Saturday, January 12, 2013

Patti Page Has Died

Oh my.  I just saw the news.  She was one of Dad's (and Mom's, too) favorite singers.  She is an icon of a long-gone era, and the generation of which she was a part is fast dying now. I still remember hearing "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window" over and over and over again, on Mom's portable record player she kept in the living room where she would bop around in stocking feet on the linoleum floor with the aunties when they visited.   I was born in 1951 so it wouldn't have been a "hit" by the time I was old enough to remember it (about age 7) but it remained vastly popular years after it was a "hit."  Here is the beautiful Miss Patti Page (looks rather like Grace Kelly, I think), singing her big hit "The Tennesssee Waltz" in a clip from some (unknown) television show circa 1950:

Obituary at The New York Times:

Patti Page, Honey-Voiced ’50s Pop Sensation, Dies at 85

Ms. Page had briefly been a singer with Benny Goodman when she emerged at the end of the big band era, just after World War II, into a cultural atmosphere in which pop music was not expected to be challenging. Critics assailed her style as plastic, placid, bland and antiseptic, but those opinions were not shared by millions of record buyers. As Jon Pareles wrote in The New York Times in 1997, “For her fans, beauty and comfort were one and the same.”
“Doggie in the Window,” a perky 1952 novelty number written by Bob Merrill and Ingrid Reuterskiöld, featured repeated barking sounds and could claim no more sophisticated a lyric than “I must take a trip to California.” It is often cited as an example of what was wrong with pop music in the early ’50s, a perceived weakness that opened the door for rock ’n’ roll. But if that is true, and if the silky voice of “the singing rage, Miss Patti Page,” as she was introduced during her heyday, was mechanical or sterile, she had significant achievements nonetheless.
“Tennessee Waltz,” from 1950, sold 10 million copies and is largely considered the first true crossover hit; it spent months on the pop, country and rhythm-and-blues charts.
Ms. Page was believed to be the first singer to overdub herself, long before technology made that method common. Mitch Miller, a producer for Mercury Records, had her do it first on “Confess,” in 1948, when there were no backup singers because of a strike.
The height of her career predated the Grammy Awards, which were created in 1959, but she finally won her first and only Grammy in 1999 for “Live at Carnegie Hall,” a recording of a 1997 concert celebrating her 50th anniversary as a performer. Her career was also the basis of recent, short-lived Off Broadway musical, “Flipside: The Patti Page Story.”
In the early days of television Ms. Page hosted several brief network series, including “Scott Music Hall” (1952), a 15-minute NBC show that followed the evening news two nights a week, and “The Big Record,” which ran one season, 1957-58, on CBS. “The Patti Page Show” was an NBC summer fill-in series in 1956.
Ms. Page defended her demure, unpretentious style as appropriate for its time. “It was right after the war,” she told The Advocate of Baton Rouge, La., in 2002, “and people were waiting to just settle down and take a deep breath and relax.”
She was born Clara Ann Fowler on Nov. 8, 1927, in Claremore, Okla., a small town near Tulsa, one of 11 children of a railroad laborer.
Having shown talent as an artist, Clara took a job in the art department of the Tulsa radio station KTUL, but an executive there had heard her sing and soon asked her to take over a short country-music show called “Meet Patti Page” (Time magazine called it “a hillbilly affair”), sponsored by Page Milk. She adopted the fictional character’s name and kept it.
The newly named Ms. Page broke away from her radio career to tour with Jimmy Joy’s band and was shortly signed by Mercury Records. She had her first hit, “With My Eyes Wide Open, I’m Dreaming,” in 1950. Other notable recordings were “Cross Over the Bridge,” “Mockin’ Bird Hill,” “Allegheny Moon” and her last hit, “Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte,” which she recorded as the theme for the Bette Davis movie of the same name. That song was nominated for an Oscar, and Ms. Page sang it on the 1965 Academy Awards telecast.
Ms. Page briefly pursued a movie career in her early 30s, playing an evangelical singer alongside Burt Lancaster and Jean Simmons in “Elmer Gantry” (1960), David Janssen’s love interest in the comic-strip-inspired “Dondi” (1961) and a suburban wife in the comedy “Boys’ Night Out” (1962), with Kim Novak and James Garner. She had one of her earliest acting roles in 1957 on an episode of “The United States Steel Hour.”
In later decades her star faded, but she continued to sing professionally throughout her 70s. Early in the 21st century she was performing in about 40 to 50 concerts a year. In 2002 and 2003 she released an album of children’s songs, a new “best of” collection and a Christmas album.
Ms. Page married Charles O’Curran, a Hollywood choreographer, in 1956. They divorced in 1972. In 1990 she married Jerry Filiciotto, a retired aerospace engineer, with whom she founded a New Hampshire company marketing maple syrup products. He died in 2009. Survivors include her son, Danny O’Curran; her daughter, Kathleen Ginn; and a number of grandchildren.
Ms. Page’s nice-girl image endured. In 1988, when she was 60, she told The Times: “I’m sure there are a lot of things I should have done differently. But I don’t think I’ve stepped on anyone along the way. If I have, I didn’t mean to.”

