Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Happy Ending

I just love happy endings! I live for happy endings. You may not think it, judging from some of the posts I've made today, but darlings, we all need a little light amidst the gloom and - believe it or not - I'm a person who sees the glass half full rather than half empty! Check out this "modern romance." Ahhh, it's so wonderful, and all the more so because they first met 30 years ago and she's now in her late 50's and not "slim" and he's 65 and no longer "Robert Redford." It's never too late to find love. This story would make a fine movie! Marriage of Michelle Mead and John Armour From The New York Times By DEVAN SIPHER Published: June 22, 2008

Hungry American Families

Hunger isn't just a "Third World Problem." It's here, all around us. Second Harvest is running out of food locally (in the greater Milwaukee area) and nationally, and contributions aren't keeping up with the demand, which is getting larger every day, far outstripping their capacity to provide what hungry families need. Children are going hungry - maybe children in your neighborhood - kids you would never dream in a million years their families couldn't afford to buy enough groceries to feed them... But - have you noticed - their second car disappeared from the driveway? Harry and Sue look a little thin these days - they claim it's because they're following "The Biggest Loser" on the television? They turn down invitations to the neighborhood monthly pot-lucks after the last time, some months ago, when Sue showed up with a not too tasty tuna casserole instead of her signature Angus Beef Burgers? Harry has taken a second job at a local super market doing the 12 to 4 a.m. shift stocking shelves. Sue has taken over the health insurance for the family at her secretarial job because Harry's company, where he's worked for 18 years, eliminated all of those benefits, claiming the expense was just too great and it was either stay in business or provide health insurance and benefits for the employees and go bust. Yet, the boss and his sons and daughters-in-law are still driving their Mercedes and SUVs while claiming dire poverty. Sue elected the highest deductible health insurance plan available through her employer, but it's still costing $650 a month. That's a big chunk out of her gross salary of $45,000 (she nets about two-thirds of that after deductions for federal and state income taxes, Social Security taxes and Medicare taxes. This does not, of course, include deductions for the cost of Sue's family plan health insurance coverage and the monthly bus pass she buys, since Harry needs the van to go to and form work.) In 2008 Sue's employer gave her a 2.9% raise. She will not receive another salary adjustment until 2009. Harry and Sue's property taxes increased by 8.9% last year. We all know what's happened with the prices of gasoline, electricity, water, natural gas - all keep increasing by rates far exceeding 2.9%. Sue is lucky, though. Harry didn't get a raise at all. At this point, they are just barely hanging on. But lately Harry's been feeling sick. He's afraid - he's afraid he might have a form of cancer that runs in his family, but he doesn't want to go to the doctor - they can't afford the out of pocket cost with that high deductible plan. His group life insurance lapsed because he couldn't afford to pay the premiums after his employer stopped paying for the group policy. He can't talk to Sue about this. She already has enough to worry about. The gas-guzzling van needs work that they can't afford and they can't trade it in because no one wants a gas-guzzling van these days. The kids need dental work but they won't get it because Sue couldn't afford to continue to pay the monthly premiums for family dental coverage. They opted for an occasional pound of hamburger (on sale), instead. It's just stress, Harry thinks, that's making him feel sick to his stomach all the time. Just stress. By the way, Harry and Sue don't qualify for food stamps. They "make too much money." From The New York Times Food Stamps Buy Less, and Families Are Hit Hard By LESLIE KAUFMAN Published: June 22, 2008 Making ends meet on food stamps has never been easy for Cassandra Johnson, but since food prices began their steep climb earlier this year, she has had to develop new survival strategies. She hunts for items that are on the shelf beyond their expiration dates because their prices are often reduced, a practice she once avoided. Ms. Johnson, 44, who works in customer service for a medical firm, knows that buying food this way is not healthy, but she sees no other choice if she wants to feed herself and her 1-year-old niece Ammni Harris and 2-year-old nephew Tramier Harris, who live with her. “I live paycheck to paycheck,” said Ms. Johnson, as she walked out of a market near her home in Hackensack, N.J., pushing both Ammni and the week’s groceries in a shopping cart. “And we’re not coping.” The sharp rise in food prices is being felt acutely by poor families on food stamps, the federal food assistance program. In the past year, the cost of food for what the government considers a minimum nutritional diet has risen 7.2 percent nationwide. It is on track to become the largest increase since 1989, according to April data, the most recent numbers, from the United States Department of Agriculture. The prices of certain staples have risen even more. The cost of eggs, for example, has increased nearly 20 percent, and the price of milk and other dairy products has risen 10 percent. Rest of article. ************************************************************************************** Harry and Sue aren't real people - but I do know people like Harry and Sue. I work with them; I ride the bus to and from work with people like them.

India's Growth Outstrips Crops

From The New York Times. I don't know - is this the best way? Genetically engineered crops that can't survive without lots of artificial fertilizers and more water than supplied by rainfall? Water that people need to drink to live, but we're polluting it with chemicals from artificial fertilizers? I just don't know. I don't think anyone knows. But we'd better be coming up with some answers - quick. By 2012 there will be 7 billion people on the planet. Where will they all live? In already crowded India and China? What will they eat? How will they live? So here we are, reading articles about the lack of food supply because of "increased demand" etc. etc. But no one is talking about what is really going on. The Food Chain By SOMINI SENGUPTA Published: June 22, 2008 JALANDHAR, India — With the right technology and policies, India could help feed the world. Instead, it can barely feed itself. India’s supply of arable land is second only to that of the United States, its economy is one of the fastest growing in the world, and its industrial innovation is legendary. But when it comes to agriculture, its output lags far behind potential. For some staples, India must turn to already stretched international markets, exacerbating a global food crisis. It was not supposed to be this way. Forty years ago, a giant development effort known as the Green Revolution drove hunger from an India synonymous with famine and want. Now, after a decade of neglect, this country is growing faster than its ability to produce more rice and wheat. The problem has grown so dire that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called for a Second Green Revolution “so that the specter of food shortages is banished from the horizon once again.” And while Mr. Singh worries about feeding the poor, India’s growing affluent population demands not only more food but also a greater variety. Today Indian agriculture is a double tragedy. “Both in rice and wheat, India has a large untapped reservoir. It can make a major contribution to the world food crisis,” said M. S. Swaminathan, a plant geneticist who helped bring the Green Revolution to India. India’s own people are paying as well. Farmers, most subsisting on small, rain-fed plots, are disproportionately poor, and inflation has soared past 11 percent, the highest in 13 years. Experts blame the agriculture slowdown on a variety of factors. The Green Revolution introduced high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat, expanded the use of irrigation, pesticides and fertilizers, and transformed the northwestern plains into India’s breadbasket. Between 1968 and 1998, the production of cereals in India more than doubled. But since the 1980s, the government has not expanded irrigation and access to loans for farmers, or to advance agricultural research. Groundwater has been depleted at alarming rates. The Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington says changes in temperature and rain patterns could diminish India’s agricultural output by 30 percent by the 2080s. Family farms have shrunk in size and quantity, and a few years ago mounting debt began to drive some farmers to suicide. Now many find it more profitable to sell their land to developers of industrial buildings. Among farmers who stay on their land, many are experimenting with growing high-value fruits and vegetables that prosperous Indians are craving, but there are few refrigerated trucks to transport their produce to modern supermarkets. A long and inefficient supply chain means that the average farmer receives less than a fifth of the price the consumer pays, a World Bank study found, far less than farmers in, say, Thailand or the United States. Surinder Singh Chawla knows the system is broken. Mr. Chawla, 62, bore witness to the Green Revolution — and its demise. Once, his family grew wheat and potatoes on 20 acres. They looked to the sky for rains. They used cow manure for fertilizer. Then came the Mexican semi-dwarf wheat seedlings that the revolution helped introduce to India. Mr. Chawla’s wheat yields soared. A few years later, the same happened with new high-yield rice seeds. Increasingly prosperous, Mr. Chawla finally bought his first tractor in 1980. But he has since witnessed with horror the ills the revolution wrought: in a common occurrence here, the water table under his land has sunk by 100 feet over three decades as he and other farmers irrigated their fields. By the 1980s, government investment in canals fed by rivers had tapered off, and wells became the principal source of irrigation, helped by a shortsighted government policy of free electricity to pump water. Here in Punjab, more than three-fourths of the districts extract more groundwater than is replenished by nature. Between 1980 and 2002, the government continued to heavily subsidize fertilizers and food grains for the poor, but reduced its total investment in agriculture. Public spending on farming shrank by roughly a third, according to an analysis of government data by the Center for Policy Alternatives in New Delhi. Today only 40 percent of Indian farms are irrigated. “When there is no water, there is nothing,” Mr. Chawla said. And he sees more trouble on the way. The summers are hotter than he remembers. The rains are more fickle. Last summer, he wanted to ease out of growing rice, a water-intensive crop. Rest of article.

