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Compact fluorescent light bulbs were on sale at one of the local supermarkets this week, and when I went to pick some up, I discovered that in addition to the discount you also got a free copy of  “An Inconvenient Truth” with the purchase of two light bulbs. That’s pretty cool, because despite having this conversation nearly two years ago I still haven’t gotten around to watching the film. But what I didn’t quite understand was why they were giving the film away to people who were buying the environmentally-friendly light bulbs. Shouldn’t they give it to the people buying the regular light bulbs? Also, why does this film come in a typical plastic DVD box instead of a more environmentally-friendly package? Well, one is supposed to pass this film around, so I’ll assume that the more durable packaging is intended to facilitate that. I’ll be sure to pass it on.

It’s not clear what happened: the Swedish Migration Service says that Kostia’s residence/work permit application arrived without the necessary employment invitation and so the application hasn’t been processed because it is incomplete; the Swedish Consulate in St. Petersburg, where we submitted our (completed!) applications, claims that they sent everything and that everything is fine. The university is finally getting involved and hopefully all this will be resolved soon, but it is mighty irritating that the applications were submitted seven weeks ago and we only just found out that they weren’t being processed.

I’m really starting to despise government bureaucracies. And I hate it that the age of globalization means that people can ship stupid environmentally devastating plastic crap all over the world, but that it seems to be getting more difficult and unpleasant for actual human beings to cross borders.

1. Well, of course the first thing I’m going to do is have a nap, and then get drunk. Then we’ve got a fun weekend planned: hosting a housewarming/thesis-turning-in party on Saturday, and the Vyborg film festival on Sunday. 

2. Have a proper summer. Early August is pretty much the end of summer in St. Petersburg. But I’ll be in the U.S. in early September, so I can extend summer a few more weeks.

3. Blog more regularly and more interestingly, both here and on my Russian blog.

4. Start a project based on my thesis: a website for expats in St. Petersburg who are disturbed about the ecological situation, with links to local environmental organizations, information about recyling points in the city, etc.

5. Make time for jogging and yoga again.

6. Translate another of Kostia’s stories into English, which will give him enough material so he can publish the bilingual edition of his book that we first thought of doing two years ago.

And probably some more things too. But first, I’d better go finish the damn thing.

Unrelated: I saw this postcard on PostSecret and it struck a chord…


It annoys me when people complain about the heat all summer long and cold all winter long. I know, it’s just human nature to complain. But at some point I decided I should only complain about one or the other, rather than being a year-round whiner. At the time I made this decision, I was living in Washington, DC, which has relatively short and snowless winters, and long, torrid summers. I decided to embrace the hot weather that was a fact of life and only be whiny in January.

Then fate brought me to 60 degrees north latitude, where it usually starts to snow in October and doesn’t stop until sometime in April. After two long St. Petersburg winters, by the end of each of which I was nearly insane from cold and cabin fever and wearing heavy sweaters all the time, my blood had finally thickened a bit and I got used to the idea that winter lasts for six months.

Falun, Sweden, is at the same latitude as St. Petersburg, and, from everything I read, tends to have similar temperature fluctuations. So I was completely mentally prepared for a nice long winter. Only this year has been different, both here and in Northwest Russia. Winter didn’t really settle in until mid-January, and now it seems to be over.

I’m having a hard time reconciling this in my head. After all the mental preparation for a long winter, I feel somehow cheated. It doesn’t seem right that the sun is shining brightly and it’s +5 Celsius.

Kostia keeps telling me that this kind of weather is also normal for this part of the world, and that I just picked an unlucky two winters to live in St. Petersburg. Maybe so, but I fear climate change. Well, there’s nothing I can do about it right now, so I guess I should go outside and enjoy the sunshine.

Interesting that none of the mainstream news articles about the freak weather in the US recently mention climate change as a major contributing factor. (Yes, believe it or not, snowstorms can be caused by the misnomer “global warming”.) When will we take responsibility for the fact that our lifestyle is destroying the planet? For those unwilling to make major changes (like not driving fucking SUVs, would it really be so hard?), a few small lifestyle change suggestions here. Sorry for being preachy, but it’s all so irritating.

So my friend Hugh was visiting from Canada, and we went to Stockholm for the weekend. On Friday night we had dinner in a nice vegetarian cafe in Södermalm. It was a little crowded, so we took a table that was pushed right up against another table that was occupied. By a crazy middle-aged earth mother.

After sizing her up and deciding that she might possibly be nutty, I tried to avoid eye contact and therefore conversation. To no avail. She informed us that we were allowed to ask for second helpings on our meals. We felt that the first helping was generous enough, plus there was unlimited salad and bread, so we decided against it. She herself got thirds. One of the times when she was getting up she told the people at the next table that the overhead light was shining into their newborn baby’s (closed) eyes and that they ought to hold him in such a way that it wasn’t. I don’t know much about parenting, but I do know that new parents love getting advice from strangers.

Later she engaged us in more conversation. I mentioned that I was studying in Falun, and she said that it must be very nice and clean there, and then it became clear that all this small talk was just a pretext to get around to her main point, which was to talk about environmental issues, and in particular, to exhort us to see Al Gore’s environmental movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Apparently at the end of the movie, they say something like, “go tell other people to see this movie, and they’ll tell others, and the message will spread”. OK, fine. I believe in this principle, but not so much that I’d beat total strangers over the head with it in a restaurant. She made us each repeat the name of the movie and the guy who — what? produced? directed? sponsored? narrated? — whose name is attached to the movie. “You won’t forget that name? Al Gore?” No, I won’t forget. I worked on Ralph Nader’s 2000 campaign and there are people who credit me with costing him the presidency.

It was just so silly, because I am SO ON BOARD with the environmental movement, as is Hugh. Hugh, in particular, doesn’t even have a driver’s license, much less a car, he’s still a vegetarian (when so many of us who once were have given up), and he’s been wearing the same winter coat for the ten years I’ve known him. I mean, you can’t get more preaching-to-the-choir than that was. Of course, she had no way of knowing that.

I have a theory that she goes to that restaurant every day, getting her three helpings, and haranguing people. The experience was a useful reminder that one walks a fine line between spreading the message and turning people off completely.

But there we are, the link’s up there, and while I haven’t seen the film yet, I would if it were playing somewhere near me, or if the university library had the DVD. So now I’ve done the earth mother proud.

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 2020