Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year's Eve 2013!

Hola darlings!

I hope you are all enjoying this final day of 2013 in your own particular way!  Here in Milwaukee it is bitterly cold and snowing (it started about 3:30 p.m. or so, as I was leaving the supermarket with New Year's Eve supplies), the snow forecast to fall continually through Thursday noon.  Not that I would be out and about for New Year's -- haven't done that in YEARS!  I celebrate at home in a quiet fashion and while I try to stay up until midnight, I don't often make it, LOL!

This time of year is filled with nostalgia, as well as hope as we look toward the unknown future.  We (and now just me) of Goddesschess, have always tried to do our best to make things better in whatever ways we could reach out and touch people.  Now not so much writing and researching and posting articles (and writing our own) and publishing information not then readily available in the early days of the internet.  But time changes things, and we change, too.  Today, it's mostly about funding prizes and trying to encourage people to take up the game of chess, especially girls and women but, really, anyone of any age!  Chess has so much to offer. 

Our credo, and my personal credo, is to live the best life I can, and that means trying to make the lives of others better in whatever ways I can.  For me, these days, it's all about chess, darlings! 

A little trip down 2013's memory lane:

2013 opened with Goddesschess sponsorship at the Grand Pacific Open, a regional tournament hosted in Vancouver, British Columbia that draws from a wide area and, I like to think thanks in part to Goddesschess sponsorship, has hosted some very fine female players the past few years!  At the 2013 tournament (traditionally held over Easter weekend) WGM Kateryna Rohanyan, who received sponsorship funds, finished in 4th place overall, just missing out on a share of the tournament prize money, but she did take top Goddesschess honors -- $80.  Hardly the kind of prize worthy of a player who has participated in several U.S. Women's Chess Championships, but I as so happy she played.  Four other female chessplayers also took home Goddesschess cash prizes

On April 13, 2013, the Hales Corners Chess Challenge XVII took place.  I had intended to play in Challenge XVII after withdrawing from Challenge XVI in October, 2012, which took just a few days after the death of Don McLean, my dear Mr. Don.  But I just wasn't feeling up to part in April while continually wrestling with health issues.  I hated missing Challenge XVII -- let me tell you!  Goddesschess paid out $540 in prize money to the chess femmes, including prize money to my chess buddy Ellen Wanek, pictured here with Tom Fogec (left) and Robin Grochowski (right):


On the heels of Hales Corners Chess Challenge XVII was the U.S. Women's Chess Championship in May, 2013, hosted at the beautiful Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.  Goddesschess sponsored a "Fighting Spirit" (I call it the "Fighting Chess") award of $500.  Twelfth Women's World Chess Championship GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, once again agreed to serve as judge and selector of the Goddesschess prize winner. 


Ultimately, she chose Anna Zatonskih as the winner of the Goddesschess Fighting Spirit Award.

June 15 - 16, 2013, Goddesschess provided prize money for the Second (2013) Milwaukee Summer Challenge, hosted by my adopted chess club (Southwest Chess Club).  Honestly, I don't have a clue who ultimately won the best game prize money for the sections, but I know for sure the folks at Southwest Chess Club would have worked hard to ensure that all was fairly done and that the prize money went to the best game in each section, regardless of the winner's actual rating. 

On October 12, 2013, after a summer of on-line training games with chess buddies Shira Evans Sanford and Ellen Wanek, stern but fun task-masters, I played in the Hales Corners Chess Challenge XVIII.  Looking back, I can't believe I actually did it. LOL!  Maybe not such a laughing matter, because October 12th is the anniversary of Mr. Don's death.  But if he'd been here, he would have egged me on to go play (and I'm sure he was thinking maybe I'd make a fool of myself, because we were that competitive when it came to our chess and he HATED it when I won the occasional game against him), and I would have tweaked him as a chicken-heart because although I challenged him to come and play, or at least stand around and take excellent photos of the players at one of the Hales Corners Chess Challenges many times since Goddesschess had begun sponsorship (back in Challenge VIII), he always backed down.  Ha!  See, I'm still tweaking him up in Heaven. 

So, it was with bittersweet memories that I met up with Ellen Wanek at Challenge XVIII at the playing venue.  Ellen surprised me with a gift of a lovely chess tote bag! 


I immediately put that tote bag to use, and I put my chess training to good use too, drawing one game against a player rated almost 2x higher than I (and he was cute, too), and giving what I felt were good efforts in two other games.  The last game, I totally crashed and burned.  It was my fault, as my head was hurting (felt like my brain was going to explode) and I was exhausted.  I should have given my opponent much more of a challenge.  I'm embarrassed by what happened!  I should have told the TDs that I was withdrawing after R3.  Oh well.  That's the way it goes, sometimes. 

I will not be stupid and say that I do not mind losing games, because I do - terribly!  But if I lose a game after what I consider a damn good effort on my part, well, that's a different story.  At least I can take pride in my effort, if not the result.  At present, I just do not have the stamina I need to put forth what I consider a decent effort to play four intense 60 minutes on each side chess games in a single day.

Hales Corners Chess Challenge XVIII proved to be very lucrative for the chess femmes in terms of Goddesschess prize money -- $800A NEW RECORD!  The chess femmes came through and rose to my challenge made after Chess Challenge XVII, to break a record in prize money awarded to them!  I was soooo fricking happy!  Poor, but very very happy!  LOL!

And, in honor of Mr. Don and all that he meant to Goddesschess, I put up one-time cash prizes (in the form of Visa gift cards) of $100 and $50, respectively, to the top male finisher in each section (Invitational and Open). Don would have been so tickled about that!  A Goddesschess $50 best game prize was also on the table, open to all players. 


The photo above is of Mr. Don's corner of my desk in the front room, decked out for Christmas 2013, with glittery bird perched on a photo of a handsome Mr. Don in his prime (1999, when we first met), the one-armed warrior made out of a clothspin that Mr. Don rescued from the curbside outside his apartment and gifted to me one lovely Christmas visit, a pine cone from the grounds of St. Joseph's Basilica in Montreal, we spent a leisurely morning exploring there on December 7th after our memorable trip to Amsterdam in November/December 2001, the Queen Bird (moi, of course).  A precious photo of Mr. Don and I at the end of a carriage ride in old Montreal on that mild December 7, 2001 day, taken outside the Notre Dame Cathedral of Montreal. The lamp, embellished with the royal fleur-de-lis, is suitable for such a royal couple, don't you think!  Oh, and my version of the Eternal Flame, in the shape of a red glass heart that is either filled with an actual burning votive candle or a battery-operated votive candle.

Call me sentimental...

Like magic, I am reminded of the immortal words of the poets 'come live with me, and be my love...(Marlowe) ...the best is yet to come...'(The Scorpions):



In 2014:  Live your life doing good for others, in whatever way you can, in whatever way makes you most fulfilled.  Hey, darlings -- it's really not that difficult.  Just fricking do it, okay?  None of us lives forever, and we do not know what tomorrow holds. 

I'll once again be sponsoring these wonderful events (one in honor of Mr. Don's Canadian homeland). 

I love you all!  Here's to a fantastic and absolutely wonderful 2014!  The best is yet to come! 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

GREEN BAY PACKERS WIN NFC NORTH TITLE!!!!!!

Woo woo, darlings!  Been sitting here on pin and needles since 3:25 p.m. this afternoon when the game started -- PACKERS v. DA CHICAGO BEARS at Soldiers Field in Chicago, IL, USA,amidst a snow storm.  Yeah, baby, NFL football in December!

PACKERS WON!

In lieu of my heart condition, I chose not to watch the game in full. I didn't want to KILL myself with a massive heart attack! Instead, I turned the game on TV and then turned it off if the Pack was not ahead.  LOL!  Several times. Oh, my poor heart!  I last turned the t.v. off during the early minutes of the 4th quarter after DA BEARS went up by 8 points yet again.

