Saturday, March 15, 2008

2008 Reykjavik Open

Final standings (after 9 rounds, women only): 89 players, Open won by GM Wang Hao CHN 2665 7,0 9 GM Stefanova Antoaneta BUL 2464 6,0 18 IM Gaponenko Inna UKR 2422 5,5 24 IM Tania Sachdev IND 2417 5,0 28 IM Paehtz Elisabeth GER 2420 5,0 37 WIM Nemcova Katerina CZE 2342 5,0 41 IM Arakhamia-Grant Ketevan SCO 2457 4,5 49 WFM Limontaite Simona LTU 2152 4,5 52 IM Vasilevich Tatjana UKR 2370 4,5 60 WIM Hagesaether Ellen NOR 2234 4,0 64 IM Jackova Jana CZE 2375 4,0 67 WGM Sanchez Castillo Sarai VEN 2312 4,0 71 WIM Andersson Christin SWE 2194 3,5 72 IM Zozulia Anna BEL 2344 3,5 73 WFM Steil-Antoni Fiona LUX 2122 3,5 82 Frank-Nielsen Marie DEN 1969 3,0 86 Almer Julia SWE 1914 2,5 87 Kristinardottir Elsa Maria ISL 1721 2,5

Friday Night Miscellany (a little late)

A short essay that I found very interesting about the original religion has been posted at Reality Sandwich: Imagine a time (whether prehistorical or transhistorical) when human beings lived moment-to-moment in the presence of the sacred. Religion was unnecessary. There was no separation between spirituality and life, no distinction between the sacred and the mundane, no division of the Godly and the worldly. When we lost the ongoing and immediate sense of sacredness, then we needed religion to bring us back to it. "Religion," after all, means "that which renews our connection." No matter that modern religions have been distorted into a force for separation and not connection. If we look carefully within any one of them, we will find traces of the Original Religion, the religion borne from that immediate, experiential identity with the divine. Born from the divine, it also has the potential to bring us back to the divine. Ohmygoddess! On the 5:00 p.m. national news right now - a certain "evangelical" leader here in the US believes that the symptoms of global warming are signs that we are in "THE END TIMES" (doom music here, cue thunder and lightning) and therefore true believers must NOT do anything to interfere with the outworking of God's Divine Plan. No, they can continue to zip around in their gas guzzling Suburbans and produce 1,000 pounds of non-recyclable garbage each year for every member of their households, while preparing spiritually for THE END. Well, what hogwosh. Anyone with a third grade education should be able to reason out that if it REALLY is God's plan, then no matter what puny humankind does we won't be able to interfere with it's out-working; but if it is NOT God's plan then whatever we do may have some moderating effect and could save millions of lives (humans and animals). The logical thing to do is to attempt to moderate the effects of global warming. Trying to do so is not going against God's plan if it's not God's plan. And if it IS God's plan well then He'll just pull His big old white beard and laugh His butt off at us. Duh! I like this Quote of the Day from the ...If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers. Thomas Pynchon In a college literature course in undergrad many moons ago, I had to read Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. The only thing I remember from the whole epic is something about a light bulb in a Nazi factory that one day discovered it couldn't burn out and gained self-awareness. I believe it was called Bernie the light bulb. Whatever happened to Bernie the light bulb? Is "he" still alive??? This could be a question of grave existential import... (Edited at 6:29 p.m. oops - it's Byron the Immortal Light Bulb, not Bernie). Absolutely historical (oops, I mean hysterical) headline story from the online version of The Sun: 'Creepy gnome' terrorises town. A must watch video (to get the full 'creepy gnome' effect). Enjoy!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Women in Archaeology: Marija Gimbutas

In honor of Women's History Month: From Lithuanian born archaeologist Marija Gimbutas was a respected scholar in Indo-European studies of the Bronze and Neolithic periods. She is probably one of the best known scholars in this field, primarily for her news-making theories concerning evidence for a woman-focused religion six thousand years ago, called the Goddess cult. She conducted archaeological work at sites such as Sitagroi, Anza and Achilleion. A prolific writer, Gimbuta's work included a melding of language, myth, ethnography and archaeology. Trained at Tubingen and Harvard universities, Gimbutas was a fellow of the Peabody Museum at Harvard, and taught and conducted research at the University of California at Los Angeles. Although her theories are considered speculative, particularly by researchers such as Ruth Tringham and Peter Ucko, there is no doubt that her fearless emphasis on the potential for female headed cults has influenced the study of ancient Bronze and Neolithic cultures. I did a quick search at - here are some interesting titles written (or co-authored) by Marija Gimbutas:

There are also videotapes of lectures given by Gimbutas, and various papers in compilation with others.

Wikipedia biograpy.

An interview with Marija Gimbutas, October 3, 1992 (I don't know who the interviewer is; scroll to bottom of page for link to interview)

Joseph Campbell & Marija Gimbutas Library at the Pacific Graduate Institute

Obituary from The New York Times

Signs Out of Time - The Story of Archaeologist Marija Gimbutas (great graphics too)

Update on Odyssey Marine Expedition Case

US court ruling keeps location of shipwreck treasure secret 1 day ago WASHINGTON (AFP) — US treasure hunters who allegedly extracted rich spoils from a sunken wreck in Spanish waters hailed three court rulings Wednesday that protect the secret location of their find. The legal dispute began in May last year when Odyssey Marine Exploration announced that it had found half a million silver coins and hundreds of gold objects, somewhere in "international waters in the Atlantic Ocean". Spain filed claims with a court in Tampa, Florida, arguing that if the shipwreck was Spanish or located in Spanish waters, any treasure would belong to Spain. Odyssey said in a statement that US judge Mark Pizzo had issued three orders "that the company believes will help to expeditiously move these cases forward". Two of the rulings were made in reference to a Spanish request to "compel compliance and to declare certain materials as not confidential", it said. The judge ruled that although artifact summaries and pictures are not confidential, "in the interest of protecting the site, other information including the preliminary site assessments, the site plans, the photographs of the sea bed and the photomosaics should remain confidential at this time." Odyssey also said the court indicated that the company does not have to open its research files to the Spanish government "at this stage of the litigation and that the information Odyssey has provided to Spain thus far is sufficient". Odyssey has argued that the fact the coins have been identified as being Spanish does not mean they were found on a Spanish ship. Spanish police seized and searched two Odyssey Explorer vessels as they left Gibraltar in July and October, acting on the orders of a Spanish judge looking into the origin of the sunken treasure. A judge in Florida earlier this year ordered Odyssey to tell Spain the exact location of the wreck. The information will remain confidential to protect the interests of the company, which fears other treasure seekers may poach its find.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Celtic Dreams

Please check out the video accompanying this story, it's WAY COOL! Some years ago, after I treated myself to a matinee of "Lord of the Dance" in Las Vegas (I believe it was the 2001 trip), I took three older ladies from my church out for a special outing - we went down to the old Milwaukee Auditorium to see "Riverdance" on a Saturday afternoon in March. Oh, what a wonderful show, a show to make you stand up in the aisles and dance. Well, none of us did that - quite. Instead, we sat sedately in our seats but our legs and feet were moving like mad! I can't dance worth a fig, but watching those magical performances touched me in a way I can't describe. There is just something about the Irish dance (and the music, too) - Anyway, in honor of St. Patty's Day, please check out this wonderful story from The New York Times: For Bronx School’s Dancers, the Moves Are Irish and the accompanying video link. WONDERFUL! I dare you not to tap your toes and want to get up and dance too. The dancers are African-American, Hispanic (is the correct term now Latino?) and from lots of other cultures, but no Irish - and these kids had never heard of Ireland! WHAT? Now that's a separate commentary on the state of our schools these days - they no longer teach geography in grade school??? These kids have never heard of "Danny Boy" and seen "Going My Way" with Bing Crosby. Oy! Anyway, check it out, the video wrongly spelled "Keltic Dreams." Yes, I know I know, it's pronounced "Keltic" with a hard "k" sound, not a "cs" sound, but damn it, it's still spelled "Celtic" and, as Professor Chipping said in "Good Bye, Mr. Chips," he'd be damned if he pronounced Cicero as "Kickero!" Amen to that!

The Peopling of the Americas - Earlier Dates!

This is one subject that fascinates me - the peopling of the Americas - how it happened and when it happened. My home state, Wisconsin, figures in the picture too! Photo: Butchered mammoth - Excavation of the Schaefer mammoth in Wisconsin, thought by archaeologists to date to about 14,500 years ago. (Image courtesy D. Joyce)

Estimates for peopling of Americas getting earlier
March 13, 2008
Courtesy Science
and World Science staff

Archeologists are presenting what they call the latest evidence that a traditional account of the peopling of the Americas is wrong.

