Saturday, October 13, 2012

Don McLean of Goddesschess Passed Away

In his sleep, Thursday night/Friday morning.  I received notification from his twin sister, Anne, earlier today.  Don was 61.

Don (his Canadian friends and family knew him as Sandy) was the long-time webmaster and creative force behind Random Round-Up at the Goddesschess website.  The website was taken off line earlier this summer when we started experiencing technical difficulties with our server and couldn't get them resolved.  Then some serious health problems hit both of us around the same time, although Don had been sick for several months before with what he called "the flu."  We shared atrial fibrillation together, both diagnosed around the same time in June.  I thought we had both been on the path to recovery together.  I was wrong.  Way wrong. 

Don and I first met in December, 1998 and became engaged in November, 2003.  We were friends and fighters both and shared deep connections in ways words cannot describe.  Although we decided not to marry in 2010, we remained deeply bonded. Our last adventure together was in January this year, our second trip to Madrid and Toledo, where Mr. Don wore me out with his go-go-go!  I did many blog entries from Madrid and posted many photographs.

Mr. Don took this photo of our shadows way up a hill at Rentiro Park in Madrid.  I am on the left, holding my ever-present tote bag.  Mr. Don is on the right holding his videocam.  The photo looks like we (or our shadows) are on bases, like chess pieces. 

Don hard at work in the family room at the second laptop (my house) before we left for Madrid a few days later, in January.  He was bundled up in a hoodie and an afghan.  He was often cold here (I keep my heat at 64-65, but I'm used to it), and liked nothing better than snuggling in front of the fireplace in the front room.

This photo was taken with my very ancient browny camera in October 2002 during our first trip to Madrid, at the gift shop on the Royal Palace grounds while we were waiting for our tour to be called.  There was a cache of swords and like all good swashbucklers, Mr. Don went straight for them.

Mr. Don, waiting at Milwaukee airport for our flight to Chicago en route to Madrid, January this year.  We had to get there EARLY and had breakfast before going through security. 

I am shutting down for awhile.  The Summer from Hell has turned into the Autumn of my Worst Nightmares.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Russian Nazca Lines?

Interesting... copyright 2012 Geoeye, copyright 2012 GIS Innovatsia, courtesy Google Earth.
A historical Google Earth image from 2007 showing the animal-shaped geoglyph in Russia, which may predate
Peru's famous Nazca Lines.

Mysterious Elk-Shaped Structure Discovered in Russia

A huge geoglyph in the shape of an elk or deer discovered in Russia may predate Peru's famous Nazca Lines by thousands of years.

The animal-shaped stone structure, located near Lake Zjuratkul in the Ural Mountains, north of Kazakhstan, has an elongated muzzle, four legs and two antlers. A historical Google Earth satellite image from 2007 shows what may be a tail, but this is less clear in more recent imagery.

Excluding the possible tail, the animal stretches for about 900 feet (275 meters) at its farthest points (northwest to southeast), the researchers estimate, equivalent to two American football fields. The figure faces north and would have been visible from a nearby ridge.

"The figure would initially have looked white and slightly shiny against the green grass background," write Stanislav Grigoriev, of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of History & Archaeology, and Nikolai Menshenin, of the State Centre for Monument Protection, in an article first detailing the discovery published last spring in the journal Antiquity. They note that it is now covered by a layer of soil.

Fieldwork carried out this past summer has shed more light on the glyph's composition and date, suggesting it may be the product of a "megalithic culture," researchers say. They note that hundreds of megalithic sites have been discovered in the Urals, with the most elaborate structures located on a freshwater island about 35 miles (60 km) northeast of the geoglyph.

Discovery & excavation

A man named Alexander Shestakov first discovered the glyphs using satellite images. He alerted researchers, who sent out a hydroplane and paraglider to survey the giant structure.

