Saturday, February 13, 2010

Cotroceni 2010

Thanks to current Women's World Chess Champion GM Alexandra Kosteniuk's for information about this closed tournament in Romania.

The official website is sort of a mess on my web browser.  It's also in Romanian, but by scrolling around I figured out what was what - sort of. There are photographs of the chess femmes participating:

IM Khotenashvili Bela GEO 2461
IM Muzychuk Mariya UKR 2447
IM Foisor Cristina-Adela ROU 2440
IM Repkova Eva SVK 2434
IM Melia Salome GEO 2431
IM Peptan Corina-Isabela ROU 2411
IM Turova Irina RUS 2386
IM Gara Anita HUN 2370
IM Vajda Szidonia HUN 2369
WGM Cosma Elena-Luminita ROU 2332

Here are standings after Round 4 from

Rk. Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 IM Melia Salome GEO 2431 3,0 5,25 0,0 2
2 IM Vajda Szidonia HUN 2369 2,5 4,25 0,0 1
3 WGM Cosma Elena-Luminita ROU 2332 2,5 4,00 0,0 1
4 IM Peptan Corina-Isabela ROU 2411 2,0 5,00 0,0 0
5 IM Gara Anita HUN 2370 2,0 3,75 0,0 1
6 IM Turova Irina RUS 2386 2,0 3,50 0,0 0
7 IM Repkova Eva SVK 2434 1,5 3,25 0,0 0
IM Foisor Cristina-Adela ROU 2440 1,5 3,25 0,0 0
9 IM Muzychuk Mariya UKR 2447 1,5 2,75 0,0 0
10 IM Khotenashvili Bela GEO 2461 1,5 2,50 0,0 1

Tie Break1: Sonneborn-Berger-Tie-Break variable
Tie Break2: The results of the players in the same point group#results against
Tie Break3: The greater number of victories

I picked up on this event while reading GM Kosteniuk's blog not only because it is one of the relatively rare female-only invitationals but also because IM Salome Melia is playing in it. She has been performing excellently in 2010: she won the Georgian national women's chess championship, then tied for first place in the strong Women's Tournament at the Moscow Open, and now she is holding first place in this event.  You go, girl!

Georgian Women's Chess Championship

Results table from

IM/WGM Salome Melia won the championship with 10/13.  She followed up by tying for first place in the Women's C Group at the Moscow Open.  Way to go!

Rk. Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 1 IM Melia Salome GEO 2431 10,0 57,25 8
2 IM Khurtsidze Nino GEO 2414 9,5 56,00 8
3 IM Lomineishvili Maia GEO 2371 8,5 47,50 6
4 WIM Mikadze Miranda GEO 2326 7,5 45,75 4
5 WGM Tsereteli Tamar GEO 2403 7,5 40,75 4
6 IM Khotenashvili Bela GEO 2461 7,0 37,25 6
7 WIM Arabidze Meri GEO 2282 7,0 35,25 5
8 WGM Batsiashvili Nino GEO 2309 6,5 45,50 5
9 IM Khukhashvili Sopiko GEO 2438 6,5 36,00 5
10 WIM Tsatsalashvili Keti GEO 2312 6,5 34,00 4
11 IM Purtseladze Maka GEO 2306 5,0 27,50 2
12 GM Dzagnidze Nana GEO 2506 4,0 27,25 3
13 WIM Gavasheli Ana GEO 2204 3,5 14,50 2
14 WIM Khurtsilava Inga GEO 2303 1,0 6,50 1

I haven't met IM Melia but one of our number, Don McLean, has, when he covered the 2009 Montreal Open Chess Championship in September 2009.  Montreal fell in love with Melia, and she fell in love with Montreal.  Goddesschess had a part in bringing about her appearance in Montreal - her first trip to North America, in fact!  She finished in second place, just behind Montreal favorite IM Jean Hebert.  We are hoping she will be able to come back to Montreal to defend her title as Woman Chess Champion of Montreal at the 2010 Tournament. 

Article at Goddesschess by Don McLean

Photo by Don McLean - Salome Melia (left) and Lee Mei Chen, taken outside the playing venue of the 2009 Montreal Open Chess Championship

For a list of blog posts regarding the 2009 Montreal Open Chess Championship, please click on the label below.

Some Awwwwwwww Photos of a Cat and a Deer Hanging Out Together

So cool!  Not sure when these were taken - perhaps last fall?  The grass is green and no snow to be seen but there are leaves on the ground.  Taken in (I believe) Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  Posted at the website where I found it on January 19, 2010.  There are more photos at the link.

Ancient Trade: Bronze Age Wreck Discovered Off Coast of Devon

Article from the
Bronze Age shipwreck found off Devon coast
One of the world's oldest shipwrecks has been discovered off the coast of Devon after lying on the seabed for almost 3,000 years.
By Jasper Copping
Published: 9:00PM GMT 13 Feb 2010

The trading vessel was carrying an extremely valuable cargo of tin and hundreds of copper ingots from the Continent when it sank.  Experts say the "incredibly exciting" discovery provides new evidence about the extent and sophistication of Britain's links with Europe in the Bronze Age as well as the remarkable seafaring abilities of the people during the period.

Archaeologists have described the vessel, which is thought to date back to around 900BC, as being a "bulk carrier" of its age. The copper and tin would have been used for making bronze – the primary product of the period which was used in the manufacture of not only weapons, but also tools, jewellery, ornaments and other items.

Archaeologists believe the copper – and possibly the tin – was being imported into Britain and originated in a number of different countries throughout Europe, rather than from a single source, demonstrating the existence of a complex network of trade routes across the Continent.

Academics at the University of Oxford are carrying out further analysis of the cargo in order to establish its exact origins. However, it is thought the copper would have come from the Iberian peninsular, Alpine Europe, especially modern day Switzerland, and possibly other locations in France, such as the Massif Central, and even as far as Austria.

It is first time tin ingots from this period have ever been found in Britain, a discovery which may support theories that the metal was being mined in the south west at this time.

If the tin was not produced in Britain, it is likely it would have also come from the Iberian peninsular or from eastern Germany.

The wreck has been found in just eight to ten metres of water in a bay near Salcombe, south Devon, by a team of amateur marine archaeologists from the South West Maritime Archaeological Group.

In total, 295 artefacts have so far been recovered, weighing a total of more than 84kg. The cargo recovered includes 259 copper ingots and 27 tin ingots. Also found was a bronze leaf sword, two stone artefacts that could have been sling shots, and three gold wrist torcs – or bracelets.

The team have yet to uncover any of the vessel's structure, which is likely to have eroded away. However, experts believe it would have been up to 40ft long and up to 6ft wide, and have been constructed of planks of timber, or a wooden frame with a hide hull. It would have had a crew of around 15 and been powered by paddles.

Archaeologists believe it would have been able to cross the Channel directly between Devon and France to link into European trade networks, rather than having to travel along the coast to the narrower crossing between modern day Dover and Calais.

