Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fascinating Finds in Armenia

In recent news it has been Bulgaria with finds like this - but in Armenia - I'm paying particular attention.

Reported in The Washington Post
Armenian archeologists: 5,900-year-old skirt found
The Associated Press
Tuesday, October 26, 2010; 3:15 PM

YEREVAN, Armenia -- An Armenian archaeologist says that scientists have discovered a skirt that could be 5,900-year-old. [c. 3,900 BCE]

Pavel Avetisian, the head of the Institute of Archeology and Ethnography in Yerevan, said a fragment of skirt made of reed was found during recent digging in the Areni-1 cave in southeastern Armenia. Avetisian told Tuesday's news conference in the Armenian capital that the find could be one of the world's oldest piece of reed clothing.

Earlier excavation in the same location has produced what researchers believe is a 5,500-year-old shoe, making it the oldest piece of leather footwear known to researchers.

Boris Gasparian, an Armenian archaeologist who worked jointly with U.S. and Irish scientists at the site, said they also found a mummified goat that could be 5,900-year-old, or more than 1,000 years older than the mummified animals found in Egypt.

2010 World Youth Chess Championships

And speaking of Narmin Kazimova (see post below) - she is IN NUMBER 1 after Round 9, despite losing her R9 game!  You go, girl!  Here are the top 10 Girls' U-18:

Rk.NameFEDRtgPts. TB1 
1WIMKazimova Narmin NizamiAZE22607,517699
2WGMCori T DeysiPER23687,035,0
3Rakhmangulova AnastasiyaUKR21537,034,0
4WIMTsatsalashvili KetiGEO22667,032,5
5CMBhakti KulkarniIND22947,031,5
6FMStetsko LanitaBLR21486,517393
7WIMBulmaga IrinaROU22676,017606
8WIMHoang Thi Nhu YVIE22146,017554
9WIMVo Thi Kim PhungVIE21476,017551
10Iordanidou ZoiGRE21526,017267
11WIMHavlikova KristynaCZE23186,017220
12WFMWarakomska AnnaPOL21886,016956
13WFMEfroimski MarselISR22446,016790

Here are the current standings of the entire Team USA (compare start number in first column at the left to the Rk. (Rank) column second to last, on the right):

56Kumar Aravind0USA1011½110½6,015Open U08
62Liang Awonder0USA11½10½0116,017Open U08
87Praveen Balakrishnan0USA1101010116,022Open U08
104Taghizadeh Rayan0USA½1½½½11016,023Open U08
1Sevian Samuel2105USA1111½10016,510Open U10
16FMHe Tommy O1830USA1011111017,06Open U10
19Xiong Jeffrey1824USA111½011117,53Open U10
24Panchanatham Vignesh1803USA01111½0116,512Open U10
43Chiang Jonathan1714USA½101½10105,048Open U10
153Wheeler Cameron0USA111½1½0117,04Open U10
5Troff Kayden W2216USA1111½11107,51Open U12
12Williams Justus D2155USA101½111½06,019Open U12
14Wu Christopher2138USA011½011½05,051Open U12
20Colas Joshua2068USA½110111005,529Open U12
24Chandran Kapil2058USA1½1½½01116,515Open U12
31Viswanadha Kesav2017USA½011½010½4,577Open U12
79Lin Dachey1805USA01001011½4,587Open U12
120Beilin Allan0USA0½½½½½½½½4,0110Open U12
25Adelberg David2201USA1½1011½005,037Open U14
46Shetty Atulya2092USA1100½1½105,042Open U14
26FMZierk Steven C2391USA1111½½½117,52Open U18
58Haskel Jeffrey2229USA0101½01014,561Open U18
4WFMWang Annie0USA1110½1½117,04Girls U08
34Joanna Liu0USA1011½1½005,026Girls U08
54Nguyen Emily0USA1011110016,011Girls U08
64Ramesh Kaavya0USA0110110116,015Girls U08
41Devina Devagharan0USA½1½10½0½04,062Girls U10
79Palakollu Samritha0USA111½00½½15,522Girls U10
90Singh Reva0USA101011½004,546Girls U10
107Zlotchevsky Nicole0USA101½½01½15,528Girls U10
29WCMChiang Sarah1864USA1011100015,032Girls U14
79WCMMunoz Claudia0USA1½½½010014,549Girls U14
95Regam Jessica0USA½10101½0½4,548Girls U14
46Matlin Anna1923USA101010½1½5,035Girls U16
37Datta Anjali2025USA01½0½0½½14,050Girls U18
9Hua Margaret1943USA1101½½1106,014Girls U12
59WFMLiao Simone1673USA1010½01115,531Girls U12
62Oreshko Mariya1651USA01010110½4,563Girls U12
82Dong Alice0USA0½10½½0103,587Girls U12
113Virkud Apurva0USA0½½½010103,590Girls U12

As you can see, Awonder Liang, 7 years old, a member of my adopted chess club, the Southwest Chess Club, rebounded well after his R7 loss, scoring 2 wins in Rs 8 and 9.  Incredibly, all of the young men playing in the U8 Open for the USA are on 6.0, and all are far far ahead of their initial start positions (a very good thing).  Cameron Wheeler in the Open U10 is having an excellent tournament, moving from 153rd to 4th, Kayden Troff is holding down first place in the Open U12, and Steven Zierk is currently in 2nd place in the Open U18.

