Friday, December 25, 2015

Virgin Mary Sighting

It wouldn't be Christmas without a story about the Virgin Mary.

Has she appeared, miraculously first noticed on December 12th, the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe - or is it just an optical illusion - at a church in Marietta, Georgia USA? Check it out and see what you think.

Virgin Mary image seen on Ga. church window

MARIETTA, Ga. -- What some are chalking up as simply a "faulty coating" has others believing that a divine phenomenon has touched the window of one local church, reports CBS Atlanta.
That's because an image that bears a striking resemblance to the Virgin Mary seems to have appeared on a portion of glass at the Transfiguration Catholic Church, bringing throngs of onlookers eager to see what some are calling a Christmas miracle.
Father Fernando Molina-Restrepo posted a photograph of the window on Facebook this week and explained that image appeared on December 12, which is also the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. He wrote that many are offering their own interpretations of how the foggy figure formed, perhaps the pane's coating reacting to a mixture of the outside elements, though there are plenty of spectators who are happy to point to their faith as the true cause.
Parishioner Victor Jose Alvarado was at the church when the image appeared on the window inside Bishop Hall. He wrote on Facebook: "We started praying and singing songs to the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, and immediately started feeling peace and the smell of roses!!! We just finished having lunch when someone noticed a very bright sun ray and in front of our eyes her image starting to appear in the window."
Source - article.
Wrote the pastor: "We may never agree on why or how this image appeared on the window. The true gift to us will be in how we are inspired to be MORE: more forgiving, more accepting, more loving to those with whom we share our lives."
© 2015 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Hola on Christmas Day from Milwaukee

Ho ho ho, Merry Christmas/Yule/Winter Solstice or whatever rings your bells, darlings!

I was up just before dawn and first thing I did was plug in the tree.  In the darkness it lights up the entire front and dining rooms!  Then I got the food ready to feed my tribe of fat squirrels and birds and opened up the patio door.  In the sky to the east/southeast was a large bright shining star (I learned later it is probably Jupiter or possibly a comet that is passing by Earth right now).  It was so beautiful I ran for my camera.

I didn't get any good photos - this one is the best and that is not saying much:

You can see dawn on the horizon and the bright star is up near the top of the tree branches just to center right.

And then I ran around to the front of the house to snap a quick picture of my Christmas tree from the outside, the sun was coming up quickly by this point and the skies were clear and calm (and positively balmy for Wisconsin this time of year):

No snow, grass is still green and unfrozen and in sunny spots even still growing!  The weather is supposed to be much the same tomorrow so I may pull out the mower and do a final clean-up of the front yard, which is crazy considering it will be December 26th and I can still do yard work.  Oh goody, the sun is starting to peek out again (it clouded over about an hour after sunrise, so I was so happy to be up to see the sun first thing this morning).

Here's a picture of five of my very fat (and large) squirrels eating on my back patio. The tribe is probably a couple of dozen,  The squirrel who is closest to the patio steps is partially blind and old -- he can't crack open the hazelnuts anymore without difficulty so he gets unshelled peanuts.  Okay, so I spoil my wild "pets."  I was lucky to be able to get a shot of this many together at one time:

2016 is just around the corner.  What will it bring?  I've been retired 11 months now and am getting my energy and some of my ambition back.  We'll see...

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Ho Ho Ho! Happy Holidays, Darlings!

This is going to be a rambling sort of post today, so if you've a mind to, get a glass of wine or cuppa of whatever turns you on and settle in for a read and pictures!

First up, the 2015 Christmas tree, TA DA!

2015 Christmas tree.
If you're at all familiar with me, you know that I'm a "more is more" type of gal, so this tree is an absolutely, positively restrained exercise in Christmas Tree Austerity, darlings.  Well, other than the white with sparkles feather boas I've used as garland.  But last year's tree was much gaudier, I swear!  This year, I only used about 20% of the usual ornaments and decorations I put on my tree.  It was put together in record time, and I only purchased twelve new ornaments this year -- all birds, in keeping with my "feather and friends," and I splurged on some faux pearl garland I've been wanting to add for years -- can you see them -- I'm in love!  Oh yeah, almost forgot - I also bought crystal branches to use as my tree topper this year, too.  Another splurge :)

You can see just how restrained (dignified and classy?  Nah) I was this year in comparison to last year's tree:

2014 Christmas tree.
You can see that 2014's version had a LOT more stuff on it -- hardly a bare green spot to be seen.  I'll probably go back to this kind of look next year, LOL.

This is my fourth Christmas without Mr. Don.  I miss him fiercely and it doesn't get any easier with the passage of time, but I'm still here and he's not, so I soldier on as best I can. It's just not as much fun as it used to be, that's the truth.

