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At the risk of becoming one of those people who blog about their pet all the time, I just have to say that MonaSahlin is just the sweetest, nicest cat ever. She learned where her litter box was immediately, doesn’t shed too much and likes to be brushed, doesn’t do annoying cat things like knock stuff over or wake you up at 5am for food, is learning to warm our feet at night instead of trying to warm our faces, and only nibbles the plants and scratches the sofa a *little* bit. We got one of those catnip-scented cardboard scratching boxes for her – hopefully we can teach her to use that instead of the sofa. She likes dry cat food and seems to like gelatin – I gave her some wet food yesterday to see if she liked it, and she licked out all the gross goo and left most of the meat. Maybe I should make some Jell-O for her.

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Kostia’s grandma died yesterday. She’d been bedridden the last couple of months and when Kostia saw her a few weeks ago she was barely conscious and probably didn’t recognize him. Here‘s what Kostia wrote about her on his LiveJournal:

Babushka Valya died yesterday. Valentina Fyodorovna Baranskaya.

She was born in 1922 in the village of Krapivno, in what is currently the Gdov district [in the Pskov region in northwest Russia].

The Polish surname is from her grandfather. He moved to the village in the beginning of the century, apparently. Made the bricks for the local church. Babushka was so proud of her grandpa and her surname that she didn’t take her husband’s name. For this her husband, that is, my grandpa, to the end of his days called her that: Baranskaya.

To my shame, I only once managed to record her reminiscences. Here and here [in Russian, obviously] she talks about her brother, the war, her husband, the kolkhoz, and Stalin.

One of the last photos, taken just before she became bedridden:

Kostia and I have been talking about getting a cat for awhile, but we may never have got around to it if there hadn’t been a cat rescue guy in front of the supermarket yesterday with a sweet little cat who needed a home. He delivered her about an hour ago and after walking around the house and sniffing everything she is making herself at home.

Already discovered plants for nibbling on

Eyeing Kostia

Already getting fur all over the tablecloth

I’ve often lived in households with cats, but for the first time I feel like a real cat owner.

Kostia is a bit more ambivalent about cat ownership than I am, so I let him have the bigger say in what we’re naming her. And her name is… MonaSahlin. After the Social Democrats’ party leader. I don’t know if that’s supposed to be an honor or not, but the name suits the cat, I think.

Some days one just doesn’t want to go running. Today was one of those days. But I’ve had too many “rest days” lately, and I’ve got something to do early tomorrow and I knew I wouldn’t be running then, so I had to run today. I told myself, just 5K, just a gentle jog. It felt like crap the whole time, but when I got home and mapped my run, I had run 6K and the exercises I’ve been doing to improve my pace must be working because this jog was about 40 seconds faster per kilometer than a really hard run a few weeks ago. So, not bad.

I ran 10K last Saturday and it felt great except for my left knee. I am always paranoid that I am grinding my knee cartilage into dust, so any knee pain freaks me out. But with the magic of the internet I determined that I probably had “runners’ knee”, where your kneecap slides around too much because your quadriceps are weak, and the solution is to do quad strengthening exercises and rest. It seems to be working. No knee pain today.

10 days til Tjejmilen.

Kostia returned from Russia with a funny ad for Nikola brand kvas that he had torn out of a magazine. Kvas is a traditional Russian non-alcoholic beverage which is an acquired taste for foreigners. The Nikola brand often uses ad campaigns that play off its Russianness and other soft drinks’ foreignness – even its name, Nikola, sounds like “not cola”.

The new ad campaign is totally over the top. The idea is that there is a foreigner, probably supposed to be an American, posing as a Russian and trying to persuade people that kvas is bad, and the Russian consumer is supposed to find this mock-offensive and want to drink patriotic kvas. The ads are written in pretty amusing Russlish. They have a bunch of video clips at the ad campaign’s website, where you can see that it is a Russian posing as an American posing as a Russian trying to persuade people that kvas is bad in order to make them think that kvas is good. A pretty convoluted strategy. I think only a small number of people are in a position to appreciate this. Judging from the comments on YouTube, most people don’t. The website is full of bizarre content – some geek spent a lot of time putting this ad campaign together.

