Saturday, January 23, 2010

Computer Labs for Kids: First Project for 2010!

News from Shira Evans, the driving force behind Computer Labs for Kids: January 22, 2019: In just a few weeks we will have another Computer Labs for Kids charity event at United Care (a foster care agency) in Los Angeles, CA. This time there will be children from two different foster centers attending - United Care and Olive Crest. There will be twenty children between the ages of 5 through 8. As far as I know, what we are doing isn't done anywhere by any organization. It is extremely unique and desired. I have centers all over the world that want me to come and hold a course, and I'm currently booked up into next year. The reason we are unique and no one else is doing what we are doing is because our program is giving laptops to kids personally. We are teaching them how to be responsible for their laptops and what it means to be owner, and we are using one-on-one volunteers to do all this. The foster centers are blown-away by what we are offering and wanting more than I am able to give at this time. I am working alone and relying solely on the contributions of volunteers. Some of the stories my volunteers told me: My child told me that she wishes she had more days like this! The boy that I had didn't really believe he was going to get a laptop at the end and kept saying, I can REALLY keep it??? One child who arrived upset and non-cooperative was holding his volunteers hand by the end of the course. The kids we are reaching need what we are offering, and it is extremely useful to them as well as fun and exciting for the volunteers. There are three ways you can help us. 1. Donate to our project. (We rely entirely on private donations and won't be able to continue without your help.) 2. Volunteer at one of upcoming classes. (Evite for LA event. Evite for Dallas event.) 3. Tell your friends and people you know about our organization. (I am happy to mail you out a DVD.) Many thanks! Shira-- Shira Evans Executive Director Computer Labs for Kids, Inc. 278 E Colorado Blvd #1617 Pasadena, CA 91101 Phone (626) 408-2390 Fax (267) 345-2449 If you live in the Los Angeles or Dallas areas and are interested in learning more about volunteering for the upcoming projects, please contact Shira. I can tell you first hand that as a volunteer in Chicago I had a blast and met some of the most wonderful, interesting people I've ever met. Working with these volunteers and the children was so fulfilling -- Please consider making a donation to Computer Labs for Kids, which is fully tax deductible. Every little bit helps. Shira is doing remarkable work. Our kids deserve this.

Actress Jean Simmons Has Died

She is one of my favorites. I remember her for two roles more than all the other films she made (and she made a lot of films) - The Robe (Richard Burton) and The Big Country (Gregory Peck). Image from Classic Forever blogspot. Here is one of the stories, this one from The Los Angeles Times: Jean Simmons dies at 80; radiant beauty was known for stunning versatility Over a career that spanned more than 60 years, she appeared in about 55 feature films and nearly as many television productions. By Valerie J. Nelson January 23, 2010 Jean Simmons, a radiant British actress who as a teenager appeared opposite Laurence Olivier in "Hamlet" and emerged a star whose career flourished in the 1950s and 1960s in such films as "Guys and Dolls, "Elmer Gantry" and "Spartacus," has died. She was 80. Simmons, who won an Emmy Award for her role in the 1980s miniseries "The Thorn Birds," died Friday evening at her home in Santa Monica, said Judy Page, her agent. She had lung cancer. "Jean Simmons' jaw-dropping beauty often obscured a formidable acting talent," Alan K. Rode, a writer and film historian, told The Times in an e-mail. Plucked from a dance class by a talent scout at the age of 14, she had already made several movies before gaining attention for her portrayal of the young Estella in David Lean's film adaptation of the Charles Dickens novel "Great Expectations." Considered one of the greatest British movies ever made, it had lasting impact on the actress, who was 17 the year it was released. Until then, moviemaking had mainly been "fun and games," she later said, but she realized it could be a career. "That's when I thought, 'Oh, yes, I think this is it,' " Simmons told the San Diego Union-Tribune in 1990. After Olivier cast her as Ophelia in his 1948 film “Hamlet,” she received the first of two Academy Award nominations. More than 20 years later, she was nominated for her searing portrayal of an alcoholic wife in "The Happy Ending." Olivier urged the young actress to perfect her craft by acting on stage, but she chose a more romantic path -- and followed her future husband, dashing British screen idol Stewart Granger, to Hollywood. Howard Hughes bought her film contract from a British company but nearly strangled her fledgling American career. After she became entangled in a contractual lawsuit with Hughes, then head of RKO Studios, he prevented her from appearing in many meaningful roles until the suit was settled. "An outstanding exception of her time at RKO was 'Angel Face' [1952], a wonderfully dark film noir that had Simmons playing a femme fatale with murderous intentions opposite Robert Mitchum," Rode wrote. Over a career that spanned more than 60 years, she appeared in about 55 feature films and nearly as many television productions. In the 1950s and 1960s, she made more than 30 movies and displayed her versatility by appearing in costume epics, romances, musicals and dramas. She co-starred with such notable actors as Richard Burton in "The Robe," Gregory Peck in the western "The Big Country," Marlon Brando in "Desiree," and Brando and Frank Sinatra in “Guys and Dolls.” While playing the title character in "Desiree," the mistress of Brando's Napoleon, she was so in awe of the actor that "I was sort of forgetting what I was supposed to do," she said in 1990 in the Union-Tribune. When Brando and Simmons next starred in "Guys and Dolls" in 1955, they were initially supposed to lip-sync their songs. During rehearsal, "Samuel Goldwyn came on the set one day and he heard us and said, 'I think it's better you do your own singing. . . . Maybe you don't sound so good, but at least it's you,' " she recalled in the Union-Tribune interview. Among her films, she favored 1953's "The Actress," which she said she "just loved" for the "sheer heaven" of working with Spencer Tracy, who became a good friend, she said in the 1990 interview. She also enjoyed "The Grass Is Greener," which co-starred Cary Grant, "because it was comedy and I usually play these uptight puddings," she said in 1988 in the Toronto Star. In 1960, she and Granger divorced after a decade of marriage. The same year, she married Richard Brooks, who had just directed her as the saintly evangelist in "Elmer Gantry."In 1987, Brooks told People magazine, "Every man I would meet would say to me, 'I have always loved your wife,' " who was considered one of the great screen beauties of her generation." For men of a certain age, the memory of seeing Simmons naked from the back in the 1960's 'Spartacus' ranks high among their early carnal thrills," the People article said. She had portrayed Kirk Douglas' love interest in the Roman epic. More.

