Saturday, January 9, 2010

FIDE Caissa Award

An initiative of GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, the award has been approved by the FIDE Presidential Board and voting for the best female player of 2009 is now open. Nominations end "before" February 20, 2010 (I guess that means the deadline is sometime on February 19th). Here are the regulations from GM Kosteniuk's blog: The women players (rated > 2300) can nominate themselves by sending an application, or any women chess players rated above 2400 on January 1, 2010 can send their top 3 nominations for best women chess players of the year 2009. The complete regulations can be found below. So I ask all the players who are eligible to send their votes to take active part in this voting, as well as the players who think they deserve this award for the 2009 year do not hesitate to send their applications. I would like to have as many applications as possible, I am sure there is a very deserving lady out there deserving this nomination and prize! FIDE CAISSA AWARD The CAISSA AWARD will be awarded annually, every year in the Spring to the best female player of the preceding year. The voting will consist of 2 stages. The first phase: Any women chess player, rated above 2300 ELO, who played more than 10 rated games in the previous year (for example 2009), can apply to get this award, by sending her application to with cc to: "WOM Fierro Martha" before February 20, 2010. She should indicate her best results of the previous year (for example 2009) and number of rated games and exact results of each tournament played. Alternatively, any woman chess player rated above 2400 ELO on January 1, 2010, can nominate up to 3 candidates for this award, sending an application that will include the best results of the year for the nominated players to with cc to: "WOM Fierro Martha" before February 20 of the voting year. The second phase: Out of the valid received applications, candidates shall be proposed by the members of the FIDE commission for women’s chess (WOM) and the Commission for World Championships and Olympiads (WCO) based on a voting system (each member of the WOM and WCO can suggest up to three candidates, with the 1st place getting 5 points, 2nd place getting 3 points and the third place getting 1 point, by email to with cc to: "WOM Fierro Martha" ) . The winner will be the player who gets the greatest number of points. The co-chairmen will count the number of points for each candidate and will propose the winner to the PB before the 2nd quarter Presidential Board of each year. The PB shall review the results, decide in case of a tie, and after the result is known, the winner of the Caissa award is to be notified and announced officially by FIDE. The decision of the PB will be final. The winner will be awarded with the FIDE CAISSA AWARD (2010) and thus named the best female player of the year (2009). Prizes: Grand Prize: 1,000 euros and a statuette. (The prize comes out of the FIDE Commission on Women's Chess) Winners may receive additional prizes if sponsors come forward. Winners must sign an affidavit and license and will be responsible for paying any taxes they may owe on the prize. Check out Sir William Jones' poem, Caissa, at Goddesschess.
A new chess club in southeast Wisconsin - LAKEVIEW CHESS CLUB in the Kenosha area! Thanks for the information, Allan. I hope this new chess club is a great success! Here is the announcement:
Love to Play Chess? Want to Learn How?
Join us on Monday nights at LakeView Chess Club for fun learning and playing chess. All students (grades K-12) and adults are invited. Adults are also encouraged to play, either with the students or other adults. Chess instruction will be provided. Younger children are also welcome to attend with adult supervision (please bring quiet activities for younger children). Participation is free! Please bring chess sets if you have them. We meet at LakeView Technology Academy. The address is 9449 88th Ave, Pleasant Prairie, WI 53158. The building is a few blocks north from the intersection of Highway 165 and County H (88th Ave). Enter into the “Commons” area on the northwest corner of the building. We will meet from 7 to 8:30 pm on the following evenings: January 11 and 25 February 1, 7, and 22 March 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29 April 12 and 26 May 10 and 24 Get your game on! Knights Rule! For more information contact Allan Cargille at (262) 697-2991 or

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mexico Wants Starbucks to Pay for Use of Images

This belongs in a Friday Night Miscellany column, but I haven't done one of those in a while. Darlings, don't even ask me how I ended up at LOL! The original article was published at What's next - stopping tourists at the borders and in customs, checking their digital pics and charging them for photographs of national landmarks? Should the USA charge foreigners and foreign countries for using our currency - after all, our money bears the images of U.S. presidents and our national symbol, the One-Eyed Pyramid :) Starbucks vs. Mexico Filed under: Legal Matters > Business Blitz Read More: Perez Hilton: Starbucks vs. Mexico Starbucks Corp. released a line of coffee mugs that displayed pre-Hispanic images and Mexico is pissed! The images of the Aztec calendar stone and the Pyramid of the Moon from the pre-Aztec ruins of Teotihuacan are believed to be owned by Mexico, as they have intellectual property rights. On Wednesday, Mexico's government archaeological agency stated that they would decide within a week whether Starbucks should pay any fees. Although Starbucks claims that they made several efforts to offer payment and get the necessary permits. The mugs have been taken off the shelves until this matter is resolved.

Neanderthal Used Make-Up

A twist on the preceding post - same people, same findings, different interpretation. Fascinating. Also note the reference to the so-called "hybrid" child. Geez, despite what inadequate DNA tests today have "said" about the lack of Neanderthal DNA in the human genome, all you have to do is take a look around any city street and you see plenty of low brow ridges, wide triangular shaped noses, mouths "too wide" for the cheekbones, jutting jaws but receding chins, and red hair. The rest, as they say, is history. From BBC News Page last updated at 01:47 GMT, Saturday, 9 January 2010 Scientists claim to have the first persuasive evidence that Neanderthals wore "body paint" 50,000 years ago. The team report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) that shells containing pigment residues were Neanderthal make-up containers. Scientists unearthed the shells at two archaeological sites in the Murcia province of southern Spain. The team says its find buries "the view of Neanderthals as half-wits" and shows they were capable of symbolic thinking. Professor Joao Zilhao, the archaeologist from Bristol University in the UK, who led the study, said that he and his team had examined shells that were used as containers to mix and store pigments. Black sticks of the pigment manganese, which may have been used as body paint by Neanderthals, have previously been discovered in Africa. "[But] this is the first secure evidence for their use of cosmetics," he told BBC News. "The use of these complex recipes is new. It's more than body painting." The scientists found lumps of a yellow pigment, that they say was possibly used as a foundation. They also found red powder mixed up with flecks of a reflective brilliant black mineral. Some of the sculpted, brightly coloured shells may also have been worn by Neanderthals as jewellery. Until now it had been thought by many researchers that only modern humans wore make-up for decoration and ritual purposes. There was a time in the Upper Palaeolithic period when Neanderthals and humans may have co-existed. But Professor Zilhao explained that the findings were dated at 10,000 years before this "contact". "To me, it's the smoking gun that kills the argument once and for all," he told BBC News. "The association of these findings with Neanderthals is rock-solid and people have to draw the associations and bury this view of Neanderthals as half-wits." Professor Chris Stringer, a palaeontologist from the Natural History Museum in London, UK, said: "I agree that these findings help to disprove the view that Neanderthals were dim-witted. But, he added that evidence to that effect had been growing for at least the last decade. "It's very difficult to dislodge the brutish image from popular thinking," Professor Stringer told BBC News. "When football fans behave badly, or politicians advocate reactionary views, they are invariably called 'Neanderthal', and I can't see the tabloids changing their headlines any time soon." Hybrid boy? Another study published in the same issue of PNAS provides intriguing evidence about the relationship between humans and Neanderthals. An international team of researchers examined teeth from the skeleton of a human child that was discovered in Portugal in the late 1990s. It was suggested by some scientists at the time that this skeleton, which dates from the Upper Palaeolithic period - between 10,000 and 40,000 years ago - might have been the product of human and Neanderthal interbreeding. The researchers found that the skeleton's teeth shared some features with Neanderthals rather than modern humans. Although this does not settle the argument of whether the child was a hybrid, it does indicate, the researchers write, that "these earlier Upper Palaeolithic humans are not simply older versions of [today's] humanity".

