Saturday, November 14, 2009

Jane Austen and Chess

A watercolor portrait of Jane Austen, c. 1815, artist unknown. I was cleaning out some old papers in my den/library tonight and I came across something I printed off on July 13, 2000: It was a url link that I wrote "Rewrite of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice interwoven with historical chess games!" The old url no longer worked but the site still exists (that's amazing, in and of itself), and provided a search directory for relocated articles. And thus, I found the new url. I haven't read it - I've no idea how long it is but I expect it's plenty long. It was written by "Bill" - I don't know who Bill is, and I never did get to those chess games. But for what it is worth, here is A Worthy Opponent.

Were Indus Symbols Used for Measures?

Article at The Hindu Online edition of India's National Newspaper Sunday, Nov 15, 2009 Indus civilisation reveals its volumetric system T.S. Subramanian Combination of ‘V’ signs and linear strokes were used to indicate volumes The three pots from Harappa with volumetric inscriptions on them. Calculations indicate that the Indus volumetric system is based on multiples of 9.24 litres. (Below) A reconstruction of broken bangles from the Moneer area of Mohenjo-Daro. The number of reconstructed bangles (17) matches the number from the sealing text on the pot that had the broken bangles inside. The other photo shows Indus fish signs. CHENNAI: The Indus civilisation had a volumetric system with inscriptions on ceramic vessels (glazed pots from Harappa) indicating that the sign ‘V’ stood for a measure, a long linear stroke equalled 10, two long strokes stood for 20 and a short stroke represented one, according to Bryan Wells, who has been researching the Indus script for more than 20 years. These markings on the pots are identical to those found on the incised tablets and bas-relief tablets also found in Harappa, said Dr. Wells, who earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University for his thesis on “The Epigraphic Approaches to Indus Writing.” It is to be published as a book in 2010. Besides, a ceramic vessel from Mohenjo-Daro, which had fragments of blue-coloured bangles inside, had one long stroke and seven short strokes inscribed on it. When these broken pieces were reconstructed with a computer, they turned out to be 17 bangles. This again established that one long stroke equalled 10 and each short stroke one, Dr. Wells said. He described the findings as “an important discovery” and “very interesting.” Dr. Wells has proposed that “these sign sequences [sign ‘V’ plus numerals] are various values in the Indus volumetric system. The bas-relief tablets might have been used as ration chits or a form of pseudo-money with the repetitive use of ‘V’ paired with , , relating to various values in the Indus volumetric system. The larger the ceramic vessel, the more strokes it has. This postulation can be tested by detailed measurements of whole ceramic vessels with clear inscriptions.” For instance, he recently measured the volume of the three pots from Harappa, which are now with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) at Purana Quila in New Delhi. While the smallest of them had three long strokes and a ‘V’ sign, the bigger one had six long strokes and a ‘V’ sign and the biggest seven long strokes and a scale inscribed below it. When he measured their volumes, Dr. Wells found that the pot with three long strokes had an estimated volume of 27.30 litres, the vessel with six long strokes 55.56 litres and the one with seven 65.89 litres. Thus, the calculated value of one long stroke was 9.24 or approximately 10 litres. Dr. Wells (58), who is now a Senior Researcher in the Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Taramani here, has also focussed on creating an adequate sign list and corpus for the Indus script and the structural analysis of the Indus texts. He said he first saw the pictures of these pots with markings in the “Corpus of Indus Seals and Inscriptions,” edited by Asko Parpola and his colleagues. When he learnt that the pots were with the ASI at Purana Quila, Dr. Wells travelled there to measure their volumes. No coincidence It was Michael Jansen, another researcher on Indus civilisation, who discovered the pot with broken bangles at Mohenjo-Daro in 1987. What intrigued Dr. Wells was the text of one long stroke and seven short strokes inscribed on it. When he reconstructed these broken pieces, using their internal circumferences, with a computer, he found that 17 bangles must have remained intact inside. Besides, the rake sign in the Indus script had a value of hundred and the double rake sign, 200. “This is completely regular” and “not a result of coincidence,” he said. When the ‘V’ sign with linear strokes that occurred on the Harappan tablets were found repeated on a number of ceramic vessels, “it gave me the idea that the ‘V’ sign is probably a measure,” Dr. Wells explained. It was possible that wages were paid in grain (from these vessels) dispersed from a centralised storage facility, or in the case of incised tablets, material for construction projects and other short-term projects was distributed. He asserted that “there is archaeological evidence bearing on this issue in the form of standardised ceramics with texts describing their contents.” “Fish” for weights Dr. Wells agreed with another Indus scholar Steve Bonta’s (Pennsylvania State University) theory that the “fish” sign in the script stood for weights. According to Dr. Bonta, the fish sign occurred frequently with numbers in the script and in clusters too. He later found that the Akkadian Sargonic texts referred to the weight systems of Dilmun (Bahrain) as “minus.” The system of weights from Dilmun was exactly the same as that of the Indus system. Dr. Bonta, who speaks Tamil, realised that “min” in Tamil meant fish. “So our theory is that the term “minus” is derived from the Indus and that the fish are weights,” Dr. Wells said. There were fish signs with one long stroke, two long strokes, a single rake or a double rake. “So the sign graph is doubling and the value is doubling. I think this is too much of a coincidence. But I am aware that a lot of people will disagree with me on the fish sign,” he added.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Beautiful Images of the Center of the Milky Way Galaxy

Earth is located within a miniscule solar system on an outer "arm" (leg? swirl?) of the Milky Way Galaxy. Here is a picture of our Galaxy, with our Sun's relative position marked. Fibonnaci, anyone? Our galaxy is an awe-inspiring and incredibly beautiful thing to behold in, relatively speaking, "close up" photography. Take a look at the photos published on November 12, 2009 at The Daily Mail Online. I like to see images like these given broad publication because they serve as an important reminder of how ridiculous is our human self-importance (i.e., WE ARE THE CENTER OF ALL THINGS - barf!) when faced with the location of our Sun just within the framework of one midling galaxy. And then, of course, there is the entire Universe, composed of billions of galaxies...

Friday the 13th

Hola darlings! I am in a whirlwind of activity. On Sunday I will be in Chicago from practically dawn to well after dusk helping Shira Evans with the SOS Childrens Village Computer Labs project -- and so everything must get done tonight and tomorrow. Raked tonight, clean-up is next, I've got meetings scheduled with two brokers tomorrow because I decided to investigate selling this place and benefit from the $6,500 credit if I can ink a deal by 4/30/10 and close by 6/30/10 and hopefully put away a tidy sum in doing so by downsizing; on Monday I've got a painter coming to do the upstairs bath and big bedroom. I have much to do to get ready for the painter! Carpets and furniture being cleaned next weekend in preparation for Mr. Don's Christmas visit. I must schedule estimates for quotes on painting the great room, which soars two stories tall and I assume will take a crew working on scaffolding just to get paint on, and that's after some minor drywall repairs are done first. Whew! I also have miscellaneous repairs (such as doggy-chewed drywall from many years ago on the basement steps that I never repaired or replaced) to be completed. The huge old mirror in the bathroom is GOING! I'm getting a framed oval mirror that will match the finish of the new light fixture I had installed in the spring. I've finally decided to have a new floor put in the upstairs bath too - got to talk to the handyman about that. I expect the place will look so great when I'm finished I won't want to put it on the market after all :) Today is Friday the 13th, the Day of the Goddess. It was probably not a coincidence that the very first time I set eyes on my sister-of-the-heart, Isis, was on Friday, August 13, 1999, in Las Vegas when I flew in to watch the FIDE Knock-Out World Chess Championship at Caesar's Palace. Here's an old post from The Goddesschess Weave that Isis did way back when! Georgia Albert - 08:33am Jul 11, 1999 MST (#1086 of 1107) Reminder: We will be having a meeting at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas Nevada, August 13th, 1999, 8 PM. For further information please E-Mail me or Jan for details. Remember more the merrier. LOVE G May Manna Always be with You. It was the first time Isis and I met face to face, and the first time I'd been to Vegas since 1983. I may as well have travelled to Mars, it was that changed. I didn't recognize a single thing! I arrived the morning of Friday, August 13, 1999. I had a wonderful time there with Isis and Michelle, and watched many games of the FIDE Knock-Out World Chess Championship at Caesar's Palace while I was there (and got a sore butt doing so. Almost all of the games I watched went a full six hours). I did a whole series of posts covering that World Championship which we incorporated into its own archive. I'd intended this post to be a sort of review of some of the posts we did in The Weave at Goddesschess about the number 13 and the history of Friday the 13th (i.e., why some cultures consider it an unlucky day while others consider it fortuitous), but I'm too tired now to do it. I wish I was 33 again :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Absolutely Hilarious!

