Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sacrificial Female Victims Uncovered in 'Mythical' Temple//Tomb Complex

From National Graphic Online: Pictures: "Mythical" Temple Found in Peru
Januar 29, 2010

Human Sacrifice
Image courtesy Carlos Wester La Torre

January 28, 2010—A thousand-year-old temple complex (including a tomb with human sacrifice victims, shown in a digital illustration) has been found under the windswept dunes of northwestern Peru, archaeologists say.

The discovery of the complex, excavated near the city of Chiclayo (map) between 2006 and late 2009, has injected a dose of reality into the legend of Naylamp, the god who supposedly founded the pre-Inca Lambayeque civilization in the eighth century A.D., following the collapse of the Moche civilization.

That's because evidence at the Chotuna-Chornancap archaeological site indicates the temple complex may have belonged to people claiming to have descended from Naylamp—suggesting for the first time that these supposed descendants existed in the flesh.

The sophisticated Lambayeque culture, also known as the Sicán, were best known as skilled irrigation engineers until being conquered in A.D. 1375 by the Chimú, a civilization also based along Peru's arid northern coast.

Archaeologists have been "trying to decode the legend's mystery" for a century, said dig leader Carlos Wester La Torre, director of the Brüning National Archaeological Museum in Lambayeque. "The goal was to understand the possible relations between the oral legend and archaeological evidence."

Within the newfound temple complex is a pyramid-shaped tomb, called Huaca Norte, which was filled with the skeletons of 33 women.

Two skeletons still have their original hair and some (top row) are mummified. All of them show cut marks, meaning they were likely tortured as part of human-sacrifice rituals.

"Women are traditionally associated with fertility," La Torre said. "They are offered in religious ceremonies in return for more fertility [and other beneficial events]—like rain, for instance."

—Sabrina Valle in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Ancient 'Defense Minister' Tomb Uncovered in China

Shades of xiang qi! 
Tomb of ancient China's "defense minister" unearthed in northwest China 2010-01-29 18:08:32

XI'AN, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- The family tombs of an high-ranking general of the Han Dynasty (202 B.C.-220 A.D.) was unearthed in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, providing evidence to China's military history, archaeologists said Friday.

The tomb in Weiqu Town of suburban Xi'an, provincial capital of Shaanxi, belonged to Zhang Anshi (?-62 B.C.), a major general of Han Dynasty and he was conferred the titled of Liehou, top level of entitled officials of the dynasty, after helping Liu Xun (91 B.C.-49 B.C.) to become the emperor, said Zhang Zhongli, vice president of Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology.

The identification of the tomb owner was confirmed by the archaeologists based on the discovery of the official seals and the seal carved with the family name Zhang from the tomb, which is only six kilometers away from the emperor's tomb, Zhang Zhongli said.

The main chamber of ancient Zhang's tomb, surrounded by more than a dozen of tombs, is 35 meters long and 24.5 meters wide, and has been robbed before, Zhang Zhongli said.

The whole tomb faces the direction of the emperor's tomb, which shows the respect of the general toward his king, Zhang said.

More than 2,000 pieces of cultural relics, including exquisite bronze and ceramics decorations, bronze seals and appliances which represent the high rank of the general, had been unearthed over the past year.

However, the body of the owners had not been unearthed in terms of better protection, Zhang said, without revealing the schedule.

The structure and size of the tomb and the large amount of unearthed appliances are all significant to archeological researches, Zhang said.

The military appliances and the carriages might be the remarkable discovery of the Chinese military history, as the general was considered the "national defense minister" of the Han Dynasty, he said.

Although the tombs of Zhang Anshi's and his wife's had been robbed and burnt before being discovered by the archeologists, they had provided abundant evidence to the research of the Han Dynasty history, he said.

Editor: Lin Zhi

Chess Femme News


I apologize up front for any editing errors that are now appearing in this blog.  Since I "upgraded" to Windows Explorer 8 I have had nothing but fits trying to get this blog to work right.  It really really SUCKS.  I am seriously thinking about removing it and going with a different browser, but I'm not techy savvy to do that and so I may have to hire someone to do it.  Damn Damn Damn!  So if stuff looks screwed up it's not that I've had too much wine (because, after all, one can never have too much wine, just like one can never be too thin, have too much money, or too many jewels), it's attempting to edit on this @%*)! b.s. site with Explorer 8.

I'm just checking out various sources to see what is new. For those of you who don't have these links in your "Favorites" or "Bookmarks", I recommend adding Susan Polgar's chess news and information blog and Alexandra Kosteniuk's chess blog as general sources for chess news and chess femme news. I have not, alas, been able to update Goddesschess' Chess Femme News - just too much on the agenda the past several months. Now that things have settled down I will try and make a dent, but no promises. I seem to have come down with a bad case of redecorating fever, no doubt due to my recent go-round with trying to sell my home. I am now thinking about painting the entire downstairs (now that all of the painting and staining of trim is finally done after 19 years, I want to change it all!), adding crown moulding in the familiy room, and a tile backsplash underneath the kitchen cabinets... I also need a new stove and refrigerator, new flooring, new carpeting, new water-efficient toilets and new faucets and hardware in both bathrooms. New furnace, new roof, a totally new deck, and major regrading work done around the house. CHA CHING! as Isis says. Dream on, as Jan says...

That urge to try and improve my chessplaying skills has also resurfaced - it was temporarily buried underneath the need to clean out closets and scour mildew off window sills, among other things. Goddess, I HATE housework. I hate vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing toilets, doing laundry and - did I mention vacuuming? I'd much rather be losing game after chess game to Shira Evans. Why was I not born rich with tons of hired help to do all of that crappy housecleaning stuff for me? Sigh.

At Chessdom today I see they have a new interview with IM/WGM Elizabeth Paehtz of Germany (2484) and she had some interesting things to say, I found the interview too short. I suppose it is a good thing to always leave the audience wanting more :)

There are three other interviews with interesting chess femmes at Chessdom too that showed up on the Interview screen, all of which I may have furnished links to, but I'm lazy today and not going to hunt them down on this blog, so I'm reposting them just in case and also catching any new interviews:

GM Judit Polgar
GM Hou Yifan
IM/WGM Tania Sachdev

Chess is played 24/7 in a world that, at any given time, is never fully asleep. The Armenian Women's Chess Championship is taking place right now, with players whose names are unfamiliar to me. That was the case, basically, in the USA too, a few years ago, before major sponsorship of the Men's and Women's championship was underwritten by Eric Anderson (ended with the 2006 Championships) and, now, Rex Sinquefield (St. Louis). It is an unfortunate fact of chess economics that the best players will routinely skip national championships for more lucrative play in events elsewhere. But, at least at present in the USA, that has changed, and with large prize purses at stake in both the Women's and Men's National Championships, the best players in the country have been attracted to the tables in 2008 and 2009. Bigger and better is the word for 2010 and I, for one, cannot wait!

But back to the Armenian Women's Chess Championship - I found this article online posted January 29th, a brief review of Round 7 action. It seems the ladies are really beating up each other in this tournament, judging from the scores at the moment, as the top two women have only 4.5/7 each!

More chess news out of Armenia - a family affair:

Chess: Two brothers and their sister awarded IM title

One of the decisions made at the FIDE Presidential Board meeting in Bursa can be recorded in the Guinness Book of Records. Two brothers and their sister, Armenian chess players Gor, Gevorg and Tatevik Hairapetyans who live in Lipetsk, Russia, were awarded the title of International Master, Armenian Chess Federation reported.

