Saturday, January 17, 2009

The Gault Site

Until I read this article, I had no idea that the Gault site had been a "pay to dig" site or that it had been subject wholesale to looting. 1929 - this dude Pearce is considered a revered figure in archaeology? More like a looter himself - just like Woolley (Ur) and Carter (King "Tut's" tomb, Egypt) and the other so-called "archaeologists" of that era. They were all out to find gold treasure trove, like Schliemann had a few generations before at Troy. I'm more of an archaeologist than they ever were - and I have no formal training whatsoever! (Image: Clovis point, Gault site) The second interesting point of this article is that it points to pre-Clovis peoples here in North and South America and, specifically, at the Gault site. Well - duh! Archaeological evidence of this has been uncovered at other sites scattered across North American for at least the past 20 years (maybe even longer than that). However, vested interests and reputations are at stake - it would NOT do to admit one was a bit hasty in interpreting existing evidence at the time, oh no! Can't do that - what would happen to the textbook contract and all the papers written IGNORING all available evidence at the time? In this day and age of the internet and instant communications, can that kind of academic arrogance continue to stand? The Gault site Written by Chris Dyer Friday, 16 January 2009 The Gault Site, located northeast of Florence off FM 2843, is considered one of the premier archeological discoveries in North America. James E. Pearce, known as the Father of Texas archeology, excavated the site in 1929. Texas’ first professional archaeologist, Pearce also served as the chairman of the University of Texas’ anthropology department in the 1920s and was instrumental in founding the Texas Memorial Museum in Austin. Pearce-led excavations, spanning eight weeks at the Gault Site — named because of its original location on the farm of Henry and Jodie Gault — revealed a wealth of information. For the next 60 years, collectors and looters gained access to the site and focused their search for valuable artifacts on the upper deposits. For a while, archaeologists believed that all of the levels of human occupation at Gault had been destroyed. Up until 1998 the location had been operated, on and off, as a commercial pay-to-dig site where anyone could dig, sometimes for as little as $10 a day. Property ownership changed hands and the pay-to-dig days were over. In 1990, a collector discovered two incised stones sandwiching a Clovis point. Luckily, the looters and collectors had left the site’s deeper layers containing Clovis deposits relatively undisturbed. Clovis culture defines a period of thousands of years (from 9,000 to 13,500 years ago), and does not just define the people at Gault. The term encompasses all people using Clovis technology, first discovered in Clovis, N.M. The archaeologists at Gault are studying all the different patterns of human activity, which span many thousands of years, and comparing the data to other sites all over the continent to better understand the Clovis culture as a whole. “The Gault School is interested in the larger question of the peopling of the Americas — who were the first peoples, what were they like and where did they come from?” Clark Wernecke, director of the Gault School of Archaeological Research in Austin, said. “Discoveries at Gault, right here in Central Texas, include 65 percent of all known excavated Clovis materials and play an important part in this discussion. If we were to discover artifacts below the Clovis strata, that part becomes even more important.” Wernecke said an estimated 1.7 million artifacts, 600,000 of which are Clovis age, have been recovered from Gault. Archeological evidence reveals that the most common food source at Gault was small amphibians and turtles, and people lived at the site for extended periods of time. This contradicts the idea that all people of the Clovis culture were nomadic and survived solely by following herds of mammoth and other large game across the continent. Remains of mammoth turn up at Gault, but not as frequently as evidence of a host of other food sources. Archaeologists are focusing their efforts on excavating areas below the Clovis layer and are attempting to determine if Gault will yield evidence of people who lived in Central Texas prior to 13,500 years ago. Deep tests conducted at the site have repeatedly turned up evidence of pre-Clovis occupation. The Gault Project team wants to construct an interpretive center at the site, complete with walking trails where people can learn about Central Texas’ history and environment. The site is open by appointment, and Gault staff and volunteers give guided tours. To volunteer or schedule a tour or field trip, visit Chris Dyer is the director of The Williamson Museum, 716 S. Austin Ave., Georgetown.
Some information on the Gault Site - and photographs.

Zip Your Lip If You've Seen The Virgin Mary

From The Independent. Catholics ordered to keep quiet over Virgin visions By Jerome Taylor and Simon Caldwell Tuesday, 13 January 2009 Catholics who claim they have seen the Virgin Mary will be forced to remain silent about the apparitions until a team of psychologists, theologians, priests and exorcists have fully investigated their claims under new Vatican guidelines aimed at stamping out false claims of miracles. The Pope has instructed the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, formerly the Holy Office of the Inquisition, to draw up a new handbook to help bishops snuff out an explosion of bogus heavenly apparitions. Benedict XVI plans to update the Vatican's current rules on investigating apparitions to help distinguish between true and false claims of visions of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, messages, stigmata (the appearances of the five wounds of Christ), weeping and bleeding statues and Eucharistic miracles. Monsignor Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, a respected Spanish Jesuit archbishop, has been placed in charge of drawing up the handbook, known as a "vademecum", which will update the current rules set in 1978. According to Petrus, an Italian online magazine which leans towards conservative elements in the Vatican, anyone who claims to have seen an apparition will only be believed as long as they remain silent and do not court publicity over their claims. If they refuse to obey, this will be taken as a sign that their claims are false. The visionaries will then be visited by a team of psychiatrists, either atheists or Catholics, to certify their mental health while theologians will assess the content of any heavenly messages to see if they contravene Church teachings. If the visionary is considered credible they will ultimately be questioned by one or more demonologists and exorcists to exclude the possibility that Satan is hiding behind the apparitions in order to deceive the faithful. Guidelines for the approval of apparitions and revelations were last issued in 1978. They lay down that a diocesan bishop can "either on his own initiative or at the request of the faithful" choose to investigate an alleged apparition. He then submits a report to the Vatican for approval.
I'm no religious historian or a follower of the Roman Catholic Church (I ran from that church as soon as I was old enough to defy my parents and say no, I'm NOT going), but seems to me that Benedict is so paranoid about the admittedly Marian legacy of his predecessor, Jean Paul II, that he is bending over backwards to remove ALL mystery from the Roman Catholic religious experience (not that great to begin with, believe me). Hmmm.... And is it just my imagination, or is something really strange going on here - Taylor Caldwell??? That is the combined name of the last names of the two authors of this article. Taylor Caldwell is one of my favorite authors - her actual name was Janet Miriam Holland Taylor Caldwell. I didn't agree with her politics (I'm an unabashed LIBERAL) but the woman sure could write about the workings of families and the inner dialogs that constantly take place within a human being. Given what she wrote about, I'm sure Taylor Caldwell would be smiling and nodding and going "yep," about this article...

Corus 2009

This excellent chess event has expanded and increased its lustre over the 11 years I've been following chess events online. This year there is no female player in Group A (the elite group), but in Group B WGM Hou Yifan of China (2571) and in Group C IM Harika Dronavalli (IND 2473) are playing against the chess dudes. Round 1 is played today: H. Yifan - R. Kasimdzhanov (no results as of the time of this post) A. Gupta - D. Harika 0-1 Yeaaaaahhhhh! Dronavalli has won her game, but at the expense of her fellow countryman!

Chess: Top-Rated Women in the World

The No. 1 female chessplayer in the world is still GM Judit Polgar. Actions speak louder than words - and Polgar has amply demonstrated how difficult it is to maintain an elite chess rating while also trying to be a full-time mom. For the first time in a long time, Polgar has dropped below 2700 ELO on the combined ratings list (that is, men and women). In the January, 2009 FIDE reporting period, she dropped from 27th on the list (I remember as if it was yesterday when she was one of the top 10 players in the world) to 36th, and her ELO is currently 2693. Say what!?! Unbelievable. I never thought I'd see JP below 2700 or out of the top 20 players in the world. Don't get me wrong, darlings! Her rating is not mince-meat! But given her recent performances and the continued decline in her overall standing on the FIDE list relative to other players, can she still be considered an "elite" player - one of the so-called "super" GMs? Here are the other women who, in the world of female chessplayers, are the elite. To make the top 100 in the world, one needs an ELO of 2634. Of the elite female players other than Judith Polgar, only Koneru Humpy is close: 1 Polgar, Judit g HUN 2693 8 1976 2 Koneru, Humpy g IND 2621 6 1987 3 Hou, Yifan wg CHN 2571 15 1994 4 Stefanova, Antoaneta g BUL 2557 25 1979 5 Cramling, Pia g SWE 2548 15 1963 6 Muzychuk, Anna m SLO 2540 36 1990 7 Sebag, Marie g FRA 2529 15 1986 8 Dzagnidze, Nana g GEO 2518 26 1987 9 Chiburdanidze, Maia g GEO 2516 14 1961 10 Kosteniuk, Alexandra g RUS 2516 8 1984 11 Zhao, Xue g CHN 2508 16 1985 12 Arakhamia-Grant, Ketevan m SCO 2500 32 1968 13 Ushenina, Anna m UKR 2499 32 1985 14 Kosintseva, Tatiana m RUS 2497 25 1986 15 Cmilyte, Viktorija m LTU 2497 24 1983 16 Danielian, Elina m ARM 2496 18 1978 17 Ruan, Lufei wg CHN 2496 0 1987 18 Zhu, Chen g QAT 2496 0 1976 19 Zhukova, Natalia wg UKR 2490 16 1979 20 Lahno, Kateryna g UKR 2488 15 1989

