Monday, February 1, 2021

Alien Object Fly-By?

 Okay, I can't resist, LOL!  I happened to see this while scrolling through older stories at The New York Times online just now.  It's an article about a possible "alien scout" taking a close fly-by of Mother Earth in 2017.

Did an Alien Life-Form Do a Drive-By of Our Solar System in 2017?
By Dennis Overbye
January 26, 2021, updated January 28, 2021

Check out the artist's rendition of what the object may look like, based on radiometric (word?) measurements of the object being approximately ten times longer than it is wide.  So, a sort of flying cigar, I guess. 

M. Kornmesser/European Southern Observatory

This reminded me very much of the alien scout object that visited planet Earth in the film "Star Trek IV:  The Voyage Home," produced in 1986.  Excellent romp with Kirk, a revived and still learning how to be Spock again Spock, Dr. McCoy, Uhuru, Chekov, Sulu, and of course, no continuation of the original "Star Trek" television series from the 1960s (got me hooked for life when I was a teenager) would be complete without Scotty the Engineer!  The action takes place on 1986 planet Earth after a reverse time travel sling around the Sun in order to save two whales from that time and actually SAVE the future planet from the alien thingy that was getting ready to blow us to smithereens because there were no whales on the actual 23rd (24th?) century Earth - they had gone extinct from over-hunting and global climate change.  I know, the time travel schtick is sort of cray cray, but the film was a lot of fun and brought home a very salient point in 1986 that we were already experiencing diminishment and extinctions of irreplaceable species of animals - and such things can always have unanticipated consequences.

Here's the alien scout object from the 1986 Star Trek film:

"Whale probe," Memory Alpha online website.  

"Whale probe," from Fiction to Fact online website. In this image
the probe is going past a 23rd (24th?) CE Space Ship Docking Station on its way
toward Earth.

And now, back to shoveling out of another foot of snow and 2 foot tall drifts.  Sigh.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Tomb of Ancient Egyptian Queen Identified as Queen Neit, 6th Dynasty Old Kingdom

It is mind-boggling that these discoveries keep surfacing even after excavations taking place more than 100 years.  I did not include any of the photos contained in the original article.

Article from Yahoo News, originally reported on CBS News

4,200-year-old Queen's Identity Among Remarkable New Finds in Egypt

By Ahmed Shawkat
January 19, 2021, 8:36 AM

Cairo — Egypt's Ministry of Antiquities has revealed details of the latest landmark discoveries to emerge from the Saqqara necropolis, south of Cairo. The vast burial grounds sit in what was once Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to more than a dozen pyramids, including Egypt's oldest, the Pyramid of Djoser.

The site has yielded thousands of artefacts over decades of excavation, but among the biggest rewards for Egyptologists in this latest round of discoveries was the identity of a queen who died around 4,200 years ago.

"The excavation started in 2010, when we discovered a pyramid of a queen next to the pyramid of King Teti, but we didn't find a name inside the pyramid to tell us who the pyramid belonged to," leading Egyptologist and former minister of antiquities Dr. Zahi Hawass told CBS News.

About a month ago they discovered a funerary temple, and now researchers finally have a name for the ancient female monarch: Queen Neit, the wife of King Teti. Her name was finally found, carved on a wall in the temple and also written on a fallen obelisk in the entrance to her tomb.

"I'd never heard of this queen before. Therefore, we add an important piece to Egyptian history, about this queen," said Hawass, who heads the archaeological mission. He said the recent discoveries would help "rewrite" the history of ancient Egypt.

His team also discovered 52 burial shafts, each around 30 to 40 feet deep, inside of which they found have more than 50 wooden coffins dating back to the New Kingdom, around 3,000 years ago.

"Actually, this morning we found another shaft," Hawass told CBS News on Monday. "Inside the shaft we found a large limestone sarcophagus. This is the first time we've discovered a limestone sarcophagus inside the shafts. We found another one that we're going to open a week from now."

The team also found a papyrus about 13 feet long and three feet wide, on which Chapter 17 of the Book of the Dead is written in hieroglyphics, with the name of its owner recorded on it. The Book of the Dead is an ancient manuscript that explains how to navigate through the afterlife to reach the field of the Aaru — paradise, to ancient Egyptians.

Hawass said it was the first time such a large papyrus had been discovered inside a burial shaft.