Gibtelecom (Gibraltar)

Here is a game from Round 3 featuring current Women's World Chess Champion, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk (RUS 2523), with the white pieces, versus GM Gata Kamsky (USA 2707 - live rating), with the black pieces.  You can play through the game as GM Kosteniuk's chess blog:

1. e4 c6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 Bf5 4. Nf3 e6 5. Be2 c5 6. Be3 Nd7 7. O-O Ne7 8. c4 dxc4 9. Na3 c3 10. Bg5 f6 11. exf6 gxf6 12. Bc1 Nd5 13. Nh4 Bg6 14. Bf3 N7b6 15. dxc5 Bxc5 16. bxc3 Kf7 17. c4 Nb4 18. Be3 Qe7 19. Nxg6 hxg6 20. Qe2 Rad8 21. Rad1 Na4 22. Bxc5 Qxc5 23. Qe4 Nc6 24. Rfe1 e5 25. Nb5 f5 26. Qc2 Nb6 27. Qc1 e4 28. Rxd8 Rxd8 29. Be2 Nd7 30. Rd1 Nf6 31. Rxd8 Nxd8 32. Qd2 Ne6 33. Nd6 Ke7 34. Nxb7 Qb6 35. Na5 e3 36. fxe3 Ne4 37. Qb4 Qxb4 38. Nc6 Kd6 39. Nxb4 Nc3 40. Bf3 a5 41. Nc6 a4 42. a3 Nb1 43. Nd4 Nxa3 44. Nxe6 Kxe6 45. Bd1 Nxc4 1/2-1/2 is providing coverage and live game commentary, and also nice photographs!  This report of Round 3 action features several of the female players, including a photograph of Ingrid Carlsen, sister of GM Magnus Carlsen (top rated player in the world at the moment and the youngest player to ever achieve this distinction).  Here are brief biographies of some of the players (highest rated and others) from Chessdom, featuring many of the female players.  I'm so happy to see Chessdom devoting equal coverage to the female players; after all, we do make up about 51% of the world population, and more and more females are taking up chess every day, thanks to such organizations as 9Queens, Chess in Schools, and strong female chessplaying role models of the Polgar sisters, Kosteniuk, Stefanova, Zatonskih, Krush, Shahade, Hou Yifan, etc. etc.  I do not think I will live long enough to see it, but ultimately I do believe that relative parity of playing skill will be achieved between females and males.  We just need a lot more female players who toss away the constraints of subtle social gender roles.  Yes, I know - easier said than done!

Gibtelecom/Gibraltar generates tons of coverage - GM Susan Polgar's blog, Mig's Daily Dirt blog, The Week in Chess, Chessbase, Chessdom, Chessvibes, etc. etc. and this doesn't include the official website.  Going up against the stellar line-up at Corus, which is winding down now, is not an easy row to hoe!  But the Gibtelecom/Gibraltar Chess Festival is special because it makes a strong effort to recruit female players and offers great prizes to attract a wide field.  It has gotten progressively stronger every year over it's short (8 year) history.

Women's Prizes for 2010:

Open to all Women 

1st Prize £8,000 
2nd Prize £4,000
3rd Prize £3,000 
4th Prize £2,500
5th Prize £2,000
6th Prize £1,500
7th Prize £1,000
8th Prize £500

Prizes for best relative rating achievement
2350-2150 £500
Under 2150 £250
Round 5 today - key pairings for the top chess femmes:
Table 2 GM Adams, Michael 3.5 ENG 2694 GM Koneru, Humpy 3.5 IND 2614
Table 7 IM Harika, Dronavalli 3.0 IND 2471 GM Vallejo Pons, Francisco 3.0 ESP 2705
Table 9 IM Zatonskih, Anna 3.0 USA 2466 GM Istratescu, Andrei 3.0 ROU 2607
Table 10 GM Lopez Martinez, Josep Manu 3.0 ESP 2593 WGM Zhukova, Natalia 3.0 UKR 2462

Table 11 IM Krush, Irina 3.0 USA 2455 GM Halkias, Stelios 3.0 GRE 2566
Table16 IM Saravanan, V. 3.0 IND 2356 GM Cramling, Pia 3.0 SWE 2528

Table 17 GM Naumann, Alexander 3.0 GER 2525 IM Zozulia, Anna 3.0 BEL 2321
Table 18 IM Sedina, Elena 3.0 ITA 2335 GM Speelman, Jon S 3.0 ENG 2525
Table 20 Dasaolu, Adeoye 3.0 ENG 2068 GM Dzagnidze, Nana 3.0 GEO 2506

Another Study Confirms - Social Roles Constrain Women Chessplayers

Shelby Lyman's column is a regular feature at the Columbus Dispatch:

Women are moving aggressively, too
Saturday, January 30, 2010 2:55 AM

A 69-country study of 500,000 boys and girls ages 14 to 16 found insignificant gender differences in math performance, Scientific American magazine recently reported.

The survey concluded that differences resulted from social rather than innate factors.

Considering the parallel between math and chess abilities, the findings are a clarion call to action for the chess community.

In recent decades, women have played top-flight chess with increasing success, belying the preconceptions of many skeptics. As with mathematics, little in their play suggests innate gender differences. Women play as aggressively as their male counterparts.

The games of Judit Polgar, ranked among the world's top 10 players for years, offer strong evidence. Her vigorous, creative attacking style terrorizes male and female opponents alike.

Shelby Lyman is a Basic Chess Features columnist.
Many studies have been undertaken over the years to explore the reasons why women are not as good at chess as men.  Some have argued that it is due to difference in male and female brain functions, that the differences are innate and generally cannot be overcome no matter how much training a female might receive.  Others have argued that this is baloney, and the differences are due to social and cultural forces that act upon females rather than any inherent physical and genetic differences between the sexes.

It certainly is true that there are inherent physical and genetic differences between the sexes, and viva la difference'!  But I also think it's baloney that women are inherently inferior chessplayers due to these differences.  More recent studies have demonstrated that gender roles (i.e., social and cultural forces operating on females - those "tapes" we play in our internal dialog) are most responsible for what is perceived to be females' 'inferiority' in chessplaying.  But it seems those old stories are true.  Often it is just a matter of a female player letting the male player win :)

European Journal of Social Psychology
Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 38, 231–245 (2008)
Published online 14 May 2007 in Wiley InterScience
( DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.440
Checkmate? The role of gender stereotypes in the ultimate
intellectual sport

University of Padova, Italy


Women are surprisingly underrepresented in the chess world, representing less that 5% of registered tournament players worldwide and only 1% of the world’s grand masters. In this paper it is argued that gender stereotypes are mainly responsible for the underperformance of women in chess. Forty-two male–female pairs, matched for ability, played two chess games via Internet. When players were unaware of the sex of opponent (control condition), females played approximately as well as males.

When the gender stereotype was activated (experimental condition), women showed a drastic performance drop, but only when they were aware that they were playing against a male opponent.

When they (falsely) believed to be playing against a woman, they performed as well as their male opponents. In addition, our findings suggest that women show lower chess-specific self-esteem and a weaker promotion focus, which are predictive of poorer chess performance. Copyright # 2007 John
Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Chess is not only one of the oldest games but it is also, by many, considered the ultimate intellectual sport. Although chess is an intellectual pursuit not requiring physical strength, women are generally
considered inferior and they represent less than 5% of registered tournament players worldwide.

Currently, the best female player, Judit Polgar, is placed in position 17 of the FIDE ranking (Federation Internationale des Echecs, 2006) and she is also the only woman among the top 100 players of the world. Thus, women seem to be underrepresented as well as underperforming.1

Why should this be the case? A first step to understand gender differences in chess is to ask what characteristics are predictive of success and whether these characteristics are less common in females.

We will only consider general cognitive and motivational factors here and ignore the specific tactical and strategic skills that develop as a function of chess training, including the striking ability of expert chess players to quickly capture the gist of highly complex chess positions (de Groot & Gobet, 1996; Ross, 2006).

