Saturday, December 15, 2007

There Be Giants...

Giants. Did they exist? Who the heck knows? Giants are mentioned in the early part of the Old Testament of the Bible as the "Nephilim" - fellers of men. Those "Nephilim" were specifically described as half-breeds created by the mating of "male" angels from Heaven and the female "daughters of the earth." They are, I believe, the equivalent of the demigods often written of by the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians and - much later - the ancient Greeks: big, strong, powerful, certainly super-human in strength, intelligence and ability, but not immortal. There are countless blogs (and before blogs, message board entries) about these giants, and countless theories about their origins. From my early internet days, the mesage boards entries I remember the best have to do with alien origins from outer space. Ahem. Now, The National Geographic has weighed in, presenting a couple of enhanced and doctored-up photographs that had been presented on the internet as evidence of these giants. Because of the legitimacy that The National Geographic Society enjoys in the eyes of the public, such an article is tantamount to telling the general public that giants are phoney and never existed and do not exist, end of story. Period. Take a look at the photos presented in the article. It is obvious to me that these images of "giant" burials are phoney. For one thing, the scale of these "giants" in relation to the average human is so out of whack in relation to the little bit of information we have about them, that they cannot be taken as real. Those photos most remind me of the "Amazing Amazon Woman" from a 1950's "B" movie. For another thing, the condition of the "bones" is utterly amazing, just based on the little bit I know about how water and soil conditions can degrade the human body, including its bones. And so, common sense to the rescue! I don't recall reading any description of any giant as big as those presented in these "photographs" except, perhaps, the giant from the fairy-tale "Jack and the Beanstalk." I freely admit, this may reflect my utter lack of discretion in choosing reading material, darlings :) But, since The National Geographic has said - without saying - that ALL accounts of giants are to be dismissed as frauds and fakes, those voices out there who say otherwise, legitimate or not, will now have a harder row to hoe. I don't care for this type of archaeology by innuendo - on the part of the fraudsters, or on the part of The National Geographic Society.

American Library Association 2008 Mid-Winter Meeting

What would our world be without libraries? Think about it for a moment. In the not-so-good olden days, the barbarians always attacked and burned the libraries, and killed every "learned" person they could get their hands on. Wipe out knowledge, wipe out history. Re-write everything according to your own credo. It happened again and again and again. In more recent times, many cultures have been guilty of committing this most horrid of sins; think about "Fahreinheit 451." In this day of the internet and practically instantaneous communication, think about the proverbial "Chinese Wall" that many countries put up around their internet access. To me. it's the equivalent of the multiple burnings of the library at Alexandria. Libraries are under attack in the United States. Oh, they may not be facing fire-bomb throwing hordes of barbarians, but the chilling effect on freedom of speech and ease of accessibility is the equivalent. Most libraries are funded by public taxes. Cut-backs in funding have become the norm. Decreased staffing of trained librarians; decreased funds to purchase new books; decreased hours of accessibility. Library branches closed permanently, with remaining libraries too far away to reach readily by public transportation, cutting off access to those of us who don't have cars. For those libraries that remain open, there are incessant attacks from various groups objecting to this book or that book, or objecting to free computer access that is offered at some libraries. You can read about these in the newspapers all the time. Against this background, the American Library Association has announced its 2008 Mid-Winter Meeting, to be held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (USA) January 11-16, 2008. The key-note speaker is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Cool!

Friday Night Miscellany - One Day Late

A few interesting items for your reading pleasure:

There’s a new translation of the epic Medieval poem "Sir Gawain and the Green Man" and it sounds worth a read. Trying to read the poem in the original Middle English – practically impossible, despite some intriguing words. For instance:

Thou wyl grant me godly the gomen that I ask / bi ryght"

translates to:

You’ll gracefully grant me this game which I ask for / by right."

The word "gomen" in the sentence means "game!" I would never have guessed that in a million years – I was thinking the word meant something like favor or boon!

Read the review of Simon Armitage’s translation in "A Stranger in Camelot."
In the same Book Reviews section at The New York Times, I saw that Joe McGinniss has published a new book about a murder – or was it?

I remember McGinniss from reading his bestseller "Fatal Vision," about the Green Beret surgeon – Jeffrey McDonald, who was convicted of murdering his wife and children whom, he claimed, were murdered by hippies high on drugs, who’d invaded his home (on a military base) in the middle of the night. The case hinged on forensic evidence painstakingly gathered and analyzed, long before CSI type shows became popular on television and long before DNA analysis and other technical analytical tools existed that seem to make crime-solving so easy today (at least, on television). "Fatal Vision" was made into a highly acclaimed mini-series on television, with Gary Cole playing the role of Jeffrey McDonald and Karl Mulden playing his father-in-law, who at first firmly believed in McDonald’s version of events and supported his son-in-law, until the slowly accumulated forensic evidence led him, painfully, to conclude otherwise. The slow revelation of the evidence in the book was relentless – and chilling. Mulden played the role superbly.

Read the review by Bob Shacochis of McGinnis’ new book, "Never Enough."
The "First Chapter" is also available – a verbatim preview.
Okay – so this clerk at a Dunkin’ Donuts store named Dustin Hoffman hits this would-be robber over the head with a coffee cup, and says he was more worried about what he would look like on the surveillance video and whether he could become famous on YouTube than concerned for his safety. Darlings, I couldn’t make this up!
Another – can you believe this – with a Christmas twist. A Christmas card mailed on December 23, 1914 has finally been delivered by the United States Postal Service. Geez, these guys are really efficient, ya know?

Shopping, shopping, shopping...

Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful... Yes, soon I'll be settling in front of the fireplace for the evening, but I wanted to drop by and post a few things before further induling myself. Indulge myself today - I did - in droves, darlings! Today was another ladies of the investment club spa-and-shop-til-we-drop day. Oh, we had so much fun! We had a wonderful time despite the never-ending snow (started with small gritty snow sometime late last night or early this morning, then it turned to big fluffy flakes and now it's back to small gritty snow. We may get up to 9 inches by tomorrow morning and the winds are going to whip up to around 20 mph, meaning I'll have 3 foot high drifts by sunbreak tomorrow). The constant snow made for rather slippery road conditions off the expressways, and we did a fishtail worthy of the name on the way back to my house while Ms. P was pulling onto 83rd Street in my subdivision - the last street in the entire city, I swear, to ever be salted or plowed. So, tomorrow I will be totally stressed as I haul out the shovel yet again and attack the drifts and attempt to fling the snow sufficiently out of the way to create a pathway from my front door down to the road - and pray that I don't get plowed in. I already have 3 feet of ice boulders at the base of my driveway that I could not shovel out because of their sheer weight when we had ice/sleet/snow/ ice/sleet on December 1st. Sigh. But today - ahhhh, today. My spa de-stressing treatment and wash/cut/ style was just what the doctor ordered. I had two more inches of hair chopped off. Perhaps this length (about an inch below shoulder length) will give me the fullness I want... Our friend Ms. G was totally transformed - she hasn't had a professional hair cut in TEN FRIGGING YEARS! She went from Old School Marm Bun to a snazzy layered short cut that frames her face perfectly! I couldn't stop looking at her during lunch and finally blurted out that she looked 15 years younger. Well, she does! Amazing what a good "do" can do for one! But perhaps not the most tactful comment I've ever made... After the Aveda spa visit we had a leisurely lunch, then we did some shopping, then Ms. G had to leave us. Ms. P and I continued, braving the blowing snow as we trod the streets of Bayshore Town Center and hit several stores. Altogether we visited Sears; Brooks Bros. that is not really Brooks Bros. but I can never remember the name of the store and for some reason it reminds me of Brooks Bros. or perhaps Brooks & Dunn; Boston Store; Kohls; Yankee Candle Shoppe; Bath & Body Works; Coldwater Creek; J. Jill. I think that's all of them. I finished up my shopping for dondelion, bought a new pair of Sketchers, a new pair of Totes waterproof boots, some scented tea light candles, hair spray from Aveda, and five beautifully scented products (I mixed and matched after-bath/shower body spritz and silky body cream) for the fabulous price of $25 at Bath & Body Works. Speaking of Bath & Body Works, there were several guys (those trailing behind their wives and girlfriends) huddled in a small cul de sac near the entrance doors, making jokes and laughing with each other - they were so cute! I couldn't help but overhear them as I was perusing the "Velvet Tuberose" and "Japanese Cherry Blossom" displays and had to chuckle at their comments and bon amie. Those guys get extra kudos for following their gals into such a shop instead of begging off and heading toward the nearest video store! A super-special treat as we shopped was coming across two groups of carolers, one group of four women, one group of four men. Both groups were excellent, singing winter/Christmas-y songs a capella. It was a perfect cherry on top of our wonderful ladies' day. Tonight I will wrap gifts in front of the fire and admire my beautiful Yule tree. It's particularly sparkling this year as I added extra gold bead garland and some new crystal and gold ornaments.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ancient Games: Toguz Kumalak

While I was doing some follow-up research tonight on the "other" Kumalak (a form of divination practiced in Kazakhstan and Central Asia), I came across this game. It is a mancala game. I don't know how long it has been played in Central Asia, but my guess is that it is related to the "other" Kumalak.

Mancala-type games are very old, but I don't know how far back they've been traced. I have only a vague idea about how the game is played - mancala is not a subject I've studied. I can relate some general information: the earliest games were played on "boards" scooped out of the ground (therefore leaving no trace, and therefore dating is problematical) and I believe were first played in sub-Sarahan Africa. Mancala-type games have been found carved in the stone blocks at Kurna in Egypt (dating to c. 1400 BCE) and lots of boards carved in stone blocks have been found in Petra (in Jordan). Mancala-type games have not gone extinct (such as Senet and 20-squares) and continue to be very popular today.

