Saturday, September 1, 2007

Political Chess - Fred Thompson's Way

From the September 1, 2007 online version of the Post Chronicle: Fred Thompson's Way A Commentary by Don Jones The idea behind the 6th of September as announcement day for Fred Thompson declaring his decision to run for President of The United States, is the hope that David H. Petraeus' report on Iraq will be presented on the 5th. It also would be great if the report is of a positive nature, which all signs point to such a case. If that anticipated event does not take place, it still was proper for Fred to make another move on the game board. It is a game board he will master. He may already have done so. One must say he has been patient with himself. There were often times that the comments about the delay were getting a bit tiresome in the Thompson Camp. Many comments were less than courteous in their criticism of Fred. He stayed the course however and now he is the top news out there. This is one of the best political chess games ever made. Not too long ago we had a major political maneuver with Ross Perot, who spent millions. There is no comparison to Fred Thompson's skill in planning his event. Foreign leaders are not missing what is happening, so they may get a read on our next President. They have to respect the manner in which Fred Thompson has handled the entire campaign so far. The man knows people and how to make his moves with them. He practiced law with skill. He did such a good job it landed him in the movies. He lobbied, which requires skill with people and planning. He also threaded his way around Capital Hill, getting most of the things he sought. He has worked with the top movie stars, top political heads and top business people. Actually he has a better resume than Ronald Reagan with whom he is often compared. Rudy knows New York. Hillary knows whatever she knows, but it is a very narrow focus. None of the close rivals have as good a base of hands on knowledge as Fred Thompson. Romney has a pretty good base, but he and family are like dolls in a glass case. There is a song in the back of the mind that goes something like, "I'd hammer out danger.. I'd hammer out a warning.. I'd hammer out love between my brothers and sisters ..all over this land.." Fred is the first to hammer out danger. By rights he should have been last; however, the tepid competition can't seem to get worked up about the real things that worry us. Fred worries about radiation and hair falling out of his children's head as they grow cancer inside. He worries about not having an American identity in the schools. He worries about the load on the next generation and the one after that, which we have placed upon their heads. One of the few real men of iron gonads and keen perception.

Chess Queen on Cloud Nine!

From the Goa (India) Herald online edition, September 1, 2007: Ivana Furtado could not stop smiling late on Friday evening. Goa’s chess queen, who won the under-8 Asian Youth chess championship title in Al Ain (UAE) a couple of days ago, arrived at the Karmali station this evening and was besieged by a battery of journalists, both from the print and electronic media. Ivana, India’s youngest World Champion, smiled all along and seemed to bask in the attention. But amidst all the congratulatory notes, Ivana could not say much. “I am very, very happy,” was all that Ivana told waiting reporters after much prodding. “She speaks very little,” Ivana’s father Eli later told Herald even as the electronic media pressed for a sound byte. In Al Ain, Ivana was at her best as she worked her way to the top. Even a second round upset at the hands of Mongolian girl Uran-Erdene in just 22 moves did not deter her. Ivana’s next assignment is the World Youth Chess Championship in Turkey, starting November 17. And the chess prodigy has set her eyes firmly on retaining the title she won last year in Georgia. “Now it gets more and more difficult,” Eli told this paper. “Ivana’s games are on the internet. Her moves are well documented and opponents can plan games against her,” he continued. Sameer Salgaoncar, president of the Goa State Chess Association, has no doubts that Ivana can snatch the world title from right under everyone’s nose. “She is dedication personified putting in seven to eight hours of training everyday. Her coach Raghunath Gokhale is a Dronacharya awardee and among the best brains in the business,” disclosed Sameer. Ivana has now won a record eight international titles since December, 2005. Amongst others, Sports Authority of Goa Executive Director V M Prabhudessai, Director of Coaching Brahmanand Shankwalkar and GSCA secretary Suhas Asnodkar were present at the station. ************************************************************************************* Good luck to Ivana. What an interesting name - "Ivana" sounds Russian or Eastern European; "Furtado" sounds Spanish or Portuguese. And she lives in and plays for India. Wow!

Reshevsky Memorial International Invitational

Is there anyone out there who doesn't read Susan Polgar's popular chess blog? If you haven't already seen the news, she posted that Texas Tech University, the home of SPICE, will be hosting the Reshevsky Memorial International Invitational from November 9 - 16, 2007. Dr. Eric Moskow has provided financial support for the event. In his quest to achieve his IM title (read more here), Dr. Moskow will be participating in this event. In addition to Dr. Moskow, confirmed players thus far are GM Boris Gulko (alright!) and GM Gilberto Hernandez. I found Dr. Moskow's posted suggestion under the Saturday Open Forum at Polgar's blog (September 1, 2007) of issuing invitations to some "senior" players delightful: susan. lets offer 3 spots to american vets in our tournament, lombardy, byrne, benko, soltis, bisquier, tarjan, commons, zuckerman, come to mind would be interesting all are friends of reshevsky im told or remember??? eric moskow I look forward to reading more about how this event develops and the final list of players. Good luck, Dr. Moskow, I expect this will be a tough event and a worthy test of your chess acumen.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Dutch Royals "Fix" Wikipedia Entry