Masterpieces in Zimbabwe Caves

Story from the Wall Street Journal Online: January 23, 2010 Magnificence on Cave Walls Inanke's prehistoric paintings are a celebration of life (Slideshow) By MICHAEL FITZGERALD Matobo Hills, Zimbabwe The trail to the great cave of Inanke in southern Zimbabwe begins confidently with arrows painted on bare patches of granite and soon vanishes into four miles of often pathless wandering through fields of shoulder-high grass, dense scrub forests and formidable thorn bushes. Without the direction of our guide, the archaeologist Paul Hubbard, our group would never have found this cave containing some of the most magnificent prehistoric paintings in the world. But reach the approximately 30-foot-long frieze of intricately varied paintings and you will find it free of the man-made barriers, tourist hype and even substitution by reproductions that prevent modern visitors from directly experiencing most of the ancient sites in Europe. The cave is one of hundreds painted by the San people (commonly called Bushmen) about 5,000 to 10,000 years ago and located in what is now Matobo National Park, an area best-known in recent years as a successful sanctuary for white and black rhinoceros. A sign at the entrance cautions visitors that "anyone seen or suspected of poaching activities may be shot on sight," and a ramble to the caves can entail an encounter with these solitary beasts or machine-gun-toting rangers, not to mention ubiquitous packs of baboons raging at trespassers crossing their territories. The park also contains a large population of leopards. Unlike the dark, underground caves of Lascaux or Altamira in Europe, those in Matobo are located high up granite slopes in shelves scooped from the sides of the hills. They are shelters filled with light and open to surrounding vistas. Beneath Inanke's encompassing dome, herds of giraffe, eland, kudu, ostrich and duiker, among others, fill a broad painted band running the length of the back wall just above eye level. They offer a celebration of life equal to any of the mural cycles of the Renaissance. Generally rendered in silhouettes of ochre ranging from tan to mulberry in tone, this dense profusion of wildlife includes a giraffe so subtly modeled in yellow and white that one of the leading experts on African rock art, Peter Garlake, has called it the finest animal painting in the country. Next to this vivid creature, seven stick-figure men march in file with weapons on their shoulders, and many other human figures are scattered among the animals. But these are far from simple hunting scenes. A succession of highly unrealistic forms dominate the middle of the frieze and several peripheral areas. One figure towers over the menagerie, an extremely attenuated personage with the body of a man whose head is shrunk to a tiny knob and whose shoulders sprout branchlike stems. His upper torso leans forward as if struggling to stand, and lines of reddish pigment cascade to the ground from his armpits. He stands on two expansive ovals, both filled with dots, a design that is repeated in at least 16 similarly rounded and dotted shapes at the center of the wall. These ciphers define the meaning of the paintings for the San. Unlike the images in European caves, whose cultures are lost, these can be interpreted with considerable clarity because of the pioneering work of 19th-century linguists who learned the "click" language of the San and recorded beliefs that seem to have endured for millennia. This evidence has enabled archaeologists to unlock the significance of the many fantastic images in the San paintings. The hunched giant of Inanke almost certainly represents a San shaman deep in the state of "trancing," a ritual still practiced by the San as a means of gathering the forces of nature and healing suffering. Trancing is so grueling that shamans often collapse and bleed from the mouth, nose or armpits, as their imaginative connection to the natural world causes a sensation of enlargement and, sometimes, transformation into an animal or tree (apparently shown at Inanke). Fundamental to San beliefs is the concept of "potency," a measure of spiritual essence that is represented in the paintings by the stippled ovals from which the giant rises. While possibly related to beehives prized by the San, these intricately crafted shapes are largely abstract evocations of spiritual forces unifying all of nature. Scattered across the frieze and clustered at the center of Inanke, they suggest a huge reservoir representing an entire community's potency and its integration with the bounteous wildlife thronging around and over it. The dense, overlapping paintings of Inanke probably accumulated over centuries, if not millennia, and do not constitute a continuous narrative in the sense of Western art; yet their very longevity and diversity make them especially compelling expressions of San cosmology. As Mr. Garlake wrote: "For visitors able to reach Inanke, the reward is unsurpassed." The case of the San is worth particular attention. In 2009, the largest study so far undertaken of genetic diversity among Africans found the San, who once ranged across most of southern Africa, the most diverse of all peoples on the continent. This genetic abundance makes the San the most likely origin of modern humans, the population from which others spread out of Africa and across the world. Inanke and the other San paintings scattered throughout Zimbabwe and the region offer an extraordinary chance to look far back into a past we may all have shared and appreciate the early richness of the human imagination. Centuries ago, the San were driven from this verdant area into the Kalahari desert to the west, where some live in what is now Botswana and Namibia. Nonetheless, the caves have remained important. They served as hideouts during the war that brought majority rule to Zimbabwe in 1980, and they continue to be shrines revered by many. In 2003, Unesco's World Heritage Program named Matobo Hills one of two "cultural landscapes" in southern Africa, although this recognition now includes no financial support for conservation. Despite the professionalism of Matobo's rangers, the political and economic instability in Zimbabwe places the paintings in peril. The unrestricted access that is so desirable for admirers leaves the works exposed to defacement by vandals unaware or dismissive of their place in our collective history.—Mr. FitzGerald teaches the history of modern art at Trinity College.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Offensive Nipple Banned by BBC on Popular Antiques Show

Story from the BBC orders auction house to remove neo-classical goddess painting 'in case nipple offends viewers' By Daily Mail Reporter Last updated at 12:29 AM on 22nd January 2010 (Image of the "offensive" painting, done in the days when women did not use surgically implanted silicon balloons to achieve 34EEE cup size. She looks like a nice healthy farm girl to me.) BBC bosses ordered an auction house to remove a neo-classical oil painting of a semi-naked woman in case her exposed nipple offended viewers. Auctioneer Alan Aldridge was being filmed for Flog it!, BBC2's daytime antique programme, when the production team asked him to take down the 19th-century oil painting. It features the mythical Greek goddess Ariadne holding a goblet of wine with her left breast exposed. Mr Aldridge, who runs Aldridge Auctioneers in Devizes, Wiltshire, offered to cover the offending nipple, but was still told to take the canvas down. He said: 'It is absolutely ridiculous. 'This is a 19th century neo-classical work of art. I can't imagine anyone getting offended over a naked female nipple these days. 'I tried putting a Post-It note over the offending part of her anatomy, but that wasn't good enough apparently.' Flog it! presenter Paul Martin, who lives in nearby Seend and used to run an antiques shop, defended the decision saying viewers would complain. He said: 'Yes, they had to have the painting moved. It wasn't a big deal but they do get complaints about this sort of thing. You'd be surprised.' The crew were filming for an episode of Flog it! which is due to be aired in the spring. Viewers of the 30-minute programme, which involves members of the public trying to make money out of their antiques, will however see a single strand of Elvis Presley's hair being sold for £350. During the show a collection of football programmes also sold for £670. In Greek mythology, Ariadne was daughter of King Minos of Crete and his Queen Pasiphak, daughter of Helios, the sun Titan. She helped Theseus overcome the Minotaur and was also the bride of the god Dionysus.