Funding Cuts Threaten Community Centers in New York City

From "The Week in Pictures" at The New York Times.
Ishmael Sylle, 12, focusing on a chess game at the Parkside Houses community center in the Bronx. The city's public housing agency, the New York City Housing Authority, announced last month that budget problems could force it to close Parkside and hundreds of other community centers, senior centers and recreational, job-training and educational programs throughout the five boroughs.

Bill Wall's Column on the Krush/Zatonskih Armageddon Game

Chess: A Knight's Tour by Bill Cornwall June 22, 2008 Move, Slap, Move!: That sequence, repetitively duplicated at breakneck speed, describes the final moments of the deciding tie-break game played last month in Tulsa, Okla., for the title of U.S. Woman's Chess Champion. Moving pieces at split-second pace and instantly slapping their clocks to preserve time, then-current champion Irina Krush, 24, of New York, and former champion Anna Zatonskih, 29, of Ohio, were engaged in a type of chess appropriately called Armageddon. The scene was prepared when each had scored 7 ½ points in the 9-round main event in which games could take many hours to complete. Two 15-minute "rapid" encounters were split followed by two five-minute "speed" games, also split. Then came one world-ending Armageddon, where there could be no tie. Krush was given the white pieces with six minutes while her opponent commanded black with only four-and-a-half minutes . Counterbalancing the time disadvantage, black possessed draw odds where a draw would ironically win for her. After a blurred confusion of hands, pieces, and clock slaps, Zatonskih stopped, and pointed at the clock. Her foe looked, protested, angrily slapped her king off the board, and left. Krush's time had run out! Zatonskih had regained her title. Controversy erupts: Later, Krush claimed she had been fouled. With the game video supporting her, she could prove that she had lost precious seconds when Zatonskih started her moves early before Krush had actually finished making her own move and stopping the clock. Internet blogging erupted on the subject and the general consensus was instructive. If you have taken your hand off of a piece, your move is over. Once your move is over, your opponent may start theirs even though you may not have yet punched your clock. If this seems unjust, consider that the video did reveal that Krush herself had clearly violated another rule. She had knocked over a man without resetting it.

What's Really Going On In Burma - Eye Witness Accounts

Frustrated Burmese Organize Aid Forays Ad Hoc Groups Formed In Cyclone's Aftermath, But Causes May Widen Washington Post Foreign Service Saturday, June 21, 2008; Page A01 RANGOON -- Seven weeks after huge swaths of Burma were savaged by a cyclone and tidal wave, a new and remarkable citizen movement is delivering emergency supplies to survivors neglected by the military government's haphazard relief effort. The scores of ad hoc Burmese groups, many of them based here in the country's largest city, are not overtly political. But they are reviving a kind of social activism that has been largely repressed by successive military rulers here. Defying roadblocks and bureaucratic obstruction, volunteers have reached devastated villages in many parts of the Irrawaddy Delta, dropping off food, drinking water and other essentials and bringing back photos that contradict claims in the state media that life is returning to normal. Some members of the groups say they hope to keep working together when the cyclone damage is finally repaired and turn toward other activities that carry shades of political activism in this tightly controlled state. With residents' frustration over the official relief effort mounting, pledges of support and donations to the National League for Democracy, the main opposition group in Burma, also called Myanmar, have doubled since the cyclone, according to a student leader of the league. The storm, which came ashore on the night of May 2-3, killed an estimated 134,000 people and created severe hardship for 2.4 million more. The country's deeply xenophobic junta turned aside many offers of foreign help, agreeing to let in substantial numbers of international aid workers only after U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon flew to the country May 22 with a personal appeal. By then, however, homegrown groups were already mobilized, working to offset the tragic shortcomings of the government operation. Down a street lined with gold and ruby merchants, where dealers charm clients over tiny tables set with tea and chess, employees in the back room of a gem shop one recent morning were swapping evidence: photos of rotten government food handouts. A week earlier, people in the shops said, more than a dozen local jewelers had loaded 100 bags of rice, 20 bags of beans, tarpaulins and blankets onto a truck donated by a supplier and set off at midnight for the storm-ravaged town of Labutta. They returned with photos of homeless villagers lining up for tins of food at a makeshift camp, a tear-stained boy who, they said, had lost his entire family to the storm's fierce tidal surge, and rotten rice -- yellow, fist-size chunks of it, piled like rocks in bags donated by the government-affiliated Myanmar Red Cross. "When I saw what they were being fed, I was shaking I was so angry," said a shop assistant, 26, narrating each photo as she passed it to a customer. The informal organizations are often based on occupation. Artists, doctors, students and the gem dealers have formed separate groups. In other cases, the groups are made up of friends coming together to help. Rest of article.

Rice Grain Effect - in Advertising?

Well, if it works, these guys may make some money... Folks familiar with the "ancient history" of chess have most likely heard the tale, with variations, of the wise man in an Indian raja's court who, after earning the gratitude of the raja, was offered anything he wanted, up to half the raja's kingdom. The wise man asked for a measure of grain using a chessboard as an analogy, such that one grain on the first square became 2 grains on the second square, became 4 grains on the 3rd square, became 16 grains on the 4th square, and doubling and doubling so on, until the 64th square was reached. The raja said of course you shall have this, privately thinking to himself that perhaps his wise man wasn't so wise after all, for this was surely a small reward! But it turned out, after the calculations were done, that all the grain in the world would not suffice to fulfill the amount needed. The 64th square alone would be worth 2 to the 63rd power! Add all the other grains to this amount from the other 63 squares. Oh my. According to H.J.R. Murray's "A History of Chess" (a chess historian's Bible), this person was named Sassa (or Sissa or Susa) b. Dahir, from accounts derived from various Arabic sources. That is the idea (sort of) behind this new advertising venture: Small Rice Grain Big Effect: Physicists Use Ancient Model to Sell Advertisement Chess Fields on the Internet.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Night Miscellany

Oy, it's hot and humid and the mosquitoes are attacking in swarms. The experts say these mosquitoes - flood mosquitoes - are harmless and don't carry the West Nile virus. Yeah, right, so just let them bite the hell out of you, content in that knowledge, and die from an infection caused by scratching bites  until you bleed...

Tomorrow is the longest day of the year - the summer solstice. Isn't that when pagans do all sorts of weird things at Stonehenge?

Thunderstorms are threatening but so far - no rain. My basement has alllmmmoooossstttt stopped leaking water but the dehumidifier is making very strange noises. I believe it may be contemplating passing to the next world, where all worthy appliances go when they die. I'm not going to give it passing marks though. I bought this top of the line Sears model in 2002, so it's not even six years old, and mostly sits unused! Now I ask it to perform the relatively modest task of extracting a kajillion gallons of water from the air in my basement and it's balking! Must have been made in China. Ha!

Okay - returning after a bit of a break to make some Kraft mac n cheese. Yeah, I know, not exactly gourmet, but it's easy and quick and I'm starving! So, while the mac is bubbling away in the pot I run downstairs because I don't hear the dehumidifier humming. It's stopped. But the red light signalling a full container of water isn't lit. I check the container - not even a quarter full. I empty it anyway. As I'm putting the container back in it's spot I notice for the first time this filter thingy on the back of the dehumidifier. It looks clogged up with lots of gunk. So I grab a rag and start scrubbing at the gunk. It comes off! Lots of it. I turn the dehumidifier back on and it's no longer making strange laboring noises. Praise the Goddess! Maybe the basement will be dried out before Labor Day after all...

About the RAIN...
You know, all the news stories about our "unprecedented" rain a few weeks ago keep referring to it as a "100 year flood." Now, of course, the water is still causing disasters and headlines as it makes it way downstream on various rivers. Iowa has been especially hard hit, as has Missouri. Rivers are cresting at levels never seen before - new records are being set even as I type this. Thousands upon thousand of acres of planted croplands have been wiped out for the season. If you think food is expensive now, just wait until harvest time, when there is no harvest...

