Friday, June 27, 2008


Prior post mentioning Jael (and giving the biblical account). I was looking in Barbara Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets" for other information when I came across an entry on Jael! Jael (var. Jaala) "Wild She-Goat," alternate name for the Israelite queen Deborah as a mate of the scapegoat-god, Baal-Gad or Pan. Ja-El was the same as the Persians' primal Goddess Jahi, adopted by tribal queens of the pre-patriarchal period. Jael sacrificed Sisera in a strange way, nailing his head to the ground (Judges 4:21), which may be likened to the priestesses of Artemis Tauropolos nailing the head os their victims to crosses.(1) Notes: (1) Graves, G.M., 2, 78. ************************************************************************************* Hmmmm, well, I don't know about that. I'm skeptical of the definition Walker gives for Ja-El. "El" is "god" - but no "god" is mentioned in "Wild She Goat." If "El" means god, than Ja means goat woman (as "Ba" means goat man)? So Jehovah (Jah) was actually a female goat goddess - or some hybrid form of goat and woman? Well, that's an interesting supposition, but I'd like to know more about the meanings of these words. The conflating of Deborah and Jael is also interesting. In the biblical account they are definitely two distinct women, although it certainly is possible that the death of Sisera was at the hands of Deborah, the "queen," rather than Jael. Deborah, it will be recalled, prophesied the death of Sisera at the hands of a woman rather than her general, Barach, who evidently showed some doubt about Deborah's prophecy that the Israelite army would be victorious over Sisera's forces! Walker's Encyclopedia also has an entry on Jahi the Whore. What a title, oh my! Persian patriarchal epithet for the Great Mother who brought forth, then mated with, the serpent Ahriman, as Lilith or the pre-Adamic Eve was supposed to have done with the biblical serpent. Zoroastrian scriptures said Jahi brought menstruation into the world, for she menstruated for the first time after mating with her serpent. Jahi also brought sex into the world by seducing the first man in the primal gardne. Jewish patriarchs probably derived their notions of the sinfulness of women (by virtue of their descent from Eve) from Persian ascetics who claimed all women were "whores" because they were descendants of Jahi. [Would this have been during the 70-Year Exile in Babylonia?] Oddly enough, some of the earliest forms of the name of the Jewish God seem to have been masculinized versions of the name of Jahi. Variations included Jahu, Jah, Yahu, Yahweh, Iau, Jaho. Some myths indicate that this God like Ahriman once had a serpent form and may have played the part of the Great Mother's serpent. *************************************************************************************** A serpent and a mother-creator-goddess are among the oldest deities (if not the oldest) in Chinese iconography and myth. The pre-dynastic serpent goddess of Egypt is also extremely old. I'm not too familiar with the religious legends of Sumer, but she's probably there, too.

Supporting Local Chess: Some Announcements

Hola darlings! I have a vacation day today - a three day weekend stretches before me like the Promised Land, ahhhhh.... I have lots to do around this house. I am seriously thinking about hiring a cleaning service. I have hired a landscape contractor to come in and tame the wilderness that is my back yard, now even more overgrown than usual due to the record rains we had this month. Today I must cut the grass, vacuum, visit the supermarket and do some laundry. Yech. Normally I don't mind yard work, but with the record rainfall came a record crop of mosquitoes, and they are all thirsting for my blood. They bite even through the strongest insect repellant - and the way I sweat in this heat and humidity the stuff runs off of me in rivulets anyway, leaving me unprotected. Oh, I forgot, I'm not supposed to mention that I sweat - har :) A retirement to Las Vegas (despite the lack of potable water issues) is looking more and more appealing all the time... By choice, I spend so much time doing Goddesschess-related things (including this blog) that the normal things in life (such as housework and grocery shopping and sleeping) fall by the wayside. But - what the heck. Once the trees have been trimmed and the weeds whacked out of the flower beds and everything properly edged and half a ton of mulch laid down, things will begin to look semi-civilized around here, and my economic stimulus check will pay for it all... I'm also seriously considering buying one of those large screened tents and affixing it so that I can once again sit on my deck without a spray can of RAID in hand. So, as I'm girding myself and building up the resolution to go outdoors and face the swarming hungry hordes of skeeters, I'm checking out the chess news.
  • Susan Polgar blogged on June 26th about giving a plug for your local chess club and (thus far) 15 people have posted about their chess clubs. Robin posted about the Hales Corners, Wisconsin Southwest Chess Club.
  • The SWCC has a convenient email service that announces upcoming events. Casual chess was hosted last night at the Barnes & Noble bookstore not too far from where I live - I can actually get to it from here using public transportation and footpower (I don't own an automobile and never learned to drive - talk about being an ANTIQUE!) I've yet to meet any of the folks from the SWCC and would love to do so - and there's a perfect opportunity coming up September 4th when Barnes & Noble will once again be the site of an evening of SWCC chess. If you see a gorgeous slightly-overweight woman of a "certain age" with dark chin length hair (I had my Xena length tresses chopped off for the summer) in sunglasses - that's me.

I love libraries. For some strange reason - strange since none in my family were great readers - I developed a love of reading as a wee child and as far back as I can remember, made heavy use of the local book mobiles that used to regularly visit the neighborhoods when I was a kid; later, when I was old enough to venture out several blocks away from home, I walked to neighborhood branch libraries (all of which, sadly, were closed over the years due to budgetary constraints and the often wonderful buildings with rotundas and corinthian columns were sold off, one by one) to spend blissful hours in the card catalogs and the stacks. This was when I first developed a taste for science fiction, historical romances and tomes on ancient history!

Those local library branches that have survived to this day are the situs of much chess activity, which is logical given that the distinctive smell of books and the generally quite atmosphere is conducive to concentration and thought, two hallmarks of chess. Here are some announcements of local chess activities centered in libraries:

  • The Batavia Library in Batavia, Illinois is hosting a summer series of chess events as part of a reading promotion program, a great idea and sounds like a lot of fun: "Chess Knights" will be offered from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Aug. 5 at the library, 10 S. Batavia Ave. Participants may attend as many game nights as they'd like. Tables will be set up in different areas on the library's lower level, including the outdoor Reading Garden, weather permitting. Players are welcome to bring a friend or relative, or they may come alone. Library staff will make sure everyone who wants to play has an opponent. Participants may bring their own chess set, or use one provided by the library. The program is free and registration is not required. "After July 4, the library will host a chess tournament with prizes. Tournament play is optional," Zillman said. Tournament information will be available at the end of June. For details, call (630) 879-4775.
  • The Burlinginton, Massachusetts Public Library is also featuring Chess Basics for children and teens begins Monday, June 23, 7 to 8:45 p.m. Burlington High School graduate, Peter Hovey, teaches chess. Registration encouraged but drop-ins welcome. Also, July 7 and 21, and Aug. 4. This program is sponsored by The Friends of the Burlington Public Library and is free and open to the public.
  • From Berkeley, California - aaaahhhhh, Berkeley, Goddess bless you! An announcement in the Berkeley Daily Planet: The Berkeley Chess Club meets every Sun. at 7 p.m. at the Hillside School, 1581 Le Roy Ave. 843-0150.
  • From Tuscon, Arizona, an announcement at (Community Calendar): Chess Club — Oro Valley Public Library, 1305 W. Naranja Drive. For adults and serious youth players. 1-5 p.m. Fridays except July 4. Free. 229-5300.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Egypt: Continuing Discoveries

From AFP Egypt archaeologists find ancient painted coffins
8 hours ago
CAIRO (AFP) — A team of Egyptian archaeologists have discovered several painted wooden coffins, including some dating back to the 13th century BC rule of pharaoh Ramses II. (Photo: 19th Dynasty Beauty: The remains of a painted sarcophagus belonging to Maayi).

