Friday, August 29, 2014


I'm at a conference sponsored by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs in Helsinki.  Lots of interesting discussions about NATO, Russia, and the Baltic-Nordic region.  Very pro NATO and US positions here which is certainly understandable given the current security environment but a bit unexpected coming from Finland, a non NATO country with a deep history as a non-aligned country.  My presentation went well and I am headed home today!

 I used to think that Helsinki was a boring city, but the more I come here the more I like it.  Beautiful clean city. 

There is a cool car museum by the harbor, usually they have some old school US cars, but this time I saw this beauty!

I also saw this beauty.  In the background is a little island where we went to have dinner.  In all these fancy restaurants we had small serving sizes and fish.  It's a stark contrast to the large cheeseburgers I got used to this summer in the US.  If anyone is wondering I'll still go with the cheeseburger every time.

 There is a new statue in Helsinki! It doesn't quite have the elegance of Brussle's Manneken Pis, but it is pretty interesting.  It probably is a temporary art exhibit, but why not make it permanent.  The Helsinki landscape could use a bit of excitement.

  Every city needs a London eye!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Garden cafe day in Keila / Keila hoovikohvikute päev

Today was a glorious day for our town Keila. It was a garden cafe day. They had 27 cafes! For a town of 10 000 people it is very good.

The first one we visited I forgot to take pictures. The second one was in a private school house and they offered French food and had French music playing.

We got a quiche and two crepes with strawberry jam.

 Matthew says they were more like regular pancakes.Well we just came from Paris and he ate some local crepes so that might have influenced him today.

The next one had a workshop set up and some free goodies. These pretty things are made of wool.

They use a needle to shape wool into shapes.Those little circles are made with water.

Here is a lady teaching how to do it.

A nice usage of a mill stone - in a wall.

Signs up introducing the foods and prices.

Some had even attractions for children.

Isn´t that cute?

I bought some apple juice.

One cafe had a special pavilion brought in.

I got a bread cake (with different kinds of fish, sour cream, cucumber) with many delicious layers and President´s fish balls and a little boat with some cream in it.

Matthew just looked while I ate.

They had bread sticks with cheese, rhubarb cake and cookie cake.

Another little cafe and a pavilion. More fun for kids in the background.

Old fashioned fun for kids.

A cute little sign up. This was a cafe by the city youth organization.

They even had a band that just arrived when we left - some young kids. This cafe had a menu and waiters.

There was also one cafe that local army people organized. We saw a bunch of people in uniforms.

 They offered orienteering with maps for those who love running around in the woods, and they had a shooting range there. How fun!

We only visited some of them but it was just the most awesome thing ever! Maybe I can participate next time.
This event certainly unifies people in the city - a great community project!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Birthday bash

We ended our trip in the US with a bang with a huge birthday bash for my Dad.  We had a great time and this just may have been the best summer ever!  How do you measure the best summer ever?  Here is a start.
  • Weight gain: I gained just over 5 kilos (about 12 pounds).  I can thank the pantry for that!
  • Weeks:  We were gone exactly 5 weeks.
  • Fruit by the foot:  The 124 fruit snacks are all gone! (I still have 9 that I haven't eaten)
  • Pounds of luggage.  We were allowed 122lbs total between the three of us and we measured in at 122 lbs.  6 lbs of peanut butter, 3 pounds of almond butter, miracle whip, protein bars, books, clothes, beef jerky, mashed potatoes, and so much more!
  • Temple trips:  I got to go 5 times to the temple! It was amazing each time.
  • Baby steps.  Our baby took her first steps this summer!
  • Courts of Ice cream, got to love the half off sales!
 We loved swimming in the pool

 Cousins' camp was awesome, we went hog wild on everything.  Especially the ice cream

 I loved seeing my siblings! Some I hadn't seen for 2 years.  Only missing my sister in Canada.

Happy Birthday Dad, we love you

One kilo probably came from this restaurant, awesome Chinese food.  Now the party is over and it is back to work.  In a few weeks the kilos will be gone but the memories will stay forever.  The best summer ever!

