Saturday, March 27, 2010

Computer Labs for Kids: Dallas, Texas

An email from Shira Evans of Computer Labs for Kids.  Once again, a successful project - this one in Dallas, Texas earlier this month.  Shira is working on a small scale in concentrated bursts to introduce big changes into the lives of foster kids and orphans all around the world, and she has done it successfully now for over a year.  But, as you know, the need is great.

Foster kids receive Laptops!
On March 20th twenty children received their very own educational laptop at Buckner Children and Family Services.

Twenty-five Computer Labs for Kids volunteers teamed up to deliver training to these children who came from foster homes and the poorest areas of Dallas, TX.

I would like to extend a very warm thank you to all of our volunteers and contributors. You made this event possible!!!

So far this year, we have awarded 40 laptops to children at foster care facilities. Last year, we awarded 31 laptops and 13 leapsters.

Future Projects

Mary Kimball has requested we hold a course at an Indian Reservation in Phoenix, AZ.

Rev. Alfred Solomon has requested we hold a course for the poor children in Scotland Neck, NC.

The requests go on... including India, Thailand, Brazil, Africa and Israel.

Visit our website to see photos and videos!

The first 30 people to donate $10 or more will receive a Pacific Theatres pass good for 1 admission ticket. Limited to 1 per donor.

Donate Now!

We Need Help!
We are entirely dependent on your generosity. The only way we will be able to get started on our next project is with the help of your donations.

It costs us $600 per child and right now we have no way to continue. Our costs include the price of the laptop, software, and all course materials.

Thank you for being a part of our organization! Shira

Computer Labs for Kids, Inc.
278 E Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91101

2010 World Ladies' Free Skate

Well, we can rest assured that bullshit continues to reign in the world of figure skating.  What I'm seeing here (see below) says that Kim Yu Na WON the free skate.  NOT.  I watched her performance, and I watched Asada's performance.  I watched every performance for the last 3 groups (18 skaters).  I'm no expert but I've watched figure skating for over 45 years and I've learned a few things about it in that time.

So reputation trumps actual performance for Kim.  She didn't look too happy on the medals stand, I'm thinking she knows she got an absolute gift in that silver medal.  If she's not thinking it, she SHOULD be.  I've got nothing against Kim Yu Na, I think she is a magical skater.  But not in this competition.

Kim sure as hell did not out-performace Mao Asada in the Free Skate nor do I think that she out-performed Mirai Nagasu.  Asada has her shortcomings but she did a really fine performance in the Free Skate, I thought it was better than her performance at the Olympics.  The American skaters were absolutely screwed.  No way did Nagasu deserve 11th place ranking for her Free Skate - not after what I saw the other skaters did.  It's all there, you will be able to watch it on video and judge for yourselves. I'm thinking the judges thought the Americans won an ice-dance medal and that's enough for this year, and since Nagasu is the "future of American figure skating" (and they are all hoping that Rachel Flatt leaves the sport and becomes a Nobel Prize Winner in science) they could screw them over with their scores.  Which they did.  Way to go, judges. 

FPl. Name Nation Points SP FS
1 Mao ASADA JPN 197.58 2 2
2 Yu-Na KIM KOR 190.79 7 1   WAY OVERSCORED
4 Miki ANDO JPN 177.82 11 3  WAY UNDERSCORED
5 Cynthia PHANEUF CAN 177.54 8 4
6 Carolina KOSTNER ITA 177.31 4 5 OVERSCORED
8 Ksenia MAKAROVA RUS 169.64 5 8  OVERSCORED
9 Rachael FLATT USA 167.44 6 9  UNDERSCORED
10 Viktoria HELGESSON SWE 161.79 9 10

Here is the table for the Free Skate (top skaters):
Pl. Name Nation TSS = TES + PCS + SS TR PE CH IN Ded. - StN.
1 Yu-Na KIM KOR 130.49 66.45 65.04 8.35 7.75 7.95 8.15 8.45 1.00 #15
2 Mao ASADA JPN 129.50 67.02 62.48 8.25 7.40 7.95 7.55 7.90 0.00 #20
3 Miki ANDO JPN 122.04 63.64 58.40 7.35 6.85 7.60 7.30 7.40 0.00 #14
4 Cynthia PHANEUF CAN 118.04 61.48 56.56 7.20 6.65 7.35 7.15 7.00 0.00 #17
5 Carolina KOSTNER ITA 115.11 54.87 60.24 7.70 7.20 7.55 7.55 7.65 0.00 #19
6 Laura LEPISTO FIN 114.32 54.24 60.08 7.60 7.40 7.45 7.50 7.60 0.00 #22
7 Akiko SUZUKI JPN 111.68 58.96 52.72 6.80 6.10 6.85 6.55 6.65 0.00 #6
8 Ksenia MAKAROVA RUS 107.58 55.14 53.44 6.80 6.20 7.00 6.70 6.70 1.00 #24
9 Rachael FLATT USA 106.56 53.20 53.36 6.75 6.45 6.75 6.75 6.65 0.00 #21
10 Viktoria HELGESSON SWE 105.47 54.91 50.56 6.40 6.05 6.55 6.40 6.20 0.00 #16
11 Mirai NAGASU USA 105.08 49.04 57.04 7.40 6.75 7.20 7.25 7.05 1.00 #23
12 Jenna MCCORKELL GBR 98.78 51.82 46.96 6.10 5.40 6.20 5.80 5.85 0.00 #10
13 Sarah HECKEN GER 98.74 54.14 45.60 5.90 5.35 5.85 5.70 5.70 1.00 #7
14 Alena LEONOVA RUS 98.50 51.50 48.00 6.25 5.75 6.00 6.00 6.00 1.00 #8
15 Julia SEBESTYEN HUN 91.56 42.28 49.28 6.55 5.90 6.30 6.05 6.00 0.00 #18
16 Yan LIU CHN 91.33 47.65 43.68 5.70 5.45 5.30 5.60 5.25 0.00 #12

Liu Yan - that's the Chinese skater I mentioned in my earlier post today.  I'm thinking keep your eye on her.  She's got something special, despite the lousy costume.  I think she's got that "IT" factor.  Looking forward to seeing the competition heat up between her and Nagasu in the next few years.  For the Russians, Leonova has more "it" than Makarova, but Makarova has a "prettier" presence on the ice.  Leonova, ditch the "edgy" haircut, it doesn't do anything for you, trust me girlfriend. 

Rachel Flatt should change her last name and lose 10 pounds.  I know that sounds cruel - but I will bet you money that is what every single international judge who is looking at her thinks. 

I love Miki Ando, but she peaked in 2007 and hasn't been back since.  Today I saw more spark in her than in the last year - she was particularly flat at the Olympics.  I think she should retire, I think she will be a fabulous coach because she knows what it feels like to "lose that loving feeling" for the sport.  I think she should coach Nagasu after Frank Carol retires.

That's it until Nationals for me, in January 2011.  Geez, I'm getting old, and I'm not liking it one bit.

2010 Worlds Ladies' Free Skate

I've been watching the live action on Universal Sports online since 8 a.m. and have seen all of the key performances thus far.  Very interesting!

Kim Yu Na goofed up in the last part of her program, again on easy elements that she should be able to do while sleepwalking! and it's doubtful that she will make the podium unless the top 3 skaters really screw up.  The last group is getting ready to skate right now (10:09 a.m.) - the 2 Americans are in it, the Italian belle Carolina Kostner and the Japanese powerhouse Mao Asada - stay tuned!

10:14 a.m. - Kostner has a great presence on the ice and is a lovely young lady.  She has had some problems with her triple jumps but has not fallen (a big plus) and her home country crowd is behind her all the way.  Awaiting scores - there is a break right now where an advertisement would normally be but there are none so I just have to wait for the blank screen to reappear! 10:17 a.m. - score for Kostner:  115.11, puts her into 4th place.  Crowd not happy about that but she will finish in the top 10.

Mao Asada now up - with 2 triple axles planned.  World champion in 2008 - let's see -- she landed both triple axles (the second in combination with a double toe loop?) cleanly - still not liking that costume though.  10:23 a.m. - looks like a perfect performance to me.  Commentators are already crowning her at the new world champion, stating that she landed 6 triples and Kim Yu Na landing 5.  Waiting for the scores --129.50 (a few points below her season's best).  She is now in 1st place, 7 points higher than Kim Yu Na.  Announced at 10:28 a.m. by the commentators - Mao's 2nd triple axle was downgraded.

Now Rachel Flatt skates. Rachel had a triple/triple planned but she doubled the second jump after a problem landing on the triple flip; now she has just popped another triple.  Looks discombobulated.  Score: 106.06, puts her in 6th place with 3 skaters remaining, so she will be in the top 10, but is not happy with her performance.

Laura Lepisto is skating now (10:33 a.m.) -- lovely presence on the ice and nice speed.  Love the costume.  She doubled a triple loop (Tara Lapinski commentating said she slipped off an edge).  Very nice musicality, but she popped a couple of jumps.  10:38 a.m. - waiting for scores after a short break (arrgggh).  10:40 a.m. - waiting for scores -- 114.32, puts her into 3rd place, with 2 skaters left to go.

