How Much Carbon is Created by One Space Shuttle Being Launched

by Mark Zaugg 30. November 2015 17:32

Today while watching CBC's Power and Politics I saw a question flash by while Elizabeth May was being interviewed.  Sadly, I'm not watching in high resolution, so I can only guess at the name of the questioner.  I believe her name was Phyllis Brown Rouble - please correct me if you can.

She asked:  “can anyone tell me how much carbon is created by one space shuttle being launched into space and what damage is done to the ozone layer”

I’m a space aficionado and I thought I’d make a quick attempt to estimate it.

First, we need a little information on the Space Shuttle.  When it launched, the Space Shuttle consisted of four main visible parts:  The Orbiter Vehicle itself, the External Tank, and the two Solid Rocket Boosters on each side of the External Tank.

The Solid Rocket Boosters (SRBs) are simple, cheap and reliable boosters used to get the shuttle off the ground.  SRBs don’t perform as well as liquid hydrogen engines, but their job was only to get the vehicle moving.  They burned ammonium perchlorate composite propellant (APCP).  The actual source of fuel was aluminum because it has good energy properties and is hard to light accidentally.  The fuel was held together with rubber binder.  This is the carbon contained in the fuel and totalled 12.04% of the total mass of the fuel.

The Orbiter had three main engines and drew it’s fuel from the external tank.  That fuel was liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen, when the hydrogen was burned it created plain water which is considered a zero-emission fuel.  No carbon whatsoever was put in the atmosphere from the liquid fuels.

Each SRB contained about 500,000 kg of fuel.  Of that mass about 60,200 kg (12.04%) consisted of carbon-bearing binder.  As exciting as polymer chemistry is to me, this gets crazy in a hurry.  In a nutshell, we have long chains of carbon and hydrogen with some molecules of oxygen and nitrogen strategically aligned in the mix.

Very roughly, I’m going to equate 1 kg of APCP to 1 kg of gasoline.  Let me stress, they are not the same, and APCP is really nasty stuff, but this is at least ballpark equivalence of carbon.

And here is where my mind gets blown.

According to Stats Can, in 2014 only in my home province of Alberta, we had gross sales totalling 6,566,200,000 litres of gasoline sold.  That equates to 17,989,589 litres per day.  Depending on the blend, I’m going to estimate 1 litre of gasoline is approximately 0.75 kg.

My assumption that 1 kg APCP is equivalent to 1 kg of gasoline is unrealistic and a good organic chemist will clarify far beyond what I have done here.  But by the back of my envelope, Alberta sold 13,472,403 kg of gasoline per day in 2014, which is about 224 times more than the carbon produced during each Space Shuttle launch. (Please note: I chose Alberta because I live here.  Quebec sells 9,212,889,000 litres per year, Ontario 16,178,215,000! Total for Canada is 43,522,454,000.

Compared with gasoline output from vehicles alone, each Space Shuttle was negligible.  There were 135 Shuttle launches.  We burn 200 times that much fuel each and every day in just one province of our country.  I'll leave the ozone calculations to the reader unless I come back to it later in the week.  Suffice it to say, I doubt it will amount to much.

Of course, the value for shuttle launches needs to be included in the calculation.  Without shuttle launches we wouldn't have Earth Observation Satellites performing remote monitoring which gives us the very detail on climate change.  And I'm a strong believer in all that NASA Spinoffs have given to humanity, from better materials to health and medicine to entertainment.  That's a much higher rate of return on our atmospheric carbon than my teenage cruising trying to look cool.

Yes, I find the numbers mind boggling, but it's an important reminder that every attempt I make at conservation and energy reduction will have important effect on climate change.  There will be no surprise to my friends -- I'll be riding my bike to work tomorrow.


Alberta in a new epoch

by Mark Zaugg 5. May 2015 22:17
Yes, I know I've been quiet lately.  For really good reasons, unfortunately.  And it isn't over quite yet.

The days of having literally thousands of readers has passed me for right now.  I'm preoccupied with much more important issues to me personally.  So I'm a little surprised when I'm asked - from multiple people - why I haven't blogged on the Alberta 2015 election.

First off, it's true that I stepped back a little bit for now.  What is not open to question is that I remain a member of the only political party I've ever joined.  I am proudly a supporter of the Alberta Party and I firmly believe in the potential of a new energy in Alberta politics.

