Saturday, October 29, 2011

Visiting Helsinki

I am officially old.

Last night, I went to a Halloween party at the Marine House. Lot's of folks were there, many in costume, but I knew I was going to Helsinki today, so I left early. I knew I wanted to get a good night's sleep. Plus, I wanted to go to the party at Shimo (a bar in the Old City) with some folks tonight.

I am so not going to that party. In fact, you would be hard pressed to make me get out of my sweatpants for any reason at this point.

But visiting Helsinki was awesome.

(Well, except for the part where people were speaking Finnish. Because it sounds like Estonian, except that I could only understand about half of it. So it made me feel like an idiot.)

The ferry ride to Helsinki is only about 2 hours and costs about 33 euros. A friend and I took the 7:30 ferry (entirely too frickin' early) over and the 2:30 ferry back. We spent five hours wandering around Helsinki, visiting the market by the water, the Russian Orthodox cathedral (pictured above), and the National Museum. We walked tons of places, I took tons of pictures, and I saw more of Helsinki in five hours than I got to see of Brussels in the five days I was there.

Which is why I am going to bed right after I post this!

Icon inside the Russian Orthodox Cathedral

Inside the Russian Orthodox Cathedral

Parking Turtles

National Museum

Bear at National Museum

P.S. Anyone else notice how sunny it is in these pictures? It was also 50 degrees. D.C.? Snowing. Yeah, I think that is funny too!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Oh, you do speak Estonian

Last night, I attended a dinner at F-Hoone that was part of the the Estonian Atlantic Treaty Association’s "Hea Kodanik" (Good Citizen) program. The program lasts for three days and is geared toward giving Estonia’s youth both the motivation and a forum to discuss important and occassionally troubling aspects of their society. Leading Estonian politicians, experts, and opinion makers like Mart Laar and Sven Mikser are participating in the event this year (though the Ambassador was the featured guest of last night's event). These leaders talk about the importance of the state in addressing society’s needs, and more specifically, the role that the Estonia Parliament can play in shaping citizen societal engagement.

In other words, how to be a good citizen.

There were about 100 high school students from both Estonian and Russian schools from across Estonia there last night, all around 17 or 18 years old. The group was about 50-50 Estonian and Russian.

It was pretty interesting...a nice mix of kids...some from Narva who had never had an Estonian friend, some from Saaremaa who had never met a Russian. They were eager to talk to the Ambassador and were ready to have interesting, thoughtful conversations with him, me and my APAO.

I had one funny thing happen last night...I was talking to a table of kids, mixed Russian and Estonian. We were speaking in English because one of the Russian kids didn't speak Estonian (the other Russian girl, who was from Tallinn, switched back and forth between Russian and Estonian with great ease...her English wasn't as good as the others', but she often defaulted to Estonian when she couldn't get out what she wanted to say). Anyway, one kid asked me what languages I spoke, and I said "English, obviously, Estonian..." and he chuckled and said Estonian? And I looked at him and said, "Jah, ma räägin eesti keelt." And the look of shock on his face was awesome! He said (with no apparent hint of irony), "Oh, you do speak Estonian."

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Last night, I attended the premier of the new Steven Spielberg movie, Tintin, with the Ambassador and a number of folks from the Embassy.

We co-sponsored the event with the Belgian embassy because the film is based on the cartoon by Belgian cartoonist Hergé.

It was the first 3-D movie I have been to since the really crappy 3-D of my childhood. I was a bit concerned that it would make me quesy as those old 3-D flicks did. But technology has really advanced. It was pretty awesome.

After the movie, we had a reception, complete with Belgian beer and California wines (not for the kids though!).

The movie opens here for the general public tomorrow (I understand it opens next month in the U.S. because Spielberg felt this story belonged to Europe) at Solaris Center and at Coca Cola Plaza.

and just on a side note: Holy Cow! We are not far from being able to make films that look like living people acting with no humans involved!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Alec Ross

I've had an interesting and busy couple of days to start off my week.