No chess involved! Well - perhaps just a bit, because of the "nightmares" references... I just stumbled across this tonight at You Tube and got great stress-relieving laughs from it. I'm surprised SNL didn't come up with something like this. Absolutely brilliant! WARNING: YOU MUST BE TWENTY-ONE YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER TO VIEW THIS VIDEO. DOUBLE WARNING: YOU MUST BE POLITICALLY IRREVERENT TO WATCH THIS VIDEO. TRIPLE WARNING: FOX NEWS FANS - GAG ME. Obama Does Thriller

Has the Lost Kingdom of Yamataikoku Been Found?

Fascinating article on an aspect of the ancient history of Japan. A kingdom ruled by a Queen - lost in the mists of time. 3rd-century building fuels debate over lost country BY YOSHITO WATARI AND KAZUAKI OWAKI THE ASAHI SHIMBUN 2009 11/12 SAKURAI, Nara Prefecture--The site of a third-century building found in the Makimuku ruins here has reignited debate over the location of Yamataikoku, a mysterious and powerful country once ruled by Queen Himiko. The discovery, announced by the Sakurai city board of education Tuesday, has strengthened the theory that the Kinai area was home to Yamataikoku, a country described in "Gishi Wajin-den," part of the Chinese book "Sanguo zhi" (History of the Three Kingdoms) written by Chen Shou in the late third century. Proponents of the theory say the building, estimated at 19.2 meters by 12.4 meters with a floor space of 238 square meters, could have been a central facility in Yamataikoku. However, those who back the theory that Yamataikoku was in Kyushu argue that a big building alone does not prove the Makimuku ruins were the center of the ancient country. The lack of major buildings in the Makimuku ruins, which date back from the late second century to the early fourth century, had been considered a "weak point" in the Kinai theory. That is because "Gishi Wajin-den" described Yamataikoku as having a palace, a watch tower and castle fences. The recently found building is not only the largest found at the site; it is also the biggest discovered in Japan from the early third century, which was during Himiko's reign. According to the Sakurai board of education, the building was aligned with three smaller buildings from the early third century, whose sites had been earlier discovered to the west in the Makimuku ruins. The central axis of each building forms a straight line. Each building is believed to have faced the same direction. Such careful planning for buildings was common for palaces and temples during the Asuka Period from the late sixth century to the early eighth century. But it had not been found at sites from the early third century. "The orderly alignment of the buildings from east to west is sure proof that they were part of the Yamataikoku royal palace," said Taichiro Shiraishi, director of the Chikatsu Asuka Museum in Osaka Prefecture. "They likely hit the jackpot this time." Part of the site of the large building was destroyed by an L-shaped ditch believed to have been a gravesite. Archaeologists determined that the large building was from the early third century because pottery found in the ditch was dated from the mid-third century. Only 5 percent of the Makimuku ruins has been excavated. But work is now under way in a 390-square-meter area to shed light on the central part of the ruins and, archaeologists hope, to uncover sites of more buildings. Despite the finding, Biten Yasumoto, editor in chief of the Yamataikoku periodical and a former professor at the Sanno Institute of Management, remains skeptical of the Kinai theory. "Researchers backing the Kinai theory tend to date pottery about a century too early," he said. "And the sites of large buildings have been found in Kyushu, too. They alone cannot be associated with Yamataikoku." Yasutami Suzuki, a professor of ancient history at Kokugakuin University, said the Kyushu theory used to be popular, but the Kinai theory has gained momentum in recent years thanks to archaeological research. However, he noted that specific artifacts symbolizing royal power need to be unearthed to prove the site was indeed the center of Yamataikoku. (IHT/Asahi: November 12,2009) Resources: Wikipedia entry on Himiko also known as Pimiko - there appears to be good documentary evidence in early Chinese sources supporting the historical existence of this Queen. What I found most striking in the brief histories given is the long line of female shamans associated with the royal family of Japan. Permission from authorities to conduct further excavations on a burial mound that archaeologists believe may be that of the legendary Queen Himiko has been denied thus far.

A Litle Bit of Chess Femme News

The New York Times Leaving a Bank for a Foundation Proved Rewarding November 11, 2009 Why would investment banker Marley Kaplan, who was pulling down big bucks in the early 1990's, go to work for a mere $25,000 a year at a non-profit? Read about The American Chess Foundation - now known as Chess-in-the-Schools - and the volunteers and financial supporters who make it tick. Great article! The Brownsville Herald Local chess story seeks national audience November 7, 2009 A documentary about the chess triumphs of predominantly Latino students in Brownsville, Texas, is in the works, along with a feature film! Both sound like winners to me. Chesslife Online Abby Marshall Previews the World Youth By Abby Marshall November 11, 2009 Denker winner Marshall (first female to win the title, but not the last) is going for the Gold in her age group. I'm trying to picture a 7-year old chess femme she mentioned meeting who has a 1700 rating - and here I am, having played chess off and on for 40 years, puttering around in the unrated 800-900s! Truly scary stuff! Article from No board-om here; girls excel at playing chess By MOIRA E. MCLAUGHLIN The Washington Post November 10, 2009 12:00 AM A first-ever girls-only tournament was a great success! The ladies say MORE MORE MORE! (Hosted by the U.S. Chess Center, serving Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia)