Suggestion of Infanticide in Etruscan Town Refuted

From Past Horizons

Infanticide in paradise?

Ancient Persian Dome Technique Used in Florence Cathedral

Absolutely fascinating.  I wonder how old this Persian technique was and how it was that Filippo Brunelleschi (1377-1446) discovered the technique?  Did he travel in the Middle East?  Did he come across ancient texts describing the technique in some obscure library or other?  And how did he successfully employ it in building the magnificent dome at the Santa Maria del Fiore, the highest and widest (143 feet in diameter) masonry dome in the world?

From Discovery News Online

Scale Model Discovered for Florence Cathedral


Friday, January 11, 2013

"Good Hearted Man" by Tift Merritt

Absolutely awesome song, I heard it for the first time today while I was doing some lunch-time shopping at the TJ Maxx in the mall downtown near where I work.  I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I did.  The song stuck with me all through the rest of the day when I got back to the office and I talked about it tonight with the Cougars (a/k/a The Ladies of the Bus) and Jo whipped out her smart phone thingy and did a search and voila!  Got me the name of the artist who sang it and also the info that the song had been nominated for song of the year (presumably the year it came out).  But never heard of this singer.  I don't know if she wrote the song, but she sure did perform it well.  But then, judge for yourself:

Chess Princess: Yue 'Penny' Xu

Urbana High School chess champion used early losses as motivation

Chess Princess: Sheena Yang

Sheena is a venerated name in the lore of legendary queens and princesses.

Hays girl, 8, claims big prizes in national chess tournaments
7:01 a.m. CST, January 11, 2013
HAYS, Kan. (AP) — An 8-year-old Hays girl is gaining notoriety for her chess skills.

The Hays Daily News reports ( ) that Sheena Zeng, a fourth-grader at O'Loughlin Elementary School, won about $2,000 over the Christmas holidays at chess tournaments in California and Nevada.

Sheena captured second place, and about $1,800, in her age division at the North American Open in Las Vegas, and won another $364 at the New Year's Open in Santa Clara, Calif.

Her father Hongbiao (hong-bee-OW) Zeng (Jung) is a math professor at Fort Hays State University, where his wife, Michelle, is an instructor in the same department.

Sheena is also a U.S. Junior Open champion and has had top four finishes in numerous other national and international competitions.


Information from: The Hays (Kan.) Daily News,


This table shows that since Sheena started USCF-rated competition, she has increased her ELO rating by close to 1,000 points.  From May 8, 2011, when she started out with a rating of 412 when she played in the 2011 National Elementary Championships to 1375 when she played on January 6, 2013 in the Bay Area New Year's Open. 

New Look at Old Evidence Yields New Insight

Another excellent Der Spiegel Online article

Abandoned Colony in Greenland Archaeologists Find Clues to Viking Mystery
For years, researchers have puzzled over why Viking descendents abandoned Greenland in the late 15th century. But archaeologists now believe that economic and identity issues, rather than starvation and disease, drove them back to their ancestral homes.
On Sept. 14, 1408, Thorstein Olafsson and Sigrid Björnsdottir were married. The ceremony took place in a church on Hvalsey Fjord in Greenland that was only five meters (about 16 feet) tall.

It must have been difficult for the bride and groom to recognize each other in the dim light of the church. The milky light of late summer could only enter the turf-roofed church through an arched window on the east side and a few openings resembling arrow slits. After the ceremony, the guests fortified themselves with seal meat.

The marriage of the Icelander and the girl from Greenland was one of the last raucous festivals in the far northern Viking colony. It all ended soon afterwards, when the last oil lamps went out in the Nordic settlements in Greenland.

The descendants of the Vikings had persevered in their North Atlantic outpost for almost 500 years, from the end of the 10th century until the mid-15th century. The Medieval Warm Period had made it possible for settlers from Norway, Iceland and Denmark to live on hundreds of scattered farms along the protected fjords, where they built dozens of churches and even had bishops.

Their disappearance remains a mystery to this day. Until now, many experts had assumed that the cooling of the climate and the resulting crop failures and famines had ushered in the end of the Scandinavian colony. But now a Danish-Canadian team of scientists believes that it can refute this theory of decline.

From Farmers to Seal Hunters

The scientists conducted isotope analyses on hundreds of human and animal bones found on the island. Their study, published in the Journal of the North Atlantic, paints the most detailed picture to date of the Nordic settlers' dietary habits.

As the research shows, hunger could hardly have driven the ancestors of the Vikings out of their settlements on the edge of the glaciers. The bone analyses prove that, when the warm period came to an end, the Greenlandic farmers and ranchers switched to a seafood-based diet with surprising rapidity. From then on, the settlers focused their efforts on hunting the seals that appeared in large numbers off the coasts of Greenland during their annual migrations.

