Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tongan Rock Carvings Discovered

Ancient Tongan rock carvings may offer clues to voyagers Sat, 31 Jan 2009 10:06a.m. Discovery of over 50 ancient rock engravings in Tonga, may shed some light on the pre-Polynesian Lapita peoples who voyaged across the Pacific. The petroglyphs, including stylised images of people and animals, were found emerging from beach sand at the northern end of Foa island, late last year, the Matangi Tonga newspaper reported. Artist Shane Egan called in archaeologist Professor David Burley, from the Simon Fraser University in Canada, to investigate and document the site. "The site on Foa Island is an amazing piece of artwork, with over 50 engraved images. Having an average height of 20 to 30cm (some much larger) there are very nicely stylised images of men and women, turtles, dogs, a bird, a lizard, as well as footprints and some weird exotic combinations," said Egan. He thought the images were close in form to some found in ancient Hawaii and dated to between 1200 and 1500AD. If similar dating was found for the latest carvings, it would raise a question about direct long distance voyages between Tonga and Hawaii in that era. The Foa rock engravings are on two large slabs of fixed beach-rock that were apparently exposed by erosion. The rock engravings were first sighted by visiting friends Richard Whelan and Janelle Johnston from Melbourne. Tonga's previously reported rock art has been limited to simple geometric engravings, though there is also a single engraved outline of a foot on a stone at a royal tomb. Petroglyphs have been found throughout eastern Polynesia, especially in the Marquesas, Tahiti and Hawaii. NZPA

Decorating Redux...Etc.

Hola darlings! The guest room is almost complete! Changes since the last photos are: (1) The Central Park poster above the bed (2) The bedskirt (tailored stripe replaces embroidered white ruffled) (3) Tables swapped out - the table that I formerly had by the chair is now in the opposite corner, and the larger round skirted table is next to the chair (4) Lamps swapped out (5) Photos on the wall between the window and the closet have been switched around (6) A different curtain. I took down the black/white stripe and first put up my remaining toile panel that I didn't need for the second window in my bedroom. I loved how it looked, but decided I wanted something a bit "heavier" for this cold winter. (I don't get the same "light-weight" feeling with these curtains in my bedroom, because there are two panels on the larger window and the second window is so much narrower, one panel weights it down nicely). (I think the toile panel will look great for summer wear in the guest room with the black/white gingham sheet set.) I was ready to put the black/white striped curtain back up when I remembered some VERY old sheets I purchased years ago to make curtains for the patio door that I never got around to doing. They are black/cream houndstooth checked with gold corded trim and a gold leaf decoration along a 4 inch top black border. I dug one sheet out of storage, ironed it, and tossed it over the curtain rod, roughly "hand-pleating" it across the rod, and used the same shoe-string tied in a bow to pull the curtain back. The gold leaf/black border forms the bottom of the curtain. A totally no-sew curtain, and I do mean no sew - not even a stick-pin holding anything in place! I think the gold leaf border design and corded trim add a nice touch. The copyright on this design, "English Manor," by Echo for Revman, is 1995! This sheet (and 3 other identical twin sheets) have been in storage here at the house more than 13 years! I have a Times Square poster to put up - still pondering where I want to put that. At first I thought about putting it on the wall behind the door, where it would show to advantage when the room is actually being used (because the door would be closed and it would be seen from the chair and the bed). On the other hand, I'm not quite satisfied with the way the door wall looks (where the table, lamp and chair are). I do want the New York water color to be highlighted, and when sitting in the chair it's great having it at eye level in its present location. On the other hand, that wall looks somewhat plain in the photograph (although it doesn't "read" that way when actually in the room), or something isn't quite in balance. Not quite sure what, exactly, it off kilter. It will come to me eventually. I'm wondering what it would look like to hang the Times Square Poster on the door wall. I'm also wondering if I should hang a 5x7 New York photo on either side of the Central Park poster above the headboard. Or maybe some black finished metal candle sconces? Too frou frou? I want the guest room to be unisex comfortable, not too "girly" (my bedroom is girly enough for the house, even without a speck of pink in it).

Really Funny Chess Scene

I've never heard of the movie Embryo (starring Rock Hudson as a mad scientist?) - but this scene of the perfect woman (Barbara Carrera) created by Dr. Rock playing chess against super a-hole Roddy McDowell is a classic. Please check out the video!

All Babies Are Born Unique

Hear hear! Anyone who has had any exposure to an infant (a brother, a sister, a child of an older relative, or one's own baby) knows that this is absolutely true. A baby comes out of the mother's womb utterly and absolutely unique, and stays unique for the rest of her or his life. Despite what 'experts' may say, all babies born unique By James Dobson • January 31, 2009 Dear Dr. Dobson: I was taught in my psych class that babies come into the world devoid of personality, and the environment then stamps its image. Do you disagree? Dr. Dobson: Philosophers Locke and Rousseau told us in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries that babies came into the world as "tabula rasas," or "blank slates," upon which society and the environment wrote the fundamentals of personality. But they were wrong. We now know that every newborn is unique from every other baby, even from the first moments outside the womb. Except for identical twins, triplets, etc., no two are alike in biochemistry or genetics. How foolish of philosophers and behavioral scientists to have thought otherwise. If God makes every grain of sand unique and every snowflake like no other, how simplistic to have believed that He mass-produces little human robots. That is nonsense. We are, after all, made in His image. Just ask the real experts -- the mothers who understand their babies better than anyone. They'll tell you that each of their infants had a different "feel," -- a different personality -- from the first moment they were held. If these mothers are eventually blessed with six or eight or even twenty children, they will continue to say emphatically that every one of them was unique and distinct from the others when only one hour old. They are right -- and their perceptions are being confirmed by scientific inquiry. Dear Dr. Dobson: What else does research tell us about the personalities of newborns? Dr. Dobson: One of the most ambitious studies yet conducted took a period of three decades to complete. That investigation is known in professional literature as the New York Longitudinal Study. The findings from this investigation, led by psychiatrists Stella Chess and Alexander Thomas, were reported in their excellent book for parents entitled, "Know Your Child." Chess and Thomas found that babies not only differ significantly from one another at the moment of birth, but those differences tend to be rather persistent throughout childhood. Even more interestingly, they observed three broad categories or patterns of temperaments into which the majority of children can be classified. First, they referred to "the difficult child," who is characterized by negative reactions to people, intense mood swings, irregular sleep patterns and feeding schedules, frequent periods of crying and violent tantrums when frustrated. Does that sound familiar? I described those individuals many years ago as "strong-willed" children. The second pattern is called "the easy child," who manifests a positive approach to people, quiet adaptability to new situations, regular sleep pattern and feeding schedules, and a willingness to accept the rules of the game. The authors concluded, "Such a youngster is usually a joy to his or her parents, pediatrician and teachers." Amen. My term for the easy child is "compliant." The third category was given the title "slow-to-warm-up" or "shy." These youngsters respond negatively to new situations and they adapt slowly. However, they are less intense than difficult children, and they tend to have regular sleeping and feeding schedules. When they are upset or frustrated, they typically withdraw from the situation and react mildly, rather than explode with anger and rebellion. Not every child fits into one of these categories, of course, but approximately 65 percent do. Drs. Chess and Thomas also emphasized that babies are fully human at birth, being able immediately to relate to their parents and learn from their environments. I doubt if that news will come as a surprise to most mothers, who never believed in the "blank slate" theory, anyway. It should not be difficult to understand why these findings from longitudinal research have been exciting to me. They confirm my own clinical observations, not only about the wonderful complexity of human beings, but also about the categories of temperament identified by Drs. Chess and Thomas.

Lots of Chess for Girls

Upcoming National Events for girls only or with girls-only events (in date order). Hooray! We need more and more and more events like this to keep girls excited about playing chess. For further information, please click on the links: Fourth Annual Susan Polgar Open CHALLENGE for Girls Part of the Susan Polgar National Open for Girls and Boys February 13 - 16, 2009 Glendale, Arizona The Sixth Annual All-Girls Open National Championships by Kasparov Chess Foundation April 24 - 26, 2009 Dallas Texas Special appearance by 2008 U.S. Women's Chess Champion IM Anna Zatonskih (per ad in February, 2009 print edition of Chess Life Magazine) Susan Polgar World Open Chess Championship for Girls Part of the Las Vegas International Chess Festival June 6 - 7, 2009 Las Vegas, Nevada

Friday, January 30, 2009

Honky Tonk Angels

Oy! Three Goddesses of Country Music. This song brings back memories - mostly of Kitty Wells and her great hit "Honky Tonk Angel," which my dad played over and over and over until the 45 rpm record wore out (mom was an Elvis fan and I learned how to bob to "Aint Nothin But a Hound Dog"). Lo and behold, while checking out for Linda Ronstadt videos, I came across this gem, teaming up a young Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette singing "Silver Threads and Golden Needles," an enduring classic that has been fronted by I don't know how many stars and not-so-stars! Cuz the words of the song are true, darlin's, and that's all I'm gonna say... Please check out the video - and watch for Gene Simmons in an hilarious cameo, along with many of the greats of rock and roll, rock-a-billy, and country-western.