Alec Ross, who is the Secretary's Senior Advisor for Innovation came in yesterday for a whirlwind visit to Tallinn (1.5 days) before he jetted off to other locales, hopefully to tell them how awesome we are!

This was not my first time meeting Alec...that happened back when I was in the Public Affairs Front Office. But this was first (and second) time I heard him speak. First was at the Estonian Policy institute at the MFA. The auditorium was pretty packed and they asked some great questions. I live tweeted his talk and some of the answers. This is something I hope to do with some of the Ambassador's future speeches.

I tweeted on the Embassy Tallinn's twitter account. But something he said has me thinking...people prefer to follow people rather than institutions. So I need to think about whether I should have a twitter account as PAO (we all know Digger has one) or just keep things as is (with the Ambassador having a twitter account in addition to the Embassy account. I'm not sure yet.

At any rate, before yesterday's talk, we held a country team meeting to tell him some of the things we are up to here in Tallinn, and I think he liked a lot of our ideas and approaches. After yesterday's talk, he did some interviews and met with some folks at the MFA before heading to dinner with at the Ambassador's. I wasn't there, so I'll have to assume it was awesome.

This morning, I live tweeted Alec again at the e-Governance Academy's Social Media Seminar. The guy is seriously tweetable. I told him so, and he took it as the compliment it was intended.

By the time you read this, he will be well on his way to his next stop. But I was impressed with his presentations and I feel more than ever that we are on a good path with Social Media.

Monday, October 24, 2011


There are many ways in which I am a typical American, but one is certainly how much I love my car.

(Yeah, yeah M, YOUR car. Possession is 9/10th...come to Estonia if you want it back! :) )

So I jumped at the chance to speak at the European Youth Parliament Sunday. The topic was one near and dear to my heart (LGBT issues), and it meant a chance to get outside of Tallinn on my own.

Several folks were surprised that I was willing to drive 2.5 hours each way to speak at this event, but given how little I have gotten to drive lately and that M is not here to spend my spare time with, I figured it was a great chance to really test out the European maps on the GPS my dad got me (verdict: Not bad...though it was convinced on a new portion of the road that I was driving in the fields NEXT TO the road). And I just love getting out driving alone. For someone who is pretty extroverted, I really value a chance to be alone on the road, just me, my thoughts, and a blasting ipod.

An added bonus was that I enjoyed speaking at the Parliament. If these are the future leaders of the EU, Europe is in good shape. They were smart, asked thoughtful questions, and were thoroughly prepared. I was impressed.

And on the way to the Parliament, I spotted some local farmers selling their goods on the side of the road. I managed to procure myself a pumpkin despite not having the amount it costed in small change (it was 2 euros and something, I had one euro and something and a 20 euro bill). He decided to let me have it for the change I had, and I promised to come back and give him the other euro later.

And I did...I got back before all the other vendors had left, and one older lady said she would give him the euro. So I bought a kilo of apples from her.

All of this was in Estonian...the folks in the country clearly do not speak English...I felt pretty good about my skillz...

(until I got home and could not understand the metro cop who was trying to be friendly and I gather was telling me I should take my dog out to the woods to potty instead of on the rocks. I got the words dog, forest and stones out of it, and asked him what he said. He repeated it, I still didn't understand (men are hard to understand anyway, plus I understood the words but not the meaning at first), and he asked if I spoke Russian. I said no. He said, oh, you don't speak Estonian or Russian. I said no, I speak Estonian a little. So he repeated to me what he had said and I finally understood that he was suggesting I take Noostie to the woods rather than let her potty on the rocks.

Which she was doing at that moment.

BECAUSE he had stopped me...I normally take her to a grassy area.

Language skillz fail.

And finally, I snapped a shot of this, that I hope you find as funny as I did...driving along and I look up and WTH? It is the Hollywood sign! In Estonia. I pulled in to take this picture and spotted the little restaurant that I'd have otherwise passed before I saw it because of the way it is situated. I definitely will stop to eat there next time.