Although the vessel's cargo came from as far afield as southern Europe, it is unlikely it would have been carried all the way in the same craft, but in a series of boats, undertaking short coastal journeys.

The wreck site is on part of the seabed called Wash Gully, which is around 300 yards from the shore. There is evidence of prehistoric field systems and Bronze Age roundhouses on the coast nearby and it is thought the vessel could have sunk while attempting to land, or could have been passing along the coast.

The coastline is notoriously treacherous and there is a reef close by which could have claimed the vessel.

The recovery work took place between February and November last year but the discovery was not announced until this month's International Shipwreck Conference, in Plymouth.

The finds have been reported to both English Heritage and the Receiver of Wreck, which administers all shipwrecks. The artefacts are due to be handed over to the British Museum next week. They will be independently valued and the museum will pay the team for the items.

Mick Palmer, chairman of the South West Maritime Archaeological Group, said: "For the British Isles, this is extremely important. This was a cargo trading vessel on a big scale. There is more down there and we will carry on searching for it. We anticipate a lot more will be found."

Dave Parham, senior lecturer in marine archaeology at Bournemouth University and a member of the team, said: "What we are seeing is trade in action. We are not stuck with trying to work out trade based on a few deposits across a broader landscape. We are looking at the stuff actually on the boat being moved.

"Everything that is in the ship sinks with it and is on the seabed somewhere. What you would call this today is a bulk carrier. It was carrying what was for the time a large consignment of raw materials."

Dr Peter Northover, a scientist at the University of Oxford who has been analysing the find, said: "These are the produce of a multitude of countries, scattered right around Europe, up and down the Atlantic coast and inland. It came from a combination of places. It is showing the diversity of the trade.

"Metal traders and workers would have traded parcels of metal with each other. The metal would have moved in steps, along networks of contacts exchanging metal as and when they need it."

Dr Stuart Needham, a Bronze Age archaeologist, said: "This is genuinely exciting. Everyone knows that man has been walking around on land since time immemorial, but I think people now will be surprised to know how much they were plying the seaways at this time, up and down the Atlantic seaboard and across the Channel.

"There's a complex lattice of interactions across Europe happening throughout this period. A lot of stuff may have moved across land, but it is eminently possible at this stage that there were quite sophisticated maritime networks with specialist mariners – people who know how to read the tides and the stars and who are not just casually going out on the sea to do some deep sea fishing.

"If you have got specialist mariners plying the Atlantic seaways, there is every possibility they could be picking up material in different locations and stockpiling it.

"The mainstay of this exchange network might have been a number of vessels undertaking short journeys. It doesn't mean there weren't occasional vessels and people going longer distances."

One other Bronze Age vessel has previously been found near Salcombe, where just 53 artefacts were recovered. Another eight Bronze Age items have also been found at a third nearby spot, indicating another possible wreck.

The only other Bronze Age wrecks found in the UK have been located on land, or on the foreshore, at Dover and North Ferriby, on the Humber. Ben Roberts, Bronze Age specialist at the British Museum, said: "It is an incredibly exciting find. What we have here is really, really good evidence of trade. We don't get many shipwreck sites.

"It is very rare to get a snapshot of this level of activity. It is very possible there were also animals and people going across the Channel too. We hardly ever get to see evidence of this cross Channel trade in action. It is a huge amount of cargo."

Aeroflot 2010

Chess femme standings after Round 5:

A1 Group (80 players):
49 GM Kosintseva, Tatiana w 2.5 RUS F 2515 2635
59 GM Hou, Yifan w 2.0 CHN F 2590 2534 (photo)
64 IM Kosintseva, Nadezhda w 2.0 RUS F 2533 2580
66 GM Sebag, Marie w 2.0 FRA F 2510 2540
67 IM Javakhishvili, Lela w 2.0 GEO F 2493 2538

A2 Group (66 players):
21 IM Harika, Dronavalli w 3.0 IND F 2471 2505
40 IM Ovod, Evgenija w 2.5 RUS F 2415 2477
41 WGM Savina, Anastasia w 2.5 RUS F 2407 2503
47 IM Romanko, Marina w 2.0 RUS F 2433 2392
48 IM Kovalevskaya, Ekaterina w 2.0 RUS F 2428 2386
58 WGM Bodnaruk, Anastasia w 1.5 RUS F 2372 2306
65 WGM Pourkashiyan, Atousa w 1.0 IRI F 2306 2193
66 WGM Karavade, Eesha w 0.5 IND F 2405 2061

After 6 Rounds B Group (55 players):
3 WFM Mammadova, Gulnar Marfat q w 5.0 AZE F 2221 2600

21 WIM Kharashuta, Ekaterina w 3.5 RUS F 2270 2292
23 WIM Ghader Pour, Shayesteh w 3.5 IRI F 2187 2336 (photo)
36 WIM Tarasova, Viktoriya w 2.5 RUS F 2290 2204
46 WGM Chasovnikova, Eugenia w 2.0 RUS F 2251 2239
53 WFM Cheremnova, Tamara w 1.5 RUS F 2260 2074

After 6 Rounds C Group (72 players):
11 WFM Nikolaeva, Alexandra w 4.0 RUS F 2193 2164

16 Rjanova, Valerya w 4.0 RUS F 2105 2187
17 WFM Aghasiyeva, Fidan Aydin qi w 4.0 AZE F 2084 2164

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Night Miscellany

Hola, darlings!

What an exhausting week.  I'm soooo glad that damned 30 hour long snow storm visited out east.  Maybe now people in Baltimore, Atlanta and Washington, D.C. will understand just a wee bit more what we people in Milwaukee (where???) go through from November through May, ever single fricking year. 

Tragedy today at Whistler, the Winter Olympics site for luge and many other alpine sports of 2010.  On a trial run, near the end of the course, a luger from the Republic of Georgia was, in the blink of an eye, flung off his sled and crashed into an unpadded metal pole.  Medical team rushed in but it was all for naught.  I do not know what the young, unfortunate luger died from, but at this point it seems to me that he died at the scene of the accident - he never stood a chance after hitting that pole at 90 miles per hour. 

Very disturbing, I read reports earlier today (after the death of the Georgian luger, who was only 21 years old) for the first time in popular news, that several other lugers throughout prior practice runs this week had also crashed, although no one (evidently) sustained any serious injuries.  Is this luge course too deadly to race on? 

I'm missing most of the Opening Ceremonies on NBC tonight, doing other things, which I will report on in due time.  No matter what the Olympic organizeres do tonight, whipped up at the last moment because, surely (one hopes), no one ever plans for a tragic death of an athelete - I prefer not to watch.  For many years before experiencing menopause (the BIG M), my emotions were, more often than not, very close to the surface; anything could set me off.  These days, despite now being past the BIG M since (more or less), 2001, those emotions are closer to the surface than ever.  I'm like a live volcano, apt to destroy an entire civilization with no warning.  It's best I do not watch something that would bring those volatile emotions to the surface.