India Loses Chess Pioneer

From the January 17, 2009 Subbarayan passes away BANGALORE: India’s first international chess arbiter and veteran chess administrator L.S. Subbarayan died here on Friday following a cardiac arrest. He was 79 and is survived by wife, son and a daughter. Mr. Lalgudi Saptharishi Subbarayan, who was born in Mysore was the son of illustrious mathematician Saptharishi Iyer of Mysore University. ‘LSS’, as he was affectionately called, worked in the Postal Department in Chennai till 1964 and also served as secretary of the Madras Chess Association. After his transfer to Mysore, he became the secretary of the Mysore State Chess Association and later became the treasurer of the All India Chess Federation. Subbarayan qualified as an International Arbiter in the Asian women’s championship held at Hyderabad in 1978 and was also the arbiter for the Grandmasters event held in Bangalore in 1981. — Special Correspondent

Friday, January 16, 2009

Do Not Attempt To Do This Alone...

Hola! I'm still home from work - going stir crazy! Milwaukee is in the deep, deep freeze for the second day in a row and Milwaukee Public Schools were once again shut down because of dangerous windchills. The forecast promises the beginning of moderating temperatures later this evening, and I understand that the windchills outside right now are in the low teens below zero instead of 35 below zero as they were this morning. It is so deceptive looking outside. The sun is shining brightly (it was yesterday, too) and the winds are not as strong today as yesterday, but the air temperature is colder today than yesterday so the net result is the same. My house has been snapping, crackling, popping and groaning all week as the temperatures plunged - I'm amazed it's still standing! During the day the sun is strong enough to evaporate away all the frost built up inside the windows (it comes back, as if by magic, overnight). So, enough about the weather. I'll be going into the office tomorrow to start to make up for lost time and so I've been working like a maniac yesterday and today trying to get my new room and the guest room in order. The Christmas tree and all Christmas decorations are still standing... Changes since my last redecorating recap:
  • My favorite old still life print came down from my room - I just could not reconcile the reddish orange and orange flowers in the bouquet with the red in my new comforter. But I am not banishing the print back to the closet - I think it will look great in the guest room.
  • Following P's advise about using the back-up new stuff in the guest room, the black and cream paisley print comforter and pillow shams that have been piled in one of the closets for over two years now reside in the guest bedroom, along with one set of the striped curtains that formerly graced my new bedroom. I made up the bed last night; hung the new curtains this morning.
  • I also moved the black/white gingham check sheet set to the guest room, minus the pillow cases, which remain in my room for needed geometric contrast with the red/black/white plaid comforter and the traditional black/cream toile curtains. I substituted plain white pillow cases on the guest room pillows. I also removed the white piquet bed skirt from my bed to the guest room where the 14" drop fits just right on that bed, the bottom hovering just above the carpet.
  • My room is temporarily without a bedskirt, but not for long! I just checked the mail and a new black 18" drop bedskirt arrived via priority mail, over which I will install the 14" drop black and cream striped bedskirt pilfered from the paisley print "bed-in-a-bag" set. Once ironed and wrestled into place (anyone who has ever put a bedskirt on a bed with mattress already on it will know what I mean), they will complete the look of my bed emsemble to perfection!
At present, the three bookcases and filing cabinet from the former den have been emptied and dragged/pushed/carried into my former room, which is a gigantic mess, albeit a roomy mess without the bed, and soon it will seem even bigger when the triple dresser is moved into my new room. (Photo: Some contents of the bookcases temporarily stashed on the floor in my new room). While cleaning out the bookcases, I discovered old bank statements some dating all the way back to 1984 - six years before I moved into this house! (Photo: Rearranging one's house means drinking lots of cheap boxed wine and keeping a constantly replenished glass of same close to hand - here are some of the ancient bank statements stashed in shoe boxes and laying lose on the counter in the kitchen). I suspect, although I can't prove - that they illicitly bred and multiplied like rabbits some time during 1996... There are bags of my old Regency romances, adventure and mystery paperbacks stashed all over, including the upstairs bathroom. I will sort through them, keeping only my absolute favorites, freeing up valuable shelf space for my ever-growing collection of chess books and tomes on ancient civilizations and history. (Photo: In my former bedroom with its pink walls, where the desktop computer and digital t.v. now sit, some of the paper bags filled with paperbacks, historical and topical research in manila folders, a collection of archaeology magazines, and various tomes and papers on ancient history and chess). Feeling frisky today (as I said, stir crazy), I decided I would attempt to move the triple dresser from my new room into the guest room all by myself, despite its size, and also move the triple dresser from my former room into my new room. I figured, how heavy can a dresser be with all the drawers removed? Well, the dresser in the guest room wasn't too heavy once I got my hips into it, except I ran into a slight problem. As I was shoving it along toward the door suddenly it stopped - the top of the mirror hit the top of the door frame! The mirror is taller than the door frame! Eek! After fortifying myself with a big glass of wine and a couple of microwaved White Castle cheeseburgers, I tackled the impediment. I was able to easily enough loosen the bolts holding the mirror on to the dresser, but I was not prepared for how HEAVY the mirror was! I mean, darlings, I knew it would be heavy but I swear this thing weighs 100 pounds, maybe 200 pounds (well, all right, 100 pounds). Thankfully, my back was hard up against a wall when I pulled out the last bolt and gingerly worked the mirror off the top of the dresser toward me. I expected weight, but not a TON! Amazingly, I did not drop the mirror and therefore all my toes are still on my feet. There is not even a dent in the wall where I rammed back with the weight of the mirror. I don't know exactly how, but I did manage to get the mirror safely to the floor. Whew! No longer a joke, I guess I must have arms like Popeye, or am strong like bull. Not to worry - before I attempt to move the dresser from this room (the new den/computer room/library), I will measure how tall the combined dresser with mirror is against the height of the doors - just eyeballing it I think I will make it with half a foot to spare - piece of cake! More heaving, shoving, tugging and pulling is on the agenda - but I'm nearly finished with the hard stuff in the bedrooms, yippee! I've been doing fun stuff in-between times while resting (lots of heavy breathing and aerobic workout of the heart muscle is involved when moving furniture by one's self, and that entails lots of rest breaks) -- shopping on the internet for new accessories and art work! It seems not a single thing I have had hanging in this house for nearly 20 years will go with the new color schemes in the bedrooms (other than the lovely old still life - see above). What I am going to do with all the old, accumulated stuff? I dread the thought of a rummage sale. Maybe I'll just hang it all on the walls in the den/library/computer room wherever I can fit it in (I have lots of maps I constantly consult that will go up on the walls first) and be damned with color and style coordination -- after dondelion finishes repainting the room when he visits in May.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Stonehenge" in Lake Michigan?

