Penny’s Accustomed Position

IMG_6292Say what you will about Penny, but she is the epitome of the faithful dog.  When Kish is out of the house, Penny will stare out the window next to the driveway for hours, hoping to see the headlights that mean that Kish has finally returned.  Sometimes she sits there, and sometimes she stands there, but whatever her position she is always there, for hours — waiting, watching, and fervently hoping.

Learning, And Remembering

What is a better way to learn from a presentation, and remember its contents:  writing notes by hand on a piece of paper, or taking notes on a laptop?  Taking notes by hand is more cumbersome, whereas adept typists can use laptops to take notes at close to a word-for-word transcription level — but does that make laptops better for comprehension and retention?

Recent research concludes that taking notes by hand enhances learning.  Why?  Researchers think that because writing is much slower than typing, students hoping to capture content must filter, summarize, and focus on the key points as they take notes, and those additional mental steps in the process have the effect of better engraving the content into their memories.  Students taking notes on a laptop, in contrast, try to take down everything the speaker says, as if they are just another cog in a recording device, and therefore the words don’t have as much impact. 

IMG_2446Interestingly, the study showed that the comprehension advantage is reflected not only on tests given immediately after the learning experience, but also on tests taken weeks later.  The theory is that students who review their own handwritten notes are given more effective memory cues than students who simply review the verbatim transcription.

These results don’t surprise me.  Handwritten notetakers must be active listeners who are engaged in the presentation, and active listeners always capture more content.  But there is more to the notetaking advantage than that.  I think the physical act of writing enhances comprehension and recollection because your brain has to be reading and thinking about meaning as it controls the hand that is writing the note.  Multiple senses are involved:  you hear the words being spoken, you move your hand to write them, you see your writing on the page, and you speak the words in your inner voice.  If you take additional steps — like adding stars or underlines to highlight key points — the cognitive impact of the process is that much greater.   

I’ve always been a notetaker; even now, I like to write myself notes to remind myself of tasks rather than typing them into a notes application on my computer.  For me, at least, the physical actions tie directly into the mental process and help me remember.  Plus, I like the tactile sensation of crumpling up notes after I’ve completed a task and throwing them away.

Shadowbox Live

IMG_2470Part of the concept of Food Truck Summer is to make more of an effort to experience all of the diverse things that Columbus has to offer.  In furtherance of that salutary goal, last night Kish and I joined Mr. and Mrs. JV at Best of Shadowbox Live 2014.

Shadowbox is a local sketch comedy/performance troupe.  Although the group has been performing for 25 years and I’ve lived in Columbus that entire time, I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never seen them before.  Last night, therefore, I was a “virgin” — and the Shadowboxers tend to shout out the presence of virgins to the entire room of patrons.  It’s a small price to pay for getting your first taste of this talented collection of performers.

A few background points about Shadowbox.  It’s in the Brewery District of Columbus, and its got a good performance space.  Parking is cheap (only $3) and readily available.  There’s a bistro section where you can have a drink or order food before or after the performance, and you can also eat in the performance space itself. The food is a cut above what you would expect for a performance venue.  I had a grilled chicken sandwich that was both tasty and reasonably priced.

IMG_2472If you choose to eat in the performance hall, which is what we did, you’ll be waited on by the same folks who will be performing.  So, we ordered our nachos, pastas, and sandwiches from a friendly woman who, a few moments later, was convincingly portraying a teenage skank up on stage.  The performers even wait on you during intermission, and return after the show is over to cash you out.  Needless to say, they really work hard, so if you go, leave a generous tip — they clearly deserve it.

The show itself runs two hours and alternates between sketch comedy and songs performed by a full rock band.  We sat in the section nearest the performers and were so close to the stage that you could feel the bass vibrations through the floor under our feet.  The band occupies one end of the stage and the sketch comedy occurs at the other end, with lighting changes allowing sets to be changed on the darkened part of the stage.  It’s a very quick-moving show, and the amphitheater design of the performance space ensures that there isn’t a bad seat in the house.

The comedy parts of the show were quite good.  I particularly liked the Cold Feet, about a long-married couple’s odd reaction to renewing their vows, Coming Out and Going Home, about a gay guy who finds a surprising reception when he confesses his sexual orientation and another preference upon returning to his parents’ home from college, and Good Driver Discount, about designing properly PC TV commercials for an insurance company.

