Sunday, December 7, 2008

Sunday Night - Whew!

It's been a whirlwind weekend. I've been working on my Chessville column (still far from finished), I went shopping, shovelled out the driveway (finished the last part this morning in below zero windchill, brrrrrr), watched the Packers LOSE again, blogged, read the paper and clipped coupons, watched President-Elect Obama on Meet the Press, dragged out the artificial Christmas tree (what a fiasco that was - but in the end I managed to put all of the parts back together in a reasonable facsimile of a live tree), cooked a casserole, vacuumed, ate, started decorating the tree, am still decorating the tree... Now it's time for "The Cutting Edge" my favorite all-time figure-skating movie to come on commercial t.v., and so I'm signing off and will watch the movie downstars in the living room while I finish decorating the tree. This year I'm going with a more "minimalist" look than in prior years - no gold beads this year, no pearl beads this year, and probably only 2/3rd of all the ornaments I own will go on. I forgot how bright the tree is when plugged in! And with the lights around the ceiling-high round top window at the front of the house (I never got around to taking those lights down last year), I light up the entire neighborhood :) Good night, darlings.

Genetic Link Between Etruscans and Anatolia?

The dating seems strange - can't make it out. As far as I can tell KYA means "thousand(s) years ago." If this is correct, then the article is saying the genetic linkage between Anatolia and the Etruscans was first made between 2,300 years ago (plus or minus 400 years?) and 1,100 years (plus or minus 100 years?) History tells us that the Etruscans first became an identifiable civilization in Italy about 900-800 BCE (2,900 to 2,800 years ago). That would put the oldest date from the article (2,300 plus 400 years, or 2,700 BCE) near this date range: Abstract from the European Journal of Human Genetics Short Report 3 December 2008; doi: 10.1038/ejhg.2008.224 The Etruscan timeline: a recent Anatolian connection Francesca Brisighelli1,2, Cristian Capelli3, Vanesa Álvarez-Iglesias1, Valerio Onofri4, Giorgio Paoli5, Sergio Tofanelli5, Ángel Carracedo1,6, Vincenzo L Pascali2 and Antonio Salas1 1Unidade de Xenética, Facultade de Medicina, Instituto de Medicina Legal, Universidade de Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain 2Forensic Genetics Laboratory, Institute of Legal Medicine, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Rome, Italy 3Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK 4Institute of Legal Medicine, Universita' Politecnica delle Marche, Policlinico Torrette, Ancona, Italy 5Department of Biology, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy 6Fundación Pública Galega de Medicina Xenómica (FPGMX-SERGAS), CIBER enfermedades raras, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain Correspondence: Dr A Salas, Unidade de Xenética, Facultad de Medicina, Instituto de Medicina Legal, Universidad de Santiago de Compostela, 15782, Galicia, Spain. Tel.: +34 981 582 327; Fax: +34 981 580 336; E-mail: Received 14 April 2008; Revised 14 October 2008; Accepted 15 October 2008; Published online 3 December 2008. The origin of the Etruscans (the present day Tuscany, Italy), one of the most enigmatic non-Indo-European civilizations, is under intense controversy. We found novel genetic evidences on the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) establishing a genetic link between Anatolia and the ancient Etruria. By way of complete mtDNA genome sequencing of a novel autochthonous Tuscan branch of haplogroup U7 (namely U7a2a), we have estimated an historical time frame for the arrival of Anatolian lineages to Tuscany ranging from 1.10.1 to 2.30.4 kya B.P. (emphasis added) Short of paying $32 to download the current issue online, I guess I'll remain in the dark as to whether the authors are suggesting that ALL Etruscans can be traced back to Anatolia through this mitochondrial DNA or whether only a certain portion of Etruscans can be traced back to Anatolia through this DNA tag inherited from one's mother!

Blast from the Past: Priest of Cybele Gravesite Found

The headline of this article from the is rather tastelessly sensational (what's new), but the article itself is extremely informative. It's a blast from the past that showed up in my weekly archaeological search today: Pagan transvestite priest? died after ritual castration? By David Keys Archaeology Correspondent Wednesday, 22 May 2002 Romano-British clergymen from exotic religious cults ministered to their congregants while dressed as transvestites weighed down with stone and bronze jewellery. A research report, published by the Council for British Archaeology yesterday, reveals that a pagan priest from Yorkshire was buried in the late 3rd century wearing what was probably full ritual regalia including a five-strand necklace of 600 jet beads, a jet bracelet, a brown shale armlet and a bronze anklet. He was buried immediately opposite a large stone building – possibly a temple. Investigations have been run by English Heritage and other archaeological organisations at the site, Bainesse near Catterick in North Yorkshire, over the past 20 years. They suggest that the building lay at the heart of a settlement strung out along more than half a mile of the ancient Roman Dere Street, which is now the A1 trunk road. Experts in Roman religion believe that the Yorkshire cleric belonged to the officially sanctioned and important religious cult of a mother goddess called Cybele, who originated in Anatolia, present-day Turkey. The cult was based on the great mother goddess and her toy-boy lover Attis who, guilt-ridden for having sexually betrayed her, went mad, castrated himself and, consequently, died. The cult's tradition dictated that its priests had similarly to mutilate themselves in painful solidarity with Attis, often using a piece of flint or a sharp fragment of pottery. Ritual clamps were then used to staunch the blood, but Cybelean priests often died in the process. Indeed, the Romano-British transvestite eunuch from Yorkshire probably perished from the wounds inflicted in just such an act. Osteological examination of his skeleton shows he died in his early 20s. The ritual self-castration, which was performed in a state of dance-induced ecstasy, was known in the Roman calendar as the "day of blood" and described by at least one Roman emperor as the "sacred harvest". The deity Cybele eventually became a universal goddess, viewed as mother of the gods, the goddess of everything from peace to war, from fertility to nature and from law to disease. In some respects, the cult of Cybele had certain similarities with early Christianity. Attis sacrificed himself and was resurrected from the dead. In the 4th century Attis became identified as a sun god, as was Christ at the time. And through Attis and Cybele, as in Christianity, the cult's followers were guaranteed immortality of the soul. The concept of priestly celibacy was also a common feature. Some 40 metres (130ft) from where the Yorkshire priest was buried was the substantial stone building. Its proximity to the burial, as well as an important feature of the structure – a subterranean chamber reached by a flight of stone stairs – suggests the building may well have been a temple of Cybele. Cybelean temples were unusual in having underground rooms, one for secret rites and another in which individuals wishing to achieve spiritual immortality bathed in the blood of ritually slaughtered sacred bulls. Other religious objects found near by include a bronze statue of a Roman god, a pair of bone dolphins, symbolising immortality, three small altars and a potentially ritual whetstone for sharpening cutting implements found immediately adjacent to the underground chamber. Inside the underground room itself were the remains of feasts held at least 16 centuries ago.

Christian Holidays Rooted in Ancient Traditions

dondelion reminded me yesterday - on St. Nicholas' Day - of some ancient Egyptian traditions - long long before there was Christ in Christmas. When I was a kid we celebrated St. Nicholas' Day as much as Christmas - it was always a big thing to go to bed the night before and see if we could stay up to catch St. Nick hanging a candy-filled stocking on our bedsteads. There were only four of us girls in those days (early 1950's) and we all slept in one large bedroom - two of us in a full-size bed, two of us in bunkbeds. Needless to say, none of us ever managed to stay away to catch St. Nick in the act; but, lo and behold, no matter how early the next morning we awoke, the stuffed stockings were always there! I don't think St. Nicholas' Day is related to the ancient Egyptian traditions but - hmmm, come to think of it, heck, it might be, as so much in our western society seems to come from there! Anyway, here are the special Egyptian days that dondelion pointed out:
  • December 6: "Bast guards the Two Lands; Day of offerings to the Shemsu (followers) of Ra"
  • December 23: The Egyptian Festival of the Great Heat; Feast Day of Het-Hert (Hathor)
  • December 25: Birth of Heru (Horus) the child of Aset (Isis); the Going forth of Wadjet singing in Heliopolis; the Day of Elevating the Great Netjert (Goddess) in all Her names & manifestations

Now if those don't sound like celebrations of the Virgin Mary, the birth of Christ and the singing of carols some 2600 years beforehand, I don't know what does!