I'm so very proud of our leader, Greg Clark, to be the first elected member of the Alberta Party.  Tonight I called Mr. Clark the most upstanding politician and leader of a party I have ever known.  I happily stand behind that tonight.  Greg, thank you.  Thank you for sticking through three elections.  Thank you for having the nerve to stick through it all.  There must have been some tremendously gut-wrenching moments questioning whether you should run again in Calgary Elbow.  I'm glad you did, and I'm tremendously glad you've won.  I remain incredibly proud of you.  You, above all, remain my inspiration for something better in politics in Alberta and I hope you're soon joined by many more Alberta Party MLAs.

Second, congratulations to Premier-elect Notley.  May you be the first premier in 20 years that I don't dislike.  Please remember, my hopes for you are simple.  Please properly fund the programs that Albertans need.  Be fair to Albertans.  Stay approachable.  And most importantly, do not ever forget that your election was in significant parts hope for our future and a rejection of the past "dynasty."

It's well known and made clear that I believe that Alberta's Maintenance Enforcement Program is horrendously broken and does not fairly serve either parent.  We need a properly funded department that is responsible and accountable to both parents.  We need a department that is fair and even handed and does not worry primarily about covering their asses and focuses first upon serving our children.  My children.

I oppose silly unenforceable laws that get passed for vanity's sake.  Distracted Driving laws are useless if they can not be reasonably enforced on a day to day basis.  It offends me that prior governments have been more concerned about the vanity of the laws they've passed above the purpose the laws are meant to serve for Albertans.

I have very little faith that appointments to the public service will be non-partisan and for the good of Albertans as a whole.  Prove me wrong.  Give us managers and appointees who care about their communities.  Negotiate contracts with fair and reasonable provisions that specifically exclude golden parachutes that cost me and all other Albertans money directly from our pockets.  I work hard to make things better around me.  I know many in the public service who work as hard as I do to create positive change in their corners of the world.  Support the work and the effort, do not reward cronyism.

AISH recipients need and deserve our support.  No, it doesn't need to be a gold-plated reward, but I never want to see the cost of rent skyrocket while we nickle and dime those who most require our assistance.  Peg AISH to the rate of inflation and let all Albertans have a fair shot at a dignified life.

And the stuff I can't talk about on a blog?  How about contacting me and we'll talk about it?  Or at least be approachable so when I have a problem so I get a better answer than, "The system is working as intended."  I deserve a good life, just like every other Albertan in this province.

To Mr. Jean, please understand that even if I disagree with some of what you stand for, I'm equally in support of you.  I want a strong opposition and I'm cheering you on for your doggedness and determination.  Do not quit.  That specifically includes crossing the floor in the quest for power.  Just as I hope we never return to terrible government I felt I've suffered through, I equally hope that we never return to a weak and ineffective opposition.  Your role is important and critical for our governance.  Please, never turn your back upon it.

Mr. Prentice, I have lost every shred of respect I ever possibly had for you.  In resigning, you have proven you never came back for Albertans but only came to Alberta for power and the office of Premier.  You have refused to serve in the role you were given and that is shameful.  Bluntly spoken, shit happens.  If you don't like the sandwich you're served you either eat it and hope for better down the road or you go hungry.  I've had to eat a lot of really lousy sandwiches the past 15 years.  I'm hoping my next meal is tasty.  We need to spread around the prime cuts, not just horde them to a select few for 44 years.

Yes, the voter is always right.  It's past due that we look to new ideas and a new energy ahead.

In the end, I voted not necessarily for whom I wanted to see in power, but I voted strategically for whom I thought would do the best job representing me and my community.  I was one voice in over a million.  It might not be exactly what I wanted, but until the next election my MLA will represent me.  I sincerely hope she'll do a fine job.

I'll do my best.  Do yours.

Lift the Hat. Lift the Stigma.

by Mark Zaugg 10. January 2015 12:27

Hey Mack,

I never knew you personally, but I'm learning a lot about you in snippets of stories.  There's no doubt that I like you a lot.  We have a lot in common, I'm sure we'd be great friends.

Let's start with the hat.  I started wearing a hat to stop my ears from getting sunburnt all the time.  I love wearing a hat now.  You loved yours, I get it!  It's comfortable, it's convenient and it becomes part of your identity.  Your hat is yours, my hat is mine - the same but different too.  From here on out, I'll always have just a tiny thought of you when I put mine on.

