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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Dog Daze 6

Xmas Dog - Crop

 I have to tell you this
on the day-after blog
‘cause I know you all know
I’m a very good dog.
But my oh my, oh me, oh me
they’re saying I pissed on the Christmas tree.

It was the cat!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Beginning of Winter - 3

Sun Goddess FiX 

In the Northern Hemisphere, today is the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year and the longest night. It’s officially the first day of winter and one of the oldest-known holidays in human history. Anthropologists believe that solstice celebrations go back at least 30,000 years, before humans even began farming on a large scale. Many of the most ancient stone structures made by human beings were designed to pinpoint the precise date of the solstice. The stone circles of Stonehenge were arranged to receive the first rays of midwinter sun.

Some ancient peoples believed that because daylight was waning, it might go away forever, so they lit huge bonfires to tempt the sun to come back. The tradition of decorating our houses and our trees with lights at this time of year is passed down from those ancient bonfires. In ancient Egypt and Syria, people celebrated the winter solstice as the sun’s birthday. In ancient Rome, the winter solstice was celebrated with the festival of Saturnalia, during which all business transactions and even wars were suspended, and slaves were waited upon by their masters.

Taken from Writer’s Almanac – 12/21/2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Amber's Swedish History - Chapter 11

Amber's History Ch

I’ve been so distracted lately. Having a dog in the house does not make it easy. Hmm . . . where was I? Oh yes, 1587 with Sigismund the sluggish.


He was King of Sweden and Poland, but there were other Swedes who thought they could do a better job of it. They were probably right. Duke Karl (Karl IX) of Södermanland was one of them. He was a brutal, ruthless sort of fellow, but had good economic sense. Karl founded Göteborg, and planned to use it as a shipping port in order to get out of paying Danish tariffs. The Danes thought this was a bad idea and burned Göteborg to the ground. After that Karl turned his attention to removing Sigismund from the throne.

He held a meeting with his former enemies in Uppsala. They all wanted Sweden to be Lutheran, and Sigismund was Catholic, but nothing much came of their decision. The nobility feared Karl would become a despotic king with no respect for their high rank.

Sigi 2

 This is a painting of Sigismund with his dog. They often kept dogs as pets because they were subservient creatures more willing to take orders than cats.

Things finally came to a head at Stångebro in 1598 – another war over religion. Will they never end? I mean, really. Thousands were killed. Sigismund was captured, but allowed to go back to Poland. The dog probably went with him.

The Battle of Stångebro

Karl IX set to work as soon as Sigismund was gone. He gleefully executed his enemies in Stockholm after announcing that Sigismund had been deposed. He summoned a new Riksdag in Linköping. Several councilors were beheaded in the town square at what came to be known as the Linköping Bloodbath. Swedes were very into bloodbaths in those days. Karl was crowned King of Sweden in Uppsala in 1607, then went north to Finland to try an open up another seaport. He had a thing about seaports and once again his predilection started a war with the Danes. He defeated them at Stångebro, but then another war was started, this time between Sweden and Poland.

Karl did pretty well at first, and made his way into Livorna, but then the Poles counter attacked.


 Karl’s army was defeated and he tried to get back to Sweden by crossing the Gulf of Finland, but the sea had started freezing over. His boat sank and he and his family almost went with it, but they made it to land and spent Christmas at Åbo castle. After that they took a long and very uncomfortable sleigh ride back to Stockholm.

As soon as Karl got over his sleigh-lag he assembled a new army made up of Swedes and mercenaries from Germany, France and England. He then led them to Livonia where they were totally destroyed. The survivors ran back to Sweden as fast as they could, and an armistice with Poland was signed in 1611.

Main while, in Russia, Ivan the Terrible had died. Pretenders to the throne started showing up, and bands of Cossacks began to plunder and ravage (an old Viking tradition) until a Swedish army led by Jakob De La Gardie liberated Moscow and installed Vassily Shuisky, as tzar.

De La G 

Jakob De La Gardie

 De La Gardie had been held prisoner in Poland for four years as a young adult and after his release served under the Dutch general, Maurice of Nassau. He was Impressed with the Dutch way of waging war and introduced Dutch methods into the Swedish army upon his return to the service of Sweden. De la Gardie’s victory in Russia was short lived. He was forced out of Moscow when Poland stormed into Russia with their own candidate, Sigismund’s son, Vladislav. Vladislav became the new tzar, but not for long.

Next week: De La Gardie Returns

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Swedish For Immigrants - Week 16


Verbal abuse
These verbs I know
will someday be of use
these tenses do so stress
I must confess
but will endure
these eight more days
I didn’t know were still to go
I never seem to know
what’s coming next
these texts a complex sum of words.
I do not fit
this SFI curriculum
designed for immigrants
much younger than myself
some dozen years at least
and coming from the middle east.