I have a real problem with calling this latest event a "100 year flood," because on August 6, 1986, we got six inches of rain in a matter of about 8 hours and the basement of my parent's house was blown out by water - not from sewer backup in their house but from the storm sewers in the street literally blowing their round heavy metal tops and tons of water beating against the house from the street - several feet deep in a matter of moments The basement windows in that big old duplex were about a foot above grade, but the waters smashed through the windows and poured into the basement.

That rain was called a "100 year flood."

In the spring of 1993, we got a lot more rain. So much rain, the Mississippi River and most of its tributaries were flooded over. So much rain, my sump pump could not keep up with the water pouring into the drain tile. The sump crock overflowed and I had a foot of clean storm water in my basement in no time at all - with the sump pump continuing to work! That was the year I first heard the term "cryptosporidium." This house was was not quite three years old.

That rain was called a "100 year flood."

After the sump pump experience, I had my handy brother-in-law Fred install a super-duper industrial strength sump pump that can suck up 2500 gallons of water a minute. I had a dry basement for the next 3 years.

And then the end of June, 1996 happened. It rained for about 48 hours non-stop. And not just rain - buckets and downpours, constant. I had a seminar to attend in Madison on a Saturday, about 24 hours after the rain began. I left the house at 7:30 a.m., my basement was dry. I was confident the super-duper sump pump would keep me dry.

I was wrong. When I got home about 9:30 that evening, the house was quite. So quiet, I could hear the distinct sounds of running water coming from somewhere - it took me a few moments to realize that it was coming from...THE BASEMENT! EEEK EEEK EEEK EEEK!

I collapsed into bed about 2:30 a.m. the next day, after having attempted - unsuccessfully - to mop up the water. It was a hopeless task. I had a river flowing from the overflowing sump crock to the drain, and the water just kept recirculating...

That rain was also called a "100 year flood."

So, let's see, we've had three "100 year floods" in 22 years. Do you think there is something wrong with the definition of "100 year floods" that the National Weather Service is using???

Okay - the thunder is now getting much louder - the last blast shook the house, so I'm going to shut down for now. 'night!

Chess Princess: Claudia Munoz

Story from Del Rio
10-year-old seeking international chess title
By Claudia Hill
Published June 20, 2008
10-year-old Claudia Muñoz (photo, Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, June, 2008) will be representing the United States in the upcoming Pan-American Youth Festival International Championship Chess tournament in Argentina next week.

Competing against talented chess players from dozens of other countries has Muñoz a little worried, although she believes she can bring home another gold medal to add to her existing collection.

Winner of several gold and bronze medals at a national level throughout Mexico and the U.S., Muñoz first began to play chess at the age of six when her father, a chess coach, taught her the game.

At the present time, Muñoz has already been offered college scholarships due to the success she has obtained throughout her chess career. Muñoz is thrilled to be traveling to Cordoba, Argentina where she will be competing for nine days in the tournament.

The Pan-American Youth Festival International Chess tournament begins June 29 and continues through July 6. The tournament, a part of the Confederation of Chess for America, will enable Muñoz to compete in her respective category based on gender and age.

The rewards of winning such a prestigious tournament are very valuable, according to Muñoz."If I win first place at this tournament, I will receive the 'Woman Fita Master' title," said young Muñoz. "Also, I will automatically be given the opportunity to compete in the upcoming world-level chess tournament in Vietnam," she added.

Throughout the month, Muñoz has been preparing to make the journey to Argentina with her mother Claudia, and the community has helped make it possible. "I have received contributions from Wal-Mart, Ashley Furniture and the 10-minute Oil Change," said Muñoz. "I am very excited that the community is supportive of my dreams," she added.

What caught the heart of Muñoz and her entire family is when Florencio Abrajan, owner of Abrajan's Mexican Restaurant, decided to help in a large way. For weeks, Abrajan collected tips and sold burritos specifically to benefit Muñoz's upcoming trip to Argentina. "My wife heard about little Claudia Muñoz at Wal-Mart and came home and told me about her upcoming trip to Argentina to play in such a big tournament," said Abrajan. "I knew I wanted to help. It's so great to see children do these kinds of things at a young age," he added.

On Thursday evening, Muñoz, along with her mother and sister, met Abrajan at Abrajan's Mexican Restaurant, where she was given a monetary contribution collected by the restaurant to assist with her trip. "I feel very excited because I know God will help me win," said Muñoz.

For more information on Claudia Muñoz and her journey to Argentina, you may log on to

Local Chess: Southwest Chess Club

Milwaukee is the city of festivals and the season is rolling along now. The Big Gig (Summerfest) starts June 26th and runs through July 6th but opening at noon today and running through Sunday night, Polish Fest holds sway over the lakefront festival grounds. The Southwest Chess Club (Hales Corners, Wisconsin) has been invited to have a chess booth at this weekend's Polish Fest. Several local masters and experts will be giving simultaneous exhibitions as part of their activities over the weekend. If you're in the area, stop by for a game of chess. More Southwest Chess Club news (received via email): Due to some water damage at the Hales Corners Village Hall, here is our schedule the next 2 weeks: Tonight: 1-night Action Chess event, at Layton State Bank, Moorland & Beloit, New Berlin. June 26: Casual Chess at Barnes & Noble Bookstore, 76th Street, Greenfield. Club Championship starts JULY 10 (we should be back in our usual Hales Corners Village Hall location by then).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lakshmi Tatma Back in the News

She was considered a "goddess" by the villagers when she was born. A girl child, conjoined to a partially formed twin, was born with four legs and four arms. Her parents named her "Lakshmi" after the Goddess of good fortune. I've written about her in previous posts. Today I saw this recent news. She's so cute (see photo in article!) From Eight-limbed goddess girl takes first steps Sunday, June 15, 2008 Lakshmi Tatma - the girl worshipped as a goddess after she was born with four arms and four legs - has taken her first steps since the extra limbs were removed. The two-year-old, who was sent into hiding after a circus tried to buy her, was all smiles as she shuffled around in a baby walker. But this does not mark the end of the struggle for the young girl, named after the eight-limbed Hindu goddess of wealth and fortune. Despite a gruelling eight months of rehabilitation she will need more surgery on her spine and feet. Lakshmi was born joined at the spine to a headless, 'parasitic' twin in Bihar, north-eastern India. She could not use the twin's arms and legs but the conjoined body fed on hers for oxygen and nutrition. For more than a year she was linked to the twin because her parents feared an operation on the goddess 'reincarnation' would bring bad luck. But doctors warned that their little girl would probably not survive into her teens unless they acted. She travelled thousands of kilometres to Bangalore, southern India, where 30 neurosurgeons worked for 27 hours to remove the extra limbs and separate her spinal column and kidney. The toddler now attends a school for the disabled.

Fear of the Goddess Becharji

Good old fashioned fear of the Goddess prevented a thief from taking Her valuable artifacts from a bank vault in India: Office boy who robbed bank arrested Thursday, 19 June , 2008, 20:50 Ahmedabad: An office boy suspected of robbing valuables worth Rs 6 million from a bank in Gujarat's Mehsana district has been arrested, the police said on Thursday. The theft took place on Saturday night at Becharji Nagrik Sahakari Bank, a co-operative bank, in the temple town of Becharji, about 90 km from here. The bank's office boy, Hardik Darji, was arrested from Ahmedabad on Wednesday night following a tip-off. Darji had broken open 14 lockers on Saturday night and decamped with valuables worth Rs 6 million. His involvement in the theft came to light when the bank opened on Monday morning. Bank manager Natubhai Haribhai Patel, found that 14 lockers, including those of the Becharji Temple Trust, were broken open and valuables stolen. Darji was missing since the day of the theft. A police official said that the ornaments of Goddess Becharji were found untouched, lying in the broken locker. "It seems the culprit fearing the wrath of the goddess had changed his mind at the last moment," a police official said. "It was the first case of this kind in the temple town of Becharji," said Patel soon after the incident. On Sunday, the police rounded up Darji's brother and his friends for questioning. Darji was nabbed from Ahmedabad on Wednesday night.

