Saturday, December 12, 2009
Pictured: Mythical white stag found in the forests of Gloucestershire By Daily Mail Reporter Last updated at 2:07 AM on 07th December 2009 White stags have long been associated with mythology and legend, an elusive yet magnificent beast. King Arthur was left frustrated by his attempts to capture one, as were the Kings and Queens of Narnia, who chased the creature through the woods and found themselves tumbling out of a wardrobe. But photographer Ken Grindle has managed to get a little bit closer, taking this picture of the animal in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire. The majestic wild animal - long associated with mystery and good luck - was filmed by the wildlife enthusiast. Ken, 66, has been filming and photographing wildlife in the area for the past six years - but had never seen a white stag. 'I was very surprised to see it,' he said. 'I was camped in a shelter and was really fortunate. It just strolled right in front of me and calmly wandered around. He is a beautiful creature and it's really nice to be able to show people who perhaps can't make it into woodland what beautiful animals roam out there. 'I was lucky to be able to get some footage of it as well as the battery on my camera was running out. I wasn't sure I'd actually got it until I got home. I take the pictures to share with everyone as a lot of people can't get out into the woods to see this.' The Forest of Dean is thought to be home to an array of unusual and wild creatures including wild boar, big cats and white stags. [Thought to be home to... Oh come on, this is a relatively small area. We're not talking Yellowstone National Park! My guess is that this forest has been studied lots of times by various experts over the years and they have a very good idea of what wild life lives there.] Retired builder Ken added: 'There's a lot of talk about big cats in the Forest and that really would be something to see. I managed to stand my ground when some wild boar came out into the path in front of me but it might be a bit different if I saw a big cat.' Last year a white stag was spotted in the Scottish Highlands and was photographed by a member of a nature charity while she was on an expedition on the west coast. Fran Lockhart, of the John Muir Trust, a charity which protects wild land, said she was "thrilled" to spot the majestic beast, which is closely identified with the unicorn. In October 2007, a wild white stag was shot by poachers on the border between Devon and Cornwall, where horrified locals had known it by the name Snowy. It was decapitated and its 300lb carcase found hanging from a tree in a yard. It is thought the stag's head, along with its antlers, had been claimed as a trophy and could be mounted and possibly sold for thousands of pounds. White deer, closely identified with unicorns, have been potent figures in the mythology of many cultures. It is said to be bad luck to kill one. According to the Scots legend, in 1128, David I, King of Scotland decided to go hunting on the Feast Day of the Holy Rood, against the wishes of his priest. While hunting he saw a huge white stag, or "hart", and while giving chase he was thrown from his horse. The white hart charged forward to kill him, so David - son of Malcolm Canmore and St Margaret [I'm shocked! She wasn't a virgin!]- called on God to save him. As the king grasped the hart's antlers, they miraculously turned in to a large cross, and the beast raised its head and vanished. Inspired by his vision, King David built a shrine to the Holy Rood - meaning Holy Cross - on the spot where the miracle occurred. The ruin of Holyrood Abbey can still be seen today, at the foot of the Royal Mile next to Holyrood Palace. The White Hart Inn in Edinburgh's grassmarket, reputedly the oldest pub in the capital, took its name from the legend. The Celts considered white stags to be messengers from the "other world" and their appearance was said to herald some profound change in the lives of those who encountered them. In the Chronicles of Narnia, the White Stag is fabled to grant wishes to whoever catches him. And in the Arthurian legend, the white stag is the creature that can never be caught. King Arthur's repeatedly unsuccessful pursuit of the white stag represents mankind's quest for spiritual knowledge. In Christianity a white stag was said to be instrumental in the conversion of the martyr Saint Eustace after he saw a vision of the animal that told him he would suffer for Christ.
News from The Telegraph - Calcutta Draw earns Harika maiden title Chennai: Top seed International Master Dronavalli Harika of Andhra Pradesh proved her supremacy winning her maiden title in the 36th National Women Premier Chess Championship Saturday. Harika drew against WGM Aarthie Ramaswamy to take the top honours with 8.5 points. In the 11th and final round Saturday, WGM Meenakshi, who was in the sole lead till the penultimate round, was facing WGM Mary Ann Gomes with the white pieces. As her tie-break score was low, Meenakshi had to win to have a sniff of the title. Top finishers: 1 IM Harika Dronavalli 2474 IND 8,5 2 WGM Meenakshi Subbaraman 2324 IND 8,0 3 WIM Kiran Manisha Mohanty 2150 IND 7,5 4 IM Tania Sachdev 2399 IND 7,0 5 GM Karavade Eesha 2413 IND 7,0 6 WGM Gomes Mary Ann 2384 IND 7,0 Full final cross-table at Chess-Results.com. Of note, Orissa's WIM Padmini Rout (IND 2333) by-passed the Indian Women's National Championshp and played with the big boys in the National, where she was ranked 36th of 42 players at the beginning. How is she doing? With one more round to go (12 rounds total), after R11 she stands in 38th place with 4.5 points. I admire her determination and commitment, and expect great things from this young lady (she's 14 or 15 - born in 1994, I don't have her exact birth date). She is doing exactly what she needs to do, playing UP and gaining invaluable experience.