Kostia’s at his family dacha in Russia at the moment, sending me occasional SMS updates on what Russian TV is saying about the South Ossetia conflict. A decidedly different view from the ground in Tbilisi can be found at WuWei. I have no more information on who’s to blame and what’s going on than the BBC or the New York Times do, but my gut tells me that Saakashvili is the lesser of two evils here.

After a pretty easy 8K a few days ago, and after receiving my race info packet from Tjejmilen, where I learned that at my current pace I should start in the eighth of nine pace groups, I decided my conditioning is good enough to complete the 10K and I should use the remaining few weeks to work on my speed so that I can start in the seventh pace group. It’s a sad goal, but it’s important to have goals nonetheless, right?

Even though I’ve been running fun runs off and on for almost 9 years now, and even ran a marathon six years ago, I’ve never really done anything in particular to try to improve my speed, other than just push myself to run faster and sometimes do fartleks (it’s a Swedish word, but in common usage!) where you change up your pace for short distances. When I did the marathon I did a training program, the goal of which was just to get us to finish the damn thing, so there was no talk of improving speed.

I did some internet research on improving 10K times and now I am doing all kinds of crazy shit like walking lunges around my apartment on my off days and running 5K at just under a pace that would kill me. Today I went to the track and ran fast 1200 meters alternated with slow recovery runs. The total time for the 6K I ran was more than it would take at my normal slow pace, since the recovery runs were really slow. Well, also I was running in the outermost lane, so maybe I ran more than 6K.

While I was running I was treated to the scene of two American football teams warming up for their game. To clarify, the teams weren’t American, the football was. Actually, I think one of the coaches was American, since he was shouting at his team in English. I didn’t stick around to watch the game, because one of the reasons I’m an expat is that I hate American football. But American things like football and classic cars are really popular in the Swedish redneck community, which is pretty sizeable around here.

I seem to have run up against a limitation of WordPress: the inability to use iframes. I didn’t even know what this meant until I tried to embed a map of my latest run from MapMyRun and it wouldn’t work. I thought it would be fun and motivating to post my maps. I can post links to the maps but who wants to click on links to look at other people’s runs? That’s boring.

About the running: I’ve gone through phases of utter laziness and super sportiness in my life, and in mid-June I decided to sign up for a 10K to motivate me out of a phase of utter laziness. The training is going pretty well. I ran 8K today and it didn’t even feel difficult. The 10K, Tjejmilen, is in Stockholm at the end of the month. “Tjej” is Swedish for, well, not “girl” or “woman” exactly — I suppose I would translate it as “gal” but that sounds stupid. It’s like “devushka” in Russian except I think a female can be a “tjej” at any age, while “devushka” is kind of limited to females aged 15-30. “Mil” is the same root as “mile”, but it’s not a mile, it’s 10K. “En” at the end of the word is the definite article. So “Tjejmilen” is “TheGal10K”.

Last week the weather was warm and beautiful, and Kostia and I went swimming almost every day. I like swimming but I hate chlorine, don’t like salt water very much, am a wimp about cold water and obviously don’t like dirty water, so my opportunities for swimming are pretty limited. But for five lovely days last week, Lake Varpan was perfect for swimming. (We also went to Lake Runn, but it was dirtier.)

I foolishly thought the nice weather might continue a bit longer, and had this idea of going camping. Happily, it wasn’t hard to persuade Dima, who has a car, a tent, and all the nifty camping gear. We drove 4.5 hours to the border of Dalarna County and Norway, hiked a few kilometers, hunkered down in a cloud above the tree line about 100 meters from the actual border for about 15 hours, and came back home. Whee!

Back in Falun it is chilly and rainy now and we actually have the heat on in an attempt to dry out our shoes.

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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