This information is from "":

Тоғызқұмалақ (toğızqumalaq, sometimes spelled toghyzqumalaq or togyzqumalaq, according to different transliterations, or toguz kumalak, "nine balls") is the Kazakh name of a mancala game also known as toguz korgool in Kyrgyz.

It is played traditionally in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, parts of Russia (Altay, Khakassia, Tuva), Western Mongolia and in China in regions close to the aforementioned countries.

There are regular toğızqumalaq championships held in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Russia. The first western tournament was in August 2006 at the Mindsports Olympiad (MSO) in London, England. It was won by Aidos Seitzhanov from Kazakhstan.

Complete rules are given at Wikimanqala, with illustrations. I've abstracted the rules here, without the illustrations:


Toğızqumalaq is played on a wooden (nowadays also plastic) board made of two rows of nine holes, plus two kazans ("boilers"), either in the middle of the board or one at each end of it. The players own the kazan at their right, if at the ends, or the one on the other half of ther board, if in the middle.
As captures are made by pairs, the holes are usually made in a way so it is evident whether the contents are odd or even.

To begin the game, there must be nine balls per hole, except the kazans, which are empty. That is, 162 balls are needed.

The game is played by taking turns.

On his turn, a player takes all the balls of a hole on his side of the board, and distribute them anticlockwise, one per hole, on the following holes, starting from the very same hole he has taken them.

If the last ball falls into a hole on the opponent's side, and the contents of this hole become an even number of balls, these are captured and stored on the player's kazan.

If the movement is done from a hole containing just a single ball, it is moved to the next hole, leaving the starting hole empty.

If the last ball falls into a hole on the opponent's side, and the contents of this hole number then three balls, the hole becomes your тұздық, tuzdyq, (or түз үй according to Maksat Shotayev, tüz üy, i.e. "sacred place" in Kazakh; or tuz in Kyrgyz which means "salt") and it is marked as such.

Only a tuzdyq per player can be made in a game.

A tuzdyq cannot be done on the opponent's last hole (ninth, the one on his right).

A tuzdyq cannot be done if it is symmetrical to the opponent's one (if the opponent has his tuzdyq in our first hole, we can not make ours on his first hole).

In the cases a tuzdyq cannot be done, we can finish a movement there, but the hole does not become a tuzdyq.

A movement cannot begin from a tuzdyq.

The balls that fall into a tuzdyq are captured by his owner. If it is overcharged, we can take the balls and store them in the kazan.

End of the game
The game ends when a player cannot move at his turn, because all the holes on his side (except a possible tuzdyq) are empty.

When the game is over, the player who has still balls on his side (except in a possible tuzdyq) gets them and adds them to his kazan.

Both players add the contents of their tuzdyq (the one on the opponent's side) to their kazan.

The winner is the player with more balls at the end of the game. If both players have captured 81 balls, the game is a draw.

Well, I confess, I can't make heads nor tails out of the rules. I can only learn a game by actually having it shown to me by someone who knows how to play! I plan on doing some more posts about some interesting aspects of this game - as time permits.

An Update on Lakshmi

Two year old toddler Lakshmi Tatma, who had the extra limbs and some extra organs of a "parasitic twin" (a twin who failed to develop fully) removed in a complicated 27-hour operation conducted by teams of surgeons, has left the hopsital under her own power. Doctors consider her recovery remarkable. Unfortunately, the story at the UK Daily Mail was a "not found;" I got this information from a story at the UK Sun, which featured a typically tabloid headline!

How Squirrels Train Humans

LOL! This squirrel reminds me of one particularly bold one who raps on my patio door on Saturday and Sunday mornings as I sit at the dinette table reading the newspaper. He's bold as brass and won't stop with his antics until I toss out extra nuts - and he doesn't want peanuts - only the best will do for him: walnuts, pecans, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, filberts. My squirrels have me well trained. From Bold squirrel goes for handout at downtown office December 4, 2007 By Liz Fabian For more than two years, Martha Reed has noticed a little squirrel outside her office window in downtown Macon. Then, two weeks ago when the squirrel was foraging around in the grass, she tossed a pecan his way. Now he comes calling several times a day, scratching on the glass door of Bob Lewis and Associates on the first floor of the old Southern Trust building that serves as the City Hall Annex. "He's just turned out to be a pet. I guess I ought to name him," Reed said. "I just don't know what I ought to call him." When she left work Friday, she felt a little guilty. "I thought about him all weekend," Reed said. "I thought, 'He's going to have to fend for himself. I'm not coming down here on the weekends just to feed him.' " When Reed got back to work Monday, the squirrel was bolder than ever. "He even climbs up on the door, up on the handle, wanting me to open it," she said. Reed makes sure she doesn't get too close to her new friend. "A squirrel will bite, and I don't trust him," she said. Once he gets a nut, the bushy-tailed rodent scurries over to a small patch of sod nestled between the concrete sidewalks. He looks around and ducks into the bushes. When he finds a good hiding place, he digs a while and buries the nut. "I'm afraid I might have done the wrong thing. I don't want him to be dependent on me to feed him every day," she said. So how many pecans does John Doe Squirrel get a day? "I have no idea," Reed said with a laugh. By lunchtime Monday, an office colleague was already on the way to buy more pecans. "I guess we'll feed him all winter."

How Did These People Survive?

A fascinating story, reported at The New York Times: After a Window Washer’s 47-Floor Plunge, the Big Question Is: How Did He Survive? By JAMES BARRON and AL BAKER Published: December 12, 2007 A 29-year-old man plunges 17 stories in the atrium of a hotel in Minneapolis, landing on an overhang. A 22-year-old amateur sky diver goes into free fall more than a mile above the earth when his main parachute and reserve chute fail to open. He lands in a three-foot-deep duck pond. Both men survived. The question of why was echoed when a window-washing platform gave way on Friday and two brothers preparing to clean the black-glass skin of an apartment building on the Upper East Side fell 47 floors. Why did one die and the other survive, though he is grievously injured? Five days later, the answer can still be only guessed at. Officials and window-washing colleagues of the two brothers speculated that they tried to ride their platform to the ground, as one window washer said he had been trained to do in such an accident. If so, they were relying on basic physics — the platform would have generated some small amount of wind resistance, slowing the fall — and luck. Fortune, if there is any to be found, was with the brother who survived, Alcides Moreno, 37. He was conscious and sitting up soon after firefighters arrived. “He was on top of what was left of the platform that they were working on,” said one official who was at the scene. The brother who was killed, Edgar Moreno, 30, may have been thrown off the platform as it hurtled toward the ground. The official, who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak about the investigation, said part of his body was under the platform. It was a distinctly urban kind of tragedy, one that brought to mind a distinctly different kind of accident — long-distance falls by military pilots or sky divers whose parachutes failed to open, and who survived. It was also distinctly different from the case of Joshua Hanson, a Wisconsin bar owner who survived another harrowing fall. He crashed through a window on the 17th floor of a Minneapolis hotel in January after what a police spokeswoman described to The St. Paul Pioneer Press as a little “tomfoolery and a little too much to drink.” He broke a leg and his lungs collapsed, but he left the hospital after seven days. “I’m doing fine,” he said this week. Just as Mr. Hanson’s friends marveled at his recovery, experienced rescuers were still marveling on Tuesday at Alcides Moreno’s survival. “It is nothing short of a miracle — nothing short of a miracle — to fall from that height and still be, well, to still be alive,” said Deputy Chief Thomas E. McKavanagh of Division 3, an operational commander on the scene after the accident and a 28-year veteran of the Fire Department. Alcides Moreno was in critical condition at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell hospital in Manhattan on Tuesday, and hospital officials have refused to discuss details of his condition. Relatives said over the weekend that Mr. Moreno’s injuries included collapsed lungs, damaged kidneys and bone fractures. His wife, Rosario, said at her home that his face looked good, considering what happened. He has a broken nose and a gash above one eye, she said, adding, “We’re taking it day by day.” The doctors have not been able to explain how her husband managed to survive because, Ms. Moreno said, they had never treated such a case. “They’ve never dealt with anything like this,” she said. “They’re learning from it.” She said they had not given her a prognosis. The brothers were employed by City Wide Window Cleaning and were working at the Solow Tower, at 265 East 66th Street, at Second Avenue, when the scaffold gave way. Vincente Bustamante, 35, a good friend of both Moreno brothers and himself a window washer for 12 years, said he believed that Alcides Moreno survived because he followed the training window washers receive when they learn their job. Window washers are taught that if a scaffold gives way, they should lie down flat on the platform, on their stomach because, Mr. Bustamante said, it gives them the best chance of survival should the scaffold catch on something on the way down. Maybe that is what Alcides Moreno did, he said. “If you go over, that’s it,” he said. “You’re dead.” He believed that that was what happened to Edgar Moreno — that he was either thrown from the platform, or jumped from it out of fear. “That’s your first instinct, because you’re scared — to jump,” Mr. Bustamante said. It was not clear how much training the Morenos had received. The city requires people who work on a suspended scaffold to have a certificate showing they have completed a safety course. The city also requires each contractor to have a licensed master or special rigger, who can designate a foreman to oversee a job. Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, which represents unionized window washers in Manhattan, provides a weekly course over 18 months. Matthew Nerzig, a spokesman for the union, said the course is supposed to supplement 3,000 hours of apprentice work. He said there are no specific state requirements for window washers, but tradesmen are supposed to have 2,000 hours as apprentices and 180 hours of classroom training. But the company the Morenos were working for, City Wide Window Cleaning of Jamaica, Queens, is not a union company. The company has not returned calls since the accident, and Ms. Moreno said no one from City Wide had called her to express condolences. At least two agencies are investigating the accident — the city’s Buildings Department and the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Chief McKavanagh, who was helping to oversee the rescue, said it appeared that lightweight material on the platform may have absorbed some of the blow for Alcides Moreno. It may have acted as a sort of shock absorber, he said. “If they both rode it down, which is quite possible, God bless them if they had the wherewithal to continue to hold on,” Chief McKavanagh said. “That is incredible.” “It is a horrible story,” he continued, adding that if Mr. Moreno lives, “that will be a miracle.” “I do not like to use that word so often,” he said, “but this is.” Nate Schweber contributed reporting.

