Saturday, July 12, 2008

Is the Phaistos Disk a Fake???

Whoa! The Phaistos Disk a fake?

From The Timesonline
July 12, 2008
Phaistos Disc declared as fake by scholar
Greek authorities will not allow the disc to be examined outside its case to not show enlarge option
Dalya Alberge, Arts Correspondent

Some say that its 45 mysterious symbols are the words of a 4,000-year-old poem, or perhaps a sacred text. Others contest that they are a magical inscription, a piece of ancient music or the world's oldest example of punctuation.

But now an American scholar believes that the markings on the Phaistos Disc, one of archaeology's most famous unsolved mysteries, mean nothing at all — because the disc is a hoax.

Jerome Eisenberg, a specialist in faked ancient art, is claiming that the disc and its indecipherable text is not a relic dating from 1,700BC, but a forgery that has duped scholars since Luigi Pernier, an Italian archaeologist, “discovered” it in 1908 in the Minoan palace of Phaistos on Crete.

Pernier was desperate to impress his colleagues with a find of his own, according to Dr Eisenberg, and needed to unearth something that could outdo the discoveries made by Sir Arthur Evans, the renowned English archaeologist, and Federico Halbherr, a fellow Italian.

He believes that Pernier's solution was to create a “relic” with an untranslatable pictographic text. If it was a ruse, it worked. Evans was so excited that he published an analysis of Pernier's findings. For the past century innumerable attempts have been made to decipher the disc. Archaeologists have tried linking them to ancient civilisations, from Greek to Egyptian.

Dr Eisenberg, who has conducted appraisals for the US Treasury Department and the J. Paul Getty Museum, highlighted the forger's error in creating a terracotta “pancake” with a cleanly cut edge. Nor, he added, should it have been fired so perfectly. “Minoan clay tablets were not fired purposefully, only accidentally,” he said. “Pernier may not have realised this.”

Each side of the disc bears a bar composed of four or five dots which one scholar described as “the oldest example of the use of natural punctuation”.

Dr Eisenberg believes that it was added to lead scholars astray — “another oddity to puzzle them, and a common trick among forgers”. The Greek authorities have refused to give Dr Eisenberg permission to examine the disc outside its display case, arguing that it is too delicate to be moved.

His misgivings could be laid to rest by a thermoluminescence test — a standard scientific dating test — but the authorities had refused, he said. In Rome, this test cast doubt recently on the provenance of another iconic archeological object.

Experts are now contending that the Capitoline Wolf, the famous bronze sculpture of a she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus, founders of the city of Rome, dates from the Middle Ages, and not Etruscan times, as long has been held.

The Capitoline Museum's website says that the statue, known as Lupa, or she-wolf, is from the 5th century BC and was donated to the museum in 1471 by Pope Sixtus IV.

However, in a front-page article this week in the Rome daily a Repubblica, Adriano La Regina, who for decades headed the national archaeological office for Rome, suggested that the museum was reluctant to release test results indicating that the bronze was medieval.

“The new information about the epoch of the Capitoline bronze has been held back for about a year now,” La Regina wrote. He added that the tests had produced a “very precise indication in the 13th century”.

The 30in (75cm) bronze is the centrepiece of a museum room named after it, and postcards and T-shirts with its image are popular Rome souvenirs.

Claudio Parisi Presicce, the museum's director, insisted that his institution was not trying to hide data that could subtract centuries from the she-wolf's antiquity, saying that the data “aren't definitive yet”.

Supporting Local Chess: Announcements

From the Albany, California: Summer Board Game Days — 1-4 p.m. July 16. Drop-in fun for all ages. Games include Monopoly, checkers, Mankala, chess, and more. Albany Library, 1247 Marin Ave. Free. 510-526-3720, Ext. 17.

From Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio: First United Methodist Church — 245 Portage Trail, Cuyahoga Falls. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Friday. Chess Camp for first-graders through sixth-graders. $100. 330-923-5241, Ext. 219.

India's Ivana Furtado to Play at Asian Youth Chess Championship

From the Navhind Times Sunday July 13, 2008 Ivana for Tehran, Singapore NT NETWORK PANAJI - Dempo Goodwill Ambassador, Ivana Maria Furtado, double world and Asian Under-8 chess champion will leave for Iran on Monday to represent India at Asian youth chess championship to be held in Tehran from July 15-22. Ivana is the current Under-8 title holder having also won the silver and the bronze in 2006 and 2005 respectively at the same championship. After her event in Teheran, Ivana will proceed to Singapore for the 4th world chess under-9 girls championship from July 23-31. By virtue of being the Under-9 Asian schools chess champion, Ivana has earned the right to participate in the event. Ivana will be accompanied by her coach, Dronacharya awardee Raghunandan Gokhale at both places. Meanwhile, Ivana and her parents Jennifer and Eli, have expressed their deep gratitude to Mr Shrinivas V Dempo, chairman and managing director of Dempo Group of Companies for the magnanimous gesture in naming her as the 2nd Dempo Goodwill Ambassador which will support her participation and coaching at higher level so that she can achieve her dream, they stated. They pointed out that this was the first of its kind and magnitude.

Nigeria Runs Tournament to Select Olympiad Players

Going the way of the Phillipines, the Nigerian Chess Federation has invited 60 women and men chessplayers to participate in an event to decide who will represent the country at the upcoming Chess Olympiad to be held in Dresden, Germany starting in November. By following this route, the NCF is making players prove they are in top form and the best in the country.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday Night Miscellany

It's hot, it's steamy, and more thunderstorms are on the way. We got between 2 to 4 inches of rain last night into this morning; it kept coming in waves and didn't stop until about 8:00 a.m., as I was half-way into the office on the bus. Unfortunately, I was already soggy by the time I got to the bus stop, as it was pouring rain during my 3/4 mile walk from hearth to bus! And I was groggy on top of it because, as if the first wave of storms wasn't bad enough (hit around 7 p.m.), the second wave that hit around 2 a.m. kept me up for the rest of the night. Oh well.

Amazingly, I could not find a report on how much rain, exactly, we got overnight - it's as if it is a big dark secret. Come on - rivers are still overflowing their banks here and I heard this morning on the news that most of them won't be back to "normal" until November! We've already had over 33 inches of rain for 2008! As I understand it, our "normal" average is about 30 inches a year! On the plus side, my rain gutters had a much-needed cleaning and even with the strong storms (lots of thunder and even more lightning, goddess, I hate lightning) last night, as far as I could tell there was no Niagra Falls on the deck out back from a clogged overhead rain gutter! One must be thankful for small blessings.

