Saturday, January 31, 2004

Columbia's final minutes.

An excerpt from the book "Comm Check ... The Final Flight of Shuttle Columbia" details the final minutes of the Columbia's flight. A lot more detail than I've read anywhere else, including an explanation of how the chunk of foam slowed down 550 mph in two-tenths of a second before its collision with the shuttle's wing. This definitely looks like a book I'll want to read in its entirety.

Thursday, January 29, 2004

No, I wasn't in California last weekend.

Sacrilege. A $20,000 170-pound bronze statue of Yoda was stolen off of the flatbed truck it was bolted to. And, not surprisingly, at that price it's described as being "limited edition."

Take the lions and give the points.

This is described as being Pepsi's Super Bowl ad, leaked to the web in advance. Perhaps, I guess, although (a) it's a full three minutes long, not easily broken into one-minute segments, and that's awfully expensive airtime although Pepsi can certainly afford it, and (b) I'd guess it was "leaked to the web" by Pepsi, in order to build buzz for the ad.

Not exactly leaked in secret, though, as the ad had its release party Monday night at the National Museum in Trafalgar Square, with the "stars" (Britney, Beyonce, and Pink) present and accepting accolades. The ad is called "New Gladiator" and is "expected to play in international markets", whatever that means. Perhaps we'll get to see it during the commercials that play in theaters before movies.

And Queen has nothing to fear.

Telemarketers and Caller ID.

FTC regulations which are part of the national do-not-call registry take effect today, and require telemarketers to identify themselves on Caller ID. Telemarketers can no longer block their identification, and their calls must display either the name of the company whose goods or services are being sold or the name of the company making the call. The display must also show a phone number that consumers can call during business hours to request that the company no longer call them.

These regulations didn't take effect when the do-not-call registry came into being last fall, in order to give telemarketers time to get the technology needed to display the names and numbers.

The telemarketing industry supports the Caller ID requirement, claiming that it would "improve trust" among customers, and - not surprisingly - opposes the do-not-call registry. Of course, since the registry now contains over 56 million telephone numbers, it would appear that consumers have voted with their feet, prefering to avoid telemarketers instead of trusting them.

Ever so much more humane than Penguin Baseball.

However, the whole concept of "haggis = creature" takes some getting used to. But a fun way to waste some time.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

You will thank your third-grade teacher.

Wonderful article in the NY Times on a great opportunity provided through eBay: buying items that are misspelled and reselling them for a profit. A correctly spelled item will attract substantially more potential buyers, and thus is more likely to sell for its fair market value - one guy was mentioned who bought a box of "gers" for pocket watches for $2, and he sold them (as "gears") for $200.

A blast from the past.

"If you care about this country at all, you better go listen to that John Kerry fellow."

Ah, that was a week of classic Doonesbury comics: the day before (Oct. 20) had one of the most memorable football-huddle strips, and the Sunday of that week (Oct. 17) was perhaps my all-time favorite Doonesbury - I cut it out and still have it around, somewhere.

If only Doonesbury were still that funny ....

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

When is cat food more than cat food?

When it's official Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover's Soul brand cat food. Yes, the stupid series of mindless self-help books has now licensed out its name for a line of cat food.

On the other hand, a look at a partial list of ingredients would lead you to think that a cat eating this cat food would eat better than I do: "Chicken, salmon, chicken liver, turkey, duck, chicken broth, whole grain brown rice, whole grain white rice, oatmeal, potatoes, barley, egg product, flaxseed, kelp, carrots, peas, apples, dried skim milk, cranberry powder, rosemary extract, parsley flake, dried chicory root, ..." Turkey and cranberries. Duck. Chicory root. Salmon. Almost worth giving it a try, except for its connection to that stupid series of books.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Ol' Bleary Eyes.

Bloodshot? No, no; not at all. These are my festive holiday eyes, decked out to look like peppermint candies.

One might think that, after having read books for mumblety-mumble years, I'd have learned not to read thrillers just before going to sleep. One would be wrong, however. I've been reading Frederick Forsyth's Avenger lately, and was about halfway through it. (It's pretty good, by the way, and is set in the present day - well, the pre-September 11 present day - instead of having the usual WW II or '60's Cold War settings that a lot of spy-ish thrillers have. With secret agents, murder-for-hire of the unexpecting innocent, and vile criminals getting their just rewards from vigilantes, not from the justice system: good stuff, and exciting.) So I went to bed and picked up the book, intending to read a chapter or two before nodding off. Unfortunately for me, it was sufficiently enticing that I kept saying to myself "Oh, look! The next chapter's really short, so I'll read just that one more and then put the book down." And just one more, and just one more, and eventually it was 3:30 a.m. and I'd finished the book.

