That's my dad for ya..

by Mark Zaugg 12. April 2011 23:55

This one time, my Dad went to church in overalls. 

They were pretty dusty and he smelled of cattle feed and manure the entire time.  Sure, it was a pretty small congregation and we all knew each other rather well.  Granted he snuck in late and sat at the very back of the room.  But he was there and everyone knew it.  Everyone.  Whether they saw him or not. 

So what could possibly cause an otherwise respectable church-going man to show up to worship in overalls instead of his Sunday Best? 

My dad made a promise to a good friend - a farmer - that he would tend to his herd while the farmer was away.  When you get a promise from my father, you bank on it.  Always, every time. 

As it turns out, that Sunday morning was one of those particular Sunday mornings where everything happened to turn out just wrong.  The tractor had a hard time starting, the silage clogged up, the cattle got through the wrong gate; you know the kind of day even if you don't understand every detail that happened that morning.  The chores he expected to take an hour ended up taking three.  As he drove back into town he had to make a decision, go home and clean up and miss church that week or.. 

Well, I guess you already know the decision he made.  He said he made a promise to God to show up, so it was more important for him to show up dressed inappropriately than not show up at all.  He figured God would forgive his outfit.  It was important to Dad that he keep all his promises to the very best of his ability. 

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It's been a bad week already, and we've only made it to Tuesday.  My highlight of the day was going to the Albert Park Centennial Garden meeting and to plan and dream about our community garden that will come together this year.  I'm genuinely excited about it and really looking forward to growing something amazing right around the corner. 

At the end of the meeting I had to make a decision.  I've got more than enough I have to do, some of it enjoyable, far and away most of it not.  I watched the first hour and a bit of the leader's debate before I went to the community garden meeting, I could watch the rest of that, or I could go down to the Calgary East all candidates forum instead. 

But I'd only get there for the very tail end of it and there are so many other things I could (and should) be doing instead.

My father's values have been instilled in me -- if I truly care about politics (about group decision making!) I had the responsibility to attend the forum.  So I went, late but hopefully appropriately dressed and not smelling too horribly bad.

I seem to have a knack at arriving at forums immediately before they stop for a break.  Oh well.  Even before I thought of my dad sitting on the back row in dirty overalls, I fired off a sarcastic tweet:  "Just got to the Calgary East all candidates forum - because I think it's better to be late than not show up.  Right Mr. Obhrai?"  It does bother me that I could make the effort to show up while he hadn't.  No matter what, keep all your promises to the very best of your ability.  Granted this is more of an obligation, but that's part of the job description.

It seemed to be a pretty slanted crowd to me and I'm not sure I was feeling all that comfortable with all of that leaning.  I have a pretty good idea which direction I favour, but I definitely thought it was important to show up and listen.
 
I know of Al Brown, although I certainly don't know him on a personal level.  He struck me as a sharp guy who knows what he stands for and will take a disciplined stance on principle.  Not mindless, but unwaveringly firm.  Clearly I value that.

I didn't know of Scott Milton (twitter) before tonight.  He struck me as a refreshingly pragmatic Green candidate.  Full disclosure: I have voted Green in the past two federal elections.  I like that they get funding out of the deal and I really and truly believe the Green Party and Bloc Quebecois demonstrate how badly we need electoral reform from our first past the post system.  I'm thinking I'll do the same again, it helps that I got a positive impression of Mr. Milton tonight.

Over the past couple of weeks I've had several people talk to me about Josipa Petrunic as an "up and comer" and "a real firebrand."  Definitely not my words, but I was curious to see what opinion I'd form of her.  The most I'd heard from her so far was complaints about sign vandalism and that seems a little trite when you're in Calgary and are putting up red signs with Liberal on them. 

Now, let's get a thing or two straight.  I've been around this here rodeo more than once or twice and I've blown off a whole bunch of lesser and greater political candidates along the way.  I've got a high gloss coat of cynicism and you've got to have something special to get through it.

She got through it.  Maybe not enough for me to tamp down all the visceral disagreement I have with her.  I'm a very big opponent of several planks in the Liberal platform, so much that I would not accept voting Liberal.  But I walked out thinking, "I could see myself voting for her as a candidate.  One of those people who I could disagree with openly but respectfully argue against."

She's young, incredibly insightful and clearly a brilliant thinker.

Better start showing up in those dirty overalls, Mr. Obhrai, because I've seen this storyline written before.  Wake up, I ain't telling you twice.

A recent conversation

by Mark Zaugg 11. April 2011 02:58

I have had some stunningly fantastic conversations recently.  Deep, interesting and insightful conversations with some really fascinating people.  Some of them are really short, and really amazing - don't think they all have to be hour long epic stories. 

The single best conversation I had today was with my kids. 

As a parent, I'm pretty sensitive to different details around me.  Time with my kids is precious and every second needs to count.  Some days work better than others, but I genuinely try to make every hour of every day worthwhile. 

I knew this was a weekend that wasn't going to go great because I had work I had to get accomplished.  Fair enough, we still spent time together and had fun time together as a family.  But I try to minimize the impact of external factors. 

Talk turned to provincial politics and my new-found sense of engagement.  We discussed how we could use our time together to be productive and still have great time together.  One of the things we mentioned was how we delivered signs on the Nenshi campaign, how we helped each other and how we rewarded ourselves with ice cream and celebration together. 

So I told the kids that politics meant simply to make group decisions.  One of the things I'm sensitive about is that some of the upcoming events are going to impact our time together and I want to keep our together time as great time.  We made some group decisions today on how to approach some of the upcoming weekend events. 

Afterward I asked the kids why they thought I was involved with the Alberta Party.  My daughter's answer was, "Because you care about democracy."  My son's answer was, "Because you want everyone to be involved." 

I don't have an answer better than those. 

Alberta's future is bright if we can give our children the opportunity to be brilliant.  We need to improve those group decisions we have to make.  We need better politics.  We need better governance.  We will create our future, we will reach it through widespread engagement in democracy. 

Team Tammy Maloney

by Mark Zaugg 4. April 2011 20:08

I genuinely did not expect to write this entry.  Let it serve as many lessons.  Circumstances change.  People change their minds.  It's important to help when you see an opportunity. 

Yesterday Tammy Maloney asked me to assist her with her campaign for the leadership of the Alberta Party.  I have enthusiastically accepted the role. 

I think that Tammy saw enough ability in me to compliment her formidable abilities and help with her campaign.  I want Albertans to see in her the energy, enthusiasm and optimism she brings to the table.  Through her ideas and vision ahead I believe all Albertans will benefit. 