Some things to ponder:

Here's a story for all those who still deny that "global warming" (or whatever the hell you want to call what is going on with our dramatic climatic changes) - is real! Ha! Ask the people who lost their houses in the June floods whether climate change is real or not. Ask the farmers here with flooded-out fields and no signs of any relief soon. By the way, more severe storms and rain (lots of rain) are expected tonight. Then we get a break, supposedly starting tomorrow at noon when the latest "front" blows out of here toward the east - until Wednesday, when three more days of non-stop severe storms are forecast. Nah, there's no such thing as climate change...

Antarctic Ice Shelf All But Lost: A vast shelf of ice in Antarctica is hanging on to the continent by a thread and is not expected to survive, scientists announced today.

The Wilkins Ice Shelf is experiencing further disintegration that could collapse an ice bridge connecting the shelf to Charcot Island. Since the connection to the island helps to stabilize the ice shelf, it is likely the breakup of the bridge will put the remainder of the ice shelf at risk, the researchers said.

The disintegration is evident in images from the European Space Agency's Envisat satellite.

Full article. Click on the graphic and get an enlarged version, which clearly shows the deterioration of the ice shelf and the new "crack" that has opened up in the lower most area of the image. If that "crack" spreads, the entire ice bridge will probably split off and wash out to sea.

What is most amazing about all of this is that it is full winter in Antarctica right now, so the ice should not frigging be melting!

Love this story: People want to build a poop-processing plant in San Francisco and name it after our dear Prez, George W. Bush. How utterly and completely apt, for a President who is full of sh*t! Naturally, the local Republican Party thinks the idea "stinks." Har!

This one may awaken your binge and purge reflex: Over caviar and sea urchin (hey, I couldn't make this up) G8 leaders pig out over gourmet foods while discussing global food crisis. By the way, dig the photo of the "wives." The chick in the blue dress really looks like she'd rather be anywhere else, even Hell, maybe. Who's she married to? The hot chick in the black "slip" dress - lifting up her skirt and showing a little knee. Geez. She has to be the French wife. And what the hell is Laura Bush wearing a pants suit for? Ahhhh, I think I've got it, by jove! She's part of the Secret Hillary Sisterhood and wearing a pants suit is a sign of solidarity. Has anyone checked her checking account to see if she contributed to pay down Hillary's campaign debt???

From the Tee Hee Hee Department: He has to be a secret Republican with that "let 'em eat cake" attitude! Representative Charles B. Rangel on Friday angrily defended the unusual housing bargain he has been granted by a major real estate developer, saying that he did not believe he was being allowed four rent-stabilized apartments because of his status as a congressman.

Responding to an article in Friday’s New York Times, Mr. Rangel said there was nothing illegal or unethical about his relationship with the Olnick Organization, his landlord at the Lenox Terrace complex in Harlem. He also said that he did not believe it was unfair to avail himself of the multiple rent-stabilized apartments at a time of soaring rents in Manhattan and evictions of many rent-regulated tenants.

. . . Mr. Rangel, a towering figure in New York City politics and chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, paid a total rent of $3,894 a month for his four units in 2007, according to state records obtained by The New York Times. The Olnick Organization’s Web site now advertises similar apartments in Mr. Rangel’s building at a combined market rent of $7,465 to $8,125 a month.

Ohmygoddess! The absolutely frigging BARBARIANS! In honor of the Olympics, the Chinese are taking DOG off Bejing menus, in a futile effort to avoid offending the sensibilities of western visitors. Please, don't get me started... China: 1.1 billion and growing chowing down on man's best friend and loving it. I would suggest everyone avoid all Chinese McDonalds, where the meaning of "two all beef patties..." may have unique significance. No doubt they're looking at America even as I write this, salivating at all our beloved, pampered overweight canine buddies...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Iranians LIED About How Many Missiles Launched

Oh, this is just too hiliarious! Wait until you read some of the comments from the New York Time's "Lede" blog! The Revolutionary Guard faked a photo of yesterday's missile launch, adding a missile. To paraphrase one comment: "Thus evidently making the launch 33 1/3% scarier!" LOL! (First photo, released by Sepah News on 07/09/08; second phot, released by Sepah News on 07/10/08).

July 10, 2008, 9:16 am
In an Iranian Image, a Missile Too Many
By Mike Nizza and Patrick Witty

As news spread across the world of Iran’s provocative missile tests, so did an image of four missiles heading skyward in unison. Unfortunately, it appeared to contain one too many missiles, a point that had not emerged before the photo was used on the front pages of The Los Angeles Times, The Financial Times, The Chicago Tribune and several other newspapers as well as on BBC News, MSNBC, Yahoo! News, and many other major news Web sites.

. . . .

Does Iran’s state media use Photoshop? The charge has been leveled before. So far, though, it can’t be said with any certainty whether there is any official Iranian involvement in this instance. Sepah apparently published the three-missile version of the image today without further explanation. [Well, DUH!]

Oops! Ancient Italian Statue Not So Ancient!

Call me naughty, but I had a laugh when I read this article. Italy, oh hapless, disorganized, chaotic Italy. LOL! From BBC News Online Famed Roman statue 'not ancient' July 10, 2008 A statue symbolising the mythical origins and power of Rome, long thought to have been made around 500BC, has been found to date from the 1200s. The statue depicts a she-wolf suckling Remus and his twin brother Romulus - who is said to have founded Rome. The statue of the wolf was carbon-dated last year, but the test results have only now been made public. The figures of Romulus and Remus have already been shown to be 15th Century additions to the statue. In a front page article in the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, Rome's former top heritage official, Professor Adriano La Regina, said about 20 tests were carried out on the she-wolf at the University of Salerno. He said the results of the tests gave a very precise indication that the statue was manufactured in the 13th Century. Damaged paw Academics having been arguing about the origins of the statue - known as the Lupa Capitolina - since the 18th Century. Until recently it was widely acknowledged that the statue was an Etruscan work dating from the 5th Century BC. The Roman statesman, Cicero, who lived in the 1st Century BC, describes a statue of a she-wolf that was damaged by a lightning strike - the Lupa Capitolina has a damaged paw. However, in 2006, an Italian art historian and restorer, Anna Maria Carruba, argued that the statue had been cast in a single piece using a wax mould - a technique unknown in the ancient world. She suggested the damage to the Lupa Capitolina's paw was the result of a mistake in the moulding process. The statue is among the most important works on display at the Capitoline museums in Rome. The Lupa Capitolina is the emblem of the Serie A football club, Roma, and was the symbol used for the 1960 Rome Olympics.