Queen Control

News about the recently-held Malaysian "closed" Women's Chess Championship, excerpted from full article: From Friday June 20, 2008 Queen control Women chess players are a force to reckon with CHESS by QUAH SENG SUN I RECEIVED an e-mail during the weekend from a reader who signed himself off simply as Jefri. He was commenting on my coverage of the national chess closed championships which ended recently. I will just relate this pertinent part where he said: “Why was there almost no coverage of the women’s championship? You wrote so much on the men’s event but you only gave a brief mention of the women’s tournament.” Obviously, he was referring to this paragraph where I said: “The winner of the women’s event was never in doubt. Alia Anin Bakri was simply too good. She powered her way to win the national closed women’s championship rather easily.” Jefri, you are correct, of course. The women’s championship only got a one-paragraph mention last week but it was not because I had anything against women’s chess. If you have been reading this column closely in the past weeks, you would have seen that there was no slight to the women chess players in this country. In fact, I have written a lot about them. . . . [G]etting back to the women’s championship, Alia . . . won it almost at will. That was how good she was. The women’s field included two former women’s champions but in this event, they were against an irresistible force. Just consider this. As early as the end of the fourth round, Alia was already the sole leader of the tournament, a full point ahead of her closest rivals. In this round, she had beaten former champion Nurul Huda Wahiduddin. While her rivals struggled throughout the tournament, Alia simply breezed her way through her first five games. It was only in the sixth and seventh rounds that she eased off on the pedal and conceded two draws in succession. Still, there was a 1½-point gap between Alia and her closest rivals. For a seven-round event, 1½ points is a wide margin. It’s like the difference between the first and last runners in the 100m dash in athletics. Even then, the results could have been closer and less flattering to the winner. After her draw in the seventh round, Latifah Shamini Latib missed a good chance to be the undisputed runners-up. All that she had to do was to avoid a loss to the former national women’s champion, Khairunissa Wahiduddin. A draw would have been enough to guarantee Latifah sole second place in the standings but the wily Khairunissa showed why, despite her lack of consistency and form, she was a former national women’s champion and still a force to be reckoned with. At the end, there were six players who all ended up in shared second place. Initially, I couldn’t believe it that in a 20-player field, it was still possible to get almost a third of the players finishing joint second (4½ points each) but there you are, it happened right here, in Malaysia, in our own national women’s closed championship.

"The Indian Defense" by Vishy Anand!!!

I'm beside myself tonight. The Goddess is granting me a good evening after a long, hard day. First, the news about Katherine Neville's long awaited sequel to "The Eight" and now this!!!! Am I in Heaven? Er, I don't agree with Anand's take on "The Official HIStory of Chess," based on old chess history crap from 19th century Germans and Englishmen who fancied themselves historians and ethnographers (yeah, we all know where that led us - World War I), but I give Anand a great deal of credit for even knowing about the "accepted" origins of chess line of @%&* and its early history and actually writing about it. Just don't be sucked into the @%&*, darlings. But then, that's why Goddesschess exists. We offer a counter view and some much-needed fresh air... From Time (Magazine online) in Partnership with CNN: The Indian Defense By VISWANATHAN ANAND June 19, 2008 Where did chess begin? For many who play the sport at its highest, most obsessive levels, that's not just a question of history — it's a matter of ownership, of dominion. We're so completely lost in our universe of 64 black and white squares that we like to think every move we make changes the way the world exists. So it's easy for Russians to imagine that chess began when they started to play it. In 1991, at my first international tournament, in Reggio Emilia in northern Italy, a Russian grandmaster condescendingly told me I could at best be a coffee-house player because I had not been tutored in the Soviet school of chess, which then dominated the sport. With the arrogance of youth — I was 21 — I thought to myself, "But didn't we Indians invent chess? Why shouldn't I have my own route to the top of the sport?" It would take me 17 years to find that route, and along the way I've had hundreds of conversations about the origins of chess — with players, fans, officials, taxi drivers, barbers and who knows how many people who sat next to me on a plane. I've heard the ownership of chess being claimed by Russians, Chinese, Ukrainians, Arabs, Iranians, Turks, Spaniards and Greeks. My own view is that the sport belongs to everybody who plays it, but the question of its origins is easy enough to answer: chess comes from India. Our claim is based not on dominance — although the Indian school is now producing lots of high-quality players, including (ahem) the world No. 1. Some of the oldest references to the sport are found in ancient Indian texts. In the great epic Ramayana (which, according to some sources, was orally transmitted sometime between 750 B.C. and 500 B.C.), the demon king Ravana invents chess to amuse his wife Mandodari. A brilliant mind, she promptly beats him at it. My grandmother told me that story when I first began to play the game at age 6. Chess also features in the Arthashastra (3rd century B.C.), perhaps the world's oldest political treatise. Its author, Chanakya, describes chess as a game of war strategy, known as chaturanga, played on an 8-by-8 board. Think of it as the world's first virtual war game. I believe chess traveled westward out of India, through what is now Afghanistan into Persia, where it arrived during the Sassanid Empire — an Indian king is believed to have sent a chessboard as a gift to his Persian counterpart. At the royal court in Ctesiphon, the game was known as chatrang. The Arabs learned it (they called it shatranj) when they conquered Persia in the 6th century A.D. and carried it across northern Africa. They introduced the game to Europe when the Moors crossed the Mediterranean into the Iberian peninsula. It grew immensely popular in Moorish Spain, where it was played in the street — a practice still seen in parks and other squares in cities around the world. Iberia underwent a major change after the 15th century reconquista by Catholic forces led by Queen Isabella I — and chess changed, too. On the board, the queen became the most important piece; the bishop replaced the camel and flanked the king and queen. (Modern chess is still played by rules formalized under Isabella's reign.) Around this time, the Spanish player Luis RamÍrez de Lucena wrote what may have been the first book about chess theory — the Lucena Position remains to this day the cornerstone of rook and pawn endings. Ironically, Russia may have been one of the last places in the Old World to receive chess, likely through the Volga trade route. It became popular there during the reign of Peter the Great. The late introduction didn't stop the Russians from becoming the game's superpower, though, and it wasn't until 2000 that an Indian — yours truly — finally brought the title of world chess champion back to the land of the sport's birth. I like to think that the arc of my own career has in some ways mirrored the journey of chess. I learned to play in India, then moved to Spain so I could play the European circuit, and won my first world championship in Iran. It's nice when your place in chess history has something to do with the bigger picture. Viswanathan Anand, 39, is an Indian chess grandmaster and the current world chess champion

Katherine Neville "The Eight" Sequel Soon!

A search here under "The Eight" will bring up 11 prior posts - I think that's the most posts I've ever done on one subject. I tested it - if you click on a label that will bring up all posts that are labeled the same. Pretty cool. I won't go on and on yet again about how it was "The Eight" that brought me to chess - I would say "back to chess" but, you see, I'd never been "in chess" to begin with, so there was nothing to which to be brought back! Suffice to say that I was pleased as punch to read this evening (after a long, hard day at the office, and after two glasses of wine out on the deck after I got home, just decompressing) at Susan Polgar's blog that the long-awaited sequel to "The Eight" will be released in October! Of course I pre-ordered my copy IMMEDIATELY, lol! It's called "The Fire" and picks up 30 years after the sequence of events that transpired in "The Eight." I hope it turns into a series. KN must therefore live at least another 40 years - I think we're about the same age and I want her to continue writing sequels as long as I live, and I intend to live into my nineties. Here's the info from the publisher. For fans of Katherine Neville, no further explanation is necessary. For people unfamiliar with "The Eight," I recommend reading through some of my postings of materials related to chess from the novel (see search info above). You'll either find it intriguing - or boring. It's up to you, darlings. But before you dismiss it - "The Eight" has everything that's worthwhile: intelligence, sex, beautiful men, sex, beautiful women, sex, love, sex, chess, chess, chess, sex sex sex, an all involving-mystery, sex, did I say chess? - and, not least, the Great White Goddess in all her untold glory. All done with exquisite taste and balance. No raunch, no porn, no cheap shots. Did I mention I can't wait for the sequel?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Panamerican Girls Chess Championship

Held in Cali (where is Cali, exactly?) May 10 - 15, 2008. WFM Cori Deysi won the event with 7.5/9. She came to my attention last month by her performance in the Benidorm Open (April 25 - May 4, 2008), finishing in 23rd place (tied with 16 other players) with 7.0/10, the top female finisher out of 198 players. Here are the final standings: Rk. Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 1 WFM Cori T Deysi PER 2208 7,5 40,5 48,0 2 WIM Chirivi Yenny COL 2168 7,0 35,0 48,0 3 WIM Rivera Ingris COL 2144 6,0 28,5 49,5 4 WFM Herrera Milena COL 2007 5,5 29,5 45,5 5 Orozco Luz Elena COL 1946 5,5 25,5 42,0 6 Orozco Lina Yomayra COL 1955 5,0 27,0 44,0 7 Castrillon Melissa COL 1946 5,0 26,5 48,0 8 WFM Aliaga Fernandez Ingrid Y PER 2097 5,0 25,0 45,0 9 Guarin Daniela COL 1846 5,0 22,0 40,0 10 Aguilar Natalia Andrea COL 1966 4,5 19,0 33,0 11 Cardona Carolina COL 1919 4,0 20,5 40,5 12 Ocampo Garcia Derly COL 0 4,0 20,0 40,0 13 Galvis Maryory COL 0 3,5 18,5 32,0 14 Galvis Pedraza Selene COL 0 3,0 14,5 32,0 15 Rodriguez Sofia COL 1998 2,5 10,0 31,0 16 Chavez Diana Maria COL 1850 2,0 10,0 37,5 17 Cuervo Mendoza Lina COL 0 1,0 6,0 32,5