Lewis Chessmen Back in the News

This cropped up a few days ago - haven't had time to post it until this evening. I think the title is a little misleading; an alternate theory of how the pieces got to (or never left) the Isle of Lewis is proposed. Is it credible? Hell, is the original theory that the pieces were buried there by some travelling salesman credible? Beats me! Personally, I don't care how the pieces came to be on Lewis - I'd like to know more about the methods of production, see close-up photographs of ALL of the pieces instead of the piecemeal stuff one can find on the internet and in various books, learn more about whether more exact dates for the creation of the individual sets can be pinpointed with the latest dating methods (and the various problems associated with such dating techniques). It seems to be the consensus that the Lewis pieces were most likely produced in Trondheim in the late 12th century (c. 1170 ce). But - would Trondheim craftsmen have had a long enough time after chess was introduced to the area to develop a certain "school" of artistic tradition? I would like to know how it has been (if it has been) determined which pieces form sets, etc. For instance, this image from the article of two "berserkers" -- are they from the same set (representing the two different sides)? From different sets? What is up with the bug-eyed expression on these pieces and the shorter dude chewing on his shield? Are these actually Hnefatafl pieces that were pressed into service as chess pawns? Or meant to be used as both? So, I'm glad to see that more indepth research about the many pieces (93, from four different sets) is being done. I tried to track down the journal the article will be published in but I did not have much luck - seems they don't offer online subscriptions (not that I could afford it in any event, LOL!) or one-off purchase of articles of interest. Sigh. Article from the BBC News Doubts cast on Chessmen origins Page last updated at 10:38 GMT, Tuesday, 10 November 2009 New research has cast doubt on traditional theories about the historic Lewis Chessmen. The 93 pieces - currently split between museums in Edinburgh and London - were discovered on Lewis in 1831. But the research suggests they may have been used in both chess and Hnefatafl - a similar game that was popular in medieval Scandinavia. It also casts doubt on the traditional theory that the ivory pieces were lost or buried by a merchant. The research was led by Dr David Caldwell of the National Museum of Scotland, who believes the Lewis chessmen were more likely to have belonged to a high-ranking person who lived on Lewis. Dr Caldwell told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme that many of the pieces could have doubled for Hnefatafl, another conflict game which also pitted a king against pawns or warriors on the other side. The ancient game has not survived into modern times. For the first time, they also tried to work out which pieces were made by the same groups of craftsmen by measuring the chessmen's faces, looking at their clothing, and studying details of the workmanship. Dr Caldwell added: "We certainly still believe the pieces are Scandinavian in origin, perhaps made in a workshop by several masters in a city like Trondheim. "But one of the main things I think we are saying in our research is that it is much more likely that the horde is in Lewis because it belonged to somebody who lived there rather than being abandoned by a merchant who was passing through. "To take a relatively easy example, there is a praise poem written in the middle of the 13th century to Angus Mor of Isla, and the poem says that he inherited his ivory chess pieces from his father Donald - that makes Angus the very first Macdonald, and the poem also makes him the king of Lewis. "Now you of course you would be foolish to implicitly believe everything in a praise poem, but nevertheless it gives you some idea that we are dealing with a society in the west of Scotland - great leaders like Angus Mor, bishops, clan chiefs - who really valued playing chess and saw it as being one of their accomplishments." He said that the analysis tried to recognise the work of different craftsmen, and home in on pieces which may be replacements for ones which had been broken or lost. They used a forensic anthropologist, Caroline Wilkinson based at Dundee University, to do a photogrammetric analysis of the faces as they believed individual craftsmen would have given their faces different characteristics, just like a modern-day political cartoonists. Plenty of mystery Dr Caldwell said the chessmen suggested that there was a reasonable amount of wealth in the western Isles in the 13th century, perhaps because the medieval economy placed greater value on fairly barren land that could be used to raise cattle. He added: "It was certainly leading men there, people who could make a lot of money either by raising cattle or frankly by going raiding - there was still in some ways a Viking way of life surviving into the 13th century." Despite the extensive research, Dr Caldwell said he still believed there was plenty of mystery surrounding the chessmen. "I would be very disappointed if we have written the last word on the - what I hope we have done is opened up the debate and shown it is possible, even with something very well known, to discover new things," he said. The research will be published this week in the journal Medieval Archaeology. Of the 93 pieces found, 82 are kept at the British Museum, with 11 held by the National Museum of Scotland. Calls have been made for all of the pieces, which were made from walrus ivory and whales' teeth, to be returned to Lewis. Here is a bit more information in an article from The Press and Journal. Famous figures may have been used to play hnefatfl rather than chess, researchers claim New light shed on origins of Lewis Chessmen By Joanna Skailes Published: 11/11/2009 Research has shed new light on the world’s most famous chess set. A major study involving Tayside researchers has revealed a different interpretation of the origins and uses of the iconic Lewis Chessmen. The figures, believed to have been made in Scandinavia, were found in 1832. The majority are in the British Museum’s collection and 11 are owned by the National Museum of Scotland. The study challenges the widely-held view they were part of a merchant’s hoard when they were buried in Lewis and finds they may have belonged to a bishop or a clan chief. The research, led by David Caldwell, Keeper of Scotland in Europe at National Museums Scotland, was yesterday published in the journal Medieval Archaeology. He worked with Mark Hall, of Perth Museum and Art Gallery, and Caroline Wilkinson, a forensic anthropologist at Dundee University. The accepted version of the hoard’s discovery is that it was recovered by a local man, Malcolm MacLeod, from the sand dunes at Ardroil on the south side of Uig Strand. Mr Caldwell and his co-authors believe it is more likely they were found at Mealasta, a few miles south of Uig Strand, where there was a mediaeval settlement. This could mean, they argue, that they could have belonged to a significant local figure. The researchers also found some of the pieces may date from the early 13th century rather than the 12th century and they may have been used for games other than chess – primarily hnefatfl, popular in the medieval Scandinavian world. Their work showed the pieces could be divided into groups, possibly representing the work of five different craftsmen. Mr Caldwell said: “These are arguably the most famous treasures to come out of the ground in Scotland, and have worldwide recognition, so the danger is that we assume we know all there is to be known about them. “We hope that this research proves it is always possible to cast new light on these fascinating pieces.” Western Isles SNP MSP Alasdair Allan said: “It is certainly interesting to hear that they have may belonged to somebody relevant on Lewis rather than somebody passing through. “If that is the case it even further strengthens the case for their return to Scotland.” The research will feature in the major touring exhibition on the Lewis Chessmen, held in partnership with the British Museum and with funding from the Scottish Government, which will open in Edinburgh in May, 2010, and then be on show in Aberdeen Art Gallery in October, 2010. Shetland Museum will host it in January, 2011 and it will move to Stornoway in April that year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

9 Queens - Upcoming Events!

That fabulous organization, 9 Queens, which teaches femmes and hommes of all ages skills needed to enable them to get control of their lives through learning the skills that chess teaches us, has some upcoming events: Tucson, Arizona Ladies of Tucson…get ready for the next 9 Queens Chess Academy! When: November, 15 from 2-4 pm Where: The Bookmans Low Lounge of Sahuaro Girl Scout Resorce Center (located at the corner of Broadway and Columbus). Don’t know how to play chess? Come and learn the rules and how the pieces move in a fun, non-competitive environment. Already know the rules and how to play? Learn new tactics and strategies to improve your game. Meet other female chess players in Tucson and join the growing community of Tucson chess queens. Many thanks to Bookmans and the Sahuaro Girl Scout Council for their continued support of 9 Queens and our chess programs for women and girls. For more information email Jean Hoffman. This free chess workshop is exclusively for women and girls of all ages and abilities.
Tucson, Arizona 9 Queens and Kings Southside Library Tournament When: November 21 from 10-4 pm, 9 Queens Where: Valencia Public Library, 202 West Valencia Road The Pima County Public Library and 9 Queens host the 9 Queens and Kings Southside Library Tournament. This free chess tournament is open to chess players of all ages, and is a perfect first tournament for anyone new to the game. For more information please email Jean Hoffman.

Computer Labs for Kids: Update on SOS Childrens Village

Getting ready - it will be here on November 15th! Some photos from several that Shira Evans sent. First photo: The venue where we will be teaching the kids how to use the Dell notebook computers. It's beautiful! Second photo: Starting set-up and testing. Third photo: Further along in set-up and testing - a double row of notebook computers. This is the largest project yet that Shira's Foundation has undertaken, and the very first in which teaching-chess software (generously contributed by GM Susan Polgar) is being downloaded to the 28 computers that will be donated to the children at the end of the CL4K class.