Earlier this week I got watching #CHHSLetsTalk gather steam.  My daughter attends Crescent Heights, I admit I feel a solidarity where I'd otherwise feel no affiliation at all.  My hat's off to Brett Rothery, too.  What we saw this week was a crucially important conversation with some of the most affected of us taking part.  I had an opportunity to get involved.  I RTed a pledge from Zach Laing pretty early on, I tracked it as it gathered momentum and was really curious to see how a pure tweet dedicated to Mental Health Awareness would fare.  In the end, I was proud of the campaign and I'm proud of Brett for putting in the time and effort beyond mere clicktivism.  I matched what he raised, Ryan V. matched as well.  The three of us totalled a $321.00 donation - that's pretty okay in it's own right.

But this is my real donation.

I don't know everything about Mack, but I intimately know my own story.  It hasn't always been great.  Barring the best, most caring doctor I've ever known and some supreme support from my Dad and a few very close friends I would have not survived my fight against depression.

It has come and gone over the years.  Different rounds have been very different fights.  Today it's never soul-crushing and overwhelming the way it has been in the past.  I've got better coping skills now and I've got experience as to how things turn out given time and effort.  I can feel the difference between feeling bummed out and feeling depression set in and I've learned the first thing to do is talk about it with someone I trust.  The dread, the worry, the suffocation and hopelessness that used to paralyze me becomes less significant when I talk with someone who knows me and has an external viewpoint.

At my absolute worst, I needed help from my doctor.  I got lucky, he found a medication that worked for me and I stuck with it - even when I didn't feel I needed it - until I actually did not need it any longer.  I know that should I even need it, I have a tool I can rely upon again.  I'll be happy if I never need to, though.  I don't want to have to fight that hard again.

A few years back, when I started climbing out of my pit, I had went to visit my doctor.  I needed to refill my prescription and was back into financial issues at the time, but I knew it was more important to stick with my treatment so I rode my bike down to see him.  It was a longish wait that day, when I got in we went through our usual questions as how I was doing.  At the end of the visit he commented on me riding my bike - I had caught pneumonia previously and riding helped strengthen my lungs and get healthier.  He caught me with a very unexpected question, "Did you notice the guy who just left?"

Well, no, not really.  I was somewhat self-absorbed that day.

"He's fighting the same thing you are.  You know what he said to me when he got in here?  He said, 'There's a guy in the waiting room with a bike helmet under his arm and a smile on his face.  I want to be THAT guy.'"

I hope that guy knows that both him and I are in this together.  It's why having this conversation about mental health is so important to us all.  It's that outside perspective that matters so much!

It's also one of the many reasons I ride a bike.  It's entirely good for my physical and mental health.  I curl in the winter for the same reasons.  Going for neighbourhood walks (especially taking a borrowed dog for a walk) does the same thing.  Taking the time to care for myself physically helps me mentally.  Another tool in my belt to help myself, learned from another man's viewpoint of me.  Everyone's tool set is a bit different, we could use a hand finding what works for each of us.

Time with my friends means everything.  People who care, people who spend the time to talk, to touch base and keep life in perspective.  We all need friends like that.  We need to have these conversations on social media to change the world, but we need to have these conversations in person to change our circumstance.  Take the time to have those conversations, it will literally change our lives for the better.

So Mack, we never got to have this conversation together.  I'm sorry we didn't, I bet you had some really interesting insights that would help me.  Maybe this conversation will be someone who's not you and not me, but is in their own way just like us.

The most important part is that we start the conversation and never stop talking about it.

One parting shot: The downside of posting this to my blog is that it's publicly known and will never go away now.  There was once a nurse for an insurance company who was probing and intrusive and generally stigmatized the fact that I have "a history of mental illness."  She can kiss my ass.  This is about me, not about her, not about insurance, not about anything other than making each other's lives better.  It doesn't have to be a life sentence, it doesn't have to be an everlasting unchanging problem, it doesn't have to be anything more than one of life's experiences many of us go through.

Let's ditch the blame game and get back to healing and making life richer and more fulfilling - even those times when there are only lows, really lows and very, very lows.  The stigma just gets in the way of making it better.  Life usually does get better.

Lift the Hat.  Lift the Stigma.

My hat's off to you, Mack.

GSAs in Alberta, Bill 202 is better than Bill 10

by Mark Zaugg 6. December 2014 05:39

I'm a pretty ordinary guy. I love my kids, I work pretty hard, I try to do one thing every day to make Calgary a better place.

Yesterday that thing was to take half an hour at lunch, meet up with friends new and old, and attend Mike Morrison's gathering in front of the MacDougal Centre to support LGTBQ youth.  A celebration indeed.