I want to be perfectly clear:  I value Chris Tesarski and Glenn Taylor most highly.  Both are stellar people, full of the brilliance and insight, and have the characteristics and character I demand in a leader.  I know there are others about to enter the race, I'm certain they will meet the standard of excellence that has been set.  Every candidate running as our leader has shown courage, compassion and our most treasured talent, the ability to truly listen.  The are all superb people with exceptional leadership.

I encourage you to get to know our candidates and decide for yourself.  I encourage you to join the Alberta Party and make a difference in our province.

Writing Software vs. Building Political Parties

by Mark Zaugg 2. April 2011 19:23

I had a spectacular day with Jeff Blodgett talking with Alberta Party constituency Associations.  It's been driving me to finish the thoughts I've been germinating for a couple of weeks.  Jeff had a useful conversation with us, I think we all benefited from the exchange.  I feel a little more prepared and a lot more energized to change something for the better.

I've worked longer than I should have to try to express my thoughts clearly and in a useful form.  I hope this works somewhat as a mirror of what I personally took from what Jeff told us.

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The Alberta Party:  We listen. 

Our party was founded on the principle of The Big Listen.  The Big Listen wasn't one single event.  It was - and is - a process of discovering the problems and pressures, but also the dreams and aspirations of Albertans.  Not just a few Albertans who want to drive policy, but to find the common grounds and common interests we all can act upon.  We have established a really great start.  We have defined five points where Albertans have reached a consensus that we need action and we are at the stage where we need to refine our policy.


I want to address a slightly different angle on why listening is so valuable.  Getting grassroots opinion and ideas are, of course, critical to a party such as the Alberta Party.  In fact, we literally could not exist without it.  But there is a different reason why our diversity gives us so much strength and insight.

I don't want to address the sharing our problems or our values today.  That's where most of the people have been stopping in their analysis.

The Big Listen also involves sharing our experiences, our history, our personal discoveries of what brought us both successes and failures.  It's the blending of our expertise that leads to new insight.

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I am not much of a programmer, I'm primarily the guy that keeps the computers patched and secure and fixes any and all problems that arise.  Hopefully I avoid problems in the first place through preventative maintenance, a good backup regime, and hopefully being judicious, preemptive and through introduction of new, useful and appropriate technologies.  I still understand quite a lot about how software gets made.  There are entire shelves of books written on the subject, but don't fear that I'll get technical and continually throw jargon at you.  The ideas to follow should be simple enough for everyone to understand.  I'm going to significantly simplify things, so don't expect to finish this as an expert in software engineering or project management, okay?

Software gets written for a vast number of reasons and for a great number of motivations.  Not everyone is trying to make the next great game.  Not everyone is trying to create the next facebook or the next twitter client.  Not everyone is trying to find a better way to deliver your email.  Hey, not everyone is even trying to make a profit!  It's that diversity that makes your computer experience worthwhile.  It's that diversity that gives you the ability to read this very blog.  The quantity of software needed for you to read this very sentence is staggering.

Software usually begins as a good idea to solve a particular problem.  Typically it will start with one programmer working on his (or her) own.  As the project grows, the program may be incredibly useful and popular, and there is a need to increase what it can do.  Bugs will be discovered and need to be fixed.  It becomes impossible for a single person to manage the entire project alone any longer.  There needs to be a method to increase the numbers of people working on the project.  It might not be too bad when it's a programmer and his buddies working on program, but it gets more complicated when you need a large team of people working together.  That creates even more new problems with many people working on the same thing at the same time.

The variations in the process of software engineering are unfathomable.  There are many different ways to add people to your team.  There are vast differences of how you can deal with people making changes to the same program at the same time.  I know very well that I am speaking in the broadest of generalizations.  The point I want to make is that although there are incredible challenges with writing something as complicated as an operating system, we have done it many times over and we've learned how to successfully create software.

Granted it's a tricky process.  Making all this software work together is no easy feat.  There's a great reason why your computer crashes occasionally.  There's a reason why you need to "patch" your computer and keep it up to date with the most modern software available.  We're fixing and updating this stuff all the time.

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So I've laid out some of the problems of how we create software.  What about the solutions we've learned?

The very first book of significance on writing software that I know of is Fred Brook's "The Mythical Man-Month."  Without question, it is the Bible of Software Engineering and I'm going to prove Brook's quote that, "everybody quotes it, some people read it, and a few people go by it."

The very, very simplified gist of it is that adding programmers to a project that's already running behind schedule will not speed up the process, it will actually slow your project down as people trip over each other.  You can't just throw money and resources at a problem and expect it to work itself out.  Solutions have to be planned and managed.

The way I prefer to work around this problem is to keep the parts as simple as possible, then give standard ways to let the parts talk to each other.  Little programs that do one thing only, but do one thing really well.  Every piece has a role to play in the overall system.  Should there be a big problem in one piece, we can take it out and replace it with a similar program.

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The second analogy I want to discuss is a much hotter argument in software development circles.  By merely mentioning "Agile vs. Waterfall development" I'm going to have hordes of extremely passionate programmers telling me why I have it totally wrong.

In it's most simplistic form, the Waterfall model means the problem is analyzed for what's needed, then you plan how you'll create your program, after that you actually write the program, finally testing what you've done.  If you need to fix bugs you do it in after the program is done by sending patches.

Agile is substantially different from the above.  Instead of having a specific development route, Agile tends to be more cyclical.  You figure out what you need the program to do and at the same time you figure out a way you can evaluate that your program does what it's supposed to do.  You test as you go.  If you need to fix bugs, you'll have to evaluate whether it absolutely has to be fixed right away or if it can wait until the next cycle.  Sometimes the problems aren't that serious and you can focus your effort on more important issues.  Other times a bug you thought wasn't serious turns out to be a major problem and it has to be made an immediate priority.

Cycles come on a frequent enough basis.  You'll agree on how long a cycle is - usually the programmers will choose a cycle lasting one week or one month.  That's often enough that you don't need an elaborate planning session but gives you enough time to do something significant.  Sometimes you'll set major milestones on a quarterly or yearly basis for an in depth evaluation.

A couple of really basic points that often gets buried in the arguments:  Agile isn't really new, it's been kicked around in various form for about 50 years.  The incarnation we now call Agile really began ten years ago, but concepts have been around for a long while and are tried and tested now.

Also, I don't know of any software that is produced through strictly one model or the other.  It tends to be more of a continuum where developers choose tools appropriate to their development.  Even the most adamant supporters of each model tend to take just a little bit from the other camp.

There are clear advantages from each model.  The Waterfall Model flows in one direction and has a logical progression from one step to the next.  It tends to provide a fairly consistent result at the end and it feels wonderfully familiar because it's been used successfully for so often.  Large and complex projects tend towards the Waterfall Model.