I'll save myself for the figure skating...

The organizers ain't fooling around  -- we get a good dose of the Drama Queens, the Men - early on!  Whoa!  I love it!  Here is the schedule:

14 Feb 7:30pm Pairs Short Program

15 Feb 8:00pm Pairs Free Skating
16 Feb 7:15pm Men Short Program

See what's going on - the organizers in cohoots with the network get the Chinese, who will win the pairs competition, out of the way right away, so nobody remembers them at the end of the Olympics, except 1.1 billion other Chinese. 

The figure-skating men are the stars this year!  I can hardly wait to see what costume Johnny Weir decides upon at the last second (since his U.S. Championship long program costume trimmed with "white fur" meant to represent angels' wings was smashed down by PETA and their supporters), and what excuse he will bring forth to cover up what I am expecting will be yet another sub-par performance.  Did you miss the bus again, Johnny?  Dude, retire already, and try to sell those ridiculous "designs" of yours in the real world once you are no longer an "Olympian."  Hey - The Wall Street Journal gave you  and your designs great print coverage today.  Go with it, baby. Elvis Stoiko has declared that macho-men must reign on the ice in order to save the sport for future generations.  And as much as I enjoy watching you skate (and fail to make crucial jumps, unfortunately) for your gorgeous musical interpretation and emotive ability, you are just well, too outre for me.

Evan L - can't grow a decent beard to save his life.  I don't think, frankly, he has what it takes to win the big Gold. But, darling, hey - surprise me.

Brian J - love ya, darling, but you're too short for NBC's ideal male figure-skater so you won't make it in the end.

Current Canadian Skater - I believe Elvis did not comment on you.  Darling, isn't that the kiss of death?

Winner - someone from Asia.

Women's figure skating - no brainer.  Someone from Asia.  I am personally rooting for an excellent and stand-on-her-feet performance from USA's Nagai and perhaps a 4th place finish (but I'm not holding my breath).  Flatt will be flat.  She won't fall, but she won't inspire, either. She doesn't have that "it" factor.  But I think she will make an excellent contestant on "The Apprentice." 

Ice dancing?  Who knows, LOL!  The former old Soviet system of slowly-ever-so-slowly-over-10-years-trudging-up-the-international-ladder to eventually make it into the top ten, and then the top six, and then the top four, and then then top three... was being severely undermined by other non-Soviet teams and the Americans (gasp!) before the advent of the new scoring system.    So - we'll see ---

The new scoring system is as full of shit as the old scoring system. But at least under that system, EVERYONE in the audience knew just exactly what judge gave what skater(s) what score of 6.0 or under under the dual components of "technical" and "artistic."  Bias, if it existed, was clear to see.  But this new scoring system - totally designed to obfuscate and prevent the audience from seeing what any individual judge has posted as his or her scores. As I understand it - correct me if I'm wrong - one total composite score for "technical" and "artistic" is posted and, more importantly, NO ONE CAN TELL WHAT JUDGE POSTED WHAT SCORES.  This is a system RIFE for corruption, if it has not already been riddled with it! 

Okay, now it is shortly after 9:00 p.m. my time and the "march" of Olympians from various countries continues, broadcast by NBC worldwide (I assume).  Personally, I think the entire thing should have been cancelled and, instead, the atheletes should have marched into the arena holding candles, silent, mourning, for the loss of the life of the 21-year old Georgian luger earlier today.  Now, what I'm seeing on t.v. and listening to the commentary, it's just absolutely disgusting.  As if nothing happened  as if no one was killed for such a silly-ass stupid sport.  This sucks.  This really sucks.

I'll stick to chess, darlings.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Queen's Helps Produce Archaeological 'Time Machine'

An appropriately misleading title right from the press release.  This has nothing to do at all with the Queen f England (she's the only Queen who comes to mind when I see the word) which, when I first read it, thought she mighgt have given a DNA swab or something like in order to better match the bones of ancestors and such!  LOL!

Nah, no such thing.  But this is interesting news.  There is now or soon will be a new scale of calibrating carbon-14 dating that goes back to 50,000 years.  This isn't the place to get into a discussion about all the problems associated with carbon-14 dating (actually, the problems associated with most dating methodologies).  Here is the article about the new carbon dating "calibration curve."  Oh please - why couldn't they call it something in plain English that everyone will understand? 

I read the article and I'm not reassured that despite the improvements it is now an accurate dating mechanism.  But I'm hoping this new one is more accurate than what's been used for the past - just how long has carbon-14 dating been around???

Press release from Queen's University Belfast
Queen's helps produce archaeological 'time machine'
Researchers at Queen's University have helped produce a new archaeological tool which could answer key questions in human evolution.

The new calibration curve, which extends back 50,000 years is a major landmark in radiocarbon dating-- the method used by archaeologists and geoscientists to establish the age of carbon-based materials.

It could help research issues including the effect of climate change on human adaption and migrations.

The project was led by Queen's University Belfast through a National Environment Research Centre (NERC) funded research grant to Dr Paula Reimer and Professor Gerry McCormac from the Centre for Climate, the Environment and Chronology (14CHRONO) at Queen's and statisticians at the University of Sheffield.

Ron Reimer and Professor Emeritus Mike Baillie from Queen's School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology also contributed to the work.

The curve called INTCAL09, as just been published in the journal Radiocarbon. It not only extends radiocarbon calibration but also considerably improves earlier parts of the curve.

Dr Reimer said: "The new radiocarbon calibration curve will be used worldwide by archaeologists and earth scientists to convert radiocarbon ages into a meaningful time scale comparable to historical dates or other estimates of calendar age.

"It is significant because this agreed calibration curve now extends over the entire normal range of radiocarbon dating, up to 50,000 years before today. Comparisons of the new curve to ice-core or other climate archives will provide information about changes in solar activity and ocean circulation."

It has taken nearly 30 years for researchers to produce a calibration curve this far back in time.

Since the early 1980s, an international working group called INTCAL has been working on the project.

The principle of radiocarbon dating is that plants and animals absorb trace amounts of radioactive carbon-14 from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere while they are alive but stop doing so when they die. The carbon-14 decays from archaeological and geological samples so the amount left in the sample gives an indication of how old the sample is.

As the amount of carbon -14 in the atmosphere is not constant, but varies with the strength of the earth's magnetic field, solar activity and ocean radiocarbon ages must be corrected with a calibration curve.

Most experts consider the technical limit of radiocarbon dating to be about 50,000 years, after which there is too little carbon-14 left to measure accurately with present day technology.

Oooooohhhh, the Beyatches Be Out!

Oh those figure-skating prima-donnas! The Olympics hasn't even started and already the beyatches are at it, slinging mud at the judges and at each other!

And it ain't the ladies.  It's the dudes!

