many cables from my previous attempt, and gave it a go.

It took a little bit to set it up - a couple things didn't work quite the way the pdf manual suggested it would, but - it WORKED!  The only thing I can't figure out is if the volume is too loud, it sounds staticy.  Not sure what that's about, but I can accept it till the day I'm bored enough to do more googling.

So now I can record without extra background sounds and without my husband having to listen to my efforts ;).  A win all around really.

As for *what* I'm recording...  On Friday I did Game of Thrones - the Intermediate version (this is with the mic - for comparison purposes later).   This one is interesting because it was the very first song I tried to play, so it's fun to see the progression.  Also, the advanced version builds directly off the Intermediate (more so than most) so I'll continue practicing it so my fingers remember when it's time to level up.   This is important because this one took me a SOLID two weeks to learn of practicing daily.  Admittedly this was two weeks after a 1-week vacation where my brain apparently forgot everything it tried to learn previously, but still.  It was a one bar at a time adventure, and the parts that should've been (in my mind) easiest, took the longest.  Super frustrating for something that sounds super-simple in the end.   BUT.  I did it.

However, today is Saturday (or at least it was when I started writing this blog post ;).  So I needed a new song.  One of the next on my list was the Flowkey version of I'm Yours.   This was super-short and, I expected it to be super simple (I hoped!  I'm getting *slightly* better at analysing that by looking at the music ;) -- I chose it for a couple reasons: one, I really wanted a quick win after the pain that was GoT;  two, it's the first one I've done to really use chords and I figured it'd be good to practice that on something slow first.  Then added bonus, it was a chance to play with the sustain pedal, which I've only used a *tiny* bit in the textbook work.  I am not good at the pedal.  lol ten fingers is enough to coordinate without adding in a foot!   But it was short, simple, and slow enough that I was able to learn it quickly so I had something to test recording on.

Side note - I also learned I don't love slow.  I think it might actually be harder to make slow sound good than fast.  Fast may be harder to do technically, but it sounds way cooler with no effort ;)

So I just listened to Fri and Sat recordings back to back.  GoT was a way more interesting song, but recording quality is SO much better with the new setup; now I just need to learn how to play!

How it started vs how it ended: MBA edition

How it started: 


How it felt in the middle:

Full-time work and full-time MBA?  No problem.


How it ended:
I hire people all the time; I've never once asked their GPA.
Yet somehow, this made me really happy ;)



Multi-lingual Skype ;)

When you know you're somewhere in the intermediate realm of Spanish.  My teacher Skyped me, in Spanish, about a problem that the lesson we had today didn't register properly in the system.   Given more time, patience, and energy I probably could've answered in Spanish, but I was multitasking and it was definitely faster in English (and I know that his English is better than my Spanish) so I did that -- but I never had to cheat and translate what he was sending me either.   Finished in Spanish, albeit a little grammatically questionable ;)


Since I've been putting most of my "optional" time to piano lately, my Spanish has deteriorated horribly :(.   It gets to come back on the list as of April.  Although I'm only on day 3 of this month's challenge and determined to finish it on time, so have to do a fair bit of catch up in there ;).   But yeah, definitely noticed in today's lesson I was struggling more than normal, so need to get it back into a regular part of things.  Ah well - the list grows.



Sleep-deprived road trip thoughts

So these are misc posts I wrote as I was going along; complete randomness -- consider yourself forewarned.

We had a car cooler on loan from my mum; the car cooler has two settings: hot and cold. The first time we plugged it in was cold. Things stayed cold, life was wonderful. The second time was hot. My bag of mini mars bars is now one GIANT mars mess and we were lucky we caught it before the cokes exploded or C’s beers do whatever beers do when they get too hot. Lol at least now we know how to tell which way it’s set ;). And that mars bars, once re-chilled, make for a still tasty, if oddly shaped, pull-apart bar.

Singing loudly fuels late night driving; idk about anybody else, but I really enjoyed the live concert featuring me ;)

Google lady gives amazing instructions while driving (including, thankfully, what lane to be in) but is very hit or miss when walking.

