Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The best 10 years

I got my new passport today! The embassy here was pretty quick.  I am still amazed at how fast 10 years has gone by.  It was pretty exciting, I had to get extra pages in my old passport because it was full!  It is interesting to think about how the next 10 years will be?  Where will I be in 2022?  How close will I come to filling up this passport?

And now for the top 10 memories from the past 10 years from my old passport.  I looked at the stamps and old visa stickers and came up with the top 10 most exciting memories.

10. January 19, 2006. Brussels airport.  This was when I flew to Brussels to do an internship at the European Parliament, I was hoping Brian Beard would be there to welcome me and take me to my apartment.  He had taken the money and disappeared.  There was no one there. I checked my email to see if he had sent anything, and then I asked a taxi driver to take me to a cheap hostel.  There was a nice group of French students so I decided I could sit in my room depressed or go out clubbing with them.  It was a fun night and a crazy way to start an internship.  Everything eventually turned out great (except for the lost money, sorry Dad).  I did learn my lesson though.

9. July 17, 2004 "US Immigration Chi Admitted" This was when my mission was over and I went home.  It was a sad time, but a good feeling to hear "welcome home"  It was nice to see family, walk on soft carpet and eat all the great foods that I had missed.  The welcome home was not enough to keep me happy and I had to go back to Estonia.

8. May 6, 2006. Lietuva.  This was my first time to Lithuania.  I took a bus from Tartu to Vilnius with my friend Merry, we went just for a day and walked around their old town and went to a huge mall.  It was a last minute trip and I'm glad I went.  I got some really cheap ties from a Maxima store! I think they were about 2 or 3 dollars if I remember.  They are still some of my favorite ties and have held up really well over the years.

7. February 3, 2009. My first trip to Turkey.  There was a good deal on Air Baltic so I went with my friend Andres (also from Tartu).  It was awesome to get away from the Estonian winter.  Istanbul is an amazing city.  I had no idea that I would get to go again in 2010.  Hopefully it won't be my last time.  We stayed at a cheap hostel where you had to pay more if you wanted to rent a towel!

6. Visa Russian Federation. May 14-August 8, 2007.  This was the Visa for my St. Petersburg study abroad.  I had to get additional pages for the visa because they would only put the Visa on pages marked Visa.  It makes sense but I figured that the empty pages at the back would have been fine.  I flew into Estonia and then took a bus to St. Petersburg.  My luggage got lost so I had to go to church in street clothes and I got my luggage an hour before I had to get onto the bus to go to St. Petersburg!  The study abroad started off poorly, I didn't like my teachers or the strictness of the program but it turned around after my parents put my name on the temple prayer role.  Right at that time we took a fantastic river boat Cruise up to some huge lakes north of St. Petersburg.  It was really amazing.  The rest of the study abroad was great.  It helped my Russian skills and I am very glad that I went.  I am still on love with Borsh!

5. April 14, 2008 YKPAIHA (Ukraine).  I was living in Riga at the time and took a break to go to Odessa Ukraine.  Thank you Air Baltic again for super cheap tickets! This was really awesome.  I went to a really neat castle in Belgorod Dnestrovski which is 80 km outside of Odessa.  It was probably the best castle I have been to. 

4. February 14, 2006 Koprivnica (Croatia).  This stamp looks pretty different from the others.  While doing the internship in Brussels there was a 2 week break where they didn't need me to come to work.  I took a Hungary-Croatia-Slovenia trip.  My Croatia stop was in Zagreb, the Capitol.  I went to a club and met some nice people, they went to this other place that was a crazy mix of a small club and outdoor bar.  It was one of the few times where I didn't feel safe and was thinking to myself (you idiot!).  I still have no idea how I ended up in that place.   I didn't know how to go back to my hostel so I waited until my newly found friends were ready to go then they showed me the way to the right bus stop.  This place was really one of a kind.  Cement floor, people were throwing beer bottles and just letting them break on the ground.  There was a gypsy band playing.  There were some crazy people there of all ages.  I'm glad that it all turned out ok.

3. May 16, 2005 Россия This was my first time to Russia.  I was doing a study abroad in Estonia at the time, I had applied for my living permit but had not gotten it yet (there was a problem with health insurance).  I was over the 90 day limit for being in the country and I wasn't sure if I would be let out of the country, or back into the country!  Luckily everything was just fine.  It's nice to have a US passport sometimes.

