Saturday, November 10, 2007

"Goddess Girl" Survives Rare Surgery

I saw this story over a week ago, but I determined not to write anything it until I had some information on the outcome of the surgery. The story has now been well-publicized, including the bid by a "circus" to buy the child, no doubt for it's "Freak Show." I had no idea such a condition could occur. The way I explain it is rather similar to a "Siamese twin," except the twin didn't survive, only parts of the twin survived, somehow attached to and living on the other twin's body. My goddess. Lakhsmi, about 2 1/2 years old, has survived the 30-plus hour surgery to remove two extra arms and two extra legs, along with reconstructive surgery around her pelvic area (because of the way the extra legs were attached to her torso, and she will need further surgery as she grows to correct "club feet." It is amazing to me that she will be able to walk at all, actually). In her poor village, where most of the folks cannot read or write and the old ways and superstitions still rule supreme, when she was born (a miracle she and her mother survived the birth process, given the extra limbs on the baby and her size) Lakhsmi was hailed as an incarnation of the Goddess of Good Fortune. Now I wonder, what will the villagers think? Will they turn against her as an omen of ill-fortune because her extra limbs have been removed? Ridiculous, you may think - but is my fear really riduculous? What if an epidemic comes along and kills several of the villagers because of unsanitary conditions? You and I will know it was because of unsanitary conditions, but they won't. Will they try to kill the child, perhaps, because the surgery somehow violated the child's karma? Just what will happen to Lakhsmi? Will doctors step forward in the future to do the necessary reconstructive surgery she will need, free of charge? Will anyone step in and remove Lakhsmi and her family from their village? Will anyone bother to try and start the process of bringing Lakhsmi's village into the 21st century, teaching the residents to read, and write, and reason based on something other than beliefs that, unfortunately, have been distorted (and sometimes deliberately perverted) over the centuries? I wonder just how much of Lakhsmi's story we will ever really hear of in the future. She's now yesterday's news.

Some Grey Squirrel News from England

I haven't posted anything about my buddies the squirrels, for awhile. Funny story - this morning as my favorite furniture cleaner was here (he's done my furniture and carpets for years, practically since this place was built in 1990), he happened to see some of my buddies out on the deck and commented on them. Yes, I said, I feed them. Oh, he says. Well, maybe I can bring my dogs over and put a scare into 'em, heh? No, I says, they run too fast, it wouldn't be fitting for your dogs. LOL! This story isn't so funny, because the problem of "invasive species" isn't very funny. We have massive problems on the Great Lakes, for instance, with invasive species that have hitchhiked in ballast on ships from foreign lands, dumped into our fresh water lakes - the a-holes! It makes me SO angry that these ships can just dump their crap (you know what) anywhere they want. (The oceans are full of plastic garbage these days, too - I've read if "islands" formed of plastic waste from cruise ships and other ships, and probably dumped from jets too). Here's the story.

Corus 2008

Hola darlings! Okay, I've been a good hausfrau today - had the furniture cleaned shortly after 8 this morning; fed the critters outside before 6:30 a.m.; swept up the branches, twigs and leaves on the front stoop and in front of the garage door to tidy up the entrance to Maison Newton, and I even clipped back the overgrown barberry hedge blocking access to the non-working doorbell at the front door (I put up a new "out of order" sign, too, LOL!). I cleaned off the pile of junk and not-so-junk mail on the kitchen table, did the dishes left over from last night's successful kitchen foray (cheeseburger casserole, yum!), studied the health insurance information received from my employer (re-enrollment for 2008) and tried my best to figure out what plan is the best for my circumstances (impossible!); and I diligently worked on gathering information that dondelion uses for our weekly "Random Round-up" Updates at Goddesschess. As you know, I only pay attention to events in which at least one chess femme participates. Corus is one of the venerable events, garnering my attention every year since I went online in 1999, because every year at least one chess femme has participated in either the "A" or "B" events. 2008 is no exception. In the "B" event, it has been announced that Hou Yifan and Koneru Humpy are playing. As you know, Humpy is the second highest rated female in the entire world, behind only Judit Polgar. Speaking of which, Judit will be the lone chess femme participating in the Corus "A" event. So, there will be lots of news to follow about these great chessplaying femmes. Expect the unexpected!

Friday, November 9, 2007

2008 U.S. Chess Championships

Hooray! Great news. The Championships have been announced and there WILL be a Women’s Championship, according to the announcement I saw tonight at USCF’s website. There will be dual tournaments held in Tulsa Oklahoma, May 13 – 21, 2008, Men’s Event and Women’s Event. The top two finishers in each event will then face off for the Men’s and Women’s titles in Stillwater, Oklahoma (site of the 2007 U.S. Chess Championship and 2007 U.S. Women’s Chess Championship). The date for these "match" events is the weekend after May 21, 2008 (Memorial Day weekend, not Labor Day weekend per the announcement, tsk tsk). There will be a qualifying Open event in Tulsa, Oklahoma, March 28 – 30, 2008. I’m not sure if this means that there will be no seeded players (because of rank or because of being 2007 champions?) Frank Berry is "the primary sponsor" of the event. Jim Berry and Tom Braunlich are principals. More details will follow. Goddesschess will once again be offering a brilliancy prize for the Women's Championship.

Friday Night Miscellany

Hola Darlings! The weekend is here, yippee! I don’t care if it’s cold and damp outside, tomorrow I’m going to rake up all the branches and twigs and leaves blown down by the nor’westers that blew threw here last week and sent the temperatures plunging to "seasonal." The holidays will soon be upon us and I’m feeling the need to spruce the place up – first finishing up the work outside and then tackling the inside, which has been sadly neglected all summer! Goddesschess' Isis is a member of the Cherokee Nation. When he was alive, The Chief sometimes called her Pocahontas. He called me Patton – go figure. LOL! It does seem to be the case that the monument-building civilizations in Central and South America have garnered the most attention from archaeologists, historians and anthropologists. But we’ve always been interested in things Native American in North, Central and South America. One of these years (ahem) I WILL finish my articles about some very interesting Native American board games that Stewart Culin and other ethnographers wrote about around the turn of the 20th century. I’ve only been working on them for the past two-plus years. Patience is a virtue… In honor of Isis/Pocahontas, here’s an overviewish article about Native American Mysticism. Anyone out there read Carlos Castenada in college? I did. I don’t remember what class it was – Comparative Literature? Creative Writing? I had a TA who had us read the strangest books, including Castenada. To this day, I don’t know if he was full of baloney and making most of it up, or fully in-tuned with the "other world" – or whatever you’d like to call it (the part of existence we don’t see with physical eyes, the part that is dealt with through the prism of religious and metaphysical beliefs). I don’t remember most of what he wrote about, except there always seemed to be a crow hanging about (they hang about here at my house too, but I think it’s because I feed them) – and I DO remember this. He wrote about what he called "the Will" – which was centered in the gut, the belly above the navel. What he had to say about that being the place from which one could manifest things into the physical world by concentrating intent – "will" if you will (okay, bad pun) – through that center gut area – well, that just struck such a chord with me. I felt instinctively that this was truth I was reading. I still remember my reaction when I first read his words about "the Will" – I got shivers up and down my spine! That’s always a sure-tell way for me to know I’ve smacked into something real, in a sort of surreal way. Doesn’t make much sense, I suppose, but I know it’s true nonetheless. Anyway, I believe that "the Will" Castenada wrote about is the same concept the ancients were talking about in the metaphor of a "golden chord" which issued forth from somewhere around one’s belly-button. I also believe that during Medieval times the concept was rediscovered – but a bit miscontrued – and that is where we can see drawings of people "floating around" with golden chords issuing forth from their navels. Ohmygoddess! Just saw this one over at The Daily Grail. We’ve all heard about the "Curse of the Pharaohs" which actually WERE curses placed upon the tombs to protect them from violators - unfortunately, purely ineffective against ancient tomb robbers but seemingly amazing effective against Carter’s crew 3000 years later, LOL! Here’s a new curse – the curse of – OZTI THE ICEMAN. Hey hey hey, The Iceman Cometh… Tunguska has been in the news off and on for the past year and more – not your run of the mill news that everyone SHOULD read (but do not); nope, I’m talking about the kind of news I read, LOL! Well, the venerable National Geographic has now published a fascinating story about the discovery of the actual crater which is – surprise surprise – a LAKE with a cone-shaped bottom. Ooooh la la!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Little Bit of Chess

