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I’ve been having a few guilt pangs about not being in the US to be involved in the midterm elections. I’ve been mulling over what to post on this blog that might contribute in some small way. Fortunately, this useful e-mail just arrived in my inbox. I’m a Green, not a Democrat, but at this point, whatever works to get rid of the Republicans. If you’re in the US and looking for some way to get informed and involved in the election, read on:

Dear Friends and Family,

I’m going to ask your forgiveness right up front for contacting you about the upcoming elections! But if you disagree with the direction George Bush and his allies in Congress are taking the country, now is the time to do something about it.

Please consider helping Democratic candidates in competitive districts. You can help them by volunteering, giving money, or both. Small contributions made via the Internet—even $10 or $20—are making a difference for Democrats in competitive House races.

If the elections were held today, instead of November 7, Democrats would win enough seats in the House to gain a majority and put the brakes on President Bush and his cronies.

Last week, the Washington Post reported that the Republicans know they can’t win on the issues, so their strategy is to use attack ads to smear Democratic candidates individually. They have a lot of money to run ads. The Post’s editorial cartoonist, Tom Toles, summed it up neatly in a cartoon on September 12:
Caption: “When in a hole, how does that expression go?….Oh, yeah, make mud.”

Please help House Democrats:

Volunteer for a candidate in a competitive district. Look at the websites listed below to see if you live in or near one of them.

Give money via the Internet to a Democratic candidate in a competitive district in your state, your region, or anywhere around the country.

Give money to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which will spend all the money it raises on this election.

Here is the New York Times election guide:

Here is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee website:

The DCCC’s “Red to Blue” list shows which races are the highest priority:

Here is the article about the Republicans’ plans to win the elections and keep control of the House and Senate by mud-slinging.

Thank you for anything you can do to help Democratic candidates! Spread the word to others. And, of course, remember to vote on November 7.

Lara Levison
Washington, DC

A few more links:


People for the American Way

The American Civil Liberties Union

The Green Party of the United States

On Friday we went to Systembolaget to get some of their finest cheap wine. While I was in the checkout line, Kostia went to the front of the store to wait. The cashier said something in Swedish I didn’t understand. I said, “Sorry?” She said, “Do you have your ID?” I didn’t. You rarely need your passport in Sweden (unlike in Russia), and I’ve never been carded for alcohol in Europe before. “Kostia!” I shouted. “Do you have your passport on you?” He came over to the cash register. He didn’t have his passport either. “I’m thirty,” I said. (You’re supposed to be 20 to buy alcohol.) “OK, OK,” said the cashier. We got our wine. I no longer mind the fact that I look younger than my age, but I would have been pissed off if we couldn’t buy the wine.

The summer-like weather continues. On Saturday we walked around town and saw some new things.

This building was a prison til 1995. Now it’s a youth hostel. They were having an open house, so we went in to check it out. It’s still pretty prison-like. I think in order to want to stay here you would have to be in a really kitchy mood. They have a prison history museum in the basement with things like handcuffs, works of art made by the prisoners, and police almanacs going back to the 1800s.

Another view of the city from near the prison hostel.

A building that reminded me of a run-down palace in St. Petersburg. Grass gone wild and all. Very un-Swedish. What’s this doing in a residential neighborhood? Will do some research and get back to you.

A dog waiting for his owner outside the yarn shop.

We see vintage Volvos all the time, causing me to hum the theme song from the film “Kitchen Stories

Falun is in a valley, and Kostia had been looking longingly at the hills, wanting to see what was at the top. So last week, we went to have a look.

We hiked up toward some sort of communications tower. We didn’t really find a lookout point, and could only see across the valley in small patches:

The hillside was really nice, though. Lots of pine trees and boulders. And wild blueberries everywhere.

And a little cave in the rocks.

If I were a Dead Russian Composer, I would be Sergei Rakhmaninov.

I lived in the early Twentieth Century and was well known for my compositional, conducting, and piano skills, yet I am melancholy despite this talent. My famous works include my nearly-impossible piano concerti.

Who would you be? Dead Russian Composer Personality Test

That’s so cool. He is my favorite Dead Russian Composer.
(I got this from Wally.)

Whilst Googling something else, I came across this article, about people taking advantage of IKEA‘s generous customer services:

The Swedish Feeding Trough

A former roommate told me that when they opened the first IKEAs in Russia they had to stop giving out the golf pencils because people were hoarding them. Everyone must have gotten their fill because there was always an ample supply of golf pencils when I went to the SPb IKEA.

