Wednesday, June 2, 2010

pet peeve of the day:

Grocery cashiers that are idiots.

I'll start out by saying that I am more obsessive-compulsive than most people are when it comes to how my groceries are bagged. If I can help it, I always place my items on the conveyor belt in this order: all frozen things, all refrigerated things, all non-refrigerated food, and all other items. It makes me look silly when I discover a lone pack of frozen vegetables hiding underneath something and lunge to give it its rightful spot in the 'frozen goods' section up at the front so it doesn't get lonely, but it makes me feel immensely better to do so. Not to mention, the temperature separation method, while you would think it would be elementary, does not seem to be a priority for any store employee I have ever encountered, so I'm forced to take matters into my own hands.

Today, I managed to get all of my groceries up in the proper order. LaShundria, my trusty cashier, did not seem to be in any sort of hurry. I mean, she was bagging at a snail's pace (while having a conversation with the guy working the next lane). If you're doing crappy work in return for speed, I can maybe forgive that... but she was not even remotely paying attention to what she was doing. I could have climbed over the counter, figured out how to work the register, and bagged my own groceries in half the time it took her.

Also, she put approximately 5 items in the bag with my bread and eggs, while a bag of CHIPS got its own entire Target bag. LaShundria, I would like to explain to you something: that bag of chips is 75% empty. It's basically a giant air bubble. In fact, I hear Amazon is going to start using chip bags to cushion their packages instead of those clear bags of air. (Not really, but I should suggest that. "This package brought to you by Doritos!" It could be a great snack food marketing idea.) So why does the bag of chips get to be all by its lonesome while there are water bottles crushing my eggs and bread? It seems to me like LaShundria may have been discriminating against my choices of inexpensive, marginally healthy food by trying to ensure that the chips would be the only thing edible by the time I got home. Well, it DIDN'T WORK. I will eat my bread smushed and my eggs cracked, and I will throw my chip bag down and stomp on it. That'll show you. (Okay, not really.)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thoughts on masculinity: specifically, how to preserve it while selecting your figure skating costume.

I like to pretend that Olympic athletes read my blog. So I'd like to provide any male figure skaters that may be perusing this during their free time in Vancouver with a helpful scorecard to help them determine the answers to one of life's toughest questions.

How manly is YOUR costume?
You are wearing pants: +5
You are wearing a shirt: +5
Shirt has an asymmetrical hemline: -1
Plunging V-neck: -2
V-neck plunges below your belly button: -5
Chest hair protruding from plunging V-neck: +3
More than 20% of the fabric in your costume is pink: -2
Sequins cover more than 30% of your outfit: -4
Sequins are in the shape of something manly, like a sword: +2
Sequins are scattered randomly throughout the fabric to give you that all-over fairylike glow: -1
Your pants have cargo pockets: +3
Cargo pockets are holding your keys, wallet, and/or a Swiss army knife: +1
You are from Switzerland and acquired your Swiss Army knife there: +4
Cargo pockets are holding Chap-Stick: -2
You are wearing a necklace: -3
Your necklace has multiple charms dangling from it: -1
Your shirtsleeves are SHEER: -4
Your costume contains ruffles: -1 point for each ruffle
Ruffles are pink: -1 additionally for each

UPDATE, 2.17.10
I was just informed of THIS. As a result, I have added several categories to the score sheet.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


There's no question about why we like the Summer Olympics. Watching the most talented athletes in the world run track and jump on the trampoline and swim at the speed of light is exhilarating. But I've been realizing lately that the appeal of the Winter Olympics is completely different. Don't get me wrong, these athletes are incredibly talented, too. But I think the reason we like to watch the Winter Olympics is not because of the sheer physical strength of the athletes, but because we think, "hey, I could do that!" A few examples:

1. The bobsled and the luge. Obviously competition gets pretty fierce on these. But if you think about it, 95% of the sport involves sitting very still while the vehicle you're in plummets downward of its own accord thanks to gravity. There has to be more skill involved than that, I'm sure, but never having attempted either sport myself, how do I know that I don't have those skills? Until proven otherwise, I'm going to be mad at my parents for not raising me in a snowy environment with a bobsled track in the backyard, causing my hidden luge talent to go undiscovered for 22 years.

2. Curling. Right, so this is my favorite sport ever. The first time I turned on the TV and watched it, I thought they were spending an abnormally long time filming somebody cleaning the ice rink with a broom. I'm still kind of fuzzy on what the object of the sport is (it's been four years since I watched it -- yes, I'm fickle and only watch winter sports when the Olympics come around), but it's hilarious and awesome and I can't wait to see more of it.

