Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Nimrud Ivories

Here's a real beauty!

From BAR's website.  Description: 
British Institute of the Study of Iraq (formerly the British School of Archaeology in Iraq), the Iraq Museum, Baghdad, and Stuart Laidlaw

A Syrian court beauty decorated the 5-inch tip of a flask carved from parts of an elephant tusk. Her parted hair falls down her back in plaits and in ringlets down her cheeks. She wears a tall crown, a collar of three rows of beads and a necklace of discs. The spaces in the crown and necklace were originally inlaid.

Diggers Unearth 3000 Year Old Tablet, Jerusalem's Oldest Written Document

Reported at
By Jonathan Ferziger - Jun 21, 2011 8:00 AM CT

A clay tablet covered with
cuneiform script, discovered
in a Jerusalem excavation.
Archaeologists say it is a
3,000-year-old copy of a
letter that Canaanite king
Abdi-Heba wrote to the
king of Egypt.
Photographer: Meidad
Israel Antiquities Authority
Israeli archaeologists have discovered part of a 3,000-year-old clay tablet covered with cuneiform script that they say is the oldest written document ever found in Jerusalem.

The thumb-sized fragment, which is described as an archived copy of an Accadian-language letter that Canaanite King Abdi- Heba wrote to the king of Egypt, was placed on display today at the Davidson Center in Jerusalem’s Old City. It was found in excavations of a site from the First Temple period led by Hebrew University archaeologist Eilat Mazar.

The discovery closes a small blank “patch on the map of knowledge of Jerusalem,” Ronny Reich, a senior Israel Antiquities Authority archeologist, said in a speech after Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat opened a visitors center at the site.

Mazar’s work at the Ophel Wall site has been focused on finding evidence of palace activity from the Jewish Temple during the reign of King Solomon, centuries after the Canaanite ruler. The excavation lies in the shadow of the Temple Mount, which Muslims refer to as the Haram Sharif or Noble Sanctuary.

Years of digging have unearthed a four-room gatehouse that Mazar said appears to have been destroyed with the Babylonian conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC. In the building’s floor she found twelve large clay jars, one of which has a Hebrew inscription indicating they were used to store wine or oil.

The excavation was funded by Daniel Mintz, managing director of Olympus Capital Holdings Asia, a New York-based private equity fund, and his wife, Meredith Berkman.

Utah Fires Three Archaelogists for Purely Political Reasons Under Guise of Budget Cuts

Convince me this isn't political payback because someone got cut out of a lot of money when the development didn't go forth as planned due to the objections raised by the state archaeologists.

Utah fires its state archaeologists
By Brandon Loomis
and judy fahys

The Salt Lake Tribune
First published Jun 21 2011 12:40PM
Updated Jun 23, 2011 10:57AM

The Utah Department of Community and Culture on Tuesday laid off the state archaeologist and two assistants, leaving the Antiquities section with just two employees: those responsible for maintaining a database necessary for development of roads, railways, buildings and other projects.

Department acting Director Mike Hansen said he was simply carrying out budget cuts ordered by the Legislature to eliminate programs that receive state funds and that do not carry out requirements of state or federal law. A plan from state Human Resources suggested consolidating the three positions into one new "forensic archeologist" job that will be posted Wednesday.

"The hard news today was we had to reduce three to one," he said. "We’re very excited and hopeful to get a good response."

But assistant state archaeologist Ronald Rood, who was among those dismissed, said in a professional association website post that Utah "showed its disdain for archaeology and Utah’s vast cultural heritage." In a separate interview with The Tribune, he said that no other programs in the state Division of History had been cut and suggested there may have been a political motive behind the change: to eliminate employees who sought to protect archaeological sites threatened by development.

Rood, along with state archaeologist Kevin Jones and physical anthropologist Derinna Kopp, who also lost their jobs Tuesday, stepped into the view of Gov. Gary Herbert, lawmakers and the Utah Transit Authority in recent years when they raised concerns about a proposed commuter rail station planned in Draper. UTA proposed the train stop and mixed-use development on the footprint of an ancient American Indian village, the earliest known location of corn farming in the Great Basin.

"We always have tried to stand up for archaeology," Rood said.

"We were pretty vocal over the issue of the [rail] station down in Draper that was going to be placed over a 3,000-year-old archaeological site."

Hansen flatly denied the suggestion the firings were politically motivated. When asked about any possible connection to the Draper FrontRunner station, he said, "absolutely not." [Right. Did the newspaper expect the politician/paid hack to ADMIT it was pay-back to the archaeologists for getting in the way?]

Allyson Isom, communications director for Herbert, also denied ulterior motives.

"Unfortunately," she said, "these cuts were mandated by the Legislature."

The Legislative Fiscal Analyst Office prepared a "menu" of $550 million of possible budget cuts, including $154,300 in potential savings by cutting two positions in the historic preservation program. While the Legislature did order reductions, the details of how to implement them were left to the executive branch.

"It isn’t a statement on the value of archaeology," Isom said, noting that the Department of Natural Resources, the state Department of Transportation and the Public Lands Coordinating Council all employ archaeologists. "The state remains committed to archaeology in other offices. It is our heritage, our identity, and we have to preserve it."

The archeology team is part of the state Historic Preservation office, which was responsible, among other tasks, for reviewing archaeological sites in development zones, cataloging human remains found on state and private lands for repatriation to American Indian tribes in accordance with state and federal law, namely the U.S. Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. The team also conducted educational programs for Utah’s fourth- and seventh-graders and during an annual Archaeology Week with field trips and lecturers.

When they were asked to leave the building Tuesday morning, the three archaeologists walked away from partly written reports and forensic evaluations of about 100 sets of skeletal remains. About three were under active review in the laboratory.

The proposed Draper rail station had political tendrils reaching into the UTA board — where trustee and developer Terry Diehl had an interest in development plans around the station — and the Legislature, where attorney and then-House Speaker Greg Curtis had pushed the Department of Natural Resources to delay a conservation easement planned for the site because a client wanted to trade for the land to develop the station.