Waterproof phone and camera both survived far more of a torrential downpour than I would willingly have subjected them to. Win.

Just because the sandals are the most comfortable footwear you own, does not mean it’s a good life choice to wear them for a 3h city hike when they haven’t been worn since pre-winter. And definitely don’t do it two days in a row, even if your other shoes are wet. Ow.

Scavenger hunts are more fun when you do all the challenges, particularly the silly ones.

I am far more willing to talk to strangers to solve a puzzle or win a game than I am for any practical life purpose. Strangers also seem to enjoy participating in said games.

Budget hotels are budget for a reason; some make it far less obvious than others.

Finding that the most amazing cookies exist but are more than a 20h drive from home is both a very good thing and a very sad thing.

I like subtlety in my life. I've come to the realisation that the things and behaviours that make me dislike the States generally fall under the “too much” category: too big, too loud, too in your face, or tries too hard. And alas, while the vast majority of people and things probably don’t fall under that category, they are, by definition, quiet about it and thus drowned out.

mmmm Piña Colada slushy

7-11s in the States have piña colada flavoured slushies. I am so jealous. I also did not discover this nearly early enough in our trip. All the junk food that I eat way too much of at home, I can’t eat here because it tastes wrong (they usually don’t use real sugar - corn starch they use for flavour is illegal in Canada). Which, when I briefly lived down here resulted in me losing all kinds of weight ;). But is less fun when you’re trying to be a kid in a candy store on a road trip. So discovering NEW junk food is wonderful. Ice cream and baked goods from actual bakeries are also generally excellent ;). And, given US sizing, I’m still going on the cookie I bought two days ago. Lol

I have, for most of my adult life, been subject to motion sickness. I can’t use gadgets in the car, or read, or sit in the back seat. Buses are my own personal hell. And motion sickness drugs knock me out cold. They do work, but less fun if a good part is the adventure is to enjoy the ride. Arm bands help a little as long as I put them on early. Usually if I’m in the front seat I’m fine as long as it’s not stop and go or really jerky driving. So I figured I’d prob be okay on this trip; if nothing else, I know what to watch for and I’m very careful not to do anything to trigger it. However, much of my blogging I wanted to do while being a passenger. Reading and writing are a hard no, but it turns out I can touch type - with a real keyboard I’ve been able to do that since high school (my single most useful hight school class bar none - grade 9 typing lol). But I never realized until this trip I can do it almost as well with my phone as long as it’s letters only. The issue is when autocorrect tries to help.  I have definitely found a few interesting “fixes” when rereading at night and undoubtedly have missed others. The other fun one is there’s no way to landmark without looking, so if I get to the wrong line I can have a very large amount of transposed letters. It’s a code you could puzzle out if you were really bored but less fun trying to remember what I was actually writing ;-P

So one definite win as we travel - burgers! I haven’t had a good burger since we moved - everywhere sells these stupid smash burgers. But idk if it’s just where we live now or if it’s an Ontario-wide trend but it is not good. Twice on this trip I’ve had truly awesome burgers. It’s the little things in life ;)

Somewhat surprised by the number of bail bond offices. How and why is that such a big industry?!?!

A week was enough of a road trip for me.  Almost every other vacation, I haven't been ready to return when we did, but this one I was definitely ready to come home and sleep for about 3 days.   That being said, I had an amazing time, and really enjoyed myself, which is even more impressive when I remember it was a vacation I wasn't sure I wanted to go on to begin with.   So huge win there :)

Now it's time for Spring to arrive.

Highway Thoughts

This post is complete randomness of things I wrote regarding the actual act of driving / navigating the US as we drove many many many miles to and around Florida. Consider yourself forewarned ;)

So the rest stops that are just super clean washrooms and nothing else are very civilized. Less civilized is the need to leave the hwy to find gas and food. Not difficult but much slower and hit or miss.

