Here there be dragons...

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

This month's completely random adventure

Okay so this post is a few weeks late, but hey - it's December, time and calories don't count ;)

So a while back I saw a stunning stained glass dragon.  I don't even usually really like stained glass, but it was just so awesome.  And even though I *knew* there was no way I could afford it, I clicked through to find the price.  Only to find...  the pattern?   Wait, what?

IME, if people are selling patterns, that means it's a craft that other people can do.   Idk where my little brain thought stained glass came from but I definitely didn't think it was an "in your living room" activity. So I googled...

And...  while it *can* be an in your living room activity, it seems some actual knowledge and skill might be required ;).  And tools.   Cost falls somewhere between embroidery and sailing as a hobby ;).   More than string, less than a boat.

Okay, so maybe there's a middle ground?   Went looking for lessons.  Local lessons.  Surprisingly, I found them?  And multiple options?  Like more options to learn stained glass making than piano?   The ? stands cause I'm still not convinced I'm not living in an alternate reality here, but such is life.  

So I picked the one I liked based mostly off completely arbitrary things on their websites AND availability of upcoming beginner lessons and signed myself up.  Two Friday mornings in a row.  Usually this would be a problem but it's December which means A: I have a fair bit of vacation time to use up, and B: so does everybody else I work with so my workload is comparatively light.

Away I went...  Home based studio, but nicely laid out, clean and tidy.   Instructor told me I'd have the choice of two pieces (beginner friendly - I knew before ever reaching out that the dragon of my dreams would be in no way accessible for a beginner).   By the end of the second day, I'd have it completed.  Sweet.

So it starts with pick the glass.   She had a ton of different options and walked me through different types and things to consider.  This was definitely the most stressful part of the whole adventure for me.  I do NOT have a good eye for colour and am very aware of that fact.  I've been taught, over time, some basic colour combos that work well together (working at OD provided me with more useful lifeskills than I realised at the time -- although they'd be completely appalled and horrified to see that knowledge applied to PPT presentations on a daily basis ;-P), however I acknowledge I have no eye for what might look good.  Even in stabbing things, 90% of the time when I go off-script and pick colours I like, I don't love the end result :(.  And glass is significantly more expensive than thread.

But one was SO pretty.  lol so then I just needed to find another one to compliment it and away we went...

I started by learning how to cut and break glass.  This is actually so much fun ;).  Got to practice on "throwaway" material first so as to not waste my pretty glass, but it turns out I'm not half bad at breaking stuff ;-P.  

So then we traced the pattern onto cardboard and cut it out (remembering to number all the pieces -- so one numbered picture and one set of numbered pieces).   Then trace pattern onto the glass and start cutting.  This was mostly okay.  Some learning curve in that if the pressure wasn't right (too soft or too hard) it didn't break well, and at least one piece the instructor rescued for me.   But all but that one were deemed acceptable ;)

Next up was grinding all the edges to take the rough bits off and make sure everything was the right shape.  We placed it all on a cork-board to check that the pieces worked together and that was the end of Day 1.

End of Day 1

So came back next week, we had to pick what colour soldering we'd use (I went with silver) because it would impact which foil we used.  Black is traditional, but I went with silver.

Next up was to clean each piece and then line every side with copper foil.  Think of when you have to put a screen protector on your phone and envision doing that on every single edge.   Once I got the hang of it, it was actually fairly satisfying to get it perfectly straight and bubble-free on the first go ;).  The perfectionist in me was pleased.  This would not last long ;)

So then we re-aligned everything and put all the pieces together.  We filled in some extra copper in a couple spaces and then I got to play with a heat gun.   Apparently I have a knack for this?   Lol I did it the way she showed me for a bit but then I found a better (for me) way that was much easier and much faster.  When instructor looked over my shoulder she told me it was excellent.  Apparently that was a more advanced technique *shrug*.  Idk, but to me it was easier to make it look good.

About that -- you could spend your whole life fixing "just one more part" with a soldering iron.   The perfectionist side of me did NOT enjoy this part.   I would still be there today if I hadn't had a meeting that afternoon I'd had to get back for ;)

Anyways - we did this around all the joints on both sides.   It was definitely my favourite part of the adventure, even if it could've been an endless adventure.   We then finished it off with a frame and a hanging chain (both of which are apparently optional, but I liked the finished look) and then just a quick wash and done!

I made a thing!

So overall I am pleased with it, it was an interesting experience and I'm glad I did it, but overall, I don't see it as something I need to do again ;).  Certainly not something I need to do often enough to become good enough to create my magic dragon.

And the search for the next hobby continues...

Next step in the piano journey

So since starting piano lessons I've actually been playing way LESS than before.  This is... Not exactly the desired result :(  The issue isn't lessons themselves, so much as fit between the teacher and myself.  In this case, I think the biggest challenge for me is the lack of plan.  He asks me what I want to do each week and we do that.  Like, great for flexibility but...  I don't know what I should do?  I'm a real beginner, I don't know what I don't know.  I raised that point, but nothing really changed.  And we have yet to do anything to completion.   We did one scale once - never any follow up.   We've done a ton of songs either in the book or that I brought music in, and he'll give me the 101 on parts of them but never actually get to the point of being able to play them.  In the entire time I've been taking lessons, I haven't learned a single piece well enough to play it through (seriously - my YouTube has died a sad death).   I even tried bringing a lesson book and he just kind of flipped through it and picked some random songs, we'd work through the fingering and any interesting timing etc, but again - just enough to get the concept, never enough to play it well.  So suffice to say, when lessons end at end of Jan, I won't be continuing them.

