Friday, May 25, 2012

Noguchi "Rare Chess Table" At Auction

From Art Daily
(within the past 24 hours)

NEW YORK, NY.- Christie's Important 20th Century Decorative Art & Design sale on June 14 in New York will be highlighted by the most important work to appear at auction by Isamu Noguchi: a unique marble table commission made for Mr. & Mrs. Dretzin (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000). The auction will feature an encyclopedic array of the most renowned designers of the 20th Century, with the best examples in each category, including works by Isamu Noguchi, George Nakashima, Armand Albert Rateau, Charles & Ray Eames, Charlotte Perriand, Frank Gehry, Ron Arad, Claude and Francois-Xavier Lalanne, among others. With more than 130 lots expected to realize in excess of $4 million, the sale will immediately follow A San Francisco Iconoclast: Henry Africa's Magnificent Tiffany Collection, comprising seven beautifully crafted leaded glass lamps valued at $2 million.


Other works by Isamu Noguchi in the sale include a rare chess table, designed for the 1944 exhibition, "The Imagery of Chess" (estimate: $60,000-80,000) ... .  A legendary event in its day, "The Imagery of Chess" exhibition was conceived by the New York dealer Julien Levy and artists Max Ernst and Marcel Duchamp. Lauded by many, Newsweek declared that with his chess table Noguchi had "created the most beautiful piece in the show."

What follows is a cut and paste job from the Christie's online catalog describing the Noguci chess table pictured above - chopped up but it's all here:

Well, Duh! More on Man's Best Friend

From The New York Times

Deeper Digging Needed to Decode a Best Friend’s Genetic Roots

Published: May 21, 2012

As scientific puzzles go, the origin of dogs may not be as important as the origin of the universe. But it strikes closer to home, and it almost seems harder to answer.       

Cosmologists seem to have settled on the idea that 13.7 billion years ago the universe appeared with a bang (the big one) from nothing — albeit a kind of nothing that included the laws of physics.

With dogs, the consensus is that they came from wolves. Beyond that, there are varying claims. It seems dogs appeared sometime between 15,000 and 100,000 years ago, in Asia or Africa or multiple times in multiple places.

There is a reason for this confusion, according to Greger Larson at the University of Durham in England. In a new research paper, he argues that the DNA of modern dogs is so mixed up that it is useless in figuring out when and where dogs originated. “With the amount of DNA we’ve sequenced so far,” Dr. Larson said, “we’re lucky to get back a hundred years, max.” He says that only with the analysis of DNA from fossil dogs, now being done, will answers along this line emerge.

Dr. Larson, the first of 20 authors on a paper about the origin of dogs published Monday in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, argues that genetic study of modern breeds does not “get us any closer to understanding where and when and how dogs were domesticated.”

A Saluki, from article.
Adam Boyko of Cornell University, who has worked in the field of dog genetics but was not involved in the study, said that Dr. Larson’s group had a “fantastic data set,” and laid out clearly the current difficulties in nailing down the details of dog domestication. Dr. Larson and his colleagues analyzed 49,024 locations on dog DNA where the genetic code varies, so called SNPs (pronounced snips, for single nucleotide polymorphisms). They took the DNA from 1,375 dogs of 121 breeds, and 19 wolves.

What they found was that all the so-called modern breeds had been so mixed that their deep genetic history was obscured. [How can experts be so sure that this hasn't also happened with some "breeds" of humans???]

They also found six breeds that they called basal, meaning that their DNA was less mixed — the basenji, shar-pei, Saluki, Akita, Finnish spitz and Eurasier.       
Image from "The Dogs of Ancient Egypt" by Jimmy Dunn, Tour Egypt.
When they added these to eight breeds deemed ancient (older than 500 years) ["ancient" is only older than 500 years????] in other studies, what they found was that the dogs that were most genetically distinct were not from the places where the oldest archaeological and fossil evidence had been found. Dr. Larson said that the expectation was that if these breeds were closer genetically to the first domesticated dogs, they would be geographically closer as well, more likely to be found near the sites of early dog fossils, or archaeological records of ancient breeds.