European Journal of Social Psychology
Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 38, 231–245 (2008)
Published online 14 May 2007 in Wiley InterScience
( DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.440

*Correspondence to: Dr Anne Maass, DPSS, Universito` di Padova, Via Venezia, 8, 35139 Padova, Italy.


1However, Charness and Gerchak (1996) have argued that women’s underrepresentation among top ranks is simply a function of relative participation rates, since extreme scores tend to increase disproportionally as population size increases.

Copyright # 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Received 11 November 2006
Accepted 2 April 2007

Friday, January 29, 2010

Sacrificing Goats

The ancient Hebrews used to do this (that's what the Day of Atonement is all about - the scape-goat, etc. etc.) ; perhaps the Hebrews borrowed the custom from other ancient Middle-Eastern cultures, I don't know.  But to see that modern-day Islamists STILL do it, on a regular basis -- to ward off the evil eye!?!  Oh my.  How sad that the followers of Islam still believe that their God requires blood sacrifice from an innocent animal in order to perform "charity" and act as a protective mechanism.  Can someone please explain to me just what the differences are between the practices of ancient Judaism and modern Islam when ti comes to animal sacrifice?  And these people, of the same blood, are killing each other daily?  So much for their false gods.

Isis sent me this article - but not the sentiments written above.  She is far more civilized than I.

A Reuters report at Yahoo news:
Leader slaughters goats to ward off evil?
Wed Jan 27, 10:47 am ET
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has a black goat slaughtered at his house almost every day to ward off "evil eyes" and protect him from "black magic," a newspaper reported Wednesday.

A spokesman for the president told the Dawn newspaper the goats were slaughtered as an act of Sadaqah -- meaning "voluntary charity" in Islam whereby one gives out money or the meat of a slaughtered animal to the poor to win Allah's blessing and stave off misfortune.

"It has been an old practice of Mr Zardari to offer Sadaqah. He has been doing this for a long time," the spokesman, Farhatullah Babar, told the paper.

Pakistan is a predominantly Muslim country where many of the well-off offer Sadaqah. Though Muslim, many people also follow certain superstitious practices.

Hundreds of goats had been sacrificed at Zardari's house since he was sworn in September 2008, the Dawn newspaper reported.

It said Zardari's detractors would see in his "new-found religiosity" a sign of nervousness in the face of growing woes.

Zardari, who rose to power after the assassination of his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, in late 2007, has become increasingly unpopular and faces a range of problems from Islamist militancy to a stagnant economy and political rivalry.

A Supreme Court ruling last month throwing out an amnesty for Zardari, several top aides and thousands of political activists and government figures triggered a political storm and expectation that Zardari was on his way out.

(Reporting by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Gibtelecom (Gibraltar) 2010

Ladies' standings after R4 (226 players):

7 GM Koneru, Humpy 3.5 IND F 2614
21 GM Cramling, Pia 3.0 SWE F 2528
25 GM Dzagnidze, Nana 3.0 GEO F 2506
28 IM Harika, Dronavalli 3.0 IND F 2471
29 IM Zatonskih, Anna 3.0 USA F 2466
30 WGM Zhukova, Natalia 3.0 UKR F 2462
31 IM Krush, Irina 3.0 USA F 2455
37 IM Sedina, Elena 3.0 ITA F 2335
38 IM Zozulia, Anna 3.0 BEL F 2321
42 GM Stefanova, Antoaneta 2.5 BUL F 2545
44 GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra 2.5 RUS F 2523
48 IM Javakhishvili, Lela 2.5 GEO F 2493
49 IM Cmilyte, Viktorija 2.5 LTU F 2489
51 GM Arakhamia-Grant, Ketevan 2.5 SCO F 2470
55 WGM Karavade, Eesha 2.5 IND F 2405
56 IM Houska, Jovanka w 2.5 ENG F 2401
65 WFM Videnova, Iva 2.5 BUL F 2301
73 WFM Tjolsen, Katrine 2.5 NOR F 2212
88 WIM Cori T., Deysi 2.0 PER F 2412
90 IM Tania, Sachdev 2.0 IND F 2398
92 IM Dworakowska, Joanna w 2.0 POL F 2374
96 WGM Reizniece, Dana 2.0 LAT F 2341
104 WGM Nadig, Kruttika 2.0 IND F 2240
115 WIM Martsynovskaya, Marina w 2.0 FRA F 2184
151 WIM Schoene, Maria 1.5 GER F 2251
181 Lochte, Szilvia 1.0 HUN F 2032
204 Hansen, Erle Andrea Marki 1.0 NOR F 1699
213 Chidi, Lovinia Sylvia 0.5 GER F 1832
216 Carlsen, Ingrid Oen 0.5 NOR F 1508
219 Jacobsen, Caroline Beer 0.5 NOR F 0 1527

Why is this news?

Oh come on!  Distinctly Indo-European people who wove plaids just like their compatriots to the west, had fair skin, red, brown and even blonde hair, and blue eyes, coupled with unusual height, were in the Tarim Basin at least 4000 years ago.  I think it is pretty well etablished that these peoples migrated from the Iranian Plateau, and perhaps from even further west.  So this article about an Indo-European male showing up in a 2000 year old Mongolian cemetery is news exactly how?  (Image: belt decoration from Duurlig Nars Man's grave, from article.  Okay - intertwined serpents.  Where have we seen this pattern before?  Hint:  The Shar-i Sokhtah (i.e., The Burnt City) gameboard, far southeastern corner of Iran). 

Skeleton of Western man found in ancient Mongolian tomb
DNA from 2,000-year-old skeleton may put Indo-Europeans in East Asia By Bruce Bower Web edition : 4:10 pm

Dead men can indeed tell tales, but they speak in a whispered double helix.

Consider an older gentleman whose skeleton lay in one of more than 200 tombs recently excavated at a 2,000-year-old cemetery in western Mongolia, near China’s northern border. DNA extracted from this man’s bones pegs him as a descendant of Europeans or western Asians. Yet he still assumed a prominent position in ancient Mongolia’s Xiongnu Empire, say geneticist Kyung-Yong Kim of Chung-Ang University in Seoul, South Korea, and his colleagues.

On the basis of previous excavations and descriptions in ancient Chinese texts, researchers suspect that the Xiongnu Empire — which ruled a vast territory in and around Mongolia from 209 B.C. to A.D. 93 — included ethnically and linguistically diverse nomadic tribes. The Xiongnu Empire once ruled the major trading route known as the Asian Silk Road, opening it to both Western and Chinese influences.

Researchers have yet to pin down the language spoken by Xiongnu rulers and political elites, says archaeologist David Anthony of Hartwick College in Oneonta, N.Y. But the new genetic evidence shows that the 2,000-year-old man “was multi-ethnic, like the Xiongnu polity itself,” Anthony remarks.

This long-dead individual possessed a set of genetic mutations on his Y chromosome, which is inherited from paternal ancestors, that commonly appears today among male speakers of Indo-European languages in eastern Europe, central Asia and northern India, Kim’s team reports in an upcoming American Journal of Physical Anthropology. The same man displayed a pattern of mitochondrial DNA mutations, inherited from maternal ancestors, characteristic of speakers of modern Indo-European languages in central Asia, the researchers say.  [Shock!  Was the guy perhaps a Tocharian???]

“We don’t know if this 60- to 70-year-old man reached Mongolia on his own or if his family had already lived there for many generations,” says study coauthor Charles Brenner, a DNA analyst based in Oakland, Calif.

Two other skeletons from the Xiongnu cemetery in Duurlig Nars show genetic links to people who live in northeastern Asia, according to Kim’s team. Other team members include Kijeong Kim of Chung-Ang University and Eregzen Gelegdorj of the National Museum of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar.

