Saturday, November 17, 2007

Hair - Okay

Hola! Just a quick note - PBS is featuring "The Big Country" tonight and it's coming on right NOW. I'm going to kick back with a glass of wine (or two) and watch one of my favorite westerns/romance/dramas of all time. Hair turned out okay. The spa treatment was a HOOT - would definitely do that again just for the luxury of it, darlings! An aromatic oil massage of my head and shoulders, a soft, gentle wash and rinse with my feet elevated, two hot towel treatments while the hair was soaking up a rich conditioner, ahhhhhhh. I even enjoyed the shopping, although the weather was cold, wet, generally crappy and the stores are fronted outdoors, the Bayshore Mall is really gorgeous and was crowded with shoppers. You wouldn't know we're at the beginnings of a recession (the economists haven't figured it out yet, and evidently neither has Milwaukee's middle class). After our spa visit, we shopped at Chico's, J. Jill, Brooks and - no, not Dunn, that's the country-western duo, but it's Brooks and someplace - I never shop there darlings, so I wouldn't know, but my friends do and they know EVERYTHING about fashion. We hit at least two other places too, and our last stop before lunch was Boston Store, which is much more my style (ultra conservative - in clothes, that is, not politics). After resisting all efforts during the late morning and early afternoon to convert me to a fashionista, I succumbed to the lure of cotton fisherman knit turtleneck sweaters on sale - with an extra 20% off - two for $45 and change. Such a deal, how could I resist? I picked pink and periwinkle - I've been craving a pink sweater and couldn't find one that suited - until today. The periwinkle color was a compromise when a different styled red sweater didn't fit - and actually, I already have three other red sweaters and didn't need another one, and the periwinkle was surprisingly flattering. As is the new "do." The overall shape was evened-out - all the straggly ends were cut away but not that much hair was removed, in the end, it's still plenty long for me, at least 2 inches below shoulder length. The angling of the hair on the sides toward the jawline wasn't as successful - the hairdresser in Las Vegas in 2001 did a much better job with her scissors. But - live and learn. Guess I'll have to visit 'Sis in Las Vegas for my next haircut :) Okay - time to settle in and watch one of the best movies of all time. 'night, darlings.

2007 Spice Cup Invitational

The final results are in: Perelshteyn 6.5/9 (+4); Hernandez 6/9 (+3); Miton 5.5/9 (+2); Becerra 5.5/9; Hera 5/9 (+1); Krush 4/9 (-1); Hoyos 3.5/9 (-2); Lugo 3/9 (-3); Gulko 3/9; Schneider 3/9. There are lots of photos and coverage of the event at Susan Polgar's chess blog. Dylan McClain has covered the event at his New York Times chess blog, Gambit, and has an article on the event published late this afternoon. Kudos to SPICE, Polgar, Truong, etc. for organizing and, of course, to Texas Tech, for hosting, this event. The event was picked up by and reported on by countless blogs and all of the major sites reporting on chess events/news: TWIC, Chessville, Chessdom, the USCF website and Chess Femme News, among others. I'm not alone in hoping that this is only the first of many such events that will be put together by SPICE and hosted by Texas Tech.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Night Miscellany

So, tomorrow I’m going with the ladies from the investment club to a spa for some special treatment. Among other things, I’m supposed to get a hair cut. I’m panicking now because I haven’t the faintest idea what I want to happen with my hair. Since my former hairdresser moved a long distance away from my office in March, 2006, I haven’t had a hair cut. I haven’t been able to find a reasonably priced substitute downtown, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay $45 to $60 for a dry cut – not even including a wash and style! That’s ridiculous. So, I’ve been trimming my bangs myself – quite inexpertly, I might add. I’ve tried all the usual tricks – holding the hair up and snipping from various angles, plastering the hair down on my forehead with tape and then attempting to cut by following the line of the tape, dividing my bangs into small sections and cutting each section. It makes no difference. I am genetically incapable of cutting anything, including my own hair, in a straight line. So, I’ve had some interesting experiments with bangs during the past 18 months. I’ve tried looking online for hairstyle ideas – what a joke that is! And I’m too cheap to plunk down $6 for a hairstyle magazine. I’ve looked through countless advertising sections in the newspaper for the past several weeks, diligently searching for something! My efforts have yielded two hairstyles, neither of which I’m thrilled with but I figured I’d at least be able to use them as a starting place to explain to the hairdresser what probably should be done to give me a new flattering style. So, I’ve not been in the best of moods lately. I made two – yes two – trips to the mall this week. I generally don’t like to go there unless it is absolutely necessary, like all my clothes having holes in them or they spontaneously combust. I’m not a shopper. That’s the other thing the ladies are supposed to do tomorrow – after we finish at the spa. Go shopping. Yech. Back to my ill-fated mall sorties. The first one was on Monday night after work, to return a pair of slacks I ordered online that, when tried on, where about eight inches too long! Not only was I charged the ridiculously high rate of $7.95 to have this single small parcel shipped to me, if I wanted to return the slacks to the vendor I had one of two ways to do it: by mail – paying my OWN shipping and using my OWN packaging, or hauling the slacks designed for a woman seven feet tall to the local catalog center. I arrived shortly before 6 p.m. – to find a line 20 people long, and one clerk behind the counter. I shall not regale you with the rest of the tale, which is ugly, really ugly… The second trip to the mall was tonight. There was an advertisement from Boston Store for a certain item I thought I might buy as a Christmas present for Don. The price was right, but it was only available at this special price between 6 and 9:00 p.m. tonight and midnight and 6:00 a.m. tomorrow. What was I thinking? I decided to go tonight, so I stayed on the bus and rode it all the way to the mall, just has I’d done Monday night. I shall not regale you with the rest of the tale, which is ugly, really ugly, even uglier than Monday’s tale. I did, however, have the privilege of waiting for 15 minutes for an order of Big Mac and small fries, carry out, from the McDonalds in the Food Court, and the 12 year old clerk behind the counter acted insulted when I flagged her down and asked her where my order was. The girl does not know how close she came to having her head taken off with a swipe of my fingernails… I caught the bus home. Got off at my stop and, although I was tired, disgusted and pissed off, and it was freezing cold outside to boot, I had a prescription that needed to be refilled if I was to take my blood pressure medication tonight. So, who the hell is going to be at Walgreens at 7:15 p.m. on a Friday night. Nobody. But it was still going to take "at least an hour, because we’re really backed up" said the pharmacy person. I bit back what I REALLY wanted to say and said I’ll come back tomorrow. All right, he says, we’ll take care of it tomorrow. Gee, nothing like customer service. So, I’m exhausted and I’m going to bed. I have to be up early tomorrow in order to get beautified and then shop without buying anything at all until I drop. Being a woman is hard work.

Gang Rape Victim Sentenced by Saudi Court

More Islamic "justice." Barbarians, they are, quite simply, barbarians. Isis brought the story to my attention. From Yahoo news Fri Nov 16, 12:27 AM ET RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - A Saudi court sentenced a woman who had been gang raped to six months in jail and 200 lashes — more than doubling her initial penalty for being in the car of a man who was not a relative, a newspaper reported Thursday. The decision by the Qatif General Court came in a case that had sparked rare debate about the kingdom's justice system when it surfaced more than a year ago. In its decision Wednesday, the court also roughly doubled prison sentences for the seven men convicted of raping the 19-year-old woman, the Arab News reported on its English-language Web site. According to Arab News, the court said the woman's punishment was increased because of "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media." She had initially been sentenced to 90 lashes after being convicting her of violating Saudi's rigid laws on segregation of the sexes. Under Saudi Arabia's interpretation of Islamic Sharia law, women are not allowed in public in the company of men other than their male relatives. The initial sentences for the men convicted of the gang rape ranged from 10 months to five years in prison. Their new sentences range from two to nine years, the paper said. The attack took place in 2006. The woman has said that it occurred as she tried to retrieve her picture from a male high school student she used to know. While in the car with the student, two men got into the vehicle and drove them to a secluded area. She said she was raped there by seven men, three of whom also attacked her friend. Reports of the story triggered debate about Saudi Arabia's legal system, in which judges have wide discretion in punishing a criminal, rules of evidence are shaky and sometimes no defense lawyers are present. The result, critics say, are sentences left to the whim of judges. The judges, appointed by the king, have a wide discretion in handing down sentences, often said to depend on their whim. A rapist, for instance, could receive anywhere from a light or no sentence, to death. The woman was identified in the media only as the Girl from Qatif. The case was referred back to the General Court by an appeals court last summer, after the woman's attorney argued the verdict was too lenient for the rapists and unjust for the victim. The court also banned the lawyer from defending her, confiscated his license to practice law and summoned him to a disciplinary hearing later this month. "I explained to them that it was my job to do everything legal in order to serve my client. But they did not listen," the lawyer, Abdul Rahman al-Lahem, was quoted by the paper as saying. ****************************************************************************** Shame, shame on these "judges." Shame, shame on a system that calls this justice - punishing the victim because their pagan religion does not teach respect for fellow human beings and grant all people equal rights. Shame, shame on these people who pretend to be civilized. And shame on the United States government for being "allied" with these morally bankrupt barbarians.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