I cannot go to bed without posting something positive tonight. So - other than the fact that this is one of the ladies who won against Humpy in the Women's Rapid Chess Competition at the Asian Indoor Games, it's a nice story. (Humpy uncharacteristically lost 2 games in this event. I believe she was exhausted at this point in the Games. I know Humpy would not give any excuse for her performance and I have not read this in any account of the Games thus far.) From Manila Standard Today November 9, 2007 (this 24-hour international dateline stuff really is fun) Catherine Perena: Giant killer OUT of a seemingly modest campaign in the Asian Indoor Games in Macau came a very refreshing performance. University of the Philippines student Catherine Perena shared the bronze medal in the women’s rapid chess competition, beating on her way to the plum world no. 2 Humpy Koneru of India in a feat that showed how far our lady woodpushers have progressed. It was an upset win that shone with the brightness of a gold medal as no Filipino has ever beaten a top-rated player. Only the legendary Eugene Torre has achieved similar status, beating in his heyday then world champion Anatoly Karpov in a four-man tournament in Manila in 1976, and repeating eight years later in London. When Koneru resigned, Perena said she had superiority materially and positionally. “After the game, she rose from the table, touched her hand slightly and left without arranging the pieces,” said Perena. “I was very happy and I felt like I was in heaven. I glanced at my teammates, who were clapping their hands silently,” said Perena in response to e-mailed questions from Standard Today. The 22-year-old national open champion, who learned the game only 10 years ago, is the vanguard of a new breed of women chess players. Scrappy and aggressive, they are not awed by formidable opposition. “I think because of our desire to prove ourselves, that Filipino chess players have the capacity to be world-class athletes if given the right exposure and support. We want to escape from the shadow of men players. For the past few years… they have been given the breaks compared to the women,” said Perena. Sherily Cua and Perena led the women’s squad, which outperformed their more illustrious male counterparts in the 2006 Turin Chess Olympiad. University of Santo Tomas ace Cua, playing second board, scored 6.5 of 11 while Perena, taking over first board from Sheerie Joy Lomibao, logged 6 of 11. In the 2005 Southeast Asian Games in Manila, the women’s team won a silver medal. “Hopefully, our stint in Turin, the SEA Games and in Macau is just a step toward future success of Filipino woodpushers,” added Perena. Perena, a dusky fifth year UP student is a typical Filipino chess player: talented, resourceful, patient but lacking deep opening knowledge compared to their stronger regional rivals from China, India and Vietnam. She describes her style as flexible. “I am a positional player but I like the middle game because I like complicated positions because it seems as if I am solving chess puzzles.” The fourth of fifth children by Nelson Perena, who runs a sari-sari store, and housewife Leticia, Catherine and her sister were taught chess by her father. At Del Ray School in Caloocan, the principal was trying to find players to join the Caloocan Private Schools tournament. Having just learned the game, Perena didn’t say a word, but her classmate raised her hand, catching the eye of the principal, who took her into the team. After a month of training, she won in the Grade 5 category. The following year, she won the same event, ruled the Caloocan schools division meet and finished second in the National Capital Region eliminations to the Palaro. Progress was swift for this dusky young girl, and it was honed by the increasingly competitive events held in the collegiate events. Under National Chess Federation of the Philippines president Prospero Pichay, many international tournaments have been organized, enabling women to gain exposure by facing stronger foes without having to leave the country. But honorary World Chess Federation chairman Florencio Campomanes said Perena and the fast-rising grandmaster-candidate Wesley So, 14, need higher-level training, among other needs, to make the big leap. “They have to undergo a regimen and they need to be shown how to prepare seriously for tournaments,” said Campomanes, the architect of Philippine chess. Perena wants to become a grandmaster in three years. If she fails, she will use her Bachelor of Sports Science degree to get a “stable job.” ******************************************************************************** Hmmm. There were several references to "dusky girl" - so what the heck does that mean? Is this a reference to her skin color? What am I missing here?

One of Those Days...

Oh darlings! I should have known first thing this morning when I didn't want to get out of bed that I should have trusted my instinct to stay warm, safe and blissfully peaceful under the covers, in the dark, when the alarm went off at 5:59 a.m. to news of the latest shooting deaths in the city. But noooooooohhhh, I had to get up. The squirrels would be out soon, waiting for me impatiently on the deck, to get their early-morning handout. I had my one cup of coffee to drink and the newspaper to read before running backupstairs at 7 a.m., and then the brisk walk the mile to the bus stop in the grey, damp cold, the sun barely peeking above the horizon. Oh yes. Way to start the day. You should try it when it's 60 below zero windchill and a foot of snow. As a veteran bus rider, I am generally pretty successful at blocking out most of the rude, crude, obnoxious behavior that is carried on by my fellow passengers, but I find I can no longer deal with the stinky, smelly people. And I'm not talking about street-people, either, darlings! I'm talking about people who eat garlic and smoke and spend all their free times in bars and REEK. Evidently they don't know what it means to wash their hair, clothing or outerwear. Anyway, this morning I had a stinky person in front of me (yesterday it wasn't quite so bad, as a stinky person sat behind me), and someone plopped down in the seat behind me (I didn't notice who as I was trying to focus on the latest Newsweek magazine). Soon I heard mutterings under his breath - sounded like a male teenager from the ghetto (doesn't matter what color they are, they all talk like they're from the frigging ghetto these days, geez). Suffice to say that none of these mutterings are publishable where a child may come across them, and in any event I don't TALK that way - at least, not out loud! Was he singing (well, trying to sing) a song he was listening to on one of those blasted machines? Was he a nut case? After trying really hard not to listen, I decided he was a nut case. Oh oh, was he going to set my hair on fire? Stab me in the neck? Start shooting? All these things have happened on buses, inflicted on innocent passengers by mentally people who should be locked up - but - oh, I forgot, THEY HAVE RIGHTS. I don't have any frigging rights to be free from abuse, fear and potential mayhem but the mentally ill have TONS OF RIGHTS. So - it turns out it IS the nut case kid I remember sitting behind me one time before, a couple of months back. The hairs on the back of my neck still haven't gone back down from that ride. I know it was the same kid because, hoody aside, he got off at the stop where all the teenagers get off to go to the Technical High School and I got a good look at him as I glared at him out of the window and stuck my tongue out at him. Yeah, I know, I know, but maybe he'll figure I'm a nutty old lady (you know the type - with overly-dyed hair and wearing too much dark eye make-up) and steer clear of me from now on. I am NOT into listening to incessant nut case rap crap first thing in the morning - or at any time of the day, actually. And if this kid is the next one to make headlines at his school by shooting 72 people, I may be his next victim. But at least it will be close range and fast! It had better be, or I swear here and now I'll never stop haunting his skinny teenaged butt. The rest of the ride to work was, thankfully, relatively peaceful. That was the last of the peace for the next 7.5 hours (not including lunch). Did I mention I work for an - er - "difficult" man? Oh joy. He was in prime gig today, darlings, let me tell you. I'd quit in a heartbeat, except I'm in the same place where millions of other people are in this country - they (and I) can't afford to lose a job. I've got just enough time in this job where the firm contributes 7% of my gross wages to a 401(k) plan (this used to be a separate pension plan but they found a way to screw us out of that) each year, plus they match another 2.5% of the first 10% of my gross wages I put in. In order to get the full match, I put in 10%. The upshot is that I've got 19.5% of my gross earnings going into the 401(k) starting this year, for the next 10-11 years. That will amount to a pile of money that I cannot forego. So, I'm not going to leave. El Bosso has gotten worse over the past couple of years, and thus far I've planned about 50 different ways for him to meet his end. Tonight on the bus ride home I was charitable and fantasized about him standing naked in front of his "peers" at the State Bar Association annual BIG MEETING at the State Capital, being pelted with rotten eggs. Ooooh, ahhhh, ouch! Can you hear laughter, Mr. Schmuck? Tomorrow, the Goddess who watches over all of us chess lovers and Goddesschess people WILL have her revenge on the King of the (*insert your own nasty words here, the nastier, the better). He is having a colonoscopy. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! I will be thinking about that all day long, laughing at him. Couldn’t happen to nicer guy, darlings :)

One of Those Days...

So, since he isn’t going to be in the office tomorrow, Mr. Boss made sure he kept me past 5:00 p.m. so that I missed not one, but two buses. The wait for the next one (after rush "hour" in this poop-noodle town), is 40 minutes. It's obviously a power thing with him. Speaks volume about the man's character, doesn't it.