Mr. Don's trinkets go on the tree every year - the Nefertiti pin (which represents yours truly, a gift from Don -- he found it on a sidewalk outside his walk-up flat in Montreal, LOL) and his McLean clan kilt pin, which I place around the silver heart with the pretty organza ribbon.  Here is the 2015 arrangement:

I'm looking up at him.  I figured it's high time, since if there is a Heaven (which I don't believe in, at least, not the concept that is shoved down our throats by established religions), Don is probably there busy talking the ears off everyone around.  When he was alive, I always put my Nefertiti counterpart higher up so that she was looking down at him, like Juliet in her balcony :)

This year, as part of a much needed living room revamp, I cleaned out all of the cluttered knick-knacks and collectibles from my curio cabinet collected over the past 30 plus years or so (so proud of myself for sucking it up and finally doing that) and now it houses my small collection of chess sets/pieces:

A not very clear "before" picture, taken in October 2014, a few months
after I moved here to this smaller retirement home.

"After" photo, taken December 24, 2015, but the new
arrangement was done in early July.

The sets on the top two shelves were gifts:  a Thistle and Rose set of pieces (but no pawns) from a former co-worker who had collected them when travelling on a British airline back in the 1970's, and a replica of the Lewis chess pieces were a departing present from a colleague of mine when I left Officeworld in 2002.  The third set is a made in Mexico alabaster board and turned pieces that I played many a game on with one of my grand-nephews.  The bottom two shelves hold a set of pieces that I bought unfinished from Amazon and painted black and white (with the intention of someday pairing the pawns with my black and white Rose and Thistle set), and the bottom set is wood, made in Poland, that I purchased many years ago from Napoleon's that was an east side establishment for many years (unfortunately went out of business) -- it was a chess lover's delight.

My favorite set is the Thistle and Rose -- my close-ups never turn out so here is a nice clear pic I found on the internet:
From Bonhams auction catalog 2011.

I've written about the Thistle and Rose pieces that were gifted to me a couple of times here before; if you're interested in the details do a search to find the posts (too lazy to put them here for you).

I love how the sets are show-cased in the curio cabinet; none of them is particularly valuable, but they are all priceless to me :)

Caught myself in the mirror reflection of the curio -- hello, Jan - twins, eek!

This has been an extremely mild December, one of the warmest I remember in a long time -- here it is, Christmas Eve, and while we did NOT get the thunderstorms that were forecast for after midnight last night (yesterday hit a high of 56 degrees F), today at present it is 45 degrees F after a "cold front" came through and while it was sunny this morning (I walked last-minute errands, including a visit to the liquor store to stock up on wine -- one cannot have Christmas without a goodly supply of wine), right now it has clouded over, but the winds have died down (we had gusts of over 50 mph last night into the morning hours).

But despite the mildness of temperatures for this time of year in southeastern Wisconsin, I've turned into a positive freezy-cat since the last of my hot flashes disappeared earlier this year (although I still get night sweats) after menopause finally decided to wrap itself up (it started in 1998, for Holy Hathor's sake!)  I didn't notice it during the summer, but I sure do now.

Since retiring and not giving a fig how I dress when I'm home except to be comfortable, I've taken to wearing long sleeve turtlenecks underneath sweatshirts or sweaters underneath a thick cableknit cardigan, and I'm STILL cold!  So, today was delivered an "original Snuggie as seen on TV!"

AS SEEN ON TV! Grey Leopard Snuggie

Well, it isn't exactly what I was expecting.  I eagerly took it out of the box and it looks like it would fit a person 7 feet tall with arms down to his/her knees.  Hmmm...  No zipper either -- how the heck am I supposed to keep it closed?  I don't know why I ever thought the thing would have a zipper.  Not even a tie belt though, geez.  And while the picture on the box shows a lady wearing a Snuggie that appears to have cuffs, mine has no cuffs and the ends of the arms look like something Dumbledore would wear - at least 18 inches wide.  All that is missing is a pointy hat and I'd look like a midget version of him without the wand and long grey hair and beard.  Of course, Dumbledore would never be so gauche as to appear in a grey and black leopard print fleece.

A few days I saw an older story at Huffington Post, about a little girl who feeds crows and how the crows took to bringing her "gifts."  That reminded me of my own precious small collection of crow offerings from over the years:

Jan's crow offerings.  I also had a bone, but it was stolen right off my patio table at my former home,
probably by a squirrel on the same day I found it and the bracelet in my back yard near
water dishes I put out over a long hot dry summer in 2012.
The beer bottle caps appeared this summer from my crop of new neighborhood crows -- they appear to be either poorer than my former neighborhood's crows or else they are just cheapskates, ha.  Although I should give them credit -- there were a lot of beer bottle caps all discovered on one day while I was out cutting the grass.  I kept three rather than fill up my crystal trinket box with them, LOL.  These new neighborhood crows don't appreciate that I have champagne taste, but maybe they figured since I dress like an old babba, beer bottle caps are good enough for moi.

All in all, my collection, while impressive in terms of rather large objects (the blingy bracelet for instance), is nothing compared to what the crows have brought to the little girl over the past four years or so:

Little Gabi's crow offerings.  Photo from story at Huffington Post.