Divination and Fortune-Telling Outlawed in Tajikistan

Well, how silly. Do the officials really think they'll be able to stop people from doing something they've been doing for thousands of years (long before Islam was invented)? This reminds me of the communists' attempts in Russia and China to stamp out organized religion. All it did was go underground. Supression never works in the long run. Tajikistan launches campaign against witchcraft Wed Dec 12, 11:31 AM ET DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Tajikistan is launching a crackdown on witchcraft and fortune-telling as part of an anti-poverty drive after earlier banning lavish weddings and expensive funerals. Occultism is on the rise in Muslim Tajikistan. It is the poorest nation in ex-Soviet Central Asia, borders Afghanistan and was ravaged by a 1992-97 civil war. Queues to see sorcerers are often longer than those for regular doctors. "Those indulging in sorcery and fortune-telling shall be fined between 30 and 40 times the minimum monthly wage (85 pounds to 113 pounds)," says the text of a draft law backed by the lower chamber of the Tajik parliament on Wednesday and obtained by Reuters. The draft law has to be passed by the upper house and signed by President Imomali Rakhmon to become law. But this is widely seen as a formality. Rakhmon, in power since 1992, earlier this year imposed heavy fines on extravagant weddings and funerals. He set out strict limits for the ceremonies, including the number of guests, meals and cars. He also ordered the Tajik anti-corruption watchdog to investigate the incomes of students riding in expensive cars or using posh cell phones. (Reporting by Roman Kozhevnikov; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov, Editing by Matthew Tostevin)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Kidnapped Sacrifice

I wonder - what side would Perry Mason represent... It may seem humous to us, but in the rural villages in India where a water buffalo is a very expensive piece of property and propitiation of the goddesses is essential to the continuation of an orderly cycle of life, this is serious business. Bangalore: Kidnapped buffalo story ends in court! Haveri Dec 14: This kidnap story ended in court. Nothing unusual about it. But when the victim ambled into the additional civil court premises here on Thursday under police protection and bellowed, the case made local headlines. The case relates to the kidnapping of a buffalo belonging to one village by another village. When the advocate of the complainant pleaded that as an interim measure the buffalo be given to Kanavalli as its presence was required for a religious jatra, judge Padmaprasad permitted the complainant Tippanna Mailannavar, a gram panchayat member of Kanavalli, to keep the buffalo until further orders. Tippanna told TOI that the hebuffalo was presented to the village goddess of Kanavalli by Jagadish Kattebennur in 2005. But the buffalo was kidnapped on Nov 18, 2007 by Motebennur villagers led by Bhojaraj Ballary to offer it in sacrifice to Motebennur village goddess Dyamavva in the jatra to be held from December 28, charged Tippanna. Bhojaraj Ballary, the accused, denied the kidnap charge and said the buffalo belonged to their village deity. Basavaraj Kalasur, temple trust committee member of Kanavalli, said they needed the buffalo for the village jatra scheduled to begin in the first week of January 2008. Tippanna and others lodged a complaint with Guttal police. When no action was forthcoming, he moved the Haveri court. Based on the complaint, the court appointed S M Katagi as court commissioner to bring the buffalo and the vehicle used for kidnap to the court. Accordingly, Tippanna’s advocate P V Naduvinamath along with the court commissioner Katagi and Byadagi circle police inspector brought the buffalo to Haveri court. Times News Network

Minerva Lives - in California

Minerva Statue Installed at Inauguration of California Hall of Fame Classical bronze of Roman Goddess of Wisdom Will be Symbol of California Museum for History, Women, the Arts

(PRWEB) December 11, 2007 -- Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and First Lady Maria Shriver will preside at the special unveiling of a life-sized bronze statue of Minerva to take place during the inauguration of a Hall of Fame inside the California Museum for History Women and the Arts.

The statue has been donated by Collie Christensen (CEO of Equus Eleven) and his wife Kira Christensen. Minerva a classical symbol of wisdom features prominently on the Great Seal of the State of California. Since 2004 the California Museum for History Women and the Arts has recognized the distinguished women of California with the annual Minerva Award. The statue valued at $950,000 will be on prominent view at the newly built Minerva exhibit at the museum.

Maria Shriver said speaking in May that Minerva represents the 'ultimate multi-tasker'. Known as Minerva to the ancient Romans and Athena to the Greeks the goddess' deeds were legendary as was her kindness to humanity. When challenged to provide the greatest benefit to earth the goddess is said to have produced the olive tree. Source of oil and emblem of peace olive trees were first planted in California by the Franciscan missionaries.

According to mythology Minerva was the Olympian protector of democracy dedicating herself to law justice and good counsel. She was considered a prudent warrior forcefully protecting the popular assemblies from outside enemies. She encouraged the creativity of men and women in innumerable ways fostering agriculture inventing musical instruments and taking personal delight in the useful and ornamental arts.

The Minerva statue is an exact duplicate in bronze of one of the greatest treasures of the Archaeological Museum in Florence Italy. The nearly life-sized statue represents the Roman goddess in a pose of dignified self-assured conversation. She extends her right arm and hand as if to expound a point. Her other hand is wrapped inside her cloak resting easily on her hip. Her classical attire consists of a cloak known as a himation which covers her left shoulder and is drawn tightly around her body. Its broad form contrasts with the many vertical folds of the robe or chiton which reaches her feet. As a warrior Minerva wears a breastplate with a Gorgon's head and a Corinthian helmet crested with a serpent a symbol of eternity.

The renowned Marinelli Foundry in Florence using plaster molds taken directly from the museum original in the 1930's cast the bronze. Such molds are no longer made today. The antique prototype was discovered in the Arezzo in 1541 and brought to Florence ten years later by Cosmo I Grand Duke of Tuscany. The 'Minerva of Arezzo' is among the most celebrated sculptures of the Etrusco-Roman school generally dated to the second century strongly influenced by Greek classical art.


This Minerva is a wimped out version of a "classical" Athena, which was already a wimped out version of the archaic Athena. The only remnants of the ancient, powerful serpent goddess who was Athena are the serpent on top of Minerva's warrior's helmet and the "Gorgon" on her "breastplate."

Captain Kidd's Shipwreck Found

Not exactly an "ancient navigator" but certainly a fascinating character and story! Indiana University Discovers 1699 Captain Kidd Shipwreck December 13, 2007 Newswise — Resting in less than 10 feet of Caribbean seawater, the wreckage of Quedagh Merchant, the ship abandoned by the scandalous 17th century pirate Captain William Kidd as he raced to New York in an ill-fated attempt to clear his name, has escaped discovery -- until now. An underwater archaeology team from Indiana University announced today (Dec. 13) the discovery of the remnants. IU marine protection authority Charles Beeker said his team has been licensed to study the wreckage and to convert the site into an underwater preserve, where it will be accessible to the public. Beeker, director of Academic Diving and Underwater Science Programs in IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, said it is remarkable that the wreck has remained undiscovered all these years given its location, just 70 feet off the coast of Catalina Island in the Dominican Republic, and because it has been sought actively by treasure hunters. "I've been on literally thousands of shipwrecks in my career," Beeker said. "This is one of the first sites I've been on where I haven't seen any looting. We've got a shipwreck in crystal clear, pristine water that's amazingly untouched. We want to keep it that way, so we made the announcement now to ensure the site's protection from looters." The find is valuable because of the potential to reveal important information about piracy in the Caribbean and about the legendary Capt. Kidd, said John Foster, California's state underwater archaeologist, who is participating in the research. "I look forward to a meticulous study of the ship, its age, its armament, its construction, its use, its contents and the reconstructed wrecking process that resulted in the site we see today," Foster said. "Because there is extensive, written documentation, this is an opportunity we rarely have to test historic information against the archaeological record." Historians differ on whether Kidd was actually a pirate or a privateer -- someone who captured pirates. After his conviction of piracy and murder charges in a sensational London trial, he was left to hang over the River Thames for two years. Historians write that Kidd captured the Quedagh Merchant, loaded with valuable satins and silks, gold, silver and other East Indian merchandise, but left the ship in the Caribbean as he sailed to New York on a less conspicuous sloop to clear his name of the criminal charges. Anthropologist Geoffrey Conrad, director of IU Bloomington's Mathers Museum of World Cultures, said the men Kidd entrusted with his ship reportedly looted it, and then set it ablaze and adrift down the Rio Dulce. Conrad said the location of the wreckage and the formation and size of the canons, which had been used as ballast, are consistent with historical records of the ship. They also found pieces of several anchors under the cannons. "All the evidence that we find underwater is consistent with what we know from historical documentation, which is extensive," Conrad said. "Through rigorous archeological investigations, we will conclusively prove that this is the Capt. Kidd shipwreck." The IU team examined the shipwreck at the request of the Dominican Republic's Oficina Nacional De Patrimonio Cultural Subacuático. "The site was initially discovered by a local prominent resident of Casa De Campo, who recognized the significance of the numerous cannons and requested the site be properly investigated," said ONPCS Technical Director Francis Soto. "So, I contacted IU." Beeker and Conrad have worked closely with ONPCS for 11 years since they began conducting underwater and land-based archaeological research related to the era when the Old World and New World first met. "It continues our work down there from the age of discovery to the golden age of piracy, the transformation of both the native and introduced cultures of the Caribbean," Conrad said. Much of their work is focused in the area of La Isabela Bay, the site of the first permanent Spanish settlement established by Christopher Columbus. The Taino were the first indigenous people to interact with Europeans. Beeker said much of the history of this period is based on speculation, something he and Conrad are trying to change. The IU research in the Dominican Republic typically involves professors and graduate students from various IU Bloomington schools and departments, including the School of HPER, the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and the departments of anthropology, biology, geology and mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences. Anthropology doctorate student Fritz Hanselmann, who teaches underwater archaeology techniques in HPER, said there have only been a few pirate ships ever discovered in the Americas, and that IU's multi-disciplinary research will make a significant contribution to the field. HPER Dean Robert M. Goodman accompanied the most recent expedition to learn more about this successful interdisciplinary and international research collaboration. He also went to explore potential public health linkages between the School of HPER and the Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo, founded in 1538. It is the largest university in the country and the oldest in the Americas. "Indiana University is working to increase its international presence," Goodman said. "Earlier this month, the IU Board of Trustees was presented a strategic plan that calls for increased student and faculty participation in study abroad and international service learning programs, as well as the development of strategic international partnerships that support overseas study, global research and the recruitment of international students. "The archeological work being done by IU in the Dominican Republic affords us tremendous entrée for wider areas of collaboration," he said. "Because of the network that Mr. Beeker and Dr. Conrad have established, the Universidad Autonóma de Santo Domingo is eager to establish a formal agreement with IU. We met with the secretary of state for environment and national resources, the dean of faculties of health sciences at the university, representatives from USAID, and the president of the hotel association, all of whom are eager to foster relationships between IU and agencies of the Dominican Republic. This was an incredibly productive trip for IU." Beeker and his students have conducted underwater research projects on submerged ships, cargo and other cultural and biological resources throughout the United States and the Caribbean for more than 20 years. Many of his research projects have resulted in the establishment of state or federal underwater parks and preserves, and have led to a number of site nominations to the National Register of Historic Places.