Nola walks across my keyboard occasionally,
but it's less dramatic with a digital piano ;)

At some point, I will prob start a search for another teacher.  But...  Options are not great where I live these days (ironically there are a ton where I used to live...  you know, when I didn't have a piano ;-P)

So things I know:

- I still really enjoy playing and would like to improve

- I am completely stalled in improving my skills without help

- I absolutely need a program and/or direction of some sort

- Depending on what definition is used, I'm either "high beginner" or "low intermediate" lol - whatever that means  

- I am, historically, very good at following structured programs and self-learning 

So...  I once again consulted my friend Google.   It's been a year - what might have changed?   The app I've been using (Flowkey) still ranks as basically the top for what I need, but I was super frustrated with their lessons which had a wicked combination of: no plan or structure to them AND depending on the course, if you couldn't play a particular piece well enough you couldn't progress, which would be okay except their course software doesn't let you slow songs down in short sections to learn like their song software does.   So I was REALLY struggling and super-frustrated with the lessons.

However, there are a couple this time around that I didn't try before.  Of those, after more research than is reasonable to do for such a thing, I narrowed it down to PianoNote (live instructors) and Playground Sessions (another app).   PS I originally dismissed last year because their whole selling feature was big names attached to it, except that the names mean very little to me and I don't need superstars, I need people who can teach.  However, the reviews this year suggested they've thoroughly revamped their classes and their software and so it was back in the running.  PN...  Idk, it has fabulous reviews, but I was really turned off by their website.  I couldn't tell whether it came with an app, how you access their live teachers, etc etc.  Too much advertising w too little info for me.

And then I found out that PS has BootCamp and a dashboard of stats.  Lol sold.  Anybody who's actually met me has probably realised boot camps are pretty much my thing.   Go super hard on something for a condensed period of time and see what happens?  I'm in!   (remember P90X3 days???)  And I love my data.  Even if it has no practical purpose whatsoever.   So the dashboard was an extra win.

So I now have both Flowkey (from last year) and Playground Sessions.  And I can say song selection and song-learning software is definitely better in Flowkey (although PS still has tons of songs I want to learn, so no lack).  However, the lessons are WAY better in PS.   Three levels: Rookie, Intermediate, and Advanced.   I'm doing Intermediate, and it's legitimately the right level for me -- I'm learning something new in almost every class and the lessons are challenging but achievable.  Win.  They absolutely build on one another in a structured manner and use a combination of video lessons and practical application which is great.  Also, the issue I ran into with FK about not being able to learn a section fast enough to survive a lesson is a non issue here -- you can slow down the track to whatever speed you can play and still get "full credit" for it.   Although I'm determined enough that I keep at it till I can get 100% at full speed -- at least with this app I have a chance to get there.   It also tracks every note red or green (as does FK) but also shows what I actually played if it's not green.  Was I too early?  Too late?  Wrong note?   Now I know...  Super helpful.   It's also much pickier about timing that FK, which while brutal at first, has been super helpful to my learning.   And it has background tracks which make it feel like you're playing something interesting even when you're doing very basic whole note cords ;).  So yeah, the app for learning random songs - not nearly as good as FK's, but the instructional portion?  WAY better.  Which is awesome.

Maybe between the two of them my piano skills will continue to improve this year :).  Wish me luck!

Cat Tree Construction Adventures

So Enola’s been here a week.  Clearly she’s staying :).  And clearly she needs a tree so she doesn’t climb everything else in our house.   Chris cannot handle the ugliness of the tree (fair - they really are hideous) so it will live in my office.   We won’t mention that Enola is still too scared to come upstairs lol.  Someday she’ll appreciate it.  When Sherlock was her size I had an apartment the size of our master bedroom.  Lol my comparison for how cats settle is a little off ;)

Anyways this is my “live blog” thoughts on the cat tree adventure - wrote as I went along, sharing now, unedited.  Consider yourself forwarded ;)

First: this box isn’t supposed to arrive for 2-3 weeks.  And it’s way too small; maybe I ordered something else and forgot?  Not like me, but it’s Xmas so it’s possible.

Hmmm box is heavy.  Probably the tree.

Oh good - instructions are IKEA style and only tool is an Allan key.   I have a shot :).  I’m the queen of ikea furniture ;)

Instructions do not require two people.  Win.  They do require you read the instructions lol.   Ironically you would only discover that if you actually opened said instructions ;-P

Off to a strong start ;)

Have you ever tried to put together a puzzle with no picture on the box?   This is similar.  Most ikea furniture you have some idea what the assembled product should look like.  I have only the vaguest recollection of what this will be.  The picture on the cover isn’t as helpful as you’d think.

Step one: accomplished.

Step two: repeat step one with a bigger box.  There is no logical reason this should be so much more challenging.  Yet here we are.

Step three: it’s time to adopt a passion for wine (I do live in wine country after all).  I’m sure wine would help this situation.

The box on the left was exponentially harder to assemble

Where did I leave the key?   I haven’t moved.  Logically it must be in arm’s reach.  Logic has left the building.

This was not an expensive cat tree.  I am covered in cat tree fluff and wishing I’d gone up a level or two in price point.

I’m also puzzled as to the physics of it, as several of the pieces are bigger than the footprint.  Hmmm this could be a challenge as small footprint was critical for the space…

Where is that key….?   I swear it’s like scissors while wrapping Xmas gifts.

