Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! We hope everyone had a nice Christmas this year.  Now for some highlights from our Christmas festivities. We are enjoying a Christmas with no snow in Estonia, it makes driving easier.  We opened up our presents early because we didn't have room to take them with us to southern Estonia.  We got lots of nice things, thank you Mom and Dad!  We really enjoyed church on Sunday.  We had a lot of nice music and nice talks.  Then we watched the Christmas Devotional.  After that there was a really nice lunch.  We had a record number of people there, we hope it will help us get a nice addition to the Tallinn chapel. 

It is hard to believe that 2014 will be here soon!  2013 has been an awesome year for us.  Matthew loves his job and has enjoyed being a lecturer of International Relations and not just an assistant of International relations.  Matthew enjoyed going to a conference in Norway, it was great that Mom, Dad, and Lynne came as well.  He has also enjoyed the success of the 49ers this year.  Matthew has also loved Amazon Prime and all the Star Trek the Next Generation that we can now watch. Best of all is being a father for the first time!

Maris has enjoyed driving and loves our new car.  The car is only new to us, it is 14 years old but it only feels like it is 10 years old!  She is excited about reading again after getting a new Kindle for Christmas. Maris also loves Amazon Prime and all the Star Trek Voyager she can now watch.  Maris enjoyed her editing job but was more than happy to give it up to be a mom.  After 9 months of being pregnant she was ready to welcome our new baby into our family. We are both happy to have such a beautiful baby!  Special thanks to Mom and Dad who came and helped us out in October, it was just what we needed!

Our baby is calm, peaceful, funny, and growing like a little baby should. She loves to smile at her Mommy!  She enjoys being a dual citizen of Estonia and the US.  She also loved the visit in October from Mom and dad, her favorite is the vibrating chair that helps her fall asleep in no time. 

We both really enjoyed the youth camp in Latvia in the summer.  We also have all enjoyed living in Keila, moving here has really been awesome.  The new trains are beautiful and make the commute to work a pleasure. 

2014 will be an exciting year, if everything goes according to plans it will include a PhD defense, a summer trip to Idaho, and a healthy happy baby growing up into a toddler!  Can't wait. 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The price of citizenship

This week we are in the process of finalizing our baby's passport applications!  She will be a dual citizen.  I think Estonia and the US are good countries to have citizenship.  Aside from the color, the passports are basically the same, yet there was a huge difference in cost.  To register our baby and to get her passport it cost a total of $205 or about 155 euros.  To order an Estonian ID card and an Estonian passport it was 19.17 euros or about $25.  They say America is the land of opportunities, with dual citizenship our baby will be able to experience for herself whether those opportunities equals the extra $180! 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Estonia in the news

There are two interesting articles about Estonia on CNN I thought I would share:

One on Estonia's oil shale, and one about Estonia's economy.   Estonia was also listed as one of the top winter vacation destinations!  We just walked through old town and the Christmas market looks great, they have live reindeer out and everything!

All I want for Christmas is Jabari, Jerry, and Jimmer please!

The Jazz are in full rebuilding/tanking mode and it hurts.  I see former Jazz players tearing it up on other teams playing for an extreme discount.  Paul Millsap 2 years 19 million, Wes Matthews, Mo Williams, Kyle Korver, and DeMare Carrol are others who are now doing well.  Why did the Jazz let all these fine players go? It enabled them to get some draft picks (who they can only hope will one day develop into players as good as the ones previously mentioned) and they get to lose which then increases the value of their pick. 

It is tough to see them lose, but if lucky the Jazz will be able to make the playoffs next year and win the championship after that.  To do this I am asking Santa for three things this year.  I want the Jazz to draft Jabari Parker, I want to fire Corbin and bring back Jerry Sloan, and I want to sign Jimmer Fredette this off season.  Those moves would make the Jazz a contender again. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Christmas fever!

We are all in the Christmas mood here in Estonia! We decorated the apartment on Sunday, it didn't take long but it was sure fun!
 This is our Christmas altar! It is sure awesome to have three Christmas stockings! The one in the middle had a really nice felt Santa on it, but after a trip through the washing machine and the dryer he was gone faster than a snowman in death valley!  We also decided to decorate our bamboo plant this year.  Special thanks to Mom and Dad for making sure we will have enough presents under the Christmas tree this year.  But let's be honest, our tree is so small we will always have enough presents under the Christmas tree.  If anyone is facing a tight budget out there and wondering how to implement it without the family knowing, just get a smaller Christmas tree, it will work like a charm. 

 We have a very small Christmas tree, but we still like it.  I got it 5 years ago when I moved back to Estonia.  I thought that I would be here for 2 years, so I would splurge and get a Christmas tree.  It is still going strong. Can you see three mini star trek space ship ornaments?  They are my favorite!  It makes decorating the tree so much fun! 

