Saturday, February 6, 2010

Auction Watch: 13th Century Arabic Chess Manuscript

ARTS OF THE ISLAMIC WORLD
Sale: L09723 | Location: London
Auction Dates: Session 1: Wed, 07 Oct 09 10:30 AM

LOT 16

A MANUSCRIPT TREATISE ON CHESS, NORTH AFRICA, CIRCA 13TH CENTURY

6,000—8,000 GBP
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 11,875 GBP READ CONDITION REPORT
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measurements
measurements note
28.2 by 21cm.


Description
Arabic manuscript on paper, 18 leaves, written small maghribi script in black in on thick cream paper, headings and catchwords in red ink, every page with numerous charts with letters in blue, red and black, in a brown morocco binding with gilt-stamped foliate cartouches and corners, with flap

Haitian Women Become Targets of Hatian Male Thieves and Rapists

It never changes, does it.  Women and children - always the ultimate victims of male avarice and perversion.

AP Report at Yahoo News
Haitian women become crime targets after quake
By PAISLEY DODDS, Associated Press Writer Paisley Dodds, Associated Press Writer – 2 hrs 11 mins ago
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti – Bernice Chamblain keeps a machete under her frayed mattress to ward off sexual predators and one leg wrapped around a bag of rice to stop nighttime thieves from stealing her daughters' food.

She's barely slept since Haiti's catastrophic earthquake Jan. 12 forced her and other homeless women and children into tent camps, where they are easy targets for gangs of men.

Women have always had it bad in Haiti. Now things are worse.

"I try not to sleep," says Chamblain, 22, who lost her father and now lives in a squalid camp with her mother and aunts near the Port-au-Prince airport. "Some of the men who escaped from prison are coming around to the camps and causing problems for the women. We're all scared but what can we do? Many of our husbands, boyfriends and fathers are dead."

Reports of attacks are increasing: Women are robbed of coupons needed to obtain food at distribution points. Others relay rumors of rape and sexual intimidation at the outdoor camps, now home to more than a half million earthquake victims.

A curtain of darkness drops on most of the encampments at night. Only flickering candles or the glow of cell phones provide light. Families huddle under plastic tarps because there aren't enough tents. With no showers and scant sanitation, men often lurk around places where women or young girls bathe out of buckets. Clusters of teenage girls sleep in the open streets while others wander the camps alone.

The government's communications minister, Marie-Laurence Jocelyn Lassegue, recently acknowledged the vulnerability of women and children but said the government was pressed to prioritize food, shelter and debris removal.

Aid groups offer special shelters for women and provide women-only food distribution points to deter men from bullying them. But challenges are rife more than three weeks after a 7.0-magnitude earthquake killed an estimated 200,000 people and left as many as 3 million in need of food, shelter and medicine.

Women who lined up for food before dawn Saturday said they were attacked by knife-wielding men who stole their coupons.

"At 4 a.m. we were coming and a group of men came out from an alley," said Paquet Marly, 28, who was waiting for rice to feed her two daughters, mother and extended family. "They came out with knives and said, 'Give me your coupons.' We were obliged to give them. Now we have nothing — no coupons and no food."

Aid organizations set up women-only distribution schemes because they trust the primary caregivers to get that food to extended family, not resell it.

"We've targeted the women because we think it's the best way to get to families," said Jacques Montouroy, a Catholic Relief Services worker helping out Saturday. "In other distributions when we've opened it up to men, we found that only half of the men would do what they were supposed to with the food."

Soldiers from the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, guard many of the streets around the distribution points, but they can't be everywhere all the time.

Aid workers say they've been staging elaborate decoy operations to draw men to one area while food coupons are given to women in another. Each of the 16 daily distributions throughout Port-au-Prince presents its own security challenges, Montouroy said.

"The coupon distribution has been hellish," he said, explaining how crowds of men swarm around the women.

Even if the women successfully make it back to the camps with their 55-pound (25-kilogram) bags of rice, that doesn't mean their worries are over. Some camps are even providing special protection for women, with tents where they can receive trauma counseling or be alone to breast-feed and care for young children.

"My sister died in the earthquake, so now I have to take care of my three daughters and my sister's two," said Magda Cayo, 42. "I try to keep them close but I see lots of hoodlums looking at them. We're all nervous. It's no good."

Women have long been second-class citizens in Haiti.

According to the United Nations, the Haitian Constitution does not specifically prohibit sexual discrimination. Under Haitian law, the minimum legal age for marriage is 15 years for women and 18 years for men, and early marriage is common. A 2004 U.N. report estimated 19 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 were married, divorced or widowed.

Rape was only made a criminal offense in Haiti in 2005.

In the months after a violent uprising ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004, thousands of women were raped or sexually abused, the British medical journal Lancet reported. The coup set off a bloody wave of clashes among Haiti's national police, pro- and anti-Aristide gangs, U.N. peacekeepers and rebels.

Because so many police stations and government offices were destroyed in the earthquake, some women may have no place to go to report assaults, according to Melanie Brooks of CARE, which is working to protect women while providing disaster relief.

She said women recovering from quake-related injuries are even more vulnerable because many are not mobile. An additional threat is HIV; Haiti has the highest infection rate in the Caribbean.

"The women whom we've talked to tell stories of rape, assaults or men following them around when they're bathing," Brooks said. "These stories are becoming the new bogeymen now. Everyone is looking over their shoulder."

Before the earthquake, the government set up a panel to look at ways of empowering Haitian women. But the Women's Ministry was among the government buildings destroyed.

Three Haitian women working on important judiciary reforms to protect women against sexual violence — Myriam Merlet, Anne Marie Coriolan and Magalie Marcelin — died in the earthquake. Many view their deaths as setbacks for all Haitian women.

As women lined up for food at the National Palace on Saturday, U.S. soldiers kept the men behind a cordon.

"It's discrimination!" said Thomas Louis, 40. "We've all lost mothers, sisters, wives. Without women we can't get coupons. They're treating men like we are animals."

Moscow Open

WGM/IM Salome Melia (GEO 2431), whom Goddesschess sponsored playing in the 2009 Montreal Open Chess Championship, is participating in the Moscow Open "C" Tournament, which is restricted to women.  140 players registered for the C event!  Here are the chess femmes rated 2300 and above:

1 WGM Ju Wenjun 2512 CHN

2 GM Zhao Xue 2504 CHN
3 IM Paehtz Elisabeth 2484 GER
4 WFM Gunina Valentina 2448 RUS
5 IM Romanko Marina 2433 RUS
6 IM Melia Salome 2431 GEO
7 WGM Munguntuul Batkhuyag 2427 MGL
8 IM Matveeva Svetlana 2391 RUS
9 WGM Kovanova Baira 2384 RUS
10 WGM Galojan Lilit 2374 ARM
11 WGM Bodnaruk Anastasia 2372 RUS
12 WGM Iljushina Olga 2367 RUS
13 WGM Girya Olga 2365 RUS
14 WIM Severiukhina Zoja 2357 RUS
15 WGM Manakova Maria 2346 SRB
16 WGM Grabuzova Tatiana 2345 RUS
17 WGM Demina Julia 2344 RUS
18 WGM Burtasova Anna 2332 RUS
19 Pustovoitova Daria 2319 RUS
20 WGM Kashlinskaya Alina 2315 RUS
21 WGM Pourkashiyan Atousa 2306 IRI
22 WIM Shumilina Alexandra 2300 RUS

I do not like that the official website has NO current standings listed.  Trying to figure out standings based solely on the Results page is baloney - do the organizers not have a computer program to do this?  Geez, guys! 

From what I can tell (which isn't much), from the results page, after Round 5 Melia, playing on Board 2 with white against WGM Tatiana Grabuzova, drew the game, and she now has 4.5 points.  But so do a hell of a lot of other players, if I am reading this "results" table correctly (not at all sure about that!) 

It seems that perhaps GM Xue Zhao is now in first place with 5.0/6, and IM Marina Romanko and WGM Atousa Pourkashiyan also have a share of first with 5.0/6 -- hmmm, maybe I'll just wait for the final cross-table to come out, LOL!

GM Hou Yifan (CHN 2590) is playing in the "A" Tournament (starting rank 34). As far as I could tell during one swift perusal of the starting players' list, she is one of only 3 women in the 187 player field.  The other two intrepid chess femmes in this event are 119 WGM Savina Anastasia 2407 RUS and 159 WIM Vasilkova Svetlana 2332 RUS.

