Saturday, December 19, 2009

Bogged Down and Holding Tight

I wish I had some positive news to report on the continuing saga of selling Maison Newton and buying a different house (la Petite Maison Newton) but, alas, I do not. I am currently bogged down in finding a structural engineer to inspect the basement of the potential la Petite Maison Newton. Seller has provided me with one analysis and quote to remedy a bowed basement wall - and nothing addressed as to the others, or to the grading situation outside that led to the basement problems to begin with. The selling broker's response to my concerns was 'grading is NOT a material defect.' Yeah, right. So, instead of addressing the entire situation that led to deflected basement walls in the first place, Seller is doing the minimum necessary to make the house "saleable." Ruts of ruck, Seller. If I walk, some other potential buyer is going to raise the exact same issues I have. At this point, I do have the option of walking from my purchase contract for technical reasons peculiar to the contract and, believe me, I am very tempted to do so. But not for any reasons related to the potential la Petite Maison Newton. Nope. I've already invested a mini-fortune in repairs (all needed), improvements (greatly desired and the place is looking great) and today I even managed to do some cleaning in the basement (Super Yech); not to mention a "moisture" test I hired an expert to run on Maison Newton, and spending $$$ hiring a home inspector for the potential la Petite Maison Newton. I want to sell this place, and I want to buy potential la Petitie Maison Newton. And so I'm contemplating spending upwards of $700 more to hire a structural engineer to give me an independent analysis of the basement problems at my potential purchase. I want to know, one way or the other, if I will need to undertake substantial basement reinforcement work somewhere down the line - and get a handle on how much it may cost. Given the amount of money and time already invested, I would like to go forward, pending the results of the structural engineer's report - once he or she is engaged. I spent Thursday and Friday making frantic calls in between serious bouts of work -- this is one of our busiest times of the year because people are aiming to get lots of things accomplished by December 31. This whole process is just a nightmare. I don't have the time or the energy to be dealing with all of this BULLSH*T, but I am attempting to do it anyway. The muck in the stew, however, is MY buyers. Goddess, how frigging stupid I was. When I was presented with their offer to buy my place, I asked some questions, and got dumb looks from both of my real estate agents. I knew something was up. I persisted in questions. Eventually - reluctantly - one of the agents presented me with a print out of a brokers-only Multiple Listing Service info sheet on the house my buyers are trying to sell. I was ASSURED THAT WITH THE PRICE DROP the sellers/my buyers were putting into place, their house would sell QUICKLY. Well, guess what - I accepted their offer to buy Maison Newton on December 6, and as far as I know, they still have not received an offer on their house on this, December 19. Like a row of dominoes, their offer to buy my house is contingent upon selling their house, and my offer to buy potential la Petite Maison Newton is contingent upon my selling this house. That is par for the course in the world of buying/selling homes, BUT - - what I had failed to notice on that MLS print-out until TODAY, when I took a closer look at it, is that my Buyers' home was, as of December 6, 2009, already on the market for 206 days and had failed to sell. Of course, this information was shown near the bottom of the page, where I didn't see it. Shame on me. Evidently they have been dropping the price all along the line and STILL the house is not selling. It seems obvious that something is grossly wrong - either with the house itself, or with its location. And so, at this point, it appears that I have been royally screwed. But it's my own fault. I should have paid more attention to that MLS print out. I shouldn't have accepted that damn offer to buy this house. Even should I wish to go forward with my purchase of potential la Petite Maison Newton, I can't do so unless my current residence sells and closes. And thus - I ran around like a maniac once again this morning cleaning this and that to get the place ready for another showing -- "sometime between 2 and 3PM." After I swore up and down ten times that I would NOT allow any further showings until after Superbowl. Methinks it is time to throw a big hissy-fit, even bigger than the one I threw over the telephone on Monday night with one of my real estate agents. I think she finally GOT it that I was "somewhat upset" with what has been going on. DUH! Bottom line: I don't trust my Buyers, I don't trust the Seller of the property I have offered to buy, I sure as hell don't trust my real estate agents, or any real estate agents at this point. I have spent a small fortune for tests and inspections with the prospect of spending even more $$$ and have absolutely nothing to show for it. Hmmm - logically, in this situation, perhaps it is time to end this particular game.

Ceramic Beads Recovered from Irish Bronze Age Burial

Archaeological find on N9 Published Date: 17 December 2009 By Maeve McGovern CERAMIC beads dating back 3,500 years and described as being of great significance have been discovered on the route of the new N9/N10 Athy Link Road. The series of 25 small ceramic beads, the only ones of their kind from the Bronze Age and a major coup for Irish archaeology, were discovered along with the cremated remains of a human body on the route. The cremated remains were discovered recently in a shallow pit adjacent to the site of a Bronze Age burial mound or barrow, which was discovered in the summer of 2007. As part of a routine process of sieving soil associated with human burials, technicians from Headland Archaeology, the firm contracted to carry out the archaeological dig, uncovered the precious beads. They were passed to a leading expert in prehistoric ceramics who confirmed that the beads belonged to a necklace or bracelet for which he could find no comparison. Further study into the archaeology associated with the beads produced some intriguing information, according to a spokesperson for Headland Archeology. "Although the fragmentary nature of the cremated bone made analysis very difficult, it was possible to determine that the individual was an adult rather than a child, and probably female. A sample of the burnt bone was sent to the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre where it was subjected to radiocarbon dating. This confirmed that the individual was cremated around 3,500 years ago, and it would appear the body was cremated while wearing the beads." There have been significant finds of Bronze Age jewellery from Ireland, notably the gold collection in the National Museum; however these ceramic beads are a unique discovery for Irish archaeology. A total of 87 cremation burials were identified on the sections of the N9/N10 investigated by Headland Archaeology, and although this particular find was one of many cremations recovered dating to the Bronze Age along the route of the proposed new road, processing of samples taken from the burial revealed that this was by no means a normal burial. "Personal adornment was important in the Bronze Age. It is thought that beads would have been worn by both sexes and jewellery was not gender specific. The beads could signify that the individual was of a higher status, simply because such objects are generally not found associated with cremations. However, it is possible that less durable materials /or combustible materials were used for personal adornment and simply didn't survive the thousands of years in the ground or were burnt on the pyre," the spokesperson added. Colm Moloney MD of Headland Archaeology said the find was a great reward for all those people who invest so much time in the less glamorous side of archaeology such as processing soil samples.

Wharram's Muscular Women

Women worked double duties in this pre-plague village in England and developed Popeye-like muscles and larger than average bones. This painting by Pissarro was done several hundred years later in the 19th century, but shows that strong-built "country" women weren't just a fluke of the Middle Ages. (Image: Camille Pissarro, Country Women Chatting, Sunset, Eragny, 1892) Bones find from abandoned village 'show tough life of medieval women' Skeletons from Wharram Percy have much larger bones than those of city contemporaries Martin Wainwright, Thursday 17 December 2009 17.53 GMT The fearsome northern woman of legend and cliche, broadchested and with a frying pan poised to whack sense into her man, has proved to have genuine historic origins. Analysis of bones from Britain's biggest medieval excavation has unearthed a race of real-life Nora Battys, ruling a Yorkshire roost nearly 1,000 years ago. Skeletons from Wharram Percy, a village on the Yorkshire Wolds abandoned after the 14th century Black Death, have much larger bones than those of contemporaries elsewhere. "The differences are really quite pronounced," said Simon Mays, of English Heritage, who has measured 120 sets of women's bones from the site. "Women at Wharram were much more muscular and bigger boned than their city counterparts. Whilst they were still doing the domestic chores and looking after children, they clearly also mucked in with the hard labour in the fields, building up their arm strength." Whether they used this to assert themselves in the running of the village is likely to remain conjecture, but the archaeology suggests that social roles were less divided than they later became. Grinding poverty, if nothing else, obliged the "gentler sex" to multi-task in the fashion of many modern women. "The research underlines the way that the sexual division of labour was much less marked in rural areas than in the cities of the time," said Mays. "The evidence from the Wharram bones speaks volumes, and reinforces that notion that life in the village was far from a rural idyll." Like the archetypal Nora, a West Riding dragon played by Kathy Staff in the long-running TV comedy Last of the Summer Wine, the Wharram women were substantial as well as strong. Their bones are wider than average and with thicker walls, a sign of calcium and other components being deposited as muscles are worked harder and gain mass. Wharram's insights on the state of medieval Britain are set to continue, as work continues on hundreds of thousands of remains excavated between 1950 and 1990. The site, surrounding a lonely church in a remote grassy valley, is the best-preserved of Britain's 3,500 abandoned villages.

