Saturday, April 25, 2009

Domino's BreadBowl Pasta

A few months ago I heard about Domino's coming out with some sort of pasta dish to compete with Pizza Hut's Toscani Pastas, which are delicious btw, and testing it in a few markets first. It sounded interesting, and I was hoping it would do well in the test markets so that I could try it for myself. Finally it was released nationally this week, oddly enough right after the booger incident, with emails, ads online, and commericals everywhere informing everyone about the NEW BreadBowl Pastas. I do admit that their slogan, "Pasta so good, you'll devour the bowl" is pretty clever.

My mom heard about it on Friday as well, so there was no doubt about what would be for dinner tonight. Now I've already raved about the Domino's online ordering experience twice before, but I still think it's far better than all of the other delivery places and deserves a spot of attention yet again. That entry from January of last year surprisingly brought in a lot of traffic since the Pizza Tracker was new back then. Although not as exciting the 23423945th time, it's still pretty darn cool to know the progress of your pizza in realtime (within 60 sec.).

There are five different types of pasta: Three Cheese Mac-N-Cheese, Chicken Carbonara, Italian Sausage Marinara, Pasta Primavera, and Chicken Alfredo, with the choice of it being in the breadbowl or not. This evening I ordered the Italian Sausage Marinara for my mom and the Chicken Alfredo for myself with a Coke (I'm an addict) and timed it so that it would arrive around the time my mom got home (the same exact time, surprisingly!). Ever since the 30-Minutes-or-Less campaign started last year, Domino's has been extremely punctual about their delivery speeds.

5:07PM - Order placed
5:07PM - Order prepared
5:08PM - Order put in oven
5:16PM - Order packaged and put in HeatWave bag
5:25PM - Delivery expert left store with order
5:32PM - Order arrives at my doorstep

25 minutes from 'Place Order' to my doorstep? Amazing. There is new packaging for the BreadBowls, a thicker, squarish, box a little smaller than that of a small-sized pizza. The BreadBowls do look delicious upon first look.

Sure it may look delicious, but we all know that appearance isn't everything. First impression is that its like a bowl of pasta with breadsticks built in. As for taste, Chicken Alfredo is Chicken Alfredo. The chicken was flavorless and barely apparent. It was decent; there's was nothing really special about this one, but it was saucier than Pizza Hut's. I'm not too fond of pastas made with just plain marinara sauce (especially if it's bland like Domino's pizza sauce, Papa Johns' sauce is better), so the Italian Sausage Marinara was a turnoff from the get go. It tasted like what I expected, pasta with pizza sauce and pizza sausage bits. Again, nothing special about the pasta.

The novelty of the whole thing is that it's in an edible bowl. Sure it's just regular pizza crust, but it's softer and topped with butter and garlicky seasonings. The seasonings are also sprinkled over the Chicken Alfredo pasta as well. The 'bowl' isn't very deep, so I often got my fork stuck in the bottom of the bowl when trying to pick up pasta, which was a bit of an annoyance at first. The best part was the bottom of the bowl with the soft,doughy bread covered in Alfredo sauce. The only major downside is that when its prepared everything is just dumped on top in order, so the bottom is a little doughy for those of you that don't like doughy-ness, and its a bit of work to thouroughly distribute the sauce through the pasta. A cool thing is that there are a few ways to eat it. You can eat the pasta and break off pieces of the crust as you go along like I did, you can eat pasta and bread in the same bite, you can eat all of the pasta first and save the crust for last, or you can cut it and eat it like pizza.

Here's what it looks like after stirring and devouring. I could only eat half. The combination of bread and pasta is quite filling. This also can't be the least bit healthy at all. I tried some after leaving it out for a few (since the true test of food is really how it holds up when it's cold) and the pasta does taste a little better, but the crust isn't as good as it was when it was fresh. It'll probably taste better tomorrow when I reheat the leftovers in the oven.

Overall I'd give it a 6/10 for taste (the sauces could've been a lot better), 10/10 for concept, and 8/10 for the overall package. I'd definitely reccomend it if you want to try something interesting and I will probably order it again. Maybe I'll try the Three Cheese Mac-N-Cheese next time.

Compared to Pizza Hut's pasta, the value is about the same, as you get a serving for 4 (and that's generous) and five breadsticks for $12.99, and with Domino's each BreadBowl is $6.99 ($5.99 special now if you order online and $4.99 if you get it without the BreadBowl). A single BreadBowl could easily feed two people if you're not starving. I still think the Pizza Hut pastas taste better overall though. The Domino's BreadBowls are a cool little novelty.

