Saturday, May 4, 2013

Are ASI Workers Stealing Priceless Paintings from Cathedral in Goa, India?

Row over Se Cathedral paintings

May 5, 2013

2013 U.S. Women's Chess Championship: R2

Hola darlings!

I was able to catch quite a bit of the live coverage this afternoon at U.S. Chess Champions, but I have to say, not much attention was given to the women's games.  Always relegated to second class status, sigh.

Here are the results of the ladies from R2:

The commentators noted the draw between Ni and Kats, and interviewed Kats afterward.

Krush played her best friend, Iryna Zenyuk, and won (the game was even for quite awhile, but it appears that Zenyuk eventually ran into time trouble and made imprecise moves as a consequence). Krush was interviewed by the commentators (WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Yasser Seirawan a/k/a "Jen" and Yaz") afterward and provided interesting insights into the dilemma of playing one's best friend in a tournament.

Anna Zatonskih played rookie to the Championships Sarah Chiang today and won, as expected, but not necessarily easily. Commentator Yaz noted that yesterday, Zatonskih praised the level of Belakovskaia's play after the game in R1. 

You'll want to take a look at the Abrahamyan-Baginskaite game.

Rankings aren't posted yet (6:38 p.m.) but Zatonskih, Krush and Abrahamyan all are 2.0 afer 2 rounds.  Tomorrow, the commentators are playing up the Zatonskih - Krush game as the determining factor in who will win this year's U.S. WCC.  Really?  Whatever.  Stay tuned. 

Meanwhile, I'm making a list of particular games by the women that will factor into the equation of which one will win the 2013 Goddesschess Fighting Spirit Award...

Standings after R2:

1IM Krush, Irina2.0F24702929+0.3411
2IM Zatonskih, Anna2.0F24662925+0.3511
3WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev2.0F22803024+1.0311
4WGM Belakovskaia, Anjelina1.0F22632383+0.3101
5WIM Ni, Viktorija1.0F22622211-0.14½½
6WIM Zenyuk, Iryna1.0F22432284+0.1010
7WGM Baginskaite, Camilla0.5F22782078-0.52½0
8WFM Kats, Alena0.5F21442173+0.030½
9WGM Foisor, Sabina0.0F23001537-1.0800
10WFM Chiang, Sarah0.0F20981611-0.4200

Are These Native American Dancers in a Renaissance Painting???

This is absolutely fascinating!  Is there a way to verify what these figures were meant to represent by the artist -- a diary, or written records of some kind left behind by the artist? Check out the images and my comments -- I put them below the article.

Story at

Vatican uncovers 'first Western painting of Native Americans'

They have remained hidden for more than five centuries, but tiny figures of naked men wearing feathered head-dresses could be the first Western depiction of Native Americans, the Vatican claims.

3:33PM BST 02 May 2013

The group of tiny figures was discovered during the restoration of a magnificent fresco, owned by the Vatican, which depicts Christ's Resurrection. The painting, by the Renaissance master Pinturicchio, was finished in 1494, just two years after Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World. It has adorned the walls of the Borgia Apartments in the Vatican for 500 years but was only recently subjected to restoration work.

xxx The naked men, who appear to be dancing, were spotted by a restorer, Maria Pustka, as she removed centuries of grime. The figures, which appear just above the image of an open marble casket from which Christ has risen, had previously gone unnoticed.

The discovery was unveiled by Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, in L'Osservatore Romano, the city state's daily newspaper. Prof Paolucci suggests that the "nude men, who are decorated with feathers and seem to be dancing," were inspired by the descriptions of tribesmen that Columbus brought back from his travels.

Columbus's voyages across the Atlantic were commissioned by Spain, but Prof Paolucci said the Vatican would inevitably have heard of his discoveries, particularly given that the Pope at the time, Alexander VI, the notorious Rodrigo Borgia, was Spanish.

"The Borgia Pope was interested in the New World, as were the great chancelleries of Europe. It is hard to believe that the papal court, especially under a Spanish pope, would have remained in the dark about what Columbus encountered," Prof Paolucci said in the article.

Columbus described meeting tall, well-built natives whose bodies were daubed with red and black pigmentation and who gave him parrots as presents.

The explorer, who was from Genoa, made four journeys in total, all under the patronage of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. He set out on the first voyage in August 1492, with his first land fall in the New World believed to be an island in what is now the Bahamas.

He continued to modern-day Cuba and Hispaniola, all the time looking for gold. When he arrived back in Spain in March 1493, news of his discoveries became a sensation and spread through Europe. He described his encounters in letters to Ferdinand and Isabella, and within months a copy of the letter, written in Latin, was circulating in Rome.

Pope Alexander VI soon found himself playing a pivotal role in the New World discoveries – he had to arbitrate between the competing claims of Spain and Portugal. While Alexander deliberated on the division of spoils and issued papal bulls, Pinturicchio was busy decorating the Borgia Pope's apartments.

At a time when the Columbus's epic discoveries were so much a part of Vatican affairs, Prof Paolucci believes that it is no surprise that a reference to the New World features in the painting.

The mysterious figures remain unnoticed for so long because the Borgia Apartments were abandoned after the death of Alexander VI in 1503. Subsequent Popes did not want to be associated with the notorious family of schemers and adulterers. They were only reopened in 1889 by Leo XIII, and are now used to display a collection of religious art.

The painting:

Christ's Resurrection by Pinturicchio. Photo: Musei Vaticani
The following enlargement of part of the painting is focusing on the figure in the red garment standing behind the opened coffin, looking upward at the ascending Christ.  The figures are just to the left of his head/face as he looks upward.  In the image of the painting, above, you can just make out some tiny little - somethings - of white/greyish paint.  Here's the enlargement:

The painting by Pinturicchio was finished just two years after Christopher Columbus first set foot in the New World
Photo: Musei Vaticani
In these ghostly figures in the background, next to the figure in red's head/face, I see two horses on the left.  One horse shows part of a leg (left leg?) raised off the ground and faces in near-profile to the right, while the second horse is just to the right of the first, looking directly out of the painting at the viewer; the noses of the two horses are nearly touching but it is clear from the attempted perspective that the second horse is further back.  And, on the right of the "dancers" is a figure with what appears to be a metal helmet on -- a conquistidor? - who is facing left.  And just to the left of the conquistidor's helmet rim, slightly elevated, is that a symbol for a cross I see, as if being held aloft by someone not seen in the background?