NFL Goddess

Now my life is complete. "Ooooooohhhhh, sweet mystery of life, at last I found you...." (from Young Frankenstein). At first I thought this website was blank because other than some advertising running down the left side, I saw nothing but a white expanse where text should appear. But after I scrolled down, I found text! Take a look at NFL Goddess. Now, I don't think it's written by a real goddess. A real goddess would have much keener insight into the game, and the players, and would come up with much more accurate predictions (don't cha think?) And I'm wondering if this is even written by a female. It doesn't have the "feel" of female writing, somehow. More like a man pretending to be a woman but has never had a date OR sisters and so is absolutely clueless. Hmmm... Anyway, enjoy. It's just nice to know there is an NFL Goddess out there - a REAL one (and She's a Packer's fan). P.S. That pic of Favre from 11/13/07 is SO apropos. The man is getting younger by the minute. It's a long ways yet, but if we do get to the Super Bowl this season (1996 season - WON!!!!! 1997 season - didn't quite win) I suspect that Favre (pronounced FARVE cuz he's a good ol' boy, not FAV-reh like the bayou Frenchies with pointy noses say it) will play until he's 50!

The Green Goddess



A strong memory that lingers from yesteryear is the very first time I saw the 1966 film (on television) "Madame X" starring John Forsythe and Lana Turner as star-crossed lovers. They marry and have a child - a son - but Forsythe's mother (portrayed with chilling malice by Constance Bennett) engineers the disappearance of Lana Turner's character from Forsythe's life, who thinks she is dead after falling overboard from a yacht. Years go by. Lana winds up in Mexico and is an addict - an absinthe addict. A drinking pal of Lana's discovers her secret, and concocts a blackmail scheme but Lana kills him before he can carry it out. In the ultimate twist of fate, Lana and Forsythe's child, now grown and protrayed by a young Keir Dellea, is appointed as Lana's attorney to defend her in the murder trial.

During most of the movie, I sobbed my head off. The courtroom climax is heart-shattering. They probably heard me crying in China.

The Green Goddess is now legal again, evidently, as Edward Rothstein writes at The New York Times:

Absinthe Returns in a Glass Half Full of Mystique and Misery
Published: November 12, 2007
(Image: Privat-Livemont’s 1896 poster advertising absinthe)

Dear reader! Should this column impress you as being more than usually lyrical, recalling perhaps the imagery and elegance of poetry by Baudelaire or Verlaine; should it seem a bit decadent, redolent of Oscar Wilde’s withering hauteur; should it have a touch of madness or perversity, combining, say, the tastes of Toulouse-Lautrec with the passions of van Gogh; should it simply sound direct and forceful and knowing like one of Ernest Hemingway’s characters; should it do any or all of that, let me credit something that each of these figures fervently paid tribute to: the green fairy, the green goddess, the green muse, the glaucous witch, the queen of poisons.

Absinthe.

For this column was conceived under the influence of a green-colored, high-proof herbal liquor that was illegal in the United States for more than 95 years. And not just here, for when that mini-Prohibition began in 1912, alarm bells were ringing all over Europe. In 1905 a Swiss man murdered his family after drinking absinthe, leading to the liquor’s banishment from that country, where it originated. The French thought they risked losing World War I to robust beer-drinking Germans because of the dissolute influence of absinthe, so it was banned in that nation as well.

Rest of article.

Women Warriors of Cambodia

All right! Add these women warriors to those of the Scythians, Sarmatians, the Amazons, and the Iranians. Women warriors may have battled in ancient Cambodia Thu Nov 15, 2:36 AM ET TOKYO (AFP) - Archaeologists have found female skeletons buried with metal swords in Cambodian ruins, indicating there may have been a civilisation with female warriors, the mission head said Thursday. The team dug up 35 human skeletons at five locations in Phum Snay in northwestern Cambodia in research earlier this year, said Japanese researcher Yoshinori Yasuda, who led the team. "Five of them were perfect skeletons and we have confirmed all of them were those of females," Yasuda told AFP. The skeletons were believed to date back to the first to fifth century AD. The five were found buried together with steel or bronze swords, and helmet-shaped objects, said Yasuda, who is from the government-backed International Research Center for Japanese Studies. "It is very rare that swords are found with women. This suggests it was a realm where female warriors were playing an active role," he said. "Women traditionally played the central role in the rice-farming and fishing societies," he said. "It's originally a European concept that women are weak and therefore should be protected." "The five skeletons were well preserved because they had been buried in important spots at the tombs," he said. It was the first time that large-scale research was conducted on the Phum Snay relics, which were found in 1999. It is believed there was a civilisation inhabited with several thousand rice-farming people between the first to fifth century.

