Saturday, February 20, 2010

African Slaves of American Indians

An Ancestry of African-Native Americans
Using government documents, author Angela Walton-Raji traced her ancestors to the slaves owned by American Indians
By Katy-June Friesen
February 17, 2010

Angela Walton-Raji has been researching African-Native American genealogy for nearly 20 years and is the author of the book Black Indian Genealogy Research: African-American Ancestors Among the Five Civilized Tribes. She recently presented a series of genealogy workshops at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C., in conjunction with the exhibit IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas. Walton-Raji’s ancestors are Freedmen, African-Americans who were slaves of the Five Civilized Tribes – the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Nations – in Indian Territory, which became Oklahoma in 1907. The Cherokee freed their slaves in 1863, and after the Civil War, the other tribes did the same. All but the Chickasaw eventually granted Freedmen full citizenship in their tribe. In preparation for Oklahoma statehood, the U.S. Congress created the Dawes Commission, which was charged with dissolving collective tribal land ownership and allotting land to individual tribal members. Thousands of Freedmen came before the commission to prove their tribal membership and their right to a share of land. I spoke with Walton-Raji about her research.

Rest of article.
Who really has clean hands when it comes to herstory?  Not many.

Date for Chinese Brick-Making Gets Pushed Back

China Discovers Old Bricks Made 7,000 Years Ago
2010-02-20 22:19:42 Xinhua Web Editor: Zhang

Bricks dating back 5,000 to 7,000 years have been unearthed in northwest China's Shaanxi Province, adding between 1,000 to 2,000 years onto Chinese brick-making history, archaeologists claimed Saturday.

"The five calcined bricks were unearthed from a site of the Yangshao Culture Period dating 5,000 to 7,000 years ago. Previously, the oldest known bricks in the country were more than 4,000 years old," Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology researcher Yang Yachang said.

The bricks, including three red ones and two gray ones, all uncompleted, Yang said. The site under excavation is located at Liaoyuan Village of Baqiao District, and Huaxu Town, Lantian County of Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi Province.

Yangshao Culture is a Neolithic culture that flourished along the Yellow River, which runs across China from west to east. The culture was named after Yangshao, the name of the first village discovered of the culture, in 1921 in central China's Henan Province.

Archaeologists used to believe the ceramics were applied to architecture in the Shang Dynasty (1600 B.C-1100 B.C.), which had been proved wrong by the new discovery, Yang said.

The smooth surface and rough surface of most well preserved red bricks are vertical to each other, and the rough surface was designed to be stuck to other materials, Yang said.

"It is still unknown whether the bricks were in a square or rectangle shape as none of them are complete," he said.

The site, called Lantian New Street Site and covering an area of more than 200,000 square meters, was to be cut through by a new highway, said Shao Jing, assistant researcher of the institute.

The salvage excavation was launched in August 2009. As of February, more than 2,300 square meters had been excavated, Shao said.

More than 150 sites, including houses, ash pits, ash grooves and kilns, had been found in the area, Shao said.

"The bricks were all discovered in ash pits, which were garbage containers for the ancient people. For the modern archaeologist, these garbage containers are treasure troves of artifacts," she said.

The world's oldest unearthed bricks date back 8,000 to 10,000 years. They were discovered in Middle East and they were adobes which had not been calcined. Thus, the brick-making history of human kind should be about 10,000 years, Yang Yachang said.

I don't know how - but it works!

Darlings!  I have no idea what this means or how it works, but it does. 

The other day I received an email from a friend of this blog, "RHHannaHH," who sends me information from time to time, usually related to the Number of the Goddess 4-3-2 (or 432).  This email was different, not featuring 4-3-2 but 396. Huh?  But I tried the link out earlier this evening figuring - what the heck. 

It took me to a You Tube site where an ever-morphing Mandela was featured along with some tonal music in the background.  When I first heard it, it reminded me very much of the soft tones playing in the background in all of the Egyptian exhibits at the Brooklyn Musem (which I visited in May, 2009). 

I don't know how it works.  I can tell you this.  At first I focused my attention on the changing Mandela, and listened to the tones.  Quite soon my eyelids grew heavy (but I am tired out, so I discount that this is an effect of the tones and/or watching the pattern) and I closed my eyes.  Then I settled my head back against the hard wood of this chair.  I opened my eyes and watched the changing colors and patterns of the mandela for awhile, as the tones in the background grew louder and then faded, in and out.  I can't say they went up and down, because thr tones did not seem to follow the musical scale of do-re-mi as we know it.  Very relaxing.  I closed my eyes again and almost drifted off to sleep.

So, I visit the You Tube url listed and it's called Unison Therapy.'s a "tones for sale site" - maybe the mandalas are included too?  In any event, the site introduced me to two new terms:  binaural beats and Solfeggio scale.  The problem is, I am now so relaxed and ready to take a nap that I have no interest in researching these two terms to find out more.  Snore...

L'Bri Update

This morning started Day 10 of my new facial care regime using the L'Bri products I purchased at my sister's and niece's party earlier this month.  I purchased the following items:

(1) Body lotion (not part of the facial regime)
(2) Cleanser (gentle formulation)
(3) Rejuvenating Facial Peel (I judged this to be a gentler way to exfoliate than using the facial and body scrub) - made with fruit enzymes, no granuals or "beads" to "scrub" the skin
(4) Freshener (no alcohol in formula) that can be spritzed on or can be used on a cotton ball or pad and wiped over face
(5) Smooth 'n Firm Eye Repair Gel
(6) Moisturizer
(7) Maxifirm Skin Renewal Complex - supposed to visibly lift and tighten skin around eyes, etc.

My take on the products thus far:

(1) I love the body lotion!  I have been using it on my alligator skin legs, even worse condition knees and elbows, and the stuff really does work like Liz the rep said it would.  It is light, non-greasy and has a nice light fragrance, not perfumey.  I have also been using the body lotion on the skin on my throat and neck and I am amazed at the difference!  The reduction in the creases and wrinkles in the neck, throat and high chest areas is definitely noticeable. Definite improvement in the appearance of the skin on my arms and legs and heels.  My skin also feels much softer and smoother to the touch.  Hands down the best body lotion I have ever used - and I've tried sooooo many over the years.  It's well worth the $13.25 for 8 ounces in a pump bottle. 

(2) Cleanser.  I like this product for not irritating my skin and its pleasant scent.  It does take off waterproof mascara, but it takes a couple of applications to do that and "scraping" with my fingernails.  I suppose I'm cheating - I am using the same non-greasy gentle facial cleanser that I had been using in the mornings before I started the L'Bri regime, to remove my make-up, and then do a second cleansing with the L'Bri cleanser.  I stopped using my Dove soap (used since 1986), which Liz the L'Bri lady was horrified to learn I'd been using.  Far too drying, she said.  There has been a noticeable decrease in dry flaky patches on my face, so she was right.  I admit I was dubious - how could one remove make-up and get one's face clean without using soap?  But the cleanser does the job and I have not suffered any new break-outs from clogged pores.  I am, however, dealing with the slow healing of my last adult acne flare-up including classic large red "zits" (one on either side of my face near my "laugh lines") and lots of under-skin bumps.  They are diminishing, but not fast enough! 