But Herbert, a former president of the Utah Association of Realtors, won the praise of preservationists and tribes by ultimately signing a deal preserving 252 acres of the ancient American Indian village through a conservation easement granted to the nonprofit Utah Open Lands. UTA agreed to build its station and accompanying development farther north.
Seems that Herbert, or a close friend of his or big contributor to his campaign coffers, along with Greg Curtis, and others, were cut out of money when publicity heated up about the proposed location of the rail station.  Herbert cut his losses and made himself look like a big hero to preservationists and Native American groups by allowing the conservation easement to go through, but the other guys have egg on their faces.  Herbert's is a good guy - NOT.  As Governor, he's in charge of the "Executive Branch" of state government that was given the authority by the State Legislature to make the necessary "budget cuts."  Three people under his control who caused trouble for he and his buddies were fired.  The Governor preserved one "new" position for the State Archaeological Office but didn't offer it to any of the three former employees.  So, how much money was actually saved?  But no, it's not about politics at all.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wow! I like this singer

One of the things for me, personally, about The Voice is that it has brought me back into the world of current "pop" or whatever it's called these days music.  I haven't listened to a popular rock or alternative music station in probably 35 years, so I'm pretty much clueless as to who the stars are, what's hot, what's not.  It's either smooth jazz (these days I listen to it online) or oldies but goodies for me tuned into on local FM radio. 

So, I hear a singer do this song on The Voice and, just the other day -- for the very first time -- I say to myself  "what the hell is I-tunes that they keep talking about people downloading music from on The Voice?"  Okay, so I'm an unhip broad - give me a break!

There I see Adele and "Rolling in the Deep" way up high in the top 100, and I say to myself - that rings a bell. Was it Vicci Martinez who sang it on The Voice?  I don't remember - but I do remember that it made an impression.  So -- tonight, no, I did not buy anything from I-tunes, not when I can listen to music for free at You Tube -- I went to You Tube and did a search for Adele.  And up popped an official video.

Hey - she's not some skinny wannabe ho chick!  I love her already, even before she's opened her mouth! 

Great song. Great voice.

St. John's (Yes - THE St. John the Baptist) Remains To Be Buried In Sozopol

Oooookaaaaayyyyyyy.  How anyone knows these bones belong to St. John the Baptist is beyond me, but he's a big thing over in Bulgaria, evidently, and an equally big thing in Canada, where St. John Baptiste Day is soon to be celebrated - a national holiday in a secular country for a Roman Catholic saint.  Oooooookaaaaayyyyyyy.  Anyway, John Baptiste was a very popular French Canadian name - I have dozens of male ancestors and relatives named John Baptiste so-and-so (mostly Sequins, Villeneuves and Forciers).  Hmmmm, do you think it is possible that I could be descended - nah...

Remains of John the Baptist to be put in Sozopol's church
Wed, Jun 22 2011 10:19 CET
by The Sofia Echo staff

I just love how the first century CE Salome
is wearing 15th century clothes.  There is
definitely something wrong with this painting
by Lucas Cranach the Elder - Salome's head
and neck are too large in proportion to her body.
The remains of John the Baptist, which were found during the excavation on the island of St. Ivan near the seaside town of Sozopol in August 2010, will be moved to SS Cyril and Methodius church in Sozopol, Focus news agency reported on June 22 2011.

The historian and director of the National History Museum Bozhidar Dimitrov said that the complete renovation of SS Cyril and Methodius church in Sozopol had been completed on schedule and the remains of the saint will be put on display there on June 24 2011 because it is St. John the Baptist Day.

The Island St. Ivan is one the largest of five Bulgarian islands in the Black Sea.

In August 2010 archaeologists found an exquisite reliquary – a relic urn – built in the altar of an ancient church bearing the name of St. John the Baptist.

The urn, which was opened on August 1 2010, contained small bones from the arm and leg of the saint, archaeologists told Bulgarian media.
I would say this comment on the article left by someone (not me), just about sums it up:

I understand that John the baptist had over 7,000 bones in his body as against 206 for the usual person. He would also appear to have had 12 arms and about 38 fingers. Not surprised that he came to the attention of the Judean King. Now if the[y] had found one of his many heads....... Kudos to jonm267, who made this comment on Wed, Jun 22 2011 23:24 CET.  LOL! 

I've posted many items about this purported discovery of - at least some of - the remains of St. John the Baptist:

Thursday, August 5, 2010
John the Baptist Relics in Bulgaria, Blah Blah Blah

Monday, August 9, 2010
Bulgarian Diaspora Minister Contracts Foot in Mouth Disease

Monday, August 9, 2010
What Do the Norwegians Get Out of This???

Friday, August 13, 2010
Bulgaria and St. John the Baptist: The Latest --

Nice Feature on the Yenikapi Metro Dig in Instanbul, Turkey

From Today's Zaman:

Yenikapı metro dig reveals fifth-century shipwreck
24 June 2011, Friday / TODAY'S ZAMAN, İSTANBUL

Archeological digs at Yenikapı, the site of excavations for an important transfer hub in İstanbul's metro system, the Marmaray project, have revealed yet another marvel: an intact shipwreck believed to be from the fifth century, complete with its load.

Researchers, who have been working on the site since 2004, are in the process of uncovering the well-preserved remains of the ship. One archeologist said this is probably the first time in the world that a shipwreck had been found with its full load and timber frame completely in tact.

“The width of the wreck is about five meters. This is one gunwale. There is probably another one which has not yet been uncovered. Some of the amphoras on top [of the cargo] are broken but those in the lower layers appear to be intact. This is the largest cargo ship yet to be uncovered. There is no other example in the world of a shipwreck where the timber of the ship as well as its load are in such good condition. If the wreck had been at sea, it would not have been this well preserved,” said archeologist Mehmet Ali Polat, quoted by the Radikal daily on Wednesday.

The wreck is among some 35 sunken ships at the old Byzantine harbor which had silted over, probably in the 10th century. The discovery of other Byzantine merchant ships has led this to be described as the greatest nautical archaeological site of all time. A collection of the discoveries has already been put together in an exhibition at the İstanbul Archaeological Museum, together with artifacts retrieved during other metro excavations around the city, including a hugely important find on the Asian side of the city at Üsküdar.

Archeologist Sırrı Çömlekçi was quoted in Radikal as saying that the remains from this Byzantine ship will provide a lot of information about the past.

“It will be possible to see the whole ship when we complete our work,” he said.

Zeynep Kızıltan, the head of the Marmaray-Metro Salvage Excavations, said that once the dig is complete, they look forward to sharing with the public all of the findings and their significance. She added in Radikal's report that the latest discovery seems to be quite unique. The dig is expected to continue through the end of summer.

Read more about the amazing discoveries at Yenikapi and the "old" harbor.