Spank the Banks

Is it irony that "Chess" is a term used in this article? From Bloomberg.com Investors Should Spank Banks for Betraying Trust: Mark Gilbert By Mark Gilbert November 14, 2007 Nov. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Exactly a year ago, I was summoned to ABN Amro Holding NV's London headquarters for a dressing-down. I had sinned by comparing the bank's glossy new derivatives, dubbed constant proportion debt obligations, to a Nigerian banking scam. The newfangled securities made bets on credit-default swaps, which are themselves a gamble on company creditworthiness. Steve Lobb, ABN's global head of structured credit, tried to convince me of the error of my skeptical ways with the help of a whiteboard and one of those wonderful diagrams of boxes and arrows showing money flowing from here to there. This week, Moody's Investors Service said it may cut the Aaa ratings on two of ABN's CPDOs, along with five CPDOs and one swap contract initiated by UBS AG and rated between Aaa and Aa3. Moody's cited ``the continued spread widening and spread volatility on the financial names underlying these CPDOs.'' One of the ABN CPDOs, called Chess III, went on sale in July priced at 100 percent of face value with that golden Aaa rating. This week, it was worth about 41.5 percent of face value, according to ABN prices. Put another way, the investors who bought the 100 million euros ($147 million) of notes lost 58.5 million euros in just four months. That beats any Nigerian scam. It turns out that anyone who trusted the CPDO creators -- and even the most sophisticated derivatives buyer has to place some faith in what the stress-testing models of the seller suggest about future valuations -- misplaced their faith. Confession Time The complexity of the securities market is mirrored in the opacity of how the banks explain their earnings to investors. Recent years were supposed to be a glorious period of disintermediation, with risks sliced, diced and transferred off balance sheets once the fees had been booked. Instead, the banks are trooping one by one into the confessional to admit to warehouses full of toxic waste that is deteriorating in value. You could pick up shares of Citigroup Inc. for as little as $31 each this week, a far cry from their January peak of $57 and about the same as you would have paid in March 2003. Never mind that Citigroup's total net earnings in the intervening period amounted to a staggering $90 billion; ``the stench of banks not coming clean with their subprime exposures in the first place,'' as the credit strategy team at Societe Generale SA described things in a report this week, has seared investor confidence in financial companies. So it should. `Anyone's Guess' Bank of America Corp. shares had their biggest one-day gain in five years this week, after Chief Financial Officer Joseph Price said at an investor conference that he has no idea whether a $3 billion writedown in the fourth quarter will square the accounts once and for all. That's right. The shares ROSE. Hey, at least $3 billion isn't the $8.4 billion bullet taken by Merrill Lynch & Co. last month, or the $11 billion Citigroup flagged on Nov. 4. ``Where valuations will be at the end of the year is anyone's guess,'' Price said. ``This is further complicated by the impact of ratings and the behavior of the owners of the most senior tranches of certain structures, which add to an already complex evaluation.'' In short, if the guy next door starts dumping all the top- rated nasties he owns into the market, and the rating companies continue to slash the creditworthiness of all the wriggly things hidden in the warehouse, writedowns might have to get bigger. Orphan Accounts Bank of America also said it might have to pony up as much as $600 million to bolster money-market funds that gave some of the cash they manage to structured investment vehicles. As some SIVs start to go bust, Legg Mason Inc., SEI Investments Co. and SunTrust Banks Inc. are also bailing out funds to ensure they can repay every dollar entrusted to them by widows and orphans. It isn't just money-market funds that have played fast and loose with the public's wealth. The state of Florida's money was invested in less-than-stellar asset-backed commercial paper, leaving taxpayers owning $2.2 billion of debt cut to junk status, or about 4 percent of the investments made by the Florida State Board of Administration. How many other local governments in the U.S. were similarly profligate with the contents of their coffers? Merrill published a full-page advertisement in the Financial Times this week, telling us ``Why Merrill Lynch Is Still Bullish on Merrill Lynch.'' Lots of positive, muscular statements are scattered across the page. Setbacks are something to be ``overcome,'' liquidity is ``strong,'' transactions are ``significant, innovative.'' The company's bull logo symbolizes ``pride, strength, integrity and optimism.'' Bearish on Bulls Hmm, I remember another full-page Merrill proclamation in the newspapers, on Sept. 25, 2001, in response to the terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center that month. ``We remain bullish on America,'' the bank said, urging investors to keep the faith and load up on stocks. A year later, the Nasdaq Composite Index had lost 20 percent of its value, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 17 percent, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average had dropped 10 percent. Merrill itself fell 12 percent. Bullish on banks? Too many dark cupboards with too many potential skeletons, too many job cuts on the way and too much obscurity in earnings reports make that a leap of faith too far. (Mark Gilbert is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.)

Sachdev wins 34th Women's National "A" Chess Championship


From The Hindu online, "Friday, November 16, 2007":


(Photo by Rakesh Rao)

PUNE: Tania Sachdev has once again proved her detractors wrong.

For the second time in the space of 11 months this English Literature graduate from Delhi claimed the prestigious women’s National ‘A’ chess title following a thrilling climax at the SIMS Complex Hall here on Thursday.

After a three-way tie for the title at eight points from 11 rounds, Tania nosed ahead due to her superior tie-break score of 66 points against runner-up Kiran Manisha Mohanty’s 64.50 and the third-placed Soumya Swaminathan’s 63.50.

The three girls will be making their Olympiad debut next year by joining K. Humpy in the Indian squad.

The top six finishers will play for the country in 2008. Swati Ghate (7.5 points), D. Harika (7) and Nisha Mohata (6.5) complete the six-member Indian team.

The final round began with four players — Tania, Harika, Kiran and Soumya — in the title-race.

In the fourth hour, Tania defeated Padmini Rout comfortably in 41 moves, but was not sure of having retained the title.


A surprise
At this stage, Harika was firmly on course for an easy victory against Soumya. However, much to the surprise of those who were watching the game, Harika faltered dramatically by inviting a checkmate from an extremely fortuitous Soumya.

Harika, armed with an extra minor piece, overlooked a checkmating combination and stared at defeat. Realising the mistake, she offered a draw which Soumya promptly turned down. A devastated Harika resigned and, with it, made room for Soumya in the Indian team.

After the completion of all the games, it was known that Harika, who was half-a-point behind Tania on tie-break score at the start of the final round, was two better.


Bad luck
That also meant Harika’s victory would have pushed Tania to the second spot. However, that was not to be.

But all the leading players felt for Harika, who quickly returned with a smile and congratulated all the leading finishers.

Even as Harika’s defeat cleared Tania’s passage to the title, Kiran won against P. Priya and ensured the runner-up spot ahead of Soumya.

Tania collected Rs. 75,000 and a trophy, Kiran got Rs. 50,000 and Soumya was richer by Rs. 20,000 from the richest-ever women’s National meet that offered Rs. 2.50 lakh.

For Kiran and Soumya, the performances were indeed very memorable since it also earned them 11-game WGM norms.

The results:
11th round: Soumya Swaminathan (8) bt D. Harika (7); Padmini Rout (6) lost to Tania Sachdev (8); P. Priya (6) lost to Kiran Manisha Mohanty (8); Swati Ghate (7.5) bt Eesha Karavade (6); Mary Ann Gomes (5.5) lost to Nisha Mohota (6.5); Aarthie Ramaswamy (6) drew with Sai Meera (6); Ch. Divyasri (5.5) lost to Pon N. Krithika (6); Amruta Mokal (5) lost to Nimmy George (6); Syed Nabeela Farheen (4) lost to Swati Mohota (5.5); Dhyani Dave (4) lost to S. Athirai (5.5); R. Preethi (5.5) bt C.H. Savetha (3); Rucha Pujari (4) lost to M.R. Sangeetha (5); S. Harini (4.5) drew with P. Uthra (4.5); Anuprita Patil (4.5) bye.

The final standings (top 15): 1-3. Tania, Kiran and Soumya; 4. Swati, 5. Harika, 6. Nisha; 7-13. Eesha, Sai, Aarthie, Priya, Nimmy, Krithika and Padmini; 14. Mary, 15. Divyasri.

*********************************************************************************

Okay, I'm confused. Prior news coverage of this event said that only the top 3 finishers would be on the Olympic Team (joining Koneru Humpy). But this article say the top six finishers will be playing for the country in 2008. What does that mean?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Charlemagne and the Elephant

In the Persian game of chess, 'Chatrang,' from which our modern game of chess descended, the elephant piece sat on the board where the Bishop sits now. The elephant had been used in warfare, with mixed success, since ancient times, the oldest use of which may be Egyptian. It was a small herd in northern Syria, however, that supplied elephants to the ancient Persians for their army, before the animals were hunted to extinction some 3000 years ago, long before the game of 'Chatrang' is reported to have appeared in Persia. It has been recorded that various gifts were made to Charlemagne by Caliph Harun al-Rashid, among which were an elephant and a chess set. The elephant was used by Charlemagne in a few campaigns and struck terror into the heart of the calvary coming up against the creature. There are pieces reputedly from the "Charlemagne chess set" in various museums - but they have all been dated to the 11th century CE - too young to be pieces from the set gifted to Charlemagne by al-Rashid. The chess set gifted to Charlemagne by al-Rashid was a key part of Katherine Neville's best-selling novel "The Eight," which I have written about extensively in this blog. Here is a fascinating history about the gifts of al-Rashid to Charlemagne.

The Goddess Po Nagar


Wednesday, November 14, 2007 18:51:30 Vietnam (GMT+07)

Reported by Huy Tram

Po Nagar Towers illuminate the myths of the Cham Goddess

Located on the 20-meter-high Cu Lao hill just two kilometers north of Nha Trang, the towers were built between the 8th and 13th centuries on Cu Lao Island to serve as the Holy See of the Champa Kingdom of Panduranga, but archaeologists believe this site was used for Hindu worship as early as the second century.

Old documents reveal that construction of the towers was carried out multiple times. The first towers were razed in a war, then re-built in 774, and demolished again by another war. The current standing towers were built in 965 by King Jaya Indravarman I.

The complex originally consisted of five; however, one of them was completely destroyed and now only four remain intact.