Instead, the more genetically distinct dogs had been geographically isolated relatively recently in the history of domestication. For example, dingoes, basenjis and New Guinea singing dogs came from Southeast Asia and southern Africa, where dogs did not arrive until 3,500 and 1,400 years ago, respectively. Their distinctive genes were indications of relatively recent isolation. [This is fascinating. Didn't dog follow man?  And if dog followed so-called "modern man" out of Africa, for instance, some 100,000 years ago, wouldn't Africa be one of the hot spots of wide-spread 'original'  canine diversity, as it is said to be the hot spot for 'original' human genetic diversity?  Hmmmm, perhaps something is wrong with the entire model being used to interpret evidence.]

But, he said, all is not lost. Humans have buried their dogs for a long time, and as a result there are fossils of truly ancient dogs, in the neighborhood of 15,000 years old, from which DNA can be extracted. Just as DNA from Neanderthals has helped illuminate the origins of modern humans, DNA from ancient dog fossils should help illuminate the story of early dog domestication in the next few years. [Actually, any "differences" between so-called "Neanderthal" and "modern humans" were basically non-existent because many "modern humans" carry "Neanderthal" DNA.  If the "species" were that different, successful interbreeeding would not have been possible.  "Neanderthal" did not die out, he and she exist today within lots of us! 

“Let’s step back,” he said. “Let’s take a breath. We’re not a million miles away” from figuring out when and where dogs appeared. “We’re close.”         

Yeah, right.  Close.  Ha ha ha!  You won't ever be close so long as you and other experts continue to insist that genetic diversity DECREASED over time for humans.  Think about that for a minute.  As humans spread across the globe, so current theory goes, isolated groups of humans that moved further and further away from the "parent group" developed distinct forms of DNA what-nots (I don't know all of the fancy terms) and they were less diverse than the "parent group," some of whom, I think, are said to have stayed back in Africa.  So, as humans spread around the globe, we moved from a greatly diverse population, genetically speaking, to a much less genetically diverse population. 

But our doggies, the genetic evidence is now showing, did the exact opposite.  Hmmmmm, is there something wrong with this picture?

Afghanistan School Girls Poisoned

Sadly, once the last of the U.S. military presence is "officially" removed from Afghanistan, you know, and I know, and we all know, what will happen to any Afghani girl who dares to go to school, and to any Afghani female who wants to teach, or nurse in a hospital, or work as a secretary, or be a clerk in a grocery store, or try out for an Olympic running team, or play badmitton or chess, or learn how to read and write...

Official: 122 girls, 3 teachers poisoned at Afghan school

From Nick Paton Walsh, CNN
updated 5:23 PM EDT, Wed May 23, 2012
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- More than 120 girls and three teachers were admitted to an Afghanistan hospital Wednesday after being poisoned in their classes with a type of spray, a Takhar provincial official said. The incident occurred in the provincial capital of Talokhan, in the Bibi Hajera girls school, said Dr. Hafizullah Safi, director of public health for the northern Afghanistan province. Forty of the 122 girls were still hospitalized, he said, with symptoms including dizziness, vomiting, headaches and loss of consciousness.

Blood samples have been sent to Kabul in an effort to determine the substance used, he said. "A number of girls from 15 to 18 were brought from a school to hospital today," said hospital director Dr. Habibullah Rostaqi.

"Generally they are not in a critical condition. We are looking after them, but let's see what happens later. We understand so far from the situation ... they are more traumatized."

"The Afghan people know that the terrorists and the Taliban are doing these things to threaten girls and stop them going to school," said Khalilullah Aseer, spokesman for Takhar police. "That's something we and the people believe. Now we are implementing democracy in Afghanistan and we want girls to be educated, but the government's enemies don't want this."

There have been several instances of girls being poisoned in schools in recent years. In April, also in Takhar province, more than 170 women and girls were hospitalized after drinking apparently poisoned well water at a school. Local health officials blamed the acts on extremists opposed to women's education.

While nearly all the incidents involve girls, earlier this month nearly 400 boys at a school in Khost province fell ill after drinking water from a well that a health official said may have been poisoned.