Here are some Roman Catholic holy days and days of remembrance from around this time of year:

  • December 6: Feast of St. Nicholas (St. Nick's Eve is when the candy-stuffed stockings magically appeared on our bedsteads, much to our amazed eyes and hungry mouths the morning of December 6). According to Wikipedia, in 1809, the New-York Historical Society convened and retroactively named Sancte Claus (a/k/a St. Nicholas) the patron saint of Nieuw Amsterdam, the Dutch name for New York City
  • December 8: Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Virgin Mary is conceived miraculously by her mother, St. Elizabeth, thereby avoiding the taint of "original sin")
  • December 12: Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (a dark-skinned reincarnation of the Egyptian Goddess Het-hert [Hathor] as the Virgin Mary, standing on a "crescent Moon," not only denoting the ancientness of this lunar goddess, but also representing Hathor's ancient Horns of Power and Authority over mankind)
  • December 25: Christmas (celebration of the birth of the Christ)
  • December 25 - January 5: The Twelve Days of Christmas - ancient traditional end-of-year celebration from pre-Christian days -- lots of feasting, always-burning fires and lights were critical during this time, especially in the northern countries where the shortest days of the year were around the Winter Solstice
  • January 1: Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, The Mother of God (supposed to be a day of reflection and contemplation at the start of the New Year)
  • January 6: Feast of the Three Wise Men (the ancient Magi from Persia arrived in Bethelem some months after the birth of Christ, heralded by a "miraculous star" that appeared in the Eastern sky as a sign of this momentous birth; they brought expensive gifts with them and gave them to the parents of Jesus, who were subsequently forced to flee to Egypt - according to one tradition - when King Herod was hunting for the Christ child to kill him. Since Joseph and Mary were poor people, it was probably these gifts of gold, frankincense and myhrr that sustained the small family during their years in Egypt)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Supporting Local Chess: Announcements

WISCONSIN From the New Richmond News December 9 Chess Club, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Heritage Center Farmhouse, 1100 Heritage Drive. Call 715-781-2562. OHIO From the Chronicle-Telegram The Lorain/Sheffield Notebook Programs at the Lorain Public Library Sorry - missed this one earlier: Chess club meets 1 to 4 p.m. today at the South Lorain branch. Everyone welcome. Call (440) 277-5672 to register. MASSACHUSETTS From the Wicked Local-Sommerville December 4, 2008 Love Your Library: Join the Chess Club New chess club forms On Monday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m., players of all ages and abilities are invited to join the newly forming Chess Club at the Central Library. Players should be familiar with the game, though some limited instruction may be available. The club will meet monthly on Monday evenings.

2008 Asian Junior Chess Championships

As reported at The December 7, 2008 Chess Three top rated TN players lose Arvind Aaron Chennai: Three highly rated players from Tamil Nadu lost in the opening round of the Sai Ram Engineering Asian junior chess championship here on Saturday. FIDE Master S. Nitin (Salem), FIDE Master Shyam Nikhil (Nagercoil), both in boys, and P. Uthra (Chennai) in the girls, were shocked by lower rated fellow Indians. India, a super power in chess has the World champion in Anand, world junior champion in Abhijeet Gupta and the World Junior girls champion in Harika. Given that we dominate the world, the campaign for the Asian supremacy in juniors should not be a difficult proposition as our players are only expected to retain the titles they won at Mumbai last year. Top seed International Master S.P. Sethuraman (Chennai) crushed Shiven Khosla (Mumbai) in 33 moves with the black pieces after white did not deploy the knights well. Sethuraman won a rook for knight and was about to checkmate his opponent when resignation happened. Second seed and world under-16 champion of B. Adhiban (Chennai) lived dangerously with a knight sacrifice for two pawns to win an enterprising 69-move encounter against Upadhyay. Third seed Deep Sengupta (Kolkata) won a counterattacking 39-move encounter against Shreyansh Daklia. D. Yashas cornered the king of Shyam Nikhil by trooping in his rook and later brought his queen and bishop to cement the attack. Easy for Kruttika In the girls section, top seed Kruttika Nadig (Pune) had an easy 31-move win using the Austrian attack against the Pirc defence of Aparajita. Second seed Mary Ann Gomes (Kolkata) won in 44 moves but she was certainly too strong for G. Apurva. Supriya Joshi (Mumbai) scored a 68-move shock win over experienced P. Uthra (Chennai). The Mumbai girl trained by R.V. Gokhale caught the uncastled king of black in the centre to win a rook for knight and the point in a pawn ending. Sixty-three boys and 32 girls are competing in this edition. Leading results (round one): Girls: Kruttika Nadig bt Aparajitha Gochhikar, G. Apurva lost to Mary Ann Gomes, Padmini Rout w/o Anjana Pereira (Sri), Antonova Nadezhda (Tjk) lost to w/o Kiran Mohanty, Bhakti Kulkarni bt M. Khushboo, B. Taraswinee drew with R. Preethi, Ch Divyasri bt Supeshala Thilakawardana (Sri), Supriya Joshi bt P. Uthra. Boys: Shiven Khosla lost to S.P. Sethuraman, B. Adhiban bt Anwesh Upadhyaya, J.S. Daklia lost to Deep Sengupta, Ashwin Jayaram bt Tejas Ravichandran, M.G. Gahan lost to P. Karthikeyan, Swapnil Dhopade drew with Pranav Shetty, A.M. Imran (Ban) lost to Shyam Sundar, S. Nitin lost to Shardul Gagare, R.K. Ranjith lost to Lalith Babu, Minhazuddin Ahmed (Ban) bt Niranjan Navalgund, D. Yashas by Shyam Nikhil, Osheen De Silva (Sri) drew with Akshat Khamparia.

McClain Reminds Us Why the Great Are - Great!

From The International Herald Tribune All copyrights preserved Dylan Loeb McClain: Chess Published: December 5, 2008 It is inevitable that young phenomena and new champions hog the limelight, but sometimes ex-champions remind the world why they were, and in some cases still are, so great. At the recent Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany, the women's section was won by the team from Georgia, the No. 4 seed. It was a return to glory for Georgia, which last won gold in 1996 and had not medaled at the biennial event since winning a silver in 2000. Georgia was once synonymous with women's chess because it was home to the two women who, between them, held the world title from 1962 to 1991. Nona Gaprindashvili, now 67, reigned from 1962 to 1978. She was dethroned by Maia Chiburdanidze, who held the crown until 1991. Chiburdanidze, now 47, is still ranked No. 18 in the world among women. At the Olympiad, Chiburdanidze was the top player on her team, and she turned in far and away the best performance of any competitor. She finished with six wins, three draws and no losses. Her record included victories over Hou Yifan of China, No. 3 among the world's women, and Anna Muzychuk of Slovenia, No. 13. She also defeated Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia, the reigning women's champion, in Round 5. Chiburdanidze usually prefers the Caro-Kann Defense, but against Kosteniuk she selected the sharper Sicilian Defense. She may have played something unexpected to throw Kosteniuk off balance. If that was her strategy, it worked. The players followed well-known plans in the Richter-Rauzer Variation until Chiburdanidze played the thematic exchange sacrifice 10. . . Rc3. Most players continue with 11 bc3, and after 11 . . . e5 12 Qb4 Qb4 13 cb4 Ne4 14 Bh4 g5 15 fg5 Be7, the position is unclear. Black will eventually have an extra pawn and active pieces, while White will have a slight material superiority (rook for knight and pawn). But Kosteniuk chose 11 Qc3 and quickly fell into a passive position. She tried to squirm out of it with 19 Be4, probably hoping that Chiburdanidze would play 19 . . . Be4, when White might sacrifice material with 20 Re4 fe4 21 Rb7, giving her a chance to draw because of her superior development. But Chiburdanidze avoided any complications with 19 . . . fe4 and steadily improved her position. Kosteniuk resigned because she must lose a rook after either 37 Kb1 Rg2, or 37 Kd1 e2 38 Ke1 Bg1, leaving her in a hopeless position either way.