'Neanderthal' Created Jewelry

Interesting that two stories showed up today that turn conventional wisdom regarding evolution on its head. Ha! See prior post for the other story. Perhaps within my lifetime I will see wholesale acknowledgement that Darwin had it all wrong, baby. From Scientific American Heavy Brows, High Art?: Newly Unearthed Painted Shells Show Neandertals Were Homo sapiens's Mental Equals A discovery of painted shells shows that Neandertals were capable of symbolism, sweeping away age-old thinking that they were stupid By Charles Q. Choi January 8, 2010 Newly discovered painted scallops and cockleshells in Spain are the first hard evidence that Neandertals made jewelry. These findings suggest humanity's closest extinct relatives might have been capable of symbolism, after all. Body ornaments made of painted and pierced seashells dating back 70,000 to 120,000 years have been found in Africa and the Near East for years, and serve as evidence of symbolic thought among the earliest modern humans (Homo sapiens). The absence of similar finds in Europe at that time, when it was Neandertal territory, has supported the notion that they lacked symbolism, a potential sign of mental inferiority that might help explain why modern humans eventually replaced them. Although hints of Neandertal art and jewelry have cropped up in recent years, such as pierced and grooved animal-tooth pendants or a decorated limestone slab on the grave of a child, these have often been shrugged off as artifacts mixed in from modern humans, imitation without understanding, or ambiguous in nature. Now archaeologist João Zilhão at the University of Bristol in England and his colleagues have found 50,000-year-old jewelry at two caves in southeastern Spain, art dating back 10,000 years before the fossil record reveals evidence of modern humans entering Europe. At the Cueva (Cave) Antón, the scientists unearthed a pierced king scallop shell (Pecten maximus) painted with orange pigment made of yellow goethite and red hematite collected some five kilometers from that site. In material collected from the Cueva de los Aviones, alongside quartz and flint artifacts were bones from horses, deer, ibex, rabbits and tortoises as well as seashells from edible cockles (Glycymeris insubrica), mussels, limpets and snails; the researchers also discovered two pierced dog-cockleshells painted with traces of red hematite pigment. No dyes were found on the food shells or stone tools, suggesting the jewelry was not just painted at random. In addition, Zilhão and his colleagues saw an orange pigment–coated horse bone at Aviones that might have served as a pin to prepare or apply mineral dyes or to pierce painted hides as well as three thorny oyster (Spondylus gaederopus) shells that might have served as paint cups, holding as they did residues of hematite, charcoal, dolomite and pyrite. The researchers also came across lumps of red and yellow pigments there that had to have come from afield, such as the area of La Unión three to five kilometers to the northwest, which has served as a gold and silver mining district since antiquity. These discoveries, in combination with earlier findings hinting at Neandertal ornaments and funerary practices, suggest "Neandertals had the same capabilities for symbolism, imagination and creativity as modern humans," Zilhão says. Anthropologist Erik Trinkaus at Washington University in Saint Louis, who did not take part in this study, notes, "I'm hoping that this will start to bury the idea that's been around for 100 years—that Neandertals died out because they were stupid." The rarity of such finds, however, thus far might still suggest to some that Neandertals were not great minds, "the number of sites that have these pigmented shells from either Neandertals or modern humans is something that you can count on the fingers of one hand," Trinkaus says. "These finds are very thin on the landscape." [All this might indicate is that so-called 'Neanderthal' artifacts have been destroyed over the years in much more heavily populated, farmed and developed Europe than sites in Africa where 'modern man' artifacts have been found.] Instead of Neandertals and modern humans developing jewelry independently, two intriguing possibilities this discovery raises are that Neandertals taught our ancestors art—or vice versa."I have argued that the archaeological culture associated with Europe's earliest modern humans, the Proto-Aurignacian, features a mix of ornaments of different traditions: small, basket-shaped beads similar to those known from South Africa since about 75,000 years ago, likely to have been used as parts of composite beadworks, and pierced animal teeth, likely to have been used as isolated pendants," Zilhão says. [I believe he must mean in the time before 'modern humans' decided to kill off the 'Neanderthals' or the 'Neanderthals' decided to eat each other to extinction. Both of these hypotheses have been touted as the reason or a reason for the so-called "extinction" of 'Neanderthal.'] Although tooth pendants are entirely unknown in the modern humans of Africa and the Near East prior to their dispersal into Europe, Zilhão adds they are precisely the kinds of ornaments linked with the Châtelperronian industry in France during the upper Paleolithic period of the Stone Age, which is linked with the Neandertals. "This mix indicates a significant level of cultural exchange at the time of contact, and the persistence in early modern human cultures of Europe of items and traditions of Neandertal origin," he says. [Cultural exchange. Well, we know what that means, don't we. Where there is cultural exchange, there are feasts, story-telling, dances, alcoholic beverages or mushrooms to be snorted etc., and sex. Woo woo! Scientists can't quite wrap their heads around this sort of cultural exchange.] The scientists are set to detail their findings online January 11 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

When Are They Going To Admit They Got It Wrong???