The Taliban is struggling with the country's government over Afghan schools. It recently demanded the closure of schools in two eastern provinces. In Ghazni province, the school closure was in retaliation for the government's ban on motorbikes often used by insurgents. Locals in Wardak province said the Taliban has been a little more lenient and has allowed schools to open late after making changes to the curriculum.

The battle indicates broader fears about Afghanistan's future amid the drawdown of U.S. troops in the country. NATO leaders on Monday signed off on U.S. President Barack Obama's exit strategy from Afghanistan, which calls for an end to combat operations next year and the withdrawal of the U.S.-led international military force by the end of 2014.

During the Taliban's rule from 1996 to 2001, many Afghan girls were not allowed to attend school. The schools began reopening after the regime was toppled by the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. However, observers say abuse of women remains common in the post-Taliban era and is often accepted in conservative and traditional families, where women are barred from school and sometimes [! only sometimes?] subjected to domestic violence.

Afghan Education Minister Dr. Farooq Wardak told the Education World Forum in London in January 2011 that the Taliban had abandoned its opposition to education for girls, but the group has never confirmed that.

Acid Attack Victims May Become Targets Again

Pakistan acid women fear backlash over Oscar film

Survivors of acid attacks whose plight became the focus of an Oscar-winning documentary now fear ostracism and reprisals if the film is broadcast in Pakistan.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy made history earlier this year when she won Pakistan's first Oscar, feted across the country for exposing the horrors endured by women whose faces are obliterated in devastating acid attacks.

Her 40-minute film focuses on Zakia and Rukhsana as they fight to rebuild their lives after being attacked by their husbands, and British Pakistani plastic surgeon Mohammad Jawad who tries to help repair their shattered looks.

When "Saving Face" scooped a coveted gold statuette in the documentary category in Hollywood in February, campaigners were initially jubilant.

The Acid Survivors Foundation Pakistan (ASF) had cooperated on the film but some survivors now fear a backlash in a deeply conservative society -- and are taking legal action against the producers.

"We had no idea it would be a hit and win an Oscar. It's completely wrong. We never allowed them to show this film in Pakistan," said Naila Farhat, 22, who features fleetingly in the documentary.

She was 13 when the man she refused to marry threw acid in her face as she walked home from Independence Day celebrations. She lost an eye and her attacker was jailed for 12 years.  After a long, painful recovery, she is training as a nurse.

"This is disrespect to my family, to my relatives and they'll make an issue of it. You know what it's like in Pakistan. They gossip all the time if they see a woman in a film," said Farhat, taut skin where her left eye dissolved.

"We may be in more danger and we're scared that, God forbid, we could face the same type of incident again. We do not want to show our faces to the world."

Lawyer Naveed Muzaffar Khan, whom ASF hired to represent the victims, said legal notices were sent to Obaid-Chinoy and fellow producer Daniel Junge on Friday. The survivors, he said, "have not consented for it to be publicly released in Pakistan", adding that such agreement was required for all the women who featured in the film, no matter how fleetingly. Khan said the producers had seven days to agree not to release the film publicly in the country, or he would go to court to seek a formal injunction.

"They (survivors) were absolutely clear in their mind in not allowing any public screening as that would jeopardise their life in Pakistan and make it difficult for them to continue to live in their villages," he told AFP.

But Obaid-Chinoy insisted the women signed legal documents allowing the film to be shown anywhere in the world, including Pakistan. She told AFP that Rukhsana had been edited out of the version to be shown in the country out of respect for her concerns, adding she was "unclear about the allegations" and would respond to the legal complaints "when a court orders us".

Rukhsana was not reachable for comment.

Many of the women are routinely threatened by their husbands or relatives and it is a television broadcast that they particularly fear.

"The accessibility is so wide scale, the chances are their lives are going to be threatened," said the lawyer, Khan.

The producers promised that profits from screenings in Pakistan would go to Zakia and Rukhsana, but the row also hints at deeper differences between film-makers trying to tell a story and charity workers on the ground. Some medical personnel, for example, believe it was wrong to focus on an expatriate doctor at the expense of countless local surgeons who have treated dozens of victims. Others believe the film was too sensational and question whether it really will make a difference to the survivors struggling to live in Pakistan, where there are scores of such attacks each year.