Iran Bitches About Scholarship in Name of Neda

Story from Yahoo News, reported by Associated Press (AP)(c). Iran condemns Oxford for honoring slain protester By ALI AKBAR DAREINI, Associated Press Writer Ali Akbar Dareini, Associated Press Writer – Wed Nov 11, 4:01 pm ET TEHRAN, Iran – Iran has protested to an Oxford University college over a scholarship in memory of the slain Iranian student who became an icon of mass street protests sparked by the disputed June election. In Tehran, a small group of hard-line women demonstrated Wednesday against the scholarship in front of the British Embassy. The women chanted "Death to Britain," the semi-official Fars news agency reported. Oxford's Queen's College established the Neda Agha Soltan Graduate Scholarship in Philosophy earlier this year, named for the 27-year-old student fatally shot on June 20 on the sidelines of a Tehran demonstration. Her dying moments were caught on a video viewed by millions on the Internet, and she became a potent symbol of the opposition's struggle. "It seems that the University of Oxford has stepped up involvement in a politically motivated campaign which is not only in sharp contrast with academic objectives" but also linked to British interference in Iran's post-election turmoil, Iran's Embassy in London said in a letter to the provost of the British university's college. Queen's College confirmed it had received the letter dated Tuesday. Iran has in the past accused Britain of playing a role in the protests following the June 12 presidential election and meddling in its internal affairs. The opposition said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the election by fraud. But hard-liners have described the massive protests as a plot by Iran's enemies to overthrow the system of clerical rule through a 'velvet revolution.' The Iranian letter said Soltan's "suspicious death" is still a criminal case being investigated by the police at home. It said she had been shot on an isolated street far from the protesters and her "murderers" had filmed her and her companions for 20 minutes before the killing. The letter also mentioned Arash Hejazi, an Iranian doctor who was with Soltan at the time she was shot and said he tried to save her life. Hejazi is studying at Oxford and was visiting Iran at the time. "Surprising, an Oxford fellow, Mr. Arash Hejazi, who had arrived in Iran two days before Neda's killing, was present on the scene when she was bleeding to death and immediately left for London the day after her horrible death," the letter said. "There is further supporting evidence indicating a pre-made scenario and other complications yet to be investigated. In July, a couple weeks after Soltan's death, Iran's police chief said intelligence officials were seeking Hejazi. That came after Hejazi returned to London and told the BBC that Soltan apparently was shot by a member of the volunteer Basij militia, which is linked to Iran's powerful and elite Revolutionary Guard corps. Hejazi said protesters spotted an armed member of the militia on a motorcycle, and stopped and disarmed him. Iranian police claimed this was a fabrication and the incident had nothing to do with the street riots. Police did not say why officials want Hejazi, but the regime repeatedly has implicated protesters and foreign agents in Soltan's death. The protesters in Tehran Wednesday accused Hejazi of being behind Soltan's killing and demanded his extradition, even though he is not facing any charges in Iran. "We want you to extradite Neda Agha Soltan Murderer" read a placard carried by the women. They also chanted "U.K. and U.S. perpetrators." The provost of Queen's College, Paul Madden, said the names of scholarships were decided, "within reason," by donors. The college did not disclose the donors behind the Soltan scholarship, but said the key individual was a British citizen who is well known to the college. The scholarship is open to all philosophy students, with preference given to Iranians and those of Iranian descent. The first holder is Arianne Shahvisi, studying for a master's degree in the philosophy of physics.
I found it interesting that there were no photographs accompanying this AP article showing the women protestors against the UK and USA. Makes me wonder - how many were there? One? Two? Couldnt' the ruling regime bribe more of them to come out and parade around in their burkas? Compare to the photo I found at The Wall Street Journal's coverage of the Iranian 30th anniversary of the "revolution" and takover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. During the government-sponsored photo-ops, anti-government protestors took to the streets and their images were captured and broadcast world-wide via cell phone and You Tube videos. The photo I published above shows several women (I counted ten) in the midst of the protests with Iranian police threatening them with batons, etc. on November 5, 2009. Here is the link to the article and the caption to the photo: European Pressphoto Agency Iranian riot police clash with protesters criticizing the government in Tehran on Wednesday, the same day as an annual anti-American rally organized by the state.

Chess Training - 4

I have won another game by resignation - but under duress! This was my most recent game with Shira. She resigned - I didn't even realize it until tonight, duh, since once again the email notification from was not working. Damn! I was somewhat pleased with how this game was progressing and thought I had good battling chances. I thought Shira and I would be in for further battle and I was looking forward to it. Unfortunately for my training (selfish Jan), Shira is super-busy right now getting ready for the November 15, 2009 class with the kids at SOS Childrens Village of Illinois in Chicago for her Computer Labs for Kids Foundation, in addition to performing her current work assignment for her employer. Shira was distracted, not playing her best, and just didn't have the time to play this game. So - this was a cheap victory for me. [Event "Challenge"] [Site ""] [Date "2009.10.29"] [EndDate "2009.11.10"] [Round "?"] [White "shira"] [Black "Shakerjan"] [WhiteRating "1385"] [BlackRating "1167"] [WhiteELO "1385"] [BlackELO "1167"][Result "0-1"] [GameId "6842016"] 1. d4 d5 2. Ng1f3 Nb8c6 3. Bc1g5 Bc8f5 4. c3 Qd8d7 5. e3 O-O-O 6. Bf1b5 f6 7. Bg5f4 g5 8. Bf4g3 h6 9. Nb1d2 e6 10. O-O h5 11. h4 g4 12. Nf3e1 Ng8e7 13. Qd1e2 Ne7g6 14. e4 dxe4 15. Nd2xe4 Bf8e7 16. Ne1d3 e5 17. dxe5 Qd7e6 18. Bb5xc6 Qe6xc6 19. Rf1e1 Qc6xe4 20. Qe2xe4 Bf5xe4 21. exf6 Be7xf6 0-1 You know, I prayed recently for some chess victories - but I didn't expect victories this way. My new coach, Brian Wall, defaulted on TWO games we were playing at when he went for a long weekend visit out of state and missed the three-day time limit on moves. Great, just great! Now my rating is grossly inflated at and no doubt next Anand will be looking me up as a sparring partner. Ha! So, B and I arranged last night via email to play a new game. Except - before I had a chance to challenge him when I got home from work this evening (I don't make it a habit to play chess online while I'm working), he challenged me to not one, but TWO games. This time, I'm black in both games. At least the first time around I was white in one of our games. I could have rejected one or both of the challenges to play, but I accepted both. A sucker (me) is born every minute. So, I challenged B to a game where I would be white, except I didn't press the right button or something, so I now have no idea what color I'll end up being (three guesses - BLACK!) LOL!

"Lost Boys" Follow-Up

I saw this interesting letter today in the Letters to the Editor section of The Wall Street Journal: Society Will Pay a Big Price for All of Our 'Lost Boys' To anyone who has presided over a college classroom, Richard Whitmire's "The Lost Boys" (Taste, Nov. 6) is all too real. A politically correct society and "helicopter" parents have stripped opportunities for all of life's potential failures out of the lives of young boys. Only the athletes truly compete, and young boys need competition. They reach college age so fearful of any type of failure that their only answer is to sit in the back of the room and adopt the "cool pose" we are so familiar with from high school. Young women are the first to notice this lack of ambition. The marriage rate in this country per 1,000 people is the lowest it has been in 50 years. Single women are the fastest growing segment of the home-buying industry. Women are simply not going to wait to build a life—wait until males decide to put down the Xbox controller, the cold beer and exit their parents' basement. What we are all seeing is a movement much larger and more important than the ratio of men to women in higher education. The U.S. is in the middle of the largest socioeconomic change since World War II—the creation of a matriarchal economy. Women now purchase or influence the purchase of 80% of all goods and services. Astute marketers have been chronicling this change for years. Satisfy the female market and you will more than satisfy the male market. It is that simple. Prof. James W. Bovinet University of Phoenix Online Monmouth, Ill. I added the emphasis on what I think is the punch line in this letter - and the reason The WSJ chose to highlight the letter with SOCIETY WILL PAY A BIG PRICE. Hmmmm... Is The WSJ scared to death of the idea that women are headed toward control of their own financial futures entirely independent of men (i.e., not just making most of the buying decisions in two-income households), or is it frightened by the actual implemention of that concept in society? What, exactly, is the big price and why will it be "society" that pays it? What about Professor Bovinet, the author of the letter? What does he feel about his vision of the future (women controlling most of the finances in the USA - that matriarchal economy, which de facto may be here already)? The use of the loaded term "matriarchal" must send shivers down the spines of plenty of those good ol' patriarchy-attuned dudes out there -- the guys who crashed Wall Street, for instance, and every single military officer in the entire world, most religious "leaders" and "authorities" in Christendom, Islam, and Hinduism and other religious belief systems (but maybe not the Buddhists), probably 99.9% of the male politicians in the world, the Taliban, the so-called "Christian" Right in this country and other religious Nazis of their ilk, etc. Imagine if women actually started using their economic power to impel real, meaningful changes in the way things work in this country and elsewhere instead of "going along to get along." Hmmmm, now that must truly be a frightening thought to a lot of folks.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Interview with IM/WGM Anna Muzychuk