Ancient hominids may have been seafarers Hand axes excavated on Crete suggest hominids made sea crossings to go 'out of Africa' By Bruce Bower January 8, 2009 Web edition : 3:44 pm Text Size ANAHEIM, Calif. — Human ancestors that left Africa hundreds of thousands of years ago to see the rest of the world were no landlubbers. Stone hand axes unearthed on the Mediterranean island of Crete indicate that an ancient Homo species — perhaps Homo erectus — had used rafts or other seagoing vessels to cross from northern Africa to Europe via at least some of the larger islands in between, says archaeologist Thomas Strasser of Providence College in Rhode Island. Several hundred double-edged cutting implements discovered at nine sites in southwestern Crete date to at least 130,000 years ago and probably much earlier, Strasser reported January 7 at the annual meeting of the American Institute of Archaeology. Many of these finds closely resemble hand axes fashioned in Africa about 800,000 years ago by H. erectus, he says. It was around that time that H. erectus spread from Africa to parts of Asia and Europe. Until now, the oldest known human settlements on Crete dated to around 9,000 years ago. Traditional theories hold that early farming groups in southern Europe and the Middle East first navigated vessels to Crete and other Mediterranean islands at that time. “We’re just going to have to accept that, as soon as hominids left Africa, they were long-distance seafarers and rapidly spread all over the place,” Strasser says. Other researchers have controversially suggested that H. erectus navigated rafts across short stretches of sea in Indonesia around 800,000 years ago and that Neandertals crossed the Strait of Gibraltar perhaps 60,000 years ago. Questions remain about whether African hominids used Crete as a stepping stone to reach Europe or, in a Stone Age Gilligan’s Island scenario, accidentally ended up on Crete from time to time when close-to-shore rafts were blown out to sea, remarks archaeologist Robert Tykot of the University of South Florida in Tampa. Only in the past decade have researchers established that people reached Crete before 6,000 years ago, Tykot says. Strasser’s team cannot yet say precisely when or for what reason hominids traveled to Crete. Large sets of hand axes found on the island suggest a fairly substantial population size, downplaying the possibility of a Gilligan Island’s scenario, in Strasser’s view. In excavations conducted near Crete’s southwestern coast during 2008 and 2009, Strasser’s team unearthed hand axes at caves and rock shelters. Most of these sites were situated in an area called Preveli Gorge, where a river has gouged through many layers of rocky sediment. At Preveli Gorge, Stone Age artifacts were excavated from four terraces along a rocky outcrop that overlooks the Mediterranean Sea. Tectonic activity has pushed older sediment above younger sediment on Crete, so 130,000-year-old artifacts emerged from the uppermost terrace. Other terraces received age estimates of 110,000 years, 80,000 years and 45,000 years. These minimum age estimates relied on comparisons of artifact-bearing sediment to sediment from sea cores with known ages. Geologists are now assessing whether absolute dating techniques can be applied to Crete’s Stone Age sites, Strasser says. Intriguingly, he notes, hand axes found on Crete were made from local quartz but display a style typical of ancient African artifacts. “Hominids adapted to whatever material was available on the island for tool making,” Strasser proposes. “There could be tools made from different types of stone in other parts of Crete.” Strasser has conducted excavations on Crete for the past 20 years. He had been searching for relatively small implements that would have been made from chunks of chert no more than 11,000 years ago. But a current team member, archaeologist Curtis Runnels of Boston University, pointed out that Stone Age folk would likely have favored quartz for their larger implements. “Once we started looking for quartz tools, everything changed,” Strasser says. “We’re just going to have to accept that, as soon as hominids left Africa, they were long-distance seafarers and rapidly spread all over the place.” Scientists are just going to have to accept that they've got the entire scenario wrong and have totally misinterpreted available archaeological evidence (and continue to interpret new evidence through the lens of an outdated, useless paradigm) . If apes were smart enough 800,000 years ago to build boats or rafts and navigate to new lands, today we would be ruled ala Planet of the Apes.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Need Help Identifying This Image

Found at this German website: What is it (for instance, a tombstone)? Where does it come from? Provenance? How old? Are those runes carved into the serpent's back? If they are runes, can anyone read them and translate them for me? Gee, I don't want too much, do I. LOL!

Maltese Historian Shut Out of Credit for Discovery

Why? That's what I want to know. What's going on here - what is the story behind this story for such crappy treatment of Mr. Tabone? Whatever it is, shame SHAME on these people who shut him out of receiving the credit that he deserves. Wednesday, 06 January 2010 Megalithic spin? Brockdorff Circle report literally rewrites history Raphael Vassallo The long-awaited official report into the excavations of the Gozo Stone (aka Brockdorff) Circle in Xaghra – a unique underground prehistoric burial site near Ggantija temples – may have rewritten Maltese history in more ways than one: by failing to properly acknowledge that the site was originally discovered by Gozitan historian Joseph Attard Tabone, whose extensive research led to its precise relocation in 1965.Launched yesterday at the Gozo Ministry, Victoria, and edited by Caroline Malone – wife of archaeologist Prof. David Trump, who oversaw the initial excavations – the 521-page volume purports to be an exhaustive collection of articles and papers related to this unique underground Neolithic burial complex. Among the contributors are: Caroline Malone; Prof. Trump; Prof. Anthony Bonanno (Malta); Prof. Simon Stoddard (Cambridge); former Archaeology Curator Tancred Gouder; and the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage, Anthony Pace. But a seminal paper written by Attard Tabone in 1965, detailing the precise circumstances of the burial site’s discovery, was neither included nor even mentioned in the entire book. Instead, the official report into the history of the Brockdorff Circle appears to have minimised Attard Tabone’s entire contribution to its discovery – limiting its only allusion to a single, fleeting line in Chapter 1 (page 5) – while concentrating almost entirely on the contributions of the Trump-led excavations from 1965 onwards. And yet it was Attard Tabone who first alerted Trump to the discovery of three previously unidentified menhirs (standing stones) in a farmer’s rubble wall in 1959; and it was also Attard Tabone who later understood the significance of the find, recognising them as the only external remnants of a stone circle that had been described in historical writings, but subsequently lost. “In 1959 I reported this megalithic wall to Dr David Trump, then Curator of Archaeology,” Mr Attard Tabone said in a 2002 interview with journalist Karl Schembri. “We inspected the site together and he included it in the 1959/60 Museum Report; but we did not realise then, that under our feet lay a great wealth of archaeological material and that this wall was part of the Gozo Stone Circle. The secrets of the site were still hidden in libraries, archives and underground.”It took Attard Tabone another five years to identify the site as part of the lost underground ruin, having established the location through visual evidence in the form of an 18th century illustration by French artist and writer, Jean Houel. Attard Tabone wrote about his discoveries in 1965, detailing the research and surface observations that led him to identify this field as the site of the complex later named the ‘Brockdorff Circle’. But he limited his contribution only to making public the exact location, leaving the actual excavation to professional archaeologists. Surprisingly, however, his crucial paper was ignored altogether by a report supposedly detailing the discovery and excavations of this unique site. Furthermore, the rubble wall in question is passed off in the text as a recent discovery, when in fact there are no fewer than three mentions in Attard Tabone’s historic 1965 paper. To add insult to injury, Attard Tabone himself was not even included in the list of official acknowledgements: only mentioned very casually in a single sentence of the introductory chapter. “How do I feel about it? Hurt, mostly,” an aggrieved Attard Tabone said when contacted yesterday. “After all that hard work - not just to discover the monument, but also to conserve it: I have had to put up with years of abuse by builders who would willingly have reduced it all to rubble, if they had their own way.... And then, after all this, to be left out completely... it’s a great disappointment.” Attard Tabone, who was awarded the Gieh ir-Repubblika medal in 2002 for his outstanding contribution to Maltese history and archaeology, did not attend yesterday’s launch (for though he was omitted from the acknowledgments, he still received an invitation). His absence did not pass unnoticed, and four of the books’ contributors – including its editor, Caroline Malone – took the initiative to pay him a visit at his residence in Gozo afterwards, to hand him an autographed copy of the book. “Their handwritten dedication does acknowledge me as the discoverer of the Gozo Stone Circle,” he confirmed yesterday; but while he admitted that this gesture, which took him completely by surprise, “changes things slightly”, he remains disappointed at the fact that official history left him out of its calculations insofar as the Brockdorff Circle is concerned. Efforts to contact Ms Malone through the offices of Heritage Malta proved futile all day yesterday. An interview with Joseph Attard Tabone from (I believe) 2005 highlights the clash between "developers" and preservationists (such as Mr. Tabone) -- could money possibly have anything to do with the petty treatment of Mr. Tabone's contributions to Maltese archaeology by the authors of the "official" report on the Gozo Stone Circle? I found this image, ironically enough, in a summary of a "pod" lecture description page (Queen's University, Belfast), lecturer: Caroline Malone (see above) identified as: Brochtorff Circle, Gozo Malta -figurine PAIR. Note: I also saw Brockdorff spelled Brochtorff, and also identified as the Xagħra Stone Circle, although the Brochtorff Circle is the second one discovered there, and as I understand it (doing on the fly research), Brochtroff is the younger of the two circles.