Nagasu up NOW.  Oh my - she had problems on her 2 triple lutzes and fell on her double axle, but oh my, what a performer and the got the audience behind her.  So now, 10:46 a.m. waiting for scores.  Commentary by Frank Carroll in the kiss and cry - you're not dead!  Score - 105.08 and they knocked her to 7th place.  That's bullshit. Compared to the other skaters she did not deserve to be so severely downgraded.  Looks like the judges are already setting up the Russian skater.

10:52 a.m. who just fell on a triple Salchow, otherwise clean program but not overly inspiring.  Waiting for scores -- 107.58, in 8th place.  That's okay. I do not think she outskated Nagasu, who should be placed higher than 7th.  That's just bullshit.

11:08 a.m. - I made the mistake of trying to get to the ISU page to see the table of scores.  Ach.  It's been 10 minutes now and the page is still downloading.

Asada wins gold - well deserved and absolutely earned at this championship.  I think Nagasu has better artistry and presence on the ice, though, as do several other skaters I saw today, including a Chinese skater who had a horrid costume but skated a lovely performance -- I'll have to hunt down her name.

Kim Yu Na won silver? - Not deserved, absolutely not deserved.  Shades of the old scoring system, she was propped up.

Is that Lapisto on the stand for the bronze?  Yep.  Oh, Johnny Weir says she was grossly overscored technically.  I think he's right.  He said Miki Ando should have won the bronze, so does Tara Lapinski.

I will post the top 10 scores table when I can get it to open!  I don't know where Nagasu ended up.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Earth Hour, March 27, 2010 at 8:30 p.m. your local time

Turn our your lights for 60 minutes, starting at 8:30 p.m. your local time on March 27, 2010.  I just saw an ad on t.v.  Wow!

What the hell, I usually sit in the dark anyway, except for my computer monitor and t.v., so it won't be no sweat off my back!

As soon as Kitchen Nightmares signs off at 9:00 p.m. my time, I'm going to watch the short programs of various female skaters now available on You Tube and Universal Sports T.V. online, so there may not be any more blog posts tonight.  Tomorrow, darlings!

Ice Dance - 2010 World Figure Skating Championshps

I just checked to see what was happening at the ISU website and found this (top 10 only) - results after the Free Dance:

Ice Dance - Free Dance
Result Details

Pl. Name Nation TSS  = TES  + PCS  + SS MO PF CH IT Ded.  - StN.
1 Meryl DAVIS / Charlie WHITE USA 110.49 53.70 56.79 9.50 9.35 9.40 9.55 9.60 0.00 #17
2 Tessa VIRTUE / Scott MOIR CAN 110.03 53.10 57.93 9.60 9.50 9.75 9.75 9.80 1.00 #18
3 Nathalie PECHALAT / Fabian BOURZAT FRA 98.09 48.70 49.39 8.20 8.05 8.25 8.35 8.45 0.00 #16
4 Federica FAIELLA / Massimo SCALI ITA 97.84 47.10 50.74 8.35 8.20 8.60 8.65 8.70 0.00 #19
5 Sinead KERR / John KERR GBR 93.32 45.70 47.62 7.90 7.85 8.00 7.95 8.05 0.00 #20
6 Alexandra ZARETSKY / Roman ZARETSKY ISR 91.34 46.30 45.04 7.40 7.25 7.70 7.65 7.75 0.00 #15
7 Vanessa CRONE / Paul POIRIER CAN 91.22 47.90 43.32 7.30 7.05 7.25 7.30 7.30 0.00 #14
8 Ekaterina BOBROVA / Dmitri SOLOVIEV RUS 89.76 47.60 42.16 7.05 6.80 7.15 7.10 7.20 0.00 #11
9 Nora HOFFMANN / Maxim ZAVOZIN HUN 83.52 42.60 40.92 6.90 6.65 6.90 6.85 6.90 0.00 #8
10 Emily SAMUELSON / Evan BATES USA 83.37 42.40 40.97 6.90 6.65 6.90 6.85 6.95 0.00 #6

Since Davis and White were in second place before the Free Dance, does this mean they won the gold medal since they won the Free Dance???

I'm going to check the news - (7:27 p.m.) -

7:29 p.m. - No, they didn't.  Virtue and Moir won the gold by 1.4 points -- total scores of 224.43 to 223.03.  Well you know what, that really sucks!  But congratulations to both the American and Canadian teams. What an amazing rivalry - and friendship.  Both teams train together and share coaches, and there's a little romance too, between White and Virtue.  Maybe they'll create their own commune and raise ice-dancing babies together and 18 years from now... okay okay, maybe not.

 Canadians placed 2 teams in top 10 and so did the Americans, both countries combined teams positions totalling 13 or less. That is the magic number that means both countries will send three ice-dance teams to 2011 worlds.  This is a really big deal!

Wow - ice-dance in North America has come of age!!!  The Russians had only one team in the top 10.  Unbelievable.  Putin is going to be spitting fire, ha ha ha!

News coverage about 2010 Worlds Women's Short Program

One thing we know - Mirai Nagasu (photo from the Short Program 2010 Worlds - AP) skated an outstanding short program judging by her scores - and the audience reaction must have been phenomenal.  Keep in mind that Kim Nu Yu skated after Nagasu. Did she hear the audience reaction as Nagasu skated and hear the score afterward as she waited to take the ice?

Kim was obviously distracted. She had problems with a triple flip jump, missed a pirouette before messing up her spiral sequence.

"My first triple-triple was really good and I was ready to do my flip. I don't know what happened, my left foot was just shaking a lot and I just want to find out what it is," the South Korean told Italy's Rai TV.

She received no credit at all for a spin, under-rotated a triple flip and bungled a spiral. Not even her strong opening triple-triple combo could make up for that. Her score of 60.30 points was more than 18 points behind her record-setting performance at the Vancouver Games.

"I felt very good at the warmup. My first jump, the triple-triple, was really great. And then after that I felt I was ready to do a triple flip. It was really weird. I don't know what happened," Kim said. "It's the first time I missed the elements like that."

 Phillip Hersh at the Chicago Tribune said Kim had problems on a triple flip jump, totally botched part of her spiral sequence.

This story just showed up in a Google News Search from The Chosun Ilbo (English Edition) dated March 27, 2010 - foreshadowing problems? - you decide:

Kim reportedly had a brief period of drifting after winning the gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics last month. Having "achieved everything," as she put it, she was in state of indifference and absent-mindedness, missing some practice sessions. "There was no physical problem, but I lost motivation since the Olympics," Kim said after completing her official practice in Turin on Thursday. "But I'm okay now that I'm here skating with the other athletes."

I am guessing the editor for The Chosun Ilbo English Edition had not yet heard the news about Kim's crash and burn during the World Short Program.

Added at 1:43 p.m.:

Oh my - this sounds awful - from Canada's The Globe and Mail:

Olympic champion Kim Yu-Na fell from grace in less than three minutes on Friday, looking almost disoriented in the women’s short program at the world figure skating championships.

Kim finished only seventh after under rotating a triple flip, falling out of a layback spin, slipping out of a spiral, fumbling her way through footwork and then looking rather confused in front of the judges, almost as if she forgot what she was doing.

The skater who is known to chalk up points as easily as breathing, found out how quickly you can lose points too. She got zero points for her layback spin and only a rudimentary level of difficulty on her spiral.

So what is with the judges' BIAS against Rachel Flatt?  She skated cleanly and they STILL gave her a crap score in comparison to Kim who, from reading the various descriptions in the stories cited above, totally messed up her Short Program. 

Mirai Nagasu in FIRST PLACE after Worlds Short Program

It's official - Nagasu in 1st, Rachel Flatt is in 6th.  Olympic gold medalist Kim Nu Ya is in 7th place.

I had a chance to find out a little bit more about the scoring - not that I understand all of it, but you can see that Nagasu outscored Kim on the technical side a whopping 10.1 points!  Side by side, their scores for program components were very close, with Kim edging out Nagasu 30.28 to 30.20 - only .08 a point separating them.

Here are the items that go into the Program Components (formerly "presentation") scores:

SS = Skating Skills
TR = Transitions/linking footwork and movement
PE = Performance/Execution
CH = Choreography/composition
IN = Interpretation

So - does this mean that Nagasu outskated everyone on the technical side - crisp edging, centered spins, elegant lines and amazing stretch and flexibility in her spirals, perfect take-offs and landings on jumps?  Of the top 10 skaters, Nagasu has the highest TES (Technical Score), outscoring even the mighty Asada with her triple axel!

I'll be interested to read what the skating people have to say about this.  I admit I'm shocked - not that Nagasu did so well (considering her break-out performance at the Olympics) but that Kim "fell" so far -- and that is absolutely ridiculous sounding, isn't it, since she currently sits in 7th place and that is VERY respectable.  But those 10.1 points in total score that separate Kim from Nagasu - can she make them up in the Free Skate?  Will Nagasu be able to hold it together and deliver a fabulous and technically sound Free Skate to fend off the skaters who will be aiming square at her to knock her off the podium? 

The pressure both skaters will be feeling - unbelievable.  Oy!  When is the Free Skate? -- Just checked -- it's tomorrow 3/27.

USA's Mirai Nagasu currently in first - Worlds short program!

Holy Goddess!  I'm trying to work and following the rankings as they happen live at the ISU website (can't watch the programs on Universal sports because we cannot download the needed program to our computers) - Nagasu just finished her short program and scored a season best score of 70.40 -- dig this -- she knocked Mao Asada into second place, who has 68.08!  Next up is Kim Yu Na.

Unbelievable!  Stay tuned...

