Monday, December 23, 2013

Lumosity - Brain Training

You may have seen commercials on TV for a website called Lumosity.  After seeing the commercials last summer, I checked it out.  This is a website that provides short games (most are about 2 min.)  that are supposedly designed to help keep your brain active, and also to help you with visual perception, speed, accuracy, etc...  I enjoy playing some games online, and I am also feeling the need, more than ever before, to do things to keep my brain active and nimble.  I have really noticed an over-50-memory-thing going on, and it scares me a bit.  I have more trouble than ever before remembering  names.

So.... I checked out the website.  You are allowed to poke around on it, and play some games for free.  I did that for most of the summer, and after a few months of doing the freebie thing, I signed up for a year's membership.  As a member, the website keeps track of the games I play and the scores I get, then it rates me in several categories:  BPI - Brain Performance Index (this is based on top scores in the other categories), Speed, Memory, Attention, Flexibility, Problem Solving. It also compares me to others in my age bracket (5 year range) in these categories.

As of now there are 45 games on the site.  They fall into the categories above, and some apply to more than one category.  Each day I am given a list of 5 games to play - my daily workout. I can also play any of the other games as many times as I want to.  So, if I feel I want to work on my memory, I can choose to play memory games, etc...  I get points for playing games:  1 pt just for playing a game, 2 pts for scoring in my top 5 scores for that game and 3 pts for having a new high score.

Today, my lowest category is Speed where I am in the 65th percentile in my peer group.  My best category is Attention where I rank in the 91.5th percentile.  My overall BPI is in the 85th percentile.  I'm ok with Speed being my lowest category - I'd rather be accurate than fast.

I can really tell a difference in my performance based on the time of day that I play.  On Sat. and Sun. when I tend to play in the morning, I do better.  My worst time to play is right after school.  Late in the evening, when I think I'm sleepy, I usually end up doing better than I think I will.  I think I am more relaxed at that time of day and even if I'm tired/sleepy, I still do better than right after school.

There are a lot of games I enjoy playing, but there is one that I am obsessed with.  It is called Train of Thought. I think I've played it at least 5-10 times a day for months. This game is designed to help the player learn to avoid distraction and concentrate better thus increasing productivity.  The game layout is a series of train tracks that lead to various colored stations.  Then colored trains come out of a mountain tunnel, and you have to guide them to the appropriate station.  There are switching circles on the track where you turn the train 90 degrees.  So you have to work fast to get the switches turned for each train to get them into the right station.  When you start playing, you get 2 or 3 stations and about 25 trains.  Then, as you succeed with a certain accuracy rate, you are given another station and another...  I have worked my way up to 14 stations and 50 trains.  In order to move from #13 to #14, I could only miss 1 train!  There were several levels were I got stuck and thought I would never get the next station, but each time I've made it after many many tries.  I am now at the top level, and I have to get all the trains in their correct stations in order to win this level.  I play it once (a round lasts about 2 min.), then I say "one more time"... then I say "one more time"... then 30 min later I finally say ENOUGH!  I don't know what will happen if I ever win this level.  The irony is, this is still a Beta game on the site, so it isn't in the daily rotation of work-out choices.  Playing it so much is skewing my BPI. I've played 236 games and well over 100 have been this Train game.  I can live with that!

There are several games that focus on visual perception and peripheral vision.  I really like those as well.  There is one called Eagle Eye where it give you a background of a nature scene, and you are supposed to focus on the center dot.  Then it will flash a number or letter in the center while it also flashes a bird flying somewhere else on the screen.  After it clears, you have to click where you saw the bird, and then tell what the number or letter in the center was.  You get points based on how close you came to identifying where the bird was flashed.  It's very fast, and it get faster the better you are at it.

There is another game where the board is a maze divided in half.  The computer plays the right side, and you have to play the left.  You have to maneuver a penguin through the maze using the arrow keys, and you have to get to the fish in the center before the computer penguin... but the maze keeps turning, and it turns more often and faster the higher you go in the levels and at each level the maze is more complex than the previous maze!  Whew!  That one really freaked me out for awhile, then one day, it just clicked and I "got" it.   Now I can proceed through quite a few levels before I use up my 3 allotted penguins.

Another of my favorites is called Route to Sprout.  You are in a field with holes.  You have to figure out the quickest path over the holes to plant your seed at the end - you have to move bugs out of the way to step over a hole.  One thing I like about this is that it isn't about speed; it's about thinking and solving the puzzle.  I usually do fairly well at this one, but I can really tell when I'm tired if I try to play this - sometimes I just sit there and look at it, and other times, the solution comes to me fairly quickly and easily.  Of course, this one gets more difficult the more you play it, too.

