Here there be dragons...

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

Cause, you know, I needed a new hobby ;)

So last weekend my young cousin Z had some very cool drawings of dragons that led me to think, hey - maybe I could learn that too ;).   And while dragons are what convinced me to see if I could actually learn this, a few other things contributed, most notably:

  • about a week before Z’s dragon, I tried to sketch a laptop in my calendar and chose to laugh rather than cry at the fact that it was unrecognizable.  The car from the wk before could be identified, but definitely did not resemble anything anyone would want to drive in ;-P.  Before that I didn't even try to sketch anything, ever.
  • Literally the day after Z shared his dragons w me (there were three, but the blue one stole my imagination), a friend posted artwork online that she had created in one of those “paint nights” where you go w friends and even with zero skills end up w a painting that looks like someone w skills had drawn it.   I’ve seen these before and been interested but never enough to A commit and find one to go to or B be willing to try and track down one that I’d actually like to paint ;)

So - if a good artist can teach a room full of people how to step by step recreate a full painting, surely I could learn enough to recreate a few simple stick figures?   Except, you know me, I really want dragons.  And not simple ones ;)

So I compromised - both.   And the only person I told about any of it was Z (well and his Mom since Z isn’t old enough to have his own phone yet ;)). Thanks to Amazon and Michaels I stocked up on drawing pencils (although I had to Google what the difference was between them) and a “how to draw dragons” book, and not one but TWO sketch books - one big and one small.   Which sounds really committed until you realize they were on a buy one get one sale.   We won’t discuss whether or not I realized that before going to the checkout ;)

Let the games begin ;)

So my “big” sketchbook, which is actually small as far as sketchbooks go, but is bigger than my tiny one is for - atm - dragons and dragon related things.   My tiny sketchbook (about the size of a coaster) would be for learning little sketches.

Out of curiosity, I measured.  Lol *literally* the size of the coaster)

So I ordered a 5 minute drawings book to fill the small sketchbook and went about learning.

So far, C has been able to identify each thing I’ve drawn.  Honestly, after the unrecognizable laptop incident, at this point that’s a win.  Z has been super positive about my dragons :).  I’m hoping to try one with some colour soon ๐Ÿ˜‚ 

So, some things I’ve learned.  I now - through a legit accident that had Amazon tell me not to bother sending back a book, have TWO books both titled a variation of 5 minute sketches.   They are of a dramatically different skill level and have dramatically different learning objectives.

On the left, I can do in less than 5 mins;
On the right, more likely to be 30-45 ;)

The one on the left is quick and easy, but has no realism and little (if any), shading.   It does, however, have volume ;). I was able to draw a laptop that C could recognise as one, but not one that I would ever be proud of.  It was my 5th drawing in the little book, and significantly less good than drawings 1-4.  Because those are from the other book, which is definitely more valuable to me at this point.  It has much more complex sketches and while not amazing instruction, it's usable, esp when combined with dragon book instruction.  They are not, however, five minutes.  ๐Ÿ˜‚. The laptop was less than five minutes.  I didn’t time it so I can’t say for sure, but definitely less than 5 with no distractions.  

Now I know the other book takes me much longer so out of sheer curiousity I decided today I’d do two “simple” sketches ;). But for that one, once I found the one I wanted (one of the simplest) I decided I’d time it.   And I would treat it in the spirit the book intends - recognizable but not perfection (as if ๐Ÿ˜‚) quick practice to learn to focus on skills.   I did NOT go for speed but I also didn’t really try to fix things even when I could see quite early they weren’t right.   And I would’ve said in the end it took prob 10 mins….  My phone said 25 ๐Ÿ˜‚.   Tomorrow am me is NOT going to appreciate that!  And definitely not going to appreciate that now I’m writing about it ;)

But honestly- that tells me it’s a good thing for me rn.  It’s hyper focus in a good way and when I’m done, I’m done till next day.  I’m not putting any rules whatsoever around it other than “draw something” most days ;).  Some days it’s a 2h dragon while watching a movie and some days it’s a stick figure.  But because I’m a *complete* beginner, literally every day I learn something.   And I love learning stuff ;)

Is it a forever for me?  Probably not, realistically - I’m going to hit the same thing as always that I have no eye for colour and that will be followed by colour fear paralysis and that will be stressful.   Hence x stitch that comes w colours already defined rather than embroidery that usually does not.  But who knows?   It’s fun for rn, it’s very in the moment, it’s getting me out of my head and off FB.  It’s a win.  And I didn’t expect it to be ๐Ÿ˜‚. So that makes it more fun somehow.

