Saturday, September 5, 2009

Shira Chess Challenge for Charity: Update for Game 2

Last post of the night! Shira, playing as "shirae" and I, playing as "JanXena", will be meeting tomorrow morning (Sunday September 6) at 10:00 a.m. CST (Wisconsin time) at to play Game 2 of our 3-game match! Because of the technical difficulties that we experienced earlier today when we started our game using the "live play" feature at the website (Shira got disconnected about 8 minutes into our game), we will be playing Game 2 using the regular "online chess" feature. As I posted earlier (the first post under this date) , Shira and I ended up using the regular "online chess" feature to play Game 1, since all moves from Game 1 were lost when Shira's computer lost the internet connection to our "live" game. In a time crunch and not knowing what else to do, we played Game 1 using the "online chess" feature instead. Honestly, I do not know if anyone will be able to follow along as we play Game 2 - and we apologize for this. This particular interface at is not designed for "real-time" play -- it jumps on my screen when either of us makes a move, for instance (Shira reported the same phenomenon when I asked about it), and then I have to scroll up to get back to the playing board, but the website does update once each of us hits the "submit move" button! It's just that sometimes we forget to hit the "submit move' button. And whether folks who are not playing the game can actually view it as we play, we do not know. We had considered switching our forum to another site (such as ICC), but given the pre-match publicity that said our games would be played at, we concluded it would be best to continue playing the games at - just not in the "live game" format we had envisioned. Once again - our apologies. We had not envisioned this problem! So, if you are not able to follow along while Shira and I play Game 2 tomorrow, I will publish the PGN of our game here. And hopefully a photo or two. I do not think you will want to see me at 10 a.m. without make-up and combed hair, and in my yard-work junk clothes - but Who knows, maybe someone out there will like a funky JanXena.

Ethnic Unrest In China Continues - with Fall-Out

It doesn't take a genius to predict that we haven't heard the last of this, and the inept response of the Han Chinese majority is only adding fuel to the fire. Darlings, trust me, firing a party underling to cover up for the gross incompetence of a politburo member isn't going to cut it in this situation in the long run (and it may not be as long as they think). China a Ousts Top City Official in Wake of Unrest By KEITH BRADSHER and XIYUN YANG Published: September 5, 2009 HONG KONG — The top Communist official in Urumqi in western China was dismissed on Saturday as a large deployment of the military police appeared to have brought a measure of peace to the city after two days of large street protests. Li Zhi, the party secretary of Urumqi, lost his post, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday evening. He became the most senior person to be removed since ethnic tensions erupted there in rioting in July. Beijing officials also sent to Urumqi a special medical inspection unit from the People’s Liberation Army to investigate reports that people had been stabbed with needles. It is somewhat unusual for China’s leaders to replace a senior local official so quickly after protests — in this case, while large deployments of armed police officers are still blocking intersections in Urumqi and most shops are still closed. The Beijing leadership has often sought to avoid giving the impression of giving in to public pressure. The removal of Mr. Li “shows that Xinjiang is viewed as a strategic region where there cannot be the kind of social protests we have seen in recent days,” said Nicholas Bequelin, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. The latest protests were notable for including large crowds of people who specifically called on Friday for the removal of Mr. Li’s boss, Wang Lequan, the powerful party secretary of restive Xinjiang region, of which Urumqi is the capital. Mr. Wang, a member of the Politburo believed to be a close ally of President Hu Jintao, has run the nominally autonomous region for 15 years and is famous within China for taking a hard line toward minorities. “They want to protect Wang Lequan, because firing a Politburo member would send a message they do not want to send,” namely that hard-line policies toward ethnic minorities can be questioned, said Li Cheng, the research director of the Brookings Institution’s China Center. Rest of article. I think the unintentionally funniest line in this article is the one about the special medical inspection unit! And just what are they going to say - even if they uncover the truth that probably 99.9% of the people who were reportedly pricked with needles weren't pricked by needles at all! You can be sure they aren't going to tell the truth, even if they wish to. Urumchi is, of course, famous for red-haired, blue-eyed mummies found buried in the desert outside the city proper in the 1970's, but rumored to have existed for thousands of years before then. NOVA did a special on them a few years back, you can probably find it online. Western scholars have yet to receive free access to the mummies, which are maintained under, I am given to believe, not very good conditions to their conservation. The mummies are a delicate subject in modern China as they predate the Han Chinese presence in northwestern China by a couple thousand years at least, and maybe more. I understand the oldest Urumchi mummy burials are some 4,000 years old. The Han Chinese did not establish a presence in the area until the Han Dynasty c. 220 BCE - 220 CE, with the establishment of the gate-way city of Dunshuang on the Silk Road. And, to be fair, not all of the mummies uncovered had red hair and blue eyes, but I believe it has been pretty much established by other archaeological evidence that many of the Urumchi mummies are related to people who originated far to the west and may have migrated east in one or more waves over a couple thousand years, beginning in 2500 BCE or so. Something the Han Chinese Communist rulers do not wish to acknowledge. Some of the mummies were buried in woven plaids which I understand are remarkably similar to the clan plaids worn by the people who eventually settled in northern Scotland. Some of the mummies (female and male), possibly shamans, tentatively identified as such because of the grave goods with which they were buried, were uncovered wearing tall pointed hats made of felt - similar to how we depict "witches" in the west today (think of the hat worn by the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 movie classic "The Wizard of Oz") - in addition to small woven cloth or felt bags filled with medicinal herbs (including cannabis) and herbs prized for their magical qualities, as well as other talismans. If my memory serves, a few of the 'shamans' were buried with colored throwing sticks -- perhaps for use in divination? The photo above is an example of one of the tall felt hats recovered from a mummy burial. Rather reminds me of that talking hat in the Harry Potter movies... So, the history of non-Han people in the Tarim Basin area is long-standing with links back to peoples of non-Han Chinese stock is ancient. An informative article, with several photographs, including the heart-breaking image of the red-haired infant, gives a good overview.