13th Century BCE Twenty Squares Game Board

We'll be too late in New York (not arriving until May 19) to see this exhibition at the Met. Damn! Image: Photo: Jürgen Liepe; Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Aegyptisches Museum und. Game Box with Chariot HuntEnkomi, Tomb 58; Late Bronze Age, ca. late 13th-12th century B.C. (© The Trustees of the British Museum; The Trustees of the British Museum, London ) As far as I am aware, the oldest known twenty squares board was found at Ur and dates to about 2600 BCE; the "serpent" game board laid out in the same style at the Ur game board was uncovered at Shar-i Sokhtah (the "Burnt City"), located in the borders area in southeast Iran where Pakistan and Afghanistan all merge, and dates to about 2400 BCE. This board demonstrates the long "tail" of 8 squares that was long in use on Egyptian twenty squares game boards. Goddesschess folks have always been big fans of cross-cultural contacts and interconnectedness as a basis for explaining the existence of a sort of "universal" iconography in board games in cultures across half the globe and separated by many centuries. This exhibit demonstrates the influence of far-reaching trade and cultural contacts most beautifully and concretely - in the artifacts left behind. Check out the online review of "the Art of Foreign Influence" at Archaeology Magazine.

Where Were You 40 Years Ago Today?

Ah, the memories... From The Beatles rooftop concert: It was 40 years ago today Posted By: Subhajit Banerjee at Jan 30, 2009 at 16:50:23 (Photo) Yes, it was 40 years ago today that Sgt Pepper and his band played live for one last time. Their music has hardly ever gone out of style in the four decades since and raised plenty of smiles from generations of new fans. The afternoon of January 30, 1969 was when The Beatles surprised a central London office lunch crowd with an impromptu concert on the roof of their Savile Row Apple headquarters. Before the outing was abruptly cut short by police who objected to the noise, the band (with a little help from young keyboardist Billy Preston) had managed to thrill Londoners on adjacent rooftops and the streets below with a run-through of songs they had been rehearsing with a vague album in mind. Their five-song set included Don't Let Me Down, I've Got a Feeling and Get Back - all considered classics in subsequent years. The rooftop 'concert' was the first live gig since the band stopped touring in 1965 (tired of constantly screaming girls and frustrated by not being able to reproduce the more complex arrangements of their studio albums) and was to be their last. Times were tough as relationships were fast deteriorating within the band. Efforts to bring the love back with ideas like filming them trying to record a new album made things even worse - the acrimony captured in the Let It be movie (the DVD of which by the way is still awaiting release). The end was clearly in sight. All of which combines to make the final performance of the greatest group ever (waits for protests) so poignant and special for Beatles fans. Forty years later and it's time to celebrate the great historic event (again, pause for hands to shoot up in protest). BBC Radio 2 is airing I Hope We Passed The Audition (after the quote with which John Lennon closed that afternoon's proceedings) where Texas frontwoman Sharleen Spiteri takes listeners through how the concert came about. Notable contributors include Yoko Ono, Michael Lindsay-Hogg (director of Let It Be), engineer Alan Parsons and Ken Wharfe, the policeman sent by his superiors to "turn that noise off". American bands are leading the tribute concerts with the Beatles' US manager Ken Mansfield (who was present on the Apple rooftop) helping cover band Creme Tangerine pull off a similar stunt in Seattle, Cover Me Badd are planning theirs at a secret San Diego location while four impromptu musicians will use vintage equipment to recreate the Beatles' signature sound in Alabama. But incredibly, although not surprisingly, bureaucracy has thwarted an attempt by the Bootleg Beatles to recreate the moment on the same London rooftop. According to the band, permission was received from the current landlord, arrangements made for an accompanying party and the Westminster council even gave its blessings to the event - only to change its mind later over licence issues. What spoilsports!

Canada's Stonehenge?

Story from the BOB WEBER The Canadian Press January 29, 2009 at 3:54 PM EST EDMONTON — An academic maverick is challenging conventional wisdom on Canada's prehistory by claiming an archeological site in southern Alberta is really a vast, open-air sun temple with a precise 5,000-year-old calendar predating England's Stonehenge and Egypt's pyramids. Mainstream archeologists consider the rock-encircled cairn to be just another medicine wheel left behind by early aboriginals. But a new book by retired University of Alberta professor Gordon Freeman says it is in fact the centre of a 26-square-kilometre stone “lacework” that marks the changing seasons and the phases of the moon with greater accuracy than our current calendar. “Genius existed on the prairies 5,000 years ago,” says Mr. Freeman, the widely published former head of the university's physical and theoretical chemistry department. Mr. Freeman's fascination with prairie prehistory dates back to his Saskatchewan boyhood. He and his father would comb the short grasses of the plains in search of artifacts exposed by the scouring wind. That curiosity never left him and he returned to it as he prepared to retire from active teaching. Looking for a hobby, he asked a friend with an interest in history to suggest a few intriguing sites to visit. On a warm late-August day in 1980, that list drew him to what he has come to call Canada's Stonehenge, which is also the title of his book. A central cairn atop one of a series of low hills overlooking the Bow River, about 70 kilometres east of Calgary, had been partially excavated in 1971 and dated at about 5,000 years old. But as he approached it, Freeman strongly felt there was much more there than previously thought. “As we walked toward the hilltop, I saw all kinds of patterns in the rocks on the way up. As I walked around the hilltop, I could see patterns that I doubted very much were accidental.” Mr. Freeman photographed what he saw and showed the images to archeologists. They told him the rocks, some of which weigh up to a tonne, had been randomly distributed by melting glaciers. But those rocks and rock piles, Mr. Freeman said, had been “highly engineered,” shimmied and balanced and wedged in ways he couldn't believe were natural. And so began a magnificent obsession — 28 years of photographing the site in summer and winter, observing the alignment of rocks and how they coincided with the recurring patterns of sun, moon and stars. Mr. Freeman estimates he and his wife Phyllis have spent a total of seven months living at the site. Twelve thousand photographs with precise times and dates are neatly catalogued in his files. What he found: The central cairn is surrounded by 28 radiating stone lines, four of which align with the cardinal points of the compass. Those lines are encircled by another ring of stones. A few metres away lies a stone semicircle, with a large stone between it and the central cairn. The left edge of the semicircle lines up with both the central stone and the right edge of the cairn, and vice versa. To Mr. Freeman, those features represent the sun, the crescent moon and the morning star. As well, there are secondary cairns on nearby hills and rock assemblages that seem to correspond to constellations. And after years of rising before dawn, in all seasons and weather, to carefully photograph the positions of the sun, Mr. Freeman found the rocks once thought to be simply strewn across the prairie instead mark the progression of the year with uncanny accuracy. The rising and setting sun on both the longest and shortest days of the year lines up precisely with V-shaped sights in the temple's rocks. The spring and autumn equinoxes, when day and night are equal, are similarly marked. They are not the equinoxes of the Gregorian calendar currently used, however, but the true astronomical equinoxes. Mr. Freeman is convinced the temple contains a lunar calendar as well, because the 28 rays radiating from the central cairn correspond to the length of the lunar cycle. “I thought I would complete that study in a couple years,” says Mr. Freeman, a laughing, vigorous 78. “Twenty-eight years later we're still making discoveries.” Mainstream archeology hasn't been exactly welcoming. Despite being highly regarded in his own field, Mr. Freeman says journals have rejected his papers and conferences have denied him a platform. Professionals in any field resist interlopers from other disciplines and archeology is no exception, he says. But he suggests conventional wisdom can restrict insight. “If you have preconceptions, you're never going to discover anything.” Although he hasn't read Canada's Stonehenge, University of Alberta archeologist Jack Ives is familiar with Mr. Freeman's theories. He says recent research suggests some astronomical knowledge developed in Central and South America flowed north to the plains, where it was adapted by people for their own purposes. “There is some basis for thinking there was sophisticated astronomical knowledge,” says Mr. Ives. But what exactly is manifested in the medicine wheels? “They may certainly reflect solstices and equinoxes. How much more sophisticated beyond that has been a subject of debate.” But Mr. Ives points out the terrain in question is an ancient glacial moraine, full of naturally occurring rocks. “You have to be very careful about what you line up.” Mr. Freeman, however, is convinced. He looks forward to the academic debate to come. “I know my song well before I sing it,” he says, quoting Bob Dylan. Meanwhile, Mr. Freeman hopes to use any publicity generated by his book to push for preservation of the site. Part of it is privately owned, but most is Crown land and open to both the energy industry and casual, possibly destructive, visitors. “The place is so far away from anything that it's not adequately protected.” Mr. Freeman is a man of science, trained to trust hard data and believe evidence over sensation. But after 28 years unravelling a message in mute stones, the wind in his hair and the sun on his face, absorbed in ancient mysteries, the site has come to evoke in him something akin to reverence. “I can go down there with a headache and within a day everything is gone. It's just like a cure. There is something down there. I just don't know how to describe it. “I just feel very comfortable there. I just feel comfortable.”