And so it was only a minute or so ago that I clicked the TV on again and the Packers/Bears game was OVAH! I turned the TV off and rushed to coverage online at The Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, where I learned the Packers won by a score of 33 to 28. 

And now, the play-offs begin!

So, next weekend I'll be doing this drill all over again :)  Honestly, I do not know if I can stand this!

By the way, this just so happened to be THE DECISIVE GAME OF THE SEASON.  And it just so happened that QUARTERBACK AARON RODGERS CAME BACK FROM A BROKEN COLLAR BONE SUFFERED EIGHT WEEKS AGO TO LEAD THE TEAM TO VICTORY!  Well, if this isn't the stuff of legends, I don't know what is :)

Here is the box score, from JS Online coverage:

Green Bay at Chicago
Final1234T
GB 01371333
CHI 7014728

Watch the awesome video of Rodgers (number 12) throwing the pass to Wide Receiver Randall Cobb (number 18) and Cobb catching the perfect pass and then running for the winning touchdown  at SB Nation!

For video recap of this exciting game, check this out from Yahoo sports.

The Packers will host the San Francisco 49ers next weekend at Lambeau Field. The 49ers beat the Arizona Cardinals in the final seconds to secure the No. 5 seed. The Packers are locked in as the No. 4 seed.

OHMYGODDESS!  San Frickingcisco!  I HATE THEM! I hate then almost as much as I HATE THE MINNESOTA VIKINGS.  Bwwwwwwaaaaaahhhhhhh!  Where did they finish in the NFC North?  Oh, 5 wins, 10 losses, and 1 tie. IN LAST PLACE IN THE DIVISION.  Tee hee hee.  Okay, so it's mean to laugh.  I don't care - I'm a BEYATCH! 

Game on next week, darlings, at LEGENDARY LAMBEAU FIELDDDDDDD (cue echo effect...)

Is Hnefatafl Evidence That Chess Was Not Invented In India?

A recent email from Dr. Rene Gralla containing information that raises interesting speculation.  Here it is, complete with links to source information:

THE NEWS: Norwegian people have now learned that chess may not be a product from India (BTW, the author of the column nonchalantly talks of "Persia" in this context) but that chess may be a pure Scandinavian brand in the first place ... since the the roots of the Chess of the Vikings, that famous "Hnefatafl", that date back to LATRUNCULI which was the ancient strategic game of the Roman soldiers and which was much older than the proto-chess Chaturanga from India.
The foregoing fact has been the leitmotiv of a column on chess that has been published by Simen Agdestein in the No. 2 (!!) of the tabloids of Norway - called VG (that means: "Verdens Gang") - on last Wednesday, December 11th, 2013.
 
The chess columnist Simen Agdestein - who is very close to the new World Champion Magnus Carlsen - reports on his first own experiences with Hnefatafl ... and then adds some information on the "8th International Ladies Chess Gala" that had been organised by the German daily "neues deutschland" at Berlin on November 28th, 2013; as part of the program of the event Norway's WIM Silje Bjerke had played an exhibition game of Hnefatafl.
 
... please inform the visitors of your webseite about the fact that Hnefatafl has now become a topic even in one of the chess columns of Norway's very popular tabloid VG! And please publish the scan of that very column on your great website - since I think that the foregoing information is very interesting for the visitors of your website. 
 
Unfortunately, the article was in PDF and if there is a way to post a PDF here at Blogger, I haven't figured it out.  So I copied part of it using the "free tools" I have on my computer -- and after comparing the first sentence letter by letter, I saw that it was a total mish-mash.  So I'm going back to the drawing board on this and will try again!
 
Stay tuned!

Added December 29, 2013 at 6:14 p.m. Milwaukee, WI time:

Here is a scan of the article! Sorry about the resolution, this is the best I could do:

 
 


The Thistle and the Rose Chess Set Returns!

Hola darlings!

Before Christmas I was contacted by a person who owns a COMPLETE Thistle and Rose chess set, and I was about swooning over the prospect of publishing the photos he promised to send me.  True to his word, these arrived before Christmas, but I've only just now am publishing them:


I apologize for the lopsided photos. When I downloaded I saved them oriented the best way to view them, but for a reason unknown to me (and one I cannot figure out how to correct), they are posting here all cock-eyed. But I hope you will be able to enjoy them, nonetheless.



He has the pawns!!!!  He received the complete set (with board) as a gift from a neighbor some 30 years ago who, I hope I've got this correctly -- himself received it as gift during a business trip.  My set, in contrast, was collected over several flights by Ms. JS when she worked for an oil company and was a frequent flyer on British Caledonia Airlines.

I've tried, off and on, for a few years to collect some pawns -- unsuccessfully.  E-bay is a bait pit when it comes to Thistle and Rose pawns, as I learned the hard way.  I didn't know -- before --  that E-bay allows vendors to rig the bidding.  Now I know better, and I don't shop at E-bay anymore.  I refuse to be cheated.  I've therefore no pawns for my efforts to join the beautiful pieces that were gifted to me by Judith S. some years ago, before she retired from our mutual employer.  Goddess bless her, she knew I was "into" chess and wanted to pass her Beneagle's pieces along to someone she figured would appreciate them.

I am forever grateful to you, Judith!  I posted about this wonderful gift earlier:

September 8, 2009:  An Unexpected Gift
October 1, 2011:  More on the Beneagles Thistle and Rose Pieces

I probably won't ever own the pawns to complete my set, as Mr. T (I will call him, as I do not recall whether I obtained his consent to publish his name, and I was too lazy to check back through our email correspondence to find out, duh!) helpfully sent me a link to The Whiskey Exchange to illustrate what full sets of the Beneagle's Thistle and Rose are going for now -- 499 BPS (British Pounds Sterling) for a full set without board and 599 BPS with the board.  Holy Hathor!  [Does anyone remember Mr. T from the television series "The A Team?"  One of my favorite shows!]

More photos are promised, and I will post them when they arrive.  Such a lovely set! I am NOT a collector but, by default, I happen to own three chess sets, two of which I've purchased over the years because I fell in love with them (not collector-worthy) and one set that was a gift (the Lewis Chess pieces set), plus my incomplete Thistle and Rose set (also a gift).  I also own a USCF regulation set with a roll-up board and woven vinyl shoulder case to hold the lot. I believe I paid something like $14 for the entirety, on sale a few years ago.  Woo woo! 

Now maybe I'm crazy (a likely possibility) -- but I dug out my research from a few years ago and found some interesting things price-wise:

June 29, 2009, a "Wade Full Set of White (Rose) Chess Pieces Beneagles - winning bid: GPB 51.00.  I believe that pawns were not included, as the photograph on the E-bay entry that printed out on Septenber 8, 2009 showed only the major pieces.

Also printed out on September 8, 2009, an auction preview sheet from Scotchwisky.com, Lot 634, estimated at 400 - 600 BPS, pieces minus whisky and I'm not clear from the description whether pawns were included, but a "copper chess-board" was included.

On October 1, 2011 I printed out an auction offering (Tennants Auctioneers) offering a full set of "Wade porcelain ches pieces designed by Ann Whittet and Fredrick Mellor, a bottle of Beneagles Etra Special Scotch Whisky, 26 2/3 Fl. Oz., 70 degree proof, in original cellophane wrapper, a copper effect chess board and information leafelet, in original box."  Estimated price 100 - 200 BPS.

If I haven't written this before, Fredrick Mellor worked for eorge Wade & Sons, Ltd., Stoke-on-Trent, and the pieces were "fashioned in the fine Wade Porcelain at Portadown in Northern Ireland."

Consider Year-End Giving!

Hola darlings!  I hope EVERYONE had an absolutely wonderful Christmas.  Mine was fabulous - spent in peace and solitude and I thoroughly enjoyed getting away from the rat race for a few days!  I made all of my favorite dishes for myself, gorged myself on good chocolates and wine (lots of wine, heh heh) and had fires in the fireplace every night.  It was WONDERFUL! 


