Friday, May 15, 2009

New York Shopping: MacKenzie-Childs

Yesterday was an easy day as we awaited the arrrival of Isis and Michelle. Mr. Don had ambitious plans but I just wanted to have a big breakfast and go window shopping. So, we compromised. We had breakfast at Applejack's Diner and then walked out shopping. In the afternoon we walked over to the Asia Institute and spent several hours there, including time in the gift shop exploring lots of unique gifts. After breakfast we headed toward 5th Avenue on West 57th Street so I could do a little window shopping. I was stopped in my tracks by a charming display in a shop window, and Mr. Don stopped with me, and then he was caught too, because the back wall of the store was covered in a black and white checkerboard pattern and the store was filled with black and white (and other colors) of plateware and accessories. It was a dazzling feast for the eyes. We went in. I was enchanted. We probably spent close to an hour exploring the various displays and wares. Mr. Don asked and was given permission to take a few photographs. As he always does, he got into conversations with staff members and customers alike while I floated about from object to object, examining and admiring. We purchased some gifts and left with a catalog. The name of this enchanting place is MacKenzie-Childs, and I highly recommend it. The patterned beeswax candles are beautiful and well within my budget for gifts; likewise the body creams and scented soaps on the second floor that are gorgeously packaged and have the loveliest scents. I found a lamp to die for, entirely unique (it was not in the catalog). Unfortunately, it was beyond my price range, but one can dream... The staff at MacKenzie-Childs were gracious and helpful. Our purchases were carefully placed in beautiful bags with the MacKenzie-Childs logo on the outside - see my photo of our packages - amid lots of black and cream checked tissue paper. When two of the gift bags were presented to Isis and Michelle later Thursday night, the bags elicited as much pleasure as the gifts they contained! Please visit the MacKenzie-Childs website and explore their uniquely designed wares.

New "Venus" Figurine Discovered

By PATRICK McGROARTY, Associated Press Writer Patrick Mcgroarty, Associated Press Writer – Wed May 13, 3:42 pm ET
BERLIN – A 35,000-year-old ivory carving of a busty woman found in a German cave was unveiled Wednesday by archaeologists who believe it is the oldest known sculpture of the human form. The carving found in six fragments in Germany's Hohle Fels cave depicts a woman with a swollen belly, wide-set thighs and large, protruding breasts.
"It's very sexually charged," said University of Tuebingen archaeologist Nicholas Conard, whose team discovered the figure in September.
Carbon dating suggests it was carved at least 35,000 years ago, according to the researchers' findings, which are being published Thursday in the scientific journal Nature.
"It's the oldest known piece of figurative sculpture in the world," said Jill Cook, a curator of Paleolithic and Mesolithic material at the British Museum in London.
Stones in Israel and Africa almost twice as old are believed to have been collected by ancient humans because they resembled people, but they were not carved independently.
The Hohle Fels cave discovery suggests the humans, who are believed to have come to Europe around 40,000 years ago, had the intelligence to create symbols and think abstractly in a way that matches the modern human, Conard said
"It's 100 percent certain that, by the time we get to 40,000 years ago in Swabia, we're dealing with people just like you and me," Conard told The Associated Press, referring to the southern German region where the sculpture was recovered along with other prehistoric artifacts.
Conard believes the 2.4-inch-tall (6-centimeter) figure may have been hung on the end of a string. The left arm is missing, but Conard said he hopes to find it by sifting through material from the cave.
The Hohle Fels sculpture is curvaceous and has neither feet nor a head, like some of the roughly 150 so-called Venus figurines found in a range from the Pyrenees mountains to southern Russia and dating back about 25,000-29,000 years.
But Cook warned against trying to draw any connections between the Venuses and the Hohle Fels figure, saying that would be like comparing Picasso to a classical sculptor — too much time had passed.
"I wonder whether at this point we're looking at figures which are unique within themselves and unique within the cultures that they're arising in," she said.
Archaeologist Paul Mellars, of the University of Cambridge, suggested a clearer continuum. "We now have evidence of that sort of artistic tradition of Venus figurines going back 6,000 years earlier than anybody ever guessed," he said.
Neanderthals also lived in Europe around the time the sculpture was carved, and frequented the Hohle Fels cave. But Mellars said layered deposits left by both species over thousands of years prove the sculpture was crafted by humans.
"Nothing within a million miles of this has ever been found in a Neanderthal layer," Mellars said.
The archaeologists agreed the sculpture's age and features invite speculation about its purpose and the preoccupations of the culture that produced it.
Cook suggested it could be symbol of fertility, perhaps even portrayed in the act of giving birth. Mellars suggested a more basic motivation for the carving: "These people were obsessed with sex."
Conard said the differing opinions reinforced the connection between the ancient artist and modern viewer.
"How we interpret it tells us just as much about ourselves as about people 40,000 years ago," he said.
Hmmm, the experts know better, I guess... All I can say is that when I looked at this image of the "Venus" and the other two images I saw, I thought it depicts two people intertwined in an embrace. Perhaps it's just the way the object was photographed that makes it appear that way.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

