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!