Thursday, November 12, 2015

Veterans' Day: The Story Behind An Old Grave

Hola everyone.  A serious family illness situation has been occupying my time and sucking up most of my energy for some time now.  But I wanted to post this in honor of our veterans, those living and those who are no longer with us.

On a lovely autumn day about six weeks ago (it's hard to keep track of the time these days, they all seem to blend into each other in non-ending exhaustion, duty and worry) I met a couple of friends whom I used to work with years ago, and we had lunch.  Afterwards, one of the friends and I took a ride to the Veterans' cemetery at Wood (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) where her father, a WWII vet, and her mother, are buried.

It is a beautiful, serene and tranquil place in the midst of a busy city, unfortunately intersected by an eight lane expressway that goes right past Miller Park (baseball park)!  But even that monstrosity cannot disrupt the peace one feels amid the acres of carefully tended grass, trimmed around the gravestones, and trees turning reds, yellows, and oranges against a cloudless bright crisp blue sky.

My friend showed me her parents' graves, and we paid homage.  Then we took a slow walk through the neatly arranged rows of gravestones, lined up like soldiers in formation.  It was truly moving.  We stopped along our way to read the names on the stones.  Some stones were so worn we could no longer make out any details.  I learned that the Veterans Administration does have a program to replace worn out gravestones with new ones, but due to budget cuts much of that program has been ground to a halt.  How sad!

One gravestone, in particular, caught my attention.  My friend snapped a few photos of it with her cell phone:

  This is the grave of Private Abraham Bailey, who served in Captain William Richardson's Co. of the Pennsylvania Militia in the War of 1812.  He died on May 31, 1884.

We wondered:  What was a man who served in the Pennsylvania Militia doing buried in a Veterans' cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin?  Had he moved here after the War of 1812, perhaps when Wisconsin was a newly opened territory, or perhaps when Wisconsin became a state in 1848?  The mystery intrigued us.  Who was this man, buried in the oldest grave in this section (at least of the stones we could read).

We talked about checking to see if we could find out more.  Both of us have accounts at  So, after I go home, I got to work.  Later my friend and I emailed back and forth to share our findings.

This is what we learned about Abraham Bailey, who served in the War of 1812 on behalf of the United States.

Abraham (also known as Abram B.) Bailey, was born on March 30, 1795 (or 1796) in Pennsylvania, where he lived for most of his life before relocating, near the end of his long life, to the Veterans' Home and Hospital at Wood, Wisconsin, in 1882.  He died at Wood at the age of 88 years, and he was buried there.

Abraham served in the Pennsylvania Militia between September 18, 1814 to December 15, 1814, when the war ended.  Before and after the war, he made his living as a stone mason.

On September 20, 1837 in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, Abraham married Martha Gaskill Seaman, the daughter of Theophila Gaskill and Nathaniel Seaman.  Martha was born in Pennsylvania (or possibly in New York), on September 7, 1801 and she died on December 22, 1881.

At some point after 1850 or 1855, Abraham received a warrant from the U.S. Government for "bounty land" as a result of his service in the War of 1812.  I don't know where the land was located, but it appears, judging from the notation in the upper right hand corner on the document below, that he received rights to 160 acres:

Bounty land was typically land in "the public domain" which at the time meant territory in lands acquired by the United States government for settlement and expansion, such as the Louisiana Territory.  For example, some 5 million acres were set aside as bounty land in Illinois territory before it became a state.  It doesn't appear that Abraham Bailey moved to begin a new homestead on his bounty land; more likely, he sold his land warrant for cash to either an outright purchaser or a land speculator.

I found the couple in the United States Census Records for 1850 (Delaware County, PA), 1860 (Chester County, PA), 1870 (Chester County, PA) and 1880 (Burlington County, NJ).  No children were listed on any of these census records.  Martha and Abraham had no children as far as I was able to determine.  I could find no records but that does not prove there were no children born to the couple, who may have been born but died in the times between the U.S. Censuses.

We know these few bare facts, but we know nothing of the man, the woman, the couple, their lives together.  What did they look like?  What were they like?  Were they happy?

Abraham Bailey's record from the Veterans' Home and Hospital is on the right.  A life reduced to a few sentences:

In the midst of WWII, Abraham Bailey's gravestone at Wood was replaced in 1942 - the document above is the replacement request.

Private Abraham Bailey, on behalf of a grateful nation, my friend Ann and I salute you, and all those who served and are serving their country. Thank you.