(3) Rejuvenating Facial Peel.  The first time I put it on, it didn't work the way it had at the demonstration at the L'Bri party.  But I tried it again last night and actually counted out 30 seconds before starting to massage, and this time it worked.  Wow, did it ever work!  It worked so much that I figured I must have a lot of exfoliating to do, so I did it again this morning, and more skin sloughed off. My skin seems happy with this treatment - no flare ups or blotchiness afterward and it definitely feels much smoother now.

(4) Freshener.  It doesn't sting, it's refreshing.  The first time I used it, I spritzed it onto a cotton pad and then wiped my face with it, and I noticed a lot of gunk on the pad.  But that was the first day I started using the L'Bri products so I figure there must have been a lot of residue of other stuff on my face, because now, when I wipe, there is no such residue showing up on the cotton pad - and I've looked very carefully for anything!  So, I first spray a little bit on the pad and wipe over my "T" zone, and then I close my eyes and do a couple of spritzes right from the spray bottle.  It's very refreshining.  Is it doing any good?  I have no idea.  But it does not seem to be doing any harm. 

(5) Smooth 'n Firm Eye Repair Gel.  According to the product description, this is supposed to restore elasticity while diminishing the appearance of fine lines and puffiness around the eye area.  I have not noticed any difference in the appearance of lines and wrinkles or elasticity and the under-eye puffiness and dark circles are still there.

(6) Moisturizer.  Light and non-greasy enough for me to use over my entire face. Does not seem to clog pores - I would notice immediately.  My post-menopausal skin flares up at the slightest provocation.

(7) Maxifirm.  This product claims independent clinical studies that showed a 20% increase in skin's firmness and skin density improved by up to 77.2% after only 4 weeks.  So - I'll give it some more time but at this point, I have not noticed any improvement and, when applied to the delicate skin under my eyes, it actually seemed to accentuate the lines and creases.  Eek!  Not good. 

Overall:  My face is definitely feeling smoother and softer.  This morning, afer close examination with glasses on and also checking with a magnifying mirror, it appears that there has been some reduction in the size of some areas of enlarged pores, but others areas appear unaffected.  Flaky patches of skin are gone and that is a definite plus.  I can perceive no decrease in fine lines or wrinkles around the eyes and mouth.  I do not see any difference in the appearance of the area under the eyes or a decrease in the crease line at the top of my nose.  No visible effect upon droopy and lined eyelids.  As far as I can tell, Maxifirm is not doing anything for me, and may actually be accentuating wrinkles in the delicate thin skinned area under my eyes.

I saw my sister Yvonne yesterday.  She is five years younger than me.  I have not seen her since the L'Bri party - a little more than 2 weeks ago.  I immediately noticed that her skin looks much better than I've ever seen it.  Better than when I last saw her, at the L'Bri party.  She still has dark circles under her eyes, and definite lines and wrinkles (as do I), but the rest of her face looks very smooth and firm.  Nice texture.  The difference is noticeable.  Her skin is also soft to the touch - she invited me to touch it and see for myself.  She has been using the L'Bri products for about 2 months now, and she swears by them.  So - I am definitely willing to give the facial products another 20 to 35 days, which would take me to between 4 and 6 weeks from first use.

The body lotion is a definite BUY.  It works exactly as promised.  I love the product.

When I visit Isis and Michelle for my get-away at the end of tax season, I'll be taking a supply of the body lotion with me for each of them. What works in Wisconsin's sub-zero dessicating winter winds and and moisture-sucking central heating should work just as well in the moisture-sucking extreme heat and equally drying air-conditioning of Las Vegas.

I'll do another report on my skin's condition around March 3rd.

Women's Grand Prix 2010

Schedule for upcoming Women's Grand Prix events (FIDE):

Nalchik, Russia 25 April (arrival) - 8 May (departure) 2010
Jermuk, Armenia 23 June – 6 July 2010
Ulanbaatar, Mongolia 29 July - 12 August 2010
Santiago, Chile 27 October – 9 November 2010

Friday, February 19, 2010

Cotroceni 2010

Women's invitational in Bucharest, Romania, final standings after R9
February 10 - 18, 2010:

Rk. Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 IM Melia Salome GEO 2431 6,0 26,75 0,0 4
2 IM Muzychuk Mariya UKR 2447 5,5 22,75 0,0 3
3 IM Peptan Corina-Isabela ROU 2411 5,0 21,75 0,0 1
4 WGM Cosma Elena-Luminita ROU 2332 5,0 21,50 0,5 1
IM Turova Irina RUS 2386 5,0 21,50 0,5 1
6 IM Gara Anita HUN 2370 5,0 19,00 0,0 3
7 IM Vajda Szidonia HUN 2369 4,0 16,25 0,0 1
8 IM Repkova Eva SVK 2434 3,5 15,75 0,0 1
9 IM Khotenashvili Bela GEO 2461 3,0 14,00 0,0 2
10 IM Foisor Cristina-Adela ROU 2440 3,0 13,25 0,0 1

Tie Break1: Sonneborn-Berger-Tie-Break variable
Tie Break2: The results of the players in the same point group#results against
Tie Break3: The greater number of victories

Evan Lysacek and Olympic Gold - a Dream Come True

Evan Lysacek did it when it counted - last night, on the ice, possibly the greatest performance of his life.  Intense, near perfect, the program perfectly designed to highlight his strengths -- great spins and balance, solid triple jumps, intricately edged footwork, perfect coordination of the choreography with the music and just the right emotional note - not too little, not too hammy. 

The entire routine was balanced between athleticism and artistry - and carefully designed so that in the second half of the program, four jumps (some in combination) were performed for a 10% bonus of the score for each jump/combination.  It is in the second half of the 4:40 minutes that the men skate that their legs are burning and feeling heavy, and it takes extra effort, willpower, strength and conditioning - whatever it takes - to make those jumps and not only make them, but to land them and land them well.  Here is the video (I hope) at NBC's website of Lysacek's gold-winning performance.  I found it mesmerizing. 

Personally, I believe the Goddess had a hand in his victory.  Yes, I know I know, you'll pooh-pooh me, LOL!  But before you dismiss me altogether, consider two design elements that were an integral part - indeed, perhaps the most important part - of his costume.

Do you see them?  They're as plain as day. Two serpents - Goddess symbols! (Photo: USA Today file)  Did the costume designer actually know this, and purposely incorporate those symbols on Lysacek's costume?  I've no idea.  But, Scheherazade, the great, transcendent musical suite of Rimsky-Korsakov, is firmly based in Persian myths and legends from pre-Islamic times.  Barbara Walker, in her discussion of serpent symbolism in The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets, says:

Arabian tradition identified the food of immortality with the female uterine blood, colored "royal purple"; and the Mother's uterine garden with the moon temple at Marib in Sheba.  Legend said the serpents of Sheba were purple with the divine essence, and lived in trees; the people were serpentlike, with forked tongues, great wisdom, and longevity. (41)  From Sheba might have come the mysterious life-giving substance called shiba in the Epic of Gilgamesh, dispensed by the wife of Uta-Napishtim (Noah), who had become the only immortal man; his wife therefore was a Goddess.  When this holy matriarch gave shiba to Gilgamesh, he shed his old, diseased skin like a snake, and emerged from it reborn.(42)