Higher League 61st Russian Women's Chess Championship

Of the 62 players participating in what I understand to be a "qualifying" round for the real deal later this year, under the name of the HL 64th Russian Chess Champinship, GM Tatiana Kosintseva is the sole female, ranked 40th on the list with an ELO of 2559.  Smart move on her part, she's bound to take a beating and yet her ELO should go up because of the tougher competition she's facing.  Two of my favorite male players are also in this event:  my romantic hero who plays chess like an 18th century swashbuckler, GM Alexander Morozevich, ranked 4th on the list with an ELO of 2694, and GM Alexander Khalifman, who won the 1999 FIDE World Chess Champion title, ranked 22nd on the list with an ELO of 2627. 

There is only one more round to go.  After 9, Morozevich is in first place with 7.0/9.  Kosintseva is in respectable 26th place with 5.0 - I'm impressed.  Alexander Khalifman is in 38th place with 4.0. 

The Russian women have their own championshp event this year, the 61st, consisting of 34 players and 9 rounds.  I see none of the top Russian female chess stars in the list, so either they aren't participating this year or they will be seeded into the final event to be held later this year.  Here are the standings after R8, one more round to go:

Rk.NameFEDRtgPts. TB1 TB2 TB3
1IMZaiatz ElenaRUS24307.035.532.56
2WIMCharochkina DariaRUS23206.037.027.55
3IMGunina ValentinaRUS24876.036.530.06
4WGMShadrina TatianaRUS23975.534.021.05
5WGMKovanova BairaRUS23615.532.023.04
6IMOvod EvgenijaRUS24045.036.023.05
7IMKovalevskaya EkaterinaRUS24275.034.024.03
8WFMKostrikina AnnaRUS20725.029.519.54
9WGMGirya OlgaRUS23945.028.519.54
10IMBodnaruk AnastasiaRUS24194.532.524.04
11IMRomanko MarinaRUS23874.532.024.03
12WIMTomilova ElenaRUS23174.532.023.53
13FMPustovoitova DariaRUS23064.530.520.03
14WIMSeveriukhina ZojaRUS22914.530.518.54
15WIMAmbartsumova KarinaRUS23034.034.522.53
16IMVasilevich IrinaRUS23424.032.021.03
17IMMatveeva SvetlanaRUS23804.031.020.53
18Bukhteeva ViktoriaRUS21784.030.519.52
19WFMGoryachkina AleksandraRUS21034.029.516.02
20WIMIvakhinova InnaRUS23264.025.513.03
21Drozdova DinaRUS22393.530.516.52
22WFMSemenova ElenaRUS21883.527.515.02
23Zizlova SofiaRUS21493.526.515.02
24WIMBezgodova SvetlanaRUS21543.526.014.53
25IMSavina AnastasiaRUS23893.525.512.53
26WFMKindinova EkaterinaRUS21593.029.513.52
27Severina MariaRUS21043.028.013.03
28WIMIvkina OlgaRUS22943.025.09.52
29WIMFominykh MariaRUS22913.024.58.52
30WFMBelenkaya DinaRUS21982.529.014.52
31WFMTravkina AnastasiaRUS21762.528.011.51
32Balaian AlinaRUS21632.522.510.52
33Petrova OlgaRUS22561.525.08.01
34Antipina NataliaRUS01.023.07.01

Perhaps Hou Yifan Needs a Break

She has yet to draw or win a game in the AAI International Grandmaster Chess Tournament 2011 taking place right now in India (June 22 - July 2, 2011).  It is a category 17 event, the highest yet held in India.

After three rounds, Hou has no points.  This is a double round-robin so all of the players will face each other, once with white pieces, once with black pieces.  Hou has 7 more rounds to go, but I'm telling you it doesn't look very promising for her at the moment.  Perhaps she is tired out from her nearly constant high-intensity events she's played in since winning the women's champion title in December, 2010.  She is gearing up for her match with GM Koneru Humpy of India later this year for the women's champion title (if it is, in fact, held.  As far as I am aware, either nobody has bid for this event or what bids have come in have been unacceptable to FIDE (perhaps because not enough bribe money is being offered).

Standings after R3:

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Are You Watching the Voice?

I have to tell you, this show has totally blown me away!  I am not a fan of American Idol, although it has showcased some great talent.  The Voice - wow!  I hope a lot of the final 16 (yes, all the way up there to the quarter-finals because there were some great voices who had to be let go) get recording contracts, I was that impressed with this pool of talent. Hell, I even liked the country singers and normally I'm not a fan of country music. 

So, the show is down to the final four, and next week Tuesday is the sing-off and America will pick one, and only one, winner.  Of the four remaining, I like equally and for different reasons, Dia Frampton and Beverly McClellan.

The very first time I heard these two very different femmes sing, I was just amazed and awestruck.  Each week they've gotten better and better. 

I think Vicci Martinez is a lovely little bundle of flaming energy, but she has a tendency to shout rather than sing.  She is definitely an original, though, and absolutely fearless on stage. Not many performers can sing Jolene and Dog Days Are Gone in back-to-back weeks and rock both! 

Javier, my my, what can I say?  He's got a great gift in that voice of his and he doesn't know how to use it!  All that over-singing, those meaningless, useless runs on every other note, the skipping of important lyrics (in Angel, for instance).  He's got a heart-tugging back-story with his wife and little kids, but Holy Cow, he's had his opportunities and he hasn't been able to cut it.  That's the bottom line for me.  He had albums released - they bombed.  He's been first act on tours - didn't get any buzz. Why not? For once, I would like to hear him sing a song without "making it his own" - because clearly, the man does not understand what "making it his own" really means!  America appears to love him, however, and he could very well win next week.  Too bad, I think Dia, Beverly and Vicci have more right-on instincts and comprehension of singing in their own unique styles than Javier has, and I don't think he gets it that he doesn't get it!

Sixteen year old Xenia, who was eliminated in the semi-finals, has the most unique voice.  She's got distinctive tonal and phrasing qualities that have set apart such disparate performers as Macy Gray, Stevie Nicks and Dionne Warwick.  Xenia is like a deer in the headlights on stage, though.  No experience whatsoever performing, sang to herself in the shower (really!)  She's cute in a sweet sixteen kind of way I didn't think existed anymore in American teenagers today, and I hope the industry doesn't get hold of her and "sex her up" (gag me) - she's an original and should be allowed to develop into her own unique self.  I would pay money for her music, like I have for Susan Boyle's music, another distinctive original. 

Last night Dia rocked Losing my Religion; the week before she rocked Heartless

I think last night, though, belonged to Beverly and her rendition of The Thrill is Gone.    Absolutely knocked me out of my chair. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

First North American Carved Image of Mastodon or Mammoth!