So advertising win, little restaurant!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Out In The World: U.S. a beacon for LGBT rights globally

This Press Release comes from the Bay Area Reporter (Serving the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender communities since 1971):

Out In The World: U.S. a beacon for LGBT rights globally

by Heather Cassell

The Obama administration is rolling up its sleeves and putting muscle behind its promises to LGBT individuals and women to uphold rights not only domestically, but globally, a gay State Department official said.

"America has a long record of being out there on human right issues and standing up for universal values, they are American values, but they are also universal," Daniel Baer, openly gay deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor at the U.S. State Department, said in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter.

"It is beneficial to our national interest for America to be seen as a beacon of moral leadership in the world. The fact is we are strongest when we are leading and when we are leading from principle," said Baer, 34, who has been working on international human rights issues for two years.

An estimated 80 countries continue to criminalize same-sex behavior. Hate crimes against LGBT individuals continue to afflict countries. Discrimination against and hatred of queer people continues to cast these individuals off as outsiders. The end result is bad for economic development, public health, communities and bad even for the perpetrator of hate and of course the victim, Baer noted.

There is a moral price paid for perpetrators, societies, and victims of hate and prejudice, Baer believes.

"We've seen time and time again that in societies where one group of people is denied to express themselves ... those societies are not stable societies and they are not as successful societies," said Baer, who oversees Asia and Africa. He was on his way to catch a flight to Ivory Coast to address human rights violations amidst unrest, as he spoke to the B.A.R. on the phone.

"Societies are more stable and more successful when they give everybody a chance to claim their future and when they take advantage of the full range of talents across society," he continued.

Baer's speech to religious leaders at the Compass to Compassion Conference in New York City on October 13 was the first indication following President Barack Obama's address at the United Nations last month that the U.S. is making moves on recent global policy on LGBT rights passed by the UN earlier this year.

The U.S. is moving to implement toolkits to assist embassies with handling human rights violations against LGBT individuals. Communities won't be left out in the cold; local leaders will be provided with high-tech tools by the State Department to document hate crimes against LGBT individuals in their communities. Information gathered will be compiled in Baer's department's annual human rights report.

America is firmly positioning itself to be a lifeline to people who are "engines of change" in their own societies by, "really supporting these people who are the change-makers on the ground and who will be building stronger societies for themselves and their neighbors and their compatriots," said Baer.
Religious leaders are part of his outreach.

"Religious leaders play a very important role in shaping the way that people see and understand their societies around the world," said Baer, who believes that religious and secular leaders need to "engage" each other in dialogue about human rights issues for LGBTs and women. "They have a role to play in the tolerance agenda," he said.

In Baer's vision the "world is stronger if we support human rights," he said, calling global human rights an American issue.

To read Baer's speech, visit here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

My Gargoyle

NOTE: I wrote this entry on Wednesday, and then couldn't decide whether or not to post it because I wasn't sure anyone would care. And then my Dad emailed and asked to see a picture of my gargoyle. So I decided people would be interested...or at least the really important ones would!

So I thought I'd tell you a little more about my gargoyle...mostly so I have an excuse to put his picture on the blog.

His name is Wilbur. Only one, or possibly two, people know why that is his name. And I am not sure they both read the blog.

One of my best friends in grad school and I got invited one Christmas before I joined the Foreign Service to a party. At the party, we played the white elephant game.

You probably know this game. Everyone brings a "gift," usually something odd and perhaps unwanted. Some people also bring good stuff, but they just don't understand the game. Usually there is a price limit of say around five dollars.

So not having anything interesting to bring, he and I stopped on the way to the party at the local Goodwill outside of Durham. We scoured the place looking for odd and funny finds.

I don't remember what my friend found, but I found Wilbur. I was delighted with my find. What a perfectly odd present for the party!

Wilbur the gargoyle is maybe 7 inches tall and made of white plaster.

Gift in tow, we headed to the party...and then something weird happened.

I started to really like Wilbur. I decided I wanted to KEEP Wilbur.

But I had no other gift for the game, so I placed him in a gift bag and put him with all the other presents.

And then when it was my turn, I picked my own gift bag.