The mainstream view prevailing in the past several decades holds that humans entered the continent about 12,000 years ago using a temporary land bridge from northeastern Asia to Alaska. These migrants would have given rise to a culture of mammoth hunters known for their unique stone projectile-points and dubbed Clovis, after remains found near Clovis, N.M., in the 1930s.

But in recent years evidence has turned up that the first Americans might have been considerably older, some archaeologists argue. A new review published in the research journal Science contends that that the first Americans had their roots in southern Siberia, ventured across the Bering land bridge probably around 22,000 years ago, and migrated down into the Americas as early as 16,000 years ago.

In the paper, Ted Goebel of Texas A&M University and colleagues argue that the latter date is when an ice-free corridor in Canada opened and enabled the migration. The new account is bolstered by genetic evidence and the discovery of new archaeological sites and more accurate dates for old sites, according to the researchers.

Genetic evidence, they wrote, points to a founding population of less than 5,000 people at the beginning of the second migration in Canada. Moreover, they added, archaeological evidence suggests the Clovis culture may have been relative latecomers to the Americas or descendants of earlier Paleo-Indian populations represented at archaeological sites such as Monte Verde in Chile. That site is thought to have been occupied 14,600 years ago. The research by Goebel and colleagues appears in the journal’s March 14 issue.
Related story: Indian DNA links to 6 'founding mothers,' March 13, 2008.

2008 Ataturk International Women Masters Chess Tournament

I'm too tired to report on this tonight, darlings. Susan Polgar has a report on the current results and standings after Round 3: 1-3. GM CRAMLING Pia 2524 SWE 2½ WGM YIFAN Hou 2527 CHN 2½ IM ATALIK Ekaterina 2408 TUR 2½ 4-6 IM KRUSH Irina 2473 USA 2 IM DRONAVALLI Harika 2455 IND 2 WGM XUE Zhao 2517 CHN 2 7 IM JAVAKHISHVILI Lela 2470 GEO 1½ 8-10 IM USHENINA Anna 2484 UKR 0 WIM YILDIZ Betul Cemre 2207 TUR 0 GM CHEN Zhu 2548 QAT 0 Whoa! After the great chess Ushenina played at Aeroflot in the Women's section (finished 2nd place women's) it's a shock to see her with zero points after 3 rounds. What's going on? On the other hand, I feel somewhat prescient (ahem) when I pointed out in my Chessville column (posted March, 2008) that Ekaterina Atalik could not be counted out of a good showing at this event. Hey - not so smart on my part (despite flashes of brilliance by Atalik) - she's playing on home turf for a home (adopted home) crowd!

Tracking Down an Obscure Reference

An example of a "day in the life of" - yours truly, lol! Maybe it's the way I was raised; maybe it's my law school training. I learned how to research in the days before personal computers! I'd spend hours digging through stacks of dusty books trying to find a hint of a precedent or, more usually, some teensy bit of dicta to use upon which to hang an argument. All I know is, when I'm on the trail of something, I have a bulldog determination to pursue it to the very end. Now, this can at times cause problems :) But on the whole, my stubborness has served me well. In the last few days a question showed up in my email related to the early medieval period of chess in Europe. There was an author cited and a book he wrote that contained a legend concerning the invention of chess by a philosopher called either Xerxes or Philometer. The researcher was attempting to track down the author and the book: John de Vigney and "[The] Moralization of Chess," which is accounted the earliest book to reference the specific Xerxes/Philometer legend about the invention of chess. I haven't had much time of late to devote to research, I've barely had time to respond to my emails and I've been staying up way past my bedtime to post a few items here; well, we all have these "crunch" periods in our lives. But this particular "question" intrigued me. I vaguely recalled reading something years ago about "Xerxes" inventing chess - at the time I thought it was a reference to the great Persian King! So, I thought I'd see what I could track down earlier tonight. I pulled out my trusty old H.J.R. Murray "A History of Chess." Mind you, I think Murray is full of baloney as far as his interpretations of the evidence but as a resource for meticulously researched citations, he is the Gold Standard. And, sure enough, in his practically non-existent Index, was listed "Philometer." I won't go into all the gory details of plodding through Murray's tedious writing. Suffice to say that I discovered in Murray that Jacobus de Cessolis, in his famous (infamous) "Sermon", made specific reference to the legend of chess being invented by the philosopher Xerxes. de Cessolis' work is dated to the latter part of the 13th century CE. Could de Cessolis be the mysterious John de Vigney? It didn't seem so - as "of Cessolis" did not show any resemblance to "of Vigney" to me. But, knowing the vagaries of translation and how language changes over time, I was keeping an open mind. But - what did seem obvious was that "The Moralization of Chess" was a rather bad translation of another title - I guessed - from Latin. The "Sermon" (actually a lengthy four-part book) that de Cessolis wrote was titled "Liber de moribus hominum et offciis nobilium" and as far as I could decipher in my non-existent Latin translation skills, none of that related in any way to anything about "chess" (something like "scaccum" in Latin). However, the information about de Cessolis and "Xerxes" and the invention of chess was contained in Chapter V of Murray, entitled "The Moralities." That seemed fertile ground within which to dig a little further, since the title of the book I was looking for had something to do with "morality" or "moralization" and "chess." Sure enough, after skimming through a few more pages of Murray, I came across the name of John of Waleys. Hmmmm, I thought - John de Vigney - John of Waleys? I read that John of Waleys is also known as Johannes Gallensis, and he wrote a book entitled "Quaedam moralitas de scacciario" (which I roughtly translated from the Latin as something to do with "The Morality (or Morals) of Chess." That sounded suspiciously like "The Moralization of Chess" to me. John of Waleys' book is dated to around 1260 CE, which would date it probably earlier than de Cessolis' "Sermon" and, therefore, could have been available to de Cessolis as a reference to the Xerxes/Philometer legend. My intincts tell me I've found John de Vigney and his "The Moralization of Chess." He was actually John of Waleys (a/k/a Johannes Gallensis) and the book's title is something like "The Morality (or Morals) of Chess." Ahhh, an evening's worth of research ends in a pay off. Wish that was always the case!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

We are pleased to announce that this year Goddesschess is sponsoring a $350 "Fighting Chess" prize for the upcoming 2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship! GM Susan Polgar has graciously agreed to select the game from the Championship that best embodies the qualities of fighting chess in the tradition of the renowned Polgar sisters. Thank you GM Polgar!!! For our readers who may not be familiar with GM Susan Polgar, a brief summary of some of her many accomplishments:
  • First woman to earn the GM (International Grandmaster) title in chess, in 1991
  • World Women's Chess Championship 1996-1999
  • Head of the Susan Polgar Chess Foundation
  • Head of SPICE (Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Institute), Texas Tech University, Lubbock, Texas (a new Institute devoted to the development of chess at the university level across the country as well as cross-disciplinary study of the benefits of chess learning)
  • Author/co-author of two semi-biographical books as well as educational books and chess CDs and instructional materials on chess
  • Author of many articles for chess publications including the United States Chess Federation's magazine Chess Life and monthly columnist at the popular online chess magazine, Chess Cafe

GM Susan Polgar is one of three sisters who, together with Sofia and Judit, were trained in chessplaying from an early age by their parents. Several books have been written about the achievements of one or more of the chessplaying sisters and scores of articles have been written about their accomplishments.

GM Susan Polgar has been and continues to be a tireles advocate promoting the benefits that are acquired from learning and playing chess, particularly among young people.

With the assistance of the Susan Polgar Chess Foundation and now, SPICE, and through the generosity of many sponsors, GM Polgar has spearheaded the development of several premier chess tournaments and events for girls and boys, including the Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls, SPICE Summer Camp, the World Open Chess Championship for Girls and the World Open Chess Championship for Boys (2008 information).

GM Polgar also has a dynamic international presence on the internet, hosting one of the most popular chess blogs and a hot chess discussion forum.

More about the 2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship from the USCF website:

The 2008 Frank K. Berry U.S. Chess Championship is now slated for May 13-21 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It is sanctioned by the USCF and will be a 9-round Swiss System event with 24 contenders. The 2008 Frank K. Berry U.S. Women's Chess Championship will be held at the same time and location, as a 10-player round robin. International Arbiter Frank K. Berry is again sponsoring this year's events as he did last year in nearby Stillwater. The move to Tulsa is intended to simplify travel for the players. The Frank K. Berry U.S. Women's Chess Championship Prizes -$25,000 Seeding - The 10 contenders for the title will be determined as follows:
  • U.S. Women's Champion (Irina Krush)·
  • 6 Top-Rated Women players on the March Rating List·
  • 3 Wild Cards selected by Frank K. Berry (One of these wild cards will be top female finisher at the Qualifier Open).

