Category Archives: Political Action

All of Us

Here we are now, after the election, all of us in the same boat. Some are stunned that their unlikely candidate won. Others are stunned that they could be so blind, or so arrogant in their confidence. Being in the second group, I vacillate between fury and despair.

In traffic for work last Tuesday, the mid-90s, 1/2 ton pick-up in front of me taunted me with a variety of conservative bumper stickers. One stood out in particular: “Visualize No Liberals.”

This is about all of us. Visualize all you want, but you will never wake up and find yourself transported to a world conveniently devoid of people who are different than you. The world around us is the way it is precisely because those different people shared ideas, tried things out, got it wrong and still had enough tolerance for each other to try something else. People who value the same things that you do have good and bad ideas, just like people who value different things. It’s not a perfect world but by almost every objective measure- it is the best it has ever been.

The bumper sticker pissed me off because it seemed this person would much rather entertain a fantasy than take responsibility for getting to know the other half of the citizenry their government represents. A fantasy I’ve also let myself entertain on occasion, and that has never proven useful.

Strangely, I am thankful the election has forced me to reconsider my thread in the fabric of society. What do I want to stand for as an engaged citizen? Why do I (usually) cheer for the left side of the aisle?  What are my fundamental political priorities? I wanted to get a short list on the record (in no particular order):

  • Public policy rooted in real science that is peer-reviewed, transparently documented, and repeatable
  • Fundamentally equal treatment of all people by the government
  • A clean, safe, and healthy environment for people and wildlife
  • Infrastructure development that promotes urban density, defends farmlands & wildlands, and accommodates long term economic and population growth
  • Publicly-funded education that reflects and encourages the exchange of ideas amongst diverse groups of students.
  • High quality, accessible, and affordable healthcare for everyone
  • Proponents of rational and balanced foreign policy that minimizes military action at every opportunity
  • Maintain a capitalist market place, focused on upholding enforceable contracts, with subsides carefully considered as warranted for true public well being
  • Maintain a basic social safety net that supports disadvantaged people getting back into the workforce
  • Balance the federal budget, every damn year
  • Political discourse that is thoughtful, respectful, and remains focused on stuff that government actually does

In 2016 this seems like too much to ask of our government, but if no one asks- it always will be.

This is not a post about the silver lining. I’m still angry that America was foolish enough to elect an inexperienced misogynist. I’m more angry that just less than a quarter of eligible voters were able to take a fat, wet shit on 40 years of progress towards pretty much everything I care about. The responsibility I have to give a voice to these priorities just got heavier, and the weight is scary.

I have been trying to have more conversations with people outside of my bubble- and no one is arguing “yeah, I want dirtier air to breathe and worse schools for my kids!” Neither have I spoken with anyone that has said “I just wanted to vote for racism.” More often than it seems, we want the same things, but the method is different. I won’t ever tolerate bigotry, but I also won’t visualize a world without conservatives- their perspective is too essential in getting a true majority of people closer to what we all collectively want.



(This post is about activism. First and foremost, please vote on Tuesday- it is the most important and functional form of activism. I really don’t care how you vote, just make sure you do it.)

The crisp air smelled of sage and yellow like the larches that rolled past the windshield of the work truck. I had spent the day working with a new employee, and the 3 hours in the car together left ample time for a deeply meaningful conversation that spanned religion, environmentalism, social justice, and fatherhood. One more sign that we are not your average construction company.

Something worth standing for.

Something worth standing for.

I joked about a stop at the local brewery on our way home, and Sam* politely offered to join me, but that he didn’t drink. We didn’t stop. After years of alcoholism, he’s been sober for a year and loving it. He pointed out that alcohol in America is a tragically powerful, chronically unrecognized drug that our culture is disturbingly casual about. I couldn’t agree more.

Thursday I posted a link on Facebook about Apple CEO Tim Cook publicly acknowledging his sexual orientation- a move that I applaud and that supports our cultural evolution away from institutionalized bigotry. One line in his statement stood out in particular though – “I don’t consider myself an activist, but I realize how much I’ve benefited from the sacrifices of others.” In the age of the “self-made millionaire” it’s unfortunately rare to hear one of the titans of business acknowledge the unknowable and invaluable contributions of others to their success. We all, even the titans, need each other. Secondly, he recognizes that we have a cultural aversion to activism.

The greatest blow our culture has suffered from the conservative movement is that activism has become a dirty word. That Mr. Cook’s statement has been heralded (even as I herald it) as admirable belies an assumption about speaking out. That making our most authentic and passionate desires known is an act of boldness, rather than an act of normalcy, is sad to me. We all have things that mean something to us. Our actions will always stand for something. In the pursuit of living fully, the greatest tragedy might be that we might let our lives slip away without being honest about what we stand for.

Sam’s commitment to sobriety reminded me of a commitment I made last year. No-booze No-vember. Some people prefer to celebrate “Movember” by growing mustaches, but I’ll re-up my commitment this year to stand for something a little bigger. I’m all for moderation. I also regularly enjoy good craft beer or locally produced wine. Alcohol warrants serious respect and taking a month off of drinking seems like a fitting way to check the casual cultural attitude that tends to prevail.