Cherokee Nation Chieftans' Camp

'Sis, this one's for you. Isis is part Cherokee. Story from Rome News (Rome, Georgia, USA) Children study the past at Chieftains camp 06/18/08By Kevin Myrick / RN-T staff writer For the past five years, children such as 9-year-old Ruth Ann Freeman have been spending a week’s worth of days experiencing the history of the Cherokee at the Chieftains Museum Camp. Ruth Ann, a big archaeology and history buff, started the camp Monday and was excited at today’s lesson in archaeology given by Dave Davis, who works at the museum’s lab. “I love to dig up stuff and learn about the past,” Ruth Ann said. “I just think it’s interesting.” Ruth Ann listened intently while Davis explained all the tools that are used in his profession and about the history of the area at the camp, which according to camp director Debby Brown, explores Cherokee history and tradition. “They’re making all sorts of arts and crafts, from Cherokee masks, medicine bags and jewelry,” Brown said. “And a lot of the things we make are done the same way they did it and with the same materials.” Brown also regales the campers with Cherokee stories and legends, and on Friday at 1 p.m. the children will perform some of these legends on stage for friends and family to watch. “This is always a big highlight because the kids get to make the Cherokee legends their own,” Brown said. Brown sincerely hopes that her campers have fun, but also takes some history away with them. “We try to teach them as much as we can about Major Ridge and the Cherokees,” Brown said. “I hope that they can come to appreciate the part that Major Ridge played in this area and how important a person he was for an entire people.” Like Brown, Davis hopes that the campers will come away with some knowledge of archaeology. His biggest hope is that interest gained from this camp into his profession will lead to an archaeology camp that would have a simulated dig site. “I would love to have an archaeology camp,” Davis said. “It would teach the children, like this camp, more about the past, so they could appreciate the past and become good stewards of the past.” The camp ends Friday with the animal legends play being presented at 1 p.m. at the Chieftains Museum.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Capture the Queen Update

Original story. Follow-up story. She's baaacccckkkkk! Story from the Missoulian Online. Tuesday, June 17 2008 Attorney wants ID theft trial for Montana woman moved Posted on June 17 By MEG KINNARD of the Associated Press COLUMBIA, S.C. - A Montana woman accused of stealing a missing woman's identity to get into an Ivy League school can't get a fair trial in South Carolina because of intense media attention, her attorney said Tuesday. The attorney for Esther Elizabeth Reed of Townsend, Mont., said she plans to ask a judge to move the trial to New York, Chicago or Atlanta."Greenville is such a small area and so closely connected to Brooke Henson," said Atlanta attorney Ann Fitz, who took Reed's case pro bono after the woman contacted her from jail. "Brooke Henson's family has said that they want Esther Reed to get the maximum, that she should never see the light of day again." Reed, arrested Feb. 3 in Chicago, was indicted last year on federal charges that she used Henson's identity to obtain false identification documents, take a high school equivalency test and get into Columbia University. Investigators have said they do not think Reed had anything to do with the disappearance of Henson, who was last seen in 1999.Fitz also said she is looking for mental health experts to evaluate her new client. "There's an underlying mental condition that has plagued Ms. Reed for many, many years," Fitz said. She did not specify what condition that may be. "It's my theory that she did this more as a survival technique for circumstances that occurred in her younger life. "Prosecutors have said that, starting in March 2001, Reed juggled six false identities to attend California State University at Fullerton and Columbia University. She concocted various stories about herself, including that she earned her living as a chess champion and had to change her name because she was in the witness protection program. Reed began attending Columbia in August 2004, using Henson's name to get student loans. When authorities caught up to her in New York two years later, Reed insisted she was Henson and even answered some personal family questions correctly. But she stopped cooperating and disappeared when asked to take a DNA test, according to prosecutors. U.S. Attorney Walt Wilkins said he believes South Carolina is the most appropriate place to hold Reed's trial. Wilkins also said that he expected a judge would grant Fitz's request that jury selection, scheduled for next month, be delayed to give her more time to prepare her case.

Stone of Scone a Fake?

This is news? I thought it was well known the Stone of Scone a/k/a the Stone of Destiny is a fake! Story at The Stone of Destiny is fake, claims Alex Salmond By Auslan Cramb, Scottish Correspondent Last Updated: 1:41PM BST 16/06/2008 Scottish, English and British monarchs have been crowned on the ancient coronation stone since the ninth century. It spent 700 years under the chair in Westminster Abbey after it was seized in 1296 by King Edward I, and was finally returned to Scotland 12 years ago. It has since been viewed at Edinburgh Castle by tens of thousands of people, and is regarded as a symbol of Scottish independence. According to legend, Jacob used the ancient stone as a pillow when he dreamt of a ladder to heaven. But Scotland's First Minister is convinced that it may be no more than a worthless lump of Perthshire sandstone. He believes it was passed off as the real coronation stone when Edward stormed Scone Abbey in 1296. Mr Salmond said: "If you're the abbot of Scone and the strongest and most ruthless king in Christendom is charging toward you in 1296 to steal Scotland's most sacred object and probably put you and half of your cohorts to death, do you do nothing and wait until he arrives or do you hide yourself and the stone somewhere convenient in the Perthshire hillside? I think the second myself." He is not even convinced that the "fake" stone plundered from Scone was the same one that was returned to Scotland by Michael Forsyth, the then Tory Scottish Secretary, in 1996. Rest of story.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Genetic DNA Markers Create an Intricate Chessboard

The infinite beauty of the chessboard of creation. It's old but true - a picture is worth a thousand words! Too bad the doctor who put this together used only 62 individual's sequences, not 64! Story from The New York Times.

In the Art of a DNA Graph, the Colors of Uniqueness
Published: June 17, 2008

“DNA Collage 1” is on the cover of the new issue of Connecticut Medicine. Dr. Ruaño called it a “snapshot” of variations in the genome sequences of 62 people, one to a column, from blood samples taken in clinical studies at the hospital.

Tiny rectangles, making up what appears more a grid than a collage, are each a “fingerprint’’ showing how a person’s DNA sequence varies and what makes the person unique — or not. Differences in the sequences could affect, for example, how likely a person is to have heart problems or suffer side effects from a cholesterol drug.

All people have in common more than 99 percent of our gene sequences. Yet the type of sequence variation portrayed here, caused by a single altered nucleotide, accounts for most of the genetic differences among humans.

The colors show the DNA type inherited from a father, mother or both parents. Red signals a “genetic mosaic” of the parents, with different sequence variants from each. Black and white rectangles show that a person inherited the same sequence variant from both parents.

“We wanted to synthesize variability into a clear pattern,” said Dr. Ruaño, who is president of Genomas Inc., which is developing genomics-based tools for diagnosis and drug prescription. “The eye is the most important pattern recognition instrument that humans have.”

2008 Indian Women's National "B" Chess Championship

The final round was held, but I don't think the standings at the end of the article are accurate.

Story from

Maiden title for Eesha Karvade
Principal Correspondent
— Photo: PTI Eesha.

KOZHIKODE: Eesha Karvade won her maiden title in the National women’s ‘B’ chess championship, which concluded at Hotel Sana Tower here on Saturday. She finished with 8.5 points from 11 games after drawing with Pon N. Krithika in the final round.

Mary Ann Gomes, who beat Alka Das, secured the second place, while top seed Nisha Mohota, who drew with Kruttika Nadig, finished third.

The trio and six others — Bhakti Kulkarni, Swati Ghate, Kruttika Nadig, Pon N. Krithika, Padmini Rout and Amruta Mokal — scored eight points each and their progressive scores were applied to break the ties.

They, along with Eesha, qualified for the next National women’s ‘A’ championship (the top nine from the National women’s ‘B’ make the grade).