Antiquities Fraud Back in the News

Unbelievable - the Art Institute of Chicago has been taken in by a fraud! I wrote about these folks back in April. Chicago museum says The Faun is a fake Wed Dec 12, 9:08 AM ET CHICAGO - A half-man, half-goat ceramic figure supposedly sculpted by 19th century French artist Paul Gauguin has delighted aficionados visiting the Art Institute of Chicago for a decade, but now the museum says "The Faun" is a fake. "No one could think of any other instance in which anything like this happened here," the director of public affairs at the institute, Erin Hogan, told the Chicago Tribune for a story posted Tuesday on its Web site. "So we don't have experience in this area." The museum said the sculpture is among scores of forgeries produced by the Greenhalgh family, which has been under investigation by authorities in Great Britain for nearly two years. A private dealer bought the piece at Sotheby's in 1994 and the Art Institute purchased it from the dealer three years later. A British judge sentenced Shaun Greenhalgh, 47, to four years and eight months in prison last month. His mother, Olive, 83, received a suspended term of 12 months, and his father, George, 84, was to be sentenced later. Shaun Greenhalgh created the fakes, while his parents handled most of the sales. All three pleaded guilty earlier this year to defrauding art institutions and other buyers over 17 years. They had also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to laundering the proceeds from the sale of a fake Egyptian statuette. The creations by the Greenhalghs also included Assyrian stone reliefs, and several copies of paintings by American artist Henry Moran. Hogan declined to reveal the purchase price of the discredited piece and said the Art Institute was talking with Sotheby's and the private dealer about possible compensation. "Everyone who bought and sold (the work) did so in good faith," he said.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Historic Games Re-enacted by Human Chess Pieces

From time to time, certain historic chess games are re-enacted by using humans as "living chess pieces," bringing an entirely new dynamic to the game. I don't know if it is the oldest re-enactment but I think it must be right up there - the chess game at Marostica that dates back to the Middle Ages - and it's a romantic tale, too :) Here's a report from The Hindu Online about another historic game played with human pieces - a game between Alekhine and Lasker! Historic game between Grandmasters comes ‘alive’ T. Nandakumar December 11, 2007 THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For once, the students of Abraham Memorial High School, Thirumala, proved that size does matter in the game of chess. Everything about the ‘live’ match organised by the Department of Sports and the Russian Cultural Centre here on Monday was of giant proportions. While the interior of the Jimmy George indoor stadium was converted into an oversize chessboard, the children positioned themselves as the pawns. The match was held as the re-enactment of a contest between Grandmasters Alexander Alekhine and Emanuel Lasker at Zurich in Switzerland 73 years ago. It was arranged to coincide with the 115th birth anniversary of Alekhine who prevailed over his rival. Dressed in black and white as chessmen, the students took position in each square in response to the moves made by C.S. Nair representing Alekhin and V.R. Pillai as Lasker. The soft music of Peter Tchaikovsky’s symphony and special light effects gave a theatrical effect to the live game. Lasker’s king finally admitted defeat after both sides had made about 30 moves. The event was organised by K.V.B. Menon, who was instrumental in promoting the game of chess in Kerala for over 60 years. Sports Director G. Kishore inaugurated the programme. Director of the Russian Cultural Centre Ratheesh C. Nair presided over the inaugural function. The winners of the chess tournament organised by the Russian Cultural Centre last week were chosen to represent the two Grandmasters. Students and chess enthusiasts turned up to witness the programme.

Chess News

If you haven't already read it - it's USA's Gata Kamsky v. Spain's Alexei Shirov in the final match at the World Cup! Yeah! Age (ahem) and experience (lots of experience) over the youth contingent. A great match - expect some exciting chess. There's a new interview of India's GM Koneru Humpy posted at (India). You can see the same interview with some different photos (newer and older photos) at Chessbase which, unfortunately, did not include an actual link to the interview. Darlings, now really - that's really bad form! But - thanks for the photos, Chessbase. I personally think that Humpy is a stunning young lady. In her photographs sometimes she looks very beautiful; sometimes she looks plain. But there's always a certain look of strength and purpose about her that seems to radiate off the page and catches my attention. She's been losing that "teenager" extra weight that so many of us femmes seem to put on during the years from 12 to 20, and looking better every day. I think she needs a new "'do" to make the most of her beautiful eyes and full lips - she has a round face shape and it takes careful hair-styling to bring out one's best features with this face shape. Ahhh, to be 20 and on top of the world!

Baby's Skeleton Hints at Human Sacrifice

Hola darlings! Well, what a horrid topic - but I have to say this article about the discovery of an infant's skeleton in an ongoing excavation in the Czech Republic is fascinating. We know that in ancient times human sacrifice was practiced, often in mistaken concepts of "propitiating the gods." The skeleton mentioned in this article is of interest, however, because it dates to the Middle Ages, when it is generally thought that, in Europe at least, human sacrifice had long since vanished (although Robert Graves mentions a rite or ritual that survived into the 1940's - on Malorca? or perhaps it was Majorca? - in his "The White Goddess," the equivalent of "king sacrifice" practiced by the women of the island once a year...). Archaeologists find unique baby skeleton By ČTK / Published 12 December 2007 Usti nad Labem, North Bohemia, Dec 11 (CTK) - Archaeologists have uncovered a unique skeleton of a baby, possibly a sacrifice, from the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries in a medieval house's foundations near a church in the centre of Usti nad Labem, Lukas Gal told CTK Tuesday. The baby that was not older than six months was probably buried there intentionally. The find is unique since the dead were commonly buried at cemeteries then, said Gal from the Terra Verita company working on the archaeological research for the local museum. "Human sacrifices were extremely rare in the Middle Ages," Gal said, adding that the find proves the existence of pre-Christian, pagan habits in the late Middle Ages in the locality. "Christianity was widely spread in the 13th and 14th century, but some older traditions that were not common especially in towns survived here," Gal said. The archaeologists will now measure the bones and put them into their original shape. A team of anthropologists will then determine the baby' sex and study pathological changes. They will also look into whether the baby was killed or not. The entire study of the skeleton is to take one and a half years. Another valuable item - a unique eight-cm-long ceramic statuette of Virgin Mary with Jesus from the late 14th century was recently uncovered at the same locality. The team of archaeologists has been surveying the area in Usti around the Church of the Assumption of Our Lady for a couple of months. They have mapped the history of the original settlement and found items dating back up to 6500 years B.C., such as ceramic vessels, dishes and flint tools, along with coins, tiles and animal bones from later periods. The archaeological research is to continue till the end of January. Afterwards, a large shopping centre will be built on the plot. This story is from the Czech News Agency (ČTK).The Prague Daily Monitor and Monitor CE are not responsible for its content. Copyright 2007 by the Czech News Agency (ČTK). All rights reserved. Copying, dissemination or other publication of this article or parts thereof without the prior written consent of ČTK is expressly forbidden. ******************************************************************************** Personally, I don't think this is evidence of "infant sacrifice." It could just as well be evidence of "crib death" (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and a grieving family not being able to part with the infant by burying her or him in the community graveyard. It certainly was not unheard of - in Europe and elsewhere - for the bodies of dead family members to be buried underneath the floors of the family homestead in ancient times. Perhaps the practice persisted in this particular village in this particular part of Eastern Europe much longer than anywhere else. New discoveries may yet be made. Or, it could just be what I think it is, a family burying a beloved infant close to them, an infant who died too soon.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Twisted Murder in the Name of a Goddess

