Friday, August 1, 2008

Friday Night Miscellany

It's Friday night and everything's all right - well, it would be, if the dew point would just drop about 20 points -- relief is supposedly on the way, just hovering to the west of Madison right now... So much is strange and unusual in the news this week, it's hard to pick and choose, but I thought I'd start out with some 'ONE STEP BEYOND' stuff. For anyone old enough to remember that outstanding show, I understand it's still in syndication - somewhere - but I don't have cable or satellite t.v. so I'll never see it again, unless it's one U-Tube somewhere. Well, alas, and moving on: Something of a minor sensation was made a week or so ago when Dr. Edgar Mitchell, the astronaut, was on a late-night radio show and talked about close encounters of the alien kind and, as I gather (not having heard the broadcast or read a transcript), about U.S. government cover-ups of the TRUTH, which is indeed OUT THERE, just waiting for Mulder and Scully to show up. Here's some brief info about what Mitchell said (and has said for the past 10 years):
  • Frenzied press coverage after latest interview
  • For those who want to hear it for themselves, check out this UFO Blogger post, which has the relevant excerpt, as well as NASA's response ("Dr Mitchell is a great American, but we do not share his opinion on this issue.").
  • What Mitchell said 10 years ago
  • A video interview from this year's X-Conference in which he says much the same again

So, today I see this report by "another NASA veteran" who confirms Dr. Mitchell's accounts in all aspects and will tell all - but only for a large pay-off. He probably wants Euros, too...

Not to be outdone, no less than The New York Times published it's own article about UFOs - but they covered their butts by placing it in the Op Ed pages. Chickens!

The Axum Obelisk is being resurrected in the town of Axum, Ethiopia, near Addis Ababa. Take a look at a map, you'll see that Ethiopia has Sudan on it's west border, and Somalia on its east. Yeah, a real comfy, peaceful spot, just full of liberty and justice for all - and religious tolerance, too. Wonder how long the 1,700 year old Obelisk will last once it's standing in place? Any one want to place a bet? I wonder if Vegas is giving odds??? Perhaps someone will hold the Obelisk hostage in hopes of a big pay-off, threatening to blow it up if the cash doesn't come. Hmmmm, I smell a movie in the works...

J.K. Rowling ia making a bid for the title greediest author of all time. Still four months to release date and already the cheapo paperback edition of "The Tales of Beedle the Bard" is a best seller on

But wait - according to the Daily there's also 100,000 copies of a super-duper "Collectors' Edition" selling for only $100 USD, available for only a few fervent fans. Hmmmm, let's see, if all 100,000 "Collectors' Edition" sell (I believe we can expect they will), that's a gross of Ten Million Dollars. The blurb about the book at Amazon says: Net proceeds from this Collector's Edition and the Standard Edition support of the Children's High Level Group, a charity co-founded in 2005 by J K Rowling and Emma Nicholson MEP to make life better for vulnerable children. (The Children's High Level Group is a charity registered in England and Wales under registered charity number 1112575.)

"Net proceeds", heh? Well, we all know how that works in the movie industry. Does it work the same in the book printing industry? Also note, it does NOT say that "ALL net proceeds" from the sale of the Collector's and Standard editions go to support the charity. Just an oversight? Are we supposed to assume that ALL net proceeds will go to the charity and Ms. Rowling gets not a single dime? Yeah, and the Moon is made of green cheese.

I discovered early this week, much to my horror, that I have MICE. Yes yes, I have mice outside, they don't bother me and I don't bother them. But one or more unknown entities of mouse origin invaded the Inner Sanctum, the Sanctum Sactorum, the Abode of this Goddess. As Bugs Bunny once said, "you know, of course, that this means war..."

I got moth balls, and bombed the exterior of the house. Tomorrow I'll get outside and search the perimeter for wee openings the size of a dime or larger and plug them up and do further mothball bombing. Meantime, I did research on the internet and discovered that essential oil of Peppermint is a known mouse deterrent. Great, I thought. I ran to the supermarket after work on Monday and purchased 100% Pure Peppermint Extract - and two "camoflauged" mouse traps made of plastic. Guaranteed to hide the body of the deceased from one's squeamish view after the trap has sprung.

Well, okay. The camoflauged mouse traps don't work - I tossed them in the garbage and they'll probably take off one or more fingers of some unsuspecting garbageman somewhere down the line. I also discovered, upon further research, that 100% Pure Peppermint Extract is NOT the same as essential oil of Peppermint. Nooooooo - 100% Pure Peppermint Extract is guaranteed, according to my research, to attract ANTS. After my bout with the Invasion of Body Snatcher Ants a few years ago and a costly extermination process, you can imagine my horror - and I'm still hunting down cotton balls saturated with 100% Pure Peppermint Extract. How many cotton balls can one woman possibly hide in a 1,650 square foot house, I ask you?

The mice, meanwhile, were laughing at me. The first night I put out the camoflauged mouse traps, they ate all the peanut butter off the triggering mechanism and the traps did not spring. Next night, same thing. So, last night, I went back to the supermarket and got the cheap old-fashioned kind of mouse-trap that takes muscles to set - the Victor Mouse Trap! I just love that name, implying as it does, "victory" of mere humans over the Mighty Mouse.

I eagerly set a trap last night and after three false tries, I finally got it set without snapping off my fingers or my nose. Put it down in the suspect spot near the fireplace in the living room where they must be coming in through some miniscule hole along the gas pipe from the basement (they have left distinctive "clues") - anyway, I was all set. I didn't get much sleep though, anticipating that distinctive "snap" sound when the trap goes off.

Only it didn't happen. This morning when I checked, all the peanut butter was gone - and the trap had not sprung!

Ohmygoddess, I thought, a ghost mouse! I staggered to the office bleary-eyed and groggy all day, from lack of sleep, cursing the little bugger or, more likely, buggers under my breath. They were mocking me, I could feel their teeny beady eyes boring into the back of my neck, and they were snickering, their whiskers twitching this way and that...they were probably hiding under my bed and coming out at 2:45 a.m. to giggle in the corner, waking me up just enough to wonder what the hell was that strange noise in the corner...

