Saturday, May 17, 2008

Womb - That from Which We Come, That to Which We Go

From Barbara Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Legend." Womb The Sanskrit word for any temple or sancutary was garbha-grha, "womb."(1) The great annual festival of Aphrodite in argos was called Hysteria, "Womb."(2) The oldest oracle in Greece, sacred to the Great Mother of eart, sea, and sky, ws named Delphi, from delphos, "womb." Megalithic tombs and barrow-mounds were designed as "wombs" to give rebirth to the dead. [New Grange, for instance.] Their vaginal entrance passages show that Neolithic folk went to considerable trouble to devise imitations of female anatomy in earth and stone. tomb and womb were even related linguistacally. Greek tumbos, Latin tumulus were cognates of tumere, to swell, to be pregnant. The word "tummy" is thought to have come from the same root.(3) Womb-temples and womb-tombs point backward to the matriarchal age, when only feminine life-magic was thought efficacious. Rebirth from the womb-tomb was the meaning of the domed funerary stupa of the Far East, where the remains of the sainted dead lay within a structure called garbha, the "womb."(4) The parallel with barrow graves, Mycenaean tholos tombs, cave temples, and other such structures is now well known. Even a Christian cathedral centered on the space called nave, originally meaning "belly." [hence "belly button" - navel]. Caves and burial chambers were said to be sunk in the "bowels" of the earth - that is, of Mother Earth. The biblical term for "birth" is "separation from the bowels." Archetypal womb-symbolism is as common today as it ever was, though not always rcognized as such. Paul Klee said, "Which artist would not wish to dwell at the central organ of all motion . . . from which all functions derive their life? In the womb of nature, in the primal ground of creation, where the secret key to all things lies hidden?"(5) Notes: (1) Campbell, C.M., 168. (2) H. Smith, 126. (3) Potter & Sargent, 28. (4) Waddell, 262. (5) Jung, M.H.S., 263. **************************************************************************************** I was rather curious about this festival of Hysteria, so I did a little research. At this website, I found this statement: As a matter of fact Kallimakhos (or Zenodotos), in Historical Notes, testifies that the pig is sacrificed to Aphrodite: "The people of Argos sacrifice swine to Aphrodite and the festival is called Hysteria (Feast of Swine)." - Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae 3.95f-96a "Feast of Swine" certainly doesn't sound anything like "(Feast of the) Womb" - but, curiously, that same web site said that pigs were called hus in Greek. "Hus" as in "husband?" VI) SWINE (Greek "hus") Aphrodite had a curious relationship with the pig. The goddess supposedly hated the creature because her lover Adonis had been gored to death by a wild boar. Therefore arose the proverb 'he sacrificed a pig to Aphrodite' used to refer to someone who gave an innappropriate or unwanted gift. However, in Argos and Kypros at least, pigs were sacrificed to the goddess during the Hysteria (of the pigs) festival. The sacrifice was probably to assuage her grief for the loss of Adonis, who was slain by a wild pig. In other cultures, we know the white sow was sacred as an aspect of the Goddess. According to Barbara Walker, "The white corpse-eating Sow-goddess represented the death aspect of the Great Mother in cults of Astarte, Demeter, the Celts' Cerridwen, and the Teutons' Frya. As a death goddess, Freya had the title of Syr, "Sow." Demeter-Persephone or "Demeter the Destroyer" was sometimes called Phorcis the Sow, mother of the Phorcids or Fatal Women [from which we derive the word "porcine"]. One of these was Circe, swine-goddess of Aeaea, who could turn men into sacrificial pigs. Her island Aeaea meant literally "Wailing," a reference to the ritual laments accompanying sacrifices of the god in pig form." Stringing this all together, perhaps Adonis' being gored to death by a wild boar was a later Greek gloss of his original sacrificial death as a sacred king/husband of the goddess Aphrodite. Instead of being killed by a "pig," he was, in actuality, sacrificed as a "pig" himself. Therefore, the connection of sacrificing pigs and the "Fatal Women" would make sense in the context of an "hysterical" celebration to the Goddess Aphrodite. The sacrificing of pigs at the Hysteria was a throw-back to pre-Greek goddess worship. Also from Walker: Hysteria "Womb," the orgiastic religious festival of Aphrodite in Argos, where the Womb of the World was adored and symbolically fructified.(1) [by offering sacrifice, in this case, pigs?] Hysteria was given its present meaning by renaissance doctors who explained women's diseases with a theory that the womb sometimes became detached from its place and wandered about inside the body, causing uncontrolled behavior. My good old Webster's Collegiate Dictionary has this to say about hyster- or hystero- comb form [French or Latin, French hyster-, from Latin hyster-, from Greek, from hystera] 1: womb. So, Walker was absolutely correct - the Hysteria at Argos was the Festival of the Womb. But what about "pig?" I did a quick search for an English-Greek dictionary and came up with these words: choiros, gourouni. However, I believe those are in modern Greek, which probably bears litle relation to ancient Greek. This may be closer - under my Webster's definition for swine is Latin sus - see more at Sow. Pay dirt! In my Webster's under the definition of "sow": Middle English sowe, from Old English sugu; akin to Old English and Old High German su sow, Latin sus pig, swine, hog, Greek hys [emphasis added]. 1: an adult female swine. So, hys means sow in Greek; and hystera means womb in Greek. A rather interesting connection. A few interesting tid-bits: Sows killed at Yuletide - possibly traced to worship of Freya. Animal worship in Ireland - scroll about half way down to find extensive entry under Pig. Lots of intesting information here on Pig, Sow and Boar.