I took the "it must be done tonight since I'm not going to be here" letter into him. He looked at it, read it thoroughly twice, signed it, and then, glancing at the clock, said "This doesn't have to go out tonight. Be sure you proof read it and sign it for me if you find any errors".

I may just slip in an error or two not there at 5:15 p.m. this evening. He complained so much about the last "error" I made, when I typed "chess of drawers" (oops) instead of "chest of drawers" and he didn’t catch it despite the fact the letter went through at least three drafts that he proofread each time… Well, darlings, they can fire me, and I'll sue their butts for age discrimination, sexual discrimination, and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (I believe I'm suffering from early onset Alzheimers, not to mention having been driven insane because of working for this Person for the past five years...)

The bus ride home tonight, once it finally came, was relatively peaceful. Only two loud teenaged girls sitting in the back seat, talking ghetto (do any teenagers speak standard English these days?), spraying really lousy, stinky cologne over each other for two miles (the scent permeated the whole bus and since it’s freezing cold outside opening windows to try and clear the air was not an option). They got off on 27th Street, Thank Goddess! I ride to 84th Street and another couple of miles south.

Then, the mile hike home in pitch dark. I live in a suburban area, not well lit. Just what I need to cap a lovely day spent earning my pay. Walking home in the dark, in the cold, wondering what might jump out at me from the shrubs, wondering what even worse might decide to pull up in a car, or shoot from a moving vehicle.

I was in need of something to cheer me up beyond my fantasies of torture and murder of Mr. Schmuck "oh my plantar’s fasciatis hurts, owie, you must now feel sorry for me, that's an order". It showed up by way of an email waiting for me tonight when I finally got home - not shot, not raped, fortunately not dead.

Some months ago, I believe it was in March, I ordered and paid for in advance a limited edition book on chess pieces. It was advertised in the Chess Collectors newsletter, and so I figured they were vetted and creditable people, as the Chess Collectors are very rich and are nobody's fools.

WELL! The book has been delayed twice already. And tonight in my email I received this:

Beste besteller van het boek 'Chessmen', Hierbij vragen wij u om nog enig geduld voor dit boek. Bij de eerste druk is er helaas iets misgegaan, waardoor het boek thans in herdruk is. Naar verwachting zal Chessmen in week 47 (week van 19-23 november) verschijnen. Het boek zal vervolgens zo snel mogelijk aan alle bestellers worden uitgeleverd. Wij hopen u hiermee voldoende te hebben geïnformeerd en danken u bij voorbaat dank voor uw begrip. -- Met vriendelijke groet,Renske Pronk

I figured it had something to do with my book order, and deduced from a few scant clues – such as "boek" means "book" and "in week 47 (week van 19-23 november)" - that the book would be released sometime during the week of November 19-23, 2007 (I hope 2007). Just for the hell of it, I ran the words through AltaVista’s babelfish translator and got a good laugh. Here is the ‘translation:’

Dear besteller of the book ' Chessmen ', We you ask for still some patience for this book. At the first very something has unfortunately gone wrong, as a result of which the book is now in herdruk. According to the expectations Chessmen in weak 47 (yielded of 19-23 November) will appear. The book will vervolgens as soon as possible be extradited to all bestellers. We hope have informed you sufficiently and thank you in advance thanks for your term. -- Kind regards, Renske pronk

I got a really good laugh out of that translation, darlings. I thought "besteller" had something to do with "best seller" – which would have been interesting since the book hasn’t even been released yet! Just goes to show you what a day at the office can do to one’s brain function. Duh! After reading the babelfish ‘translation,’ I realized it means something like "Dear Stupid Person Who Has Pre-Ordered This Book and Paid for It In Full Already, Ha Ha Ha".

Oh Goddess! I almost peed in my pants, I was laughing so hard…

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Women’s National A Chess Championship of India

Chessbase has an article on the 34th Women's National A Championship in India, November 4 - 15, 2007, with several nice photographs. At stake for the top three finishers: seats at the next Olympiad. The Symbiosis Society is hosting (and a sponsor) of this event, which features the highest prizes yet for the Women's event. Here is the official website. Here is a list of the 28 players - some of the best India has to offer. Unfortunately, the Subbaraman sisters are not playing in this event, I understand that their father recently passed away. SNo. Name IRtg 1 IM Harika Dronavalli w 2480 2 WGM Mohota Nisha w 2416 3 WGM Tania Sachdev w 2413 4 WGM Karavade Eesha w 2331 5 WGM Ramaswamy Aarthie w 2317 6 WGM Swathi Ghate w 2316 7 WIM Kiran Manisha Mohanty w 2263 8 WIM Gomes Mary Ann w 2262 9 WIM Soumya Swaminathan w 2244 10 Padmini Rout w 2226 11 WFM Meera Sai w 2205 12 Nimmy A G w 2196 13 Amrutha Mokal w 2159 14 WFM Pon N Krithika w 2140 15 Priya P w 2129 16 Preethi R w 2125 17 Sangeetha M R w 2118 18 Swati Mohota w 2112 19 Baisakhi Das w 2101 20 Syed Nabeela Farheen w 2093 21 WFM Pujari Rucha w 2061 22 Anuprita Patil w 2060 23 Harini S w 2060 24 Uthra P w 2055 25 Divyasri Ch w 2050 26 WFM Dave Dhyani w 2002 27 Athirai S 2000 28 Savetha C H 1968

Jiroft Again

Good old Majidzadeh. He's at it again, trying (seems desperate, actually) to find more "evidence" for his supposition that writing was invented - not in Sumer - not in ancient Egypt - but in - you got it - Iran, in Jiroft, to be exact :) Well, we all have our fantasies, don't we now, darlings! Actually, I shouldn't be so hard on the man. He's dealing with a tolitarian Islamic regime who would just as soon see Jiroft destroyed (and all evidence of pre-Islamic culture) and the Revolutionary Guard are doing their best to steal what are left of the antiquities from the ruins (that the locals haven't already stolen), flooding the illegal antiquities market with them, and lots of fakes too (the locals are very good at churning them out). I wrote about that in an extensive article for Goddesschess in 2005, which was revised and updated in 2007. From November 6, 2007 Archaeologists dig Jiroft for more inscriptions TEHRAN, Nov. 6 (MNA) -- A team of archaeologists led by Yusef Majidzadeh returned to Jiroft yesterday in order to renew digs of the 5000-year-old site in the hope of finding further artifacts bearing inscriptions. The team was accompanied for this excavation season by several French and Italian archaeologists along with a number of Iranian students. During the past five phases of excavation Majidzadeh’s previous team had discovered four brick inscriptions which they unearthed in one of the present-day villager’s homes. Majidzadeh hopes to find another collection of brick inscriptions at the site. Located next to the Halil-Rud River in the southern Iranian province of Kerman, Jiroft came into the spotlight nearly six years ago when reports surfaced of extensive illegal excavations being carried out by local people who went on to plunder priceless historical items. Since 2002, Professor Majidzadeh has conducted five excavation seasons leading to the discovery of a ziggurat made of more than four million mud bricks dating back to circa 2200 BC. Many ancient ruins and interesting artifacts have been retrieved by archaeologists from the ancient site of Jiroft, which is known as the “archeologists lost heaven”. After numerous unique discoveries had been made in the region, Majidzadeh declared Jiroft to be the cradle of art. Many scholars questioned this theory due to the fact that no writings had been discovered at the site, but shortly afterwards his team discovered inscriptions at the Konar-Sandal Ziggurat, which caused experts to reconsider their views on Jiroft. The Konar-Sandal inscriptions are older than the Inshushinak inscription, thus it seems that the recently discovered inscriptions link the Proto Elamite script (first appeared circa 2900 BC in Susa) with the Old Elamite scripts (used between about 2250 and 2220 BC). Many Iranian and foreign experts consider the Jiroft findings to be evidence of the former existence of a civilization as great as that of Sumer or ancient Mesopotamia. Majidzadeh believes that Jiroft is the ancient city of Aratta, which was described in a Sumerian clay inscription as an impressive civilization. In December 2007, he suggested that archaeologists use the term Proto-Iranian instead of Proto-Elamite for the pre-cuneiform script found at several sites. He argued that the inscriptions recently discovered at Konar-Sandal and at some other ancient sites in Iran are older than the oldest inscriptions, such as the Inshushinak, found at Elamite sites. MMS/MA END MNA

Zombies in Ancient Egypt! Eek!