"These coffins were found in the tombs of senior officials of the 18th and 19th dynasties," near Saqqara, Zahi Hawass, the director of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities said on Thursday.

"Some coloured unopened coffins dating back to the sixth century BC were found as well as some coffins dating back to the time of Ramses II," who ruled from 1279 to 1213 BC, he said.

Several statues were also found in the tombs which represent the owners of the coffins, said Ahmed Said who heads the Cairo University archaeological team that found the coffins.

The Saqqara burial grounds which date back to 2,700 BC and are dominated by the massive bulk of King Zoser's step pyramid -- the first ever built -- were in continuous use until the Roman period, three millenniums later.

The vast cemeteries have yielded numerous discoveries from the Old and New Kingdoms.

There is NOTHING Sacred Anymore...

Thefts from mosques in Egypt. Wonder what the Taliban and Mr. Rotting Away Hiding in Caves in Afghanistan have to say about that? And the pissing and moaning continues as nothing is done and "pious" Muslims sell their own cultural heritage to illegal antiquities dealers. Bwwwwaaahhhhh! From news aggregator Archaelogy News (Story from Al-Ahram online 26 June - 2 July 2008 Issue No. 903 Unholy thefts Squabbles between the Supreme Council of Antiquities and the Ministry of Awqaf (religious endowments) are wreaking havoc on the fate of Egypt's Islamic monuments, reports Nevine El-Aref Thefts from Islamic monuments in the Darb Al-Ahmar area have highlighted the problem of security at Cairo's historic mosques. Inlaid wooden panels from the minbars of Ganim Al-Bahlawan and Altinbuga Al-Maridani mosques have been stolen, and a marble relief from the Blue Mosque. Thieves were also caught red handed, attempting to make off with a magnificent ironwork grill window from the sabil kuttab of Rokaya Dudu. Residents of Darb Al-Ahmar suspect a professional local gang, which operates at night, between night and dawn prayers. Ahmed Hassan, who owns a perfume shop in the vicinity of several targeted mosques, said the minbar at Al-Maridani was removed in three phases over 10 days, raising questions as to how seriously the authorities take their responsibility to guard historic sites. The theft of the minbar 's right hand panel was discovered at the time of dawn prayer. A week passed before the left hand panel was removed, and a further two days before the thieves returned to remove the ivory inlaid hood of the minbar. At Ganim Al-Bahlawan robbers removed the decorative elements of the minbar, leaving a plain wooden frame. At Rokaya Dudu sabil kuttab they succeeded in dismantling the iron grill from a window only to be apprehended by local residents who alerted the police. The window is now being held by the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) inspectorate, to be returned to its original location following restoration work. "It's a terrible loss," says Gamal Abdel-Rehim, professor of Islamic monuments at Cairo University's Faculty of Archaeology. The minbar of Ganim Al-Bahlawan was among the most important in any of Cairo's monumental mosques. Abdel-Khaleq Mokhtar, director of monuments in south Cairo, told Al-Ahram Weekly that the SCA was able to abort the theft of the window at the sabil kuttab of Rokaya Dudu because the monument is under the complete supervision of the SCA, which provides a 24-hour security, while the mosques are under the control of the Ministry of Awqaf. "Securing archaeological sites is the responsibility of the authority to which the site is affiliated," he says. Quite how 24-hour security allowed the window to be dismantled in the first place remains a mystery. Yet Abdel-Khaleq insists the SCA secures its own site round the clock, while monuments such as mosques, under bilateral supervision, are guarded only until 4pm. Abdel-Khaleq says the SCA has repeatedly requested that the Ministry of Awqaf tighten security at mosques or else hand over responsibility to the SCA. "Currently the role of the SCA is to restore mosques and then hand them back to the Awqaf. The SCA then makes only periodic checks on the buildings' archaeological features." Sheikh Kamal Abdel-Nasser, director of Awqaf in Cairo, argues that the SCA is shirking its responsibilities. "Why does the SCA refuse to admit responsibility for their own security shortcomings and seek, instead, to blame the mosque guards?" he asks. Abdel-Nasser points out that legally monuments and archaeological sites are all the responsibility of the SCA and not the Awqaf. Furthermore, he adds, the mosque of Ganim Al-Bahlawan has been closed now for two years while restoration work is carried out under the supervision of the SCA and its contractors. "These accusations addressed to the Ministry of Awqaf are an attempt by the SCA to deny its responsibility for what happened." Zahi Hawass, secretary-general of the SCA, will hold a meeting next week with the head of the Awqaf to draw up a security plan for archaeological mosques. "Millions of pounds have been spent restoring these mosques which are then handed back to the Ministry of Awqaf," says Hawass. To tighten security, Hawass believes that the Ministry of Awqaf must provide the names of guards to both the SCA and security forces, and the SCA and Ministry of Awqaf need to cooperate more closely in an attempt to provide 24-hour security. "Securing and preserving Egypt's Islamic monuments is not only the responsibility of the ministries of culture, awqaf, interior, the SCA and the relevant governorate. It is the responsibility of all Egyptians who want to protect their heritage and their history," says Hawass.

Mary Ann Gomez Scalps a GM

News from the Hindu Mary outwits Abhijeet Friday June 27, 2008 NEW DELHI: Mary Ann Gomes stunned Grandmaster Abhijeet Gupta in the second round of the Sort Open chess tournament on Wednesday. The results (involving Indians): Second round: Nidjat Mamedov (Aze, 2) bt Swapnil Dhopade (1); Vishnu Prasanna (1.5) drew with Rasul Ibrahimov (Aze, 1.5); Abhijeet Gupta (1) lost to Mary Ann Gomes (2); M. Shyam Sundar (1.5) drew with Manuel Leon Hoyos (Mex, 1.5); Aryam Abreu Delgado (Cub, 1.5) drew with K. Priyadarshan (1.5); Soumya Swaminathan (1) lost to Rashad Babaev (Aze, 2); Sergey Kasparov (Blr, 1.5) drew with M. R. Lalith Babu (1.5). Prasanna Rao (1) lost to Deep Sengupta (2); Matthias Roeder (Ger, 2) bt P. Uthra (1); Tatiana Kasparova (Blr, 1.5) drew with S. P. Sethuraman (1.5); C. P. Aatirah (1) lost to B. Adhiban (2); S. Nitin (1.5) bt Kruttika Nadig (0.5); S. V. Sathya Priya (0) lost to T. Abhay (1); Josep Ferrer Dalmau (Esp, 0) lost to R. Preethi (1); Aaron Rodriquez Adell (Esp, 0.5) drew with Bhakti Kulkarni (0.5); Pon N. Krithika (1) bt Ricardo Menchon Lopez (Esp, 0); Antonio Viani D’cunha (1) bt Javier Fernandez Alvarez (Esp, 0); Yeva Kasparova (Blr, 0) lost to Shalmali Gagare (1); Jordi Corominas Garrido (Esp, 1) bt Devangi Patankar (0); A. Niji (1) bt Oscar Vela Martinez (Esp, 0).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Supporting Local Chess with $$$

