Sunday, February 7, 2010

Moscow Open

YAAAAYYYHHH!  WGM/IM Salome Melia takes second place after tie-breaks in the "C" Tournament of the Moscow Open!  Quote from the news report (in English) on the final round:

The victory in the women’s event shared the Georgian Salome Melia and Nazi Paikidze scoring 7,5 points each. In the last tour they beat their rivals: Melia beats Zhao Xue from China and Paikidze – the Russian Valentina Gunina. According to tie-breaks the winner is 16 year old Nazi Paikidze, the Europe and world champion among girls, representing the Georgian chess federation. Since 2006 Paikidze lives in Moscow.

Zhao Xue as well as Baira Kovanova (Saratov), Darya Pustovoitova and Marina Romanko (both from Moscow) who won the games in the last tour and scored 7 points each, shared the positions 3-6. According to tie-breaks Kovanova won the bronze.

The big news, though, is Nazi Paikidze's victory.  A great day for Indian chess, particularly for the chess femmes, on top of GM Koneru Humpy's showing at Gibraltar.  Here are the final standings for all of the ladies. Can someone please tell me what the heck the "S" means:

Rank Name Rtg FED Pts vict
1 WIM Paikidze Nazi 2278 GEO 7Ѕ 7
2 IM Melia Salome 2431 GEO 7Ѕ 6
3 WGM Kovanova Baira 2384 RUS 7 7
4 GM Zhao Xue 2504 CHN 7 6
5 IM Romanko Marina 2433 RUS 7 6
6 Pustovoitova Daria 2319 RUS 7 6
7 WFM Gunina Valentina 2448 RUS 6Ѕ 6
8 WIM Tomilova Elena 2290 RUS 6Ѕ 6
9 Drozdova Dina 2170 RUS 6Ѕ 6
10 IM Paehtz Elisabeth 2484 GER 6Ѕ 5
11 WGM Munguntuul Batkhuyag 2427 MGL 6Ѕ 5
12 WGM Girya Olga 2365 RUS 6Ѕ 5
13 WGM Kashlinskaya Alina 2315 RUS 6Ѕ 5
14 WIM Ambartsumova Karina 2297 RUS 6Ѕ 5
15 WIM Charochkina Daria 2289 RUS 6 6
16 WGM Grabuzova Tatiana 2345 RUS 6 5
17 WGM Bodnaruk Anastasia 2372 RUS 6 5
18 WGM Galojan Lilit 2374 ARM 6 5
19 WFM Shulakova Svetlana 2164 RUS 6 5
20 WFM Bezgodova Maria 2137 RUS 6 5
21 WGM Burtasova Anna 2332 RUS 6 5
22 WIM Dolgova Olga 2226 RUS 6 5
23 WGM Demina Julia 2344 RUS 6 5
24 WIM Strutinskaya Galina N 2281 RUS 6 5
25 WFM Karibaeva Elvira 2172 RUS 6 5
26 WGM Ju Wenjun 2512 CHN 6 4
27 WGM Manakova Maria 2346 SRB 5Ѕ 5
28 WIM Severiukhina Zoja 2357 RUS 5Ѕ 5
29 WIM Komiagina Maria 2265 RUS 5Ѕ 5
30 WIM Turebayeva Alfiya 2194 KAZ 5Ѕ 5
31 WIM Dauletova Gulmira 2212 KAZ 5Ѕ 5
32 WFM Semenova Elena 2208 RUS 5Ѕ 5
33 Zizlova Sofia 2045 RUS 5Ѕ 5
34 WFM Kharmunova Nadejda 2083 RUS 5Ѕ 5
35 WGM Pourkashiyan Atousa 2306 IRI 5Ѕ 4
36 WFM Nakhbayeva Guliskhan 2219 KAZ 5Ѕ 4
37 WIM Ghader Pour Shayesteh 2187 IRI 5Ѕ 4
38 WFM Suslova Alena 2152 RUS 5Ѕ 4
39 IM Matveeva Svetlana 2391 RUS 5Ѕ 4
40 WFM Repina Varvara 2224 RUS 5 5
41 Yakupova Aysyla 2088 RUS 5 5
42 WFM Idrisova Roza 2156 RUS 5 5
43 WIM Krasenkova Ilena 2140 RUS 5 5
44 WFM Kostrikina Anna 2083 RUS 5 5
45 WIM Shumilina Alexandra 2300 RUS 5 4
46 WIM Butuc Maria 2196 RUS 5 4
47 WGM Shaydullina Sandugach 2256 RUS 5 4
48 WFM Zaichenko Daria 2135 RUS 5 4
49 WGM Fatalibekova Elena 2274 RUS 5 4
50 Bukhteeva Viktoria 2213 RUS 5 4
51 Grigoryeva Olga A. 1993 RUS 5 4
52 Shangarayeva Daiana 1923 KAZ 5 4
53 WFM Saduakassova Dinara 2100 KAZ 5 4