So many questions -- no answers!  Are there other such "ghostly" figures in this painting?  The images in the enlargement, above, appear to be masterfully painted.  In real life size -- this was painted on a large wall area -- would the figures have been readily discernible to the naked eye before they were covered over with centuries of grime?

By the way, what is that flag that the Christ figure is evidently carrying on a staff or standard -- the red cross against the white background?  Did Christ have a FAVORITE country? 

Friday, May 3, 2013

2013 U.S. Women's Chess Championship: Round 1

Woo woo!  It's started, darlings! 

I just got settled in after getting home from the office.  A cold (high didn't get above 46 degrees F), rainy, uber-windy and generally all-around crappy day here in Milwaukeeland.  After two sunny teaser days, one high of 85 F and the next high of 77 F. Arrrggghhh! 

So I rushed home to see if the games were over already (they are) -- well, they started at 1 p.m.  Didn't have a SECOND to check the action while at the office.  So without further ado, here are the results for the ladies:

Alena Kats (2144) (W) v. Irina Krush (2470)(B): 0-1: An 82 move headbanger - Holy Hathor!

Tatev Abrahamyan (2280) (W) v. Sabina Foisor (2300) (B): 1-0: Black resigned on move 87 - looks like a wild game with neither player wishing to back down.

Camille Baginskaite (2278) (W) v. Viktorija Ni (2262) (B):  1/2-1/2: Draw agreed to after W's move 41.  An evenly matched pairing.

Iryna Zenyuk (2243) (W) v. Sarah Chiang (2098) (B): 1-0: Sarah Chiang is the youngest player, at age 15.  She resigned after W's move 61. 

Anna Zatonskih (2466) (W) v. Anjelina Belakovskaia (2263) (B): 1-0: I haven't played through it, looks like it moved to end game relatively quickly, bang bang bang bang!  B resigned after move 26, despite putting W's K into check and despite being up 2 pawns, because W had safe moves for her K plus a pawn that would promote in one move after her K's move, and B had no way to stop it.

Added at 7:45 p.m. standings:

1IM Krush, Irina1.0F24702879+0.131
2IM Zatonskih, Anna1.0F24662998+0.241
3WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev1.0F22803035+0.531
4WIM Zenyuk, Iryna1.0F22432833+0.311
5WGM Baginskaite, Camilla0.5F22782262-0.02½
6WIM Ni, Viktorija0.5F22622278+0.02½
7WGM Foisor, Sabina0.0F23001545-0.530
8WGM Belakovskaia, Anjelina0.0F22631731-0.240
9WFM Kats, Alena0.0F21441735-0.130
10WFM Chiang, Sarah0.0F20981508-0.310

Thursday, May 2, 2013

2013 U.S. Women's Chess Championship

Hola, darlings!

Tonight beginning at 6:00 p.m. are the grand-opening ceremonies for the 2013 U.S. Chess Championships, of which the Women's Championship is a part.  I don't get it - why aren't there live blog reports at the websites of U.S. Chess Champs and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, this year's host for the Championships?  Am I missing something?

I will be attempting to following the live action at U.S. Chess Champions' dedicated website, but since Round 1 begins tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. St. Louis time, I'll be up to my eyeballs trying to put out various fires at the office -- Fridays are always the WORST day in my line of work, EEK!

I will be following the action Saturday and Sunday.  I am extremely interested in this year's line-up of female players.  Does Las Vegas have a line on the ladies, I wonder???

The toughest players, year after year, have proven to be Abrahamyan, Krush and Zatonskih.  Abrahamyan -- always a bridesmaid, never a bride, yet...  Will she finally break loose, once and for all? 

Dark horses I'll be watching are Belakovskaia and Kats.  Kats is young and her ELO and relative level of experience would indicate that she'll be a player who will beat-up on.  Except - except -- something tells me otherwise.  Of course, my instincts have often been notoriously wrong when it comes to picking "winners", LOL! 

Belakovskaia, on the other hand, was a seasoned veteran by the time she was 17, and is a three-time U.S. Women's chess champion herself.  But after those three titles were won, she went to college, earned a degree and then a master's degree in the rather esoteric field of mathematics, worked in an incredibly edgy field and had a glamorous career, winning accolades from her peers.  And then, she got married, had three children!  Wonder how much chess she's played since her hey-day? 

Have both ladies been training their butts off in preparation for this event?

I'm just very happy to see young players, such as Kats, and a true "Wild Card," Belakovskaia, in the mix.

U.S. Chess Champs - Women's Championship.

Interview with 2012 U.S. Women's Chess Champion IM Irina Krush.  Powerful, honest, poignant.  Read it!

Live coverage of the games (men and women) starts tomorrow, May 3, 2013. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

2013 U.S. Chess Chamionships - Fantasy Chess!

I usually don't go in for this sort of thing, but - what the hell. 

USCF 2013 Chess Championships is offering great prizes for the winner of the Fantasy Chess competition.  Registration will close at 1:00 PM CST on May 3rd, 2013, so get your picks in now!

  1. Round-trip airfare for two people to Saint Louis from anywhere in the continental U.S.; two nights lodging at hotel; private dinner and two private lessons with GM Yasser Seirawan; VIP tour of Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis and World Chess Hall of Fame. (winner must use prize prior to August 1)
  2. Beautiful rosewood chessboard autographed by all participants of the 2013 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship; two private lessons with the CCSCSL's Resident Grandmaster
  3. Chessboard autographed by all participants of the 2013 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship; Mayhem in the Mora chess book and an annual membership to the CCSCSL
  4. Chessboard autographed by all participants of the 2013 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship; $50 gift card to CCSCSL
  5. Chessboard autographed by all participants of the 2013 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship; $25 gift card to CCSCSL
  6. Chessboard autographed by all participants of the 2013 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship; $25 gift card to CCSCSL
  7. Chessboard autographed by all participants of the 2013 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship; $25 gift card to CCSCSL
  8. Chessboard autographed by all participants of the 2013 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship; $25 gift card to CCSCSL
  9. Chessboard autographed by all participants of the 2013 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship; $25 gift card to CCSCSL
  10. Chessboard autographed by all participants of the 2013 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship; $25 gift card to CCSCSL
Limit one prize per person only!