Here is the program information for the upcoming Board Games Studies Colloquium to be held in Paris April 14 - 17, 2010. Thanks to Thierry Depaulis for the email heads-up. You can also find information at Board Games Studies, along with information on past Colloquia. PROVISIONAL PROGRAMME This programme is provisional and may be modified without previous notice. Wednesday 14 April, morning session Jean-Marie Lhôte (invited speaker), Opening Lecture Mathematical Games in History Jorge Nuno Silva, "George Berkeley's Ludus Algebraicus" Alda Carvalho, João P. Neto, Carlos Santos, Jorge Nuno Silva, "History of Nim Games" Discussion Wednesday 14 April, afternoon session Ancient and Medieval Archaeology Anne-Elizabeth Vaturi, "Fragments of a game of 58 Holes among the Pratt ivories in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York)" Claudia-Maria Behling, "Games involving nuts as a topos for childhood in Late Antiquity and pre-Christian time" Marko Jankovic, "Board game accessories in Roman graves of Moesia Superior (more or less present Serbia)" Mark A. Hall & Katherine Forsyth, "On the compatibility of Gaelic ‘Fidcheall’ and its P–Celtic cognates with the Roman introduction of Tafl-like games to the British Isles" Mark A. Hall, "Black to move: a look at some jet chess pieces from Britain" Ulrich Schädler, "Le plateau de jeu d'Autun : romain ou Renaissance ?" Discussion Thursday 15 April, morning session Maths, Computers & Games Tristan Cazenave, Abdallah Saffidine, "Monte-Carlo Hex" Tristan Cazenave, Nicolas Jouandeau, "Towards deadlock free Sokoban" Jean Mehat, Tristan Cazenave, "Ary, a general game playing program" Olivier Teytaud, "Game of Go: recent progress for an old game" Fabien Teytaud, "Game of Havannah: nice challenge for computers" Discussion Thursday 15 April, afternoon session 20th-Century Archaeology Michel Boutin, "Circulation des jeux de pions entre éditeurs français et étrangers autour de 1900 : brevets, marques, plagiats..." Edward Copisarow, "Board games in English intellectual property registers before WWI" Gadi Kfir, "Hunting for Board Games in Poland" Fred Horn, "Lost treasures: hidden gems of abstract/strategic board games within the pages of Games & Puzzles nos 1-77 (1972-80)" Manouk Borzakian, "Pistes pour une approche géographique des jeux de plateau" Discussion Friday 16 April, morning session Games in Theory and in Practice Michel Quenault, Tristan Cazenave, "General gaming: une classification des jeux basée sur les mécanismes possibles de l'arbitre pour une généricité des jeux plus étendue" David Parlett, "Abstraction and representation in games" Michele B. King, "From gangsta’ to gamester: an entertainment-education strategy for a school-based gang prevention program" Michel Van Langendonckt, "Vers une typologie des interactions sociales dans les jeux de pions" Dores Ferreira, Pedro Palhares, Jorge Nuno Silva, "The ability to play games and its connection with pattern recognition" Carlota Dias, Jorge Nuno Silva, Pedro Palhares, "Mathematical Games for the Blind" Discussion Friday 16 April, afternoon session Visits of the Louvre (Oriental and Egyptian Antiquities) and of the Cabinet des Médailles (BnF) ("Charlemagne" chesspieces, various unpublished small objects – dice, gamepieces, counters, tesserae – from the Froehner Collection) Friday 16 April, evening Official dinner at the "Au Moulin Vert" Restaurant, 34bis rue des Plantes, 75014 Paris Saturday 17 April, morning session Games in History Arie van der Stoep, "Footsteps of the past" (On alquerque and draughts) David H. Caldwell & Mark A. Hall, "What do we really know about the Lewis chessmen?" Phil Winkelman, "A∂ elta stelpur: an Icelandic chimera" Thierry Depaulis, "Three early 17th-century printed board games by the Veuve Petit in Paris" Phillippa Plock & Adrian Seville, "The Rothschild Collection of printed board games at Waddesdon Manor" Bruce Whitehill, "‘The Game of Life’, Milton Bradley's first game, 1860" Discussion Saturday 17 April, afternoon session Traditional Games Dr. V. Balambal, "Kallankai, a traditional stone-catching game" Alex de Voogt, "The archaeology and anthropology of Syrian mancala" Peter Michaelsen, "Haretavl - hare and hounds as a board game" Thorsten Traulsen, "Some historical issues of the Korean Yut game" Peter Shotwell, "a talk about the traditional Tibetan form of Go" Piotr Adamczyk, "Short history of board games in Poland (from around 1st cent. A.D. till 17th cent.)"
Friday, December 11, 2009
I love how the color of the walls turned out! No matter how many paint samples you look at, and even bring home mini-paint samples and paint them on the walls, you really don't know what the final effect will be until the entire room has been painted. This picture doesn't do justice to the nuances of the color with the various levels of light that play about this small master bedroom (11' x 14'), "Powder Puff." It looks white in photo 1, but it's not white at all. Goodbye to the soft pink and grey floral scheme I had for 19 years. I loved it for the first 10 years here, and then, like lightning, my tastes changed and I wanted something different. But by then I had gotten really busy with other things related to chess, and it's only gotten busier since 1999/2000! And so I procrastinated for years until a few months ago my friend Ann told me about Kevin the Wonder Handyman. The rest, as they say, is herstory. Kevin did a first rate job painting out this room. I don't like this bare-bones look, but this is the look the real estate brokers PUSH in order to sell a home. I have lots of framed artwork and photographs that would flesh out the room and add some warmth and my personality to th walls, but I didn't put them up. They are currently stashed under the bed :) Also banished is my desk-top computer. The desk-top is now out of commission because in order to move it to the middle bedroom cum den, I had to disconnect it from the something-or-other and ever since then I have been unable to restore a network connection, no matter what I do. When Mr. Don arrives in less than 2 weeks I will put him to work on the Mystery of the Computer That Refuses to be Connected... My bedroom is formal room, I suppose, modeled after classic traditional design. The winter comforter is on the bed rather than the summer-weight taupe/beige/white scalloped edge quilted toile-patterned coverlet with matching pillow shams. LOL! The red/white/black logger plaid is plush, lush and heavy. I love to snuggle under it this time of year since I keep the house at a chill 64-65 degrees F and it never fails to keep me toasty. Out of view is a deep gold and cream spiral pattern rug on the right side of the bed that cushions my feet with warmth when I get in and out of "my side" of the bed. I broke the rules when I took these photos by restoring to its place of honor on the triple dresser my old jewelry box that was given to me as a gift by my daddy when I was 7 years old. I have kept it safe and sound all the 51 years since. It is a sort of Nile Green