Important results: 11th round: Pon N. Krithika 8 drew with Eesha Karvade 8.5; Kruttika Nadig 8 drew with Nisha Mohota 8; Bhakti Kulkarni 8 drew with Padmini Rout 8; Aarthie Ramaswamy 7.5 drew with Swati Ghate 8; Mary Ann Gomes 8 bt Alka Das 7; Swati Mohota 7 drew with R. Bharathi 7; A. Niji 6.5 lost to Ch. Divyasri 7.5; Mitali Patil 7 drew with N. Raghavi 7; J. Mohana Priya 7 drew with Devangi Patankar 7; B. Taraswini 6.5 lost to Supriya Maji 7; Saimeera 7 bt Bindu K. Saritha 6; Nimmy A. George 7 bt C.H. Savetha 6; Pallabi Roy 6 lost to M.R. Sangetha 7; Anuprita Patil 6.5 drew with E. Sheena 6.5; Baisakhi Das 7 bt A. Sithalachumi 6; J. Sahari 6.5 drew with Madhuri Patil 6.5; Shalmali Gagare 6.5 bt Teenu Thomas 6; S.V. Sathyapriya 6 drew with K. Shruthi 6; P.K. Jayasree 6.5 A. Akshaya 5.5; Shaati Majumdar 6 drwe with Aparajita Gochikar 6; Shikha Shah 6 drew with Agnihotri Ghosh 6; G. Sandhya 5.5 lost to J. Saranya 6.5.

The standings: 1. Eesha 8, 2-9. Mary, Nisha, Bhakti, Swati Ghate, Kruttika Nadig, Pon N. Krithika, Padmini and Amruta 8; 9-11. Aarthie and Divyasri 7.5.

© Copyright 2000 - 2008 The Hindu

It's Not New and It's Not a Pyramid!

From Newsweek (good for them - it's about time someone gives Zahi Hawass his comeuppance). TELEVISION TV’s Not-So-Great Pyramid A documentary discovers 'The Lost Pyramid' of Giza. It turns out that 'Lost' is a relative term. By Rod Nordland NEWSWEEK Jun 23, 2008 Issue "The Lost Pyramid" is one of those rare documentaries with a revelation so stunning, it's made headlines before anyone has seen it. The film, debuting next week on the History Channel, follows a team of archeologists as they unearth Egypt's fourth Great Pyramid at Giza, which, as the title says, has been lost for years to the desert sands. Even more amazing, this new pyramid (built by the Fourth-dynasty Pharaoh Djedefre) is actually the highest one of all—27 feet higher than the Great Pyramid of Cheops. "I'm a pyramid man, and what I've seen now has made me change many things," says Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities. "Every history book in every language is going to be rewritten." The only problem is that statement—indeed, the entire documentary—is arguably as solid as the crumbling pyramid itself. Egyptologists have known about Djedefre's pyramid for years. It was discovered a century ago—or rediscovered, since tomb raiders and stonemasons had been picking it over for centuries. If it hasn't been explored until recent years, that's in part because the pyramid sits close to a military exclusion zone, probably the site of nearby surface-to-air missiles. For the record, the structure isn't really on the Giza plateau, which is five miles to the south, and while it may appear larger than Cheops, that's only because Djedefre's hill is so high—the Great Pyramid is more than twice as tall in absolute terms. Some Egyptologists say that the slope of Djedefre's walls—60 degrees, as opposed to the 52-degree slope of the major pyramids—mean that the star of "The Lost Pyramid" is really just a sun temple. "It has never been lost," says Vassil Dobrev of Cairo's French Institute of Archaeology, "and it is not even a pyramid." How could this happen? Very easily. "The Lost Pyramid" is just the latest entry in the competition among documentary makers to find the latest new old thing, especially in Egyptology. Atlantic, the producers of "The Lost Pyramid," is also working on an eight-part series for the National Geographic Channel on Egypt, and has done three King Tut documentaries and at least three others on ancient Egypt, with "several more" in production, says Atlantic CEO Anthony Geffen. Among them, "Egypt's Lost Tomb" and "Nefertiti Resurrected" speculate that Nefertiti, who may or may not have been Tut's stepmother, may be in a new tomb, known as KV63, found near his. The Discovery Channel has "Egypt's New Tomb Revealed," about a find in the Valley of the Kings, but its own experts concede there's "nothing definitive" to say that it is even a tomb—though there is the supposedly suggestive evidence of a fragment of an inscription reading PA-ATEN, which could possibly be part of the former name given to Ankhesanamun, Tut's presumed wife. Anyway, you get the idea. The pyramids may have been picked clean by tomb raiders and archeologists of yore, but put them on TV and there's still gold to be found in them. Not surprisingly, the producers of "The Lost Pyramid" say they've got the real deal. "We don't do films on Egypt unless there is something new to say," says Geffen, who maintains that the Djedefre discoveries are not generally known while also discounting the results from a 1995 excavation of the site because there is no final published report. "When we do something new, these things get four times the ratings than normal. You make it right and it will do well." "The Lost Pyramid" certainly looks like a high-ticket item. It opens with an attractive blond narrator, Tessa Dunlop, intoning "assassination, incest, megalomania, feuding families" to a dramatic soundtrack. (Identified on the program as a historian, she's a British TV and radio host working on her master's degree in history.) The film is filled with ambitious, computer-generated reconstructions of what the temple might have looked like in 2500 B.C., give or take a few years. Standing on the rubble-strewn hillock of Abu Rawash, an observer can see that Djedefre's pyramid is in an impressive position, with a view of the three Great Pyramids and, on a clear day, other pyramids even farther away, at Saqqara. The burial chamber, now fully excavated, had been dug deep into bedrock, and seeing it fully exposed is a window into ancient engineering feats that are possibly the most enduring mystery of the pyramids. If that's what you'd call this pile of rocks. Dobrev ticks off a list of reasons "The Lost Pyramid" doesn't measure up to its billing. There is only one pit for burial of the sun boats that take the resurrected pharaoh to the afterworld; nearly all pyramids come equipped with two of them. No inscriptions of Djedefre have been found inside, just objects—which could have been brought by cult worshipers to a sun temple—and the objects are of quartzite, which the ancients associated with the sun. Though interviewed on camera for "The Lost Pyramid," Dobrev's contrary views are given short shrift in the program; he says he suspects Djedefre's pyramid is at another place altogether, Zawyet el-Aryan, south of Giza, where the remains of a pyramid with a 420,000-square-foot base has been found, far bigger than the thing at Abu Ruwash, and also with Djedefre's name on a foundation stone, he claims. Most archeologists wouldn't dare to contradict Hawass, the pharaoh of Egyptian archeology, who participates in most of these TV documentaries (he's National Geographic's "explorer in residence"). "I was born in Bulgaria and moved to France, so I know what it is to be free, and I didn't come to Egypt not to be," Dobrev says. "It's clear, clear, clear, this is not a pyramid; it's a complete perversion of archeological fact to say it is." Name-calling isn't likely to stop the filmmakers. Hawass reckons only a third of Egypt's monuments have been discovered, and the record box-office take from last year's King Tut traveling exhibition has inspired a second show, now in the planning stages. New excavation tools have become available, too: ground-penetrating radar, miniature cameras on robots to penetrate the unexplored interiors of Cheops' burial chambers, nonintrusive CT scanners to use on fragile mummies. "It's a whole new era where we start to look under the sand where you couldn't before," says Geffen. "It's almost like 'Egypt CSI'." And with any luck, these shows will pull in "CSI"-size ratings, too. © 2008

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Jane, Jane, Jane

Is this a portrait of Jane Austen? If so, it was taken just a few years before her death at age 43 in 1817.

I like this Jane - she's fashionably dressed and flirtatious - perhaps a likeness taken by someone with a crush on a middle-aged Jane??? I believe it's Jane because the "nose" is there, and those "fine eyes." Even in this miniature, her personality comes sparkling through.

This is the very important, recently recognised, 19th Century Portrait of Jane Austen, painted in 1815 and discovered in the exceptional "Liber Amicorum" (Friendship Book) belonging to the Rev. James Stanier Clarke, the Librarian of the Prince Regent (later King George IV of Great Britain and Ireland). Clarke was a competent, if amateur, watercolourist whom Jane Austen acknowledged as her friend in the last letter she wrote to him in 1816. Detailed and solid evidence of the Book and the Watercolour has been published in "James Stanier Clarke and his Watercolour Portrait of Jane Austen" by Richard James Wheeler and is available.

