Behrooz Parhami's website banner

Menu:

Behrooz Parhami's Blog & Books Page

calendar page

Page last updated on 2019 December 31

This page was created in 2009 as an outgrowth of the section entitled "Books Read or Heard" in my personal page. The rapid expansion of the list of books warranted devoting a separate page to it. Given that the book introductions and reviews constituted a form of personal blog, I decided to title this page "Blog & Books," to also allow discussion of interesting topics unrelated to books from time to time. Lately, non-book items (such as political news, tech news, puzzles, oddities, trivia, humor, art, and music) have formed the vast majority of the entries.

Entries in each section appear in reverse chronological order.

Blog entries for 2019
Blog entries for 2018
Blog entries for 2017
Blog entries for 2016
Archived blogs for 2015
Archived blogs for 2014
Archived blogs for 2012-13
Archived blogs up to 2011

Blog Entries for 2019

2019/12/31 (Tuesday): On this last day of the year and the decade, I offer a single course review, dedicated to writers among my blog's readers. May the coming year be healthy, joyous, and productive for all.
Sample sentence 1 from the course 'Building Great Sentences' Cover image for the course 'Building Great Sentences' Sample sentence 2 from the course 'Building Great Sentences' Course review: Landon, Professor Brooks (U. Iowa), Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft, 24 lectures in the "Great Courses" series (12 CDs + guidebook), The Teaching Company, 2008.
[My 5-star review of this course on GoodReads]
The best way to describe the contents of this magical course is to begin by listing the lecture titles: 1 A Sequence of Words; 2 Grammar and Rhetoric; 3 Propositions and Meaning; 4 How Sentences Grow; 5 Adjectival Steps; 6 The Rhythm for Cumulative Syntax; 7 Direction of Modification; 8 Coordinate, Subordinate, and Mixed Patterns; 9 Coordinate Cumulative Sentences; 10 Subordinate and Mixed Cumulatives; 11 Prompts of Comparison; 12 Prompts of Explanation; 13 The Riddle of Prose Rhythm; 14 Cumulative Syntax to Create Suspense; 15 Degrees of Suspensiveness; 16 The Mechanics of Delay; 17 Prefab Patterns for Suspense; 18 Balanced Sentences and Balanced Forms; 19 The Rhythm of Twos; 20 The Rhythm of Threes; 21 Balanced Series and Serial Balances; 22 Master Sentences; 23 Sentences in Sequence; 24 Sentences and Prose Style.
The guidebook ends with a glossary, bibliographical notes, and bibliography (23 pages in all).
The first question one might ask is why an entire course with focus on sentences is needed. Here's Brooks' answer: "The sentence is where we must start if we hope to understand why some writing captivates us and other writing leaves us unmoved."
As an aside, this is the umpteenth time I have stepped outside my areas of expertise and comfort to learn something new, each time returning amazed of the rich variety of areas of scholarship I could not have imagined and the myriad of researchers who work in those areas, agreeing and disagreeing with each other, unbeknownst to me!
A key take-away from this course is that bad sentences are usually long, but not all long sentences are bad. In fact, while there are examples of brilliant short sentences in the works of masters, beautiful sentences tend to be long. So, it's not the length of a sentence that make it bad but how the sentence grows to become long. There are but three ways to grow a kernel sentence such as "She raised the flag": Connective ("She raised the flag, and she ..."); Subordinative ("Realizing she was the lone survivor, she raised the flag"), and adjectival ("She raised the flag which was tattered by bullets").
One of the most effective ways of building compelling long sentences is through cumulative syntax. According to Francis Christensen, an English professor at USC, who defied conventional wisdom of his time about effective writing and began looking at what great writers actually wrote, a cumulative sentence tends to develop by downshifting through increasingly detailed levels of generality, replacing the previously-advocated simplicity with a textured presentation, in which adjectives and adverbs, not just nouns and verbs, play key roles by introducing movement.
Let me clarify the concept of a cumulative sentence by means of two examples, both beginning with a base clause which is followed by modifying phrases. In the first example, the modifying phrases are all at the same secondary level, so they can be reordered, put before or after, or even in the middle of, the base clause.
"The elated Girl Scout went home, having sold all her boxes of cookies, having knocked on every door in her neighborhood, so proud of her accomplishment she immediately wanted more cookies to sell."
The second example has modifying cluases at multiple levels, with tertiary clauses modifying secondary ones.
"The elated Girl Scout went home, having sold all her boxes of cookies, those inescapable icons of capitalism, having knocked on every door in her neighborhood, recognizing some who came to their doors as friends of her parents."
Of course, it's quite easy to overdo this by adding less-compelling details that turn the cumulative sentence into a mess, rather than an object of beauty. Also, cumulative sentences tend to be loners: string several of them together, and you are bound to lose your reader's patience and interest.
Once we have read and written enough cumulative sentences, they come to us quite naturally. In fact, one of the most effective ways to test a cumulative sentence is to read it aloud and listen to the flow of the sentence. Having been exposed to and practiced writing cumulative sentences, we develop an intuition for spotting problematic syntax or less-than-compelling rhythm.
Cumulative sentences can also be used to create suspense by delaying the delivery of the most important or surprising pieces of information. Here's an example sentence with an unexpected ending:
"He drove the car carefully, his shaggy hair whipped by the wind, his eyes hidden behind wraparound mirror shades, his mouth set in a grim smile, a .38 Police Special on the seat beside him, the corpse stuffed in the trunk."
Good prose has a rhythm, and cumulative sentences provide an excellent mechanism for supplying such a rhythm. Landon recommends quite a few sources that have inspired work in this area or that would form good sources for additional study. They include George Orwell's 1946 essay "Politics and the English Language" and Carl Klause's 1968 essay "Reflections on Prose Style." I could find no on-line version of Klause's essay.
Let me end my review with three examples of cumulative sentences from great writers.
"The radiators put out lots of heat, too much, in fact, and old-fashioned sounds and smells came with it, exhalations of the matter that composes our own mortality, and reminiscent of the intimate gases we all diffuse." ~ Saul Bellow
"The San Bernardino Valley lies only an hour east of Los Angeles by the San Bernardino Freeway but is in certain ways an alien place: not the coastal California of the subtropical twilights and the soft westerlies off the Pacific but a harsher California, haunted by the Mojave just beyond the mountains, devastated by the hot dry Santa Ana wind that comes down through the passes at 100 miles an hour and whines through the eucalyptus windbreaks and works on the nerves." ~ Joan Didion
"When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation." ~ Thomas Jefferson, US Declaration of Independence

2019/12/30 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for 'The Torchlight List: Around the World in 200 Books' (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Page images from the forthieth-anniversary issue of Computer Report (see the next two items below). [Center] Book introduction: A friend recommended Jim Flynn's The Torchlight List: Around the World in 200 Books (Awa Press, 2010) to me. It provides the titles and summaries for 200 must-read books from which one can learn much about the world we live in and the human condition.
(2) Fortieth anniversary issue of Computer Report: Published last summer, I have just received a PDF copy of the special issue (Vol. 41, No. 2, Serial No. 243, p. 91, June/July 2019), from which I am posting a couple of items. On the left above is my message to officers and members of Informatics Society of Iran, on the occasion of the 40th-anniversary of the publication of Computer Report, ISI's flagship journal.
(3) Article entitled "Skyrmionic Technology for Atomic-Scale and Neuromorphic Computing": I wrote an article, part of whose first page appears on the right above, at the invitation of the Editor-in-Chief of Computer Report to help celebrate that journal's 40th anniversary of publication. [English PDF] [Persian PDF]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The Chinese scientist who created the first baby with edited genes sentenced to 3 years in jail.
- Anti-Semitic attacks captured by surveillance cameras: When will politicians go beyond lip service?
- The number of generations it takes for low-income individuals to reach their society's mean income. [Chart]
- The 10 most important math breakthroughs of 2019: Items 1-3 made news as they were reported.
- Science Daily: Discovery of brain circuit linked to food impulsivity may lead to therapeutics for overeating.
- Ford's canopy windshield patent application imagines more sunshine for drivers: But is it safe?
- Laughter is said to be contagious: Here is another proof. [Video]
- Iran's first glass bridge is a tourist attraction in Ardebil area of the Azerbaijan Province.
(5) A sane leader would say something about the horrors of anti-Semitic attacks: A narcissist uses the attacks to pump himself up. [Tweet image]
(6) Persian poetry and music: Kurdish feminist and musician Rojan Feyz performs her beautiful anthem "Mothers' Scream" in this stylized video of Iran's civil unrest and street protests. Humorist Hadi Khorsandi put his serious hat on to write the poem "Iranian Woman" especially for Rojan's use.

2019/12/29 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme of the day: Reading sets you free! (Lady Liberty reading) Persian poetry: A couple of verses from a patriotic poem entitled 'Vatan' by Mostafa Badkoobei. Cartoon: The role of an orchestra conductor
Photos I took today on SB's Stearns Wharf and the nearby Cabrillo Blvd., 4 Photos I took today on SB's Stearns Wharf and the nearby Cabrillo Blvd., 6 Photos I took today on SB's Stearns Wharf and the nearby Cabrillo Blvd., 5 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Meme of the day: Reading sets you free (fREADom). [Top center] Persian poetry: A couple of verses from a patriotic poem entitled 'Vatan' by Mostafa Badkoobei (Video recitation by the poet). [Top right] Cartoon of the day: "Wave the stick until the music stops, then turn around and bow." [Bottom left, center, & right] Photos I took today on SB's Stearns Wharf and the nearby Cabrillo Blvd.
(2) Russian propaganda: Today's "Meet the Press" (NBC) focused on "alternative facts." It contained a wealth of information about Russian propaganda techniques. For example, the cybersecurity company CrowdStrike, which is one of the prime defenses of our country against cyberwarfare from Russia and other agents (and whose services RNC uses to protect their own servers and databases), is smeared by claiming that it is owned by a Ukranian. Trump propagating this very dangerous bit of misinformation makes him either a Russian operative or an unwitting fool. A must-watch for all Americans! [I could not find a video link to the full program and will post later if full video becomes available.]
(3) Five people stabbed in NYC during Hanukkah celebration: Suspect has been arrested in this 13th anti-Semitic incident in New York in the past 3 weeks.
(4) Computers and the challenges of writing in Persian: The PDF of my Persian-language article entitled "Computers and Writing in Persian: A Review of Challenges and Solutions" (Iran Namag, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp. 3-32, Summer 2019) is now available on-line. Here is a link to the English version of the article, which is longer and contains more details in certain areas. It was recently revised for publication.
(5) Acquired musical savant syndrome: This story is old, but I heard about it today on NPR. Derek Amato didn't know much about music, except that he watched his mom play at church when he was a boy. He jumps into the shallow part of a pool during horseplay, suffers a concussion from head injury, and immediately becomes a master pianist. If you ask him to play a certain simple tune, he can't, but he creates/improvises the most amazing music when he sits at a piano.

2019/12/28 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Nayereh Tohidi's Facebook post about abuse of women dissidents in Iran, 2 Nayereh Tohidi's Facebook post about abuse of women dissidents in Iran, 1 DW Persian news story about pressing charges against Ayatollah Khamenei at the International Criminal Court (1) Crackdown on dissent continues in Iran: There are rampant new arrests, mistreatment and torture in prisons, forced TV confessions, threatening and detaining family members, and blocking or throttling Internet access. Women leaders are particularly abused. Several formerly-arrested activists who expressed support for the November protests have been moved to solitary confinement or to unknown locations. Meawhile, pursuing international criminal charges against Supreme Leader Khamanei, who personally ordered the shooting of protesters, is being discussed. The International Crimimal Court has pursued similar cases in the past.
(2) One the of top-100 National Geographic photos for 2019: The photo depicts school kids in one of the regions of Nigeria where boys and girls must be separated by a wall/partition in the classroom and girls must wear full hijab, including a face cover.
(3) A heart-warming story for the holidays: Slaughterhouse owner in Yazd, Iran, goes out of his way to befriend and employ 500 ex-convicts and druggies. [3-minute video, narrated in Persian]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- With his unhinged tweetstorms, Trump seems to be going for an insanity defense in his Senate trial!
- Donald Quixote renews his attacks on windmills by repeating several dubious and debunked claims.
- You haven't seen jump-rope until you see this. [Video]
- Azeri music: A group of young artists perform classic and folk Azeri songs. Wonderful! [9-minute video]
- Humor: Nine-year-old disappears with no trace after using facial cream that makes you 10 years younger.
(5) Newseum, a private museum dedicated to free press, closes its doors after 11 years: The paid museum on Pennsylvania Ave. fell victim to a sea of free museums and other attractions in DC's National Mall area.
(6) Russia rolls out its national Internet: Russia's Ministry of Commuication claims that users did not detect any changes during the switchover, which aims to restrict the connection points between the national network and its international counterpart, thus increasing government control.

2019/12/27 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Democrats have a real shot at flipping the Senate in 2020 by ousting Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Martha McSally, and Susan Collins Mirror puzzles: Example and three easy-to-difficult puzzles Cover image for Sue Grafton's 'Y Is for Yesterday' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Democrats have a real shot at flipping the Senate in 2020: Doing this would be particularly satisfying via the ouster of Moscow Mitch McConnell, hypocrite Lindsey Graham, already-lagging-in-the-polls Martha McSally, and anti-feminist Susan Collins. [Center] Mirror puzzles (see the next item below). [Right] Cover image for Sue Grafton's Y Is for Yesterday (see the last item below).
(2) Mirror puzzles: Consider a grid in which each square contains either a person or a diagonal mirror. See the example above, where the numbers along rows and columns indicate how many people can be seen if one looks in that direction. For example, the number 3 to the right of the last row indicates that one can see three people looking leftward from there: One person through reflection in the first mirror and 2 people via the second reflection (the green light path). In the following easy-to-difficult puzzles, the number of people that can be seen is given for some rows/columns and you are asked to derive the locations of people and mirrors in the grids. More puzzles and the answers can be found in this Web page.
(3) Book review: Grafton, Sue, Y is for Yesterday, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Judy Kaye, Random House Audio, 2017. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Fellow Santa Barbara resident Sue Grafton died in December 2017, before reaching the end of the line in her "Kinsey Millhone Alphabet Series," which began with A Is for Alibi in 1982. Each of the books is different, sharing only the protagonist Kinsey Millhone, a twice-married, childless, and adventurous Southern-California private detective in her 30s, through whom the introvert Grafton lived a life of action and danger, without any consequences.
A few years ago, I promised to myself that I would read the 26th book in the series, but now it seems that the series has ended with 25 books. Grafton had the working title Z Is for Zero for the final book in the series but had not made any progress on it, given her struggles with cancer. According to her family, Grafton had a distaste for using ghost-writers, and was also against licensing her books for films, so having the Z book published posthoumously seems to be out of the question. Accordingly, I decided to fulfill my self-promise by reading the Y book.
Grafton has an easy, but gripping style. She is a master of plots and plot twists and of intricate story-telling. Her readers often comment on the freshness of her stories and the hard work she puts into researching the psychological and legal aspects of her stories. Once I began listening to the audiobook, I found it hard to quit, until some urgent task or deadline pulled me away.
The story of Y begins in 1989, with flashbacks to 1979, when four teenage boys sexually assault a 14-year-old-classmate, while filming the incident. The tape goes missing and the suspected thief ends up dead. One of the four culprits turns state's evidence and two are convicted of murder, but the ring-leader disappears without a trace. The well-to-do parents of one of the convicted boys, who is released by law upon turning 25, receive a copy of the tape, along with a ransom demand. Not sure if paying up would make the problem go away, they hire Kinsey Millhone, who sets upon the task of solving the mystery, while concurrently dealing with threats from a personal stalker.
Years ago, I had read one of Grafton's books, somewhere near the middle of the alphabet, although I don't remember which one. I don't recall being as impressed with that book as I was with this one, which I highly recommend to mystery buffs.

2019/12/26 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet. Persian poetry: Selected verses from a Mowlavi (Rumi) poem The succulent plant known as 'mother of thousands'
Persian poetry: Selected verses from a poem by Iraj Mirza
Tweets about Iran in the aftermath of the killings of street protesters, 1 Persian poetry: Selected verses from a Hafez poem Tweets about Iran in the aftermath of the killings of street protesters, 2 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Persian poetry: The first and final verses from a poem by Mowlavi (Rumi). [Top center] The succulent plant known as "mother of thousands": Every petal that falls grows into a new plant. [Top right] Persian poetry: Selected verses from a poem by Iraj Mirza, a poet who wrote much political satire. [Bottom left & right] Three Persian tweets about Iran in the aftermath of the November bloody street protests (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Persian poetry: Selected verses from a Hafez poem.
(2) Iran, in the aftermath of the killings of street protesters: As families and friends mark the 40th day (an Islamic tradition) after the killing of their loved ones during Iran's November protests, security forces are preventing people from going to grave sites and memorial gatherings. Despite the crackdown, mourners chant anti-regime slogans, including several directed at the Supreme Leader himself.
(3) Alarming trend: Many Americans are retiring to Vietnam, because their own country won't provide them with affordable healthcare and a decent standard of living.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A Christmas to remember: Typhoon devastates the Philippines, killing at least 20 and displacing 1000s.
- Judging by the low volume of posts from Iran, there must be Internet blockage or throttling in effect.
- US Army officer returns home to San Diego to say goodbye to his mother before her deportation.
- The Grinch: Trump's post-Christmas tweetstorm targets Nancy Pelosi and the impeachment process.
- Mathematical magic: Coincidence, or is there more to these "mirror" equalities? [Image]
- Actress Halle Berry tones up her abs for her role in an upcoming boxing movie. [Photo]
(5) Quote of the day: "The only index by which to judge a government or a way of life is by the quality of the people it acts upon. No matter how noble the objectives of a government, if it blurs decency and kindness, cheapens human life, and breeds ill will and suspicion—it is an evil government." ~ Eric Hoffer

2019/12/25 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photographer Angela Pan's fantastic capture of the Vietnam veterans' memorial wall in Washington, DC (2012) Tehran, city of contradictions, preparing for Christmas Cicely Tyson on the cover of Time magazine
Church board sign: 'At the end of the day, I'd rather be excluded for who I include, than be included for who I exclude!' Meme: Trumpspeak about wind energy
Church board sign: 'Trump or God. Pick one. You can't follow both.' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Photographer Angela Pan's fantastic capture of the Vietnam veterans' memorial wall in Washington, DC (2012). [Top center] Tehran, city of contradictions, preparing for Christmas. [Top right] At age 94, actress Cicely Tyson graced the cover of Time magazine (issue of February 18/25, 2019), 45 years after receiving an Academy Award. [Bottom left] Church board sign: "At the end of the day, I'd rather be excluded for who I include, than be included for who I exclude!" [Bottom center] Trumpspeak: I think the assessment of fourth-grade language ability is overly generous! [Bottom right] Church board sign: "Trump or God. Pick one. You can't follow both."
(2) Trump, the savior of Jews: Much is often made of the fact that Trump's son-in-law and daughter are Jewish. Now we learn that his personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, is "more Jewish than George Soros," which is very Jewish indeed, given that Soros is a Holocaust survivor.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The fascinating history and political lives of Jews in Iran.
- Persian music: Sonbol Taefi sings "Parvaneh-vash" ("Like a Butterfly").
- The ultimate kabob-e koobideh (ground-beef kabob) to feed an entire party! [1-minute video]
- I set these goodies up for breakfast today, but there were no takers!
(4) Chinese restaurants are closing: I thought this was something specific to Goleta, where we have lost three restaurants in 2019, including a cozy family joint that was our favorite, but the trend is nationwide. In 5 years, the share of Chinese restaurants in US metropolitan areas has fallen from 7.3% to 6.5%. A combination of owners getting old (retiring) and their children pursuing education, and more lucrative careers, is at work.
P.S.: We finally made it to a Chinese restaurant for Christmas-Day lunch, today. Meet Up has just opened on Las Positas, in lieu of the now defunct Empress Palace. Great food! [Photos] [Memories]

2019/12/24 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy holidays: Yalda Night, Hanukkah, Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve Cartoon: Kid writing a letter to Santa Four tweets: Post-street-protests developments in Iran (1) Images of the day: [Left] Yalda Night is behind us, Hanukkah is in progress, Christmas eve is here, and New Year's Eve is around the corner. May your holiday celebrations be merry and may the year 2020 bring you the best in everything, including the joys of close and strong friendships. Wishing patience and strength for all those who are dealing with losses this holiday season, including many citizens of Iran. [Center] New Yorker cartoon: "Dear Santa: Last year I wrote to Robert Mueller, but I think we all know how that worked out. So, here we are ..." [Right] Post-street-protests developments in Iran: Families of some of the 1500 killed are being arrested and charged with national-security offenses for speaking up and holding public mourning ceremonies.
(2) Disinformation campaign by Epoch Media Group and BL Media: Facebook has removed a campaign, consisting of 610 Facebook accounts, 89 Pages, 156 Groups, and 72 Instagram accounts (over $9 million in advertising), that used computer-generated faces to spread pro-Trump and anti-Chinese government content. Telltales like distorted backgrounds and misshapen ears helped spot the fakes.
(3) The White House requested that aid to Ukraine be held just 91 minutes after Trump's infamous July 25 call with President Volodymyr Zelensky, according to a new round of emails. The official who made the request asked that the "sensitive" information be "closely held."
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Saudis dole out 5 death sentences, clear royal aides, in Khashoggi murder case: How convenient for MBS!
- Federal minimum age for buying tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, is now 21: What about guns?
- FBI is probing ex-governor of Kentucky Matt Bevin for a controversial flood of pardons before he resigned.
- The genome of a hunter-gatherer has been sequenced from DNA found in 5700-year-old "chewing gum."
(5) California man pleads guilty to federal charges in $65M student-loan scam: Brandon Frere admitted to wire fraud and money laundering through three companies (Ameritech Financial, American Financial Benefits Center, and Financial Education Benefits Center), which offered to do the paperwork for borrowers who wanted to apply for federal student loan reduction and forgiveness programs.
(6) Nancy Pelosi on Trump, who stonewalled the House impeachment inquiry on account of disliking the process, now doing the same in the Senate, where his pals set the rules and dictate the process. [Tweet]
(7) Reuters cites Iranian officials as giving the death toll of 1500 in recent street protests: Iran's Supreme Leader personally ordered the crackdown on protests, saying "Do whatever it takes to end it." Khamenei's days are numbered, and he seems to know it!