My mom stopped at Target on the way home and brought back two of my favorite goodies. Yay!

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Movie-Going Experience

*cross-posted with my cinematography blog*

With the improvements and significant price drops of home theater systems in the past few years, the movie-going experience almost appears to be a trivial pastime. It seems like every few months ticket and concession prices are rising. Why do we even bother going to the theaters anymore?

Going to see a movie is more than just going to see a movie. Most often it is a social experience as well. It's a chance to see what's coming next with the previews, it's a chance to get that one snack you can't find anywhere else, it's a chance to enjoy oneself.  At the theater, you can immerse yourself in the film, temporarily away from the distractions of the real world.

Watching a movie at the theater definitely has it's perks: huge screens, great sound, company, and sometimes even luxury. Legally, the movie theatre is the only place to see the hottest new flicks, but illegal methods or patience can change that, which brings us to the flipside, the home movie experience.

As mentioned previously, quality is no longer much of an issue with improved home theater systems. Seemingly everyone has a beautiful, widescreen HDTV now, and a halfway decent surround sound system isn't hard to come by either. So now you have a setup in your living room that rivals that of some big expensive theatre. You can view movies at your discretion, from the comfort of your own home, in your pajamas, while an enjoying a delicious meal or reasonably priced snacks at the same time. 

Though not as taboo as before, one can even enjoy the same first-run movies at home with bootlegs. No, they're not only sold by sketchy characters in front of the corner store in the hood any more. Besides downloading movies online, there is also a very well organized system if you have the "hook-up". Lists are released weekly of what the movie man has acquired or his full collection, with details on whether it is a studio copy, regular quality, a DVD rip, or an in-movie recording, and even sometimes specials such as 5-for-$20 or buy 3, get one free. The decision to purchase bootlegs pretty much boils down to ethics.

The most apparent difference between the movie-going experience and the home theater experience is the cost. At first, the home theater experience may appear cheaper, but the initial costs are far more expensive and it must be a long-term investment in order to be worthwhile. Ignoring the initial costs for the home-theater system, let's compare the annual costs. For a family of four, an average trip to the movies would cost about $60 ($8/ticket, ~$30 in snacks). This would equate to $720 in movie-going expenses for an entire year. For the price of one movie trip, the family could by three new-release DVDs or 15 bootlegs -- either way, everyone in the family gets something they like. On a monthly basis, the family could buy one new-release movie and order pizza for about $40 and spend $480 annually. Of course DVDs go on sale all the time but never movie tickets. (Sidenote: There are so many factors that contribute to both movie-viewing experiences that it's pretty much impossible to fully evaluate both. Well I could, but I won't.)

So is the movie-going experience still worth it? Yes and no. For some popular, action-packed, must-see movies like Transformers 2 coming out this summer, absolutely. But for other casual films that don't necessarily demand the perks of seeing it in a theater, probably not. Another factor not to be ignored is the reason for watching a movie; is it for the plot, the cinematography, the hype, the actors, the social experience, the message? These also all influence how one physically views a movie.

It is not to by implied that one should abandon one system for the other; actually, the best situation would probably be to have a healthy combination of both. Even though it may be a huge splurge nowadays, who doesn't love staring at 20ft screen while munching on $10 popcorn, $4 candy, and $6 soda? 

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Final Countdown

Kind of bummed about not being at the Championship for the first time in 3 years now, but:

24.5 days of high school left

Grad Bash on May 2nd

AP Exams May 4th & 7th

Final Exams

Not doing the Prom thing

Graduation on May 30th


Anyone have a time machine that I can borrow?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Sleep Cycles

For the past month, my sleep cycles have been wacky to say the least. Some nights I didn't sleep at all, some nights I slept for  two hours or 30 minutes, sometimes I slept for 9 hours. This troubled me, as it would often effect my mood for the rest of the day.  I didn't quite have a grasp on why I ventured from my normal pattern and it seemed like every night 2am appeared out of nowhere.

During my early childhood I don't recall having a set bedtime, but I do remember falling asleep around the same time everynight with exceptional regularity. Young kids have a tendency to do that, even waking up at 6am on the weekends...just because. (Sidenote: I don't even see the point for kids to get up early anymore since the cartoons suck now. ABC/Disney's One Saturday Morning was the ish in the 90s.) I remember the days where staying up past 11pm was a big deal and extremely tiring.

