Big Sports Day

It was perfect day for life as a couch potato: pouring rain. The afternoon began with THW Kiel against Flensburg-Handewitt. It was close the entire game, but THW pulled away just before the end and squished Flensburg 37:31! My new THW scarf that I had bought at the Final Four but was rather useless there was much needed. Nikola Karabatic had a smashing game, with 9 goals. The Ostseehalle was, as always, packed to the rafters. You didn't need to follow the game to know the score - cheers for the THW goals that tend to follow about 16 seconds after the groans at the Flensburg goals. But then Flensburg misses, and THW pulls away.

No chance for a breather, the women were already fighting it out for the Pokal: Potsdam vs. Frankfurt, as always. Potsdam won after a very, very boring game, sending in an 18-year-old girl, Isabel Kerschowski, who kicked a goal inside of 2 minutes! A second goal followed soon after, both of course while I was in the car driving the teenager someplace so he wouldn't melt in the rain. At the award ceremony (in the pouring rain), the Potsdam captain Ariane Hingst proudly put her sleeve up to Angela Merkel's to show that both were the same color. Merkel is from the state of Brandenburg, the capital of which is Potsdam. The commentator was maddening, constantly talking about "Dr. Köhler" (the president) and "Angela Merkel" (the chancellor). Either they both get their Dr. titles or neither. How difficult is it to remember this simple rule???

After a short breather the men are now underway. Let's hope Bayern Munich loses..... [Nope. They won. Of course. ]


Sexy Girl

There was a young girl on the subway this morning, all decked out. She had a a babydoll T-shirt on with "Sexy" written in glitter across the front, a black bra with the straps showing, a jeans mini-skirt and flowery, high-heeled, open shoes. Her long, brown hair had blond highlights in it and was air-blown to perfection. Her nails were painted bright red. The jarring thing was that she was perhaps 13 - the face underneath the makeup was a child's face, still with some baby fat around the cheeks. She was short, and sitting studying a French vocabulary book.

I stared at her and she looked up (I am always amazed that people actually do feel you looking at them). Her mouth was open and I saw the piercing in her tongue (doesn't that hurt??). I looked disapprovingly and then away, and noticed that she was irritated. I looked at the men around her - no one was noticing this slutty, childish display.

Why do her parents let her leave the house like that? Okay, I have a teenager, too.


Chernobyl - 20 years later

It's hard to believe that it's been 20 years. Chernobyl engraved itself so deeply into my mind and is so present in so many questions I routinely address, that it is hard to understand that an entire generation has grown up since then. Just a few weeks ago I was inquiring about the daughter of a friend and she mentioned that the girl was now 20 - "She was a Chernobyl baby, remember?"

Do I ever remember.

The first reports of the explosion and the attempts of the politicians to reassure us that we did not need to be concerned. I had been active writing for the taz for many years and knew from that one thing for sure: the more insistent they are that everything is okay, the worse the situation actually is. We had been demonstrating against all the atomic power plants in Germany and especially Schleswig-Holstein (Brokdorf, Brünsbüttel) and against the atomic waste dump in Gorleben. We had been laughed at, atomic energy was supposed to be clean and cheap, we were just troublemakers. I suppose we would be called terrorists today.

We kept speaking about a "GAU", größte anzunehmende Unfall, the gravest accident that could happen. We were scoffed at. I still have material from the Kernforschungszentrum in Jülich explaining how improbable such an occurrance is. But that is the problem with probablities. Even the slightest possibilities can acutally happen.

The day the atomic cloud passed over Northern Germany I was in panic, trying to get home before it rained. I only had a sleeveless dress on (summer came early 1986) and it was supposed to rain. I didn't make it, I parked our little Panda outside the house and tried to figure out how to get home - no umbrella, no coat, not even a plastic bag. The rain was beating down, there was just no other way then to dash through the radioactive downpour. I scrubbed and scrubbed in the shower when I got upstairs.

