Saturday, July 11, 2009

Goddess: Amaterasu Omikami

Land of the Sun Goddess Michael Hoffman traces some fascinating risings and settings in the story of Japan By MICHAEL HOFFMAN Special to The Japan Times The sun was mortally offended — with good reason. Civilized progress deadens the impulse to see gods in the workings of nature. It's a price we pay, willingly or unconsciously. To the ancient Japanese, the sun was the goddess Amaterasu Omikami. She was gentle by nature but her brother Susano'o, the Storm God, could be provoking beyond endurance. Subject to tantrums, he "broke down the ridges between the rice paddies . . . and covered up the ditches. Also," reports the eighth-century "Kojiki" ("Record of Ancient Matters"), "he defecated and strewed the feces about in the hall where the first fruits were tasted." Further depredations followed; finally the outraged Amaterasu took refuge in the "Rock-Cave of Heaven." Japan was plunged in darkness; "constant night reigned." Rest of article. I wonder - is "Ama" a Japanese word for mother?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Irish Spot Virgin Mary in Tree Stump, Oy Vey!

Is the alleged sighting of the Virgin Mary in the trunk of a cut-down tree a signal that the End Times Are Near??? I put this right up there with the conspiracy to kill off most of the population by innoculating them against the H1N1 virus (Swine flu, latest version). I don't know about you, but I sure didn't see any Virgin Mary in this photograph, not even while squinting without my glasses on. This Virgin Mary appears to not have a head. Hmmm... From the Virgin Mary spotted in Irish tree Religious fever has taken root in the Irish village of Rathkeale, Co Limerick, after workmen claimed the image of the Virgin Mary appeared in the remains of a felled churchyard tree. Published: 10:13PM BST 09 Jul 2009 The supposed vision surprised locals who have come in their hundreds to pray and light candles in the grounds of Holy Mary Parish church. While some believe the willow should be preserved and covered in glass, others think the believers are just barking up the wrong tree. Noel White, Rathkeale Community Council Graveyard Committee chairman, said workmen sprucing up the church land saw the image when they cut the tree. "One of the lads said look, our Blessed Lady in the tree," Mr White said. "One of the other lads looked over and actually knelt down and blessed himself, he got such a shock. It was the perfect shape of the figure of Our Lady holding the baby." Candles and rosary beads have been draped over the stump by prayerful locals with up to 700 holding a candlelight vigil last night and into the early hours of the morning. Mr White said people have been travelling from neighbouring Co Kerry as word of the phenomenon spread, while it is believed a local Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) club from a nearby parish also brought two busloads of people. "It is just a tree, but it is what it depicts when you look at it," Mr White said. "It is just phenomenal what's going on. And it's not just Rathkeale, they're coming in from all over the place." But not all villagers have seen the supposedly divine image with some treating the discovery with scepticism. Local priest Fr Willie Russell refused to get caught up in the hype but said he was not surprised by the outpouring of interest. "This is just going to go on and on," he said. "My impression of it at the moment is that I have no impression of it. It doesn't interest me that much at the moment. I have seen the tree ... it's only a tree." Fr Russell also insisted not everyone in the area believes the image of Our Lady appeared on the tree. "The local views are kind of mixed," the priest added. Scepticism over the reported appearance is shared by the Catholic Church's hierarchy in Ireland, according to Fr Paul Finnerty, official spokesman for the Limerick diocese. "The Church's response to phenomena of this type is one of great scepticism," he said. "While we do not wish in any way to detract from devotion to Our Lady, we would also wish to avoid anything which might lead to superstition." Cynics have already pointed to the coincidental timing of Ireland's latest "appearance" amidst a recession after the Celtic Tiger boom years. The last time the country was plagued by massive joblessness in the 1980s there were numerous reported sightings of moving statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary. One of the first - and most prominent of the alleged phenomena - was in Ballinspittle, in Co Cork, where locals insisted they witnessed the statue of Our Lady floating in the air. The claims drew worldwide attention as busloads flocked from long distances to see the roadside grotto in the small rural village in the hope of seeing the same. The "sighting" sparked a wave of similar claims around the country as people held vigils at other roadside grottoes which mostly sprang up during the Marian Year of 1953. Former postmaster and councillor John Griffin said that while he had no difficulty with people coming together to pray, it was just a tree stump. "I respect everybody's belief but when I heard about this and had a look, what I saw were the remains of a felled tree," Mr Griffin said. "I see a shape, the shape of a felled tree. It is in the shape of a cloaked lady or cloaked person, but that's because of the way it was cut. I'm not attributing anything supernatural." But for believers the big question is what to do now? "If it is left there I would imagine we would have to get expert advice on how to preserve it, maybe cover it with glass or something," Mr White said. "Because people are taking bits off the tree or stroking the tree and taking the skin off, and if they keep doing that there'll be nothing there soon." [LOL! And - shame on you, those taking bits and pieces of the Virgin Mary.] Fr Russell added: "Whatever the people want, there's no problem there. It doesn't create a problem for me." _____________________________________________________________________ Tsk tsk. Compare this "Virgin Mary in Tree" image I found in my archives from 2008. I've probably got a blog about "Her" somewhere here. This one looks like the real deal, not something hacked about by a 17 year old with a chainsaw :) Try searching under "Virgin Mary" or perhaps "apparitions of Virgin Mary." I've had it for the night, darlings. Good night.