Hmmm, Hou Yifan is not having a good event thus far - 2.0 after 6 rounds, having lost behind the white pieces to an untitled, player who came into the Tournament ranked 108th to her 34th.  Oh my.
42 34 GM Hou Yifan 2Ѕ 0 - 1 2Ѕ Belous Vladimir 108

Gibtelecom (Gibraltar) 2010

Here are the final standings for all of the chess femmes:

Rank Name Score Fed. Rating TPR
10 WGM Zhukova, Natalia 7.0 UKR 2462 2686 (wins 8,000 BPS)
12 GM Koneru, Humpy 7.0 IND 2614 2663 (wins 4,000 BPS)
21 GM Stefanova, Antoaneta 6.5 BUL 2545 2614 
24 GM Cramling, Pia 6.5 SWE 2528 2546
27 IM Javakhishvili, Lela 6.5 GEO 2493 2535
29 GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra 6.5 RUS 2523 2519
31 GM Dzagnidze, Nana 6.5 GEO 2506 2488
32 IM Harika, Dronavalli 6.5 IND 2471 2478
34 IM Cmilyte, Viktorija 6.5 LTU 2489 2445
37 WIM Cori T., Deysi 6.5 PER 2412 2393
38 WGM Karavade, Eesha 6.5 IND 2405 2360
39 WGM Reizniece, Dana 6.5 LAT 2341 2359
41 IM Dworakowska, Joanna 6.5 POL 2374 2273
44 IM Krush, Irina 6.0 USA 2455 2495
54 IM Houska, Jovanka 6.0 ENG 2401 2350
58 WFM Tjolsen, Katrine 6.0 NOR 2212 2325
65 IM Zatonskih, Anna 5.5 USA 2466 2411
68 IM Tania, Sachdev 5.5 IND 2398 2359
75 IM Sedina, Elena 5.5 ITA 2335 2319
77 IM Zozulia, Anna 5.5 BEL 2321 2309
81 GM Arakhamia-Grant, Ketevan 5.5 SCO 2470 2266
89 WGM Calzetta Ruiz, Monica 5.5 ESP 2359 2206
106 WGM Nadig, Kruttika 5.0 IND 2240 2225
107 WFM Videnova, Iva 5.0 BUL 2301 2214
123 WIM Schoene, Maria 5.0 GER 2251 2084
145 WIM Martsynovskaya, Marina 4.5 FRA 2184 2054
180 Lochte, Szilvia 4.0 HUN 2032 1919
189 Carlsen, Ingrid Oen 3.5 NOR 1508 1641
198 Hansen, Erle Andrea Marki 3.0 NOR 1699 1749
208 Jacobsen, Caroline Beer 2.5 NOR 0 1593
212 Chidi, Lovinia Sylvia 2.0 GER 1832 1683
215 Reci, Nadja 1.5 SUI 0 1550
223 Agdestein, Victoria 0.0 NOR 0 1166
224 Grodas, Margrethe Bjerkem 0.0 NOR 0 1140

GM Michael Adams won the overall Masters after play-offs among the top four players, and he took home the top prize of 15,000 BPS with 7.5 points.  Here are the top American finishers:

5 GM Kamsky, Gata 7.5 USA M 2693 2719
9 IM Lenderman, Alex 7.5 USA M 2560 2652 (GM Susan Polgar reports this should get him his GM title)
28 IM Shankland, Samuel L 6.5 USA M 2491 2535
33 GM Bhat, Vinay S. 6.5 USA M 2540 2477
36 IM Sarkar, Justin 6.5 USA M 2378 2408
56 FM Zaremba, Andrie 6.0 USA M 2360 2338
176 Sigamoney, Cyril S 4.0 USA M 0 1965

Last Speaker of Ancient Bo Language Has Died

This is a very sad story (in more ways than one) from a few days ago - here are two reports (many more reports online).

Last speaker of ancient language of Bo dies in India
By Alastair Lawson
BBC News
February 4, 2010

The last speaker of an ancient language in India's Andaman Islands has died at the age of about 85, a leading linguist has told the BBC.
Professor Anvita Abbi said that the death of Boa Sr was highly significant because one of the world's oldest languages - Bo - had come to an end.

She said that India had lost an irreplaceable part of its heritage.

Languages in the Andamans are thought to originate from Africa. Some may be 70,000 years old.  The islands are often called an "anthropologist's dream" and are one of the most linguistically diverse areas of the world.

'Infectious'

Professor Abbi - who runs the Vanishing Voices of the Great Andamanese (Voga) website - explained: "After the death of her parents, Boa was the last Bo speaker for 30 to 40 years.

"She was often very lonely and had to learn an Andamanese version of Hindi in order to communicate with people. But throughout her life she had a very good sense of humour and her smile and full-throated laughter were infectious."

She said that Boa Sr's death was a loss for intellectuals wanting to study more about the origins of ancient languages, because they had lost "a vital piece of the jigsaw".

"It is generally believed that all Andamanese languages might be the last representatives of those languages which go back to pre-Neolithic times," Professor Abbi said. "The Andamanese are believed to be among our earliest ancestors."

Boa Sr's case has also been highlighted by the Survival International (SI) campaign group. "The extinction of the Bo language means that a unique part of human society is now just a memory," SI Director Stephen Corry said.

'Imported illnesses'

She said that two languages in the Andamans had now died out over the last three months and that this was a major cause for concern.

Academics have divided Andamanese tribes into four major groups, the Great Andamanese, the Jarawa, the Onge and the Sentinelese. Professor Abbi says that all apart from the Sentinelese have come into contact with "mainlanders" from India and have suffered from "imported illnesses".

She says that the Great Andamanese are about 50 in number - mostly children - and live in Strait Island, near the capital Port Blair.

Boa Sr was part of this community, which is made up of 10 "sub-tribes" speaking at least four different languages.

The Jarawa have about 250 members and live in the thick forests of the Middle Andaman. The Onge community is also believed to number only a few hundred.

"No human contact has been established with the Sentinelese and so far they resist all outside intervention," Professor Abbi said.

It is the fate of the Great Andamanese which most worries academics, because they depend largely on the Indian government for food and shelter - and abuse of alcohol is rife.

Another article, this one from The Independent:

With the death of Boa Sr, her people and their songs fall silent forever
Final survivor of ancient tribe spoke of the sadness of having no one left to talk to
By Andrew Buncombe, Asia Correspondent
Friday, 5 February 2010

When Boa Sr sang in her own language, the result was gently hypnotic. "The earth is shaking as the tree falls, with a great thud," she sang, on a recording captured by linguists.

But the grey-haired, 85-year-old woman will not be heard again. And neither will her native tongue – Bo – aside from the recordings that have already been made. Campaigners revealed yesterday that the recent death of Boa Sr on India's remote Andaman Islands marked the end of the Bo tribe and the loss of a language.

"With the death of Boa Sr and the extinction of the Bo language, a unique part of human society is now just a memory," said Stephen Corry, director of the group Survival International. "Boa's loss is a bleak reminder that we must not allow this to happen to the other tribes of the Andaman Islands."

Boa Sr was the oldest member of the Great Andamanese, an indigenous group of the Andamans, a cluster of islands 700 miles east of the Indian mainland in the Bay of Bengal. The Great Andamanese once numbered more than 5,000 and were made up of 10 distinct groups each with their own language.

The Bo are believed to have lived on the islands for as long as 65,000 years, making them one of the oldest surviving human cultures. But today, after more than 150 years of contact with colonisers, the diseases they brought with them, and the disastrous impact of alcohol, the Great Andamanese number just 52.

Professor Anvita Abbi, a linguist at Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, spent many years speaking with Boa Sr, usually in a version of Hindi spoken on Great Andaman. Her greatest sadness, said Professor Abbi, was that as the last of her kind she could not speak to anyone in her own language. "Boa was the last of the Bo tribe. That is what was so sad – that she had no one," she said.

According to Survival, when British colonial forces failed to pacify the tribes through violence in the 19th century, they sought to "civilise" them by capturing many and keeping them in an institution. But of some 150 children born in the so-called Andaman Home, none lived beyond the age of two.

Boa Sr, known for an infectious laugh, survived the Asian tsunami of December 2004. She told linguists: "We were all there when the earthquake came. The eldest told us 'the Earth would part, don't run away or move'. The elders told us, that's how we know."

The Great Andamanese are not alone in struggling for their survival. Another of the islands' tribes, the Onge, number no more than 100 after eight of their number died in late 2008 after drinking from bottles that had washed ashore.

The Jarawa tribe are threatened by a recently completed road that has joined several of the islands and brought in settlers, poachers and alcohol. Perhaps the most secure are the Sentinelese, who live on the island of North Sentinel and resist all efforts at communication by the outside world. In the aftermath of the tsunami, one of the tribe was famously photographed aiming a bow and arrow at an emergency helicopter. The Indian government's policy is to make no further contact with them.

Professor Abbi said that Boa Sr often told her how she envied the fact that the Jarawa and the Sentinelese had managed to avoid contact with outsiders. She recalled: "She used to say they were better off in the jungle."

Friday, February 5, 2010

A Place Where Cultures Met

Fascinating article from The New York Times. I don't know what I'm going to do when it goes pay per view next year. I hope the financial model does NOT work and I'll get my free New York Times back. Please.  Does this look like an "imaginary animal" to you?  It looks like an elephant to me, despite the funky toes and truncated body. Identification of graphic: Librado Romero/The New York Times -- A stone carving of an imaginary animal, the Gajasimha, from Thap Mam, Binh Dinh province, in the 12th to 13th century.

Gaja is one of several Sanskrit terms for an elephant.  It's not hard to figure this out by looking at the carving - it has tusks and the an upturned nose/trunk.  Simha - I'm guessing - it's a lion (like "Simba" from The Lion King - demonstrating my total ignorance but brilliant guessing capability???)  The toes and the general shape of the body, along with the long tail curved against the rear flank, suggest an oriental rendering of a lion - such as in Chinese "foo dogs."  So, this figure is a combination of two powerful, totemic animals with ancient religious and mystical significance across several cultures.

Ancient Sphere Where Cultures Mingled
By HOLLAND COTTER
Published: February 4, 2010

In 1988 the art historian Nancy Tingley, then a curator at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, went to Vietnam to talk with museums about borrowing examples of the country’s ancient art for the first major United States exhibition. It was a bold idea. To most Americans, Vietnam still meant little more than the memory of a nightmare war. And who knew it had a great art tradition, never mind museums that preserved it?