2019/12/23 (Monday): Today, I present two book reviews from my extensive backlog of books read, but not yet reviewed. The middle image contains a few graphic designs depicting the benefits of books and reading.
Cover image of Malcolm Gladwell's 'Talking to Strangers' A few graphic designs about the benefits of books and reading Cover image for Michael Lewis' 'Bommerang' (1) Book review: Gladwell, Malcolm, Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Hachette Audio, 2019.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is a typically wonderful book from the explaining master, Malcom Gladwell. The audiobook is a special treat, because it features audio clips, such as interview segments, from the actual people discussed and, when genuine audio is unavailable, reenactments by voice actors. This is what an audiobook should be like, although I suspect that such productions would be too expensive for most books.
The main take-away from the book is that we humans have evolved to be trusting rather than paranoid, what psychologist Tim Levine calls "default to truth." Suspicion and fear have their places, but if we distrusted everyone, the human race would not have gotten very far. The feature makes it difficult for us to detect lies. Gladwell elaborates on the difficulty and its impact on our lives through numerous examples, from Bernie Madoff's ponzie scheme, through the interrogation of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Muhammed (KSM), to the sexual assault of Chanel Miller by Brock Turner.
A particularly troubling case-study reveals how poorly judges do (a tiny bit better than chance) in deciding to grant bail to defendants: A computer program has been shown to be much better at this task, although it operates based solely on the facts of the case, with no possibility of looking into the defendant's eyes or benefiting from his/her body language during hearings. If an experienced judge can be fooled, you can imagine the challenge of finding our dream mate through dating!
The flip side of our weakness in reading evil intentions of apparently benevolent individuals is our automatic assumption of guilt or ill intent based on weird or inappropriate behavior. This side of the coin, combined with our inflated opinion of our ability to read people, leads to many misunderstandings, as in a police officer's encounter with a suspect.
Although Gladwell doesn't tell us how we can improve in the area of talking to strangers and doing better in sizing-up their thoughts and motives, the negative examples where humans have failed in the past do provide us with some insight about trouble spots and why our instincts may be unreliable guides.
(2) Book review: Lewis, Michael, Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World, W. W. Norton & Company, 2011.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Michael Lewis, whose previous books include The Blind Side, The Big Short, Flash Boys, and The Undoing Project (my 4-star review on Goodreads), strikes again with his knack for storytelling and explaining complicated subjects to non-experts. He takes us on a grand tour of bubbles, whose bursting brought the global financial system to its knees in 2008, giving us a glimpse of what might happen to the US if we continue with greed and excess, as we accumulate debt.
From 2002 to 2008, the world experimented with making credit widely available, and we saw what happened when entire countries went under, with the United States coming close to another Great Depression. In this sequel to The Big Short, which focused on men who made fortunes on the backs of lower-middle-class borrowers, the so-called "subprime mortgage" takers, Lewis goes to the next, and way more dangerous, level of the global debt crisis.
Beginning with Iceland, a tiny country whose banking system suffered losses of 8.5 times its GDP, amounting to $33,000 for each of the country's 300,000 citizens, Lewis discusses how the global crisis unfolded in four different countries (the other three being Greece, Ireland, and Germany) and one US state (California). Iceland's president would go around the world, delivering speeches about why Icelanders were banking prodigies, as many reasonable people warned the country about its imminent downfall, counseling that they should stop banking and go back to fishing!
With 11 million citizens, Greece is much bigger than Iceland, but so was its debt of $1.2 trillion, comparable to India's GDP. Add to this debt rampant corruption, tax evasion, and overpaid government employees, and the country's collapse in 2009 comes as no surprise. As ABC News put it, in Greece, the banks didn't sink the country; the country sank the banks.
Riding an unsustainable construction boom, Ireland went from a poor country in the 1980s to one of the richest by 2007. Then the country's budget deficit and unemployment rate shot up when the housing bubble burst.
So, why is Germany included in this mix of countries affected by the subprime crisis? Germans were victimized because they bought bonds like crazy, always trusting the ratings assigned to them by their Wall-Street issuers. A big difference with the US is that some German banking execs went to jail for playing fast and loose.
Among US states, California suffered most from the subprime crisis. The city of Vallejo went bankrupt and other cities saw huge financial impacts. A key lesson, which does not seem to have been learnt, is that financial markets cannot, and should not be allowed to, self-regulate.
US investment banks are directly implicated in causing the 2008 financial crisis, but no executive was reprimanded and the banks themselves received mere slaps on the wrists in terms of fines. What happened is a good example of mob mentality, where no one is considered guilty because everyone is! At the international level, too, countries follow other countries when they prosper from reckless risk-taking.

2019/12/22 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Hanukkah: I am using a battery-operated LED menorah assembled from a kit by my daughter several years ago Sonbol Taefi's wonderful song and album 'Man Iranam' Ready for a rainy week with this new canopy
'New Yorker' cartoon: Three impeached presidents 'The do-nothing Democrats' have actually done quite a lot in the House, but their work is stuck on Moscow Mitch's desk Cartoon: Trump believes that nobody has been treated so unfairly (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Happy Hanukkah: I am using a battery-operated LED menorah assembled from a kit by my daughter several years ago. [Top center] Sonbol Taefi's wonderful song and album (see the last item below). [Top right] Ready for a rainy week with this new canopy, which will provide dry living space for my daughter's cats when she comes home for Christmas/Hanukkah tonight. [Bottom left] New Yorker cartoon of the day: "Three's a party!" [Bottom center] "The do-nothing Democrats" have actually done quite a lot in the US House of Representatives, but their work is stuck on Moscow Mitch's desk. [Bottom right] Reuters: "Trump slams House's impeachment delay as 'so unfair'."
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Computer scientist Sethuraman Panchanathan nominated to head the National Science Foundation.
- Building a giant Rubik's Cube.
- Fusion Arabic/new-age music: Violin performance, along with synchronized dance moves. [4-minute video]
- Persian music: "Sang-e Khara," performed by Saman Ehteshami (piano) and Babak Shahraki (violin).
- Persian music: A dance song performed by old-time singer Aref.
- Persian music: "Owj-e Aasemaan," performed at the 17th Int'l Music Festival in Moscow on Dec. 5, 2019.
(3) Persian/Kurdish music: Sonbol Taefi performs "Man Iranam" ("I Am Iran"), featuring her own music and a poem by Houshang Mahmoudi, an Iranian Baha'i who was executed in the 1980s. Kudos to Ms. Taefi and her performance group for creating superb beauty out of a wonderful poem and the extreme ugliness surrounding it. You can find more of Sonbol Taefi's music on YouTube.

2019/12/21 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Iranian Shab-e Yalda (Winter Solstice) Festival! Maxims from the past, worth re-sharing at this somber time after only the third presidential impeachment in US history The Jewish festival of Hanukkah begins tomorrow night, 2019/12/22
Today's ECE Department's holiday party at UCSB Iranwire.com news images: Heartbreaking stories about Iran Photos from my afternoon stroll along Goleta's San Jose Creek (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Happy Iranian Shab-e Yalda Festival, marking the Winter Solstice! (See the next item below.) [Top center] Maxims from the past, worth re-sharing at this somber time after only the third presidential impeachment in US history. [Top right] Lights of remembrance, for Hanukkah (see item 3 below). [Bottom left] Yesterday's ECE Department holiday party at UCSB: One of the photos shows a clear view of the SB Channel Islands from the engineering area of the UCSB campus. See if you can decode the message on my nerdy T-shirt. [Bottom center] Four heartbreaking and infuriating stories about Iran, from Iranwire.com. [Bottom right] My afternoon stroll of yesterday along Goleta's San Jose Creek: The creek starts to the east of North Patterson Avenue, crosses the street, and goes by the shopping area on Calle Real, between Fairview and Patterson Avenues, before heading to the ocean. A brand-new bike path and a couple of bridges over the creek connect the neighborhood shown on the map to nearby communities.
(2) About the Iranian Shab-e Yalda (Winter Solstice) Festival: This year's Yalda/Chelleh, winter solstice or longest night of the year, is on Saturday evening, 12/21. The eve of the first day of winter is celebrated by Iranians as the night when forces of evil (darkness) have reached their maximum strength and the Sun begins its offensive as the days get longer. Poets have written about this festival, at times likening a loved one's dark hair or a long period of separation to Yalda. Here my English translation of a verse from Sa'adi, with my English translatison of a verse from Sa'adi:
The sight of your face each morning is like Norooz / Any night away from you is the eve of Yalda
(3) Lights of remembrance (Jewish families celebrating Hanukkah during World War II in the Netherlands, 1943): Like the Iranian festival of Yalda, longest night of the year, Hanukkah (always occurring in the proximity of Yalda Night, but fluctuating due to the Hebrew calendar being lunar; it begins on 12/22 this year) celebrates light overcoming darkness.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- AP fact-checks Trump's 6-page letter to Congressional Democrats and history, on impeachment's eve.
- Collision of two Carnival cruise ships in Mexico leaves 6 passengers injured.
- Hit-and-run driver, who deliberately ran over a 14-year-old because she looked Mexican, confesses.
- Iran's President Rouhani visits Japan, a country trying to fill the space left vacant by a lack of US leadership.
(5) Brains and beauty: The new Miss America, Virginia biochemist Camille Schrier, performed a science experiment in the talent portion of the beauty pageant.
(6) Persian music: Dozens of versions of the song "Shab-e Toolani" ("Long Night") are being shared on social media, as we prepare to celebrate the Iranian festival of Shab-e Yalda (Winter Solstice) tonight. Here are a couple of samples. [Version 1] [Version 2] This third version features a dance routine at what appears to be a Tehran shopping mall. Every four years, as elections approach in Iran, the morality police loosens restrictions, in this case allowing the depiction of a woman dancer at a public venue, only to resume its crackdown after the election. Interestingly, the woman figurine is operated by a man! How's that for male dominationof women? Reminds me of medieval times, when all characters, including women and blacks, were played by white men.
And here are two more examples of Persian songs composed for Shab-e Yalda. [Video 1] [Video 2]

2019/12/19 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: Record highs for the stock market will not help the hungry and the homeless Newsweek magazine cover depicting Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei Meme: Removing Trump will not remove the racism that brought him to power (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Memes of the day: It's not the stock market we Americans care about most, but compassion, decency, fairness, and human dignity. [Center] Iran's mullahs are likely elated with this Newsweek magazine cover, which confirms their fear-mongering.
(2) US college enrollment continues to fall: The total decline is 11% over the past 8 years. Big universities and small colleges, public and private institutions, are all affected.
(3) Gender differences in reporting research results: According to a paper published in British Medical J., male authors are more likely to sprinkle words like 'novel,' 'unique' and 'excellent' into their abstracts. Such positively-framed findings generate citations by peers, a key measure of the influence of a person's research.
(4) The United Nations General Assembly calls on Iran to end its ongoing human rights violations: The resolution passed on December 18, 2019, with a vote of 81 to 30 (70 abstentions). The fairly weak vote is a reflection of the world's distrust of the US.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Women's March is returning on Sat., Jan. 18, 2020 (1:00 PM, Santa Barbara County Courthouse). [Image]
- Scientific observation: "You can kiss yourself in the mirror, but only on the lips." ~ Neil DeGrasse Tyson
- "Debugging is like being the detective in a crime movie where you're also the murderer." ~ Filipe Fortes
- Shab-e Yalda (Winter Solstice) parade in an unspecified Iranian city. [2-minute video]
- Nostalgic photo: The soccer team of Iranian cinema's pre-Islamic-Revolution actors and entertainers.
- A simple puzzle: Find the 3-digit code that opens this lock, given the five constraints underneath.
(6) Final post for the day: Shortly after midnight, I returned from Los Angeles, where I spent all day helping my daughter with chores and errands after she broke her left foot in a fall. She is doing okay, but will need at least a couple of weeks to set aside her crutches and a few more weeks after that to return to normal. We ordered dinner delivery from Naab Cafe and ate in the company of her roommate Sally and visiting friend Sara. I took this selfie at UCLA, during one of the said errand runs.

2019/12/18 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Panoramic photo for Dennis Horwitz's December 18, 2019, talk (Mulligan's Cafe) (1) Tonight's end-of-year technical meeting of IEEE Central Coast Section, joint with ASME Channel Islands Chapter: In a talk held at Mulligan's Cafe, Santa Barbara Golf Club, and attended by 36 IEEE/ASME members & guests, Mr. Dennis Horwitz (Co-founder and VP Sales & Marketing, Micronor Inc.) spoke under the title "Awesome Photons—A Fiber Optic Technology Update." The gathering doubled as CCS Section's holiday banquet, where end-of-year award certificates were given out by the Section Chair and small gifts were presented to several attendees via random drawings.
Fiber optics has revolutionized the world of communications since its commercial inception nearly 4 decades ago. The technology is about more than pushing data over long distances at bandwidth many thousands of times greater than possible with copper wires. It has been used to create unique sensors and is being applied in manufacturing, energy, aerospace, transportation, medicine, infrastrucure, consumer goods, and art. The cost of applying the technology is still problematic in some cases, but that may change over time. This entertaining and informative talk included an explanation of how fiber optics works and an overview of the technology's current status. Many example applications were cited and described. [More photos] [Speaker's slides]
(2) The Lincoln Project to defeat Trumpism: George Conway, husband of senior White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, and other Republicans launch a political action committee to oust Donald Trump and lawmakers who support him from office in 2020.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Three schools in Los Angeles, not far from a vandalized synagogue, defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti.
- Russian spy ship spotted near military installations, as it traveled south along the US East Coast.
- Australia experiences hottest day on record: Average nationwide temperature reaches 105 F.
- Amnesty International reports on vicious post-protest crackdown in Iran; confirmed deaths now at 304.
- Suicides and "honor" killings afflict women in Iran's Kurdish regions: Arranged marriages to blame.
(4) Final post for the day: I was honored to receive this award at tonight's IEEE CCS technical meeting in recognition of my services as IEEE Central Coast Section's Education Chair. In this position, I recruited 11 technical speakers for 2019, February through December, and have already scheduled 10 monthly tech events for 2020, with another 3 speakers confirmed, but as yet not scheduled. [IEEE CCS Technical Talks]

2019/12/17 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Good for a chuckle: Leaders in Finland and in Iran Cartoon: Christmas at the US Congres Trump supporter wearing a T-shirt with names of Trump family members as consecutive presidents (1) Images of the day: [Left] Good for a chuckle: Leaders in Finland and in Iran (no need to specify which is which)! [Center] Cartoon of the day: Christmas at the US Congress. [Right] Trump Dynasty: This Trump supporter thinks the entire Trump family (other than Melania, who isn't eligible) should rule this country. He also seems to be math-challenged, because the dates do not reflect his intention that each member should be a two-term president! I guess by 2060 there will be other Trumps to continue the dynasty.
(2) A few tweets about Iran, for my Persian-speaking readers (tweet images).
In other news from Iran, Minister of the Interior, when asked about why security forces shot the protestors in the head, responded that the reports were untrue, because they also shot at the protesters' legs!
(3) Iran's recent street protests: Multiple sources report that more bodies of street protesters are being found in lakes and reservoirs where they were dumped and that the casualty estimates are going up.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Pakistan's former leader Pervez Musharraf sentenced to death in absentia for treason. [BBC, CNN]
- A clever 1-minute video clip about 3D painting.
- The world's oldest living couple, 105 and 106, celebrates 80 years of marriage.
- An article on the musical style and philosophy of Koorosh Yazdani, along with sample videos of his work.
- Persian music: The song, "Morgh-e Sahar," is old and oft-posted, but this young boy's rendition is special.
- Persian music: Salar Aghili spots a group of street musicians and joins them in performing one of his songs.
(5) Movie news: "Star Wars, Episode 9" (the final film and third in the sequels trilogy, following the original trilogy and 3 prequels) is out, as is the long-awaited movie version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Cats," featuring a new song jointly written by Taylor Swift.
(6) Trump's letter to Nancy Pelosi about his impeachment is an embarrassment that will live in history. Here is a gem from the letter: "You have cheapened the importance of the very ugly word, impeachment!"

2019/12/16 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Puzzle: Right-angled triangle Meme: Former US President Barack Obama, on the desirability of women ruling the world Puzzle: A square, with part of its area shaded (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Math puzzles: Ed Southall has a book entitled Geometry Snacks, which is full of bite-size geometric puzzles. Here are two. The big triangle is right-angled. What is the length of the two equal-length yellow segments? What fraction of the area of the square is shaded? Tick marks indicate equal line segments. [Center] Former US President Barack Obama, on the desirability of women ruling the world.
(2) Persian music: Homayoun Shajarian (vocals) and Sohrab Pournazeri perform Pouria Souri's hopeful and wistful poem "Iran-e Man" ("My Iran"). Here is the complete album containing, and named after, the song.
(3) Beautiful music arising from the Holocaust: An Italian composer and pianist revives the music written by Jews as a temporary escape from the horrors of Nazi concentration camps. [CBS "60 Minutes" report]
(4) Brief science and technology stories of the day.
- December is the time for year-end reviews: Here are sciencenews.com's top 10 science stories of 2019.
- Tony Booker dead at 94: He designed Autocode, believed to be the first-ever programming language.
- As grounding of the 737 MAX stretches into 2020, Boeing considers scrapping the plane.
- Institution of Engineering and Technology presents its Young Women Engineers of the Year Awards.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi asks European countries to recall their ambassadors from Iran.
- Anti-Semitic attack in Southern California: Nessah Synagogue in Beverly Hills vandalized.
- Challenger Jaime Harrison trails Lindsey Graham by only 2 points in SC, a state Trump won by 15 points.
- SNL puts Kellyanne and George Conway in a spoof of "Marriage Story," a critically-acclaimed new film.
- If you always wanted to own a newspaper, here's your chance: An Alaskan newspaper is being sold for $0!
- Hallmark channel apologizes and reinstates Zola's same-sex marriage ads after facing backlash.
(6) New sanctions against Iran will impact food, medicine, and other humanitarian aid: Included in the new sanctions are Mahan Airlines and several shipping companies, which will impede the delivery of crucial supplies. What a way to support the Iranian people! [Cartoon]

2019/12/14 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: The lenghty process of scrolling down to one's year of birth A sample of Michelle Obama's many magazine cover photos Solving a physics problem: Handwritten solution, in Persian (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cartoon of the day: I can identify with the challenge of scrolling down to your year of birth! [Center] A sample of Michelle Obama's many magazine-cover photos, most recently on Life magazine. [Right] Solving a physics problem: In a WhatsApp group discussion about the tallest steel column one can build so that it won't collapse under its own weight, I submitted this solution (with idealized assumptions) that given a base area A, the height can reach (ln A)/p, where p is the ratio of the material's stress-bearing strength to its density. The derivation is self-explanatory, even if you can't read Persian.
(2) The charity that buys and forgives medical debt: Once they have given up on collecing, hospitals and other medical service providers sell their unpaid bills to debt collectors for pennies on the dollar. The collectors then try to collect the full amount, often using inhumane methods, such as threatening and shaming the debtors. Now, there is a charity which approaches hospitals, buys their unpaid bills, and then forgives them.
(3) Historical fire map of Santa Barbara County and vicinity: This map, generated at databasin.org, is color-coded by the fires' age. Legend: 1898-1950 Red; 1951-1975 Orange; 1976-2000 Neon; 2001-2018 Green
The trend toward larger fires in recent decades is quite visible.
(4) Persian music: "Sarzamin-e Man" ("My Homeland"), a song about Iran performed by Jaana Ensemble, featuring vocalist Mandana Khazraei (music by Ali Akbar Ghorbani, lyrics by Esmaeil Farzaneh).
(5) Early Shab-e Yalda (Winter Solstice) celebration at UCLA: Held at Schoenberg Hall, the Farhang-Foundation-sponsored event featured music by Kooban Ensemble, poetry-reading and story-telling by Gordafarid, and performances by a dance troop. Our group began by dining at Attari in Westwood. Upon arriving at UCLA, we ran into several acquaintances, including two Parvanehs, a cousin and a family friend. The program began with a 30-minute delay, which is on the low side for Iranian/Persian gatherings!
[Video 1, Azeri] [Video 2, Azeri] [Video 3, Kurdish] [Video 4, Kurdish] [Video 5] [Video 6]
P.S.: The 50th graduation anniversary trophy in one of these photos went from Georgia (the Republic) to Nice, France, and was recently brought to Los Angeles by my old friend Joseph Salimpour's brother, seen in the other photo. I made a short side trip of a few blocks from UCLA to exchange the trophy that was mistakenly given to me but had Joseph's name engraved on it. The other trophy's path was Georgia to Santa Barbara, and now it will go to its rightful owner in Nice!