1,200-Year-Old Boat Uncovered in Central Java

From the Jakarta Post: Ancient boat reveals shipbuilding skills of Java’s seafarers Suherdjoko , The Jakarta Post , Rembang, Central Java Fri, 07/10/2009 11:49 AM Java Brew Historians have long wondered just how Indonesians in the 6th and 7th centuries built their boats. A recent archaeological discovery sheds some light on the mystery. In July last year, an ancient boat, measuring 15.6 meters long and 4 meters wide was discovered in Punjulharjo village, Rembang district, in Rembang regency. A team from the Yogyakarta Archaeology Center made a detailed study of the site, about 200 meters inland from the Java Sea coastline, from June 17 to 26 this year. The boat, approximately 1,200 years old, was found buried near the Central Java northern coastline, with its bow lying to the west and its stern in the east. Head of Punjulharjo village Nursalim said eight local residents had stumbled across the ancient relic while making a pond. “The land was originally planted with coconuts, followed by secondary crops,” he told The Jakarta Post. “But as the soil was not fertile enough, they decided to make a pond. That’s when they noticed the buried boat, its main part still in its whole form, as they dug deeper.” According to the chairman of the Yogyakarta archaeology team, Novida Abbas, the ancient boat is the most complete ever found in Indonesia. “So far we have only got wooden planks and other separate pieces. The discovery in Rembang is 50 percent intact,” Novida said. “We can see the actual shape of the boat and its construction technology.” Novida estimates the boat could hold 30 people. Its skeleton remains complete, including its sides, bottom, curved ribs (to support the sides), stringers (to fasten the ribs) and wooden pegs, as well as palm-fiber ropes to fasten the ribs to knobs on the inside of the sides. There are also rattan and bamboo items. Priyatno Hadi, a team member and archaeology graduate from Yogyakarta’s Gadjah Mada University, said the main body of the boat was unbroken. The hull was built using a very simple method that did not require any metal components. “Planks were first arranged to form an arc and then the curved wooden ribs were placed in parallel rows from the stern to the bow. Thereafter, they were fastened and strengthened with wooden pegs,” he added, showing the thumb-sized pegs. Twelve of the boat’s 17 ribs are still joined to its flanks, with their palm-fiber ropes still partly tied in their knots. Unusually there are also L-shaped planks in the stern – with those in the bow probably having been lost – for reinforcement due to the palm-fiber rope holes. Missing are the upper parts of the boat and some parts of the bow, Novida said. “The entire boat may have been larger than what has been found today. Its age of 12 centuries and its almost complete state provide good material for more comprehensive research. So we will finally have an idea of what Indonesia’s ancient boats looked like without having to speculate much. This finding gives us a good idea.” The team sent samples of the palm fiber to ancient vessel specialist Prof. Pierre Yves Manguin in France to determine the boat’s age. Manguin is also director of the Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient research institute and is now studying antique ships and boats in Southeast Asia and East Asia. He passed on the samples for examination at the Beta Analytic Radiocarbon Dating Laboratory in Miami in the United States. Laboratory test results showed the boat was used sometime during 670–780 A.D. It was a merchant boat used toward the end of the Hindu Mataram kingdom in Java and Sriwijaya kingdom in Sumatra. This model was commonly used by traders in Java, Madura and Sumatra in those days. Novida explained that the archaeology center made an initial inspection soon after the discovery was reported, only undertaking a more thorough study in June 2009. The old boat is now being stored in a building provided by the Hasyim Djojohadikusumo Foundation, which helps preserve the country’s cultural heritage. The timber used for the planks to form the sides of the hull, each 7 centimeters thick, comes from different species, some teak and others mangrove. All the stringers are made from teak. “We haven’t yet delved deeper into the boat’s materials,” Novida said. “We will conduct further research.” Priyatno Hadi added that boat builders of that era used resin and gelam shrub fiber to fill the gaps between planks to keep the boat watertight. The team also found 100 pieces of earthenware, two lead rings believed to have served to bind fishing nets, coconut shells for food or drinks, glass-like bamboo tubes and a wooden stick 50-cm long. The objects may lead to conclusions on how these people lived, their level of technology and their daily lives. Punjulharjo village head Nursalim displayed some of the other items the locals had found in the boat, including a carved stone head, bones, clay pitcher spouts and a stick. The archaeological team doubts if all the artifacts originated in the boat because the wooden stick turned out to be modern. However, they will study them further because the female head image resembles ones discovered on former sites of the Majapahit kingdom. Following the study, the ancient boat was again submerged into water as a way of safeguarding it. The structure sheltering the boat is now encircled by bamboo fences so people visiting the site can only look at it from outside the barriers. “We are planning to reconstruct the boat and later make its replica,” Novida said. “In this way, anyone wishing to look at the boat can have a more detailed model of the relic.” Nursalim said he hoped the boat would remain in the shore area. “Our village people have agreed to make this area a tourist destination,” he said. “We will protect the boat so let it just stay here. We don’t want to have it moved to another place, as we would get no benefit from it, leaving this area with only the memory of being a boat village.”

Poop Wars!