Archaeology and War

Are they right? Archaeologists to refuse help over possible Iran strike 10 July 2008 news service PERSEPOLIS, once the capital of the Persian empire, and the massive mud-brick Bam citadel are among the nine listed World Heritage Sites in Iran. Yet leading archaeologists are urging colleagues to refuse any military requests to draw up a list of Iranian sites that should be exempted from air strikes. "Such advice would provide cultural credibility and respectability to the military action," said a resolution agreed by the World Archaeological Congress in Dublin, Ireland, last week. Instead, delegates were advised to emphasise the harm that any military action would do to Iran's people and heritage. During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, bombing damaged important monuments, including the Al-Zohur Palace in Baghdad, and museums and archaeological sites were later looted - even though archaeologists had been consulted in advance. "If these archaeologists had little impact in terms of saving even the few selected archaeological sites listed, what did they achieve?" asks Yannis Hamilakis of the University of Southampton, UK. From issue 2664 of New Scientist magazine, 10 July 2008, page 6

Supporting Local Chess: Chili, NY Library Tournament

From the Rochester Democrat & (love the name!) - out of Rochester, NY, part of the Gannett News Network. Chili library chess tourney ends in playoff July 10, 2008 Children from as far away as Milan, Italy and Chicago played in a chess tournament recently at the Chili (NY) public library. In the tournament, held June 26, 18 children ages 7 to 18 each played eight games, all against a different opponent. At the end of the eight games, Ethan Paszko and Ryan Patalano, both 14 and from Chili, were tied with 7 ½ wins apiece and played a timed “play-off” match to determine the winner. Ethan won the match and was declared the first-place winner, Ryan was the second-place winner, and 7-year-old Aaron Lazara of Chicago, who was visiting his grandmother in Chili, won third place. After the tournament, all the kids enjoyed pizza and pop courtesy of Mr. Adam DeSantis, the Chili Library Chess club volunteer director. The next tournament is planned for 1 p.m. July 24. Participants must be children (up to age 18) and have a working knowledge of chess. Call the library at (585) 889-2200, ext. 321, to register. Beginners are welcome to learn more about chess at the Chili Public Library’s children’s chess club from 1 to 5 p.m. today and Aug. 14. Psssttt...what about a beginners' class for adults???

Tanraj Sohal: A Canadian Chess Champion

Clarification about Tanraj Sohal winning the "Canadian Chess Championship" as reported in many internet news articles the past day or two. Please note the failure to mention a key fact in the recent reports: IN HIS AGE GROUP. This is not a dis on the young champion chessplayer, but a dis on people who evidently deliberately omitted key information from their report(s) when they picked up the original reports out of Canada and republished them in modified form, thus, at best, causing confusion and, at worst, doing it for political reasons. I found this information at under a date of April 11, 2008: #4. TANRAJ SOHAL WINS B.C. CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP IN HIS AGE GROUP Tanraj Sohal won the BC Provincial Chess Championship in his age group. The BC Chess Challenge was held on March 9 in Burnaby. Tanraj is a Grade 6 student from Surrey. He earlier won the Fraser Valley Regional Chess Championship held in Surrey on February 17. This is the sixth year in a row that Tanraj has won the Fraser Valley Regional and BC Provincial Chess Championships in his grade level. Tanraj, son of Dr. Parmjit Sohal, is a 2007 Canadian Chess Champion in his age group. He along with other provincial winners will be representing the BC Chess Team at the Canadian Chess Challenge to be held in Edmonton in May. This year the BC Chess Challenge Champions are Edwin Xu (Grade 1), Jonah Lee (Grade 2), Janak Awatramani (Grade 3), Jeremy Hui (Grade 4), Frank Cheng (Grade 5), Tanraj Sohal (Grade 6), Yifei Han (Grade 7), Joshua Renaud (Grade 8), Richard Huang (Grade 9), Henry Ji (Grade 10), Tedging Pan (Grade 11) and Bindy Cheng (Grade 12). I also find this information from the same source, dated May 24, 2008: #1. TANRAJ SOHAL WINS CANADIAN CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP AGAIN Tanraj Sohal has done it once again. The 11-year-old Grade 6 student from Surrey won the 2008 Canadian Chess Championship held in Edmonton, Alberta, on May 18-19 in his grade level. This is the fourth time Tanraj has won the Canadian Chess Championship trophy. Tanraj earlier won the 2008 Fraser Valley Regional in Surrey and BC Provincial Chess Championship held in Burnaby. Canadian Chess Challenge is the annual event where each province is represented by their 12 Provincial Champions (one player each from Grades 1 to 12). Qualification to the nationals begins with school events, then regional and provincial events. Canadian Chess Challenge is organized and sponsored by the Chess’n Math Association, Canada's National Scholastic Chess Organization. Each player plays nine round robin matches over two days in their respective grade against each of the provincial champions. Tanraj had a perfect score of 9/9 and defeated all other nine provincial champions. Overall BC got two first place trophies: Tanraj Sohal (Grade 6) and Janak Awatramani (Grade 3) and one second place trophy, Jonah Lee (Grade 2) and one third place trophy, Yifei Han (Grade 7).

GM Maurice Ashley

GM Maurice Ashley gave an interview on CNN. The Grandmaster is a dedicated and personable ambassador for chess, tireless in his promotion of the game to inner city youth, and a great role model. (Photo from GM Ashley's website - link below). Here is information from Chessbase:

Ashley on CNN: 'I just knew I would be a great chess player'10.07.2008 – Maurice Ashley is the first black chess grandmaster in history. He is also one of the games finest ambassadors, an ardent spokesman and advocate of the intellectual and character building effects in young people for over 15 years. In a short CNN report, part of the series on "Black in America", he speaks about the driving forces in his life and his career. We bring you Maurice unsquished.

The "unsquished" has to do with video sizing problems that made GM Ashley's head look somewhat flat and fat!