The Agile Model tends to have responsive outcome.  Because the cycles occur frequently you know that improvements or fixes are always just around the corner.  It includes continual evaluation of what you've done and continual feedback is sought.  Agile remains adaptable to circumstances and you can reorder your priorities if necessary.

There are disadvantages to each as well.  Waterfall projects are resistant to change and it can be hard to adapt in mid-stream.  It's like building the perfect car, with the perfect engine, the perfect interior, perfect brakes, perfect comfort and the customer comes back and says, "I love it!  It's perfect!  Do you have it in green?" and the best you can offer is, "We'll have one shipped out in 4-6 weeks."

The disadvantages of Agile is that you are reliant on a good project manager making sure that everyone is on time for each cycle and that all the planning will still integrate together.  Each person needs to deliver their piece on time and according to plan.  The other disadvantage with Agile is that it's so full of jargon my eyes glaze over after a couple of minutes and I tend to say, "Yeah, yeah, shut up and just get it done."

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So the Alberta Party has struck a new course that hasn't really been traveled before.  There's an analogy here that will prove to be incredibly useful for some.

The Big Listen was hugely beneficial to the Alberta Party in so many ways.  It was the seed for our policy.  It was the beginning of establishing an open and honest conversation with Albertans that has been lacking.

The simple act of listening to what Albertans have been saying opens the door to hearing new solutions, new ideas and new ways to find success in our world.  At no point have we lost any of the old solutions we value.  We are truly free to choose the best answers and apply them to our future.

We cannot continually throw money and resources at our problems, slashing blindly when we run short of money and resources.  We need a plan, we need true leadership, we need to develop real answers for the issues we face together.

We need to listen to Albertans and allow them to find their own roles where they can participate in our democracy.  Some of us will only vote every four years, some of us will run and lose, some of us will run and lead.  We want as much diversity and welcome as many viewpoints as we can reach so that we can discover the innovative solutions.  Fully 60 percent of Albertans need a way to find their voice.


The Big Listen also takes on a very special role in that new course the Alberta Party is charting.

I see the Alberta Party as following an Agile model in our development.  It's something that is new, attractive and engaging.  No one has tried it exactly like this - it was previously impossible without tools such as social media.  Only the Alberta Party can deliver this model right now because we built our party on this principle.  Most parties have followed the Waterfall model and will need to make institutional change to do what we can, and that's hard.  Remember, there is no right or wrong model and we have seen incredibly successful political parties using different models.

All that we have heard through the Big Listen has formed the basis for that very first evaluation of what we want this "program" - this political party - to achieve.  We have been given the gift of an incredibly detailed document listing needs and desires of Albertans.  We have been given the task to accomplish, it is our duty to build our party and succeed.

Developing an agile party will have challenges.  Our developers are ourselves.  We have to continually think about how we will test our program to ensure it performs as we intended.  We have to set our priorities and decide what is most important to us to achieve for Alberta.  We have to agree on how long our cycle will last and work within each cycle to be responsible and accountable for our results.

Ultimately, we will have a milestone every four years or so when we hold an election.

But the single, most critical aspect is that we need to continue doing what we excel at doing.  We listen.  We use that feedback to evaluate our work in that cycle.  At the end of that cycle we need to listen and ensure that we got it right and that we have kept in touch with Albertans.

Our leadership must lead.  They must manage realistic goals each cycle and ensure they are met.  Our members must stay engaged.  We all need to be accountable towards each other.  We need to find ways to communicate with each other effectively.  Sometimes we'll borrow great ideas from the Waterfall model.  Sometimes we'll create new ways to get incredible results no one has dreamed of before.

Earlier I spoke of how many people have stopped their analysis at the point that the Alberta Party listens to Albertans' needs and aspirations.  I want to try to extend that and suggest that the model we are pursuing is proven successful and is completely unique to the Alberta Party.  It is up to ourselves, the developers, to turn the Big Listen into positive action for Alberta, one cycle at a time.

There is a place for every single Albertan to have a voice.  There has never been a better time to participate with the Alberta Party and to get your voice really heard.

This is the blog where I lead you on that I'm endorsing someone but really don't.

by Mark Zaugg 23. February 2011 21:36

"I don't know what I'm talking about, I'm just a disgruntled voter." 

There's this one person I can talk to who will invariably give me a plain, unvarnished view on life.  He says I'm an idiot, I say he's an idiot, and at the end of the day we can always go for a beer together.  We've argued back and forth nigh on 30 years now, I guess.  The funny thing is, in all that time, he's never been wrong. 

For far too many Albertans, that's the prevailing view of government.  We have to change that.  It cannot stay "boring old politics" as my kids say.  We have to stop this garbage of a political machine geared up to perpetuate itself.  If 60 percent of the province feel they have no political home, we have a crisis on our hands.  Time to change something.  It's time to act. 

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Since this is now on a provincial stage, maybe I need a little recap on just how I got into this boat. 

It started way back on a summer's day when I attended a festival with my children.  I spent a little time thinking critically about what it meant to me, how it had become something important to me, and how it merely needed a chance to prosper.

It became clear to me that there was a problem.  The problem wasn't the festival, the problem was in our collective decision making.  In our governance.  The problem was one faction bashing the other faction and not paying attention to the work that needed to get accomplished.  It took me by surprise when I realized I had to rethink my vote.  It shocked me when I concluded my logic demand that I act and participate to ensure that my viewpoint was heard.

I spent a great deal of time deciding which mayoral candidate fit best with my views.  I really wanted to make an early decision so I could be involved in the past election because I thought it was an important opportunity to shape positive change.

Frankly, there are only three people who should really care that I endorsed Naheed Nenshi.  They are - in order - me, Naheed Nenshi, and Stephen Carter.  However, there's somewhere over 600 other people who cared enough to read that blog entry.  I'm okay if you agree or disagree with me.  I'm pretty sure I made the right choice and I'd like to think I helped a few other people clarify their thoughts and decide what matters to them.

At least I was absolutely clear that I had no interest with the mess that is provincial politics.  Cue the Alberta Party.

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Many of you will know that I went to Chris Tesarski's press conference announcing his candidacy for the Alberta Party leadership.

I'm really proud to have met Chris a while back.  He is one sharp cookie and knows energy the way I know my way around a motherboard.  Every single time Chris and I get together and talk about the smallest detail he demonstrates great insight into both the problems we face and solutions to get us past them.  I have complete trust that he can put together a solid economic plan that will put this province in good stead with planning and foresight for the future.  I feel that he shares the same sense that I feel of having heartstrings in rural Alberta while living in the heart of the city and the understanding that we all go into our future together.