This has since progressed to an on-the-ground excavation by a team led by Grigoriev. They've found that the stone architecture of the geoglyph is quite elaborate. When they excavated part of a hind leg the largest stones were on the edges, the smaller ones inside. This past summer they also found the remains of passageways and what appear to be small walls on the hoof and muzzle of the animal.

"The hoof is made of small crushed stones and clay. It seems to me there were very low walls and narrow passages among them. The same situation in the area of a muzzle: crushed stones and clay, four small broad walls and three passages," Grigorievwrote in an email to LiveScience. He cautioned that his team didn't excavate all the way down to the bottom of the walls, not wishing to damage the geoglyph.

Dating the geoglyph

Among the finds from the excavations are about 40 stone tools, made of quartzite, found on the structure's surface. Most of them are pickaxe-like tools called mattocks, useful for digging and chopping. "Perhaps they were used to extract clay," he writes in the email.

The style of stone-working called lithic chipping used on one artifact dates it to the Neolithic and Eneolithic (sixth to third millennia B.C.), though Grigoriev says the technology is more typical of the Eneolithic, between the fourth and third millennia B.C.

If that date is correct, it would make the geoglyph far older than Peru's Nazca Lines, the very earliest of which were created around 500 B.C. Grigorievadded that current studies of ancient pollen at the site will help to narrow down the age.

In the Antiquity journal article, Grigoriev and Menshenin point out that palaeozoological studies show that the landscape in the southern Urals supported fewer trees in the Eneolithic, with forest growth not appearing until about 2,500 years ago. "This means that there were open landscapes in the Eneolithic and Bronze Age, which allowed the hill figure to be created," they write.

A megalithic culture

Researchers say this geoglyph may have been built by a "megalithic culture" in the region that created stone monuments in prehistoric times.

"[M]any megalithic sites with features in common with European megaliths have been located: Some 300 are known but have not yet been studied in detail," write Grigoriev and Menshenin in the Antiquity article. Among these megaliths are numerous "menhirs," large upright standing stones. The most spectacular megalithic complexes are on the relatively small Vera Island, located on Turgoyak Lake, about 35 miles (60 km) northeast of the geoglyph.

Grigoriev and Julia Vasina of the South-Ural State University described the Vera Island megaliths in a 2010 article, noting the surviving portion of one monument, megalith two, as being covered by a mound and supporting a gallery and square chamber. Another monument, megalith one, is cut into the bedrock and covered by a mound consisting of stones, brown sand and lots of grass. It is more than 60 feet (19 meters) long and 20 feet (6 meters) wide. It contains three chambers one of which has "bas relief sculptures" in the shape of animals, probably a bull and wolf.

Stone tools and ceramics found at the megalithic sites date them to between the Eneolithic period and the early Iron Age, around 3,000 years ago. Researchers emphasize more dating work needs to be done to verify; however, if the evidence holds, the giant geoglyph, along with the megaliths, were constructed millennia before Peru's Nazca Lines, a testament to the building prowess of an ancient prehistoric culture in the Ural Mountains.

Kennewick Man: Not From Around Here, Dude!

From the Seattle Times
Originally published Tuesday, October 9, 2012 at 8:19 PM    

Kennewick Man bones not from Columbia Valley, scientist tells tribes

In a historic first meeting of two very different worlds, Columbia Plateau tribal leaders met privately Tuesday with scientist Doug Owsley, who led the court battle to study Kennewick Man.
Seattle Times staff reporter
ELLENSBURG — In a historic first meeting of two very different worlds, Columbia Plateau tribal leaders met privately Tuesday with the scientist who led the court battle to study Kennewick Man.

The skeleton, more than 9,500 years old, has long been at the center of a rift between tribal members and scientists, led by Doug Owsley, a physical anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History who spearheaded the legal challenge to gain access to the skeleton for scientific study.

Owsley says study shows that not only wasn't Kennewick Man Indian, he wasn't even from the Columbia Valley, which was inhabited by prehistoric Plateau tribes.

Tribal leaders who fought for reburial of the remains invited Owsley to meet with them this week to present the scientific findings to date.