Iran Typical Treatment of Female Prisoner

The current dictators who run Iran call themselves a "theocratic" nation under God's law. HA! I hope Michelle Obama reads this article. Report from Associated Press. Woman's case reflects prisoners' treatment in Iran By SCHEHEREZADE FARAMARZI, Associated Press Writer Scheherezade Faramarzi, Associated Press Writer – 48 mins ago BEIRUT – The interrogator politely apologized for grilling the prisoner about her role in the mass protests over Iran's disputed presidential election. Then the prisoner was made to sit facing a wall in the courtyard of Iran's Evin Prison, blindfolded, handcuffed and covered in an all-enveloping chador for four and a half hours under the blazing sun. "America is our enemy," the interrogator told her. "Why are you so naive and can't see this? It's exploiting the situation here and wants to ransack the country. They don't have your interest at heart. The ordeal of Nazy, a 29-year-old university student who worked with the campaign of defeated presidential candidate Mehdi Karroubi, gives a rare glimpse of what is happening to detained protesters. Nazy spoke to The Associated Press by telephone from Tehran after her release on the condition that only her first name be used, to protect herself and her family. Thousands have been arrested since incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner, despite cries of fraud. The opposition claims detainees were savagely raped by their jailers and at least 69 people were killed, including some from beatings in prison. The account from Nazy, who is known in reformist circles, could not be independently backed up. But former prisoners and human rights groups have noted that such treatment of prisoners — a mix of intimidation and persuasion known as white torture — is widespread, and that ordinary people along with well-known opposition politicians have been subjected to it. "This case is one of thousands that take place in Iran," said Mohammad Javad Akbarein, an analyst who was himself jailed in 2001. "The majority of prisoners experience white torture. But it's worrisome when people become complacent when prisoners are not subjected to black torture and forget that their rights, dignity and honor are trampled on." June 20 was a tense Saturday, the day after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei declared the presidential vote would stand and warned opposition leaders to end street protests or be responsible for bloodshed. "We knew that from that day on anyone who comes into the street may have to pay a high price for it," said Nazy. Nazy was on her way to buy a book in Tehran's downtown Enqelab Street and planned to attend a demonstration that afternoon at 4. Before leaving home, she stuffed a bunch of white wristbands that said "change" into her backpack along with a folded poster she had prepared for the afternoon demonstration. White is the color of Karroubi's supporters. At noon, Nazy had just climbed out of the car in front of the bookshop when a man in a white vest, blue shirt and white sneakers twisted her arm and slapped handcuffs on her. He pushed her forward and ordered her to walk a few yards in front of him in the busy street. No sooner had she started walking that two clean-shaven young men in tight blue jeans and wearing green wristbands_ the color of the other defeated reformist candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi — caught up with her. "Don't make any noise; when you reach the narrow street we will help you escape," one of them told her. But when she reached the street that led to the "Protective Police," the men pushed her inside the gate. They had duped her. She walked into a huge courtyard packed with disciplinary police officers and with vans and jeeps. Nazy saw five or six men beaten as they were led into the detention center. Nazy herself was hit a couple of times on her back, led into a basement and interrogated. A female guard pulled out a poster from Nazy's bag. "Ha, instead of saying 'In the Name of God,' she's written 'In the Name of Democracy' on the poster," the guard mocked Nazy. "I'll show you what democracy really is." Another guard came in and challenged Nazy for being a member of the 'One Million Signature' campaign — a group pressing for changes in Iran's laws on women. "Why don't you live your life quietly?" she said. "Do you really consider yourself a woman? We are women who work to bring bread to the table, just like normal people. You ought to do the same and work. You call collecting signatures work?" She said Nazy's family was looking all over town for her and added, "Why don't you use your brain a little?" Nazy said she was working for the woman's rights. "Can't you find a better way to fight for our rights?" the officer asked her. By 4 p.m. the number of detainees — mostly men picked up at the protest sites — had swelled to more than 100. Nazy and two other women waited for several hours in a van while more female demonstrators were brought in. It was dark by the time the van, which seated 12, was filled with 19 women plus two female and one male officers. They sat three to a seat, blindfolded, their hands tied to the chairs. Every time they said a word, they were smacked in the head. At one point, the male officer threw six heavy bottles full of water on their heads. Nazy slightly lifted her blindfold and watched guards hit around 60 men — mostly young — in the head with batons. Blood streamed down their faces and soaked their shirts. The women were driven to the Vozara Monkerat (Moral Police), a temporary jailhouse for prostitutes and drug addicts. The officers dumped them inside the green metal gates of the building and left. No one at the Monkerat knew why the 19 women were there, who had brought them, what their offenses were. They shoved every five of them into a 3 by 2 meter (10 by 6 feet) carpeted room where they couldn't even stretch their legs. The rooms were dark, with no windows. By the time dawn broke, the women were screaming. A young mother was wailing. She had left her three-year-old child in the house alone to shop at the corner store when she was arrested. After 15 hours, they were allowed to use the toilet, and only once. Just before midnight, the women were escorted up the stairs into a room with a big library. They were given forms to fill: reason for their detention. The middle-aged interrogator — in a short-sleeved white shirt and white pants and a golden chain around his neck — did not look like a typical officer of the regime. Nor did his assistant, a young man also clean-shaven and wearing chains. A few minutes later, a young, thin man wearing a suit walked in. "Do you realize your crime is much heavier than others?" the new man asked Nazy. "Because you are with the ("One Million Signature') campaign." "I don't even know why I have been arrested," she replied. He wrote at the bottom of the paper: "to be released on billion rial (about $100,000) bail." He told her to sign the paper so she could go home that night. Her charge was: disruption of law and order, action against national security, destruction of public property, participation in illegal gathering. She said did not accept any of the charges. "Then you will stay right here," he said. "Put on her handcuffs and blindfold and take her downstairs," he told the guard. Nazy was terrified. She didn't want to stay there alone, and was worried about her family. "If I sign it means I accept the charges?" she asked the man. He said the charges would remain whether she signed or not. She was afraid that if she accepted the charges, they would slap a prison sentence on her. "Don't sign. Stay here until you die," the man threatened her. The young assistant tried to persuade her to sign. "Will I then go home tonight?" she asked him. "Yes. Don't you see you are signing bail?" he assured her. The moment she signed, the interrogator said: "Put on her handcuffs and blindfold and take her to Evin." "But you said I will be going home tonight!" Nazy said. "Who do you think you are that I have to answer to you? Take her to Evin!" the man snapped. Rest of article.