Monday, October 26, 2015

DNA Gives Clues to the Settling of the Americas

Hola darlings!

I'm still with you.  No time at present to blog due to pressing familial issues, but I wanted you to check out this article from The New York Times:

DNA of Ancient Children Offers Clues on How People Settled the Americas

Carl Zimmer
October 26, 2015

Researchers have long wondered how people settled the Americas, particularly the path they took to the new territory and the timing of their expansion. Until recently, archaeologists studying these questions were limited mostly to digging up skeletons and artifacts.

But now scientists have begun extracting DNA from human bones, and the findings are providing new glimpses at the history of the first Americans.  On Monday, researchers at the University of Alaska and elsewhere published an important addition to the growing genetic archive.

In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers reported that they had recovered DNA from two skeletons of children who lived in Alaska 11,500 years ago. The genetic material is not only among the oldest ever found in the Americas, but also the first ancient DNA discovered in Beringia, the region around the Bering Strait where many researchers believe Asians first settled before spreading through North and South America.

The archaeological site, near Upward Sun River, was discovered in 2010. Excavations there have revealed that between 13,200 and 8,000 years ago, people visited during the summer, catching salmon and hares. They built tentlike structures where they made fires and slept.

In 2011, archaeologists discovered cremated bones on a hearth at the site. Research revealed that the bones belonged to a 3-year-old child. Below the hearth, the team discovered a burial pit containing the skeletons of two other children.

One of the buried children was an infant who died a few months after birth; the other was likely a late-term fetus. After the baby and the fetus died, their bodies were carefully laid atop a bed of red ocher, surrounded by antlers fashioned into hunting darts.  “These things we hardly ever find — it’s a very rare window into the worldview of these people,” said Ben A. Potter, an archaeologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who has led the research at Upward Sun River.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Oriental Institute Puts Select Photos From Its Archives Online

Absolutely fascinating, darlings!  The Oriental Institute has made some  photo archives from various expeditions to the Middle East available online.  Add this to your list of research resources.


A Review of What We Know About Ancient Human "Species Interbreeding" (as the scientists call it, what bunk!)

Hola darlings!

A fundamental tenet of biology teaches us that like breeds with like.  As our technology continues to improve and we continue to dig more deeply into our human origins and people aren't afraid to toss off preconceived notions and never stop asking "but what about this? What about that?", I think all the crap some of learned in school (and some people still believe) about "ape men" and the classic Darwinian take on "evolution" is a bunch of baloney.  Now, on to the article at Phys Org - and do try to ignore the silly title:

How a one night stand in the Ice Age affects us all today

October 8, 2015 by Darren Curnoe, The Conversation

Over the past half decade, ancient DNA research has revealed some surprising aspects to our evolutionary history during the past 50,000 years.  Perhaps the most startling of these has been the extent to which the ancestors of living people across the planet interbred with other closely related species of human.

But where in the world did these cross-species matings occur? Which archaic species were involved? Just how much of the  comprises DNA from these archaic relatives?And what impact did interbreeding have on our evolution and general biology as a species?
These are questions are the core of current research into interbreeding as revealed by DNA sequences obtained from fossils in Europe and Asia, as well as from comparisons with the genomes of living people.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Hales Corners Chess Challenge XXII!

Where did my summer go?  October is upon us and with October comes the semi-annual Hales Corners Chess Challenge tournaments, held in October and April each year.

October 2015 is no exception.  This year's great Hales Corners Challenge will be held on Saturday, October 17, 2015, at the beautiful Olympia Resort in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.  Hang on to your hats, darlings! Goddesschess has changed things up a bit this Challenge in the prize structure, woo woo!

Goddesschess has sponsored prizes since Challenge VIII, Holy Hathor!  Now here we are at Challenge XXII, and my cohort in Goddesschess, Georgia "Isis" Albert, and I have cooked up some new things for this Challenge to encourage our local and regional chess femmes to come on out and play!

Important to know:  As always, Goddesschess prize money is in addition to any other prizes you may win.

First off, we are beginning a new prize offering:  PERFECT SCORE PRIZE (female players only).  Any female player who wins all four of her games in each of the Open and Reserve sections will receive $80 and $40, respectively.  No limit on the number of perfect game scores, chess femmes!  So if all of you should begin to channel vibes from GM Judit Polgar - well, Georgia and I certainly would be gob-smacked and have to open up the Goddesschess wallet a little bit more, and we would LOVE to do so just for you!

