Katrin Maldre

Posted by Ellen

Ninety-eight winters of salt have done a number on the mortar that was supposed to be holding the bricks together on my front steps. Fortunately, I count among my good friends an experienced bricklayer who was willing to take on the project. Here you see Katrin Maldre chipping away at the old mortar, using my little old rock hammer and a fancy new chisel.

To be fair, Katrin's bricklaying experience was not extensive or recent. But one summer back in Communist times, when she was growing up in Estonia, she and her friends were sent out into the country to work on a large brick construction project. Mostly, they moved bricks to and from piles---but it's a whole lot more bricklaying experience than I can claim.. (Katrin also has a son who has an engineering degree and knows about bricks and stuff, and  who was willing to supervise this project from Estonia via Skype.)

Within an hour or two we got rid of most of the old mortar, slathered the free bricks with new mortar, and set them back in place. We broke one brick, and when the job was finished we somehow had an extra piece of brick left over. But you can't tell by looking at it.

The highlight of the job was definitely the new chisel. Note that yellow foam hand protector thing. Worth its weight in gold! Its inventor is a genius.
 

Posted by Ellen

In the small but earnest world of competitive badminton, the Chicago Open is a big deal, a tournament sanctioned by the body that will select the Olympic badminton team. Some of us forget that badminton is an Olympic sport.

Katrin Maldre is new to the competitive version of the sport and feared she wasn't yet playing at the Chicago Open level, but she took first place yesterday at this year's tournament. There were four divisions, from A, the strongest, through D, the weakest, and Katrin won the D division. Still, she noted, "the picture says it all."

What helped her compensate for badminton inexperience was a lifetime of athletic engagement. At the age of six, she was selected for intensive sports training by the Soviet athletic academy, and as a teenager she joined Estonia's national table tennis team, which competed in all the Soviet Republics across Europe and Asia. In recent years, she's played tennis, skiied, dabbled in recreational soccer, even tried a little bit of mountain climbing.

"There's just something magic about sports events," she says. "Also, while I play I don't eat, I get a lot of exercise, and I don't say any bad words, so I improve myself. And maybe that helps to improve the world a little bit."