The Rules:
  • Create an account or log in to make your selections.
  • Only one Fantasy Team is allowed per person.
  • The goal is to select a Fantasy Team that will earn the most combined points in the 2013 U.S. Championship and 2013 U.S. Women's Championship. For each point earned by a player on your Fantasy Team, you receive one Fantasy Point. The Fantasy Player with the most Fantasy Points at the end wins!
  • Each competitor in the 2013 U.S. Championship and U.S. Women's Championship has a price tag, and you have 2,700 Fantasy Bucks to spend.
  • Choose your Fantasy Team by buying players. When you're out of Fantasy Bucks, submit your team!
  • Finally, answer the tie-break questions. If more than one Fantasy Player is tied for first, your tie-breaks will be the difference between victory and defeat!
  • Remember to choose wisely! Once your team has been selected and submitted, it cannot be changed. Good luck, and thanks for playing!
Well, about as clear as MUD to me, but then, I don't go in for this sort of thing (for good reason, LOL!) 

I'm not tempted to try it but maybe you will be and, what the heck, what do you have to lose except your self-respect and pride...

Okay, that was a joke. Sort of.

2013 Chinese Chess Championship

Hola, darlings!  I'll cut right to chase. How the hell did Hou Yifan (the lone female in the championship) do?  She did well.  Hoooray!  The bad news is, she was not playing against the top-rated "western chess" Chinese players in this championship. The Chinese Chess Federation continues to play games, but with a surfeit of good, to very good to excellent chess players that it will continue to pull out of it's magic hat for the next decade or two, they don't give a shit what anyone thinks about IT and will continue to do so.  Such is life.  It sucks, sometimes.   

Final standings cross-table (from

Final Ranking crosstable after 11 Rounds

Rk.NameRtgFED123456789101112Pts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1GMWang Yue2706CHN*0½11½10½1117.50.038.506
2GMMa Qun2559CHN1*½½½½0½½0116.00.532.753
3GMLi Chao B2686CHN½½*½10½0½11½6.00.532.253
4GMHou Yifan2617CHN0½½*0½½110½15.53.028.503
5GMXiu Deshun2534CHN0½01*0½1½1015.53.028.004
6IMWei Yi2530CHN½½1½1*½0½½½05.52.531.502
7GMBu Xiangzhi2662CHN01½½½½*½½½½½5.52.529.501
8GMZhao Jun2589CHN1½1001½*½½0½5.52.031.753
9GMYu Yangyi2675CHN½½½0½½½½*½½15.52.029.251
10GMZhou Weiqi2590CHN01010½½½½*½½5.00.526.752
11GMZhou Jianchao2607CHN000½1½½1½½*½5.00.526.252
12GMLi Shilong2558CHN00½001½½0½½*
Tie Break1: Direct Encounter (The results of the players in the same point group)
Tie Break2: Sonneborn-Berger-Tie-Break (with real points)
Tie Break3: The greater number of victories

Nut Case Neighbor At It Again

I posted about this same kind of incident last year, darlings.  Pathetic.  Absolutely. Fricking. Pathetic. Sicko.  Not sure if I posted about it here, or at my companion blog, Maison Newton, which readers here probably won't be interested in because I moved (or tried to anyway) all my blog posts HERE about fashion, and decorating, and yard work and domesticated stuff like that, to THERE, LOL!  Well, here, there, wherever, darlings!  Read this post below (copied from a post I did at Maison Newton a little while ago), and I hope you weep for the perp or perps who did this thing to me today.  


Hola darlings!

As you may know, I am an old softy when it comes to animals and I get such a big kick out of the squirrels who congregate in my yard to be fed. They get peanuts and nuts in the shell. Costs a mini-fortune every month but since I refuse to adopt a pet after the heartbreak of losing to death, one by one, my three doggies some years ago, I just cannot face adopting another dog, only to lose it to death or, even worse, I die first and my dog would end up at the animal shelter.

Fast forward to today. I believe I may have blogged about this very same thing happening around this time, last year. But perhaps I blogged about it at Goddesschess blog, not here. In any event, the Phantom Raker has struck again!

Yep, whoever it is rakes up all of the nut shells the squirrels deposit into his or her yard, and then dumps them surreptitiously in my front yard, near my mail box. Last year a small pile was also deposited on the south side near the beginning of my driveway.

Quel horreurs! Squirrel prints all over my deck during blizzard, EEK EEK EEK EEK!

A real class act, wouldn't you agree? Like I'm deliberately sending the squirrels with nuts in their mouths into his or her yard just so the nut shells are deposited THERE? What a Svengali act! Maybe I should take my squirrel and nut show on the road, heh :)

No shells in front yard this morning, three piles of shells had been deposited when I arrived home this evening. Obviously, this is a person with too much time on his or her hands and who knows my schedule. If I saw this person doing this while I was home, I would confront said person. What kind of sick, weirdo coward does such a thing?

Quel horreurs deux! A squirrel eating a nut on my deck, EEK EEK EEK EEK! And looky there, plenty
of evidence that lots of squirrels have been munching on nuts and peanuts on said deck, too.

If I ever do find out who it is, I will rake up a big fat pile of nut shells from my back yard (they are always present since I feed the squirrels morning and night), deposit said shells into a lovely gift bag, I will go to the person's house, ring the doorbell, and deliver the shells in person to this tresspasser who is so warped as to take the time to rake up the shells but instead of disposing of them like a normal person would do, chooses, instead, to dump them in my front yard.