DNA Analysis Reveals the Truth

This is a fascinating story out of American history.  I suspect that the truth revealed by the DNA testing has shaken more than a few families to their very core...

Please note the caption for this photograph:

Jack Goins poses with a photo dated to have been taken in 1898 of his step-great-great grandfather George Washington Goins, who died in 1817, left, and great-great grandmother, Susan Minor-Goins who died in 1813 at the Hawkins County Archives Project building Wednesday, May 23, 2012 in Rogersville, Tenn. Goins is of Melungeon descent and has researched Melungeon history for around 40 years.
 Well, I guess those were ghosts who were photographed in 1898 :)

DNA study seeks origin of Appalachia's Melungeons

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — For years, varied and sometimes wild claims have been made about the origins of a group of dark-skinned Appalachian residents once known derisively as the Melungeons. Some speculated they were descended from Portuguese explorers, or perhaps from Turkish slaves or Gypsies.

Now a new DNA study in the Journal of Genetic Genealogy attempts to separate truth from oral tradition and wishful thinking. The study found the truth to be somewhat less exotic: Genetic evidence shows that the families historically called Melungeons are the offspring of sub-Saharan African men and white women of northern or central European origin.

And that report, which was published in April in the peer-reviewed journal, doesn't sit comfortably with some people who claim Melungeon ancestry.

"There were a whole lot of people upset by this study," lead researcher Roberta Estes said. "They just knew they were Portuguese, or Native American."

Beginning in the early 1800s, or possibly before, the term Melungeon (meh-LUN'-jun) was applied as a slur to a group of about 40 families along the Tennessee-Virginia border. But it has since become a catch-all phrase for a number of groups of mysterious mixed-race ancestry.

In recent decades, interest in the origin of the Melungeons has risen dramatically with advances both in DNA research and in the advent of Internet resources that allow individuals to trace their ancestry without digging through dusty archives.

G. Reginald Daniel, a sociologist at the University of California-Santa Barbara who's spent more than 30 years examining multiracial people in the U.S. and wasn't part of this research, said the study is more evidence that race-mixing in the U.S. isn't a new phenomenon.

"All of us are multiracial," he said. "It is recapturing a more authentic U.S. history."

Estes and her fellow researchers theorize that the various Melungeon lines may have sprung from the unions of black and white indentured servants living in Virginia in the mid-1600s, before slavery.

They conclude that as laws were put in place to penalize the mixing of races, the various family groups could only intermarry with each other, even migrating together from Virginia through the Carolinas before settling primarily in the mountains of East Tennessee.

Claims of Portuguese ancestry likely were a ruse they used in order to remain free and retain other privileges that came with being considered white, according to the study's authors. The study quotes from an 1874 court case in Tennessee in which a Melungeon woman's inheritance was challenged. If Martha Simmerman were found to have African blood, she would lose the inheritance. Her attorney, Lewis Shepherd, argued successfully that the Simmerman's family was descended from ancient Phoenicians who eventually migrated to Portugal and then to North America.

Writing about his argument in a memoir published years later, Shepherd stated, "Our Southern high-bred people will never tolerate on equal terms any person who is even remotely tainted with negro blood, but they do not make the same objection to other brown or dark-skinned people, like the Spanish, the Cubans, the Italians, etc."

In another lawsuit in 1855, Jacob Perkins, who is described as "an East Tennessean of a Melungeon family," sued a man who had accused him of having "negro blood. In a note to his attorney, Perkins wrote why he felt the accusation was damaging. Writing in the era of slavery ahead of the Civil War, Perkins noted the racial discrimination of the age: "1st the words imply that we are liable to be indicted (equals) liable to be whipped (equals) liable to be fined ... "

Later generations came to believe some of the tales their ancestors wove out of necessity.

Jack Goins, who has researched Melungeon history for about 40 years and was the driving force behind the DNA study, said his distant relatives were listed as Portuguese on an 1880 census. Yet he was taken aback when he first had his DNA tested around 2000. Swabs taken from his cheeks collected the genetic material from saliva or skin cells and the sample was sent to a laboratory for identification.

