Saturday, February 16, 2008

Bronze Age Rock Carving Uncovered in Scotland

From The Rock carving found after recent storm sheds further light on bronze age art JAMES MORGAN reporter February 16 2008 A rock carving dating back to the bronze age has been uncovered by forestry workers clearing trees which fell during the recent storms. The mysterious rock art had been hidden by a huge tree in Forestry Commission Scotland's Achnabreac Forest, in West Argyll, until it was blown down around three weeks ago. The carving - believed to be around 5000 years old - is of a dice-like pattern. It sits above the mouth of Kilmartin Glen and directly overlooks the rock art at Cairnbaan. Its proximity to these other rock art sites, its visual relationship with both sites and the similar complexity of design suggests that all three sites may be connected, say the commission. It believes the new site may hold the key to unravelling the mystery which surrounds the rock art in Argyll. Andy Buntin, of the Forestry Commission, said: "We discovered the new rock art during a routine inspection. "West Argyll is renowned for its archaeological importance, with 46 scheduled ancient monuments, and the site is one of the three largest ring-marked sites in Britain. "The importance of the site and the reasons for the carvings remain a topic of speculation and despite public and academic interest, the meanings of the symbols remains mysterious." Mr Buntin said the carvings date back to the late neolithic and early bronze age. "Initially the carvings were found on boulders and outcrops of rock overlooking major routes, hunting grounds, water-holes and hunting spots," he said. "This suggests a link with herding or hunting wild animals, although the presence on hillsides may indicate that they mark out boundaries between farmland and wild ground - perhaps an association with territorial ownership. "Later on, many boulders were incorporated into burials and cairns where they separate boundaries between sacred areas." © All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. *********************************************************************************** Why assume that the markings were delineations between "farm land" and "wild ground?" That seems to be such a "man" way of looking at things. Always looking for new ways to mark out his territory. Couldn't the markings just indicate spots where Shamans felt the blessings of the goddess upon the people? Or wanted the blessings of the goddess to "shower down" upon the people? That ancient burials were often found in close proximity to such markings (per the article) provides a crucial clue! DUH! The markings were not done to delineate separations between farm land and wild land. They were there to celebrate the goddess who, from the most ancient times, ruled over the hills, and watery springs, and the mountains, freely providing their bounty upon the children of the gods (mankind). And - what is a "dicelike pattern" as mentioned in the article? Does that mean etched lines forming a checkerboard-like pattern with "dots" in them? A diamond-grid-like pattern? Unfortunately, no photo accompanied the article, but both patterns have traditionally been associated with various goddesses throughout history. Check out some rock carvings from Cairnbaan from The Modern Antiquarian. Any relation there to "dicelike patterns?"

Black History Month

February is Black History Month in the USA. While I was working on blog entries this afternoon, I was watching PBS and Burt Wolf's excellent program came on. I just love watching his shows. He's always entertaining and informative, and always tells me something I didn't know before. Who knew food had such an interesting history? Today's program, #110, was about the contributions of slaves from Africa to the cuisuine of the Americas and, particularly, the United States. I discovered that Burt Wolf has his own website. However, despite several tries, I was not able to get Program 110 to download in PDF format. However, if you enjoy fried chicken, water melon, sweet potato pie and just about anything Cajun, you are eating food from "the hand that stirred the pot" - mostly female African slaves who worked in the kitchens of their rich white "masters" in the Southern states of the USA, who did the cooking. Heh heh.

Friday Night Miscellany (a little late)

Hola darlings! So, I've finished shoveling out the driveway, just in time for the next snow storm to appear on the horizon, which is supposed to begin tomorrow morning. Sigh. But, today, despite frigid temperatures and a non-relenting west wind, the sun is bright in the sky, it's warming up the house nicely and is quickly evaporating away the residue of what I could not shovel off of ice and snow in my driveway, and the snow boulders that I tossed into the road last night are now just so much snow mush! Cool!

Some chess stuff:

Is the University of Texas as Brownsville replacing New York City as the chess hotbed of the USA? Hmmm...

One of the biggy private-invite tournaments of the season has started: Morelia-Linares. Linares used to be the sole procurator of this event, but I guess they got too poor, and Morelia got too much drug money, and so a match was made in chess er, well, not heaven. Anyway, you can tell who's calling the shots, because Morelia, in a third world country (no I will NOT apologize to Mexico, who continues to illegally mass export its poor and downtrodden across the Rio Grande), is going first, despite falling behind the "L" in Linares in the Roman alphabet and despite Linares being the originator of this great event. Yeah, yeah, I know what they say about the second half - but does that really hold with these oldies and moldies playing chess? Hmmm... Note, this is supposed to be the English version of the website (the Morelia version, at any rate). Take a look at the url - it puts Morelia before Linares. Guess that gives you a real hint about what the Mexicans think of their place in hosting one-half of this event again, hmmm....

The usual boring suspects are playing again this year (Anand, Shirov, Leko, Ivanchuk, Topolov, snore). Darlings, 20 years ago and via time machine, any one of these guys would have been more than old enough to be my father. For that matter, so would the latest crop of "youngsters" (who have been playing chess since they were born) - Carlsen, Rajabov, Aronian. Think about THAT...

Some day, I'd LOVE to see Linares host a plethora of the top female players of the world, and invite one sacrificial male player, a real cutey, someone like...Cheparinov. Yeah, he's a schmuck, but he's cute - and he's young, so perhaps there is still has a chance for the youngster to develop some personality, and some perspective. Well, on second thought, maybe not. But he's still cute. Now that would be a tournament I'd pay attention to! (Photo: Cheparanov, Round 7, 2008 Corus - Wijk aan Zee)

Science news:
It's just a matter of time, now, before we're sending space ships out to the moons of Saturn to harvest hydrocarbons. Will THAT be the next major war hot spot in the 21st century?

Psssst.... hey, you there - yeah, you - American Buddy. Want 10,000,000 women?

Just Plain STRANGE!
Woman arrested for having a dream about a bomb.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Friday Night Miscellany

Ohforgoddesssake! That !$*(E%&^*#@ snow plow driver was back today! It wasn't bad enough he came through Tuesday morning just after I shoveled myself out from six inches. Nooooooo. He came back Wednesday during the day, the sneak, when I was at work, and plowed me in again because he did such a piss-poor job of plowing the first time. And so, I shoveled out again, casting half of the ice-hard boulders back out into the road to melt in the sun and be smushed by the traffic. Thursday night we received less than an inch of snow. No plow in sight, a salter came through well before I went to bed. Ah, I thought, relief. But - the demon plow driver had me fooled. He came through today, again while I was at work. This time he really did a number of me. Not only did he plow me in yet again (the third time this week), I believe he was drunk because there are waves of snow shoveled up far onto people's lawns all up and down the street. Miraculously, the snow banks across from my house and all along that side of 83 Street are only 2 feet tall; the snow banks on my side of the street are 5 feet tall. Can you please explain this to me? How is this physically possible for three feet more of snow to have fallen on my side of the road? The answer is - it is NOT physically possible! He's doing it on purpose! So there I was, trudging down the road tonight, loaded down with groceries, and I round the corner toward my house just a bit up the way and see a NEW mountain of snow across the entire base of my driveway. And so, I had to shovel out again. This time, he also plowed a ton of new ice-hard snow boulders into the area I had excavated in front of my mailbox and newspaper tube. More excavation work. Everything was rock hard in the sub-freezing temperatures by the time I got home. But I had very little choice but to shovel out one more time, since we may get another 10 to 12 inches on Sunday and if I don't shovel now I may never get out of my house down to the road Monday morning. This time, I put nearly ALL of the gigantic ice boulders back into the road as far as I could fling them in my rage-fueled strength. I swear, some of those suckers must weight 50 pounds. I believe I even turned a bit green, grew about 2 feet taller and bulked up about 300 pounds, snorting steam from my nose the entire time. I worked for an hour and cleared a small area in front of the mail box, and cleared the rock hard 2 foot tall mountain of ice boulders the demon piled up in the base of my driveway. I probably have another hour to clear the rest of the drive, which I will do tomorrow morning. Short of staking out the driveway, I have little hope of catching the demon plow driver and driving that stake through its heart I've got at the ready at my front door. And so, I have come up with a plan. A plan that will end the demon's encursions onto my driveway forever. Tonight I built - oh so carefully - a snow dam just to the south of the "end" of my driveway - or what would be the end of my driveway but for the five foot high and five foot thick snowbank now sitting there jutting out into the road. The snow dam now extends three additional feet into the road; by the time I finish shoveling out the rest of my driveway, it should be about 4 feet high. In that snow dam are strategically placed ice boulders - with plastique explosives embedded in them. Mr. Demon will think "ha, she thinks she can stop my mighty plow with that puny attempt at a blockade?" and he will go full steam ahead toward the snow dam. And he will hit my ice bombs. KABOOM! Oh, I can hardly wait! My house will be protected by the now harder than concrete 5 foot tall snowbank. The demon plow driver will be blown back to perdition, where he belongs. And if he leaves a little blood and guts behind dangling in the shrubbery, so much the better. It will serve as a talisman against demon plow drivers for the rest of the season. My Incredible Hulk powers have now deserted me, and I'm exhausted. No strength left to do the usual Friday Night Miscellany, my feeble fingers can hardly strike the keys with enough force to get the letters to appear on the screen...