New York 3

Some photos from 5/13/09 at the Met

New York Adventures 2

Yesterday we spent the entire day at the Met. (The Great Hall at the Met, shot from the balcony overlooking the main entrance) There was a walking tour with lecture on ancient Egyptian medicine that dondelion and I wanted to do at 10:00 a.m. We arrived about 10 minutes before the start and were the first ones waiting in the gathering area for the group. Dr. David Minninberg of the staff was to give the presentation. There was an older gentleman standing in the same area and dondelion, who never listens to a word I say, asked him if this was the place to wait for the Egyptian tour, and the gentleman said yes, it was. It seemed that we three were going to be the only ones on the tour. I had a sneaking suspicion that the older gentleman was, in fact, Dr. Minninberg, but I didn't mention this to Mr. Don, who would not have listened to me anyway. But, about 1 minute before the tour was to start, several other people showed up. In all, I'd say there were perhaps 10 of us. About 1 minute after 10, the older gentleman stepped forward and introduced himself - he was Dr. Minninberg - and he escorted us across the great hall into the Egyptian wing. The tour was underway. It was a fascinating hour. The group being small, we were all able to ask questions and our guide was entertaining as well as informative. I learned quite a bit I did not know before about ancient Egyptians and their practice of medicine, both practi cal and what we would call magic, and it was fascinating. (The yellow and green vases are shaped like pommegranites and were used for a special elixir made out of the seeds) The time flew by. Afterward Don and I stayed behind and had a chance to ask Dr. Minninberg a few more questions, and spoke with him for about another 15 minutes. Then I pulled Mr. Don away (he could talk about Egypt 24/7) and steered him back toward the rest of the Egyptian Wing, where we happily spent time until about 2:30 when we ran outside for a quick lunch break (New York hot dogs from one of the street vendors) and were entertained by a very talented street singer. We were back inside by 3 p.m., where we took in the exhibits of second floor balcony area that include Islamic art and artifacts from all along the Silk Road. Mr. Don took 115 photos yesterday - I don't remember how many I snapped. Mr. Don stayed on his feet longer than I did so he had more. I finally could not stand up another second more and I went back to the great hall, hoping to find a seat, while Mr. Don finished taking his photos. I was luck to snag a corner seat on one of the large high-backed benches, and was able to rest for about 15 minutes with my head back, eyes closed, ignoring the din around me, until Mr. Don reappeared at my side. As usual, the walk back to the hotel did not seem as long as the walk to the museum that morning. It was only 4 miles round trip plus all the walking we did inside, but to me it felt like 40 miles! (Our feet - Mr. Don's are the long skinny ones, mine are the short fat ones) We got back to the hotel about 5:30 where we both promptly collapsed on the sofa; but I later ventured forth for food, located a grocery store and got some goodies, a drug store where I picked up a few items and stopped at McDonalds. We spent the rest of the evening watching t.v. I was too tired to do anything else. Goddess, that Big Mac sure tasted good! I haven't had one in a long time. I noticed last night that I got sunburnt on the "v" of my neckline, and my face was definitely pink! So much for the supposed sunscreen protection in my face cream and makeup! When we get back home I'll put up lots of the photos we took at Goddesschess.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

New York! New York!

dondelion and I are here, and exhausted! We made it in one piece and Midwest Airlines got us here about 20 minutes early - amazing! (Here's our sitting room at the hotel) The shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel was as hair-raising as I remember from our 2005 visit, with maybe even more potholes. We arrived at the hotel about 2:30 p.m. and after settling into our suite we headed in search of the Applejack Diner (a major hang-out for us during out 05 stay and I knew it was only a couple of blocks away). Ach, totally turned around, I could not navigate us to Broadway. dondelion was getting cranky because he was hungry, so he asked some rather suspicious looking guys for directions while I wanted to ask someone at a nearby bus stop - turns out we were half a block away, LOL! Once we got to Broadway I was able to steer us to the restaurant where we ate and then headed out walking, first this way, then that, snapping photos along the way. (A view from our hotel room) dondelion thinks that we can "save money" by using our suite's kitchenette. We have a mini-fridge, a sink, a coffee maker and a microwave. Frankly, I'm skeptical, but I'm willing to try to have at least some meals here rather than eating out. Walking back from the Hudson River from the areas of West 73rd and Riverside Drive (a whole different world from the bustle of midtown Mahanttan) we spotted a grocers and went in. We bought a few things, but no coffee fixings. As we got closer to the hotel I spied another grocer and a deli on the corner of 57th practically across from the hotel. I was willing to go there and check it out, but we wanted to get the groceries back to the hotel first. After that was done we both sat down to rest a bit; I turned on the t.v. and got out this netbook. After some putzing around I couldn't figure out how the wireless internet connection worked so I called the desk - I needed a password and login. In the meantime, dondelion had stretched out on the sofa and he's now shooting zzzzs at the ceiling. That's okay, I'm going to settle in and watch the grand finale of The Biggest Loser. I'm too tired to go out exploring Manhattan nlght life!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Spring in the Backyard