Afterwards, Gabi's family was sued by neighbors pissing and moaning about all the birds she was feeding pooping and leaving peanut shells around their million dollar homes.  Talk about frigging Scrooges!

Which reminds me, my favorite rendering of that Charles Dickens story ("A Christmas Carol") is on Sling TV tonight at midnight -- it is the 1970s version starring George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge.  I also have a video version starring Patrick Stuart (Captain Pickard) that was also extremely well done -- I'll pop that in for a viewing after it gets dark.

Speaking of which - darlings!  I totally MISSED the Winter Solstice, Holy Hathor!  What is this world coming to when I miss something like that?  I noticed just today it is getting lighter out earlier and the days are lasting longer, YIPPEE!  Then it hit me - SOLSTICE!  Since I keep my Christmas decorations up until the end of January so my house is filled with festive lights every night during the worst part of winter here, Winter Solstice is VERY important in my book -- and I missed it.  Perhaps I will ask my doctor to do a brain scan when I see her in the spring for my semi-annual visit, maybe I am in early stages of dementia or the dreaded Alzheimers.

I sure won't miss the Christmas Full Moon, though.  The last one was in 1977 -- I would like to say I remember it but I don't, and back then I would not have appreciated its significance anyway.  I was too busy working full time and going to college at night and dating dating dating, more boyfriends that I could count.

But that was then, and this is now, and I'm more a babba than a babe, alas.  Last evening, while we had a temporary clearing before the really strong winds hit later last night after a day of fog and pouring rains in dead stillness, I saw that gorgeous full moon as it rose in the east over Lake Michigan.  The skies are clouded over now, I may not see it tonight, but I will know it is there.

To those of you who celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas.  To those of you who don't celebrate Christmas but have other festivities around this Solstice time of year, happy Yuletide celebrations.  To everyone near this end of the year, may 2016 bring us all peace, love, happiness and prosperity.  May the Great Goddess make it so.  The sky is pink and purple in the west, time to sign off and celebrate my peaceful, quiet Christmas Eve.

Smooches, darlings!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Update on Dig at Vero Beach Site

Hola everyone!  I'm posting this article because it (1) hits on a subject I'm fascinated about - the peopling of the Americas and (2) shows the arrogance and ignorance that can happen in any given field of endeavor at any given time when someone steps outside the accepted limits of "the box" of standard thinking (hint: chess historians, I'm talking about you, not just the archaeologists back in 1913), and (3) Archaeologist Jim Adovasio steps on toes when he talks about the crucial role women played in developing civilizations around the world.

Sun Sentinel Online
December 21, 2015

Vero Beach Dig Site May Rewrite Florida's History

 In the heart of the Treasure Coast, a team of archeologists is poring over a 14,000-year-old site that could completely rewrite the prehistory of the state and, to some extent, the prehistory of humankind in the New World.
But it took a last-minute intervention by Florida Atlantic University to assure The Old Vero Man site would be around to reveal its mysteries.
The dig's story began a century ago, with the Indian River Farms Company dredging a canal in a backwater called Vero in 1913 — the actual town of Vero Beach wouldn't exist for another six years. The dredging turned up old bones and other artifacts, which in turn drew the attention of state geologist Elias Sellards. He excavated over the next couple years, turning up more evidence of ancient human habitation.
Given the depth of the artifacts and the layers of rock around them, Sellards put human habitation in the area at 14,000 years ago, and was promptly laughed out of the archaeology business.
Back then, the prevailing thought was that people hadn't been in America before the last Ice Age, had not coexisted in the New World with mammoths, mastodons and other now-extinct Ice Age animals. A few decades later, in the 1930s, arrowheads and other artifacts from what experts called the Clovis culture meant that people had been in America some 11,000 years ago — still not ancient enough for Sellards' theory to hold water.
And so the Old Vero Man site sat largely untouched as Vero Beach grew up around it. It now sits on the south side of the Vero Beach Regional Airport.
In 2009, a proposed storm-water system would have dumped 200 tons of concrete on the site. That's when the Old Vero Ice Age Sites Committee was formed to make sure construction wouldn't destroy a valuable window into antiquity. They found enough to halt construction, but committee chair Randy Old needed to bring in an expert to do the serious digging.
"Because the site had this stigma of was it real or not, we had to get someone in here to do excavation that was beyond reproach," Old said. "So I started asking around, 'If you were going to choose an archaeologist for this site, who would you choose?' And everyone in the field said Jim Adovasio. I asked for second or third choices, and most of the time, the answer was. 'Don't bother.'"
With his squinty gaze, close-cropped gray beard and predilection for safari wear, Jim Adovasio looks like some Hemingway-esque idea of what a rugged field archaeologist should be. And yet, Adovasio has done far more than most in his field to reexamine the role of women in prehistory. He is one of the foremost experts on ancient basketry and textiles in the world, and has written books positing that women are responsible for rope, fishing nets, a great deal of language development — civilization, in other words.
Adovasio also played a large role in overturning the Clovis-came-first idea — the Old Vero Man site is not his first that stretches back more than 11,000 years. Adovasio also worked an area in Pennsylvania that showed humans were there before the Clovis culture could possibly have arrived, and a few more have been found in both North and South America.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Women and Children Banned from "Christian" Homeless Shelter in Kentucky

Ho ho ho.  Merry Christmas, everyone, from your local Kentucky misogynist "Christian" males.

