The McAl(l)ister’s Effect: Basic Memory and the Simple Things

There is a glitch in the simulation.

Nikki and I have a “fast casual” restaurant that is easily our favorite. This type of eatery isn’t popular in some areas of the world, but they are basically a step above fast food, rather than a casual dining or “sit-down” restaurant. Instead you order your food from the counter, sit at a table, and they bring your food when it’s ready. A club and sweet tea for me, a four-cheese griller and veggie chili for Nikki.

That restaurant is called McAlister’s, a popular chain across the Eastern and Midwestern United States. The food is delicious and the service is pretty good. The name, however, is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. You see, Nikki and I have eaten McAlister’s for practically a decade, but up until three months ago McAlister’s wasn’t spelled that way. It had an extra “L” and was spelled McAllister’s. Don’t you think I know how my favorite restaurant is spelled?

McA.PNG
No, Google, I meant McAllister’s.

And yet recently, hungry and walking through the shops in a promenade of a suburb of St. Louis, we see a sign written in a consistent typeface with the rest of the signs in the mall. McAlister’s.

“Weird that they misspelled the name McAllister’s,” I recall saying to Nikki. She gave me a puzzled look. “By giving it only one “L,” I clarify.

“Oh, yeah, that is weird,” she agreed.

Being a P.R. major in undergrad, I totally understand that signs and promotional material get misspelled all the time. Probably someone noticed after production of the sign, but it just wasn’t worth the extra expenses to get it changed for the sake of a missing “L” that only someone like me would notice.

But then we reach the eatery itself and the logo is wrong too. Going inside, all of the insignia displayed on the menus and paraphernalia adorning the walls is also spelled with the singular letter. I was so sure of the spelling of my favorite restaurant. I felt like someone walked over my grave.

Oh, don’t bother looking it up. The internet will insist that I’m wrong. It will tell you the restaurant started in 1989 in Oxford, Mississippi after retrofitting a gas station used in the production of the film Heart of Dixie. Truthfully, I can only find one real reference to the origin of it’s name, found in a 2016 Oxford Eagle article, stating the restaurant was named after the founder’s wife’s parents.

And yet, despite all the evidence to the contrary, I just know that McAlister’s has two L’s. My eyes still deceive me. It’s right there in the logo — two identical L’s, offset only by the curve of the banner. I even Photoshopped the logo and added an L to make sure it fits — it totally does. Therefore, I am left to draw one of three mutually exclusive conclusions. I believe only one of these could be true.

  1. Time travel is real. Someone went back in time and changed the name of the company at its origin. Somehow I am unaffected by the change in history.
  2. The entire universe is a simulation. The programmers updated McAlister’s to have one L, but somehow was unable to update my consciousness. Lab experiment, perhaps?
  3. Human memory just isn’t that good at fine details.

As compelling as the first option is, I just don’t see the one thing time travelers doing is going back to change a company name, unless doing so will prevent doomsday or something. And the second one… well there’s not much I can do about that. Nope, I think Occam’s razor applies and it’s probably definitely the third one: human memory is incredibly fallible.

This is The McAlister’s Effect: where I’m wrong about something blatantly staring me right in the face. The realization that I was wrong about the spelling of my favorite restaurant was a real moment of self-discovery for me, because I consider myself a person of excellent memory about the small details of life. In my career, I’m required to intuitively remember numbers, letters, colors, and style guides. When writing, I endeavor to have an advanced repository of words to make my points as clearly as possible. And yet, how can I effectively accomplish this when my mind has influenced my memory of something so simple as my favorite restaurant’s name? It’s a wonder I’m ever able to get any work done at all.

I have to wonder what other truths are hiding in plain sight that I’m just missing due to my own bias. And more importantly, what does this mean for my long-term memories — the ones that make up my identity and I look back on with fondness. I want to believe they truly exist and played out exactly as I recall. The trouble is a number of those great memories take place at McAllister’s, a place that doesn’t even exist.

If the solution were of practicality, I’d say just use more brainpower to pay attention to the whole of your surroundings. Journal it constantly if you have to. But humans do not have perfect memory, and that’s why you can get seven different accounts of the same scene from seven different people. Additionally, I get the suspicion that the harder a person tries to remember the excruciating details of an event, the murkier and more distorted they get. Based on our current understanding of long-term memory, this is likely due to re-accessing memories causing them to change slightly and merge together.