Oldest Yet Hebrew Inscription Deciphered

From Archaeology News aggregagtor Archaeologists claim discovery of oldest Hebrew writing Thu Jan 07 2010 JERUSALEM (AFP) -- A 3,000 year-old inscription discovered at a site where the Bible says David slew Goliath has been deciphered, showing it to be the earliest known Hebrew writing, Israeli archaeologists said on Thursday. The pottery shard with five lines of text in the proto-Canaanite script that was used by Hebrews, Philistines and others in the region was discovered 18 months ago. The writing was decrypted by Gershon Galil of the University of Haifa who "has shown this is a Hebrew inscription," said a statement from the university. "The discovery makes it the earliest known Hebrew writing," the statement said. Carbon-dating has shown the inscription dates back to the 10th century BC, making it about 1,000-years older than the Dead Sea scrolls. "This text is a social statement, relating to slaves, widows and orphans," said Galil, adding that both the words and the concepts used were specific to the Hebrew language and society. The shard was found near the gate of a site known as Elah Fortress, about 30 kilometres (18 miles) west of Jerusalem, in the valley where the battle between David and Goliath is said to have taken place. Finding such an early example of Hebrew makes it possible the Bible could have been written several centuries before the current estimates, the statement said. "The inscription is similar in its content to biblical scriptures, but it is clear that it is not copied from any biblical text, the statement said. Copyright © 2010 AFP All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Great Flood Myth

A follow-up to my Monday post "Good Stories Never Die," about the Great Flood. Information from Barbara Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets: Flood The biblical flood story, the "deluge," was a late offshoot of a cycle of flood myths known everywhere in the ancient world. Thousands of years before the Bible was written, an ark was built by Sumerian Ziusudra. In Akkad, the flood hero's name was Atrakhasis. In Babylon he was Uta-Napishtim, the only mortal to become immortal. In Greece he was Deucalion, who repopulated the earth after the waters subsided, with the help of his wife Pyrrha and the advice of the Great Goddess of the waters, Themis. In Armenia, the hero was Xisuthros - a corruption of Sumerian Ziusudra - whose ark landed on Mount Ararat.(1) According to the original Chaldean account, the flood hero was told by his god, "Build a vessel and finish it. By a deluge I will destroy substance and life. Cause thou to go up into the vessel the substance of all that has life." Technical instructions followed: the ark was to be 600 cubits long by 60 wide, with three times 3600 measures of asphalt on its exterior and the same amount inside. Three times 3600 porters brought chests of provisions, of which 3600 chests were for the hero's immediate family, while "the mariners divided among themselves twice three thousand six hundred chests."(2) It seems that Noah's ark was much smaller than earlier heroic proportions. [Cubit: From Latin cubitum, "elbow"; the length of an average hand and forearm from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow (about 18-21 inches).] As long ago as 1872, George Smith translated the Twelve Tablets of Creation from Ashurbanipal's library, and discovered he earlier version of the flood myth.(3) [Ashurbanipal - King of Assyria c. 669-630 BC., military leader and statesman. He collected at Nineveh a large library of cuneiform texts, rediscovered by archaeologists in the 19th century A.D.] Among the details that religious orthodoxy took care to suppress was the point that the god who caused the flood was disobedient to the Great Mother, who didn't want her earthly children drowned. Mother Ishtar severely punished the disobedient god by cursing him with her "great lightnings." She set her magic rainbow in the heavens to block his access to offerings on earthly altars, "since rashly he caused the flood-storm, and handed over my people to destruction."(4) Old Testament writers copied other details of the ancient flood myth but could not allow their god to be punished by the Great Whore of Babylon, as if he were a naughty child sent to bed without supper by an angry mother. Thus, they transformed Ishtar's rainbow barrier into a "sign of the covenant" voluntarily set in the heavens by God himself (Genesis 9:13). The Tigris-Euphrates valley was subject to disastrous floods. One especially was long remembered: geologists have linked it with the volcanic cataclysm that blew apart the island of Thera (Santorin) and destroyed Cretan civilization. When Sir Leonard Woolley was excavating the site of Ur, he found the track of a mighty flood - a layer of clay, without artifacts, eight feet thick.(5) [Holy crap!] Such a flood may have been identified with the watery Chaos that all Indo-European peoples believed would swallow up the world at the end of its cycle, and out of which a new world would be reborn in the womb of the Formless Mother.(6) The ark and its freight represented seeds of life passing through the period of Chaos from the destruction of one universe to the birth of the next. Even in the Bible, the "birth" was heralded by the Goddess's yonic dove (Genesis 8:12). Gnostic literature preserved the older view of the flood-causing God as an evil destroyer of humanity, and the Goddess as its preserver. Because people refused to worship him alone, jealous Jehovah sent the flood to wipe out all life. Fortunately the Goddess opposed him, "and Noah and his family were saved in the ark by means of the sprinkling of light that proceeded from her, and through it the world was gain filled with humankind."(7) This Gnostic interpretation had both Babylonian and Hellenic roots. Greeks said the primal sea-mother Themis gave Deucalion and his wife occult knowledge ("light") of how to create human being from stones, "the bones of their Mother," i.e., of the earth. (8) Raising up living people from stones or bones was a popular miracle. Jesus mentioned it, and Ezekiel's God claimed to have done it in the valley bones (Ezekiel 37). Notes: (1) Graves, G.M. 1, 142; Hooke, M.E.M., 130. (2) Lethaby, 239. (3) Ceram, 314. (4) Assyr. & Bab. Lit., 357; Epic of Gilgamesh, 112. (5) Ceram, 353. (6) Avalon, 233. (7) Pagels, 55. (8) Graves, G.M. 1, 139.