Article translated from Spanish to English received from Club Ateneo Cacereno de Ajedrez via email, November 10, 2009. Dear Club Ateneo Cacereno, thank you so much for sending me this interview. The personality of IM/WGM Anna Muzychuk shines through despite the somewhat stilted translation of her word into English. The essence is what counts! The translation contains many photographs of A. Muzychuk which are not reproduced here. Please visit the link above to view them. Today we interview Anna Muzychuk (IM and WGM 2532 FIDE). She is a young woman player with 19 years old and she is nº 1 in her country, Eslovenia, and nº 6 of world. In July 2009 reached 2542 FIDE and travels road surface towards the 2600. With this impressive career and with the idea of promoting the feminine chess, we continue with this series of interviews to big talents of the feminine international chess. Anna rapidly acceded to possibility of an interview, and she agreed to do it immediately. That is the reason why the first thing we want to do is thank her for her disposal for this interview. 1.- Such a player like you has had the chance to see partners and female friends starting out in chess who gave it up with the passing of time. That is something we are accustomed to seeing in the Chess Schools of our region. Girls start out in chess but then they give up the game whereas boys carry on playing. Why do you think this happens? In my opinion this happens because chess is a kind of sport and generally there are much more less of girls in compare with boys who go in for sport (I don’t speak about some specific sports such as rhythmic gymnastics). Chess is also a logical game and boys take up the activities connected with logics much more often then girls. 2.- We, the modest clubs, have few resources to work, how could we promote women’s chess without falling onto the issue of “positive discrimination”? The first steps of promoting women chess have been made in the last years (e.g. the first time Women Grand Prix was organized this year, a number of women boards at the official tournaments like Olympiad and European Team Championship was increased etc.) but of course this is far from what should be done to make chess being popular. Many new ideas of promoting women chess were suggested by World Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk in her open letter to FIDE. They are: to organize more strong women events, to create Women’s World Blitz and Rapid Championships, to increase women prizes not only at the tournaments of the highest level but also at the open tournaments. I think that the club system should be improved. This can help promoting women chess in the countries. Every country is wished to held a separate Women’s Club Tournament and that every country is represented by at least one team at the European Club Cup for women. Also every professional woman chess player has to promote chess in general and especially women’s chess. 3.- We have all heard about the Polgar sisters, even those who don’t practise chess. Judit and Susan have broken records and Judit is the first and only woman ever able to exceed 2700 ELO (whereas Sofía, the third sister, seems not to practise chess at all). Do you think you could ever get 2700 ELO? What is your next goal as a chess player? I will try to do my best to get over 2700 and my nearest goal is to complete men GM norm (I already have 2, so I need 1 more). 4.- Chess and cleverness are not incompatible. It has always been thought that the woman is much more intelligent than the man (I’m sure I will be reproached for this :-)) and that women have a very high work capacity. Joining this with beauty breaks the chess’ platitudes, [Ed. stereotypes] and it is obvious that it benefits our sport. It is said, with few exceptions, such as Judit’s, that women play chess worse than men, do you think this is actually true? If so, what could be the reason? Actually this question has become very popular nowadays. I think there are the following reasons why men plays better than women. As I have mentioned above the number of boys playing chess is much higher then girls. The second is that women practice chess much less time then men do (even Susan Polgar has written this on her webpage). Other reason is that there are very few women who are professional and who can earn money only by playing chess. 5.- Which is the most entertaining anecdote that you remember playing the chess? One of the funny things occurred when I was playing Russian league. It has happened that during the last years I played the same tournaments with Antoaneta Stefanova very often, also many times in the same team. So, last year we played in one Russian team, she was on the first board and me on the second. As it is well known already, Antoaneta always comes to play the game with a bottle of coke. That day was not an exception in this case but when there was left some seconds before the game Eti decided to open the bottle and suddenly the coke poured on her board and also on mine. At the time the arbiters informed the players of starting the game we were trying to change the chessboards, chess sets and the tablecloth. 6.- What would advise a girl who wants to manage to play as you? A different advice to studying and to working hardly. The girl should love to play chess, wish to be successful and reach the highest results, also practice chess every day. 7.- In your opinion, which do you think has been your best game? Or one of the best (it will appear at the end of the article). I guess one of the nice games I have recently played against GM David Howell at the Inventi Chess Tournament 2009. 8.- If you could ask a compromising question to a female chess player, what would you ask her? Just to set the record straight, we will ask this very same question to another great female chess player. I would like to ask the other top female chess players about the influence of chess in their life and if they would like to repeat their professional chess career again. 9.- Just one more thing to finish with. We know you like Spain, and Cáceres is a candidate for the “European Capital of Culture” title; if we achieve this title, will you come visit us? If you invite me I will try to do my best to come and visit Spain. Thanks for your time. You are welcome!

Monday, November 9, 2009

First ACP Women World Rapid Cup

Upcoming! First ACP Women World Rapid Cup From the ACP website: The First ACP Women World Rapid Cup takes place at the Rixos hotel in Konya, Turkey from November 30th to December 4th 2009. The event will be a Round Robin rapid tournament with twelve participants including eight qualifiers from the ACP Women Series 2008-09, three Turkish Chess Federation nominees, one ACP nominee. The total prize fund will amount to USD 20,000. The full players' list is now announced. ACP WS 2008-09 qualifiers: Kosintseva, Tatiana; Kosteniuk, Alexandra; Kosintseva, Nadezhda; Cramling, Pia; Cmilyte, Viktorija; Zhukova, Natalya; Javakhishvili, Lela; Socko, Monica (replaces Pogonina). ACP nominee: Klinova, Masha. TCF nominees: Ozturk, Kubra; Menzi, Nezihe Ezgi; Yildiz, Betul Cemre.

Has a Lost Army Been Found?

