Saturday, March 31, 2012

Repairs: Janky Headphones

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I am unreasonably cheap.  If there's a way to save money on something, I'm going to find it.  It's not a bad way to be.  I thank my mother for this genetic gift.

Fortunately, I am also genetically 50% my father, which means I've been a do-it-yourselfer since conception.  Hell, maybe I even played a role in my own conception...  I'm not going to delve any further in to that.

So what does a cheap DIY-er do when her $20 pair of headphones (that I only paid $10 for, of course) decide to crap out?... Fix them, duh.

Side rant: the disposability of modern goods, namely electronic items, baffles me.  It seems like nothing is designed to last beyond 18 months.  It's another conspiracy: manufacturers have that whole "planned obsolescence" thing, and then marketers convince you that anything over a year old is a dinosaur and may reflect poorly on your social image.  Consumers are equally as guilty.  We've accepted this routine of break-it-and-buy-a-new-one and don't think twice about throwing something in the trash that could be easily repaired.

So since I have varying degrees of cheapness/hoarder/tinkerer pulsing through my veins, I decided to dive into this repair.  It is worth mentioning that this particular brand of headphones (Skullcandy) offers a lifetime warranty/replacement thing.  All you have to do is mail in the broken pair and they'll send you a new pair.  In my own personal opinion, the physical risks of the upcoming repair process were a much more appealing option than having to go wait in line at the post office and get yelled at by a big woman with a mustache.  Just personal preference, though.

After finding some vague instructions online, I realized I didn't have the proper tools for this job.  I was going to need to make a trip to Lowe's (GASP!).  I have a love-hate relationship with Lowe's.  They always have what you're looking just takes 4 hours to find it.  Plus there's always  birds flying around inside.  I hate birds.

A few trips up and down the same aisles later, I found what I needed: a cheap soldering iron kit.  Why, as a 21-year-old, female college student, I know how to use a soldering iron I can't completely say.  I remember as a child my father turning me loose with his to play with.  I made dozens of little puddles of metal and thought it was the greatest thing ever.  Yeah, weird kid.

I got back to my apartment with my new toy and went to town.  I decided to forgo the instructions because, well, I'm clearly an expert.  Repairing the headphones basically consisted of frankenstein-ing (your favorite new verb) the earpieces onto a different cable.  In this case, the cable was sacrificed from my stock iPod headphones.  (Another side rant: why are those so awful, Apple? can ANYONE fit those big flying saucers into their ears!?)

Long story short, my soldering experience served me well.  The only questionable moment was when I dropped the hot soldering iron on my kitchen floor.  Luckily, it turned out fine since I missed my foot and because I live in a rental and I could care less about their vinyl floors.

Oh, and if at any point you wondered if the soldering iron purchase cost more than simply buying new headphones, you would be correct.  Smartypants.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Food: Taco Bell

actually, here's the full title: Food: Taco Bell: The Unsung Heroes ...only that's kind of a lot of colons.

I'm not stupid, I totally get it: fast food is bad for you and Mexican fast food is moderately insulting to real Mexican food.  Regardless, I love Taco Bell and I look forward to the occasional Taco Bell feast.  I spent the last two weeks plotting the perfect timing and situation for my next indulgence so I could finally have my chance with the new Doritos Locos Taco.

Saturday was d-day.  Slightly hungover, I woke up early and went for a run to prep for the feast (side note: I don't run. I ran/walked for 20 minutes and almost died. It won't happen again for at least 3 months).  Like usual, my friend and I squeezed in front of my laptop to peruse the dynamic Taco Bell website to plan out our menu: it's about packing in as many different items without, well, risking death as a result.  We even chose an underrated movie to accompany our Taco Bell underrated-menu-items feast: Religulous.

I won't go into detail about the depths of the "OMG I see Jesus in my taco!" jokes that ran the entire length of the meal.  Just imagine the offensive hilarity that was present.

First Course: Doritos Locos Taco (regular)
I follow quite a few food review blogs and have seen nothing but positive reviews about this junk food engineering wonder, so it was my turn to get my hands on one.
Luckily, Taco Bell understands that I rarely ever want to TOUCH anything covered in Doritos powder, so the taco comes nestled in a handy sleeve for my convenience...or so Taco Bell has yet another chance to shove their social media down my throat.  Kudos, guys.
Unfortunately, this sleeve was significantly more difficult for me to navigate than, say, a Hot Pocket sleeve that tears away gradually (why don't more foods come in sleeves?).  When I picked it up to chow down, I actually hesitated for a second because my excitement almost caused me to bite right through the paper.  I surmised that the proper way to handle this was to occasionally slide the taco out the edge of the holder.  I'm still not sure I did it right.  Regardless, it was delicious and everything I hoped it would be.  The Doritos shell added just enough extra flavor to compliment whatever that meat goo is on the inside.  Yum.

Second Course: Fiesta Potatoes
In case you forgot (or never knew), Taco Bell has a 'sides' menu.  Of the three styrofoam-bowl-housed offerings, the potatoes are the clear winner.
These seem to be the cult favorite menu item of T Bell: they're rarely discussed in public, but never does a Taco Bell run lack a few of these thrown in.  I can't describe it any better than the photo presents it, sadly.  Soft, seasoned potatoes are doused in fluorescent cheese goo and sour cream.  They are the comfort food of the Taco Bell menu.  Never a disappointment, mostly because I would hope they're a difficult recipe to screw up.