MonRoi will again be a sponsor, and will carry the official website and host LIVE games from both events for viewing online. In the event of a tie for first place at the championship, in both the events, there will be a playoff for the title similar to previous years. The final announcement of the players will be made in April on Chess Life Online.

The championship organizing committee consists of Frank K. Berry, Jim Berry, and Tom Braunlich; with assistance from Bill Goichberg, Bill Hall, and John Donaldson.

1 in 4 Teenage Girls Has Sexually Transmitted Disease

From my local newspaper: At least 1 in 4 teen girls has sex-related disease Results of federal study startle experts Associated Press, Journal Sentinel staff Posted: March 11, 2008 At least one in four teenage American girls has a sexually transmitted disease, suggests a first-of-its-kind federal study that startled some adolescent-health experts. Some doctors said the numbers might be a reflection of both abstinence-only sex education and teens' own sense of invulnerability. Because some sexually transmitted infections can cause infertility and cancer, U.S. health officials called for better screening, vaccination and prevention. Only about half of the girls in the study acknowledged having sex. Some teens define sex as only intercourse, yet other types of intimate behavior, including oral sex, can spread some diseases. Among those who admitted having sex, the rate was even more disturbing - 40% had an STD. High rates of sexually transmitted disease continue to be problematic for Milwaukee, which led the nation in the number of new chlamydia cases reported in 2005, according to a report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in October. The city is planning to add more managers and outreach workers to its STD/HIV clinics this year. Among Wisconsin high school students surveyed in 2007, 44.6% reported ever having sex, while 32.9% reported having sex with one or more partners in the past three months, according to a state report. Of those who recently had sex, 61.4% said that they used a condom. The same report found that 9,628 teens ages 15 to 19 were infected with either chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis or genital herpes in 2006. The majority of the cases were in Milwaukee County, where nearly 80% of cases occurred within 10 city ZIP codes - 53206, 53210, 53205, 53212, 53218, 53216, 53208, 53209, 53225, 53224. Responding to the federal report released Tuesday, Elizabeth Alderman, an adolescent medicine specialist at Montefiore Medical Center's Children's Hospital in New York, said: "This is pretty shocking." [Say WHAT? "Pretty" shocking? It's a full-blown outrageous scandal that every thinking person in this damned city should be on their rooftops screaming about this at the top of their bloody lungs!] "To talk about abstinence is not a bad thing," but teen girls - and boys, too - need to be informed about how to protect themselves if they do have sex, she added. Ellen Kruger, an obstetrician-gynecologist at Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans, agreed, saying that teens need to hear the dual message that STDs can be prevented by abstinence and condoms. The overall STD rate among the 838 girls in the study was 26%, which translates to more than 3 million girls nationwide, researchers with the CDC found. They released the results at an STD prevention conference in Chicago. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said the study shows that "the national policy of promoting abstinence-only programs is a $1.5 billion failure, and teenage girls are paying the real price." Similar claims were made last year when the government announced the teen birth rate rose between 2005 and 2006, the first increase in 15 years. The new study by CDC researcher Sara Forhan relied on slightly older data. It is an analysis of nationally representative records on girls ages 14 to 19 who participated in a 2003-'04 government health survey. The teens were tested for four infections: human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can cause cervical cancer and affected 18% of girls studied; chlamydia, which affected 4%; trichomoniasis, 2.5%; and genital herpes, 2%. John Douglas, director of the CDC's division of STD prevention, said the results are the first to examine the combined national prevalence of common sexually transmitted diseases among adolescent girls. He said the data, now a few years old, likely reflect current prevalence rates. Disease rates were significantly higher among black girls; nearly half had at least one STD, vs. 20% among whites. Kawanza Newson of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report from Milwaukee. *********************************************************************************** Instead of teaching our girls about sex, we've wasted $1.5 billion dollars on touting "sexual abstinence." Well, guess what - it hasn't worked! Take your heads out of the sand, people. The amount of ignorance among teenagers and late pre-teens about sex and its consequences is staggering! Young girls - too young - are having sex - unprotected sex, whether you like it or not. Get over your religious phobias and get out of denial. Face the facts! This study cannot be denied - and its starkly horrifying information should not be downplayed and buried on page 23 of the "local" section of the newspaper! Girls get pregnant; they get venereal diseases; they get AIDS. The boys and men who are having unprotected sex with these girls are infected themselves and passing along the diseases to multiple parnters. And what happens to the babies to whom the young mothers pass these diseases on - the article doesn't even talk about that! What about the staggering cost to our society of so many young lives wasted? 1 in 4 teenaged girls in the United States has a sexually transmitted disease - VD. Among certain populations, the figure is a staggering 40%. In the age of antibiotics and condoms - it seems to me we've got a higher VD infection rate than we had in the Middle Ages! The impact has been disproportionately felt in 0ur black and Latino communities. How do we teach our beautiful young women to have respect for themselves and to give themselves a chance to discover their full potential? How do we remedy this horrible situation? I won't mince words. Bring back REAL sex education in the schools, for one thing, because for sure our girls aren't learning what they need to know about at home! (Probably their parents don't know themselves!) Separate boys from girls and really TEACH them the nitty gritty facts about the consequences of unprotected sex and the price paid (and it will be paid, one way or another). Teach the girls how to have self-respect - teach them how to play chess. What, you say? Chess? But it's been proven over and over and over again that chess, at low cost, teaches our young ones to develop critical thinking skills, independent thought, creativity, self-reliance, confidence, courage, judgment and - self-respect. A young girl needs all of these things today, and most of all, self-respect, to navigate a world that has totally turned its back on them - "the experts were 'startled'?". Oh please!

Mysteries of Antikythera "Computer" Solved

Fascinating report on the "computer" dating to 2nd century BCE recovered from Antikythera ship wreck:

Mysteries of computer from 65BC are solved
From Thoth Web posted March 10, 2008

A 2,000-year-old mechanical computer salvaged from a Roman shipwreck has astounded scientists who have finally unravelled the secrets of how the sophisticated device works. The machine was lost among cargo in 65BC when the ship carrying it sank in 42m of water off the coast of the Greek island of Antikythera. By chance, in 1900, a sponge diver called Elias Stadiatos discovered the wreck and recovered statues and other artifacts from the site.

The machine first came to light when an archaeologist working on the recovered objects noticed that a lump of rock had a gear wheel embedded in it. Closer inspection of material brought up from the stricken ship subsequently revealed 80 pieces of gear wheels, dials, clock-like hands and a wooden and bronze casing bearing ancient Greek inscriptions.

Since its discovery, scientists have been trying to reconstruct the device, which is now known to be an astronomical calendar capable of tracking with remarkable precision the position of the sun, several heavenly bodies and the phases of the moon. Experts believe it to be the earliest-known device to use gear wheels and by far the most sophisticated object to be found from the ancient and medieval periods.

Using modern computer x-ray tomography and high resolution surface scanning, a team led by Mike Edmunds and Tony Freeth at Cardiff University peered inside fragments of the crust-encased mechanism and read the faintest inscriptions that once covered the outer casing of the machine. Detailed imaging of the mechanism suggests it dates back to 150-100 BC and had 37 gear wheels enabling it to follow the movements of the moon and the sun through the zodiac, predict eclipses and even recreate the irregular orbit of the moon. The motion, known as the first lunar anomaly, was developed by the astronomer Hipparcus of Rhodes in the 2nd century BC, and he may have been consulted in the machine's construction, the scientists speculate.

Remarkably, scans showed the device uses a differential gear, which was previously believed to have been invented in the 16th century. The level of miniaturisation and complexity of its parts is comparable to that of 18th century clocks.

Some researchers believe the machine, known as the Antikythera Mechanism, may have been among other treasure looted from Rhodes that was en route to Rome for a celebration staged by Julius Caesar.

One of the remaining mysteries is why the Greek technology invented for the machine seemed to disappear. No other civilisation is believed to have created anything as complex for another 1,000 years. One explanation could be that bronze was often recycled in the period the device was made, so many artefacts from that time have long ago been melted down and erased from the archaelogical record. The fateful sinking of the ship carrying the Antikythera Mechanism may have inadvertently preserved it. "This device is extraordinary, the only thing of its kind," said Professor Edmunds. "The astronomy is exactly right ... in terms of historic and scarcity value, I have to regard this mechanism as being more valuable than the Mona Lisa." The research, which appears in the journal Nature today, was carried out with scientists at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens where the mechanism is held and the universities of Athens and Thessaloniki.