There she is in all her glory, Maison Newton, complete with a snow storm (those white specks caught by the camera on "scene" don't capture how hard it started snowing seemingly the moment I stepped outside to try and capture a night image of mon maison in all of its Christmas-time glory)!  Let me tell you, that fireplace sure has come in handy:)  This photo was taken on December 16 and we've gotten a lot more snow since then -- still a foot on the ground now, even after Friday and yesterday's "melt-off" (we had a high of 44 degrees F yesterday and it felt positively spring-like outside!)  By this evening, temperatures will be back below zero F and the 'highs' for the next several days will be in the single digits F!   Brrrrrrrr shiver shiver! 

For U.S. taxpayers who itemize their deductions, many make year-end donations to "up" our charitable deductions for the year.  If you are one of those fortunate enough to have enough deductions to top the Federal Standard Deduction, I ask you to please consider making a donation to either or - preferably - both of these very worthy chessly charitable endeavors!

The Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Federation is conducting its 2013-2014 Annual Campaign to raise funds for the coming year's chessly activities.  Straight from the email:

2013-2014 Annual Campaign
This year's annual campaign will run through Feb 1, 2014. Each year WSCF raises funds to complete its annual budget. Funds are used to offer scholarships at end of the year tournaments, pay entry fees for Title I students at tournaments, help students attend summer chess camps, purchase online chesskid.com memberships, and pay for FirstMove (FirstMove) curriculum in Milwaukee Schools. Over $1500 has been raised to date toward this years goal.
 
WSCF activities and annual budget continues to grow each year. The end of the 2012-2013 season found over 1650 players participating in over 45 tournaments across the state. Tournaments were held in Green Bay, Appleton, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Plymouth, Sussex, Fall River, Watertown, Kenosha, Port Washington, Greenfield, Waukesha, Fox Point, Glen Dale, Whitefish Bay and Milwaukee. Nearly 200 campers attended 14 camps from Baraboo, Sheboygan, Kenosha and places in between. This fall WSCF teachers taught in 13 different schools in the Milwaukee Metro area and WSCF helped 9 different schools start the First Move curriculum in it 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms.
 
Your continued support will help WSCF expand its mission of providing scholastic chess to thousands of students across Wisconsin.
 
To donate click on this link to give on line via our First Giving page Annual Campaign or mail a check to our office at: WSCF 2819 W. Highland Blvd. Milwaukee, WI 53208. Your support is greatly appreciated.

You can make a donation online, I just did! 

Seriously, every little bit helps these kids a LOT!  If you prefer, you can send a check directly to the WSCF:  WSCF, 2819 W. Highland Blvd. Milwaukee, WI 53208.  All donations to WSCF are tax-deductible for those who itemize their U.S. Federal income tax deductions.  There are still a few more days to donate.  Wouldn't it be grand to send WSCF on its way to 2014 with $1,000 or more in its funding!


Another one of my favorite chessly groups is 9 Queens!  9 Queens was established by Jen Shahade and Jean Hoffman in 2008 in Tucson, Arizona:  9 Queens is dedicated to empowering individuals and communities through chess by making the game fun, exciting, and accessible. We offer free chess education programs specifically designed to promote critical thinking skills, academic performance, and self-confidence. Our mission is to use chess as a tool to motivate, empower, and engage under-served and under-represented populations to realize their potential and achieve academic and personal success.

Donations to 9 Queens are tax-deductible for those who itemize their U.S. Federal income tax deductions. I am proud to have been a supporter of 9 Queens since I first learned of the organization; for a few years, 9 Queens and Goddesschess collaberated to provide a special prize to the U.S. Women's Chess Championship. 

Arizona residents have a special opportunity to direct their local tax dollars toward 9 Queens objectives:

You decide where your tax dollars go...
To support 9 Queens please dedicate your Public School Activity Tax Credit to the Mexicayotl Academy!

If you pay taxes in Arizona, you have two choices about where that money goes:
#1: Send your tax dollars to the state, where legislators will decide how and where that money will be used.
#2: Keep your tax dollars in your community by making a donation to an organization you support.
Mexicayotl Academy is a qualifying charter school that is able to receive your Public School Activity Tax Credit. This tax credit is in addition to and completely separate from the Private School Tuition and Arizona Charitable tax credits. You may participate in any or all three if you are able to.
Individuals can claim a credit of up to $200, and couples filing jointly can claim $400. Click for more information on the tax credit from the Arizona Department of Revenue.
Your donation affects our community and supports our mission by helping the Mexicayotl Academy students learn a skill that is proven to help them with their critical thinking skills in math and science and in their self esteem. They are the future of Tucson-help us give them an opportunity they might not have had without us.
To make your donation to Mexicayotl Academy:
  • Mail your donation before Dec. 31, 2013, to Mexicayotl Academy 667 N. 7th Ave, Tucson AZ 85705
  • Please note on your check that it is for the CHESS PROGRAM.
Also, 9 Queens is a 501(C)(3) Non-Profit EID#77-0711937 and your donations are tax deductible!
For donations to 9 Queens please send your check to:
9 Queens P.O. Box 41838 Tucson, AZ 85717
Or go directly to 9queens.org to click the donate now button.
 
I just made a donation to 9 Queens, and I hope you will consider making one, too!  I know I sound like a broken record, but every little bit DOES help tremendously, because all of those little bit donations can add up!  But only you can help them add up by making a donation.
 
If either of these chessly endeavors don't ring your chimes, please please consider making a chessly endeavor donation elsewhere.  Chess in the United States is not a government-supported activity.  Chess is not something on most people's radar!  We chessly types must develop our future chess champions on our own, and corporate and charitable foundation sponsorship is sadly lacking for most of our local programs, in whatever state you live in.  'kay, enough said!  Goddess bless you all, darlings, and I sure do hope you will be celebrating New Year's Eve like I intend to celebrate mine :) :) :)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sure Will Be A White Christmas

Good morning everyone!  Before I get dressed and attack my deck and driveway with the shovel, I took a few pictures as to what greeted me this morning shortly after 7 a.m.



It's snowing hard right now.  I'd say there are only a couple of inches on the ground at present -- on top of the ice deposited by the rain/sleet storm Thursday night.  I didn't leave the house Friday at all.  Yesterday I slid my way on still ice-slicked roads and sidewalks (don't people use sale or ice-melt anymore, geez!) to the Pick 'n Save because I needed to stock up on a few things.  It took me twice as long as usual as I was going very very slowly, frightened of falling.  The place was a mad-house! It seems people were taking the forecast of four to nine inches of snow seriously. 

But I got what I needed and I'm snug in my little home, looking forward to the big Packers game later today. 

It is hard to tell in these photos, but it is snowing:


Of course, a little bit of snow doesn't keep the squirrels from raiding my deck.  First thing when I looked out there were critter footprints all over the place and the three babies were gathered on the trunk of the big tree, peering at me, waiting to see if I was going to toss food out for them (I did).



Can you see them on the tree trunk -- they are on the left...

The babies are still leery of me, but not so momma squirrel, who comes running when I whistle:


Do you see her?  She is just reaching the top of the retaining wall.  And a few seconds later --


She got a big fat walnut out of the snow and sat at the end of the deck to eat, but she wasn't sure about the camera and kept an eye on it.  My presence normally doesn't bother her at all and she would probably come right into the house if I held a walnut out for her, LOL! 


A large branch came down sometime during the night, you can see it at the base of the small hill on the left, at the "bottom" of the retaining wall.  It doesn't look very big in this photo, but I will need to take the saw to it once it clears outside.  You can see one of the baby squirrels down at the base of the shrub, just about a straight line toward the top of the photo from momma squirrel.