I love a good mystery, and archaeology has its share of them! Has the lost army of Persian King Cambyses II been found in the Sahara? The 50,000 warriors were said to be buried by a cataclysmic sandstorm in 525 B.C. Story from Discovery News Vanished Persian Army Said Found in Desert Bones, jewelry and weapons found in Egyptian desert may be the remains of Cambyses' army that vanished 2,500 years ago. By Rossella Lorenzi Sun Nov 08 2009 10:30 PM ET The remains of a mighty Persian army said to have drowned in the sands of the western Egyptian desert 2,500 years ago might have been finally located, solving one of archaeology's biggest outstanding mysteries, according to Italian researchers. Bronze weapons, a silver bracelet, an earring and hundreds of human bones found in the vast desolate wilderness of the Sahara desert have raised hopes of finally finding the lost army of Persian King Cambyses II. The 50,000 warriors were said to be buried by a cataclysmic sandstorm in 525 B.C. "We have found the first archaeological evidence of a story reported by the Greek historian Herodotus," Dario Del Bufalo, a member of the expedition from the University of Lecce, told Discovery News. According to Herodotus (484-425 B.C.), Cambyses, the son of Cyrus the Great, sent 50,000 soldiers from Thebes to attack the Oasis of Siwa and destroy the oracle at the Temple of Amun after the priests there refused to legitimize his claim to Egypt. After walking for seven days in the desert, the army got to an "oasis," which historians believe was El-Kharga. After they left, they were never seen again. "A wind arose from the south, strong and deadly, bringing with it vast columns of whirling sand, which entirely covered up the troops and caused them wholly to disappear," wrote Herodotus. A century after Herodotus wrote his account, Alexander the Great made his own pilgrimage to the oracle of Amun, and in 332 B.C. he won the oracle's confirmation that he was the divine son of Zeus, the Greek god equated with Amun. The tale of Cambyses' lost army, however, faded into antiquity. As no trace of the hapless warriors was ever found, scholars began to dismiss the story as a fanciful tale. Now, two top Italian archaeologists claim to have found striking evidence that the Persian army was indeed swallowed in a sandstorm. Twin brothers Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni are already famous for their discovery 20 years ago of the ancient Egyptian "city of gold" Berenike Panchrysos. Presented recently at the archaeological film festival of Rovereto, the discovery is the result of 13 years of research and five expeditions to the desert. "It all started in 1996, during an expedition aimed at investigating the presence of iron meteorites near Bahrin, one small oasis not far from Siwa," Alfredo Castiglioni, director of the Eastern Desert Research Center (CeRDO)in Varese, told Discovery News. While working in the area, the researchers noticed a half-buried pot and some human remains. Then the brothers spotted something really intriguing -- what could have been a natural shelter. It was a rock about 35 meters (114.8 feet) long, 1.8 meters (5.9 feet) in height and 3 meters (9.8 feet) deep. Such natural formations occur in the desert, but this large rock was the only one in a large area. "Its size and shape made it the perfect refuge in a sandstorm," Castiglioni said. Right there, the metal detector of Egyptian geologist Aly Barakat of Cairo University located relics of ancient warfare: a bronze dagger and several arrow tips. "We are talking of small items, but they are extremely important as they are the first Achaemenid objects, thus dating to Cambyses' time, which have emerged from the desert sands in a location quite close to Siwa," Castiglioni said. About a quarter mile from the natural shelter, the Castiglioni team found a silver bracelet, an earring and few spheres which were likely part of a necklace. "An analysis of the earring, based on photographs, indicate that it certainly dates to the Achaemenid period. Both the earring and the spheres appear to be made of silver. Indeed a very similar earring, dating to the fifth century B.C., has been found in a dig in Turkey," Andrea Cagnetti, a leading expert of ancient jewelry, told Discovery News. In the following years, the Castiglioni brothers studied ancient maps and came to the conclusion that Cambyses' army did not take the widely believed caravan route via the Dakhla Oasis and Farafra Oasis. "Since the 19th century, many archaeologists and explorers have searched for the lost army along that route. They found nothing. We hypothesized a different itinerary, coming from south. Indeed we found that such a route already existed in the 18th Dynasty," Castiglioni said. According to Castiglioni, from El Kargha the army took a westerly route to Gilf El Kebir, passing through the Wadi Abd el Melik, then headed north toward Siwa. "This route had the advantage of taking the enemy aback. Moreover, the army could march undisturbed. On the contrary, since the oasis on the other route were controlled by the Egyptians, the army would have had to fight at each oasis," Castiglioni said. To test their hypothesis, the Castiglioni brothers did geological surveys along that alternative route. They found desiccated water sources and artificial wells made of hundreds of water pots buried in the sand. Such water sources could have made a march in the desert possible. "Termoluminescence has dated the pottery to 2,500 years ago, which is in line with Cambyses' time," Castiglioni said. In their last expedition in 2002, the Castiglioni brothers returned to the location of their initial discovery. Right there, some 100 km (62 miles) south of Siwa, ancient maps had erroneously located the temple of Amun. The soldiers believed they had reached their destination, but instead they found the khamsin -- the hot, strong, unpredictable southeasterly wind that blows from the Sahara desert over Egypt. "Some soldiers found refuge under that natural shelter, other dispersed in various directions. Some might have reached the lake of Sitra, thus surviving," Castiglioni said. At the end of their expedition, the team decided to investigate Bedouin stories about thousands of white bones that would have emerged decades ago during particular wind conditions in a nearby area. Indeed, they found a mass grave with hundreds of bleached bones and skulls. "We learned that the remains had been exposed by tomb robbers and that a beautiful sword which was found among the bones was sold to American tourists," Castiglioni said. Among the bones, a number of Persian arrow heads and a horse bit, identical to one appearing in a depiction of an ancient Persian horse, emerged. "In the desolate wilderness of the desert, we have found the most precise location where the tragedy occurred," Del Bufalo said. The team communicated their finding to the Geological Survey of Egypt and gave the recovered objects to the Egyptian authorities. "We never heard back. I'm sure that the lost army is buried somewhere around the area we surveyed, perhaps under five meters (16.4 feet) of sand." Piero Pruneti, editor of Archeologia Viva, Italy's most important archaeology magazine, is impressed by the team's work. "Judging from their documentary, their hypothesis of an alternative route is very plausible," Prunetic told Discovery News. "Indeed, the Castiglioni's expeditions are all based on a careful study of the landscape...An in-depth exploration of the area is certainly needed!"

Soumya Swaminathan Wins World Junior Girls Gold

From Maxime, Soumya won World Junior Chess championship 09 Published on 10 November 2009 Soumya Swaminathan scored a much-needed final-round victory to become the girls champion in the World junior chess championship at Puerto Madryn, Argentina. The World junior chess championship was held at Puerto Madryn, Argentina. It was a 13-round Swiss tournament, with a rate of play of 90 minutes for the first forty moves, followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game, with an addition of 30 seconds per move starting from move one. [Photo of the World Junior Girls winners, from left to right: Deysi Cori Tello (Peru), Swaminathan Soumya (India) and Betul Cemre Yildiz (Turkey)]. “This is a big achievement. With this title, she will directly qualify for the Junior World Cup in Russia later this month. Almost every junior champion has performed well in the World Chess Championship. That is why this title is more prestigious. Soumya has been training with Kunte’s Academy for the past three years. She has sacrificed a lot for chess. She is a hard-worker, a talented player and has a bright future” said GM Abhijeet Kunte. In the thirteenth and final round, Soumya defeated Kubra Ozturk of Turkey for a place in world history. She became the third Indian girl after Koneru Humpy (2002) and Dronavalli Harika (2008) to win the World Junior Girls championship. The World Junior title had been won by V Anand (1987), P Harikrishna (2004) and Abhijeet Gupta (2008) also. India has retained the girl’s title. The World Junior title gives Soumya a direct entry to the Women's World Chess Championship. Financial support from the Government? Betul went into the final round with all set to take Gold. But she tied for first place and stood third on tiebreak points. Had she won clear first she would have got a WGM title directly and been eligible for a special jackpot prize of the Turkish Chess Federation US $33,000! After winning the Junior national title, Soumya applied for the government grant of Rs. 5,00,000 (around US $10,000) through All India Chess Federation (AICF), even after filling up all the necessary documents, her application has not been processed as yet. Indian Oil pays Soumya Rs. 5000 (around US $100) per month as a scholarship, while Persistent Systems has provided the laptop. Reference:-- Official website

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Filly Beats the Big Boys :)