Great! Time to turn the light out, and drift peacefully to sleep, listening to the familiar and comforting sounds of an otherwise empty 50-year-old house: the pops and creaks and clangs of the furnace going on and off and the heating pipes expanding and contracting; the BOP-Bop-bop-bopbopbop-roll-l-l-l of an acorn on the roof; the rustle of leaves outside my window, due to the wind or a (hopefully) small animal; the tap-tap-tap of, I guess, a branch against a window; the motion-detector-light over my driveway repeatedly coming on and illuminating my bedroom blinds; the creaking of floorboards settling, or possibly the basement door opening; the just-at-the-threshhold-of-hearing footfalls on the steps and the bated breathing of the cat in the hallway, unless it's an intruder with a gun with a silencer. And sure enough, sometime around 6:30, I finally got to sleep.

Good thing there's nothing interesting on TV right about now. I think I'll go take a nap.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

A gimmick a day.

And today's gimmick is the new Diet Coke With Lime. Picked some up a couple of days ago, and tried it today (in lieu of coffee - due to the lack of water). It's actually pretty good: the lime flavor is subtle, unlike the vanilla-flavored Diet Coke. I'll doubtless pick up more of it. Of course, I like the Diet Coke with lemon flavor, too, but will probably get the lime flavored Diet Coke as a substitute to the lemon flavored one, not in addition to it.

Cleanliness is next to impossible.

Especially with no water. Water main break somewhere in the neighborhood, so there's no water pressure. They promise it'll be fixed within a couple of hours. Until then, I'll just have to pretend I'm living through the hurricane again.

Reviews & such.

Last night on my TV, I watched a cartoon character with a squeaky voice and a tendency to mispronounce words. He was clearly lost, over his head, and out to sea, and it seemed to last for two hours. On the other hand, it was fairly entertaining. Yes, I was watching Finding Nemo. (Oh, was that on too?) I thought it was okay, but that's about it. Very good animation, some decent voice acting, but not much of a story. There's no reason why you can't have a good story with an animated movie - see Shrek, for instance.

A better movie I've seen on DVD recently was What's Cooking?, written and directed by Gurinder Chadha (who also did Bend It Like Beckham). A Thanksgiving movie that isn't a depressing farce about dysfunctional families, this looks at the Thanksgiving celebrations of four families and their interlocking stories. Well written, good actors - especially for this director's first movie made in the U.S. - and a good sense of fun. Well worth seeing, and the director's commentary is fun, too.

I've also seen Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, which was fine as a mindless action picture, but clearly not up to the quality of the previous Terminator movies. And as a bonus, you get to see California's governor naked, not necessarily a good thing. And the commentary track was one of the worst I've ever heard - separate commentary tracks from the director and the leading actors, edited together. Arnold kept going on and on and on about how he had to get back into shape for his nude arrival scenes.

Among currently-playing movies, I've seen and liked "Something's Gotta Give". Admittedly, I like anything with Diane Keaton in it, and she does a wonderful job. Jack Nicholson does a great job of playing himself, and Frances McDormand excels at playing oddball characters. Great writing gives the actors a lot to work with, and they show themselves capable of handling it. The Hollywood-style happy ending is a bit much, but not unexpected. A good date movie, for those for whom that's not a hypothetical consideration.

On TV, I ended up being somewhat disappointed with Celebrity Poker Showdown. I've seen enough of the "serious" poker shows to realize that I don't enjoy them, so the attraction with this show would be to see the stars off duty. And for my money, only the show made up of folks from The West Wing was worth watching. I've heard that they're going to do a new set of shows; I can only hope that they'll have more interesting participants.

On the brighter side, though, Monk has returned with new shows.