Goddesschess has lots of friends and contributors who have supported and aided our efforts for the past nine years. As in every other organization, though, the day to day nuts and bolts work of running the Goddesschess website and this blog are in the hands of three people: delion (a/k/a Pimander a/k/a Don McLean), Isis (a/k/a Georgia Albert), and yours truly (Jan a/k/a JanXena a/k/a Jan Newton). One of the things Godesschess would like to do more on is supporting local chess initiatives. We thought it would be a fitting thing to support some local chess events in each of the respective hometowns of the three mainstays that keep things at Gchess running: Montreal (delion), Las Vegas (Isis), and Milwaukee (Jan). To that end, Goddesschess has cooked up some modest monetary prizes for the following local events: FIRST: The Canadian Open Chess Championship will be held in Montreal, Quebec (Canada) this year from July 19-27, 2008. Goddesschess has funded a $100.00 CAD special prize that is open to all players in all sections. However, the local chess federation has now requested (as of July 7, 2008) that we keep it a secret until after the tournament is completed. dondelion would have loved to attend the Canadian Open - but he's going to be in Milwaukee with yours truly, instead :) That's just the way it worked out. The vacation was planned months ago; the Goddesschess prizes for local chess events was of recent origin. Okay, quit smirking. We are engaged. The Canadian Open isn't exactly a "local" event with total prizes of $25,000 CAD, but it is being held in Montreal and it seemed a natural fit for what delion had in mind prize wise. More information about the 2008 Canadian Open can be found at the website for the Quebec Chess Federation. SECOND: The Southwest Chess Club headquartered in Hales Corners, Wisconsin (a small community just to the southwest of where I live, in southwest Milwaukee County, Wisconsin) will be hosting a USCF Grand Prix event: Hales Corners Challenge VIII USCF (on page 2 of Bulletin) Grand Prix Points: 10. October 4, 2008. 4SS, G/60. 2 Sections: Open & Reserve (under 1600). Village Hall, 5635 S. New Berlin Rd., Hales Corners, WI (Milwaukee Area). EF: $35-Open, $25-Reserve, both $5 more after 10/1. Comp EF for USCF 2200+, contact TD for details. $$ Open (b/25)=1st-$325 (guaranteed), 2nd-$175 (guaranteed), A-$100, B & Below-$75; $$ Reserve b/25) =1st-$100, 2nd-$75, D-$50, E & Below-$40. Reg: 8:30-9:30, Rds: 10-1-3:30-6. Ent: Payable to SWCC, c/o Allen Becker, 6105 Thorncrest Drive, Greendale, WI 53129 ( ). Questions to TD Gary Wright 414-226-5753. Goddesschess is funding $100 worth of special prizes as part of the Hales Corners Challenge VIII: $50 to the top female finisher; $25 to the game selected as the best woman's game; and $25 to the game selected as the best man's game. THIRD: Las Vegas, Nevada. Well - this is a bit disturbing, since I haven't been able to find much information online about local chess in Las Vegas. We know that people play chess in Las Vegas, but it's mostly either in organized casino teams (none of which advert for themselves) or totally casual meetings at restaurants and bookshops. It seems the events in Las Vegas are either mega events that seem out of our league, or are so small and casual they don't award prizes. The Nevada state chess organization's website has not been recently updated. I could not locate a separate website for Nevada scholastic chess. Soooo - readers out there, can you help us out? Goddesschess wants to fund $100 in prize(s) for a local Las Vegas chess event. Any information you can give and particularly contacts will be appreciated! Just like with the Goddesschess prize for the U.S. Women's Chess Championship, we intend to fund these local initiative prizes annually, so stay tuned!!!

Frozen Scythian Mummies May Melt Away

Parzinger fears global warming may soon put an end to the search for Scythians. Rudenko’s dig diaries contain reports of weather far colder than what modern archaeologists experience in the Altai. “When you read descriptions from the 1940s and compare them with the climate of today, you don’t need to be a scientist to see there’s been a change,” Parzinger says. Geographer Frank Lehmkuhl from the University of Aachen in Germany has been studying lake levels in the Altai region for a decade. “According to our research, the glaciers are retreating and the lake levels are rising,” Lehmkuhl says. With no increase in the region’s rainfall, the change “can only come from melting permafrost and glaciers.” As the permafrost thaws, the ice that has preserved the Scythian mummies for so many centuries will thaw too. In the Olon-Kurin-Gol grave, the ice that once crushed the mummy against the roof of the burial chamber had receded nine inches by the time the chamber was opened. Within a few decades, the ice lenses may be completely gone. “Right now we’re facing a rescue archaeology situation,” Parzinger says. “It’s hard to say how much longer these graves will be there.” You can read the entire article at Discover Magazine Online: 06.25.2008 Frozen Siberian Mummies Reveal a Lost Civilization Global warming may finally do in the bodies of the ancient Scythians By Andrew Curry