11:17 a.m. - OHMYGODDESS!  Kim is in 6th place - she scored 60.30.  Unbelievable!  What the hell happened?  No time to check element scores and stuff like that - I'm supposed to be working...

Rachel Flatt has yet to skate - can she bump Asada out of second place so the unheralded American teens land in 1st and 2nd after the short program?  I can feel my hair turning grey...

11:19 a.m. - Akiko Suzuki finished skating and is in 17th place.  Rachel Flatt is up next...


11:28 a.m. - WOW!  Rachel knocked Kim Yu Na out of 6th place.  She scored 60.88 to Kim's 60.30.  Are people jumping out of buildings in South Korea at this moment?

Here's the stats for the top 7 thus far:

Pl. Qual. Name Nation TSS = TES + PCS + SS TR PE CH IN Ded. - StN.
1 Q Mirai NAGASU USA 70.40 40.20 30.20 7.60 7.15 7.70 7.70 7.60 0.00 #50
2 Q Mao ASADA JPN 68.08 37.12 30.96 7.95 7.25 7.95 7.65 7.90 0.00 #45
3 Q Laura LEPISTO FIN 64.30 34.98 29.32 7.45 7.10 7.20 7.40 7.50 0.00 #48
4 Q Carolina KOSTNER ITA 62.20 33.20 29.00 7.25 6.90 7.25 7.35 7.50 0.00 #44
5 Q Ksenia MAKAROVA RUS 62.06 36.90 25.16 6.50 5.90 6.50 6.25 6.30 0.00 #42
6 Q Rachael FLATT USA 60.88 33.80 27.08 6.60 6.15 7.25 6.85 7.00 0.00 #53
7 Q Yu-Na KIM KOR 60.30 30.02 30.28 7.95 7.45 7.30 7.70 7.45 0.00 #51

I don't know how many more skaters there are to go - there can't be that many -- they were already skating when I checked the news this morning at 6:30 a.m.

11:36 a.m. - THIS IS HUGE, HUGE!  I don't see any deductions for Kim so was it her performance?  Arggghhh, I won't be able to even check Universal Sports for replays until I get home tonight, unless something goes up at You Tube over my lunch hour...

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sad News: IM/WGM Elena Tairova Passed Away at Age 18

This is a very sad story.

Reported at  In 2007 this lovely young lady sported hair down to her hips, but the latest photo in the Chessbase report from December, 2009 showed Elena with short hair growing out after what must have been a long bout of intensive chemo-therapy and/or radiation therapy.  I'm guessing, of course - I do not possess any insider information.  But, we've all seen pictures in the media of the changes wrought in a person's hair after chemo and radiation, or have experienced it up close and personal with a loved one who goes through such cancer treatment.  Elena played under the Russian flag, and had an ELO of 2455. 

IM/WGM Elena Tairova passes away at eighteen

24.03.2010 – Very sad news from Russia: the talented young player Elena Tairova, born on August 28 1991, has died at the age of just 18. Elena became a WGM at just 14 years of age, and a full IM the following year. She won a succession of European and World girls’ junior titles, and in 2006 was the Russian women’s under-20 champion. We offer our deepest condolences to her family and friends.

Squirrel: An Awwwwwhhhhh Story About a Rescued Baby Squirrel

It's spring and soon I am going to be an honorary squirrel grandmother (or perhaps great-grandmother, not sure which generation of female I'm dealing with).  The squirrels were already busy frigging in the tree rigging at the end of January and shortly thereafter a female started rebuilding a nest in an abandoned spot in the gigantic double-trunked Chinese Elm close to my deck.  There weren't any leaves on the trees, needless to say, so she chewed up a ton of little twigs and branches to make her home, leaving an absolute mess behind of dropped branches and twigs on my frozen tundra, that was soon covered by a snow storm for several weeks.  But the second half of February and most of March proved above-normal temperatures and all the snow has melted away, the ground has thawed, making me itchy-fingered to get out there and start gardening.  That would be a big mistake.  Today, Winter in Wisconsin reminds us that we aren't safe from Arctic blasts until June, with a Nor'easter whipping gigantic waves off Lake Michigan and dropping us back into the teens windchill.  Brrrrrr.  But no snow - yet...

Here is a video of a rescued baby squirrel that touched my heart.  It's nearly a couple of years old now (from 2008).  Soon, I will be seeing three or four squirrel pups racing up and down that old Chinese Elm, brightening my days with a constant reminder that concrete and exhaust fumes and Ozone Alert Days are not all there is to life. 

Ahhh, I cannot wait until April 21st when tax season has ended and I'm relaxing with a Mai Tai at Isis' pool in sunny, warm and dry Las Vegas. 

Oxford, Alabama is Back in the News Again - Divine Retribution???

Ohmygoddess, this story has more twists and turns than anything Alfred Hitchcock ever wrote!  Wow!  What I thought was the end - isn't!  You're going to love this. I have to get a tiny giggle in here - tee hee hee :)
Prior coverage:

Oxford, Alabama, a Sad Conclusion (March 15, 2010)
Follow-Up: The Oxford Mound (January 31, 2010)
Greed and Lies in Oxford, Alabama (January 22, 2010)
Indian Mound Being Destroyed by Corrupt Politicians (August 4, 2009)

Story from The Anniston Star
Oxford project shut down: Oversight in reporting human remains costs city thousands, delays work
by Patrick McCreless
Staff Writer
Mar 25, 2010

Construction on a multi-million-dollar Oxford sports complex halted a month ago because the discovery of ancient human remains at the site was not reported to the proper authorities — an oversight that so far has forced the city to pay approximately $200,000 to its idle project contractor.

The Oxford City Council briefly discussed the situation during the work session before its regular meeting Tuesday. The council agreed to sit down with all parties involved at 10 a.m. April 5 at City Hall to learn how the oversight occurred and to get the project started again. The parties involved include a representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which shut down the project; Taylor Corp., the contractor; University of Alabama archaeologist Robert Clouse, who is overseeing the project; and engineering firm Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood.

"There's obviously been an oversight and someone's responsible for that oversight," Councilman Mitch Key said Tuesday.

Council President Chris Spurlin said the Corps of Engineers stopped the project around late February because it was not notified about the remains, which were discovered around Jan. 8 at the construction site on Davis Farm across from the Oxford Exchange. The wetlands permit the city obtained to develop the Davis Farm site stipulates the corps must be notified if any remains and/or artifacts are discovered.

Spurlin said the city has had to pay approximately $12,000 a day, except for days of rain, during the shutdown period to Taylor Corp.

Taylor's contract states the city must cover equipment and manpower costs for every day the project is shut down for reasons beyond the construction company's control, he said.

"Every two days, we're paying Taylor Corp. what it would cost for a new police car," Spurlin said.

To date, the city has spent more than $5.9 million on the project, most of it for the purchase of the property.

Mayor Leon Smith, who has told The Star on several occasions that he has been against the sports complex project since it began, has apparently washed his hands of this latest ordeal.

"I'm totally out, myself," Smith said after the Tuesday meeting.

Councilwoman June Reaves said she hoped the project would restart as soon as possible.

"We definitely need it," she said of the complex.

Spurlin said the corps has not budged on its decision to shut down the project because it is waiting on a detailed report from Clouse about when, where and how the remains were found.

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested a timeline of events leading up to, and the discovery of, the human remains that were found on the Davis Farm project," Clouse wrote in a Wednesday e-mail to The Star. "That timeline was submitted. Subsequent to the submittal of the timeline, the Corps of Engineers requested a report on all of the findings of the archaeological monitoring conducted to date on the Davis Farm project. That report is still in production and has not yet been submitted."

Clouse's involvement became significant in recent months because of two contradictory reports on a mound behind the Oxford Exchange that he filed last year with Oxford.

The first report, commissioned by the city, claimed the mound was manmade. The second report, published months later, offered a different opinion, saying the mound was the product of natural forces. Experts around the state, including those with the Alabama Historical Commission, disagreed with the second report and believe the mound is culturally significant.

One of those experts is Harry Holstein, professor of archaeology and anthropology at Jacksonville State University, who has studied American Indian sites in this area for decades. Incidentally, engineering firm Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood — which the city contracted to apply for its wetlands permit — hired Holstein to conduct the archaeological portion of the permit in 2007.

"As part of the wetlands permit process, archaeology is incorporated," Holstein said. "We told them there were 24 archaeological sites on that parcel of land, including a temple mound and village areas. The Historical Commission concurred, and the city signed off on it."

Holstein claimed earlier this year that someone had bulldozed the temple mound, which may have contained human remains. Clouse and the city claim the mound is still there.

Holstein believes the few remains the city found in January are only the beginning of what will be discovered at the construction site.

"They're going to find more bodies," he said. "(Indians) didn't just bury one person in a large town like that."

Attempts to reach representatives of the Corps of Engineers on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Until DNA Says So, She is Not an Ancestor

Isis sent me this story when it first broke a couple of days ago, but I had hoped it would go away. But - it has not - so, Isis, here is the story, the latest version from the BBC. Lots of to-do about a "new ancestor of humans" - only, she probably is not.  Unless it can be shown that this female who is "dated" to between 48,000 to 32,000 years ago has her mitochondrial DNA present in today's humans, she cannot be an ancestor.  Amazingly, from a sliver of a finger bone artists have managed to come up with a very human-looking representation of what this ancient female looked like!  Modern reconstructive forensic science!  The miracles never cease!  This is better even than Eve being created out of one of Adam's ribs!