Copyright: The Guardian

Evidence for Domestication of Donkey Found in Egypt

I find articles about equines very interesting, because of the association of the horse with the game of chess. The knight piece of today's chess still reflects this close association, while the rook, which was known as a tower in some countries and a joker (fool), leaper and boat in others, was in pre-Islamic times a chariot - in Pahlavi, the language spoken in the ancient Persian empire at the time before the Islamic conquest - "ruhkh." As I understand the current state of research, horses were first domesticated in about 4000 BCE on the steppes of Eurasia for the nomadic peoples of the area. There were no horses in the Middle East at the time, though. The great civilizations of Sumer and Eqypt knew only the onager or wild ass. I believe horses were not introduced into the Middle East until perhaps 2000 BCE; and began to be bred seriously as war animals only with the advent of the spoked wheel chariot which was introduced into the Middle East sometime after its invention in Armenia circa 1800 BCE. Here is the article about evidence for domestication of the donkey from The Telegraph (Calcutta): Donkey didn’t have dog’s life- Signs of earliest domestication & high rank G.S. MUDUR New Delhi, March 10: Donkey skeletons from a burial place of ancient Egyptian rulers have yielded the first hard evidence for the earliest domestication of donkeys about 5,000 years ago. The remains, found in brick-lined graves, show signs of spondylosis and vertebral disc degeneration caused by the strain of turning into beasts of burden, an international research team said. The donkeys from Abydos, about 480km south of Cairo, provide the earliest direct evidence of the use of donkeys for transport rather than for meat, Fiona Marshall at the Washington University St. Louis and her colleagues said in a research paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The animals resembled wild asses, but displayed joint wear typically associated with the microscopic fractures that arise in the vertebral bones after overloading and strain. “Genetic research has suggest African origins for the donkey,” said Marshall, an archaeologist trying to decipher the origin and spread of pastoralism in Africa. But an exact time and place for domestication has been hard to pinpoint because signs of early domestication can be hard to see, she said. Archaeologists believe the domestication of the donkey was a key event in the history of human civilisation. Donkeys are tough and capable of carrying heavy loads in arid regions. Their domestication could have allowed the distribution of food across ancient Egypt and facilitated trade with other cultures in Africa and western Asia, according to the researchers. Marshall and her co-workers from Denmark and Germany examined 10 donkey skeletons from three graves in the mortuary complex of one of the founder dynasties of Egyptian kings. The positions of the donkeys’ graves suggest that the beasts of burden were accorded the same importance as court officials. “This was a great surprise,” Marshall said. “The donkeys occupied special tombs in which you would normally find the highest courtiers of ancient Egypt,” Marshall said. “This suggests that they were greatly valued by the pharaoh. It’s possible they were used to carry something very important,” she said. None of the seal impressions contained a royal name for the identity of the king for whom the burial complex was built. But the iconography of the seals and the configuration of the architecture suggest a date close to the beginning of the Early Dynastic period, about 3000 BC, the researchers said in their report. The donkeys were between 8 and 13 years of age — in their prime adulthood. The joints of all the animals showed heavy wear. Joint wear on the feet suggested that the damage had resulted from loading rather than from pulling, the researchers said.

Looted Mummies Recovered

March 12, 2008 Egypt thwarts smugglers seeking mummy millions CAIRO (AFP) — Egyptian police have arrested three would-be smugglers trying to sell intricately painted Pharaonic-era mummies for more than five million dollars, a security source said on Wednesday. Tourist police in the town of Fayyum, south of Cairo, arrested the men on Tuesday as they sought to sell the four mummies and other looted artefacts on the international antiquities black market. The source said the mummies appeared to have been stolen from an illegal dig carried out by the men near Minya, 120 kilometres (75 miles) south of Fayum, and are likely previously unknown to antiquities authorities. "One of the mummies is of a child, the other three are of men, all covered with linen and plaster," the source said, adding that another 10 small statues and a Pharaonic sarcophagus decorated with hieroglyphs were also seized. "These smugglers were arrested before they could sell the mummies to antiquities traders for 20 million Egyptian pounds (5.3 million dollars)," the source said. The tourist police in Fayyum are now trying to work out exactly how old the artefacts are and who the mummies are. The smugglers face a minimum of three years in jail.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Kingship: The Ritual Murder of Absalom

See tonight's earlier blog on Abishag for background about ritual sacrifice and the substitute sacrifice for the king. This information is also from Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. Absalom The Bible presents Absalom as either David's son or David's neighbor (2 Samuel 12:11) because biblical writers couldn't decide just where he came from. He was important only as a surrogate "king" of the Jews. His name, Father Salm [from abra- father and salom- peace], was a widely distributed sacred-king name, also rendered Salma, Salem, Salomon, or Solomon; in Assyria, Shalmaneser; in Crete, the "son of God" Salmoneus.(1) The name meant Prince of Peace, which was synonymous with Lord of Death because "Peace" was the Lord's word of farewell as he descended into the underworld. [Note: I don't buy this explanation that Prince of Peace and Lord of Death are synonymous. I think her explanation is rather ingenious, actually, since we today link "death" with "peace", but give me some Semite etymology that links the two concepts.] Canaanites worshipped Father Salm at the city of Salem, whose Palestinian counterpart was Jeru-salem, "House of Salem." Kings of David's ancestral tribe, the Kenites, took the sacred name when ruling in Jerusalem. [Note: I thought "bethel" was the word for house in Hebrew - what is this Jeru stuff?] Probably several of these kings were called Solomon, including the biblical one whose real name was Jedidiah, according to 2 Samuel 12:25. Absalom received the sacred name and died as a surrogate for the incumbent king, David, whose mourning for him was really a liturgical formula. he called Absalom "my son, my son," and cried "Would God I had died for thee" to disguise the fact that the victim really had died in his place. Among ancient Semites generally, someone had to die for the king at regular intervals, to preserve the fertility of the soil and the people with his blood. See Kingship. Time-honored precedent dictated the format of the drama. The chosen victim sat on the throne, and publicly copulated with the royal women under a marriage canopy (2 Samuel 16:22). See Huppah. [Note: Being totally irreverent here, is this the etymological root for the concept of "hubba hubba?" -okay, never mind...] After this, Absalom was declared a god and his phallic spirit was immortalized by an erect pillar (2 Samuel 18:18). He was hung on a sacred oak "between heaven and earth," like all victims offered to deities of the air and sky.(2) He was pierced through the heart by three darts, like the Egyptian god Set. He was dismembered by ten men in priests' livery (2 Samuel 18:14-15). According to the old custom, pieces of him were then distributed to the fields and vineyards to encourage the growth of crops. Notes: (1) Graves, W.G., 363-64. (2) Angus, 173. ******************************************************************************* Interesting bit at the end - sounds rather like the death and cutting up of Osiris and the "salting" of his body parts around the "nomes" of Egypt, doesn't it? Except the great goddess Isis came along and ruined everything by putting "Humpty Dumpty" back together again, despite all the King's horses and all the King's men's best efforts to prevent her from doing so. And thus Osiris was resurrected and restored to life (well, at least a form of life - he's King of the Egyptian Underworld and by some accounts can only come out into daylight in the sacred sungod chariot where he flies across the arc of the sky) - that's something that Walker did not talk about in her Absalom tale, the fact that king sacrifice was intimately linked with the concept of resurrection/rebirth. I'm much more intrigued about the biblical account of the rape of Absalom's beautiful sister, Tamar, by Absalom's half-brother Amnon. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, Amnon was born to King David's first wife; Absalom was David's third-born son but, evidently, quite a favorite with the people of the day. Jewish tradition traces "Jewishness" through the line of the mother: if your mother is a Jew, you are a Jew. This echoes and appears to be a somewhat faded remembrance of the ancient right of matrineal "king" succession that held sway from earliest recorded history throughout the middle east and in Egypt. Kingship was determined by THE MOTHER, not order of birth. I'm certainly no scholar when it comes to matrineal descent! But it is not a stretch to believe that Absalom may have been the heir presumptive despite being David's third son, because Absalom's mother's descent may have given him the heads-up. Therefore, if Amnon (rather sounds like an Egyptian name, doesn't it?) coveted David's throne for himself, he had to get rid of the heir presumptive (Absalom). And so he schemed and came up with a way to send Absalom over the edge. He raped Absalom's beloved sister, the beautiful and highly desirable Tamar. Perhaps the rape was a two-edged sword because by raping Tamar, Amnon may have been asserting a direct right to the throne through Tamar, not just "egging on" Absalom to attempt to take revenge against him. The biblical narrative relates the eventual outcome of Tamar's rape, but it takes some time to unfold. Ultimately, Amnon is killed at the hands of Absalom's agents, and Absalom flees from David's wrath. Eventually, a civil war ensues, and Absalom is killed. Here is the account from the Catholic Encyclopedia: Shielded by a forest, David's men proceed and meet Absalom's unguarded forces on the edge of the woods which fringe the circular plain at a point marked by the present site (presumably) of Mukaah. A frightful slaughter ensues, and the disorganized rebel party is quickly routed. Absalom madly flies. Suddenly he finds himself stunned by a blow while his head is caught in the fork of the low hanging branches of a terebinth tree. At the same time his long loose hair becomes entangled in the thick foliage, whilst the frightened animal beneath him rushes on, leaving him suspended above the ground. Before he is able to extricate himself he is espied by one of the soldiers, who, mindful of the King's words, "Spare me the life of Absalom", directs Joab's attention to the plight of the hapless youth. The old general, less scrupulous, and eager to rid his master of so dangerous a foe, thrice pierces the body of Absalom with his javelin. When the news of Absalom's death is brought to David, he is inconsolable. "My son Absalom, Absalom my son: would to God that I might die for thee, Absalom my son, my son Absalom." One of the old forms and symbol of the goddess was a sacred tree, and her places of worship was often sited in a grove of trees. So, it appears that in the case of Amnon and Absalom, the goddess got back her own and Barbara Walker's Woman's Encyclopedia offers some amazing insight. One other note tonight, for it's very late and I'm very tired, and I have to be up at 6 to meet the new day, yikes! Mukaah. is this a cognant of Maacha? According to the Catholic Encyclopedia entry cited above, [Absalom's] mother was Maacha, daughter of Tholmai, King of Gessur. I don't know where this is - just wondering if it could possibly be related to Mecca? Mecca was a very ancient site of worship of the triple goddess in pre-Islamic times, and the sacred shrine of the goddess, the Kaabah (various spellings), survives to this day as a holy shrine of Islam, where worshippers (mostly male) kiss the sacred black stone of the goddess, conveniently outlined in the form of a yoni symbol of the goddess upon which the worshippers center their smooches. I find this topic fascinating. I will continue with more on sacred kingship as time permits.