Reported at Raw Story.

Kentucky shelter tosses out all women days before holidays because they tempt men with ‘ungodly’ sex

A Kentucky homeless shelter said that it has banned all women and children in an effort to stop them from having sex with male residents.
Emergency Christian Ministries Director Billy Woodward told WYMT that he had to put a stop to the “sex problem.”
“They may want to meet or slip in a room occasionally, we can’t have that,” Woodward explained. “It seems like these last days it’s getting worse … the ungodly type.”
“They say, ‘We’re homeless, maybe we can find somebody, a mate or something,'” he continued. “If they done it right, it would be fine. But, you know, they go overboard with it.”
Emergency Christian Ministries forced up to a dozen women to leave, according to WYMT. It was not immediately clear if the women had been able to relocate because Emergency Christian Ministries is the only shelter for the homeless in Williamsburg.
A female-only KCEOC shelter in Gray, Kentucky was reportedly accepting women. However, that shelter is a 40 minute drive from Williamsburg.
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison lamented that kicking out homeless women was “not something the city feels should be done.”
“I guess I’m a little old school, but the first people off the boat were the women and children,” Harrison remarked.
Woodward insisted that the decision had been made based on teachings in the Bible, but he admitted that women were not completely to blame for the “sex problem.”
“It takes two to do that,” Woodward said. “We are not biased or prejudice whatsoever.”

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Carved Marble Sphinx Uncovered in Tang Dynasty Tomb in Northwest China

Hola darlings!

I thought this was interesting.  My first thought was that perhaps the tomb was occupied by persons closely related to the Tocharians either by kinship or by trade.

The marble sphinx unearthed in a tomb in NW China  [Credit: Xinhua]

The marble sphinx unearthed in a tomb in NW China  [Credit: Xinhua]
The photos above are from Archaeology News Network.  Here is the Xinhua article:   2015-12-15 15:07:18

YINCHUAN, Dec. 15 (Xinhua) -- A rare well-preserved marble sphinx carving has been unearthed in a tomb in northwest China dating back more than 1,000 years, said Chinese archeologists on Tuesday.
The delicately-carved sphinx statue is 36 cm high with 21 cm long and 13 cm wide base. It has a human face with a bulge on the head and a sitting lion body.
The sphinx statue was excavated in November along with eight warrior, horse, camel and lion carvings in the tomb in Guyuan City, Ningxi Hui Autonomous Region.
The tomb was one of the 29 ancient graves in the area which archeologists have excavated this year to pave way for the construction of a local water plant. More than 150 funeral items, such as carvings, pottery, bronze and iron wares, have been unearthed from the graves so far.
The sphinx statue, made of white marble according to preliminary research, was intact except for minor damage in the middle of the face.
These nine marble carvings showed excellent craftsmanship, said Fan Jun, head of the excavation team of the Ningxia Cultural Relics and Archaeology Institute.
According to an epitaph, the tomb housed Liu Jun and his wife, who lived during the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

"The style carvings had features from the west and are considered rare for ancient Chinese tombs during that period," said Fan. The white marble material was also rarely seen in north China, he added.
The excavations will help scientists better understand freight transport during the Tang Dynasty, said Fan.
Ningxia was along the ancient Silk Road trade route.
The original half-human, half-lion Sphinx, is believed to have been built by Egyptians 5,000 years ago. The statue is 73 meters long and 21 meters high. It sits on the west bank of the Nile River near the great pyramids of Giza to the west of Cairo.
Editor: An

Friday, December 18, 2015

Truth or Fraud: "Roman Sword" Found Off Coast of Oak Island in Nova Scotia

Okay, is it just me being overly suspicious because right now on the History Channel is a TV series about treasure hunting on Oak Island in Nova Scotia - treasure that has been variously ascribed to the Templars, pirates, the Spanish Conquistadors, and in last week's episode, the Aztecs!  Now, lo and behold, a Roman sword discovered an unspecified number of years ago has been brought to light by an heir of the alleged original finder.  Hmmm.....  Aha!  I knew it!  After posting the above I found this article that announces the discovery of the "Roman sword" is explicitly linked to the show about Oak Island currently being run on The History  Channel.