3. Ice dancing. There's no doubt that figure skating involves a heck of a lot of skill. But something I've never understood is ice dancing. Yeah, so it focuses on musical interpretation and flair, blah blah. Translation: it's the easy version of pairs skating. I'm pretty sure whoever invented this sport probably dreamed of being a skater but couldn't land his/her triple Axel to save his/her life. I hate to break it to you, ice dancers, but you are far more boring to watch than the other skaters.

Side note: I have been skiing at Whistler, which is the mountain outside of Vancouver where the outdoor events are taking place. So when you watch the ski jumpers, just imagine me in their place and you will have an accurate portrait of my high school ski trip.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

shopping: it gets weirder every day.

I needed a study break this afternoon, so I left the library to run a couple of errands. First, I went to Best Buy. The purpose for my visit was multifold; I needed a new pair of headphones, I had a $10 gift card that had been in my wallet since December, and I wanted a particular CD that I wanted to see if they had in stock. Next, I was going to go across the street to LifeWay because I wanted a new Bible.

part I: Best Buy.
Being under no pressing time constraints, I figured I'd spend a few minutes leisurely wandering through the CD aisles and also check out their headphone options. Immediately upon my entry to the store, I was accosted by a friendly employee with the offer of help. Now, anyone who has ever been shopping with me or known me longer than five minutes probably knows that I despise offers of employee assistance. I want to shop by myself, and I don't want someone following me around. I cheerfully told him "No, thank you," and walked toward the headphone area. On the way, I got distracted by a large display of cell phone screen protectors. I spent five minutes scanning the shelf to see if they had one for my phone (they didn't). Before I even made it to the headphones, someone else asked if they could help me find anything. "No thanks, I'm just looking," I told him, a little more forcefully this time. I could drag this story out, but I am just going to say that I spent probably 20 minutes in the store, and during that time was approached by FIVE DIFFERENT EMPLOYEES begging to help me find something. One guy told me I should buy a new cell phone. (I was looking at iPod earphones. What?) The last guy even said, "You've been looking a long time! What can I help you find?" Now, if I had been glued to one spot for fifteen minutes, this remark may have been warranted. But I had not. I'd been wandering through various aisles for several minutes, stopping at no particular place for any significant length of time. Needless to say, after approach #5, I got out of that store as quickly as possible. For future reference, though, in case anyone reading this works in retail, I would like to provide you with a helpful reference guide.

1. I am not blind. I would estimate that 96% of shoppers at Best Buy, and really at any store, have the goal of buying something that they have either bought before (CDs, movies, books, batteries, etc.) and know exactly where it is located, or they are buying something that is extremely easy to locate (TVs, laptops) and housed in an area of the store labeled by large signs.

2. I am not buying something that requires multiple opinions. I'm sorry, blue-polo-shirt Geek Squad guy, but I do not know you and therefore I do not trust your musical taste to help me select which CD I would like to listen to while I clean my kitchen tonight. No offense intended, but this is a highly personal decision. As are the earphones I choose to wear. Sure, I could entertain you with the saga of how it's really hard for me to find ear buds that fit in my ears because they are really small, and how Apple's are really the only ones that stay in, and those clip-around-the-outside ones always just fall off because they're like three times the size of my ear, but I honestly don't think you care, or know anything about the difference between the $30 and the $10 models, or would let me take them out of the package and try them on because that would be some kind of health risk. So it's nothing personal, but I'd like to make my own decisions about these things. If I were buying a computer or a TV it might be different, but if you noticed (which you probably did -- I felt like you were all stalking me) I steered very clear of those departments. Also, if I were buying something that I felt needed a second opinion, I would have brought someone else with me and you would have heard me discussing it with them. I'm already deducing that next time I come CD shopping I need to bring someone along -- preferably a linebacker who is at least six feet, four inches tall and who looks like he could take out the Geek Squad in one fell swoop. We will both be wearing dark sunglasses and I will have on six-inch spike heels. You will know not to mess with us.

3. If you leave me alone, I will be far less aggravated and far more likely to spend more time in your store -- therefore making more purchases. If you follow me around like a pack of lonely puppy dogs, I will want to get out of there as soon as possible, and I will buy my CDs from more evil places like Wal-Mart or iTunes.

4. Have you really ever accosted someone who was rummaging through the $5 DVD bin and convinced them to buy a new cell phone from you, right now? Hmm. Right. I didn't think so.