At least Alexa is doing a good job w the music for this adventure ;)

Thank the cat god that the instructions are clear.   Although I’m only on step 4.  I may take those words back later ;)

Hmmmm the screw won’t pierce the fabric like they did earlier.  Scissors it is.  Oh wait - they weren’t supposed to pierce the fabric.  🤦‍♀️  Maybe that’s why.  This one is a win for the cheap fluffy fabric.  My mutilation of it is unnoticeable.  Win.

Definitely the first time I've assembled anything with a ramp

This is the most random IKEA furniture I’ve ever assembled.  Cat designers, shockingly, do not follow human standards for construction design.   Apologies to IKEA as this is definitely not actually from there; it just feels like it is ;)

My wine is empty.  Where did the wine go?  Probably w the key.

Alright.  Step five only requires one tool.  How hard can it be?   Why do I feel this is about to be the furniture equivalent of when your jump coach makes all the fences *really* low?

Why was this step *more* concerning than the ones with dozens of pieces?

Side note - I’m pretty appalled that the top shelf appears to have cat ears?!?!   Fortunately it was mailed in a flat pack.  Maybe I can just not unflatten them.

Not even kidding.

No I’m not stalling.

So it turns out that piece 16 upside down is not, in fact, piece 19.  Fortunately the instructions are excellent and the diagram made it v obvious there was a flaw in my interpretation even *before* I put it together.

Building upward

Hey!  It’s starting to look like a tree.  Also - the binder-twine type parts for them to scratch on are horrible to touch.  I truly hope she enjoys shredding them.  Ugh.

I didn’t need the key for a couple steps.  It has now gone on break.

Also - there’s a strap to affix this to the wall.  Clearly the makers of this product think I’m a more responsible human than I was intending to be. 

Top platform is like spinning a pizza to add :).  Definitely the most fun part of this.  I’m also rethinking where said tree is going to live. 

There’s a bell on this too?!?!  Why do all cat toys come with bells?!?!

Ugh.  Not one bell: TWO

So it is done.  And tbh was actually really simple to put together- but that doesn’t make for a fun story ;).  Where I want it to go is unfortunately right next to the piano and I’m not convinced that’ll end well so temporary home till I sort it out.  We’ll see.


Also - Enola came upstairs of her own volition for the first time shortly after I finished this.  She went about exploring the tree even before I laced it with catnip (I wasn't expecting her to come upstairs, so said catnip was still in the kitchen - also, the SPCA said her name was Catnip.  Enola definitely suits her better; she's too dignified to be Catnip!)

Looking down on the world with appropriate feline disdain

Introducing Enola

So, Sasha has a spiky ball that she loves.  Unfortunately it has exceeded its lifespan -- the plastic spikes have been coming off, so I discretely, when she wasn't looking, deposited it in the trash.  I intended to replace it right away, but it turned out to be harder to find than I'd expected.   Then suddenly she had one that she was happily parading around the living room...  ummm, what?

Well it turns out it's Chris' massage ball.  It looks almost identical to Sasha's favourite ball, although it's significantly harder so I wasn't sure I wanted her playing with it and I *was* sure Chris wouldn't want her playing with it lol.   So with renewed interest, I went looking to replace her ball.  The magic that is the internet, told me Petsmart had them.  Excellent.  Petsmart also sells the food they eat.  AND it's right next door to Staples, where C had to go.

Right - so we go to Staples, accomplish item one.  We walk over to Petsmart... Where the local SPCA is having an adoptathon.   Now some of you may remember that once upon a time, several lifetimes ago, when I moved into my first apartment, I adopted a kitten, who turned into a really really cool cat.

I got Sherlock in 2000, so there are limited online photos ;)

Sherlock unfortunately passed on shortly after Chris and I got married and I found myself cat-less.   However, C is mildly allergic, doesn't *like* cats, and we had Tucker.  Tucker has many feline traits, so he is kinda like having a cat.  Kinda, but not really.  Also though, he has a fairly strong hunting instinct that can end poorly for cats.  A cat who will stand up to him and swat him, will do fine and be left alone, but one that runs away is subjected to an endless opposite-of-fun game of chase.  So when one combines all those things, I resigned myself to not having another cat.

So I get my cat fix by playing w friends' cats or visiting animals up for adoption in pet stores.   So when the adoptathon was on immediately upon entering the store, of *course* I went to visit.   And since I only ever get short cat visits, I tend to go to the ones with significant personality (lol, I know - you're shocked). So I was playing with an older kitten and sort of figured Chris would wander off and find the food and ball we were there to purchase.  But instead he says "that one can come home with us if you want."  Wait, what?!?!  On second thought, there are times you just don't ask questions ;).  

But... Tucker.  Hmmmm.  So checked with the SPCA rep who told us we could do a one week trial to make sure they did okay.  This kitten was known to be good w other cats but hadn't been tested with dogs. And Tucker, well we know Tucker.

Run around the store to get basic supplies for a cat who might not be with us more than a couple days.  Her carrying case was a cardboard box, food was included in the adoption purchase, we picked the cheapest litter box (it's disposable?) and some litter.  Really, that's all you need right?   Also, dog treats (new pets should always bring treats!) and the stuff we originally came for.

No, you're not new here.  Lol Winners next door provides at least a couple basic cat toys ;) 

Her first few minutes at home.  She has some great markings.