2008 Aeroflot

Women's standings after Round 2: Group A1: 24 WGM Hou, Yifan 1.5 CHN 2527 25 IM Sebag, Marie 1.5 FRA 2510 Group A2: 4 IM Ushenina, Anna 2.0 UKR 2484 27 IM Harika, Dronavalli 1.5 IND 2455 35 Ju, Wenjun 1.5 CHN 2360 51 IM Kovalevskaya, Ekaterina 1.0 RUS 2455 79 IM Ovod, Evgenija 0.5 RUS 2386 90 WGM Mongontuul, Bathuyag 0.0 MGL 2389 91 IM Tairova, Elena 0.0 RUS 2386 Group B (standings are after Round 3 for this Group): 19 WFM Paikidze, Nazi 2.5 GEO 2311 20 Zhang, Xiaowen 2.5 CHN 2309 21 WIM Yanjindulam, Dulamsuren 2.5 MGL 2256 28 WIM Charochkina, Daria 2.0 RUS 2383 34 WGM Kovanova, Baira 2.0 RUS 2348 37 WGM Kursova, Maria 2.0 RUS 2333 40 WFM Bodnaruk, Anastasia 2.0 RUS 2317 44 WFM Gunina, Valentina 2.0 RUS 2295 47 WIM Kashlinskaya, Alina 2.0 RUS 2276 57 IM Vasilevich, Irina 1.5 RUS 2378 61 WGM Romanko, Marina 1.5 RUS 2322 84 Zenyuk, Iryna 1.5 USA 2227 102 WIM Iljushina, Olga 1.0 RUS 2268 105 WIM Kharashuta, Ekaterina 1.0 RUS 2222 120 Lestari, Baiq Vina 0.5 INA 2263 123 WFM Kineva, Ekaterina 0.5 RUS 2204 124 WFM Nikolaeva, Alexandra 0.5 RUS 2201 125 WFM Gasik, Anna 0.5 POL 2200 130 WIM Tarasova, Viktoriya 0.0 RUS 2267 Group C: 40 Kuznetsova, Tatiana 1.5 RUS 2051 41 Jussupow, Ekaterina 1.5 GER 2030 45 Chkartina, Gerhana 1.5 INA 0 55 WFM Fakhretdinova, Margarita 1.0 RUS 2160 59 WIM Grigorova, Irina 1.0 RUS 2143 71 Kushka, Alena 1.0 RUS 2052 75 Batzaya, Yanjav 1.0 MGL 2039 76 Gvilava, Maya 1.0 RUS 2039 78 Yakupova, Aysyla 1.0 RUS 2003 79 Korytina, Natalia 1.0 KAZ 1995 85 Golban, Ludmila 1.0 MDA 1910 94 Valeva, Zlatina Hristova 1.0 BUL 0 104 Severina, Maria 0.5 RUS 1918 105 Tomnikova, Lidia 0.5 RUS 1888 106 Mukhina, Marina 0.5 RUS 1872 108 Artemenko, Rimma 0.5 RUS 1571 109 Abdumalik, Zhansaya 0.5 KAZ 0 113 Duc, Marie 0.5 FRA 0 126 Tikhomirova, Vera N. 0.0 RUS 1702 132 Estheria, Liana 0.0 INA 0 139 Zheleva, Milena 0.0 BUL 0

Leonard Barden's Column on Gibtelecom

I read Barden's column but I usually do not post anything from his column here - until tonight. I really like what he did with it! From The Chess with Leonard BardenLeonard Barden Saturday February 16, 2008 The Guardian Gibtelecom, now in its sixth year, is en route to becoming the strongest and best open event in the western world. Hikaru Nakamura, the youngest US champion since Bobby Fischer, defeated Bu Xiangzhi in last month's final to spoil what was otherwise an impressive result for China's grandmasters. Two results were significant for UK chess. Keti Arakhamia-Grant, Britain's leading female player, tied for the women's award. Then Robert Bellin, who won his British title back in 1979, achieved his first GM result at age 55. Following Guardian reader Jeff Horner's IM title at 58 and IM Andrew Whiteley's victory in the inaugural English senior (60-plus) championship, Bellin's success demonstrates that England can soon become a serious medal contender in European and world senior chess. Oldies can succeed where our national and junior teams now have little chance. This game against a strong Chinese opponent was Bellin's fastest win, and shows the power of adjacent diagonal bishops in a king's side attack which here ends in checkmate. R Bellin v Zhao Xue 1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 b5 3 e3 a6 4 Bd3 d5 5 Nbd2 e6 6 0-0 c5 7 c3 Nc6 8 Qe2 Bb7 9 b3 Be7 10 Bb2 0-0 11 Rac1 Qb8 12 dxc5 Bxc5 13 c4 dxc4 14 bxc4 b4 15 Ng5 Rd8 16 Nde4 Nxe4 17 Bxe4 h6 18 Nxf7! Kxf7 19 Qh5+ Kg8 20 Qxc5 Rd2 21 Rc2 Rd7 22 Qh5 Nd8? 23 Qe8 mate. ************************************************************************************* Here's one for the "old" folks!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love and Chess

Happy Valentine's Day! A nice story about chessplaying couples:

From the Phillipines Sun Star online
Friday, February 15, 2008
Pestaño: Strongest chess-playing couples
By Frank "Boy" Pestaño

AS far as I can recall, there had never been a team tournament that involved married couples. By writing this article, I hope someone out there reading on the internet, or a company, an individual, or a group, will make history, by sponsoring one on a global scale as there are quite a number of husbands and wives who are very strong players.

Yesterday being Valentines day, I am honoring these married couples by featuring a few of them, which is not uncommon in the chess world. They probably number by the hundred of thousands on this planet, although, there are only a unique few who are both GM, GM/IM or GM/WGM combinations.

Alexander Grischuk, 24, is one of the biggest names in the chess world today. He has an Elo of 2711 in the January 2008 Fide list. He was a participant in the eight-player Fide World Chess Championship 2007. He is married to Ukranian GM Natalia Zhukova, 27, who has a rating of 2443 and achieved full grandmaster’s status in the 2005 Corus Chess tournament(Wijk Aan Zee). She won the First European Women’s Championship in Georgia in 2000. Their biggest event occurred in March 2007 when they had a daughter, Marsha.

Alexei Shirov, 35, has a January 2008 rating of 2755, which makes him world No.7 today. He has quite a number of big tournaments on his record besides being a well-regarded chess author. His latest accomplishment was in the 2007 World Cup where he finished second to Gata Kamsky. He is married to Lithuanian IM/WGM Victorija Cmylite, who has an Elo 2475. She achieved quite a rare feat by becoming National Champion in 2001 in her country. They have two children together.

Wu Shaobin, 39, is a Chinese GM who has Singapore as his adopted country. His Elo rating is 2452 but his wife, Xie Jun, 38, who has Elo 2574, is twice a former world champion (1991-96 and 1999-2001). She is currently No. 3 in the January 2008 fide ratings so they still make a formidable combination.

Another former Chinese world champion (2002-04) is GM Zhu Chen, 32, who has an Elo 2548 and is ranked No. 4 in the world. He is married to Qatari GM Mohammad Al-Moldiakhi. She failed to defend her title in 2004 due to pregnancy. Mohammad played in Mandaue City last year in the Asian Championship.

Another GM/GM combination is Sweden’s Pia Cramling,44, Elo 2524 (world No. 6) and Spain’s Juan Bellon, 58, Elo 2455. Since the 80’s, Pia has been consistently one of the strongest female players in the world and even plays in the "men’s" team in the Olympiads. Bellon is a five-time Spanish champion.

Boris Gulko, 61, Elo 2576, is originally from Russia but is now a resident of the US since 1986, where he lives together with his wife Anna Akhsrumova. They are "refusedniks" meaning they were Soviet Jews originally denied permission to migrate to other countries. Boris is the only player to hold both Russian and U.S. championships and has a plus score against Kasparov. Anna also won the USSR and USA championships and is a WGM.

