Month: November 2010

Costco “get it while you can” update

The previously mentioned and awesome Marie Morin crème brûlée is back in stock at least at the Dimond Costco in Anchorage. And I did find out from the clerk that it is a new addition to this store, which I had thought; though, some stores in the lower 48 had this tremendous delight for years.

Ground bison has jumped up in price from $14.99 to $22.99. Yikes! I’m glad I stocked up while I could, but this really quite the price hike, just like that!

Got them while I could: Moose Creek cotton-flannel lined jeans – $18.99

I’ve been waiting for Costco to get more, but they just don’t seem to be. There are only about 1 dozen pairs left, and they’re all 40 and 42 waist sizes. I bought 5 while I could in autumn, and will probably wear these every day this winter and next. I just love them, not being a big fan of long underwear unless absolutely necessary.

I’m surprised they’re not getting more in stock, since it’s only November, but if I see more I’ll let you know. They’re made in Cambodia by the way, and they’re fairly loose fitting and run a tad short in length.

Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolate Assortment

Thankfully, they dropped the probably almost-void-of-nutrition milk chocolate pieces, so I thought I’d try them again. But these seem to have less of the rich dark chocolate that the previous ones had, and they are just too sweet to be extraordinarily healthy.

They don’t taste like “Wow!” — more like “Yuck.” Maybe they’re not made with the more unrefined, true dark chocolate. Or worse, maybe they’re made with the new GMO chocolate. I hope not. See:Chocolate’s Getting Jacked: 70% of World’s Raw Chocolate Soon To Be Genetically Modified. Not recommended.

The current brand of frozen blueberries — blahsville

Not worth getting. The antioxidant capability can’t be much, because their flavor is really blah. They don’t have a strong chemical flavor (pesticides?) like a previous brand. The brand before the chemical tasting brand was excellent, though. That’s how things roll at Costco. A lot of it is up to the buyers and how low the sellers are willing to go.

Organic frozen kernel corn — good!

I recommend the frozen kernel corn they’ve had for awhile now — grown in Oregon, organic, and tasty! Don’t overcook (it’s already cooked) or you’ll spoil the good-for-you corn oil. Good with some freshly cracked pepper.

That’s all for now, except, by the way, don’t go through the naked body scanners. Why not is thoroughly explained in my posts on this subject at ToBeFree. Click on the Naked Body Scanners topic in the Categories pull-down menu.

Power to the peaceful!

Jeff : )

More compact camera buying (and shooting) info

This is an update and continuation of my article: First major LX5 review published … if you’re looking to buy a high quality compact camera: Group test: Canon Powershot S95, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5, Nikon Coolpix P7000

• • •

Of the three cameras listed, which really are the cream of the crop (with the addition of just-released Canon G12 comparison shots data), I recommended the Canon S95 for the average shooter, but the Panasonic LX5 for those like myself whom shooting wide angle at 24mm is really important. And there are other considerations which I didn’t mention.

A friend asked me which compact camera he should buy for his wife. She wants to shoot a school graduation in which she’ll be fairly far from the subject. I recommended the Nikon P7000, because it reaches out to 200mm, and the f/stop is still just 5.6, which is the amount of light the lens lets in (the bigger the number the less light).

Here are how these four stand up with zooming range and light gathering ability:

Canon S95 – the most compact of the bunch and great lcd:
28-105mm and f/2.8 – 4.5 (f/4.5 at 105 is the trade off for its ultra-compact size)

Panasononic LX5 – second most compact, extra wide-angle and very fast lens:
24-90mm and f/2.0-3.3 (90mm is the shortest zoom, but 24mm-wide is awesome!)

Nikon P7000 – larger, heavier, but really reaches out there with relatively low f/stop:
28-200mm and f/2.8-5.6

Canon G12 – bigger, like the Nikon, probably the sharpest (slightly), but not much better than the G11:
28-140mm and f/2.8 – 4.5 (notice how the S95 is 4.9 at 105mm while the G12 is faster at the longer 140mm length. I took this Kenny G shot hand-held at 140mm with the G11 from the back of the auditorium. Most would probably have trouble holding it that steady for the long exposures required by the low light of a concert. TECH NOTE: This shot was slightly cropped, which would be less necessary when shooting at 200mm with the Nikon P7000 — Kenny G’s face could have been clearer/more detail — but shooting even longer with a lower f/stop at 200mm would have been even more difficult to hold steady in this low-light setting.)