I've read dozens of blogs better spoken than this one, better informed than this one.  I strongly recommend reading Mike's post, and Teagan and Sara's.  This is just a middle-aged, straight, white, single-and-okay-with-that guy trying to be decent by showing up to support some awesome people this week.

I need to make a few points. I've never been to a Pride Parade before. I've even expressed opposition to same-sex marriage in the past.‎ I'm not sure I've always felt comfortable going to one now and having someone poke me in the chest and say, "Hey, haven't you always been a bigoted jerk?"

Maybe so. Hopefully not. My point is it may have taken 46 years, but I just might be growing up a little.

I've given up old arguments of thinking there's a special sanctity in and of itself between "one man and one woman."  ‎I've been in good relationships and bad relationships, even good relationship that have become bad relationships. A good relationship works when two good people work on becoming better together. Better communicators together. Better parents together.  Better people together. It is the relationship between the two of them that matters most. It's the striving and the effort to work together.  When two people can find a positive relationship, that is more important than their sexes.

We are a social species. We need relationships with each other. Even the most strident hermit had a relationship with others at some point. Our relationships form us, shape us, enrich us, or wound and ultimately destroy us when we choose poor relationships for ourselves.  Learning to form better relationships is a life's quest.

And that is where the heart of my opposition to Bill 10 fell this week.  Laurie Blakeman's Bill 202 was about kids coming together and forming relationships anywhere they chose.  Healthy, positive, supportive, self-affirming relationships.  When positive relationships form early, we know it leads to better lives for all people involved.  The kids, the parents, the teachers, everyone.  It's not necessarily going to be perfect, but it can be better.

On the other hand, Bill 10 said you can form those relationships, but when you face challenges trying to develop your own relationships there was a series of steps of people who would affirm saying yes.  When they didn't say yes, the buck was passed to the next level to say yes.  When they didn't say yes, it would go to the courts - or the minister (who does not appear comfortable here) - to say yes.  And when they don't say yes outright, there might be a conditional yes where the GSA is formed offsite.  Or something, maybe.

I didn't particularly know what a Gay-Straight Alliance was a few months ago.  I'm still not entirely sure of how they're organized or how they work.  But when kids ask for a club that promotes tolerance and inclusion, the answer must be yes.  You don't need permission to do good things.  You don't need permission to make new friends.  You don't need a chain of appeals to insist you do the right thing.

We don't need reactionary, poorly written, clearly rushed laws.  We need results.  Kids meeting and forming better relationships with each other, building support, indeed saving lives is the admirable result we need.  All Albertans will benefit.

This blog is about me.  I might not attend every Pride Parade in the future, but I won't feel at all uncomfortable attending any longer.  I'll proudly wear the buttons I received yesterday and stand for equality.  Especially when equality means the right to gather together and to improve each others' lives.  Sure, I'm haven't been the quickest to adjust, but I have grown up and I can spot the right thing to do.

I'm three years older than the Alberta Government.  It's long past due for them to grow up and catch up with the majority of Albertans as well.  Bring back Bill 202, pass it, and get out of the way from letting Albertans make our lives better.

by Mark Zaugg 31. March 2014 17:03
Some time in the early 90's I became dissatisfied with the provincial government.  I wasn't really thrilled with 5 percent cuts across the board.  I was definitely unhappy with the direction post-secondary education was taking at the time.  The thing that really upset me the most was when I heard over and over again that the government was talking with ordinary Albertans.

"Well," I thought to myself, "They haven't been talking to me.  I'm an ordinary Albertan too, but they sure aren't acting like they're listening to me at all."

The good part about voting against the political dynasty is that it's very freeing - I could vote for pretty much anyone else I wanted to and it didn't seem to make a damned bit of difference.  Vote for the Marijuana Party just to throw out a protest vote?  SURE!  I don't even smoke it, but I got to vote for their candidate once.

It was two or three elections back where someone used the phrase, "A lot of Albertans are looking for somewhere else to park their vote."  I equally liked and disliked it.  I was very much parking my vote, but it was also very ineffective and really hadn't spurred much change.

Today, it's a whole different world.  We have genuine options with different visions of Alberta.  And, unlike so many elections in Alberta's past, we have a genuine chance to change our government and reshape our future.  Not that it's all been bad, in fact Albertans have for the most part been very well off and well governed.  However the revelations of the past few weeks have clearly shown that we can definitely do better.

So here's your chance.  If you don't like how the government has behaved you can create the change you want.  This is participatory - if you want change you must be involved to bring about change.  That's a good thing, it's time the government respects the people it represents.

