Saturday, June 2, 2012

The British Invasion - Music of the 1960's

Wow - walking down memory lane this evening as PBS (local) is doing their fund-raising and is broadcasting a special "The British Invasion" featuring bands, performers, and all of the great music of the 1960's.

I was especially struck tonight by the Zombies' "Time of the Season" and how appropriate it was back in Jane Austen's day and how appropriate it still is today with a certain "in" crowd of uber-rich people and their offspring who are seeking future mates.  A read of the lyrics should convince you:

It's the time of the season
When the love [blood] runs high
In this time, give it to me easy
And let me try
With pleasured hands

To take you and the sun to
Promised lands
To show you every one
It's the time of the season for loving

What's your name?
(What's your name?)
Who's your daddy?
(Who's your daddy? Is he rich?)
Is he rich like me?

Has he taken
(Has he taken)
Any time
(Any time to show)
To show you what you need to live?
Tell it to me slowly
Tell you what?
I really want to know
It's the time of the season for loving

What's your name?
(What's your name?)
Who's your daddy?
(Who's your daddy? Is he rich?)
Is he rich like me?

Has he taken
(Has he taken)
Any time
(Any time to show)
To show you what you need to live?
Tell it to me slowly
Tell you what?
I really want to know
It's the time of the season for loving

Yeah, and if Daddy was rich enough, you made a match of it then with a nice "settlement" (dowery) and got to live the rest of your life bearing and losing children out in the country while your husband lived it up in town with his mistress.  Today, pretty much the same, except now the wife can jet around to whatever country she wants to give birth in.  What's your name?  Who's your daddy?  Is he rich like me? 

And you know what - the Zombies are still performing!  Found this fairly recent bootlegged video recording from an appearance in 2006 and they sound as great as ever!

Three Rare Elephants Found Dead

This is extremely upsetting to me.  You may wonder why I would give a damn about elephants.  Well, let me tell you.  First, they are a matriarchal society.  Second, they are highly intelligent animals who believe, as Spock once famously said, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."  Third, they are iconic in chess.  Fourth, they are a highly endangered species.  Once they're gone, that's it, dudes, its over for them.  Don't pin any hopes on cloning -- at least, not for a couple hundred more years.  Maybe never.  If we don't give a shit about the animals and environment around us, why do you think for a single second that we - Homo Stupid Fricking Sapiens - will survive as a species?
A wild Sumatran elephant walks in the Ulu Masen forest in western Indonesia.
Three critically-endangered Sumatran elephants have been found
dead in an oil palm plantation in western Indonesia and are
believed to have been poisoned, an NGO said Saturday.
(AFP Photo/Chaideer Mahyuddin)

Three rare elephants found dead in Indonesia

Three critically-endangered Sumatran elephants have been found dead in an oil palm plantation in western Indonesia and are believed to have been poisoned, an NGO said Saturday.
Villagers found the dead animals on Thursday in a government-owned oil palm plantation in the eastern part of Aceh province. They were estimated to be four and five years old, local environmental group Fakta said.
"We suspected that they died after consuming bars of soap laced with poison we found near the carcass," the group's chief Rabono Wiranata told AFP.  "It seems that the elephants have died around one week," he said.
The animals are usually either killed by villagers, who regard the beasts as pests that destroy their plantations, or by poachers for their tusks.
Early last month, two other Sumatran elephants were found dead in the west of the province.
There are fewer than 3,000 Sumatran elephants remaining in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, marking a 50 percent drop in numbers since 1985.
WWF changed the Sumatran elephant's status from "endangered" to "critically endangered" in January, largely due to severe habitat loss driven by oil palm and paper plantations. Conflicts between humans and animals are increasing as people encroach on wildlife habitats in Indonesia, an archipelago with some of the world's largest remaining tropical forests.

Here's an idea.  Let's export some Republicans and Tea Party Nut Cases from the United States to Indonesia.  They'll make sure the "surplus" population of humans in Indonesia die in short order from untreated diseases and starvation.  That's what they're doing here in the USA. 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Update: 2012 Goddesschess Canadian Women's Chess Championship

Registered players thus far:
Women's closed / Championnat féminin
WIM Natalia Khoudgarian (2278 CFC) - Current Champion / Championne Actuelle
Jackie Peng (2121 CFC)
Myriam Roy (2093 FQE)
Qiyu Zhu (1953 CFC)
Natasa Serbanescu (1869 CFC)
Indy Ma (1698 FQE)
Ling Yun Shi (1633 FQE)

Dates: August 4-11, 2012

Format: 9 Round Swiss, FQE, CFC and FIDE rated

Venue: Olympic Stadium, Regroupement Loisir Québec, 4545 Pierre-de-Coubertin, Montréal, QC

Eligibility: Women with a CFC rating over 1700 or with a FIDE/FQE rating over 1600. Provincial Women champion (see Handbook, section 11).

Schedule : Saturday, 3:30 pm, opening ceremony
Rd 1: Saturday, 4pm
Rd 2: Sunday, 10 am
Rd 3: Sunday, 4 pm
Rd 4: Monday, 4 pm

Rd 5: Tuesday, 4 pm
Rd 6: Wednesday, 4 pm

Rd 7: Thursday, 4 pm
Rd 8: Friday, 4 pm
Rd 9: Saturday, 1 pm
Playoffs and closing ceremony: as soon as possible after round 9.

