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Typing with Stereos

Stereotyping? How do you type with a stereo? Good luck with that!

Everybody has heard that lecture before about not judging a book by its cover and keeping your mind open when dealing with people who are different from you. It’s a pretty good policy to not judge… but we are human beings and as such we are very judgmental creatures. As such, I personally don’t believe that it is possible to not judge. We simply judge things in three ways; we judge positively, negatively, and neutrally.

Me, I love it when people come into my store wearing beautifully intricate middle-eastern dresses or speaking in thick accents. I get excited and, if they are open to conversation, we can talk about cultural differences. That’s a positive judgement – I think different cultures are cool. Also, I think floors in general are disgusting. That’s a negative judgement backed up by the fact that we walk on them, tracking in dirt and dust from outside so even if you clean the floor regularly, it doesn’t stay clean for long.

Judging neutrally, though, is the realization that your initial judgement may be wrong and you are keeping your mind open to changing your mind. For years I bought into the hype that the women’s restroom was always cleaner than the men’s room. Now that the task of cleaning the bathrooms at work has fallen to me on occasion, I can safely say that this is so totally not the case! Sure, the men can never seem to get the paper towels into one of the two trash cans, and occasionally they forget to flush the toilet (or aim at the toilet) but more often than not they do not bring their evil little children into the bathroom to destroy it with toilet paper and mud. Also, they seem to be better at getting poopy diapers into the trash cans. They also tend to use less toilet paper overall. I even remember that in middle school they closed the girl’s bathroom because it had been destroyed, but the boy’s room was left intact. In the end, men and women treat public restrooms equally bad. My mind = changed.

And, yes, this blog was a bit of an excuse to complain about having to clean bathrooms (no fun, no matter how you look at it), but it also served to state that it’s really okay to judge. I’ll judge you, and you’ll judge me back. But I’m willing to bet that there’s more to you than I’m currently aware, so I’ll keep my mind open about you and readily change my mind when evidence proves me wrong.

Things People Should Know About the Nook

I love Barnes & Noble a lot for many things – all of those many things are the books the new books they have on hand for me to buy. I love real books, preferably mass market paperbacks that fit in my pocket, but if there is an author I really like (Anne Bishop!) I will go for a hardcover if it’s all they have. I’m a bit of a bibliophile, so in working there most of my paycheck every week seems to go back to the company (BTW, this blog is totally not sanctioned by B&N, and everything I say here is of my own personal opinion and is not representative of B&N in any way, shape, or form, though I doubt they would mind since I’m essentially plugging one of their products, anyway).

The thing I don’t like about B&N, though, is that they are not suitably advertising their Nooks. Unless somebody stumbles upon B& or wanders into our store at some point and buys something, they are not subjected to any advertising. Once they do wander in, though, then they find out about our Nooks, the Nook App, our Cafes, sales, etc. etc. etc. I know this because 1) I am the perfect demographic to receive online advertisements for the Nook, and I have not seen a single ad on Facebook or anywhere, and 2) I had an argument with a fellow student in one of my MBA classes about the Nook, because she thought that the only good reading device was the Kindle.

At the time (about a year and a half ago) I still only had my Nook Color, which was the third generation of Nook. So… the technology for that was very outdated, but it still worked and I loved it. I recently got the Samsung Tab 4 Nook 7″ and man is this thing awesome! It’s basically an Android tablet with a primary function designed to make reading e-books easy. I have an easy-to-see calendar, email, instant access to the nook shop, access to apps, I can take photos, watch Netflix and Hulu, and it comes with a Dropbox. The touchscreen is nice and sensitive and it has really good picture quality. And, I have to admit, when I’m dog sitting for weeks on end it’s always nice to have several books on once device that packs easily.

But, here is the really cool selling point: Nook has consistently been just as good of an e-reader as the Kindle, and it has consistently cost a good $100 less than a Kindle of equivalent size and quality. Seriously, B&N, people should know about this! ESPECIALLY people who don’t go into our stores! Marketing 101!

P.S. Right now Barnes & Noble is have their Pop Cultured events, along with Throwback Thursdays. Last night we had an awesome 1950s evening in Natomas where we did hula-hooping and taught some 1950s style dances! Next week is 1960s night, so come on by if only to see our staff dressed up in period costumes!