We have a 1999 in-depth interview from Ebony Magazine at Goddesschess. Enjoy!

Visit GM Ashley's website.

Philippines Chess News

This is the latest from one of my favorite chess columnists, from the Cebu Sun (Philippines): Friday, July 11, 2008 Pestaño: Controversies hound RP chess By Frank “Boy” Pestaño Chessmoso THE national chess scene is being rocked by controversies and it involves the major players of the land. Grandmasters Eugene Torre and Joey Antonio relinquished their participation in the 38th Chess Olympiad in Dresden, Germany on Nov. 12 to 25 by not participating in the grand finals to select the members of the team. It is being held in the Kaban ng Hiyas Bldg. in Mandaluyong and started last July 1. GM Eugene Torre issued an official statement that he does not have anything against the National Chess Federation of the Philippines’ (NCFP) regulation not to seed top players for the Olympiad. “It’s only fair, let’s give chance to others, especially the young. But if they still need my services, I would be very much willing to play for the country,” said Torre. “We want all the players, regardless of their titles (GMs, IMs or NMs) to participate in the qualifying tournament and earn their spots in the national team. We will not tolerate the old practice of seeding top players to the team,” said NCFP president Prospero Pichay in a short speech during the opening ceremony. GMs Mark Paragua and Darwin Laylo returned to the country from the United States to be able to compete in the tournament. Also playing are Dubai Open champion GM Wesley So, GM-elect Jayson Gonzales, GM Buenaventura “Bong” Villamayor and a host of IMs and NMs. Twelve players, led by top female player Catherine Perena and semifinal round winner Kimberly Jane Cunanan are seeing action in the women’s division. RATINGS. Fide recently released its July, 2008 ratings and the top Filipino player is 14-year-old Wesley So at 2577. Eugene Torre and Jayson Gonzales are tied for second and third with identical 2524. Paragua is rated 2523, Antonio has 2516 and Laylo is at 2504. It is very lamentable that Eugene is not playing. Eugene established a record when he made his 19th consecutive appearance in the 2006 Chess Olympiad in Turin, Italy and moves just one short of tying the all-time record for most appearances held by the legendary Lajos Portisch of Hungary. Another controversy involving the top guns is the opinion issued by Honorary Fide president Florencio Campomanes Thursday questioning “the decision of the NCFP to enter into a contract with a Singapore-based group for the holding of at least four RP Opens in the next two years.” During the Asean Chess Confederation board meeting in Vietnam, the NCFP, through president Prospero Pichay, signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the Singapore-based Intchess Asia to manage all its international competitions in the next two years, including four RP Opens. “We cannot just give the right to organize such big, national events to a group with no proven expertise in such undertaking,” Campomanes said. . . . . CEPCA. Our monthly tournament will be held this July 13, at the Deep Blue Café in SM starting at 2 p.m. Format is five rounds Swiss and time control will be based on the classification of the member as A,B and C. New members are welcome. I am also requesting all those who will play to bring a 1x1 picture for our new ID. The venue for the Kiddies and Juniors will be on July 12 at the Opascor Bldg. In front of M. Lhuiller Main office at 1 p.m. Format is seven rounds Swiss.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Supporting Local Chess: New Chess Club for St. Louis, MO

This place sounds fantastic! Story from South Side Journal Chess kings and queens get new castle By Dominic Immer Wednesday, July 9, 2008 12:06 PM CDT Local chess fans will soon be making a move. Fans who now play chess in coffeehouses, bars and restaurants will soon be checking opponents at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center, located at 4657 Maryland Avenue in the Central West End. The club is set to open July 17th. “Lots of cities have chess clubs. St. Louis is due for one,” said Tony Rich, executive director of the club. The three level, 6,000-square-foot building possesses an array of features including eight DGT chess boards, 8 hand-made wooden chess tables, 10 plasma screen televisions, video installation art and an adjustable lighting system. The primary colors of the club are black and white — the colors of a traditional chess board. The DGT chess boards can transmit games in progress to the plasma TVs for viewing by spectators. The TVs will also display other club information. Diana Thater, a video installation artist, created art for the chess club on six 46-inch LCD screens. Video installation art is art based on moving pictures. The art in this case recreates famous chess games, including the game of the century between Bobby Fischer and Donald Byrne. Nate Cohen of Cohen Architectural Woodworking in St. James, Mo., crafted the eight hand-made wooden chess tables for the chess center.Most of the money to begin the chess club came from Rex Sinquefield, the president and chairman of the chess club board. Sinquefield is a retired St. Louis investment banker and a political activist. He founded Dimensional Fund Advisors, investment company with his associate, David Booth. A main objective of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center is to promote the game of chess in area schools as a part of the curriculum. The First Move national program has already incorporated chess in five St. Louis public schools. “They learned about thinking critically and making decisions,” said Brian Zimerman, principal of Mann Elementary School in Tower Grove South. The chess club hopes to expand what First Move has done to include more grade levels and ultimately more schools. “There have been lots of research studies done, none of them scientifically rigorous, that have shown a nice relationship between cognitive abilities and improvement in their attendance records and a decrease in behavioral issues,” Rich said. The chess club wants to repeat those studies in a more scientific manner to prove the benefit of teaching chess in schools. Frank Van Bree is president and chief executive officer of UrbanFUTURE, which works with impoverished children in some city schools. His program is working with the club to expand the influence of chess in schools. Van Bree said that chess can continue to be useful in later grades, because as children’s thinking becomes more complex, so does chess. Chess can improve children’s self esteem and keep them out of trouble, Van Bree said, and the chess club would be a great place for children to spend time. Chess can have specific benefits for children in poverty, including helping them maintain some control over their world and helping them learn that considering the future is important, Van Bree said. “Poverty is a very reactive lifestyle,” he said. “If you can introduce chess, that’s all about planning two or three moves ahead.” While the chess club wants to attract new players, it also aims to provide a steady place to play for those already immersed in the game, Rich said. Members will receive several privileges including open play six days a week, discounted entry fees for club tournaments, and free use of the chess books and DVDs in the club library. The club also provides sets and clocks for matches. “We will have all the equipment that you need to play chess at the club,” Rich said. “All you have to do is bring your brain.” Rich wants the chess center to be an active and important part of the culture of St. Louis. “The Chess Club and Scholastic Center is going to be on par with places like the zoo and the history museum and the art museum,” he said. Rich looks forward to the club opening on July 17th. The club already has more than 60 members and Rich sees a lot of room for growth within St. Louis. He said about 750 people in the St. Louis area played in tournaments in the past year. His sales pitch to chess players is simple.“You have to see the club,” he said.

