Here there be dragons...

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

Things that may one-day be easy

 So fun things I'm learning are significant piano challenges to beginner me:

  • my fingers are getting better at playing notes independently, but they absolutely CANNOT play volume independently.   And even together, my options are loud or quiet - there is no middle ground.  
  • They also struggle with independent rhythm.  I can skip beats or add beats (eg one hand can hold a note while the other plays a bunch), or they can play different notes at the same time.   But they cannot break the basic rhythm.  I think I need a picture to explain this one.  Okay - so the green bars all line up.  Even the one that's got the extra speedy-bit, still works in my brain.  But for some reason the red bars?!?!  Just not okay.  Like I can't even tap the rhythm out, much less play it.  To be fair, this rarely happens in the level-appropriate beginner music, but still.  I'm aware it's a problem.
Unreasonable brain-breaking music
Music from Flowkey - Game of Thrones - Advanced
  • Pinky fingers are weaker - they need a like a strength building program, while the ring fingers are followers and have the biggest challenge working independently.   I've been a touch typist since I was a kid, so that last part actually surprises me a bit, but I guess to be fair, it's rare I type multiple keys at the same time ;).  Ring fingers definitely prefer to bring a friend along for moral support.
  • And the pedal?!?!  Yeah not an option ;-P. lol coordinating two hands is hard enough, throwing in a foot, esp a foot that's supposed to be just a fraction of a second behind the hands...  Not happening ;).  I'm practicing it super slow in some of my "technique" homework and when it appears in my lesson book, but it's painful and I don't even pretend to try it in real songs.
  • I'm getting better at reading sheet music but am a long way from literate - as a result, for better or worse, I find I'm quasi-memorizing songs as I go and using the music more as a reminder for roughly where to go next and then just letting my figures remember it from there.  I feel like that's cheating and definitely not helpful if I don't look at something for a couple days (or if I get lost mid-piece), but it's my interim solution until I get better at instinctually knowing what note the symbol is talking about.  Treble clef I can mostly read unless it gets way above the staff, but bass?!?!  Yeah still no.  At least there's a couple notes that are becoming more known to me, but mostly fuzzy.   It's the musical equivalent of having to sound out a word to read it.
So that's today's list.  Looking forward to when that stuff is easy and I have a whole new list instead ;)

YouTube Adventures

If it's not your first time clicking through this blog (if it IS - how did you find me?!?!) you might be aware that I've started learning piano and am quite enjoying the adventure.   To try to improve my chances, I've been applying techniques that I've learned in other hobbies, such as - from Spanish - 10 mins a day is better than 70 minutes once a week (for the curious - this has to do with how the brain learns and sleep is a key component!); or - and I swear there's a point to this - from exercising: progress photos (videos) are important.  When you're starting from nothing and have a long way to go, progress can be so slow as to feel non-existent; but if you can compare "then to now" you can, hopefully, see that what you're doing is impacting change.   This is the theory anyways - with working out I tend to get a lot of "before" photos and not too many after ;-P.  

So for piano, I decided I would track the journey and record progress videos.   Mostly just for me, *maybe* for friends and family who either feel obligated to or genuinely want to be supportive ;).  And because if I ever *actually* get good, it'll make for a good laugh and a memory.   I flipped a couple to my dad, but other than that, they were safely in my iCloud.

But THEN, I tried to change my cloud, and throughly f'd something up and thought I'd lost them all.  Now conceptually we can look at this two ways:  I've been playing less than three months, how much could I have lost?   In the grand scheme of things, videos filmed now still count as 'just starting' for sure.   Or alternately, they're all gone so now I'll never be able to compare and it's all just horrible.   lol okay definitely exaggerating that one - I don't tend toward that dramatic naturally - but was mildly disappointed.

However, being the tech goddess that I am (please read that with the appropriate amount of sarcasm), I managed to relocate and rescue my files.  Win!  Okay, so maybe instead I should put them on YouTube.   Then said curious / supportive friends/family can actually see what I'm up to if they're so inclined.   But, well, it's not something I want poor unsuspecting people to stumble on.

