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Monday, September 28, 2015

Observing Rome – The Coliseum

Colusium 2 Cropped 
The Romans started building the Colosseum (It) in 70 AD and are still working on it.
Colus 1 Fixed 
Thousands waited in line to get in when it was finished. Thousands are still waiting to get in – as difficult now than it was then, perhaps more so. After a long wait in line there is twenty minute security check requiring passport or driver’s license.

Rome Soldier Cropped 
Armed guards try to wonder unobtrusively a midst the throngs. His smile was not for me.
 “You are not permitted to photograph military personnel,” I was told. 

I suppose there have always been guards walking around the place.
Rome Soldiers Old Cropped (2)
Touts roam the crowds explaining they can get their small, often potential, groups inside ahead of larger groups now waiting. We decided to move on, browsing around the adjacent ruins.

My wife in white at bottom left.
Click to enlarge photos

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Observing Rome - The Trip

It wasn’t easy. First, two hours by train to Stockholm, then a two hour wait for plane to Zurich and another two hour ride followed by a two hour wait for the plane to Rome. We were both a bit hungry by then so we stopped at sports bar in the airport and ordered cheeseburgers. The menu prices were in Swiss francs and we didn’t pay that much attention – how much could a burger cost? We were surprised when they came, cut in half and open faced. We were more surprised when the bill when came – $75!


I must say they were good, the fries as well, and one beer. I figure the fries were costing 25 cents each.

The plane from Zurich to Rome took another hour and a half. It was after ten p.m. by the time we arrived. We’d been up since six that morning. I could hardly keep my eyes open, but the cab ride woke me up. I’ve never seen anything like it. Traffic in India was similar, but this was at high speed, at night, and on a busy freeway. The cars were like caroms that should have been bouncing off one another, but seemed to be protected by in invisible shield. Strangely enough, I never saw a traffic accident in Rome while we were in Rome. Amazing.

Ride to our hotel cost $50, and the driver did not take plastic, another surprise. He took my last euro, but I was happy to be alive. It felt so good to lay down!

Italy Statue - 1 Dbl Crop

(Click To Enlarge)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Observing Rome - 1

Rome Rat Good

Italy Intro Shot Fixed

Observing Sweden Driver’s License – Step 3

The Slippery Road Test 

Last week I passed the slippery road test. I turned out to be far easier than I expected. I’d thought the diagram below was saying you you had to do the slalom both forward and backwards. It was only forward. Very easy. No one failed. There were 14 of us, all younger than myself, of course, late teens and early twenties.

Then came the icy road test. There was a track, or course, about a half a mile around. One half of it was smooth finished concrete with sprinklers along its edge that kept the surface very slick. We were to drive around the track at 50 miles an hour, then slam on the brakes when we came to a pair of marker poles. I slid for about 80 yards. Some of the students spun out, but I had no problem. We went through this five times at different speeds, the last time with an artificial moose we had to get around. 
When avoiding a moose, go around its back side, not the front – good advice.

Moose Car Good

The most interesting part came after the road test. We were taken inside to a series of displays. One was a car that had hit a moose. Its passengers were killed.
There was also a seat belt test. One for impact . . .

Seat Belt Test

And the other for rollover. That’s me in the driver’s seat. Fun!

Roll 1

As much as all this has been a pain in the butt (and expensive – about $250 for this part) I think it’s an excellent program for young people learning to drive.

I still have the written test and the actual driving test to complete – more time and money, but I’m getting there.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Observing Sweden – Immigration In Borlänge

Subjects controversial . . . perhaps best left alone. To stay politically correct, expressing no opinion. None the less, I am expressing mine, as a observer, non-Swede’s point of view. A petri dish of Swedish immigration. I’ve been thinking, might be interesting to keep a sort of journal, goings on, as things progress.

I am an immigrant myself, although an odd one, coming from America to Sweden. I will not return, the same as most of those now coming here. No going back. A loss of homeland . . . native tongue. I share this loss and the attendant feelings, plus a few more, but I came to Sweden with Swedish wife, a car, a house and dog and cat. Not a part of the European migrant problem.

“It will all work out. We’ll come to an agreeable and mutual decision.” The prevailing Swedish point of view for all political decision making. You can have a say, even if you know nothing at all about what is being decided. Swedes have a lots of patience. It took the Swedish police fifteen years to decide upon a more modern caliber of ammunition for their weapons. When the decision was made a new debate began, to decide on what kind of guns to buy. The problems posed by immigration problems will take time to solve, and in the mean time, things will not get better. There are incidents, cars burned, and attempted arson by two Swedes–amazing. It’s expensive, stressful. Not the sort of thing we long for.

There’s a fairly nice hotel/motel a block away from where I live. A large, two floor, frame building with a patio and dining area. About a hundred rooms. The government bought the building and turned it into one of many places housing refugees. Big impact on a small, upscale community with parks with Swedish miles of asphalt paths, and trees, and streams, and the Dalälven river. I cannot imagine better places for an immigrant to land, or better deals. Free rent, about a hundred bucks a month to spend, not much, but just enough, I think . . . more for each kid . . . more than the home grown Swedish parents get.