Scientists reveal a first in Ice Age art
Press Release June 21, 2011

Researchers from the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Florida have announced the discovery of a bone fragment, approximately 13,000 years old, in Florida with an incised image of a mammoth or mastodon. This engraving is the oldest and only known example of Ice Age art to depict a proboscidean (the order of animals with trunks) in the Americas. The team's research is published online in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

A bone c. 13,000 year old carving on bone of a "proboscidean."
Can't they tell if it's a mammoth or a mastodon?  Isn't that what the experts go to school for? 
The bone was discovered in Vero Beach, Fla. by James Kennedy, an avocational fossil hunter, who collected the bone and later while cleaning the bone, discovered the engraving. Recognizing its potential importance, Kennedy contacted scientists at the University of Florida and the Smithsonian's Museum Conservation Institute and National Museum of Natural History.

"This is an incredibly exciting discovery," said Dennis Stanford, anthropologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History and co-author of this research. "There are hundreds of depictions of proboscideans on cave walls and carved into bones in Europe, but none from America—until now."

The engraving is 3 inches long from the top of the head to the tip of the tail, and 1.75 inches tall from the top of the head to the bottom of the right foreleg. The fossil bone is a fragment from a long bone of a large mammal—most likely either a mammoth or mastodon, or less likely a giant sloth. A precise identification was not possible because of the bone's fragmented condition and lack of diagnostic features.

"The results of this investigation are an excellent example of the value of interdisciplinary research and cooperation among scientists," said Barbara Purdy, professor emerita of anthropology at the University of Florida and lead author of the team's research. "There was considerable skepticism expressed about the authenticity of the incising on the bone until it was examined exhaustively by archaeologists, paleontologists, forensic anthropologists, materials science engineers and artists."

One of the main goals for the research team was to investigate the timing of the engraving—was it ancient or was it recently engraved to mimic an example of prehistoric art? It was originally found near a location, known as the Old Vero Site, where human bones were found side-by-side with the bones of extinct Ice Age animals in an excavation from 1913 to 1916. The team examined the elemental composition of the engraved bone and others from the Old Vero Site. They also used optical and electron microscopy, which showed no discontinuity in coloration between the carved grooves and the surrounding material. This indicated that both surfaces aged simultaneously and that the edges of the carving were worn and showed no signs of being carved recently or that the grooves were made with metal tools.

Believed to be genuine, this rare specimen provides evidence that people living in the Americas during the last Ice Age created artistic images of the animals they hunted. The engraving is at least 13,000 years old as this is the date for the last appearance of these animals in eastern North America, and more recent Pre-Columbian people would not have seen a mammoth or mastodon to draw. [Key point!]

The team's research also further validates the findings of geologist Elias Howard Sellards at the Old Vero Site in the early 20th Century. His claims that people were in North America and hunted animals at Vero Beach during the last Ice Age have been disputed over the past 95 years.

A cast of the carved fossil bone is now part of an exhibit of Florida Mammoth and Mastodons at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

Note:  I feel as if I've posted about this story before, but it is an important discovery so, just in case I did not, here it is!

Egypt to Uncover Second Solar Boat at Giza

I hope all goes well!

Egypt to uncover 2nd solar boat at Giza
Jun 22nd, 2011 | By Bikya Masr Staff

CAIRO: The Egyptian ministry of antiquities announced on Tuesday that it would uncover the second solar boat at the Giza Pyramids on Thursday morning. The original date had been scheduled for Wednesday.

According to a statement from the ministry, the boat had been discovered in 1987 after an electromagnetic radar survey west of the first solar boat, which is currently on display next to the Great Pyramid.

“It has been the focus of research since 2008 by staff from the Egyptian ministry of state for antiquities, a delegation from Waseda University and the Japanese Institute for Restoration Research,” the statement read.

The ministry added that onditions are now ideal to remove the stone cover, consisting of 40 panels.

“The uncovering event on June 23 will take place inside the large tent warehouse, constructed to enclose and protect the second solar boat,” the statement added.

It is being organized by the Japanese Embassy in Egypt, the event will be attended by its Chargé d’Affaires Masami Kinefuchi, the Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass, and the Chief Executive Representative of the Nitori Holding Company, Akio Nitori.


Hawass Found Innocent of Charges

Story at  It's not exactly clear if Hawass appealed his sentence regarding the bookstore incident and the charges were kicked out on appeal, or if the "charges" against him were something else. 

Egypt’s Zahi Hawass found innocent
Jun 16th, 2011 | By Bikya Masr Staff |

CAIRO: An Egyptian court ruled on Wednesday that Egypt’s firebrand Minister of Antiquities Zahi Hawass is innocent of charges against him. The minister is currently in the United States on a speaking tour.

“Today is a very special day for me. The MSA, and myself personally, will always hold the laws of Egypt in the highest regard,” Hawass wrote on his personal blog.

“The MSA, and myself personally, have always held the laws of Egypt and the ruling of our courts in the highest regard and we will continue to do so,” he continued.

In April, Hawass was sentenced to one-year in jail n a dispute over a bookstore at the Egyptian Museum.

He was also fined by the court 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($1,650) in damages at the time.

He had served as the Supreme Council of Antiquities chief until last month, when he was appointed by ousted President Hosni Mubarak as antiquities minister in the newly established ministry. [This happened before May, 2011! Dr. Hawass was reappointed to his position of Antiquities Minister, from which he had been discharged by the interim government after the resignation of Hosni Mubarak, on March 30, 2011, by the same interim government that had discharged him originally.]

Hawass has been under fire from a number of sides in recent years including from rights groups who accuse the man of dictatorial polices concerning debate and scientific findings. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) called out Hawass in 2009 for allegedly pushing aside a researcher for stating views that differed from the SCA Secretary-General’s, which led to dozens of investigations.

Ironically, on his recent tour he has touted the Egyptian revolution to crowds, saying he was “pleased” with the support Americans are giving Egypt.

Ahmed Saleh, the researcher in question, told ANHRI that he was “alarmed” with a series of investigations and announcements from Hawass in newspapers’ that the researcher felt were undermining and ridiculing his work. According to ANHRI, the researcher proposed a new approach on how to deal with “some Egyptian antiquities, especially the mummy of King Tut.”

Hawass is known for his cheerful spirit, and a closet full of cowboy hats he passes to foreign dignitaries as they come through Egypt. He even gave American President Barack Obama one of those hats.

Despite his jolly spirit, archaeologists, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of permits to dig in the country, which all go through Hawass, tell Bikya Masr a different, behind-the-scenes reality.

“He has a huge temper,” began one archaeologist. “If you don’t agree with him, he simply screams at you and threatens to remove your funding.”