In the midst of India's amazing rush into the 21st century abundance of capitalism after years of stagnation under socialism/Stalinism, an example of what ignorance and religious extremism can do. Sadly, this kind of behavior is not at all unusual in many areas of India. How very very sad. The Goddess is not pleased with this kind of behavior. Brothers kill teenage sister to please goddess Alka Rastogi Lucknow, December 11, 2007 In a bizarre case, two brothers under the spell of a tantrik killed their own teenage sister to propitiate Goddess Kali. The trantrik had advised the two brothers that if they murder their own sister they would become very rich overnight. According to reports, Shambhu Babu and Krishna Babu who live in Rawatpur locality in Fatehpur had been approaching tantriks and astrologers for becoming rich. Ramesh, allegedly a tantrik, advised them to perform yagna and hawan in their house. After the rituals the he told them to slaughter their teenage sister to propitiate Goddess Kali. He said that by doing this they will get a hidden treasure inside the house. He also said that if they failed to do so they would not get the jewellery which will shift to some other place. The greed to become rich overnight blinded their senses and they hacked to death their 13-year-old sister Pinki. The body of Pinki was hacked into several pieces and offered to the Goddess. It is learnt that after hearing Pinki's screams, neighbours rushed to the house of the two brothers, locked from inside. By the time the door was broke open Pinki had been sacrificed. It is alleged that fearing arrest the two brothers dumped Pinki's body into a river. The brothers however, maintained that the girl had jumped into the river on her own. The villagers are demanding arrest of the tantrik.

Oy! Ice Storm

Oh darlings, what a day today. I knew I shouldn't have gone into the office, I knew it! When I got up at 6 a.m., in the pitch black, it was pouring down snow. Earlier I'd heard rain beating against the west side of the house. Not a good sign, particularly on top of the now shrunk down and hopelessly compacted foot of snow already on the ground. I got up, put on my waterproof slippers (they have 3 inch rubber soles that go up along the sides of the boot, the most amazing slippers ever made) and I performed a miracle by walking on top of slush/ice/snow (without ever sinking once!!!) the 30 plus feet from the front porch to the mail box at the curb. I had my coffee, I made and ate a cheese sandwich on hearty rye with mayo to sustain myself for the battle to come, and whilst listening to tales of spin-outs, accidents and lots of official and business cancellations and dire warnings to stay at home if you could, I headed out the door to walk the shorter 1/2 mile course to catch the 7:50 a.m. bus rather than my usual 7:40 a.m. bus that stops 3/4 mile away on another road. With the entire school district shut down for the day, it was blissfully peaceful on the bus - for all five of us passengers who were stupid enough to actually go to work (other than the perhaps even more stupid bus driver)... Of course, it was a Day from the Annals of Hell. Bossman was in rare form - guess he must have got his shoes a bit wet this morning in the slush, tch tch. He was Hell on Wheels from the minute he butted his head into my office (the first of - I swear - at least 100 interruptions during the course of the day, not including the lunch hour when I wasn't there) until the moment I snuck out while he was in the men's room, about 4:14 p.m. I'm so fricking sore, I can't even describe what my muscles are feeling like. After climbing over countless snowbanks during the half mile trudge home from the bus, I had to climb over a 3 foot high snowbank at the base of my driveway (it had been plowed in - AGAIN). I then slogged my way up the 30 foot driveway. Fortunately, a box containing the new waterproof Sorel boots I'd ordered through Zappo's online last night were sitting on my front porch. Nice work Zappo's! You guys have my business from now on. Talk about timely, geez! So, I peeled myself out of my waterlogged formerly water-resistant knee high boots, and put on my new Sorels. I then attacked the 100 pounds weight per square inch snow with my trusty shovel. I worked for a lot less time than I thought - about 40 minutes. Only long enough to hack out a pathway for myself from front porch to roadway and mailbox. Enough to permanently damage both of shoulders, permanently cripple my elbows and hips, not to mention my lower back. Even my legs, which are the strongest part of my body, are aching right now. So tonight I'm not going to be blogging as usual, or updating Chess Femme News, or doing Christmas shopping, or even my beloved historical research. I've got the much inferior 1974 remake of "Miracle On 34th Street" on t.v. and after it's over I'm going to soak in a full tub of hot water until I fall asleep and drown myself. By candlelight. Then the house will burn down - but only after the gigantic Chinese Elm that towers so majestically over the roof finally succumbs to the weight of its ice-coated limbs and crashed through the roof, second floor, and first floor to the basement. My body won't burn, though, since I will be submerged in the tub and by morning turned into a gigantic Jan icecube that can be buried in, sans casket. That will save my estate money. Unfortunately, since I'll be dying intestate, the bulk of my estate other than my pension, 401(k) and life insurance (which goes to designated beneficiaries) will go to my undeserving relatives rather than to the Goddesschess Foundation to fund women chessplayers for the next 10 plus years. Hmmmm, maybe I can't croak tonight after all... I've got to do a Will and Trust first. Geez!

New Stone Circle Discovered in Sweden

Ancient stone circle found in Skåne Published: 9 Dec 07 10:57 CET Ancient remains including a 3,000 year-old stone circle and presumed place of sacrifice have been discovered near Vitemölla on Österlen in the far south of Sweden. The site extends over two hectares and is older and bigger than the region's celebrated Ale's Stones. The site, presumed to date from the bronze age, is reported to be probably the largest stone circle in the whole of northern Europe. The find was made by Bob G Lind, a private researcher and archeo-astronomer, reports Kvällsposten. Lind has named the stone circle Heimdall's Stones after Woden's son Heimdall who in the Edda (of Norse mythology) is described as the most radiant sun god in the world. The cult centre site is in the shape of a gigantic sun dial and includes a large phallus symbol pointing due north. Lind explains that the stone sundial shows the sunrise and sunset in connection with moments such as the summer solstice, autumnal equinox and winter solstice. "I suddenly saw how it all fitted together. My measurements confirmed all the theories," Lind explained. Lind explained how he stumbled over the site while out walking with friends. He later confirmed his instincts when flying over the area to photograph the site, which is on land owned by the county council. Heimdall's Stones was inspected on Friday by Thomas Romberg of the regional heritage board, who confirmed the site's distinct pattern, according to Skånska Dagbladet. The find has yet to be officially reported to the National Heritage Board (RAÄ). The site has also been inspected by archaeologist Nils-Axel Mörner, who described how he was taken aback with amazement."Bob G Lind is to be congratulated", Mörner enthuses. Bob G Lind is reported to be something of a controversial figure and has had a long running feud with the National Heritage Board over the history of Sweden's hitherto largest stone circle site, Ale's Stones in Kåseberga, also on Österlen. TT/Peter Vinthagen Simpson

Monday, December 10, 2007

Ray Robson

Wow - Susan Polgar's blog reported fantastic news: Thirteen year old Ray Robson earned his final IM norm. All right! A young, promising IM for the USA! Wonder if he'll be in the qualifying event for the US Championships?

Parsvnath Commonwealth Chess Championships

The event (282 players, 9 rounds) was won by GM Ramesh R B 2473 IND 8½/9. Several women played in the event, here are their final standings: 7 11 IM Harika Dronavalli 2480 IND 7½ 43½ 47 20 29 WGM Tania Sachdev 2413 IND 7 40 28 27 WGM Mohota Nisha 2416 IND 6½ 42 45 83 WIM Kiran Manisha Mohanty 2263 IND 6½ 35 60 84 WIM Gomes Mary Ann 2262 IND 6 36 62 94 WIM Soumya Swaminathan 2244 IND 6 35½ 74 107 WIM Nadig Kruttika 2208 IND 6 34 76 123 WFM Pon N Krithika 2140 IND 6 33 87 104 WIM Khegay Anjela 2218 SIN 6 27 98 56 WGM Karavade Eesha 2331 IND 5½ 34 99 61 WGM Ramaswamy Aarthie 2317 IND 5½ 34 118 132 WFM Bhakti Kulkarni 2112 IND 5½ 30 130 196 WFM Oliver Shannon 1940 AUS 5½ 23½ 158 149 WFM Pujari Rucha 2061 IND 5 24½ 160 156 WIM Greef Melissa 2025 RSA 5 23½ 209 114 WIM Hamid Rani 2189 BAN 4 22½ 210 183 WFM Kotepalli Sai Nirupama 1977 IND 4 22 220 208 WIM Jule Alexandra 1896 AUS 4 19 225 230 WFM Harris Rebecca 1819 AUS 4 16 232 207 WCM Wijesuriya G V 1897 SRI 3½ 22 266 252 Vini Mary Thomas 1634 IND 3 13½ I think I may have missed some of the ladies - sorry!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Heinrich Schliemann - in Investor's Business Daily???

I've always been a fan of Schliemann's, although it's been quite popular to bash the man during the past several years. I may have to rethink things after seeing his memory (may the Saints be preserved) hyped in the Investor's Business Daily :) Good Goddess, what is the world coming to? The lovely lady to the right is Sophia Schliemann, wearing some of the fabulous gold jewelry that Schliemann recovered from "Priam's Treasure."
Leaders & Success
A Rich Man's Dig For Treasure

Posted 12/6/2007

In 1863, Heinrich Schliemann retired a millionaire at age 41. He had built his stash by dealing in gold and indigo. Now he wanted to pursue his personal interests.