Jane Austen's First Love?

As per other events (real and imaginary) in Jane Austen's life, her relationship - or lack thereof - with one Tom Lefroy has lead to thousands upon thousands of words being written. Me - I'm a sucker for a sob story...

From The Times
June 11, 2008
Tom Lefroy, the real-life inspiration behind Darcy
Carol Midgley: Wednesday profile

“Skinny geek”. “Pale wimp”. “Wispy-haired girlie”. Thank goodness none of these could apply to that rugged hero of many a female fantasy - Mr Darcy, from Pride and Prejudice, eh? When Colin Firth emerged dripping from a lake in the BBC's adaptation of Jane Austen's novel, a nation of women swooned that, yes, that is exactly how we'd imagined Darcy to look. As the novel says, he was a “fine, tall person”, with “handsome features” and “noble mien” and a sexy swagger of superiority.

But, oh dear, look what's happened. A 3in watercolour of Thomas Langlois Lefroy, the man thought to be the real-life inspiration behind Darcy, has just been made public and - how can we put this kindly? - we doubt that he'll be setting many hearts a-flutter. Though Lefroy, an Irish-born politician and judge who had enjoyed a flirtation in his early twenties with Austen, has a perfectly pleasant face in the picture; there's just no way that he has a six-pack. His features are so delicate that he looks like he might even weigh less than Elizabeth Bennet. Less sex god, more Lib Dem MP.

The portrait, painted by the English miniaturist George Engleheart in 1798 two years after Lefroy and Austen were forced to part because his family didn't consider her to be marriage material, will be on sale at the Grosvenor House Art and Antiques Fair next week with an asking price of £50,000. It is one of only two portraits of Lefroy known to exist. Austen was a rector's daughter and still 13 years away from her first success, Sense And Sensibility, so didn't fit the bill.

Lefroy later described his feelings for her as “boyish love”. Just before they separated Austen wrote: “At length the day is come on which I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy... My tears flow as I write at the melancholy idea.” Three years later Lefroy married the heiress Mary Paul and had a successful legal career, becoming chief justice of Ireland and dying at 93. He named his eldest daughter Jane - scant compensation for Austen, who never married.

As for the rest of us, they say you should never get too close to your heroes. Sweet-faced Lefroy may prove the point.
There was one comment made on the story at the time I read it (earlier this evening):

Er - should a 19 year old Georgian-era Irish boy look like a 1990's 30+ Colin Firth? Tom Lefroy's first daughter was called Mary. There are at least 4 other paintings of him in existence, one in a very prominent place in UK law, and 2 marble busts, one on very prominent show in an Irish University.
Edward Lefroy, Marazion, UK

If this isn't a novel, it should be! Is this "Edward Lefroy" real - and if so, is he a descendant of THE Tom Lefroy??? And what's this about Tom Lefroy's oldest daughter being named Mary? So her name was actually MARY CHRISTMAS LEFROY? Oh Please - even the most idiotic parents would not do that to a kid, would they? On the other hand, that may be why reports say she never married...

According to Wikipedia (yeah, I know, everyone says Wiki entries should be taken with a grain of salt, but for my part, every single one of the entries I've ever checked in my admittedly obscure searches for information has - upon subsequent research - turned out to be accurate! So please, give Wiki a break, okay?) Tom Lefroy's oldest daughter was named Jane Christmas Lefroy, although she was most likely named after Tom's rich's wife's mother - a happy coincidence shall we say...

Unlike in novels, people don't die of broken hearts. Instead, they suck it up and carry on, because life is to be lived, unless one commits suicide. To put it bluntly, we continue to eat, poop and sleep day in and day out, and unless one is born independently wealthy, after a certain age we all have to make a living. A sad fact of life, not the stuff of romantic melodrama, perhaps, but true nonetheless. I love a sob story as much as anyone, but in the cold hard light of tomorrow morning, when I have to get up, scrub up, feed my critters and head off to the office on a foul, filthy, over-crowded bus, any "romance" in my soul goes temporarily underground, so to speak. Otherwise, one would never be able to give an "EXCUSE me" elbow in the ribs to an obnoxious hip-hopper as one is squeezing off the rear exit. As a woman of a "certain age," I can now get away with that now, tee hee. One of my life's little joys...

So, what about Tom? Of COURSE The Times did NOT publish the portrait of the wimpy 19 year old Tom Lefroy. However, Wiki did have a portrait of a very distinguished looking Tom at age 79 (if the caption is to be believed, as it was said to have been painted in 1855, and he died at age 93 in 1869). He's a handsome man, given his age - and sure doesn't look like 79 - at least, not what I'm certain 79 would have looked like 150 years ago! So perhaps the portrait artist was just a "wee bit kind" as the saying goes. He's a handsome man, nonetheless. Ditch the wig and put the dude in a 21st century Wall Street suit and he'd fit right in - he's got a modern-looking face and, obviously, while he lived, he had an eye to the main event...

Added at 8:45 p.m. What ho! I have found an image of the young Tom Lefroy. I don't think he looks wimpy at all, not according to the fashion of the times. The eyes and eybrows, especially, are quite sexy. Sort of reminds me of a man I had the hots for back in the 1980's -

Chess News Update, This and That, Etc.

  • Susan Polgar's latest column has been published at the online version of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal (June 15, 2008)
  • I updated Chess Femme News last night. I'm terribly behind the times and just started putting together the June, 2008 news! I blame press of other business (such as unrelenting rain from Mother Nature) and exhaustion from covering the recently-concluded U.S. Chess Championships. I added information about the post-Armageddon events following the awarding of the women's champion title to WGM Anna Zatonskih at the 2008 Frank K. Berry U.S. Women's Chess Championship.
  • Speaking of Anna Zatonskih, if I didn't post about this earlier, Tom Braunlich (one of the organizers of the 2008 U.S. Chess Championships) did an interview with AZ that has been published at Chess Life Online because he did not want to wait for the print version (good for him and great for us!) Overall impression: highly favorable. She is one classly lady.
  • dondelion has updated Random Round-Up at Goddesschess for the week of June 15th! You'll find it posted just below "Access Mundae" on the right-hand side of the page (scroll down a bit). As always, Mr. Don has done a fantastic job of putting together bits and pieces of archaeology and whatever-ology to present a beautiful work of art!

Philippines Chess News

Monday, June 16, 2008 Chess champion draws praises JOHN Ray Batucan drew praises from sports officials and supporters in Davao City for his conquest in the 9th Asean Age-Group Chess Championships. "We are proud that a Dabawenyo has made a mark in youth chess. We are also happy that we are able to help him because we believe that he has something to prove not only to himself, to his family but also to his fellow young Dabawenyos," said Christopher "Bong" Go, city sports coordinator. "We congratulate him for bringing honor to our country and to Davao City," Go added. Engineer Enrico Vanta of the Chadric Builders Construction and Supply also admired the 11-year-old Batucan for his victory against top-rated opponents. "This calls for a celebration. He made Davao City proud and we are happy he got the gold," said Vanta, who helped Batucan and another Davao player, Rowelyn Joy Acedo, in the Vietnam campaign. Batucan won the gold in the boy's 12-under category after scoring 7.5 points in nine rounds. He also powered the country to the team gold with his sterling performance. Go also thanked National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) president Prospero "Butch" Pichay for his support to the Davao players. "We are thankful to him (Pichay) for giving our young players the chance to represent our country to the Asean tournament," he said. City officials and other well meaning private individuals had donated cash to help Batucan, a student of Don Juan dela Cruz Elementary School.

Chess Princess: Seshni Govindsamy

Chatsworth chess whizz wants to test her talents in Spain
Suthentira Govender
Published:Jun 15, 2008

A Chatsworth teenager is brushing up on her chess moves to represent South Africa at a prestigious international tournament in Spain.

Kharwastan Secondary pupil Seshni Govindasamy is one of four girls selected by Chess South Africa and the South African Women’s Chess Association to participate in the St. Augustine chess tournament later this year.

Govindasamy, the only KwaZulu-Natal representative, told the Sunday Times Extra she was “honoured and excited” about being selected.

The Grade 10 pupil, who is a member of the Durban Chess Club, became hooked on the game after being introduced to it by her father. “My dad bought my brother and I a chess set as a Christmas gift and taught us a few moves. I didn’t find it a difficult game to grasp and eventually developed my own strategies,” she said.

Since her introduction to the game, the shy 15-year-old has played the competitive chess circuit and has won a number of interschool tournaments.