"It surprised me so much when mine came up African that I had it done again," he said. "I had to have a second opinion. But it came back the same way. I had three done. They were all the same."

In order to conduct the larger DNA study, Goins and his fellow researchers — who are genealogists but not academics — had to define who was a Melungeon.

In recent years, it has become a catchall term for people of mixed-race ancestry and has been applied to about 200 communities in the eastern U.S. — from New York to Louisiana. Among them were the Montauks, the Mantinecocks, Van Guilders, the Clappers, the Shinnecocks and others in New York. Pennsylvania had the Pools; North Carolina the Lumbees, Waccamaws and Haliwas and South Carolina the Redbones, Buckheads, Yellowhammers, Creels and others. In Louisiana, which somewhat resembled a Latin American nation with its racial mixing, there were Creoles of the Cane River region and the Redbones of western Louisiana, among others.

The latest DNA study limited participants to those whose families were called Melungeon in the historical records of the 1800s and early 1900s in and around Tennessee's Hawkins and Hancock Counties, on the Virginia border some 200 miles northeast of Nashville.

The study does not rule out the possibility of other races or ethnicities forming part of the Melungeon heritage, but none were detected among the 69 male lines and 8 female lines that were tested. Also, the study did not look for later racial mixing that might have occurred, for instance with Native Americans.

Goins estimates there must be several thousand descendants of the historical Melungeons alive today, but the study only examined unbroken male and female lines.

The origin of the word Melungeon is unknown, but there is no doubt it was considered a slur by white residents in Appalachia who suspected the families of being mixed race.

"It's sometimes embarrassing to see the lengths your ancestors went to hide their African heritage, but look at the consequences" said Wayne Winkler, past president of the Melungeon Heritage Association. "They suffered anyway because of the suspicion."

The DNA study is ongoing as researchers continue to locate additional Melungeon descendants.
Associated Press Writer Cain Burdeau contributed to this story from New Orleans, La.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Scottish Cursing Stome Discovered

Never heard of this type of so-called Christian stone before.  Tsk tsk!

Rare Canna stone’s a blessing and a curse
Published on Sunday 20 May 2012 00:00

AN ANCIENT “cursing stone” used by Christian pilgrims more than a thousand years ago to bring harm to their enemies has been discovered on Canna.

The round stone with an early Christian cross engraved on it, also known as a “bullaun” stone, is believed to be the first of its type to be found in Scotland, and was discovered by chance in an old graveyard on the island.

More commonly found in Ireland, the stones were used by ancient Christian pilgrims, who would turn them either while praying or when laying a curse, and were often to be found on sacred pilgrim routes. Traditionally, the pilgrim would turn the stone clockwise, wearing a depression or hole in a bigger “socket” stone underneath.

The Canna stone is approximately 25cm in diameter and is marked with a clearly engraved early Christian cross.

Derek Alexander, the head of archaeology for the National Trust for Scotland, who examined the stone, said: “This is an amazing find. Often it is usually the socket stones or the dished depressions that are found.

“They are usually associated with holes or worn patches in the ground, as it’s believed that the convention was for these stones to be turned multiple times by worshippers when either praying for or possibly cursing someone.”

The stone was found by NTS farm manager Geraldine MacKinnon in Canna’s ancient graveyard. It was then discovered that the stone fitted into a larger stone located near the island’s large sculptured Canna Cross.

Canna was known as an early Christian site and is believed to have been owned by the monastery of Iona as early as the seventh century.

Canna’s property manager Stewart Connor said: “Our head of archaeology confirmed a possible link to the stone at the cross, and I was so excited that I went back out at 9pm that night to check whether it fitted the stone with the hole – and it did. The whole community is really excited by the find, which is really significant for the island, and potentially for Scotland too.”

In Ireland, folklore attached magical significance to bullaun stones, such as the belief that rainwater collected in the stone’s hollow could have healing properties. The St Brigit’s Stone in County Cavan in Ireland was used as a “cursing stone”, and locals would turn the stone while cursing a sworn enemy.

