Here there be dragons...

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

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.