Computer Labs for Kids: Update SOS Childrens Village Chicago

Shira has posted a compilation video (from hours of Lynn's footage) at You Tube and Facebook. I am going to donate that sweater I wore. Well, to tell the truth, at first I was just going to use it in a bonfire out in the backyard, but then I started feeling guilty because it is still a perfectly serviceable sweater and it may suit someone else much better than it suited me in that video. Egoddess! Yes, filming puts 10 pounds on a person, so Shira, who is tall and lean in person, looks great in this video, and I look like a short blob next to her. LOL! I really am NOT that heavy - Goddess, at least I hope not. I swear I did not gain 50 pounds between May, 2009 in New York (see me in top photo in the left column) and November, 2009 in Chicago! Honest! GM Susan Polgar came through for us on this project in a big way, donating 28 copies of her instructional DVD geared toward teaching kids the basics of chess in 30 minutes. Shira downloaded the software on each of the Dell laptops for the kids. Watching the video brought back so many wonderful memories. It was a lot of work, and very tiring, but great fun and so rewarding - I can hardly put it into words. And I really didn't do all that much. I did some blogging, and made some contacts, and volunteered a day in Chicago. Shira bore the brunt of the work -- conceiving, structuring, organizing, soliciting donations, getting the computers ready, soliciting, training and organizing more than two dozen volunteers, and then putting on the program, etc. etc. I kind of remember what it was like to be that young and to have all of that energy :) In the spirit of the season, I hope you will consider making donations, however, small, to two of my favorite people and their causes: Shira Evans' Computer Labs for Kids, and Susan Polgar's Foundation. These ladies are doing wonderful work and are an inspiration to me.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Ahhh, Lunch at Karl Ratzsch's German Restaurant!

Ms. P and I have established a mini-tradition. Last year during the holiday season we ventured out to Karl Ratzsch's German Restaurant in the heart of downtown Milwaukee in bitter cold, less than two blocks away from where we work. This year Ms. P and I determined to once again dine at Ratzsch's for the holidays. We chose today for our festive luncheon. Shortly before the time we had agreed to meet in the lobby of our building to do the short trek to Ratzsch's, I ran down a floor to Ms. P's office and presented her with a festive gift bag. She, in turn, presented me with my much larger and heavier bagged gift. Oh my! She said she hoped it wouldn't be too heavy to carry home on the bus. I hefted it a few times - it wasn't. I've carried more weight the mile home from the Pick n' Save - up hill, many a time. The gift, Ms. P. said, was selected with me and Mr. Don in mind, as she knew he would be joining me for Christmas. When I got the bag back up to my office, I checked the gift out. It is in a bag from a local Cedarburg winery. Hmmmm - wonder if it's wine? I'm hoping so! Ms. P didn't say the contents needed to be refrigerated, but it could be a fake-out. Maybe it's just a year's supply of grapefruit. Still, I'm not opening the wrapped package, which is now resting beneath my Christmas tree, until Mr. Don gets here. Ms. P made reservations for our holiday luncheon - online, I learned today (I didn't even know Ratzsch's has a website!) and we arrived shortly before noon. When we visited last year around this time, I hadn't eaten there in probably 35 years - and so it was an adventure for me. Perhaps 4-5 years ago, the owners of Ratzsch's wanted to retire and after not being able to find a buyer for the business, announced that it would be closed! This was horrid news! Ratzsch's is one of the few fabled German restaurants left in Milwaukee that serves genuine German recipes. Some years earlier, the John Ernst Cafe, a short trip north of downtown, closed because of declining business, never to reopen. It's lovely building on the corner of Ogden and Van Buren was eventually turned into condos. The only authentic German restaurants left in the downtown area in this historically German city are Ratzsch's on East Mason Street and Mader's on North 3rd Street. Fortunately for Milwaukee and tourists who appreciate genuine and not kitschy atmosphere and really fine German food (some "American" entrees also offered), some long-time employees of Ratzsch's came forward with an offer to buy the restaurant, and it was accepted! Financing was procured and voila! A Milwaukee institution was saved and a new day started. I am so glad. Ratzsch's is really a lovely restaurant, and it is a tradition worth saving for our city. It is a wonderful place to eat, heavily Gothic/Germanic in style but with wonderful, whimsical design surprises everywhere you look. I love it! The eye finds constant delight in roving about the large dining room (great for couples who do not have much to say to each other, or business strangers going out to lunch or dinner by circumstance). For special guests (like romantic couples), there is an upper gallery that provides candle-lit intimacy with a great view of the great beamed dining hall below. By the way, the indescribible bar area itself is worth a separate visit :) Ratzsch's is a white table cloth restaurant with excellent food, excellent service, and excellent aura. If you are ever in Milwaukee, please stop by Ratzsch's for lunch or dinner. If you've got a sweetheart out on a date, ask to be seated in the upper gallery. Trust me, it's well worth the $10-$20 you pass to the maitre'de, depending upon how busy the restaurant is. The restaurant now offers convenient online reservations! Check out the Christmas Day dinner menu. After I read that earlier this evening, I was tempted to skip dinner at my sister Deb's place this year and take Mr. Don to Ratzsch's to experience this unique dining experience - Christmas Day! But I'm feeling guilty even writing those words... Well, I suppose Mr. Don and I shouldn't skip the family dinner, but if I can fit it in, I will take Mr. Don to Ratzsch's during his all-too-brief week here for Christmas. We're already scheduled to dine at another local (but not so famous) German restaurant institution - Kegel's, on December 23rd, with my good friend Ann. I love Kegel's, and I think Mr. Don will fall in love with it, too. Certainly not so grand a setting as Ratzsch's, but the service is as good and the food is fine, with lots of traditional German entrees! The neighborhood feeling - can't be beat. Ratzsch's has been beautifully decorated for the holiday season, with a large kissing bough in the center of the restaurant, traditional boughs of holly, and this year, lots of really cute teddy bears and other native Wisconsin critters appearing as stuffed animals tucked here and there, some in costumes, some not, all about the place. Ms. P and I were so busy talking, I have to say I hardly noticed the surroundings, except to soak in the general relaxing ambiance of dark wooden beams, stained glass, oil paintings, finely crafted large brass platters scattered about the walls, pristine table settings and sparkling crystal, and the greenery of the Yuletide season. My Goddess! I sound like an advertisement! LOL! Ratzsch's offers delicious daily specials at great prices. Ms. P had one of the specials, a half rack of pork ribs with spaetzel and red cabbage. She ate every single bit of food on her plate. I have NEVER seen her do that before! Not being a particular fan of red cabbage or sauerkraut, I ordered off the standard lunch menu a philo-crusted chicken breast with bacon smothered in fresh-chopped spinach and alfredo sauce, served with garnish/sides of pureed sweet potato and light as air spaetzel. OHMYGODDESS! Well, we were both splurging calory-wise today :) I found the sweet potato puree tasty and it was light as a feather and beautifully presented in about 3 inch wide piped swirls on either side of the entree, but it seemed to be lacking something - not sure what. Perhaps there was too much cumin and not enough cinnamon? Or no cinnamon? Or, now that I am thinking about it, a quick dash of salt may have done the trick. Duh! I told Ms. P that I thought my whipped sweet potatoes are better (my recipe doesn't use cumin). LOL! I'm not complaining! Everything was delicious. I only stopped eating because the alfredo sauce was so rich, and I wanted very much to have one of Ratzsch's famous desserts. As it was, I ate every single bit of chicken and bacon and left behind only whisps of spinach, sweet potato puree and spaetzel. The meal was impeccably served by a busy but attentive waitress in traditional 19th century German costume. She was a very good waitress, and so was the food. Yum! Ms. P and I managed to chat and broke all etiquette rules by talking with semi-full mouths, but I she was telling me about the latest amusing episodes with her two new kitties and I was telling her about the continuing adventures of selling this house and buying a different hous. And then, our plates were finished! Our waitrress asked about dessert and/or coffee. Ms. P and I looked at each other and said "YES! to dessert and "NO" to coffee. Our waitress suggested splitting a dessert, which was wonderful. So many places frown on this practice. However, Ratzsch's desserts are generously large and infamously rich, and so we welcomed the suggestion to split. We chose the Black Forest Torte which looked like one of the "lighter" offerings on the dessert plate. (I use the word "lighter" advisedly). The Black Forest Torte (with narry a cherry in sight) arrived at our comfortable leather-lined corner boot table shortly afterward, dressed with a generous tablespoon or so of fresh-whipped cream and it was absolutely gorgeous. Oy! The layers of the cake were traditional "German chocolate" - not the devilsfood dark chocolate one typically sees in Americanized versions of Black Forest Torte. We were presented with two dessert forks. Oh, that attention to detail, such a crucial touch to a delightful dining experience. Ms. P and I chatted away and soon the dessert was gone, and we were full and happy, but we were not uncomfortably "stuffed." Neither of us wanted to go back to the real world of office and work. We were sad. But the check made us smile. For two ample, delicious and beautifully presented entrees, two glasses of wine and the shared dessert that was like eating a little bit of Heaven, the total bill was less than $45, including tax. We left a generous tip, and there was nary a nay-say from Ms. P, who is very particular when it comes to restaurant servers and service. Thanks for a lovely day, Ms. P. May be have many more. Ms. P and I shared a lovely toast. May it come true for us and our loved ones in 2010. I'm already anticipating our 2010 Ratzsch's luncheon :)