Other married couples who are both competitive and world class are GM Suat Atalik and GM Ekaterina Polovnikova, GM Bartozz Socko and IM Monica Socko, GM Yona Kosashvili and IM Sofia Polgar, GM Laurent Fressinet and IM Almira Skripchenko, GM Sergei Movsessian and WGM Petra Krupkova Movsessianova, GM Dibyendu Barua and WGM Saheli Dhar Barua and GM Pravin Thipsay and WGM Bhagyasree Thipsay.

Do dondelion and I count? I beat him routinely behind the black pieces and then he smashes me with black in turn. Happy Valentine's Day, darling. Oh - the photo is dondelion and me in Toledo, Spain, in October, 2002.

Neolithic Lovers

Ahhhhh, I'm such a sap for romance!

Here's a lovely little stone carving dating back to c. 3200 BCE from Malta, the island where the Goddess rules strong.

The Times of Malta reported on February 12, 2008 that Heritage Malta is to mark Valentine's Day by exhibiting a 5,000 old terracotta figurine depicting an embracing couple. The minute figurine has some fine incisions representing long hair on both figures.

The figurine, dating back to 3200 B.C is the only Maltese prehistoric presentation of an embracing couple, the agency said. It is being exhibited at the lobby of the National Museum of Archeology in Republic Street Valletta. Admission is free of charge.

Some examples of necklaces and axe pendants which were also unearthed from Malta’s Megalithic Temples and hypogea are also being exhibited alongside.

A Water Skiing Squirrel

I'm not kidding, darlings! Oh, such smart little beings are those squirrels.

USA. Twiggy, the water skiing squirrel, to send safety message at Savannah Boat Show
Thursday, 14 February 2008

As seen in popular movies Anchorman and Dodgeball as well as on David Letterman, Twiggy, the famous water skiing squirrel will appear at the Savannah International Boat Show, February 29-March 2, 2008 at the Savannah International Trade and Convention Center.

Twiggy's owner and trainer, Lou Ann Best, explains that her husband's tragic drowning accident years ago is what prompted her to include the message of water safety in Twiggy's performances. Twiggy now wears a safety jacket when water-skiing and encourages audiences to do the same, in hopes that this message will save the lives others. Recently, Twiggy signed on with Progressive Insurance Company as their official spokesperson on water safety. Lou Ann states, "If we're able to save one life, it's worth it!"

Twiggy will make special appearances throughout the Show. The schedule is as follows:

Friday: 2pm & 5pmSaturday: 11 am, 1 pm, 3 pm, 5pmSunday: Noon, 2pm & 4pm

Show Information:

What: The Savannah International Boat ShowWhen: February 29-March 2, 2008
Where: Savannah International Trade & Convention CenterWhat Time: Fri: 12-7 p.m. Sat: 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. Sun: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Hey - Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel has his (her?) own website!

2008 Aeroflot

Standings after Round 1: Group A1: 19 IM Sebag, Marie 1.0 FRA 2510 45 WGM Hou, Yifan 0.5 CHN 2527 Group A2: 14 IM Ushenina, Anna 1.0 UKR 2484 23 IM Harika, Dronavalli 1.0 IND 2455 65 Ju, Wenjun 0.5 CHN F 2360 75 IM Kovalevskaya, Ekaterina 0.0 RUS 2455 86 WGM Mongontuul, Bathuyag 0.0 MGL 2389 87 IM Ovod, Evgenija 0.0 RUS 2386 88 IM Tairova, Elena 0.0 RUS 2386 Group B: 5 WIM Charochkina, Daria 1.0 RUS 2383 7 IM Vasilevich, Irina 1.0 RUS 2378 26 WFM Bodnaruk, Anastasia 1.0 RUS 2317 31 WFM Paikidze, Nazi 1.0 GEO 2311 33 Zhang, Xiaowen 1.0 CHN 2309 37 FM Gunina, Valentina 1.0 RUS 2295 41 WIM Kashlinskaya, Alina 1.0 RUS 2276 43 WIM Yanjindulam, Dulamsuren 1.0 MGL 2256 46 Zenyuk, Iryna 1.0 USA 2227 58 WGM Kovanova, Baira 0.5 RUS 2348 62 WGM Kursova, Maria 0.5 RUS 2333 64 WGM Romanko, Marina 0.5 RUS 2322 113 WIM Iljushina, Olga 0.0 RUS 2268 114 WIM Tarasova, Viktoriya 0.0 RUS 2267 116 Lestari, Baiq Vina 0.0 INA 2263 122 WIM Kharashuta, Ekaterina 0.0 RUS 2222 128 WFM Kineva, Ekaterina 0.0 RUS 2204 129 WFM Nikolaeva, Alexandra 0.0 RUS 2201 130 WFM Gasik, Anna 0.0 POL 2200 Group C: 21 WIM Grigorova, Irina 1.0 RUS 2143 37 Kushka, Alena 1.0 RUS 2052 38 Kuznetsova, Tatiana 1.0 RUS 2051 43 Gvilava, Maya 1.0 RUS 2039 44 Jussupow, Ekaterina 1.0 GER 2030 48 Golban, Ludmila 1.0 MDA 1910 49 Chkartina, Gerhana 1.0 INA 0 73 Severina, Maria 0.5 RUS 1918 74 Tomnikova, Lidia 0.5 RUS 1888 75 Mukhina, Marina 0.5 RUS 1872 76 Abdumalik, Zhansaya 0.5 KAZ 0 89 WFM Fakhretdinova, Margarita 0.0 RUS 2160 98 Batzaya, Yanjav 0.0 MGL 2039 100 Yakupova, Aysyla 0.0 RUS 2003 102 Korytina, Natalia 0.0 KAZ 1995 116 Tikhomirova, Vera N. 0.0 RUS 1702 119 Artemenko, Rimma 0.0 RUS 1571 124 Duc, Marie 0.0 FRA 0 125 Estheria, Liana 0.0 INA 0 137 Valeva, Zlatina Hristova 0.0 BUL 0 139 Zheleva, Iliana 0.0 BUL 0 140 Zheleva, Milena 0.0 BUL 0


Take a look at this story and the cartoon accompanying it:

From Creamer Media's Mining Weekly Online
By: Darlene Creamer
Published: 15 Feb 08 - 0:00

Diversified miner BHP Billiton’s offer of 3,4 of its own shares for each Rio Tinto share has failed to impress Rio Tinto CEO Tom Albanese, who continues to maintain that the all-share offer under-values his company. Both Rio boards aver that BHP Billiton’s offer, “while improved, still fails to recognise the underlying value of Rio Tinto’s quality assets and prospects”. Once again, they have moved the queen in this fascinating game of corporate chess.
No, I didn't catch this article because our investment club is thinking about purchasing some shares of BHP :) What I want to know is - where's the queen? In the cartoon the bishop is saying "check" - but obviously, only the King can be in check, not the queen. Er, I think the writer rather missed the point of her "move the queen" analogy...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Was the Stanway Board Game Used in Divination?

The board game excavated in a Roman era grave near Colchester in England first broke into the news in 1996. It's back in the news again, with this report at the Discovery Channel:

Druid Grave Unearthed in U.K.?
Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News

Feb. 11, 2008 -- Historical records tell of a mystical, priestly and learned class of elite individuals called Druids among Celtic societies in Britain, but there has been no archaeological evidence of their existence. Until, perhaps, now.

A series of graves found in a gravel quarry at Stanway near Colchester, Essex, have been dated to 40-60 A.D. At least one of the burials, it appears, may have been that of a Druid, according to a report published in British Archaeology.

Mike Pitts is the journal's editor and an archaeologist. He studied classical Greek and Roman texts that mention the Druids in early France and Britain. The most detailed description, Pitts found, dates to 55 B.C. and comes from Roman military and political leader Julius Caesar.

"Druids, he says, were prestigious ritual specialists who performed human sacrifices, acted as judges in disputes, were excused action in battle and taught the transmigration of souls -- when you die, your soul is passed on to another living being," Pitts told Discovery News.

Other historians link the Druids to soothsaying and healing practices.

Within the wooden, chambered burial site, researchers have excavated a wine warmer, cremated human remains, a cloak pinned with brooches, a jet bead, divining rods (for fortune-telling), a series of surgical instruments, a strainer bowl last used to brew Artemisia-containing tea, a board game carefully laid out with pieces in play, as well as other objects.

"This person was clearly a specialist and also clearly wealthy and powerful, as indicated by the special grave and its apparent location within the compound of a 'chief.' That would all fit Caesar's Druid," he said, adding that Caesar likely also visited Stanway during his lifetime.