The chess femmes' progress in this Championship is not, perhaps, quite as striking as that of some of the boys, but notable performances include Annie Wang Girls U8 in 4th place with 7.0/9 - amazing to me she's only in 4th place with this fine score, it's obviously a very tough competition; the other three girls playing in the Girls U8 have also moved up and done well relative to their original start places:  Joanna Liu, 5.0/9; Emily Nguyen, 6.0/9; and Ramash Kaavya, 6.0/9.  There are other good performances, including Claudia Munoz, but I'm too tired tonight to write further about other girls I've noted.

The end is coming up quickly - last round (11) will be held on October 30.  At least these kids will be home for Thanksgiving!

Chess Femme News!

Just a few items this evening - I must get to work on m friend's family tree, must have it finished for presentation on November 17.  I'm getting there, but I keep finding new family members and it's hard to resist following the new clues.  So far, I haven't been able to resist, but I must, I must!

News regarding the upcoming Women's World Chess Championship which is supposed to be held in Turkey December 2 - 25, 2010.  That is really crappy, actually, making any competitors who may be Christians play over the Christmas holiday - and in a Muslim country, no less.  Geez, dudes, great planning.  But then, FIDE doesn't give a hoot about the welfare and preferences of the chessplayers who actually feed it's existence.  It's all about what country or federation coughs up the most money to line the pockets of the corrupt chess politicians.  Where have we heard this tune before?  It's disgusting.  Mind you - I won't believe that this Championship is actually going to be held until it starts - we shall see...

Women's World Chess Championship in Hatay to host Elina Danielyan and Lilit Mkrtchyan
October 28, 2010 - 18:43 AMT 13:43 GMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - On December 2-25, Turkish province of Hatay will host Women's World Chess Championship.

Elina Danielyan and Lilit Mkrtchyan, European Chess Club Cup 2010 bronze winners, will represent Armenia at the tournament.

[Note: Mkrtchian had a very good showing in the 2008 Women's World Chess Championship, making it to the quarter-finals, but she lost 1.5/0.5 to GM Hou Yifan of China.]

Also from
Ashot Vardapetyan pleased with Mika’s results at European Chess Club Cup
October 28, 2010 - 16:00 AMT 11:00 GMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Members of Mika women’s club, who won bronze medals at the European Chess Club Cup, and club head Ashot Vardapetyan met with journalists on October 28 to comment on the results of the tournament.

Vardapetyan said he is pleased with the results. “Other teams prepare scrupulously for each match against Mika,” he noted.

Mika women’s chess club was formed in 2004 to win champion’s title two years later. In 2007, they won bronze. Men’s club won silver medals in 2009.

At the World Youth Chess Championships, my girl Narmin Kazimova is playing excellently, and I am so very pleased for her!  This is a news report on her progress and how some of the other Azeri chess femmes are doing after Round 8:

Azerbaijani chess player leading in world championship in Greece
Thu 28 October 2010 11:52 GMT | 6:52 Local Time
The world chess championship among youth continues in Halkidiki (Greece).
Eight rounds have already been played. Azerbaijan is represented by 20 chess players. Eight of our representatives are currently among top ten. Narmin Kazimov[a] leading in U-18 contest with 7.5 points should be singled out.

Abdulla Gadimbeyli (U-8), Kenan Izzet (U-14), Sabina Ibrahimova (U-16) and Aydan Khojatova (U-12) taking second, third and fourth places also continue the struggle.

Khanim Balajayeva (U-10), Ulviya Fataliyeva (U-14), Sabina Ibrahimova (U-16) and Aydan Khojatova (U-12) are also among top ten.

Open Gaming Meet

I had no idea what an OGM was until I read this article - sounds like a lot of fun.  I wonder if they have such things around here???

Back to board games at the Open Gaming Meet
10/27/2010 | 10:10 AM

When you think of your childhood, usually you think of the games you used to play. Whether it was taguan or patintero, Chinese garter or checkers, Snakes & Ladders or Sorry, Games of the Generals or chess, you’ll always associate after-school afternoons with fun and games with friends, neighbors, and siblings. And then you grew up, you went to college, got a job, and stopped playing games.

But it doesn’t have to be like that. Many grown men and women find much amusement in games of all sorts nowadays. For some, it’s a massively multiplayer online (MMO) game like World of Warcraft or Guild Wars. Others prefer PC games like StarCraft or Call of Duty.

Personally I prefer consoles: my husband has an Xbox, and a rewards program got us a free Playstation 3. I know a lot of people who play all sorts of CCGs—collectible card games, like Magic: The Gathering, The Legend of the Five Rings, and Fight Klub.

Now everything’s digital, but when you were a kid, most of your games were analog, offline. Don’t you find yourself wishing for the good old days sometimes? You could just go out and play with your friends; no need for batteries, high-powered computers, the Internet, surround sound. Well, you can still do that. Just visit the monthly AEGIS OGM.

AEGIS OGM defined

AEGIS stands for Alliance of Eclectic Gamers and Interactive Storytellers, a band of merry men and women of varying ages who all love offline gaming in all its forms. From classic board games like Monopoly and Scrabble to more recent releases like the Battlestar Galactica board game, AEGIS men and women devour role-playing, board and card games with the hunger of a growing adolescent.

OGM stands for Open Gaming Meet. Some people have swap meets, other people meet up to show off their cars or their bikes; these gamers have gaming meets! According to one of the current organizers, Vic Cabazor, “The OGM's objective is to allow people to try out various tabletop games that they don't own, share their love of the hobby to those not familiar with it, and to have a good time."

Back in the day

Initially called the Open Meets, these events were created by Adrian Martinez, one of the founding members of AEGIS. It was intended to encourage AEGIS members and friends to meet up regularly and socialize, “to have the various Game Masters meet and discuss anything and everything about RPGs (role playing games) — from narrative techniques to adventure ideas. It later expanded to running RPGs during the event."