Other finds from the site include numerous wooden funerary masks, a shrine dedicated to the god Anubis (Guardian of the Cemetery), statues of Anubis, and games that were buried with the dead, to keep them busy in the afterlife. One of them was a game called "Twenty," found with its owner's name still visibly written on it.  [I assume this is a reference to the ancient game evidently imported from ancient Sumer to Egypt and spread across the ancient Middle East known as "Twenty Squares."  It was a race game similar to Senet.]

Another game, called "Senet" (cross), was found in the shafts. It's similar to chess, but if the deceased player wins, they go safely into the afterlife.  [Note: Senet is not similar to chess, it is classified as a race game, where the game pieces are moved from the starting board on the narrow board (typically of 30 squares, although the oldest stone carved boards recovered from early Old Dynasty tombs have as many as 33 squares) to the end of the board/off the board, based on the throw of dice or dice-predecessors.]

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Never Try to BS a Multi-Generational Progressive

 Come on, Moscow Mitch.  You used the word "provoked" earlier today in your comments about the soon to be ex-*president of the United States as he slinks his way to a "good bye" celebration at Andrews Air Force Base that nobody who is anybody is going to attend, including his OWN VICE-PRESIDENT!  Good riddance, Scum Bag in Chief.  Here's some of my puke accumulated over the past four years for you to take with you as a snack on your way to your cesspit at Mar-a-Lago.  Will North Palm Beach ever be able to get rid of the stench once they manage to kick you out of their jurisdiction?

Moscow Mitch, you won't be able to slime your own way out of what you said today about Trump "provoking" the Fascists who attacked and desecrated our national Capitol and went looking for Vice-President Pence and Speaker of the House Pelosi to kill them.  You may try to argue that "provoke" is NOT THE SAME MEANING AS INCITE, as the Article of Impeachment against Donald J. Trump lists as his ultimate sin against our country, which he has used and abused and attempted to destroy for the past four years.  Nope.  Maybe you, Moscow Mitch, are now familiar with the word SYNOMYM, tsk tsk.  You should be, as you're even older than I am.  I realize teachers are no longer allowed to actually educate our students these days, but back when I was in school, in the "good ol' days," they still taught us proper English and what words synonyms, homonyms and antonyms were.  

Just to refresh your memory, Moscow Mitch, I bring you fresh from the Oxford Dictionary courtesy of Google:

Similar and opposite words
stir up
whip up
work up
fan the flames of
stoke up
spark off
agitate for/against
bring about
egg on
spur on
drive on
put up to
root on

Do you see the word PROVOKE in the list?  Yep, it's there.  It has the same meaning as INCITE.  Golly Gee, MM, were asleep that day in English class?  

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Tower of London's Raven Queen Missing Two Weeks and Presumed Dead

I had no idea about this legend although I have read about and seen photos of the ravens at the Tower of London.  They have always fascinated me.  Like the crows who visit me on occasion for peanuts and unshelled almonds, they are very smart.  "My" crows will occasionally gift me with a small token - a marble here, a particularly shiny stone there, one time a rather scuffed up single dice, a piece of what appears to be pink quartz shaped rather like a pyramid, and the piece de resistance, a gold-colored bracelet with brown stones set around it (one of the stones is missing and the bracelet is slightly bent).  Over 30 years or so, the crows have brought and left me a number of gifts, including a couple of bottle caps from beer bottles, LOL! They always leave their gifts in my old concrete birdbath, because during the summer I will visit it at least once a day to refresh/refill water.  It is a very popular bath in the neighborhood and gets a lot of traffic :)

Here is a photo of the Raven Queen Merlina, who has been at the Tower of London since 2007 (14 years) and flew away two weeks ago.  She has not returned and is now presumed to have died.

Image from CNN article January 14, 2021 "Tower of London's
'queen' raven, Merlina, missing and feared dead"

Here are some articles on Merlina's flying off and presumed death.  

By Alan Cowell
January 14, 2021

People Magazine, "Tower of London's Queen Raven Missing, Feared Dead"
By Katie Campione
January 14, 2021

By Mindy Weisberger
January 15, 2021

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Mini Round-Up for Your Reading Pleasure

 Hola darlings, and Happy New Year to everyone - in about 6 hours.  This year, of course, New Year's Eve will be celebrated differently than normal because of the pandemic, but we can take heart in knowing that although it seems like it will be forever, a year from now things will be getting back to whatever becomes the "new normal" and we will probably once again be gathering together to celebrate in our homes, going out to restaurants for nice dinners, going out to our neighborhood bars to just hang out with our neighbors in our jeans and sweatshirts, going out to the hot spots where young people go, etc. etc.