Does he or she get a thrill out of that, I wonder? Does he or she watch when, this weekend, in-between bouts of forecasted rain, I will go out and rake up said shells? Does he or she rub his or her hands together in glee, cackling like an evil fiend as they watch from behind the curtains? Sick, sick, sick.

I wonder if this person shoots birds or puts out poison bait because they poop on the trees and lawn? Poisons rabbits because they dig holes for nests in one's lawn and eat one's hostas? Kills any animal that happens across the sacred boundaries of their yard?

Quel horreurs trois! It's a Demon Squirrel from Hell! Just look at that glowing eye... Gee, wonder why that crazy
woman who feeds the squirrels (moi) has such a lucious full green lawn??? But look at those nut shells, what
a mess! To the concentration camp with her, Heil Hitler!

Get your jollies off, neighbor. I'll be sending legions of squirrels into your territory who will, I hope, deposit tons of nut shells and dig countless holes into your lawn. I've got a brand new crop of baby squirrels swinging all around my big old elm tree out back and I'm training them up already. Yep, aimed right at YOUR yard. Bwaaaahhaaahhaaaaa!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

FRAUD ALERT! "" False Charge(s) on Checking Account Via Debit Card

Hola darlings.

As you know, I was on vacation for a short while.  I returned home the evening of April 26th.

Lo and behold, this morning, I discovered a charge posted to my checking account for $534.60 by HOTELS.COM US 800-219-4608 WA 04/28.  ON MY DEBIT CARD.

The problem is -- I did not book my hotel through; I did not book anything through  The amount that I paid for my hotel room (booked, incidentally, directly on the hotel's own website), was much much lower, and I paid for my room at check-in with a CREDIT CARD. 

I called my bank immediately upon discovering this bogus debit charge. But before I did that, I called the "800" number embedded in the debit information and this was what I heard:  We're sorry.  The number you have called is no longer in service.  Please visit out website."  CLICK.  Dial tone.  No website url given on that recording, OF COURSE.
I knew at once I had been victimized by a thief or gang of thieves.  How they got hold of my debit card number, I have no idea, because I do NOT use it to buy airline tickets, book vacations or make hotel reservations. 

After explaining what had happened to a very helpful bank representative, I was waiting for a call back and I went directly to and typed in the HOTELS.COM US 800-219-4608 WA on the search bar.

Immediately I discovered hundreds of reports of FRAUD, some outright fraud with unauthorized charges on debit cards and credit cards, some where unsuspecting consumers had booked hotel rooms with only to arrive at their destination and discover that no such rooms had been booked.  And lots and lots of other stories, too.

Within 30 minutes or so I received a call back from my bank rep and later, an email, indicating that my "claim" against the charge had been granted and my account would be credited for the full amount of the debit.

So, please BEWARE!  And this is a lesson to me to check my online bank account and card activity EVERY SINGLE DAY.  Cuz, darlings, I wasn't looking for this, I was just looking to confirm the deposit of my paycheck today.  HOLY HATHOR! 

P.S.  The thief or thieves struck again today, but this time posting a debit for a mere $1 charged to POS DEBIT HOTELS.COM US 800-248-8357 WA.  My bank representative told me that this is often done by legitimate companies to "test" that the card information is legitimate, and once confirmed, the charge is "erased."  That being said, it is also done by fraudsters to make it appear that the other charge(s) submitted are legitimate!  That telephone number was ALSO "no longer in service." 

Interesting Petroglyphs Uncovered in Veracruz State, Mexico

Shaman and "dancing figure."  Being too cautious!  They're both representing the same thing, methinks.  And those spirals - spirals all over!  Yeah, but -- it's just coincidence, right, that the same exact symbols are found on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.  Right? 

Rock slab covered in spiral petroglyphs. Image: Maria Eugenia Maldonado / INAH

At Past Horizons

Shaman petroglyph recorded in Veracruz

The Riddle of Ancient Kerma's Survival During Drought Now Explained

The most powerful kingdoms in the world at the time were not able to escape the overwhelming forces of nature when climate change in the guise of drought for 30 years and rising temperatures devasted their lands, their people and, in some cases, wiped away their kingdoms forever. 

And yet we, today, if we're thinking about it at all, appear to be blythely assuming that somehow it won't affect US, nosirree, it may make some islands in the Pacific disappear, it may cause mass starvation in Africa and Bangladesh and other places, including China, but then, who cares about THEM?  They're over-populated anyway and this is just Nature's way of restoring equilibrium.  And so we in the west go on our sanguine way.  Tick...tick...tick...  In the end, even Kerma bit the dust, both figuratively and literally.

From Phys Org

Solved: Riddle of ancient Nile kingdom's longevity

Apr 29, 2013
( —Researchers have solved the riddle of how one of Africa's greatest civilisations survived a catastrophic drought which wiped out other famous dynasties. Geomorphologists and dating specialists from The Universities of Aberystwyth, Manchester, and Adelaide say that it was the River Nile which made life viable for the renowned Kerma kingdom, in what is now northern Sudan.

Kerma was the first Bronze Age kingdom in Africa outside Egypt.

Their analysis of three ancient river channels where the Nile once flowed shows, for the first time, that its floods weren't too low or too high to sustain life between 2,500 BC and 1,500 BC, when Kerma flourished and was a major rival to its more famous neighbour downstream.  They also show that the thousand year civilisation came to end when the Nile's flood levels were not high enough and a major channel system dried out - though an invasion by resurgent Egyptians was the final cause of Kerma's demise.

Downstream in Egypt, a catastrophic 30 year drought 4,200 years ago, which produced low Nile floods, created chaos in the old kingdom for at least a century.  Other civilisations in the near east and Mesopotamia were also severely hit by this drought.

The team's findings, funded by the Sudan Society (SARS) and the Australian Research Council, are published in the journal Geology.

Professor Mark Macklin from The University of Aberystwyth said: "This work is the most comprehensive and robustly dated archaeological and palaeoenvironmental dataset yet compiled for the desert Nile.

"The relationship between climate change and the development of Old World riverine civilizations is poorly understood because inadequate dating control has hindered effective integration of archaeological, fluvial, and climate records."