 Here is an upclose one of the Enterprise

Here is another up close one of another Enterprise.  This one may have been tricky to find because it wasn't actually on the tree.  The third one is a Klingon bird of prey, you'll have to find that one on your own!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

We are the 1%

This week we joined the global elite and became part of the 1%.  Hopefully Occupy Wall street protesters won't attempt any cyber-attacks on the blog.  What does it take to become part of the 1%?  Car ownership! Actually there are over 1 billion cars in the world, so that is about 14%, but outside the US it goes down quite a bit.  In Estonia there is a good public transportation system so a car isn't a must have like the US.

Despite the beautiful new trains that connect Keila to Tallinn, we felt it was necessary to make the plunge and get a car.  It is still hard to get to church with the train (it is much easier for me to go to work for though).  Today when we went to church we were able to leave the apartment 1 hour and 10 min later now that we have a car!  That is nice with a new baby.

What car did we get?  Anyone who is familiar with the Crandall's knows that Crandalls love cars.  Ferrari, Corvette, Escalade, Porsche, Lexus, are just some of the Crandall's favorites.  We decided to do the same,  only the best will do for the Crandalls.  We bought a 1999 Volkswagen Polo. FM radio and cassette player included!  While the 59 horse power 1.4 L engine might not be as powerful as some of the other cars owned in the family, the gas mileage is great!  It has winter tires on and is very small and light, so even though it doesn't go very fast it at least feels like it at 55mph.

We bought it from a friend in the ward, he works at a body shop place and had recently repainted it and done some body work on it so it looks pretty good and came at a great price.  Being a part of the global elite never felt better.

Monday, November 18, 2013

VIPs at Tallinn University

This week there were some awesome guest speakers at Tallinn University.  Tallinn University is located right in between the foreign ministry and the presidential palace.  Often dignitaries add a stop at Tallinn University while they are on the way.  Other universities in Estonia are a bit too far and don't get as many awesome visits, at least it seems that way. 

 On Friday the US ambassador Jeffrey Levine came to visit my Comparative Foreign Policy class.  US foreign policy was part of the curriculum.  The ambassador was great and the students loved the visit.  He gave some really good insight into US foreign policy, as he has been a career diplomat.  I especially liked some of the things he said about the US intelligence community.  He said that the US does not use data for anything malicious, no economic espionage for example.  When US allies come to the US for help they don't ask where the intelligence came from, they are just happy to have the help.  This was the situation with Estonia some years ago when Estonian citizens were kidnapped in Lebanon.  The visit was scheduled for earlier in the semester but was postponed due to the government shutdown.  I'm glad that the ambassador took the time to come to our class! 

On Saturday the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon came to visit Tallinn University!  It wasn't an open lecture, but I was lucky to find out about it and register before the spots filled up.  He was very nice and kind, saying good things about Estonia and sharing a nice message about reducing global poverty and dealing with climate change.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Black and white past

I am so grateful to have such and awesome family - a wonderful husband and a beautiful daughter! 

The other day we were talking about what our kids will be thinking when they are bigger when it comes to our past. I was born in the Soviet Union and grew up in an interesting place and conditions. Here is my birth certificate:

 I will also add some photos from my childhood that I cherish very much. My childhood was black and white, at least some of it.

Me and my little sister Kadi. I have a strong relationship with nature, and you notice that in the photos too. We used to hang out a lot in the woods with my dad. What and awesome dad I have!

Here is my cousin. I love this photo because I look like a mafia boss from some movie. Notice the stroller! There are more awesome strollers in the photos. In Estonia strollers are such a big part of life. Every day I go walking for an hour and I sometimes pass tens of moms out with their kids, all have awesome strollers built to last all natural disasters etc. Keila has tons of moms and it is so nice that they are out there all the time. I always smile when I pass them. Estonians do not say hi to strangers, though. We are odd, I know. It is the northern modesty.

I love this photo because of the look. So young but so deep.

Me and a cat we had back then. Look at the rubber boots!

Lake in T├Árva. I am so stylish in my sloppy outfit. This is my childhood lake where I learned how to swim.

Love my sister in this photo - awesome facial expression! And look at my bangs! And the matching outfits!

Another stroller! And an apple a day keeps the doctor away.


Me with my mommy.

Me and my 3 sisters and our mom.

See the calendar on the wall - 1987 when I was born.

My daddy and my little sister Ele.

Me and Ele.