By my early teenage years the whole "let's sleep all day and forever" thing caught up with me and I did just that. I went to sleep around 10pm every night, had the hardest time waking up in the morning, and slept through the weekends when I could. 

At some point, I stopped beliving in a bedtime -- I think it was towards the end of middle school.  I was so immersed in whatever I was doing (The Sims, forums, IMs, whatever) that I no longer allowed the clock to dictate my life. It wasn't too bad, as I'd usually be in bed before 12 and not too grumpy at 5:30am when my alarm went off.

In high school, this got worse. Being the procrastinator that I am, I often didn't start my homework until 10pm. I would typically take a nap from 4-7pm, and then have dinner and stick myself in front of the computer until I realized I had homework or something else to do. I'd fall asleep whevenever I was done, but it was usually before 2am unless I had a huge project. I'd wake up at 5am every morning and never miss the bus. On weekends I'd often pull all-nighters just because. This was my routine for 3.5 years.

Suddenly, everything changed. I've overslept and missed the bus on more occasions than I can remember this year. I don't sleep with any regularity. I'm often not tired at all between the hours of 11pm and 2am when one would normally fall asleep at this age.  During the first semester I was often overloaded with annoyances such as school, work, standardized tests, and college apps, so I had a legitimate excuse for not sleeping. My life has been a little smoother for the past 2 months (with the exception of robotics), but my habits didn't change at all. I was tired all the time.

Very recently, as in the past week, I've adopted a new sleeping habit unintentionally, and I'm finding that I'm less tired during the day. For the past three weeks I've been going to sleep at 3am or later and waking up at 5am. In the weeks that I didn't take naps, I was definitely the most unhappy person in the world in the mornings and felt as if some great force was pulling me to the bed and my eyelids closed. Now it's not that big of a deal since I make up for it during the rest of the day. On the ride to school I can usually squeeze in about 20-30 minutes of sleep depending on traffic. Depending on how tired I am I can sleep through lunch for 30-45 minutes. Power naps are amazingly refreshing, and I often feel more refreshed after a nap than I do after sleeping for 6-8 hours. The majority of my sleep occurs when I come home from school, from around 5 or 6pm to 9 or 10pm. There is usually a bit of variance depending on what I'm doing that particular day, but most of my days have been like this.

So I'm sure a major question looming in your head is "Why don't you just sleep like normal people?" It's difficult to answer. I just can't now. My schedule is pretty flexible now outside of school, so I have time to do so much more and it's difficult to evaluate when sleep is necessary. Also, I don't get tired at the same points that I used to, like very early in the morning and towards the end of the school day. Now it's more like the middle of 2nd block (around 10am) everyday and the early evening. This multi-powernap system would almost be perfect if I could take another 30 minute nap during the day around the end of 4th block (~2:15pm), but my schedule just doesn't allow for it. I hope to correct this before I head off to college, but it works for now.

Try it!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Wow, did I write that?


Introspection is sometimes difficult
One's personal history is often an insult
It's hard to imagine a perfect life
One without troubles, or a single strife

Many go on a quest of self-discovery
Most often, it's a quest of recovery
Self-realization is a great step
A shocking reality, with no way to prep

A youthful self-journey, a mid-life breakdown
A sudden urge to get out of this dreary town
Looking into ourselves causes a sudden sway
We're all motivated to change in some way

The wise are those that realize this early
You cannot live life insecurely
Evaluating choices, reflecting important issues
Will save the tears shed on those harsh-realization tissues

Opposite of an existentialist point of view
Evaluate what is important to you
Find meaning within your existence
Be kind to yourself, make a difference

I wrote this back in September for the Jonathan Green poetry contest that we had to enter for AP Literature. The topic that had to be written about was self-discovery; I mulled over writing this thing, feeling muse-less when forced to write creatively under time constraints. I didn't win or anything, but I think some students from Dillard did place. I thought it was horrible at the time, and I still don't consider it to be one of my best works, but it certainly is decent and seems like a message to my present self from my past self. Creepy and ironic considering the subject matter.

I should learn to take my own advice, I like the messase. I never cease to amaze myself when I reflect upon my own work, but I try not to be too conceited.