Saturday, March 28, 2009

Where Did the American Ice Queens Go?

Article from Newsweek online: A Lost Legacy For so many years American ladies ruled the skating world. Where did our ice queens go? Mar 26, 2009 Sasha Cohen was figure skating's great alchemist, always turning gold into silver or bronze. She retired three years ago, at 21, after two performances—first at the Turin Olympics and then at the world championships—that were quintessentially Sasha. They combined moments of breathtaking artistry—a ballerina's elegant, dazzling footwork and an ethereal quality—with those decidedly un-ethereal moments when Cohen crashed on her butt, a little-girl-lost expression on her face. She departed the sport with silver and bronze medals rather than the pair of golds that could have been hers had Cohen just stayed on her feet for four minutes. But this week, with the World Figure Skating Championships in her hometown of Los Angeles, Cohen has told The New York Times that she is flirting with a comeback aimed at next year's Olympics in Vancouver. "If I come back, I think I could be better than I ever was," she told the Times's Juliet Macur. Cohen has several excellent reasons to contemplate a return to the ice. Her dream of a Hollywood career hasn't materialized, and fame is fleeting. She is now less famous than that Sacha Cohen who is Borat. And while skating's Sasha Cohen still performs on tour, a figure skater is far more marketable if she can wrap fans in an Olympic dream. That's why an even more illustrious skater, the five-time world champion Michelle Kwan, is also talking comeback—even though she has been off the ice longer, has already undergone arthroscopic hip surgery and would be, by the sport's standards, a geriatric 28 years old in Vancouver. Rest of article.
I have have nothing good to say about "come-backs" - remember the disastrous results of "come-backs" of the pros and retired pros figure skaters during the 1994 Winter Olympics? Ladies - please stay retired and spare us the agony of seeing you go down in flames. I love Michelle Kwan with all my heart, but she's made her way into the history books and should not attempt a come-back. It's time to move on, MK, and get with your real life. As for Sasha Cohen, I was never a fan. If she wants to come back, fine, let her fall on her butt once again in front of 50 million people watching on television. Geez!

2009 World Figure Skating Championships

More good news for American figure skating: Ice-dancers Agosto and Belbin win a solid silver and gave the Russians a run for the gold. The Canadians won the bronze. I'm not sure where the American pairs-skaters finished, but let me tell you darlings, from what I saw of the American couples during the 2009 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, they're not worth watching. Snore. In the ladies short program, the Americans aren't anywhere near the top. Rachel Flat is in 7th place, and the perennially inconsistent Alisa Czisny (who is the 2009 U.S. Women's Champion) is in 14th - way out of contention. Sigh. It's the Asian ladies who are dueling for the gold in tonight's "live" long program: South Korea's exquisite ice diva Yu-Na Kim (in first place) and Japan's Mao Asada (in third place) will face off with a Canadian lady, who sits in second place. Way to go, Oh Canada! Can Joannie Rochette go all the way to gold? In fourth place is Asada's teammate, Miki Ando, who is on the way back up the ranks after a disappointing season last year. The 2007 World Champion, Ando opened with a credible attempt at a triple lutz-triple loop in which the second jump was downgraded. Who will win? Watch on network television tonight. Locally the Ladies' long program will be broadcast on NBC - with, I'm sure, highlights of the Mens' competition. Read more about it.

Philippines Chess: So and Gomez Rise to the Top

GM chess: Streaking So downs Dableo By Roy Luarca Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 00:08:00 03/29/2009 DAPITAN CITY – Wesley So’s winning run in the Battle of Grandmasters here hasn’t been broken after all. After So downed International Master Ronald Dableo in the seventh round yesterday, his sixth round draw with fellow GM Rogelio “Joey” Antonio on Friday night was nullified by the organizing National Chess Federation of the Philippines. [Absolutely ridiculous! As if a rematch will result in a something other than a win for So? So they had a draw - So what? Har!] NCFP president Prospero “Butch” Pichay ordered that the So-Antonio match, which ended in a truce after 21 moves of a Scandinavian encounter, be replayed. Pichay cited an earlier NCFP ruling seeking to avoid early draws between players, especially those played in less than 30 moves, to ensure quality competition. The 15-year-old So’s systematic 26-move victory over Dableo in a French encounter pushed his pacesetting total to 12 points, excluding the outcome of his game with Antonio set to be played anew on March 30. “He (Dableo) made some weak moves that immobilized his forces,” said So, who moved closer to the P200,000 men’s division champion’s purse of the 11-round tournament being held at the Dapitan City Resort Hotel. GM John Paul Gomez, beat fellow Asian Chess Cup campaigner GM Darwin Laylo in 58 moves of a Gruenfeld to stay in contention with 9.0 points. International Master Julio Catalino Sadorra trounced IM Rolando Nolte in 48 moves of an English Opening to climb to 7.0 points in the company of GM Eugene Torre and IM Richard Bitoon, who agreed to a truce after 55 moves of a Sicilian Defense. In a late completed match, GM Jayson Gonzales triumphed over GM Mark Paragua in 31 moves of another English. In women’s play, WFM Shercila Cua drew with WFM Catherine Perena to keep top spot with 10 points. Other matches saw WNM Daisy Rivera and WNM Cristy Lamiel Bernales gain ground by besting Rida Young and WNM Rulp Ylem Jose, respectively. Rivera, an employee of Bingo Bonanza, improved to 9.0 points in a tie with WFM Sherily Cua, who was held to a draw by WIM Beverly Mendoza.

New Susan Polgar Endeavor

I swear the woman has an inexhaustible supply of energy - when do you sleep, GM Susan Polgar? And how do you manage to always look so fabulous? Look at this - a photo of her own photo shoot! (I stole it from her blog). I'm jealous. Announced at her blog is a new endeavor - the Polgar Chess University - in collaboration with World Chess Live, ICC and FIDE Trainers' Commission. The PCU will have three main levels: Beginner (aiming for under 1000) Intermediate (approximately 1000 - 1600) Advanced (approximately 1600 to 2200) How about classes for confirmed hopeless patzers (like yours truly)? I'm not a beginner but - nonetheless hopeless! Ah well, Mr. Don and I play chess with each other mainly for seduction keeping with our Goddesschess motto: Chess Is The Game Of The Goddess. Woooo woooo!

Hales Corners Challenge IX

Hola! My adopted club, the Southwest Chess Club, is hosting the Hales Corners Challenge IX. Here is the flyer info: Hales Corners Challenge IX Sponsored by The Southwest Chess Club Saturday, April 25, 2009 Two Sections – Open & Reserve (Under 1600) FORMAT: Four Round Swiss System - Four Games in One Day - USCF Rated TIME LIMIT: Game in One Hour (60 minutes per player) ENTRY FEE: $35 – Open; $25 – Reserve (both sections $5 more after April 22, 2009) Comp Entry Fee for USCF 2200+: Entry fee subtracted from any prizes won SITE REGISTRATION: 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. ROUNDS: 10 am -- 1 pm -- 3:30 pm -- 6 pm Pairings by WinTD---No Computer Entries---No Smoking PRIZES OPEN RESERVE 1st—$325* 1st—$100 2nd—$175* 2nd—$75 A—$100 D—$50 B & Below—$75 E & Below—$40* Prize fund in each section is based on minimum of 25 players in that section; however 1st and 2nd prizes in Open Section are guaranteed Additional $105 in prizes from for best results by female players Tournament Director: Robin Grochowski Assistant Tournament Directors: Tom Fogec & Allen Becker SITE: Wyndham Milwaukee Airport Hotel—4747 S. Howell Avenue—Milwaukee—414-481-8000(formerly known as Four Points Sheraton, across street from airport) ENTRIES TO: Allen Becker—6105 Thorncrest Drive—Greendale, WI 53129 QUESTIONS TO: Robin Grochowski—414-744-4872 (home) or 414-861-2745 (cell) USCF I.D. Required -- Bring your own clocks – Sets and Boards ProvidedHalf point bye available in round 1, 2 or 3 if requested prior to round 1. Round 4 bye not available.
We hope the special prizes just for the ladies will encourage them to compete in this fab event! Goddesschess funded special prizes for the Hales Corners Challenge VIII held in October, 2008. You can find an entry form at Southwest Chess Club's website.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Oh My Goddess! Lysacek Wins Championship!

Oy! I didn't think it would be possible, but USA has a Gold Medal in Men's Figure Skating at the World Figure Skating Championships in how many years? - well, I can't remember when - Brian Boitano 1989, or was it 1988? Ohmygoddess! This is somewhat "old" news - meaning not up to the second, cuz I don't follow figure skating moment to moment despite the Worlds going on right now, and - frankly - I did not think Lysacek had a chance. But he pulled it off, darlings! Am I totally impressed - yes. 2010 Vancouver - here we come! Evan Lysacek wins men’s world figure skating championship By Scott M. Reid / The Orange County Register Friday, March 27, 2009 LOS ANGELES — As Evan Lysacek moved closer with each jump — each element to the world title that had eluded American men for more than a dozen years — he found it more and more difficult to keep his composure. "I was telling myself not to get excited," Lysacek said. "I just wanted to throw my hands in the air." Finally, in the midst of a program-ending spin, Lysacek could contain himself no longer and began pumping his fists like a drummer pounding out a beat the will echo from Staples Center to British Columbia 11 months from now. Rest of article. I'm just glad we aced over the Frenchman Joubert, who is a conceited punk-butt. Sniff - drip drip.