Mr. Don has been busy with chores around the house since he arrived. He has chopped and dug out dead shrubs, hauled away the mound of gravel and sand the mysterious creature dug out from underneath my driveway at the very front of the house, pruned shrubs, cut down trees, dug out dandelions and thistles, tried to repair my hose reel (he got rather wet this afternoon when it didn't work - and bad me, I laughed and laughed and fetched him some towels to dry off); he attacked mounds of ferocious man-eating ants with ant control granuals, raked, cleaned off the deck, and cleaned out the garage. Then he cut the grass in the backyard (I did cut the grass out front). He also broke down and baled lots of cardboard boxes piled up in the garage and helped me haul the recyclables and trash out to the curb for tomorrow's pick-up. As a result, the garage is looking much cleaner and the front, side and backyards are looking much prettier. The first photo is a shot from the front fence (south side of the house) toward the back yard. I wanted to show the beautiful blossoms on the Newport plums and some of the back yard. I got more than I bargained for! Notice the robin in the foreground (just above the front fence pickets). That robin is VERY territorial. He was following Mr. Don around while he cut the grass. At one point when I was out on the deck Mr. Don called to me and pointed and mouthed "look" - so I looked where he pointed and there was the robin, trying to stare down the lawnmower. LOL! About ten minutes later the robin was still hanging around out back as I set up the blue glass birdbath in the smaller flower garden (you can see it in the second photo), and he continued to fly around, cheep-cheeping as we worked outside. The second photo is a sneak shot of Mr. Don hard at work cutting the grass. Then he turned around and saw me and made faces at the camera. Unfortunately, instead of snapping the photos I hit the on/off button by mistake and the camera shut down. That's what I get. Drat!

Southwest Chess Club: Rumbling Rook Round Robin

My adopted chess club is holding another cool tournament this Thursday, darlings. Come one, come all! Here are the details from Robin Grochowski: Hello Chess Players: This Thursday, May 14, 2009 (and the next two Thursdays after that), the Southwest Chess Club presents for you the “Rumbling Rook Round-Robin” (see below for details). We plan to start promptly at 7:00 p.m.. Registration is 6:20-6:55 p.m. Since this is a quad (round-robin) it is important that players be present for all three rounds. Also, seeing as this is a quad, chess players will in all likelihood be playing others close to them in rating! Note that since this is a quad (round-robin), there are no byes available. The May Supplement will be used for ratings. If you plan to play but anticipate being a few minutes late the first evening, please e-mail myself ( or Allen ( so we can include you in the quads, or call me (414-744-4872 or 414-861-2745) prior to 5:30 p.m. on May 13, so I can include you in the quads. Hope to see everybody on Thursday. Please remember the SWCC is temporarily located at St. James Catholic Church. Rumbling Rook Round-Robin: May 14, 21, & 28 3-Round “Round-Robin” (a “Quad”). Four chess players to a Quad. Game/90 minutes. USCF Rated. EF: $5. TD is Grochowski; ATD is Becker.

"Titanic" Stars Aid Last Living Titanic Survivor

I thought this was a really cool story: Leo & Kate Help Last Titanic Survivor Access Hollywood - May 10, 2009 4:57 PM PDT LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- The last survivor of the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 is getting a hand from Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. The "Titanic" stars, along with director James Cameron, have contributed to a $30,000 fund for Millvina Dean, 98, Access Hollywood has confirmed. The Irish Independent was the first to report the news. The stars came forward after an appeal by photographer Don Mullan in the Sunday edition of the paper. Mullan had asked the stars and director of 1997 blockbuster to help Millvina, who has struggled with her nursing home bills. Millvina was the ill-fated ship's youngest passenger - only nine weeks old upon being carried unto the Titanic from Southampton, England - and is now its last remaining survivor. The photographer had been selling a limited edition shot, entitled "Still Surviving," of Millvina's hands signing an autograph in order to raise funds for her, and decided to reach out to the "Titanic" stars to pitch in. The photo is part of a new exhibition of his called "A Thousand Reasons for Living." "I figured that if the edition sold out, it would secure Millvina for a full year. My plan, however, was to double the impact and thereby secure her for two years. I decided, therefore, at the opening of the exhibition, to publicly challenge James Cameron, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, 20th Century Fox and Celine to match me dollar for dollar,'' Don told the Independent. He is still waiting on a response from Celine, who won an Oscar for the film's theme song, "My Heart Will Go On," and the film's studio, 20th Century Fox.