The Best Female Figure

Hmmm, do I have your attention? LOL! A rather interesting article from Live Science: Best Female Figure Not an Hourglass Wed Dec 3, 10:15 am ET An imperfect body might be just what the doctor ordered for women and key to their economic success, an anthropologist now says. While pop culture seems to worship the hourglass figure for females, with a tiny waist, big boobs and curvy hips à la Marilyn Monroe, this may not be optimal, says Elizabeth Cashdan of the University of Utah. That's because the hormones that make women physically stronger, more competitive and better able to deal with stress also tend to redistribute fat from the hips to the waist. So in societies and situations where women are under pressure to procure resources and otherwise bring home the bacon, they may be less likely to have the classic hourglass figure, Cashdan hypothesizes in the December issue of the journal Current Anthropology. Curve crazy Until now, scientists (and apparently Western society) thought a curvy figure trumped other body shapes [if that's true, then how come we only use above-average height models with stick figures and no boobs who wear clothes designed for women with no curves at all in size negative 2?] The idea was based on results from medical studies that suggested a curvy waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7 or lower (meaning the waist is significantly narrower than the hips) is associated with higher fertility and lower rates of chronic disease. In addition, past research has revealed that men prefer a ratio of 0.7 or lower when looking for a mate. The preference makes perfect sense, according to evolutionary psychologists, because the low ratio is a reliable signal of a healthy, fertile woman. Along those lines, Playboy centerfolds tend to have a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.68, Cashdan found. However, women around the world tend to have larger waist-to-hip ratios (more cylindrical than hourglass-shaped) than is considered optimal by these medical and social standards. [In other words, this fantasy female does not reflect the reality of actual women's figures!] Specifically, Cashdan compiled data from 33 non-Western populations and four European populations, finding the average waist-to-hip ratio for women was above 0.8. So if 0.7 is the magic number both in terms of health and male mate choice, Cashdan wondered why most women exhibit a significantly higher ratio. That's where the hormones come in. A little testosterone Androgens, a class of hormones that includes testosterone, increase waist-to-hip ratios in women by increasing visceral fat, which is carried around the waist. But on the upside, increased androgen levels are also associated with increased strength, stamina and competitiveness. Cortisol, a hormone that helps the body deal with stressful situations, also increases fat carried around the waist. Hormone levels linked with a high waist-to-hip ratio could lead to such health benefits, which would be particularly useful during times of stress, Cashdan said. These benefits could outweigh those attained from having the tiny waist, hourglass figure, she said. Perhaps the differences between predominant body shapes in some societies have to do with sexual equality, Cashdan said. [Yeah, maybe that, at least in some western modern societies - but in all societies the level of stress on females has increased tremendously in the late 20th and early 21st centuries]. In Japan, Greece and Portugal, where women tend to be less economically independent, men place a higher value on a mate's thin waist than men in Britain or Denmark, where there tends to be more sexual equality, Cashdan said. And in some non-Western societies where food is scarce and women bear the responsibility for finding it, men actually prefer larger waist-to-hip ratios."Waist-to-hip ratio may indeed be a useful signal to men, then, but whether men prefer a [waist-to-hip ratio] associated with lower or higher androgen/estrogen ratios (or value them equally) should depend on the degree to which they want their mates to be strong, tough, economically successful and politically competitive," Cashdan writes. She added, "And from a woman's perspective, men's preferences are not the only thing that matters."

Friday, December 5, 2008

Liberia: President Sirleaf to Receive FAO Award

From All December 4, 2008 Monrovia — President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is to receive this year's Food and Agricultural Organization's (FAO) Ceres Medal Award Making the disclosure recently, the Country Representative of the Food and Agricultural Organization in Liberia, Mr. Winfred Hammond, said the award will be presented to the Liberian leader by F.A.O. Director General Jacques Diouf at this year's National Agricultural Fair to be held in Voinjama, Lofa County on Saturday, December 6, according to the Executive Mansion release. Mr. Hammond added that the presentation of the Ceres Medal Award to President Johnson Sirleaf is in recognition of her commitment to international partnership to promote peace, food security, health and education, as a means of achieving a Liberia free of hunger and poverty, as enshrined in the Poverty Reduction Strategy of Liberia. The Ceres Medal, which is named after the Roman goddess of agriculture, is awarded to distinguished women who have made an outstanding contribution to social and humanitarian affairs or to agricultural development and food security. Previous recipients of the award include Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Prime Minister Indira Ghandi of India, Queen Sofia of Spain, former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, amongst others. During his two-day visit to Liberia, FAO Director General Jacques Diouf is also scheduled to hold talks with Foreign Minister Olubanke King Akerele and Agricultural Minister Dr. J. Chris Toe. The discussions are geared toward exchanging views on major issues related to food security and agricultural development. The talks will also focus on the FAO's initiatives as well as national and regional efforts aimed at realizing the initiatives. (Copyright the Liberian Government)