Guaranteed prize fund:1- Travel to the Women’s world championship in Khanty Mansiysk, Russia (1000$) + 200$
2- 150$
3- 100$
100$ added to the prize fund for each player over 12 (66% 2nd prize, 33% 3rd prize). Free accommodation for 2011 Women’s champion.

Time Control: 40/90, G/30 + 30 seconds from move one.Entry Fees: 175$ per player (200$ on site). 20$ discount for those who reserved their place before June 1st.
Accommodation: Many bed and breakfast nearby and hotels such as Le St-André which is at about 15 minutes by metro of the tournament site with rooms starting at 84$/night.

Cheques are to be mailed at : Club d'échecs de Maisonneuve
2188 De La Salle
Montréal, Québec, H1V 2K8*Sets, boards and clock provided. Players must be full members of the CFC.
*Some informations may change. Subject to finalization of dates for the 2012 Women's World Championship.

Did Amelia Earhart Die a Castaway?

From Discovery News

Earhart's Anti-Freckle Cream Jar Possibly Found

The jar was found on a remote island where Amelia Earhart may have lived as a castaway.

By Rossella Lorenzi
30 May 2012

The jar at left was recovered from a remote island site
where Amelia Earhart may have survived for a time
as a castaway.  TIGHAR
A small cosmetic jar offers more circumstantial evidence that the legendary aviator, Amelia Earhart, died on an uninhabited island in the southwestern Pacific republic of Kiribati.

Found broken in five pieces, the ointment pot was collected on Nikumaroro Island by researchers of The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), which has long been investigating the last, fateful flight taken by Earhart 75 years ago.

When reassembled,‭ the glass fragments ‬make up a nearly complete jar identical in shape to the ones used by Dr.‭ ‬C.‭ ‬H Berry's Freckle Ointment. The ointment was marketed in the early‭ ‬20th century as a concoction guaranteed to make freckles fade.

"It's well documented Amelia had freckles and disliked having them," Joe Cerniglia, the TIGHAR researcher who spotted the freckle ointment as a possible match, told Discovery News.

The jar fragments were found together with other artifacts during TIGHAR's nine archaeological expeditions to the tiny coral atoll believed to be Earhart's final resting place.

Analysis of the recovered artifacts will be presented at a three-day conference in Arlington, Va. A new study of post loss radio signals and the latest forensic analysis of a photograph believed to show the landing gear of Earhart's aircraft on Nikumaroro reef three months after her disappearance, will be also discussed.

Beginning on June 1st, the symposium will highlight TIGHAR's high-tech search next July to find pieces of Earhart's Lockheed Electra aircraft.
The pilot mysteriously vanished while flying over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937 during a record attempt to fly around the world at the equator. The general consensus has been that Earhart's twin-engined plane ran out of fuel and crashed in the Pacific Ocean, somewhere near Howland Island.
But according to Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, there is an alternative scenario.

"The navigation line Amelia described in her final in-flight radio transmission passed through not only Howland Island, her intended destination, but also Gardner Island, now called Nikumaroro," Gillespie said at a special press event on March 20 hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

According to Gillespie, the possibility that Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan might have made an emergency landing on Nikumaroro's flat coral reef, some 300 miles southeast of their target destination, is supported by a number of artifacts which, combined with archival research, strongly point to a castaway presence on the remote island.

"Broken shards from several glass containers have been recovered from the Seven Site, the archaeological site on the southeast end of Nikumaroro that fits the description of where the partial skeleton of a castaway was discovered in‭ ‬1940," Gillespie told Discovery News.

Found with the skeletal remains at that time were part of a man's shoe,‭ ‬part of a woman's shoe,‭ ‬a box that had once contained a sextant,‭ ‬remnants of a fire,‭ ‬bird bones and turtle bones‭ -- ‬all suggesting that the site had been the castaways' camp.‭

"Unfortunately,‭ ‬the bones and artifacts found in‭ ‬1940‭ ‬were subsequently lost," said Gillespie.

Like most archaeological sites,‭ ‬the Seven Site has yielded evidence of activity from several different periods in the island's history and not all of the glass recovered from the site is attributable to the castaway.‭

"For example,‭ ‬the top of a war-time Coke bottle and pieces of what was probably a large salt shaker of a style used by the U.S.‭ ‬military are almost certainly relics of one or more U.S.‭ ‬Coast Guard target shooting forays," Gillespie said.

Much of the glass,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬appears to be associated with a castaway presence.‭

Two of the bottles,‭ ‬both dating from the‭ ‬1930s,‭ ‬were found in what had been a small campfire.‭

"The bottoms of both bottles are melted but the upper portions,‭ ‬although shattered,‭ ‬are not heat-damaged‭ -- ‬implying that the bottles once stood upright in the fire.‭ ‬A length of wire found in the same spot has been twisted in such a way as to serve as a handle for holding a bottleneck," said Gillespie.

"It seems reasonable to speculate that the bottles were used by the castaway to boil collected water to make it safe for drinking," he added.

Some of the recovered items contained products generally used only by women.‭

Laboratory analysis of remnants of the contents in a three-ounce bottle show a close match to Campana Italian Balm,‭ ‬a hand lotion made in Batavia,‭ ‬Ill. that was popular among American women in the‭ ‬1930s.

However, the most intriguing of the Seven Site bottles‭ appears to be the small cosmetic jar.