The surgical kit found in the grave includes iron and copper alloy scalpels, a surgical saw, hooks, needles, forceps and probes. Pitts said the collection mirrors basic medical tools from other parts of the Roman world.

The board game and its arranged pieces, however, are anything but common. None other like it has ever been found at Roman-era sites in Great Britain.

Surviving metal corners and hinges from the board allowed Pitts to reconstruct it as an 8-inch by 12-inch rectangle. Raised sides suggest dice might have been used. The white and blue glass counters were positioned with care. Some were straight across the sides, another in a diagonal line and one white marker close to the board's center.

Pitts believes the game may have been another "divination tool," along with the rods, jet bead and scent bottles also excavated at Stanway.

Philip Crummy, director of the Colchester Archaeological Trust, told Discovery News that the person in the burial could very well have been a Druid "given the healing and divination attributes -- assuming that Druids could be trained in these skills."

Crummy agrees with Pitts that such individuals would have been "near the top of the social scale in Iron Age Britain."

He is, however, not yet convinced the person was Celtic, since the medical kit was "fairly Romanized" and the individual may have acted "like a Roman surgeon/doctor would have done."

"Divination was widely practiced in the Roman world too," he added.

Because of site's age and location, Pitts is more inclined to believe the person was indeed a Celtic Druid and could have been closely related to Cunobelin, a chief or king of the Catuvellauni tribe.

William Shakespeare immortalized Cunobelin as "Cymbeline" in a play of that same name. Cunobelin's sons led a heroic, yet failed, resistance against Roman Emperor Claudius' invasion of England in 43 A.D.

White Stag in Scotland

Wow! This reminded me of the story I published back in October about a small group of white (not albino) deer in northern Wisconsin - there was a stag in the photograph in that article.

There is also a very large albino moose (female) running around in Montana (in photo).

Here's the story about the Scottish white stag:

From The Times
February 12, 2008
‘Mystical’ white stag roams Highlands
Melanie Reid

Since time immemorial it was a messenger from the afterlife, a mystical creature that chilled the blood of kings and commoners alike. But now a young white stag has appeared in the Highlands of Scotland, gathering his own legends.

The John Muir Trust, a conservation body, yesterday confirmed that a white stag is living at a secret location on the West Coast. He is believed to be the only white example of a red deer in Britain.

Officials have not disclosed the location where he has been spotted, but they confirmed that he was genuine by releasing photographic footage from two different sightings.

The most recent was two weeks ago when he had grown antlers and was running with a herd of other stags, wearing his heavy winter coat and in good condition, despite a harsh January. The first sighting had been last summer after he had shed his horns and was in his sleek coat.

Fran Lockhart, 45, from the trust, was on a field trip when she became the first person to catch the stag on film. She said: “It was quite thrilling – amazing to crawl up so close to such a magnificent-looking animal. He looked almost ghostlike next to the group of young red stags that he was mixing with. When he’s not moving he’s quite well camouflaged – he looks like a boulder covered in lichen.

“The wind was in my favour and I watched him for about 45 minutes. He and his wee bachelor herd were grazing along the hillside before me.”

An encounter with a white deer is said to bring about profound change in a person’s life, but Ms Lockhart said she had none to report. “I should have bought a lottery ticket the day I saw him,” she said ruefully.

The stag is believed to be young, perhaps 6 or 7 years old, and will not reach full maturity until 9 or 10. Conservationists say there is a chance that he might go on to sire white offspring when he mates. His colouring is from a recessive gene.

White deer are often mistakenly thought to be albinos, but their unusual condition is caused by leucism, a rare genetic pattern that causes a reduction in the pigment in the animal’s hair and skin. Unlike albinos, which have characteristically red eyes, deer with leucism have normal colouring in their eyes.

The John Muir Trust safeguards some of the largest areas of Scottish wilderness, but is refusing to hint where the stag is for fear of poachers.

The last recorded wild white stag in Britain was shot by poachers in October last year on the border between Devon and Cornwall. Farmers and gamekeepers, who called him Snowy, had kept quiet about the stag’s whereabouts in an attempt to protect him. The killing provoked outrage. The stag’s 300lb (136kg) body was found decapitated, suggesting that the head had been taken as a trophy.

Those who did the killing challenged centuries of legend, which says that those who kill a sacred white stag bring down a curse upon their heads.

Special Chess Trainer from Russia

Hmmmm, how much money does a family have to be able to fork over 30,000 euros for a Russian chess trainer for one student? From Sabah English Edition February 14, 2008 A family in Izmir has brought in a special chess trainer from Russia for 30 thousand Euros a year. Russian trainer Nadyrhanov spends three weeks a month giving chess lessons to 18-year-old chess player Emre Can. Millions of children start taking chess lessons in elementary school and families bring trainers from Russia for a monthly payment of 3000 Euros.Chess became an elective class at elementary schools in 2005 and has increasingly become a sports field for the masses. As the number of masters in chess is limited, families have started to search for international trainers, especially from Russia and Azerbaijan. Eighteen-year-old Emre Can's family has hired Sergey Nadyrhanov as his chess trainer. Emre Can is national chess team player. Emre's family has only one wish: "seeing their son reach the top in this sport."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Writing Changed the World

A nice summary/overview of how writing changed the world. From Posted on: Monday, 11 February 2008, 10:36 CST How Writing Changed the World Each Monday, this column turns a page in history to explore the discoveries, events and people that continue to affect the history being made today. Humans had been speaking for a couple hundred thousand years before they got the inspiration or nerve to mark their ideas down for posterity. But when a Mesopotamian people called the Sumerians finally did scratch out a few bookkeeping symbols on clay tablets 5,000 years ago, they unknowingly started a whole new era in history we call, well … history. The presence of written sources denotes the technical dividing line between what scholars classify as prehistory versus what they call history, which starts at different times depending on what part of the world you're studying. In most places, writing started about the same time ancient civilizations emerged from hunter-gatherer communities, probably as a way to keep track of the new concept of "property," such as animals, grain supplies or land. By 3000 B.C. in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), and then soon after in Egypt, and by 1500 B.C. in China, people were scribbling, sketching and telling their world about their culture in a very permanent way. When memory failed When ancient Mesopotamians started settling down onto farms surrounding the first cities, life became a bit more complicated. Agriculture required expertise and detailed recordkeeping, two elements that led directly to the invention of writing, historians say. The first examples of writing were pictograms used by temple officials to keep track of the inflows and outflows of the city's grain and animal stores which, in the bigger Sumerian urban centers such as Ur, were big enough to make counting by memory unreliable. Officials began using standardized symbols — rather than, say, an actual picture of a goat — to represent commodities, scratched into soft clay tablets with a pointed reed that had been cut into a wedge shape. Archaeologists call this first writing "cuneiform," from the Latin "cuneus," meaning wedge. The system developed quickly to incorporate signs that represented sounds, and soon all of Mesopotamia was taking notes, making to-do lists and (presumably) writing love letters. Egyptian writing — the famous hieroglyphics — developed independently not long thereafter, under similar circumstances, historians think. A few thousand years later, as variations on the two systems spread throughout the region, the entire ancient world had writing schemes that vastly improved the efficiency of economies, the accountability of governments and, maybe most importantly to us, our understanding of the past. Literacy a privilege Reading and writing in ancient times wasn't for the masses, however. Daily life in Mesopotamia and Egypt was time-consuming, and so writing became a specialized profession, usually for members of the elite class. The highly-regarded scribes of ancient Mesopotamia were even depicted in art wearing cuneiform writing implements (a bit like a set of chopsticks) in their belts as a mark of their importance. Literacy remained a privilege of aristocratic males in most societies all the way until the 19th-century, when public education became more widespread around the world. That means that while the historical period is exponentially better understood than the experiences of humans before writing was invented, written accounts are largely about the experiences of the upper classes, historians say. About one in five people today, concentrated mostly in Third World nations, are illiterate.

