Two More Games to Win

It was nothing for weak nerves. Germany met the reigning world champions in handball, Spain, for the quarter finals. Who ever loses is out.

It was not really a pretty game. I often joke about handball being just an organized gang fight (and since Germany is so good at organizing stuff, they are good at handball). This was not an organized fight, this was an out-and-out knock-em-down-drag-em-out. I can't find a picture to link to, but he had a black-red-yellow welt under his eye after the game from one of the not-so-cuddly Spaniards.

Of course, the Germans were no choir boys, either. Spain has this big lump of a player, Rolando Urios, who just barges through the defense like they were feathers and puts in one goal after the other. The paper this morning has a nice picture of two Germans trying to tackle him, he is shaking them off like they are flies.

So Germany wins, 27:25, and we eat dinner in anticipation of the next games. Both next games, France vs. Croatia and Denmark vs. Iceland, are going to be broadcast in a back-and-forth mode (with commercials at every switch) on the sports channel. So be it.

The focus was going to be on the France vs. Croatia game, because the winner will be the opponent for Germany on Thursday. Boooooooring. The half-time score was 10:9, they were just bouncing the ball around, the goalies were knocking everything out, and it went back and forth. We kept getting glimpses of the Denmark/Iceland game, lots of goals over there and very close.

So France won, and we got to see the rest of the Denmark/Iceland game - what a nail-biter! Iceland was 4 (four!) goals behind, when they gave it that last ounce of effort and Iceland actually tied the game in the last seconds. Overtime is not an often occurence in handball. So they got some rest and went into overtime. Back and forth, goal for Denmark, goal for Iceland. Goal for Iceland, goal for Denmark. Then Iceland began slipping, tied it back up with 30 seconds or so to go, and Denmark went for it, Lars Moller Madsen throwing the winning goal just seconds before the gong.

Snorri Gudjonsson from Iceland had scored 15 goals (I mean, my team sometimes doesn't get that many goals *total* in an entire game....), but it was still one goal too few.

Anyway, it was a great game, and no one expected Iceland to get this far. The trainer, Alfreð Gíslason, said that he was „Stoltur af íslenska liðinu“, proud of the Icelandic team. They sure did a great job.

What a shame, I would have loved to see Germany and Iceland in the finals :) Now we hope for Germany vs. Denmark....


Shakira - The Barefoot Singer

Went to see the Shakira concert in Berlin last night. Luckily, a friend was able to organize tickets (on account of being her cousin) which I picked up at a hotel on Potsdamer Platz on the way to the Max-Schmeling-Hall. A car company, SEAT, is sponsoring the tour, apparently they had tons of tickets they gave to deserving car dealers in the area. Lots of advertising at the hotel and outside of the concert hall.

We got to the concert an hour before start - and spent 25 minutes out in the snow, waiting to get frisked. Since this was the same place the handball World Cup started last week, I knew the routine: leave your knife at home. I also guessed that they would be really looking for cameras, so I left that, too.

They didn't have enough women for doing the pat-downs, so loooooong lines ensued. You had to stand out in the driving snow, open your backpack, open your coat, get patted down and stuff confiscated, and then you were allowed in. It was free choice of seat, meaning one needed to get the seats soon. No, I'm too old to be down on the floor in front of the stage, I need a seat. The good seats were reserved for the car company people.

I tried to contact the friend's wife, but I had mistakenly written down the wrong mobile phone number. I got her son, but he was in the backstage area without her. Isn't that a teenage boy's dream, being able to be backstage with Shakira and have her speak with you? He took a friend along to prove that it was true.

We snagged some seats near the ones we had for the handball game (the comforts of repeating actions and familiar places!), I organized some drink and nachos, and we waited. The car company ran some ads with Shakira on the video screens. Okay, they were amusing, the first time.

Five after eight two guys came on stage and said that they were DJ Cut and that they were going to be the opening act and would "entertain" us for half an hour. They had videos that were badly taken and strangely cut, and appeared to have been shot for 16:9 and were now being shown in 4:3. Who knows if this was on purpose or not?