One of the 2009 Archaeological Top Ten Discoveries

I visited Archaeology magazine online the other day and checked out its list of the top ten archaeological discoveries in 2009 (stretched to 15, which is great because that means it was a fabulous year for significant finds). (Image of necklace slide courtesy of Prof. N. Ch. Stampolidis - presumably from the noted burial. Are these females? What is it they are wearing on their heads? Are those headdresses of some sort [they remind me of a fool's cap!], or braids in some sort of serpentine hair style? The workmanship of the piece is exquisite.) One of the top ten was something I missed - not sure how that happened but it's a significant find: Iron Age Priestesses - Eleutherna, Crete Volume 63 Number 1, January/February 2010 by Eti Bonn-Muller The discovery of a powerful female bloodline--uninterrupted for nearly 200 years--in the Iron Age necropolis of Orthi Petra at Eleutherna is illuminating the role of women in the so-called "Dark Ages" of Greece. Last summer, the remains of four females, ranging in age from about seven to seventy, were excavated in an eighth-century b.c. monumental funerary building. Its floor was covered with thin strips of gold, once affixed to burial garments, and the women were surrounded by bronze vessels and figurines, and jewelry made of gold, silver, glass, ivory, and semiprecious stones imported from Asia Minor, the Near East, and North Africa. Other artifacts from the tomb--including a possible stone altar, ritual bronze saws and knives, and a rare glass phiale for pouring libations--suggest these women played an important role in Eleutherna's religious life. Dig director Nicholas Stampolidis of the University of Crete believes the oldest one was a high priestess interred with her protégés. Adelphi University forensic anthropologist Anagnostis Agelarakis has found all four women shared a genetic dental trait. Further research is expected to confirm they were related to a dozen women unearthed nearby last year, each of whom also had the trait. The other women were buried in three connected pithoi (large ceramic jars) containing equally luxurious grave goods, though without ritual implements. "This time period is erroneously called the Dark Ages," says Agelarakis. "The finds show that these women were aristocratic. Their social standing was superlative. I mean, the phiale alone--it must have been sent from a 'prince' of Mesopotamia! And their matrilineage was not ruptured for two centuries. I don't think it was dark at all." © 2009 by the Archaeological Institute of America
The article didn't say - were the four females buried at different times, or where they buried together all at once? If they were buried all at once, is there evidence from which to determine they all died in some common disaster or possibly from an epidemic? Or, is this grim evidence of human sacrifice? I searched online under several different topics and could only locate one article which I believe to be about the same discovery, but it is confusing, because it only mentions three women - actually one woman and "two adolescents:" From the Straits Time (Singapore) Aug 29, 2009 Rare ancient jewels found ATHENS - ARCHAEOLOGISTS on the Greek island of Crete have unearthed the 2,900-year-old tomb of three women buried with jewels of surprisingly advanced skill, culture officials said on Friday. The tomb in the ancient town of Eleutherna, near the modern city of Rethymno in northern Crete, held gold necklaces and medallions decorated with lion heads and the forms of ancient gods, excavation supervisor Nikos Stambolidis said. 'The jewels are of a style that appeared in the Hellenistic Era (many centuries later),' said Stambolidis, director of the Cycladic Museum in Athens. 'We had no knowledge that this level of craft existed earlier,' he told AFP. The elaborate nature of the tomb indicates that its three occupants, two of whom were adolescents, were likely priestesses or princesses. A number of offerings including scarabs, amber seals and earthenware were also found in the burial chamber which was two metres high. The town of Eleutherna is believed to have reached its peak in the Geometric Era around 3,000 years ago. Excavation in the last 25 years has so far yielded over 500 items of clay, metal and ivory including sculptures, tools and weapons. One of the most prized sculptures of the Louvre Museum in Paris, a limestone female statue called the Lady of Auxerre, is believed to have come from Eleutherna. -- AFP
In reading this account, I get the impression that the three (four?) were all buried together, but that doesn't preclude the possibility that bodies were added to the original tomb over time. So - I was curious. Who is the Lady of Auxerre housed in the Lourve? I didn't recall hearing about her before. And how the heck did she end up in the Lourve as "one of its most prized sculptures?" Some background information on the Lady of Auxerre statue: (From the Archaeological Institute of America, article on Site Preservation): [T]he Dame d’Auxerre [was]was purchased in 1895 by a theater manager from the northern French town that gives this female image its name. No sure information about its provenance was known, though the piece was quickly recognized as a masterwork of the seventh century B.C. style of Greek art known as Daedalic. But where is this statue from? The bottom line is that the specific findspot is lost and irrecoverable. Comparisons with Cretan sculpture have long been recognized, such as with the seated goddess discovered at Prinias, now in the Herakleion museum. More recently, excavations at the Cretan site of Eleutherna have produced fragments of similar sculptures and the Louvre, where the Dame d’Auxerre has its permanent home, has suggested that the statue was removed from that site in the late 19th century. If the figure is from Crete, then it stands in a long line of sculptural development on the island that is likewise spectacularly illustrated by the three bronze statues – possibly depicting Apollo, Leto and Artemis – excavated at Dreros and also on display in the Herakleion Museum. Further consideration of the Auxerre figure within the long-term history of representations of the human body calls to mind the Neolithic statues scientifically excavated at 'Ain Ghazal in Jordan. It is through comparison with such examples of well-documented ancient sculpture that we can more fully understand both the artistic and cultural significance of an unprovenanced work such as the Dame d’Auxerre. Here is information from the Lourve Museum: Known as the "Lady of Auxerre" Second half of the seventh century BC Eleutherna, Crete(?), Greece Limestone, sculpted in the round and painted H. 75 cm Exchange with the Auxerre Municipal Museum, 1909 Ma 3098Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities Statue of a woman, known as the "Lady of Auxerre" The circumstances surrounding the discovery of this statuette, which was found in the storeroom of the Auxerre museum in 1907, remain unknown. However, it is the finest example of the Daedalic style, which marked the renewal of stone sculpting in the Greek world in the seventh century BC. The U-shaped face, the heavy, stepped hair, and the strict frontality are hallmarks of this style, which takes its name from Daedalus, who is said to have created the first statues in antiquity. Description The Lady of Auxerre, masterpiece of the Daedalic style The circumstances surrounding the discovery of this statuette, which was found in the storeroom of the Auxerre museum in 1907, remain unknown. However, it is the finest example of the Daedalic style, which marked the renewal of stone sculpting in the Greek world in the seventh century BC. The U-shaped face, the heavy, stepped hair, and the strict frontality are hallmarks of this style, which takes its name from Daedalus, who is said to have created the first statues in antiquity. An uncertain identification Since we know nothing about the context in which the statuette was discovered, it is difficult to identify the person depicted or to determine the meaning of the gesture of the right hand. Some think that this is the image of a goddess, considering the many terracotta figurines of Middle Eastern divinities (Astarte in particular) that highlight their sexual attributes. Others see this statue as a simple mortal, the servant of some fertility cult or perhaps the dedicator herself making a gesture of prayer. The revival of stone sculpture in Crete in the Orientalizing period This work is a testament to the intense artistic activity that took place in the eastern regions of the Mediterranean basin during the Orientalizing period. Techniques and decorative motifs originating in Egypt and the Near East were spread by Greek artisans who blended these models with their own traditions. The Auxerre statuette was created in Crete in the seventh century, around 640–620 BC. The work is assigned to Crete because of the type of limestone used as well as similarities of the young woman's costume, gesture, and face with works in bronze, limestone, and clay that have been discovered on the island. Comparison with funerary material excavated at Eleutherna, in northern Crete, suggests that the Lady of Auxerre was found in this necropolis in the late nineteenth century.