Goddess Saraswati's Birthday and Spring

From the City exhibits shades of yellow on Basant Panchami TNN, 20 January 2010, 09:11pm IST KANPUR: Wednesday exhibited a distinctive sight of colour yellow -- flowers, food, attires that symbolically represented the augmentation of spring season, as people celebrated Basant Panchami. With the long held notion of Basant Panchami considered to herald the spring season and so the harmony and celebrations, the joyous Kanpurites greeted it with open hands. And as it was the birthday of goddess Saraswati, people offered prayers and flowers to the goddess of knowledge and learning. "As colour yellow symbolises love and affection, as well as spirituality, the festival marks beginning of celebrations and harmony. The season thus, augurs prosperity and happiness," said Shiv Dixit, priest of a temple. Denizens preferred to wear shades of yellow. Not only the clothes, yellow flowers were used as offerings and also part of decorations in households as an indication to welcome the spring Season. The Bengalis celebrated the festival with a different hue as special Bengali food including khichudi, sandesh were served on the occasion. The young ones were made to start with their learning lessons by letting them hold a chalk or pencil, as the day was auspicious and meant for learning and gaining knowledge. Many children were found keeping yellow flower in their books so as to enhance their concentration and knowledge.

Are the Pashtuns the 'Lost Tribes of Israel?'

Well! This is interesting! Israel is funding the research. Story published at the Who else? Pashtun clue to lost tribes of Israel Genetic study sets out to uncover if there is a 2,700-year-old link to Afghanistan and Pakistan Rory McCarthy, Jerusalem The Observer, Sunday 17 January 2010 Israel is to fund a rare genetic study to determine whether there is a link between the lost tribes of Israel and the Pashtuns of Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. Historical and anecdotal evidence strongly suggests a connection, but definitive scientific proof has never been found. Some leading Israeli anthropologists believe that, of all the many groups in the world who claim a connection to the 10 lost tribes, the Pashtuns, or Pathans, have the most compelling case. Paradoxically it is from the Pashtuns that the ultra-conservative Islamic Taliban movement in Afghanistan emerged. Pashtuns themselves sometimes talk of their Israelite connection, but show few signs of sympathy with, or any wish to migrate to, the modern Israeli state. Now an Indian researcher has collected blood samples from members of the Afridi tribe of Pashtuns who today live in Malihabad, near Lucknow, in northern India. Shahnaz Ali, from the National Institute of Immuno­haematology in Mumbai, is to spend several months studying her findings at Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, in Haifa. A previous genetic study in the same area did not provide proof one way or the other. The Assyrians conquered the kingdom of Israel some 2,730 years ago, scattering 10 of the 12 tribes into exile, supposedly beyond the mythical Sambation river. The two remaining tribes, Benjamin and Judah, became the modern-day Jewish people, according to Jewish history, and the search for the lost tribes has continued ever since. Some have claimed to have found traces of them in modern day China, Burma, Nigeria, Central Asia, Ethiopia and even in the West. But it is believed that the tribes were dispersed in an area around modern-day northern Iraq and Afghanistan, which makes the Pashtun connection the strongest. "Of all the groups, there is more convincing evidence about the Pathans than anybody else, but the Pathans are the ones who would reject Israel most ferociously. That is the sweet irony," said Shalva Weil, an anthropologist and senior researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The Pashtuns have a proud oral history that talks of descending from the Israelites. Their tribal groupings have similar names, including Yusufzai, which means sons of Joseph; and Afridi, thought by some to come from Ephraim. Some customs and practices are said to be similar to Jewish traditions: lighting candles on the sabbath, refraining from eating certain foods, using a canopy during a wedding ceremony and some similarities in garments. Weil cautioned, however, that this is not proof of any genetic connection. DNA might be able to determine which area of the world the Pashtuns originated from, but it is not at all certain that it could identify a specific genetic link to the Jewish people. So far Shahnaz Ali has been cautious. "The theory has been a matter of curiosity since long ago, and now I hope a scientific analysis will provide us with some answers about the Israelite origin of Afridi Pathans. We still don't know what the truth is, but efforts will certainly give us a direction," she told the Times of India last year. Some are more certain, among them Navras Aafreedi, an academic at Luck­now University, himself a Pashtun from the Afridi tribe. His family trace their roots back to Pathans from the Khyber Agency of what is today north-west Pakistan, but he believes they stretch back further to the tribe of Ephraim. "Pathans, or Pashtuns, are the only people in the world whose probable descent from the lost tribes of Israel finds mention in a number of texts from the 10th century to the present day, written by Jewish, Christian and Muslim scholars alike, both religious as well as secularists," Aafreedi said. The implications of any find are uncertain. Other groups that claim ­Israelite descent, including those known as the Bnei Menashe in India and some in Ethiopia, have migrated to Israel. That is unlikely with the Pashtuns. But Weil said the work was absorbing, well beyond questions of immigration. "I find a myth that has been so persistent for so long, for 2,000 years, really fascinating," she said.