So I do some research -- YouTube will let you set things as Private (only those on the "list" can view), Unlisted (anybody with the link can view), or Public (the whole world is watching).   Okay well private seems a bit high maintenance - I don't want to have to babysit a link or force people to have YouTube accounts to assuage mild curiosity.  Public is just a horrible idea.  So that leaves Unlisted which actually seems somewhat ideal.  

Away I go happily building my YouTube site.  I had a GRS site once upon a time, but didn't want to touch that (just as well as I can't imagine I remember the login credentials and likely no longer have the email); however, when I searched I realised somewhere along the way I had a personal site too.  It has exactly four videos on it -- three of which are of Sasha ;) -- and all from 2015.   Alright, that one can definitely be repurposed, although for my own amusement, I'd leave the vids up.   But things have changed since 2015, so I merrily went about building a watermark and a banner and checking all the security settings, and pretty soon I had an account.

Pretty happy with this for a "I need one now" level banner

But somewhere in my uploading, I discovered you can't set the site to Unlisted; you have to set each individual video.  Which means I would have to share links to every video.   Which, quite frankly, I just don't want to do ;).  I'm not trying to build a social media following here -- I just want a place where if someone cares enough to go look they can.  Not somewhere they have to bookmark links to individual songs in my learning journey.   Sheesh.   So yeah - super disappointed.

Which meant...  I took a deep breath and set to public.   And honestly, was thinking my Sasha vids from 2015 had had like 40 hits and likely 15 of them were me ;).  So not as though anybody's going to see them.  I sent the link to my parents (and only my parents), because, well, no matter how hard your kids get you have to pretend to be excited about their new hobbies πŸ˜‚.  It's a rule.  I'm sure of it.  It's part of why I don't have kids ;-P.  

Well it seems like things have changed a little in the last 7 years?!?!  Who knew?  πŸ€·‍♀️  My Day 1 C Scale (translate as horribly played and excruciatingly boring all in one) had more than 500 views?!?!   Like wtf?

I'm not even exaggerating (and no, it's not linked, you don't want to see it)

And then on top of that, I have comments from random strangers?!?!  Now on my blog, I generally love any comments of the non-spam variety (although I usually see them in FB).  They're generally the highlight of my day (I know, it's sad - in the 2020s, I'll take what I can get).  But I'm not emotionally ready for comments on my piano playing, esp knowing that the only people I sent the link to probably hadn't seen it yet...   But I was betting on spam, so I cautiously clicked through and:

That top one, I can't even...

So yeah - deleted the first one, deemed the second harmless.   Am definitely going to have to look into comment filtering options if it stays public, but we'll see.   

I also know from running the blog, that tagging / finding things after the fact is a royal pita, so am setting that up from the beginning with playlists for anything that I have more than one recording of so that I can do easy comparisons as I go ;).  If you curious enough to click through, Cannon is the only one with more than one level's worth.  Cause, well, I'm still a beginner ;).  Not quite month 3 remember.

I know that in the world of YouTubers those numbers are minuscule, but when I was expecting to be able to count views on one hand with fingers left over, it definitely amused (bemused?) me ;).  Anyways - so that's my random unexpected Saturday night.   I hope yours was at least that entertaining.

And, of course, the obligatory link: 

Because reasonable goals are boring

Those of you who know me in real life, or who've been around this blog for a while, might know that it's not unusual for me to decide I'm going to do something completely random and commit pretty fully to it.  Realistically if I were single, I'd prob be living somewhere they speak Spanish by now :).  However, since that's not an option (and - well - covid), I need an equivalent here.   For the moment, piano is filling that gap.

The Simply Piano app (which is not one I use) has an ad (which I see ALL THE TIME now - thanks algorithms); this ad (which I couldn't figure out how to share), shows an adult learning and being consistently shown up by his kids, and later his wife, who are enjoying the "cool game".   And honestly, while the app I've chosen isn't at all gamified, I do think that's what keeps me going.   I'm *so close* so I'll try "one more time" and an hour later, when I get it, it's that lovely dopamine boost ;).  Instant gratification for the win!

Anyways - I get SO excited and proud of myself when I get a section I've been struggling with.  And when you're a brand new beginner, there are a LOT of things to struggle with that are not actually hard, so lightbulb moments happen all the time ;-P.  I'm on the piano equivalent of Duolingo.