color, faux alligator skin! It has a build-up of discoloration over the years that I occasionally attempt to wipe away with a barely damp cloth, and a few dents and one small tear (when did that happen???) on the top. Otherwise it is in perfect condition. The inside lining is pristine. I have this box filled with cheap costume and the real-thing jewelry. It, and another smaller oriental-styled rosewood jewelry box that Mr. Don gifted to me several years ago, hold my most valuable possessions. This bedroom set is old and not good quality, being a combination of some wood, "wood product" and plastic finished to look like wood. I still vividly remember falling in love with it when I visited the Hack's Furniture Store on 13th and Mitchell Streets in the early 70's, and I paid some $300 for the full-sized headboard and bed frame, matress set, night stand, bureau and the triple mirror and dresser. That was totally high-end to me back then, when my take-home pay was $78.75 a week. I still remember! I was on cloud nine. I have lovingly cared for this suite of furniture since I first purchased it when I didn't know any better and thought it the height of fashion and quality. I still love the delicate lines of the "French Provincial" style, the "fruitwood" finish and the hardware. It is exquisitely turned and actually made out of metal. I just don't know what kind of metal, but with more than 30 years of wear and tear none of the goldish/bronze colored finish has worn off. This set has held up through dozens of moves since my early 20's, to my first home in 1986, to this, my second home, in 1990. The finish on the tops of the dressers and nightstand is somewhat the worse for wear from years of holding plants, books, belts, tons of junk, etc. etc. I have water circles that raised the grain of the real wood tops where water overflowed from the cache pots, and various marks, scuffs and scratches - both shallow and deep, nail polish spills clean up over the years, etc. etc. The finish could be fixed, I suppose. Except I like the worn, scuffed and marked-up look. This furniture has traveled with me through my adult life. I am not yet ready to "fix it," let alone say goodbye to it. Wherever my new house will be, this not-quite-vintage cheapo faux French Provincial bedroom set will come with me. BTW, the mattresses are relatively new. I finally replaced the original mattresses (!!!) in 2002 with a nice plush set made locally by Verlo. No more back aches, but I went from a what was then "standard" depth mattress of 7 inches to 15 inches. I had to get all new sheets! I am stuck with four sets of pink and white/pink and black/pink and beige/pink and grey sheet sets that don't fit any modern-day mattress. I have been amazingly reluctant to part with those sets, but with selling this house, the linen closet MUST be cleaned out, and so those extinct but still pristine condition double-bed size sheet sets will be donated to the Purple Heart. The Purple Heart was the first charity that called as I happened to be making a list of things to clear out, and so they are the winner. I have been donating things to them for a long time and yet the closet never seems to be emptier, so they regularly call. The Purple Heart charity is coming by on December 15th to pick up my latest donations. Little do they know all I am intending to donate. I hope they have a big truck! The boxes and double-bagged in giant black plastic lawn bags will be overflowing my tiny front porch! Tomorrow I grudgingly agreed to another showing, sometime between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. allowing another invasion of my sacred space, when I will have to disappear. My father's gift jewelry box has already been hidden away, which makes me very sad.
Businessman Jeff Smith House is putting up money to sponsor a special closed match between GM Judit Polgar and GM Gregory Kaidanov that will be broadcast on the internet. Here are the details from Monroi: Sicilian Theme Match (Dragon, Scheveningen, Najdorf or Sveshnikov), GM Judit Polgar vs GM Gregory Kaidanov, 4 Classical 90min /40 move games, Possible Blitz playoff Purpose: Make a fun match for all to enjoy on the Internet. Onsite invitation only, closed to general view. The match will be webcast on the Internet. Click here to read more about the match. Host: Jeff Smith, Business Consultant. Jeff supports chess as a hobby and enjoys seeing others benefit from the game.
Here are the standings after Round 5: 1 WIM Caoili, Arianne 4.0 AUS 2206 2323 2 IM Lalic, Susan K 3.0 ENG 2310 2273 3 WIM Van Weersel, Arlette 3.0 NED 2193 2152 4 Winkelmann, Elena 3.0 GER 2119 2148 5 Ikonomopoulou, Maria 3.0 GRE 2065 2106 6 WFM Chevannes, Sabrina L 2.0 ENG 2042 2042 7 WFM Yurenok, Maria S 2.0 ENG 1968 2099 8 WIM Frick, Denise 2.0 RSA 1920 2012 (photo, right) 9 De Seroux, Camille 1.5 SUI 1989 1885 10 WFM Smith, Olivia 0.5 WLS 2026 1742 Official website.
From Jean Hoffman of 9 Queens: Ladies of Tucson- get ready for the holiday 9 Queens Academy This free chess workshop is exclusively for women and girls of all ages and abilities. When: December 20 from 2-4 pm Where: The Bookmans Low Lounge of Sahuaro Girl Scout Resource Center (located at the corner of Broadway and Columbus). Don’t know how to play chess? Come and learn the rules and how the pieces move in a fun, non-competitive environment. Already know the rules and how to play? Learn new tactics and strategies to improve your game. Meet other female chess players in Tucson and join the growing community of Tucson chess queens. Many thanks to Bookmans and the Sahuaro Girl Scout Council for their continued support of 9 Queens and our chess programs for women and girls. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Hola! Not my bathroom - Ann's bathroom! We didn't make it to Kegel's for that drink that I thought we might be able to do, but we got everything else done! Mission successful and a well-satisfied Ann. Ann, if you ever read this, I am very proud of you, Girlfriend! She has more design sense than she gives herself credit for, she just doesn't enjoy shopping for house-stuff like I do. It's always more fun, though, to shop with a friend. Tonight as we braved the below-zero windchills after work. Our first stop was a higher-end tile place someone had recommended to Ann where, after wandering around unattended for a full 15 minutes just looking at stuff and admiring it (and I was goggling all the while at the prices, knowing this would never fly with Ann, who wasn't paying any attention to prices at all, she was just looking at the colors), we finally approached by a salesman. After Ann explained what she was looking for, he told us that Ann's plan (upon recommendation of Kevin the Super Handyman) to use 6 inch square tile for the walls was, shall we say, less than desirable because, to paraphrase, the Italians (tile makers) are driving the market in a different direction and everything is now rectangles! Six-inch tiles are going the way of the dinosaur. Most of those subway tiles