When settlement began in the early 11th century, only between 20 and 30 percent of their diet came from the sea. But seal hunting played a growing role in the ensuing centuries. "They ate more and more seal meat, with the animals constituting up to 80 percent of their diet in the 14th century," explains team member Jan Heinemeier, a dating expert from the University of Aarhus, in Denmark.

His fellow team member Niels Lynnerup, an anthropologist and forensic scientist at the University of Copenhagen, confirms that the Vikings of Greenland had plenty to eat even as the climate grew colder. "Perhaps they were just sick and tired of living at the ends of the earth and having almost nothing but seals to eat," he says.

The bone analyses show that they rarely ate meat from their own herds of livestock. The climate had become harsher on the island starting in the mid-13th century. Summer temperatures fell, violent storms raged around the houses and the winters were bone-chillingly cold. For the cattle that had been brought to Greenland, there was less and less to eat in the pastures and meadows along the fjords.
On the smaller farms, cattle were gradually replaced with sheep and goats, which were easier to rear. The isotope analyses show that pigs, valued for their meat, were fed fish and seal remains for a while longer but had disappeared from the island by around 1300.

The farmers, who had switched their focus to seal hunting, apparently did hardly anything to avert the decline of their livestock economy. The scientists' analyses of animal bones show that the Greenlanders didn't even try to help their cattle survive the long, icy winter by feeding them something of a starvation diet of bushes, horse manure, seaweed and fish waste, a widespread practice in regions of Northern Europe with similar climatic challenges until a few decades ago.

It also appears that epidemics were not responsible for the decline of farm life on the island. The scientists did not discover more signs of disease in the Viking bones uncovered on the island than elsewhere. "We found normal skeletons, which looked just like comparable finds from Scandinavian countries," says Lynnerup.

Increasing Isolation

So, if it wasn't starvation or disease, what triggered the abandonment of the Greenland settlements in the second half of the 15th century? The scientists suspect that a combination of causes made life there unbearable for the Scandinavian immigrants. For instance, there was hardly any demand anymore for walrus tusks and seal skins, the colony's most important export items. What's more, by the mid-14th century, regular ship traffic with Norway and Iceland had ceased.

As a result, Greenland's residents were increasingly isolated from their mother countries. Although they urgently needed building lumber and iron tools, they could now only get their hands on them sporadically. "It became more and more difficult for the Greenlanders to attract merchants from Europe to the island," speculates Jette Arneborg, an archeologist at the National Museum of Denmark, in Copenhagen. "But, without trade, they couldn't survive in the long run."

The settlers were probably also worried about the increasing loss of their Scandinavian identity. They saw themselves as farmers and ranchers rather than fishermen and hunters. Their social status depended on the land and livestock they owned, but it was precisely these things that could no longer help them produce what they needed to survive.

Although the descendants of the Vikings had adjusted to life in the north, there were limits to their assimilation. "They would have had to live more and more like the Inuit, distancing themselves from their cultural roots," says Arneborg. "This growing contradiction between identity and reality was apparently what led to their decline."

An Orderly Abandonment

In the final phase, it was young people of child-bearing age in particular who saw no future for themselves on the island. The excavators found hardly any skeletons of young women on a cemetery from the late period.

"The situation was presumably similar to the way it is today, when young Greeks and Spaniards are leaving their countries to seek greener pastures in areas that are more promising economically," Lynnerup says. "It's always the young and the strong who go, leaving the old behind."
In addition, there was a rural exodus in their Scandinavian countries at the time, and the population in the more remote regions of Iceland, Norway and Denmark was thinning out. This, in turn, freed up farms and estates for returnees from Greenland.

However, the Greenlanders didn't leave their houses in a precipitous fashion. Aside from a gold signet ring in the grave of a bishop, valuable items, such as silver and gold crucifixes, have not been discovered anywhere on the island. The archeologists interpret this as a sign that the departure from the colony proceeded in an orderly manner, and that the residents took any valuable objects along. "If they had died out as a result of diseases or natural disasters, we would certainly have found such precious items long ago," says Lynnerup.

The couple that was married in the church on Hvalsey Fjord also left the island shortly after their wedding. In Iceland, the couple had to provide the local bishop with written proof that they had entered into a bond for life under a sod roof according to the rules of the mother church. Their reports are the last documents describing the lives of the Nordic settlers in Greenland.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

DNA Showing We're Not a Tree - We're a Bramble Bush!

A History Lesson from Genes: Using DNA to Tell Us How Populations Change

Jan. 9, 2013When Charles Darwin first sketched how species evolved by natural selection, he drew what looked like a tree. The diagram started at a central point with a common ancestor, then the lines spread apart as organisms evolved and separated into distinct species.

In the 175 years since, scientists have come to agree that Darwin's original drawing is a bit simplistic, given that multiple species mix and interbreed in ways he didn't consider possible (though you can't fault the guy for not getting the most important scientific theory of all time exactly right the first time). Using a tree-like structure is a great way to show the history of the evolution of a species, or its phylogeny. But it's not so great for showing the population history of groups within a single species, such as humans, who can move around and interbreed with each other.

