Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Not Evidence of "Evolution" - Evidence of Conceptual Intelligence

I missed this somehow in 2016 when the story came out, I think, so I'm posting it here now, from The Washington Post:

170,000 years before Stonehenge, Neanderthals built their own incredible structure

Sarah Kaplan, May 26, 2016

A 3D reconstruction of the structures in the Bruniquel Cave. (Xavier Muth - Get in Situ, Archéotransfert, Archéovision -SHS-3D, base photographique Pascal Mora).
This deep inside the cave, sunlight was just a memory. Mineral-laden water dripped from the ceiling, accumulating on spiny stalagmites below. Every footstep echoed and long shadows cast by the fires danced on the damp, rugged walls.

Hundreds of centuries ago, someone trudged into that foreboding darkness. Methodically, they broke apart hundreds of stalagmites and arranged the pieces in cryptic piles on the cave floor: two stone rings, one vast and one small, and several piles containing charred rock. They may have been holding a religious ceremony. Or perhaps they simply needed a place to cook away from the cave bears and the cold. The purpose of these structures remains an enigma.

But their creators are not. In a study in the journal Nature, scientists report that these strange stalagmite piles found in the south of France were formed roughly 176,000 years ago by Neanderthals.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Gigantic Sandstorm Blankets Beijing - Again

Hola everyone!

Well, not a good way to start off the morning, but I had to report this as I don't know how many of you read The New York Times daily like I now have the luxury of time to do (since being retired).  This is just frightening to me.

And when I consider that if Orange One (Donald J. Trump, our illegitimate *president), gets his way, the United States could very well look like this in just a few years when he guts the Environmental Protection Agency and sells off our national heritage to big multi-nationals while slashing environmental protections for all Americans.

Dust Storms Blanket Beijing and Northern China
By Gerry Mullany May 5, 2017

The central business district in Beijing on April 25, left, and on Thursday, after a dust storm swept through. Such storms have become increasingly common for the region as China’s deserts expand.CreditNicolas Asfouri/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
HONG KONG — Dust storms enveloped parts of northern China for a second day on Friday, reducing visibility in cities like Beijing and threatening the health of millions of people.
Such storms have become an increasingly common phenomenon for the region, as China’s deserts expand by gobbling up roughly 1,300 square miles a year. A half-century ago, such storms happened every seven or eight years; now they are an annual occurrence.
The storms typically happen in the spring, as strong winds send soil and sand from the Gobi Desert over northern China and even the Korean Peninsula.
This week’s dust storms led to the cancellation of scores of flights and caused pollution in northern China to soar. Beijing’s air-quality index hit a dangerous level of 623 on Thursday; the United States government rates readings above 200 as “very unhealthy” and 301 to 500 as “hazardous.”
Experts tie the problem to the rapid urbanization of northern China, deforestation and climate change. The government has spent billions of dollars to plant forests to stop the creeping desertification, but some experts have questioned whether it has been effective enough in doing so.
The state news media in China said that children and the elderly should stay indoors during the storms. On both Thursday and Friday, the storms were at their worst in the morning, with cities like Beijing clearing later in the day.
Sand and dust storms take place when hot air over the desert destabilizes the lower atmosphere, whipping up strong winds that send huge amounts of sand hundreds or even thousands of miles. The storms have been linked not only to respiratory illnesses but also to lethal epidemics because of the spread of potentially harmful bacteria, viruses and fungal spores.
The dust storms typically hit northern China after the region is afflicted by high wintertime smog, which is caused by coal-burning power plants, factories and vehicle emissions.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Islamic Rules Kick 12 Year Old Female Player Out of Chess Tournament

Are you effing kidding me?  Nope - it really happened.  Other news outlets have reported on the event, which happened at the National Scholastic Chess Championship of 2017 held April 14, 2017 at Putrajaya.   Here's the scoop from The Washington Post:

‘We are disgusted’: Youth chess coach says student kicked out of tournament for ‘seductive’ dress

Marissa Payne, April 29, 2917

Quoted from the Facebook post (includes photo above):