Professor Jamie Woodward from The University of Manchester said: "In Nubia four thousand years ago the Kerma people farmed what we might call the Goldilocks Nile: its floods were just large enough to support floodwater farming, but not so big as to cause damage to the riverside settlements.

"It's quite remarkable that the Kerma civilization was able to flourish, produce amazing craftsmanship and wealth, at a time when their Egyptian rivals to the North were struggling with environmental, social, and political strife.

"Until now we didn't understand why that was - but thanks to our field work in Sudan, this riddle has now been solved."

The team used cutting edge geological dating methods to analyse the dried up channels, now 20 km from the today's river course. It is the first time individual flood events on the desert Nile have been dated.  Using hundreds of deep irrigation pits dug by modern Sudanese farmers, Macklin and Woodward were able to observe the geological history of the old channels. In places, these old channel belts are well preserved at the modern land surface. They are between 1 and 3 km wide with Kerma sites on their margins.  According to Derek Welsby from the British Museum who led the archaeological survey, Kerma's wealth and power may have been underpinned by its agriculturally-rich hinterland utilising the banks of the ancient channels.

Archaeological surveys of the floodplain in the Dongola Reach to the south of Kerma have discovered more than 450 sites spanning the Neolithic (pre–3500 B.C.) to the Medieval Christian period (A.D. 500–1500). Many sites are associated with the Nile's ancient channels.  He said: "Kerma's success was also down to their reliance on animal husbandry practices that are less susceptible to changes in flood level, more mobile, and better able to cope with environmental stress.
"They were a truly remarkable civilisation, producing some of the most exquisite pottery in the Nile Valley."

The paper is titled "Reach-scale river dynamics moderate the impact of rapid Holocene climate change on floodwater farming in the desert Nile."

Background article from Phys Org, that talks more about that mega-drought that occurred more than 4,200 years ago: 

Climate and drought lessons from ancient Egypt, Aug 16, 2012

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Discovery of an Old Discovery - What's Up with the Egyptian Museum in Cairo?

We've heard this story before -- rediscovering a discovery made years and years ago and then -- forgotten -- or lost in the bowels of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo!  Geez, dudes, have you no computers in Cairo?  Start putting a searchable inventory together!

New discovery solves ancient Egyptian chariot mystery

New discovery solves ancient Egyptian chariot mystery

Rochelle Ballantyne Simul


Ballantyne Performs Simul in DC for Chess-in-the-Schools Day
By Gavin Francis
April 23, 2013

The Council of the District of Columbia passed a resolution this month proclaiming April 18, 2013, to be “Chess in the Schools Day” in the District. Councilmember Tommy Wells presented a copy of the proclamation to U.S. Chess Center president David Mehler at a reception honoring Rochelle Ballantyne, the 17-year-old chess star from New York City who was featured in the documentary film Brooklyn Castle.
Rochelle Ballantyne performs a 20-board simultaneous
 exhibition at the Town Hall Education Arts and Recreation Center (THEARC).

While in Washington, Ballantyne, played a 20-board simul against D.C. public school students at the Town Hall Education Arts and Recreation Center. She also met with students and educators at local schools to promote the benefits of learning chess. Her visit to the nation's capital was co-sponsored by the Washington Teachers' Union, whose president, USCF member Nathan Saunders, supports using chess as a tool to promote higher academic achievement.

Ballantyne is graduating this year from Brooklyn Tech High School this year and will attend Stanford University on a full scholarship in the fall. Her recent performance at Super Nationals puts her rating at just over 2100, pushing her closer to her goal of becoming the first African-American female master.

Ballantyne's appearance and the District Council's proclamation were part of a larger initiative by the U.S. Chess Center, a local nonprofit charity that teaches chess to at-risk children as a means of improving their academic and social skills. The Chess Center has initiated chess programs in more than 80 D.C. public schools and taught approximately 30,000 children the rules, strategy, and etiquette of the game since its founding in 1992.

2013 All Girls National Championships


All-Girls Champs Win Awards From Kasparov
By Jamaal Abdul-Alim
April 29, 2013

Chicago – When Anupama Rajendra won first place in the All-Girls Nationals last year at age 11, she made history by becoming the youngest girl ever to win the tournament.

This past weekend, Anupama, now 12, made history at the All-Girls again by winning first place in the tournament’s newly-added Under 20 Section. The victory -- which she captured with three wins, two draws and a one-point bye -- gives Anupama the rare distinction of being two-time champion in the decade-old tournament.
United States Chess Federation President Ruth Haring said Anupama’s back-to-back victories stand as a testament to her hard work and determination.

“You don’t win twice by accident,” Haring said. “You have to be studying. You have to have a commitment to play at that level consistently.”

Though Anupama figured she would “play up” in the newly-added Under 20 Section since she won the Under 18 Section last year, she said she actually faced more experts last year than she did this year.

The road to victory was also made easier this year due to the fact that she was given a one-point bye in the final round since there were only seven players in her section in the six-round tournament.
Still, winning the Under 20 section was no cakewalk. Anupama, whose rating was 1858, drew against a 1915 and achieved an upset against a 2058.

Asked how she prepared for the tournament, she said she studied different variations of the Grand Prix Attack against the Sicilian.

She said she would study the opening variations as far as 10 or 12 moves, so there was very little that surprised her.

“The opening is the main thing that I work on,” Anupama explained. “I don’t want to be dead busted in the opening.”

She also used the Houdini Chess Engine to analyze her games. She said the chess engine was particularly helpful in endgames so that she could recognize patterns.

The first-place win at the All-Girls qualifies Anupama to compete in the World Youth Chess Championships in the United Arab Emirates later this year, just as her victory last year enabled her to compete in the World Youth Chess Championships in Slovenia.

She said she had a good experience in Slovenia and got good advice from GM Sam Palatnik, who served as one of the USA coaches, but hasn’t decided if she’ll compete in the UAE this year.

The All-Girls also afforded Anupama and other tournament competitors and attendees a chance to get an up-close glimpse of former World Champion Garry Kasparov, who was on hand to sign copies of his books, including “How Life Imitates Chess: Making the Right Moves – from the Board to the Boardroom.”