Albanian Custom Fades: Woman as Family Man

I read about this custom years ago was absolutely fascinated by it. Story from The New York Times. By DAN BILEFSKY Published: June 25, 2008 KRUJE, Albania — Pashe Keqi recalled the day nearly 60 years ago when she decided to become a man. She chopped off her long black curls, traded in her dress for her father’s baggy trousers, armed herself with a hunting rifle and vowed to forsake marriage, children and sex. For centuries, in the closed-off and conservative society of rural northern Albania, swapping genders was considered a practical solution for a family with a shortage of men. Her father was killed in a blood feud, and there was no male heir. By custom, Ms. Keqi, now 78, took a vow of lifetime virginity. She lived as a man, the new patriarch, with all the swagger and trappings of male authority — including the obligation to avenge her father’s death. She says she would not do it today, now that sexual equality and modernity have come even to Albania, with Internet dating and MTV invading after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Girls here do not want to be boys anymore. With only Ms. Keqi and some 40 others remaining, the sworn virgin is dying off. “Back then, it was better to be a man because before a woman and an animal were considered the same thing,” said Ms. Keqi, who has a bellowing baritone voice, sits with her legs open wide like a man and relishes downing shots of raki. “Now, Albanian women have equal rights with men, and are even more powerful. I think today it would be fun to be a woman.” The tradition of the sworn virgin can be traced to the Kanun of Leke Dukagjini, a code of conduct passed on orally among the clans of northern Albania for more than 500 years. Under the Kanun, the role of a woman is severely circumscribed: take care of children and maintain the home. While a woman’s life is worth half that of a man, a virgin’s value is the same: 12 oxen. The sworn virgin was born of social necessity in an agrarian region plagued by war and death. If the family patriarch died with no male heirs, unmarried women in the family could find themselves alone and powerless. By taking an oath of virginity, women could take on the role of men as head of the family, carry a weapon, own property and move freely. They dressed like men and spent their lives in the company of other men, even though most kept their female given names. They were not ridiculed, but accepted in public life, even adulated. For some the choice was a way for a woman to assert her autonomy or to avoid an arranged marriage. “Stripping off their sexuality by pledging to remain virgins was a way for these women in a male-dominated, segregated society to engage in public life,” said Linda Gusia, a professor of gender studies at the University of Pristina, in Kosovo. “It was about surviving in a world where men rule.” Taking an oath to become a sworn virgin should not, sociologists say, be equated with homosexuality, long taboo in rural Albania. Nor do the women have sex-change operations. Known in her household as the “pasha,” Ms. Keqi said she decided to become the man of the house at age 20 when her father was murdered. Her four brothers opposed the Communist government of Enver Hoxha, the ruler for 40 years until his death in 1985, and they were either imprisoned or killed. Becoming a man, she said, was the only way to support her mother, her four sisters-in-law and their five children. Ms. Keqi lorded over her large family in her modest house in Tirana, where her nieces served her brandy while she barked out orders. She said living as a man had allowed her freedom denied other women. She worked construction jobs and prayed at the mosque with men. Even today, her nephews and nieces said, they would not dare marry without their “uncle’s” permission. When she stepped outside the village, she enjoyed being taken for a man. “I was totally free as a man because no one knew I was a woman,” Ms. Keqi said. “I could go wherever I wanted to and no one would dare swear at me because I could beat them up. I was only with men. I don’t know how to do women’s talk. I am never scared.” When she was recently hospitalized for surgery, the other woman in her room was horrified to be sharing close quarters with someone she assumed was male. Being the man of the house also made her responsible for avenging her father’s death, she said. When her father’s killer, by then 80, was released from prison five years ago, Ms. Keqi said, her 15-year-old nephew shot him dead. Then the man’s family took revenge and killed her nephew. “I always dreamed of avenging my father’s death,” she said. “Of course, I have regrets; my nephew was killed. But if you kill me, I have to kill you.” In Albania, a majority Muslim country in the western Balkans, the Kanun is adhered to by Muslims and Christians. Albanian cultural historians said the adherence to medieval customs long discarded elsewhere was a byproduct of the country’s previous isolation. But they stressed that the traditional role of the Albanian woman was changing. “The Albanian woman today is a sort of minister of economics, a minister of affection and a minister of interior who controls who does what,” said Ilir Yzeiri, who writes about Albanian folklore. “Today, women in Albania are behind everything.” Some sworn virgins bemoan the changes. Diana Rakipi, 54, a security guard in the seaside city of Durres, in west Albania, who became a sworn virgin to take care of her nine sisters, said she looked back with nostalgia on the Hoxha era. During Communist times, she was a senior army officer, training women as combat soldiers. Now, she lamented, women do not know their place. “Today women go out half naked to the disco,” said Ms. Rakipi, who wears a military beret. “I was always treated my whole life as a man, always with respect. I can’t clean, I can’t iron, I can’t cook. That is a woman’s work.” But even in the remote mountains of Kruje, about 30 miles north of Tirana, residents say the Kanun’s influence on gender roles is disappearing. They said erosion of the traditional family, in which everyone once lived under the same roof, had altered women’s position in society. “Women and men are now almost the same,” said Caca Fiqiri, whose aunt Qamile Stema, 88, is his village’s last sworn virgin. “We respect sworn virgins very much and consider them as men because of their great sacrifice. But there is no longer a stigma not to have a man of the house.” Yet there is no doubt who wears the trousers in Ms. Stema’s one-room stone house in Barganesh, the family’s ancestral village. There, on a recent day, “Uncle” Qamile was surrounded by her clan, dressed in a qeleshe, the traditional white cap of an Albanian man. Pink flip-flops were her only concession to femininity. After becoming a man at the age of 20, Ms. Stema said, she carried a gun. At wedding parties, she sat with the men. When she talked to women, she recalled, they recoiled in shyness. She said becoming a sworn virgin was a necessity and a sacrifice. “I feel lonely sometime, all my sisters have died, and I live alone,” she said. “But I never wanted to marry. Some in my family tried to get me to change my clothes and wear dresses, but when they saw I had become a man, they left me alone.” Ms. Stema said she would die a virgin. Had she married, she joked, it would have been to a traditional Albanian woman. “I guess you could say I was partly a woman and partly a man,” she said. “I liked my life as a man. I have no regrets.”

Queen Strips Mugabe of Knighthood

Story from The New York Times June 25, 2008 Queen Elizabeth II has stripped Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s strongman president for nearly 30 years, of his honorary knighthood as a “mark of revulsion” at the human rights abuses and “abject disregard” for democracy over which he has presided, the British Foreign Office announced Wednesday. The rebuke showed the extent of international frustration over Mr. Mugabe’s insistence to go ahead with a presidential runoff on Friday, even though his sole opponent, Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out of race on Sunday because of the persistent violence and intimidation against him, his party and their supporters. Mr. Mugabe’s government has had a long history of human rights abuses, but he was granted an honorary knighthood during an official visit to England in 1994 when, the foreign office contends, “the conditions in Zimbabwe were very different.” But with the widespread attacks against the opposition, the foreign office said the honor could no longer be justified. Stripping a dignitary of an honorary knighthood is exceedingly rare. A foreign office spokesman could think of only one other time it had been done — in 1989 to the Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu. Mr. Tsvangirai, the beleaguered opposition leader, called on the United Nations on Wednesday to send a peacekeeping force to bring calm to the country and help pave the way for new elections in which he could participate as a “legitimate candidate.” “Zimbabwe will break if the world does not come to our aid,” he said in an op-ed in The Guardian newspaper in London. After weeks of mounting political violence against the opposition and its supporters, Mr. Tsvangirai withdrew from Friday’s runoff and took refuge Sunday in the Dutch Embassy in Harare. He emerged from the embassy briefly on Wednesday to hold a news conference at his home in which he challenged President Robert Mugabe to cancel the runoff and open negotiations. But, he said, he was not prepared to deal with a government validated by an election in which Mr. Mugabe is by default the only candidate. Mr. Mugabe has insisted Friday’s voting will go ahead. “We have said we are prepared to negotiate on this side of the 27th, not the other side of the 27th,” Mr. Tsvangirai said, according to Reuters. He listed four demands: an end to political violence; the resumption of humanitarian aid; the swearing in of legislators elected in the first round of voting on March 29; and the release of political prisoners. “We have always maintained that the Zimbabwean problem is an African problem that requires an African solution,” he said, referring to continent-wide and regional African bodies including the Southern African Development Community. “To this end, I am asking the African Union and S.A.D.C. to lead an expanded initiative, supported by the United Nations, to manage the transitional process. “The transitional period would allow the country to heal,” he said. “Genuine and honest dialogue amongst Zimbabweans is the only way forward.” He said he wanted the African Union to endorse his proposals at a forthcoming summit meeting in Egypt. Mr. Tsvangirai’s demands coincided with a scramble of regional and international diplomacy with many African and Western institutions saying the vote on Friday will be neither free nor fair. A critical group of southern African countries opened a meeting Wednesday in Swaziland to seek a way out of the crisis. The meeting grouped leaders or ministers from Swaziland, Angola and Tanzania — the so-called troika charged with responsibility for the region’s political, defense and security issues. The group said it had also invited the leaders of Zambia and South Africa to attend, but President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, the regional mediator on the crisis in Zimbabwe, said through a spokesman that he would not attend. The spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said in a telephone interview that South Africa was not a member of the troika and had not been invited. Amid the international outcry over his government’s handling of the crisis, Mr. Mugabe, 84, was reported Tuesday as hinting that he might be open to talks with the opposition, but only after Friday’s vote confirmed his power. He remained defiant about going ahead with the runoff. “They can shout as loud as they like from Washington or from London or from any other quarter,” Mr. Mugabe said in televised broadcasts. “Our people, our people, only our people will decide and nobody else.” Taken together, his remarks were the most explicit affirmation that he intended to go through with an election widely condemned as illegitimate. Rest of article.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Goddess Kamkhaya

Story reported at Daily
Ambubasi Mela at Kamakhya Temple draws a huge turnout of devotees
(Image: Queen Mahamaya, dreamed that a young white elephant entered her womb, and later she gave birth to Prince Siddhartha, who became Buddha.)

Guwahati, June 24: Tens of thousands of devotees from different parts of the country thronged the Kamakhya Temple for the three-day traditional fair, 'Ambubasi Mela' held here.

As per ritual, during the Ambubasi Mela, the main door of the temple remained closed for three days and all the religious activities were brought to a standstill.

The temple priests are forbidden to step into the temple leave alone the sanctum sanctorum following the belief that during this period, the presiding deity Goddess Kamkhaya undergoes her menstrual cycle.