At first he tried writing. He published a book of his global travels, but that wasn't enough to satisfy his ambition to achieve fame. So he set out to be an archaeologist.

Archaeologists at the time considered Schliemann's excavation methods sloppy. But he discovered large treasures in Turkey and Greece. Most significant, Schliemann is credited with discovering the location of an ancient city most assumed was a myth — the Troy described in Homer's "Iliad."

Schliemann started as a novice but grew into an expert. Unlike fellow archaeologists, he brought to his dig site a team: photographers, surveyors, experts on history and plant remains. They contributed to his title: father of scientific archaeology.

Questioning His Trail
Schliemann was sometimes wrong on identifying treasures, though the locations he excavated were of historical significance.

To this day, critics debate his legacy and practices. One critical book published in 1995, "Schliemann of Troy: Treasures and Deceit," by David Traill, maintains Schliemann was a liar and a con man, though also brilliant, gregarious and enormously talented. Others maintain that despite Schliemann's faults and propensity to exaggerate, his impact on archaeology and the discovery of crucial treasures secure his place as a significant archaeologist.

Born in 1822 in Germany, the son of a Protestant pastor, Schliemann claimed in his autobiography that his father seeded his interest in exploration. Instead of reading typical fairy tales, Schliemann was told about "The Iliad" — the love between Helen, wife of the king of Sparta, and Paris, son of Priam of Troy, and how their elopement caused a war between the Greeks and Trojans. Schliemann later resolved to prove that Troy was real.

But that was a long way off.

At age 14 he started working at a local grocery, reading voraciously whenever possible. His employment ended five years later due to a back injury. He then took a job as a cabin boy on a ship bound for Venezuela, but it sank in a gale near Holland, where the survivors washed up on the shore. Landing in Amsterdam, he took a job as an office attendant.

Schliemann continued his academic passion. He tapped his talent for learning languages, becoming fluent in Dutch, English, Spanish, Italian, French, Russian, Arabic, and ancient and modern Greek.

A pivotal event was the 1850 death of his brother, a wealthy speculator in the California gold fields.

Seeking his brother's inheritance, Schliemann arrived in California a year later and started a bank in Sacramento. He made over $1 million buying and reselling gold dust in half a year. He left for Russian shortly thereafter due to what he said was a severe fever. Others claim he was involved in underhanded business practices amid a Wild West where lynching was common.

Schliemann displayed his business savvy in Russia, where he cornered the market for the mineral indigo.

During the Crimean War in 1854, Schliemann expanded his fortune even more doing work as a military contractor. He cornered the market in brimstone, lead and saltpeter — used in gunpowder — all of which he sold to the Russian government.

His extraordinary wealth set the stage for Schliemann to travel the world. This included China, Japan, India, Egypt, Mexico, France and Greece, all by the age of 45.

The next year he launched his dream to be an archaeologist and find Troy in Turkey or Greece.

Those who believed it existed focused on three locations. The most popular choice was Bunarbashi by the Aegean Sea.

Schliemann looked it over but was not convinced, as the Homeric tales that described the geography of Troy didn't seem to match the area. "The Iliad" said Mount Ida was visible from the walls of Troy, but the mountain could not be seen from Bunarbashi. Other descriptions also failed to match up.

Before continuing his exploration, Schliemann went to Paris for two years to study, write a book on Troy and receive a doctorate.

Returning to the Mediterranean area, Schliemann met with British archaeologist Frank Calvert, who believed the place to look for Troy was Hisarlik in present-day Turkey. The geography was a match.

Calvert had long focused on Hisarlik as the right site, but he couldn't persuade the British government to support his excavations. So he turned to Schliemann, who had the money and drive to begin the work.

When Schliemann announced he was intent on discovering Troy, some archaeologists reacted with indifference and sarcasm.

Schliemann shrugged them off. The Hisarlik excavation started in 1871 with the help of 70 local workers. In the first dig, all Schliemann found was a relief and an ancient wall. Coming back the next summer, this time with 160 workers, Schliemann's crew dug deeper. This time the team determined that multiple cities had been built and rebuilt at the site, one above the other.

Targeting The Jackpot
Schliemann aimed to find what he called Priam's Treasure. According to Homer, Priam ruled Troy during the Trojan War. The king must have hidden his treasure somewhere in the city, Schliemann thought.

With shafts dug deep into the hillside, Schliemann caught site of a glint of copper. Upon further excavation, he found cups, vases, necklaces, a copper shield and gold earrings. He claimed it was Priam's Treasure and that Troy had been found, a view accepted by many.

Problems with the Turkish government erupted when officials discovered that Schliemann had pilfered many precious artifacts. Forced to leave Turkey, he headed for Greece to evacuate Mycenae.

There he uncovered gold, silver and bronze artifacts and laid bare considerable fortifications. He discovered remnants of the Mycenaean civilization, shedding much light on the prehistoric period of Greece.

He also excavated Tiryns, where he unearthed an important Bronze Age palace, in 1876.

After 20 years of work, from 1870 to 1890, Schliemann traveled to Athens for an operation on his chronically infected ears. The problem led to Schliemann's death that year.

After his death, archaeologists continued to study Schliemann's work and dig at the same sites. They discovered that the actual city of Homer's Troy was several layers deeper than Schliemann claimed, but that he was in the right spot.

As a testament to observers who described Schliemann as ferociously ambitious and gregarious, he had this inscribed at his mausoleum:
"For the Hero Schliemann."

Copyright 2000-2007 Investor's Business Daily, Inc.

Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

Hola darlings! I'm sure I've mentioned this before. I'm a creature of the light. The darkness wears me down. I don't like forcing myself out of bed at 6 a.m. when it's still dark outside, and I don't like coming home from the office at 6 p.m. when it's dark outside. Yech! But - this morning - the Christmas Spirit hit me. Well, that's not to say I haven't been in a festive mood, because I like Christmas - when it's here I know the days are already starting to get longer by a few minutes each day and except for brutal temperatures in January and February and the occasional blizzard or ice storm in March and April (and even May), the worst is over! I know that in a scant six months it will still be lingering daylight at 9:30 p.m. Ahhhhhhh, those long warm evenings spent out on the deck, sipping wine, listening to smooth jazz, communing with the stars and my resident critters. That's the life, darlings!

As is my wont even on the weekends, I arose at 6 a.m. this morning. I was sitting at the dinette table, just two paltry mini fluorescent light bulbs in my five-light chandelier holding off the chill darkness as it snowed outside, brrrrr. As I do every Sunday morning, I had my coffee at hand and the big thick newspaper to keep me company. I generally spend a good 3 to 4 hours reading through the entire Sunday newspaper, including most of the sale papers, marvelling at how many things I would like to buy if only I could afford them! I had my favorite smooth jazz radio station (FM) on the radio and was munching on some salt-crusted rye bread and butter when one of my favorite songs came on: Nat King Cole's "Christmas Song." You know the song - even if you don't know the title. It's the one that starts out "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose..."

That did it - it was the perfect time, the perfect song. I was enveloped in Nat's marvelous voice and swept back to my childhood when Nat King Cole actually had a television show. His talent and charisma were such that even broadcast television recognized it, and so there was this black man on the t.v. - in black and white (ironic???) in the late 1950's, and I just loved the man. When he sang, I was transported to another world. Indeed, he was a favorite of the entire family. Unfortunately, the show was never a commercial success; sponsors were scared to death of being boycotted by the southern white racists back then, and so the show disappeared after about a year. Of course, back then, as a five year old, I had no idea what was going on; I just knew I loved the man with the wonderful voice, and to this day I will stop and listen, no matter where I am, when I hear Nat King Cole's voice.

"The Christmas Song" represents the essence of Christmas to me (I'm about to commit blasphemy here - even more so than Bing Crosby's "White Christmas"), and even after all these years, the song never fails to touch me. And so it did, again, this morning.

Today was the big day to decorate the Christmas tree, as the Packers were going to be on t.v. I could watch The Pack whup major butt while I spent a leisurely 3 hours decorating the tree. Yesterday, I'd successfully managed to retrieve it from the garage (although not without some mishap). For a rather smallish tree (it's only 6.5 feet tall and not very wide), it's amazingly heavy. It's also in three sections that somehow manage to come apart whenever I'm attempting to lift the tree or drag it somewhere...

Anyway, darlings, I gave up decorating the tree for the day at about 6:00 p.m. Whew! Been at it since 10:30 a.m. and somehow I have lots of ornaments left over that were ALL on the tree last year. Eek! What did I do wrong, I ask you? And - ohmygoddess - I asked dondelion to bring me a minimum of 10 quite beautiful burgundy and gold bead sunburst ornaments when he comes for Christmas. I found them online while shopping yesterday but it seems the only place that sells them is a tire place in Canada (I'm not kidding, it's a tire place) and you must go to one of their stores in person in order to purchase the ornaments - can you imagine?

I'm scratching my head wondering where on earth I managed to put on to the tree all the left-overs I have this year. I'll take it up tomorrow night when I get home from the office. And of course the burgundy Canadian starbursts will have places on the tree found for them, too!

The photograph is from Christmas, 2006. I don't think it quite does the tree justice - but you get the general idea. I like lots of glitz and glamour - pearls and gold and the sparkle of "diamonds".

Cyberspace Terrorism or Just "Amateurs" Goofing Around?