So the highways in Florida - in some locations (eg going into the Everglades or the Keys) it’s one lane each way with no on or off ramps for excessively long distances. Since there was little to no traffic when we were there this made for consistently lovely driving. But, what surprised me, was with all this big open space, how I was fighting feelings of claustrophobia?!?! I really struggled with the idea that I couldn’t just get off the road or turn around. No reason I would need or want to but definitely some long since unnecessary instinct was triggered by it. Not an issue, just found it mildly interesting.

Similarly “there is a 20 minute delay; you are still on the fastest route.” Thanks Google lady, we’re on the *only* route lol 

Honking. Okay seriously Americans behave like toddlers w their car horns. Sitting at breakfast in a restaurant downtown - typical city traffic. But constant horns. OMG somebody six cars ahead was 2 seconds late off the gas!!! HEY that light is about to turn green! I’m not getting what I want right this second so everybody needs to hear about it. Or later - sitting in stop and go, nobody can move anywhere, traffic and still often horns? Like a definite boy who called wolf scenario. If everybody is always on their horns, nobody’s going to pay attention when it actually matters. And on top of that it’s loud and obnoxious.

One thing that really amused me in the keys were the number of cop cars parked as if to be speed traps that were just empty cars. Only saw one with an actual person in it, easily identified as it was parked in the shade ;)
Alas, we did not get to see an actual panther :(

So very cool - they have panther crossing signs. Which is cool enough but also, some of them flash when it knows a panther is near. How does it know? They’re tagging them with gps trackers that trigger the lights. So if it’s flashing, one of the previously caught ones is nearby. 
 
This seems to suggest the flashing lights might have a purpose

They also have night speed limits in animal crossing areas - we saw them for both panther and deer in separate areas - which are 10 or 20mph lower. 

Then there are these signs across Florida which made me realize they don’t have an emergency broadcast system…
I guess an emergency broadcast system would be impinging on freedoms??? ;-P

Speed limits are consistently higher than in Canada, which is lovely, and about as much (or as little?) respect is paid to them…. More of a guideline ;).  I can’t get used to 100km/h speed limits on roads with lots of entrances and stop lights though. Some of those were a little dodgy.

Traffic congestion warnings are way better in Fl than we have at home - they identify where the congestion stops and ends, even more accurately than the Google lady! Although she’s better at giving alternate routes ;)
If we knew where we were going, this might've been very helpful ;)

As long as you’re not on a hwy golf carts appear to be road legal?!?! Lol can’t get over how many we’ve seen just puttering their way around random towns. And honestly, with no snow, why not?

Tolls and parking are both generally cheaper than home, even w the exchange rate factored in.
WTF is fog smoke?!?!
We didn't see it, so remains a mystery...

Hwy lane exit info painted on the road is super helpful- definitely wouldn’t work where there’s winter, but was lovely here.

Our credit cards often don’t work in gas pumps, so we have to pay inside in advance which is just a royal pain.

Billboards everywhere - the US is just one big ad. Which, around the cities alright, but where it really got to me was when they cut down trees solely for the billboard. I really struggled w that one.

Summary - will miss the high speed limits, the advantages of no winter, and the clean restrooms with no expectation of purchase.  I won't miss the literal and visual noise.


This doesn't seem like Florida anymore...

Drove through Ocala this am - waved at the horse park and had flashbacks to when the horse world was my real life. I know some of you are down here now - I’m appropriately jealous. The Ocala forrest was also lovely to drive through and I imagine could have some gorgeous hacking :) 

This part of the drive was gorgeous.

We decided to skip the Let’s Roam in Jacksonville and headed straight for Savannah. We had tickets to tour a plantation home there and also a Let’s Roam. 

This was the house we were going to tour

Savannah was stunning AND it had a great Let's Roam, so that was an amazing combination. We were a little surprised as we got there that the home we had tickets for was right in the city centre; turns out it was the plantation owner's home, not actually the plantation. But definitely still interesting. The last of the family owners bequeathed it to the museum in the 1950s, and they've done a combination of keeping it in its original state and restoring other areas back to what they would've been.