So, tonight, when I got home, I got really serious about mouse extermination. I checked the Victor trap - this time the peanut butter was still intact, but I saw I had far too much of it on the trigger. I pulled the trap, sprung it with a butter knife (let me tell you, it works, whoa!) and made sure this time I put only a smidgeon of peanut butter on the trigger and mushed it in well so any offending mouse would have to really dig down to get at the goodies. That was about 6:30 p.m.

Shortly after 8 this evening, I heard the distinctive sound of the trap going off. OHMYGODDESS, I got one, I thought. I ran out from my upstairs bedroom (where the computer hutch is currently residing), turned on the big overhead light on the ceiling overlooking the staircase, and sure enough, there was a mouse, still alive but caught by the neck, tugging in vain to try and get out. It was all over in a few seconds. The struggle ended.

Did I mention I was eating supper at the time - a hamburger, loaded with ketchup and pickles and mayo. I kept eating. Am I a cold hearted beyatch or what? To make a long story short, I went downstairs, donned rubber safety apparel and disposed of the mousey corpus on the compost pile below the retaining wall out back, expecting that either the racoons will get it or the ants and beetles will. I then washed off the trap (there was some blood on it) and wrapped it in paper toweling to absorb the moisture. I baited a second Victor trap (they come two to a pack) and after springing it a couple of times, I successfully got it over to the spot near the fireplace where I'd caught the first mouse.

I was upstairs still working on my hamburger, not 10 minutes later, when I again heard that distinctive "snap" sound and, sure enough, when I ran out to the balcony overlooking the living room and fireplace and turned on the big light, there was another little sucker caught in the trap, also struggling to get out, also deceasing in my sight in a few seconds. I finished my hamburger and disposed of this body in the same place as the first.

Number 1 corpus was larger, number 2 corpus was smaller, so I figured "daddy" and "mommy" - which means, quel horreurs - babies! Definitely field mice, not voles, not rats (thank Goddess!) I pulled out the first trap from it's paper towel wrapping, still damp, and baited it again. It also went off 2 times while trying to set it, but on the third try I got it down on the floor near the fireplace. So far, nothing. I'm hoping there are no babies and no further mice invade my Inner Sanctum.

Does this make me a murderer? What's more, does this make me an inhuman monster murderer who continued chomping on a hamburger while mayhem and death occured practically under her very nose? Oy! Well, I was hungry.

The lesson to be learned from this - don't fall for the "humane" traps that are intended to shield one's delicate sensibilities from the death of a mouse. THEY ARE FRICKING INVADERS AND DESERVE TO DIE. DIE MOUSE, DIE! Ahem... Buy the Victor traps that are two for $0.99 and just be careful for your fingers (and don't get your nose too close, either). Don't make my rookie mistake and put too much peanut butter on the trigger. If you're not squeamish (evidently I'm not, at least when it comes to dead invader mice) you can wash the traps after removing the mouse corpus and use it again and again. Just make sure you dry it thoroughly so rust doesn't start in the mechanisms. Ninety-nine cents was never better spent.

'night, darlings.

'Viking' Chess? Nah - But Fun!

Players from five states gather in Eau Claire for 'Viking chess' By Janie Boschma Leader-Telegram staff July 31, 2008 For some folks, there's nothing better to do on a hot Saturday afternoon than to play a few rounds of Viking chess. Seventy kubb players from five states - Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Colorado - will face off this weekend in the largest kubb tournament ever held in the United States, and charities will benefit. Nicknamed "Viking chess" for its Swedish origins, kubb (pronounced koob) is a popular lawn game in Nordic countries. "Supposedly the Vikings played it thousands of years ago," said Eric Anderson, who organized the Midwest Kubb Championship, the second in Eau Claire. Registration for the 32-team tournament begins at 8:15 a.m. Saturday, followed by an overview of kubb rules at 9:15. The tournament kicks off at 9:30 and will continue through the afternoon. Spectators are encouraged to attend. Aaron Ellringer of Eau Claire will be part of the tournament with his two-man team, A to Z. "There's a really friendly part of it. It is competitive to a certain degree, but I just know it's going to be fun," he said. "There's just something silly about throwing sticks around." Essentially, two teams stand on opposing sides of the field by a row of five wooden blocks (or kubbs) and throw wooden batons to knock each other's kubbs down. "To win the game, you have to eliminate all of the kubbs on the opposing team's side," Anderson said. "If you knock the king over at the end of the game, you win." The king, the largest block that sits in the middle of the field, is the 8-ball of kubb. Ellringer said personal preference usually determines how many people play (at least two per team in the tournament) and the size of the playing field. World championship competition rules in Sweden call for an 8-by-5 meter field. The game has been described as a combination of bowling and horseshoes. "Once people start playing, I'll be honest, it's addicting," Anderson said. He said the tournament combines two of his passions: kubb and helping the people of embattled Darfur, Sudan. Through sponsorship and his own personal contribution, Anderson said 100 percent of the event's proceeds will supply survival kits for Darfur refugees (through the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees) and support Girls on the Run of Eau Claire County, the local chapter of a nonprofit organization that encourages preteen girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running. Anderson first began playing kubb while living in Sweden with his family in 2005 and 2006. When he moved back to the United States almost two years ago, he wanted to introduce that aspect of Scandinavian culture to Eau Claire. It began with the formation of Beserkers, a kubb club he said now meets about once a week to play - sometimes at Peace Park across First Avenue from Just Local Food Co-op or at other parks around town. Anderson said Beserkers is the first and only kubb club in Wisconsin. He said he hopes to expand from the dozen players in the club to a kubb league soon. Anderson already has plans for a national kubb championship game in Eau Claire for 2010. "I think it's a really good thing for Eau Claire," said Ellringer, a Beserkers member. "We've been quietly talking about making Eau Claire Kubb City USA. It seems like lots and lots of people are paying attention to it."