Is the international skating union paying these guys to create this kind of press?  Whatever - I'm sure the people who run the thing are secretly rubbing their hands together in glee!  Not since Nancy and Tonya has so much shit been slung at so many different targets!  I love it!  LOL!

First up, Evgeny Plushenko of Russia, who retired in 2006 after winning Olympic gold.  He quit one of the ice shows to try for an Olympic come-back. I'm reading that he's the favorite to win gold again.  Really?  If that's the case, then in my opinion the fix is in.

Plushenko started it all by flinging some shit at French medal threat Brian Joubert, claiming that Joubert got marked more favorably by the judges at the European championships for "transitions" between elements even though, so says Plushenko, they both did the same transitions.  Which is to say - none whatsoever.  Oh those naughty naughty boys - getting by on their quad jumps and not much else, although Joubert is, in my opinion, much cuter and has a better overall presentation and appearance on the ice.

Meow, Evegeny.

Then, the head of the French figure skating federation had to put his two francs into the discussion, by claiming that the "North American" judges were conspiring to keep the Europeans out of the medals at the Olympics.  Those Frenchies, they just do not know when to keep their lips zipped.  He could have just let Plushenko shoot himself in the foot with his, frankly, smarmy and self-serving accusations, but noooooo.

Enter Jamie Sale.  She and partner (now husband David Pelletier), skating for Canada, were first awarded Olympic silver for their fabulous routine that brought the house down. Amid subsequently proven accusations of a fix by - are you ready for this - the Russian and French judges - Sale and Pelletier were awarded a dual gold medal for their performance.  She says that Plushenko has benefited under the old and new systems by receiving high marks when he did not earn them, and he is a hypocrite to complain.

Now Canadian figure-skating star Patrick Chan, who has thrived under the new scoring system, has shown his claws to Plushenko and, in a glancing blow, to Joubert.  This is great stuff:

From AFP Report at Yahoo Sports:  Patrick Chan Blasts 'Old' Plushenko
February 11, 2009

VANCOUVER (AFP) - World silver medallist Patrick Chan dubbed his Olympic rival Yevgeny Plushenko as ‘old’ as the Canadian teenager insisted his style of skating was the one of the future.

The 19-year-old found himself at the centre of a row amid allegations of North American lobbying against European figure skaters ahead of the men’s figure skating event in Vancouver.

Chan is bidding for Canada’s first men’s figure skating gold but he is up against European rivals including Plushenko and Brian Joubert of France, who are renowned for their quadruple jumps which he does not possess as he focuses more on transitions and step sequences which are rewarded highly under the new judging system.

And allegations of American lobbying erupted after it emerged that Joe Inman, a veteran US Olympic level skating judge, sent e-mails to judges and officials reminding them to mark presentation scores accurately.

Inman sent the e-mails after he heard that Plushenko had said after winning a sixth European title that both he and former world champion Joubert do not have any transitions moves linking elements together because they focus on their jumps, implying how could they be awarded marks for something they do not do.

Chan refused to be drawn into the controversy, but said he believed that the style of skating of 27-year-old Russian Plushenko, who has returned to competition in a bid to defend his Olympic title, was out of date.

“For me the transitions are one of the most important things in a programme, otherwise it’s very boring to watch,” he said.

“Above all in a programme like the Phantom of the Opera which I do for the long programme. It’s important to have good transitions to interpret the music with unique footwork.

“I love the new system, it’s a great way to promote an all around skater especially a skater like me,” said Chan.

“He’s (Plushenko) confident that the quad will really help him, that he doesn’t need transitions. He’s old, I can’t tell him it’s not good.

“I think we’ll start seeing more skaters like me in future generations.”

Chan believes that Plushenko and Joubert will try and intimidate him with the quad in practice ahead of the competition.

“Of course they’ll (Plushenko and Joubert) do it in practice and will nail it on front of me,” he said.

“It’s totally normal that’s why the Olympics are so special. I’ll only use that to feed the fire and focus on what I can do.

“It’s going to be exciting to see what Plushenko has up his sleeve.

“We’re all a bunch of great skaters. It’s whoever who can grasp that moment on that Tuesday and Thursday.”
Most ridiculous statement in this article: Chan refused to be drawn into the controversy... . Yeah, right.  If Chan was trying to avoid controversy, he shouldn't have said that because Plushenko is old (implying set in his ways, stuck in the old system and perhaps, even, doddering and drooling),he wouldn't listen to Chan's opinion that he (Plushenko) can no longer get by on his quads: “He’s (Plushenko) confident that the quad will really help him, that he doesn’t need transitions. He’s old, I can’t tell him it’s not good."

Take that, Evgeny.
What should happen - but we know it never will - is that the international skating union or federation, or whatever it's called, sanctions Plushenko for his comments which are quite transparently an attempt to influence the outcome of the men's figure-skating competion.  I mean, come on, dude.  If you were so fricking good, you would keep your stupid mouth shut and let your skating do all the talking necessary.  But noooooooo.  What is totally pathetic is that you will get away with it because everyone except Jamie Sale is afraid of the frigging Russians - perhaps because they fear a nuclear-poisoned pellet being slipped into their orange juice at breakfast one morning? 

What did Plushenko really hope to gain by shooting off his mouth?  If he doesn't win the gold, he can claim bias.  If he wins the gold, no one is going to take that medal seriously, they will see it as the judges caving in to pressure.  Plushenko and his really stupid handlers have put him into a no-win situation.  Gee, couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

More on the ice-poop scandal:

On Inman's email from that bastion of fair and unbiased reporting, the New York Daily News, February 11, 2010

Judges accused of bias against European figure skaters
Medal contenders Joubert, Plushenko at centre of uproar over judge's e-mails
BEVERLEY SMITHVANCOUVER— From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
Last updated on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010 03:11AM EST

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Aeroflot 2010

Aeroflot has started.  As in previous years, many of the players from the Moscow Open are now playing in the gigantic Aeroflot (not so much the ladies).