I tried to get a closer photo of that downed branch, without stepping out on the deck in my robe and slippers (would have gotten wet cold feet!) 

Okay, not I have to get dressed and start shoveling.  Sigh.  I sure hope I don't end up shoveling nine inches of snow.  Two inches of snow I can handle!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Story of Domestication of Cats Continues

A press release from Washington University in St. Louis, MO, USA

Most of the cats alive in the world today are descended from this species of cat!


Caption: The Near Eastern Wildcat, native to Western Asia and Africa, is believed
to be the primary ancestor of all domestic cats now living around the globe. Source.

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
 16-Dec-2013

 
Five-thousand years before it was immortalized in a British nursery rhyme, the cat that caught the rat that ate the malt was doing just fine living alongside farmers in the ancient Chinese village of Quanhucun, a forthcoming study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has confirmed.

"At least three different lines of scientific inquiry allow us to tell a story about cat domestication that is reminiscent of the old 'house that Jack built' nursery rhyme," said study co-author Fiona Marshall, PhD, a professor of archaeology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

"Our data suggest that cats were attracted to ancient farming villages by small animals, such as rodents that were living on the grain that the farmers grew, ate and stored."

Set for early online publication in PNAS during the week of Dec. 16, the study provides the first direct evidence for the processes of cat domestication.

"Results of this study show that the village of Quanhucun was a source of food for the cats 5,300 years ago, and the relationship between humans and cats was commensal, or advantageous for the cats," Marshall said. "Even if these cats were not yet domesticated, our evidence confirms that they lived in close proximity to farmers, and that the relationship had mutual benefits."

Cat remains rarely are found in ancient archaeological sites, and little is known about how they were domesticated. Cats were thought to have first been domesticated in ancient Egypt, where they were kept some 4,000 years ago, but more recent research suggests close relations with humans may have occurred much earlier, including the discovery of a wild cat buried with a human nearly 10,000 years ago in Cyprus.

While it often has been argued that cats were attracted to rodents and other food in early farming villages and domesticated themselves, there has been little evidence for this theory.

The evidence for this study is derived from research in China led by Yaowu Hu and colleagues at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Hu and his team analyzed eight bones from at least two cats excavated from the site.

Using radiocarbon dating and isotopic analyses of carbon and nitrogen traces in the bones of cats, dogs, deer and other wildlife unearthed near Quanhucan, the research team demonstrated how a breed of once-wild cats carved a niche for themselves in a society that thrived on the widespread cultivation of the grain millet.

Carbon isotopes indicate that rodents, domestic dogs and pigs from the ancient village were eating millet, but deer were not. Carbon and nitrogen isotopes show that cats were preying on animals that lived on farmed millet, probably rodents. At the same time, an ancient rodent burrow into a storage pit and the rodent-proof design of grain storage pots indicate that farmers had problems with rodents in the grain stores.

Other clues gleaned from the Quanhucun food web suggest the relationship between cats and humans had begun to grow closer. One of the cats was aged, showing that it survived well in the village. Another ate fewer animals and more millet than expected, suggesting that it scavenged human food or was fed.

Recent DNA studies suggest that most of the estimated 600 million domestic cats now living around the globe are descendants most directly of the Near Eastern Wildcat, one of the five Felis sylvestris lybica wildcat subspecies still found around the Old World.

Marshall, an expert on animal domestication, said there currently is no DNA evidence to show whether the cats found at Quanhucun are descendants of the Near Eastern Wildcat, a subspecies not native to the area. If the Quanhucun cats turn out to be close descendents of the Near Eastern strain, it would suggest they were domesticated elsewhere and later introduced to the region.

"We do not yet know whether these cats came to China from the Near East, whether they interbred with Chinese wild-cat species, or even whether cats from China played a previously unsuspected role in domestication," Marshall said.

This question is now being pursued by researchers based in China and in France.

That Neanderthal "Burial" -- It Was Deliberate and It Is Real

My take on this story is that so-called "modern humans" may well have borrowed the so-called "Neanderthal" practice of burying their dead and incorporated it into their own rituals.  The full story has yet to be figured out, dear readers.

From Live Science

Neanderthals May Have Intentionally Buried Their Dead

Rare Tlingit War Helmet Identified

Springfield Museums Press Release - awesome!

A Hidden Treasure Revealed: Rare Tlingit War Helmet Discovered at Springfield Science Museum

Springfield Science Museum

December 18, 2013
Stored on a shelf for over 100 hundred years, a rare anthropological treasure was recently discovered in the Springfield Science Museum’s permanent collections. Museum Director David Stier, who has worked in museums collections for almost 30 years, describes the discovery as nothing less than “the find of a lifetime.”




The mystery began to unfold when Museum staffers began to select objects from the over 200,000 items in the Museum’s collections for a new display titled “People of the Northwest Coast.” Dr. Ellen Savulis, the Science Museum’s Curator of Anthropology, was intrigued by one of the items described in collections records as simply an “Aleutian hat.” The object was relatively large, ornately carved, and made from a single piece of dense wood. Although Dr. Savulis’ main area of expertise is Northeastern United States archaeology, she had the foresight to question whether hats made by the Unangax, the inhabitants of the Aleutian Islands, were typically made from such dense wood. Upon further investigation, Dr. Savulis found that the only type of wooden hat made in the treeless Aleutians is the hunting hat or visor, made from a thin plank of driftwood bent into a lopsided cone. None of this information matched the object she had in front of her.

Dr. Savulis suspected that she had a helmet of some kind, and enlisted the help of Steve Henrikson, Curator of Collections at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau. After hearing the description and an extensive viewing of artifact images, Mr. Henrikson responded enthusiastically, “This is a Tlingit war helmet, absolutely, no question!” He went on to say that “it’s very rare - there are less than 100 Tlingit war helmets in existence that we know of. I’ve been studying them for over 20 years and I’m sure I’ve seen most of them.”

Museum records show that the artifact was accepted into collections sometime after 1899, the year that the Springfield Science Museum (formerly the Museum of Natural History) moved into its own building at the Quadrangle. The source of the artifact was not known, and it carried the simple label “Aleutian hat.” Having limited experience with cultural materials, museum specialist Albertus Lovejoy Dakin accepted the accuracy of the object’s label and entered it as such in the collection records. Some 40 years later the artifact received a permanent museum collection number from museum director Leo D. Otis, who still had no reason to dispute the “Aleutian hat” claim. There the artifact remained in its spot in the permanent collections, carefully preserved and unheralded, waiting to be found.

According to Mr. Henrikson, we now know that the object is indeed a war helmet from the Tlingit people of southeast Alaska. The style of the carving and decoration on the helmet (probably the emblem of a clan) dates it to the mid-19th century or earlier. With the mass importation of firearms to the region in the mid-1800’s, this sort of body armor became relegated to ceremonial uses. Today, a few helmets are still brought out at ceremonial gatherings, such as potlatches, to commemorate prominent events and honor past clan elders. Because they are associated with combat, the helmets are not actually worn on the head during such peaceful gatherings, but are instead held in hand or perhaps held over the head of someone needing spiritual support.

Henrikson estimates that there are approximately 95 war helmets in existence today, mostly in large museum collections. Many of these were collected by Russian explorers on the battlefield following clashes with the Tlingit. The largest collection of Tlingit armor is at the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology in St. Petersburg.

Beginning as protection for Tlingit warriors in battle, war helmets today serve the Tlingit as healing reminders of their rich and ancient history. A glimpse of this rich history can be seen starting Thursday, December 26, when the helmet will be placed on display for the first time since arriving in Springfield over a century ago.

A Wari Matriarchy?

Archaeology Magazine named this one of the top ten discoveries of 2013!

Castillo de Huarmey, Peru
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
 

(Courtesy Patrycja Przadka Giersz)
Within an unlooted tomb of the Wari civilization, a pre-Inca culture of Peru,
archaeologists found the remains of several of the empire’s queens, accompanied by lavish
offerings uch as a cup that had been carved out of alabaster and a 1,200-year-old decorated ceramic flask.
 
