Saturday, May 2, 2009

"Neanderthal" DNA Sequenced?

An interesting article - about how closely related so-called Neanderthal man was to so-called modern humans. Quote: Paleogeneticist Svante Pääbo and his team from the Max Planck Institute in Germany, may soon provide the answers [to how closely related so-called "modern" man is to so-called "Neanderthal"] as they have undertaken the massive task of sequencing the Neanderthal genome. This is a daunting project, not just because of its scale, and the fact the DNA is old and decayed, but also because the material is contaminated by DNA from microbes and modern humans handling the specimens. Despite these problems, Pääbo is confident he now has a draft DNA sequence derived entirely from 38,000 year-old bone fragments from two female Neanderthals found in Croatia. So far, comparison of three billion human and Neanderthal DNA bases has thrown up a mere 1,000 to 2,000 changes, compared with 50,000 between humans and chimps. [Chimps are supposedly the closest living relative to modern man.] Already, scientists are pretty sure Neanderthals and humans did not interbreed [some believe there is evidence to the contrary], and they ultimately hope to find out how intelligent Neanderthals were, and why they became extinct.
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I am keenly interested in how any scientist can possibly tell how intelligent a Neanderthal human being could possibly have been, given that as far as we known, the race became extinct some 30,000 years ago. What criteria would be used to impute intelligence (or lack thereof) to an extinct race? Would a scientist, perhaps, base his or her conclusions upon the estimated brain size of the extinct Neanderthal person? I believe there were some scientists who said, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, that black Africans, and their descendants scattered about the world because of slavery, were less than fully human and certainly not as intelligent as "white" based upon brain size. 1,000 to 2,000 difference in over 3 billion DNA bases examined. We convict criminals on much less differential in DNA than that.

Hales Corners Chess Challenge IX: More Photos!

Hola darlings! I'm taking a break for the moment from yard work! You just would not believe how many nut shells I've raked up thus far - well, that's what I get, feeding 13 squirrels. Anyway, it's such a gorgeous day that instead of painting the bathroom prior to Mr. Don's arrival from Montreal on the 7th, I'm outdoors and at this break I've got the laptop set up on the patio. A wireless connection is a wonderful thing, indeed :) Here are two more photos from the Hales Corners Chess Challenge IX held last Saturday. The top one (at least, I hope it's the top one, I'm not too swift working with a croll pad rather than a mouse) shows the action in Round 3 on the top tables; the other shows some of the chess femmes who attended this tournament in action. Whoa, the wind is starting to pick up, and the lap top is exhibiting signs of wanting to tip over; time to put a jacket on and put the laptop away, and get my butt back to work.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hales Corners Challenge IX: Interview with Elizabeth Emery

One of the winners of the special prizes funded by Goddesschess for the Hales Corners Challenge IX is Elizabeth Emery (WI 877) (in the green sweater, during action at the HCC IX), who had a tie score with Sandra Pahl in the Reserve Section and were the highest-finishing chess femmes in that section. Elizabeth finished in 9th place in the Reserve section (out of 51 players), with 3.0/4. Sandra finished in 5th place, with 3.0/4. Congratulations, once again, to Sandra and Elizabeth! Here is an email interview Elizabeth Emery was kind enough to do with me. Enjoy, and thanks, Elizabeth! Good luck and wishes for a knock-out performance at the Arpad Elo Open! Q: Your age? A: I am 11. Q: How old were you when you learned to play chess, and who taught you? A: When I was 8, my papa taught me how to play when we would stay at the lake during the summer. Q: How often do you play chess, and where do you play? At a club? School? Online? A: I play at the Mequon Scholastic Chess Club once a week and online two or three nights per week. Q: What kind of chess player would you describe yourself as - serious? More casual? Somewhere in between? A: I am somewhere in between serious and casual. Q: Is there a study program you follow? A: I have lessons a couple times a week with my step-dad and I try to always analyze my games online, win or lose. Q: What are your goals in terms of where you'd like to be with your chess in say, 5 years? A: I would like to be in the top 100 girls in the country. Right now I am trying to get in to the top 100 girls under age 13. Q: How would you describe your style of play? A: I try to be tactical and make every move do something. Q: What's the next event you'll be playing in? A: The Arpad Elo Open on May 16-17 in Pewaukee, WI. I'll play in the Reserve section, though. Q: How do you think more girls and women can be encouraged to play in tournaments? A: Prizes, like the ones funded by GoddessChess.com, which can only be won by girls are nice. Maybe free entries for girls in reserve sections, too. I think when girls see other girls playing and beating boys they are encouraged and may want to play more. If you'd like to publish your best game from the HCC IX with or without a few comments, I'd be happy to put it up at the Goddesschess blog. Here is the game Elizabeth sent me (in PGN) - ah, she's a chess femme after my own heart, she wins with the black pieces against much higher rated Chao Yang (WI 1370): [Event "HCC IX"] [Site "Hales Corners Chess Club"] [Date "2009.04.25"] [Round "4"] [White "Chao Yang"] [Black "Elizabeth Emery"] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "C50"] [WhiteElo "1370"] [BlackElo "877"] [PlyCount "82"] [TimeControl "G60"] 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 h6 4. Nc3 Nf6 5. a3 Be7 6. d4 exd4 7. Nxd4 Nxd4 8. Qxd4 O-O 9. g4 c5 10. Qd2 Nxg4 11. Rg1 d6 12. f4 Bh4+ 13. Kd1 Nf2+ 14. Ke2 Bh3 15. f5 Bg4+ 16. Kf1 Qg5 17. Qxf2 Bxf2 18. Bxg5 Bxg1 19. Be7 Rfe8 20. Bxd6 Bd4 21. Re1 b6 22. Bd5 Rad8 23. Bc6 Bxc3 24. bxc3 Rxd6 25. Bxe8 Rd1 26. Bb5 Rxe1+ 27. Kxe1 g6 28. f6 Bf3 29. e5 g5 30. Be2 Bxe2 31. Kxe2 g4 32. Ke3 Kh7 33. Kf4 h5 34. a4 Kg6 35. c4 g3 36. Kxg3 Kf5 37. e6 Kxe6 38. Kh4 Kxf6 39. Kxh5 Kf5 40. Kh6 Kg4 41. Kg7 f5 {White Resigns} 0-1 I love it, I love it, I love it! It is evident from her answer to my last question that Elizabeth has the makings of a diplomat. But maybe she'll become world chess champion before taking up diplomacy as a career. I like how this young lady thinks - she has big plans. One of her goals is to make it into the top 100 U-13 girls in the United States. On the April, 2009 ratings list, #1 has a rating of 1972; #100 has a rating of 1190. Step 1: Get into the Top 100 of U-13 Girls. Step 2: Take over the world (well, okay, I made that part up). Elizabeth, Goddesschess will continue to fund special prizes just for the chess femmes at the Hales Corners Chess Challenges as long as the Southwest Chess Club continues to put on those great events (2x a year). Maybe we'll see you at the Hales Corners Chess Challenge X! Well, you probably won't actually "see" me as I prefer to be The Mysterious Woman in the Background with Cash in Her Pockets... The G-chess Magnificent Four are going to tinker with the funding formula for chess femme prizes a little and (don't tell anyone, this is a big secret) increase the prize fund so that more chess femmes can win some Goddesschess cash! Cash is Queen! Thanks for the interview, Elizabeth! Please let us know how you do in the Arpad Elo Open.

New Chess Group Starting

This is great news! Wish it was closer to where I live, drat! A new local chess group is starting up - here's the scoop: Friday May 1 Hi Chess players: The new Lakefront Chess Group, the main initial purpose of which is to simply set up this Alterra Lake front coffeehouse, as a place to find a week-end/Sat game, within an initial time frame (which can be modified). Hope to see you there sometime! Thank you! Paul Edquist Introducing “Chess @ the Lakefront”! WHERE: The scenic Lakefront Alterra Coffeehouse Across from the Marina 1701 N. Lincoln Memorial Dr Milwaukee 53202 Use“MapQuest” as required. Please do not call Alterrra re our group; they are very busy Saturdays! Look for us outside, on the north side area tables or inside, the south room, first floor, if the weather is marginal. Playing outside will be the summer/warm weather default! WHEN: Every Saturday formally commencing May 2 from approximately 11AM -2PM You can come earlier or stay later of course! Alterra Sat. hours: 7AM-10PM (Our hours can be changed via a poll of players consistently attending.) OTHER INFORMATION: BYO sets, clocks, (“louder” clocks only outside); BYO refill mug for $1.25 initial fill; and 50 cent refills! Other food on site. Great outdoor tables for playing; some picnic tables for four players; multi-level seating inside. Smoking OK outside. Free parking in adjacent lot; use their north driveway; but suggest first, parking directly across the street, lakeside, in the Marina parking lot, due to busy Saturdays! Or park on Lincoln Memorial Dr., just north. We hope to grow, hold informal tournaments, and perhaps have a team for USCF or area team competition vs. the local USCF affiliate club and other groups. Ideas and help are always welcome! Tell your friends! Contact: Paul (former president of UWM Chess Club) or Galen