Whoa! Just what I needed to cheer up an otherwise extremely stressfully and - dare I say it, yes I will - crappy week. Enjoy! Weighing in against the petrified poop being from a human being, we have these dudes: Paul Goldberg,1,2, Francesco Berna,1,3 Richard I. Macphail1,4 1 Department of Archaeology, Boston University, 675 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA 02215, USA. 2 Zentrum für Naturwissenschaftliche Archäologie, Universität Tübingen, Rümelinstraße 23, 72070 Tübingen, Germany. 3 Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra "Ardito Desio," Università degli Studi di Milano, Via Mangiagalli 34, 20133 Milano, Italy. 4 Institute of Archaeology, University College London, Gordon Square, London WC1 0PY, UK. in this article: Science 10 July 2009: Vol. 325. no. 5937, p. 148 DOI: 10.1126/science.1167531 Technical Comments Comment on "DNA from Pre-Clovis Human Coprolites in Oregon, North America" And now things get really sexy, darlings, because there is a response, whooo-whooo! Weighing in for the petrified poop being from pre-Clovis people: M. Thomas P. Gilbert,1 Dennis L. Jenkins,2 Thomas F. G. Higham,3 Morten Rasmussen,1 Helena Malmström,1 Emma M. Svensson,4 Juan J. Sanchez,5 Linda Scott Cummings,6 Robert M. Yohe, II,7 Michael Hofreiter,8 Anders Götherström,4 Eske Willerslev1 1 Centre for Ancient Genetics, University of Copenhagen, Universitetsparken 15, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark. 2 Museum of Natural and Cultural History, 1224 University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403–1224, USA. 3 Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art, Dyson Perrins Building, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK. 4 Department of Evolutionary Biology, Uppsala University, Norbyvagten 18D, 74236 Uppsala, Sweden. 5 National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Science, Canary Islands Delegation, 38320 Tenerife, Spain. 6 Paleo Research Institute, 2675 Youngfield Street, Golden, CO 80401, USA. 7 Department of Sociology and Anthropology, California State University, 9001 Stockdale Highway, Bakersfield, CA 93311, USA. 8 Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig, Germany. in this article: Science 10 July 2009: Vol. 325. no. 5937, p. 148 DOI: 10.1126/science.1168457 Technical Comments Response to Comment by Poinar et al. on "DNA from Pre-Clovis Human Coprolites in Oregon, North America" What will be the outcome??? Stay tuned.

New Study on Gender and Chess

Most interesting! Thanks to Allen Becker of Southwest Chess Club for giving me a heads-up on this article this afternoon. European Journal of Social Psychology Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 38, 231–245 (2008) Published online 14 May 2007 in Wiley InterScience ( DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.440 Checkmate? The role of gender stereotypes in the ultimate intellectual sport ANNE MAASS*, CLAUDIO D’ETTOLE AND MARA CADINU University of Padova, Italy Abstract Women are surprisingly underrepresented in the chess world, representing less that 5% of registered tournament players worldwide and only 1% of the world’s grand masters. In this paper it is argued that gender stereotypes are mainly responsible for the underperformance of women in chess. Forty-two male–female pairs, matched for ability, played two chess games via Internet. When players were unaware of the sex of opponent (control condition), females played approximately as well as males. When the gender stereotype was activated (experimental condition), women showed a drastic performance drop, but only when they were aware that they were playing against a male opponent. When they (falsely) believed to be playing against a woman, they performed as well as their male opponents. In addition, our findings suggest that women show lower chess-specific self-esteem and a weaker promotion focus, which are predictive of poorer chess performance. Copyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Are You Ready for More Dan Brown?


The Writing on the Wall

Prior post. It ain't over 'til it's over... The Lede at The New York Times and Nico Pitney at The Huffington Post (continual) have been blogging about the election and its aftermath in Iran. MENE MENE TEKEL PARSIN... Tonight the NYT carried this story - and lead photograph (copyright Associated Press). Here is a quote from the story: ... A young woman, her clothing covered in blood, ran up Kargar Street, paused for a moment and said, “I am not scared, because we are in this together.” The tradition of the pre-islamic warrior woman is alive and well in Iran.

That Pesky 4-3-2 Number of the Goddess Again!

Well, this is just too strange to pass by without mentioning! When I was doing the prior post on the Ark of the Covenant, I pulled out the one Graham Hancock book I have in my library, Fingerprints of the Gods: The Evidence of Earth's Lost Civilization, and after using it to get the exact title of Hancock's book about the Ark of the Covenant, I just happened to flip to page 327, which is the start of Chapter 38 entitled "Interactive Three-Domensional Game." If that isn't spooky enough for you, darlings, on the opposite page (326), are two photographs, one of the Great Pyramid built by Pharaoh Khufu (Cheops) in c. 2550 BCE. This is the caption to the photograph: The geometric perfection of the Great Pyramid of Egypt, almost 500 feet high and supposedly built by the Fourth Dynasty Pharaoh Khufu around 2550 BC. Amongst other functions the Great Pyramid was designed to serve as a mathematical model of the northern hemisphere of the earth on a scale of 1:43,200. I cannot speak to the validity of Hancock's claim about the Great Pyramid, but that number he mentioned - 43,200 (and multiples thereof) - repeatedly shows up in the most interesting places. In fact, "432" is called the Number of the Goddess by no less authority than the great Joseph Campbell. For further information, check out 4-3-2 Lift-off! by those fabulous Las Vegas Showgirls, Bambi and Candi! Photograph above found at

Ark of the Covenant to be Revealed?