Disconnected from the Internet!

Oh for Goddess' sake! I finally get home at 6:50 p.m. this evening after a long hard day at the office and I cannot get online! What the hell? I run a check - run it again - everything is hooked up just fine, I just cannot get connected. So, I call the service number that shows up on my computer after the second time I ran a "connectivity test" and wait and wait and wait. Finally, I get connected to one of those goddess-awful voice-activated "customer service" thingies. After pressing various buttons and speaking slowly and distinctly into the telephone, I get a "special service announcement" and am told that due to an "upgrade" that happened last night, certain customers may now find that they cannot connect to the internet. Gee, tell me something I didn't know! After playing the message back three times, I discern that it has something to do with my security settings. I receive a number to call - a Microsoft number. Great, just great. Well, before resorting to the last resort of calling customer support at Microsoft, I try and fix the security settings myself. I do a work-around to bring up my internet browsers although I cannot browse anywhere, and reset my security settings. Didn't work. An hour and a half later, I find myself talking to a Microsoft technician who had a definite Indian accent (I recognized it - there are lots of Indian students attending the downtown Milwaukee School of Engineering and I hear the accent during lunch hours and going to and from the bus stops). I find out that - lo and behold - Microsoft and/or my firewall software has done an "update" that "may affect my connectivity." Okay..... So, my question is, what do I do? Well, the fellow said that my firewall software provider says a work-around is to reset my coverage (or whatever it's called) to "medium." I say okay, how do I do that. But he cannot help me with that, and by the way, it's not a recommended fix. The alternative is to "undo the fix." Yeah - right - like I understand what that means? Okay, so what do I do to get on the internet? He gives me a different number to call and a customer number or something like that. So, I call this other number and get a recording that says "due to an unusually large volume of calls...we are going to disconnect your butt right now. Please call back in approximately 32 years." Okay, maybe that last part is just a little bit exaggerated. It was more like 22 years - and 5 months - and 16 days - and 37 minutes - and 10 seconds, 9 seconds, 8 seconds... Based on what the first support tech told me, I bravely open up my firewall software and try first this, and then that, and then this, and then that. They sure don't make it easy. But eventually I get to a place where I can change a setting to "medium." So I do it. Then I try to exit without turning the software off all the way. That is a project in and of itself! Then I try, once again, to go online. This time it works! Eureka! I found it! The first thing I do (after checking my email, of course...) is to check out the latest news about this "download that may affect internet connectivity...". Supposedly a fix is in the works, that will be available for download - I have no idea when. In the meantime, try fix 1 or fix 2 - both of the fixes that my internet service provider tech told me about (although not recommended). Okay, so after going through all of this - and it's now several hours later, what I want to know is this: I have one computer and one telephone. I do not own a cell phone; I do not own a second computer that is somehow, miraculously, connected to some "other" line not affected by this latest Microsoft BALONEY SAUSAGE! So, I figured out a way to find out enough information tonight, at home, to get back online - and I'm absolutely amazed that I was able to do so. I am not a technologically competent person by any means! So, what if I'm an average person (which I am), and I cannot get online, how am I supposed to find out the "lastest news" about this disastrous software update that evidently disconnected half the world today from the internet??? Tonight I reined in my impatience and extremely bad temper long enough to listen to the Indian technician and was able to garner enough clues to figure out what to do for the temporary "fix" without having to wait 22 years plus plus plus to talk to a Microsoft technician. But what about someone who can't figure out how to do the temporary "fix?" I'm telling you, I am so steamed right now, you could fry eggs on my fingernails.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Robin Hood