The show didn’t happen. The diplomatic situation was volatile; negotiating loans proved impossible. The Asian Art Museum dropped out as a sponsor, and even after new ones signed on, the project remained in limbo. But Ms. Tingley stuck with her original plans, and her persistence, 20 years on, has paid off in “Arts of Ancient Vietnam: From River Plain to Open Sea” at the Asia Society Museum. Is the show worth the wait? It is. It’s fabulous. Perfectly (meaning modestly) scaled, with the kind of Asian art loans — matchless in quality, straight from the source — that we rarely see here anymore.

From the moment you enter the galleries you’re seeing things you won’t find anywhere else and certainly not in this combination: a bronze drum as hefty as a hot tub; a wooden Buddha, tall, dark and Giacometti-thin. Avid-eyed Hindu deities keep company with contortionist dancers. A tiny serpent of beaten gold basks in a spotlight. Ceramic plates and bowls crowd a room just as they had once filled the hold of a ship that went down in the South China Sea.

Once you’ve made your way through the society’s suave installation, you’ve seen treasures from 10 Vietnamese museums. You’ve time-traveled from the first millennium B.C. to the 17th century A.D. And you’ve style-traveled through dozens of cultures both inside and outside Vietnam itself.

Geographically Vietnam was made for trade. A narrow slice of land with a 2,000-mile coastline running from China to Cambodia, it was open to the world whether it wanted to be or not. Where nearby countries like Laos and Thailand are chunky and dense in shape, Vietnam measures at certain points less than 40 miles across. It has virtually no interior, no way to shut its doors and retreat.

As important as accessibility was its location at a nodal point where international shipping routes met. With countless natural harbors — its coastline might have been cut with pinking shears — Vietnam made an ideal layover for sea traffic. It also made a lucrative global marketplace and as such gave as good as it got.

It absorbed early formative influences from China, evident in metalwork (seen in the show’s first gallery) from the prehistoric Dong Son culture that settled in northern Vietnam in the last half of the first millennium B.C. At the time Vietnam itself was valued for its creative vitality. The bronze ritual drums made by Dong Son artists were sought-after collector items, with examples, some weighing close to 400 pounds, turning up not only in China but across Southeast Asia as well.

With the rise of the pre-Angkor state of Fu Nan in the Mekong Delta in the first centuries A.D., Vietnam’s cultural spheres expanded further. We still don’t know much about Fu Nan — there’s a lot of basic archaeological catch-up work to be done — though we do know that its people established harbor cities and experienced a wave of influence from India, which led to adopting Buddhism and Hinduism and their intertwined traditions of religious sculpture.

The tall wooden Buddha, its features time-smoothed almost to invisibility and its figure in profile like a parenthesis, reflects post-Gupta style conventions current on the subcontinent in the sixth century. But it was Hinduism that really caught on, first with the worship of Vishnu. We see him, with the breath-swelled body of a yogi and wearing a princely crown, in a stone figure on loan from the Ho Chi Minh City Fine Arts Museum.

Devotion to Shiva also became in vogue, and soon much of the rest of the Hindu pantheon found its way into Fu Nan and its art: Ganesha, with his elephant’s head and pudgy body; Durga, a blank-faced warrior-goddess stripped down to her skirt for a fight; and Surya, the sun god, in his buttoned-up untropical attire of West Asian tunic and boots.

These immigrant divinities showered Fu Nan with prosperity until the mid-seventh century; then their largesse stopped. For reasons we can only surmise — maybe the appearance of overwhelming commercial competition — a vital state grew moribund and gradually dropped from sight.

Rest of article...
Board Games Studies
XIII Colloquium
Paris, France
April 14 - 17, 2010

It is so unfortunate that the colloquia are usually held in April.  I can NEVER get away in April - it's tax season from January 1st until April 15th, for Goddess' sake!  Here is the revised provisional schedule - 37 presentations and many of them I would love to hear.  I am so sad.

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, "The Game of Go: recent progress for an old game"

Fabien Teytaud, "The 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, "Chronologies using British 19th-century Intellectual Property records: Ludo, Agon and Reversi"

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)"

Tom Werneck, "The impact of the Award ‘Spiel des Jahres’ on the Development of the Market for Board Games in Germany"

Discussion

Friday 16 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

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

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"

Irving Finkel, "A very early counting system in traditional Indian games
and some implications"

Piotr Adamczyk, "Short history of board games in Poland (from around 1st cent. A.D. till 17th cent.)"

Discussion

Saturday 17 April, afternoon 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"

Manouk Borzakian, "Pistes pour une approche géographique des jeux de plateau"

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

A Girly Evening

I wouldn't exactly say I got suckered into coming.  After all, it was a party being hosted by one of my sisters and one of my nieces, and I didn't have a really good excuse for not going, since this sis also works downtown and offered to motor me to her home (the location of the party) and back to my home (waaayyyy across town).  So, I said okay, I'll come -- secretly hoping she'd forget all about me when the day came...

But she didn't forget about me.  So, last night, I met my sis Yvonne at the mall and we arrived at her place about 5:40.  The "party" - a presentation by a representative of L'Bri, a company founded by a Wisconsin couple, was due to start at 6:30 more or less.  While I fed myself and chatted with my brother-in-law, a great-niece, a great-nephew, my sister, a niece and a niece-in-law (is that a legal term?) and received an education on Sponge Pants Bob on cable television courtesy of my great-niece -- my sister, niece and niece-in-law chopped, blended, mixed, and laid out a veritable smorgasbord of food (enough to feed Coxy's Army - 10 bonus points if you remember hearing that expression from your parents!)

Soon enough we were all seated around tables and faced with magnifying mirrors (which I did not look into the entire evening, thank you very much), and the presentation began.  I had done some research before hand and I was not able to locate a single negative comment about the products.  That, in and of itself, was very strange!  So, I was prepared to be skeptical about any outlandish claims, although I would be a good sister and keep my mouth shut about my doubts!

I have to say Liz is very good at what she does, and very natural.  It was soon clear either she is the best damn actress in the entire world or she is just a warm, friendly person who is totally in love with the products she sells.  Everyone had a good time as we sampled various products in the skin care line, and I eventually volunteered to have one-half of my face made-over with L'Bri's cosmetic product line.  Half of me was gorgeous by the end of the evening...

It was a fun time.  I spent too much but, what the hell, it's my sister.  She has been using the products for 2 weeks and has been impressed by the changes she has seen in the condition and texture of her skin.  She also convinced my brother-in-law to try the body lotion, and -- he's such a good sport, LOL! -- he was called out of the sanctuary of the family room  to show us newly-smooth elbows minus alligator skin, thanks to using the body lotion daily.  As I am also plagued with Wisconsin alligator skin during the long, cold, dry winters (I think a lot of us are, but it is a topic swept under the rug, you know...)  My sis is no one's fool, and if she was impressed with these products, I figured it's a gamble well worth taking. 

What I liked most of all is that you are not pressured to buy anything.  I also liked that an order is not a 'repeat' order like, unfortunately, so many skin care products are sold on the internet today -- you must provide a credit card number, you must have automatic order refill ever 30, 60 or 90 days at a set (usually close to $100) price.  You must cancel via email (yeah, good luck with that!) if you decide you no longer want to order the product.  Bla bla bla.  L'Bri isn't like that - which I really appreciate.

And this was fun, being with family, old friends, some new friends, gossipping, good munchies (I restricted myself to cucumber, green pepper and pretzel rounds) while trying out the products.  I have to say I was impressed with how the products worked.  So - 20 years off in 3 weeks!!!  Nah - that's not a claim Liz the L'Bri lady made to anyone, LOL!  That's what I want!!! 

Hell, I'll take 10 years.  I'll report back in 3 weeks and let you know what I think.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Poker Bride: A Story of Escape from Sexual Slavery

A book review, from The Wall Street Journal online:
From Far East to American West
Thanks to a poker game, she escaped the grim fate of so many Chinese women in 19th-century America.

By MELANIE KIRKPATRICK
In 1923, an old woman arrived on horseback in the central Idaho town of Grangeville. She rode down from the remote Salmon River Canyon where she had lived for 50 years with her late husband. She had never seen a train, been to a movie or ridden in a car. A local newspaper dubbed her a modern Rip Van Winkle.

Thus begins one of the more curious stories in the history of American immigrants. The woman, Polly Bemis, was Chinese. She had left her village in the Pearl River Delta, in southern China, more than a half-century earlier, sold by her starving parents to brokers who roamed the countryside looking for pretty girls to work in the sex trade in California. She was shipped to San Francisco, where she was purchased for a wealthy Chinese merchant in a mining town in the Idaho Territory. The year was 1872.

Not long after Polly arrived in Idaho, the merchant lost her in a poker game to a saloon keeper by the name of Charlie Bemis. When Charlie was badly injured in a shootout over a gold stake, Polly nursed him back to health. He then did something almost unheard of for a white man in the Wild West: He married her.

Polly's story, as told by Christopher Corbett in "The Poker Bride," is also the history of the first Chinese immigrants to arrive in the American West. While Mr. Corbett's focus is on the women, he provides a colorful overview of the Chinese experience in general and the appalling discrimination they suffered.

Before the transcontinental railroad, a ship could cross the Pacific Ocean faster than the Pony Express could travel from the West to the East Coast. So in 1848 the news of gold in California reached Hong Kong before it reached Boston. Thousands of Chinese risk takers set sail for what they called the Golden Mountain. In the U.S., they were dubbed "Celestials" or "Sojourners" or "Chinamen," a designation that did not become a slur until later, Mr. Corbett says. Mark Twain, Bret Harte and Ambrose Bierce—all writers he describes as sympathetic to the Chinese—called them "Chinamen."