You may already know that while I haven't sat down and done the math for hundreds of tournaments held across the country comparable in scale to the Hales Corners Challenges each year, I am pretty darn sure that our female player participation rate in the Challenges is among the top in the country, if not the highest.  My cohort in Goddesschess and I want to keep that momentum going, thus the Perfect Score Prize.

We've also shaken things up a little bit this year by offering a higher pay-off for wins and draws earned by female players in the Open Section.  We think it's high time some of you spread your wings a little bit wider and ventured into the Open Section instead of staying in the safe confines of the Reserve Section.  Come on chess femmes - give it a try.  We want to pay you more, more, more! We won' go bankrupt - pinky promise.  Chess femmes playing in the Open will now earn Goddesschess prize money of $50 per win, and $25 per draw.  Female players in the Reserve Section will win $20 per win and $10 per draw.

As we have for many years, Goddesschess will also pay the entry fee of the top finishing female player in each of the Open and Reserve Sections to the next Hales Corners Challenge.

This being the October Challenge, it is once again time to remember our dearly departed Mr. Don McLean, long-time webmaster, correspondent, writer and master researcher for Goddesschess, who passed away on October 12, 2012.  Don loved chess.  He couldn't play worth a damn, just like I can't, so we enjoyed many head-butting games OTB, LOL!  Oh, the stories I could tell you about some of those games, oh my :)  We honor Don in October with special prizes to spread the love to the chess dudes: $100 to the top finishing male player in the Open, and $50 to the top finishing male player in the Reserve. There are all sorts of tie-breaks that I do not understand in the least, so only one player in each section walks away with the top prize -- NO SPLITS, OUCH!

Come on out and play, chess femmes, please.  Do Georgia and I proud!  Let's break a record for female participation in Challenge XXII!  Let's shoot for the stars.

You can find further tournament information at the Southwest Chess Club website and their blog.

Please come on out, support us, and have fun, everyone.  Good luck, and we're rooting for the chess femmes :)

2015 FIDE Women's Grand Prix: Monaco


One of my favorite players, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, is playing in this Grand Prix, along with some of the best chessplayers in the world (all female), a truly stellar line-up of chess talent.  What's not to love?

Official website.  Photo gallery, extensive information on games/rounds, live video including live broadcast of games.

Here are the standings after 6 rounds, Holy Hathor!

FIDE Women Grand Prix 2015-16
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Ranking Crosstable after Round 6
18GMHou Yifan2671CHN0
26GMKoneru Humpy2578IND0
33GMMuzychuk Mariya2528UKR0
45GMCramling Pia2513SWE0
54GMKosteniuk Alexandra2525RUS0
610GMStefanova Antoaneta2500BUL30
77WGMPogonina Natalija2445RUS30
82GMZhukova Natalia2485UKR30
99IMSkripchenko Almira2441FRA21
1012GMMuzychuk Anna2549UKR20
111IMKhademalsharieh Sarasadat2402IRI0
1211GMDzagnidze Nana2573GEO10

Here is the schedule for the remainder of the tournament:

October,10 201515:00 Round 7
October,11 201515:00 Round 8
October,12 201515:00 Free Day
18:30 Reception of the Minister of State
October,13 201515:00  Round 9
October,14 201515:00Round 10
October,15 201511:00 Round 11
17:00 Closing Ceremony

Round 7 Match-Ups tomorrow (U.S. Central Time Zone, games begin 3:00 p.m.):

Round 7 on 2015/10/10 at 15:00
4GMKosteniuk Alexandra2525-GMMuzychuk Anna254912
5GMCramling Pia2513-GMMuzychuk Mariya25283
6GMKoneru Humpy2578-GMZhukova Natalia24852
7WGMPogonina Natalija2445-IMKhademalsharieh Sarasadat24021
8GMHou Yifan2671-GMDzagnidze Nana257311
9IMSkripchenko Almira2441-GMStefanova Antoaneta250010

I wish all of the chess femmes bon chance.

Ladies' Knight: A Female Perspective on Chess

Hola darlings!