Comic Book Art Glorifies Hindu Goddesses and Gods

What a great story - and from The Wall Street Journal, no less. ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT JANUARY 7, 2010 Hindu Gods' Avatars On the Page By ARNIE COOPER Los Angeles The Los Angeles County Museum of Art may have the Western U.S.'s largest assemblage of South Asian art, but for the next several weeks the permanent collection, featuring sculptures dating back to the Bronze Age, will be supplemented by a decidedly modern art form: the comic book. "Heroes and Villains: The Battle for Good in India's Comics" is, according to curator Julie Romain, the first show of its kind in the country. Ms. Romain, an art historian and UCLA graduate student specializing in Medieval Hindu sculpture, says the goal of the exhibit is to demonstrate how India's artistic legacy of heroic narratives and archetypes has been embraced by comic-book creators. Consider the first image you encounter in the introductory "teaser" section of the 54-piece exhibition: a Virgin Comics cover depicting Rama, the avatar (or incarnation) of the god Vishnu, shooting what appears to be an electrically charged bow and arrow set against a scintillating orange background. And if you take a closer look—at the fine print above the title—you'll recognize the name Deepak Chopra, who apparently isn't just focused on love, god and wrinkle-free skin. Ms. Romain says Dr. Chopra is one of the "visionaries" (his son Gotham was one of the founders), along with the Indian film producer Shekhar Kapur, responsible for "conceptualizing the idea of retelling Indian myths." Originally called Liquid Comics, the company owes its new name to an infusion of funds from Sir Richard Branson. But enough about new-age gurus and billionaire industrialists. Best to focus on the art—which isn't difficult when you consider the next piece. It's another Virgin Comics cover, this time spotlighting the story of the female divinity Devi, the Sanskrit word for goddess. Clad in skintight black leather from neck to boots, the contemporary version of the mother goddess has been transformed into a modern-day superhero. Only unlike Wonder Woman, Devi can also be seen (albeit in more modest attire) immortalized in a ninth-century sandstone sculpture in the adjoining Gallery of South Asian Sculpture. "This would probably be on the outside wall of a temple in a niche. It's an icon that's worshipped, but it also depicts this climactic scene in the Devi Mahatnya, the origin story of the goddess, where she conquers the evil demon Mahisha, who takes the form of a buffalo. In a way, this is like the first comic-book story," Ms. Romain says, laughing. Whether cartoon aficionados agree is debatable, but one thing is certain: When compared to their American counterparts, Indian comics constitute an entirely different beast. Says Ms. Romain, "I think the big difference with these comics, especially the earlier ones, is they're stories about divine heroes and deities who are part of a living tradition, which in this case is Hinduism." This is one reason the show also includes a series of storytelling paintings, called Paithan, named for the region in central India where they originate. The 19th-century paintings in this small collection were used by traveling storytellers. "This is probably the closest parallel to the comic book, because it's a sequential narrative," Ms. Romain says. While the LACMA exhibition focuses on the two main Hindu deities, Rama and Devi, one of the messages you'll come away with is that the comics reflect, as Ms. Romain suggests, "an extension of [Hindu] practice, culture and tradition." Not that all of them ignore their American counterparts. For example, once in the show's main exhibition space, visitors will instantly recognize the familiar red-and-blue human arachnid portrayed in a 2004 cover from Marvel Comics' "Spider-Man: India" series. In fact, Ms. Romain says: "You see more and more a similarity to American comic books and also a retelling of iconic American superheroes. Basically the entire story of Spider-Man and Peter Parker has been lifted and inserted into an Indian context." So instead of Peter Parker it's Pavitr Prabhakar. Aunt May becomes Auntie Maya and Mary Jane Watson is Meera Jain. One could say the history of Indian comics has come full circle since its relatively recent beginning in the 1960s. For apart from a lone strip, "Daabu," created by Pran Kumar Sharma in the early part of that decade, Indian comics unfolded largely with reprints of "The Phantom" and "Superman." These were sold to Indian newspapers by Anant Pai, a newspaper executive credited for launching the Indian comic-book industry. In the summer of 1967, Mr. Pai was watching a television quiz show and became disturbed because none of the contestants knew the name of Rama's mother, yet they could answer correctly a question about the Greek god Zeus. Add to that the burgeoning popularity of American comics in the subcontinent and Mr. Pai (or "Uncle Pai" as he is best known) decided it was time for India to stake its own claim to the genre. Later that year he launched his Amar Chitra Katha (Immortal Picture Stories) line with an adventure series about Krishna. Today the company sells about three million comic-book reprints a year in more than 20 languages. Its offshoot, ACK Media, supplies a range of new media from audio books and films to mobile-phone applications. This is a far cry from the early print-only days, when the art resembled the typical Indian calendar prints from the 19th century. A reprint of a 1975 ACK cover depicts Valmiki's Ramayana. Valmiki, an ancient poet, is believed to have written the original Ramayana in the fifth century B.C., the standard text known throughout India. For the uninitiated, the story outlines Rama's adventures, notably his quest to rescue his wife, Sita, who's been kidnapped by an evil demon, Ravana, with multiple heads. No doubt Mr. Pai saw his endeavor not just as a moneymaker, but also as a way to educate the young. The inside cover used the slogan "The route to your roots." Ms. Romain notes that these comics were not only used to educate Indian schoolchildren but also collected by Indians abroad who hoped to foster their foreign-born kids' connection to the myths and epics of their heritage. "That's still happening today. I've talked to a lot of families here who say, 'Oh, I have a bunch of these in my closet that my son used to read.' That's the real draw, and that's why I think they continue to be really popular. These are being reprinted all the time." —Mr. Cooper is a writer based in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Statues and Temple Ruins Discovered in Malaysia

Unless I missed it, I didn't see any indication of age assigned to these statues, but they seem an exciting find nonetheless: From The Jakarta Globe Online January 06, 2010 Ari Adji Sacred Statue Uncovered at Site of Ancient Hindu Temple in Yogyakarta A statue of Nandi, the sacred bull that carried the Hindu god Shiva, was discovered on Wednesday among the ruins of what is believed to be an ancient temple at an excavation site in Yogyakarta. Indung Panca Putra, the head of the excavation team from the Yogyakarta Antiquities and Relics Conservation Agency, said the discovery of the statue, which in Hindu mythology is said to embody sexual energy and fertility, meant that the team would now continue its work until Jan. 20. A previous deadline for the excavation work had been set for Jan. 6. “The statue is exquisite,” Indung said. “The sculpture is carved differently from other statues of Nandi. This one is not depicted as fat.” Previous discoveries at the site, which is located on the Indonesian Islamic University campus, include a statue of Ganesha, Shiva’s divine son; a linga , the symbol of worship for Shiva; and a yoni , a Hindu symbol for divine passage or birth. “We strongly believe the temple had a roof and its pillars were made of wood or bamboo,” Indung said. He said archeologists were working under the assumption that the pillars had not been destroyed by a volcanic mudflow hundreds of years ago, but had instead been removed by people. Indung said that the temple ruins were different from other temples found in Central Java. “We have compared what we have found to what was found in the temples of Sambisari, Gebang and Kedulan. The comparisons have led us to believe that the material used for the temple and its statues were much harder and the sculptures are far more refined,” Indung said. The first discovery at the site, the Ganesha statue on Dec. 21, was made when the university was preparing to lay foundations for a new library. Indung said excavation machines uncovered rocks five-meters deep that resembled an ancient building complex. The conservation team, consisting of four archaeologists and four engineers, has been working ever since to find other statues. For security reasons, the campus has had to install a fence around the dig site. The archaeological find is considered vulnerable to theft, considering the historical value of the temple.

Southwest Chess Club Action!

We are due for a snow storm starting sometime between 3 and 6 a.m. tomorrow. We may get as much as 10 inches of snow, but at the moment who knows? Because of the storm's timing, everyone should be able to make it to work just fine, but coming home tomorrow evening could be a bloody nightmare, depending on how much snow falls and how quickly the city can remove it from the streets. I understand it is supposed to be fine powdery snow and the winds are going to pick up, so there will be blowing - not good. So, Southwest Chess Club has changed the agenda for tomorrow night's action, assuming the evening isn't cancelled altogether because of the stormy weather: Dear Chessplayers, Due to possibly heavy snow Thursday evening, here is the revised schedule for the next four Thursdays: (1) Tomorrow night, we will hold a 1-night event, instead of the 3-week event (now postponed by one week): Ice Storming Swift Swiss: January 7 3-Round Swiss in Two Sections (G/30 Minutes and G/29Minutes). USCF Rated. EF: $5. (½-Point Bye availablefor only first round if requested prior to round) TD isBecker; ATD is Grochowski. *** Please watch our website and blog on Thursday (after 2 PM), if for any reason we need to cancel the club meeting due to bad weather. At this point, the CLUB WILL MEET tomorrow night, but check and/or after 2 PM Thursday for any snow-cancellation news. (2) Next week, we are starting the "Ice on Lake Michigan Swiss" (originally planned for tomorrow night): Ice on Lake Michigan Swiss: January 14, 21, & 28 (note NEW DATES) 3-Round Swiss in Two Sections (Open and U1600).Game/100 minutes. USCF Rated. EF: $5. (One ½-PointBye Available for any round (except round three) if requestedat least 2-days prior to round). TD is Grochowski; ATD is Becker. Next Thursday, we plan to start promptly at 7:00 p.m. Registration is 6:30-6:55 p.m. We will close the registration at 6:55. If you arrive after first-round pairings are prepared, you will have to take a 1/2-point bye in the first round. However, if you want to play but anticipate being a few minutes late, please e-mail Robin ( or Allen (, or call Robin (414-744-4872 or 414-861-2745) prior to 5:30 p.m. on January 14, so we can include you in the pairings. If you need a first round bye please let Robin or Allen know as soon as possible and you can have one. (Anyone who requested a 1st-round bye, please let us know if that is still true, due to the postponed start of the event).