And I don't spend all of my time in front of the tube. I've read Eragon - the fantasy novel by the then-15-year-old home-schooled kid that's been on the NY Times best seller list. It was okay, although not much better than that. It's clear that the book was greatly influenced by Tolkien (elves, dwarves, dragons, swords with names, and intended to be an "epic" trilogy), McCaffrey's Dragonriders of Pern series (dragon riders, how they attach to dragons), and Luke Skywalker (an orphan who comes to terms with his identity as a Hero-in-training, who leaves his homeland in the company of an older mentor and in search of who his parents are). It comes across as a Tolkienesque book, written for the Harry Potter set, and in that particular context, succeeds. All in all, it wasn't bad, but it wasn't especially good, either. I didn't see anything in it that was original, and this particular culling of pieces of other, better fantasies isn't compelling. Still, it was better than some of the truly uninspired Tolkien imitators (like the endless Shannara series), and is a far better novel than I could have written at age 15.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

He shall from time to time.

Possibly the only, and certainly the best, reason to watch the State of the Union Address tonight.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

You don't understand - we're trying to forget them.

Another "what were they possibly thinking?" site: one dedicated to photographs of airline meals. Well, the meals in first class for many of the airlines look pretty good, not that I'll ever find out.

And I suppose the only possible companion site is this one.

The value of a liberal arts education.

Who else would make a reasonable comparison between Bush's proposal to go to the Moon and Mars and the canal boom of the 1830's which led to a six-year depression?

I'm all for pushing space exploration and exploitation, but I don't see the purpose of setting up a permanent base on the Moon. Compared to a space station in earth orbit or at an L-5 point, the expense of sending material to the Moon in order to build Mars rockets there is staggeringly ridiculous. And equally ridiculous are Bush's estimates of $12 billion to fund the first five years of the Moon-Mars initiative, including new Moon probes and design of the "Crew Exploration Vehicle." If Boeing is going to spend $7.5 billion to design its new 7E7 airliner, which uses well-understood engineering and isn't going into space, how can the design cost of the Crew Exploration Vehicle be about the same?

This Moon-Mars boondoggle has already taken its first victim: the Hubble telescope. Sad to see something producing useful science being thrown away solely for the purpose of trying to make Bush look like a visionary.

And I thought this cartoon was absolutely dead-on.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Presidential conventions. Yawn. Or maybe not.

Fun suggestion that this year's Democratic nomination race might well go all the way to the convention - and then to multiple ballots - before someone becomes the winner. This would be the first time since 1960 that the Democratic nomination wasn't decided until the convention, and since 1952 that a convention went to more than one ballot. Likely? Probably not. But it would make the convention interesting for a change. (So long as it's not exciting, the way the 1968 convention was.)

The article suggests that this year's race has some factors that, combined, make a longer race for the nomination possible: Proportional voting (instead of winner-take-all), so that someone who wins with a 25 percent plurality only gets 25 percent of the state's delegates, instead of all of them, and that second-and third-place candidates will get some delegates out of the state (anyone with at least 15 percent of the vote receives delegates); persistent candidates, so that the leading 5 or 6 candidates may well stay in the race through Super Tuesday (March 2), by which time about half of the delegates will have been chosen and divided up among those five or six; and an odd front-loading of primaries, designed to give a single candidate an aura of inevitability, this year may split enough among the leaders so that no such positive aura is generated. As a result, the leader may reach the convention with less than 40 percent of the delegates, and two or three other candidates each have enough delegates that a deal is possible to come up with the requisite 50 percent - and might lead to your choice of a ticket, either person on top, among Dean, Clark, Gephardt, and Kerry.

And this article notes that once a brokered convention becomes a real possibility, it almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because there is no incentive for a fourth-or fifth-place candidate to drop out when he can stay in the race, make it to the convention, and his pool of delegates can become a valuable bargaining chip - and if he drops out any earlier, he'll have nothing of value left.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Here's lookin' at you, kid.

Another cure for extra money in your checking account: football team logo contact lenses. Your choice, prescription or non-prescription. And if you don't want the Oakland Raiders in your eyes, click on the pull-down menu in the upper left corner, and take a gander at some of the other choices: animal eyes, or smiley faces, or a Today show logo.

It makes my eyes hurt just thinking about it.

What state do you think of when you think of a blueberry?

It would seem that now you're supposed to think of New Jersey, which has just declared that the blueberry is the official state fruit.

Yeah, me neither. Maine and Michigan come to mind first, in my estimation.

On the other hand, I have had a blueberry-flavored wine from New Jersey, which is not something I can say about Maine and Michigan wines. A blueberry-flavored sparkling generic white wine, as I recall. And the folks in the tasting room said that it was wonderful for making pancakes: use this wine in the batter and you didn't really need syrup. MMMmmm: New Jersey wine - it's what's for breakfast.