were gigantic that would look - well - ridiculous in a bathroom the size of Ann's, to tell the truth. Those tiles would not fit the scale of millions of bathrooms of similar vintage across the country! But, of course, most Europeans (and the Italians, in particularly, who seem singularly insulated from how real Americans live) think we are all either millionaires or live on Welfare. Those designers, they design for the millionaires. Ann and I took one look at each other and exited as quickly and as gracefully as we could. Gee, he was willing to give us 25% off 6-inch tile costing $6.99 each! It was so ridiculous that other than a few terse comments and a few hearty laughs, we didn't bother to discuss it. We headed to Menards "your one stop shopping for ..." further south along Highway 100, a main Milwaukee drag filled with anyplace you might ever wish to shop, and there we hit paydirt. Ann had previously spent time visiting various home-improvement centers and had spent a long time looking before selecting three tile samples with colors she really liked. We didn't find a match to her favorite, which was a bit deeper in color, a lovely light taupe-family color, but we DID find a lovely cream color with a nice glaze called something like "Biscuit." It doesn't remind me of a biscuit color at all, by the way, but it is very pretty. It is soft, and warm, a true cream that, to our eyes, had no overt overtones but was very balanced among brown/orange/red/yellow. It is definitely not white or the dreaded "antique white," which is a major decorating jump for my ordinarily color-conservative friend. The tile Ann settled on is colored between her favorite and second favorite samples she had spent a lot of time zeroing in on the weekend before (without me, speed shopper extraordinaire). After checking to make sure there was enough in stock for her job, we piled up on the number of boxes we needed along with the necessary accessories. Two very nice and helpful Menards clerks loaded the requisite number of heavy boxes of tile to a trolly and wheeled it to the front of the store for check-out while we continued to shop (each box of field tile weighed between 30-40 pounds each; not too much for me, Me Strong Like Bull, but for the petite and delicate Ann - way too heavy!) They also checked a master computer inventory list and told Ann exactly at what other Menards locations she could pick up the three other corner shelves she wanted. Ann was now on a Mission from God. She turned to me and said okay, let's see if we can find some flooring to go with! We already knew where to go in the large warehouse style store because about a month ago we were there picking out resilient vinyl sheet flooring for my own bathroom redo, and Ann actually showed me the flooring I ultimately purchased for my own bath redo. Again we hit pay dirt! Wielding a sample tile, we painstakingly compared it against nearly all of the rolls of flooring and attempted to view the justaposition of colors from as many different angles as possible. We found several potential matches but eventually zeroed in on one natural field-stone pattern, the "grout lines" of which are nearly a perfect match for the wall tile color. It is varicolored (probably five different tints and tones), and a deeper color than I thought Ann would ever go for!, but neutral so she will have a wide range to play with paint color and accessories such as linens. Nice! It is the perfect flooring for the effect she is after. The most complicated part of the visit to Menards was the paint selection. We looked at many samples and generally agreed on what looked too yellowy or too orangey. We were looking for true neutrals with no overt undertones. Ann seriously thought about a light green for a time (green is her favorite color) but darker greens that provided the degree of contrast she wished for between tile and painted surfaces were too dark; the lighter greens, while lovely (I even found some that I liked, and green is not a favorite color), did not provide the necessary degree of contrast that she was aiming for. In the end, a medium "sand" color called something like Moonlit Sand, won the day. It is very pretty! I think the tile, flooring and paint colors that Ann picked out are outstanding, and will give her a splendid bathroom. She's going to love it! Here's the absolute best part: the tile is on unadvertised sale because it's on clearance, so to be safe Ann will probably pick up an extra box of 40 tiles. Kevin had advised her against buying anything on clearance, but I know that's because as a true professional, he is concerned with the ease of replacement tiles down the line, should that ever become necessary. I told Ann that because we could only buy the tiles in full boxes, she already had half a box of tile that owuld be left over that could be used for repairs/replacements in the future. Ann determined that at the extraordinary price of the tile, she could well afford to have Kevin pick up an extra box for "just in case." The resilient sheet vinyl flooring is also on sale! The Designing Goddess was sure smiling upon Ann tonight. What's more, we did it all in one store. I had thought we might be travelling from place to place tonight, picking up the tile here, and the flooring there, and the paint in yet another place. Ann also picked up a ceramic towel rod, two ceramic soap holders, and a ceramic corner shelf unit - tomorrow she will run to another Menards location to pick up the other three corner shelf units she wants. Kevin will pick up the flooring and take care of ordering the "inside and outside" corner tiles - he will know exactly what he needs to get much better than we do! Ann knew she had to get some of these inside/outside tiles, but she either didn't write it down or she wrote it down but on a different slip of paper than those she brought with us this evening for our shopping expedition. Rather than guess and buy the wrong thing that cannot be returned because it's on clearance, Ann wisely decided to let Kevin do that part of the shopping when he comes to pick up the flooring and the paint. All in all, we are very pleased with our great haul - and the cost! Ohmygoddess! The field tile cost 0.43 each! Quite a bit of difference between that and $6.99 (even with 25% off of that ridiculous price) at the high-end tile store. And frankly, looking at the tile we purchased tonight at Menards, side by side with the same color of tile from the fancy place, I would not be able to tell the difference. Paint has to be purchased, I think Ann can get by with two quarts. She won't need a gallon because most of the room is going to be tiled. Ann has the color info, so Kevin will pick up the paint soon. He begins work this Sunday - the demolition! I'm so excited for my friend! She's going to be without a bathroom tub/shower for some days, though and has a plan for how to deal with that, but Ann will have a new bathroom bef!ore Christmas, her present to herself! I can't wait to see it. Way to go Ann!