Mumbai Mayor's Cup

This was a good tournament for Humpy - she finished in second place with 9/11. Final standings after R11: Rk. Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3 1 GM Areshchenko Alexander UKR 2657 9,0 86,5 72,0 68,75 2 GM Koneru Humpy IND 2612 9,0 85,0 69,5 68,00 45 WGM Meenakshi Subbaraman IND 2303 7,5 73,0 60,0 46,75 60 WGM Soumya Swaminathan IND 2307 7,0 75,0 62,5 46,25 68 IM Harika Dronavalli IND 2474 7,0 71,0 58,5 44,00 72 WGM Ramaswamy Aarthie IND 2191 7,0 69,0 56,5 40,00 74 WIM Thipsay Bagyashree Sathe IND 2177 7,0 68,5 56,0 39,00 84 WIM Dhar-Barua Saheli IND 2154 6,5 74,5 60,5 40,50 87 WIM Padmini Rout IND 2238 6,5 72,5 59,0 39,75 93 WCM Gagare Shalmali IND 2117 6,5 71,0 59,0 38,50 95 WFM Pon Nkrithika IND 2180 6,5 71,0 58,5 38,25 108 WFM Swati Mohota IND 2096 6,5 68,0 56,5 37,25 115 WIM Meera Sai IND 2155 6,5 67,0 55,5 36,75 119 WIM Priya P IND 2186 6,5 66,5 53,0 36,00 146 WIM Gokhale Anupama IND 2119 6,0 68,5 55,5 35,50 150 Preethi R IND 2154 6,0 67,0 53,5 31,25 154 WIM Kiran Manisha Mohanty IND 2182 6,0 66,0 53,5 33,25 Annotation: Tie Break1: Buchholz Tie-Breaks (variabel with parameter) Tie Break2: Buchholz Tie-Breaks (variabel with parameter) Tie Break3: Sonneborn-Berger Tie-Break (with modified points, analogous to Buchholz Tie-Break) Chess-Tournament-Results-Server © 2006-2009 Dipl. Ing. Heinz Herzog, masthead, Chess-Results CMS-Version 02.05.2009 14:15 My apologies to any chess femmes I may have omitted.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Couple of My Squirrels

After a long day out (visiting Mother Newton, then shopping, shopping and more shopping for walking shoes for the soon to be here New York trip), dondelion and I settled down on the deck, in the sun and out of the brisk (very brisk) northeast wind blowing cold air off Lake Michigan, and enjoyed a pleasant hour as the sun slowly went down and I whistled for my squirrels to come eat. Here is a photo I took capturing two of them -- they are very shy of the camera!

2009 U.S. Chess Championship

After Round 3: First - no surprise - there are no qualifiers left for going 9-0 in wins for the $64,000 Fischer prize. Whoever put up the money for this prize must have first consulted the most knowledgeable bookies in Vegas, baby :) Second - IM Irina Krush (W) defeated the venerable GM Boris Gulko (B). Third - IM Anna Zatonskih's game with GM Gregory Kaidanov has been postponed due to Zatonskih's illness. Don't have the current standings yet - the official website has not been updated for Round 3 results. Here are the results by match, excluding Zatonskih/Kaidanov, to be played later: 1. GM Yury Shulman (2) 2697 ½-½ GM Gata Kamsky (2) 2798 2. GM Hikaru Nakamura (1½) 2757 1-0 IM Robert Hess (2) 2545 3. GM Alexander Onischuk (1½) 2736 ½-½ GM Jaan Ehlvest (1½) 2649 4. GM Joel Benjamin (1½) 2650 0-1 GM Joshua Friedel (1½) 2568 5. GM Julio Becerra (1) 2672 1-0 Tyler Hughes (1) 2293 6. GM Varuzhan Akobian (1) 2664 1-0 IM Ray Robson (1) 2542 7. IM Samuel Shankland (1) 2464 ½-½ GM Melikset Khachiyan (1) 2632 8. IM Michael Brooks (1) 2419 ½-½ IM Enrico Sevillano (1) 2549 9. GM Ildar Ibragimov (½) 2628 ½-½ GM Larry Christiansen (½) 2681 10. GM Gregory Kaidanov (½) 2662 PPD IM Anna Zatonskih (½) 2503 11. IM Irina Krush (½) 2496 1-0 GM Boris Gulko (0) 2631 12. Charles Lawton (0) 2350 0-1 GM Alexander Shabalov (0) 2620
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