Friday, March 28, 2014

Good job Latvia

There was an article in the Huffington Post recently on how awesome Latvia is.  I couldn't agree more. 

This is a picture from 2008 when I went to the main Lido restaurant in Riga.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Thoughts on Ukraine

Where to start on Ukraine?  I thought I would list some of the better articles I have read on the issue recently.  Basically comes down to this being Putin's last stand.

Here is an article encouraging the US to use energy as a weapon, namely to begin exporting crude oil and Liquefied natural gas.  This would increase the energy security of US allies in Europe and make a dent in Russian profits. It will take another 3 years at best before we see any changes, and probably another 5 before a meaningful impact happens but once it happens Putin's power will decrease significantly.

Daniel Treisman is one of my favorite Russian experts, here is his piece on Putin.  In an interesting comparison to Putin's 2004 Ukrain strategy, he basically states that this isn't the smartest move by Putin.  It would have been better to let the new Ukrainian regime self implode.  Before the crisis the EU was not willing to offer the loans or support that would have been needed to keep the Ukrainian economy going.  While Putin's Ukraine policy will increase his domestic support in the short term it will hurt his standings in the long term.

Dmitri Trenin enables us to understand the Russian perspective on the crisis.  While Trenin's predicting doesn't have the best track record, his ability to describe the Russian perspective to a Western audience is second to none.  

For an analysis of the succession argument in Crimea take a look at this piece from the Washington post.   This piece does a great job of putting things into perspective.  When does a population have the right to succeed?  How does this situation relate to the Kosovo situation? 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Eesti laul 2014!

Estonia recently had the competition to choose their song for Eurovision!  Overall the songs weren't as good as last year's bunch but some were still very good.  A panel of musicians had 50% and the public had 50% to choose the top two, then the public choose the winner.

Tanja won, her song is good but not super original.

The best song by far was Sandra.  She was the favorite, but the panel of experts voted her as 2nd to last!  They all liked another song and I think they saw Sandra as the biggest threat so they all ranked her low to keep her out of the competition.  Shame on the panel for destroying Estonia's chances at Eurovision.  Lucky for Estonia their favorite did not win.  If we look at the Eurovision winners they all share the same attributes as Sandra's song: positive, catchy, simple.  It could have had a real chance to win.


Lenna (of Vanilla Ninja!) had a nice song.  She got 2nd last year in a really tight competition, I liked her song this year even better.  I think she placed 4th or 5th.

The super hot cosmos blues band had an OK song but it was in English and wasn't my favorite.  It was the panel's favorite!  It made it to the top two but luckily Tanja won.

Tanja is an ethnic Russian and I think it great that she can now represent Estonia.  Estonia's national security depends on Estonia's social cohesion not Russia.  When looking at Russia's recent occupations the occupied population welcomed the invasions, that is not a coincidence. Tanja is a great role model for everyone and is an example that Russian speakers have a place in Estonia's society and can be successful. In this sense Tanja has done more for Estonia's national security than Urmas Reinsalu who is the minister of defense.  He recently asked for more NATO planes to patrol Estonia's airspace and is trying to buy tanks.  While Tanja's song was only our second favorite we are big fans of Tanja.  Nice job Tanja you're amazing! Good luck in Brussels!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Just for fun

I have a new post up at Real Clear Religion, it is another odd ball idea similar to the Mormon mega-projects post.  Hats off to Gina Colvin for the idea.  This is result of being an active member living in the periphery of Europe getting a PhD in International Relations.  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

February: in like a lion, out like a lamb

February was a great month for us!  Usually February is the coldest month of the year but not this year. This picture was from a week ago, the snow banks are all gone today.

Other highlights from the month:

  • Our baby rolled over! Now crawling yet, but she will be soon.
  • Our baby is eating real food now!  Buckwheat is not her favorite, millet is a bit better.
  • Our baby also did baby swimming and baby gymnastics
  • Maris began planning play dates for all of the new moms from church, new moms need to stick together!  
  • Maris has also been busy planning a combined Finland/Estonia women's camp for this summer.
  • Maris has enjoyed tending to her plants, gardening is her new hobby
  • I got a new calling and now am working with the young men which is great!
  • Work is enjoyable as always, it will get busy at the end of March and stay busy until the end of May.  
  •  We also discovered the most amazing sort of honey. Local, white, super sweet, creamy, it is fantastic!