5. It makes you seem desperate. Haven't you ever heard that girls only want guys that are unavailable? The same principle applies to store employees. 99% of the time I want to be left alone, but on that rare 1% of times that I do need assistance with something, it is always in a situation where there is not an employee to be found for miles around. (Luckily this will not be a problem in the future -- with my six-inch heels and my linebacker companion, top shelves and heavy boxes will no longer pose a threat.) Save your energy for the TV shoppers and the laptops that need fixing, Geek Squad. I don't need you. I'm geek enough to buy my own earphones.

part II: LifeWay Christian Store.
My goal upon entering LifeWay was solitary: to find a small, thin Bible that I can carry with me when I go to church or Bible study and not have to lug my huge Life Application Study Bible that I love dearly but weighs like, 10 pounds and does not fit in my purse. I wish I had read this before I went, but I was able to find one pretty quickly regardless. It went much more smoothly than the Best Buy experience, but I still managed to get list material out of it. No offense to any Baptists or any devoted shoppers who frequent this store once a week, but it's really weird.

1. Strange music.
I like hymns as much as the next person, but what's with all the flutes? At the register, a large sign proudly proclaimed, "Like the music you're listening to in the store?" and had an arrow pointing to a stack of CDs entitled something like "Top 20 Hymns: Celtic Music."

2. Strange candy.
Right, so I must have missed the verse where Jesus tells us not to eat the chocolate of the world. Because the only types of candy and gum they sell at LifeWay are called things like "Scripture Mints" or "Bible Chocolates." I certainly have no problem with incorporating faith into all aspects of life, but I am also a little wary of what kind of candy is hiding underneath all that Scripture. Is there something wrong with a Snickers bar? Right now, I'm about to eat a Dove chocolate. Tastes delicious, and there are lots of doves in the Bible. I think I made the right choice. (It's kind of like cheering for the Saints in the Super Bowl, right -- can't go wrong if God is on your side. That was a joke, in case you couldn't tell.)

3. Holiday themes.
Valentine's Day is in the air. You'd think a Christian bookstore would be immune to it, but that is not the case. Pink heart decorations abounded, and every display in the front of the store was filled with couples' devotional Bibles and the movie Fireproof and books based on the movie Fireproof and pink tablecloths. Towards the back of the store, there was an end-aisle display for single people. I picked up one of the books and looked at the table of contents. It was some type of Christian girl's guide to being single. Each chapter was themed after a different fairytale. One of them was something like, "Rapunzel: Avoiding Loneliness." Another one was about Tinkerbell and was entitled something about fairies getting squashed. No, thank you.

4. Clearance Bibles. Sounds great in theory, right? After I had selected the Bible I wanted, I noticed there was a different shelf of 50% off clearance items, and there seemed to be quite a few Bibles on it. I flipped through them, wondering if there were any good ones on sale. There were, actually. They had several that were almost identical to the one I had picked out -- for half off! Exciting, right? Until I removed the box lid on the first one and discovered that it was monogrammed with someone's name. No. I am not joking. Apparently if you get your Bible monogrammed and they misspell your name, or you decide you don't want it, or you never pick it up or something, it goes on the 50% off rack. I'm not sure what the goal is. I mean, sure, I could pay twelve bucks for a bible with "Jasmine Elizabeth Williamson" or whatever monogrammed across the cover, but people would think I stole it. And what kind of person steals a Bible? If it was 90% off I might consider it, but half off? Maybe they're counting on someone with the same name coming in, but I don't know that the odds of that are favorable. I wanted to ask the cashier if anyone ever bought those, but I didn't want to offend her -- she was at least 60 and looked like she probably didn't have much of a sense of humor about these things. In fact, I'm pretty sure she was thinking, "that girl is wearing skinny jeans and looks like she may have dyed her hair recently... she does NOT look Baptist, has probably not seen Fireproof, and is going home right now to blog about this." (She was right... I am guilty to all of the above.)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

thoughts on nociception, the anterolateral system & other such painful things...

Ironically, as I sat on my couch to study yesterday after taking a break to cry my way through ten or twelve Kleenex, I realized I was learning about pain. It’s funny how a medical neuroscience course can boil something like that down to a PowerPoint presentation. Twenty slides on pain and temperature receptors, nerve receptors, and sensitization effects. The next day, sixty slides on the anatomy of the spinal cord tracts corresponding to this system. And boom, we know everything there is to know about pain. Did you know that something stimulate pain receptors in your skin, muscles, joints, or internal organs, your body automatically activates two separate analgesic or pain relief pathways that fire neurons to release norepinephrine and opiate compounds to lessen the amount of pain you are feeling? It’s kind of amazing.

