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Ratatouille

I just got back from Lincoln Square where I ended up watching Ratatouille with Dan. And, simply put, Pixar has done it again. Another masterpiece in their growing collection of fine offerings, I’m pretty sure that this was the funniest movie I’ve seen in a while and it left me happy and fulfilled to boot. Highly recommended!

Ratatouille Movie Poster

Ryan’s Reccomendations — Election 2006

Bernie referenced it as he beat me to the punch, and now it has been formally requested (yes, I consider comments “formal”). Presenting, Ryan’s Reccomendations for the 2006 election:

Initiative 920 — Repeal Washington’s Estate Tax — I am voting Yes

I am generally against taxes, and this here is a tax. However, the issue is a lot more subtle than that. The estate tax (called the “death tax” by its oppoenents) is one of the more sound taxes theoretically. After all, few things make lives worthless as qucikly or as thoroughly as inheritting a large sum of money. Furthermore, the children of the rich are generally the very best prepared to contribute to society and thus produce wealth for themselves — they do not need the help of inheritted money. So, why do I oppose this tax? The problem isn’t theory — its application.

There are more than enough loopholes for anyone with enough money and a tax advisor to pass their money on anyway. So, in the end, its not the super-rich that really get laid out with this tax — its the hard working small business owner who dies in an untimely manner and didn’t have all the tax shelters set up. Then its the family that has to try to take over and while grieving find a large chunk of cash to pay the tax, or as usually happens, sell the business to pay the tax. The rub is, of course, that all the money they use to pay this tax has already been taxed when it was earned.

Bear in mind that the current system — even without the help of estate taxes — is not somehow terribly broken. The large majority of the rich in this nation got there without major help from inheritance, and most family wealth is lost within several generations.

Initiative 933 — Require Compensation When Government (Partially) Takes Land — I am voting Yes
This initiative is far from perfect — in fact, I’m pretty sure it will lead to some future headaches. Fortunately, the law is a malleable thing, and these headaches can be dealt with as they are recognized. But I’m still very much in favor of this initiative because it is a neccesary reaction to the insane land-use restrictions that have been put into place in several parts of Western Washington — including right here in King County.

Although I am generally in favor of some local land use regulation, I think it should be apllied fairly to everyone. Unfortunately, here in King County, a Seattle-controlled majority is telling rural land owners to the east what they can and cannot do with their personal property. For example, a rural land owner who owns land on a slope cannot develop two thirds of the property. I’d be unhappy, but morally ok with this law if it also applied to Seattle as well as rural King County. In other words, if Seattle had to restore two thirds of its sloped property to its natural state then this would be a fair law. Of course, Seattlelites would think that this is as ridiculous as rural owners currently think it is. How the current system is actually working is that Seattle gets to stay the way it is and just tell other people what they can’t do to thier property. Yet among the guarantees of Washington’s Constitution are that “No private property shall be taken or damaged for public or private use without just compensation having been first made” (Section 16). With today’s land-use laws, the result is often the same as if the government had taken two thirds of an owners property, but no compensation is currently being made. I-933 corrects this problem.

Initiative 937 — Require Energy Companies Meeting Arbitratry Number to Pay Arbitrary Fines — I’m voting No
Today’s alternative energy will become readily available — and therefore no longer “alternative” — as soon as it makes economic sense. I have no doubt that this will happen in my lifetime. And I’m not entirely opposed to governments pushing in that direction. However, I think government should approach the issue intelligently — not as this initiative does with arbitraty numbers or fines. I’d be more in favor, for example, of a consistent flat tax on all carbon dioxide release. That way, there is always an incentive for all power production to produce less carbon dioxide. This initiative, on the other hand, creates no incentives to small eletric utility companies to do anything, and raises electricity costs to most people with no social benefit (most likely, all the “non-alternative” power, including hydroelectric, would still be produced the same old way, but shipped to California).

House Joint Resolution 4223 — Ammend Constitution to Raise Exemption Limit — I’m Voting No
Constitutions, in my opinion, should be changed little. This seems far too minor an annoyance to warrant the change, especially when the correct thing to do is eliminate the tax that this would raise the exemption for.