The real question is, when will I find some coloured pencils and brave that step?

Kid wknd!

So this weekend we did a cousin's sleepover party.   Two adult cousins (myself and T) and three kid cousins ages roughly 10 and 12 (they all have bdays this month so I'm not 100% on who's what age rn!). It was SO much fun.   Those who know me, are aware that I greatly prefer kids in the double-digit phase of life ;).  So this was fairly ideal.   And a super interesting experience.

We started with bowling.  We (adults) offered a choice of bowling or laser tag -- fully expecting we'd be playing laser tag (I'd actually gotten myself pretty excited at the idea).   All three kids, adamantly and with conviction voted for bowling.   Wait what?!?!  Yeah I still don't know - but cool - if that's what they want, that's what we'll do.   And the place we went was kid-friendly for sure which also helped (although for a child-free adult, sensory overload in a BIG way).

Things I learned bowling (I'm keeping it to me, cause I'm not super comfortable writing about other people without their permission):

- not shockingly, as with everything, this is also a brilliance or disaster situation.   I was dead last until the second last frame, and then I won.  Apparently my options are gutter balls or strikes lol.

- I also apparently need at least 8 frames to warm up ;-P

- I literally can't remember the last time I bowled.  Plausibly it's been decades.  And before that not more than a handful of times.  Ironically, C went like a week ago randomly with people from school after a similar time away from the activity.  The timing of that just struck me as odd.

- But I *do* remember, when kids were involved they used to put bumpers in the aisles -- they were like big inflatable bags so the ball almost couldn't miss the pins.   These still exist -- BUT they're a lot more subtle and done electronically.   Which means you also have the choice of having them for kids and not adults, or only one player, or any other combination.   We played the first game without and the second game with  (well, half game - you pay by the hour not the game).   And if *everyone* is playing with, it makes it a different game - a game of angles.  Adds a whole new entertaining dimension.

- The score screens had all kinds of entertaining options; idk if that's cause it's a kid place or if the adult versions do this too now (again, decades....), but if they don't, they 100% should.  Some were trivia, some were critters randomly popping up, some were cartoons being scribbled, etc etc

So after bowling (where we all remembered to change our shoes back.  After a couple tries ;-P), we got some supplies to make pizzas and went to T's home (identified sleepover location, conveniently 15 mins from bowling).  There was a bit of creativity required due to our pizza shells not being as edible as we potentially would've liked, but end result was more than enough pizza, for all five of us AND Sasha :)

Next up - Gingerbread houses!  I'll admit we cheated and bought kits ;).  BUT we got all three houses constructed and the kids decorated in whatever style suited them.  It was highly entertaining and some of the houses got tweaked again the next morning :).  I do NOT remember gingerbread houses taking so long for the icing to solidify sufficiently to provide structure though.  It wasn't even really *that* long - it just felt like it!

Then (are you exhausted yet?!?!  lol) everyone got into PJs and ready for bed -- including rolling out air mattresses and sleeping bags on the floor (kids only on this one - alas, not quite enough room for the adults so we retired to bedrooms ;-P).   BUT it wasn't *actually* bedtime yet (well actually it might've been, but at sleepovers the rules don't apply!).  So we looked for a movie to watch.    They had a few suggestions that, well, I'm not grown-up enough to watch.   lol while I'm all for completely destroying all healthy habits for a night, I'm not at all into giving myself nightmares.   Thankfully T was of a similar mindset and we settled on the more age-appropriate and definitely less terrifying,  Home Alone 2.  lol which somehow I had never seen before.   

After that we chatted for a bit and then kids went to bed.   It was well before midnight, so I deemed that more than reasonable ;)

Next morning we had a lazy start (I mean, earlier than Sash and I would choose normally but lazy...).  I took Sash out for a short walk before her breakfast and came back to hot chocolate; which I'm sure was already potentially breaking healthy rules, so I compounded it by introducing the kids to the concept of dipping chocolate chip cookies into it.  AND they were cookies the kids had made that were SO good.   Then T made the most amazing French Toast.   Idk what she did that's different from every time I've ever made it, but wow.  Along w some cinnamon buns (cause there hadn't been enough sugar yet!) and bacon - of course!   

And just as we were finishing tidying up, kids' parents arrived.  Basically perfect timing.