Pariis! Paris!

Ainult üks päev Pariisis, tagasiteel Eestisse.
Only a day in Paris on our way back to Estonia.

Minibensiinijaamad miniautodele.
Mini gas stations for miniature cars.

Army Museum.

Rodini muuseumis. "Mõtleja".
The museum of Rodin. The Thinker.

Rodini "Põrgu väravad".
The Gates of Hell by Rodin.

Matthew´ lemmikskulptuur selles muuseumis.
Favorite sculpture of Matthew in that museum.

Vaade muuseumist.
View from the museum.

Palju aega ei olnud, kui loodetavasti läheme peagi taas Pariisi.
We did not have much time there but hopefully we can return soon to Paris.

Tõeline Ameerika koguduse pidu / Ward picnic

Kirjutan nii eesti kui ka inglise keeles.
I will write in English and Estonian.

USAs olles käisime ka vaia piknikul. Kuna ilm oli kehv, siis koliti pargi asemel kogudusehoonesse.
Mainin ära, et võtsin seal olles juurde 5-6 kilo. See postitus ehk segitab natuke, miks.
While in the USA we went to a ward picnic. It was supposed to be in a park but due to bad weather conditions it was eventually in the local ward building. I gained 5-6 kilos or 11-12 pounds while in America. This post maybe explains a little why that happened.

Siin on pilt maiustustelauast. Tõesti, selline see oligi. Ja toodi juurde ka veel.
Here is the dessert table... Seriously. People brought even more sweets after I took this photo.

Korralikul Ameerika piknikul süüakse burgereid ja hot dog´e. Selleks toodi kohale kõik need kaunitarid.
At a decent American picnic people eat burgers and hot dogs. They used these beauties to make them.

Laste jaoks oli see tõeline pidu. Nt väikestele tehti langevarjumänge (Matthew´ ema vasakul).
For small children it was an amazing party. Here is Ann creating some parachute fun.

 Näomaalinguid tehti ka muidugi.
Of course they had face painting.

 Ja lisaks tehti ka sellist asja, mida ma ainult filmides olen näinud. Palliga visatakse vastu märklauda ja iniemene kukub sisse. Ka koguduse juhataja tegi seda lõpus. Laste jaoks oli see väga eriline!
They also did this - I have only seen this in movies. The ward president did it as well  and kids loved it.

Kõik oli väga lõbus. Burgerid olid väga head - omatehtud on parem kui ostetud. 
Kogu reisi ajal sõime vist kogu aeg ja kõike, väljas söömas käisime loendamatu arv kordi. Hea, et ma ainult 5-6 kiloga tagasi tulin. Asi oleks võinud hullemini lõppeda.
It was a lot of fun. Burgers were good - home made are better. During our trip we ate all the time and everything. We ate out for an infinite number of times. It is actually good that I just gained 11-12 pounds because it could have been way worse. 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

And here we have Idaho, winning her way to shame

The Times News recently published an op-ed about the current state of affairs in Idaho.  To put it shortly, things aren't good and they won't be getting better with the current GOP leadership.  This is something I have thought about every time I am in Utah.  I keep wondering to myself why is Utah developing while Idaho is standing still?  (Have you seen the new trams, trains, billion dollar shopping malls and heard about the plans to build a 2 billion dollar airport? Yeah incredible). Take a look at where Idaho stands:
  • Idaho ranks 49th out of 50 in percentage of workers who work for minimum wage.  Despite this ridiculous statistic minimum wage is still $7.25 the federal minimum.  The GOP establishment has no plans to raise minimum wage in the future.
  • Idaho ranks 49th out of 50 in per capita wages.
  • Idaho ranks 49th out of 50 in levels of discretionary spending.  
  • Idaho education got 48th out of 50 in a 2013 quality evaluation that you can read about here
  • Idaho ranks 49th in doctors per capita.
  • Idaho ranks  last in Internet download speed.  You can read a slightly outdated report here
To put it bluntly many Idahoans are poor and the chances of success are lower than they should be.  During this same period of time all of Idaho's neighbors have seen significant GDP growth.  This also happened during a time when the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints decided to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to expand Ricks College from a 2 year community college to a 4 year BYU-Idaho university bringing in thousands of students and many quality high paying jobs. In other words the state leadership got one of the biggest freebies of all time and still piloted Idaho to the bottom of the rankings. 

