Monday, September 29, 2014

What would you put in your op-ed?

I love writing op-ed articles.  It is exciting, fun, liberating and always great to see the reaction.  Often the reaction is critical and negative which sometimes can hurt but usually makes me chuckle knowing that I ruffled a few feathers.  Here are three of my recent op-eds if you are interested.
  1. This article is my most recent one about the upcoming general conference.  The editor of Real Clear Religion has always been great in accepting my articles, hopefully that means they have some value to the readers.  He helped with the title on this piece which I thought was brilliant.
  2. This article is about the consequences of aging apostles.  While this article focuses on the benefit that members get from a visit from an apostle, I should have emphasized the benefit that they get from interacting with church membership.  
  3. This is a political op-ed that rejects comparisons of Putin and Hitler and instead makes a comparison to George W. Bush's foreign policy.  I thought this was a pretty witty comparison and then I googled it and found out I was not the first to make it.  After this was published I found out that another more scholarly comparison was made way back in 2005!  The editor at the Conversation made quite a few style changes which I felt made the work better, although I was a bit surprised at the amount of changes made.  
If you were to write an op-ed what would you say?  Why not find out and write one today!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

How do you bake your no-bake cookies?

I made some no-bake cookies for one of the young men in my ward for his birthday.  In the past we have always had bad luck in getting them to firm up and have been short on quality peanut butter.  We never got so desperate that we tried to bake them, but sometimes we were close.  We still have some peanut butter from our summer adventures in Idaho, so we decided to give them a try after a very long break.  This time they turned out pretty good.  The bottom was a bit sticky, but after12 hours or so the stickiness was gone. 

The problem about making cookies for others is that you want them for yourselves also.  This picture is from the 2nd batch that Maris made today after church.  They turned out better than the ones I made on Saturday.  What is the secret?  This 2nd batch boiled for 1 min, mine I just waited for the butter to melt before I took it off the heat.  Some recipes call for 3 min of boiling time!  How did mine more or less turn out with no boiling? I also think that US peanut butter does a better job than the European brands.  This may have contributed to our past no-bake woes. Maybe I have just been looking for a scape goat.  I've also heard that if you boil them for too long they will be too crumbly.  These guys are hard to make, but if they turn out well they are the best. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Vote for AJ, vote Idaho!

Friday Idaho began issuing absentee ballots, my ballot was sent via email meaning I am one of the first to get to vote in this election!  It is in the mail as we speak.  There will be several competitive elections this time for Idaho.  One of the most important is the race for governor.  AJ Balukoff is going against Butch Otter.   Butch Otter (and several GOP governors before him) along with the GOP controlled legislature have made some catastrophic mistakes that have landed Idaho among the worst states in the nation in many key indicators.  Idaho is in a race to the bottom and is winning.  Things won't be getting any better under current leadership.  One study suggested that the number of high income jobs will actually be decreasing over the coming years. This is an alarming trend considering the fact that Idaho has a growing population and a growing work force.  How can this happen?  It is actually quite simple, from the article:
"These projections are the economic manifestation of a state whose public policies put tax cuts and “shrinking government” ahead of providing essential public services – education, health care, and yes, reasonable wages for public employees"

Read more here:
GOP leaders will try to avoid responsibility by blaming it on the recession, but that is no excuse. It was GOP leadership in 2006 (Then governor Jim Risch, current senator also up for reelection)  switched the tax base that funded education from property to sales tax.  Property tax is a very stable revenue source that does not rise or fall quickly.  Sales tax on the other hand is prone to boom and bust cycles.

Fortunately for us this election does not have to be just a protest vote to "throw the bums out".  There is a competent candidate waiting to lead Idaho back to her destined glory.  At this critical time Idaho needs both real leadership and investment to create the conditions that high paying jobs require.  A qualified work force, good business environment, good brand image, and quality infrastructure are all key components.  AJ Balukoff is the man to begin the process of restoration for Idaho.  Due to the magnitude of the mistakes already made this will be a long process that one person or one term will not fix.  But if we don't start today tomorrow might be too hard to fix.  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fall time in Keila and crazy birds

First of all, the birds. They come every fall. They take over the rooftops and the skies.

Secondly, it has been sunny, warm and foggy. Beautiful! 