54 WFM Larina Marija 2028 RUS 5 4
55 WFM Khropova Larisa 2092 RUS 5 4
56 WFM Rassokhina Ekaterina 2116 RUS 5 4
57 Tomnikova Lidia 2157 RUS 5 4
58 Sviridova Vlada 0 RUS 5 4
59 Khlichkova Tatiana 2064 RUS 5 3
60 WGM Iljushina Olga 2367 RUS 5 3
61 Chukhlantseva Anna 1902 RUS 5 3
62 WGM Mirzoeva Elmira 2258 RUS 5 3
63 WFM Bogumil Tatiana 2215 RUS 4Ѕ 4
64 Trapeznikova Darya 1976 RUS 4Ѕ 4
65 WFM Kushka Alena 2179 RUS 4Ѕ 4
66 WFM Fakhretdinova Margarita 2173 RUS 4Ѕ 4
67 Petrova Olga 2274 RUS 4Ѕ 4
68 WFM Verko Tatiana 2175 KAZ 4Ѕ 4
69 Frolova Ekaterina 2009 RUS 4Ѕ 4
70 Sukhareva Evgeniya 2198 RUS 4Ѕ 4
71 Bogachkova Alena 0 RUS 4Ѕ 4
72 Chernichenko Olga 1920 UKR 4Ѕ 4
73 Sharapova Anzama 1938 RUS 4Ѕ 3
74 WFM Yakovich Yuliya 2122 RUS 4Ѕ 3
75 Chernyshova Natalia 2073 RUS 4Ѕ 3
76 WFM Zarivkina Victorya 2089 RUS 4Ѕ 3
77 Belova Olga 1900 RUS 4Ѕ 3
78 WFM Malinicheva Lidia 2023 UZB 4 4
79 Sysoykina Lidia 1977 RUS 4 4
80 Valieva Rufina 1891 RUS 4 4
81 Bivol Alina 1991 RUS 4 3
82 Zaryvkina Anastasia 2093 RUS 4 3
83 Tereshechkina Maya 2014 RUS 4 3
84 Bezgodova Svetlana 2137 RUS 4 3
85 Akhmetova Karina 1872 RUS 4 3
86 WFM Nikitina Elena 2030 RUS 4 3
87 WFM Vasenina Anna 1871 RUS 4 3
88 Makarenko Alexandra 1905 RUS 4 3
89 Arnatskaya Zoya 1861 RUS 4 3
90 Kazennova Daria 1966 RUS 4 3
91 Grabovets Nadezhda 1924 RUS 4 3
92 Nasybullina Alfia 0 RUS 4 3
93 Maliutina Yulia 1780 RUS 4 3
94 Polyanskaya Natalia 1952 RUS 4 3
95 Abdumalik Zhansaya 1816 KAZ 4 2
96 Ainutdinova Yekaterina 1964 KAZ 4 2 97 Koroteeva Ksenia 1982 RUS 4 2
98 Vyalykh Anastasiya 0 RUS 4 2
99 Gavrjuchenkova Angelina 1934 RUS 4 2
100 Gabaidulina Olga 0 RUS 4 2
101 Ibadova Ilakha 0 RUS 4 2
102 WFM Kineva Ekaterina 2160 RUS 4 1
103 Petrukhina Irina 2084 RUS 3Ѕ 3
104 Dolgova Tamara 1959 RUS 3Ѕ 3
105 Khobotova Olesia 2006 RUS 3Ѕ 3
106 WFM Styazhkina Anna 2034 RUS 3Ѕ 3
107 Sukhareva Valentina 1972 RUS 3Ѕ 3
108 Skakun Valentina 1836 RUS 3Ѕ 3
109 Mukhametgaleeva Railia 1906 RUS 3Ѕ 3
110 Forova Tatiana 1938 RUS 3Ѕ 2
111 WFM Malchikova Svetlana 1995 RUS 3Ѕ 2
112 Maidanova Irina 1874 RUS 3Ѕ 2
113 Budueva Kristina 1847 RUS 3Ѕ 2
114 Chan Naruna 1745 RUS 3Ѕ 2
115 Paramzina Anastasya 1708 RUS 3 3
116 Filinova Maria 0 RUS 3 3
117 Vasiukova Ekaterina 1780 RUS 3 3
118 WCM Egorova Ayyyna 1810 RUS 3 2
119 Butneva Larisa 1880 RUS 3 2
120 Nazarian Marina 1881 RUS 3 2
121 Kaurova Anna 1853 RUS 3 2
122 Frantsuzova Lyudmila 1883 RUS 3 2
123 Chernykh Yana 0 RUS 3 2
124 Nosovskaya Anna 0 RUS 3 2 125 Pershina Elena 1993 RUS 3 1
126 Kaydanovich Marina 1855 RUS 3 1
127 Pylaeva Ekaterina 1653 RUS 3 1
128 Adamova Tuyara 1827 RUS 2Ѕ 2
129 Prokopenko Anastasia 1841 RUS 2Ѕ 2
130 Burmistrova Alena 1758 RUS 2Ѕ 2
131 Sazonova Anastasia 1743 RUS 2Ѕ 2
132 Semenova Anastasia 1908 RUS 2Ѕ 1
133 Chadaeva Tatiana 1798 RUS 2Ѕ 1
134 Marizina Yulia 1697 RUS 2Ѕ 1
135 Morozova Ulia 0 RUS 2Ѕ 1
136 Shcherbakova Ekaterina 0 RUS 2 1
137 Anfinogenova Anastasiya 0 RUS 1 0
138 Khamko Kristina 1559 RUS 1 0
139 Cherniavskaya Klara 1706 RUS 1 0
140 WIM Hamrakulova Yulduz 2254 UZB 0 0
Moscow Chess Federation 2008-2010. All rights reserved