Greed and Lies in Oxford, Alabama Government

(Photo from the article: This photo from 1998 shows a team of archaeologists from Jacksonville State University standing in front of an American Indian mound with trucks parked on top of it. JSU professor of archaeology and anthropology Harry Holstein said the trucks held the tools the team used to excavate the side of the mound. The excavation uncovered American Indian artifacts and evidence it was an artificially constructed mound that had been originally documented in 1890.) The remains of the Mound is clearly visible in this 1998 photo, trailing off to the left. The perspective is a bit tricky; perhaps it was 3 feet high in the center, where the vehicles are situated. This is, I'll admit, a shocking story to me. But why should I be surprised? The good ol' boys are still working hard down in good ol' Alabama to destroy anything that isn't sufficiently "white." $$$ are also no doubt involved. I posted an earlier story about these corrupt city officials in August, 2009. Greedy liars - these men are filth, gutter scum. I fervently wish that if there is such a place as Hell with a Devil and a pitchfork that these guys spend all eternity constantly having that pitchfork shoved up their butts. Story from the JSU professor: American Indian site is gone by Patrick McCrelessStaff Writer January 21, 2010 OXFORD — A Jacksonville State University professor says an ancient American Indian site Oxford city officials agreed not to disturb has been destroyed, but he does not know by whom. City officials claim the site is still intact. JSU professor of archaeology and anthropology Harry Holstein said the site at the historic Davis Farm property in Oxford contained remnants of an American Indian village and the 3-foot-high base of a once 30-foot-high temple mound, which he says may have contained human remains. When Holstein visited the site last summer, it was still intact. But when he returned to the area Monday, he could find no sign of the mound or the village remnants. The land is now flat, with tire tread marks clearly visible in the dirt. "It's been flattened like a pancake," Holstein said. "There is just grass over it now." Holstein believes the temple mound and village are related to a stone mound on a hill behind the Oxford Exchange. Last year workers hired by the city of Oxford attempted to destroy that mound and use the dirt below it as fill for a Sam's Club. Following protests from local residents and activists, the contractor hired by the city's Commercial Development Authority apparently stopped work there, and a private landowner says he is now providing fill dirt from his property. The city is constructing its new sports complex on land near the former Davis Farm property on the other side of Leon Smith Parkway. The area near the location of the temple mound on the Davis Farm site is slated to become ball parks. Oxford's project manager Fred Denney said the city has not disturbed the site. "We've never done anything to it," he said. Before construction began, Holstein and other JSU researchers prepared a report for the city. The report said the Davis Farm property contained some of the most significant archaeological sites in northeast Alabama. It recommended the city leave the sites alone. City officials agreed to the recommendation and told the Alabama Historical Commission the site would be left alone, Denney said. Stacye Hathorn, Alabama Historical Commission state archaeologist, confirmed Tuesday the city agreed not to disturb the sites. "No, we're not touching the mound out there," Denney said Monday. "We did have some ribbon and stakes of where to go … to show we're not going any further than this." Denney said the same thing when interviewed about the site in August. No markers were visible when a reporter visited the site on Monday. After Holstein surveyed the area, he said he could not find any stakes or markers or any signs of the American Indian site. "There was a big noticeable hump … maybe somebody stole it at night," Holstein said, jokingly. "(It) has been here since the 12th century and now it's gone. It was there when the city bought the property." Denney said University of Alabama archeologists were hired to observe the construction work. "They have been out there," he said. "They are watching us, looking to see if there are any artifacts." Denney said no artifacts have been found since construction began. He added the hiring of the archaeologists to oversee the recreation center construction had nothing to do with the earlier mound controversy. Chris Bryant, assistant director of media relations at the University of Alabama, confirmed Monday that members of the UA Office of Archaeology were working at the Davis Farm site. "The University of Alabama's Office of Archaeological Research is evaluating the archaeological significance of the site," Bryant said. "Our role is ongoing." Bryant would not be more specific about what the archaeologists were doing or if they had found any artifacts, citing a confidentiality agreement. UA archeologists were also hired to examine the stone mound behind the Oxford Exchange, but university officials last year declined to discuss their work for the same reason. [A confidentiality agreement? For a Native American archaeological site? What is going on there?] Mayor Leon Smith said Tuesday there should be archaeologists at the site, but did not know if they found anything. Smith said he was not familiar with the city's agreement to avoid disturbing the Davis Farm site. [What? He's the frigging Mayor - of course he knows.] "Fred Denney knows more about that than I do," he said. "If there is anything wrong out there, I don't know anything about it." Holstein said he never came into contact with any Alabama archaeologists during his examination of the area. According to the JSU report, which noted 12 separate excavations conducted by researchers, all of the sites on the Davis Farm property yielded hundreds of artifacts, indicating the area was occupied for thousands of years by prehistoric American Indian populations. The artifacts included gaming stones, greenstone tool fragments, and large amounts of ceramics and house wall fragments. Records indicate much of the temple mound was bulldozed by farmers in the 1950s, Holstein said. He said the apparent loss of the village and mound was significant. "History is important," he said. "There was a high probability there were human remains under that mound. It would be like tearing down Abe Lincoln's cabin." To Holstein, the sites could have been restored and turned into an attraction similar to Moundville, near Tuscaloosa."I'm not against development," Holstein said. "But you can work with the natural and cultural resources."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Selling/Buying a House: Update