Ancient Rock Art in Durham County, England

From BBC News online:

Ancient rock carvings discovered
More than 100 new examples of prehistoric art have been discovered carved into boulders and open bedrock throughout Northumberland and Durham.

The 5,000-year-old Neolithic carvings of circles, rings and hollowed cups, were uncovered by volunteers.

One of the most interesting discoveries was an elaborately carved panel on Barningham Moor, near Barnard Castle in County Durham. English Heritage now wants to extend the project to Cumbria.

Abstract art
Kate Wilson, inspector of ancient monuments at English Heritage, said: "We know virtually nothing about this art. That's the exciting part of this discovery.

"What we need to do now is to discover how this art relates to other prehistoric features in the landscape.

"We are talking about very simple and abstract art, using circles, lines and triangles. Mostly the designs are pecked into stone in the shape of simple cups and rings."

Archaeologists have discovered thousands of examples of prehistoric rock carvings in the area in recent years.

Many feature on a website backed by Newcastle University, which includes about 6,000 images.

Ms Wilson added: "We are sure there remains a lot that is still undiscovered in Cumbria."

World's Oldest Joke?

Well, I'm sure this isn't the oldest joke in the world - just the oldest recorded instance of a joke. Jokes have most likely been around since humankind first appeared! An interesting report, nonetheless, and I thought the jokes are rather funny! From and Technology World's Oldest Joke Traced Back to 1900 BC July 31, 2008 LONDON (Reuters) - The world's oldest recorded joke has been traced back to 1900 BC and suggests toilet humor was as popular with the ancients as it is today. It is a saying of the Sumerians, who lived in what is now southern Iraq and goes: "Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap." It heads the world's oldest top 10 joke list published by the University of Wolverhampton Thursday. A 1600 BC gag about a pharaoh, said to be King Snofru, comes second -- "How do you entertain a bored pharaoh? You sail a boatload of young women dressed only in fishing nets down the Nile and urge the pharaoh to go catch a fish." The oldest British joke dates back to the 10th Century and reveals the bawdy face of the Anglo-Saxons -- "What hangs at a man's thigh and wants to poke the hole that it's often poked before? Answer: A key." "Jokes have varied over the years, with some taking the question and answer format while others are witty proverbs or riddles," said the report's writer Dr Paul McDonald, senior lecturer at the university. "What they all share however, is a willingness to deal with taboos and a degree of rebellion. Modern puns, Essex girl jokes and toilet humor can all be traced back to the very earliest jokes identified in this research." The study was commissioned by television channel Dave. The top 10 oldest jokes can be viewed at (Reporting by John Joseph; Editing by Steve Addison) Copyright 2008 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Saudis Ban Pet Dogs and Cats

Isis sent me this article. Unbelievable! Unbelievable. Next up on the agenda: banning women. Yep, I expect the Saudi government to start culling females soon. Saudi Arabia bans sale of dogs, cats in capital By DONNA ABU-NASR, Associated Press Writer Thu Jul 31, 2:26 PM ET RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Every single man knows: Walking a dog in the park is a sure babe magnet. Saudi Arabia's Islamic religious police, in their zeal to keep the sexes apart, want to make sure the technique doesn't catch on here. The solution: Ban selling dogs and cats as pets, as well as walking them in public. The prohibition went into effect Wednesday in the capital, Riyadh, and authorities in the city say they will strictly enforce it — unlike previous bans in the cities of Mecca and Jiddah, which have been ignored and failed to stop pet sales. Violators found outside with their pets will have their beloved poodles and other furry companions confiscated by agents of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, the official name of the religious police, tasked with enforcing Saudi Arabia's strict Islamic code. The commission's general manager, Othman al-Othman, said the ban was ordered because of what he called "the rising of phenomenon of men using cats and dogs to make passes at women and pester families" as well as "violating proper behavior in public squares and malls." "If a man is caught with a pet, the pet will be immediately confiscated and the man will be forced to sign a document pledging not to repeat the act," al-Othman told the Al-Hayat newspaper. "If he does, he will be referred to authorities." The ban does not address women. The Saudi-owned Al-Hayat announced the ban in its Wednesday edition, saying it was ordered by the acting governor of Riyadh province, Prince Sattam, based on an edit from the Council of Senior Islamic Scholars and several religious police reports of pet owners harassing women and families. Commission authorities often do not formally announce to the public new rules that they intend to implement. Officials from the commission and Riyadh city government could not be reached for comment Thursday, which is a weekend day in Saudi Arabia. The English-language Arab News reported on the ban Thursday. So far, the prohibition did not appear to have any effect in Riyadh. It's extremely rare, anyway, to see anyone in the capital walking a dog — much less carrying a cat in public — despite the authorities' claims of flirtatious young men luring girls with their pets in malls. Salesmen at a couple of Riyadh pet stores said Thursday they did not receive any orders from the commission banning the sale of pets. Cats and dogs were still on display. "I didn't hear of the ban," said Yasser al-Abdullah, a 28-year-old Saudi nurse, who was at one pet store with his 3-month-old collie, Joe. Al-Abdullah, who also owns an 8-month-old Labrador, said a couple of Western friends had been told to get off the streets by the religious police for walking their dogs. "I won't allow the commission to take my dogs from me," he said. The religious police prowl streets and malls throughout the kingdom, ensuring unmarried men and women do not mix, confronting women they feel are not properly covered or urging men to go to prayers. They also often make attempts to plug the few holes in the strict gender segregation that innovations bring. In 2004, for example, they tried to ban cameras on cell phones, fearing that men and women would exchange pictures of each other — though the prohibition was quickly revoked. There was no word whether commission authorities intend to expand the dog and cat ban beyond the capital. The prohibition may be more of an attempt to curb the owning of pets, which conservative Saudis view as a sign of corrupting Western influence, like the fast food, shorts, jeans and pop music that have become more common in the kingdom. Although it has never been common to own pets in the Arab world, it's becoming increasingly fashionable among the upper class in Saudi Arabia and other countries such as Egypt. In Islamic tradition, dogs are shunned as unclean and dangerous, though they are kept for hunting and guarding. In large cities around the Middle East, stray dogs are considered pests. [This may be because the most ancient association of dogs is with Goddesses - death goddesses and huntress goddesses. Islamic scholars ignore their religion's own expropriation and incorporation of ancient Saudi goddess symbols and rituals and seek, instead, to stamp out all religious association of god with the Divine Feminine. Foolish men. They can never stamp out the Goddess. In many of the earliest board games we know about, the gaming pieces were called "dogs." In many areas throughout the world where chess was/is played by "natives," dogs replaced some of the playing pieces in hand-carved chess sets.] The ban on cats is more puzzling, since there's no similar disdain for them in Islamic tradition. One of the Prophet Muhammad's closest companions was given the name Abu Huraira, Arabic for "the father of the kitten," because he always carried a kitten with him and a number of traditional stories of the prophet show Muhammad encouraging people to treat cats well. [Guess Muhammad had a soft spot for the ancient goddess Sekhmet, depicted as a lioness; or perhaps the goddess Bast, depicted as a sleek cat with long curving tail].

