Sea World at the Capitol – May 13, 2009

This wasn’t a protest so I won’t be putting it under the Protest at the Capitol heading…  I don’t know why Sea World brought several of their animals to the Capitol before sending them to Southern California for the summer (another question, I forgot to ask there as well…)  At first I thought it was unusual to see “wild” animals in a Senate chamber but after thinking about it for just a minute more it really seemed appropriate (especially if you’ve ever seen some of these Senators go at each other on the floor debating contentious legislation.)  I think I saw all the animals that they brought into the Capitol, if there were larger animals on the grounds I missed them while working, so all the pictures and videos will be of smaller creatures…

That's me and that is a ? armadillo, I forgot to ask

That's me and that is a ? armadillo, I forgot to ask

When I first walked into the room there was a terrible screeching going on and on and on from one of the animals in a covered traveling case.  It turned out to be a black and white-ruffed lemur’s mating call, I don’t know who he thought he was an eligible mate in the Capitol…  I have to admit I enjoyed seeing wild animals while at work, (what other places of business have Sea World stopping by to show animals off?)  the coolest part was seeing the reactions of small children and kids as the looked at penguins and African porcupines, held an armadillo, and petted a lemur!

Here is an unedited video of them showing an African Porcupine:

Here is a short video of the penguins the brought in:

Here is footage of the lemur:

Here is some video of that look children get that I mentioned:

I doubt I’ll be seeing anything else as photogenic as these animals here this year!

Protests at the Capitol: Vang Pao Supporters March!

Last week (May 11th) a large group of Hmong, Vietnamese, Vietnam Vets and others (estimated at over 10,000) gathered at the State Capitol to march through Sacramento to the Federal district court.  The marchers were protesting the trial of General Vang Pao and 10 others who are on trial for allegedly trying to overthrow the Communist regime in Laos.

Using my Flip Mino (first time) I was able to record a small bit of this as the protesters assembled at the Capitol.  I had no idea who Vang Pao was, or that he and others were on trial.  For more details on what exactly is going on you can check out the Wikipedia article on the him here.  This has been the largest group of people assembled at the Capitol I’ve seen so far this year.  I only caught a small bit of the march as I was heading into work and had quite a bit today that morning and so was prevented from talking more footage or talking to the people.

My hopes in the future are to be able to mingle with protesters and talk with them a bit to get their sense of why they’re protesting and what they hope to accomplish by doing so.

So here’s the videos via Youtube (warning 5 seconds in there is a loud whistling!) :

and another short clip  to roughly show the size of the crowd:

A quick word to California voters…

I’m sure you don’t like the propositions on the ballot for the election coming up in 9 days… But, if they go down prepare for a much uglier economic forecast from the State…

I know it’s easy to blame legislators for the mess, but the truth is, this mess is largely the result of voters. If they could pass a budget without asking the voters believe me, legislators would! But the last 20+ years voters have been budgeting from the ballot box and all the props. that have passed in recent years require voter approval to change them. The legislators don’t have any other choice in the matter, their hands have been tied by the ballot box.

Sadly, legislators seem unable to convey this to voters and so we’ve ended up with year after year of gimmicky budgets as legislators attempt to deliver ever more services to constituents with funds from an ever shrinking pot. Worse, legislators have to cope with this monstrous mess with one hand tied behind their backs: the 2/3 majority vote requirement for budget bills.

I’m not optimistic about these initiatives and so when they all fail and legislators and the governor have to figure out how to patch the multi-billion dollar hole in the state budget they’re going to do so with cuts.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Funding schools, mental health, extensive roads and transportation networks, etc… takes an incredible sum. You can’t have low taxes and high services. Sadly, the one thing that would help, a constitutional re-write isn’t on the table. I don’t care how it’d be accomplished, through a convention or an extraordinary session of the legislature, it needs to happen.

Or next year and the year after that Californians are going to be back where they are right now. That’s one ballot initiative I’d like to see, and then I’d like to see the initiative process go away. Direct democracy of that sort has only made the job of California legislators, leaders, and citizens more complicated and difficult

Reading Camus Pt. 2

The first post on this topic can be found here.

After writing an extensive post on what I’d read so far in Camus, I deleted it.  It sounded too much like a book report, simple regurgitation of what I’d found in the book.  No need for me to do that here.  I’m sure the cliff notes can be found over at Wikipedia (ed. They sure can.)  Bette yet, head to your local library and check the book out, the essay is only a 120 odd pages long and well worth the effort of reading through Camus’ obstructionist style.

No, instead I rather just comment on what I’m reading and on my thoughts and reactions to them.  In the original post I wanted to compare my current thoughts on the topic to the ones I had when I first read the book, it turns out though that my annotations to the work ended just a couple of pages in to it.  I’m forced to use the most fickle and unreliable of sources, my own memory.

I remember Camus being difficult to read, at the time I merely assumed I was a poor reader.  I do not think this is the case any longer.  Instead Camus either has very poor translators, his work is not easily translatable, or, and I suspect this is the case, Camus’ style is intentional obscure and brief.  There are numerous times where Camus comes off vague or assumes we’ve already connected points A,B, and C to Z, without him having to bother to go through the remaining 22 points of his logic.  Existentialism already gets a bad rap, largely undeserved, and making your writing and argument difficult to follow will only further turn people away from a philosophy that has a lot of good in it.

Another point which I misunderstood in my original reading, and maintained in ignorance until now, was what Camus means when he talks about the absurd.  My original thought was that the universe we live in and man’s place in it was so absurd, so ridiculous, that the only way to deal with it was to admit that existence had no inherent meaning.  This is not what Camus is saying, instead Camus is saying that both nature and Man’s desires is what makes the universe we live in absurd.  Nature is a stranger to us, it is what it is and stripped of romanticism or anthropomorphism is quite alien to humanity. This fact, coupled with Man’s own desire to have life make sense, to understand it is what creates the Absurd.  “The impossibility of reducing this world to a rational and reasonable principle” coupled with Humanity’s “appetite for the absolute and for unity” is the problem, the absurd is a construct of how we as humans interact with our surroundings. This makes more sense to me now, and while digesting it I found myself in more agreement with Camus than I ever recall being on my first read.

I’m just now getting in to Camus’ critique of other philosophers who have posited the absurd (though under a different name) and their treatments of suicide.  From the his initial remarks in the beginning of the text and the title of this subsection, as well as various throw-away comments earlier. I’m guessing Camus isn’t that impressed and accuses his colleagues of giving up too soon and abandoning reason and logic to get themselves out of the “desert” as Camus calls it.  Camus says he is taking the problem seriously, a back-handed insult at others that they’ve been far to frivolous when dealing with the subject, and will see it through to the end.  I was amused that he posits that if he found suicide a logical consequence of the absurd world he’d commit it, knowing full well that regardless of his conclusions he hadn’t killed himself and so had found someway to rationalize life, despite initial claims to its inherent meaningless.