From Yahoo News

Ancient Sword ‘Could Prove Romans Discovered America Before Columbus’

An ancient sword found in water near Oak Island in Nova Scotia offers proof the Romans found America, a researcher has claimed.  If true, the sword - found by fishermen in shallow waters - would rewrite history, with Roman explorers having found America a millennia before Columbus.
Investigator J Hutton Pulitzer claims the sword is a ‘smoking gun’ - although many archaeologists are not as convinced.  Pulitzer says, ‘Some years ago, a man and his son were scalloping off Oak Island, which sees them hang rake-like object off the back of their boat. When they brought this up, the sword came up with it.
‘The father kept it for decades, and when he died it went to his wife, then his daughter. Then when she died many years later it went to her husband. It was he who came forward to the island and said ‘I think you should know about this and where it was found.’
He now wants to explore what he claims is a Roman shipwreck in the same waters.
Pulitzer says, ‘The shipwreck is still there and has not been worked. We have scanned it, we know exactly where it lays, but it will be a touchy thing for the Nova Scotia government to allow an archaeological team to survey it. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is Roman.

I have been watching the show.  The originators of the show are milking it for all it's worth, and I can't blame them, really, since I imagine it has been very expensive bringing in all the digging equipment and technical people they've had going over the island with a fine tooth comb trying to find ANY evidence of treasure.  I don't think there is diddly squat buried there, but it does make for a rip-roaring good review of history :)
Some folks have suggested that Oak Island is shaped like an elephant:  

Hmmm, well maybe a pygmy elephant with no hind legs.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sad News

It is with heavy heart that I report sad news received today about the death of Janet Ulrich, one of the most wonderful and uplifting women it was ever my pleasure and privilege to have met.  Janet lost a battle, as her husband, Jim, put it, after being checkmated by cancer.

I met Janet only a few times at tournaments here in Milwaukee held by my adopted Southwest Chess Club.  She emanated joy, love, and a light-filled, glowing energy from every fiber of her being.  When we were able to meet, we didn't just chat, we talked about everything and anything for hours on end, and although we came from very different walks of life and backgrounds, I felt in Janet a kindred spirit.  I think perhaps she made everyone she met feel that same way.  I will miss her enormously and I grieve for her loss and for her family's loss. Besides her husband, Jim, Janet leaves four children, all of whom are chessplayers:  Thomas, Anne, Rachel, and Susanna.

Visitation and funeral will be held on Saturday, December 12, 2015 at St. Matthew Lutheran Church, 129 South Mason Street, Appleton, Wisconsin, visitation between 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., funeral mass at 11:00 a.m.


In the arms of the angels
Far away from here
I will lay myself down
Where the air is so clear
I will lay myself down
Upon golden angels' wings
And in the arms of the angels
I will find some comfort there.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Spittle-Drooling Gutter Slime Running for Republican Presidential Nomination

How do I really feel about 2016's crop of Republican/Tea Party/Nazi presential wannabes?  If you haven't figured it out yet, you shouldn't be here reading this blog, darlings!  Not even the Idiot Bloviator Cruz's statements today about global climate change being based on "psuedo-science" could displace the Big Mouth Kewpie Doll With Bad Hair from the front pages.

Cover page of The New York Daily News, courtesy of Vox.

Stone Carving Represents Herod's Temple

From The New York Times

BEIT SHEMESH, Israel — The carved stone block is about the size of an occasional table. It has held its secrets for two millenniums. Whoever engraved its enigmatic symbols was apparently depicting the ancient Jewish temples.

But what makes the stone such a rare find in biblical archaeology, according to scholars, is that when it was carved, the Second Temple still stood in Jerusalem for the carver to see. The stone is a kind of ancient snapshot.

And it is upending some long-held scholarly assumptions about ancient synagogues and their relationship with the Temple, a center of Jewish pilgrimage and considered the holiest place of worship for Jews, during a crucial period, when Judaism was on the cusp of the Christian era.

Known as the Magdala Stone, the block was unearthed in 2009 near the Sea of Galilee in northern Israel, where a resort and center for Christian pilgrims was going to be built. Government archaeologists are routinely called in to check for anything old and important that might be destroyed by a project, and in this case they discovered the well-preserved ruins of a first-century synagogue and began excavating.

Yael Yolovich/Israel Antiquities Authority

"Shadow Painting" Discovered Under Mona Lisa

Hola!  The lovely lady is back in the news.  This is pretty interesting, but really, it is not that uncommon for "under paintings" or even entirely different paintings to have been discovered underneath the top-most layer of old paintings.  This is garnering more than the usual attention, though, because - well - it IS the Mona Lisa :)

Hidden portrait 'found under Mona Lisa', says French scientist

  • 8 December 2015
An image of a portrait underneath the Mona Lisa has been found beneath the existing painting using reflective light technology, according to a French scientist.
Pascal Cotte said he has spent more than 10 years using the technology to analyse the painting.  He claims the earlier portrait lies hidden underneath the surface of Leonardo's most celebrated artwork.  A reconstruction shows another image of a sitter looking off to the side.
The Louvre Museum has declined to comment on his claims because it "was not part of the scientific team".