Shira Chess Challenge for Charity: Game 1

Hola! Shira and I played the first game of our match this morning! What a fiasco! Even though I signed in 15 minutes early at, I couldn't figure out how to use the thing - not exactly intuitive for my level of computer incompetence! I should have tried a practice game at with Shira before D-Day. Live and learn. Finally, with emails and a telephone call from Shira, we were able to get on the same live gameboard and the game started. I thought it was going okay for me - I was white starting out, but then disaster struck! Shira, who was playing from a Starbucks because she doesn't have internet where she's staying, got disconnected. All of a sudden a message flashed up on my screen that I'd won by resignation, which I misunderstood at first thinking that it had meant Shira had won because I'd resigned, but I hadn't! I had no idea what was going on and was panicking and really upset (I could use other words to describe my emotional state at the time, but I am attempting to be restrained) at that stupid interface! Resign - me? On like move 17? No way! I'd at least play to move 20. Phone rings - it's Shira - she got bounced off the internet! Oh @!%$&^$$*@! And a few more $%@*%">$%@*%@ just for good measure. What to do? We ended up playing a game on the regular chess interface at - without clocks. This time I'm black. We started right about 10:30 a.m. and the game ended shortly before noon - I was checkmated! Ach! My poor nerves. Still, that's no excuse. I made some REALLY DUMB MOVES - particularly the last one, LOL! Oh well. Here's our game in PGN - at first I couldn't even figure out how to lift THAT from! When I clicked on the PGN link to "open" - all that happened is that my Chess Base Lite opened up (a tool that I've no real idea how to use). By trial and error I eventually discovered that at I can actually do a copy of the Moves List and paste it into a document. [Event "Online Chess"] [Site ""] [Date "2009.09.05"] [Round "1"] [White "shirae"] [Black "JanXena"] [Result "1-0"] [WhiteElo "1361"] [BlackElo "1039"] [TimeControl "1 in 1 day"] [Termination "shirae won by checkmate"] 1.d4d5 2.Nf3Nf6 3.Bg5Nc6 4.e3Ne4 5.Bh4Bf5 6.Bd3Qd6 7.Nbd2O-O-O 8.O-Og6 9.Qe2h6 10.a3g5 11.Bg3Qd7 12.Ne5Nxe5 13.Bxe5f6 14.Bxe4Bxe4 15.Nxe4dxe4 16.Bg3h5 17.h3h4 18.Bh2Kb8 19.Qg4Qxg4 20.hxg4Rc8 21.c4e6 22.Rfd1Bd6 23.Rd2Bxh2+ 24.Kxh2b6 25.Rad1Rhd8 26.d5b5 27.dxe6Re8 28.cxb5Kb7 29.Rd7Rxe6 30.R1d4Kb6 31.a4Kc5 32.b4+Kb6 33.R4d5c6 (c6? Ohmygoddess, JanXena! What were you thinking? Actually, I totally missed the fact that Shira could/would advance the h file pawn, which is exactly what she did. Now how stupid am I? That's a hypothetical question, darlings!) I might have perhaps been able to stave off the inevitable for another move or two if I hadn't committed hari kiri on move 33. I honestly lost sight of the forest for the trees. As far as I can tell, though, with my limited knowledge, the game-turner was much earlier when I misplayed something - now I cannot remember what - on the right side of the board. I will take a look at this game and the other two that Shira and I will be playing the next two days, but not until this is all over! My heart can't take it. I suppose I should have a second and pour over the game to try and spot Shira's weaknesses and hunt down and eliminate all the myriad of mine - but honestly darlings, I need to vacuum, go to the supermarket, put the next load of laundry in, and then cut the front lawn. And just about the time the mosquitoes are coming out at 6 p.m., I might be able to sit down on the deck (after scrubbing off all the bird poop from the lawn chairs), put my feet up, and drown my sorrows in White Zinfandel :) Here are two photos that Shira took of her chess-playing nook at Starbucks! The first photo is a screen shot of our game in progress, I received it via email at 10:58 a.m. See you tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. - probably at because that is where all the information said we would be playing. Drat!