A Small Town Loses It's Pillar: It's Only Bank

Story from The New York Times By SHAILA DEWAN Published: March 27, 2009 GIBSON, Ga. — With fewer than 3,000 residents, Glascock County is not big enough to have its own hospital, jail or Wal-Mart. But for more than 100 years, it had a bank — until late last Friday afternoon, when regulators arrived to shut it down. Neighbors quickly telephoned one another to break the news. Debit cards no longer worked. At Kitchens Grocery, Don Kitchens was suddenly unable to accept food stamps. Dan Peaster, of the two-year-old Peaster’s Home and Ranch Hardware, began to look for a new small-business loan. Elderly people, used to cruising over in their golf carts to make a deposit, fretted about driving 14 miles to the nearest bank. The town, population about 700, was disappointed, but also slightly dazzled by the “Notice of Taking Possession” signs and the armored car that ferried away the cash. “If you watched about three weeks ago on ‘60 Minutes,’ they showed a team going into a bank and taking control over it,” said Anthony Griswell, the county chairman. “It was identical to that.” Bank closings have become almost familiar in Georgia. Since the beginning of 2008, nine banks have failed in the state, more than in any other state, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. But almost all the closings have been in the overbuilt Atlanta area, where the collapse of the real estate market hit particularly hard. To Glascock County residents, it now seems as if the crisis has extended a tentacle from Atlanta to their quiet community of farms and sawmills 120 miles to the east, where “sprawl” is something one does in the den after work. “It wasn’t the loans at this bank,” said J. H. Usry, 74, a retired hairstylist. “But we’re part of it, and that’s brought us down, too.” The Bank of Gibson was founded in 1905 and was owned for decades by the Griffin family. Residents remembered a time when there was no such thing as an account number, or when you could simply call “Mr. E. E.” — Erasmus Eggleston Griffin, or the son who took over for him, Erasmus Eggleston Griffin Jr., and get verbal approval for a loan. “There used to be a lot of banking done after hours over at our house,” said Lee Griffin, 47, a son of Erasmus Jr. “You don’t know how many phone calls we got from people who would say, ‘I just found a car.’ The answer was, ‘Go on and write the check and when the check comes in, we’ll do the paperwork.’ ” But in 2000, the Griffin heirs decided to sell the bank, a decision opposed by Lee Griffin and his brother, Skip (Erasmus Eggleston III), who worked at the bank. At the time, the bank had only about $11 million in assets, but it had a charter, and to lenders in a hurry to cash in on the expanding real estate market, that was its most attractive possession. The bank was bought by a mortgage lender in the Atlanta area, who changed the name to FirstCity and moved the headquarters to Stockbridge, an Atlanta suburb where 20 other banks have offices. FirstCity proceeded to focus on real estate, which ultimately made up more than 90 percent of its loans. Most of the bank’s money came from “brokered deposits,” investments obtained from third parties that shop around for the highest rates, rather than more reliable “core deposits,” which come from local customers. Of the bank’s three branches, where core deposits are typically made, the one in Glascock County had the most money. Glascock County residents did not particularly like the new bank’s style. Frankie Porter, the treasurer of the Gibson United Methodist Church, said she was taken aback when she tried to get a loan for a new roof for the fellowship hall, and was asked to put up collateral. “Before, I would have went in, signed a piece of paper and gotten the money,” Ms. Porter said. “They knew the background of all the people that are borrowing from when they were growing up. My mother had the same telephone number for 40 years. They knew who they were dealing with.” On Tuesday, Sheriff Dean Couch pointed to a white “FirstCity” banner above the door of the bank building in Gibson. “That was our downfall,” he said. The closing was particularly shocking because the F.D.I.C. was unable to find another institution to assume the deposits, which would have allowed debit cards to be honored and checks to be processed. Of the 48 banks that have failed nationwide since 2007, all but two have found buyers, said David Barr, an F.D.I.C. spokesman. But FirstCity’s financial situation was so weak that no one would agree to take it on. Instead, the F.D.I.C. had to issue checks to account holders. In Gibson, many people received theirs on Tuesday morning. Since no other bank had a branch in the county, two other banks had set up tables on East Main Street to entice the newly bankless. “It’s just a monumental headache this has caused,” said Ronald Humphrey, a retired teacher, who was worried that he would lose his satellite Internet service when it came time to pay the bill, which was supposed to be automatically deducted from his account. Mr. Humphrey said he had not had a bank himself until two or three years earlier, when he opened an account at FirstCity in recognition of the fact that, he said, “you have to have a way to shop on TV.” Social Security checks for depositors were sent to SunTrust Bank. But inside City Hall, a bewildered Viola Downs, 82, was listening with skepticism to repeated assurances about where her Social Security check would be deposited and where her money had gone. “They took it all out behind my back,” she said. Most people were sad to see the bank shut down, saying it was a big loss for a little town. But then there was Lee Griffin, who continued working for the new owners until 2006, and now drives a school bus [okay, what did he do with his share of the money from the sale of the bank stock? It had to have been considerable. And now he's driving a school bus????] Mr. Griffin was heartsick that the bank had closed, but he had disagreed with many of FirstCity’s policies. Didn’t he now feel a touch of, well — “Satisfaction?” he asked, finishing the question. “Glee? Joy? That maybe they weren’t as smart as they thought they were? Yes.” *********************************************************************** Yeah, and the "I told you so" mentality won't pay the bills in town now, will it, Mr. Griffin. We can point fingers all we want, but at the end of the day, the Wall Street melt-down courtesy of those dirty-rotten New York snakes affects ALL OF US, whether we like it or not. And we have to deal with it, whether we like it or not. Pretending that none of this is happening and that trillions of dollars in real cash value have not been flushed down the drain courtesy of the "best and the brightest," like some politicians would like us to do, is just not an option.

Killed by Kimodoes

Story from Komodo dragons kill Indonesian fisherman By Barry Neild CNN March 24, 2009 (CNN) -- An Indonesian fisherman has been killed by Komodo dragons after he was attacked while trespassing on a remote island in search of fruit, officials said Tuesday. Muhamad Anwar, 32, bled to death on his way to hospital after being mauled by the reptiles at Loh Sriaya, in eastern Indonesia's Komodo National Park, the park's general manager Fransiskus Harum told CNN. "The fisherman was inside the park when he went looking for sugar-apples. The area was forbidden for people to enter as there are a lot of wild dragons," Harum said. Other fisherman took Anwar to a clinic on nearby Flores Island, east of Bali, but he was declared dead on arrival, he added. Komodo dragons, the world's heaviest lizards, can grow up to 3 meters (10 feet) in length and have a toxic bite that they use to kill prey such as buffalo, returning to feast when the animal succumbs to the poison. Despite their ungainly appearance, the carnivorous reptiles can run as fast as a dog in short bursts, jump up on their hind legs, and kill animals with a blow of their powerful tails. Attacks on humans are rare, but Monday's incident is the latest in a series in which the monster lizards -- which have forked tongues and fearsome claws --have killed or injured people. Last month a park ranger survived after a Komodo dragon climbed the ladder into his hut and savaged his hand and foot. In 2007 an eight-year-old boy died after being mauled. In June last year, a group of divers who were stranded on an island in the national park -- the dragons' only natural habitat -- had to fend off several attacks from the reptiles before they were rescued. Park rangers also tell the cautionary tale of a Swiss tourist who vanished leaving nothing but a pair of spectacles and a camera after an encounter with the dragons several years ago. An endangered species, Komodo are believed to number less than 4,000 in the wild. Access to their habitat is restricted, but tourists can get permits to see them in the wild within the National Park. All visitors are accompanied by rangers, about 70 of whom are deployed across the park's 60,000 hectares of vegetation and 120,000 hectares of ocean. Despite a threat of poachers, Komodo dragon numbers are believed to have stabilized in recent years, bolstered by successful breeding campaigns in captivity. On Monday, a zoo in Surabaya on the Indonesian island of Java reported the arrival of 32 newborn Komodos after the babies all hatched in the past two weeks, the Jakarta Post reported.
I'm sure a lot of people will find this comment offensive, so prepare yourself: This man was STUPID. He ignored warning signs and ventured in where he was NOT supposed to be. As Forrest Gump said "Stupid is as Stupid does." DUH! Now I can predict the predictable outcry - get rid of the beastly kimodoes; but they are just doing, after all, what wild animals do with stupid humans.

Loch Ness 5,000 Year Old Calendar?