Unique Chess Set at Bonham's June 1, 2009 Auction

This is one of those "gasp" chess sets - absolutely gorgeous. Information from Bonham's website (additional photos of pieces, too): Sale 17502 - Natural History, 1 Jun 2009 New York Lot No: 1234W Carved Ruby, Lapis and Opal Chess Set of Marine Life Designed by Gemologist and Jewelry Designer Sylvia QuispeIdar-Oberstein, Germany The imagination of the artist is seen in the design of this one-of-a-kind lapidary chess set—sure to attract either the chess aficionado or lapidary enthusiast. The creatures are carved of Tanzanian ruby and lapis lazuli from Afghanistan, Peruvian pink opal, Brazilian rock crystal quartz, highlighted with faceted rubies and sapphires from Burma and accents of 18K yellow gold. The chessboard is illuminated from beneath the squares of rock crystal and black obsidian, set into an ebony hardwood frame. Chess Board Measures 28in x 28in x 5in; Largest piece measures 6 1/2in. Estimate: $90,000 - 110,000

Design Award Winner

From GQ online: The 10th annual National Design Awards were announced today by Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and while the winners and finalists across the eight categories include the usual greatest-minds-of-our-generation, we'd like to call attention to a particular few: Boym Partners for Product Design (their History Chess set, comprising 32 iconic totems of America's last hundred years, from the Coca-Cola bottle to the Unabomber's cabin and the sinking Titanic, is pictured here). nationaldesignawards.org COREY SEYMOUR Photo: Courtesy of Copper-Hewitt National Design Museum 5:34 PM, April 30, 2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu Pandemic? Update

Here's an update since my last post. Here, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the last time I checked the local news earlier this evening, five public schools (four elementary and one high school) and three parochial schools (outside the province of the Milwaukee School Board) have been closed. In some cases, it is because there was confirmed contact of students and/or teachers with a person who has H1N1 flu; in other cases, it is anticipatory -- closing before any flu infections have not yet been confirmed but trying to head things off at the pass, as it were. One day ago, there were two suspected cases of H1N1 flu in Milwaukee. Today it is reported that the South 16th Street Health Clinic (that's not the legal name, but people who live here will know what I mean) have three more suspected cases of H1N1 flu. I can personally attest to the fact that around 8:00 a.m. this morning, as the bus I take downtown to work five days a week rode northward past the 16th Street Health Clinic on Caesar Chavez Drive (the street formerly known as South 16th Street), there was a line of people at the doors waiting for the clinic to open -- something I haven't seen before. At the time I thought, "oh oh." This is scary as hell to me. The South 16th Street Clinic provides medical care to all comers on a sliding scale of income. Those who have more, pay more; those who have less, pay less -- or sometimes nothing. It's a great service provided to all Milwaukeeans. Increasingly, a lot of the people who visit the clinic can pay nothing. This neighborhood I grew up in, which used to be populated primarily with working class German and Polish families, is today a neighborhood of diverse ethnicity. We were poor then; the area is even poorer now. This is not a good thing. Tomorrow a big rally and march is planned to protest against government policies relating to illegal aliens. I understand that last year, thousands of people attended. It didn't appear to me, a local resident, that there were thousands of people attending last year's event. But hey, what do I know? I call it as it see it. This year, more thousands of people are forecasted to attend this event. On the 10:00 P.M. news I saw a spokeswoman for this event saying yeah, we're going to be there and we hope you will be there too. So - you're supposed to go out into this projected massive crowd of people and expose yourself to who knows what germs, to support a political cause. And then go back home and a few days later maybe die from the H1N1 flu virus you got exposed to during the rally? Am I being totally stupid for thinking that it is really assinine of the organizers to hold a rally where thousands of people will be in close contact with one another during an influenza epidemic that has already killed over 150 people in Mexico? The local Cinco de Mayo celebrations have been cancelled - common sense says YES to this. Cinco de Mayo can be celebrated next year, in health and hopefully in prosperity. Cinco de Mayo is not going to go away; if even one less case of this H1N1 flu can be avoided by cancelling the event, it's worth it. I remember when I got the swine flu in 1975, how sick I was. Geez, I don't even want to remember it , it was horrid! I would wish this infliction upon my worse enemies, but only if they would suffer as much as I did in 1975. I also caught the Hong Kong flu in 1968. Fortunately, no one else in my family (7 other people) did, and they were able to isolate me in a room with a sheet tacked up across the entrance (there was no door). There I laid for seven straight days, wishing every day that I could die, so sick I was. Of course, back then, there was no "Tami-flu." But even if here had been, my parents couldn't have afforded it. So why do the Milwaukee May Day marchers protesting the United State's policies on immigration feel that politics trumps public health? Come on. Get real, people!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Native Americans Descended From a Single Ancestral Group, DNA Study Confirms

This is interesting. Native Americans Descended From a Single Ancestral Group, DNA Study Confirms April 28, 2009 For two decades, researchers have been using a growing volume of genetic data to debate whether ancestors of Native Americans emigrated to the New World in one wave or successive waves, or from one ancestral Asian population or a number of different populations. Now, after painstakingly comparing DNA samples from people in dozens of modern-day Native American and Eurasian groups, an international team of scientists thinks it can put the matter to rest: Virtually without exception the new evidence supports the single ancestral population theory. “Our work provides strong evidence that, in general [in general? What does THAT mean?], Native Americans are more closely related to each other than to any other existing Asian populations, except those that live at the very edge of the Bering Strait,” said Kari Britt Schroeder, a lecturer at the University of California, Davis, and the first author on the paper describing the study. “While earlier studies have already supported this conclusion, what’s different about our work is that it provides the first solid data that simply cannot be reconciled with multiple ancestral populations,” said Schroeder, who was a Ph.D. student in anthropology at the university when she did the research. The study is published in the May issue of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. Rest of article.
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Are the authors of this DNA study saying that the archaeologists who support much older evidence of human occupation in North and South America are full of baloney? There is a lot of archaeological evidence pointing to MUCH older origins for humans in North and South America than a Bering Strait crossing supports. Who's right? The archaeologists? Was man here as far back as 50,000 years ago, 30,000 years ago or 14,000 years ago? Archaeologists claim evidence of human occupation for each of these dates - and dates in-between. For sake of argument, are all of the artifacts identified as Clovis, a particular style of artifact and date-range well-established and generally accepted in the archaeological community as correct, WRONG by 3,000 or more years? Or are the DNA scientists correct, pointing to a single population cross Bering Strait 11,000-10,000 years ago as being the ONLY ancestors of ALL Indian populations in North, Central and South America? Did absolutely everyone who arrived on the shores of North, Central and South America before those who crossed the Bering Strait die out, leaving absolutely no trace of their DNA in today's Indian populations? How else can the archaeological evidence be explained? Are ALL of the archaeologists and ALL of their accumulated evidence wrong? If archaeological evidence supports the existence of settlers in North and South America that predate DNA evidence for the ancestors of the current Native Americans, then aren't the descendants of those earlier deceased original settlers the REAL heirs to claims for rights to North, Central and South American real estate, etc. etc.? And would not the claims of the heirs of those earlier settlers trump the claims asserted by present Native American tribes claiming sovereignty and property rights, etc. etc. in North, Central and South America? If DNA evidence conclusively establishes that today's Native Americans became the dominant aborginal culture - rather like Europeans became the dominate culture during much later migrations to the New World, how can today's Indian tribes, aboriginals, First Nations, whatever they label themselves, claim special privilege when the DNA evidence shows, against the archaeological evidence, that when they arrived they MUST have wiped out all earlier settlers? Under common law, which the United States follows, wouldn't those inheritance rights pass to the ancestors of the first settlers who arrived on those shores? And just who were those first settlers? Some say they were Europeans (on the east coast); on the west coast, some say they were possibly of the Jomon culture, from Japan. Given the current state of archaeological evidence, and if this latest study of DNA evidence is correct, today's Native Americans have no right to say they were here first. It's clear they were not here first. What remains to be determined is just who was here first. Will it end up that Japan - or France - or Spain - files a claim to large chunks of the United States? Well, you can see what a can of worms this might open up. So, DNA people, before stating with such certainty that this is exactly what happened and there are no other probable explanations, my suggestion is that you take a look at the archaeological evidence compiled to date, and then wait for more sophisticated techniques of genetic analysis to be developed and view your evidence against those techniques and the entirety of the rest of the existing evidence, before you says this is the absolute truth and this is what happened.