Persians also maintained the symbolic connections between menstrual blood and the serpent's secret of longevity.  Mithraists claimed immortality was conferred by the blood of the sacrificial bull, but a serpent was there to collect the blood as it flowed from the bull's body; and this blood was imitation-menstrual blood in that it was "delivered by the moon."(43)


41. Thomson, 195.
42. Assy. & Baby. Lit., 360; Hooke, M.E.M., 55.
43. Larousse, 316.

So, maybe I'm not so crazy after all...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Aeroflot 2010

Final standings for the women:

Group A1 (80 players):
Rank Name Flags Score Fed. M/F Rating TPR W-We Col.Bal. Rat-HiLo 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
51 GM Hou, Yifan w 4.0 CHN F 2590 2552 -0.45 -1 2597.4 0 ½ 0 1 ½ 1 ½ 0 ½
58 GM Kosintseva, Tatiana w 4.0 RUS F 2515 2596 +1.00 1 2640.0 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 1 0 ½
61 IM Kosintseva, Nadezhda w 4.0 RUS F 2533 2585 +0.67 1 2625.6 1 ½ ½ 0 0 0 1 ½ ½
69 IM Javakhishvili, Lela w 3.0 GEO F 2493 2484 -0.09 -1 2605.4 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0 ½ 0
71 GM Sebag, Marie w 3.0 FRA F 2510 2471 -0.45 -1 2594.7 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 0 1 0

Group A2 (66 players):
Rank Name Flags Score Fed. M/F Rating TPR W-We Col.Bal. Rat-HiLo 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
22 IM Ovod, Evgenija w 5.0 RUS F 2415 2525 +1.32 1 2481.7 0 1 ½ 0 1 1 1 0 ½
23 IM Kovalevskaya, Ekaterina w 5.0 RUS F 2428 2507 +0.95 1 2472.3 0 ½ 1 0 ½ ½ 1 ½ 1
41 IM Romanko, Marina w 4.0 RUS F 2433 2415 -0.21 -1 2458.6 0 1 0 1 0 0 ½ ½ 1
42 IM Harika, Dronavalli w 4.0 IND F 2471 2394 -0.92 -1 2441.6 ½ 1 1 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 ½
56 WGM Bodnaruk, Anastasia w 3.5 RUS F 2372 2359 -0.19 1 2435.7 1 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 1 1
57 WGM Savina, Anastasia w 3.0 RUS F 2407 2359 -0.55 -1 2483.9 1 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 0 0
63 WGM Karavade, Eesha w 2.5 IND F 2405 2241 -1.98 -1 2411.1 0 0 ½ 0 0 ½ ½ 0 1
66 WGM Pourkashiyan, Atousa w 1.5 IRI F 2306 2141 -1.67 1 2414.9 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 0

Group B (55 players):
Rank Name Flags Score Fed. M/F Rating TPR W-We Col.Bal. Rat-HiLo 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
2 WFM Mammadova, Gulnar Marfat q w 7.0 AZE F 2221 2529 +3.58 1 2322.7 ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 1 ½ ½
21 WIM Ghader Pour, Shayesteh w 5.0 IRI F 2187 2323 +1.45 1 2314.7 + 1 0 ½ 1 0 ½ 0 1
22 WIM Kharashuta, Ekaterina w 5.0 RUS F 2270 2298 +0.37 1 2274.7 ½ 0 0 1 1 1 ½ 0 1
35 WIM Tarasova, Viktoriya w 4.0 RUS F 2290 2206 -0.96 -1 2260.1 1 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 1 0
38 WGM Chasovnikova, Eugenia w 4.0 RUS F 2251 2295 +0.47 3 2227.0 - 0 1 1 - 0 1 0 1
41 WFM Cheremnova, Tamara w 3.5 RUS F 2260 2179 -1.00 -1 2264.6 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1 ½

Group C (72 players):
Rank Name Flags Score Fed. M/F Rating TPR W-We BH BH-HiLo 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
3 WFM Nikolaeva, Alexandra w 7.0 RUS F 2193 2298 +0.98 47.0 37.0 1 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1 1
8 Rjanova, Valerya w 6.0 RUS F 2105 2227 +1.53 48.0 36.5 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 1 0
20 WFM Aghasiyeva, Fidan Aydin qi w 5.5 AZE F 2084 2113 +0.47 41.5 33.5 ½ 1 0 1 1 ½ 0 1 ½

Three Women Caned in Malaysia for Adultery

From CNN World

3 women caned in Malaysia for adultery
By Joe Sterling, CNN
February 17, 2010 2:41 p.m. EST

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (CNN) -- For the first time, Malaysian authorities have caned three Muslim women under Islamic law for acts of adultery, the Malaysian national news agency Bernama said.

Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein announced the canings Wednesday, saying the penalty was carried out February 9 at a women's prison near Kuala Lumpur.

The canings -- a punishment that persists across Malaysian society since the British colonial era of the 19th century -- have been denounced by one Amnesty International official, who says "caning is tantamount to torture."

But Hishamuddin said the punishment was carried out "to educate and make the offenders realize their mistakes and to return to the right path."

"It is hoped that the issue will not be wrongly interpreted to the extent of tarnishing the sanctity of Islam," he was quoted as saying. He also said the punishment did not cause any injury and that the women were remorseful and repented, Bernama reported.

The women were struck with a rattan cane. One woman was released Sunday after spending a month in prison, another will be released in the next few days, and the third will be released in June.

Malaysia, which considers itself a moderate Muslim country, has a dual-track justice system, in which Islamic courts operate alongside civil ones. Muslims make up about 60 percent of the country's population of 28 million.

Last year, a woman was sentenced to caning under Islamic law for drinking alcohol in public -- beer at a hotel bar -- and that case caused an uproar in the country. Malaysia forbids alcohol consumption by Muslims, even those who are visiting the country.

The caning sentence of Kartika Sari Dewi Shukarno has been postponed while the issue is under review, and she said that if she were to be caned, she wanted the flogging to occur in public.

"Let's be transparent about it," said Kartika, a mother and part-time model. An Islamic court also fined her $1,400 for the act. She has pleaded guilty and paid the fine.

Lance Lattig, a researcher on Malaysia for the human rights group Amnesty International, told CNN that the vast majority of canings are applied to illegal immigrants by civil courts, but the latest examples indicate that sharia courts happen to be picking up on the practice.

"It's not Muslims on the march," he said. "It's the tip of the iceberg of the bigger problem."

No matter who does it, he says, the group considers caning to be "cruel, inhumane and degrading."
How were these women charged with the "crime" of adultery? Who accused them? How does anyone know that these women committed adultery? What is the evidence?  If the women confessed, were the men they committed the "crime" with also arrested, tried, convicted, tossed into jail and caned? If not, why not? It takes two to commit the "crime" of adultery. A double standard is NOT justice, no matter how religious authorities try to twist the words of the Koran. The same punishment has to apply to both parties to the crime, or the entire premise of this "crime" is false - a hypocritical means of keeping "uppity women" in line.

King Tut Follow-Up

From Isis.

Discovery Channel
Controversy Arises Over King Tut Findings
February 18, 2010

Dr. Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, unveiled new evidence for King Tut's lineage and cause of death at a packed press conference today.

Hawass confirmed the principal conclusions made in a paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. He said that Tutankhamuns father was most likely the "heretic" king, Akhenaten, whose body is now almost certainly identified with the mummy from KV 55 in the Valley of the Kings.