2.  June 18- 16 September 2009.  Japan Immigration inspector.  This was a sticker that I got when going to Japan!  The sticker gave me the right to be in Japan for 90 days, I was there only 2 weeks.  It was an awesome trip to visit my sister and her family in Tokyo.  My favorite was the crazy water park with fish that would eat the dead skin off your feet as well as tea, coffee and wine pools!  I got to stay the longest out of everyone because I came right from Estonia.  I think Jeff felt bad so he 'lost' his passport, missed his plane found his passport again and then got another flight for home a few days later.  I totally understand, it was an awesome trip!

1. August 21, 2002.  Eesti Vabariik (Republic of Estonia).  My first time in Estonia, I came on a bus from Riga Latvia on my way to Tallinn.  I passed the Ikla border crossing.  I remember the green trees and the open fields.  Little did I know the enchanting powers of this mystical land would bring me back and that 10 years later I would still be living in Tallinn.  Right now my apartment is just a 5 min walk from my first apartment I lived at back in 2002. 

Check back in 10 years for another top 10 update

Monday, February 27, 2012

Eurovision fever!

Eurovision will be here before we know it! Estonia is in the process of choosing their song for Eurovision.  They already had the semi finals and have narrowed the choice from 20 to 10.  Here our top 3! hopefully one of them will make it.




Saturday, February 25, 2012

Who should be Mitt's VP choice?

We don't know if Mitt Romney will be the Republican nomination, there is a chance that Rick Santorum will win in Michigan and will then go on to win in Ohio, North Dakota and more.  If Gingrich drops out of the race after Super Tuesday Santorum could catch up to Mitt very quickly in the delegate count (by March 24th).  But it still looks like Mitt will be the nomination.  Mitt will win in Arizona and do well enough in Michigan to increase his delegate lead significantly.  He also is guaranteed to win many states on Super Tuesday (Virginia, Massachusetts and Idaho for example).  Of course the chances of any republican candidate beating Obama is very small.   But with that being said it is still interesting to speculate who will be Romney's VP candidate.  Since I believe Romney will lose, I think this choice will have a bigger impact on the GOP than the actual election this year.  The VP candidate would be in a very good position to run in 2016, or certainly would be in a position to be very influential in the party.

While many who read this blog may be very fond of Romney he is a very weak candidate with many flaws.  He does not have a very good record of winning elections (Lost to Ted Kennedy, lost in 2008 to John McCain, did not run for reelection in Massachusetts).  He has changed his political stance significantly on several issues over the years and has a very different platform now compared to his in the 1990's when he ran for the senate as a moderate republican.  While he himself is very religious, and this might be the most important part of his identity, he rarely talks about his religion because it is considered to be a hindrance with a large part of the GOP electorate.  Romney also comes from an elite family and is worth up to 250 million dollars.  All of the above issues cause Romney to come across as a fake, and make it difficult for many voters to feel a connection to him.  This is particularly true in certain areas of the country (Bible belt, rust belt).  These are very important portions of the electorate map.  If Romney wants to beat Obama he has to shore up his weaknesses as a candidate as well as shore up his standings in these critical areas.  Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Michigan will be important swing states this year.  With these thoughts in mind here is a list of potential candidates who could give Romney a boost.  McCain tried to get a boost with Sarah Palin but it backfired.  Had Romney been the VP candidate he may have been able to help convince the electorate that a McCain-Romney team was best to deal with the crumbling economy.

1. Marco Rubio.  Rubio is a star.  He is a Cuban-American and would give much needed diversity to a GOP ticket.  This would also be good in winning over parts of the Latino electorate.  The Latino electorate is very diverse and Romney won't get their vote anyway because of his harsh illegal immigration rhetoric, but by picking Rubio he will be able to minimize the losses.  Rubio has high favorability ratings and most importantly comes from Florida.  Romney did well in Florida in the GOP primary, a Romney-Rubio ticket would give them a good chance of taking the state in the general election.  Some potential problems with Rubio could lie in his inexperience.  He was elected to the senate in 2010, started work in January 2011.  Before this he worked in the Florida state legislature.  This might make him vulnerable to attacks that he is not ready to be president.  These were very effective against Sarah Palin in 2008.  He also does not seem interested in the job.  For Rubio it might be better to just wait until 2016 anyway.  He already has star status so what would losing with Romney do for him? 