Join me. Or not, but think about what you stand for, and don’t be quiet about it. Our lives are too amazing not to stand for something.

*name changed out of respect for privacy.


If you’ve followed the site for a while, you might notice a few changes today- is now  You can expect to see some custom layout changes, some video content, and soon- an updated professional page for friends and small businesses.

Elke lays it out for our group.

Elke lays it out for our group.

Last year, I wrote a lot about New Leaders Council – Montana and the important relationships the group has helped me cultivate in the Western Montana community.  This year, I’m on the board and have been coordinating speakers for the seminar series and setting up mentorship for our fellows to foster some of these awesome relationships for other people.  One of the notes I took during last years seminars was to continue to build the strong personal brand that I started here in 2011.  Part of that is owning this domain, and committing to keeping the content fresh and growing.  No, building my brand does not mean slighting my work at Energetechs- if anything, my work there is only growing deeper, stronger, and more meaningful.  I think having a strong personal brand will only compliment that work.

While facilitating the NLC sessions has certainly absorbed quite a bit of my discretionary time, we’ve had a weekend full of amazing presentations with leaders from the following folks.  A huge thank you to the following people:

Stephanie from The Truman National Security Project
Bryan&Erin from AERO & WVE
Russ & Tynille from Energetechs and Monkey Bar Gym Missoula
Susan from United Way of Missoula
Gen&Josh from Garden City Harvest
Elke from MamaLode

Many people complain about the economic environment in Missoula, but I am continually blown away by the quality of leaders and entrepreneurs that we have met with.  Please check out the awesome things happening at each of the above organizations.

Learning to Sell

I spent yesterday manipulating an overly aggressive chainsaw against a sisyphean task. Doing this left me with a lot of spare mental capacity. Thoughts drifted from the jobsite to Alaska, my damaged left foot, the woman I’m crazy about, and finally to engineering sales. Yes, engineering sales.

I’ve always poo pooed sales, particularly engineering sales- but it’s fast becoming what I am most excited to do. My boss agrees with me that this is what we need most at work, and is probably the fastest way to shift my employment away from operating agro chainsaws.

If we vote with our dollar, sales is how you campaign. After 9/11, the nation looked to the White House for leadership and George W. Bush could have said anything. In a gross statement of American consumerism- he told us to go to the mall and shop. “Bolster the economy.” The socio-economic/political consequences aside, the moment highlighted the point that one of the most consequential actions we take is how we spend our money. If I really want to change the world, I’m not going to do it by inventing some new design- I’m going to do it by educating people about the value of design and technology available to us right now.

Sustainble building design is interesting- I really believe that “the trick” to sustainable buildings is to find satisfaction and elegance in practical, elegant, designs that maximize use of basic materials and simple technology. Part of the challenge is that these most important elements aren’t particularly new and it’s hard to evoke intense emotion . The things we need most already exist.

If I learn the design of something, I can only effect that thing. If I learn to sell- I can affect everything I touch, and I can change the way people act on their beliefs. Sometimes “the goal is to keep the goal the goal”*- and sometimes the goal is to figure out what the real goal is. I don’t know if this is the birth of my career as a salesman, or maybe just a new awareness in my business interactions, but moving forward the topic of sales is going to be big on the horizon.


*quote by Dan John.


Despite a dismal forecast on Saturday, I coerced Ky into heading out to check on ice conditions in Finley Creek, just north of Missoula.  Last year, this area provided an important training ground for getting regular time on my tools.  It’s been really warm this fall and while I was hoping the north aspect would hold at least semi-formed climbs, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  The photos tell it all-


The black streak is where the GrainEater is supposed to be- taken yesterday December 2, 2012.

This is the GrainEater in early season, but fully climbable conditions- taken Nov. 27, 2011.

This was taken from the same vantage point (approximately), on Nov. 27, 2011.  While this is thin compared to what the climb would be, it was fully climbable at this point in the season last year.

There was almost no trace of ice in Finley Creek on Sunday- a few wisps of ice hinted at the location of the climbs, but nothing that even resembled a “route”.  It seems reasonable to say that we are 3-4 weeks behind last season in route growth.  We spent most of our time hiking in a 40 degree rain storm.  Ski conditions are marginal, and “unseasonably warm” almost seems like a misnomer because it’s hard to be sure what season we are actually in.  It sure seems like the planet is telling us something.


Several hundred vertical feet and a two miles up the canyon we finally found some semblence of winter, but only barely. I made it to the lake in trail running shoes.

Whether or not there is ice in the hills around Missoula in December isn’t alone an indicator of climate change- I won’t pretent that for a minute, but with plenty of other evidence around, it seems plausible there might be some connection to my little backyard ice playground.  The lack of societal concern about climate change is thoroughly frightening to me.