I heard the most disturbing incident from one of my student’s mother.
At the National Scholastic Chess Championship 2017, in Putrajaya, one of my student, who is a 12-YEAR-OLD GIRL felt harassed and humiliated by the actions of Tournament Director and Chief Arbiter.
In the middle of Round 2, (without stopping the clocks) Chief Arbiter informs my student that the dress she wore was improper and have violated the dress code of the tournament. It was later informed (by Chief Arbiter) to my student and her mother, that the Tournament Director deemed my student’s dress to be “seductive” and a “temptation from a certain angle far, far away”.
We found this statement completely out of line!
Please see attached photo of what she was wearing! Completely ridiculous!
After some discussion, Chief Arbiter had conceded and apologised to my student, personally assuring her that there was nothing wrong with her attire, but due to Tournament Director’s decision, he could not allow this dress to be worn by my student in the tournament. This discussion happened at around 10pm and Chief Arbiter gave them a choice to go to the mall nearby to buy a long slack for the next day 9.00am round. Due to the timing of this incident, it was impossible to get another attire in time for the 9.00am round next day, as all shops were already closed and wouldn’t be open in time.
Before the morning round next day, my student’s mother called Tournament Director regarding this matter, initially he had replied that he was not aware of the situation but after a brief discussion, it was realized that he knew all the details on this incident prior to this phone call. He promised to return the call upon discussion with Chief Arbiter, but this did not happen. He would further not answer or return any calls of my student’s mother.
This situation had led to the inevitable decision of withdrawal from the tournament all together.
We are absolutely DIGUSTED by the treatment of Tournament Director to a 12-year-old girl and her mother. This incident has resulted in loss of time and money which was invested before, during and after the tournament on coaching, registration fees, travelling, accommodation and other incurred cost.
This bright young girl was recently the champion of her district in MSS Kuala Lumpur and has shown tremendous potential in Chess. This incident has left her extremely disturbed, and embarrassed.
I have been playing chess in Malaysia for almost 2 decades and I have never heard this type of issue ever in any tournaments in Malaysia. This should be the first and last time this kind of issue ever appears, I or anyone of us should never accept this in our Chess Community.
We demand a public apology from Tournament Director of National Scholastic Chess Championship 2017. In the event, we do not receive a public apology in the next 5 days, we shall have no choice but to resort to legal proceedings.
Kaushal Khandhar
A Malaysian Chess Player & Coach

A 12 year-old chess champion in Malaysia was forced to withdraw from a youth tournament in the country after tournament organizers deemed her knee-length dress too “seductive,” the girl’s coach said.
The tournament director of the National Scholastic Chess Championship held April 14-16 made the call personally, the coach noted, after finding the dress to be “temptation."

"We found this statement completely out of line!” youth chess coach Kaushal Khandhar wrote on Facebook.

He said the incident left his student feeling “extremely disturbed, and embarrassed."

Dress codes in chess are not unusual, as FIDE, world chess’s governing body, allows tournament organizers to set them before their events to ensure participants maintain a “dignified appearance.” In certain Muslim-majority countries, such as Iran, organizers may require female participants to follow local customs, including covering their hair with headscarves.

Malaysian women, however, do not face the same restrictions, and skirts or shorts that extend to the knee are commonly worn in public spaces.

"I have been playing chess in Malaysia for almost two decades and I have never heard this type of issue ever in any tournaments in Malaysia,” Khandhar added.

Making matters worse, the coach said, was the timing of the incident. The girl apparently was able to play in the dress without incident in the first round of the tournament but was pulled aside in the middle of the second round Thursday and told her attire didn’t conform with the dress code.

Khandhar said tournament organizers gave the girl the option to go purchase a pair of slacks and return to the event the next day, however, Khandhar said by the time that offer was made it was past 10 p.m., and all the shops had closed. They would not open again in time to meet the next day’s call time of 9 a.m., meaning the girl had no choice but to withdraw.

"We are absolutely DISGUSTED by the treatment of Tournament Director to a 12-year-old girl and her mother,” Khandhar continued. “This incident has resulted in loss of time and money which was invested before, during and after the tournament on coaching, registration fees, traveling, accommodation and other incurred costs."

Khandhar said the girl and her family are hoping for a public apology.

The unnamed tournament director has not commented on the allegations specifically, but told the Malay Mail Online on Friday that the would be lodging a police report.  [What?  A police report - for what?  And who, exactly, is allegedly going to be or has already filed this 'police report?'  The word typed in the article is "THE would be lodging a police report."  Is this supposed to be HE - or THEY? And if it is THEY, who is THEY, specifically?]

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Chess Federation told the paper an investigation of the incident is underway. A spokesman for the governing body said it had already reached out to the girl’s mother, whose statement on the incident did not exactly match the coach’s.

"The claim [Khandhar] posted is different from the official complaint [from the mother],” the MCF told the Malay Mail Online, noting it could not comment further due to legal concerns. “We will take action once the report comes out."  [How is Khandhar's claim different?  Why hasn't anyone asked?  What does this mean - we will take action once the report comes out?  What report - their OWN 'investigation?'  A police investigation?  And what do the police have to do with something like this in the first place?  NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!]