At first, Mr. Corbett observes, Americans welcomed Chinese as exotic "curiosities." But as their numbers increased, so did public sentiment against them. Chinese, who were willing to work for low wages, were accused of stealing jobs from Americans. Virtually all newspaper accounts "portrayed the Chinese as thieving, shifty, and untrustworthy."

Yet at the height of the Chinese Must Go campaign of the 1880s, there were only about 100,000 Chinese in the country. Given that there were 50 million people in the U.S. at that time, Chinese accounted for a mere one-fifth of 1% of the national population. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred the entry of Chinese for 10 years. The Geary Act of 1892 required Chinese in the U.S. to carry residency permits. Charlie Bemis may have married Polly in 1894 in part to reduce the risk that she would be deported.

Polly was one of the lucky ones. Most Chinese women who reached the U.S. in the second half of the 19th century were forced into prostitution. Under the discriminatory laws of the day, which were aimed at encouraging Chinese workers to go home, wives were prohibited from coming to join their husbands in the U.S. Young Chinese women were either smuggled into the country or allowed to enter by officials who knew that they were destined for the sex trade.

There was a class system among prostitutes, Mr. Corbett notes, and Chinese women ranked at the bottom. Chinese prostitutes rarely worked in high-class brothels alongside white women. The most fortunate, like Polly, were sold as concubines. But most were destined for "cribs" or "hog ranches"— essentially huts partitioned by curtains—where they serviced many men in a single night. Mr. Corbett quotes a reporter of the day who visited San Francisco's Chinatown and who related the pitch of a Chinese crib girl: "Two bittee lookee, flo bittee feelee, six bittee doee."

The crib girls usually succumbed to venereal disease at a young age. As recounted in an 1869 article in the San Francisco Chronicle, an ailing prostitute would be locked into a "hospital," where she would be given a cup of water, a cup of rice and an oil lamp. If she wasn't dead by the time the lamp went out, the doctor would hasten the process along. "They come for a corpse, and they never go away without it," as the reporter put it.

Mr. Corbett is a journalist, formerly with the Associated Press and now teaching at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, and "The Poker Bride" has a journalistic quality. The book is crammed full of quotations from contemporaneous sources and from books by scholars who have written on the Chinese experience. But it's too much of a good thing. While the quotations often add authority and color, they can also be distracting and impede the narrative flow.

At the close of "The Poker Bride," a photo shows Polly at home on the Bemis ranch. She is standing with two horses and a bushel basket at her feet. Her hair is pinned up neatly in a bun, and she is dressed in an ankle-length cotton dress that is protected by a long white apron. The only thing that differentiates her from other American frontierswomen is her face.

Before settling down on the ranch, Polly had run a boarding house and worked as a nurse. By all accounts she was energetic, hard-working and generous to those in need. In short, she thrived. Her success was not typical of the Chinese in America at that time. But on one level it reflects the essence of the American immigrant experience.

Ms. Kirkpatrick is a former deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page.
***********************************************************************
The trafficking of women and especially children for sexual exploitation is rampant today.  It is worse than it ever was.  In China, where there is a growing and severe shortage of marriageable age females, these crimes will only get worse.  Already the Communist authorities are worried about potential political unrest due to the unavailability of marriageable-age women.  There are millions of young men ready to marry - and they cannot find a mate.

This is what happens in a society that does not respect the natural balance between the sexes, but aborts female fetuses by the millions and exposes female infants to die in gutters and gullies because sons are preferable.  The entire problem is exascerbated by the "one child" rule in over-populated China.

India faces similar problems, although they do not have a "one child" rule - yet.  In India it is easy for even the poorest families to obtain an ultrasound of a pregnant woman's fetus to determine the child's sex.  Female fetuses are routinely aborted because of the cultural preference for sons.  Add to that the practice of systemically murdering widows in the age-honored (although long outlawed) practice of sutee - well, you get the picture. 

These two countries represent more than two-fifths of the world's entire population.  Instead of serious discussions about the warped cultural values that allow female fetuses, infants and grown women to be killed with impunity, the governments are allowing the increasing sexual imbalance beween males and females to spin out of control.  In China, I believe the present imbalance is 134 males for every 100 females of "marriageable" age.  Contrast that ratio with the traditional birthrate of 105 males to 100 females:

The reason for the difference, says Christopher Wills, professor of ecology, behavior and evolutionary biology at the University of California at San Diego, is that Mother Nature stacks the deck in favor of male births. Nature gives males an edge at birth because male fetuses and babies are less hardy than female fetuses and babies. So, by the time males reach the age at which they can reproduce, there should be a one-to-one ratio.   Article.

Just on a guess, after I read this book review earlier today, I did a quick search under "poker bride" and - sure enough - a story emerged that has nothing to do with the book of 19th century sexual slavery in the United States per se, but everything to do with the inequities visited on females by perverted societies:

From ctv news online:

Pakistan girl was to be poker debt bride
Associated Press
Date: Tuesday Feb. 27, 2007 11:29 PM ET
KARACHI, Pakistan — Police are seeking 10 men, including several tribal elders, accused of pressuring a Pakistani woman to hand over her teenage daughter as payment for a 16-year-old poker debt, officials said Tuesday.

In the latest case highlighting how conservative customs threaten women's rights in Pakistan, Nooran Umrani alleges that, despite paying off her late husband's debt of $165, she was threatened with harm if she failed to hand over her daughter, Rasheeda.

The 17-year-old was to be surrendered as a bride for the son of Lal Haider, the man who won the card game years before, Umrani told reporters on Monday in Hyderabad, 100 miles northeast of Karachi.

Umrani said her husband was a gambler who ran up the debt at a poker game when Rasheeda was 1 year old. He promised Haider that he would get Rasheeda in lieu of payment when she grew up, the mother said.

Koral Shah, a Hyderabad police officer, said both families belong to the Umrani tribe of Pakistan's impoverished Baluchistan province.

He said a group of elders from the tribe came to Hyderabad in January to investigate the case and had ruled that, under tribal custom, the girl should be married to Haider's 23-year-old son Abdul Ghani.

Police want to arrest the elders, he said.

Police said Tuesday the mother and daughter were in their protection and that an investigation was opened against Haider, his son and eight others.

"We are investigating the matter and vigorously searching" for the men, Hyderabad police chief Irfan Bhutto said.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has vowed to give women more rights in line with his policy to project Pakistan as a moderate, progressive Islamic nation.

In December, Musharraf signed into law a bill that makes it easier to prosecute rape cases in the courts, and the country's ruling party recently introduced a bill to outlaw forced marriages, including under tribal custom in which women are married off in order to settle disputes.

So, warped religious values too, have a role to play in the growing grievous issue of gender imbalance in the so-called "developing" nations.  Developing, my ass.

I would say ha ha, you deserve what you get, stupid males in stupid backward countries and believers in stupid backward religions, and I hope you all go the way of the do-do bird, except that it is always women and children who suffer for the stupidity of men, no matter where. 

I feel a great deal of sympathy for the Amazons, they may have had it right after all. 

"Kushan" Dice Found in India

Pre-historic findings in Rajasthan district
February 3, 2010
Special Correspondent Article from The Hindu Online:

JAIPUR: Fragments of pre-historic ostrich eggshells estimated to be 25,000 years old and earthen dice belonging to the Kushan period are the latest additions to a treasure trove of archaeological objects discovered in Bundi district of Rajasthan. The findings are set to throw new light on the hoary past of the Hadauti region which is believed to have sustained an ancient civilisation.

Amateur archaeologist Om Prakash Sharma alias Kukki, who has made the spectacular discoveries, was honoured at the Republic Day ceremony of the Directorate of Archaeology at Albert Hall Museum here on January 26.

A barely literate grocer with a passion for artefacts of yore, Kukki has discovered rock paintings belonging to the Mesolilithic-Chalcolithic age and numismatic objects and tools of the Copper Age and the Mauryan and post-Gupta period in the vast hilly tracts of Bundi, Kota and Bhilwara districts over the past two decades.  .  .  .  .

Kukki says he discovered about 20 earthen dice from the mounds in Richcha Ki Jhonpriya hamlet, 34 km from Bundi, at the end of the previous monsoon when the soil from the mounds shifted naturally. “The small cubes are tastefully designed with lines, which probably denote the number assigned to each of them,” he says.

The dice, used on the chessboard for the indoor games of chance, belong to the Kushan period of 1st to 3rd Century A.D. Kukki affirmed that if the sand mounds in the region are excavated the traces of an ancient civilisation and human habitation could be found, connecting the missing links in Indian history.


*********************************************************************
Note: I am thinking that the "earthen dice" must be some form of hard-fired clay, otherwise they probably would not have survived since the 2nd or 3rd century, CE. 

Gibtelecom (Gibraltar) 2010

Things are tightening up at the top - I actually thought R9, which was held today, was the final round! Wrongo, Jan. Goddess, I can't stand the tension!  I have no idea what's going to happen tomorrow.  The top 4 male players will face off against each other.  Will they go for a win or will they go for GM draws and take the chance that the tier of players right underneath them will go for draws too, and not too many will come out with wins to dilute the prize pool. I'm rooting for the chess femmes all the way.

The chess femmes will have their own battle going on, and I think each of them will be going for wins, regardless of what is happening in the larger Masters. 