They had a bass beat and some other noise coming from a computer, and then they made a big show out of selecting records to scratch more or less in time to the beat. Why one needs different records to produce this noise is beyond me. It was just horrible noise, and the promised full 30 minutes. The crowd on the floor war not amused - apparently the Latina pop & rock crowd doesn't like this kind of noise, what a surprise. No one got excited, and there was just a smatter of clapping when they finally pulled the plug.

Okay, here we go, we thought. The ads came back up. The second time was boring. The third and fourth times were just irritating, and the crowd started to whistle. That is German for booing, but of course, in the States (where Shakira now lives) this is not known, no idea how Columbians react to whistling. People started remembering the name of the car company as being something very irritating, I wonder if that was marketing's intent?

Anyway, nothing happened until another 45 minutes had passed. I played backgammon on my PDA in the meantime. At least it glowed in the dim lights. And then, finally, with some silly brimborium, she came out on the stage.

She was barefoot and just barely clothed, has a long mane of hair, and this wonderful voice that has started to pick up some bits of Björk - I like this! She sang mostly in Spanish, many of the songs were known from the radio, many people joined in singing.

Shakira bounced around the stage, even coming down into the crowd (along a well-blocked-off piece of floor) with two bodyguards close on her heels. There were some interesting bits of folklore music from Columbia and lots of belly dancing and oriental music - she is of Libanese descent and apparently learned to belly dance as a kid. With all that boob and hip shaking, the men near the stage must have been estatic - up in our seats there was not much to see but the video, which only showed parts of her (Pop quiz: the camera was held by a man, which part of her body got the most closeups? Right.)

Just a bit over an hour, and the show was "over" - was she trying to pull a Rolling Stones stunt? They played for 45 minutes only in the Ostseehalle in Kiel in the 70s (so I am told), sparking aggresive protests. No, she "let" herself be coaxed back to do one more song and then a really great show with 6 additional belly dancers in orange while she sang and danced this duet that is always on the radio but which I am not sure what it is called. Anyway, this was nice, but then it was over, lights on, time to go home.

Okay, let's go. Except there is no going. It seems the hall has too many people in it - we get down to the ground floor, then there is no progress made. After a while I make it to the drinks place - have to get my deposits back. They are busy serving beer and cokes and don't really want to give us our deposits back, so they delay. It takes a lot of elbow grease to get rid of the cups.

We inch our way to the coats, hoping that no panic will break out. The line moves - if at all - very slowly. Even getting our coats we can't leave the building because of the crowd of people waiting to get their confiscated gear back. We need a full 45 minutes to get out of the place! We wanted to go have a beer afterwards, but now we are just disgusted and take the train home.

Looking back, we spent 6 hours of time waiting for 90 minutes of show and enduring 30 minutes of horrible noise. If we would have bought the tickets at 66 Euros a piece, that would have been a pretty penny. For that money, I can get a couple of CDs and visit some handball games and still have money left over for a beer. And even though there were some high points, the concert itself was not that exciting. And the ads really got on my nerves.

I think that was the last live concert of the barefoot singer that I will attend. I'll wait for the DVDs to come out in the future.


Handball Public Viewing

For the Soccer World Cup in Germany in 2006 you couldn't hardly find a restaurant without a TV screen or two, and there were all sorts of public viewing areas set up. Summer sun, a cool beer, hoards of happy strangers - the Germans loved it.

But I mean, who wants to watch a bunch of guys kick around a ball for an hour and a half, and maybe get one or two goals - yawn. Handball is much faster and *loads* of goals, so much more exciting.

So I wanted to attend a public viewing area for the Handball World Cup. Except that I couldn't find one in the capital city of Germany. I called a sports bar - are you showing the game? I mean, it is being shown on the second German channel! Naw, we have soccer on today.

Okay. The Berlin minor league team, the Füchse (foxes) had a page on their web site that there were going to be two public viewing areas, one at the agricultural fair (Grüne Woche) currently being held in Berlin, and one next to the Reichstag. I chose the latter.

My first clue should have been that I got a parking place right at the Reichstag when I drove past to see where this Berliner Pavillon was located. I didn't hear any cheering or anything, but it was still another 10 minutes until game time. I walked in - and the place was festooned with flags all over the place. A lone family of three sat at one of the tables.