"During this time all Hindu temples remain closed during this time. At this time no kind of farming work is undertaken. Be they Shudras, Kshatriya, Vaishyas or Brahmins, none of them cooks food at home and remain on a fruit diet. This is the significance of the Ambumasi," said Nayan Sharma, the priest of the Kamhakya Temple.

At the conclusion of three days, the temple's doors are reopened after Devi Kamakhya is bathed and other rituals are performed religiously by the priests. It is described as the Mother Earth retrieving her purity.

The devotees are allowed to enter the temple to worship Devi Kamakhya only on the fourth day.

The ceremony that lasted till Tuesday this year is believed to be purely a ritual of the Tantrik cult and observed to fulfill certain obligations.

Sadhu Surpanj Baba, a hermit said: "Some visit the temple for devotion, some come to fulfill their promises and to all the Devi Kamhakya showers Her blessings for their aspirations to come true."

Kamakhya is an aspect of the Goddess Sati or the wife of Lord Shiva. The temple in her honour exists in the Kamrup district here. The temple is one of the 51 holy Shakti Peethas related to Sati.

Copyright Asian News International
The following information is from Barbara Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets" under Sati. There was no separate entry under "Kamkhaya."

Kali as the dangerous Virgin Bride of India's svayamara ceremony. The same name was applied to Egypt's similarly archaic Virgin Huntress, once the ruler of the first nome of Upper Egypt (on modern maps, this means southern Egypt), called "The Land of Sati." Her holy city was Abu, the City of the Elephant (the Greeks' Elephantine), where she was worshipped in conjunction with the elephant god, who also mated with the Hindu version of Sati under her "magic" name of Maya, to beget the Enlightened Son of God, Buddha.(1)

India still has pilgrimage centers known as Footprints of Sati, memorials of the time when the Goddess waled the earth.(2)

(1) Larousse, 37, 348.
(2) Ross, 49.
Ah ha! Enter the elephant - ancient playing piece of the Indian game Chaturanga, ancient playing piece of the Persian game Chatrang, and ancient playing piece in the Chinese game Xiang-qi - which to this day some people insist is called "Elephant Game." In modern Western chess, the elephant piece became our Bishop.

The two tusks depicted on 1000 year old (and older) Islamic chess pieces of the "vizier," "farzin" or "wazir" evolved into the Bishop's mitre (in Western chess) as the Arabic version of chess spread into Europe and was adopted by the European royal courts.

The history of the Bishop's mitre and its symbolism adapted from the ancient sacred "horn" is interesting in and of itself! Suffice to say for purposes of this post, it also represents an ancient symbol of authority and power. If you can visualize what a modern Bishop's headdress (Mitre) looks like, you can readily find examples in the great White Crown of ancient Egypt and in simultaneously ancient (and perhaps even earlier) representations of the elongated pointed crown (sometimes shown as a pointed "fish head") in Sumerian iconography.

Keep your eyes on the tusks and horns...

In archaic Egypt, sacred structures of worship were constructed of wood and woven reeds/grass. Elephant tusks were hung above the primary entrance. These structures were called (working from memory so this may not be 100% accurate) per-u, per-wu, per-wer, from which the term "Pharaoh" was later derived. It means something like "house of ..." or "house."

Is there a connection between ancient Egypt and the ancient Indian civilizations as Walker confidently asserts in her information about Sati? Consider this:

Ancient Egyptian (extinct Afro-Asiatic language family) word(s) for elephant: abu, ebu, yebu

Sanskrit: ibha

Notice the similarity in the ancient Egyptian word abu, ebu, yebu (Coptic ebou, from ancient Egyptian ‘bw) and Sanskrit ibha. This lends credence to Walker’s assertion that the Indian Goddess Sati (an aspect of Kali) was also the Goddess of Egyptian Elephantine! According to Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary, the word _habbim_ is derived from the Sanscrit _ibhas_, meaning "elephant," preceded by the Hebrew article (ha); and hence it is argued that Ophir, from which it and the other articles mentioned in 1 Kings 10:22 were brought, was in India.

Sati is also Kali. And I found two separate sources that state another Sanskrit word for elephant is kali, kari, karii. As I’ve no knowledge of ancient Sanskrit, this is just a guess – that the distinction between ibha and kali/kari/karii may be the distinction between male elephant (ibha) and female elephant (kali). This makes sense, since it would take a female elephant (kali) to give birth to a savior god in the form of a white elephant – thus kali (female elephant) also known as Maya, gives birth to Buddha.

Microwaves Frying Brains?

Hasn't this kind of thing been in the news since cell phones first came into use - and even before then? Wasn't it in the 1980's that it was first noted that Sheriff's deputies and policemen who used radio transmitters to communicate suffered greater percentages of brain cancer than in the general population? I don't know - what's the truth? We know now that plastics poison and kill us, as does the water we drink, the food we eat and the very air we breathe. Why not radio waves and microwaves? Story from The Daily Express, the World's Greatest Newspaper (Okay...) SUICIDES ‘LINKED TO PHONE MASTS’ Sunday June 22,2008 By Lucy Johnston THE spate of deaths among young people in Britain’s suicide capital could be linked to radio waves from dozens of mobile phone transmitter masts near the victims’ homes. Dr Roger Coghill, who sits on a Government advisory committee on mobile radiation, has discovered that all 22 youngsters who have killed themselves in Bridgend, South Wales, over the past 18 months lived far closer than average to a mast. He has examined worldwide studies linking proximity of masts to depression. Dr Coghill’s work is likely to trigger alarm and lead to closer scrutiny of the safety of masts, which are frequently sited on public buildings such as schools and hospitals. It is also likely to fuel more campaigns against placing masts close to public places on health grounds. Dr Coghill said last night there was strong circumstantial evidence that the masts may have triggered depression in those from Bridgend who took their lives. They include Kelly Stephenson, 20, who hanged herself from a shower rail in February this year while on holiday in Folkestone, Kent. Dr Coghill said: “There is a body of research that has over the years pointed to the fact that exposure to mobile radiation can lead to depression. There is evidence of higher suicide rates where people live near any electrical equipment that gives off radio or electrical waves.” Rest of story.

Update on Esther Elizabeth Reed Criminal Case

Story from Lawyers for woman charged in ID theft seek change of venue By Eric Connor • STAFF WRITER • June 24, 2008 Attorneys for a high-school dropout accused of assuming a missing Upstate woman's identity and several others to con her way into prestigious universities asked a Greenville federal judge today to either dismiss charges that she submitted fraudulent loan applications or move her high-profile case to Columbia or Atlanta. Esther Elizabeth Reed, 30, is accused in a federal indictment of stealing the identity of 20-year-old Brooke Henson, who disappeared in 1999 from her Travelers Rest home, to swindle at least $40,000 in student loans to attend Columbia University. Henson is believed to be dead, though police have said they don't believe Reed had a hand in her disappearance. Prosecutors say the Reed assumed other women's identities to secure more than $100,000 in student loans and used her intellect to claim a false career as a chess champion and dupe professors into helping her attend prestigious universities across the country. Reed's case has attracted the attention of both local and national media -- and Reed's attorneys argue in a motion to dismiss filed that the connection with Henson's highly publicized disappearance has spawned "extreme" Upstate publicity before the trial that makes it difficult for a judge to seat an impartial jury in Greenville. In arguing to have the case moved to either Columbia or Atlanta from the Greenville division of South Carolina district court, attorneys Ann Marie Fitz of Atlanta and Ryan Beasley of Greenville wrote that "the inherently prejudicial pre-trial publicity will deprive the defendant of her right to a fair trial." Rest of article.

