Great Music on a Budget

This is an example of why, when used correctly, the offers available from places like BMG Music Club can be amazingly worthwhile. The basic deal that you see in magazines and newspapers is simple: buy 12 CDs for the price of one. First, pick seven free CDs and just pay shipping ($18.73):

Ornette Coleman - The Shape of Jazz to Come
Miles Davis - In a Silent Way
Miles Davis - Milestones
Benny Goodman - 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert (2 discs)
Thelonious Monk - Brilliant Corners
Oscar Peterson - Night Train

Then, you buy one for full price. However, if you've got a promotional code (like the one I found on the DVDTalk forums), you can get a "Buy One, Get Two Free" offer. Pick three CDs, pay full price for one and shipping for all three ($24.55):

Bill Evans - Sunday At the Village Vanguard
Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto - Getz & Gilberto With Jobim
Dexter Gordon - Our Man in Paris

Finally, you pick four more free CDs and just pay shipping ($11.16):

Thelonious Monk - Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane (SACD Hybrid)
Wes Montgomery - Incredible Jazz Guitar (SACD Hybrid)
The Quintet - Jazz at Massey Hall (SACD Hybrid)
Sonny Rollins - Tenor Madness (SACD Hybrid)

All told, I paid $54.44 for fourteen discs (counting the Goodman set as 2), for an average of $3.89 per disc. By comparison, these discs would cost $204.33 from Amazon. The savings are a bit greater on this order because I got the SACD hybrids (which cost $20 on Amazon), but the point is the same. The key is to then cancel the account (none of that monthly selection stuff), and start again.

For less than four dollars a CD, I am getting some of the greatest music ever made. It's a great way to build a collection on a budget.

On a side note, I've listened to Cannonball Adderley's Somethin' Else about fifteen times today. Genius. A good place to start if you're trying to take a baby step beyond Kind of Blue (almost invariably the first and often only jazz CD in many music collections).

Music, Marriage, You Know

So I'm getting married next week, which is one reason I'm not blogging as much. The other reason is that I've been working on other parts of my life, particularly digging further into my nascent interest in classical and jazz music. I've even finally gotten around to creating a section to keep track of my classical CDs and my jazz CDs. All suggestions are welcome! I may not have time to post again this next week, but I'll be back with gusto after the honeymoon.

The First Photo From My Nikon

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One of the reasons I picked this camera (other than the great sale) was its macro abilities. This shot was taken just a few minutes after I took the camera out of the box. You can even see the Nikon instruction guide in the background.

Blockbuster Scam

I thought it was a scam the first time I saw Blockbuster's new "no late fee" policy. And the media bought into the scam, big time. Now hopefully they are going to give equal coverage to the lawsuits attacking Blockbuster's scam:

New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey sued Blockbuster Inc. Friday, claiming the video rental chain is deceiving customers with its new 'No More Late Fees' rental policy.

The lawsuit accused the movie rental chain of deceptive advertising and violating the state's consumer fraud laws.

"Blockbuster boldly announced its 'No More Late Fees' policy, but has not told customers about the big fees they are charged if they keep videos or games for more than a week after they are due," the attorney general said in a statement.

That about sums it up, though the story fails to take notice of the media's total failure to raise these questions when they first reported Blockbuster's move.

My New Camera

What Does This Mean?

The Secretary of State is trying to send a message to Iran:

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday that Iran must live up to its international obligations to halt its nuclear program or "the next steps are in the offing."

"And I think everybody understands what the 'next steps' mean," Rice told reporters after a meeting with NATO foreign ministers and European Union officials.

I think there's actually quite a bit of vagueness about that phrase, and red flags are certain to go up in a lot of minds.

The administration made similar statements and threats in the run-up to its invasion of Iraq.

But Rice on Friday said that the question of using military force against the Tehran regime "is simply not on the agenda at this point in time."

I hope it stays that way.

The Environment Makes Strange Bedfellows

I have no problem calling myself an environmentalist, a tree-hugger, or any term that would indicate that green issues have high priority on my political agenda. And a fascinating new article suggests I may be gaining strange bedfellows from the religious right:

"It's amazing to me that evangelicals haven't gone quicker for the green," Hedman said. "But as creation care spreads, evangelicals will demand different behavior from politicians. The Republicans should not take us for granted."

There is growing evidence - in polling and in public statements of church leaders - that evangelicals are beginning to go for the green. Despite wariness toward mainstream environmental groups, a growing number of evangelicals view stewardship of the environment as a responsibility mandated by God in the Bible.

"The environment is a values issue," said the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the 30 million-member National Association of Evangelicals. "There are significant and compelling theological reasons why it should be a banner issue for the Christian right."

In October, the association's leaders adopted an "Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility" that, for the first time, emphasized every Christian's duty to care for the planet and the role of government in safeguarding a sustainable environment.

"We affirm that God-given dominion is a sacred responsibility to steward the earth and not a license to abuse the creation of which we are a part," said the statement, which has been distributed to 50,000 member churches. "Because clean air, pure water, and adequate resources are crucial to public health and civic order, government has an obligation to protect its citizens from the effects of environmental degradation."

If this is what it takes to get the Republican Party serious about environmental issues, I think it's a fabulous development.

Just Did My Taxes

I used the free online filing offered by TurboTax. Just go to the IRS Free File home page, click "Start Now" and choose whichever company you want. I found TurboTax to be extremely easy, and would recommend it.

My results? A refund of more than $5k, and an overall income tax rate of just over 5%. Thank goodness for the Lifetime Learning Credit.