With that in mind, one of the YouTube people I'm learning from posted something about a version of Pirates of the Caribbean they were working on that they were finding super challenging.   So of course, I had to go see what it was.  And then promptly decided it'd be an *awesome* thing to be able to play ;)

I mean, seems plausible?

Right so, for perspective, right now I'm really struggling with the "fast part" of a simplified Cannon in D.  If you know the song at all, you'll know it's the opposite of fast.  So comparatively, this is - well - moving where they speak Spanish seems significantly more plausible even with restrictions of Covid and husband with a location-based job ;)

So I'm filing it under the "by the time I'm 50" goal.  Now, this has all kinds of challenges with it:

  • I'm not emotionally ready to accept 50 is target on the horizon?!?!  Like that's very not okay.
  • Most of the people who can play it well have been playing many more years than I have left between now and that completely arbitrary date.
  • The ONLY things I've stuck with that number of years in my life have been writing and riding.   I'm still not convinced this will make the cut - I get that pit in my stomach feeling writing this.
  • The original artist and composer (in the vid) is one of the best in the world, AND was a child prodigy.  So, you know, a totally reasonable standard for comparison.
  • I looked up the sheet music (of course I did).  But I'm not even sure if the linked music is the whole thing cause it looks like there's 3 movements?!?!  I'm a little confused by that but okay.  Youtube suggests you need all 3.   Yikes.   Not just ONE impossible effort, but three.  Awesome.  The first page of each is available for preview.  Atm, I don't even slightly understand the very first note of the first movement.   So - yeah, ostentatious goal?  Slightly ;).   Maybe I should buy it now in hopes that it doesn't disappear by the time I'm good enough to play it?   (edited - looks like the original version was just the 3rd one - that's the one I saw first, so it's the *real* target.  He extended it a couple yrs ago to be all three - which is the video here, but Movement 3 is the one for me :).

I'm sorry, wtf?!?!  I have SO many questions here.
Ironically, the only thing I *do* understand is the bass clef lol ;-P

So yeah, may the odds be ever in my favour ;)

My DIY approach to learning piano

So still super-enjoying my pianoing (side note - autocorrect *really* doesn't like it when you make up words ;).  I'm at 2.5 months now.  I have average to low sense of rhythm and short stubby fingers.  lol not exactly set up for success, but enjoying it.  I'm currently averaging about an hour a day, six days a week, and it usually feels like about 10 minutes.  This post is all about the approach I'm taking to learning - so if that's not of interest (fair game!) there's a whole internet waiting for you :) 

Still lacking an actual teacher, but have two YouTube people I'm paying a lot of attention to - does that count?   lol and both have videos about risks/things to watch out for if you're learning without a teacher.  Both call out, repeatedly about technique and using the right fingers.   One of the things I *really* like about the app I'm using is that it shows fingers playing every note -- so you can see which figures you should use at any time.   While most (if not all) the apps will show the keys on the keyboard, this is the only one I know of that shows somebody playing.   I've started paying a lot of attention to it and it's definitely making a noticeable difference.   Also *ridiculously* hard to change for something I've been doing less than 3 days, so I see why it's identified as Really Important to get right.

If you take too long (like pausing to take a pic),
the orange instructions show up :)

The other thing the app really helps with is speed/rhythm.   I have sheet music for several songs I'd like to learn, but they're not the focus yet because trying to align to a metronome is an extra challenge I don't need yet.   In the app, it can play in "wait" mode - where it doesn't move till you hit the right note, or at 50%, 75%, or 100% - if you're hitting the notes when they say to, your rhythm is correct.   Super win.   Today was the first time I learned a scale that didn't have a lesson for it in the course -- I was surprised at how much extra effort it took; even though I did the exact same exercises as in the ap.  Definitely made me appreciate it.

Anyways - for the curious, here's what I'm using to learn for now:

YouTube Teachers:

  • Zach Evans -- I *really* enjoy his videos, which is slightly surprising since they contain over the top enthusiasm and positivity which are not usually my thing ;).  They also have a bit of a used-car salesman feel to them, so again not usually my thing.   But somehow they work for me.  I also love that he includes training around current adult learning principles.   And I have to give a lot of credit in that he (or his social media people) actually took the time to answer an email I sent with random beginner questions, so that counts for a lot.
  • Jazer Lee -- much calmer and more organized approach πŸ˜‚.  Not that that's hard to do.   I use these videos less for how to play and more for what to practice and why.  Lots of stuff on what songs are good for beginners and what technical skills those songs teach.