I don't remember if anyone else tried to take him...I just know I ended up with him.

And he has travelled with me ever since.

He guarded my fireplaces in Chapel Hill and Arlington, the living room in Jerusalem.

Now he is the door stop on my bedroom door (the weird, distressed wooden door that won't stay open), guarding my bedroom.

He is a little worse for wear, having gotten a few dings in the process of moving again and again and again. But he has become one of the weird things that I take with me each time I love to a new place, one of the things that makes it home.

All of which I told you, like I said, so I could put his picture on the blog. Thanks for your patience. We will resume our regular blogging topics next time.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I Am Wearing Purple

I am wearing purple today.

I am wearing it to show my support for bullied young people, particularly LGBT young people who account for a far greater percentage of teen suicides than their percentage of the population.

To those teenagers, I want to tell you that the folks who are telling you that these are the best days of your life are WRONG. It only gets better from here.

To those teenagers, I want to tell you that the folks who are telling you that there is something profoundly wrong with you are LYING. You are the way you were born. There is NOTHING wrong with you.

Being a gay teenager is hard, even before you realize you are gay. Other people often figure it out before you do, and they make your life hell.

I know. First hand.

I was bullied.

I believed their hate. I believed there was something so fundamentally wrong with me that I couldn't even tell my parents, who loved me unconditionally.

I wanted to die. I prayed for the courage to kill myself.

I believed at the time that if I killed myself, I would go to hell. I don't believe that now, because I can't fathom a God who would punish for all eternity a person who was in such anguish.

But I am glad that I thought so then. Because every moment of my life since those days has been better than those days.

There is nothing about my life today that I would change (well, except that it would be nice if my wife and cats were already here...). I have an awesome job. I get to represent my country as an American Diplomat. I get to live in and visit places most just dream of. I have an amazing wife and an amazing family. I consider myself one of the luckiest people on the planet. Sincerely.

One of the reasons I am as out as I am is because I owe it to the younger me, and to all those younger me's out there today, to show how much better it gets. I owe it to them to provide them with what I wish I had had at that out, open gay person leading a happy, successful life. Not a superstar, but an ordinary person, someone I could imagine myself becoming.

So I am wearing purple.

Because it gets better.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Puppets and Pärnu

If I hadn't had so much to do this week, me and this creeping crud I brought home from the conferences in Brussels would have stayed home yesterday and today. But alas, not only did I have too much to do, but it was all stuff I really wanted to do.

Yesterday it was the NUKU puppet theatre and museum in the Old City. Silly me, I forgot my camera, because they have REALLY COOL stuff in there! They currently have a production going on of a Japanese puppetry play from the 1700s, and are building the puppets (and gargoyles! Did I mention I have a gargoyle that I won in a white elephant party as a doorstop...and that I actually bought him at a thrift store for said party and then did my best to win him?) for a vampire play. I am so going to that!

And today was the kickoff of Pärnu America Days. It was my first trip to Pärnu (though I expect the first of several over the coming two weeks). The Ambassador spoke to students and teachers at the local library to kick off the event, which includes films, a teepee in the center of town, a car show, pumpkin carving and lots of other stuff. It is organized by a local American, and we support the event. It is pretty awesome.

And the town is really beautiful, or what little I got to see of it. I hope to see more. But what got me right off the bat was that as you cross the Pärnu River into Pärnu, they have a monument of five flags of the city. But they had taken down the center one and replaced it with the American flag.

After the event, we drove quickly back to Tallinn to present a screening of Boys Don't Cry, the 1999 movie starring Hilary Swank based on the true story of Brandon Teena, a female-to-male transexual who was raped and murdered. I think the movie touched a lot of people there tonight (there were 50 or more in attendance), many of whom thanked me and some of whom left the theatre with tears in their eyes.

I used my introduction of the event to say a bit about my own background as the victim of bullying, and about the It Gets Better project aimed at combating teen suicide by the victims of bullying. I said that while the stories of teens who take their lives as a response to bullying and the story of a young man who was murdered are not identical, both stem from a lack of societal acceptance of LGBT people.

