Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Delayed Maleness

Article at The Washington Post online.

The mysterious village where girls turn into boys


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Women Were Some of the Fiercest Samurai Warriors Ever

A short video on Aizu warrior women:

Women Were Some of the Fiercest Samurai Warriors Ever

In ancient Japan, battle was typically reserved for male samurai. That all changed when Takeko Nakano and her sister, Yuko, decided to fight for their clan's independence after a deadly village invasion (3:22)

Ancient Chinese Game of "Go" Alive and Well in Lincoln, Nebraska

Some game historians have speculated that chess may have originated from the game of Go (Chinese: Wei qi; Japanese: Igo), but I'm not convinced (Chinese chess is Xiang qi).  Still, Go is a venerable game played by millions all around the world today, which is more than can be said for many other ancient board games that we know of, such as another Chinese game, Liubo or "six sticks," and the ancient Egyptian games of  Mehen and Senet.

Article from The Daily Nebraskan

Local club meets weekly at Cultiva to play ancient board game

  • Nick Niendorf

Patrons at Cultiva are greeted by an intriguing sight every Saturday afternoon.  Entering the café yields a view of brooding, pensive combatants. Their moves are swift, but thoughtful and each of the games attract the undivided attention of those around the players.
This is board game that started in China well over 2,500 years ago has found a home in modern-day Lincoln.
“It is less like a war and more like a contest for territory,” said Grant Centauri, the Go club’s founder, when describing the game’s play style. “The end goal is to take over more space than your opponent.”

All of Antarctica Might Melt Drowning Major Cities

Hola darlings!

The hot, humid and unbearable tropical weather (dew points were close to 70 nearly every day) we've been suffering through the entire month of August and the beginning of September in my little piece of southeastern Wisconsin is FINALLY over, hooray!  Drier and cooler air coupled with plenty of sun have arrived, and I am feeling re-energized.  It also helps that my latest flair-up of sciatica seems to have miraculously nearly disappeared, literally overnight!  I'm actually tackling some much needed home improvement projects that I should have started and finished a year ago.  Oh well.

Headline:  DUH!  I mean, really.  We all know there are a kabillion jillion gallons of water locked up in Antarctica's ice cover and it is melting (along with the ice cover in the Arctic regions) at an alarming and rapidly expanding rate.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government fiddles instead of preparing for the coming inexorable rise in the oceans - and what will happen to the Great Lakes?  Will they be inundated with salt water via the St. Lawrence Seaway and other swamped rivers?  Holy Hathor!  I'm sure there will be those who say - hey, we'll have figured this all out long before 10,000 years from now.  I say: Yeah, right (sarcasm).

Students of herstory know for a fact that many great civilizations have come and gone over the thousands of years of recorded herstory and long before that, with many (most) of them wiped out by climate changes of relatively short (a few hundred years) or long (the last Ice Age) duration.  But somehow, we just never seem to learn herstory's lessons.  Why is that?  I leave that to the philosophers to debate.  Here's the article:

All of Antarctica Might Melt, Drowning Major Cities

“Combustion of available fossil fuel resources sufficient to eliminate the Antarctic Ice Sheet.”
Few peer-reviewed study titles sound quite so much like a line spoken by the bad-news-bearing scientist from a dystopian sci-fi movie. But there it is. A real-world—and apparently very possible—dystopia.
For what Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science and an author on the paper, published Friday in the journal Science Advances, believes is the first time, he and his colleagues have shown that there are enough fossil fuels still in the ground to melt “effectively all of Antarctica” and ultimately cause as much as 200 feet of sea level rise.

Of course, it wouldn’t be only Antarctica that melts under this scenario. “Our study shows that if we don't leave most of the carbon in the ground, we are going to melt most of the ice on this planet,” Caldeira says. “I think this is one of the most important papers of my career.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

2015 Montreal Open

Hi everyone!

Goddesschess is pleased to announce that it is continuing its sponsorship for the Montreal Open Chess Championship, September 11 - 13, 2015 at the beautiful College Jean de Brebeuf, Montreal.

The playing venue at College Jean de Brebeuf, Montreal.

This year we have expanded prizes exclusively for female players as well as providing addition individual sponsorship to top Canadian female players.  Goddesschess prizes for female players are IN ADDITION to any prize a female player also may win.  

