Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Damn it, they might be right, a hat trick in fact.

Before people go off on some Calgary sized outrage like they did about hats. I want to be clear that I do not support everything the provincial government in Alberta is doing, this blog however is about the stuff I think is going well.

One: Religious Education:
Normally when I talk about David Eggen I like to remind the universe that I kicked his ass in 2008 and gave the seat back to him in 2012, today however I want to acknowledge that he has taken on a very significant challenge and is doing the right thing  by ordering an inquiry into the conduct of a publically funded school that does not wish to adhere to the guidelines of his ministry, I refer, of course to the Independent Baptist Christian Education Society who run two schools in the Edmonton area.

I'm completely in favour of freedom of association, of speech and of placing the individual ahead of the state, where the line is blurred however is when a publically funded institution, such as a school board chooses to go it's own way based, in this case, on Deuteronomy quotes about who God thinks you should be able to sleep with.

The year is 2016 and as a society we have changed our definitions of what many tings mean, we did not do this by accident or by insight, this occurred because different people, with very different ideas made compelling arguments that work.  Such are the ways of the school act and the Gay Straight Alliances. I suspect in ten years the GSA's will be about as cool among kids as debating club or band, but for the moment, it's got all kinds of knickers, bloomers, thongs and jockeys in a knot about what this means to our kids and the future.  Frankly I think it means pretty much nothing.

It's  time to just accept what is and be done with it.

If you want to have a school that does not believe in math, for example,  because your ancient warrior God declared that "all a man needs is a bit of cyphering to get a fair deal in the market".  Public scorn and outrage would be universal, such a school might exist, I don't know but certainly not within the public system, as long ago people recognized the importance of math and Algebra, (to the chagrin of kids everywhere) so we teach it without giving it a  thought.  And as a tax payer I am looking forward to the day when I can teach the Pythagorean theorem to my grandsons. If I want them to learn about religion well, that's up to their parents, not me. 

In the case of the Baptist schools, Minister Eggen should expend the resources necessary to settle this issue once and for all. Religious freedom is great as long as we do not expect the public to pay for it.  The Catholics might, justifiably, worry that this is the thin edge of the wedge and indeed it is, I was educated in the Catholic school system and can find no compelling personal reason why I would continue in  that belief system, you might disagree and that's fine but as a friend recently stated

"Canada has no national religion, we are not a "Christian" country, we welcome all faiths, more or less equally, and people are free to bow to whatever divinity they choose"

Education should be the same, secular, based on standards with the ability to respond to the educational requests of the families. The Edmonton Catholic school board offers Delete repeated word education period.  The Edmonton Public School Board has Christian, Muslim, Buddhist and I have no idea what else, and  they manage to get along just fine. I can find no Catholic school program for Muslims, some girls schools yes,  but nothing geared toward other religions, which is exactly the same thing as the Baptists are doing. 

Minister Eggen can make his mark if he does not cave in and deals, once and for all, with the issues of religious schools, If the public system can teach all these religions, why not a Catholic program, it could be done and we could eliminate this two school board mess and save a whole bunch of money that the government can spend on something else.

Two: Sustainable "green" energy 
We are not all going to be like newly minted (I was going to say child, but the guy is in his early 20's and that would be rude)  MLA Horn from Stony Plain and ride our bikes everywhere; we are going to drive and play with snowmobiles and such.

Carbon taxes are wrong, but sustainable green energy could be the shot in the arm Alberta needs! By definition, cogeneration of electricity and heat is a very green idea and  guess what? Fort Mac specifically and Alberta generally is awash in green power that doesn't flood valleys or go off when the sun sets, this could be our moment and I think the NDP got this one right.
By delaying the introduction of alternative energy we are really just biting off our own noses to spite our faces, lets cogeneration everything we can and make people think of Alberta as an energy superstar.  This does not mean swapping your dually for a Prius, but it does mean that our internal efficiencies can rise quite dramatically. It really makes no difference if we export a molecule or an electron, except that if we are turning our gaseous molecules into electrons and being efficient about it we will have a much easier time of selling our fluid molecules.  So bravo on this one, just try and get out of industries way once you decide what you are going to do.