From the "I couldn't make this up if I tried" files! LOL! Dutch royals caught revising Wikipedia By TOBY STERLING, Associated Press Writer Thu Aug 30, 12:30 PM ET AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - A Dutch royal couple acknowledges altering a Wikipedia entry about a 2003 scandal that forced the prince to renounce his claim to the throne. Prince Johan Friso, son of the reigning Queen Beatrix, and Princess Mabel of Oranje-Nassau are the latest to be embarrassed in a spate of discoveries of vanity changes to Wikipedia entries. Such self-serving amendments are frowned upon in the Web encyclopedia that "anyone can edit." The original scandal broke in 2003 when Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende refused to support the prince's marriage to the princess, then known as Mabel Wisse Smit. The prime minister said he objected because she had given him "incomplete and incorrect information" about a romantic liaison she once had with a druglord. Wisse Smit later conceded knowing the drug dealer but denied any sexual relationship. With government approval of the marriage withheld, the prince had to choose between Wisse Smit and his place as second in line to the throne. They married in 2004. On Jan. 8, 2006, someone using a computer at Huis ten Bosch, the royal palace in The Hague, altered the Wikipedia entry on Wisse Smit that had said she "gave misleading and false information" to Balkenende. The new entry removed the words "and false." Wikipedia shows the time and IP address — the numerical identifier of each computer on the Internet — of edits made by someone who doesn't sign on with a user name. After the connection between the 2006 edit and the palace recently circulated in the Dutch media, Friso and Mabel acknowledged they were the revisionists. "They both made the changes together in order to make the entry match the letter which they sent to the prime minister (explaining why they misled him) in 2003," spokesman Chris Breedveld said Thursday. The couple feel that due to repeated mistakes in the media, an "incorrect version of events has arisen," he said. Similar self-interested Wikipedia edits have popped up for years in government and business. The finds accelerated this month after a U.S. graduate student developed an online "Wikiscanner" to more easily track the sources.

Friday Night Miscellany

Hola darlings! It's Friday and the start of a three-day weekend the 'unofficial' end of summer - Labor Day weekend. The weather promises to be great - warm and sunny during the day (and NO rain), in the low 60's at night, perfect for sleeping with the windows open (as long as the critters don't wake me up at 3:30 in the morning with their antics). I rushed home tonight and sat out on the deck for an hour, throwing peanuts to the squirrels, it was so nice out! This year's group of baby squirrels are now venturing out of the nest. They are so cute! Fully developed and fully "furred", and their tails are as long as their bodies, but they are small compared to the adults! This year's big nest in the back yard produced three pups. They haven't yet explored the ground - leastwise as far as I could see from watching them for scant minutes, except for one yesterday who went all the way to the base of the big Chinese Elm to grab a small peanut. Fridays are treat days on our floor at the office, and I always look forward to them, although of late I've been awfully disappointed in what people have brought in as offerings. Yuch! Today the offerings looked okay, but they were "low fat" and "health-conscious" - meaning they taste like icky-poo. I passed. The whole point of having a treat day is to get TREATS - not diet crap! This did nothing to help my disposition. I bitched about people bringing in health food instead of FAT FOOD THAT TASTES GOOD! People want treats that melt in the mouth and taste good, not taste and feel like cardboard! People who know me ignore my grousing but I had a go at a new girl from 15 - ha ha! She left the kitchen looking terrorized, and I felt better. I am an evil person... I always grouse in the morning. In fact, I'm generally intolerable until about 11 in the morning, and most people don't even look at me, avoiding eye contact at all costs, let alone talk to me. I cannot stand those cheery people who go about beaming at everyone first thing in the morning - well, actually, I can't stand such people any time of the day, but particularly first thing in the morning. I want to strangle them. Some day I might strangle one - in the elevator - on the way up to the 16th floor at the office. In front of witnesses. That should stop that cheery "good morning" nonsense around me once and for all! Take a lesson, people. Don't be cheerful around Jan in the morning, and bring good-tasting FAT TREATS to the office on treat day. A new book is out on "gut instincts" - by Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin. I don't know about the book, but the interview at the New York Times with Dr. Gigerenzer is quite interesting. I disagree with his comments about the "average Joe" investor, though, who (so the good Dr. says) has done better investing with his/her "gut instinct" that many Wall Street experts. Think about it - these people aren't going with their "gut instinct" - according to the Dr.'s own words they are buying stock in companies with whose names they are familiar, and that has nothing to do with "instinct." Once they buy these stocks, they hold them, and won't sell even in a panicky market like we've experienced recently in the US, because the owners of those shares have confidence in the name of the company. Therefore, the stocks of those companies tend to hold their value better than the rest of the market, because the mom and pop holders of 100 odd lot shares all around the country, which account for millions of shares all tolled, are not panicking and are not selling. It then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that the shares in those companies will maintain their value even in down markets - DUH. Pyramids have been in the archaeological and/or esoteric news a lot recently. Bringing some rationality back to the discussion, Egyptologist Margaret Maitland explains why aliens did not build the pyramids. Thanks, Maggie, I needed that! China is dying from its own pollution. Well - DUH! Not just hundreds of thousands of people each year, but millions. Don't drink the water - don't even touch the water - don't get within 50 feet of the water, actually - and for sure don't breathe the air - or eat the food - or handle any product manufactured or grown in China. Yikes! Better yet - don't be born in China if you have anything to say about it (most Chinese people don't, unfortunately). The Communists have come up with a new form of population control - polluting it's own citizens to death. Dead people don't have babies. A couple more years of this, the Chinese Government will be importing people from Mexico.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Holy Water Confiscated Under Terrorism Rules!