Instead of the famous, direct gaze of the painting which hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris, the image of the sitter also shows no trace of her enigmatic smile, which has intrigued art lovers for more than 500 years

But Mr Cotte's claims are controversial and have divided opinion among Leonardo experts.

The scientist, who is the co-founder of Lumiere Technology in Paris, was given access to the painting in 2004 by the Louvre. [What?  It has taken 11 years to come out with this news???]

He has pioneered a technique called Layer Amplification Method (LAM), which he used to analyse the Mona Lisa.  It works by "projecting a series of intense lights" on to the painting, Mr Cotte said. A camera then takes measurements of the lights' reflections and from those measurements, Mr Cotte said he is able to reconstruct what has happened between the layers of the paint.
The Mona Lisa has been the subject of several scientific examinations over more than half a century. More recent techniques include infrared inspections and multi-spectral scanning.
But Mr Cotte has claimed his technique is able to penetrate more deeply into the painting.  He said: "We can now analyse exactly what is happening inside the layers of the paint and we can peel like an onion all the layers of the painting. We can reconstruct all the chronology of the creation of the painting."

'Shatter many myths'

Leonardo is believed to have worked on the painting between 1503 and 1517 while working in Florence and later in France.
There has long been debate about the Mona Lisa's identity. But for centuries, it has been widely believed that she is Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a Florentine silk merchant.
But Mr Cotte has claimed his discoveries challenge that theory. He believes the image he has reconstructed underneath the surface of the painting is Leonardo's original Lisa, and that the portrait named Mona Lisa for more than 500 years is, in fact, a different woman.
He said: "The results shatter many myths and alter our vision of Leonardo's masterpiece forever.  When I finished the reconstruction of Lisa Gherardini, I was in front of the portrait and she is totally different to Mona Lisa today. This is not the same woman."
He also claims to have found two more images under the surface of the painting - a shadowy outline of a portrait with a larger head and nose, bigger hands but smaller lips. And he says he has found another Madonna-style image with Leonardo's etchings of a pearl headdress.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Veterans' Day: The Story Behind An Old Grave

Hola everyone.  A serious family illness situation has been occupying my time and sucking up most of my energy for some time now.  But I wanted to post this in honor of our veterans, those living and those who are no longer with us.

On a lovely autumn day about six weeks ago (it's hard to keep track of the time these days, they all seem to blend into each other in non-ending exhaustion, duty and worry) I met a couple of friends whom I used to work with years ago, and we had lunch.  Afterwards, one of the friends and I took a ride to the Veterans' cemetery at Wood (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) where her father, a WWII vet, and her mother, are buried.

It is a beautiful, serene and tranquil place in the midst of a busy city, unfortunately intersected by an eight lane expressway that goes right past Miller Park (baseball park)!  But even that monstrosity cannot disrupt the peace one feels amid the acres of carefully tended grass, trimmed around the gravestones, and trees turning reds, yellows, and oranges against a cloudless bright crisp blue sky.

My friend showed me her parents' graves, and we paid homage.  Then we took a slow walk through the neatly arranged rows of gravestones, lined up like soldiers in formation.  It was truly moving.  We stopped along our way to read the names on the stones.  Some stones were so worn we could no longer make out any details.  I learned that the Veterans Administration does have a program to replace worn out gravestones with new ones, but due to budget cuts much of that program has been ground to a halt.  How sad!

One gravestone, in particular, caught my attention.  My friend snapped a few photos of it with her cell phone:

  This is the grave of Private Abraham Bailey, who served in Captain William Richardson's Co. of the Pennsylvania Militia in the War of 1812.  He died on May 31, 1884.

We wondered:  What was a man who served in the Pennsylvania Militia doing buried in a Veterans' cemetery in Milwaukee, Wisconsin?  Had he moved here after the War of 1812, perhaps when Wisconsin was a newly opened territory, or perhaps when Wisconsin became a state in 1848?  The mystery intrigued us.  Who was this man, buried in the oldest grave in this section (at least of the stones we could read).

We talked about checking to see if we could find out more.  Both of us have accounts at  So, after I go home, I got to work.  Later my friend and I emailed back and forth to share our findings.

This is what we learned about Abraham Bailey, who served in the War of 1812 on behalf of the United States.

Abraham (also known as Abram B.) Bailey, was born on March 30, 1795 (or 1796) in Pennsylvania, where he lived for most of his life before relocating, near the end of his long life, to the Veterans' Home and Hospital at Wood, Wisconsin, in 1882.  He died at Wood at the age of 88 years, and he was buried there.

Abraham served in the Pennsylvania Militia between September 18, 1814 to December 15, 1814, when the war ended.  Before and after the war, he made his living as a stone mason.

On September 20, 1837 in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, Abraham married Martha Gaskill Seaman, the daughter of Theophila Gaskill and Nathaniel Seaman.  Martha was born in Pennsylvania (or possibly in New York), on September 7, 1801 and she died on December 22, 1881.