DNA identifies new ancient human dubbed 'X-woman'
By Paul Rincon
Science reporter, BBC News
Thursday, 25 March 2010

As I understand the current results, there is no evidence that the "X woman" contributed anything to the line of modern humans.  So - she is not an ancestor.  By scientific definition, she cannot be.  Notice, however, the use of the loaded term "woman" rather than using the more generic term "female."  "Woman" definitely connotes a human being - which the female could not be, since she shares no mitochondrial DNA with modern females according to current DNA test results.  So - let's see what the "further testing" that is planned reveals.  What will be reported in the popular press if further tests turn out to point to something other than a "modern human" connection?  Anyone want to place a bet? 

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The More Things Seem to Change, the More They Stay the Same...


I know there are millions of people, in the USA and in Europe (which presents itself as more sophisticated and urbane than us "cowboys" in the wild wild West), who think that women have achieved absolute equality with men.  Unfortunately, the title of the following article gives a bad name to the absolutely blameless Neanderthal humans.

Ukrainian women berate 'Neanderthal' PM for sexist remarks
Mykola Azarov enrages feminist groups by suggesting women are unsuitable for high political office
Luke Harding in Moscow, Wednesday 24 March 2010 19.50 GMT

Ukraine's new pro-Russia prime minister, Mykola Azarov, has enraged feminist groups by suggesting that women are unsuitable for high political office and incapable of carrying out reforms.

Women's groups in Ukraine have angrily reported Azarov – who presides over an all-male cabinet – to the country's ombudsman following his remarks last week. They accuse him of gender discrimination and holding Neanderthal views.

Speaking on Friday, Azarov said Ukraine's economic problems were too difficult for any woman to handle.

"Some say our government is too large; others that there are no women," he said. "There's no one to look at during cabinet sessions: they're all boring faces. With all respect to women, conducting reforms is not women's business."

Ukraine's new woman-free government was capable of working 16 hours a day with "no breaks and weekends", Azarov boasted.

The prime minister's gaffe echoes comments made recently by the man who appointed him – Ukraine's new president, Viktor Yanukovych. During February's election campaign, Yanukovych declared that his female opponent, Yulia Tymoshenko, should "go to the kitchen".

Today, Azarov's political enemies denounced him as an unreconstructed dinosaur. They said his derisory remark, snubbing half of the country's 46 million population, underlined just how out of touch he is with ordinary Ukrainians.
Against this current backdrop, I put forth for your consideration:

March 22, 2010, 6:09 pm
Using Quotas to Raise the Glass Ceiling
By THE EDITORS (The New York Times)
In 2002, Norway enacted a law requiring that 40 percent of all board members at state-owned and publicly listed companies be women by 2008.

Since then, Spain and the Netherlands have passed similar laws. Now Belgium, Britain, Germany, France and Sweden are considering legislative measures involving female quotas. And although Germany is also debating such a law, Deutsche Telekom, which is based in Bonn, announced last week that it would voluntarily introduce a quota aiming to fill 30 percent of upper and middle management jobs with women by the end of 2015.

Do quotas work? Would they work in the U.S.? Does the U.S. need them?  Viewpoints by:

Marit Hoel, Center for Corporate Diversity, Oslo
Amy Dittmar, University of Michigan
Peter Baldwin, author, “The Narcissism of Minor Differences”
Sharon Meers, former managing director at Goldman Sachs
Linda Hirshman, author, “Get to Work”

Staffordshire Hoard Saved for Local Museums by Grant Funds

From the
Anglo-Saxon Staffordshire hoard saved by £1.3m heritage grant
The Staffordshire hoard of Anglo-Saxon treasure found last year will receive a £1.3m Heritage Memorial Fund grant to allow it to remain in Midlands museums
Maev Kennedy, Tuesday 23 March 2010 15.45 GMT Article history

A grant of £1,285,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) will keep the glittering treasures of the Staffordshire hoard, the most spectacular heap of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found, in the region where an amateur metal detector found it last summer after it spent 1,300 years buried in a nondescript field.

The grant goes to Birmingham and Stoke-on-Trent museums, which will share the treasure, having raised the £3.3m necessary to pay Terry Herbert, who found the gold, and farmer Fred Johnson, the owner of the field where it was discovered.

Unusually for the fund, when the trustees met today there was no argument about the extraordinary quality of the hoard, or the merits of making the grant. Dame Jenny Abramsky, chair of the NHMF, said: "The Staffordshire hoard is an extraordinary heritage treasure. It is exactly the sort of thing the National Heritage Memorial Fund was set up to save, stepping in as the 'fund of last resort' when our national heritage is at risk, as a fitting memorial to those who have given their lives in the service of our nation. We're delighted, in our 30th anniversary year, to be able to make sure it stays just where it belongs, providing rare insights into one of the more mysterious periods of our history." Image: A glass chequerboard stud with a gold and garnet surround. Photograph: PR.
"Frankly they'd have been demented not to give the money," David Starkey, the historian who led the £3.3m appeal, said, welcoming the announcement. He has labelled the 1,500 pieces of jewel-studded gold, which appear to have been wrenched violently off their original metal, leather and wooden mounts, "gangland bling".

"This is by far the most important archaeological discovery in Britain since the second world war, and beyond that this is a find – of the most extraordinary beauty, brilliance and technical sophistication – which has really caught the imagination of the public."

The culture minister, Margaret Hodge, said: "Thanks to this grant, these superb items will be able to stay – and be enjoyed – where they belong: in the Midlands where they were discovered."

The British Museum, which would once inevitably have been seen as the natural home for a find of international importance, gave its blessing and practical support to the campaign. The total includes thousands of small donations from members of the public, some sent from as far as Australia, and a £300,000 grant from the Art Fund charity, which launched the appeal. The museums, backed by their local authorities, put in £100,000 each.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: "We have been absolutely bowled over by the enthusiasm and fascination the Staffordshire hoard has sparked amongst the British public, as well as visitors from abroad. It is wonderful news that the NHMF has enabled the target of £3.285m to be reached ahead of schedule, and I hope that this will give the West Midlands a head start with the next stage in fundraising for the conservation, research and display of the treasure."

When the find was announced in September the news went round the world. The gold was found by Terry Herbert, a passionate amateur metal detector whose best previous find was a broken piece of medieval horse harness, on farmer Fred Johnson's land near Lichfield in July. When Herbert had covered his dining room table with gold, and was becoming thoroughly alarmed at the scale of his find, he called in the experts. The archaeologists and forensic scientists who hit the field – under the cover story from the local police that they were investigating a murder – found most of the pieces just below the surface, and some tangled in clumps of grass which had grown up through the delicate filigree gold: eventually they retrieved 2.5kg of silver and 5kg of gold. One gold-and-garnet Anglo-Saxon sword pommel would be regarded as a find of international importance: there were scores in the hoard, along with unique and enigmatic objects still baffling the archaeologists such as the wriggling gold serpents, and a biblical inscription on a strap of gold folded in half like a shirt collar.

Starkey said: "These are pieces from the period which we were brought up to call the dark ages, and they prove that it was no such thing. When the Normans invaded in 1066, they may have been better organised chaps – but it wasn't that they were the civilised ones invading a primitive backwater, they came because they were desperate to get their hands on the wealth of Harold's England."

Local pride and interest in the treasure is intense. The exhibitions at the Birmingham city museum, immediately after the find was announced in September, and at the Potteries museum in Stoke-on-Trent last month when the hoard returned for the first time to Staffordshire, broke records at both museums with crowds queueing for hours to see the treasures.

More than 52,000 people visited the Stoke museum in three weeks, donating more than £152,000 to the appeal, including a single anonymous donation of £50,000 on the eve of the exhibition.
Many of the pieces are still caked in mud, and some still tangled with blades of grass. While careful conservation work continues, scholars will be poring over the treasures for decades to come.

"There could be blood on them as well. These pieces still have a lot to tell us," said Deb Klemperer, the archaeologist and curator at the Potteries, who was reduced to tears at their beauty when she first saw the gold last summer.

Starkey said the gold, and its new homes in Birmingham and the Potteries, will redraw the map of Anglo-Saxon England.

"These pieces change our understanding not just of history but of geography, swinging the axis away from Kent and Wessex and Northumbria, which we are fairly knowledgeable about, to the highly important but very little understood kingdom of Mercia, of which we know so little."

And he added the collection would have a positive impact on the Midlands of today. "They will put new heart and hope into a region which has suffered terribly through de-industrialisation, with the loss of thousands of metal working jobs, and literally the shattering of the Potteries."

In Stoke Hazel Lyth, city council cabinet member for economic development and culture, said they were thrilled at the grant, "a fantastic gesture that will cap a phenomenal fundraising campaign", but warned that the fundraising goes on.

"Acquiring these unparalleled treasures is essential, but it is just the beginning. We still very much need the public's support in helping us to unlock the secrets of this amazing collection. It will cost a further £1.7m to develop a Mercian trail which will take in Lichfield and Tamworth to link up the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom. We need to interpret and research the hoard, so that we can discover where it came from, why it was put in Staffordshire soil, and find the answers to many other questions."

Although the major exhibition has closed, some of the pieces remain on display at Stoke, Birmingham, and at the British Museum in London.