This may be one of those "don't eat that, Elmer" stories. From Stonehenge in Lake Michigan? Potentially pre-historic stone formation discovered deep underwater By MATT BARTOSIK Updated 8:36 AM CST, Thu, Jan 8, 2009 The iconic Stonehenge in the UK is one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in the world, but it is not the only stone formation of its kind. Similar stone alignments have been found throughout England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales… and now, it seems, in Lake Michigan. According to BLDGBLOG, in 2007, Mark Holley, professor of underwater archeology at Northwestern Michigan College, discovered a series of stones arranged in a circle 40 feet below the surface of Lake Michigan. One stone outside the circle seems to have carvings that resemble a mastodon—an elephant-like animal that went extinct about 10,000 years ago. Archaeologists had been hired to survey the Lake's floor near Traverse City, Michigan, and examine old boat wrecks with a sonar device. They discovered sunken boats and cars and even a Civil War-era pier. But among these expected finds was a potentially-prehistoric surprise. "When you see it in the water, you're tempted to say this is absolutely real," Holley told reporters at the time. "But that's what we need the experts to come in and verify." Specialists involved in the case are skeptical and want to gather more info before making a judgment. The problem? "They want to actually see it," said Holley. "Experts in petroglyphs generally don't dive, so we're running into a bit of a stumbling block there." The formation, if authenticated, wouldn't be completely out of place. Stone circles and other petroglyph sites are located in the area. While Chicago has an interesting and colorful history of its own, it's exciting to think that a North American version of Stonehenge could be sitting just over 200 miles away. Copyright NBC Local Media / NBC Chicago First Published: Jan 8, 2009 7:50 AM CST
I'll say this for Dr. Holley - he's a cutie in the publicity photo (but he probably doesn't look like that anymore, he looks about 12 in that photo). If this is the same Dr. Mark Holley as referenced in the article, he's got credentials so he's not necessarily blowing smoke when it comes to his reported discovery of a stone circle 40 feet below the surface of Lake Michigan. Okay - did a little digging, found a photo. Hmmm, doesn't look like a stone circle at all, just a bunch of rocks and stones in no particular order. And here's a photo of the "mastadon" carved rock. Come to think of it, I do recall something about this mastadon carving story, I don't remember if I blogged about it or not - or if we posted the story at Random Round-up at Goddesschess. I guess one has to be a trained archaeologist to see the mastodon in that rock, even with the helpful red outline drawn on the image!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Mummy Dearest

Poor Mummy! Story from the Otago Daily Times (Dunedin, New Zealand) Mummy facing up to more scrutiny By John Gibb on Wed, 14 Jan 2009 However the Otago Museum's bandage-swathed mummy may have looked 2300 years ago, it certainly wasn't like film star Elizabeth Taylor. But Taylor's memorable portrayal of Cleopatra in the movie of the same name has left its mark, Dave Wright, the museum's collections, assets and research director, said yesterday - so much so that many people think any female Egyptian mummy would look like her. The museum will reveal more of its mummy's secrets at its "Egypt Unwrapped" day on January 28. A non-intrusive CT scan of the mummy at Dunedin Hospital in 2000, which was used to create a three- dimensional computer model, showed the mummified woman was not exactly a raven-haired beauty when she died. She had only six teeth and was likely to have been racked with pain from severe gum disease, including abscesses. She was aged about 35 - at a time when many people did not live much beyond 40 - and is believed to have been middle-class. Carbon-dating of linen from the mummy's wrappings and other analysis shows she lived during the Ptolemaic period (323BC to 30BC). The mummy was bought in Egypt by Dunedin businessman and philanthropist Bendix Hallenstein and given to the museum in 1893. On the Egypt theme day, museum visitors will see what University of Otago forensic specialists and others have done to reconstruct a facial likeness using only the skull of an unidentified person. Late last year, they used the 3D computer model of the mummy's skull to cast an exact copy in resin. This will be displayed, along with two plaster heads cast from it. They will be covered in clay, with a computer program used to calculate facial soft-tissue depths on the face and head. One head will be painted with skin-like tones to give an impression - believed to be about 95% accurate - of the Egyptian woman's appearance. This Saturday, the museum will also launch a contest encouraging the public to draw their predicted likeness of her. Mr Wright said the project was applying science to the mysteries of the past. "There's a hint of seeking the unknown."

Redecorating Bedroom Update

My "new" bedroom (the former guest room) did not stay static for long. I first added a second set of pillows to the bed, dressed in a cream and black diamond-vine print. Then I added the posts to the bed (they had been stashed in a closet). I liked how that turned out. I next added two of my experimental photograph prints done in grey-scale and framed them in a couple of frames and mats I had stashed in a closet. I love how they look, but they don't show up very well in photos and, indeed, look rather lost above the bookcase. They seem to anchor that space in person much better than in the photographs I took, hmmm...
Then I decided that the white and black striped curtains were too summery for this weather, and replaced them with a pair and a half of Waverly toile curtains I purchased a couple of years ago - and never got around to putting up in my former bedroom because I never got around to repainting it, etc. etc. Then I switched out the black/white checked top sheet with a top sheet that matches the print on the pillows against the headboard, keeping the black and white check on the fitted sheet and second set of pillow cases. It was bothering me that the space above the headboard was BARE. When this room was the guest room, I had a very nice framed print of magnolias in primarily jewel-toned colors above the head board, and it suited the colors in the "bed in a bag" I used in that room perfectly. I am still trying to decide what to do with that space (plates? a new print or prints? some other decoration flanked by sconces?), but in the meantime, I dug out a VERY old print I originally purchased back in 1978. It still has its original mat that has been repainted several times over the years - I used the most recent incarnation (done in bronze and gold paint sponged over the prior wine-red color, which had been painted over a prior mix of green and blue, which had been painted over the original mat of reddish-orange). I like how it looks in the room, but in the photo, it seems to lose something in translation. Because the window on the right is much narrower than the window on the left, only one panel of the toile curtains covers it adequately, so I temporarily threw the second curtain panel over the wing chair in the corner. Not sure that chair will stay. At present, I think I will move it into the new guest room; it coordinates with that color scheme. I am thinking about moving a very old wing chair from my former bedroom into my new bedroom and buy a slipcover for it, since it's color does NOT remotely match anything in the new room! Or perhaps get a new chair and leave the old wing chair in what will become the den/library. I love that old chair, it's very comfortable! I bought it new in 1986 when I moved into my first house. It is a bit wider than the current wing chair in my new bedroom, so I'd need to do a bit of tweaking with furniture arrangement. I could be equally comfortable in that lovely old chair in the new den/library. So, things are up in the air with respect to the chair at present... Things are still in transition. I haven't yet ordered throw rugs, and I'm still hemming and hawing about whether to order a pair of buffet lamps for the dresser (not show in photos) that I found on line that I absolutely fell in love with. Also, I'm not certain the old still-life print I have above the bed is the right "fit" - I may move it to above the bookcase and try some other arrangement above the headboard, or stash it somewhere else in the house. It IS one of my favorite prints, I hate the thought of putting it back in the closet. I keep thinking I should do something with toile pattern plates - but not sure that's really "me." On a lark I also printed out and framed one of the recent squirrel photos I took during the last major storm (we've had so many I forget which one, I think it was the one just before Christmas holiday), and I love how it looks - but it doesn't exactly fit in with a "toile bedroom" motif, LOL! On the other hand, I am SO bored with the cheap botanical prints that have been hanging in the small upstairs hallway for nearly 20 years, I took them down and tonight I put the sole squirrel print up in the vacated space. It looks lonely all by itself and I am thinking I will add one, two and possibly three additional squirrel prints, so I will have my little furry friends to greet me every morning on the way to the bathroom. I did order an 18" bedskirt in black - I cannot abide that 4" gap between the standard 14" bedskirt and the floor! More purchases may follow, although I AM trying to be economical. Tonight I actually pulled out craft paints to repaint my old bedroom lamp. And although its current shade is cheap and tacky looking, it is still in perfect shape, and the aged color will go very well with the ivory colored background in the toile curtains in the "new" bedroom. Decisions, decisions...


Windchills have dropped to between 30 and 40 below zero F - no way I'm going to work tomorrow or Friday - can't make the walk to the bus stop without risking frostbite and I'm too cheap to pay the $60 round trip it would take for a taxi (including tip) to go to and from the office. Arrrggggh! I hate using "paid time off" days for something like this. On the plus side, I will be able to continue the total tear-down and revamp of the upstairs bedrooms. The weather is supposed to turn on Saturday and I'll be headed to the office to make up for lost time. In the meantime, I hope to make further progress on switching out the upstairs rooms here. Tomorrow I tackle the bookcases, eek! The past several days I've been experimenting with printing out photos since dondelion and my return from Las Vegas. I've also been experimenting with "effects" and printing photos in "grey scale" (something offered in my Microsoft images program) and "black and white" (something offered in my Ritz Pics program). Now if I could only figure out how to get my specially doctored-up Microsoft images to print centered in 5x7 or 8x10 size on my photo paper, I would be a very happy camper. But I haven't been able to figure that out, drat! Ritz Pics does print out beautifully centered photos with a nice border all the way around, but the photo quality cannot be adjusted and is not as crisp and clear as what I can generate in the Microsoft images program. So, I've been tinkering, and tinkering, and much so, I've been neglecting just about everything else! On the other hand, I have managed to produce some absolutely stunning photo prints. And - I may have found a sort-of solution -- tonight I discovered that I can import images from "My Photos" into the Ritz Pics program! It is in "My Photos" that I can do the digital magic to create special effects on an image, so I will do some further experimenting...

