Here there be dragons...

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

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.