WTF?  There's more - DISGUSTING...

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Do the Rock Carvings at Gobekli Tepe Record a Catatrosphic Earth-wide Event?

Food for thought.

Ancient people left a frightening message for us, and scientists just found it

 Mike Wehner,BGR News 6 hours ago 

10,000 years from now (assuming humans haven’t been wiped out by a plague, space rock, or our own destructive tendencies), it’ll probably be fairly easy for the average person to research what life was like in 2017. For us here today, finding out what life was like in 11,000BC is much more challenging, but by studying ancient stone carvings and pairing the somewhat confusing messages with archeological data, researchers believe they’ve discovered concrete evidence of an apocalyptic event that may have altered the future of mankind: a comet strike.

The study, performed by a team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh (PDF), suggests that a potentially cataclysmic comet strike rapidly and dramatically altered the Earth’s climate for hundreds of years, sending humanity into a mini ice age with nearly glacial conditions. The time period when this occurred is known as the Younger Dryas, and has been well documented thanks to ample evidence of the cooling found in core samples, but its cause has been theorized and debated for a long while. Now, thanks to stone carvings left by ancient people in modern day Turkey, researchers believe that a comet was the culprit.

The carvings are remarkably preserved and appear to have been created to document an apocalyptic event which devastated the land. Figures depicted in the carvings, including apparently deceased, headless human bodies and other wildlife, were made at around the time the Younger Dryas began, suggesting that the event archived in stone could have been the same one that caused the thousand-year cold snap. The carvings were found at what is considered to be one of the oldest and most important temple sites on the planet, and for the images to appear there suggests that they have enormous historical significance.

The Younger Dryas is often credited with pushing ancient humans to band together out of pure necessity, forming the foundation of modern agriculture and other huge advancements in civilization. The idea that a comet may have been responsible for pushing humanity forward is an extremely interesting, and potentially frightening possibility.

The findings are far from an iron clad confirmation, but the timing matches up shockingly well, and would have to be a fantastic coincidence if the two events are actually unrelated.

More on the Younger Dryas period from NOAA (one of the agencies Orange One, er, El Trumpo, American Dictator wannabe, wants to wipe out in 2018.)

More on Gobekli Tepe.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Hales Corners Chess Challenge XXV - Results for the Ladies!

Hola hola on this beautiful day.  The cross-table isn't up at the U.S.C.F. website yet so I don't know the individual scores, but I have a full list of the chess femmes who participated and what, if any prize money they received.

First of all, a minor correction:  I believe I indicated yesterday that there were eight femmes in the Reserve Section - there were actually 9.  That is a participation rate of 18.9% (14/74 players).  I am waiting to get a final count of the number of players, as there are usually players who register the morning of the tournament.  Depending on that, the percentage may go down.

However, as of now, that percentage is - as far as my memory serves - the highest yet of chess femme participation.  Congratulations to the female players for turning out in such numbers yesterday for this great event.

Photo is from chess buddy Ellen Wanek.  Player Sandra Hoffman is missing:

From left to right : Simran Bhatia, 
Anupama Rajendra, Susie Ulrich, Megan Chen, Miriam Luevano. Radhika Gupta ,Ellen Wanek (the blonde in the front row), Manasha Ghai , Gauri Menon, 
Ashwini Murthy , Salli Ball, Maddie Weber
Open Section:
Susanna Ulrich: $150
Anupama Rajendra: $125  
Gauri Menon: $100
Madeline Weber: $75
Megan Chen: $50

Reserve Section:
Simran Bhatia: $60
Sandra Hoffman: $60
Radhika Gupta: $50
Mirian Luevano: $40
Aradh Kaur: $40
Ellen Wanek: $40
Mansha Ghai: $20
Salli Ball: $0
Ashwini Murthy: $0

So proud of each and every one of you, and thank you for the photo!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day 2017

Hola darlings!  I hope you will all enjoy today - Earth Day.  The one day we should at least spare a few minutes to think about our beautiful sparking blue and white and green and brown jewel of a planet hanging in the midnight star-spangled expanse of the universe.

Earth is photographed with a high-definition 121megapixel camera - creating the sharpest image of our planet yet.....WOW,...LOOKS VERY NICE FROM AFAR....GREAT PIC:
From The Daily Mail, May 11, 2012, Eddie Wren for Mail Online
Photo taken by Russian weather satellite Electro-L with
resolution of 121 megapixels.  