Right now, there are four players tied with 7.0/9:

1 GM Movsesian, Sergei 7.0 SVK M 2708
2 GM Vallejo Pons, Francisco 7.0 ESP M 2705
3 GM Adams, Michael 7.0 ENG M 2694
4 GM Gustafsson, Jan 7.0 GER M 2627

There are 14 players right behind, at 6.5, including several of the chess femmes:

5 GM Bacrot, Etienne 6.5 FRA M 2713
6 GM Kamsky, Gata 6.5 USA M 2693
7 GM Fressinet, Laurent 6.5 FRA M 2670
8 GM Fridman, Daniel 6.5 GER M 2654
9 GM Sandipan, Chanda 6.5 IND M 2622
10 GM Koneru, Humpy 6.5 IND F 2614
11 GM Geetha Narayanan Gopal 6.5 IND M 2584
12 IM Lenderman, Alex 6.5 USA M 2560
13 GM Stefanova, Antoaneta 6.5 BUL F 2545
14 GM Cramling, Pia 6.5 SWE F 2528
15 GM Bindrich, Falko 6.5 GER M 2512
16 IM Javakhishvili, Lela 6.5 GEO F 2493
17 WGM Zhukova, Natalia 6.5 UKR F 2462
18 IM Boskovic, Drasko 6.5 SRB M 2454

AND, to jazz things up even further, there are 18 players with 6.0 points, only 1 point behind the leaders and 1/2 point behind the pack that are breathing down their necks!

19 GM Cheparinov, Ivan 6.0 BUL M 2660
20 GM Istratescu, Andrei 6.0 ROU M 2607
21 GM Felgaer, Ruben 6.0 ARG M 2591
22 GM Halkias, Stelios 6.0 GRE M 2566
23 GM Lemos, Damian 6.0 ARG M 2556
24 GM Malakhatko, Vadim 6.0 BEL M 2549
25 GM Naumann, Alexander 6.0 GER M 2525
26 GM Speelman, Jon S 6.0 ENG M 2525
27 GM Guliyev, Namig 6.0 AZE M 2516
28 IM Kapnisis, Spyridon 6.0 GRE M 2510
29 GM Hoffmann, Michael 6.0 GER M 2508
30 IM Cori, Jorge J 6.0 PER M 2483
31 IM Krush, Irina 6.0 USA F 2455
32 IM Vernay, Clovis 6.0 FRA M 2442
33 IM Sarkar, Justin 6.0 USA M 2378
34 IM Dworakowska, Joanna w 6.0 POL F 2374
35 FM Avalos Parra, Joao 6.0 CHI M 2245
36 Ivanov, Stojan Emilov 6.0 BUL M 2198

Here are the ladies' standings after R9:

Rank Name Flags Score Fed. M/F Rating TPR
10 GM Koneru, Humpy 6.5 IND F 2614 2687
13 GM Stefanova, Antoaneta 6.5 BUL F 2545 2661
14 GM Cramling, Pia 6.5 SWE F 2528 2571
16 IM Javakhishvili, Lela 6.5 GEO F 2493 2569
17 WGM Zhukova, Natalia 6.5 UKR F 2462 2688
31 IM Krush, Irina 6.0 USA F 2455 2528
34 IM Dworakowska, Joanna w 6.0 POL F 2374 2244
40 GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra 5.5 RUS F 2523 2493
41 GM Dzagnidze, Nana 5.5 GEO F 2506 2457
43 IM Cmilyte, Viktorija 5.5 LTU F 2489 2414
45 IM Harika, Dronavalli 5.5 IND F 2471 2455
49 WIM Cori T., Deysi J 5.5 PER F 2412 2362
51 WGM Karavade, Eesha 5.5 IND F 2405 2347
52 IM Houska, Jovanka w 5.5 ENG F 2401 2321
53 IM Tania, Sachdev 5.5 IND F 2398 2379
60 WGM Reizniece, Dana 5.5 LAT F 2341 2290
73 IM Sedina, Elena 5.0 ITA F 2335 2340
78 WIM Schoene, Maria 5.0 GER F 2251 2125
82 WFM Tjolsen, Katrine J 5.0 NOR F 2212 2322
97 GM Arakhamia-Grant, Ketevan 4.5 SCO F 2470 2236
98 IM Zatonskih, Anna 4.5 USA F 2466 2403
99 WGM Calzetta Ruiz, Monica 4.5 ESP F 2359 2172
100 IM Zozulia, Anna 4.5 BEL F 2321 2286
101 WFM Videnova, Iva 4.5 BUL F 2301 2224
113 WIM Martsynovskaya, Marina w 4.5 FRA F 2184 2114
132 WGM Nadig, Kruttika 4.0 IND F 2240 2186
166 Lochte, Szilvia 3.5 HUN F 2032 1915
193 Hansen, Erle Andrea Marki J 3.0 NOR F 1699 1776
195 Carlsen, Ingrid Oen J 3.0 NOR F 1508 1600
208 Chidi, Lovinia Sylvia 2.0 GER F 1832 1683
215 Jacobsen, Caroline Beer J 1.5 NOR F 0 1442
216 Reci, Nadja 1.5 SUI F 0 1550
221 Agdestein, Victoria J 0.0 NOR F 0 1166 (dropped out after R4)
222 Grodas, Margrethe Bjerkem J 0.0 NOR F 0 1140 (dropped out after R4)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Immortal Cells of Henrietta Lacks

From the Smithsonian Magazine

Henrietta Lacks' cells were essential in developing the polio vaccine and were used in scientific landmarks such as cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization.
By Sarah Zielinski
Smithsonian.com
January 22, 2010

Journalist Rebecca Skloot’s new book investigates how a poor black tobacco farmer had a groundbreaking impact on modern medicine
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot
Crown Publishing Group
2010

Medical researchers use laboratory-grown human cells to learn the intricacies of how cells work and test theories about the causes and treatment of diseases. The cell lines they need are “immortal”—they can grow indefinitely, be frozen for decades, divided into different batches and shared among scientists. In 1951, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, created the first immortal human cell line with a tissue sample taken from a young black woman with cervical cancer. Those cells, called HeLa cells, quickly became invaluable to medical research—though their donor remained a mystery for decades. In her new book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, journalist Rebecca Skloot tracks down the story of the source of the amazing HeLa cells, Henrietta Lacks, and documents the cell line's impact on both modern medicine and the Lacks family.

Who was Henrietta Lacks?
She was a black tobacco farmer from southern Virginia who got cervical cancer when she was 30. A doctor at Johns Hopkins took a piece of her tumor without telling her and sent it down the hall to scientists there who had been trying to grow tissues in culture for decades without success. No one knows why, but her cells never died.

Why are her cells so important?
Henrietta’s cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture. They were essential to developing the polio vaccine. They went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity. Many scientific landmarks since then have used her cells, including cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization.

There has been a lot of confusion over the years about the source of HeLa cells. Why?
When the cells were taken, they were given the code name HeLa, for the first two letters in Henrietta and Lacks. Today, anonymizing samples is a very important part of doing research on cells. But that wasn’t something doctors worried about much in the 1950s, so they weren’t terribly careful about her identity. When some members of the press got close to finding Henrietta’s family, the researcher who’d grown the cells made up a pseudonym—Helen Lane—to throw the media off track. Other pseudonyms, like Helen Larsen, eventually showed up, too. Her real name didn’t really leak out into the world until the 1970s.

How did you first get interested in this story?
I first learned about Henrietta in 1988. I was 16 and a student in a community college biology class. Everybody learns about these cells in basic biology, but what was unique about my situation was that my teacher actually knew Henrietta’s real name and that she was black. But that’s all he knew. The moment I heard about her, I became obsessed: Did she have any kids? What do they think about part of their mother being alive all these years after she died? Years later, when I started being interested in writing, one of the first stories I imagined myself writing was hers. But it wasn’t until I went to grad school that I thought about trying to track down her family.

How did you win the trust of Henrietta’s family?
Part of it was that I just wouldn’t go away and was determined to tell the story. It took almost a year even to convince Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah, to talk to me. I knew she was desperate to learn about her mother. So when I started doing my own research, I’d tell her everything I found. I went down to Clover, Virginia, where Henrietta was raised, and tracked down her cousins, then called Deborah and left these stories about Henrietta on her voice mail. Because part of what I was trying to convey to her was I wasn’t hiding anything, that we could learn about her mother together. After a year, finally she said, fine, let’s do this thing.

When did her family find out about Henrietta’s cells?
Twenty-five years after Henrietta died, a scientist discovered that many cell cultures thought to be from other tissue types, including breast and prostate cells, were in fact HeLa cells. It turned out that HeLa cells could float on dust particles in the air and travel on unwashed hands and contaminate other cultures. It became an enormous controversy. In the midst of that, one group of scientists tracked down Henrietta’s relatives to take some samples with hopes that they could use the family’s DNA to make a map of Henrietta’s genes so they could tell which cell cultures were HeLa and which weren’t, to begin straightening out the contamination problem.

So a postdoc called Henrietta’s husband one day. But he had a third-grade education and didn’t even know what a cell was. The way he understood the phone call was: “We’ve got your wife. She’s alive in a laboratory. We’ve been doing research on her for the last 25 years. And now we have to test your kids to see if they have cancer.” Which wasn’t what the researcher said at all. The scientists didn’t know that the family didn’t understand. From that point on, though, the family got sucked into this world of research they didn’t understand, and the cells, in a sense, took over their lives.

How did they do that?
This was most true for Henrietta’s daughter. Deborah never knew her mother; she was an infant when Henrietta died. She had always wanted to know who her mother was but no one ever talked about Henrietta. So when Deborah found out that this part of her mother was still alive she became desperate to understand what that meant: Did it hurt her mother when scientists injected her cells with viruses and toxins? Had scientists cloned her mother? And could those cells help scientists tell her about her mother, like what her favorite color was and if she liked to dance.