"The problem we have in precisely identifying the jar is that all the examples we have found come in opaque white glass. The artifact jar is clear glass," said Cerniglia.

So far, the researchers have not been able to match the exact size of the artifact jar to a known jar of Dr.‭ ‬Berry's product.‭

"The reassembled artifact jar does,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬fit nicely in a box in which freckle cream was marketed.‭ ‬The known Dr.‭ ‬Berry jars do not.‭ ‬So we know there was a jar of Dr.‭ ‬Berry's Freckle Ointment of the same size as the artifact jar,‭ ‬but we don't know whether it was clear glass," Gillespie said.

More important than the exact contents of the jar, ‭ ‬is the fact that four of the broken pieces of the ointment pot were found together.‭ ‬The fifth piece was discovered about 65‭ ‬feet away near the bones of a turtle.‭

‭According to Gillespie, t‬hat piece of glass shows evidence of secondary use as a cutting or slicing tool.

‭"The ‬bottles and other artifacts we have found at the Seven Site tell a fascinating,‭ ‬but still incomplete,‭ ‬story of ingenuity,‭ ‬survival,‭ ‬and,‭ ‬ultimately,‭ ‬tragedy. Whether it is Amelia Earhart's story remains to be seen," Gillespie said.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Nehushtan Strikes Again.....

Oh, there are none so blind as those who will not see...  These silly people, either don't know it's in the Bible or haven't figured out what it means: 

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. ” (John 3:14-16 NRSV)

'Serpent-Handling' West Virginia Pastor Dies From Snake Bite
ABC News
Arlette Saenz
8 Hours Ago

A "serpent-handling" West Virginia pastor died after his rattlesnake bit him during a church ritual, just as the man had apparently watched a snake kill his father years before.

Pentecostal pastor Mark Wolford, 44, hosted an outdoor service at the Panther Wildlife Management Area in West Virginia Sunday, which he touted on his Facebook page prior to the event.

"I am looking for a great time this Sunday," Wolford wrote May 22, according to the Washington Post. "It is going to be a homecoming like the old days. Good 'ole raised in the holler or mountain ridge running, Holy Ghost-filled speaking-in-tongues sign believers."

Robin Vanover, Wolford's sister, told the Washington Post that 30 minutes into the outdoor service, Wolford passed around a poisonous timber rattlesnake, which eventually bit him.

"He laid it on the ground," Vanover said in the interview, "and he sat down next to the snake, and it bit him on the thigh."

Vanover said Wolford was then transported to a family member's home in Bluefield about 80 miles away to recover. But as the situation worsened, he was taken to a hospital where he later died.

Jim Shires, owner of the Cravens-Shires Funeral Home in Bluefield, told ABC News that Wolford died Monday. Wolford's church, the Apostolic House of the Lord Jesus in Matoaka, will host a viewing Friday and a funeral service Saturday morning. Wolford will be buried at the Hicks Family Plot in Phelps, Ky.

Officials at the Panther Wildlife Management Area had been unaware of Sunday's event until they were notified by callers after the service.

"We did not know that this event was happening, and if we had known about it or if we had been asked for permission, permission would not have been granted," Hoy Murphy, public information officer for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, told ABC News.

Hoy said West Virginia state park rules prohibit animals other than dogs and cats on the property.
While snake-handling is legal in West Virginia, other Appalachian states, including Kentucky and Tennessee, have banned the practice in public spaces.

Snake-handlers point to scripture as evidence that God calls them to engage in such a practice to show their faith in him. Mark 16: 17-18 reads, "And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover."

Wolford told the Washington Post magazine in 2011 that he is carrying on the tradition of his ancestors by engaging in snake handling.

"Anybody can do it that believes it," Wolford said. "Jesus said, 'These signs shall follow them which believe.' This is a sign to show people that God has the power." [Yeah.  I guess in this case 'God' decided to teach some people a lesson.]

Wolford said watched his own father die at the age of 39 after a rattlesnake bit him during a similar service.

"He lived 101/2 hours," Wolford told the Washington Post Magazine. "When he got bit, he said he wanted to die in the church. Three hours after he was bitten, his kidneys shut down. After a while, your heart stops. I hated to see him go, but he died for what he believed in.

"I know it's real; it is the power of God," Wolford told the Washington Post Magazine last year. "If I didn't do it, if I'd never gotten back involved, it'd be the same as denying the power and saying it was not real."

Do you see how perverse these people are?  They "want to die in the church," so they will let their 'God' kill them with the very serpent against whom their 'faith' is supposed to protect them - and 'God' promised them this according to how they interpret the Bible.  So, who got it wrong?  Their 'God?'  Or them?

A Mini-Case Study of Climate Change Over Time

I am not in the habit of thinking that the 1930's are like "ancient" days, but sometimes, a slight re-think can be a good thing.  Eighty years - a generation...  Only disappointment in this article is that there was just one photo, and no comparison photo from today so one can see what differences, if any, exist.  Come on, dudes! 

From Science Daily

Discovery of Historical Photos Sheds Light On Greenland Ice Loss

ScienceDaily (May 29, 2012) — A chance discovery of 80-year-old photo plates in a Danish basement is providing new insight into how Greenland glaciers are melting today

Researchers at the National Survey and Cadastre of Denmark -- that country's federal agency responsible for surveys and mapping -- had been storing the glass plates since explorer Knud Rasmussen's expedition to the southeast coast of Greenland in the early 1930s.

