VHS Digitizing Service

Do you have old family VHS tapes that have been sitting for years in a closet because you don’t have a VHS player anymore? Do you want to be able to share these videos with your family in this digital age? I might be able to help! Send me a box of your old tapes and I will digitize them for just $10/tape. I can digitize normal VHS tapes as well as the small format (VHS-C) type. Return shipping to the domestic United States is free.

The tapes will be recorded in MP4 format at 640×480 resolution (higher than the original resolution for posterity) and at about 30FPS.

The tapes will be cropped to remove most of the blue screen at the beginning and end with the exception of a few second buffer on each end to ensure I’ve recorded everything on the tape. For each tape sent, you will receive one video file in return with the full filmed footage.

I will upload the files to Google Drive where they will be stored for up to a month before being taken down. You will receive a link and will have one month to download them to your own device.

I accept PayPal, Venmo Zelle and cash payments. You may pay with a credit card if I send an invoice to PayPal (you do not need a PayPal account).

Before I send the tapes back, and before I send the digital copies of your tapes, I require full payment.

If you’re interested, submit the form here:

0

25 Non-Dairy Yogurt Ratings (May 2020)

With so many new choices, I was overwhelmed by the recent expansion by traditional yogurt makers to the non-dairy sector. To help myself navigate this growing sector, I started rating every non-dairy yogurt I tried.

Below, you’ll find a simple list of every non-dairy yogurt I could get my hands on (except most soy yogurts… I try to limit my soy intake). In general, the mid range yogurts are not bad but they were often too high in sugar to give a very high rating. I was impressed by how even the lowest yogurt rating was edible. I gave no yogurt a zero or one star rating. I may amend this as I try some of the early yogurts for a second time. Also, since this is generally a product that can only be purchased in-store, I was not compensated for any recommendations, nor was I given any free samples.

Hope this helps someone and if you have any recommendations for others to try, let me know!

** Kite Hill Almond Vanilla

** LAVA Pineapple (Pili Nuts, Coconut and Plantains)

** Silk Oat Yeah Vanilla

** So Delicious Oat Sweet Mango

*** Almond Breeze Almond Milk Vanilla

*** Chobani Coconut Vanilla

*** Chobani Oat Peach Coconut Crisp

*** Chobani Oat Strawberry Granola Crunch

*** Daiya Coconut Cream Strawberry

*** Good Karma Flaxmilk Strawberry

*** Kite Hill Almond Key Lime

*** So Delicious Coconut Vanilla

*** Stonyfield Soy Vanilla

**** Chobani Oat Blueberry Almond Crumble

**** Chobani Oat Blueberry Pomegranate

**** Chobani Oat Strawberry Vanilla

**** Chobani Oat Vanilla

**** Good Plants Almond Milk Lemon Meringue

**** LAVA Strawberry (Pili Nuts, Coconut and Plantains)

**** Ripple Peas Vanilla

**** Trader Joes Cashew Vanilla Bean

**** Trader Joes Coconut Blueberry

**** Trader Joes Coconut Strawberry

***** Forager Cashew Milk Blueberry

***** Forager Cashew Milk Vanilla

2
20191213_122604

Fossil Hybrid Smartwatch HR – Collider

It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed any tech products but I think this watch deserves a mention.

My first smartwatch was the Fitbit Force. Next was the Moto 360, then another two Fitbits, then the Galaxy Watch and now, this watch: The Fossil Hybrid HR Collider.

While I’ve always loved Fitbit’s competitive community and battery life, I just never liked their physical design. Their watches were designed to look like fitness trackers, not watches. They never utilized OLED screens so always on was not really possible.

When I was on the Android Wear/Tizen watches, they could barely make it through the day with always on enabled so I ended up sacrificing having sleep data in return for a watch that looked somewhat more like a watch.

This watch is the perfect medium for me. Sure, it has limited apps that can be connected to the watch but it includes Messenger, email and texts (and Snapchat of all apps), which is all I would ever want on my wrist. It can still control my music but doesn’t have a speaker so I cannot take calls from it. It doesn’t have a GPS so I can’t track exercises but I always have my phone on me anyway so it wasn’t really a need. Even though it is an e-ink watch, it can show me texts way faster than the Galaxy Watch because there are no animations.

I finally have a watch that actually lasts well over a week without sacrificing the heart rate and sleep tracking that actually looks good. This is HUGE.

I hope that Fossil continues to add more software updates to this watch to make it an even cleaner experience but even where it is right now is enough for me to give this watch my highest recommendations.

If you’re interested in buying a pair, check Fossil’s website. I got mine on Black Friday but I was able to combine their email discount offer with another coupon code.

0
20190326_185153

Ronkonkoma Hub: Exaggerations and Evictions

The Ronkonkoma Hub is open (at least, part of it) and it looks great! Usually, I would be all for a project like this. It checks many boxes:

  • Transit Oriented Development
  • Above Average Rental Amenities
  • Mixed Use Buildings Planned
  • Higher Density Development
  • State Economic Development Funding

While I really want to support this redevelopment project, I’m starting to believe that much of the press coming out in support of the project is being stewarded by NY State’s Economic Development Corporation. All of which has completely ignored the community’s distaste for the project. Moreover, the rental company managing the property, Bozzuto, is deeply exaggerating qualities of the property.

Here’s a quote from Alston’s (the name of the residences) website: “Imagine stepping out your door to enjoy Pindar wines and Briermere pies, a Lobster Roll lunch with a Crooked Ladder brew. That’s a taste of what’s to come at Station Square.”

Google Maps directions from the Alston Apartments to the three featured places to visit.

Well, they’re not technically lying because they didn’t say how many steps you would be taking but it’s a 30-minute drive to Crooked Ladder, 35-minute drive to Briermere and a 50-minute drive to Pindar.

What’s most annoying about this is not the blatant exaggeration but the fact that you need a car to go to most of these places. To visit Crooked Ladder and the rest of Riverhead’s downtown, you could foreseeably take a train from Ronkonkoma for almost the same price and time as going to Manhattan on any of the THREE daily trains out there. Transit oriented developments are supposed to be pedestrian friendly – and that’s just what they claim on their website!

“All in an exciting, walkable community alive with possibilities.”

Other than going to the city by train, you’re pretty much out of luck if you want to enjoy much other than a good slice of pizza at Slices and Ices and a cut at Mica D’s barber shop. But it gets worse!

Those stores are in danger of being forced out too in a future phase of the redevelopment. What services are Tritec or the State going to offer to help these businesses relocate? Will they be able to afford to relocate to one of the new mixed-use shops in Alston Square? Probably not…

Here’s another quote from their website: “The Village Green and pocket parks of Station Square are surrounded by state and local parks in every direction.”

A view of all State, County, Town owned parcels near the Ronkonkoma Hub (excluding MacArthur Airport which is under “Airport Inn Inc”). Source: Suffolk County GIS Portal.

WHERE are these parks? The only significant piece of woodland/open space nearby is absolutely threatened to be cleared for this very development project! The other small wooded pieces are either sumps or land that is owned by the county that is not open to the public.

They could be talking about the Lake Ronkonkoma beach (which you can’t swim at), Lily Pond County Park, Commerdinger County Park, Lakeland County Park or Connetquot River State Park but none of these public parks are contiguous with the project nor are they easily walkable. In their defense, you could feasibly walk to Lake Ronkonkoma in a half hour.

“Lake Ronkonkoma is being restored to become a beautiful gathering place for the whole community”

Really?! I would love to know of these plans to restore the (Original) downtown. Currently, one of its largest anchor institutions just closed (King Kullen), it has lost its local pharmacy (Slater), hardware store (Agnew & Taylor) and many other stores are just plain ole empty. So far, the only downtown revitalization money coming into Ronkonkoma from the State is going straight to the Ronkonkoma Hub! None of it is going toward making the true downtown a more vibrant place.  The good news is that there is existing sidewalk 95% of the way to the downtown.

“Alston is minutes away from MacArthur Airport, across the street from the Ronkonkoma Station on the LIRR, and just off the Long Island Expressway.”

Finally! Some truth! However, do realize that this means you will constantly hear the sounds of speeding cars on the LIE, planes landing and taking off and train horns going off at obscure hours for much longer than needed.

You can get all this for $2,300/month! Who’s in?

Even worse than the laughable lies on their website, the company, and the state, have forcibly pushed out many businesses without any support for where they relocate to. Landowners are being offered “fair market value” and are being told to take it or leave it. Worse, renters have no financial support to cover any costs associated with relocation.

Much of the initial press labelled these businesses as “blighted” while, in reality, they probably employed more people in the long term than these apartments ever could. Here’s a list of the businesses that I could find that have been kicked out:

  • Krav Maga
  • Keen’s Machine Repair
  • Allegiance Engine
  • United Fence & Guard Rail Corp.
  • Pro-Cise Auto Collision
  • A-1 Car Care
  • Accurate Auto Shop Inc
  • World Gym
  • Islandwide Transportation
  • AAA Lawn Mower Service Company
  • Spring and Wheel Alignment Inc.
  • Sno-Wax Plows and Spreaders
  • Tom’s Tires and Auto Service

I’m sure there’s others but you get the point. Many more businesses will sadly be added to this list as the project continues to force landowners and renters to divest themselves from Ronkonkoma.

A view of the properties that have already been acquired for the Ronkonkoma Hub. Source: Suffolk County GIS Portal.

While there’s little that can be done for those businesses that were already forced out, Tritec and the State owe it to the remaining business owners (whether they own the building or not) to provide relocation support services such as reimbursing realty fees, moving costs, marketing related to location changes and other costs that are being burdened to long standing community members.

1
Annotation

Long Island Sand Mining Threatening Aquifers

This post is the first of a series I’m calling “Long Island From Above”

Looking over Long Island on Google Maps, you might notice a few large turquoise colored bodies of water. Zoom in and you’ll find man made landscapes like this 55 acre pool of water in the middle of a residential neighborhood. What’s it doing there?

 

While you won’t find a public beach or park along these shores, you will find established sand mining businesses that have grown over the last 40+ years to own some of the largest man made bodies of water on Long Island. But where did all that water come from?

Over the years, Ranco, Roanoke and Coram Materials mined their sandy parcels, all located within the porous pine barrens compatible growth area, to the point where they were digging below the water table. This created what’s known as a Sandpit Lake, made up of what should’ve been fresh drinking water. If you’ve ever dug a hole at the beach and hit water, you’ve created a miniature version of this enormous pit.

Take a look at how their mining operations have expanded over the years (images from the Suffolk County GIS portal)

Ranco: 55 Acre Pool

Roanoke: 117 Acre Pool (Notice the bus company headquartered right in the middle of the sand pit)

Coram Materials: 54 Acre Pool (Notice the subdivided lots they own)

While it’s certainly unique, you have to wonder how much impact these sand mining operations have on our drinking water in one of the most porous soil districts of Long Island.

0
20170228_164802

The Gramercy Park Piss Problem

Having gone to college at Baruch, I often found myself taking walks around Gramercy Park between classes. While it’s a nice view and some good exercise, I’ve always had to dodge the seemingly everlasting dog pee spots found on the sidewalk outside the park. Twice now, (Link, Link) residents have posted anonymous pamphlets around the park claiming they know who is leaving dog poop around their lovely park yet they’ve never mentioned the pee problem. So, I decided to walk around the perimeter of the park (since I obviously couldn’t walk inside it) to see for my self how many distinctively identifiable dog pee spots were on the sidewalk. Here are my findings:

I don’t know if you counted, but that was about sixty (60!) pee spots! While everyone knows NYC at large is disgusting, this is a very “well to do” neighborhood that could easily afford to hire someone to wash off the sidewalks every day, put dog poop bag dispensers around the park or, better yet, allow some of the rich neighborhood dogs and their walkers inside the park to pee in a designated dog park – the park would get infinitely more used and perhaps people could meet fellow neighbors there. Of course, that’ll never happen.

What will happen is a constant flow (fitting word) of dogs excreting around the park. Most dog poop is cleaned. Pee is the real issue here and one that the entire city faces. For Gramercy Park, since the slate sidewalk seems to hold liquid more than other kinds of pavement, perhaps residents with dogs should start bringing a bottle of water to dump after their dogs pee to wash it away. As summer approaches, I kind of wish that all NYC dog owners start practicing this habit too.

0

Corkor Belt Durability Issues

In a quest to stop using leather products, I came across the company Corkor. They sell really good looking cork belts, wallets and bags. I quickly ordered two belts and a wallet (Which, while not the topic of this post, is holding up really well over the last two months.)

While good looking, the problem with their belts is that they wear/crack almost instantly around the holes. I had only worn the black belt for a few days by the time I took the above pictures and contacted the company.

They replied that it was only “…The normal wear of the cork fabric. The interlining material will not let it rip or damage any further.” They replied as if it were intended to crack like this despite what it says on their own website “It won’t crack or crumble, in fact, the quality and suppleness of cork fabric products can be compared to that of leather goods.”

Eventually, though I was scared of damaging the brown belt , I decided to wear it for the first time yesterday. Take a look at the photos from one day of use. I’m pretty frustrated to say the least…

Here’s a couple pictures of the black (more often worn) belt that’s just two month’s old:

And in case anyone’s interested in the wallet, here’s a couple pictures of that:

Honestly, I’m just going to keep wearing these belts until they break but I certainly can’t wear them anywhere nice. Hopefully the company makes better belts in the future because I do like their style and their prices were cheaper than other cork belt companies that I came across.

0
IMG_20171028_132705

How To Split and Convert 3.5mm Video Feed into RCA.

This might not be my most popular post but I haven’t found anything that demonstrates the possibility of doing this – especially with a dashcam/aftermarket head unit in a car. Hopefully it’s helpful to someone!

The issue I had was that I already wired up a reverse camera (3.5mm) to my Rexing V1P dashcam and my new Sony XAV-AX100 headunit had an (RCA) input for a reverse camera. I didn’t want to have two cameras off the back of my car so I attempted to split the feed.

As you can see in the photo above, the 3.5mm aux cord comes from the camera (to the right) and a female 3.5mm aux to male RCA converts the digital feed to analog. Then, I used an RCA coupler to connect the white RCAs and a female RCA (yellow) to the red. The female RCA wires are then stripped and split so that one can return to the head unit and the other can complete the circuit to the dashcam (another aux to RCA cord).

I have no idea how this works but I was also able to make this work with a headphone splitter. One headphone split side went right back to the camera and the other converted to RCA and one of the two RCAs worked as the video feed. So, this might end up being a trial and error kind of thing for you but just know that it IS possible to split a digital camera feed to RCA!

0
waze-app-1024x682

Waze Custom Voices Database

(I recovered 98% of the spreadsheet! I had accidentally deleted the google docs folder where the spreadsheet was located and thought I lost everything but luckily, I originally pasted the spreadsheet into WordPress and thankfully, it saves your edits!)

Waze recently released its custom voice feature, allowing anyone to record their own voices to use for their GPS. The best part? They’re shareable! Searching for the perfect voice, I went through every Waze voice I could find (there were 45 at the time of posting) and rated them on how funny they were, how long you could realistically listen to the voice, and how good the audio quality was.

Here’s a great example of a custom Waze voice made by Drew Lynch. There are a few other videos you can check out that I included in the spreadsheet:

Then, I summarized my comments about the unique features of each voice and provided the link to download the voice yourself. The voices are sorted by overall review score. Remember that my scores and summaries are my personal thoughts – You might absolutely love the voice I scored the lowest!

Have you recorded a Waze voice that you’d like to add to the database? Leave a comment below with the link to the voice and I’ll give it a review and post it here!

On a related note… Does anyone know someone with an excessively Italian accent that would be willing to yell at me to turn left? “Turn left, ya stonad!”

0