Each tower is a shrine to a different deity. The main tower, 22.48 meters high, is the biggest and most splendid one and is dedicated to Po Nagar, known as the Goddess of the Cham people.

Po Nagar, whose full name was Po Yan Inu Nagar Kaut Hara, is credited for her help with teaching people weaving and new farming techniques.

Thap Ba features three architectural elements - the foundation, the main body, and the roof - symbolizing the secular, spiritual, and animistic worlds.

A line of pillars propped against the front wall is all that remains of the gate leading to the vestibule of the inner tower; above the gate is a bas-relief sculpture of the Hindu goddess Uma, carved in 1065 during renovations.

Inside, a statue of Po Nagar sits at the center of a square room on a base of stone decorated with linga and yoni, stylized fertility symbols. Linga and yoni also adorn the top of the towers and temple roofs.

Statues of the linga and the yoni held pride of place at Thap Ba. The linga is a stylized phallus symbolizing Shiva and the yoni a stylized vulva symbolizing a goddess, or a Shakti. The linga-yoni combination symbolizes fertility, not just of humans but all living creatures.

The original gold statue of Po Nagar was stolen during an invasion led by a king of the southern kingdom in the 10th century. The current replica was carved out of stone.

The 260-cm Po Nagar statue sits cross-legged on a lotus blossom, leaning back against a bas-relief of the legendary Makara sea-monster. The goddess has 10 arms: one pair rests on her knees with the right hand forming a symbol of peace and the left hand open to bestow happiness; another four pairs carry various weapons demonstrating her power and ingenuity. Her chest is bare, displaying her breasts and a belly marked by four deep wrinkles.

Bricks were used in the building of Po Nagar tower. The four-side structure is topped by a pyramid with a statue at the apex of the four-arm Shiva riding Nandin the enchanted ox. The exterior of the tower is covered by intricate rock carvings of dancers, people rowing boats and grinding rice, or hunters with bows and arrows.

The main tower stands at the center of the complex with three temples situated to the south, south-east and north-west.

The north-west temple is a classic example of Cham architecture and design. Featuring a 9-meter-high rectangular chamber, this monument is covered by a boat-shaped roof. Carvings of the god Indra, mythical Garuda birds, lions, and women on elephants adorn its false windowpanes. Its gables also feature carvings of fig leaves and various deities. The south-east temple, designed in the 13th century, is the smallest of the four structures.

A rectangular structure is enclosed by walls on three sides, its entrance gate opens to the east and its curved roof also features a distinct boat shape.

Since the mid-17th century, the Kinh (or Viet) people in the region adapted themselves to the Cham religion and culture, then “Vietnamized” the image of the goddess and renamed her as the Goddess Thien Y A Na.

Legend has it that Thien Y A Na statue was originally nude, but the Viet people clothe the statue with beautiful dresses to express their respect for the goddess. Nowadays, the rituals and decoration of the altars in Po Nagar towers have been Vietnamized and Po Nagar has become the common Mother of both Vietnamese and Cham people.

To commemorate the goddess Po Nagar, the Thap Ba Festival is organized annually from the 20th to 23rd day of the third month in the lunar calendar.

People visit the tower to offer incense and pray for health and wealth.

The first two rituals of the Thap Ba Festival - the clothes-changing ceremony and the worshipping ceremony - are very solemn. On the first day, people take dresses and bonnets off the statues at the tower and bathe them with water infused with flowers. Then they put on new dresses to honor the statues. The festival continues with the worshipping ceremony, which includes sacrifices and ceremonial music.

But after the solemnity come entertainment, which features hat boi (traditional Central opera), dances, folk games, and boat races in the nearby Cai River.

Like Chocolate for Beer

Ancient beer pots point to origins of chocolate 22:00 12 November 2007 NewScientist.com news service Jeff Hecht Chocolate was first produced by the ancients as a by-product of beer, suggests a new archaeological study. And evidence from drinking vessels left by the Mesoamericans who developed chocolate suggests that the source of chocolate, cacao, was first used 500 years earlier than thought. Mesoamericans – who flourished in central America before it was colonised by the Spanish – developed chocolate as a by-product of fermenting cacao fruit to make a beer-like drink called chicha still brewed by South American tribal people. The Mesoamericans before Columbus’s time, developed a taste for the chocolate, but their cousins down in South America stuck with the beer, says Cornell University archaeologist John Henderson, who led the new study. Unsweetened chocolate drinks became a central element of Mesoamerican cultures including the Aztecs, from whom Europeans learned of chocolate in the 16th century. Archaeologists have found pottery made to serve the frothed chocolate drink preferred by the pre-Columbians in earlier sites, and have found traces of chocolate in pots dating back to 600 BC. But the origins of the drink had been unclear. Chemical clues Chocolate's unique flavour develops only when the watery pulp of raw cacao fruit and seeds are fermented together, colouring the seeds purple. Grinding the seeds yields the chocolate. "It struck us that it wasn't obvious how to do this," says study co-author Rosemary Joyce at the University of California at Berkeley. The involvement of fermentation led her and Henderson to speculate that cacao beer might have been the originating process. Only now has hard evidence come to light in the form of pot sherds dating from 200 BC to before 1100 BC that they found in the ruins of an ancient village called Puerto Escondido in the Ulúa Valley in Honduras. Harnessing a technique developed by Patrick McGovern at the University of Pennsylvania, they were able to extract chocolate residues from the pores in the pottery. Tests found theobromine – a chemical signature of cacao – in 11 of 13 fragments, including one that Joyce estimates dates from 1100 to 1200 BC. 'Smoking gun' That pushed evidence for cacao drinking back 500 years. That pot, and others older than about 900 BC, also lacked any traces of the chilli pepper Mesoamericans used to spice up their chocolate. Pots designed for making a frothed chocolate first appeared after this date, the researchers report. The oldest fragment was the long neck of a bottle that could have held beer, but could not have been used to make the frothed chocolate beverage that became popular later. Joyce called that "the smoking gun" showing that beer had come first. She suggests that the key step in switching to chocolate came when ancient brewers ground up the cacao seeds remaining after fermentation and added them to thicken the beer – giving it a chocolate taste. Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0708815104)

Chess Champions League

Judit Polgar, the sole female representative in this show case event designed to raise money for charity, finished in 4th place with 5.0/10. GM Dieter-Lievieu ("The Kid") Nisipeanu finished one place ahead of Judit, also with 5.0/10. Topolov won the event with 7.0/10. Judit's next event will be 2008 Corus in January. BTW, a beautiful photo of Judit here at Susan Polgar's blog.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The "Wine Goddess"