My choice has clearly been the Alberta Party.  I like the new outlook, I appreciate they don't feel the need to demonize any of the other parties, I love the fact that there are members of all political stripes and they don't rigidly subscribe to Left or Right wing doctrine.  Pragmatism and a willingness to listen to alternative viewpoints and try to find consensus is a big change that appeals to me.

I appreciate not everyone will believe the Alberta Party is the best choice.  That's okay too, we don't all have to wedge into a single belief system.  What is clear is that Albertans are really looking for choice right now, and there are a lot of people working hard to be heard and to be better represented at the Legislature.  So, if you're looking around for choices, try out  It's a quick quiz and gives a pretty good idea of the kind of person affiliating with the Alberta Party.  If you're not a match, that's okay too.  Find the home that suits you best.

At the end of the day, we're all Albertan and we have more things in common than we have differences.

Holding Higher Expectations

by Mark Zaugg 16. March 2014 20:03
How can you not be sucked into the circus that is the Government of Alberta this week?  I keep waiting for the Keystone Kops to scamper across the stage flailing billy clubs and rubber hoses.  The title for this post was originally going to be "The Good Old Give and Take" which was meant to allude to the lame predictability of an austerity budget, followed by a fudgy number budget, followed with a good news budget and finally - just in time for the election - a break open the piggy bank budget.

Predictability has gone out the window this week.

I have long lost faith with the PC party in Alberta.  I don't know precisely when, but I believe I split permanently after Premier Klein cut five percent across the board regardless of consequence.  It seems to me it wasn't actually a five percent cut across the board - something twinges at the back of my mind that not all departments ended up with the actual five percent mark, but I'm more than willing to be corrected.  I know that five percent was not felt equally everywhere and I feel we are dealing with the consequences of that decision to this very day.

I didn't fit in with any of the provincial parties since then.  It has only been when the Alberta Party came onto the scene that I've felt I have truly been able to find a political home.  I like very much that my views hold weight, but I also appreciate the people around me share most of my views and we're more than capable to respectfully disagree when we don't share perspectives.

With your pardon, I'll first address my disappointments over the budget.  I am absolutely not a financial genius.  I have no great insight into the Alberta Budget as presented by the government.  My lack of understanding is the very point.  On every board I've been a member we get a budget presented periodically.  Usually, but not always, it is an annual budget with all the numbers presented in tabular format on a spreadsheet.  There is no split between the books - are a second set of books always looked upon most unfavourably?

In particular, inside the Alberta Party our budget was presented both annually and we get monthly updates on the status of the budget.  I am not expected to be a financial whiz, the books are presented to me in a clear and sensible format so I can make sensible and well-informed decisions.  Why is our provincial budget not the same?  I do not ask that every single Albertan will understand the budget as written, but I would expect that someone such as myself who has a basic familiarity with balance sheets ought to be able to  understand the state of the province's finances.

The problem goes beyond the bottom line of the budget.  It hardly matters if the government calls the budget balanced while so many Albertans question how they can possibly call it such when we are spending more than we are bringing in.  The problem goes beyond the spin.

The problem lies in the very culture.  The problem lies in the DNA of the government that drafted such a document and then pats themselves on the back to call themselves transparent.

In the Alberta Party, I'm spoiled with clear numbers and a willingness to work to find common ground.  Our party leader - Greg Clark if you weren't aware - presents an update to us every two weeks to let us know what's happening.  Greg is unflinchingly reliable to update us, he is consistently available and endlessly willing to assist us in anything we tackle that will help improve policy, engage Albertans, attract members, form Constituency Associations and, of course, achieve fundraising goals.  The culture, the attitude and the desire within the Alberta Party is entirely about creating something better, something more representative, more responsive to Albertans.

Now should you find a home within the Alberta Party as I have, I would be happy to welcome you.  This isn't simply a recruitment drive for Alberta Party members, this is a call to all Albertans to question just what needs to be changed to start getting better results from our government.

I expect the openness and willingness to communicate that Greg has demonstrated.  I expect clear budgets.  I expect collaboration and a willingness for each member to perform to the best of their ability.  I expect an open ear to every suggestion that gets voiced.  I expect everyone to be able to show their work instead of just blurting out an answer.

Our present government has been tone deaf to criticism.  The budgets are obfuscated and while claimed to be balanced, in whole they clearly are not.  Rather than collaboration and seeking the best answers we have endless sniping back and forth with political theatre in full force.  Over the past week there has been an absolute intolerable lack of respect within the Provincial workplace called the Legislative Assembly so extreme that I would expect to be fired should I act so shamefully at my place of employment.