After nine years of legal battles, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004 ruled that the remains discovered in 1996, eroded from a bank of the Columbia River, were not protected by the federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), because the bones were so old that it was impossible to establish a link with modern-day Native Americans.

Owsley spent most of the day presenting his findings from the study of the skeleton, one of the most complete sets of remains ever recovered, for the gathering hosted by Central Washington University.
While Owsley has said in the past that Kennewick Man is not of Native-American descent, he said here for the first time that he believed the man was not even from this area.

Isotopes in the bones told scientists Kennewick Man was a hunter of marine mammals, such as seals, Owsley said. "They are not what you would expect for someone from the Columbia Valley," he said. "You would have to eat salmon 24 hours a day and you would not reach these values. This is a man from the coast, not a man from here. I think he is a coastal man."

Rex Buck, leader of the Wanapum people, told Owsley he appreciated the presentation, but that lamprey eel could provide the same types of marine-mammal nutrients that Owsley noted. "I hope you would think about some of these things, too, and add that to your equation."

Pressed by Armand Minthorn of the Umatilla Board of Trustees, who asked Owsley directly, "Is Kennewick Man Native American?" Owsley said no. "There is not any clear genetic relationship to Native American peoples," Owsley said. "I do not look at him as Native American ... I can't see any kind of continuity. He is a representative of a very different people."

His skull, Owsley said, was most similar to an Asian Coastal people whose characteristics are shared with people, later, of Polynesian descent.

And, while tribes want the remains returned for reburial, Owsley said there is still much more to learn from the skeleton, which has largely been inaccessible but for two instances, in which a team of about 15 scientists could study it for a total of about two weeks.

Tribal members listened for hours to Owsley's highly detailed presentation, but it did not budge their conviction that Kennewick Man is a part of their people's past — and needs to be reburied.

The remains of Kennewick Man reside at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle. Tribal members make regular visits to the museum to pay their respects and offer songs and ceremony to the Ancient One, as he is called in tribal communities. Minthorn said reburial still needs to happen, and that the law should be changed to give tribes better control of sacred remains.

"That is the only way we will get him back," said Minthorn, who added that tribes are waiting until after the election to continue their push to get the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act changed in Congress, so tribes can press for return of the skeleton.

"Today just adds to getting the Kennewick Man back," he told Owsley. "That is our goal and that is going to be our effort. It would be great if you could help. If you don't that is OK, too."

Ruth Jim, a member of the Yakama Tribal Council, where she is head of the tribe's cultural committee, said it is frustrating that Kennewick Man is still out of the ground. "I don't disagree that the scientists want to do their job, but there should be a time limit. The only concern we have as tribal leaders is he needs to return to Mother Earth," she said. [Do they object to mummies being exhibited in museums?]

Vivian Harrison, NAGPRA coordinator for the Yakama, said it was disturbing to look at the slides Owsley showed, with the bones presented on a platform to be scrutinized from every angle. "Really, to me, it's sad. This is a human being and his journey has been interrupted by leaving the ground."

Jaqueline Cook, repatriation specialist for the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, said scientists' finding that the skeleton had been purposefully buried was significant.  "It says a lot that somebody took care of him," Cook said. "To me that says community. And that he is part of the land. And our land."

The day's presentation was "subtly traumatic," said Johnny Buck, one of Rex Buck's sons and a member of the steering committee of the Native Youth Leadership Alliance. "We have medicine people that took care of bodies. But we never did look so long at them."

In parting, Minthorn presented Owsley with a traditional gesture of tribal respect, a Pendleton blanket, on behalf of the Plateau Tribes. With it, he extended his hand — and asked for help in returning the skeleton of the Ancient One.

While they don't know where they are yet headed together, those gathered ended the day with something they did not have before: the start of a relationship.

In his closing prayer, Rex Buck said, "We have listened to this man, and he has listened to us. And it was good."