So yeah - it was a ridiculous amount of stuff in a short time (you're not new here) but it was so much fun.  I'm not convinced the sugar crash that afternoon would've been lol, but from our standpoint it was a blast - that's the fun part when they're not your kids ;-P

Oh - and I might've found a new challenge?   One of the junior cousins had brought some drawings he had done - of Dragons!!!  lol I sincerely doubt he had any idea of my interest in fantasy.  But now I'm wondering if she who hasn't drawn a thing since...   probably single digits myself...  could learn to draw a dragon ;).  hmmmm.   Then didn't help that that same day a friend posted about a painting night she'd done (not dragons, but conceptually...  if adults can be taught to do a full on painting, surely they can learn to sketch a dragon?  hmmmmm *hamster wheel spinning frantically*)

The only sad thing?   I forgot to snag an extra homemade cookie for my commute home.  lol not like cookie day isn't in a couple weeks and I'll be baking more cookies than I know what to do with, but still!  Somehow it's always more decadent when somebody else makes them.

A new (only to me) dimension to music

So I was never into music videos as a kid - nor as an adult for that matter - but they play at the top of the screen in the lyric app I’m using for Spanish active listening practice.

And for the most part I see the first few seconds and the last few seconds cause otherwise I have to pay very close attention to which words I need to tap and when and I can only look one place at a time.

But one I was doing today (that was random selection) the few seconds I saw at the end of the video proved the intent was the opposite of the literal words - which I admit I had guessed because I’m not new at interpreting text, just new to Spanish context.  But this one was made so powerfully disturbing as a result of the contrast between what was being said and the action being shown that now I’m wondering how much I’ve missed out on as a result of not watching videos over the years.

That being said, I kinda have to acknowledge I have zero patience or interest in music videos - I can appreciate the appeal for others but it’s not my thing (kinda like podcasts!) but I have a new respect for plot twists that are purely visual.   

I feel like there's a literary or dramatic term for this (where the action reveals meaning different from the words) but for the life of me I can't think of what - if you know, please share!   I'm getting stuck on dramatic irony, but that's not correct - although I suppose it could *lead* to it if it weren't the end of the song ;)

Reminds me  - I had a Shakespeare prof in uni who was adamant that to appreciate Shakespeare you had to treat it as a play not as literature.  Which of course makes absolute theoretical sense but, with zero stage background, I had no idea what was meant…

Prof was awesome though and by the end I had a whole new appreciation for the art of directing.  

Some examples for those as lost as I was:  consider:  the script says Huey, Dewie, and Louie are all on stage - Huey and Dewie are talking to each other.   What about Louie?   Is he standing where he can hear their conversation?   Do they *know* he’s listening?  What’s the impact if he’s hiding behind a tree?  What if he *doesn't* hear any of it?  Does it change how other scenes might play later?

The modern version ;-P

Alt there’s a line about “take this from this if this be false” (paraphrasing here cause I’m on my phone and it’s a pita to google - pretty sure it was Hamlet, but it’s been a long time since I was fluent in Shakespeare!) - so wtf is happening?   Gestures are everything here.   Are we taking his head from his neck?   Are we taking a ring from his finger?   An apple from a pie (not a game you’d want to play in Titus Andronicus), etc etc 

Anyways - that was one of the single most impactful uni courses I ever took wrt expanding my horizons and it just really struck me that this is essentially the music version of the same.   And I kinda love it.

This term's dance adventures and other random babbling

Right, so...  A lot has happened in the last little bit - we're going to focus here on the dance and related things ;).  And I use the word focus lightly - partially cause I'm tired and partially cause I can't see my screen.  So consider yourself forewarned ;)

About 2 wks ago was the last dance class for the last 6-wk session.  That whole session was a blast.  It was way over my head, but a lot of the focus was on cha cha, which I love.  And it was convoluted enough that I once again found myself watching videos in slow motion, and practicing in front of the mirror while brushing my teeth lol.   But I loved it.  It was also an insanely stressful time at work, so that didn't help with my mental state or available time to learn.  That last class of the session was a blast - even though I had to go to the office that day so it was a *very* long day and I was completely fried at the end.

Why is this relevant?  Well because when I had a slightly sore throat before bed, I didn't think much of it.   Office days are exhausting and talking all day somehow requires a lot more physical effort than talking into my computer mic all day lol.

Oh my sweet summer child.  By Wed morning I was sick.  Like full on raging fever somebody stabbing knives into my throat sick.  Sick enough that even though I was working from home I legitimately and officially wrote it off as a sick day and went back to bed.   Thursday was worse.   I don't recall the last time I missed two days in a row of work.  By Fri my fever was much more under control and I at least addressed anything time sensitive (remember - year end).   On Fri Chris pinged me from work to say he had a sore throat.  Frig.