Kids are afraid to attend Question Period!  Now I understand Question Period has been a staged farce for forever and a day, but imagine a government that would actually answer questions seriously and an opposition that scored points not for pouncing on failings but for presenting valid, well reasoned alternative viewpoints.  It sometimes happens, but not very much lately.  I got to watch Question Period this week, I made it about two thirds through it and felt disgusted.  Albertans deserve better.

Albertans deserve better than an insulated Premier who does not have the respect of her party, much less the respect of most Albertans.  You cannot demand respect, you are only paid respect through your efforts of earning respect.  I have not been a great fan of Ms. Redford, but her actions have convinced me she is incapable to represent me, to respect me and feels no need whatsoever to answer to me.

I had to search my own blog to find the Open Letter I wrote to her.  I'm shocked it's almost two years old.  I can't help but feel Premier Redford still believes she's striking the right balance so long as people on both sides of her are unhappy.  She appears to have reached the stage where the majority of people are unhappy with her now.

Just so you know, Ms. Redford, I don't think I'm willing to meet with you to talk any longer.  It's you, it's not me.

Cycle Tracks: An open letter to the Calgary Eyeopener

by Mark Zaugg 12. March 2014 05:03
Dear Eyeopener,

Earlier today Michael Stark did a opinion piece on why bicycles should not get separated bike lanes.  It started poorly and went downhill from there.

I cycle.  I drive.  I ride the bus.  I walk.  I commute back and forth to work, but also move around and about my neighbourhood a number of ways even when I'm not commuting back and forth to work.  The point of travelling using multiple means of transportation is not to give an air of authenticity to my argument, it's very much to emphasize getting around is much easier when I can travel in the most appropriate way possible.  When I have my children or heavy loads with me, it is far easier to drive.  When I am commuting on my own, driving is wasteful, expensive and slow.

Mr. Stark decried those bikes zipping past him while he was stuck in traffic.  It's true, cycling is faster downtown in rush hour.  Sometimes much faster.  In real numbers, it takes me 20 minutes to ride from my home to my office at 8:00 am every morning.  Driving that same route at the same time took me 35 minutes the last time I tried it.  Then I had to find parking and walk from my parking stall to work on top of that time.

My office does not have showers, however we do have enclosed parking for bicycles and we have a change area.  I can wear appropriate clothing for cycling then change into something appropriate for work.  Or those who know me better know I somewhat underdress for work and stay comfortable and productive all day.  It's true that I'm fortunate to work at a great office.  Days when I have to dress in a suit means I'd have to slow down and not get to work all sweaty.  Suits on bikes are not uncommon.

Lack of showers or secure lock up areas are a reason to improve available facilities downtown, and are not a valid reason to eliminate cycle tracks.

As for cyclist behaviour, I ride daily along 9 Avenue SE through Inglewood.  I strictly follow the law while hundreds of drivers each and every day break the law.  Let me reiterate that, literally hundreds of people breaking driving laws by speeding, driving in incorrect lanes, cutting off other drivers, or failing to yield to pedestrians.  I ride safely and legally.  I'm more than willing to take the lane when safe to do so.  Sorry for your luck if you are tailgating me in your car, driving in the bus/bike lane on 9 Avenue, blowing your horn and blowing your gasket.  Drivers are not supposed to be in that lane whatsoever and they are at fault, not the cyclists.

Yes, all travellers need to follow law and get about the city safely.  There is a dangerous imbalance when a vehicle weighing thousands of pounds meets a bicycle.  Separating lanes means we have a clear segregation where bicycles are expected and cars can travel.  It prevents overly aggressive or overly timid interactions between commuters.  It's beneficial to me as a cyclist and it's beneficial to me when I'm driving.

Mr. Stark chooses to drive and not cycle.  His choice and his perceived suitability for commuting choices has no bearing on the need for segregated bicycle lanes.  Those of us out there appreciate the safer, quicker, standardized routes to ride and many of the drivers out there appreciate cyclists being in their own lanes where they are not likely to swing into their driving lane.  It's necessary.  We need to encourage more ways to commute into downtown so more people can make more appropriate commuter choices.

We can't keep expanding roads without starting to eliminate the very downtown the roads are built to serve.  Better cycling infrastructure is just one of a number of great ideas aimed at improving access to downtown.

 - Mark Zaugg

Bigger than a plane ride

by Mark Zaugg 4. March 2014 21:03
Well, this has certainly been shaping up to be an interesting week in Alberta politics.