I found this story hilariously timely, given my ongoing interest in goddess apparitions (usually mistaken for the "Virgin Mary") from such well known apparitions sites as Lourdes and Fatima. From the Telegraph online: 'Vatican air' passengers' holy water confiscated By Malcolm Moore in Rome Last Updated: 2:10am BST 30/08/2007 The passengers on board the Vatican’s first flight to Lourdes may have been pilgrims in search of spiritual healing, but they still had to obey anti-terrorism rules, it has emerged, after several of them had their holy water confiscated. The Vatican’s new service, a Boeing 737 painted in yellow-and-white papal livery, took off from Rome’s Fiumicino airport on Monday, serving swordfish canapes to 148 pilgrims reclining on headrests stamped with the message: “I search for your face, oh Lord”. While the outward journey was smooth, turbulence struck on the return when anti-terror rules were strictly applied by the French police. No bottles containing more than 100ml of liquid were allowed on board unless checked in, meaning passengers were forced give up the holy water they had just collected at Lourdes. Many hoped to ferry the water back to sick relatives. Instead, dozens of plastic containers in the shape of the Madonna were left at security, while one man decided to drink all of his. “I did tell others that their containers would not be allowed. Those who travel a lot know that they do not make exceptions,” said Massimo Barra, head of the Red Cross in Italy, who was on board. Monsignor Liberio Andreatta, the official on board from the Vatican’s travel agency, did not even try to argue with the rules, to the dismay of the pilgrims. Many passengers asked the police how they could be foolhardy enough to throw away the miraculous water, according to the Corriere della Sera newspaper. The spring at the sanctuary at Lourdes, where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in 1858, is famed for its miraculous healing powers, and every day long queues of believers wait to fill up their containers. The water is so valuable that one French website,, is offering a litre for £64. Despite the hiccup, the new service cut down an difficult overland pilgrimage to two hours. Cardinal Ruini, the former head of the Italian bishops, was on board, along with Luciano Moggi, the disgraced former head of Juventus football club, who was seeking some spiritual comfort. The Vatican has promised that seats would cost at least 10 per cent less than the industry average, and that some pilgrims may be able to fly to Lourdes and back in the same day. It also wants to expand its service to routes such as Fatima in Portugal, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and possibly even Jerusalem. Mistral Air, the charter company which is providing the planes for the Vatican, said it expects to transport 150,000 pilgrims annually. *********************************************************************************** Potentially lots of sweet money (not to mention lots of p.o.'d customers) down the drain for the Vatican along with the Holy Water - what do you think the odds are they'll very quickly figure out the rules concerning how much "liquid" is allowed on board international flights! What a hoot!

Players in the World Chess Championship 2007

A preview of the players in the upcoming World Chess Championship. From the Sun Star (Cebu) online August 31, 2007 By Frank “Boy” PestaƱa Chessmoso The World Championship will take place on Sept. 12 to 30 or 12 days from now in Mexico City and will feature eight of the top players in a double round robin format. Prize fund is US $1.3 million. Here is a brief background of the participants and their latest tournament results. By the way this is a category 21 tournament, a rarity. Viswanathan Anand is 38 years old from India and is presently rated numero uno with Elo 2792. He became World Junior champion in 1987 and was Fide 2000 champion in Tehran. He has dominated Wijk Aan Zee 5 times. This year, he captured Morelia-Linares and placed second in Melody Amber. Vladimir Kramnik was born in Tuapse, Russia 32 years ago, and is the second highest rated player today with Elo 2769. In 2000, he overcame Garry Kasparov to become Classical World champion. He has collected Linares 3 times and this year garnered Melody Amber and Dortmund. Alexander Morozevich, 30, was born in Moscow, Russia and is the 4th highest rated with Elo 2762. He has won both Biel and Melody Amber 3 times and was Russia champion in 2003. This year, he was 2nd in Morelia-Linares. Peter Leko is from Hungary and will be 30 next week. His current rating is 2751. He tied with Kramnik for first in 2003 Linares and snared Wijk Aan Zee 2005. This year, he was world rapid champion at Odessa. Levon Aronian is from Armenia and only 25. He is the envy among chess loverboys as the alleged boyfriend of Arianne Caoili, 20, a stunning Filipino-Australia-Dutch extraction, dubbed the Anna Kournikova of the chess world. According to close observers “she is worth fighting for” referring to the scuffle between Aronian and GM Daniel Gomally over her at the Turin Olympiad in 2006! Levon`s Elo is 2750 and his credentials are impressive at his age. He was 2002 World Junior victor, 2005 Word Cup winner and first at 2006 Linares. He was supreme at Wijk Aan Zee this year. Peter Svidler is the 3rd Russian finalist, 31 years old, and rated 2736. He is a four-time Russia champion. He collected Dortmund twice and tied for second at the 2005 World Championship in San Luis, Argentina with Anand. This year, he placed 4th in Melody Amber. Boris Gelfand is, at 39, the oldest of the group and was originally from Belarus but transferred to Israel. His Elo stands at 2733. He was second at Linares in 1990 and won the Biel Interzonals in 1993. This year, he was second to Leko at the Odessa Rapid and 6th in Melody Amber. Alexander Grischuk is the 4th Russian finalist and the youngest of the group at 23. He was a semi-finalist in the World Chess Championship at New Delhi 2000 and was second to Kasparov in the 2004 Russian Championship. This year, he placed 6th at the Tal Memorial. His Elo is 2726. Anand, Morozevich and Svidler qualified due to their performance in the Fide World Championship 2005 in San Luis, Argentina and Kramnik by defeating Topalov in their Unification Match in Elista 2006. The other four players qualified in the Elista 2007 Candidates Matches.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