There is a tree bound, grass green soccer field, with a soft slope for game watchers – five minute walk from the motel/hotel. The Syrians and Somalis love it. Soccer’s been a quite successful immigration tool here ─ the most international of sports, with common understanding of the rules. I was taking a walk on one of the local paths and stopped to watch some fifteen minutes of a game. At least three different races on the field. People enjoying themselves. It felt good to be there. That next day I heard of a complaint by someone living near the field. “Too much noise.” At the same time women in our neighborhood are gathering clothes, and shoes, and food to help.

It’s interesting passing new arrivals on the sidewalks, there’s a moment’s, apprehension. I can feel them thinking, Should I brace myself? I smile say, Hi, and it’s okay. They smile back. I suspect both of us do a mental sigh of relief as we pass. That went okay. Tomorrow might not be the same. Two Swedes broke into the hotel/motel with cans of gasoline, late night, a couple days ago. One of the new arrivals was awake. You get that kind of heightened awareness when you’re packed in with a thousand others for a few months . . . wise to keep an eye on things. They caught the guys. Papers and TV news inform us, “They were drunk.” I wonder how drunk would you have to be to set fire to a wooden building with a hundred people sleeping in it, late at night? I suspect a bit of spin here. “No sane Swede would do this, unless hopelessly drunk.” It’s possible, but more than alcohol’s involved. It could have been a great disaster. We were lucky, but how must it feel to have somebody try burn your house down while you’re sleeping.

I was passing by the motel/hotel yesterday and stopped to take the photo you will see below. There were a few guys near the entrance to the place, just hanging out, sitting and milling around. Their eyes l0cked onto me before I’d gotten close. That uncomfortable, anticipatory feeling again. Paranoia – a heightened state of awareness. I was wondering if the camera made them nervous and if I should go ahead and take the shot. Somebody called my name.

“Bruuzz, Bruuzz!” It was a guy from a ‘Swedish For Immigrants’ language class I took earlier this year. We’re kind of friends, although we’ve never really talked ─ my thing with Swedish, his with both English and Swedish. He taught me some Arab swearwords, and we kind of hit it off. He comes up, hugs, and kisses me on the cheek. I’m so surprised. I ask him if he lives at the motel/hotel, and learn he’s visiting a friend. We make some simple conversation. I remember he was trying for a drivers’ license, my last days of school. He’d passed the written test but failed the road test . . . something with roundabouts. I ask him if he ever passed. “Yes, yes.” He grins and points apply at a red car, Toyota. Not a new one, but it’s passed the Swedish vehicle inspection. You can bet the ride’s reliable.

I’m proud of him. Impressed. I am still practicing to take the test myself, and fear it. And to buy a car, with the attendant Swedish bureaucratic paperwork and laws. I know how complicated all this is. Not easy. Students in my language classes were all hard workers, and I’ll bet Abdul speaks nearly fluent Swedish now, but I’m still struggling with the language. We don’t talk long. He repeats the dirty words he taught me to make sure I still remember, and walks back to where he was, with friends – med kompis. So, I took the photo. See below – man in green T-shirt, right of center, Abdul waving.

Here today, in Borlänge, was a welcome thing held downtown, Centrum. A modest crowd listened to two or three short speeches I could not began to understand, only the names of nations, Syria, Somalia, Eritrea.

Crowd Scene Fixed (2) 

In back of crowd, just right of center, statue of Borlänge’s famous, home grown opera singer, Jussi.

Banner 2 

Banner held by neighbors asked for help for new arrivals A woman sang, in Arabic – quite nice.

Jussi Statue 1

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Storm Cycle 2014

Got my copy of Storm Cycle 2014 in the mail today.
A magnum opus. Really nice. My poem page 98.
Made my day.

Storm Cycle - Best

Friday, September 4, 2015

Digging Up Bones - Jerusalem 1963

Going through some old 35 mm slides.
Can’t remember if this is a dome or the dome. Can anyone tell me?

                                         *          *          *     
From ShimonZ

 This is a photo of the El Aksa mosque in Jerusalem, which was built on Mount Mariah,This is a photo of the El Aksa mosque in Jerusalem, which was built on Mount Mariah, a place where Abraham used to converse with god. The dome is one of many in Jerusalem, so I wouldn’t call it ‘The Dome’, but the mosque is the focal point of much devotion, and too much conflict, sad to say…

J - Dome Fixed

(Click to Enlarge)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Obsereving Sweden - Driving Me Crazy

Took my 2nd driver’s practice today, another $100. I did okay, but forgot to look at the right side mirror a couple times. I was a little stressed. It’s such a pain in the ass with someone telling you, “Go left at the next stop, then right. Follow the sign to Ornsköldsvik.” One usually knows where one is going ahead of time, but then, I’ve only been driving for 60 years. Now I have to take a ‘slippery road’ practice in a town near here. This takes 3 hours and costs $200 U.S. In order to be permitted to take this practice I have to pass a slalom test – between traffic cones, forward and backward, with a stick shift vehicle.


I will need to have a translator with me as instructions are in Swedish. If I don’t pass the slalom test I get to pay another $200 and take the test again. If I manage to pass, I get to take a written test, (another hundred bucks), with thousands of possible relevant questions such as, “What is the maximum speed for a moped Category 1?” If I pass that I get to pay another fee and take the actual driving test.

I am so totally pissed!