Just right for when you can't stay awake through dinner.

A Seattle restaurant has made that choice simple: a steak crusted with ground coffee - Starbuck's dark espresso blend, to be precise. It's described as being "a bit crunchy." Perhaps the novelty is designed to bring Washingtonians back to eating beef, sales of which are off due to the recent discovery of mad cow disease in a Washington cow. But what I really want to know is: what wine goes well with coffee-flavored steak?

Monday, January 12, 2004

A cheap toupee would look better.

I had thought that nothing could look more stupid than those Packer fans' cheesehead hats. It appears I was mistaken. Eagles fans (or, for that matter, fans of any Philadelphia team) can now wear Philly Cheesesteak Foam Hats in public, should they so choose (or be so inebriated). Really, really stupid looking. They look more like a punishment than something a person would voluntarily wear. Fits the city, I suppose.

The web: A chronicle of our times.

And of almost anything you could possibly think of, and doubtless some things you couldn't. Here's a site dedicated to showing poor building conversions, such as when a national fast-food chain franchise goes under, and the building becomes used as something else. The home page shows a formerly Pizza Hut building, now a "Chinese Hut". But my favorite gets the award for the cheapest conversion possible from the former business.

What's in your wallet?

Yow. According to the Federal Reserve, America's non-residential consumer debt stands at over $ 2 trillion, a doubling of consumer debt in only 10 years. Three-quarters of a trillion is in revolving credit (such as credit cards), and the remainder is non-revolving (such as car loans). Total consumer debt, including mortgages, is just under $9 trillion. To me, that last figure is surprising, but not in the way that the article intends: on average, people's mortgages are only a little over three times as large as their other consumer debt combined. (For example, my mortgage is about 10 times the size of my other consumer debt, most of which is a car loan.) Okay, I know there are people who have paid off their mortgages (although I'd guess those are also folks who don't carry credit card debt), and I know there are lots of people who live in apartments and thus don't have mortgages. But do enough of them carry so much debt to offset the large mortgages? Apparently so: the article says that the average household consumer debt is around $9,000 (or around $13,000, if you're looking only at households that carry a credit card balance).

This is why I don't want to own a successful web-based company.

Go to and search for "old fart". (The search might work today only, though.)

Have a beer.

Or possibly thousands of them. Article in yesterday's Washington Post about the Frederick Brewing Co., and its economic woes. Seems they expanded a bit too much during the microbrewery boom of the 90's, and the changes in beer-drinking fads has caught up to them. They're currently in bankruptcy, and Frederick County, Maryland, is coming after them for over $1 million in unpaid taxes and debts, much of which is for water.

At the height of its popularity, Frederick Brewing went public and built a large brewery. Even though it bought up a number of its smaller competitors, making their brews, and did contract brewing for other labels, it's not selling enough to make its payments. Rather like what happened to one of my favorite microbreweries, Catamount Brewing Company of Vermont, a couple of years ago.

I remember considering buying some stock in the company when it went public, a token 100 shares at $5 a share, just so I could pretend to own a brewery (or, at least, a piece of one). I didn't get around to it, though, and was able to watch without sweating or swearing as the stock price fell through $2, through $1, through 25 cents, was "reverse-split" at 1-10 to bring the price up above $1 to try to avoid de-listing on NASDAQ, and continued to fall to its present level of 1 to 2 cents per share. Probably one of my best investment decisions ever, not buying this stock. Of course, part of that may have been due to the fact that I didn't especially like their beers, with the possible exception of the Snow Goose, a winter beer made by one of the competitors they bought up.

Well, it's the free market at work. If a company makes repeated poor decisions regarding expansion, product lines, or personnel, it's not that surprising that it has trouble staying afloat.

The original Macintosh ad.

It's held up awfully well over twenty years, especially for a TV ad that was aired exactly once as a commercial (although countless additional times as an advertising icon). See it here, in your choice of screen sizes. Shows what a good director (Ridley Scott) and an unlimited budget can do.

And if you want to see an analysis of the advertisement that I'd say easily goes way beyond excessive, check this out. It starts out with the easy comparisons with Metropolis, 1984 and Stalin, and branches out to David and Goliath, the Wizard of Oz, and the Garden of Eden. Entertaining.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

A prediction made out of sorrow.

