Thursday, November 30, 2006

One last Bush post

I didn't want to post again about Bush and his visit to Tallinn but there's been some interesting coverage about Bush's short trip. The Eesti media coverage was very detailed, as expected since this is probably one of the top stories of the year there, while the American media did a good job ignoring the trip or just mentioning the fact that he was in Estonia while he was dealing with pressing Iraq issues. The major story that was picked up on was the flat-tax that Eesti has had for a decade and Bush praised. Interestingly it wasn't mentioned anywhere that a lot of people (including President Ilves) want to scrap to flat-tax and go with an old-fashioned progressive tax.

Some of the more interesting news pieces:
-NY Times has a piece about how Bush wouldn't speak at the historic home of the Black Heads (Mustpeade maja) in Riga due to it's name and scantily clad artwork. It's a 700 year old building but apparently it's too sensitive for a president to be seen at a place like that, can't really blame him after all this Kramer mess that's gone on recently.

- A small New Jersey paper had an article about TH Ilves' hometown. "Tom" grew up in Leonia, New Jersey and the article is a nice little piece about him growing up and causing problems at school.

- And finally, Paevaleht has an article saying that Ilves was chewing nicotine gum during Bush' sendoff at the airport. From what I know about Toomas he's constantly chewing this gum in public, the article also mentions that our former president Meri had an agreement with journalists to ensure that they don't photograph him when he's smoking.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Per Crapita

I often read articles that talk about Eesti and contain a lot of stats that show Eesti either at the top of some list or at the bottom depending on what's being measured. Most of these articles refer to per capita statistics which can be useful in certain situations but I think can be very misleading, especially for a tiny country like Estonia.

For instance I recently read the following about Eesti, all based on per capita stats:
- Has the most Hummers in the world.
- Has one of the fastest growing rates of HIV
- The 7th largest 'ecological footprints' in the world
- One of the highest drug related death rates

And on and on. Now, these are serious issues that need to be addressed but I don't think things are as bad as these sensational headlines make it out to be. Per capita stats aren't always bad but articles that use them rarely state that countries with small populations like Estonia tend to have skewed statistics because all it takes is one train crash or fatal alcohol poisoning at a party to vault a small nation to the top of a list. So next time you read about how Eesti is at the bottom (or top) of some list take it with a grain of salt.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

He left... apparently empty handed.

Apparently Bush wasn't to excited about his gift from PM Andrus Ansip. Postimees is reporting that after Bush was given an official gift of a brand new Skype phone he put it down on the table (unopened) and left it there when he walked out of the room. They're blaming it on his tight schedule but I suspect it has more to do with his distaste for secure calls. ;-)

Labels: , , , ,

He came, he saw, he left.

G.W. Bush made his official visit to Eesti yesterday. He was in the country less than 24hrs but managed to create a lot of buzz in Tallinn as well as some traffic headaches. Jaanus found a cool view of the motorcade coming from the airport caught on the local traffic cameras.

He met with some of the local politicians, praised Estonia's tax system and e-government and received a couple of gifts. A lot is written about the importance of his trip and how he'd be received, overall sentiment was positive. I don't really have much to comment about the trip, it's good for the country, raises it's profile and maybe a couple of extra Americans will have now heard of Eesti.

Nice to see you Dubya.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Liisa always jokes with me that Canadians (ie, me) are too polite. Most of the time she's wrong, it's just that everyone else is rude but the other day I got a nice example of our excessive politeness. I parked the car in a city parking lot and figured that I'd only be 5 minutes so I didn't bother paying the minimum 75 cent fee for 30 minutes of parking. I ended up being gone closer to 15 minutes and as I came back I saw the parking enforcement officer putting a ticket on my car. Well, I thought it was a ticket but it turns out that Toronto still use "courtesy charges".

What's a courtesy charge? Essentially it's a fine that I can choose either to pay or just ignore depending on how honest I am. It's an $8 "fine", apparently if you get too many of them in a row they will give you a real ticket that you have to pay but I've never heard of that happening. Now, with Toronto's continuous lack of money to balance our budget you'd think that the city would do away with these fake fines and actually ticket people who don't pay for parking, but who knows, maybe we're all so polite that we pay the courtesy charges.

P.S. - I politely decline to tell you if I paid. ;-)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Bush to get an ironic gift while in Estonia.

An article in todays Postimees points out that PM Andrus Ansip will be giving Bush a Skype phone as a gift when he arrives next week. Smart marketing by Sten and Andrus, I know they had wanted to try the same stunt with the Queen when she visited by I don't think that ended up happening.

What I found most amusing about this, and from what I can tell hasn't been picked up by anyone, is that Skype calls are all encrypted end-to-end, which makes them pretty damn hard to eavesdrop on (not impossible though). Considering all the work Bush has put into expanding the governments listening powers I thought this to be an ironic gift.