2019/12/13 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Persian calligraphic art: Sample 1 Persian calligraphic art: Sample 2 Persian calligraphic art: Sample 3
Minimalist graphic design by Mohsen Valihi: Behrangi Minimalist graphic design by Mohsen Valihi: Etesami Minimalist graphic design by Mohsen Valihi: Hedayat (1) Three samples of Persian calligraphic art from the Web site of Anjoman-e Khoshnevisan-e Iran, and three examples of minimalist graphic designs by Mohsen Valihi depicting Iranian celebrities (more designs).
(2) Chilean military plane crashes at sea: All 38 on board are presumed dead.
(3) US government agencies graded on IT modernization and security: The State Department and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission scored the lowest grades as part of a biannual review of information technology management. No agency received an overall failing grade on IT modernization efforts, but Departments of Commerce and Health and Human Services both were given an F on cybersecurity.
(4) Persian music: Bahar Choir, featuring tenor Vahid Taj, performs "Aan Yar Mi-Ayad" ("The Lover Will Be Here"), a piece composed and conducted by Arash Fouladvand, using a poem of Mowlavi (Rumi).
And here's another Bahar Choir performance, "Khoun-e Arghavanha" ("Blood of Judas-Trees"), composed and conducted by Mehrdad Baran, lyrics by Saeid Soltanpour.
(5) A piece of Santa Barbara history: Carpinteria is a small town located ~10 miles to the south of Santa Barbara. Copies of The Carpinteria Chronicle from the 1930s, discovered in a basement, have been digitized and made available to the public at the UCSB Library, making parts of the area's history accessible to all.
(6) A 50th-anniversary celebration: Today, I was super-busy with finishing a conference paper that was due by midnight. I submitted it with a full hour to spare! The conference, Dependable Systems and Networks, is holding its 50th edition in Valencia, Spain, from June 29 to July 2, 2020. I was present at the very first conference in the series, held in Pasadena, CA, in 1971. As a UCLA grad student, I helped run that first conference, making sure that attendees were taken care of and audio-visual equipment (overhead-transparency and 35-mm slide projectors, in those days) ran smoothly. I have attended quite a few editions of the conference over the years and am looking forward to the 50th-anniversary celebration in Valencia! Very few conferences boast a 50-year tradition! [DSN 2020 logo]

2019/12/12 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Autumn in Palo Alto, California Last night's full moon in Santa Barbara This morning's sunrise in Santa Barbara (1) Images of the day: [Left] Autumn in Palo Alto, California (courtesy of Farrokh Elmieh). [Center] Last night's full moon in Santa Barbara. [Right] This morning's sunrise in Santa Barbara.
(2) Once a crook, always a crook: Trump settles lawsuit accusing him of misuse of funds at his family foundation by donating $2 million to 8 charities. Nothing to see here, folks; it was all perfect! Let's investigate the Clinton Foundation and put crooked Hillary in jail!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Jersey City's kosher market shootings (2 attackers and 4 others dead) deemed anti-Semitic hate crime.
- Wow! Amazing Boogie Woogie piano playing by a poor old man at the mall captivates the shoppers.
- Kurdish music: Jamshid performs "Gulnar" (accompanied by modern and Kurdish dancing).
- Persian music: Performance of a song based on a Molavi (Rumi) poem on the street. [1-minute video]
Number chart for the 3x + 1 (Collatz) problem (4) The simplest unsolved math problem: There is a simple-looking conjecture that has gobbled up countless mathematicians' hours without yielding. There is even a book that summarizes some of the effort in attacking the problem: The Ultimate Challenge: The 3x + 1 Problem, by Jeffrey Lagarias, 2010.
Consider the sequence 25, 76, 38, 19, 58, 29, 88, 44, 22, 11, 34, 17, 52, 26, 13, 40, 20, 10, 5, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1. Starting from the arbitrary number 25, each term of the sequence is obtained from the previous one by multiplying it by 3 and adding 1 if it's odd (25 × 3 + 1 = 76) or dividing it by 2 if it's even (76 / 2 = 38). In the 1930s, Lothar Collatz conjectured that no matter what number you start with, you will always reach 1 in a finite number of steps. I discuss Collatz sequences in the very first lecture of my ECE 1B freshman seminar, "Ten Puzzling Problems in Computer Engineering" at UCSB.
While the conjecture has been verified up to some astronomically large numbers using computer programs, no one has been able to prove that it is true in general. Recently, Terrence Tao of UCLA made a dent in the tough problem by proving that the conjecture is true for almost all numbers. Tao's result constitutes the most significant advance in tackling the problem in decades.
(5) Mina Khanlarzadeh's blog post criticizes a petition being circulated on-line as using anti-imperialism sentiments to prop up the Islamic regime in Iran: "Despite the petition's old-fashioned claims of standing with 'the oppressed of the world' ... it ends up exonerating the IRI (Islamic Republic of Iran) from its corruption and politics of killing and impoverishment, and supporting the status quo until further notice. According to the petition, under current global circumstances the downfall of the IRI would lead to 'catastrophic losses' for the Iranian people, and the regime replacing the current one would be 'far more violent and destructive'."

2019/12/11 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Thousands of scientists (11,258, to be exact) warn about a clear and unequivocal climate emergency Young leader: Person of the Year Greta Thunberg Young leader: Finland's 34-year-old PM Sanna Marin (1) Images of the day: [Left] Thousands of scientists (11,258, to be exact) warn about a clear and unequivocal climate emergency. [Center & Right] Letting young ones lead: The choice of Greta Thunberg as Time magazine's youngest-ever Person of the Year and the election of Sanna Marin as Finland's (and world's) youngest prime-minister may be omens of a movement to let young women newcomers try their hands at leadership, perhaps solving some of the problems created for us by "experienced" old men.
(2) Quote of the day: "To see ourselves as others see us is a most salutary gift. Hardly less important is the capacity to see others as they see themselves." ~ Aldous Huxley, British author (1894-1963)
(3) Iranian-regime critic Sadegh Zibakalam has a hard time explaining the inconsistencies in his views: On the one hand, he says there are no viable alternatives to the current regime, so it must be protected to avoid chaos. On the other hand, he claims that he won't participate in the upcoming elections because of the regime's murderous suppression of last month's street protests.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- NAKHSA (Persian for "Spontaneous Forces of Islamic Lands") claims credit for crushing Iran's protests.
- Geographic distribution of the 160 confirmed deaths during Iran's November 2019 street protests. [Map]
- Cartoon of the day: The real prisoner in Iran. [Image source: Iranwire.com]
- Santa and climate change: Harboring second thoughts about giving coal, Santa switches to solar panels.
- Christmas is just around the corner: Let's get in the mood with a Persian-style rendition of "Jingle Bells."
- Selected verses from a Mowlavi (Rumi) poem: Cheh booyast in, cheh booyast in ...
- Modern Persian music: Niaz Nawab performs "Naghsh-e To" ("Your Image") based on a Hafez poem.
(5) "A Case Against Indirect Jumps for Secure Programs": This is the title of a new paper by A. Gonzalvez and R. Lashermes. Jumps (or go-to statements) have been known to lead to unreadable and hard-to-verify code. Indirect jumps are much worse in this regard. Indirect jumps also make it difficult to use a common integrity-assurance tool: control-flow checking. To achieve fine-grained control-flow integrity, one is required to extract a precise control flow graph describing how instructions are chained together. This is next to impossible, unless some restrictions are placed on the instruction-set-architecture semantics. Forbidding indirect jumps is one way of providing security-friendly semantics.
Citation: A. Gonzalvez and R. Lashermes, "A Case Against Indirect Jumps for Secure Programs," Proc. 9th Software Security, Protection, and Reverse Engineering Workshop, San Juan, United States, 2019, pp. 1-10.

2019/12/10 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Facebook's face-recognition algorithm just exploded! Cartoon: Melania Trump clarifies her 'Don't Bully' initiative by offering a list of exceptions Protesters hold an image of Aung San Suu Kyi, who will be defending Myanmar against charges of genocide at the International Court of Justice in The Hague (1) Images of the day: [Left] Facebook's face-recognition algorithm just exploded! [Center] Melania Trump clarifies her "Don't Bully" initiative by offering a list of exceptions. [Right] From Nobel Prize to charges of genocide: On December 10, 1991, Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. Today, exactly 28 years later, the de facto head of Myanmar's government is headed to the International Court of Justice in The Hague to defend her country against charges of genocide, brought by the African nation of Gambia.
(2) Today's big events: This year's Nobel Prize winners will all receive their awards today. For nearly 120 years, the prizes have been handed out on December 10 to mark the anniversary of Alfred Nobel's death.
December 10 is also World Human Rights Day.
(3) The Palestinian who went from throwing rocks at Israelis to building a modern city on the West Bank: The city of Rawabi is the largest construction project in modern Palestinian history. [CBS "60 Minutes" report]
(4) Several of my Republican friends and acquaintances routinely share posts from Russia Today, now going by the name RT to hide its Russia connection: How anyone claiming to be patriotic and US-flag-worshiping can disseminate Russian propaganda is beyond me.
(5) Trump reserves his biggest smiles for the occasions when he meets the Russians: Today's meeting with Sergey Lavrov (photo) to deflect attention from articles of impeachment.
(6) A win-win proposal from the Iranian people to the country's officials: Sell us as slaves to other countries. You get the much-needed foreign exchange and we get to leave! [Meme]
(7) Quotes of the day: From Michael Lewis's Boomerang: Travels in the New Third World. The first quote below is from pp. 203-205; The second quote in this image, the book's final paragraph, is from p. 216.
"... human beings are neurologically ill-designed to be modern Americans. The human brain evolved over hundreds of thousands of years in an environment defined by scarcity. ... We are set up to acquire as much as we can of things we perceive as scarce, particularly sex, safety, and food. ... When faced with abundance, the brain's ancient rewards pathways are difficult to suppress ... We cannot think down the road when we are faced with the chocolate cake. ... What we're doing is minimizing the use of the brain that lizards don't have."

2019/12/08 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Mathematician Julia Robinson was born on December 8, 1919 My bedroom wall cut open to find the reason for a corner crack Hadi Labbaf's calligraphic rendering of a poem by Hazin Lahiji (1692-1766) (1) Images of the day: [Left] Mathematician Julia Robinson was born on December 8, 1919 (see the next item below). [Center] My bedroom wall cut open to find the reason for a corner crack (see the last item below). [Right] Hadi Labbaf's calligraphic rendering of a verse by Hazin Lahiji (1692-1766): "If I can't be united with you | I will embrace my desire to do so."
(2) The story of mathematician Julia Robinson: The first woman to be elected to the mathematics section of the National Academy of Sciences, Robinson was born on December 8, 100 years ago. She contributed to the solution of Hilbert's 10th problem (How to tell whether a Diophantine equation has integer solutions) by formulating a conjecture, which was eventually proven true by Soviet mathematician Yuri Matiyasevich, who was a toddler when Robinson first started thinking about the problem.
(3) Quote of the day: "Your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born, not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed." ~ Sister Joan Chittister, on some pro-lifers
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Multi-year effort: Trump pressured Ukraine to do investigations in 2017, 2018, before being caught this year.
- The Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report: Executive summary; PDF of the full 300-page report
- A Saudi kills 3 Americans, while two Saudis watch/film the incident: Why the hesitation to call it terrorism?
- Open letter on the unbelievable story of Iranian women and their fight against oppression and injustice.
(6) Hitting the nail right on the head: This open letter (in Persian) of film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf to Reza Pahlavi, the late Shah's son, is nearly two years old, but I had not seen it before. In it, Makhmalbaf asks the prince to put all his eggs in one basket, either clearly denouncing hereditary monarchy, and working alongside democratic forces that oppose Iran's Islamic regime, or embracing it, and paying the political price. One cannot believe in both royal blood and people's right to choose.
(7) Uncovering a construction defect after 30+ years: About a year ago, I noticed a crack opening up at the corner of my bedroom, where two walls joined. The crack grew wider over time, so I have been talking to the Homeowners Association and its management company to do something about it. After much delay, someone came to cut the wall open to see what the problem was. It turns out that my unit's builders forgot to nail the two walls together, so, for 30+ years, the two walls were just standing next to each other, whithout being connected. Woodframe houses are built with everything solidly connected to everything else, so that the entire structure moves as one piece and deformities are avoided during earthquakes, water intrusion, and the like. When connections are less than solid, there is no telling what would happen in the event of land movement or other natural disasters. Now, I am awaiting an engineering inspection, followed by corrective action.

2019/12/07 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Arithmetic industrial complex Beyond the Veil: Discrimination Against Women in Iran (cover image of report) Cartoon: Letters for Santa (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cartoon: Arithmetic industrial complex. [Center] "Beyond the Veil: Discrimination Against Women in Iran" (see the last item below). [Right] Cartoon: Letters for Santa.
(2) Saudi military trainee kills 3 and injures 8 at Pensacola, Florida, naval air station: Strangely, US authorities are reluctant to call it terrorism, even though other Saudi nationals were seen filming the attacks.
(3) An Iranian expresses doubts that he will participate in the country's next election, an act that would legitimize a government which shoots at its people. [Tweet]
(4) ISS reaches drinking age: On December 7, 1998, the first two International Space Station modules (Unity and Zarya) were joined together, beginning the assembly of the orbital lab.
(5) Dirty trick of on-line shopping sites exposed: Princeton and U. Chicago researchers found "dark patterns," or deceptive practices employed by user interfaces of popular on-line retailers. A Web-crawling tool analyzed over 50,000 product pages from 11,000 shopping sites, and captured text so the researchers could find dark patterns, and quantify how often they appeared. More than 1,800 cases of dark pattern usage turned up on 1,254 sites, which is likely a conservative estimate; a subset of 183 sites exhibited outright deception, including recurring low-stock or high-demand alerts and messages pressuring consumers to buy more expensive products. The researchers analyzed the underlying computer code to unearth third-party services that provide these options to shopping sites, facilitating the spread of dark patterns as plug-ins.
(6) "Beyond the Veil: Discrimination Against Women in Iran": This is the title of a 48-page September 2019 report by Minority Rights Group International and Ceasefire Center for Civilian Rights that enumerates obstacles faced by women in Iran under Islamic rule. [English report] [Persian report] [Fact sheet]
Here are the report's five recommnedations in brief:
- Revise domestic legislation, in line with international standards on gender equality and other human rights.
- Eliminate criminal provisions which discriminate based on gender or provide exemptions for men's crimes.
- Release all prisoners detained solely for peacefully protesting and advocating for women's human rights.
- Improve gender balance in distributing civil-service posts and increase access to employment opportunities.
- Remove discriminatory provisions that prevent women from passing on nationality rights to their children.

2019/12/06 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
My minimalist holiday decorations at home Goleta's Maria Ygnacio Creek Controversial excavations reveal ancient mazes and many layers of history under Jerusalem (1) Images of the day: [Left] Like the past couple of years, this year too I am going with minimalist holiday decorations at home. [Center] Goleta's Maria Ygnacio Creek (see the last item below). [Right] Controversial excavations reveal ancient mazes and many layers of history under Jerusalem.
(2) Trumpian hypocrisy: Putting poor kids in cages, stripping healthcare away from them, and befriending their rapists are all okay, but don't you even dare to mention the name of a privileged child!
(3) Two other instances of Trump's hypocrisy: On anonymous sources and religious beliefs. [Tweet images]
(4) Justice, Islamic Republic of Iran style: Kill young protesters, imprison their mothers who speak up, shed crocodile tears on TV for mistakes made and offer blood money to victims' families. [Tweet image]
(5) Michelle Bachelet, UN Human Rights Chief, citing verified video footage: "Iranian security forces have shot at protesters from helicopters and a rooftop and have aimed at peoples' heads in using 'severe violence' to quell anti-government unrest last month ... They have also fired at protesters as they were running away."
(6) British Computer Society sponsors "European Women in Tech 2019" in Amsterdam: Research published by Microsoft (2017) suggests girls across 12 European countries lose interest in STEM around the age of 15. This unfortunate loss of potential contributors comes at a time when the computer industry is growing faster than many others, creating a severe workforce shortage.
(7) If one's blood sugar spikes but the doctor doesn't see it, is it still harmful? Asking for a friend, who treated himself to a donut after doing an A1C blood test prior to a doctor's visit.
(8) Refreshing morning walk along Goleta's Maria Ygnacio Creek: I had an hour to kill between a blood test and the opening of the Post Office, where I had to pick up a package. So, I walked in the Patterson-Hollister intersection area, discovering an extensive network of creek-side bike paths just to the east of Patterson Avenue, extending from Hollister Avenue on the south to Cathedral Oaks (Foothill School) on the north, and connecting to various side streets. The paths have bridges over the creek and solar-powered lights; one branch goes under the 101 Freeway. I returned via Patterson Avenue. [More photos]

2019/12/05 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Benghazi and Clinton e-mails probes vs. Russia probe Kamala Harris responds to Donald Trump America should not be led by a king, nor by a drama queen
An example of many photos/videos that show Iranian security forces destroying property to blame the protesters Tweet by Shahnaz Akmali, a mother who lost a son in Iran's 2009 street protests and was told to keep quite about it Baha'i young women Kiana Rezvani and Kimia Mostafavi have been sentenced to 6 monhts in prison each (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Benghazi and Clinton e-mails probes vs. Russia probe. [Top center] Kamala Harris responds to Donald Trump. [Top right] America should not be led by a king, nor by a drama queen. [Bottom left] An example of many photos/videos that show Iranian security forces destroying property to blame the protesters. [Bottom center] A mother who can't be bullied into silence: Shahnaz Akmali, the mother of Mostafa Karim Beigi, a young man who was killed in Iran's 2009 street protests, was told by her interrrogators to forget she ever had a son. Her "crime" is stated as "publicitiy against the regime and causing public anxiety" through social-media posts. She writes that she lost a son, but has gained numerous sons and daughters throughout Iran. [Bottom right] Persecution of Iranian Baha'is continues: Kiana Rezvani and Kimia Mostafavi have been sentenced to 6 monhts in prison each (reduced on appeal from 6 years) for their activities on behalf of the Baha'i faith and "publicity against the regime."
(2) UCSB men's soccer team in the NCAA quarterfinals: Following a 1-0 double-overtime victory over the 5th-seeded Indiana in the third round (Sweet 16), the Gauchos will face the 4th-seeded Wake Forest at 2:00 PM on Saturday, December 7, 2019, to earn a spot in the Final Four. Go Gauchos!
(3) Quote of the day: "Defending Trump by saying 'all politicians lie' is like defending Jeffrey Dahmer by saying 'everyone eats things they shouldn't'." ~ Anonymous
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Outrage in India over violence against women: Indian rape victim set ablaze by a gang of men.
- US Navy seizes suspected Iranian missile parts headed to Yemen.
- Introducing IEEE SIGHT (Special-Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology).
- Cartoon of the day (involving Zuckerberg, Facebook, and Putin): "I had nothing to do with this!" [Image]
(5) California Assembly Bill 5 may discourage faculty members from serving as editors of scholarly journals: Currently, such activities are encouraged by universities, which, in the case of University of California, are exempted from reporting requirements (category-3 activities, in the parlance of the UC bureaucracy). AB5, to go into effect in January, will convert these activities to category-1, which require prior approval and annual reporting, and will also subject them to the 39-day limit on all outside activities, including industrial consulting, which is common for engineering faculty.

2019/12/04 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A resilient computer, with waterproof casing, made for the end of the world My daughter and I, with our accidentally coordinated T-shirts, on Friday 11/29 Clever street art: TeacH PeacE (1) Images of the day: [Left] A resilient computer, with waterproof casing, made for the end of the world. [Center] My daughter and I, with our accidentally coordinated T-shirts. [Right] Clever street art: TeacH PeacE.
(2) Senator Kamala Harris drops out: She had qualified for the December 19 Democratic debate, which is now left with 6 white candidates, 4 men and 2 women.
(3) Add one more competent, knowledgeable woman to Fiona Hill and Marie Yovanovitch: Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan, who had a mail-order turkey for Thanksgiving so as to have time to prepare for her testimony by reading all the pertinent reports and transcripts, strengthens the case for impeachment.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- IBM experts detect a new form of destructive malware deployed by Iran to target Mid-Eastern companies.
- Black "thug" vs. "white teen": Stories in the same newspaper, two pages apart. [Images]
- Bill Nye challenges Tucker Carlson on climate change: Carlson screams & interrupts; Nye argues calmly.
- I'm sure glad that "Giving Tuesday" is over; some charities sent me more than 10 e-mails during one day!
- Fire at your discretion: This is one way used to kill people in the recent Iranian street protests. [Photo]
- Persian music: "Bread, Work, Freedom," lyrics by Mahtab Ghorbani, performed by Kimia Ghorbani.
(5) Today's "World Music Series" noon concert: The rain gave us enough of a break for UCSB Son Jarocho Ensemble to perform at the Music Bowl, instead of at a nearby room. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]
(6) Touring the facilities of Seymour Duncan in Goleta: Tonight, we had the IEEE Central Coast Section's Executive Committee meeting at the workplace of one of the committee members (workers for the second shift were present). After the meeting, we were treated to a tour of the company's facilities, whose main business is making pick-ups for electric guitars. Electric-guitar strings do not produce easily-audible sound and thus need amplification. Pick-ups are 2-3 sets of magnets installed under the strings, so that when each string moves, the change in the magnetic field is detected and the pertinent information is sent to the amplifier. The design and manufacture of these pick-ups is quite intricate and challenging. Seymour Duncan makes pick-ups for guitar manufacturers (OEM), for music shops to allow replacements and upgrades, and, occasionally, one-of-a-kind custom-made devices for famous guitarists. A fascinating tour and a unique learning experience! [Photos]