The Duurlig Nars man’s genetic signature supports the idea that Indo-European migrations to northeastern Asia started before 2,000 years ago. This notion is plausible, but not confirmed, says geneticist Peter Underhill of Stanford University. Further investigations of Y chromosome mutation frequencies in modern populations will allow for a more precise tracing of the Duurlig Nars man’s geographic roots, Underhill predicts.

Scholars have long sought to trace the origin and spread of related languages now found in Europe, India and other parts of Asia. One hypothesis holds that Indo-European languages proliferated via several waves of expansion and conquest by nomads known as Kurgans who had domesticated horses and thus could travel long distances. In this scenario, Kurgans left a homeland north of the Black Sea, in what’s now Russia, around 6,400 years ago.

Another view holds that farmers from ancient Turkey spread Indo-European tongues as they swallowed up one parcel of land after another, beginning around 9,000 years ago.

Since 1978, discoveries of 2,400- to 4,000-year-old mummified corpses with European features in northwestern China, not far from Mongolia, have fueled the Kurgan hypothesis (SN: 2/25/95, p. 120). Remains of large wheels found with these blond-haired individuals raise the controversial possibility that these foreigners introduced carts and chariots to the Chinese.

Add to those discoveries a report in the September 2009 Human Genetics. Geneticist Christine Keyser of the University of Strasbourg in France and her colleagues found that nine of 26 skeletons previously excavated at 11 Kurgan sites in northeastern Russia possess a Y chromosome mutation pattern thought to mark the eastward expansion of early Indo-Europeans. That same genetic signature characterizes the Duurlig Nars man.

By 2,000 years ago, the easternmost Indo-European languages were probably spoken in northwestern China, Anthony holds. So an Indo-European speaker could have aligned himself with Xiongnu political big shots and earned an eternal resting place in an elite Xiongnu cemetery, in his opinion.

Kim agrees. The Duurlig Nars man’s tomb lies close to the tomb of an especially high-ranking Xiongnu man whom he may have served in some way, he suggests.

Kim’s group plans to extract and study DNA from additional Duurlig Nars skeletons. For now, Anthony remarks, “this new study from Mongolia is important because it adds one more point of light to a largely dark prehistoric sky.”

The Wolf Moon

What's going on with the Moon? Not too long ago there was a Blue Moon, and now we have a Full Wolf Moon! It's gorgeous - noticeably larger in the sky than usual. After I got home from the office I ran for my camera and took this photo from the front porch. Wish I knew more about photography and this camera, I would love to get a crisp, clear shot showing all of the nuances of the light and darkness and the shadows, and that big Moon shining so bright, with a large star to the left.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gibtelecom (Gibraltar) 2010

Chess femme standings after Round 3 (Masters - 223 players) (official website):

10 GM Koneru, Humpy 2.5 IND F 2614
17 GM Stefanova, Antoaneta 2.5 BUL F 2545
18 GM Cramling, Pia 2.5 SWE F 2528
20 GM Kosteniuk, Alexandra 2.5 RUS F 2523
23 IM Javakhishvili, Lela 2.5 GEO F 2493
25 IM Cmilyte, Viktorija 2.5 LTU F 2489
27 WGM Zhukova, Natalia 2.5 UKR F 2462
39 GM Dzagnidze, Nana 2.0 GEO F 2506
41 IM Harika, Dronavalli 2.0 IND F 2471
42 GM Arakhamia-Grant, Ketevan 2.0 SCO F 2470
44 IM Zatonskih, Anna 2.0 USA F 2466
45 IM Krush, Irina 2.0 USA F 2455
49 IM Houska, Jovanka w 2.0 ENG F 2401
55 WGM Reizniece, Dana 2.0 LAT F 2341
56 IM Sedina, Elena 2.0 ITA F 2335
57 IM Zozulia, Anna 2.0 BEL F 2321
65 WGM Nadig, Kruttika 2.0 IND F 2240
72 WFM Tjolsen, Katrine 2.0 NOR F 2212
77 WIM Martsynovskaya, Marina w 2.0 FRA F 2184
92 WGM Karavade, Eesha 1.5 IND F 2405
93 IM Tania, Sachdev 1.5 IND F 2398
96 IM Dworakowska, Joanna w 1.5 POL F 2374
102 WFM Videnova, Iva 1.5 BUL F 2301
107 WIM Schoene, Maria 1.5 GER F 2251
141 WGM Calzetta Ruiz, Monica 1.0 ESP F 2359
167 Lochte, Szilvia 1.0 HUN F 2032
205 Chidi, Lovinia Sylvia 0.5 GER F 1832
212 Hansen, Erle Andrea Marki 0.0 NOR F 1699
214 Carlsen, Ingrid Oen 0.0 NOR F 1508 (Yes, the Carlsen's sister)
222 Jacobsen, Caroline Beer 0.0 NOR F 0 1228

The Archaic Mark: "A Skilled Late 19th or Early 20th Century Fake"

Early copy of the Gospel of Mark is a forgery
US scholars, conservators and scientists collaborate to prove that a “14th-century manuscript” is a skilled fake
By Emily Sharpe | From issue 210, February 2010
Published online 27 Jan 10 (Conservation)

LONDON. A clever bit of detective work by US scholars and scientists has proven that one of the jewels of the University of Chicago’s manuscript collection is, in fact, a skilled late 19th- or early 20th-century forgery.

Although speculation as to the authenticity of the Archaic Mark codex has been rife for more than 60 years, prior to this definitive research many believed it was an early record (possibly as early as the 14th century) of the Gospel of Mark and the closest of any extant manuscript to the world’s oldest Greek Bible—the fourth-century Codex Vaticanus.

The earliest record of Archaic Mark dates to 1917 when it was listed among the possessions of recently deceased Athenian antiquities dealer and collector John Askitopoulos. In September of 1935, Askitopoulos’s nephew, Gregory Vlastos, contacted University of Chicago biblical scholar Edgar Goodspeed asking if the school wished to purchase the manuscript. The 44-page codex, measuring 11.5 x 8.5cm, was acquired by the university in 1937 for an undisclosed sum.

The ongoing debate as to the codex’s authenticity re-ignited in 2006 with its digitisation, giving international experts an opportunity to examine the work closely for the first time. Beginning in 2007, Margaret Mitchell, Alice Schreyer and Judith Dartt from the university collaborated with research microscopist Joseph Barabe from the Illinois-based lab McCrone Associates, and manuscript conservator Abigail Quandt from the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, to perform a cross-discipline, in-depth analysis of the codex.

Barabe conducted a material and elemental analysis on Archaic Mark which involved the use of a wide variety of techniques including x-ray diffraction, raman spectroscopy, polarised light, x-ray spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy. He was particularly interested in determining whether the codex had undergone an earlier restoration which would account for the presence of various “modern” shades of blue including synthetic ultramarine blue—a material not available until the 1820s. He found no evidence of a prior restoration and most importantly determined that the white colour used contained the pigment lithopone which was not available until 1874, thereby setting an 1874 terminus post quem date for the codex. Carbon dating was used to determine that the canvas dates from the mid 16th century.

Quandt, who has worked on other well-known forged manuscripts including the Archimedes Palimpsest and various pieces by the so-called Spanish Forger, confirmed some of Barabe’s findings during her reconstruction of the forger’s technique. She noticed several inconsistencies with authentic Byzantine manuscripts including that the forger appears to have painted the miniatures and then added the text—an unusual practice for the medieval scribes. She also noted the amateurish binding and obvious attempt to add age to the edges of the manuscript with the sloppy application of a brownish liquid to create a faux charring effect.