King Tut's mother, who still cannot be identified by name, is the "Younger Lady" buried in the tomb of Amenhotep II (KV 35).

The mummy of the "Elder Lady" from the same tomb can now be conclusively identified as Tutankhamun's grandmother, Queen Tiye.

Hawass added that new light was shed on the cause of death for Tutankhamun with the discovery of DNA from the parasite that causes malaria; it is likely that the boy king died from complications resulting from a severe form of this disease.

"We found evidence from DNA that proves he had very severe malaria. He was ill, weak, walked on a cane," Hawass was reported to say.

"When he was 19 and got malaria, he fell….When he fell, and was weak from malaria, he died," he added.

Study author Ashraf Selim, professor of radiology at Cairo University, told Discovery News that malaria could have been indeed the cause of death for King Tut.

"The type of malaria found is what is sometimes refered to as malignant malaria as being the most viscious of all types and certainly might have lead to his death," Selim said.

However, Selim does not rule out some other interacting causes.

"The fracture of his thigh bone might have had complications like septiceamia (blood stream infection ) and fat embolism (fat in the blood reaching the lungs). Both can lead to the death of an individual," the researcher said.

However, some outside mummy experts contacted by Discovery News are sceptical, and question the claim that malaria and bone necrosis might have caused King Tut's demise.

Franck Rühli, Head Applied Anatomy and head of the Swiss Mummy Project at the University of Zurich. He participated in the CT scan analysis of Tutankhamun in 2005.

This is a major work in Egyptian mummy studies. It proves the value of modern methods such as CT and molecular testing. Yet, one needs to be cautious in stating any definite medical diagnosis. There is still a range of possible interacting causes for King Tut’s cause of death: bone infection is possible, yet without the internal organs this assessement is always incomplete. The present condition of the mummy will never allow not to medically rule out all possibilities.

Stephen Buckley, University of York. His research projects include the Tomb KV35 in the Valley of the Kings.

It is surprising that DNA should survive in these mummies given the very harsh conditions the bodies have been subjected to over the last 3000 years. I’m referring, for example, to the methods of embalming, the relatively high temperatures and oxidising environments. Hopefully, closer independent scrutiny by ancient DNA experts might help explain these very surprising results.

Gino Fornaciari, director of palaeopathology at the University of Pisa in Italy.

It is a scientifically rigorous study. Indeed, that type of malaria might have caused his death. However, the diagnosis of bone necrosis is not clear from the published images. There is also the possibility that the necrosis was a consequence of malaria, caused by the malaria infection itself.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Computer Labs for Kids: Volunteers Needed for Dallas!


My friend, Shira Evans, needs another 14 volunteers for the next class of Computer Labs for Kids in Dallas, Texas, on March 20, 2010.  (Photo: Shira Evans [standing] with volunteers and students at the Los Angeles class on February 6, 2010).

If you are in the Dallas area, please consider volunteering half a day.  I was a volunteer in November, 2009 for the Chicago class and I had the most wonderful time!  You don't have to be a computer expert - just know how to operate one - the basics - and be willing to work one on one with a child for half a day.  The kids are so great - my experience as a volunteer in Chicago was very rewarding and fulfilling, and I met some fantabulous people.  Please volunteer - you won't be sorry, I promise. 

Host: Shira Evans
Location: Buckner Children and Family Services
5200 Buckner Blvd
Dallas, TX 75227 US
When: Saturday, March 20, 9:30AM to 12:30PM
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 a 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 (was 20) 14 Volunteers Technical Assistants to help foster children one-on-one at our class on March 20th from 9:30 am to 12:30 am.

Volunteers will need to arrive at 9 am 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.

Please let me know when you confirm you are attending, your first and last name.  Email.

Thank you very much!


P.S. If the above links don't work, here are the addresses - and

18 Ancient Chinese Tombs Uncovered

Story from
18 ancient tombs unearthed in N China
2010-02-17 18:41:10

SHIJIAZHUANG, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Chinese archaeologists have unearthed 18 ancient tombs while working on a south-to-north water diversion project in Xingtai City in north China's Hebei province.

The tombs were found in Xiqianliu village, in Xingtai's Qiaoxi District, Li Enwei, chief of the city's cultural heritage bureau, said Wednesday.

Li said 16 of the tombs dated back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and contained about 100 pieces of porcelain, tiles and copper coins.  The other two tombs date back to the Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368 A.D.) and had apparently been robbed of all their valuables. [When? That is the question. We all know that lots of discoveries are not being reported to the authorities and the artifacts taken are ending up on the illegal antiquties market.]

"We excavated an area of 500 square meters around the reservoir area in the village in December," Li said.

Before these tombs were unearthed last month, Li said archeologists had already discovered 104 ancient tombs along the water diversion route in Xingtai, he said. "These ones spanned the Warring States Period (475 B.C.-221B.C.) to the Qing Dynasty."

The ambitious project to divert water from China's south to the arid north runs for 93.3 kilometers in Xingtai city and passes 97 villages and 14 major heritage sites.

Archeological excavations began in August 2009 to preserve the cultural heritage.

Li and his colleagues believe the new findings will shed light on local history and folk customs such as funeral rites.

Editor: Li Xianzhi

9 Queens Action! Free Chess Workshop AND Free Chess Tutorial

CHESS MOVIE (working title) from Rescued Media on Vimeo.
This weekend 9 Queens is thrilled to host Elizabeth Vicary - nationally renowned chess teacher and star of the upcoming documentary Chess Movie. On Saturday, February 20 at 12 noon at Lineweaver Elementary School, Elizabeth will run a free, two-hour workshop for parents, coaches, teachers and chess players interested in learning simple ways to create and improve chess club lessons and activities.

On Sunday from 2-4 at Bookmans on Grant and Campbell (Tuczon, Arizona), Amanda Mateer will teach a free two-hour chess workshop for intermediate and advanced female chess players of all ages.

For more information email

Hope to see you this weekend!

GM Maurice Ashley Simul at Brooklyn Chess Championship

For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Deb Klein 917.405.9909


Forget the Round Table; Brooklyn Lyceum brings to the Borough of Kings - along with Rooks and Bishops - the Inaugural BROOKLYN CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP.
Brooklyn Lyceum
February 27 and 28, 2010

USCF Sanctioned, up to $2000 in total prize monies. Ranked both Open and Scholastic.

UPDATE FEB 2: Int'l Grandmaster Maurice Ashley co-producing event; Ashley to challenge 12 lucky opponents to a 12 game simultaneous round!

Brooklyn, NY. -
The Lyceum, 100 year old former NYC Public Bath turned event space, steps up to help render unto Kings County what rightfully belongs here.... a Brooklyn Chess Championship to beat all others. This inaugural event will take place February 27th and 28th, 2010, with both open and scholastic competition. THREE CLASSIFICATIONS ON SUNDAY: u 1600 rankings, u 2000 rankings and OPEN. We invite players of all ages into our fold for a weekend of tournament play as well as related activities - like exhibitions, retail sales, and more TBA - to inspire and interest those who may or may not be in the know!

Be you a hopeful student with chess in your genes, a ranked player from Rockville, or a geek with a penchant for strategy, we want YOU. One right move and a check mate, and you could be on your way. Grandmaster is the highest title a chess player can attain aside from World Champion, and has been earned by prodigies as young as age 12.