State University of NY at Buffalo Receives Gift of Fabulous Collection

Cravens gives world-class archaeological and ethnographic collection to UB
'Cravens World' public opening set for March 28
Release Date: March 23, 2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Annette Cravens, MSW '68, has donated her multimillion dollar collection of archaeological and ethnographic objects -- dating as far back as 4,500 BC -- to the University at Buffalo College of Arts and Sciences.

The collection has been curated into a world-class permanent installation that will be a resource for the entire UB community. The Cravens collection creates a watershed moment for the university, boosting its profile as a center for world cultural heritage research and extends the vibrant role UB Anderson Gallery plays in the education of students, both at the university and elementary and high-school levels.

The public is invited to the premiere opening of the exhibit, "Cravens World: The Human Aesthetic" at the UB Anderson Gallery on March 28 from 1-5 p.m.

The 1,100-piece collection -- which has nearly doubled the university's collection -- was amassed by Cravens during her more than 40 years of engagement around the globe, often with her husband. She also provided funding so that the collection will be accessible to UB students, Buffalo Public Schools students, scholars and the community.

Phase one of the Cravens project is complete, which includes two rooms for the collection. The largest and by far most impressive room is "Cravens World," where objects from around the world are displayed in transparent, acrylic cubes shaped into a life-size globe that seemingly reaches to the sky. In this display, 126 objects can be experienced from 360-degree views, which are organized into six thematic groups.

"We came up with the idea of the globe to reflect Annette's world travels, and her unique way of viewing objects and of seamlessly moving from culture to culture without borders or bias," says Peter Biehl, associate professor of anthropology at UB and director of the project. Wall cabinets and drawers in the room house another 451 objects organized by geographic location. These objects will serve as teaching tools for students to learn about other cultures.

"Outreach to schoolchildren from kindergarten to high school will be an integral part of the project, and is a piece of which we are proud," Biehl adds. "Not only does this further the mission of UB in educating and reaching out to the Buffalo community, it speaks to Annette's tireless work to support Buffalo's intellectual life via arts, theater and the university."

An interactive touch screen will allow visitors to access information on the objects, and gain information about the cultures, countries, people and artists who created them.

Having a collection of this stature "makes UB a center of excellence in regards to material culture studies and research," Biehl says. "Students have the benefit of access to a collection that can be used to teach them to study, draw, research and curate objects. The experience they will have in regards to the Cravens' collection is invaluable."

The oldest objects in the exhibit are from Asia, Mesopotamia, South America and Europe. Cravens donated her collection so that students, residents and visitors will have a chance to experience diverse cultural traditions. She believes that firsthand contact with these artifacts provides a tangible connection to the aesthetic sensibilities of other people and creates a critical dynamic that can teach others to see and spark appreciation, inspiration and understanding.

"The collection complements and reinforces the mission of UB Anderson Gallery to serve as a unique academic center for interdisciplinary research focusing on learning from objects," says Sandra H. Olsen, PhD, director of the UB Art Galleries.

"It has also positively and dramatically altered the character of the university's collection. Formerly focused on European and American modern and contemporary art, the Cravens collection extends the reach of the visual arts at UB Anderson Gallery from modern to ancient times. The collection represents a significant expansion of the university's collection, nearly doubling its size and exponentially broadening its contents. The unique installation of the objects in the collection advances immeasurably the UB Anderson Gallery's mission of accessing its unique academic resources as broadly as possible."

In addition to the Cravens World open installation, modern works of art from the Cravens collection are installed in the Anderson Gallery. Prints, paintings and sculptures invite guests to consider aesthetics shared by modern works and cultural objects in the Cravens World exhibition.

In fall 2010, phase two of the Cravens' collection project will begin, with construction of a seminar room, research laboratory and a repository and study room for the collection's archives. Biehl will teach a seminar, and UB students will focus on objects from Europe and the Near East. Similar courses using objects from other continents will follow over the next three years. At the end of the fall 2010 semester, students will collectively curate a public exhibition of Cravens collection objects. The collection will also open opportunities for internships in museum studies, anthropology, classics, art history, oral history, education and library science.

The Cravens Collection Project is funded by the UB College of Arts and Sciences with generous support from Annette Cravens. It includes the assessment, research and management of the donated collection of archaeological and ethnographic objects; archives of written documents, oral histories, photos and artwork from around the world; reconstruction of two rooms in the UB Anderson Gallery and outreach activities. The project also includes the creation of a virtual museum interfaced with an online multimedia database, as well as the production of an educational video game.

As well as Biehl and Olsen, other UB faculty who collaborated on this project include Mehrdad Hadighi, professor and chair, School of Architecture and Planning, responsible for the Cravens World design; Stephen Dyson, Park Professor of Classics; Samuel Paley, professor of classics; Douglass Perrelli, adjunct professor and director, archaeological survey, Department of Anthropology; Phillips Stevens Jr., associate professor of anthropology; Roy Roussel, professor and acting chair, media study; Alexander Reid, associate professor of English; Michael Frisch, professor of American studies; Sarah Robert, assistant professor of education; and R. Nils Olsen, professor of law. Robert, Frisch and Sandra Olsen are contributing to the project "Open Knowledge and Digital Archives: Digitization, Curation and Dissemination of the Cravens Collection." Reid, Roussel, Robert and Martin Danahay and Kevin Kee from Brock University have contributed time, creativity and expertise to the project "Serious Play and the Cravens Collection: Designing an Educational Video Game for the Outreach Program of the Cravens Collection." Both projects have received funding from the Digital Humanities Initiative at Buffalo (DHIB).

Annette Cravens continues a family philanthropic tradition at UB that began more than 75 years ago. Her father, Dr. Edgar McGuire, succeeded Dr. Roswell Park as professor of surgery and medicine at the university until his death in 1931. A few years later, Annette's mother, Mildred, married Thomas B. Lockwood, who built the original Lockwood Library on the UB South Campus and later gave his collection of rare books to the university.

In 1984 she contributed the original renderings of Lockwood Library to the university. She and her children worked with university administrators to establish a lecture series in the poetry collection in memory of her mother. She also donated a medical instruments collection to UB -- dating from the early Roman period to the late 19th century -- in memory of her father. In 2007 the UB Alumni Association gave Cravens its highest award, the Capen Award, for her contributions to the university.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, the largest and most comprehensive campus in the State University of New York. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Han Dynasty City Discovered

From the Economic Times of India
Ruins of 2,000-year-old city found in China
24 Mar 2010, 1307 hrs IST, IANS

BEIJING: Archaeologists in China have found the ruins of a 2,000-year-old city dating back to the Eastern Han Dynasty, a report said Wednesday.

The site, located near Fujiacun village in Fengcheng city in Jiangxi province, covers about 18,000 square metres and is surrounded by a moat, Xinhua news agency reported.

About 30 metres of the wall surrounding the ancient city was still standing on its west and pieces of broken tiles were found scattered on the ground, it said.

Villagers said they had seen stone implements at the site in the past, but none was found during a field trip by archaeologists. The researchers said the implements might have been collected by some private collector.

The archaeologists believe the ruins would provide new clues for research on the city structure of the Eastern Han Dynasty, which ruled the eastern part of the country during 24-220 AD.
"The researchers said the implements might have been collected by some private collector."

Yeah, right. Wholesale looting by the locals! LOL! Well, I can't say as I blame them, the way they get screwed by corrupt officials at all levels of government. What do they care about their own ancient heritage? If they are even aware that their country has one that is worth preserving,

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The More Things Seem to Change, the More They Stay the Same...

...don't you think it's strange.  Girl, put your records on, play me your favorite song, your gonna find yourself someday...  Corinne Bailey Rae

I assume in honor of International Women's Day a week or two ago, there have been several articles cropping up recently about women - both ancient and modern. I know I run the risk of each of these articles not getting the attention each deserves by grouping them together this evening - but these two seem to fit together, so here goes:

On the streets of Alexandria, Egypt, a mob led by Peter the Lector brutally murdered Hypatia, one of the last great thinkers of ancient Alexandria.
Mary Evans Picture Library / Alamy
History & Archaeology
Hypatia, Ancient Alexandria’s Great Female Scholar
An avowed paganist in a time of religious strife, Hypatia was also one of the first women to study math, astronomy and philosophy
By Sarah Zielinski, March 15, 2010
I will not go into detail about the horrific way that Hypatia was killed by a mob of men incited by a so-called Christian. Suffice to say that in our collective memories of her great accomplishments, she has achieved eternal life and glory.

From The New York Times
Bias Called Persistent Hurdle for Women in Sciences
Published: March 21, 2010
A report on the underrepresentation of women in science and math by the American Association of University Women, to be released Monday, found that although women have made gains, stereotypes and cultural biases still impede their success.  . . .

Five years ago, Lawrence H. Summers, then the president of Harvard, sparked a firestorm when he suggested that “there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude” reinforced by “lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination.”  . . .

The association’s report acknowledges differences in male and female brains. But Ms. Hill said, “None of the research convincingly links those differences to specific skills, so we don’t know what they mean in terms of mathematical abilities.”

At the top level of math abilities, where boys are overrepresented, the report found that the gender gap is rapidly shrinking. Among mathematically precocious youth — sixth and seventh graders who score more than 700 on the math SAT — 30 years ago boys outnumbered girls 13 to 1, but only about 3 to 1 now.