If you like to do challenging mind-puzzles that will help keep your brain in tune, I recommend checking this out.  You can play some of the games for free to see if you like it.  It provides a bit more variety than playing Sudoku (which I also like to do).

Thanks for reading and don't forget to feed the fishies!


Saturday, December 21, 2013

She's a little bit country.... and he's...

.... so damn hot!  WHEW!

Those of you who are over 40 probably get my reference and know I'm speaking of

Donny & Marie Osmond

On Thursday night 12/19/13, I had the privilege of attending the Donny & Marie Christmas Concert here in Columbus.  It was held at the Schottenstein Center.  A colleague at school had an extra ticket, so I attended with her and her mother.  We all had a fabulous time and enjoyed the concert immensely.  

This is the first time I've seen them perform live, and they do a very energetic and entertaining show.  They are both true entertainers and clearly love being on stage.  I knew they were both great singers, but I didn't realize how versatile they are, especially Marie.  She can sing everything from Opera to Broadway to Pop and she does it all with high energy and humor.  

While this show was billed as a Christmas show, there was a lot of non-Christmas music mixed in.  They both did some of their classic hits from back when they looked like this:

Donny even sang Puppy Love.  As he sang on the stage in a very classy suit and tie, the video screen above him was showing him singing "back in the day".

The mature women of the audience obliged him by screaming just as we did as girls when we were all teenagers.  Donny has now turned his famed Puppy Love into a connection with the American Humane
Association to encourage the adoption of puppies, and that was promoted during the show.

They also sang a lot of Broadway music.  I didn't remember that Marie had been Anna in The King & I on Broadway in '98.  She came out in a dress from the show and sang a couple of songs.  She was every bit as good as anyone else I've ever heard in that role.  

I also didn't remember knowing that Donny had portrayed Gaston in Beauty & The Beast.  He sang some songs from that show as well.  

Of course, he was also the consummate lead in Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in '99.

Donny sang at least 2 songs that he wrote in tribute.  He sang a song that he wrote to his parents.  He sat at the piano and played while he sang that song.  Meanwhile, images of his parents/family scrolled on the big screens above the stage.  Of course, that one made me cry.  Here is a family photo of Mom & Dad with all 9 children:

 Then he talked about celebrating his 35th anniversary with his wife Debbie (married in '78), and he sang a song he wrote about all the words you should say in a good relationship.  It was very touching.  
Together they have 5 sons: Donny Jr., Jeremy, Brandon, Christopher and Joshua, and quite a few grandchildren.  

Both Donny and Marie interacted a lot with the audience.  They both went down on the floor and shook hands and hugged people.  Here is a link to a video from our concert with Donny greeting his adoring fans:

Marie called a man up on stage.  His name was Chris, and he was clearly very nervous.  She got him to "sort of" sing with her, Blue Christmas.  It was very cute.  She also invited him and his wife to come backstage after the show.  She asked the wife if she could have Chris, to which the wife replied, "If I can have Donny."
Marie said, "Merry Christmas!"

These 2 performers are amazing.  They have managed to handle show business careers for their entire lives (Donny was introduced on the Andy Williams show when he was 5) while raising large families.  Never have we heard the story that is so typical of child-stars - of substance abuse and cycles of rehab.

Donny sang Moon River in tribute to his mentor Andy Williams.  That one made me cry too!  
This photo includes the youngest Osmond, Jimmy:

I could go on for another hour, and add a million more photos (Just search on Google Images and you'll find more than you can handle!), but I think you get the point by now.  This was a FABULOUS concert, and I'm so thrilled that I got to go!  Thanks to Ree and Janie for welcoming me into their family for the evening - we had a great time!!

Thanks to my loyal fans for reading, and don't forget to give the fish their Christmas Treats!

:) Amy

New Knee News

Hello again!  I passed my 6 month anniversary on December 11 with much appreciation for my new knee.  I just re-read my Sept 11 update, and I can see some improvements from that.  The night-time aching is now gone.  I can't remember the last time Bessie woke me up begging for a position change.  I do still get little reminders once in awhile - little pains - but they are minor and very short-lived.

I've been to Water Aerobics once a week for the last few weeks.  It does feel good to be in the pool, and even better in the hot tub.  There I do exercises - both squeezing and stretching, and I also kneel on the bottom of the hot tub.  THAT is a good stretch as well.  I can really feel that in my quads.  I can tell if I've done enough exercises the next day when I am a little achy.

Tillie, the old knee, got sort of whiney at the grocery store recently, and I sat down for a bit to rest her, but she doesn't usually inhibit me from doing what I want to do.  I want to put off her redo for as long as I can. Right now I'm thinking June of 2015 at the earliest. We'll see.

So, that's the 6 month update.  Bessie is well and happy, and I'm very happy I had her done!

Thanks for reading!