Bit of Isis Temple Raised from Alexandria Sea Bed

Monument lifted from Cleopatra's underwater city By KATARINA KRATOVAC, Associated Press Writer Katarina Kratovac, Associated Press Writer – Thu Dec 17, 9:39 pm ET ALEXANDRIA, Egypt – Archaeologists on Thursday hoisted a 9-ton temple pylon from the waters of the Mediterranean that was part of the palace complex of the fabled Cleopatra before it became submerged for centuries in the harbor of Alexandria. The pylon, which once stood at the entrance to a temple of Isis, is to be the centerpiece of an ambitious underwater museum planned by Egypt to showcase the sunken city, believed to have been toppled into the sea by earthquakes in the 4th century. Divers and underwater archaeologists used a giant crane and ropes to lift the 9-ton, 7.4-foot-tall pylon, covered with muck and seaweed, out of the murky waters. It was deposited ashore as Egypt's top archaeologist, Zahi Hawass, and other officials watched. The pylon was part of a sprawling palace from which the Ptolemaic dynasty ruled Egypt and where 1st Century B.C. Queen Cleopatra wooed the Roman general Marc Antony before they both committed suicide after their defeat by Augustus Caesar. The temple dedicated to Isis, a pharaonic goddess of fertility and magic, is at least 2,050 years old, but archaeologists believe it's likely much older. The pylon was cut from a single slab of red granite quarried in Aswan, some 700 miles (more than 1,100 kilometers) to the south, officials said. "The cult of Isis was so powerful, it's no wonder Cleopatra chose to make her living quarters next to the temple," said coastal geoarchaeologist Jean-Daniel Stanley of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Egyptian authorities hope that eventually the pylon will become a part of the underwater museum, an ambitious attempt to draw tourists to the country's northern coast, often overshadowed by the grand pharaonic temples of Luxor in the south, the Giza pyramids outside Cairo and the beaches of the Red Sea. They are hoping the allure of Alexandria, founded in 331 B.C. by Alexander the Great, can also be a draw. Cleopatra's palace and other buildings and monuments now lie strewn on the seabed in the harbor of Alexandria, the second largest city of Egypt. Since 1994, archaeologists have been exploring the ruins, one of the richest underwater excavations in the Mediterranean, with some 6,000 artifacts. Another 20,000 objects are scattered off other parts of Alexandria's coast, said Ibrahim Darwish, head of the city's underwater archaeology department. In recent years, excavators have discovered dozens of sphinxes in the harbor, along with pieces of what is believed to be the Alexandria Lighthouse, or Pharos, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The pylon is the first major artifact extracted from the harbor since 2002, when authorities banned further removal of major artifacts from the sea for fear it would damage them. "The tower is unique among Alexandria's antiquities. We believe it was part of the complex surrounding Cleopatra's palace," Hawass said, as the crane gently placed the pylon on the harbor bank. "This is an important part of Alexandria's history and it brings us closer to knowing more about the ancient city." Hawass has already launched another high-profile dig connected to Cleopatra. In April, he said he hopes to find the long-lost tomb of Antony and Cleopatra — and that he believes it may be inside a temple of Osiris located about 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Alexandria. The pylon extracted Thursday was discovered by a Greek expedition in 1998. Retrieving it was a laborious process: For weeks, divers cleaned it of mud and scum, then they dragged it across the sea floor for three days to bring it closer to the harbor's edge for Thursday's extraction. A truck stood by to ferry the pylon to a freshwater tank, where it will lie for six months until all the salt, which acts as a preservative underwater but damages it once exposed, is dissolved. Still in its planning stages, the underwater museum would allow visitors to walk through underwater tunnels for close-up views of sunken artifacts, and it may even include a submarine on rails. A collaboration between Egypt and UNESCO, the museum would cost at least $140 million, said Darwish. The above-water section would feature sail-shaped structures that would complement the architecture of the harbor and have the city's corniche seabank in the backdrop, with the splendid Alexandria Library on the other end of the bay, Darwish said. "To me, the greatest draw would be that visitors would be able to see these amazing objects in their natural surrounding, not out of context on some museum shelf," said Stanley, who has carried out excavations around Alexandria but is not involved in the underwater dig. Speaking to The Associated Press by phone from Washington, Stanley cautioned that the dangers to such a museum would be twofold — from storms, which in wintertime have been known to sink ships in Alexandria's harbor, and from earthquakes. Egypt and UNESCO are still studying the feasibility of building such an underwater museum. No one knows where the money would come from, but there is hope construction could start as early as late 2010. "If the study shows it's possible, this could become a magical place, both above and underwater," Hawass said. "If you can smell the sea here, you can smell the history." Darwish, one of seven Egyptian archaeologists who are also qualified divers, said the country has had to rely on foreign expertise, mostly French and Greek, for diving archaeology expeditions around Alexandria. That will change, he says, as the Alexandria university educates more underwater archaeologists. A temporary downtown museum will house the Isis pylon extracted Thursday and some 200 other objects removed from the sea here in the last decade.

Convicted for Honor Killing

Turkish Kurd guilty of 'honour killing' Thu Dec 17, 9:43 am ET LONDON (AFP) – A Turkish Kurd was found guilty Thursday of murdering his 15-year-old daughter more than a decade ago, in what prosecutors said was an honour killing. Mehmet Goren, described in court as a psychotic bully who terrorised his family, faces jail for killing his daughter Tulay because of her relationship with an older man who belonged to a different branch of Islam. The London schoolgirl disappeared in January 1999, shortly after her father told his eight-year-old son to kiss his sister goodbye as he would never see her again. Her body was never found. Goren's wife Hanim, who had suffered three decades of abuse at his hands, was among those who gave evidence against him, weeping and screaming in the witness box and demanding he reveal where the body was so she could bury it. One of his other daughters, Nuray Guler, also testified against him, screaming: "Even animals would not do what you have done." Prosecution lawyer Jonathan Laidlaw told the court that the Goren case was a "terrible reminder of what honour-based crime can involve" and a "wake-up call" to the existence of so-called "honour killings" in Britain. Police had become involved with the family in the weeks before the murder, when Goren beat up his daughter's boyfriend, Halil Unal, then complained about their relationship to officers and demanded she take a virginity test. Tulay ran away and told police her father had beaten her and she would rather go into care than return home, but her mother persuaded her to go back. Goren attacked his daughter's boyfriend for a second time just 13 days after Tulay went missing, this time with a hatchet, and it was while in hospital that Unal reported his girlfriend missing. But police failed to put two and two together and it was two months before they began to suspect Tulay had been murdered. They submitted a file to prosecutors in 2000 but were told there was not enough evidence for charges. Goren was finally arrested in 2008, along with his two brothers, after a review. Both his brothers were cleared of wrongdoing in court Thursday. An ethnic Kurd from Elbistan in Turkey, Goren had moved to Britain claiming asylum in 1996. He was jailed in 2000 for his hatchet attack on his daughter's boyfriend but escaped deportation because his family all lived in Britain. The 49-year-old admitted hitting his daughter and wife but denied murder, saying he still believed Tulay was alive and "will turn up one day".