This is so wrong! How can these people just ignore all of the scientific evidence that says Kennewick Man's remains are not even Native American, let alone a "relative" of their tribe.  Flying in the face of solid science is just plain silly -- no different than certain politicians who claim the Earth is only 6,000 years old.  In my opinion, to totally ignore good scientific evidence points to an alterior motive that speaks very ill of this tribe and it's leadership.  I don't believe for a second this is only about spiritual beliefs.  Something else is going on here, and it's nasty.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

FIDE October 2012 Ratings Lists

Hola darlings!

Just a short post tonight.

GM Judit Polgar has got her ELO back up over 2700 and is now in - gulp - 40th place overall in the top 100 world players:

4048Polgar, JuditHUNGM2705+7269810

It wasn't that long ago, or so it seems (10 years ago perhaps?), that this rating would have had Judit well up in the ranks of the top 10.  I am working from memory here and please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Judit Polgar's top rating ever was around 2711. 

Today, there is no other woman in the top 100 chessplayers in the world.  Judit is still the Gold Standard.  Perhaps Judit will always be the Gold Standard. 

Full list of Top 100 Players (all dudes except for Judit).

Top 100 Women (I'm only showing top 10 or so):

1 Polgar, Judit g HUN 2705 10 1976
2 Koneru, Humpy g IND 2607 11 1987
3 Hou, Yifan g CHN 2605 9 1994
4 Muzychuk, Anna g SLO 2587 21 1990
5 Zhao, Xue g CHN 2565 21 1985
6 Dzagnidze, Nana g GEO 2555 8 1987
7 Lahno, Kateryna g UKR 2551 10 1989
8 Kosintseva, Nadezhda g RUS 2539 9 1985
9 Cmilyte, Viktorija g LTU 2528 21 1983
10 Sebag, Marie g FRA 2521 0 1986

You see what the issues are here.  Only THREE women in the entire world are rated above 2600 -- by the way, congrats to GM Koneru Humpy for her vaulting back into second on the women's list of highest-rated players!  Meanwhile, the top female player (Judit Polgar) is nearly 100 points higher than the next two highest-rated female players in the world (Koneru and Hou), and the top male players have sprinted far far ahead, even leaving Polgar somewhat in their "dust."  So, the gap between male and female ELO ratings is NOT closing. 

This is entirely discouraging.  Female chessplayers are still segregated in the female chess ghetto and will have no hope of breaking out and raising their ELOs unless they go totally Polgar and refuse to play in women-only events, and only play in Opens or Invitationals against usually higher-rated male players and earn their ELOs the HARD WAY. 

But that means giving up relatively easy money, and potentially even starving if they have no other means of support other than their chess tournament earnings.  Because as the statistics stand now, on the face of it at least -- male players will win the prize money, and the female players will go home empty-handed and hungry. 

I understand the lure of potentially earning relatively easy money playing in women-only events; it can be a comfortable living for, say, the top 10 female players in the world, but it totally fricking sucks that they make less than 30 cents on the dollar for what a male player would make in a similarly-level event (top v. top).  That alone should be enough to light a fire under the ladies' collective butts; but it hasn't been. 

The situation shows no signs of resolving into anything better in the long run.  Ratings have gone up all across the board; yeah, there are some more female GMs, but a lot more male GMs have been named during the same period I've been observing things from a distance (about 12 years now).  Female players have some nice money events, but those don't hold a patch to what the top male players are making in a similar event.

The system sucks.  Women, why are you laying down for it?

Monday, October 8, 2012

16th Unive Tournament 2012

Wow!  This is going to be an extremely interesting event, with GM Hou Yifan now assuming, it seems, the former throne of GM Judit Polgar who played in this event over many years!  Check out the line-up:

16th Unive Crown Hoogeveen NED Fri 19th Oct 2012 - Sat 27th Oct 2012
Player List
1Nakamura, HikaruGMUSA27752016192
2Giri, AnishGMNED269324116068
3Tiviakov, SergeiGMNED26561008013
4Hou, YifanGMCHN26238602980

Here is the official website. It's in Dutch, but if you read and speak English, you can sort of/kind of make portions of it out. It's a good brain exercise, darlings! Try it!  I find it exhausting, but also hilariously funny when I try to guess what certain words migh mean :)

Get ready!  ACTION STARTS OCTOBER 19/20, 2012!