Brooklyn Museum: To Live Forever: Art and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt

Thanks, Isis, for the link to this new exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, that Don and I had the pleasure of visiting during our visit to New York last May.  (Image - not part of the exhibit, this is a painting from the tomb of Sobekhotep - the bearer to the left is carrying a board game - looks like Senet -- and dangling a long gold linked chain from his elbow. This gives an idea of what the deceased liked to "take" to their tombs with them via representational painting that, through magic, would be provided to them in the afterworld - notice the fish, lumber, fruit, furs, etc.)

February 12–May 2, 2010

Robert E. Blum Gallery, 1st Floor

Encompassing more than one hundred objects drawn from the Brooklyn Museum’s world-renowned holdings of ancient Egyptian art, including some of the greatest masterworks of the Egyptian artistic heritage, To Live Forever explores the Egyptians’ beliefs about life, death, and the afterlife; the process of mummification; the conduct of a funeral; and the different types of tombs—answering questions at the core of the public’s fascination with ancient Egypt.

Two of the primary cultural tenets through thousands of years of ancient Egyptian civilization were a belief in the afterlife and the view that death was an enemy that could be vanquished. To Live Forever features objects that illustrate a range of strategies the ancient Egyptians developed to defeat death, including mummification and various rituals performed in the tomb. The exhibition reveals what the Egyptians believed they would find in the next world and contrasts how the rich and the poor prepared for the hereafter. The economics of the funeral are examined, including how the poor tried to imitate the costly appearance of the grave goods of the rich in order to ensure a better place in the afterlife.

Each section of the exhibition contains funeral equipment for the rich, the middle class, and the poor. The visitor will be able to compare finely painted wood and stone coffins made for the rich with the clay coffins the poor made for themselves, masterfully worked granite vessels with clay vessels painted in imitation, and gold jewelry created for the nobles with faience amulets fashioned from a man-made turquoise substitute. Objects on view include the Bird Lady—one of the oldest preserved statues from all Egyptian history and a signature Brooklyn Museum object; a painted limestone relief of Queen Neferu; a gilded, glass, and faience mummy cartonnage of a woman; the elaborately painted shroud of Neferhotep; a gilded mummy mask of a man; and a gold amulet representing the human soul.

To Live Forever: Art and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt is organized by Edward Bleiberg, Curator of Egyptian Art at the Brooklyn Museum.

The exhibition is supported by the Brooklyn Museum’s Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund. Additional support is provided by Fred and Diana Elghanayan and Magda Saleh and Jack Josephson.