“That’s not biology at play, it doesn’t change so fast,” Ms. Hill said. “Even if there are biological factors in boys outnumbering girls, they’re clearly not the whole story. There’s a real danger in assuming that innate differences are important in determining who will succeed, so we looked at the cultural factors, to see what evidence there is on the nurture side of nature or nurture.”

The report found ample evidence of continuing cultural bias. . . .

More tomorrow night.  Right now, I've got to put my records on and do some serious boogeying for aerobic fitness, muscle toning and (hopefully) weight loss.  Found two new favorites to add to my mix:  Praful ("Sigh") and Spencer Day ("You'll Come Back to Me").

21st Century Dating Technique that Does NO Harm to Objects

Ohmygoddess!  This is truly exciting to this archaeology geek (geekess?)

Press Release
Public release date: 23-Mar-2010
Contact: Michael Bernstein
415-978-3504 (Meeting, March 21-25)
202-872-6042 (After March 25)
American Chemical Society

New method could revolutionize dating of ancient treasures
SAN FRANCISCO, March 23, 2010 — Scientists today described development of a new method to determine the age of ancient mummies, old artwork, and other relics without causing damage to these treasures of global cultural heritage. Reporting at the 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), they said it could allow scientific analysis of hundreds of artifacts that until now were off limits because museums and private collectors did not want the objects damaged.

"This technique stands to revolutionize radiocarbon dating," said Marvin Rowe, Ph.D., who led the research team. "It expands the possibility for analyzing extensive museum collections that have previously been off limits because of their rarity or intrinsic value and the destructive nature of the current method of radiocarbon dating. In theory, it could even be used to date the Shroud of Turin."

Rowe explained that the new method is a form of radiocarbon dating, the archaeologist's standard tool to estimate the age of an object by measuring its content of naturally-occurring radioactive carbon. A professor emeritus at Texas A&M University College Station, Rowe teaches at a branch of the university in Qatar. Traditional carbon dating involves removing and burning small samples of the object. Although it sometimes requires taking minute samples of an object, even that damage may be unacceptable for some artifacts. The new method does not involve removing a sample of the object.

Conventional carbon dating estimates the age of an artifact based on its content of carbon-14 (C-14), a naturally occurring, radioactive form of carbon. Comparing the C-14 levels in the object to levels of C-14 expected in the atmosphere for a particular historic period allows scientists to estimate the age of an artifact. Both the conventional and new carbon dating methods can determine the age of objects as far back as 45,000 to 50,000 years, Rowe said.

In conventional dating methods, scientists remove a small sample from an object, such as a cloth or bone fragment. Then they treat the sample with a strong acid and a strong base and finally burn the sample in a small glass chamber to produce carbon dioxide gas to analyze its C-14 content.

Rowe's new method, called "non-destructive carbon dating," eliminates sampling, the destructive acid-base washes, and burning. In the new method, scientists place an entire artifact in a special chamber with a plasma, an electrically charged gas similar to gases used in big-screen plasma television displays. The gas slowly and gently oxidizes the surface of the object to produce carbon dioxide for C-14 analysis without damaging the surface, he said.

Rowe and his colleagues used the technique to analyze the ages of about 20 different organic substances, including wood, charcoal, leather, rabbit hair, a bone with mummified flesh attached, and a 1,350-year-old Egyptian weaving. The results match those of conventional carbon dating techniques, they say.

The chamber could be sized to accommodate large objects, such as works of art and even the Shroud of Turin, which some believe to be the burial cloth of Jesus Christ, Rowe said. He acknowledged, however, that it would take a significant amount of data to convince museum directors, art conservators, and others that the new method causes no damage to such priceless objects

The scientists are currently refining the technique. Rowe hopes to use it, for instance, to analyze objects such as a small ivory figurine called the "Venus of Brassempouy," thought to be about 25,000 years old and one of the earliest known depictions of a human face. The figurine is small enough to fit into the chamber used for analysis.

Funding for this project is provided by the National Science Foundation, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, and Texas A&M University.

The American Chemical Society is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. With more than 161,000 members, ACS is the world's largest scientific society and a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related research through its multiple databases, peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

Is This the Oldest Wall in the World?

Wow!  VERY interesting find in Greece! From Yahoo News.

23,000 year old stone wall found at entrance to cave in Greece
Mon Mar 22, 12:48 pm ET
ATHENS (AFP) – The oldest stone wall in Greece, which has stood at the entrance of a cave in Thessaly for the last 23,000 years, has been discovered by palaeontologists, the ministry of culture said Monday.  Image: An undated handout photo provided by the Greek Culture Ministry shows an prehistorical stone wall. The ministry said Greek experts discovered the oldest stony wall of the country, blocking the entrance of a cavern for 23,000 years in Thessalia, in the north. (AFP/GCM-HO)

The age of the find, determined by an optical dating test, singles it out as "probably one of the oldest in the world", according to a ministry press release.

"The dating matches the coldest period of the most recent ice age, indicating that the cavern's paleolithic inhabitants built it to protect themselves from the cold", said the ministry.

The wall blocked two-thirds of the entrance to the cave, located close to Kalambaka, itself near the popular tourist area and monastic centre of Meteora in central Greece. Greek palaeontologists have been excavating the site for the last 25 years.
Guess this cave must have been used for a long period of time for occupancy during the last Ice Age.  Wow.  The people who live today don't have anything on the people who lived in that cave back then.  They had the smarts to wall off most of the entrance against the elements - and they built that curtain wall strong enough to last all this time. Will any of our "mighty" skyscrapers built during the last 100 years survive 23000 years into the future?

Monday, March 22, 2010

FIDE Women's Grand Prix Series

Four Women's Grand Prix Events in 2010 (continuing from 2009):

April 25 - May 8, 2010 Nalchik (where?) - somewhere in Russia.  This is obviously the Russian government's attempt to convince locals and the uninformed world in general that Nalchik is perfectly safe for ladies.  Darlings, I'm not convinced - but - whatever.

This is the line-up:

Koneru, Humpy GM IND (second highest rated female in the world)
Yifan, Hou GM CHN (third highest rated female in the world)
Cramling, Pia GM SVE (just won 2010 European Women's Individual Chess Championship)
Dzagnidze, Nana GM GEO
Xue, Zhao GM CHN
Kosintseva, Tatiana IM RUS
Chen, Zhu GM QTR (former Women's World Chess Champion)
Danielian, Elina IM ARM
Batkhuyag, Munguntuul WGM MGL
Yildiz, Betul WIM TRK
Mrktchian, Lilit IM ARM
Kovanova, Baira WGM RUS

The 4th Grand Prix will take place in Jermuk, Armenia, on 23rd June - 6th July 2010

The 5th Grand Prix will take place in Ulanbaatar, Mongolia, on 29 July - 12 August 2010

The 6th Grand Prix will take place in Santiago, Chile, on 27th October - 9th November 2010

The first Grand Prix was in Istanbul 5th-20th March 2009 and was won by Humpy Koneru. The 2nd Grand Prix was in Nanjing, China, 27th Sept - 9th October 2009 and was won by Xu Yuhua.

Not a single Women's Grand Prix in North America. I don't understand this. We've got money here - we've got experienced organizers. Yes, I know the USCF is bankrupt, but the Chess Club and Scholastic Chess Center of St. Louis (Missouri) has big money backers. What about Continental Chess stepping up and putting together some big money sponsorship? Surely after 30 plus years of being in business it could put it's contacts to use to advance women's chess. What about someone approaching one of the cosmetic companies or P&G about major sponsorship of some of the best female chessplayers in the world - many of whom are very lovely ladies. Brains and Beauty - there could be an entire ad campaign put together starting with some hot blitz chess spots on You Tube.

Hell, I'm no marketer. But why is it Mongolia can host a Grand Prix event - okay, like what is the Gross National Product of Mongolia? And the United States of America cannot?

Bulgarian Under-20 Championships

Ani Krumova took the girls title on tie-break from Maria Vladimirova after both finished on 6.5/9.  Here are the final standings for the women:

ch-BUL U20 Girls Sofia (BUL), 8-14 iii 2010
                           1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
1. Krumova, Ani BUL 1905 * 1 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 1 1 1 6½ 2088
2. Vladimirova, Maria BUL 2038 0 * 1 ½ 0 1 1 1 1 1 6½ 2073
3. Galunova, Tsveta BUL 1984 ½ 0 * 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 6 2038
4. Stefanova, Milena BUL 1991 ½ ½ 0 * 0 1 ½ 1 1 1 5½ 1993
5. Sirkova, Darena BUL 2084 1 1 ½ 1 * 0 0 ½ 0 1 5 1945
6. Todorova, Kalina BUL 1786 ½ 0 0 0 1 * 1 ½ 1 1 5 1978
7. Naydenova, Yordanka BUL 1926 0 0 ½ ½ 1 0 * 1 1 ½ 4½ 1920
8. Tsekova, Viktoria BUL 1860 0 0 0 0 ½ ½ 0 * 1 1 3 1802
9. Ivanova, Simoneta BUL 1816 0 0 ½ 0 1 0 0 0 * ½ 2 1712
10. Venkova, Polina BUL 1818 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 ½ * 1 1581

Lotus Temple Excavated in Bangladesh

From The Daily Star
March 21, 2010
Lotus Temple excavated
Emran Hossain

In Wari-Bateshwar of Narsingdi, archaeologists have recently excavated a 1,400-year-old Lotus Temple, the first proof of flourishing of Buddhism in the region.