Family is everything! I am so happy to have wonderful family members in Estonia, in the USA and everywhere else in the world. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Raise the minimum wage for Idaho

I support raising the minimum wage for Idaho.  There is a petition going around to get this proposition on the ballot in the 2014 elections.  You can read about it at The minimum wage would raise to $9.80 by 2017.  The first raise would take place on January 1st 2015 to $8.10. 

Why am I supporting raising the minimum wage? Those who know me know that there is a sweet spot in me for market economics.  As most libertarians would counter, there is no reason for the government to distort pure market mechanisms.  The market will dictate the worth of wages.  While this is generally true, there are some reasons why I am supporting this measure to increase the minimum wage in Idaho.

1. This is not a living wage.  Despite the language of the petition which supports a living wage, $9.80 an hour in 2017 will not be a living wage.  While I support an increase in the minimum wage, I do not support a living wage (around $15 dollars an hour).  Having a minimum wage below the living wage line is a powerful incentive for people to take risks, start businesses, go to college and increase their productivity.  The increase in minimum wage will be a boon for millions of workers, without decreasing incentives for young people to go to college or start their own businesses.  This is a good middle of the road policy.

2. Some might argue that increasing the minimum wage will result in higher burdens on employers and a reduction in jobs.  To a certain extent this is true, however there are several powerful counter arguments.  First, the increase does not take place until 2015 which will give the economy time to continue to grow and recover.  Even with the federal governments best attempts at wrecking the economy it continues to impress.  The stock market continues to climb, oil production is at an 24 year high.  The second reason is that an increase in minimum wage usually causes an increase in GDP growth.  Those earning minimum wage are not the ones saving their money, they usually spend every penny.  An increase in minimum wage will increase domestic demand.  This will lower the burden on employers. Given the fact that Idaho has traditionally had a lower unemployment rate than the nation, raising the minimum wage is the right policy at the right time.

Many will argue that increasing the minimum wage will not improve the underlying structure of the economy needed for growth, and they are most likely right. Increasing the minimum wage does not reduce the need for more pro growth reforms in Idaho.  Educational reforms will still need to be implemented on all levels.  Idaho schools are not among the top in the nation and Idaho lacks a premier university (the Boise State football team does not count) as well as a medical school.  This will increase the productivity of the labor force (it works for Seattle).  Investments in infrastructure will need to be made as well as.  While Idaho boasts of the lowest tax burden in the US, it also has the highest percentage of workers working at or under the federal minimum wage.  While raising the minimum wage will not solely raise the Idaho economy, it will raise the quality of life for those who need it the most. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

In case you missed it

In case you missed it:

The latest edition of Connections was published.  I acted as a co-editor and had the paper I presented at the 2012 RMESC conference published.  Check it our here. It will take a bit to load the pdf file.

An opinion piece in Real Clear Religion about the spike in missionary deaths.

An opinion piece in Delfi (Estonian only) about Estonian tax policy. 

An interesting news article that the LDS church now owns 2% of Florida!  The church paid 565 million USD for the land purchase. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

We love Grandma and Grandpa!

This week Mom and Dad came to visit their new grandchild.  We have had a wonderful week.  As first time parents we really appreciated the love, support and encouragement.  They helped out in some big ways like encouraging us to get our baby weighed which helped us know there was a problem with gaining weight, to small things like letting us know all the tricks and trades to dealing with babies.  Our baby is now eating and sleeping better.  We found out today that she gained 220 grams this week which is about double what she gained in the previous two weeks combined.  The small things were also helpful.  Who knew that baby acne was normal?  Also tips on burping, holding, and so on are most helpful.  Mom was always great to make us nice food (Maris doesn't have much time and I'm not much of a cook).  Today we blessed our baby and it was great to have Dad stand in the circle.

Probably the most incredible thing was when they unpacked their suitcases.  They had two of them that weren't very big, it was just like the miracle of the 2 fishes and 5 loaves of bread that Jesus used to feed the masses.  They kept pulling out all sorts of presents, big ones small ones, baby presents, Christmas presents.  The most incredible thing I have ever seen. 

Mom made a beautiful quilt  with Russian nesting dolls on it!

 One square had onion domes behind the Russian nesting dolls.

 Of course they brought tons of good food to eat!

Mom made an amazing meal.  We aren't used to having so many different things to eat at the same time!  Thanks for the good trip Mom and dad, we love you!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Why I am endorcing Mike Simpson in the 2014 Republican primary

 File:Mike Simpson, official Congressional photo portrait.jpg

The 2014 House race will be an exciting one for the 2nd Congressional district in Idaho (Twin Falls, Idaho Falls).  Mike Simpson, who has been in office since 1999, is facing a real challenge in the Republican primary.  The Republican primary in Idaho is kind of like the NFC championship used to be in the 1990's, the team that won it was automatically going to win the Super Bowl.  I'm not sure who the Democratic candidate will be but I know he won't win.  