The Strongest Women's Tournament

Frank "Boy" Pestano's column: Friday, August 01, 2008 Pestaño: The strongest women’s tournament By Frank “Boy” Pestaño Chessmoso I SELDOM feature women’s tournaments—not because I am biased—but simply because there are only a few of them. However, if it is billed as the strongest women’s tournament ever, I guess every chess player has a right to know what is it all about. The North Urals Cup is in its third edition and is ongoing in Krasnoturinsk, Russia from July 26 to Aug. 3. Here are the players and their background. I am enumerating their accomplishments as very few chess players know about women chess and it is about time to show them our respect. Koneru Humpy (India) is an International grandmaster with a rating of 2622. She is a semifinalist of the World Cup (2002), semifinalist of the World Women Championship (2004), winner of the super tournament “North Urals Cup” (2005), and first placer in the individual and the team categories (Asian Games 2006). Stefanova Antoaneta (Bulgaria) is an international grandmaster with a rating of 2550. She is the European Champion (2002), Women World Champion (2004), and two-time champion of Russia (team “AVS”) (2005, 2006). She also won 3rd place in the Russian Championship (team “AVS”) (2007), winner of the male GM tournament in Salona (2007) and finished the Gibraltar Masters 2008 with an ELO performance of 2690. Cramling Pia (Sweden) is an international grandmaster with a rating of 2544 and is a WGM since 1982 and International Grandmaster since 1992. She is the women’s European champion (2003), vice-champion of Sweden among men (1987, 2000), winner of the European Club Cup with the team of Monaco (2007). She also won second place in the Ataturk Masters Ustanbul (2008). Sebag Marie (France) is an international grandmaster with a rating of 2529 and a winner of the European Youth Championship (1999, 2000, 2002), two-time champion of France (2000, 2002), and a quarterfinalist of the World Women Championship (2006). [Sebag won her third and final GM norm by virtue of her performance at the 2008 European Individual Chess Championships]. Muzychuk Anna (Slovenia) is another international grandmaster with a rating of 2504. She is the champion of Ukraine among women (2003), Russian, Slovenian, German Club Cup champion, European Club Cup vice-champion with “AVS” (2007), and the winner of the international women tournaments “Moscow Open” and “1st Ladies Open” (2008). Xu Yuhua (China) is an international grandmaster with a rating of 2483 and winner of the zonal tournament (1993, 2001), World Cup (2000, 2002). She is also a member of the World Olympiad Team Champion (2000, 2002, 2004), and is the Women World Champion (2006). Ushenina Anna (Ukraine) is an International grandmaster since 2007 with a rating of 2476. She is the champion of Ukraine among women (2005), member of the Olympiad champion team (2006), member of the third-place finisher in the World Women Team Championship (2007). Pogonina Natalya (Russia) is an international grandmaster with a rating of 2469. She is the European champion among in the 16-Under and 18-Under women (2000, 2003), the European rapid chess 18-Under champion (2003), third placer in the super tournament “North Urals Cup” (2007), vice-champion of European Club Cup with “AVS” (2007), first placer in the Russian team and the second placer in the World Students’ Championship (2008). Here are the standings after the 3rd round: Stefanova 2.5,Ushenina, Sebag, Yuhua 2.0, Pogonina, Muzychuk, Koneru 1.0, Cramling 0.5. Obviously it has been a disappointment for the top seed Koneru who started with two losses against Stefanova and Sebag and Cramling, who is the most experienced, who only has a single draw.

More on the Phaistos Disc

The New York Times picked up the story about the Phaistos Disc possibly being a hoax. (Photo from NYT article by Judith Lange

July 30, 2008, 11:30 am
A Fake Ancient Disc?
By John Tierney

Now that we’ve disposed of the bogus “pre-Columbian” crystal skulls, we can consider a potential new hoax: the Phaistos Disc, whose purportedly ancient text has long resisted scientists’ efforts to decipher it. My colleague Bina Venkataraman explains the newest twist on its inscrutability: The hundred-year-old mystery of a famous ancient artifact, according to one art history scholar, might be summed up with a single word: hubris.

In the current issue of Minerva, an art and archaeology journal, Jerome M. Eisenberg calls the famous Phaistos Disc, thought to be a story or sacred text of unknown but ancient origin, a fraud. The flat, circular clay disc is about six inches in diameter, and its purpose and stamped pictographic script have been the subject of scholarly debate over the last century.

Until now, most scholars believed that Luigi Pernier, an Italian archaeologist, excavated the Phaistos Disc in Crete in 1908. Dr. Eisenberg asserts that Mr. Pernier created the disc himself, because he was jealous of the accomplishments of archaeologists like Federico Halbherr, who discovered the “earliest legal code found in Europe” in Crete in 1884, and Arthur Evans, who excavated the palace at Knossos, also in Crete.