Kingship: Abishag and the King

From Barbara Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets: Abishag The Bible claims the maiden Abishag was chosen for her beauty, to engender "heat" in the aged King David (1 Kings 1:2). This "heat" was not mere warmth, but the sacred fire of sexual potency, without which no king could be allowed to rule. [Side note: I wonder if this was also part of the test in the Egyptian heb sed festival?] If an impotent king were kept in office, his land would become barren. Hence, when David failed to "know" Abishag, a more virile prince (Adonijah) immediately prepared to assume the throne, and "exalted himself, saying, I will be king" (1 Kings 1:5). David's death occurred with sugggestive promptness after his failure of the virility test. Abishag's name might be related to the Hindu abhiseka ceremony, the annointing of kings with the sacred fluid of the Goddess Sarasvati.(1) From China to the Mediterranean, ancient kings derived their legitimation from a mating with the Goddess through her priestess-surrogate.(2) Mesopotamian kings and their deified souls, the gods, were constantly described as "beloved" of the Goddess known as creatress of the earth and "maker of fate, she who decrees the fate of the men and gods."(3) Like the eastern Goddess, Abishag represented the land in the same way as Solomon's bride, whose mating was chronicled in the requisite intimate detail by the Song of Solomon. After David's death, the queen mother chose between rival candidates Solomon and Adjonijah. She crowned Solomon with her own hands (Song of Solomon 3:11), after the custom of the royal women whose business it was to ehthrone or depose kings, as in India, Egypt, and the lands of the Fertile Crescent.(4) However, Adonijah still had designs on the throne, as shown by his request for the hand of Abishag in marriage. To prevent this symbolically and politically significant marriage form taking place, Solonon had Adonijah murdered (1 Kings 2:17-25). The Bible fails to explain Solomon's strangely violent reactin to Adonijah's request; but it can only have meant that the crown was at stake. This in turn shows that a sexual union with Abishag was a prerequisite for royal office. See Kingship. Notes: (1) Gaster, 514. (2) Boulding, 191. (3) Pritchard, A.N.E. 1, 65; 2, 17, 21, 135, 202. (4) Boulding, 210. ************************************************************************************ Solomon's mother, Bathsheba, had entered into an adulterous affair with King David while her husband was off fighting one of David's foreign wars. When Bathsheba became pregnant, David schemed to have Bathsheba's husband killed and he then took her as one of his wives. Their first child - a son - died - supposedly as punishment by Yahweh for David's adultery - thereby proving the biblical adage "the sins of the fathers are visited upon the sons." Of course, there is no way to reconcile this harsh divine judgment upon an innocent baby when Yahweh is also supposed to be a merciful and just god, kind to widows and orphans and the foreign resident in the midst of his people. Abishag was the goddess' representative and her intercourse with the king (or future king) was crucial to justifying his reign. If the goddess should withdraw her favor from the king, havoc would rule and the king could be (and sometimes was) overthrown in favor of a more likely candidate, one upon whom the goddess might smile. This casts new light to the importunings of some of the Pharaohs of Egypt recorded in ancient prayers inscribed on monuments for the flooding of the Nile to occur. We in the west often assume that the flooding of the Nile occurs every year like clockwork; but prior to the construction of the modern-day dams along the Nile, that annual flooding did not always occur. When it did not, famine stalked the land. Who was to blame for such a catastrophy? Pharoah, who had lost the favor of the great mother Goddess, she withdrawing her favor - literally - from the land and cursing its crops to whither and die. Now, there's some interesting stuff under Kingship in Walker's Encylopedia. I recall that we often speculated about and did much research about substitute king sacrifice in The Weave (preserved at Goddesschess). Walker brings an entirely new light to the subject for me. Wow!

Reykjavik 2008 Open

Final standings after Round 9 (reporting on the winner and the ladies only): 1 GM Wang Hao CHN 2665 7,0 9 GM Stefanova Antoaneta BUL 2464 6,0 18 IM Gaponenko Inna UKR 2422 5,5 24 IM Tania Sachdev IND 2417 5,0 28 IM Paehtz Elisabeth GER 2420 5,0 37 WIM Nemcova Katerina CZE 2342 5,0 41 IM Arakhamia-Grant Ketevan SCO 2457 4,5 49 WFM Limontaite Simona LTU 2152 4,5 IM Vasilevich Tatjana UKR 2370 4,5 60 WIM Hagesaether Ellen NOR 2234 4,0 64 IM Jackova Jana CZE 2375 4,0 67 WGM Sanchez Castillo Sarai VEN 2312 4,0 71 WIM Andersson Christin SWE 2194 3,5 72 IM Zozulia Anna BEL 2344 3,5 73 WFM Steil-Antoni Fiona LUX 2122 3,5 82 Frank-Nielsen Marie DEN 1969 3,0 86 Almer Julia SWE 1914 2,5 87 Kristinardottir Elsa Maria ISL 1721 2,5

Monday, March 10, 2008

"Excreting" Pharmaceutical Pollution

How do we clean up this act? From The New York Times AP Water Probe Prompts Senate Hearings [oh no, Senate Hearings, the kiss of death for anything to ever be done] By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: March 10, 2008 Filed at 11:14 p.m. ET Two veteran U.S. senators said Monday they plan to hold hearings in response to an Associated Press investigation into the presence of trace amounts of pharmaceuticals in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans. Also, U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz, D-Pa., has asked the EPA to establish a national task force to investigate the issue and make recommendations to Congress on any legislative actions needed. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who heads the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg, chairman of the Transportation, Safety, Infrastructure Security and Water Quality Subcommittee, said the oversight hearings would likely be held in April. Boxer, D-Calif., said she was ''alarmed at the news'' that pharmaceuticals are turning up in the nation's drinking water, while Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat who said he was ''deeply concerned'' by the AP findings, both represent states where pharmaceuticals had been detected in drinking water supplies, but not disclosed to the public. ''I call on the EPA to take whatever steps are necessary to keep our communities safe,'' said Boxer in a statement. Added Lautenberg, whose subcommittee has jurisdiction over drinking water issues: ''Our families deserve water that is clean and safe. Our hearing will examine these problems and help ensure the EPA and Congress take the steps necessary to protect our residents and clean up our water supply.'' EPA spokesman Timothy Lyons said the agency is ''committed to keeping the nation's water supply clean, safe and the best in the world. We encourage all Americans to be responsible when disposing of prescription drugs.'' The Lautenberg-Boxer announcement came just 24 hours after the AP's release of the first installment of its three-part series, titled PharmaWater. The five-month-long inquiry by the AP National Investigative Team found that while water is screened for drugs by some suppliers, they usually don't tell their customers that they have found medication in it, including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones. The series shows how drugs -- mostly the residue of medications taken by people, excreted and flushed down the toilet -- have gotten into the water supplies of at least 24 major metropolitan areas, from Southern California to northern New Jersey. The stories also detail the growing concerns among scientists that this pollution has adversely affected wildlife, and may threaten human health. In a letter to EPA administrator Stephen Johnson, Schwartz said, ''Like many Pennsylvanians, I was especially taken aback by the finding of 56 different pharmaceuticals discovered in the drinking water for the City of Philadelphia.. . . The Associated Press report raises serious questions about the safety and security of America's water system.''