2008 New England Checkers Championship

I haven't played checkers in years, but it's still one of my favorite games. Once you learn, like riding a bike, you never forget. My Grandpa Newton taught me to play when I was about 6, and we played lots of games while listening to Cubs games on the radio until he died in 1964, when I was 13. While chess reminds me of being a girl turning into a woman (as I was 18 when I first learned the game), checkers reminds me of being and kid, and lazy summer days on Grandma and Grandpa Newton's truck farm in Sturtevant, WI, sleeping in the attic bedroom with the windows wide open, listening to the crickets and the distant whine of train whistles in the night, of incredibly starry skies and the smell of fresh-mown grass, of cow-pie fights on the 40 acre dairy farm of one of my best childhood friends in Sturtevant, of watching Grandma Newton make the most incredible food from scratch (all from memory) on a square butcher's block table at which I sat on a bar stool and watched - with awe and respect. How I miss those days. How glad I am I had them. And so, this news about checkers caught my eye tonight: Championship draws checkers fans to Dover By Bev Wax/Correspondent Tue Jun 24, 2008, 05:11 PM EDT Dover - Dover was home to the 2008 New England Checkers Championship last Saturday with more than a dozen people competing. Playing the classic game in tournament play means following a set of strict rules designed to challenge and encourage strategic play. Many of those attended had traveled from New York or New Jersey to have the chance to play with some of their talented peers at the home of Richard and Catherine White. Since it was an open tournament, anyone was able to participate, but only New England players were able to win a title. Turns out the overall winner was Jimmy O’Grady of Yonkers. The 53-year-old Grady has been playing for about 15 years and says the game “keeps the mind alert.” The oldest player there that day, 88-year-old Gordon Sharp couldn’t agree more. Other players joked he must have really wanted to play checkers … he was in a wheelchair and had gotten up quite a steep driveway with the help of his daughter. O’Grady said his checkers history comes in two sections. As a young boy, he learned the game in Scotland playing with an ill boyhood friend who lived next door: “Checkers took his mind off his sickness.” He moved to the United States in 1937 and played checkers with a Russian barber. Quick-witted, he chuckled, “He wasn’t busy. There was no work at the time!” After getting discharged from the Navy, he didn’t rediscover the game until three years ago when he started playing online. While online games hone his skills, O’Grady said, “Once you start winning, they walk away.” He along with everyone else prefers playing face-to-face. White’s wife, Catherine, agreed, “There is nothing that substitutes sitting across the table.” Her husband, a three-time New England champion and five-time Massachusetts champion, plays every year at Dover’s Old Home Day while she co-chairs the event. “One year, 22 kids played with him, including a boy who had a broken arm,” she said. Catherine White said checkers is wonderful for the children who are not interested in or cannot play sports due to physical limitations, such as her nephew with cerebral palsy: “All you need is a board and a flat surface.” The couple met at Dickinson College playing competitive chess. However, they became more interested in the game of checkers. In fact, Richard wrote “How to Lose at Checkers” in 1994. The book describes lessons from the masters and what the top-notch players did wrong. The Whites have a whole collection of books on the game’s history and strategy. Richard brings up the quote from Marion Tinsley, considered to be the greatest checkers player who ever lived, “Playing chess is like looking out over a limitless ocean; playing checkers is like looking into a bottomless well.” Players enjoyed socializing with each other during breaks at the full-day event, but were silent when facing each other across the board. The first round began at 10 a.m. and the event continued into the early evening. The format was round-robin with no entry fee or prize money. According to the Whites, “The first-place finisher gets bragging rights and their name on the championship plaque.” Mike Magnelli’s name is listed on the traveling plaque many times. He again is this year’s co-New England champion with Steve Kelly. “Checkers is a great hobby. It takes you away from the day-to-day world. Playing face-to-face is much more congenial” than playing online against a computer,” said Magnelli. Richard chimed in, “It’s pretty clear that we are all real people here!” One of the younger players, 39-year-old Alex Weaver, came up from New Jersey to strengthen his skills. Wearing Red Sox gear, he noted he was brought up “with flying kings. I needed to learn this particular style and lost a lot of games when I first started.” A friend of O’Grady’s, Bill Hozak, admitted he was a novice and was there playing for fun “and making the same mistakes over again.” He did learn a trick was to keep pieces in a triangle as a defense so that your competitor “was not able to double jump.” The tournament was dedicated to renowned checkers player Freeman T. Frank, a high school history teacher in Melrose, who died in October 2007. Checkers or draughts, as it is called in Great Britain, has a long history. It is believed that the earliest form of checkers was a similar game discovered in an archeological dig in the Middle East dating around 3000 B.C. Around for centuries, it has been enjoyed by billions. According to the New York Times, in July 2007, Jonathan Schaeffer, a computer scientist at the University of Alberta in Canada, “announced that after running a computer program almost nonstop for 18 years, he had calculated the result of every possible endgame that could be played, all 39 trillion of them. He also revealed a sober fact about the game: checkers is a draw. As with tic-tac-toe, if both players never make a mistake, every match will end in a deadlock.” This seems unlikely to happen in an imperfect world playing against fallible human beings. If last weekend is any indication, checkers will continue to be a popular social activity for generations to come for children and adults of all ages. And the winners are… Richard emailed me saying he might have a slight change…I need to go out but maybe he will send directly to you! Overall winner - Jimmy O’Grady of New York Co-New England champions - Mike Magnelli and Steve Kelly Massachusetts champion - Steve Kelly Rhode Island champion - Mike Magnelli Connecticut champion - Al Darrow

Monday, June 23, 2008

Business as a "Chess Game"

This is an interesting article. Gerald "Genghis" Cone is phoney, as is his corporation. But the sentiments of the writer of this piece - are they really his sentiments? Is he being cynical and ironic? Does he really believe this is what a CEO thinks like? Article is from the Arizona Republic online A king's view of business as chess game Dale DautenKing Features Syndicate Jun. 23, 2008 12:00 AM Today we have a special guest commentary from Gerald "Genghis" Cone, CEO here where I work, Mundane Industries, offering his latest thoughts on leadership. Running a corporation is like playing chess. Not that I play chess, but my decorator put a teak and ivory chess set next to the fireplace in my office and it reminded me of my college days when I used to play with my roommate, who I'd feel sorry for because he thought being smart would make him successful. Dauten tells me there are several business books with a chess theme, but I only read business books by people whose companies are bigger than mine, so I haven't read any of them. And I don't want any niggling from you chess nerds, either, unless you make more than I do. OK. Chess. I am, of course, the King, and the game revolves around protecting me and my wealth. As for the little people, the pawns, there are some execs who like to outsource everything including employees, but I think that's foolish. Why let some other company make money on your people? No, the shrewd corporate leader knows the beauty of having pawns who are "independent contractors." Many people misunderstand the meaning of that term, supposing that "independent" refers to the freedom of such people to do their jobs as they and their professional standards see fit. HA! No, the "independent" in "independent contractor" really stands for independent of power, independent of benefits and independent of job security. This makes them cheap and expendable, like having paid foreign mercenaries in your army - losing them doesn't really count. The perfect pawns, in other words. Next come the rooks. In my thinking, these are the people in Engineering and HR. They can move only in straight lines, but they can be useful in battle if you force them to get off their backsides (backlines) and make a difference. Then there are the knights. In my company, these would be the folks in New Products and R&D. If you give them the whip, they can surprise you by leaping ahead, going off at an angle. I like to send them out ahead to do battle, and if they fail, well, they're failures and thus, good riddance. Next are the bishops, representing the company's "religion," which is how I think of both our Strategy and Marketing departments. But it's important for every King to remember the example of Henry V and feel free to get a new religion. After all, who better to blame than Strategy or Marketing? That leaves only the queen of the chessboard, and for me, that's Sales. They dash about the country, taking on the enemy and winning the big battles. That's the one piece you can't afford to lose. But when it comes to business, you can never let the queen know she's the queen. Let those egomaniacs in Sales start to believe they own the customers and before you know it, they own you. And that's where the real chess game of business comes in. The real challenge in business is picking the right opponent. In chess, you do battle and you and your opponent are both going to lose most of your pieces. In business, you skip all the losing. You simply pay off the opponent's king and then he hands over all his pieces/assets to you.