Mitchell, a biblical scholar, undertook the task of analysing the text and found it to include the same errors contained in an edition of the Greek New Testament published by Philipp Buttmann in 1856. This led her to conclude that the creator of the Archaic Mark used Buttmann’s text as a guide for his forgery. “I’ve been asked repeatedly if I’m disappointed that the work is a forgery. I’m not. There is no longer a question mark after the date of the manuscript and that is tremendously satisfying,” said Mitchell.

The university intends to preserve the codex and encourage its use for further research into the forger’s techniques. “Those who study forgeries may be the largest beneficiaries of our scholarship,” said Mitchell.

A detailed record of the project is slated for publication in this month’s Novum Testamentum journal.

Bulldozer Used to Plunder Han Dynasty Tomb

This kind of destruction just turns my stomach.  This is what comes out of a society of stark contrast between the haves and the have-nots, where people are not taught a respect for their illustrious past but only taught to be rapacious like their "betters."  This could be the United States.  What a shame. 

Tomb raiders bulldoze Jiangsu site
Source: Global Times [02:35 January 28 2010]
By An Baijie

Unidentified tomb raiders hit more than 10 ancient tomb sites Monday in east Jiangsu Province, using bulldozers, and stealing most of the articles they unearthed, in an unprecedented sacking of the country's cultural relics, local archaeologists said.

The incident came almost a month after the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences claimed a major discovery of the tomb of Cao Cao, a renowned warlord and politician in the 3rd century AD, in central China.

Although the authenticity of Cao Cao's tomb in Anyang, Henan, remains in question, the discovery seems to have reactivated interest in archaeology across the nation, with television programs about antiquities attracting enthusiasts.

Pieces of coffins made of valuable and rare Nanmu wood, as well as pottery and iron items, were seen scattered across an area of 1,000 square meters at the ravaged tomb site, located in Gucheng town in Gaochun county of Nanjing, the provincial capital, adjacent to the construction site of an expressway.

Judging from some of the items left by the robbers, Puyang Kangjing, a history scholar at the local museum, said Wednesday that the tombs date from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD).

"The coffins were made with high-quality and rare wood, which indicates that the owners of the tombs were nobles," Puyang was quoted as saying by the Nanjing-based Yangtze Evening Post.

The bulldozer raid was the first of its kind and the most destructive in the country, an unnamed archeologist with the Nanjing Museum was quoted by the paper as saying Wednesday.

Further excavation of the tombs that could date back 2,000 years is impossible, as they have been almost completely destroyed, local archeologists told the paper. The raiders specifically targeted the tombs using heavy machinery, said an official surnamed Wang, from the Gaochun county department of cultural relics protection.

Jiang Wenhui, a local police officer, told the Global Times Wednesday that he discovered the remains Monday while on routine patrol.

"I immediately informed the local cultural relics protection departments, as I had been told by some construction workers that they'd unearthed some items such as bronze mirrors during an ongoing road construction," Jiang said.

The local government halted the expansion project of the road after the incident, but no specific protective measures were taken, and the tombs were left unattended, Jiang said.

A police investigation is underway, and efforts to retrieve the stolen articles are ongoing, Jiang said.

Yuan Zhongyi, an archeologist and the former curator of the Terracotta Warriors Museum in Xi'an, the capital city of Shaanxi Province, said the incident was shocking.

"I never heard that tomb robbery could be conducted so blatantly. It will completely devastate the layers of the earth, and will cause irreversible damage to those ancient relics," Yuan told the Global Times. "Tomb robberies are not rare in China, but all of them are done so secretly and imperceptibly."

Profiting from the relics unearthed was deemed the motive for the theft.

"Due to the huge profit that could be gained from a successful robbery, many people cannot resist the lure, which makes strengthening social education and cultural relic protection efforts more urgent, he said.

"Ancient tomb robbery is rampant in China. Sometimes our archeologists' job is like that of a firefighter, we rush here and there to rescue robbed, ancient tombs. Robbers' actions are prompt and highly destructive. We have to rush to the site the moment that we receive any notice that a tomb has been robbed," said Xu Weihong, the excavation team leader of the Terracotta Warriors Museum.

"Most of the Chinese ancient tomb sites are scattered in remote areas, which are hardly safeguarded," Xu said.

But Xu said most archeologists blame some of the television antique shows, as they might encourage criminal activities such as the robbery of antiques from tombs.

Yin Hang contributed to this story
So, who would buy unprovenanced artifacts on the illegal market?  What kind of value could such artifacts possibly have?  Only an expert could potentially be able to tell the difference between, for instance, Han Dynasty, and earlier or later.  Are these artifacts being funneled to someone who knows the differences, someone who has connections to be able to sell these stolen artifacts to people with enough money to thumb their noses at the law, but who want "the real goods?"

I hope these people spend eternity in Hell with pitchforks shoved up their butts - constantly.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

USCF Special Elections for Executive Board - Unintended Consequences


If you don't follow USCF politics, you can skip this post.  I almost did :)

Generally, I don't give a hoot about chess politics.  Every now and then when an interesting article comes along about chess politics elsewhere, I will post it here.  I also did some posting back in 2007 when GM Susan Polgar and several other candidates were running for seats on the USCF's Executive Board.  They sort of function as a Board of Directors in the day-to-day running of the Federation's business, and once a year it is fairly routine that delegates elected by member state chess organizations and sent to the annual meeting (I believe it is usually held in conjunction with the U.S. Open) by vote ratify the Executive Board's actions for the prior 12 months. 

I like Susan Polgar. I admire her accomplishments as a chessplayer and as a woman playing chess - following the dudes' rules - at a time when it just was not kosher to do so. Her example as a female playing chess at the same level as men against them in the events they played in, inspired many female chessplayers, and she paved the way for the others who came after her. 

I think that GM Polgar has done a lot to promote chess among women all around the world, and particularly here in the USA since she settled here and became a U.S. citizen.  Now her playing days are behind her, but she put a cap on an illustrious chessplaying career by earning a Women's Team silver for the USA Women's Team and an Individual Gold medal for her performance on Board 1 at the 2004 Chess Olympiad.  This was an outstanding moment in the annals of U.S. chess history.

GM Susan Polgar has moved on to other things, most notably, becoming an organizer of national tournaments and the Director of the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas.  In a few short years SPICE has built a collegiate chess team to be reckoned with and has established and held prestigious invitational tournaments, some of which have provided American chessplayers with the opportunity to earn coveted GM norms. 

Susan Polgar has always been gracious and helpful when I have turned to her for assistance in doing our own modest chess promotions for Goddesschess.  We sponsor prizes, etc. for female chessplayers in three or four tournaments a year, as well as sponsoring a special prize since 2007 in the U.S. Women's Chess Championship.

I suspect GM Polgar gets multitudes of requests for assistance from people just like me every day, but she has always answered any email I sent to her and she has always come through when I have made a request of her - and even when I did not make a request of her.   In November, 2009, SP donated 28 copies of her own software that teaches beginners (geared toward children) how to play chess.  I did not ask her for this generous donation - she read a last minute online plea that I made on behalf of Computer Labs for Kids that is run by my friend and fellow chessplayer, Shira Evans.  GM Polgar contacted me and donated what was needed with no questions asked.  I can say, based on information I have received since, that the chess program GM Polgar donated to that November, 2009 computer lab (for 28 kids in foster care in Chicago) had an impact - one that will probably be years in the making and we may see unexpected results long since, the impact that learning chess using GM Polgar's chess software program made on these kids.

Back in 2007, I supported Susan Polgar and the other candidates that she recommended to be elected to seats on the USCF Executive Board.  Chess politics at the national level of chess in the US have been disfunctional for many many years - longer than I've became interested in chess as an avocation (1999).  For the most part this disfunctionality has not affected the rank and file members, who play in events in their neighborhoods and states, under the auspices of their state chess associations.  Most members don't pay attention to the trials and tribulations of the chess politicians.  They just want to play chess, get their games rated in a timely manner, and get their magazine with chess news on a fairly current basis -- either in print or on line.  A whole horde more of chessplayers do not even belong to the USCF, because they don't care to play in officially rated tournaments; they play casually, either in clubs or at the local coffee shop, library or restaurant, and perhaps they belong to a club, but usually not. 