Other reports show that he takes advantage of those needing internships with the SCA. He takes on American students, promises them adequate salaries, and then refuses to pay, a number of former interns told Bikya Masr.

“He is paid thousands of dollars for each appearance he makes for the Discovery Channel and every time he writes or appears anywhere. The man makes so much money that it is no wonder he tries to curtail other opinions,” an Egyptian researcher told Bikya Masr. The researcher, who works for the SCA, says that “everyone in the council knows what goes on, but he is the boss and his rules go, so there is little we can do.”

It is also well known, archaeologists say, that he takes bribes in order to give permits. “And he is big on cronyism and sexual favors,” another American researcher said, adding that “it is well-known in the community that he gives key positions to women for specific reasons.” This has been supported by a number of archaeologists, who added that on trips to New York, “he has often been seen with call girls and escorts.”


That old devil! A womanizer. Who'd have guessed, tsk tsk.  As bad as the French dude who is up on rape charges in New York City - same fraternity.  Do they teach this stuff to Mediterranean men in the cradle? 

Glen Campbell Announces Diagnosed with Alzheimers

Ohmygoddess.  Article.  I didn't realize he was 75, but you know, these days that isn't old, especially when I'll be 60 in a few months!  I loved him as the deputy with John Wayne in True Grit, and my favorite song of his, and one of my favorite songs ever, is Wichita Lineman.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From a Slag Heap to a Goddess

I continue to be amazed by how these things sometimes happen but, really, after all these years, I shouldn't be!

Anyway, just the other day in the 16th floor kitchen at the office I was reading an article about "fracking" and a new law that has just been passed by the Texas Legislature that, for the first time, requires some small degree of "transparency" in the "old" but increasingly controversial practice called, in the popular vernacular "fracking." That law now requires, for the first time, disclosure of the mixture of chemicals being pumped deep beneath the earth at tremendous pressure. Water pollution? Gag-me, illness-inducing emanations that somehow cannot be traced to any one place (or corporation) fouling local air? Earthquakes in Arkansas that some people think are caused by "fracking?" (None of the results of fracking were, of course, mentioned in The Wall Street Journal article!)

Anyway, fully aware of the "atmosphere" of where I was, I made a small tsking noise under my breath (and you readers thought I'm an overly-emotional, undisciplined old broad, heh).   Oh crap, that little whispery tsk was enough of a reaction to the article to be overheard by someone else. Being Ms. Grace in Action I(ahem), I opened with a conversational gambit and we entered into a whispered conversation. In the way that conversations go, the practice of "fracking" morphed into other nasty "production" practices such as slag heaps, particularly (so I thought) in the 19th century, the collapse of which had buried towns and killed hundreds of innocent people and led, eventually, to the passage of the "Progressive" laws that led to the creation of the Food and Drug Administration and the Occupational and Safety Hazard Organization. 

I was absolutely amazed when the person to whom I was talking confessed no familiarity with slag heaps. I was momentarily stunned. Did this person not have history classes in junior high and high school that talked about the industrial abuses back then? How could anyone from the United States not know what a fricking (fracking?) slag heap is? But so it was.

So, I did a quick search under slag heap disasters on google and was shocked to my core when I discovered that on October 22, 1966 in Aberfan (Wales, Great Britain) 116 children in classes at a primary school were killed when a slag heap "suddenly" collapsed and buried the school and other parts of the town beneath it. BBC News, On This Day:  October 21, 1966 in Aberfan: Coal Tip Buries Children in Aberfan.  The United States had it's own shocking slag heap disaster in 1972, in Buffalo Creek "Holler," in West Virginia. Hey, Republicans, do you really want to repeal all the environmental protection laws that were passed in the years since then, in part because of this useless waste of life and, more importantly (to them,) billions of dollars worth of damage?  Time Magazine Online, West Virginia: Disaster in the Hollow, March 13, 1972. 

And so here, tonight, I was working on the blog. But I couldn't find anything that rang my bells.  The chess femme news - bleh.  Archeological news - bleh.  So, I did a search for "goddess" and "news" and up pops this article.  And so it goes.

From The Mail Online:
From a slag heap to a green goddess: How an aristocrat is turning a wasteland into the largest human sculpture ever made
By Robert Hardman
Last updated at 8:29 AM on 16th June 2011

A Goddess in the making out of slag heaps.
Many thousands of years hence, archaeologists may wonder what on earth the ancients were up to in a North-Eastern corner of the European sub-province once known as England.

What had driven them, in the latter stages of the Oil Age, to create the largest replica of the human body ever seen on Earth — a reclining female figure a quarter of a mile long and weighing 1.5 million tons.

Was she a burial mound or a deity? Was she supposed to send messages to other planets? Or was she simply a monument to the obesity of 21st century England? Perhaps they will even stumble across the truth — that she was none of the above.

In fact, she turns out to be a collaboration between, an international landscape artist, an unusual aristocrat and a mining firm.

When this earth sculpture, Northumberlandia, opens to the public in 2013, she will be so big that the best place to take in her gargantuan proportions will be from a plane. Drivers on the A1 will get a good view of her head, and rail passengers on the London-to-Edinburgh line will have a generous eyeful of her rear.

But everyone will be able to walk all over her, via a four-mile network of paths along the curves of her body to various strategic viewing platforms on her face, breasts, hip, knee and ankle.

To her designer, Charles Jencks, she is a ‘gateway’ and an ‘abstraction’, while her progenitor, the Honourable Matthew Ridley — journalist squire of Blagdon Hall and 10,000 acres hereabouts — calls her ‘a new green public open space’.

To the Banks Group, the mining company digging 5.4 million tons of coal from Ridley’s estate, she is an efficient and original use of the leftovers from their excavations.

But, needless to say, local Geordies have produced a few alternatives.  The mysterious lady is already, variously, known as Slag Alice, Fat Slag (after a character in the Geordie comic Viz), Big Bird and the Goddess Of The North. There will be many more. But as I stand, more than 100ft up on what will be Northumberlandia’s face, staring at the North Sea, wild hills and Tyneside, she seems an ingenious addition to the landscape.

This entire region is defined by colossal man-made projects — Hadrian’s Wall, baronial castles, coal mines, shipyards and, latterly, the Angel Of The North. So, why not have a grass-covered human Sphinx made from the detritus of a mine? And she is a lot prettier than the average slag heap.

This must also be the only major public arts project in Britain today that is not costing the public a bean. The £2 million creation is being paid for by the Blagdon Estate and the Banks Group, without a single grant or Lottery handout. And when it’s finished, Ridley will donate the 30-acre site, including three man-made lakes, to a charitable trust.

