This might be the only way we’re going to get through all of this.

There are more than just two parties in the 2008 U.S. presidential elections

Secrecy Envelope

One of the things that blindsided me when I was able to vote for the first time in the 1996 U.S. presidential elections[wiki] was that there were more people running for president than I was aware of. The fact of the matter was that I was a very young voter who was a few months into my senior year of high school, and it was important to me to vote. Still, I was astounded that I had never heard of any of these other people, parties, or what it was that they stood for.

It’s true that Ross Perot[wiki] had his run with the Reform Party, and the Green Party always seems to be popping up here and there. The thing is that the U.S. election system is not a strict, one or the other choice. There can be, and there are, more parties to choose from other than just Democrat or Republican. Yes, in America, there is an unspoken, multi-party system, and if wasn’t for the massive amount of personal wealth that Perot used for his own campaign in 1996, his third party probably wouldn’t have ended up as front and center on Saturday Night Live skits, yet alone in the debates. It was also great entertainment, not to mention a boost to ratings.

More than two parties to vote for

In the district in which I am able to vote via absentee, I have nine, total options to choose from. It’s true that there is a write-in, and that is an amazing option that we have in the U.S. system. I once had a good friend write in Trent Reznor for president and Henry Rollins as V.P. You can call that a waste of a vote, but it’s still an exercise of your right to let the government know how you feel.

Outside of the two main parties and the write-in, my ballot has seven other parties to choose from. Hardly any of them are covered by the mainstream media outlets, and not one of them were involved in public debates with the other big two parties, yet alone chased around the country with TV cameras, dissecting every move they made.

Straight ticket voting It makes me go back to that day when I was able to vote for the first time. Who were those people? What did they stand for? You mean there is an option other than these other two guys I’ve been essentially forced to choose between?

Folks will tell you that is just the way things are and the two party system is how the world works, and it makes sense to me why there are people across many generations who are disillusioned with a system where you have to choose between two entities that they would rather not vote at all. It’s personally hard for me to comprehend that apathy, especially when that write-in exists, no matter who it is that you want to write in.

At the same time, you have other options. Look into the other parties who are running under the mainstream radar. Some of them might seem completely crazy, but if you are one deciding not to choose “between the lesser of two evils” by not voting at all, give it some thought, register to vote, and cast your ballot for who you want to represent you.

The Hope Slide

On our way home from the long weekend in Osoyoos, we made the effort to finally stop at the viewpoint for The Hope Slide. This would mark about the 6th or 8th time that I’ve gone passed it, so we finally followed through on the thought of stopping to get out and take a first hand look at this incredible, natural disaster.

Rubble at Hope Slide

Missing parts of the mountain

It’s such an impressive sight when you first lay eyes on this scarred side of a mountain. It gets even more confounding when you get more of the details behind this event that happened 43 years ago.

The Hope Slide was one of the largest landslides ever recorded in Canada. It occurred in the morning hours of 9 January 1965. An earlier, small avalanche had forced four people to stop their vehicles a few miles southeast of the town of Hope, British Columbia (150 km east of Vancouver), on a stretch of the Hope-Princeton Highway below Johnson Peak. As those people contemplated waiting for clearing crews or turning around, a small earthquake below the mountain triggered the main slide, which obliterated the mountain’s southwestern slope.

The slide buried the victims and their vehicles under a torrent of 46 million cubic meters of pulverized rock, mud, and debris 85 m thick and 3 km wide, which came down the 2000-metre mountainside . This mass of debris completely displaced the lake below with incredible force, throwing it against the opposite side of the valley, wiping all vegetation and trees down to the bare rock, then ‘splashed back’ up the original (now bare) slope before settling. […]

Rescue crews only found two of the four bodies—the others have remained entombed in the rock, with their cars, since 1965. [wiki]

Hope Slide

Hope Slide

The Hope Slide

Mother nature is forever unpredictable. Awe inspiring and frightening, all at the same time.

I’m a blogger in Canada who can vote in the U.S. elections

It is curious, isn’t it?

With that dig on bloggers, I thought that I would point out something that struck me funny about McCain, being the hockey fan that I am.