I consider myself pretty lucky that I’ve never experienced any sort of intense physical pain. I broke my arm when I was 10 or so, but I honestly don’t even remember it hurting that badly. And sure, I’ve had the occasional headache and backache or twisted ankle as much as the next guy, and I’m definitely a wimp about it, but I’ve never had to experience the physical things some people have to go through – I’ve never been shot or stabbed, never broken a major bone, never gotten struck by lightning, et cetera. So it seems really great and everything for me to sit here and talk about the body’s natural pain relief system. But what do I really know about it? And who’s to say that what is incredibly painful to one person may not be as much to another? There’s no way to quantify it. We are taught to ask patients to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10, but again, it means nothing. (Although here’s another pearl of knowledge: women are known to have a higher pain tolerance than men. It’s thought to be that way so we are more prepared for childbirth. Interesting, no?)

Have you ever heard of “psychosomatic” pain? Historically, patients who were depressed complained of body pains that were dismissed for years by doctors. But it is now known that depression results from a deficit in serotonin or norepinephrine, two neurotransmitters. The deficiency of these two neurotransmitters can have widespread effects on the brain and nervous system, one of which is to make the analgesic pathways less effective. The same two chemicals that put you in a good mood are the ones that alleviate physical pain.

There’s one other method your body uses for pain relief. The activation of mechanical receptors coming from the same area of skin as the pain signal actually sends your brain a signal to inhibit the pain pathway. So physically touching or rubbing an area of skin that hurts actually does make it better. Maybe the concept of “healing touch” isn’t so crazy after all.

I know you’re expecting me to make some type of elaborate metaphor comparing emotional pain and somatic pain. But does it even need to be made? Are they really that different? As I said earlier, by no means do I claim to understand physical pain. Likewise, I am not going to pretend I’ve experienced as much emotional pain and heartbreak as most people in the world probably have. I do like to think, though, that I can find some comfort from what I’ve learned about the body and apply it to the intangible as well. Because, just like a scraped knee or a punch in the gut, it’s going to heal. With time, and lots of hugs, it’s going to get better. Not right away, and there will probably be scars for awhile, but the body has a remarkable ability to keep on going even when horrible things happen to it – and I’d like to think the same is true of the person inside the body.

let me know that You hear me
let me know Your touch
let me know that You love me
let that be enough.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I'm glad my university email account is used for such productive means...

A recent email I received, entitled: To all Starcraft enthusiasts at South Alabama!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Josue Ricardo Morales Cifuentes" <>
Date: Dec 15, 2009 7:01 PM
Subject: To all Starcraft enthusiasts at South Alabama!

Gaming enthusiasts,

Although there are many challenging video games to master out there, only a
few rival the difficulty and breadth Starcraft Broodwars requires. Complex
game mechanics and engaging battles make this RTS not only engrossing but
delightful as spectator e-sport. Several students at South want to start a
University Student group that discusses, plays and enjoys the art of
Starcraft, thus, we would like to see if there is preliminary positive
reaction to this message. Interested parties should email Josue Morales to for more information.

Good Game (gg),

Josue Morales
The above message has been approved by University administration for
transmittal to student accounts.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I have never been to New York. The city remains a mystery to me that exists only in the land of television and movies. I have begun to notice something lately that is rather mystifying. In TV-land New York City, there seems to be an endless supply of young, beautiful, and single people -- to the point where on every single episode the characters have new significant others. On a show like Sex and the City it's not so much of a stretch to me -- after all, they are four beautiful women that wear designer clothes and seem to spend every evening at bars, nice restaurants, and elite parties. Plus, there's a lot of overlap - one character will date someone for several episodes. Carrie Bradshaw probably spent most of the series agonizing over three or four serious boyfriends that she had. What really mystifies me, though, is Seinfeld. None of those characters seem to ever be single. Okay, so I'll buy it with Elaine and even Jerry (he's a comedian, after all), but is New York really full of that many single and desperate women that Kramer has a different girlfriend every week? Here in Alabama, it's taken me the better part of twenty-two years to find one boyfriend, and short, balding, unemployed George Costanza probably snags twenty beautiful women per year. Either the island of Manhattan is some kind of fantasy land, or I'm missing something.