The brick-built temple constructed around seventh or eighth century--as evidenced by its structure and the size and shapes of the bricks and other finds excavated at Mandirvita at Dhupirtek of Shibpur in the district--suggests existence of a Buddha Vihara there, they said.

"This is the first ever proof that Buddhism flourished and was practised in Wari-Bateshwar region of Madhupur tract," said Prof Sufi Mostafizur Rahman, who is leading the excavation team comprised of researchers from archaeological research centre Oitihya Onneswan, teachers and students of archaeology department of Jahangirnagar University.

According to a copper plaque found in 1885 at Ashrafpur, 7km from Mandirvita, King Devakhadga had donated land to four Viharas and Viharikas in the area.

"If we take the plaque into account, Dhupirtek might be one of these four sites," said Mostafizur Rahman.

The temple also indicates different phases of ancient settlement in the region dating back to 450 BC.

In 2001, examination of charcoal samples confirmed the existence of human habitation and industry in Wari-Bateshwar around 450 BC. Archaeologists think the civilisation lasted for 500 years.

The archaeology team had excavated a small portion of the temple last year. The recent excavation has unearthed the perfectly square brick-built structure.

The excavators' claim of the structure to be a Buddhist Lotus Temple was confirmed when they found an eight-petal lotus made of dressed red bricks embedded on an altar.

In Buddhism, the lotus--padma--is a very important symbol of many aspects of the path to enlightenment--complete purification of the body, speech and mind, and the blossoming of wholesome deeds in liberation.

The Buddha is often depicted as sitting on a fully blossomed lotus.

The red lotus signifies the original nature and purity of the heart.

Remnants of seven more brick-built lotuses were also found during the excavation.

A 70cm circumambulation path (pradakshinpatha) was also found around the temple.

The lotus embedded brick-built altar is above the southern wall of the temple, which was used as the main temple at an earlier time, showing that the altar was built later.

The team of archaeologists is now working to determine how long the temple survived in each phase and why it was destroyed and rebuilt.

"We want to preserve the temple as we find it, using the same materials used for its construction, showing the phases of change the temple underwent," said deputy team leader Mizanur Rahman. "Unfortunately, we are under financial constraints but our work requires more research and excavation.”

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Gujarat Forged Trade with Harappans

I'm glad to see this kind of research coming out of India. For too long, the Harappan civilization has been under-explored by its own descendants!

From The Times of India
Gujarat exported jewellery to Harappan cities
Parth Shastri , TNN, Mar 22, 2010, 03.39am IST

AHMEDABAD: A large quantity of seals and beads used in making jewellery during the Harappan civilisation were recently found at Kanmer near Bhachau. The archaeology experts in the state were elated as the discovery proved that Kutch region those days had a production capacity and also a trade link with other parts of India and world, like Himalayan regions and parts of Pakistan, where similar beads have been found.

Studies taken up by state and central archaeology institutes have also shown a trade route covering central Asia, Himalayan areas and Gujarat.

A research paper on the economy of Harappan civilisation and development of smaller centres published in a British journal this month shows how the civilisation spread from Gujarat plains to Himalayan regions and parts of Pakistan in Indus-Saraswati river valley. The research was carried out jointly by YS Rawat, director of State Department of Archaeology; DP Agarwal of Lok Vigyan Kendra, Almora; JS Kharakwal, department of archaeology, Rajasthan Vidhyapeeth, Udaipur; and T Osada, Institute of Humanity and Nature, Kyoto, Japan.

The paper also tries to define the specific regions producing items of trade. According to the researchers, the flourishing ports gave a huge boost to the region's development.

"Since the very beginning of Harappan civilisation, procurement and distribution of natural resources was a focal point of the people. Due to geographical distances, it led to development of small and medium-sized towns on the route that took shape of accepted trade highways," said Rawat.

"The Harappan elite needed ornaments made of gold, silver, agate, chalcedony, steatite, copper, shell, lapis lazuli and sodalite, many of which were taken from Gujarat to areas in northern Himalayan region. The requirements led to development of sites like Makran, Surkotada, Bagasara, Dholavira, Kuntasi, Kanmer and Shikarpur in Gujarat," said Rawat.

According to archaeology experts, various artefacts found in Himalayan and sub-Himalayan regions such as Manda (Jammu), Kotla Nihang and Ropar (Punjab), and Kashipur in Kumaon region are believed to have been manufactured in Gujarat.

"Most importantly, jewellery made of semi-precious stones, clay capsules and shells were the main items of trade from Gujarat. Agate also formed a large part of export from this state," said Rawat.

In Gujarat, sites like Kanmer yielded a large amount of bead-making material as more than 20,000 steatite beads were found at an excavation site in the area, indicating their industrial importance.

"Several small sites in Gujarat like Surkotada, Desalpur, Gola Dhoro, Kuntasi, Rajpipla, Kanmer and Shikarpur have disproportionately large fortifications compared to their settlement size. Such massive expenditure of energy and material on fortifications could be justified for economic protection," said Rawat.

The Mold Gold Cape

I learned about this ancient Bronze Age object today.  It was purchased by and is now kept at the British Museum:

The Mold gold cape
Mold, Flintshire, North Wales, Bronze Age, about 1900-1600 BC

Workmen quarrying for stone in an ancient burial mound in 1833 found this unique ceremonial gold cape, which remains unparalleled to this day. The mound lay in a field named Bryn yr Ellyllon (the Fairies' or Goblins' Hill).

At the centre of the mound was a stone-lined grave with the crushed gold cape around the fragmentary remains of a skeleton. Strips of bronze and numbers of amber beads were recovered, but only one of the beads reached the British Museum.

The cape would have been unsuitable for everyday wear because it would have severely restricted upper arm movement. Instead it would have served ceremonial roles, and may have denoted religious authority.

The cape is one of the finest examples of prehistoric sheet-gold working and is quite unique in form and design. It was laboriously beaten out of a single ingot of gold, then embellished with intense decoration of ribs and bosses to mimic multiple strings of beads amid folds of cloth.

Perforations along the upper and lower edges indicate that it was once attached to a lining, perhaps of leather, which has decayed. The bronze strips may have served to strengthen the adornment further.

The fragile cape broke up during recovery and the pieces were dispersed among various people. Although the British Museum acquired the greater proportion in 1836, small fragments have come to light over the years and have been reunited.

Later detailed study and restoration revealed the full form of the cape, which at one time had been interpreted as a peytrel (chest ornament) for a horse. It also became apparent that a second, smaller object in matching embossed style was present in the grave.
Interestingly, the British Museum shows the cape being worn by a man.  But evidently it is too small for a man, and may have, instead, been worn by a woman or possibly a child.  A child?  So says this article - reporting on a move by at least one politician in Wales to repatriate the Cape back to Wales!  Hey - I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried!

From the
North Wales MP wants Welsh historic cape back
Mar 16 2010
ONE of the most important bronze-age discoveries in Europe must be returned to the people of Wales, the government has been told.

The 3,400-year-old Mold Gold Cape was uncovered by a gang from the local workhouse in 1833 and was sold to the British Museum three years later.

But Plaid Cymru’s Parliamentary leader Elfyn Llwyd has argued it is time to hand back the precious find because it is part of the Welsh "collective memory" and likened it to the battle over the Elgin Marbles.

In Westminster Hall the Meirionnydd Nant Conwy MP told culture minister Margaret Hodge: "We talk about the Elgin Marbles and so on, but an artefact from North Wales – a famous early Welsh gold cape – is in the British Museum and will not be released back to Wales.

"Such artefacts are part of our collective national memory. They are important, and should be returned."

The cape is considered one of the most significant archaeological discoveries in Europe and is currently being featured in the BBC series The History Of The World In 100 Objects.

Workmen digging for stone in a mound at Bryn yr Ellyllon, Mold, found the cape with a skeleton that later disappeared. The local vicar recorded the find but it was the tenant of the land on which the cape was uncovered who kept the largest part of the cape and later sold it to the museum in London.

It was eventually restored and was found to be too small to fit the body of a grown king or warrior as previously thought – it most likely belonged to a slim woman or child.

During the debate in the Commons’ second chamber the culture minister insisted she "profoundly disagreed with the underlying premise that culture is to be enjoyed only by the nation most closely identified with it".

Ms Hodge added: "Our national museums are centres of excellence and scholarship and part of a wider international web of information sharing.

"It is not about promoting nationalism; the focus is on promoting an understanding of our shared past so that we can better deal with the present and tackle the problems of the future.

"Furthermore, if beautiful artefacts are created, they should be enjoyed as widely as possible, not just in one nation.

"They do not enhance the lives of just one community, but of all of us in all our communities.

"The advent of digitisation enables us to share more widely the wonderful treasures that we are privileged to enjoy in our great national museums.

"The British Museum was one of the first institutions in this country to be named "British", but its objective is to have collections representing the whole world under its roof, so as to enable everyone to enjoy its experiences which, of course, are free of charge."

Mr Llwyd said: "If they persist in taking all our treasures then obviously no one will come. Imperialism has gone, it is time for the Gold Cape to be repatriated."

The Forgotten Boy

Absolutely fascinating recap of the story of the boy mummy from KV 35.  By the way - a note to 'Sis - this article suggests some answers to the reasons why some other pharaohs' funerary furniture and belongings ended up in Tutenkhamun's tomb.  It's so sad, this little boy without a name.