In Group A1, five of the 80 players are chess femmes.  Here are their rankings after R2:

30 IM Kosintseva, Nadezhda w 1.5 RUS F 2533 2837 +0.80 1 ½

31 GM Kosintseva, Tatiana w 1.5 RUS F 2515 2831 +0.83 1 ½
64 GM Hou, Yifan w 0.5 CHN F 2590 2453 -0.35 0 ½  (78th place with 4.0 in Moscow Open A)
74 GM Sebag, Marie w 0.5 FRA F 2510 2411 -0.25 0 ½
75 IM Javakhishvili, Lela w 0.5 GEO F 2493 2444 -0.11 ½ 0
Here are the chess femmes plahing in Group A2 (eight out of 66), and their rankings after R2:
13 IM Harika, Dronavalli w 1.5 IND F 2471 2548 +0.19 ½ 1
20 WGM Savina, Anastasia w 1.5 RUS F 2407 2707 +0.79 1 ½
42 IM Romanko, Marina w 1.0 RUS F 2433 2470 +0.10 0 1
45 IM Ovod, Evgenija w 1.0 RUS F 2415 2482 +0.19 0 1
46 WGM Bodnaruk, Anastasia w 1.0 RUS F 2372 2469 +0.26 1 0
51 IM Kovalevskaya, Ekaterina w 0.5 RUS F 2428 2233 -0.51 0 ½
60 WGM Pourkashiyan, Atousa w 0.5 IRI F 2306 2267 -0.09 ½ 0 (35th place with 5.0 in Moscow Open C)
64 WGM Karavade, Eesha w 0.0 IND F 2405 1723 -0.85 0 0

Metropolitan Museum of Art: Annual Appeal

I have to say, the Met sure does hire the most charming fund-raisers, LOL!  Last year I talked to a fellow with a decided British accent and he listened with sympathy to my tale of hearing critters in the attic - that was a few days before the exterminator came.  Thankfully no critters (mice) since then, keeping me up with their scampering about on the other side of the ceiling above my bed!  Tonight I answered the phone and it was a fellow who transplanted himself from New York (still has a trace of accent) to LA - poor fellow.  We had a lovely chat about the crappy weather and the earthquake that happened about 80 miles to the south which was also felt here, 4.3 on the Richter scale, about 4 a.m.  I was blissfully unaware - it was one of the times I was actually sleeping during what was otherwise a restless night, waking up what seemed like every 60 to 90 minutes. 

New York transplant man was calling about the Met's Annual Appeal, and he recommended that I do a search at the Met website for Joan of Arc, which was a painting he saw during his last (recent) visit home to NYC.  He said it looks just like a photograph.  He saw it on the second floor, and he was shocked when I told him during my four previous visits to the Met (maybe it's only three, two in 2006 and one in 2009?) I've never made it into the actual parts of the museum where the paintings are!  I've spent the bulk of my time on the first and second floor antiquities sections!

I did make a pledge, but I had intended to do so this year anyway, without any call from a charming man.  But it sure was nice to get that call.  I wonder - do they maintain files on their members - "Jan Newton.  Female of a 'certain age.'  Good for $50 a year plus her annual membership renewal of $50; likes to speak to charming gentlemen."  LOL! 

I believe this is the painting of which he spoke and I do think it looks very  much like a photograph - except for those spirit 'saints' sort of hanging around in the background.  Could have been demons, for all we know.  Poor Joan, she didn't know the difference.  And in the end, it didn't make any difference.  In the face of her incredible power to inspire an entire army, the powers that be at the time were not about to let her stick around to perhaps challenge them in the not-too-distant-future.  They would have got rid of Joan one way or another - but to discredit her as a 'heretic' and then burning her to death - ahhh, now that was just too good a denouement for certain assholes to resist.  Sort of reminds me of what is going on in Iran and China today, with the latest crop of people tagged as "dissidents."

Joan of Arc, 1879

Jules Bastien-Lepage (French, 1848–1884)
Oil on canvas
100 x 110 in. (254 x 279.4 cm)
Signed, dated, and inscribed (lower right): J.BASTIEN-LEPAGE / DAMVILLERS Meuse / 1879
Gift of Erwin Davis, 1889 (89.21.1)

Storm Photos

I was greeted with a great deal of shoveling out this morning - views from my front door.  In order to get to work, I had to get to get to the road.  The snow was too deep to trudge through, I had to shovel my way to the road.  Sigh. Oh, my aching shoulders. 

This was on top of the shoveling I did yestereday morning and afternoon, in a vain attempt to keep the path to the road clear.  You can see the drift marks and just barely make out the line where the path I had previously shoveled stopped - about 3 feet wide.  At the end of the drive, you can just make out the sort of bumpy looking snow - that's all the snow the plow crapped up into my driveway - four feet tall and four feet deep into my 30 foot long drive. 

I will be shoveling for the rest of the week.  Tonight when I got home from work, I did an aerobic 30 minutes worth of huffing and puffing, flinging heavy shovels-ful of snow over first one should and then the other.  The sun was out today so things kind of compressed and got heavier than yesterday.  I widened my path to 4 feet wide (more or less) and finished carving out the gigantic boulder that the plow had deposited on the edge of the driveway, and I started carving out a place to shovel up into the other side of the drive toward the garage.  I will mark the boundary of the other side of the driveway and then clear out toward the middle.  The snowbank on the south side of the drive is much lower than that on the north - I won't have to throw the snow up as high to get it out of the way :)  I should be finished by Sunday when the ladies come for an investment club meeting. 

Hell, it could be a lot worse - I could be living in Philly or Washington, D.C.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Russian Archaeologists Gain Access to Tomb of Princess of Ukok

The translation of this article into English is not the clearest - but I believe it is saying that after a long-time ban, Russian archaeologists will now once again be allowed access to the tomb where the Princess of Ukok's remains were discovered back in 1993.  She has also been called the "Ice Princess, " the "Altai Princess" and the "Siberian Ice Maiden" in news reports and articles.

Archeologists Conquer Lands of Princess of Ukok
February 8, 2010

Russian archeologists have gained removal of the ban on diggings of tumuli in Altai Republic, where the mummy of Princes of Ukok was discovered in 1993.

The mysterious find is about 2.5 thousand years old. Local dwellers proclaimed the Princess of Ukok the progenitress of the people and demanded not to touch “their” tomb. Scientists, in their turn, insisted that the mummy is a find of world significance and has nothing to do with the local dwellers.

The removal of the improper ban was prompted by the situation, when another Novosibirsk archeological expedition had to give up excavations in that corner of Altai. Archeologists addressed Rosohrankultura, and its representatives in their turn approached prosecutor’s office.

The Princess of Ukok is presently kept in the Museum of Archeology and Ethnography Institute of Siberian Branch of RAS.

Evidently a controversy between the Republic of Russia and the Republic of Altai has existed since the remains of the 'Princess of Ukok' were removed to a museum in Russia.  Some background information about the discovery of the tomb is provided in this 2005 article from Pravda:

The mummy was discovered by an archaeological expedition of Novosibirsk scientists headed by doctor of historical sciences Natalia Polosmak in the early 90th years. Excavations were carried out at Ak-Alakha tract on the Ukok plateau located in the south of the Mountainous Altai. The plateau borders on Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan. Later academician Vyacheslav Molodin discovered one more mummy at this same place, a male warrior. As scientists claim, the mummies were contained in Scythian burial places made in 4-5th centuries B.C. At that time it was a so-called period of "Pazyryk culture" in Altai.

The mummies remained preserved due to the permafrost. Scientists insist on continuation of the excavations as interdisciplinary researches indicate possible warming of the climate as a result of which thawing of ice lenses will occur. At present there is even data showing in which exactly barrows on Ukok plateau ice is still existent.