At the center of Castillo de Huarmey in northern Peru is a burial complex where Milosz Giersz and a team of archaeologists from the University of Warsaw and the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru uncovered chambers containing the remains of three, or possibly four, royal women of the Wari Empire. They were accompanied by 40 noblewomen buried in a sitting position, seven sacrificed individuals whose bodies had been thrown over the seated burials, and more than 1,300 artifacts, including ear ornaments typically worn by royal men and weaving tools made of gold and silver.

“This is the first time in an archaeological excavation that we have found a tomb full of prestige goods related to Wari women,” Giersz says, adding that cotton and camel-wool textiles also found as grave goods were considered by the Wari to be more valuable offerings than gold. Giersz estimates that the tomb dates to A.D. 750. Burials of royal men have been found at the site, but thus far not in chambers of this size. The tomb could answer questions about the roles that women played at the highest levels of Wari society.

Christmas According to Barbara Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets"

Happy Winter Solstice, everyone!  Woo woo!  The image below depicts a sacred tree of Attis -- a pine tree, from which "decorations" are hanging.  Not sure, but I think the bull in this 4th century image is meant to be a substitute for the blood sacrifice of Attis.  The use of evergreens during this time of year has come down to us from ancient pagan practices. But then, you knew that :)

Source.
It's so damn dark and dreary out there, I can't stand it.  But I look forward to this otherwise generally dark, dank, cold, snowy (or icy, had freezing rain starting Thursday night and I couldn't even go out on my front porch Friday morning without bear claws on my shoes and tossing salt out before me) time of year precisely because I know after Winter Solstice, the days begin to get longer by a few minutes each day.  Woo woo!

Unfortunately we're under that massive storm system and somewhere between 5 to 9 inches of snow is expected between 6 p.m. tonight and 6 p.m. tomorrow night.  Sigh.  I can't shovel like I used to; indeed, I'm not supposed to do it at all according to my former Heart Doctor #2 (I fired him last month).  I do it anyway, just not as much :)

I was surprised that Walker's encyclopedia didn't have an entry for the winter solstice.  But it does have an entry on Christmas and within it is information on the winter solstice.  As always, absolutely fascinating, so here we go:

Christmas

For its first three centuries, the Christian church knew no birthday for its savior.  During the 4th century there was much argument about adoption of a date.  Some favored the popular date of the Koreion, when the divine Virgin gave birth to the new Aeon in Alexandria.(1)  Now called Twelfth Night or Epiphany, this date is still the official nativity in Armenian churches, and celebrated with more pomp than Christmas by the Greek Orthodox.(2)

Roman churchmen tended to favor the mithraic winter-solstice festival called Dies Natalis Solis Invictus, Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.(3)  Blended with the Greek sun festival of the Helia by the emperor Aurelian, this December 25th nativity also honored such gods as Attis, Dionysus, Osiris, Syrian Baal, and other versions of the solar Righteousness, and Savior.(4)  Most pagan Mysteries celebrated the birth of the Divine Child at the winter solstice.  Norsemen celebrated the birthday of their Lord, Frey, at the nadir of the sun in the darkest days of winter, known to them as Yule.  The night of birth, Christmas Eve, was called Modranect, Latin matrum noctern, the Night of the Mother --  originally a greater festival than Christmas Day.(5)

Early in the 4th century the Roman church adopted December 25 because the people were used to calling it a god's birthday.  But eastern churches refused to honor it until 375 A.D.(6)  The fiction that some record existed in the land of Jesus's alleged birth certainly could not be upheld, for the church of Jerusalem continued to ignore the official date until the 7th century.(7)

Trappings such as Yule logs, gifts, lights, mistletoe, holly, carols, feasts, and processions were altogether pagan.  They were drawn from worship of the Goddess as mother of the Divine Child.  Christmas trees evolved from the pinea silva, pine groves attached to temples of the Great Mother.  On the night before a holy day, Roman priests called dendrophori or "tree-bearers" cut one of the sacred pines, decorated it, and carried it into the temple to receive the effigy of Attis.(8) [Attis castrated himself and died beneath the boughs of a pine tree. Some artistic renditions of his death show him tied to a tree or a stake -- crucified.]  Figures and fetishes attached to such trees in later centuries seem to have represented a whole pantheon of pagan deities on the World Tree.

Attis' sacred tree.  (Henderson & Oakes). Source.

Christmas celebrations remained so obviously pagan over the years that many churchmen bitterly denounced their "carnal pomp and jollity."  Polydor Virgil said: "Dancing, masques, mummeries, stage-plays, and other such Christmas disorders now in use with Christians, were derived from these Roman Saturnalian and Bacchanalian festivals; which should cause all pious Christians eternally to abominate them."(9)  Puritans in 17th-century Massachusetts tried to ban Christmas altogether becausse of its overt heathenism.(10)  Inevitably, the attempt failed.

A curious mistake in the Christmas mystery play of the Towneley cycle shows a Great Mother image not fully assimilated to that of Mary.  Before their attention was arrested by the annunciatory angel, idly chatting shepherds complained of their cruel overlords, and prayed "Our Lady" to curse them.(11)  Considering that they were not acquainted with the Mother of Christ, a rather different "Lady" must have been intended.

Among many other superstitions connected with Christmas were some that were typical of pagan holy days, such as the belief that animls could speak human words at midnight on Christmas Eve, or that divinatory voices could be heard at crosroads at the same time.(12)  Also at midnight on Christmas Eve, ater in wells and springs was supposed to turn into blood, or its sacramental equivalent, wine.  The miracle was not to be verified, however, for all who witnessed it would die within the year.(13) [One does not mess with the sacred rivers, wells and springs of the Goddess!]

Notes:

(1)  Campbell, M.I., 34.
(2)  Miles, 22.
(3)  Reinach, 282.
(4)  H. Smith, 130; Hyde, 92; Miles, 23.
(5)  Turville-Petre, 227.
(6)  Frazer, G.B., 416.
(7)  Miles, 22.
(8)  Vermaeren, 115.
(9)  Hazlitt, 118-19.
(10)  de Lys, 372.
(11)  Miles, 135.
(12)  Summers, V., 157.
(13)  Miles, 234.

Solemn Thoughts Near Christmas: Intimate Memories Part 3

As you are aware, I've often posted shocking and disturbing news articles about the treatment of women and children.  However, we need to maintain our awareness that abuse is a major problem right here in our own back yard.  And we need to stop shrugging our shoulders as if it isn't our problem.  Violence is everyone's problem. I knew the statistics were shocking, but I had no idea!

According to grab stats. com, on average, three women in the United States are killed at the hands of a spouse, former spouse, boyfriend or former boyfriend each and every day of the year.  It looks like grab stats' numbers are more than ten years old!

The following statistics are from the Arkansas Coalition Against Domestic Violence:
  • According to the U.S. Surgeon General, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women in the United States.
  • The American Medical Association estimates that their male partners assault 2 million American women each year.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that 95% of the victims of domestic violence are women.
  • A woman is beaten every 15 seconds in the United States. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Report to the nation on Crime and Justice. The Data. Washington DC Office of Justice Program, US Dept. of Justice. Oct 1983)
  • 35% of all emergency room calls are a result of domestic violence.
  • Of those who abuse their partner, well over 65% also physically and/or sexually abuse the children.
  • Each day .....4 women die as a result of abuse.
  • Each day .....3 children die as a result of abuse.
You get the picture.

What most people don't think about if they think about "domestic" violence at all was most saliently addressed in "A Grim Tally: Abusers, Guns, and the Women They Kill," by Andrea Grimes, at RH Reality Check:

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that, on average, more than three women a day are killed by current or former intimate partners in the United States, and many of the should-haves and could-haves that pepper Smith’s relationship with her estranged husband are the same should-haves and could-haves thrown at the thousand or more women who are killed by their partners in this country each year: should have gone to a shelter, should have taken a lethality risk test, could have filed charges, could have testified against him.