Chris has spoken of a broad 50 year plan to carry us into the future.  Much more than just lurching election to election, we need a greater plan ahead.  He's put up his 12 point action plan as a means to accomplish his goals.  It's a great plan.  Even if I don't agree with every single detail, it creates a great place to start our discussion.  With absolute certainty he will discuss it and explain his reasoning and more than likely it's better than my own.

Without a doubt I feel confident and comfortable under Chris's leadership and I happily endorse him as leader for the Alberta Party.

Hey, but waitasec, what about that title you lead with?

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Tammy Maloney is a spark plug of a person who infuses energy and invigoration into everything she touches.  Her enthusiasm is completely infectious and you cannot help but feel that you're part of creating something tangible, significant and meaningful in our province.  Tammy knows how to focus that power and every time we talk I know that together we can build a province that looks to our future but includes the people around us today.

She's got a great business background behind her and she's a person who can find solutions to difficult problems around her.  She's creative, she's innovative, she's brilliant and she knows what she's talking about.  She is dedicated to channeling her passions towards making Alberta better.

Tammy comes from outside Alberta politics and brings a fresh perspective and ideas anew when we most need them.  She has proven success of engaging people of all ages and backgrounds and re-engaging that 60 percent of Albertans who did not feel compelled to vote.  She's a great person who can grow and energize the Alberta Party and engage Albertans as a whole.

She also comes from rural Alberta, but she's got a global perspective that is much greater than my own.  Tammy has the experience to use that perspective to plan a better future for us all.

Without a doubt I feel confident and comfortable under Tammy's leadership and I happily endorse her as leader for the Alberta Party.

And you know I can't stop there.

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Every single discussion I've ever had with Glenn Taylor has made me feel like I've been heard and that Glenn will truly listen to Albertans as a whole.  Glenn has experience with government on the municipal level and what I like most about him is when he speaks about bringing what works best at the municipal level to provincial politics.

Glenn understands what is necessary at the local level because of his participation on the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and as the chair for the Grande Alberta Economic Region.  He knows what we're going to need as a province to get the whole province moving forward together.  I know I can trust Glenn to have a handle on the economic needs, of the services we need to provide and a plan ahead to keep the province on track on a long term basis.

Glenn is the only candidate I have not yet met in person.  I'll go out of my way to shake his hand the first opportunity I have, because I know that will make a fascinating conversation with a scintillating man.  I trust his experience, I trust his insight, and I value the conversations we have had online over the past few months.

Without a doubt I feel confident and comfortable under Glenn's leadership and I happily endorse him as leader for the Alberta Party.

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This is without even mentioning Sue Huff who I feel is a stellar person and an outstanding acting-leader.  I think she's amazing and completely support her as well - perhaps it is too much of an advantage to let her run for leader of the Alberta Party but she'd make a great choice on her own.

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So for right now I haven't the foggiest idea who I'm going to vote for in May.  I support each and every one of them and I'll pledge to work with all of them as I can.  Hopefully by growing our party and building interest as I can.

What remains most important to me at this time seems to be having a clear plan to securing and strengthening our economic future ahead.  Creative approaches and fresh thinking is crucial going forward because we've had such a deficit provincially for a long time.  For me, personally, it's very important that we stay away from the rural / urban or Calgary / Edmonton divides which have so painfully split us for decades.  Having an understanding of the Alberta Party values and integrating all of them into our direction is crucial to me.

I engaged more fully because I came to some critical thinking about our city governance and found it lacking.  My logic compelled me to get involved and to try to make a difference.  I know we need some serious improvement with our governance provincially and I'm willing to work to make it better for all Albertans.  I have a lot more thinking to do, more questions to ask and to decide for myself which is the best fit for me.  It's a lot easier when we're all clearly friends, willing to talk with each other and create positive change together.

We have nothing but great choices ahead, and there's still room for more exceptional individuals to come forward.  Alberta's future is bright.  Now is truly the time to act in our best interest.

Four Strong Winds

by Mark Zaugg 5. February 2011 22:40

Okay, I'm working on this reputation of long, rambling, hopefully meaningful or descriptive blog entries and giving quite the skewed perception of who I am as a person.  I'm going to fix that a little tonight.  

I'm giving you two dimensions of myself.  

I had to run out to do a couple errands this evening, so I hopped in the car and thought I'd flip over to the hockey game when I got sidetracked by Randy's Vinyl Tap.  He played a song and suddenly the thoughts that have been swirling for the past week crystallized.






You're going to get it or you won't.  It's all fine by me.

It's the same old song.

Never did flip over to the hockey game.

Top Ten Ways the Alberta Party is Going to Do Politics Differently

by Mark Zaugg 1. February 2011 19:35

Brian Mason said today that no one could give him an answer to how the Alberta Party was going to do politics differently.  (I'm only paraphrasing, I wish I was smart enough to get his actual quote so I could do him justice.)  At the risk of enlightening him, here's my semi-serious top ten:

The Top Ten ways the Alberta Party is going to do politics differently:

10.  Tweet our way to victory!
9.  Hardcore recruiting of those moderates.
8.  When someone talks "environment" we'll talk "economy."  When they talk "economy" we'll talk "health."  When they talk "health" we'll talk "education."  When they talk "education" we're going back to "environment."
7.  Steal ideas from everyone.  Wait - is that really different?
6.  Ask the same three questions over and over again.
5.  Turn down invitations to a health care debate.
4.  No permanent leader, 1000 unofficial spokespeople.
3.  Tell people that after we win, we'll make it harder next time to win again.
2.  We'll be the first party that is both left wing and right wing at the same time!
1.  I'm not really sure, but when we get there we'll post it on our webpage.

No.  Seriously.

10.  We 'get' social media.  We're familiar with the tools, we're conversant and we understand what it's good for and where it falls short.  It won't replace all the other work that needs to be done.  But it sure makes a handy tool when you're looking for the right one.

9.  From the reports out there you'd think we're interested in picking up Alberta Liberals.  We are.  Also, we're interesting in picking up Alberta NDs and Tories and WRA's and we're especially interested in picking up people who are unaffiliated and feeling disaffected by government.  If you share the values we talk about, you're welcome to join in and help us create good policy for Alberta.

8.  The Alberta Party recognizes that our environment, economy, health and education are all intrinsically linked with each other and to make good policy in one area requires integrating all areas.  Instead of trying to play one off the other (i.e. "Would you rather have good jobs or a sound environment?") we're looking for ways the areas can compliment each other.   (For instance, how can we ensure more economic growth is better sustainable?)

7.  We understand that good ideas come from anywhere.  If you have a great idea, we want to discuss it and find a way to fit it into our priorities.  "Not Invented Here" persists too often in politics and great ideas get rejected because they're found on someone else's platform.  Of course, it doesn't get priority for us unless it fits with our platform as a whole.

6.  