An American Champion, Gisela Kahn Gresser

Gisela K. Gresser, the first woman in the United States to achieve a master's rating (she was also awarded an International Woman Master title in 1950), was U.S. Women's Chess Champion nine times: 1944-46, 1948-51 (with Mona M. Karff), 1955-57 (with Nancy Roos), 1957-59 (with Sonja Graf Stevenson), 1962-64, 1965, 1966 (with Lisa Lane), 1967, and her final championship was won in 1969 at the age of 63. Gresser represented the United States in several international events. She played in five Women's Candidates tournaments and three Women's Chess Olympiads. She was Women's World Chess Championship Challenger in 1949-50, and also won a U.S. Women's Open Championship in 1954. Gresser died in 2000, at the age of 94. Batgirl has posted an article from Chess Review about the first U.S. Women's Chess Chamionship, held in 1940, in which Gresser participated. It's very enlightening reading. A few games of Gresser: Gresser v. Lisa Lane (1961): Gresser v. Josza Langos (1950): Ted Dunst v. Gresser (1950) (scroll down for annotated game): Gresser v. Valentina Belova (Women's World Chess Championship, 1950, Moscow):

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Mystery in the Green Mountains of Vermont

I seem to be on an archaeology kick today, darlings! The following article is lengthy, but well worth the read - and ties in quite well to what I wrote about in my prior post today. From the Burlington (VT) Free Press A mystery in the Green Mountains Published: Friday, August 17, 2007 By Susan Green Special to the Free Press Deep within the Green Mountain National Forest, an enormous pile of rocks has people puzzled. In "Hidden Landscapes," a documentary screening twice this weekend during the Lake Champlain Maritime Festival on the Burlington waterfront, a group of scientists are seen observing this 20-by-30-foot cairn. Among them is Stephen Loring, an anthropologist who conducts archaeological, ethno-historical and paleo-environmental research for the Arctic Studies Center at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. "I think we all agree that we don't know what's going on here," he says to the other men scrutinizing the mysterious structure. "It's so perplexing." The film, a work-in-progress by Ted Timreck, is full of details about the original inhabitants of this region. With the suspense of a great detective novel, his cinematic saga challenges long-held assumptions about Champlain Valley civilization through the examination of stone. Timreck, a New York City-based filmmaker and Smithsonian research associate, traces Loring's three-decade quest: In the late 1970s he came across a translucent Native American fluted point near the Missisquoi River, but did not identify its genesis for another 25 years. Previously, Smithsonian scientists thought native people from these shores had reached northern Labrador 4,000 years ago. In 2004 Loring experienced a breakthrough leading to a different hypothesis. He determined that the Vermont point was at least 10,000 years old and fashioned from "Ramah chert," a volcanic rock found only on the coast of Labrador. "That's 1,600 nautical miles," Timreck notes. "The theory is that Paleolithic people brought the Ramah chert here by boat when Lake Champlain was still a sea." The frozen configurations of the last Ice Age mean these ancestors "had to adapt to hunting Arctic animals," he adds, "so developing full Arctic maritime capability was essential. A culture that could do that is, by implication, a gee-whiz phenomenon." Artifacts such as the Mississquoi point are generally considered "Clovis," a name derived from the first prehistoric spear tips found anywhere in the United States; they were excavated during the 1930s in Clovis, N.M. The term Clovis designates an era when the first human beings supposedly migrated to North America from Siberia, no earlier than 13,000 years ago. Thanks to recent eureka moments, that geography and timeframe are both in dispute. "The Siberians are thought to have evolved into Clovis people," Timreck explains. "The question of pre-Clovis in the New World is the big issue now, however. Who they might have been is up in the air." While an identity remains elusive, he acknowledges, "We're finding artifacts that carbon-date at 16,000 to 17,000 years old." Consequently, experts have begun to revisit the former notion that North Americans didn't build boats until about 7,000 years ago. "Seafaring was supposed to be the skill only of smart Europeans," Timreck says. "But all kinds of little discover ies begin to shatter the overarching idea that the Clovis were the first people to arrive. History now opens up in a different way and it's all about the Champlain Basin." Loring surmises that the Ramah chert point may have been the business end of a harpoon for hunting walruses, seals and whales in the salty Champlain Sea, according to Timreck. (If this sounds absurd, check out the skeleton of a 12,000-year-old beluga whale -- dubbed Charlotte for the Chittenden County town where it was unearthed