Maya Mysteries

Was it really Yogi Berra who said "it ain't over until its over"? Amazingly, archaeologists are now learning just how true this is! This is what they get for being so uppity and close-minded. Duh! Article from The mystery story of the Maya slowly reveals new twists Science Snapshot/Dan Vergano Don't tell Indiana Jones, but most archaeologists pack spades, not bullwhips, and big discoveries usually come after lots of digging, not looting. Maya discoveries in Mexico that are rewriting the history of this classic civilization, for example, are coming from years of careful digging, not looted idols. The classic Maya were part of a Central American civilization best known for stepped pyramids, beautiful carvings and murals and the widespread abandonment of cities around 900 A.D. in southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and El Salvador, leaving the Maya only the northern lowlands of the Yucatan peninsula. The conventional wisdom of this upheaval is that many Maya moved north at the time of this collapse, also colonizing the hilly "Puuc" region of the Yucatan for a short while, until those new cities collapsed as well. But that story of the Maya is wrong, suggests archaeologist George Bey of Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., who is co-leading an investigation of the abandoned city of Kiuic with Mexican archaeologist Tomas Gallareta of Mexico's National Institute of Archaeology and History. "Our work indicates that instead the Puuc region was occupied for almost 2,000 years before the collapse in the south," says Bey, by e-mail. Over the last five years, Bey and his colleagues have started unearthing Maya cities in the Puuc region dating back to more than 800 B.C. "It is both the number of sites we are finding as well as that some of them produced large-scale monumental architecture — pyramids and an acropolis — while others have ball courts." At Kiuic, Bey's team has found a large platform that held at least two large ceremonial structures with ceramics. The cities dated back more than a millennium earlier than anyone had thought Maya cities existed in the region. "This is interesting stuff. The northern lowlands usually get the short end of the stick because all the well-known classic sites are in the southern lowlands," says Maya archaeologist Lisa Lucero of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, whose own research is in Belize. "There is no doubt that many people went north after the collapse, but, there is a fuller, longer story to the northern lowlands." The buildings, ceramics and trade items, such as Guatemalan obsidian and Olmec jade, found at Kiuic indicate these early cities of the Puuc were tied to Maya centers further south. Archaeologists had known that people lived in the region for a long time, he adds, but the complexity — large cities with hundreds of thousands of people living nearby — was unknown until recently. In 1980, only one site, Komchen, was known in the Puuc, and now there are hundreds, says Bey. "Part of the problem was that people didn't think it existed, so we were not, until recently, looking for it." The research paints a picture of the classic Maya civilization as one big connected society from antiquity, and the "collapse" looks more like a series of local catastrophes, rather than a single apocalyptic event (apologies to Mel Gibson for the Apocalypto reference.) "The public needs to understand that the so-called Maya collapse was not an overnight affair that resulted in the total disappearance of the Maya people. The collapse took place over a period of more than 200 years," says Bey. "The result was the breakdown of elite culture and the abandonment of their cities. However, millions of Maya continued to live in Mesoamerica, especially in the northern Maya lowland, as they do so today." Kiuic's abandonment sometime in the 10th Century is also part of the collapse story. Bey and his colleagues have found large grinding stones turned on their sides at the site, a regular practice for farmers planning to return to them — but more ominously, a large number of spear points as well. They plan to keep on digging into the mystery. "I believe there is an even earlier occupation than what we have defined thus far," Bey says, perhaps dating back before 1000 B.C. "I may be optimistic, but I think now that we are looking for it, it is only a matter of time."

700,000 Year Old "Earl Humans"?

This article is full of baloney - if you accept the present time line of human development as absolutely correct! There were NO "early humans" 700,000 years ago! "Early humans" didn't exist until perhaps 40,000 years ago according to currently accepted chronology. Everything else is just pre-human, according to the experts. Personally, I think the "out of Africa" stuff is just as suspect as the dating of this Qatar settlement! Article from Prehistoric settlement found in Qatar Tuesday, June 24, 2008-->Web posted at: 6/23/2008 2:25:18 Source ::: Agencies DOHA • A prehistoric settlement in what is now Qatar may confirm alternative theories on how early humans emigrated from the African continent, a report in a Danish newspaper said. Danish archaeologists have uncovered a settlement they believe may be over 700,000 years old, making it the oldest organised human community ever found, reported Berlingske Tidende newspaper. Eight dwellings in the desert region of Qatar indicate that an early human species crossed what is now the Red Sea to leave their origins in Africa, according to the scientists. There is still uncertainty within the scientific community as to which routes early humans used to migrate out of Africa. The new discovery has only been tentatively dated by the archaeologists, who have estimated the age from types of artefacts found at the site, which include axes and knives. Other dating tests are necessary to confirm the estimates, but the find can only be carbon-dated with accuracy if organic material, such as bones, are found.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Chess News

Chess Femme News has been updated, June 22, 2008. Enjoy!

Random Round-Up

RR at Goddesschess has been updated by delion, the master web magician. This week he takes a look at a HOT HOT HOT topic - the Devil and chess. From the old tale about Paolo Boi and the Devil (image) to dreams of chess-playing incubi, he covers a wide spread of entertaining and enlightening information. Enjoy! Random Round-Up can be found in the right-hand column at Goddesschess under the Access Mundae.

We did not consult this week about RR; sometimes I make suggestions and provide links to articles and information I found interesting (sometimes he uses that info, sometimes he doesn't); sometimes we're so busy doing our respective "things" we don't talk or email at all! It's interesting, therefore, that delion picked a "devilish" theme for RR this week, as it was also the theme of my June 1, 2008 coverage of the U.S. Women's Chess Championship at Chessville. Just another one of those little synchronicities that makes life so interesting...

And now, darlings, I'm going to take a break and cut the grass in the back yard. And then sit on the deck and enjoy a few glasses of wine while I catch up on some reading!

Exhibit of Rare Vani (Colchis) Artifacts!

Would love to see these, but second best is buying the exhibition catalog - I'll have to check online to see if one is available for purchase. (Image: Gold Phiale Mesomphalos, Vani, Achaemenid influence, 400-350 B.C. Georgian National Museum.)

Article from
Sunday, June 22, 2008

HOUSTON.- Just as Pompeii: Tales from an Eruption closes, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will open another show of treasures from antiquity that shed light on a long-forgotten culture. Wine, Worship, and Sacrifice: The Golden Graves of Ancient Vani, beginning June 21, 2008, presents exquisite jewelry, sculpture, pottery, and funerary items excavated from the principal sanctuary and four tombs in Vani, once a part of the ancient kingdom of Colchis—home of the Golden Fleece in Greek mythology—and now the modern-day Republic of Georgia. The exhibition will be on view through September 1, 2008 in the Caroline Wiess Law Building.