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Hola! Oh the weather outside is frightful, but the fire is so delightful... My Goddess, the wind is actually ROARING around the house. Many trees around the city have come crashing down, done in by ice loads and the strong winds. I have kept an anxious eye on my many trees. Best investment I ever made (besides this house) - the fireplace! I will be curled up before it later this evening, reading, as the wind chill drops into the danger zone (20 below zero and lower). With the advent of digital tvs the mantle is a convenient resting place for a 19" model. It still amazes me how light that tv is, and how slender! Since this is probably the last Christmas I will spend in this home I had built just for me and have lived in for the last 19 years, I have been snapping photos here and there. My digital camera - what a wonderful invention! Photo 1: This is a view from the upstairs overlook of the living room showing boxes of ornaments scattered all over the place as I continued the long process of decorating my tree. The love seat normally sits in front of the window opposite the sofa on the other side of the coffee table. It it pushed into this position to make way for the tree, and focuses on the fireplace. It is now pushed back closer to the tree with the decorating is finished. Mr. Don and I have spent many a pleasant hour during his Christmas visits sipping Bailey's Irish Cream and Christian Brothers Egg Nog while snuggling on that love seat in front of the blazing fireplace. Photo 2: Here is the partially dressed tree that I photographed either Saturday or Sunday. Both days were bright and sunny so there was a lot of light pouring into the house. I started the process on Friday evening, December 4th, by lugging the tree (it's heavy!) out of the garage and situating it just so in the front window. Thanks to some wise advice from a friend last year to tie the tree up before moving it (duh! it had not occurred to me to do so), this year the tree did not fall apart (it is in three hinged sections that are not screwed together) as I woman-handled it into the house! I spent a long time putzing with shaping the branches and vacuumed the tree (to get rid of any resident spiders), and started decorating the interior with ornaments to fill in blank spots that always show up when the light of day blazes through the window. After I got home from looking at houses with my real estate broker and writing up an offer to purchase a house, I spent several hours Saturday afternoon on December 5th putting on the gold beading. I was intent on making it "JUST SO," and added more ornaments, and finished decorating the tree on Sunday, December 6th. Photo 3: Here is a photo I took today of the completed tree. Following are two more photos of the completed tree. It was not sunny outside today with the storm in progress, so the front-on shot didn't turn out too well. The tree is "pre-lit," only meaning that white lights were already wrapped around the branches when I purchased it. That saves a lot of time putzing around putting lights on the tree! But try to find a tree these days that doesn't come already "pre-lit." Ha! Impossible. As you can see from the photos, the rest of my Christmas decorating is minimal - a few candles, a one-armed toy soldier given a spot of honor in front of the tv on the mantle -- Mr. Don rescued him from a Montreal street in 2007 and brought him to me for adoption during Christmas that year. You can see him in the first three photos. I also put out the Christmas cards I receive, which reminds me, I must pick up a box and get mine mailed out too! In this photo you can make out the line of a string of white lights I have up around the round-top window. I have kept them up all year round since I first put them up - I forget what year that was. On July 4th I light up the window for Independence Day! Since they are around the outside of the window frame rather than the inside of the frame, they aren't really noticeable from the outside, but they sure do light up the great room when I have them on. One of the first things I will do in whatever house I relocate to will be to put up a long string of white lights around the front room window. The house I put in the offer on has a very large rectangular window in the living room/great room that is perfect for such a display. It will be a fitting introduction of my style into my new neighborhood, which is filled with quietly sedate houses and landscaping. I intend to shake things up a bit :) I am plotting plans... Now, I am going to relax and come up with a decorating scheme for my friend Ann's bathroom - she has decided to pull the trigger financially and have hers redone -- removing tile that a previous owner had painted over (how COULD they have done such a horrid thing, no matter how pink the tile was). We are going shopping tomorrow night for new tile and vinyl flooring! And I think a few rounds of drinks at Kegel's will be in order too, just to warm us up. Maybe before and after shopping.
I saw this reported tonight on NBC World News. Mystery as spiral blue light display hovers above Norway By Mail Foreign Service and Will Stewart Last updated at 5:00 PM on 09th December 2009 A mysterious light display appearing over Norway last night has left thousands of residents in the north of the country baffled. Witnesses from Trøndelag to Finnmark compared the amazing sight to anything from a Russian rocket to a meteor or a shock wave - although no one appears to have mentioned UFOs yet. The phenomenon began when what appeared to be a blue light seemed to soar up from behind a mountain. It stopped mid-air, then began to circulate. Within seconds a giant spiral had covered the entire sky. Then a green-blue beam of light shot out from its centre - lasting for ten to twelve minutes before disappearing completely. The Norwegian Meteorological Institute was flooded with telephone calls after the light storm - which astronomers have said did not appear to have been connected to the aurora, or Northern Lights, so common in that area of the world. The mystery deepened tonight as Russia denied it had been conducting missile tests in the area. Fred Hansen, from Bø in Vesterålen, described the sight as 'like a big fireball that went around, with a great light around it again.' 'It spun and exploded in the sky,' Totto Eriksen from Tromsø told VG Nett. He spotted the lights as he walked his daughter Amalie to school. He said: 'We saw it from the Inner Harbor in Tromsø. It was absolutely fantastic. 'It almost looked like a rocket that spun around and around and then went diagonally down the heavens. 'It looked like the moon was coming over the mountain, but then came something completely different.' 'It was like a giant spiral - a shooting star that spun around and around. I initially thought it was a projector', added Axel Rose Berg, from Alta. Celebrity astronomer Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard told VG Nett he had never seen anything like the lights. He said: 'My first thought was that it was a fireball meteor, but it has lasted far too long. 'It may have been a missile in Russia, but I can not guarantee that it is the answer.' Air Traffic control in Tromsø claimed the light show lasted for two minutes, but admitted that was 'far too long to be an astronomical phenomena.' Tromsø Geophysical Observatory researcher Truls Lynne Hansen was certain the light had been caused by a missile launch. He told Norwegian media that the missile had likely lost control and exploded. The spiral, he claimed, was the result of light reflecting on the leaking fuel. He was quoted as saying the light was sunlight, despite the strange lights showing up at night. The Barents Observer quoted Norwegian Defence spokesman Jon Espen Lien as saying that the Norwegian military does not know what the lights were - but that they were probably from a Russian missile. He said it was normal for Russia to use the White Sea and the Barents Sea as a testing ground for missiles. However a Moscow news outlet tonight quoted the Russian Navy as denying any rocket launches from the White Sea area. [What - would anyone really expect the Russian military to tell the truth?] Norway should be informed of such launches under international agreements, it was stressed. The Russian Defence Ministry was unavailable for comment last night.
Snow day! I have been deluged with slush. Tons of slush, all piled up in my driveway in the form of massive icy boulders and stagnant rivers of slush courtesy of my friendly local snowplow driver. I have a special present for him the next time I see him... This photo, taken about 10 minutes ago (it is now 11:15 a.m.) doesn't quite catch the magnitude of the snow boulders left behind when I first saw them at 6:00 a.m. I started shovelling at 6:30 a.m. and shovelled until 7:50 a.m. - and managed to get a pathway done from the front stoop to the road. As "fast" as I could lift up a small load of slush and fling it aside more slush was forming from the wet heavy snow falling hard. It was 34 degrees F and it was raining earlier in the day.