On Monday, Premier Redford's bad polling numbers were released and they were a shock even to me.  Now, I personally have not been a fan of Ms. Redford and I have lost faith in the PC party years ago, but I was still surprised to see such bad numbers in Alberta of all places.  We're long famous for political dynasties and turning on a dime, but this feels different to me.

One thing is absolutely, abundantly clear: There is a great deal of anger with the cost of Premier Redford's flights, especially her $45,000 trip to South Africa.  I don't begrudge her for going, in fact I actually applaud her paying her respects to Nelson Mandela - a man I also look up to very much.  There are times you drop everything and make sacrifices in order to pay respect to someone important.  But Albertans as a whole should not be sacrificing for our Premier to pay her respects.  Even she has said there were mistakes made.  The consequence has been that all her expenses are getting an extremely thorough examination now, and that is absolutely appropriate as well right now.

In my personal view, Ms. Redford needs to be accountable and repay every penny.  I absolutely cannot say, "I'm sorry" and refuse to pay my debts.  Sometimes it hurts to do the right thing, that doesn't mean you should dodge doing the right thing.

But right now, I'm already looking beyond the money.  I am in no way minimizing $45,000 - that's most of my salary for a year!  Instead I'm doubting our Premier's judgement when it comes to making choices about how she travels.  I'm doubting our Premier's judgement about what she considers a valid expense and an invalid expense.  More important than the money is the wheedling at the back of my mind that says I cannot trust financial decisions that are being made.  That's a hard knock the week before the budget comes out.

But there's another factor to this, too.  There's a three ring circus where everyone is trying to get their shots in and to drag down the Premier by pointing out every single failing and misgiving.  It can be a lot of fun to volley back and forth on the #ableg hashtag on twitter, but lately I've just found it tiresome and distracting.

This past Saturday I met with other Alberta Party people and Greg Clark was an inspiration to me.  I felt angry, frustrated and upset with Premier Redford's spending.  Greg not only set the example, but he really focused in on the bigger picture.  The Alberta Party has it's own set of challenges as a small, challenging party, but we have great ideas and tons of energy and a willingness to do right for all Albertans.  Greg didn't obsess over the expenses, and said something to the effect that we're trying to build a better Alberta, not tear down everyone else around us.

So on that note: Premier Redford will make her own decision on whether to pay the money back or not.  I don't control her and I won't pillory her over her choices.  I will personally make better choices and focus on making things better for all Albertans.  I won't ever put myself into the situation where I have to pay back so much money, and if I ever do need to pay money back I'll do it promptly without the need for someone else to cajole me into doing the right thing.  And I will definitely do absolutely everything within my power to keep my promises.

Yes, there needs to be transparency and accountability, but the need for accountability cannot get in the way of good governance.  The value of good stewardship is much, much greater than an expensive plane ticket.  There are many good people willing to step forward and provide the great leadership that this province needs.

Positive change is far overdue in Alberta's child welfare system

by Mark Zaugg 10. January 2014 06:42

When Karen Kleiss and Darcy Henton wrote their Fatal Care series, I felt devastated, sad and very angry.  I knew I had to write about my feelings over it, I had no idea what to say or even how to go about saying it.

Now there are further details of deaths outside of the parameters of the Fatal Care series.  The deaths of 741 Albertans troubles me deeply.  I'm appalled they were children or young adults.  I'm sickened because children taken into the child welfare system are supposed to be there for their own safety and protection.  Children enter the child welfare system for serious reasons.  It happens by the authority of the Government of Alberta, which is supposed to be on behalf of all of us.

I want to believe that a child would only enter the system when they were in a situation of little hope, given a chance to excel and become one of the very friends and neighbours I value.  I know the struggles and sacrifice a couple endures just to be willing to open their home to a foster child.  I want to believe every foster parent meets the standard of adoptive and foster parents I have known through the years.  I want to believe every child that enters the system has a chance to graduate and find a career that suits them and affords them a life of happiness.

I know that no matter how altruistic I could feel on my very best and most selfless day, I would never be capable or willing to take on the role of Foster Parent.  In no way am I diminishing those who excel at making childhood better.  It must be a very, very hard job that must be equally rewarding or no one would ever bother.

I'm far from surprised there have been problems with the child welfare system.  It's not a far stretch for the imagination to make.  We knew of 56 official deaths of children while in care, those are the children that we were told "fell through the cracks."  Learning the number was higher thanks to the Fatal Care series was shocking, but believable.  I can't think of any parent who would be pleased to have a child enter the system.  No parent would want a case worker to show up on your doorstep unannounced for any reason.  It is not a place you want your loved ones to be.  Knowing the problem is much more wide-ranging than we thought even two months ago is heartbreaking.