Viking Women Had Sexy Style

Well really, what else would they have done - make themselves intentionally ugly? Women have been well, women, throughout history. We like pretty things and we like making ourselves pretty. Neolithic gals wore miniskirts, jewelery and their hair in up-dos. Sometimes archaeologists and historians can be so - dense! Published: 11 Feb 08 17:54 CET Online: Women who lived in the major Viking settlement called Birka in the 9th and 10th centuries dressed in a much more provocative manner than previously believed. When the area around Lake Mälaren was Christianized about a century later, women’s dress style became more modest, according to archaeologist Annika Larsson. Previously, it was thought that Viking ladies wore a long garment held up by braces, made of square pieces of wool whose front and back sides were contained with a belt. The characteristic decorative circular buckles, a common find at many Viking-era grave sites, were believed to have been worn at the collarbone. “The excavations which were done way back in the 1800s showed that this is not correct, and that the buckles instead were placed centrally over each breast. The traditional interpretation is that the buckles fell down to the waist after the body decomposed, but that is a prudish reconstruction,” says archaeologist Larsson. Her theory is based partly upon a recent discovery in the Russian town of Pskov, Novgorod, which is located on the trade routes which took the Vikings eastward. Substantial finds in Russia of Viking women’s wear have provided a better understanding than could previously be gleaned from the small bits of fabric discovered at Birka, a major Viking island settlement some 30 kilometers West of Stockholm. “The (Russian) discovery is totally inconsistent with the way the Viking women are usually depicted. For example, that part of the garment which was assumed to be the front is too broad. I don’t think it was a front, but was instead worn behind like a train,” explains the researcher. Larsson’s theory that the well-dressed Viking woman’s garment was open at the front and had a train is supported by a gilded bronze figure discovered in the county of Uppsala. She feels that some aspects of the heathen fashion were too much for Christian missionaries. ”One might imagine that the Christian church had some misgivings about a style of dress which emphasized the breast and in addition revealed the front of the linen blouse underneath. It is also possible that this outfit was associated with pagan rituals and was therefore forbidden,” Larsson speculates. The exhibit showing the new view about clothing in the age of the Vikings opened at Uppsala University’s Gustavium Museum on Friday, and will continue until September 24th. ******************************************************************************* What makes Larsson think the ladies wore blouses underneath their dresses, hmmmm?

Goddess Saraswati

From The Times of India Saraswati Puja celebrated with gaiety 12 Feb 2008, 0553 hrs IST,TNN PATNA: Saraswati Puja was celebrated here with traditional gaiety, religious fervour and spirit of pursuit of art and knowledge which goddess Saraswati provides. Pandals were put up at many places, including schools and art and music institutions, where the students and youths of different religions joined in the celebration and worshipped the Goddess. Cultural programmes were organised at different pandals and in schools. The day was also observed as Basant Panchami with the people offering abir and gulal to Goddess Saraswati and then smearing it at one another to mark the festive spirit. The day started with offering prayers at the pandals and at homes. Many people, particularly students and artists, were seen clad in basanti colour (light yellow) in schools, colleges and at puja pandals. At Bihar Sanskritik Vidyapith, the day was celebrated by worshipping the goddess and the day was also observed as Sanskrit Protection Day. Presiding over the function, Bharat Sadhu Samaj general secretary Swami Harinarayanand appealed to the people to follow the teachings propagated through the Sanatana Dharma to make the nation prosperous. Speaking on the occasion, former CM Jagannath Mishra said the budget allocation on education should be increased from three per cent of the GDP to six per cent. The participants at the function paid floral tributes to the Goddess. They included Lokayukt of Bihar Justice R N Prasad, Adyacharan Jha, Justice Rajendra Prasad, Justice B P Singh, Justice Bimalendu Narayan Sinha, former DGP R R Prasad and welfare minister Rameshwar Paswan. At Patna Central School, a fervour of devotion (bhakti) prevailed among the students and teachers. The school students presented Bihari folk dances, besides Rajasthani, Punjabi and Bengali dances and played musical instruments displaying their artistic talent. Founder of the school Acharya Sudarshan said, "Saraswati is the goddess of civilisation, culture, art, education, wisdom and human consciousness for a positive development." Another story about the celebration of Basant Panchami.

A Parent's Worst Nightmare

When she was 7 years old, she said the 50 year old roomer in her house sexually molested her. She contracted genital warts as a consequence of the assault. The man was convicted of sexual assault and served less than a year in jail. 22 years later, the victim sees the man's name at a website indicating that he is a volunteer chess teacher with young children. What would you do if you were her? This is a real life story, reported at on February 9, 2008.

2008 U.S. Amateur Team Championships

The "North" Team Championship is being hosted in my home town, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, heh! I just saw the news tonight. You can find the flyer here (in PDF). Briefly, the event will be held February 16-17, 2008 at the Best Western Hotel by the Milwaukee Airport (on South Howell Avenue). Room rate is $69 for the chess people. Early entry is closed as of February 10th but you can still register your team for $190 cash a player at the door. I wondered what makes this event "amateur" - it's the ratings. A team of four's average rating must be below 2200. Winners don't get any prize money, but they do get a chance to play in the national play-offs. There's going to be a lot of chess squeezed into two days - five games - three the first and two the second day, at different time controls (eek!) Good to see chess in Milwaukee. Back in the 1950's we hosted a lot of top-level events. I wish we could do more here.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Mormons - Off the Deep End

Very weird stuff reported at the Daily Grail today. I usually ignore UFO sightings, Mothman stuff, Bigfoot stuff, and 90% of the "far out, man" stuff about quarks and such :) This, however, was too good to pass up. No offense against the Mormons, but they do espouse some really bizarre beliefs - and - funding Bigfoot research??? Check out this blog entry by Loren Coleman over at Cryptomundo. Probably way more than you'd ever want to know, darlings! Cain as Bigfoot? And what's this business about Cain being the "second son" of Adam and Eve? I thought he was the firstborn who killed his younger brother, Abel. Then again, don't take my word for that - my bible thumping days are over for several years now - and I tossed out my copy of the Book of Mormon eons ago!

FINEC WGM Tournament

I wonder - has anyone done the math? I'd be willing to wager that there are more female chessplayers per capita in Russa than anywhere else in the world - even China! As part of the larger 2008 FINEC event held in St. Petersburg, Russia, January 24 - February 1, 2008, there was a WGM tournament. Here are the final standings (9 rounds): 1. Gromova, Iulia wm RUS 2219 5½ 2328 2. Molchanova, Tatjana wm RUS 2365 5½ 2312 3. Petrenko, Svetlana m MDA 2282 5½ 2321 4. Eidelson, Rakhil wg BLR 2184 5 2295 5. Doluhanova, Evgeniya wg UKR 2223 5 2291 6. Kuzevanova, Evgenia RUS 2167 4½ 2254 7. Solovjova, Valentina wm RUS 2221 4 2205 8. Matseyko, Katerina wg UKR 2301 4 2196 9. Kirillova, Varvara wm RUS 2271 3½ 2162 10. Lupik, Marina RUS 2222 2½ 2082

Macho Men - Keep Out!

From The New York Times Mexico City Journal On Single-Sex Buses, Relief From Unwanted Contact By MARC LACEY Published: February 11, 2008 MEXICO CITY — Body-to-body contact is inescapable on Mexico City’s crowded public transportation system. Get on a train or a bus during rush hour and a man in a business suit may have his arm resting against your shoulder, a woman toting a bulky shopping bag may have her back pressed against your flank, and a teenager listening to an iPod may tap his sneaker all over your newly shined left shoe. But many women complain that not all the contact is incidental. Among the 22 million passengers who use the bus and subway system daily, women say, are lecherous men taking advantage of the cheek-to-jowl conditions to leer and grope and then quietly disappear. “There are good men in Mexico, but they’re not the ones on public transport,” said Mariana Vasquez, 30, who waited to board a bus recently on her way to a job interview at a law firm. “They try to touch you. They don’t give you a seat. Where are the gentlemen?” One place they are not is on new women-only buses that Mexico City began running in January to reduce the harassment. With pink placards and insistent drivers who growl at any man who tries to step aboard, the buses are quickly becoming a hit among women. “Woo-hoo!” bellowed Catalina Garduño the other day as man after man was turned away from the bus she was riding. Her outbursts animated the other women on board, who joined in the celebration. As they rolled along Paseo de la Reforma on their way home from work, the atmosphere resembled a ladies’ night on wheels. Their relief reached beyond their escape from being accosted physically. “We don’t get paid as much as they, yet we work just as hard,” said Ms. Garduño, a saleswoman. “We are tired of their machismo. We don’t feel sorry for them at all.” A few rows back, Abigail Llanes, 21, expressed a similar sentiment. “We get to sit now,” she said, beaming. “It’s great.” As complaints of harassment have grown, Mexico has experimented over the years with various remedies. Some subway cars have been reserved for women. Some buses allow women, disabled people and those with children to use designated entrances at the front. But the new buses may be the boldest approach so far. Men’s reactions run the gamut. Some declare the program discriminatory. Some curse at the bus drivers who leave them standing at the curb. Plenty of men, though, say they endorse the idea. “We have no respect,” Adolfo Flores, 30, a law student, said of the unseemly way many men treat women. Mr. Flores was getting his shoes shined as buses passed by behind him. The shoeshine man, Esteban Hernández, 57, piped in with his own theory about the groping. “We have the animal instinct,” he said, smiling. Touching a woman, he said, “is a way of showing masculinity — it’s very bad.” Just how bad the abuse problem — which is raised by women in cities the world over — has become in Mexico is difficult to say. Last year, just seven women lodged official complaints of harassment on Mexico City’s buses. There are more reports of sexual incidents on the subways, with roughly one a day filed with the authorities. But Mexican officials believe those figures do not reflect the full extent of the problem. “Most women don’t report what happens to them,” said Ariadna Montiel, who directs the public bus system, noting that as a young architecture student years ago she traveled by public transportation and experienced the harassment firsthand. “I know it’s a serious problem.” Ms. Montiel said she had no intention of neglecting men. “We have to guarantee that all users are taken care of,” she said, adding that coed buses roll along in close proximity to the women’s buses to ensure that nobody is waiting too long. Passengers say the atmosphere aboard women’s buses is entirely different. As the buses become more popular, and crowded, some women politely offer their seats to others. And, they say, the lechers are gone. Still, the experiment cannot solve the underlying problem of how the sexes interact in the metropolis. Only four of the city’s bus routes have women-only buses. That number will rise to 15 in the months ahead, but coed buses will remain the rule in most areas. To complement the single-sex buses, the Institute of Women in Mexico City, a government body that promotes opportunities for women, is pushing a public education campaign to make clear to men that inappropriate touching is illegal. In March, a new ordinance will make it easier to prosecute those found harassing women in public places. “This is not against men,” insisted Martha Lucia Micher Camarena, the institute’s director general. “This is positive discrimination that responds to the demands of women. And it’s also for men because it protects their daughters, sisters and mothers.”