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Real Truth Behind Those Flying "Reindeer"

Attention all those who believe in Santa Claus a/k/a Saint Nicholas. The origin of flying "reindeer" goes back much farther than the red-coated, white-whiskered, gift-giving Wonder invented by an illustrator in the 19th century. I wonder if he was a student of the ancient classics? Hmmm... Check this out: Artemis, depicted at Potnia Theron (a/k/a Lady of the Beasts). Image, thanks to Mr. Don who posted it at Goddesschess, and doesn't her skirt look like a checkered gameboard now:

Museum Collection: Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Firenze, Florence, Italy Catalogue Number: Florence 4209
Beazley Archive Number: 300000
Ware: Attic Black Figure
Shape: Volute krater
Painter: Signed by Kleitias
Date: ca 570 - 560 BC
Period: High Archaic

Detail of Artemis, here depicted as the Potnia Theron (Lady of the Beasts), from the Francois Vase. The goddess is winged, and grasps a panther (or lioness) and stag by the neck.

Yes, it's true! The origin of those flying reindeer is none other than the Great Goddess Artemis flying through the air holding a sacred lionness in one hand and a sacred horned stag (a/k/a "reindeer") in the other! Dashing through the sky, She wings her way on high, waving a horned deer, she's looking for some beer...

Okay, so Irving Berlin I'm not. But the key elements of Santa Claus flying through the air in a sleigh pulled by "eight tiny reindeer" (19th century version of the legend) are featured, except Santa Claus is actually a Great Goddess: (1) Goddess/figure postulated to be a Goddess (2) flying through the sky (she can be a bird goddess, on a winged horse or in a chariot pulled by flying horses, or winged herself (3) closely associated with horned animals (such as stag, ram or unicorn), or other animals (those flying horses, for instance) and/or animals of power/rulership (lion/lioness, eagle and other birds of prey).

The other part of the legend is that she can bring blessings - or curses. In modern terminology and much more benign - gifts, or lumps of coal - just like old St. Nick.

Rhiannon (Rhiannon flies like a bird through the sky and wouldn't you love to love her..., lyrics made popular by Fleetwood Mac in their hit song "Rhiannon"), who is closely associated (and may, indeed be an aspect of) the great Celtic Horse Goddess, Epona.

How about this very early candidate for being the original "Mother Goose?" Whenever I read about geese I am reminded, first of all, about how sacred the goose was in ancient Egypt and, secondly, how goose was the dish of choice served at Christmas in any household that could possibly scrape together the money to afford one in Dickens' England (for instance, fictional "Clerk" Bob Cratchett's family feasted on goose in Dickens' tale of loss and redemption in Scrooge a/k/a "A Christmas Carol.") The association of Goddess and goose is an ancient one, but in ancient Egypt, the sacred goose was a God known as Geb. Personally, I think something was lost in translation somewhere along the way, or perhaps the original Geb was a hermaphrodite and modern translators just don't "get it."

But that's going in a different direction, actually, since I think that this very old line drawing actually shows a skirted female riding atop a somewhat abstract style horse figure travelling through some trees...

Women's World Chess Champiion Kosteniuk to Visit 9 Queens

This information is provided by Jean Hoffman from 9 Queens on this upcoming event! Fantastic news, and what a treat for chessplayers in the Tucson area!
9 Queens Presents free chess lessons, simultaneous chess exhibit, and a reading with Women’s World Chess Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk
December 20, 2009 Chess lessons and reading 2-4pm Simul and reception 4-7pm Held at Parasol Project and MAST 299 S Park Ave email for more information
Here is the information from Jean's email and press release: Dear friends, I am thrilled to announce that Women's World Chess Champion and Chess Queen Alexandra Kosteniuk has selected 9 Queens as one of the few chess programs in the country to visit as part of her Christmas Goodwill offer. Ms. Kosteniuk will be coming to Tucson on Sunday, December 20 to participate in our upcoming 9 Queens Academy! This is a huge honor for 9 Queens and fantastic opportunity for all Tucson chess enthusiasts to meet (and play) one of the most influential chess players and personalities in the world. For more information, please see the attached press release and note the venue changes. PLEASE NOTE: In order to accommodate Ms. Kosteniuk's visit there have been a couple of important scheduling and venue changes: The 9 Queens Academy will be now be held at the Parasol Project Arts Space (located at 299 Park Avenue) from 2-4 pm on Sunday Dec 20, 2009. Immediately following the Queens Academy, from 4-7 pm at MAST (a new boutique located directly next door to Parasol Projects), 9 Queens will host a reception and simultaneous chess exhibit featuring Ms. Kosteniuk. All activities will be open to all chess enthusiasts (men and women) of all ages and abilities.
*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE *** Contact: Jean HoffmanCell: 347-409-1276Email:
Tucson nonprofit selected as one of the few chess programs in the nation honored by Grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk
(TUCSON, AZ ) Current Women's World Chess Champion and Grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk has selected the Tucson nonprofit organization 9 Queens as one of the few chess programs in the country to honor with her Christmas Goodwill Offer. On December 20, 2009, as part of her national goodwill tour to promote the benefits of chess, Ms. Kosteniuk will fly to Tucson, Arizona to participate in a range of free educational activities hosted by 9 Queens. From 2-4 pm at the Parasol Project Arts Space (299 S Park Avenue), Ms. Kosteniuk will answer questions from participants in the 9 Queens Academy and read from her new book "Diary of a Chess Queen." Immediately following the Queens Academy, 9 Queens will host a reception and simultaneous chess exhibit at MAST a new boutique located next door to Parasol Project. During the simultaneous chess exhibit, Ms. Kosteniuk will play up to 50 chess players at the same time.
In addition to serving as the current Women's World Chess Champion, Ms. Kosteniuk, also serves as the co-chair for the World Chess Federation's Commission for Women’s Chess. Ms Kosteniuk, a notable chess celebrity, is widely regarded as the most popular chess player in the world. Known for the mantra "Chess is Cool," Kosteniuk was recently voted the most influential chess player on Twitter. "Alexandra has done so much to promote not only women's chess but chess in general," says 9 Queens executive director Jean Hoffman, "It is a huge honor to have her come to Tucson and recognize our growing chess community."
Over the past two years, 9 Queens has created a range of programs designed in empower under-served and under-represented populations through chess. In August 2008, 9 Queens created the Tucson Queens Initiative--a multi-year campaign designed not only to increase the percentage of female chess players, but also to empower girls to achieve academic, personal and professional success. Since then the percentage of women participating in 9 Queens beginner chess tournaments as skyrocketed from less than ten percent to almost fifty percent. The high percentage of female chess players in Tucson stands in stark contrast to national trends where women make up around eight percent of the chess community.
"I could not think of a better organization to do this goodwill event with since I support 9 Queens strongly,” explained Kosteniuk regarding her decision to partner with 9 Queens. -- Jean Hoffman9 Queens- Empowerment through ChessCo-Founder and Executive Director