Recession Chops Local Chess Program

Like many other communities in many other states, Sheboygan, Wisconsin has been particularly hard hit by lay-offs, plant-closings, businesses going bankrupt and plant relocations to other states. The City budget has been decimiated and, under Wisconsin law, all municpalities (and the state itself) must balance its budget through a combination of raising money through taxes, fees and borrowing (issuing bonds). The problem is, of course, that during a recession how can taxes and fees possibly be raised? The short answer is - they can't. In Wisconsin, school budgets are paid out of local real estate tax levies, with some assistance from the state. But the state has drastically cut back on its funding for local school aid for the budget period 2009-2011 (Wisconsin is a biennual budget state) - it is in a funding crunch of its own. In a climate with deflationary real estate values and unemployment rising to levels we haven't seen since the Great Depression, raising real estate taxes to make up funding short-falls is NOT an option. That leaves increasing various fees and perhaps instituting new fees (such as a local wheel tax and implementing a local sales tax) to try and make up for the funding shortfalls - never politically popular and definitely NOT popular when thousands of your citizens are losing their jobs with no prospect for obtaining new employment. With no prospect of attracing new employers to the region, I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility that Sheboygan could bleed out 50% of its population to more "promising" areas. Sheboygan is dying. That means a mad scramble in a stagnant real estate market to try and sell your home and suck out as much equity as you can, while competing against homes being marketed at 70% of their far market value. Good luck. When the economy does turn around and employment starts to rebound, about 12-15 months out - who will be left in the city? Gang bangers (who have been moving in from other areas, looking for better pickings and a police force not equipped to deal with them) and pensioners. It is against this backdrop that today's announcement from the local Sheboygan school district was made. Story from sheboyganpress.com: UPDATE: SASD to cut $28K from co-curriculars, continue slashing administration jobs BY KATE MCGINTY • Sheboygan Press staff • April 29, 2009 Sheboygan schools will cut $28,000 in co-curricular activities, increase some classroom sizes — and continue slashing administration jobs, district officials said today. The Sheboygan Area School District briefly laid out its plan last night to cut $5,010,000 from its budget for the 2009-10 school year. That includes $3 million from the teachers union, $876,000 from support staff and $370,000 from administration.The district issued layoff notices this morning to 21 members of the teachers union and 11 educational assistants. No administrators or maintenance staff will be laid off. “Everybody has been bracing for this day. There have been a lot of pins and needles for Wednesday, and we knew that,” said David Gallianetti, School Board president. The district also released today a more specific breakdown of the cuts, which include cutting the equivalent of 24 classroom teachers. Sports, clubs face cuts The district will cut $28,000 from its co-curricular activities, most of which will be eliminating assistant adviser or coach positions. Assistant advisers or coaches from cheerleading, gymnastics and radio will all be cut. The diving coaching spot will be eliminated, and divers will fall under the swim program. Mock trial will be cut altogether. The program — whose South High School team once won a national championship — has dwindled to totally inactive the last two years. The chess program, which has become a social club, will also be cut. The cuts were based on recommendations from athletic directors, who said most of the affected groups have low levels of participation. “If for some reason we start having kids more interested in something, we will revisit it,” Superintendent Joe Sheehan said. Administration to face more cuts All employee groups cut the same percentage of money from their budget. That includes the administration — even if their cuts look small on paper, Gallianetti said. Part of the problem is that administrators are on a two-year contract, he said. All 70 administrators are midway through that contract. “There will be more personnel reductions at central office. We’ve heard that loud and clear from our community and from our employees that that’s what they expect,” Gallianetti said. The administration will consolidate and cut positions, but did not face layoffs. Gallianetti pointed to the elimination of the instructional coordinator — who was paid $133,000 in salary and benefits — as a model the School Board hopes to follow. Harlan Weber, whose salary landed in the top 10 among district employees this year, will retire this year. As coordinator, he led programming of science and math, scheduled monthly meetings with grade-level chairmen and was the health department chairman. That work will then be split among employees. “It’s a huge ball of wax kind of a position. The challenge for us is now going to be to farm all the pieces out, but we will,” Gallianetti said. As part of the long-term plan, the administration will begin surveying all district schools to ask what services they do and do not need from central district office, Sheehan said. By August, the district will lay out a plan to restructure its administrative office. Teachers lose 45 spots The Sheboygan Education Association — which represents teachers, guidance counselors, librarians and other non-classroom positions — will lose the equivalent of 45 full-time positions. That will include cutting the equivalent of 24 full-time teachers, like a fourth-grade music teacher, an elementary art and music enhancement teacher and three special education staff members. Two guidance counselors — one from each high school — and 11 media specialists in the library will also be cut. “Today is a very sad day, not only for the teachers affected by the cuts, but for the students they work with, their colleagues and the community as a whole. These people are our neighbors … Just like with any layoff, it’s going to have a ripple effect through the entire city,” said Tony Johannes, president of the Sheboygan Education Association. The district student-teacher ratio will remain within the School Board policy, but some classes will have more students, Sheehan said. None will be significant changes, he said. Johannes, who is also chairman of the math department at North High School, said his department will see classes jump by five to eight students per class — and as high as 36 students to one teacher. “Class sizes are going to be considerably larger than they were as compared to this year,” he said. “It makes the entire job more challenging, because our goal is to try to teach each student to their level. The more students who are in classrooms, the harder it is to do that.” More cuts would have been necessary if not for cutbacks the teachers volunteered, Gallianetti said. Teachers agreed to work one less day next year — cutting a paid staff development day in August — to save $300,000 in next year’s budget. Johannes said the teachers volunteered to change its contract in interest of the school district and its students. Despite the frustration among the school buildings today, the School Board “did the best job it could” and listened to public input, Johannes said. “For the teachers who are affected, there is a lot of frustration,” he said. “It’s easy to point the finger at other groups, but when it’s all said and done, it’s something that’s out of our control. That was the decision of the administration and the School Board.” Most support staff safe from layoffs The district will cut the equivalent of 21 educational assistants, which mandates 11 layoffs. That saves $590,000. The maintenance staff will adjust their schedule to clean buildings every other day. That will save $238,000. Dean Dekker — president of the local chapter of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — was not immediately available for comment Wednesday afternoon. Certain cleaning, like bathrooms and lunchrooms, will still be cleaned daily, and emergency or maintenance will continue as needed. The district will also make some more minor changes, like providing a staff directory only on its Web site to save $3,000 in printing costs. The district will also print a black-and-white only calendar, saving $6,000. “We need to be more creative and smarter on things like that. Even in the best times, to be honest, you should look at things like that just to be more efficient,” Gallianetti said. “Some of these are not huge, but they’re recommendations that people recommended. … It adds up,” Sheehan said. More than 80 percent of the cuts came directly from the two public input sessions and suggestions from staff, district officials said.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Fixing a Broken Goddess

From Emory University's online newspaper emorywheel.com: Carlos Fixes Broken Goddess By Kelsey Harper Posted: 04/27/2009 Just a few weeks ago, Emory’s Michael C. Carlos Museum opened its doors to a famous and historically significant statue of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love. This particular statue is exceptional because it was part of a nudity revolution in ancient Western sculpture. Jasper Gaunt, the curator of the Greek and Roman Collections, explained in a Carlos Museum podcast, “This is really one of the first examples of the female nude in Western art ... which explores female sexuality in an open and joyful way.” According to Pliny the Elder, an ancient Roman historian, the predecessor to this statue was created by renowned sculptor Praxiteles, who had been commissioned by the citizens of the Greek island of Kos to make a statue of Aphrodite. The nearby city of Knidos purchased the nude Aphrodite without any qualms, causing such a stir that people traveled from all over ancient Greece to see the famed statue. Gaunt noted in the podcast that “she became the most famous statue of the ancient world, and people went on pilgrimages to see it.” The statue at the Carlos Museum, dating to the first century B.C., is more than an early adaptation of the Knidos original; it is a fellow contributor to the critical turning point in which female nudity in sculpture began to be embraced. This significant work of art found its way to Emory after a long and dangerous journey. In fact, the Aphrodite arrived at Emory in two pieces. Some time after World War II, the statue was shipped to New York. While it was in transit, the head fell off, probably weakened from previous repairs. Upon arrival at New York, an antiquarian erroneously determined that the head and body did not belong to each other, and they were sold separately. In 2006, the mistake was caught thanks to a very astute Sotheby’s employee, who recognized it as the same Aphrodite he had seen in an engraving from Paris. The owner of the head was contacted and he kindly agreed to sell the head to whoever purchased the body. Hearing of the incredible opportunity to purchase such a pivotal work of art, Gaunt attended the bidding and walked away with a fantastic addition to the Carlos Museum. The new acquisition was not yet intact, however, and the daunting task of reconstructing the ancient masterpiece was left to the museum’s conservator, Renee Stein. Stein discussed the repairs in the aforementioned podcast, stating that the head and body not only had to be reattached, but also partially reconstructed. “I was surprised because you couldn’t tell it was put together,” senior Stephanie Chen said. “You couldn’t see a seam ... and it looked proportional.” Indeed, the statue does look natural, elegant and whole, but the complex story of its damage, separation and reunion arouses curiosity and interest. “Aphrodite is a beautiful and significant addition to the Carlos collections, but we find people also come to see her because she has had such an adventure getting here,” said Julie Green, manager of school programs at the Carlos Museum. “I have seen school children, when they hear the story, circling the piece like young conservators, looking for ancient or modern repairs. It is great to see the public so charged up in looking closely at a beautiful object.”