‘There have been a few complaints,’ says Bob Downer, chief executive of the Blagdon Estate.
‘Some people think it’s wrong to have a female figure, and others think she’s some sort of pagan symbol, even though Mother Earth is part of cultures all over the world. But people moaned about the Angel of the North in the early days, too.’

Jencks points out that she is not modelled on any real person but is a collection of metaphors. And he is certainly not bothered by a spot of irreverence. ‘It’s a mark of any icon that it should be open to iconoclasm,’ says the author of The Universe In The Landscape. If it didn’t stir the horses, it wouldn’t be iconic.’

I suspect the locals will soon be as proprietorial about Northumberlandia as they have become about Antony Gormley’s steel angel.

The idea was born in 2004 when the Blagdon Estate and the Banks Group were applying for permission to dig for coal and fire clay (for bricks) on farmland near the new town of Cramlington. Arthur Scargill may be in his dotage, but the coal industry still employs 6,000 people in Britain and generates a third of our electricity. The local council received 2,500 objections and the consortium had to show how it planned to restore the land afterwards.

Ridley invited Jencks to get involved. It was when he saw the mining operation that he had the idea of a landform on a similar scale. Northumberlandia was born.

I begin my visit down at the coalface. And it is unlike any coal mine I have seen. There are no shafts or colliery wheels, just a hole the size of several Wembley Stadiums. It’s a surface mine, with Britain’s biggest digger spitting 70-ton mouthfuls into Britain’s largest dumper trucks, each the size of a Tesco Metro on wheels. Jencks calls it ‘a ballet of machinery’.

With this sort of surface mine, the topsoil and rocks are all put into piles. The coal and fire clay are then extracted down below, in an operation due to last another seven years. Come 2018, all the soil and rocks must be back in the ground as if nothing had happened and the land will be farmed once again.

Except that you always end up taking out more than you can put back due to a phenomenon known as ‘bulkage’ (take a lot of rocks out of the ground and you will find they never go back in as neatly before). And, in this case, a million cubic yards of surplus has been hauled over to a neighbouring part of the estate to form Northumberlandia.

‘It would have been cheaper to leave it where it was,’ says Mark Dowdall of the Banks Group. ‘But that would not have enhanced the landscape.’ [Well, fricking DUH!] 

A mile away, I stand at the base of Northumberlandia’s head which, at this distance, looks just like a mountain of mud. We drive up hillside tracks to her hip and one of her breasts (the other one has yet to take shape) and then wind our way up to her face. Even now, as bulldozers comb her hair and steamrollers flatten her skin, it is easy to make out her feminine contours.

Up at the top, site manager Iain Lowther, 26, is supervising a chap in a digger who is carefully defining the lady’s lips. Some lipstick!

Next will be her nose — due to rise another 13ft above her face. But every feature will be surveyed and checked against sat-nav, computer graphics and the beady eye of Charles Jencks. I ask him why her right hand is pointing west. ‘It’s an enigma!’ he says. [Yeah, right.  It's the "Land of the Dead" -- the place from which rebirth occurs.]

Lowther explains that the figure has a mudstone base with crushed sandstone above and clay on top.
In due course, Northumberlandia will enjoy a spray-on tan in the form of ‘hydro seeded’ topsoil. After a year of bedding in, the seeds will have grown into grass and she will no longer be browny-grey but green, while her face, her paths and her viewing platforms will have a hard stone surface.

Bob Downer points out various natural curves down her back which would lend themselves to open-air concerts. It should be a popular venue. Once they have appeared at Wembley, Glastonbury and the Dome, won’t pop stars want to say that they have done Slag Alice, too?

Matt Ridley, 53, is not around today, being on business in Australia. But I bump into his father, Viscount Ridley, the brother of the late and famously straight-talking Tory Cabinet Minister Nick Ridley. The lively 85-year-old peer is absolutely thrilled as he shows a plan of Northumberlandia to a visiting Austrian Archduke.

‘You see, that’s her face, those are her breasts and that’s her arse,’ he explains. ‘Her hip, Lord Ridley,’ interjects an engineer diplomatically.

It strikes me as a brilliant idea, reminiscent of Cornwall’s Eden Project, another monster regeneration project born out of a disused quarry and now a much-loved local landmark.

The Eden Project, of course, soon achieved global fame when it was used as the location for a James Bond film. Northumberlandia could do the same. She’d make the perfect hideout for a female villain, complete with missile silos in her embonpoint. I suggest the idea to Bob Downer.

‘We’ve never thought of that,’ he says. ‘But they used to film Byker Grove round here.’

It’s time to think big in Northumberland. Very big indeed.

Not Cannibals After All?

This story certainly presents a different take on this discovery - I'm sure I read about it a few months ago and then it was being said the marks on the human bones were evidence of butchering.  Now, the careful term defleshing is being used.  Well, as much as I hate to think that humans ate other humans, we certainly know that happened, so why not back then, too?  Does that make us sound too uncivilized, certainly a lot less civilized than the so-called Neanderthals?

20 June 2011 Last updated at 19:22 ET
Early human fossils unearthed in Ukraine
By Jennifer Carpenter
Science reporter, BBC News

Ancient remains uncovered in Ukraine represent some of the oldest evidence of modern people in Europe, experts have claimed.

Archaeologists found human bones and teeth, tools, ivory ornaments and animal remains at the Buran-Kaya cave site.

The 32,000-year-old fossils bear cut marks suggesting they were defleshed as part of a post-mortem ritual.

Details have been published in the journal PLoS One.

Archaeologist Dr Alexander Yanevich from the National Ukrainian Academy of Science in Kiev discovered the four Buran-Kaya caves in the Crimean mountains in 1991.

Since then, roughly two hundred human bone fragments have been unearthed at the site.  Among the shards of human bones and teeth, archaeologists have found ornaments fashioned from ivory, along with the abundant remains of animals.

The artefacts made by humans at the site allowed archaeologists to tie the ancient people to a cultural tradition known as the Gravettian. This culture came to span the entire European continent and is named after the site of La Gravette in France, where this stone age culture was first studied.

Researchers were able to directly date the human fossils using radiocarbon techniques. The shape and form of the remains told the scientists they were dealing with modern humans (Homo sapiens sapiens).
Eastern promise
One thing that intrigued researchers was the scarcity of human long bones (bones from the limbs) in the caves.

The site yielded countless limb bones from antelope, foxes and hares.

But the human remains consisted of vertebrae, teeth and skull bones no larger than 12cm. What is more, the positions of cut marks found on the human fragments were distinct from those found on the animal bones.