*                       *                       *

I’d thought I’d be on holiday by now, but have misunderstood. Still two more days to go, the last test Wednesday, then a party Thursday, then I’m done. New classes start the second week of January. I am far from able to rise up to ‘C’ level this next semester, but the majority of my class will stay in ‘B’, though they know more than I. Most of their problems are with writing, I believe. One has to write text of 100 plus correct words in order to move on. I was able to write 50 words with only one mistake last week, but they were written in present tense and the test called for past tense. Duh. Strangely enough I scored a 95%, a 90% and a 70% on the last 3 tests. A vast improvement, but still so far to go.

One of my classmates showed me photos of his house and homeland in Afghanistan last week. They were so picturesque they made me sad. The little town, houses and village school were modest, but idyllic, green pastures, farmland and mountains on the horizon. There were photos of his 19 year-old son who is still there. What’s going on behind those images I wonder. Why has he come to Sweden. Can’t be easy.

I cannot resist sharing one more poem by Binnie Andersson, first in English (my translation) then in Swedish from the original.

From: Swedish For Immigrants – Published by Immigrant Institute
Suddenly I am a Foreigner
Binnie Kristal-Andersson
Suddenly I am a foreigner
suddenly I am alone
in a foreign country
foreign eyes
staring at me
I try to look friendly
I try to explain
with my quiet humble eyes
why I am here
in your country old lady
who sits beside me on the bus
and stares at me angrily.
Why do you look so angry?
I know that I don’t
look exactly
like the others
I know I cannot speak
your language
as well as you
but believe me old lady
I want to love you
and your country
if you do not count me out
before I get
a chance.
*                                 *                               *
From: Svewnska för Invandrare
Binnie Kristal-Anderson
Plöbtsligt är jag utlänning
plöbtsligt står jag ensam
i ett främmande land
främmande ögon
stirrar på mig
jag försöker se vänlig ut
jag försoker förklara
med min ödmjuka tysta blick
varför jag är här
i ditt land, gamla dam
och sitter bredvid mig i bussen
och stirrar argt på mig
Varför ser du så arg ut?
jag vet att jag inte
ser ut precis
som de andra
jag vet att jag inte kan prata
ditt sprak
lika bra som du
Men tro mig, gamla dam
jag vill älska dig
och ditt land,
om du inte domer ut mig
innan jag får
en chans.
*                                 *                                  *
Christmas will be a new experience for them . . . and snow.
I hope it’s a good one for them, and for you, and for all of us.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Free Concert

Postcard From San Francisco – 1968 FREE CONCERT


Sunday in the park
September – San Francisco

Band Shell orchestra
beneath the last of warming suns
conductor taps his wand
preparing for the anthem
some now stand
but others are too old, or tired.

A flock of pigeons flare above us
startled by the sudden blare of brass and drums
their loose formation makes a graceful, sweeping curve
with military grace
above the scattered crowd.

Eye glasses glitter
watching as they wheel against a hard blue sky
returning bravely to their nests when the triumphant noise has ended.

They all know the score.

Published Breadline Press West Coast Anthology 2012

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Beginning of Winter - 2

Sun Good
Borlänge, Sweden 2 P.M. 9 December 2014

Lawns white with frost
sun skirting far horizon
blinding light.
Forecasters tell us snow will wait
but they are almost never right.

Dog Daze - 5

E  A 2- Fixed A 

I’m trying to make friends with Amber and she seems open to the idea. We were discussing our trips to the vet yesterday, and my grandparents' rat hunting skills. She’s been trying to help me understand Swedish politics, which isn't easy. I wrote this poem for her today.

It’s as simple as that
said the much learned cat.
She had quite a fine coat
and refused to hunt rats.
We talked about doctors
and trips to the vet.
I’ve had my first shots
but they’re not yet the last yet.
What about the Iron Curtain?
I asked her today.
Will it ever come down
so we’re able to play?
I suppose that it might
if that’s what we want
but until that day comes
We’ll live with detente.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Dog Daze - 4 Amber's News & Views

First let me say I have not been spying on Ellie. It was a boring day and there was nothing better to do at the moment, though I must admit I was curious. This morning I climbed over the Iron Curtain to see what she was fussing about.

Swedish politics . . . Hmm. Seems easy enough for me to understand. Politicians are human, and humans are a flawed species. Most of them are just looking out for themselves. The good ones are looking out for their pets.
“It’s as simple as that,” said a much learned cat.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Ellie - 3 Dog Daze

I’m not a paranoid hound. I never have been, but last night I was reading an article about Swedish politics in the newspaper. Swedish politics is difficult to understand, but seems very similar to American politics . . .  which is impossible to understand – whatever.
I started to have the feeling I was being watched, and when I looked up I saw Amber the Kat staring at me from the other side of the iron curtain. If you look closely you can see her in this photo take by the security camera.
Dog News 4 JAP A

I didn’t say anything and neither did she. I wonder what she is up to?
This could be interesting.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014