Things are a mess out there. I thought I would be able to make it into the office and so after shovelling I cleaned up and left the house at 8:30, headed toward the nearest bus stop half a mile away. I got about 2 blocks from the house, armed with my umbrella to ward off the worst of the wet heavy snow. I turned around and came back home after my waterproof boots sprang leaks and I got sprayed twice by cars travelling on the roadway much too fast for conditions, considering only 1 lane on either side of the median strip was open. The curb area where I was walking was slush-filled, rutted, running with water, dangerous. No one has cleared their sidewalks yet and walking through the slush/snow is like walking through wet concrete. It took me 10 minutes to go those 2 blocks, another 10 minutes to get back home. Geez! This photo shows what happened to the yugo pine (one of two) that flank my front window - and this is what it looked like after I knocked off as much of the snow as I could. It's much safer and dryer here! It's snowing hard out there, and will continue to do so for hours yet. The worst of the storm is to visit us because even as it is slowly passing to the northeast, strong winds and plunging temperatures are trailing behind. By tonight the reports are 25 below zero F windchills. OUCH! My shoulders are already aching (good thing I have a strong, healthy back and strong legs) from my earlier sessions with the shovel, and more sessions are yet to come before the deep freeze hits. The plow will be coming through again, I just know it, and I'm going to be ready for him... The photo shows the present state of my neighbor's arbor vitae. Poor things!
Now the winds have really kicked up and there is a chill in the air inside the house that wasn't here before. That's a sure sign that the temperature is dropping rapidly outside. Time to change out of my work clothes and back into my shovelling clothes and get out there once again. Oh my, I am SO not looking forward to that. I can hear the vent to the range hood in the kitchen clacking loudly again so the winds are howling around the house.
Here are some pics of the redecorated/revamped upstairs bath. The bathroom was redecorated as part of my intention to coordinate the entire upstairs (three bedrooms plus bath) to an "en suite" more high fashion, but comfortable, look. I wanted a black/white toile bedroom, and the color scheme that was put in place to go with the old but still serviceable light grey carpeting was put together. The bathroom revmaps started in March with installation of a new light fixture above the sink. Gone was the cheapo box fixture that I had installed 19 years ago when the place was first built. I had always meant to replace it - and then didn't get around to it... In its place went a much more sleek antique bronze fixture with burnished gold accents and alabaster glass shades. It took longer than I had anticipated to finish the project because I had greatly overestimated my ability to do the painting, etc. myself. In the weeks before the new light fixture was installed, I had lots of fun shopping. I had purchased new towels, a new shower curtain in a lovely black/cream toile pattern, and envisioned taking down the large plate glass mirror and putting up a handsome framed mirror in its place, with Paris-oriented artwork or framed photos in black and white flanking its sides. I ended up hiring Kevin the Wonder Handyman to perform the actual work, thank Goddess for Kevin. In one of those twists of fate, I had already contracted with Kevin to paint the bathroom and master bedroom in November, before I signed the listing contract to sell the house two days before Kevin was scheduled to start painting. So the way things have turned out is now bitter sweet. I have a lovely new bathroom, all set for the new owners. The 3'x5' plate glass mirror is gone. In its place is a 2'x 3.5' beveled mirror, outer frame black, inner frame a sort of tortoise shell-finished wood. Countertops, woodwork and vanity remained the same. The walls went several shades darker and more tan than the original antique white I'd painted them 19 years before. The original cheapo vinyl which over the years had "shrunk" and pulled away from the wall behind the door and underneath the vanity was torn out and replaced. the towel rod on the wall opposite the "wet" wall was repositioned so now it is centered on the wall itself, rather than centered opposite the toilet (I never liked that location). I did not put up the framed photographs that I wanted, as the house now had to be ready for "viewing" by potential buyers, which meant stripping it of most of my personality. I love the wall color; these photos don't show it to best advantage. It is sort of a cross between wet sand and creamy peanut butter. The shower enclosure and the "decorator white" vanity top now really pop against the wall color! Kevin did a perfect paint job. I love the new flooring too! I compromised on the flooring. I had originally wanted to put down a black marble-look vinyl tile. Kevin told me that with the joints between the vinyl squares, no matter how tightly they were laid eventually they would shrink and the joint lines would widen. There was the danger of water that ended up on the vinyl leaking through to the sub-flooring. Better, he said, to put down sheet vinyl in any area where there is a potential for water to be spilled, such as in a kitchen and bathroom. Within my budget, and after searching online and in a couple of different stores, I could not locate a sheet vinyl in the black marble look that I had envisioned, so with the help of my friend, Ann, I picked out this sheet vinyl instead. It is heavily textured, has a matt finish and is soft and warm under bare feet. It is also that all important "neutral" that the real estate brokers stressed was a must. As it happened, there were two color families of this particular pattern and the "darker" one went perfectly with the new wall color. I obtained a sample and the product number and passed them along to Kevin along with the funds he requested. He picked up the vinyl he needed and one night when I came home from the office it was all finished! The shower curtain is coming with me, as are the rugs and the linens. I will leave the mirror for the new owners, although it is not technically a "fixture." I will not leave them without a decent bathroom mirror. I intend to duplicate the look of my revamped bath in the new house - wherever that may be. But I will definitely go for the "black marble look" flooring :)
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
This is a very nice group of relative unknowns with a few well-seasoned veterans for some nice spice. My guess is that the bulk of the prize money and appearance fees provided by sponsorship went for the chess dudes and not much was left over for the ladies. Only veteran and former columnist for Chess Cafe, Susan Lalic, is rated above 2300: Susan Lalic (England) IM 2310 (veteran player who has been there, done that; she has other things going on these days) Sabrina Chevannes (England) WFM 2042 Arianne Caoili (Australia) WIM 2206 (a headliner for her glamour and the scandals she has been involved in, she is a good chess player but has other goals) Olivia Smith (Wales) WFM 2026 Arlette van Weersel (Netherlands) WIM 2193 (shows flashes of brilliance but - ) Camille de Seroux (Switzerland) 1989 Elena Winkelmann (Germany) 2119 (a steady player) Maria Yurenok (England) WFM 1968 Maria Ikonomopoulou (Greece) 2065 Denise Frick (South Africa) WIM 1920 This is a 10 player all play all invitational event.