Jonathan Pritchard, PhD, professor in the department of human genetics, studies the nature of these human genetic variations by combining methods from evolutionary biology and statistics. Intrigued by recent research on the Neanderthal genome that suggests more interbreeding with Homo sapiens than previously thought, Pritchard wanted to develop a general method for estimating gene flow between different groups within the same species over time. In a recent paper published in PLOS Genetics, he and Joseph Pickrell, a former University of Chicago researcher now at Harvard, described a software model they developed that can infer the history of population splits and mixtures within a species based on modern DNA.

"If you try to make a tree of population histories within a species, there's always the possibility that you've got genes flowing from one branch to another," Pritchard said. "The populations can interbreed, so if they're geographically together or if there's movement from one place to another, then this tree representation is not necessarily going to be a good way of representing history. The goal of this research is to learn more about departures from 'tree-ness.'"

Pritchard and Pickrell developed software called TreeMix that compares how often variants of a particular gene from different populations appear in the same species. It then calculates how closely groups are related, and when in their history they separated to form a genetically distinct population or breed.

The resulting graph looks less like tree branches and more like a tangled shrub or mass of vines. The trunk of the shrub represents the major relationships between the groups, and the largest branches represent distinct populations as they develop over time from left to right on the graph. But those tangled vines that crisscross the branches are the key, showing migration events where a previously separate population mixed with another, rejoining to form a new group at a later point in time.

Pritchard and Pickrell tested the model using DNA from 55 human populations and 82 dog breeds, and already found some interesting results. For example, boxer and basenji breeds of dogs trace a large portion of their DNA (nine percent and 25 percent, respectively) back to wolves after domestication, meaning that these breeds interbred with wolves again after humans had begun to domesticate dogs.

"What I like about this is that it's starting to give us some resolution on relationships that are just much more complicated than you can capture using the standard tree approach," Pritchard said.

He gave another example of the Mozabite people who live in Algeria. Their DNA is largely a mixture of European and Middle Eastern ancestry, but they also mixed with sub-Saharan African ancestors at various points in their history. The new model can represent the complex relationships among all of these backgrounds, whereas the traditional tree-based method would just show a primary relationship to Middle Easterners.

Another group of researchers has already used Pritchard's software to show a link between Denisovans, an extinct relative of Neanderthals found in Siberia, and Papuans in the South Pacific. It doesn't make geographic sense right away, but such a finding forces researchers to ask more questions about how these groups migrated and changed over time. Much like DNA evidence has revolutionized criminal investigations, often negating assumptions based on physical evidence, advanced genetic analysis like Pritchard's can change what we think about human history as well.


I recommend taking a look at the illustration that is included in the article, above -- I did not reproduce it here.  I need to have it explained to me because I don't know if I'm "reading" it correctly.  If I am, it sure is showing some absolutely remarkable and fascinating things about how our human ancestors met, mated, and parted, and met, mated and parted with others, either much, or not so much!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Athenian "Snake Goddess" Now Identified As Demeter, Not Athena

Athenian 'Snake Goddess' Gets New Identity

SEATTLE - A mysterious "snake goddess" painted on terracotta and discovered in Athens may actually be Demeter, the Greek goddess of the harvest.

Once linked to the worship of the dead, the goddess is flanked by two snakes on a slab of terracotta about the size of a piece of notebook paper. She has her hands up above her head, which has given her the nickname "the touchdown goddess" thanks to the resemblance of the pose to a referee's signal. The goddess is painted in red, yellow and blue-green on a tile, with only her head molded outward in three dimensions. This unusual piece of art was found amid a jumble of gravel and other terracotta fragments in 1932 in what was once the Athenian agora, or public square.

The catch, however, is that the snake goddess isn't originally from the agora. The gravel and figurine fragments were fill material, brought in from an unknown second location to build a path or road in the seventh century B.C.

"Not only is our snake goddess unidentified, but she's homeless," said study researcher Michael Laughy of Washington and Lee University in Virginia. "She got mixed up in that road gravel, presumably obtained near the site of her original shrine."

Forgotten offering

Along with the snake goddess plaque, the road fill contains small terracotta figurines, or votives, of humans, chariots, shields, loom weights, portions of spindles and pottery disks, most of which individually could fit in the palm of a hand. The terracotta figurines were used during this time period as offerings at the sanctuaries of gods and goddesses, Laughy told LiveScience after presenting his findings here at the annual meeting of the Archaeological Institute of America.

Normally, he said, the votive offerings were considered somewhat sacred, and once cleared from sanctuaries would be buried and left undisturbed in a pit. Thus, although it's typical to see artifacts out of place in Athens, which has been built over for thousands of years, it's strange to see votives used as road fill, Laughy said.