The Truth About the Frappuccino

I already wrote a post about how to make your coffee stop healthier, but now I’m going to tell you some uncomfortable truths about the Frappuccino. I may as well admit that I’m not much of a Frappuccino junkie. To me they’re too sweet and don’t have enough caffeine. There are, however, a lot of misconceptions about the Frap and other brands’ blended counterparts that should be put to rest.

Firstly, Fraps are not healthy. They are barely coffee. They are primarily fat and sugar. There are between 2 and 4 pumps of Frap Roast, which is a liquid we make from an instant coffee powder that we mix with water. I have no idea what is in that powder, but it dissolves to make a coffee-like liquid. I don’t know how much caffeine is in the Frap Roast, but it isn’t as much as a real shot, I’m sure.

Then we put a little whole milk in, between 1/4 cup and 1 full cup, depending on the Frap and not including any alterations. After that we add 2-4 pumps of flavor, or 2-4 scoops of flavor, or 1-2 pumps of chocolate/white chocolate. One pump of caramel is 50 calories. Then half the drink is ice, and then we add 2-4 pumps of Frap base, Cream base, or Light base. All three bases are basically sugar and corn syrup concentrate to give the Frap its texture after it is blended.

A way to get more caffeine is to ask for shots instead of the Frap Roast. Depending on the size the drinks can be made with 1, 2, or 3 shots of espresso. You can also add more caffeine by adding shots on top of the Frap roast, which lower the calorie content by reducing the amount of milk that is put in (Frap Roast, shots, and milk should all add up to the bottom line of your cup or else the other measurements don’t add up, so more shots = less milk). There is also this thing called a Float shot, which is where we put the shot on top of the Frap after it is made, which in terms of caffeine is better because you get the whole shot. When the shots are blended in the coffee flavor in enhanced throughout the drink, but there is always a little that doesn’t fit in the cup and is thrown away, which doesn’t happen on a float shot. There is also an Afrogato  shot, which I may be misspelling. This is basically a float shot with a little caramel or chocolate drizzle. It has a few more calories than the other add shots, but it costs less!

You can also reduce calories by asking for sugar free syrups, but sugar free isn’t necessarily any better for you as it tends to have addictive fake sugars that your body treats just like regular sugar as well as three times the salt. In fact, if you get a Light Frap, it isn’t sugar free, just reduced sugar. You can also ask for less syrup and base, which will reduce sugar intake and bring out more of the coffee flavor. Adding flavors just adds more calories and makes an already sweet drink even sweeter – just a warning.

Now… ice. Getting your Frap extra thick just means that your barista is going to add a little more ice. Getting it thinner means that there is going to be a little less ice. We don’t altar the rest of the recipe for it because the amount of ice that is added or removed is really a small amount. In fact, less ice usually means less waste at the end of the blending!

But, ultimately, what you do with your Frap is your choice. To me, as a barista who works in a café that is often understaffed (so, clearly I don’t work at a Starbucks, since they are a lovely company that never lets their stores have fewer than 3 baristas at any given moment), Frappuccino’s are the biggest pain to make as they have the most parts, and people tend to want to customize them. But, if you are looking for that perfect dessert or snack in the heat of the day, they certainly fit the bill!

Workout Hacks I Recently Discovered!

I’ve been working on my goal of losing 30 lbs by August – not going to happen, but I’m still plugging away – and some things have gotten in my way.

Mostly, I really don’t have the space or equipment for regular strength training, nor do I have the clothes. Regardless, the music I put on in the background totally helps or hurts my workout. Lady Gaga, Pink, Evanescence, Linking Park, Nickelback… Anything angry or Feminist a has a good beat and drive. Even Disney! Sister Hazel, HMS Pinafore (or other opera) or 5 for Fighting not so much, even though I enjoy them at other times.

For space… Vacuum the kitty litter, move the chair out of the room (and maybe the cat box too) and drag in a yoga mat. If you can fit a person-sized mat, you can fit a person.

I don’t have dumbbells that shift weight as easily as I need them to, and bringing them to houses where I sit is heavy and awkward. So… I use booze bottles! 750 mls is a good weight for me, but on some things a full litre is more appropriate. And, it weighs more than soup cans while being more weildly than milk gallons!

Even though things aren’t going as well as I had hoped, they are still going! And I hope to make this a permanent thing! What weird thing do you do to keep on track???