Ancient Inscriptions

Wow! Compare these inscriptions from (1) Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon) to the ideograms found on the (2) Indus seals, and the ideograms of the (3) Jiroft script: From the Sri Lanka Sunday Times Online ISSN: 1391 - 0531 Sunday March 9, 2008 Vol. 42 - No 41 News Rare cave inscriptions By Gamini Mahadura A cave with rare ancient inscriptions dating back to more than 10000 years has reportedly been discovered at Badungala in the PS division of Yakkalamulla in Galle. Archaeology officials say that the inscriptions date back to the Endera yugaya or the era when animals were domesticated. They say similar cave inscriptions had been so far discovered in Alauwa, Ambilikanda and Mawanella. This is the first time that such a find has been reported from the South.

The Witches' Pits of England

From The Times March 10, 2008 Mysterious pits shed light on forgotten witches of the West Simon de Bruxelles Evidence of pagan rituals involving swans and other birds in the Cornish countryside in the 17th century has been uncovered by archaeologists. Since 2003, 35 pits at the site in a valley near Truro have been excavated containing swan pelts, dead magpies, unhatched eggs, quartz pebbles, human hair, fingernails and part of an iron cauldron. The finds have been dated to the 1640s, a period of turmoil in England when Cromwellian Puritans destroyed any links to pre-Christian pagan England. It was also a period when witchcraft attracted the death sentence. Jacqui Woods, leading the excavations, has not traced any written or anecdotal evidence of the rituals, which would have involved a significant number of people over a long period. There are no records of similar practices anywhere else in the world. [Well - do you really think any of the participants would have written them down? Duh!] Ms Woods, an archaeologist who has advised on the discovery in 1991 of Europe’s oldest human mummy, the “Iceman”, in an Alpine glacier, has been digging at the site at Saveock Water for the past eight years. Saveock Water was, in the 17th century, a community of five houses whose occupants worked at a nearby mill. Human occupation of the site dates to prehistoric times but some of the activity uncovered was more recent. A stone-lined spring that may have been a “holy well” was full of offerings from the 17th century, including 125 strips of cloth from dresses, cherry stones and nail clippings. There was evidence that the well had been filled and the site destroyed to hide what went on there. Each of the feather pits, which are“ about 40cm square by 17cm deep (15 by 6in), have been carefully lined with the intact pelt of one swan and contain other bird remains. The pits where the contents were intact also contained a leaf parcel holding stones that experts have traced to Swanpool beach, 15 miles (24km) away, an area famed for its swan population. Ms Woods said: “Killing a swan would have been incredibly risky at this time because they are the property of the Crown.” There was a particularly macabre discovery in one of the feather pits: fifty-seven unhatched eggs ranging in size from a bantam to a duck. They were flanked by the bodies of two magpies, birds that have long been the subject of superstition in Cornish folklore. The organic remains survived because they were preserved in the water-logged ground. Although the shells of the eggs had dissolved, the membrane remained, revealing chicks shortly before they were due to hatch. Ms Woods said: “A lot of the paganism of the Celts was wiped out by the Romans, but not in Cornwall. “Swan feathers had a connection with fertility. It’s possible these offerings were being left. Then, if there was a conception, nine months later the person would return to empty the pit. “Often when secret rituals are abandoned people will talk about ‘things that were done in my grandmother’s day’ but there has been no whisper of this. It really makes me wonder whether that is because it is still going on.” Ms Wood will deliver a paper on the feather pits at the World Archaeology Conference in Dublin in June. Burnt, hanged and drowned — The pits were created in the 17th century when the law stated “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” — Thousands of women, the vast majority innocent, were burnt, hanged or drowned — The first Witchcraft Act was passed in 1541 — In the mid-16th century, when it was believed that the plague was the work of sorcery, persecution of witches reached a frenzy The death penalty for witchcraft ended in 1735 — Last week the Scottish Parliament was asked to approve a pardon for the 4,000 people killed — The last person to be convicted was Jane Rebecca Yorke, a medium who was fined £5 in 1944 for claiming to be able to contact dead servicemen

Chess News Update

Hola darlings! The İş Bankası - Atatürk International Women Masters Chess Tournament featuring a super-star line-up of chess femmes from around the world starts tomorrow (Game 1): 1 Cramling, Pia G SWE 2531 2 Zhu Chen GM QAT 2531 3 Zhao Xue WGM CHN 2530 4 Hou Yifan WGM CHN 2502 5 Ushenina, Anna IM UKR 2486 6 Harika, Dronavalli WGM IND 2480 7 Krush, Irina IM USA 2475 8 Javakhishvili, Lela IM GEO 2474 9 Atalık, Katerina IM TUR 2404 10 Betul Cemre Yildiz WIM TUR 2220 So! I don't know whom to root for! I like equally Cramling, Hou, Ushenina, Dronavalli, Krush and Atalik. Well - maybe a multi-way tie for first!!! Chessbase has a lovely article on the event (lots of great photos) featuring several young Turkish chess femmes - they are all so beautiful, they just make me smile. There are some chess hommes too :) * * * * * GM Susan Polgar was one of six women who received a special Commendation from the City of New York Comptroller: Each woman was chosen for her expertise in her field; the respect accorded her by her peers and colleagues; her commitment to serving others; and her demonstrated commitment to making New York City a more vibrant, inclusive and healthy place to live. Congratulations to GM Susan Polgar and the other recipients of this special award! * * * * * Photo of Beyonce as Etta James in the upcoming film (Chess Records in the old days). I recently saw Etta perform on Austin City Limits on PBS - 70 years old and the voice is a bit more gravelly, and she sits down during some of her performance, but the soul that reaches out and grabs you by the throat is stronger than ever. She put on a fabulous show. And looks great! Sorry Beyonce, I don't think you have the voice and no where near the presence that Miss Etta has. * * * * * My March, 2008 column is now up and running at Chessville!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Sugar Bush Squirrel

An entire website devoted to a now grown up squirrel that was rescued as a baby when the tree that held its nest was cut down. Check it out: Sugar Bush Squirrel!