And while the bone marrow had been removed from butchered animals, it had been left alone in the case of the human remains at the site, explained co-author Sandrine Prat from the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris. She suspects this demonstrates that human bones were processed differently from those of animals. Human flesh was removed as part of ritual "cleaning", not to be eaten.

Defining culture
The finds offer anthropologists a glimpse into a very early and important human culture, said Professor Clive Finlayson, an evolutionary ecologist and director of the Gibraltar Museum.

"Gravettian culture is the culture that defines modern humans. These people had knives, lightweight tools, open air camps, they used mammoth bones to make tents," he said, adding that this was the earliest example of the Gravettian cultural tradition.

Professor Finlayson said that uncovering evidence of this culture in Ukraine gave weight to the idea that early modern people spread into Europe from the Russian plains, not north through the Balkans from the Middle East.

"What has excited me is that we have found evidence of humans where I would expect them to be, exploiting foods that I would expect them to be exploiting," Professor Finlayson told BBC News.
What happened to the "long bones," then? Were they buried somewhere, yet to be discovered?  Did they dissolve away while the other bones/fragments survived inside the cave? 

So, perhaps humans were eating each other 32,000 years ago - or not.  The jury is definitely still out on this one.  Just because the marrow wasn't removed from the human bones doesn't mean the flesh wasn't consumed.  Perhaps there was some big tribal ataboo about eating human bone marrow.  We just don't know - and probably will never know.

Still not explained - how Homo Sapiens Sapiens, Homo Neanderthalis and Homo Denisovan could breed with each other and produce viable human beings that evidently also were able to produce offspring, enough at any rate, that some genes of both Neanderthal and Denisovan are found in modern human populations.  (This was reported at New Science on June 16, 2010, Breeding with Neanderthals helped humans go global).  Do you see the bias implicit in that article's title?  As if Neanderthals were something less than fully human!  Har!

Some people would have us believe that modern humans and the chimpanzee are like 99.98% related.  Fine - so their DNA may share many similarities.  Yet, humans cannot breed with chimpanzees, or great apes, or bonopos, etc. etc.  Let's face it, there is a fundamental, unbridgeable difference between a human being and not-human ape-like being, and never the twain shall meet, not 2 million, 1 million, 100,000 or 10,000 years ago, and not 10,000, 100,000, 1 million or 2 million years from now.  Neanderthals and Denisovans were fully human, and they bred with other humans.  Their descendants walk among us today, and we know it now, for certain, because some of their unique DNA sequences survived in today's human population.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Shaman Whalers of the Alutiiq

Absolutely fascinating!  This is the first time I have read an actual description of a method for hunting a whale long before gun-fired harpoons were used.

From Anchorage Daily News
Shaman Whalers of Ancient Kodiak Island
Posted by frontierscientists
Posted: June 9, 2011 - 5:54 pm

Until the jet age, human survival in the unforgiving climate of the Gulf of Alaska’s islands was a matter of what sustenance could be drawn from the sea. Ongoing research into petroglyphs found on Kodiak Island’s rocky shores is adding to understanding of a fascinating whaling culture that was deeply spiritual, artistic—and practiced mummification.

The Alutiiq tribe’s way of life is being explored by a team of frontier scientists who have been documenting native settlements on the Gulf of Alaska, including hundreds of petroglyphs carved into the shore rocks—among them, many images of whales.

The carvings fall into three sorts, human faces, animals, and geographic designs. On rocks a bit inland from the shore are dozens of faces reminiscent of Matisse, many including holes depicting labrets--large lip plugs that were pierced on both sides of the face below the mouth.

On rocks near the ocean, carvings of whales are found. “Whalers were essentially loner shamans,” explains Harvard-educated archaeologist Sven Haakanson, himself an Alutiiq person and lifelong Kodiak resident with deep appreciation for the artistry of the glyphs. “They were solitary, considered very spiritual. They worked alone, except perhaps when training an apprentice, and were probably a bit feared, because of the power and knowledge they had.”

Part of their special status came from the unique hunting practices they developed.

Alutiiq whalers used lances tipped with sharp stone points coated with poison to take their prey. To keep the poison—derived from plants that still grow on Kodiak—from washing off in the sea, a strong adhesive was needed, namely fat. Sven says this need was behind the Alutiiq practice of mummifying gifted hunters following their deaths. “A whaler needed the fat of a powerful dead person, not just anyone, because they believed incorporating the spiritual essence of that person into their hunting gear enhanced its power. So if you were a great hunter, you were honored by being mummified.”

The shaman-whalers used fat harvested from these mummies to coat their spear tips and enhance their chances of success.

It was dangerous work, according to Sven. “If you cut yourself while readying your lance and the poison got in there, it would kill you in about a minute.” Chasing a whale across the bay, alone, in a single-man boat was no picnic either. With luck, a hunter would strike the whale in the fluke or tail, delivering the poison which began to do its work. Then the whaler would lay a long line of mummy fat across the mouth of the bay, to create a spiritual barrier that kept the whale from fleeing to open ocean.

Next, the shaman-hunter would return to shore for a fast of three days, the time it usually took for a paralyzed whale to drown, surface and be brought in on the currents.

“Our best interpretation of the whale petroglyphs at Cape Alitak is that they were both a good luck charm that would bring the whales in, and a gesture of thanks for giving sustenance to the community.”

Such mysteries are the stuff of frontier archaeologists. Sven’s ground-breaking research—his work was acknowledged with a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant in 2007—is continuing this summer at Cape Alitak. Seem more vodcasts on the project here.

Merry Ann Moore is a writer and communications consultant for

Hou Yifan in Field of Six

Women's world champ Hou Yifan in field of six players at AAI Chess
IANS | Jun 20, 2011, 12.09pm IST

NEW DELHI: There is a sense of great expectancy as the six-player field descends for the inaugural AAI Grandmasters Chess tournament starting on Tuesday.

The six-player field includes women's world champion Hou Yifan of China, besides the prodigiously talented Fabiano Caruana, who completes 19 years next month, Czech Champion Viktor Laznicka, Filipino No. 1 Wesley So, Indian National champion Parimarjan Negi and Krishnan Sasikiran, India's second highest rated player after Viswanathan Anand.

The draw for the tournament will be held Tuesday in the presence of the six players and Sports Minister Ajay Maken.

The four foreign stars are all excited about coming to India. They not only want to play chess, but are also keen on tasting Indian food and experiencing Indian culture, about which they have heard so much.

