Total Pageviews

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: The Year in Review (Or: Why Earl Hasn't Been Blogging)

Yes, this is how old I was the last time I blogged...

2008 has been a weird, wacky year. In late January, the Alberta Liberals asked me to run in the provincial election - in Premier Stelmach's constituency of Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville, no less.

The Premier chose not to show up for our debate.

With little preparation and only a few thousand dollars to spend, I was realistic about my chances. But my family and friends really came through for me, Sylvia most of all, and I treasure the experience. In the end, I lost by a mere (cough) 10,000 votes or so.

And of course, the Alberta Liberals lost the March 3rd election by an even wider margin. (This photo of us watching the results come in ran in the Edmonton Sun. They really captured the moment...) For the last few months, we've been dusting ourselves off, figuring out what went wrong, and doing our best to serve as responsible opposition. That's what public service is all about.

One good thing happened on March 3rd - Sylvia started her new job. And she's performed superbly thus far. Sylvia is a very dedicated public servant doing important work for the Alberta Pensions Administration Corporation, and I couldn't be prouder of her.

Losing the election also meant I had the freedom to attend Gaming & Guiness III over at Steve Fitzpatrick's place...unfortunately, I wound up with a horrifying headache just a few hours into the fun. The rest of the gang had a good time, though, geeking it up with tiny armies of orcs, trolls, and space beasties.

Norma and Claire, who served as Sylvia's bridesmaids at our wedding, presented us with an evening at the Fantasyland Hotel as a wedding present, and we finally took advantage of the opportunity in April. Huge hot tub!

Later in April, I was seized by a bout of temporary madness and attempted to combine two of my favourite board games - Bruce Lee Game! and Zombies!!! - into one mighty epic, Bruce Lee vs. Zombies.

"What the hell? I can't possibly win, even if I roll all tens!"

With typical eloquence, Mike expresses his opinion of my creation.

Playtesting did not go well. There's a reason that professional game designers exist. Oh well - it was nice to see Colin again, anyway - he made several trips back to Edmonton this year.

In June, the University of Alberta Press launched a collection of Lois Hole's speeches, edited by political writer Mark Lisac. I couldn't be happier with how the book turned out - Mark did a superb job. Bruce Keith, my old colleague at Hole's, was kind enough to send me a couple of shots of the event.

A couple of times a year, Sean and I visit our parents to annoy them with shenanigans, and Sylvia tags along to watch with stunned bemusement.

And then there was Pete, and his sinister list.

Sylvia's dad celebrated his 65th birthday this year, so we went over and jammed. I cannot actually play guitar, which is why I'm not posting the video. Mr. Boucher is very good, though.

Yolande came back from her studies in Ottawa to visit, and Sylvia and I enjoyed a delightful lunch with her. She's such a sweetheart, and she's going to be a great journalist.

Along with the election, the biggest event for Sylvia and I was our first anniversary, which we celebrated with a trip to Honolulu. By bizarre coincidence, presidential candidate Barack Obama arrived for a vacation of his own just a few hours after we did. So, acting on impulse, Sylvia and I braved the heat and the crowds and wound up just a couple of metres away from Obama at the one and only rally he'd give during that visit. It was quite an experience. The man's an incredible orator, and it was fun picking out Secret Service agents.

Of course, there was a price to pay. It wouldn't be a real Earl vacation without an agonizing case of sunstroke.

We also took a submarine voyage. Here's Sylvia on the sub deck, preparing to board. We only went 100 feet or so below the surface, but it was still pretty cool - especially when the sub made that "ah--OOOOO-ga" sound and the pilot shouted "Dive, dive dive!" It had all the makings of a James Cameron epic. I got a kick out of the very excitable Japanese tourist, who shouted in rapid-fire wonder, waving his arms over his head at the sight of the artificial reefs, tropical fish and giant turtles.

Sylvia enjoyed playing on the beach most of all. She's so tiny that the waves tossed her around like flotsam (or is it jetsam?). I had to rescue her a few times, and she wound up with so much sand in her ears that a post-vacation trip to the doctor's office was necessary. "I've never seen anything like this in my entire practice," the doctor said, laughing as she flushed the pebbles out of Sylvia's ears. "Oh my God, Sylvia. Oh my God. What were you doing?"

On August 11th - the actual date of our first anniversary - we attended a luau. The food was merely okay, but the entertainment was great. Those fire dancers are pretty awe-inspiring.

Like good tourists, we also splurged on a helicopter tour. The views were beautiful, but I was most interested in the history - it was quite something to see Pearl Harbour from the air, and to follow the route the Japanese Zeroes took during their 1941 sneak attack. And of course, I was thrilled to witness pop-culture touchstones such as the dock the SS Minnow departed from (seen above) as well as Gilligan's Island itself, and the forests of Lost and Jurassic Park.

Our hotel had a great little restaurant - I loved the virgin strawberry daquiries, and drank them up like liquid candy. Delicious.

On our last day, I took a quick solo tour of Pearl Harbour and downtown Honolulu. The USS Arizona memorial was a quiet, sombre place, as you might expect, so it was a good thing that I ended the trip with some Hawaii Five-O shooting locations.

Our parents and my brother came over for Thanksgiving for food and Wii bowling. Mom turned out to be pretty good, which isn't surprising given her real-world bowling experience. According to family legend, she once cast a strike in the wrong lane.

We celebrated Sylvia's 40th birthday in October, and this unidentified young woman joined in the revelry. Sylvia's blue hair was clearly a big hit.

On Halloween, Sean was attacked by a miniature skeleton. Oooo, scary!

In December, Albertans (at least those who were paying any attention) learned that Dr. David Swann would take over from Dr. Kevin Taft as leader of the Alberta Liberals. David Swann is a wonderful man, a terrific human being, and I have high hopes for his leadership. A warm, gentle, and overwhelmingly compassionate man, David is the kind of person that makes you proud to be an Albertan.

Kevin Taft made me proud, too, and Albertans owe him a great debt. Kevin took on the toughest job in Canadian politics, rebuilt a party that had been on life support, and led the official opposition with integrity and honour. He would have been a great premier, and I feel deeply privileged to have worked for him. Thankfully he's staying on as MLA for Edmonton-Riverview for at least this term, so Albertans will still benefit from his insight and dedication.

And of course, there was Christmas. A new tradition is developing: Sylvia's parents visit for Christmas Eve, then we head to my parents' place for Christmas day. Always a pleasant way to end another spin around the sun.

Santa Sean

May 2009 be a year of peace and fulfillment for you and yours and all the citizens of Earth.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Annex

I co-wrote and directed this video, prepared for last night's Legislature Press Gallery Christmas party. After a couple of weeks of hard work and stress, I wasn't at all sure whether or not the crowd of MLAs and reporters would like it, so I was very relieved when people laughed at all the right spots - and quite enthusiastically. My coworkers told me that Premier Stelmach, Health Minister Ron Liepert, and a number of reporters and broadcasters all had very nice things to say.

Whew. I was worried, because the video I prepared in 2006 was, frankly, terrible.

There are a few inside jokes here, since the video was directed at MLAs and members of the media, but there are still some chuckles for the wider Alberta audience.

I'm very grateful to Amanda Krumins, who came up with the idea of parodying The Office, to Kim Dewar, who acted as cinematographer, to Derek Volker, who handled the props and music, and to the Alberta Liberal MLAs and Alberta Liberal leadership candidate Mo Elsalhy, who were such good sports about the whole thing.

I'm most grateful to Kevin Taft, who provided the hobbyhorses and indeed the idea for the hobbyhorse scene. Kevin's self-effacing sense of humour really shines here.