  • What are your pressures and concerns as a family and as a community as an Albertan?
  • What are your hopes and aspirations as a family and as a community as an Albertan?
  • What are you grateful for living in Alberta?


5.  We need a serious discussion about health care, and the Alberta Party doesn't feel that a polarized debate is the best way to go right now.  We need our permanent leader in place and we need to have complete discussions first.  We're okay with saying, "We're not quite there yet."  We know we better have an answer before the next election.
We have established a few principles.  The time to solve medical problems isn't when the patient reaches the emergency room, good and sustainable health care must come from a continual process.  We're focused on the whole continuum of care and we want to work more in tune with what our health care professionals need to keep us healthier and to heal us when required.  We do not want to debate over the band aid solutions, we want a comprehensive view of health in Alberta.  Look for our policy to be based from those principles.

4.  Speaking of our leader, we will elect our official leader in May.  In the meanwhile, Sue Huff is a remarkable spokeswoman and together with Chris LaBossiere is the source for actual party policy.  Still we have thousands of advocates willing to exert their energy towards creating a new government.  It's a risk that our members will go off theme, but it adds their voices definitively to the party.  After all, we all helped to create our policy in the first place and continue to work on details today.  Official party policy is always available online for all to see.

3.  How did we get into forty year rule of a single party?  Our democratic fundamentals need to be updated and made to serve the people of Alberta better than it has.  One of our fundamental pillars is that our democracy needs renewal with more openness in our decision making.  We are a political party and therefore literally partisan.  Don't think that we're going to stand arm in arm on stage singing Kumbaya.  That only happens in fairy tales.  But there's a whole lot of room for more collaboration and going back to Albertans for real consultation over rigid ideology.  I'm told anyone can do it, I wonder why it hasn't happened until the Big Listen began.

2.  Labeling the Alberta Party as "left wing" or "right wing" doesn't make a whole lot of sense to most of us.  We have put our focus on the private enterprise and industry that exists in Alberta and we treasure the entrepreneurial spirit that permeates it's people.  We insist that Alberta be a great place to work and run a business.  We also insist that Alberta shall be a great place to live with strong, vibrant communities.  We want our population to be healthy and our children to be well educated and grow to be successful citizens.
Some of the methods to achieve those goals may be classified more "left" or more "right", but the Alberta Party is going to set our priorities on the ideas that are best regardless of the label someone tries to affix.

1.  We believe in transparency!  It really is all up on our web page right now.  Everything that we collaborate on as a party, warts and all, is done in clear air.  Come out and join us and observe for yourself.  We'd love the opportunity to show you how we're doing it differently.  Follow us on Twitter, friend us on Facebook.  There's no secret as to our method, enlightenment has been there to behold the whole time.

But then, you probably shouldn't be listening to me anyhow.  I'm rather unofficial.

Dancing across a crowded floor

by Mark Zaugg 30. January 2011 23:44

What a week that was.  

I'm trying hard to reconcile my thoughts enough to have a point to say and by the time I had two or three points I wanted to write down there was another seismic blast under my feet.  The month continues to be incredibly busy and now I'm certain there will not be a let up for at least a few more weeks.  Unfortunate and disappointing and much more motivating to increase my personal productivity and improve my time management.  

One of the problems I've had this week is that some of the points I've desperately wanted to blog about have been complex and nuanced and multi-faceted.  I love multi-faceted problems - they make you circle them in order to observe the issue keenly from all directions.  The satisfaction of coming to a suitable answer in much more gratifying to me when you've taking a hard look at it.  It's the complex issues that challenge your thoughts and make you understand that black and white answers are often too shallow of a view to take.  When I have achieved a solution to a problem after long analysis and introspection I am much more likely to let that logic become defining to myself as a person.  

But I'm not going to knock out a blog entry every hour.

There's one issue that I really haven't spoken about at all this week and I'd really like to has out if only to set my own thoughts in order and make bare my logic.  At first blush I've adamantly made up my mind, but after only a few moments of consideration I reverse course and reconsider my position entirely.

Let me develop my argument.

-----

I've spent a lot of years in a political wilderness.  I'm a really fiscally conservative guy.  I only get myself into trouble when I lose my head and let someone talk me into going down a path I don't understand or don't feel comfortable with.  It will never happen again in my life, that's a promise and a guarantee and my word remains my bond.  My view on personal finances spreads to how I feel the government should be acting, and frankly I think government in Alberta has done a supremely crappy job over the past 20 years.  This hasn't been fiscally conservative, it's just been poorly managed.  I know poor management when I see it.

I feel there has been bad planning, there has been shamefully poor foresight, there has been too little re-investment into our future, there has been an unwillingness to make difficult choices and there has been a complete unwillingness to be transparent and have real discussions with the people at large about our goals and priorities.  I was reminded painfully this week that public hearings have been less about gathering real input and more about establishing an echo chamber for what the politicians wanted to hear to generate an astroturf groundswell.

My cynicism runs deep, particularly from a government that feels they are untouchable, always correct and are the sole source for all the solutions for all the problems in the province.  The Big Tent has not served us well, instead it has truly become a three ring circus.  If you've been fortunate to have tickets at the main ring it's been a pretty good show.  You're issues have been heard, you've tended to gotten action on your problems and the government has put a lot of time and effort catering to your whims and desires.  In exchange, they've had a lot of coins tossed down to them and have had no real problems attracting talent and making the audience focus exactly where the government has wanted the focus to be.

But those outer rings have become a show of novelty acts and really cheap carnival tricks.  The show has been less than satisfying away from the main spotlights.  The audience gets thrown a bone once in a while to stop the grumbling, but it is pretty clear that you're not getting full value if you're not in the target audience to whom the government is primarily playing.

We're spending a bundle on health care, but we're having a hard time attracting doctors and our emergency rooms are stacked 8 hours deep.  We're at war with those fat-cat teachers and their big, spoiled, entitled union but I walk into my kid's classrooms and I'm not seeing any gold-plated learning environment and there's a lot of educators trying really hard to work with what they've been given.  Family farms aren't the norm any longer.  Those that are holding on to their farms are worrying that they're going to have utility corridors rammed down their throats for "the good of the rest of us" even if the rest of us aren't sure it's good.  When I hear of how bad Stelmach has been for Calgary, I think of being told how much Klein ignored Edmonton.  I think of Fort McMurray desperate for workers, desperate for housing, desperate for infrastructure, desperate for community in a place bursting with opportunity and leaching too much wealth away from where it needs reinvesting.  It just isn't making sense and we are long past due shining a very bright light on our issues and having a meaningful conversation about what's really going on in this province.

No one can handle all the issues.  No person, no party, no government.  It's going to take the concerted effort of every last one of us, talking about our problems, sharing our opinions and our issues, putting our ideas on public display and debating them with our passions intact, our minds open and our listening attentive.