People of a certain age will remember growing up watching old Errol Flynn "swashbuckler" movies on television - and one of his most famous rolls - that of Robin Hood. In later days two different versions of the legend of Robin Hood came out at the same time - one starring Kevin Costner and Mary Elizabeth Mastriantonio (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, 1991) and an underrrated version that went straight to television rather than theatrical release, starring Patrick Bergin and Uma Thurman (Robin Hood, 1991 TV). Both movies are utterly enchanting to me, well-acted, entertaining - and as different as night and day! Uma Thurman was smoking hot and spot on as a defiant Marian, who surrendered her virginity to the outlaw Robin rather than marry the Norman overlord (Guy) to whom she was promised. I've also read my share of Robin Hood novels. Just how many different versions of the legend of Robin Hood exist? I have no idea - but here's one more absolutely fascinating take on the legend of Robin Hood to add to the list, with my own comments duly noted in brackets [ ]. This one is from Barbara Walker's "A Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets:" Robin God of the Witches, with numerous variations: Robin Goodfellow, Robin son of Art, Robin the Bobbin, Robin Hood, or Robin Redbreast - the last apparently derived from memories of the Norman sacred king with blood-runes or geirs-odd carved in the flesh of his breast on his "red-letter day" (see Runes). [Oh my!] As Lord of the Hunt and a dying god he became the slain Cock Robin, whose executioner in the nursery rhyme did him in "with my wee bow and arrow" - a Saxon version of the Celtic Cu Chulainn who died at Mag Muirthemne bound to the sacred pillar and riddled with arrows.(1) The red-breasted bird of spring was Cock Robin's soul; the red was his blood, shed by a pagan sacrifice, though a pseudo-Christian legend tried to explain it in a different way. A robin tried to pluck away the thorns from Christ's crown, but only succeeded in tearing its own breast, so all robins had red breasts thereafter.(2) This fable failed to remove the curse of Cock Robin in the opinion of Christian authorities who knew quite well that he was a phallic god. In Cornwall, Robin meant a cock in the other sense: a penis. His surname Hood, or Hud, referred to the symbolic pine log, planted in Mother Earth as a sacred pillar. A pamphlet of 1639 showed Robin as a horned, hoofed, ithyphallic satyr, leading witches' revels in the company of a black dog and an owl.(3) [Both well known symbols of the ancient Mother Goddess, which the Roman Catholic Church of the day went out of its way to demonize in any way it could]. Robin Hood, Wizard of the Greenwood, was a real person or persons leading Sherwood Forest covens in the early 14th century, with a wife or paramour taking the role of the Goddess Maerin, or Marian, or Mari-Anna, the Saxon wudu-maer, literally the Mary or the Mother of the Grove. Great sacramental feasts in honor of Robin and his lady were remembered in popular rhymes nearly three centuries later, when he was "Robin the Bobbin, the big-bellied Ben, who ate more meat than fourscore men."(4) Family names can be found dating back to the "greenwood marriages" performed by heathen shamans, symbolized by the renegade Friar Tuck. Morrises and Morrisons descended from orgiastic Morris-dancers, also called Marian's morrice-men.(5) Like Robin (or Robinson), Morris dancers' May Day rites came from Moorish Spain. The original word was morisco, "Moorish."(6) [Actually, I think the tradition goes at least as far back as ancient Egypt's Muu dancers, some of whom wore high green crowns on their head, constructed of woven reeds - perhaps the origin of the much later "green man" dancers a/k/a Morris men.] Robin was Saracenic, from Rah-bin, "a seer," cognate with the Semitic rabba, "lord," reb or rabbi, a priest. Robin's cult penetrated northern Europe from roots in Moorish Spain.(7) The Iberian peninsula was not Christianized until the overthrow of its Arab governors in the 11th century. Like Scandinavia in the same period, it was a fount of pagan ideas and practices. (Actually, as I understand the history of the Iberian peninsula, the last of the Moors - Arabs - weren't finally expelled from the country until the famous last battle by the joint forces of Isabella and Ferdinand at Cordoba - yes, the same Isabella who funded Columbus' expedition to find the Northwest Passage to India in 1492). The common folk of England liked Robin, which is why they called him Goodfellow, or Puck, which descended from a word for "God." [What word for God???] He was supposed to right the wrongs inflicted on the peasants by the church. He stole the treasures of the rich clergy and nobles and bestowed them on the poor. By force of arms he maintained a heathen preserve in the wildwood, a sanctuary for heretics and others persecuted by the church. Popular legend said Robin was born of a virgin impregnated by Oberon, King of the Fairies. He traveled to fairyland, and was shown "many secrets which he never did open to the world."(8) Like the Greeks' Pan, Robin defended unspoiled land against the encroachment of towns. In country districts, each village set aside a plot of raw woodland, which was not to be disturbed, because it belonged to the Goodfellow, or the Good Man.(9) [The origin of the "Village Green"???] Elders of the Scottish church in 1594 exerted their utmost influence to abolish this Goodfellow's Croft, which they called the devil's acre, claiming it gave "great offence."(10) Mystery plays of the 16th century still continued to celebrate Robin, Maid Marian, Friar Tuck, Little John, and the other heathen heroes. A Churchwardens Account Book lists the prices of costumes for Robin and Marian as King and Queen of the May. The lady impersonating Marian wore a crown, a purple coif, a blue surcoat, a yellow skirt, and red sleeves.(11) In such a way did the church ingest pagan ceremonials by sponsorship, and eventually deprive them of serious meaning. Notes: (1) Larousse, 233. (2) Bowness, 38. (3) Graves, W.G., 441. (4) Spence, 109. (5) Graves, W.G., 441-43. (6) Hazlitt, 422. (7) Shah, 210; Ravensdale & Morgan, 153. (8) Keightley, 287, 289, 315-16. (9) W. Scott, 78. (10) Hazlitt, 283. (11) Hazlitt, 384-85, 520.

Ancient Navigation

The intrepid and incredibly brave folk who first travelled the seas thousands of years in little more than canoes have always fascinated me, as have the tales I grew up with studying history (my favorite subject) about the "first" explorers (all European, of course), to circumnavigate the globe, including Columbus whom, we are still taught, discovered America in 1492. (Image: Erich Lessing
A Phoenician trade ship as depicted on a second-century sarcophagus. Looks like a better ship than the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria!)

Now, the historical record is slowly being fleshed out, thanks to new discoveries and re-examinations of old records. The Chinese may have been the first to circumnavigate the globe; the Phoenicians may have been the first to circumnavigate the continent of Africa; we now known Vikings were the first people to visit the North America - unless you count nameless Europeans from the east and nameless Asians from the west who may have travelled across ice-filled oceans to reach both shores of North America 40,000 years ago!

This teaser on a story caught my eye tonight at Biblical Archaeology Review (July-August, 2008 issue):

Return of the Ancient Mariner
Writing almost 200 years after the events in question, Herodotus records in The Histories the Phoenicians’ claim to have sailed into dangerous, uncharted waters and circumnavigated Africa. It was either a fantastic—almost inconceivable—achievement or a wild hoax. Herodotus himself doubted the claim.
Enter Philip Beale. The former British naval officer and adventurer is reopening this ancient question. He intends to vindicate the Phoenicians’ claim—and he plans to do it in dramatic fashion: Having spent months overseeing the construction of an exact replica of a seventh-century B.C. Phoenician ship, Beale will skipper a crew of 20 on a ten-month odyssey around Africa.

The Phoenician Ship Expedition will depart from Arwad, Syria (i.e., ancient Phoenicia), in August 2008 and head south. After negotiating the dangers of the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa, a critical point in the expedition, the voyage will continue up the west coast of Africa, through the Straits of Gibraltar and across the Mediterranean to return back to Syria in June 2009—ten months later and 17,000 miles wiser.

Twenty Squares

From Biblical Archaeological Review Strata Gallery:

A graffito version of the Royal Game of Ur, the “game of 20 squares.” This improvised board was scratched—possibly by bored soldiers—onto one of the human-headed winged bull gate sentinels from the palace of Sargon II (721–705 B.C.) in the city of Khorsabad, Iraq. Other improvised game boards have recently been discovered on the surfaces of other ancient structures.(Courtesy WikiMedia)

Who's Telling the Truth?