Story from the Inverness Courier Boulder could have been a calendar – 5000 years ago By Hugh Ross Published: 27 March, 2009 AN amateur archaeologist believes a giant boulder on a hill overlooking Loch Ness was used as a guide for crop sowing and harvesting by residents of in the Great Glen more than 5000 years ago. John Forsyth, who lives in Lower Foyers and describes himself as a natural naturalist, is convinced the five-metre wide rock, which he can see on the horizon opposite his home, was intentionally placed there by early man. The 76-year-old — who was voted a corresponding member of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland for services to archaeology — believes the boulder was positioned and sculpted so people could use it as a marker against the sun to signal when their crops should be planted in spring and harvested in autumn. He believes a community lived to the east of the boulder, which is between Creag Dhearg and Meall Fuar-Mhonaidh, and used the setting of the sun to establish the spring and autumn equinoxes — when day and night is roughly the same length. As part of his research, Mr Forsyth used a global positioning system to locate another rock behind his home which lies directly east of the boulder and has the same latitude, suggesting an alignment which he thinks is deliberate. The retired geography teacher spent the spring equinox — Friday 20th March — photographing the sun setting to ensure his calculations were accurate. "It was very exciting but I was lucky because there are only two days in the year I could do it and luckily there wasn't a cloud in the sky," he said. "I was waiting with bated breath and started getting very tense and uptight when the sun started coming down. "When it started to disappear behind the hill it came right down perfectly on top of the boulder. I was delighted!" Mr Forsyth takes a keen interest in archaeology and believes the boulder was last moved at around the same time as the Callanish Standing Stones on Lewis and the structures at Stonehenge were erected. "I'm very confident it's from that time because the boulder is firmly embedded in peat and there is lichen on its surface," he said. How the people of the time managed to put the boulder there is another question, admitted Mr Forsyth, who is confident of his findings, despite another school of thought that markers were also used by man in an attempt to find out more about the sun, moon and stars. Highland Council archaeologist Kirsty Cameron was interested to learn of the theory. "People who were living in that time had a very good use of astronomy," she said. "We encourage people to contact us about sites of possible interest but establishing a time for this is hard to prove and because it's a stone, it can't be excavated. I would be keen to find out more about it." Mr Forsyth has also notified the Highland Astronomical Society of his discovery and has received a flurry of e-mails from members keen to learn more.

Start of the Iron Age Pushed Back

Excavation in Turkey set to rewrite history of Iron Age BY NOBUYUKI WATANABE THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 2009/3/27 Japanese researchers digging in Turkey have pushed back the start of the Iron Age, until now presumed to have begun around 1500 B.C., with the discovery of fragments of an iron tool that predate previous finds by several centuries. The implication of the excavations at Kaman-Kalehoyuk, about 100 kilometers southeast of Ankara, is that the history of iron tool production may have to be rewritten. Researchers of the Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan have worked the Kaman-Kalehoyuk site since 1985. They said iron fragments believed to be part of a blade were found in a geological layer dating from 2100 B.C. to 1950 B.C. Until now, the first use of man-made iron tools and weapons was believed to have been around 1500 B.C. by Hittites who lived in the Anatolian Peninsula. The iron fragments were found during excavations in 2000. The artifact, which is in pieces, would have a total length of 5 centimeters if connected. Although the tool was badly corroded, an X-ray of a cross section produced an image of a sharp edge. Researchers believe the tool was a single-edged dagger. Another fragment, a piece of iron slag, measures 2 centimeters in diameter. Two rocks containing iron were also found, suggesting that iron workshops existed at the site. Located in Tokyo's Mitaka city, the Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan was established in 1979. During excavations that wound up last year, researchers discovered iron from a geological layer from before 1500 B.C. However, they said there was a chance the artifact had settled from a later period. Hideo Akanuma, a senior curator at the Iwate Prefectural Museum, began analyzing the metal fragments last year. According to Akanuma, "The discovery of iron in different stages of processing as well as its raw materials from the same geological layer is conclusive evidence that iron processing occurred at the site." The Hittites are credited with being the first race of people to artificially create iron. Iron tools emerged in China from around the seventh century B.C. and spread during the Warring States Period of the fourth century B.C. The technology is believed to have reached Japan around the Yayoi Pottery Culture era of 300 B.C.-300 A.D. Sachihiro Omura, who heads the Japanese Institute of Anatolian Archaeology at the Middle Eastern Culture Center in Japan, said, "After iron production began in the Anatolian Peninsula, the conquering Hittites, who invaded from the north, used iron to make their weapons. "By protecting the secret of iron production, the Hittites were able to build an empire that extended across the Orient," he said.(IHT/Asahi: March 27,2009)

2009 U.S. Chess Championships

Today I visited the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis website and saw a press release dated March 19, 2009, listing 23 of the 24 players invited to this year's championship. The 24th player will be the winner of an online tournament among the 2009 state chess champions hosted by and played on the ICC. The list of confirmed players includes IM Irina Krush and IM Anna Zatonskih. Here's a little information about the prize fund: The U.S. Championship, slated for May 7 - 17, will offer a purse of up to $200,000 in prize money, including a $35,000 cash prize for the first-place winner and a $5,000 jackpot prize. If the winner scores a 9-0 sweep, the player will also be awarded the Fischer Memorial Prize, a $64,000 bonus. The prize is in remembrance of world champion Bobby Fischer, who died last year. I don't recall reading about the $64,000 bonus Fischer Memorial Prize before. I consider it more likely than not that no player will score 9-0 to claim this prize but it certainly is a great incentive for fighting chess! has a website for the 2009 Championship, so I assume it will be broadcasting the games. At present, I haven't found more details about the prize structure. I'd like to know what the break-down is for the 24. I'll keep looking.

Global Economy Impacts Sponsorship

We've already seen sponsorship withdrawn for two FIDE Grand Prix events for the elite players, but the real impact of the global economic melt-down is being felt most at the local level, in the cities, towns and villages where most chessplayers live and work. Friday March 27, 2009 Global impact CHESS By QUAH SENG SUN (From the - Malaysia) Sponsorship for tournaments in the balance. TWO months ago when I touched on the state of chess sponsorship in the country, I wrote about the possible effects that the global downturn could have on the local chess community. This would be a challenging year for chess. Money for organising events could slow down or dry out completely. It would be impossible for us to ignore the global downturn’s impact on chess. Since then, I’ve been receiving mixed signals. Yes, without a doubt, there are still sponsored chess activities going on, like last weekend’s Klang Parade chess tournaments. The Malaysian Chess Federation (MCF) continues to be involved with their national age group chess championship and soon, we’ll see new events like the DATCC KL chess league and the national seniors chess championship. A few days ago, I was given some rather mixed news and it concerned one of the country’s very active chess associations. It’s not totally disheartening news so we don’t have to worry yet. The good news is that the Chess Association of Selangor (CAS) announced their annual state open championship for the end of next month. It’s the longest-running annual state championship in the country. But the not-so-good news is that for the first time in 30 years, there’s no sponsor for the tournament. As a result, this event will simply be known as the 36th Selangor open chess tournament. “For the sake of the survival of the longest running chess event in Malaysia, (the CAS) made a decision to continue with the event for at least this year. We are digging into our reserves and expect to fork out about RM6,000 of the association’s money to keep this tournament going,” said CAS secretary Lim Tse Pin. Lim added that last year’s tournament attracted more than 60 players but he hopes to get a greater turnout from the chess fraternity this time. “We hope to have at least 80 players coming to support the survival of this long-standing event,” he said. I would like to see our local chess players respond positively to this gesture. For a long while, there have been remarks that some among our senior players seem to have a mercenary streak in them. I’ve heard that they pick and choose the tournaments to play. They would be interested to play only in tournaments that offer attractive prize money. If the incentives were not there, they wouldn’t want to play and waste their time. Well, it is exactly times like this that we should be asking whether we play tournaments for money or for enjoyment. If we want to play for self-satisfaction where prize money is secondary, then please rally round to support the Selangor open when it needs us most. It’s the oldest-running and the longest-running chess tournament in the land, surpassing even the national closed championship. All of us should be aware of the great tradition behind the Selangor open and play our parts to help the tournament succeed. I should also mention that the days of good prize money may be over for now. In the next two years or so, be prepared for lower prize money as chess organisers try to pull through the difficult times. It’s either lower cash prizes or no tournaments at all, and the chess associations that adapt best to the changing economy will have the best chances to come out stronger. In this respect, I’m a little surprised that the CAS had not made more drastic restructuring to the prize structure of this year’s Selangor open. Last year, the cash prizes totalled RM6,400 but this year, the association is even offering slightly more to the winners: a total of RM6,750. Perhaps in a way it is to demonstrate to the local chess community that despite the challenges, chess life is still as close to normal. But the CAS knows that this cannot go on indefinitely. When the gravy train eventually stops, even they will have to adjust.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chinese-Approved Kumari

Is she a real Kumari, or is she Memorex (Chinese-approved). How sad to see the demise of this ancient tradition replaced by a Beijing approved sideshow. From The Winnepeg Living Goddess attends horse race festival Last Updated: 26th March 2009, 1:50pm Mateena Shakya, 4, locally known as Kumari, a Living Goddess, looks on as she is carried on a palanquin escorted by priests and devotees to attend the horse race festival in Katmandu, Nepal, Thursday, March 26, 2009. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS) 26th March 2009, 11:52am Living Goddess Kumari (R) is brought to witness performances during the "Ghodejatra" festival in Kathmandu March 26, 2009. The Nepal Army performed various horse related sports and races during the festival. (REUTERS) 26th March 2009, 11:52am

Cat Hunting Squirrel...

da dum.....da dum.....da dum... da dum..da dum..da.dum da dum da dum DA DUM DA DUM.....Oh, the theme from - what was that movie called - the one with the big white shark that ate the little tiny fishing boat, and various body parts of various people? Roy Scheider starred in it - and two other dudes, the big dark Irish guy and the little curly-haired Jewish guy - well, you know the movie I mean. Pardon me for having a senior and being absolutely UNABLE to recall the name of that damn movie! Anyway, I just love this title 'CAT-HUNTING SQUIRREL....' I didn't realize until after I decided to post this here, because it's just too funny to watch, LOL, that the title really meant to convey that the Cat Was Hunting The Squirrel, and not the other way around. Double LOL! So, I revert to my original premise - just who was hunting whom, heh? Check it out.