12,000-15,000 Year Old Carving Found In China

Unfortunately, no images of the carving were provided. China's earliest known carving found in central Henan Province www.chinaview.cn 2009-04-28 19:23:38 ZHENGZHOU, April 28 (Xinhua) -- Chinese archaeologists say they have identified the country's earliest known carving -- a deer antler sculpted into the shape of a bird -- dating back 12,000 to 15,000 years. The fossilized grey figurine, which is 2.1 centimeters long, 1.2 centimeters high and 0.6 centimeters thick, was found in Xuchang County in China's central Henan Province in March. It is made from evenly-heated antler, and vividly carved with amicrolithic cutting tool. "The carving technique is more exquisite than the western carvings of its time," said Li Zhanyang, head of the archeological team in Xuchang, and a researcher with the Henan Institute of Cultural Relics and Archeology. [Er, wouldn't you expect a Chinese archaeologist to say this when his country's oldest carving to date is 15,000 years younger than the oldest western carving to date?] Carvings of the late Paleolithic Age have been found in western countries, such as 30,000-year-old ivory horse and mammoth carvings at Vogelherd Cave in Germany, and human profile carvings at a cave in La Marche, France, that are about 10,000 years old. The bird figurine was unique in its feet that were carved with symmetrical sockets that enable it to stand stably, said Li. "This demonstrates that human beings already had a good grip of the equilibrium principal then." Li said the bird carving might have been left by hunters when they were very active in Henan Province around the Last Glacial Maximum period, which started about 25,000 years ago. It could have been a totem to represent good luck and freedom. If the bird carving could be exactly dated, it would provide important background for the research on the techniques, aesthetic and expression, as well as inter-regional migration and communication of human beings of that time, said Gao Xing, head of National Natural Science Foundation of China. The bird carving is not the first find at that site. In 2007 and 2008, Chinese archaeologists announced that they found more than 30,000 relics in Xuchang, including human skull fossils dating back 80,000 to 100,000 years. The ancient skull was named Xuchang Man after the location. Scientists said the discovery was expected to provide direct evidence for the origins of modern Chinese and East Asian human species. Editor: Bi Mingxin

Meet Lady Dai

Special online feature from Archaeology Magazine: China's Sleeping Beauty April 10, 2009 by Eti Bonn-Muller A landmark exhibition awakens the legacy of a Western Han Dynasty noblewoman This wax model depicts how a Chinese noblewoman known as "Lady Dai," who lived some 2,200 years ago, looked at age 30. Zhao Chengwen, a professor at the China Criminal Police College, developed the technology—known as the "Jingxing CCK-3 Model Human Face Mirage System"—used to create the reconstruction. (Courtesy of Hunan Provincial Museum) [Well, I'm somewhat skeptical. Lady Dai did not die when she was 30 years old; she lived a good long time after that age. So other than basic bone structure and accounting for certain racial characteristics such as generic hair and skin color, how could anyone possibly recreate this face? One other thing - this Lady Dai looks rather a mixture of Occidental and Oriental. Why is that?] Lady Dai's body was in such a good state of preservation that an autopsy was able to be performed. Read the article. Hmmm, did they ever do a chemical analysis of what that mysterious clear fluid was that surrounded Lady Dai's body when the final coffin holding her body was opened?

Malta Chess Femmes Mix It Up with the Boys

And they did okay! This is the best way for chess femmes to get head to head experience against more experienced and/or better players than they. Yeah, they take their lumps, but they also take a lot more away from the experience. Story from di-ve.com: U16 chess tournament by Coryse Borg - editorial@di-ve.com Other Sport -- 28 April 2009 -- 21:55CEST Thirteen-year old Christian Schembri from Kullegg San Benedittu emerged the clear winner of the U16 Chess Tournament held last Saturday 25th April at St Paul’s Missionary College, Rabat, in collaboration with the Malta Chess Federation. In all, forty-four students from nine different Church, Independent and Government Schools took part in the Tournament, which was held over five rounds. The biggest contingent of students – 15 – came from St Elias College, testimony of the hard work of Mr. Ray Azzopardi, who teaches chess both at his College and at San Benedittu. Schembri won all five rounds, attaining the maximum five points out of the Tournament. In second and third place were Luca Vassallo and Jurgen Grima, both from St Elias and both with four and a half points each. The Girls’ Category was won by ten-year old Jaime Farrugia, also from Kullegg San Benedittu, who managed to garner three points despite having to compete against her male counterparts. In second place, also with three points, finished Clarissa Cremona from St Dorothy’s. The other categories were won as follows: the U10 was won by Benjamin Zammit from St Catherine’s High School with 4 Points; the U12 was won by Gabriel Farrugia from Kullegg San Benedittu with three points while the U14 was won by Jean Pierre Xuereb from Stella Maris with four points. The Arbiter of the Tournament was Mr Peter Sammut Briffa. Fr. Silvio Bezzina, Assistant Headmaster at St Paul’s Missionary College, distributed the trophies to the winners.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Swine Flu Pandemic?

Oy! I was all set to write about this Friday night, but then I got distracted by other things. As it is, developments have been happening so quickly what I would have written on Friday night would now be hopelessly outdated. Earlier today I saw a blog entry about this new version of flu that mentioned Randall Flagg - TRULY scary stuff. But that's exactly what I thought of when I first read about the then "outbreak" of a new strain of what is being called swine flu (combining DNA of swine, human and avian flu viruses, readily transmissible via air and touch, the worst of all scenarios). I was going to frame a blog entry around Stephen King's classic scary novel "The Stand." You may remember the story line: a flu-like pandemic of unknown virus sweeps across the world, and about 90% of the human population dies horrid, quick deaths. For unknown reasons, the remaining 10% or so of the population is immune to the virus, even proving totally immune to being directly innoculated with live virus. The world as we know it ends in a relatively short period of time. The meat of the novel then begins. The survivors gather themselves into groups, and eventually converge on Sin City - Las Vegas, where there is an apocalyptic show down between the forces of Good and the forces of Evil. The forces of Good are led by a very elderly, frail black woman. The forces of Evil are led by a big strapping dude named Randall Flagg, who becomes the Devil Incarnate. Back to reality. This incipient pandemic isn't something I'm taking lightly. I was laid flat on my back for a week in 1968 with the Hong Kong flu. Fortunately, I was a teenager at the time living at home, and had mom to take care of me. No one else in the family got sick which, looking back, is something of a miracle since there were eight people living in 3 bedrooms, a kitchen, "dining room" which served as a living room, and the "good" living room which normally served as a bedroom at night for my two brothers, on a sleeper sofa. And one bathroom. I was so sick, I wished to die. I was camped out on the sofa in the "god" living room where normally my two brothers camped out, and there I stayed except for trips to the bathroom, for the next seven days. For throwing up there was a bucket next to the sofa where I lay, helpless. Mom hung a sheet across the large open archway between that room and the rest of the house, and except for Mom everyone else stopped at the sheet and talked to me through it. Not that I did much talking. I was much too sick to do anything other than ache and moan. The odors of cooking from kitchen made me sicker still. I didn't eat anything of substance for a week, and for several days I could not even keep down the room temperature, flat 7-Up and saltines my mother fed me. Everything made me heave, including those cooking odors, long after my body had emptied of anything remotely resembling food. I heaved anyway. I had delirious, fever-induced dreams, one in particular that I remember to this day. I recovered. I prayed I would never ever be that sick again. But, I believe it was in November, 1975, I got a really bad flu again. I think that time it was a version of swine flu, another pandemic, although that one was not so bad as the 1968 pandemic. By then I was working full-time, living in an apartment on the fashionable east side with a roommate and had started college part-time at night. My kind roommate, Connie, took care of me in the early mornings and after she returned from work in the evening. My mom visited several times too, after working all day she traveled many miles to come take care of me. I was flat on my back on the sofa in the living room. I don't remember now why I wasn't in my own bed, maybe it was because the t.v. was in the living room. Not that I watched much of it. I was so sick, once again knocked flat on my back, this time only for five days, but I found myself once again wishing for death. The pain in my body was excruciating. Everything hurt, and it was non-stop. I did manage to keep myself better hydrated, and Connie forced water and broth down my throat, most of which I managed to keep down. I tell you - I never want to be that sick again. And I'm scared, really scared, about this new version of swine flu, because it seems that everyone who has been exposed to it is getting sick. There is no immunity. When I last checked the news, some 149 dead in Mexico of suspected swine flu, which is about a 10% casualty rate out of suspected cases. I don't like those odds. Now, evidently, there is at least one case of swine flu here in Wisconsin. So, what are the odds that I will NOT get sick? Already on April 26th the CDC stated quite bluntly that there was no hope of containing this flu, all they can hope to do at this point is mitigate as best they can, and hope for the best. What does that mean? In the 1918-1919 pandemic, some sources say nearly 100 million people died - and that was in a much smaller world population than the 6 billion plus we have today. I believe the 1968 Hong Kong flu outbreak resulted in some 2 million deaths, and the 1975-1976 swine flu outbreak resulted in some 1 million deaths. Ach! I'm going to bed. Couldn't help but wonder today whether there will be anyone walking around New York when dondelion and I are scheduled to meet Isis and Michelle there in May. Am wondering whether we shouldn't just cancel it all and lay low as we can until this fledgling pandemic burns itself out, one way or another.