IT IS OVER! No, I haven't sold my home. It is now off the market, THANK GODDESS! Darlings, you would not believe - well, maybe you will, if you have been following along the saga since its inception last November. A bit of a recap: I had put my foot down during the holidays when I was expecting guests. NO VIEWINGS. At one point, I had gotten so p'o.'d at these obnoxious brokers that I declared no viewings until AFTER Superbowl. Turns out Superbowl is some time in early February, but as the Packers are not playing, it is of no interest to me. So I said, no viewings until after January 22nd, when my guests will be gone. Anyway, the brokers do not know how to read, because I was being constantly badgered for viewings all during and after the holidays, which I said no to most of them. But I did allow a few, when the schedule of my guests and I permitted viewing that throwing us out of my own house! Was I thanked for this effort and accomodation? NOT ON YOUR LIFE. I was badgered for more showings. The culmination came last week Thursday when I absented myself from my own home for an hour (my guest was in Chicago and returning home later that evening), only to arrive home lugging two canvas bags filled with groceries to see that the people were still in my house 40 minutes after their 7 p.m. appointment. Now I ask you, what the hell were they still doing in my house when I arrived close enough down the street 40 minutes later to see cars still in my driveway? My two brokers were well aware of the fact that I do not drive, do not own a car, and walk or bus it for my transportion and to have to "disappear" from my own house for 20 minutes or so is a pain in the butt, to say the least, particularly in the winter. Particularly at night, particularly when the roads and sidewalks are icy and the windchill is below zero. You get the picture. Where the flying F*** am I supposed to "disappear" to while the "viewing" is going on? There is not a convenient Starbucks parked across the street, or even a mile away! After complaining about this aggregious breach of broker/buyer etiquette (not to mention just plain common courtesy of putting someone out of their own home on a weeknight for more than 40 minutes), I heard exactly -- NOTHING -- from either of my brokers. SIX DAYS GO BY AND NOT A WORD FROM EITHER OF MY BROKERS. Fast forward to yesterday. I receive an email from one of my brokers saying something like hooray, we have received another offer! The offer was attached. While I cannot be certain, I suspected it was from the aggregious encroachers. The offer was for $19,000 less than my listing price. Our local market is not THAT depressed. It was an insult, pure and simple. In a remarkable exercise of restraint, I waited until I was calmed down and then emailed one of my brokers and told her that I was not interested in accepting any offer for less than full list price. I INSTRUCTED HER TO PREPARE AND SEND ME A COUNTEROFFER SETTING FORTH FULL PURCHASE PRICE, I WOULD SIGN IT AND FAX OR EMAIL IT BACK TO HER EITHER BEFORE 5 P.M. YESTERDAY OR SHORTLY AFTER 8:30 A.M. TODAY. I HEARD NOTHING FROM EITHER OF MY BROKERS FOR NEARLY 24 HOURS. These brokers totally disregarded their fiduciary duty and dismissed AND DID NOT EXECUTE my clearly written and emailed instructions to tender a counteroffer back for the full purchase price, which should have been done before 5 p.m. yesterday. Around 7:30 p.m. last evening I received yet another emailed request from one of my brokers for a viewing of the house today between 5 and 5:15 p.m. I wrote back, as I had so often during more than the last month, that no, my guest was not leaving until January 22nd, and then it would take me a day or two to get the house in order, and showings could be scheduled after that. I was quite prepared to terminate the contract for cause and haul them before the Licensing Board on a complaint. It would have been a pleasure to do so, believe me. Instead, finally - sometime between 2:30 and 3 p.m. this afternoon, I receive a call - AT MY OFFICE - from BOTH of my brokers. The old double-team gambit. I will spare you the boring details and their self-serving bullshit. It was clear from the start that they were determined either to browbeat me into allowing them to "negotiate" with the buyers who tendered that ridiculous offer OR they were determined to cut me lose (I suspect that they had consulted their legal department on how to deal with me, such a problem client, and cut me lose without terminating their precious Listing Contract). Now, it was my original intention to negotiate an acceptable purchase price in the face of the ridiculous offer - acceptable to me. My instructions to my brokers to tender a counteroffer for the full purchase price had reasoning behind it. Only consider, If I had instead tendered a counteroffer for anything less than full purchase price, I am automatically cutting off some of my legs and negotiating strength. Now why in the hell would a rational person ever do something like that? My reasoning was that if these buyers really wanted the property, they would counter the counter - negotiations would commence. But if they were just trying to jack me around and were not really interested in buying my house, they would say to hell with you lady and walk. Lots of time saved and the bullshit and stress kept to a minimum. But my brokers weren't interested in hearing any explanation of MY negotiatging tactics from me. Not that I was obliged to explain anything to them, in any event! NOOOOOOOOO, THEY WANTED TO NEGOTIATE but - not follow my wishes. But who is employing whom here? Whose wishes are supposed to be supreme - the employer's? Or the employees'? Why was it incumbent upon ME to say oh yeah, all right, I'm just going to roll over and say do it to me whatever way you want, buyers. And I'll smile and thank you for it too. Yeah, they wanted me to negotiate all right. They wanted me to negotiate ON THE BUYERS' TERMS INSTEAD OF MY OWN. But I'm paying THEM to work for ME. Well, I wasn't about to play that game, not after the fiasco of the LAST offer they conned me into accepting. Guess what, brokers, you out-smarted yourself out of a nice juicy commission because it was quite obvious from day one that there was a lot of interest in my house - the brokers were so kind as to send me statistics of viewings of my property at their website to prove what a great marketing job they were doing, just putting my property out onh the internet (gee whiz!). If they had just given me peace and quiet as I'd requested, until January 22nd. Instead, I was accused of - gasp - not marketing my property aggressively enough! Thankfully, I am now free of those numbskulls! Thank you GODDESS! No more requests for showings on less than 24 hours notice! No more attempting to maintain an impossibly spotless house 24/7. No more non-responses to my emails. There were PLENTY of non-responses to MY requests to view properties and to MY requests to not badger me for showings until after January 22nd. I was so fricking stupid, too. I actually trusted their market analysis in pricing this house because they work for a big-name local broker and I figured they knew what they were doing, and I trusted that after I explained to them the limitations on viewing during the holiday season and the limitations on viewing in general (because I do not have a car that I can just "jump into" and drive to the mall for an hour at the drop of a hat), that they would actually HONOR my instructions. I trusted them to carry out my instructions and have my best interests at heart. I should have known better, but I didn't. Incredible that at 58 I am still so naive. If I were a bitch - I'm still thinking about that - I would not hesitate to write up these two brokers to the state agency that oversees such activities. I am also considering writing a complaint about the listing broker on the house I did write an offer on, which was terminated on December 23, 2009 (which I did not receive written confirmation of from my brokers until a week or so later. Gee thanks, ladies). I have yet to receive a refund of my earnest money deposit, despite two requests for same. Of course, I tendered those requests through one of my brokers - and I have only her "word" that she passed the requests along to the listing broker. Like now I really trust her, yeah. The language in the Offer says that the earnest money is to be returned within "a reasonable time." Tick tick tick. That brokerage gets to keep my earnest money for going on 30 days, and what I received today (via one of my brokers) is a vague comment that I will get a check "sometime next week." I am going to sleep on this for 24 hours and see if I have a better-nature - or not. In the meantime, my key is OUT of the lockbox and that obnoxious sign of theirs in my front yard will be removed in a week. My house is being delisted from the MLS (Multiple Listing Service) pronto, because - of course - they have to pay for THAT! But they also have to pay to have someone remove the sign, so they are not so fast to do THAT. The original owners of Wauwatosa Realty must be rolling in their graves at how much their formerly great customer-oriented service company has degenerated. I was around when the original "merger" took place - I remember what it was like before then. It is very sad. These brokers weren't working for me. They didn't give a rat's tushy about me, their client. They were only interested in scoring a quick and fat 6% commission while doing as little work as possible and prodding me to do as much as possible to make their job easier! They are dishonorable people.

Wisconsin All Girls State Championships

Once again the Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Federation is holding an all girls state scholastic championship. Here are the details!
Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Federation’s Fifth Annual All-Girls Scholastic Chess Tournament Saturday April 10, 2010 Sponsored by Acuity Insurance
Location: Acuity Insurance Corporate Office 2800 S. Taylor Drive Sheboygan, WI 53081 Format: Three Sections K – 3 K – 6 Open (K-12) 5 Round Swiss G30 WSCF K - 3 Three Team Trophies. Individual trophies to top 5 players. WSCF K – 6 Three Team Trophies. Individual trophies to top 5 players. WSCF Open (K – 12) Three Team Trophies. Individual trophies to top 5 players Medals to all participants. Scholarships: K – 3 $ 100 to Champion K – 6 $ 200 to Champion Open $ 400 to Champion, $200 to 2nd Place, $100 to 3rd Place Entry: No Entry FEE Register on line at before Thursday April 8th at 11: 00 pm. There will be no onsite registration. Each entrant, parents and coaches will receive a free lunch. Each participant will receive a tournament T-shirt. Scholarships provided by Acuity Insurance. Transportation: Acuity will pay for buses to transport students from Kenosha/Racine, Madison and Green Bay. Students living in Milwaukee can ride on a bus provided by Milwaukee Public Schools. Contact WSCF at for more information. Schedule: 8:15 – 9:00 Check in. 9:30 Round 1 9:45 Presentation and discussion lead by Bob Patterson-Sumwalt on “Why Chess for Kids, Using Chess as an educational tool in the classroom and how to run a chess club” 11:00 – 3:00 Free Game Analysis 10:00 – 2:00 Free Lunch and Snacks 3:00 – 4:00 Awards (I assume somewhere in here Rounds 2, 3, 4 and 5 will also be held. Five games - G30 = 2.5 hours. ) Supervision: At least one designated adult supervisor must be present at all times during the tournament to oversee your school’s team, or individual participants who are in K through 8th grade. Note: WSCF reserves the rights to change the number of trophies depending upon number or registrations. Divisions maybe combined if the number of participants warrant. Inclement Weather: In case of inclement weather please go to the WSCF website before 7:30 am on April 10th to determine if the tournament is delayed, postponed or cancelled. The Wisconsin Scholastic Chess Federation (WSCF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit association dedicated to promoting chess for all youth in Wisconsin Thank you so MUCH, Acuity Insurance, for being a sponsor and also providing scholarships for this great event!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ladies, Ladies!