Live social interaction - what a concept!
 Nathalie Lim, another of the OGM organizers, says that offline gaming, or analog gaming, or whatever you want to call it, is the central idea at the OGM. “We insist on it being unplugged so as to promote face-to-face interactions. Socializing is becoming a lost art, even more so for geeks—este, gamers," she says with a grin.

The first open meet was held in May 2002, at a cafe on Jupiter St. in Makati. Later meets were held at various food courts, coffee shops, even function rooms of various condos and commercial establishments, as the open meets grew not only in attendance, but also in scope. Adrian recalls, “It was Vic who thought it was a good idea to invite the allied hobbies of boardgames, card games and miniatures games as well."

“At that time, the Internet was not as pervasive as it is now, and the sites we take for granted like Facebook and Plurk or Twitter were not around yet. So I thought that it would be good for people who are into the RPG hobby to have an event to meet others who share the same passion as they," Adrian says.

It also helped that AEGIS was a member of the New Worlds Alliance, a caucus of fan groups interested in science fiction and fantasy of all sorts—Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Buffy, HP Lovecraft, the list goes on. While some members wanted to ally with gamers of different genres (like wargamers), others suggested inviting other geeks to simply try out RPGs with a game related to their favorite book, movie or TV show.

Thus the Open Gaming Meets were born, and are still going strong after eight years.

True believers

Adam, a member of AEGIS and an RPG veteran, is an American trainer who has been working for various call centers since he first came to the Philippine several years ago. He recounts, “I had discovered them on the Internet, so I just showed up. I'm glad I did, because I've met many wonderful friends with similar interests through the people at the OGM."

Games as a way to make new friends? Kind of sounds like your childhood, doesn’t it? Adam says, “I originally went due to my interest in RPGs. Being new to the country, I was looking for other people who shared interest in the hobby and found AEGIS by doing a Google search. From there, I went to the OGM as well as the New Worlds Scifi/Fantasy Convention and got introduced to a host of people. So at least one draw for me is the social aspect. Now I go pretty much every month and often bring various role playing games such as 7th Sea, DC Heroes or others with me. I'll play board games or card games if there's not an RPG being run at the time."

Alex, another AEGIS member, remembers the early days. “It was really open to anyone interested, but due to our early success with recruiting gamers from the Anime fandom by getting demo booths at anime-related events, we tried to showcase RPGs related to some of the other TV shows and movies popular in fandom. It wasn’t that hard, since we were fans too and had a good collection of said games."

OGM: Open to the Gamer Masses

Few groups and events have the stamina to last a whole year, much less near a decade, and can still have the capacity to grow and evolve. Fortunately for those seeking amusement of the non-electronic kind, the OGM is here to stay.

Worried that you won’t fit in? Fear not! Gamers—and people who don’t realize they’re gamers—of all shapes and sizes come to the OGM. The monthly gathering now has an average attendance of 30 people, coming and going at various times within the day-long event. While fewer in number, female gamers do attend, whether to play or simply to tag along with friends and family. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating them: whether they’re newbies or veterans, they can be deadly, ruthless players.

According to Nathalie, the regulars include, “Students, call center people, professionals, bums, the gamut!"

And if you’re worried about being too old for games, you worry in vain. Adrian and Vic say the youngest attendee they’ve had was only 5 years old. Adam says, “I've seen people at the OGM ranging from their teens into their 80s. It's really for anyone who enjoys games."

So bring your dice, shuffle your cards, polish off your miniatures, dust off the rulebooks, and get yourself to the next OGM! - GMANews.TV

The Open Gaming Meets are held in the function rooms of Regalia Park Towers along P. Tuazon in Cubao, Quezon City, from 3:00 PM to midnight. Tentative dates for the next OGM are November 27 and December 11. An entrance fee of P100 per person is charged to cover the rental of the venue. Stay tuned to the OGM Facebook group or for announcements.

The Noble Path - by Crispin Sandford

This is another wonderful poem of Crispin's.

The Noble Path

We call upon you to fulfill your dream, the promise within you we your brothers have seen. We call upon your vigor strength and virtue, to enflame that purpose within you.

We have seen your gains and pleasures in winning and pursuing other endeavors and so seeing have wept, for too long has this promise waited to be kept; and you enjoy ANY kind of happiness too much.

We do not and indeed cannot push with the same weight and authority as your own virtue and integrity, but we do remind you such wonderful happiness awaits you, and we remind you, you’ve greater things to do and such glorious things why wouldn’t you, follow the noble path you have before you.

Crispin H. Sandford

The Noble Path Copyright 2004 Crispin H. Sandford. All Rights Reserved. Printed by the Parley Press in the USA.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Storm Damage

View looking to the southwest lot line.
Here are a couple of backyard shots taken today shortly before 6 p.m. during sundown - not the best exposure and not the clearest, sorry.  I wanted to try and give you an idea of what it looks like with tons of  small and not so small branches down all over the yard.  It will be a big clean-up.  Yech.  That "pipe" is the bottom half of my umbrella which was tucked away safe in the garage.  The pipe is anchored by a cast-iron base which didn't budge despite the strong winds.

View looking toward the north/northwest lot line.  A fleeting glimpse of
squirrel can be seen on the left - a sort of fuzzy blur.  A heavy metal
planter in the form of a kitty with head on a spring was blown over.
That's the first time in 20 years that has happened!
 It's not over, but the Great Midwest Cyclone of 2010 will blow out of here (I hope) by tomorrow morning, with rapidly dropping temperatures following close behind.  Sigh.  It is really NASTY out there.  The winds were even stronger today than yesterday.  In fact, we broke an all-time record for low barometer reading for a "November gale" in the Midwest.  Remember the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior, the wreck that Gordon Lightfoot made famous in 1975?  That was the second lowest barometer reading on record for a "November gale."