2009 Gibraltar

a/k/a 2009 Gibtelecom Chess Festival Chess femme standings after Round 4: Rank Name Flags Score Fed. Rating TPR W-We 1 2 3 4 5 9 GM Dzagnidze, Nana w 3.5 GEO 2518 2773 +1.17 1 1 1 ½ 16 GM Stefanova, Antoaneta w 3.0 BUL 2557 2596 +0.23 1 1 0 1 17 GM Cramling, Pia w 3.0 SWE 2548 2449 -0.37 0 1 1 1 26 IM Zatonskih, Anna w 3.0 USA 2462 2498 +0.24 1 0 1 1 29 IM Houska, Jovanka w 3.0 ENG 2392 2577 +0.97 ½ 1 ½ 1 30 WGM Calzetta, Monica w 3.0 ESP 2371 2438 +0.41 0 1 1 1 46 IM Arakhamia-Grant, Ketevan w 2.5 SCO 2500 2422 -0.29 1 0 1 ½ 47 IM Cmilyte, Viktorija w 2.5 LTU 2497 2413 -0.33 ½ 1 1 0 50 IM Krush, Irina w 2.5 USA 2457 2494 +0.27 1 ½ 0 1 51 GM Socko, Monika w 2.5 POL 2449 2382 -0.26 1 0 1 ½ 53 IM Sachdev, Tania w 2.5 IND 2435 2372 -0.26 1 0 1 ½ 80 IM Klinova, Masha w 2.0 ISR 2328 2188 -0.66 0 1 ½ ½ 130 WIM Tsifanskaya, Ludmila A w 1.5 ISR 2149 2108 -0.31 ½ 0 1 0 149 Haug, Marianne Wold w 1.5 NOR 1935 2076 +0.64 ½ ½ 0 ½ 151 Carlsen, Ellen Oen w 1.5 NOR 1888 2100 +0.88 1 0 ½ 0 152 Chidi, Lovinia Sylvia 1.5 GER 0 2013 2013 0 1 0 ½

2009 Corus Update

Standings after Round 11: Group B: 1. N. Short 7½ 2. F. Caruana, R. Kasimdzhanov 7 4. A. Volokitin, A. Motylev, F. Vallejo Pons 6½ 7. D. Navara 6 8. Z. Efimenko 5½ 9. D. Reinderman, E. l'Ami 5 11. Y. Hou 4½ 12. H. Mecking, J. Werle 3½ 14. K. Sasikiran 3 Group C: 1. W. So 8 2. T. Hillarp Persson 7½ 3. A. Giri 7 4. D. Howell, F. Holzke 6 6. A. Gupta, D. Harika, M. Bosboom 5½ 9. M. Leon Hoyos 5 10. F. Nijboer, E. Iturrizaga, A. Bitalzadeh, R. Pruijssers 4½ 14. O. Romanishin 3 Wow - young chess dudes Caruana and So are showing people how it's done! I'm also - frankly - amazed and pleased with Nigel Short's resurgence over the past year or so - at one time I thought he was an also ran but Short's play (and results) have shown either a grim determination to make it back into the elite ranks, or a renewed love of and fire for playing chess, and maybe both.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Leslie Ugghams to Play Lena Horne

Ohmygoddess! I grew up with Leslie Uggams - watching her on the Mitch Miller show every week singing (I remember her sitting in a swing a lot). I thought she had a wonderful voice and was beautiful. I didn't care what color she was, it never occurred to me that it mattered. Now, here is Uggams, playing Lena Horne in a play. Not too long ago I found myself wondering whatever happened to Leslie Uggams - now I know. Leslie Uggams captures essence of Lena Horne in California stage show By GREG BRAXTON Los Angeles Times Published: Thursday, January 29, 2009 HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Leslie Uggams and Lena Horne have crossed paths only a few times. But Uggams feels that the force and power of the iconic singer have always been a part of her. "Lena was a goddess in my house - my mother played her records all the time, and I was always moved by how beautiful and classy she was," Uggams says. "When I was doing my nightclub act at the Coconut Grove in 1965, she pinned me as a Delta - we both belong to Delta Sigma Theta. I've always felt like she's been so close to me." The two are more than sorority sisters-in-arms. With successful careers spanning at least five decades, Horne and Uggams have been celebrated for their striking beauty and silky smooth voices. Their popularity grew as they broke through barriers for black performers. Horne was one of Hollywood's first black female beauty icons while Uggams became the first black woman to host a network musical-variety show (CBS' "The Leslie Uggams Show" in 1969). Both also ran headlong into racist forces that threatened to derail their careers, and both sparked furors when they married white men. In recent years, Horne, 91, has withdrawn from public view while Uggams, 65, has kept busy - she starred opposite James Earl Jones in 2005 on Broadway in "On Golden Pond" and just completed a revival of "The First Breeze of Summer" at New York's Signature Theatre Company. Now, more than four decades after she was pinned by Horne, Uggams is putting her own distinctive stamp on her idol. Uggams portrays Horne in "Stormy Weather," a new musical biography at the Pasadena Playhouse that producers hope will find its way to Broadway. The play, which ends March 1, chronicles Horne commenting on her life while observing a younger version of herself, played by Nikki Crawford. The show has the same title as the classic Harold Arlen torch song that became Horne's signature (she sang it in the 1943 film of the same name). Suggested by Leslie Palmer's biography "Lena Horne, Entertainer," the title also reflects Horne's celebrated-but-tumultuous life and career. Although Horne appeared in '40s musicals such as "Ziegfeld Follies," "Till the Clouds Roll By" and "Thousands Cheer," she encountered race-related obstacles in Hollywood. Often, she had to film stand-alone scenes that could be deleted easily for screenings in the then-Jim Crow South. Her most prominent roles were in all-black musicals such as "Stormy Weather" and "Cabin in the Sky." That darker side of history is the backdrop for musical numbers in the new "Stormy Weather," which includes songs by Arlen and Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, and Jerome Kern. "We're dealing with a woman facing a crossroads when doing the one thing she lives for - to entertain - becomes too painful," said Michael Bush, the former director of artistic production for New York's Manhattan Theatre Club, who is directing "Stormy Weather." "She proceeds to shut down. How much can she sing if she shuts down?" The forces behind the production feel that the inauguration of President Barack Obama offers a prime opportunity to present Horne's legacy to a younger, more politically aware generation. "This is a true story for our times," producer Stewart Lane said. "We're honoring a light-skinned woman making it during the racially charged '40s, '50s and '60s. People like her laid the groundwork for Barack Obama." Enhancing the relevance of the project, say producers, is the star power of Uggams, who won a Tony Award in 1968 for best actress in a musical for "Hallelujah, Baby!" She started her career at 6 in the TV series "Beulah" and is perhaps best known for her searing portrayal of the slave Kizzy in the landmark 1977 miniseries "Roots," which earned her numerous accolades, including an Emmy Award nomination. The Horne-Uggams connection makes for a more powerful theatrical experience, said Sheldon Epps, artistic director of the Pasadena Playhouse: "There is a deeper reward for the audience with the synchronicity between the actress and the character. The opening number is Lena in concert. There's this richness of being reminded of the magic of Lena, but there's also this incredible richness in seeing Leslie." In the same way that Lena in her later years had a greater amount of star quality and experience, Leslie does the same thing." Uggams' big break came as a teenager, when record producer Mitch Miller in 1961 cast her in "Sing Along With Mitch," a variety series dominated by peppy tunes, with a ball bouncing over on-screen lyrics. Uggams said she didn't learn until many years later that Miller had been under pressure by stations in the South to get rid of her or have her sing separately from the rest of the cast so she could be cut out of episodes. "Yes there are some parallels, but this is really all about Lena," says Uggams, adding, "I'm not doing a copy of Lena. There is only one Lena Horne. But I'm bringing the essence of Lena." "Stormy Weather" is the second time in two years that the Pasadena Playhouse has featured a musical production built around a showbiz icon. "Ray Charles Live! A New Musical," which producers still hope will make it to Broadway, drew flak from several children of the late singer who objected that it highlighted Charles' infidelity and other negative aspects. Controversy has no place in "Stormy Weather," said Uggams. "This is really a love letter to (Horne), a valentine. We are here to celebrate her. I wouldn't have done it if it were anything else. I'm very comfortable in the story we're telling." But Horne is not taking an official position on the project. Although she is aware of "Stormy Weather" and has given it her blessing," the entertainer, who lives in New York, is keeping a respectful distance from the project, conceived and written by Sharleen Cooper Cohen ("Sheba" and the upcoming musical "Officer," based on the film "An Officer and a Gentleman"). Said Uggams, "Sharleen got in touch with Lena early on and asked if she wanted to be a part of this. Lena's response was, 'I lived it!' So that was the end of that." During a recent rehearsal at a Burbank studio, Uggams, dressed in a pink, hooded sweatshirt, seemed focused as she went through her lines. She appeared to internalize some of the tenseness expressed by director Bush, as he wrestled with blocking some of the performers. But Bush relaxed as he sat back to watch Uggams sing the opening number as Lena. "I absolutely adore Leslie," he said. "She's a fantastic actress. No one works harder in this room than she does." Uggams, who has been married to Australian businessman Grahame Pratt since 1965, said taking on the role has consumed her. "I have no life off the stage," she said with a loud laugh. "I have to save all my strength for the show. There's no hanging out. I have to eat at certain times so my voice will stay strong. But for Lena, it's worth it. I am so primed for this."