The problem with that should-have, could-have conversation is the popular implication that the ability, and the responsibility, to change the behavior of abusive men lies not with the abusers, but with the partners they strike, strangle, and shoot.

It’s why the question “Why didn’t she leave?” is far more common than, “Why did he abuse her?”
But research shows us why she, whoever she might be, didn’t leave: she didn’t have the money, she didn’t want to take the kids out of school, she couldn’t find a shelter, there was no shelter, she was embarrassed, her pastor or her mother or her father or her sister told her a good wife doesn’t give up, her self-esteem was in shreds, she had literally nowhere to go, or she knew that, in leaving, she would put herself in more danger than if she stayed.

But if women can’t be blamed for inciting violence in their partners, or at least scolded for not bailing at the first red flag, the problem of why intimate partner violence happens in the first place, and what to do about it, becomes much more complicated than asking the broken-record question, “Why didn’t she leave?”

That's the discussion that is still not being seriously addressed in this country -- why men abuse the women and children they claim to love. 

Notice how the onus of the crime is put on the victim!  Despite the fact that we know why many women don't leave -- especially women of color.  It was my experience more than 30 years ago that the women who came into the DA's office to file complaints against abusive spouses and boyfriends were overwhelmingly Caucasian.  I don't imagine that's changed very much, despite statistics showing us that women of color are more likely to be victims of abuse.  There may be as many factors at work to explain a woman's reluctance to report the crime -- because abuse IS a crime -- as there are that work against a woman leaving her abuser.

No easy answers.  So, is there anything we can do?  I've a few ideas.

STOP BLAMING THE VICTIM FOR THE CRIMES OF THE ABUSER!

Knowledge is power.  We need to educate ourselves about the problem and the issues involved.

Talk about it!  There is such a reluctance in this country to talk about the abuse that is taking place all around us.  Why why why do we accept such a level of violence in our culture?  We need to speak up and speak out -- especially women, because the violence overwhelmingly affects US AND OUR CHILDREN! 

We need to become buttinskis.  If we suspect a woman or children we know are being abused, we need to ACT.  If you can't bring yourself to ask directly, call a local program to get some direction.  If you suspect children are being abused, call Child Protective Services and make a report right away.  Don't rationalize that someone else is bound to report suspected abuse so you don't have to!  Is it really better for a child or children to remain in an abusive situation?  BREAK THE TABOO THAT THIS IS NONE OF OUR BUSINESS. 

Can you get involved?  Volunteers are always needed at local advocate programs and women's support service groups.  If you have the time, maybe you can help out.  It doesn't have to be as an advocate.  I'll be frank -- it was a draining experience that time I put in as a Task Force advocate and I don't know that I would ever want to do it again.  But perhaps you can volunteer to do office or organizing work, or local fund-raising outreach if that is your forte.

If you can afford it, contribute money to battered women's groups and shelters.  There is not enough shelter space - ever - but particularly for women with children.  Even if an abused woman decides to leave her abuser, she is not going to leave her children behind!  Every little bit helps.  The women who run local programs to aid victims of domestic violence know how to stretch a penny! 

If you cannot afford to contribute money, inquire as to needs for other items.  Clothing is often needed, towels, washcloths, toiletries and the like are needed.  Beds, mattresses and bedding are needed.  Childrens' books and stuffed animals, pajamas, robes, slippers are often needed.  Maybe you have some of these things that you are not using and would consider donating to a local group.  Consider asking if you can help with painting and decorating a women's and children's shelter.

Could your church or benevolent organization to which you belong get involved in raising awareness and hold a fund-raiser a couple times a year?  Fund-raising can be a bake sale, a silent auction, a craft fair.  It doesn't have to be elaborate to be effective! 

These are some of my ideas.  Maybe you can think of more and better ones! 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Solemn Thoughts Near Christmas: Intimate Memories Part 2

My family was happy in 1983.  My three sisters and one of my brothers were married.  I had several nieces and nephews.  I was finishing up my second year in law school, working part-time to try and support myself and pay tuition, living with Connie, a long-time roommate, on the fashionable east side of Milwaukee in a lovely two-bedroom apartment.

This is what my siblings and I looked like back then:



That's me, lower left, next to youngest brother Jeffrey.  Across the back, left to right are Dennis, Yvonne, Darlene, and Deborah.  I'm the oldest of us six.

When I look at this old photograph now, I see a radiant, confident young woman with bad legs (even then, geez).  I was 32, a year away from graduating law school, still working toward getting to the top of my game.  I was a full-time student at Marquette University Law School.  One of my volunteer activities, besides working at the legal clinic for people who could not afford to hire an attorney to help with routine legal problems (evictions, traffic tickets, consumer debt issues), was working with a group that helped out victims of domestic violence.  I did a year's stint at the District of Attorney's office in Milwaukee as an advocate for victims of domestic violence.  I manned a telephone hot-line for an afternoon a week where domestic violence calls would come in from traumatized female victims (I never fielded a call from a male).  I would sit-in at meetings of assistant DAs, victims and alleged abusers, holding hands if necessary, lending whatever moral support and strength I could to the victim.  I would go home at the end of the day and worry and fret about my "cases."

The majority of the women who actually came in to file a complaint against a "batterer" were white women.  All ages.  All socio-economic groups. Caucasian women.  It was very rare to see a woman of color or of another race come in and file a complaint during the hours I manned the Women's Task Force Against Domestic Violence desk at the DA's office.  I would talk to other (non-Caucasian) women on the hot-line, but they almost never actually came down to file a criminal complaint. A few times, some women of color did come.  I would sit with them and talk with them, and they would pour their hearts out to me.  But in the end, they would walk away without taking the legal process further.  It seemed, just sitting and talking to another female, and others like me, was enough to -- send them back to where they came from...  Just having someone to listen. Someone whom they sensed was trying to, wanted to help them...

I did what I could.  On the hot-line and in person, I gave women information about local resource groups to whom they could reach out for emotional, physical and financial support.  Safe houses where they could go to if they were leaving, with their kids if they had kids (most women did), a big thing for women thinking of fleeing a dangerouus domestic situation. Back in the 80's, this was just barely getting underway, and the need was so great.  Many women stayed in place simply because -- as I was taught when growing up -- a woman stayed because that is what a woman did, and she couldn't rip her children away from the home.  Not that there were many places to go -- back then.  But there were a few.  We volunteers did what we could.  It wasn't enough.  But it was something.  In so many instances family members did not step in to help.  Unlike in my family's situation.  You know, that was just the way it was.  And as a woman you coped with it.  You got the crap beat out of you.  Your kids got the crap beat out of them in front of your eyes.  Sometimes you ended up dead, or nearly so.  Or --

To this day, I remember a lovely young lady who came in to "my" desk at the DA's office.  She was in her early 20's.  Well spoken.  Dressed well.  Not a dummy (you know what I mean).  She had been involved in a relationship with a much older man for three or four years.  He had money. He had a good job.  He was an executive at a high powered company.  He had a commanding presence. He was handsome, but older than her father.  Caucasian.  Lived in a wealthy suburb of Milwaukee.  Not the kind of people one would ever think would be involved in "wife-beating."  She wasn't his wife. She was a live-in girlfriend.

So what?  Being a wife does not give one special status or particular safety from an abusive mate.  Or potential killer.

One night, in a fit of rage (not alcohol-fueled), after months of physical beatings and psychological abuse, he picked her up and physically threw her out of a second story window of the fancy home they shared.  She was lucky.  She survived with numerous cuts, bruises on her face where he had punched her numerous times (and cuts, scrapes and bruises suffered during the fall), and a broken arm.

