Saturday, September 29, 2012

Berry smashing

It is fall in Estonia.  That means lots of rain, but not much else.  They don't really celebrate Halloween or Thanksgiving.  They also don't have football.  So it is a bit different than the states.  I thought I would post a blog on my favorite fall activity in Estonia, berry smashing!  In Tartu on the way to church there was one of these berry bushes right next to the side walk, so every Sunday I would always smash all the berries.  Now on the way to work there is the same type of berry bush, so over the next few weeks there will be a lot of berry smashing.  Below is a before and after of the berry

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Absentee ballot!

I got my absentee ballot today!  I already cast my vote and I will send it off tomorrow.  For those wondering I voted for Obama! I taught a class on US Foreign policy last semester and I made a deal with my students that I would vote for whoever won in our class election.  Of course Obama won so he got my vote.  But personally I am neutral in this race, I have problems with how Obama has handled the economy and I have big problems with Mitt Romney's foreign policy.

Obama: the economic crash was not his fault, but I would have liked to see him handle things differently.  He had to bail out the banks because if they would have failed everything would have failed, but I think he should have broken up the big banks that were too big to fail.  I think he should have focused on the economy and not health care.  I think his health care bill should have focused on reducing costs and not expanding coverage (we spend 17% of our GDP on health care!! France is second with 11%).  He should have tried to enact real permanent reforms to boost confidence and provide a platform for an increase in production. Obama was all about temporary programs, temporary tax cuts to try to fix things (partially because the Republican house was hard to deal with, but he did have the first two years with a Democratic congress, he just wasted time on health care reform).  I also think he doesn't trust the market enough and overestimates the ability of government spending to get the economy on track.  The size of the national debt also worries me.  His foreign policy has been pragmatic, although still very aggressive.  The mass protests against our embassies right now show that our foreign policy still bothers a lot of people (collateral damage from excessive drone strikes for example). 

Romney might do a little better on the economy, but only a little.  (Energy and regulation policies would lead to higher growth but that might lead to problems down the road)  He would slash taxes, raise spending on defense which leads me to believe that he has the same view on budgets as Obama, as long as the economy is growing they don't matter.  They just have a slightly different strategy on how to get the economy growing again.  Of course the biggest problem with Romney is his foreign policy.  He believes that America is safest by preventing non democratic countries from increasing power (China and Russia).  He also believes that America needs to dominate the world to maintain the global liberal order.  I think these strategies were ideal for the post WWII world, but are not needed anymore.  I think with nuclear weapons we will never have to worry about a full fledged war with China or Russia.  China and Russia both have enough problems that they will never increase their power to a point where they would threaten our security (a multi-polar world would not threaten us, a unipolar world with China or Russia as the pole would).  I also think that the global liberal order is established enough to keep it operating without a dominant US.  Romney's extreme support for Israel could lead to more conflict and certainly will lead to more anti-US sentiment in the Middle East.  This all has a cost.  It might be $200 a barrel oil, it might be another war, or future terrorist attacks. His aggressive policy towards China and Russia could cause trade wars which would hurt the very liberal order that we are trying to maintain. 

I would have liked to see a candidate with a different idea about both money and the role of the US in the world.  I think the US should try to stimulate the economy by external sources of money, rather than just printing it (FDI, tourism, recapitalising money invested abroad by US companies).  Also, tax reform (different from tax cuts) would have been nice to see.  I would have liked to see the US cut spending in unproductive areas (defense spending in Europe, Japan, and almost everywhere) and then invest that spending into areas that could increase productivity (worker training, education, energy efficiency, tax reform, and so on).  No one will every be able to answer the question why do we need to spend over 1 trillion every year on our foreign policy. (Defending Taiwan and Israel are not good enough answers). 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Best Star Trek episode ever?

I got the complete series of Deep Space Nine for my birthday and it is amazing how much I haven't seen or how much I don't remember.  I guess it has been 10 or 15 years since I have seen parts of it.  Anyway it is simply fantastic.  We just started season 4 (of 7) and I think that it may have been the best episode of Star Trek ever!  Lt. Commander Worf got transferred to Deep Space Nine (the Next Generation Series ended so they transferred his character to Deep Space Nine).  Also in season 4 the writers came over from the Next Generation, so I think the quality got a good boost.  It was amazing to see how all the old story lines added up into one amazing episode.  It was double long, so it really felt like a movie.  It was actually better than a movie.  It was just amazing.  Here is a clip I found from YouTube!  Enjoy.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Magic in the air!


Yesterday was week one for the 49ers.  They played a tough game on the road in Green Bay.  Last year Green Bay was 15-1, and some were predicting that they would be 16-0 this year.  The last time the 49ers won in Green Bay was 1990! That is a long time ago.  But yesterday was the 49ers day.  They won 30-22 and played a fantastic game on offense, defense, and special teams.  It was clear that the coaching staff was prepared for the game and had a great game plan.  Winning a game you were supposed to lose is amazing.  And it was clear that it wasn't a fluke or a bad call that got them the win, they just outplayed, and out smarted the Packers.  Beautiful game.  If they can do this on week one then what might they be doing come February?  SUPER BOWL!!!!  You can say there is magic in the air in Niner Nation.  I didn't get to watch it or listen to it but the highlights were good to see.
  • Alex Smith had a perfect game 20-26, 211 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT
  • A great game from Frank Gore 16 carries 112 yards, 1 TD
  • The return of Randy Moss, 4 rec 47 yards, 1 TD
  • David Akers record tying 63 yard field goal!  I don't know what the Eagles were thinking when they let him go.  He had a record setting year for us last year and he is doing it again this year. 
  • Another awesome defensive performance.  We played most of the game without Patrick Willis to put an extra defensive back on the field, and it worked well.  Why would we take the best ILB out of the game? Because our other ILB is actually better!  Bowman had a monster game with 11 tackles and an INT.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

An awesome day!

Today was a very nice day!  Nothing major happened, but lots of little things.
1. It was super warm and sunny!
2. Part of the side walk on the way to work has been closed for the last few months because of some construction to a building next to it, today it was open again for walking!
3. Estonia decided to extend my living permit, meaning I can now legally live in Estonia for another year!  Even though I speak Estonian, have a job, am married to an Estonian, and have lived in Estonia for about 6 years now I still have to renew my living permit (visa) every year.  But the process is pretty easy and they are pretty quick with their decisions.  As long as they keep approving my living permit I am OK with going every year!
4. And lastly, it was new sponge day!  Doing the dishes with a new sponge doesn't seem like a chore at all!

Monday, September 3, 2012


It is fall in Estonia!  clouds, rain and chilly weather.  In the US you know it is fall when football starts, but in Estonia you can tell by the weather.  Summer is over.  I think fall is one season that is definitely better in the states.  Halloween, football, Thanksgiving, better weather all makes for a nice time.  Estonia is a wonderful place, but more so in the summer and winter.  But despite the weather and lack of football I am excited because the start of school! I teach my first lecture of the semester on Wednesday.  We won't have our nice new building like we were hoping.  They are pretty slow about building it, but hopefully for next semester.  September will be pretty easy and things will pick up in October. I got bumped up to full time so it will be a busy year!  Happy Fall to all!