Thursday, January 31, 2013

CNN: Hillary Clinton's global legacy on gay rights

CNN has a nice piece on Secretary Clinton's lasting global impact on LGBT rights.

The piece says:

"It is clear that gays and lesbians are the canaries in the coal mine of human rights. When gays live under pressure, everyone should worry.

That, however, is not how Clinton explained it 14 months ago, when she stood before the Human Rights Council in Geneva, in front of an audience filled with representatives from Arab and African countries, from places where homosexuality is a crime, even one punishable by death, and declared that gay rights and human rights "are one and the same." Gay people, she explained, deserve equality simply because everyone does.

It was Human Rights Day, the commemoration of the signing of the 1948 U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, and she used the occasion to send a message to the world on behalf of the United States. She declared unequivocally that there is no exception for gay people when it comes to human rights.

She admitted that the U.S. record on human rights for gays and lesbians "is far from perfect." But by proclaiming, without caveat or qualification, the American stance on the issue, she sent a signal to the rest of the world that, while equality for gay people is far from reached, the rightness of the goal is beyond debate, much like it is with equal rights for women or for racial minorities."

Thank you for that, Secretary Clinton. We'll miss you.

You can read the entire article here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Understanding Us

So we are getting a new Secretary of State.

Let me say first that I have loved serving under Secretary Clinton...I think there is a facebook page called Secretary of Awesome for her for a reason. She will be missed.

But I am also optimistic about our Secretary Designate, Senator John Kerry.

And this quote, taken from his testimony yesterday, is why:

"If you confirm me, I would take office as Secretary proud that the Senate is in my blood – but equally proud that so too is the Foreign Service. My Dad’s work under Presidents, both Democratic and Republican, took me and my siblings around the world for a personal journey that brought home the sacrifices and commitment the men and women of the Foreign Service make every day on behalf of America. I wish everyone in the country could see and understand first-hand the devotion, loyalty and amazingly hard, often dangerous work that our diplomats on the front lines do. Theirs is service which earns our country an enormous return on our investment. I will be proud and honored to represent them and I will work hard to augment our public diplomacy so that the story is told at home and abroad."

Senator Kerry is a Foreign Service brat. He gets it. He gets us. He understands the life we live and the dangers we face.

Also understanding the dangers we face? Rachel Maddow and Andrea Mitchell.

Check out this clip:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Finally Happy To Be Home

When I left for R&R, I was tired. I needed a break. I needed to recharge my filter, the one that keeps the thoughts in my head from escaping via my mouth. But I still loved living in Estonia.

When I came back, I....didn't.

I landed in Tallinn with a sense of utter dread. It was so cold and so dark and I felt the most profound feeling of not being at home and of wanting to go home, meaning back to the states.

And frankly, that terrified me. Because we have another year and a half here. And I couldn't bear the thought of being that unhappy for a year and a half.

I was happy to see our pets. I went to work and was happy to see our friends and co-workers (even though I found out that two were having to leave us and I was REALLY unhappy about that!). But I really didn't want to be at work and really didn't want to be in Estonia.

And the idea terrified me if the place that I had been so happy, the place that felt like home, and the place that had been my very favorite tour so far could suddenly not be any of those things, what hope was there for my staying in the foreign service. And being happy about it.

And then Friday, my wife and I went to dinner together. We had survived our first week back and went to one of our favorite places in Tallinn, which luckily for us, is also across the street. And one of our regular waitresses was there. And she spoke to us in Estonian because she knows we like that even though her English is far better than our Estonian.

And suddenly, as I was watching the people walking around and eating the familiar food of the place, and chatting with my wife, the feeling lifted.

And I was happy to be home.

And a sense of true relief washed over me as I realized I really liked Estonia again. That I will not be miserable for a year and a half because I really do like it here.

And like a tiny extra reward for not yielding to my panic, today, the sun visited. And I went outside in 23 degree weather thinking was a beautiful, sunny, WARM day it was.

But that week was really terrifying.

Of course, tonight, after all of those revelations, as I sat in my office about to write this, I noticed the room was getting chilly. I went and checked all our radiators and found they were not really working...not icy, but not warm by any stretch. And since they are heated with warm water, I checked our hot water. Also not icy, but not warm by any stretch.

So hopefully I will get the heat back soon so I can still love it here.