There is a very simple rule in Information Technology: Be cautious about what you choose to measure.  The metrics you use will be far less meaningful if they are measuring the wrong thing, or focus too much on one facet and neglect a more important piece of the puzzle, or if the measurement itself can be gamed.  Now we learn the government was not adequately tracking the numbers and could not even answer Ms. Kleiss's question of how many children had died in foster care or after they were involved with the child welfare system.  This has been an epic failure to collect and process data, and we are all the more ignorant because of it.

That's just not acceptable in this province.

These are not simple situations.  You don't wind up in the child welfare system because you forgot to brush your teeth after dinner.  I will not simplify what surely must be complex and broad-reaching decisions, nor will I demand a simplistic resignation of a current or past minister.  That has to be a tough, tough position to hold and I sincerely thank those who have been willing to take up the role.  On the other hand, I will not accept another study on the matter that gets stuffed up on a shelf and gets left on a pile of other ignored studies; Alberta's children deserve better.  Neither shall I minimize the role the child welfare system plays in saving children's lives every day in this province.  There have been 741 tragically unacceptable outcomes since 1999, but I still do not have a clue of the total scale of the problem.

Karen Kleiss and Darcy Henton had to scratch and fight for every scrap of information every step of the way.  That was flat out unacceptable.  Ministers and spokespeople hid behind privacy laws and barred parents from talking about their own children's deaths.  That is unconscionable.  My deepest gratitude for their persistence and starting what I hope is the start of reform.

I do have some credit to offer.  I was pleased with Heather Forsyth's call for a public enquiry.  She will understand much better than I the issues involved and it takes considerable courage to step forward and look for ways to make improvements - particularly with the possibility of exposing past mistakes.  I'm grateful for her insight and would do whatever I can to assist.

I was extremely pleased to read Manmeet Bhullar's stance on making data public today.  He said, “I strongly believe that better and more data leads to better decision-making."  I agree, this is a great start.  I also insist that this problem has been created over fourteen years of not being forthright and honest and Mr. Bhullar has a deep deficit to overcome.  We can overcome it, though.  We must work together, using our best and brightest, and we must resolve the problem of children dying while in Provincial care, but also the obfuscation and lack of transparency that has masked the true extent and has prevented an honest and open look at making lives better.

This problem was created over fourteen years.  We do not have fourteen more years to solve it.  Lives are literally on the line.

Canada's Worst Driver Ever? Canada's Best Lesson Ever.

by Mark Zaugg 16. December 2013 01:22

I absolutely adore Canada's Worst Driver.

Often I hear, "But you hate reality TV.  How can you watch that?" Or sometimes "I can't stand that show.  I can't stand when they make fun of people like that."  Or even, "I can't watch the show, it terrifies me that people like that are on the road."

Yes, it terrifies me that there are drivers out there like that.  It particularly frightens me when I'm cycling beside some of those people.  By the regular participation on the show from Calgarian drivers, that very well may be a literal interpretation of cycling beside them.

I'm certainly not making fun of a single one of them.  I very much like the people they have from year to year.  Sometimes they drive me crazy, some make horrible personal decisions, but in large they are very likeable people who are very, very bad drivers.

The culmination of Canada's Worst Driver Ever comes tomorrow and I can hardly wait.  I've very much enjoyed the approach they have taken with this season.  Rather than pointing and laughing at the worst, the show continues to focus on training and celebrates the success each driver achieves.  The big difference this time is we've seen them all before and this is the second go round for them.  Today my son and I watched the second episode where we celebrated one of the drivers who took her ugly trophy home and used it to motivate herself into learning how to be a better driver.  She was rewarded with a well-deserved graduation.

And there is the point I want to make tonight.  Canada's Worst Driver has taught me skills to improve my driving, yes, but it has taught life lessons along the way too.  Who can forget Shelby riding a bike?  Or Sly saying, "Look where you want to go... One of those things that the Dalai Lama would probably say."

Life is learning.  Life is driving forward.  Take the opportunities at hand and leverage it to your advantage.  If you're going to be successful, follow through on the lessons, take responsibility and do your work.  And above all, always, ALWAYS look where you want to go.

I'm hoping to see three drivers do well tomorrow.  Should they drive poorly, I'm hoping they put in the effort this time to become safer, better drivers.  See you on the #CWD hashtag tomorrow.


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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