At some point after 1850 or 1855, Abraham received a warrant from the U.S. Government for "bounty land" as a result of his service in the War of 1812.  I don't know where the land was located, but it appears, judging from the notation in the upper right hand corner on the document below, that he received rights to 160 acres:

Bounty land was typically land in "the public domain" which at the time meant territory in lands acquired by the United States government for settlement and expansion, such as the Louisiana Territory.  For example, some 5 million acres were set aside as bounty land in Illinois territory before it became a state.  It doesn't appear that Abraham Bailey moved to begin a new homestead on his bounty land; more likely, he sold his land warrant for cash to either an outright purchaser or a land speculator.

I found the couple in the United States Census Records for 1850 (Delaware County, PA), 1860 (Chester County, PA), 1870 (Chester County, PA) and 1880 (Burlington County, NJ).  No children were listed on any of these census records.  Martha and Abraham had no children as far as I was able to determine.  I could find no records but that does not prove there were no children born to the couple, who may have been born but died in the times between the U.S. Censuses.

We know these few bare facts, but we know nothing of the man, the woman, the couple, their lives together.  What did they look like?  What were they like?  Were they happy?

Abraham Bailey's record from the Veterans' Home and Hospital is on the right.  A life reduced to a few sentences:

In the midst of WWII, Abraham Bailey's gravestone at Wood was replaced in 1942 - the document above is the replacement request.

Private Abraham Bailey, on behalf of a grateful nation, my friend Ann and I salute you, and all those who served and are serving their country. Thank you.

Monday, October 26, 2015

DNA Gives Clues to the Settling of the Americas

Hola darlings!

I'm still with you.  No time at present to blog due to pressing familial issues, but I wanted you to check out this article from The New York Times:

DNA of Ancient Children Offers Clues on How People Settled the Americas

Carl Zimmer
October 26, 2015

Researchers have long wondered how people settled the Americas, particularly the path they took to the new territory and the timing of their expansion. Until recently, archaeologists studying these questions were limited mostly to digging up skeletons and artifacts.

But now scientists have begun extracting DNA from human bones, and the findings are providing new glimpses at the history of the first Americans.  On Monday, researchers at the University of Alaska and elsewhere published an important addition to the growing genetic archive.

In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers reported that they had recovered DNA from two skeletons of children who lived in Alaska 11,500 years ago. The genetic material is not only among the oldest ever found in the Americas, but also the first ancient DNA discovered in Beringia, the region around the Bering Strait where many researchers believe Asians first settled before spreading through North and South America.

The archaeological site, near Upward Sun River, was discovered in 2010. Excavations there have revealed that between 13,200 and 8,000 years ago, people visited during the summer, catching salmon and hares. They built tentlike structures where they made fires and slept.

In 2011, archaeologists discovered cremated bones on a hearth at the site. Research revealed that the bones belonged to a 3-year-old child. Below the hearth, the team discovered a burial pit containing the skeletons of two other children.

One of the buried children was an infant who died a few months after birth; the other was likely a late-term fetus. After the baby and the fetus died, their bodies were carefully laid atop a bed of red ocher, surrounded by antlers fashioned into hunting darts.  “These things we hardly ever find — it’s a very rare window into the worldview of these people,” said Ben A. Potter, an archaeologist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who has led the research at Upward Sun River.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Oriental Institute Puts Select Photos From Its Archives Online

Absolutely fascinating, darlings!  The Oriental Institute has made some  photo archives from various expeditions to the Middle East available online.  Add this to your list of research resources.


A Review of What We Know About Ancient Human "Species Interbreeding" (as the scientists call it, what bunk!)

Hola darlings!

A fundamental tenet of biology teaches us that like breeds with like.  As our technology continues to improve and we continue to dig more deeply into our human origins and people aren't afraid to toss off preconceived notions and never stop asking "but what about this? What about that?", I think all the crap some of learned in school (and some people still believe) about "ape men" and the classic Darwinian take on "evolution" is a bunch of baloney.  Now, on to the article at Phys Org - and do try to ignore the silly title:

How a one night stand in the Ice Age affects us all today

October 8, 2015 by Darren Curnoe, The Conversation

Over the past half decade, ancient DNA research has revealed some surprising aspects to our evolutionary history during the past 50,000 years.  Perhaps the most startling of these has been the extent to which the ancestors of living people across the planet interbred with other closely related species of human.

But where in the world did these cross-species matings occur? Which archaic species were involved? Just how much of the  comprises DNA from these archaic relatives?And what impact did interbreeding have on our evolution and general biology as a species?
These are questions are the core of current research into interbreeding as revealed by DNA sequences obtained from fossils in Europe and Asia, as well as from comparisons with the genomes of living people.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Hales Corners Chess Challenge XXII!

Where did my summer go?  October is upon us and with October comes the semi-annual Hales Corners Chess Challenge tournaments, held in October and April each year.

October 2015 is no exception.  This year's great Hales Corners Challenge will be held on Saturday, October 17, 2015, at the beautiful Olympia Resort in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.  Hang on to your hats, darlings! Goddesschess has changed things up a bit this Challenge in the prize structure, woo woo!