LOL! How did I miss this story? MUCH ABOUT HISTORY 'Ark of the Covenant' about to be unveiled? Ethiopian patriarch tells pope he will show artifact to world Posted: June 24, 20099:35 pm Eastern © 2009 WorldNetDaily The patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia says he will announce to the world Friday the unveiling of the Ark of the Covenant, perhaps the world's most prized archaeological and spiritual artifact, which he says has been hidden away in a church in his country for millennia, according to the Italian news agency Adnkronos. Abuna Pauolos, in Italy for a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI this week, told the news agency, "Soon the world will be able to admire the Ark of the Covenant described in the Bible as the container of the tablets of the law that God delivered to Moses and the center of searches and studies for centuries." The announcement is expected to be made at 2 p.m. Italian time from the Hotel Aldrovandi in Rome. Pauolos will reportedly be accompanied by Prince Aklile Berhan Makonnen Haile Sellassie and Duke Amedeo D'Acosta. Rest of article. Well, I sure didn't read about any announcement, did you? If you would like an entertaining read on the legends surrounding the disappearance of the Ark of the Covenant, I suggest Graham Hancock's The Sign and the Seal: A Quest for the Lost Ark of the Covenant.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Cache of Artifacts Found at Egyptian Museum in Cairo

Information from The Egyptian Gazette - undated, I presume today or tomorrow? - isn't Egypt several time zones ahead of us timewise? Another Cache Unearthed in National Museum Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed another cache near the Western gate of the National Museum in Cairo, Culture Minister Farouq Hosni said yesterday. Zahi Hawass, the secretary-general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said that the cache contained a table made of limestone, a fragment of a slab with hieroglyphic inscriptions, some stones, and the base of a pharaonic pillar, which date back to the pharaonic period around 1,300 years BC." This type of slab was quite widespread during the era of the Pharaohs, who used it to mark a special occasion,” Hawass said.“The slab shows the head of a cobra," Hawass said, adding that foreign archaeologists were in the habit of burying antiquities they had considered 'useless' in the Museum's garden. The antiquities will be analysed, said Hawass, who has been supervising a project for giving a facelift to the Museum. The project, which is near completion, includes upgrading the museum and adding new, showrooms, meeting rooms, a library, a bookshop and a cafeteria.
I find this piece (identified in the article as: Unearthed: The slab that was unearthed near the Western gate of the National Museum in Cairo yesterday) utterly fascinating! I'm no expert, but I've looked at probably a thousand photographs and images of Egyptian artifacts during the past ten years as well as exhibits in museums, and I don't recall seeing this kind of "slab" with a cobra's head etched into it. This "slab" is set up in the form of an offering table that I've seen many times. There's that little "tail" (that's what I call it), with a trench in it that was meant to siphon off wine or beer that was poured as a libation by the deceased's descendants over the surface of the "table." Most of the offering tables were not very large, and it's impossible to tell what the dimensions of this one is from the photograph. I do not recall seeing such a slab or an offering table with a serpent on its face, though! The serpent reminds me of Egypt's two most ancient board games: Senet, with it's "serpentine" path that the pieces follow around the board that leads to each piece's promotion into the ancient equivalent of "Heaven;" and the even older Mehen, predynastic, with carved stone boards shaped in the form of a spiraled serpent. Perhaps this is a hybrid between an offering table and a gameboard? Unfortunately, the photograph is poor, and it's difficult to tell if there might be places on the board where pieces (offerings) might have been placed - but, am I imagining it? Are those squares I see along the left side?

Southwest Chess Club: Club Championship!

The Club Championship starts tomorrow - how'd it get here so fast, eek! Last summer's championship was won by Expert Anthony Parker. Who will win it this year? Here is the information: It is a 6-round Swiss, in one Open Section. Two 1/2-Pt Byes are available in Rounds 1-5 (not Rd 6). July 9, 16, 23, 30 & August 6 & 13 (No lecture this Thursday, as we will have lots of players signing up for the tournament). Come on out and support our largest and strongest tournament of the year! 6-Round Swiss in One Section. Game/100. USCF Rated. EF: $7 (must be a member to participate). SWCC Membership $10 (can join prior to first round). (Two ½ point byes available in rounds 1 through 5 if requested at least 2-days in advance) TD is Allen Becker (cell: 1-414-807-0269 if you are running late); ATD is Robin Grochowski.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Shira Chess Challenge!

Ohmygoddess! I now somehow find myself playing chess games with Rob, Soheil, Mott the Hoople, and Frog Breath. And I believe more or knocking on my email door, but I have not as yet answered them. Who would call himself or herself Frog Breath? I suspect that other than Rob, and - possibly, Soheil, the others are grandmasters in hiding, waiting to get their jollies off on playing a hopeless patzer such as yours truly. I do hope I am wrong. I suspect I am not. Oh my. Oh, you ask, how am I doing? Not good. But for the moment, I am temporarily unparalyzed from making moves, however crappy they may be and in my world of the glass always being half full, this is a good thing! Ta, darlings!

Hales Corners Challenge X!

We have a flyer for the Hales Corners Chess Challenge X, yippee! It doesn't show up in all of its glory here - but I'll do my best to make it pretty :)
Hales Corners Challenge X Sponsored by The Southwest Chess Club Saturday, October 17, 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 October 14, 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 * guaranteed Goddesschess prizes for top performing females: Open Section: 1st - $60, 2nd - $40 Reserve Section: 1st - $40, 2nd $30, 3rd $20 Tournament Director: Tom Fogec Assistant Tournament Directors: Robin Grochowski & 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: Tom Fogec—414-425-6742 (home) or 414-405-4207 (cell) USCF I.D. Required -- Bring your own clocks – Sets and Boards Provided Half point bye available in Round 1, 2 or 3 if requested prior to round 1; not available in Round 4. _____________________________________________________________________________ Checks payable to Southwest Chess Club (Please indicate section desired) __Open Section __Reserve Section Name: __________________________________________________ USCF ID#: ________________ Rating: _________ Expire Date: ___________ Address: ______________________________________ City: _____________________ State: _______ Zip: _________ Phone: __________________ e-mail Address: _______________________