The exhibition comprises more than 100 objects, dating from the 8th to the 2nd century B.C., all uncovered during the last 60 years. The objects reveal the artistic ability of the Colchian craftsmen, who developed a metal working expertise even before those skills were evident elsewhere in Europe. The graves also contained a variety of goods from other lands offering proof that Colchis was a crossroads for many ancient peoples.

“Through this exhibition, visitors will get a glimpse into an ancient corner of the world where art and craftsmanship were so prized that their owners couldn’t bear to part with favored items even in death,” said Peter C. Marzio, director of the MFAH. “By taking these objects to their graves, residents of Colchis saved them from destruction and helped to further our understanding of man’s past. The museum is pleased to bring this show to Houston.”

Archaeologists have excavated about one-third of the ancient temple city of Vani, which functioned as an urban center from the 6th century B.C. until its destruction about 50 B.C. The burial sites there have yielded an abundance of golden jewelry, silver and bronze adornments, pottery,and luxury items. The earliest evidence of wine and wine-making also comes from Vani—drinking vessels, decorated cauldrons, and a shrine dedicated to the god of wine have been found—an indication that the land that was not only rich in gold and precious metals, but agriculturally fertile.

Highlights of the exhibition include a Colchian gold necklace with 31 pendant tortoises, a bronze torso in a 5th-century Greek style and pose, libation bowls of Persian style, and red-figure pottery from Greece. A number of objects illustrate how Colchian artists were influenced by cultural interactions: a polychrome enamel-and-gold pectoral is notable for its Egyptian, Persian, and Colchian decorative motifs; a silver belt shows scenes of banqueting and animal processions reflecting Persian and nomadic iconography; and a gold diadem in a uniquely Colchian design incorporates Near Eastern imagery.

“Evidence of the complex interrelations of ancient cultures shown in this exhibition is especially fascinating,” said Frances Marzio, curator of The Glassell Collections at the MFAH, who is overseeing the Vani exhibition in Houston. “Wealthy Colchians collected the art of faraway lands and Colchian artists incorporated their imaginative iconography in highly skillful works. The result is an array of stunningly beautiful objects.”

This exhibition was organized by the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University; the Ministry of Culture, Monuments Protection, and Sport of Georgia; the Georgian National Museum; and the Vani Archaeological Museum. Generous funding is provided by Lynn Wyatt; Judy and Rodney Margolis; and Frances and Peter Marzio.

Churches Ban Filming of "Angels and Demons"

How silly is this - and shortsighted. I'm sure the boost from tourism to the churches filmed in the upcoming Dan Brown movie would otherwise be most welcomed by the Roman Catholic Church. Duh! From The New York Times Churches Off Limits to Angels Demons Compiled by MIKE HALE Published: June 17, 2008 In the continuing battle between Dan Brown and the Roman Catholic Church, this round goes to the church. Two years after Vatican officials urged a boycott of the film “The Da Vinci Code,” based on Mr. Brown’s blockbuster novel, the Rome diocese said Monday that two churches had been declared off limits to film crews for “Angels & Demons,” the “Da Vinci Code” prequel, The Associated Press reported. Msgr. Marco Fibbi, a spokesman for the diocese, said that the film “does not conform to our views” and “treats religious issues in a way that contrasts with common religious sentiment.” Permission to film inside Santa Maria del Popolo, above, and Santa Maria della Vittoria, both in central Rome, was denied in 2007, but the situation did not become crucial until now because production of the movie was delayed by the writers’ strike. “Angels & Demons” reunites the director of “The Da Vinci Code,” Ron Howard, and its star, Tom Hanks, with Mr. Hanks reprising his role as the Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon in a story that involves a papal conclave, the cult of the Illuminati and a high-tech threat to the Vatican. Mr. Brown, an executive producer of both films, published “Angels & Demons” three years before “The Da Vinci Code.” “This is a prequel to ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ and it’s clear that the theme is similar,” Monsignor Fibbi said. The ban will not stop crews from filming the exteriors of the churches.

Chinese Honor Legendary Emperor Huangdi

A fascinating story from I believe it is Emperor Huangdi who is credited with the discovery a 3x3 perfect magic square (all rows and both diagonals sum to 15) on the back of a turtle. The numbers in the magic square are:

4 - 9 - 2 (first row)
3 - 5- 7 (second row)
8 - 1 = 6 (third row)

The image above is from Tony Smith's website that I found in years ago. I don't know if Smith's website still exists but if you can find it through googling, it's definitely worth an extended visit! The image on the left shows the traditional arrangement of the markings on the turtle; the image on the right shows their modern arrangement.

This arrangement of numbers either is or led to the invention of the Lo Shu pattern of the I Ching. I don't exactly understand all of this - after reading about numbers for a few minutes my eyes start to cross! I can, however, see from Tony Smith's images (above) how the numbers of the magic square were derived from the markings on the turtle.

This Huangdi is not to be refused with the Huangdi a couple thousand years later who founded the Han Dynasty, whose tomb at Xian contained all of those terra cotta warriors.

China remembers nation's ancester Huangdi on Tomb Sweeping Festival
2008-04-04 21:55:45.0
Xinhua)Updated: 2008-04-04 21:55

XI'AN - More than 8,000 Chinese from home and abroad gathered Friday morning at the tomb of Huangdi, the legendary "Yellow Emperor" who is considered the common ancestor of all Chinese.

The memorial ceremony started in Huangling County, Shaanxi Province at 9:50 a.m. That's an auspicious time because of the digits' association with the imperial line in ancient Chinese culture. The number nine is the biggest single-digit number, while five lies in the middle.

A drum was struck 34 times, once for each of China's 34 provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions and special administrative regions.

Yuan Chunqing, the governor of Shaanxi, delivered an memorial speech.

"May the Olympics promote the Chinese spirit. May the Chinese mainland and Taiwan reunite soon," he read. The address was followed by traditional dances in tribute to the Yellow Emperor.

Hua Jianmin, the vice-chairman of the Standing Committee of the 11th National People's Congress (NPC), Zhang Rongming, the vice-chairwoman of the 11th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Gu Xiulian, the president of the All-China Women's Federation and Edmund Ho Hau Wah, the Chief Executive of the Macao Special Administrative Region, also took part in the ceremony.

The Yellow Emperor, a sovereign and cultural hero in Chinese mythology, is believed to have reigned from 2,697 BC to 2,598 BC. Although he was an actual ruler, his deeds have been embellished with time: for example, he has been credited with introducing the systems of government and law to human kind, civilizing the Earth, teaching people many skills and inventing all manner of items.

China has commemorated the Yellow Emperor since the Spring and Autumn Period around 8 BC.

"Kindred or family lines are especially honored in Chinese culture," said Zhang Jingkui, a former professor at Xiamen University who now lives in Hong Kong. "Each spring when smoke from joss sticks rises in Chinese communities around the world, it is a unique event."

Chen Shaochun, with the veterans' association of Taoyuan county, Taiwan, left his hometown in Xingping, Shaanxi in 1949.

Recalling his first return visit to his hometown in 1985, Chen noted that it was a difficult journey. "I had to travel by way of Japan," he said.

During the past two decades, Chen has made the trip a dozen times.

"My hometown has changed a lot. The buildings are taller, the roads are better. The only thing unchanged is the spirit of the people," he said.

This time, old Chen flew back via Hong Kong. "It is more convenient, but I hope next time I can fly back directly from Taiwan," he said.

"It is the responsibility of the descendants of the Yellow Emperor to come and commemorate him," said a Taiwanese named is pronounced as Jia Xiaobao. "It is really exciting to see so many overseas Chinese get together in the year of the Olympics. I hope this event will go on for ever and become an eternal bond among all Chinese people around the world."
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