Well, it was indeed a media issue. The Memorex 16X discs were the problem, and since Im not too keen on updating my firmware, I'll have to make a point of buying the correct discs from now on. Not sure if the error was a result of the Memorex "factor" or the 16X "factor", or both. Either way, Memorex is now "persona non grata".
Anyway, I appreciate the help tsantee. Ive been rippin' since last saturday when I found some TDK 2X discs on sale at a Hastings. When Popcorn actually began to "write" the disc, I had a euporic feeling that I only get when Im sniping auctions on Ebay. Very cool.