Katherine Forsyth, based at the University of Glasgow and a leading expert in the history and culture of the Celtic-speaking peoples in the first millennium AD, said: “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the first pictures of this beautiful stone. Stones like this are found in Ireland, where they are known as ‘cursing stones’, but this is the first to be discovered in Scotland.”

Forsyth added: “These bowl-shaped lower stones have been found elsewhere in Scotland, including on Canna, but this is the first time a top stone has been found. This exciting find provides important new insight into religious art and practice in early Scotland and demonstrates just how much there is still to be discovered out there.”

There are a number of archaeological remains on the island dating from this period, including a series of highly decorated cross shafts and the hermitage site Sgor Nam Ban-Naomha, or Skerry of the Holy Women, a remote location hidden below steep cliffs which was discovered in 1994.

The island was gifted to the NTS in 1981 by Gaelic scholar John Lorne Campbell. As well as its rich cultural heritage, the island is renowned for its seabirds and boasts puffins, razorbills and Manx shear- waters. There is also a population of both sea eagles and golden eagles.

2012 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

Not much national press coverage on the just concluded U.S. Chess Championships.  Nakamura talking about how "prestigious" the event is.  He didn't give a rat's ass about prestige when the total purse for the "Men's" Championship was $50,000 and he and other top-rated male players had more money to make elsewhere than play in the U.S. Championship.  It's okay to be a schmuck; after all, the world is filled with all kinds of people and we need schmucks just so we know when we come across a truly genuinely nice person - by way of comparison.  Just don't be a hypocrite besides being a schmuck, too.  That's too strong for the gag reflex.

From The Sacramento Bee, which should know better than to reproduce without reading through any press release that uses the word "prestigious" in it.  Geez Louise.

2012 U.S. and Women's Chess Champions Crowned in Saint Louis

Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura and International Master Irina Krush win prestigious Championship titles

By The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis
Published: Monday, May. 21, 2012 - 10:07 am
/PRNewswire/ -- The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis (CCSCSL) crowned Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, 24, of Saint Louis, the 2012 U.S. Chess Champion and International Master Irina Krush, 28, of Brooklyn, N.Y., the 2012 Women's Chess Champion.

The prestigious tournaments are part of the "Triple Crown" of chess championships held in the United States this year. The third event is the 2012 Junior Championship, a tournament for players under the age of 21, which takes place at the CCSCSL July 10-15.

"To win this prestigious event in my hometown of Saint Louis is really something special," Nakamura said. "I'm looking forward to the summer and the other major chess events 2012 has in store for me."

Nakamura is currently ranked No. 5 in the world and No. 1 in the U.S. by rating. He beat out 11 of the top-ranked chess players in the United States to win the title and grand prize of $40,000. Grandmaster Gata Kamsky, the second-place winner who receives $30,000, is currently ranked No. 2 in the nation. The U.S. tournament's total winnings for first through last place totaled more than $160,000 – this is the largest per capita purse this tournament has ever offered.

Krush beat out nine of the top-ranked female chess players in the United States to win the Women's title and grand prize of $18,000. Second-place Women's Championship winner International Master Anna Zatonskih, took home a $12,000 prize. The women's tournament's total winnings for first through last place totaled more than $64,000. Krush defeated Zatonskih in a rapid playoff to win the title. With seconds left on her clock, Krush took advantage of a blunder by her opponent to secure the victory.

"I'm ecstatic," Krush said. "Especially when you get a little lucky [a LITTLE lucky?] at the end, you feel your happiness amplified."

The CCSCSL has been home to the championships for the last four years, helping contribute to Saint Louis' reputation as the hub of U.S. Chess. The city is also home to the Guinness World Record for the largest chess piece in the world, which is located directly across the street from the Chess Club in front of the World Chess Hall of Fame. The piece was unveiled on May 7 before the tournament began and stands 14 feet and seven inches tall, beating the previous record by one foot, six inches. [Ummmm, okay...]

"We're proud to be the leader of the vibrant chess culture in Saint Louis," said CCSCSL Executive Director Tony Rich. "It's a privilege to host the best players in the country and provide fans with a front-row seat to watch these world-class games."