There had been previous incidents where he physically marked her with bruises and choke marks about her throat. This time, she was frightened enough to come in and file a complaint against him.  I was the "lucky" one who was at the desk when she came in.

She was SO fricking brave!  She was scared half-to death of that man and by the time she finished her recital of abuse, so was I. But she filed a complaint against him, and the wheels of justice slowly started to turn. The assistant DA assigned to the case was a young black female attorney (not too many of them in the 1980's), tough as nails and street-smart.  Been there.  Done that.  She wasn't taking any crap from anyone.  And there I was, in the thick of things, a now third-year law student who had seen and experienced more than a few things in her lifetime but sure as hell wasn't prepared for this confrontation.

I don't remember all of the details, but I do remember the initial conference where the accused was brought into a small room with a court reporter/stenographer, the Assistant DA, the accuser (victim), and the advocate (me).  I was there solely as victim support.  Not allowed to speak.

That man scared the crap out of me.  There was a definite miasma of evil about him.  I could see it in his eyes.  It seemed as if he didn't bothering looking at his victim. He focused on me.  I was the enemy.  He stared at me the entire time he was in the room.  Arrogant.  Self-assured.  An attorney with him, male, far less arrogant but just as self-assured.  They tried every which way they could to beat the victim down into retracting her complaint.

I sat there the entire time, sometimes holding her hand, but always staring in as self-assured stance and style I could muster, my eyes never leaving his face. I was scared shitless, to tell you the truth.  But I sat there staring back at him the entire time, pouring as much pride and disdain as I could muster into my eyes to shoot back at him and his evilness.  Thinking all the while that it wasn't doing any good, because he was absolutely relentless.  He was the Devil Incarnate.  And I am pretty sure I never let my hands shake a single second when the victim clutched at them, harder and harder.  I wasn't going to let HER down the way I let myself down, feeling such fear, such trembling, inside.  i wanted to run away.  I wanted to go hide and cower.

But I sat there, determined as I could be, pouring every bit of self-will into putting on a brave front.

Up until that point, I had never, ever, been afraid of a man I'd met in my entire life.  Not even my Dad, who had been a physical abuser.  I was afraid of the beatings at Dad's hands, but I was never afraid of HIM!  But this man, that day, across that small conference room, I was scared. Scared shitless.

She did not retract her complaint.

Eventually he plead out to some minor crime, and it was disgusting!  I was so pissed at the time, indignant!  He got a suspended sentence.  In the interim, she had moved out of his house (Thank Goddess!), back home with her parents for awhile, and then moved out of state. Smart move.  Assholes like that tend to come after you and hunt you down.  Don't we see it every weekend on "48 Hours?" on CBS network television...

I remember leaving the Safety Building that day, after that initial conference was over.  Ha - what a misnomer -- Safety Building!  I first escorted my charge down to a waiting cab at a "secret" exit, paid the driver with a voucher and, after making sure she wasn't being followed as far as I could tell, sent her on her way.  There were two cab companies at the time that donated services to help the victims of domestic violence.  They sent experienced drivers, but all of them were male drivers.  To this day, one rarely sees a female cab driver in Milwaukee.  Sigh.  That day, she got to where she was going safely.


Wells Street view of Milwaukee County Safety Building.  Secret entry
not visible from this photo (a good thing). 

Me -- I walked backed up to my desk, briefed the next woman at the desk on what had happened during my "tour of duty" and what was going on (we kept a written log of calls, among other things, and also wrote up reports for our time spent there and turned them in at the end of each 'shift').  I went into a vacant interrogation room and wrote out my report.  I then walked out of the Safety Building feeling haunted, feeling like that perp's eyes were all over the damn place!  Feeling like he was going to jump out at me at any second and beat the crap out of me, or shoot me.  I remember nodding at people I recognized and smiling as I made my way along the hallways going toward a particular elevator block, saying goodbye until next week.  I remember leaving the building.  I walked to the corner of 9th and Wisconsin Avenue (a few blocks away) to catch a bus home, shaking the entire time.  I was certainly shaking internally.  I don't know if I was physically shaking on the outside.  I tried never to manifest fear or cowardice in front of the enemy, just in case they were watching.

I spent the rest of my commitment at that desk without further incidents such as that one. 

It has been more than 30 years.  I've never gone back there.  Chamber of Horrors. 

Oh, it brings me to tears now, recalling the echoes of some of the women's voices.  So many of them would come in, and talk to me, and I would hold their hands, and try to give them encouragement and strength. Now, I remember physically feeling that I wanted to somehow magically transpose into THEM all of MY physical strength and mental determination and self-righteous anger and indignation I felt at the time.  I would tell them what we would do at the DA's office if they filed a criminal complaint.  I gave them hand-outs about what services were available then if they decided to leave their abusive situation, and information about the few support services that were available to help them and give them support even if they didn't leave. A few I gave them my personal telephone number, too.  We weren't supposed to do that.  AGAINST THE RULES! 

And then the women would leave my desk and walk down those marble hallways, and I never saw them again.  But a few, a very very few, would file complaints.  And a few, a very very few, did call me a couple of times, on my personal telephone number.  And I did the best I could to give them encouragement and strength over the telephone, and tap them into available resources to help them more than I could. And other things.  I don't want to talk about those. Totally broke rules, OHMYGODDESS. Totally put my own life in danger (not as if it wasn't in danger to begin with, doing this kind of work, even for the short time I did it).  I hope those two women got away! 

I like to think I helped a few women along the way; those who came down to the DA's office in the Safety Building in person, those I talked with on the telephone.  No way of knowing, except that one particular case, because the Assistant DA let me know afterwards what was going on.  And the two women I helped, let's see, what is the term?  Exo facto?  Well, something like that. 

Do those women remember me like I remember them?

Right now, I'm feeling like a coward.  I abandoned them.  I could have, should have, done more.

Solemn Thoughts Near Christmas: Intimate Memories

Hola darlings!

Sorry I haven't been blogging much lately.  This year the Christmas season has been a busy one for moi, lots of decorating the house for the season, watching a lot of football (including my poor Packers), shopping, getting together with friends and entertaining here at home.  It has been some 13 months since Don McLean's unexpected death.  Not a day goes by I don't miss him fiercely. 



Above is a photo of the desk I work at most often (in the front room across from the fireplace).  It's decked out for Christmas with a pine cone that I picked up in Montreal on December 7, 2001, after our trip back "home" from Amsterdam.  It is from the grounds of St. Joseph's Oratory on Mount Royal, Montreal. Mr. Don and I had a close encounter with a very friendly squirrel there, and the pine cone is a souvenir of that happy time. I stayed with Don in Montreal for several days before and after the trip to Amsterdam.  Oh, what memories!  The one-armed soldier Mr. Don gifted to me one Christmas -- found and recovered from a sidewalk near his apartment.  That little soldier made out of a clothespin is one of my dearest possessions.  He is only brought out at Christmas.  Photographs, of course.  Don was so handsome and strong in his hey-day when I first met him (1999), heart beating hard right now, LOL!  The smaller photo to the right shows Mr. Don and I at the end of a carriage ride through old Montreal on December 7, 2001.  It was warm in Montreal that day.  EVERYONE was out and about.  It was a magical time.  We started and ended that carriage ride outside the Cathedral of Notre Dame in downtown Montreal.  The heart-shaped candle votive with electric candle aglow, well, I'm sentimental, what can I say?  The birds -- Mr. Don loved birds and birds loved him.  There was a story he told me about one summer's day when he and one of  his bike-riding buddies (maybe it was Steve) were out and about, and stopped for a break in a parkland/wild-area near the river in Montreal.  They saw a yellow finch or similar bright colored tiny song bird in the trees.  For some reason that even he didn't understand at the time, Don put out his hand and then stuck out his index finger.  Sure enough, that little yellow finch landed on his finger as he smoked a cigarette with the other hand.  Oh Mr. Don!  So of COURSE when I had a few extra glitter birds left over this year from Christmas decorating, I put one on the frame of Mr. Don's portrait photo.  The larger bird with the crown, well of course that is moi!  I try to honor Don's memory by keeping Goddesschess alive as best I can.  One of these days, assuming I survive to retire in 3 or 4 years (I sure HOPE so, geez!), I am going to really tackle getting the Goddesschess website awakened from the stasis it is currently in.  Then, watch-out world!