2019/12/02 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Mana Neyestani, on the brutality of Iran's security forces in the recent street protests Shah-goli Park: A promenade and recreational venue in Tabriz, Iran Cartoon: Stupidity-testing machine: Insert 100 euros (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cartoon of the day: Mana Neyestani, on the brutality of Iran's security forces in the recent street protests, following major fuel price hikes. [Center] Shah-goli Park: A promenade and recreational venue in Tabriz, Iran. [Right] French cartoon of the day: "Test your stupidity. Insert 100 euros."
(2) Surprise news of the day: After all the rainfall and even a snow blanket at higher elevations, Santa Barbara's Cave Fire is only 90% contained, with 54 firefighters still working on it.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- America's small farmers in crisis: Trump's tariffs and other missteps are taking their toll.
- As Everest's snow-cover melts, garbage and human bodies are exposed.
- Victory for women: Sudanese women celebrate the repeal of the law restricting their behavior and clothing.
- Health benefits of commonly-used herbs and spices. [Image]
- Group Friday prayers: Yes, business is down everywhere! [Photo]
- Persian poetry: Unnamed poet recites his overtly political poem. [2-minute video]
- Persian music: Lovely song, played by pianist Anoushiravan Rohani and violinist Homayoun Khorram.
- You have heard of a 7-passenger SUV or minivan: Here is a 9-passenger motorcycle!
(4) IEEE Standard 754-2019: With a 40-year history, the latest revision of the standard for floating-point arithmetic was accepted by the IEEE Standards Board in June 2019.
An IEEE standard which is not revised after 10 years is withdrawn. Following the IEEE Standard 754-2008, a new revision was due in 2018, but work on the many proposed bug fixes, clarifications, and enhancements, which began in 2015, extended into 2019. In all, 50 drafts were produced before balloting in early 2019.
This article by David G. Hough (IEEE Computer, Dec. 2019) overviews the IEEE Standard 754, its various revisions through the years, and a sneak preview of 2029 and beyond.
"The most interesting new feature of IEEE Standard 754-2019 is the augmented arithmetic operations. These provide the exact result of an addition, subtraction, or multiplication in two parts that add up to the exact result. These operations were added because hardware implementations of similar functionality appeared imminent, and we hoped to have them work identically and provide the most useful functionality."
(5) Final thought for the day: Over the past few days, friends and other sources have been posting photos of (mostly young) victims of Iran's street protests, many of them shot in the heart or head by sharpshooters. There are too many instances for me to repost them all. Hoping that by signing a petition sent to Michelle Bachelet, UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, an international investigarion begins and an official list of the ~300 victims and how they died is compiled. [Signable on-line petition, with text in English and Persian]

2019/12/01 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Alabama has named December 1 'Rosa Parks Day': A statue of the civil-rights icon was unveiled in Montgomery today Single-authored scientific papers are going the way of dinosaurs: According to the journal Nature, the number of papers with authors from a single country are also declining in favor of multi-national collaborations Heavenly fruit plate: Pomegranates, persimmons, tangerines (1) Images of the day: [Left] Alabama has named December 1 "Rosa Parks Day": A statue of the civil-rights icon was unveiled in Montgomery today. [Center] Single-authored papers are going the way of dinosaurs: According to the journal Nature, the number of papers with authors from a single country are also declining in favor of multi-national collaborations. [Right] Heavenly fruit plate: Pomegranates, persimmons, tangerines.
(2) Kamala Harris, a once-promising woman of color viewed as polar-opposite of Trump, isn't gaining a foothold among Democratic candidates due to numerous mis-steps by her campaign.
(3) Trump derangement syndrome: Seeing Trump do crazy things, admitting privately that, yes, it's embarrassing, but continuing to support him publicly. Of course, Republicans think Democrats have TDS, but as Bill Maher notes, TDS is like body odor: If you smell it all the time, it's probably yours!
(4) Republicans care about the veterans: Yeah, right! As of Veterans Day, 56 bills had passed the House to help veterans. All have been blocked by Moscow Mitch McConnel.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Deutsche Welle News (Persian): Casualties of Iran's recent street protests now stand at 366.
- Apparently, tanks, other armored vehicles, and machine guns have been deployed in some areas of Iran.
- Iranian ER doctors: Protesters' heads and hearts were targeted by security forces and sharpshooters.
- Iran's rulers use the recent street protests as an excuse to intensify the abuse and arrest of Bahais.
(6) Statement by Iranian artists: A group of prominent artists have issued a statement, asking Iran's government for what sin it massacred young protesters who took to the streets because they had run out of options to express their distress. [Story in Persian]
(7) Moore's Law is a hard act to follow: The exponential improvement trend for semiconductors, known as Moore's Law, was bound to come to an end. Erik P. DeBenedictis, writing in IEEE Computer (December 2019, pp. 114-117) argues that three trends will allow exponential performance/capability improvements to continue.
- Hardware specialization—Auto-accelerations are dead, long live speed-ups with greater design effort.
- Artificial intelligence—Deep learning will improve efficiency, while also slashing personnel costs.
- Quantum computing—Hybrid quantum/classical computing can lead to orders-of-magnitude speed-up.

2019/11/30 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Vending machines with veggie mixes in recyclable glass jars, returned to the machine itself, are being deployed in test markets World GDP has been rising steadily, but genuine progress indicator has been declining (Time magazine chart) Twitter goes wild with responses after Trump posts a PhotoShopped image of himself as the fictional boxer Rocky Balboa
Obama's grace under fire: A relic of the past on the current political scene in America Memory, from November 30, 2018: Time magazine cover said 'Time for Trump to go,' but why is it taking so long? Get to know FDR, a democratic socialist who helped define the American way of life, after saving us from the Great Depression (1) Images of the day: [Top left] No chips for you: Vending machines with veggie mixes in recyclable jars, returned to the machine itself, are being deployed in test markets. [Top center] Genuine Progress Indicator: The use of GDP as a measure of national and global well-being is highly misleading. When quality-of-life factors are used to adjust the GDP, the resulting GPI tells a different story (source: Time magazine). [Top right] Twitter goes wild with responses after Trump posts a PhotoShopped image of himself as the fictional boxer Rocky Balboa. [Bottom left] Obama's grace under fire: A relic of the past on the current political scene in America. [Bottom center] Memory, from November 30, 2018: Why is it taking so long? [Bottom right] Get to know FDR, a democratic socialist who helped define the American way of life, after saving us from the Great Depression.
(2) When you have no defense, you resort to lying and smearing: Picture of Adam Schiff with his 90-year-old dad is photoshopped to replace his dad's face with Jeffrey Epstein's, and this by the supporters of a man who really partied and took photos/videos with the child molester! [Images]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- NASA's giant transport plane delivers the space capsule Orion to Ohio, where it will undergo tests.
- Giant black hole, discovered in our galaxy by the Chinese, shouldn't exist according to current theories.
- Iranian lawyers honored with 2019 human rights award by Council of Bars and Law Societies of Europe.
- Persian poetry: Young poetess Mahzad Razi recites one of her poems. [Video]
- Humor: Making do in the age of communications, with blocked Internet access. [3-minute cartoon clip]
(4) America moving towards greatness: Life expectancy in the US has been declining since 2014, after 6 decades of steady rise. The driving force is in middle-aged deaths from drug overdoses, suicides, and organ system diseases. Youth deaths have also been on the rise.
(5) The real thugs: Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei has called street protesters, objecting to rising prices and political oppression, "thugs," because they set fire to and destroyed property, conveniently forgetting that he and his ilk came to power using similar tactics, when Ayatollah Khomeini declared banks and government offices sources of injustice and oppression that must be destroyed.

2019/11/28 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Angelic face icon of Iran's 2009 protests: Neda Agha-Soltan Happy Thanksgiving Day! Angelic face of Iran's 2019 protests: Nikta Esfandani
UNICEF 2019 photo of the year: Selected by popular vote (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Nikta and Neda: Another angelic face comes to represent the ire of Iranian women and youth against the brutal Islamic regime. Neda Agha-Soltan (right), then 26, became the face of the June 2009 protests against a fraudulent presidential election, after she was shot dead by a sniper. Now, the face of 14-year-old Nikta Esfandani, who was shot in the head by Iran's security forces, has become iconic for the gas-price-hike protests of November 2019. [Center] A very happy Thanksgiving Day to my beloved family and friends! I am grateful for having you all in my life. [Bottom] UNICEF 2019 photo of the year.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ousted US Navy Secretary Richard Spencer lashes out at Trump in his resignation letter.
- Mafia mentality: Rudy Giuliani threatens the release of Biden documents if he somehow disappears!
- A group of UPS employees ran a drug-smuggling operation for a decade before being arrested.
- Song celebrates Trump changing his permanent residence address from NYC to Palm Beach, FL. [Video]
- Persian music: Mahdieh Mohammadkhani sings a poem of Sa'adi, accompanied by the Delban Ensemble.
- For my Persian-speaking readers: One might laugh or cry watching this 2-minute comedy routine.
(3) Do you know any of these celebrities? Don't think too hard, because you likely don't know them. These are fake, high-resolution celeb photos generated by the CelebA-HQ training dataset. [Source: Communications of the ACM, issue of December 2019]
(4) Thanksgiving pro tip of the day (from George Takei): If you are having MAGA-hat-wearing relatives over for Thanksgiving, change your WiFi password to IMPEACH45, forcing them to type that in.

2019/11/26 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Nothing to see here! Logo: UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Cave fire began around 4:00 PM on 11/25 in Santa Barbara and spread quickly (1) Images of the day: [Left] Nothing to see here: Attempts to hide atrocities via a total Internet blackout exposed the uglier parts of the Islamic regime in Iran (from Iranwire.com). [Center] Children's Bill of Rights: Our Founding Fathers were blind to many issues, including childhood and its challenges. So, our Constitution includes no provisions for children. After the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted 30 years ago, countries added legal protections for children by accepting the convention. Alas, not the United States! [Right] Cave fire began at 4:15 PM on 11/25 in Santa Barbara and spread quickly (see the last item below).
(2) Preference for arms sales and other trade over human rights: Resolutions recognizing the Armenian genocide and condemning China's atrocities in Hong Kong were blocked by Trump's allies in the US Senate.
(3) Forbes ranks world's best universities: Other lists include only US institutions or have a North-American bias. Oxford and Cambridge top Forbes' list, with the always-present Stanford appearing as #3. Among University of California campuses, Berkeley, UCLA, and UCSD make the list at #15, #17, and #30, respectively.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- CNN Special Report "All the President's Lies" aired on 11/24 and will air again on 11/27.
- Sacha Baron Cohen criticizes social-media companies for their reluctance to fact-check political ads.
- For Trump supporters: A subscription service that sends you Trump excuses and lies as they evolve.
- Mythical company valuations encounter reality after IPO. [Chart from Time magazine, Dec. 2/9, 2019]
- Shooting at a protester in Shahriar, Iran, as security forces flee: Shame on the Iranian authorities!
- Two of the youngest victims, 13 and 14, of Iran's street protests: Shame on the Iranian authorities!
- The world turned its back on Iran during the recent street protests. [Cartoon from Iranwire.com]
(5) Hotbeds of fuel protests in Iran: At least 106 protesters (perhaps up to 250) have been killed, with many more injured. The highest casualties were suffered in Khuzistan, Kermanshah, Kurdistan, and Fars provinces.
(6) Cave fire in Santa Barbara and Goleta: The fire has burned 4100 acres as of this morning. The mandatory evacuation area is on both sides of Highway 154, extending to Fairview Ave. on the west and Cathedral Oaks from the south. Ten air tankers and 9 helicopters started working today. Help is on the way in the form of less wind, more humidity, and an inch of rain, beginning tonight. UCSB and Santa Barbara City College classes have been cancelled for the rest of this week. [edhat SB report] [LA Times report]

2019/11/25 (Monday): Book review: Petroski, Henry, The Evolution of Useful Things: How Everyday Artifacts—From Forks and Pins to Paper Clips and Zippers—Came to Be as They Are, Vintage Books, 1994.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Images for Petroski's 'The Evolution of Useful Things': Cover image Images for Petroski's 'The Evolution of Useful Things': Johan Vaaler's first American patent (p. 61) Images for Petroski's 'The Evolution of Useful Things': Webster's definition of clip (p. 67)
Images for Petroski's 'The Evolution of Useful Things': Henry Lankenau's paper clips (p. 72) Images for Petroski's 'The Evolution of Useful Things': Types of nails and spikes (p. 128) Images for Petroski's 'The Evolution of Useful Things': Collection of forks (p. 135) From Petroski's The Evolution of Useful Things: [Top left] Cover image. [Top center] Johan Vaaler's first American patent (p. 61). [Top right] Webster's definition of clip (p. 67). [Bottom left] Henry Lankenau's paper clips (p. 72). [Bottom center] Types of nails and spikes (p. 128). [Bottom right] Collection of forks (p. 135).
This gem of a book contains 250 pages of text, followed by 11 pages of notes, 9 pages of references, a 2-page list of illustrations and associated credits, and a 12-page index. It contains many diagrams, mostly from patent filings, exemplified by the six figures I have included in this review.
We are all curious to learn how invention and innovation processes work. It is extremely difficult to discuss these processes for complicated technologies, such as computers and spacecraft. So, Petroski focuses on simple things that everyone can understand. For example, tracing the evolution of utensils, such as the lowly fork, can teach us a great deal about the evolution of technology. The shape of a fork, the number of its tines, and other physical features all came about gradually and in response to perceived problems with earlier variants.
Far from designs converging to an optimal configuration, variations tend to persist. In fact, the most useful and widespread a gadget or tool, the greater the number of design variations: There were some 500 different kinds of hammer in 1867. The many variants of each implement come about for various reasons. Broad usage can create many variations, as in the case of hammers. Petroski tells us that saws and axes developed many different varieties, because of the effort needed to operate them [p. 125].
We talk about evolving designs, but unlike nature's evolutionary processes, design evolution occurs mostly through purposeful change, rather than random mutation [p. 24]. Inventors are essentially critics, who find faults with existing gadgets/processes and are also equipped to do something about it [p. 34].
One can call the process above "innovation by failure." In fact, Petroski has written widely on the importance of learning from failures. In his book To Engineer Is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design, Petroski focuses on what engineers learn from failures. The story goes something like this: We build a new kind of structure (say, an ocean liner), factoring in a great deal of redundancy because of our uncertainty and lack of confidence in our knowledge of how it will fare during use. We then build additional versions of the structure, gaining greater confidence with each, shaving a bit off the overdesign or safety factor as a result. Until, eventually, the nth structure becomes too streamlined, and it fails (think of the Titanic). We then go back and see where we erred and how we might eliminate the causes of failure. These failures are part of the learning process for the engineering profession, so they should be taught as case studies in regular engineering courses. As Petroski puts it in another one of his books, Success Through Failure, "When a complex system succeeds, that success masks its proximity to failure. ... Thus, the failure of the Titanic contributed much more to the design of safe ocean liners than would have her success. That is the paradox of engineering and design."
Another interesting history reviewed by Petroski in this book is that of the paper-clip, which gradually came about from pins used to fasten stacks of paper. The disadvantages of pricking users' fingers and leaving unsighly holes in the paper were the driving forces for innovation [p. 58]. Following the lengthy history is quite fascinating. The 1901 American patent by Johan Vaaler shows variations in paper clips, including in Fig. 12, which is quite similar to today's steel variant [p. 61]. More paper-clip designs appear in the 1934 patent filed by Henry Lankenau [p. 72]. Over time, the meaning of the word "clip" changed as new variants were introduced. Accordingly, Webster Dictionary's definition of clip was updated over time [p. 67].
Of course, not all inventions and innovations come about as a result of purposeful meddling to correct perceived flaws. In a third interesting history, that of sticky notes, Petroski shows us how a failed adhesive that wasn't sticky enough turned into a feature in sticky notes [p. 85].
The ubiquitous zipper gives us a fourth fascinating example. Again, Petroski presents a complete review of the history of fasteners for clothing (buttons, hooks, and so on), outlining the perceived problems of each kind. "Zipper" was originally a trade-mark of B. F. Goodrich Company's "Zipper Boots," which were advertised as being easy to put on and take off, but it later came to be used as a common name for "slide fastener" [p. 112].
Sometimes, initially successful innovations turn into later failures. For example, the polystyrene-foam clamshell berger package of McDonald's was at first hailed as brilliant, but then it became an environmental nightmare [p. 222]. The evolution of the modern soda can, and the opener tab on top of it [pp. 194-208], also led to environmental concerns, which were eventually mitigated by the emergence of aluminum cans.
I think every engineer should read this book. I will keep my copy and read it from time to time to draw inspiration.

2019/11/24 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A simple comparison of how protesters have been treated by three dictatorial regimes: Hong Kong, Lebanon, Iran Iranian women will crush anyone who blocks them from achieving their goals of equality and freedom A beautiful day for strolling along the UCSB West Campus Beach and the Coal Oil Point nature preserve at low tide, with two of my children (1) Images of the day: [Left] A simple comparison of how protesters have been treated by three dictatorial regimes: Given that news of the Hong Kong protests is all over the US media and Lebanon's is also covered from time to time, the near-total silence on the Iran street protests is mind-boggling! [Center] Iranian women will crush anyone who blocks them from achieving their goals of equality and freedom. [Right] A beautiful day for strolling along the UCSB West Campus Beach and the Coal Oil Point nature preserve at low tide, with two of my children. [More photos] [Video]
(2) Iran's Internet blackout is only partially removed: A friend reports from Iran that the five provinces of Alborz, Fars, Kermanshahan, Khuzistan, and Kurdistan (sites of the heaviest street protests) are still disconnected from the Internet.
(3) NCAA men's soccer: In an impressive showing, UCSB defeated the 12th-seeded Saint Mary's 4-0 in a second-round match, moving to the a Sweet-16 match against 5th-seeded Indiana on December 1, 2019.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- This week's Newsweek and Time magazine covers: Impeachment and fall of America's ruling class.
- Next impeachment step: Convincing 67 Senators to convict Trump will be tough, but not impossible.
- Adam Schiff: "Trump's 'death penalty' threat was one reason we didn't have the whistleblower testify."
- Ousted US Navy Secretary Richard Spencer lashes out at Trump in his resignation letter.
- Mob mentality: Rudy Giuliani threatens the release of Biden documents if he somehow disappears!
- The moment a car falls off a highway overpass in southern India, killing several people. [Video]
(5) Extended quote of the day: Michael Lewis, writing in Boomerang (a book I am now reading) on women being notably absent among those who caused the 2008 financial crisis.
(6) The Internet blackout and restoration in Iran reminded me of this Persian joke: A poor villager went to the village leader (kadkhoda) to complain about his terrible living conditions, with his large family confined to a single room, and to ask for advice. The kadkhoda told him to bring a couple of goats into the room. The next time, the kadkhoda inquired whether things have improved. The villager indicated that the situation had gotten much worse. The kadkhoda recommended patience and repeated the same advice on the next few visits. The villager returned the next time, screaming that he couldn't take it any more. The kadkhoda told him to remove the goats from the living quarters and to return in a couple of days to report on his situation. When the villager returned, he smiled broadly and kissed the kadkhoda's feet for helping solve his problem. [Cartoon]

2019/11/23 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Shining examples of female authority: Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and Dr. Fiona Hill Several compelling testimonies during the US House impeachment hearings came from first-generation immigrants Meme related to the current unrest and murder of protesters in Iran
Scenes from around Goleta Beach Park Retirement party at Goleta Beach Park on Friday, November 22 Goleta Beach Park, near Goleta Pier (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch and Dr. Fiona Hill gave us wonderful examples of female authority, and it sounded great! (Image credit: WP) [Top center] Immigrants save America: Several compelling testimonies during the US House impeachment hearings came from first-generation immigrants, who looked highly competent and patriotic. American values and way of life were on full display during the hearings, interrupted intermittently by screaming Republicans, who pontificated instead of asking questions. [Top right] Meme related to the current unrest and murder of protesters in Iran. [Bottom left] Walking around Goleta Beach Park: Capturing scenes from a beautiful day with mostly blue skies, as well as an empty-threat sign that warns of severe tire damage for those who enter a parking lot the wrong way, but the spikes that cause the said tire damage are nowhere to be seen (much like "security protection" signs in front of houses that in fact have no security system)! [Bottom center] Yesterday afternoon, I attended a Hawaii-themed bash at Goleta Beach Park for a departmental colleague who is walking into the sunset after 40 years at UCSB. Happy retirement, Avery! [Bottom right] Photos from Goleta Beach Park, in the vicinity of Goleta Pier.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Cheers to those who can change their minds when presented with information that contradicts their beliefs.
- "Montage 2019": UCSB Music Department's "celebration of genres" held today at Marjorie Luke Theater.
- MIT is under federal investigation for failing to disclose foreign funding sources.
- Thoughts on the ways in which society sabotages girls' interest in science and math.
(3) Ranking colleges based on how well they do in enrolling and graduating women computer scientists: Salisbury U., with 36% women, tops the list of public institutions, followed closely by U. Washington (35%). The following colleges score around or above 30%: CUNY Bernard M. Baruch College, U. Washington at Bothell, Penn State at University Park, U. Virginia, and U. South Carolina Upstate. At #15 (26%), Berkeley is the only UC campus in the top 50. Cal State LA appears at #39 (21%). Among private nonprofit institutions, Wellesley tops the list with 100%, followed by New School (75%). Two other private schools with percentages in the 50s are Touro College, NY, and Creighton U. The top 10 colleges on this second list all do better than Salisbury U. at the top of the first list.
(4) NSCI: White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, headed by Michael Kratsios, has updated the National Strategic Computing Initiative, with the goal of keeping pace with and fueling innovation.
(5) Men's college soccer: UCSB beat UC Berkeley 3-1 to advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament, where the Gauchos will face the 12th-seeded Saint Mary's (CA) on Sunday 11/24, 1:00 PM PST. [Bracket]

2019/11/22 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Professor Fazllolah Reza, Iranian scholar, dead at 104 Telegraphy cable souvenir: Tiffany tried to market pieces of an 1858 trans-Atlantic cable as souvenirs, but the cable was a flop Internet blackout: Iran shows as a black area on this symbolic rendering of the worldwide Internet traffic
Cartoon: 'Enhanced branding metrics drive robust solutions for scalable monetization of jargon' Meme of the day: Bob and Sally are friends, even though they vote with different parties Cartoon: Protection for Mitch McConnell, so that the noise of school shootings and kids being killed do not damage his ears (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Fazllolah Reza, 1915-2019 (see the last item below). [Top center] Telegraphy cable souvenir (see the next item below). [Top right] Internet blackout: Iran shows as a black area on this symbolic rendering of worldwide Internet traffic. [Bottom left] Cartoon: "Enhanced branding metrics drive robust solutions for scalable monetization of jargon." [Bottom center] Meme of the day: This is Bob. He votes Republican. This is Bob's friend, Sally. Sally votes Democratic. Bob and Sally are still friends, because Bob and Sally are both adults. Be like Bob and Sally. [Bottom right] Cartoon: Protection for Mitch McConnell, so that the noise of school shootings and kids being killed do not damage his ears.
(2) Promising souvenirs that did not sell as expected: On August 16, 1858, Queen Victoria and US president James Buchanan said hello through the first trans-Atlantic telegraph cable, which connected Newfoundland with Ireland across some 3200 kilometers. The jeweler Tiffany and Co. sought to celebrate (and cash in on) what was touted as the communications event of the century. And so it bought up surplus cable from the project and turned it into souvenirs. Each 4-inch segment retailed for 50 cents (about US $15 today). Sadly, though, the cable itself was a flop. The queen's 98-word message took almost 16 hours to transmit. The quality of the transmission quickly degraded, and the cable failed entirely after just a few weeks. Tiffany was left with unsellable stock commemorating a failure, and trans-Atlantic communication would wait another eight years for a new, more robust cable to be laid. [From IEEE Spectrum, issue of November 2019]
(3) Iranian scholar Professor Fazlollah Reza, who served as chancellor of two universities in Iran and had a number of other administrative and diplomatic positions, passed away at 104 in Ottawa, Canada. Besides his contributions to science and engineering, he was an avid fan of, and very knowledgeable in, Persian literature.