In this week's online edition of Nature Geoscience, Ohio State University researchers and colleagues in Denmark describe how they analyzed ice loss in the region by comparing the images on the plates to aerial photographs and satellite images taken from World War II to today.

Taken together, the imagery shows that glaciers in the region were melting even faster in the 1930s than they are today, said Jason Box, associate professor of geography and researcher at the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State. A brief cooling period starting in the mid-20th century allowed new ice to form, and then the melting began to accelerate again in the 2000s.

"Because of this study, we now have a detailed historical analogue for more recent glacier loss," Box said. "And we've confirmed that glaciers are very sensitive indicators of climate."

Pre-satellite observations of Greenland glaciers are rare. Anders Anker Bjørk, doctoral fellow at the Natural History Museum of Denmark and lead author of the study, is trying to compile all such imagery. He found a clue in the archives of The Arctic Institute in Copenhagen in 2011.

"We found flight journals for some old planes, and in them was a reference to National Survey and Cadastre of Denmark," Bjørk said.

As it happens, researchers at the National Survey had already contacted Bjørk about a find of their own.

"They were cleaning up in the basement and had found some old glass plates with glaciers on them. The reason the plates were forgotten was that they were recorded for mapping, and once the map was produced they didn't have much value."

Those plates turned out to be documentation of Rasmussen's 7th Thule Expedition to Greenland. They contained aerial photographs of land, sea and glaciers in the southeast region of the country, along with travel photos of Rasmussen's team. The researchers digitized all the old images and used software to look for differences in the shape of the southeast Greenland coastline where the ice meets the Atlantic Ocean. Then they calculated the distance the ice front moved in each time period.

Over the 80 years, two events stand out: glacial retreats from 1933-1934 and 2000-2010. In the 1930s, fewer glaciers were melting than are today, and most of those that were melting were land-terminating glaciers, meaning that they did not contact the sea.

Those that were melting retreated an average of 20 meters per year -- the fastest retreating at 374 meters per year. Fifty-five percent of the glaciers in the study had similar or higher retreat rates during the 1930s than they do today.

Still, more glaciers in southeast Greenland are retreating today, and the average ice loss is 50 meters per year. That's because a few glaciers with very fast melting rates -- including one retreating at 887 meters per year -- boost the overall average. But to Box, the most interesting part of the study is what happened between the two melting events.

From 1943-1972, southeast Greenland cooled -- probably due to sulfur pollution, which reflects sunlight away from Earth. Sulfur dioxide is a poisonous gas produced by volcanoes and industrial processes. It has been tied to serious health problems and death, and is also the main ingredient in acid rain. Its presence in the atmosphere peaked just after the Clean Air Act was established in 1963. As it was removed from the atmosphere, the earlier warming resumed.

The important point is not that deadly pollution caused the climate to cool, but rather that the brief cooling allowed researchers to see how Greenland ice responded to the changing climate. The glaciers responded to the cooling more rapidly than researchers had seen in earlier studies. Sixty percent of the glaciers advanced during that time, while 12 percent were stationary. And now that the warming has resumed, the glacial retreat is dominated by marine-terminating outlet glaciers, the melting of which contributes to sea level rise.

"From these images, we see that the mid-century cooling stabilized the glaciers," Box said. "That suggests that if we want to stabilize today's accelerating ice loss, we need to see a little cooling of our own."

Southeast Greenland is a good place to study the effects of climate change, he explained, because the region is closely tied to air and water circulation patterns in the North Atlantic.

"By far, more storms pass through this region -- transporting heat into the Arctic -- than anywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere. Climate change brings changes in snowfall and air temperature that compete for influence on a glacier's net behavior," he said.

Co-authors on the study include Kurt H. Kjær, Niels J. Korsgaard, Kristian K. Kjeldsen, and Svend Funder at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen; Shfaqat A. Khan of the National Space Institute, Technical University of Denmark; Camilla S. Andresen of the Department of Marine Geology and Glaciology at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland; and Nicolaj K. Larsen of the Department of Geoscience at Aarhus University.

Photos, satellite images and other data for the study were provided by the National Survey and Cadastre; The Scott Polar Research Institute in the United Kingdom; the Arctic Institute in Denmark; researchers Bea Csatho and Sudhagar Nagarajan of the Geology Department at the University at Buffalo; and the NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center at the USGS/Earth Resources Observation and Science Center of Sioux Falls, S.D. Andreas Pedersen of the Danish company MapWork wrote the script for the software used in the study.

This work is a part of the RinkProject funded by the Danish Research Council and the Commission for Scientific Research in Greenland.

First Intermediate Period Tomb Discovered

Glad to see this, and glad to see that at least in this report, they're being discreet about the location.  I mean, nothing like inviting looters to come right down and visit your camp, right!

May 28, 2012
Archaeology: Ancient tomb unearthed in Upper Egypt

Cairo, 28 May (AKI) - Archaeologists have discovered an 4,000-year-old tomb in Upper Egypt containing a sarcophagus inscribed with ancient funeral texts as well as ritual objects, Egypt's archaeological treasures minister said Monday.

"It is the first time in many years that such a well-preserved tomb has been unearthed, " said Muhammad Ibrahim.

The tomb dates from ancient Egypt's First Intermediate period (2181-2055 BC) and is an unusual find, as very little archaeological evidence survives from this period.