The tournament, organized by the Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation, was sponsored by the Kasparov Chess Foundation.

Kasparov, speaking at the awards ceremony for the event, said the turnout for the completion shows that “chess is blossoming.” Indeed, the 280 competitors shattered last year’s record turnout of 238 players.

“I feel that many grand things are happening,” Kasparov said. He said he was “very happy to … .see this level of enthusiasm and parents and coaches flying in from all over the country, and the number of participants growing every year.”
Indeed, among the coaches who flew in to attend the event was North Cal House of Chess owner Ted Castro, who said he caught a red eye flight to Chicago after attending the state championships in California just to attend the final day of the All-Girls and to encourage his students.

“I know that means a lot to them, seeing me here, and just the little things we do, it goes a long way,” Castro said. “I didn’t teach them much today but it was more about motivating them. I want to see their faces when they achieve their goals.”

The journey paid off. Two of Castro’s students took first place in their sections. They are sisters Aksithi and Ashritha Eswaran, age 6 and 12, respectively, who won the Under 8 and Under 14 sections, respectively.

Ashritha, rated 2011, was the clear favorite in her section and won all six rounds.

“I just did a lot of puzzles and practice games,” she said when asked how she prepared for the tournament. She said her daily chess study entails as much as two hours of study per day.
Aksithi, who was rated at 1049 and scored 5.5 points (some against higher rated players and all while her one of her two front teeth was on the verge of coming out) also said she did puzzles in books and on the computer to prepare.

Castro said Aksithi’s personal goal this year was to join her older sister, who qualified for the World Youth Championships last year, by qualifying for this year’s World Youth Championships – a feat that both achieved by winning their sections.

“As a family we’re very excited,” said the girl’s father, Eswaran Ramalingam.

Achieving a perfect score in the Under 16 section was Claudia Muñoz, of Texas.

Even though she was the highest rated player in her section at 1960, Muñoz said she made it a point to respect all of her opponents and never become prideful.

Her preparation transcended the chessboard and involved reading Scripture and physical exercise as well.

“I had to do mental preparation, spiritual preparation, getting physically ready,” she said.

She credited tactical chess books with helping her achieve her victory, saying tactics characterize her style of play, “which is aggressive and really attacking all the things that I see.”

She also credited her father, Abed Muñoz, whom she said has been her coach since age six. While not a highly-rated or titled player, she said her father’s encouragement and support have been essential to her chess success.

Find full results on the Rennaisance Knights homepage.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Yawn...Visitors to North America 22,000 Years Ago

When the articles start supporting the groundbreaking work of USA-based archaeologists who have evidence of butchering local fauna dating back at least 50,000 years ago, I'll start paying more attention to all of this hoo-haa about "visitors to South America." But until then, darlings, here you are - I do hope you will yawn with me...

Humans may have reached the Americas 22,000 years ago
  • 16:30 25 April 2013 by Michael Marshall
Humans lived in South America at the height of the last ice age, thousands of years earlier than we thought, according to a controversial study. A team claims to have found 22,000-year-old stone tools at a site in Brazil, though other archaeologists are disputing the claim.
Christelle Lahaye of Michel de Montaigne Bordeaux 3 University in France and colleagues excavated a rock shelter in north-east Brazil and found 113 stone tools.
The team dated the sediments in which the tools were buried using a technique that determines when the sediments were last exposed to light. Some tools were buried 22,000 years ago – thousands of years earlier than any known human colonisation of the Americas.
For decades, archaeologists thought that the Clovis people were the first to enter the Americas, 13,000 years ago. But since the 1980s evidence has accumulated for an earlier colonisation, at least 15,000 years ago.
Could humans have been in Brazil 22,000 years ago? "The [dating] tests they present suggest they've got a good signal," says Ann Wintle at the University of Cambridge.
For others, it is the tools that are raising eyebrows. "Rock shelters are difficult to interpret," points out John McNabb of the University of Southampton, UK. Stones falling from above can break, making them look like human-made tools. As a result, McNabb calls the evidence "suggestive but unproven".
Lahaye says the falling-stone scenario is unlikely in this case: the tools are made of a rock not present at the site. "They come from at least 15 kilometres away," she says. Her group is studying tools from nearby sites, which she says show traces of having been used to cut wood and bone.
There have been many claims of an early human presence in South America, but none has proved conclusive, says Silvia Gonzalez of Liverpool John Moores University in the UK. She studied apparent ancient human footprints in Mexico, which turned out not to be footprints.
"We seem to be going around in circles," she says. "Until someone finds a human skeleton, no one is going to believe this."
Journal reference: Journal of Archaeological Science, DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2013.02.019

Breakfast in Vegas

Hola darlings!

I am back home from three wonderful days in Las Vegas.

Whew! What a whirlwind. I have lots to write about, don't know if I'll get to it all, but it sure was fun showing Thelma around for her very first visit to the city that is my #1 place to go for a great short fantasy get-away.

The weather was so perfect in LV for this waterlogged Milwaukee girl! Arrived in LV on Tuesday March 23 to sunshine, a few horse-tail like clouds in the sky, low humidity and about 83 degrees F, after nearly two solid weeks of unrelenting darkness, gloom, cold and rain rain rain here! Flash floods warnings were all over the place in Wisconsin, up north (unofficially defined as any place north of Milwaukee 100 miles or more, LOL!) got SNOW - lots of SNOW! Awful awful awful.

I want to talk about breakfast in Las Vegas - specifically, my breakfasts in Las Vegas.

These days, as I continue to educate myself on the importance of proper nutrition in aiding weight management, I try for a good balance among carbs, fiber and protein. I don't always do that in practice during the harried work week, but when I'm on vacation, I go for it because I've got the luxury of time (and someone else making the actual meal) do to so. And the good habits do carry over for awhile, at least.

The Peppermill

If you are familiar with Las Vegas, perhaps you have heard about a restaurant that has achieved iconic status in LV: The Peppermill!