Because it does get better, and I think the most powerful story I can tell to illustrate that is my own.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Rumors of My Death...

Oh, you know the rest.

I do feel kind of crappy though.

The reason for my absence, as I mentioned, was that I was in Brussels for a conference. Two conferences actually. The first part was the EUR (European Affairs) PAO (Public Affairs Officers) conference. That conference was a gathering of all of the Public Affairs Officers from all of the European posts.

The second conference was the EUR Policy Conference, which included all of the Chiefs of Mission, Political Chiefs and Public Affairs Officers from all of the European posts.

And you know that in a crowd that large, at least one person is going to be sick. And when you are locked in a room with that crowd for five days, chances are good that you too will end up sick.

So I have a cold. Fortunately not a bad one, but my "nap" yesterday did last four hours!

So let's see...some random notes from the conference...

* I got to meet the owner of the Steelers.

* one of the speakers sounded just like Derek on Grey's Anatomy.

* some political officers will leap into their Ambassador's seats when the Ambassadors are in a different session...ambitious much?

* One of the speakers at the PAO conference was talking about race in America vs Europe and seemed to have bought into every stereotype he had ever heard...all Americans are descended from immigrants (hello? American Indians are Americans!) and our oldest monument is the Alamo(?! um...Cahokia anyone?) while Europe has 1500 years of culture. And Europe has only had internal immigration for 200 years and immigration from outside Europe for 60 years? Seriously?

* One non-American speaker kept saying "eeeeyyyyyy" as a filler...sounded like Arthur Fonzerelli.

* Leonidas White Chocolate (in fact, all chocolate there)...OMFG!

* Also, mussels in white wine sauce...OMFG!

In all, I found the conferences useful and interesting. I made some new friends and got to spend time with some old ones. We had dinner one night at Ambassador Ivo Daalder's residence, which is just an amazing historic manor house. We spent time at NATO and at a very ornate former French club built in the 1700s...blown glass chandeliers, antique mirrors, carved columns, statues of cherubs playing musical instruments...and chairs that were comfortable for no more than 30 minutes.

The city itself is amazing...such beautiful old buildings!

The traffic is a bit insane, and unlike Estonia (which I found myself missing after a few days), crossing the street, even with the light, is, shall we say, an adventure.

Everywhere you see reproductions of Manneken Pis, which is a statue of a little boy peeing and was built in the early 1600s. I wandered upon it my first night there, but sadly, without my camera (hence the chocolate representations of him above), and was unable to re-find him my last night there (the only other time I had to wander around much...I took my camera that time to prove I had been somewhere other than the Sheraton and a conference room!). There are a number of legends about him, the most famous being about the two-year old Duke Godfrey III of Leuven. In 1142, the two-year-old's troops were battling against the Berthouts in Ransbeke. The troops put the boy in a basket and hung the basket in a tree to encourage them. From there, the boy urinated on the troops of the Berthouts, who eventually lost the battle.

But the one I like better is that he was the son of a prominent lord and he wandered off. The distraught father promised to erect a statue of however his son was found...and they found him urinating in the woods...

I left the conference more certain than ever that I am a PD officer and feeling I had found my people. And I certainly hope to return to Brussels, hopefully with more time to explore this amazing place.

Hullud Päevad

I always worry that when I don't post for a few days, people will worry that the Tigers have gotten me and I have gone dark.

No tigers in my life so far (knock wood), though apparently, there are some ghosts least at my local supermarket/department store.

So no, I haven't gone dark...but like Stockmann, I have been having hullud päevad, or Crazy Days.

I have spent the last week in Brussels for a conference. And I am wiped out (and a little sick...nothing like being locked in a conference room with coughing people for five days to give you the crud.

So I will post about my hullud päevad in a bit...probably tonight...after I take a nap.

There will even be pictures, I promise (though not great was challenging to get time away from the conference to see anything!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Church Chat

I went to church this morning for the first time in too long.