Ritual objects made from alabaster copper, terracotta and other materials were found in the tomb, located in the Deir al-Barsha archaeological area, in al-Minya province, 245 kilometres south of Cairo.

The dig was coordinated by the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Jackie Peng Will Represent Canada Proudly

Richmond Hill chess champ representing Canada

Adam McLean
May 29, 2012 - 12:08 PM

Age or lack thereof won’t be an intimidating factor for chess champion Jackie Peng, when she takes on some of the world’s best this summer.

At 14, the Grade 8 student will be the second youngest player to ever represent Canada at the Women’s Chess Olympiad and the youngest over the past 16 years. This year’s event will be held in Istanbul, Turkey and 125 countries are registered to compete.

Last year, Ms Peng won the Canadian Junior Girls championship and followed that up with a Canadian Amateur title. Her stellar results culminated with the Richmond Hill resident receiving an invitation to join Team Canada for the world’s largest team chess tournament.

While her teammates range in age from 20s to 40s, being one of the younger competitors in a tournament has become normal for Ms Peng. “I’m really excited for the Olympiad, because I get to represent Canada on a team and usually I just represent myself,” said Ms Peng.

“Even though I may be against some of the best in the world, I don’t think age of the player really matters when you are playing chess. A physical sport, then sure, but with chess you can be strong at any age,” she added.

Ms. Peng’s strong play has already taken her talents around the world for tournaments in such far flung places as Vietnam, Brazil, Colombia and Greece to test her skills against the world’s best.
Just two years ago, she finished 12th in the world under-12 championships.

She practises her chess skills nearly every day and, not surprisingly, Ms Peng calls math her favourite school subject, as it’s “easy”. Still, she manages to find time to hang out with friends, enjoys jogging and playing piano.

To help pay for some of Ms Peng’s trip to Turkey in August, a fundraiser will be held at the Oriole Community Centre, 2975 Don Mills Rd W., Toronto, June 17 from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

Tickets are $10 and participants will have the opportunity to play against Ms Peng and other Canadian team members. For more information, visit

The FIDE World Chess Olympiad will take place in Istanbul, Turkey, August 27 - September 10, 2012. 

Goddesschess is hoping that fabulous young Canadian female players like Jackie Peng will choose to participate in the 2012 Goddesschess Canadian Women's Chess Championship in Montreal, Quebec, August 4 - 11, 2012 for a chance to represent Canada at the 2012 FIDE Women's World Chess Championship event to be held later this year in Russia.  Expenses will be paid and in addition, modest cash prizes are available for the 1-3 finishers in this year's Goddesschess Canadian Women's Closed (a zonal event).

Gradual Climate Change Led to Collapse of Indus Civilization

From Popular Archaeology.  This article includes many graphics and images that you should take a look at to get a full picture.

March 2012
Vol. 6 March 2012 - Print the March 2012 Issue

Climate Change Contributed to Ancient Indus Civilization Demise, Researchers Say

Using archaeological data and geoscience technology, an international team of scientists has concluded a study that shows that the great Indus Valley civilization, otherwise known as the Harappan civilization, declined and disappeared in large measure due to climatic and landscape changes. The study results suggest that a major, gradual decline in monsoon rains led to a weakened river system, adversely affecting the Harappan culture and leading to its collapse. The ancient culture relied on river floods to sustain its system of agriculture.

"We reconstructed the dynamic landscape of the plain where the Indus civilization developed 5200 years ago, built its cities, and slowly disintegrated between 3900 and 3000 years ago," said geologist Liviu Giosan of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). "Until now, speculations abounded about the links between this mysterious ancient culture and its life-giving mighty rivers." Giosan is also the lead author of the study report now published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Harappan civilization was the largest of the "big three" early urban cultures of the world (the others being ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia), but less is known about it. Archaeological exploration over the past century has shed much more light on the culture. Its remains extend more than 1 million square kilometers across the plains of the Indus River from the Arabian Sea to the Ganges River, over what is now Pakistan, northwest India and eastern Afghanistan. Much like ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Harappan people built and sustained their urban society along the recurring highs and lows of flowing rivers that provided the basis for the production of agricultural surpluses, vitally important for the development and sustenance of great urban centers.

Where the Harappan civilization thrived over 4,000 years ago, one now mostly sees arid desolation. The remains of many of its settlements and urban centers now dot a vast desert, far from flowing rivers. But in its heyday, it boasted a sophisticated urban culture with vaious trade routes and maritime connections with Mesopotamia, standards for building construction and sanitation systems, the arts, and a writing system that still eludes epigraphers.

Says Giosan, "We considered that it is high time for a team of interdisciplinary scientists to contribute to the debate about the enigmatic fate of these people".

The team conducted the research between 2003 and 2008 in Pakistan, from the coast of the Arabian Sea into the fertile irrigated valleys of the Punjab and the northern Thar Desert. The project included scientists from the U.S., U.K., India, Pakistan, and Romania, consisting of expertise in geology, geomorphology, archaeology, and mathematics. Using satellite photos and topographic information from NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM), they devloped and analyzed digital landform maps of the Indus Valley area. Using this information, they probed the area by drilling, coring, and digging test trenches, collecting samples that would help them determine sediment origins and age. They were able to develop a 10,000-year chronology of landscape change.