Read this report from the that blames the current world food crisis on biofuels, according to a "secret report" prepared by the World Bank: Secret report: biofuel caused food crisis Internal World Bank study delivers blow to plant energy drive Aditya Chakrabortty The Guardian, Friday July 4, 2008 Aside from the fact that this story - from an unnamed source, citing a "secret report" prepared by an unnamed "internationally respected economist" employed by the World Bank - sounds hinky in the extreme (did The Guardian borrow the headline from an old edition of The National Inquirer or World News Reports?), the article does plainly state that the current "crisis" has been developing since at least 2002 - six years. BUT - changing world-wide weather patterns have NOTHING to do with the current situation; local and international markets have NOTHING to do with the current situation; past and present governmental policies have NOTHING to do with the current situation (other than the aforementioned mandate for biofuels allegedly diverting massive amounts of food and land into corn production for ethanol). Oh - and did I mention, population increases and rising standards of living in developing "third world" countries also have NOTHING to do with increased demand for food stuffs. Then, read this article from today's Wall Street Journal. I don't normally "buy" most of what is written in WSJ's editorial pages, but this article at least acknowledges a host of other factors involved in a complicated dance that has led over at least the last ten years to the current food "crisis." The Rich World and the Food Crisis By ADAM LERRICKJuly 8, 2008; Page A21 Leaders of the G-8 nations are gathered this week in Toyako, Japan, to root out the culprits in a food crisis that has moved hundreds of millions from subsistence to starvation. They need look no further than an old group photo. The G-8 countries' interventions have distorted global agricultural markets to the paralysis point. Politicians legislate price supports to enrich farm voters. Lobbies extort tariffs to block cheap food imports and subsidies to underwrite food exports at prices that destroy competitors in poor countries. Conservationists have agitated to set aside productive land and pay farmers not to grow. And now green energy advocates push ethanol quotas and tax credits that divert food into fuel. Don't blame speculators for the food crisis: It was already here when they arrived. Rather thank them for a wake-up call. Financial markets are driving today's prices to match expectations of tomorrow's values – the consensus of countless investors and producers is that the era of surpluses and cheap food is over. Yet even a credible promise that G-8 protectionist policies will be reversed would raise output down the road and drop prices at the corner grocery counter overnight. The new famine is not about a crisis in global supply. Markets are full of food that developing-nation consumers cannot afford to buy. Prices for rice, corn, wheat and soy beans, the staple crops for world sustenance, have doubled in a single year. This pinches families in developed countries who allocate 15% of their income to food. In poor countries, where many spend 75% of their earnings to eat, real wages have been cut by a life-changing one-third. A decade of progress in reducing poverty is being erased. In response, countries whose people are being hit hard are adopting policies that mortgage their economic future. From Mexico and Indonesia to Egypt and Côte d'Ivoire, governments have responded to protest and riots with backward measures that keep domestic prices down but choke off incentives to plant and harvest more. One-third of the world's population now lives under food price controls. Subsidies to keep rice and bread on the table are eating up scarce funds. Schools will not open, roads and ports will not be built, electricity will not power expansion. Central banks are giving up growth to contain an inflation imported from abroad. National food security is the new overriding concern. India and Vietnam, the world's second and third biggest exporters of rice, have banned foreign sales. Wheat suppliers from Australia to Argentina are restricting shipments. In China, massive new export tariffs keep fertilizer at home to lessen farming costs. For a decade, the world's demand for food has grown faster than the supply. Throughout the developing world, hundreds of millions of people have migrated from the country where they fed themselves to the city where they must buy their food. A new middle class is eating more and eating better. Seven pounds of grain are required to produce a single pound of meat; China, India and Brazil are eating 40% more beef than in 2000. Global food stocks have collapsed to a 50-day reserve, their lowest level in half a century. Even as the mountains of grain in government warehouses have eroded, G-8 members have been holding back supply. Poor farmers have been deprived of a livelihood. Who will plant when rich world producers – protected from imports and guaranteed a subsidized gain on exports – dump crops on world markets, pushing global prices below the real cost of production? In the name of conservation, U.S. farmers have been bribed to keep fields fallow – 36 million acres of cropland, the size of Iowa, at a taxpayer cost of $2 billion a year. In Europe, large farmers have been compelled to leave 10% of their holdings idle. Food and fuel have been placed in competition for crops and land. A 10% content mandate for every gallon of gas, and $7 billion of subsidies, now divert one-third of the U.S. corn crop to ethanol, and have driven soybean acreage to its lowest level in more than a decade. Even aid is tainted. The U.S. provides one-half of world food relief, but is the only major donor that gives in kind and not in cash. Thousands of tons of cereals are transported by barge along the Mississippi, navigated across two oceans on high-cost American ships and delivered by truck in Africa – where stockpiles of local grain are rotting for want of buyers. The same $2 billion worth of aid spent buying local foodstuffs would increase benefits for poor consumers dramatically and build a market for the crops of farmers. While a myopic U.S. Congress indulges in the biggest farm bill ever, and France proposes to pay old-style farmers more to overproduce, high prices are breaking the G-8 grip on food. In Ethiopia's Rift valley, farmers are pooling funds to buy $75,000 John Deere harvesters. Swedish and English entrepreneurs are assembling small land holdings in Ukraine and Russia to build world-class cereal producers. In Sudan, Abu Dhabi's sovereign fund is planting 70,000 acres with corn and wheat. Monsanto has promised new modified seeds that will double crop yields and, this time, finicky European bans will not prevail. When the dust settles, there will be a time of plenty in developing lands – and far fewer Porsche dealerships in the U.S. farm belt. Mr. Lerrick is a visiting scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. This op-ed is based on a speech he delivered at the 2008 AEI world forum. This article blames it all on the wealthy nations - presuambly the United States and the countries of the EU. So, I'd like to know what countries are "dumping" food on the world markets below cost? If this is happening, how come people can't afford food? Would not "dumping" of food on the world market depress prices - that is what the author is, in fact, arguing. But that's not happening now, is it. So that argument flies out the window. The author acknowledges that there is plenty of food to go around, even with "one third of USA's corn crop" diverted to ethanol production. It's not a matter of supply he says, it's a matter of price, particularly in the so-called "poor" countries. This "crisis" did not develop overnight, and government policies that placate people rioting in the streets for cheap bread will only subsidize irrational behavior.