Photo: A shopper in Kewaskum, Wisconsin, looking for the perfect shovel. Kewaskum could get as much as 20 inches of snow between tonight and 6 a.m. tomorow morning. Photo from the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel's website, jsonline. Whew! That nasty blizzard is HERE, and right on schedule. Geez, our weather guys with their VIPER Radar or amazingly accurate the past few years. I had cleared to leave the office at 4 p.m. to make sure I was home before the storm started getting serious; it was snowing this morning when I left the house, but nothing out of the ordinary. Later it snowed harder, but then it stopped for most of the afternoon. When I finally left the office at 4:30 p.m., it was 40 degrees F outside! That scared the crap out of me, let me tell you, because temperatures can turn on a dime here and the streets were wet. It wasn't raining or snowing when I walked out of my building downtown, but by the time the bus hit my stop an incredibly speedy 45 minutes later, it was spitting sleet out of the east on a brisk wet wind that went right through me. By the time I did the 8 minute walk (I used to be able to do it in under 6 minutes) from the bus stop to the house, the weather had deteriorated so much I couldn't believe, except I was right out in it while it was happening! I arrived home at 5:35 p.m. and am SO glad I left early. A couple of looks outside since about 5:45 p.m. show some serious whipping snow; the vent in the kitchen for the range hood is clacking (meaning strong winds out of the northeast blowing against the vent guards on the outside). The rest of the house is creaking and groaning under the sudden assault of rapidly dropping temperatures (it will be below zero by tomorrow afternoon) and the strong winds. And - most amazing of all - I hear the sound of salt trucks coming through the subdivision. WOW. They never come through this early. Never! That means this is really serious business. Technically, Milwaukee County is just under a "winter storm warning." Yeah - National Weather Service dudes, you try walking a mile home from the bus stop with sleet and/or blinding snow blowing in your eyes, up your nose, in your mouth and 40 mph winds snatching your breath away, and not call it a blizzard. Ha!
Last night, I was left dangling, waiting for a promised counteroffer that didn't come. When I arrived at the office this morning just before 8:30 a.m., I checked my email and had not received the counteroffer for the 110th Street property. Oh oh. I didn't receive word until 9:26 a.m. I REALLY wanted to say nope, too late, our deal is null and void because the seller missed the response deadline. But then common sense kicked in. I have already looked at the cream of the crop houses in my price range in the area that are on the market, and the house I offered for was THE one. To have to start all over again, with that fear of not finding a suitable house to move to if my buyers are successful in bringing things to closing (assuming all the stuff would fall in place that I've been going through with my offer on 110th St. -- an offer on their current home being accepted, suitable time lines, my house passing inspection by their expert, etc. etc.) Oy! So even though it left a bad taste in my mouth, I signed acceptance of the damn counteroffer cutting my time to get to closing by a month - the deadline is now officially February 26, 2009. I do not for a single second believe that this will be achievable. But now I have to go forward and have an inspection within 10 days and write the check for the earnest money deposit. Cha ching! In the meantime, I have a meeting tomorrow with that loan officer from my current mortgage lender who doesn't know how to tell time - but it may be a snow day tomorrow and the office may be closed, in which case I won't be downtown and won't be making that meeting! Geez - looking out the window at the moment it apears as if everything is now coated in ice, and that 40 degree F temperature when I left the office at 4:30 pm. as since dropped down to 21 degrees F. The worst of the snow has yet to arrive...
Monday, December 7, 2009
Photo: Maison Newton. This is the main photo from the real estate brokerage website. If I do say so myself (and I do), it is a pretty home. You can see the trees (bare now), behind the roof line in the back yard. This is not a McMansion of shoddy construction, and it is just the right size. Although built in 1989-1990 (I moved into the house on August 1, 1990, had it built for myself), the floor plan has held up very well. The back of the house overlooks the back yard. It holds the kitchen, a large dinette area with sliding patio doors to a deck, and opens to a 12.6 x 18 family room that has a service door to the garage and a utility closet that shares a wall with a 3/4 bath on the first floor, that could, with minor reconfigurations, be turned into a bath with shower over tub (right now it has a full size shower, but no tub). By running a narrow wall of closet space against the family room wall that backs to the garage, and adding a wall with a door, or perhaps some french doors to cut the space off from the dinette, a main-floor master suite could be constructed. Well, that was the original plan when I had the house built. I had envisioned a private and spacious retreat/bedroom for my parents on the first floor, in the event they needed to give up their house for whatever reason. Things did not turn out that way, but the possibilities remain. I believe I am not constitutionally designed to deal with the processes of selling/buying a house. Something must have significantly changed in my genetic make-up and/or my disposition that prevents me from dealing comfortably with all of the stuff and nonsense that must be dealt with - at lightning speed! The last time I did this was 19 years ago, and it was sure a different world back then. The fastest thing we had were faxes and overnight fedex deliveries! Now - it's all BANG BANG BANG - everything has to be done with 24 hours or less! That's b.s., frankly. The entire process these days is designed to short-circuit people's brains so they do not have time to really think about what is happening and what they are doing and what they are signing. The brokers are only out for their commissions, they don't give a flying f about you. When I actually pounded the table last Saturday after viewing the houses I wanted to see protesting about how fast the agents were pushing for everything to happen, and told the agent that I wanted to READ certain provisions in the purchase contract, she was shocked! SHOCKED! I could tell she was scared crapless that moment, because she made an excuse to leave the conference room we were in at one of her firm's conveniently-located offices. Perhaps she was making an emergency cell phone call to her back-up agent. Don't get me started about the back-up agent. I have already hung up on her, obnoxious pushy. I realize she has a job to do and she wants to earn that nice big fat commission she could earn by selling this house. But this is my life. Yesterday morning - a Sunday, mind you - since when has it become routine to transact business on a Sunday? - this really bothers me - it was stressed how important it was for me to obtain something called a "prequalification letter" and what an EASY process it is to obtain such a document. So, this morning at the office I attempt to locate a telephone number for the local branch of the bank that holds my current mortgage, figuring that it would be an easy process for it to issue such a letter since they already have all of my records and best know my payment history, etc. etc. Except - I couldn't find a telephone number in the phone book; online, there was no direct telephone number listed for the branch where I make my monthly payment, and if I did not live here, I would never have recognized 400 East Washington Avenue as meaning 400 East Wisconsin Avenue as the location of the branch nearest to me. Geez! So, I call the number that I got online and get a recording saying "hello, this is so and so. I am no longer at this number. You can contact me at blah blah." So I call blah blah, wondering if so and so is still working for MY bank, or if he works somewhere else? So, I get in touch with Mr. so