Saturday, January 19, 2013

CNN: As pet deaths continue, airlines pressured to change their ways

Important info for all of us who travel with pets:

As pet deaths continue, airlines pressured to change their ways

"Currently, about 15 major carriers provide monthly incident reports to the DOT, which posts that information online. Under a proposed rule change, any airline with a plane that holds more than 60 seats would have to report pet-related incidents. While current reporting rules focus on pets traveling with their owners, the new rule would include incidents involving cats and dogs shipped by breeders. The DOT also may require airlines to list the total number of animals that were lost, injured or died during flights as well as the number of pets transported each year.

"The number of pets they handle is surprising," says Susan Smith of "One incident makes social media and it's just not a good thing — and it's very sad — but you have to sign liabilities when you put your pet in the cargo hold and it's a chance that you take."

Smith says that airlines have been making changes to meet pet owners' needs — and get a bigger slice of the $50 billion consumers spend on pets each year. But accommodating pets requires a lot more than simply carving out space in the cargo hold for furry travelers. More eyes and employees are involved in the process of transporting four-legged passengers. As part of United's PetSafe program, employees must complete training on handling animals, the airline provides tracking information for customers, and transport vans are climate-controlled. But increasingly, airlines are severely restricting or eliminating the service altogether. notes that KLM recently banned four breeds of snub-nosed dogs in the cargo hold, and Delta Air Lines is restricting all pets from the cargo hold of its B767s.

"I'm not sure if airlines imagined five years ago that [pet travel] would become the business that it has," says Smith. "We are a mobile world. They are moving and want to bring pets. I hope airlines can continue to carry these pets and continue to focus on these safety standards.""


The article includes a good link for a checklist when moving with your pets.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Gehenna Froze Over

They got snow in Jerusalem. Record snow even.

Photo courtesy of ConGen Jerusalem
They had to close the consulate. 

As a resident of Estonia, I am not impressed! :)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

You know you've been in Estonia too long when:

An Estonian friend posted this on Facebook...a lot of them are really true for me. Especially the ones I highlighted:

You know you've been in Estonia too long when:

1. You rummage through your plastic bag collection (Prisma and Rimi mostly) to see which ones you should keep to take to the store and which can be sacrificed to garbage.

2. When a stranger on the street smiles at you:
a. you assume he's drunk
b. he is insane
c. he's an American
d. he's a British sex tourist.

3. You think paying with cash only is quite primitive; in fact your ability to calculate the change back has slowed down dramatically. Getting change in coins or 2 kroon bills is just unacceptable.

4. Your coffee consumption exceeds 6 cups a day and coffee is too weak if there is less than 5 scoops per pot. You drink less water than before.

5. You've replaced some English expressions with "ei ole", "ei taha" and "ma ei tea". The "noh" or "nii" come already spontaneously. Your native language has seriously deteriorated.

6. Around 6:30pm you check mentally which shops are close to you to buy alcohol before 8:00pm.

7. Your notion of streetlife is reduced to the few teenagers hanging out in Viru Keskus.

8. Silence… is fun.

9. Watching TV is no longer interesting. Everything can be found online.

10. When you go to a restaurant you don't expect the waitress to come with the menus and ask what you would like. Customer service is no longer linked with courtesy.

11. You don't think twice about wearing sandals indoors.

12. You know that "I got a new boyfriend." means "I got laid last night."

13. The next day when they say "We broke up." you know it means "He didn't call."

14. You agree that no WIFI at home is equivalent to no electricity or no heating.

15. You are immediately suspicious when somebody starts talking to you in the street.

16. Your bad mood becomes your good mood.

17. Things are not "great" or "amazing" anymore; they're just "normal".

18. You've come to expect Sunday morning sidewalk vomit dodging.

19. You think something's wrong if you see more children than old ladies or drunkards in a bus.

20. If the sun comes out you stare from the window for a couple of minutes.

21. Your front door step is beginning to resemble a shoe shop.

22. When you need a taxi you pick the phone and ask for one.

23. The only couple talking in a tram or a bus always seems to annoy you.

24. You seriously consider visiting the sauna at least once a week.

25. You get annoyed when the bus is two minutes late.

26. Your definition of party has reduced to a nice conversation, quiet music, some snacks and of course drinking.

27. You know how to fix potatoes in 105 different ways.

28. You eat potatoes in 105 ways.

29. You hear loud-talking passengers on the bus. You immediately assume:
a. they are drunk
b. they are Russian-speaking
c. all of the above

30. You chat with people by MSN or Skype even if they're 2 meters away from you.

31. You have undergone a transformation:
a. You accept hapukoor in any food
b. You accept chocolate as food
c. You accept

32. You understand why the Estonian language has neither future tense nor sex.

33. You know that "religious holiday" means, "let's get pissed."

34. You stop asking "how are you" when you meet people. Communicating becomes less and less important...

35. You greet people with "tere" or "hei" or "chau" and keep your distance. You lengthen the last vowels to be very effusive.