Secret Tunnels of Malta

From The National Geographic: Lost Crusaders' Tunnels Found Near Palace on Malta James Owen for National Geographic News March 25, 2009 For centuries it's been said that the crusading Knights of Malta constructed an underground city on the Mediterranean island of Malta, sparking rumors of secret carriageways and military labyrinths. Now a tunnel network has been uncovered beneath the historic heart of the Maltese capital of Valletta, researchers say. But the tunnels—likely from an ahead-of-its-time water system—may render previous theories all wet. The newfound tunnels are said to date back to the 16th and early 17th centuries, when the knights—one of the major Christian military orders of the 11th- to 13th-century Crusades—fortified Valletta against Muslim attack. The tunnels were uncovered on February 24 during an archaeological survey of the city's Palace Square in advance of an underground-garage project. "A lot of people say there are passages and a whole new city underground," said survey leader Claude Borg of the Valletta Rehabilitation Project. "But where are these underground tunnels? Do they exist? "We've now found some of them, at least." First Sign of Subterranean Valletta Experts think the newly revealed tunnels—though tall enough to allow human passage—formed part of an extensive water system used to pipe vital supplies to the city. The tunnels were found beneath Palace Square, opposite the Grandmaster's Palace. Once home to the leader of the Knights of Malta, the palace today houses Malta's legislature and the office of the Maltese president. First, workers found what's believed to have been an underground reservoir just under the paving stones of Palace Square. Near the bottom of the reservoir, some 40 feet (12 meters) down, they discovered a large opening in a reservoir wall—the entrance to a tunnel, which runs half the length of the square and connects to channels, some of which lead toward the palace. Efforts to follow these branches have so far failed, as they were blocked off at some later date, Borg said. Rest of article.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Powder and the Glory

Wow! I just spent an absolutely fascinating hour and a half watching the PBS special "The Powder and the Glory" about Helena Rubinstein (image, right) and Elizabeth Arden. I highly recommend this special to anyone interested in successful, powerful business people who happen to be women, the world of cosmetics, high fashion and interior decorating, "high society," and anti-Semitism at the turn of the 20th century. These two women, from such disparate backgrounds, were keen competitors for some 50 years, with flag-ship stores on Fifth Avenue in New York City. Each contributed to the creation of a multi-billion dollar industry that began out of their own kitchens with unique cosmetic products. Add marketing and design genius and relentless drive, and each woman created a vast commercial empire bearing their names. Along the way you'll meet such brand names (and some of the people behind them) as Maybelline, Cover Girl, Revlon and Estee Lauder. Both women broke stereo-typical molds of womanhood during their time, blazed trails and built empires. When Rubinstein's offer to purchase a posh New York east side residence was turned down because of her "race," she purchased the entire building and turned it into a tri-plex townhouse where she spent the last 21 years of her life. The "names" of Arden and Rubinstein continue today, but both business empires were sold after the deaths of Rubinstein (1965) and Arden (1966). Rubinstein had an intact fortune of at least One Hundred Million Dollars at the time of her death, while Arden's estate was in disarray and basically broke. These two strong, independent and - dare I use the much-berated term - LIBERATED - women, lived long enough to see the rise of Twiggy, mini-skirts, and the birth control pill which revolutionized sexual relations between females and males. Found this book at Amazon about the rivalry of these two Queens of their respective business empires: War Paint: Madame Helena Rubinstein and Miss Elizabeth Arden, Their Lives, Their Times, Their Rivalry (Hardcover) by Lindy Woodhead (Author)

Scots Ask for Lewis Chess Set - Again!

This is a recurring story. From The Evening Standard Your move ... Scots want chess set back Louise Jury, Chief Arts Correspondent 25 03 09 (Image: Centre stage: the Lewis Chessmen, carved from walrus and whale ivory between 800 and 900 years ago, are given “global status” by being put at the heart of the London display, says the British Museum) THE BRITISH Museum has put a set of elaborately carved chess figures at the heart of a new gallery despite demands that they be returned to Scotland. The 82 Lewis Chessmen, which are between 800 and 900 years old and made from walrus and whale ivory, were seen in a Harry Potter film and inspired the children's TV series Noggin The Nog. Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, wants them repatriated to Edinburgh to be reunited with the rest of the set discovered on the Outer Hebrides in the early 19th century. Just as the Greek government wants the Elgin Marbles in London to be returned to Athens, Mr Salmond claims it is "unacceptable" for the British Museum to have 82 of the figures while the other 11 are in the National Museum of Scotland. But the British Museum is refusing to back down and insists the chessmen are the highlight within the new Paul and Jill Ruddock Gallery of Medieval Europe. The gallery aims to show that medieval Europe was as important as ancient Egypt and Rome. The lushly decorated display includes relics of the bones of 11,000 virgins of Cologne said to have been massacred by Attila The Hun and a reliquary of St Oda, Archbishop of Canterbury who died in AD 958; the so-called Royal Gold Cup originally owned by Charles VI of France, and the only surviving citole, a precursor to the guitar, owned by Elizabeth I. James Robinson, curator of the medieval collections, said of the chess pieces: "They act as the gateway for all the different themes. They speak about feudal society because all the orders in society - king, queen, bishop, infantryman - are there. "But also we're showing the influences coming into Europe from the Islamic East. Chess is a game that comes to Europe through the Islamic countries of southern Spain and Sicily." The chessmen were probably made in Norway when chess was popular among European aristocracy. It is thought they were on their way to being traded in but ended up in Scotland. The pieces were bought by the British Museum after their discovery in 1831. It emerged later that 11 pieces had been already sold. These are the ones now in Scotland. A spokesman for Mr Salmond said: "The Scottish government believes it is unacceptable that 11 Lewis Chessmen rest at the National Museum of Scotland while the other 82 remain in the British Museum and will continue to campaign for a reunited set of Lewis Chessmen in Scotland." The British Museum stresses it often lends the works and a new tour to Lewis and Edinburgh is planned for next year. Mr Robinson said putting them in the context of world cultures at the British Museum gave them their "proper global status". The new gallery cost around £2million. Paul Ruddock, who helped fund it, is chief executive of Lansdowne Partners, an investment management firm, who fell in love with the medieval collection of the British Museum when he was given a replica set of the Lewis chessmen as a child.

WWII Sex Slave Suit Goes Forward

Eighty-three-year old Chen Jinyu, a sex slave for Japanese soldiers in World War Two, contemplates on a plane before it takes off in Haikou, capital of south China's Hainan Province, Mar. 24, 2009. Chen is scheduled to go to Tokyo to attend the second trial of the Tokyo High Court on a suit of Chinese sex slaves in Hainan.

Warring States Cemetery Discovered

Royal cemetery of the late Warring States Period found in C. China ( by Zhou Jing March 24, 2009) An ancient Han State royal cemetery of the late Warring States Period was recently found in Xinzheng City, Henan Province. As the first discovery of a Han State royal tomb it has filled an archeological gap, and was chosen as one of the 25 finalists to compete for the top 10 new archeological findings of 2008. The site of cemetery in Huzhuang Village is located on the west of Zheng Han Ancient City, a cultural relic of national importance under the protection of the state, and an important cemetery of the Eastern Zhou Period (770-221 BC). The Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology started diggings in October 2006 and more than 12,000 square meters have been excavated to date. Leader of the archeological team Ma Juncai said that in the core of the cemetery are two huge tombs of heaped earth, shaped like the Chinese character "中". More than 10 unearthed bronzes are carved with Chinese characters meaning "Queen" and "Queen Mother", so the team leader is sure that this is a Han State royal cemetery of the late Warring States Period, with tombs of a couple at its heart. Moreover, its size and its unusual layout are infrequent in China. Covering over 40,000 square meters, the cemetery is laid out in a neat rectangle. "The tomb must have been designed with particular attention. Its orientation, size, and layout, along with the earth mounds – all are in harmony, showing its careful design and construction." Ma said. Ma explained that around the two complex and opulently-decorated tombs are three parallel trenches, 20-meters apart, with a broad gateway at the center of the southern part. A short ditch connects each of the trenches, and so a vast drainage and protection system is formed. This structure is the first of its kind discovered among tombs of the same period. "With the assembly of concentric trenches, buildings at the side of and on the top of the tombs, and the tombs themselves, the cemetery fills a gap in the Eastern Zhou Period." Ma added. The archeologists also found an east-to-west leading road in the northwestern excavation area. The road is seven meters wide and comprises the road surface and side ditches. Wheel-tracks can easily be distinguished on its surface. This finding will provide new material for research on transportation in the capital city of Han State. By the time of the Warring States Period (475 - 221 BC), only seven vassal states remained, the rest having been absorbed by Qi, Chu, Yan, Han, Zhao, Wei and Qin. These seven states were called the "Seven powers of the Warring States Period". Zheng Han Ancient City is the site of the capital city of the Zheng State and the Han State. It was established as the capital of the Zheng State during the late Western Zhou period (1046 – 771 BC). After the Han state overthrew the Zheng State in 375 BC, it moved its capital there. The capital city was abandoned when the Qin State conquered the Han State in 230 BC. Having acted as the capital of the Zheng and Han states for over 500 years, the site was named as Zheng Han Ancient City.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Refreshingly Wet "Chess" Story...