  • Flowkey -- This is my primary learning.  Lots of songs I'm interested in, most offered at a variety of levels - but mostly overstated.  Beginner (this is me!), Intermediate (to put in perspective, this is *almost* me and will be within a couple months I expect; I'm learning one song at this level now), Advanced (to me "advanced" would be anyone who took a couple years of lessons as a kid after a week of review), and Pro (which I suspect, is anyone who actually *wanted* to take lessons as a kid and put some actual effort into them ;).     lol I could be way off, we'll see when I get to those other levels.  But that's my guess.   

It also has lessons and some basic music theory; I find the lessons frustrating once you get into them because they don't have the same features as the song practice and I'm not good enough to learn the songs quickly enough to pass the levels.   They need a practice mode.   Otherwise though, they're decent.

There are LOTS of other similar apps, but most of them are more gamified (think music hero), so you're not learning to read music, just hitting the falling dots on the screen.  Since someday I'd like to be able to play music NOT in the app, that didn't appeal to me.   Although I did wish this one had more stats and a few other options (like to stop playing if I mess up too much - which I found one app that does, but I didn't like any of the music choices, so that was a loss)

  • Piano Notes -- This is just to learn to read music.  Has a few different modes, but is essentially flashcards.   I haven't used this recently and really should since I'm a long way from fluent, esp in bass clef.

  • Piano Sight Reading -- I mean, as the name suggests, this is to improve sight reading.  But for one who isn't music literate to begin with, it's great for teaching the basics of reading music, understanding patterns and nuances, etc.  It uses UK terms though, which I don't know at all, so that's mildly frustrating but I figure will be helpful overall.  It's more of a testing than a teaching tool but I'm learning through the test questions ;)
  • Accelerated Piano Adventures -- there are a ton of these, I'm working through the Theory, Technique, and Lesson books.   I'm about 3/4 of the way through the first level.   I don't love these, but I figure they're prob useful so I try to do about a unit / week.  These guys have a reasonable online community as well.

So that's about it.  If the world ever opens up again, I'll plausibly look into actual lessons, but that's not something I want to do virtually and I'm having fun on my own so all good :) 

Follow me down the rabbit hole ;)

Somewhere I've never needed directions to find ;)

So today I fell down the rabbit hole that is virtual reality YouTube.  Not watching VR-related vids on YouTube but rather in-headset virtual reality vid experiences.

It started with a boxing workout on the beach - now I had already finished both my workout AND a bonus workout by this point but clicked it purely out of curiosity.  It ended up being a short (5 min-ish?) mini-workout that was basic but decent; but mostly while I was doing it, I wanted to go sit on one of the lovely beach chairs and watch the ocean and soak up some sunshine instead of following the instructor lol

But then - after it ended, instead of sending me back home it went into the next video, which was the Yukon roller coaster at Canada’s Wonderland?!?  lol so random.  Yup never need to do that irl! And then, before I knew it, I was at Gringot’s (Harry Potter) Bank in the UK… and so on and so on.

So a - super interesting to me that these exist, but more interesting is how quickly I’ve become judgy about it.  If I felt like I was watching a vid, it was like the modern equivalent of a movie somebody shot filming the screen from the back of the theatre.  Conversely, if I felt I was really there - win.  One of these days, I'll seek some out on purpose and play a bit, but for today since it was just using its own algorithm to find me stuff, I stopped it pretty quickly.

Related note - after accidentally doing three workouts instead of one in VR, I'm currently sitting on the couch and my legs are already sore.   That being said, I'd like to get to the point where those workouts are ineffective again.   I feel like that's a reasonable spring goal.

Back to school?

Don't worry - no more degrees.  At least this year!   Nope - this time, I'm tackling middle school ;)

So a while back C had to take a math proficiency test which focused on curriculum up to grade 9.   Which is pretty basic, but when it’s been 20 years since you’ve done school math, you’re going to forget formulas etc.    I was one credit shy of a minor in math in uni (not by choice - they were all required as part of CS) and yet I wouldn’t expect I could pass HS math without at least a review.  So as a result he bought a book to review.   