Ancient Royal Chinese Tomb Discovered

Hola darlings! I do hope I have not previously reported on this discovery. I found this story at which is, I believe, a South Korean website (but don't quote me on that :)) Ancient Royal Tomb Found in China Arirang News / Jul. 07, 2009 12:10 KST Workers in northern China building water infrastructure recently uncovered a 1,400-year-old royal tomb containing ancient wall paintings. The tomb belonged to Gao Xiaoxu, the male heir of an emperor during the Qi Dynasty. The detailed frescoes of honor guard officials found inside are thought to date from 550-577 AD. [This is around the time that the game of Xiang Qi - Chinese chess - may have evolved in China from an earlier practice that was part divination/part board game called Xiang Xi, according to Dr. Joseph Needham]. However, the more than 1,000 years that have passed have taken its toll on the condition of the paintings. Sun Jinghua of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology says that the discovery needs the full attention of restoration specialists. Fragments will be secured and the wall will be removed to a location off-site for further study. The site is located in an area that contains 134 tombs mostly from the royal family of the Northern Dynasties which ruled from 368-581 AD.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Wherever this place is, it sure is gorgeous! Donostia Chess Festival Action July 7 - 16, 2009. In addition to three other tournaments that are composed with only chess dudes (snore), there is a women only event with a well-mixed line-up of chess femmes: Diputacion Foral de Gipuzkoa Donostia (ESP), 7-16 vii 2009 cat. III (2318) Name Ti NAT Elo DoB Tania, Sachdev m IND 2410 1986 Milliet, Sophie m FRA 2388 1983 Pokorna, Regina wg SVK 2381 1982 Michna, Marta wg GER 2379 1978 Hamdouchi, Adina-Maria wg ROU 2324 1979 Zakurdjaeva, Irina wg RUS 2305 1982 Melnikova, Yana wg RUS 2285 1984 Ionica, Iulia-Ionela wg ROU 2263 1980 Rozic, Vesna wm SLO 2239 1987 Karlovich, Anastazia wg UKR 2211 1982

Significant Islamic Find in Japan

This discovery could possibly re-write the history, such as it is, of trade between Japan and centers that traded Islamic-made goods in the 8th century CE. 8th century Islamic vase found THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 2009/7/6 NARA--Shards of an Islamic ceramic vase--the oldest uncovered in Japan--were excavated at the former site of Heijokyo palace, municipal researchers said. The 19 pieces of what is believed to be a vase more than 50 centimeters tall date back to the late eighth century, about 100 years earlier than Islamic ceramics found in Fukuoka Prefecture. The researchers believe the vase was used during maritime trade to carry spices from the Islamic world. Tatsuo Sasaki, a professor of archaeology at Kanazawa University, said the finding confirms that Nara was a terminus on the ancient Silk Road of the Sea. Heijokyo was the nation's capital during the Nara Period (710-784).(IHT/Asahi: July 6,2009)

Shira Chess Challenge: I Am NOT Ready for Beginner Chess

Oy, this is driving me crazy. Today I made a very bad mistake. I actually opened one of the data bases that Kelly a/k/a Chess Daddy sent to me, using Chess Base Lite. I forced myself to work through 1 and nearly a half games, and then I couldn't stand it anymore. Every single thing I do when I play chess is fricking WRONG. So WRONG, I found myself paralyzed and now I cannot make a move in my pending games (now 3 games). I am terrified of making a mistake. Which I know I will, because I suck. This is HORRIBLE. I don't know what to do. To add insult to injury, lately I seem to have come across a plethora of articles about "beginner" chess, like this one: Your Chess Coach Chess starts with the basics By Laura Sherman, Bill Kilpatrick First Posted 03:08:00 07/07/2009 Chess is taught by starting with the basics and building from there. It has to be done step by step. It is a big mistake to skip ahead too quickly with new strategies or techniques, when the more basic concepts are not well understood by a young chess player. Teaching “checkmate” is a perfect example. Coaches quickly learn it’s a big challenge to teach children the concept of checkmate. We have found that many beginners have trouble checkmating their opponents despite having an overwhelming advantage of pieces on the chess board. So how do you teach this seemingly basic concept? Break it down! Simplify it! Pull checkmate apart into little pieces that can be learned, one at a time. The first step is to drill easier concepts with your students. How do you attack a piece? When is a piece in danger? How do you trap a piece? There are dozens of such exercises that are needed in order to fully prepare the student to understand and apply the concept of checkmate. Once they have these components down, they must be able to recognize when the king is in check and understand that concept fully. Quiz them on the number of escape squares the king has. This usually requires a bit of drilling, but there will come a point where the student knows it, really knows it. Being able to recognize when a student has a concept and is able to move on is also important. The last thing you want to do is rehash something over and over that they already understand. There’s a certain look that a student gets when they fully understand something. Watch for that look, that confident gleam in their eye. Now they will have an easier time grasping checkmate. Show them many examples. Stick with exercises that are checkmate in one move, starting with extremely easy and basic positions. The more you drill these with your student the faster they will pick up the themes and be able to recognize reoccurring patterns.
Checkmate needs to be drilled regularly and often. The result will be that your students will take advantage of more opportunities on the board and you will have a strong foundation from which to move forward. _____________________________________________________
Laura Sherman founded Your Chess Coach with her husband, Dan Sherman. The couple's full-time profession is teaching children to play chess. Bill Kilpatrick, founder of several professional specialty schools, brings an entrepreneurial spirit to chess coaching. Together they provide consulting around the globe helping improve the ability of coaches, parents and educators to teach chess to children. Okay, so what about teaching someone like ME to play chess after years of doing it wrong? And please, do not say "forget everything you ever thought you knew about chess." My response: SCREW YOU. No way am I going to unlearn 40 years worth of playing chess the way I play. There has to be a different way to do this. I'm officially ditching the data bases. I cannot even remember the first four moves (2 for white and 2 for black). Sorry Chess Daddy, this ain't gonna work.