It is just to the south of the Riviera Hotel complex on The Strip in a stand-alone restaurant -- a rarity these days -- and kitty-corner from Circus Circus, which is across the wide roadway. I am not sure, but my guess is that the Riviera and Circus Circus are the oldest remaining intact hotel complexes still existing on The Strip. So much has changed since 1979, which was the very first time I ever step foot in LV.

But the Peppermill is still there and, judging by the number of people coming and going as Thelma and I enjoyed our breakfast there on Wednesday morning (April 24), it is as popular as ever! That makes me very happy. The food is great. Yes, the prices have risen over the years - what hasn't? Generally speaking, though, lower than average elsewhere at the hotels on The Strip. Everything I've ever eaten at the Peppermill has been and continues to be cooked perfectly to order.. I'm very fussy about my scrambled eggs being cooked 'loose,' for instance, and although I am generally loathe to send a dish back or complain because I appreciate how hard these people work to try and please us, I've never had a complaint, not even a miniscule one, about any dish I've had at the Peppermill. Value-wise, best on the Strip, to my knowledge. Be careful what you order, because the portions are so generous, unless you have a lumberjack appetite you will be leaving food behind or taking it to go, and good luck with that because the vast majority of Las Vegas hotel rooms do not have a fridge and microwave to allow you such a luxury as keeping left-overs for later!

The staff is - wonderful. The bussers are discreet and uber-efficient. The wait-staff are pros but friendly and homey, and just make you feel comfortable right away. These people know there stuff! The decor is - purple and pink and green and very 1970's and I luv luv luv it! Immaculately clean and well-maintained. Best hash browns I've ever had -- perfectly cooked -- tender, juicy, not overdone, or mushy (underdone), with just the right degree of "brown-ness" on the outside. And not greasy. YUM! How the hell do they do that???

These days my appetite is not what it used to be. I get filled up quickly and ordering a $12.95 gigantic plate of food I cannot possibly eat is a waste of money for me. Fortunately, The Peppermill offers an excellent ala carte menu and I can build a meal that I know I will be able to eat with pleasure because it won't be too much, so I won't feel as if I'm wasting food (hey, I am a child of two parents who were raised during the Great Depression, and it left its mark on them, and they have left their marks on me) and I am happy with the prices of the individual selections, too.

Normally, darlings, I do not have a cocktail first thing in the morning with my breakfast. But this particular day, with this particular travel companion, I thought - what the hell. And so when the cocktail waitress came around and offered some suggestions, I ordered a non-spicy Bloody Mary and, to my delighted surprise, Thelma ordered a Mimosa!

Our meals were perfectly cooked and delivered. Wish these photos did justice to them:

Thelma ordered a feta cheese and veggie omelet which comes with a side of your choice, she chose hash-browns.  While we were waiting for our food we were chatting away, I was giving Thelma some historical background on LV as she made inroads on her Mimosa, as you can see.

And I ordered this --

-- aforesaid non-spicy Bloody Mary (as you may be able to deduce by the markedly decreased volume of liquid in the glass, I was happily sipping away, too). Our dishes arrived piping hot and done to perfection. I ordred ala carte three soft-scrambled eggs (did I mention that they were perfectly cooked? Because they were perfectly cooked), and hash browns -- look at them - hey, what can I say, I'm salivating just looking at this photograph I took - woo woo!  These are some of the best hash browns I've ever tasted, and I've had hash browns at plenty of different restaurants over the years.  I don't know if it is the potatoes used or the cooking oil used, but these are just delicious, and tender but not mushy, crispy but not overdone on the outside.  How do they do it? 

Left nary a bite-size morsel on my plate. Thelma polished off most of her somewhat larger meal, too. Well, she's still a growing girl.  She has a hearty appetite.  Ahhhh, to be Thelma's age again...  Thelma and I left the Peppermill happy and full, and nodding to each other that we will be back again, soon.

P.S. Shortly after I took this photo, a couple were seated at the table that you can see at the top of the photo, above. She was definitely American, he was definitely European. I wasn't eavesdropping on their conversation, but sometimes you overhear snippets of conversation... her accent was American with a slight hint of Latina, and his accented English was German, I think. What can I say? Hey - Las Vegas - universal city. That's one of the reasons I love visiting there. Not to mention, but here I am doing it anyway, that the Peppermill was Mr. Don's favorite place to have breakfast after I took him there for the first time in November, 2003 and several visits thereafter. Going there again after his passing away last October brought back many fond memories, as well as making new ones. So I was sad/happy at the same time.

Here is a photograph I found of the Peppermill from Planet 99 online, taken, I believe, in January, 2003. Oh, the memories! The Peppermill is still the same but the background to the southeast no longer exists... The Encore and the Wynn are there now in place of the torn-down buildings that used to be there:

I did not take photographs of the other breakfasts I had during this Las Vegas dash (April 23-25, left at 1:55 p.m. April 26). Each of those breakfasts in their own way, were just as good!

Betty's Diner at The Quad (formerly known as Imperial Palace)

Thelma slept a little later Thursday morning (we had a late night Wednesday night), but I was up at the crack of dawn.  It's like a curse or something...  Anyway, I was hungry!  The Quad (f/k/a Imperial Palace) has Betty's Diner, which isn't really a diner but you can get enough there to stave off starvation when you need quick, and especially, very good fresh coffee and something to eat.  Fresh sweets, bagels, croissants, toasts, sandwiches, breakfast sandwiches made to order, fruit, yogurt, assorted juices, beverages and of course, regular and decaf coffee, ice creams and shakes.  So, about 6:30 a.m. I took the elevator down to Betty's and got coffee, fresh cut-up fruit in a large container and a croissant with whipped butter on the side.  On the way out I grabbed a couple of grape jelly packs and headed back to my room.

Wish I had a picture of that croissant to show you, for it was large, flaky, light, deliciously buttery even without the extra butter I added, and fresh fresh fresh!  Bar none, the best croissant I've ever had anywhere, ANYWHERE!  Kudos to Betty's Diner!  Coffee, like I mentioned, is hot and fresh, and made perfectly to my taste because it is not weak, but it is not overbearingly strong either. Or worse yet, stale and burnt-tasting!  There is always a demand for Betty's coffee so it is constantly being made up fresh.  Coffee, croissant and a large fruit cup was a little over $10 - but that includes that 10% LV sales tax, so underlying prices are less than many places.  Sounds expensive?  Not for The Strip!  I have found Betty's prices to be comparable or lower than other places I've visited on The Strip.