Mount Lykaion Back in the News

Prior post. The headline reads: Surprise Finds on Wolf Mountain by Jarrett A. Lobell How long have pilgrims worshiped at the sanctuary of Zeus? From Archaeology Magazine Online, From the Trenches, Volume 61, Number 3, May/June 2008 On his second-century A.D. tour of the monuments of Greece, the writer Pausanias visited Mount Lykaion (Greek for "wolf") in Arcadia. He knew that for 1,000 years people had been coming to the site to worship Zeus, the supreme god of the Greek pantheon. In fact, when Pausanias arrived, an animal sacrifice was underway. But what he could not have known is that there may have been religious activity on Mount Lykaion as early as 3000 B.C. New archaeological discoveries are pushing back the chronology of this important sanctuary by 2,000 years. Excavations led by David Gilman Romano of the University of Pennsylvania, Michaelis Petropoulos of the Greek Archaeological Service, and Mary Voyatzis of the University of Arizona focus on the southeast section of the site's ash altar, a large area of the summit covered in the remains of dedicatory offerings. The team was surprised to find Early Helladic (ca. 3000-2100 B.C.) pottery mixed in with artifacts from later periods. "We were stunned to find this early material," says Voyatzis. Romano and Voyatzis are making the bold suggestion that the Early Helladic people who lived in the area before the Greeks arrived may have used Mount Lykaion's peak to worship a weather god. They think the deity might be a precursor to Zeus, god of sky and thunder, who is first mentioned in Linear B tablets around 1400 B.C. "Certainly we are not claiming anything like continuity of cult here," says Romano. "But what we are thinking now is that this was a place of worship at an early date." Along with the Early Helladic material, excavators found offerings from later periods--bronze tripods and rings, silver coins, and burned animal bones--confirming that the sanctuary flourished from the eighth century B.C. onward as a destination for pilgrims. Spectators and athletes were also drawn to the sanctuary's games, which rivaled those of nearby Olympia. Another tantalizing discovery was a rock-crystal seal with the image of a bull. Zeus is said to have two birthplaces, one at Mount Lykaion and the other on Crete, home of the Minoans. The seal, dating from 1500 to 1400 B.C., likely came from Crete, where bull iconography was popular, suggesting a connection between the worship of Zeus in both locations. Romano's team has yet to determine how the artifact came to the site, but together with the potential evidence for early rituals on the mountaintop, the bull seal is helping them understand the long tradition of worship on Zeus's sacred mountain. © 2008 by the Archaeological Institute of ******************************************************************************** Duh! It should have occurred to me that "Lykaion" was related to lykos - wolf. In my trusty Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the word "wolf" is described as having come into English from the Old High German "wolf," but the Latin word was "lupus" and the Greek "lykos." So - how did the mountain get named "Wolf Mountain" if a weather-god precursor of Zeus was supposedly worshipped on it - a god that was given animal sacrifices by the locals? Weather god my foot! It was probably a goddess originally worshipped on Wolf Mountain, the mountain being named after the goddess' canine companions, who were not only harbingers of death but also thought by the ancients to carry the souls of the deceased to heaven or hell. We know that Zeus expropriated other sites in Greece for his worship as "Father Heaven," including Mount Olympus, former shrine of Gaea Olympia, just as he expropriated attributes of the goddesses and holy priestesses from which he originally derived his office and powers through sacred marriage. Excerpted from Barbara Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets" under the entry for Werewolf: Belief in the werewolf or "spirit-wolf" probably began with early medieval wolf clans who worshipped their totemic gods in wolf form, as did some people of the Greco-Roman world centuries earlier. Zeus Lycaeus, or Lycaeon, was a Pelasgian wolf-king who reigned in a nine-year cycle as spouse of the Ninefold Goddess, Nonacris.(1) Virgil said the first werewolf was Moeris, spouse of the trinitarian Fate-goddess (Moera), from whom he learned secrets of magic, including the necromantic knack of calling up the dead from their tombs.(2) Lycanthropy (werewolfism) was named for Apollo Lycaeus, "Wolfish Apollo," who used to be worshipped in the famous Lyceum or "Wolf-temple" where Socrates taught.(3) Apollo was mated to Artemis as a divine Wolf Bitch at Troezen, where she purified Orestes with the blood of nine sacrificial victims.(4) Pausanias said Apollo was originally an Egyptian deity, deriving his name from Up-Uat (Ap-ol), a very ancient name of Anubis.(5) (see Dog.) [Pausanias – Greek traveler and geographer of the 2nd century A.D. Living in a time of declining culture, he was inspired by a desire to describe the ancient sacred sites for posterity.] Another Roman version of the wolf god was Dis Pater [Note: Greek Zeus, from the Sanskrit Dyaus pitar], Soranus, or Feronius, consort of the Sabine underground Goddess Feronia, "Mother of Wolves." A certain Roman family claimed descent from her Sabine priestesses, and annually demonstrated her power by walking barefood over glowing coals during the festival of the Feronia.(6) She was also identified with Lupa the She-Wolf, whose spirit purified Palatine towns through the agency of young men in wolf skins, consecrated by participating in the Lupercalia or Festival of the She-Wolf.(7) The She-Wolf was another aspect of the Triple Goddess, as shown by her triadic motherhood. She gave three souls to her son, the legendary King Erulus or Herulus, so that when he was overthrown by Evander, he had to be killed three times.(8) The Amazons, who worshipped the Triple Goddess, incorporated a tribe called the Neuri, who "turned themselves into wolves" for a few days each year during their main religious festival, presumably by wearing wolf skins and makes.(9) The same story was told of a certain Irish tribe in Ossory, who became wolf-people when attending their Yuletide feast, devouring the flesh of cattle as wolves, and afterward regaining their human shape. "Giraldus Cambrensis relates this great wonder in detail, as in operation in his own time, and believed every word of it."(10) The heathens’ devotion to ancestral wolf gods in Teutonic Europe is evinced by the popularity of such names as Wolf, Wulf, Wolfram, Wolfburg, Aethelwulf, Wolfstein, etc. ""Beowulf son of Beowulf,""hero of the Anglo-Saxon epic, was called Scyld by the Danes, who said he came from the waters in a basket like Romulus and Remus, foster-sons of the She-Wolf.(11) Notes: (1) Graves, W.G., 406. (2) Lawson, 250. (3) Summers, W., 144. (4) Graves, G.M., 1, 201; 2, 66. (5) Baring-Gould, C.M.M.A., 129. (6) Larousse, 210. (7) Wedeck, 174. (8) Dumezil, 244. (9) Herodotus, 244. (10) Joyce, 299. (11) Rank, 63.

2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

I've updated Chess Femme News, including coverage of Round 4 of the 2008 Frank K. Berry U.S. Women's Chess Championship. Enjoy!

Mayor's Cup International Open (India)

An update: Krasenkow defeats Humpy and she drops in the standings (oh no!) From The Hindu Online, May 17, 2008: Kransenkow on top MUMBAI: Top-seeded Polish Grandmaster Michal Kransenkow punished second seed Koneru Humpy for a late error and scored an important victory to become the sole leader with 7.5 points after eight rounds of the Mayor’s Cup International Open chess tournament here on Friday. On a day when the top five boards witnessed decisive battles, M.S. Thejkumar stunned Uzbek GM Shukhrat Safin to share the second spot with GMs Abhijit Kunte, Abdulla Al-Rakib and Ziaur Rahman. The results (Indians unless stated): Eighth round: Michael Krasenkow (Pol, 7.5) bt K. Humpy (6.5); B. Adhiban (6) lost to Abhijit Kunte (7); R.B. Ramesh (6) lost to Abdulla Al-Rakib (Ban, 7); Ziaur Rahman (Ban, 7) bt Tejas Bakre (6); Shukrat Safin (Uzb, 6) lost to M.S. Thejkumar (7); M.R. Venkatesh (6.5) drew with Merab Gagunashvili (Geo, 6); B.T. Murali Krishnan (5.5) lost to Bartlomiej Macieja (Pol, 6.5); Swapnil Dhopade (5.5) lost to Anton Filipov (Uzb, 6.5); Saidali Iuldachev (Uzb, 6) drew with Vidit Gujarati (6); Rahul Shetty (5.5) lost to R.R. Laxman (6.5); S. Mari Arul (5.5) lost to Reefat Bin Sattar (Ban, 6.5); S. Arun Prasad (6.5) bt Ram Prakash (5.5); Deep Sengupta (6.5) bt Atanu Lahiri (5.5); Akash Thakur (5.5) lost to Aghyadip Das (6.5); P. Konguvel (6) drew with Ram S. Krishnan (6); Sriram Jha (5.5) drew with Akshat Khamparia (6).

Friday, May 16, 2008

Friday Night Miscellany

Ahhhh, it was a beautiful day here today, and I loved having the day off! I got a lot done, but not nearly what I had planned :) Instead, after I finished cutting the front lawn, I did some blogging, ate lunch, and then had a nice long nap. There's nothing like a nice long nap in the early afternoon to make one feel truly rich and at leisure! Here's an article that caught my eye at The New York Times: Los Angeles Eyes Sewage as a Source of Water. Rather behind the times, I think; Chicago has, from the beginning of time, been dumping it's allegedly treated waste water into the Chicago River that was specifically engineered to flow the wrong way and force its waste into rivers that eventually flow to the mighty Mississippi, from which millions draw their drinking water; and in Milwaukee we've been dumping our actually treated waste water into Lake Michigan for about 100 years. After the 1993 mass outbreak of cryptosporidium (blamed on run-off from animal waste, yeah, right) that sickened some 400,000 people, the city spent millions upgrading this and that at the waste water treatment center which now includes something with ozone to kill all the crap (no pun intended) that the prior treatment system did not. Nothing like scientific progress, heh? What's worse - dying from sewerage passed off as drinking water after being "filtered" or dying from the toxins in the plastic bottles that contain supposedly "pure" drinking water? Pick your poison. There's something wrong with this picture, folks. This article says that "man" started populating the rest of the world about 60,000 years ago out of Africa. This article says there is evidence of human habitation in the United States from about 50,000 years ago. If both are true, this means that man would have had to hightail it out of Africa all the way across Europe and then swim over to the east coast of North America, or else trek to the eastern edge of Siberia and then swim over what used to be the Bering land bridge into Alaska, because 10,000 years ago the glaciers were melting and the traditional "stepping off" places that science says existed in order to aid the travel of man from the "old world" to the "new world" would have been under lots of water, darlings. So, both cannot be true! Under traditional theory, I believe it's still being taught that man first arrived in Alaska some 14,000 years ago, and made it all the way down to South American by 13,000 years ago, and all the latest evidence is routinely ignored, dismissed or - if mentioned at all - ridiculed. Geez, will the academics ever get it right? Here's a squirrel story that is just so cute - and the ranger ain't bad, either: A squirrel's gone nuts over ranger Mark. A "Don't Eat That Elmer" story: "Snake man" slithers out of prison cell Spooky video - call me skeptical. 'night!