Story found at the Charleston Daily Tuesday March 24, 2009 Historic fountain in W.Va. restored by The Associated Press MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- An antique granite drinking fountain shaped like a chess bishop in Martinsburg is as good as new again. The fountain that Emily Alburtis Bishop donated to the city in 1902 was damaged when a car struck it in November. Hammaker Memorials reattached a hand-polished granite ball atop the fountain and cleaned and repaired the rest of it for about $2,000. Owner Steve Ashton estimates the fountain is worth as much $100,000 because the type of granite it's made of isn't quarried any more. City Manager Mark Baldwin says lighting might make the fountain more visible to motorists.

Chess in India

From the Telegraph - Calcutta, India: Wednesday March 25, 2009: Imphal: The Manipur Chess Association is organising the Women’s B 19th Under-17 Boys and Girls Chess Championship at Chingmeirong from April 5. I don't think it's just my imagination. There has been a definite increase in the number and magnitude of chess events being held in India since Anand ascended to the World Chess Champion title. GM Koneru Humpy's recent victory at the first FIDE Women's Chess Grand Prix event just adds fuel to the fire! Go, India, Go!

A Formula to Solve Any Sudoku

Oh no, say it ain't so, ma! From The Daily Mail Online Puzzling behaviour: Maths professor finds the formula that will solve ANY Sudoku By Arthur Martin Last updated at 7:24 AM on 23rd March 2009 He probably thought he was being clever - but no one likes a smarty pants. So instead of being hailed a hero, the mathematician who reckons he's come up with a formula to solve sudoku puzzles found himself being labelled a killjoy. Millions of us are teased and frustrated every day by sudoku number puzzles like the ones printed in this newspaper. But American computer scientist James Crook has published a foolproof system which critics say takes the fun out of it all. In a nine-page theory on the American Mathematical Society's website, he says the solution can be reached by following five logical steps. Among those who are aghast at Mr Crook's discovery is puzzle enthusiast Colin Dexter, author of the Inspector Morse crime novels. He said: 'It's like using a computer program to work out crossword anagrams - it takes all the fun and struggle out of it.' Inspector Morse author Colin Dexter says finding out how to solve Sudoku puzzles takes the fun out of it. When the puzzle first became an obsession for millions in the UK in 2005, websites with software that solve sudoku problems sprang up. However, the Crook algorithm is thought to be the first mathematical proof of how to solve the puzzle. Not even Howard Garns, the U.S. architect who devised sudoku in 1979, could promise that. Mr Crook's mathematical theory will not provide instant success to the frustrations that some fans of the puzzle often feel. His system requires players to mark up empty boxes in a sudoku grid with all possible remaining numbers and, by comparing number sets, to labour through a 'tree' of options that eventually produces a solution. To complete a puzzle using his theory takes more than an hour, while most sudoku problems can be solved within 20 minutes using logic and intuition. His formula was quickly dismissed as 'guesswork' by one keen fan. Tom Collyer, of Coventry, said: 'It describes a few techniques listed in the preface of countless sudoku books - before then describing a guessing process. 'The conclusion? If you make enough guesses, you'll get the answer. Amazing!'

How the Hidden Gospels Were Discovered

From The Times From The Sunday Times March 22, 2009 Sisters of Sinai: How Two Lady Adventurers Found the Hidden Gospels by Janet Soskice Book Review: The Sunday Times review by James McConnachie The hunt for early Bible manuscripts was among the most romantic of all the 19th century's grand quests. In the rush for gospel gold, scholars forayed across the near East, rummaging through half-forgotten monastery libraries for precious scraps of vellum and decaying parchment codices. At the heart of this lively, inspiring double biography is the story of how a pair of spirited Presbyterian women made their own extraordinary discovery. Agnes and Margaret Smith were twins born in 1843 in Irvine, an intensely Presbyterian Scottish town where members of one church could not even buy eggs from a grocer who attended another. They first tasted the East on their quasi-pilgrimages there, Murray's Guidebook in hand. On journeys to Cairo, Jerusalem and Cyprus they learnt to read the Orient's gorgeous souks and stinking quays as biblical tableaux: “There was the gold of Ophir,” as Janet Soskice says, “the topaz of Ethiopia from the Book of Job.” They taught themselves how to manage a dishonest dragoman, how to rough it aboard a felucca and, most unusually, how to speak Greek and Arabic, fluently. Unconventionally, the twins both made love marriages in middle age. Both then lost their scholarly husbands abruptly, after three years of marriage apiece and within five years of each other. They returned to sleeping in the same bed (with a string down the middle “to avoid border disputes”) but did not retreat into respectable mourning. With characteristic indefatigability, they decided to make for the Greek Orthodox St Catherine's monastery, an ancient, extravagantly isolated Christian toehold in a desolate corner of the Sinai peninsula, and see what they could turn up. It was at St Catherine's, after all, that the piratical adventurer Constantin von Tischendorf had found (and stolen) a 4th-century copy of the New Testament. In preparation for their expedition, Agnes taught herself Syriac, a dialect of the Aramaic spoken by Jesus. The kindly Quaker scholar Rendel Harris was so impressed by her that he disclosed an astonishing secret. In St Catherine's, he confessed, he had seen a “dark closet off a dark chamber” where whole chests of unexamined Syriac manuscripts lurked in the gloom. In 1892, the twins travelled from their home in Cambridge to Cairo, then made their way for nine days on foot and by camel across one of the world's more inhospitable deserts. Arid plains gave way to limestone ridges, maze-like wadis and, finally, the brutal 7,000ft peaks of the Mount Sinai range. Agnes, the travel writer of the pair, had no complaint to make about the journey other than that the camel's rolling gait disturbed her reading of the Psalms in Hebrew. Since Tischendorf's escapades, the monks had tended to greet visitors with a volley of stones, thrown down from the vast fortified walls. But Agnes saw only a spiritual oasis; she likened it to a dove hiding in a cleft of the rocks. Respect for the sisters' sex ensured a welcome, and their tents were soon pitched in the monastery garden, close to “the well of Moses” and the original burning bush. Agnes dared to ask to see the oldest Syriac manuscripts and, in a dimly lit chamber, she found the promised chests. One harboured a dirty, damaged volume whose parchment pages had to be steamed apart using the twins' travel kettle. Faint beneath the main 7th-century text were two columns of older underwriting. Agnes's Syriac studies meant that she could read the headings: “Of Matthew”, “Of Luke”. Agnes had found and recognised one of the earliest New Testament manuscripts yet discovered, its text dating to the 2nd century. Yet as Soskice explains, with rather thrilling cogency, the Sinai palimpsest had significance beyond sheer antiquity. It hinted that Joseph was Jesus's biological father. And its version of Mark's gospel absolutely lacked the final verses describing the resurrection. The same absence in other early manuscripts had been dismissed as the loss of a final leaf, but the palimpsest conspicuously concluded in the middle of the page with the colophon, “Here endeth the Gospel of Mark.” The pious twins resisted the obvious inferrence: that the resurrection story was added by later hands. But they recognised their precious palimpsest's importance, meticulously photographed it and, on return to Cambridge, forcibly brought it to the attention of leading scholars. A new expedition to Sinai was hastily organised, led by Agnes and Margaret, whose friendship with the monks of St Catherine's provided an invaluable passport. On arrival, shifts of scholars worked at a rickety washstand table in the Sinai sunshine, transcribing the text with the help of a foul-smelling reagent (brought along by Agnes to help reveal the underwriting) and a monk who held down the pages during gusts of wind. They struggled to finish the task before the camel caravan came back across the desert to fetch them home. Soskice describes those days of urgent outdoor transcription with the understandable yearning of a 21st-century theologian for whom such pioneering triumphs can only be a dream. Her deft handling of a travel yarn and her feel for the culture-bucking momentum of the twins' lives makes the dream a compelling one. Unavoidably, her story slightly loses its drive following the discovery of the palimpsest. As Agnes and Margaret fight for, and gain, scholarly respectability, as scholars bicker over the text and the twins triumphantly found the Presbyterian Westminster College in the teeth of Cambridge sexism, the romance of Sinai seems too distant. The hunt for manuscripts, though, like all good quests, is never finished. A coda to the book reveals that, in 1975, a collapsed wall at St Catherine's revealed four boxes of biblical parchments, including missing leaves of the famed Codex Sinaiticus, one of the few biblical discoveries ever to surpass the Smiths' in importance. As for the original palimpsest, it transpires that it is still in the monastery library, protected by the wooden case Agnes made for it. Sisters of Sinai by Janet SoskiceChatto £18.99 pp352