This post isn't about Don or Goddesschess, though.  It's about something that came up a few days ago at one of the blogs I read - Cozy Little House.  Oh I know, I know, it has absolutely nothing to do with chess, or herstory, or world events.  Nope.  It's about a woman who found herself with drastically changed life circumstances who now lives much more simply than she would ever have imagined.  I love Cozy Little House because Brenda, its author/writer, doesn't pull her punches, and she writes about what appeals to her or moves her, regardless of what some people might think.  Hmmm, does that sound like someone you all know and love, heh heh heh?

The original post Brenda did was on December 9, 2013:  The Loss of a Blogger.  It reported the murder of a fellow blogger, in Michigan, USA, Christine Keith, and her son from a prior marriage, by her estranged husband, Randy Keith.  He shot and killed both of them and then turned the gun on himself.  Christine Keith had filed for divorce after years of abuse and threats of violence at the hands of Randy Keith, according to reports.  Well, he wasn't having it.  Like so many others before him, he committed the ultimate act of violence by depriving the woman he "loved" of her life, as well as her son from a prior relationship, before committing the ultimate cowardly act of killing himself.

Brenda did another post, on December 18, 2013:  When Women Try to Leave.  Some details emerged about the horrible events -- three children, 8, 6, and 3, are now orphans.  They were visiting relatives at the time, and so were out of the home at the time of the murders/suicide.  All I can say is Thank Goddess they were not there at the time.  Who knows what may have happened otherwise. 

Now just this morning, as my clock radio clicked on at 5:40 a.m. and the news was blaring, there was a report of a 21 year old woman, a mother of three daughters, all under the age of six, who had been killed by her boyfriend during an argument.  The couple lived at 21st and Lapham in Milwaukee, a neighborhood I knew well.  When I was growing up in the area in the 1960's, it was a solid working class neighborhood, filled with small single family homes and larger duplexes, mostly descendants of Polish and German immigrants who had settled the area.  There was no such thing as a gang, no graffiti, no filth in the streets, no unmarried couples living together, very few births out of wedlock, and no families on "welfare" as it was called back then (still is today, although drastically changed from what it used to be).  We all went to Mitchell Street School, Walker Junior High School, and South Division (the old one, with the dome, where 2200 kids were packed into a space designed in the late 1900s for 1400 kids), from which I proudly graduated as a "Cardinal" in 1969.  Remember the song "Back in the Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams?  A classic song to rock out to, and what he sings about is very indicative of the experiences I had back then.

Well, that neighborhood isn't like that anymore.  The summer of '69 is long past. It's hard for me to grasp, sometimes, that so much time has passed since those days.  Almost 50 damn years.  Geez.  I still feel like an 18 year old in my heart of hearts. 

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  When I was younger, I didn't understand what that meant. Now I do.  Sadly, when people hear a news report about a "domestic violence" situation that ends in murder, they shake their heads and then go on with what they were doing.  Back when I was growing up, there was a lot of that, because it happened all the time, all around me, even in my own home.  We females were conditioned to just "accept" it and carry on.  Men drink, they get drunk, they get frustrated, they beat the crap out of you and the kids.  Carry on.  Men have bad tempers, they work hard and they're treated like crap at work.  They come home and beat the crap out of you and the kids.  Carry on.  Men need our support, they have so many burdens to carry on their shoulders, especially when they beat the crap out of you and the kids.  Carry on. 

I don't remember exactly, but the last time my Dad beat me up was before I turned 12.  The details are fuzzy, in fact, I didn't remember it until I sat down here this morning and starting writing this.  But I remember my Mom packing all six of us kids up, and my Aunt Diane coming with her big Cadillac car (Uncle Tony's car) to pick us up.  And we were taken not to Aunt Diane's house, but to Aunt Lorraine's small house, maybe because she only had one kid and one easy-going husband.  I don't think it was Aunt Lillian's house -- Aunt Lillian had 5 kids of her own and a hot-tempered Italian husband, and lived in a place much smaller than the flat Mom took us from.  So we were all jammed into that tiny little house of Aunt Lorraine's on the southside of Milwaukee for about 3 days.  And then we went back home.  And after that, things were different.

Wow, what a memory to surface after all these years.  I'd forgotten all about it.  That was, no doubt, the turning point.  Because although my parents would get into arguments after that, all the physical violence stopped.  I think it was also about that time that Mom and Dad both stopped drinking alcohol.  And they stopped "running around" as they used to call it -- chasing out to bars with their buddies and girlfriends on the weekends.

Yep, it was an interesting childhood, to be sure.  But my family didn't do anything different than countless other families at that time.  And I have to say, other than the beatings and the dramatic relationship between my parents, we always had food on the table, clothes on our backs, shoes on our feet, a roof over our heads, be it ever so humble, and were always in school and better damn well have gotten good grades - or else!  We knew what - or else - meant.

And so, I've been thinking about what Brenda wrote at Cozy Little Home, and how she reported that some of her readers had (privately emailed her) criticized that she would write about such a thing.  OHMYGODDESS! 

I was shocked that in this day and age that ANYONE would feel that way, let alone express it to someone else. 

Yeah, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

These days, my siblings and I josh and joke about those beatings we used to endure.  And the fights that we heard after we were in bed for the night, huddled under blankets -- sometimes the young ones would crawl into bed with me and our next oldest sister and we'd all huddle together, trying to block out the sounds of the loud voices, the accusations hurled, the sounds of violence, the screams and shouts. Humor used to cover up the painful (literally) memories.  Humor doesn't erase the past. But, as with all things, it is nuanced.  It wasn't all bad.  I knew my parents loved me and my siblings.  They were doing the best they could, and actually they did pretty damn well because all of us grew up to be prosperous, successful adults.  No one would have dreamed back then of reporting anything to Child Protective Services.  One or more of the Aunts would have intervened at some point and - perhaps - they did.  It is not something that is talked about.  And now, most of my Aunties are dead, so I cannot ask them -- what happened back then.  I will NOT ask Mom.  Dad died just before Veterans Day in 2002.  Mom is 86.  Hanging in there.  She may outlive me. She remembers the good things.  If she remembers the bad things, she does not speak of them.

All of which brings me back to Brenda's posts about the death of Christine Keith and her son at the hands of an enraged husband.  And the news I heard this morning about the 21-year old mother of three daughters, all under the age of 6, murdered at the hands of her boyfriend during an argument, while the children were in the house.  In that old southside Milwaukee neighborhood where I spent my teen years. 


Some news articles about the death of Christine Keith and her son:

The Mail Online (U.K.): December 7, 2013 -- Ex-husband shot dead wife who wrote popular housekeeping blog before killing himself and son - leaving their three other children orphaned

The Detroit Free Press: December 6, 2013 -- Years of threats, violence led to Lansing double murder-suicide, court records show

The International Business Times: December 9, 2013 -- Lansing Murder-Suicide: Christine Keith, Blogger Of 'Adventures Of A Thrifty Momma,' And Son Killed By Randy Keith In Michigan


What do we do?  How can we allow this kind of thing to go on?  Is there anything we can do?  Can things ever be changed?  Why do we continue to accept the deaths of innocent women and children at the hands of men who profess to love them? 

How ironic.  I've been searching for a written news report on the killing of that young mother of three on the near southside of Milwaukee that I heard earlier this morning on the radio.  Cannot find a damn single thing about it.  Guess it's not news any more.
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