Friday, September 4, 2009

6th-7th Century CE Stone Goddess Found in Kashmir

(Image: Gajalakshmi From Bharhut and Sanchi, 3rd - 2nd Century B.C. The article is a fascinating history of the lotus in India. This is not the Gajalakshmi in the article. Notice, however, the dual elephants arising out of the center of dual lotuses - an allusion to a very old Indian creation myth. Out of the midst of endless waters, the lotuses appeared, and opened. Out of the center of their flowers appeared the elephants, which I assume represent an allusion to earth or land mass - something big and solid out of the midst of the waters. The Egyptian creation myth is remarkably similar, with a primeval mound of earth arising out of the midst of the waters, as is the description of how land came to "arise" out of the midst of the waters in the Biblical account in Genesis. See Pavel Bidev's article for some interesting analysis of the water element in the ancestor of chess. ) Story at Sixth century stone sculpture of Hindu goddess discovered in Kashmir September 4th, 2009 SRINAGAR - An ancient sculpture of Hindu Goddess of wealth Gajalakshmi has recently been discovered at Nagbal Lesser village in Jammu and Kashmir. The sculpture, carved out of brownish limestone, is now kept for further examination at the office of Archives Archaeology and Museum in Srinagar. It will be shifted to Sri Pratap Singh Museum for public display later. “As far as the object (sculpture) is concerned it is very important. According to our earlier examination, the statue dates back to the 6th or 7th century. It’s of brownish colour and from the perspective of craftsmanship, it is finely chiselled out,” said Khurshid Ahmad Qadri, Director, Archives Archaeology and Museums of Jammu and Kashmir. The statue, measuring nine inches in height and five inches in width, is seated on the lotus throne placed between two lions. The main sculpture is enclosed in a stone frame, the top of which projects the shape of elephant motifs towards the head of the deity. The idol holds a lotus in her right hand and cornucopia in her left hand. The other end of the drapery covering the lower body of the sculpture does not go behind its shoulder but is wrapped around in pleats beneath the chest of the deity. The carving and costumes of the sculpture speak volumes about skilled craftsmanship of the ancient Kashmiri art. “As far as its art is concerned, this art form connects it to the Gandhara School of Art. The Gandhara School of Art was founded in the first century BC. The theme cultivated by Gandhara artists later reached Kashmir. The costume we get to see in this sculpture shows a confluence of Greek and Indian art forms,” said Iqbal Ahmad, a historian. This is the only sculpture found from the Lesser Kokernag area of Kashmir so far. However, the presence of pottery in an around the Lesser village reveals presence of some ancient settlements. By Afzal Bhat (ANI) I would love to see a photograph of this little goddess. The tip off that she might have something to do with an elephant was the "gaja" at the front of "Lakshmi," who is the goddess for good luck, wealth and good fortune. The clothing she wears definitely links her to the Gandhara tradition - so I'm wondering if this tentative dating is too late,or the Gandhara influence lasted longer that I'm aware (I'm sure no expert!) Notice the lotus - used twice. First, as a throne, and then as a emblem in her right hand. The lotus tradition is very ancient and links Egypt and India in a unique way. And even more intriguing, the goddess is seated on the lotus/throne between two lions! Shades of the Mother Goddess from Catalhoyuk (dates to some 9,000 years ago), who is seated on her throne between two felines! The feline throne for the goddess was a recurring theme from Catalhoyuk onward, across many cultures. Did it spread through cross-cultural contact and exchange, and thence absorbed into local legends, myths and religious iconography as time went on? Or was it independently invented again and again as an iconic image of the Mother Goddess over thousands of years, with no reference to the usage in other cultures? Here's a final thought as I drift off to la-la land - could the name Catalhoyuk (pronounced Chatal--), the place where we first see the Mother Goddess on a throne flanked by twin felines, possibly be related to Caturanga (prounced Chatur--) and the land where a new image of Gajalakshmi seated on a throne flanked by two lions was discovered?

World Women Team Chess Championship

This report based on coverage from Chessdom: Standings after Round 3 and Round 3 Team Results: Standings 1 Poland 6 MP 7.5 GP 2 Georgian 5 MP 7.5 GP 3 China One 4 MP 7 GP 4 USA 3 MP 7 GP 5 Ukraine 3 MP 6 GP 6 India 3 MP 5.5 GP 7 Russia 2 MP 5.5 GP 8 Armenia 2 MP 4.5 GP 9 Vietnam 1 MP 5 GP 10 China Two 1 MP 4.5 GP Vietnam - USA 2 : 2 WGM Hoang Thi Bao Tram 2265 - IM Krush Irina 2458 1 - 0 WIM Pham Le Thao Nguyen 2301 - IM Goletiani Rusudan 2391 ½ - ½ WFM Hoang Thi Nhu Y 2114 - WIM Melekhina Alisa 2220 ½ - ½ WFM Vo Thi Kim Phung 2078 - WFM Abrahamian Tatev 2275 0 - 1 China Two - Poland 1½:2½ Tan Zhongyi 2435 - IM Rajlich Iweta 2465 1 - 0 WIM Zhang Xiaowen 2391 - WGM Zawadzka Jolanta 2414 0 - 1 IM Wang Yu A 2380 - IM Dworakowska Joanna 2345 0 - 1 WFM Ding Yixin 2321 - WGM Majdan Joanna 2361 ½ - ½ Ukraine - Georgia 1 : 3 WGM Zhukova Nataliya 2457 - GM Chiburdanidze Maia 2506 ½ - ½ IM Gaponenko Inna 2438 - GM Dzagnidze Nana 2535 0 - 1 IM Muzychuk Mariya 2443 - IM Javakhishvili Lela 2472 0 - 1 WGM Zdebska Natalia 2410 - IM Khukhashvili Sopiko 2451 ½ - ½ India - China One 1 : 3 IM Dronavalli Harika 2474 - GM Hou Yifan 2585 ½ - ½ IM Sachdev Tania 2405 - GM Zhao Xue 2542 0 - 1 WGM Karavade Eesha 2391 - Ju Wenjun 2443 ½ - ½ WGM Mary Ann Gomes 2396 - WGM Huang Qian 2424 0 - 1 Armenia - Russia 2 : 2 IM Danielian Elina 2489 - IM Kosintseva Tatiana 2536 ½ - ½ IM Mkrtchian Lilit 2468 - IM Kosintseva Nadezhda 2493 ½ - ½ WGM Galojan Lilit 2326 - IM Kovalevskaya Ekaterina 2436 1 - 0 WIM Andriasian Siranush 2234 - WFM Gunina Valentina 2437 0 - 1

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Shira Chess Challenge: GAME ON!