It should probably bother me a lot more than it does that I used a circus metaphor.  Life gets a little crazy some times.  What really bothers me are the charlatans at the doors saying the main ring is the only one that matters.  The only issues that are important are the ones that caucus agree to act upon.  The only way to have an issue even come into public consciousness is through the grace of government caucus and no ideas from outside of that realm are worthy of public discussion.

-----

I've truly felt pushed out of government because my concerns did not meet with their priorities.  Since then I've been searching for anyone willing to have fuller conversations about the challenges we've collectively faced.  That has become the driving political factor for me.  The Alberta Party is the secret sauce that matches my values, meets my expectations and represents my vision of the Alberta where I want to live.

Here's the dumb thing.  Now that I've found a comfortable spot and feel that I can have a voice and position of value, I want that to be a driving force for all Albertans.  I want YOU to have a political home with a party that represents your goals and values.  I want that viewpoint and opinion to be represented in the Legislature and get away from the "Premier Knows Best" style of politicking that has served us so poorly for too long.

I don't talk about the "other guys" much, but I'm going to do more of that today than I have in the entire past year.  I've been very clear some of my very best friends and family belong firmly with the Wild Rose Alliance.  I love all that that party has done to create a home to raise their values and issues.  I share a lot of the same values, of course, but collectively they don't represent my views.  It's pretty hard to not know - or at least not know of - one prominent Conservative that you respect deeply.  Off the top of my head, for every one Tory I dislike I can think of three I consider admirable.  Opposition is a terrible hard place to be in Alberta, but it's crucial that we have the Liberals and the NDP representing other views and bringing up the conversations that get lost in the political side shows.  Sometimes they've done a good job, other times not so much.  But, dammit, if you're a Liberal or New Democrat in Alberta you should be welcomed for your viewpoint.  It shouldn't mean that you're a "leftish" pariah.  We need to collectively grow up a little and do less schoolyard style name calling and more active listening to each other.

We don't need a Big Tent, we need better conversation.  We need real discussion about the challenges we face, the solutions we see and the achievements we want to accomplish in the future.  We need more voices heard, and less belittling and devaluing of others.  We need less focus on keeping power and more focus on getting things accomplished.

-----

And with that I only finally start to get around to the first topic I want to address from last week.

I spent a lot of years parking my vote in vain protest.  I did far too much holding my nose while I voted, but I knew I had to try to get my point across that I was not being represented.  The exercise was unsatisfying, but not altogether wasted either.  Clearly the democratic deficit has gotten better attention recently and Albertans have started to rally to ensure their views have been represented.

As more viewpoints are represented with party representation, we can find political homes that fit more accurately with our views.  That's a good thing.  It brings the conversation out of the locked and barred caucus room and into the open where it belongs.  We're not going to get our way all the time - nor should we expect to - however we deserve to have fair consideration of all of our opinions.  My community may not get everything on our infrastructure wish list, but neither should we be shut out just because we didn't elect a member of the governing party.  The government must represent us all instead of doing whatever they want on a four year cycle and pandering for votes for a little while during the election.

During those elections, I freely shopped my vote around.  There was a sense of freedom knowing that I could vote for a particular candidate that I liked or for a party just because I liked a particular policy it espoused.  I may have even voted PC again if they ever gave me a reason that I should and demonstrated enough hubris for their complete failure to take my concerns seriously.

My views have changed over the years and shifted in response to circumstance.  I don't fit particularly well in the right / left scale, nor do I entirely fit into a two dimensional right/left, socially/fiscally scale.  I think my third axis is in response to circumstances at a given time, but it's pretty hard to codify.  There are good solutions all of the issues we face and they can come from anywhere.  Our job is to listen and recognize when we spot one. We're not to demean the ideas we dislike, but to decide where all ideas belong in our realm of priorities.  We can do that openly.

That freedom to shop my vote has been the freedom to look for answers.  The Alberta Party has made it one of the pillars of their party.  Of our party.  Less focus on the labeling and more focus on the ideas.  I'm a huge fan of that.  It's going to draw others.  Last week, it did.

-----

Dave Taylor joining the Alberta Party opens the doors to a lot of opportunity.  We now have a sitting member in the Legislature and that's fantastic news.  We have a much higher public presence which I'm sure would have happened eventually but having the timing occur in the past week of tumult was rather fortunate.

It also opens the opportunity for criticism that the Alberta Party is a bunch of rebranded Liberals.  That's wrong, the Liberals have -- the Liberal Party of Alberta.  My job is to ensure that the Alberta Party stays true to it's values and thereby stands as a party to itself, separate and apart from all others.  We all need fair representations of our views and if Mr. Taylor and other sitting MLAs like him share my views and my values I will happily work with them.

I mentioned at the top that my first thought of members crossing the floor was one that made me uncomfortable with the concept.  Upon reflection, I cannot throw up a blanket ban and say it's wrong.  We have seen the government take big swings in direction.  Some times the parties move away from us.  Some times the governments stop listening to our concerns.  Some times the government egregiously ignores our constituents and they need to make a statement.  Twice in this government members have been ejected from caucus over their views and have had the issue forced upon them.

My driving force is to be a member of a party where I feel comfortable with the value system and where I feel my voice can be heard are carry impact.  I extend that beyond just the voters, but also to all of our elected representatives.  Should an MLA no longer feel a belonging to a party, they need to feel unencumbered to express their personal views and the consensus of their riding.

My opinion began changing when I thought Guy Boutilier acted courageously to stand up for his constituency.  I felt challenged when Rob Anderson did not resign and stand in a by election.  I felt a equally uncomfortable that he didn't and indignant that he'd be expected to follow different subset of rules.  When Heather Forsyth crossed the floor I had a distinct understanding that she felt as strongly as I did that the Tories has walked away from her.  If we elect good people they'll stay true to their selves and true to their constituents especially when the party doesn't stay true to them.

-----

And here is where I know that I'm in the right party for me.

I'm part of the membership working on getting the Constituency Association for the Alberta Party going in Calgary East.  I know it's going to be a lot of work.  I know there are great people working alongside me.  I know there are great people working against me.  That's fantastic if we can all be represented.  The true goal is to get people engaged with their governance.

Should I be on the CA, there's a chance that I may have to deal with an MLA crossing the floor.  What makes me happiest is that the Alberta Party has created policy in advance.  They're pretty simple to follow and reasonable to achieve.  I'm relieved that others have done the heavy lifting of setting guidelines.

I don't have a problem with Dave Taylor's scenario.  He left his former party, sat as an independent, got interested in the Alberta Party and decided that just maybe he shared common ground and felt comfortable as a member as they researched each other. I'd rather he didn't make a pledge about a by election at all, but he will stand for election soon enough and his constituents will make their judgement.