2009 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

The Main Event - the U.S. Chess Championship 2009: Two dozen chess players will compete for more than $130,000 in prize money May 7-17 at the Central West End chess club. Competitors will include the top 12 American players, the top two American female players, the 2008 U.S. Junior Closed Champion, the 2008 U.S. Open Champion and the 2009 U.S. State Champion of Champions. There will also be seven wild card spots.(from St. Louis, story from St. Louis Post-Dispatch 1/28/09 by Greg Jonsson) At the moment, the top two female players in the US are 1 Krush, Irina (12543137) NY USA 2474 2 Zatonskih, Anna (12873912) NY USA 2472 Does this mean that the ladies will get a second kick at the cat by being able to play in the U.S. Women's Championship that will be held "later" this year? It seems so - this is from an announcement by the St. Louis Chess Club and Scholastic Center about being awarded the hosting for the 2009 USWCC: Invitations will be sent to the top 10 U.S. women by their rating. The championship will have a purse of $64,000. Should they accept their invitations to both events, Krush and Zatonskih have a chance of earning prize money in the USWCC in addition to winning prizes in the "other" U.S. Chess Championship. As Krush and Zatonskih finished 2nd and 1st in last year's USWCC, it's a pretty good bet they will be at or near the top positions in this year's USWCC and win some nice prizes out of that event's $64,000 purse. Seems to me we went through this just a few years ago. I didn't think it was fair then that two female players received an opportunity to play in both tournaments, and I don't think it is fair now. In my opinion, the ladies should be required to pick one or the other event, but not be allowed to play in both. By the way - any FIRM dates set yet?

Town of Twins?

All I can say is that this is a really bizarre story... From New Nazi 'Angel of Death' not responsible for town of twins 15:40 27 January 2009 by Linda Geddes Brazilian scientists have rejected claims that the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele – notorious for his experiments at Auschwitz – was responsible for creating a tribe of twins in a small town near the border with Argentina. In his book, Mengele: The Angel Of Death In South America, Argentine historian Jorge Camarasa claims that Mengele made regular trips to Linha São Pedro, a small and predominantly German settlement near the city of Cândido Godói in Brazil, during the 1960s. Shortly afterwards, the birth rate of twins began to spiral, he says. However, Ursula Matte of the medical genetics unit at Porto Alegre Hospital in Brazil and her colleagues reject any notion that Mengele was responsible for the phenomenon. Her team was invited to Linha São Pedro during 1994 to investigate reports of a higher than average number of twin births in the town. Generation hop From 1990 to 1994, the proportion of twin births in Linha São Pedro was 10%, compared to 1.8% for rest of the state of Rio Grande do Sul. "Even though we could not find a definitive explanation for this higher incidence, the existence of other 'twin towns' around the world – most of them in remote isolated areas with high levels of inbreeding just as Linha São Pedro – shows that external influence is not needed for this to happen," Matte says. Her team interviewed and conducted blood tests on 17 of the 22 pairs of twins living in Linha São Pedro, around half of which were identical twins. Genealogical analysis showed a high recurrence of multiple births within families, as well as a high level of inbreeding within the community, suggesting the presence of genetic twinning factors. The high level of inbreeding, combined with an absence of twins every other generation would suggest a recessive trait, Matte adds. Teutonic traits Although Camarasa argues that the high prevalence of blonde hair and blue eyes among the twins could be evidence of Mengele's "Aryanising" influence, Matte points out that the village was founded by German immigrants who often have such features. "In addition, I don't think Mengele would have the knowledge, not to mention the means, to engender the rise in twin births in this community," she says. "It's noteworthy that twin births occurred there in almost every time period, even in the 1990s, so what kind of long-lasting manipulation could he have perpetrated?" Twin births have been linked to exposure to toxic waste and increased use of IVF, but even now, says Matte, we don't fully understand the mechanisms involved, "and it is extremely hard for me to think that Mengele would have known it in the late 1960s," she says. Journal reference: Acta geneticae medicae et gemellologiae (vol 45, p 431) If you would like to reuse any content from New Scientist, either in print or online, please contact the syndication department first for permission. New Scientist does not own rights to photos, but there are a variety of licensing options available for use of articles and graphics we own the copyright to.

Mummy's Face Reconstructed

Latest technology applied to a "virtual" facial reconstruction of a mummy. From Who's your mummy? High-tech wizardry reveals face of ancient aristocrat Wed, 28 Jan 2009 6:51p.m. The face of an Egyptian mummy at Otago Museum has been revealed for the first time in over 2,000 years. The 35-year-old female aristocrat has been part of the museum's collection for more than a century. The facial reconstruction of the mummy is the result of over a year's work by a team from Otago University and they are confident that their modern day model is extremely accurate. "I would say if somebody from that era comes and sees this reconstruction, I would say they would recognise her," says Dr George Dias from Otago University's Adanatomy Department. The team developed an advanced method of facial reconstruction, which more accurately recreates the soft tissues like nose and skin surrounding the skull. Previous methods have more guesswork and left the process open to artistic interpretation. "We know there's no such thing called an average face," says Dr Dias. "You take two people from the same racial background, same age, same sex, the faces are different." Four years ago, scientists in Egypt put the mummy of Tutankhamen through a CAT scan. There, the fragile skeleton of the young Pharaoh was already unwrapped. But this new process is non-invasive, preserving the ancient artefact by editing the original CAT scan. The mummy was then electronically unwrapped, stripping away her wooden sarcophagus, bandages, and remaining soft tissue - revealing an accurate 3D image of the skull inside. The process also has genuine real world applications, in the area of Police forensics and cold cases. The next step is using silicone skin, to create a more human face. 3 News

2009 Gibraltar

a/k/a 7th Gibtelecom Chess Festival Results for all chess femmes playing in the Masters' Section after Round 2: Rank Name Flags Score Fed. M/F Rating TPR W-We 1 2 3 12 GM Stefanova, Antoaneta w 2.0 BUL F 2557 3064 +0.42 1 1 14 GM Dzagnidze, Nana w 2.0 GEO F 2518 2946 +0.29 1 1 30 IM Cmilyte, Viktorija w 1.5 LTU F 2497 2372 -0.23 ½ 1 34 IM Krush, Irina w 1.5 USA F 2457 2591 +0.38 1 ½ 37 IM Houska, Jovanka w 1.5 ENG F 2392 2562 +0.46 ½ 1 50 GM Cramling, Pia w 1.0 SWE F 2548 2253 -0.69 0 1 55 IM Arakhamia-Grant, Ketevan w 1.0 SCO F 2500 2448 -0.10 1 0 57 IM Zatonskih, Anna w 1.0 USA F 2462 2417 -0.10 1 0 59 GM Socko, Monika w 1.0 POL F 2449 2402 -0.10 1 0 62 IM Sachdev, Tania w 1.0 IND F 2435 2380 -0.12 1 0 67 WGM Calzetta, Monica w 1.0 ESP F 2371 2339 -0.04 0 1 74 IM Klinova, Masha w 1.0 ISR F 2328 2299 -0.04 0 1 140 Haug, Marianne Wold w 1.0 NOR F 1935 2160 +0.56 ½ ½ 142 Carlsen, Ellen Oen w 1.0 NOR F 1888 2161 +0.64 1 0 146 Chidi, Lovinia Sylvia 1.0 GER F 0 2068 +0.50 0 1 157 WIM Tsifanskaya, Ludmila A w 0.5 ISR F 2149 1961 -0.49 ½ 0