But tonight, it's celebrating by myself with a fire in the fireplace, extra candles lit, cold pink wine in a crystal glass, semi-sweet (dark) chocolates YUM, and later some fresh popped popcorn - no butter.  The Christmas tree is all aglow, the small trees flanking my front door outside are all lit, as is the wreath, and as chaotic and uncertain as the last 12 months have been, I am at peace with the world - well, at least for tonight.  

First off, Katherine Neville, author of some of my favorite novels ever (reading The Eight changed my life - literally), published her "Twelve Days of Christmas" Newsletter yesterday.  I won't go into details here, this is intended to be a short (for me) post.  As always, however, Neville brings her years' worth of research on esoteric and historical subjects and insight to bring us a thought provoking Newsletter.  

Twelve Days of Christmas Newsletter, December 30, 2020, by Katherine Neville

I couldn't help but remember a particular episode from the original Star Trek series on television back in the 1960s when I was still a teenager.  The episode was "Bread and Circuses," shown in 1968.  One of the lines that I've remembered but can't quote exactly was, I think, uttered by Lieutenant Uhura, who noted that the new religion that was rapidly spreading across the empire on the planet in question wasn't about the "Birth of the Sun," it was about the "Birth of the Son."  Lots of interesting commentary for your reading pleasure on the original episode at:

IMBD User Reviews
Star Trek (the original series), "Bread and Circuses" Episode (1968)

Chess in our lives - it's amazing, wonderful, magical, powerful, life-changing.

She's a Chess Champion Who Can Barely See
by Dana Mackenzie, December 24, 2020
The New York Times

5 Ways Chess Can Make You a Better Law Student and Lawyer
by Mark Kende, Professor of Law, Drake University, December 27, 2020
Yahoo News/from The Conversation

Not everybody is cut out to be an attorney and counselor at law.  The best ones have particular characteristics that are often shared with the best chessplayers in the world, and this is no accident. 

  • You need to have a thirst for learning
  • You need to have tenacity or, as my mom called it - bullheadedness or stubborness (a trait that runs in my family, sometimes not to our benefit, alas!) 
  • When others shrug and give up, you're just getting started 
  • You need to be willing to study and work hard to learn your craft
  • You need to be able to handle loss, and handle it with dignity.  You may hate it, but you have to be able to handle it and learn from it, analyze it, what went wrong, how did it go wrong, was there something you could have done to avoid the result you didn't want
  • You need to accept that you will never be finished learning how to be better at your craft, keeping up with developments in your craft, and studying as needed to keep up with never ending new-developments
  • You need to have stamina
  • You need to know when to call it quits

Sunday, December 20, 2020

A Potpourri of Articles/News for Your Reading Pleasure Over Christmas

Ho ho ho, darlings!  From me to you - Happy Holidays!

 Greetings from my 2020 Christmas tree.  And - here's my annual memorial to Mr. Don and me:

Nefertiti pendant (me, ha ha!) and a souvenir from 
Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull, ancestral home of the McLeans (Mr. Don).
On the tree every year since I don't remember when.

Tomorrow night in the states is the Winter Solstice, which is the shortest period of daylight of the year (the daylight gets shorter as you move further north or south from the equator) and was celebrated by the ancient Romans as the Brumalia traditionally on December 25, just after the celebration of the Saturnalia which ran from December 17 through about December 23 in later Roman times.

This year there will be a special show in the evening sky visible and viewable by many of us.  There is going to be a "Great Conjunction" of two of the giant gas planets in our solar system, Saturn and Jupiter. You can read more about it in this article from The Washington Post"Rare double planet conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter to land on on winter solstice." 