Harrison Ford and the AIA

This wasn't a press release from April 1st, so I guess it must be true: Harrison Ford Elected to the Board of the Archaeological Institute of America © Business Wire 2008 2008-05-16 15:04:57 - - For the AIA Laura Goldberg, 347-683-1859 After years of being identified on screen as the legendary archaeologist "Indiana Jones," actor Harrison Ford has won election to the Board of Directors of the Archaeological Institute of America. With his Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull set to hit U.S. movie theaters on May 22, the film star commented on his real world dedication to archaeology, "Knowledge is power, and understanding the past can only help us in dealing with the present and the future." The Archaeological Institute of America is North America's oldest and largest non-profit organization devoted to archaeology. With more nearly a quarter of a million members and subscribers and 105 local chapters, it promotes archaeological excavation, research, education, and preservation on a global basis. At the core of its mission is the belief that an understanding of the past enhances our shared sense of humanity and enriches our existence. As archaeological finds are a non-renewable resource, the AIA's work benefits not only the current generation, but also those yet to come in the future. "Harrison Ford has played a significant role in stimulating the public's interest in archaeological exploration," said Brian Rose, President of the AIA. "We are all delighted that he has agreed to join the AIA's Governing Board." In addition, the current May/June issue of ARCHAEOLOGY magazine, published by the AIA, features a cover story devoted to the mysteries surrounding the alleged crystal skull archaeological finds that inspired the new "Indiana Jones" film. For the complete article, go to:

2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

A few interesting things have come up: The Space Controversy! Susan Polgar commented the other day (5/15) at her blog that a few folks had complained about somewhat tight quarters in the playing venue. I was a little surprised myself when seeing Paul Truong's photos from Tulsa (posted at SP's blog) that the players in a prestigious event were seated at long tables next to each other; I guess I'd expected individual tables with room to circulate in-between; but I can't say that I thought things were unduly crowded. Still - I've never played in a tournament so I have no idea what might or might not be comfortable for a player in a national championship! The one and only tournament I visited was the 1999 FIDE Knock-Out World Championship in Las Vegas at Caesar's Palace and there was plenty of space for players and spectators - hardly any spectators for the quarter-finals, actually, and I thought that was a shame. For the quarter-finals we were in a large banquet room and, sitting in the front row with Isis and Michelle, I could practically reach out and touch Shirov who was playing right in front of me just beyond a red velvet rope! Khalifman and Polgar were just down the row. I could easily see the wrinkles in her linen suit. It was a sort of pastel peach color, and she had on light tan shoes. In the semi-finals the venue was set up differently - the four players (Adams and Akopian, Khalifman and Nisipeanu) were at tables elevated at the front of the playing room and the audience was seated below. In both venues large electronic screens were provided where you could watch the games in progress, and headsets were available for free if you provided a credit card or ID card, over which you could listen to commentary and analysis of the games. Tonight SP gave an update based on Tom Braunlich's report after Round 3. I sincerely hope that Onischuk does not leave the tournament. I don't know what the organizers can do about the space at this point in the events. Reserving a second room to move players into was probably not the best solution, and I think the women were right to complain that moving them into a separate room was tantamount to saying "you're second class citizens" - the equivalent of having to sit at the back of the bus. I'm equally certain that no insult was intended. Where on earth is the audience seated? I mean - the Championships were advertised as open to the public and if it was being held here I'd certainly be in eager attendance. So, where is the public being seated? Or are "the public" those folks standing against the walls? Oh my... For Round 3 the five lower boards were moved to the reserved second room, and they didn't like it. Here's an idea - select pairings to go to the second room by random draw after the end of each round. That way, there's no actual or perceived discrimination taking place, it's just the luck of the draw and unfortunate that a larger room could not be secured - although who knows, the Berry brothers have been doing this kind of thing for years, maybe they can convince the hotel to swap out a larger space (if the Radisson has one available). A Great Story! Braunlich reported on 81 years young Beth Cassidy, who visited the tournament. Ms. Cassidy was a member of the Ireland chess team and a journalist with British Chess Magazine. She knew many of the classic GMs from the 40s and 50s. While a manager of the Manhattan Chess Club in the 1960s she wrote extensive detailed articles on the great masters that hung out there, including Fischer, Lombardy, Kmoch, Steinmeyer, etc. She worked for Shell and when she retired chose to live in Tulsa. Wow! Someone who knew all those greats - someone who managed the Manhattan Chess Club! I'll bet she has some stories to tell... There's a photo of Ms. Cassidy and Susan Polgar in Braunlich's report. She sort of reminds me of my mom, who turns 81 later this month. Comments About the Prize Structure and Women's Championship Well of course some misogynists are complaining about the fact that the prizes for the Women's Championship are nearly as large as those for the putative Men's Championship. In fact, some male players will be sent home with $250 less than the women (prize structure). Gasp! Here's one comment from Chess Life Online: Post: #102048 by NiceLife on Fri May 16, 2008 2:12 pm I don’t think it is unreasonable for a top-100-in-the-world player to ask not to play within elbow-bumping distance of another player. The organizers of a national championship should ensure that there is enough space in the tournament hall. It is not a scholastic tournament. I am glad Onischuk stands up for some standards of respect in chess. By the way, I am pretty sure the last 5 boards of the overall championship (which are still mostly IMs and GMs) are used to being treated as second-class in chess. They might make their expenses back in this tournament, but they will watch while the female players with lower ratings win more in this one tournament than they are likely to make in tournaments all year. [Emphasis added]. See my tears, darling, boo hoo. There were several comments about the Women's Championship being a separate event and therefore it SHOULD be held in the other room: Post: #102049 by bradenbournival on Fri May 16, 2008 2:18 pm Well the most logical solution is definitely to have the women's championship in a separate room. I don't see how anyone can complain about this since they are 2 totally separate tournaments! I don't believe putting the top boards in a different room is a very good idea, other players involved in the same tournament have to walk to a totally separate room to view games that might be very relevant to them in a future game... [Emphasis added]. Anyways, I'm sure having the top games in a different room will also invoke some complaints from Mr. Cry Baby Onischuk... Perhaps the best solution of all is for everyone in the tournament to pitch in for a ticket back to Russia.. [Emphasis added]. Post: #102050 by artichoke on Fri May 16, 2008 2:19 pm Well the prize funds are what they are, but for this one event I'd treat everyone as first-class. It's reasonable to put the overall championship in one room, the women's in another. [Emphasis added]. Post: #102062 by nocab on Fri May 16, 2008 5:13 pm The answer is all too obvious, but certainly will be called "politically incorrect" these days. Someone needs to say it, so I will. The women are playing in a completely seperate event. They are not as strong as the men. They should play in the other room. Period! [Emphasis added]. Soooo, the women should be isolated because they're "not as strong" players - or - just because they're women. Are we living in Saudi Arabia??? What's next - the all-enveloping black robes with mesh over the eyes so a woman needs a seeing-eye dog (or a male holding her on a leash) to navigate around? You silly dudes. You should be supporting better playing conditions and better prize money for ALL players. Anything else is a losing proposition. DUH!

Women in Archaeology: Aileen Ajootian

Story from The Daily Citizen (aggregated by UM gives special recognition Wednesday, May 14, 2008 5:51 PM CDT Ajootian, Showalter honored for service to studentsOXFORD, Miss. — Each day at the University of Mississippi, students are impacted by words and actions of many faculty and staff who know their work extends beyond classrooms, labs and offices. For the 14th year, two UM members who personify such extraordinary service have been selected for special recognition. Aileen Ajootian, chair and associate professor of classics and art, and Marc Showalter, director of the University Counseling Center and assistant professor of education, are recipients of the 2008 Frist Student Service Awards. “Ole Miss is a service-oriented, loving community,” Chancellor Robert Khayat said. “To be recognized by students, faculty and staff as a leader in service affirms the extraordinary level of commitment of the Frist recipients.” The awards, one for faculty and one for staff, were established with a gift from the late Dr. Thomas F. Frist Sr. of Nashville, a 1930 UM graduate. Ajootian and Showalter were selected by a chancellor’s committee of faculty, staff and students assessing nominations. They each receive $1,000 and a plaque and were recognized May 10 at the university’s commencement ceremony. Nomination letters for the award cite specific examples of how members have gone the extra mile for students. A former student nominating Ajootian wrote about how she encouraged him: “I can remember feeling hopeless, but Dr. Ajootian gave me hope. “She created numerous tutoring sessions for her students besides the time that she would spend helping students during her office hours,” he continued. ... Ajootian [also] expressed surprise. “Receiving this award was a complete shock,” she said. “But it is such a great honor. It makes me want to continue doing what I have been doing. I love working in an environment what I can continue to learn and share my excitement for learning with my students.” A native of Long Island, N.Y., Ajootian joined the UM faculty in 1996. She holds master’s degrees from Bryn Mawr College and the University of Oregon. She earned her doctorate in classical archaeology from Bryn Mawr. She is a member of the Archaeological Institute of America and of the College Arts Association. Her fieldwork in archaeology includes research in Athens and ancient Corinth in Greece. ...