Yet, even memory doesn’t completely account for The McAlister’s Effect — the times where I’m wrong about something blatantly staring me right in the face. To combat this, I think I’m going to write down all of my forgone conclusions about the important things in life: relationships, worldview, personality, skills, and so on to make sure I’m not missing something else so glaringly obvious. I may even search for The McAlister’s Effect in aspects of my own life in future posts.

I’m just saying, though, time travel explains everything.

Where in your life did you discover The McAlister’s Effect? What things have you missed which were, in retrospect, right in front of you. They can be as insignificant as a restaurant name, or as important as relationship conflict. As always, I would love to discuss in the comments.

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May These Four Updates Be With You

On the Sights and Sounds of Hyrule


There is no doubt in my mind now that Hyrule: See the Sights! Hear the Sounds! is going to be amazing. About half the posts from my amazing contributors are written and in the editing process! Some have even chosen to write two or even three sections!

On my end, I’ve started some preliminary visual design and audio editing. Nikki has also finished her semester and plans to sit down with me and insure that no typo gets through. I want nothing less than for this to be a true audiovisual feature with all the bells and whistles. That means thorough editing, high-quality art/design, internal continuity, and compelling content.

I think it’ll be something for all the contributors to be proud of! Go follow them right away! Here’s a round of links, on me.

· Ellen @ LightningEllen · Emma @ Geeky Tourist ·  GG @ Hungrygoriya ·  Ian @ Adventure Rules · Jan @ The Life of Jan · Justin @ TWOTALL4UFOOL · Kim @ Later Levels · KT @ Wintendo64 · Megan @ A Geeky Gal · Pix1001 @ Shoot the Rookie · Teri Mae @ Sheikah Plate · Nikki @ Normal Happenings · Matt @ Normal Happenings ·

On Social Media


Just wanted to let you know, in case you missed the links on the left pullout menu, that Normal Happenings is on Instagram and Twitter @normalbloggings. I don’t really do much on Facebook anymore — it’s kind of a dying social media.

· Twitter ·

· Instagram ·

I do something with my Instagram that I think is fairly unique. I basically make a checkerboard pattern, with photos and media sliding between the white background of the blog post updates. See the bottom of this page for a good reference.

On Becoming a Mage… Possibly?


I’ve been talking with The Well-Red Mage about the possibility of contributing some long-form video game analysis. The idea occurred to me as I was writing a post on Normal Happenings called “Why Dynamite Headdy Is Too Badly Designed to be Considered a Classic.” I very quickly realized that I was discussing video game design concepts that were, frankly, beyond the scope or interests of readers of this blog. Not wanting to part with the post, because it’s very much becoming a good piece, I realized I might want to do deep game ruminations like this more often on another platform. I will, of course, keep you updated.

On Dysontopia


Finally, I’ve been astonished by all of your positive feedback during the first three weeks of Dysontopia. Your comments, feedback, and critiques have given me a new spark of motivation because I really think the work is becoming something special. If you don’t know what Dysontopia is, you should probably start here.

I wanted to let you, the reader, know I’ve added a patch log. It’s basically a list of all the things I’ve gone back and changed after initial publication. I’ll also be continuing to post background information “zero-point” blogs, which to me are just as compelling as my main ones.


Exciting times ahead! Anyway, have a great day of forced puns, and I’ll see you on Monday when we’ll be finishing up chapter one of Dysontopia. Feel free, as always, to comment with questions or ideas.

The Supporting Role of a Pure Hero | 0.3

<< On Curse Words in Fiction 0.2Patch Log | Cold Outside, Cold Inside 1.1 >>
Related: About Dysontopia


I want to talk a bit about Millie in Dysontopia because we will not be seeing her again for a little while. She’s an important character for sure, and I very much needed to introduce her early in order to add a stabilizing element to Sydney’s life. Yet, we also need to see Sydney’s chronic predicament of being alone begin development fairly quickly into the piece.

When I started writing Sydney, I had every intention of making her complete chaos, with intentions and motivations that are all over the map. Is she good? Is she bad? Even I don’t know, and I’m the one with relatively detailed plan for her character arc. That’s often what it’s like to struggle with mental illness – it creeps up inside you and tears you apart from the inside out. One thing’s for sure: she is a human being with all the instability pertaining within such a classification. Continue reading “The Supporting Role of a Pure Hero | 0.3”

On Curse Words in Fiction | 0.2

<< About the Project 0.1Patch Log | Cold Outside, Cold Inside 1.1 >>


If there’s one thing that has inevitably made people nervous about my fiction, it’s the fact that it uses curse words. From the perspective of someone who knows me in real life, I absolutely see how this could come across as contradictory.