Monday, January 12, 2009

Egypt hands over stolen goddess to Iraq

Mon, 12 Jan 2009 04:57:56 GMT Egypt hands over an ancient Iraqi statue made of bronze, which was stolen from Iraq, to the country's Charge d'Affaires in Cairo. Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), Zahi Hawass, while returning the statue of an ancient goddess at a ceremony on Sunday to Abdel Hadi Ahmed, said the stolen bronze statue had been stolen from Iraq and was found as an Egyptian man was trying to smuggle it into Egypt. He said the statue was to be smuggled via the port of Nuweiba, in the Sinai Peninsula. According to SCA, the artifact, depicting a standing woman, was verified by an archaeological committee as an authentic Mesopotamian antique. Since the US war on Iraq in 2003, numerous Iraqi antiquities have been stolen out of Iraq, a country with rich cultural heritages. FTP/MMA

More on Scientific Basis for Sex-Based Differences in Chess Performance weighs in on recent study about the differential in chess performance between males and females and what accounts for it: Why Men Rank Higher than Women at Chess (It's Not Biological) January 12th, 2009 by Lisa Zyga in General Science / Other ( -- In the recorded history of chess, world champions have always been male, not female. Further, there is currently only one woman in the top 100 chess players in the world. Because chess is often considered to be the ultimate intellectual activity, male dominance at chess is often cited as an example of innate male intellectual superiority. But rather than resort to biological or cultural explanations, a recent study proposes a different explanation. A team of researchers from the UK has shown that the under-representation of women at the top end in chess is almost exactly what would be expected, given the much greater number of men that participate in the game at all. Researchers Merim Bilalic, et al., have published their research on this statistical sampling explanation in a recent issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The authors analyzed the population of about 120,000 German players as recorded by the German chess federation in April 2007. Based on more than 3,000 tournaments per year, the German chess federation measures the skill level of all competitive and most hobby players in the country (the rating correlates highly with the widely known Elo rating). The sample population included 113,386 men and 7,013 women (a ratio of 16:1). First, the researchers estimated the expected performance of the top 100 male and top 100 female players. Then, they compared the expected differences in points between these high-ranking male and female players with the actual point differences. Theoretically, the size difference between the male and female groups should correspond to the point differences between the top performers in the two groups. The results showed that the top three women had more points than expected, the next 70 or so pairs showed a small advantage for the men, and the last 20 pairs showed a small advantage for the women. Overall, men performed slightly better than expected, with an average advantage of 353 points, whereas the expected advantage was 341 points. Nevertheless, about 96% of the actual difference between genders could be explained by the statistical fact that the extreme values from a large sample are likely to be larger than those from a small one. In the study, the scientists also discussed the question of why so few women participate in chess at all. While it's possible that there exists a self-selection process based on innate biological differences that leads women to drop out of chess early on, this argument rests on a controversial assumption, the researchers say. That is, it requires that there is an innate difference between genders in the intellectual abilities associated with chess - an assumption that has little empirical evidence to support it. Whether or not statistical sampling covers all the bases of explaining male superiority in chess, the researchers hope that the explanation will be considered by both experts and laypeople. In previous discussions of gender difference, there is often no mention of participation rates, although a wide range of other reasons receive attention (e.g. different interests and gatekeeper effects, etc.). In addition, the researchers question whether a statistical sampling explanation might explain the predominance of men at the top of science and engineering fields - although performance in these activities is much more difficult to measure than in objectively ranked chess populations. More information: Bilalic, Merim; Smallbone, Kieran; McLeod, Peter; and Gobet, Fernand. "Why are (the best) women so good at chess? Participation rates and gender differences in intellectual domains." Proceedings of the Royal Society B. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2008.1576. © 2009

Evidence for Ritual Sacrifice at Armenian Cave Site

From Armenian cave yields ancient human brain Excavations have produced roughly 6,000-year-old relics of a poorly known culture existing near the dawn of civilization By Bruce Bower Web edition : 12:59 pm PHILADELPHIA — In a cave overlooking southeastern Armenia’s Arpa River, just across the border from Iran, scientists have uncovered what may be the oldest preserved human brain from an ancient society. The cave also offers surprising new insights into the origins of modern civilizations, such as evidence of a winemaking enterprise and an array of culturally diverse pottery. Excavations in and just outside of Areni-1 cave during 2007 and 2008 yielded an extensive array of Copper Age artifacts dating to between 6,200 and 5,900 years ago, reported Gregory Areshian of the University of California, Los Angeles, January 11 at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America. In eastern Europe and the Near East, an area that encompasses much of southwest Asia, the Copper Age ran from approximately 6,500 to 5,500 years ago. The finds show that major cultural developments occurred during the Copper Age in areas outside southern Iraq, which is traditionally regarded as the cradle of civilization, Areshian noted. The new cave discoveries move cultural activity in what’s now Armenia back by about 800 years. “This is exciting work,” comments Rana Ă–zbal of Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey. A basin two meters long installed inside the Armenian cave and surrounded by large jars and the scattered remains of grape husks and seeds apparently belonged to a large-scale winemaking operation. Researchers also found a trio of Copper Age human skulls, each buried in a separate niche inside the three-chambered, 600-square–meter cave. The skulls belonged to 12- to 14-year-old girls, according to anatomical analyses conducted independently by three biological anthropologists. Fractures identified on two skulls indicate that the girls were killed by blows from a club of some sort, probably in a ritual ceremony, Areshian suggested. Remarkably, one skull contained a shriveled but well-preserved brain. “This is the oldest known human brain from the Old World,” Areshian said. The Old World comprises Europe, Asia, Africa and surrounding islands. Scientists now studying the brain have noted preserved blood vessels on its surface. Surviving red blood cells have been extracted from those hardy vessels for analysis. It’s unclear who frequented Areshi-1, where these people lived or how big their settlements were. No trace of household activities has been found in or outside the cave. Whoever they were, these people participated in trade networks that ran throughout the Near East, Areshian proposes. Copper Age pottery at the site falls into four groups, only one of which represents a local product. A group of painted ceramic items came from west-central Iran. Some pots display a style typical of the Maikop culture from southern Russia and southeastern Europe. Still other pieces were characteristic of the Kura-Arax culture that flourished just west of Maikop territory in Russia. Radiocarbon dating of pottery and other Copper Age finds pushes back the origins of the Maikop and Kura-Arax cultures by nearly 1,000 years, Areshian says. Additional discoveries at Areni-1 include metal knives, seeds from more than 30 types of fruit, remains of dozens of cereal species, rope, cloth, straw, grass, reeds and dried grapes and prunes. A hard, carbonate crust covering the Copper Age soil layers, along with extreme dryness and stable temperatures inside the cave, contributed to preservation of artifacts and, in particular, the young girl’s brain. Medieval ovens from the 12th to 14th centuries have also been excavated at the cave’s entrance, underneath a rock shelter. Areshian expects much more material to emerge from further excavations at Areni-1 and from explorations of the many other caves bordering the Arpa River. “One of these caves is much larger than Areni-1, covering about an acre inside,” he said.