Do a Google search in which direction and area of the sky to look for the planets to appear to meet and merge in the sky and about what time to see it.  Tomorrow will be the peak viewing time, but the planets will appear to be relatively close together and may appear as a large "star," depending on your location, even on Christmas Eve (December 24) and Christmas itself on December 25.  We celebrate the birth of the pagan "Sun" god and the birth of the Christian "Son of god" on the same day thanks to an adoption of the ancient celebratory date for the birth of the pagan "Sun" god by the early Christian church in the 4th century CE.  Many think that a conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter that occurred around the traditional time it is said Christ was born may have created what is called the "Star of Bethelem" that the traditional tale as told in the Bible says led the "Three Magi" from the East to the Christ child in Bethelem.

Also from The Washington Post, an article on some of the greatest female chess players who led the way during the old Soviet era domination of women's (and men's) chess - the Georgians!  "Georgian women ruled chess in the Soviet era.  A new generation chases the same 'Queen's Gambit' glory."  

Of course the article would tie what's going on right now with a new generation of female players to the smash hit "Queen's Gambit" on Netflix.  I confess, I am shocked that so few people knew of this wonderful book and even more shocked that the series became a smash hit.  People - READ THE BOOK, it's incredible. I see Amazon has the same edition (from 2003) I have (although I bought mine years ago).  

Chess afficianados know who Vera Menchik is. I wrote about her years ago at the old Goddesschess website - a 2007 article "Blast from the Past - the Spittoons are Gone."  The Washington Post has an article about Menchik.  Sadly, she was killed during a bombing raid in London during World War II.  "The forgotten female chess star who beat men 90 years before 'Queen's Gambit'."

Good Goddess!  Everything these days seems to be tied to Walter Tevis's "The Queen's Gambit!"  Well, better late than never, although some men have always known (including Kasparov himself, and even Bobby Fischer who used to play against the Polgar sisters in their home in Hungary back in the day) that women can be killer chessplayers as good as any man. 

More Queen's Gambit for your reading pleasure:

From Vanity Fair, by Tracy Moore, November 16, 2020
The Queen's Gambit: How Is a Show With So Little Sex So Sexy?

From Vanity Fair, by Cassie de Costs, November 10, 2020
The Queen's Gambit: The Hidden Depths of Netflix's Word-of-Mouth Smash

From Vanity Fair, by Richard Lawson, October 22, 2020
The Queen's Gambit Plays a Beautiful Game

And more from Vanity Fair, by Julie Miller, November 5, 2020
The Queen's Gambit: A Real-Life Chess Champion on Netflix's Addictive Hit (interview with Jennifer Shahade)

From Yahoo News, by Bill Bostock, November 21, 2020
The World's Best Chess Player Said Netflix's "The Queen's Gambit" Did Chess Better Than Anything Else Hollywood Has Done, But the Game Still Has a Culture of Belittling Women (interview with GM Magnus Carlsen)

From Vanity Fair, this may be a repeat of an article I previously posted, or maybe not, by Christopher Rosen, November 23, 2020
The Queen's Gambit Has Everyone Buying Chessboards

From The Washington Post, by Monica Hesse, November 25, 2020
The Queen's Gambit, a period drama that erases sexism from 1960, is the best fantasy show of the year (Ha!  I love this title!)

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Author Katherine Neville on "The Queen's Gambit"

 Hola everyone!  I meant to post this much earlier, but this time of year finds me very busy.  Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year and I go all out decorating my tree, my mantel, and my dining room, shopping for new ornaments (I swear every year I'm not going to do it and every year I do it anyway), etc. 

I especially want to share author Katherine Neville's November 30, 2020 Newsletter with you, about "The Queen's Gambit." I can't help but note that Neville was prescient in her September 21, 2020 newsletter about the United States being in a state of "flux" (you can read about it here, as well as my political rant in which I didn't pull my punches against Donald J. Trump and his enablers).  Perhaps Netflix's production of "The Queen's Gambit" during this particular time in our history will rejuvenate chess in the United States, particularly when it comes to female players, like Bobby Fischer's success did for chess more than 40 years ago.

Katherine Neville's Queen's Gambit Newsletter
November 30, 2020

The Black Queen

Here I am [photo not included from Newsletter], with Chess Grandmaster and World Champion, Susan Polgar, at our book launch party for The Fire (sequel to The Eight) held in Washington DC!  Grandmaster Polgar was one of our co-hosts for that event; she also found for us the great Black Queen that appears with us here.  And Susan's husband Paul Truong took many of the wonderful photos of that evening, which appear on my web site, in my Author section.