No, darlings, this is not a story about an ancient goddess of brewing and fermenting! Almost as good, though. Wine Goddess' Top Ten "Cheap n' Good" Wines November 14, 2007 - Holiday entertaining often calls for wine, but buying it can put a dent in your budget. Finding cheap, but wonderful wines is the mission of Diana Hamann, who calls herself "The Wine Goddess." Each year she comes up with a list of great wines for under $20. You can find the complete list for 2007 at www.winegoddess.com. She's also picked ten of her favorites just for ABC 7 viewers. So if you're looking for red, white or sparkling wines, you can try some of these and still have money left over for the turkey and all the trimmings: Bubbly Adami Prosecco Brut, NV, Veneto, Italy $13.50It's the Prosecco grape that makes the famed Italian sparkler of the same name, and this one is indeed one of my favorite recent finds. Drier than most Prosecco, its crisp, clean flavor profile of apple and pear will make it the perfect holiday aperitif. Whites Burgans Albarino, 2006, Rias Baixas, Spain $12.75 A bang-up value featuring northwest Spain's noble white grape, Albarino, and vinified by one of the grape's greatest advocates, Luciano Almoedo. Organically farmed, this clean and juicy white is redolent of peach, mineral, and orange blossom. Delish. Tangent Pinot Gris, 2006, Edna Valley, California $17.25 Tipping its hat to its Alsatian counterparts, the Tangent Gris is all about citrus and stone fruit aromatics, with a solid backbone of acidity mixing and mingling with fresh floral notes. The most expensive wine on this list, but well worth the price. Terra Buena Torrontes, 2006, Mendoza, Argentina $11.75 If you have yet to try the fruity and floral Torrontes grape, get going! The Terra Buena falls into the headily perfumed category, with big aromas and flavors of lychee, starfruit, and ripe melon served up on a surprisingly dry frame. Novellum Chardonnay, 2006, Languedoc-Roussillon, France $11.50 For sure one of the best values on the market, Novellum's Chardonnay is passed over Viognier lees, which explains the wine's subtle hints of honeysuckle, pear, and peach. And because it's un-oaked, it will make both a great food wine and all-by-its-lonesome wine. Reds Gournier Grenache Noir, 2006, Languedoc-Roussillon, France $8.95 A fantastic Grenache from the south of France sure to please foodies and wine novices alike. The organically farmed Gournier is all about bright, rich, raspberry fruit, with a sweet middle, and a kick of white pepper on the finish just to keep things interesting. Buglioni Valpolicella Classico, 2005, Veneto, Italy $13.50 This juicy red surely merits a double-yum on the yum-o-meter. Look for gobs of generous bright red berry fruit, purple flower notes, and a palate that's pure velvet. Bodegas Peique Bierzo, 2006, Castile y Leon, Spain $13.25 The Peique Bierzo is comprised of the Mencia grape, which at present is enjoying too-cool-for-school status amongst the Sommelier set. Look for aromas and flavors of spicy dark berry in the foreground, and earthy minerality in the background. Serve with grilled meats or hard Spanish cheese to achieve nirvana. Con Sur Carmenere, 2006, Colchagua Valley, Chile $9.50 File this one under silly, silly value--a perfect candidate for buying by the truckload. The Cono Sur Carmenere features rich blueberry and blackberry fruit amidst espresso bean and smoky oak notes, and a structure that screams twice the price. Hedges "CMS" Cuvee, 2005, Columbia Valley, Washington $12.95 The Hedges CMS red never fails to win friends and influence people with its big flavors of plum, coffee, and currant berry. Named for the Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah grapes that comprise it, this hearty red packs a punch for its modest price tag.

34th Women’s National A Chess Championship

Great news from the Women's National A in India: WGM norm for Kiran Monisha Wednesday November 14 2007 00:01 IST EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE PUNE: Kiran Monisha Mohanty of Orissa made her maiden WGM norm while P Priya of Tamil Nadu made her final WIM norm on a day that witnessed fighting chess on all the boards. Three and half hours into the game and one would expect half the games to be over. But that wasn't to happen in the ninth round of the 34th Women’s National A Chess Championship organised by Symbiosis Spa Chess School here on Tuesday. Not only were the top boards fighting it out but even on the lower boards no player was ready to give up , thus making this round one of the most interesting ones. Swati Ghate of LIC beat Mary Ann Gomes while Kiran Mohanty beat Nimmy George to join Tania Sachdev in lead on 6.5 points. Top seed IM Dronavalli Harika and WIM Soumya Swaminathan occupy second spot with six points. Swati Ghate played the Pirc Defence from black against Mary but it soon transposed into a Sicilian type position. Swati won a pawn in the middle-game and in the endgame she converted her advantage in spite of the mutual time trouble. Results (Round 9): Tania Sachdev 6.5 drew with Soumya Swaminathan 6; Mary Ann Gomes 5.5 lost to Swati Ghate 6.5; Dronavalli Harika 6 drew with Nisha Mohota 5.5; Kiran Manisha Mohanty 6.5 bt Nimmy George 5; Eesha Karavade 5 drew with Divyasri Ch. 5; Sai Meera 4.5 drew with P Priya 5; Pon Krithika 4 lost to Padmini Rout 5; Amruta Mokal 5 bt P Uthra 4; S Nabeela Farheen 3.5 lost to R Aarthie 5; Anuprita Patil 3.5 lost to R Preethi 4; Swati Mohota 4 bt Dhyani Dave 3; Rucha Pujari 4 bt S Harini 3; MR Sangeetha 3.5 drew with Savetha CH 3; S Athirai bye. I hope to have a report on the final standings up and running at Chess Femme News later tonight.

Honorary doctorate for Vishwanathan Anand

This is great news. Anand, by all accounts one of the great gentlemen in the game of chess, has been awarded an honorary doctorate degree by Sathyabama University, Chennai. Now his fans will get to address him as "Doctor", as fans of Susan Polgar can also address her as "Doctor" (Ms. Polgar was awarded an honorary doctorate degree earlier this year by Texas Tech University of Lubbock, Texas). Here is the story.

Stealing from a Childrens' Chess Program

This is absolutely outrageous! The Washington Post is reporting from Marc Fisher's blog what happened to $73,000 donated by caring citizens to the Moten Center School in Washington, D.C. for its chess fund after Fisher wrote an article in 2003 that was featured in The Washington Post: A School System That Steals From Kids By Raw Fisher from Marc Fisher's Blog Tuesday, November 13, 2007; Page B03 The District's public school system is many things -- too many things. It is educator, babysitter, social worker, police officer, nurse, meals provider, jobs program and political plaything. And, for too many people, in too many instances, it is also a criminal enterprise. It is criminal in its neglect of children who too often seem hopelessly disengaged while in the system yet flourish as soon as they find refuge in another setting. It is criminal in its persistently low expectations of children because they grow up in poverty or have parents who raise them with little regard for the life of the mind. And the system is criminal in the most base and common sense of the word: As the latest installments in The Post's investigation of the schools demonstrate, the system is riddled with employees who believe their own greed and pleasures are more important than the future of defenseless children. Friday's report on the plunder of school activity funds throughout the system was revolting -- another expos¿ of a tragic culture of self-loathing. In schools where children are routinely and mindlessly required to recite moronic chants about how they believe in themselves and how they are achieving despite test scores that shout otherwise, the very people who were employed to invite students into the splendors of rigorous learning were instead stealing from children. They ripped off the kids' money to watch strippers dance, to pay for exotic bottles of wine, to dine at fancy restaurants and to stage a gospel concert. Only those who are filled with contempt for the children of their own community could stoop to such a level. Astonishingly, several of the people Post reporters April Witt and David Fallis wrote about are still employed by the school system or its affiliates. I unwittingly took part in one piece of the criminal enterprise. In 2003, tipped by a friend to the plight of an ambitious and exciting chess program at a troubled Southeast Washington school, I visited the Moten Center, a program for emotionally disturbed kids at Moten Elementary in Anacostia. There I saw an extraordinary man doing what should be ordinary in the D.C. schools but isn't. Vaughn Bennett was the volunteer chess coach who came in after school to teach the complexities of the grand game to kids who had been discarded, tossed out of regular schools because they supposedly could not concentrate or learn. I wrote about Bennett's remarkable success with the kids in his chess club, about the sacrifices he made to do without pay what D.C. schools employees had failed to do on the public's dime, and about the chess club's need for $2,000 to fill the gap between what the kids had raised through candy and hot dog sales and what it would cost to fly 12 kids to Nashville to take part in a national scholastic chess tournament. As Post readers so often do, you came through. Checks and cash poured into my mailbox. Moten Principal Herbert Boyd assured me he would set up a separate account for the donations, keep careful records and report back so I could inform readers about what was being done with their money. Over the next months, I received a couple of reports from Boyd, and I passed the results along to readers. But what neither Boyd nor I knew was that the school business manager to whom the principal had delegated authority over the money turned out to be, according to federal prosecutors, a thief. Business manager Sandy Jones ripped off most of the $73,000 that had been donated to the chess team, according to the Post investigation and federal authorities. Jones is accused of using the school's ATM card more than 100 times to steal from the chess fund. When he discovered the pillage, Boyd notified school security and the police, but the authorities did little or nothing until an anonymous tipster told the D.C. government's inspector general about the missing money. (Emphasis added) The school system fired Jones. Fired Boyd, too. Now Jones faces criminal charges. And the children of the Moten chess team never competed in another tournament. I wish I had followed up on the Moten chess story, but I say that only in retrospect. I'd love to keep a running account of what happens to many of the people I write about, but I'm only able to do that in some cases. A human being has only so much capacity for outrage. At a certain point, you just get tapped out. I hope I never reach that point about the D.C. schools, because there are simply too many children who are being savaged by people who work in the system. What's truly sad here is that those whose calling it is to investigate and punish the wrongdoers found these acts unworthy of their time or effort.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Women's National A Chess Championship