Hola darlings! The time has counted down, my 3-game chess match with Shira is nearly here! (Photo right: Shira Evans, taken at Ashkelon, Israel, 2009. Photo left: Jan Newton, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, July, 2008) My training is nearly at an end - I have one last game going on - with my coach, Chessdaddy a/k/a Kelly Atkins. I made a really STUPID move two moves ago to grab a piece - ACH! I should have known it looked too easy. It wasn't a poisoned pawn - it was a poisoned Bishop. ACH! But I still have hopes of coming out ahead material-wise when the slaughter of exchanging pieces is done because, in the final analysis (NO guarantee my final analysis is correct, mind you), I have a Knightess placed just where she can grab a pawn once the slaughter is done. Since Chessdaddy does NOT read this blog, I feel fairly confident in sharing this interim strategy with you :) Tomorrow (Friday) I'm taking a day off from chess (except for my final training game - wth Chessdaddy). Here are the particulars about the SHIRA CHESS CHALLENGE FOR CHARITY MATCH: DATES: September 5, 6 and 7, 2009 TIME: 10:00 a.m. Central Standard Time (Wisconsin time, USA) PLACE: HANDLES: Jan Newton of Goddesschess plays as JanXena and Shira Evans of Computerlabs for Kids Foundation plays as shirae. Shira and I will be playing one game each day, starting at 10:00 a.m. CST, over the Labor Day weekend. Each of us will have one hour on our clocks, no increment. Membership at is free. I honestly have no idea how this works - my guess is that if you are not already a member at you will have to sign up if you want to watch our games, and then you search under one or the other of our "handles" - JanXena or shirae, to find our games. I hope you will check in and watch some part of one or more of our games! I've been practicing, darlings, training really hard! Well, okay, I haven't won a game yet in my online training games but I DID win that game against Mr. Don when we were coming back from Las Vegas last week :) Cheer on your favorite - the unrated undergoddess or the Chess Goddess with peak USCF rating of 1727 (EEK!) And, if you should be so inclined, please make a contribution to Shira's Foundation and help the kids that she helps. Thanks once again to Laura and Dan Sherman of Your Chess Coach for their help in my training. Wish I could have you sitting as little angels on my shoulders while I'm playing against Shira :)

Virgin Mary as 'Terrorist'

I found this article absolutely fascinating! I do not understand why a female who becomes a suicide bomber (or by proxy, such a female's family) would feel flattered to be compared to the Virgin Mary who, after all, is a symbol of (1) Patriarchal Religious Repression and (2) an underground symbol of Goddess worship - both things which Islam purports to abhor :) From Yahoo News Israel: pictures of St. Mary as terrorist removed By AMY TEIBEL, Associated Press Writer Amy Teibel, Associated Press Writer – Thu Sep 3, 11:11 am ET JERUSALEM – The Israeli journalists' union on Thursday took down a series of pictures that superimposed the faces of female Palestinian suicide bombers on Madonna-and-child paintings after the images sparked a public furor. Yossi Bar-Mocha, the head of the National Federation of Israeli Journalists, said his organization removed the pictures from its Tel Aviv headquarters for fear they would offend people who lost relatives in militant attacks. One of the artists, Galina Bleikh, said their intention was not to glorify or justify the bombers' actions. She and her partner, Lilia Chak, tried to address a subject that "pains the whole country" in the exhibit, titled ""Woman, Mother, Murderer: An Exhibit on Female Terror," she explained. "How can a woman who comes into the world with the role of loving and giving life become a source of hatred and murder?" Bleikh added, speaking before the pictures were taken down. Neither of the artists could immediately be reached afterward. The seven canvases, part of a larger exhibition, splice the bombers' faces onto works by Botticelli, Raphael and other eminent artists. Bleikh told The Associated Press that the show's concept was sparked by a suicide attack near her Jerusalem home carried out by a female bomber. "The message is that the baby in the arms of a woman is in danger," she said. "The contrast of the symbol of love, the Madonna, with the face of a killer — it works. It hurts the souls of women who look at it." That message did not filter through to some of the politicians and relatives of terror attack victims who objected to the works. The art display was to open without the seven contentious pieces on Thursday night. Lawmaker Yochanan Plesner of the Kadima Party called the exhibit a "despicable" public relations ploy. Almagor, an Israeli organization representing victims of militant attacks, said the paintings glorified the bombers. "These pictures will become a hit in the Arab world," said Dr. Aryeh Bachrach, head of Almagor's bereaved parents forum. "Depicting Palestinian women murderers as saints is an important propaganda achievement for terror organizations," said Bachrach, whose son was killed by Palestinian gunmen while hiking in the West Bank in 1995. Journalists' union head Bar-Mocha said he was unaware of the pictures' content ahead of time and after consulting with board members and legal counsel, decided the sensibilities of terror victims' relatives trumped concerns over freedom of expression. "If I must hear the cries of the bereaved families who lost their loved ones at the hands of these murderers, then I would favor them over these murderers and the images that are depicted as Christian saints," he said. The uproar was reminiscent of a controversy that arose in 2004 in Sweden after an Israeli-born artist mounted an installation showing a small ship carrying a picture of a female suicide bomber sailing in a rectangular pool filled with red-colored water. The artist, Dror Feiler, said the piece was mean to call attention to how weak, lonely people can be capable of horrible things. But the then-Israeli ambassador to Sweden, Zvi Mazel, said the exhibit glorified suicide bombers and he threw a spotlight at the installation, trying to damage it and causing a diplomatic flap between the two countries.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