If the need arises and the range is close, Mark Salter will edit John McCain in midsentence. After 19 years at each other’s side, neither man gives it a second thought. When a writer for The New Yorker was interviewing them last year about their latest best-selling book, the talk turned to hockey and the Arizona senator’s admiration for Wayne Gretzky[wiki], who coaches the Phoenix Coyotes. “Wayne Gretzky is one of the all-time best American athletes!” McCain proclaimed. But even before his boss finished speaking, Salter had spotted a slip-up: the hockey legend is from Ontario. “Yes,” Salter interjected, “Gretzky is one of the best American athletes … from Canada!” [newsweek]

We’re in the home stretch for the 2008 U.S. presidential elections, and this will be my first time to vote in a federal election as a U.S. citizen and a permanent resident of Canada.

I’m trying to get everything in order to get my voting out of the country lined up so I don’t miss the boat. If you are one of these such people, be sure to check out the Federal Voting Assistance Program. The site is dedicated to folks like myself to get information about how to get your absentee ballet by the time the elections hit in November.

With Obama choosing Biden as his running mate, the end is in sight for this battle. And as a blogger, I hope I can put out the message to those U.S. citizens around the world to pickup on your opportunity to help shape the future of the world, no matter who it is that you would rather see win.

This would include third, fourth, or fifth parties. In fact, if you have someone you’d rather write in, I say go for it. I once had a buddy put down Trent Reznor[wiki] for president with Henry Rollins[wiki] as VP.

What a glorious world that would have been.

The point is that you have the right to vote. That power is your voice to say how you want things to be ran, and this applies to any country with some form of democracy. With the possibilities of a Canadian election on the horizon, this notion has greater baring than just my home country.

To go along with the spirit of the elections, CommonCraft produced another great video about the elections, putting the whole process into plain English of how the U.S. president gets elected.

Electing a US President in Plain English from leelefever on Vimeo.

There you have it. Now get out there and rock the vote.

What tornado damage looks like from the inside, as it happens

The Des Moines Register posted this video on their site of the security cameras from inside of a bank that was destroyed during the tornado in Parkersburg, Iowa over the recent Memorial Day weekend. The video is astounding. You can see what the wind can do as the windows are blown out, and then the tornado hits the building dead on, eventually taking out the cameras.

Update: The Des Moines Register also posted this video footage from the same storm that destroyed much of Parkersburg, Iowa. It’s truly shocking.

Tornado that hit Parkersburg, Iowa destroyed all city hall records

It’s been a tough few weeks in the Midwest of the U.S., and some might say a year if you consider the tornado that nearly wiped Greensburg, Kansas[wiki] off the face of the earth almost a year ago.

Over the past weekend, storms have been hitting close to home back in Iowa, and the reports keep painting the picture clearer as to what happened in the small town of Parkersburg, Iowa. Growing up, you know about these things and understand what they are capable of. This is a bit different.

Rescuers continued picking through the wreckage in search of possible victims, but officials said they were hopeful no one else would be found. In addition to those killed, about 70 people were injured, including two in critical condition.

The damage in this town of about 1,000 was staggering: 222 homes destroyed, 21 businesses destroyed and more than 400 homes damaged. Among the buildings destroyed were the city hall, the high school and the town’s sole grocery store and gas station.

“There’s so much hurt here, I don’t know where to start,” said U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, who owns a farm near New Hartford. [myway]

What is even more astounding is that not only was the city hall destroyed, but so was all the data records.

All records stored at Parkersburg’s City Hall were lost in Sunday’s tornado, officials confirmed this morning.

Backup computer information might be available, they said, but the first order of business will be the massive cleanup effort that awaits.

At a community meeting this morning, officials announced that a system has been established to let property owners inform crews when they have finished trying to salvage belongings. Resident were instructed to register at the Veterans Building community center for special green and tan lawn stakes that signify when property is ready for demolition. [desmoinesregister]

I’ve been through my share of storms and seen the damage these things can do, but I cannot fathom what it would take to have damage on this wide of a scale. Houses and barns are what you expect, and it never feels typical when it happens. No matter how small the town is, it’s still a town, and it’s hardly a town now.