But the church I went to was not of my current denomination (United Church of Christ), nor of the denomination I was raised in (Catholic...which is sort of like an ethnicity...even if you no longer practice Catholicism, it is still a major part of you. I went to a Catholic Mass in Ramallah, completely in Arabic, and still understood most everything).

But no, this church I attended this morning was the Kaarli Kirik, a Lutheran church, which is the denomination of my mother's family and a church I have attended on many occassions.

But the Lutheran service is far less regularized than a Catholic Mass, and this service was in an Evangelical Lutheran church.

And it was entirely in Estonian.

So it was different.

I learned a couple of things.

First, I do not speak Estonian well enough to know the Lord's Prayer in Estonian.

However, I do speak Estonian well enough to find it quickly in the hymnal so that I could read it while everyone else said it from memory. I also know it well enough to find the Apostle's Creed, which is much harder in my opinion, and even to sing along with the hymns if I already knew the tune. AND to find the hymn not listed on the sign that was added later when they told us the number during the service.

So I will consider it a success.

In other news, it will come as no surprise to either of my Estonian teachers (or probably anyone who has known me more than five minutes) that I speak fluent dog park.

Noostie and I went to the park again today, and today, two children without a dog were playing in the park. The girl was maybe 9, the boy about 5 I'd guess.

I explained to them that Noostie did not understand Estonian (this was necessary because she was completely unresponsive to the boy calling her Koer! over and over.)

I also explained that her name is Noost-IE, not Noost-IK (which is some sort of sponge in Estonian).

The girl finally asked if Noostie understood English. I said yes, and she said, I am studying English (in Estonian). Then she looked at Noostie and said "dog."

Which is exactly the same thing that happened in Jerusalem. Because I speak fluent dog park Hebrew too.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Spending bills threaten Foreign Service pay and hiring

Government Executive has an excellent piece on the spending bills before Congress and what this could mean for the Foreign Service.

These bills would cut my pay by 16% while I am overseas, on top of the fact that my pay is already frozen for the next two years at least.

This is difficult for me and my wife to bear. Yes, we get free housing overseas. But we still have our mortgage to pay at home. And renting our place doesn't cover that.

But it is even harder for most Foreign Service folks. Because most in the FS are not tandem couples like M and I, going overseas means the loss not just of that 16% but of one spouse's ENTIRE income. Most spouses who work in the states have a limited ability to do so overseas, and even when they do, it is for substantially less pay.

Especially for those with children, this is an nearly impossible loss to bear.

None of us mind sacrificing for the country. We know that this is part of the nature of our service. We willing leave our homes, our stability, our families, for the good of the country.

But please can we make the cuts more fair? Particularly when you carve out 16% of our pay, bear in mind that the senior levels of the Foreign Service do not experience this cut. The other agencies serving with us at post do not experience this cut. The military and their civilian employees do not experience this cut. Their base salaries are their DC salaries, not some fake base salary with DC locality pay.

It is only those of us in the mid and lower levels who must take a pay cut to serve you overseas.

And do you really believe that those who are serving in Libya, Egypt, and Syria should earn LESS than those in DC?

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Can We Clone Her?

My coming out was admittedly pretty easy.

Sure, my mom wigged out for a bit, mostly because she blamed herself (she sent me to a shrink and told the shrink I was "confused" about my sexuality. I told the shrink I wasn't confused, and the shrink agreed and said she wasn't going to tell me I had a problem when I clearly didn't), but she eventually came around. And I always knew she loved me.

My dad never made me think for even a split second that he didn't love me.

And my conversation with my grandmother, who I didn't realize at the time was also gay, went like this:

"Your Mom says you think you might be gay."
"No, I know I am."
"It is a hard life to live."
"It is easier than living a lie."
"That's true."

End of story.

But I know for many, it is not that easy. I know that for many, they truly do lose the love of their family. Some are subjected to violence or are thrown out of their homes. Some choose to end their lives (I love the "It Gets Better" campaign targeted at these kids, because it really does get better).

So when a friend posted this on facebook, I knew I had to share it with you.