Honor Killings Rage Unchecked in Pakistan

Here is jus a sampling from the Daily Times, which reports news from Pakistan. In almost all incidents, the victims are female: Monday, July 06, 2009 ‘Honour’ killings remain unchecked By Rana Tanveer LAHORE: ‘Honour’ killing seems to go unchecked in the city as it claimed three lives in two incidents during the last week. On July 2, a newly married couple was killed in the name of ‘honour’ in Barki police precincts. Ramazan shot dead Khalid and his wife Shamim, who had eloped and married without the consent of their families. Ramazan was Shamim’s cousin and both had been engaged. The other incident took place on July 5, when a boy, Irfan, killed his uncle Shahadat Ali for marrying his mother after the death of his father in Kahna police precincts. Reportedly, Irfan considered the marriage a matter of ‘honour’. In 10 weeks, nine people were killed in the name of ‘honour’ in the city. Among these incidents, on June 18, in Sabzazar police precincts, Iqbal killed his sister Adeeba (22) for having an alleged affair with a boy. The accused tried to hide the incident by shifting the body to some other city, but the police recovered the body after chasing the accused. On June 2, Nawaz of Ferozewala killed his sister Shehnaz Bibi, who was a mother of two, for having an affair with a man. On May 26, Ahsan Elahi gunned down his wife Shazia in Liaquatabad police precincts. On April 20, Zulfiqar Khokhar of Green Town killed his sister Shahnaz (35) and niece Farah (18) for honour. In Kahna, on April 16, a woman was killed by her in-laws in the name of ‘honour’.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Belated Happy July 4th!

(Photo of the "Living Flag" taken at Ellis Island, New York, May, 2009. This is the neatest thing! Depending upon your angle, you either get a straight shot of the flag of the USA, or something like this photograph, that shows that the flip sides of each part of the flag is made up of individual images of people who have come through Ellis Island. This is a motion shot that I think Mr. Don took showing a couple of people crossing the image, because during the busy part of the day when we were there it is nearly impossible to get a clear shot of this great flag art work.) Hola Darlings! Yesterday dawned warm, humid, and overcast. I had plans to spend some time with family later in the day. The first part of the day was spent sweating and puffing as I cut the front lawn, then laid down a layer of bug-killer pellets because those damn sod web-worms are back yet again this year, despite my best efforts! Argggghhhh! Then I trekked to the supermarket! Later I spent time attempting the ever-hopeless task of updating Chess Femme News at Goddesschess. I will do more on that later today. And, of course, I had my chess games going on. I left no time to post here. I am not doing very well in either of them, alas. However, Mr. Don has promised that as soon as he is out from under the revamping of the Goddesschess website he will give me a couple of practice games. He is as rusty as I am, so we will be an "even" match - I hope! I need something to boost up my confidence a bit. For some mysterious reason, I have usually been able to defeat him with the black pieces... Later, I visited my sister Debbie and her husband Randy's home where we had a small gathering of some of the family and a neighbor joined, too, because her husband was working and her kids are all grown up and moved away. Here is a photo of my 82-year old mother and my graduate-student nephew, Adam Varble, decked out in 4th of July regalia. Don't let Grandma Newton's water glass fool you - it was filled with some of my White Zinfandel wine! I took along the netbook and showed some of the photos from our May New York vacation -- they were a great success, and some of the truly horrid photos that Mr. Don took of me elicited much laughter, boo! I drank too much, and ate way too much of all the stuff that is so bad for one - grilled bratwurst, baked beans, potato salad, cole slaw (a/k/a cold slaw), and cream-cheese topped blueberry bars for dessert, EEK! But Goddess, it all tasted so GOOD! Then we all played some crazy word game called "Banana" while the cheap wine I'd supplied freely flowed, and we had a marvelous time. When delivered home about 9:16 p.m. I collapsed into bed where I lay in the dark, windows opened wide to catch any hint of breeze in the warm, moist air, the bedsheet draped loosely about me. I drifted off to sleep as I listened to the booms of fireworks going off in all of the parks, close and distant, around me. It was a wonderful 4th of July!