So far - fingers crossed - I haven't lost any major limbs off my trees and the house and its siding are still intact. But it sure is roaring out there tonight.  I thought the wind was supposed to die down after sunset, not get worse!  This storm isn't moving away without a fight!  The peak windgust in my area reached 81 mph and about 30 miles to the south in Racine an F1 tornado did some damage yesterday.  It was hard enough maneuvering to and from work out in the open with winds gusting to 40 mph.  I'm no lightweight, but I had to hang on for dear life this morning when I got off the bus downtown and this evening while waiting for the bus downtown to come home, as the winds were even stronger.  The wind-tunnel effect created by the tall buildings in close proximity to Lake Michigan was multiplied many times by this fierce wind-storm.  I count my blessings that I was able to wait out the rain yesterday morning (it stopped about 7:30 a.m. or so and I was able to get to work without getting drenched) and the rain hasn't come back.  Up north Minnesota hasn't been so fortunate - wet, heavy snow, and blizzard conditions in the Dakotas.  Whew! 

I'll be grateful when I can finally get some sleep and not have to worry about one of my trees being blown into the house.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

2010 Cap d'Agde Invitational

The first part of the rapid chess invitational is over - the top four players from each group have been decided, as reported at Susan Polgar's chess blog.  Here are the players from each group going into the knock-out round:

Group B
1-2. Ivanchuk, Vassily g UKR 2754 5½
1-2. Le Quang Liem g VIE 2694 5½
3-4. Pelletier, Yannick g SUI 2592 4
3-4. Hammer, Jon Ludvig g NOR 2633 4

Group A
1. Nakamura, Hikaru g USA 2733 6½
2. Bu Xiangzhi g CHN 2695 5½
3. Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son g VIE 2633 4
4. Polgar, Judit g HUN 2682 3½

Can anyone beat Nakamura, a master at this type of chess?  Maybe he's the best ever at this type of chess.  Judit Polgar, the top rated female chessplayer in the world and the sole survivor of the other female players, has her work cut out for her, that's for sure!

'Neanderthal' and 'Modern Human' Met and Mated More Than 100,000 Years Ago

From Discovery News
A modern human fossil dating to more than 100,000 years ago in Asia reveals distinctive Neanderthal features.
By Jennifer Viegas
Mon Oct 25, 2010 03:00 PM ET

Early modern humans mated with Neanderthals and possibly other archaic hominid species from Asia at least 100,000 years ago, according to a new study that describes human remains from that period in South China.

The remains are the oldest modern human fossils in East Asia and predate, by over 60,000 years, the oldest previously known modern human remains in the region.

The fossils -- a chin and related teeth -- belonged to a modern human that also featured more robust Neanderthal-type characteristics, indicates the study, published in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Co-author Erik Trinkaus, who is one of the world's leading experts on Neanderthals, told Discovery News that the new findings mean "there was mating between these 'archaic' and 'modern' groups across Asia, and not just in Europe and the remainder of Africa."

"Of more interest than who had sex with whom is the fact that modern humans had spread across southern Eurasia by 100,000 years ago, and yet archaic humans remained across the more northern areas, and even displaced the modern humans in Southwest Asia for an additional 50,000-70,000 years," added Trinkaus, a professor of physical anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis. "It argues for very little adaptive advantage on the part of these modern humans."

He and his colleagues studied the newly discovered remains, which were unearthed at Zhirendong, a cave in Chongzuo City, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in South China. The fossils are well dated, based on isotopic analysis of the site and associated remains of now-extinct mammals and other animals.

Trinkaus and his team now believe that after anatomically modern humans first emerged in equatorial Africa, they either began to disperse into Asia 102,000 to 130,000 years ago, or gene flow through populations caused their biology to wind up in South China during the Late Pleistocene.

Either way, the researchers argue that modern human interbreeding with regional archaic populations, such as Neanderthals, must have happened. [The 'Neanderthal' weren't as "archaic" as thoght, else the successful interbreeding could not have occurred.]

In terms of what happened to the Asian Neanderthals, Trinkaus believes "that eventually they were partially absorbed into expanding modern human populations" around 40,000 years ago. He said, "We don't know why those modern humans expanded then, after remaining in Africa and southern Asia for 50,000 plus years."

Ancient Camp Site Discovered on Canadian/U.S. Border - 10,000 Years Old!

Waaayyyyyy over on the east coast, c. 8,000 BCE.  My question is - which way did these campers come from?  Siberia?  Or Iberia?

Archaeologists unearth 10,000 year old camp site along US/Canada border
October 22, 2010

FOREST CITY, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- A team of archaeologists has spent the last several weeks gathering and collecting artifacts along the banks of the Saint Croix River on property owned by the federal government behind the U.S. Customs Port of Entry in Forest City. Dr. Ellen Cowie is director of the Northeast Archaeology Research Center, which was hired as a subcontractor for US Customs and Border Protection to recover artifacts at the site.

"We're excavating the remains of a small sort of encampment maybe where a family stopped over for a couple of nights made some stone tools and what we're finding our those stone tools and chips from stone tool making," Dr. Cowie says the artifacts are from a period known as the Paleo-Indian period following the last Ice Age in North America.

Her team found artifacts known as flakes, which are stone chippings or shavings that are the by-products of making spearheads or other stone tools. They also found some tools including a "graver" which is used to poke holes in bones or shells.