The Mayans Suffered for Their Beauty

Whoever said "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" sure had that right! Reading about these "beauty" treatments made me feel queasy. Come to think of it, watching "The Swan" and "Extreme Makeover" made me queasy, too. From The Times Online January 13, 2009 Norman Hammond, Archaeology Correspondent We may think we make sufficient sacrifices for our idea of beauty, what with false eyelashes, body perforations supporting various bits of metalwork from earrings to tongue studs, toupees and hair extensions, Spanx and padded bras. The Ancient Maya went much farther, however, reshaping their children’s skulls and inlaying their own teeth with jade. “The Maya went to extreme lengths to transform their bodies,” Professor Mary Miller reports in the new year issue of Archaeology, the US journal. “They invested vast wealth and endured unspeakable pain to make themselves beautiful.” As an example, Professor Miller cites K’inich Janaab’ Pakal, who ruled the western Maya city of Palenque from AD615 to 683, and after his death at the age of 80 was interred in a great carved sarcophagus below the Temple of the Inscriptions. His skeleton shows that soon after his birth, his head was strapped between two cradle-boards to compress it from back to front, not unlike the crystal-skulled aliens in the recent Indiana Jones film. This left an indentation above his browline, which was emphasised by an artificial nasal bridge, probably of clay or plaster, built up on to his forehead. Although this does not survive in the burial, a stucco portrait head found below the sarcophagus shows it clearly. The head also shows that Pakal’s hair was cut in a series of bluntly trimmed tresses, with longer strands on top flopping forward, which Professor Miller interprets as imitating the leaves and corn silk on a maize plant: at the site of Cacaxtla, Maya-style murals show maize cobs on the plant as human heads. Pakal was shown as ever-youthful, like the maize that springs up anew each year. Pakal’s front teeth were filed into an inverted T-shape, marking him as also being the Sun God, something shown on his jade burial mask as well. For many Maya, notably those of the elite, dental decoration was seen as highly desirable. Teeth, especially the upper incisors and canines were filed and notched in a variety of designs, giving in some cases a distinctly crooked smile. Most striking, however, were the dental inlays: a shallow hole was drilled into the front face of the tooth enamel (using a reed or bone hollow drill and an abrasive such as sand or jade dust), sometimes reaching the dentine within. Small discs of jade, obsidian or haematite were then cemented into the holes: the plant adhesive was so powerful that many burials found by archaeologists today still have the inlays firmly in place. Up to three discs were inserted into a single tooth, and jade and the other materials were combined to give a flash of apple-green, dull red and shiny black across the mouth; inlays and filing were also combined. Dental decoration was probably applied as a rite of passage to adulthood, according to Professor Stephen Houston, of Brown University, Rhode Island. The Maya also painted their bodies, in life and in death. Narrative scenes on polychrome vases show pigments applied to face, chest and buttocks. In death, Pakal’s corpse was treated with alternating layers of red and black pigments, Professor Miller reports. Red to the Maya was the colour of the sunrise, black of the sunset, alternating with each other in the diurnal cycle. Some facial designs are in the form of long strings of dots, especially around the mouth, and when this is shown in sculpture or vase-painting it may be intended to show tattooing rather than just make-up. “Beauty was a way to display social, if not moral, value among the ancient Maya,” Professor Miller concludes. “The wealth they invested and pain they endured to create bodies that reflected their social beliefs make our modern-day obsession with beauty seem less excessive.” Archaeology Vol 62 No. 1: 36-42

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Article on Rusudan Goletiani

A great article on one of the Bronze Medal winners for the U.S. Women's Chess Olympiad Team (Dresden 2008). Yaaahhhhh! (Photo: Goletiani at the 2008 Scandanavian Womens Open). From (Lower Hudson Valley, New York) Master resumes classes in Westchester By Stacy A. Anderson • The Journal News • January 11, 2009 HARTSDALE - Rusudan "Rusa" Goletiani, 28, has defeated some of the best chess players in the world. Just back from her most recent accomplishment - taking a silver individual medal and sharing the bronze with the U.S. Women's Chess Team at the World Chess Olympics in Germany, she resumes teaching the game to students from age 5 to senior citizens at the Westchester Chess Academy today. Goletiani said competing as a team member was more challenging than playing for herself, since she didn't want to let others down. "It puts more pressure on you because you are not only playing for yourself, but playing for the team," she said. "But Russia and China are very strong, so it was a big accomplishment for us." The Hartsdale resident, co-director of the Westchester academy, grew up in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, where her father taught her chess when she was 6 (the Georgia team took the gold medal in Germany). By age 9, Goletiani had won the Soviet Junior Championship for girls and was the Soviet representative in the 1990 World Youth Chess Tournament for Peace in Wisconsin. As a teen, she won two Russian championships and three world junior championships. For the love of chess and to seek a better life, she moved to the United States in 2000 when she was 19. She lived in Brooklyn and began learning English before working as an instructor at a chess camp in Pennsylvania. Goletiani then moved to Yonkers and began giving private lessons while working as a baby sitter and housekeeper for a Scarsdale family. A chance meeting with the children's chess teacher landed her a job as an instructor in public school programs through the National Scholastic Chess Foundation. "He said, 'What are you doing here,' " Goletiani said with a laugh, as she recalled defeating the teacher in two games. She continued teaching at local schools while competing professionally. She won the North and South American Continental Chess Championship in Venezuela in 2003. The same year, she married Mancho Surguladze and moved to Hartsdale. In 2005, Goletiani won the U.S. Women's Championship in San Diego. She placed second the following year. After three years of teaching through the foundation, Goletiani and a colleague, Mike Amori, started the Westchester Chess Academy in Rye. The school teaches about 50 students each semester from Westchester, Connecticut and the Bronx. "We share the same philosophies," said Amori, who has taught chess for 12 years. "It's hard work, and you have to train and get past what's available at the surface. You have to make a commitment and push it." "In chess," Goletiani added, "You need to be pushed to the next level. We both love chess a lot, and we both love working with kids. "As long as they are interested, the age doesn't matter," she said. Goletiani took a break from competition to have her daughter, Sophie, in 2007. She returned to open tournament competing last year and placed third in the country, qualifying to compete in the World Chess Olympics a second time. Goletiani said winning two medals in Germany was a worthwhile achievement. She played 11 rounds, about five hours each, during the world games. "At the end, when you win, you feel content because the hard work has paid off," she said. Her students, including Scarsdale resident Fred Wang, also appreciate her talent and hard work. He played chess as child and took it up again after a 40-year hiatus. Wang, who has taken lessons with Goletiani for two years, referred to her as a hidden treasure. "She brings tremendous vibrancy and calculating abilities," he said. "She makes the game exciting."

Good Chess News from India

I wish wish wish a national newspaper of the same status in the US as The Hindu is in India would cover chess here as The Hindu does there. Does McClain's blog at The New York Times come close? - Nah. Hetul Shah stuns Ibrayev Rakesh Rao Monday, January 12, 2009 NEW DELHI: Globally, there could not have been a better advertisement for the growing chess talent in the country than the one provided by the nine-year-old Hetul Shah. He became the “youngest” in the world to beat a Grandmaster when he maintained an accurate continuation against Kazakh Nurlan Ibrayev and prevailed in 44 moves to pull off the opening round stunner in the seventh Parsvnath International Open chess tournament here on Sunday. Further, if any evidence was needed of the depth of country’s chess strength, then Kozhikode’s 45-year-old O. T. Anil Kumar produced one by bringing down top seeded Ukranian Alexander Areshchenko in the second round to complete the biggest upset of the 10-round competition. Hetul was the star of the day until Anil hogged the spotlight. In the Ruy Lopez game, Hetul benefitted from a generous pawn sacrifice by Ibrayev, rated nearly 600 points above. [Over confident?] The GM then went on to sacrifice one more pawn but Hetul held on to the advantage and forced his unsuspecting rival to give up his queen in search of victory. Hetul, rated 1817, then pushed his central pawn menacingly and compelled Ibrayev to give up. Hetul’s distinction The All India Chess Federation treasurer and organiser Bharat Singh Chauhan said he had confirmation from the World Chess Federation (FIDE) that Hetul was indeed the youngest ever to beat a GM. Hetul broke the Indian record of his ‘hero’ Parimarjan Negi. [Negi is a rising Indian star]. The Delhi-boy set the record when he scored over Switzerland’s Ivan Nemet in the Biel Masters in 2004 at the age of 11 years five months. Negi improved upon the record set in 1995 by Surya Shekhar Ganguly in the Goodricke Open at the age of 11 years 11 months. The results (Indians unless stated): Second round: Alexander Areshchenko (Ukr, 1) lost to O. T. Anil Kumar (2); Pradip Ghosh (1) lost to Yuriy Kuzubov (Ukr, 2); Surya Shekhar Ganguly (2) bt Vinoth Kumar (1); Manish Mehra (1) lost to Parimarjan Negi (2); Yuri Solodovnichenko (Ukr, 2) bt Vaibhav Suri (1); Rajkumar Apollosana (1.5) drew with Evgeny Gleizerov (Rus, 1.5); Abhijit Kunte (2) bt Tejas Ravichandran (1); K.V. Shantaram (1) lost to Anuar Ismagambetov (Kaz, 2); Saidali Iuldachev (Uzb, 2) bt Jitendra Kumar Choudhary (1); Javed Mohammad (Ban, 1) lost to Shukrat Safin (Uzb, 2); Mikhail Ulibin (Rus, 2) bt Shiven Khosla (1); Kiran Manisha Mohanty (1) lost to Petr Kostenko (Kaz, 2); S. Vinay Bhat (1) lost to G. V. Sai Krishna (2); Rupankar Nath (1) lost to Dibyendu Barua (2); Neelotpal Das (2) bt Shardul Gagare (1); Amrutha Mokal (1) lost to P. Magesh Chandran (2); R.R. Laxman (2) bt Maxim Ivanilov (Kaz, 1); Vinod Bhagwat (1) lost to M.R. Lalith Babu (2); M.R. Venkatesh (1.5) drew with Dushyant Das (1.5); M.G. Gahan (1.5) drew with P. Konguvel (1.5). Important first round results: Dasharathi Sahoo lost to Areshchenko; Saripalli Niraj lost to Ganguly; Negi bt Vasantad Wettasinha (Sri); Gleizerov bt M. Natarajan; Anuar Ismagambetov bt S. Anjana Krishna; R. Sriram lost to Ulibin; Kostenko bt Aman Chahal; Johnharry Pereia (Sin) lost to Bhat; Magesh bt Ramesh Adhikari; Bheem Dutt Pandey lost to R.R. Laxman; Nandan Kumar lost to Venkatesh; Konguvel bt Kapil Gupta.