Standings after Round 8 in the 34th Women's National A Championship: Rank SNo. Name Rtg FED Pts BH. RtgØ 1 3 WGM Tania Sachdev 2413 IND 6 34½ 2269 2 6 WGM Swathi Ghate 2316 IND 5½ 34½ 2270 3 7 WIM Kiran Manisha Mohanty 2263 IND 5½ 34 2276 4 1 IM Harika Dronavalli 2480 IND 5½ 34 2275 5 8 WIM Gomes Mary Ann 2262 IND 5½ 32½ 2208 6 9 WIM Soumya Swaminathan 2244 IND 5½ 31 2230 7 2 WGM Mohota Nisha 2416 IND 5 32½ 2213 8 12 Nimmy A G 2196 IND 5 29½ 2166 9 4 WGM Karavade Eesha 2331 IND 4½ 35½ 2265 10 15 Priya P 2129 IND 4½ 31 2229 11 25 Divyasri Ch 2050 IND 4½ 24½ 2102 12 5 WGM Ramaswamy Aarthie 2317 IND 4 35½ 2258 13 11 WFM Meera Sai 2205 IND 4 35½ 2248 14 13 Amrutha Mokal 2159 IND 4 31½ 2184 15 14 WFM Pon N Krithika 2140 IND 4 31½ 2177 16 10 Padmini Rout 2226 IND 4 27½ 2166 17 24 Uthra P 2055 IND 4 22 2072 18 22 Anuprita Patil 2060 IND 3½ 32½ 2224 19 20 Syed Nabeela Farheen 2093 IND 3½ 28½ 2129 20 23 Harini S 2060 IND 3 28½ 2153 21 21 WFM Pujari Rucha 2061 IND 3 27½ 2128 22 17 Sangeetha M R 2118 IND 3 27½ 2126 23 26 WFM Dave Dhyani 2002 IND 3 27 2109 24 18 Swati Mohota 2112 IND 3 26 2089 25 16 Preethi R 2125 IND 3 25 2100 26 27 Athirai S 2000 IND 2½ 22½ 2091 27 28 Savetha C H 1968 IND 2½ 21½ 1959 28 19 Baisakhi Das 2101 IND 1 22½ 2090

Bronze Age Fashionistas


Fashion is as old as art, darlings, going back at least 50,000 years, conservatively. (Recent discoveries of tiny sea shells drilled in such a way as to suggest use in a necklace or bracelet date back to at least 70,000 years ago). So, it comes as no surprise that in the Vinca culture, one of the oldest in "Old Europe" (c. 5500 BCE - 4000 BCE), recent excavations at Plocnik have revealed a Bronze Age female icon in an outfit that wouldn't be out of place today: hip-hugging miniskirt and tight-fitting waist-length jacket with three/quarter length sleeves.

Prehistoric women had passion for fashion


By Ljilja Cvekic

Sun Nov 11, 10:38 PM ET

PLOCNIK, Serbia (Reuters) - If the figurines found in an ancient European settlement are any guide, women have been dressing to impress for at least 7,500 years.

Recent excavations at the site -- part of the Vinca culture which was Europe's biggest prehistoric civilization -- point to a metropolis with a great degree of sophistication and a taste for art and fashion, archaeologists say.

In the Neolithic settlement in a valley nestled between rivers, mountains and forests in what is now southern Serbia, men rushed around a smoking furnace melting metal for tools. An ox pulled a load of ore, passing by an art workshop and a group of young women in short skirts.

"According to the figurines we found, young women were beautifully dressed, like today's girls in short tops and mini skirts, and wore bracelets around their arms," said archaeologist Julka Kuzmanovic-Cvetkovic.

The unnamed tribe who lived between 5400 and 4700 BC in the 120-hectare site at what is now Plocnik knew about trade, handcrafts, art and metallurgy. Near the settlement, a thermal well might be evidence of Europe's oldest spa.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Interview with Judit Polgar

Chessbase has posted a new interview with Judit Polgar: Judit Polgar – Chess Player Interview by Jose Emilio Gomez of "El Correo" November 11, 2007 Link Okay, now I'm feeling sufficiently guilty that I should probably spend the rest of the day updating Chess Femme News, darlings!

Little Girl Sold

Not for the faint of heart or underage. I'm not going to post the entire article. That this kind of thing happens in this day and age totally outrages me. This is a movie review, but it's based totally in real present-day events. The United States acts like an ostrich with its head in the sand with respect to the illegal sex trade, when, in truth, it could put a stop to a large part of the trade simply by withholding foreign aid to the offending countries. Little Girl Sold, and Other Tales of the Sex Trade By JOHN ANDERSON Published: November 11, 2007 ONE of the bigger hurdles in producing “Holly,” a drama about sex trafficking, was finding a Vietnamese girl to play the title character, a 12-year-old sold into the notorious Cambodian brothel town known as K11. All things considered, it would have been easier to secure a Vietnamese sex worker than it was to get a Vietnamese actress. “That is a very sad statement,” said Guy Jacobson, a producer and writer of the film. “And a very true statement.” “Holly” is one of several recent films that explore sex trafficking, a phenomenon the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime describes as the world’s fastest-growing criminal enterprise. The recent “Trade,” which starred Kevin Kline, followed human cargo being smuggled from Mexico to New Jersey. “Very Young Girls,” a new documentary produced for Showtime by David Schisgall, confines itself to New York City but reveals a homegrown world of predatory sex and the legal view that the seller, rather than the buyer, is culpable. “Holly,” however, exists in a world without borders. The inspiration, said Mr. Jacobson, a lawyer and investment banker, came from a trip he took to Phnom Penh. “I was walking in the street in the middle of the day and found myself surrounded by a group of about 15 little girls, some as young as 5, who were very aggressively soliciting me for prostitution,” he said. “One of the girls said, ‘I yum yum very good, I no money today, mama-san boxing me.’ Which we use, word for word, in the film.” The incident motivated Mr. Jacobson, through his Priority Films, to write and produce “Holly,” which was financed by an Israeli real estate developer, Amit Kort, and his wife, Smadar. After reading the script, Mr. Jacobson said, they offered him whatever he needed, which in the end was several million dollars. Rest of story.