I paused - driving home now would mean that I would miss the first part of the game. The mother said "Hi, now we are four!", so I sat down and had a coffee. Just before the game a group of 5 came in - now we were 9.

There were some tourists who wandered in who didn't really understand what was going on. One father and son stayed for the first half, but they didn't seem to enjoy the game. Others just ordered a beer, drank up, and left.

The restaurant owners were being so nice - made me a cheese sandwich even though it was not on the menu. I felt so sorry for them - they were probably expecting a full house.

So where is everybody? Sitting at home with chips and beer? I really do think the DHB could have made a teensy, tiny bit more of an effort to promote the games. Just selling out all the tickets is not enough.


Handball World Cup 2007

The other World Cup in Germany has started - handball. Since the tickets sold out to fans the first day they went on sale last year, the handball officials have not thought they needed to do any publicity. This leads to the strange situation of very few people actually knowing what is going on at the moment. A survey in Berlin showed only 10% of those asked knowing that there was a World Cup on.

No chance of that during the soccer World Cup - there were flags all over the place, people wearing black-red-gold all over the place, everyone talking about what was happening and gathering in public viewing areas to watch and discuss the games.

But handball? Called the public transit to ask if the World Cup tickets included public transit tickets, since most concerts and games do. The guy on the phone was confused: what World Cup? Never heard of it. No, the tickets are probably not good for public transit.

I left in good time to get to the stadion, they were saying that there would be no one let in late because of the spectacular pre-game show. I donned my red and gold scarves from the summer (already had a black shirt on), got my THW Kiel fan scarf out and took off in the pouring rain and wind.

I was the only one on the train decked out like that, and was glad I couldn't find the black-red-gold makeup stick. I felt silly. I pulled my coat over my scarves and my hat down in my face and read.

I got off at Bernauerstr. to take a tram up to the stadium. As I trudged through the gusts of rain I saw a police car escorting some cars - and recognizing the logo of the World Cup and some German team players inside I opened my coat, pulled out my scarves and gave a thumbs up sign. I got a wave in return. The punters lined the streets to greet the German soccer team last summer. The handball team gets greeted by one oldish lady bundled up against the cold and rain.

You weren't supposed to take in cameras, but I wanted a picture or two, so I planned a diversion: took a bottle of water for them to confiscate. We ended up having to be frisked out in the rain, and although I got to keep my water bottle, I had to hand in my pocket knife. Got a little number on my ticket, same number on my knife. Rats, I wanted to pare my apple with that. But I got the camera in. Here's a shot of the thing the winner gets. Kind of strange.

Inside you immediately realized we were in the former East Berlin - nice young ladies passing out flags (Winkelemente in Eastern German) so the crowd would look nice for the cameras. The flags were free, so I took one before climing up to my seat - a great seat, row one up on the top level.

Christian Zeitz was having a great evening, as were Pascal Hens and Florian Kehrmann and Markus Baur. But the team was kind of nervous, throwing stuff away and making some stupid moves. I mean, this was Brazil, they were supposed to win by at least 10 points! Anyway, they made it by 5. So a shaky win starts it off.

On the way home I wasn't the only one decked out in black-red-gold, even after spending over an hour at a restaurant near by waiting for food. We sort of snuck glances at each other and nodded to each other - but no chanting or such. I guess that will be left for places where the city actually knows what handball is: Kiel, Hamburg, Magdeburg, ....

Oh, and I got my knife back.


The Storm

The Germans are in panic. The storm is coming.

The papers were full of it today, including pictures of freezing and snow from the US. We are in the middle of a climate catastrophe, and now we are having storms (the Germans call them Orkan, but it is not a hurricane. The Wikipedia uses "European windstorm") quite regularly.

Yes, trees fall down. That's why you are supposed to be checking your trees regularly.
Yes, stuff blows off your roof or scaffolding. That's why it is supposed to be tightly secured at all times, not just during storms.
Yes, it rains. So keep your drains cleared.