I believed then that Susan Polgar and the candidates that she endorsed could have a positive impact on how the USCF functioned as an organization.  I was naive.  My optimistic expectations were proved wrong, but I do not hold this against Susan Polgar or her husband, Paul Truong, who was also elected to a seat on the USCF Executive Board.  Suffice to say that for most of our blog fans, a recitation of blow by blow or even a general overview of the somewhat convoluted events that followed and the litigation (law suits) that resulted  would be totally B-O-R-I-N-G!  For those who are caught up in the tale of that litigation, they will go to their graves still nattering about it.  For everyone else they say "chess?  Who gives a ff?," shrug their shoulders and move on. 

As part of the entire process that evolved with the litigation, the members of the USCF Executive Board, minus the votes of Susan Polgar and Paul Truong, in 2009 stripped GM Polgar and Mr. Truong of their USCF membership status, and thereby declared that they could no longer serve as duly-elected Executive Board members since they were no longer USCF members.

How revoking the USCF memberships of GM Polgar and Mr. Truong in 2009 could possibly affect the fact that both GM Polgar and Mr. Truong were legally USCF members in 2007 and legally elected back then to serve four-year terms as Executive Board members could, two years later, void the election results is totally beyond me.  Hmmm...  It just doesn't sound fair, does it? 

Regardless of what I thought or think of the litigation and the actions of the USCF in attempting to void the results of a legal election of people to the USCF Executive Board, most everything in the various law suits (combined into one giant-size law suit in a Federal District Court) was settled a few days ago, an Order was signed and various claims and causes of action were dismissed with prejudice.  That means, generally, that any claim that someone in the settlement might otherwise be able to bring against another person or entity in the settlement related to the facts underlying the original case (or cases), cannot be brought up again, including the fact of the other members of the USCF Executive Board stripping GM Susan Polgar and Mr. Truong of their USCF memberships and, ex post facto, declaring the results of the 2007 USCF Executive Board elections null and void - only as to GM Polgar and Mr. Truong. 

Two parties in the law suits were not part of the settlement:  Gregory Alexander and Sam Sloan.  Suits involving these two parties remain intact and were not settled.

After stripping GM Susan Polgar and Mr. Truong of their seats as duly elected USCF Executive Board members, the USCF decided that it was obliged to hold an election to fill the two seats on the Executive Board formerly held by GM Polgar and Mr. Truong.  Anyone elected to those two positions would hold the seats only until the original term  GM Polgar and Mr. Truong ran out - sometime in 2011.

Only three (three!) members of the USCF filed the necessary paperwork within the necessary time frame to qualify as candidates for the special election for the two vacant Executive Board Seats.  They are:  1. Gary Walters, Ohio; 2. Sam Sloan, New York; and 3. Mike Nietman, Wisconsin.  This slate of candidates was approved by the USCF. One must ask why only three candidates stepped forward? Perhaps a never-ending question.

Which brings me down to a day or two ago.  I was reading some posts at rec.chess.politics - or perhaps it was rec.chess.miscellaneous.  I am certain that I read in a post by - I thought - Mr Sloan - that Mr. Neitman had withdrawn as a candidate.

I do not know if this is true, and I have since then not been able to locate the post in which I read this information.  Either my searching skills have vastly deteriorated over the past few days, or the post that contained this information was removed for one reason or another - perhaps the information it contained was false.  Or perhaps I just dreamed it all. As of this evening, I have not been able to confirm this information elsewhere.  So you must believe what you will.

There remains the distinct possibility that Mr. Sloan, with name recognition from many prior elections and as previously elected to the Executive Board - and he and his supporters broadcasting himself as a fighter for truth, justice and the American Way - could once again be elected to one of the two now vacant Executive Board seats. 

The voting to fill these seats will take place in June, 2010.  I am almost tempted to renew my membership in USCF for 2010 just to vote for Mr. Sloan.  But I think not.  I can put that money to use elsewhere.  Only consider:  if one of the candidates has, in fact, withdrawn from the election, that leaves only two.  Since, according to what I have read, I know that Mr. Sloan has not withdrawn his candidacy, nor is he likely to do so, that means he would win one of the seats by default. 

I do not believe the USCF By-Laws are designed to address such a situation.  Oh my.  Only consider the questions that might be raised:

Could a candidate who withdrew but still received sufficient votes to be elected, except for his withdrawal, actually be legally elected, thereby potentially bouncing Mr. Sloan out of a seat otherwise?  Would this depend upon whether the candidate all of a sudden decided to take the seat - after all?  And what if he said NO NO NO?  A THOUSAND TIMES NO!

If this now unwithdrawn candidate was somehow seated, and succeeded in bouncing Mr. Sloan out of his otherwise legitimately won seat (even if only by 1 vote, Mr. Sloan's own), would Mr. Sloan have a legitimate cause of action against the USCF and, indeed, against each and every single member of the USCF?

Stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

9 Queens Action!

9 Queens action!  Check it out:
Queens & Kings Chess Tournament
Wilmot Public Library (Tucson, Arizona)
January 30, 2010
10 - 4 p.m.

Free!  Open to all ages!  Open to the public!

Bookman's Sponsored 9 Queens Academies!
Sorry - I missed the first one on January 24th. But there are more scheduled in Tucson, Arizona:

These are for intermediate and advanced level girls and women players only.

February 21, 2010
March 21, 2010
2 - 4 p.m.

For beginners and the merely curious!  Do not worry - there are classes for you, too!  For girls and women only:

Free Beginner Chess Worshops
at Bookmans, 1930 East Grant Road
February 7, 2010
March 7, 2010
2 - 4 p.m.

Kudos to Jean Hoffman and Jen Shahade for the great work 9 Queens is doing.  Hopefully soon you will see 9 Queens spreading across the United States to a community near you. 

Mayan Figurehead Found in Guatemala

Valencian archaeologists find Mayan figurehead in Guatemala
By: ThinkSpain, Monday, January 25, 2010

A group of investigators from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia and the Universidad de Valencia working deep in the jungles of Guatemala have found a decorated Mayan figurehead dating back to between 300 and 600 AD.

The figurehead, which has remained buried for centuries under the dense vegetation which covers the archaeological ruins at Chilonché in the northern part of Guatemala, appears to pre-date the other remains at the site by some considerable amount of time.

Gaspar Muñoz Cosme, from the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia, said that the discovery "gives us some very important scientific data which affords us a greater understanding of the architecture of this era and the ancient Mayan people".

The stuccoed figurehead measures some 2.8m by 3m at the base and rises to a height of 1.5m and has been preserved in excellent condition, even conserving some of its original colours. It was found inside one of the numerous tunnels at the site, which have been built by looters who steal artefacts from the ruins to sell on the black market.

As soon as they made the find, the team from Valencia alerted the Guatemalan authorities of its importance to ensure greater security around the site and to try to combat the frequent looting in the area. As specialists in the conservation and restoration of stuccoed artefacts, the team has also made their expertise available to archaeologists in Guatemala.

Gaspar Muñoz described the find as "spectacular" and added that they hoped to find another similar figurehead as these items were usually built symmetrically by the Mayans.

These Mayan ruins are buried deep in the Departament of El Petén, the Guatemala's northenmost region and the area considered by experts to be the heart of the ancient Mayan culture, close to cities like Naranjo, Nakum and the better known Tikal.