As you may remember, Goddesschess' long-time webmaster and reporter on the scene, Don McLean, was a native of Montreal and attended many Montreal Open Chess Champions, providing interviews and photographs for this blog over the years.  Goddesschess continues it sponsorship of the Championnat in honor and loving memory of Don, who passed away in October, 2012, just a few months after the Goddesschess Canadian Women's Closed Championship in August, 2012.

We are hoping for a great turnout of female chess players!  Online registration available through September 10 at 18:00.

2,000 Year Old Ethiopean "Sleeping Beauty"

Hola everyone!

'Sleeping beauty': 2,000-year-old remains found in biblical city

It was the Queen of Sheba that first drew Louise Schofield -- an archaeologist and former curator at the British Museum -- to the Gheralta plateau in northern Ethiopia. She'd heard tell of a 20-foot stone stele carved with an inscription and a symbol often linked to the biblical queen: a sun and crescent moon.
"The story of the Queen of Sheba has a central place in the heart of all Ethiopians, so I became interested in the story myself," she recalls (Sheba is thought to be located in parts of Ethiopia).
It was this initial visit that ultimately led her to discover the 2,000-year-old remains of a character she fondly refers to as "sleeping beauty."
The grave was discovered at the stone stele, in an area that was once part of the ancient kingdom of Aksum, which today encompasses Ethiopia and Eritrea. Inside, Schofield's team found the skeleton of a woman posed in a resting position, with her chin laid gently on one hand. A Roman-era bronze mirror was placed before her face. The corpse was surrounded with glass vessels (to catch the tears of the dead), as well as a bronze cosmetics spoon and a lump of kohl eyeliner.
"She must have been very wealthy, and probably well-loved to be placed in this position, and judging by all the items of finery around her," surmised Schofield.
The dig also uncovered several other graves, all of which had several bodies buried beneath. In some, she found the remains of large warriors clad who each wore an iron bangle.
"We think they were warriors from a battle," she says.
The unusual find suggests trade between Rome and Aksum started at least 200 years earlier than previously believed.
As the dig is less than a month old, there's still a lot of information yet to come in about this restful lady. A bone expert wasn't able to ascertain her age at the time of death because the pelvis -- which usually provides a close approximation -- had been consumed by termites. Schofield hopes that analysis of the teeth will provide some answers.
"There was something very personal about the way she was lying," Schofield says. The remains were also found surrounded by clay containers that likely contained food or drink (these have also been sent off for analysis).
"The food, drink and cosmetics were all presumably left for her to use in the afterlife. She was pre-Christian and that's how people buried their dead then," says Schofield.
Shofield has a bit of the Midas touch when it comes to extraordinary finds. She also recently uncovered a Roman-era perfume flask in the same cemetery, although by chance. The archaeologist is also the director of London-based NGO The Tigray Trust, and the item was first brought to her attention by a local farmer she knew through the organization.
"I had been showing around a member of the Peace Corps who had been working in a nearby town (around the site), and we'd been out in the blazing sun for 8 hours, when a farmer I knew said his friend found something old, and he'd been keeping it for me," she recalls.
"I was apologizing to the Peace Corps guy. I told him, 'it could be an old coffee pot, but you never know, it could be the Queen of Sheba's perfume flask.'"

Sunday, September 6, 2015

FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2015-2016

Hola darlings!

FIDE has announced the nominees and schedule for the FIDE Women's Grand Prix 2015-2016, consisting of four events (only four - how low we have fallen).  Top finishers will -- if I understand this correctly -- qualify for the Women's World Chess Championship Match in 2017.  You can find all of the info here.


* 2-16 October 2015 in Monte Carlo, MONACO 
* February 2016 in Kish, IRAN 
* May 2016 in Tbilisi, GEORGIA 
* July 2016 in Chengdu, CHINA

In total 16 players will participate, 10 qualifiers as per regulations (listed below) plus 4 nominees from the organisers of each tournament (to be announced) plus 2 nominees of the FIDE President.