About The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis
The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that is committed to making chess an important part of our community. In addition to providing a forum for the community to play tournaments and casual games, the club also offers chess improvement classes, beginner lessons and special lectures.

Recognizing the cognitive and behavioral benefits of chess, the Chess Club and Scholastic Center is committed to supporting those chess programs that already exist in area schools while encouraging the development of new in-school and after-school programs. Please visit

For More Information, contact: Mike Wilmering 314-361-CHESS (2437)

SOURCE The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis

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2012 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

As you no doubt know by now, Irina Krush is the new U.S. Women's Chess Champion after Anna Zatonskih hung a rook in a won game and immediately resigned game 2 of the rapid chess play-off (Krush had won the first game with the black pieces).  Zatonskih had black in Game 2 and the commentators (Jennifer Shahade and Ben Feingold) had pretty much called the win for Zatonskih at the point in the game where she had plenty of time left on her clock and Krush was playing on increment and was down material.

I turned the live coverage off after Zatonskih hung her rook and resigned, leaving the title to Krush.  So, no Armageddon game was played after all.  And I was wrong in predicting that Zatonskih would repeat as champion.  I'm sure she felt like shit yesterday and today even worse.  That's how I'd feel!  Because, before hanging her rook in the final indignity, Zatonskih had evidently missed an earlier crushing blow against Krush - I think it was grabbing her queen with no compensation on Krush's part.  I was out cutting the grass and ran in now and then to watch the action on the laptop, and missed that part.

You can find the games in PGN at uschesschamps. There is video at U.S. Chess Champs but not of the games - you evidently have to buy a subscription elsewhere to view the games if you were not able to watch them live.  What crap.

Congratulations to Irina Krush for getting lucky.  I feel badly for Anna Zatonskih, but that's the way it goes sometimes. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Did Dogs Help "Modern" Man Out-Compete "Neanderthal" Man?

Hmmmmm.  I would not argue that having man's best friend as a helper for hauling and hunting was not a benefit to mankind.  I'm just wondering if so-called Neanderthal didn't have dogs too, but we just haven't found the evidence yet.  Maybe we won't, either, because it 's just too old and doesn't exist anymore, or perhaps we don't recognize it for what it is.  And when did it become accepted that mankind has had a relationship with canines for at least 27,000 years?  The last I read, that relationship (canine domestication) was perhaps pushed back to some 17,000 or 18,000 years ago (it was not a straight line, one-time event, but happened in many different places with many different populations), but now we're talking about 10,000 years earlier than even 17,000 BCE (a controversial date to begin with).  When did this happen and why didn't it make the news???

Well, here's the article from

Humanity's Best Friend: How Dogs May Have Helped Humans Beat the Neanderthals
By Megan Garber
May 14, 2012

Over 20,000 years ago, humans won the evolutionary battle against Neanderthals. They may have had some assistance in that from their best friends.

One of the most compelling -- and enduring -- mysteries in archaeology concerns the rise of early humans and the decline of Neanderthals. For about 250,000 years, Neanderthals lived and evolved, quite successfully, in the area that is now Europe. Somewhere between 45,000 and 35,000 years ago, early humans came along.

They proliferated in their new environment, their population increasing tenfold in the 10,000 years after they arrived; Neanderthals declined and finally died away.

What happened? What went so wrong for the Neanderthals -- and what went so right for us humans?
The cause, some theories go, may have been environmental, with Neanderthals' decline a byproduct of -- yikes -- climate change. It may have been social as humans developed the ability to cooperate and avail themselves of the evolutionary benefits of social cohesion. It may have been technological, with humans simply developing more advanced tools and hunting weapons that allowed them to snare food while their less-skilled counterparts starved away.

The Cambridge researchers Paul Mellars and Jennifer French have another theory, though. In a paper in the journal Science, they concluded that "numerical supremacy alone may have been a critical factor" in human dominance -- with humans simply crowding out the Neanderthals. Now, with an analysis in American Scientist, the anthropologist Pat Shipman is building on their work. After analyzing the Mellars and French paper and comparing it with the extant literature, Shipman has come to an intriguing conclusion: that humans' comparative evolutionary fitness owes itself to the domestication of dogs.