The first of May was a radiant, sunny day. We always went to the union meetings and marches. But did one dare go outside anymore? We couldn't resist, but I remember putting on a long-sleeved blouse despite the warmth, to try and keep radiation off my skin. How horrible to have this danger around you that your could not feel, could not see or taste or smell.

We had an emergengy discussion with friends about our vacation. We had booked 3 weeks on the island of Bornholm with some friends. 5 adults, one kid, one of the women pregnant. A wonderful house with a big kitchen and a sauna near the beach, it was to be a wonderful vacation. But could we actually go? We debated and debated the question, and then decided: to heck with it, we were going to enjoy ourselves. We went, we had a great time and good food and watched the soccer world cup on the television. Denmark was doing well and the Danes were completely gaga about it.

When we got back we found that someone in Kiel had had a great idea. A chemist had figured out how to measure the contamination in food and had measured the Bequerels in milk. It was shockingly high. Quickly a group was formed, Eltern für unbelastete Nahrung e.V. and money collected to purchase measuring equipment. People brought food - 1 liter or 1 kg - to the lab and it was measured and the results published in a little newsletter that was sent out weekly, I believe. Good, Danish milk was high in contamination, cheap Aldi-milk was okay. Mushrooms, venison, berries, all sorts of stuff had much, much more Cesium-126 in it than the new "permissible values" that the industry had quickly defined. We changed our diets and ate only food that was less contaminated than the rest. The half-life of this isotope is 30 years, meaning that once ingested it would be with us the rest of our lives.

Pictures of the residents of Chernobyl began to leak out, we were shocked to see what contamination sickness looked like close up. The reactor got a cement casket dumped on it, and the atomic lobby lay low for a few years.

The baby was born, and every time she had problems you wondered: is it because she's a Chernobyl baby?

The Green Party came into power and started slowly promoting ecologically sound ideas. They started trying to turn off atomic power and were mildly successful. But suddenly I get the feeling that people have forgotten. We need lots of electricity for our MP3 players and our mobile phones and our other toys. I am afraid that we are forgetting what happend "so long ago".

In 10 years we can "celebrate" the half-life of the fallout. Half of the radiation set free that day in 1986 will be gone. Only half. The atomic waste piling up in the waste dumps will be around for many more years.


Switzerland has something for the ladies

Mmmm, Switzerland has an offer for all the women who would like to escape the soccer world cup madness in Germany, coming up in just a few weeks: Schweiz Tourismus- MySwitzerland.com - Schweiz. The pitch: Swiss guys are more interested in women than in soccer. Interesting idea.... The pictures of these nice Swiss men are really something to look at and are quite inviting! I really like the guy with the pitchfork :)

Of course, there is some successful and interesting soccer being played in Germany, just not by the men. The women's national team is the reigning world champion. There is a new documentary out, "Fussballgöttinnen" (Soccer Goddesses). The film homepage is pretty bad (purple on green using serifs is a failing grade in my book), but it's the content that counts, isn't it?


Official Absentee Election Material

Seems the State Department does not inform other officials of persons who are no longer citizens. I got my Official Absentee Election Material in the mail today. If I return the form, I am automatically registered for all voting to be done in 2006. I can also phone in or do it by web. I have to sign the form, but it does not say that I am verifying that I am, indeed, still a citizen.

So what shall I do? It is probably a felony to vote without being a citizen. But Florida makes it so easy to do.... say, wasn't Florida the place where George did so well in the election ?? Sigh.

2006-06-06 (just the right day for this): Man, the State of Florida is really organized! I got a Duval County Florida Voter Information Card today, identifying me as a voter in Florida. A non-citizen voter.....


My new Wedge Axe

We had some trees taken down a few years ago and sliced into 30cm pieces so that we could chop it for our fireplace. Okay, so I could chop it. I did a pretty good job on the easy stuff over the years, but there are a lot of slices left that are just too big for me to slice, or are too knotty to handle.

Last year I saw exactly what I wanted in the Manufactum catalogue: A wedge axe from Logmatic. There is a wedge part and then two handles, one inside the other. You pull up the inside one and drop it, letting gravity drive the wedge into the wood. Or you get rid of your aggressions by slamming the handle down. Either way, the slices of wood cannot resist splitting.