However, the indigenous population of Altai extremely negatively regarded the fact that scientists managed to find the mummies. Amid the Altai intellectuals, they started to assert that Ukok plateau had always been considered a sacred place for altaians and they knew about the burial place for the woman since in the unearthed barrow "princess Kadyn" had lied whom shamans had been worshipping for millennia.

Today, a powerful movement has emerged in Altai aimed at claiming the mummy back to its ‘native land”. Among supporters of this idea, however, there are two directions. One suggests simple returning it to Altai and exposing the mummy in Mountainous Altai Museum. Others demand to re-bury "princess". For the last ten years supporters of the mummy's returning were constantly sending appeals to authorities with requests for solving the problem. Still the latest actual form of address has beaten all records by amount of people who had signed it.

Novosibirsk archeologists repeatedly declared that they are not against transferring of the mummy to Gorno-Altaisk. Special expensive equipment is necessary to preserve it though, which the Altai museum doesn't possess.

After an earthquake in September of 2003 in Altai, epicenter of which was around 100-150 kilometers from Ukok plateau, local residents began to claim that this act of nature was the result of disturbing the burial place of "princess Kadyn" who now revenges on people.

Check out this January 25, 2008 blog post by Dmitri Minaev at De Rebus Antiquis Et Novis, for a different perspective on the controversy.

From the "Official Portal of the Altai Republic," this description of the woman's burial:

In 1990-1995, South Altai troop of the North Asia complex expedition of Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences conducted research at the Alpine plateau Ukok, situated near the Chinese, Mongolian and Kazakh borders. In the course of excavations of o­ne of the mounds of Ak-Alakh sepulchre, a unique burial of a woman was discovered.

Her remains were found lying in a wooden framework (3,3m х 2,3 m) made of larch and rough-hewed smoothly from inside. The framework was set at the bottom of the sepulchral pit. The whole space of the sepulchral cell - right from the ceiling made of eleven closely fitted logs down to the very bottom - was filled with ice. A linen - several strips of black felt sewed together - was spread instead of a floor right over the previously laid out pebbles. There was a massive trough in the southern corner of the sepulchre. Its lid was hammered in by copper nails with round heads. Leather ornaments presented as figures of deer were found in the trough as the ice inside of it melted. There were dishes with food near the trough. Two flat-bottomed ceramic jugs, destroyed by ice, lied o­n the floor. Pieces of meat remained lying o­n the dishes. There was even an iron knife stuck into a piece of meat, the handle of the knife representing symmetrically arranged effigies of the upper part of a wolf's snout with Capricorn's horns. Thus, wolf's sharp-toothed jaws appeared to be the center of the composition adorning the handle.

Six horses [WOW!] were laid in the northern part of the sepulchral pit just like in all other Pazyryk burials. Horses' hair, plaited tails, wooden harness ornaments, components and felt covers of saddles were preserved.

The woman was lying o­n her right side in a sleeping pose with her legs bent slightly in her knees and hands crossed o­n her belly; she was lying over double-folded thick strip of felt, her head o­n a felt pillow-bolster. She was covered with a fur counterpane with appliques representing vegetable ornament, made of golden foil.

Her clothes were well preserved. All seams of her ample silk yellowish shirt with long sleeves covering her fingers were trimmed with thin red cord, while its hem, neck, the edges of the sleeves and the center of the shirt were decorated with a red ribbon; her lengthy two-colored (red and white) woolen skirt had a thick red belt wound of woolen thread; o­n her legs she had long white felt stockings decorated with patterns of felt appliques in the upper part.

The dead woman had her personal things in the sepulchre. A mirror in the form of a square piece of bronze plate framed by a round wooden setting with a handle and with a deer effigy cut o­n its back side, laid over the skirt near the woman's left hip. The polished surface of the bronze plate was rubbed with mercury, which not o­nly made the surface shine, but also imparted the plate with the properties of a real mirror. The amulets - beads, bronze pendants - were threaded and tied together. There was also a "vanity case" - horse hair brush; some spread out blue and green powder-like substance - vivianite - a mineral used in manufacturing of blue paint; components of a peculiar pencil - a rod made of iron rings where vivianite served as a slate. Such pencil could be used for ritual face painting. There was also a stone saucer with coriander seeds.

It is obvious, that this is a sepulcher of an outstanding woman. The spacious sepulchral cell, body embalming and the body's laying over a decorated trough, the six horses with extremely beautiful and recherche harness - all these speak for the fact that this was a wealthy woman of a special society position.

The woman's shirt may be considered the real evidence of her wealth and high social status - a real value for the Pazyryks: it could be come across o­nly in "tsar" mounds. It is noteworthy, that it was the first time when Pazyryk clothing made of silk was discovered. According to ethnographic sources, the difference in clothing between the rich and the poor among Pazyryk cattle-breeders was very often reflected in the materials used.

The Ukok young woman had tattoos o­n her arms - from shoulders down to her wrists. There are also tattoos o­n some phalanxes of her hands. The blue-color "pictures" can be quite distinctly seen o­n her white skin, but they preserved o­nly o­n her left hand, while there are o­nly fragments of tattoos o­n her right wrist and thumb.

Her right shoulder bears an effigy of a fantastic animal - a deer with gryphon's beak, and horns of a deer and a Capricorn. The horns are decorated with gryphons' heads, the latter can also be seen at the back of the animal, whose body is depicted "twisted". Below there is an effigy of a ram in the same pose with his head thrown back; closed jaws of a spotted ounce with long and twisted tail are depicted at the ram's hoofs.

There are some signs indicating that the dead woman, buried by her fellow-tribesmen with such profound respect, was remarkable for a certain gift that she possessed. This does not obligatory imply that she was a shaman or a priestess. The young woman could be a healer, a story-teller, a fortune-teller. In the ritual practice of Sayan Altai, there are known over 30 titles for various specialists - those possessing certain secret knowledge - who always existed behind shamans serving an obligatory background for them.

More information, including a photograph of the body, at Wikipedia.  The tatoos on the lady's arm in the photo are quite discernible.

Taiwan Celebrates Chinese New Year with "Eye-Dotting" Ceremony

Monday February 8, 2010

Dragons and lions come alive at eye-dotting ceremony
GEORGE TOWN: With a thundering roll of drums and cymbals, a huge group of “dragons” and “lions” came “alive” at the Goddess of Mercy Temple. The event – a grand eye-dotting ceremony to usher in the Year of Tiger.

It was a sight to behold as the coterie of 26 lions and two dragons slowly formed a circle and bowed in homage to a statue of the deity.  (Photo: A group of 26 lions and two dragons paying homage to the Goddess of Mercy at the temple in Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling in Penang during a grand ‘eye-dotting ceremony’. Several different kinds of lions performed amid a thunderous roar of drums and cymbals to start the Chinese New Year festivities. GOH GAIK LEE / The Star)
The “heavenly creatures” included five lions bearing the Hokkien head patterns from Taiwan and a dragon with the design of lotus flower on its body.