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Canadian-Carved Goddess of Mercy to Visit Vietnam

Goddess of Mercy jade statue to visit Vietnam 15:18' 05/01/2010 (GMT+7) VietNamNet Bridge – The giant statue of the Goddess of Mercy, which is made from the largest jade block in the world, will be brought to Vietnam in mid-January 2010. The 1.1m high, 285kg statue is sculpted from the largest jade block in the world in Canada. In 2008, part of this jade block was used to make a Buddha statue of 2.7m high, 4 tonnes in weight. The Goddess of Mercy statue will appear at the Chiang Rai pagoda in Thailand on January 15. It will also appear afterwards at a great celebration held by the Thai royal family in Bangkok. The statue will then be brought to the Quan The Am pagoda in Danang on January 19. From January to April, the statue will go to Hanoi, HCM City, Hai Duong, Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh.

More on "Lost" Pre-Hispanic Amazon Civllizations

Modern satellite technology is revealing astounding things in what's left of the Amazonian forests. "Lost" Amazon Complex Found; Shapes Seen by Satellite John Roach for National Geographic News January 4, 2010 Hundreds of circles, squares, and other geometric shapes once hidden by forest hint at a previously unknown ancient society that flourished in the Amazon, a new study says. Satellite images of the upper Amazon Basin taken since 1999 have revealed more than 200 geometric earthworks spanning a distance greater than 155 miles (250 kilometers). Now researchers estimate that nearly ten times as many such structures—of unknown purpose—may exist undetected under the Amazon's forest cover. At least one of the sites has been dated to around A.D. 1283, although others may date as far back as A.D. 200 to 300, said study co-author Denise Schaan, an anthropologist at the Federal University of Pará in Belém, Brazil. The discovery adds to evidence that the hinterlands of the Amazon once teemed with complex societies, which were largely wiped out by diseases brought to South America by European colonists in the 15th and 16th centuries, Schaan said. Since these vanished societies had gone unrecorded, previous research had suggested that soils in the upper Amazon were too poor to support the extensive agriculture needed for such large, permanent settlements. "We found that this picture is wrong," Schaan said. "And there is a lot more to discover in these places." Wide-reaching Culture The newfound shapes are created by a series of trenches about 36 feet (11 meters) wide and several feet deep, with adjacent banks up to 3 feet (1 meter) tall. Straight roads connect many of the earthworks. Preliminary excavations at one of the sites in 2008 revealed that some of the earthworks were surrounded by low mounds containing domestic ceramics, charcoal, grinding-stone fragments, and other evidence of habitation. But who built the structures and what functions they served remains a mystery. Ideas range from defensive buildings to ceremonial centers and homes, the study authors say. Rest of article.

New Method for DNA Sequencing Ancient Human Bones

From BBC News DNA analysed from early European By Paul Rincon Science reporter, BBC News Scientists have analysed DNA extracted from the remains of a 30,000-year-old European hunter-gatherer. Studying the DNA of long-dead humans can open up a window into the evolution of our species (Homo sapiens). But previous studies of this kind have been hampered by scientists' inability to distinguish between the ancient human DNA and modern contamination. In Current Biology journal, a German-Russian team details how it was possible to overcome this hurdle. Svante Paabo, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and colleagues used the latest DNA sequencing techniques to study genetic information from human remains unearthed in 1954 at Kostenki, Russia. Excavations at Kostenki, on the banks of the river Don in southern Russia, have yielded large concentrations of archaeological finds from the Palaeolithic (roughly 40,000 years ago to 10,000 years ago). Some of the finds date back as far as 45,000 years. The DNA analysed in this study comes from a male aged 20-25 who was deliberately buried in an oval pit some 30,000 years ago. Known as the Markina Gora skeleton, it was found lying in a crouched position with fists reaching upwards and a face orientated down towards the dirt. The bones were covered in a pigment called red ochre, thought to have been used in prehistoric funeral rites. The type of DNA extracted and analysed is that stored in mitochondria - the "powerhouses" of cells. This mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) is passed down from a mother to her offspring, providing a unique record of maternal inheritance. Using technology pioneered in the study of DNA from Neanderthal bones, they were able to distinguish between ancient genetic material from the Kostenki male and contamination from modern people who handled the bones, or whose DNA reached the remains by some other means. . . . The apparent ease with which modern DNA can infiltrate ancient remains has led many researchers to doubt even those studies employing the most rigorous methods to weed out contamination by modern genetic material. "The ironic thing is that our group has been one of those that raised this issue," Professor Paabo told BBC News. "To take animal studies on cave bears, for example, if we use PCR primers specific for human DNA on cave bear bones, we can retrieve modern human DNA on almost every one. That has made me think: 'how can I trust anything on this'." Using the new techniques, the researchers were able to sequence the entire mitochondrial genome of the Markina Gora individual. Future studies like the one in Current Biology could help shed light on whether the humans living in Europe 30,000 years ago are the direct ancestors of modern populations or whether they were replaced by immigrants who introduced farming to the continent several thousand years ago. . . . . . . What I want to know is - if we cannot rely on any earlier DNA tests because of the evident ease of cross-contamination from modern human DNA, are all of the results from prior DNA dating of ancient (and not so ancient) bones going to be thrown out as unreliable? Somehow - I doubt it; I hope I am proven wrong, but no doubt extensive restesting would prove prohibitively expensive. So, will future text books contain asterisks after certain findings, indicative of questionable results obtained from before this new technique is applied to future finds? By the way, I got a real hoot out of how the artist who did what I assume is a reconstruction of the skull from the Markina Gora skeleton made him look like a Neanderthal! Heavy overarching brow line, uber-large wide nose, wide mouth out of proportion to the rest of the bone structure. Ha! According to currently accepted chronology, Neanderthal man more than likely wouldn't have been alive in that part of the world in 30,000 BCE and it is a controversial idea that Neanderthal buried their dead.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Good Stories Never Die