Keep an Eye Out for Anant Dole

From City teen makes his move in world chess February 04 2008 at 01:50PM By Leila Samodien He might only be a schoolboy but Cape Town's Anant Dole, 15, made a world-class impression at an international chess competition in 2008. Anant exploded on to the local chess scene a few years ago just a year or two after his sister taught him the game. But his proudest triumph yet was at 2008 Fide-hosted Parsvnath International Open Chess Tournament in New Delhi, India, where he clinched a joint fifth place and scooped a prize of 10 000 rupees (about R2 000). In a rare occurrence for such a junior player, he also defeated Turkmenistan grandmaster Sapar Batyrov. The tournament, held from January 13 to 20, was open to anyone so Anant had to compete against 400 talented players of all ages and backgrounds. These opponents included grandmasters, Fide masters and international masters with years of experience and reputable international ratings. The Grade 9 Sacs pupil who is also one of Mark Shuttleworth's Hip2b² ambassadors this year is ranked among the top 10 junior chess players in the country and has been invited to the national championships every year since he was eight. "I won (nationals) at least five times in my age group," he said. After his success at the competition, Anant was left with a local rating of about 2 150 (points) and an international Fide rating of 1 985. His ambition is to eventually become a grandmaster - the most prestigious title a chess player can hold. Players require an international rating of 2 500 to make grandmaster status. "I would love to become a grandmaster one day but it will take a lot of effort. At the moment, I practise about an hour a day, but grandmasters put in about five hours a day," Anant said. He believed the game not only taught him discipline, but also played a big role in his academic performance. "I don't have to put as much effort into certain tasks as I used to, especially subjects like maths, because maths and chess are closely related. It has helped me face problems in all spheres of life," he said. Anant's former coach, Kenny Solomons, said Anant had "great potential" as a chess player. "If he continues to work hard and stay disciplined, he could be one of the best chess players around," he said.

The Industry of Begging

Organized criminal groups prey on your sense of compassion for children: From 4 January, 2008 [ 16:30 ] Peru's Government Begins Program to Keep Children from Begging on Streets (LIP-ir) -- The Ministry of Women & Social Development (MIMDES) will carry out the first “raid” of parents who rent or use their children by dressing them in rags and have them beg in the streets, announced Minister Susana Pinilla. Although she did not mention where these raids would take place exactly, Pinilla explained that a ministerial group was evaluating the punishment bad parents would receive for these acts against children's rights. "Any person that uses a child for these activities will receive a serious punishment, this is to avoid the use of children for begging on the streets in different ways, for example, begging on a corner, selling on the streets or used as ‘mules’", she stated. She said the Ministry of Women would not allow children to work because this was a commitment made in the Free Trade Agreement between Peru and the United States. “We are firm on this subject, it is better that Peru's society understands the consequences of their actions, because we will use all the law's power to avoid this situation”, she stressed. On previous occasions, this initiative was named “Campaign against begging”, in which Peru's National Police along with the Public Ministry and the Ministry of Women took in abandoned street kids and placed them in the care of the National Institute of Family Welfare. News source: ANDINA Want to be shocked to the roots of your hair and beyond? Click on some of the "country" reports at Human Trafficking Website 2007-2008. Country by country reports of human trafficking, modern day slavery, contemporary slavery, debt bondage, serfdom, forced labor, forced marriage, transferring of wives, inheritance of wives, and transfer of a child for purposes of exploitation. Some sound advice about how to handle encountering beggars during your travels (applies the same to domestic situations. We have beggars now in Milwaukee that I didn't see even just a few years ago, preying on people's compassion).

Child Slavery in India

From The Times of India: Hostage horror for Bengal girls in Bihar 11 Feb 2008, 0240 hrs IST,Caesar Mandal,TNN KAKDWIP: Girls from Bengal, some as young as 10, are being held hostage and auctioned off in Bihar. A TOI investigation has revealed that they are locked up, starved, beaten and forced to dance sleazy numbers in front of violent, gun-toting crowds. One such group of youngsters from Kakdwip, 100 km from Kolkata, has been rescued after three weeks of captivity in Gopalganj, Bihar. But they are the lucky ones. Every year, over 500 girls taken to Bihar from this area are never seen again. TOI had done an exposé of the horrific racket on May 5 last year, but this time, we have gone deeper into the hellish world these helpless girls are trapped in. The girls and boys rescued from Bihar's Gopalganj were first sold for Rs 1 lakh by a local tout and then resold for Rs 2 lakh to an agent in Bihar without their knowledge. They were held at gunpoint and every little slip drew a vicious assault. The Kakdwip group had nine members - five girls and four boys. The youngest was 10 and the majority aged 14-16. Their leader, Prasenjit Haldar, got a contract to perform at a show in Mathurapur on January 21. After the event, a local tout - Somnath Dandapat - lured them to Sodepur in Kolkata with the promise of a bigger show and more money. But once in Sodepur, the group was handed over to Asim Mukherjee, another middleman. The next evening, they were made to board a Tata Sumo around 7.30 pm and told their venue was a three-hour drive away. But it turned out to be a much longer one. Panic set in when Somnath and Asim forced them to hand over their mobiles. The dancers were trapped. The vehicle sped out of the state. Early next morning, they reached Gopalganj and were taken to a heavily fortified house guarded by gunmen. All nine were herded into a small room and locked up. When one of the girls tried to speak, she was severely beaten up. "We did not know where we were. We were terrified. They threatened to kill us if we refused to follow instructions," said 10-year-old Monami. On January 24, the group was packed into a car and taken to perform at a wedding. The tired and terrified youngsters were forced to dance in three sessions without food or water. "We had no choice. They were carrying guns and would slap us whenever we asked for a break," said Kaushiki. On January 25, the group was split, with six of them taken to a wedding at Mirganj. On the way back, Monami's cousin Samar jumped out of the jeep and ran to a phone booth. He managed to call his brother Panchanan at Kakdwip and tell him where they were being held hostage before the gunmen captured him. Samar was beaten till he bled, but the call saved the hapless youngsters. (Victims' names have been changed) Related story: An endless cycle of slavery 11 Feb 2008, 0244 hrs IST,Caesar Mandal,TNN

Ancient Sumerian "Mona Lisa" Recovered

Ancient Sumerian 'Mona Lisa' unearthed
Gulf News Report
Published: February 08, 2008, 01:04

Dubai: A famous long-lost piece of ancient art has finally been recovered in Iraq last week, according to Arabic daily Al Khaleej.

The 'Sayedat Al Warkaa', a Sumerian 20cm facial curving [sic], known among archaeologists as the Sumerian Mona Lisa, and which is more than 5,000 years old, was found in a garden after the police and occupation forces received a report.

The marble statute was found buried in the shallow mud and totally unharmed.

Authorities said although the Iraqi Museum has retrieved about 3,500 pieces that were looted following the fall of Baghdad, some 10,000 pieces are still missing.
This would be really big news - EXCEPT the "Lady of Warka" was recovered by Coalition Forces in September, 2003 - according to this report at MSNBC news online:

Sumerian relic recovered from hiding place
‘Lady of Warka’ was among most valuable antiquities stolen during Iraq war
(Reported by Associated Press) updated 10:53 a.m. CT, Thurs., Sept. 18, 2003.