"The materials that Native Americans used for stone tools are sort of distinctive. It's just not any sort of rock it's not granite typically, but it's stone that would break in a certain way that would allow spearheads to be made and other scraping tools," Cowie explained.

US Customs and Border Protection needed to conduct this dig and have these artifacts recovered before it could move ahead with a planned renovation of the Forest City Port of Entry. Dr. Cowie says her team will bring the artifiacts to her lab in Farmington, analyze them and produce a report for CBP and the state. She says the site has already been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and she says the artifacts will likely go to the Maine State Museum.

1,000 Year Old Tamil Inscription Found

Millennium old Tamil inscription found in Trincomalee
[TamilNet, Saturday, 23 October 2010, 00:53 GMT]

The inscribed stone.  There are additional close-up photos in the article.
A stone slab having a Tamil inscription, clearly in the alphabet of the Chola times (c. 3rd century BCE - 13th century CE), was found in Trincomalee while digging for cricket stadium construction work recently. The land where it was found is a part of the esplanade, on the right side of the Koa’neasvaram Road leading to the Siva temple inside Fort Frederick and is adjacent to the bay where the temple’s Theerththam (water cutting) ritual is held. Sometimes back, a Buddhist Vihara and another structure called Sanghamitta Buddhist Rest were constructed at this place. The inscribed slab was taken into possession by the Trincomalee police and was sent to the Department of Archaeology in Colombo.

The construction work for a modern cricket stadium in the esplanade was financed by the Provincial Governor’s Fund.

The construction work in the land has been suspended by the Department of Archaeology.

The inscribed stone slab has a large perforation at the centre reminding of anchors and sluice-gates.

Academics are concerned about the safe custody of the inscription with the Department of Archaeology.

As there are no Tamil officials or no Tamil epigraphists in the Department of Archaeology, academic circles expect estampages of the inscription to be sent to relevant scholars as early as possible by the Department of Archaeology of Sri Lanka, for speedy dissemination of knowledge about the inscription.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Spooky Thursday Action Planned at Southwest Chess Club

Chain Rattling, Glass Breaking Spooky Swiss
October 28 & November 4, 11 & 18
4-Round Swiss in Two Sections (Open and Under-1600).
Game/100 minutes. USCF Rated. EF: $5. (One ½-Point
Bye Available for any round (except round four) if requested
at least 2-days prior to round). TD is Grochowski; ATD is

Start promptly at 7:00 p.m. Registration is 6:20-6:50 p.m. Robin plans to close registration at 6:50. If you arrive after first-round pairings are prepared, you will have to take a 1/2-point bye in the first round.

However, if you want to play but anticipate being a few minutes late, please e-mail Robin or call him at 414-861-2745 prior to 4:30 p.m. on October 28, so he can include you in the pairings. If you need a first round bye please let Robin know as soon as possible and you can have one.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Albino Killings Continue in Africa

I've posted about the murder of albinos in Africa before. Here is the latest from BBC Africa:

24 October 2010 Last updated at 03:51 ET
Burundi albino boy 'dismembered'
The dismembered body of a young albino boy has been found in a river on the Burundi-Tanzania border, reports say.
The boy, aged nine, was taken from Makamba province in Burundi by a gang that crossed the border, the head of Burundi's albino association said.

Kassim Kazungu told AFP the remains had been recovered from the Malagarazi river and given a formal burial.

Albino body parts are prized in parts of Africa, with witch-doctors claiming they have special powers.

Mr Kazungu told the AFP news agency that Tanzanian police had arrested five people, although there was no official confirmation from Tanzania.

In Tanzania, the body parts of people living with albinism are used by witch-doctors for potions which they tell clients will help make them rich or healthy.

Dozens of albinos have been killed, and the killings have spread to neighbouring Burundi.

In August a court in Tanzania sentenced a Kenyan to 17 years in jail on charges of trying to sell an albino person.

Tanzanian authorities have promised to crack down on albino traffickers, and several people have been sentenced to death in connection with killings.

The Perennial Allure of the Last Queen of Egypt

I've lost count of the number of articles I've posted here about Cleopatra.  Here is another to add to the collection, finely written, from The Wall Street Journal - yep, WSJ!

OCTOBER 23, 2010
Still Under Cleopatra's Spell
The Romans were the first, but hardly the last, to be unnerved by female ambition, authority and allure.

The Death of Cleopatra, by Guido Cagnacci, 1658.
Note 17th c. style throne, costumes and hairdos!
 How is it possible that Cleopatra continues to enchant, 2,000 years after her sensational death? It helps that, with her suicide in 30 B.C., she brought down two worlds; with her went both the 400-year-old Roman Republic and the Hellenistic age. Egypt would not recover its autonomy until the 20th century.

Shakespeare and G.B. Shaw lent a hand in her immortality, of course, as did Cleopatra's eloquent Roman critics. She endures for reasons beyond the fame and talent of her chroniclers, however; the issues that she raised continue to fluster and fascinate. Nothing enthralls us so much as excessive good fortune and devastating catastrophe. As ever, we lurch uneasily between indulgence and restraint. Sex and power still combust in spectacular ways.

And we remain unnerved by female ambition, accomplishment and authority. The wise woman mutes her voice in order to maintain her political or corporate constituency. She is often cast all the same as a scheming harridan or a threatening seductress. Her clothing budget attracts uncommon scrutiny, by definition either too large or too small. If she is not overly sexual, she is suspiciously sexless.