Got home, put her - still in her box - in the living room while we set up "her" room (aka powder room).   The dogs sniffed the box but didn't seem to care.  There was a grand total of zero drama with her in the room and the dogs out of the room.   Went to get groceries - and cat treats ;).  Get back, still no drama.  Carried her to the couch where she sat with us most of the evening - even snuggled with Tucker?!?!  Still a little stunned by that but okay.

Not sure he wants to share the couch, but no aggressive behaviour either.

Gave her a name -- Chris suggested sticking with the Sherlock thread.  I didn't love Watson for her so we landed on Enola instead.   Which is often shortened to Nola.

And so it went for the next few days.   She was clearly shell shocked -- she'd be hiding in her box (which we filled with a blanket for her) in her room every morning.  I'd bring her up to my office where she'd stay in her box until I brought her back downstairs.  She'd play a bit a night.  Rinse and repeat.   

She seems pretty relaxed here ;)
She hadn't yet gotten confident enough to move from wherever I left her though.

And then slowly she started coming out all on her own.  Spent a day hiding under the couch, but other than that she started exploring more.  One week later, she went upstairs by herself for the first time.  Tucker completely ignores her - even when she's batting at him or hitting him with her tail.  Sasha is very jealous, so I've been trying as much as possible to make sure she gets extra attention AND that her routine isn't changed (walks at the same time etc) but she's also the most unaggressive dog ever so no risk to Enola, just I don't want my dog to be sad.

Slowly getting closer.  
Also note how quickly the number of cat toys has expanded ;)

So now our trial is over, and we have a new cat :)

1 year of pianoing

So it's a year today since my piano has had a stand and so been a "real" thing :).  On the 11th I got the app to start teaching me things 😂 so not *quite* there yet, but I have time now so thought I'd check in.

I just reread my first ever piano blog post, when I wasn't even sure I'd make it to 30 days, so pleased to say (given the start-up costs) that I'm still enjoying the adventure.   In Sept I started "real" lessons which I am not particularly enjoying and will likely stop at the end of the term.  Suspect it's just that the instructor is not a great fit for me, but there's not a ton of choice out here and I've actually been playing *less*, and significantly so, since starting the lessons.  So that part's not great.  Although he definitely HAS helped me with some pretty critical basics I missed in my self-teaching lol, so I'm half tempted to redo some of the technique programs I worked through before (or try the next step up, which I tried once and failed horribly) while applying what I've learned here and see if it works any better.

My ability to read bass clef is still non-existent.  Like "A is for Apple" level.  I think my goal for next year should be to significantly improve that.  It's a shame flashcard apps are SO phenomenally boring.  You'd think they'd have more gamified versions by now!   I learned treble clef so young I don't remember learning it - it, fortunately, came back reasonably quickly.

Plus side, my ability for my hands to work independently and their understanding of what keys are where has definitely improved significantly (I mean, it would've been hard not to when starting from zero).  So deeming that a win.  That's another course I did right at the beginning that I stopped, more cause SQUIRREL than any real issue, but I'd like to go back and see how I do on the harder aspects of that one.

I still can't play anything from ear, and to be fair, I've put zero effort into developing those skills - despite all the reading saying I should ;)  I can, at least, usually tell if I play the wrong note now.  This is legitimately improvement.  I'm pretty tone deaf.

I'm at the point now where everything I want to play is just slightly beyond my level.  Which is super frustrating because it takes FOREVER to learn to play it not-well.  Song I'm learning now doesn't even look remotely complicated, yet the first 12 bars have taken me 3 or 4 hours to get to being able to play at 50%.  This doesn't bode well for a song that has 5 pages of notes ;-P.  Also, for the first time, I cheated and wrote in the bass chords for the sake of my sanity.   BUT I love that there is obvious, tangible, success metrics pretty much every day.  Yesterday I could only play those bars at 40bpm, and today I can do it at 60.   We won't discuss that the target is 115 ;-P.   Part of me thinks that switching apps so I get a whole new realm of "me-level" songs might be an excellent idea, and part of me doesn't want to lose the songs on the app that I've got.  hmmmm I feel like that's a Future Lauren problem.  Like next week, but still future.

I also can only seem to play at *most* 2 songs at a time.   Everything else I've learned falls right out my brain.  And because my music-reading skills are sub-par, it's that much more painful to get it back.  It does come back reasonably quickly, but still painful.  I can't wait for the day that I can just sit down and PLAY.

Going back through the year's blog posts and came across this from early in: 

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.

AND - I can tell you with ONE song, I can play beginner, intermediate, and advanced.   With *most* I can do the Intermediate version (that's what I start w now).  But the jump from Int to Adv is significant and generally well beyond my abilities.   The one I can do all three is Game of Thrones:  PlaylistDay 1, Beginner,  Intermediate, and Advanced.   Lessons helped improve the advanced significantly since this recording, but still has a ways to go before I'll be actually happy with it.

Anyways - enough babbling for tonight.   Lessons have definitely improved my understanding and basics, but have hugely detracted my interest in actually playing, so you know, not ideal ;).  But otherwise still a hobby I'm very much enjoying.