7,000 Year Old Preserved Children

Cf. Garbage Children? I am not at all certain that what seems to be the prevailing theory in archaeology and anthropology of "disposable children" is a correct reading of the existing meagre evidence. For instance, there are these lovingly-preserved mummies of children (and some adults, too) that are 7,000 years old - from the New World, no less. Article at Parents’ keepsake Savvy Soumya Misra The world’s first mummies: arsenic poisoning victims in Chile in 5000 BC
(Image: Reuters. A mummified Chinchorro baby in San Miguel Museum in Arica city) Seven thousand years ago, about 100 km from the contemporary port city of Arica in Chile, a child died. The grieving parents did not want to part with the last remains. They removed the head and internal organs of the child, stuffed it with animal hide, painted a clay model of his head and decorated it with tufts of his hair. The delicately preserved body was excavated in 1983. Archaeologists believe it is the earliest mummy. More than 100 child mummies were discovered in Camarones near Arica that year. Later, preserved bodies of adults were found as well. Archaeologists say the embalmed bodies were of people from Chile’s Chinchorro community. Unlike mummies in later civilizations—most notably Egypt that flourished for 2,500 years beginning 3,000 BC—that spun around prestige, wealth and power, Chinchorro mummification was based on a democratic and humanistic view of the dead, and everyone was mummified. Archaeologist Bernardo Arriaza, who studies the Chinchorro at the University of Tarapaca in Arica, wrote that unlike the Egyptians who hid the dead, the Chilean community embraced them. The child mummies even took their place besides their parents at the dinner table. A few years ago Arriaza launched a daring new theory: the Chinchorro were victims of arsenic poisoning. “I was reading a Chilean newspaper that talked about pollution and it had a map of arsenic and lead pollution, and it said arsenic caused abortions. I jumped in my seat and said, That’s it,” Arriaza said. Following the lead, Arriaza collected 46 hair samples from Chinchorro excavated from 10 sites in northern Chile. Ten samples from the Camarones river valley had an average of 37.8 microgrammes per gramme—much higher than one to 10 microgramme of arsenic per gramme that indicates chronic toxicity according to World Health Organization (who) standards. The sample from an infant’s mummy had a residue of 219 microgramme per gramme. One theory is that they could have washed their hair with arsenic contaminated water but pathologists explain that washing is unlikely to leave such high levels of arsenic traces. Arriaza has another explanation. Chinchorros were a fishing society. They collected plants along river mouths and hunted both sea mammals and wild birds. They made fishhooks out of shellfish, bone or cactus needles, spear throwers were used to hunt sea lions and wild camelids, while both lithic points and knives were manufactured using flint stones. The Chinchorro lacked ceramic vessels, metal objects and woven textiles, but this was not a social handicap: their simple yet efficient fishing technology allowed them to thrive along the Pacific coasts. But life was not without dangers. In the 1960s tests on water drawn by the city of Antofagasta in the Camarones river valley showed that it was laced with 860 microgrammes of arsenic per litre—86 times higher than the limits acceptable by who. Arriaza believes this was so even 7,000 years ago. Tests on the Chinchorro mummies strengthen the arsenic poisoning theory. He also believes Chinchorros suffered from chronic ear irritation and impairment probably due to continuous fishing in the Pacific Ocean’s cold waters. They also suffered from parasitic infections from eating poorly cooked fish and sea lion meat. “In highly stratified societies like ours, lower-class children receive simple or meager mortuary disposal. But in a small group, the death of children certainly threatened the survival of the entire group. Affection and grief may thus have triggered the preservation of children,” the archaeologist said. [Or maybe, just maybe, the parents loved their children and truly mourned their passing, despite what cultural mores today's archaeologists and anthropologists impose upon the ancient peoples they study.] Chinchorro morticians made incisions to deflesh the body and removed internal organs. Clay, grasses and feathers were used to fill the cavities. The bodies were painted bright red from head to toe, the face was painted black or brown. A long wig up to 60 cm was used to ornament the head. Facial features were modelled to convey life. [As I understand this article in plain English, the children often died at a very young age because of excess arsenic introduced into their systems via mother's breast milk and contaminated other food and water.]

No Etruscan Link to Modern Tuscans

An intriguing article, and what I appreciate is that the author noted the experts indicated that their findings in no way indicate that there is NO LINK between the ancient Etruscans and modern-day residents of the same area, but only perhaps the DNA evidence has been so diluted we can no longer trace it with our current technologies. Unfortunately, the title and sub-title to this article are VERY misleading! 2009-07-03 17:06 No Etruscan link to modern Tuscans Study shows genetic discontinuity with Bronze Age people (ANSA) - Florence, July 3 - The current population of Tuscany is not descended from the Etruscans, the people that lived in the region during the Bronze Age, a new Italian study has shown. [If you read on, you will see that this is actually a mis-statement of what is currently known.] Researchers at the universities of Florence, Ferrara, Pisa, Venice and Parma discovered the genealogical discontinuity by testing samples of mitochondrial DNA from remains of Etruscans and people who lived in the Middle Ages (between the 10th and 15th centuries) as well as from people living in the region today. While there was a clear genetic link between Medieval Tuscans and the current population, the relationship between modern Tuscans and their Bronze Age ancestors could not be proven, the study showed. [But what about a link between the Bronze Age Tuscans and the Medieval Tuscans? That was not addressed in this article.] ''Some people have hypothesised that the most ancient DNA sequences, those from the Etruscan era, could contain errors or have been contaminated but tests conducted with new methods exclude this,'' said David Caramelli of Florence University and Guido Barbujani of Ferrara University. ''The most simple explanation is that the structure of the Tuscan population underwent important demographic changes in the first millennium before Christ,'' they said. ''Immigration and forced migration have diluted the Etruscan genetic inheritance so much as to make it difficult to recognise''. The scientific data does not necessarily mean that the Etruscans died out, the researchers said. Teams from Florence and Ferrara universities are working to identify whether traces of the Etruscans' genetic inheritance may still exist in people living in isolated locations in the region. The new study is published online by the scientific journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. The Etruscans lived mainly between the rivers Tiber and Arno in modern-day Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany, in the first millennium BC. By the sixth century BC they had become the dominant force in central Italy, but repeated attacks from Gauls and Syracusans later forced them into an alliance with the embryonic Roman state, which gradually absorbed Etruscan civilization. Most of what is known about the Etruscans derives from archaeology as the few accounts passed down by Roman historians tend to be hostile, portraying them as gluttonous and lecherous. This problem is compounded by the fact that Etruscan cities were built almost entirely of wood and so vanished quickly, leaving little for archaeologists to investigate.
As far as I know, we have not yet been able to decipher the Etruscan language, although we do understand some individual words. The problem, as I understand it, is that there is a lack of long enough texts to be able to apply modern-day algorithyms, etc., that are now used to decipher a language. Another issue seems to be whether Etruscan is related to the Indo-European family of languages, or not.