Urumchi Back in the News in a Bad Way

From The New York Times: China Reports Suspected Terrorist Activity By JIM YARDLEY and JAKE HOOKER Published: March 10, 2008 BEIJING — A Chinese passenger jet that departed Friday morning from the heavily Muslim region of Xinjiang was forced to make an emergency landing after the flight crew apprehended at least two passengers who authorities say intended to sabotage the airplane, state media reported Sunday. A senior Chinese official also said Sunday that a police raid last January against a group in Xinjiang suspected of planning terrorist acts uncovered proof that the group was plotting an attack on the coming Beijing Olympics. Terrorism is usually not a significant threat in China, where the authoritarian government takes an unflinching approach toward maintaining social stability. But Chinese security officials are very concerned that terrorism poses a serious risk as Beijing prepares to be the host for the Olympic Games in August. The airplane incident came in the same week that a man armed with dynamite hijacked a private bus filled with Australian tour operators who were sightseeing in the city of Xian. A police sniper later killed the man, and few details have been released about him or his motives. None of the hostages were wounded. On Sunday, Wang Lequan, the Communist Party chief in Xinjiang, took a hard stance, saying that China would strike the “three evil forces” of terrorists, separatists and extremists. “We are prepared to strike them when the evil forces are planning their activities,” Mr. Wang said, according to Xinhua, the country’s state-run news service. Xinjiang is a vast northwestern region that is home to China’s population of 8.3 million Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim group with linguistic and cultural ties to neighboring central Asia. The region has long had tensions over cultural aspirations by some Uighurs for an independent state. In the past, China has blamed Uighur separatists for terrorist actions. Human rights groups have accused China of overstating any terrorist threat as a pretext for cracking down on the Uighurs. In January, the Chinese police attacked what the authorities said was a terrorist gang in Urumqi, the capital city of Xinjiang. Two people were killed and 15 others arrested. Initially, few details were released about the raid. On Sunday, Mr. Wang said investigators had found knives, axes and books about terrorism in the raid. He said other materials suggested the group planned an Olympic attack, although no specifics were provided. “Obviously, the gang had planned an attack targeting the Olympics,” Mr. Wang told Xinhua in an interview conducted during the meeting of the National People’s Congress, the country’s Communist Party-controlled legislature. [Really? Based on the evidence of "knives, axes and books about 'terrorism' supposedly discovered in this 'raid?' The only 'gang' here is one described by a terrorist Communist government, hardly spot-free and not above planting evidence or just making up things to feed to the government-controlled media.] Mr. Wang said the gang had ties to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a separatist group designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the United Nations. The thwarted airplane attack was also disclosed on Sunday. Nur Bekri, chairman of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region government, told state media that “some people were attempting to create an air disaster.” The incident occurred on a China Southern flight that departed Friday morning at 10:35 from Urumqi, heading for Beijing. But the plane was diverted to the city of Lanzhou after an onboard incident. A China Southern employee in Lanzhou confirmed that the airplane had been diverted to Lanzhou. The employee said the airport was initially told that the diversion was necessary because of “traffic control” problems. State media provided only a few details, noting that “the attackers were stopped in time by the air police, and all the passengers and crew members are safe.” Mr. Bekri suggested that more than one person was involved but declined to provide specifics, telling Xinhua that the authorities are investigating “who the attackers are, where they are from and what’s their background. “But we can be sure that this was a case intending to create an air crash,” he said. A China Southern employee at the Lanzhou airport confirmed that the airplane had been diverted to the city and that the incident had been handled by public security officers. The diversion was initially described as necessary because of “traffic control,” the employee said. One person with information about the incident said a Uighur woman apparently smuggled three containers of gasoline onto the flight. [How?] The person said that she took the containers into the bathroom and was later apprehended by members of the flight crew. That account seemed consistent with a Friday posting on a Chinese Internet chat room. The messages discussed a landing in Lanzhou and said that it had been discovered in mid-flight that people had brought gasoline on board and that four Uighurs had been led away after the plane landed. They appeared to be a first-hand account from a passenger sending messages via a hand-held device from the Lanzhou airport, but that could not be confirmed. nor could the identity of the person sending the messages. Zhang Jing contributed research.

Reykjavik Open 2008

Standings after Round 7 (women only): 13 IM Gaponenko Inna UKR 2422 4,5 14 GM Stefanova Antoaneta BUL 2464 4,5 17 IM Paehtz Elisabeth GER 2420 4,5 18 IM Arakhamia-Grant Ketevan SCO 2457 4,5 21 IM Tania Sachdev IND 2417 4,5 41 IM Jackova Jana CZE 2375 4,0 56 WIM Nemcova Katerina CZE 2342 3,0 61 WFM Limontaite Simona LTU 2152 3,0 64 IM Zozulia Anna BEL 2344 3,0 66 WIM Hagesaether Ellen NOR 2234 3,0 69 WIM Andersson Christin SWE 2194 2,5 73 WFM Steil-Antoni Fiona LUX 2122 2,5 74 IM Vasilevich Tatjana UKR 2370 2,5 77 Frank-Nielsen Marie DEN 1969 2,5 84 WGM Sanchez Castillo Sarai VEN 2312 2,0 88 Kristinardottir Elsa Maria ISL 1721 1,5 89 Almer Julia SWE 1914 1,0

The Chinese Fountain of Youth! - Exercise!

Yeah, well, I'm sure not going to be outside exercising in 3 feet of snow and 20 below zero temperatures. I'll save myself for pruning, sawing, never-ending bed edging and lawn mowing once spring, summer and autumn finally cycle around again (if the ever do; this may be the year of the winter that never ends - worst weather we've had in over 20 years). From The Times Online March 9, 2008 All the chi in China Shouting, whip-cracking, wrapping their ankles round their ears: the citizens of Beijing have strange ways to free the life force In the grey stillness of predawn, I followed the silent figures ghosting down Beijing’s long avenues towards the Temple of Heaven. They were on foot or on bicycles, alone or in couples. Shuffling through the gates, they spread out through the park that surrounds the temple. As the first rays of the sun slanted through the trees, I realised that there were hundreds of them scattered across the grass, and that some were dancing the foxtrot. Everything about China is different, from the alphabet to the cutlery to their habit of ending dinner with soup. To the casual visitor, even to those not given much to ruminations about physiognomy, one of the striking differences is the physique of the Chinese. There are few fat people. Occasionally, you may see a slightly plump type, in a cosy Chinese way, but the spreading girths of western society, the rolling buttocks barely contained by terry-towel fabric, have no place here. And it is not just a diet of rice and cabbage that keeps them so slim. The Chinese secret is that they exercise. To catch them at their fitness regimes, however, you need to rise well before dawn. I broke the habit of a lifetime to witness these early-morning rituals. Creeping through the dark streets, it felt like a nature safari, an expedition to glimpse the mysterious rites of some strange species. Geoffrey was one of the regulars in the Temple of Heaven park. He waylaid me just inside the northern gate, chiefly to practise his remarkable colloquial English. He liked to arrive before 5.30am, he informed me. “Flitness,” he said, “is for the early worm.” He tapped his forehead. “For flitness, you must let the energies flow. Chi,” he said, making a noise like sneezing. “Chi is energy in the body. It must be flee.” In China, exercise is chiefly the preserve of the old. There were plenty of younger people in the green acres of the park, but the middle-aged and elderly – scarce in a western gym – predominated. And the results don’t half show. China has old people the way Russia has chess champions. They are the best old people in the world, old people as a source of national pride – fit, slender, supple, their skin smooth, their eyes bright. Anywhere else in the world, you would suspect surgical intervention, coupled with a heavy regime of hormones. Chinese 70-year-olds could pass for middle-aged in London, and for thirtysomething in a Glasgow pub. Geoffrey was typical. He was 75, but looked like a man in his early fifties, perhaps not coincidentally the age of his wife. In the Temple of Heaven park, astride the great meridian known as the Dragon Line, where the emperors used to pray for national redemption and good harvests, the assembled masses were deep into their morning rituals. Chief among the activities was t’ai chi, the classic Chinese exercise. Originally, it was a martial art. As an exercise, it is performed, usually in groups, at half speed, a slow-motion ballet of precise movements, a kind of synchronised swimming without the pool. T’ai chi is illustrative of what is so different about Chinese exercise. There is lots of mental concentration and very little sweat. Exercise is elegant, graceful, almost sedate. Not for the Chinese the muscle-pumping of the gym, the slog of the jogging track. Nobody here is going for the burn. Instead, it is all about balance and concentration and flexibility. In a western fitness programme, t’ai chi would register only as an elaborate warm-up, a series of stretching exercises. In China, it is the main course, because it involves thought as well as movement. In the wide spaces of the Temple of Heaven park, however, t’ai chi was only the tip of the exercise iceberg. On all sides, straight-faced people were engaging in a range of ever more bizarre activities. In the shade of a pine tree, an old man was limbering up for the day by tapping his head repeatedly, moving his fingers round the ley lines of the skull, a sort of self-administered acupressure. Nearby, three elderly women stood in a flowerbed, rubbing their backs slowly up and down the bark of the camphor trees. At another tree, another woman was engaged in a sort of sniffing exercise, pressing her nose to a trunk and inhaling in short, sharp bursts. Suddenly, from beyond the shrubbery, I heard gunshots. Hurrying round the oleander bushes, I came upon three men cracking long whips. Like lion-tamers minus the lions, they prowled back and forth, exercising first with one arm, then the other. Beyond them, on the open grass, a group of young women, arms raised, knees flexed, were twirling long ribbons with balletic grace, like Chinese cheerleaders. Over by the eastern gate, a group of elderly women had hooked their left legs over the chest-high railings, bending forward to flex their back muscles. It was the kind of thing that would have been impressive performed by an east European adolescent gymnast. As performed by elderly grannies, in nylon shirts and cotton slippers, it was astonishing. In the gardens to the south of the great temple, I came upon the happy clappers. A large group had assembled between the flowerbeds in orderly rows. They were engaged in a sort of call-and-response clapping. First, the Clapper Chief – a willowy young man with the fervent look of an evangelical preacher – gave them a short burst of clapping, which the whole group then copied in unison. It was like one of those old-fashioned communist rallies where everyone spent much of their time applauding themselves. The vocal exercises were a more solitary pursuit. Across the green lawns, individuals stood alone, gazing into the middle distance, shouting, albeit in a restrained Chinese manner, presumably hoping to get the chi flowing by letting it all out. Meanwhile, contortionists, many of them of an age when getting their socks on straight might have been a struggle, were wrapping their ankles round their ears. Badminton players had set up nets, but nobody was gauche enough to keep score. The long arc of the shuttlecock, the graceful rallies, seemed an end in themselves. Even the swordsmen and women, whose ceremonial blades glinted in the morning light, had reduced armed combat to an elaborate slow-motion mime. Of all the strange activities in the park, my favourite was the ballroom dancing. One of China’s many surprises is the quality of its ballroom dancing. Across the country, you see couples in the evenings, in the squares and parks of small towns, dancing the waltz and the tango. And here, early in the morning, among the whip-crackers and the t’ai chi exponents, sedate dancers were limbering up for the day with the foxtrot, the polka, the rumba and the two-step. Ballroom dancing has it all – the elegant, unhurried movements, the gentle companionability, a degree of mental alertness, the need to avoid other people’s toes. It is the ideal Chinese exercise, and a triumph of restraint. Among the rather formal couples, making their neat turns as they gazed politely over one another’s shoulders, Geoffrey and his wife glided expertly between the rose beds and the shrubbery. Later, they walked with me to one of the park exits. “Phwoxtwat,” Geoffrey said, unlocking their bicycles. “One per cent perspiration. Ninety-nine per cent concentration. Werry genius exercise. Lots of flowing chi.”