I Feel Vindicated About Milk

I’ve kind of been anti-milk ever since I was six and we realized that I’m allergic to the stuff. I get phlegmy, stuffy, and my nose bleeds. Apparently that’s an odd reaction to dairy considering most dairy intolerances involve not being able to digest it and result in stomach aches. But hey, I aim to be different. Either way, since I stopped drinking cow’s milk I’ve lost the taste for it.

Then, when I was 15 my biology teacher mentioned that he didn’t like milk. When my lab partner and a few others got completely outraged about it, Mr. Z explained that the calcium in cow’s milk is too delicate and our adult systems break it down before we can absorb it. He went on to say that he liked a lot of dairy products like ice cream and yogurt, but he felt absolutely no desire or need to drink milk. I’ve heard similar things over the years, but now I’ve found a book about it!

Okay, so I haven’t found the book yet because I’m not entirely sure if it has been published yet. I did find an interview with the book’s author floating around on Facebook. One of the things it mentioned is that two tablespoons of dried, crushed basil is the same in calcium as an 8oz glass of milk. I love basil and cook with it all the time! Basil also helps to control blood sugar levels and goes good in so many different kinds of food!

But really, there are a lot of different foods that have calcium in larger amounts than dairy milk. Soy milk does, but it tastes kind of funny in a bad way if it isn’t flavored and has high estrogen levels. I like almond milk a lot, especially Silk Purealmond Vanilla, which is sweet and great to drink by itself or in coffee. I like making chocolate milk from scratch with it because you don’t need to add nearly as much sugar or any vanilla.

But nuts also have a decent amount of calcium, especially almonds. Making your own trail mix with almonds and home-dried fruit and veggies (which you can cut into pieces and bake in the oven for 3 hours at 210 degrees) is the healthiest snack around.

Now, is the milk industry and the government in cahoots? I don’t think it’s as bad or intentional like a true conspiracy. I do, however, see how mis-information can spread and gain power of its own. I just think that there is so much bout nutrition that we don’t know, we need to research things for ourselves a little more.

Time Management and Dealing with People who are Overextended

My fiancé is in a class with one of those teachers. You know the one. We’ve all had at least one. This person tells you to do things for your assignments that just don’t work. They aren’t clear on instructions. Due dates are ridiculous. They barely show up to class and are terrible at getting back to you. You are terrified that you are going to fail the class not because you don’t get the subject or haven’t been putting forth enough effort, but because your teacher is just that bad.

This teacher, though, has a very good reason for being so scattered. She has a full time job, she is currently taking three Masters level classes (which is full time for graduate level classes) and she’s teaching this class as well. Essentially she’s doing two full time jobs and a part time gig all at the same time. She once said that she’s answering class emails at 2am when she’s so tired she can’t even see the letters let alone check for typos.

I understand the feeling, and I’m sure all of us took on way too much at one time or another. My second semester in my MBA program I was doing online coursework at a full time level, working at my nearly-full-time job, and working at another part time job all at the same time. I had very little spare time, but I still managed to have a social life and get a full night of sleep. Thinking about this, I realized the problem that my Sweetie’s teacher hasn’t:

I can say no to stuff.

Seriously, I can tell people that I don’t want to do certain things. I know how to schedule my week so that I can work in school around my day job, and my second job around the other two. I can prioritize, and things that don’t rank in the top five priorities don’t see the light of day. Ultimately, I know what my limits are and I very rarely blow past them.

But… that doesn’t mean that other people I have to deal with know how to do any of that. I’ve found that often the overextended person can’t tell people to bugger off. They often don’t realize what they’ve committed themselves to until after they start doing it. These things tend to creep up on them until all they can do is struggle to breathe. This makes these other people unreliable, and dealing with them often takes more time and energy than I’m willing to spend. How do I deal with them?

First option: don’t bother with them. There are many people in our lives who just waste our time because they can’t get themselves in order. If they become a detriment to you on more than just the rare occasion, then why are you still bothering with them? You don’t have to break up with them, but maybe don’t put forth any energy until they’ve got themselves under control again.

But then, there are people you simply can’t get rid of. Parents or teachers are like that. Good luck with your parents – you know them best! But for everyone else… Second option: Do everything you can to simplify and minimize their involvement in your business. Have a teacher who is so busy that they’re freaking out at you and your classmates because people aren’t posting to the discussion forum until the last minute? Tell them that in your girlfriend’s classes the initial post was due two days before the responses, so people had time to respond. Have an employer who will not pay you on time? Give them notice the day before that you will be there to pick up your check and tell them how much they owe you. Make their job require as little brain power as possible, and they will not only respond well, but think positively of you!