Chesterfield, Missouri Site May Be Major Find

This is a great story. There is no way of knowing, unfortunately, just how many cities, sites and settlements of earlier resident Americans have been destroyed in the past, either knowingingly or unknowingly, as the people who eventually came to be known as the USA rushed to develop itself. Today we (hopefully) know better - Story at, serving southwestern Illinois and the St. Louis region July 3, 2009 Archaeologists intrigued by Chesterfield site The Associated Press CHESTERFIELD, Mo. -- Archaeologists digging at a site in west St. Louis County believe it was once a major market center for Mississippian Indians. Last year, Chesterfield workers excavating soil to build a retention reservoir cut into the ruins, exposing thousands of artifacts that included decorative pottery, ear spools, arrowhead and tool fragments, and beads used to make necklaces. Those involved in the dig hope to develop a more complete picture of what has been called Mississippian culture, a people who thrived from 1050 to 1400 then mysteriously disappeared. Archaeologists are especially intrigued because the site isn't far from the Cahokia Mounds in Collinsville, Ill. Cahokia was a pre-Columbian political and religious capital and was the largest Native American city north of Mexico. "Nobody's ever looked at a major market center like this in eastern Missouri," said Joe Harl, vice president of the Archaeological Center of St. Louis. "The number of bowls, the highly ornate vessels that we are getting, tells us this was a major site." The excitement about the site has developed quickly. Not long after the artifacts were exposed last year, Stan Dampier was walking through the area with a friend looking for arrowheads. Instead, they found pottery shards that Dampier said looked "a little special." He contacted Harl, who was skeptical but still drove to the site about an hour after he spoke with Dampier. Harl quickly discovered a treasure trove of relics - copper ear spools, the remnants of homes, cooking and storage pits, even leftover deer bones. "That tells us there was a lot of ceremonial feasting," Harl said. All told, they discovered roughly 5,000 artifacts just in the initial search, although some were just tiny shards. The Army Corps of Engineers owns the site, so Harl and other employees of the Archaeological Research Center worked with the corps to get $150,000 in government money to conduct a dig, which began in earnest on June 24. Theories abound about what brought about the end to the Mississippian culture. Perhaps a minor ice age. Major crop failure. Political infighting. Economic competition. Flooding. Last Wednesday, excavation uncovered the remnants of a stockade wall - one more sign that the site was inhabited by a large community, Harl said. They also had found copper ear spools that probably came from the Great Lakes region. Among the Mississippians, wearing copper was a display of wealth. Harl's team had uncovered what they believed were the remains of a house. It was just a black patch of earth. The Mississippians built their homes with logs, vines, prairie grass and mud. The decaying remains left a dark square in the dirt, too well-defined to be a natural phenomenon. Harl said months of hard work and analysis lie ahead. The team planned on taking buckets of dirt and running them through a device similar to a washing machine, hoping to learn a little more about the Mississippian diet. Just one small part of a large mystery.

Palatine Hill Checkerboards

So what is this place? It is a room in the "House of Gryphons" located on the Palatine Hill in Rome. I don't have time to search it out today, I'm behind my time, darlings, and have got so much to do this last day off before returning to the office tomorrow. Sigh. That black and white checkerboard in the middle of the floor is, as best I could determine in a brief search, dated back to the "Republican" era of the Roman Empire, so perhaps sometime between 300 BCE - 100 CE??? Not sure about the dates, but it's not "archaic." It's gorgeous, isn't it! In addition to the black and white checkered 11 by 6 board in the middle of the floor of the room, which itself has a pattern on which a large board game could be played, the walls have maroon/white checkerboard patterns. There is a related article at The New York Times (published July 3, 2009) about some spectacular preserved relics of the past being opened to the public this year, for the first time ever in some cases, thanks to increased funding to make guards and guides available. There are more lovely photographs. What was the purpose of placing this 11 by 6 black-and-white checkered board (with a border to mark it out, in case you didn't notice it first thing when walking into the room), in the middle of the room? If it was just a design element, why not make it the same colors at the checkerboard patterns that were incorporated into the design on the lower walls? And I cannot make any sense out of the middle "checkerboard" on the back wall (looking at the photographs's back wall, center) that measures 8 by 10. My eyes are not good enough to count the number of squares on the rest of the checkerboards on the walls. Are they all the same, or are each one of them unqiue? Can anyone with particularly sharp eyes help me out here? Is a 6 by 11 board significant? How about an 8 by 10 board? I know the ancient Romans did not play their games on square boards (such as 8x8, 9x9 or 10x10, etc.) Is there any significance to the colors chosen? Inquiring minds want to know!
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