Tracing the source of this fill is a difficult task. Previously, archaeologists have assumed the figurines originated from the worship of the dead, linking the items found in Athens to ones found at a Bronze Age tomb outside the city. But the items at that tomb don't match all those found in the Athens agora, Laughy said.

Displaced goddess

More Likely, according to Laughy's analysis, the snake-flanked woman is both a representation of and an offering to a goddess. Votive deposits from the shrines of goddesses include pottery disks, terracotta horses, plaques and shields, as well as female figurines. These votives match the finds uncovered in Athens.

In particular, shrines devoted to Demeter and Athena, the goddess of wisdom and war, show the closest matches to the types of figurines found, Laughy said.

Demeter is a strong candidate, as there was a shrine built in her name in the seventh century mere minutes-long walk from the Athens agora, he said. It's the only sanctuary where ancient Greeks are known to have left loom weights and spindle whorls, which are disks that weigh down spindles used for spinning thread and which are found in the Athens fill debris. What's more, Laughy said, the spot was graded in the seventh century, which could have produced a debris pile that was then carted away to make paths in the agora.

Finally, the goddess' serpentine companions also point to Demeter, who was particularly associated with snake iconography, Laughy said.

"Snakes and Demeter are happy together in imagery in the seventh century," he said.

Laughy warned that the evidence linking the snake goddess and Demeter is circumstantial. However, he said, the evidence is strong that the woman is not a figure associated with death, but a goddess. If she were Demeter, the snake goddess plaque would be one of the oldest images ever found of that particular deity.

Either way, the snake goddess is "striking," Laughy said. It's one of the earliest multicolor paintings found in Athens.

"It's an amazing piece of work," he said.

She is a beautiful piece of work.  Maybe she is Athena.  Athena was long associated with serpents/snakes and in her archaic Greek depictions was often seen wearing a cape of serpents; later, she carried a shield made of serpent skin or denoted with serpents around it's border, and the hem of her gown or cloak was trimmed in serpents.  This figure seems to be dressed in a sort of shield-fronted gown.  Have I ever seen Demeter dressed like that?  Not that I recall.

Notice too the give-away that this figure's roots are in the bird-goddess/eye-goddess tradition, just as Athena's -- look at the eyes of the figure on both sides of the plaque!  Those are classic bird-or-eye-goddess brows and eyes. 

I have to agree, though, with one of the comments at the end of the article, which noted that this figurine looks very Minoan or Cretan and may have been a depiction of Hekate (Hecate).  Well, we know that the Greeks, as did the ancient Egyptians, never let go entirely of the most ancient virgin/mother/crone goddesses; they just merged their identities into other goddesses as well as goddesses adopted from other countries that featured similar attributes. Another one of the comments noted similarities to Inanna.  Very possible.  I'm thinking of images of Astarte I've seen, with arms raised in the "touchdown" position, holding a serpent in each hand, surrounded by animals, sometimes depicted standing on the back of an onager or horse.  Astarte, Ishtar, Inanna, all the same female diety in slightly different guises.

Is that a bird of prey painted on her skirt (left side)? 

Interestingly, I find the proportions of the head and face of the figure on the more damaged (washed-out) side of the plaque to be more attractive than the more colorful side.  I find her prettier, too.  The ladies are not identical, the heads are slightly different sizes, the eyes, although styled the same, and the noses, are definitely different, and the hair on the more colorful rendition of the lady is wider and fuller., particularly across the forehead area.  When looking at the other image, I get a more "Egyptian" feeling; in looking at the more colorful rendition of the lady, she looks more Cretan to me. 

The body proportions are, of course, all wrong, almost as if the ladies were dressed in body armor, like the medieval knights of much later times.  Remember Athena's magic cloak and magic serpent shield...  Most interesting of all is that she was discovered in 1932.  And it's taken this long for someone to take a second look to try and figure out who she may be?  Geez! 

"American Airways" Scam Alert

Always remember the first rule of scamming:  When something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

A few days ago I received in the mail a handwritten envelope addressed to me at home.  I opened it and on stationery from "American Airways" I was informed that I had "qualified" for two round trip airline tickets worth up to $1,298.00, but I must respond no later than January 11, 2013. This letter contained a toll-free number and was signed by "Sharon Dole, Vice President."

LOL!  I knew it was a scam instantly, but for the hell of it I tried calling the toll free number and got nothing but music.  I wanted to have some FUN with whoever was on the other end of the line.  No voice greeting indicating that all the lines were busy and to please hold, someone would be with me shortly.  Nope, just music.  Damn!

Tonight, I had a chance to check out "American Airways."  Yes, it is a scam, darlings.  Please check out the Better Business Bureau's Consumer News and Opinion blog.  Starting in December, 2012, similar letters began showing up in my area of SE Wisconsin.  Some folks received letters with an identical toll-free number to the one in my letter, and some folks received letters signed by "Sharon Dole, Vice President."  I wonder if she's related to Bob D -- oh, never mind, LOL!