Bigger and heavier has its advantages (though we’re not talking that much bigger and heavier). It’s harder to keep an extremely lightweight camera steady, which is a huge consideration if you’re shooting at maximum telephoto distance, especially at 200mm!

Though image-stabilization (gyros) makes it possible, technique is important when shooting a telephoto lens hand-held. If it’s bright, and you’re shooting wide open (fastest f/stop – smallest number) the shutter speed can be faster, which makes it easier to not blur the shot. But if you’re shooting at 200mm in artificial light, you may want to increase the ISO to 400 or more and shoot wide open for sure.

Higher ISOs will add some ‘noise,’ which the camera will try to blur out (if shooting JPEG, which most people do. I shoot only in RAW), so the shot won’t be quite as sharp. But these cameras will do well at 400 ISO, and can go even higher if you’re still blurring the shots. I shoot everything at the lowest ISO unless I need to increase it for reasons such as mentioned here.

It’s crucial to not breath when squeezing the shutter, as it’s crucial to only move your shutter finger. Practice makes perfect. Check your shots by zooming into the photo on location, so you won’t have surprises afterward. And as I said in my previous post on these, the Canons show great detail while the LX5 is really disappointing in that you can only zoom in a few clicks without everything getting blurry. It’s good enough for checking basic sharpness though.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment below. I love these little cameras; though, they’re still sub-par for shooting fine-art prints with. I’m waiting for the next generation micro-4/3rds cameras to change that somewhat. But they’ll be bigger than any of these, except with the fixed-focal-length pancake lens, which I wouldn’t find very useful, because they’re always some middle-of-the-road focal length that I would rarely shoot at.

Happy shooting!

Jeff : )

Costco’s Male Castration and Breast Cancer Producing Bun Heater

I’ve written a lot of good things about Costco in this blog. The CEO has implemented some of John Wooden’s management strategies, and it shows. I’m thankful.

But Costco isn’t all rosy. Here are a few examples.

They keep track of all purchases on a permanent database.

Signs at check-out lanes tell customers to leave heavy items in the cart, but then management makes the cashiers transfer every single heavy item (some items weighing as much as the cashier!) into a different cart, and often these items are just inches off of the floor. They’d rather see employees injured than lose some revenue from some items that slip by not paid for?

The love of $money$ is alive and well at Costco. Look at this:

Here is a photo of their male castration/breast cancer producing bun heater. I used to enjoy the inexpensive Polish dogs with sauerkraut, onion, red pepper flakes and gourmet mustard until I noticed this.

They heat the buns in the bun heater right in the plastic bags, and they can’t claim ignorance because the truth about bisphenol A is widely known.

BPA contamination doesn’t get much worse than this: buns in soft BPA-plastic + heat + time.

Yum!

11/23/10

Here is the truth about what they’re doing from one of my BPA posts at ToBeFree:

Bisphenol A is found in most plastic food containers today. Not only is it found in plastic containers, but also in the lining of most cans. BPA is essentially a synthetic estrogen that enters the body when one consumes food or beverages out of plastic or plastic-lined containers. This is not only harmful to the male reproductive system, but has been found to also stimulate breast cancer growth in women. Knowing this, it should be of no surprise that the sperm count of the average Western male is on a steady decline as many males are becoming more and more feminine. What most people don’t know is that Bisphenol A was actually considered as the form of estrogen to be used in estrogen pills going back to the 1930s.

Another article:

Toxic BPA is present in virtually all canned foods and beverages – and the levels are even higher than in plastic bottles. BPA has been linked to an increase in the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease

Related:

All 250 of my Health posts at ToBeFree

 

First major LX5 review published … if you’re looking to buy a high quality compact camera: Group test: Canon Powershot S95, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5, Nikon Coolpix P7000

I’ve been waiting for this review. I don’t know why it takes them so long, for in August, these models will likely all be replaced.