FIDE President has nominated Alexandra Kosteniuk and Antoaneta Stefanova, 

The 10 original qualifiers who have to confirm their participation by 20 August 2015 are: 

01. Muzychuk, Mariya (World Champion, Sochi 2015) 
02. Pogonina, Natalija (finalist world championship, Sochi 2015) 
03. Cramling, Pia (semi-finalist world championship, Sochi 2015) 
04. Harika, Dronavalli (semi-finalist world championship, Sochi 2015) 
05. Hou, Yifan (by rating, 12 std lists 8/14 to 7/15: average 2674.83 in 88 games) 
06. Koneru, Humpy (by rating, 12 std lists 8/14 to 7/15: average 2585.83 in 39 games) 
07. Dzagnidze, Nana (by rating, 12 std lists 8/14 to 7/15: average 2568.50 in 50 games) 
08. Ju, Wenjun (by rating, 12 std lists 8/14 to 7/15: average 2557.91 in 92 games) 
09. Muzychuk, Anna (by rating, 12 std lists 8/14 to 7/15: average 2548.41 in 63 games) 
10. Gunina, Valentina (by rating, 12 std lists 8/14 to 7/15: average 2532.91 in 83 games) 

The first reserve for any replacement needed is Kosteniuk, Alexandra (by rating 2532.00 in 69 games, average 12 std lists 8/2014 to 7/2015). 

The full regulations of the Women's Grand Prix 2015-2016 are published here.

Each player will participate in exactly three (3) out of the four tournaments. Players must rank their preference of tournaments but FIDE reserves the right to assign players to tournaments according to the organizational needs and the players for each tournament will be announced before the cycle begins.

Here is the prize structure:

7. Prize Money & Grand Prix Points. 

7.1. The prize money which will be offered by host city organisers for each tournament is 75,000 Euros (net amount, after all local taxes are deducted) and is split 60,000 Euros as direct prize money for the tournament and 15,000 Euros towards an accumulated prize fund for the players at the end of the series: 

1 st € 10,000 120 points + 40 bonus 
2 nd € 8,250 110 points + 20 bonus 
3 rd € 6,750 100 points + 10 bonus 
4 th € 5,750 90 points 
5 th € 5,000 80 points 
6 th € 4,500 70 points 
7 th € 4,250 60 points 
8 th € 4,000 50 points 
9 th € 3,250 40 points 
10th € 3,000 30 points 
11th € 2,750 20 points 
12th € 2,500 10 points Total 60,000 euros 850 points 

In the case of any tie in any tournament, the Grand Prix ranking points and prize money will be split equally. 

The overall winner of the Grand Prix will be the one who will score the most number of cumulative points. The cumulative score will be calculated from the best three results for each player. The winner of the Grand prix agrees to play a match against the World Champion as per FIDE regulations in 2017. 

7.2. Tie Break for Overall Winner: In the case of two or more players having equal cumulative points at the top of the GP standings, with the objective of determining a clear, single winner to play in the World Championship Match, the following criteria (in descending order) will be utilized to decide the overall GP top winner(s):

7.3. Accumulated Prize Fund. 9 prizes will be awarded from the minimum accumulated prize fund of €90,000 (Euros) as follows : 

Overall Place Accumulated Prize (Euros) 
1st 25,000 
2nd 20,000
3rd 15,000 
4th 10,000 
5th 7,500 
6th 5,500 
7th 4,000 
8th 3,000 €90,000 

In the case of any joint overall ranking, the respective accumulated prizes will also be split equally. 

Of course, FIDE, rather than CONTRIBUTING FUNDS toward women's prizes sucks more money out of the organizers and local chess organizations who are stupid enough sponsoring events:

7.4. FIDE Contributions. The organiser will pay FIDE an additional sum of 20% (15,000 Euros), over and above, the above total host city prize fund (75,000 Euros). 7.5. Global Chess Contribution. The organiser will pay Global Chess the sum of 15,000 euros for the assistance provided in the co-ordination and management of this event. This will include the cost of 4 people to cover organisation assistance and setup (2 persons), event reporting and commentary in Russian and English (2 persons). All travel expenses in economy class, and hotel accommodation on full board basis will be covered by organisers.   

I don't know about how you feel, but frankly, I'm a little tired of seeing the same players over and over and over again.  There have been no break-through female players since Hou Yifan when she was a pre-teen.  Where is the next Judit Polgar?  Will the world ever produce the like of her again?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Destruction of Ancient Palmyra Temple by ISIR Confirmed

THIS type of behavior is the only reason civilized societies need  to NOT repatriate precious ancient artifacts back to ANY country in the barbarian territories - or elsewhere, for that matter, because what seems stable today may be taken over by Christian Taliban, for example, tomorrow (like they are attempting to do in the USA).  Hey Saudis, where are you in this?  Hey, Iran, where are you in this (well, the government forces are still busy destroying their own monuments through massive looting, what was I thinking/??) Hey, Arab Emirates, where are you in this?