Darlings, I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried, but someone sure did have a good time writing this article for - of all publications - the venerable Archaeology (online edition). And it's not even from Halloween! Enjoy! Zombie Attack at Hierakonpolis November 6, 2007 by Renée Friedman Weighing the evidence for and dating of Solanum virus outbreaks in early Egypt Hierakonpolis is a site famous for its many "firsts," so many, in fact, it is not easy to keep track of them all. So we are grateful(?) to Max Brooks for bringing to our attention that the site can also claim the title to the earliest recorded zombie attack in history. In his magisterial tome, The Zombie Survival Guide (2003), he informs us that in 1892, a British dig at Hierakonpolis unearthed a nondescript tomb containing a partially decomposed body, whose brain had been infected with the virus (Solanum) that turns people into zombies. In addition, thousands of scratch marks adorned every surface of the tomb, as if the corpse had tried to claw its way out! [Editor's note: click here for an interview with Max Brooks and a timeline of archaeologically documented zombie outbreaks.] With the records available to us (Mr. Brooks obviously has access to others), the British dig can be identified as that conducted by Mssr. Somers Clarke and J.J. Tylor, during which they cleared the decorated tombs of Ny-ankh-pepy (Old Kingdom and Middle Kingdom) and Horemkhawef (Second Intermediate Period) on Old Kingdom hill. The notes of Tylor are lost to us, but Clarke's are preserved in the Griffith Institute, Oxford. Unusually cryptic in his discussion, he makes no mention of such a momentous discovery. Thus we can only infer that the tomb in question is one of those in the adjoining courtyard, and just a short distance from the underground chamber we examined in 2006 (see Hierakonpolis 2006: Adventures Underground). The tomb in question may indeed be the one we use a cozy and sheltered spot to take our lunch while working on the Fort, as its plastered, but unpainted walls are indeed covered with innumerable scratch marks that defy photography. If is the case, we might quibble--purely for the sake of scientific accuracy--that the 3000 B.C. date ascribed for the attack should be revised downward to the Old Kingdom, but its premier historical position remains unaffected. [Editor's note: this proposed re-dating, if accepted, necessitates a revision of Brooks's zombie-attack timeline.] On the other hand, in support of the earlier date, some have claimed that the famous Palette of Narmer (ca. 3000 B.C.), also from Hierakonpolis, far from recording a victory in the war of unification of Upper and Lower Egypt, is instead a celebration of the successful repulse of a zombie attack. Although we tend to focus on the verso where the king is shown smiting a kneeling enemy, it is the other side that is actually the front. It is the side with the depression for mixing the cosmetics for adorning the cult statue, and so it would seem that the scene of the king marching in procession to view a pile of decapitated bodies is the really important message. Nevertheless, while this scene may be evidence for zombie activity, reliance solely on pictorial records for such claims is scientifically questionable at best. There may be more to this in that Narmer's name means catfish-chisel, which sounds strange, and a catfish and chisel appear on the palette. But this could make sense if the palette refers to a victory over zombie forces. Perhaps Narmer wielded a large Nile catfish, Clarias?, grasping the tail and using it as a sort of black jack to stun the zombies, then removed their heads with a chisel. While it is an attractive idea, no serious archaeologist would hang their fedora on it without further evidence. Rest of article.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tania Sachdev: I want to play in an Olympiad

From India Times Sports online


PUNE, November 6:

Tania Sachdeva of Delhi, the 21-year-old Asian women's chess champion, is eager to defend her National 'A' title here. She also told TOI how much she wanted to compete in the Dresden (Germany) Olympiad next October. Of course, she knows she must finish in the top three in the Nationals here to secure her Olympiad berth.

Excerpts from an interview:

On her experience at the Indoor Asian Games in Macau:
It was a different experience altogether because we went as a contingent. Apart from helping each other in chess, there were other sports and other sportspersons too. Though I didn't play too many games, I won the team rapid gold and team blitz silver.

On the absence of Vijayalakshmi from the Nationals:
It's a family reason (death of a father), and it's hard for anyone. If she had played, the event would have been stronger. I always look up to Viji for her fighting spirit. Though I didn't win against her much to start with, of late I won two games with black and won the National title in her presence.

On her main rivals in Pune:
Everybody is strong. So there is no specific rival.

On how she is shaping up for the National 'A':
I will try to play my best and hoping for good games.

On whether it's right to select Olympiad teams by National 'A' ranking:
Personally, I would give more emphasis on rating strength. But the current system is fair.

Thoughts on playing in the Olympiad:
I'm really, really, really desperate to qualify. Not for anything else but sheer experience of playing on that stage and representing your country.

On whether she is six years behind Koneru Humpy (who she was a GM at 15, Tania at 21 is not yet):
We respect what she has done for Indian chess and her huge progress in the women's game. But you can't compare me and her that way. I came from a city (Delhi) where there is no chess culture, while she came from Andhra. I didn't give up studies and completed my degree in English (Hon). My aim is to cross the Elo rating of 2500.

Five Medals at Asian Indoor Games for D. Harika

From The Hindu Online November 7, 2007 ‘Macau — the biggest moment of my chess career’ Special Correspondent PUNE: “Winning five medals at the Asian Indoor Games (in Macau) is the biggest moment of my chess career,” declares International Master D. Harika, as she proudly displays her booty that includes two gold medals in her room here. At 16, Harika has already achieved plenty in terms of age-group titles in the World, Asian, Commonwealth and National championships. Last December, she became the only lady in the history of the National ‘A’ chess championship to remain undefeated in a male-dominated field. But what has thrilled this World No. 12 lady player is the way she performed at Macau last fortnight. Harika was the most successful Indian lady at the Games. She won two golds, two silvers and a bronze medal — a medal in every category she entered. “When we left for the Games, I was not very sure how things would go. I had just returned from Armenia after missing a World junior girls’ medal following defeats in the last three rounds. Even a draw in any of those games would have given me a medal. So I was a bit upset with myself,” revealed Harika. Terrific run Once the action began, Harika’s apprehensions gave way to a terrific run. She scored five points from six rounds in the mixed team competition in rapid format as India claimed the first gold of the Games. Harika went on to win gold in the individual event as well. “This was the first time I was playing rapid chess in any competition. But once I won the first two games, my confidence was back and I started enjoying the shorter version of the game,” she said. “There was no time to prepare or plan for the next game. Still we all enjoyed ourselves and kept encouraging each other,” said Harika, of her teammates K. Sasikiran, Surya Shekhar Ganguly, S. Arun Prasad, K. Humpy and Tania Sachdev, who helped India bag five gold, three silver and a bronze. Sasikiran had three gold medals, including two in individual events, and two silver medals. In the Classical format, where India collected the mixed team silver behind China, Harika contributed the most — five points from six games — to make the semifinals. However, she lost to Qatar’s Zhu Chen, a former World champion, 1.5-0.5 and took the bronze. Harika was not part of the individual event in blitz format but returned in the team championship to score three points from five games as the top seeded Indians settled for the silver behind China. She is now aiming to continue her form in the ongoing women’s National ‘A’ championship here. Should this girl from Guntur justify her seeding, she would become the first lady to win the National ‘B’ and ‘A’ crowns in the same city.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Ex Patriot Anand May Return to India

From the Hindustan Times online: Anand may return B. Shrikant, Hindustan Times Email Author Mumbai, November 05, 2007 First Published: 23:52 IST(5/11/2007) Last Updated: 23:53 IST(5/11/2007) Viswanathan Anand may soon shift base back to India. The world chess champion, who has been staying in Spain for over a decade as it facilitated his travel across Europe for tournaments, has bought a house in Chennai and will spend more time in India now on. Anand, who could shift to India as early as next January, said he would also train with Indian players, which could prove to be a great opportunity for them. "I have bought a new house in Chennai and will be staying more in India," Anand said. "Earlier, I used to stay for about two months in India and six-eight months in Spain. But now it could be the other way round." Anand's parents have a house at Besant Nagar in Chennai and he usually spends a couple of months every year with them, towards the end of the chess season. Though the reigning world champion and world No. 1 has no plans to move bag and baggage to India entirely and will continue to spend time in Spain, he will train more in India with local players, as he did before the Mexico World Championship in September. He owns a bungalow at Collado Mediano, near Madrid. Anand said he would put the plan into action with the Corus Chess Championship, to be held in the Netherlands on January 11-27 next year. "I will be working with Indian players in Chennai for some time before the Corus Championship. I will also have some sessions in Europe with my second, Peter Nielsen, before the event," he added. Anand had trained with Sandipan Chanda, RB Ramesh and young players like B Adhiban before the World Championship and found that those sessions not only proved profitable, they also helped the youngsters. Anand said he was looking forward to the Corus Championship as it has a strong field, with most of the world's top players in action.