Yep. Man's best friend, Shipman suggests, might also be humanity's best friend. Dogs might have been the technology that allowed early humans to flourish.

Shipman analyzed the results of excavations of fossilized canid bones -- from Europe, during the time when humans and Neanderthals overlapped. Put together, they furnish some compelling evidence that early humans, first of all, engaged in ritualistic dog worship. Canid skeletons found at a 27,000-year-old site in Předmostí, of the Czech Republic, displayed the poses of early ritual burial. Drill marks in canid teeth found at the same site suggest that early humans used those teeth as jewelry -- and Paleolithic people, Shipman notes, rarely made adornments out of animals they simply used for food. There's also the more outlying fact that, like humans, dogs are rarely depicted in cave art -- a suggestion that cave painters might have regarded dogs not as the game animals they tended to depict, but as fellow-travelers.

Shipman speculates that the affinity between humans and dogs manifested itself mainly in the way that it would go on to do for many more thousands of years: in the hunt. Dogs would help humans to identify their prey; but they would also work, the theory goes, as beasts of burden -- playing the same role for early humans as they played for the Blackfeet and Hidatsa of the American West, who bred large, strong dogs specifically for hauling strapped-on packs. (Paleolithic dogs were big to begin with: They had, their skeletons suggest, a body mass of at least 70 pounds and a shoulder height of at least 2 feet -- which would make them, at minimum, the size of a modern-day German Shepherd.) Since transporting animal carcasses is an energy-intensive task, getting dogs to do that work would mean that humans could concentrate their energy on more productive endeavors: hunting, gathering, reproducing.

The possible result, Shipman argues, was a virtuous circle of cooperation -- one in which humans and their canine friends got stronger, together, over time.

There's another intriguing -- if conjecture-filled -- theory here, too. It could be, Shipman suggests, that dogs represented even more than companionate technologies to Paleolithic man. It could be that their cooperative proximity brought about its own effects on human evolution -- in the same way that the domestication of cattle led to humans developing the ability to digest milk. Shipman points to the "cooperative eye hypothesis," which builds on the observation that, compared to other primates, humans have highly visible sclerae (whites of the eyes). For purposes of lone hunting, sclerae represent a clear disadvantage: not only will your pesky eye-whites tend to stand out against a dark backdrop of a forest or rock, giving away your location, but they also reveal the direction of your gaze. It's hard to be a stealthy hunter when your eyes are constantly taking away your stealth.

Expressive eyes, however, for all their competitive disadvantage, have one big thing going for them: They're great at communicating. With early humans hunting in groups, "cooperative eyes" may have allowed them to "talk" with each other, silently and therefore effectively: windows to the soul that are also evolutionarily advantageous. And that, in turn, might have led to a more ingrained impulse toward cooperation. Human babies, studies have shown, will automatically follow a gaze once a connection is made. Eye contact is second nature to us; but it's a trait that makes us unique among our fellow primates.

Dogs, however, also recognize the power of the gaze. In a study conducted at Central European University, Shipman notes, "dogs performed as well as human infants at following the gaze of a speaker in tests in which the speaker's head is held still." Humans and their best friends share an affinity for eye contact -- and we are fairly unique in that affinity. There's a chance, Shipman says -- though there's much more work to be done before that chance can be converted even into a hypothesis -- that we evolved that affinity together.

"No genetic study has yet confirmed the prevalence or absence of white sclerae in Paleolithic modern humans or in Neanderthals," Shipman notes. "But if the white sclera mutation occurred more often among the former -- perhaps by chance -- this feature could have enhanced human-dog communication and promoted domestication." [Well, until such a study is done canvassing all known prehistoric bones -- if it even can be done given the age of the DNA we're talking about here -- this will forever remain conjecture only.]

Which is another way of saying that, to the extent dogs were an evolutionary technology, they may have been a technology that changed us for the better. The old truism -- we shape our tools, and afterward our tools shape us -- may be as old, and as true, as humanity itself.
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