Please, think about what we can all do, individually and together as countries and, hopefully someday, as a single united people the world over, to keep her safe, secure, and beautiful for all.  When enough of us do the "small" things, it has an enormous impact.

Use natural gardening practices, stop using pesticides and poisons; recycle; grow your own fresh vegetables in the summer and learn how to preserve them for use through the winter; encourage energy-saving technologies by harnessing the power of our waves, our Sun, and our wind.  Conserve, re-use, re-imagination and recreate.  Plant trees.  Volunteer to help clean up public parkways and plant flowers.  Hound your Congressional representatives and Senators to keep our water and our air and our soil free from pollutants and to clean up our "Superfund" sites.  In your home, when old appliances die, recycle them, and buy new water-conserving models of washers; hang your wash in the backyard to dry (if you have one) instead of using a dryer; replace old water-wasting toilets with low volume/high air velocity flush toilets; get those dripping faucets fixed, you'd be amazed how much water drips down the drain every single day.  Go energy efficient with your windows, insulation, roofing, and indoor lighting and heating/cooling.

We can each do more than we think we can, and it all makes a difference!  Love your Mother Earth.

Friday, April 21, 2017

11th Annual Grand Pacific Open

Hola!  Goddesschess has provided sponsorship for female chessplayers for this event for several years now.  This year we had ten female players in all sections, five (5!!!) in the top rated PREMIER Section.  The women in the PREMIER section took all of the Goddesschess prize money this year.

The event is held annually over Easter in Victoria, BC, Canada at the beautiful Grand Pacific Hotel.  This year's GPO was held April 14 - 17, 2017, with a guaranteed prize fund of $5,000 Canadian.  Prizes are slated to the top five female players in the PREMIER Section; if there are fewer players than five, remaining prizes are awarded to the top female finishers in the next highest rated Section, and so on.

Here are this year's results!

Premier Section (33 players)
1.  8th place, WFM Adela Fratila (2038) 3.5/6 $125.00
2.  15th place, WFM Valeria Gansvind (2254), 3.0/6, $90.00
3.  17th place, WFM Naomi Bashkansky (2018), 3.0/6, $90.00
4. 25th place, Shi Yuan (Sherry) Tian (1818), 2.0/6, $50.00
5.  32nd place, WFM Chouchanik Airapetian (2015) (former U.S. women's chess championship competitor), 0.5/5, $25.00

Under 2000 Section (37 players)
6.  9th place, Anna Vang (1469), 4.0/6

Under 1700 (45 players)
7.  31st place, Bo Wen (Angelina) Yang (1013), 2.5/6

Under 1200 (31 players)
8.  11th place,  Gillian Mok (852), 3.5/6
9.  14th place, Amanda Yang (731), 3.0/6
10.  17th place, Shannon Gong (UNR), 3.0/6

Congratulations to top overall female chess femme WFM Adela Fratila, and to all of our prize winners, and two thumbs up to all of the chess femmes for their fighting spirit.

WFM Airapetian had a "not so good" tournament this event,  She has played rather sporadically over the past several years, but I remember her well from prior U.S. Women's Chess Championships for her sunny smile and always upbeat spirit and disposition.  In 2004, Airapetian made American chess history by becoming the first female player to earn a spot in the U.S. Chess Championship, by She was a favorite amongst players at the U.S. events.  I hope she will come back next year and try again!  

Stay tuned.  We are considering changing up the prize structure for this Canadian event to more closely align it with the sponsorship format we provide to the Hales Corners Chess Challenges in Milwaukee.  Our goal is always to encourage more female chessplayers to participate in such events and to reward them for their hard play.  I only wish we had unlimited financial resources to be able to make it so, all across the U.S. and Mr. Don's beloved Canada!

2017 U.S. Women's Chess Championship - Final Resorts (Very Late - Sorry, Darlings!)

Mea culpa!  I totally lost track of the U.S.'s premiere female chess event, held in St. Louis, Missouri in the beautiful (but small!) Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis.

Without further ado (as if you didn't know!), the winner is:


Foisor took clear first place with a score of 8.0/11.  Well done, and congratulations.

Here is a dramatic description of the final game, which took place less than three months after WGM Foisor's mother, IM Cristina Foisor (five-time Romanian women's chess champion) in January, 2017.  Tensions mounted as Foisor and her fiance' watched in the downstairs commentary room and waited for the results of IM Nazi Pakidze's game to see if there would be a play-off.