2nd Women World Team Chess Championship

Whew! How quickly that year passed! This international team event is here again - this time represented by 10 teams. Doesn't exactly read "world" to me with only 10 teams, but what the heck. The USA is in it, bringing their Not really A Team except for the top-2 (minus GM Susan Polgar, of whom it is probably hopeless we'll ever see her play again in serious competition), so let's see what happens. Here are the teams competing and my quick takes on the the players/teams: China A 2490 1 GM Hou Yifan 2584 (if her handlers allow, she'll top 2700 but will want to get married) 2 GM Zhao Xue 2544 (vastly under-rated) 3 WGM Shen Yang 2453 (ditt0) 4 Ju Wenjun 2443 5 WGM Huang Qian 2424 (unknown quantity) Geogia 2474 1 GM Chiburdanidze, Maia 2506 (wily veteran who knows what it takes to win) 2 GM Dzagnidze, Nana 2536 (steady performer) 3 IM Javakhishvili, Lela 2470 (under-estimated because of her beauty) 4 IM Lomineishvili, Maia 2427 5 IM Khukhashvili, Sopiko 2430 Russia 2468 1 IM Tatiana Kosintseva 2539 2 IM Nadezhda Kosintseva 2482 (wow, both Kosintseva sisters on the same team, oh oh) 3 IM Ekaterina Kovalevskaya 2436 (has not performed up to expectations but keeps trying) 4 IM Marina Romanko 2447 5 IM Valentina Gunina 2437 Ukraine 2444 1 IM Anna Ushenina 2478 (except for Zdebska, unknown to me, a steady team of competitors) 2 WGM Natalia Zhukova 2461 3 IM Yanovska Inna 2428 4 IM Maria Muzychuk 2441 5 WGM Natalya Zdebska 2412 India 2390 1 IM Harika Dronavalli 2474 (I love each of these ladies, but they will have their hands full) 2 IM Tania Sachdev 2423 3 WGM Kruttika Nadig 2361 4 WGM Eesha Karavade 2359 5 WGM Gomes Mary Ann 2332 Poland 2378 1 IM Iweta Rajlich 2448 (under-rated) 2 WGM Jolanta Zawadzka 2387 (steady but unspectacular) 3 WGM Joanna Majdan 2382 4 IM Joanna Dworakowska 2345 5 WIM Karina Szczepkowska-Horowska 2327 USA 2372 1 IM Irina Krush 2458 2 IM Anna Zatonskih 2466 3 IM Rusudan Goletiani 2391 4 WIM Alisa Melekhina 2270 (progress stalled - maybe deciding between chess and - ?) 5 WFM Tatev Abrahamian 2273 (a charming chess femme, but not competition for the others) Armenia 2372 1 IM Elina Danielian 2503 (steady but unspectacular veteran player, she's seen it all) 2 IM Lilit Mkrtchian 2479 (dangerous - came into her own in 2008 Womens' WCC) 3 WGM Lilit Galojan 2323 (needs more experience against higher-rateds) 4 WGM Nelli Aginian 2322 5 WIM Siranush Andriasian 2235 China B 2356 (the Chinese Chess Federation is probably laughing up it's sleeve at the world) 1 Tan Zhongyi 2435 2 WIM Zhang Xiaowen 2391 3 IM Wang Yu 2380 4 WFM Ding Yixin 2343 5 Wang Xiaohui 2231 Vietnam 2177 (untested hopefuls, will learn a lot and finish 8th to 10th) 1 WGM Hoang Thi Bao Tram 2274 2 WIM Pham Le Thao Nguyen 2314 3 WFM Hoang Thi Nhu 2119 4 WFM Pham Bich Ngoc 2105 5 WFM Vo Thi Kim Phung 2073 So much for my prognostications and uninformed opinions :) How'd the Teams do after Round 1? See for team-by-team round results. Standings after Round 1 (by Team): Rk. SNo Team Games + = - TB1 TB2 1 8 China Team One 1 1 0 0 2 3,0 2 1 Poland Team 1 1 0 0 2 2,5 3 9 Georgian Team 1 1 0 0 2 2,5 4 4 Ukraine 1 0 1 0 1 2,0 5 5 India Team 1 0 1 0 1 2,0 6 6 Armenian Team 1 0 1 0 1 2,0 7 7 Russian Team 1 0 1 0 1 2,0 8 2 Vietnam Team 1 0 0 1 0 1,5 9 10 American Team 1 0 0 1 0 1,5 10 3 China Team Two 1 0 0 1 0 1,0 Annotation:Tie Break1: Matchpoints (2 for wins, 1 for Draws, 0 for Losses)Tie Break2: points (game-points)

Promising Method to Decipher Ancient Writing

From - fascinating stuff! It will be interesting to see how quickly this technology is adapted as the author envisions. Computer algorithm to decipher ancient texts By Ari Rabinovitch - Wed Sep 2, 2009 9:51AM EDT BEERSHEBA, Israel (Reuters) - Researchers in Israel say they have developed a computer program that can decipher previously unreadable ancient texts and possibly lead the way to a Google-like search engine for historical documents. The program uses a pattern recognition algorithm similar to those law enforcement agencies have adopted to identify and compare fingerprints. But in this case, the program identifies letters, words and even handwriting styles, saving historians and liturgists hours of sitting and studying each manuscript. By recognizing such patterns, the computer can recreate with high accuracy portions of texts that faded over time or even those written over by later scribes, said Itay Bar-Yosef, one of the researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. "The more texts the program analyses, the smarter and more accurate it gets," Bar-Yosef said. The computer works with digital copies of the texts, assigning number values to each pixel of writing depending on how dark it is. It separates the writing from the background and then identifies individual lines, letters and words. It also analyses the handwriting and writing style, so it can "fill in the blanks" of smeared or faded characters that are otherwise indiscernible, Bar-Yosef said. The team has focused their work on ancient Hebrew texts, but they say it can be used with other languages, as well. The team published its work, which is being further developed, most recently in the academic journal Pattern Recognition due out in December but already available online. A program for all academics could be ready in two years, Bar-Yosef said. And as libraries across the world move to digitize their collections, they say the program can drive an engine to search instantaneously any digital database of handwritten documents. Uri Ehrlich, an expert in ancient prayer texts who works with Bar-Yosef's team of computer scientists, said that with the help of the program, years of research could be done within a matter of minutes. "When enough texts have been digitized, it will manage to combine fragments of books that have been scattered all over the world," Ehrlich said. (Editing by Jon Hemming)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Edmonia Lewis: Great 19th Century Female Sculpter