2. Niki Haley- The current governor of South Carolina would give Romney the diversification needed, as an Indian-American woman she fits the bill perfectly.  South Carolina is a state where Romney has high negatives, but it is not a swing state.  She is only 40 and was just elected governor in 2010.  This makes her a more diverse version of Sarah Palin.  Gov. Haley does have more business experience than Sarah Palin, which is helpful in this election environment.  This pick can be seen as high risk low reward for Romney.

3. Chris Christie- Romney has to seriously be considering Christie for the VP slot.  Christie declined to run for president, he most likely would have been the nomination if he had.  He is a favorite of the tea party movement, he offers all of the strengths of Romney with almost none of the negatives.  This would solidify Romney as a pro-business fiscal conservative.  Christie would also go over well with social conservatives and evangelical Christians as he just vetoed a bill to allow gay marriage in New Jersey.  On the other hand, Christie is not overly popular in his own state (especially with women, another group Romney needs to do better with),he is also over weight and is another white male.  He would not be able to deliver a swing state and might not be able to help Romney too much in the areas of the country where he needs the help the most (Bible belt, rust belt). 

4. Susana Martinez- She is the governor of New Mexico and is very similar to Niki Haley.  She would help with the diversity question, would be from a swing state and be a nice complement to Romney.  She also was elected in 2010 and does not have too much experience.  New Mexico is a state that will be hard for Romney to win anyway, especially with former Republican New Mexico governor Gary Johnson running as a Libertarian candidate.  Johnson could get over 10% of the vote in New Mexico, most of which coming from Republican voters.  The state also only has 5 electoral votes which means it is not a make or break state for any candidate.

5. John Thune- Senator Thune from South Dakota has super star status in the GOP because of his victory over the former Democratic senate minority leader Tom Daschle in 2004.  Thune is from a part of the country where Romney needs to shore up his favorability.  South Dakota though is a state that has no meaning in a general election, only 3 electoral votes and it always votes Republican.  Thune would help Romney's favorability ratings in general with social conservatives and would also fit well with Romney's image of a fiscal conservative (I disagree that he is a fiscal conservative, but he has been successful in establishing that image).  Thune would be a very solid choice with no negatives, but also with a limited upside.  He is not from a swing state, does not offer up diversity either.  Romney has a lot of things going against him and needs a home run for his VP pick.  This is more like a double or triple, but no home run.

6. Bob McDonnell- The governor of Virginia comes from an important swing state and is popular in his state.  As a candidate he would be less exciting than Thune and would not complement Romney very well.  McDonnell got his MBA in Massachusetts and would not expand Romney's favorability into the Bible belt or the rust belt.  McDonnell could also be open to criticism on some social positions from independent voters. 

7. Rand Paul- One of the most interesting aspects of the campaign is the truce between Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.  They do not attack each other and at times it seems as if Ron Paul acts as Mitt Romney's attack dog.  Ron Paul and Mitt Romney do not have much in common.  They are worlds apart when it comes to foreign policy and they have significant differences when it comes to the role of the government and the role of the executive branch.  Despite this there are reasons for them to have a truce.  Ron Paul sees Romney as the eventual nominee and wants to buddy up to him so he can then hope to have a larger role at the GOP convention.  Romney knows that Ron Paul draws his support from a different group of the electorate so there is no reason to attack him or criticize him.  For Romney, having Ron Paul take down Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum is certainly worth giving a speaking spot to Ron Paul at the convention.  This is a classic I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine.  But what if there is something even deeper to the alliance?  I just read today that there is a chance that no one will get enough delegates.  Ron Paul could then give his delegates to Romney in a back door deal that would see Rand Paul as his VP pick.  Also, what if Romney thinks that Ron Paul’s electorate would be a good compliment to his?  the choice of Rand Paul as a VP pick would increase Romney's chance with independent voters, tea party voters and limited government voters.  This would prevent Gary Johnson from stealing New Mexico's Republican vote and would ensure that the libertarian vote would go to Romney.  Perhaps Rand Paul, as a doctor, could deflect some of the critisism that Romney faces on his Romneycare-Obamacare similarities.  Rand Paul is also very true to his principles which is something Romney lacks, and something voters are looking for.  This would also help Romney's money problem.  Some think that Romney is running out of donors because there is only a certain number of people willing to donate 2,500 for an election.  Ron Paul and Rand Paul would enable Romney to tap into an unlimited amount of small donations.  Every time Ron Paul has a money bomb fund raiser he raises over a million dollars based on small donations.  Ron Paul's support is often described as deep but not wide, there are not a lot of supporters but the supporters that are there are very dedicated.  Not many people get excited about Romney and many view him as the best available.  A Rand Paul VP pick would enable Romney to tap into the Ron Paul phenomenon.  This could help in certain swing states like Nevada, New Hampshire and New Mexico.