Well, knock me over with a feather - Noah's Ark is in the news once again! It only goes to show that a really great story never dies. No wonder Moses appropriated it from the Babylonians. From Relic reveals Noah's ark was circular • Newly translated tablet gives building instructions • Amateur historian's find was almost overlooked Maev Kennedy, Friday 1 January 2010 22.35 GMT That they processed aboard the enormous floating wildlife collection two-by-two is well known. Less familiar, however, is the possibility that the animals Noah shepherded on to his ark then went round and round inside. According to newly translated instructions inscribed in ancient Babylonian on a clay tablet telling the story of the ark, the vessel that saved one virtuous man, his family and the animals from god's watery wrath was not the pointy-prowed craft of popular imagination but rather a giant circular reed raft. The now battered tablet, aged about 3,700 years, was found somewhere in the Middle East by Leonard Simmons, a largely self-educated Londoner who indulged his passion for history while serving in the RAF from 1945 to 1948. The relic was passed to his son Douglas, who took it to one of the few people in the world who could read it as easily as the back of a cornflakes box; he gave it to Irving Finkel, a British Museum expert, who translated its 60 lines of neat cuneiform script. There are dozens of ancient tablets that have been found which describe the flood story but Finkel says this one is the first to describe the vessel's shape. "In all the images ever made people assumed the ark was, in effect, an ocean-going boat, with a pointed stem and stern for riding the waves – so that is how they portrayed it," said Finkel. "But the ark didn't have to go anywhere, it just had to float, and the instructions are for a type of craft which they knew very well. It's still sometimes used in Iran and Iraq today, a type of round coracle which they would have known exactly how to use to transport animals across a river or floods." Finkel's research throws light on the familiar Mesopotamian story, which became the account in Genesis, in the Old Testament, of Noah and the ark that saved his menagerie from the waters which drowned every other living thing on earth. In his translation, the god who has decided to spare one just man speaks to Atram-Hasis, a Sumerian king who lived before the flood and who is the Noah figure in earlier versions of the ark story. "Wall, wall! Reed wall, reed wall! Atram-Hasis, pay heed to my advice, that you may live forever! Destroy your house, build a boat; despise possessions And save life! Draw out the boat that you will built with a circular design; Let its length and breadth be the same." The tablet goes on to command the use of plaited palm fibre, waterproofed with bitumen, before the construction of cabins for the people and wild animals. It ends with the dramatic command of Atram-Hasis to the unfortunate boat builder whom he leaves behind to meet his fate, about sealing up the door once everyone else is safely inside: "When I shall have gone into the boat, Caulk the frame of the door!" Fortunes were spent in the 19th century by biblical archaeology enthusiasts in hunts for evidence of Noah's flood. The Mesopotamian flood myth was incorporated into the great poetic epic Gilgamesh, and Finkel, curator of the recent British Museum exhibition on ancient Babylon, believes that it was during the Babylonian captivity that the exiled Jews learned the story, brought it home with them, and incorporated it into the Old Testament. Despite its unique status, Simmons' tablet – which has been dated to around 1,700 BC and is only a few centuries younger than the oldest known account – was very nearly overlooked. "When my dad eventually came home, he shipped a whole tea chest of this kind of stuff home – seals, tablets, bits of pottery," said Douglas. "He would have picked them up in bazaars, or when people knew he was interested in this sort of thing, they would have brought them to him and earned a few bob." Simmons senior became a scenery worker at the BBC, but kept up his love of history, and was very disappointed when academics dismissed treasures of his as commonplace and worthless. His son took the tablet to a British Museum open day, where Finkel "took one look at it and nearly fell off his chair" with excitement. "It is the most extraordinary thing," Simmons said of the tablet. "You hold it in your hand, and you instantly get a feeling that you are directly connected to a very ancient past – and it gives you a shiver down your spine." Raiders of the lost ark The human fascination with the flood and the whereabouts of the ark shows few signs of subsiding. The story has travelled down the centuries from the ancient Babylonians and continues to fascinate in the 21st century. Countless expeditions have travelled to Mount Ararat in Turkey, where Noah's ark is said to have come to rest, but scientific proof of its existence has yet to be found. Recent efforts to find it have been led by creationists, who are keen to exhibit it as evidence of the literal truth of the Bible. "If the flood of Noah indeed wiped out the entire human race and its civilization, as the Bible teaches, then the ark constitutes the one remaining major link to the pre-flood world," says John D Morris of the Institute for Creation Research. "No significant artefact could ever be of greater antiquity or importance." In the Victorian era some became obsessed with the ark story. George Smith – the lowly British museum assistant who, in 1872, deciphered the Flood Tablet which is inscribed with the Assyrian version of the Noah's ark tale – could apparently not contain his excitement at his discovery. According to the museum's archives: "He jumped up and rushed about the room in a great state of excitement and to the astonishment of those present began to undress himself."

Action at Southwest Chess Club

This Thursday the Southwest Chess Club presents “Ice on Lake Michigan Swiss” (see below for details). We plan to start promptly at 7:00 p.m. Registration is 6:30-6:55 p.m. I plan to close the registration at 6:55. If you arrive after first-round pairings are prepared, you will have to take a 1/2-point bye in the first round. However, if you want to play but anticipate being a few minutes late, please e-mail myself ( or Tom (, or call me (414-744-4872 or 414-861-2745) prior to 5:30 p.m. on January 7, so I can include you in the pairings. If you need a first round bye please let me or Tom know as soon as possible and you can have one. The Southwest Chess Club meets every Thursday night from 6:00 PM at the St. James Catholic Church in the lower level of the Parish Center building (immediately in front of the church). The address is 7219 South 27th Street in Franklin, WI. The club opens at 6 PM, Tournament Games at 7 PM. Here is a map to the club. We are just south of Rawson on 27th, and close to I-94 in Franklin.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Candy Cane Lane Raises 20% More!

This is the spot that Ann took Mr. Don and I on December 23rd after our delicious meal at Kegel's. Visiting Candy Cane Lane, getting a few pieces of hard candy from the volunteers, and putting some money into a bucket is a Milwaukee tradition. Candy Cane Lane holiday display raises $82,000 By Georgia Pabst of the Journal Sentinel Posted: Jan. 3, 2010 2:22 p.m. Visitors to the Candy Cane Lane display of residential holiday lights in West Allis helped raise nearly $82,000 this season, about 20% more than last year, to benefit the MACC Fund, said Lora Kaelber, development officer for the fund. The Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer fund supports pediatric cancer and blood disorder research. Residents visiting Candy Cane Lane for the last 24 years have raised more than $1 million for the MACC Fund, she said. Candy Cane Lane includes an area bounded by Oklahoma and Montana Avenues and S. 92nd to 96th Sts. When cars, vans, trucks and even buses wend their way through the streets of decorated homes, they receive candy that's donated by a variety of groups, and then many who visit make a contribution into fund-raising containers. Candy Cane Lane on You Tube.