Three: Showing up in New York.
Good on the Premier for travelling to the big apple to score some positive points on Alberta and energy. Attending a conference on climate is old hat I know, but we have a different face of Alberta now and like it or not, the NDP need successful industries to support their ever expanding social agenda. Rather than the constant battles of old rich guys against the youthful protesters who are funded by other rich old guys, let's show these folks we mean business and in the spirit of TRUE Albertans, let's rise to yet another challenge and show the world we have
1) a plan
2) implementation
3) Industry support.

Now the coal guys aren't real happy, but even with thermal coal, there are gasification options that look awfully green to me, It's not a question that coal is "bad" per se, let's use of our technical brain power to make it cleaner. 

Now, of course if the NDP were committed to my ideas, which they probably aren't I'm guessing, the next agenda item would be nuclear power. That has the least emissions of all and is very clean, it's expensive, but it sure works in France and let's be real, if the French can do it safely, I'm pretty sure we can too.

So three thumbs up for the Provincial Government this week, the concepts are all good, lets see some action.

Friday, September 16, 2016

The guy with the sign is a more effective speeding deterrent than the person sitting in the photo radar truck

Here are two images and a bit of a lesson in consequences:

The vehicle in the top picture is out generating revenue by taking pictures of motorists speeding, the guy in the bottom picture is warning drivers that the guy in the first picture wants to take a  ticket of them speeding. Which is the actual deterrent?

A very wise man named Aubrey Daniels wrote a book 30 years ago  called Performance Management about how to positively and negatively reinforce behaviour so that behaviour would either be repeated or diminished.

His correct contention  was the feedback and consequences, either positive or negative were the determining factor to whether or not a particular action would change. Key to this premise were two factors:
1) Certainty
2) Immediacy, i.e. a correlation between the action and the consequence.

Daniels, contended, correctly, that the key to either getting more of what you want, or less of what you don't want was to deliver a consequence that was certain and immediate.

Imagine going bowling in the dark and having your score mailed to you three weeks later, not only would this limit your enjoyment, but you would also lack any sort of feedback to determine if you were getting better, worse or if you made that railroad split ten pin bowlers are so proud of.

So too it is with photo radar in Edmonton. The guy in the bottom picture is FAR more effective at getting people to slow down than the radar vehicle because:

1) He has created an immediate and a certain consequence to not slowing down.
2) Photo radar has no close proximity in time and space, you get a picture in the mail three weeks after you drove 56 in a 50 zone past an unmarked photo radar truck you never saw.

From this one can only assume that the delayed consequence for speeding, getting a photo radar  ticket in the mail is not a reliable deterrent or an effective means of creating consequences for the behavior we want; people driving at the speed limit.

The issue is further muddied  by the unclear consequence the purveyors of photo radar desire: Is the goal of photo radar to get people to drive at the legal speed limit or to punish them for not driving at the legal speed limit? This is not the same thing.

In certain areas you will see large signs that display the speed of your vehicle, indeed the Alberta Motor Association has created an traffic control group for tow truck drivers that include a portable sign to show how fast you are going, people see the sign and they slow down, or speed up to the correct speed. Nice and simple.

Photo radar on the other hand has no such attributes. You may not be aware you were speeding and get getting punished for something you do not even remember doing. If you get stopped by a real cop for speeding, it happens when you are speeding and you get a ticket or a stern warning. Immediate feedback and a certain consequence. All of this is wrong and missing with photo radar. 

Governments have deliberately missed the boat on consequences, and one can really only attribute this to their addiction to the revenue behaviour creates. Photo radar is cheaper to do than actual traffic enforcement and brings in the dollars. I think the cheapest way would be for the guy with the sign to stand on any busy road, people would slow down.

So I am led to believe the real purpose of photo radar is revenue. Some would argue that if you don't speed you won't get a photo radar ticket, true, but it is not the fear of photo radar that keeps me from getting a ticket, it is driving with common sense to the conditions that does.

Photo radar is, in and of itself no deterrent at all.

Taken in  another direction.  a big source of government revenue is gambling. Oh we wax poetic about the damage done by VLT machines, if we really wanted people not to gamble, I could fix the problem in about five minutes:  Every time you put a dollar into a VLT and lose the machine would shout "LOSER!!"  people would stop using the machines in short order. But since  VLT gambling revenue is important to government, they'd rather spend money on gambling addiction treatment  to show they are doing something about the problem than make the process of gambling itself less rewarding.