The accompanying catalogue is supported by a Brooklyn Museum publications endowment established by the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Check out K. Kris Hirst's photo essay of the exhibit at

London Chess Center Closing!

OHMYGODDESS!  I nearly had a heart attack when I visited Mark Crowther's The Week in Chess just now and saw the news that the London Chess Center has lost their lease!  Here is the story:

London Chess Centre closes after 18 years

Mark Crowther - Friday 5th February 2010
The London Chess Centre will close its doors for the final time on the 12th of February 2010 after 18 years due to the termination of the lease on the property. However chess shoppers in London will still be able to find the full range of books, sets and software at the Baker Street Branch located at 44 Baker Street, London W1U 7RT.

About the BCM Shop: and also: Here.

Mail order contact numbers will not change and the new postal address is 44 Baker Street, London W1U 7RT although a new mail order centre is planned.   . . .

Yes yes, I know they'll continue business at another site - but STILL. 

Computer Labs for Kids: Update and Dallas, March 20, 2010

Hola!  Yesterday was Shira's Computer Labs for Kids workshop in Los Angeles.  I know she survived it because she made a move in our latest chess game at  I am currently losing that game, but now I am threatening her queen, aha!  I won't go down without a fight, Shira!

Shira is looking for volunteers for her Foundation's next Computer Labs for Kids project. At present, 12 more volunteers are needed. If you are in the Dallas area, please consider becoming a volunteer. It's a lot of fun and very fulfilling working with the kids.

Buckner Children and Family Services
5200 Buckner Blvd
Dallas, TX 75227 US

Saturday, March 20, 9:30AM to 12:30PM
Phone: 626-408-2390

Hello everyone,

Computer Labs for Kids is looking for volunteers!

We are a 501c3 charity organization which provides a class about laptops to children in foster care. At the end of each course, the children receive their very own laptop. This is very fun and exciting course, and we need your help in order to accomplish it. Please visit our website to see our latest project in Chicago, so you will have an idea of what we do. Click here to see our website.

Right now we are looking for 20 Volunteers Technical Assistants to help foster children one-on-one at our class on March 20th from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm.

Volunteers will need to arrive at 9 am and also to complete our Volunteer Training Course which can be done online. Click here to start the course.

Volunteer Technical Assistant Requirements: Basic computing skills, Love for children and a desire to help them.

Please let me know when you confirm you are attending, your first and last name.

Thank you very much!

P.S. If the above links don't work, here are the addresses - and

This 'n That

Hola!  I'm feeling lazy today, but I have too much to do before I can settle down to a PBS evening.  The final part of the Masterpiece's "Emma" is on this evening, and after that, parts 3 and 4 of "Lost in Austen" which I have the DVD of but have not gotten over the non-transitions of the story line.  And just how did our ersatz "Elizabeth" replacement get by visiting the Bennets for weeks with no clothes??? 

Anyway, I have to trek to the Pick 'n Save and do some laundry, and sit down and start organizing income tax information.  Ick.  So, naturally, I'm blogging instead :)

I'm paying brief visits to see what's new at some of my sites around the internet:

Minerva Magazine Online (January/February 2010):
  • Online review of The Life of Meresamun: A Temple Singer in Ancient Egypt - Edited by Emily Teeter & Janet H. Johnson, University of Chicago - 2009 135pp, illus in colour and b/w throughout Paperback, £28.  I've written about Emily Teeter of the University of Chicago before.  I would read anything she had a hand in.  I have an Amazon gift card from Christmas that I haven't used yet - this will be a perfect purchase and addition to my ever-expanding library on ancient Egypt.
  • Abstracts from the 2008 International Phaistos Disk Conference
Zenobia: Empress of the East:

I love reading archaeologist Judith Weingarten's blog, her prose and her analysis are always engaging and crystal clear.  Some recent uber-cool posts:
  • Read about the "Mistresses of Num" in Dance and Trance in Old Zimbabewe (January 26, 2010).  I relate the concept of "num" to what Carlos Castenada wrote about as "will" - which also originates in the abdomen, around the belly-button area.  It's been at least 30 years since I read Castenada in undergrad - I don't even remember the name of the class, or the name of the professor except that he was young and extremely intense, but that semester exposed me to esoteric traditions (although at the time I did not recognize them as such) from all around the world. You may be right, I may be crazy...  But this is how I vaguely remember the concept of "will": if backed with enough personal intent focused behind a thought, it could manifest into reality -- either as a form or as an event.  I also seem to recall the concept of some people (shamans?) being able to perceive gossamer golden "threads" springing forth from certain navels, manifesting forms and events into the world -- but I honestly cannot say if this is a memory from reading Castenada or something I read elsewhere.
    What I do find fascinating about the images of the cave paintings that Judith Weingarten posted is their striking a chord deep inside me to scenes I recall seeing depicted in Jeannine Davis-Kimball's book Warrior Women in the Tien Shan, far far away from the San cave paintings.  I pulled the book off one of my bookcases and dug through it until I found the image and text I sought.  No, after all, the figures depicted are not similar and yet - and yet - there is something.  This image (above)  is not the best, but I did find it online and it is identical as far as I can tell to the one contained in Davis-Kimball's book. (Read more about the petroglyphs).
  • Like a Butterfly Crazed with Love... (January 15, 2010)
    My "drunken butterfly" episode aside, this is one damn good demonstration of synchronicity.  Right after the pages of Davis-Kimball's book cited above, is a chapter entitled "Mother Goddesses and Enarees."  Castratos and enarees, peas in a pod. 
British Archaeology:

Chess Mom = Back Ranks of Chess Pros

Mother Polgar back at the board
Saturday, February 6, 2010 3:14 AM
(From the Columbus Dispatch Online)
Women can face special obstacles in maintaining a professional chess career, as is vividly illustrated in the changing fortunes of 33-year-old Judit Polgar, the world's top female player.

In 2003, Polgar reached a pinnacle at the Corus tournament in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands. Undefeated, she finished in second place, a point ahead of world champion Vladimir Kramnik and a half-point behind tournament winner and future world champion Viswanathan Anand.

With the birth of son Oliver in 2004 and daughter Hanna in 2006, her chess activity plummeted, as did her international rating. Today, she is ranked 48th in the world -- a far cry from 2003, when she was 11th, and earlier years, when she was among the top seven or eight grandmasters.

But she is back with renewed focus and energy. The reason is compelling:

"I cannot live without chess," she said on "It is an integral part of my life. I enjoy the game.  "When my son was born, it was clear that children are most important. So chess disappeared from my life for some period.

"But I wanted to play again . . . and become the best again. I have a lot of ambitions. (It's) just difficult to fulfill them all."
In societies where women are expected to (or allowed to) work outside of the home, we are well aware of the tension between having children and having a career.  A female chessplayer is no different - playing chess can be a full-time is a career. 

But - a woman who wants to have children cannot "do it all" without the help and full-fledged support of spouse (or significant other) and family (parents, grandparents, siblings) - and having money helps, too. Money hires nannies, nurses and private teachers; money enables children and their support entourage to travel with mom when she goes about from tournament to tournament.  How many female chessplayers are alive today who have access to this kind of life-style?  None!!!

So what does this mean for the future of female chessplayers who aspire to the highest ranks?  Must they forego having children if they want to aspire to be in the top 10 - or even the top 100?  A chessplayer's "best" years coincide with a woman's limited time-frame for having children. 

You want to see more women in the top 100 chessplayers in the world?  Change the culture that says Mom is THE primary caregiver of offspring.  Until that happens, you won't see females devote themselves full-fledged to chess the way that men are currently able to do.  It's still not a level playing field.  If you think I'm full of it, how come we never see pictures of chess dudes with their kids?

The photo of Judit Polgar and her son Oliver, above, came from this 2005 Chessbase article.  It wasn't all that long ago that Judit Polgar was ranked #9 in the world - in 2004, in fact.  Less than six years ago.  Her son, Oliver, was born on August 10, 2004.  From a rating of 2728, she has plummeted to a rating of 2682 and a current world rank of #46.  In today's world, a rating of 2728 would place Judit Polgar at #20.  Chess waits for no woman - or man. 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Auction Watch: 13th Century Arabic Chess Manuscript

Sale: L09723 | Location: London
Auction Dates: Session 1: Wed, 07 Oct 09 10:30 AM

LOT 16


6,000—8,000 GBP
Lot Sold. Hammer Price with Buyer's Premium: 11,875 GBP READ CONDITION REPORT


measurements note
28.2 by 21cm.

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.


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
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.

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"


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 ?"


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"


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"


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"


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.)"


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"


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.

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
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

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

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