Corus 2009 Update

Group B standings after Round 10: 1. N. Short 6½ 2. A. Volokitin, A. Motylev, D. Navara, F. Caruana, R. Kasimdzhanov 6 7. Z. Efimenko, F. Vallejo Pons 5½ 9. E. l'Ami 5 10. Y. Hou, D. Reinderman 4 12. H. Mecking 3½ 13. K. Sasikiran, J. Werle 3 Group C standings after Round 10: 1. T. Hillarp Persson 7½ 2. W. So 7 3. A. Giri 6 4. D. Howell, A. Gupta, D. Harika, F. Holzke, M. Bosboom 5½ 9. E. Iturrizaga 4½ 10. M. Leon Hoyos 4 11. F. Nijboer, A. Bitalzadeh, R. Pruijssers 3½ 14. O. Romanishin 3 According to this story (I read it at Susan Polgar's blog), Dronavalli could score a GM norm - that would be wonderful!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

World Chess News

Macauley Peterson over at the ICC Chess FM blog has an audio interview with the female contingent of five Swedish siblings (three sisters and two brothers) who together produce World Chess News that has been on the air for three years! Then things are turned around and MP is himself interviewed by one of the charming sisters. MP in a suit is a sight to behold. I had no idea he was such a cutie :)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Treasure Trove!

Hmmmm, seems to be an increase in reports recently about the discovery of treasure trove. This latest batch of gold coins was found in Jerusalem. From Science Daily Hoard Of Hundreds Of Antique Gold Coins Uncovered In Walls Around Jerusalem National Park ScienceDaily (Jan. 27, 2009) — One thousand three hundred year old Chanukah money in Jerusalem: a hoard of more than 250 gold coins was exposed December 11 in the excavations the Israel Antiquities Authority is conducting in the Giv ‘ati car park in the City of David, in the Walls Around Jerusalem National Park. The excavations at the site are being carried out on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, in cooperation with the Nature and Parks Authority and are underwritten by the ‘Ir David Foundation. “This is one of the largest and most impressive coin hoards ever discovered in Jerusalem – certainly the largest and most important of its period,” archaeologists said. Since the archaeological excavations began there about two years ago, they have not ceased in providing us with surprising discoveries that shed new light on different chapters of the city’s past. Currently a very large and impressive building is being uncovered that dates to about the seventh century CE (end of the Byzantine period-beginning of the Umayyad period). A large cache of 264 coins, all made of gold, was discovered among the ruins of the building. According to Dr. Doron Ben-Ami and Yana Tchekhanovets, directors of the excavation at the site on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, “Since no pottery vessel was discovered adjacent to the hoard, we can assume that it was concealed inside a hidden niche in one of the walls of the building. It seems that with its collapse, the coins piled up there among the building debris”. Ben-Ami and Tchekhanovets believe, “This is one of the largest and most impressive coin hoards ever discovered in Jerusalem – certainly the largest and most important of its period. For comparison’s sake, it should be noted that the only hoard of gold coins from the Byzantine period that has been discovered to date in Jerusalem consisted of only five gold coins. All of the coins bear the likeness of the emperor Heraclius (610-641 CE). Different coins were minted during this emperor’s reign; however, all of the coins that were discovered in the City of David in Jerusalem belong to one well-known type in which the likeness of the emperor wearing military garb and holding a cross in his right hand is depicted on the obverse, while the sign of the cross is on the reverse. These coins were minted at the beginning of Heraclius’ reign (between the years 610-613 CE), one year before the Persians conquered Byzantine Jerusalem (614 CE). From the moment that the first coin was exposed, it stood out against the background of its surroundings. It is easy to imagine the excitement took hold of the excavators when they continued to discover many more dozens of gold coins alongside it. These were resting on the ground, in one place where they fell, and were buried there more than 1,300 years ago, until once again man laid eyes on them – this time the amazed eyes of the archaeologists. Although gold is not among the ordinary discoveries in archeological excavations, not long ago a surprisingly well preserved gold earring, inlaid with pearls and precious stones, was discovered at this site. What is the building where this very valuable cache was hidden and who was its owner? What were the circumstances of its destruction which did not permit the coins’ owner to collect them? Should the building’s destruction be dated to the time of the hoard? The excavation of the large building in which the hoard was discovered is still in its early stages and the archaeologists hope that they will soon collect further data that will enable them to answer these questions. Adapted from materials provided by Israel Antiquities Authority

Chess Femme News

Hola Darlings! I've done updating at Chess Femme News (about time!) You can find it by visiting Goddesschess and clicking on the Chess Femme News link on the left-hand navigation bar :) Now that the redecorating phase is winding down, I will try to be more regular in updating CFN and report updates here. But I discovered last night, much to my horror (it woke me up about 3:20 a.m.) that I have a creature or creatures living just on the other side of my drywall on my bedroom wall! Well, you know full well where there is one creature, there are more. Drat and bloody dammit all to hell and back! The mysterious leak (I do not believe I have mentioned this before) has also decided to widen itself out in the past few days. Drat and bloody dammit all to hell and back! So, it seems I will be seeking out some kind of exterminator (CHA-CHING!) and some kind of plumber (SUPER DUPER CHA-CHING!) Arrrgggghhhhh! Let me tell you, I feel absolutely awful even contemplating evicting the wall creatures from my home during this horrid winter. But I cannot have them infest the house. What if one eats through the drywall one night and lands PLOP right on my face in the middle of a dream about the office? (I'm talking about me, not the critter)... EGODDESS!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Chess Legends to Play at a Special Celebration

Chess legends to meet at Zurich station January 22, 2009 To celebrate its 200th anniversary, Zurich chess club has announced it will host a competition between 200 amateurs and eight greats of the game. The event will be held in Zurich's main station on August 22. The following day the experts will face each other in a speed chess play-off. Zurich chess club, reportedly the oldest in the world, will be the centre of world chess for two days when seven former world champions – and a Swiss runner-up – show off their skills. The former world champions are Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, Vladimir Kramnik, Boris Spassky, Ruslan Ponomariov, Veselin Topalov and current world champion Viswanathan Anand. Viktor Korchnoi, a Russian-born Swiss grandmaster who at 77 is the oldest player still on the circuit, will complete the eight. As Kasparov and Spassky no longer play competitive chess, they will be replaced on August 23 by Judit Polgár, by far the strongest female chessplayer in history, and Werner Hug, former junior world champion and a member of Zurich chess club. [Photo: Judit Polgar, Round 2, 2008 Corus] To launch the bicentenary, an open tournament will be held from August 9-15 in Zurich's Congress House with prize money of SFr100,000 ($86,000).

Troubles in Iran

Not that I regularly follow the news in the Tehran Times! But this story I came across today (quite by accident) was interesting. I wonder if these bandit-type dudes are Taliban. If they are, how absolutely, wonderfully ironic that Iran is having troubles with the Taliban! How absoutely horrid and awful for the families who lost those 10 policemen who were just doing their jobs. Clashes kill 10 police in SE Iran Date : Tuesday, January 27, 2009 Clashes between Iranian police and gunmen in the southeastern Sistan-Baluchestan Province have resulted in the deaths of ten officers. Police officers engaged in clashes with gunmen near the city of Zahedan, the provincial capital, Sunday night. Ten Iranian police officers were killed. There have been no reports yet on the number of casualties inflicted on the armed militants. The armed confrontation resulted in injuries on both sides. The surviving gunmen escaped to Pakistan. The southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchestan, which borders Afghanistan and Pakistan, has been the scene of battles between Iranian forces and drug and arms smugglers. Every year, Iran confiscates a large quantity of drugs and arms from smugglers and arrests or kills terrorists in the province. (Source: Press TV)

Treasure Trove in The Netherlands!

Oh Goddess - I can't keep track. May have already reported on this (?) Love the coin - not the best rendition of a horse I've ever seen, I think it looks more like a giant dog or maybe even a hybrid griffin-type creature (think Harry Potter movie...) Is it a horse???

Celtic Hoard Found in Netherlands
By Richard Giedroyc, World Coin News
January 26, 2009

Coins are often used as "index fossils" by archaeologists.

