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… we’re going to have to pay. In Sweden the tax that pays for public television is collected separately from other taxes, to prevent political influence on the content of programming. Isn’t that great? The only problem, of course, is that it’s real hard to get people to pay it. In fact, when the current right-wing-by-Swedish-standards government was elected in 2006, the person initially appointed to the post of culture minister was found not to have paid her TV tax in 16 years. The scandal made lots of other people feel guilty about not paying their TV tax and Sweden’s Television had a good year.

I’m not a big TV watcher. I hate most of the crap that is put on TV and I hate being advertised to even more. Although I’ve occasionally lived in residences with TVs since leaving home for college, I’ve used the TV mostly for watching movies, except for 1999-2000, when my housemate Klaas and I had a tradition of watching The Simpsons every day. Kostia has similar feelings about television, and although we’ve spent countless hours staring at our computer screens watching movies, we didn’t feel any need to get a TV.

Since coming to Sweden, though, I’ve been agitating for one. Swedish public television is really high-quality, and I thought it would be a good way to improve my Swedish passively. But it was only when the monitor on Kostia’s old laptop died that he started to consider my point of view. He’s got a new laptop and we’ve been using the old one as a sort of media center, with a big old-fashioned monitor borrowed from Dima as a screen. So we needed a new screen, and I thought if we were getting a new screen we could get one with a TV tuner while we were at it.

Then it turns out our friend Olga was trying to sell a TV. So we got a nice TV at a reasonable price, and we’ve already wasted several hours in front of it. We can get basic cable free through the housing rental company, but for now we’ve decided to resist getting the box since there’s plenty to distract us on the four public channels we get already.

The TV taxman came to our door in the spring and Kostia was able to tell him honestly that we didn’t have a TV and were therefore exempt from the tax. But I guess next time we’ll have to pay. Which I don’t have a problem with, because Swedish TV is good.

I frequently hear “Oh! You speak a lot of languages!” even when the speaker knows more languages than I do. Is it because they don’t expect a native English speaker to know any languages other than English, or because Russian and Swedish are so exotic that if you know them to any degree it is automatically assumed that you must know the “normal” foreign languages like French and Spanish as well?  I don’t, though I’ve taken a staggering two semesters of French. And my Swedish is crap. And Russian is a lifelong project. No, I don’t speak a lot of languages.

Here are a few photos from Tjejmilen weekend:

On the train to Stockholm. This lady was like something out of a children’s book, and actually she quite resembled a triplet from “The Triplets of Belleville“. The man on the left was her equally eccentric-looking husband.

Me, before Tjejmilen, grimacing

Kostia and “the Russian fil”, fil being a cousin of yogurt. They don’t seem to sell kefir in Falun so Kostia was excited to find it in Stockholm.

Here is a photo from last weekend:

We were invited to a party and instructed to bring a pie, a savory one, not a dessert one, so I looked in my Russian cookbook and made a kulebyaka, which is basically a big pirozhok. This one has meat inside. That’s supposed to be a hedgehog on the side. The decoration leaves something to be desired but hey, it was my first attempt.

MonaSahlin, in an anesthesia daze

Poor MonaSahlin went to the vet today to get some vaccinations and to get her ear marked. In Sweden they have this system of marking and registering dogs and cats so if they get lost they can be more easily identified. I guess it’s a tattoo, but as you can see she’s still got the bandage on her ear so I don’t really know what it looks like yet.

A woman from the animal rescue organization took her to the vet. When you adopt a cat they take care of the first vet visit, which is convenient. I was going to tag along, but it turned out the woman had to take a smaller car than she was planning to so there wasn’t room for me. When the woman brought Mona back, she was just waking up from the anesthesia. It was one of the saddest, most pathetic things I’ve ever seen, this sweet little cat wobbling around the apartment, falling over now and then, falling into her water bowl, falling asleep and being totally unresponsive, throwing up bile. She’s so heroic though: she still made it to her litter box when necessary. She’s such a good cat.

Now she seems to be more or less her normal self, albeit a bit orange from iodine and still a bit sleepier than usual. She’s purring again. Of course, she doesn’t like having the bandage on her ear. The cat rescue woman said eventually she’d work it off herself. She has already shredded the gauze a little so she looks a bit dissheveled. I feel so sorry for her, poor little thing!

I’m listening to her speech right now. It’s full of contradictions. Is Obama an inexperienced community organizer or a Washington insider? And all the twisting and misrepresentation about taxes and national security just make me sick. Edit: Here’s someone who took the time to do the thorough analysis I didn’t feel up to doing. Edit 2: Here‘s an actual fact check. And here‘s a guy who points out that dissing on community organizers is basically giving the middle finger to everyone in America who gives a shit.

It’s obvious McCain chose her to get the evangelical vote and the people dumb enough to be supporting Hillary Clinton solely on the basis of her gender and not on her policy stances (if you’re one of them, please check this out). It just might work, which is possibly the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen in American politics. She’s charismatic and folksy, to be sure, but I don’t want someone who got their first passport a year ago to be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

Thinking about this is making me feel queasy, so I’m going to stop now and get on with my day.

We went to Stockholm this weekend and I ran Tjejmilen, the 10K for women. It was an interesting experience. After all my agonizing over which pace group I should join I found myself passing walkers for the duration of the thing. I probably ran more than 10K since I had to do so much weaving around them. I sort of wanted to finish in under 70 minutes although my fastest training time was 72 minutes. I finished in 70 minutes 23 seconds. Don’t laugh, at least I ran the whole thing unlike most other people in the field. One of the walkers I passed had two energy bars in her hand. It’s 10K, people, it’s not a marathon. Usually I don’t drink or eat anything over such a short distance, but I did try one of the fancy sugar cubes they were handing out at the 6th kilometer.

The whole thing was OK but not the best race experience I’ve had. Sometimes I miss living in DC where there was a fun run every other weekend. Still, I achieved my goal of getting up off the couch (or away from the computer) and even feel motivated to keep training and improving my time. Soon it will be winter again in central Sweden. I need to find a gym.

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 2008