Goddesschess has sponsored prizes since Challenge VIII, Holy Hathor!  Now here we are at Challenge XXII, and my cohort in Goddesschess, Georgia "Isis" Albert, and I have cooked up some new things for this Challenge to encourage our local and regional chess femmes to come on out and play!

Important to know:  As always, Goddesschess prize money is in addition to any other prizes you may win.

First off, we are beginning a new prize offering:  PERFECT SCORE PRIZE (female players only).  Any female player who wins all four of her games in each of the Open and Reserve sections will receive $80 and $40, respectively.  No limit on the number of perfect game scores, chess femmes!  So if all of you should begin to channel vibes from GM Judit Polgar - well, Georgia and I certainly would be gob-smacked and have to open up the Goddesschess wallet a little bit more, and we would LOVE to do so just for you!

You may already know that while I haven't sat down and done the math for hundreds of tournaments held across the country comparable in scale to the Hales Corners Challenges each year, I am pretty darn sure that our female player participation rate in the Challenges is among the top in the country, if not the highest.  My cohort in Goddesschess and I want to keep that momentum going, thus the Perfect Score Prize.

We've also shaken things up a little bit this year by offering a higher pay-off for wins and draws earned by female players in the Open Section.  We think it's high time some of you spread your wings a little bit wider and ventured into the Open Section instead of staying in the safe confines of the Reserve Section.  Come on chess femmes - give it a try.  We want to pay you more, more, more! We won' go bankrupt - pinky promise.  Chess femmes playing in the Open will now earn Goddesschess prize money of $50 per win, and $25 per draw.  Female players in the Reserve Section will win $20 per win and $10 per draw.

As we have for many years, Goddesschess will also pay the entry fee of the top finishing female player in each of the Open and Reserve Sections to the next Hales Corners Challenge.

This being the October Challenge, it is once again time to remember our dearly departed Mr. Don McLean, long-time webmaster, correspondent, writer and master researcher for Goddesschess, who passed away on October 12, 2012.  Don loved chess.  He couldn't play worth a damn, just like I can't, so we enjoyed many head-butting games OTB, LOL!  Oh, the stories I could tell you about some of those games, oh my :)  We honor Don in October with special prizes to spread the love to the chess dudes: $100 to the top finishing male player in the Open, and $50 to the top finishing male player in the Reserve. There are all sorts of tie-breaks that I do not understand in the least, so only one player in each section walks away with the top prize -- NO SPLITS, OUCH!

Come on out and play, chess femmes, please.  Do Georgia and I proud!  Let's break a record for female participation in Challenge XXII!  Let's shoot for the stars.

You can find further tournament information at the Southwest Chess Club website and their blog.

Please come on out, support us, and have fun, everyone.  Good luck, and we're rooting for the chess femmes :)

2015 FIDE Women's Grand Prix: Monaco


One of my favorite players, GM Alexandra Kosteniuk, is playing in this Grand Prix, along with some of the best chessplayers in the world (all female), a truly stellar line-up of chess talent.  What's not to love?

Official website.  Photo gallery, extensive information on games/rounds, live video including live broadcast of games.

Here are the standings after 6 rounds, Holy Hathor!

FIDE Women Grand Prix 2015-16
Monte Carlo, Monaco
Ranking Crosstable after Round 6
18GMHou Yifan2671CHN0
26GMKoneru Humpy2578IND0
33GMMuzychuk Mariya2528UKR0
45GMCramling Pia2513SWE0
54GMKosteniuk Alexandra2525RUS0
610GMStefanova Antoaneta2500BUL30
77WGMPogonina Natalija2445RUS30
82GMZhukova Natalia2485UKR30
99IMSkripchenko Almira2441FRA21
1012GMMuzychuk Anna2549UKR20
111IMKhademalsharieh Sarasadat2402IRI0
1211GMDzagnidze Nana2573GEO10

Here is the schedule for the remainder of the tournament:

October,10 201515:00 Round 7
October,11 201515:00 Round 8
October,12 201515:00 Free Day
18:30 Reception of the Minister of State
October,13 201515:00  Round 9
October,14 201515:00Round 10
October,15 201511:00 Round 11
17:00 Closing Ceremony

Round 7 Match-Ups tomorrow (U.S. Central Time Zone, games begin 3:00 p.m.):

Round 7 on 2015/10/10 at 15:00
4GMKosteniuk Alexandra2525-GMMuzychuk Anna254912
5GMCramling Pia2513-GMMuzychuk Mariya25283
6GMKoneru Humpy2578-GMZhukova Natalia24852
7WGMPogonina Natalija2445-IMKhademalsharieh Sarasadat24021
8GMHou Yifan2671-GMDzagnidze Nana257311
9IMSkripchenko Almira2441-GMStefanova Antoaneta250010

I wish all of the chess femmes bon chance.
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