Killing Sends Tremors Through City’s Illegal Poker Scene

Poker is big business these days. Even our Las Vegas Showgirls over at Goddesschess did an article awhile back about big stakes poker and the women who play it. So, I can imagine the kind of shock waves the recent murder of a poker player in New York City has caused: By THOMAS J. LUECK Published: November 11, 2007 For years, they have operated in the shadows of Manhattan. With names like Straddle, the Fairview, Playstation and the New York Players Club, they are remarkably well organized, but nonetheless illegal: poker clubs that attract thousands of players at all hours of the day and night. The players run the gamut, from cabdrivers to retired accountants, with a remarkably large contingent of young, well-paid professionals — people who consider themselves law-abiding citizens and play only for the love of the calculated bluff or the well-played wager. Their numbers have grown swiftly as poker has vaulted into the spotlight of American pop culture. Texas Hold ’Em tournaments compete for prime-time TV viewers, and the image of the dimly lighted, vaguely sinister poker game has claimed a favored spot in movies. (In a current thriller, “Michael Clayton,” George Clooney first appears on the screen as an emotionally taut player in a back-room poker club in Chinatown.) In reality, Manhattan’s players are part of a secretive network of “members,” who can join games only after being vouched for by others. Once they are in, they make their way to small, unremarkable office buildings, passing security guards hired solely to protect the club, and enter a clean, well-lighted world of civilized, even businesslike gamesmanship, according to several players who were interviewed. Most agreed to speak only if their names were not disclosed because they did not want to attract the attention of the police. “I have never seen anything like a criminal element,” said one, a 29-year-old producer for one of Manhattan’s best known broadcasting companies who has been a regular in the poker clubs for five years. “It more closely resembles a retirement home bridge party.” But that was hardly the atmosphere at 11 p.m. on Nov. 2, when armed robbers in masks forced their way into a crowded club called the City Limit that had been operating for less than two weeks in a seventh-floor office, above a gym, a graphics business and a real estate office, in an unadorned building at 28th Street and Fifth Avenue. One player, Frank DeSena, a former math professor from New Jersey who was a familiar and well-liked presence on the poker club scene, was killed by an intruder’s shotgun. There have been no arrests in the case, and the police have declined to confirm published reports that the robbers pointed a gun at the head of a security guard to gain entry, and accidentally fired the shot that killed Mr. DeSena. The killing led to an obvious conclusion — that armed criminals knew the location of at least one supposedly secret club — and sent tremors through the closed circle of Manhattan players and club operators. Rest of story.

New Civilization Discovered in Peru?


Wow - this is some pretty stunning news. I'll be following closely to see what subsequent reports (if any) reveal. Is this the same civilization that built Caral, for instance? Someone else?
Photo, right: In this photo released by Peru's Andina Agency, archeologist Walter Alva points out a white and red mural depicting a deer hunted in a net, in Lambayeque, Peru, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2007. A team of Peruvian archeologists have excavated a 4,000-year-old temple near Peru's northern coast. The temple has a staircase leading to an altar Alva said was used for worshipping fire and making offerings to the deities. 10:16 a.m. ET, 11/11/07

Ancient Peru Temple, Mural Excavated
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: November 11, 2007
Filed at 3:21 p.m. ET

LIMA, Peru (AP) -- Carbon dating tests and excavation of a colorful pre-Incan temple indicate that it was built thousands of years ago by an advanced civilization, a prominent archaeologist said in comments published Sunday by a Peruvian newspaper.

Unearthed in Peru's archeologically rich northern coastal desert, the temple has a staircase leading to an altar that was used for worshipping fire and making offerings to deities, Walter Alva, who headed the three-month excavation, told El Comercio.

Some of the walls of the 27,000-square-foot site -- almost half the size of a football field -- were painted, and a white and red mural depicts a deer being hunted with a net.

Alva said the temple was apparently constructed by an ''advanced civilization'' because it was built with mud bricks made from sediment found in local rivers, instead of rocks.

''This discovery shows an architectural and iconographic tradition different from what has been known until now,'' said Alva, who discovered and is the museum director for another important pre-Incan find, the nearby Lords of Sipan Moche Tombs. [Emphasis added].

The carbon dating tests, conducted in the United States, indicate that the site is 4,000 years old, he claimed.

The oldest known city in the Americas is Caral, also near the Peruvian coast, which researchers dated to 2627 B.C.
*********************************************************************************
Caral is a stunning site, and dates back to the same time as when the pyramids were being build in Egypt, the Indus Valley civilization was flourishing, the Iranian plain was filled with sophisticated cities that traded with each other and outside areas over wide networks, and Sumer was producing incredibly beautiful arts and crafts, the likes of which Woolley eventually excavated at the Royal Tombs of Ur. People who think of the Americas as a cultural backwater during this great blossoming of civilization in the Old World are behind the times, darlings!

Note regarding the photo above: The archaeologist is pointing to a mural not on camera! The mural on the wall behind him doesn't appear to me to be red and white - it looks like black, white and gold colors to me. And - I have to say - the same colors appear to be on the wall the archaeologist is pointing to - no red in sight. Where is he seeing red?

Back to the mural on the wall behind: Is that a net? - it might be. But perhaps it's meant to be a grid, perhaps the lay-out of a sacred board game? Or perhaps, as in the way of the ancient Egyptians, for instance, it's deliberately ambiguous and pun-like, and could be interpreted in several different ways! I've often had that feeling when looking at carvings and drawings from ancient civilizations in the Americas. Like we're missing something, not quite getting it...

The photo comes from coverage at MSNBC.

Ray Robson

In yesterday’s mail I received a handwritten letter from Gary Robson, Ray’s dad. It was a thank you for a cash gift Goddesschess recently made to help with costs for the World Youth Chess Championships in Turkey and also a progress report, which was very kind of Mr. Robson. I wrote about Ray’s upcoming trip to Turkey here. As you know by now, Ray (USA 2396) (now 13 years old) recently scored his first IM norm!!! at the 6th North American FIDE Invitational, October 28 – November 3, 2007 (put together by the North American Chess Association), finishing in first place with 7.0/9. Way to go, Ray. In Turkey he will be up against the toughest competition in the world, so it will be a true test of Ray’s skill and nerves. I wish there was some kind of national program that would provide financial assistance to our promising chessplayers. I’m a big fan of figure skating – yes, I know darlings, don’t even go there, lol! – and the national and international figure skating associations put through rule changes back in the early 90’s that made it possible for amateur skaters to earn money by participating in touring ice shows and television specials while still retaining their "Olympic" eligibility. Wouldn’t it be possible to do something similar for our chessplayers? Couldn’t someone with the right marketing know-how be able to organize a series of blitz chess events and simuls in say, the top 10 cities in the USA, in which our most promising young chessplayers could participate, all expenses paid, and receive a generous stipend through public and private sponsorship opportunities? I’m no marketing expert – but this is something the USCF should be looking at. One of their organizational objectives is to promote chess in the United States. What better way to promote the game than to put our young stars out there in public, meeting their fans and chess afficianados, giving them opportunities to earn money to help defray training costs and tournament costs (travel, hotel, meals). I mean, darlings, if Dancing with the Stars can organize and sell-out tours of BALLROOM DANCING exhibitions, it cannot be so far-fetched to think that chess can do the same! Well, perhaps someday we will have something organized along these lines for our chessplayers. If you would like to follow Ray’s progress (and, indeed, the progress of your favorite young players from every country participating) at the World Youth Championships (November 17 – 29, 2007), the official website is here, but you may have better luck finding current results and news at Susan Polgar’s chess blog.

Some Thoughts This Veterans' Day


My dad died on November 3, 2002. His memorial at the Veterans' Cemetery in Union Grove, Wisconsin, was a feature story for Veterans' Day that year in the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel. Here is a photo from the article. My mother, one of my sisters (arm around mom) and one of my brothers are sitting in the front row. I'm third from the left in the second row (wiping my eyes).

As I've gotten older I've gotten more sentimental, darlings; and since the death of my dad this day of remembrance is particularly poignant for me because now it is forever associated with my dad's death. Looking at that photograph brings back all the emotions of that time, and I'm sitting here with tears in my eyes.

But that's not a bad thing. It's good to remember, to reflect on those who have served us, those we love, those we lost, those who are in the armed forces now, some of whom are coming home, and the joy that will bring to their loved ones. There's a story in today's Journal/Sentinel about the mother of a promising young chessplayer who is coming home, she may arrive today, from Germany, where she has served as a nurse to our service people wounded in the Middle East:

Chess whiz making right moves
Posted: Nov. 10, 2007
by Laurel Walker

For someone with nerves of steel, a fire in his belly and the ability to perceive what is not yet there, 11-year-old Brian Dennis seems remarkably like any other fun-loving kid.

As a matter of fact, it is those characteristics that make him such a whiz at chess. But it is the enjoyment of the game that keeps him playing.

"It's fun, and it's not (about) luck like most other board games," said Brian, a sixth-grader who had just wrapped up another practice with his teammates from Hamilton High School. He works at it.

Chess coach Tim Moeller, who invited Brian to join the team after he watched him play and win school tournaments at Lannon Elementary School for several years, paid him a high compliment.
"No one's going to want to play this kid by the time he's a senior in high school," he said. Brian's that good already, and more importantly, getting better all the time.