Bryan Smith is challenging Mike Simpson from the right with the support of the Club for Growth, a right wing anti-tax lobby.  In the current poisoned political culture there is understandably a high interest in a GOP challenger.  People are disappointed in the current state of the country and they are disappointed in the way business is done in Washington.  I am endorsing Mike Simpson because he is one of the few people who is actually interested in governing.  While this might not seem to be a ground breaking statement, it is unfortunately true for only a few members of the Republican party.  What is even more shocking is the public support radical politicians receive from the public who do not fully comprehend the dangers of a dysfunctional country.  

A prime example of this is the recent vote to fund the government.  This ended the 16 day partial government shutdown and avoided a default on US debt.  The consequence of a default by the US would have been detrimental to the US economy and to US interests around the world.  For details please read the following articles here, here, and here.  In addition to the short term economic impact (recession, loss of jobs, massive spike in interest rates including mortgages) there would be significant long term losses for the US.  Currently the US Dollar is the global reserve currency because US treasury bonds are safe and widely accepted.  This "exorbitant privilege" is worth about 3% of our GDP according to Barry Eichengreen.  He correctly warned us of this problem when he said "The only plausible scenario for a dollar crash is one in which we bring it upon ourselves". 

At this point you must be asking how someone in their right might could actually support policies that would drive the US into a short term depression while also wiping out 3% of our GDP in the long term.  Surprisingly, this is what 3/4ths of Idaho's elected officials decided to do.  Jim Risch, Mike Crapo, and Raul Labrador all voted no on H.R. 2775.  The bill was flawed and only kicked the can down the road, but is that a reason to welcome economic destruction to our country?  The bill does not solve our problems, but it did avoid a global crisis. 

Mike Simpson was the only one from Idaho to vote to pass the bill.  Though I have not alway supported everything Mike Simpson has voted for. When I haven't agreed I have written him to let him know.  He has kindly responded every time.  This critical vote shows that he is serious about governing the country.  He is more concerned about the lives of Idahoans than winning an abstract ideological crusade. Bryan Smith has called Mike Simpson a liberal who has forgotten conservative Idaho values. Mr. Smith, since when did defaulting on our national debt become a conservative Idaho value?  Since when did shutting down the government become a conservative Idaho value? Since when did ruining the good faith and credit of the USA become a conservative Idaho value?  Since when did sponsoring a depression and destroying the wealth of Idahoans become a conservative Idaho value?  You sir are the one who does not understand true conservative Idaho principles.  

For those looking for a rare conservative statesman in this unfortunate day of ideological crusaders I encourage you to endorse Mike Simpson for the Idaho 2nd district in the 2014 House of Representatives election.  If you do, you won't regret it.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Open letter to Dennis Lindsey

Dear Dennis Lindsey,

I would like to thank you for your vision and work as general manager of the Utah Jazz. You have correctly changed strategy from last year's compete and kind of develop, to this year's develop strategy.  This has been a good off season for you, but it is not complete.  I am asking you to make the trade for Jimmer Fredette right now.  Jimmer is what the team needs and what the fans need.  He will make the Jazz better, bring in more money, and will fit into the youth movement currently underway.  Please make the trade!

Last year the Jazz tried to compete while still developing their younger players.  The result was that they were not competitive and they were not able to develop their younger players as older veterans (Millsap, Jefferson, Randy Foye, and Mo Williams) took too many minutes away from players like Favors, Kanter, and Burks.  You let some good fan favorites walk (Millap, Mo Williams) to clear up cap space.  That cap space did two things.  It will enable the young players to get minutes and develop, and it enabled you to trade for some bad, overpriced players and a few first round draft picks.  Bad overpriced players are not a bad thing, we realize you had to meet the salary minimum for this year with expiring contracts, which enables you to spend money on Favors and Hayward next year. 

There is a fine line between developing and tanking, right now you are very close to tanking mode.  This is unacceptable to Jazz fans around the world.  For the Jazz, winning and competing has value.  The Jazz are too good to seriously compete for the worst team in the league (thank you Sixers).  So what value does tanking have for the Jazz?  The hope for a number 5 or 6 draft pick?  This is what the Kings and T-Wolves do every single year.  The Jazz should be lauded for their decision to give playing time to younger players and to collect future assets, but there is no reason to tank.  The Jazz players are young, but they are not rookies (except for Burke).  They are all primed for break out years.  The Jazz have real talent and potential for this year not next year.  One of the best developmental tools is to win!  Give these young Jazz players some playoff experience.  Tanking will tell them that they are expected to lose.