Deborah’s brothers, though, didn’t think much about the cells until they found out there was money involved. HeLa cells were the first human biological materials ever bought and sold, which helped launch a multi-billion-dollar industry. When Deborah’s brothers found out that people were selling vials of their mother’s cells, and that the family didn’t get any of the resulting money, they got very angry. Henrietta’s family has lived in poverty most of their lives, and many of them can’t afford health insurance. One of her sons was homeless and living on the streets of Baltimore. So the family launched a campaign to get some of what they felt they were owed financially. It consumed their lives in that way. [I can't say I blame them.  I'm sure a LOT of money was made via patents off of Mrs. Lacks' cells.  And gee, no one bothered to ever think about the family - not even 30, 40, 50 years later, when such things SHOULD have been thought about?  I do not blame the sons for being pissed off and wanting some financial recompense for the family.]

What are the lessons from this book?
For scientists, one of the lessons is that there are human beings behind every biological sample used in the laboratory. So much of science today revolves around using human biological tissue of some kind. For scientists, cells are often just like tubes or fruit flies—they’re just inanimate tools that are always there in the lab. The people behind those samples often have their own thoughts and feelings about what should happen to their tissues, but they’re usually left out of the equation.

And for the rest of us?
The story of HeLa cells and what happened with Henrietta has often been held up as an example of a racist white scientist doing something malicious to a black woman. But that’s not accurate. The real story is much more subtle and complicated. What is very true about science is that there are human beings behind it and sometimes even with the best of intentions things go wrong. [Thoughtlessness.  Perhaps one of the most destructive forces in the universe.]

One of the things I don’t want people to take from the story is the idea that tissue culture is bad. So much of medicine today depends on tissue culture. HIV tests, many basic drugs, all of our vaccines—we would have none of that if it wasn’t for scientists collecting cells from people and growing them. And the need for these cells is going to get greater, not less. Instead of saying we don’t want that to happen, we just need to look at how it can happen in a way that everyone is OK with.

China's Battle of the Generals Heats Up with Mega Tourist Bucks at Stake

Now this is one fascinating game of xiang qi! Story from the Asian Times online:
Tomb warriors battle in China
By Kent Ewing
February 3, 2010

HONG KONG - The warlords Cao Cao and Liu Bei were fierce rivals in life, with their exploits vividly described in the classic historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one of the most revered classical novels in Chinese literature. Now, 1,800 years later, that rivalry has been renewed in death.

In a game of archaeological one-upmanship, two teams of tomb warriors claiming to have found the burial sites of the legendary generals are battling it out in the Chinese media to gain official recognition for their claims. So far, neither party has been successful and, indeed, both are possible perpetrators of fraud.

Truth and authenticity, however, are besides the point in this battle; publicity, false or not, is the weapon of choice, and with increased tourism revenue for the reward for the winner's province, along with public financing for new infrastructure that local officials say is needed to support the expected flood of visitors to such an important historical site. So it is no wonder that authorities in Henan and Sichuan provinces are pulling out all stops to stake their claims to the final resting places of Cao Cao and Liu respectively.

On December 27, archaeologists created a huge media splash with their announcement in Beijing that the grave of Cao Cao (AD 155-220), founder of the prosperous Wei empire during the Three Kingdoms period, had been discovered in Xigaoxue village near the city of Anyang in Henan.

Chen Ailan, director of the Henan cultural heritage administration, assured the public that the tomb, found near the former Wei capital of Luoyang, had been confirmed as Cao Cao's. On the surface, the evidence was persuasive.

The tomb's size - 740 square meters - certainly befits a king, and the more than 250 items - including gold, silver and pottery - found there also indicate a royal presence. Moreover, of the 59 engraved stone plates that archaeologists discovered, each of which logged names and quantities of interred items, seven identified weapons "used by the king of Wei".

Finally, in case any skeptics remained, archaeologists revealed that they had unearthed the human bones of three people, two women and a male in his sixties; Cao Cao is thought to have died at the age of 65.

Thus - or so it seemed - the case was closed, and all that was left was an official stamp of approval followed by a rush of tourists, flush with cash and eager to spend, who would descend upon Anyang to gawk at Cao Cao's crypt.

"Not so fast!" cried a dissenting chorus of scholars - from archaeologists and anthropologists to historians and professors of classical literature. They pointed out that the tomb has been raided several times since excavation began, so what has been found there could easily have been faked and planted.

A professor who specializes in Wei literature, Yuan Jixi, added that the site of the tomb does not correspond to historical records and ancient texts recording Cao Cao's life and death.

Turning the dispute toward farce, scientists at Fudan University in Shanghai have offered to verify the authenticity of the tomb by testing the DNA of all Cao Cao's potential modern offspring who still live in and around Anyang. But DNA found at the tomb at this point is likely to be contaminated. Even if it were not, wouldn't such verification prove only that the sexagenarian buried there was a member of the Cao clan but not necessarily Cao Cao himself?

But don't ask silly questions when the serious business of tourism revenue is at stake.

Villagers in Sichuan's Pengshan county appeared to understand that point when, a month after Henan officials put in their claim for Cao Cao's grave, they filed their own for Liu's burial site. While their case may have even less authority than Henan's, at least their general was a more likable guy.

"Speak of Cao Cao and he appears" goes the Chinese proverb. That may explain how the warlord turned up in a tomb in Anyang, but it also reveals the Chinese perception of him as a sinister character, as in the English saying, "Speak of the devil."

A chancellor in the Eastern Han dynasty who went on to form his own state, Cao Cao was by most accounts a brilliant military and political strategist. In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, however, the epic's author, Luo Guanzhong, fictionalizes some of the events of Cao's Cao's life, turning him into a cruel tyrant and villain.

On the other hand, Liu (AD161-223), who established the state of Shu Han, a rival of Wei, is portrayed as a kind-hearted ruler and is one of the heroes of the novel, subject of countless film and television costume dramas that have made its characters well-known figures in China's popular culture.

Perhaps the Pengshan villagers calling for an excavation team to be sent to their village were banking on Liu's reputation for benevolence to trump Cao Cao's legendary ruthlessness when they filed their petition with the State Administration of Cultural Heritage and the Sichuan Bureau of Cultural Relics, reviving a feud between scholars in the municipality of Chongqing and the Sichuan capital of Chengdu over the location of Liu's grave. Even if an archaeological team never visits the villagers, they may find a few tourists come their way.

The battle for tourism revenue does not stop with rival generals whose lives are romanticized in Chinese literature and the mass media. There are also dueling claims for the birthplace of Tang dynasty poet Li Bai, with both the Sichuan city of Jiangyou and the Hubei city of Anlu calling themselves Li's hometown. The Jiangyou government has gone as far as to register a trademark designating the city as Li's birthplace, prompting Anlu to launch an advertisement on China Central Television boasting that it is where the poet was born.

Among modern figures, China's biggest source of tourism income is, hands down, Mao Zedong, founder of the People's Republic of China. Mao's cult-like image as the Great Helmsman of Chinese politics may have dimmed since his death in 1976, but he remains a cash cow for his native province of Hunan. Shaoshan village, his birthplace, rakes in millions of dollars a year selling souvenirs to tourists making pilgrimages to honor the late chairman, and the Hunan Provincial Tourism Bureau has proposed that Mao's birthday, December 26, be declared a national holiday to allow more pilgrims to visit the province.

Many patriots have welcomed the idea, especially merchants in Hunan. But perhaps provincial authorities went too far last month when they decreed that Mao's favorite dish, known as "Chairman Mao's Pork", could not be considered authentic unless it contained pork belly specifically from Hunan's Ningxiang county.

Then again, maybe that outcome should have been expected after Ningxiang’s pigs were last year granted special protective status by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce. That came after Shaoshan villagers touted Mao's favorite dish as a weapon that "built his brain" and helped him defeat Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and unite China following decades of civil war.

Kent Ewing is a Hong Kong-based teacher and writer. He can be reached at kewing@hkis.edu.hk.

(Copyright 2010 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Gibtelecom (Gibraltar) 2010

Ladies' Standings (in top 100) after R8:

9 GM Koneru, Humpy 6.0 IND F 2614
13 IM Javakhishvili, Lela 6.0 GEO F 2493
23 GM Stefanova, Antoaneta 5.5 BUL F 2545
24 GM Cramling, Pia 5.5 SWE F 2528
26 GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra 5.5 RUS F 2523
31 GM Dzagnidze, Nana 5.5 GEO F 2506
35 IM Harika, Dronavalli 5.5 IND F 2471
36 WGM Zhukova, Natalia 5.5 UKR F 2462
37 IM Krush, Irina 5.5 USA F 2455
42 WIM Cori T., Deysi 5.0 PER F 2412
44 WGM Karavade, Eesha 5.0 IND F 2405
45 IM Houska, Jovanka w 5.0 ENG F 2401
47 IM Dworakowska, Joanna w 5.0 POL F 2374
50 IM Sedina, Elena 5.0 ITA F 2335
59 IM Cmilyte, Viktorija 4.5 LTU F 2489
60 GM Arakhamia-Grant, Ketevan 4.5 SCO F 2470
62 IM Zatonskih, Anna 4.5 USA F 2466
66 IM Tania, Sachdev 4.5 IND F 2398
71 WGM Reizniece, Dana 4.5 LAT F 2341
73 IM Zozulia, Anna 4.5 BEL F 2321
77 WFM Videnova, Iva 4.5 BUL F 2301
87 WIM Martsynovskaya, Marina w 4.5 FRA F 2184
96 WGM Calzetta Ruiz, Monica 4.0 ESP F 2359