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Squirrel News

(Photo: Albi the Squirrel - see story below)
It's been a while since I wrote about my squirrels. I'm happy to report that there are as many as ever, and they all look nice and fat and healthy. No gimpy squirrels, but there is one who seems to be exhibiting early symptoms of the twitchy disease. I hope it will survive the winter. It looks young - usually it strikes older squirrels. That worries me. When I sell this house, which if all goes according to plan (very iffy at this point), will close on February 26, 2010, the squirrels should be able to make it into spring on their own. I am giving them extra provisions this winter that they are diligently burying -- the entire yard may one day be an almond orchard :) There will most likely be new squirrels at the new house, which is right next to a very tiny pocket park with three very tall oak trees. But I will miss my squirrels here. Here is some squirrel news: Ralph the squirrel goes free.. Posted Monday, December 14, 2009, at 4:14 PM (Ralph is actually a she) Hope for Red Squirrels in Merseyside BBC News Page last updated at 13:28 GMT, Wednesday, 9 December 2009 I don't know how I managed to miss this: Rocky and Bullwinkle celebrate 50 years as a happy couple (sort of reminds me of Mr. Don and I, har!) Moose and Squirrel Celebrate Their 50th Anniversary Robert J. Elisberg Columnist and screenwriter Posted: November 19, 2009 03:30 PM White Squirrels Thrive in Marionville Reported by: Rob Evans Tuesday, Dec 1, 2009 @05:38am CST And they thrive in Dorking, England too, where the death of Albi, a white squirrel, generated buzz around the world White squirrel death goes global Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Monday, 23 November 2009

Review: Inanna and the Huluppu Tree

From The Miami Times Hey, I think this would go over really big in Vegas, baby... Playground Theatre's Inanna and the Huluppu Tree resurrects ancient myths By Brandon K. Thorp Published on December 15, 2009 . . . What Rhode Island should have — what every place should have — is an institution like Miami Shores' Playground Theatre. Currently running there is Inanna and the Huluppu Tree, a kids-appropriate bit of pagan revelry dredged up from the dawn of civilization — from the Sumerian Gilgamesh epic, specifically — and liberally adapted by Fernando Calzadilla and the theater's artistic director, Stephanie Ansin. And there's no sense denying it: Inanna and the Huluppu Tree is as pagan as pagan gets, and in the best possible way. It is full of color, noise, and pageantry and is infused with a sense of awe at the order of the cosmos that reflects both early humanity's cosmological thinking and the magic veil through which children see the world. It is a paean to the Earth, to the ancients, to imagination, and to magic — both the make-believe magic of childhood and the very real magic of make-believe, which the theater exists to create and celebrate. The show begins with a lavish scrim depicting the play's namesake goddess in stone relief. Behind it, priests chant the goddess's name along with booming, pre-recorded music that sounds as primeval as the sands of Mesopotamia. The priests are waiting for Gilgamesh, because today he is to be crowned king here, in the city of Uruk. But he's nowhere to be seen. Outside, the crowd — which, as it turns out, is composed of the kids assembled in the theater on the other side of the scrim — is getting restless. The priests summon the goddess Inanna (Caroline Sa) to help sort things out. When she appears, Inanna really does seem to descend from Heaven, her demesne, which is located in a smoke-filled, cavernous space somewhere above and beyond the stage. In turn, she summons her father, the moon god Nannausen (Armando Acevedo) and her brother, the sun god Utu (Noah Levine), who both arrive to great fanfare. Inanna wants to plant a huluppu tree at the steps of her temple in Uruk to nourish and bless the citizenry until Gilgamesh's arrival. (It is understood that this could take awhile: Gilgamesh has gone in search of the fruit of eternal life, which is notoriously difficult to find.) Inanna promises to look after the city while the tree grows. After receiving some dire warnings from her father, brother, and great-grandmother, Ninhursag (Melissa Almaguer, whose voice is piped through effects processors until every utterance sounds like a chorus of demons), Inanna plants her tree and bids goodbye to her fellow deities. Years pass, the tree grows, and the god of medicine, Ningizzida (Jeff Keogh), arrives. Seduced by the fruit, he gives up his life as a wandering healer and moves in to Inanna's temple. He is joined, ten years later, by Siduri, the goddess of merriment (Kristen Dawn McCorkle), and ten years after that by Anzu, the god of storms (Jesus Quintero). These deities come to think of the tree quite proprietarily and hoard the fruit for themselves. Inanna is troubled: The fruit was meant for the people of Uruk. Stymied and feeling a bit of self-loathing (her family had warned her that growing this tree might mean trouble for the city), she can't quite bring herself to act until Gilgamesh (Joshua Ritter) shows up in the play's final minutes. He devises a nonviolent solution to the problem, and everyone leaves happy. (Everyone except, perhaps, the sourpuss Ningizzida, who looks like he wouldn't know happy if it bit him on his big bald head.) Adults who accompany children to Inanna might have a hard time getting turned on by this plot, which is not only utterly G-rated but also devoid of the grownup-friendly double- and triple-entendres that have come to characterize kids' entertainment on film. But they can't help but get turned on by the Playground Theatre's eye-popping visuals — the crew's ability to import an atmosphere of mysticism and remote antiquity into a theater space that, pre-show, you'd think was too big and modern to seem like anything other than a big, modern theater. Thunderous music that sounds a lot like Dead Can Dance swells up from the theater's outsize PA with no warning. Assorted deities come and go in billows of smoke like you haven't seen since the last Kiss tour. Anzu, who looks like a cross between an ancient astronaut and the world's most ferocious chicken, blows an ear-splitting gale every time he opens his mouth. He, along with Siduri, fly around the set doing somersaults in the air. With Inanna, the Playground Theatre transports adults to a place where magic is a given. It cannot do the same for children, because the world of magic is one they already inhabit. What the Playground Theatre does for them, whether they know it or not, is make a promise: that one day, even after the long jading of growing up has taught them that the gods do not fly, that a city, no matter how divine, cannot be sustained by fruit, there is always a place beyond the footlights where those things can be true for a while.

Goddess of Liberty Gets a Scrub Up

On top of classic-styled domes on state houses all across the country, the Goddess of Liberty looks out over our land from sea to shining sea. This lovely example is from the capital of Texas! CAPITOL From goddess to asbestos, a 10-month overhaul for dome Officials announce project to repaint, repair and refurbish. By Mike Ward AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF Saturday, December 12, 2009 The Texas Capitol's granite-hued lid is about to get a makeover. State officials announced Friday that a project to repaint and repair the landmark dome is to begin in late February or March, with the top-knot being surrounded with scaffolding for the better part of 10 months. Also to get cleaned: the Goddess of Liberty statue atop the dome, though officials said it will be polished in place, not removed. Its removal in the 1980s became somewhat of a state embarrassment after workers had trouble getting it back in place. "This will be a significant maintenance project ... the first since the dome was painted in 1992 during the restoration of the Capitol," said John Sneed, executive director of the State Preservation Board, which oversees the 1888 statehouse. Lee Baker, the preservation board's facilities director, said the work will start at the goddess and move downward to the base of the dome. The project is expected to be complete by December 2010. While the dome looks from a distance like it is built of the same pinkish granite as the statehouse, it is actually inner and outer shells of galvanized sheet metal and cast iron pillars supported by the load-bearing stone and brick walls of the Capitol. It has been painted to match the building's granite color since the Capitol was opened, except for a short period in the early 1920s when it was painted white. Texans protested and the granite color was quickly brought back. As part of the maintenance project, Sneed said rusted places on the dome, deteriorated wood around some of the 179 windows and leaks will be repaired. Waterproofing will be added in some areas, and some remaining asbestos will be removed, he said. The dome will be covered with scaffolding for much of the project, just as it was when the Capitol restoration was under way. In addition, plaster repairs and painting will be done inside the dome, officials said. Sneed said the work is being paid for with funds generated by Capitol parking fees, gift shop revenues and concession fees paid from the Capitol Grill cafeteria. Once complete, Sneed said, the dome shouldn't need another paint job for 25 years.

Underwater City Discovered in Caribbean?