In the article, Dr. Eisenberg builds a case to prove the disc is forged using painstaking detail about its symbols, discovery site and composition. He says that its “cleanly cut” edges and uniformity do not match up with the period’s clay tablets, which were baked only by accident in the fires that destroyed ancient palaces. That the script remains impossible to translate, he added, bolsters the view that Mr. Pernier created it to outshine his contemporaries. At a conference this fall in London, Dr. Eisenberg and scholars who defend the disc as authentic will discuss the artifact’s origins face to face.

Dr. Eisenberg’s argument sounds strong to me, and I’m curious to hear Lab readers’ thoughts on what this little episode says about competition in archaeology. But I’m also happy to hear from anyone who wants to defend Mr. Pernier, and anyone who cares to take a stab at deciphering the symbols and finding a message — maybe something like, “I can’t believe anyone would fall for this scam.” Or just a simple excuse from Mr. Pernier: “Hey, you know what they say: publish or perish.”
*********************************************************************************** There were comments - and a rebuttal:

16. July 31st,2008 7:17 am
Dr Jerome M. Eisenberg has written this article without knowing the work of the French scholar Jean Faucounau. This scholar, author of c. 30 papers and books on the Phaistos Disk’s problem has found the answer to ALL the enigmas which have led Dr Eisenberg to his theory. The conclusion is that the Disk is NOT a forgery — it is NOT “undecipherable” — it is NOT Minoan — its hieroglyphs are NOT borrowed from diverses Civilizations, as written by Dr Eisenberg — etc.The true culprits of this mess are the Redactors-in-Chief of the A.J.A. who have refused to print the reply by J. Faucounau to a biased and erroneous paper published in 2000 in this journal, under the signature of the scholar considered as “THE” best specialist in the field.
Jean-Henriet F.
— Posted by Jean-Henriet Faucounau

Discovering How Greeks Computed in 100 B.C.

From The New York Times By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD Published: July 31, 2008 After a closer examination of a surviving marvel of ancient Greek technology known as the Antikythera Mechanism, scientists have found that the device not only predicted solar eclipses but also organized the calendar in the four-year cycles of the Olympiad, forerunner of the modern Olympic Games. The new findings, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, also suggested that the mechanism’s concept originated in the colonies of Corinth, possibly Syracuse, on Sicily. The scientists said this implied a likely connection with Archimedes. Archimedes, who lived in Syracuse and died in 212 B.C., invented a planetarium calculating motions of the Moon and the known planets and wrote a lost manuscript on astronomical mechanisms. Some evidence had previously linked the complex device of gears and dials to the island of Rhodes and the astronomer Hipparchos, who had made a study of irregularities in the Moon’s orbital course. The Antikythera Mechanism, sometimes called the first analog computer, was recovered more than a century ago in the wreckage of a ship that sank off the tiny island of Antikythera, north of Crete. Earlier research showed that the device was probably built between 140 and 100 B.C. Only now, applying high-resolution imaging systems and three-dimensional X-ray tomography, have experts been able to decipher inscriptions and reconstruct functions of the bronze gears on the mechanism. The latest research has revealed details of dials on the instrument’s back side, including the names of all 12 months of an ancient calendar. In the journal report, the team led by the mathematician and filmmaker Tony Freeth of the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project, in Cardiff, Wales, said the month names “are unexpectedly of Corinthian origin,” which suggested “a heritage going back to Archimedes.” No month names on what is called the Metonic calendar were previously known, the researchers noted. Such a calendar, as well as other knowledge displayed on the mechanism, illustrated the influence of Babylonian astronomy on the Greeks. The calendar was used by Babylonians from at least the early fifth century B.C. Dr. Freeth, who is also associated with Images First Ltd., in London, explained in an e-mail message that the Metonic calendar was designed to reconcile the lengths of the lunar month with the solar year. Twelve lunar months are about 11 days short of a year, but 235 lunar months fit well into 19 years. “From this it is possible to construct an artificial mathematical calendar that keeps in synchronization with both the sun and the moon,” Dr. Freeth said. The mechanism’s connection with the Corinthians was unexpected, the researchers said, because other cargo in the shipwreck appeared to be from the eastern Mediterranean, places like Kos, Rhodes and Pergamon. The months inscribed on the instrument, they wrote, are “practically a complete match” with those on calendars from Illyria and Epirus in northwestern Greece and with the island of Corfu. Seven months suggest a possible link with Syracuse. Inscriptions also showed that one of the instrument’s dials was used to record the timing of the pan-Hellenic games, a four-year cycle that was “a common framework for chronology” by the Greeks, the researchers said. “The mechanism still contains many mysteries,” Dr. Freeth said. Among the larger questions, scientists and historians said the place of the mechanism in the development of Greek technology remained poorly understood. Several references to similar instruments appear in classical literature, including Cicero’s description of one made by Archimedes. But this one, hauled out of the sea in 1901, is the sole surviving example.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Goddess Okota