Vancouver is the same country, but still feels like visiting elsewhere

I think this was my favourite pic from the trip

So I did this for my FL trip and thought I’d do it here too.  I haven’t even left the country but there are little things that stick out as different between Vancouver and Toronto:

You should be able to see tracks!
  • Trains track that go up and down hills!   Lol I accidentally had a front-row seat to this as I ended up in the front car w a giant window, and it was the slowest roller-coaster ever.   Very disconcerting.  Train tracks in TO are flat ;-P
  • There is no HST here.  For those not in the loop – that means for some things (incl fast food which is pretty much all I bought) there is only 5% tax on stuff rather than 15%.  
  • Conversely, there is a 25c charge for disposable cups.   Environmentally I love this – but ONLY if they also allow you to bring your own (some do for sure, others it seems not so much) 
  • The women’s washroom has free sanitary products (this might only be in the office).  It’s a small thing, but an important one. 
  • Office work time is unofficially shorter.   People are not in as early in the am and they leave earlier in the afternoon.  I’m willing to say while this probably isn’t everywhere, it’s likely most places as the businesses that support said office workers are also open comparatively shorter timeframes.  About an hour on either side I’d say.   Work/life balance for the win.
  • Escalators (at least in the building where my hotel was) slow down when not to use.  This is surprisingly disconcerting the first couple times. 
  • The hotel elevator requires a room badge to operate.  I haven’t seen that before other than office buildings outside of working hours.  No idea if this is a Van normal or just that hotel.
  • So many stores had the clothing sizes they sell listed outside the store; sometimes it was all of them, but at least one didn't have any small enough to fit me.  Eventually clued in that the stores are all custom clothing so that impacts what sizes they have available.
  • Flashing green traffic lights are NOT an advance green!  lol it'd be a not-fun experience to discover that as a driver and not a pedestrian.  They do admittedly flash at a different rate than in Ontario but BOTH lanes have it at the same time.  So if you assume you have left-turn right of way, you will probably have significant issues :(. 
  • There are crosswalks, downtown, painted on the road, without lights, not at intersections, that cars actually respect.   This really freaked me out.
  • The architecture is gorgeous - much more glass-based and curvy than in Toronto.   Takes away the box-city feel.  
  • I could not live in a climate without sun.  Either all darkness or all cloudy would completely do me in.  
  • Significantly more healthy-type people here and infrastructure to support them.  The cycling lanes were amazing.   And tons of people jogging at all times.   This may be partially to do with the lack of significant winter, but TO doesn't even begin to come close.
This just shows the pedestrian side,
but the bikes have equal quality and size on the other side of the trees

TIL: Work Travel Edition

The view from the Vancouver office is lovely...

So I recently went on my first ever business trip out to Vancouver for a few days.  I haven't been there before and definitely had no time for touristing :(.   But my social media was all over telling me the cool things I *should* be doing there if I were not working ;-P

...but some of the interior decor is... moderately terrifying ;)

Anyways, I will preface this with once upon a time I used to travel, while not as often as I’d like, often enough that it was pretty standard. However, I haven’t been anywhere since Feb of 2020 right before the world shut down.

  • Travel pillows now come w a flat side. Finally. Win!   Actually the best pillow ever.
  • When going through security and they tell you to take your laptop out; they consider iPads a laptop.
  • Full body security scanners do not like the random extra metal button sewn inside your blouse.
  • Instead of checking your bag at the edge of the conveyer belt, they now pull it off to another area. This is actually super efficient and a huge improvement *except* I didn’t know about that! So while I’m in full body scanner the bucket w my purse and phone vanished. You cannot see what’s in the “to be searched” area. Slightly terrifying. As I gathered the 2 of 3 bins (one for luggage, one for laptop, one for purse) to come through, no sign of purse. Finally asked lady supervising there and she says “you have to go find it over there” and waved vaguely. Fortunately when I got “over there” I figured out what was going on which staved off the heart attack a bit. Figured I wouldn’t start *really* worrying till everyone before me had been through. Fortunately they were pretty close to in order - only one who arrived after me was seen before me and it was only by a few seconds. The woman checking it told me it was the iPad that triggered it, hence the earlier TIL.
  • Overall the whole security process is SO much more efficient than it used to be.
  • * Chairs in the random main shopping area = super comfy. Chairs in the waiting area? Not so much. Choose your time killing location wisely.
  • I still love people watching and writing while I have nothing else I have to be doing. 
  • Work travel must be scheduled through the online booking system. Says seats can be prebooked but you have to add a comment request in the booking. Done. Only response I get it “comments not fulfilled”. *sigh*.
  • You *can*, in-fact, still travel domestically without a passport. lol, why did I learn this? Because said online booking system has our HR info prepopulated. This info is uneditable. Says “must match passport “. Mine does not. Nobody knows how to address this. Workaround is that EAs can override. I am not important enough to have an EA ;)
  • My tiny wallet that I use instead of a purse is not big enough to have to save receipts for everything lol. 

*Soooo as to why killing time was so important???  Well this is at least in-part because the definition of rush hour has changed since the before times... Join me for some basic math…

My flight is at 10. It’s domestic and I have no luggage to check. Big bold letters about airport delays, be here at least 2h early. Okay that’s 8.

I’m leaving from my parents’ place since they live much closer to the airport. It’s a 20 min drive without traffic or an hour + in rush hour. Hmmm need to be there at 8, an hour before is 7. That’s about the start of rush hour, so me being never late bumps that back to 6:30.

All good. But remember 6:30 is no longer rush hour lol. I was in, upgraded flight, through security and had breakfast all by 7:15 ;). So I settled into the surprisingly comfy non-waiting seats and hung out for a bit.

Today I learned...