Mayor's Cup International Open (India)

Humpy, Humpy, goooooooo Humpy! I've been following GM Koneru Humpy's career since I first got online in 1999 and discovered the world of professional women chessplayers. Here's a report on the Mayor's Cup in India from The Hindu Online: Krasenkow, Humpy in lead MUMBAI: Top seed Michael Krasenkow and second seed K. Humpy won their seventh round games to share the lead with 6.5 points in the Mayor’s Cup International Open chess tournament at the Goregaon Sports Complex here on Thursday. The results (Indians unless stated): Seventh round: K. Humpy (6.5) bt Shukhrat Safin (Uzb 6); Reefan Bin Sattar (Ban, 5.5) lost to Michal Krasenkow (Pol, 6.5); Abhijit Kunte (6) drew with M. R. Venkatesh (6); Abdulla Al-Rakib (Ban, 6) bt Vikramaditya Kamble (5); Soumya Swaminathan (5) lost to Ziaur Rahman (Ban, 6); Akash Thakur (5.5) drew with Saidali Iuldachev (Uzb, 5.5); R.R. Laxman (5.5) drew with Swapnil Dhopade (5.5). R.B. Ramesh (6) bt Shyam Nikhil (5); Tejas Bakre (6) bt D.P. Singh (5); Ram Krishnan (5.5) drew with Deep Sengupta (5.5). G.B. Joshi (5) lost to B.Adhiban (6); M.S. Thejkumar (6) bt R. Arun Karthik (5); Arghyadip Das (5.5) drew with S. Mari Arul (5.5).

Juniors Chess in Tamil Nadu (India)

From The Hindu Online, May 16, 2008: (No offense, but I left out the parts about the Under-17 boys) Muthu, Krithika win titles Tiruchengode: Muthu Alagappan (Thiruvallur) and Pon. N. Krithika (Kancheepuram) clinched the boys’ and girls’ titles respectively in the Tamil Nadu State under-17 chess championship, organised by the Namakkal District Chess Foundation, at the SKV MHSS here on Thursday. Results (final round): Girls: Pon. N. Krithika (Kan) 8 drew with P. Uthra (Tlr) 6; S.V. Sathya Priya (Slm) 5.5 lost to C.H. Savetha 7; R. Visalatchi (Vnr) 5.5 lost to J. Saranya (Tlr) 7; M. Poojakanth (Nlc) 5.5 lost to Sithalatchumi Arunachalam (Mdu) 6.5; R. Bharathi (Chn) 6 bt P. Priya Sandiya (Kan) 5; J.G. Nivedhitha (Bca) 5 lost to R. Abirami (Chn) 6; P.V. Nandhithaa (Nam) 6 bt P. Sujitha (Cbe) 4.5; G. Amirthavalli (Chn) 4.5 lost to R. Bhuvaneswari (Try) 5.5; S. Anushya (Nlc) 5.5 bt G. Uma Bharathi (Chn) 4; A. Akshaya (Tlr) 5 bt R. Karthikeyini (Mdu) 4; P. Varshini (Ero) 4 lost to R. Nanduja (Vnr) 5; N. Akshaya (Cbe) 5 bt Swetha (Nam) 4; B. Jeyassri (Chn) 5 bt S. Aarthi (Vel)) 4; R.S. Soundarya (Kar) 4 lost to Srinidhi Sridharan (Trr) 5; M. Vallikannu (Vnr) 4 drew with N.K. Bavithra Midhuna (Tnv) 4; J. Kiruthiga Janani (Nam) 4 bt R. Bala Bagavthi (Tnv) 3; P. Roshini (Kan) 4 bt Manimozhi (Nam) 3; S. Sowmiya (Try) 3 lost to Priyadharshini (Nam) 4; R.S. Harini (Vel) 2 lost to S. Revathi (Kar) 4; J. Pooja (Kan) 1 lost to S. Monica Baarathi (Ero) 3; Sri Rathi (Kar) 1 lost to B. Sudharshini (Kar) 3. Final standings (girls): Girls: 1. Pon. N. Krithika (Kan) 8; 2. J. Saranya (Tlr) 7; 3. C.H. Savetha (Chn) 7; 4. Sithalatchumi (Mdu) 6.5; 5. P. Uthra (Tlr) 6; 6. R. Bharathi (Chn) 6; 7. P.V. Nandhithaa (Nam) 6; 8. R. Abirami (Chn) 6; 9. R. Visalatchi (Vnr) 5.5; 10. S.V. Sathya Priya (Slm) 5.5.

2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

Hola darlings! I've got a day off today, yippee! So, first thing this morning, I updated my coverage of the 2008 Frank K. Berry U.S. Women's Chess Championship over at Chess Femme News for Round 3. Please check it out and give me lots of visitors and page views, thank you very much! I'm wondering when Dylan Loeb McClain over at The New York Times is going to write a story on the 2008 championships? Is he on vacation? Is he dead? His last posting (as of the time of writing this entry) at his Gambit blog is May 6th. Hmmm, not good, not good at all. Psssst, hey McClain, I'm giving you a hint here because you have the same surname (albeit a different spelling) as my own wonderful McLean man - you've got to give American chessplayers a little more respect!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

$750,000 Purse for Kamsky-Topalov Match

Chessbase breaks the following news: 'Lvov awaits Topalov and Kamsky!'15.05.2008 – Breaking news: Russian chess journalists Yuri Vasiliev has now confirmed that the semifinal Candidates Match between Veselin Topalov and Gata Kamsky will take place in Lvov, Ukraine, for a prize fund of US $750,000. The full story, including Yuri's verbatim interview with Chernenko, will appear tomorrow on ChessBase. Here first details. Just over a month ago we reported that FIDE had extended the deadline for bids for the Kamsky-Topalov Candidates Match. The Bulgarian Chess Federation protested vigorously, but then the reason for FIDE's decision became clear: a US $750,000 bid to stage the match in Lvov, western Ukraine, had been announced by Kamsky's manager Alexander Chernenko. There were a lot of doubts if this offer was real. Today Chernenko has stated that the financial guarantees have now been received by FIDE, at their Swiss bank account: “The sum of US $935,000 has appeared on the bank’s computer screen in Lausanne “, Vasiliev quotes Chernenko as saying. Rest of article.

More News on Pan American Women's Chess Championship

13-Year-Old Canadian Girl Back Home Bringing the Silver Cup from the Pan American Women Chess 2008 NewswireToday - /newswire/ - North York, Ontario, Canada, 05/15/2008 - During May 5th-12th – 13-year-old Toronto girl, WFM Yuan, Yuanling represented Canada to play the Pan American Women Chess Championship 2008 in San Salvador and won the runner-up with score 6.5 over 9 rounds. 13-year-old Toronto girl, the youngest Canadian women Fide master Yuan, Yuanling represented Canada to play the Pan American Women Chess Championship 2008 in San Salvador during May 5th to 12th. After 9 rounds tough competition, she got 6.5 score and won the silver cup. WFM Yuanling is just 13 years old. She is the youngest women Fide master and currently ranked 2nd place of Canadian women chess by rating. When she was 9 year old in 2003, she represented Canada to play the World Youth Chess Championship and won 10th place in her age group. And this year, she represented Canada to play the continental women's championship during May 5th to May 12th in El Salvador, the country in the center-America. There are 28 players from North-America, Center-America and South-America in the tournament. WFM Yuan, Yuanling from Canada is the youngest player and ranked 7th by fide rating before the tournament. The tournament is very tough since there are 2 women Grandmasters, 4 women international masters and 6 women Fide masters participating the tournament. Canadian women Fide master Yuanling played all the women Grandmasters and the women international masters during the tournaments and defeated one women Grandmaster and two women International masters, drew with the first seed player Arribas Robaina, Maritza, a women Grandmaster from Cuba. Yuanling only lost two games to other two women International masters from Ecuador and Cuba. After 9 rounds chess games, Canadian Yuanling got 6.5 score over 9 and list 2nd place. In the meanwhile, she got 20 games women International master norm by achieving performance rating as high as 2302.