King County Proposition No. 1 — Authorization to Sell Certain Real Property — I’m Voting No
But there is no real good reason for that, except that I refuse to rubberstamp county will. Also, the percentage voting yes on this one (as well at HJR 4233) helps me gauge the number of sheep in the county/state.

King County Proposition No. 2 — Public Transporation Sales Tax — I’m Voting No
I believe that Public Transportation, as present constituted, is not the answer to traffic woes. It is especially unfair to force rural king couty voters, who get no bus service, to pay for this. Do we really need more empty busses?

United States Senator — I will follow the lead of a friend and rank them in preference:

  1. Bruce Guthrie (L) — Guthrie has tacked ar left to influence the election, but he is a true libertarian at heart. That means less federal government, which will make people on the right and the left happy. Libertarians are the real center.
  2. Mike McGavick (R) — The moderate right-leaning candidate, talks tough on spending and goes light on the social issues. Also knows how to make hard decisions — like firing people — for the greater good — like saving an entire company.
  3. Maria Cantwell (D) — The competent left-leaning incumbant who narrowly defeated Slade Gorton 6 years ago and looks poised for another victory.
  4. Robin Adair (I) — Weird, but does not embrace bad ideas wholeheartedly, like…
  5. Aaron Dixon (G) — As John Evans said, “Is proud of some bad ideas.” Also, like a watermellon: Green on the outside, Red on the inside. Sure, its a joke, but its far too true.

Congressional District No. 8 — Dave Reichart
Dave Reichart has carried on the moderate-right legacy of the very popular Jennifer Dunn that represents his district well. As the Seattle Times puts it, though, “it is hard to discern where Burner differs from the Democratic Party line.” East King county, a moderate district, would not be well represented by Darcy Burner.

Legislative District No. 41
Position 1 — The incumbant Fred Jarret (R) is the better of two bad choices.
Position 2 — Erik Fretheim (R) provides a more fiscally responsible choice than incumbant Judy Clibborn.

State Supreme Court
Position 2 — Challenger Stephen Johnson is a better choice for judging based on laws as they are written as opposed to how they “should have been written,” as Susan Owens seems to do all-too-often. Owens also fails to show at scheduled debates.

District Court Northeast Position 2
Everyone running for this position is bad. I haven’t figured out who I am voting for yet.

OSS 117

I skipped out of work early today after Dan Marsh called to inform me he had an extra ticket to a French Comedy movie at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF). Since SIFF started during the end of spring quarter and finals, I never got my act together to get tickets, so this was my first movie of the festival. Dan told me that he had heard good things about the movie, and since I thoroughly enjoyed the last French comedy I saw, I thought I would give this one a shot.

As it turns out, what Dan had heard was right — the movie, OSS 117: Cairo – Nest of Spies, a spoof of a Jame Bond-esque spy series, was a great deal of fun. As an extra treat, the director and the beautiful lead actress, Berenice Bejo, showed up as well. Their english was not excellent, but it was good enough and, well, she didn’t need to speak much if you know what I mean :-D.

This gets a solid 4.0 on the Ryan Rating, and is deservedly reccomended.

Cars

Met up with Shai tonight (and missed Brian, but saw Dan) to watch Pixar’s latest offering, Cars. I laughed, I (almost) cried, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly while leaning back into some of the finest movie theater chairs ever created at Bellevue’s Lincoln Square Cinemas. While Cars was not as deeply layered as The Incredibles, the movie still really worked for me. Definitely the best I’ve seen in a while.

Who Needs Sleep?

Wednesday night, I didn’t go to bed; instead I stayed up to finish a Bioengineering lab report — the last one of the quarter. Thursday night, and then Friday morning, I was up late again, this time working with fellow students on the Bioengineering homework due that morning. I felt surprisingly awake even at 2:00 when I dropped the second of my classmates off at her apartment on capital hill. I considered staying up the rest of that night, but chose sleep, feeling confident in my ability to tackle the squeak assignment on Saturday. Wakng up in the early afternoon, I got to work, taking a break only to help clean up the downstairs with the housemates. A few hours ago, I finished the assignment, and I celebrated by playing some Half Life 2: Episode One.