This shouldn't come as a surprise given the way in which the GOP has run the state over the last decade. First, I will list some things that should have already happened that certainly should happen in the next 10 years.  Then I will explain why it will never happen with the current GOP leadership.
  • Improve education across the board.  This will be the key to developing industry, recruiting companies, and increasing the welfare of the citizens.
    • Medical school in Idaho.  It is shameful that Idaho (population 1.6 million) does not have a medical school. To get more doctors we will need more residency places but that can only happen with a medical school.  Increasing the funded places for Idaho residents to go to out of state medical schools is like putting on a band aid when surgery is needed.
    • Improve the Universities in Idaho.  Boise State University, Idaho State University, and University of Idaho, to be blunt are second tier universities.  None of them rank in the top 150 in the US News report.  This results in a brain drain from Idaho as the top students leave Idaho to go to BYU, University of Oregon, University of Washington, University of Utah, or other regional schools that are much higher in the rankings.  These students can easily get scholarships that waive out of state tuition.  This type of improvement means real investment to bring in the top professors, to build the top facilities, and to offer scholarships to bring in the best students.  Universities should be feeders to the top companies in the state.
    • Increase spending for K-12. A starting teacher in Idaho makes under $30,000.  That ranks 46th out of 50.  Wyoming pays $43,000, Utah and Oregon pay $33,000, Washington pays $36,000, and Nevada pays $35,000.  If you are a good teacher where would you go to work?  Not Idaho.  We can argue about performance pay (which I support) and other educational reform details but the bottom line is that there has to be money in the education budget to argue about. 
  • Turn Boise into a mini silicon valley
    •  In many ways Utah has already beat Boise to the punch.  If a mini silicon valley is too much to dream about then a mini mini silicon valley should be the goal.  Micron already set up shop in Boise and could have been a key selling point to other tech companies. Idaho will need to be aggressive in getting these types of companies.  Tax breaks, educated work force, and a good brand are all key.  Turning Boise State into a world class university (or at least a top 150 in the US!) to be a feeder for these companies would be a good start. 
  • Improve Idaho's image
    •  For starters Idaho should end the war on gays. This has little to do with gay marriage and everything to do with legislation aimed at discriminating against gays. A proposed bill to protect religious freedom was fortunately pulled after people realized that it would mean legalized discrimination.  For decades Idaho Republican legislatures have refused to add sexual orientation onto the list of anti-discrimination legislation.  These types of actions have a negative effect on Idaho's image which makes young talent less likely to want to come work in Idaho and makes companies less likely to relocate to Idaho. 
    • Don't intentionally make Idaho the joke of the nation.  Butch Otter recently refused to debate Fulcher unless everyone was included.  By including clowns the focus was taken off Otter's main opponent.  This was a shrewd political move but at the expense of the entire state. 
Idaho has great potential.  Good things have and are happening, but things could and should be much better.  The GOP leadership has failed Idaho, especially Governor Butch Otter.  In addition to the shameful rankings listed above Idaho leaders have passed several out of touch bills including the ag-gag bill and the campus gun bill.  I encourage all Idaho residents to vote Butch Otter out of office this November by voting for AJ Balukoff instead.  Balukoff's platform looks surprisingly similar to the key's I outlined above.  A vote for him is a vote for Idaho's future.  Yes Otter has done a good job at bringing in crappy jobs, and keeping taxes low for those who don't need tax breaks, but Idaho can do much better and it starts with us.  Get Otter out! Vote for AJ!