Cuban Crowned Pan American Women’s Chess Champion

Story from the Periodico of Las Tunas, Cuba HAVANA, Cuba, May 14, (acn).— International Master (IM) Zirka Frometa of Cuba won the Pan American Chess Championship with seven of nine possible points in the tournament held in the Salvadoran capital of San Salvador. The player from Santiago de Cuba brought back memories of some of her best moments as a player after finishing with a stalemate against host country competitor IM Sonia Zepeda and finishing with six wins, two ties and only one loss. The loss was against teammate GM Martiza Arribas, who finished third overall with six points. Arribas had four wins, four ties and one loss to Ecuadorian IM Evelyn Moncayo. According to a report in the Salvadoran media, second place went to the young FIDE Master (FM) Yuanling Yuan of Canada, with 6.5 points, who won her final match against IM Lorena Zepeda of El Salvador. Moncayo finished fourth with six points and the Zepeda sisters, Lorena and Sonia, had 5.5 each. Last year’s tournament was held in San Luis, Argentina and the best Cuba was able to manage was a fourth place finish by GM Sulennis Pina, fifth by IM Yaniet Marrero and seventh by GM Vivian Roman. The title in 2007 went to GM Sarai Sanchez of Venezuela who fell to eighth this time with 5.5. points.

Chess News Update

Chess Femme News has been updated, May 15, 2008 - specifically, updated news on the U.S. Women's Chess Championship!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pi and the Great Pyramid

An article or post written by Assem Deif is a professor of mathematics at Cairo University and Misr University for Science and Technology Pi, Phi and the Great Pyramid Assem Deif investigates the values -- not the symbols -- of the last of the Wonders of the Ancient World Al-Ahram Weekly Online March 27 - April 2, 2008 Issue No. 890 We can forget all the ideas crediting Atlanteans or space aliens with building the Great Pyramid of Giza, and instead imagine ourselves travelling back in time in H G Wells's time machine to try and work out not how the ancient Egyptians built this enormous edifice, because this lies beyond our present understanding, but rather what we can best judge to be its most appropriate proportions. Then, however, there were no electronic calculators, only ropes and rods. Constructing right angles at the four corners of a pyramid is easy. To do it, history tells us that the Egyptians were aware of the ratios 3:4:5 as the side-lengths of a right-angle triangle. Many old kingdom pyramids adhere to these ratios. The Egyptians also knew a rough value of Pi (the value, not the symbol) as the ratio between the circumference of any circle and its diameter. They worked out that 3 _ is less than Pi, and Pi is less than 3 1/7, i.e. Pi lies between the rational number 22/7 and the Babylonian value. This can be done by constructing a circle of diameter AB and laying the latter on its circumference, starting from A, once until C then D then E, to conclude that Pi is greater than 3. The remaining part EA from the circumference is laid down again on the diameter AB, so seven times EA is less than AB which in turn is less than eight times EA, or EA/AB is greater than 1/8 and less than 1/7. Rest of article. Leave it to a professor of mathematics to botch the explanation! I was drifting off into sleep just before I copied and posted the last paragraph here - snore... There has to be a better way of explaining the mathematical wonders of the pyramids and Pi, etc. For instance, WHY does he say it's easy to figure out how to do a 90 degree right angle by using the 3/4/5 method? We actually have NO FRICKING IDEA how the ancient Egyptians came up with this formula, all we know is that they used it to lay out square foundations and that it WORKED! The 3/4/5 method of laying out a 90 degree ("right") triangle was "proven" - much later - by Pythagoras and his "school" of followers in Greece. So, the ancient Egyptians knew it worked, but how did they figure it out to begin with? We don't know - we don't have a clue. Mathematics cannot speak to that quintessimal moment of discovery - when someone along the Nile River figured it out - had that "EUREKA" moment, some 5,000 years ago. For those of you (including yours truly, who made it all the way through college advanced mathematics without having a clue - and what does THAT say about the state of universities back in the 1980's, heh?) one of the few things I remember is that mathematical theory says that a RIGHT angle, that is, an angle that measures 90 degrees (1/4 of a full circle, which is 360 degrees), can be found by utilizing a triangle with the following formula: sides A, B and C of a triangle, with "A" being 3 "units" (whatever your units of measurement happen to be), side "B" being 4 units, and side "C" being five units. I'm sure I'm missing something here, LOL! Now you know why I'm not a mathematician. Using the classic Egyptian formula for figuring out how to make a square (90 degrees) corner of that triangle, the Sheshat Goddess (actually, a priestess representing Sheshat) had a length of rope knotted into twelve equal lengths. A stake was driven into the ground by her consort, the Anubis priest, at a predetermined sacred spot. The Sheshat priestess then looped the rope over the stake such that 3 knots formed one leg of a triangle, which was then staked, and 4 knots formed a second leg of the triangle, also staked. The remaining 5 knots linked together the two sides legs of the triangle previously staked out with the knotted rope, forming the - what I believe is called the hypotenus of the 90 degree right triangle. About all I remember from geometry is 3 squared (9) PLUS 4 squared (16), EQUALS 5 squared (25) - but that was just a Greek way of saying lay out a square corner by doing this...

Local Girl Makes the Right Moves

By Janice Fae Mitchell Guard Staff Writer Published: Wednesday, May 14, 2008 The Batesville Daily Guard Her heart tells her she wants to be a cardiac surgeon, but for now she’d be happy to make the right moves and say, “Checkmate.” Twelve-year-old Crystal Qian, a Batesville seventh-grader, is the top performer among female scholastic players in Arkansas. She has qualified for the Susan Polgar National Invitational for Girls chess tournament to be held this summer, July 27-Aug. 1, at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. “My dad wants me to place, and personally I’d love it if I place, but I’m practicing because I think it’s fun, and I’m practicing because I think when I go to Texas it’s going to be rewarding,” Crystal said. She said she’s looking forward to some sightseeing as well. The invitational is named after Dr. Susan Polgar, a women’s world champion and holder of a number of world championship and Olympiad titles. The tournament will include the top female scholastic players whose ages are under 19 years old from all 50 states. This will be Crystal’s first time as Arkansas’ representative to the Polgar tournament. “I’m practicing. Every day I do about 100 chess problems. They’re like puzzles, and you determine the best position for the next move,” and then when she’s done she plays against other people on the server, Crystal said. The Arkansas Chess Federation and the Susan Polgar Foundation are supplying some funds, but she has to earn the rest herself. “I have enough saved up for that just in case. When I grow up I want to go to Oxford in England and become a cardiac surgeon so most of the money is saved up for that, but I might take some out and maybe do something at the fair like play the piano.” Crystal started to play chess three years ago when her family moved to Batesville in the summer of 2005. “I’m glad she is going to play against the older girls with more experience. She will probably learn from them,” said her mother, Xiaojie “Sunny” Shang. “We want to thank the chess program which got her started. It was provided by Jack Sanders, the principal at Central Magnet.” Crystal’s father, Dr. Jason Qian, said chess is one of his favorite hobbies. Due to a busy graduate school schedule, he was unable to teach her chess until they moved to Batesville. Qian and Shang work at Life Plus International. With his help, chess club members at Central Magnet learned quickly and became more interested in chess. Within a few months, Crystal was able to defeat all chess club members, including those with a few years of experience. In April 2006, Crystal won the first scholastic tournament in Batesville. She had the only perfect score. That June, she attended her first United States Chess Federation rated tournament and won first place in the unrated chess classification. Two months later, she defeated an experienced adult player at the Arkansas State Championship in Hot Springs. Within two years, Crystal has played in more than 20 USCF rated and unrated scholastic chess tournaments, winning first place in the Mid-South Scholastic chess tournament at Memphis and third place at the Arkansas Blitz Championship. “Passing this talent to my child has long been my dream,” Qian said. As the 2006 Arkansas G/60 State champion and tournament director of Batesville Chess Club, Qian has promoted local interest in chess among scholastic players. “Chess can help and influence life. It’s been known for years that chess is a wonderful tool to enhance the minds of youngsters and prevent or delay Alzheimer’s,” Qian added. “You need to recognize the patterns, calculate following moves and manage the consequences. Chess helps nurture and develop critical thinking skills. It is an outstanding preparation for being able to cope with the real world in our daily lives.” Trophies and plaques line the walls and tables in a room of their home, including a big trophy Crystal won May 3 at the annual Arkansas Scholastic Chess Championship in Bald Knob that won her a slot in the invitational. Crystal also has “hobbies,” and she takes them seriously. She dabbles in artwork, landscaping and tapestries, music practice (piano and French horn) and a chess game with her father — in between homework. “Some kids have played this mind game as early as age 4,” her father said. “It is never too late to start.”