36. If someone hugs you for more than 2 seconds you already suspect he/she's hitting on you.

37. Your definition of spicy food has seriously deteriorated.

38. You accept that 80'C in a sauna is chilly, but 20'C outside is freaking hot. Also, you accept -10'C outside as a reasonable temperature, but anything under 22'C indoors is unreasonable...

39. You don't seem anymore surprised, frustrated or disappointed when a girl tells you she's with her boyfriend after dancing and rubbing herself nastily with you.

40. "No comment" becomes a conversation strategy.

41. You know that "work from home" is another phrase for "I'll sleep longer and work half day".

42. Your old habit of being "Fashionably late" is no longer acceptable. You feel ashamed if you're 5mins late.

43. You think SMS is a great way of interacting with people and even flirting.

44. The only place where you're sit without having a computer in front of you is more likely to be the bathroom.

45. You enjoy potatoes.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Missing America

A friend at work today said that R&R is a cruel mistress.

Boy, is she right.

You know I love Estonia. I mean really love Estonia. I have written post upon post about how awesome it is here. If we are Facebook friends, you have seen me post even more about what a great place this is to live and serve.

And it is.

But still...

I miss America. And I miss it worse now having gotten to spend the past three weeks there.

The biggest thing I miss right now is the sun and the weather that my home in South Carolina is experiencing. Seriously y'all, it hit 83 while I was there. Meanwhile, Estonia is having a warm streak with temps in the 20s. Everything is all icy here, especially the sidewalks, since they tend not to use salt. That is why so many people break things in the winter. My wife said instead of calling it E-stonia, we should call it Icy-stonia.

And I miss my family. I got to see lots of family while I was home...their lives go on without me and it makes me sad to think of all I am missing. 

There aren't a lot of foods I am missing, but there are a few. Like good sushi (many thanks to my "new" uncle and aunt for introducing me to Wasabi in Charleston...even my wife admitted how good the sushi was there!). And good Mexican. And Ben & Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch ice cream (they have Ben & Jerry's here, but not that flavor).

I miss something else too...American washers and dryers. They are so BIG! Yes, I know they tell me the ones in Europe are more energy efficient. But I think the efficiency is a wash (pun intended) if you have to do five loads instead of one. 

But I will stop kvetching. Because life here is pretty good. Cold, but good. And I can already detect the lengthening of the days. 

Even if the sun isn't in them, because it, unlike me, is still vacationing on Folly Beach.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Happy New Year!

Yeah, I know I am late wishing that. I just got back to Estonia this past weekend, so I am catching up on everything.

Including work e-mails...outlook is just cruel! I signed on, and it told me I had 152 emails. Really? So few? That can't be right. Granted, I had my inbox down to less than 30 when I left (because I like an organized inbox), but only 122 in three weeks? Can't be.

So I dutifully went through them. Organized. Got them down to a managable 50 or so. And went to press brief.

Which is apparently when my inbox actually updated.

Because when I got back, there were 775. Sigh. For the record, it is back to 43 now.

Anyway, back to wishing you a happy new year. One of the local staff told me today that if you wish someone happy new year after the 9th, you have to give them a bottle of vodka. But you aren't getting one. If I don't drink it, I am not giving it to you. Sue me! And yes, I did consider back-dating this post, so I wouldn't have to tell you that, but I decided to 'fess up.

If you have read this blog for a while, you know that I don't do new year's resolutions, mainly because I suck at them. (I also gave up giving something up for lent one year as the thing I gave up for lent. That one, I have kept). And year before last, I decided to call them goals...turns out I sucked at that too. So this year, I am just going to try this:

* I am going to try to blog more. I have been bad about that lately. and I don't want anyone to think I have been eaten by tigers. So far, I haven't even heard a distant growl, but then, I try really hard not to leave any raw meat out for them.

* I am going to try to read more real books. This means the ipad (and Facebook and Words With Friends) no longer gets to come to bed with me. Unless I am reading a Kindle book on it. But for now, I am sticking with real books until the temptation to check Facebook or play one last move has faded.

And that's it. Nothing sexy or taxing.

You may now resume your new year, already in progress. And I will resume my jet lag, also already in progress.