An index fossil is a fossil with which paleontologists are familiar that is also known to have lived during a specific time period and in a certain environment. For this reason an index fossil can help date an entire paleontological dig site. Coins found at archaeological dig sites can often help date the site, identify past trade routes, identify rulers, suggest political borders, and even suggest the level of technology available in the area. Due to inscriptions and iconography coins are often the only artifact found at an archaeological site that can "speak" to us.

On Nov. 13 an important find of 109 Celtic coins of the Eburones tribe found in the Netherlands was announced through the Associated Press. According to AP information, this is one of three important hoard finds of coins issued by this tribe. The other two finds, according to AP information, were discovered in Belgium and Germany in areas not too distant geographically from the Netherlands.

The most recent find was discovered by metal detector hobbyist Paul Curfs, who was sweeping a corn field in Maastricht, a city in the southern part of the Netherlands. Curfs is not a coin collector. He discovered the coins in the spring of 2008. The find is only now being announced publicly.

In the AP story Curfs described his find of the first coin, saying: "It was golden and had a little horse on it - I had no idea what I had found."

Curfs posted an image of the gold coin on the Internet on what is described as a web forum. Someone advised him the coin was rare. This prompted Curfs to return to the same field, where he next discovered a coin he described as, "It looked totally different - silver, and saucer-shaped."

By the time Curfs and several fellow hobbyists were done they had uncovered a total of 39 gold and 70 silver ancient Celtic coins. Curfs notified Maastricht city officials of the discovery, then worked with professional archaeologists to investigate the find site further.

Specific details important to coin collectors were not immediately available, however according to the AP story, "Nico Roymans, the archaeologist who led the academic investigation of the find, believes the gold coins in the cache were minted by a tribe called the Eburones that [Julius] Caesar claimed to have wiped out in 53 B.C. after they conspired with other groups in an attack that killed 6,000 Roman soldiers."

The Euburones were a Germanic tribe living primarily in what in now Belgium. In 54 BC the Eburones revolted against local Roman occupation through Euburones tribal chieftains Ambiorix and Catuvoleus. Ambiorix initially offered safe passage to the Romans while other tribes elsewhere in Gaul were in revolt against the Romans. The Romans, commanded by Quintus Titurius Sabinus and Lucius Aurunculeius Cotta, agreed. The Eburones treacherously ambushed the Romans, most of whom were killed or committed suicide rather than allow themselves to be captured by the Euburones.

By 49 BC Roman general Julius Caesar had crushed the revolt, defeating both Celts and Germanic tribes living in Gaul (Gaul being comprised of primarily of what is now modern France). Caesar then defied the Roman Senate by crossing the Rubicon River and marching on the city of Rome, crossing the Rubicon being considered treason since that river marked the northernmost boundary of the Roman Republic proper. By this act Caesar initiated a Roman civil war that would end the Roman Republic and usher in the Roman Empire The Eburones had resisted Caesar's conquest of Gaul and were rewarded for their resistance with genocide at the hands of the Romans.

Roymans believes the gold and silver coin hoard recently found in the Netherlands were produced by Celtic tribes further north, suggesting in his opinion the coins may represent cooperation among the various Celtic tribes in the war against Caesar's Roman legions. Roymans disclosed that both the gold and silver coins depict triple spirals on the obverse, a common Celtic symbol.

At the time this article was being written no value had yet been placed on the hoard. The hoard discovered in Belgium was of similar size and has been estimated at about 175,000 euros (about $220,000 US) in value.

Curfs has retained 11 of the coins, lending them to the city of Maastricht on what has been described as a long-term basis. His coins have been on display at the Centre Ceramique Museum in Maastricht. The farmer on whose land the hoard was discovered sold his interest in the coins to Maastricht for an undisclosed sum.

Middle East Checkmate

From the MEMRI blog (MEMRI: Middle East Media Research Institute Cartoonist: Amjad Rasmi Source: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, January 25, 2009 Posted at: 2009-01-26

WSCF: All Girls Scholastic Chess Tournament

Darlings! Updated information about the Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Federation's All-Girls Scholastic Chess Tournament. I'm not sure if it is the THIRD or the FOURTH: The schedule at the WSCF website says it is the FOURTH; the PDF flyer says it is the THIRD. But it really doesn't any difference - it's girls and only girls playing chess, competing head to head and loving every minute of it. This is a good thing. I donated $150.00 for whatever edition this is of the Tournament for All-Girls because it is a worthy cause and I want to do what I can to promote local chess for chess femmes. Wish I was a millionaire... Please consider making a donation to this worthy organization that promotes scholastic chess in Wisconsin! You can designate that the gift be used only for specific purposes, such as the All-Girls Scholastic - or whatever you'd like. Here is the information for the 2009 All-Girls Scholastic Chess Tournament!!! Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Federation’s Third Annual All-Girls Scholastic Chess Tournament Saturday February 28, 2009 Location: Divine Savior Holy Angels High School 4257 N 100th Street, Milwaukee, WI 53222 (414) 462-3742 Format: Three Sections K – 3 5 Round Swiss G30 K – 6 5 Round Swiss G30 Open (k-12) 5 Round Swiss G30 WSCF K - 3 Three Team Trophies. Individual trophies to top 5 players. WSCF K – 6 Three Team Trophies. Individual trophies to top 5 players. WSCF K – 12 Open Three Team Trophies. Individual trophies to top 5 players. Medals to all participants. Scholarships: K – 3 $ 100 to Champion K – 6 $ 200 to Champion Open $ 400 to Champion, $200 to 2nd Place, $100 to 3rd Place Entry: Register on line at before Thursday Feb 26th at 11: 00 pm. Payment only on day of tournament. $10 for advance registration on line. $15 on site On Site Registration: Registration is from 8:00 am to 8:45. Those arriving after 8:45 will be paired in round 2. Lunch: Purchase on-site. Supervision: At least one designated adult supervisor must be present at all times during the tournament to oversee your school’s team, or individual participants who are in K through 8th grade. Note: WSCF reserves the rights to change the number of trophies, scholarship amounts and medals depending upon entries. Divisions maybe combined if the number of participants warrant. Flier information may be changed with out notice up to three days before tournament. Refunds will be honored in cases of decreased trophies awarded. Inclement Weather: In case of inclement weather please go to the WSCF website before 7:30 am on February 28th to determine if the tournament is delayed, postponed or cancelled. WISCONSIN CHESS FEMMES! YYYYYAAAAAAHHHHHH!

9 Queens

I found out about this fledgling organization just today at Elizabeth Vicary's blog. Any organization that supports getting more girls (particulary girls who would not otherwise be exposed to the game of chess in the normal course of their lives) is A-ONE with me. Jennifer Shahade is one of the principals of this organization. I hope 9 Queens is very successful and spreads into all 50 states! 9 Queens website. Make a contribution to 9 Queens. Lizzy Knows All blog - guys, she made it known that she recently broke up with her chess dude boyfriend...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

2009 Corus Update

Round 8 Results: Group B: Y. Hou - D. Navara ½-½ Group C: M. Bosboom - D. Harika ½-½ Standings after Round 8: Group B: 1. N. Short 5½ 2. A. Volokitin, A. Motylev 5 4. D. Navara, F. Caruana, F. Vallejo Pons, R. Kasimdzhanov 4½ 8. Z. Efimenko, E. l'Ami 4 10. Y. Hou, K. Sasikiran, D. Reinderman, J. Werle 3 14. H. Mecking 2½ Group C: 1. T. Hillarp Persson 6 2. W. So 5 3. D. Howell, A. Gupta, F. Holzke, M. Bosboom 4½ 7. A. Giri, D. Harika 4 9. F. Nijboer, A. Bitalzadeh, R. Pruijssers 3½ 12. O. Romanishin, M. Leon Hoyos 3 14. E. Iturrizaga 2½