Friday Night Miscellany

COLD! It's horrid out there - end of January weather is here already. My hands have frozen at least half a dozen times, I am now ready to bite the bullet and pay $100 for a pair of down mittens, which just about kills me but if I lose my hands to gangrene, then what? Tomorrow I'm going shopping for a knee length down coat. I already have one down to my ankles, that gets pulled out for the most severe weather. It's a heavy duty down coat and I look like the Michelin Man when wearing it - I don't care. It keeps me warm. But I don't want to wear it now - what will I wear when the windchill is F40 below? I have a "qualofil" parka that covers my butt but ends about mid-thigh length - it keeps my torso and arms warm enough and it has a hood that helps protect my head (with the addition of my wool beret - a new one now since I ate my old one after the U.S. Women's Chess Olympiad Team won a Bronze Medal in Dresden - and a wrap-around scarf), but my legs are COLD, especially when the wind is blowing! Arggggh! More money - cha ching! My Christmas bonus (which we are getting this year, thank Goddess!) will buy (1) down mittens (2) down "car coat" and (3) pay balance on real estate taxes. I'm already sick of shovelling snow! And - I was ready to blow up the plow Wednesday night when we got our last 3 inches of snow - but he never put his plow down as he passed my house, he just laid down a layer of salt, which did nothing to clean up the mess in the road. I was ready for that plow man - I had my shovel in one hand and a baseball bat in the other hand - and I was ready to go after him. I stood at the foot of the driveway that I had laboriously cleared of giant ice boulders and powder-puff snow in strong winds (try that for some exercise, no wonder I've lost another 2 pounds this week, geez!) - all the way past the half-way mark so that a car can actually pull into the drive - and I waited for him patiently. ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM - he zipped down Plainfield Avenue; ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM - he zipped up Leroy Avenue and turned left instead of turning right to pass my house - he disappeared on Coldspring Road. I waited and shovelled more, and waited and shovelled more. Then, he came around the corner from Plainfield Avenue and zipped past so fast, he must have known I was waiting for him, the bugger. No snow thrown four feet deep (and tall) into my half-way shovelled out driveway. Thank Goddess! I went inside. It took an hour to thaw out, but it was worth it! The roads in the subdivision are in bad condition though; a little better tonight coming home, I think they came through again and put down yet more salt, and sometime yesterday while I was at work the plow did sneak by the house and dumped some snow into the end of the shovelled out part of the driveway - but not too bad. Tomorrow morning at sunrise I will go out and shovel it out into the middle of the road, perhaps make some snow castles - and dump water on them and freeze them. Ha! Take that City of Greenfield! I hope I tear the chassies off of several cars with my ice sculptures! Isis' house-warming gift arrived today from Bella Ling Antiques. I apprehensively unwrapped it after letting it thaw out for a couple of hours (it was on the front stoop when I got home from the office this evening). Ohmygoddess, it is just absolutely gorgeous, and I'm madly in love with it. It will be a perfect gift for Isis - I am hoping she loves it as much as I do. I can confidently say that the photos of the piece did not do it justice! It's perfect colors and the perfect size, and has just two production flaws as far as I can tell (I'm far from an expert), which I guess isn't so bad for mass-produced but hand-blown Murano glass. Now, mind you, I took it on faith that this piece is Murano glass, because that's what the dealer said it was. But there is no label on the piece and no marking on the base of the piece so identification - well, I have learned that there are lots and lots of cheap fakes out there. And even if it is Murano, so much has been made, and is still being churned out, that quality can be an issue. But my inexperienced eye tells me this piece is finely made, so I suspect that the dealer was right in calling it what she did. The color is fabulous - the proportions are perfect and the size is just right - not too big and not too small. Sounds a bit like the saga of the "Three Bears"! I am going to take some digital photos of it and, after it is presented to its intended owner, I will publish one or two here. Geez, I'm long-winded tonight. Here are a few items that captured my fancy, much as the Fratelli Toso Murano glass piece did: Spread a Little Happiness - It's Contagious: It's so nice to know that it's not just stuff that can kill you that is contagious :) This article made me very happy, and reinforces my belief in going around with a Mona Lisa smile on my face most of the time; it not only effectively hides the sag lines on either side of my mouth, it makes people feel better who see me and puts them to wondering what the heck is causing that secret semi-smile... I get lots of smiles back, actually. LOL! Climate history may explain empires' fall: This is an interesting but very short piece. I think, however, it's been pretty well demonstrated by lots of other evidence that is now coming to light (and re-examination of previous finds in light of new knowledge and hypotheses) that climate change DOES lead to regime change -- call it what you will, the collapse of civilizations, the end of eras, the end of the world as we know it, etc. etc. Hell, it's a no-brainer, don't you think? I mean, darlings - just consider what has happened just during the 20th century due to drought conditions and the gradual decimation of fragile eco-systems in our own western states in the U.S. due to the lengthening of "summer" by about 2 weeks and the increasing lack of snow pack, etc. etc. Not to mention what drought has wrought in Africa. Scientists Pinpoint Flu Gene: Well, whoop dee doo! I haven't had a flu shot in my entire life. They've been giving them out free at the office for the past 4 or 5 years and I always say no thank you! And I've been fine, while those around me have fallen to various maladies that probably are not flu but are nearly as yecchy. Oh, stupid woman that I am, I made the bad mistake of letting my doc, who otherwise is a quite sensible and pleasant person, talk me into getting a flu shot on November 28th when I visited her for a BP check and to get renewal prescriptions for my meds which now keep the aforesaid BP within the normal range. Ach! I had a terrible headache the next day that lingered into the following day, and then developed a sore throat. Since the symptoms disappeared after three days I figured they must be side-effects of the flu shot and after doing some research online, sure enough, I was right! I've learned a great deal about various medical conditions since the advent of the internet, actually. Not sure if that's good or bad... There is always hope - if we lose hope - we die - as a person, as a society, as a world: Chinese "Mice" - a Mighty Force for Free Speech (even if we don't necessarily like what they say...)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

More on the Zaraysk Stone-Age Sculptures

What is this "mysterious object?" From BBC News Dig unearths Stone Age sculptures By Jason Palmer Science and technology reporter, BBC News Page last updated at 11:40 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008 Rare artefacts from the late Stone Age have been uncovered in Russia. The site at Zaraysk, 150km south-east of Moscow, has yielded figurines and carvings on mammoth tusks. The finds also included a cone-shaped object whose function, the authors report in the journal Antiquity, "remains a puzzle". Such artistic artefacts have been found in the nearby regions of Kostenki and Avdeevo, but this is the first such discovery at Zaraysk. The Upper Palaeolithic is the latter part of the Old Stone Age, during which humans made the transition from functional tool-making to art and adornment. The new artefacts, discovered by Hizri Amirkhanov and Sergey Lev of the Russian Academy of Sciences, include a mammoth rib inscribed with what appear to be three mammoths, a small bone engraved with a cross-hatch pattern, and two human figurines presumed to be female. "The finds enrich the inventory of Upper Palaeolithic [portable] art and broaden the known distribution of specific types of art objects in the East European Upper Palaeolithic," Dr Lev told BBC News. "In terms of the splendour and variety of its art pieces, Zaraysk is on a par with such famous sites as Kostenki and Avdeevo." 'Unique picture' The figurines are a type of "Venus" statuette, examples of which have been found in locations ranging from the mountains of Spain as far east as Siberia. However, their cultural significance remains a point of debate among anthropologists. At Zaraysk, the two figurines were found carefully buried in storage pits. Underneath each was a round deposit of fine sand toward the south; toward the north, there was a deposit of red ochre - an iron-based pigment. Each of the figurines had been covered with the shoulder-blade of a mammoth. One is presumed to be finished and stands at a height of nearly 17cm (6.7in); the other is clearly unfinished and about half as big. However, both resemble examples of such statuettes found at the Avdeevo site to the south-west, suggesting cultural links between the two. "This collection of artefacts is spectacular in a number of ways, not only for the range of representations of both humanistic and animal but also for the range of materials that is used," says Jeffrey Brantingham, an anthropologist at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). "These finds are really incredibly rare, and they offer a unique picture into human Upper Palaeolithic life." Also among the finds was an object carved from mammoth ivory, shaped like a cone with its top removed. The cone is densely ornamented and has a hole running through its centre. The authors note that the object is unique among Palaeolithic artefacts. "The function of this decorated object remains a puzzle," they say.
Remains a puzzle? Without having any size given in the article, I think it is a spindle-whorl! Of course, that does not fit into the "accepted" dating of when spinning flax, wool and cotton yarn was first invented (many thousands of years AFTER this object is dated) - therefore, this is a "mysterious object."

Could Women Save Chess?