Last night I saw a I saw a short piece from the Rachel Maddow show that aired just after the elections last month (really, click the link).  I couldn’t agree with her more.  For all the junk science, and political posturing we’ve been exposed to, and which I’ll try not to propagate here, I think she hits the nail on the head- “There are real problems in the world. There are real knowable facts in the world. Let’s accept those and talk about how we might approach our problems differently. Let’s move on from there.”

(Ed. note- This was not the post that I had aspirations of writing, but I wanted to get the photos up.  More on this train of thought hopefully later this week)

Buy Your Vote?

There’s been a lot in the news this week about money in politics.  I couldn’t help but feel a bit of pride in my newly adopted state after reading my current governor’s piece in the New York Times, and I continue to be frustrated that a large portion of the Wisconsin recall war was funded by out of state donors.

I also couldn’t help but notice the disgust that welled up in my stomach after following the link to this headline: “Romney Tops Obama in May Fundraising.”  Why does this rather benign report on the national campaign get under my skin?  At the very root of it, the headline implies that the money raised has something to do with the likelihood of winning- that the cash of the candidate, rather than their character is what the American people will ultimately use to make their decisions.

“Success generates more success?”  Bullshit.  I’m not thrilled about either candidate- I find Romney outwardly scary and dangerous, and Obama to be mostly sneakier and more polished.  I’m sure you can guess who I’ll be voting for this fall- but it has nothing to do with who has more money in the bank (unless they are running their campaign on debt).  The party establishments would like to use all this cash to by my vote (and yours).  It is both sad and likely that this transaction will likely proceed in many homes around the country- people that don’t take a moment to stop and think about what a headline like this is really all about.  The notion that fundraising matters, that my vote depends on how many slick (or vicious) television ads I see, is a logical fallacy of popularity (“vote for the guy with more money- everyone’s doing it!).  I may not be happy about my choices, but the cash offer just doesn’t pencil out, so I’m not selling.

I don’t really care who you vote for so long as you look at the legislation they intend to introduce and accept what that legislation means to our population as a whole (does it endorse bigotry?  I’m not really about bigotry…).  And vote- make it to the friggin polls.  I didn’t get registered as a Montanan to vote in the primaries, but you can be damn sure that won’t be the case in November- I was sad to miss that deadline a few weeks ago, and admit my mistake here as motivation not to miss it again.  I’m also excited to congratulate two incredible women I am privileged to call friends – Kimberly Dudik and Jenifer Gursky, who have stepped into the arena of vying for public office, and won their primaries this week.  I feel much better knowing a few of the folks I believe will be representing my community in Helena next year.


The first piece of art I hung in my room was the reminder I've needed the most lately.

Somehow, life here in western Montana keeps picking up the pace- I haven’t planned it that way, that seems to be how life goes for me in the city.  Wrapped up in the NLC conference over April 21 and 22, adventures were largely confined to evening activities- thankfully the days are already long here and we get usable light until about 9pm.  Running up over Sentinel and rock climbing in Kootenai Canyon made the days spent inside more bearable.

Thoroughly worked by the time I got to the top of Mt. Sentinel.

The week sped by with equal parts of packing, fundraiser planning, and getting a massive proposal out of the office (it looks good, fingers crossed).  Our NLC fundraiser on Friday night was quite the success, thank you so much to everyone who donated!

The 2012 NLC-Montana Fellows. What an inspiring group of people to share ideas with.

Proper moving operations absorbed all of Saturday, and a huge shout to my friend Andy for bringing his subie and trailer combo over, as well as donating the best part of a Saturday afternoon.

Really glad I didn't move 550 miles like this...

Despite spending most of my day cold, scared, and exhausted getting on some hard sport climbing (no photos… my mind was elsewhere)- Sunday was still a great day of climbing with Steve in Kootenai.  If I have high goals for pushing my grade climbing, Steve is the guy that’s going to make that happen- thanks a bunch dude. I burned out early and Steve had family commitments, so we were back in town by 330- leaving me time to enjoy dinner with my friends Jeremy and Crissie, and make it to a really special event (not my local running site, but Bridger Ridge had the best description).  Geoff Roes is a titan in the sport of ultra-running (running races longer than a standard marathon)- he’s been someone I’ve followed on and off for years, and he had an amazing win in the Western States 100 trail run 2010.  His competitors were just as much part of the story, and the story was so good they made a film about it.  The Wilma Theater was packed, the strength of the running community here is amazing, and an avenue I haven’t tried to plug into yet.

Three of the best long distance runners in the world. Geoff Roes, Tony Krupicka, and Hal Koerner at the Wilma Theater on Sunday night.

If nothing else, the training volume (30-40 hours per week of running) these guys put in is unbelievable, and gets me re-thinking some of the training I’m doing towards my own goals.  To be certain, they know a thing or two about pacing, and priorities- and the event gave me a mental push I need lately to hopefully dial the pace back a bit.  That’s all for now, cause I’m late to work.  Thanks for reading!