My second scenario is an MLA that may not fit with the Alberta Party values.  I think i can be pretty comfortable saying, "Your values may not line up with Alberta Party values, perhaps you should look at another party."  Everyone doesn't have to fit under one tent any longer, we all deserve a place where we can express ourselves.

Likewise, should my Alberta Party MLA decide he or she better aligns with another party and crosses the floor to join them, I'd hope that they could express their reasoning clearly for me to accept their decision.  I may work twice as hard to try to defeat them in the next election, but it's pretty hard for me to justify holding someone in an untenable situation.  I'd hope that I would treat the MLA respectfully.

We ought to wish our representatives actively represent us, the citizens, and not the party they belong to.  They have to represent us whether we voted for them or not.  That's going to require active listening and open debate.  That has not been the hallmark of the past government.  I want to change that and I want to allow room for our MLAs to align better to our collective beliefs.

It's going to be messy once in a while and some hard feelings are invariably going to develop.  It becomes imperative that we keep the discussion open, honest and respectful so we can understand how our values and priorities align and where they differ.  There shouldn't be surprises about where we align and how we feel priorities must be ordered.

It doesn't mean that we have to repeat the same old game that we've played in the past.  We have control over how we will deal with MLAs crossing the floor.  We can set our parameters of how we want our representatives to behave and enforce that they live up to our standards.  You can't cross to join the Alberta Party without accepting that one of our requirements is that you "agree to undertake a citizen engagement process consistent with the principles of the Alberta Party."  Mr. Taylor is going to ensure that he engages with his riding and his constituents will have plenty of opportunity to express their opinions to him.

-----

What I find interesting is that when I consider thinking about a large number of MLAs crossing parties, I see fewer crossings in the future.  I do not want to ever again see a member of the government ejected from his or her party for expressing their views.  The Alberta Party expressly makes the distinction between dissension and disloyalty.  We've left a lot of room for public discussion and respectful disagreement.  We may even go to vote disagreeing on some details.  I'd much rather see a dissenting vote made with integrity than a an MLA voting for what's wrong for his or her constituents in order to maintain superficial party solidarity.

It makes what Guy Boutilier and Rob Anderson did much more admirable.  We need to improve democracy in Alberta so members like them can stand on their principles.  I'm very pleased they found their answer in the Wild Rose Alliance.  Now Dave Taylor has an opportunity to comport himself with dignity and respect.  I hope he will retain his passion and be a forceful and effective member for our party.  You can argue vehemently and still be respectful.


In my vision of Alberta politics we have a number of parties, all of which are aware of the issues at hand because we're discussing them publicly.  MLAs get feedback from all their constituents, not merely the ones that voted them into office.  Debates are fierce, spirited, heartfelt, open and respectful.  Because the MLAs are actually in touch with their constituents, they know when the prevailing opinion opposes a bad law and they feel they have the ability to dissent on the basis of informed principle.

It's far too idealistic to expect it to happen, but we can make some significant steps forward with increased transparency and more public debate.

Through transparency and public debate we don't have to lock our dissent within caucus and we feel less need to eject a member because they voiced the opinion which should be obvious in their riding.


I want to see the end of one party rule.  I want the end of where you have to be a member of the governing party to get anything accomplished -- unless you're a particularly exceptional MLA, of course.  I want open and public conversation.  None of that is unrealistic to demand.  It's not an unobtainable goal, it simply requires engagement of all citizens and a willingness to have respectful discussions with each other.  The answers may come from anywhere, we need to be able to listen in order to hear when the good ideas arise.

Hey Dad, what's that button for?

by Mark Zaugg 20. December 2010 00:30

When I met Sue Huff in Calgary, I picked up a Big Listen button from the Alberta Party.  I've been wearing it around ever since. 

"Hey Dad, what's that button for?" 

"It's to make people ask questions." 

"No, really, what's it for?" 

Well, that's a small success.

-----

When I spoke with Sue, the first thing that impressed me was that she really listened to what I said.  None of this faux listening I've become accustomed to from dealing with anything governmental.  None of this listening through a filter.  No interruptions and arguing points as I was setting up my argument.  She wanted to hear what I wanted to say.

My mind went back to her blog about why the Alberta Party is taking the time to have the Big Listen process and not just poll.  No one, ever, has solicited my opinion on what matters most to me before.  When I have been asked my opinion it has been discounted, or no one has ever shown the slightest indication that I've been heard, or I've received a smile and sent on my way, or I've been told, "I consulted with the minister and we don't feel there is any problem whatsoever." 

This has been entirely unacceptable for me, but beyond grumping on the outside there was little I could do to promote positive change.

So when Sue sits down and asks what my burning issue is, I have a hard time laying it out on the table.  First, I have a few trust issues - I'm not sure I believe any issue I raise will be handled differently than the way my former MLA treated me.  I see discussion over issues handled well every day around me from members of the Alberta Party, but I'm new to the party and still somewhat reticent. 

Second, my burning issues involve social justice and bias built into our legal system that desperately needs to be redressed.  It's not the kind of issue you're going to go to the polls over - at least not today.  Forty years ago it would have been unheard of to fight an election over environmental policy.  Today I cannot imagine having an election without discussing the long term implications of oil sand development.  It's because we've advanced as a society, our understanding and our circumstances have changed over the years.  I don't feel that we're prepared as a society to fairly and seriously address what matters most to me.  We aren't going to get there until we can have an open and reasonable discussion amongst ourselves without condemnation.

Third, as important as I feel my issue may be, I don't feel that my role as a member of the Alberta Party is to walk through the door with an axe to grind.  I'm there to listen and discuss -- in that order.  Fundamentally, my job is to create and foment conversation.  My role is to ensure that not a single other Albertan is brushed aside or their opinion is discounted.  We don't have to agree, we have to be heard.  My immediate job is to create a forum in Calgary East for those voices to be heard clearly, fairly, and without fear of being squelched.  I'm going to need help, I hope that you are available and willing to join in the conversation.

I'm not going to be on the prevailing side of every argument.  I don't expect the Alberta Party to line up perfectly with my beliefs.  We may, collectively as a party, disagree with me, personally as an individual, over what I care about.  Once we've had a fair and open discussion and agreed upon policy, dissension is still okay.  I may have to accept that my stance on a particular issue is not the agreed direction - or perhaps the party will have to accept that in this particular riding the prevailing opinion is strongly opposed to the party stance and the MLA needs to represent his constituents.

The Alberta Party is okay with this.  How refreshing!  Let's make that stick.