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Truth About Easter

Thanks to the internet, the truth about the spring festival of Easter is now widely disseminated, and around Easter every year there are a host of new articles on the ancient origins of this yearly celebration. Here is one: World Net Daily Exclusive The truth about Easter Posted: March 23, 20091:00 am Eastern By Richard Rives© 2009 The renowned Oxford English Dictionary informs us that the name "Easter" is derived from the name of a goddess whose festival was celebrated at the time of the vernal equinox. We are told that she was originally known as the dawn goddess – no doubt the origin of sunrise celebrations at the time of Easter. According to Venerable Bede, a seventh century Anglo Saxon theologian, the English word "Easter" is derived from the name of the pagan fertility goddess Eostra. He tells us that "the heathen Anglo-Saxons called the fourth month "Esturmonath" after their goddess Eostra – another name representing the spring fertility goddesses such as Astarte or Ashtaroth, the goddess who was introduced into the British Isles by the Druids. In all actuality, Easter is just another name for Beltis or Ishtar of the ancient Babylonians and can be traced all the way back to Hathor, the cow goddess of Egypt that was associated with the building of the golden calf at Mount Sinai. Rest of article.

Can You Read Russian?

I sure can't - but I THINK these are the final standings of the Women's Tournament at the 69th Petrovskaja Ladja Festival, reported at The Week in Chess: № Участники Стр. Зв. Эло Очки Место 1 Долуханова Евгения UKR МГ 2216 6.0 I 2 Лупик Марина RUS 2163 6.0 III 3 Балаян Алина RUS 2037 6.0 II 4 Зызлова София RUS 2020 3.5 8 5 Петренко Светлана MDA МГ 2251 5.0 5 6 Соколова Вера RUS МФ 2084 2.0 10 7 Корчагина Виктория RUS МФ 2187 2.5 9 8 Ни Виктория LAT МФ 2150 4.0 7 9 Эйдельсон Раиса BLR МГ 2225 5.5 4 10 Мацейко Екатерина UKR ММ 2268 4.5 6

Kaissa Kharkiv 2009

Report from The Week in Chess: The "Kaissa-2009" Women's Tournament in Kharkiv 12th-20th March 2009 was dominated by Evgenia Doluhanova with 8/10. Kaissa Women Kharkiv (UKR), 13-20 iii 2009 1. Doluhanova, Evgeniya wg UKR 2216 * * ½ ½ 1 1 1 ½ ½ 1 1 1 8 2461 2. Karlovich, Anastazia wg UKR 2251 ½ ½ * * ½ ½ 1 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ 5½ 2250 3. Petrenko, Svetlana m MDA 2251 0 0 ½ ½ * * 0 1 1 ½ 1 1 5½ 2250 4. Breslavska, Galina wf UKR 2202 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 0 * * ½ 1 1 ½ 5 2224 5. Burtasova, Anna wm RUS 2298 ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 ½ ½ 0 * * ½ ½ 3½ 2095 6. Grapsa, Georgia GRE 2106 0 0 ½ ½ 0 0 0 ½ ½ ½ * * 2½ 2050

Fisherman Nets a 2200 Year Old Statue!

Greek fisherman nets 2,200-year-old bronze statue The Associated Press Published: Mon, Mar. 23, 2009 01:44PM Modified Mon, Mar. 23, 2009 03:30PM ATHENS, Greece -- A Greek fisherman must have been expecting a monster of a catch when he brought up his nets in the Aegean Sea last week. Instead, Greek authorities say his haul was a section of a 2,200-year-old bronze statue of a horseman. A Culture Ministry announcement said Monday the accidental find was made in waters between the eastern islands of Kos and Kalymnos. The fisherman handed over the corroded metal figure to authorities, who have started the cleaning process. AP Photo - In this handout photo provided by the Greek Ministry of Culture on Monday, March 23, 2009, the torso and raised right arm of a 2,200-year-old statue are seen after it was raised in a fisherman's nets. The ministry said the find, dating to the late 2nd century B.C. was part of an equestrian statue of an armed man wearing a breastplate and carrying a sheathed sword. It was accidentally found last week in the eastern Aegean Sea between the islands of Kos and Kalymnos. Dating to the late 2nd century B.C., the statue represented a male rider wearing ornate breast armor over a short tunic and armed with a sheathed sword. The trunk of the horseman and his raised right arm have survived.

Meresamun, a Priestess of Amun

A Mummy's Life Volume 62 Number 2, March/April 2009 by Eti Bonn-Muller Around 800 B.C., a wealthy Egyptian priestess named Meresamun served the god Amun in the monumental Temple of Karnak at Thebes. Her primary duties were to play percussion, string, and wind instruments that pleased and soothed him, and to sing hymns that praised his name. When she died, her body was mummified and sealed in a skintight coffin of cartonnage (layers of linen and plaster), which had been lavishly painted with her idealized likeness and images to ensure a successful journey to the afterlife. Among other motifs, there are garlands of flowers, a reference to regeneration; a sun disk hovering above a falcon, both symbols of rebirth; the four sons of the god Horus, protectors of the viscera that were removed from her body; and two jackals representing the god Wepwawet, "opener of the way" to the necropolis. The mummy was purchased in 1920 by University of Chicago archaeologist James Henry Breasted and has been in the Oriental Institute Museum's collection ever since. The fragile coffin was never opened and the body never unwrapped because generations of curious curators couldn't bring themselves to destroy the beautiful decorations. But recent analysis on a state-of-the-art Philips 256-slice iCT scanner is now allowing experts to examine Meresamun as never before. The results of the study, along with ground-breaking research on the role of priestess-musicians in the temple and at home, are the subjects of the museum's current exhibition, The Life of Meresamun: A Temple Singer in Ancient Egypt. Last September, Egyptologist Emily Teeter, curator of the exhibition, and a team of conservators placed Meresamun's coffin, secured by foam wedges and linen straps, into a rectangular wooden crate. On the outside, the exhibition designers had painted black wedjat eyes, protective symbols often depicted on ancient Egyptian coffins, believed to allow the mummy to see out. "We didn't want her to feel boxed up," says Teeter, a slender woman with a silvery bob. Then they loaded the mummy into a truck and drove across campus to the University of Chicago Hospital's emergency room. They placed the crate on a gurney and wheeled it into the CT suite, where physicians routinely take X-ray cross sections of tissue to diagnose cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other medical conditions. Nearly 40 people crammed into the hospital's CT suite to witness the historic scans: sales reps from Philips, two film crews, radiologists, nurses, security guards, and museum specialists. "Oh, my God, it was exciting for everybody!" recalls Geoff Emberling, director of the Oriental Institute Museum. Eti Bonn-Muller is ARCHAEOLOGY's Managing Editor. Emily Teeter gives a brief overview of what the Egyptian priestess' life would have been like, as part of comprehensive coverage of the priestess at Archaeology Magazine: The Life of Meresamun: A Temple Singer in Ancient Egypt by Emily Teeter How an Egyptian Mummy Winds Up in Chicago by Eti Bonn-Muller The Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago is hosting a special exhibit of Meresamun February 10 - December 6, 2009.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Maia Chiburdanidze Cup

The "Maia Chiburdanidze Cup" (International Open Women's Chess Tournament) takes place in the Chess Palace, Tbilisi (Georgia) 4th-13th June 2009. The Tournament is open to all women players. Each player must herself (or her federation) cover all her expenses: entry fee, transportation, accommodation and board. 9 round Swiss. Rate of play: 90 min for all moves, increment 30 seconds per move. Details available from the addresses below. Contact IA, FM Varlam Vepkhvishvili E-mail: or Phone: (995)32-997736 - Federation (995)32-960199 - Home (995)99-771974 - Mobile Official site: (no English translation available)

Great Article on Treasure Trove Recovery in England

An in-depth look at the Wickham Market find of 825 Iron Age gold coins by a metal detectorist: Iron Age Gold Unearthed in Suffolk Field By Chris Rudd, World Coin News March 18, 2009 In spring 2008 a hoard of 783 ancient British gold coins was discovered by a metal detectorist near the village of Wickham Market in southeast Suffolk, England. It is one of the largest hoards of Iron Age gold coins ever found in Britain and is one of the most important because it was unearthed virtually in situ, where it was buried 2,000 years ago in an earthenware pot. A small-scale excavation of the hoard site, jointly funded by the British Museum and Suffolk County Council, was conducted last Oct. 14-15. The two-day dig revealed that the hoard had been deposited within a ditched enclosure of late Iron Age date and produced 42 more gold coins, bringing the total to 825. Two intersecting ditches were partially excavated; the shards of wheel-thrown pottery found in them suggest one was open in the late Iron Age and the other was dug and filled in later during the Roman period. All but two of the 825 gold coins were minted in East Anglia by the Iceni, Queen Boudica's tribe. The two "foreigners" came from Lincolnshire. Five of the gold coins - the earliest in the hoard - were made about 40-30 B.C. They are known as Snettisham Type after a hoard excavated at Snettisham, Norfolk, in 1987-1989. The vast bulk of the Wickham Market hoard - 818 coins - are all Freckenham Type gold staters, named after the 90 or more found in a pot in a garden at Freckenham, Suffolk, in 1885. They were minted over a period of two or three decades, probably sometime around 20 B.C.-15 A.D., perhaps by two or three different rulers of the Iceni who may have governed concurrently. Rest of article.