Susan Polgar's Texas Column

Here is SP's weekly column (minus the puzzle) from the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Online. I thought it was especially fine this week. Polgar: Best chess game of 2008; several tournaments planned in Lubbock Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Sunday, January 11, 2009 Story last updated at 1/11/2009 - 5:53 am Upcoming chess tournaments in Lubbock The question of the week is which was the most brilliant chess game in 2008? That is a good question. There were many spectacular games played last year. Therefore, it is hard to select just one. However, the following game is one that stood out in my mind. Perhaps it is because it took place not long ago at the Dresden Chess Olympiad. This magnificent win by Grandmaster Akopian helped Armenia capture back-to-back gold medals in the 2006 and 2008 Olympiads. Grandmaster Vladimir Akopian (Armenia) - Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (France) Dresden Chess Olympiad (8), Nov. 21, 2008 1. e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3 e6 7.Be2 Qc7 8.a4 b6 9.f4 Bb7 10.Bf3 Nbd7 11.Qe2 g6 12.0-0 e5 13.Rad1! Amazingly White can ignore the threat against the attacked knight. 13...Be7 If black accepts the sacrifice by 13...exd4, White gets an excellent position after 14.Bxd4 Bg7 15.e5. 14.fxe5 Nxe5 Perhaps 14...dxe5 would have been better. 15.Bh6 A good move to prevent Black from castling kingside. 15...Bf8 16.Bxf8 Kxf8 17.Qe3 h6? This is a mistake. Better would have been 17...Kg7, and if 18.Qg5 Qc5 19.Kh1 Nxf3 20.Qf4 Qe5. 18.Bh5! Qe7 Of course 18...Nxh5? would not work, because of the fork with 19.Ne6+, thanks to the pin on the f-file. 19.Bxg6! A nice combination! 19...Nxg6 If 19...fxg6, 20.Rxf6+! Qxf6 21.Rf1 Qxf1+ 22.Kxf1 with a clearly better endgame for White. 20.Nf5 Qe5 21.Qxb6 White gets a number of pawns for the sacrificed bishop, plus the black king is in danger. 21...Bxe4 22.Qxd6+ Qxd6 23.Nxd6 Bxc2 24.Rxf6! This is another elegant move, sacrificing the rook on d1 to end the game in a few more moves. 24...Ra7 If 24...Bxd1 25.Rxf7+ Kg8 and after the quiet 26.Nd5, Black is helpless against the checkmate threat with Nd5-f6. 25.Rd2 Kg7 26.Rf3 1-0 Black resigned as the material loss is unavoidable. For example, if 26...Bb3 27.Nf5+ Kh7 (or 27...Kg8) 28.Ne4, while after 27...Kf6 28.Nd4+ wins. Please keep questions and comments coming by e-mailing me at See also www.SPICE and for more information. The Susan Polgar Foundation (a non-profit 501(c)(3) foundation) would like to continue to develop structured, chess for success after-school programs in every elementary school in Lubbock, but we need your help. Please consider working with us by helping sponsor after-school programs in local grade schools. Chess combines so many important qualities in life, such as concentration, focusing and planning ahead, social communication, precision, research, psychology, time management, responsibility, and discipline. These qualities must be developed, and they can be practiced through quality chess instruction. Such practice is crucial for young people in our community right now. We provide supplies, organize chess programs, and support teachers and students. Donations are tax deductible and can be forwarded to the Susan Polgar Foundation 6923 Indiana Ave. (No. 154) Lubbock, TX, 79413. Upcoming chess events in Lubbock • Knight Raiders' Open Scholastic Chess Championship, Feb. 7. A 5 Round Swiss System Tournament (Game/30) Event site: Texas Tech Student Union Building, Lubbock. Four rated sections: Primary (K-2), Elementary (K-5), Middle/High School (K-12) + parents / coaches. There is a total of 30 minutes maximum per player per game. • "Get Smart! Play Chess!" Spring Scholastic Chess Championship, March 7. A four-round Swiss System Tournament (Game/30) Event site: Science Spectrum 2579 S. Loop 289, Lubbock, TX Five rated sections: Primary (K-2), elementary (K-5), middle school (K-8), high school (K-12) and quads for adults. There is a total of 30 minutes maximum per player per game. There are two unrated sections where USCF memberships are not required: K-5 and 6-12 plus parents/coaches. For more information on these events, call (806) 742-7742; e-mail or visit or SUSAN POLGAR is a professional chess player, champion and founder of the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence at Texas Tech,

Bare Bones Bedroom!

I have the essentials in place in my new bedroom (formerly the guest room). The curtains have been ironed and hung (I found my iron!!!), the dust ruffle was ironed and put in place, the mattress rotated and freshly-laundered mattress pad put on, and the bed made up with new sheets, new pillowcases and new comforter. Old artwork has come off the walls, leaving spots where I need to scrub and nail holes to patch! My clock radio has been installed on the bookcase (what is a bedroom without a bookcase and a clock radio?) The bed is now acceptably comfy, although the room is bare bones. The red floral print draped over the wing chair is one of the valances for the windows, but since the windows in my new room are smaller than the windows the valances were meant for, I do not think I will install them - also, the curtains I put up already have their own attached valances. I may experiment and use them for a mini canopy on the wall over the bedstead... By the way, that IS a copy of Katherine Neville's "The Fire" on top of the bookshelf next to the lamp. I need a slipcover for my wing chair, which has pink, maroon and dark blue stripes (goes with the decor of the former guest room) - or a new chair, which is easier said than done! It's not so easy finding a comfortable chair small enough to fit in the space I have. My old lamp on the dresser (not in the photos) is pink and white. I need to repaint the base (what color?) and get an updated shade (what style, size and color?) - the shade that I have at present has definitely seen better days! I bought it at Woolworth's so long ago I can't even remember how old it is anymore - Woolworth's has been gone from Milwaukee for at least 10 years! I have no artwork to coordinate with the new color scheme, and no area rugs to go down over the carpet. I don't really need area rugs, although I like the look and extra plushness and warmth of a rug on top of a rug in the winter (they are taken up during the summer months when all curtains and accessories in the house are swapped out for more "summery" fare) and they also help protect my nearly 20 year old(!) carpeting from wear and tear. I feel another shopping trip coming on...Jan single-handedly trying to keep the economy going through deficit spending!