From The Quad website

When I got back to my hotel room I had a little mini-feast at the round table by my open sliding door to the balcony and was in Heaven, enjoying the gentle, warm early morning breezes as the Sun climbed higher in the sky.  The added luxury of the grape jelly - oooooooohhhhh.....

Betty's Diner is as good as ever, and it has actually improved it's internet service -- more stations where you can plug in your own computer or use one already there, for a modest fee.  For fast, convenient, and excellent quality, please do try Betty's Diner at The Quad (f/k/a Imperial Palace).

The Coffee Shop at Treasure Island

Friday, April 26, was our last day in LV and we didn't have much time before we had to hustle back to the hotel and find our loading spot for the shuttle (I'll write about that soon). Thelma and I hit The Strip about 8:30 a.m. in search of breakfast.  Our plan had been to go to Denny's for breakfast for nearby, well known and inexpensive by LV standards.  But there was a waiting line twisting it's way down the sidewalk as we approached!  Holy Goddess!  So, that plan was nixed and I said, let's try the coffee shop at Treasure Island, which was about two blocks south of where we were.  Fortunately, at that time of day, there weren't hundreds of people vying for sidewalk space, but since it was Friday and the start of the weekend it was more crowded than what we had seen during our previous days there.  Still, we made good time there. 

Treasure Island is a lovely hotel, one of the "smaller" resort hotels/casinos on The Strip today when compared to the new mega-resorts (would never stay at one of those mega-resorts, too overwhelming, in my opinion).  It is famous for it's two (or is it three?) times daily maritime "battles" and sirens shows in the lagoon/harbor area fronting the hotel on The Strip.  It is excellently done, by the way, and a great hit because all passers-by can see it for free.  People line up hours before the next show, blocking the narrow sidewalks, in order to get a good standing room only view!

When I went to LV in August, 1999 to visit Isis and Michelle and also, incidentally, watch the knock-out series of matches that was the FIDE World Chess Championship being hosted at Caesar's Palace at the time, I breakfasted one morning at TI's coffee shop.  Back then, it had a counter with stools where singles could comfortably eat and not feel spotted-out, and I travelled to LV several times by myself, so it was a convenient and welcoming place to go.  I felt comfortable there.  The scale of the place is not mega-watt but person-friendly and at the time, the menu was extensive and the prices were very reasonable, even by Milwaukee standards.

Having fond memories of my past breakfasts at TI, I steered Thelma there.  Alas, the counter with stools is gone, and the coffee shop is much enlarged over what I remembered from 1999 and 2001!  But the staff was excellent. The surroundings are lovely, and the food was very good.  Pricey -- Las Vegas Strip pricey -- but very good. (By way of comparison, this morning was my investment club meeting and we had breakfast at Meyer's Family Restaurant less than a mile from where I live.  I ordered off the Breakfast Specials menu and had a very large 3-egg omelet with chopped ham and swiss cheese on top, plus hash browns plus toast, which I declined, for $5.04, and coffee is $1.70 a cup with unlimited refills). 

Photo from The Urban Spoon.

My sole complaint about the TI Coffee Shop breakfast menu is that the ala carte menu was very thin, almost non-existent!  I knew if I ordered a regular omelet with hashbrowns at $14.95 or, for that matter, any of the other offerings, it would be far more than I wanted to eat, and I hate, absolutely hate, wasting food!

Fortunately, a bowl of fresh seasonal berries was offered on the ala carte menu, and with a side of hash browns, plus coffee, the meal was around $11 or so and gave me exactly what I wanted.  I was craving fiber, and fresh fruit is an excellent way to get it.   The berries were delicious, not frozen and thawed, as far as I could tell because they were not mushy at all -- blueberries, red and blue rasberries, and quartered strawberries.  YUM!  Hash browns were very good, not greasy at all and served piping hot and - a definite plus in my eyes - our waitress instantly offered ketchup!, to which I promptly said yes. 

Those hashbrowns were not quite as tasty as those at The Peppermill, but they were delicious, eminently edible!  Atmosphere was great, it's a lovely "coffee house" - looks more like a Milwaukee Steak House, actually, with plenty of wood beams on the ceiling, plush carpeting and dark-stained wood everywhere, but no red flocked wallpaper, fortunately :)  Thelma and I were seated in a roomy booth and plenty of space among tables/booths.  Quiet, elegant.  I would definitely go there again. 

Coffee was served in large cups plus an aluminum hot pot left behind, which kept your refills hot and ready to pour yourself.  The coffee was very good.  I'm not a coffee connesieur, but I do like my coffee a certain way, not too weak, not too strong, like Goldie Locks in the old fairy tale, I like mine "just right."  LOL! 

Score Las Vegas on breakfast

Ten out of ten, ding ding ding ding ding!  Prices are high compared to what you may be used to and especially to bargain-bred Milwaukeeans, but not higher than the norm for Las Vegas.  Service was uniformly excellent at both restaurants that Thelma and I breakfasted at -- The Peppermill and the Coffee House at Treasure Island (inside the casino, on the left hand side near the entrance). 

Price wise, for what you get, Betty's Diner, which is not and does not pretend to be, a full-service restaurant, is the best bargain and I found the food to be fresh and the coffee excellent, always fresh.  For a full-service meal in a unique atmosphere with excellent service and somewhat lower prices than elsewhere on The Strip, The Peppermill cannot be beat!  TI's Coffee House also rates excellent in my book, but more expensive, I'd say, by around $1 to $2 per similar offerings.  Very different surroundings there, quiet and elegant, with a wood-beamed ceiling, rose-colored wallcoverings, discreetly uniformed wait-staff.  Not that the Peppermill is rowdy and loud, just different ala 1970's psychedelic chic and the wait staff is more "relaxed." 

Try them all, and enjoy. 
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