Beware if you receive something like this in the mail.  Several different phoney but sound-close-to-the-real-airlines are being used to give a ring of authenticity to the "letter."  It's a phishing scheme.  I hope they crack down on these assholes.

Hales Corners Chess Challenge XVII


The year has turned, and that means folks are turning their thoughts toward spring!  So am I.  I am happy to shake the dust of 2012 off my feet and turn my face toward the future.

Since Hales Corners Chess Challenge VIII, Goddesschess has provided prizes for female players who participate in this great event in Milwaukee, which also draws players from throughout Wisconsin and Illinois. 

I will once again be providing prizes for the ladies.  In the Open, a win is worth $40, a draw $20.  In the Reserve, a win is worth $20, a draw $10.  In addition, the top female finisher in each section has her entry fee paid for the next Hales Corners Challenge, should she choose to participate. 

For Challenge XVI, I put together a modest gift bag for the top female finisher in each section (based on tie-breaks).  It seems the gift bags were well received, so I am continuing the tradition for Challenge XVII.

Here are the particulars from the TIL sent in to Chess Life:

Hales Corners Challenge XVII USCF Grand Prix Points: 10. April 13, 2013.
4SS, G/60;d5. 2 Sections: Open & Reserve (under 1600). Comfort Suites Milwaukee
Airport Hotel-6362 S 13th St-Oak Creek-414-570-1111 (mention Southwest Chess Club for $89 room rate). EF: $40-
Open, $30-Reserve, both $5 more after 4/10. Comp EF for USCF 2200+. $$ GTD: Open=1st-$325,
2nd-$175, A-$100, B & Below-$75; Reserve =1st-$100, 2nd-$75,
D-$50, E & Below-$40. Goddesschess Prizes for Females in Addition to Above Prizes
Open: $40 per win/$20 per draw; Reserve: $20 per win/$10 per draw.
Rag: 8:30-9:30, Reds: 10-1-3:30-6. Entries to Allen Becker, N112 W17033
Vista Court, Apt. D, Germantown, WI 53022; Becker email. Questions to TD: Robin Grochowski, (414) 861-2745.

Please note:  For Challenge XVII, the playing venue is now the Comfort Suites Milwaukee Airport Hotel, at 6362 South 13th Street, Oak Creek, Wisconsin.  For locals, this is South 13th Street and around College Avenue.  While the map, below, seems to place the hotel somewhere in the middle of the intersection of 13th and College, that cannot be!

If you bus it, like me, the #19 Milwaukee County Transit System bus will get you pretty close, within walking distance.  The last stop of the bus going south on South 13th Street is on Zellman Court, a few blocks south of College Avenue. 

I believe the hotel complex is a few blocks south of College on South 13th Street, so the Zellman Court bus stop must get one very very close to the hotel. 

I'll be providing updates as we get nearer to the tournament date!

2013 Grand Pacific Open

Hola darlings!

Goddesschess is once again providing some sponsorship for this fine local event:

7th Annual Grand Pacific Open

Easter 2013, March 29-April 1

A 6 round FIDE & CFC rated Swiss
$5000 Guaranteed Prize Fund

The Grand Pacific Open is BC's largest chess tournament and this will be it's 7th annual! The main event is a 6 round FIDE and CFC rated Swiss with $5000 in prizes. There are also a number of side events which are free if you play in the main event and include an active tournament, Midnight Blitz with $100 in prizes, and a Bughouse tournament to finish off the weekend.

You can find all of the details at the websiteHere's a brief summary:

Registration: Online registration or you can also contact us at or by mail at 1012 Spiritwood Place, Victoria, BC V8Y 1C6 (with cheques payable to "Victoria Chess")

Sections: Open (FIDE and CFC rated); U1800 (CFC rated)

Round Times Rd 1 at 6:00 pm Friday March 29; Rds 2 and 3 at 12:00 noon and 6:00 pm Saturday March 30; Rds 4 and 5 at 12:00 noon and 6:00 pm Sunday March 31; Rd 6 at 10:00 am Monday April 1

Prize Fund: $5000 Guaranteed:

Open Section: $1150+Trophy, $700, $450 U2100 $475+Trophy, $375

Top BC Player qualifies for BC Closed.

Top Women $80, $70, $60, $50, $40 (in addition to any other prize Courtesy of Goddess Chess)

U1800 Section: $425+Trophy, $325; U1500 $350+Trophy, $250

Top Unrated (Highest score in either section) $100

Biggest Upset $100

Time Control: Game in 90 minutes with a 30 second increment

Entry Fee , $75 registered and paid on or before Feb. 22, $85 registered and paid on or before March 25, $95 on site. Discount $20 if rated U1400 or unrated. Discount of $5 if playing in the Victoria Youth Championship. Add $20 if playing up a section and rated U1700 or unrated.

Non CFC members add $16 (adult) or $8 (junior). First time players who meet the conditions listed on our Policies page have CFC membership included in entry fee. 2nd & higher entries from one family receive a family discount of $30.