Tours were every 15 minutes, and the only way you could see the house, so when we checked in, it was about 45 mins to the next available tour.   We decided we'd start our Let's Roam and come back when it was closer to starting time.   This Let's Roam was a Ghost Tour, the first I've done of those, and fairly entertaining.  Was a bit of a walk to the Pirate's House that started it out, but a gorgeous walk.   

This is the first city I've been in where I've noticed
No Parking so they can sweep!

We did the first couple stops which conveniently led us right back to where we needed to be; our museum wasn't on the tour, but we had a stop across the street, so at that point we hung out a did a few challenges while waiting for our tour.

We were able to wait in this fairly stunning garden;
Apparently this would've been a far more practical work space
(including housing a cow that escaped) once upon a time.

Our tour started in the stables / housing for enslaved people.  The stables had been renovated at one point beyond the point of historical restoration, so they are now the orientation centre.   However, the housing for enslaved people still exists much as it would've.

The tour guide was excellent in his word choice and in conveying
both sides of the life experience throughout the tour

The orientation centre has this wall with the names of the enslaved people
who kept the estate functioning (when they were known).
There are lots of extant letters between the husband and wife that reveal many of the details both about people and life that otherwise would've been unknown.

This would've originally been 3 rooms, and housed 6-12 people, including children

From here we moved through the garden to the house, using the back entrance.  The rooms at the back would've been more family-focused, as we moved forward through the house they became grander and more ostentatious.  Symmetry was a huge thing in the design, as were faux finishes (it cost more to paint wood to look like marble than to use actual marble, so they did that instead to demonstrate wealth; similarly with painting one type of wood to look like another).   

The grand staircase was certainly impressive, 
but more interestingly, it led to...

...this fairly stunning bridge connecting
one side of the upstairs (kids bedrooms) to the other (Dad's office)

The master bedroom was downstairs; partially this was for heat control (14' ceilings and lower) but partially it was because this was the first house in Georgia with indoor plumbing (12 years before the white house) and being downstairs allowed the owners a private bathroom.

The girls' bedroom.  Note the bedroll under the one bed;
it belonged to the enslaved nanny who would've had to stay with them,
rather than returning to stay with and raise her own daughter.

We finished the tour going down to the basement which housed the kitchen and bathing areas -- these are as they once were and show a dramatic contrast to the "above stairs".  Down here they also display, museum style, some of the artefacts of the time, and stories of some of the people who lived and worked there.  In one room are reprints of letters sent between the husband (who at this point was a politician in DC) and the wife (running the plantations) that both give some details as to the enslaved people living there, but also show how very clearly they were not seen as people but as possessions or investments.  Really horrifying to read, yet effective in demonstrating the mindset of the time.

After the tour, we resumed our Let's Roam and got to explore a lot more of the city.  

For the curious - this is an example of a Let's Roam challenge;
Challenges are all optional, but imo they make it more entertaining.
This one would've come after some sort of actual clue about the square or the statue.

I loved all the gorgeous parks scattered around.   Also a number of tree-covered streets.

Just a pretty walk

We finished our hunt and debated dinner.  C was after southern BBQ, but there was an intense storm rolling in, so we weren't sure how willing we were to get soaked again (memories of the Everglades were still clear), but we were hungry and both enjoying the town, so with the aid of Google we located some BBQ and off we went.

BBQ was excellent, but the heavens opened while we were there.  lol we retreated just down the street and Chris grabbed a drink at the mojito bar we'd passed earlier in hopes the rain would settle before we left.

Yet another store made for Chris

Suffice to say we got slightly wet, but we stopped in a nearby tourist store and bought a ridiculously low quality but reasonably effective umbrella.  lol that got us to the pharmacy for our required COVID tests and back to the car without being soaked.  By the time we were ready to drive, the rain was done.  Win.

Happy and fed, we decided we'd drive till we got tired -- made it just past Charlotte and then crashed for the night.

Home tomorrow :)