From The Daily News ( Okota Fiesta : Celebrating the goddess of love and unity By FEMI SALAWU Wednesday, July 30, 2008 After several years of isolation from their cultural heritage, the people of Arigidi-Akoko in Ondo State recently celebrated the maiden edition of Okota Festival between July 21 and 22. The festival which was inspired by the highly benevolent Okota river goddess who generations of Arigidi-Akoko has come to regard as the harbinger of goodwill as well as a major source of refuge during the pre-colonial wars that almost truncated the existence of the town. Okota goddess is a highly revered deity among the people of Arigidi-Akoko and has been credited with potent supernatural powers. Oral tradition has it that, while barren women were being provided with fruits of the womb, afflicted persons had received healing after tasting the water from the Okota river. Apparently, in a drive to reunite with its ancestors and showcase the cultural heritage of the town, the Otunba Gani Adams-led Olokun Foundation organised the two-day fiesta tagged Okota Festival 2008 under the theme: Promoting one of African Deities for Positive Social Change and Development. As a major addition to the main event, the festival featured a beauty pageant on the opening day. The keenly contested event which paraded about 14 participants had Opemuti Oluwabamike, an 18 year-old undergraduate of the University of Ado-Ekiti emerging as the first Miss Okota. The beauty queen walked home with the grand prize of a Mercedes Benz 190 car and is expected to be the face of the Okota Festival for a year. Expressing her gratitude in an emotionally filled voice, Opemuti said, “I want people to know more about the history of Okota river and its contribution to the development of the town.” A situation similar to the Osun-Osogbo Festival was reenacted during the grand finale. As early as 7am, a large crowd comprising villagers and tourists had gathered at the palace of Zaki of Arigidi-Akoko. The palace and its adjourning streets was a beehive of activities ranging from trading to cultural displays. The king, Regent Adebimpe Olanipekun Fagbola offered prayers on behalf of the people to the gods for protection, long life and fruitful farming. Arigidi-Akoko has since been ruled by a regent following the death of Oba Aunmo Olanipekun early last year. Regent Adebimpe Olanipekun Fagbola, daughter of the late king has been holding forth since March last year pending the selection of a substantial royal father which is said to be in progress.Led by the elders of the town and notable sons including Otunba Gani Adams, National Co-ordinator, Odua Peoples Congress (OPC), the crowd filed in a procession to the riverside where sacrifices including a live cow were offered to appease the Okota River goddess. The crowd, which almost became uncontrollable but for the security mounted by OPC members could not be tamed for long. Immediately after the sacrifices, a mad rush to the river ensured as many scooped water from the river and offered prayers not minding the pollution arising from the huge human traffic. For Iya Osun Adewunmi, an Osun-Osogbo priestess who claimed to have been born beside the Okota River, “Whatever problem you bring to the river goddess will be answered. The river goddess welcomes all and sundry but does not condone thieves and liars.” She added: “Our nation is yet to realize the huge impact which occasion like this have on national development. Nigeria was founded with cultural institutions and because of western religion, we have neglected our foundations. This is why we are experiencing what we are seeing today.” While tracing the Okota River to the history of the town, Otunba Gani Adams, one of the illustrious sons of the town noted that at inception, people of the town had maintained a pact to set aside a day annually to celebrate the deity but due to Western civilization, the tradition had long been forgotten. The activity was followed by a special ceremony held at the palace which attracted dignitaries including Hon. Felix Ogunmilade Abboy, executive chairman, Akoko North/West, Oke-Agbe, Mr Segun Ajiboye, chief press secretary to the governor of Ondo State and several traditional rulers. Other attraction at the event include cultural displays and performances including Ewi rendition by veteran Yoruba actor Sulaiman Ayilara a.k.a Ajobiewe. Ajobiewe's performance, which was accompanied by dance interpretation by his troupe, was followed by different cultural displays by groups from neighbouring towns. The curtain fell on the Okota Festival 2008 celebration with a performance by popular fuji musician, Saheed Osupa who thrilled the audience with several indigenous lyrics. While commending Gani Adams for his great vision towards bringing the attention of the world to the town, the Regent called on indigenes of Arigidi-Akoko within Nigeria and in the Diaspora to join in the efforts to revive traditional institutions in the town as well as showcase its tourism potentialities to the world. Ambassador Segun Olusola, who graced the event commended Gani Adams for promoting Yoruba culture. The elder culture activist also expressed his joy at the efforts of cultural orientation by the Regent of the town who had spent a part of her life to build a professional career as Mortgage Broker with JP Morgan in America. The elder statesman also called on government to throw its weight behind the Okota Festival.

Deysi Cori Wins World School Chess Championship

30 July, 2008 [ 10:45 ] Peru's Deysi Cori wins World School Chess Championship in Singapore Young Peruvian chess player, Deysi Cori, won today the World School Chess Championship in the Under-15 category in Singapore, after defeating Vietnamese Thi Mai Hung Nguyen. 15-year-old Deysi Cori achieved 7.5 points during the eighth round of the tournament, which was unattained by her nearest competitors. The young female chess champion is followed by Indonesian Dewii Aa Citra, with 5 points; and Mongolian Anu Bayar, also with 5 points when there is only one more round to play. As if that were not enough, her brother Jorge Cori is only half a point away from winning the world championship in the Under-13 category. Jorge played today with Indian Pranav Zantye and achieved 7 points, while Iranian second seed, Idania Pouya, has 6 points.Peruvian Jorge Cori will face Indonesian Masruri Rahman for the world championship tomorrow. News source: ANDINA

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Giant Chessboard Attracts Audiences