So, why is reporting this OLD STORY as if it was FRONT PAGE BREAKING NEWS? By the way, the story was picked up by several different news sources and bloggers on the internet as CURRENT NEWS.

Notice the tagline I bolded at the beginning of the article - IT'S AN OUT AND OUT LIE!

Just what is the agenda of By recycling this OLD STORY as CURRENT NEWS, is it taking a slap at the United States forces in Iraq? You know, the old line - it's all the fault of the USA that the looting took place, etc. etc. etc. Of course, it's NEVAH the fault of the looters!

Mysterious Masons' Marks to be Cataloged

An interesting project! (Photo from website, courtesy of Historic Scotland)

From the website of
By 24 Hour Museum Staff

Mysterious symbols carved into Scotland’s medieval churches, castles and bridges are to be studied and recorded in a new scheme supported by Historic Scotland.

Masons’ marks are enigmatic signatures cut into stone wherever they worked, and hold clues as to dates of construction as well as the craftsmen who worked on the structure. However, little is known about the identities and life stories of these men who played such an important role in creating the country’s most cherished buildings from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. The exact function of the marks is not even known.

These signatures of the master masons are now to be recorded for the regions of Aberdeenshire, Moray and Angus in a project that will produce a database including all the marks in the area, providing the possibility of following the movements of individuals from one project to the next.

“We are calling on local history and heritage societies to help us by searching for and recording our masons’ marks at medieval buildings across the area,” said Moira Greig, Aberdeenshire Council archaeologist. “We hope this project will help us to discover more about a group of people who we know a lot about, but about whom there are few written records.”

Historic Scotland are helping out by waiving the entry fee at a number of properties for groups taking part in the project – sites include Corgarff, Huntly, Edzell and Kildrummy castles, Spynie Palace and Arbroath Abbey. Archaeological riddles might also be solved by the research.

“Many medieval buildings are difficult to date,” said Peter Yeoman, historic Scotland senior archaeologist, “but masons’ marks can sometimes give valuable clues because the same ones may appear at a number of sites.”

“If we know when the building activity took place at one of them, then that can help a great deal with the undated ones.”

Evidence does need to be interpreted with care however, given that there may be more than one phase of building for each site, and it’s also possible that masons’ marks might have been passed from father to son.

The marks, whose function is not fully understood, could well have been used as a way of showing who did what work-wise so they could be paid.

If the project is a success, it is hoped it will be rolled out elsewhere in Scotland.

A successful survey has already been carried out at Lower Northwater Bridge between Angus and Aberdeenshire, north of Montrose. The A-listed structure, dated 1770-1777, was found to have 283 masons’ marks on one span and 362 on another, with analysis showing that they belonged to 16 different masons.

For further information about the project or to take part contact Moira Greig on 01224 664726.
It really intrigues me that - in historical times - the function of the masons' marks is unknown!!! Was this information kept secret by the masons for some reason? Or was it just assumed (taken for granted) at the time that everyone knew what the masons' marks meant, and so no one ever wrote down anywhere just what, exactly, their function was? If the marks were passed down in families, how would this be able to be determined? Like I said - a fascinating story. I'm glad to see this study/cataloging effort is being undertaken, and that anyone can volunteer to participate in the cataloging. One doesn't have to be a "trained archaeologist" in order to contribute to meaningful work!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

2008 Moscow Open Final Standings

Congratulations to Muzychuk, winner of clear first place and the $6,000 prize and to Ushenina, who didn't do too well in the Corus "C" Event but rebounded here for clear second place. 7.5/9 is an outstanding score against a strong women's field. Perhaps the lady needs more confidence when playing against the chess hommes, because she certainly holds her own against the chess femmes. Here are the final standings (after completion of Round 9) for the Ladies' "C" Tournament (see full table): Rk. Name FED Rtg Pts. 1 IM Muzychuk Anna SLO 2460 8,0 2 IM Ushenina Anna UKR 2484 7,5 3 WGM Zhukova Natalia UKR 2443 7,0 4 IM Harika Dronavalli IND 2455 7,0 5 GM Lahno Kateryna UKR 2475 7,0 6 IM Tairova Elena RUS 2386 6,5 7 WFM Girya Olga RUS 2342 6,5 8 WGM Melia Salome GEO 2362 6,5 9 IM Turova Irina RUS 2377 6,5 10 IM Danielian Elina ARM 2480 6,5 11 WFM Ambartsumova Karina RUS 2228 6,5 12 WFM Bodnaruk Anastasia RUS 2317 6,0 13 IM Krush Irina USA 2473 6,0 14 WFM Severiukhina Zoja RUS 2199 6,0 15 IM Gvetadze Sopio GEO 2352 6,0 16 WGM Mongontuul Bathuyag MGL 2389 6,0 17 WFM Fominykh Maria RUS 2305 6,0 18 IM Matveeva Svetlana RUS 2433 6,0 19 IM Vasilevich Irina RUS 2378 6,0 20 WGM Pogonina Natalija RUS 2476 6,0 21 IM Javakhishvili Lela GEO 2470 6,0 22 WFM Paikidze Nazi GEO 2311 6,0 23 WGM Shaidullina Sandugach RUS 2306 6,0 24 WIM Burtasova Anna RUS 2345 6,0 25 WIM Dolgova Olga RUS 2217 6,0 26 WIM Vasilkova Svetlana RUS 2359 5,5 27 WFM Malgina-Sterliagova Tatiana RUS 2374 5,5 28 WGM Kovanova Baira RUS 2348 5,5 29 WIM Cherenkova Kristina RUS 2256 5,5 30 WGM Grabuzova Tatiana RUS 2392 5,5 31 WFM Tomilova Elena RUS 2276 5,5 32 WFM Yakovich Yuliya RUS 2130 5,5 33 WFM Airapetian Tatevik RUS 2162 5,5 34 WFM Karibaeva Elvira RUS 2153 5,5 35 WGM Manakova Maria SRB 2331 5,0 36 WIM Iljushina Olga RUS 2268 5,0 37 WIM Charochkina Daria RUS 2383 5,0 38 Kuzevanova Evgenia RUS 2167 5,0 39 Pustovoitova Daria RUS 2166 5,0 40 WFM Karpova Lyudmila RUS 2139 5,0 41 WGM Semenova Irina RUS 2270 5,0 42 WFM Repina Varvara RUS 2158 5,0 43 WFM Suslova Alena RUS 2165 5,0 44 WIM Gromova Iulia RUS 2219 5,0 45 WGM Huda Maryana UKR 2278 5,0 46 Ostertag Galina RUS 2210 5,0 47 WGM Golubenko Valentina CRO 2264 5,0 48 Savina Anastasia RUS 2202 5,0 49 Dobrzhanskaya Irina UKR 2087 5,0 50 Kudriashova Irina RUS 2192 5,0 51 WIM Strutinskaya Galina N RUS 2309 5,0 52 WIM Sazonova Elena N RUS 2183 5,0 53 Drozdova Dina RUS 2149 5,0 54 Sergeeva Viktoria KAZ 0 5,0 55 Semenova Elena RUS 2012 5,0 56 Bukhteeva Viktoria RUS 2065 5,0 57 WFM Dzhabrailova Inara RUS 2065 5,0 58 Dogodkina Julia RUS 1917 5,0 59 WFM Gunina Valentina RUS 2295 4,5 60 WIM Yanjindulam Dulamsuren MGL 2256 4,5 61 WFM Fakhretdinova Margarita RUS 2160 4,5 62 WGM Fatalibekova Elena RUS 2293 4,5 63 WIM Mouradian Knarik LIB 2161 4,5 64 WFM Kostrikina Anna RUS 2138 4,5 65 WFM Kineva Ekaterina RUS 2204 4,5 66 Krestianova Tatiana RUS 2208 4,5 67 Aganesova Evgeniya UKR 2038 4,5 68 Shalukhina Tatyana KAZ 1972 4,5 69 WFM Larina Marija RUS 2109 4,5 70 WFM Ivanova Daria RUS 2104 4,5 71 Avdeyeva Viktoriya AZE 1958 4,5 72 Ognerubova Anastasia RUS 2041 4,5 73 WFM Kalashnikova Larisa RUS 1983 4,5 74 Kluchik Julia RUS 2002 4,5 75 WFM Gvanceladze Anna RUS 2069 4,5 76 Volkova Ekaterina RUS 1974 4,5 77 WFM Kharmunova Nadejda RUS 2170 4,0 78 WFM Bogumil Tatiana RUS 2186 4,0 79 WFM Abramova Ekaterina RUS 2190 4,0 80 WFM Kalmykova Anastasia RUS 2124 4,0 81 WFM Khropova Larisa RUS 2143 4,0 82 WFM Beliaeva Natalia RUS 2020 4,0 83 Abramova Yulia RUS 2053 4,0 84 Niks Yana RUS 1865 4,0 85 WFM Zarivkina Victorya RUS 2056 4,0 86 Blokhina Elvira RUS 1947 4,0 87 Tereshechkina Maya RUS 0 4,0 88 Kabanova Irina RUS 2044 4,0 89 Grigoryeva Olga A. RUS 1955 4,0 90 Gavrjuchenkova Angelina RUS 1957 4,0 91 WIM Vrublevskaya Olga RUS 2137 4,0 92 WFM Kuzmenko Elena RUS 2118 4,0 93 WFM Kiseljova Marya RUS 2129 4,0 94 WFM Shulakova Svetlana RUS 2190 3,5 95 Miloserdova Irina RUS 2015 3,5 96 WFM Melnik Galina RUS 2063 3,5 97 Severina Maria RUS 1918 3,5 98 WFM Styazhkina Anna RUS 1878 3,5 99 Gorbunova Alexandra RUS 2113 3,5 100 Frantsuzova Lyudmila RUS 1899 3,5 101 Kovalenko Yulya RUS 1980 3,5 102 WFM Mestnikova Varvara RUS 1861 3,5 103 Golban Ludmila MDA 1910 3,5 104 Nazarian Marina RUS 1811 3,5 105 Forova Tatiana RUS 1857 3,5 106 Braun Elina RUS 1870 3,5 107 Butneva Larisa RUS 1904 3,5 108 Zaryvkina Anastasia RUS 2063 3,5 109 Borisova Elizaveta RUS 2305 3,0 110 Koroteeva Ksenia RUS 1955 3,0 111 Bavina Lyudmila RUS 1945 3,0 112 Sorokina Nadejda RUS 0 3,0 113 Andreeva Elena RUS 1954 3,0 114 Chernyshova Natalia RUS 1947 3,0 115 WFM Della-Rossa Anastasia RUS 1898 3,0 116 Grishina Irina RUS 0 3,0 117 Maliutina Yulia RUS 0 2,5 118 Gataulina Svetlana RUS 0 2,5 119 Karimova Karina RUS 0 2,5 120 Kvirikashvili Sofiko RUS 0 2,5 121 Kukushkina Angelina RUS 0 2,5 122 Afanasieva Elena RUS 0 2,5 123 Vanchikova Dulma RUS 0 2,5 124 Belkina Oksana RUS 1853 2,5 125 Soboleva Anastasia RUS 0 2,0 126 Milashevskaja Valentina RUS 1816 2,0 127 Chernyh Yana RUS 0 2,0 128 Lein Marina RUS 1991 1,0 129 IM Paehtz Elisabeth GER 2420 0,5 130 Hamza Amira ALG 1884 0,0 131 Samigulina Renata RUS 0 0,0 132 Cherniavskaya Klara RUS 0 0,0 Tarasova Maria RUS 0 0,0 134 WGM Saunina Ludmila RUS 2303 0,0 135 Ivanova Marianna RUS 1773 0,0 136 Bokova Irina RUS 0 0,0 Here is the prize structure for the Ladies' "C" Event (in rubles): Major prizes (in rubles): 1 prize 150 000 2 prize 100 000 3 prize 70 000 4 prize 50 000 5 prize 40 000 6 prize 30 000 7 prize 20 000 8-16 prizes 10 000 Special prizes for the best results: Among women-veterans (born 1957 and older): 1 prize 15 000 2 prize 10 000 3 prize 5 000 Among young women (1990 and younger) 1 prize 15 000 2 prize 10 000 3 prize 5 000 Among girls (1994 and younger) 1 prize 15 000 2 prize 10 000 3 prize 5 000 Prizes for women players FIDE rated 1900-2200: 1 prize 15 000 2 prize 10 000 3 prize 5 000 Prizes for women players with FIDE rating under 1900 or not-rated: 1 prize 15 000 2 prize 10 000 3 prize 5 000 Three winners of the tournament, three winners in the category “women-veterans”, three winners among young women (1990 and younger) and three first-prize holders among girls (1994 and younger) will be awarded with Memorable Cups. All the participants of the tournament will get souvenirs.