The fact that I’m a devoted Christ-follower isn’t exactly a secret, as I’ve referenced faith many times on this blog. Christians are not exactly known for being tolerant of profanity, even though to me personally it’s no indicator of someone else’s spirituality. It is, however, one of mine, and my friends have probably noticed I avoid cursing to the point of possible prudishness in real life. It’s safe to say I’m uncomfortable speaking profanity… I’m just not uncomfortable writing it in fiction, apparently.  Continue reading “On Curse Words in Fiction | 0.2”

Grandma’s a Secret Agent! People-Watching with an Overactive Imagination

I need to tell you something, but here’s the thing. This is super risky, because I may know something that doesn’t need to be known. I may end up in the witness protection program this very afternoon, forced to forever leave my family and friends because I know too much. For all you know, every blog post written after this one may be written by an impersonator who has intricately studied my writing style for the past eight years.

You see, I love my wife’s grandmother, but I think she may be a secret agent. I don’t make this accusation lightly, it comes after years of observation and study. By day she’s an ordinary administrative bookkeeper, but that’s just a cover for her real job as a detective extraordinaire. Continue reading “Grandma’s a Secret Agent! People-Watching with an Overactive Imagination”

Facing Yourself: Escaping the Black Hole of Depression

– By Nikki – 

Mild trigger warning: if you struggle with depression or any related mental health issues, you’ll find this journey familiar. Be advised this post could be a difficult read.  

Imagine that you have been silent for the majority of your life. That silence turns into a big black hole constantly sucking away your desires, dreams, and goals. Life itself slows down, and you begin to see it stretch out before you and every person that you know is moving forward in life. You cannot move forward – you only look backward at the moment when everything changed, and you realize that you are stuck at the event horizon of that black hole. People on the outside see you and nothing has changed, but on the inside you are being stretched to the point of absolute destruction. You wonder if it will ever end. Continue reading “Facing Yourself: Escaping the Black Hole of Depression”

I Need Words: Repairing the Shorted Cable Between Brain and Paper

I promised you all a list post today about frustrating moments when you adopt a kitten. Yet, as I tried to write it, I kept getting hung up on one frustrating moment that happened this week. Because of how my brain works, it inspired this entirely not feline-related post.

On Monday, Ezri, our “adorable” little kitten, chewed up Nikki’s $70 Macbook charger. It wasn’t a complete schism, but it was just enough to cause a short, rendering it effectively non-functional. I remember testing it using an outlet, and it will only charge if you hold the wire in a very particular way. That’s totally a fire hazard, and even if it weren’t you’d have to use the paperclip trick to keep it there. So, in the trashcan the charger went. Continue reading “I Need Words: Repairing the Shorted Cable Between Brain and Paper”

Yes, You can be a Morning Person!

Today, Monday, March 12, 2018, is the most dreadful of days.

pexels-photo-723675.jpegMost of us in America are forced to endure a lousy invention called Daylight Savings Time. It kicks off in the spring, where you have to turn clocks forward an hour, and lasts until fall, where you set the clocks back to their normal time. It’s just as horrible as it sounds because it completely screws up everyone’s sleep schedule. Millions of dollars of productivity are lost on the Monday after DST begins.

So what better day to talk about being a morning person than today? Answer: all of them. I’ve gone ahead and pre-ordered my Venti Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew from Starbucks. Continue reading “Yes, You can be a Morning Person!”

TV Shows, Video Games, and Movies, Oh My! Real Life Follows Culture

We are here because an avalanche of inspiration hit me all at once.

One of the very large boulders in that rock slide was A Geeky Gal’s 30-Day Video Game Challenge. In it, Megan challenged herself to spend every day in a month writing brief posts based on answers to a series of 30 questions. “I wanna do it,” I remember thinking, causing a swarm of blogging nostalgia to come rushing back. Continue reading “TV Shows, Video Games, and Movies, Oh My! Real Life Follows Culture”

Normal Happenings: A Reintroduction

Revamped. Revised. Revisited. I think I’m finally happy enough with my blog’s thematic material, branding, and formatting to start blogging again.

Normal Happenings represents everything I want to do on this site. I’d love to see post after post in which I get back to the core of matters and simply appreciate that life exists and I am part of it. So what can you, dear reader, expect? What type of posts represent this new paradigm? Continue reading “Normal Happenings: A Reintroduction”