Grandmaster Maurice Ashley, a Park Slope resident, is co-producing this competition. Ashley, the first African American to attain the title of International Grandmaster, is an ardent supporter of young people and has received multiple community service awards from city governments, universities, and non-profit groups for his work. His book, Chess for Success (2005), crystallizes his vision of using chess to help at-risk youth. Ashley is the world's premier and live chess commentator for ESPN and has appeared on The Charlie Rose Show, CBS News This Morning, National Public Radio, Today New York (W-NBC), CNN, Bloomberg Radio, and a number of radio shows around the U.S.

Saturday Feb 27: Ashley will challenge twelve lucky players to a round of 12 games at one time! Play against the best. TIME AND DETAILS TO BE ANNOUNCED.

Top games to be simulcast on our giant screen in the activities room via DGT boards.

Chess isn't just for retired gentlemen on boardwalks, or lining tree-lined paths of parks everywhere, although we could all learn a thing or two from them. It is a very popular sport - recognized by the International Olympic Committee - and remains an active presence in schools, homes, bars, clubs and colleges. Chess' fashionable beginnings are traced to 6th century India. Through the centuries, the game has made its way to North America via routes through Russia and Southern and Western Europe, morphing gradually into the game we know and love today.

Building on a string of high traffic conventions and festivals over the last few years, including KingCon, NYC Zine Fest, and our notable Craft Market series, the Brooklyn Lyceum steps up yet again to bring people of all ages and inclinations together in our cavernous space. A tournament like no other in New York, in a space like no other... so roll up your sleeves and tussle with some other Bishops of Brooklyn

About the Brooklyn Lyceum

The Brooklyn Lyceum, known formerly as NYC Public Bath No. 7, is a performing arts and cultural center in Park Slope. Originally opened in 1910 as an indoor bathing facility, it once housed the largest indoor public pool in the country. Reopened in 1994 as the Brooklyn Lyceum, the old bathhouse now plays host to a range of performance events, festivals and other cultural activities. The Lyceum Cafe is open to the public daily and offers free wireless access.

Brooklyn Lyceum
227 4th Avenue in Park Slope
Brooklyn, NY 11215
R train at Union Street

Brooklyn Lyceum
Deb Klein, marketing coordinator.
Email Deb
with all press inquiries or
call her: 917-405-9909

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What killed you? And oh - by the way - who's your Daddy?

King Tut is back in the news.  It seems he's hardly ever out of it - nor is Zahi Hawass, who certainly knows the meaning of milking a story for every single word it's worth in the international press.  Mr. Hawass, I've got news for you - you can be good at your job without being such a schmuck. The most important aspect of this story is confirmation that Tut was, indeed, the son of fabulous Pharaoh Akhenaton - but that got buried in this story. I do hope, however, that this will once and for all put paid to all of those conspiracy theory stories out there about how Tut was murdered. He was weakened by a terrible injury - a broken leg - and suffering from malaria.  Even today millions die from malaria.  So, enough already.
Thanks to Isis for this news:

Malaria, genetic diseases plagued King Tut
(Story from CNN)

The legendary Egyptian "boy king" Tutankhamun, commonly known as King Tut, died of conditions including malaria and complications from a leg fracture, according to a study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Tutankhamun's tomb was discovered in 1922, but his life remains shrouded in mystery, and not much is known about him. He ruled during the 18th Dynasty, from 1336-1327 B.C., according to the Web site Egyptology Online, and is believed to have died young. Forensic analysis of his mummy has put his age of death at about 17 to 19 years.

In the study published this week, researchers used anthropological, radiological and genetic testing to examine Tut and 10 other bodies mummified over a two-year period during Tut's dynasty.

Previously, based on historical records and earlier digs, Zahi Hawass, the lead investigator of the study, had said Tut could have been the son of Amenhotep III, a successful and popular king of the 18th Dynasty, who was later known as Akhenaten.

Through DNA, Hawass' researchers determined that was indeed the case, and that Tut was married to his sister. Scientists believe that genetics and inherited diseases played a role in Tut's health because of inbreeding within the family.

"We know there were weaknesses in these mummies, perhaps even cardiovascular problems," Hawass said.

When researchers scanned Tut's mummy, they found he not only had severe kyphoscoliosis, or curvature of the spine, but also suffered from a toe malformation known as oligodactyly. The condition made his left foot swell, and it would have caused excruciating pain when he walked.

"In ancient drawings we see Tut shooting arrows, not standing, but sitting in a chariot. This was unusual," Hawass said. "In his tomb, we also found 100 walking sticks. Originally we thought they represented power. But they were ancient crutches that he obviously used. He could barely stand."

Hawass said by taking his prior research and combining it with his most recent findings, the cause of Tut's death became pretty clear to him.

"The purpose of the CT scan (in 2005) was to see if he was murdered, because earlier X-rays had found there was a hole in his skull," Hawass said. "But we found the hole was made during mummification. However, we did find a large fracture in his left femur that probably contributed to his death."

Hawass theorized a fall could have hastened Tut's death. But DNA testing also showed evidence of plasmodium falciparum, a protozoan parasite that causes malaria in humans. The parasite has been found in many other mummies, as well. Hawass said he believes the combination of the serious fracture and the deadly parasite killed the young king.

"This is very exciting that we can take modern technology and learn more about Egyptian history," said Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan's Center for the History of Medicine.

"Mummies are very powerful tools," he said. "We can learn a lot from the dead, how illnesses evolve."

More coverage at Frail boy-king Tut died from malaria, broken leg

Frail - my ass!  This kid was not frail in any sense of the word other than having a severe physical disability and genetic disorders due to inbreeding.  Both things he was born with, both things he could not help - and certainly he seemed to have overcome to the best of his ability, given the constraints of medical treatment and medical knowledge at the time.  Who the hell can fight a genetic disease?  No one. We're in the 21st century and we still cannot save people with genetic diseases.  In many cases, we can't even make their lives much more comfortable for the time that they are with us.  So, Tut stands as an example to all of us.

Olympics: Men's Figure Skating - Short Program

Ohmygoddess!  I do not care what else happens in Vancouver tonight - I saw perfection in the form of - get ready for this - a NINETEEN year old French figure skater I'd never heard of prior to tonight.  But I think we shall be seeing and hearing a lot about this kid in the not too distant future:  Florent Amodio.

He's the current male French figure-skating champion, outskating Brian Joubert to win the title!  Wow!

What an amazing program.  I can only tell you what I saw - and I saw - perfection, and passion - and anger - and pain.  A young man not afraid of showing emotion, but not at all frou-frou.  Technically sound and as far as I'm concerned, pitch-perfect when it came to interpreting and skating to his musical selection.  I can't tell you what that was - I can only tell you that his performance brought tears to my eyes. 

He scored a personal best - above 75 points - under the new-fangled scoring system which is almost never explained to the audience.