“I play tournaments every Saturday. I love the challenge of the game and it also allows me to develop my problem- solving skills, which I use in all aspects of my life. It also allows me to make friends and to socialise,” she said.

Govindasamy was selected to represent South Africa in Spain after her impressive performance in the national chess tournament in Bloemfontein last year. She won the majority of the nine rounds she played.

“I am really excited about Spain. I haven’t been there before and it will be a new experience. I have been to Greece for the World Chess Games in April last year. I won five out of the nine games I played there,” she said.

While Govindasamy prepares for her tournament, her parents are hard at work trying to raise R14000 before the end of June to fulfil their daughter’s dream.

Team manager Jacqueline Fritz said in a letter that Govindasamy’s achievement was a “remarkable” one.

Fritz said chess was not a “major sport code in South Africa” and that Chess South Africa relied on businesses to provide financial help to champions to compete at this level.

“It would be unfortunate if these exceptionally talented, hard-working junior chess champions were to be denied this opportunity due to a lack of finance.”

Fritz said experience has shown “that many of the most productive professionals in the world first proved themselves as champions on the competitive chess circuit.”

5,000 Year Old Figurines Found Near Caral, Peru

5000-year-old anthropomorphic figures found in Huaura, Lima

Figure: Iconic mother nursing child from Huaura excavation; compare to figures of Isis and the Virgin Mary)
Lima, Jun. 08 (ANDINA).- In the last days, a team of archaeologists headed by Ruth Shady has discovered a number of anthropomorphic figures believed to be some five thousand years old near the district of Vegueta in the province of Huaura on the coast north of Lima.

These relics have been unearthed in the archeological site of Vichama, or "hidden city", a place that belongs to the same civilization of Caral and which is located 159 kilometers north of Lima. Caral is considered the oldest city of America with around 5000 years old.

The figures represent a woman nursing and a person of high social status. It was reported that Carbon 14 dating will soon determine how old these relics are.

This discovery occurs almost a year after the start of archaeological Works on this site headed by Dr. Ruth Shady.

These objects, along with others found at the scene, will be exhibited at the Communitarian Museum of Vegueta starting this weekend.

A Find Announced...and the Site is Then Looted

This is disgusting. You see why archaeologists keep finds and digs secret (or try to) from the general public - it is because of filthy scumbag looters and their facilitators, who would kill, stuff and sell their own grandmothers to make a buck, and laugh about it on the way to the bank. The find announced: Local Archaeologists Found Statuette of Venus Near Ruse Town Updated on: 11.06.2008, 11:51 Published on: 11.06.2008, 11:39 Author: Blaga Bangieva An extremely precious statuette of Venus - 15 cm high was found in archaeological excavations in Rome's Trimamium. This was announced by Nikolay Nenov, director of Regional History Museum in Ruse. The bronze figure was found in a pit from Roma's period, where before that were discovered 36 coins that dates from I-III century. According to archaeologist Vurbin Vurbanov the statuette has been made in local workshop. The find will be conservative and restored because is covered with coating. Then the looting occurred: Treasure Hunters Destroy Roman Fortress Site in Bulgaria's Ruse 12 June 2008, Thursday Treasure hunters destroyed the work of an archeological team at the exploration of the Roman fortress Trimamium close to Bulgaria's northeast city of Ruse, the Bulgarian National Television reported. The treasure hunters searched the site after it was announced that a unique 15-cm tall statute of the goddess Venus had been discovered there by the archeologists on Wednesday. The treasure hunters destroyed everything the researchers had accomplished including all preparations for taking pictures of the archeological site. They also destroyed layers, which had no been studied so it is unclear whether they found anything valuable during their raid. The artifacts found at Trimanium were not at the site so none of them got stolen. The Venus statue that was discovered there is made of bronze and is dated back to the second half of the third century A.D.

5,000 Site Discovered in Iran

5000-year-old site discovered in southeastern Iran
Tehran Times Culture Desk
June 8, 2008

TEHRAN -- A broad site dating back to the third millennium BC was discovered during the latest excavations in Bampur region in Sistan-Baluchestan Province, southeastern Iran.

“In the Bampur valley, there is an ancient site covered with sand mounds, which is as large as the Burnt City and may belong to a civilization as great as the civilization of that the city,” Mehdi Mortazavi, an archaeologist of the University of Sistan-Baluchestan, told the Persian service of CHN on Saturday. According to Mortazavi, the site measures 1x1.5 kilometer. “I feel sure that there are a large number of sites like this here. Such sites may even exist in nearby regions like Saravan,” he stated.

Mortazavi refused to give more details about the location of the site for security reasons. “It’s better for the site to remain covered for the time being, because it will be plundered by illegal excavations if the precise location of the site is revealed,” he argued. [ probably already has been discovered by the looters...]

Twenty sites -- mostly prehistoric -- have been discovered by the archaeologists of the University of Sistan-Baluchestan over the past few years. Covering an area of 152 hectares, the Burnt City, located 57 kilometers from the city of Zabol in Sistan-Baluchestan Province, is the largest prehistoric site of the province. It was one of the world’s largest conurbations at the dawn of the urban era and was well developed during the third millennium BC. It thus constitutes one of the country’s most important prehistoric sites. The city, which was burnt down three times, shows evidence of four stages of civilization. Since it was not rebuilt after the last conflagration, it has been named the Burnt City.
The Burnt City (Shar-i Sokhta, various spellings) was where the wooden serpent game board was excavated in 1983 (image above). The serpent game board dates to about 2400 BCE, making it about 200 years younger (more or less) than the famous 20-squares boards excavated by Woolley at Ur.
On the Iranian side of the border, the area is called Sistan va Baluchestan; on the Pakistani side of the border the area is called Baluchistan. In older times, the larger area (encompassing lands in the border regions of Iran, Pakistan and India, all the way south to the Indian Ocean) was called Baluchistan. Several chess historians have pointed to Baluchistan as being the birth place of chess.

Water, Water Everywhere....

I finally looked at the digital pics I took last week Sunday. This pic was taken after the tree fire (you can see part of the guilty tree's trunk on the right) and the electric company guy had come and gone. The water had already gone down some, amazingly! When I snapped this pic, it was about a foot deep along the fence line (mostly hidden from view along the right side of the pic). It was even deeper after the storms the day before, a week ago Saturday, but miraculously had sunk down into the ground overnight, with just a little bit left the next morning (until the next round of storms came through). That pink "thing" on the tree is a peony that somehow got blown off one of my peony bushes. I mean, what are the odds, heh? It stayed there all week and looked just fine, getting fresh water every time it rained; it was gone when I got home Thursday night.

This morning I ventured into the basement for the first time since the tornado sirens went off last Saturday. Mother Nature did not spare me - I have water in my basement. Not a lot - but definitely more than a little. It appears to be seeping in from the walls and not due to the sump crock overflowing. The sump pump continues to work just fine. With as much water as I've had in the yard, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised, and count myself lucky it wasn't worse...

I swept the water to the drain and then mopped up the rest as best I could and sprayed bleach water around, put on the dehumidifier. But it's going to take weeks for the concrete block to dry out. Arggghhhh!

The good news is that I've been up since 5 a.m. and right now, after some rather onimous looking clouds passing over today, the sun is shining and it's not extremely humid, just regular humid. Yesterday was a gorgeous day, sunny and breezy and the air was dry dry dry (my knees finally stopped aching), until the storms came through around 4:30 and dumped another half inch of rain on us. But until that time, I spent hours on the deck relaxing and I finished Michael Weinreb's "The Kings of New York." I also took about a three hour nap - fortunately under the umbrella so I didn't get sunburnt!

Today the smell of rotting vegetation can be sniffed outdoors when the winds shift a certain way, and while the grass looks great out front (cut fresh yesterday), it already needs another cut out back (I finished it up Wednesday night after work). The rains are making everything grow grow grow. We're already being warned about the bumper crop of mosquitoes to expect, carrying the Nile virus. No more running outside for even a minute without bug spray on. Yech. I hate bug spray, but I'm not going to stay inside until the first frost kills the buggers! Most of my chores are already done, including the Sunday trek to the supermarket, so I'll be getting back out to the deck and enjoying the sun while I can. Supposedly the wet weather pattern is moving on after today - I'll believe it when it actually happens! For now, this June has distinguished itself as the wettest month EVER in Wisconsin since they started keeping records more than 100 years ago. Gee, isn't that nice to know.
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