Every day I visit a circuit of chess websites to check on the latest news. Chess fans already know that at the Dresden Chess Olympiad, the FIDE General Assembly approved changes to the current Grand Prix chess cycle in mid-cycle! This caused much consternation and frustration, and anger, but is FIDE doing business as usual. The one thing you can always rely upon is that you cannot ever ever ever rely upon FIDE to stick to a contract or keep its word. It took a few days for the truth to surface (despite some earlier hints about sponsorship problems at some chess news websites, nothing had been confirmed). Now it has been confirmed by a letter from FIDE itself. The reason for the change in the Grand Prix cycle - introducing a whole new event of 8 players which instantly reduces winning the Grand Prix and the World Cup to an "also ran" status instead of the two players (Grand Prix and World Cup) facing off against each other and the winner of the match facing off against the World Champion - is because of money. As is well known by now, the Doha sponsor of the Grand Prix event scheduled for December, 2008 withdrew, and FIDE stepped in hastily to organize the event in Elista, Khan Kirzan's home town (and presumably put up the prize money, too). Now a second Grand Prix sponsor has withdrawn (Montreux - sp?) - allegedly due to financial problems. Well, when a certain amount of prize money is to be put up for the players' purse IN ADDITION TO 20% ON TOP FOR FIDE AND 5% ON TOP FOR WORLD CHESS, one can only wonder what the hell is going on and marvel at the fact that ANY SPONSORS whatsoever were found for the Grand Prix! Okay - fast forward to tonight. I arrived home after a long had day at the office and visited Susan Polgar's blog to see that GM Magnus Carlsen has withdrawn from the remainder of the Grand Prix cycle. Geez! So then I visit Michael Greengard's "Daily Dirt" chess blog at Chess Ninja to see what the regulars are saying about this latest development (under the topic "FIDE not-so-Grand-Prix") - but the news was too new, not enough opportunity for people to post about it much when I visited earlier this evening. But the conversation was interesting, and in particular, this post reverberated: irv replied to comment from guest December 4, 2008 3:22 PM Reply Guest wrote: "Chess needs to give up the idea that such rich tournaments are sustainble." That's the bottom line. The sick, never-ending quest, chimeric quest for perfect play has led to the death of chess. The first ones to go were the chess clubs. Online chess is doing bad: a few years ago you could get a game on the spot at ICC or Playchess; nowadays, you have to wait a few minutes for a game to materialize. Let's face it: chess at the top has become excruciatingly painful to watch. Too mechanical. Too dry. Too boring; hell, I wouldn't ACCEPT 50 bucks to watch Svidler-Leko, for God's sake. Less money and more daring, if imperfect chess, is the solution. Let players relax a bit. Win a bit more, lose a bit more, enjoy a lot more. Force players to play to a decisive result. What's wrong with a top player making $15.000 in a couple of weeks (all expenses paid for by the organizer) of leisure chess at 2 hours per game, one game per day? If tournament organizers could get half a dozen of the top 20 players in the world (along with 6 up-and-coming tigers) to enter a tournament that can be run with $100.000, many sponsors could be found. Bring life back to chess. Is chess "dying?" Well, I don't know about that - but I do know one way it could be jazzed up with the right promotion and some money to back it - just like some very smart people backed internet and televised Poker a few years ago... I couldn't help myself - I responded - WOMEN! Women chessplayers! I mean, come on darlings! Irv thinks "more daring, imperfect chess" is a possible solution to the slow death of chess and that really describes the chess that about 90% of the female chess pros out there on the circuit play today. It has often been noted by chess "fans" (99.4% male) that "women's chess" is more exciting than a lot of the games played between the elite players (Judit Polgar notwithstanding). Women's chess games generally are not too dry, too mechanical, too boring. Women play "fighting chess" and will battle on and on and on, long past the point where a male player will concede a draw against another male player. Just a few days ago at USCF's website I read about an 111 move head-banger that GM Jesse Kraai played against a chess femme - WFM Bayaraa Zorigt, a player who barely registered on my awareness of chess femmes. The point is obvious. Who IS this woman who played a GM to 111 moves before finally succumbing (probably due to physical and mental fatigue)??? That is a woman chessplayer worthy of notice. He may be right - and I may be crazy. Win a bit more, lose a bit more, enjoy a lot more.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Stone Age "Venus" Figurines

Stone Age site reveals 'extraordinary' artworks From December 3, 2008 By Richard Allen Greene CNN CNN) -- Archaeologists in Russia have discovered an "extraordinary" group of Stone Age artworks which appear to have been carefully buried in pits and covered with mammoth bones, the researchers announced this week in a newly published paper. Archaeologists uncovered these Stone Age figures buried in pits southeast of Moscow. At least some of the 21,000-22,000-year-old objects appear to have been regarded as magical, the scientists surmise. The collection includes the only example of engravings of images found to date at the site -- what appear to be three overlapping mammoths only a few centimeters long and carved onto the rib of a mammoth. "The main lines of the image are clear, not ragged; they were made by confident, unbroken movements," Hizri Amirkhanov and Sergey Lev write. The carving may have been part of a hunting ritual, Lev told CNN. The objects they describe in their new paper "show an extraordinary repertoire of incised carving on mammoth ivory plaques and carving in the round, including representations of women and large mammals, and geometric decoration on bone utensils," they write. They also uncovered two female figures, including one 16.6 centimeters tall with a head they call particularly accurate in shape. The figures, which Lev called Venus statuettes, had been carefully placed in pits and surrounded with colored sand, Lev said. The archaeologists uncovered the objects in 2005 at a site called Zaraysk, which was discovered in 1980. The site is about 100 miles southeast of Moscow. Researchers have been excavating the site since 1995, and have found a necklace made of teeth of the arctic fox and a carving of a bison made from mammoth ivory. Zaraysk is the northernmost known location for a style of Stone Age artwork called Kostenski-Avdeevo after two other locations where art of that type has been found. Lev said the Zaraysk site was on a par with Kostenski and Avdeevo "in terms of the splendor and variety of its art." The site dates from the Upper Paleolithic period, which began about 40,000 years ago and lasted until roughly 10,000 years ago. Amirkhanov and Lev's article, "New Finds of Art Objects from the Upper Palaeolithic Site of Zaraysk, Russia," is to be published in the December issue of the magazine Antiquities, a York, England-based journal that describes itself as a quarterly review of world archaeology. A version of their article appeared on the journal's website on Monday; the print version is due out soon, reviews editor Madeleine Hummler said. The researchers are associated with the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Here is a link to the online version of the article at Antiquity.

White-Skinned, Blonde-Haired "Cloud People"