The article is written by "Amelia," who has a six year old son who might be gay. She wrote a blog post about her son's crush on one of the gay characters on Glee. About he just loved the scene where they kissed. She and her husband are perfectly comfortable with it, and said to themselves that either he was gay or he was straight and they had the best blackmail ever for their future 16 year old much better than naked baby bath pictures!

He even said to them that the characters on Glee liked to kiss other boys and not girls, and that they were just like him.

She posted it as what she thought was a cute story. She got tons of support when it went viral, many from folks like me who knew they were gay when they were her son's age or younger.

But she also got a lot of vitrol, from people who assume that sexuality is only about sex. She responded:

"Of the criticisms, the most common is that my son is six years old and doesn't know anything about sex. While I fully acknowledge this may not be the end-all-and-be-all to my son's sexual orientation, I object to the idea that being gay is only about sexual acts. Our emotions and feelings, our attractions and compulsions, all contribute, not just our body parts. If my son had a crush on the star of iCarly, I doubt people would be saying he was too young to have those sexual feelings towards a girl. I think they would think it was an innocent schoolboy crush, which is exactly what it is."

And she said it got her thinking:

"...and after awhile I started to feel like I knew this big secret that shouldn't be a secret at all: Every gay adult used to be a gay kid. It's not as if all children start off as straight until some time later when someone flips the gay switch. We are who we are from the very moment we are born."

And then she imagined that every hate-filled thing that every hate-filled person said about gay people was being said to a room full of kindergartners. And she was disgusted, not with gay people, but with the hate aimed at kids. And she vowed that if someone ever says those things in front of her, they will not go unchallenged. That her son will see her defend right, and defend love, and defend him.

My wish, this coming out day (October 11) is that every gay kid can have a mother just like Amelia.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Estonian and Russian Cooperation

Actually, it is even bigger than just cooperation between these two nations.

This is about a joint Russia, Estonia, U.S., Canada, Sweden, Mongolia and China cooperative project.

This is big. Really big.

How big you ask?

Bigfoot big.

It seems that sightings of the Yeti, otherwise known as Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman or Sasquatch, have increased three-fold in the Siberia's Kemerovo region over twenty years ago, and some have found what they believe is evidence, including rudimentary twig huts, twisted branches and trees and footprints of up to 14 inches.

Because a Bigfoot would have big feet, right?

So the governor of region has developed this theory that the Yeti is really Homo neanderthalensis, or a Neanderthal, and he is having a conference to get scientists from the above mentioned countries to come check it out. (Of course, his theories about neanderthals having "No clothing on them, no tools in hands and no fire in the household" suggests he is not up on the most recent research on neanderthals either...but anyway).

Of course, skeptics are certain all the "evidence" is the result of hoaxes. And the conference could just be an attempt to build up Yeti tourism in the area.

As my seriously funny APAO said, the truth has Yeti to be discovered.

You can read more about this cooperative effort here.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Probably A Sign

It is probably a sign that summer, and the nice weather we have had so far in fall, is really over.

I walk to work every day. Yes, even today, even after I got my plates for my car, I still walked. I also walked home to let GSO in to hang my pictures and then I walked back. (and did I mention I have lost weight here...and not because the food isn't is awesome, and I eat it!)

Each day on my way to work, I pass a little cafe. I keep meaning to check them out, but haven't managed to so far.

The cafe has little tables on the sidewalk.

Or, I should say, HAD.

They were gone today. Completely.

Because no one will be eating outside any more.

Because the nice weather is gone.

Sad. Wonder how long I will have before I have to try out my new snow pants.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Have Plates (and GPS), Will Travel

Diplomatic Plates: I has them.

I continue to be amazed at the efficiency of this country.

I have been here for 50 days. I got my UAB on about Day 6.

I got my HHE (AND my car!) nine days ago. The embassy arranged for the inspection two days later.

Today, they completed the registration process and gave me my tags. I could drive tonight if I wanted to.

That is just amazingly fast!

I know places where they don't get their UAB that fast!

Oh yeah, and tomorrow, GSO is coming to finish hanging my pictures in my house AND my office.