For reasons that remain murky, Julius Caesar invited Cleopatra to Rome in 46 B.C. Though her fortune had dwindled from that of her forebears—she was the last of the Ptolemies, the Greek dynasty that ruled in Egypt after the death of Alexander the Great—she remained the richest person in the Mediterranean world. A decade earlier, her father had traveled about Rome on the shoulders of eight men and with an escort of 100 swordsmen. He distributed lavish gifts left and right. There is little reason to believe that Cleopatra did things differently. The pageantry unsettled, as will a convoy of Maybachs in Paris today.

In the late republic, that outsized wealth impugned her morals. To wax eloquent about someone's embossed silver, sumptuous carpets or marble statuary was to indict him. In the Roman view, Cleopatra quite literally possessed an embarrassment of riches. This meant that every evil in the profligacy family attached itself to her. Well before she became the sorceress of legend—a reckless, careless destroyer of men—Cleopatra was suspect as a reckless, careless destroyer of wealth. Even if she never melted a pearl in vinegar, as legend has it, she could well afford to do so.

Cleopatra's fortune derived from Egypt's inexhaustible natural resources. Her kingdom was miraculously, effortlessly fecund, the most productive agricultural land in the Mediterranean. Its crops appeared to plant and water themselves. Those harvests—and Egypt's absolutist government—accounted for the Ptolemaic fortune. Very little grew in or left Egypt without in some way enriching the royal coffers. And Cleopatra controlled the greatest grain supply in the ancient world. Rome stood at her mercy. She could single-handedly feed that city. She could equally well starve it if she cared to.

Wealth and culture also happened to share an address in Cleopatra's lifetime. Compared to Alexandria, Rome qualified as a provincial backwater. It was still the kind of place where a stray dog might deposit a human hand under the breakfast table, where an ox could burst into the dining room. Alexandria remained the fashion capital, the center of learning, the seat of culture. If you wanted a secretary, a tutor or a doctor, you wanted one trained in Egypt. And if you wanted a bookstore, you dearly hoped to find yourself in Alexandria.

By contrast, it was difficult to get a decent copy of anything in Rome, which nursed a healthy inferiority complex as a result. Gulping down his envy with a chaser of contempt, a Roman found himself less awed than offended by Egypt. He wrote off extravagance as detrimental to body and mind, sounding like no one so much as Mark Twain, resisting the siren call of Europe many centuries later. Staring an advanced civilization straight in the face, the Roman dismissed it as either barbarism or decadence.

Egypt confounded as well for its exoticism. Nothing so much proved the point as the perceived femininity of the East, that beguiling, voluptuous realm of languor and luxury. There was something subversive about a land that exported a female goddess—the Isis temples in Rome were notorious spots for assignations—and a female pharaoh.

In Egypt, on the other hand, competence regularly trumped gender. Cleopatra followed to the throne a sister who had briefly succeeded in deposing their father. She could look to any number of female forebears who had built temples, raised fleets, waged military campaigns. And she came of age in a country that entertained a singular definition of women's roles. They inherited equally and held property independently. They enjoyed the right to divorce and to be supported after a divorce. Romans marveled that in Egypt female children were not left to die. A Roman was obligated to raise only his first-born daughter. Egyptian women loaned money and operated barges, initiated lawsuits and hired flute players. They enjoyed rights women would not again enjoy for another 2,000 years.

Not only was a Roman woman without political or legal rights, she was often without a personal name. Caesar had two sisters, both named Julia. A good woman was an inconspicuous woman, something that rather defied Cleopatra's training. As ever, what kept a woman pure was the drudge's life, of which Juvenal supplied the traditional formula: "Hard work, short sleep, hands chafed and hardened" from housework. For the Romans, a world ruled by a woman was a world turned upside down; like the north-flowing Nile itself, it reversed the course of nature. Female authority was in Rome a meaningless concept. This posed a problem for an Egyptian sovereign.

Cleopatra spoke many languages, flattery perhaps most fluently. Though famed for her charm and her powers of persuasion, she did not always temper her style. She was an autocrat who very much sounded the part. Few resented her tone as deeply as her Judaean neighbor, Herod the Great; the relationship between the two sovereigns proceeded by mutual betrayals. Complicating their dealings was each ruler's friendship with Rome, the western superpower intent on maintaining peace between them. (Herod owed his crown in part to Roman fears of Cleopatra; he balanced power in a volatile corner of the world.) Cleopatra conspired to separate Herod from their mutual Roman friends. In turn, he proposed her assassination. All would be so much simpler, argued the Judaean king, if his henchmen simply eliminated the pesky Egyptian queen.

What else to do with a clever woman who could not be subjugated by the usual means? Cleopatra's relationship with Mark Antony was the longest of her life, but that with Octavian, the future Caesar Augustus, would prove the more enduring. She allowed him to recycle the oldest trope: The allergy to the powerful woman was even sturdier than that to monarchy or to the impure, inferior East. Octavian delivered up the tabloid version of an Egyptian queen, insatiable, treacherous and decadent. To prepare the ground for Actium, the battle that would decide the future of Rome and at which Octavian would defeat Antony and Cleopatra, he needed a worthy opponent. He wisely oversold the enemy.

In Octavian's version, Cleopatra assumed the role of the "wild queen," lusting after Rome and plotting its destruction. For his one-time ally Antony to have succumbed to something other than a fellow Roman, she had to be a disarming seductress. Her powers had to be exaggerated because—for one man's political purposes—she needed to have reduced another to abject slavery. And as ever, the easiest way to disarm a capable woman was to sexualize her. Herod did the same, expounding in the course of Cleopatra's Jerusalem visit on her shameless behavior. Blushingly, he swore that she had forced herself upon him. As everyone knew, such was her wont. (She was at the time hugely pregnant with Mark Antony's child.)