Hundreds of you–my friends and fellow readers, from every age and every walk of life–have been writing to me, asking if I’ve seen the new television miniseries, The Queen’s Gambit, which is based on the novel of the same name by Walter Tevis (author of The HustlerThe Color of Money.) I read the book long ago, as well as every piece of fiction ever written about chess, since I was about to write my book–The Eight–where the entire plot, a swashbuckling adventure story, is based on a major chess game taking place over a period of two hundred years, all around the world.

By contrast, Walter Tevis’ book is the story of a troubled young woman, obsessed with chess, who overcomes all obstacles and goes on to become World Champion. Not only have I watched the series, but seeing it converted to screen was a real inspiration to me. In short, the screenwriters, actors, and director really did a great job, and they have even improved upon Walter Tevis’s original book! The screenplay sparkles with adventure, suspense, and action that’s hard to convey in such a cerebral story.

It is also of genuine interest to me, that not only the original author, Walter Tevis, but nearly all of the film’s developers–producers, director, and screenwriters–are men. This goes to show that really intelligent men can see inside a woman’s mind–at least in fiction! 

This story also shows that a strong, intelligent woman can benefit by the gallantry and support of the men around her–even when competing against them! Chess, like the Kama Sutra, originated in India as a cosmic dance. From medieval times–in literature like Roman de La Rose, to Shakespeare’s The Tempest–women played chess with men as a romantic courting ritual. 

It’s an Alchemy that we need to bring back, today!

(Go to the link to read the rest of the Newsletter and see the photographs included in the article).


I am inclined not to agree with Ms. Neville's statement that chess originated in India.  This is, in my opinion, a myth that has been accepted by chess historians as truth rather than the unproven supposition it is, based on no actual physical (archaeological) evidence of which I am aware directly linking an ancient form of chess to India, and even more questionable reasoning and rationalizing by H.J.R. Murray, author of the famous (infamous) "History of Chess" written at the end of the 19th century.  There is more physical evidence for chess or a forerunner of the game actually being played in ancient Persia (today's Iran) or at the very least, along the ancient trade route from China to the Middle East and beyond (the Silk Road) in the form of actually excavated identifiable chess pieces from Afrasiyab, a ruined city said to have been founded by one of Persia's ancient kings in then Persian territory (northeast Persia).  The ruins, surrounded in part by the modern city of Samarkand (Samarqand), are in the country now called Uzbekistan along the now long gone ancient Silk Road route.  

But I agree with Neville that the true beauty of chess is to be found in the dance of the pieces on the board, and the intellectual and emotional acrobatics and interaction that takes place when two players sit across from each other to match wits, skill, and spirit.  The dance can become particularly interesting when it is a female and male sitting across the board from each other, for many different reasons.  

The ancient Egyptians called their gaming pieces jbAw, pronounced something like ebau (abau) or ebou (abou) - "dancer."  The ancient Egyptians, who loved their word play, carved their oldest gaming pieces out of elephant ivory (bw), pronounced something like ab "elephant," and abu, "elephant's tooth."  Our English word "ivory" comes from the Latin  ebor or ebur, which came directly from the Egyptian word(s) for "elephant."  

History bit:  The Mitre, the headdress worn by Bishops in the Catholic Church, is an ancient symbol of power and authority which was adopted from the even older use of a horn or horns in a headdress that was worn only by those who held great positions of power, such as Kings and their closest advisors.  Interestingly, ancient depictions of shamans and what some archaeologists have suggested may be "gods" depicted in ancient cave art and on ancient rock carvings appear to be wearing horns, so the link between "power" and the horn or horns from a mighty animal is extremely ancient, pre-dating writing by thousands of years.  The Egyptian word "Pharaoh" which is generally translated as "great house" began life as some form of tent/hut which was ornamented above the door with a set of elephant tusks or bovine horns.  I assume that as the climate along the Nile changed over the millennia and elephants moved further south in Africa, bovine horns (Hathor, anyone?) replaced the elephant tusks.  

Of course, chess pieces dance!  Even I, not even a competent enough player to call myself a patzer, know that.  Here's an interesting article from 2018 from the Southwest Journal (a Minneapolis, Minnesota based publication) entitled "A Dance of Chess Pieces."  Fantastic article by Nate Gotlieb.  

And I always go back to one of my favorite videos from the 1980s musical "Chess," One Night in Bangkok sung by Murray Head.

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