in 1849 --that's exhibited at the University of Vermont's Perkins Geology Museum in Delehanty Hall.) Timreck's narration compares "the maritime revolution of the last Ice Age" to the space race of the 1960s, with peripatetic paleo-indians akin to 20th-century astronauts and cosmonauts. The film includes two prominent Vermonters. The late Jim Peterson, an associate professor of anthropology at UVM, was pivotal in persuading the scientific community to take notice. Abenaki tribal historian Fred Wiseman, an archaeologist and chair of the humanities department at Johnson State College, continues to collaborate with Timreck. Many researchers are intrigued by the 10,800-year-old bone sewing needle, found somewhere out West, that Smithsonian paleo-indian/paleo-ecology program field director Pegi Jodry displays in the film. "It indicates the use of fine thread and very thin materials," Timreck says. Wiseman senses a profound implication. "These folks were a heck of a lot more advanced than anyone assumed," he suggests. "The legacy from Jim Petersen is the idea of natives in cloth, not just in buckskin and beads. It's a new image. " "The needle tells it all," Timreck muses. "Everything else is just stones in the ground." Perhaps, but what magnificent stones they seem to be. Another focus of "Hidden Landscapes" is the long-simmering controversy about who was responsible for the stone chambers that dot the southeast Vermont countryside. State archaeological officials contend they are colonial root cellars, while others have insisted these megaliths were the work of Bronze Age Celtic mariners. Initially, nobody suspected an even older and more homegrown source: indigenous Paleolithic people. [Well, unless man has always been here in the New World, there is no such thing as "indigenous people."] "There is evidence of native stonework," Petersen says on camera. "We have underappreciated native capabilities."Timreck has a similar assessment: "Nobody had dreamed of Eastern native peoples as being that sophisticated." For Wiseman, the issue is affirmation. "Native people in the Northeast were always believed to be exceedingly primitive," he points out. "Yet we've got some of the earliest mounds in this area. But do you see that mentioned in anthropology textbooks? Hell, no!" In the film, a Narragansett medicine woman named Ella Sekatau underscores that opinion: "They don't want to give the Indians credit for anything!" Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, two men aerospace engineer Byron Dix and oceanographer Jim Mavor, both now deceased methodically investigated a Windsor County megalith. They called it Calendar One, because of the site's probable purpose for unknown builders at an undetermined time, and took precise measurements during solstices and equinoxes to discern astronomical alignments. Similar stone structures have been identified across the country and some people envision them as ceremonial sacred spaces. "These sites are inhabited by spirits," theorizes Rosita Worl, an anthropologist from the Tlingit tribe in Alaska interviewed by Timreck. "Shamans would come here to commune with the spirit world." "There are secrets here, perhaps," speculates Evan T. Pritchard, a history professor in upstate New York with an Algonquin Micmac heritage. Timreck's footage of the Dix-Mavor collaboration dates back to 1976. "Even if the stone ruins weren't constructed by Native Americans, it's utterly insane to think this was done without their knowledge, unless we foolishly believe the United States was a totally uninhabited wilderness," he says. "Hidden Landscapes" -- on tap at 7 p.m. today and Saturday at the Lake & College Waterfront Performing Arts Center -- is two hours long. It's the first segment of what Timreck plans as a six-part documentary that he'll finish by July 2009, which marks the 400th anniversary of French explorer Samuel de Champlain's "discovery" of the lake that bears his name. For that quadricentennial, the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center intends to "tell as much of the Abenaki story as we can," says executive director Phelan Fretz. "It's a rich moment when there's a shift in how academics think about history. How wonderful that we can help facilitate that conversation." He's also pleased that the Timreck film "has opened doors for us at the Smithsonian." While creating programs for the PBS shows "Nova" and "American Masters," Timreck began his association with the Smithsonian in the 1970s. The prestigious institution has since sent him sent all over the planet Iceland, Russia, Scandinavia, Alaska, the Baffin Islands to document what its scientists are doing. In 1979, that work took him to Labrador, where he met Stephen Loring. Timreck marvels that Loring's revelations about Vermont are so new that "science has to go back to the drawing board to figure out what happened. There's no synthesis yet, except in a movie like this. People were in these hills, even though nobody so far understands how they got here or why. This place couldn't have been empty."