The prime problem the Jazz have is at the PG position.  We have good bigs and wings, but the PG position will cause us to lose many games.  Our super star rookie Burke is out with a broken finger and this leaves us in a world of hurt.  If you say that Scott Machado (0-6 yesterday against the Lakers) or 29 year old Lester Hudson is the answer I will scream.  Our team has a serious offensive problem, most of it coming from the lack of production at the PG position.  This is why you need to make a trade for Jimmer Fredette right now.

Jimmer Fredette is a great young offensive talent at the PG position.  He is great at shooting the 3 and creating his own shot.  The last 4 preseason games have highlighted the problem the Jazz have with scoring and shooting!  Jimmer would be able to step in and turn our weakest link into a strong link.  He easily fits into our long term plans as a 6th man spark plug off the bench when Burke eventually develops into a quality PG (at least that is what we are counting on).  It isn't a sure thing that Burks and Burke will develop into super star guards.  Bringing in a third option increases the chances of at least one of them developing. 

Jimmer would cost 2.7 million this year and 3.1 million next year, but he would bring in at least triple that in terms of revenue for the team.  Ticket sales would rise as would jersey sales.  Playoff revenue could also be accounted to what he would bring to the team. 

The casual reader would think, boy it would cost a lot to get such a young stud who would be a perfect fit.  Actually it would cost almost nothing.  1. His salary is reasonable both in terms of dollars and length.  This lets us keep our flexibility. 2. The assets to give up are very low.  The most we would have to give up is the 2017 first round pick, but 2nd rounders and cash might do it as well.  Jimmer has fallen out of the rotation for the Kings and his value to them and their future is extremely low.  3. Lower draft pick in the 2014 draft, because of the better record Jimmer would give to the Jazz.  If the Jazz were really serious about trying to get Wiggins, they would not have signed John Lucas III, instead they would have gone with Hudson and Machado only.  They also could have traded away Jermey Evans and some of their other non core players.  You see, pure tanking goes against everything the Jazz beleive in. 

Adding Jimmer Fredette would give the Jazz shooting and scoring from a position of need.  He not only would increase revenue significantly, he would increase the Jazz's ability to compete this year and for years to come.  Despite what you might think, the cost involved to get  him is insignificant, in terms of salary, assets, and lost opportunity.  I applaud your efforts to develop the young Jazz players, but warn you to not tank.  It would be an insult to the entire franchise.  Please trade for Jimmer Fredette. 