The divide between the civilized, virtuous West and the tyrannical, dissolute East began in part with Rome and its Egyptian problem. Cleopatra emerged as stand-in for her occult, alchemical land, the intoxicating address of sex and excess. She wielded power shrewdly and easily, making her that rarest of things: a woman who—working from an original script—discomfited the very male precincts of traditional authority. Two thousand years later, those tensions and anxieties have not relaxed their hold.

—Stacy Schiff is the author of "Cleopatra: A Life," which will be published next month. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 2000 for her biography of Vera Nabokov.

And - here is a review of Schiff's "Cleopatra: A Life" from Newsweek, October 21, 2010.

5th Dynasty Priest's Tomb Discovered Near Giza

They'll be digging up new discoveries in Egypt for the next thousand years.  Who knows what's underneath all that constantly shifting sand?  From Discovery News:

Ancient Egyptian Priest's Tomb Unearthed in Giza
Analysis by Rossella Lorenzi
Mon Oct 18, 2010 12:48 PM ET

Archaeologists have unearthed a more than 4,000-year-old tomb of a pharaonic priest near the Giza pyramids, Egypt’s authorities announced on Monday.

Beautifully decorated, the burial site is located near the tombs of the pyramid-builders.

It belonged to Rudj-Ka, a priest who lived during the Fifth Dynasty (2465 - 2323 B.C.) and was responsible for the mortuary cult of the pharaoh Khafre, also known as Chephren.

The son of Khufu, or Cheops, the Fourth Dynasty king Khafre is best known as the owner of the second largest of the Giza Pyramids.

According to Zahi Hawass, general secretary of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, Khafre’s pyramid complex and mortuary cult remained functioning well after the king’s death, thanks to a group of priests who conducted rituals and prayers in honor of the dead pharaoh.

Rudj-Ka was one of those priests. An important member of the ancient Egyptian court, he was provisioned through a royal endowment to serve as a purification priest.

Built from limestone blocks, which create a maze-like pathway to the main entrance, Rudj-Ka's tomb is cut directly into a cliff face and boasts walls painted with beautiful scenes of daily life in ancient Egypt.

Photo: Meghan E. Strong. Courtesy of SCA. Rudj-ka and wife
One wall painting shows Rudj-ka fishing and sailing. Another scene portrays the priest and his wife in front of an offering table loaded with gifts of bread, goose and cattle.

According to Hawass, the discovery might indicate that an unknown larger necropolis lies near the three famous pyramids.

"This tomb could be the first of many in the area. Hopefully we have located a new necropolis dedicated to certain members of the royal court,” Hawass said in a statement.

He also speculated that the area could be a continuation of the western necropolis at Giza, which may have resulted from overcrowding in the Giza plateau.

The Latest on Evidence for Chinese Presence in Africa in early 1400s

Looks like Gavin Menzies wasn't such a "nut case" after all, heh heh.  From BBC News.

17 October 2010 Last updated at 20:07 ET
Could a rusty coin re-write Chinese-African history?
By Peter Greste, BBC East Africa correspondent, Mambrui, Kenya

It is not much to look at - a small pitted brass coin with a square hole in the centre - but this relatively innocuous piece of metal is revolutionising our understanding of early East African history, and recasting China's more contemporary role in the region.

A joint team of Kenyan and Chinese archaeologists found the 15th Century Chinese coin in Mambrui - a tiny, nondescript village just north of Malindi on Kenya's north coast.

In barely distinguishable relief, the team leader Professor Qin Dashu from Peking University's archaeology department, read out the inscription: "Yongle Tongbao" - the name of the reign that minted the coin some time between 1403 and 1424.

"These coins were carried only by envoys of the emperor, Chengzu," Prof Qin said.

"We know that smugglers would often take them and melt them down to make other brass implements, but it is more likely that this came here with someone who gave it as a gift from the emperor."

And that poses the question that has excited both historians and politicians: How did a coin from the early 1400s get to East Africa, almost 100 years before the first Europeans reached the region?

When China ruled the seas

The answer seems to be with Zheng He, also known as Cheng Ho - a legendary Chinese admiral who, the stories say, led a vast fleet of between 200 and 300 ships across the Indian Ocean in 1418.

Until recently, there have only been folk tales and insubstantial hints at how far Zheng He might have sailed.

Then, a few years ago, fishermen off the northern Kenyan port town of Lamu hauled up 15th Century Chinese vases in their nets, and the Chinese authorities ran DNA tests on a number of villagers who claimed Chinese ancestry.

The tests seemed to confirm what the villagers have always believed - that a ship from Zheng He's fleet sank in a storm and the surviving crew married locals, meaning some people in the area still have subtly Chinese features.

Searching for clues

It was then that Peking University organized its expedition to try to find conclusive evidence. The university is spending $3 million (£2 million) on the three-year project.

Prof Qin's team chose to dig in Mambrui for two reasons.

First, ancient texts told of Zheng He's visit to the Sultan of Malindi - the most powerful coastal ruler of the time. But they also mentioned that Malindi was by a river mouth; something that the present town of Malindi doesn't have, but that Mambrui does.

The old cemetery in Mambrui also has a famous circular tomb-stone embedded with 400-year-old Chinese porcelain bowls hinting at the region's long-standing relationship with the East.

In the broad L-shaped trench that the team dug on the edge of the cemetery, they began finding what they were looking for.

First, they uncovered the remains of an iron smelter and iron slag.

Then, Mohamed Mchuria, a coastal archaeologist from the National Museums of Kenya, unearthed a stunning fragment of porcelain that Prof Qin believes came from a famous kiln called Long Quan that made porcelain exclusively for the royal family in the early Ming Dynasty.