A fascinating article about some recent discoveries in Peru: Ancient city discovered deep in Amazonian rainforest linked to the legendary white-skinned Cloud People of Peru By Daily Mail Reporter Last updated at 1:44 AM on 04th December 2008 A lost city discovered deep in the Amazon rainforest could unlock the secrets of a legendary tribe. Little is known about the Cloud People of Peru, an ancient, white-skinned civilisation wiped out by disease and war in the 16th century. But now archaeologists have uncovered a fortified citadel in a remote mountainous area of Peru known for its isolated natural beauty. It is thought this settlement may finally help historians unlock the secrets of the 'white warriors of the clouds'. The tribe had white skin and blonde hair - features which intrigue historians, as there is no known European ancestry in the region, where most inhabitants are darker skinned. The citadel is tucked away in one of the most far-flung areas of the Amazon. It sits at the edge of a chasm which the tribe may have used as a lookout to spy on enemies. The main encampment is made up of circular stone houses overgrown by jungle over 12 acres, according to archaeologist Benedict Goicochea Perez. Rock paintings cover some of the fortifications and next to the dwellings are platforms believed to have been used to grind seeds and plants for food and medicine. The Cloud People once commanded a vast kingdom stretching across the Andes to the fringes of Peru's northern Amazon jungle, before it was conquered by the Incas. Named because they lived in rainforests filled with cloud-like mist, the tribe later sided with the Spanish-colonialists to defeat the Incas. But they were killed by epidemics of European diseases, such as measles and smallpox. Much of their way of life, dating back to the ninth century, was also destroyed by pillaging, leaving little for archaeologists to examine. Remains have been found before but scientists have high hopes of the latest find, made by an expedition to the Jamalca district in Peru's Utcubamba province, about 500 miles north-east of the capital, Lima. Until recently, much of what was known about the lost civilisation was from Inca legends. Even the name they called themselves is unknown. The term Chachapoyas, or 'Cloud People', was given to them by the Incas. Their culture is best known for the Kuellap fortress on the top of a mountain in Utcubamba, which can only be compared in scale to the Incas' Machu Picchu retreat, built hundreds of years later. Two years ago, archaeologists found an underground burial vault inside a cave with five mummies, two intact with skin and hair. Chachapoyas chronicler Pedro Cieza de Leon wrote of the tribe: 'They are the whitest and most handsome of all the people that I have seen, and their wives were so beautiful that because of their gentleness, many of them deserved to be the Incas' wives and to also be taken to the Sun Temple. 'The women and their husbands always dressed in woollen clothes and in their heads they wear their llautos [a woollen turban], which are a sign they wear to be known everywhere.' The Chachapoyas' territory was located in the northern regions of the Andes in present-day Peru. It encompassed the triangular region formed by the confluence of the Maranon and Utcubamba rivers, in the zone of Bagua, up to the basin of the Abiseo river. The Maranon's size and the mountainous terrain meant the region was relatively isolated.
Okay - a far out speculation - sounds as if this ancient kingdom was bounded by three rivers: shades of the biblical description of the Garden of Eden... And here I always thought the occasional article I read at alternative history sites about "white-skinned, fair-haired" people in South America was the result of someone toking a bit too much, the legend of Queztocoatl notwithstanding!

Interesting Chessboard

Story from the Can anyone explain this ‘chessboard’? 9:28am Wednesday 3rd December 2008 By Reader's letter » MY ATTENTION was recently drawn to what appears to be a chess or draughts board carved into the well trodden paving flags on the city wall near Victoria Bar. The black squares are indicated by a cross. It is quite neatly done and must have taken some time to inscribe. Despite being in a job where I have access to quite historically knowledgeable people, no one has been able to explain, with any confidence, why the board is there, or who put it there, or when? I am hoping that one of your readers will be able to supply the answers. Richard Aitken, Alness Drive, Acomb Park, York. Answers: Hieronymous, York says...10:06am Wed 3 Dec 08 I suppose the romantic answer to the question would be that a couple of bored soldiers scratched it on the walkway in order to pass the time on a long watch during a period of inactivity. However, it is in such remarkably unworn condition that I doubt it has been in it's present position for much more than the thirty years or so in which I've been aware of it. (Note how part of the design is superimposed on a section which has flaked off!) Perhaps it was found elswhere and repositioned. Alternatively, since the style of carving is pretty modern-looking, perhaps it's a piece of erudite Victorian graffiti! old_geezer, york says...12:37pm Wed 3 Dec 08 I was told it came from the condemned cell in the former prison, now Castle Museum. But why it was moved if so, no idea.

Nona Says: "No Diamonds on Trophy"

According to a news article at Kiev Post (Kyiv no diamonds were stolen off of the Gaprindashvili Cup awarded to the Ukrainian chess teams for their combined performances at the 2008 Chess Olympiad at Dresden. Right from the mouth of the lady whose name is on the Cup, she says "no diamonds," only silver and gilt decorations. Chess prize missing a few pieces upon arrival [Not true - read the article - nothing was missing, but a piece was broken off - see photo - actually, it looks like the piece screws in, so perhaps it wasn't broken off at all, it just came lose!] Yesterday, 20:04 Yuliya Popova, Kyiv Post Staff Writer Chess Olympiad trophy won by combined Ukrainian team arrives in Boryspil airport damaged and short of most valuable features At the Chess Olympiad in Germany, the Ukrainian team edged other nations in combined men’s and women’s results. But German airlines may have put them in check. In Frankfurt, Lufthansa personnel made them sacrifice their knight – a precious cup personifying a female on a male horse – to the main luggage section Nov. 26. In Kyiv’s Boryspil International Airport, the Ukrainian Chess Federation received their trophy with a broken head and stripped of decorations. “Absolute negligence,” exclaimed vice president of the Ukrainian Chess Federation, Leonid Tymoshenko, who was transporting the prize. Boarding a flight in Frankfurt, he said that the Lufthansa staff made him check in the trophy due to its heavy appearance. “I told them that it’s a piece of art of global importance but nobody listened to me. I insisted to weigh it as it’s only three kilograms and 200 grams, twice less then was permitted,” complained Tymoshenko. “But they were stubborn and asked me if I wanted to fly or not.” Tymoshenko resigned the prize to the belly of an airplane, the last time he would see the trophy intact. As chess enthusiasts tried later to sort out what happened, Lufthansa employees in Kyiv avoided comment. Airport management blamed luggage handlers for the damage. Tymoshenko insisted on negligence. Boryspil has a bad record of baggage looting. Major air carriers in Ukraine reported more than 11,000 thefts in 2007. The general prosecutor’s office busted a police squad and six handlers for pilfering passenger bags in September. The damaged trophy was named after the first female grandmaster, Nona Gaprindashvili. The legendary chess player from Georgia found out about the incident from the Kyiv Post. “It’s impossible. They shouldn’t have put it with the rest of luggage, it’s unthinkable,” she exclaimed. Gaprindashvili dismissed speculations that the cup was decorated with diamonds. “It’s made of silver and gilded embellishments but it’s a lot more precious than other cups in the [chess] Olympiad.” Tymoshenko said that the cup was insured. Police launched a criminal investigation. The next Chess Olympiad is scheduled to take place in Russia in 2010. The “knight” is transferrable and will have to be repaired by then.
So - why the report about missing diamonds from the trophy? Did Tymoshenko REALLY says that diamonds had been - I assumed pried - out of the trophy? Where did this report of missing diamonds originate, and why? Is this all traceable back to the initial Russian news report - blaming Georgians for the theft??? The way the incident now sounds, NOTHING WAS STOLEN, the trophy was BROKEN. Clarification - will it ever be forthcoming???

Southwest Chess Club of Hales Corners News

Forgot to post this last night: EVENTS AT SOUTHWEST CHESS CLUB THIS THURSDAY, DECEMBER 4 : This Thursday Expert Paul Fricano will be giving a lecture entitled: "Positional Play - It's About Time". Any of you who have attended one of Paul's lectures know that he does an outstanding job of making chess concepts understandable. You will not want to miss this lecture. The lecture will start at 6 PM. Also the Holiday Holly High-Speed Swiss starts this Thursday with the first two rounds of this Game in 45 event. Sign-ups will be taken during the lecture. Sign up no later than 6:50 PM so that we can start promptly at 7 PM. The final two rounds of this event will be held on the following Thursday, December 11. Details below. If you think you will be late, contact me in advance at the number below or email me. Any calls or emails after 5 PM on Thursday will be too late. This event is at the Layton State Bank in Greendale (5850 Broad Street). Tom Fogec USCF Senior Tournament Director Southwest Chess Club 414-425-6742 Holiday Holly High-Speed Swiss: December 4 & 11 4-Round Swiss in One Section. Two games per night. Game/45 minutes. USCF (dual) Rated. EF: $5 members, $7 others. (One ½ Point Bye Available for any round (except round four) if requested at least 2-days prior to round). TD is Tom Fogec; ATD is Robin Grochowski

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Who is Right About the Thera Eruption?