Hales Corners Challenge IX: Goddesschess Prize Winners

Photos of the Reserve Section winners of the Goddesschess prizes! (Hales Corners Challenge IX, April 25, 2009)Sandra Pahl
Elizabeth Emery

Hales Corners Challenge IX: Goddesschess Prize Winners

Hola! Here is Nicole Niemi, the winner of the Goddesschess cash prize (chess femmes only), Open Section, in the Hales Corners Challenge IX, deep in concentration during a game.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Linguistics: Viking Loan Words

From Science Daily: Viking Legacy On English: What Language Tells Us About Immigration And Integration (Apr. 22, 2009) — They’re a firm part of our language and even speak to us of our national culture — but some words aren’t quite as English as we think. Terms such as ‘law’, ‘ugly’, ‘want’ and ‘take’ are all loanwords from Old Norse, brought to these shores by the Vikings, whose attacks on England started in AD 793. In the centuries following it wasn’t just warfare and trade that the invaders gave England. Their settlement and subsequent assimilation into the country’s culture brought along the introduction of something much more permanent than the silk, spices and furs that weighed down their longboats — words. Dr. Sara Pons-Sanz in the School of English is examining these Scandinavian loanwords as part of a British Academy-funded research project — from terms that moved from Old Norse to Old English and disappeared without trace, to the words that still trip off our tongues on a daily basis. By examining these words in context, tracking when and where they appear in surviving texts from the Old English period, Dr. Pons-Sanz can research the socio-linguistic relationship between the invading and invaded cultures. The loanwords which appear in English — such as ‘husband’ — suggest that the invaders quickly integrated with their new culture. The English language soon adopted day-to-day terms, suggesting that the cultures lived side-by-side and were soon on intimate terms. This is in marked contrast to French loanwords. Though there are many more of these terms present in the standard English language — around 1,000 Scandinavian to more than 10,000 French — they tend to refer to high culture, law, government and hunting. French continued to be the language of the Royal Court for centuries after the invasion in 1066. In contrast, Old Norse had probably completely died out in England by the 12th century, indicating total cultural assimilation by the Scandinavian invaders. Another clear indicator of this is the type of loanwords seen in English. The majority of loanwords tend to nouns, words and adjectives, open-ended categories which are easily adapted into a language. But one of the most commonly-seen loanwords in English today is ‘they’ — a pronoun with its origins in Old Norse. Pronouns are a closed category, far more difficult to adapt into a new language, which again indicates a closeness between the two languages and cultures not present in previous or subsequent invading forces. Dr. Pons-Sanz has ‘cleaned up’ the list of loanwords thought to have come to English from Old Norse by painstakingly tracking the origins of each word. Her original texts include legal codes, homilies, charters, literary texts and inscriptions. By comparing the texts chronologically and dialectally, the introduction and integration of words can be tracked. For example, the word ‘fellow’ — which came from an Old Norse word originally meaning ‘business partner’— is first attested in East Anglia. Dr. Pons-Sanz said: “Language is constantly evolving; loanwords are being assimilated into English — and other languages — all the time. By examining the types of words that are adopted, we can gain insight into the relationships between different cultures.” Adapted from materials provided by University of Nottingham.
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What about that Old Norse loan word 'husband?' Here's some interesting information from Barbara Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets: "One bonded to the house (hus)" - a steward or majordomo chosen to tend a woman's property, under the old Saxon matriarchate when property rights were matrilineal. A husband was not considered an integral part of the maternal clan but remained a "stranger" in the house, as in early Greece where the men's god Zeus was "god of strangers."(1) Pre-Islamic Arabian husbands didn't even have names in the matrilineal clan until they begot children; then a man could call himself abu, "father of ..." So-and-so. This part of an Arab's name is still considered the most important part.(2) In southeast India, a husband was regarded as a more or less permanent guest int he wife's home, constrained to remain on his good behavior according to the rules governing guests. In archaic Japan, husbands were not residents in the wife's home at all, but only visitiors. The old word for "marriage' meant "to slip into the house by night."(3) Patrilocal marriage was unknown in Japan until 14000 A.D.(4) The position of a husband in the ancient world was often temporary, subject to summary divorce. An Arabian wife could dismiss her husband by turning her tent to face the west for three nights in succession.(5) After the introduction of Islamic patriarchy, the system was reversed in favor of men. A husband could turn his wife out of her home simply by saying "I divorce thee" three times. [What Isis calls "The old switcheroo."] Early Latin tribes followed the same rules as Arabians; a woman could divorce her husband by shutting hm out of her house for three consecutive nights.(6) Even in imperial times, a Roman wife could maintain her own property free of husbandly claims by passing three nights of eahc year away form his residence.(7) Ancient Egypt had several varieties of marriage existing side by side. Some, probably the oldest, were governed by premarital agreements that spelled out the wife's property rights and the husband's comparative powerlessness under the law. For example: I bow before thy rights as a wife. From this day on, I shall never oppose thy claims with a single word. I recognize thee before all others as my wife, though I do not have the right to say thought must be my wife. Only I am thy husband and mate. Thou alone hast the right of departure. From this day on that I have become thy husband, I cannot oppose thy wish, wherever thou desirest to go ... I have no power to interfere in any of thy transactions. I hereby cede to thee any rights deeded to me in any document that has been made out in my favor. Thou keepest me obligated to recognize all these cessions.(8) Egyptian priests advised husbands to remain in their wives' good graces, much as Christian priests later advised wives to make themselves subservient to husbands: Keep thy house, love thy wife, and do not dispute with her. She will withdraw herself before violence. Feed her, adorn her, massage her. Caress her and make her heart to rejoice as long as thou livest ... Attend to that which is her desire and to that which occupies her mind. For in such manner thou persuadest her to remain with thee. If thou opposest her, it will be thy ruin.(9) An Egyptian husband was counseled to make glad his wife's heart "during the time that thou hast," which might have meant a lifetime on earth, or else a shorter period implying a temporary marriage.(10) In the matrilocal household, husands often entered a period of trial servitude to win their brides, as did the biblical Jacob to win the hand of Rachel (Genesis 29). Hence Sophocle's remark that "Egyptian men sit indoors all day long, weaving; the women go out and attend to business."(11)[See also my comments appended to Note 8]. Similarly among Anglo-Saxon tribes, "husbandry" meant farm work - as it still does - because a husband wa usually bonded to work on his wife's land. Such an agricultural matriarchate is still found in some areas. Among the Zuni, husbands worked in the fields, but the land and its harvest belonged to their wives.(12) The old custom of providing work in compensation for marriage gave rise to the word bridegroom, literally "the bride's servant." The Koran tells mean, "your wives are your tillage," because by ancient Arabian law a wifeless man was also landless.(13) See Matrilineal Inheritance. Tantric sages considered "husbandship" (bhavanan) essential for still another reason: it was indispensible to a man's spiritual development. The same notion was found among Aryan Celts. The ancient Irish said a true bard could have power over poetry and magic only if he had "purity of husbandship," that is, fidelity to his wife.(14) Notes: (1) J.E. Harrison, 519. (2) Briffault 2, 90-91. (3) Hartley, 147, 159. (4) Briffault 1, 369. (5) de Riencourt, 187. (6) Briffault 2, 348. (7) Hartley, 232. (8) Diner, 212. [Cf. this famous passage from the admittedly patriarchal Hebrew Old Testament, King James Version which, in light of the above information, appears to be a prayer to Goddess for a merciful wife: Proverbs 31:10: Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. (11) The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. (12) She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. (13) She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with herhands. (14) She is like the merchants' ships, she bringeth her food from afar. (15) She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. (16) She considereth a field, and buyeth it [because it's her money, and she does what she wants with it]; with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. (17) She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengthenth her arms [I find it surprising that this archaic description of a strong, independent female survived to be incorporated into the Book, in terms which were, after the patriarchal overthrow of the Goddess, generally reserved for males.] (18) She perceiveth that her merchandise is good; her candle goeth not out at night. (19) She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. (20) She stretcheth out her hand to the poor, yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. (21) She is not afraid of the snow for her household; for all her household are clothed with scarlet [that is, the best and finest and warmest wool clothing, dyed scarlet, the most expensive of dyes because of the difficulty in manufacturing the color. That is why it was reserved for royalty. In later times it was called "purple" and was the color of monarchs.] (22) She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. (23) Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. [In other words, he doesn't do anything all day but sit around with the other husband dudes at the gates of the city, making idle commentary on the merchants passing in and out, probably drinking too much, gambling with sheeps' knuckles and perhaps chasing after prostitutes.] (24) She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. (25) Strength and honour are her clothing, and she shall rejoice in time to come. (26) She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. (27) She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. (28)Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. [He's just hoping he doesn't get divorced for sitting around at the gates of the city with the other dudes all day, drinking, gambling and chasing after unvirtuous women.] (9) Diner, 218; Budge, D.N., 26. (10) Hartley, 196. Cf. the Scottish custom of "hand-fast" and the contemporary custom in some Islamic societies of trial marriage or "Mu' tah" or "Mutah," a subject on which I previously posted. Hmmm - it just occurred to me - is "Mu' tah" somehow related to the ancient rites of the Mother Goddess Mu or Ma, Mah, Maat, etc.? (11) Bachofen, 180. (12) Farh, M.R.C., 81-83. (13) Fielding, 83. (14) Joyce, I., 463.