(Image source)

Through an email inquiry I received earlier today about the Kleopatra statue we mentioned and photographed in our July, 2008 Goddesschess anniversary vacation tour of the Milwaukee Shriners' Temple (scroll down to about mid page to see two photos of Kleopatra), I got curious about plaster of paris statues (I believa the Kleopatra statue we saw at the Shriners' Temple was made out of plaster of paris) and did some research, which led me to this article at the Smithsonian Magazine from 1996.

I was not aware of this Native American/African American female sculpter who made her mark in the 1860's and 1870's in Europe. Among her most famous works - the Death of Cleopatra, first exhibited in 1876.

When I googled a photo of the sculpture, I was stunned by its power and beauty.

Both the artist and the sculpture have amazing stories!

The Object at Hand, by Steven May, Smithsonian magazine, September 1996

Website devoted to Edmonia Lewis

There are several images of  "The Death of Cleopatra" online. A review of those images will reveal intricate and delicate details of the artist's vision.

Monday, August 31, 2009

2009 World Women's Team Chess Championship

From Press Trust of India Harika to lead India in World Women Team Chess STAFF WRITER 17:6 HRS IST New Delhi, Aug 31 (PTI) International Master Dronavalli Harika will spearhead Indian challenge in the World Women Team Chess Championship, starting tomorrow in Ningbo, China. Harika (ELO 2474), who was also a part of the Olympic team, will lead the side including former Asian women's Champion IM Tania Sachdev (ELO 2423), Woman Grandmasters Kruttika Nadig (ELO 2361), Eesha Karavade (ELO 2359) and Gomes Mary Ann (2332). Indian team has the ELO rating points of 2390.As many as 10 teams will contest in the nine-round event, which will be inaugurated tomorrow and play will start the next day in a round-robin format. Host China are the top seeds and field two team -- A and B. The 'A' team will be led by GM Yifan Hou, with average rating of 2490. Their main competition will come from Georgia and Russia, who come without World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk. GM Susan Polgar's blog has information about the composition of the teams competing in this event. For a "world championship" it's pathetic. I hope the U.S. chess femmes are getting a nice stipend from USCF or someone (why is this always so fricking secret who is paying for what, I ask you?) to appear in this foregone conclusion of China winning. Snbore. I'll be the first to eat one of my dirty socks molding away in the closet in a corner if I'm wrong.

Board Games Studies: April in Paris, 2010!

Oh Goddess, how romantic! April in Paris... Hmmmm, maybe Mr. Don and I will just mosey-on over to Paris next April - if I can break away from the office during Terrible Tax Season, EEK! Part I Tax Season doesn't end until midnight April 15, 2010. Sigh. Received an email from Thierry Depaulis of Board Games Studies about their upcoming Board Games Symposium in Paris, April 14-17, 2009. Here is the info:
Wednesday 14th to Saturday 17th April, 2010
The 13th Board Game Studies Colloquium will be held in Paris, from Wednesday 14th to Saturday 17th April, 2010. The Colloquium will be hosted at the FIAP Jean-Monnet Centre, a large convention and hostel centre situated in the 14th arrondissement of Paris. The Colloquium will offer a large scope of papers (typically eight to ten per day), dealing with the archaeology, mathematics, history of art, computer science, anthropology, cognitive psychology, history, linguistics, design, economy of board games and their accessories (dice, gameboards, counters, etc.). We will also visit a few public collections.
We invite submissions from scholars, researchers, students and collectors on these topics. We seek papers that offer real research. Talks should not be longer than 25 minutes. They can be in French or in English. Papers read in French will be translated orally (though not simultaneously). Subjects must be sent before November 30th, 2009 to: Organising Committee c/o Thierry Depaulis 24 rue Francœur - 75018 Paris (France) email: thierry (dot) depaulis (at) free (dot) fr Abstracts (500-600 words) must be sent before January 31st, 2010, because they all must be translated into the other language. The Colloquium fee is not yet set but will be around EUR130/150 for the whole programme, including a few meals. Two-Day (and perhaps One-Day) pass will also be available. Further details and hotel booking will be posted later.

Shira Chess Challenge: Match and Training Update!