2008 Indian Women's National 'A' Chess Championship

Women's National ‘A’ Chess Championship begins this Friday (Begins May 16, 2008) The apex tournament of the women's chess calendar, the Women's National A Chess Championship will begin on May 16 at Majestic Tourist Hotel, Ampitiya Kandy and will see the top female players in the country pitting their wits against one another. Defending Champion and winner of many national titles, Vineetha Wijesuriya will be challenged by a host of young players led by Supeshala Thilakawardena who won the National B title ahead of the more-fancied Dilini Umesha (last year's runner-up) and Sachini Ranasinghe (last year's second runner-up). The tournament, organized by the Chess Federation of Sri Lanka is an all-play-all affair held over 13 rounds on May 16, 17, 18, 24, 25, 26 and 27, 2008. The top performers will be selected to represent the country at the forthcoming Chess Olympiad in Germany. The following are the 14 players who will be in the fray: Vineetha Wijesuriya, Supeshala Thilakawardena, Ayodya Liyanagedara, Navodya Selvaratnam, Anjana Perera, Lihini Wawlallawita, Harshani Konara, Lumbini Ambanwela, Samanthi Wettasinghe, Sachini Ranasinghe, Dinushki Premanath, Mihirani Jayathilake, Iridu Basnayake and Dilini Umesha. The men's National A will begin the following weekend and last year's champion G.C. Anuruddha is expected face a stiff challenge from a host of promising young players in addition to several 'veterans'. Prasanna Kurukulasuriya was the surprise winner of the National B title, coming ahead of former national champion, Athula Russell. Akhila Kavinda (St. Anne's College, Kurunegala) who performed extremely well at the Sri Lanka Open in March, beating one Indian International Master and holding another to a creditable draw is among several young players expected to perform well at the tournament. Other schoolboys Chathura Rajapakse and Y.D.B. Madugalle (both from Dharmaraja) and Osheen De Silva (Devananda) will not find things easy against 'veterans' Thivanka Mallawarachchi and former national champions Luxman Wijesuriya and T.D.R. Peiris. Incidentally, T.D.R. Peiris' son, Gayan Peiris is also a promising player expected to perform well. This is probably the first time that a father-son combination played in the 'Nationals' together. Romesh Weerawardena, P.M.R.L. Bandara and C.K.D. Fonseka make up the 14 and these three are also seasoned and talented players quite capable of upsetting the form book. The Men's event will be held on May 24, 25, 26, 26 and 31, and June 1 and 2, 2008 at the same venue.

Chess News Update

Chess Femme News has been updated, May 14, 2008! SUCH news, darlings, be sure to catch up on what's been going on at the 2008 Frank K. Berry U.S. Women's Chess Championship - news from GM Susan Polgar, too! The Susan Polgar Foundation has contributed $150 to the Fighting Chess Award prize fund to make a total of $500, to be awarded to the winner of the Goddesschess Fighting Chess Award at the U.S. Women's Chess Championships. There's more - Suffice to say thank you doesn't begin to say it to GM Susan Polgar - but in order to make sense of this post you've got to read the Chess Femme News.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Tale of a Broken Pot

From The Hindu: The tale of a broken pot May 13, 2008 Iravatham Mahadevan and S. Rajagopal Today I am a broken pot stored away in a museum. But, about eighteen hundred years ago, I was a shining new kalayam. My proud owner was a toddy-tapper named Naakan. He lived in a small hamlet at the edge of the forest (near present-day Andipatti in Theni district of Tamil Nadu). Naakan was too poor to own land; but he earned his living by taking on lease some coconut and palmyra trees, tapping and selling the toddy. There were several toddy-tappers in the hamlet. They would climb the trees early in the morning, make deep cuts on the crown of the trees with their sharp bill-hooks, and tie their pots beneath to collect the sap (juice) that oozed from the cuttings. The pots, when full, would be taken down and stored for a few days to allow fermenting of the sap into toddy, for which there was a good market. Etched belongings Poor he might have been, but Naakan was literate. In order to identify his kalayam and its contents, he scratched this message on it with his sharp iron tool: naakan uRal ‘Naakan’s (pot with) toddy-sap’ The Tamil word ooRal (from ooRu ‘to ooze’) meaning ‘freshly tapped toddy’ is spelt here with the short vowel u probably due to oversight or reflecting the colloquial usage. Determining age Archaeologists who dug me out of the earth near Andipatti a couple of years ago, have determined from examining the fabric of my body, that I was made in about the third century A.D. Epigraphists (who study old inscriptions) have identified the writing on my shoulder as in Old Tamil written in the Tamil-Brahmi script of the same period. And that is not all. The two-word inscription carries an important message, namely, how widespread literacy must have been in the ancient Tamil country, if a poor toddy-tapper, living in a remote hamlet far away from urban and commercial centres, could write down his name and what he was doing with the pottery he owned. That is the reason why I am preserved in the museum and not discarded like other broken pottery! Iravatham Mahadevan is a well-known researcher of the Indus and Brahmi scripts. Dr. S. Rajagopal is a senior archaeologist specialising in Old Tamil inscriptions, who retired from the Tamil Nadu State Department of Archaeology. The issue is the controversy surrounding translation (or, to be more accurate, no translation) of the Indus script. Various translations of the script have been put forward through the years, but none of them has been accepted by the archaeological/academic community. In the background is the other always-simmering, sometimes explosive controvesy of the "Indo-European invasion" versus some Indologists' claims that the Indus civilization was not destroyed by this "invasion" but gradually transformed into the civilization of southern India as the Indus people migrated south. There is, frankly, a racist component involved, as the people who live in Tamil Nadu and areas of southern India are very dark-skinned compared to the peoples further north and west. All is even more complicated by the gloss of the Hindu caste system and religious beliefs involving "karma" and reincarnation. Whew!

Sothis and Sirius

A German archaeologist who has been working on excavations near Askum (Ethiopia) says: “The results we have suggest that a Cult of Sothis developed in Ethiopia with the arrival of Judaism and the Ark of the Covenant, and continued until 600AD,” an announcement by the University of Hamburg on behalf of the research team said. Sothis is the ancient Greek name for the star Sirius. Well! dondelion begs to differ, darlings! Check out his take on the subject of Sothis/Sirius at the latest update to Random Round-up at Goddesschess. It will only be there for a week before being whisked into the archives... A wee bit of info on Sothis I found myself: Sothis Greco-Egyptian name of the star Sirius, which "rose in the east" to announce the advent of the Savior Osiris each year at the onset of the Nile flood. "Three Wise Men" announced the rising of Sothis - the three stars in Orion's belt which point directly toward Sirius. As the "Eye" of the Great Dog (Canis Major), Sirius was sometimes called Canopis or Dog-Eye, the same as the holy city of Anubis who, as Dog of Death, kept Osiris' soul in the star Sothis until his rebirth. Source: Barbara Walker, "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets"

2008 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

Hola! Jen Shahade promises to stay on top of things with coverage at Chess Life Online. She's already reported about Alexander Shabalov (B) resigning after move 18 against Yermolinsky (W) in Round 1 in the "other" Championship (LOL!) I checked Monroi, The Week in Chess, Susan Polgar's blog and Chessdom just a few minutes ago and didn't see any other current news. Stay tuned. Updated 9:11 p.m. Central Standard Time Hola darlings! With all due respect, I really don't give much of a hoot what the men are doing in their Championship, although there were a few interesting first round results. What I'm concentrating on is the chess femmes. Here are their first round results: 1 Airapetian, Chouchanik/Jamison, Courtney 1 0 2 Zatonskih, Anna/Zenyuk, Iryna 1 0 3 Rohonyan, Katerine/Battsetseg, Tsagaan 1/2 1/2 4 Abrahamyan, Tatev/Krush, Irina 0 1 5 Epstein, Esther/Tuvshintugs, Batchimeg 0 1 Four out of five decisive results in Round 1 of the Women's Championship! In the Men's event, there were six decisive results out of twelve, and six draws. Hmmm....

Monday, May 12, 2008

Can Crowd’s Wisdom Beat Chess Master?