Archaeological Blinders

This kind of story seems innocent enough - at first glance. But really, it's quite subversive - I'll tell you why I think so after the article: From the Columbus Dispatch Online Ancient lifestyle may link art found in Egypt, Europe Tuesday, August 28, 2007 3:31 AM By Bradley T. Lepper National Geographic News reported last month that an international team of archaeologists had discovered the oldest known art in Egypt. The country is, of course, known for its pyramids and mummies, but the art in question is 10,000 years older than the dawn of Egyptian civilization. The art consists of petroglyphs, or engravings on stone, estimated to be 15,000 years old. Its style is closer to the art of Paleolithic France than to that of Pharonic Egypt. The National Geographic report quoted Dirk Huyge, a curator at the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, Belgium, as saying, "It is not at all an exaggeration to call it 'Lascaux on the Nile,' " referring to the most famous French cave art site. Huyge is not suggesting any direct connection between Paleolithic France and Egypt. Instead, he said the similarities in the art likely occurred because the artists shared a common way of life. "When people are confronted with similar conditions, this will automatically lead to a similar kind of thinking, a similar creativity." Huyge's point is well-taken and has broad applicability. For example, Stonehenge and the geometric earthworks of the Hopewell culture both have been found to encode an intricate series of astronomical alignments in their architecture. They also both used parallel-walled avenues to define sacred pathways, and both seem to have been places of pilgrimage. Is this evidence for contact between ancient Ohio and Neolithic England, more than 1,000 years before Columbus? Mary Borgia, a teacher from Newark who has visited Stonehenge on a Fulbright fellowship, offered this explanation in an article published last year in The Advocate of Newark: "There seems to be a common need to harness and understand the heavens, possibly the need to honor the community's gods/goddesses/spirits by displaying celestial knowledge through the construction of grand architectural monuments." Huyge and Borgia are right. We share a common humanity, so our cultural expressions are bound to share some important elements -- regardless of where, or when, we live. Bradley T. Lepper is curator of archaeology at the Ohio Historical Society. ****************************************************************************************** Huyge is not suggesting any direct connection between Paleolithic France and Egypt. Instead, he said the similarities in the art likely occurred because the artists shared a common way of life. Stonehenge and the geometric earthworks of the Hopewell culture both have been found to encode an intricate series of astronomical alignments in their architecture. Is this evidence for contact between ancient Ohio and Neolithic England, more than 1,000 years before Columbus? [Implied answer - of course not!] Notice the unspoken assumption that underlies this article - that ancient man COULD NOT HAVE TRAVELED from one place to another so as to trade, interact, inter-marry, make war, share knowledge, adopt parts of each other's cultures, etc. However, we know that assumption to be totally false! First, from the time man first appeared on Earth, they walked, floated on logs and rafts, boated and later rode on all kinds of animals and vehicles from one place to another. The latest generally accepted evidence is that man arrived in the Americas at least 20,000 years old - but there is evidence out east that may speak to man's presence some 50,000 years ago. Second, we know that in a wide ark of the ancient Middle East, along the Mediterranean (and later outside the "Pillars of Hercules to include Ireland and England), in Central Asia, China, and in Europe, there were extensive trading networks going back thousands of years. Every day new evidence of trade is discovered in excavations of ancient household foundations and newly-discovered tombs. Why would anyone automatically assume that the arrival of man in the New World was a one-time thing, never to be repeated, when ancient man continually demonstrated that he had the ability and the willingness to go ever exploring across oceans and great land-masses? Who's to say that man didn't travel back and forth from the Old World to the New - repeatedly? We know man arrived in the New World in several waves over thousands of years - some over land (via the Bering Strait land bridge) and some by sea - from both the east and the west! The archaeological record still has much to teach us - as we every day are learning. Already existing evidence is constantly being re-evaluated in light of new science and techniques to discover the secrets of ancient artifacts. And we don't know what the next new dig may reveal to us about our past. Of course, there are those who are frightened to poke at academia's sacred cows - and archaeologists, paleotologists, and anthropologists are no exception to this rule. However, I find it intellectually dishonest in the extreme for ANYONE to tell me that I cannot imagine a global network of people back in ancient times, and incredibly arrogant to imply that if I think so, then I am sadly misinformed at best (ah, they say, another victim of "popular internet science"), and pathetically silly (and stupid) at worst. I'll take the abuse - I'm used to it. In the interests of true scientific inquiry, I prefer to reserve making judgments about ancient trade and contacts between ancient civilizations, Old World and New World, as long as I know that the full story isn't known - and perhaps may never be know (not within my lifetime, in any event). I prefer, instead, to offer conjecture and fantastical notions that "The Establishment" finds silly (oh, that sounds so "Sixties", doesn't it, LOL!), and have a rip-roaring good time doing so. I'll by-pass such subversive attempts to channel my thinking into "acceptable" paths, thank you very much :)

China to USA - It's Your Fault!

I expect that by now a lot of people have heard about the massive recall that Mattel Inc. put into place upon discovering that Chinese-manufactured toys they were selling under their brand were covered in toxic lead paint. It's been known for years that lead poisoning causes irreversible brain and nerve damage and that young children are particularly susceptible. This is the latest in a string of marketing and publicity disasters for the Communist Chinese, who just don't seem to "get" why people are upset (to put it mildly)! The latest example of this profound ignorance of how rational people react to such things as toxic toys (poison toothpaste, tainted shrimp, etc.) is exemplified in this story reported in this morning's Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel (Business Section, page 6D): China defends quality of workmanship Officials blame American designs By Audra Ang Associated Press Faulty American designs and conflicting global standards for safety are at the root of the mass recalls of Chinese-made toys by Mattel Inc., a top quality official said Monday. Defending the overall quality of Chinese workmanship, Li Changjiang, director of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, said recent export problems stemmed from "different standards that China and the United States apply to different products." "That would lead to difficulty in defining whether a product is problematic," Li added at a news conference without elaborating. [Well - duh! Of course there are different standards, but if you want to export your products to this country, you should KNOW what those standards are - and follow them. No doubt a good, dues-paying Communist, this is obviously a person who either doesn't know squat about quality control or, more likely, has gotten rich accepting bribes to turn his head the other way. Personally, I sure hope your head is on the chopping block next, buddy, and may your children all suffer from lead poisoning]. His comments were the latest in China's effort to overcome safety woes and to show it is a trustworthy manufacturer. [Yeah, right.] But continuing discoveries of high levels of chemicals and toxins in Chinese goods - from toothpaste to juice - are making that an uphill task. [Gee, ya think?] This month, Mattel, the world's largest toymaker, recalled almost 19 million Chinese-made dolls, cars and action figures worldwide because they were contaminated with lead paint or contained powerful magnets that could damage a child's organs if swallowed. Li conceded Chinese producers also have responsibility for making problematic toys. But he asked, "What kind of responsibility should the U.S. importers and U.S. designers take in this respect?" [Oh, this is classic - blame the victim! It's all OUR fault because we expected the Chinese manufacturers and suppliers to follow American specifications and use safe products - such as no lead-based paint, no lead-based metals used for construction, no easily detachable parts that children can swallow, etc. etc. - when everyone knows (or should know) that the Chinese don't read directions, they don't care about killing off their own people with tainted products so why should they care about killing Americans with those same products, and they certainly know nothing about honoring the terms of contracts or even begin to appreciate the concept of what "rule of law" means.] {End item} Well, what can we expect, doing business with such a culture?