My job is not to slag any other party.  I want to discuss the ideas and explore as many options as possible to find the best.  Nor am I going to be in the mushy middle - I'll debate with all my passion and my heart on my sleeve.  There is most certainly a world of possibility in Alberta that isn't getting fair discussion right now - let's find a way to give as many people as possible a voice.

I'm not shying away from my issue - it doesn't take a lot of searching to figure it out.  I'll be foremost on the floor to discuss it should I ever get standing and a fair hearing.  However it is just one issue of the range of issues we need to collectively address.  Sue, the link I promised (and your homework) is here.

---

It's been a great day of opinion and I've been thinking all day about what I wanted to add to the conversation.

Chris McClure wrote a fantastic blog that really resonated with me on so many levels.  His reasons for interest in the Alberta Party parallel mine extremely well, and he did a far better job raising points in policy that we can significantly improve in our province.  It surely needs to be read.

I've read Glenn Taylor's entry on Citizen Engagement four times already today and each time it takes a little of my breath away.  I feel hopeful for my province as I read it.  I want a future that mirrors his vision:

My vision of a successful Alberta is one in which our government can move from a reactive into a proactive focus on solutions; an Alberta in which meetings are held with our citizens that gives each of us as much say as possible over the issues that affect our lives and our work. One in which everyone’s input and involvement is important and valued.

The other Chris that I read today was Chris Tesarski where he introduced himself to the rest of us.  I've been reading his blog for a while, but it demonstrated to me just how badly we need to have full conversations.  I feel there is so much depth and such interesting people with such talent that I'm going to have to work hard just to keep up. 

Reading about Chris made me think about how alone I felt in that political wilderness and just how many people were out there sharing my feelings.

-----

The more I listen, the more I love about the people I'm working alongside.  I hope every party in Alberta has such great people.  We, the citizens, deserve no less from our representatives.

I have a small apartment and a very large home

by Mark Zaugg 15. December 2010 01:19
Sittin' in the kitchen 
awailin' on the old guitar. 
I'm thinkin' about becomin'  
the world's biggest rock and roll star. 

Well I'd give it a shot, lose or win 
but I don't think I could fit everybody in. 
'cause sittin' in the kitchen' 
the only place I'd try a stunt like that. 

  - the magnificent and incomparable Bob Snider.

I can't fit everyone into my kitchen, but I'm so glad that I've found a big political home.


I'm extremely pleased to announce that I've survived my first official Alberta Party function as a member.

I also wish to announce to corollary, the Alberta Party has also survived me joining them for a function as a member.

I planned my week around meeting Sue Huff.  I gave up a home cooked dinner for tonight - it damned well better have been worth it, right?  So what did I get out of the meeting tonight? 

I chatted with friends.  That's it.  That's everything.  And that's absolutely amazing. 


I'm having this strange bewildering wonderment of who this guy is that keeps going out to these events - because the guy I know wouldn't bother.  He'd whinge a bit about how lousy the government is and then futilely throw a vote away just so the scruiteneers had something to do at the end of the night.  The guy that showed up tonight showed up with something to say and wanted to be heard and did so knowing full well that he's going to have to be willing to take on some of the load of work.  This is a guy who cares about himself, his neighbours, his neighbourhood, his city, his province, his country and his planet.  Previously, on a good day, he could muster enough caring to cover the first and the last and a randomly made selection from the middle.

I started at Green Drinks just long enough to be kicking myself for not showing up to a lot more Green Drinks events.  You know, I should be more involved with the stuff I care about and less involved with the stuff I don't.

Eventually I worked my way over to Broken City.  Robert and Trina Hurdman snagged me up first and we got to chat for a bit before Sue came over to our table.  I'm not sure just how much I managed to express clearly, but much of what Trina posted during the civic election did affect my viewpoint and subsequently my approach and my success with addressing my children's school.  It was the first time we met face to face, but we were really just picking up the conversation from the point where we left it last time.  I met @jerscape who has the misfortune of being stuck with a rather naive, opinionated (wrongly),  idealist such as myself.  And I spent time speaking with @OrganizerMike and Jeni who are willing to work with people like me who are trying to organize Constituency Associations.  It's nice to know I have awesome people to rely on who actually know what they're doing.  I spoke with James and Natalie and Marc and Rob and easily half a dozen more I'm forgetting, who at this point are just friends I like to spend time around.  This isn't precisely what I expected in a political party.  And for as much time as I've spent around Paul Hughes, I've spent very little time actually talking to him face to face - and I've never actually introduced myself.  Wrapped that up tonight, finally.

Sooo...  who am I missing in the equation?

Sue Huff was the raison d'etre tonight.  The first time I'd ever encountered Sue was when she was chosen to be acting leader of the Alberta Party.  Some commentator along the way spoke highly of her and said the Alberta Party would do well to keep her.  Subsequently, I've simply paid attention to her blog and what she's had to say online.  She sat at the table with Robert, Trina and myself and started speaking and I was able to just sit back, observe and listen.

Now I should mention that I missed getting a nametag walking into the place so initially she had no idea who I was and I had full advantage.  While listening to her, there weren't surprises, there weren't discongruencies, it was simply a pleasure to hear someone speaking her mind openly, honestly and eloquently.  It's when Sue speaks about discussing issues in public instead of locked behind closed doors that I understand it's not just hot air - she believes in open discussion every single bit as much as I believe in it.

I introduced myself, she recognized me, we had a short but enlightening visit together.  She became just another friend I spoke to tonight.  Perhaps a little higher profile than a lot of the other people I spoke with, but ultimately just another person in the room that was just as fervent and interested and energetic as everyone else.  There is no doubt, I'm really proud to work alongside Ms. Huff in addition to everyone else in the room tonight.

So what's the point of writing all this besides name dropping and buttering up all these people I've met over the past couple of months so that they'll finally start liking me a little?

Sincerely, go to a Big Listen event.  Attend a meet and greet like we held tonight.  You don't have to agree.  You don't even have to be a member.  You ought to be interested and it will help if you're willing to share your opinion.  Come with your values intact and prepare to be heard, because there are people there who are going to actually listen.  This truly is a different way of politicking.  Finally.

And those people I spoke with tonight -- they're going to be more than happy to speak with you and to listen and to help create positive change.  As will I.  I give you my word.

Especially contact me if you're in Calgary East.  No matter what, I would love to hear your opinion.

Welcome

Change is the only constant.

Welcome to the semi-exciting new look, same crappy blogger.

All comments are still moderated, I'll approve everything that isn't spam or offensive.  Agreement with His Dorkasaurus is not necessary.

What has changed is that I don't have 1000 junk accounts clogging up the system that I have to go through one by one.  Yes, you too can set up an account and no longer need to wait for me to notice you posted.  Completely optional.

As always:  Have fun, be respectful.

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