Rebecca Lelko, Chess Champion

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer online: UPDATED: 7 :16 p.m. EDT, November 05, 2007 Five Minutes With . . . chess champion Rebecca Lelko Monday, November 05, 2007 Leah Boyd Plain Dealer Reporter For Rebecca Lelko, a tournament chess match earlier this year ended with a check. But not because she lost the game. The 16-year-old Chardon resident won a $36,000 scholarship to Texas Tech University in June after taking first place in her age group at the Susan Polgar International Tournament for girls in Las Vegas. Rebecca, who is a junior at Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin School, is also ranked as one of the country's top 65 female chess players younger than 21, according to the United States Chess Federation. How did you start playing chess? My mom taught my older brother and [me] how to play when I was 4. My brother joined the chess club when he was in elementary school, so of course I wanted to join, too. I started competing in tournaments in third grade to see if I liked it, and I did. My first competition, I didn't really know much. I didn't place, but I did pretty well. So I kept at it. Why do you find the game appealing? Sports have never appealed to me. I'm not an athlete, so chess is a way for me to compete. It can get addicting. I like critical-thinking activities, such as reading and puzzles. Math is my favorite subject because it's a lot like chess. They both involve deep thinking. Did you ever think playing chess would pay your way to college? No! I was really excited when I found out I was one of the three girls to win a scholarship at the tournament. I found out Texas Tech is really developing its chess program, but I hadn't thought about attending there. I am now! I can't wait to check it out. How do you prepare for tournaments? I play some aspect of chess every day. There are three parts: the opening, middle and end games. I usually just focus on one part at a time. I have a coach, and I take lessons every Sunday. What are your long-term plans with chess? I plan to play in college. I'm thinking about being a teacher just so I can be involved in a school chess club and keep myself in the chess scene. Do you have any advice for beginners? For anyone who's never played before, I'd just say try it to see if you like it. The main ideas are to first make sure your opponent can't beat you. But also, look at your opponent's weaknesses and try to take advantage of them.

The Goddess and the King

In a country that, yes, in the 21st century, where many still believe in the powers of the Goddess, these are critical times, indeed. Photo: The Royal Kumari is wheeled through the capital on a chariot

From BBC News

The goddess and the king
By Olenka Frenkiel Reporter, This World
Last Updated: Monday, 5 November 2007, 16:36 GMT

In Nepal a nine-year-old girl who is worshipped as a goddess is playing a significant symbolic role in the power struggle between politicians and the monarchy.

The nine-year-old Royal Kumari is worshipped as a goddess by the people of Kathmandu. For 240 years since they conquered and united the country of Nepal, the Kings of the Shah dynasty have sought her blessing to rule.

Each year, the king - himself traditionally worshipped as a God - has gone to her temple to be blessed with the tika, a red symbol on the forehead giving him another year as head of State.

But this year there was doubt about whether the King would attend the ceremony.

Political vacuum
Nepal's constitution is in limbo and one of the poorest countries in Asia is stuck in a political vacuum.

King Gyanendra is still king but has been stripped of his power. His palaces have been nationalised. He has become a king with no kingdom.

Now after 15 years of civil war Nepal's politicians are trying to steer the country to elections and then, almost certainly, a Republic. But elections have twice been postponed.

This king took power in 2001 after the Royal massacre in which most of Nepal's Royal family were killed. His unpopularity deepened when he staged a military coup in a bid to crush the Maoist uprising. He failed and had to back down.

This year, for the first time, the king was asked to stay away from the Royal Kumari. Nobody knew whether the goddess would bless his rule - or whether the king would brave the crowds.

Some hoped 2007 would be the year he stayed away, which could be interpreted as a symbolic abdication.

Revered goddess
The Royal Kumari is revered by both Hindus and Buddhists who believe that she blesses the people of Nepal with peace and prosperity. She is chosen by a committee of priests and advisors. She must be physically perfect, unmarked and her horoscope must match the king's.

Today's Kumari - whose real name is Preeti Shakya - was chosen five years ago when she was four years old. She was taken to the Kumari Temple where she will be worshipped as a goddess until puberty.

For her mother Reena Shakya, it was a wrench to let her go.

"At first I didn't want her to be the Kumari. I'd be sad without her. So I hid her upstairs, but they insisted and took her and said you shouldn't talk like that.

"They told us her horoscope matched exactly so we couldn't say no. My mother-in-law said something bad might happen if we didn't let her go. And it was good for the family name - so although we were sad, we let her go."

Her 12-year-old sister, Priya - an ordinary schoolgirl - is looking forward to her sister's return, once she's no longer a goddess.

"I used to cry. I miss her so much," she says. "If she was with me at home it would be so much fun. We would play together."

Preeti the goddess cannot leave her temple, except at festivals. But Priya is free to dawdle after school, buy an ice cream, chat with friends. She says despite the biscuits and chocolates worshippers bring, she would not want to be the Royal Kumari.

"I would not like to be separated from my parents. And I wouldn't have any friends in school. I can go to school and I can go outside as well."

'Abuse of rights'
Sapana Malla is a human rights lawyer and according to a Nepalese magazine, "the most influential woman in Nepal". She believes the role of Kumari is an abuse of the rights of the child and with other activists, has taken a case to the Supreme Court.

"The key deprivation is she cannot live with her mother or father - she must live in a temple without them. As a child you have a right to grow up in your own community with your own family. As a Kumari you cannot. You cannot play with your friends because you are a goddess."

She believes Nepal is modernising and it is time to abolish or at least reform state sponsored gods and goddesses.

"How many people now really believe that Kumari is really a goddess? They just follow it because it's a practice," she says.

Sapana did not believe the king would go to the Kumari's blessing this year: "The king used to go as head of the Hindu kingdom. But in all these religious ceremonies now it's the Prime Minister who goes."

She is hoping Nepal will become a secular Republic.

Avoiding taking sides
But Nepal continues to wait. Elections have again been postponed after the former Maoist revolutionaries pulled out of the country's interim coalition.

Sagar, of the Maoist Communist League, shows me a poster of his heroes - Engels, Marx Lenin, Stalin Mao and the Maoists' leader Prachanda. "Great leaders," he says proudly.

Maoist supporters are bussed into Kathmandu in daily shows of strength. But they, like the king, made enemies. During the war years they raped, tortured and murdered.

Many suspect the election boycott stemmed from fear. A bad election result would reduce their influence and ability to shape the future of Nepal, and in a worse-case scenario even threaten the peace process.

The Maoists want a Republic declared immediately. "We hate the Monarchy," says Sagar.

He sees the Kumari as an expensive distraction from the real task of building a new Nepal.

"Besides," he says, "she belongs to a narrow religious tradition of just one small ethnic group. Nepal has many."

Nepal may be changing, but the Kumari's blessing to rule is still an important symbol and on the appointed day vast crowds gathered to see who would come for the tika.

A convoy arrived in the darkness. It was the Prime Minister. He entered her temple and emerged with the tika on his brow. For the first time ever.

As the crowd thinned people asked whether it was the birth of Nepal's republic - and the fall of the House of Shah.

Then another car arrived. It was the king. Unofficial and unannounced. He too entered and emerged, blessed. The crowds cheered.

So the Monarchy is not quite dead. But the Republic is not yet born.

The Royal Kumari has deftly avoided taking sides. And Nepal's stalemate continues. **********************************************************************************
We've seen over and over again throughout history (herstory) that spitting on the rituals and rites of the past leads people backward, not forward. The way to proceed is how the ancient Egyptians did it: integrate the best of the past into the present, and create a new synthesis. Come on, people, if they could do it 5000 years ago, we should be able to do it now. If we cannot, then we truly deserve all of the curses that the Goddess will rain down upon us.

Indian "Goddess" Has Herself Buried Alive

From the "I can't make this stuff up, darlings" files: From AGI online, Italy: INDIAN "GODDESS" HAS HERSELF BURIED ALIVE, SAVED (AGI) - Shimla, 5 Nov. - A young Indian woman had herself buried alive by the inhabitants of her village, who worshipped her as a "serpent god" with the power to work miracles. After a few hours the police and dug out the girl who, to the everyone's surprise, was still alive despite showing signs of being "hysterical", according to a doctor. The incident occurred in a village in Himachal Pradesh, in northern India. The girl, Sapna Kumari, just 18, had herself buried in front of hundreds of people, including reporters. ************************************************************************************* Actually, I'm amazed the police intervened. What the article doesn't explain is what the serpent goddess and/or her followers expected to happen once she was buried.