I guess I am rather cynical about this since I grew up in the States with storms and hurricanes just a natural part of the weather. I grew up storm-conscious: make sure you always have batteries and a battery-operated radio around; water is important, have a good bit on hand; canned food and a non-electric can-opener is great if the electricity stays off for longer than a day. Oh, candles, matches, and a pack of cards for playing card games is great, as the TV/Computer/Playstation don't work too well without electricity.

Since both my grandparents and my parents followed this rule, I always have tins of food, plenty of water, matches, candles and stuff at home and at our cabin. Electricity is often out at the cabin, so I've added a gas camping stove up there, but the wood stove can boil a liter of water for tea or fry an egg, too.

Schools and universities have been closed, people are driving home in droves to - do what? Okay, maybe drag in the picnic table, it is, after all, January. Maybe close the blinds outside the windows. Make some popcorn and watch a good movie instead of working - that does, indeed sound good.

I let my students decide if they wanted to go home or not. Most prefer staying in the lab. Me too. Sports training has been cancelled this evening, what else is there to do?


De fem benspænd

The Five Obstructions
DK 2003, R: Jørgen Leth, Lars von Trier, OmU, 90’

The German Historical Museum in Berlin has a movie theater - a rather brilliant one at that. Lots of leg room (but uncomfortably cushion seats), only 5 Euros a shot and no advertising. Of course, they aren't showing the newest Disney blockbuster, but all sorts of historical or arty films.

This is an *arty* arty film. The Danish filmmaker I can't stand, Lars von Trier, commands the older, well-known Jørgen Leth to recreate one of his first films, The Perfect Human (1967) - but with different obstructions each time. von Trier is his normal, sadistic self, pushing Leth further and further. Leth, master film-maker that his is, arises to each of the challenges.

The first is done in a country he has never been in, the second in a red-light district in Bombay, filming him eating while a crowd of hungry Indians is held back by a transparent screen. The third is done in Brüssels in split-screen, for the fourth he has to make it an animation - something both he and von Trier hate - and in the fifth he has to make the movie to the tape of him (Leth) reading a text that von Trier wrote. He may only read once, without practice.

Leth is an observer. The details are so important to every frame of this documentary (for which Leth is also the director). And the sadistic twists added by von Trier - for examlpe, Leth acting in a film about him directing a film about himself recreating a film he previously did - just boggle the mind.

I liked the film - but I still don't like von Trier.


Capability Immaturity Model

I was reading through the text for lab next week during this week's lab in software engineering. We'll be doing a Design Pattern Exercise from Bruce Eckel's "Thinking in Patterns". I followed a link he gave on the Capability Immaturity Model and landed on a Wiki.

It is sooooo funny, I laughed until I was doubled over and had tears running down my cheeks. My students looked up at me every now and then, but they think I'm crazy anyway, so they didn't say anything.

I investigated around the site and discovered, this is *the* original Wiki, implemented by Ward Cunningham! There is so much funny stuff here, especially about Extreme Programming, which he apparently also practically invented (but didn't mean it that way). This is a must read for all software people!


.00146 percent

Yes, folks, that's right. The German police have sifted through 22 million credit card payments in order to discover 322 suspicious transactions that might be child-porn subscribers. Do the math. The "success rate" for this was that less than two thousandths of one percent of the transactions investigated were pulled.

I am outraged by this - and by the press happily writing about the "porn ring" being broken. This is a violation of our data privacy rights! The police are only allowed to do searches like this if they have a specific and very narrow search they want to do.

This is just like the "Rasterfahndung" the police tried to do during Germany's "terrorist-fighting days" back in the 70s. Yes, we survived that, just barely. Only the German Wikipedia has a link on the Rasterfahndung, gonna have to translate this.

Back then the police felt that people who paid electric bills for people of a different name, and paid cash to boot, were suspicious of aiding and abetting "terrorists". That this sort of makes everyone potentially guilty and trounces on the right of informational self-determination is beside the point for the police. They want this information, the data bases are ready, "if you are not guilty you have nothing to fear" - so they take it.

Why are people not screaming? Don't they understand how horrible this is? You suddenly have to prove your innocence if they accuse you of being a "terrorist"? This scares me silly.

Probably because I paid the electric bills for the group of people I lived with. In cash, after collecting from everyone. And the person who signed for the electricity had long ago moved on......