Making Art Accessible

What a cool idea! Story from The New York Times ArtBabble Site Opens Window to World of Museums By KATE TAYLOR Published: April 6, 2009 For old television shows, there’s Hulu. For college lectures, there’s iTunes U. And now, for videos about art, there’s ArtBabble, a Web site created by the Indianapolis Museum of Art that offers videos from sources including the Museum of Modern Art and the PBS series “Art:21.” In the last few years, as museums have tried to take advantage of the Internet to connect with young audiences, they have produced an increasing number of online videos, from artist interviews and time-lapse shots of exhibition installations to short profiles of curators, art handlers, and even museum guards. Most institutions feature these videos on their own Web sites, as well as uploading them to sites like YouTube or blip.tv. But until now, there has been no dedicated place on the Web for art videos. ArtBabble (artbabble.org), which goes live to the public on Tuesday, is intended to change that. For the roll-out the Indianapolis museum invited a handful of institutions, including the New York Public Library, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, to take part. In the long run, it hopes to add more institutions, so that ArtBabble becomes “the destination for art content online,” Daniel Incandela, the director of new media at the Indianapolis museum, said in an interview. On sites like YouTube, an artist interview can get lost among the “music videos, blooper videos, and sort of more viral, edgier content,” Mr. Incandela added. There is also no easy way to browse content from multiple museums, and, until recently, videos weren’t available in high definition. On ArtBabble the majority of videos are in high definition. The design of the home page is clean and is clearly meant to draw in nonspecialists, with speech bubbles featuring punchy quotations that, when clicked on, jump to the relevant videos. (A mock dictionary entry defines “ArtBabble” as “a place where everyone is invited to join an open, ongoing discussion — no art degree required.”) The most unusual feature of the site is the “notes” that accompany each video. The notes run down a window to the right of the screen, offering links to related material on the Web. For example, in an interview with the artist Robert Irwin, when Mr. Irwin mentions the sculptors Mark di Suvero and Richard Serra, the notes offer links to the Wikipedia entries for each artist. A reference to the gardens that Mr. Irwin designed at the Getty Center in Los Angeles provides links to the Getty Center’s Web site (getty.edu) and a YouTube video of the gardens. Representatives of several of the partner institutions said that they were most excited about the notes feature and its potential. “We can give an online viewer the opportunity to take countless tangents,” said Joshua Greenberg, director of digital strategy at the New York Public Library. “It fits the core premise of librarianship, that it’s not just about putting something in someone’s hands but contextualizing it.” The hosting fees and other expenses of ArtBabble are being covered by the Indianapolis museum, with the help of a $50,000 grant from the Ball Brothers Foundation. (ArtBabble is free to users.) If the site becomes popular, the museum will look for corporate sponsorship, the museum’s director, Maxwell Anderson, said. Mr. Anderson said the goal behind ArtBabble, and the museum’s own video production, is to allow visitors to “experience the life of museums,” whether through employee profiles, studio visits with artists or videos of conservators restoring objects. The advantage of making the new video site a collaborative one was obvious, he said: “The strength and potency of this as a shared site is much greater than one museum at a time.” The Indianapolis museum has been a pioneer in using the Internet to provide greater transparency about museum operations. A section of its Web site (imamuseum.org) called the Dashboard offers current information about the value of the museum’s endowment, the number of visitors and its average daily energy consumption. The museum also recently created an online database of works it has deaccessioned. Mr. Incandela acknowledged that the ultimate success of ArtBabble will depend, at least partly, on what other institutions the Indianapolis museum persuades to join. Internationally, one museum that has devoted substantial resources to producing videos is the Tate. In collaboration with British Telecom, the Tate has put hundreds of videos on its Web site, tate.org.uk, from studio visits with Jeff Koons and Gilbert & George to archival interview footage with Francis Bacon. Reached by phone, Will Gompertz, the director of Tate Media, the branch of the museum that oversees its video production, said that he had not previously heard of ArtBabble, but based on a description, he thought it was a great idea. “Tate would be delighted” to put its videos on a site like ArtBabble, Mr. Gompertz said, adding, “Nothing in this new world can be achieved alone.”

Beads, Beads and More Beads

I ignored this story when it first surfaced but I have to say the visual evidence of world-wide trade found in a 1600's remote Spanish outpost in Georgia (the state of Georgia in the U.S.) is, well, beautiful! (Image: In the top left is a common cobalt blue seed bead, most likely from Venice (20,906 found). Below that is a Venetian turquoise/green-blue seed bead or rocaille (5777 found). To the right of these is a unique blue green melon bead from China, then a Spanish gilded oval glass bead (15 found). On the top right is an Ichtucknee plain turquoise blue bead with white patinas now thought to be manufactured in France (one of 5,265). Below that is a green Heart bugle bead with a thin clear veneer over red-orange glass over green glass from the Margariteri guild of Venice (one of 5). (Credit: AMNH)) Story from Science Daily: Largest 17th Century Bead Repository Found In Coastal Georgia ScienceDaily (Apr. 17, 2009) — French and Chinese blue glass, Dutch layered glass, Baltic amber: roughly 70,000 beads manufactured all over the world have been excavated at one of the Spanish empire's remotest outposts, the Santa Catalina de Guale Mission. The beads were found as part of an extensive, ongoing research project led by a team of scientists from the American Museum of Natural History on St. Catherines Island off the coast of Georgia. Comprising the largest repository ever from Spanish Florida, the beads enlighten archaeologists about past trade routes and provide clues to the social structure and wealth of the people. "This is the northernmost outpost of the Spanish empire, but we see evidence of ancient trade routes from China via Manila's galleons to Mexico and Spain," says Lorann Pendleton, Director of the Archaeology Laboratory at the Museum. "We also have found perhaps the first evidence of Spanish beadmaking, along with beads from the main centers of Italy, France, and the Netherlands." The mission of Santa Catalina de Guale was inhabited by Franciscan missionaries and local people for most of the 17th century. The mission was a major source of grain for Spanish Florida and a provincial capital until1680, when the mission was abandoned after a British attack. Since 1974, David Hurst Thomas, Curator of Anthropology at the Museum, and colleagues have been carefully unearthing this part of the island's history. The current research is based on the complete excavation of the church's cemetery and extensive survey and excavation in other parts of the mission. Years of analysis reveal roughly 130 different types of beads on the island, and numbers of specimens per type range from one to 20,000. Most of the more common beads are of Venetian and potentially French origin, with new research suggesting that one of the most common beads of the 17th century, the Ichtucknee blue, was manufactured in France. Some of the unique beads, though, may be Spanish, Chinese, Bohemian, Indian, or Baltic in origin. While roughly 2,000 beads were found elsewhere at the mission (such as in the convent), most were found in the cemetery under the church. These were items intentionally deposited with individuals as grave goods, and the analysis of these items shows that there were subtle temporal and spatial changes in how the cemetery was used. Most burials found with large numbers of beads appear to date to the earlier part of the mission's history (the first half of the 17th century); items found with burials that date to the latter half of the 17th century are more likely to be religious medallions and rosaries. But because almost half the beads in the cemetery were buried with a few individuals who tended to be near the altar, it is often assumed that they were of high status in the community. "A higher number of beads were found toward the altar, and some of the highest-status individuals (by number of beads) were children," says Pendleton. "This gives us lots of information about Guale society and means that status was ascribed with birth." Elliot Blair, graduate student in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley, agrees but points out that "the picture that is emerging is turning out to be much more complicated than people had thought. It's hard to say whether the presence of the beads reflects native or church hierarchies, the presence of wealthy individuals, or something else entirely. Still, this is the largest assemblage of beads ever found in a Spanish mission in La Florida, and the study of these materials has yielded considerable information about how Guale society, burial practices, and Spanish missionization changed during the 17th century." The number of beads found on St. Catherines Island suggests that Santa Catalina de Guale was a relatively wealthy outpost. The island is fertile and was the capital of a mission province, both potential explanations for the high number of beads found when compared to other missions. "St. Catherines was a frontier mission, but it also was a bread basket for the east-coast Spanish empire," explains Pendleton. "The missionaries at St. Augustine were always starving—you can read this in the letters written at the time—because that area was too humid and hot for corn to grow easily. St. Catherines was able to trade corn for beads." The new research, authored by Blair, Pendleton, and bead expert Peter Francis, Jr., is published in the Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History. Francis, who did much of the detailed analysis of where beads were manufactured, died while on a research trip to Ghana, Africa, in 2002. The research was funded in part by the Edward John Noble Foundation. Adapted from materials provided by American Museum of Natural History, via EurekAlert!, a service of AAAS.

The Antikythera "Computer"

I love to see features like this from ABC National Radio's The Science Show. You can download the audio or a written transcript. (Image of the Antikythera mechanism from file).