"I have never been to India before and I very much look forward to playing there," said junior World No. 1, Caruana.

"I know that Indian chess is growing in terms of the strength and the number of players."

Though Laznicka feels that Sasikiran, with whom he shared the top spot back in Kolkata Open in 2008, is one of the favourites, Caruana sees the tournament is very open.

"I believe there is no favourite. All players are young, experienced and quite strong," he said.

Asked about what he knew about India and Indian chess, Laznicka said: "I like many things about India. It will be hard to express it in one sentence or in shot. But generally, I like the way chess players are treated in India."

The Indian duo, Sasikiran and Negi, have already qualified for the World Cup in Khaty-Mansiysk in Russia later this year. Negi, who holds the record of being the youngest Grandmaster from India, recently became the first Delhi player to win the National championships. The two are also Arjuna Awardees.

Sasi, the senior-most player in the field at 30, is a former national champion and winner of many international events, is also the only Indian other than Indian to cross 2700 in ratings. Amongst Sasi's many credits is a win over Anand in 2002.

Hou Yifan will look do well in the tournament and defend her world title later this year.

Wesley So of the Philippines is World Junior No. 4 and the National Champion of his country.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

FIDE Continental Americas Amateur Chess Championship 2011

Information consolidated from Susan Polgar's chess blog and the North American Chess Association's website for this fantastic event!  I hope I see the names of many players from my adopted chess club, Southwest Chess Club (southeastern Milwaukee County, Wisconsin), trying for the big prizes!!!  There are already 79 players registered and I recognized several of the names from Goddesschess' sponsorship to the Hales Corners Chess Challenges organized by the Southwest Chess Club -- but so far only four chess femmes!  Come on ladies, now is your chance to shine with these nice class prizes!

$15,000 Prize Fund Guaranteed
The only 4th of July tournament in Chicago with a Guaranteed Prize Fund!

7R-SS Game 90 + 30/sec increment
Playing Venue:  Intercontinental Hotel at O'Hare (Chicago, Illinois)

The FIDE Continental Americas Amateur Chess Championship is brought to the US for the first time in the tournaments history. The event will provide the opportunity to meet and compete against international chess players from North, Central, and South America.

The $15,000 prize fund is guaranteed and will increase in accordance to participation. All participants will compete in a single section with prizes available based upon rating classes:

Overall: $2000-1250-750; Top Female: $800-400
Top 2199-2100 and 2099-2000: $500 each
(1999-1800): $1000-600-400-200
(1799-1600): $1000-600-400-200
(1599-1400): $1000-600-400-200
(Under 1400): $1000-600-400-200

To be eligible to participate you must have a FIDE rating below 2200 and no title or no FIDE rating at all. This makes the event eligible to almost all players!

Rds 1 and 2 - July 1st @ 12pm and 6pm
Rds 3 and 4 - July 2nd @ 12pm and 6pm
Rds 5 and 6 - July 3rd @ 12pm and 6pm
Rd 7 - July 4 @ 12pm or take a bye!

As with all North American Chess Association organized events, all equipment is provided for you to make your chess playing experience the simplest and most enjoyable that it can be!

You have the chance to create fireworks over the board and then head to Navy Pier to watch a fireworks celebration over Lake Michigan! Or spend time at the world famous Taste of Chicago and try out multiple mouth watering cuisines from local restaurants!

$85 room rate - 4 Star Hotel

Make your reservations today for the $85 per night rate good throughout the entire event! Reserve online or by calling the hotel directly at (847) 544-5300. Be sure to mention that you are with the Chess Tournament: group code CHS.

Free shuttle from O'Hare airport and from the CTA Blue Line Train.

Special Prizes
$80,000 in Texas Tech University Scholarships - The SPICE program once again offers us two (2) scholarships valued up to $40,000 each to the top male and female finisher under the age of 26.*

World Amateur Accommodations - The Turkish Chess Federation has graciously extended free hotel, meals, and entry fee accommodations for the World Amateur Chess Championship to be held in Turkey in October to the top male and female finisher.*

Entry fee after 6/18/11:  $100.  Further information

*See official regulations for further information and qualification guidelines for these prizes.

Hmmm...that gentle rain has turned into a cloudburst!

Downpour and winds, too!  I had to close the patio door because of suddenly overflowing water gushing from the rain gutters above.  The wind is shifting around and started blowing up suddenly, first from the south (first shot taken through the screen door on the front porch), now from the north/northeast (two photos of the backyard taken from the patio door)!  Go figure!  It's lightening up considerably in the west, which means this front will be blowing out of here shortly

Oh, my poor peonies!

Wow - blowing out of here quickly - not even 5 minutes after I took these photos, all is calm outside once more, and a gentle drizzle is falling -- but, just to remind me that it's still a summer thunder storm, a big BOOM just blasted off right above the house, shaking and rattling everything, including my insides!

Wouldn't you know it!

It had been rumbling thunder in the distance since about 7:30 a.m. or so but the sky, while overcast, was still relatively light, and so I engaged in my usual Sunday morning ritual thinking I would have some time to get outside and do some yard work before the rains came:  feed the animals, coffee and cookies while reading the paper at a leisurely pace, check email and respond, water plants.  I got dressed and headed outdoors for more yard work at 9:15 and of course the minute I opened the garage door with Scott's all-in-one seed/mulch bag in my arms, it started raining!  But that was good for the fresh seed/mulch mixture I put down, I have to say.  One bag did not, unfortunately, go very far, but since this is the premium stuff I hope it will sprout relatively quickly and grow in nice and lush!  The lawn out front, where everyone passing by sees it, must be presentable!  Rule Number One of home ownership: no crappy looking front yards allowed!

So, now it's raining a nice steady, gentle rain, good for the grass!  It's rumbling thunder, occasionally a big bangboom, but only a few flashes of lightning that I've seen.  Things seem to be moving slowly to the southeast.  It's dark in the house so I've got some lights on - at 9:45 a.m.!  It is also nice and mild outside and things are very very still out there - almost (dare I say it?) like tornado weather except for the temperature - no extreme heat and no extreme cold front clashing here.  Whew! 

The stillness allows me to keep both front door (sheltered by a small covered front porch) and the patio door off the dinette open to air out the house while the upstairs windows on the north and south of the house are closed.  The west facing windows I can keep open for fresh air because of the deep overhang sheltering them from all but the strongest wind-blown rain. 

Oooh, now the rain is coming down faster, but straight down!  Ooooh, a big lightning flash and crackling thunder rather than the booming kind.  Guess this will be here for awhile.  No more yard work today for moi.

Time to do some laundry...
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