Article on Alexandra Kosteniuk

Story from the Miami Herald Online (Image - from my archive - Kosteniuk at the 2007 European Team Championships) World chess queen plots her next move The women's world chess champion is a 24-year-old Russian aspiring model who lives with her husband and baby in Key Biscayne. BY EVAN S. BENN January 11, 2009 The best women's chess player in the world flipped a dirty diaper into the trash as she pondered her next move after a dominating year. "I want to open a chess academy online, keep training, doing the podcast," South Floridian Alexandra Kosteniuk said during a recent stroll with her baby, Francesca. "But right now, my priority is being a mommy." Kosteniuk, 24, won the Women's World Championship in her homeland of Russia in September. After several months of traveling the globe, Kosteniuk, her husband, Diego Garces, and their 20-month-old daughter are settled back at their home in Key Biscayne. An aspiring model who uses her good looks to promote chess, Kosteniuk has been compared to Russian tennis knockout (and Miami Beach resident) Anna Kournikova. (Kosteniuk debunks the comparison by noting that she has won individual tournaments, a feat the other Russian cannot claim.) But, like Kournikova, Kosteniuk has managed to broaden her sport's appeal by selling her combination of talent and beauty. About 3,000 people subscribe to her podcast at, and about 10,000 others log on each month to her website, where they can see photos of Kosteniuk in bikinis and buy her instructional DVDs. "It's the most popular chess site out there," said her husband, 49, who is also her webmaster and publicist. They met at a chess demonstration that Kosteniuk hosted in Switzerland, Garces' home country. He is an attentive handler, lugging oversize chess pieces to photo shoots and making sure that certain shots are off-limits -- nothing promiscuous and no photos of the hubby, please. The pair decided to make South Florida their home because Kosteniuk prefers the weather to Moscow's, and Garces' parents live here. An added perk: They are close to the World Chess Hall of Fame, situated just off the turnpike in West Kendall, where there is an Alexandra the Great exhibit highlighting Kosteniuk's successes. The museum is not the only one trumpeting her talents. The chess news site hails her "very analytical, incisive mind and an extremely determined spirit." She learned to play from her father when she was 5 years old. The young prodigy advanced so quickly that she was soon playing games blindfolded and dominating European tournaments. She made it to the finals of the World Championship in 2001 when she was 17 but lost. She continued her climb to the top, becoming the 10th woman to earn the rank of international grandmaster. Jerry Hanken, president of Chess Journalists of America, says he hopes she will inspire more women and young people to play. But after giving birth prematurely to Francesca in April 2007, Kosteniuk took time away from the game. She trained with fellow grandmasters and got into a daily running regimen that led her to enter several South Florida 5K races. She returned to Russia this past fall to win the World Championship -- good for a $60,000 prize and a jewel-encrusted tiara. (It's about as big a payday as professional chess players see; Kosteniuk's income comes in small doses from regional exhibitions and by selling merchandise from her website.) The title hasn't brought Kosteniuk worldwide fame. She gets noticed sometimes in Moscow, but "in Miami, I'm just like anyone else." And that, she said, is fine with her. "The modeling is just a hobby. What I really want is for people to enjoy chess the way I do." When the time is right, the champion said, she "of course" will teach her daughter to play. In the meantime, she plans to keep playing, keep studying and keep up with diaper duty. "Being a mommy is much harder than chess," she said. "But playing chess has taught me how to predict and analyze the next move. I'd say that's pretty useful in chess and in life." Miami Herald intern Carolina Navarro contributed to this report.
Darlings, I love Alexandra Kosteniuk. Years ago when I had the Chess Goddesses website online, I did an interview with her before she became the international chess star she is today. But to say that her website with 10,000 visitors a month is the most popular chess website on the internet? Even I, naive as I am, know better than that. Hell, this blog gets about 10,000 visitors a month! I'm sure sites such as The Week in Chess, Chessbase, Mig's Daily Dirt, Chessville and Susan Polgar's blog get a lot more than 10,000 visitors a month. Did he perhaps mean 10,000 visitors a day and the reporter mis-interpreted? All power and glory to Alexandra Kosteniuk. I'd love to see her successfully defend her world title next cycle (if there is one) and I'd love to see her mix it up in more events against guys rated 200 points above her - that's where she will get the experience she needs to truly become a top performer. I'd also love to see her switch her federation to the USA and start playing under the US flag. Is it patriotism and loyalty to her home country that keeps her from doing so, despite what I can't help but see would be more lucrative opportunities playing for the US as a young, beautiful and highly-rated female chessplayer?

Worshipping Women: Onassis Center

Love the title of this article! I'm sure I've blogged about this exhibit at the Onassis Center before; this provides fresh insight. Onassis Center Lets Teen Brides Bathe, Satyrs Romp in N.Y. Show Review by Cynthia Cotts Last Updated: January 6, 2009 00:01 EST Jan. 6 (Bloomberg) -- On a broken piece of pottery, two young girls dance around the altar of Artemis, holding hands and praying that she will ensure their fertility. The painted fragment, found in a well in Athens, is a glimpse of the world inhabited by the women of ancient Greece who, denied a role in political activities, flocked to religious rituals and elaborate ceremonies surrounding marriage and death. It’s part of “Worshiping Women: Ritual and Reality in Classical Athens,” a crisply conceived exhibition at the Onassis Cultural Center in midtown Manhattan that pulls together riches from the Vatican and the Louvre, as well as rarely shown pieces from regional museums in Greece. The stars of the show are the Greek goddesses -- the wise warrior Athena, the huntress Artemis and sex-symbol Aphrodite -- but they share the stage with mortal women who left stone carvings and bronze figurines in the deities’ sanctuaries and poured them daily libations. The show is organized into mini-shrines, matched with photos of the sanctuary grounds as they are preserved today. Its centerpiece is a strapping statue of Artemis, who inspired her prepubescent followers to be athletes and demanded that they be virgins. The statue is on loan from the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, which contributed many of the 155 pieces in the show. Married at 15 Ancient Greece, the birthplace of democracy, was also known as a phallocracy, in which men dominated women. While young men were educated and given a vote, their sisters were traded for marriage at age 15 or earlier. The show aims to refute the stereotype that the women of yore ended up stuck at home, living lives of quiet desperation. The exhibition focuses on work from the 5th century B.C., a time when Greece produced political discourse, oral poetry and art -- but no written chronicles. The art from that period is exquisitely wrought, but shrouded in mystery. Each piece leaves the viewer to imagine: Who created it, in what workshop and to what end? Many of the works here tell a layered story: A volute-krater -- a vessel used to mix water and wine -- is illustrated with two ceremonies: a formal one with a woman preparing to make an offering to the gods; the other, a frolic of maenads and satyrs. Though the rituals often involved animal sacrifice, such violent scenes are rarely seen in Greek art, said Alan Shapiro, a classics professor at Johns Hopkins University, who co-curated the show with Nikolaos Kaltsas, director of Greece’s National Archaeological Museum. Nor do we see wedding nights, though the vases depict the moments leading up to that conventional plot point. Teenage girls were often married to undesirable men twice their age. But as the vase paintings show, when a girl was being handed off to a stranger, her family tried to distract her with sacred water baths and paintings that depicted Eros as a nubile young man. Sexy Pluto Loss of virginity wasn’t always traumatic. On a marble tablet, the goddess Persephone is shown twice: first, attending to her mother, Demeter; and then partying with Pluto, who carted her off to hell. With Demeter, the young deity looks shy and aggrieved; but next to sexy Pluto, she smirks knowingly, eyeing a spread of sweetmeats and cakes. Because the craftsmen left behind no documents, it is difficult to know whether the scenes they painted were the product of observed reality, or visually and emotionally heightened fantasy. The loutrophoros, a vessel used to carry sacred water, also appeared in death rituals. One such vase in the exhibit shows a woman caressing the head of a dead young man; around the curve, a team of men lowering his coffin into the grave. Greek women were skilled at lamenting and beating their breasts. But Shapiro points out a plus-side to funerals: They were a respectable place to chat up members of the opposite sex. “Worshiping Women” runs through May 9 at the Onassis Cultural Center, 645 Fifth Ave. Admission is free. Information: +1-212-486-4448; (Cynthia Cotts is a reporter for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.) Image: Athena, from Tillya Tepe, 1st century CE. Notice the fringe of serpents that serve as the Goddess' "apron." The archaic symbolism still survived into the first century CE. This particular image reminds me of some ancient Egyptian images I have scene of the pre-dynastic Goddess Neith.

Help! In Over My Head!