2019/11/21 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Time cover 1 Time cover 2 Time cover 3
Time cover 4 Time cover 5 Time cover 6 (1) Time magazine's main and alternate covers for the issue of November 25, 2019, featuring "The Next 100."
(2) Heliogen, Bill Gates's just-revealed clean energy company, has discovered a way to use artificial intelligence and a field of mirrors to generate extreme heat above 1,000 degrees Celsius from sunlight.
(3) Internet blackout in Iran hits the 100-hour mark: A new black stain that sinks the Islamic Republic even below the other dictatorial regimes in the region. [Chart]
(4) I was very impressed with the testimony of Dr. Fiona Hill: Partially heard her statement and responses today, finding her knowledgeable and articulate. Wish we had more people like her in our government.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Israel's Attorney General has charged Benjamin Netanyahu with bribery, breach of trust, and fraud.
- Security forces in the western Iranian city of Kermanshah shoot at protesters. [Video]
- Murdering Iranian protesters behind a veil of secrecy by shutting down the Internet.
- Six Iranian environmentalists have been given prison sentences of 6-10 years.
(6) Bogus argument: "Let people decide in the next election, instead of impeaching."
On what basis will the voters be deciding? The extent of Trump administration's corruption and treason (acting in the interest of Russia) was revealed only because of the impeachment hearing.
(7) Search-results ranking isn't all that new: The April-June 2019 issue of IEEE Annals of the History of Computing identifies the 1960 J. ACM paper "On Relevance Probabilistic Indexing and Information Retrieval," by M. E. Maron and J. L. Kuhns, as containing the first proposal for a system of ranking.

2019/11/20 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Tonight's technical meeting of IEEE Central Coast Section Persian poetry: Selected verses from a ghazal by Sa'adi Four examples of many memes on the Internet about the isolation and massacre of the people of Iran by a dictatorial regime (1) Images of the day: [Left] Tonight's technical meeting of IEEE Central Coast Section (see the last item below). [Center] Persian poetry: Selected verses from a ghazal by Sa'adi. [Right] Four examples of many memes on the Internet about the isolation and massacre of the people of Iran by a dictatorial regime that thinks about nothing but its own survival.
(2) Gordon Sondland's opening statement at the impeachment hearing: Sondland makes it clear that Rudy Giuliani's involvement and his insistence on aid/support for Ukraine being conditional on publicly-announced investigations were based on direct orders from Trump.
(3) Iran is under siege: Internet access, cut off for citizens, is available to regime officials to blame the unrest on foreigners and to spread other disinformation. Exiled journalist Masih Alinejad has called on Iranians to apply pressure on Twitter to block the account of Supreme Leader Khamenei until Internet service is fully restored in the country. [Meme]
(4) Iran is under siege (part 2): Both Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Rouhani characterize Iran's protesters as agents of foreign powers and threats to national security, ordering security forces to confront and punish them. There is very little difference between the two dictators, the big boss and his servant!
(5) Today's "World Music Series" noon concert at UCSB's Music Bowl: UCSB Gospel Choir offered an enjoyable performance. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]
(6) Tonight's IEEE Central Coast Section technical meeting: In a sparsely-attended talk (due to glitches in IEEE's e-mail notification and reminder system), Dr. Roger Helkey (Assoc. Director of UCSB Center for Energy Efficiency, and West-Coast Assoc. Director of AIM Photonics) spoke under the title "Using Photonics to Make More Energy Efficient Data Centers & Communication." [Photos]
Advantages of photonics are twofold: (1) Increasing the interconnect bandwidth density, and (2) Reducing energy consumption in communication, which is emerging as a bigger limitation than the energy used for computation within logic circuits. Without reducing the energy used per communicated bit, the exponential growth in data usage, which drives our information society, would not be sustainable. The use of photonics brings with it the promise of communication over distances from 1 mm to 1 km with the same energy (20 fJ/bit) and simplicity as local electrical wires on a chip.
A focus of research by Dr. Helkey and his co-workers is on using quantum-dot lasers and integration on silicon for low-threshold, high-efficiency sources, capability for operation at higher temperatures, isolator-free implementation, and superior mode-locking.
This talk ties in nicely with our December 18, 2019, talk by Dennis Horwitz, entitled "Awesome Photons—A Fiber Optic Technology Update." Announcements for the latter talk will be coming shortly.

2019/11/19 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
T-shirt: 'The Supremes,' three women now on the US Supreme Court, plus the first ever woman SCOTUS Justice, now retired Women are too emotional to be trusted with important decisions. Yeah, right! Statues for Equality: Jane Goodall (1) Images of the day: [Left] Inspired by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's My Own Words, which I recently reviewed: "The Supremes," three women now on the US Supreme Court, plus the first ever woman SCOTUS Justice, now retired. [Center] Women are too emotional to be trusted with important decisions. Yeah, right! [Right] Statues for Equality: A project from internationally renowned artists and equality activists Gillie and Marc, aiming to balance gender representation in public art worldwide; shown is the statue of Jane Goodall.
(2) Cool prime minister: Stephen Colbert goes to New Zealand, is picked up at the airport by PM Jacinda Ardern, and has a fun day with the PM and her fiance. [Video]
(3) Political humor from Stephen Colbert's "The Late Show": The doctor who examined Trump during his recent unannounced visit indicates that the problem was an obstruction in the rectum. Further checks found and dislogdged the heads of several GOP Congressmen and Senators!
(4) Declining number of international students at US universities is a tragedy: These students provide a steady stream of talent for our high-tech industries and those among them that return to their home countries generate much good will toward the US around the world.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Amnesty Int'l reports more than 100 killed in Iran, as security forces are green-lighted to use deadly force.
- While the Hong Kong protests are all over the news, very little mention is made of the unrest in Iran.
- Nerdy humor: Approximations, according to physicists, engineers, and cosmologists. [Cartoon strip]
- Italian song: "Lasciate Mi Cantare," featuring a playful video.
(6) Final thought for the day: I hope feminists take action against people like Tucker Carlson, who asserts that "feminism is insincere," and Clarence Mason Weaver, a member of "Black Voices for Trump" coalition, who has stated in many forums that women should be "handmaidens" and "submissive."

2019/11/18 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Memes of the day: Iranians in diaspora and people of Iranian origins are thinking of those fighting in Iran against a dictatorial regime Protest sign: According to US gun laws, geese have more protections than children Taking the long way home from UCSB to enjoy views of the ocean and the lagoon (1) Images of the day: [Left] Iranians in diaspora and people of Iranian origins are thinking of those fighting in Iran against a dictatorial regime that has brought nothing but repression, isolation, and hardship to our motherland. [Center] Great observation about our gun-crazy nation! [Right] A gorgeous day in Santa Barbara: Blue skies, bluer waters, and 80-degree temps led me to take the long path home along UCSB's eastern (the Pacific Ocean) and southern (the campus lagoon) boundaries, instead of cutting straight across the campus.
(2) There is an eerie silence on Telegram and WhatsApp channels coming from Iran. When a scared dictatorial regime blocks Internet access and threatens journalists who file reports on protests and casualties, now in the hundreds, it is definitely up to no good.
(3) Queen Elizabeth II defends Prince Andrew, who gave a disaterous interview about his ties to child molester Jeffery Epstein, calling Epstein's behavior "unbecoming" and the partying photos with multiple young women fake. Really, just unbecoming, not criminal?
(4) Trump wants to jail anyone who has ever spoken against him! [Tweet]
(5) Archaeological discovery: Traps containing the remains of at least 14 mammoths, unearthed in Mexico, are estimated to be 15,000 years old. [Source: Time magazine, issue of November 25, 2019]
(6) Corruption begets corruption: Russian talent show "The Voice Kids" annulled the result of its May 2019 voting, after it was discovered that the daughter of a wealthy businessman won because of thousands of fraudulent automated votes. [Source: Time magazine, issue of November 25, 2019]
(7) Medical errors kill: A 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine reported about 100,000 annual deaths in the US from medical errors. Twenty years later, things don't seem to have improved at all. [Source: Time magazine, issue of November 25, 2019]
(8) Why did NFL players kneeling become such a big story? Yes, some Americans were passionate about it, but social-media posts and commentary were 10-to-1 from Russian-sponsored bots, according to Senator Mark Warner, VC of US Senate Intellligence Committee, interviewed on the PBS program "Firing Line" this week.

2019/11/17 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Chart: Internet disruptions and blackout in Iran, mid-November 2019 This dome in the Marshall Islands, where the US stashes away its nuclear waste, is likely to crack open due to climate change Cartoon: Islamization of Persian-lit textbooks (1) Images of the day: [Left] Internet blackout in Iran: Internet access has been shut down in retaliation for street protests against a sharp rise in gas prices, which turned violent, when security forces shot at and killed several protesters. [Center] A nuclear disaster in the making: This dome in the Marshall Islands, where the US stashes away its nuclear waste, is likely to crack open due to climate change. [Right] Cartoon of the day: Islamization of curricula and textbooks continue in Iran, this time by removing works of disfavored poets (surprisingly also including some poems of Hafez and Mowlavi/Rumi) from persian-literature textbooks to make room for those more receptive to the Dear Leader's world view.
(2) Rabid dog: Taking a cue from Trump, who calls anyone he doesn't like "a dog," North Korea's official news agency calls Joe Biden "a rabid dog [who] must be beaten to death with a stick." Trump tweets in "defense" of his rival, writing, "Joe Biden may be Sleepy and Very Slow, but he is not a 'rabid dog.' He is actually somewhat better than that ..." By the way, North Koreans had previously called Trump himself a rabid dog and a dotard!
(3) Persian music: Bahar Choir performs "Meyzadeh" ("Intoxicated"), a composition by Parviz Yahaghi, with lyrics by Bijan Taraghi, orchestration and conduction by Arash Fouladvand, vocals by Sara Hamidi. And here is Bahar Choir's "Dar Arezou-ye to Basham" ("I Desire You, Till My Last Breath"), a composition by Arash Fouladvand, who also conducts, with vocals by Vahid Taj and tar solo by Keivan Saket.
(4) Street protests in Iran turn deadly: Fearfully fleeing security forces fire at protesters. Despite near-total Internet shutdown, photos and videos are making their way out. Chants of "We don't want an Isalmic Republic" and "Down with Khamenei" are dominant.
(5) Anti-terrorism in our nation's biggest terror target: NYC has an elaborate terror hotline center, where tips about terrorism are taken and processed. For New Year's Eve, a special anti-sniper unit is being deployed in Times Square (where tall buildings present dangers), using lessons learned from the Las Vegas mass shooting.
(6) Shocking revelations in partially-unsealed documents: One of the Boston Marathon bombers was involved with a friend in a 2011 Waltham, MA, triple-homicide, two years before the Marathon killings.

2019/11/16 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Ellwood Mesa Open Space photos: California's long drought has taken its toll on the trees in this area Ellwood Mesa Open Space photos: My walk took me to the ocean on an overcast, but otherwise pleasant, day Ellwood Mesa Open Space photos: Ellwood Butterfly Grove is dormant now, but it will be buzzing with life when monarch butterflies arrive in a couple of weeks (1) A series of photos I took Friday afternoon during my walk in the Ellwood Mesa Open Space to the west of Goleta: [Left] California's long drought has taken its toll on the trees in this area. [Center] My walk took me to the ocean on an overcast, but otherwise pleasant, day. [Right] Ellwood Butterfly Grove is dormant now, but it will be buzzing with life when monarch butterflies arrive in a couple of weeks.
(2) Abrupt increase in fuel prices, as temperatures dip, sparks massive protests across Iran: There are reports of security forces shooting at street demonstrators and of multiple deaths, particularly in Kermanshah.
(3) Making America Ignorant: Ohio House of Representatives passes "Student Religious Liberties Act" that allows freedom of religious expression, including religiously-based wrong answers.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ignoring Pentagon advice, Trump pardons US service members accused of war crimes.
- Fake-news bots meet their match: Data science and artificial intelligence! Several accounts suspended.
- Why our calorie intake, and thus weight, peaks in winter: Blame it on evolution!
- Persian mystical music: "Motreb-e Tanboor" ("Tanboor Entertainer") performed by Ranaei Family Ensemble.
(5) Planning for my winter 2020 UCSB graduate course ECE 254B (Parallel Processing): April 22, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, inaugurated a year after the Santa Barbara oil spill of winter 1969, which remains the largest spill off the coast of California (it is now the all-time third largest, including the subsequent Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon incidents).
Winter is also the quarter during which our campus engages in "UCSB Reads," a program that began in 2007 and has chosen the book Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, by acclaimed author Elizabeth Rush, for campus perusal and discussion during 2020. The author will give a talk in UCSB's Campbell Hall on Monday, May 4, 2020, beginning at 7:30 PM.
Accordingly, I have decided to use four micro-projects as part of homework assignments for ECE 254B during winter 2020. Enrolled students will get free copies of Rising from UCSB Library. The micro-projects will explore the role of high-performance computing in modeling various aspects of climate change.
uP1: From Weather Forecasting to Climate Modeling
uP2: Ocean-Temperature Modeling: Monster Storms
uP3: Modeling of Sea-Level Rise: Disappearing Lands
uP4: Extreme-Weather Projections from Climate Data
Each micro-project entails studying the types of computer models involved, computational requirements of the models, how the computations are performed on top-of-the-line supercomputers, and data sets that allow drawing various conclusions from the modeling results.

2019/11/15 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Front-page story of an Iranian weekly makes fun of official efforts to promote polygamy through advertising posters Trends in digital integrated circuits: Density, processor performance, clock speed, power consumption, and multiplicity of cores on a chip This 'selfie' of NASA's Mars Curiosity rover was synthesized from images it collected on May 13, 2019 (1) Images of the day: [Left] And suddenly, polygamy: Front-page story of an Iranian weekly makes fun of official efforts to promote polygamy through advertising posters. [Center] Trends in digital integrated circuits: Density ("Moore's Law"), processor performance, clock speed, power consumption, and multiplicity of cores on a chip. Original data up to 2010 collected and plotted by M. Horowitz, F. Labonte, O. Shacham, K. Olukotun, L. Hammond, and C. Batten; Data for new plot, also covering 2010-2017, collected by K. Rupp. [Right] This "selfie" of NASA's Mars Curiosity rover was synthesized from images it collected on May 13, 2019.
(2) Erdogan outmaneuvers Trump: Turkish press and officials praise Erdogan for standing up to Trump by returning the harsh letter he had received right after invading Syria back to Trump during his US visit.
(3) Quote of the day (Trump mantra): "And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth." ~ George Orwell, 1984
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump live-tweets intimidating words against former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch as she testifies.
- Trump associate Roger Stone convicted of all seven counts of perjury, obstruction, and witness tempering.
- Persian music: Bahar Choir performs "Roud" ("River"), a composition by Mehrdad Baran, who also conducts.
- Persian music: A wonderful instrumental piece by tar and tonbak. [5-minute video]
- The Kurdish song "Brindaram" performed by Tara Yousefi (vocals), Zahed Mansouri (piano), and others.
(5) UCLA Health publishes results of ongoing review of sexual misconduct in clinical setting: "Our ongoing review extends beyond the institution's response to complaints against former UCLA physician Dr. James Heaps, who was charged with sexual battery. We are looking more broadly at allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate patterns of behavior in the clinical setting. Our goal is to ensure the institution is following best practices and reflecting the highest standard of care for all patients of UCLA hospitals, clinics and student health services." The report ends with a call for information from all stakeholders via the third-party Praesidium Hotline, 888-961-9273.
(6) [On wildfires in California] Trump: "The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom, has done a terrible job of forest management. I told him from the first day we met that he must 'clean' his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him. Must also do burns and cut fire stoppers."
Fact check: Of the 33M acres of forest in California, 57% is owned and managed by the federal government, 40% by private landowners, and 3% by the state (source: UC Forest Research and Outreach Center). So, Trump himself bears the bulk of responsibility for California forests. Furthermore, many of the recent wildfires did not burn forests, but shrubbery, agricultural land, and grasslands, where forest management isn't an issue.

2019/11/14 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Anita Hill being sowrn in Meme: Senator Lindsey Graham wins first prize in hypocrisy, hands down! Dr. Yangying Zhu's talk today at UCSB's Elings Hall (1) Images of the day: [Left] Tonight's documentary film screened at UCSB's Campbell Hall (see the last item below). [Center] Senator Lindsey Graham wins first prize in hypocrisy, hands down! [Right] Dr. Yangying Zhu's talk today at UCSB (see the next to the last item below).
(2) Notorious executioner nabbed: Sweden has arrested and charged Hamid Nouri (Abbasi), a prosecutor who, as a member of the 1980s "death panel" in Iran's Rajaei Shahr (Gohardasht) prison, is responsible for mass executions of political prisoners. Iran is hard at work to save him. Let's hope he doesn't escape justice.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Shooting in Saugus High School: Two dead, 3 injured in Santa Clarita incident, off Interstate 5 in SoCal.
- Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps live by illegal financial schemes and money laundering.
- On polygamy in Iran: "If polygamy is good, it should be permitted for women too." ~ Faezeh Hashemi
- Despite the Islamic regime's propaganda, Iranians scorn polygamy.
(4) "Microscale Thermal-Fluids Engineering for Next-Generation Energy and Electronic Systems": This was the title of an interesting talk by UCSB Mechnical Engineering Assistant Professor, Dr. Yangying Zhu.
Heat is one of the focal points of both the production and consumption of energy. As system sizes shrink, heat concentration presents very difficult challenges. Thermal energy densities on the order of 1000 W/cm^2 are observed in power electronics, which is only a factor of about 6 less than what exists on the surface of the Sun. So, efficiency in using and disposing of heat has significant practical implications.
Sponsored by UCSB's Institute for Energy Efficiency, the talk covered how micro-scale modeling, fabrication, and characterization provide new insights into thermal effects in lithium-based batteries and achieve aggressive cooling of electronics.
Specific topics presented included the discovery of a microscopic heat-triggered battery failure mechanism through in situ local temperature sensing and the development of a two-phase microchannel heat sink that significantly enhances temperature stability and enhances heat flux dissipation for electronics.
[Photos/Slides] [The speaker's Web site (Thermofluid Energy Research Lab)]
(5) "Anita: Speaking Truth to Power": This was the title of a documentary film by Oscar-winning filmmaker Freida Mock, screened in UCSB's Campbell Hall tonight. The film is part of one thread of this year's "Thematic Learning Initiative" at UCSB ("We Can Do It: A Century of Empowerment," commemorating the centenary of woman gaining the right to vote in the US), the second thread having to do with the environment, as we approach the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in 2020. I watched the confirmation hearings for Justice Clarence Thomas live, but revisiting those hearings, in which a bunch of old white men on the Senate committee struggled to understand the relatively novel notion of sexual harassment, was eye-opening. In the end, Thomas played the race card, presenting himself as a victim of a high-tech lynching! [Video clip from near the end of the film] [Part of the hearings coverage by C-SPAN]

2019/11/13 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Venice, Italy, is coping with the worst flooding in 50 years Images from Danish String Quartet, performing at UCSB Aerial view of the city of Amasra in Turkey (1) Images of the day: [Left] Venice, Italy, is coping with the worst flooding in 50 years. [Center] Classical-music concert at UCSB's Campbell Hall tonight: On its second night in Santa Barbara, Danish String Quartet (sans Danish National Girls' Choir, which appeared with them at Granada Theater last night) performed music from Bach and Beethoven before the intermission and Mendelssohn afterwards. In the introduction, the group explained that the alternate order is more natural, given that Beethoven was influenced by Bach and in turn acted as a model for Mendelssohn. A very enjoyable night out! [Right] The city of Amasra, Turkey: Amasra takes its name from Amastris, a niece of Dariush III, the last monarch of Persia's Achaemenid dynasty.
(2) Expanding options for cutting the cord: In this chart, from Time magazine's issue of November 18, 2019, the most important subscription-based entertainment services are listed. Those in red (Philo, Sling, huluLiveTV, YouTubeTV, FuboTV, AT&TtvNow, ranging from $20 to $65 in monthly fees) also offer live TV programs, while the ones in blue (AppleTV+, hulu, Disney+, prime, Netflix, HBO, with lower $5-$15 monthly fees) include movies, older shows, and original programming.
(3) The puzzle of lung cancer in American women: About a quarter of women diagnosed with lung cancer are nonsmokers. The share of such diagnoses for the entire population is 15%. [Source: Time magazine, 11/18]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump is a big fan of Turkey's Erdogan and has rewarded him with an invitation to the White House.
- US State Department official faked her resume and accomplishments to land a high-level job.
- The deaths of 9 students during fall semester at University of Southern California are being investigated.
- Question about time zones: Is there a US state that observes more than one time zone? [Answer map]
- Persian music: "Khoosheh Chin" ("Cluster Picker"), lyrics by Karim Fakour. [5-minute video].
(5) "Sesame Street" turns 50: The curricular focus of the show's 50th season is "Oops and Aha: Embracing the Power of Possibilities." An intersection in NYC has been renamed "Sesame Street" and the show will become the first-ever TV program to receive a Kennedy Center Honor. [Source: Time magazine, November 18, 2019]
(6) Persian music: Bahar Choir performs "Shiveh-ye Noushin Laban" ("The Way of the Sweet-Lipped"), a composition by Ali Akbar Sheyda, with lyrics based on a poem by Foroughi Bastami, orchestration and conduction by Arash Fouladvand, vocals by Niaz Nawab. Wonderful!