FM Lorita Mwango in 2nd Place in African Jr. Chess Championship

From The Times of Zambia

Mwango jumps into 2nd position jr chess tourney

Fide Master Lorita Mwango, Zambia.

Celebrate National Chess Day on October 13, 2012

9 Queens is putting together a special celebration.  If you're in the Tucson area, check it out!

Celebrate National Chess Day with 9 Queens and Bookmans. Join us on October 13, 2012 from 12-2 for free chess lessons, pick up games and a simultaneous exhibition provided by Women’s International Master Amanda Mateer.

Other events free activities include: face-painting, chess arts and crafts, and cupcakes for participants.
President Gerald Ford originally declared October 9, 1976 National Chess Day to “enhance awareness and encourage students and adults to engage in a game known to enhance critical thinking and problem-solving skills.” This marks the fourth year, 9 Queens and Bookmans have partnered to promote chess literacy within the Tucson area.

In honor of National Chess Day, Goddesschess is making contributions to the Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Association and the Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Federation.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Spooky Burial from Old New England

Cue spooky music oooooohhhhoooooohhhoohooooooohhhhoooooohhoooohhhhooooooo....

Holy Shades of the Living Dead, Bat Woman!

Yes, Dildohead, it's true.  These people actually thought there were such things as succubuses and incubuses and haunted souls that came out of the grave at night craving human blood and flesh.  Bwwwwaaahhhhaaaaahhhaaaaa!

Geez, Bat Woman, you give me the creepoids when you laugh like that!

Just so, Dildohead, just so.  Let's go, we've got a crime to solve...

The Great New England Vampire Panic

Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, farmers became convinced that their relatives were returning from the grave to feed on the living

  • By Abigail Tucker
  • Smithsonian magazine, October 2012
[Side note: There's that Abi- again -- "daughter."  See prior post about the ruler of el-Dur possibly being a woman -- "Abi-El --" but the article didn't say whose daughter she supposedly was!  I think, actually, the name was complete and the rule was "Daughter of God."  Well, I'm descended from an Abigail too, a rather spooky-sad story, actually.  Seems there are probably several thousand distant cousins around today all descended from the same woman.  I'll write about her later.]

Children playing near a hillside gravel mine found the first graves. One ran home to tell his mother, who was skeptical at first—until the boy produced a skull.

Because this was Griswold, Connecticut, in 1990, police initially thought the burials might be the work of a local serial killer named Michael Ross, and they taped off the area as a crime scene. But the brown, decaying bones turned out to be more than a century old. The Connecticut state archaeologist, Nick Bellantoni, soon determined that the hillside contained a colonial-era farm cemetery. New England is full of such unmarked family plots, and the 29 burials were typical of the 1700s and early 1800s: The dead, many of them children, were laid to rest in thrifty Yankee style, in simple wood coffins, without jewelry or even much clothing, their arms resting by their sides or crossed over their chests.

Except, that is, for Burial Number 4.

Bellantoni was interested in the grave even before the excavation began. It was one of only two stone crypts in the cemetery, and it was partially visible from the mine face.

Scraping away soil with flat-edged shovels, and then brushes and bamboo picks, the archaeologist and his team worked through several feet of earth before reaching the top of the crypt. When Bellantoni lifted the first of the large, flat rocks that formed the roof, he uncovered the remains of a red-painted coffin and a pair of skeletal feet. They lay, he remembers, “in perfect anatomical position.” But when he raised the next stone, Bellantoni saw that the rest of the individual “had been com­pletely...rearranged.” The skeleton had been beheaded; skull and thighbones rested atop the ribs and vertebrae. “It looked like a skull-and-crossbones motif, a Jolly Roger. I’d never seen anything like it,” Bellantoni recalls.