So I got one for myself for Christmas. But there was so much snow in March that I couldn't find the wood....

But now at Easter the snow is melted, so my son and I had a great time yesterday and today splitting wood. Except that now I have a blister on my space-key-thumb and the left-mouse-key-finger. Oh well, that will heal. And I'm really enjoying the fire this evening....


Final Four 2006

Spent the weekend in Hamburg at the Handball Final Four cup 2006. I must say that I enjoy seeing all these athletic young men running back and forth, throwing balls at each other and shoving each other around :-)

I decided to get a fan shawl for THW Kiel, since I lived in Kiel for so many years. But THW was not really in form and they lost dreadfully to the upstarts from Kronau-Östringen. There was not much chance to admire Christian Zeitz from THW Kiel, as he spent most of the game on the bank. At least we got to see a lot of Henning Fritz (yes, we were sitting that close to the goal!), but actually, there was a bit too much action near his goal, with the other team getting 33 goals to THWs 31. Ah well. It was nice to see them live - in Kiel you can never get tickets because all of the games are always sold out to season ticket holders. The only chance to see them is at away games and tournaments. They are in first place in the top league and will stay that way, they are a very fast group of guys, down the playing field before you can blink!

In the other semi-final I was for SC Magdeburg, as I really like the way Stefan Kretzschmar plays handball. He doesn't give a flying farkle about what other people think of him, his official photo has his hair flying every which way and he has all sorts of interesting tatoos and piercings. His tongue piercing seems to help him concentrate, and concentrate he does when on the field - he seems to have more than one pair of eyes, and the things that he gets a ball to do don't seem to obey the rules of physics. He throws goals from the most difficult angles and manages to squeeze them in between the goalpost and the goalie. But he can also be too aggressive, and got thrown out of the game for shoving his elbow into one of the opponents during the second half time.

The final game was Kronau-Östringen against HSV. They tried to open the final game with a laser show that ended up kind of lame because the silly private TV station would not turn out their lights as they were on air sending some drivel or other. Then everyone was to stand and sing the German national anthem, but they seemed to have lost the tape, it took ages before it started. They put the words up on the board for those who might have had the wrong verse in mind... There is still something embarrassing about singing the German anthem for Germans, everyone was glad when it was over.

The game was really a nail-biter, back and forth, both teams fighting for the crown. In the end Hamburg squeaked ahead on a penalty throw and then with just 4 seconds to go and one man down they made a mistake on sending in players and had to forfeit one more. The K-Ö team took out their goalie and put in another power thrower, so it was 7 against 4 - and the goalie (who had let through a lot of stuff) actually held this one and became the hero of the day. The HSV team all put on fisherman's shirts and neck scarves for the ceremony and squirted themselves with champagne. What a waste of good drink.

We made our way out to the car, and sat there for an hour, trying to leave the parking place. The soccer stadium is next door and there was a soccer game scheduled for just after the handball tournament. Guess what - there were a lot of cars. And no one could move forwards or back. What a mess, hope they get that sorted out before the soccer world cup, coming up this summer.

Pictures c. Reinhold Wulff, 2006


The good deed for the day

I got off the S-train this morning together with another woman who was sort of the mother-in-law type, definately the sort of law-and-order demeanor that is often to be found in Germany. She looked like someone who would tell people off for crossing on a red light and so.

There was a young man digging in his wallet for change for the ticket machine. She walked up to him, gave him her ticket, and said "Here you go, use this!". Train tickets are good for 2 hours, in one direction only, but this is usually not checked.

His face brightened up considerably, as he took the ticket, had the machine return the change he had already given it, and dashed to make it into the train before the doors closed.

I overtook her and then stopped to look at the socks in a stall outside the train station, just to get another glimpse of her - did she have a Che T-Shirt? Green party sticker? Anarchist earrings? Nothing. Not even smug about beating the BVG out of 2,10 €. She was just going on about her business after doing her good deed for the day.