New Ruins Discovered in Pakistan

Not sure about this - it might just be politically motivated propaganda; you know, "we're better than you (India) because our ruins are older than your ruins, blah blah blah... What we DO know is that a very ancient civilization flourished for about 1,000 years in Baluchistan along the courses of the Indus River and its tributaries, roughly concurrent with the rise of the civilizations in Egypt and Sumer/Mesopotamia. When the climate changed/the rivers shifted (why do rivers shift? how does this happen? Do they just suddenly decide one day, hey, I'm going 20 miles to the south? Seems a very strange business to me...), the original area of settlement was abandoned. It has been a matter of controversy ever since whether any elements of that civilization survived by moving further south. Are the people who live in southern India today the descendants of that ancient Baluchistan civilization??? Anyway, here is the article: Site older than Moenjodaro found in Sukkur By Waseem Shamsi SUKKUR, Jan 22: An archaeological site, about 5,500 years old, has been found in Lakhian Jo Daro near Goth Nihal Khoso in the district of Sukkur. The find is said to be of the era of Kot Diji. A team of 22 archaeologists headed by the chairman of Shah Abdul Latif University’s archaeology department and Lakhian Jo Daro project director Ghulam Mustafa Shar found some semi-precious and precious stones and utensils made of clay, copper and other metals during excavation on Thursday. The remains are said to be older than those of Moenjodaro. Mr Shar told Dawn that remains of a ‘faience’ mirror factory had been found at the project’s second block. It was believed to be of the era of mirror factories of Italy which dates back to some 9,000 years. [I've never heard of any faience factories in Italy dating back to 7,000 BCE - hell, not even in Egypt dating back that far, so I'll be interested to learn more about what he's talking about - if any further information is published.] He said a painting had also been found and discovery of more such items could establish the site as 9,000 years old, like the remains found at Mehar Garh in Balochistan and Jericho in Palestine. [No photos - in this day and age, that always makes me suspicious]. “At present, we can say that it is older than Moenjodaro,” he said. Mr Shar said that archaeology professors and students from Punjab University, Peshawar University and Islamabad would join the team in a couple of days. He said the work on the second block would continue for a month and more items could be found. Sukkur District Nazim Syed Nasir Hussain visited the site on Thursday and asked the project director to prepare proposals for a museum.
Well, after thinking about it and in light of the recent news about what has been going on in Pakistan and the never civilized "tribal regions," I can't say I blame any of the archaeological experts for playing their cards close to their vests. With the Taliban running rampant throughout Baluchistan and the Pakistani government either not able or not willing to rein them in, it's possible that publishing photos of the area would tip off the Nazi Islamists to the site which they would then destroy as "against Allah."
This just pisses me off so much! How is it possible that the forces of darkness and evil are gaining more and more control over more and more of the world?

Treasure Trove!

From the Lancashire Telegraph: Haslingden man finds Roman treasure in Ribchester 11:30am Monday 19th January 2009 A HASLINGDEN man found a Roman brooch – in the form of a miniature shield – in a field in Ribchester. Alan Pickering, antiquarian book dealer at Holden Wood Antiques, in Grane Road, Haslingden, found it using a metal detector beside the river in Ribchester. The field had been ploughed for the first time in living memory. A raised cobbled area was also discovered in the field, and a couple of other objects given to the Roman museum in Ribchester.

Decorating Redux...Redux...Redux

I got my work-out last night rearranging the New York (guest) room one more time. I don't think the photos quite do it justice. I don't have the New York posters up - I'm thinking about the Central Park poster above the bed and the Times Square poster on the wall area that is mostly hidden by the door when open. I found those poster hangers for sale at the MoMA website, but they only come in silver tone and I don't like silver tone! So, I'm leaning toward a basic cheap plastic poster frame backed by cardboard. The water color on the wall next to the chair was purchased on Fifth Avenue not too far from the scene it depicts (the fountain outside of Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue at one corner of Central Park) on the way home from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, when we visited New York in September, 2005. It hung in the former guest room, in a different frame. I reluctantly decided that my much loved black still life will be better off in the downstairs hall off the staircase. Although it added dynamic color to the guest room, I decided it wasn't quite gender-neutral - but I may bring it back; it depends on whether the posters "work". The other photographs are from New York and Las Vegas - and one squirrel pic (the top one by the window), chosen for their graphical content. The pics by the window I printed in black and white; the pics by the door are printed in color. Still to be done - the swap-out of the bed skirt for the tailored cream/black stripe. I'll do that later on (when I take a break from blogging). I think it will add a more dynamic touch than the current white piquet bed skirt, which tends toward the feminine.

Ancient Inscription Discovered in Yemen

I'm not sure what to make of this. Is it a hoax? is it for real and, if so, what does it mean? Who - and when - drew this "castle" over ancient rock inscriptions? Ancient inscription discovered in Raima Homed, Sana’a Posted in: Local News Written By: Observer staffArticle Date: Jan 20, 2009 - 5:57:12 AM A castle-shaped inscription was recently discovered in Raima Homed, Sana’a by a team from the General Organization for Antiquities and Museums (GOAM). Minster of Culture Dr. Mohammed al-Maflehi told Saba news Agency that the antiquities team confirmed that this inscription is being regarded as the first of its kind to have been discovered. This statement is based on the clearness of the shape of the castle, the pre-Islamic handwriting ( Musnad), and the pictures of animals found behind it. The inscription was carved into a large rock in a mountain in front of the area where a team from the Department of Antiquities found the ancient monument in Hesn Ja’ar in Raima, Sana’a last week. Dr. al-Maflehi said the team will cover the area soon to define its importance and historical value.

Recent Discoveries at Saqqara

A review/overview of a couple recent discoveries at Saqqara: Newly-Discovered Pharaonic Tombs Near Cairo Are 4,300 Years Old The Saqqara necropolis is larger than first thought By Tudor Vieru, Science Editor 23rd of December 2008, 11:45 GMT A new pair of Pharaonic tombs that were recently dug up at the Saqqara necropolis near Cairo prove that the ancient burial grounds are far more widespread than previously thought. The two new tombs actually belonged to high-ranking officials in the old Egyptian dynasties. The nation's top archaeologist says that one of them was built in the honor of the master of the stone quarries, where building materials for the neighboring, larger pyramids were harvested from, while the other belongs to a woman who was most likely in charge of procuring entertainers for the pharaohs. "We announce today a major, important discovery at Saqqara, the discovery of two new tombs dating back to 4,300 years ago. The discovery of the two tombs are [sic] the beginning of a big, large cemetery," Zahi Hawass, the archaeologist in charge of the dig told reporters on Monday, during a media tour of the ancient ruins. He added that the portion of ground that was just excavated, near two large pyramids that were the focus of the dig, was largely left untouched up to this point. The new discovery "shows that the blank areas of the maps of Saqqara aren't really empty at all. It's just that archaeologists haven't got round to digging them," added University of Bristol's Department of Archeology and Anthropology research fellow, Aidan Dodson, who is also part of the international team. The necropolis at Saqqara has been constantly excavated for the last 150 years, and yet, there are numerous discoveries made each season. Recently, Egypt's 118th pyramid was discovered here, bringing the grand total of such constructions unearthed at the site alone to 12. Carbon dating showed that while some of the funerary monuments were built millennia ago, others are as recent as the time of the Roman Empire, which means that the site has a very long standing tradition of housing important Egyptian figures. Official national estimates say that, thus far, only 30 percent of the monuments belonging to the history of Egypt have been uncovered, with the rest still under the hot sands. Archaeological work now focuses on several major sites, where the chances of finding structures are fairly large, as proven by the two new finds.