Matthew Crandall

Friday, October 18, 2013

Thoughts on US government shutdown

The US government shutdown highlights the democratic shortcomings in America’s political system.  Blame has been cast on many from fringe members of the Republican Party to America’s presidential system itself.  While things likely won’t get any better soon, some small changes can save American democracy in the long run.
Much more important than the economic impact from the  shutdown is what it means for American democracy.  There are two principles that deserve mention.  In a recent opinion piece inthe Washington Post, Anne Applebaum argued that the Republican party is endangering American democracy by refusing to fund the government because they do not like Obamacare.  Abblebaum mentions that Obamacare was passed by both bodies of Congress, signed into law by the President and upheld by the Supreme Court.  The Republicans are not only willing to shut down the government in an attempt to defund Obamacare, but are placing their opposition to Obamacare above the legitimacy of America’s democratic institutions and processes.  A related principle was highlighted by Matthew Yglesias in a recent article in Slate, where he highlights the work of the late political scientist Juan Linz.  Linz argues that the presidential system itself is flawed, that there is no democratic mechanism to resolve disputes between the legislative and presidential branches.  In this light, it is not the Republicans who are the problem but the system itself.  It is designed to breed conflict that is difficult to resolve. Linz focusses on the problems that Latin American countries have had with presidential systems and the good fortunes of parliamentary systems in Europe where the executive and legislative branches are unified in a coalition.  
Does the current crisis really mean a democracy deficit in America?  The answer is yes, but it won’t always have to be this way.  The current crisis could only be the tip of the iceberg.  While cooler heads prevailed and the default crisis was averted, it was only a temporary fix.  Bad precedent is being set on many levels.  
 Aside from tearing up the constitution and switching to a parliamentary system (which has its own shortcomings) what changes can be made to prevent this type of suicidal conflict between executive and legislative branches again?
Three small but significant reforms need to be implemented.  Limiting gerrymandering, eliminating caucuses, and having term limits will be enough to prevent suicidal conflicts between the executive and legislative branches in the future.  While many are dismayed at the Tea party Republicans, they should be reminded that their actions are rational.  They are doing what their constituents want them to do.  Many Republicans are forced into extreme measures because if they make pragmatic decisions they will lose a primary election to someone who is willing to take extreme measures.  Bob Bennett’s 2010 senate primary loss in Utah is an example of that.  This has happened in part, due to gerrymandering where congressional districts are drawn to maintain party power.  While the majority of America is very much purple, gerrymandering has turned congressional districts into bright red and bright blue districts where extreme candidates are able to come to power.  This is a problem that will never be completely solved, but if gerrymandering can be reduced the impact would be significant.  While gerrymandering is a problem, it is not as big a problem as some have claimed.  The USA is naturally divided into politically different districts.  Urban and rural districts are very different and gerrymandering will not change the effects of urban sprawl and urban decay.  This is why the next two items also need to be addressed.
Second, caucuses need to be eliminated.  A caucus is different from an open primary vote, in that members need to be physically present at the entire caucus to cast their vote.  This is in essence democracy by meeting.  This increases the amount of commitment for those wishing to participate.  In a caucus they have to plan on attending a multi hour meeting with a public vote where as a typical primary vote is just that, a vote which can take 5 min and be done in secret.  This means that party activists and extremists are more likely to participate than moderates.  In Utah where Bob Bennett was ousted for Mike Lee, it was a caucus system that enabled it.  
Third, term limits should be passed into law both at the senate and house levels.  Having some of the members not up for reelection would be healthy for the political climate.  Politicians who do not have to worry about reelection would then worry about what is best for the country and about being on the right side of history.  They would be more willing to take moderate stances as they would be buffered from interest groups, party leaders, and the sways of public opinion.
These changes are small, but will be difficult to implement.  Few politicians will be willing to support term limits, as it would mean their own exit from politics.  The caucus and primary system, along with the drawing of congressional districts is done at the state level and would have to have 50 states pass reforms, a rather unlikely feat.  A better solution would be to have the federal government take over these responsibilities, this would be hard to accomplish given the current political climate. 
America is in the midst of a serious crisis.  The democratic institutions have failed to ensure a functioning government for the second time in 20 years.  A default crisis is at hand.  The legitimacy of the legislative process has now been rejected by the Republican Party, a very worrisome precedent.  This has caused some to blame the Republican Party while others to blame the presidential system the US has.  In reality, the truth lies in the middle.  Fortunately, small but important changes can produce significant improvements in American democracy.  If America can reduce the impact of gerrymandering, eliminate caucuses, and pass term limits this will hopefully be the last time democracy fails in America. 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Baby Crandall

This week Maris gave birth to our sweet new baby!  Because this is a public blog we won't be putting up pictures or details about our new baby.  Send us an email if you would like to see pictures and get an update.  Everything went well with giving birth, it is nice to live in a developed country.  Some of the hospitals may not look great on the outside, but they have all been fully remodeled on the inside.  I was really impressed by how nice it was.  It was nice and colorful, they had a nice hot tub too. 

 They aren't as epidural friendly as the US and only offer them if someone really wants one or if other methods don't really work.  Maris was a trooper and did it all with no pain killers.  Her goals before were to not have a c-section or an epidural.  Both completed!. It was a long process but she did great.  When they placed our beautiful baby in her arms it was such a beautiful moment, all the pain and hard work were forgotten and there was just a beautiful little baby in their place.

After giving birth we were able to get a family room, so we could be together.  This was the view out of our window.  As you can tell it is an amazing fall.  We had one of the best summers in years and now the best fall ever.  Beautiful sunny days and mild temperatures.  Since there hasn't been a deep freeze there are still lots of leaves on the trees.

I was really surprised at how beautiful our baby is!  You hope for a healthy baby, but if you can get a healthy and a beautiful baby then there is nothing else to even dream for.  When they were attending to Maris just after she gave birth, I got to hold our beautiful baby for a while. It was an amazing feeling.  It is really awesome to be a dad, and really awesome to have an addition to our family. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

No new temples, just good messages

It is conference weekend and three of the five sessions are now over.  They didn't announce any new temples, so the last blog entry was for naught, but there were some pretty good talks!  One of my favorites was President Uchtdorf.  He has a special gift to connect and inspire people.  I thought Elder Bednar's talk on tithing and church finances was very good too.  Elder Dube's talk on faith was also inspiring.  We have some wonderful brethren in our branch from Africa and they have a similar rock solid faith.  Of course I was also happy to hear Gifford Nielson talk about football.  As with every general conference, I feel a desire to be a better person and I feel happy to be a member of a church with inspired leaders.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Next temples! updated

It seems like every general conference they announce two temples, one from the US and one outside the US.  There is a great blog about lds growth that gives an updated map of potential temples. It is hard to understand the exact reason why a certain location is chosen for a temple but the following surely play a role: number of temple worthy members, number of stakes, distance from nearest temple, ability to purchase land, and rule of law in the country (meaning can the church build a temple without having to pay bribes and build a temple knowing that there won't be a civil war the next year).  So with that said here are my top two picks with my first and second runner up.