But most of all: overextended people aren’t worth your emotions. I’ve noticed that in life there is never a time where there aren’t any other options. Sure, they may not be convenient or they may be much more costly – which makes sense since you didn’t choose that option to start off with – but you are never as truly trapped as you make yourself.

How to Deal with a Hostile Working Environment or Being Undervalued.

This is something that seems to be happening more and more with people I care about. You’d think that these two things – a hostile working environment and being an undervalued employee – are very different, but really they aren’t. In either case, the same methods work for both situations.

Quit. Seriously, if you are a valuable employee who has spent years in a position doing more than your job description dictates and they have not promoted you or given you a raise, then why the heck are you still there? If you deal with a boss who blames you for all of his/her mistakes and you always feel on the verge of being fired, then why are you still there? Find another job and go there. Fast!

Can’t do that? This the only option you have until you are able to find something better? It happens a lot. I’ve noticed that most people who work in unsatisfactory jobs and situations tend not to leave because they really have a sense of loyalty and dedication to that job, and they fear what will happen when they leave. I get it. Please realize that you really are completely replaceable, and you leaving may just be the kick in the pants somebody at your job needs to realize how ridiculous everything is. Not likely, but possible.

But really what it comes down to is doing what is best for you. If you can’t leave, then I recommend keeping a log. If you are undervalued, I recommend keeping a log of daily duties and little extras that you perform. Find a way to record how productive you are, situations where you shine, That way, when you go in and ask for your raise or promotion you have actual evidence to present. “You need me – here is why.” Keep emotion out of your presentation, it’s just like writing a letter, and at the end of the presentation ask your manager what you can do to improve. You are showing you are a good employee already and you are asking what more you can do to become even better – showing extra dedication and a positive attitude. You embed yourself in your boss’s memory, and they will think of you the next time a position opens.

If you are in a hostile working environment, though, keeping a log of incidents and infractions committed by your boss or coworker can go a long way if things go south. Are you getting written up for something you didn’t do? Good thing you have a record of this event so you know what really happened so you can rebut it! Are you and several of your coworkers filing a grievance? Isn’t it awesome that you have a log recording the pattern of behavior to fall back on? Logging incidents offers an extra layer of protection that you can pull out whenever things get particularly nasty.

And, if things get really bad and obviously will not get better, then you really do need to quit. Seriously. Why put yourself through such misery?

How to Make Your Coffee Stop Healthier

I have been working as a Barista at a couple different coffee shops for the past 5.5 years. Although plain coffee with only two tablespoons of half-&-half is 45 calories and is by far the lowest-calorie thing you can get at a coffee shop (or make for way cheaper at home) there are some things you should know when making frou-frou coffee drink decisions.

1) Milk – My mom was a farmer growing up and her family had cows, so she and her mom sometimes made their own butter and things. When milk comes from the cow, the milk quickly separates into three layers. The top layer is the fattiest, and that is the layer that becomes milk and buttermilk. Then the second layer is scraped off, and that is what becomes heavy whipping cream. What is left is what becomes “whole milk” as we see it in the grocery store, and technically that is graded at 3% milk fat. Milk can be over 100 calories per cup and getting a drink Breve (with half-and-half) is considerably more calories because 2 TBSPs is 40 calories. So if you are getting anything other than a tall, get something closer to non-fat.

2) Syrup – The flavoring syrups are actually what give frou-frou drinks their calories. Two pumps of syrup is one ounce – the equivalent of one tablespoon. Two pumps is 100 calories. A Starbucks Tall drink has 3 pumps of flavored syrup, regardless of if it is a Mocha, a Vanilla Latte, or even a sweetened Iced Tea. And although you may be saving calories with “Sugar Free” syrups, you aren’t going any healthier because there are three times the amount of salt as well as addictive chemical compounds and hidden sugars. And really, if it is sweet your body will treat it as a sugar. The best thing to do is slowly reduce the number of pumps of sweet you get in your coffee until you reach the minimum you can tolerate. Ultimately, since one packet of actual sugar is 16 calories, that is the best option.