Statue of Goddess Amman Found

From Amman idol, copper coins unearthed near Mannargudi [Tamil Nadu state, India] January 25th, 2010 By Our Correspondent Jan. 24: A three-and-a-half foot stone idol of goddess Amman and a mud pot containing a hoard of ancient copper coins were unearthed by construction workers at two different places near Mannargudi. Jayalakshmi of Ambedkarnagar in Neduvakottai who wanted to construct a house decided to relocate the mango tree located in her site. The workers dug a four-ft deep pit on the border of the site on Saturday when they stumbled upon idol of goddess Amman. Later, they handed over the idol to Mannargudi tahsildar Elangovan. In another incident, the workers were levelling the site owned by Sundararajan of Keezhanemmeli village for constructing a house on Saturday. They brought a load of sand from the site owned by Selvam of Serumangalam Athikottai to close the unused well located on Sundararajan’s land. There, the workers stumbled upon an ancient mud pot containing a hoard of copper coins weighing 11.6 kg.Sundararajan, however, did not hand over the treasure trove to the revenue officials. On a tip off by an anonymous caller, the revenue officials led by tahsildar Elangovan rushed to the village and questioned Sundararajan. The revenue officials retrieved the broken mud pot and copper coins and took the treasure trove to taluk office. Tahsildar Elangovan, however, expressed ignorance of which period these two treasure troves belonged to. “We will come to know which period/century these copper coins and idol stone of goddess Amman only after the experts of Archaeological Survey of India ascertain it,” Elangovan said.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Shaman Tomb Discovered in Peru

Wow. It seems like Peru is in the archaeological news at least once a week. Note that two burials are reported in this article. More news from Tomb of 800 year old shaman discovered January 23, 2010 Curandero – witch-doctor or medicine-man in English, but the most direct translation is healer. The tradition of the curanderos still runs strong in the Muchik northern coast of La Libertad and Lambayeque, particularly around Chiclayo. The traditions and techniques of theses healers date back to pre-Colombian times and the the civilisations of the Chimú, Sicán and the Moche before them. Archaeologists have recently been given a glimpse into this period of time with the discovery of the 800 year old tomb of a Sicán curandero. The curandero was found alongside 500 nectandra seeds, considered aphrodisiacs, at the archaeological complex of La Pava de Mochumí near Lambayeque’s Valley of Pyramids near Túcume. The seeds were contained in a ceramic vase that was discovered first and convinced archaeologists to keep digging. They eventually discovered the curandero along with a fan-shaped shell for smoking, mates burilados, textiles, a ceramic jug and a wooden staff. Then then discovered another burial from the same time period, again with objects, such as quartz stone and ceramics, that indicated his relative importance. Director of the Brüning Museum in Lambayeque, Carlos Wester, states that the discoveries of the curandero and the person of medium authority indicate the intense level cultural, artistic, technological and religious activities that were taking place in the Mochumí sector of the vast archaeological region. The curandero, according to experts in pre-Inca Lambayeque, was not only charged with healing, but was also a medium through which to communicated with the gods. Peru has destined 1.5 million soles, about 540,000 dollars, to archaeological investigations in the region which over various centuries was home to the Moche, Chimú and Sicán.

Rare Bamboo Strip Books and Chariot Burial Recovered from Chinese Tomb

Explorers find rare ancient books By Lin Shujuan (China Daily)Updated: 2010-01-23 08:37 Excited archaeologists hope the discovery of rare bamboo-strip books will reveal the owner of an ancient tomb being excavated in Hubei province. Work to uncover the tomb in Yancang, a village near Jingmen, began on Jan 17 and experts believe the site dates back to the Warring States Period (475 BC to 221 BC). "We cannot tell how many we've got and we have no idea what's written on them, but the discovery of bamboo strips itself is exciting," Shen Haining, director of the provincial cultural heritage bureau, told China Daily. Archaeologists will have to wait until excavation of the tomb is completed next week to attempt to read the strips, he said. "Sorting out those bamboo strips is like sorting out well-cooked noodles, you have to be really careful so as not to damage them." There is a possibility the strips contain an introduction written by the owner of the tomb, "like a letter of recommendation the deceased would carry with them to the underworld to give Yanluo, the god of death", Shen said. Ancient Chinese believed Yanluo was not only the ruler but also the judge of the underworld. Hence the deceased would bury with them an introduction letter detailing their good deeds and achievements during their life to guarantee a better afterlife. "It is still too early to tell, let's wait and see. Archaeology is all about surprise," he said. Archaeologists initially suspected the tomb belonged to a ministerial-level military officer of Chu, then-ruling state of Hubei province. In addition to the books, the excavation has also uncovered a copper weapon inscribed with the year of manufacture - 384 BC - and a chariot pulled by four horses. According to historical archives, only officials at ministerial level traveled in chariots pulled by four horses, said Meng Huaping, deputy director of the provincial archaeological institute, which is leading the excavation. In other chambers, archaeologists have found another five chariots and 10 horses, all arranged around a flagpole as if prepared for a battle. Bamboo-strip books are the best materials to study the earliest Chinese manuscripts because Emperor Qin Shihuang ordered most documents to be destroyed after he united China in 221 BC. The emperor ordered all books except those about the Qin dynasty's history and culture, divination and medicines to be burned. "As the historical documents about the early part of China's history that have been passed down are very rare, bamboo strips today are very valuable," Shen said. The discovery in 1993 of almost 800 bamboo strips dating back to the Warring States Period in a tomb in Hubei was an international sensation as they contained the complete pre-Qin transcription of Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, a philosopher in the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC to 476 BC) and founder of the Taoist school of thought.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter Photos of Back Yard

It't been raining for the past few days - finally stopped around noon today. A lot of the snow that we had melted away in the mild temperatures and non-stop rain and winds. It woke me up last night and I could not fall back asleep. Crap! Earlier today at least half a dozen sparrows were fighting for bathing space in the bird bath, LOL! They were so much fun to watch, and all the while I was thinking we still have a week to the end of January, what is going on with this crazy weather? Two days ago the bird bath was frozen solid and capped with a foot-high pile of snow! I didn't pull my camera out in time to get any photos of the birds taking baths, but I did catch this shot of one of the sparrows setting up shop in the red-roofed bird house, singing his head off to attract a mate. There was quite a fight that went on for possession of that bird house. Oh darn. I see that the downloaded photo here is much smaller, and the bird in the opening of the house doesn't show up very well. I had the lens on maximum zoom, too. The second shot shows bare green (!!!) grass on January 24th, 2010 uncovered by the rapidly melting snow. I am wondering if the robins will show up in a few days? I remember the end of January, 1987, how shocked I was one morning as I was trekking to the bus stop to go to work, first hearing its distinctive call and then seeing a robin redbreast bold as brass against the snow-covered ground. I don't particularly recall a January thaw since then as long as this one has been (or, actually, any for the past several years) - 10 days at least with temperatures in the mid to high-3o's F! And the rain for the past day and a half washed away so much snow. Of course, now the yard looks a terrible mess! Branches all over and leaves, holes left behind by the ever-digging squirrels - but the grass stayed so green underneath. Very strange...

Moonwalk for Breast Cancer - May 15, 2010

Lots more information about the upcoming Playtex Moonwalk on May 15, 2010 in London, to raise funds for breast cancer research and patient assistance.

Here is a link to the actual Playtex Moonwalk website - I didn't have this earlier.

These photos are from the 2009 Moonwalk sent to me by Tracy French. The first photo is a crowd shot - gives you an idea of the thousands of walkers who turned out to support this fabulous event in 2009, that started at midnight.

The second photo shows Tracy (far right) and two of her friends (both teachers), decked out in their costumes for the 2009 Moonwalk. Ladies, you are absolutely gorgeous.