In a sea of non-stop bad news in the press, this is good news. I believe this report is out of Savannah, Georgia ( JULY 29, 2008 The Miller Gambit BY ROBIN WRIGHT GUNN LAST TUESDAY evening in Forsyth Park, Autumn Hennessy sat in silence on a shaded park bench south of the big fountain. With her mother nearby, Autumn sat alone among 40 or so people observing the first night of play on a giant chess board painted in muted green and beige on the park’s concrete walkway. At the age of “almost 5,” Autumn was far younger than most others watching the inaugural series of chess matches. Out for her regular early evening stroll with her mother Suz and infant sister Esmee, Autumn observed the goings-on like an old pro. “I like the green and white, and the chess pieces,” she said. “The black team got four pieces, and the white. They’ve got the same amount.” As of last week, giant outdoor chess is new to Savannah, but not to Autumn. “You saw them in Portugal, remember Autumn?” prompted her mother, recalling a vacation last year, prior to the family’s move to Savannah from their home in England. “I don’t remember that.” She paused. “Okay, I do,” she said, then lost interest in the game to pat the head of Lexi the dog, out on a walk with her owner, publisher Frederic Beil. Like the Hennessy’s and Beil, Inoussa Kouama stumbled by chance onto the newly painted board game. A native of Burkina Faso, Kouama was on his way to catch a bus back to his southside home, after meeting with local community leaders in hopes of launching a Pan-African Festival in Savannah later this year. “I think it’s cool, seeing people play games instead of doing something else,” he said. “I watched my dad play since I was a kid. My dad is a politician. Politicians like to play chess.” Perhaps that’s why Chatham County Commission Chairman Pete Liakakis was among the spectators on Tuesday. Other movers and shakers on hand included SEDA Director Rick Winger, Assistant City Manager Chris Morrill, and public relations superstars Marjorie Young and Jennifer Abshire. The chess board has been in the works for several months, starting as an idea in the head of Chris Miller, the guy with the pony tail and the paradoxical “gee whiz/can-do” attitude. To garner enthusiasm for the chess board, Miller used the same “do it yourself and work with the system” approach that pulled together local support for his past projects — The Creative Coast Initiative (now The Creative Coast Alliance) and lectures by urban visionaries Richard Florida, James Kunstler, and Charles Landry. After securing permission from the city’s Park and Tree Department, Miller took a live oak tree leaf to a paint store to create a matching green concrete stain for the dark colored chess board squares. “The beige is the trim color from buildings at Park and Tree,” said Miller. “Department director Dave White was very enthusiastic about the idea, and helpful in shepherding it through” the approval process. For several weekends last month, Miller painted the board onto the concrete himself, with help from a few Forsyth Park regulars he met along the way. Preliminary help also came in the form of another Miller—Willie Miller, a downtown fixture and whiz at chess, who helped test out the two-to-three feet tall pieces on Gaston Street earlier this summer. Miller played two matches Tuesday, winning the first and losing the second. “You know they do this in Europe all the time,” he said. “I like the whole ordeal, it’s comfortable, relaxing, it’s a peaceful, thinking game.” After watching several matches, Chris Miller stepped up to the board, taking on opponent K.C. Drummer, familiar to many downtowners for making flowers out of palmetto fronds. “You have a lot of spectators coming by which I’ve never seen before,” said Drummer. “It’s very promotable.” “It’s not going to change the world, eliminate poverty, or improve the schools. But all it takes is one kid to see something new that he hasn’t seen before and have it change his life in some small measure,” said Miller. “Chess teaches kids strategy, delayed gratification, how to lose gracefully. It’s a metaphor for success in life. Of all the things I’ve done, this is the one I’m the most proud of.” Hours for the Forsyth Park chess games are Saturdays and Sundays, noon-5 p.m.

Nigerian Women Battle for Olympiad Spots

Chess Trial: Adegboyega, Jeje Lead Others to Final StageBy Femi Solaja 07.29.2008 After four days of intense chess display, 12 players have qualified for the final stage of the World Chess Olympiad trial put together by the Nigeria Chess Federation (NCF) which was rounded up at the National Stadium, Lagos Sunday. Adebayo Adegboyega, a veteran of several World Chess Olympiads, showed shades of genus in the middle games as he led 29 others with 5.5 points out of seven games Swiss-round event in the male section out of which six players qualified for the final stage of the trial. The other five qualifiers in the category are: Benjamin Omorere also with 5.5 points, Kolade Onabogun, Ajibola Olanrewaju, Charles Campbell and Bomo Kigigha all who finished with five points respectively. In the crucial final game, veteran Campbell exploited his better prowess in Nimzo Indian Defence (b6) on move four over youthful John Fawole, who failed to keep the tempo in white colour and a dubious h4 move on 48 gave his opponent’s light Bishop a wide control of the board and at the brink of time forfeit cause an exchange of Queens but when the smoke cleared, the young prodigy was a pawn down and surrendered on move 73. In the female action, the trio of Elizabeth Coker, Tolu Jeje and Uwa Obasi led the final qualification with five points each while Modupeola Adesanya, Folusayo Togun and veteran Rachael-Edward Dappa all picked the remaining slots for a chance in the final Olympiad trial which will come up next month from 13th-17th at the SWAN Secretariat at the National Stadium, Lagos. The final trial will be held on a round robin basis and will produce three players from each category while the two from Nigeria Players in Diaspora will make up the remaining two to complete the five players that will represent the country at the World Chess Olympiad in Dresden Germany in November.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Who's That Lady?

Amidst the colorful decoration of the Shriners Temple replete with Art Deco artifacts (such as the gold-leaf brass torchier lamp still with original fixture and shade), gold leaf paint details and soft leather-upholstered chairs (the original tapestry had, alas, long since worn off and could not be affordably replaced), Michelle strikes a Las Vegas Diva pose for photographer dondelion.

Humpy Falls Twice in North Urals Cup

Unprecedented as far as I'm aware - GM Koneru Humpy has lost her first two games in this elite women's event! She lost R1 as white to Stefanova; she lost R2 as black to Sebag. Game 3 started at 3:00 p.m. today. Does this mean that Koneru is overrated as the second highest rated female player in the world? I don't think so. What I do think is that several of the players at this year's North Urals Cup are underrated because they play mainly in women-only events (Marie Sebag may be the exception, as she recently earned her third and final GM norm playing in the Men's section at the Individual European Chess Championships).