From The Wall Street Journal May 12, 2008, 6:00 am Posted by Ben Worthen Are amateurs collectively wiser than a single expert? That’s the question the Web site CrowdChess is trying to answer. The book The Wisdom of Crowds promoted the idea that large groups are often able to make better decisions than experienced professionals. Over the last few years, that idea has been adopted as conventional wisdom: Some businesses have “crowd sourced” projects to communities; Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit, grew from this notion. To put the wisdom of crowds to the test, Stan Oleynick, the founder of CrowdChess, recruited Gawain Jones, a grandmaster from England, to play against the collective intelligence of his site’s visitors. “Chess is the ultimate game of strategy and foresight,” and thus is a good test of crowd theory, Oleynick tells the Business Technology Blog. Visitors to CrowdChess propose and vote on moves. After 12 hours, the crowd makes the move with the most votes. Jones, the grandmaster, then has 12 hours to make his move. The first to take three games wins the tournament. Currently, CrowdChess is 14 turns into the first game. Jones, who is playing black, is winning, having captured the crowd’s knight. But Oleynick hopes that as more people visit his site, the crowd’s chances will improve. Now, he says, he has a few hundred participants but he’s adding more each day. (His site was recently profiled on the blog TechCrunch, which has helped increase traffic.) The game should go on for the next several weeks. Next, Oleynick hopes to pit the crowd against a supercomputer.

Burmese chess players in Subic worried

By Robert Gonzaga Central Luzon Desk First Posted 02:12:00 05/13/2008 SUBIC BAY FREEPORT – They spoke haltingly, in fractured English, about the gnawing fear of the unknown. “We [are] here [because of] duty. We stay [here] for duty,” said Grandmaster Win Lay Zaw, 45, leader of Burma’s (Myanmar’s) six-member team in the 2nd Philippine Open International chess championship here. While the commitment to represent their country, devastated by Cyclone Nargis as it ripped through the Irrawaddy Delta on May 2, was foremost in their minds, all the Burmese chess players wanted was information – any piece of news – on the fate of their relatives back home. “Stay(ing) here [is a] duty. We all want [to] go [home]. But no call,” Zaw told the Inquirer on Sunday night. Zaw said officials of his country’s chess federation had yet to advise his team on whether it would pull out from the competitions here and return to Burma. The team was then in Singapore when it received information that the cyclone hit Burma. The government’s death toll stood at 23,350 with 37,019 missing. For these sportsmen, who devour every bit of news from CNN and other international news networks or the Internet, the only thing worse than knowing is not knowing what is happening in their country. They left their families, some of whom live in Rangoon (Yangon), the area hardest hit by Nargis. In the first few days of the disaster, Zaw said he tried calling friends, relatives and even acquaintances in Burma to get news in between preparations and competitions, but no call or email could reach home. Not knowing whether family members were among the living or dead has become a relentless torture for the chess team. Zaw was worried about his sister in Rangoon. “I don’t know if she’s…,” he said, his voice trailing off. A ray of hope shone on Saturday when the team received a call from Mgmg Lwin, president of Burma’s chess federation, from Rangoon. Federation Master (FM) Kyaw Kyaw Soc, 38, was told by Lwin that his family was “fine; they [are] OK.” Soc’s mother, four sisters and a brother lived in Rangoon. Though his worries had somewhat eased, Soc said he and other team members could not take their minds away from their homeland. “[When images from the news reports that] we watch enter our head, [we] can’t think well. But sometimes, [it’s] fine. Sometimes,” he said. FM Lin Naing Kyaw, 26, who has been married for only three months, said: “Nearly every day my wife calls. [I am] so happy because I think [something] bad happen[ed] [at] first. [My] father is in Yangon. He [is] OK.” In fact, Kyaw is only one of two team members who can breathe easier. International Master (IM) Nay Oo Kyaw Tun, 32, who lives in Mandalay, has an uncle in Rangoon. “I am sad about what happened. Our people, so sad. My Uncle, no news.” Mandalay is more than 640 kilometers from Rangoon. IM Aung Aung, 40, also from Mandalay, said: “My brother [is in] Yangon. No news. Don’t know.” IM Zaw Htun Wynn, 26, a bachelor and also from Mandalay, said: “Every one [in my] family live in Mandalay. No problem. But news is very, very sad.” After 10 rounds Monday, the Burmese players’ scores were Wynn, 3.5; W. Zaw, 2.5; Tun, Soc, 2; and Kyaw and Aung, 1. Their days in this bustling port now follow a familiar routine – long stretches of games against Asia’s best, followed by extended hours of watching CNN and reading news reports on the Internet. They declined to answer questions about acts made by their country’s military rulers during the tragedy. But when told of reports that the junta allowed the entry of aid from other countries, they nodded and smiled. “We [are] grateful. Yes,” Zaw said. Chess, the players said, had become a “welcome distraction,” offering an escape from Nargis and its aftermath. After the competitions wrap up on May 14, the team will return to Burma on May 18. They are, however, uncertain how Burma will rise from the tragedy and how they will rebuild their lives. “We have no plans. We don’t know what [to] do,” Zaw said. Copyright 2008 Central Luzon Desk. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Kaupthing Open

May 10 – 17, 2008 Luxembourg There are A, B and C Groups playing a 9 round Swiss! There is a special prize of 1,500 E for the "first woman" – I don’t know if that means the best finishing woman of all the groups or just the first woman in A Group. (Group A 85 players, Group B 66 players, Group C 21 players). Top prize for A Group winner is 3,000 E. Several chess femmes are playing – here are the A Group femme standings after Round 4: 8. Dzagnidze,Nana IM 2443 W GEO 3 0 1 3.0 12. Zdebskaja,Natalia WGM 2368 W UKR 2 2 0 3.0 16. Nebolsina,Vera WGM 2345 W RUS 3 0 1 3.0 20. Socko,Monika IM 2505 W POL 2 1 1 2.5 25. Tania,Sachdev IM 2423 W IND 2 1 1 2.5 42. Dembo,Yelena IM 2429 W GRE 1 2 1 2.0 47. Rudolf,Anna WGM 2302 W HUN 2 0 2 2.0 50. Berend,Elvira WGM 2303 W LUX 1 2 1 2.0 56. Schweitzer,Viktoria WIM 2218 W FRA 1 1 2 1.5 73. Bakalarz,Grazyna WFM 2006 W LUX 0 2 2 1.0 76. Wagener,Anna WGM 2266 W LUX 0 2 2 1.0 85. Vogel,Heike WFM 2134 W GER 0 0 4 0.0

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Weed with a past May 10, 2008 Vervain (Verbena officinalis), a native to the Mediterranean, has naturalized here as a weed. It isn't really much to look at as a garden plant. It has however a colorful and dramatic history. For instance, the Egyptians believed the plant originated from the tears the goddess Isis shed at the death of Osiris. The Romans went a step farther and consecrated the herb (verbena is derived from the Latin for sacred boughs) to use for the purification of their private homes and temples. Brides picked and formed wreaths to wear at their weddings, and medicinally it was used as a remedy for both diarrhea and snakebite. Both the Persians and the Druids used vervain as a cure-all, the latter taking it so far as to use it for divination. According to the Druids, the plant was only effective if harvested when neither sun nor moon were in the sky. They also believed a payback was needed for picking and so left honeycombs wherever they removed the herb. The Christians also embraced this nondescript weed, calling it 'herb-of-the-cross', believing Christ's wounds on Calvary were staunched with the leaves. In medieval times it was said to be a witches' herb used in many spells, especially love spells. Funnily enough, it was used at the same time for protection against witches and witchery. It was also used during this era very widely as a medicinal herb and the court physician for Theodosius I used it to cure tumours of the throat--although the medieval method of doing so wasn't too scientific. The physician would cut a piece of vervain root in half, tying one part around the throat of the inflicted and the other part over a fire. As the root above the fire shriveled and dried out so too would the tumor. Hmmm, I wonder how many cures he performed. It arrived in North America with the Puritans and medicinal use continued for years for a panacea of illnesses. Don't experiment with it though as the glycoside content causes vomiting even in moderate doses. Tip: Sprinkle some aromatic herbs (about 1/2 cup) on the carpet before vacuuming. Vacuum them up and the nice fragrance will remain after cleaning. Superstition: A medieval method to get rid of pimples instructs to go outside at night with a handful of vervain in a hankie. When a shooting star goes by rub the hankie over the pimples and they'll disappear. The hankie is important because if bare hands are used, the pimples will simply be transferred onto them. ©The Powell River Peak 2008