Last night I watched V for Vendetta and I quite enjoyed it, I thought that the overall movie was lacking in a lot of areas (visually and with it's acting) but I really liked the story. It's a very Orwellian piece about government control and clearly takes a direct swipe at the U.S. and the current administration. I had never read the comic books, in fact I'd never even heard of them, so the plot and characters were new to me. The only thing I didn't like was staring at a mask whos mouth didn't move for 2 hours, creepy.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

15 Richest Fictional Characters

Forbes, the stodgy old money magazine, has an amusing story about the richest fictional characters in the world. Not sure how they came about the rankings or the $$$ figures but it's still fun.

Eesti in the WC finals!

A couple of weeks back I posted an article about Hattrick saying how much I enjoyed it blah, blah, blah. Today I was reading the Estonian newspaper Postimees and happened to see an article about the Eesti soccer team playing in the World Cup finals. Well, they're not really playing in the WC finals but it turns out Postimees was writing about Hattrick and how the virtual Eesti team had made it through the qualifications into the finals, thought that was kind of amusing. :-)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Dinosaurs shmimasaur !?!?!

Looks like it will be time soon for a trip to Cincinnati.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Canada's East Coast

A little while back Liisa and I went on a trip to the east coast of Canada. We decided to rent a car and drove out Halifax, going through Souther Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and finally making it to Halifax. In Halifax we stayed with my friend Dallas who's currently finishing his Master's Degree at Dalhousie University. I'd never been to the east coast before so it was really nice to see part of that part of the country which was a lot more interesting that I originally thought it may be. In particular New Brunswick was really pretty, although incredibly empty. Driving on the Trans-Canada highway for a certain stretch we went almost 1 hour without having a single on/off ramp, essentially there was nowhere to go for 100kms.

Halifax was a great city, lot's of history and a vibrant art scene. Halifax was the first place that a lot of Canadian immigrants came to up until the 1970s when immigration changed from boats to planes. My family arrive in Halifax from Sweden in the early 1950's and there is a really interesting museum at Pier 21 that documents a lot of the stories of new immigrants to Canada, some of the stories are incredibly interesting and heart wrenching.

We did a number of day trips to Peggy's Cove, Lunenburg, Wolfeville, the Bay of Fundy and other places. There were almost no tourists there but that might be something to do with the really rainy weather we had.

On the way back we drove through the U.S. for a bit of a change. As always crossing the border was fun, for Liisa at least, nothing like fingerprinting a reminder that we're not in Canada anymore to make you feel welcome. We drove through Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont until we crossed back into Quebec. Saw some of the mountains and a lot of the road. All in all we logged 5000kms over a 1 week time period. Needless to say I didn't feel like driving much after that trip.

If you want to see some pictures have a look at the set just below. The captions are in Swedish thanks to Liisa.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The German's are coming!

A couple of weeks back my friend Frank came to Toronto. For those of you who don't know Frank he's a fellow ex-Skyper, we both started at Skype around the same time. He came to Toronto as part of a very ambitious trip to North America which took him through 4 cities in less than 10 days. Since he was in Toronto for less than 48 hours we didn't get to do much but we did manage to go out for dinner, to a party, an art gallery and walk around Chinatown and some other parts of the city. I'll admit that I was surprised to see him so soon after leaving Eesti, hopefully he'll be the first of many acquaintances visiting me.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Got to love those evangelicals.

Occurrences like this seem more and more common. I'm not going to get into a big rant about American politics or conservatism but I just couldn't help pointing out how hypocritical some people can be.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

TV? No thanks.

Who needs a TV or radio anymore these days? When I moved to Eesti I discovered BitTorrent and how to download TV and movies from the internet quickly because everything on local TV was a season or two behind North America or in a language I didn't understand. I tried to cancel my TV subscription but they said I needed it to have cable internet, thankfully here I got "naked" DSL so I don't need a landline phone or cable to get internet. Nowadays you can have the latest TV shows downloaded and ready for viewing 1-1.5hrs after it airs on regular TV with a decent high-speed connection so I decided there isn't much point to in getting a TV, you can even get shows that are on "premium" channles like HBO and Showcase and then watch them on your own schedule as opposed to how the networks decide it should air. And to make things even better, downloaded TV doesn't have commercials which means you save 20 minutes out of every hour long show.

People say, what about news or sports! Well, news is way better on the net most of the time anyways and there is now a few services out of China mostly that do P2PTV (Niklas and co. apparently will launch one soon) where you can watch streaming sports live, I checked it out earlier this week and the Leafs game and it was about 3 seconds delayed from live TV.

Add to all this the fact that I haven't paid for music in years but my collection is bigger than ever and you really wonder what the hell media companies have been thinking when they decided to try and stop all this as opposed to embrace it and evolve.