I'm still alive and kicking, just been busy with other projects and the summer social scene.  In SE Wisconsin we must get things in while the weather cooperates, because Goddess knows once winter hits some time in (I hope late) November I'll be mostly at home for 6 months.  I've got another visit with Isis in Las Vegas coming up in mid November and I don't want my flight to be grounded by bad weather.  I'm gambling that a blizzard won't hit on either my trip out or my trip back and that the weather in Vegas holds in the mid-70's during the day while I'm there.  It is, of course, a craps shoot, har :)  

Got an email about this new exhibit at the World Chess Hall of Fame (seems I missed the announcement about them dropping "Museum" out of their title) and it sounds pretty cool.  If you are in the St. Louis area, or are planning a visit soon, worth checking out:

Ladies’ Knight: A Female Perspective on Chess

Opening Reception Thursday, October 29 | 6 - 8 p.m.

Ladies’ Knight: A Female Perspective on Chess examines how a game often dominated by men inspires contemporary women artists. The exhibition presents works by artists Crystal Fischetti, Debbie Han, Barbara Kruger, Liliya Lifanova, Goshka Macuga, Sophie Matisse, Yoko Ono, Daniela Raytchev, Jennifer Shahade, Yuko Suga, Diana Thater, and Rachel Whiteread. Their diverse interpretations of the game range from the playful and feminine to the serious and encourage dialogue about subjects like crime, language, peace and conflict, and inequality. 

Opening Reception
Thursday, October 29, 2015
6 - 8 p.m.
6:30 p.m. Remarks by Shannon Bailey, Chief Curator, World Chess Hall of Fame

Free and open to the public. 
Complimentary valet. Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
RSVP to Erica Kelly at

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Delayed Maleness

Article at The Washington Post online.

The mysterious village where girls turn into boys


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Women Were Some of the Fiercest Samurai Warriors Ever

A short video on Aizu warrior women:

Women Were Some of the Fiercest Samurai Warriors Ever

In ancient Japan, battle was typically reserved for male samurai. That all changed when Takeko Nakano and her sister, Yuko, decided to fight for their clan's independence after a deadly village invasion (3:22)

Ancient Chinese Game of "Go" Alive and Well in Lincoln, Nebraska

Some game historians have speculated that chess may have originated from the game of Go (Chinese: Wei qi; Japanese: Igo), but I'm not convinced (Chinese chess is Xiang qi).  Still, Go is a venerable game played by millions all around the world today, which is more than can be said for many other ancient board games that we know of, such as another Chinese game, Liubo or "six sticks," and the ancient Egyptian games of  Mehen and Senet.

Article from The Daily Nebraskan

Local club meets weekly at Cultiva to play ancient board game

  • Nick Niendorf

Patrons at Cultiva are greeted by an intriguing sight every Saturday afternoon.  Entering the café yields a view of brooding, pensive combatants. Their moves are swift, but thoughtful and each of the games attract the undivided attention of those around the players.
This is board game that started in China well over 2,500 years ago has found a home in modern-day Lincoln.
“It is less like a war and more like a contest for territory,” said Grant Centauri, the Go club’s founder, when describing the game’s play style. “The end goal is to take over more space than your opponent.”

All of Antarctica Might Melt Drowning Major Cities

Hola darlings!

The hot, humid and unbearable tropical weather (dew points were close to 70 nearly every day) we've been suffering through the entire month of August and the beginning of September in my little piece of southeastern Wisconsin is FINALLY over, hooray!  Drier and cooler air coupled with plenty of sun have arrived, and I am feeling re-energized.  It also helps that my latest flair-up of sciatica seems to have miraculously nearly disappeared, literally overnight!  I'm actually tackling some much needed home improvement projects that I should have started and finished a year ago.  Oh well.

Headline:  DUH!  I mean, really.  We all know there are a kabillion jillion gallons of water locked up in Antarctica's ice cover and it is melting (along with the ice cover in the Arctic regions) at an alarming and rapidly expanding rate.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government fiddles instead of preparing for the coming inexorable rise in the oceans - and what will happen to the Great Lakes?  Will they be inundated with salt water via the St. Lawrence Seaway and other swamped rivers?  Holy Hathor!  I'm sure there will be those who say - hey, we'll have figured this all out long before 10,000 years from now.  I say: Yeah, right (sarcasm).

Students of herstory know for a fact that many great civilizations have come and gone over the thousands of years of recorded herstory and long before that, with many (most) of them wiped out by climate changes of relatively short (a few hundred years) or long (the last Ice Age) duration.  But somehow, we just never seem to learn herstory's lessons.  Why is that?  I leave that to the philosophers to debate.  Here's the article:

All of Antarctica Might Melt, Drowning Major Cities

“Combustion of available fossil fuel resources sufficient to eliminate the Antarctic Ice Sheet.”
Few peer-reviewed study titles sound quite so much like a line spoken by the bad-news-bearing scientist from a dystopian sci-fi movie. But there it is. A real-world—and apparently very possible—dystopia.
For what Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science and an author on the paper, published Friday in the journal Science Advances, believes is the first time, he and his colleagues have shown that there are enough fossil fuels still in the ground to melt “effectively all of Antarctica” and ultimately cause as much as 200 feet of sea level rise.