If you’ve followed this blog, the majority of the photos I’ve put up so far were shot with compact cameras, mostly the Canon G10 and G11, but since September of this year, I’ve been shooting the Panasonic LX5 exclusively.

I jumped the Canon ship (though I still shoot the 5D Mark II for the highest quality images, mostly which are not yet posted here) when the LX5 came out because I decided to sacrifice the longer reach of the G11 for the wider view of the LX5.

[Technically, the G11’s lens covers 28-140mm (35mm equivalent), while the LX5 covers 24-90mm, and its unique  “High-resolution 16:9 and 3:2 aspect ratio modes (thanks to multi-aspect sensor)” allows covering an even wider area at 24mm.

Also, Panasonic greatly improved the LX5 from their previous model, the LX3, while Canon didn’t change much in the S95 or the G12, compared to the S90 and G11.]

But what’s best for me is probably not best for the average shooter. I’ve actually steered people away from the LX5 and into Canon’s S95. It’s smaller, and Canon’s lcd screens are much more vivid and functional.

I’m really disappointed with the LX5’s lack of ability to zoom deep into pictures that have been shot, for example. This is a really fun and useful feature, and was almost a deal breaker for me.

If you’re interested in either of these cameras, including Canon’s G12 (which has many of the characteristics of the S95), Digital Photography Review finally, just today published their review of these three compact cameras: Group test: Canon Powershot S95, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5, Nikon Coolpix P7000. Here is a paragraph from their conclusion:

Basically, what this means is that if you’re considering purchasing one of these cameras, you don’t need to worry about image quality. They are all – to any practical extent – essentially on a level. What differentiates them is their feature sets and their handling. The dpreview office is somewhat divided on which is the ‘best’ camera of the three, but on balance, we consider that the Canon S95 is the most pleasant to use. Although it lacks the huge range of customization available from the LX5, or the versatility of the P7000’s 28-200mm (equivalent) lens, the S95 is exceptionally quick, very portable, and produces great images. If you want more manual control, and you like the idea of a faster lens, there is no doubt – the LX5 is the camera for you. Given that the S95 and LX5 offer extremely similar image quality, unless you really need the 200mm (equivalent) lens, we would recommend both over the P7000, which languishes firmly in third place in this test.

The LX5 feels awkward and unrefined compared to Canon’s compacts. Canon has been making cameras since the 1930s. I’m willing to put up with some glitches to achieve a wider image, and its faster lens is nice at times. But for most, I would recommend the S95, or if you don’t mind more bulk and weight, the G12 has some advantages over the S95, but they really didn’t improve the camera much over the G11, which was disappointing for me. They’re giving Panasonic a bigger piece of the pie.

Feel free to comment, if you have any thoughts or questions. None of my blogs require personal data, like email address if you prefer to be anonymous.

Jeff

Related:

Watch what can be done with a compact camera | The LX5 to replace my G11?

Crème Brulée at Costco

It may not be a new item, but I haven’t seen it before. My guess is that it’s new to Anchorage.

I found the Marie Morin crème brûlée in an end-cap of the shelved refrigerator unit near the specialty cheese case, in the meat section at the Dimond location.

A writer states:

Not only are the crème brûlée desserts themselves wonderfully delectable but the individual servings come in a cute little glass dish. The cups are easy to prepare in either the microwave or under the broiler in just minutes and are delightfully tasty. Or you can go the more traditional route and use a chef torch.

We get 6 cups for $10, which is reasonable considering the incredible flavor and what just one would cost in a restaurant, if they had something this good (I’ve never had a desert this good in a restaurant, but then I don’t eat out much, and when I do I rarely order deserts). And if we were to make our own, the video below shows what is required. Marie Morin must use a very high quality vanilla, because one of these with a home-brewed espresso really hits the spot.

Also, I’m tossing the caramel sugar packets, which probably have no food value, so they really don’t need to be cooked at all (purpose was to melt the sugar). And yes, I do believe this desert does have significant food value. Vanilla of this quality is very healthy, and we also need saturated fats. See link: Why people pig out on ice cream — Craving naturally SATURATED fats that they told us are unhealthy

Highly recommended.

If we were to make our own: