Friday Peculiar

A bonus post–not a Friday Funny, ’cause you can’t expect a string of them, but a Friday Peculiar.

In this case, a couple of “news” stories that struck me as, well, interesting.

Low-Cal Frozen Dinners “Have More Calories Than Advertised”

Here’s one version of this story, and here’s The Consumerist’s take.

I’m not dealing with the restaurant aspect; I can certainly understand why restaurant meals will vary significantly in calories, particularly when they’re not quite as controlled as, say, McDonald’s.

I’m only looking at the low-cal frozen dinner aspect–where the difference was 8%.

I eat some of those frozen dinners, specifically Healthy Choice and, sometimes, Lean Cuisine. (Healthy Choice dinners never exceed 600mg sodium, and they’ve been reformulating the dinners with whole-grain starches, even less sodium, and significantly more dietary fiber. And some of them taste pretty decent.)

Here’s the thing: The dinners range from 260 to 400 calories, in most cases. (Lean Cuisine entrees can be even smaller–down to 160 calories, which is a snack, not a dinner.)

8% of 400 is 32. 8% of 260 is 20. So instead of getting 13% to 20% of my daily calories from one of these dinners, I might be getting 14% to 21.5%. Wow.

Most of this is, in other words, a non-story. Realistically, the frozen food makers almost have to err on the side of slight excess: They can be fined if one of those dinners comes in half an ounce shy, but not if it comes in an ounce over.

And speaking of non-stories, or at least oddly interpreted stories…

Digital albums, vinyl and CDs

There’s a legitimate story here, if Nielsen’s tracking is accurate (and I have no reason to believe that it isn’t): That is, Digital music sales continue to cut into physical sales (and “cut into” appears to be the right wording).

But Ars Technica’s version of the story is a little strange… particularly the first graph. To wit, it leaves out one big piece in its year-to-year comparisons: Physical CDs *not* from e-commerce sites. Which, as far as I can figure out, must amount to 272 million CDs–a substantial drop from 335 million in 2008, to be sure, but still the biggest piece of the pie.

And, of course, a piece that makes the whopping 2.5 million LP albums seem a bit insignificant by comparison, even if it’s a HUGE 33% INCREASE from 2008’s 1.9 million. I don’t know if you can call 600,000 LPs–or a physical-album market share increase for vinyl from 0.5% (that is, one-half of one percent) to 0.8%–all that much of a “shocker.”

The interesting thing, actually, is that total music purchases actually increased, if you believe Nielsen SoundScan. And 40% of those purchases were digital–remember that 1.15 billion digital tracks is equivalent to roughly 110 million albums. I would have assumed overall music sales were dropping, given what’s out there and the supposed reign of illegal filesharing. Apparently not. (Here’s the Nielsen report, by the way. It’s an eight-page PDF. Read on to pages 6-8 for some truly odd medium-term items.)

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