I don't care what that asshole Pleshenko does tonight - this kid has him beat skate-wise and definitely class-wise in this figure skating fan's eyes.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Aeroflot 2010

Chess femme standings

Group A1 after R7:
Rank Name Flags Score Fed. M/F Rating TPR W-We 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

48 GM Hou, Yifan w 3.5 CHN F 2590 2589 -0.01 0 ½ 0 1 ½ 1 ½
51 GM Kosintseva, Tatiana w 3.5 RUS F 2515 2640 +1.18 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ 0 1
62 IM Kosintseva, Nadezhda w 3.0 RUS F 2533 2585 +0.47 1 ½ ½ 0 0 0 1
72 IM Javakhishvili, Lela w 2.5 GEO F 2493 2503 +0.06 ½ 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ 0
77 GM Sebag, Marie w 2.0 FRA F 2510 2446 -0.61 0 ½ 1 ½ 0 0 0

Group A2 after R7:
Rank Name Flags Score Fed. M/F Rating TPR W-We 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
18 IM Ovod, Evgenija w 4.5 RUS F 2415 2578 +1.59 0 1 ½ 0 1 1 1
30 IM Harika, Dronavalli w 3.5 IND F 2471 2445 -0.24 ½ 1 1 ½ 0 0 ½
34 IM Kovalevskaya, Ekaterina w 3.5 RUS F 2428 2463 +0.33 0 ½ 1 0 ½ ½ 1
51 WGM Savina, Anastasia w 3.0 RUS F 2407 2448 +0.37 1 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½
55 IM Romanko, Marina w 2.5 RUS F 2433 2366 -0.67 0 1 0 1 0 0 ½
64 WGM Karavade, Eesha w 1.5 IND F 2405 2176 -2.00 0 0 ½ 0 0 ½ ½
65 WGM Bodnaruk, Anastasia w 1.5 RUS F 2372 2210 -1.36 1 0 0 0 ½ 0 0
66 WGM Pourkashiyan, Atousa w 1.5 IRI F 2306 2195 -0.87 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 0 ½

Group B after R8:
Rank Name Flags Score Fed. M/F Rating TPR W-We 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
1 WFM Mammadova, Gulnar Marfat q w 6.5 AZE F 2221 2581 +3.69 ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 1 ½
27 WIM Tarasova, Viktoriya w 4.0 RUS F 2290 2256 -0.32 1 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 ½ 1
29 WIM Kharashuta, Ekaterina w 4.0 RUS F 2270 2256 -0.09 ½ 0 0 1 1 1 ½ 0
33 WIM Ghader Pour, Shayesteh w 4.0 IRI F 2187 2278 +0.81 + 1 0 ½ 1 0 ½ 0
43 WFM Cheremnova, Tamara w 3.0 RUS F 2260 2174 -0.98 ½ 0 0 ½ 0 ½ ½ 1
46 WGM Chasovnikova, Eugenia w 3.0 RUS F 2251 2242 -0.05 - 0 1 1 - 0 1 0

Group C after R8:
Rank Name Flags Score Fed. M/F Rating TPR W-We 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
4 WFM Nikolaeva, Alexandra w 6.0 RUS F 2193 2269 +0.60 1 0 ½ 1 1 ½ 1 1
8 Rjanova, Valerya w 6.0 RUS F 2105 2284 +1.91 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 1
15 WFM Aghasiyeva, Fidan Aydin qi w 5.0 AZE F 2084 2146 +0.73 ½ 1 0 1 1 ½ 0 1

Statue of Goddess Durga Discovered in River

Goddess Durga idol recovered
Srinagar, Feb 13 (PTI) A marble idol of goddess Durga astride a lion was recovered from river Jhelum in Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir today.

The idol, measuring 2x2-ft, was found by the villagers while they were fishing in the river, official sources said.

The idol was handed over to police and later to the Revenue department.

Statue of Hindu goddess discovered from Jhelum
Asem Mohiuddin
Baramulla, Feb 13: A statue of Hindu goddess, Maa Durga Sherawali was discovered by some fishermen from river Jhelum here on Saturday. The white-coloured statue, 2.3 inches in height and 1.10 inches in width, was found intact except for one of the hands out of the seven broken.

Speaking to Rising Kashmir, Sub District Magistrate, Baramulla, Syed Muhammad Yousuf said the statue was recovered from fishermen of Dewanbagh, Ushkara.

“The fisherman of the area approached Deputy Commissioner and informed him that they have recovered the statue from river Jhelum. The authorities immediately dispatched a team to the spot and secured the statue which was later been kept in a strong room of District Treasury till the legal process for its preservation is decided,” Yousuf said.

The SDM said the significance of the discovery can only be revealed after proper investigation by experts.

Meanwhile, a fisherwoman, Hajira of Dewanbagh area claimed that the statue had been in the river for the last many years.

“I along with my son once spotted the statue two years back. But after attempting to bring it up the boat shook horribly and we decided to leave it. Today when the water level raised, the statue again emerged and was trapped in some other fisherman’s net,” Hajira said.
Hmmm, well, there is quite a discrepancy in the description of the size of this statue from one story to the other - from a couple of inches to a couple of feet!  Which is correct?

Cotroceni 2010

Standings after Round 6:

Rk. Name FED Rtg Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1 IM Melia Salome GEO 2431 4,0 10,50 0,0 3
2 IM Peptan Corina-Isabela ROU 2411 3,5 10,75 0,0 1
3 WGM Cosma Elena-Luminita ROU 2332 3,5 10,00 0,0 1
4 IM Muzychuk Mariya UKR 2447 3,5 9,25 0,0 2
5 IM Turova Irina RUS 2386 3,5 8,75 0,0 1
6 IM Vajda Szidonia HUN 2369 3,0 8,00 0,0 1
7 IM Repkova Eva SVK 2434 2,5 8,00 0,0 1
8 IM Gara Anita HUN 2370 2,5 7,50 0,0 1
9 IM Khotenashvili Bela GEO 2461 2,5 7,25 0,0 2
10 IM Foisor Cristina-Adela ROU 2440 1,5 5,00 0,0 0

Computer Labs for Kids: Los Angeles February 6, 2010 Photos

Another successful project concluded for Shira Evans' Foundation, thanks to the volunteers and supporters of her work.  Thanks to GM Susan Polgar for providing chess software specifically designed to teach children how to play chess.

Twenty kids in foster care between the ages of 5 and 8 completed the program with help from their technical assistants and received their very own laptop computers.  Here are some photos!

Next up is Dallas.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Checkerboard-Patterned Stud and Gold Serpents

Part of the magnificent and unprecented find called the Staffordshire Hoard.

I have found references in several articles to five "mysterious" small gold serpents that archaeologists cannot figure out - what they mean, what they may have been a part of.  See, for instance, this comment from an Art Daily articleGems to be displayed for the first time include a delicate filigree gold horse’s head and gold snakes that have left experts baffled as to what they could have been used for . . .

I wasn't able to locate a photograph online of any of these serpents.  I want to see the five little gold serpents!  Are they game pieces?  Pieces off a horse tackle?  Jewelry?

While searching for images of the serpents, I found this lovely little item from the Hoard, described as a millefiori stud.

Millefiori (literally "thousand flowers"), dates back to Roman times.  I wonder if the archaeologists will be able to pinpoint the date this lovely piece was created?  There is ongoing discussion about when the Hoard was put into the ground; and, of course, even if a date can be agreed upon for that event, individual items that make up the Hoard may be much older than 650-750 CE.

What a beautiful piece! And fascinating. For instance, notice the markings around the large inner border marked out in gold - not all of the lines are straight, and there is a distinct pattern in these lines, set at 90 degrees to each other, dividing the circle into four equal parts. 