Final round tomorrow. Key match-ups for the ladies:

5 GM Koneru, Humpy 6.0 IND 2614 GM Kamsky, Gata 6.0 USA 2693
6 GM Fressinet, Laurent 6.0 FRA 2670 IM Javakhishvili, Lela 6.0 GEO 2493
13 IM Harika, Dronavalli 5.5 IND 2471 GM Geetha Narayanan Gopal 5.5 IND 2584
14 IM Lenderman, Alex 5.5 USA 2560 GM Dzagnidze, Nana 5.5 GEO 2506
15 IM Krush, Irina 5.5 USA 2455 GM Malakhatko, Vadim 5.5 BEL 2549
16 GM Stefanova, Antoaneta 5.5 BUL 2545 IM Shankland, Samuel L 5.5 USA 2491
17 FM Lovik, Lasse Ostebo 5.5 NOR 2343 GM Cramling, Pia 5.5 SWE 2528
19 GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra 5.5 RUS 2523 WGM Zhukova, Natalia 5.5 UKR 2462

Generally speaking, if there is a spread of around 100 points between two players, the higher-rated player will usually win.  That was the case today with the ladies versus their opponents, with some notable exceptions:

1 GM Koneru, Humpy 5.5 IND 2614 GM Movsesian, Sergei 5.5 SVK 2708 ½-½
11 IM Javakhishvili, Lela 5.0 GEO 2493 GM Lopez Martinez, Josep Manu 5.0 ESP 2593 1-0
19 GM Bhat, Vinay S. 4.5 USA 2540 IM Krush, Irina 4.5 USA 2455 0-1

Humpy's draw is significant as it vaulted her back into first place for the women's title and also back into the top 10 of players overall.  Well done!

Javakhishvili has been on a holy chess goddess tear during this tournament!  I am in awe.

Krush's win behind the black pieces against a solid American GM is significant because she keeps herself in contention for a share of the ladies' prize money, depending upon what happens tomorrow.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Southwest Chess Club Simul with GM Alex Yermolinsky!

I think this is really big news and deserves to be publicized!  From the Southwest Chess Club blog:

GM Alex Yermolinsky is coming to SWCC on February 11. Lecture 6:30, Simul 7:30-10:30.
$10/board. Simul is limited to 40 BOARDS. You must be a member of Southwest Chess Club to participate in the simul!

Two-time US Chess Champion, GM Yermolinsky recently tied for 1st in the North American Open in Las Vegas, December 2009. Alex Yermolinsky was born in the former Soviet Union. After leaving it he spent a short time in Italy before moving to the USA. Awarded the IM title in 1990 he became a GM in 1992. He has won the US Championship twice, in 1993 (shared with Alexander Shabalov) and in 1996. He's also played on the US Olympiad team. He has several books in print and works as a chemist for a pharmaceutical company in California.

Become a member of the Southwest Chess Club and play in the simul against a U.S. Chess Champion!  Sorry - I couldn't find what annual membership costs at the SWCC website (help!) but I'm sure you can email Robin or Allen (see SWCC website for email addresses) and inquire, and I'm sure it's not an arm and a leg :) 

Southwest Chess Club Action: February is for Lovers Swiss!

All right, I just love the title of this upcoming event!

February Is For Lovers Swiss: February 4 & 18

4-Round Swiss in One Section; two games per night; Game/45 minutes.

USCF (dual) Rated. EF: $5. One ½-Point Bye Available for any round (except round four) if requested at least 2-days prior to round. TD is Grochowski

Note: The games will start promptly at 7:00 (with the 2nd round starting around 8:30; games will conclude by about 10:15 pm).

Registration is 6:20-6:50 p.m. I plan to close registration at 6:50. If you arrive after first-round pairings are prepared, you will have to take a 1/2-point bye in the first round.


However, if you want to play but anticipate being a few minutes late, please e-mail myself (robin.grochowski@quarles.com) or call me 414-861-2745 prior to 5:00 p.m. on February 4, so I can include you in the pairings. If you need a first round bye please let me know as soon as possible and you can have one.

Note dates: This tournament will be interrupted by GM Yermolinsky lecture and simul on Feburary 11th. Please sign up in advance if possible.
 
HOLY CAISSA!  No one emailed me with this news?!!

Neanderthal Teeth Discovered in German Cave

Doesn't sound like much of a headline, does it, but when I read this article I got incensed!  One of the archaeologists quoted made some astounding assumptions based on absolutely no evidence whatever.  Shades of H.J.R. Murray!   I'll talk about that after I present the article, from Yahoo News (AP):

Polish scientists say 3 Neanderthal teeth found
By VANESSA GERA, Associated Press Writer Vanessa Gera, Associated Press Writer – Mon Feb 1, 2:54 pm ET
WARSAW, Poland – A team of Polish scientists said Monday they have discovered three Neanderthal teeth in a cave, a find they hope may shed light on how similar to modern humans our ancestors were.

Neanderthal artifacts have been unearthed in Poland before. But the teeth are the first bodily Neanderthal remains found in the country, according to Mikolaj Urbanowski, an archaeologist with Szczecin University and the project's lead researcher.

Urbanowski said the teeth were unearthed in the Stajnia Cave, north of the Carpathian Mountains, along with flint tools and the bones of the woolly mammoth and the woolly rhinoceros, both extinct Ice Age species.

The researchers also found a hammer made of reindeer antler and bones of cave bears bearing cut marks, indicating they were eaten by the Neanderthals, Urbanowski said.

"The cave bears were big, dangerous animals and this supports the view the Neanderthals were really efficient hunters," he said.

The findings were reported by the German science journal Naturwissenschaften in an online article dated Jan. 28.

The article focused mainly on one of teeth, providing evidence for the claim that it is the molar of a Neanderthal who died around age 20.

Urbanowski said that tooth has undergone the most analysis but the team is nearly certain the other two also belonged to Neanderthals who lived 100,000 to 80,000 years ago.

The placement of the teeth along with flint tools has led the team to hypothesize that the site could have been some kind of primitive burial site, which would point to a belief in the afterlife.

Jeffrey Schwartz, a professor of physical anthropology with the University of Pittsburgh, said the find is significant because it establishes that Neanderthals lived in a region where so far little evidence has been found. However, he said there is not enough evidence at this point to draw any conclusions about a possible burial site.

"No one ceremoniously buries one human tooth," said Schwartz, who was not involved in the research, but reviewed an early version of the paper.
*************************************************************************************
I don't know if the cave was used as a burial place for 'Neanderthal' people or not, but to assume that "no one ceremoniously buries one human tooth" is ridiculous.  How the hell does he know what "Neanderthal' people may or may not have done?  We know next to nothing about them!  He said himself "there is not enough evidence" - and yet he stated unequivocably anyway NO ONE blah blah blah. 

We don't know - that's the point.  For all we know, 'Neanderthal' were buried in this cave and at some point subsequently exhumed and moved elsewhere, except for the teeth that may have rolled out of the way and got lost under a cover of dust.  I think it is more supportable to suggest and even assume that the cave may have been a 'Neanderthal' burial place than not, since there has been evidence, albeit scant, that 'Neanderthal' had art/artifacts, used ocher in evident ritual significance, treated and took care of their injured and elderly, and in one grave, buried a dead girl child with flowers.  It is not supportable to assume that in no way might 'Neanderthal' have engaged in a ritual burial of teeth.

Tiny Winged Figurine Discovered in Central China

The piece in question has, I believe, been mis-identified as a "statue," as it is only 3 centimeters tall!  This came from Isis.  Thanks, "sis!

My first thought when I saw this photograph was of the flying monkey people from "The Wizard of Oz" movie!  Then I thought about Haunamann.

Research sheds light on bronze statue in Hubei
2010-01-27 08:49 BJT
Archaeologists have shed more light on the discovery of a one-thousand-year-old statue. It was found in Central China's Hubei province. Now let's learn more.


The artifact is a 3-centimeter-high bronze statue, believed to be the smallest winged figurine created in China. It's no bigger than a human thumb.

The statue is of a slightly crouching man with disproportionately large wings on his back, as though he's ready to soar into the sky.

According to the Xianfan City Archeology Institute, the figurine dates back to the Three Kingdoms Period in the 3rd century AD. It was unearthed beside an ancient tomb, and is believed to be an ornament for the tomb's occupant.

Historical records show that the region of central China, formerly known as the Land of Chu, used to be home to flourishing magical arts until the late Jin Dynasty in the 5th century. The figurine has wings made of feathers and plumes, both of which were sacred objects in magical rituals in the Land of Chu.

The tiny statue is distinguished by a string of Buddhist prayer beads on its neck, a testament to the earliest influence of India's Buddhism in central China.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Follow-up: Cao Cao had 72 fake tombs!

Holy Goddess! This guy really was paranoid! I thought it was conclusively confirmed that the tomb recently uncovered was that of Cao Cao.  But now, evidently, DNA tests are being ordered (?) in order to confirm the identity of the bodies recovered from this tomb.

Prior posts on Cao Cao:
http://goddesschess.blogspot.com/2009/12/tomb-of-cao-cao-unearthed-in-china.html
http://goddesschess.blogspot.com/2009/12/tomb-of-cao-cao-unearthed-in-china_30.html

Fudan solicits DNA samples to determine authenticity of Cao Cao's tomb
16:44, January 25, 2010

Does the ancient tomb found in Anyang, Henan province belong to Cao Cao? Or is it just one of 72 fake graves built by the suspicious Cao Cao?