US temple: Colorado Springs Colorado. The church seems to be investing in it's core in recent years.  In terms of missionary allocation and temple building, the Rocky Mountain region has really seen a sharp rise in temples (especially Arizona, but the entire region).  This is understandable, this is where the active tithe paying members are, this is where the missionaries come from.  It is only logical that these members get the blessings of a temple, and logical that the church would invest a temple in these locations.  The Fort Collins Colorado temple was just announced in April 2011, but on the other hand there has been growth in Colorado as well.  Recently there was a new stake created in Aurora (Denver area) and most likely a 4th stake will be created in the Colorado Springs area if it hasn't already.  According to the lds growth blogspot, one of their stakes has 14 wards and is ready to be split.  This means that there is a large enough core in Colorado Springs to maintain a temple and a big enough core in Denver to keep the Denver temple busy once the Fort Collins and Colorado Springs temples are ready.  Currently it is only a 1 hour drive from the Denver temple to Colorado Springs, but that is still significant enough to build the temple, especially taking into consideration the members living south of Colorado Springs in Pueblo. It also has a growing population, going from 214,000 people in 1980 to 426,000 people in 2011. 

US runner up: Pittsburgh Pennsylvania and Jacksonville Florida.  These are big cities that are far away from a temple (over 3 hours for both).  They don't have as many stakes or members (Jacksonville is close), so that is why I am giving the green light to Colorado Springs.  A dark horse candidate could be Tooele Utah.  Tooele fits the mold of what the church has been doing recently, building in smaller towns where there are a lot of members that have to travel a small, but significant amount to the temple.  The temple district is smaller (for Utah standards), usually less than 20 stakes and it is usually 30-45 min away from the nearest temple.  We saw this in Brigham City, Payson, and Ceder City.  Other locations such as Rexburg Idaho, Fort Collinns Colorado also fit this mold.  If this tradition continues I would expect Tooele to be next.  It is about 35 min or so from the Salt Lake City Temple and has 5 stakes in Tooele, with at least 4 more that would be in the temple district (from Grantsville and Stansbury Park).  The population of Tooele is already over 30,000 (only 14,000 in 1990) and it will most likely continue to grow.  One of the stakes has 12 wards, which means a sixth stake will soon be formed. 

Outside the US: Managua Nicaragua This is the country with the most members that currently does not have a temple.  I think the church has been hesitant to build a temple here because they have been building them in other Central American countries, and because Nicaragua isn't as pro West (also pro business) as some other countries.  This could mean that it is harder to get land, building rights and so on.  Ortega has been president since 2007 and has aligned Nicaragua against the US in international affairs, but with Chavez dead I see a slight thaw ahead which should make things easier for the church as well.  Often the church can separate their relations from international politics, but not always (as is the case with Russia).  If Nicaragua doesn't get it this time then surely soon. 

Outside the US runner up: Puebla or Culiacan Mexico. There are tons of members in Mexico.  Both of these locations would be a great spot for a temple. I am changing my dark horse candidate to Budapest Hungary!  The church loves to build temples in Europe, even though there aren't very many members.  They know that they can get permits easy and there won't be any problems.  Unlike many Eastern European countries the church has done well in Hungary.  There is a stake in Budapest, as well as two other districts.  It is easy to get visas for American temple workers serving as senior missionary couples. The temple district would also include the Vienna stake and districts from Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, and Romania.

In about 5 years or so I think we will start to see a temple in some very exotic places such as Mongolia, Cape Verde, more African countries, Thailand, India, and other East Asian countries but I think they need a bit more time to develop.  Within the last few years stakes have been organized in India, Thailand, Mongolia, Cape Verde, Russia, and Armenia.  Once their leadership and members mature a bit more I think they will be ready for a temple, but I don't expect to see it this weekend.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

LDS General Conference in a globalizing world

Both critics and supporters of the LDS church recognize its ability to adapt and change to a globalizing world.  Bending to social pressures for one or modern revelation for the other, the end result is a large hierarchal worldwide church that is surprisingly nimble.  The church’s softened stance towards gays being the case in point.  Recent changes have been made to general conference as well.  These have been small but significant.  The first woman gave a prayer in general conference just 6 months ago.  Next weekend the priesthood session (for men only) will be broadcast live on television and over the internet (in theory allowing for de facto participation for women) but more importantly making it more accessible for all members worldwide. 