Mary Anning: The Princess of Paleontology

I read about this remarkable woman in a book review of author Tracy Chevalier's new book "Remarkable Creatures" in today's newspaper. One of my favorite habits is relaxing on Sunday morning with coffee and the paper, and spending three and sometimes more hours pouring through most of the various pages, only the motor vehicle, want-ads and personals excepted from my perusal :) I found this rendition of the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel's article online at Yahoo News (an AP Associated Press article). Image: Author Tracy Chevalier uses the discovery of a fossil eye, shown in the head of a plesiosaur at London's Museum of Natural History, as the basis of her new novel, "Remarkable Creatures." By David Azia, Associated Press. Fossil hunter is subject of Chevalier's new novel BY MARCUS BROGDEN, Associated Press Writer Marcus Brogden, Associated Press Writer – Mon Dec 28, 8:44 am ET LONDON – Tracy Chevalier sits in the Victorian grandeur of London's Museum of Natural History next to the skeletal remains of a giant eye, the shape and size of a pineapple ring. "It's so big it's kind of funny. ... It's like a cartoon. But that's often the quality of dinosaurs. Everything about them seems to be exaggerated, their teeth, their size, their claws...," says the author of "Girl With a Pearl Earring." The eye belongs to a plesiosaur and was found in the English seaside town of Lyme Regis in the early 1800s by amateur fossil hunter and seller Mary Anning — the subject of Chevalier's new novel, "Remarkable Creatures." From the moment Anning is struck by lightning as a baby — "which people said made her strange and extra-bright" — it is clear she is marked for greatness, says Chevalier. In the book, working-class Anning meets the middle-class unmarried Elizabeth Philpot and through their mutual love for fossils, the two strike up a strange camaraderie. Anning, the subject of the tongue-twister "She Sells Sea Shells on the Sea Shore," is on the hunt for what she believes to be a giant crocodile similar to one (later named an ichthyosaurus) she found in 1811 when she was 12, which later rocked the scientific world. Then one fateful day, she finds herself staring into the eye of the strangest beast she's ever encountered. "The eye is enormous," says Chevalier, her voice echoing around the Richard Owen-designed "cathedral of nature," while a dimly lit statue of Charles Darwin looks on from its rear. "When you look at it, you realize the minute her and Elizabeth saw it they must have known it couldn't be a crocodile." Professor Philip Davis of Liverpool University, author of "Why Victorian Literature Still Matters," said there are two types of writing about the 19th century. "There's the patronizing stuff," he says. "Victorian repression, covering up piano legs, that kind of nonsense which wants to make us seem oh-so-cool and progressive." However, he says the 19th century comes to life when writers see how it is the foundation of our modern life in "all its questionings, discoveries and innovations." He said the fascination of writing about the time is that "the problems and conflicts of the modern world began there — in matters of faith and science, family and women's rights, vocation and economics." In "Remarkable Creatures," which comes out in the United States on Jan. 5, Anning's finds challenge ideas about the world's creation and stimulate debate over our origins. She unearthed a plesiosaurus in 1823, a pterodactyl in 1828 and a squaloraja (a transition fish, between sharks and rays) in 1829. But in an arena dominated by men, she is soon reduced to a serving role, facing prejudice from the academic community, vicious gossip from neighbors and the heartbreak of forbidden love. This provides the central narrative as Anning emerges to become a famous fossil hunter, with friend and protector Philpot to defend her against the men who try to take credit for her finds. In 1984, Chevalier moved from Washington to London, where she lives with her husband and son. She enjoyed enormous success with "Girl With a Pearl Earring" (1999), worked in a cemetery for "Falling Angels" (2001), spent time in a Medieval tapestry studio for "The Lady and the Unicorn" (2003) and researched the making of Dorset Buttons for "Burning Bright" (2007). And on this day, she's bouncing from display to display of dinosaurs. "This is a relative of a plesiosaur ... has a huge jaw," she says, pointing to a large glass case in the main hall. Chevalier says before she discovered Anning's story "in a little dinosaur museum in the English town of Dorchester," she really knew nothing about things such as plesiosaurs. "I'm as surprised as anyone else. ... My background is not science. It's art or literature, but I always like to try to challenge myself and go in a new direction with books otherwise I get in a rut and write the same thing," she says. "I want to keep readers guessing, and myself guessing, too, so it was like opening up a whole new world that I spent two and a half years finding out about." Read more about Mary Anning. [Note: The portrait in this article is not Mary Anning, it is Mary Ann (Anne) Mantel, another amateur "fossil hunter" who seems to have achieved a measure of fame primarily because she was married to a doctor and was very pretty. Hmmm....]

Polgars in the News

This article was in my local newspaper this morning, an interview of 20 questions with actor Bruce Greenwood (Captain Christopher pike in the 'new' Star Trek movie) from Busy Bruce Greenwood makes time for Q&A December 3, 2009 5. Your ideal brain food? Chess: 5334 Problems, Combinations and Games, by Laszlo Polgar. A restrospective article at on the year Texas Tech's chess program and SPICE have had: Polgar: A fantastic 2009 for Susan Polgar Institute of Chess Excellence Lubbock Avalanche-Journal Sunday, December 27, 2009 And Judit Polgar reminds us - as much as we take her for granted as the World's #1 female player for seemingly forever, that she is merciless and capable of uncorking amazing moves in a game at any time. She reminded us of that in this game again GM Boris Gelfand, who went on to win the 2009 Chess World Cup: Posted on 09:45 PM, December 17, 2009 Chess Piece -- Bobby Ang Gelfand wins World Cup The FIDE World Chess Cup took place in the oil-boom town of Khanty-Mansiysk, in that general part of Russia we usually refer to as Siberia, from Nov. 20 up to Dec. 15, 2009. It was a seven-round knockout event comprising of 128 players with six rounds of matches comprising two games per round, with the winners progressing to the next round. The final seventh round consists of four games. The time control is 90 minutes for the first 40 moves followed by 30 minutes for the rest of the game with an increment of 30 seconds per move from move one. Aside from the huge cash prizes, the winner of the World Chess Cup automatically qualifies for the Candidates’ match-tournament, from which the challenger to the world championship title will come from. The Israeli GM Boris Gelfand, at 2758 the top seed among 128 players competing, lived up to his billing by defeating host player Andre Obodchuk (1.5-0.5), the tough Tajik Farrukh Amonatov (1.5-0.5), Judit Polgar (3.5-1.5), top Frenchman Vachier-Lagrave (4.5-3.5), Dmitry Jakovenko (3.5-1.5), Sergey Karjakin (2.0-0.0), and, in the finals, Ruslan Ponomariov 7.0-5.0. Gelfand showed good form and opening preparation all throughout the competition -- he lost only one game, when he forgot just how dangerous an attacker Judit Polgar is: Polgar, Judit (2680) �� Gelfand, Boris (2758) [C24]World Cup Khanty-Mansiysk RUS (3.2), 28.11.2009 1.e4 e5 2.Bc4 (this is a must-win game so Polgar avoids the Petroff) 2...Nf6 3.d3 c6 4.Qe2 Be7 5.Nf3 0��“0 6.Bb3 [Not 6.Nxe5?? Qa5+] 6...d6 7.0��“0 Nbd7 8.c3 a5 9.a4 b5 10.Bc2 Ba6 11.axb5 cxb5 12.Nbd2 Qc7 13.d4 a4 14.Bd3 Rfb8 15.Nh4 g6 16.f4 exf4 17.Ndf3 Nh5 18.Bd2 Nb6 19.g4! fxg3 20.Ng5 Bxg5 21.Bxg5 Nc4 22.Nf5 f6 23.Bh4 gxh2+ 24.Qxh2 Rf8 25.Be2 gxf5 26.Bxh5 fxe4 27.Qf4 f5? [The only move to continue fighting is 27...Qe7!?] 28.Kh1! Kh8 29.Rg1 Rf7 30.Bxf7 Qxf7 31.Qh6 Rf8 32.Rg6 (Black has no defense to Bf6+) 1��0
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