There are certain down sides to Rand Paul as well, even though he is more moderate than Ron Paul he still makes many in the establishment uneasy.  He is not from a swing state and there is no guarantee that the Ron Paulites would transfer their enthusiasm and money to Romney, even if Rand Paul is on the ballot.  It would also be a challenge to mesh Romney's Neoconservative principles and Rand Paul's libertarian ideology.  Perhaps Rand Paul could turn a blind eye (he is an ophthalmologist) to Romney's foreign policy and find a compromise on fiscal policy, perhaps with an audit of the Fed. 

8. Rick Santorum- Romney and Santorum have been going at it, but things haven't gotten so bad where they couldn't be on the same ticket.  Gingrich and Romney have already developed negative feelings so strong that they may not even be able to endorse one another.  Santorum in some ways is a perfect complement for Romney.  Romney is a rich fiscal conservative from the North East who also has popular support in the West. Santorum appeals to the working class and the social conservatives in the rust belt.  He would shore up support in two important parts of the electorate in a critical part of the country.  His social conservatism leaves him vulnerable to attacks from the media and could make him a liability among women voters and independents.  He also lost his last senate election by 18% and probably would not be able to deliver Pennsylvania. 

9. Tim Pawlenty- The former governor of Minnesota is only on this list because I wonder if there was a back door deal in the early days of the election.  Pawlenty dropped out of the election quickly and endorsed Romney shortly after that and has been a strong supporter ever since.  While it would be more than foolish to offer a VP slot at such an early junction in the campaign, Romney may have thought that a Pawlenty endorsement could help him seal the deal early on.  Pawlenty is also from a swing state and perhaps Romney over estimated his ability to deliver Minnesota and increase his favorability in the rust belt.  Pawlenty wouldn't be able to deliver Minnesota and would be create the most boring GOP ticket since Bob Dole and Jack Kemp in 1996, maybe even since Ford and Dole in 1976.

10. Bobby Jindal- The young governor of Louisiana would certainly meet all of the criteria in a VP.  He is from the South, he would help with diversity, he is very smart and capable.  He would also fit Romney's economy first campaign.  The reason why he is number 10 is because he was a strong supporter of Rick Perry.  It would be more than awkward for him to then support Romney after endorsing Rick Perry.  This is something Obama could exploit. 

Who do you think should be Mitt's VP choice?  Leave a comment

Happy Birthday Estonia!

Yesterday was Estonia's independence day. Estonia is now 94 years old. They had a concert that was kind of weird. All the songs were in Estonian but many weren't really patriotic and the style was kind of boring. The president gave a nice speech and it was followed by the presidential reception. Basically all the important people in Estonia shake the president's hand. It is kind of like a wedding reception line. It goes on for about 2 hours or so. It is always interesting to see if I know anyone there. Also it is cool to see how people dress. Some wear national clothes and some wear fancy dresses or tuxedos. I didn't see Tunne or Mari-Ann Kelam there this year.

This is Sven Mikser, he is the leader of the social democrats and maybe the next prime minister of Estonia.
Tiit Land is the Tallinn University Rector (president).

US ambassador Michael Polt

Marianne Mikko is a member of the Estonian parliament, former member of the European parliament and also a doctoral student at Tallinn University! Sometimes she comes to our doctoral seminars.

I don't know who this is but she had a nice dress.

Keit Pentus is one of the hottest politicians right now. Young, smart, good looking and not afraid to wear yellow! She is the minister of environmental affairs. I think she also has a good chance at being the next prime minister in Estonia. She is a member of ruling party.

I also have no idea who this is but she had a nie dress. Halloween colors are always a hit right?

These were some sisters from Southern Estonia in traditional Estonian colothing.