Queen Hatshepsut and Karnak

Story from UCLA Today. Photo: Digital Karnak architects Willeke Wendrich, from the left, Elaine Sullivan and Diane Favro. April 21, 2009 By Meg Sullivan Team's re-creation of ancient Karnak brings history of pharaohs to life After being crowned one of ancient Egypt’s rare female pharaohs, Queen Hatshepsut renovated a coronation hall lined with statuary depicting her father, her highly regarded predecessor, as a god. In the center of the hall, she installed two 10-story red granite obelisks and a beautiful red quartzite chapel inscribed with images of herself erecting the colossal obelisks. “To us, this may seem egomaniacal,” said UCLA Egyptologist Willeke Wendrich. “But part of the process of legitimating herself in a role rarely held by women was to imprint the space in a way that established her as the great heir to her great father.” Apparently, Hatshepsut was a little too successful: When her nephew, Thutmose III, who was for years co-ruler in her shadow, finally succeeded the 15th century B.C. queen, he removed the upgrades, partially bricked over the obelisks and tore down the chapel. What did Thutmose III have against his aunt, now considered to be one of the most successful pharaohs of all time? Was he merely sexist? Or was he threatened by the possibility that Hatshepsut’s own daughter might try to usurp his throne? [An interesting proposition - because of the importance of matrilineal descent in ancient Egypt, did Thutmose III marry Htsepsut's daughter to solidify his hold on the throne???] While scholars may never know the exact answers to these and other tantalizing mysteries, they are at least able to visualize one of the most important remaining records of this and other ancient Egyptian power struggles, thanks to the latest 3-D computer model from UCLA’s Experiential Technologies Center (ETC) in the Department of Architecture and Urban Design. The result of two years of painstaking research by a team of more than 24 scholars and technicians, Digital Karnak explores how scores of existing ruins may have originally looked and demonstrates how they came to be altered over time as generations of pharaohs put their stamp on the site that served as the religious center for Thebes, the Ancient Egyptian capital during the Golden Age of the Pharaohs. “Ancient Egyptian texts didn’t write about these kinds of rivalries,” said Diane Favro, ETC director and the project’s principal investigator. “So we rely on architectural transformations and depictions on contemporary reliefs to provide invaluable information about Egypt’s rich history.” Through interactive architectural plans and intricate perspective illustrations, Digital Karnak traces the site’s evolution over two millennia, encompassing 63 distinct features of this major religious center located on the Nile’s eastern bank at Thebes, a little more than a mile north of modern Luxor. Accompanied by ETC’s most ambitious web interface to date, Digital Karnak shows the site at any point in time between 1951 B.C. and 31 B.C., allowing users to fast-forward from a single temple occupying a two-acre site to a sprawling complex covering 69 acres with eight temples, 10 small chapels, 10 monumental gateways, 15 obelisks, 100 sphinxes and even a ceremonial lake. “Karnak is one of the most dazzling sites in Egypt nowadays, but if you try to figure out what any one feature originally looked like, you get in trouble because you have all these elements from different periods standing next to each other, many of which were moved or altered over time,” said Favro, a professor of architectural history. “We set out to give people a clear sense of the chronology of site’s development.” That's the goal that Favro and Wendrich, the project’s co-developer, are aiming for especially this month. On April 4, they demonstrated the model at the annual meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians, the field’s leading professional group, in Pasadena. On April 25, they will present it in Dallas, Texas, at the annual meeting of the American Research Center in Egypt, considered the premiere conference for U.S.-based Egyptologists. As one of ancient Egypt’s two chief religious centers, Karnak rose in prominence in the last half of the 3000-year-long empire. Still impressive after all these years, Karnak is one of the most visited sites in Egypt and is best known today for what remains of the Great Hypostyle Hall, a giant room with a painted ceiling supported by 12 massive seven-story and 122 four-story sandstone columns. “Even though I have been to Karnak many times, when walking through the temple, especially very early in the morning before the hordes of tourists come in or when I'm in a quiet corner of the enormous complex, I feel history becoming almost tangible,” said Wendrich, an associate professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. This is the place where Akhenaten, believed to be King Tutankhamun’s father, built a temple to his own religion, thought to be the world’s first monotheistic faith. The Hypostyle Hall was decorated by Ramesses II, the pharaoh often associated with the Biblical Exodus. One of the Karnak gates is engraved with references to another pharaoh whose exploits may also be chronicled in the Bible: Shoshenq I, whose military conquests took him as far as today’s Israel. Hatshepsut’s legacy at Karnak is particularly exciting for art lovers. Holdings of most major museums include statuary and other pieces of art commissioned during her long and successful reign, which was characterized by a flowering of the arts. One of her 10-story obelisks still stands at Karnak. Other obelisks from the reigns of her successors were moved to grace public squares in Rome and Istanbul. Statuary unearthed at Karnak dots today’s Cairo. The ETC is renowned for making sense of such historic landscapes. Under Favro’s direction, the team has digitally reconstructed dozens of important landmarks that either have been lost or altered beyond recognition, including Pompeii’s Villa of the Mysteries and ancient sites in Rome including the Colosseum and Forum. Additional features of Digital Karnak include Quick-Time videos highlighting the processional routes of the major religious ceremonies for which Karnak was designed, such as the Opet Festival, an annual celebration of fertility. The model even helps users visualize how natural meandering caused the River Nile to recede almost a half mile from Karnak, driving the complex’s slow but steady westward expansion. “The model cannot show us Karnak as it really was because we will never know everything about a site that is so ancient,” said Elaine Sullivan, project coordinator and a postdoctoral fellow in Near Eastern Languages and Cultures. “However, it does represent the current state of knowledge of Karnak at this date.” Drafted with the same precision and attention to detail that would be required to generate architectural plans to actually reconstruct the site, Digital Karnak is based on generations of discoveries at the historical site, in particular by French archaeologists. “One of the real problems for American scholars studying the site is that all of the documentation, current research and reconstructions are published in French journals,” said Sullivan. “If an instructor or student can’t read high-level academic French, this information is inaccessible to them.” In contrast, Digital Karnak is written entirely in English, a feature that organizers hope will make it popular with travelers, architecture buffs and American college courses in art history, architectural history and world history. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Steinmetz Family of Los Angeles, the model will also serve as an illustration for the UCLA-based Encyclopedia of Egyptology, an online encyclopedia of the field’s latest peer-reviewed research. Because the model is as dynamic as the encyclopedia’s other entries, creators plan to update the model as new discoveries become available. “We hope Egyptologists will use Digital Karnak to test out and advance research in the field,” said Wendrich. “We look forward to making as many changes to our Karnak as the pharaohs did to the actual site.” To see a video clip showing the western entrance to Karnak today, go here. This is how Karnak's western alley of sphinxes would have originally appeared, according to UCLA's Digital Karnak.