For those of you who don't spend half your lives on the Internet (congrats!) "TIL" is an acronym that often follows some short snippet that astounded somebody either cause it's super random and very cool or it's so simple the can't believe they hadn't known all along.   As I discover variants of this irl (generally always of the super random variety, less of the super cool), I mostly just leave them in my notes...   So decided to share some of the recent completely random ones from my notes file - consider yourself forewarned ;)

TIL: the reason they spend all day digging a giant hole only to fill it back up with dirt in the to-be-developed area next to us is because the land is contaminated and they have to essentially replace it.   This is completely unverified but seems plausible in light of the weird hole digging and filling behaviour.

I was today years old when I realized that bubbles in the bath significantly mitigate the amount of fog on the bathroom mirror.  Lol yes this wisdom was granted as I, a generally high functioning adult, both A - take bubble baths on a regular basis and B - rarely takes baths withOUT said bubbles.   Lol so when that rare circumstance occurred today, I was indeed moderately amused at how steamy my room got ;)

There is no angry way to say "Bubbles"

TIL: There is no adjective to go along w ‘solidarity’ in English.   Solidarious?  Solidaric?  Reputable dictionaries don’t like either.  Less reputable ones seem to lean to solidaric.  Came across this because it *does* exist in Spanish and I was struggling to apply it.   I have never missed this word in my life, and tbh I randomly make up words all the time when I need them so wouldn’t have been an issue if I had.  But still amused me.  

TIL:  The people scavenging in the recently shuffled dirt where they will some day be building new houses are looking for meteorites (which apparently pay quite well) and War of 1812 paraphernalia (which apparently does not ;-P).  This all according to one of the people doing said scavenging who was quite happy to tell us all about it and show us the meteorite he'd found.

Spanish adventures are still ahead of piano adventures ;-P

So I today I just finished the 20-week Intermediate Spanish Storylearning course and absolutely loved it.  Was super-helpful.  There's not a lot of actually good material for intermediate speakers, so I really appreciated this one.  And there's enough there to make it worth revisiting more than once which is even better.  So yeah, pretty pleased about that.

I also have a new online Spanish teacher who I'm really enjoying working with.  He's the first one I've worked with from Spain (the others have all been in Central or South America) and so I'm enjoying learning about some of the cultural differences between Spain and Canada.  lol I told him about our unique system of measurements; apparently he shared it with his family and friends and the general consensus was that I must be making it up ;-P.    Similarly - how do you explain maple syrup to somebody who's never heard of it ("what's it for?"), and also - what are uniquely Canadian foods?  Cultures?  Experiences? It's surprisingly hard to answer these questions when A - your country is a blend of other cultures, and B - everything is "normal" to me, so I've no idea what is unique to others.  For instance, that public school is free attendance -- apparently there "everyone goes to school" but there is still a charge associated.

So I'm at that weird place on the intermediate plateau where sometimes I feel like I'm *finally* getting it and it's all easy, and sometimes I'm like wtf?!?!  How have I been studying this so long (albeit on and off) and still miss SO much :(.   Ugh.   Like, there's a YouTube channel I'm *really* enjoying and I can consistently understand the gist of what's being said, often the details.  But the lead speaks for a living.  Lol when he talks to friends or people on the street, only rarely can I understand the response.  Similarly, I watched a movie the other day and actually enjoyed it (light romcom type thing) - but I read the cc for prob 75% of it.  Plus side - I had zero issue following while reading in Spanish.  Down side, when not reading I couldn't really follow :(.   I'm going to watch it again now that I know the story and see if it's any easier the second time *g*.  It's also based on a book which is now on my kindle ;).   Other plus side, my recommendations in Spanish are getting far more accurate now so that's helpful.  When I started looking for stuff everything was drugs, war, or over the top drama - none of which appeal to me.  So kinda cool that I've watched enough now (even if only on YouTube) that the recommendations are improving :) 

Plus side - when I watched the trailer just now while looking for a pic, I could understand most ;).
So maybe rewatch is worth it.

Anyways - all that is why I'm super pleased both to have completed a course that seemed to be at *exactly* the right level and to have a new teacher who I'm enjoying working with and who has actual set lessons; many of mine recently have been just conversation practice, which in itself is super useful, but only if I'm actually getting corrections as well; if I had to guess, I'd say a number of online teachers only have beginners so comparatively I'm "doing well" lol but compared to real life, there's still a ways to go.  New teacher is doing a bit of a repeat of stuff I know, but he at least started with intermediate content and it's possible we'll fill in something I missed along the way, so I'm deeming the review worthwhile and excited to see where it ends up.

A person who never made a mistake, never tried anything new

So the last song I worked on in my pianoing was my first "advanced" lol which I realise is nowhere near advanced by normal standards, but that's what the app calls it so why not.  It took me 6 weeks to learn 20 bars, and 90% of the left hand I'd learned in the intermediate version of the same song.  Multiple hours to get through single bars.  A, super painful.  B, sheer stubbornness got me through it.  C, I am fully aware even the "successful" version is atrocious, but technically I got through it hitting all the right notes ;).   There were two different pieces of notation I had to google what they meant.  And after all that, I realised I was definitely at the point where I needed help.  (Clip here for the brave or curious:

Accurate.  Except that I love my husband enough to wear headphones.