Sat we were both sick but I was improving and by Sunday I genuinely felt okay.  I napped before dinner and crashed really hard after dinner, so still not normal, BUT - I actually ate and kept food down and got to see my Mum for her bday so deeming that a win.  Mon no appetite and only managed about half day at work.   Forever grateful there was no dance class on Tues cause I somehow relapsed and was back to not eating and zero energy.   This did not make for a fun Hallowe'en -- I didn't even get to snack on candy!  Rinse and repeat - most of the week.

It's *really* hard to get work done this way

And I was wavering between doing anything mission critical at work and not much more (again, fiscal YE - it's the one time of year some very important things are unwaveringly time sensitive) and being worried about whether I'd be able to go to dance on Sat.

Why dance on Sat?  Well not only was it one of the special 2h classes, but ALSO, Mum was coming with me!  It was actually her Mother's Day present but timing hadn't worked earlier in the year.  So I *really* didn't want to skip it.   And I was okay - I had a horrible headache and low energy, but other than that it was okay.   I won't say it was my favourite Sat session ever -- but I don't know that I was in a fair mindset to give it an unbiased assessment.  lol certainly others seemed to enjoy it and I was really happy that Mum was able to come AND seemed to enjoy it.   Sad that there were no pictures cause one person objected fairly vehemently to any filming even if the school was willing to ensure she wasn't included in it.

Anyways - after dance on Sat I went home and slept for several hours and when I woke up on Sunday, I was suddenly human again.  And *really* human again, not just trying to convince myself I was fine.  lol.   

So Monday after work I went to the trainer for the first time since being sick. And it went really well actually. And I was feeling all proud of myself that while I could feel muscles today (Tues) I wasn't horrifically sore (that’ll be tomorrow).  Until I went to dance.

Let me set the stage.  It's a new six week session.  The focus of the session is Samba and West Coast Swing.  Neither of which I've ever done or know anything about (not shocking).  And the first thing Michelle (our teacher) told us was she wasn't 100% today.   Now any small business owner who teaches will have a strategy for working while sick.  Esp when you know that while it's "just another class" for you, it's often the highlight of the students' week.   For me, I would focus on something that would be really easy and low energy for me to teach, low risk for my students if I wasn't 100%, and something really hard for them.  Usually if indoors this meant low jumps with a highly technical component.  If outside it might be fitness exercises (no stirrups, hill work, short stirrups, etc).  With more novice riders it might be playing games or learning a "dressage test".   All things that they have to pay a ton of attention but it takes very little from me beyond instructions and supervising.   

Now in dance, people are less likely to die if the instructor messes up, BUT in our classes, our instructor is a key and enthusiastic participant.  More often than not, if she's not dancing, we don't have a shot.   A little like telling a beginner who has never seen a horse before that they have to tack up on their own -- they aren't yet functional on their own.   It was the first lesson, we aren't functional on our own yet.   So, similar to my technique, she focused on technical components.   We learned the new steps, how they work, some basic info about the dances, etc.   But while the pace was slower, it was definitely NOT standing still.   It was so much worse.

Why worse?   We started with Samba.  "Just bounce" (I'm sure the actual instruction was better than that, but that's how it registered in my mind).    Ummmm remember the gym yesterday?  After deadlifts, squats, and lunges, "bounce" was possibly the single most physically challenging exercise she could've picked.   Then it was figure 8s with our hips - which usually I love, but she called attention to when her knees were straightening or bending -- which was the exact opposite of mine.   This was at least a fun puzzle to solve rather than a physically difficult one -- and turned out to be a lack of understanding on my part -- I was actually doing it right (maybe not gorgeous, but the parts were moving generally the way they should).

I guarantee you it looked nothing like this!

The rest of the class went really well.  For day 1, I had way more fun w Samba than WCS but that could change as we go.   But man - that "just bounce" after leg day was completely unreasonable expectation ;). And for me - just like w riding - I *love* the technical days.   And esp found that focus on day 1 super helpful, cause now I can spend the week learning it and have something to build off next time.   I love the attention to detail - are my toes pointed the right way, should I cross in front or behind (spoiler alert - it's usually the opposite of whatever my body wants to do by default), what should my arms do (we didn't get to that today - that's for the best lol), what angle should my upper body be on, etc etc etc.   That sort of stuff I can spend hours at just trying over and over till all the pieces line up.   I do get that I'm not exactly the target audience of the class lol and that most people would die of boredom long before I was satisfied, but it means that for only my 3rd day back being human again, it was a really great end to an absolutely insane (albeit mostly good) work day.