Oh Geez! Bauval and Hancock Have Sold Out!

Now I know it's time to die, darlings. For those of you familiar with "alternative history" (or "herstory", as Isis says), Robert Bauval and Graham Hancock have been published mainstays, leading the charge, for many years. Seems they've sold out, though. Sigh. See for yourself, I'm quoting direct from The Daily Grail: Author Robert Bauval sends word of a special event to be held on the Spring Equinox next year, at the Giza Plateau in Egypt, with good friend Graham Hancock also in attendance: "The Grand Gathering of the Souls"... On the Spring Equinox of 21 March, 2008, the sun will rise directly due East and be perfectly aligned with The Great Sphinx of Giza. This event was foretold by the Ancient Egyptians. Written in Hieroglyphics on the “Dream Stele” resting between the paws of The Great Sphinx since ancient times states : “This is the Place of Zep Tepi” meaning, literally, “This is the Place of The Beginning of Time”. The ancient Hermatic texts state that one day, when the time is right, all the Kindred Souls of the world will gather at Giza to welcome the rising sun, heralding a new age for humankind. The Giza Plateau, home of The Great Pyramid and Great Sphinx has been declared “The Gathering Place of all Souls.” We honor this message coming to us from the ancients. In an overall spirit of unity, friendship and peace extending worldwide, we offer you this opportunity to join us in celebration on this very special day. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, including the sunrise celebration at the foot of The Great Sphinx of Giza on the morning of the Spring Equinox. Following will be a magical evening of entertainment and fine dining at the famous Bary’s Restaurant by the Pyramids. Musical guests include Alexandrian singer Chafik Kotry and internationally renowned Egyptian musician and composer Hossam Ramzy in co-operation with Italian singer and composer Riccardo Ducci (who are together writing for this event the song “Message of the Sphinx”), as well as a variety of surprise celebrity guests. For Bookings and more detail please contact: In Europe: Candice Bauval , e-mail: infoancientsands@aol.comIn the USA: Laura Pennington, e-mail: sanctum3@aol.comIn Egypt: Mohammad Nazmy, e-mail:

Downer Post - Don't Read If You're Depressed

Just what I need - more bad news. NOT! I'm already feeling the prize pinch at the supermarket. Milk over $3 a gallon, yikes! A simple loaf of poofed-up cheapo white bread is $1.69, yikes! Eggs over $2 a dozen for medium size, yikes! And meat - forget about meat, darlings! The worst hamburger on the shelf goes for close to $2 a pound. Nothing has been spared; pasta is up, rice is up; potatoes and all other vegetables - forgetaboutit! Unsalted peanuts that I feed to my squirrel population are holding steady at $1.79 a pound. Guess I may be eating more peanuts in the future... Well, welcome to the future, which is here, now. From the Guardian Unlimited Global food crisis looms as climate change and fuel shortages bite Soaring crop prices and demand for biofuels raise fears of political instability John Vidal, environment editor The Guardian Saturday November 3 2007 Empty shelves in Caracas. Food riots in West Bengal and Mexico. Warnings of hunger in Jamaica, Nepal, the Philippines and sub-Saharan Africa. Soaring prices for basic foods are beginning to lead to political instability, with governments being forced to step in to artificially control the cost of bread, maize, rice and dairy products. Record world prices for most staple foods have led to 18% food price inflation in China, 13% in Indonesia and Pakistan, and 10% or more in Latin America, Russia and India, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). Wheat has doubled in price, maize is nearly 50% higher than a year ago and rice is 20% more expensive, says the UN. Next week the FAO is expected to say that global food reserves are at their lowest in 25 years and that prices will remain high for years. Last week the Kremlin forced Russian companies to freeze the price of milk, bread and other foods until January 31, for fear of a public backlash with a parliamentary election looming. "The price of goods has risen sharply and that has hit the poor particularly hard," said Oleg Savelyev, of the Levada Centre polling institute. India, Yemen, Mexico, Burkina Faso and several other countries have had, or been close to, food riots in the last year, something not seen in decades of low global food commodity prices. Meanwhile, there are shortages of beef, chicken and milk in Venezuela and other countries as governments try to keep a lid on food price inflation. Boycotts have become commonplace. Argentinians shunned tomatoes during the recent presidential election campaign when they became more expensive than meat. Italians organised a one-day boycott of pasta in protest at rising prices. German leftwing politicians have called for an increase in welfare benefits so that people can cope with price rises. "If you combine the increase of the oil prices and the increase of food prices then you have the elements of a very serious [social] crisis in the future," said Jacques Diouf, head of the FAO, in London last week. The price rises are a result of record oil prices, US farmers switching out of cereals to grow biofuel crops, extreme weather and growing demand from countries India and China, the UN said yesterday. "There is no one cause but a lot of things are coming together to lead to this. It's hard to separate out the factors," said Ali Gurkan, head of the FAO's Food Outlook programme, yesterday. He said cereal stocks had been declining for more than a decade but now stood at around 57 days, which made global food supplies vulnerable to an international crisis or big natural disaster such as a drought or flood. "Any unforeseen flood or crisis can make prices rise very quickly. I do not think we should panic but we should be very careful about what may happen," he warned. Lester Brown, president of the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute thinktank, said: "The competition for grain between the world's 800 million motorists, who want to maintain their mobility, and its 2 billion poorest people, who are simply trying to survive, is emerging as an epic issue." Last year, he said, US farmers distorted the world market for cereals by growing 14m tonnes, or 20% of the whole maize crop, for ethanol for vehicles. This took millions of hectares of land out of food production and nearly doubled the price of maize. Mr Bush this year called for steep rises in ethanol production as part of plans to reduce petrol demand by 20% by 2017. Maize is a staple food in many countries which import from the US, including Japan, Egypt, and Mexico. US exports are 70% of the world total, and are used widely for animal feed. The shortages have disrupted livestock and poultry industries worldwide. "The use of food as a source of fuel may have serious implications for the demand for food if the expansion of biofuels continues," said a spokesman for the International Monetary Fund last week. The outlook is widely expected to worsen as agro-industries prepare to switch to highly profitable biofuels. according to Grain, a Barcelona-based food resources group. Its research suggests that the Indian government is committed to planting 14m hectares (35m acres) of land with jatropha, an exotic bush from which biodiesel can be manufactured. Brazil intends to grow 120m hectares for biofuels, and Africa as much as 400m hectares in the next few years. Much of the growth, the countries say, would be on unproductive land, but many millions of people are expected to be forced off the land. This week Oxfam warned the EU that its policy of substituting 10% of all car fuel with biofuels threatened to displace poor farmers. The food crisis is being compounded by growing populations, extreme weather and ecological stress, according to a number of recent reports. This week the UN Environment Programme said the planet's water, land, air, plants, animals and fish stocks were all in "inexorable decline". According to the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) 57 countries, including 29 in Africa, 19 in Asia and nine in Latin America, have been hit by catastrophic floods. Harvests have been affected by drought and heatwaves in south Asia, Europe, China, Sudan, Mozambique and Uruguay. This week the Australian government said drought had slashed predictions of winter harvests by nearly 40%, or 4m tonnes. "It is likely to be even smaller than the disastrous drought-ravaged 2006-07 harvest and the worst in more than a decade," said the Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics. According to Josette Sheeran, director of the WFP, "There are 854 million hungry people in the world and 4 million more join their ranks every year. We are facing the tightest food supplies in recent history. For the world's most vulnerable, food is simply being priced out of their reach." Food for thought Possible scenarios Experts describe various scenarios for the precarious food supply balance in coming years. An optimistic version would see markets automatically readjust to shortages, as higher prices make it more profitable once again to grow crops for people rather than cars. There are hopes that new crop varieties and technologies will help crops adapt to capricious climactic conditions. And if people move on to a path of eating less meat, more land can be freed up for human food rather than animal feed. A slowdown in population growth would naturally ease pressures on the food market, while the cultivation of hitherto unproductive land could also help supply. But fears for even tighter conditions revolve around deepening climate change, which generates worsening floods and droughts, diminishing food supplies. If the price of oil rises further it will make fertilisers and transport more expensive, and at the same time make it more profitable to grow biofuel crops. Supply will be further restricted if fish stocks continue to decline due to overfishing, and if soils become exhausted and erosion decreases the arable area.