2019/11/12 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Image: #YesAllWomen (1) Tweet by Karin Robinson, May 25, 2014, a couple of days after the Isla Vista mass-shooting by misogynist and male-rights-activist Elliot Rodger, killing 6 people and himself: "No, #NotAllMen are violent against women, but #YesAllWomen have to navigate a world where those who are look the same as those who aren't."
(2) Quote of the day: "Let's put it this way: if the Russians aren't paying him, they should have, because he's torn this country in two." ~ Author Stephen King, asked about his thoughts on Donald Trump
(3) The impact of Hafez on classical music: The Persian mystic poet was venerated by philosophers and composers, Goethe, Nietzsche, Brahms, and Wagner, among other Europeans.
(4) Kurdish music: The song "Gol Nishan" is performed in this 7-minute video by Kamkaran Ensemble. And here's a different version of the song performed by Tara Yousefi (vocals) and Zahed Mansouri (piano).
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Leaked e-mails connect White House adviser Stephen Miller to White Nationalists. [Tweet image]
- Tweet of the day: Yet one more form of misogyny in Iran. [For my Persian-speaking readers] [Image]
- Our beautiful and artful nature: Flight of the starlings. [2-minute video]
- Kurdish music: "Yawaran Masem" performed by Ranaei Family Ensemble. [10-minute video]
- Kurdish music: The song "Azizam to Gulakami" performed by Kamkaran Ensemble. [6-minute video]
- Music of Abdolhamid Barjasteh, a national treasure from Shushtar, a city in Iran's Khuzistan province.
(6) Billionaires and tax cuts: When Trump's tax cut for the rich was implemented, many in the top 0.1% claimed they disagreed with the cuts, once the extra money was safely in their pockets. Now, with a real chance of the cuts being reversed after 2020, they opine that tax increases are dangerous!
(7) If you got a Valentine's text message on November 7, you're not alone: The culprit is a company that provides texting service to some carriers. I hate to think how many fights started as a result of the unsent messages! "You forgot Valentine's Day?" "But, honey, I sent you a beautiful message, with photo and stickers!"
(8) Airbnb scam: You book a nice-looking unit that doesn't exist. Minutes before you are due to arrive at the place, the owner calls you about the unit being flooded due to plumbing problems and offers to put you up somewhere else, promising to move you into the original unit as soon as it is fixed. You stay at a flophouse and never get a refund. Details differ, but the scam, allowed by Airbnb's lax rules, is about misrepresentation (including fake reviews and multiple aliases for the same owners) along with lack of oversight.

2019/11/11 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme for Veterans' Day, featuring the US flag Cartoon about Mitch McConnell: 'Do-nothing Dems need to stop passing all these bills for me to ignore. I can't find my desk' The impeachment of Donald Trump: Cover feature of Time magazine's November 18, 2019, issue (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Veterans' Day! On this day, we honor the service and sacrifice of those who defend our country and our freedoms during war and peace. This morning, I attended special ceremonies for this momentous day at Santa Barbara Cemetery (photos), while taking advantage of the occasion to visit the graves of my father and ex-wife (see the last two items below). [Center] Moscow Mitch: "Do-nothing Dems need to stop passing all these bills for me to ignore. I can't find my desk." [Right] The impeachment of Donald Trump: Cover feature of Time magazine's November 18, 2019, issue.
(2) A beautiful day in Santa Barbara: The sun finally came out around 11:00 AM, too late to allow me to watch Mercury transit 2019, but just in time to head from the cemetery to Santa Barbara waterfront's Shorline Park for a long, invigorating walk. [Photos] From Shorline Park, I headed to Stearns Wharf for more walking, some people-watching (mostly tourists), and enjoyment of music performed by an older gentleman, the quality of its recording adversely affected by a howling wind. [Photos] [Sample music]
(3) Today is Singles' Day in China: Chinese Singles' or Bachelors' Day originated at Nanjing University in 1993. Singles' Day celebrations spread to several other universities in Nanjing during the 1990s. The holiday was named "Singles' Day" because its date, 11/11, consists of four 1s, representing four singles.
(4) While at Santa Barbara Cemetery today, I visited my father's grave: Here is a wonderful poem entitled "Father" (from Delights & Shadows, by Ted Kooser, Copper Canyon Press, 2004), which I noted during Yom Kippur service at Hillel in Isla Vista, and later pursued on-line to get the full text. Interestingly, my own father would have been 97 today, although he passed away 27 years ago, not 20.
Today you would be ninety-seven | if you had lived, and we would all be | miserable, you and your children, | driving from clinic to clinic, | an ancient fearful hypochondriac | and his fretful son and daughter, | asking directions, trying to read | the complicated, fading map of cures.
But with your dignity intact | you have been gone for twenty years, | and I am glad for all of us, although | I miss you every day—the heartbeat | under your necktie, the hand cupped | on the back of my neck, Old Spice | in the air, your voice delighted with stories.
On this day each year you loved to relate| that the moment of your birth| your mother glanced out the window| and saw lilacs in bloom. Well, today | lilacs are blooming in side yards | all over Iowa, still welcoming you.
(5) While at Santa Barbara Cemetery, I also visited the grave of my ex-wife, who passed at a relatively young age, relinquising her two hats of mother and computer software engineer: Here's a wonderful poem entitled "The Courage that My Mother Had," by Edna St. Vincent Millay [1892-1950], which I noted during Yom Kippur service at Hillel in Isla Vista, and later pursued on-line to get the full text. Luckily, at 90, my own mother is still with us, but the poem does make me think of her as well.
The courage that my mother had | Went with her, and is with her still: | Rock from New England quarried; | Now granite in a granite hill.
The golden brooch my mother wore | She left behind for me to wear; | I have nothing I treasure more: | Yet, it is something I could spare.
Oh, if instead she'd left to me | The thing she took into the grave!— | That courage like a rock, which she | Has no more need of, and I have.

2019/11/10 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The Berlin Wall fell 30 years ago, on November 10, 1989 Regular, infinite grid of identical resistors Cover image of Chanel Miller's 'Know My Name: A Memoir' (1) Images of the day: [Left] The Berlin Wall fell 30 years ago today (on November 10, 1989). [Center] Physics puzzle: This regular grid of identical resistors extends to infinity from all sides (if you are a practical person, consider it to be extremely large). What is the equivalent resistance between the two ends of a resistor? Once you have given the puzzle a try, refer to this complete analysis. [Right] Cover image of Chanel Miller's Know My Name: A Memoir (see my review in the last item below).
(2) Republicans keep stating that the impeachment inquiry is an attempt to overturn the result of the 2016 election: The latest to parrot this line is Ivanka Trump. Yes, that's exactly what impeachment is designed for; to get rid of a president, before he does further irrevocable damage to our country and its reputation.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Mercury will begin its 5.5-hour transit across the Sun tomorrow, Monday 11/11, beginning at 7:35 AM EST.
- Jailed activist lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh opines that in jail or out of jail, Iranians are in one big prison.
- This 1-minute video purportedly shows the gassing of Armenians in 1915, using car-exhaust fumes.
- Joke of the day: On the quick wit of older women. [Link]
- Azeri music: Based on a poem by tri-lingual mystic poet Imadaddin Nasimi. [7-minute video]
(4) If you think Trump has reversed himself too many times, take a look at his detractor-turned-defender Lindsey Graham: The fall of this hypocrite, who says he can't be bothered to read the transcripts from the impeachment inquiry, would be just as satisfying as Trump's!
(5) Book review: Miller, Chanel, Know My Name: A Memoir, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Penguin Audio, 2019. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Rape victim Chanel Miller, known at the time of the trial of her assailant, Stanford University swim-team member Brock Turner, as "Emily Doe," has come forward with her memoir to claim her position as an icon of the #MeToo movement and to let sexual-assault victims around the world know that she is with them. Miller studied literature at UCSB's College of Creative Studies, so she was uniquely equipped to write her compelling true story, creating a modern classic.
Despite Miller's powerful and eloquent victim impact statement, that went viral worldwide and was translated into many different languages, the judge, citing Turner's "good character" and the already-harsh impact of the conviction on his once-promising future, sentenced him to only 6 months in prison, with the possibility of getting out in 3 months. The judge later lost his job due to a recall campaign.
This is a must-read/listen for anyone wanting to get a first-hand account of how it feels to be sexually assaulted and, then, be victim-shamed for getting drunk, subjected to detailed examination of your sex life, spend many hours in court (and outside the court, shopping for just-right court outfits, knowing that you'll be judged on them), shun intimacy, and experience loneliness, because you find it hard to trust others or even your own feelings. This CBS "60 Minutes" segment on Chanel Miller's ordeal is effectively put together.

2019/11/09 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Moshe Y. Vardi speaking at UCSB: Slide 1 Moshe Y. Vardi speaking at UCSB: Slide 2 Moshe Y. Vardi speaking at UCSB: Slide 3 (1) Slides from CS Distinguished Lecture by Moshe Vardi on Friday, November 8 (see the last item below).
(2) It's amazing how childish tweets and other idiocies are distracting us from the plight of Kurds in Syria: Killings by Turks continue, despite a supposed "cease fire." There is no report of even one American soldier returning home from Syria. Rather, troops are redeployed in the region. So, all the deaths were for nothing!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Vitamin E Acetate identified as likely culprit in vaping-related illnesses and deaths.
- A few celebs with big 7-Oh and 8-Oh birthdays in October and November. [Image source: AARP Magazine]
- On pitfalls of statistics: If Bill Gates walks into a room, on average, everyone in the room will be a billionaire!
- Event of possible interest to my SoCal readers: Farhang Foundation's Shab-e Yalda celebration.
(4) Computer Science Distinguished Lecture at UCSB: Moshe Y. Vardi (Distinguished Professor and Director of the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology at Rice U.) spoke yesterday afternoon under the title "An Ethical Crisis in Computing?" Vardi argued that technology "brings with it not only societal benefits, but also significant costs, such as labor polarization, disinformation, and smart-phone addiction. ... The real issue is how to deal with technology's impact on society. Technology is driving the future, but who is doing the steering?"
An important aspect of the ethical crisis we face is the power big technology companies have over us. The current situation was created by our embrace of "free" services, that is, the illusion of "free lunch," while agreeing to provide personal data in return, under user agreements that were quite short at the beginning, but grew to book length over time. No one really reads these agreements, allowing big tech to hide behind their complexity. Vardi mentioned in the Q&A period that some of these companies do offer tools for you to control your data, but use of these tools is so cumbersome that few can take advantage of them.
In the course of his talk, Vardi used a number of interesting quotations from techies, journalists, and others, some of which are shown in the accompanying slide images. He also referred to several relevant books, including Cathy O'Neil's Weapons of Math Destruction: How Big Data Increases Inequality and Threatens Democracy and Shoshana Zuboff's The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.
The excessive power of big tech, with the top five companies having $4 trillion in market capitalization, has dire consequences. Why don't we have any public policy in such an important sector of the economy? Tech products and services are designed to be addictive. It is alarming that many tech execs restrict the use of screens for their own children, while pushing them on our kids. It's no coincidence that youth suicide rates increased markedly in the decade immediately following the release of iPhone in 2007 and Facebook app for it in 2008.
What is at the center of these problems is lack of social responsibility. Ethics is what guides our personal behavior and key decisions, whereas acting on behalf of collective good requires following laws and considering ourselves bound by the social benefits/harms of our actions. A good example of where laws and regulations have helped is the steady decline in fatalities caused by motor vehicles, as measured by deaths per mile driven, over the past century. Safety equipment, driver-assistance features, crashworthiness tests, traffic engineering, and comprehensive traffic laws are the main reasons for the improved safety.
Decision-making by AI systems is another trouble spot. One should not trust any decision coming out of an opaque system, where the decision process is not explained or plainly visible. As a case in point, there is software marketed by Northpointe that predicts future criminals, and it has a strong bias against blacks.
So, how should we, as computing professionals, address these problems? First, we must recognize that the problems are very complex and not doing anything about them because we don't have a perfect solution is foolhardy. We can start by establishing plain-language requirements for terms-of-use and license agreements, devising rules for automated decision-making systems, mandating timely disclosure of data breaches, and requiring that Internet companies provide a paid, subscription-based, ads-free service option in exchange for not collecting data about users for the sake of targeting ads at them.
Vardi ended his talk by referring to Rice University's "Technology, Culture, and Society" initiative, which stands on the three legs of research/scholarship, education, and outreach. BMW's slogan "Don't be driven by technology—Drive it!" is equally applicable to information technology professionals.
Vardi is quite active on social media and has a large following on both Facebook and Twitter.

2019/11/08 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of the audiobook 'White Trash' by Nancy Isenberg My T-shirt purchases inspired by Ruth Bader Ginsburg's book 'My Own Words' Costco-size assortment of baklavas: Yummy! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cover image of the audiobook White Trash by Nancy Isenberg (see my review in the last item below). [Center] My T-shirt purchases inspired by RBG's book My Own Words, which I reviewed on November 5, 2019. The one on the left depicts the only four women to ever serve on the US Supreme Court, including the current three. [Right] Costco-size assortment of baklavas: Yummy!
(2) Bully is what bully does: Only Donald Trump would settle a lawsuit against his now-defunct "charitable" foundation for $2 million, essentially admitting guilt in abusing funds, and then rant about how awful New York state prosecutors are for accusing him of fraud. And this from a guy who has repeatedly boasted that he never settles a lawsuit!
(3) Begging for Trump's endorsement: Trump punching bag Jeff Sessions praises Trump's leadership as he embarks on a Senate run to reclaim his old seat.
(4) Two Twitter ex-employees charged with stealing the private data of users critical of the Saudi regime and sending the information to someone in the office of MBS.
(5) Book review: Isenberg, Nancy, White Trash: The 400-Year History of Class in America, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Kirsten Potter, Tantor Audio, 2016. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
America is often referred to as a class-free society. Nothing can be further from the truth. The terms "white trash" and "trailer trash" (alternately, "waste people," "rubbish," "rascals," "lazy lubbers," "clay eaters," or "sandhillers") are used by the elite to refer to uneducated or under-educated poor Americans. These wretched and landless poor folks have been looked down upon since the earliest colonial settlements. I have always despised these terms and don't use them in my own speech or writing, as I view them on par with other expressions of sexism and racism in the US.
Isenberg, a professor of history at Louisiana State University, meticulously lays down the travails of the American underclass, upending the assumptions of the class-free society and available-to-all upward mobility, the latter actually being an oxymoron in a class-free society!
In fact, the American Civil War was fought in equal parts over class conflicts and slavery. Once slaves were freed, they found themselves pitted against poor whites, who were also socially marginalized and even targeted for sterilization under the eugenics movement. It wasn't until LBJ's New Deal reforms that marginalized populations found a voice and started to weigh in as a political force.
Interestingly, some of this underclass was planted here by the British, in their eagerness to get rid of their most destitute city dwellers, who had become a drag on the British economy. Looking at these dwellers as "disposable property," England sought to convert them into economic assets to facilitate colonialization. So, many of the tales of the Puritans and Plymouth Rock are myths created to put lipstick on this pig.
I highly recommend Isenberg's book to anyone who wants to gain the requisite knowledge about America's underclass as a first step in the struggle to remove this ugly stain (perhaps as ugly as slavery) from our nation's history, a stain that has unfortunately darkened and expanded under Trump's presidency.

2019/11/07 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Dr. Marian Diamond [1926-2017] Upside-down image of an oriental girl Bar installed in the shower (1) Images of the day: [Left] "My Love Affair with the Brain": Subtitled "The Life & Science of Dr. Marian Diamond" (1926-2017), this award-winning documentary is about a woman scientist who worked behind the scenes for six decades as one of the founders of modern neuroscience and discoverer of neuroplasticity, shunning publicity while shattering the glass ceiling. She has a widely-viewed lecture series on YouTube. [Center] Turn your screen upside down: Can you explain what happens? [Right] Following the doctor's advice: This senior citizen's doctor told him it was time to install a bar in his shower.
(2) The mystery of the last missing person in California's Camp Fire: Sara Martinez-Fabila's last address on record was a PO Pox in Paradise, but no one is sure she was actually there at the time of the fire, and her family hasn't heard from her since.
(3) Holocaust survivor Liliana Segre assigned police protection in Italy: She was subjected to a barrage of anti-Semitic messages and death threats after she helped pass an anti-hate law opposed by right-wing groups.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Women are at the forefront of the fight for rights throughout the Middle East, not just in Iran.
- New Yorker cartoon of the day: Who gets thrown under the bus next? [Image]
- Impressive juggling act using hands and feet. [4-minute video]
- Persian music. [3-minute video]
(5) A Century of Empowerment: Looking forward to attending several events of UCSB's Thematic Learning Initiative, particularly "Anita: Speaking Truth to Power," a documentary film by Oscar-winning filmmaker Freida Mock, to be screened on Thursday, November 14, 2019, 7:30 PM, in UCSB's Campbell Hall. A related public lecture by Dr. Anita Hill will occur on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 (Campbell Hall, 7:30 PM).
(6) Today, I celebrated at Starbucks after passing written and vision tests at the DMV: Because I was getting Real ID, I had to present a bunch of documents, including my actual Social Security card. This one belongs in a museum; it was issued in 1969 during my graduate-student days in the US. The signature on it is also museum-quality! The DMV now has touch-sensitive computer screens for administering the written test. It wasn't much of a surprise when the fingerprint scanner attached to the computer screen didn't work and I had to take the old-fashioned paper test. The staff at the Goleta DMV office was quite helpful, though.

2019/11/06 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Martin Scorsese's mob masterpiece 'The Irishman' stars Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, both de-aged with help from technology Photos of Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell, and Reese Witherspoon Flyer for Moshe Y. Vardi's Distinguished computer science lecture, 'An Ethical Crisis in Computing?' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Is movie make-up a thing of the past? Martin Scorsese's mob masterpiece "The Irishman" stars Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, both de-aged (made to look younger) with help from technology. [Center] Apple's much-anticipated #MeToo drama series: The series "Morning Show," based on Brian Stetler's 2013 non-fiction book Top of the Morning, was green-lighted before the Matt Lauer scandal at NBC broke, so creators Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon took a cue and reoriented the show's story to focus on a sexual misconduct scandal involving a male anchor (played by Steve Carell). [Right] Computer Science Distinguished Lecture at UCSB: Moshe Y. Vardi (Distinguished Professor and Director of the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology at Rice University) will speak under the title "An Ethical Crisis in Computing?" (November 8, 2019, Life Sciences 1001, reception at 3:00 PM, talk at 3:30). Vardi will argue that technology "brings with it not only societal benefits, but also significant costs, such as labor polarization, disinformation, and smart-phone addiction. ... The real issue is how to deal with technology's impact on society. Technology is driving the future, but who is doing the steering?"
(2) The boat stuck near Niagara Falls: Lodged amid rocks in the upper rapids, about 600 meters from the brink of the Horseshoe Falls, the boat shifts in severe storms but has stayed in place for 101 years.
(3) Noon concert at the UCSB Music Bowl: Today's "World Music Series" concert featured jazz with the SBLASLO Trio. Here's a sample tune entitled "Segment" (by Charlie Parker).
(4) Grad school fair: Today, a quarter-mile stretch of a main UCSB walkway hosted tables from various universities who sent reps to our campus to advertise their graduate programs and recruit students. Not all tables had been set up yet when I walked through the area this morning on the way to my 10:00 AM class.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The incompetence defense: Sen. Graham says Trump administration too dumb to execute a quid pro quo.
- Trump asked AG Barr to hold a news conference, clearing him of wrongdoing on Ukraine, but he refused.
- Fortune cookie (image): Awaiting loud screams from family and friends!
- This 4000-year-old cedar in Yazd, Iran, is one of only 26 trees dating back to the time before Christ.
(6) You cannot mess with people's survival instinct: A growing number of Trump cronies are jumping ship. You can block the path of rats trying to run from a sinking ship, but they'll find a way around any obstacle.
(7) DeepMind beats humans at deciphering damaged ancient Greek tablets: Researchers at DeepMind trained an AI algorithm to guess missing words or characters from 2600-year-old Greek inscriptions.