Oy yi yi. I should have known. I've lived in this house almost 20 years and NOW I'm undertaking a major rearranging project - and my house is a mess! It all started when my desk top mysteriously decided to quit the wireless network that had been working like a charm since I pulled hair out of my head last September setting it up. What's more, it decided to do this on December 23rd, when I was waiting for dondelion to arrive from Montreal and the weather was causing everyone fits, and we were due the next day to depart for Las Vegas, and I was in serious danger of having a heart attack and/or a stroke. To make a long, complicated story short, I was not able to get the desk top back on the wireless network but somehow my laptop became the main connector - or, what the hell, I don't know what I'm talking about! LOL! Anyway, I did get the desktop jerry-rigged to restore it's internet connection - by wheeling the mobile hutch it rests on back into my bedroom - which was the main reason I'd wanted to go wireless to begin with - to get that darn set-up out of my room! Okay, so the desktop is still jerry-rigged with a wired connection to the wireless router and I've got cords running all over the place, and I can't see the t.v. from where I've got the computer hutch set up - oy! So I decide I'm going to move my bedroom. I hemmed and hawed about that since December 26th, and yesterday I arrived at a plan. The present guest room will be turned into my bedroom. The middle bedroom (which is also the smallest), where the desktop used to sit before entering menopause and getting all bitchy on me, will become the guest bedroom. And my present bedroom, complete with pink walls (hey, 20 years ago I liked pink), will become the new den/library/computer room. It's the biggest bedroom and has a walk-in closet, so I'm not going to move my clothes out, just my bed. Okay - so with a plan in hand, I pondered how to get the beds moved. Then I decided I wouldn't move the present bed out of the guest room that is being turned into my bedroom, I will just swap out the box springs and mattresses. Only, I can't handle the box spring by myself, they are too heavy. So, I tugged and pulled and lugged and huffed and puffed, and knocked pictures off the wall and knocked a few holes in the drywall in the hallway, but in the end I managed to get the current mattress out of the guest room into the spare bedroom that will soon become the guest room, and my current mattress on to the bed in the guest room that will soon become my room. Now I'm stuck with a bed frame, headboard and box spring in my "former" bedroom, what used to be the guest bed mattress lounging against a wall in the spare soon-to-be guest room, and my nice cushy mattress is now resting on top of a box spring in the former guest room that wasn't designed to hold the nice cushy mattress. And so it will be until dondelion arrives in May and can help me with the box spring dilemma! So now I'm in the middle of trying to fix up my new room (the former guest room). It doesn't need to be painted (thank Goddess!) but now I can't decide whether I should use the red floral comforter with the red and white plaid flip side (very lumber-jacky and "warm, cozy feeling") or the black and white paisley print comforter, and whether I should use the black and white striped curtains or the black and ecru toile curtains and use the matching sheet set, and whether to use the black and ecru striped bed skirt or my old while petit-point bed skirt, and whether valances should go up, and all of the old pictures in that room have to come down because they were color-coordinated with the color scheme of the guest room, which I am NOT using in my bedroom. Oh, and I was going to use the black and white checked sheet set but the white doesn't match the ecru, so now I'm wondering what to do with the black and white checked sheet set. All of this is the fault of my scheme to decorate my bedroom conceived more than 2 years ago when I was paging through some old decorating magazines and saw this fabulous toile bedroom with red walls, and I went nuts buying black, white and red toile and assorted accessories all for a room that was never repainted to host such new colors. So, I was stuck with my pink and grey scheme (that I was tired of). Now in the guest room (now my room), which is painted a nice neutral antique white with gold stenciled stars here and there, the new stuff that has bided its time in my closet for over 2 years will actually "go." Only I can't make up my mind what to use. That's what I get for buying too much stuff. I could have taken a trip to Egypt for what I spent on this stuff, geez! I should have stuck with ONE comforter set, and ONE set of curtains. And ONE bedskirt. Oy yi yi. So you see my problems - no, I'm not mental, it's purely a decorator's dilemma, darlings! And - get this - the stuff has to be IRONED. I know I've got an iron around here somewhere, because I found an ironing board in the same closet where I stash the vacuum that I hardly ever use (only when company is coming). Add to this the fact that I lost an entire day yesterday first shopping with my sister Debs - and boy, did I haul in some great bargains - and then shoveling out from the snow we got Friday. More snow is expected tonight and tomorrow, and then we're in for the DEEP FREEZE, and I'm scared to death about walking to and from the bus stop. The local forecasters are saying it will be as bad as 1994, when I missed several days of work because wind chills were down to 60 below zero and I didn't think I could make it to the nearest bus stop (about half a mile away in open country) without getting frostbite - which I've had and believe me, it really sucks big time! Schools were closed then, people had water pipes bursting in their homes, car batteries froze solid, the buses were packed because people couldn't get their cars started and people actually STOLE batteries out of other people's cars - it was an awful, scary time. And we're in for it again. Goddess, I HATE this frigging climate. And so, in panic-mode (everyone is in panic mode, it seems) amongst other stops, Debs took me to the supermarket where I stocked up on my favorite cheap boxed wine, bread, milk, bird seed, critter food and dog food (for the crows) - enough to last a good week. I didn't need to actually buy food, but I did buy four boxes of Kraft's Macaroni and Cheese (although that's not really food), thanks to the generous Christmas gift I received from Isis and Michelle - a freezer full of Omaha Steaks' best offerings! I have enough food in that freezer to last two months, maybe more. $68 later, Debs is shaking her head over why I spent $10 on myself (not including the wine) and $20 on all the food for the animals. We also stopped at the Walgreens and Debs showed me these hand and foot-warmer thingies that one puts inside of one's gloves or mittens and inside of one's shoes or boots. Oh my! I'd only recently become aware of these miracles of modern technology, but evidently they've existed for years. I just hope my shoes don't start on fire tomorrow when I test drive them for the first time - before the DEEP FREEZE arrives early Tuesday morning. I am hopeful that I can figure out how they operate - I understand one merely has to open the package in a certain way, but I'm somewhat skeptical about that... Well, I should be able to figure it out, I do have a college education! Another issue I've been wrestling with the past three days is how to get my photos to print out looking less BLUE. Arggggh. It's driving me NUTS! I've wasted untold amounts of prime photo paper and have experimented with settings, etc. etc. - and each photo I print comes out the same - looking decided blue-ish. But the reds looks fine - so I figure it must be an issue with green and/or yellow, but I don't know how to solve the problem! So, amongst moving mattresses and whatnot from room to room, decorating issues, shoveling issues, BLUE photo issues, shopping for bargains - you should see this sexy black blouse I bought for our New York trip - oh, Mr. Don is going to have his eyes popping out of his head when he sees me in THAT number with my boobs popping out above a layer of small, demure ruffles - house cleaning, trying to keep up with my weight-loss dancing regime (I only did my Lady Marmalade routine twice last night) -- well, darlings, NOW you know how come I haven't been blogging. I will try to do better today... Oh - and dondelion and I are going to Las Vegas for my birthday in August - spent lots of time tracking down hotel rates and flight schedules - what a hassle, but in the end, I prevailed (I always do :)) It will be the 10 year anniversary of my first "modern" visit to Las Vegas, when I met Isis and Michelle face to face for the first time and also covered the FIDE World Chess Championship at Caesar's Palace in August, 1999 for the then fledgling Goddesschess website. Wow - talk about a blast from the past! Check out: TOURNAMENT CHESS The Anatomy of a Coronation JanXena's Posts Regarding the 1999 World Chess Championship (July-August, 1999 - by Jan Newton) What follows are the postings I did live from Las Vegas on Isis' laptop computer, as well as posts about the final games that took place after I had to return home. These are, of course, my personal observations, brash, unabashed and unabridged - and you will see that, as always, JanXena pulls no punches! As a counterpoint to my admittedly neophyte and quite personal observations, the following are five articles written about the 1999 World Chess Championship written by the professionals: reporters, an arbiter, and players, that I found while perusing the archives of Chess Cafe. They are informative and fascinating because of the different perspectives they bring regarding what actually took place in Las Vegas, and what it all might mean to chess history and to the future of The Game itself: Vegas Views from Chess Cafe's "Skittles Room" Archive - by Hanon W. Russell High Anxiety from Chess Cafe's "Dutch Treat" Archives, August, 1999 - by Hans Ree Las Vegas: Surprise, surprise!! from Chess Cafe's "An Arbiter's Notebook" Archives, September, 1999 - by Geurt Gijssen Is Khalifman the Real World Champion? from Chess Cafe's "The Kibitzer" Archives, September, 1999 - by Tim Harding Odd One Out from Chess Cafe's "The Miles Report" Archives, September, 1999 - by Tony Miles Conclusion October, 1999 Jan Newton I'm an unabashed egotist. I find it fascinating going back and reading those old posts about my "I'M HERE AND LOVING IT EVERY SECOND OF IT" first and only trip to a World Chess Championship. I hope all the links still work - this stuff IS nearly 10 years old! Enjoy!
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