A Searing Indictment of Russian Culture

How does a culture transform itself, for transformation is sorely needed in Russia today, and yet I despair it will ever happen for the better after reading this book review:

Inside the Stalin Archives: Discovering the New Russia, by Jonathan Brent; Atlas & Co., 304 pages, $26. Gary Saul Morson is Chair of Slavic Languages & Literature at Northwestern University.

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 27, March 2009, on page 10
Copyright © 2009 The New Criterion

It's lengthy but worth the read.

I found the review at Arts & Letters Daily under the "New Books" column.

British Library Fesses Up to "Mislaid" Books

Oh my! Story at the British Library mislays 9,000 books • Text worth £20,000 among missing volumes • Some have not been seen for more than 50 years Anil Dawar and Maev Kennedy The Guardian, Tuesday 17 March 2009 An 1876 illustrated edition of Alice in Wonderland is among the missing books. Photograph: Rischgitz/The Hulton Archive More than 9,000 books are missing from the British Library, including Renaissance treatises on theology and alchemy, a medieval text on astronomy, first editions of 19th- and 20th-century novels, and a luxury edition of Mein Kampf produced in 1939 to celebrate Hitler's 50th birthday. The library believes almost all have not been stolen but rather mislaid among its 650km of shelves and 150m items – although some have not been seen in well over half a century. One item, an essay entitled Of the Lawful and Unlawful Usurie Amongest Christians, by 16th-century German theologian Wolfgang Musculus, is valued by the library at £20,000, and has not been seen for almost two years. Others are precious only to a specialist market, such as a set of tables of 1930s London cab fares, or the 1925 souvenir history of Portsmouth Football Club. Although the library has not listed any value for thousands of the books, a quick Guardian tot-up of the market price of nine collectible volumes came to well over £3,000 – including £1,300 for a first edition of Oscar Wilde's only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, published in 1891, missing from the library's shelves since 1961. The library records all of these items as "mislaid" rather than gone for ever, still less stolen. Despite well-publicised recent cases - such as that of Edward Forbes Smiley III, convicted in the US three years ago of stealing more than 100 maps from institutions including the British Library, and Farhad Hakimzadeh, an Iranian collector jailed in January for cutting maps, illustrations and pages from priceless volumes in the British Library and other collections - the library is convinced that almost all the missing texts are still somewhere within its walls. Jennifer Perkins, the library's head of records, said that books and other items were usually identified as mislaid when a reader requested them - more than 3.5m items are delivered to the reading rooms every year - and the book was not on its correct shelf. Other losses were revealed in rolling audits of the enormous collection. "There are a number of reasons why collection items may not be at their correct shelf location: they may have been misplaced on the shelves, the shelf mark label may have become detached from the spine and the item is being checked and reshelved, or the catalogue record may not have been altered to reflect a changed shelf mark," said Perkins. "The library takes the security of its collections very seriously and has a range of measures designed to protect collection items from inadvertent or deliberate harm." Keith Rathmill, of library security firm SA Secure, said he was surprised the list was not longer - one small library which consulted his firm had lost about a fifth of its collection in four years. "It is a huge collection and no building is secure," he said. "There's theft from all libraries, but the British Library can think itself lucky it isn't in a worse situation - it doesn't attract the dregs of society." The library's greatest treasures, priceless documents including Magna Carta and the Lindisfarne Gospels, are kept in a special gallery with rigorous conservation and security controls. For the rest of the collection, identified by barcodes and shelf numbers but not by microchips or any technology the library fears might prove ephemeral, a rolling audit gives priority to the most valuable and heavily used items, a spokesman said. Perhaps significantly, many of the losses are recorded just before or after 1998, the year the library moved from the British Museum to St Pancras. Most of the losses are 19th and 20th century texts, including first editions of novels by Charles Dickens and John Updike, although many older books have also vanished, including a 1555 edition of 12th-century Jewish scholar Moses ben Maimon's Letter on Astrology, missing since 1977, and a 17th-century guide to Rome. Missing treasures • Wolfgang Musculus, Of the Lawful and Unlawful Usurie Amongest Christians, 1556. Missing since 2007. British Library valuation £20,000. • Moses Ben Maimon, Letter on Astrology, 1555. By 12th-century Jewish philosopher and Torah scholar. Missing since 1977. Nothing comparable on market. • Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891. First edition missing since January 1961. Valued by Bookride at over £1,300. • Ezra Pound, Canzoni, 1911. First edition of poetry collection, described as "balderdash" by contemporary reviewer, missing since 1999. Copy on Amazon at £425. • Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 1876 illustrated edition. Missing since 1976. Valued at £350 by Abe Books.

Buried with the Buddha?

I came across this 2004 article at the Times Online while doing a little basic research on the Buddha for a post done earlier today. It's good stuff, but very long. Here's the beginning: From The Sunday Times March 21, 2004 Buried with the Buddha For years, these tiny jewels lay forgotten in dusty boxes. Then one man made it his mission to unearth the truth about them: could they have been enshrined with the Buddha 2,500 years ago? Vicki Mackenzie investigates Paul Seto was about to make the first of two astonishing discoveries. It was a Friday afternoon in June last year, and the general secretary of the Buddhist Society — one of the oldest Buddhist societies in Europe — was making a routine inventory, for insurance purposes, of all the artefacts at its London centre. As Seto and Philip Trent, an antiques dealer, pored over the contents of a display cabinet, Seto, seated on the floor, noticed a shabby cardboard box hiding between the bottom shelf of the cabinet and its base. It would have been invisible to anyone standing. Inside the box were various paraphernalia, such as conference badges and medals, that had belonged to Christmas Humphreys, the British judge who founded the society in 1924. And among these items was a smaller cardboard box, about 3in square. Written on its lid, in a neat Victorian hand, were two sentences that sent Seto reeling: "Relics of Buddha. From the Piprawah Stupa, Birdpore Estate, Gourkhpur NWP, India. 1898." Carefully, he opened the box. Inside he found 12 compartments, each holding a tiny, exquisite object: eight-pointed flowers and beads made of sapphire,cornelian, amethyst, ruby and rock crystal, a tiny, pearl-like object, and a larger object that appeared to be three pearls fused into one. "Everything stopped," remembers Seto. "My first thought was, 'It can't be true!' My second was, 'What's it doing here?' Normally such an object would be in a venerated place, not in a cardboard box in a cupboard." Could these items really have lain next to the Buddha's mortal remains, as the label on their cardboard box suggested? If so, these exquisite jewels would be more than 2,500 years old. This would be the most exciting religious discovery since the Dead Sea Scrolls. For 300m Buddhists worldwide, it would be the equivalent of Christians finding a piece of the cross. And little did Seto know he was at the start of a quest that would lead him to yet more treasures. Seto asked colleagues at the Buddhist Society about the box, but nobody had known of its existence. "This may be the earliest Buddhist archeology there is. There's virtually nothing to compare it with. I feel a responsibility to every Buddhist in the world and every Buddhist who will come, to establish what these objects truly are, so they can be given the proper respect," he says. Searching for clues, he turned to the internet. Entering "Birdpore Estate 1898" into a search engine, he was directed to an article in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, written by one William Claxton Peppè in 1898: "The Piprahwa Stupa, containing relics of Buddha." (Piprawah, as on Humphreys' box, is an alternative spelling.) "That gave me the feeling I was onto something quite special." But who was William Peppè? And how had these relics found their way to London? An intriguing story unfolded as Seto pored over the Victorian documents. Buddhism had flourished in northern India until AD500 but, while continuing to gain adherents overseas, it gradually declined in the Buddha's homeland under the pressure of competing religions. The Muslim conquest of India in the 12th century put the final nail in the coffin. Divorced from his geographical origin, for centuries the Buddha was viewed more as a mythical figure than a historical person. It was only with the coming of the Raj in the 19th century that archeological proof of his existence emerged. Those classically educated men cracked the holy language of Sanskrit and excavated monuments, temples, universities and tombs, all suggesting that the man who was Prince Siddhartha Gautama of the Sakya-warrior clan, and later known as the Enlightened One, had lived, taught and died, at the age of 80, in India. In 1895, Dr Alois Anton Führer, a German archeologist working for the Indian Civil Service, had found a stone pillar at Lumbini, in the foothills of the Himalayas in southwestern Nepal, which he claimed marked the Buddha's birthplace. Then Peppè appeared in the frame. He was a British engineer, surveyor and manager of the Birdpore (now Birdpur) estate in northern British India, just a few miles southwest of Lumbini. Caught up in the rush of enthusiasm created by the Lumbini find, Peppè decided to excavate a prominent mound on his own land, hoping it might be a reliquary or stupa. He sank a vertical shaft down through 18ft of ancient brickwork and at ground level found a stone coffer, more than 4ft long, 2ft wide and 2ft high. "The coffer is made of hard, fine sandstone of very superior quality. I calculate the weight of the coffer, lid included, to be 1,537 pounds," Peppè wrote in his article. Inside, he found three soapstone (steatite) vases, all about 6in high, a small soapstone box, and a small crystal bowl with a fish-shaped handle. "The steatite vases have been beautifully turned in a lathe — the crystal bowl is polished to perfection and has all the appearance of a glass bowl of the present day." Within the vases, Peppè recorded, he found pieces of bone and hundreds of pieces of small treasures, which he dutifully listed and described. They included gold ornaments, gold-coin impressions, figures, Buddhist symbols, stars and flowers in silver and gold, pearls of different sizes, some of which were welded together, serrated and veined leaves, pyramids, drilled beads of various shapes in white or red cornelian, amethyst, topaz, garnet, coral and crystal, and a bird in red cornelian. There was also a pile of what seemed to be petrified rice. One vase bore an inscription, which Peppè said was in early Pali (an ancient written language), and which was later translated as: "This shrine for relics of the Buddha, the August One, is that of the Sakyas, the brethren of the Distinguished One, in association with their sisters and with their children and their wives." It seemed that Peppè had unearthed a portion of the Buddha's bones and burial treasure that had not been seen for more than two millennia. The Victorian historian Vincent Smith said, in a note attached to the 1898 article when Peppè announced his findings: "The massiveness and costliness of the coffer, and the richness of the deposit of precious objects in the vases, are obvious proofs of the veneration attaching to the relics enshrined. The inscription proves that the depositors believed the fragments of bone to be part of the sacred body of Gautama Buddha himself." A later article of 1910 called Peppè's find "the only authenticated relics known to date". But these records should not be taken at face value, says Dr Michael Willis, professor in south Asian studies at De Montfort University, Leicester, and author of Buddhist Reliquaries from Ancient India. "There are all sorts of problems with excavations of this period. The basic one is the way people worked: they read Buddhist texts, then went off and found the sites. A parallel is the Roman emperor Constantine's mother, Helena, who in the fourth century AD went to the Holy Land and 'found' the true cross and the nails supposedly used to nail Jesus to the cross. Peppè wasn't an archeologist — we're not dealing with a careful, scientific excavation. Even for the period, it wasn't of a very high standard." Rest of article.