2019/11/05 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's 'My Own Words' Nobel Prizes awarded women over 12 decades (total 52; 20 in the sciences) Communication skills for polygamist families: New educational workshop being offered in Iran (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cover image of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's My Own Words (see my review in the last item below). [Center] Nobel Prizes awarded women over 12 decades (total 52): I have added the number of prizes that were in science fields within the white square boxes to the figure provided by the Nobel Prize Org. The data shows that women are honored quite infrequently and mostly in literature and peace categories. [Right] Communication skills for polygamist families: New educational workshop being offered in Iran.
(2) Nine Americans dead in northern Mexico: Drug-cartel gunmen ambushed a convoy of SUVs carrying a religious group, killing three women and six children and then setting them alight, in what may have been a case of mistaken identity.
(3) "Is Politics Our New Religion?": This was the title of a thought-provoking and well-attended talk by Dr. Ann Taves (UCSB Professor of Religious Studies) this afternoon in the Pacific View Speaker Series, held, appropriately, in the Pacific View room on the eighth floor of UCSB Library. [Photos/Slides]
Religion and politics are defined in many different ways, so the answer to the titular question isn't at all obvious. Taves avoids the definitional challenges by viewing both religion and politics as different ways of answering the big questions (who we are, the situation in which we find ourselves, and the goals toward which we strive) that structure of worldviews.
Dr. Taves began by quoting from two rather controversial opinions, one by Andrew Sullivan, an essay in New York Magazine, December 7, 2018, and a speech on religious liberty at U. Notre Dame by AG William Barr. Sullivan asserts that political cults are filling the space left by the decline of organized faiths. Barr laments that the secular project has itself become a religion.
Dr. Taves then asserted that religion and politics are similar in that they both can/may:
- provide a sense of identity, meaning, and purpose
- involve strongly-held views
- support overlapping or conflicting views
- become disconnected from science or other evidence
Among methods advocated by Dr. Taves are "generous listening," bearing in mind that the answers provided to big questions by religion and politics are often not explicit, but embedded in ways of life.
At the end, Dr. Taves pointed to a November 3, 2019, piece in New York Times, bearing the title "How to Get Trump Voters and Liberals to Talk: Don't Make Anyone Sit in a Circle."
(4) Book review: Ginsburg, Ruth Bader, with Mary Hartnett and Wendy W. Williams, My Own Words, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Ginsburg and Linda Lavin, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2016.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
There have been several books by and about the "Notorious RBG," but this is her very first book since becoming a Supreme Court Justice in 1993. This book was planned for publication after another book by Hartnett and Williams, RBG's official biography, but the publication order was flipped to allow the inclusion of a more complete record of her still-ongoing work on the Supreme Court in the official biography.
My Own Words consists of a fascinating collection of RBG's speeches and writings. A few of the pieces that use archival recordings suffer from poor audio quality, but, I guess, this is the price one pays for greater authenticity. One speech about RBG, by her late husband Martin D. Ginsburg [1954-2010], is particularly touching and funny. The pieces were selected by RBG, with background and biographical context for each piece provided by the other two authors.
The speeches and writings in this book are just the tip of the iceberg that represents RBG's contributions to the legal landscape in the US, particularly with regards to women's rights and equality. In making her case to the court, she proceeded methodically and with care, yet forcefully. Her legal approach comes across in several opinions that are included in this collection. Particularly noteworthy are her writings (some of which were read from the bench for greater effect) when dissenting with the Court's majority opinion.
RBG describes her unlikely friendship with Chief Justice Antonin Scalia fondly and touchingly. They both loved opera and once participated in a musical production that referred to them as "The Supremes." Here is a wonderful 10-minute TEDx talk by composer Derick Wang about the funny/affectionate opera entitled "Scalia/Ginsburg"! Here are a few snippets of the opera.
As influential as RBG has been in shaping and advancing the struggle for women's rights in the US, she is very aware of the fact that she stands on the shoulders of many women before her, including Sandra Day O'Connor, her "sister in law" and the very first woman on the US Supreme Court. Before O'Connor broke the barrier of women's membership on the SCOTUS in 1981, spouses of Supreme Court Justices played key roles in softening the Court's male domination, and RBG pays tribute to several of them.
This is a must-read/listen for anyone interested in women's rights and RBG's role in advancing them. The Supreme Court will not be the same when she decides to retire!

2019/11/04 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Fall foliage on Kolakchal Mountain, Tehran, Iran: Photo 2 Fall foliage on Kolakchal Mountain, Tehran, Iran: Photo 3 Fall foliage on Kolakchal Mountain, Tehran, Iran: Photo 4 (1) Fall foliage, Kolakchal Mountain, Tehran, Iran. [Thanks to my avid hiker/mountaineer friend Ahmad Asfia]
(2) Persian poetry: Mostafa Badkoobei, who served a prison term for criticizing the Iranian regime, recites one of the patriotic poems for which he is famous. [12-minute video]
(3) The crime-fighter turned criminal: Rudi Giuliani used his shady contacts and access to Trump to line his pockets and damage Trump by association, but Trump wouldn't let go of him, yet!
(4) Reversing the trend of people avoiding walking: Boston-based robotics firm Piaggio Fast Forward will soon deploy a bipedal wheeled robot that hauls up to 40 lbs of the owners' belongings as it follows behind them.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Car bomb in the Syrian border town of Tal Abyad kills at least 13, said to be civilians and Turkish soldiers.
- FBI undercover work leads to the arrest of a White Supremacist with detailed plans to bomb a synagogue.
- A Frenchwoman sold a painting she had in her kitchem for $26.6 million! [Source: Time magazine]
- Ghost residential towers of Tehran are built in the middle of nowhere, with no support infrastructure.
- Being alone with yourself is different from loneliness: One helps in many different ways, the other hurts.
- A colorful and nicely-designed flower park in Dubai. [3-minute video] [Overhead photo]
(6) Charlie Chaplin received an honorary Oscar in 1972: The award and the audience's 12-minute standing ovation were nice gestures, but hardly enough to erase the bitterness of the talented artist and a major force in American cinema living in exile for years because of accusations of communism.
(7) The mysterious X-37B space plane: The secret US Air Force unmanned plane landed on 10/27, after spending 780 days in Earth's orbit. [Source: Time magazine, issue of November 11, 2019]
(8) Russian trolls are becoming more sophisticated: During their operations leading to the 2016 US election, frequent grammatical and spelling errors gave their identity away. Now, they are using mostly screenshots of other people's posts or tweets, with no commentary. There are also reports that Russians have hacked into Iran's cyber-spying network to make their posts appear to be coming from Iran.
(9) Spent some time yesterday, including the extra hour I gained from fall-back, working at a Starbucks in Goleta and listening to the wonderful music of David Tovar (sax, flute, vocals). [Video 1] [Video 2]

2019/11/03 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
'Montage 2019,' UCSB Department of Music's sixth annual showcase free concert at 4:00 PM on Saturday 11/23 Sixty pairs of iron shoes line the bank of Danube in Budapest You have heard of tornado chasers: Now meet wildfire chasers! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Marjorie Luke Theater at Santa Barbara Junior High will host "Montage 2019": Curated by Professor of Flute Jill Felber, UCSB Department of Music's sixth annual free concert at 4:00 PM on Saturday 11/23 will feature performances by outstanding faculty, students, and alumni. [Center] Sixty pairs of iron shoes line the bank of Danube in Budapest: Here, during World War II, Jews were brought to the water's edge, ordered to remove their shoes, and shot, falling into the water below. [Right] You have heard of tornado chasers: Now meet wildfire chasers!
(2) Brain drain: A Baha'i young man, who was banned from attending university in Iran, is part of Google's quantum-computing team, which recently announced a breakthrough known as "quantum supermacy."
(3) Ukranian President Zelenski faces a major dilemma: Today, he has to deal with Donald Trump, who wants Joe Biden investigated, but he may have to deal with President Biden next year, when the US government may well be investigating Trump!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- There are no white people in the Bible, so nothing in it justifies White Supremacy. [Meme of the day]
- A capsule history of Tehran, including how names of various neighborhoods and buildings came about.
- Persian music: A nice song, performed as part of a cheesy Iranian movie of many decades ago.
- Classical Persian music: Wonderful instrumental performance on piano and kamancheh. [3-minute video]
(5) UCLA Iranian Studies Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran, 2019-2020 (partial) schedule:
Sun. 11/17, Soroush Dabbagh, "Civil Marriage from an Ethical Perspective" (in Persian, Dodd Hall 78, 4 PM)
Wed. 12/04, Yann Richard, "Persian Collective Memory and the Writing of History" (Royce Hall 306, 4 PM)
Sun. 1/26, Ahmad Kiarostami, "Case No. 1, Case No. 2" (Persian film with English subtitles, 4 PM)
Sun. 2/09, Narges Bajoghli, "Iran Reframed: Anxieties of Power in the Islamic Republic" (in Persian, 4 PM)
Mon. 2/10, Narges Bajoghli (English version of the 2/09 talk)
Sun. 4/26, Roxanne Varzi, "Tehran Tourist" (Persian film with English subtitles, 4 PM)
Mon. 5/18, Claudia Yaghoobi, "Embodiment, Power, and Politics in Farahbakhsh's Zendegi-ye Khosusi" (4 PM)
(6) Now, let me tell you about Pakistan (a Persian joke): Kellyanne Conway and other Republicans defending Trump on Sunday-morning news shows remind me of this Persian joke. A student had an oral geography test the next day, but he did not have time to learn about all the countries in his textbook. So, he focused on Pakistan, and learned all there was to know about the country. When he was asked about Turkey, he responded thus: Turkey is a neighbor of Iran and Iran is a neighbor of Pakistan. Now, let me tell you about Pakistan ...

2019/11/02 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Magazine covers this week: Time Lost in translation: 'Do not rely on train door' Magazine covers this week: Newsweek (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Magazine covers this week: Time designates Giuliani as "Secretary of Offense"; Newsweek features Andrew Yang, in conjunction with stories on top STEM schools and math jobs. [Center] Lost in translation: "Do not rely on train door." It is not trustworthy and may break your heart!
(2) The Spectator Index ranks countries by the quality of their research institutions: As expected, the US and China top the list at #1 and #2, respectively. The top-5 spots are completed by France, Germany, and UK, again will little surprise. What's surprising is the appearance of Iran at #16, right after Taiwan and ahead of Netherlands, Poland, Turkey, and Switzerland.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Holocaust survivor's daughter Sophie Wilmes, mother of four, is Belgium's first female and first Jewish PM.
- Santa Barbara City College has a new President: Dr. Utpal K. Gowsami will begin his new role in 2020.
- Clinical psychologist Dr. Maria Sirois answers questions on happiness and positivity. [6-minute video]
- The life story of Mohammad Reza Shajarian, perhaps the most-loved musician in modern-day Iran.
- Iranian regional music: Homeyra Esfahani sings. [2-minute video]
(4) The driver who caused the 3-fatality crash on Santa Barbara's Highway 154 was a ticking time bomb: He was recently arrested on gun and stalking charges and had been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital. He essentially murdered a woman and two children by reckless driving.
(5) A wonderful poem entitled "Father" (from Delights & Shadows, by Ted Kooser, Copper Canyon Press, 2004), which I noted during Yom Kippur service at Hillel in Isla Vista, and later pursued on-line to get the full text. Interestingly, my own father would have been 97 today, although he passed away 27 years ago, not 20.
Today you would be ninety-seven | if you had lived, and we would all be | miserable, you and your children, | driving from clinic to clinic, | an ancient fearful hypochondriac | and his fretful son and daughter, | asking directions, trying to read | the complicated, fading map of cures. | But with your dignity intact | you have been gone for twenty years, | and I am glad for all of us, although | I miss you every day—the heartbeat | under your necktie, the hand cupped | on the back of my neck, Old Spice | in the air, your voice delighted with stories. | On this day each year you loved to relate | that the moment of your birth | your mother glanced out the window | and saw lilacs in bloom. Well, today | lilacs are blooming in side yards | all over Iowa, still welcoming you.

2019/11/01 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sea gulls are changing their habitat on Santa Barbara Channel Islands, Photo 1 Contrast: How a Kurdish fighter deals with an injured ISIS prisoner vs. treatment of a captured Kurdish woman by ISIS-like Turks Sea gulls are changing their habitat on Santa Barbara Channel Islands, Photo 2 (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Sea gulls are changing their habitat on Santa Barbara Channel Islands (see the last item below). [Center] Contrast: How a Kurdish fighter deals with an injured ISIS prisoner vs. treatment of a captured Kurdish woman by ISIS-like Turkish soldiers.
(2) Boeing's new troubles: Qantas grounds three 737 NG jets due to cracks. Elsewhere in the news, a union representing American Airlines' flight attendants sent a letter to Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg highlighting concerns with the safety of the Boeing 737 MAX.
(3) Citing poor treatment by public officials in New York, Donald Trump switches his residence from NYC to Florida's Palm Beach. Florida does not have a state income tax or inheritance tax, making it a refuge for the wealthy to escape the higher taxes of the Northeast.
(4) Unbelievable news from Iran: Islamic Revolutionary Guards officials pay tribute to Jewish martyrs of the 8-year Iran-Iraq war. [The story, in French, includes a video]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Yet another fire in Southern California: Ventura County's Maria Fire expands near Santa Paula.
- Santa Barbara County has issued an air-quality warning due to the still-expanding Maria Fire
- Mass shooting in SF Bay Area: At least 4 dead, several injured at a Halloween party in Orinda, California.
- Today is Kobani Resistance Day. [1-minute video]
- An anthem composed for Efrin. [3-minute video]
- Iranian police roughs up women who remove their headscarves or are deemed to have improper hijab.
(6) "Towards Learning with Brain Efficiency": This was the title of a talk by Mohsen Imani (PhD candidate, UCSD) this afternoon, under the auspices of UCSB's Institute for Energy Efficiency. Mr. Imani's focus is on hyper-dimensional computing, an alternative method for computation which exploits key principles of brain functionality, that is, robustness to noise/error and intertwined memory and logic. Information representation is in terms of very long vectors (that is, very-high dimension), which allows combining information with massively-parallel bit-level processing. The human brain uses about 20 W of energy, with the entire body getting by with about 100 W. This is in stark contrast to megawatts of energy required by current supercomputers. Mr. Imani has devised learning algorithms that are resilient to hardware failures and exploit processing-in-memory schemes. He has also developed hardware designs to support his new algorithms.
(7) How sea gull poop is changing the Channel Islands: UCSB graduate student Ana Sofia Guerra tracks sea gulls as they go back and forth between their homes on the Channel Islands archipelago and various eateries on the mainland. "She's tracked sea gulls on ventures from their pristine island home to an In-n-Out in El Segundo, a catering kitchen in Compton and the Roadium Open Air Market in Torrance. On one trip, a bird she monitored flew to a row of Vietnamese restaurants in Anaheim, then visited a bakery a few blocks away for dessert. In their natural habitat, gulls primarily eat squid, anchovies, crabs, barnacles and other marine life. But when it comes to people food, they are willing to try just about anything. Usually it's humans who are responsible for polluting natural ecosystems. But on Anacapa and Santa Barbara islands, gulls appear to be the ones spoiling the wild habitat with processed food and puked-up trash." [From: LA Times]

2019/10/31 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Halloween: New Yorker cartoon of a pumpkin Screenshot from the Web site 'Rising Star 2019: An Academic Career Workshop for Women in EECS' NSF Director, France A. Cardova, spoke at UCSB today (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Halloween (New Yorker cartoon): "Any resemblance to an actual person, living or dead, is unintended and purely coincidental." (My Halloween photos) [Center] Screenshot from the Web site "Rising Star 2019: An Academic Career Workshop for Women in EECS" (see the last item below). [Right] NSF Director, France A. Cardova, spoke at UCSB today (see the next to the last item below).
(2) Emoluments: Trump has promoted his properties on average once every 4-5 days since he became president, according to Newsweek. He used the occasion of announcing Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's elimination to rant about himself, his books, and everything else Trump, for 48 minutes, embellishing facts and inventing alternative facts as he went along!
(3) US House of Representatives votes to formalize the impeachment inquiry: Jeff Van Drew (NJ) and Collin Peterson (MN) were the only Democrats who joined all 194 Republicans to vote against the resolution.
(4) Obama vs. Trump: Jimmy Kimmel puts segments of the announcements of Osama bin Laden's elimination and Abu Bakr al-Baghadadi's elimination side by side for comic effect. [1-minute video]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approves resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide.
- Massive train fire in the eastern Pakistani province of Punjab kills at least 73.
- Charges filed against a Missouri man who flew to California, lighted wildfires, and tried to fly back.
- Significant cooling in our area along with much less wind raise the hopes of bringing wildfires under control.
(6) US National Science Foundation Director spoke at UCSB today: Astrophysicist France A. Cordova has been heading the research-funding federal agency with an annual budget of $8.1 billion since 2013. She spoke under the title "Thinking Big: NSF's Vision for Research Investment." Cordova was formerly NASA Chief Scientist, Vice Chancellor for Research at UCSB, and Chancellor at UC Riverside. She spoke under the title "Thinking Big: NSF's Vision for Research Investment." Among Cordova's observations were the facts that NSF funds a significant fraction of all US research, particularly in computer science, and that research directions are set both in a bottom-up fashion (researchers submitting proposals) and a top-down style (NSF setting priorities and announcing special programs).
(7) Recruiting women to EECS faculty positions: The Web site "Rising Stars 2019: An Academic Career Workshop for Women in EECS" constitutes an invaluable resource for identifying promising women faculty candidates in electrical engineering and computer science. The workshop is being held at U. Illinois and rumor has it that a number of department chairs have converged on Urbana-Champaign to get a head-start in recruiting these talents. I was delighted to see many Iranian names among the participants. These include Bahar Asgari (Georgia Tech), Forough Arabshahi (CMU), Samaneh Azadi (UC Berkeley), Najme Ebrahimi (U. Michigan), Pardis Emami Naeini (CMU), Yasaman Ghasempour (Rice U.), Bahar Haghighat (Harvard U.), Sahar Hashemgeloogerdi (U. Rochester), Hoda Heidari (ETH-Zurich), Reyhaneh Jabbarvand (UC Irvine), Faria Kalim (U. Illinois), Sepideh Mahabadi (Toyoto Technological Inst. Chicago), Nooshin Mohammadi Estakhri (U. Michigan), Elaheh Soltanaghaei (U. Virginia), Nazanin Takbiri (U. Mass. Amherst), and perhaps a couple more about whose national origins I wasn't sure.

2019/10/30 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Time magazine's cover feature for the November 4, 2019, issue deals with health innovation Last night's film screening at UCSB's Pollock Theater: 'Uncovered' Newsweek cover feature: Can we trust the increasing number of Internet-connected devices that surround us? (1) Images of the day: [Left] Time magazine's cover feature on health innovation: From 70% reduction in cardiovascular deaths over 5 decades to a variety of technological issues and solutions such as robotics, gene editing, the biggest big data, artificial intelligence, and electrification. [Center] Last night's film screening at UCSB's Pollock Theater: 'Uncovered' (see the last item below). [Right] Newsweek cover feature: Can we trust the increasing number of Internet-connected devices that surround us?
(2) Trump booed at the stadium: Fox & Friends cuts out the booing of spectators at Game 5 of the World Series, and Trump later claims that fake-news "liberals" had digitally added the booing in their versions of the video clips. Another example of alternative facts!
(3) SoCal fire woes continue: The new "Easy Fire" in Simi Valley, near Reagan Presidential Library, is being spread by hurricane-force winds of up to 70 miles per hour. Route 23, from Thousand Oaks to Moorpark, is closed, as are many schools and colleges in the area. Brentwood's Getty Fire continues to rage. Stay safe!
(4) "World Music Series" noon concert at UCSB's Music Bowl today: A subset of UCSB Middle East Ensemble performed. [Video 1] [Video 2, Latin-Arabic fusion music and dance] [Video 3, Lebanese music and dance] [Video 4, a Sephardic song, from Jews who fled Spain and took refuge in the Ottoman Empire, where their music fused with Turks, Armenians, and other natives of the region]
(5) "Uncovered: Health Care Conversations with Ady Barkan": This is the title of a documentary feature film due for release in 2020, in time to shape discussions of health care in the 2020 US elections. Snippets of the film, consisting of conversations with Democratic presidential candidates Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg were shown at UCSB's Pollock Theater last night (Joe Biden declined the invitation to participate).
The 60-minute short-film screenings were followed by a conversation with activist Ady Barkan (who, along with his family, have struggled to keep up with insurance paperwork since his ALS diagnosis in 2016), Liz Jaff (series creator and President of Be a Hero PAC), and director Nick Bruckman (Founder of People's Television).
Barkan and his group strive to help overhaul the healthcare system in the US by sharing personal stories that highlight ordinary Americans' encounters with the system. In fact, all the candidates interviewed in the various segments were asked to relate their experiences with the healthcare system for their own or a loved one's medical problems.
One important point made is that whereas nurses are supportive of more accessible healthcare under plans such as Medicare-for-All, physicians and AMA represent major obstacles to reform. ["Uncovered" Web site] [Interview segments: Cory Booker; Pete Buttigieg; Kamala Harris; Bernie Sanders; Elizabeth Warren] [Video of Ady Barkan speaking last night]

2019/10/29 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for Steven Pinker's 'Enlightenment Now' A collage of photos from fires raging in California (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cover image for Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now (see the last item below for my review). [Center] A collage of photos from fires raging in California: Please stay safe! [Right] Two of my selfies taken over the past week, wearing T-shirts with Persian calligraphic art.
(2) A controversial new discovery traces the roots of all Homo sapiens to a vast wetland south of Africa's Zambezi river which was their home for 70,000 years of their 200,000-year existence.
(3) How today's packed passenger planes affect evacuation time and thus chances of survival in emergency situations: FAA will embark on experiments, using 720 volunteers. [Source: Time magazine]
(4) Water, the precious resource: Matt Damon reminds us that while we Westerners take easy, 24/7 access to clean water for granted, in some areas of the world, people spend up to 6 hours a day to secure water. So, for some, it's education/job or access to water; they can't have both.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Environmentalist/entrepreneur makes Kermanshah a model Iranian city for recycling and green living.
- French tourists drive to Isfahan on Citroens to mark the iconic car's 100th birthday. [Video]
- Moshir-ol-molk Ansari's historical residence in Isfahan, central Iran. [Video]
- Persian music: Short snippet of the oldie song "Shaanah" ("Comb"). [1-minute video]
(6) Illegal appropriation of Iranian artists' works: This pre-Islamic-Revolution Persian song is now used in religious mourning ceremonies by individuals who had no role in its creation. Many artists, particularly women, were persecuted, forced into retirement, or fled the country after the Islamic Revolution, because their works were deemed deviant or sinful by Islamic hardliners.
(7) Shamelessly defending Trump: It's getting harder and harder to watch Mike Pence (interviewed on PBS) and other cowardly Republicans defend Donald Trump, without feeling the urge to smash your TV!
(8) Book review: Pinker, Steven, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Arthur Morey, Penguin Audio, 2018.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The thesis of this book is that things are improving in our world at a rapid pace, but if you listen to the news, you'll be left with the impression that everything is falling apart. A case in point is the fact that every cell phone adds $3000 to the GDP of a developing country, an improvement we rarely, if ever, hear about on the news.
With this book, Pinker opens our eyes to realities that are pushed to the side in favor of sensational stories of doom and gloom. Even such horror stories, though not their coverage, are on the decline. Crime rates are going down. Terrorists kill fewer people. Deaths from traffic accidents are at an all-time low. Poverty is shrinking worldwide. Clean drinking water is becoming widely available, though we have a long way to go in this regard.
At times, Pinker's ultra-optimism leaves you aghast, but, by and large, he is right. When we complain upon returning from a trip about the 40 minutes the plane sat on the tarmac, we are forgetting that cross-country travel used to take months and had a non-neligible probability of leading to death