A Queen's Desperate Cry for Help

From Last update - 21:43 27/07/2008 'The land, my lord, will be lost forever' By Ran Shapira "To the king my lord and my sun: These are the words of your servant, Belit-nesheti [literally, "mistress of lions/lionesses"]. I fall at the king's feet seven times over. I must tell the king that this country is witnessing [acts of] hostility and that the land of the king, my lord, will be lost forever." A Canaanite queen from one of the cities in Palestine's lowland sent this desperate request in the 14th century B.C.E. to Pharaoh, king of Egypt. The name of the city ruled by Belit-nesheti is not mentioned in this letter or in others that depict violent acts that aroused in her a justified feeling that she was facing a dire threat. During that period, the city of Gezer, and the Ajalon and Sorek valleys were the scene of events that seriously challenged the rule of Belit-nesheti and other monarchs. In another letter, she conveys the following information: "The Apiru have written to Ajalon and Zorah and the two sons of Milkilu [king of Gezer] have been almost beaten to death. I must inform the king of this act." In yet another letter, she relates that one of the cities in the area under her rule has fallen to the Apiru, and she calls to the king, "I beg the king to save his land from the hands of the Apiru, before it is too late." The Apiru, mentioned in various documents from different parts of the ancient Near East, were a people that had been uprooted from society and which had abandoned its native land. They formed bands that engaged in robbery and in the collection of protection money, and they served as mercenaries whom the rulers of the various Canaanite cities under Egyptian rule at the time recruited as a military force when they wanted to attack their enemies. The Apiru were supported by the powerful rulers of neighboring cities who sought to seize control of her city. Her cries for assistance from Pharaoh, who was during this period the supreme ruler of the region and of a number of Canaanite cities, elicited no response, as indicated by the findings that have recently been discovered in Tel Beit Shemesh, about a half-hour's drive from Jerusalem. Prof. Shlomo Bunimovitz and Dr. Zvi Lederman, both of Tel Aviv University's Sonia and Marco Nadler Institute of Archaeology, have been conducting excavations there since 1990. In their scholarly opinion, the city was devastated in a monstrous wave of violence; the remnants extant from that massive act of destruction have been uncovered in the past few weeks. In Tel Beit Shemesh, site of this ancient Canaanite city, archaeologists have discovered entire walls that collapsed in a huge fire, which apparently occurred in the mid-14th century B.C.E. Evidence of the desperate attempt made by Belit-nesheti and her subjects to defend their city is provided by bronze arrowheads discovered among the fallen bricks. They perhaps indicate that the capture of the city was preceded by a battle. Belit-nesheti's letters are part of a collection of letters written in cuneiform in the Akkadian language (the lingua franca of that era) on clay tablets, that was discovered in the late 19th century in Egypt in Tel Amarna, which is located midway between Cairo and Luxor. The letters belong to the royal archives of King Amenhotep IV, the husband of the celebrated Nefertiti. He carried out a religious revolution, transferring the royal capital from No-Amon (present-day Luxor) to Amarna. The king, who changed his name to Akhenaten, deposited in the archives of the new capital some of the royal correspondence dating from the reign of his father, Amenhotep III. After Akhenaten's death, his son, the boy-king Tutenkhamun, abandoned the new religion, which was a form of sun worship, and returned to the old capital. Apparently, the clay tablets that were left at Amarna, which are the remnants of what the Egyptian foreign ministry's archives contained in the 14th century B.C.E., bear the texts of letters that dealt with matters that had already been agreed upon; the Egyptian officials no longer needed them for their contacts with neighboring world powers or with the governors of the Canaanite cities that were under Egyptian control. The archives also contain letters that, like those from Belit-nesheti, were sent by governors of these Canaanite cities to the Egyptian king. The letters are primarily complaints about neighboring rulers and about the precarious security situation in Canaan under Egyptian rule. They also contain numerous reference to the Apiru. Most of the letters are signed by men; thus, Belit-nesheti, the female governor of a city (a very high position), is an exception in this male-dominated environment. Scholars have noted that, except for the letters quoted here, we have no information on Belit-nesheti's family or biography or on the circumstances that led to her playing such a high-profile rule; what is clear that she was extremely unusual for women of her era. Full article.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

The Goddesschess Muses

Who are those gorgeous women? Mix beauty with brains and you get us - three of the women behind Goddesschess! That's me on the left (no longer sporting my auburn locks), Isis and Michelle (who is sporting auburn locks this summer). Photo taken by dondelion on 7/25/08.

Barbados Seeks to Develop Women's Chess

From the Chess pushing to revive the number of ladies on the board Web Posted - Sun Jul 27 2008 Vice President of the Barbados Chess Federation (BCF) Rohan Waithe has plans he is eager to set in motion, and one of them is the development of women's chess in Barbados. Speaking to Barbados Advocate Sports, Waithe, who is also the Member Development officer with the association, pointed out, " For the immediate future, we will be looking to revive the Barbados Ladies Chess Association, with the aim of making tangible efforts at increasing the number of females playing.The Inter-school girls has not yet been played this year, but it is vital if we are seriously looking at taking ladies chess to a higher level. We have many bright sparks among the junior girls, and with sustained coaching and high-level competition, this should augur well for the future." He noted, "We have a vibrant inter-school programme with over 300 students from primary and secondary school taking part in this years inter-school tournament, along with 75 players in the under-12 national championships. There are several juniors who came through this programme who have done well regionally like Justin Blackman, Martyn Del Castilho, Shamel Howell and Alex Jackman. However, what we need to do is get the transition from the Junior ranks to senior ranks. In the past, we had several clubs in various communities, so that outside of school, juniors had an opportunity to play chess with seniors. We need to urgently revive those community clubs." "We will soon have a big international junior tournament, the Sagicor Barbados Junior Open Tournament starting August 11. We are also sending Male and Female teams to the World Chess Olympiad in Dresden Germany in November, he added. "Over the next few years, our goal has to be producing another International Master, along with Kevin Denny. This means providing training for our best juniors and seniors. We would need to have an ongoing coaching programme probably sourcing coaching from overseas. To sustain this development we need to look at regional tournaments such as the Pan-American and Central American Tournaments. This is essential as we need to play high level chess constantly," Waithe argued. Waithe acknowledged that hosting tournaments as well as travelling even regionally is costly. "Naturally funding is also a major concern, we are grateful for the assistance of the Barbados Olympic Association (BOA), National Sports Council (NSC), and corporate Barbados." (AP)

North Urals Cup 2008

The event has started - I visited the website a few minutes ago, no standings available yet from Round 1. Here is a link to a press report about the opening ceremony and press conference, etc. by Anna Burtasova, with a smoking photo of Antoaneta Stefanova.

Chess History: Article by Carmen

Carmen Romeo (chief librarian, research assistant and widow of chess historian IM Ricardo Calvo) has an article published at the Spanish language Chessbase: La Valencia literaria del siglo XV, el manuscrito de Schacs d’amor y sus tres autores. The English translation will be published at Goddesschess when we receive it.
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