"Once we had this new information on the geological history, we could re-examine what we know about settlements, what crops people were planting and when, and how both agriculture and settlement patterns changed," says Dorian Fuller, an archaeologist with the University College London and also co-author of the report. "This brought new insights into the process of eastward population shift, the change towards many more small farming communities, and the decline of cities during late Harappan times."

At first, as the story goes based on the research, the declining monsoon rains actually played a salient role in the rise of the Harappan civilization. Adds Giosan: "The Harappans were an enterprising people taking advantage of a window of opportunity – a kind of "Goldilocks" civilization. As monsoon drying subdued devastating floods, the land nearby the rivers - still fed with water and rich silt - was just right for agriculture. This lasted for almost 2,000 years, but continued aridification closed this favorable window in the end."

By about 3900 years ago the river system had dried to the point where the Harappans were compelled to move and disperse eastward toward the Ganges basin, where the monsoon rains were still plentiful and more reliable. The great urbanized Indus civilization, having relied on the bumper crop surpluses along the Indus and the Ghaggar-Hakra rivers to develop and sustain their cities and towns during the earlier, wetter period, thus no longer had the workforce concentration needed to support urbanism.

"We can envision that this eastern shift involved a change to more localized forms of economy: smaller communities supported by local rain-fed farming and dwindling streams," said Fuller. "This may have produced smaller surpluses, and would not have supported large cities, but would have been reliable. Thus cities collapsed, but smaller agricultural communities were sustainable and flourished. Many of the urban arts, such as writing, faded away, but agriculture continued and actually diversified."

In addition, the researchers believe they have discovered the fate of the mythical river, the Sarasvati. The ancient Sanskrit Vedas scriptures portrayed the Sarasvati as "surpassing in majesty and might all other waters", but it has been long considered lost to history. They have uncovered evidence that they suggest supports the current Ghaggar-Hakra river as ancient Sarasvati, based on sedimentary, topographical, and archaeological data of settlement near the river during the Harappan era. Moreover, the findings suggest that the ancient river was actually fed by perennial monsoons, not Himalayan glaciers, as was previously supposed, and that the increasingly arid climate had reduced it to the short seasonal flows of today.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Bikini Bra and Boobs Island: Medieval Trading Center

Well, darlings, of course it was :)

Welcome to Dunnyneil Island.

From BBC News

Dogs, booze and bling: Northern Ireland's medieval shopping mall

Excavations on Dunnyneil Island in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland, have revealed a seventh century trading emporium frequented by merchants from as far afield as modern day Russia, Germany, Iceland and France.

Back in early medieval times, there was no cash economy, few buyers, and even fewer sellers, but there are surprising parallels between these ancient trading outposts and modern shopping centres.

Luxury goods, lots of wine

According to archaeologist Dr Philip MacDonald, who led the dig on Dunnyneil, merchants would have brought wine and other luxury products to Ireland to exchange at emporia for furs, seal skin, slaves and famed Irish wolfhounds.

"High status members of the Dal Fiatach [the local dynasty whose royal centre was Downpatrick, County Down] and local traders, would have frequented the island," he said.

In medieval times, the king controlled trade and wealthy merchants travelled the seas to buy and sell goods. The trade in imported prestige items would have been important for the king of Dal Fiatach, to signify his status and power.

"This little speck of an island had a very high significance to the wealth of the Ulster Kingdom," explains Tom McErlean from the Centre for Maritime Archaeology.

"Dal Fiatach, or the Kingdom of Ulster, was a great maritime kingdom. It was fairly cosmopolitan with connections all around the North Sea."

The particular kind of pottery found at Dunnyneil Island is evidence that luxury goods were imported in some quantity from the continent. The coast around Strangford Lough has the highest density of this type of pottery ever discovered in Ireland, suggesting the Kingdom of Ulster was relatively wealthy.

"Dunnyneil played a big role in creating their wealth … [it] would have been a profitable stopping point for foreign wine merchants. The Irish kings valued wine very much. There was a big market for wine here. It would be very much worthwhile," said McErlean.

An eye for what sells

Much like the shopping malls of today, Dunnyneil's ancient traders would have needed a keen eye for selling the right products to the right people, as Dr Jonathan Jarrett, a lecturer in medieval history at Oxford University, explains.

"If you sailed [to a settlement] halfway up the east coast and found that a boat had already been by with Scandinavian hides the previous week, that's a wasted stop. But at the emporia someone would probably buy the goods, quite possibly expecting to sell them on."

In short, trading emporia like Dunnyneil Island offered a ready-made market where you could usually find someone eager to buy your goods.

"They probably did offer at least some speciality goods from each area. Ireland and England were both famous on the continent for their hunting dogs, so there were things worth coming a long way for."

And it seems that, like today, the medieval trade in prestige goods wasn't exempt from dodgy rip-offs.

"One Carolingian swordsmith by the name of Ulfberht acquired such a name for his blades, which unlike most he stamped onto the metal, that they seem to have been faked, like knock-off Rolexes," said Dr Jarrett.

The Holy Grail of retail

As managing director of a large retail investment company, it is Mark Bourgeois' job to understand what makes a good place to buy and sell goods. He sees similarities between medieval emporia and modern shopping centres, particularly in the supply of the latest prestige goods.