Peru Discoveries

What is it about Peru? It seems a week doesn't go by when I'm not reading about another new archaeological wonder discovered in Peru: Weather conditions have revealed some 2700 b.p. geoglyphs inPeru: pile of cave paintings ... also from Peru:

Buddha was a Scythian!

Hmmm.... Buddha was a Scythian Arian of Budins in Ancient Ukraine: scholar Moscow, Mar 15 : Valery Bebik, a prominent scholar of political science in the former Soviet Republic of Ukraine, has claimed that Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, belonged to the Scythian nation of Budins that lived on the territory of Ancient Ukraine during the first or second millennium B C. Bebik has published the sensational article in the official newspaper of the Ukrainian Parliament, 'The Voice of Ukraine.' Bebik is Doctor of Political Sciences, a professor, deputy principal of Ukraine University, the chairman of the board of the All-Ukrainian Association of Political Sciences. ''It is quite possible that Buddha belonged to the Scythian nation of Budins that lived on the territory of Ancient Ukraine during the first or the second millennium BC. The name of the nation is still preserved in the names of Ukraine’s contemporary settlements - Seredina-Buda, Buda, and some others,'' he said. ''Everything is clear from the ethnic point of view. Buddha was a Scythian Arian, a member of the Budin tribe. The descendants of the tribe still live in the Sumsky and the Chernigov region of Ukraine, as well as on the neighbouring lands of Belarus and Russia,'' he said. Bebik earlier also published a number of his articles in the official newspaper of the Ukrainian Parliament. He wrote his previous articles for the paper to 'prove' the remarkable role of the Ukrainian civilization, which endowed the world with spiritual enlightenment, outstanding prophets, philosophers and leaders. In 2008-2009, the Ukrainian professor shared his amazing observations of Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and the ethnic origin of Jesus Christ. ''The name of Egypt's major temple, Het-ka-Ptah, sounds very much like Ukrainian words 'hata' and 'ptaha' ('house' and 'bird'). The pictures on the Egyptian pyramids show that Egyptian queens were blonde women with blue eyes, just like many Ukrainian women. One should also pay attention to the fact that the trident, which is currently the minor national emblem of Ukraine, can often be seen there too,'' he wrote. ''We have already outlined the facts that placed in question the official, the church version of the ethnic origin and the Biblical dates of the life of Jesus Christ and the historical epoch, in which the basis of Christianity was formed. It looks like Christ actually lived 3,000 years before his canonical birth and spoke the Coptic language, which is a close language to the ancestors of contemporary Ukrainians,'' the scholar wrote. --- UNI
I understand that Buddha was cremated so I guess it's out of the question to take some DNA and do a comparison with the "descendants of the Budins" mentioned in the article. If it was possible, that would probably put to rest any theories that Buddha was a Scythian. Is there really a relationship between ancient Coptic and ancient Ukrainian? According to an old "language map" I have of languages descended from Proto-Indo-European, Ukrainian is descended from East Slavic, from Slavic, from Balto-Slavic, and is most closely related today to Byelorussian and Russian. Coptic isn't even on this language "map" - I thought it was a Semitic or Hamitic language? I understand that Coptic developed after Alexander the Great's take-over of Egypt in the 4th century BCE, and while using Greek lettering was nevertheless based on the ancient Egyptian language, incorporating many hieroglyphic symbols into the "new" language and script, developed from the Demotic. Please correct me if this is wrong, help! According to my language "map," Greek descended from Hellenic, which is directly related to proto-Indo-European circa 5000 BCE without any intervening steps. In a sense, Ukrainian and Greek ARE related to each other, as both are descended from proto-Indo-European. But that does not mean that Ukrainian and Coptic are related to each other, despite Coptic's use of the Greek alphabet! According to Wikipedia, we don't actually know when Buddha was born: The time of his birth and death are uncertain: most early 20th-century historians date his lifetime from c. 563 BCE to 483 BCE; more recently, however, at a specialist symposium on this question,[2] the majority of those scholars who presented definite opinions gave dates within 20 years either side of 400 BCE for the Buddha's death, with others supporting earlier or later dates. [Note: (2) The Dating of the Historical Buddha: A Review Article.] Further, according to Wikipedia: Siddhartha was born in Lumbini[7] and raised in the small kingdom or principality of Kapilvastu, both of which are in modern day Nepal. At the time of the Buddha's birth, the area was at or beyond the boundary of Vedic civilization; it is even possible that his mother tongue was not an Indo-Aryan language.[8] [Notes: (7) (8) Richard Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988, page 49.] Did Scythians make it into Nepal and settle there sometime between 563 BCE and 400 BCE???

Journey to Punt

The article is a bit unclear - did the archaeologists actually sail the vessel they built all the way to "Punt" - which I take to mean the Somalian horn of Eastern Africa??? Archaeologists recreate Egyptians' fabled voyage to Land of Punt Cairo, March 16 : An international team of archaeologists has reconstructed an ancient Egyptian ship of the first quarter of the second millennium BC called 'Min of the Desert', in order to find how the ancient Egyptians sailed to the fabled Land of Punt. Until a few years ago, there was a widely held belief that the ancient Egyptians did not travel long distances by sea because of their poor naval technology. People in the past tended to assume that the ancient Egyptians did not make long-distance trips because little evidence of such journeys has been found. Based on this belief, they also thought that the Land of Punt, the fabled source of many ancient Egyptian imports, could not have been located in the Horn of Africa, but must have been in southern Sinai. However, this view is changing. Now, according to a report in Al-ahram weekly, in order to find how the ancient Egyptians sailed to the Land of Punt, and how did they use their maritime technology to resist the destructive forces of the sea, a team of French, Italian, American and Egyptian archaeologists working with shipping experts have reconstructed an ancient Egyptian ship of the first quarter of the second millennium BC called "Min of the Desert". The idea was to set sail across the Red Sea in order to experience how the ancient Egyptians sailed to Punt and to expand the data available from archaeological evidence and the technical study of ships in ancient Egypt. Such ships were built without using nails, and the planks used to construct them were designed to fit together like pieces of a puzzle. "The purpose of the expedition was to understand the capabilities of a reconstruction of an ancient Egyptian ship," said ship archaeologist Cheryl Ward of Florida State University. The rigging of the ship was reconstructed from models and from the bas reliefs at the temple of Queen Hatshepsut at Al-Deir Al-Bahari. "Our primary goal was to demonstrate the extraordinary capability of the Egyptians at sea, as many people, including fellow archaeologists, have thought of the Egyptians as tied to the Nile and lacking the ability to go to sea," Ward said. The test rides were made in the shape of short trips on the Nile, then in the Red Sea, and then in the shape of a longer trial voyage south towards the Sudan from Safaga along the route used by the ancient Egyptians. According to Mustafa, "Once the sail was set, all of us remarked on the efficiency and simplicity of the ship when maneuvering and steering, and on its responsiveness." --- ANI
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...