Cross-table (final) with results/standings:

Cross table after round 11

1WGM Foisor, Sabina-Francesca2272x½ 0 1 1 ½ 0 1 1 1 1 1 8.0
2IM Paikidze, Nazi2369½ x1 0 ½ 0 ½ 1 1 1 1 ½ 7.0
3GM Krush, Irina24441 0 x½ ½ 0 ½ 1 ½ 1 ½ 1 6.5
4IM Zatonskih, Anna24510 1 ½ x½ 0 1 ½ ½ 1 0 1 6.0
5WGM Sharevich, Anna22570 ½ ½ ½ x1 ½ ½ ½ 0 1 1 6.0
6WIM Yu, Jennifer R2196½ 1 1 1 0 x0 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 6.0
7WCM Feng, Maggie21621 ½ ½ 0 ½ 1 x0 ½ ½ ½ 1 6.0
8WGM Abrahamyan, Tatev23640 0 0 ½ ½ ½ 1 x½ 1 ½ 1 5.5
9WGM Nemcova, Katerina23590 0 ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ ½ x1 1 ½ 5.5
10WFM Virkud, Apurva22620 0 0 0 1 1 ½ 0 0 x1 1 4.5
11WFM Yip, Carissa22340 0 ½ 1 0 ½ ½ ½ 0 0 x1 4.0
12WIM Nguyen, Emily21730 ½ 0 0 0 0 0 0 ½ 0 0 x1.0
Generated by Swiss Master for Windows on 09-04-2017 at 17:43

It was a tough outing for WFM Carissa Yip, the player I chose to eyeball this year to see how she'd do.  No doubt lack of age and experience, despite her extensive (and impressive) record of play, had a lot to do with her overall performance.  She is only eleven, after all.  At eleven, I was dancing to the Four Seasons and Bobby Rydell on the radio and experimenting with Annette Funicello hairstyles, har!  I also was skinny and cute (but had awful hair!), and sassy as all get out, and had my first serious boyfriend, Jimmy Celeste (sigh, so Italian and so handsome),  just so you know.  My games were cribbage and five card stud, deuces wild, with Grandpa Newton.

The chess baton seems to have been passed to a younger generation of players, most of whom do not have the kind of international experience necessary to really get their ELOs "up there," if you know what I mean.  Sadly, I see a decline in the overall quality of female chessplayers on our national scene, not an improvement.  We lose too many to the practicalities of life - such as - MAKING A LIVING and RAISING FAMILIES!  Drives me INSANE, this drift backwards, not forward.

Okay, end of my angst session.

The China Institute Presents a New Gallery Show/Program: Dreams of the Kings

WOW! I would love to see this.  Hmmm....

Discover China Through Art (DCTA)
Program in conjunction with the exhibition
Dreams of the Kings: A Jade Suit for Eternity, Treasures of the Han Dynasty from Xuzhou

May 30 – November 12, 2017
Discover China Through Art (DCTA), China Institute Gallery’s innovative art education program for groups, will introduce participants to our new exhibition Dreams of the Kings: A Jade Suit for Eternity, Treasures of the Han Dynasty from Xuzhou. Each group visit consists of a three-part program featuring an introductory video presentation, a docent-led gallery tour, and a hands-on art workshop, all of which can be adapted for different age groups and interests.
By exploring great collections from the Xuzhou museum at close range in the Gallery, participants will see a rare jade burial suit, terracotta performers, and carved stone animal sculptures. These objects are extraordinary testimony to customs and beliefs surrounding life and death during the Western Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 8 CE).
Two workshops are offered:
I. Color and Decorating Workshop (K – 3rd grade)
II. Pattern Making Workshop (3rd grade – adult)

Schedule: Available for booking weekday
Mornings 10:30 AM-12:00 PM & Afternoons 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Please reserve a tour at least two weeks in advance of the requested date.
Please contact us for evenings and weekends programs.
Speaker Name
Gallery Docents
Fee: Weekdays: $120 per group
Evenings & weekends: $160 per group
Up to 30 participants per group; we can accommodate 2 groups at one time
Contact: Yue Ma 212-744-8181 x 147 or by email at yma@chinainstitute.org

About Discover China Through Art (DCTA)

Discover China Through Art (DCTA) is an innovative art education program that China Institute Gallery offers to schools and the general public. Created in 1992, DCTA introduces audiences to Chinese art and culture through a three-part interactive program that complements the Gallery’s exhibitions. The participants experiment with Chinese art through an introductory video presentation, a docent-led gallery discussion, and a hands-on art workshop. It is in these popular workshops that our participants experience Chinese art up close and have the opportunity to learn and apply fundamental techniques.
The program also offers special Chinese art and culture workshops in between of exhibitions, which consist of an interactive video presentation and an experimental hands-on workshop.

Discover China Through Art is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
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