This year, Tracy's team will be four strong! Goddesschess is providing "Show Girl" costumes and accessories for Tracy, her daughter, her sister, and a work friend, who will be walking in the 2010 Moonwalk. Bambi and Candi, those irrepressible Las Vegas Showgirls, took a personal interest in this sponsorship and I received much instruction and direction from Las Vegas. Isis helped a lot, too! Thanks, Girlfriends!

Tracy's team is taking pledges, darlings! Please visit Tracy's website to make a pledge. Last year, Tracy and two friends who are teachers raised 581 BPS (British Pounds Sterling) for the cause. This year, there are four walkers in Tracy's group: Tracy, her sister, Tracy's daughter, and Hayley, a co-worker of Tracy.

If you can find it in your heart, please support this wonderful cause by making a donation or volunteering - on-site volunteers are needed in London.

Computer Labs for Kids: Los Angeles February 6, 2010

Here are the details about the upcoming LA Computer Labs for Kids workshop. Twenty kids in foster care, between the ages of 6 and 8, will receive their very own laptop to keep upon successful completion of the workshop. It's a great way to spend an afternoon. I participated in a workshop late last year in Chicago where we helped introduce 28 kids to their laptops and the beginner's chess program generously donated by GM Susan Polgar's Foundation. Please consider volunteering if you are in the area or making a donation to the Computer Labs for Kids Foundation. Location: United Care 3699 Crenshaw Blvd Los Angeles, CA 90016 US When: Saturday, February 6, 1:30PM to 5:00PM Phone: 626-408-2390 Hello everyone, Computer Labs for Kids is looking for volunteers! We are a 501c3 charity organization which provides a class about laptops to children in foster care. At the end of each course, the children receive their very own laptop. This is very fun and exciting course, and we need your help in order to accomplish it. Please visit our website to see our latest project in Chicago, so you will have an idea of what we do. Click here to see our website. Right now we are looking for 20 Volunteers Technical Assistants to help foster children one-on-one at our class on February 6th from 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm. Volunteers will need to arrive at 1:30 pm and also to complete our Volunteer Training Course which can be done online. Click here to start the course. Volunteer Technical Assistant Requirements: Basic computing skills, love for children and a desire to help them. Thank you very much! Shira P.S. If the above links don't work, here are the addresses - and

Mirai Nagasu Got Hosed

It was clear to me and millions of other people watching the U.S. Figure Skating Championships Ladies' long program last night on NBC that Marai Nagasu CLEARLY won the free skate - no one touched her when it came to grace, choreography, musical interpretation and artistic execution. She floated, light as a feather, seemingly slightly above the ice rather than on it, and made what is a grueling athletic performance look like an effortless ballet. I was entranced. Watching Rachel Flatt skate left me - well, flat. She's technically proficient but she is not a gifted skater, she does not have the something special that excites audiences and draws you into her performance. Nagasu clearly does have that IT factor. To a lesser extent, the Wagner girl, who finished in 3rd place, has IT too. Flatt does not. Her unfortunate last name reflects her unfortunate appearance on the ice. Too bad, because Flatt is the new U.S. Women's Figure Skating Champion and she doesn't deserve it. There's a big fat slap in the face from the U.S. judges to all skating fans in the USA. I'm surprised they didn't jump on top of the counter above their chairs and do a little hoochie dance while thumbing their collective noses at us as the scores went up. They should have been booed out of the arena. Here is what The New York Times had to say about the hose job the judges did on Nagasu: Inside the Rings Skate Scoring Has Little for Artistry By JERÉ LONGMAN Published: January 24, 2010 SPOKANE, Wash. — As Mirai Nagasu completed her stirring free skate Saturday night, the crowd at Spokane Arena leapt to its feet in raucous applause. A hail of toy animals rained onto the ice. Clearly, most in attendance thought that Nagasu had won the United States Figure Skating championship. Except that she had not. Even some of the sport’s most astute experts were stumped. “I blew it,” Scott Hamilton, the 1984 Olympic champion and NBC commentator, said of Nagasu. “I thought she won. I got caught up in the performance.” Instead, Rachael Flatt, 17, of Del Mar, Calif., won her first American title with a performance that was steady and reliable but workmanlike, slow and hardly inspiring artistically. The crowd also gave her a standing ovation, but one far less boisterous. In Flatt, skating’s controversial scoring system has its perfect competitor, one who is mathematically astute in piling up points. Yet she also leaves an audience wanting much more in terms of rousing performance. Nagasu, 16, the 2008 national champion from Arcadia, Calif., delighted the crowd with a graceful and engaging free skate but finished second because she slightly under-rotated three triple jumps. Critics of the point-based scoring system find it to be overly nitpicking — too weighted toward negativity in taking points away from skaters, too eager to reward competent but lackluster technical proficiency over risk and creativity and originality. Johnny Weir said skating has become a math test. Sasha Cohen eloquently and ruefully said that a skater’s head must now be stuffed with numbers. Did I spin eight times? Did I hold my spiral six seconds? In her view, bean counting has become an Olympic sport. “It’s one thing I don’t like,” said Cohen, who finished fourth after a stumbling free skate. Gerri Walbert, executive editor of Blades on Ice magazine, said the judges were niggling over a failed quarter turn on a jump, which is essentially what placed Nagasu in second instead of lifting her to first. The jumps are viewed by the scoring panel on only one camera, from one angle, much fewer than football uses to determine whether a receiver got both feet inbounds on a catch in the end zone. “This is the problem with the scoring system,” Walbert said. “The crowd thought Mirai won and she didn’t because of something the crowd couldn’t see — a quarter under-rotation on her jumps. They’re making way too much of that. It’s getting to the point where it’s ridiculous. It hurts the sport.” Even if Flatt did deserve to win — and under the flawed scoring system she did — skating officials did her a great disservice by not explaining to the crowd why she won. Instead of placing the marks for each element in the skaters’ routines on the arena video screen, so that rewards and downgrades could be readily visible for each jump and spin, officials served the audience dry cumulative figures: Flatt finished with 200.11 points to 188.78 for Nagasu. The numbers might as well have been qualifying speeds at Daytona. Even a technical expert who appraised each skater’s performance for spectators via in-house radio seemed to miss the tiny but critical mistakes that separated Nagasu from Flatt. “It would be better for the sport if enough information was provided to the audience so they could understand why a skater got the marks she did,” said George Rossano, an expert on the scoring system. No doubt the old 6.0 system needed revision after the judging scandal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. And the new formula makes one significant improvement: Judges no longer seem to be holding places, or reserving the highest scores, for skaters who are anticipated to win. Performance does trump reputation. Various results at the national championships showed that “our sport is becoming more fair,” Tom Zakrajsek, who coaches Flatt, said in defending the new scoring system. “I thought Rachael was beautiful tonight.” [Well, DUH! What else would he say? Come on!] Perhaps people are still growing accustomed to figure skating being less political and predictable than it has been in the past, Zakrajsek said. [This is bullshit.] “All sports deal with numbers,” he said. “If figure skating is a combination of sport and art, then it shouldn’t be one way or the other way — all technical or all artistic.” Noting that divers and gymnasts are penalized for imperfect rotations in their routines, Zakrajsek said, “Why wouldn’t we do that in figure skating?” He added: “This is not a beauty pageant.” Both Flatt and Nagasu will compete next month at the Winter Games in Vancouver. Their styles will appear in stark contrast. “One is a great athlete, one is an artist,” said Frank Carroll, who coaches Nagasu. Hamilton described Flatt as someone who “punched her time clock every moment. She’s consistent and solid. You can depend on her.” [Yeah, to put the audience to sleep.] Zakrajsek, Flatt’s coach, quoted Sarah Hughes, the 2002 Olympic champion, as saying, “When you go to the Olympics, you better stay vertical.” But many will yearn for something more than an athlete simply staying on her feet. After all, this is figure skating, not boxing.
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