Gobekli Tepi

The Smithsonian has a feature on 11,000 year old Gobekli Tepi. Anatolia, darlings - that's where it all began - on the slopes of the mountains of the Ararat region, also around Lake Van, the border regions of ancient Armenia. Coincidentally (or is it?) the same place in which the first spoked wheels were invented in about 1850 BCE, a technology that spread like wildfire across the old world and revolutionized warfare. Gobekli Tepe: The World’s First Temple? Predating Stonehenge by 6,000 years, Turkey's stunning Gobekli Tepe upends the conventional view of the rise of civilization By Andrew Curry Photographs by Berthold Steinhilber Smithsonian magazine, November 2008 Six miles from Urfa, an ancient city in southeastern Turkey, Klaus Schmidt has made one of the most startling archaeological discoveries of our time: massive carved stones about 11,000 years old, crafted and arranged by prehistoric people who had not yet developed metal tools or even pottery. The megaliths predate Stonehenge by some 6,000 years. The place is called Gobekli Tepe, and Schmidt, a German archaeologist who has been working here more than a decade, is convinced it's the site of the world's oldest temple. "Guten Morgen," he says at 5:20 a.m. when his van picks me up at my hotel in Urfa. Thirty minutes later, the van reaches the foot of a grassy hill and parks next to strands of barbed wire. We follow a knot of workmen up the hill to rectangular pits shaded by a corrugated steel roof—the main excavation site. In the pits, standing stones, or pillars, are arranged in circles. Beyond, on the hillside, are four other rings of partially excavated pillars. Each ring has a roughly similar layout: in the center are two large stone T-shaped pillars encircled by slightly smaller stones facing inward. The tallest pillars tower 16 feet and, Schmidt says, weigh between seven and ten tons. As we walk among them, I see that some are blank, while others are elaborately carved: foxes, lions, scorpions and vultures abound, twisting and crawling on the pillars' broad sides. Schmidt points to the great stone rings, one of them 65 feet across. "This is the first human-built holy place," he says. From this perch 1,000 feet above the valley, we can see to the horizon in nearly every direction. Schmidt, 53, asks me to imagine what the landscape would have looked like 11,000 years ago, before centuries of intensive farming and settlement turned it into the nearly featureless brown expanse it is today. Prehistoric people would have gazed upon herds of gazelle and other wild animals; gently flowing rivers, which attracted migrating geese and ducks; fruit and nut trees; and rippling fields of wild barley and wild wheat varieties such as emmer and einkorn. "This area was like a paradise," says Schmidt, a member of the German Archaeological Institute. Indeed, Gobekli Tepe sits at the northern edge of the Fertile Crescent—an arc of mild climate and arable land from the Persian Gulf to present-day Lebanon, Israel, Jordan and Egypt—and would have attracted hunter-gatherers from Africa and the Levant. And partly because Schmidt has found no evidence that people permanently resided on the summit of Gobekli Tepe itself, he believes this was a place of worship on an unprecedented scale—humanity's first "cathedral on a hill." With the sun higher in the sky, Schmidt ties a white scarf around his balding head, turban-style, and deftly picks his way down the hill among the relics. In rapid-fire German he explains that he has mapped the entire summit using ground-penetrating radar and geomagnetic surveys, charting where at least 16 other megalith rings remain buried across 22 acres. The one-acre excavation covers less than 5 percent of the site. He says archaeologists could dig here for another 50 years and barely scratch the surface. Gobekli Tepe was first examined—and dismissed—by University of Chicago and Istanbul University anthropologists in the 1960s. As part of a sweeping survey of the region, they visited the hill, saw some broken slabs of limestone and assumed the mound was nothing more than an abandoned medieval cemetery. In 1994, Schmidt was working on his own survey of prehistoric sites in the region. After reading a brief mention of the stone-littered hilltop in the University of Chicago researchers' report, he decided to go there himself. From the moment he first saw it, he knew the place was extraordinary. Unlike the stark plateaus nearby, Gobekli Tepe (the name means "belly hill" in Turkish) has a gently rounded top that rises 50 feet above the surrounding landscape. To Schmidt's eye, the shape stood out. "Only man could have created something like this," he says. "It was clear right away this was a gigantic Stone Age site." The broken pieces of limestone that earlier surveyors had mistaken for gravestones suddenly took on a different meaning. Schmidt returned a year later with five colleagues and they uncovered the first megaliths, a few buried so close to the surface they were scarred by plows. As the archaeologists dug deeper, they unearthed pillars arranged in circles. Schmidt's team, however, found none of the telltale signs of a settlement: no cooking hearths, houses or trash pits, and none of the clay fertility figurines that litter nearby sites of about the same age. The archaeologists did find evidence of tool use, including stone hammers and blades. And because those artifacts closely resemble others from nearby sites previously carbon-dated to about 9000 B.C., Schmidt and co-workers estimate that Gobekli Tepe's stone structures are the same age. Limited carbon dating undertaken by Schmidt at the site confirms this assessment. The way Schmidt sees it, Gobekli Tepe's sloping, rocky ground is a stonecutter's dream. Even without metal chisels or hammers, prehistoric masons wielding flint tools could have chipped away at softer limestone outcrops, shaping them into pillars on the spot before carrying them a few hundred yards to the summit and lifting them upright. Then, Schmidt says, once the stone rings were finished, the ancient builders covered them over with dirt. Eventually, they placed another ring nearby or on top of the old one. Over centuries, these layers created the hilltop. Today, Schmidt oversees a team of more than a dozen German archaeologists, 50 local laborers and a steady stream of enthusiastic students. He typically excavates at the site for two months in the spring and two in the fall. (Summer temperatures reach 115 degrees, too hot to dig; in the winter the area is deluged by rain.) In 1995, he bought a traditional Ottoman house with a courtyard in Urfa, a city of nearly a half-million people, to use as a base of operations. On the day I visit, a bespectacled Belgian man sits at one end of a long table in front of a pile of bones. Joris Peters, an archaeozoologist from the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, specializes in the analysis of animal remains. Since 1998, he has examined more than 100,000 bone fragments from Gobekli Tepe. Peters has often found cut marks and splintered edges on them—signs that the animals from which they came were butchered and cooked. The bones, stored in dozens of plastic crates stacked in a storeroom at the house, are the best clue to how people who created Gobekli Tepe lived. Peters has identified tens of thousands of gazelle bones, which make up more than 60 percent of the total, plus those of other wild game such as boar, sheep and red deer. He's also found bones of a dozen different bird species, including vultures, cranes, ducks and geese. "The first year, we went through 15,000 pieces of animal bone, all of them wild. It was pretty clear we were dealing with a hunter-gatherer site," Peters says. "It's been the same every year since." The abundant remnants of wild game indicate that the people who lived here had not yet domesticated animals or farmed. But, Peters and Schmidt say, Gobekli Tepe's builders were on the verge of a major change in how they lived, thanks to an environment that held the raw materials for farming. "They had wild sheep, wild grains that could be domesticated—and the people with the potential to do it," Schmidt says. In fact, research at other sites in the region has shown that within 1,000 years of Gobekli Tepe's construction, settlers had corralled sheep, cattle and pigs. And, at a prehistoric village just 20 miles away, geneticists found evidence of the world's oldest domesticated strains of wheat; radiocarbon dating indicates agriculture developed there around 10,500 years ago, or just five centuries after Gobekli Tepe's construction. To Schmidt and others, these new findings suggest a novel theory of civilization. Scholars have long believed that only after people learned to farm and live in settled communities did they have the time, organization and resources to construct temples and support complicated social structures. But Schmidt argues it was the other way around: the extensive, coordinated effort to build the monoliths literally laid the groundwork for the development of complex societies. The immensity of the undertaking at Gobekli Tepe reinforces that view. Schmidt says the monuments could not have been built by ragged bands of hunter-gatherers. To carve, erect and bury rings of seven-ton stone pillars would have required hundreds of workers, all needing to be fed and housed. Hence the eventual emergence of settled communities in the area around 10,000 years ago. "This shows sociocultural changes come first, agriculture comes later," says Stanford University archaeologist Ian Hodder, who excavated Catalhoyuk, a prehistoric settlement 300 miles from Gobekli Tepe. "You can make a good case this area is the real origin of complex Neolithic societies." What was so important to these early people that they gathered to build (and bury) the stone rings? The gulf that separates us from Gobekli Tepe's builders is almost unimaginable. Indeed, though I stood among the looming megaliths eager to take in their meaning, they didn't speak to me. They were utterly foreign, placed there by people who saw the world in a way I will never comprehend. There are no sources to explain what the symbols might mean. Schmidt agrees. "We're 6,000 years before the invention of writing here," he says. "There's more time between Gobekli Tepe and the Sumerian clay tablets [etched in 3300 B.C.] than from Sumer to today," says Gary Rollefson, an archaeologist at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, who is familiar with Schmidt's work. "Trying to pick out symbolism from prehistoric context is an exercise in futility." Still, archaeologists have their theories—evidence, perhaps, of the irresistible human urge to explain the unexplainable. The surprising lack of evidence that people lived right there, researchers say, argues against its use as a settlement or even a place where, for instance, clan leaders gathered. Hodder is fascinated that Gobekli Tepe's pillar carvings are dominated not by edible prey like deer and cattle but by menacing creatures such as lions, spiders, snakes and scorpions. "It's a scary, fantastic world of nasty-looking beasts," he muses. While later cultures were more concerned with farming and fertility, he suggests, perhaps these hunters were trying to master their fears by building this complex, which is a good distance from where they lived. Danielle Stordeur, an archaeologist at the National Center for Scientific Research in France, emphasizes the significance of the vulture carvings. Some cultures have long believed the high-flying carrion birds transported the flesh of the dead up to the heavens. Stordeur has found similar symbols at sites from the same era as Gobekli Tepe just 50 miles away in Syria. "You can really see it's the same culture," she says. "All the most important symbols are the same." For his part, Schmidt is certain the secret is right beneath his feet. Over the years, his team has found fragments of human bone in the layers of dirt that filled the complex. Deep test pits have shown that the floors of the rings are made of hardened limestone. Schmidt is betting that beneath the floors he'll find the structures' true purpose: a final resting place for a society of hunters. Perhaps, Schmidt says, the site was a burial ground or the center of a death cult, the dead laid out on the hillside among the stylized gods and spirits of the afterlife. If so, Gobekli Tepe's location was no accident. "From here the dead are looking out at the ideal view," Schmidt says as the sun casts long shadows over the half-buried pillars. "They're looking out over a hunter's dream." Andrew Curry, who is based in Berlin, wrote the July cover story about Vikings. Berthold Steinhilber's hauntingly lighted award-winning photograhs of American ghost towns appeared in Smithsonian in May 2001.
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