"A manager would identify what items will sell well in their area and work with the markets to provide good products for consumers that will sell. It is the mix between the prestige factor shops… which consumers want in their area, as a matter of civic pride, mixed with a variety of good local retailers. That mix is the Holy Grail of a successful shopping centre."

There is very little evidence left on Dunnyneil Island of its wheeler-dealer past. It's a tiny place and the emporium there was never built to last. Only tenacious archaeological investigation has revealed its role as a sort of 'pop-up' shop that could be taken down as quickly as it was put up, but sufficient to catch the passing trade for more than 200 years.

Dr Jarrett perhaps sums up the seventh century trading environment that Dunnyneil inhabited best of all:

"If one were to hear a message from the early medieval business consultancy, it would perhaps be something like: stock goods that no-one else has, cut deals with local resellers so you can sell wholesale, get shopping anywhere else outlawed, and pay the government a cut of your profits for it. Oh, and if shoppers turn up in boats with dragon prows it probably wise to come up with some really special offers!"

Memorial Day

In November we have Veterans' Day. In May we have Memorial Day. 

Memorial Day has a very interesting history.  I always thought it originated as a memorial to honor soldiers killed during World War I (probably because of the tear-inspiring poem "In Flanders Fields") -- but not so.  Some of its traditions actually date back to before the end of the Civil War.  See History of Memorial Day for more information. 

The tradition of the red poppy is also fascinating (quoted from History of Memorial Day):

In 1915, inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields," Moina Michael replied with her own poem:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

She then conceived of an idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms.Michael and when she returned to France, made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children's League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before Memorial Day in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans' organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their "Buddy" Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it.

It seems to me that our country is more divided now than ever before since her start as a nation, more divided even than during the Civil War and its aftermath.  People are HATING each other, really gut-wrenching HATING each other - wanting to kill each other and sometimes doing just that, just because of skin color, religion, politics.  Why?  Ask yourself - why is this happening

Now, after a dozen years at war, we have veterans coming home to -  a fricking mess of a country.  No jobs.  Little help from overwhelmed Veterans' Centers.  Scant sympathy from politicians who don't want to spend money on the very soldiers they so easily committed to fight wars on foreign soil.  Soldiers in record numbers are applying for disability benefits because of horrible conditions they now suffer from, some physical, some emotional and mental, conditions that have been inflicted upon them during our years at war. 

Just one of dozens of similar stories from around the nation, this one from The Boston Globe: 

45% of new veterans file claims for disabilityThose returning from 2 wars have complicated care needs

Former President George W. Bush, the
man who started the "war on terror," greets
Melissa Stockwell, a former Army first lieutenant,
following a mountain bike ride in Texas
for veterans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan
What will our government's response be?  Will certain politicians refuse to raise taxes in order to pay for the necessary care and services our veterans need and deserve for sacrificing so much in the service of their country?  Will certain politicians cut their plush salaries and benefits, and cut their staffing in half, and close their fancy offices, in order to voluntarily provide more funding to the Veterans Administration?  Will certain politicians insist that the SNAP program be cut even more -- the very program that provides food to millions of veterans' wives and children -- in order to pay for the medical care those same veterans now need?  How many new veterans' medical centers could be constructed if the Bush era tax cuts to the top 1% in this country were eliminated?  Do the math, figure it out.

If you are not outraged by what is going on in this country right now at this moment, why aren't you?

Here's Dad, who served in WWII and was awarded a purple heart for wounds suffered during his service.  He, like millions of other WWII and Korean War vets, didn't apply for the benefits to which they were entitled under the law!  If they had, what politicians would have dared tell them NO, WE CAN'T AFFORD TO GIVE YOU WHAT WE PROMISED?

Dad died close to Veterans' Day, on November 3, 2002, and was one of several veterans featured in an article in The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about that generation of soldiers now fast disappearing.  They are dying, one by one, thousands every month.  Soon, there will be none of them left. 

From the newspaper article, the family at Dad's Memorial Service, our family
at the Veterans' Cemetery in Union Grove, Wisconsin, November, 2002.

I'm pretty sure what Dad would say about all this if he were still here.  It has nothing to do with politics, whether you're "left" or "right," "red" or "blue."  It has everything to do with keeping the promises we, as a nation, made to those whom we sent off to fight for us.  If we cannot keep our promises to those brave men and women, what the hell good are we as a people, as a nation?

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Three Day Weekend!

Memorial Day is this coming Monday.  I have a 3-day weekend and I should be hard at work stripping wallpaper in the family room on that never-ending going-nowhere "re-do" - OHMYGODDESS, why oh why oh why did you ever allow me to start it????  I'm stalled and have no desire whatsoever to pull out the new wallpaper scorer and scraper I bought a few weeks ago (in a fit of madness).

The house is still a mess from last week's whole-house carpet and furniture cleaning.  Then I got sick and next to nothing has been done all week, although I am feeling much better now. 

Family room still torn apart, didn't even pick up the little
white plastics from underneath the chair feet.  Doing
laundry (closet is overflowing and I've run out of socks,
so it's time, I think.)  Living room is in better condition - just
don't look at all the stuff stashed behind the sofa, eek!