From The New York Times A Classic Ending to Zenyatta’s Perfect Season By JOE DRAPE Published: November 7, 2009 ARCADIA, Calif. — Zenyatta is a headstrong girl, and a big one, too. So when she balked entering the starting gate here Saturday, a gasp rippled through the grandstand. As she was awaiting the start of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, against the best male horses in the world at a distance she had never run, did she suddenly not want to race? (Photo from NYT article: Zenyatta, wearing number 4, looks like she is smiling as she passes by Gio Ponti, wearing number 2.) Mike Smith, her jockey, smooched in, and she stood quiet. But outside, in Post 12, Quality Road was acting up. He bucked and spun, then broke through the gate. Finally he was scratched, and Zenyatta and the 11 other horses were backed out and their riders were asked to dismount. This was no way to start a mile-and-a-quarter race with a $5 million purse, a perfect 13-0 record and the bursting hearts of Zenyatta’s devoted followers on the line. When the gates finally popped open, Zenyatta stood there alone. It would be the last time she would look as if she did not belong with the best turf horses in North America, a couple of monsters from Europe, and the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes champions. In fact, when it mattered most, in the lane, surrounded by a thundering herd, Zenyatta found another gear — no, another engine — and rolled from the rail to the widest path of all. She was large and in charge, and bounded down the Santa Anita Park racetrack as if she were on a trampoline. The Triple Crown winners got left first. Mine That Bird and Summer Bird, see you later. Rip Van Winkle and Twice Over, go back to Europe. The only horse left was Gio Ponti in the middle of the track. He is a salty colt who has won four Grade I races on the turf, and runs like a horse who loves what he does. He was running another big race now, but his jockey, Ramon Dominguez, was working hard with his hands and whip to keep it that way. Smith, on the other hand, was a passenger on Zenyatta. The only thing he was beating back was a smile. “I believe if there was another horse ahead of him,” Smith said of Gio Ponti, “she would have caught him, too. She still had run left.” The crowd of 58,000 was on its feet, and its full-throated roar made it clear that it, too, thought Zenyatta could keep going. In the grandstand, Jerry and Ann Moss, her owners, had tears welling, as did her trainer, John Shirreffs. The chart said Zenyatta won by a length and covered the mile and a quarter in 2:00.62. But the tear-streaked faces from the apron to the clubhouse and the sustained ovation said so much more: Zenyatta is a champion, the kind that does not come along very often. Not only was she the first mare to capture North America’s premier race in its 26-year history, but she also did it with an élan not seen by many athletes in any sport. Not even the once and perhaps future queen of thoroughbred racing, Rachel Alexandra, could have made a crowd of the most hard-hearted of horsemen and horseplayers swoon as Zenyatta did Saturday. “She’s a freak, what can I say?” said Christophe Clement, the trainer of Gio Ponti. “My horse ran a great race, but he couldn’t beat her.” No, Gio Ponti could not beat Zenyatta, and now the sport will be left to wonder if Rachel Alexandra could have held off Zenyatta. She is good one, Rachel Alexandra, a 3-year-old filly who skipped the Classic, and has won eight races this year and beaten the boys three times. In the Preakness and the Haskell, she beat colts her own age, and in the Woodward Stakes she dispatched some of America’s best older horses. But Smith, Zenyatta’s rider, suggested that Rachel Alexandra had never faced a field like this one, and he highlighted the arguments that will rage over the next several weeks as voters decide who is the horse of the year. “I wish they would have brought her,” Smith said of Rachel Alexandra, “so we could prove what Zenyatta is really about. I think she proved it today, and like I said there was more run left there. I’ve never gotten to the bottom of her. I would have given anything to run against her.” Jerry Moss cast his vote for horse of the year with a gulp and a crack in his voice. “She’s our horse of the year,” he said. “We like to play in the biggest spots, and you can’t get any bigger than this.” Neither he nor his wife has any desire to pit Zenyatta against Rachel Alexandra in a match race. “I believe that this is probably Zenyatta’s last race,” Moss said. “I think she deserves to go out with her record intact.” She has left the gate 14 times and ended up in the winner’s circle every time. In fact, Smith insisted that he could get on Zenyatta’s back for another 14 or 1,400 starts and the result would always be the same. He says that Zenyatta was made so perfectly she would never be beaten. “She’s sent from God,” he said. “It’s his filly. I think he wanted a horse and brought her down here to race against everyone.” Jan to Mr. Smith: God isn't a "He." Heeeeeee haaaaaa!

Computer Labs for Kids: Volunteers Needed for SOS Childrens Village Illinois Project

Shira Evans is looking for additional volunteers (last count, she needs 10) to assist in her Foundation's project next Sunday, November 15, 2009, at the SOS Childrens Village Illinois in Chicago, Illinois. (Computer Labs for Kids). The goal is to have one mentor/buddy for each child (28 in all). You do not need to know about computers, but you must be willing to work with a pre-teen child who is in foster care for about three hours next Sunday afternoon in Chicago and work with your child-buddy through a program that Shira will lead. At the end of the program your child-buddy will receive a Certificate of Completion and also be awarded with his or her own Dell notebook computer, donated by Shira's Computer Labs for Kids Foundation. If you volunteer, you must be willing to complete a short online "course" (it's more of an outline) of what you will be doing as an adult buddy working with your foster child. As a special note, for this project Shira requested donations of software that will teach kids how to play chess. Less than 24 hours after the request for donations went out, GM Susan Polgar (SPICE, Susan Polgar Foundation, and the popular blog) donated the necessary copies of her very own software program specifically geared toward teaching youngsters the game of chess in under 30 minutes. So, for the very first time (but hopefully not the last), the kids that Computer Labs for Kids helps will be receiving computers downloaded with chess software that Shira, I, and many other volunteers will be sure to demonstrate how it works to as many kids as we can, to introduce them to the mysteries and the wonders of Chess. We all know about the many benefits that learning chess can bring to a child. Can you help by volunteering your time and a little bit of your heart next week Sunday? You can sign up here. If you would like more information, please email me.

Oldest American artefact unearthed

Oregon caves yield evidence of continent's first inhabitants. Published online 5 November 2009 Nature doi:10.1038/news.2009.1058 Rex Dalton This article is interesting for a couple of reasons, including that it totally ignores all archaeological evidence of human occupation produced from the eastern part of the United States that may date back as far as 50,000 years ago! I found the comments much more interesting than the article. People who have kept up with this never-ending debate may recognize some of the names of the posters: "The only other American archaeological site older than Clovis is at Monte Verde in Chile"? WHAT??? Topper. Meadowcroft. Cactus Hill. With all due respect, does EVERY site have to have a score or two American archeologists arrive to vet every single pre-Clovis site? THE CLOVIS BARRIER IS BROKEN. Why do the panicked Clovis get to be the arbiters of every site? They are clinging to an antiquated paradigm. Isn't it about time that we can read an article about an early site without having to fluff up the article with ten paragraphs dictated by the people that won't give up their defeated concept? Nature only embarrasses itself by allowing these people to dominate the discussion. Please, editors: Can't we just have an article that simply states – like in Europe or Africa or Asia – that a site is the oldest, without dragging in outdated and refuted concepts? I don't see any flat-earth people being referenced anywhere in your magazine. Why do these folks get special editorial air space? Could it be that they are grandfathered in and the magazine doesn't know how to get rid of them? And the writer should have at the very least mentioned some of those OTHER "pre-Clovis" (please let's get rid of that term!) sites as having very strong evidence to pre-date Clovis. If Clovis is going to be mentioned, then submitting that Monte Verde is the only other "pre-Clovis site in the Americas" is not only misleading, but all but an outright in error – not to mention misleading (intentionally so? and if so, WHY???). This PRO-Clovis attitude just oozes out of this article in almost every paragraph, and is completely embarrassing for your magazine. Please, if the Clovis clingers insist on hanging on to that concept, the magazine doesn't. 06 Nov, 2009 Posted by: Stephen Garcia I could not agree more with Stephen Garcia's comment. The Clovis first notion is old news! Isn't about time that scientists such as Dr. Tom Dillehay received their just dues. Dr. Dillehay has been advocating a human presence in the Americas for a number of years now. Dr. Dillehay has found what he believes are human artifacts extending back as long ago as 32,000 BP. This also calls into question (and I hope puts to rest) the idea that early humans had much to do with animal extictions here in the Americas. Please see http// 06 Nov, 2009 Posted by: Rodney Chilton It would have been interesting to read about how it was determined that the object is a scraping tool. Was it studied closely for wear patterns? Does it compare to other bone tools found in other sites? I'm sure the researchers did all that but it is not communicated in the article. The object's definition as a "tool" is an accepted conclusion by the author. 06 Nov, 2009 Posted by: Bruce Terrell Garcia and Chilton echo the comment you chose to pass on. NATURE's/Dalton's pro-Clovis stance is so thoroughly outdate and probably due to simple laziness or even feckless attitude toward the very important question of who were the First Americans? Next time, get somebody with at least a freshman's level education on the matter.NATURE can do better. 06 Nov, 2009 Posted by: Chris Hardaker While I agree with Chris Hardacker whole heartedly in his postion, I think that Nature's stance on some topics is fat too conservative. this in fact is the attitude shared by most Scientific journals. I even will go so far as to say such conservatism borders on dogma that perhaps even rivals religious dogma. I have found this to be the case in another topic area, and that is comet bombardments of our planet since the Last Ice Age. 07 Nov, 2009 Posted by: Rodney Chilton