I found said book the other day and flipped through it and was really quite amused by its teaching style.  As a result, I went to see if it were a series - I was hoping there might be a Spanish one.

Alas, while it IS a series, Spanish is not one of the topics.  However, I decided a review of middle school science might be in order and had Amazon ship me the science one, which arrived today.

So the first unit is all about scientific method - skip.  I’m pretty confident in my knowledge of that.  Next unit is Matter, Chemical Reactions, and Solutions.   Perfect - chemistry is the one of the “big three” that I never took in high school, much less uni.

The problem arose on the first page ;)

If you want to join me in middle school, the series is Big Fat Notebooks
 Link to the Science one here.

So - definition of matter, clear enough.  Middle or high school me would’ve memorized and moved on.  Adult me couldn’t get past the first definition: “anything that has mass and takes up space” - well wtf has mass and doesn’t take up space?   Or vise versa?!?!

Alas - middle school doesn’t answer that question.   Fortunately Google does ;).  Suffice to say I spent a while down that rabbit hole and now know about the existence of bosons which I really don't understand at all, but apparently are particles w mass that take no space.   Apparently things that don’t take up space but have mass is still a somewhat theoretical area of physics.  Suffice to say, I'd need a few more degrees to comprehend that rabbit hole ;).  But I now appreciate why the answer to the obvious question is not in the middle school textbook lol

So that killed a significant amount of time on the first page.  This may be more of a time commitment than I expected when I randomly ordered it as a 'quick refresher' ;).  But actually kinda looking forward to it.

Pianos are difficult to break into because they have a lot of keys.

Change comes through challenge but omg was painoing ever frustrating tonight.

So month 2 complete!   πŸ˜‚ -- it has certainly held my attention longer than Arial Silks did, although arguably not as good at combating the physical exercise requirement.   I am still enjoying it -- every time I start something new it's a new challenge -- this combination in this order seems mostly easy with some impossible thrown in for good luck, and the first time I get it is the same thrill and addiction as passing a hire level in Beat Saber (or whatever your video game of choice is ;)   Can I do it faster/easier/better?

While that is very much appealing, I'd also like to get to the point some day where "consistently repeatable" is an option ;).  lol I'm very much brilliance or disaster phase.  Which, lets be honest, is pretty much my approach to life so not convinced that's going to change.  πŸ˜‚.  My dressage coach used to strongly advice, time after time, that when I go in the ring I aim for average, since consistently average would get me better scores overall.   Whereas my tests could range from 2-9 in the same test (that actually happened, albeit only once ;) -- but what normally happened is I'd be right on the edge of awesome and blow it cause I pushed for that little bit more.   So I kinda feel the only way there's going to be consistency is to get good enough that at least some of it is easy *g*. And then be willing to do the easy stuff ;) 

Suffice to say that is not yet *sigh*.   That's where the frustration of tonight came in -- it was month two 'record for posterity' day - and while the first of the songs went well (although Tucker snoring is the backdrop for the first), two that have, at least lately, been fairly reliable (aka one or two takes at most) needed multiple tries to get acceptable.  Was pretty disappointed at that.

Now, the intelligent thing would've been to take that and call it, but brilliance or disaster - remember?  I decided that I'd record "just one more" -- which is in the category of I can usually get but is not solid yet and I'm still generally pretty excited when I pull off the "hard part" (Piano Man - of course!  πŸ˜‚.  Pretty sure it's a must do for any learner) -- yeah it took many more times than I wanted to admit.  Like as though I'd never gotten it before.  Super painful.  And worse - since it was for recording, that meant no headset, so my husband had to suffer through it too.

Yup, just like that.

So yeah, I'm still very much a beginner.   On the technical side I'm working through the "Piano Adventures" series of books - partially cause the name appealed to me and partially cause a friend who's also an adult beginner recommended them.  The theory interests me, the playing super-simple (yet sometimes disturbingly hard-to-me) beginner pieces I find both boring and frustrating -- it's not the best combination.  But I figure I'm probably learning something from it, so I'm targeting a chapter a week.  Between that and the scales / finger practice I figure I've got the homework part down.