3) Whipped Cream – People treat whipped cream as if it is the make-all-break-all of a diet. Actually, 2 TBSPs of whipped cream are only 15 calories. If you’re getting a drink with all the pumps of syrup, which are way more than 15 calories, then you may as well go all-in and get the whipped cream as well.

My feelings on Women in Cinema

I read an article a friend of mine posted on Facebook (so of course I can’t find it now because I don’t remember who posted it) and basically the article was written by a feminist who was completely insulted that Fantasy is primarily an all-boys-club of characters. The example she used was of the Hobbit, and how there are only male characters, and the female character and Legolas weren’t even supposed to be in the second and third movies.

Please note: I love the Hobbit. After watching the first movie in my living room my Fiancé proposed to me. I also love it on its own merits as an interesting adventure, even if they didn’t keep with the novel (really… you expected a movie to be like it’s book? When has that ever happened?)

Anyway, after reading the article I started thinking about movies that I like, and how they all seem to have a principally male cast. Red is the only movie I can think of that has female characters who hold their own with the men and they’re funny to boot! But really, why do you watch Kate and Leopold? Do you watch it for Meg Ryan? Aw hell no! You watch it for Hugh Jackman and a smexy English accent!

It also gets me that Superheroes tend to have unfulfilled crushes on the boring female characters. In Arrow, why must Ollie, our hero, like Laurel, a self-obsessed lawyer with no sense of humor whose intelligence is superficial, when he has a pretty, snarky, smart, and funny secretary/hacker who works right beside him for both his jobs? Barry in the Flash likes a barista (who should not have so much spending cash, even if she lives with her dad). There isn’t another viable female character in the show yet (though the girl I like in Arrow guest starts a few times since the shows are linked), but really? Must our heroes like boring girls who are inherently unable to figure out that something is even up with the hero? And another cool thing: The Flash has Jesse L. Martin and Tom Cavanagh!

I think it kind of goes to show how the rolls of actresses aren’t nearly as interesting as those of actors. I was also watching some old movies with my dad over the weekend, and I realized that female actors have always been very cookie-cutter, even in 1930s movies! Here is a challenge: without looking anything up on the internet, name 3 famous actors and actresses from before you were born. I have Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, and John Wayne. All men.

This probably doesn’t have any indication of how people feel about women. I think it just represents that there are very few good parts for women in movies and television, and that if we want to have female leads sell more movies then they need to play characters as interesting as Catniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games.

Taking the Emotion out of Angry Letters

Recently there was a bit of an upheaval at my work (the company of which shall remain unnamed, but everything here is of my own opinion and not theirs, so they hold no liability for what I write). This upheaval left me angry for several days, and it was really a culmination of many things, the least of which was my immediate manager quitting. I was so upset that I couldn’t sleep, so at 3am I got up, turned on my computer, and typed up all of my thoughts and feelings.

Emotion-filled letters like that are very therapeutic and indeed, writing that one helped me to get at least a few hours of sleep. However, the reasons for my feelings really did need to be addressed. Although emotion can be a very strong motivator and persuader in an argumentative essay, there is no room for it in a professional setting. If anything, hurt feelings will harm your argument more than help it because, really, it isn’t about you. It’s about whatever the root cause of the problem and the way to fix that problem.

So, how did I take the emotion out of my angry letter? I did a few things.

1) I took a day to calm down. That extra time, now that the anger and hurt were out of my system, allowed me to start thinking of my problem more like one of the case studies I did in my MBA programs. If I didn’t connect to the problem too closely – if I pretended it was someone else having the problem who I didn’t know – then I could disconnect my rage and it didn’t show through my writing while still keeping my unique voice.

2) I reworked my letter like crazy, changing the format of the letter from “Here’s what happened, here is why it hurts, and this is what I want to do about it” to a simple “Problem/Solution” format. Slowly but surely I undid my original letter and re-wrote it so that it sounded completely professional.

3) I had someone who didn’t know any of the people about whom I was writing proofread my paper. This was most crucial, because my mother is a really good letter-writer herself, so she was able to make it so that any lingering traces of emotion were removed and that all my thoughts were comprehensible. Apparently when I’m angry I write long, stupidly complex sentences jamming together waaaaaaay too many ideas. Who knew?

Ultimately, nobody will see any letter you write until every word is the way you want it, so taking the time to make a powerful argument is well worth the time and effort!