If you would like to help out with the cause, please consider pledging to the Red Cross who is helping out with the disaster recovery.

Satellite view of before and after the cyclone in Myanmar

What follows below is a before and after shot from space of the area that was devastated by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar about three weeks ago. The first photo is from April 15, 2008, and the second photo was taken on May 5, 2008, just a matter of days after the cyclone slammed into the country. Credit to Paul Kedrosky who created this image from NASA satellite photos.

Myanmar, before and after the cyclone

I simply found this image shocking. The thing is, conditions are not that much better for a lot of people in the area, but help is slowly getting into the country. The military controlled government is making the overall situation tough in terms of allowing foreign aid into the country, and the same can be said about letting much information out of the country for the rest of the world to really get a sense of the conditions there.

I did a bit of searching and the best thing I could come up was the website that is probably having the most success in getting relief to the area. You can find out more on their website here as well as a way to help donate to the effort.

Russia builds huge bombs, switches up the government

A few days ago, Russia announced to the world that they had a new, massive, non-nuclear bomb that puts any other bombs out there to shame.

Russia unveils the ‘father of all bombs’

Russia’s military yesterday announced that it had successfully tested a lethal new air-delivered bomb, which it described as the world’s most powerful non-nuclear weapon.

In what appears to be the Kremlin’s latest display of military might, officials said Moscow had developed a new thermobaric bomb to add to its already potent nuclear arsenal.

Russia’s state-run Channel One television said the new ordnance – dubbed the Father of all Bombs – is four times more powerful than the US’s Mother of all Bombs. [guardian]

Then when you see the following headline a few days later, I find it very intriguing.

Putin dissolves Russian government, names new PM

Russian President Vladimir Putin has accepted the resignation of the country’s prime minister and named the head of a financial market watchdog as his replacement, the Kremlin said. […]

In his place, Putin nominated Victor Zubkov, an little-known economist who has headed the country’s financial monitoring service since 2001.

The move sets the stage for Putin to set up a favoured successor in the high-profile prime minister’s office before upcoming legislative elections in December, followed by a presidential election in March, the CBC’s Nick Spicer reported Wednesday from Moscow. [cbc]

Makes you think a little.

Iowa City ranking in the tops of the midwest

Living for a number of years in Iowa City[wiki], it’s news like this that I am happy to share.

Prairie Lights Books, Kurt Vonnegut and Sugar Bottom Recreation Area have long been household names for Iowa City residents.

Now, as Outside Magazine’s top town in the Midwest, Iowa City’s treasures will be known by readers from New York to Seattle. […]

The magazine described Iowa City and the other towns as “smart, progressive burgs with gorgeous wilderness playgrounds — and, yes, realistic housing and job markets.”

Apart from mentioning James Alan McPherson and The Englert Theatre, the magazine highlights the statewide push for alternative fuels. The magazine also said unique recreational opportunities included Sugar Bottom’s bike trails, Lake Macbride and the Iowa River.

If that’s not enough of an endorsement, Outside’s editor Christopher Keyes gives his own shout-out to Iowa City in a “Between the lines” segment: “… move to Iowa City. Some of the happiest people in the world live in Iowa City.” [iowacitypresscitizen]

Out of the entire state, Iowa City is always a place that I would consider at the top of my list to go back and live. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Vancouver lifestyle. I often find myself feeling nostalgic by memories triggered by somewhere around the lower mainland. Of course, it takes a little bit more than a five to ten minute drive away from downtown to reach wide open spaces in Vancouver, but there are elements here that consistently remind me a little bit of Iowa City.

I often wonder what it will be like when I get back there next and how much it will have changed. A tornado struck the heart of downtown the summer after I left, so I expect that amount of change. The next will come with changed businesses and buildings, but the demographic seems to constantly be shifting in a very distributed way. Such is the way of a university town, and the rest of the state can be a vast departure from this.

Even that is reshaping as those who flee to the coasts are coming back home. There is something to be said about midwest hospitality. Of course, you have to be able to stand the wickedly hot summers and sometimes brutal winters, and it’s something you never get used to as much as come to expect.