The Goddess in Everyday Life

The goddess is a living, breathing part of everyday life in India. From Orissa villagers take oath to fight against Posco May 11th, 2008 - 6:08 pm ICT by admin At least 100 people Sunday took oath in a village temple in Orissa to fight against the proposed $12 billion steel plant in their region to be set up by South Korean company Posco. The people, mostly from Dhinkia, took oath at a temple of Hindu goddess Ma Sarala at Jhankad village in the coastal district of Jagatsinghpur, some 75 km from here, anti-Posco leader Chitta Swain told IANS. “They took oath that they will remain in the forefront of the anti-Posco agitation and shall sacrifice their life, if required, to prevent the proposed project - the largest foreign direct investment in India”. “They took the oath by touching the holy offerings of the deity after the priests of the temple performed rituals,” Swain said by phone from the temple complex. Swain is deputy general secretary of the Posco Pratirodh Sangram Samiti (PPSS) that has been spearheading the campaign against the proposed plant. Posco, the world’s fourth largest steel maker, signed a deal with the state government in June 2005 to build the plant near Paradip port by 2016. However, over 20,000 people from around 15 nearby villages have been protesting against the project, saying that it would take away their homes and livelihood. The company says the plant would affect only 500 families but would create thousands of jobs. Posco needs 4,004 acres of land, out of which 438 acres are in private hands. The state government said it had sought clearance from the central government so that it can hand over to the firm 2,900 acres that belong to the forest department. The company is awaiting clearance before it can use this land. It is also waiting to get a prospecting licence for the Khandadhar mines in the state that will provide raw material to the plant.

Illegal to Feed Squirrels in Aurora, Colorado

Boo, hiss, boo! This really sucks. Aren't we living in the land of the free anymore??? If I was living in Aurora, I'd be in prison for life already for feeding squirrels, skunks, possums, rabbits and giant raccoons. Squirrel saga continues Aurora man won't give up on feeding them by Audra Ensign, News 2 May 10, 2008 AURORA (KWGN) — The controversy continues for an Aurora man who was told by the city that he couldn't feed squirrels in his neighborhood. Now, what first turned out to be a warning could end up being a battle in the courtroom. Mark Golden says he's tried everything to get his point across to the city but isn't having any luck. Golden found out an anonymous complaint turned out to be from someone who doesn't even live in Aurora. "Turns out she lives in Denver, her mother is my next door neighbor," said Golden. The call lead the city to give him a warning of public nuisance for feeding squirrels in his yard. "It's my worst nightmare when someone can call in anonymously from another city about something that strictly pertains to Aurora. I think it's wrong," he explaied. And after finding out about the caller, he confronted the Division of Animal Control. According to Golden if he keeps feeding the squirrels, they said they're taking him to court. "There are no answers for me, I've sat here until two in the morning trying to figure out what I've done to the city to have the city take such a stand." According to the city there isn't an ordinance against feeding squirrels. They say they just don't encourage it. City officials weren't able to talk to us on camera but did send this statement: "We received a call concerning the squirrels, we asked him to move his feeders, that's really all that's happened." "I just want them to dismiss this, to dismiss the complaint, so I can go back to feeding my squirrels," said Golden. The city says feeding the squirrels is a disturbance and endangers the health and safety of the community. If Golden does not comply he could be fined up to one thousand dollars and serve up to a year in jail. Copyright © 2008, KWGN

Chess Auction at Bonham's London

From Bonham's website:

Game On… Bonhams Takes Control of Chess Market

Chess is making a come-back. For its very first sale dedicated to the world of Chess and Board Games on 13 May 2008 in London, Bonhams is lining up some incredibly important pieces to be sold.

According to Luke Honey, Bonhams’ Chess and Games Consultant, the collectors’ market in Chess is currently very strong and he says: “The sale will feature lots of private collections from around the world with some very rare pieces that can rarely be acquired at auction.”

Looking like a “united nations” of the board games world, Chess sets from almost every continent will be offered for sale by Bonhams, including an extremely rare ivory inlaid Backgammon and Chess Board from Northern Italy and dated to circa 1500 – the time of the Italian Renaissance. It is believed that when it was new it would have been the treasured possession of either a wealthy merchant or an aristocratic nobleman. Such items are not seen at auction often and as a result it is estimated at £8,000-12,000.

Luke Honey says: “The Italians tended to specialise in high quality carving in ivory and wood and were particularly good at producing “bust” form pieces. Complete wooden sets of this period from Italy are particularly scarce and very attractive.”

Around the world in several moves…from China to Ecuador

Like football the game of chess is played throughout the world, transcending all language barriers and cultural differences. This is reflected in the different examples of chess sets featuring in Bonhams’ May sale.

An especially fine quality Chinese Export Gaming Table from Canton, circa 1830, mounted on a tripod base, delicately carved with dragons’ heads, is expected to fetch £4,000-6,000. The lacquered and gilt chess board is richly inlaid with mother of pearl and is in excellent condition. A Belgian Congo Tribal Chess Set in ebony and ivory, dating from around 1900, is highly stylised with the King as a chieftan, Bishops as witchdoctors, and Pawns as tribal elders. This fine quality set was brought back to the UK from the Belgian Congo by a civil engineer after World War One. It is valued at £800-1,200.

A large Eskimo sperm whale ivory chess set, circa 1950, also features in the sale. Knights are represented by dolphins; rooks as arctic hares, and while the King appears in traditional dress, the Queen looks like ‘Pierrot’ the clown with a ruff around her neck. The estimate for this set is £1,200-1,600.
A circa 1920 Silver Chess set from Ecuador in South America depicts Inca folklore figures. The Queen is Pacha (Princess of the last Shiry to rule Quito). The Rooks are copies of the Ecuador Monument while the Knights appear in the form of llamas. Estimate: £700-900.An 18th century Islamic ivory chess set, stained red and green and decorated with gilding, contains abstract pieces as the Koran forbids figures to be reproduced. The set is expected to fetch £4,000-6,000.

Game on…

Other than Chess sets, the sale will include a variety of other games, such as Mah-Jong and Backgammon, rare playing cards and books. From the Emerald Isle, a boxwood playing set made in Galway, West Ireland, is estimated at £2,000-3,000. It comes with a games box for Backgammon and Chess and carries a plaque dating it to 1808. Irish chess sets are similar to English ones of the period, except for the long-snouted horses of the Knights.

A mid-18th century Southern German Games Board for Chess, Backgammon and Nine Men Morris, made out of pear wood will also be sold. Highly decorated with tulip motifs, it is expected to sell for £1,800-2,200.

The Chess and Board Games Sale will take place at Bonhams, Montpelier Street in Knightsbridge, London on 13 May.

Sign of a Sick Society

One of the things that supposedly makes humans "superior" to animals is that we bury our dead - or burn them and offer them up to the heavens where burial is not feasible. But in Burma, dead bodies are being left to rot because they are "strangers" while isolated villagers wait for help that will never come. From The New York Times Bodies Flow Into Hard-Hit Area of Myanmar By THE NEW YORK TIMES Published: May 11, 2008 THANAP PIN SATE, Myanmar — The bodies come and go with the tides. They wash up onto the riverbanks or float grotesquely downstream, almost always face down. They are all but ignored by the living. In the southern reaches of the Irrawaddy Delta, where the only access to hundreds of small villages is by boat, the remains of the victims of the May 3 cyclone that swept across Myanmar are rotting in the sun. “These people are strangers,” said Kyaw Swe, a clothing merchant who said he expected the tides to take away the six bloated bodies lying on the muddy banks near his collapsed home. “They come from upstream.” Villagers here say it is not their responsibility to handle the dead. But the government presence is barely felt in the serpentine network of canals outside Bogale and Phyarpon, devastated towns in the delta, one of the areas hardest hit by the storm. Rest of story.

Chess News Update

I have updated Chess Femme News, May 11, 2008, including special pages dedicated to the upcoming 2008 Frank K. Berry U.S. Women's Chess Championship: profiles and pictures, games and FIDE information for each of the 10 players, along with a page presenting the prize structure/ information (including our Goddesschess Fighting Chess Prize) and the match-ups for all rounds. As they become available I'll post results and standings, as well as links to Championship coverage from other websites and blogs. I hope to give you a comprehensive package of coverage for this year's U.S. Women's Championship.
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