The jade-green shard appears to be from the base of a much larger bowl, with two small fish in relief, swimming just below the surface of the glaze.

"This is a wonderful and very important piece, and that is why we believe it could have come with an imperial envoy like Zheng He," Prof Qin said.

Re-writing history?

While the evidence is still not conclusive, it undermines Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama's claim to have been the first international trader to open up East Africa.

He arrived in 1499 on an expedition to find a sea route to Asia, and launched more than 450 years of colonial domination by European maritime powers.

"We're discovering that the Chinese had a very different approach from the Europeans to East Africa," said Herman Kiriama, the lead archaeologist from the National Museums of Kenya.

"Because they came with gifts from the emperor, it shows they saw us as equals. It shows that Kenya was already a dynamic trading power with strong links to the outside world long before the Portuguese arrived," he said.

And that is profoundly influencing the way Kenya is thinking about its current ties to the East.

It implies that China has a much older trade relationship with the region than Europe, and that Beijing's very modern drive to open up trade with Africa may in fact be part of a far deeper tradition than anyone suspected.

In 2008 China's trade with the continent was worth $107bn (£67bn) - more even than the United States, and 10 times what it was in 2000.

"A long time ago, the East African coast looked East and not West," said Mr Kiriama.

"And maybe that's why it also gives politicians a reason to say: 'Let's look East' because we've been looking that way throughout the ages."

Blast from the Past

Circa 1967, Mr. Don with the band he played in at the time, Dark Side.  He's the one in the center - so he says.  I'm not certain I believe him. That was two years before we graduated high school. Ohmygoddess!

Lisa Lane Articles by Sarah a/k/a "Bat Girl"

Lisa Lane, 1962 Life Magazine, by
Alfred Eisentaedt
 I wanted to write about Lisa Lane a few days ago when Allen Becker of Southwest Chess Club sent me a link to an article about this former 2x U.S. Women's Chess Champion that had been posted at Lisa Lane - First Chess Beauty Queen.  While I appreciate that Chessbase does offer articles from time to time about female chessplayers and posts lots of pictures of them, particularly of the prettiest and youngest female players, Chessbase gears its articles toward its overwhelmingly male audience.  Thus, the otherwise well written article contains a cheesecake shot of Lisa Lane posed in a negligee with plenty of bare leg showing, looking at a chessboard, her bouffant hairdo perfectly lacquered in that 1960's way.  The photo was taken from a magazine article written about Lane at the time.  Well, that was the 1960's, this is the 21st century, although no doubt men ogled that 40 year old photo today the same way they did back then.  Sex sells, and Lane was a good looking young woman with a good figure. 

Lane was a remarkable chess talent. In a different world, she was probably good enough to become women's world chess champion, but she lacked support both training-wise and financially.  Other than Bobby Fisher, no one was able to prevail against the Soviet chess machine that ruled the world then, the remnants of which still do.  The prevailing attitude toward women in general and female chessplayers in particular seemed to be Fisher's - they were "fish" - although some male players were probably more discreet in hiding their contempt.  Fisher did conceed back then that Lane was the "best of the American fish."  Seems things haven't changed very much.

I discovered by accident that Sarah a/k/a Bat Girl's splendid blog/log about chess had been deleted or something - the webhost closed down?  In any event, after hunting around a bit I did find through Sarah's postings at that most of it had been saved and now exists as an archive at another person's website.  I updated the link to it in our Links section.  If you aren't familiar with Sarah's chess site, please check it out.  All I can say is that it contains great stuff. 

Last night I played through one of the Lisa Lane games that Sarah posted, and it totally blew me away.  While wishing to become a good player, I have no ambition to study and, at 59, wonder how much progress I'd be able to make in any event. But I continue to chug along at not-even-patzer-level anyway and now that I have an "official" USCF rating, wonder if I could push it up to 1000.  LOL!  A pipe dream if I ever heard one, but what the hell.  Anyway - back to the Lisa Lane game I went through.  I just couldn't wrap my brain around it.  It seemed she knew like 10 moves in advance where she would have to have a piece stashed in order to make a perfect move much later in the game.  And the other player was no slouch either.  Both of them made moves that astounded me.  Now, granted, my understanding of that level of chess is, to say the least, limited.  I feel boundless admiration for people who play, and who play well.  I am now even more depressed.  Like Lisa Lane, I HATE, PASSIONATELY HATE LIKE HATING SOMEONE'S GUTS AND HOPING THEY BURN IN HELL FOREVER WITH A PITCHFORK UP THEIR BUTT to lose.  Hate it.

Sarah/Bat Girl wrote about Lane:

February 28, 2004 Lisa Lane
April 23, 2004 Lisa Lane Revisited
April 24, 2004 Some Lisa Lane Games
May 28, 2004 Lisa Lane Final Entry  - Sarah Beth makes a Lisa Lane website which, unfortunately, no longer exists, but the information she used to create the website (at least at the beginning of its life) is contained in the blog entries listed here.

Currently Sarah Beth a/k/a Bat Girl is located at Chess . com where she has a blog, le blog de la Bat Girl.

October 12, 2010 Lisa Lane
This post contains the game (Lisa Lane vs. Fenny Heemskerk, Women's Candidate Vrnjacka Banja, 1961
1-0) that I played through last night.  It's at the very end of the entry and on a board where you can see the pieces move. 
More on Lisa Lane:
Chess games of Lisa Lane (only 25) from
August 7, 1961 Sports Illustrated Lisa Lane Cover
August 7, 1961 Sports Illustrated article: Queen of Knights and Pawns - I recommend this article.  It is extremely telling.
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