and so, but he can't help me, he's not a loan officer! He gives me the name of another Mr. so and so, but no telephone number, and says he will have Mr. so and so call me. So - I dig out the materials I received from my real estate broker. That company as a subsidiary that is a mortgage brokerage firm. I call that firm. I get run around and finally connected to someone's voice mail and I leave a message. Forty minutes later I receive a telephone call, and after answering a few questions the person from the mortgage brokerage says oh, you have to talk to Ms. so and so, I will have her call you right away. Then, it's 10:30 a.m. I have been on and off the telephone and online attempting to track down phone numbers and in the phone book, etc., since 8:30 a.m. AND I STILL DON'T HAVE THE PREQUALIFICATION LETTER THAT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A SNAP TO OBTAIN. Meanwhile, work is piling up on my desk. I am supposed to be working at my job, that is what I am being paid for. I am NOT supposed to be pissing away 2 hours trying to talk to SOMEONE who can get me the letter I need to take care of personal business! Mr. so and so from my current mortgage lender's mortgage branch calls me back on a cell phone which keeps cutting out - so we are shouting at each other and missing every other syllable. I do eventually understand that he is on his way to a closing and will call me "in the afternoon." Someone calls me back from the real estate company's mortgage brokerage firm. Fortunately, she is calling on a land line and I can hear her - and she me - perfectly well. She gets some information and says she will pull a credit report and let me know what's up. Of course I miss all calls, because I always manage to be away from my desk doing actual work when my telephone rings. Finally, I receive a voice mail from the real estate company's mortgage brokerage firm -- the needed prequalification letter has been done and sent to the less experienced of my real estate agents. I have excellent credit, a very high score. Well duh - they could have just asked me. But I know people lie about this type of stuff. Why they lie when it is so easy to be caught out, I have no idea, but they lie anyway. I don't waste my time lying, not even "social lies" any more. Now I just keep my mouth shut if I can't tell the truth "oh yes, Minerva, you look positively divine in that peplos that is supposed to cover all of your lumps and bumps but manages not to do so, and you've got a flabby-looking breast exposed, by the way. Gross!" Again while I am away from my desk I get a voice mail message from my current mortgage lender -- it is not yet afternoon when this call comes in. I take people at their word. If they say "I will call in the afternoon" that means after 12 o'clock noon. He calls before 12 o'clock noon. Call me back, he says. So, I do - after lunch. Again, the cell phone thing, with the call fading in and out. He does not sound too happy that in the meantime I had obtained what I needed from my real estate broker's mortgage lending company. and starts to go into all the reasons why their mortgage rates are better and less expensive closing costs, etc. I ruthlessy cut him short. I am in NO MOOD to hear anything other than "I will kiss your feet once a week on Friday evenings for the next 20 years if you give your mortgage business to our bank." Meanwhile, time is ticking away on receiving an acceptance or counter-offer from the sellers of the house for which I put in an offer. My real estate agent had been so confident that it would be accepted; I was skeptical. Turns out I was right to have an expressively raised eyebrow at the protestations of my real estate agent. I left the office at 5 p.m. without any word - not a call, not an email. It is remarkably amazing how silent the agents can be when they are not badgering you to sign sign sign RIGHT NOW! I arrived home, after a long, hard, difficult day, and cold to boot. We are expecting our first blizzard to hit sometime tomorrow evening before 5 p.m., and so I determined to stop at the supermarket and stock up on as much as I could carry: emergency rations of wine and chili fixings and milk. When I got home, there was an email waiting from my real estate agent that she had received word from the sellers' agent (on the house I offered to buy) that she thought they were going to counter to move up the closing date by 30 days. This proposed change has a domino effect on the offer that was made to buy my house yesterday. Those people now have to speed up their entire process by at least 30 days (probably more) and hope to hell they find a buyer for their house in early January who can sell their house and or come up with cash to close, etc. etc. Good fricking luck with that! Meanwhile, my real estate agents (I think when the younger one gets scared of me she brings the other one along for reinforcement) just cannot understand why I had, a few days before, called a halt to any further showings of the house until the end of January. They seem to be unable to comprehend the meaning of CHRISTMAS AND NEWS YEARS AND COMPANY VISITING ME, AND NOT ROUSTING MY GUESTS OUT OF THE HOUSE SO THAT PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEITHER THE INTENTION NOR THE MEANS OF BUYING THIS PLACE CAN COME THROUGH AND GAWK AT IT. So, that's where we are at the moment. I can reject the counter-offer I am supposed to be receiving from the sellers of 110th Street, because realistically, there is no way I would be ready to close the deal and move out of this house into 110th Street. And if those sellers think they are going to receive a cleaner offer, for their price, who can close by the time they want - well - miracles do happen every day. Did I mention the basement issue? No, I didn't. The sellers of the house I offered for obtained a condition report on their own as part of their preparing for sale, and were alerted to a potential basement problem. Basement problems in Wisconsin are par for the course. In this area we have clay soil that holds excessive moisture long after other soils dry out and stay dry and shrink to extremes long after other soils expand with moderate moisture. This kind of extremism has a devasting effect on concrete block basements, which continue to be build all over the state despite known problems with our soil vs. concrete block. Oh well! By the way, a copy of this report has not been provided to me. I am required to spend $400 plus to obtain my own home inspection. Is it just me? Isn't there something grossly wrong and really fricking crazy about this whole process? I have also just realized that I have ZERO protection in the event my offer to buy 110th Street falls apart, but my buyers somehow manage to come up to scratch. I will be out of a home with no place to go by February 26th. NOT ACCEPTABLE. My listing agent, who is acting as a "seller's agent", but also signed a separate contract with me to act as my "buyer agent" neglected to point out this little blip, and stupid me, I didn't spot it until now. Hmmmm, now I am really pissed off...
Sunday, December 6, 2009
(These are photos of the guest bedroom, which had been my temporary bedroom (north end of the house, upstairs). I had taken over this room, which had been the former guest room, earlier this year. This newly constituted guest bedroom (moved from the center bedroom), is a dummied-down version of what the room looked like while in the center bedroom, before I decided to move it lock stock and barrel into the north bedroom, and move what had been my room back into the "master bedrooom" on the south side of the house last week Friday, several days after Kevin the Handyman completed the painting. What a nightmare. But I got it done). The guest room is now "showing ready" - which means stripped of almost all personality, including anything other than generic "art work" on the walls. Bah. Humbug. I took down much, but not all, of my personal photographs and art work. It looks okay, generically speaking, but I think it sucks. It is a pretty sad state that America is in if potential buyers cannot possibly imagine what a room would look like if they "make it their own" without it being stripped of almost everything that makes a home comfortable for the present occupant.