As good as the comedy was, I thought the music was even better.  The house band really puts out the sound, the staging and costumes are great, and the music pieces showed that the performers had talent to burn.  My favorites were the creepy I Put a Spell On You, sung by a female performer with a fabulous voice, a sultry, incense-burning rendition of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, which is seen in the picture at the top of this post, and Prince’s Gett Off, which absolutely kicked ass and closed the show with a bang.

One other great thing about going to Shadowbox — you can buy tickets for upcoming shows for a significant discount and get some other freebies.  We bought tickets to a future show and got free tickets to two other events.  We’ll be back.

Cones And Arrows

IMG_2474Today is day 2 of the Challenge New Albany weekend, which means more cones and arrows around our neighborhood and on the Yantis Loop walking path.

Today it’s a Half Distance Triathlon and an Olympic Distance Triathlon that begins at Alum Creek State Park and ends just down the street, which means we’re marooned again.  After seeing men’s, women’s, and children’s events this weekend, I’m expecting that the red cones will be brought out next weekend for the first New Albany Infant Crawlathon.

Doubling The Airline “Security Fee”

Last week the “security fee” the federal government charges to airline passengers more than doubled, from $2.50 per passenger to $5.60 per passenger.  The increased fee was part of a budget agreement that Congress and the Obama Administration worked out last year.

IMG_2260I don’t have a problem with the concept of “user fees,” and I view the “security fee” as falling within that category.  I think user fees are a fair way of paying for services that some Americans use, but not others.  Every American needs our military, for example, but not everyone needs the blue-shirted Transportation Security Administration folks who remind us to take off our belts, look at our drivers licenses, and wave us through scanners.  Why should people who don’t regularly fly on airplanes pay for services that are used only by regular air travelers like me?  And with all of the nickel-and-diming that goes on with air travel these days, from baggage fees to food fees to other obscure charges, who’s going to notice an extra $3.10?

The problem I have is that the money raised won’t be used entirely for the TSA, or apparently for services that are directly related to air travel security.  I recognize that the federal government is one huge bucket, and it’s hard to precisely account for specific payments, but if you really want to implement a “user fee,” the proceeds should go solely for the service being used.  Otherwise, you’re just using the fee as a thinly disguised tax to raise general revenue, and you’re targeting just one group for the tax hit.  That’s not equitable, and it’s destructive of the fairness principle that make user fees a sensible approach in the first place.

Red Cones In The Morning

IMG_2460Red cones in the morning, North of Woods take warning!

Well, that’s not quite a saying, but whenever you see red cones across the streets in our North of Woods neighborhood on a weekend morning, you know there’s another walking, running, or biking event going on in New Albany.  Today, it’s part of the Challenge New Albany series and is a triathlon competition, so on our walk today Kasey and I saw lots of runners and bikers — and even the full complement of the New Albany Mounted Patrol, which was out in full force.

Having our streets blocked regularly is a pain, but I’ve grown reconciled to it over the years.  Our neighborhood is one of the most centrally located in New Albany, within easy walking distance of the “downtown” Market Street area and the golf course.  Traffic detours and red cones now and then are just part of the price we pay for being close to the library and the post office, and we wouldn’t trade that proximity for anything.

Red Plate, Blue Plate

IMG_2457Kish was on the road today, so I continued Food Truck Summer with the assistance of the Jersey Girl and the Origamist, who was making her first visit to Dinin’ Hall today.  There we found a food truck I haven’t tried before:  Red Plate, Blue Plate, which specializes in what they call Southern Coastal Cuisine.

Was it good?  Let’s just say that if this food is what they really serve on the southern coastline, I know where I’m heading on our next vacation.

JG and I got the shrimp and grits — cheesy grits topped with onions, mushrooms, celery, and nice, plump, juicy grilled shrimp.  Boy, was it succulent, and served nice and hot.  Fortunately for JG and me, we were given a plastic spoon to eat it with, because we snarfed it down so quickly if we had been given a metal knife and fork we probably would have set the place on fire from the sparks.  This dish was super-flavorful and cheesy (that is, cheesy in a good way).  I’m not sure, but I think I beat JG in our race to be the first to reach the bottom of our plates — and when it was done I was sad there was no more.

The Origamist decided on the Charleston, a sandwich made of very delicately fried shrimp, fixins, and special sauce on a roll served with barbecue chips.  It looked so good I had to restrain myself from knocking her to the ground, grabbing her plate, and sprinting into the distance to eat the sandwich.  When deciding what to order, the Origamist asked if the sauce was hot, and the proprietor responded, with a twinkle in his eye, that his food is not about heat or spice, but about taste.  Touche!  He’s right, too.