Tourists and children were seen chattering with excitement and snapping pictures during the ceremony.

Among them was seven-year-old Law Ee Jie, who appeared fascinated to witness such a grand “reunion” of lion and dragon dances.

“I have never seen so many lion heads for an eye-dotting ceremony and it is simply beautiful,” he said.

The ceremony for the animals was performed by state Tourism Deve­lopment and Culture Committee chairman Danny Law.

Penang Ching Xing Sports Gymnasium secretary Jeffrey Goh Thian Hooi said the event traditionally symbolised the animals “coming alive” before being used for performances during their house-to-house visits to bring good luck and prosperity.

“This is the first time we have brought along all our dragon and lion dance heads for a grand eye-dotting ceremony and we are planning to do it every year,” he said.

Senior instructor Kok Siew Hong said the troupe charged between RM600 and RM2,000 for their performances, depending on the type of function they are booked for.

“Many hope the lion dances can ‘roar’ for better luck this year. Our troupes have been fully booked since a month ago,” he said.
The Goddess of Mercy is Kwan Yin (also Kuan Yin, Guanyin -- Goddess of Compassion and Healing).

What is an eye-dotting ceremony?  I found some fascinating information.  It is based in Taoist tradition.  In essence, it is a ceremony that brings life force and power to a statue or another object (such as a lion costume -- see below) - it actually represents the "birth" of the object into the world!  According to this description of a recently-enacted ceremony (January, 2010), a special red-colored ointment, the color associated with life, is used to dot the statue in a ceremony designed to "invite" the spirit and soul of the god or goddess into the statute.  Without the ceremony, the statue has no life and no power and, therefore, cannot hear one's prayers and supplications.

I cannot help but feel that it may be a very ancient practice.  The use of red ochre, for instance, on objects and in cave paintings that date back into neolithic times, is often associated with fertility and birth.  Perhaps the ancient "Opening of the Mouth Ceremony" used to "open" a mummified person so that his or her ba and ka could easily travel back and forth from the body to the outside world shares an archaic common source with the eye-dotting ceremony practiced in Taoism, rooted in traditions that date back to shamanistic practices long before writing was invented in China. 

Check out this description of an eye-dotting ceremony to awaken the spirit within a new "lion" - a costume used by dancers in ceremonial dances:  Han Shou Tang Lion Dance: Eye Dotting Ceremony - Hoi Gong

New Southern Chinese Lions must be initiated through a traditional ceremony called the Hoi Gong (eye opening/dotting). A new lion should not be used if it has not been through the Hoi Gong ceremony. According to the tradition of the lion dance, if the lion is used at any kind of event without being initiated or awakened, it will bring misfortune and bad luck.

"Dotting the Eye" refers in particular to the Chinese tradition of painting in the eye of the Chinese lion before the start of the lion dance to awaken the spirit of the lion. Hoi Gong is a traditional ceremony to awaken a new lion, or from a more traditional viewpoint, bring down the spirit of the lion from the heaven and give it life. This ceremony signifies the existence or birth of a new lion into the world.
Interestingly, the description of this ceremony focuses on - literally - "dotting the eye" - that is, painting in an iris on an eyeball -- a practice the author traces to these stories from Chinese history:

"Eye Dotting" Origin Of The Tradition
(Chinese Text from Ming Pao Daily, Translated by E. Hou)

It is generally believed that the tradition of "eye-dotting" originated from two Chinese stories concerning painting pictures.

During the Eastern Jin Dynasty [314-420 A.D.] a painter named Gu Kai Zhi was famous for painting portraits. However, he had a strange habit of leaving the eyeballs out, even for several years. When he was asked why, he said, "The most life-like strokes of a subtle portrait come from the eyes."

When a painter called Zhang Seng Yu was designated to paint a mural for the An Le Monastery in Nanjing during the Southern Dynasty [420-589 A.D.], people found that all the dragons on the wall-paintings lacked pupils in their eyes. When the Abbot invited him to add the pupils, Zhang replied, "It must not be done, otherwise they will fly away from the wall and into the sky." The Abbot was not convinced and had the pupils painted in. Eventually those dragons with eyeballs painted on them emerged and flew away, while those without stayed on the wall - This is the origin for the Chinese proverb "Draw the dragons, dot the eyes."

When we dot the eyes for dragon boats, lion dance or masks, the meaning is the same: We draw the eyes, we give them life.
An old Yiddish proverb tells us "The eyes are the mirror of the soul."  Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson's take on this ancient wisdom - "The eyes indicate the antiquity of the soul."

Eyes reflect internal and imputed sources of power. Only think about some of the expressions we know today and the context in which they are used -- "who blinked first" -- "staring someone down" -- giving someone a "hard stare," a "look that could kill." And we've probably all heard about someone getting "the evil eye." There was a very good reason for not looking into the eyes of the Medusa...

Eyes can also invite and seduce. A man will certainly have a different reaction to seeing an attractive young lady staring at him as to, say, a tatooed homey with a gold-plated toothpick dangling on his lip. Well, usually...

Here is what Barbara Walker has to say about the Eye in The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets:

The All-Seeing Eye of ancient Egypt once belonged to the Goddess of truth and judgment, Maat.(1) The Mother-syllable Maa meant "to see"; in hieroglyphics it was an eye.(2)

A late text transferred the All-Seeing Eye to a male god, Horus, and the common symbol came to be known as the Eye of Horus, also representing the phallus as the "One-Eyed God." Yet the same Eye was incongruously described as a female judge: "I am the all-seeing Eye of Horus, whose appearance strikes terror, lady of Slaughter, Mighty One."(3) [sounds like the fearsome lion-headed goddess, Sekhmet, to me] The Eye whose appearance strikes terror was the original prototype of the evil eye which, like the petrifying glance of Medusa, was usually associated with women and was feared by simple folk everywhere, up to the present day.

Staring idols of the Neolithic "Eye Goddess" have been found throughout Mesopotamia. [Image - note below].  In Syria she was known as the Goddess Mari, whose huge eyes searched men's souls.(4)

Ayin was the "eye" in the Hebrew sacred alphabet, possibly derived from Aya, the Babylonian Creatress.(5) Islamic Arabs diabolized her and corrupted her name into Ayin, spirit of the evil eye. Moslem Syrians called her Aina Bisha, the eye-witch.

Like Moslems, Christians diabolized the female spirit of the All-Seeing Eye. Old women were credited with the ancient Goddess's power to "overlook" - to curse someone with a glance. Judges of the Inquisition so greatly feared the evil eyes of their victims that they forced accused witches to enter the court backward, to deprive them of the advantage of a first glance.(6)

Oddly enough, remedies for the evil eye were often female symbols. Necklaces of cowrie shells, those ubiquitous yonic symbols, were and are valued in India as charms against the evil eye. The triangle or Yoni Yantra, representing the vulva, is similarly used in India, Greece, and the Balkans. Northern Indian farmers protect crops from the evil eye by hanging Kali's symbol of a black pot in the field. In 18th-century England, the classic witch's familiar, a black cat, was supposed to afford protection; and sore eyes could be cured by rubbing with a black cat's tail.(7) In addition there were many signs, gestures, and other kinds of counter-spells to be used as instant remedies if one suspected having been "overlooked."