The ladies are in the news. Thanks, Isis, for the heads-up on the Joan of Arc and English 'queen' articles. Germany is finally moving into the 20th century (oops! It's already the 21st century - oh well, Germany will catch up, eventually...) From The New York Times (January 19, 2010): In Germany, a Tradition Falls, and Women Rise Joan of Arc Relics Proved Fake (well -duh!) From Discovery News (January 20, 2010): Joan of Arc 'Relics' Confirmed to Be Fake How did the bones of two ancient Egyptian mummies -- one human, the other feline -- end up in a bottle that supposedly contained the remains of Joan of Arc? The remains of one of the early ladies of the 'English' royal family (Queen Eadgyth, pronounced Edith) may have been discovered in a cathedral in Germany- she was shipped out and married off at an early age, probably to some fat old dude with really bad halitosis who farted, had rotting stubs of teeth and had warts. Eeeeuuuuuwwwww... She died at 36, probably thanking Goddess for 'taking' her so early. From BBC News (January 20, 2010): Early queen's skeleton 'found in German cathedral' Remains of one of the earliest members of the English royal family may have been unearthed in a German cathedral, a Bristol University research team says.

Part of Iranian Anahita Temple Destroyed

CAIS reports: Sections of Anahita Temple at Kangavar Destroyed By New Construction Wednesday, 20 January 2010 10:48 LONDON, (CAIS) -- Once again pre-Islamic Iranian heritage faces destruction, this time the victim is the famous historical platform known as the Anahita Temple, in the township of Kangavar in Kermanshah Province. The damages have been caused by construction activities including excavations for concrete-footings on the ancient platform, reported the Persian service of Mehr News on Sunday. The construction has outraged archaeologists and cultural enthusiasts who are voicing their concerns over the destruction.The news agency released pictures showing some concrete-footings at the site that have not yet dried out and metal beams ready to be erected. The evidence suggests a large construction is on the way and no one knows the purpose of the building or who is responsible for the destruction. The construction work at the site has begun despite the fact that the heritage regulations ban any constructions on or around cultural heritage sites, though Islamic Republic is no stranger to ignoring this law. The Islamic Republic’s authorities are also refusing to comment on the issue. When Mehr News agency reporter asked Zeinoldini the director of Kangavar Cultural Heritage Department about the destruction of the site, he refused to comment, responded “the order came from the top to not give any information, and you should contact the ICHTHO’s Public Relation Office to obtain the information.” This is not the first time however the pre-Islamic Iranian heritage is threatened by new constructions. Since the Islamic Republic came to power in 1979, pre-Islamic Iranian heritage has suffered extensively and many historical sites have been destroyed under the guise of development projects. The biggest of them all is the notorious Sivand Dam in Fars province, which submerged over 137 archaeological sites, including an Achaemenid dynastic (550-330 BCE) palace denoted to Darius the Great; a section of the Achaemenid Imperial Road; a Parthian cemetery and a Sasanian dynastic wine workshop. In addition, the humidity that is generated from the artificial lake has affected the structural-integrity of the Pasargadae the first capital of Achaemenid dynasty. Many Iranians and cultural institutions including CAIS, believe the regime’s main objective for building the Sivand dam was a gradual destruction of Pasargadae and particularly the mausoleum of Cyrus the Great as the result of high humidity levels in the area. The historical figure of the Cyrus the Great is placed on the top of the Islamic Regime leaders’ hate list. He who is considered by Iranians as the ‘Father of the Nation’ has been under constant attack and name-callings, simply because Iranians have great respect and deep warm feelings for the benevolent ancient Iranian king. With the current ongoing uprising in Iran, and new hopes for the fall of the theocratic-totalitarian regime on the horizon, Iranians archaeologists and cultural enthusiasts believe the first task of the new regime in power, is an immediate decommissioning of a number of dams built to target pre-Islamic Iranian heritage sites. Anahita Temple The proposed date for the construction of the Anahita Temple is circa 200 BCE, thus placing it as the oldest surviving stone structure from the Parthian dynasty (248BCE - 224CE) in Iran-proper. The platform covers 4,600 sq.m, constructed over a mound 32-meters high, and is claimed to have been a temple dedicated to the Zoroastrian deity ‘Aredvi Sura Anahita’ (Arədvī Sūrā Anāhitā), venerated as the divinity of 'the Waters' (Aban), associated with fertility, healing, purity and wisdom.The remains at Kangavar reveal an edifice that is Hellenistic in character and yet displays distinctly Iranian architectural traits. The platform’s enormous dimensions and its megalithic foundations, corroborated by the two lateral stairways that ascend the platform echo and recalling Achaemenid traditions, particularly mimicking that of the Apadana Palace at Persepolis. Since its construction, the ancient structure underwent numerous major reconstruction periods continuing into 19th century, and until detailed further excavations are to be carried out, no definite judgments may be declared on its function. With the recent invasion and destruction of the site, obtaining and establishing the exact date or the function of the structure sinks further into ambiguity.

Has the Mystery of the Sphinx Been Solved?