I predict that, if Philadelphia wins next week and goes to the Super Bowl, you will see this on a sign, certainly once and probably many times, to (and beyond) the point of annoyance:

"Houston, The Eagles have landed."

Holy Toledo.

I think we're onto something here: Ohio really does have the strangest criminals. Today: a man in drag leads police in a chase that ends outside police headquarters at shift change. And instead of getting a summons for a court appearance, he ended up in jail. And from his booking photo, I'm guessing that it would take more than the dress, high heels, and a wig to make him into an attractive woman.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Giving credits where credits are due.

Article in the NY Times about closing credits in movies, finally noting how long many movies' credits have become. The credits for The Return of the King lasted 9 minutes and 33 seconds, for instance, and included credits for the compositing inferno artist, the horse makeup artist, and the two guys in charge of chain mail.

Yes, I understand that sometimes - especially in independent movies - a lot of folks work for free, and the screen credit is the only compensation they receive. And sometimes the screen credit is part of the compensation package, say for travel agencies or caterers, and the free advertising allows the producers to pay less for those services. And many of the screen credits are required by the various Hollywood unions. But still: screen credits have gotten to be so long and tedious that it's become much less fun to watch them. When the number of names in special effects movies goes from 143 in the original Star Wars in 1997 to 701 in the last installment of The Matrix, it's pretty clear that too many people are getting listed in the credits, and as a result, filmgoers aren't watching the credits - which rather nullifies the purpose of having those credits in the first place.

I happily admit that I'm a credits watcher. You can often learn something interesting and fun from the credits, such as an unexpected location used in the movie (in True Lies, the car chase supposedly taking place on the highway in the Florida Keys actually takes place on a bridge between Jamestown and Newport, RI - and was something I recognized during the movie), an unexpected actor in the movie (e.g, John Rhys-Davies as Gimli), or unexpected job titles ("insect wrangler"). And sometimes they'll have scenes continuing through and after the credits (Young Sherlock Holmes and Ferris Bueller's Day Off) or outtakes from the movie, to provide entertainment while the credits are rolling. And sometimes it's just the credits themselves, as in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. But this latest trend towards insanely long end credit sequences with no redeeming entertainment has made me start to reconsider my credit-watching.

Friday, January 09, 2004

And next, Britney as Laura Bush.

Perhaps it's too much to ask to cast actors who look like the people they're portraying in biographical movies. George C. Scott didn't look all that much like Patton, Anthony Hopkins didn't look all that much like Nixon, and I imagine that if anyone had seen it, James Brolin didn't look all that much like Reagan. But it really strikes me as pushing the envelope to have Tom Selleck portray Eisenhower, especially when he isn't going to do all that much to look like Ike, in the upcoming two-hour movie for A&E "Ike: Thunder in June". Apparently he'll shave his mustache, but won't wear any appliances. (Shaving his head? He won't say.) At least the producers are consistent: they're filming the movie in New Zealand, which doesn't look all that much like Normandy, either.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Too much time on his hands - the geek version.

Someone's website has collected computer programs which print out the lyrics to 99 Bottles of Beer. He's gotten programs in 598 different computer languages, from A+ to ZZT. The languages that I recognize - Fortran, Cobol, Basic, and a few others - look correct.

Still, I think that the best versions of the song are on the "History" page, with the Mathematician's version ("Aleph-Null bottles of beer on the wall") and the Zen version ("No bottles of beer on the wall").

Ohio gets all the cool criminals.

First, the lunatic woman who got caught breastfeeding while driving on the turnpike at 65 mph while talking on her cell phone and taking notes on a scrap of paper on the steering wheel, and now a man wearing a chicken suit robs a grocery store. The police hopefully point out that the robber must own or have access to a chicken suit, so if you know someone, please turn him in.

Maybe it was the Minnesota Vikings.

Archaeologists in Scotland were delighted when they discovered stone blocks under a garden, rocks that appeared to be the first Viking settlement ever found in mainland Scotland. Alas, it turned out to be a sunken patio, built in the 1940's and filled in after WW II so the owners could plant a vegetable garden. Oops.

Charlie Hustler.

