Monday, August 13, 2012

Let's Talk About Ideas

What is the most resilient parasite in the world?

A bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm?

An idea.

The smallest seed of an idea can grow. Once it is fully formed and has taken hold, it is impossible to eradicate. It may define you or destroy you. It may come to change everything about you.

Some people go through their entire lives never being inspired in that fashion. I'm fortunate enough to say that I've had two such ideas thus far.

The first was football. Now, this was a very unexpected shift. After all, here's this 135 lb. 16-year-old kid who has hardly ever played organized team sports and didn't have an ounce of athletic ability who thinks he's going to walk on to the high school football field for the first time and start in at least one game that season. I invested a lot of energy into that goal, spending nearly 2 hours a day six days a week in the gym between November 2000 and July 2001.

It exceeded every expectation. Not only did I start in one game, I started in seven, and five at outside linebacker no less. To this day, it remains one of the most satisfying things I've ever done. And to this day, I remain very heavily involved in football, as I enter my eighth year as an official and fourth at the CIS level.

Well, in December 2001, I had another idea which came to me in such a fashion, and was even more resilient than the first. This one provided me with some continuation after I was too old for cadets. It provided reasonable financial security. It provided me with a physical challenge which is something I had lacked since football. It would plug me into an entirely different social circle. There were nearly endless opportunities for advancement. And most of all, it was something to look forward to. Needless to say, I was quite motivated to make this one work. And since football was so wildly successful for me, I thought there was absolutely no way it could fail.

On August 13, 2002, it all came crashing down. I was turned down and there was nothing I could do about it. I had the next five years of my life (and potentially more) all mapped out, and all it took was one letter in the mail to make it all go up in smoke that afternoon. But more than that, it was the first real rejection I'd ever dealt with, and I realized that the old maxim "You can do anything you set your mind to!" is bullshit. 

It's all pretty much speculation after that, but I do wonder what might have been. There's one timeline where I was successful in that endeavour, and one where I was not, which is the one I currently travel on. I think about this all the time. There's no doubt that I would have stayed in university for at least the first year, but after that, who knows. I think there's no chance I would have entered immunology and infection, so who knows...I might have actually enjoyed university.

There's no chance I'd have ever started working at Molson, and therefore, no chance that I'd ever end up at Labatt. Career-wise…well, I'm thinking commercial pilot would have been very likely. Probably still would have moved back in with Binks and Gord if I was still in Edmonton. There's a chance that I would have started officiating football as the circumstances of how that started aren't really clear. And it goes on like that.

Of course, there's always the chance that it wouldn't have worked out at all, and I would have quit in a matter of months. But at least I'd leave with no excuses and no regrets. And I know that I could live with that.

Anyway, ten years later, here we are. Mostly, I can say that things have turned out alright since that day when things looked their absolute blackest, but I've always felt somewhat incomplete as a result. If, by some miracle, my peanut allergy became less serious or went away completely, I would do it all over again without hesitating. But, no matter what I'm feeling, I'll have to look at myself and honestly admit that I might as well start crying about cloudy days, for all the control I have over it.

August 13 is a day I regret. It's a memory I have to change. And that can only happen with another idea.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

2012 Alberta Election: Top 10 Electoral Districts I'll Be Watching

10) Barrhead-Morinville-Westlock: This was the seat held by 9 term PC MLA Ken Kowalski. The Wildrose is running one of its more familiar names here, Link Byfield, former publisher of the Alberta Report magazine. Byfield is up against Westlock County deputy reeve Maureen Kubinec.

9) Lacombe-Ponoka: The PC Party had to scramble to put a candidate in here (Steve Christie) after Ray Prins, chairman of the infamous "No Work" Committee stepped down when the scandal broke. The voters here are a little bit pissed about it, and I don't blame them. Either Christie or Rod Fox for the Wildrose will win here.

8) Lethbridge-West: A strong four-horse race in Lethbridge-West has incumbent Greg Weadick against perennial Liberal candidate Bal Boora, long-time NDP staffer Shannon Phillips, and Wildrose's Kevin Kinahan. So far, it looks like Kinahan has the upper hand.

7) Calgary-Cross: Popular five-term MLA and Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs Yvonne Fritz is engaged in a tight race with controversial Wildrose best-name-ever candidate Happy Mann. Mann landed himself in the headlines after it was learned he is facing two lawsuits for his part in a real estate development.  Also of note, Cross had a 27% voter turnout in the 2008 election.

6) Edmonton-Rutherford: PC Fred Horne won here in 2008 by 58 votes over Rick Miller for the Liberals. Horne and Miller are both back this time around, but are now accompanied by Michael Walters, who probably represents the Alberta Party's best chance at a seat. It's either that, or he'll split the Liberal vote, allowing Horne to cruise to an easy win.

5) Edmonton-Sherwood Park: An interesting race here: The PCs are running unpopular former Strathcona County Mayor Cathy Olesen, who allegedly won the nomination by a single vote. Also making another appearance is Independent Jim Ford, who finished in the last federal election with a formidable 14,000 votes. This may split the vote, leaving Garnett Genuis of the Wildrose to claim an upset win.

4) Calgary-Greenway: The new poster child for Alberta intolerance, Pastor Ron Leech, is running here. His comments about how he felt that "as a Caucasian I have an advantage" had a lot of people pissed off and may have damaged Wildrose's fortunes in Calgary. Previously, he had written an article for the Herald in 2004, stating "to affirm homosexuality is to distort the image of God, to insult the nature and being of God." Having said that, I don't believe he's down and out yet. Leech finished a strong second in Calgary-Montrose in 2008 as an independent, losing to Manmeet Bhullar of the PC's by 617 votes.

3) Edmonton-Meadowlark: The Liberal party is polling a distant fourth province-wide which could mean bad news for leader Raj Sherman. His strongest challenger here is former MLA Bob Maskell for the PCs. Wildrose candidate Rick Newcombe is no slouch either. To make it even more interesting, Sherman was first elected here in 2008 as a PC, before being booted from caucus.

2) Edmonton-Glenora: Everyone is watching this one, and all five parties believe their candidate can win. Minister of Culture and Community Services Heather Klimchuk is being challenged by former Liberal MLA Rick Miller, former NDP leader Ray Martin, former Edmonton mayoral challenger Don Koziak for the Wildrose, and former school board trustee/former Alberta Party interim leader Sue Huff.

1) Calgary-Elbow: The polls show that the Wildrose is leading in Premier Alison Redford's constituency, which would be a major embarrassment to the PCs. This hasn't happened since Don Getty was defeated by Percy Wickman in Edmonton-Whitemud. Needless to say, both parties will be pulling out all the stops to win this one. Redford is up against virtually unknown investment professional James Cole.