Compelling evidence from two different fields of study yield contradictory dates for the famous eruption of Thera, which destroyed the ancient Minoan civilization. One says 1613 BCE; one says sometime after 1530 BCE. Who is right? Could both be right - I mean, were there two eruptions that, over time, were combined in popular memory at the time into one eruption (the second, larger one resulting in the collapse of the Minoan civilization?) Or were previous "experts" (many were adventurers who could hardly be classified as archaeologists in the sense we use the term today) who dug up so much of Egypt in the 19th and early 20th centuries wrong about their timeline? The stakes about who is right - and who is wrong - are enormous. If the 1613 BCE date is right, much of Egyptian history needs to be adjusted by about 100 years - and that causes LOTS of problems in terms of dating some of the most famous (and not so famous) finds in Egypt and, indeed, because of spill-over in dating, in other ancient civilizations throughout the Mediterranean and beyond which are gauged by developments in Egypt! Thera volcano in 1613 BC December 3, 2008 Two olive branches buried by a Minoan-era eruption of the volcano on the island of Thera (modern-day Santorini) have enabled precise radiocarbon dating of the catastrophe to 1613 BC, with an error margin of plus or minus 10 years, according to two researchers who presented conclusions of their previously published research during an event on Tuesday at the Danish Archaeological Institute of Athens. Speaking at an event entitled "The Enigma of Dating the Minoan Eruption - Data from Santorini and Egypt", the study's authors, Dr. Walter Friedrich of the Danish University of Aarhus and Dr. Walter Kutschera of the Austrian University of Vienna, said data left by the branch of an olive tree with 72 annular growth rings was used for dating via the radiocarbon method, while a second olive branch -- found just nine metres away from the first -- was unearthed in July 2007 and has not yet been analysed. The researchers said both olive tree branches were found near a Bronze Age man-made wall, giving the impression that they were part of an olive grove situated near a settlement very close to the edge of Santorini's current world-famous Caldera. The two trees were found standing when unearthed, and apparently had been covered by the Theran pumice immediately after the volcano's eruption. According to the two scientists, other radiocarbon testing from archaeological locations on Santorini and the surrounding islands, as well as at Tel el-Dab'a in the Nile delta in Egypt, corroborate the dating based on the olive tree. On the other hand, as the two researchers pointed out, archaeological evidence linked with the Historical Dating of Ancient Egypt indicate that the Thera eruption must have occurred after the start of the New Kingdom in Egypt in 1530 BC. The two researchers said their find (olive tree) represents a serious contradiction between the results of the scientific method (radiocarbon dating) and scholarly work in the humanities (history-archaeology), with both sides holding strong arguments to support their conclusions. The radiocarbon dating places the cataclysmic eruption, blamed for heralding the end to the Minoan civilisation, a century earlier than previous scientific finds.
Some Christian fundamentalist groups link the date of c. 1513 BCE - that is, the putative date of the great eruption of Thera that blew up 2/3rds of the island in its violence - with the Exodus from Egypt, with at least some of the "ten plagues" being explained by natural phenomenon associated with the cataclysmic eruption of Thera's volcano.

Love and Sex in the Renaissance

Probably no chess tonight - I'm chessed out - and shoveled out. More than a foot landed in my driveway due to drifting and blowing, despite the fact that "officially" we only got 3 inches. Ha! More snow due tomorrow night, up to 5 inches. So far, this December is turning out to be a near-carbon copy (as far as I remember) of a year ago, when we had near record-breaking snow fall, over 100 inches. I saw this exhibit advertised at the Met in New York - looks fascinating. I picked out threeinteresting objects from it. My take on the exhibit is decidedly different from the reviewer's article: Art Review 'Art and Love in Renaissance Italy' Eternal Objects of Desire November 20, 2008 The objects I zeroed on present goddesses and/or women (representing goddesses) in close association with dogs, in an erotic context. "Sex" is used to gloss over the underlying concepts of women's unique power to bear life and the monthly menstruation of blood during the fertile years - blood representing the life of the earth, the very rhythym of the interaction of the earth and the moon every 28 to 32 days. This association has been recorded in surviving relics as far back as 25,000 years ago. Unfortunately, the condition of women as equals of men, who each held unique places in the conception of the universe, was obliterated particularly with the advent of the "warrior god" religions (Jews, Christians and Muslims) which still, unfortunately (and with telling results) dominate the world today. As always, women and children continue to be the primary victims of the non-stop warfare carried on by males in these three religions against each other. The association of goddesses and dogs is extremely ancient, perhaps due to the possibility that it was women who first domesticated wolves who followed hunter/gatherer bands across the landscape. Canines were domesticated about 16,000 years ago, possibly even further back. There is also an association of the Triple Goddess, representing birth, fruition, death-rebirth with her companion dog as eater of the dead in preparation for rebirth of the soul of the deceased. This too, is a very ancient association. There is the association of the Goddess with the numbers 8 (in western chess, symbolized in the 8x8 board) and 9 (in Chinese chess the board is 2 sides of 8 by 4 squares divided by the Celestial River which is not played upon, and the "King" piece is confined to an area of 2x2 squares - which measures 3x3 "points" -- in Chinese chess the pieces are placed not upon the squares but upon the intersection of the squares, resulting in 9 x 8 total playing points, or 72). And there are the ancient Indian traditions of the Goddess number 4-3-2, which totals 9, and the eight-legged female spider who continuously weaves her web of the universe. Painting #1 is, I think, the most light-hearted of the lot. It is ”Venus with an Organist and a Dog,” detail, by Tiziano Vecellio, circa 1550. While the article points out the obvious phallic symbolism of the "upright organ pipes" (har!) and the "upright" trees in the verdent "nature tamed" background (implying, evidently, that the Goddess of Love could be tamed - what a joke!), Venus herself is playing with her doggy friend, seemingly ignoring the organist whilst coyly pressing one foot into the small of his back. Venus is definitely playing the Game! It wasn't for nothing, you know, that the ancient game players often used "dogs" as playing pieces. Notice the ornate red draperies and the blood-red (also known as royal purple) bed covering that Venus reclines upon. As for the organist, I think his body language and the expression on his face is self-explanatory. Object #2 is called a birthing platter, depicting the meeting of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba from the workshop of Francesco del Cossa, circa 1470-73. Ignore the then current clothing styles of the protagonists! Items of note are the outer-sanctum black and white checkerboard floor, upon which three dogs lounge, and the inner-sanctum red (there's that life blood again) and black checkerboard floor). The entire painting is set on a 3x3 grid (3x3 = that Goddess number 9) -- notice how the laticed-pergola under which Sheba and Solomon meet is aligned with the tall middle tower of the church, which is flanked by two lower domes (perhaps representative of feminine breasts - the tower being a phallic symbol). Notice what is in the center of the painting - a "grail" - i.e., chalice! "Da Vinci Code" fans will recognize the grail, er, chalice, as a female symbol for fertility - it's the classic delta shape - and the "stem" - well, I think you can figure it out. The #3 painting is the most ironic of all - it depicts a young naked virgin being pursued by a young man (the dude on the horse) whom she has rejected. He has his hunting dogs attack her in the midst of a wedding feast where she has sought aid. Irony, indeed, since the Goddess Artemis was always accompanied by her hunting dogs, whom she often set upon encroaching young men! The young naked girl represents beauty, youth, and virginity - the essential aspects of the first part of the Triple Goddess. The young dude on the horse ends up killing himself after the Virgin is killed by his dogs. The horse symbolism of potent masculinity run amok is rather obvious - continued to this day in the form of the "knight" upon the chessboard, by the way. I can well imagine what the horrified bride at the wedding feat must be thinking. However, the caption is perhaps most telling of all, and presents an irony upon irony since the article was written by a female art critic. Here is what she says: A panel by Botticelli’s workshop depicts a wedding feast interrupted by a young nude woman being attacked by dogs. In short, she rejected him and he committed suicide, two unforgivable sins. The bride and groom in both the painting and the room it decorates will know better. (Photo: Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid) Oh, really? The bridge and groom will know better? Run, bride, run!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Buy Someone You Love - Chess! - for Christmas