Queen's Gambit

GM Larry Evan's column at the Chess: Rereading 'The Queen's Gambit' March 9, 2008 "I don't have a boyfriend. I'd be more interested in a non-chess player now just because I know all the chess players." — Jennifer Shahade, USA women's champ in 2002 before graduating from New York University. This remark tempted me to reread The Queen's Gambit (1983), the last novel by the late Walter Tevis, who captured the world of pool so brilliantly in The Hustler. Tevis once told me he liked writing about intelligent misfits. Will this book be made into a film? At various stages director Martin Scorsese and Bernardo Bertolucci were involved in the project. Before Heath Ledger died in January, the 28-year-old Australian star of Brokeback Mountain planned to direct and act in it. A skilled chess player, he had offered the leading role of a female chess prodigy to Ellen Page. The author said he learned chess at 7 and wasn't a strong player (1423 rated). "You don't get the girls in high school by being a chess or a pool player. Neither game is a team sport, both are male-dominated, and many players are loners trying to escape from personal problems," he said. His novel anticipated the three fabulous Polgar sisters in Hungary, who battled chess bureaucrats for the right to play in mixed events. The queen of the title is Beth Harmon, an orphan whose parents were killed in a car accident. She storms the male bastion of chess by age 19. "I think chess should be a sexless game. It would be good if women don't play in women's tournaments at all. Doing so only reinforces the notion of their inferiority," said Tevis. "People who say that chess is trivial aren't looking very hard at their lives doing what they claim is important. You can't get by in chess on bull." [You can't get by in chess on bull - so true.] Larry Evans is a five-time U.S. chess champion and nationally syndicated chess writer. Write to him at P.O. Box 1182, Reno, NV 89504.

Pssst - hey buddy, wanna buy a headless goddess?

(Image: Headless Tyche sculpture for sale)


On June 4, Christie’s New York is pleased to offer an exquisite Roman statue of the goddess Tyche (estimate on request).
Publish Date: 2008-03-04

June 4, 2008

New York – On June 4, Christie’s New York is pleased to offer an
exquisite Roman statue of the goddess Tyche (estimate on request). Standing 31 ½ inches high, and executed in the rarest of materials: porphyry. The statue was formerly in the private collection of Dr. Elie Borowski, collector and connoisseur of ancient art, who acquired it in 1967. It was on loan to the sculpture museum Liebighaus in Frankfurt, Germany from 1980-1986, and later exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto from 1986-1991.

“This is the most spectacular and beautiful sculpture that I haveever had the pleasure to work with,” says G. Max Bernheimer,International Head of the Antiquities department. “The fact that it’s still in impeccable condition,makes it all the more exceptional.” [Impeccable condition - it's fricking head is missing, dude!]

Porphyry was highly regarded for its color, since purple was symbolic of high rank and authority.The stone was quarried in Egypt’s eastern desert, near Mons Porphyrites, known today as GebelKokham. The raw material was transported overland to Qena, ancient Kainopolis, on the Nile, andthen by boat north to Alexandria and then on to Rome. During the Roman Period, the quarrieswere traditionally understood to have been under the direct control of the emperor. The stone wasonly sporadically used during the 1st Century A.D., reaching its first peak of use during the reigns ofthe emperors Trajan 98-117 A.D. and Hadrian 117-138 A.D. and again in the 4th Century. It wasused for statuary, architectural elements including columns and floor paving, decorative urns andbasins, and for imperial sarcophagi. Most porphyry statuary, as with the present example, wasfinished as a composite work of art, with the head, hands and feet made from a contrasting material,usually white marble.

The Goddess
Tyche was a goddess who presided over the prosperity of the city, bringing its citizens, with hope,good fortune. The most renowned sculpture of Tyche from the ancient world was a colossal bronzestatue by the Greek artist Eutychides, a pupil of Lysippos, created for the city of Antioch in the early3rd century B.C. The Tyche of Antioch was a personification of the city. Although the originaldoes not survive, its existence is known from ancient literary sources and is recognized in copies invarious media, including small bronzes, reliefs, coins and gems, and most famously in marble now atthe Vatican Museum. All show the goddess seated on a rock, symbolic of Mount Silpius, with herfeet resting on the river Orontes, depicted as a swimming youth. As most cities had their ownTyche, the topographical details of Eutychides’ original could be appropriated to suit any location.On account of the material from which it is sculpted, this porphyry Tyche must have been anImperial commission, inspired by the work of Eutychides, and was perhaps a benevolent gift to oneof the great cities of the Empire or an important local leader.

The Slow Erasure of Ancient Persia

From CAIS: Islamic Regime has Issued a Permit for the Construction of a Hotel, Just 20-meters Away from 2500-Years-Old Apadana Palace March 8, 2008 LONDON, (CAIS) -- A permit has been issued by Khuzestan Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Department (KCHTHD) to construct a three story hotel building, just 20 meters away from the Achaemenid Apadana palace in Susa, said Mojtaba Gahestuni, the spokesman for the Khuzestan’s Friends of the Cultural Heritage Association (Tariana). The license for constructing 'Amirzargar' hotel was issued to a private owner by 'Sadeq Mohammadi' the director of KCHTHD. Tariana in an official letter to KCHTHD demanded the license to be revoked immediately. The Apadana Palace has already been threatened by the construction of a school on its perimeter, but the construction of this hotel will definitely ensure the destruction of this important historical site in the long term. In early January, vandals also smashed remaining column bases at Apadana and the Old-Persian cuneiform inscriptions on the base have been obliterated. The Apadana Palace is also being threatened by the construction of a preparatory school on its perimeter. In early December 2007, Tariana sent letters to the regime’s president Mahmud Ahmadinejad, asking him put a stop to the project – but the letter not so surprisingly was ignored, and destruction continued. These crimes against Iranian national heritage is being carried out in accordance with the Islamic regime's de-Iranianisation policy. Issuing such a permit is either done in accordance with such policy, or the KCHTHD's authorities have received bribes to issue the devastating permit or just 'kill two birds, with one stone'. Since the rise of theocratic totalitarian regime to power in 1979, the anti-Iranian leaders of the Islamic regime have dedicated significant resources to restructuring Iranian culture, values and sense of national identity, and as the result many pre-Islamic historical and archaeological sites have been devastated. In general, the regime has been trying to destroy and erase all pre-Islamic cultural heritage from the consciousness of the Iranians at any cost, in favour of Islamic culture, and the Islamic way of life. In addition, in Islamic Iran the criteria of choosing executive figures and occupying managerial positions including ICHTHO are not based on their level of education or expertise, but based on their level of devotion to the regime, a majority of them being corrupt*. These corrupt authorities along with the ruling clerics and their families (in Persian language known as āqā-zādegān) have managed to accumulate unheard of wealth through corruption, bribery and embezzlement, and live in opulence and luxury at the expense of the Iranian nation and Iranian heritage. * Since 1979, Islamic Iran ranks 88 out of 158 countries on the "Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index" (CPI) with a CPI score of 2.9 (a scale of 0 – 10 with 0 being the most corrupt). In real terms Islamic regime made bribery another form of income supplement for the Iranian society, in order to disintegrate traditional values and moralities among Iranian people, to pave the way for destruction of Iran. Corruption encouraged at every level, which have nowadays have become an accepted part of every day life - from gifting the postman to make sure one’s mail is delivered to major corruption on the international level in the oil and its related industries.
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