Ancient Navigators

Since going online in March, 1999, I've come across lots of stories about ancient navigators. We know, in fact, that man set out from Asia some 50,000 years ago to cross open water to various islands. I don't have the sequence (or the timing) down exactly, but the people who showed up in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, the Phillipines, Japan, Korea, the Hawaiian Islands, Easter Island, Vanuatu, etc. etc. didn't get there by clicking their heels together three times and wishing it! The courage and intrepidness of those ancient navigators - their sheer guts - has always amazed me and has won my undying admiration and respect. How did they do it? Now I know that it took much study and the accumulation of years of knowledge garnered through close observation and experience, but it wasn't until I first saw the movie "Castaway" on network t.v. a few years ago that I fully appreciated just how brave those early navigators were - to face an endless ocean on logs held together with vines (or in Tom Hanks' case, assisted with videotape) and a "butterfly" sail created from what I guess was an acrylic shower lining! How many people were lost along the way, those who didn't make it headed out toward the unknown in the equivalent of dug-out canoes and balsa rafts - we'll never know. Sea and ocean travel was hazardous enough in what we think of as traditional "ships" - witness thousands of wreck sites known in the Mediterranean and around the Black Sea, for instance. And yet man never stopped trying. Geez, when we're not busy killing each other and thinking up new ways to torture each other, and committing child abuse, animal abuse and other untold mayhem in this world, we really can be pretty damned amazing. From the Ancient sea travellers had heads in the clouds By Nick Squires Last Updated: 2:06am GMT 31/10/2007 A stone tool found on a remote Pacific island has provided evidence that early Polynesians travelled 2,500 miles by canoe using only the stars, clouds and seabirds as navigational aids. Scientists have found that the stone adze, found on a coral atoll in what is now French Polynesia, was quarried from volcanic rock in Hawaii, on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. It was transported about 1,000 years ago by Polynesian voyagers in wooden canoes, either as a chunk of uncut rock used for ballast, or as a gift or memento. Its Hawaiian provenance confirms what Pacific peoples have long been told through folklore - that their ancestors were among the most skilled navigators in history. Archaeologists and historians have likened their ability to find new islands in the vastness of the Pacific as akin to sending a rocket into space and hoping it will hit a planet. Dr Marshall Weisler, of the University of Queensland, said the journey between Hawaii and Tahiti "now stands as the longest uninterrupted maritime voyage in human prehistory". He said it was "mind-boggling" how Polynesian settlers found their way from one speck of land to another and back again, colonising the last uninhabited parts of the planet. They are believed to have used signs such as tides, the presence of driftwood and the flight of seabirds, which return to roost on land at night. They also closely observed the underside of clouds, which reflect whatever lies beneath them - a darker tinge indicates the presence of land. Proving that such a feat was possible, in 1976 a reconstructed ocean-going canoe, the Hokule'a, successfully sailed from Hawaii to Tahiti. The adze was found by an archeologist in the 1930s on a coral island in the Tuamotu archipelago in French Polynesia, but has only recently been subjected to chemical testing. It started its journey on Kaho'olawe island in Hawaii. "Before beginning their voyage south from Hawaii, the ancient voyagers most likely stopped at the westernmost tip of the island, traditionally named Lae o Kealaikahiki, which literally means 'the cape or headland on the way to Tahiti'," Dr Weisler said. "Here they apparently collected rocks, like that from which the adze was subsequently made, to take on their voyage, either as ballast or as a gift."

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Watch Tower and the Goddess of Wealth

Holy Cow! Is the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society affiliated (behind the scenes, of course) with the Goddess of Wealth? Well, I mean I know the Jehovah's Witnesses continue to rake in cash from their door to door work (and congregant contributions) in the USA to subsidize their world-wide work in the poorer nations, but - oh, I get it. Insurance, yes, insurance... Of course, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is not "in" on this, so to speak, not in India, in all events - at least, not at present. But, then again, who knows? On a more practical level, it has been reported that in addition to getting vengence for unpaid doweries, wives have been killed in order for husband and/or husband's family to get life insurance money. As India is rushing into the 21st century, skipping forward from the 16th century CE, perhaps equal opportunity is now at hand, and wives are killing their husbands for life insurance money... From Watch Tower: Lakshmiji, the Goddess of Wealth Removal of `untouchability' has really been the boon of Mahalakshmi. Could we revive this concept to remove the ignorance vehemently prevalent in us, queries SN Patra In West Bengal Lakshmi Pujan was performed as usual on Sharad Purnima. In the north, Lakshmi Pujan will religiously be performed on Deepawali Amasvasya. In Orissa, Lakshmi Pujan will be performed on every Thursday of the Margshira month. In Karnataka, Friday is important for the propitiation of Lakshmiji. In Gujarat, similarly Vaibhav Lakshmi vrata is performed on Fridays. In the Srimad Bhagwat Mahapurana, Payo Vrata has been prescribed for acquiring wealth. All these vratas and worships are intended for acquisition of wealth purely through legitimate means which we call `white money(?). But, for most worshippers wealth earned through means fair or foul is okay. Ends and not means matter. Ganeshji laid importance on the `means' part, rightfully so. Want- want of sufficient money to run the household falls squarely on the shoulders of `griha Lakshmi'. If the husband, the head of the family does not earn black money, the lady wife takes to Lakshmi pujan religiously and the wealth may come in the way of insurance amount from a) a personal accident policy & b) an insurance policy which prematurely fetches a lumpsum amount on the death of the man (the husband). Besides, the ritualistic Lakshmi pujan, these days we find girls taking up challenging jobs like the boys. When married their income is doubled and they make both ends meet even at the cost of some neglect to upbringing of children or other household matters. According to the Hindu Act and practices widely prevalent in our country, `stridhan' is not touched by the husband or by the relatives from either side. In most parts people do not eat in the house of the married daughter what to speak of getting regular monetary share of her monthly income. If we chance to have a meal at the married daughter's house we pay some money in return. But, those people who do not have a son or reasonably well-settled son or a tolerant and temperate `bahu' (wife of the son) do fall back upon not only the daughter's income but also on the son-in-law's. They are keen to convert the jamai (son-in-law) to a `ghar jamai' precisely because `behind every successful man there is a woman.' Am I not clear? If not, I have to write a book on the subject. Let us revert back to the introductory part. Vishnu as Venkateswar (Balaji) became poor as Maha Lakshmi left him. Venkateswar, for his marriage to Lakshmi (Padmavati) on the earth had to borrow wealth from Kuber, the lord of wealth!. Even today, he is paying interest to Kuberji because the interest is unending. We, as devotees put wealth in his `hundi' to lighten the burden of Venkateswara tendering his EMIs He has been paying to Kuber. Mahalakshmi purana which is recited by the ladies in Orissa speaks of the importance of Lakshmiji. Once, as per an agreement prior to marriage of Jagannathji and Lakshmiji on a Margashria Thursday, The Goddess of wealth descended on the earth and found everyone lazy, their houses unswept and dirty but for the house of `Sriya' `Chandalini' (safai karmi of Sri Mandir) too clean, tidy and impressive. Therefore, Lakshmiji showered boons and wealth. Balabhadraji, the elder brother of Jagannathji ensured Lakshmiji to leave her husband because she committed the gravest sin of having entered the house of a `safai karmi'. The Purana runs into a good twenty pages and more in dramatic poise enumerating what is to be done for prosperity and acquisition of wealth and also taking the importance of various gods and goddesses whose help Lakshmiji took in her exile. While leaving the house of Jagannathji she cursed both the brothers of poverty, starvation and ignominy till they come to her and ate food cooked by Lakshmiji herself. It happened. Lakshmiji came back to Sri Mandir on condition that `mahaprasad is eaten by Brahmins and sudras partaking it from each other and not washing their hands but wiping in their heads and that she would visit any house on the earth if Lakshmiji found it clean and its members following fair means in every respect irrespective of caste or creed of the inhabitants of that house. Jagannathji and elder brother Balabhadra had to agree to these two conditions, per force. What surprises me even today is that how the Pandas of Puri who are believed to be `gopis' in their precious birth do not allow a non-caste-Hindu enter the Sri Mandir or Jaganath temple. Removal of `untouchability' has really been the boon of Mahalakshmi. Could we revive this concept to remove the ignorance vehemently prevalent in us?

