1001 Books Challenge: Gargantua and Pantagruel

Some of the stuff discussed in this book were hilarious.  One character was advised not to marry because his wife would end up cheating on him with a priest.  There were pages and pages of insults.  That’s it, literally, pages of insults.  Then at the end another character describes a magic grain/herb/plant thingie that does just about everything – it cures a bunch of diseases, provides shelter, repairs weapons… and even gives gods the ability to travel among the stars!  If I were one to buy into snake oil sales, I’d totally buy some Pantagruelion!


Gargantua and Pantagruel
by Francois Rabelais

Game Review: Fighters Uncaged XBox 360 Kinect

A couple hours ago we had an earthquake that made my itty bitty barely dripping faucet turn into a full blown stream of water that I couldn’t turn off at the tap.  Unfortunately the faucet happens to be attached to my tub, which means that I can’t override the water flow like I would if it were a sink or a toilet.  I called the landlady who then called the plumber who won’t be able to come out until about 7pm.  The landlady told me to turn off the water for the entire complex.  Yes, that’s right.  None of the four apartments have water at this time.

In order to keep my mind off my rapidly filling bladder I decided to jump around in front of my TV.  Well, not the TV per se, more like the Xbox Kinect sensor.

“Santa” got DH a Kinect for Christmas.  We hooked it up this past weekend and played the game that came with it.  Yesterday we received “Fighters Uncaged” from GameFly to play as well.   I thought the graphics were about the same as any other Xbox 360 game.  The controls were on par with the free Kinect game we’d already played.  DH tested it out and was really frustrated with how unresponsive the game was.  I know that he expects perfection from all gaming systems, so I took his negative review with a grain of salt.

DH’s complaints seemed to be that his character didn’t respond to the movements that he made, especially when it came to dodging or blocking blows.  Sometimes his character would make moves that were not even similar to motions that he made.  For instance, one time DH was standing with his arms at his side, and the character kicked the opponent.  He tried playing the game in lighter colored clothing because I suggested that the Kinect was just having difficulty seeing him in his dark clothes in a dimly lit room against a navy blue sofa.  He quickly gave up after his character’s performance didn’t improve.

I chose to test Fighters Uncaged myself to see if my results were any different.  I quickly learned that if your goal in this game is precision and realism you’ll be very disappointed.  If your goal is just to get a good sweat going, you’ll have more fun.  Even changing to the latter goal didn’t help my enjoyment by much.  I would punch, but my character would kick.  I’d sweep but my character would kick.  I’d elbow and my character would head butt. I’d dodge and my character would stand there.

I fought four practice rounds with the trainer, and two rounds each with two opponents.  By the end of it I was breathing heavily and sweating a little, so that was good.  But the unresponsive (or selectively responsive) game reduced my enjoyment of the game.  For $49.99 retail, I’d expect a bit more out of it.

My verdict: save your money for when they decide to develop a fighting game that actually does what you tell it to.


How do you stay focused when you have to get something done?

I’d love to be one of those people who say that staying focused is almost never a problem for me.  Sadly, I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older I have more difficulty focusing on one task or project for very long.  And my level of focus is usually inversely related to how much I really want to do that particular task or project.

One of the most effective things I do to focus is to remove as many distractions as possible.  Even having music playing in the background can be a distraction if a song comes on that makes me want to move, or if the music is so soothing that I want to sleep.  The TV is turned off.  I try to avoid the internet.  I mute my phone.  Even with all of these things it’s still really easy to become distracted when doing a task sometimes.

The other thing I do is bargain with myself and give time limits.  I’ve been known to set a timer for 15 minutes (as recommended by FlyLady) and then reward myself with a break and/or treat.  Somehow knowing that I only need to do something for 15 minutes makes it easier to bear, especially if I know I have something special waiting for me when I’m done.

If it’s a big project I set goals and rewards.  That’s how I lost 43 pounds in 2008 and 2009.  For every 10 pounds lost, I got a prize.  It’s probably the way I’ll lose those 20 pounds that crept back on.  That’s how I convinced myself to finish my Bachelor’s and Master’s – a trip to Vegas in 2007 and to Disney World in 2010.

You might have also noticed that I break larger tasks up into smaller ones.  Lose a few pounds at a time to meet the goal.  Write a few paragraphs at a time to finish the paper/book.  I’ll also start making lists of the things to be done every week: Groceries, work schedule, date night, time with family, time with friends, reading, exercise, etc.  Making that list and checking it frequently during especially busy times helps keep me grounded and makes it easier to deny distractions from taking root.

All of these strategies are nothing new to a lot of people.  I use each one at different times and to achieve different results.  It ends up working out well… usually.  I’m only human, and I do tend to enjoy my distractions, don’t you?


It’s funny how my Fridays almost always tend to be the same.

Every other Friday I take care of my mom in the mornings.  Basically I’m there to make sure she eats breakfast, takes her medications, gets to the bathroom and makes it back to bed when she’s ready for a break.  I tend to bring my dirty laundry with me and use the washer and dryer over there, mostly because it’s free (I have a community laundry at my apartment), but also because it keeps me busy.

On opposite Fridays I’m at home.  This is my chance to clean my apartment, relax a little, and enjoy the quiet.  People don’t always realize just how noisy libraries can be, then you add in the ambient noise that comes from driving home and the constant chatter in my brain…  by the time “my” Friday rolls around I’m ready for some quiet!

Today is a “Mom Friday.”  It’s taken her a little over an hour to get out of bed, but that’s almost normal for her.  I’m a lot like her: we both like to lay in bed long after we’re supposed to be up.  She’s eating her Cheerio’s, banana and coffee, while I’m typing away over here.  The laundry is going and it’s nice and quiet.  Well, except for her questions:

“What’s that over there on the floor?”
“Where’s Caramel/Flower/Niner?” (the cat/cat/dog)
“Can I have some pretzels?”
“How’s your husband?”
“Do you have any kids?  Are you sure?”
“What’s your last name?”
“How is school going?”
“Are you almost done planning the wedding?”
“Did I take all the pills in this bowl?”
“Can you help me back to bed?”
“Can I have a kiss?  I love you.”

Those questions used to bug the heck out of me.  Always the same questions, almost always in the same order, and always when I’m in the middle of something that needs concentration.  But strangely, they don’t bother me so much any more.  Maybe that’s because I can remember back to a time when she would answer our questions, but never ask any of her own.  Maybe it’s because I know that she’s trying to show that even though she can’t be there for everything she’s still interested in knowing what’s going on.  And maybe it’s because I’ve learned that showing that I love her means not being annoyed when our conversations are always the same.

Mom and me in 2007 when I got my BA

Well, it’s time to help her back to bed and continue doing laundry.  Gotta go!

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