Of course, it wouldn’t be only Antarctica that melts under this scenario. “Our study shows that if we don't leave most of the carbon in the ground, we are going to melt most of the ice on this planet,” Caldeira says. “I think this is one of the most important papers of my career.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

2015 Montreal Open

Hi everyone!

Goddesschess is pleased to announce that it is continuing its sponsorship for the Montreal Open Chess Championship, September 11 - 13, 2015 at the beautiful College Jean de Brebeuf, Montreal.

The playing venue at College Jean de Brebeuf, Montreal.

This year we have expanded prizes exclusively for female players as well as providing addition individual sponsorship to top Canadian female players.  Goddesschess prizes for female players are IN ADDITION to any prize a female player also may win.  

As you may remember, Goddesschess' long-time webmaster and reporter on the scene, Don McLean, was a native of Montreal and attended many Montreal Open Chess Champions, providing interviews and photographs for this blog over the years.  Goddesschess continues it sponsorship of the Championnat in honor and loving memory of Don, who passed away in October, 2012, just a few months after the Goddesschess Canadian Women's Closed Championship in August, 2012.

We are hoping for a great turnout of female chess players!  Online registration available through September 10 at 18:00.

2,000 Year Old Ethiopean "Sleeping Beauty"

Hola everyone!

'Sleeping beauty': 2,000-year-old remains found in biblical city

It was the Queen of Sheba that first drew Louise Schofield -- an archaeologist and former curator at the British Museum -- to the Gheralta plateau in northern Ethiopia. She'd heard tell of a 20-foot stone stele carved with an inscription and a symbol often linked to the biblical queen: a sun and crescent moon.
"The story of the Queen of Sheba has a central place in the heart of all Ethiopians, so I became interested in the story myself," she recalls (Sheba is thought to be located in parts of Ethiopia).
It was this initial visit that ultimately led her to discover the 2,000-year-old remains of a character she fondly refers to as "sleeping beauty."
The grave was discovered at the stone stele, in an area that was once part of the ancient kingdom of Aksum, which today encompasses Ethiopia and Eritrea. Inside, Schofield's team found the skeleton of a woman posed in a resting position, with her chin laid gently on one hand. A Roman-era bronze mirror was placed before her face. The corpse was surrounded with glass vessels (to catch the tears of the dead), as well as a bronze cosmetics spoon and a lump of kohl eyeliner.
"She must have been very wealthy, and probably well-loved to be placed in this position, and judging by all the items of finery around her," surmised Schofield.
The dig also uncovered several other graves, all of which had several bodies buried beneath. In some, she found the remains of large warriors clad who each wore an iron bangle.
"We think they were warriors from a battle," she says.
The unusual find suggests trade between Rome and Aksum started at least 200 years earlier than previously believed.
As the dig is less than a month old, there's still a lot of information yet to come in about this restful lady. A bone expert wasn't able to ascertain her age at the time of death because the pelvis -- which usually provides a close approximation -- had been consumed by termites. Schofield hopes that analysis of the teeth will provide some answers.
"There was something very personal about the way she was lying," Schofield says. The remains were also found surrounded by clay containers that likely contained food or drink (these have also been sent off for analysis).
"The food, drink and cosmetics were all presumably left for her to use in the afterlife. She was pre-Christian and that's how people buried their dead then," says Schofield.
Shofield has a bit of the Midas touch when it comes to extraordinary finds. She also recently uncovered a Roman-era perfume flask in the same cemetery, although by chance. The archaeologist is also the director of London-based NGO The Tigray Trust, and the item was first brought to her attention by a local farmer she knew through the organization.
"I had been showing around a member of the Peace Corps who had been working in a nearby town (around the site), and we'd been out in the blazing sun for 8 hours, when a farmer I knew said his friend found something old, and he'd been keeping it for me," she recalls.
"I was apologizing to the Peace Corps guy. I told him, 'it could be an old coffee pot, but you never know, it could be the Queen of Sheba's perfume flask.'"
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