WGM Katerina Rohonyan (2296/2347 CFC), who has battled for the title of U.S. Women's Chess Champion in prior years, is among the registered players.  I am also hoping that WGM Nino Maisuradze, who won the title in 2011 and came in second place (behind only surprise entrant GM Hikaru Nakamura) in 2012, will be able to return to try and reclaim her title.   

Monday, January 7, 2013

2013 Snowdrops v. Veterans

Yes, it's that time again.  The lovely ladies versus the old wrinkled dudes :)

I'd forgot, actually, it was even going on -- sorry.  Leonard Barden's column reminded me:

Women's team close to upsetting veterans with strong showing in Prague


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Viking Women Revisited

It always pays to remember the "baggage" each and every one of us brings along on our journeys of discovery...

Don’t underestimate Viking women

January 2, 2013 - 06:31
The status of Viking women may be underestimated due to the way we interpret burial findings.
“To assume that Viking men were ranked above women is to impose modern values on the past, which would be misleading,” cautions Marianne Moen. She has been studying how women’s status and power is expressed through Viking burial findings. Her master’s thesis The Gendered Landscape argues that viking gender roles may have been more complex than we assume.
Exploring new perspectives of Viking society is a theme which also will be the focus of the forthcoming Viking Worlds conference in March 2013, where Moen is a member of the organising committee.
Skewed interpretation
Our assumptions of gender roles in viking society could skew the way we interpret burial findings, Moen points out. She uses the 1904 excavation of the Oseberg long boat to illustrate the point. Rather than the skeleton of a powerful king or chieftain, the ship surprisingly contained two female skeletons.

“The first theories suggested that this must be the grave of queen Åsa mentioned in Snorri’s Ynglinga saga, and that the other skeleton was her slave servant,” says Moen. Åsa Haraldsdottir was the mother of Viking king Halfdan the Black.

However, later carbon dating revealed that the buried ship was from around 834 AD - a date which made this theory unfeasible. But the idea of a queen mother and her servant became persistent amongst archaeologists.
Powerful Oseberg women
”Since the Oseberg mound contained two women, the burial site has been analysed as a unique find, without reference to similar sites. The finding is very similar to the Gokstadskipet long boat, which is regarded as the grave of a powerful and influential king. So why isn’t Osebergskipet regarded in the same way?” asks Moen.

“There are several indicators that these women were powerful in their own right – but by defining one of them as a queen it is implied that her significance was due to who she was married to or had mothered.”
Using literary sources
And although we accept that some Viking women may have had a role as religious figures (as a ‘volve’) performing rites, we do not accord them the corresponding power they would have had in a society where religious and political power was intertwined, Moen argues.

“Our perception of religion’s influence in the society is based on texts written hundreds of years afterwards, by men from a different and more misogynistic religion.”

Moen feels many archaeologists have put too much emphasis on historical texts, such as Snorri Sturluson’s sagas.

“As archaeologists we have to base our analyses on archaeological material. Historical material do have some value, but only as secondary sources.”
Identifying male graves
The fact that far more graves of men than women have been found from this era has also been seen as an indication that men were more powerful. But it might not be that straightforward to identify a grave as male or female, Moen suggests.

Usually archaeologists have to rely on artefacts to gender identify a grave, due to a lack of human remains. But the presence of male objects (such as swords, shields or spears) or female objects (jewellery, fabric and weaving artefacts) does not conclusively prove the gender.

“There have also been cases of male graves with pearls and woven cloths, and women were sometimes buried with smaller weapons, for instance arrowheads. Generally it is fairly obvious what constitutes male or female objects, but the lines were sometimes blurred.”
Prominent female graves
Added to this, the larger metal objects usually found in male graves are more likely to be discovered after hundreds of years - while smaller female objects such as brooches (and hence, female graves) can remain undetected.

“If it is the case that women belonged to the private sphere of the home and men were in the public sphere of society, this should be reflected in the burial landscape,” Moen points out. But in the Kaupang area she has studied, female graves are side by side with male graves – and just as prominent.
Victorian ideals of domestic women
“Since the Viking era became an important part of building Norwegian national identity in the 19th century, early archaeology was influenced by Victorian ideals. The contemporary ideals of women belonging to the home and men being out in the public was imposed on Viking society,” says Moen.

“The domestic role of Viking women may have been less limited to the private sphere than it is today. The large estates were contemporary seats of power, and the woman of the house had the keys. How private or public this role was should be interpreted outside our own cultural context.”

Looting Continues Unchallenged in Egypt

This is so sad.  This is just one small example of what is going on in the entire country since the so-called Revolution.  Some may argue that what happened to this "mansion" isn't really antiquities looting.  I say - oh really?  And I want to know - who's getting the money from the theft and sale of these items?  I'll bet they go to the Mosque every Friday, and pray real hard to their phoney god, too.