Third Course: Volcano Taco
If you ask me, this is the one, single Taco Bell item that is the most underrated.  Actually, it's tied with the Volcano Burrito, but that's so big that it's kind of an all-inclusive meal, so it didn't fit into this feast.
If you thought the Doritos shell was an obnoxious color, think again.  This thing makes you question whether you're actually eating a food product.  I suspect the red shell is actually a regular one in disguise, but the addition of the signature Volcano Sauce is enough to mask any other flavor present.  It is glorious.  If I knew a T Bell insider that would smuggle things out the back door for me, every cupboard in my kitchen would be stocked with Volcano Sauce.  I like spicy food and it is freakin' spicy... the kind of spicy that begs for that mysterious Taco Bell blue Mountain Dew.

Fourth Course: 1/2 Pound Cheesy Potato Burrito
Two reasons:
1. I needed a cool-down from that Volcano Taco.
2. I don't do a Taco Bell run without some type of burrito thrown in there.
This one is fairly simple.  Those same soft, seasoned potato chunks are combined with some meat, cheese goo, and sour cream.  It's the perfect finish after anything spicy and is guaranteed to make you feel like you're going into a food coma. The texture of the entire thing is mushy and a wonderful way.  Sure, it may not be exciting enough to show its face on a flashy, giant Taco Bell window cling, but it's yummy and reliable, unlike some of my other past favorites (XXL Chalupa, Big Taste Taco, anything featuring bacon...) that are inevitably stolen away from me and packed deep within the Taco Bell vault, never to be seen again.

Which brings me to a (another) side note: my consistent social media monitoring helped me discover that the Doritos Locos Taco is going to be a permanent menu item, for anyone who cares.

Thousands of calories and countless Bill Maher praises later, that familiar deathly feeling set in and I was once again satisfied by my glorious Taco Bell.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Rant: Movies.

As sad as it is to say, the people I encounter on a daily basis are rather disappointing.  In general, I try to force myself to maintain that people are good/nice/whatever, but that their crappy behaviors and decisions should be attributed to “not knowing any better.”  As someone who was practically born overly self-aware, I recognize that not all people analyze and re-analyze and over-analyze their daily choices, but sometimes I wish people would think twice about stuff occasionally.

Most frustrating example: media consumption choices.

Granted, I am by no means an expert or snob.  I like my fair share of crappy movies and shitty bands and I don’t have a problem owning up to it.  This is the written disclaimer that makes me less of a hypocrite.

Part 1: Movies.

I am fully convinced that the folks in Hollywood churning out most of the popular movies of the last 5 years are linked together in a giant conspiracy to exploit the stupidity of Americans.  On any given day, there is at least one (probably multiple) movies in theaters based on a recycled story.  Disney continues to make bank by re-releasing decades-old movies and slapping “remastered” on them, as if Joe on the street can really see any difference.  In only my 21 short years, I’ve seen the books, TV shows, video games, and toys of my childhood be unoriginally adapted to the big screen.  Alvin and the Chipmunks?  Really?  Hollywood had to ruin my favorite annoying Christmas sing-a-long tape?  As much as the exploitation of my childhood memories angers me, I am more frustrated by the creation and consumption of such films.  For every one awesome, original, and technologically innovative film that Pixar has released in their time, there have been a handful of cheesy, recycled stories with fart jokes shoved down kids’ throats…and far too many people filling their pockets based on another person’s creativity that was proven successful 20 years ago.  When did everyone give up?  When did movie makers decide that everything worth doing has already been done, and the only thing left to do is redo it all?  And when did the general population agree that they don’t have a problem paying $10 a piece to see MORE Muppets?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Photography(/Bartending?...): Vodka Gummy Bears

Last week a friend and I stumbled across a recipe for vodka-infused (fancy wording) gummy bears, so I took advantage of another opportunity to see how bad I could fail with my new camera.

Our Monday late-night trip to Hyvee yielded a bottle of borderline cheap vodka, a 3 pound bag of gummy bears (completely unnecessary) and a can of frozen fruit punch concentrate.

If you're interested in actually trying this, feel free to Google the recipe, as I suspect my account of the experience will probably be lacking in terms of instructionality.

When we returned from the store, I dug out a Pyrex bowl (best bowls ever), dumped in some gummy bears, and dumped in some vodka ("some" being a very technical measurement, clearly).

I popped the lid on and stuck them in my fridge for 3 days, pulling them out to stir occasionally and being knocked to the floor by the fumes released when opening the container.  By Thursday, the bears had absorbed the majority of the booze, growing slightly in size.  I used the juice concentrate to mix up some fairly concentrated juice and stirred a cup (real measuring!) into the bears.  Again, they were sealed up and hung out in the fridge for 4 days.

By Sunday night it was time to try it out.  Personally, I wasn't thrilled since I'm not really a mixed drink/hard alcohol/fruity booze person, but I had to sample my creation.

Truth: they were awful.

Imagine the texture of a gummy bear crossed with Jello, and that's what they were like.  Plopping one in your mouth brought out that I'm-not-sure-when-to-stop-chewing-and-swallow sensation.  So that, plus the sugary-booze flavor that I generally dislike, just didn't work for me.  My friend tried her best to power through in the hopes of getting a buzz, but we didn't dump much vodka in to begin with so that failed too.  After getting two down and gagging on the third, I opened a beer and called it quits.

The most entertaining part of the process was watching them grow.

Almost doubled in size!

Oh, and the juice turned them red... except the green bears, which ended up purple.

If you're into Jello and fruity drinks, this is a fun project.  Or, if you're into those things and also into being lazy, feel free to come get these out of my fridge.

Another failed food creation.