China Link Suspected in Lab Hacking By JOHN MARKOFF Published: December 9, 2007 SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 8 — A cyber attack reported last week by one of the federal government’s nuclear weapons laboratories may have originated in China, according to a confidential memorandum distributed Wednesday to public and private security officials by the Department of Homeland Security. Security researchers said the memorandum, which was obtained by The New York Times from an executive at a private company, included a list of Web and Internet addresses that were linked to locations in China. However, they noted that such links did not prove that the Chinese government or Chinese citizens were involved in the attacks. In the past, intruders have compromised computers in China and then used them to disguise their true location. Officials at the lab, Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, said the attacks did not compromise classified information, though they acknowledged that they were still working to understand the full extent of the intrusion. The Department of Homeland Security distributed the confidential warning to computer security officials on Wednesday after what it described as a set of “sophisticated attempts” to compromise computers used by the private sector and the government. Government computer security officials said the warning, which was issued by the United States Computer Emergency Response Team, known as US-CERT, was related to an October attack that was also disclosed last week by officials at the Oak Ridge laboratory. According to a letter to employees written by the laboratory’s director, Thom Mason, an unknown group of attackers sent targeted e-mail messages to roughly 1,100 employees as part of the ruse. “At this point, we have determined that the thieves made approximately 1,100 attempts to steal data with a very sophisticated strategy that involved sending staff a total of seven ‘phishing’ e-mails, all of which at first glance appeared legitimate,” he wrote in an e-mail message sent to employees on Monday. “At present we believe that about 11 staff opened the attachments, which enabled the hackers to infiltrate the system and remove data.” In a statement posted on the laboratory’s Web site, the agency stated: “The original e-mail and first potential corruption occurred on October 29, 2007. We have reason to believe that data was stolen from a database used for visitors to the Laboratory.” The laboratory said the attackers were able to gain access to a database containing personal information about visitors to the laboratory going back to 1990. The US-CERT advisory, which was not made public, stated: “The level of sophistication and the scope of these cyber security incidents indicate that they are coordinated and targeted at private sector systems.” The US-CERT memo referred to the use of e-mail messages that fool employees into clicking on documents that then permit attackers to plant programs in their computers. These programs are then able to copy and forward specific data — like passwords — to remote locations. Despite improvements in computer security, phishing attacks are still a big problem. In the case of the Oak Ridge intrusion, the e-mail messages were made to seem authentic. One described a scientific conference and another referred to a Federal Trade Commission complaint. Computer security researchers cautioned that despite the US-CERT description of the attacks as sophisticated, such threats are frequently undertaken by amateur computer hackers. Classified federal computer networks are not supposed to be connected physically to the open Internet. Even so, sensitive data like employee e-mail databases can easily be compromised once access is gained to computers inside federal agencies.

As Iraqis Vie for Kirkuk’s Oil, Kurds Are Pawns

Published: December 9, 2007
KIRKUK, Iraq — Even by the skewed standards of a country where millions are homeless or in exile, the squalor of the Kirkuk soccer stadium is a startling sight.

On the outskirts of a city adjoining some of Iraq’s most lucrative oil reserves, a rivulet of urine flows past the entrance to the barren playing field.

There are no spectators, only 2,200 Kurdish squatters who have converted the dugouts, stands and parking lot into a refugee city of cinder-block hovels covered in Kurdish political graffiti, some for President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

These homeless Kurds are here not for soccer but for politics. They are reluctant players in a future referendum to decide whether oil-rich Tamim Province in the north and its capital, Kirkuk, will become part of the semiautonomous Kurdish regional government or remain under administration by Baghdad.

Under the Iraqi Constitution the referendum is due before Dec. 31. But in a nation with a famously slow political clock, one of the few things on which Kirkuk’s Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen communities agree is that yet another political deadline is about to be missed.

This unstable city can ill afford much more delay and uncertainty. The fusion of oil, politics and ethnic tensions make Kirkuk one of the most potentially explosive places in the country, and its fate is seen as a crucial issue by all sides in the debate about whether Iraq will eventually be partitioned among Kurds, Sunni Arabs and Shiite Arabs.

What rankles the stadium’s impoverished Kurds most is that while they remain in a foul-smelling limbo, on the other side of town some of the Arabs who were forcibly moved here by Saddam Hussein still live in comfortable suburbs, a legacy of the dictator’s notorious 1980s Anfal campaign to depopulate Kurdish areas and “Arabize” Tamim.

Moreover, some of the squatting Kurds complain that it is their own leaders who forced them to move to Kirkuk, to pack the city with Kurdish votes before the referendum.

Hajji Walid Muhammad, 67, a taxi driver here, grumbled that after the 2003 invasion, the Kurdish authorities told a gathering of Kirkuk-born Kurds living nearby in Chamchamal, “Even if you own a small tent you have to go back to your own homeland.”

When asked what would have happened if he had refused, Mr. Muhammad said: “By God’s name, they would cut off our food basket and not pay us our salary and give us nothing else and force us to go back. They ordered us to go back.”

Najat Jaseem Muhammad also said that the authorities “encouraged” him to leave Chamchamal, where he had lived since 1997. He said he was happy to be back in the town of his birth, but not to be living in such conditions, without enough money to escape.

“They said: ‘If you do not return, we will lose Kirkuk. You are Kurdish and Kirkuk must return to the arms of Kurdistan,’” he said, standing in front of political graffiti on a stadium pillar.

“It was not a matter of being forced, but if anyone stayed over there they would not have been supplied with anything and they would have been oppressed,” he added. “They would have stopped my work.”

In a province where the population balance has been distorted by decades of gerrymandering and forced settlement, the Iraqi Constitution spells out a three-stage process to resolve the issue. First a process of “normalization” to restore the city’s population balance to what it was before Mr. Hussein’s decrees, then a census, then the referendum.

But even that first stage is incomplete. American and international officials who have pushed for progress on the issue are conceding that the Dec. 31 date is unfeasible.

The inevitable delay frustrates the Kurds, who are confident of victory and suspect delaying tactics by opponents intent on keeping the land, and the oil.

In contrast, the delay is welcomed with ill-concealed delight by Kirkuk’s Arabs.

“I believe the main error was to set a holy date for the referendum,” said Tahsin Kahya, an Arab member of Kirkuk Provincial Council.

“A problem created over 35 years cannot be fixed in seven or eight months,” he added, ticking off with the ease of frequent practice the constitutional, logistic, legal, parliamentary, boundary, property and financial hurdles he believed should delay a referendum for “years, of course.”

In a volatile city where Sunni insurgent violence has been reduced significantly in recent months but not eliminated, how the Kurds react to the missed deadline will be crucial.

Another Game Bites the Dust - Computer Dust, That Is...

From The New York Times: Death of Checkers, The By CLIVE THOMPSON Published: December 9, 2007 Checkers has been around for more than 400 years, has been enjoyed by billions of players and has taught generations of young children the joy of strategy. And now it’s all over. This July, Jonathan Schaeffer, a computer scientist at the University of Alberta in Canada, announced that after running a computer program almost nonstop for 18 years, he had calculated the result of every possible endgame that could be played, all 39 trillion of them. He also revealed a sober fact about the game: checkers is a draw. As with tic-tac-toe, if both players never make a mistake, every match will end in a deadlock. One upshot is that Schaeffer now possesses software that can play unbeatable checkers. Indeed, go to his Web site and you can play online yourself, providing you’re prepared to lose again and again and again — or maybe, just maybe, fight to a draw, assuming you, too, play with the crystalline perfection of a silicon brain. Schaeffer did not solve checkers by replicating human intuition or game-playing ability. Rather, he employed what’s known as a “brute force” attack. He programmed a cluster of computers to play out every possible position involving 10 or fewer pieces. At the peak of his labors, he had 200 computers working around the clock on the problem, both in Alberta and down in California. (The data requirements were so high that for a while in the early ’90s, more than 80 percent of the Internet traffic in western North America was checkers data being shipped between two research institutions.) The brute-force method is slow, which is its big limit. Schaeffer says he suspects you couldn’t use it to solve chess, because that game — with between 1040 and 1050 possible arrangements of pieces — is far more complicated than checkers, which has 5 × 1020 positions. “Chess won’t be solved in my lifetime,” he predicts. “We need some new breakthrough in technology to do that.