Interesting article (it is five "pages" but it reads quickly) by Mark Lehner at Smithsonian Magazine online, summarizing some of his research over the past 30 plus years and conclusions about the Giza Sphinx: Uncovering Secrets of the Sphinx Very well written, and Lehner's conclusions are cogently presented. But - I have a couple of questions. I quote: The Sphinx itself, it seems, symbolized the pharaoh presenting offerings to the sun god in the court of the temple.” Hawass concurs, saying the Sphinx represents Khafre as Horus, the Egyptians’ revered royal falcon god, “who is giving offerings with his two paws to his father, Khufu, incarnated as the sun god, Ra, who rises and sets in that temple.” Horus is a falcon, not a lion. No explanation is given in the article for the transformation of Horus from falcon to lion (and, for all we know, it could have actually been a lioness. After all, is there any evidence of a mane?) So then, I am intrigued by this quote from the article: “The Egyptians didn’t write history,” says James Allen, an Egyptologist at Brown University, “so we have no solid evidence for what its builders thought the Sphinx was....Certainly something divine, presumably the image of a king, but beyond that is anyone’s guess.” Likewise, the statue’s symbolism is unclear, though inscriptions from the era refer to Ruti, a double lion god that sat at the entrance to the underworld and guarded the horizon where the sun rose and set. It was some months ago, I don't remember exactly when - I am sure I read something about a theory being floated of a "double Sphinx" - with a twin Sphinx situated on the other side of the Nile. And who is Ruti, the "double lion god?" Ah ha! Found it - I actually posted about it nearly a year ago: A Second Sphinx? was the name of the article I read and posted about. Not much on Ruti: From, copying from Encyclopedia Mythica:
Ruti by Micha F. Lindemans A pair of lions worshipped in Egyptian Letopolis. But this is interesting - Aker - from Wikipedia (oh I know, I know, but the Smithsonian article also mentioned Aker and the horizon, and a particular optical illusion that occurs with the Sphinx and other objects on the Giza Plateau during a certain time of year, which gives credence to the information recorded at this Wikipedia entry: Aker (god) From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia In Egyptian mythology, Aker (also spelt Akar) was one of the earliest gods worshipped, and was the deification of the horizon. There are strong indications that Aker was worshipped before other known Egyptian gods of the earth, such as Geb. In particular, the Pyramid texts make a sinister statement that the Akeru (plural of Aker) will not seize the pharaoh, as if this were something that might have happened, and was something of which to be afraid. Aker itself translates as (one who) bends, and thus Akeru translates as benders, though in what sense this is meant is not fully understood. As the horizon, Aker was also seen as symbolic of the borders between each day, and so was originally depicted as a narrow strip of land (i.e. a horizon), with heads on either side, facing away from one another, a symbol of borders. Since the sun reaches its peak (its solstice) in the zodiac of Leo, these heads were usually those of lions. Over time, the heads became full figures of lions (still facing away from each other), one representing the concept of yesterday (Sef in Egyptian), and the other the concept of tomorrow (Duau in Egyptian).[1] Consequently, Aker often became referred to as Ruti, the Egyptian word meaning two lions. Between them would often appear the hieroglyph for horizon, which was the sun's disc placed between two mountains. Sometimes the lions were depicted as being covered with leopard-like spots, leading some to think it a depiction of the extinct Barbary lion, which, unlike African species, had a spotted coat. Since the horizon was where night became day, Aker was said to guard the entrance and exit to the underworld, opening them for the sun to pass through during the night. As the guard, it was said that the dead had to request Aker to open the underworld's gates, so that they might enter. Also, as all who had died had to pass Aker, it was said that Aker annulled the causes of death, such as extracting the poison from any snakes that had bitten the deceased, or from any scorpions that had stung them. As the Egyptians believed that the gates of the morning and evening were guarded by Aker, they sometimes placed twin statues of lions at the doors of their palaces and tombs. This was to guard the households and tombs from evil spirits and other malevolent beings. This practice was adopted by the Greeks and Romans, and is still unknowingly followed by some today. Unlike most of the other Egyptian deities, the worship of Aker remained popular well into the Greco-Roman era. Aker had no temples of his own like the main gods in the Egyptian religion, since he was more connected to the primeval concepts of the very old earth powers. Well - the weirdest damn thing just happened; I just turned (like three seconds ago) to hit the remote to a new channel on the television; it was the end of a PBS show and lo and behold, up flashed on the screen a golden-colored head of a carved lioness in an advertisement for shows on PBS Channel 36 and then poof, it was gone in a flash. Hmmm.... That was on channel 36-4 in Milwaukee. Okay - back from One Step Beyond. I note that in the description of Ruti - the lions face opposite each other, on either side of an imaginery line representing the horizon. So, that rather nixes any thought of twin Sphinxes facing each other across the Nile River. But - might there be a twin Sphinx somewhere on the opposite end of the Giza Plateau facing away from the Sphinx we know? Hey, who knows? New discoveries are routinely being made even in places thought to have been thoroughly excavated 100 years and more ago. So, the tantalizing possibility exists that, someday, when the ever-shifting sands of the Giza Plateau shift yet again, some tiny fragment may come to light, some small piece of rock that trips an unsuspecting horse and once again a female American tourist stumbles to the plain as she tumbles from the horse and - ouch - a new discovery is made...

Slap on Wrist for Antiquities Thief

Oh brother. Yeah - this sure is going to act as a deterrent to would-be antiquities thieves. NOT. From 13,000 Native American artifacts stolen from Southern Illinois refuge Janury 20, 2010 Thousands of Native American artifacts were stolen then sold for profit. An Illinois man has been convicted of not only stealing those artifacts, but causing devastating damage to the Cypress Creek Wildlife Refuge where he found them. The Southern Illinois refuge, two hours from St. Louis, is protected or it was supposed to be. But authorities say one man created his own archeological dig, taking 13,000 artifacts from the ground. Authorities from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife conducted surveillance on the suspect, and then recovered the items at his home. Among the artifacts, they found spearheads, ax heads, and tools for grinding grain. They also found more than 200 pieces of human skeletal remains. Authorities believe the suspect, identified as Leslie Jones, would steal the items then sell them. "Mr. Jones was using the artifacts he would collect to supplement his income. This is how he made a living," said Geoff Donaldson of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The artifacts represent Native American culture from the Archaic Period, roughly between 3,000 and 9,000 years ago. Archeologists believe the site was a temporary village where people made tools with flint from the nearby creek. And what could have provided archeologists with knowledge of the past has now been largely destroyed. "You cannot put a dollar amount on what was removed from the Cypress Creek Wildlife Refuge, you can't do that. It's a piece that can't be restored," Donaldson said. For the most part, these artifacts can't be reburied so they'll likely end up on display in places like museums or educational centers. As for the human remains, archeologists say they can't identify any modern descendants because they are simply too old. There is a protocol for making sure the remains are handled properly and that a Native American organization will be consulted. But they too will likely end up in the Illinois State Museum. For his crime, Leslie Jones was sentenced to 30-days in prison, 500-hours of community service, five years of probation and $150,000 in restitution. Authorities hope this will act as a deterrent to others. "We're hoping it will prevent other people, or make other people think twice before they try to do it," said Mike Brown of the Cypress Creek Wildlife Refuge.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ptolemaic Temple to Bastet Discovered