Oak is Estonia´s national tree. An old folk song tells about a big oak that is found from the sea and is planted by the house of a young woman. The oak gets very big. It´s branches even block the sun and the moon. It has to be cut down. For this work a logger is found from a faraway land who does the job. After the tree is cut the song tells about things made of the wood, like a wedding chest, church benches and doors. Similar folk songs and stories are found all over the world - big trees just are magical. Like Yggdrasil in Norse mythology,

Keila river

Keila church

And the last thing - we have a new playground in our street and our sweet baby loves it.

You are welcome to visit us and see the wonders of Keila!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Glorious Glasgow

I am attending the ECPR general conference in Glasgow.  The conference has been great,.  Good for contacts and good feedback to help me improve my paper.  This has been my third conference with the ECPR and they have all been good.  Unfortunately I did not get funding from Estonian foundations (funded by the EU) but the ECPR was generous enough to give me a travel grant.  This meant that I would still have to pay a significant amount from my own pocket to cover that which the travel grant did not.  I was a bit hesitant to do so, but now am glad.  It was also nice of Maris to let me dip into the family budget.  Thanks love!

I always thought Glasgow was a run down industrial city and Edinburgh was the pretty pearl of Scotland.  Boy did I get it wrong.  Glasgow is incredibly beautiful.  I was pleasantly surprised by the glory of Glasgow.  
They had the BA Political Science students help out and show us where to go.  This is a cool building on University Ave.
The University of Glasgow is glorious beyond description.  It is magical.  This is the main building.

This is also in the main building.

 One of the lecture halls.  They had a panel on the upcoming Scottish independence referendum.  One of the more interesting comments was that it won't make a huge difference either way, that both the UK and the SNP have a fairly similar social democratic vision for Scottish society.  The main Scottish polling guy thinks that it will be a no vote.  80 of 81 polls have put the no vote ahead.  The only yes vote was done for the SNP which had dubious methodology.  While I don't have strong feelings on the issue I kind of hope they vote yes. I think it would be good or Scotland and exciting for the rest of Europe.  I think it would increase fiscal and political responsibility both in Scotland and London.

 This is in their main hall, rumor has it Harry Potter 1 was partially filmed here at the university.

Another beautiful room in the university.

 Dual gender bathrooms! You don't see these every day, but it seemed to work.  No urinals, only stalls that were also dual gender.  There was another women's bathroom next to this one, I guess this was one way to reduce the line at the women's bathroom.

Right across the university is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  The opening reception was held here, it was pretty awesome. 

 The Kelvingrove art gallery in all her glory.

 The rest of Glasgow was also beautiful.

 This was a nice church that I walked by on my way to the university.

Like the rest of Europe, the Roman influence can be felt. 

 While I am hopeful for a yes vote, I couldn't help but notice the similarities between England and Scotland.  To be honest I didn't notice a difference.  The awesome red telephone booths.

Classic fish and chips fast food places were plentiful.

The traditional Scottish breakfast was eerily similar to the traditional English breakfast.

 The grocery store also had an English feel.  I enjoyed a nice pack of Hobnobs!

Jelly Babies!

And of course they have the same electrical sockets as England.  Lucky for me the hotel had an adapter.  That combined with my European adapter meant that I was able to use my computer here in Scotland.  In a way I felt like I was leaving Europe.  The plugs, the money, driving on the left side of the road.  It was all very different from Estonia. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014


 On Wednesday US President Barack Obama visited Estonia before his trip to the NATO summit in Wales.  This was a great moment for Estonia and a very symbolic visit.  Symbolic to the Baltic states, letting know that NATO was there for them, symbolic to Russia to say "stay away from the Baltics" and symbolic to other NATO allies to tell them to get in line and take collective defense seriously.   Obama gave a public lecture, the US embassy gave me 25 tickets to distribute to my students, they filled up fast.  It was a great speech, whoever wrote it earned his/her salary.  One student said that she had a tear in her eye it was so moving.

Here is a 14 min part of it I found on youtube.


 The security measures were amazing, these visits cost tens of millions so I am told.  The city was full of policemen.

  I was way in the back, hence the poor photos but some students were on the ground level pretty close.  Another example why studying International Relations at Tallinn University is a great idea.

 There was a huge line, we all had to go through security but it moved pretty quickly. 

I was on my way to the airport at the same time as Obama, I saw his motorcade drive by.  There are actually two of them, so you don't know which one he is in.  I saw air force one on the run way (and a second support plane).  I was in a hurry so I didn't get a picture.  I kind of saw it take off from the airport window and missed the photo moment again! But I got to see and hear the President, the motorcade and airforce one in the same day. Pretty awesome.