The inner-most pattern of the black/gold/white millefiori checkerboard pattern consists of a 3x3 square with curved edges to fit into the circular pattern; the outside frame increases the size of the "square" to 4x4.  I was reminded of the oldest magic square known in history - from ancient China, the Lo Shu magic square that sums to 15 in all directions. 

The center of the Lo Shu is the number 5, and we are reminded of that number (the number of the sacred spiral seen repeatedly in nature) by the five black rectangles that make up center of the millefiori design; the number 5, which in Chinese lore is considered "masculine," is complemented by four white rectangles, four being an even number and therefore considered "feminine" by the Chinese.  Ultimately, though, the black/white checkerboard pattern is balanced to at - 8 white and 8 black, a perfect reflection of the ancient Taoist principle of yin/yang. 

The overall design of the Staffordshire Hoard stud reminds me of an ancient Chinese boardgame - liubo.  I know it sounds crazy -but look at all of the elements of the millefiore stud and compare it to this standard liubo board configuration from Wikipedia commons.  The "V"s in the four corners, facing outward; the "L"s on the center of each of the four sides; and four "T"s centered around the perimeter of the innermost space.  This inner center space could well be the ancestor of the "palace" in the later game of xiang qi, and in some versions of the ancient liubo, was a pool where fish cavorted - a sacred pool, perhaps? It is not known what role the "fish" played in liubo, only that they were sometimes "caught."

A c. 400 BCE serpent-overlaid liubo board.  You'll notice that the "V"s and the "L"s are there in their traditional places - but it's very hard to see any "T"s  amid the inner markings, although suggested by the twisting bodies of the numerous serpents and three horizontally-laid out grid marks.  Interesting.  A variation on a theme...

Just what are those markings on the inner border around the black and white checkered millefiore stud?  Could those possibly be representations of "L"s from a liubo board?

Preserving Cypriot Maronite Arabic (CMA)

From the
Bringing back to life an ancient language
February 07, 2010
By Sebastian Heller

A COMMUNITY living in northern Scandinavia may hold the key to how the Maronites can save their ancient language which dates back to biblical times.

Cypriot Maronite Arabic (CMA) is a distinct language composed of a mixture of Arabic and Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ and his disciples, but its use has been in decline for more than 30 years.

A seminar in Nicosia this weekend will look at ways to reverse this trend by focusing on the lessons learnt from the Sami community in far northern Scandinavia.

“The situation of the Maronite community in Cyprus is very similar to the situation of the Sami 30 years ago, where they were being assimilated by the dominant Norwegian group,” said Costas Costantinou, a professor from the University of Keele who has helped organise the workshop.

The Sámi, more commonly known as Lapps, initially faced conditions and challenges very similar to those of the Maronite community in Cyprus. Consequently the workshop is intended “To see what wisdom, what good practice can be taken from their case, as their example is very successful,” said Costantinou.

The total size of the Maronite community in Cyprus numbers around 5,500, and around 1,000 of them speak CMA. Traditionally, only the Maronites from the occupied village of Kormakitis spoke the language. Members of the community from the other Maronite villages - Asomatos, Karpasia and Ayia Marina - are all Greek speakers. Following the 1974 invasion, the majority of the Maronites from Kormakitis moved south and the language went into sharp decline.

“Up until the present day, it was exclusively from the home that we would learn the language. In the past, when we were in our villages, the whole context supported it, it was easy to speak our language,” said Peppinos Moussas, a Maronite currently living in Nicosia, “Afterwards, once we were scattered, it was difficult.”

Nowadays, large efforts are being made on a social level, and in an organised way, to rejuvenate the language and culture particularly for those under the age of 30.

Following a number of Council of Europe resolutions and recommendations, in November 2008 the Republic of Cyprus formally declared to the Council of Europe that it recognises CMA as a minority language. As a result “the state has various legal responsibilities from now on to protect the language,” said Moussas.

Like the Sami, who 30 years ago were in the position where the dominant Norweigian majority was trying to assimilate them into their culture, language and society, the Maronites do not want to be viewed as a “religious group” but as a “community”.

“There have been repeated calls from our representative, Mr Hadjiroussos, for us to recognised as such,” said Giorgos Skordis, a Maronite who co-ordinates the Xki Fi Sanna (Speak Our Language) educational programme involving approximately 30 students. He emphasised that the Maronites, though they have developed alongside the mainstream population for centuries (since the 7th century AD) have a different history, different heritage, religion and, of course, a distinct language.

“The existence of CMA provides the ‘hard fact’ that Maronites are a national minority with a distinct ethnic identity, not merely a ‘religious group’ that is compelled to affiliate to either the Greek or Turkish Cypriot community as provided by Article 2 of the 1960 Cypriot Constitution,” noted Costantinou in his article “The Protection and Revival of Cypriot Maronite Arabic” produced for the Peace Research Institute Oslo centre which is organising this weekend’s workshop.

The Xki Fi Sanna initiative is co-funded by the European Economic Area countries of Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein and Switzerland (90 per cent of the cost) and the Republic of Cyprus (10 per cent).

Why Deciphering Ancient Scripts Matters

How come dudes like Lord Mandelson never eliminate their own jobs???

From the
Writing off the UK's last palaeographer
The decision by a London university to axe the UK's only chair in palaeography has been met by outrage from the world's most eminent classicists. John Crace on why the study of ancient writings matters – and why history will be lost without it
John Crace The Guardian, Tuesday 9 February 2010

Dry, dusty and shortly to be dead. Palaeographers are used to making sense of fragments of ancient manuscripts, but King's College London couldn't have been plainer when it announced recently that it was to close the UK's only chair of palaeography. From ­September, the current holder of the chair, Professor David Ganz, will be out of a job, and the subject will no longer exist as a separate academic discipline in British universities. Its survival will now depend entirely on the whim of classicists and medievalists studying in other fields.

The decision took everyone by ­surprise. "It was only recently that Rick Trainor [the principal of King's] was calling the humanities department [to which palaeography is attached] the jewel in the university's crown," says Dr Mary Beard, professor of ­classics at Cambridge University. "There had been a complete overhaul of ­minority disciplines in the mid-1990s, so there was consensus that everything had been pared down to the bare minimum."

How things change. With Lord Mandelson – in his incarnation as secretary of state for business, industry and skills – now imposing a minimum 10% cut in spending throughout higher education, universities are looking to slash and burn departments. And esoteric subjects such as palaeography are easy targets; they attract comparatively few students and, most importantly, comparatively little in the way of research grants – the only way the past few governments have measured a subject's worth.

But if Trainor was hoping palaeography would do the decent thing, he badly misjudged the situation. Professor Ganz – the fourth person to have held the chair since it was endowed in 1949 – didn't roll over and die quietly. "On the assumption that this means the end of the chair of palaeography, I am having to fight for my subject," he says, "and I have been deeply moved by the level of support from friends, many of whom I have never met."

That's pretty much all Ganz is saying for now – but, having initially raised a very restrained, academic form of hell, others are now doing the talking for him. A Facebook page to save the chair has more than 4,000 members, and many of the world's most distinguished classicists have petitioned King's to ­reconsider its position. Even his ­students are stepping in to defend him. "Without a palaeography professor such as David Ganz, not only will King's be sorely deprived of a basis on which to teach almost every other university discipline," says Alexandra Maccarini, "but the study of humanities everywhere will suffer from the absence of a devoted specialist in the subject."