In order for consequences to be effective they need to be immediate and certain. Any other form of consequence and I respectfully suggest one should:
a) Find out who make the money.
b) Well, really the first one pretty well covers it.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Find your passion: bullshite.

This will not be your typical political diatribe or some long winded complaint about the price of beer, or how school children now occupy seats in the Provincial Legislature because all of these things are things that will pass, mostly without long term meaning or significant impact.

Today is my 56th birthday and it's pretty much exactly the same kind of day that it is most years, except when I was seven and it snowed.  I'm being nostalgic for a life I have enjoyed, people I have loved, people I still love and people I don't even know yet who I will probably love in due course.

For those not familiar I have been an executive, was the 773rd person in history to have a seat in the Alberta  legislature and now, I am wearing Carhartt bid overalls and about to leave here to go build a small shed for a friend.  All of my adventures to date, including the statement "one more severance cheque and I can retire" are summed up in my preference for Carhartt's over button down collars and cuff links.

Smattering of grey, white and pink paint, will tell you stories of the work I do for those I care for. Broken finger nails and a hole in my sock speak to what's important. And it's not what I long thought it was.

My car is an old   Mercedes  ML320, I uses it like a truck. My truck is an older  GMC 3/4 ton that I also use like a truck.  I like trucks.  More to the point however, I like what trucks let me do, they let me haul quantities of things that I can skillfully assemble into something necessary.

I should have stayed in trade school, but who knew.  I confused legislative advocacy as being more important than weather-stripping a cold door  and assumed the executive role that determined the fate of so many would never back fire and determine my own.

Thank you.

When my house is sold and the legal sabre rattling of divorce is settled, I will be in Belize; I will build, I will inspect and I will fix. My tools are good, my talents are many and as long as I have both my tools and, more importantly, my talents I will carry on.

My tools were stolen recently, and during the process of replacement, I had a tough time finding things that fit well to my hand, and were  automatic extensions of me.  Tools are a very personal thing, this is why price is never an issue when buying a hammer for example. I still have and use my Dad's old 16 oz. Craftsman hammer, I also have a 22 oz. Estwing, a 16 oz. Estwing and a couple of others. I use Greenlee electricians tools for maintenance because they are just so comfortable, at $500.00 for a set of 21, they damn well better be.

Being an Advocate and an Executive have led me to the point where I have very good tools and now it is my life intention to use them.

Being by nature a minimalist, I allow myself the luxury of picking a few  good things, instead of random piles of crap:
  • Purdy paint brushes, they ARE better than anything you get at the dollar store.
  • Estwing hammers
  • Makita cordless tools
  • Milwaukee 12" mitre saw, the king of saws!
  • Greenlee tool pouch
  • Craftsman and Snap-On mechanical tools.
  • Bose sound system
  • Apple Ipad and phone
All of which nicely fit in heavy duty totes that stack in my truck, either one.

I don't care whether you consider my life a random collection of actions or not, I do know however that I will not be seduced by the "dark side" of so called achievement, fame or glory. I've had all those and, thank you very much, they have done little to improve my life more than being able to drive a 3 1/2" ardox nail into a board in one blow.

I don't know who said there is as much dignity in plowing a field as writing a poem but they were right. I think we are distracted by this nonsense called "your passion"  I think our passions are tarnished by our concerns about what other people will think of them. There is no calling that everyone will approve of and be so careful about picking what you love based solely on what you think it MIGHT be, it is more important to be clear minded about these things.

I'm not going to apologize for where I am today, what I have or don't have because in every interaction I realize now I am at best half responsible. Failure in love or work is never a completely one sided thing, it's best to forgive, remember and move on. 

If it all ends for me tomorrow, there will be those who are saddened, those who rejoice and those who don't give a shit. As tempting as it is to try and reconcile with each group, simply let it known that I am doing what I love and if I had been smarter I would have figured this out a long time ago.

Drive your truck, fix your sewer, make laws, advocate, help people die, help people live, help yourself live, whatever. Nike, despite their child labour indiscretions, were right:

Just do it.