Population Replacement in Scandanavia

On the DNA front, some interesting research. All of this is still in its infancy. I wonder what we'll know better 30 years from now? From Current Biology Copyright © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.Current Biology, Volume 19, Issue 20, 1758-1762, 24 September 2009 doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.09.017 Ancient DNA Reveals Lack of Continuity between Neolithic Hunter-Gatherers and Contemporary Scandinavians Summary The driving force behind the transition from a foraging to a farming lifestyle in prehistoric Europe (Neolithization) has been debated for more than a century [1,2,3]. Of particular interest is whether population replacement or cultural exchange was responsible [3,4,5]. Scandinavia holds a unique place in this debate, for it maintained one of the last major hunter-gatherer complexes in Neolithic Europe, the Pitted Ware culture [6]. Intriguingly, these late hunter-gatherers existed in parallel to early farmers for more than a millennium before they vanished some 4,000 years ago [7,8]. The prolonged coexistence of the two cultures in Scandinavia has been cited as an argument against population replacement between the Mesolithic and the present [7,8]. Through analysis of DNA extracted from ancient Scandinavian human remains, we show that people of the Pitted Ware culture were not the direct ancestors of modern Scandinavians (including the Saami people of northern Scandinavia) but are more closely related to contemporary populations of the eastern Baltic region. Our findings support hypotheses arising from archaeological analyses that propose a Neolithic or post-Neolithic population replacement in Scandinavia [7]. Furthermore, our data are consistent with the view that the eastern Baltic represents a genetic refugia for some of the European hunter-gatherer populations.

Most Ancient Civilization Started in Bulgaria?

We'll see if more is published on this in the future. I am open to the idea of older civilizations than those in the "Fertile Crescent" (which sort of includes ancient Egypt). Not all of our current assumptions about how everything developed and when it developed are necessarily correct, as we are finding out daily! However, for now, I'm taking this "assertion" (it's not really a report) with a grain of salt. What I do know is that the Varna, Vinca and other cultures in Bulgaria demonstrated a great skill with metallurgy at a very early age. Photo: Varna burial, c. 4600 BCE. Standart News November 3, 2009 Krastina Marinova Most Ancient Civilization Was in Bulgaria An ancient civilization, older than the Egyptian, existed in the lands of the coastal city of Varna, reveals the most recent scientific research of a team of archaeologists in Germany. Vladimir Slavchev from Varna Archaeological museum is part of that team. According to this large-scale study, the most ancient civilization in the world lived in the lands between Mangalia to the north and the Kamchiya River valley to the south. All the following societies imitated the local way of life. The old society from the region near Varna set the beginning to all kingdoms, scientists maintain. The burials of noble men and luxury objects unearthed in the famous Necropolis support that opinion. Over 200 valuable objects, among which are 2,000 golden beads, part of Varna's oldest treasure will be displayed in an exhibition in New York. Where and when will this exhibition be in New York??? More about Varna: Wikipedia

Remarkable Bronze Age Burial Uncovered in Germany

I don't recall that I covered this story earlier, so here it is just in case. From The National Geographic November 4, 2009--This "extraordinary" skeleton of a woman buried in a seated position was discovered during an archaeological survey before the planned construction of a high-speed train track in central Germany, scientists said in a statement.The woman, who lived in the early Bronze Age (roughly 2200 to 1600 B.C.), was found near the town of Bad Lauchstadt and is one of several burials found so far during the dig, which runs from September 2008 to June 2010. "From an archaeological point of view, the excavation is a great chance to learn about the development of settlement on the Querfurter Platte," a geological plate between the Saale and Unstrut river valleys, according to Ralf Bockmann, a spokesperson for the Saxony-Anhalt Office for Monument Protection and Archaeology in Saale, Germany, via email.For example, according to the statement, "the broad range of traces from ancient cultures and the number and quality of the individual finds show how important this region has been for thousands of years not just as a settlement area, but as a transport route."Bockman added: "The region has fertile soils and has been used for settlement for a very long time. But until now there had been no large-scale excavations in that region." —Photograph courtesy Saxony-Anhalt State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology I wish we knew more about her.

Tsunami from Thera Eruption

I suppose they always knew this would have occurred after the gigantic eruption of the volcano at Thera, which blew up most of the island sometime during the 17th-16th century BCE and is credited with causing the collapse of civilizations around the Mediterranean thereafter. Thera is thought to have erupted between 1630 and 1550 B.C., or the Late Bronze Age, a time when many human cultures made tools and weapons of bronze. Scholars say the tsunamis and dense clouds of volcanic ash from the eruption had cultural repercussions that rippled across the Eastern Mediterranean for decades, even centuries. The fall of Minoan civilization is usually dated to around 1450 B.C. Geologists judge the eruption as far more violent than the 1883 eruption of the volcanic island of Krakatoa in Indonesia, which killed more than 36,000. Now, actual physical evidence of the tsunami from the Thera eruption may have been discovered.

Oriental Institute Special Exhibit: Meresamun

A reminder about this great exhibit at the Oriental Institute in Chicago, which I saw featured in an article earlier today in The Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel. February 10 - December 6, 2009 The Life of Meresamun: A Temple Singer in Ancient Egypt The Life of Meresamun: A Temple Singer in Ancient Egypt focuses on the life of a priestess-musician in Egypt in about the year 800 BC. The exhibit’s centerpiece is the coffin and mummy of Meresamun, who probably lived in Thebes. The exhibit illustrates the duties of a temple singer and explores what her life was like inside, as well as outside, the temple. Her temple duties are illustrated by a selection of objects she would have used, including a sistrum, an ivory clapper, a harp, and cult vessels [11394, 10578]. Other objects document ritual activities that she would have participated in, such as animal cults and the consultation of divine oracles. The section of the exhibit on her life outside the temple includes an examination of the social and legal rights of women in ancient Egypt and what professions were open to them. Examples of dishes, jewelry, and cosmetic vessels show what sort of objects could have been in her home. Religious rituals enacted within the home are illustrated by artifacts related to ancestor cults as well as amulets and other objects believed to improve fertility. In preparation for the exhibit, the mummy of Meresamun was examined with a Philips Healthcare Brilliance iCT 256-slice scanner at the University of Chicago Hospital. The thousands of CT scans obtained during the procedure allowed the creation of detailed 3-D images and reconstructions. Linking that data with forensic science has allowed specialists to recreate Meresamun’s original appearance. The fully illustrated exhibit catalog is available here. The exhibit is supported by Exelon and Philips Healthcare. More about Meresamun! Gallery Exhibit Computer Kiosk Presentation Video of Meresamun’s CT examination, September 2008 Visit Meresamun’s Facebook page Archaeology Magazine’s Meresamun site Interactive – Meresamun: A Life in Layers Pressroom: Worldwide coverage of Meresamun Oriental Institute Press Release New feature: View CT scans of Meresamun--> The Oriental Institute Museum is located at 1155 East 58th Street, Chicago. The Museum is open Tuesday, Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and Sunday from noon to 6:00 p.m. For information, call (773) 702-9514.
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