Learning a language through music?

So I’m having fun w a new (to me) language learning app that an acquaintance told me about that they used to learn English.

The premise is to learn language through songs - which, there’ve been a lot of studies about the impact of learning and music, as well as “natural language acquisition” (which is basically the same premise the StoryLearning courses use).   Up till now, I’ve found some Spanish songs, and read the words along while they play (thanks Apple Music Lyrics ;).  And while it’s been an interesting few train rides, I wouldn’t have been able to say if it was helping or not.

I picked this one solely for the pony,
but it ended up being a fun song anyways ;)
This is the screen at the start of the song.

This app ( on computer, or lingoclip app), which is ingenious in its simplicity, takes that to another level.  The music video plays while the lyrics scroll - but every once in a while a word is replaced w a dot.   You are given four possible answers with which to fill in the blank.   Wrong answers, taking too long, or needing to repeat the line all lose “life”.   The goal is to get to the end without too many mistakes.   It does a number of languages other than Spanish, but reviews suggest is only good for languages that natively use a latin alphabet).

So simple.  So irritatingly difficult ;).   There are four levels - I mostly play on “intermediate” which is the second level.  On the plus side, I play that level whether I know the song or not - which is kinda cool.  On the down side, songs I would’ve thought I know every word to, it turns out I do not ;).  If I’m having a bad day, I’m a pro at beginner level ;). Almost never miss one there!

So here are some things I’ve discovered that I never really absorbed from just reading the lyrics alone:

  • When I read lyrics it’s for comprehension and meaning.  With this app it’s for literal word recognition- it’s a much closer detail focus
  • it’s natural language.  So for instance, you get pa' instead of para and various other things.  There’s also slang and definitely nsfw vocabulary.  If it’s really bad they’ll blank the text but not mute the word in the song so that’s helping me learn the degrees of offensiveness ;).   
  • it really forces me to pay attention to details.  “Real” words I almost always get right but if I have el, tรบ, lo, and tu as options fml.   They’re going to be super fast, slurred or blended w another word, and I’ll have to remember if there sb an accent or not.   If it were just a grammar exercise, no problem, but this is at the speed of someone singing - there’s no time to think it through.  Esp as I don’t tend to pick slow songs ;)
  • Some songs I thought I knew really well I realized I was just making stuff up ๐Ÿ˜‚.  The actual words are at times not even close.
  • The app tells you where the song is from, and it makes a big difference.   Latin America in general is way more expressive tones and likely to have spaces between their words than Spain.   Although both are super fast.   Argentina (and a little bit Uruguay?!?!) has it’s own take on the language - wtf?!?  Lol.  Like not just pronunciation but an entirely different verbs (sos anybody?) that would’ve been insanely confusing except that I’d seen it before (thanks Netflix!).   Columbia is the one I find easiest but that could well be cause my first two Spanish teachers ever were from there, so that’s what I have the most experience with.   Side note - I’m getting better at identifying flags from Spanish speaking countries ;)
  • You don’t actually have to understand the words to score well on a song but I found I was picking up far more of the meaning than I would’ve expected given that I was putting zero effort into understanding it.   Presumably because of the focused attention to detail and repetition if I replay a song two or twenty times.
  • There’s a karaoke version that just lets you read the words with nothing missing.  Also apparently in any version of you click on the word it’ll give a translation, except my phone is still in Spanish for the other course I’m doing so this is less useful ๐Ÿคฆ‍♀️  (edited after to say - I tested this out and it lets you pick the language you want to translate it to)
  • There’s also a version where you have to write the missing word (as opposed to select it); I was warned “it’s impossible”.  I admit I haven’t tried it yet ;).  Maybe when advanced is easy. 


I wish it had a way to preview the songs - I’m now at the point where I’m picking them based on the cover photo ๐Ÿ˜‚.  One I picked solely cause it had a dancing pony; lol it was a riot and kept me going a whole train ride one day.    I also just learned that Moana is available in Spanish but has a different name - Vaiana.  Clearly I will have to watch this some afternoon ;)

I also wish you could see what your top score on any song was (I play a lot harder if I’m trying to beat a previous score).  And to see at a glance which songs you have/have not played before.   They have this data but it’s not easily accessible.

Overall, is it going to teach a language on its own?  Probably not easily.  But it definitely can help refine both understanding and fluency.  And it’s fun and addictive so why not?