Guess these fellow barbarians and all of their sympathizers think they will be exempt from ISIR or ISIR-like forces.  Ha!  Think again, dudes.

Palmyra temple destruction confirmed by satellite images

Beirut (AFP) - Satellite images show the main temple in Syria's Palmyra has been flattened, confirming the worst fears for the ancient ruins held by the Islamic State group.

The destruction of the Temple of Bel sparked outrage and international headlines, precisely the reaction the jihadist group may have been seeking, experts said.
Dozens of relics remain at risk in the ruins of Palmyra, which IS jihadists seized from regime forces in May as they pursued their campaign for territory in Syria and Iraq.
The extremist group's harsh philosophy condemns pre-Islamic religious sites and considers statues and grave markers to be idolatrous, but it has also been accused of destroying heritage to loot items for the black market and to gain publicity.
Satellite images taken before and after an explosion at Palmyra on Sunday "confirm the destruction of the main Temple of Bel as well as a row of columns in its immediate vicinity," UN training and research agency UNITAR said late Monday.
The 2,000-year-old temple was the centrepiece of Palmyra's famed ruins and one of the most important relics at the UNESCO-listed heritage site.  "The Temple of Bel was the most beautiful symbol of all of Syria. It was the most beautiful place to visit," Syrian antiquities director Maamoun Abdulkarim told AFP by telephone from Damascus.  "And we have lost it forever."
IS fighters seized Palmyra from Syrian regime forces on May 21, immediately sparking fears for the city's ruins and historic sites.  While antiquities staff evacuated most of the city's museum before IS arrived, the group destroyed an ornate lion statue outside the building and also mined Palmyra's ruins.
Last month the jihadists beheaded the 82-year old former antiquities chief in Palmyra and destroyed the ancient shrine of Baal Shamin.
- 'They have killed Palmyra' -
On Sunday, activists and a monitor reported a large explosion at the site had destroyed the Temple of Bel.  Abdulkarim said Palmyra's remaining ruins, which lie in the southwest of the city, include "dozens of the greatest grave markers, the amphitheatre, and the Temple of Nabu, which only has its foundations."
The city's grand Roman amphitheatre, which dates from between the second and third century, is not believed to have been damaged.  But it was the scene of a gruesome massacre shortly after IS seized Palmyra, with child members of the group executing 25 Syrian soldiers in the amphitheatre.
"They have killed Palmyra. Now, they will terrorise it," Abdulkarim said. "It's the last warning before the complete destruction of Palmyra." Cheikhmous Ali of the Association for the Protection of Syrian Archeology (APSA) described the razing of the ruins as "a way to pressure and torture the local population -- to suppress their history and their collective memory."
It was also an attempt to "remain in the headlines", he said, warning: "The more we give IS's savage actions media attention, the more they will repeat this."
- 'Symbolic power' in destruction -
Gruesome violence and the destruction of priceless artefacts have become hallmarks of IS as it expands its so-called "caliphate" across swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.  In addition to damaging sites in Syria, IS has destroyed statues, shrines, and manuscripts in the Iraqi city of Mosul, and demolished the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud further south.
Charlie Winter, an analyst with the London-based Quilliam Foundation, said the destruction of artefacts in Palmyra and elsewhere "makes sense with the jihadist worldview, because these temples are symbols of polytheism.  They are pre-Islamic and are considered by IS not to be worthy of existence," Winter said.
He agreed that IS may be seeking to reclaim headlines at a time when its gruesome killings no longer receive the same media attention as before.  The militants have used sophisticated media techniques to gain publicity and lure thousands of foreign fighters to join their ranks.
"The videos IS publishes of people being burned alive don't grab headlines anywhere near as much as headlines about Palmyra do," Winter said.
IS "has recognised the symbolic power of destroying these ruins.  If there's anything IS revels in, it's condemnation" of its actions, he said.
Regime forces have launched an offensive to retake the ancient city and as they edge closer the jihadist group may be looking to sow as much destruction as it can.
"The more likely it looks that IS will end up losing Palmyra, the more likely it will destroy what's left there," Winter said.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Shigir Idol WAY Older Than Thought

Hola darlings!