After the assessment and my free admission that I can't effectively read bass clef yet, and my theory is minimal, we're starting with the "level 2" book.  lol level 2 is super basic from both a playing and theory standpoint, but it that means it gives a chance to catch up on any/all basics that I missed.   Top of that list: how I hold my hands.   He corrected it in the first lesson, but I didn't really get it.   In the second lesson the light started flickering a little more and while it will undoubtably take me forever to fix, ("shorten your reins" anyone?), at least conceptually I get it.

My teacher is an older gentleman w a reasonably strong accent - my guess would be Eastern European or German? Idk - I’m really bad w accents lol. The ESL factor makes explanations a little iffy and I’m definitely an overgrown toddler in needing to understand “why” ;).  My favourite was being told:  “You must rest!” Hmmmm I feel like I might’ve heard that before ;). In this case, when I'm sight reading music I have a tendency to just ignore any form of rests ;-P

Re the whole hand position thing - I have to acknowledge that once the light started flickering, both the YouTube teachers whose videos I've been learning from have mentioned the same, but sometimes you need someone in person to actually show you how what you're doing isn't what you *think* you're doing...  (I swear the advent of cell-phone video cameras made teaching riding *so* much easier when I could show people that what they *felt* they were doing and what they were actually doing might not be exactly the same ;). AND, importantly, how to fix it.

So today I revisited my nightmare song with new learning in place.  One bar.  About an hour.  Slowed down to about 25%.  But I got it ;). And after I got it, I could speed it back up.  And eventually - was significant improvement over what I'd had before.  In an hour.  So I'm deeming that one a win and am actually fairly excited about it :)

A meh first world problem's kinda day

So a friend posted something about her "silent book club" she is in Australia so definitely too far away but I messaged her just saying it sounded awesome.  She tells me it's international and check out if there might be one near me.  Two Toronto-ish but nothing in Niagara.  Clicked the "start your own" (cause - well, you're not new here) to see what it's about.  "All you need is a friend, a cafe, and a book" - I was pretty thoroughly depressed when I realized I only have one of those close enough to connect with on a weekly basis living this side of the bridge :( 

A "start your own" example from the other day that might make those who know me laugh (or roll their eyes).  C and I were chatting about some of the challenges in our educational system, and differences from other systems around the world.   If we had kids, I'm not convinced I'd want them going through that program.  There are a lot of positives (and negatives) to home schooling, but I know myself well enough to know there's no way that would be an acceptable answer ;-P.  I would lose my little brain.  So what's the solution?   Clearly, I'd need to open my own school.  Lol this is exactly where my mind went, dove right into the practicalities of what would I need to do to set up an appropriate curriculum that would make use of modern learning theories while still enable grads to qualify for and succeed at university.   How and where would I find qualified teachers and what would make this school an environment they'd want to teach in?   Could a school of that sort even survive, esp where we live now?  What are the requirements to open a school?  lol just to be clear, I have ZERO intention of doing this - and even less intention of having children that would require me to do it ;-P.  Just amused me that that's where my mind went for how to solution this.  

Under the trying to meet people concept - it is remarkably hard to find adult lessons in anything out here.  Have tried: indoor rock climbing (not even a wall for casual, much less lessons), circus school (that one I found and it was a blast, but it wasn't working with my schedule and I was super frustrated that I couldn't practice in-between so progress was painful), indoor skydiving (this exists here, but tourists only.  Nothing for even a regular pass), revisiting skiing (uh, Niagara is flat, and xc is only fun on horseback), ballroom dancing (a slightly intoxicated C actually agreed to this?!?!) - yup, found exactly one place and they're taking the semester off, skating (adult lessons "cancelled this semester" - also adult is defined as over 13 there - I only thought of this one today though, so may do more digging), volunteering -- one failed, but the other is actually starting.  Win.  Except it's teens, so while it's a good thing to do and gets me out of the house, it's not good for meeting new adult friends.  And of course my lifetime default of riding -- there's very little of it in any form I'd enjoy participating in here :(   Super frustrating.   I *did* eventually find music lessons (win!), but that's 1-1 so again less good on the whole meeting people concept.   And I really enjoy our gym trainer, but again - it's just us.   

Anyways - definitely first world whininess.  Probably brought on by insane work - which should hopefully calm down after this week.   And maybe then I'll find something fun to do that actually involves other people.

#FridayFlash#77: Tonight

Do you ever feel like there’s a story there but it’s just out of reach? That’s what I had last night, and this is what we got instead. For the first one this year?!?! Ah well. Enjoy.  Also, slightly disappointed to realise this is the first one of the year :(   



Tonight is a night where morning is a reality that can be ignored; 
Tonight is a night for walking alone in the woods; 
Tonight is a night for watching moonlight shatter on a ripple on an otherwise still lake; 
Tonight is a night to listen to the sounds we can only hear when we stop; 
Tonight is a night to stare into a fire that cackles and throws shadows that dance; 
Tonight is a night for storytellers, dreamers, songwriters, and artists; 
Tonight is a night those without imagination sleep soundly, while those with are wide awake w wonder; 
Tonight is a night that if you pay attention, you just might glimpse magic rarely seen past childhood; 
Tonight is a night for memories of what was and dreams of what may be; 
Tonight is a night for questions without answers; 
Tonight is a night for mystery; 
Tonight is a night for calm, but also for magic and chaos; 
Tonight is a first for some, and a last for others; 
And on this night, of all nights, will you experience it, or will you be sound asleep?

Somebody else's next adventure?