It's not all that often that I agree with George Will, even when he's writing about non-political issues. And usually, his baseball columns bore me to tears. But he's got a good column today on Pete Rose's latest attempt to worm his way into the Hall of Fame. Will correctly points out that Rose's pretense of repentence isn't credible and shouldn't be rewarded with eligibility for the Hall, especially so long as the Hall's criteria for membership include the player's integrity and character. As for me, I don't believe Rose's claims that he didn't take full advantage of inside knowledge while he was betting and managing at the same time - he's cheerfully lied to us for the past 14 years, why would anyone think he's stopped?

A panda walks into a cafe.

Nice little story in the NY Times books section about a surprising book on the British best seller lists: a book on punctuation. Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation turned out to be very successful, possibly because it was a novelty gift for the intellectual set, and possibly because of the cover illustration of a panda painting over the comma in the title. The author is somewhat of a punctuation stickler, and has even written articles about apostrophe abuse. The book has now been sold to an American publisher, and will be published here in the spring.

Monday, January 05, 2004

It's all about the money.

I'm not sure what the "C" in BCS stands for. Near as I can tell, it should be silent. Sally Jenkin's column on the "championship" played last night is fascinating: it shows the lie behind the BCS and why the schools behind the BCS scheme are opposed to any actual reform - they'd have to give up the BCS money.

The BCS presidents would tell you that a playoff would erode their academic standards, not that the terms "BCS football players" and "scholarship" often appear in the same sentence without some sort of negative qualifier. A playoff would cause graduation rates to go down - think of the disaster that would cause at Oklahoma, where NCAA statistics show that a whopping 6 percent of its players graduate. And I wonder what playing in this year's I-AA championship game will do to the graduation rates at Delaware and Colgate. Not much, I'd imagine.

Four legs good, two legs better.

Wonderful article detailing how the Secret Service protects Bush from free speech. When the Prez travels around the country, the advance team from the Secret Service sets up quarantine zones - well away from the delicate sight of the Prez - where people opposed to Bush policies are required to go. When the Prez went to Pittsburgh on Labor Day 2002, that "designated free-speech zone" (and who says the Secret Service doesn't have a sense of irony?) was a baseball field, surrounded by a chain-link fence, a third of a mile away from the Prez's route. The local police cleared the motorcade path of all critical signs, but people with pro-Bush signs were allowed to stay. One local resident who mistakenly thought that the First Amendment applied to him declined the invitation to take his sign to the location away from the Prez (and away from the media), and was arrested for disorderly conduct. The judge who heard the case threw out the charge, saying "I believe this is America. Whatever happened to 'I don't agree with you, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it'?"

Sure, the Secret Service is supposed to protect the President. But people who peaceably exercise their First Amendment rights don't present any sort of security threat, they pose a political threat. And if there's any connection between being a terrorist and carrying a sign, aren't terrorists smart enough to carry a pro-Bush sign because that would give them much closer access? Apparently not in Ashcroft-world.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Happy eleventy-first birthday, J.R.R.

Today is the eleventy-first anniversay of J.R.R. Tolkien's birth, and there's a worldwide celebration and toast being planned. At 9:00 p.m. (your local time), you're invited to raise a toast to Professor Tolkien.

And if you're saying "Who? The what?" right about now, never mind.

DVD overload.

One of the good effects of having a bad cold is that I can justify curling up in front of the TV and watching DVDs. And by coincidence, I've just signed up with Netflix, and I've been pretty pleased with it. For 20 bucks a month, you can get 3 DVDs sent to you, and when you return any of them, they'll send you the next on your list. You can have 3 out at a time, and how many you see in a month is limited only by how quickly the postal service gets the DVDs back and forth to Netflix for you.

The selection is a whole lot better than the local Planet Hollywood or Blockbuster, and so long as you see at least one DVD a week, the price is comparable (and the more you see, the better the price looks). They've been quick at getting movies out to me - usually arriving the day after they're sent - but haven't been quite so quick at acknowledging that I've sent them back (possibly due to most of them arriving at the Netflix P.O. Box the day after Christmas or New Year's, and if so, I can hope they'll be quicker in the future).

Among the movies I've seen so far are Z and Trekkies, neither of which I've seen in my local DVD rental stores, and Casino (which I'd somehow let slip past me all these years). I heartily recommend Trekkies, as it reassures me that I do, indeed, have a full and meaningful life, at least compared to some people.

One of the odd things about Netflix is their determination of what movies fit into which category ("Sci Fi & Fantasy," "Comedy," "Drama," etc.). James Bond movies, for instance, are to be found in their "Foreign Language & Int'l" section.