The Shigir Idol
The Shigir Idol is covered in carvings, including what looks like code. It stands 9.2ft (2.8 metres) in height (shown left and right) but originally was 17.4ft (5.3 metres) tall - as high as a two storey house.

Story at The Daily Mail, along with a multitude of photos and graphics.

World's oldest wooden statue is TWICE as old as the pyramids: New analysis reveals Shigir Idol is more ancient than first thought

  • Shigir Idol was discovered in a peat bog in Kirovgrad, Siberia in 1890
  • Perfectly-preserved wooden statue was thought to be 9,500 years old
  • Dating technology revealed its 1,500 years older than  previously thought
  • Idol is covered in mysterious carvings which have yet to be deciphered, but could depict snakes, danger and even spirits in different worlds

A stunning wooden statue pulled from a Russian peat bog 125 years ago has been dated as being 11,000 years old after 'sensational' new analysis.

This means the remarkable Shigir Idol, which is covered in ‘encrypted code’ and may be a message from ancient man, is by far the oldest wooden sculpture in the world.

Previous dating attempts claimed it was made 9,500 years ago.  By comparison, Stonehenge dates back 4,614 years, while the haunting Russian wooden sculpture is also more than twice as old as the Egyptian pyramids.

But in fact, it is one and a half millennia older, according to the latest research by German scientists. 'We can say the results are sensational,' a source at Sverdlovsk Regional History Museum told The Siberian Times. The museum said the dating used the world's most sophisticated technology and was undertaken to remove doubts about the age of the idol.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Nazi Loot Found?

Posted August 20, 2015:

Men claim to find Nazi train loaded with treasure in Poland

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — According to Polish lore, a Nazi train loaded with gold, artworks and weapons vanished into a mountain at the end of World War II, as the Germans fled the Soviet advance. Now two men claim they know the location of the mystery train and are demanding 10 percent of its value in exchange for revealing its location.
Historians say the existence of the train has never been conclusively proven, but authorities are not passing up this chance at possibly recovering treasures that locals and the government have sought for 70 years.

"We believe that a train has been found. We are taking this information seriously," Marika Tokarska, an official in the southwestern Polish district of Walbrzych, told The Associated Press on Thursday.
She said her office received two letters this month from a law firm representing the men, a Pole and a German who have chosen to remain anonymous, saying they are seeking 10 percent of the value of the train's contents for revealing its location. The documents from the lawyers say the train is 150-meters (490-feet) long and loaded with guns, valuables and precious metals, but do not specify where it is. Authorities say they are willing to pay the reward if the information pans out.

A lawyer for the men, Jaroslaw Chmielewski, compared the find to the "wreck of the Titanic" in an interview on a local radio station.

Tokarska said that hiring a law firm gives a degree of credibility to the two men's claims, as do indications that they are familiar with the train's contents. But there are also reasons for caution: The first letter included some references to the area's topography that indicated they might not know the area very well.

Joanna Lamparska, an author who has written about the train and the region's history, says she believes it could be a scam.  "We have had a lot of stories like that in the last few years with people claiming they know where the train is," Lamparska told The AP. "But nothing was ever found."

Local stories say a German train left from the German city of Breslau (today the Polish city of Wroclaw) in April 1945 and headed westward toward Waldenburg (now Walbrzych.) At some point in the 60-kilometer (40-mile) journey it vanished.

During the war, Adolf Hitler had started creating a secret underground system in the area under the Owl Mountains, a project called "Riese," or "Giant." The region still belonged to Germany at the time and the project included seven separate tunnel systems. It was probably intended to be a military headquarters, though the project remains shrouded in mystery to this day.

Lamparska describes the area as one filled with meadows and mountains where the Nazis had secret rail lines and tunnels with camouflaged openings that went under the mountains.

The source of the train legend was a Polish miner who claimed he was told about it just after the war by German miners; he said they saw it being pushed into one of the tunnels. The miner has spent his life since trying to find the train, Lamparska said.

Already, the district governor has convened a meeting of firefighters, police, military and others to explore how they can safely handle the train if it is finally found. Not only could it be armed with explosives, but methane gas underground could add to the risk of an explosion.

The mystery is now compounded by questions about who the two men are.  "It could either be nonsense or they got the information directly from the Germans," local rescuer Krzysztof Szpalkowski told the private broadcaster TVN24. "Maybe one of these men is a descendant of people who took part in this action."
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