Okay so here’s my new business idea. If I had time and money, I’d be all over it :). Alas, I have neither, and thus share the idea in hopes I can one day be a customer. 

I’m thinking a “silent resort” that is neither religious nor health based. A place for the introverts if the world to recharge in quiet that still serves awesome carnivorous food with savoury deserts. I want to come back from this retreat happy, relaxed, and 10lbs heavier ;). It’s not that there isn’t healthy food, it’s just that vegetarian and healthful aren’t the *only* options.

The resort shop would sell many many varieties of pens and notebooks ;). Probably artists' supplies as well. Possibly even a bookstore involved. 

The property would be rural and stunning. There’s be hiking trails - bonus points if they lead to a waterfall or swimming hole, maybe a beach somewhere. And the only sounds are those from nature.

It would be far enough away from town that light pollution is negligible and the stars and be fully admired at night.

If this resort is in a country that has winter, roaring fireplaces are a must. Snowshoeing and xc skiing would both be outdoor possibilities. 

Potentially a few stress-relieving critters around?   Cats, dogs, bunnies, etc?

Tablets, phones, computers, etc would be discouraged but not blocked - to each their own as long as no sound can be overheard (aka sound off or excellent headset).

A skilled RMT would be an excellent addition. Hot springs a lovely bonus if possible.   

Who’s gonna make this happen? Go on - tell your friends. Quietly ;)

This week's wtf (I mean, "learning") moment in piano

So those of you who hang out here on a regular basis will know that Spanishing has been going reasonably well of late. Alas, the same cannot be said of the piano. 

I am still very much enjoying it, but it’s being held back by two very strong forces:
  • It’s an indoor toy and it’s one of the few lovely months of the year, so I want to be outside 
  • I’m a beginner and beginner music is boring ;) 
So to combat the first, I need to be learning something interesting enough to be inside during summer. Tricky given the second ;). So I looked at the pieces that I really passionately want to learn to play, none of which are level appropriate, and picked the one which seemed most feasible.

It actually didn’t end up being either of the ones I would’ve expected but okay. Still all good. My feasibility scale was based on:
  • Is the tempo slow enough that I have a chance of ever playing it at speed? 
  • How much of it can I already play from having learned an easier version that was smart enough to use similar patterns to the real thing? 
  • How much musical theory is there that I have never seen before? 
  • Are there any parts I looked at and went wtf, how is that even possible? 
So the song I picked, I can play prob 75% going in. Win. To put in perspective, of that other 25%, I spent an hour tonight learning 2 bars. An hour. 2 bars. Hands SEPARATE. And it was a HUGE win at the end that I could do the “hard” hand *almost* correctly at 50% speed. And it fell completely apart when trying to add any of the other bars or the other hand in.

Musical notation there are two sections that I have no idea what they mean. I’m reasonably certain FB will provide an answer. One I figured out by context - I know the song and you can watch a person play it on the app so I figured it out, even though I don’t actually get it (aka if I didn’t know how it was supposed to go, there’s no way I’d know to make it happen). The second one I have no idea but have deemed it mildly irrelevant atm ;)

This is way better than the half a dozen in the other songs I wanted ;-P

Then there’s capability. Almost all of it, I’m confident I could get to. Except - there’s one part with THREE four-note cords in a row. Plus side, I can at least reach all the notes. Down side, neither my sheet reading nor my playing capabilities are at the point where I can hit that many keys simultaneously with any sort of accuracy or rhythm.

So yeah. In over my head? For sure. Harming anyone? Nope. And we all know I do better with the almost impossible challenge, so this is the approach for now.

If things go well, I will likely attempt to find a teacher (not so easy out here) when the weather turns. I *may* even have figured out this one song by then lol. Wish me luck!

Never growing up ;)

Right, so I had a lovely week at the cottage.  One of the things I noticed was how much my nails grew?!?! And I kinda put it down to not typing / playing piano / etc.  Then ONE day back into work four of my nails were torn down to the quick.  Not bitten, torn.  hmmm.  Perhaps something is not as it should be.

Now I don't actually care about having nice nails.  Lol I'm a barn kid at heart and they've always been v short, otherwise they just had tons of dirt under them ;).  Practicality win.   But I would like them to not hurt or bleed on stuff.

SO enter the adult fidget toys.  I googled: it's a thing.  Once I clued in a bit, it occurred to me that I used to always fiddle, like all work day long, with random scrunchies.  But since I cut my hair, I don't have them all around the house anymore.  Even in the before times in the office, it'd be with a pen, or my phone, or whatever.  So, I needed something that I could twist around and that was quiet.   I found two super cheap options on Amazon which made their way to me the next day.

This was after one morning?!?!

So the first one (see above) was a bunch of spirally, plastic rings.   They're stretchy, but not much.   They came in a pack of about 10, so I'm not too concerned about this morning's sacrifice.  😂 but it did justify to me that there is a use for them.   AND, while the morning meetings transitioned it from the before pic to the after pic, it's still useful as I spent all my afternoon meetings attempting (unsuccessfully) to detangle it.

This other one I got is definitely more durable!  The only thing I didn't like about it was it made my hands smell like metal.  It's not as much fun as the stretchy ring but still conceptually did what it needed to do.  And end result is I could focus on work without destroying my hands ;).  We're going to deem that an overall win.

So far, so good.  Hands are no longer bleeding.  Nobody can see my toys under the height of the video camera.  Fascinates me that this far in, I'm still learning random things about my own behaviour.  Compensation techniques for the win!