Miscellaneous Chess News

From McClain's "Gambit" chess blog, February 9, 2007, at The New York Times:

Last week, the World Chess Federation (also known by the acronym FIDE, which stands for Fédération Internationale des Echecs) began collecting fees for its newest titles: FIDE trainers. What are FIDE trainers? They are essentially people certified by the federation to teach and train chess players.

There are three different levels of trainers: Instructors, trainers and senior trainers. The requirements for each title mostly seem to boil down to what each prospective trainer’s rating is (a rating is a measure of playing ability) and how much experience he or she has as a coach or teacher.

The cost of the titles, which are listed on the Web site, are on a sliding scale from 100 to 300 euros. Trainers who wish to maintain their titles will have to pay additional “licensing” fees every two years that are also on a sliding scale of 60 to 180 euros. Other titles, such as grandmaster, do have registration fees, but once they are awarded, there are no continuing costs. Rest of article.

An obvious "gambit" (pun!) to force money out of chess teachers, trainers, etc. Tell me, FIDE, will Ms. Jones, a volunteer who teaches chess to kindergarteners at the Greenfield Public Library on Saturday mornings have to pay almost $600 USD to obtain FIDE certification in order to be considered "qualified" to teach chess to beginners? How will you PUNISH people who teach chess without obtaining certification? Will I - horrors - be sanctioned somehow for giving chess pointers to my young grand-newphews (they range in age from 7 to 10)? Will you garnish my bank accounts? Blacklist this blog? Attack Goddesschess?

What a bunch of schmucks!

Fischer's death and it's aftermath continue to be news - there's nearly a new (or rehashed) story every day. Dick Cavett has a sentimental look back at Fischer's appearances on his television show. Fischer's putative daughter, who is 7 years old, has or will file a claim against the Fischer Estate as the sole "legitimate" heir (says Jan, tongue firmly planted in cheek). There is also a putative wife who may believe she is entitled to the entire Estate, and there are Fischer's nephews, the sons of his deceased sister, Joan, who have also filed or will file a claim or interest for a share of the Estate. Not mentioned is IRS, which will or perhaps already has filed a claim for what it is owed. No one in the general public really knows except, perhaps, the lawyers for the Fischer Estate (who always get paid first, trust me, I know) just what is left.

From The, February 8, 2008
A Chess Teacher in Secaucus, New Jersey
I think the greatest lesson I can give anyone, especially anyone that is new to the game, is patience," Moss said. "More games are lost by moving too fast than almost anything else."

"One of the first things I try to teach is, if you touch a piece you should move it," he continued. "It's like in life, when you make a decision, whether it's good or bad, you have to suffer the consequences."

Study after study has confirmed the benefits that learning how to play chess confers upon students - life lessons that continue with them as they mature into adults, even if they no longer play chess. So it's good to see an African bank making a substantial contribution to purchase 1,000 chess sets in Namibia.

American GI Arrested for Antiquities Theft

From ABC News
Army Chopper Pilot Charged in Antiquities Theft
Pilot Allegedly Stole 80 Antique Egyptian Art Objects, Earned About $20,000 in Resale
Feb. 6, 2008

A U.S. Army helicopter pilot was charged in federal court in Manhattan today with selling 80 stolen antique Egyptian art objects, some of them 5,000 years old.

Edward Earle Johnson, an active U.S. Army helicopter pilot, according to the complaint unsealed in Manhattan federal court, earned about $20,000 from the sale of the objects to an American art dealer.

It was later determined that the antiquities came from a group of some 370 "pre-dynastic" objects stolen in late September 2002 from the Ma'adi Museum near Cairo, Egypt.

"The artifacts, dating to 3000 B.C. and earlier, were originally discovered during an excavation in Egypt in the 1920s and 1930s," according to a statement by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Michael Garcia.

According to the complaint Johnson lied to an art dealer stating "that his grandfather had acquired the antiquities when he worked in Egypt in the 1930s and 1940s, and that the antiquities had remained in the family ever since."

"The art dealer later consigned pieces from that collection to galleries and collectors in New York, London, Zurich and Montreal."

According to the U.S. attorney's office, Johnson was arrested Tuesday in Enterprise, Ala.

He was charged with one count of transportation of stolen property and one count of wire fraud. If convicted, he faces a maximum sentence of 10 years' imprisonment on the stolen property count and five years' imprisonment on the wire fraud count. Johnson was released on a $25,000 bond and was required to surrender his diplomatic and civilian passports.
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