Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Organic in a Box

Place: Church's Chicken
Lunch: Original thigh, spicy thigh, biscuit, water

Frowning counter guy: "Dez spicy ez no cook. Take three minute. Okay?"


Some Girl is having a close and intent conversation with Some Guy in the dining room. She looks at me as I approach the dining room like she's nervous I'm going to sit within earshot. So I sit as far away as possible. I think they're breaking up. No...I think she's trying to convince him to commit. Maybe she's trying to talk him out of robbing the place. She's getting nowhere for sure. He keeps grinning (nervously) and acting silly, trying to diffuse the situation.

The chicken is fresh and hot. Holy CRAP is it hot! Yow. But yummy.

Spotted today in Whole Foods Market: Organic macaroni and cheese in a box. Organic macaroni and POWDERED cheese in a box.

Now I realize it's technically possible and perfectly logical, but doesn't it seem like a bit much to be marketing a powdered mac and cheese as organic?

(Somewhere, a Whole Foods executive is thinking "Not if it sells. And BOY does it sell! Hee hee hee!")

Whole Foods is awesome. They have amazing produce and seafood departments, interesting and unusual things found nowhere else (did you see the "Unwrapped" that featured IZZE soda...100 percent carbonated fruit juice? Whole Foods sells it), and their store-brand "365 Organic" stuff is reasonably priced. I started messing around with the organic label stuff (365 and Safeway's "O Organic" line) about a year ago, and found some of it just tastes better than the non-organic counterpart I've used previously. Plus, the organic stuff tends to come out slightly ahead on the "Nutrition Facts" label. So I actually do shop Whole Foods intentionally, and go there with a shopping list.

But organic mac and cheese in a box?

Now that I think about it, I should have bought some and tried it.

Next time.

What's the deal with 7-Eleven marketing a vanilla Slurpee colored purple? That's just wrong. And what kind of 7-Eleven has eight active Slurpee flavors and not one of them are cherry?

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Great Conversion

Place: Quiznos
Lunch: Double stack pastrami on white with ranch instead of mustard, chocolate shake

Quiznos apparently has shakes now. At least here. That's odd. $2.99 for a cup about the size of their medium drink. Too chocolaty for my taste. Not bad, I guess, but not worth the money.

This has been a long time coming. I've kind of been on the border of doing this for a few years now. It's probably been inevitable, but I've finally taken the big step and made the leap.

I'm converting my VHS tape collection to DVD.

This is no small feat. I have three large storage containers full of tapes. A couple hundred or so. When all is said and done, I figure those containers will be replaced by a single CD/DVD case that can sit on my desk.

I picked up a cheap combo DVD/VHS recorder...a $179 Magnavox...and a 50-pack of Phillips DVD+R's. I went home and read the instructions. One of the points stressed was to use certain brands of writeable media. Phillips was NOT on the approved list, which is stupid because Phillips-Magnavox is the same company.

There's actually several choices for writeable media in the DVD recording world. There's the one-time permanent DVD-R and DVD+R, and there's the rewriteable DVD-RW and DVD+RW. The difference between the "-" and "+" versions apparently involve faster write times and greater edit flexibility. Or something. I had to Google that to find out.

Anyway, my player takes them all, so it's all good. What I've found it DOESN'T play very well is some studio movie DVD's. I fired up "Sons of Provo" (which, by the way, has one of the most creative DVD menus ever) and got a big blocky mess. It also doesn't pass DTS, so my old DVD player will also remain in my equipment mix.

Doing the dubs can be as simple as putting a blank DVD and a recorded tape into the machine and hitting a single button. It just dubs exactly what's there. The recommendation, however, is that you start the tape and hit the dub button at the point you want to start the copy. That not only gives you a cleaner starting point on the DVD, it gives the auto-tracking function time to set the tape tracking. But once it's going, I can just let it run in the background with no need to even watch it while it dubs. So on a good weekend, I can dub a dozen two-hour tapes while doing or watching other things.

It's been a couple of years since I've even had a working VCR. My old one, which I bought at Dayton's at the very end of the days they sold electronics, died and was never replaced. After a couple of years of watching nothing but digital broadcasts and native DVD's, I have to say...VHS sucks. It just looks AWFUL. It didn't help that my VCR did a relatively poor job of recording things in the first place. The stuff I'm dubbing that was recorded on it looks terrible. The stuff I'm dubbing that was recorded by others doesn't look nearly as bad.

The project has actually turned out to be less of a burden than I initially imagined. For one thing, I'm finding tapes of shows that have since been released on DVD anyway, so I won't bother dubbing those. I'm also finding tapes of shows I can't imagine WHY I recorded at all. Does anybody even REMEMBER "Pointman"? Or "Marker"? Or the 1993 short-lived (four episodes) redux of "Route 66"? (Actually, I'm keeping the Route 66 shows...)

That's another thing...The number of things I recorded and never, ever watched again. What's up with that? I suppose it made sense at the time because the majority of my tapes were recorded before DVD existed and in the days of 36-channel cable TV systems. There was much less stuff on the air, and it didn't air nearly as often.

All told, I'm guessing about half my tape library will be simply thrown away without being dubbed at all.

If I really want to get fancy, I can record to a +RW, upload it on my PC, and use editing software to take out commercials, set chapter breaks between segments, and make snazzy menus. I've played with that a bit and have actually completely edited a couple of programs. Seems like a lot of work to do regularly. Besides...Most shows you'd want to save today can be purchased in box sets in far better quality than you'll ever do yourself at home. But there is one unexpected side benefit...The stuff I edit and burn on the PC will actually play on my old DVD player. The stuff burned and finalized on the recorder won't.

Of course, I also now have the ability to record programs off the air again (to VHS OR DVD, actually). Not that I'll use it much...I haven't had that ability since my old VCR died, and I didn't really miss it.

Anyway, The Phillips brand DVD+R's didn't have any problems in the Magnavox at all. I've gone through nearly all the original DVD+R's. I need to go buy more.

I need a new Sharpie too.