"No one's going to want to play this kid by the time he's a senior in high school," he said. Brian's that good already, and more importantly, getting better all the time.

Since there are no age limits for high school team members in the Scenic Moraine Chess Association, made up of eight public and two private high schools in the region, the Hamilton team includes three Templeton Middle School students - a sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grader - among its 16 members. Brian is the youngest.

"If you can reach the board, you can play," said Moeller, a chemistry and physics teacher and engineer.

Brian doesn't just reach the board. He stands tall.

Chess has filled some of the gap left over the past year while his mother, Capt. Pamela Dennis, a Naval Reserve nurse, was called to active duty overseas, said his dad, also named Brian Dennis.

She spent her tour in Landstuhl, Germany, where soldiers injured in the Middle East war zone were sent and assessed for either a return to duty or treatment back in the United States.

News that she had to leave in October 2006 made him sad and scared, her son said. But on this Veterans Day, Brian and his younger sister, Brianna, 9, have their mom back.

She finished her stint and returned to the U.S. last week. She was expected home last night.

In the meantime he's had to step up around their Sussex house, watching his younger sister and helping with household chores.

At the same time, he's driven himself to excel in chess and has kept his mom up to date through her daily phone calls and conversations by Web camera.

She was able to surprise him with a visit last May in Nashville, Tenn., when he made his first appearance in the U.S. Chess Federation's national tournament.

He still kept his focus enough to come away with a third place finish. He won six of seven games and tied one, so a computer that gave weight to wins based on the toughness of opponents settled the tiebreakers and gave Brian a third-place finish among 394 elementary school players.

Brian also competes in the Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Federation, which coordinates chess tournaments at schools in the state. He was last year's fifth-grade champion at the state tournament.

This season, just under way, he's taken second place at several tournaments. (Lannon Elementary School is sponsoring a chess tournament at Hamilton High School Dec. 15 for kindergarten through 12th-grade players, beginners to expert. Check out http://www.wisconsinscholasticchess.org/ for information.)

"Brian has a passion for playing chess, but a greater enthusiasm for understanding the game," said the senior Brian Dennis. "It's neat to watch him and his chess friends dissecting games after they are played at tournaments. There is a genuine willingness to help each other become better players as they comment on opportunities missed or impressive moves that were made."

That's exactly what makes Brian stand out from a lot of young chess players, said Alex Schwartz, 17, a Hamilton senior and the best rated player on the high school team.

He and teammate, Ben Helm, also 17, have each played chess for 12 years and they are among teammates who mentor young players at Lannon Elementary School. They've watched Brian play - and given him pointers - for a few years now.

"Give him two years," Schwartz said. "He'll kill me. He has a passion for it. The kid studies it like Mr. Moeller (the coach) studies physics."

Helm likens Brian's enthusiasm to a person who loves to read and devours books. "He absorbs the books like a sponge" and then applies what he learns to the next game.

Like many players who excel, Brian keeps written track of every play he and his opponent make so he can study the moves after the game and figure out what he did right and what he could have done better.

In the high school competition, only the top 10 players compete - the rest play exhibitions - and Brian is on the cusp of moving his ranking into the upper tier. High school conference competitions are still a month off.

Chess is becoming increasingly popular, which in an age when kids can get pre-occupied with video games and television is encouraging, indeed. Registered players with the U.S. Chess Federation have more than quadrupled, to about 45,000, since 1990, and organized chess programs are springing up at more elementary and middle schools.

Coach Moeller said that while Brian Dennis is outstanding for his age, it is increasingly common to see young players excel.

The highest-ranked high school team player in New Berlin, for example, is an eighth grader, he said, and some kids Brian's age beyond Wisconsin are working to become chess masters.

Brian said he started playing chess in third grade when, bored during recess, a friend taught him the game. Third-grade teacher Laureanna Raymond-Duvernell runs a chess club at Lannon Elementary School and he signed up. He taught his dad to play so he'd have a ready made opponent, but Brian Dennis, the dad, said his son is already in a different league.

"It's a great strategy game," said Raymond-Duvernell. "It forces you to plan ahead, to make decisions and to live with those decisions."

In other words, the kinds of skills that can be particularly useful in life.

Chess has helped him focus more on his school work, too, Brian said, and he's much better in math than he used to be.
He remembers when he first learned to play and would concentrate so hard on the chess pieces and the potential moves that his head would hurt. "The brain gets used to it after awhile," he said.

And better for it, I'm certain.

With my body, I thee worship...

That phrase popped into my mind as I was waking up this morning, after a night of confused and rather strange dreams. Do people even say that part of the old wedding vows anymore? Evidently not. It's probably considered "politically incorrect." Ha! I’ve been wondering where the heck "with my body, I thee worship" came from. What is its background and history? Is it even possible to trace something like that? I’ve got it stuck in my brain that, somehow, this is connected to very ancient goddess-worship practices that predate Christian customs by several thousands of years. So, I did a google search and several Christian sites popped up that talk about the history of marriage in the west – some pretty interesting stuff. This research indicates that originally it wasn’t the priest (religious figure) that created the marriage, so to speak, in western tradition; instead, it was the act of the couple making vows to each other, not necessarily in the presence of witnesses other than themselves (and God, of course, an invisible but present witness), and/or ACTING as a married couple - actually moving in together and sharing a household and a bed, that formed the marriage commitment. The ideal setting for a sexual relationship was within the context of this kind of permanent, committed relationship. As one blog put it: …love and passion, romance and affection [were] never meant to be expressed too casually, given too cheaply. Our bodies so tender, our emotions so fragile and our hearts so vulnerable are meant to be protected and honored. We are learning to give our bodies as an act of worship, of devotion, love and service to one person until death parts us. Sounds about right to me, but then, I’m an old-fashioned girl. I thought that this kind of sentiment was pointing me in the right direction, particularly when I read at the same website: The pleasure of love, as God intended it, reveals a simple, shared pattern for a lifetime of love: he adores, she invites, they endure. Hmmmm, ‘he adores, she invites, they endure.’ Sure sounds like the Goddess to me. Sexual union as an expression of love between a committed couple framed within the concept of sacredness – the act of union invoking something beyond and greater than the physical and emotional pleasure involved. In this context, sexual union is a spiritual event that invites ecstasy and opens one to the divine. This kind of intimacy is as far beyond "having sex" as Chateau Lafite wines are from sewer water. On the history of the phrase, I didn't find much and don't want to spend too much time on this when there are so many other things demanding my attention. It is part of the old English wedding vows that many of us grew up hearing in old movies on television, starting out "Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here…" It should go without saying that the traditions behind the prayers, rites and rituals recorded in the Book of Common Prayer are extremely old, and were formed and practiced hundreds, maybe thousands of years, before they were written down. According to this site, it was Archbishop Thomas Cranmer who inserted the phrase "with my body I thee worship and with all my worldly goods I thee endow" into the wedding vows, which survive in the 1662 version of the Book of Common Prayer. The writer at that website observed "Eros does not necessarily mean "lust," but often means "desire for union." It is from this truth that so many Christian mystics -- men and women -- went on to see Christ as their lover, or how the prophet Hosea could describe God as wooing back an unfaithful Israel." Ahhhh, religious mystical traditions. The great mystery schools of the ancient goddesses; the Tantric traditions of the Hindus. People titter behind their hands about these traditions, they having been distorted into "sacred prostitution" and the 1,001 positions for "having sex" to try from the Kama Sutra. Totally and utterly missing the point, but since the Age of Enlightment befell us in the West we insist upon seeing ourselves – our "minds" – as separate and distinct from our physical bodies. And we have no souls or hearts. Thus, we titter and think about "sex" – something everyone "has" but no one talks about except who has the bigger penis, the most "notches on the bedstead", locker room jokes and snickers, hoochie koochie dolls in hip hop trash clothes who think they're "sexy" and women with size 42C breasts. Now how stupid is that? I’ll take the way of the Goddess, thank you very much!
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