It seems men were very much averse to meeting a direct glance from a woman. In the most patriarchal societies, from medieval Japan to Europe, it was customary to insist that "proper" women keep their eyelids lowered in the presence of men. In 19th-century Islamic Iran, it was believed that every woman above the age of menopause possessed the evil eye. Old women were not permitted in crowds attending public appearances of the Shah, lest his sacred person be exposed to an old woman's dangerous look.(8)

Any person invested with spiritual powers, however, could be credited with the power to curse with a look. Several popes were reputed to be bearers of the evil eye or jettatura. Pope Pius IX (d. 1878)was a famous jettatore. Pope Leo XIII, his successor, was said to have the evil eye because so many cardinals died during his reign.(9) [or maybe he just had them poisoned to get rid of them, ahem].

(1) Budge, G.E. 1, 392.
(2) Budge, E.I., 55.
(3) Cavendish, P.E., 167.
(4) Neumann, G.M., 111-12 pl. 87.
(5) Assry. & Bab. Lit., 133-34.
(6) Lea unabridged, 831.
(7) Gifford, 79-81.
(8) Gifford, 47.
(9) Budge, A.T., 365.
Goddesses and eyes and lions, oh my!  It is, perhaps, no coincidence that the "eye-dotting" ceremony for the lions and dragons reported in the article at the beginning of this post was held within the precincts of a Goddess's sacred Temple. The associations of Goddess and lion, and Goddess with eye, pre-date writing.

Note from above: Alabaster Eye Idol, British Museum. From Tell Brak, north-eastern Syria, about 3500-3300 BC

What is that symbol on top of the pyramid on the flip side of a U.S. dollar bill?  Yep - it's the All-Seeing Eye!  Notice the rays shooting out from it, denoting both divinity/godhood and light - i.e., enlightenment. Sounds like a segueway into Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol!" Hey, the Masons would not have lasted this long if they didn't have at least some things right... Annuit Coeptis...

From the British Museum
Faience wedjat eye
Egypt, Third Intermediate Period, 1069-945 BC

An Egyptian healing symbol

The wedjat is associated with Horus, the god of the sky, who was depicted as a falcon or as a man with a falcon's head. In a battle with Seth, the god of chaos and confusion, Horus lost his left eye. But the wound was healed by the goddess Hathor and the wedjat came to symbolise the process of 'making whole' and healing - the word wedjat literally meaning sound. [cf. the Goddess Kwan Yin]  The left eye of Horus also represented the moon. The waxing and waning in the lunar cycle therefore reflected Horus losing and regaining his sight. [Moon = multi-cultural goddess symbol -- think crescent Moon and "horns."]

The first use of a wedjat eye as an amulet was when Horus used one to bring Osiris back to life. Their regenerative power meant that wedjat eye amulets were placed in mummy wrappings in great numbers. Faience is a type of ceramic, commonly used to make amulets.

But, of course, what the Eye Giveth, the Eye Can Taketh Away...
Check out Nazar Boncugu -- a classic response, creating an eye talisman to ward off the effects of the Evil Eye.

Snow Day!

The first large storm of 2010 is upon us.  It started snowing some time after I went to bed last night and there was probablyh 3 to 4 inches of snow on the ground when I got up at 6 a.m.  The storm is supposed to last until 3 a.m. Wednesday, dumping anywhere from 10 to 14 inches of snow.  Not a problem necessarily for the plows to keep the roads more or less clear but - the winds are coming too.  By some time this afternoon, wind chills will drop into the single digits with winds gusting up to 30 mph.  As the snow is light and fluffy that means drifts and white-out conditions.  Already, with winds at around 15 mph the snow is swirling around and leaving bare spots on neighboring roofs.  That snow always seems to somehow end up in my driveway! (Photo: My backyard at 7:20 a.m. - the sky is heavy grey and the world looks grey because of the small rapidly falling snow all around.  Now it's blowing too - I got a couple face-fulls of snow blown off the roof when I was out shoveling the deck in the dark at 6:30.  Yech!)

I'm taking a snow day.  It's snowing about an inch an hour right now, that is serious snowing!  Being a veteran of past storms I've opted to avoid the 3/4 mile walk to the bus stop with snow blinding me and half smothering me all the while.  It would be downright dangerous coming home later today, because sidewalks will not have been cleared yet - that means walking in the roads in conditions where drivers might not actually see me until it was too late.  No thanks!

I cleared the deck before 6:30.  This photo is the deck (you can barely see the pitter-patter of little squirrel feet) about 40 minutes after shoveling it off - the deck is hardly visible.  In a little while I will pull on my high boots, bundle up and make a path from the front door to the road - which I cannot see at the moment despite the plows coming through about 5:30 a.m.  My hope is to periodically go out and shovel during the day and tonight to keep a path open.  No way will I be able to keep up shoveling the entire drive, I'm not even going to try, not until the snow stops and the winds die down.

Happily I did stop at the Pick 'n Save last night and was surprised that it was not busy at all! I thought it would be another mob scene like it was Sunday afternoon, a couple of hours before Superbowl started.  Geez!  I have supplies laid in so I'm hunkering down - ahhhh, I feel a nap in my near future...  And I have a new book to crack open -

10:05 a.m. Update:
I shoveled a pathway from the from door to the road in three separate shifts between 8:45 and 9:30.  The plow was working on the road in front of my house as I was out working.  For the time being, at least, I have a clear path about 3 feet wide down to the road - until the plow comes through again and the drifts fill it up.  Already they are forming...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Special DVD of 2009 U.S. Chess Championship

I received word today from the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, host for the 2009 U.S. Chess Championship (also hosting the 2010 Championship and Women's Championship later this year) that a special DVD has been put together.  Here are the particulars from the CCSCSL website:

Changing of the Guard: The 2009 U.S. Championship DVD

$11.99SKU: 528

The 2009 U.S. Chess Championship was held at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis in its inaugural year. Returning to this year's competition was the 2008 Champion, Yury Shulman, along with fellow Grandmasters Gata Kamsky, Hikaru Nakamura, and Alexander Onischuk. Newcomers Robert Hess, age 17, and Ray Robson, age 14, both make their first U.S. Championship appearances.

Randy Sinquefield, a professional film producer, created this 30 minute video about the tournament. Changing of the Guard offers a unique and in-depth look into the minds of some of the world's finest chess players as they battle for the title.

All proceeds benefit the Chess Club of Saint Louis Scholastic Center.

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. 
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