The overall general conference format is a good one that has not been significantly changed for years.  Members come to receive instruction from inspired leaders.  As the urban legend goes, anyone in the world can receive a personal message just for them if they prayerfully watch general conference.  Indeed conference can be a wonderful time for personal learning and reflection.  Today the LDS church does not focus on changing church doctrines or revealing new beliefs as earlier times when Joseph Smith or Brigham Young were leaders.  Rather the focus is on inspiring members to make changes in their lives to become closer to Christ. 

Within the framework of keeping the purpose of general conference the same, is there room to improve the general conference format?  What changes might we expect to see in the future given the social and international changes going on in the world?  Below are four suggestions that could enrich the general conference experience for members in the coming years. 
  • Replace one of the talks with a skit performed by local members.  The standard format of having only talks for general conference can be repetitive and tiring for children and adults alike.  Replacing one talk with a spiritually themed skit by local members would be a great way of gaining attention, while providing a new way for members to learn and reflect on their lives.  The church has a great history of pageants (think of those old road shows stakes used to do in the 1970’s and 1980’s as well as more professional pageants at Hill Cumorah or Manti).  To make things really exciting the church could have a competition among stakes performing the skits, with the winner to be used during general conference.  The logistics would be difficult to perform the skit live, so a video presentation of the skit would be more likely.  This would be a boon for those who are visual learners.  Participation and anticipation would both increase among members as well.  
  • Have a normal member be one of the speakers.  The church believes that the Lord uses the weak and unlearned to carry on his work by the spirit.  This is one of the reasons the church feels confident in using 18 and 19 year olds to bear the primary burden of missionary work.  Having a normal member of the church (perhaps a Sunday school teacher, or a counselor in the Bishopric) speak at conference would allow members to learn together by the spirit.  It would highlight the importance of the spirit as a teacher and not the official calling that someone holds.  It would also give members more ownership in general conference as they would know that in theory, they could be a participant not just an observer. 
  • Have a woman speak in the Priesthood session.  Recently a Mormon feminist group called Ordain Women tried to get 150 tickets to the priesthood session; they were rebuffed but were happy with the announcement of the live broadcast of the Priesthood session.  Why are they setting their goal so low?  Why not advocate having a woman speak during the priesthood session?  Having a sister speak would offer a different perspective on priesthood service that could be very beneficial for priesthood holders.  This could be especially powerful on certain topics such as fatherhood, serving in the home, being good husbands, fidelity and other chastity related topics.  If the goal of the priesthood session is to help priesthood holders be more dedicated to serving in their priesthood this could be a good idea.  
  • Having a session of general conference in Spanish.  The church is growing worldwide, especially among Spanish speaking countries.  Every six months at conference we see brethren from Latin American countries speaking in English (some do better than others), which is then to be translated back into Spanish for a large number of saints.  In a Spanish session all the speakers would speak in Spanish and all those in attendance at the conference center would also speak Spanish.  An English translation could be provided via headset for the general authorities who do not speak Spanish and an English translation would be dubbed for the television and internet broadcast.  This would be a small but significant experience for the millions of Spanish speaking members.  There are plenty of Spanish speaking general authorities who could be speakers, including Elder Richard Scott of the quorum of the 12 apostles.  

While some of these changes might seem strange for those who are so used to the standard format of general conference, we all can realize that the strength of the church is its ability to change and adapt to the times of the day.  The world is changing and the church is changing as well.  The day when the LDS church could be considered just a Utah, or just a US church is long gone.  Church leaders often cite the statistic that there are more members outside of the US than from the US.  However, it will be a challenge to maintain both a global and hierarchal church structure. There is the potential for a disconnect between the members and the leadership of the church who are still based in Utah and still for the most part from the Western US. One way the church can address this challenge is through changes to general conference.  The above mentioned changes would give the members greater participation, ownership, and better opportunities for personal reflection and growth.  Many members will be happy that they can now watch the priesthood session live on TV, but they can be happier yet by knowing that it won’t be the last positive change to general conference. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How to look 10 years younger

Recently I decided to grow a beard, it turned out rather well but I decided not to make it permanent.  When I shaved I was surprised to see my boyish face again! I looked about 10 years younger.  I'm not sure if this experiment was a subconscious response to my 30th birthday some months ago or not.  One thing is for sure, if someone wants to look 10 years younger growing a beard and then shaving it off might be the easiest (certainly cheapest) way of doing it!  It worked so well I might have to try it again some day, maybe when I turn 40 :)

PS I decided to shave the beard off piece by piece, so I had a BYU approved mustache for a day.  A trimmed beard looks a million times better than a mustache.  Because this is an open blog, I won't add any pictures of the mustache.  I'd hate for it to go viral and then have some cyber-bully get hold of it.