I thought this was cute, even if it was put together by an antiques website :) Collectibles and Memorabilia Are Selling As Unique, Interesting, and Affordable Christmas Gifts December 1, 2008 With the ailing economy, shoppers are putting much more effort in finding gifts that are more meaningful but low in cost. Christmas gifts are often bought last minute and not a lot of thought is put into them and they are often forgotten once the holiday is over. This year, with the ailing economy, shoppers are putting more effort in finding gifts that are more meaningful but low in cost. While this is not the best news for most stores the antique and collectibles stores are in the exciting situation of being able to put a little spark back into Christmas by offering truly unique and cherished gift ideas. How much would a husband or wife, or even a son or daughter, love to get autographed photos from their favorite sports team, band, or actor? Autographed items range in price from $15.00 to $1000.00 and it is easy to find an autograph dealer who offers a lifetime guarantee and certificate of authenticity. Which is important for both the Christmas shopper and the collectibles shop owners since neither wants to worry about authenticity. Another idea is a die cast car, plane, or boat. Most are reasonably priced and there is an amazing range of choices. Everything from Model A Fords to the Space Shuttle has been die cast. So shoppers can easily find the right vehicle for their loved ones whether they are a pilot, police officer, fireman, garbage man, or car nut. Porcelain dolls are always a big seller during the holidays and this year they should not be overlooked since their price has dropped. Porcelain dolls now range in price from around $20.00 to $200.00 and can be found in a variety of era clothing and sizes. Quite often they come with their own storage case and stand which is nice for both store owners and shoppers alike. Figurines are also very popular and come in a nice range of materials from plastic polymers to porcelain. They make a great gift for men, women, and children since they are available in a variety. There are figures of superheroes, musicians, actors, animals, fantasy creatures, and even erotica so most collectibles stores won’t have a problem fitting them into their inventory and shoppers will be thrilled with the variety. Chess sets make an excellent Christmas gift. Chess sets vary in price as well as design. The very simple beginner set can be found around $20.00 while the more elaborate sets might be as much as $500.00. They style of the pieces are just as varied as they range from the traditional design to ancient Egyptian, African animals, soldiers from every period of time and fantasy or science fiction. The pieces can be made of inexpensive plastic to gold plate. Chess is a marvelous game, it can be both science and art, and should be instituted in schools and colleges throughout this country as it is in other countries. Since it not only did not hinder studies at school but can even helpful as it played a part in development habits of logical thought. It has even helped children with behavioral problems like ADHD, Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, to improve their study and social skills. While most Christmas gifts get forgotten antiques, collectibles, and memorabilia may very well change that. Collectibles and memorabilia not only make great gifts but also can become family heirlooms, which is a very nice gift for storeowners and shoppers alike.

Translation, Please!

I saw this earlier today at Susan Polgar's blog and it showed up tonight in a news search. My reaction is still - huh? What is this article saying? The article was reported at Panorama.en - and is titled "Armenian Information Portal." Here is the article: 17:22 01/12/2008 AZERI CHESS PLAYERS UNDER PRESSURE Zeiynab Mamediarova, who is the best chess player of Azerbaijan, said that Azeri women chess players were under pressure as “enemious character” against Armenians is sowed among them. According to Azeri media, Mamediarova admitted that the most difficult meeting in Dresden was the one with Armenians when they have been crucially defeated by 4-0 points. “The only reason of that defeat was the pressure on us. Armenians did not have such feelings and they managed to get well prepared to the game. Any game with Armenia is much spoken in our country and everything is accepted not as it is to be,” she said. Source:
Okay, first of all the article had her name spelled wrong: it's Zeinab Mamedjarova, although I understand the regional variations due to pronunciation - but the name as spelled in the article did not show up in a FIDE search of players. The reporter should have checked the data base of for information on how this player's name is spelled for FIDE purposes. Mamedjarova is rated 2351 and she is a WGM. Second, Mamedjarova is not the best player in Azerbaijan - she is the highest rated female player in Azerjaiban. Third, what is "enemious?" It is not an English word with which I am familiar. Well - whatever - what I want to really know is, who was actually sowing the "enemious character" among the players? Was it the Azerbaijan team, or was it the Armenian team? My interpretation of this article is that it was the Azerbaijan players who were overwhelmed by their "enemious character" against the Armenian players. In other words, they let their national political hatred toward the Armenians get the better of them, and totally psyched themselves out. Oh my. My feeling in this case is that the Azerbaijanis deserved to lose the match, but that's just based on personal belief. More of that Chess Goddess justice being sprinkled about, perhaps (as She did in the case of the Russians being blanked out of Team medals this Olympiad, after the Georgian Women's Team was "blanked out" of playing at the Women's World Chess Championships in Nalchik, Russia, in August, 2008). Fourth, I have no idea what this phrase in the final sentence means: "is accepted not as it is to be” - what??? Does this mean that because of the animosity between the countries, Azerbaijanis put more emphasis on victories in chess over Armenians, perhaps believing that the Azerbaijanis somehow have a moral right to victories over the Armenians and therefore, it should happen? (And if it doesn't happen, as it did not in the case of the Women's Teams in the Olympiad, what does that mean? That the Azerbaijan female chess players were somehow at fault?) Well, if that is so, then perhaps the Azerbaijanis should re-think their national animosity toward the Armenians, as the Chess Goddess definitely seems to be in favor of the Armenians and, as we know, She is Never Wrong. Fifth, the salient point of the article (for me) is this: the Armenians did not let any pressure (internal or external) get to them. They were well prepared for the match and they won - they played the best chess they could and did not allow any distractions to get in the way.

The 2008 UTD Invitational

USCF reported on this tournament specifically designed to provide opportunities to earn norms. Unfortunately, the only player who actually scored enough points (5/9) to earn a WIM norm in the IM section was deprived of the norm when it was determined that a last-minute substitution of a player did not qualify the section for norm opportunities. WFM Bayaraa Zorigt therefore goes home normless; talk about adding insult to injury - she lost a head-banger game as white against GM Jesse Krai in 111 moves. Not that it would have mattered anyway, except for her score. Report.

Bronze Age Necklace Discovered

December 1, 2008 Rare Bronze Age necklace is found A rare amber necklace believed to be about 4,000 years old has been uncovered in Greater Manchester. Archaeologists made the find while excavating a cist - a type of stone-lined grave - in Mellor, Stockport. It is the first time a necklace of this kind from the early Bronze Age has been found in north-west England. Experts from the University of Manchester Archaeological Unit said a amber necklace was one of the ultimate status symbols of the period. The necklace consists of dozens of pierced amber beads of various sizes, linked together on a length of fibre. It was discovered in the cist by experts from the university and local Mellor Archaeological Trust, who said the mystery was now how the material got to the north west. "Amber is very significant," said Vicky Nash, of the Mellor Archaeological Trust, who found the ancient item. "It's associated with burials in the prehistoric period but it's not readily available, the nearest source is in the Baltic [region]. "So to find that [necklace] in conjunction with a cist, it shows it was a burial of somebody particularly important at that time."
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