From the "Egyptians" blog by Timothy Reid, on March 13, 2010:

In the recent two year study of eighteenth dynasty royal mummies it seems that this boy from a side chamber in valley of kings tomb KV 35 was not included.

There are artifacts from the tomb Kv 35 which belong to a son of Amenhotep II named Webensenu as a result of the mummies found in the tomb there are four candidates to be that prince including this boy or another mummy found attached to a funerary boat belonging to Amenhotep II or either of two skeletons.

Some have speculated that the mummy on the boat was the founder of the twentieth dynasty Sethnakht because of a reused coffin once manufactured for that king was present in the tomb at the time of discovery. Unfortunately the mummy was destroyed more than a hundred years ago when the boat was stolen.

Reports on that badly damaged mummy says that it was glued to the boat by resin used in the mummies mummification that would mean that the mummy was fairly fresh when unwrapped and thrown on Amenhotep's boat in ancient times.

The founder of the twentieth dynasty the pharaoh Sethnakht has been suggested as a candidate dying in approximately 1186 bc would have lain in his tomb or at least a tomb for one hundred years before the recycling of the valley of kings by Herihor and Pinudgem I and others. Is this enough time for the resins on Sethnakht's mummy to have set?

Tutankhamen's mummy was covered in buckets of resin if the same had been true for Sethnakht would a century be enough time to set? I suspect in the dry climate of the valley of kings that this may well be enough time.

Whatever happened the mummy was still gooey enough that when torn open in the tomb of Amenhotep II the mummy stuck to the boat. This seems unlikely scenario to me and I would prefer this mummy to be another person perhaps prince Webensenu already buried in Amenhotep II's tomb before the reburial committee of the twenty first dynasty priests arrived.

However that to me would mean that Kv 35 had probably been robbed by the end of the eighteenth dynasty perhaps during the Amarna period with the princes badly damaged mummy thrown on the boat then.

This may remove Sethnakht from ever having been in Kv 35 but he may be represented by one of the unidentified skeletons though I would expect that if Sethnakht was in the tomb that his mummy would have been found in the side chamber with the other new kingdom pharaohs.

So who's the boy found lying between two Amarna period mummies now identified as queen Tiye and the other woman being Tutankhamen's mother? The naked boy may have done some moving around in Kv 35 as one of his toes was found in another side chamber of the tomb.

Rest of article.

Restoring a Sense of Community and Connection

I'm not a fan, per se, of David Brooks, and this is not a political blog (although I do on occasion express political opinions), but I found his op-ed column today (published on March 18, 2010) -- not sure how to describe it -- hopeful, maybe?  That there is a way out of the current morass and malaise that has had a stranglehold on my beloved country (USA) since the Karl Rove manifesto replaced the last vestiges of conscience in American politics, the resulting contamination of which trickled down to society in general, to the good of no one except the utterly cynical who make money out of celebrating people who routinely cheat, lie and steal, make a mockery of all civil and religious mores, and push the image that women are all just really 'ho's' who will eagerly spread their legs for a fortune, or a mere 15 minutes of infamy. 

Here is what Brooks wrote (The New York Times):

Op-Ed Columnist
The Broken Society
Published: March 18, 2010
The United States is becoming a broken society. The public has contempt for the political class. Public debt is piling up at an astonishing and unrelenting pace. Middle-class wages have lagged. Unemployment will remain high. It will take years to fully recover from the financial crisis.

This confluence of crises has produced a surge in vehement libertarianism. People are disgusted with Washington. The Tea Party movement rallies against big government, big business and the ruling class in general. Even beyond their ranks, there is a corrosive cynicism about public action.

But there is another way to respond to these problems that is more communitarian and less libertarian. This alternative has been explored most fully by the British writer Phillip Blond.

He grew up in working-class Liverpool. “I lived in the city when it was being eviscerated,” he told The New Statesman. “It was a beautiful city, one of the few in Britain to have a genuinely indigenous culture. And that whole way of life was destroyed.” Industry died. Political power was centralized in London.

Blond argues that over the past generation we have witnessed two revolutions, both of which liberated the individual and decimated local associations. First, there was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aid societies and self-organized associations.

Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away. Unions withered.

The two revolutions talked the language of individual freedom, but they perversely ended up creating greater centralization. They created an atomized, segmented society and then the state had to come in and attempt to repair the damage.

The free-market revolution didn’t create the pluralistic decentralized economy. It created a centralized financial monoculture, which requires a gigantic government to audit its activities. The effort to liberate individuals from repressive social constraints didn’t produce a flowering of freedom; it weakened families, increased out-of-wedlock births and turned neighbors into strangers. In Britain, you get a country with rising crime, and, as a result, four million security cameras.

In a much-discussed essay in Prospect magazine in February 2009, Blond wrote, “Look at the society we have become: We are a bi-polar nation, a bureaucratic, centralised state that presides dysfunctionally over an increasingly fragmented, disempowered and isolated citizenry.” In a separate essay, he added, “The welfare state and the market state are now two defunct and mutually supporting failures.”

The task today, he argued in a recent speech, is to revive the sector that the two revolutions have mutually decimated: “The project of radical transformative conservatism is nothing less than the restoration and creation of human association, and the elevation of society and the people who form it to their proper central and sovereign station.”

Economically, Blond lays out three big areas of reform: remoralize the market, relocalize the economy and recapitalize the poor. This would mean passing zoning legislation to give small shopkeepers a shot against the retail giants, reducing barriers to entry for new businesses, revitalizing local banks, encouraging employee share ownership, setting up local capital funds so community associations could invest in local enterprises, rewarding savings, cutting regulations that socialize risk and privatize profit, and reducing the subsidies that flow from big government and big business.

To create a civil state, Blond would reduce the power of senior government officials and widen the discretion of front-line civil servants, the people actually working in neighborhoods. He would decentralize power, giving more budget authority to the smallest units of government. He would funnel more services through charities. He would increase investments in infrastructure, so that more places could be vibrant economic hubs. He would rebuild the “village college” so that universities would be more intertwined with the towns around them.

Essentially, Blond would take a political culture that has been oriented around individual choice and replace it with one oriented around relationships and associations. His ideas have made a big splash in Britain over the past year. His think tank, ResPublica, is influential with the Conservative Party. His book, “Red Tory,” is coming out soon. He’s on a small U.S. speaking tour, appearing at Georgetown’s Tocqueville Forum Friday and at Villanova on Monday.

Britain is always going to be more hospitable to communitarian politics than the more libertarian U.S. But people are social creatures here, too. American society has been atomized by the twin revolutions here, too. This country, too, needs a fresh political wind. America, too, is suffering a devastating crisis of authority. The only way to restore trust is from the local community on up.

More communitarian and less libertarian.  I believe we as a nation need to foresake the principles of patriarchal religion and thought paradigms and embrace a return to an older way, when it was incumbent for survival of people to depend upon and help each other, to support in ways emotional and spiritual, as well as practical (providing food, shelter, clothing, money, physical care).  Those ways too, respected the earth and its bounty as something precious, as well as necessary, for our individual and group survival.  Somewhere along the line, those old ways that are still amongst us and still survive here and there, those ways have gotten lost in the sheer uncivility and viciousness of the current fights going on between the so-called libertarians and what passes for civil authority these days. 

This is not a battle of ideologies of "right" and "left" - it is something more fundamental.  And I greatly fear that unless we can direct the conversation back to where it needs to be - to people helping people and finding common ground to expand on rather than new ways to divide us from each other further and further - the gulfs will become too great to span.  We as a nation will collapse into decline - perhaps permanently. I ask you - do you really want a country as souless as China becoming the world's pre-eminent power?   I pray daily that I do not live to see it, because I fear it is coming. 

I Saw...

a red fox tonight on my deck, shortly after 11:00 p.m.  I went downstairs to get a glass of wine and as I usually do, I took a peek under the curtain covering the patio door that overlooks the deck.  Then I clicked on the light.  Lo and behold, there was this red fox!  Whoa!  I got a real good look at it while it seemed to take a couple of seconds (3 or 4, at least) to realize that it was not highlighted in my floodlight!  It turned and looked toward the light at the same time I clicked on the lock to open the door - forgetting I'd put the bar in the track, so I could only open the door about 2 inches wide.  Now just what I meant by opening the door - duh - what a stupid thing to do, hey? 

In any event, that click noise  from unlocking the patio door and my futzing around with the curtain at the glass was enough to scare the fox away.  Sure was a beautiful animal - looked young and healthy, not mangy or rabid.  On my deck eating left-over peanuts (of all things!) and some stale cheese corn I threw out there for the crows earlier in the day.  Ohmygoddess.  So now, evidently, I'm feeding a fox as well as skunks, possums, squirrels and racoons. 

Does it mean anything in particular if one sees a red fox unexpectedly at close quarters? My area is a suburb of Milwaukee, but pretty urbanized - an entrance to the expressway is just a couple of blocks away, not to mention the major arterial of 76th Street seven blocks to the east.  On the other hand, power towers are relatively close (a couple of blocks away to the north) and there is a wide clearance for them, a sort of no-man's land that is filled with grass and wild flowers during the spring and summer, when it isn't chopped down; and, as the crow flies, I'm only a couple of miles from a major county park to the south.  Still - it was a shock to see a RED FOX ON MY DECK! 

I'm thinking this means something.  I just don't know what.
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