Monday, August 27, 2007

2007 World Youth U-16 Olympiad - Follow-up

A follow-up to my post here: Chess, Goddess and Everything: 2007 World Youth U-16 Olympiad A poster told me that one of the Australian teams was comprised of girls. Here's the info on that team: 1 WFM Song Angela 2015 AUS 2 Guo Emma 1747 AUS 3 Kinder Jessica 1725 AUS 4 Oliver Tamzin L 0 AUS The team's starting rank was 17th and it finished in 21st place. The first USA Team (stating rank 19) finished in 14th place. The second USA Team (starting rank 33) finished in 28th place (out of 34 teams). Final standings can be found here.

Going for Go

It's nice to know there are some Americans who have taken up this ancient game of strategy.

By Wendy GeistGazette-Times
Last modified Monday, August 27, 2007 12:00 AM PDT

Every Wednesday evening members of the Corvallis Go Club meet at New Morning Bakery for a few friendly matches of an ancient but still relatively unknown game.

The local club, though small and also little-known, has a claim to fame — one of its members, 17-year-old Landon Brownell of Corvallis, is one of the top Go players in the United States and the top rated youth player in Oregon.
Brownell received an all-expense-paid trip to play at the recent national Go tournament in Lancaster, Pa., where he won the top award in his age division.In addition to his recent win, Brownell traveled to North Carolina last year where he won the national championship in a variation of Go that Brownell said requires players to have a little more than skill and strategy on their side.

“You have to be lucky,” he said. “I won it, but I was really lucky.”

The traditional version of the strategic board game is played by two players who alternately place black and white stones on a board marked with grid lines. The object is to control territory on the board. A stone or group of stones is removed if surrounded by the opposing color.

Go is estimated to be more than 2,700 years old and originated in China. The game is played extensively in East Asia and has only recently gained popularity in the U.S.

Brownell, also an avid chess player, began playing Go in 2001 and said he found Go easier to learn in the beginning than chess, but that Go becomes more difficult with advanced play.

Last Wednesday, Brownell was engaged in a game of Go with Jim Levenick, who teaches computer science at Willamette University in Salem. Levenick travels back and forth between Portland and Corvallis to play in local Go clubs.“

Jim likes to play fast to confuse me,” Brownell said, though the comment wasn’t taken too seriously, because Brownell, a much higher rated player, was beating Levenick in nearly every match.Brownell is also an advanced chess player. He won the national high school chess championship in 2006.

He and other local Go fans are looking forward to next year, when the national Go Congress will be in Portland.

For more information on Go and how to contact the Corvallis Go Club see

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Blast from the Past - Kramnik Takes World Crown

The World Chess Championship that's not really is coming up soon in Mexico, and Kramnik, who retains the title of "classical chess champion" (oh please) will be playing with nothing on the line (oh please).

Here's a blast from the past, an article written in 2000 shortly after Kramnik defeated Kasparov in London for the "classical chess" title (oh please - I laughed all the way through the tournament and The International Chessoid, now defunct, had a laugh riot sending up that event). How ironic that Kramnik has engaged in the same feints and dodges and abuses of privilege for the past seven years that he used to "accuse" Kasparov of doing. I hope Anand beats the pants off the man. I'm sick of Russian champions, they have no fricking sense of humor!

Published: November 3, 2000

The 15-year reign of Garry Kasparov, considered by many people the greatest chess player of all time, ended today when he was overwhelmed by the bravura performance of a lanky young Russian who was once his protege.
The tenure ended quietly and without fanfare, with the 15th game of the 16-game championship match here fizzling to a draw after nearly four hours of play. The draw gave the challenger, Vladimir Kramnik, 25, the half point that he needed to gain 8.5 points to Mr. Kasparov's 6.5, and to win a contest that he had clearly controlled from the beginning.

Despite the disputes that have split the chess world in recent years, with different organizations sponsoring rival matches, there was no doubt in the minds of anyone watching today that an era had ended.

As Mr. Kasparov pushed the button to signal that he was offering a draw -- and the match -- to Mr. Kramnik, a collective sigh, part excitement and part wistfulness at the falling of a champion, swept through the crowd.

''Kasparov is a great player and a great champion,'' said Ricardo Calvo, an international chess master from Madrid, one of many players who descended on the Riverside Studios in Hammersmith to watch the match, sponsored by the Brain Games Network. ''He's brilliant, of course. But 15 years is a long time, especially in chess, and it's time for him to make way for other players.''

Mr. Kasparov played sluggishly and tentatively throughout the monthlong competition, often seeming not to know how to respond to Mr. Kramnik's aggressive maneuvers and implacable defenses.

Although he had earlier hinted that unspecified ''personal problems'' were disrupting his concentration, today he took care to quash the rampant rumors that he had lost his fighting spirit and his will to win.