Subsequent analysis showed that the beheading, along with other injuries, including rib fractures, occurred roughly five years after death. Somebody had also smashed the coffin.

The other skeletons in the gravel hillside were packaged for reburial, but not “J.B.,” as the 50ish male skeleton from the 1830s came to be called, because of the initials spelled out in brass tacks on his coffin lid. He was shipped to the National Museum of Health and Medicine, in Washington, D.C., for further study. Meanwhile, Bellantoni started networking. He invited archaeologists and historians to tour the excavation, soliciting theories. Simple vandalism seemed unlikely, as did robbery, because of the lack of valuables at the site.

Finally, one colleague asked: “Ever heard of the Jewett City vampires?”

In 1854, in neighboring Jewett City, Connecticut, townspeople had exhumed several corpses suspected to be vampires that were rising from their graves to kill the living. A few newspaper accounts of these events survived. Had the Griswold grave been desecrated for the same reason?
In the course of his far-flung research, Bellantoni placed a serendipitous phone call to Michael Bell, a Rhode Island folklorist, who had devoted much of the previous decade to studying New England vampire exhumations. The Griswold case occurred at roughly the same time as the other incidents Bell had investigated. And the setting was right: Griswold was rural, agrarian and bordering southern Rhode Island, where multiple exhumations had occurred. Many of the other “vampires,” like J.B., had been disinterred, grotesquely tampered with and reburied.

In light of the tales Bell told of violated corpses, even the posthumous rib fractures began to make sense. J.B.’s accusers had likely rummaged around in his chest cavity, hoping to remove, and perhaps to burn, his heart. ...

Read the rest of this quite lengthy article. 

Abi-El and ed-Dur

A rather disjointed article - is the point really that some copies of some copies of coins - with the copies of copies having an inscription of some kind added to them - pointing to the "Daughter of --" somebody -- ruling ed Dur?  Actually, I always thought "El-" was a title for god - you know, the male type like Ba-al? Beth-el?  Etc. etc.

From The National Online (United Arab Emirates)

Was ed-Dur ruled by a woman?

Images on a coin can tell the story of place and time.

But for some of the coins found at ed-Dur, it is a name that is causing the greatest debate.

“It is a real mystery,” says Dr Ernie Haerinck. “The coins minted locally have a name added to them in Aramaic. It is ‘Abi’el’, the daughter of so and so.

“Perhaps ed-Dur was a kingdom run by a woman?”

The name was added to “imitations of imitations” of common coins, attributed to the first century AD.

These feature the head of Heracles, or Hercules, wearing the pelt of the Nemean lion on the obverse (with a dot like a wart on his cheek) and on the reverse an enthroned, partially nude male figure or god (Zeus or a sun-god), with a horse or horse-protome, rather than the more common eagle, printed on its outstretched arm.

There is also a three-fluked anchor or trident and palm tree depicted on some coins, linking them to the sun god, as palm wood or branches were burnt around the ed-Dur temple.

The horse also has associations with the sun god, giving further evidence to the site’s Shams/Shamash-cult past.

More than 118 copper or silver coins of different shapes and sizes were found at ed-Dur. They follow to some degree the ancient Greek Attic weight standard of obols (a denomination of less than one gram), drachmas (4-5g) and tetradrachms (14-17g).

“One of the biggest problems we have is that a lot of the pre-Islamic rituals and histories have not been noted down anywhere, and the fact that we have less and less specialists around who can read Aramaic and its different ancient dialects,” says Dr Haerinck.

Besides locally minted coins, which offer proof of autonomy and political and economic independence, there are many unexplained discoveries at ed-Dur, one that led Dr Haerinck to say: “Maybe there were pirates here?

“For the vastness of what has been found here could be explained through one theory and texts by Romans about this area, that just maybe some ed-Dur pirates brought back lots of plunder and treasures from across the world.”
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