Systematic ruin of Egypt’s antiquities in Haram

The dilapidated mansion has suffered looting and
destruction to its outer structure despite being handled by
the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
Courtesy of Ahmed El-Bendary
The house of Ispenian was robbed during the revolution. Now it is destroyed
Abandoned mansions may be a common sight in most Egyptian cities; when neighbourhoods fall into urban decay a 19-century mansion can be forgotten amongst towering monstrosities from the 50s and 60s.

But the house of Ispenian in the Haram area is not just any abandoned mansion. The beautiful mansion, which houses Mamluk and Ottoman artefacts, was recently found to have been looted. The structure itself has also been partially destroyed.

The place was built around 1935-36 by father and son Paul and Kevork Ispenian, and designed by French architect Joseph Aznavour.

Their collection featured antiquities from the Mamluk and Ottoman era of Egypt. It also included artefacts from the collection of Ambroise Baudry whose 1875-76 mansion was demolished by the turn of the 20th century.

The house stayed in the Ispenian family until the 1960s when it was then sold to the Abdel Nour family who then sold it to the Supreme Council for Antiquities. The house has been abandoned for 15 years.

Ahmed El-Bendary, who works for The Centre for Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage (CULTNAT), first discovered the condition of the house in the spring of last year.

“The house’s contents have always been sealed in red wax and it is a crime to go in. As such, I have only been there from the outside. When I went last spring, I discovered the house to be in a much worse condition; the house’s contents were stolen and the structure was partially demolished.”

El-Bendary was told the house was robbed around the time of the revolution but he says there is no way to know for sure. The house’s contents are registered as antiquities by the Supreme Council for Antiquities.

“Whoever stole the contents knew what they were doing; it was systematic. Everything from the ornamented roof, the ornamental screens, the marble floors and even a historic column supporting the balcony were stolen. They took their time and took everything apart.”

El-Bendary says the column may also date back to the Mamluk or Ottoman era but he is baffled, as is everyone else, on why the structure seems to have been harmed in the process as well.

“The main structure was partially destroyed, as was a smaller, less elaborate structure that could possibly have been a guesthouse or a place for the servants. The house is in the middle of a residential area but it is surrounded by three acres of empty land,” said El-Bendary.

El-Bendary says the mansions’s condition is not unusual by any standards, “these things happen all the time due to negligence.”

Eight Million Dog Mummies Found at Saqqara

Say what?

EIGHT MILLION?  At least -- eight million prayers, over how many hundreds of years? 

From the Goddess' side to the ears of the gods, so the dog has traveled through time.

Eight million dog mummies found in SaqqaraEight million dog mummies were uncovered at the dog catacomb in Saqqara
Nevine El-Aref , Wednesday 2 Jan 2013
During routine excavations at the dog catacomb in Saqqara necropolis, an excavation team led by Salima Ikram, professor of Egyptology at The American University in Cairo (AUC), and an international team of researchers led by Paul Nicholson of Cardiff University have uncovered almost 8 million animal mummies at the burial site.
Studies on their bones revealed that those dogs are from different breeds but not accurately identified yet.
“We are recording the animal bones and the mummification techniques used to prepare the animals,” Ikram said.

Studies on the mummies, Ikram explains, revealed that some of them were old while the majority were buried hours after their birth. She said that the mummified animals were not limited to canines but there are cat and mongoose remains in the deposit.

“We are trying to understand how this fits religiously with the cult of Anubis, to whom the catacomb is dedicated,” she added.
Ikram also told National Geographic, which is financing the project, that “in some churches people light a candle, and their prayer is taken directly up to God in that smoke. In the same way, a mummified dog's spirit would carry a person's prayer to the afterlife”.
Saqqara dog catacomb was first discovered in 1897 when well-known French Egyptologist Jacques De Morgan published his Carte of Memphite necropolis, with his map showing that there are two dog catacombs in the area.
However, mystery has overshadowed such mapping as it was not clear who was the first to discover the catacombs nor who carried out the mapping, and whether they were really for dogs.
“The proximity of the catacombs to the nearby temple of Anubis, the so called jackal or dog-headed deity associated with cemeteries and embalming makes it likely that these catacombs are indeed for canines and their presence at Saqqara is to be explained by the concentration of other animal cuts at the site,” Nicholson wrote on his website.

“These other cults include the burials of, and temples for, bulls, cows, baboons, ibises, hawks and cats all of which were thought to act as intermediaries between humans and their gods.”
Despite the great quantity of animals buried in these catacombs and the immense size of the underground burial places, Egyptologists have focused on the temples and on inscriptional evidence rather than on the animals themselves and their places of burial.
The mysteries behind De Morgan’s mapping were unsolved until 2009 when this team started concrete excavations at the cemetery in an attempt to learn more about the archaeological and history of the site.
“Results at the first season showed that De Morgan map has substantial inaccuracies and a new survey is under way,” Nicholson said.
“The animal bones themselves have been sampled and preliminary results suggest that as well as actual dogs there may be other canids present. Furthermore the age profile of the animals is being examined so that patterns of mortality can be ascertained.”
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