Jan knows how to bring rain. All I have to do is haul out two heavy hoses, connect them together, drag one end to the spigot out back (because the spigot out front has a thingy on it that sprays the water anywhere except into the hose where it is supposed to go, so I can't use it and no, darlings, I have not been able to get the damn thingy OFF, and neither has brother-in-law Fred, brother-in-law Jerry, or honorary brother-in-law Otto (one of Fred's younger brothers), and they are all strong men with TOOLS.  So, the hose gets connected to the back spigot and I get a lot of exercise tugging 100 feet of hose this way and that, and then running from front to back and back to front, etc. etc., and sometimes even through the house because that's the shortest way from the back to the front, to size up how the water is "sprinkling" out of the sprinkler thingy. 

Anyway, I put the broken sprinkler thingy on the hose (how it got broken is a whole 'nother story that is best not gone into) and watered the south part of the front lawn Thursday morning (early, after taking 30 minutes to get the hose hauled out, hooked up, etc., before I ever turned on the water -- all of this in my pajamas, pink slippers and robe, LOL!) and again last evening when I got home from the office -- before the storms finally came. 

This was the yard one Sunday evening a few weeks ago.  It's a little hard to see through the downpour but my usual spring-time swimming pool appeared below the retaining wall near the far fence line -- you can sort of see it to the right of what looks like an "island" of flowers.

But now, the grass was DRY!  Turning brown.  If it's one thing I cannot stand, it's a damn brown lawn.  Of course, that could be those blasted sod web worms too.  So tonight after I cut out front, even though I was fearful tired and sweaty and just wanted to drink another gallon of cheap pink wine with my feet up on the back deck, I pulled out the wheely thingy that the weed and feed and bug killer gets dumped into and I laid down a ton of it over the front lawn.  Back and forth, back and forth and poof, all the granules are gone just like that!  Maybe I had the holes on the bottom open too wide?  Whatever...

If those sod web worms are eating my lawn, I swear to Goddess if it is the last thing I do, I WILL prevail over them, even if it takes me all frigging summer and a thousand dollars worth of bug killer to get rid of them!  So, I'll probably have a horrific nightmare about a giant sod web worm coming after me from underneath my bed...

The rains came last night, as I said.  And again, and again, in rolling waves throughout Friday night.  No severe weather was threatened but it sure got noisy out there.  Especially with my bedroom windows open.  The winds kept switching up as this front battled that front for supremacy over southeastern Wisconsin, but for the most part it wasn't fiercely windy so I was able to keep my south-facing window open a few inches, which isn't protected by much of an overhang like the west window, and it was fine.  Hardly any rain came in.   Fell asleep to the sound of rain on the roof.  About 4:30 Saturday morning a loud storm came rolling in from the west, just as the birds outside were going into full song.  There is nothing quite like slowly awakening to bird song on a cool morning, snuggled under the sheet and comforter, the windows open, the air fresh, light not even yet shimmering in the east but you know it's coming because the birds are singing.  Ahhhhh, sheer Heaven! Listened to the patter of the rain on the roof, lots of lightning flashes and booms of thunder.  The bed even rattled a couple of times, it was that loud and that close as it passed overhead toward the southeast.  I fell back asleep...

It continued to rain until about 10 a.m. Saturday morning, and everyone's grass is already looking much much happier!  The last of the clouds soon wafted off to the southeast and by 11 a.m. when Ann arrived for our Memorial Day trek to the bank (I empty out my year's worth of coins collected in a glass wine carafe - they wouldn't be my coins if they weren't held in a wine carafe, darlings), a chat with the old soldier who sells Memorial Day poppies inside the bank lobby.  He had pictures from when he served in the Korean War.  I thought of Dad, and how so not fair it was for him to pass when he was only 80.  But I know he was tired, and he was sick, and he was tired of being sick, and it was just his time.  Still, not fair.  We none of us ever got to really say goodbye, because he was unconscious when he was taken to the hopsital that final time, and he never regained consciousness.  It's important to be able to say goodbye.

My poppies this year.  The one on the jacket is from the old vet
at the bank on Saturday.  The one on my bag, a more traditional
form made out of crepe paper, was bought outside a bank
downtown during lunch hour earlier last week.  Who will sell
these poppies once these old vets are gone?  Will anyone
really remember what they mean, what they stand for?

And then off to lunch at Olive Garden.  Home by 2 p.m. and plenty of time to get some work done.

NOT.  Well, I did hang two pictures above my desk in the living room, and fussed over a deskscape for hours.  Still not happy with it but it is looking like my desk again, with messy piles of research here and there and things I can look at that make me smile.  Who will care for them once I'm gone, all these things I love so much, that have so much meaning for me, and for no one else?

It was cool last night; so cool outside, in fact, that I had the windows only half open and slept under the comforter!  It's hard to believe that today and Monday are forecast as hot and steamy, and into the rest of next week as well.  Damn!  High of 93 F today and perhaps severe storms tomorrow.  Which means I'll have to cut the grass out back while looking like Bogey pulling the boat in "The African Queen".  Geez Louise!

Today dawned cloudy, overcast, cool.  The house is nice and cool, and that's good, because by 8:30 the clouds had blown away and the sun is now out full force.  My crazy neighbor to the northwest already was out cutting his grass, but he had the right idea - got it done early (he fired up the lawn mower before 8:30 on a SUNDAY, GEEZ!) before the heat and humidity comes.  As soon as I finish this, I'll switch out loads of laundry and then get out back and get that grass cut.

Here are some photos of my blowsy peonies:

Okay, that grass aint gonna cut itself, got to get my rear in gear.  Maybe I'll have a hot ham sandwich first...
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