Let me say, so far the game is excellent, and I reccomend it.

Now all I have left is four finals — Discrete Structures, Statistics, Bioengineering, and Programming Languages. None will be particularly easy.

And now, to answer the question in the title; I do, and now is the time.

Adorama

UPDATE — RETRACTION
Adorama has agreed to refund the $15 for shipping, and pointed out to me that the auction does mention that the item pcitured may not be the same as the item shipped. As a result, I feel strongly that a retraction of my accusation and an apology is in order. While I looked again at the page for anything like this before writing, I managed to miss that clause. Adorama has truly impressed me with their willingness to refund the money — I had truly given up and was just going through the “due dilligence” motions before filing negative feedback. However, they responded productively and I have to give them a lot of credit for that.

I will keep the post below, just to remind me that I shouldn’t judge too quickly (wasn’t I supposed to learn that during the Super Bowl?)


I have had bad luck with my online purchases recently. A couple months ago, I made the mistake of purchasing some laptop power adapters from Priority Electronics. Last month, I made the mistake of purchasing a camera from Adorama over Ebay.

Now, the Adorama Camera Company (ebay id adorwin) has a hugely positive feedback score — over 5000 positive, with a low percentage of negative feedbacks. I thought I was safe. Unfortunately, I was wrong.

“Take a look, good condition and works fine. Please see photos and place a bid. Has eye control. Good luck, no reserve. ” the ad boldly stated. I had been flirting with the idea of purchasing the same camera without eye control from a local seller for aout $100. On Ebay, I was able to get it for $80, shipped. I thought I would be happy. The camera arrived, bare bones as expected, and I began using it the next day after picking up (expensive) batteries at Radio Shack.

In attempting to become familar with the camera, I noticed that some of the icons below the left dial were rubbed off. Since the camera came with no manual, I would have to surf the net to find out exactly what those icons were. I was, however, undeterred. After all, everything went fine… until that first evening, then I turned the camera on and it reported “no battery.”

Strange, I thought. On the other hand, ocasionally on my Rebel G, a low battery icon will show up when the camera is cold. However, the camera wasn’t cold, and this was showing No battery left. I cycled power a few times, and then the camera came back to life. That left me undaunted, but I soon ran into another problem: after taking a picture, the viewfinder remained blank. Upon further investiagtion, it became clear that the mirror was not returning after the picture. Cycling the camera’s power resolved this issue. However, at this point it was clear to me that I had a defective camera.

So I began a little more in-depth research. I double checked the ebay listing to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything. Sure enough, the ad said that the camera worked fine. And it included this photo:
Adorama's Photo of the Camera

I quickly compared that photo to my camera, and came to the unhappy realization that I had just become the victim a bait-and-switch routine. Here are some pictures I took of the camera sent to me before I sent it back:

Front view of the camera

Back view of the camera

If you look closely at the left dial, you will see that the icons that are missing in the pictures I took are very much present in Adorama’s photo. They had cheated me. The images below highlight the area in question:

Adorama's Photo (highlighted) The camera I got (one of two) The camera I got (two of two)

Had I simply recieved a intermittently broken camera, I would hae been very understanding. Adorama has, after all (about three weeks later), returned my money, except for shipping costs. I understand that they can’t catch every intermittent problem, so I am willing to deal with that. However, the icon business convinced me that they had intentionally shipped me a camera other than the one advertised. So now the shipping costs kinda piss me off, a lot. I’m out $21 bucks — $15 to get it here, $6 to get it back — and Adorama gets that $15, and the camera, and a lot of my time and energy is wasted.

Thus this blog, and thus the fact that I am about to leave Adorama a hugely negative feedback. Likely, it will hurt me more than it hurts them — they have a +5000 rating and I have a +2 rating. However, I would be remiss in my Ebay duties were I to let this fraud go unchallenged. So I will take the hit and let the world know what Adorama can do to you.

Crazy Delicious

Chroni-cles of Narnia