Image: British Museum. From Egypt Late Period or Ptolemaic Period, about 664-30 BC. Bastet shaking a sistrum and holding an aegis, with kittens at her feet . Story from the AP, as reported earlier today at Yahoo news: Egypt announces find of ancient cat goddess temple By HAMZA HENDAWI, Associated Press Writer Hamza Hendawi, Associated Press Writer – Tue Jan 19, 6:22 pm ET CAIRO – Archaeologists have unearthed a 2,000-year-old temple that may have been dedicated to the ancient Egyptian cat goddess, Bastet, the Supreme Council of Antiquities said Tuesday. The ruins of the Ptolemaic-era temple were discovered by Egyptian archaeologists in the heart of the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C. The city was the seat of the Greek-speaking Ptolemaic Dynasty, which ruled over Egypt for 300 years until the suicide of Queen Cleopatra. The statement said the temple was thought to belong to Queen Berenice, wife of King Ptolemy III who ruled Egypt in the 3rd century B.C. Mohammed Abdel-Maqsood, the Egyptian archaeologist who led the excavation team, said the discovery may be the first trace of the long-sought location of Alexandria's royal quarter. The large number of statues depicting Bastet found in the ruins, he said, suggested that this may be the first Ptolemaic-era temple dedicated to the cat goddess to be discovered in Alexandria. This would indicate that the worship of the ancient Egyptian cat-goddess continued during the later, Greek-influenced, Ptolemaic period, he said. Statues of other ancient Egyptian deities were also found in the ruins, he added. Zahi Hawass, Egypt's chief archaeologist, said the temple may have been used in later times as a quarry as evidenced by the large number of missing stone blocks. Modern Alexandria was built squarely on top of the ruins of the classical-era city and many of its great temples, palaces and libraries remain undiscovered. The temple was found in the Kom el-Dekkah neighborhood near the city's main train station and home to a Roman-era amphitheater and well preserved mosaics. For further information on Bastet (Bast): The Gods of Ancient Egypt: Bast (from Tour Egypt) Bast (also spelled Ubasti, Baset, and later Bastet) from Crystal Links - includes some images of Bast, unfortunately not accredited - lots of explanatory information here about the parallel nature of goddesses from Lower (northern) and Upper (southern) Egypt. Confusing, heh? The Nile River runs from the mountains in the countries to the south of Egypt northwards, toward the delta region and the Mediterranean Sea; thus, looking at a modern-day map, "Upper" Egypt (from the source of the Nile) is south, and "Lower" Egypt (the Delta region to which the Nile flows) is north. Plain as the thick alluvial mud that the Nile floods brought from the mountains annually (usually) - right?

Moonwalk! Update

Hola Darlings! It's been done - costumes ordered. Now there are four, not three. A friend of the British trio asked to join the group when she learned of our small Goddeschess sponsorship for costumes, and Tracy asked if we could possibly underwrite another costume. Well, how could we say no? We could not. And so now there are four. Accessories ordered too! Black fishnet hose, black feather boas, black above-the-elbow length gloves. Ooohhh la la! We can't control the weather, I sure hope the ladies do not freeze in these outfits; or what shoes the ladies wear. Since it is a 5K walk, I'm thinking they'd best wear good athletic shoes and forego the stilletos. Fish-net stockings and Pumas. Hmmm... Isis and I will take a look at the costumes when they arrive (thank Goddess for digital cameras and email) and perhaps add some glitz here and there, and then ship the whole to Tracy in England in plenty of time for the May Moonwalk. Tonight I sure got an eye-full looking at "rhinestone cuffs" online. Not recommended for minors. Oh my. I was looking for inexpensive faux diamond cuff-bracelets, just to get an idea of cost. Oh my. I will have to very carefully tailor my future web searches for costume jewelry. Oh my. Perhaps I'll stick to the local Claire's at the Mall.

Monday, January 18, 2010


Hola! More about Goddesschess' newest sponsorship - non-chess, darlings! A few days ago I received an interesting email that introduced me to an event I had not heard of: The Moonwalk Marathon for Breast Cancer. To make a long story short, Goddesschess has agreed to provide Las Vegas Show Girls costumes to three participants in an upcoming Moonwalk in Great Britain that our three ladies will be participating in on May 15th. Woo wooo! Please check out the main website: Walk the Walk. The Prince of Wales (Prince Charles) is 'the' Royal Patron of Walk the Walk. In 2009, during the height of the Great World Recession, the combined moonwalks and sunwalks around the United Kingdom raised in excess of 8.4 million English pounds. This year's walk theme is SHOW TIME. We know the sizes. We've done some research - well, I've done some research. I thought Isis would have a heart attack when I emailed her and said guess what 'Sis, what do you think about underwriting obtaining three Las Vegas Show Girls costumes for ... I had no idea at the time I sent that email to her, but Isis, being a long-term resident of Las Vegas, knows exactly what it costs to outfit a real show girl with a decent costume - from around $875 to over $2,000. That's for the real deal - custom-made and sized. I had no idea that beading, sequins, glitters, feathers and g-strings could be so expensive. But there is an entire art and science involved in constructing the costumes for the real show girls - it is fascinating. Anyway, after assuring 'Sis that I did not intend for us to sponsor up to $6,000 for costumes for the Moonwalk, she jumped onboard (and her heart rate dropped back down to normal). After further research, I have arbitrarily decided either to design and make our own costumes for our three walkers (both 'Sis and I can sew pretty well), or purchase suitable costumes. I have the ladies' sizes in hand, and have a good idea now of what is available and what can be made for a reasonable price. Even if we buy ready-made, with our sewing skills we can add custom touches. That Isis. She is Ms. Mystery. I know that she once played championship level billards, and she once owned an antique/vintage furniture shop. I also suspect that she was once a Las Vegas Show Girl herself. Amazing as it seems, we've had so much other stuff to talk about during our 10 year friendship, the subject hasn't come up. Eventually, I hope we will have photographs of the Goddesschess ladies in their costumes on the night of the Moonwalk. Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Investment Club Kudos

Today was our investment club meeting and we went over our results for 2009, which overall we were pleased with. The accounting program we use has some new "toys" available, including various charts that can be printed out, and so during lunch on Friday I took a look and was surprised with our overall results. Not that we're anywhere near that 14.9% a year compounded annual rate of return that we need to make for five years in a row in order to double our money. Nope. However, when compared to two important indexes, we haven't done so badly at all. Our club's results were weighed against the results of a bundle of stocks that mirror the holdings of the S&P 500 and the Wilshire 5000 Index. For the period 5/11/05 (the date we made our first purchase) to 1/15/10: Club total return: 9.52% Wilshire 5000 Index total return: 0.18% S&P 500 Index total return: -0.53% Compound annual return for period ending December 31: 1 Year (these results are skewed because of the great crash that occurred in the market 10/08 that bottomed out in 03/09; we had a nice rebound :)) Club: 53.01% Wilshire: 28.08% S&P 500: 25.71% 3 Year Club: 7.96% Wilshire: -3.58% S&P 500: -4.32% We are pleased with our job as stock pickers over the past 4.5 years, but think we can do better. The Great Recession has taught us that no matter how carefully we screen our companies, shit happens. We are now on the hunt for a couple of new investments, looking to diversify and move into totally new areas.
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