Hmmmm - well, I guess we'll see if more information comes to light on this 'discovery.' Maybe it is legit - but the photographs (several in article)? I don't know anything about photography so I can't judge, it would be interesting to see what others think about those photographs. This one looks to me to be a high altitude shot of Los Angeles or some other large seaport! Previously undiscovered ancient city found on Caribbean sea floor By Jes Alexander on December 9, 2009 WASHINGTON, DC (Herald de Paris) - EXCLUSIVE - Researchers have revealed the first images from the Caribbean sea floor of what they believe are the archaeological remains of an ancient civilization. Guarding the location’s coordinates carefully, the project’s leader, who wishes to remain anonymous at this time, says the city could be thousands of years old; possibly even pre-dating the ancient Egyptian pyramids, at Giza. The site was found using advanced satellite imagery, and is not in any way associated with the alleged site found by Russian explorers near Cuba in 2001, at a depth of 2300 feet. “To be seen on satellite, our site is much shallower.” The team is currently seeking funding to mount an expedition to confirm and explore what appears to be a vast underwater city. “You have to be careful working with satellite images in such a location,” the project’s principle researcher said, “The digital matrix sometimes misinterprets its data, and shows ruins as solid masses. The thing is, we’ve found structure - what appears to be a tall, narrow pyramid; large platform structures with small buildings on them; we’ve even found standing parallel post and beam construction in the rubble of what appears to be a fallen building. You can’t have post and beam without human involvement.” Asked if this city is the legendary city of Atlantis, the researchers immediately said no. “The romanticized ideal of Atlantis probably never existed, nor will anyone ever strap on a SCUBA tank, jump in the water, and find a city gateway that says, ‘Welcome to Atlantis.’ However, we do believe that this city may have been one of many cities of an advanced, seafaring, trade-based civilization, which may have been visited by their Eurocentric counterparts.” It is unknown at this time how the city came to be on the sea floor, and not on dry land. “We have several theories.” The team hopes to conduct a massive mapping and research expedition, to learn as much as possible about who these people were, before turning the site over to the Caribbean island’s home government. “Whatever we’ve found does not belong to us,” the project’s leader said, “It belongs to the people of this island, and to the world at-large. If any pieces are brought to the surface, they belong in the hands of a museum.” The project team asks that for more information, or to find out how to help fund their research, please contact the Herald de Paris’ publisher, Jes Alexander, at a specially set-up telephone number: 415-738-7811.

London Chess Classic - Women's Invitational

Caoili dominated from start to finish, and won the event with a whopping 8.0/9! Full cross-table. 1 WIM Caoili, Arianne 8.0 AUS 2206 2421 +1.93 2 M Lalic, Susan K 6.0 ENG 2310 2188 -1.16 3 WIM Van Weersel, Arlette 5.5 NED 2193 2152 -0.38 4 Ikonomopoulou, Maria 5.0 GRE 2065 2129 +0.74 5 De Seroux, Camille 4.5 SUI 1989 2094 +1.18 6 Winkelmann, Elena 4.0 GER 2119 2037 -0.99 7 WFM Yurenok, Maria S 3.5 ENG 1968 2017 +0.43 8 WFM Chevannes, Sabrina L 3.0 ENG 2042 1963 -0.97 9 WFM Smith, Olivia 3.0 WLS 2026 1965 -0.77 10 WIM Frick, Denise 2.5 RSA 1920 1932 -0.01

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mystery of the Narara Caves

From Fiji Times Online Fred Wesley Sunday, December 13, 2009 Thirteen stones sit hidden in the dense jungles of the range of mountains that make up Nakauvadra in Ra. Caves with drawings sit below them. They remain a mystery for the people of Narara Village. Deep in the jungles above the village of Narara in Ra stand 12 stones of similar size and shape. The thirteenth is a little longer then the rest. They stand as monolithic reminders of an era the people of Narara are struggling to understand. It takes about six hours on foot to get to these ancient monuments at the top of the range of mountains that make up Nakauvadra. The climb through dense foliage is demanding, tough and tiring. If the long distance and height of the mountains don't get to you, the high altitude kicks in after a few minutes. The stones sit in a rough circular formation on the very top of a steep mountain. The dense jungle has overwhelmed the stones, blocking out the rays of the sun, and allowing a thick blanket of green lichen to coat them. . . . The interesting part about the Narara story is that the stones stand on a steep mountain overlooking a number of caves. One of them shelters unusual drawings on the wall. Kemueli Penisoni, 60, was one of four men hunting for pigs who discovered the caves about 30 years ago. "One of the caves had unusual writing on the wall," he remembers. He recalls being awe-struck when he made the discovery. Interestingly, over the years, he never got to see the caves again. "They were just too far away and way off the range of mountains we'd roam when hunting for wild boars. We only came across the caves accidentally in the first place." I'd made the journey to the heart of the mountain range last year and again a fortnight ago with fellow scribes Jone Luvenitoga and Anare Ravula, and a few villagers of Narara led by Miniroti Sarewa, keen to discover what Kemueli had seen as a young man. There was no cave with writing on the wall. But we saw a cave with drawings that captured my imagination, especially considering the fact they were not scratched on the wall but appeared to be chiselled into it. The mouth of the cave faces a little stream and the remains of a cooking spot sits in front of the cave opening. The cave faces the 13 stones hidden high up in the mountains. While villagers like Kemueli can only guess what the monuments and drawings mean, Jone Wailevu, a researcher in ancient Fijian culture, believes they are important for the people of this country. He believes the Narara site is an ancient worship plateau dedicated to the oldest religion in the world, the worship of nature. "The indigenous inhabitants probably chose the site for its height, with its panoramic view of their world, especially the eastern seaboard. The significance of the east for the ancient people is that it is the front of the Earth where the day and night begin, the rising of the sun and moon." "The Narara cult would have been prominent in its day as the mount of the gods. Its seclusion, non-accessibility and panoramic view denote its role as the place from which the gods bless the whole of Fiji. "At the foot of the mountain would probably reside the various social groups that define their culture in terms of the cultus. "Visiting worshippers from the whole of Fiji would probably present their gifts at that point and receive in return a blessing from the priestesses. Solutions to problems and methods of traditional etiquette would also probably be expounded there. "So, Narara would have been a very busy commercial centre with travelers coming from faraway places. "In fact, ancient roads like the tualeita (legendary ancient Fijian route) receive new meaning under the Narara cult as sacred pathways to the gods. "Also the fundamental ideal is the close relationship of those ancients to nature. The Narara cult was probably a part of nature and not a conqueror of nature. "That would have been the drawcard of the cult until nature changed. "The discovery of the cult is a cultural heritage of immense importance as it ridicules history enforced from colonial times. What about Fiji's hidden history waiting to be discovered? "We have been overtly reminded by our cannibal and war past, but Narara speaks to us of another rich and undiscovered culture that time can no longer hold in bondage. It wants to be heard and speak to this generation. We can learn from Narara as time is not yet up." He believes the stones held a lot of meanings for the ancient people of Narara. "The 12 stones arranged in a circular formation probably depicted the 12 complete cycles of the full moon from one harvest to the next. "Usually, upon the completion of the 12 full moons, the harvest had not been reached probably by a week, days or hours and the normal practice was to add on another moon - the 13th. "The 12 stones being a complete number but to enable rebirth or the continuation of the circular motion, the 13 or the number of rebirth had to be added on." Kemueli believes the monuments stand for something important. What message they hold though, he does not know. "It would be good to know what they all mean," Miniroti says. For now, the stones and caves sit silently as reminders of an ancient past.
* * * * *
It is sad that serious study of the Narara site and the associated caves and their carvings (?) has not been undertaken. I want to add that the circle may have been depicting a lunar calendar of 13-cycles of 28 days each (equals 364 days), and was not related to "12" months plus a little extra. After all, if their were priestesses attending the site as the article mentions, they would have been well attuned to their menstrual cycles of approximately 28 days average and they may well have experienced the well-established phenomenon that women who are closely associated with each other tend to "sync" their menstrual cycles together! They may also have discovered the close association of their menstrual cycles to the well-known cycles of the Moon. It is very sad that the descendants of the original settlers have lost so much of their history. I could not locate any photographs of the caves, the carvings or the standing stones on the internet. I was shocked. I thought something would be out there.