Supporting Local Chess: Southwest Chess Club, Hales Corners, WI

Allen Becker sent me the following information on July 6th; unfortunately it got caught in my yahoo email addy spam filter, which is strange because I've received other emails from the club in my regular mail with no problem. Anyway, here is the info: NEW CLUB LOCATION The Southwest Chess Club meets every Thursday night from 6:00 PM in the town of Greendale, Wisconsin. We meet at the Layton State Bank (downstairs), at 5850 Broad Street, Greendale (NOTE NEW LOCATION!. Here is a map to the club. Parking is available at the bank; enter through the door on the south side of the bank (next to Parking lot). Due to flooding problems, our Hales Corners Village Hall location is not available until (perhaps) September 2008. We will meet at the Greendale Layton State Bank through July and August, or until further notice. CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP Southwest Chess Club Championship July 10, 17, 24, 31 & August 7 & 14 (all in Greendale Layton State Bank location)6-Round Swiss in One Section. Game/100. USCF Rated.Entry Fee: $7. Must be a member to participate. SWCC Membership only $10/year (can join when registering for the tournament). (Two ½ point byes available in rounds 1 through 5 if requested at least 2-days in advance; no byes available for rounds 6.)TD is Becker; ATDs are Grochowski/Fogec. THURSDAY NIGHT LECTURE SERIES - Summer 2008 Begins this Thursday night at 6:00 PM - Allen Becker will present a game Every Thursday night at 6 PM (right before the usual games begin). Instructive lectures. The series is entitled “Making Chess Fun”. We need volunteers to present lectures/games/instruction through July and August. Please see Allen Becker if you're interested. Our club website: Our Blog (notice two new topics; please contribute and suggest other topics): Our schedule for 2008:

Monday, July 7, 2008

Supporting Local Chess: Southwest Chess Club Simul!

Hola! Allen Becker sent me four photographs from the July 3, 2008 simul the Southwest Chess Club held. Allen Becker is the tall, dark handsome guy in the photos you can find here (at Chess Femme News - scroll down to July 7, 2008). I would have published them here, but evidently because they were TIFs blogger would not accept them when I tried to download them. Enjoy!

Pre-Columbian Textiles Being Sold in Peru

From the International Herald Tribune This is just the most amazing story to me - I don't understand, how can people sell their priceless heritage so cheaply? How can they sell it at all? Peru officials find pre-Hispanic textiles on sale in Lima tourist market July 5, 2008 LIMA, Peru: Shoppers at a tourist market in Peru's capital could have netted greater bargains than they thought — rare, pre-Hispanic textiles costing little more than a Machu Picchu magnet. Police and archaeologists raiding the block-long, outdoor Indian Market June 27 found swatches of centuries-old cloth — mainly from the Chancay culture — nestled among itchy llama sweaters and other mass-produced Peruvian handicrafts. The textiles, likely scraps from looted archaeological sites, were pasted atop decorative boxes and sewn into dolls that sold for as little as US$6.50, said Blanca Alva, chief of the Historic Patrimony Defense Department for the government's National Cultural Institute. Some dated as far back as the 13th century. Alva didn't say why the material sold so cheaply, but she said the vendors knew exactly what they were selling. Some of the boxes decorated with ancient textiles sold for $50. "We saw with our own eyes a saleswoman hiding a box with swatches of the textiles in another stand, trying to get rid of the evidence," Alva said. According to Peruvian law, the destruction, alteration or sale of pre-Hispanic cultural artifacts can carry a prison sentence of three to eight years. Peru's famed pre-Inca art is featured around the world, especially the colorful weavings of ancient civilizations that thrived along the Andean nation's coast. But Peruvian officials are trying to crackdown on "huaqueros," or looters, who illegally traffic the artifacts, Alva said. The government has seized about 620 objects made with ancient textiles in three raids, one of them in the Duty Free shop of Lima's Jorge Chavez International Airport.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Treasure Trove!

From The Wrexham Leader July 3, 2008 Hoard of Roman coins found on Wrexham farm A HAUL of Roman coins found near Wrexham could be set for a place in the British Museum. John Formstone is a member of metal-detecting group Wrexham Heritage Society, and had only been metal detecting for 18 months when he found 92 silver Roman coins aged nearly 2,000 years. Just five days later he found another five, taking the total haul to 97. John, 45, formerly of Gresford but now living in Whittington, near Oswestry, found the coins on a farm in the region to the south of Wrexham, and they are now being cleaned and catalogued by an expert at the British Museum in London. A treasure inquest is expected to be held, and if the coins are declared treasure they are likely to be kept by the museum, with a reward being shared between John and the farmer whose land they were found at. "I'm very excited," said John. "What every detector dreams of finding is a hoard of coins. My friends in the group are all excited for me but there must be a bit of envy too." The coins all date from the second century AD and are denarii. Denarius was a high denomination from the period. The Emperor Hadrian is featured on some of the coins. He was emperor from 117 to 138. Trajan, emperor from 98 to 117, is also on some of the coins, with Antonius Pius, emperor from 138 to 161, on others. John said the coins' value was equivalent to just under half a legionary soldier's annual wage at the time, with soldiers being paid 250 denarius in a year. One denarius would have bought about 18 litres of wine or roughly 20 loaves of bread. "It's amazing to think they've been in the ground for nearly 2,000 years," said John. "I was so excited when I was digging them up to think that the last person who touched them was the person who buried them almost 2,000 years ago. It gives you a bit of a buzz."

The Maiden, the Dragon & St. George

Hola! This is going to be short, I may revisit this topic later on. It's too beautiful a day here to be sitting inside. I just wanted to post this interesting image of the Dragon and St. George - it's allegedly a chess piece!

I found it by accident while searching for something else entirely.

Saint Georges tuant le dragon
Elément 165 sur 211
Objets d'ArtObjet (Pièce d'échec)Moyen-Age
Matériaux : Ivoire
Date : approx. entre 1240 et 1260
Artiste : Anonyme
Modèles : Dragon, Saint Georges
Evénement : Saint Georges combattant le dragon
Lieu : Metropolitan Museum of ArtMoyen-Age 1
Rez-de-ChausséeVitrine : V20
Région en relation : Angleterre
Acquisition : Don de J. Pierpont Morgan (1917)

I've always been fascinated by the tale of the Maiden, the Dragon and bad old St. George who decides to steal the Maiden from the Dragon - I don't believe for a minute he was trying to "save" her! Aside from the obvious and not-so-obvious symbolism and metaphorical significance of the tale, this piece is fascinating! I've never seen another like it. How do they know it's a chess piece? How big is it (what is its size)? I assume "Angleterre" means England. What kind of ivory is it carved out of? Was it something carried back home by a Crusader?

I could not find this piece at the Met's website despite several different kinds of searches of its database. Any information???
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