Hola darlings! The time is fast approaching - this weekend, starting on Saturday September 5th and concluding on Monday September 7th, Shira and I will be playing out match - one game each day, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. I'll let you know the TIME soon! Shira and I will be playing in real time using clocks - 1 hour each - at Shira plays under the name "shirae" and I play under "JanXena". We invite you to kibitz. I don't recall if I posted this link earlier - but if I didn't - here is the link to Shira's "Movie Channel" at You Tube. She's posted a lot of videos there of her 2009 projects with the kids - worth watching! The kids and Shira's work with them is what this is all about. On the training front, some updates. First, Chessdaddy, I done you wrong, darling. I thought he had abandoned me, but it turns out he had not received the email notice that I had made a move in our one and only training game, and he hadn't gone back to to check the game status. Our game has since resumed and right now, according to CD, I am ahead in piece development and slightly ahead in material. Second, I have received help from an unexpected source! A little background: Back on July 6th I did a post, sounding in dismay and depression, about how my chess training was going, and I posted an article I'd found about "beginner" chess and a couple who are training mostly young ones (but some older ones too) chess beyond the fundamentals. After all, it isn't that hard to learn how the pieces move. It's what comes afterward that is the brain-slayer for moi! At that point in my training, having hit near despair that I could even play again (paralysis had set in), Shira and I bumped back the match date from the end of July to the end of August, and settled upon Labor Day weekend. Lo and behold. Laura Sherman, one of the dynamic duo who is Your Chess Coach, posted a comment to that dreadful lament and the rest, as the saying goes, is history. After learning more about Shira's Computer Labs for Kids Foundation, Laura and her husband Dan are contributing free time to help me with analysis and zeroing in on my weakest spots. I'm not too hopeless a case after all, darlings! First session is tomorrow night (I scheduled it for AFTER Hell's Kitchen - can't miss Chef Gordon Ramsay yelling and screaming at his contestants, heh!) Dan and Laura Sherman met through chess in Los Angeles in 1992. Both were strong tournament players in their youth and developed a passion for the game. Now that they are parents they feel it is time to start teaching the next generation. To that end they are working on e-courses and books to teach parents and educators how to teach children to play chess. They also teach over 50 student in 6 schools locally, starting as early as age 4. I'm looking forward to my first session with Dan and Laura. We'll be working via telephone and simultaneously online. Thank you, Laura and Dan Sherman, for caring, and for your time. I will try my bestest not to disappoint.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Cuba Sending 10 Women to Continental Championships

There will be fierce competition for two spots at the World Cup in the upcoming 2009 Continental Women Championship. From 10 female Cubans to attend chess tournament in Colombia 2009-08-30 13:22 BJT Editor: Yang Jie Source: Xinhua HAVANA, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- Cuba will send 10 female chess players at the women's Continental Tournament to be held in Cali, Colombia from Sept. 1 to 7, the American Federation of Chess reported on Friday. Matitza Arribas, nine times national champion and Great Master (GM) leads the Cuban delegation, also formed by Sulennis Pina, Yaniet Marrero, Viviana Ramon and Zirka Frometa. The other contenders will be Lisandra Ordaz, Oleinis Linares, Roquelina Fandillo, Lisandra Llaudy and Zenia Corrales. Also Ecuadorian International Master (IM) Marta Fierro, Argentines GM Caludia Amura, Venezuelan GM Sarai Sanchez, PeruvianIM Deysi Cory, and Argentine MI Carlina Luja will also compete. The Tournament will give two tickets for the World Cup, the tournament will be played with the Swiss system of nine rounds, with two double days, the organizers said. If there is a tie, the winner will be defined with quick matches, in one match if only two tie, and with a tournament all against all in case of being three or more. This is the second time these Cuban players get a ticket, since Arribas and Yanira Vigoa did not get a ticket in the 2.3 Zonal tournament.

Oldest Polgar Cousins Following in Family's Footsteps

Hard work. Dedication. Stubborness and refusal to quit. A family devoted to supporting you in your endeavor. Desire. Finally - it comes down to desire to learn - and to win. GM Susan Polgar's sons, the oldest of the Polgar cousins, are carrying on the family legacy of fierce desire to be winners. From Lubbock Online Polgar: Murfee Elementary student wins two world championships Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Sunday, August 30, 2009Story last updated at 8/30/2009 - 2:05 am On July 29-31, Tom Polgar, 10, and Leeam Polgar, 8, competed in the 2009 Superstar Chess World Youth Championships and Superstar Chess World Championship in Pardubice, Czech Republic. They were the only two players representing the United States. After three exciting days of international competition, Tom won the Superstar World Under 12 Championship, as well as the World Under 18 Championship, both by a full point margin. He also finished in a tie for second place in the Superstar Chess Overall World Championship, behind Arpad Rusz of Romania. Leeam finished in fifth place in the Superstar Chess World Under 12 Championship, tied for sixth place in the World Under 18 Championship, and tied for 12th place in the Overall World Championship. Tom just started fifth grade and Leeam fourth grade at Murfee Elementary School. ...

Padmini Rout Wins 16th Ekalabya Award

From Chess queen Padmini to receive Ekalabya Award today By our Correspondent Last updated: 08/29/2009 23:06:58 Bhubaneswar ( Orissa ) : Indian Metals Public Charitable Trust has selected State chess woman International Master Padmini Rout for the 16th Ekalabya Award. At the felicitation function Rout will get cash prize of Rs 1 lakh and a citation here on Sunday. Two other noted sports personalities of the State, sprinter Shrabani Nanda and rowing star Rohit Kumar Swain will get cash prizes of Rs 10,000 each along with the citation. In a motive to promote sports and motivate the sports persons in the State the trust has started the Ekalabya Award since 1993. Earlier, the hockey stars Michael Kindo, Dillip Tirkey and Jyoti Sunita Kulu were received the Arjuna award.

Odie Dog

(Terracotta figurine of begging dog from Harrappa - highly suggestive of a game piece) (Second image: Disc shaped gaming piece depicting an alert sitting dog. I don't know where I captured this image from - it's not noted, unfortunately. The dog looks Egyptian to me and reminds me of Odie Dog except Odie isn't as tall, but I'm thinking the game piece is Roman, because as far as I am aware, the Egyptians did not use flat discs to play their games, while the Romans often did.) Video of Odie Dog shot by Mr. Don while we at Isis' and Michelle's place in Las Vegas. Here's the link at Photobucket - still haven't figured out how to do that "embedding" thing...
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