I finished the 20 Day online course I was taking and while it didn't teach me what I'd expected, it did significantly increase my confidence and coordination, and I had fun with it.   I'm still working on some of the skills taught in the last couple lessons.

Otherwise, I'm really enjoying learning my beginner songs in the Flowkey app.  I took a quick look at the intermediate ones one day when I was feeling all cocky and quickly took my place back in the beginner world πŸ˜‚.  lol similarly saw something cool on YouTube and looked it up - couldn't even manage the first measure.  Oops.  But some day.  The only thing I don't like is there isn't a huge selection.  Somebody needs to create an app that can do that with any sheet music.  Plausible that they have and I just haven't found it yet.  I do have one that can read it and stop/slow down/repeat -- but it still shows as sheets, so you still have to switch pages -- That's not reasonable ;-P.  And it also doesn't analyze if you're playing the correct notes, which is a feature I appreciate.

So yeah, the games continue.  We shall see :)

Cause why not?

So my wonderful papasan chair that I've had since my second apartment has finally succumbed to old age and one too many moves.   As a result, I've been looking since we moved for my next "comfy chair".  And I failed and failed to find it, but finally found one I liked at Ikea.  

I mean great right?   Ikea's accessible, they've got endless stock, and they're cheap.  All-round win.   Except that second part proved a fail.  This was about August and they were completely out of stock.  Booo.  But cool, I can wait - they'll come back...

Or maybe not?  I looked and I looked...  Not in stock anywhere within driving range.  Then not in stock in Canada.  And the closest Ikea started saying "not available" instead of out of stock.  Booo.  

Started the search again, but kept an eye on the website...  Consistent fail on both ends.   And then, magically, there were some in Ottawa.  I mean, ridiculous, but potentially doable?   Except that I was not about to drive all the way to Ottawa unless I was *sure* there was a couch there.   Website says no delivery but available for 'click and collect' -- SWEET!   Essentially that means I order and pay for it and then go pick it up.   

Except that when I went to do that, it wouldn't work?   Connected with their support and found out that the stock was too low -- they won't do it if there are less than five of an item in the store.  Booo.  

Except...  Chris has good friends in Ottawa.  Friends good enough that when C called and asked if they'd do a random Ikea trip for us, they were up to it.  An hour later - we had a pic of my couch in boxes in their car.  Woohoo!  Win.  

This was Wed night; by Thurs am, my couch was out of stock all over Canada again.   So Thurs and Fri were super busy at work, but Saturday C and I drove out to Ottawa (for non locals, that's about a 5.5h drive), driving directly past three other Ikeas and indirectly past one, to pick up the comfy couch.  Was a great day for a drive - weekend with everything closed thanks to the lovely global pandemic going on meant no traffic; it's winter, but no weather - sunny and dry the whole way.   Was great.

Not a bad day for a drive :)

Excessive?  Perhaps.  Out of character?  Not even slightly ;).  Fun, if long, road trip (we left the dogs w my parents).  Nice, albeit short, visit with friends.  And mission accomplished.   And accomplished without even bending current covid rules.

Sadly, said couch isn't nearly as comfy as the store one was :(.  It looks good, and I'm hoping when it's more broken in it'll be what I'd hoped for.  But it's def a great improvement over what was there - and big enough to enable my need for excessive amounts of pillows ;) 

Stupid should hurt ;-P

So one of my goals for this year was to finish the three stabbies I have in progress (2 that are large and challenging and 1 that's easy but grounded ;-P).  And if I were super ambitious, maybe start some of the patterns I've purchased and not come close to starting.   All good right?

In related news - I'm pretty good about checking the size of patterns and determining if I care *that much* about doing it.   Since the vast majority of my patterns end up in a drawer, I tend to go for small by default.  Quick wins are good for my mental health :) 

So what have I done?   Totally fallen in love with and purchased a new pattern without checking the size...  And you know, the fact that the options were large or extra large probably should've been a clue...   Alas, I have first day back at work brain and am now the proud owner of a pattern that when complete will be approximately 48cm x 76cm (~19"x30" for my US friends) -- and that's just the stitched portion (eg, doesn't incl space for framing etc.   

So yeah - a few years from now you might get to see this one.

It'll be awesome though.   Stay tuned ;-P