Mastering nursing skills and chess

I'd feel much much better about this outfit if it would change it's name from MASTERS KILL to something else. Yes, yes, I know, it's supposed to be MASTER SKILL (*the words are all rammed together) - but, darlings, that is not how it is coming across in this story! Eek! Perhaps something has been lost in translation from Indian to English - if so - they need to hire a new translator! The November 4, 2007 Mastering nursing skills With a strong team at the helm, Masterskill College of Nursing and Health is going places in the allied health sciences. By RICHARD LIM THE first thing you will notice in the boardroom at Masterskill College of Nursing and Health (Masterskill) will be the chess sets. An avid fan of chess, chief executive officer Edmund Santhara has not only been busy making his moves on the chess board but also in the boardroom, strategising the best way to put Masterskill on the world map. Its 10th anniversary has seen the college grow from being just a small nursing school to one of the largest private nursing and allied health colleges in the Asia-Pacific region. “Who wanted a Masterskill diploma then?” asks Santhara, when commenting on the challenges faced by Masterskill in its early years. [Editor's Note: Oh yes, who would want a Masters Kill diploma?] Masterskill was founded in 1997, smack in the middle of the Asian financial crisis. [Editor's Note: Undoubtedly a significant detail...] “That was the time when our country faced difficulties and we wanted to play our part to reduce the outflow of foreign currency [Editor's Note: And perhaps help ease the trade balance by killing off several million or so...], so we chose not to market ourselves on a foreign brand,” explains Santhara. “We were not affiliated to any foreign university at all.” This lack of a foreign affiliation saw Masterskill struggle with low student enrolment as people were sceptical about the value of the qualifications and the marketability of its graduates. In 2001, it had only 61 students. However, this number subsequently increased to 1,609 in 2005. Currently, there are more than 8,000 students in Masterskill, six of whom are international students. “There will be a 20% allocation for foreign students next year as we are interested in promoting Masterskill as a global brand,” says Santhara. “However, our priority is local students as Masterskill has always been, and will always be, a true Malaysian institution.” Rest of story here. ******************************************************************************* Well, darlings, what else can I say, heh? Malaysia today, tomorrow, the world...

Abby Marshall

Sixteen year old Abby Marshall - writer, poet, teenager, female, chessplayer. These are just a few faces of the young Ms. Marshall - but chessplayer is getting the most publicity these days, as she heads to the World Youth Chess Championships in Turkey as a representative of the USA. The event will be held at A comprehensive article was written about Abby and published at the today entitled "Iron Maiden" (oh, please!) Despite the cliches, it's a good enough article. Abby is a fine young woman and would be a good role model for anyone in the US. She's bright, talented in many areas other than chess, erudite, poised. Good luck to Abby and the other young players who will be representing the USA.

Unbalanced News Coverage Tech gets more response time in chess lawsuit MARLENA HARTZ AVALANCHE-JOURNAL Story last updated at 10:04 p.m. Saturday, November 3, 2007 This story first appeared on at 4:29 p.m. Friday A judge has extended Texas Tech's deadline to respond to a lawsuit filed against it and the founders of its new chess institute. U.S. District Judge Denny Chin of the Southern District of New York extended the deadline to Nov. 16 about a week ago, according to a court document. A member of the Texas Attorney General's Office, Scot Graydon, requested the extension in a letter to the judge dated Oct. 26. Graydon, an assistant attorney general, intends to file a motion to have the case dismissed, he wrote in the letter. He said Friday by telephone he does not discuss his cases. Before he can file the motion, Graydon must be granted permission to practice in the Southern District of New York, his letter reads. Sam Sloan, a former U.S. Chess Federation board member, filed the lawsuit against Tech, its institute founders, Grandmaster Susan Polgar and her husband, Paul Truong, as well as 13 other defendants in early October. Sloan, 63, alleges Truong, 42, and Polgar, 38 - of Tech's Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence - impersonated him on the Internet to discredit him in the last federation board election, in which they were elected and Sloan was not. He said they posted thousands of profane messages on Internet blogs in his name, beginning in 2005. Truong has denied Sloan's allegations before, but he and Polgar did not return a phone message and a page left Friday. [NOTE: This is because Polgar and Truong are in Crossville, Tennessee, attending a U.S. Chess Federation Executive Board Meeting. Since they were not in Lubbock but were either en route to or already in Crossville, they could not possibly answer a local telephone call or a local page.] The majority of defendants in the lawsuit are board members of the chess federation. Sloan said he included Tech in his lawsuit because some of the messages were posted from computers owned by the university and used by Truong or Polgar or both. [NOTE: This is an obvious "fish" for a deep pocket.] Sloan, who is representing himself in the case [NOTE: This gives you an idea of the relative merits of Mr. Sloan's case - he can't find an attorney to take it on a contingency fee basis], seeks $20 million in damages and to be reinstated on the chess board pending a new election. "I don't think (the case) is as cut and dry as (the defense) says it is," Sloan said Friday. [NOTE: No, of course he wouldn't. What would you expect the man to say. Duh!] To comment on this story: 766-8753 766-8706 ******************************************************************************** I have emailed Ms. Hartz about Mr. Truong's and Ms. Polgar's attendance at the USCF Executive Board meeting, and requested that she correct her story to reflect a more balanced view - in light of this fact.

Khalifman v. The Kid - Fond Memories

Happy Sunday, darlings! It's cool but mostly sunny here today - and I should be outside cutting the grass one last time but here I am instead, slaving away over the keyboard to keep our myriads of fans happy (all 97 of you). The Packers are coming on at noon, so I guess the grass cutting will have to wait until post-game, 3:15 or so. Darlings - I just read at The Week in Chess that the chessplayer Isis and I fondly call "The Kid" a/k/a Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu is a last minute substitute for another of our favorite chessplayers, GM Alexander Khalifman, participating in the Tournament of Champions in Spain. Khalifman had to withdraw due to illness. We hope it's nothing serious. We have great memories of attending the FIDE Knock-Out World Chess Championship at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas in August, 1999 - my first exposure to chess up close and personal. In fact, we were sitting in the front row at the quarter-finals, LOL! At the time Nisipeanu looked about 16 and was under legal drinking age for the state of Nevada - he had short hair and a slender, boyish figure and was cute as a button. Judit played Khalifman on that day, Friday August 13, 1999, and she was held to a draw, not making a score to advance the semi-finals. Khalifman, The Kid, Vladimir Akopian and Mickey Adams all advanced, and I watched every game of those semi-finals. I wrote all about it from Las Vegas in daily posts to the old Art Bell Message Board, which we captured for all eternity in The Weave at Goddesschess. You can read all about it here if you're interested. Now, The Kid has a long ponytail - what's that all about anyway? - and he looks much older than he should, darlings, at least, in my opinion! Egoddess - here I am getting younger and younger with each passing year (and I haven't even sold my soul to the Devil like Dorian Gray did) and The Kid looks like a 40 year old! Eek! In any event, since Akopian and Adams are playing in the European Team Championships, I'm glad The Kid was available to step in as a fitting substitute for Khalifman. I remember well the round of applause The Kid and Khalifman received after their final semi-final game and The Kid could not pull out a win. The official website for this event is in Spanish and absolutely undecipherable to me! Judit Polgar is playing, although she's not actually a "World Chess Champion" - but she is the best woman player in the world and if she had played in women's championships would no doubt have won the title and held it as long as she wanted. This event is for a good cause (did the star players waive their appearance fees, I wonder?) According to TWIC: The aim behind the tournament is to get funds to build up and/or send equipment to a Hospital in Mbuji-Mayi, one of the poorest regions in Congo. Side events which aim to raise this money include: To begin with, the the Moscow Orchestra will play several times in Vitoria duting the tournament (including at the opening ceremony), and they will donate all the benefits they got from the concerts to the project. -- The models and fashion designers from the Pasarela Cibeles Fashion Show (Madrid) will make an special appearance in the tournament, and some of the most famous fashion designers and models will offer a fashion show next to the playing hall. They will then give us the dresses and customs to be sold at auction. -- Some of the best Spanish sportsmen (the likes of Rafa Nadal and Miguel Indurain) will donate some items to be sold at auction. Topalov, for instance, has donated the medal he got when he became World Junior Champion in Puerto Rico 1989! Standings After Round 2: Rank SNo. Name Rtg FED Pts SB. 1 5 GM TOPALOV Veselin 2769 BUL 2 0,50 2 6 GM PONOMARIOV Ruslan 2705 UKR 1½ 0,75 3 4 GM NISIPEANU Liviu-Dieter 2668 ROU ½ 0,75 4 1 GM POLGAR Judit 2708 HUN ½ 0,25 5 2 GM KARPOV Anatoly 2670 RUS ½ 0,25 6 3 GM KASIMDZHANOV Rustam 2690 UZB 0 0,00
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