''Obviously this match was dominated by Vladimir's outstanding preparation,'' Mr. Kasparov said, conceding defeat with a graciousness unusual in someone known for his volatile temper.

But he added: ''I feel my chess strengths are still here. I still believe my performance can be dramatically improved and I intend to show that by playing in tournaments.''

The two will still have to play the 16th and final game of the match on Saturday, even though it will not affect the outcome.

There is a symmetry in the histories of the two players.

When Mr. Kasparov beat Anatoly Karpov to take the title in 1985, he was 22, the youngest world champion ever. Taught chess by his Armenian mother and Jewish father in Baku, Azerbaijan, Mr. Kasparov began to play seriously at 6.

When his father died the next year, he changed his last name from Weinshtein to a variation of his mother's maiden name. His mother, Clara, took charge of his career, and still travels with him and is deeply involved in his everyday life.

Mr. Kramnik was also a prodigy. Born in Tuapse, a Black Sea resort, he learned to play chess at 4 and was winning games against his family within months. By the time he was 10, he had beaten two grandmasters and at 16 he became the world junior champion. When he was 11, Mr. Kasparov took him on as a student at his elite chess school in Moscow.

Mr. Kramnik learned his lessons well. He was Mr. Kasparov's second, or senior adviser, when Mr. Kasparov defeated the Indian grandmaster Viswanathan Anand in 1995, a role that gave Mr. Kramnik important access to Mr. Kasparov's thinking and style of play and, perhaps, a slight edge in this match.

''Chess has everything to do with the human mind, and Garry Kasparov has one of the most complex minds on the planet,'' Jonathan Levitt, an English grandmaster who works for Mr. Kasparov's on-line chess company, said in seeking an explanation for his lackluster play.

Asked whether his relationship with Kramnik had anything to do with it, Mr. Levitt said, ''Maybe in his deep subconscious he's been saying things like, 'I wish I hadn't shown him this variation five years ago.' ''

Mr. Kasparov, who tends to be dismissive of opponents to the point of rudeness, has long acknowledged Mr. Kramnik's talent. ''There are many players, but they don't play chess -- they move pieces,'' Mr. Kasparov said after seeing his student play in Germany eight years ago. ''Kramnik plays chess.''

After the game today, Mr. Kasparov said Mr. Kramnik's attacking strategy had knocked him off balance. ''Ninety-eight percent of my preparation was for nothing,'' Mr. Kasparov said, adding that he had grown exhausted and dispirited from preparing 10 hours a day just to catch up during the match.

Mr. Kramnik -- whose victory brings him $1.33 million in prize money, while Mr. Kasparov gets $667,000 -- seems to be cut from a different cloth than that of his mentor. While Mr. Kasparov is temperamental, sharp-tongued and irascible, Mr. Kramnik is quiet, polite and apparently unflappable.

Confronted by a succession of agonized facial expressions and unhappy body language from his opponent, Mr. Kramnik remained cool, impassive and focused. The only real emotion that he showed occurred when he won, when he thrust both arms over his head and broke into what for him seemed the rarest of expressions, a smile.

''He's a nice person, and a very serious one,'' said Miguel Illescas, a Spanish grandmaster who was an adviser on Mr. Kramnik's backup team. ''He's been completely concentrating on the match. He only does five things during a match: play, study, eat, drink and sleep.''

Mr. Kramnik, who lost weight and quit smoking to prepare for the match, has said as much himself. ''Daily life does not interest me,'' he once told a Russian newspaper. ''Everything is subordinated to chess, to that one goal.''
Perhaps the Kasparov era has truly given way to the Kramnik era. But many players at the match today were not ready to see it go so easily.

''We have entered a new millennium, and we have a new world champion,'' Mr. Levitt said. ''But Garry Kasparov is still the best player of all time, and I don't think this is the end of him.''

Dutch Chess Art

As part of the EUWE Stimulans 2007 in Arnhem held beginning August 16, 2007, a special exhibit of chess-related art by Dutch artists is being showcased. Chessbase did a story showcasing some of the works of art.

The artists’ group has its own website, Schaakkunst (offers English for people like me, who don’t speak any other language). The art is original, colorful, and I found some of it beautiful, like the painting to the right, called "Loch Chess." Products run the gamut from candles for a modest $6.73 (E4.95) to 60 cm by 60 cm oils on canvas under $200.00 (averaging E135.00). Chess sets, chess tables, calendars and art cards are also offered, so there is something for every budget. Lots of good ideas here for gifts for that chess-lover in your life :)

Pomegranate Inscription: Forgery or Authentic?

For more than a decade the pomegranate had been on display in the Israel Museum and was widely believed to be the only surviving relic from Solomon's Temple. The inscription on the shoulder of the pomegranate reads: "(Belonging) to the Temple (literally, house) of Yahweh, Holy to the Priests."

In 2005 a committee of the Israel Antiquities Authority and the Israel Museum found the inscription to be a forgery, claiming that the forger artificially stopped short of an ancient break in the pomegranate when he engraved the letters. If that is true, the inscription is a forgery. But if the letters do go into the ancient break, the inscription must have been engraved before the break occurred and the inscription is authentic.

You don't have to know Hebrew or be an expert in ancient Hebrew epigraphy to look at the pictures and see whether the letters stop short of the break or go into the break.

Photographs and reports at Biblical Archaeological Review.
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