A White Knight for Iran's Women

From The Sunday Times December 9, 2007 As coach to the Iranian chess team the British grandmaster found a way to put the nation’s zealots in check Nigel Short It was on, perhaps, the fifth occasion that the tournament hall was plunged into darkness at the Asian Cities chess championship in Tehran earlier this year that a daring, heterodox thought entered my head: could it be possible that when President Mahmoud Ahmadine-jad says Iran needs nuclear power for civilian purposes he might be telling the truth? I am still slightly baffled as to how I, an oenophile, atheist Englishman, became Iran’s national chess coach: it began one evening five years ago when I was in my study thinking of interesting places to visit. Belgium did not set my pulse racing. Iran, on the other hand, had real novelty value. Unfortunately I didn’t know anyone there. Undeterred, I fired off an e-mail to the president of the Iranian chess federation proposing that I play a match in Tehran against Ehsan Ghaem Maghami, the young Iranian champion. Twelve days later I received a response – “Dear Grandmaster Short, we agree with everything.” Chess allegedly originated in India, although the first clear references to the game appear in Persian in the 6th century AD. The word “checkmate” is derived from the Persian “shah mat” – “the king is dead”. Alas, in more recent times the game did not enjoy official approval in Iran, and in the early 1980s it was banned by Ayatol-lah Khomeini as unIslamic. Shortly before his death, the supreme leader, in an uncharacteristic act of liberalism, revoked this measure, but not before he had ruined a generation of players. The match with Ghaem Maghami proceeded smoothly (I won) and received excellent publicity. I was greatly touched by the warmth and friendliness of ordinary Iranians. However, there were a couple of jarring notes amid all the goodwill. One of the girls on the national team invited me to her home for dinner, to which I agreed. It turned out that in order to take up her invitation I had to have the permission of both the federation and the religious police. Then, on the last day, as Mehrdad, an official and by now a friend, came to collect me from the hotel, a disagreement over payment occurred, which was odd because the federation owned the hotel. When I asked for my passport, the woman at reception smiled but pointedly did nothing. Once previously I had been denied egress from a hotel, in Azerbaijan in the then Soviet Union in 1983, when I had been incarcerated for a day to prevent me, presumably as a potential spy for Her Majesty’s government, from witnessing the October revolutionary parade. It seemed quite fitting: Baku and Tehran, geographically so close; Marx and Muhammad, so radically different for their countless devotees but, from my perspective, more or less the same thing. This time, having finally been given my passport, I fought my way out, pushing, shoving, elbowing and barging my way past the porter who was blocking the door until I tumbled outside. Hailing a taxi, I reached the airport with minutes to spare. After this highly stressful experience, I was in no particular hurry to return. However, more than three years later, after a chance chat with Mehrdad, I agreed to become the coach for the Iranian team for the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, in 2006, in which chess had been included as a sport for the first time. I was assisted by the urbane, chain-smoking Khosrow Harandi. As Iran’s leading player during the 1970s, he had enjoyed an active international career. After Khomeini’s prohibition, Khosrow, who was living in Britain at the time, registered with the British Chess Federation so that he might continue to play. He is apparently the only Iranian sportsman since the revolution to have competed against an Israeli, despite dire warnings as to the possible consequences. “I won,” he told me with a smile. “I had to.” My team comprised two men (Ehsan Ghaem Maghami and Elshan Moradiabadi) and a woman (Atousa Pourkashiyan). Realistically we had little chance of competing successfully against the superpow-ers of India and China, but against the others we could hope. Ehsan was on poor form but both Elshan and, in particular, Atousa excelled. Both were in contention for individual medals. Sadly Atousa, who was within a whisker of success, blew the bronze with an unexpected last-round defeat. How should one comfort a distraught 18-year-old girl when it is expressly forbidden to shake hands, let alone hug her? Such are the problems of coaching Iran. Nevertheless, after recovering from these individual setbacks and by routing the strong Qatari team in the final round of the team event, we took a bronze – a great result. In my report of the event, I stressed a vital and obvious point: if women are to reach their full potential, they have to be allowed to participate against the best opposition, which in chess means men. Within a week of this report having been submitted, the Iranian minister of sport had agreed to an unprecedented change in regulations. While it would be inaccurate for me to claim full responsibility for this seismic shift, it would, perhaps, be fair to say that I acted as a catalyst. After Qatar, I was engaged as national coach in the run-up to the Asian Indoor Games in Macau, southern China. It was a part-time post, which required occasional visits rather than a permanent presence. There is no way I would have done it otherwise. I have visited 84 countries, and Iran remains low on the list of places I would consider emigrating to. It is not the least bit dangerous – as many people in the West imagine – provided, of course, you observe the laws. However, if you are the sort of person sensitive enough to find Britain’s omnipresent CCTVs and the security checks at Heathrow airport an insult to human dignity, then you are likely to find Iran oppressive. Iran is a strange society. Satellite TV is banned but you will find dishes on many a roof. Alcohol is forbidden but widely available in people’s homes. Cheap heroin, from next-door Afghanistan, is a major problem. And one doesn’t need a tour guide to find (scarf-clad) prostitutes walking the streets. All vices (or perceived vices) are present in abundance. In this, Iran does not differ from western countries, but the amount of hypocrisy is far greater. In February I was appointed captain of the Tehran women’s team for the Asian Cities championship. Three (male) officials from the Islamic guidance ministry were sent to ensure the propriety of my players. Particular emphasis was laid on a good hijab. Outside, in the trendy cafes of the city, seductive expanses of hair can be glimpsed beneath fashionably bohemian attire, but for my girls, aged between 14 and 26, the strictest austerity was required. There were no objections. All were delighted, for once, to be allowed to compete with the boys. Everything went well until one evening, when we all gathered in my suite to analyse a game in preparation for the following day. Suddenly there came an irate banging on the door. I opened it to find a bearded ministry official on the verge of apoplexy. I politely invited him in: after all, he had a job to do, as did I. He didn’t look much fun, but as none of us was naked and I didn’t imagine the subtleties of the Sicilian Najdorf were going to hold his interest, I reckoned he would soon be gone. In he stormed and barked something in Farsi, whereupon my team, in a state of panic, got up, grabbed their belongings and hurried out. I was devastated. When I met them later in the restaurant, I told them, quite sincerely, that I must be insane to do this job and I was going to quit there and then. “Don’t, please. We need you,” they implored. Meanwhile the hirsute ogre submitted a harshly condemnatory report. Interestingly, neither of his colleagues was prepared to sign it. Several members of our delegation quietly spoke to him to explain that coaching does, in fact, involve sitting down around a chessboard. Gradually he admitted that perhaps he had overreacted. On the final day, he came up to me and offered his hand, which I took as, if not an apology, then at least a peace offering. Despite the hassle, my team responded brilliantly, finishing eighth – way ahead of their 15th seeding – which made it all worthwhile. With time I have found visiting Iran progressively easier. Usually only errant British sailors get to travel there visa-free, and the rest of us require approval from the Iranian foreign affairs ministry. Last time I received a multiple-entry visa, which is convenient but difficult to come by. With my expanding circle of friends, evenings at restaurants, coffee shops and homes become ever more enjoyable. My liver enjoys a much-deserved rest. Even the chaotic, cacophonous, clogged traffic has become a familiar friend. I am always impressed by the high levels of education in Tehran. My coaching is conducted exclusively in English and without a translator. That does not mean that every word is understood, but I rarely have trouble communicating. Unfortunately for Iran, the most qualified, moderate people are the ones most likely to emigrate. They do so in massive numbers. Several friends have left the country and many others will follow. It is not only the lack of freedom (on the internet, even social networking sites such as Facebook are banned) but also the lack of good job opportunities that drives them away. With weak private enterprise and a large state sector, jobs are created by such inane expediencies as tearing up parking meters so graduates may write out tickets. How very Soviet.

Something to Make You Smile

A few items passed along to me: From Isis, wisdom from "Maxine:" Maxine on Border Problems: Everyone concentrates on the problems we're having in this country lately; illegal immigration, hurricane recovery, alligators attacking people in Florida . . Not me. I concentrate on solutions for the problems. It's a win-win situation. + Dig a moat the length of the Mexican border. + Send the dirt to New Orleans to raise the level of the levies. + Put the Florida alligators in the moat along the Mexican border. Any other problems you would like for me to solve today ? From one of my sisters: MENTAL HOSPITAL PHONE MENU Hello and thank you for calling The State Mental Hospital. Please select from the following options menu: If you are obsessive-compulsive, press 1 repeatedly. If you are co-dependent, please ask someone to press 2 for you. If you have multiple personalities, press 3, 4, 5 and 6. If you are paranoid, we know who you are and what you want, stay on the Line so we can trace your call. If you are delusional, press 7 and your call will be forwarded to the Mother Ship. If you are schizophrenic, listen carefully and a little voice will tell You which number to press. If you are manic-depressive, it doesn't matter which number you press, Nothing will make you happy anyway. If you are dyslexic, press 9696969696969696. If you are bipolar, please leave a message after the beep or before the Beep or after the beep. Please wait for the beep. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term Memory loss, press 9. If you have short-term memory loss, press 9. If you have low self-esteem, please hang up, our operators are too busy to talk with you. If you are menopausal, put the gun down, hang up, turn on the fan, lie down and cry. You won't be crazy forever. If you are blonde, don't press any buttons, you'll just mess it up. This coming week is National Mental Health Care week. You can do your part by remembering to contact at least one unstable person to show you care. (Well, my job is done .....Your turn)

Ancient Persian Bridge Destroyed by Islamic Regime

CAIS reports: Islamic Regime have Finally Destroyed 2200-year-old Parthian Bridge of Khoda-Afarid (Negin) December 8, 2007 LONDON, (CAIS) -- Islamic regime's authority have destroyed the remains of 2200-year-old Khoda-Afarid bridge also known as Negin, in Shiniyar district of Masjed-Soleyman in Khuzestan province. The destruction of the bridge was began in September under the guise of construction of a new bridge, and despite all the oppositions from cultural figures and the Iranian nation, the Khuzestan Governor office went ahead and removed the last stone of the ancient bridge. The ancient bridge of Khoda-Afarid (Xodā-āfarīd) which is known to local Bakhtiari population known as Negin, was one of the best preserved and intact bridges of its type remained in Iran-proper from Arsacid dynasty (248 BCE-224 CE). "The 60 meters in length was the best survived Parthian water engineering example in the country, which was demolished despite the 100-meter legal protection boundary, imposed by Khuzestan Province Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization [KCHTO]" said Mojtaba Gahstooni, the spokesman for the Khusestan’s Friends of the Cultural Heritage Association (Tariana) in September 2007. Since 1979 and the rise of Islamic regime to power, the ruling clerics have been devoted themselves to destroy and erase all the pre-Islamic Iranian culture and civilisation, under the guise of construction projects. Since then, the regime have destroyed large number of major cultural landmarks associated with the ancient Iranian civilisation.
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