Deforestation in Amazon Reveals Tantalizing Ruins

Ancient Amazon civilisation laid bare by felled forest 10 December 2009 by Linda Geddes Magazine issue 2738. Signs of what could be a previously unknown ancient civilisation are emerging from beneath the felled trees of the Amazon. Some 260 giant avenues, ditches and enclosures have been spotted from the air in a region straddling Brazil's border with Bolivia. The traditional view is that before the arrival of the Spanish and Portuguese in the 15th century there were no complex societies in the Amazon basin – in contrast to the Andes further west where the Incas built their cities. Now deforestation, increased air travel and satellite imagery are telling a different story. "It's never-ending," says Denise Schaan of the Federal University of Pará in Belém, Brazil, who made many of the new discoveries from planes or by examining Google Earth images. "Every week we find new structures." Some of them are square or rectangular, while others form concentric circles or complex geometric figures such as hexagons and octagons connected by avenues or roads. The researchers describe them all as geoglyphs. Excavations have unearthed ceramics, grinding stones and other signs of human habitation at some of the sites but not at others. This suggests that some had purely ceremonial roles, while others may also have been used for defence. Unusually for defensive structures, however, earth was piled up outside the ditches, and they are also highly symmetrical. "When you think about defence you're just building a wall or a trench," says Schaan. "You don't have to do calculations to make it so round or square." Many of the structures are oriented to the north, and the team is investigating whether they might have had astronomical significance. "Many of the great early civilisations had a riverine basis and the Amazon has long been underestimated and overlooked in that sense," says Colin McEwan, head of the Americas section at the British Museum in London. . . . Though there is no evidence that the Amazonians built pyramids or invented written language as societies in ancient Egypt or Mesopotamia did, "in terms of a trend towards increasing social complexity and domestication of the landscape, this wasn't just a pristine forest with isolated nomadic tribes", McEwan adds. "These were substantive, sedentary and in the long term very successful cultures." While some Inca sites lie just 200 kilometres west of the geoglyphs, no Inca objects have been found at the new sites. Neither do they seem to have anything in common with Peru's Nasca geoglyphs. "I have no doubt that this is only scratching the surface," says Alex Chepstow-Lusty of the French Institute for Andean Studies in Lima, Peru. "The scale of pre-Columbian societies in Amazonia is only slowly coming to light and we are going to be amazed at the numbers of people who lived there, but also in a highly sustainable fashion. Sadly, the economic development and forest clearance that is revealing these pre-Columbian settlement patterns is also the threat to having enough time to properly understand them." Journal reference: Antiquity, vol 83, p 1084

Sunday, December 13, 2009

An Exhausting Weekend

On Friday afternoon I received an email from one of my brokers asking if they could show the house on Saturday between 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. Despite my insistance on no showings during the holiday period and while I have guests, since my guests aren't here yet I said okay, reluctantly. So, instead of spending Saturday cleaning closets out as I'd intended, I started cleaning at 9:00 a.m. and didn't stop until 2:00 p.m. when I threw on some make-up, a different top, bundled up for outdoors and headed to the hardware store at 2:10 p.m. Fortunately it was a mild day - in the 30's - after Thursday and Friday spent with windchills well below zero. The sun was shining, there was no wind to speak of, and it felt positively warm! I even had my sunglasses on - alas, not my good old sunglasses which were lost a week ago Saturday when I was looking at houses. Somewhere, somehow, the were left behind or fell out of my pocket and I am still lamenting their loss. I've had those sunglasses since before our trip to Amsterdam in 2001. They've been all over with me. Sigh. Sometime that morning, I received an email from one of the brokers with the buyers' inspection report attached. I was surprised to receive the entire report, they did not have to share it with me. I spent some time reading through it, wondering what it all meant. Yes, I knew I had some grading issues and moisture problems in the basement. The basement walls seemed to be in okay shape but tuckpointing was indicated. It wasn't something I'd ever had done, that's for sure, so it must have been done sometime during the construction process. I was surprised by a few things - something broken on the water heater (which must have been done when brother-in-law Fred installed it back in 2003), a broken stem pipe(? - not sure what it's called) on the sump pump connection to the storm sewer pipe discharge, wrapped in duct tape -- yes, I saw that many times, I just never thought anything about it, LOL! The sump pump seated too high in the crock? Well, I wouldn't know anything about that. Because of some missing insulation in the sill wall cavities, there was frost build-up (well, it was 25 below zero the day the inspector came, geez), and yes, the basement windows are flimsly and have always leaked cold air and have mold streaks on them. The main thing is that the house is not a danger to me or anyone else, and isn't about to collapse. That's good news! All the mechanicals work too. Anyway, I hiked a good mile to the hardware store where I picked up some needed house thingys, and then backtracked to the Walgreens and spent some time there looking at Christmas cards on sale (I picked out some really cute ones) and a few other things. Before I knew it, it was 3:45 and I checked out and made the mile walk back home. The fine day had clouded over, the wind had picked up and it was colder and bitingly damp, but still well above zero. It was definitely bearable and I took my time, savoring the relative warmth after two days of bitter cold windchills. When I got home I could tell that people had been through the house. The shower curtains were askew, the curtains in the master bedroom had been pulled apart (why do people look out the windows in the master bedroom???), the basement light was left on, etc. etc. and the broker(s) had left a card which, my brokers had previously informed me, was not meant as a solicitation but to signal that they had brought people through the house. When I got home I was too tired to do much of anything. I went to bed at my regular time and didn't sleep well, getting up at 3:45 a.m. to try relaxing in the recliner. I did get some additional sleep and woke up about 6:45 when it started to get light outside. I was wondering what my buyers would come back to me about on that inspection report, how much it would cost, and how I couldn't afford anything at this point, and the entire package deal of buyers/sellers and three homes was going to fall apart. Would the sellers of 110 Street sue me for non-performance? Would my buyers insist on regrading work (that could cost thousands of dollars) and would I tell them to kiss my grits? I washed my hair, read the newspaper, got ready for an investment club meeting. We met at Meyers and had a delicious breakfast, as per usual, and I caught up everyone on the continuing saga of attempting to sell this house and attempting to buy a new one! I told them about my table pounding incident (last week Saturday) and they laughed and and laughed. Well actually, it was rather funny. We asked an obliging waitress to take our photos in front of the lovely Meyers Christmas tree in the main dining room. I haven't got them emailed to me yet (they are on Sue's and Angie's cameras) but will post them here when they arrive. I think we are all gorgeous despite being women of a "certain age." After breakfast we adjourned to my house, admired my beautiful Christmas tree, and had our gift exchange. What fun! But - the Packers were playing the Bears at noon in Chicago (I had mistakenly thought they were playing in LEGENDARY LAMBEAU FIELD), so some wanted to get back home in time for the game and others of us had other plans, and I wanted to change clothes and relax in my new official Green Bay Packers blankey-snuggy from Georgia and Michelle. As the meeting was breaking up, my phone rang. Sue said "It's your broker," and she was right. LOL! The upshot is that I need to get a consultation with a home performance expert (that is what the WE Energies website calls them). After doing some research myself on the internet, I located one that sounded promising and, lo and behold, he is actually on the short list of name one of the brokers provided to me. So I emailed him - we shall see. The buyers' primary issue appears to be the potential for air infiltration leading to moisture build-up leading to mold in my basement. So, I did some research on that and learned about foam insulation, so that seems the way to go. The costs - well, from what I read not too bad, but we shall see what we shall see. The lousy basement windows - hmmm. I don't want to think about house stuff any more today. However, I have the Purple Heart picking up on 12/15 and so I cleaned out the linen closet - two very heavy bags of towels, sheets and curtains that I will never use again. Now I will tackle the front downstairs closet, where I have two boxes of unused towels and other linens and assorted stuff stashed. Most if not all of that will join the stash for the Purple Heart pick-up. Only two more closets to go through after that. In between bouts of continuing to attack/shovel the ice/snow on the driveway. Speaking of which, since the Packers won I pledged at least another hour's effort. Oy - my shoulders hurt! It's like chopping ice.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...