Facing endless questioning by people from all walks of life, some scientists have decided not to stand by anymore - The MOE Key Laboratory of Contemporary Anthropology under Fudan University has announced that they will collect the Y chromosomes from men whose surname is Cao nationwide for testing.

Through testing and classifying the Y chromosome types of these men, they will calculate the Y chromosome characteristics that Cao Cao should have by means of sequence alignment, thus they can use DNA technology to test the authenticity of Cao Cao's tomb.

By People's Daily Online

Evidently there was an internet uproar when the archaeologists who discovered and excavated the tomb announced that this was the Cao Cao.  Oh no no, said lots of people.  Against all odds, the archaeologists actually listened to public opinion!  Wow - those dudes down in Oxford, Alabama (see post from earlier today) could take a clue or two from the Communist Chinese.  Eek!

Here are some other articles on the controversy:

Anthropologists to identify Cao Cao's tomb by genetic analysis
09:38, January 27, 2010
Anthropologists with the Shanghai-based Fudan University announced Tuesday that they would collect DNA samples of possible offsprings of Cao Cao, a renowned politician and general in ancient China, to help confirm whether the tomb excavated in the central province of Henan is his.

Experts hope DNA can unlock Chinese warlord's secrets
January 26, 2010
Scientists said Tuesday they hope to collect DNA from hundreds of men surnamed Cao so they can prove a recently excavated tomb in central China belongs to the legendary warlord Cao Cao.

Netizens keep digging into tomb ownership
08:35, January 15, 2010
Two press conferences and dozens of interviews by experts over the past two weeks have failed to quiet the unprecedented public debate on the ownership of an ancient tomb discovered in Anyang, Henan province.

Archaeological officials believe the tomb belongs to Cao Cao (AD 155 to 220), a legendary ruler during China's most dramatic historical period, the Three Kingdoms (AD 220 to 280). But skepticism spread like wildfire soon after the discovery was revealed to the public on Dec 7.

2010 Moonwalk for Breast Cancer

Here is a photo of the top part of the costumes Goddesschess has purchased for Tracy and the other walkers!  The theme for this year's Moonwalk is "show time" and I think this costume embodies the spirit of a chorus line.  Pardon the photo, the best place to get the "dress" against a light background was in my bathroom :)

Also included as part of the costume but not part of the photo are a pair of hot pants (short shorts),  a black sequined garter and a little dress top hat that, unfortunately because of shipping, is squished and I'm not sure how it might be reconstituted.  We also added a feather boa and above the elbow length black gloves for each of the costumes.

I wanted to check the construction of the costumes before sending them on to Tracy.  The costume is very nicely constructed and sewn, everything (other than the hat) has passed inspection.  I'll be shipping the box of costumes off to England probably tomorrow when I get back to the office.

Here is Tracy and the walkers' website where you can make a donation if you are so inclined.  Their goal is to raise 300 BPS.

Follow-up: The Oxford Mound

Note to self: NEVER move to Alabama, the Land of the Liars and the Home of the Bribe.
Story from the Anniston Star:
UA professor defends claims about Oxford mound

by Patrick McCreless, Staff Writer
Janury 28, 2009
 
OXFORD — A University of Alabama archaeologist Wednesday said more investigation had led him to believe natural forces created a pile of stones that an earlier report bearing his signature said had been erected by humans hundreds of years ago.


The stone mound was at the center of a dispute last year that saw the City of Oxford back away from plans to level the mound to use dirt beneath it for fill at a construction site at the nearby Oxford Exchange.

Robert Clouse, director of the Office of Archaeological Research at the University of Alabama and the director of the University of Alabama Museums, said in an e-mail to The Star "the discrepancy between the two reports is the result of additional information gathered from actual on-site review of the make-up of the mound and additional research into the geological events surrounding the gradual disintegration of the makeup of the mountain."

A team from UA excavated a portion of the mound in early in 2009, and concluded in their report it was almost certainly made by humans. Clouse reportedly supervised the team's work, and signed their report. It said the chance of a stone mound of that size being created by random natural phenomena is unlikely.

The report was written to give the city an indication of the potential archaeological significance of the stone mound before crews began work at the site.

Attempts Wednesday to reach Clouse by phone and e-mail for further information or a copy of the second report were unsuccessful. The first report was sent to the Alabama Historical Commission. State Archaeologist Stacye Hathorn, who works for the commission, said she has not seen a second report, but has heard "rumors" that it exists. She said no law requires the university archaeologists to send the commission a copy.

During a Tuesday meeting of the Oxford City Council, Clouse said the Oxford Exchange mound was likely created by erosion and other natural forces through the course of approximately 500 million years.

"It has gradually decayed," Clouse said during the meeting. "(The mound) is the original core of that mountain."

Clouse has no degree in geology and presented no opinion from a certified geologist at the meeting.

Oxford Mayor Leon Smith made a similar claim in July 2009.

When Hathorn was told of Clouse's comments at the Tuesday meeting, her first response was laughter.

"How did the pottery get under there?" she asked. "I don't think there's any chance that it's natural. There may be some boulders that were up there naturally that were added to, to make the mound."

Hathorn said Clouse in the past verbally told her his revised opinions about the origins of the mound. She said she laughed at the claim then, too.

Kelly Gregg, a geology professor at Jacksonville State University, has visited the site in question and said there is little chance it was created by natural forces.

"In my opinion, someone piled those stones up there," Gregg said during a phone interview Wednesday.

Gregg said the rocks on the mound were all of similar size that could be easily carried by humans.  "If it had just been erosion, there also would have been rocks the size of cars too," he said.

During the Tuesday meeting, Clouse also refuted a claim made by Harry Holstein, professor of archaeology and anthropology at JSU, that another American Indian mound at the nearby historic Davis Farm site had been recently removed. The mound is adjacent to a site where Oxford is constructing a multi-million dollar sports complex.

"I know the site," Holstein said. "I've worked it 25 years or more."

City officials have repeatedly stated the Davis Farm mound has not been disturbed [despite photographic evidence to the contrary]. The city hired UA archaeologists to oversee the construction and ensure no American Indian sites were disturbed. Clouse is heading the archaeology team.

Earlier this month, the archaeologists uncovered the apparent remains of an ancient American Indian. Clouse said all proper procedures were followed regarding the discovery and the remains were reburied and would not be disturbed again.

"We will spend whatever is necessary to be sure we're not infringing on some remains we're not supposed to," said Fred Denney, the city's project manager.

Denney said so far the city has received an invoice for approximately $25,000 for the services of the UA archaeologists at the sports complex construction site.

"We'll spend that if not more in the future," Denney said.

He added the city paid UA archaeologists approximately $60,000 to conduct the 2009 survey of the site behind the Oxford Exchange, which he referred to as a hill and not an Indian mound.

Ben Thomas, director of programs at the Archaeological Institute of America and a professor of archaeology at the Berklee College of Music, said there are many universities around the country, like the University of Alabama, which do contractual archaeological work for companies and governments. He said such work can be large revenue generators.

"If a university has an archaeological department that can do this kind of work, then yes, it can be a significant revenue source," Thomas said.

He noted how such funding is distributed and used varies from school to school. Information on how much UA charges for archaeological work or how the money is used could not be obtained by deadline Wednesday.

When asked if there is an ethical dilemma between universities that may profit from archaeological contracts and their need to provide objective research data, Thomas said there always is a chance for corruption in the system but has never heard of any rampant abuse.

"I don't know if that has been a huge ethical issue," Thomas said. "But archaeologists are human. I would expect as an archaeologist, for other archaeologists to act under respected codes and practices."

Holstein said JSU archaeologists could have conducted the work at both sites for much less than Oxford paid UA.  He said JSU teams could have performed a full study of the Oxford Exchange mound for less than $15,000 and the observation work at the sports center construction site for around $10,000.

"We're not here to make a profit," Holstein said. "We charge just enough to pay salaries. Plus, we're right here. The city has got to pay (UA) more to come out here." [One must ask - WHY?]

Gold "Chest" Piece from Bulgaria

A lovely piece; unfortunately, the photograph is not the best quality.  I am wondering if the end pieces are stylized serpents' heads???  I also am frankly skeptical of the story that the dude climbing the mountain just happened to see this piece sitting in a snow drift? 
From Standartnews.com
Thirty-Three-Century-Old Gold Chest Piece Displayed in Bulgaria
Friday January 29, 2010
Ivan Ivanov
An ancient artifact, made of Mycenaean gold (1600 BC-1100 BC), was put on display at the Museum of History in the town of Gabrovo. The exhibit - a unique chest piece, discovered at an altitude of 2276 meters in the heart of the Balkan Mountain - is shown for the first time, despite the fact that it was found 10 years ago. It was then that Ivan Stoyanov, the conductor of the Gabrovo Chamber Orchestra and an enthusiastic mountaineer, climbed the Balkan peak of Golyam Kademliya on the occasion of his birthday. He saw the bijou in one of the snowdrifts and took it. After consulting archaeologist Rossen Yossifov it transpired that the chest piece, worked out by an unknown craftsman, is made from native gold. It is forged of 23-carat gold and weighs 7.62 grams. According to one of the hypotheses, the bijou has once belonged to a Thracian priest. The experts claim that in the 13th century BC a Thracian sanctuary existed on the mount of Golyam Kademliya. The chest piece is similar to the gold finds, discovered at the shaft grave in Mycenae.
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