I must admit I like the IKEA cafe a lot too. In St. Petersburg I’d sometimes say to Kostia, “Let’s go to Sweden today!” meaning, let’s go to the oasis of western Europeanness that is IKEA. We hardly ever went though; it’s not that convenient to get to. I taught English briefly at a company that was building an extension onto that IKEA and so on the way to their building site I’d sometimes run into IKEA for a 5-ruble ice cream or a 10-ruble hot dog. Mmm…

We haven’t been to IKEA in Sweden yet. I suppose it’s because we’re already in Sweden, we don’t need the simulacrum.

Edit: Another amusing IKEA link:
Swedes Rush After IKEA Paintings

Yesterday the left coalition, which includes the Social Democrats who have governed for 64 of the past 70 years, were narrowly defeated by the right alliance. The Social Democrats actually got more votes than any other party, but in multi-party system it’s the coalitions that matter.

It seems that the big issue in Sweden right now is unemployment, and the Social Democrats weren’t able to persuade the electorate that they had a plan to deal with it. The right alliance wants to reduce unemployment benefits and taxes, but I don’t see how this is going to create jobs.

The hardcore leftists are very sad and fear that this is the end of the Swedish economic model, but I don’t know. I mean, I’m a superhardcore lefty by US standards, but in Sweden the right parties are kind of like US Democrats, which is to say, I don’t particularly support them, but they don’t scare me.

On our corridor in the dorm there is one Swede who was taking the election really seriously. He voted for the Left Party. Last night around 8:30 he walked into the common room and said “fuck”. The exit polls were showing that the right alliance was going to win. One of the Polish students asked him if he would help her with her Swedish homework and he said “No, I don’t feel like it. I have to go calm down.” He was not visibly agitated, except for being a bit red in the face. Swedish self-composure, I guess. (I thought of my own reactions on the past two U.S. presidential election nights: wailing, crying.) He spent the rest of the evening wandering between his room and the common room, drinking beer and looking sad.

The church on the main square

Did you know that Sweden’s having a national election on September 17th? This tent on the main square in Falun has a booth for each of the (seven) political parties.

Some lovely houses on the riverfront that make Kostia all dreamy

Just another street

I just really liked this old lady in her little garden

The famous Falun copper mine

A miner

A view of downtown Falun

This window is painted-on…

…here’s a close-up

It was a lovely weekend. We visited Falun’s main tourist attraction, the copper mine. We decided to save the museum for a less beautiful day, and the 100 kronor ($15) trip into the mine for more affluent times, but we did look down into the big, deep hole. It is indeed very big, and very deep. (I have some pictures but I haven’t gotten around to transfering them to my computer yet.)

We bought the DVD of “My Life As A Dog” from the “Swedish Classics” sale bin and watched it with our German friend Indra. I’d seen the film before several times, but Kostia and Indra hadn’t. (It’s a really sweet film; if you haven’t seen it, you must.)

Since the contract is signed, I can talk about the improvement on the housing front. In mid-October we’ll be moving to a one-room apartment which is lots closer to the university, a bit closer to downtown, has a decent-sized kitchen, a nice view of some woods, and will cut our monthly housing costs nearly in half. What’s the catch, you say? It doesn’t have a shower or bathtub. There is a sauna and shower in the basement shared by the five other apartments in the building that don’t have a shower. Eeek, I know. But when I expressed reservations, Kostia reminded me of all the bathing-related hardships he’s suffered in his life (no running water at home from birth to age 10, no shower in their dormitory for his first few years of university — they had to go to another dorm) and how this is mild in comparison. OK, OK. Anyway, the place is so cheap that it will make a huge difference in our economic situation, and other than the lack of a shower it’s quite nice. With the money we’ll save I’ll buy a new bathrobe to look nice for the neighbors.

Photos tomorrow, I promise.

About This Blog

I'm an American who started blogging when I moved to Russia in 2004. Eventually I moved to Sweden, where life is pleasant but uneventful, and stopped blogging for lack of interesting things to say. And then I joined Facebook, which further destroyed any motivation for blogging. Maybe someday I'll start blogging again, but for now, this blog is dormant, an archive of The Russia Years: 2004-2008.

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September 2006