Iraqi Women Treated Worse Than Mad Dogs

Story from The Los Angeles Times: (Photo credit: Alaa al-Marjani / Associated Press A poster at a Najaf rally reads “Stop violence against women.”) In Iraq, a story of rape, shame and 'honor killing' Alaa al-Marjani / Associated Press After prison guards assaulted an Iraqi woman, she turned to her brother for help. But he — and society — failed her. By Tina Susman and Caesar Ahmed April 23, 2009 Reporting from Baghdad -- Sometimes, it's the forbidden stories, the ones people are afraid to tell in full, the ones that emerge only in fragments, that reveal the truth about a place.This is such a story. It's being told now not because the complete truth is known, but because the story nags at those familiar with its outlines, and because it says as much about Iraq's progress as it does about Iraq's resistance to change. This much is known: A young woman imprisoned in Tikrit, north of Baghdad, sent a letter to her brother last summer, appealing for help. The woman, named Dalal, wrote that she was pregnant after being raped by prison guards. The brother asked to visit her. Guards obliged. The brother walked into her cell, drew a gun and shot his visibly pregnant sister dead. His goal: to spare his family the taint of a pregnancy out of wedlock, a disgrace in Iraq often averted through so-called honor killings of women by their relatives. For prison guards, the killing was also a relief. "They believed that her death would end the case," said a lab worker at Baghdad's central morgue, where the victim's body -- still carrying the 5-month-old fetus -- was sent. The case might have ended there were it not for the morgue employee, who was determined to see those responsible held to account. At the employee's insistence, lab workers using freshly acquired DNA-testing equipment drew a sample from the fetus. The prison guards were ordered to submit DNA samples and did so, apparently unaware of the sophistication of the morgue equipment and the people trained to use it. "They thought we were incapable of figuring it out," said the morgue employee. The DNA results showed that the father of the unborn baby was a police lieutenant colonel who reportedly supervised guards at the prison. In another society, the scientific evidence would have led to arrests and prosecution. But this being Iraq, the power wielded by men in uniform and the belief that a raped woman is better off dead combined to cloud the truth. Months passed after word leaked of the killing on a sweltering summer day. Just as it nagged at the morgue worker, it nagged at us. But how to tell a story that nobody wants told? Everyone had different, usually conflicting, versions of what had happened. Only the morgue worker's story remained the same, repeated in phone calls and e-mails as summer turned to fall and then winter. Then, it was time for one of us to leave Iraq. A colleague asked what the reporter's final story would be. There must be one after so long in the country, he insisted. "Isn't there a story that got away?" he asked. It became clear that this was it, even if we still didn't know the truth. About the only thing anyone agrees on is that a young woman was murdered, and that her last days were spent pregnant and worrying about what would happen if she were released into a society that would condemn her for it. According to a judge in the Tikrit court, the lieutenant colonel implicated by DNA and a police captain also accused in the case were arrested on rape charges but then released for lack of evidence. [LACK OF EVIDENCE? AS IF THE DNA EVIDENCE DID NOT EXIST!] The judge said a third defendant, a police lieutenant, remained in custody. (It is not uncommon in Iraq for police officers to serve as prison guards and supervisors.) Another Tikrit court official said the lieutenant colonel and captain remained in custody but were transferred from Tikrit to Baghdad. Col. Hatem Thabit, spokesman for the police in Salahuddin province, where the crime was committed, concurred with this account. Yet other accounts say the matter was settled through tribal justice. The clan of the accused lieutenant colonel paid the woman's family to drop charges, said some people in the area who are familiar with the case but fearful of discussing it openly. The morgue worker said those involved in the lab testing understood that all three of the police officers were freed. "I heard the dispute was solved by a tribal ransom," the employee said. "The issue bothers me a lot. I'm doing my job, and the bad guys are getting back on the street." There are conflicting reports on the brother's status. Some say he was jailed for killing his sister. Others say he was freed as part of the tribal deal. As for the slain woman, several accounts say she was in prison not because she was a convicted or accused criminal, but because police wanted to question her brother about something. They thought he would turn himself in to free Dalal. Nobody has been able to explain why police wanted to talk to the brother. The prison where she was held houses mainly men. There is a small section for female inmates, usually no more than a few at a time. A female guard is supposed to watch over them. No one could explain how the lieutenant colonel was able to do what he did. Nor could anyone say how Dalal's brother got into her cell with a loaded gun. "He was supposed to be searched," said Thabit, the police spokesman. "Where he got the weapon, we don't know." In Iraq, violence against women is a festering but rarely addressed problem. There are no readily available statistics on "honor" killings. The number of rapes reported to police averages five to 10 per month for the entire country, said an official at Baghdad's central morgue, who released the first details of the Tikrit case last summer. "The actual number of rapes is actually more than we know. There are so many rapes in the prisons, for example," he added before going on to cite the Tikrit case to an Iraqi working for The Times. Realizing he was discussing a case not intended for public consumption, the official urged the reporter not to translate the facts for his English-speaking colleague. But minutes later, another morgue official and then the lab worker confirmed the case. All asked not to be identified for fear of losing their jobs. Other workers interviewed during a daylong visit to the morgue, where rape victims are examined, said they had detected an increase in violent crimes against women since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion ushered in a religious conservatism and brought social and economic upheaval. [Oh yeah, blame everything on the Americans, not the cock-eyed culture where male beastiality is taught as the preferred way to have sex over having intercourse with a human woman]. Most are honor killings, said one morgue employee, who a day earlier had received the body of a pregnant woman with her throat slit. Human rights advocates say many of these homicides are made to look like honor killings to gain leniency for the perpetrators. "It's a lot worse now," said Ibtisam Hamody Azzawi, a former engineer who runs a small aid organization for abused women from her home in Baghdad. "Our society witnessed so much war, and this is reflected in the domestic abuse situation."Everything is violence. Even the kids love war," said Azzawi, whose husband, a university dean, was killed by extremists in 2007. [Baloney! This is a direct reflection of a religion that teaches and perpetuates intense hatred for and fear of females]. Much of her time is spent answering knocks on her door or phone calls from women looking for an escape from abusive homes. People find her by word of mouth. She does not tell her neighbors what she does, lest extremists attack her or one of her daughters. [Okay, reporters - how do you think you are protecting this woman by publishing her full name and city of residence in the newspaper? Do you not think Iraqi extremists have access to the internet? DUH! When she and/or her daughers are targeted and killed, will you feel any blood guilt?] Iraq has no shelters for battered or threatened women, and the war has splintered and displaced families who might have taken in female relatives. Amid the turmoil, homicide has become an easy out for husbands wanting to end their marriages, Azzawi said. It's cheaper than divorce. "Women get killed, but often it is reported that they are missing," she said. "It's all part of the chaos. Some husbands kill their wives and say maybe she was kidnapped, maybe she died in a bombing." A husband and wife will have domestic problems. All of a sudden, the wife will disappear. "At the women's prison in Tikrit, Saturday is visiting day. On a summer Saturday, a brother came to see his sister, her stomach swelling with her unborn child. She trusted him. Tina Susman recently returned to the U.S. after a two-year tour in Iraq. Times staff writers Usama Redha and Ned Parker in Baghdad, and special correspondents in Samarra and Tikrit contributed to this report.
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This is what the religion of Allah teaches: Women are not human beings. Women are worth less than mad dogs and can be exterminated with impunity. Muslim men prefer to have sex with goats and camels rather than women, because women are unclean. A follower of Allah can kill a woman, even a pregnant woman, with no consequences. Kill a woman, it's cheaper than divorcing her. Kill your daughter, kill your sister, who has been raped, and let the rapist go free with no punishment. No one will care - but maybe you can get some money out of the rapist's clan and buy yourself a flat-screen HDTV and satellite reception for a month or two.

The German Templers/Jews Swap of WWII

Templers - not Templars - which is what I first thought when this article caught my eye. A fascinating, little known story, from Haaretz.com: A life-saving swap By Nurit Wurgaft and Ran Shapira Sun., April 26, 2009 Iyyar 2, 5769 "The Eretz-Israeli residents that have been exchanged have arrived from the Reich," a Haaretz headline announced on November 17, 1942. "There's been much commotion at the Afula station," the article read, "in preparation for the arrival of 114 women and children, relatives of Eretz-Israeli and British residents, who've come from Germany. They were exchanged for German women and children from Eretz Israel, who were allowed to travel to Germany." Ora Reshef, 73, from Kiryat Ono, may have been aboard that train to Afula. In 1939 she journeyed with her mother from Palestine to Poland, she thinks, "to celebrate Passover, and so that my grandmother and grandfather could get to know their grandchild." The grandparents, a wealthy couple, lived in a large wooden house, she recalls. After they occupied Poland, and return travel became impossible, "the Nazis came to the house and found us. Since we weren't Polish citizens, but had documents issued by the British Mandate authorities, Mother had to report to the police station every week. In 1942 they came and told us, 'You're going.' No one knew whether to believe them, but a few days later we were put on a train and got to Israel by way of Turkey." Between 1941 and 1945, some 550 Jews arrived in Palestine under similar circumstances, having been trapped in occupied Europe and then released as part of the same deal, for Germans detained in Palestine. Some of them have remained in touch with each other to this day. The German women and children who were deported from Palestine were Templers - members of a Protestant religious movement founded in Germany in the mid-1800s. The Templers worked to bring about salvation and the second coming of Jesus Christ, and believed the only way to do this was to live a productive life in the Holy Land. By World War II, the Templer population in Palestine was already in its third generation, with communities in the German Colonies of Jerusalem and Haifa, as well as in Sarona (now the Kirya in Tel Aviv), Valhalla near Jaffa, Wilhelma (now Moshav Bnei Atarot), Beit Lehem Haglilit and Waldheim (now Alonei Aba). Although they lived in Eretz Israel, they maintained their German citizenship, studied in German and identified as Germans. Many supported the racist-nationalist ideology of Adolf Hitler; indeed, after Hitler's party rose to power in 1933, some Templers joined the Nazi cause. The Nazi regime decreed that their party would run all German affairs in Eretz Israel and placed Nazi activist Cornelius Schwarz at the head of the local community. "They went from religious messianism to political messianism," says Prof. Yossi Ben-Artzi, rector of the University of Haifa and a professor in its Land of Israel studies department. He believes that the Nazi episode in Templer history has been blown out of proportion. "The members of the younger generation to some extent broke away from naive religious belief, and were more receptive to the Nazi German nationalism. The older ones tried to fight it." In 1938 about 17 percent of Palestine's Templer community were members of the Nazi Party. British Mandate authorities were not happy to have Nazi activity in their own backyard. And at the end of August 1939, a few days before the war broke out, young Templer men eligible for the draft were conscripted into the Wehrmacht and left for Germany. Those who stayed behind became enemy nationals, imprisoned in their own homes. Palestine's German colonies were surrounded by barbed-wire fences and watchtowers, and effectively became detention camps. The British wanted to expel the German citizens from the country they controlled. And so the road was paved for an exchange of German citizens in Palestine for British subjects - Jews from Palestine, who had left for Europe just before the war and were stranded there, unable to return. "In return for the Germans whom the British wished to deport, they received Palestinian citizens - Eretz Israeli Jews in occupied Europe," says Hebrew University Holocaust scholar Prof. Yehuda Bauer. "Jewish groups pressured the British government to negotiate an exchange of these British subjects for the Germans." The swap, Bauer stresses, stemmed primarily from British and German interests: Just as the British wanted to get the Germans out, Germany was happy for the chance to rid itself of a few hundred more Jews. The exchange, however, was not an even one. The number of Germans deported from Palestine was greater than the number of returning Jews. Bauer explains that despite the pressure they exerted, the various institutions affiliated with the Yishuv (pre-state Jewish community) wielded no real influence over the talks that ultimately enabled a group of Jews to escape the ghettos of Europe. It was the British who negotiated with the Germans, first under the auspices of the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, and later through the Swiss. "The Yishuv's leadership had no idea when the Jews exchanged for the Templers would arrive. They did not even know how far the negotiations had progressed - the British had that little regard for the leadership and its power," he says. Rest of article.
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