In its strictest sense, palaeography is the study of ancient manuscripts whereby scholars can read texts – often partial, as many exist only in fragments – and localise and date handwriting accurately. This may sound arcane, and to some extent it is. But it is also the building block of all classical and ­medieval scholarship. According to Ganz: "Anyone who goes into a ­university library will within a week find an ancient manuscript that no one has yet properly understood."

"It is academic forensic science," agrees Dr Irving Finkel, assistant keeper in the department of the ­Middle East at the British Museum. "Many of the printed texts we use today – be they the Bible, Livy's poems or Shakespeare's plays – do not come from a single text. They are a collation of various manuscripts that may have been altered by scribes over time. A palaeographer can help determine which is likely to be the most authentic.

"It's about understanding the codes, the signs and the ligatures [common abbreviations] that were in use at different periods of a language's evolution, so you can interpret words that may have been rubbed away and see what may have been added at a later date."

Academics, of course, enjoy a good squabble, so it's hard to get universal agreement on what does and doesn't fall within palaeography's reach. For some it includes major finds such as the Rosetta Stone, from which ­hieroglyphics were first decoded, and Linear B, the ancient Minoan script translated by Michael Ventris. ­Others insist that, as they were carved in stone, they fall within epigraphy. Some restrict ­palaeography to merely classical texts; others include medieval and Renaissance texts.
Either way, the point is much the same. It's not just that we wouldn't have a clue what the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Cyrus Cylinder (over which the British Museum and the Iranian government are currently locking horns) actually mean without palaeography; we wouldn't know how to evaluate their historical importance. Multiply this by every fragment and every hand-written folio, and the history of the world begins to be up for grabs.

"Palaeography is not simply an arcane auxiliary science," says Professor Jeffrey Hamburger, chair of medieval studies at Harvard University. "It is as basic to the training and practice of ­historians as mastery of Dos or Unix might be to a computer scientist.

Not that palaeography has the answer to everything. No one has still made head or tail of Linear A (dating back to around 1900BC), and the Indus ­Valley script of the third millennium BC is still a mystery. But just days before King's made the announcement, its sister London institution, University College, was boasting how two of Ganz's former students, Dr Simon ­Corcoran and Dr Benet Salway, had pieced together 17 fragments of parchment that form an important ­Roman law code – believed to be the only original evidence yet discovered of the Gregorian Codex (a collection of constitutions upon which a substantial part of most modern European civil law ­systems are built) that had been thought lost for ever.  [Image at top: both sides of the Phaistos Disk - still undeciphered.]

Giving up on palaeography is like giving up on art, history and culture. It's like deciding we know all we want to know about the past, so we're not going to bother to find out any more: "It's not as if we can come back to it in 15 years' time if we then decide there's enough money," says Beard. "Palaeography can't be taught in an online tutorial; it's a skill handed down from one academic to another. If King's does go through with its decision, it's the end of the subject in this country."

Reading the past: What palaeographers have done for us

Dead Sea Scrolls

A collection of about 900 documents on parchment and papyrus, ­written in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, ­dating from about 150BC to AD70. Discovered between 1947 and 1956 in 11 caves on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. The earliest surviving ­examples of Biblical texts.

Indus Valley Script

More than 600 symbols have been found – primarily on seals – belonging to the Indus Valley civilisation of 3,000BC. Most inscriptions are only four or five symbols in length. The longest is 26 symbols. Scholars have yet to decode them, though it hasn't stopped them arguing whether it does actually constitute a genuine language.

Rosetta Stone

Technically one for epigraphers, but many palaeographers claim it for themselves. The stone, discovered by the French in 1799, contained three parallel texts – hieroglyphs, demotic and Greek – and was the key that ­enabled scholars to decode ­hieroglyphics for the first time.


The most important work in Anglo-Saxon literature, the Old-English epic poem of 3,182 lines is known from a single manuscript that is estimated to date from AD1000. The manuscript has crumbled over time and scholars are still working on its preservation and revealing lost letters of the poem.

Oxyrhynchus Papyri

A collection of documents from the Ptolemaic and Roman eras excavated from the old rubbish mounds of Oxyrhynchus, an ancient Egyptian site thought so unimportant it was left almost untouched for centuries. Extracts from the plays of Menander and the Gospel of St Thomas are among the most important finds.

Water Route Between Oceans in Nicaragua?

This is interesting, and seems feasible.

Explorer finds evidence of ancient waterway linking Atlantic to Pacific

London, Feb 13 : An explorer claims to have found evidence of an ancient water route between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, which existed hundreds of years before the Panama Canal was conceived.

Hailed by some as the eighth wonder of the world, the Panama Canal is a water passage between the Atlantic and Pacific.

Now, according to a report in The Times, Colonel John Blashford-Snell, an explorer, has claimed to have found evidence of another, more ancient, water route between the oceans — one that existed hundreds of years before the Panama Canal was conceived.

Several hundred miles to the north-west, in Nicaragua, the route — which involves rivers, a lake and flood plains — was discovered by Blashford-Snell, who was out on an expedition.

"With effort it is navigable. But it is going to need more investigation," said the veteran explorer.

He is now planning another expedition to discover whether it is really possible to take a boat from one coast to the other without touching land.

If so, it will prove something remarkable: that the ancient maps which show a passage between the two oceans — and which have long been dismissed as fanciful — had a greater claim to accuracy than was realised.

A 1774 map by Thomas Kitchin, for example, appears to show a channel that would allow boats to pass between the oceans. [Note: I could not locate a 1774 Kitchin map of Central America online, this one is dated 1777, from Altea Gallery.]

Colonel Blashford-Snell's expedition set out to find evidence that a canal once existed in Nicaragua.

No records of such a canal exist, although there were plans for a Nicaragua canal before the argument for Panama won the day.

Whether Colonel Blashford-Snell found evidence of ancient canals is arguable, but the case for a natural water passage is strong, according to the explorer.

Colonel Blashford-Snell, who spent two weeks in Nicaragua last month with a team of four, said he found places where the head waters of different river systems — one flowing east into the lake, another flowing west into the Pacific — were only a few hundred yards apart.

The seemingly unanswerable question, however, was how to get from one river to the other.

Then, by chance, he met a local fisherman who helped him to unlock the puzzle.

Mariano Hernandez told them he had made the journey from the centre of the isthmus between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific down to the lake to go fishing — a journey made possible during the rainy season when the land turns into a lake up to 2m deep.


Aeroflot 2010

Chess femme standings Tournament B after 7 Rounds (55 players):

1 WFM Mammadova, Gulnar Marfat q w 6.0 AZE F 2221 2644 (outstanding!)
22 WIM Kharashuta, Ekaterina w 4.0 RUS F 2270 2297
25 WIM Ghader Pour, Shayesteh w 4.0 IRI F 2187 2333
36 WIM Tarasova, Viktoriya w 3.0 RUS F 2290 2208
37 WGM Chasovnikova, Eugenia w 3.0 RUS F 2251 2292
52 WFM Cheremnova, Tamara w 2.0 RUS F 2260 2107

More results as they become available.
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