2019/10/28 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Dr. Kaveh Madani's UCLA lecture on Iran Discovered Brexit post of the day: The new British Vauxhaul model Fortune cookie message telling me that prosperity will soon knock on my door (1) Images of the day: [Left] UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: Yesterday afternoon's talk by Dr. Kaveh Madani (see the last item below). [Center] Brexit post: The new British Vauxhaul model. [Right] Which door will prosperity knock on? Should I stay home or go to work this week? Need a second fortune cookie!
(2) I think advertisers have given up on me dying: I no longer receive weekly Neptune Society ads (for creamation services), but do get frequent offers of Medicare supplemental insurance plans!
(3) Money can buy anything: Parents who put their children's lives in limbo by trying to bribe their way into elite colleges are now hiring high-priced law firms to make sure their actions will not lead to unfavorable admission decisions at other colleges.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Getty Fire (west of I405, north of Sunset Blvd.) leads to mandatory evacuations in LA's Brentwood area.
- Ice, ice, baby! And lots of snow too! [3-minute video]
- Blinded acid-attack victim in Iran continues life with hope and determination: Feminism defined!
- Persian music and spiritual dance: Based on a poem by Rahi Moayeri. [Video]
- Watch this 73-year-old Shanghai women, dancing with her 28-year-old grandson, amaze the audience.
- Cute and fashionable Kurdish kids: To make us wipe away our tears briefly over Turkish atrocities.
(5) The first 2019-2020 talk in UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: Dr. Kaveh Madani (The MacMillan Center, Dept. Political Science, Yale U.) spoke in Persian at 4:00 PM yesterday in Dodd Hall 78 under the title "Water Bankruptcy and Environmental Politics in Iran." The same lecture was to be delivered in English today at 2:00 PM, but it was postponed owing to the Getty Fire near UCLA.
Dr. Madani began by telling the story of how he got to work as part of President Rouhani's government. To his surprise, he was contacted in England two years ago and offered the job of Deputy Head of Iran's Department of Environment; within a week, he was in Iran, where he was promptly detained and interrogated upon entry! From the very beginning, conservative officials and extra-governmental centers of power worked against him, spreading unfounded accusations and making his job more difficult than it already was due to Iran's serious environmental challenges. He lasted in this position only until April 2018!
Iran is known as a dry country. Average percepitation is low to begin with, and 75% of it comes during the off-season for agriculture. Available fresh-water resources are estimated in the 100 BCM (billions of cubic meters) neighborhood. Estimates vary from a high of 130 BCM to a low of 70 BCM, with the latter low figure used by some as a fig leaf to hide misguided policies and mismanagement.
City dwellers account for 70% of Iran's population, and 20% of the workforce is engaged in farming, albeit rather inefficiently. Given the above figures, it is rather remarkable that cities have nearly perfect coverage in their clean-water distribution systems. Water supply in the rural areas is more problematic. The sewer infrastructure is weak throughout the country, with the age-old method of digging sewer-wells creating water contamination in densely-populated mega-cities.
Undue emphasis on development, as well as promoting agriculture in areas that do not have adequate water resources, led first to depletion of surface water (Lake Urmia being the most visible example) and then to the depletion of undergraound reservoirs. Dr. Madani likened this situation to spending the money in our savings account, without replenishing the funds for future emergencies. The drop in the underground water levels has led to many sinkholes, a phenomenon that was rather rare before the current overuse.
To say that water shortage in Iran represent a crisis would be an understatement; bankruptcy is a more apt term. We need to acknowledge this situation and understand its causes, before we can think about solutions. This bankruptcy is not the work of this or that president but has resulted from decades of neglect and mismanagement. Given the large number of stakeholders, including farms dying from lack of water, addressing the problem requires political boldness and courage.
A step in the direction of solving these problems is to value expert opinion and not propagate myths and falsehoods, such the nonsensical statement that drought "will increase 11-fold" by a given date or that NASA studies have predicted doom and gloom for Iran's climate.
The three key reasons for the aforementioned bankruptcy are:
- Rapid increase in population (from 24M in 1961, through 66M in 2001, to 80M in 2018) and dense mega-cities, holding 70% of the population and thus exerting disproportionate influence on policies.
- Inefficient agriculture, where crops do not match local resources and multi-year planning is all but non-existent. Iran's share of GDP due to agriculture is around 10%, utilizing some 90% of water resources.
- Thirst for development (over-building of dams, towers, and highways, viewed as prestige symbols, a la Dubai, without attendant environmental evaluation), along with mismanagement and corruption at all levels.
In the end, Dr. Madani outlined some solution strategies, defined by the acronym DARE: Diversify the economy; Adapt to new situation; Raise awareness; Empower the farmers. Among Dr. Madani's contributions to promoting awareness in this regard is the documentary film, "Iran's Water Crisis."
A lively Q&A session ended this well-attended 2-hour lecture.
[Facebook post with photos and images of some slides, as well as a Persian version of this report.] [Tweet]

2019/10/27 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
My Persian rendition of the tender Luri love poem 'Beheshti Besazam' Fragrant beauties, picked today from one of my rose bushes Some verses of the Luri love poem 'Beheshti Besazam,' by Gholamreza Sabzali (1) My Persian rendition [Left] of the tender Luri love poem "Beheshti Besazam" [Right] by Gholamreza Sabzali, alongside fragrant beauties from one of my rose bushes [Center]: The words aren't exactly the same, and my version covers only parts of a longer poem, but the sentiment is preserved. Luri is a dialect spoken in Iran's Luristan province.
(2) Butt-dials can be more than a mild embarrassment: Rudi Giuliani butt-dials a reporter with whom he had spoken earlier and reveals part of a private conversation with a friend in a 3-minute inadvertently-recorded voice message. The reporter should seriously consider removing the 3-minute limit on voice messages!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi believed to have been killed in a US raid in northwestern Syria.
- Elijah Cummings' son refuses to shake hands with Mitch McConnell during his father's memorial service.
- Elijah Cummings' widow brings the crowd to their feet with powerful, zinging eulogy: Bravo!
- Internal messages show that Boeing employees were aware of issues with 737 MAX years before crashes.
- Exposing Senator Lindsey Graham's extreme hypocrisy regarding impeachment.
- Only 10 students were invited to Trump's speech at Benedict, a historically-black college.
(4) This wonderful song entitled "Do It Now" (also known as "The Climate Song") is from seven years ago: Still worth listening to and sharing. The lyrics follow. [Version sung by Belgian children]
We need to wake up | We need to wise up | We need to open our eyes | And do it now now now
We need to build a better future | And we need to start right now
We're on a planet | That has a problem | We've got to solve it, get involved | And do it now now now
We need to build a better future | And we need to start right now
Make it greener | Make it cleaner | Make it last, make it fast | And do it now now now
We need to build a better future | And we need to start right now
No point in waiting | Or hesitating | We must get wise, take no more lies | And do it now now-now
We need to build a better future | And we need to start right now

2019/10/26 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The French 2024 Olympics logo 195-gigapixel photo taken over 2 months by the BigPixel company from atop Shanghai's Oriental Pearl Tower At the height of the #MeToo movement, women at Ernst & Young were instructed to dress and act nicely around men! (1) Images of the day: [Left] The French 2024 Olympics logo: The ambiguous image brings to mind the Olympics torch flame or a Parisian woman. Rather sexist, in my view! [Center] This 195-gigapixel photo was taken over 2 months by the BigPixel company from atop Shanghai's Oriental Pearl Tower. Pan and zoom to see everything in Shanghai, even cars' license plates, a boat's registration number, and many other details on the streets. Enjoy! [Right] At the height of the #MeToo movement, women at Ernst & Young were instructed to dress and act nicely around men!
(2) Misogyny to the extreme: Parnian Yeganeh, "White Wednesdays" campaigner against compulsory hijab in Iran, threatened with rape if she doesn't stop her activities.
(3) Digging up history in the Holy Land: Excavations for building a new neighborhood in Bet Shemesh have unearthed the remains of a 6th-century Byzantine church dedicated to an unnamed "glorious martyr."
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- As many as 2 million Californians, mostly in the north, may lose power this weekend, as wildfires rage.
- The Ukrainian leader felt pressure from Trump even before he took office, according to his aides.
- Republicans putting aside that pesky morality thing to support an inept Commander-in-Cheat!
- Rudy Giuliani has disappeared from public view, but John Lithgow's impersonation of him is here for laughs.
- Tiny satellites are the new workhorses of space exploration. [NPR report]
- Words in other languages that have no English equivalents: Although I disagree in a couple of instances.
- Maryam Hashemi, an Iranian Kurdish woman, wins gold in international wushu competition in China.
(5) International kidnapping: Dissident Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam was kidnapped from Iraq and taken to Iran by cooperating Iraqi and Iranian intelligence agents.
(6) Iran's judo athletes banned from the Olympics: The reason is the Iranian government's political meddling in the sport (forcing the athletes not to compete against Israeli opponents).
(7) Help save the children in northern Syria: An estimated 200,000 people who have been forcefully relocated are facing severe shortages of all kinds. [Video] [UNICEF USA donation site]
(8) Iranian regional music from Lorestan Province: Majid Azizi's wonderful love song "Beheshti Besazam" ("I Will Build a Heaven"), accompanied by Homayoun Poshtdar on kamancheh, based on a poem by Gholamreza Sabzali. The YouTube video identifies the song as "Maryam," which may be an alternate title. [6-minute video]
(9) US forces will stay in Syria and reinforced with more tanks to defend the oil fields against ISIS: So, no withdrawals, because the same ISIS that was "totally defeated" according to our Commander-in-Cheat is alive and well! The whole charade was just to allow Turkey to kill some Kurds and turn tens of thousands homeless, while making the Assad regime stronger and allow Russia to gain the upper hand in the region.

2019/10/25 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Yesterday's talk on the Electoral College by Dr. Rosemarie Zagarri UCSB, back when it was a sleepy liberal-arts college Yesterday's beautiful sunset, photographed as I was walking home from UCSB at the end of a hot and eventful day (1) Images of the day: [Left] Yesterday's talk on the Electoral College by Dr. Rosemarie Zagarri (see the last item below). [Center] Opening reception for the "Campus by the Sea" exhibition at UCSB, marking the 75th anniversary of the institution as a UC campus (see the next item below). [Right] Yesterday's beautiful sunset, photographed as I was walking home from UCSB at the end of a hot and eventful day.
(2) Campus by the Sea: This is the title of an exhibition at UCSB Library's Special Research Collections that celebrates the 75th anniversary of Santa Barbara becoming a UC campus (prior to that, there was the Anna S. C. Blake Manual Training School, dating back to 1891, when it began in a downtown basement). This evening's opening reception for the exhibition was attended by Chancellor Henry Yang, UCSB Librarian Kristin Antelman, and curator Matt Stahl (all three of whom spoke), campus deans, members of UCSB's Board of Trustees, and a large number of faculty and staff. The exhibition is divided into sections representing "Pre-1960s," "1960s," "1970s," "1980s-2000s," and "Voices of the Future."
[The on-line "Campus by the Sea" exhibition] [Daily Nexus story] [Photos] [Video 1] [Video 2]
(3) "The Murky Past and Contested Future of the Electoral College": This was the title of yesterday's informative and well-attended talk at UCSB by Rosmarie Zagarri (University Professor of US History, George Mason University). [Photos]
Dr. Zagarri began by reviewing how the Electoral College System came about. It was a compromise forged at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 between advocates of state rights and those favoring representative democracy. No one was really satisfied with the resulting system, and its flaws became evident soon after it went into effect. The emergence of the two-party system further accentuated the weaknesses, yet the system survived sporadic efforts to reform or abolish it.
Recent discrepancies between the Electoral College outcome and popular vote, has brought the problem into the forefront, but given that one party disproportionately benefits from the status quo, it is difficult to envisage agreement on reforming it. State rights aren't as important a factor now as they were in the early days of the republic, when the three branches of government did not yet exist; there was a Congress (which had a "President"), but no executive or judicial branch existed, so the states ruled supreme.
Remedies being considered for the problems posed by the Electoral College System include return to district or proportional voting (a la Nebraska and Maine), instead of winner-take-all schemes at the state level, National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (adopted by states holding 196 electoral votes, 72.6% of the 270 required), by which states agree to bind their delegates to the winner of the national popular vote, and amendment through Congress or a second Constitutional Convention.
My commentary: Dr. Zagarri showed a US map (a cartogram) in which the size of each state was adjusted to reflect its population and thus influence, if presidential elections were decided by popular vote. An attendee correctly observed that state boundaries become meaningless if elections were by national popular vote, according to the principle "one person, one vote." This is indeed correct. In fact, such a cartogram is a tool used by those who want to keep the Electroal College System, because it scares the residents of smaller states into believing that California and New York would take over control of presidential elections if national popular vote were used to elect our president, given their large populations. This is misleading, because if a similar cartogram were drawn in which state areas were proportional to the number of their electoral votes, the result would not be much different.

2019/10/24 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Never again! But genocide happens again and again Opening reception for the 'Campus by the Sea' exhibition at UCSB Pomegranate successfully cut according to the method of instructional video (1) Images of the day: [Left] Never again! But genocide happens again and again (See the last item below). [Center] Campus by the Sea: This is the title of a special exhibit at UCSB Library highlighting UCSB's transformation from a sleepy liberal-arts college to a world-class research university, as it celebrates its 75th anniversary as a UC campus. The exhibit kicked off today with an opening reception (full report tomorrow). [Right] Successful application of a method to cut a pomegranate, which appeared in a video I had posted!
(2) Having completed the wall at the US-Mexico border, Trump has shifted his attention to a wall in Colorado: And New Mexico will pay for it!
(3) Quantum supremacy? Not so fast! Google has claimed the achievement of quantum supremacy, citing a computation that can be completed in less than 4 minutes on the tech giant's quantum computer but which would occupy the largest of today's conventional supercomputers at least 10,000 years. IBM, a competitor of Google in the field of quantum computing, has disputed Google's statement, arguing that a current computer system could theoretically perform the calculation in less than two and a half days.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Iran's economy shrank by 9.5% last year, the worst GDP contraction in three decades.
- Cartoon of the day: Forced confessions in Iran. [Image source: Iranwire.com]
- A new photo of old-time Iranian singer Parvin (Nourivand), best known for the song "Gho'gha-ye Setaregan."
- A number of Iranian celebrities have been summoned to Islamic Guidance Courts for their attire. [Iranwire]
(5) Russia and Turkey will set up patrols in northern Syria to keep the Kurds out of the border region: If Trump were a Russian asset, he couldn't have handed his master a bigger gift!
(6) California's wildfires: In the northern part of the state, the fast-moving Kincade Fire threatens Sonoma County, leading to evacuations. In the southern region, more than 308,000 Southern California Edison customers could face blackouts starting Wednesday night and into Thursday. PG&E's shut-off is expected to affect 179,000 customers, and SDG&E's, 24,000.
(7) In declaring victory, Trump thinks that the genocide of Syrian Kurds was a favor to them: The number of Kurds actually killed in the Turkish offensive does not rise to the level of other genocides in history, but genocide encompasses more than just physical elimination. One of several definitions of genocide cited by Wikipedia includes: "destruction of an ethnic group. ... Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups ..."

2019/10/23 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo of Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Nancy Pelosi A painting that honors Kurdish leader Hevrin Khalaf recently murdered by Turkish forces in cold blood Trump's Hollywood (1) Images of the day: [Left] Republicans are secretly hoping for President Mike Pence, but given Pence's involvement in Trump's lies and cover-ups, President Nancy Pelosi is more likely (she is third in the line of succession, according to the US Constitution). [Center] Painting honoring Kurdish leader Hevrin Khalaf, murdered by Turkish forces in cold blood. [Right] Trump's Hollywood "Walk of Fame" star is put behind bars.
(2) I am disappointed with Hillary Clinton's public attacks on Tulsi Gabbard: Any concerns with Russia promoting her for US presidency should have been pursued through official channels, not in the media. Having been a victim of media sensationalism herself, she should know better.
(3) Mystery traders made $1.8 billion from stock bet placed hours before Trump tweeted that talks with China were back on track: This is just the most spectacular example of many suspicious gains in the market as a result of Trump's seemingly-erratic behavior.
(4) The Russians and Iranians are coming! The Russians and Iranians are coming! Facebook reports that it has removed Russia- and Iran-based pages that sought to influence the 2020 US elections. One Iran-based network included four Instagram accounts and 93 Facebook accounts.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's staunchest supporters in Congress are products of gerrymandered districts.
- Trump lied repeatedly in his angry monologue at a "cabinet meeting," while his yes-men silently looked on.
- Trump slams US Constitution's "phony Emoluments Clause": He views his impeachment as "lynching"!
- Humor: JFK's letter to Khrushchev, recently dug up from the archives. [Tweeted by Hillary Clinton]
- Machines don't just read filled-in bubbles on test answer sheets: They now grade essays in 21 US states!
- Today's UCSB "World Music Series" noon concert: Mariachi Las Olas De SB [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]
(6) Environmental challenges in Iran: This report (in Persian) about the release of raw sewage into an Iranian river, because there is no treatment facility, makes Kaveh Madani's UCLA lecture, "Water Bankruptcy and Environmental Politics in Iran" (Sunday 10/27, 4:00 PM, Dodd Hall 78), even more important.
(7) Scam message tries to make you log on to fake Facebook or YouTube site by telling you that you appear in a viral video: Do not click on such links or log on to the Web sites they offer.
(8) Quid pro quo: Chris Wallace of Fox News makes Mick Mulvaney regret trying to clean up his own and Trump's quid-pro-quo mess on what he thought would be a softball interview on a friendly network.
(9) [Final thought for the day] The tragedy of human trafficking: A truck container with 39 dead bodies inside has been discovered in southeast England. The driver is in custody.

2019/10/22 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
My typical lunch, at home or on the go: Sandwich, salad, and Doritos Scenes from the streets of Isla Vista, California The bobcat that has been roaming in the wilderness around my housing complex for the past few weeks (1) Images of the day: [Left] My typical lunch, at home or on the go: Sandwich, salad, and Doritos. [Center] Scenes from the streets of Isla Vista, California (see the last item below). [Right] Our bobcat and mountain lion: This is the bobcat that has been roaming in the wilderness around my housing complex for the past few weeks. A neighbor snapped the photo yesterday afternoon. No one has been able to photograph a mountain lion which has been seen in the same area half-dozen times.
(2) Why Bridges Collapse: This is the title of a scary, but must-watch, episode of Nova, the wonderful PBS science program. [53-minute video]
P.S.: I have asked my students in the graduate course on fault-tolerant computing (now in progress) to watch this video, because the sudden way in which a seemingly sound bridge collapses isn't unlike the failure of complex hardware and software systems.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Persian poetry: Recitation of a love poem by Afshin Yadollahi, with subtitles. [2-minute video]
- In this 5-minute clip, Mahdieh Mohammadkhani says no one can take music & singing away from women.
- Persian music: A piece on tar and tombak, commemorating Jalil Shahnaz's sixth anniversary of passing.
- Azeri music: A beautiful love song, performed by a duo with tar, guitar, and vocals. [5-minute video]
(4) A very brief history of Isla Vista, the student town adjacent to UCSB: The 1-square-mile tract of land overlooking the Pacific Ocean was named in 1925, when its four streets closest to the bluff also got their names that remain today: Del Playa, Sabado Tarde, Trigo, and Pasado.
With the current UCSB campus coming into being in the 1950s, land values in Isla Vista skyrocketed, leading to a development frenzy that turned the small community into one of the densest residential areas in the world.
In the 1960s and early 1970s, Isla Vista became a center for druggies and celebrities who used drugs. It also became a hotbed for student activism, like other US college towns of that period. A Bank of America branch was torched in 1970, leading to banks avoiding the area for decades, with two banks returning in recent years.
Although crime in Isla Vista is likely not worse than similarly dense urban areas in the US, a couple of notorious crime sprees, unruly Halloween festivals, and well-publicized cases of rape in frat parties and elsewhere, have given it a terrible reputation.
UCSB is working on expanding its presence in Isla Vista and implementing community projects to help with improving both the reality of life in Isla Vista and the terrible external image, which also hurts the campus, now a prestigious research university regularly appearing on top-10 lists.

2019/10/21 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Undoing Trump, the great mistake of 2016 -Silicon-interconnect fabric does away with chiplet packaging and PC-board interconnects Beautiful life springs in the desert of Atacama, Chile (1) Images of the day: [Left] Los Angeles Times: Undoing the great mistake of 2016. [Center] Goodbye, Motherboard—Hello, Silicon-Interconnect Fabric: This is the title of an article in the October 2019 issue of IEEE Spectrum about methods of connecting chiplets on a silicon wafer, rather than packaging them separately and connecting the packages on a PC board. The chiplets can be placed closer to each other, thus leading to smaller, faster, and more energy-efficient designs. [Right] Beautiful life springs in the desert of Atacama, Chile.
(2) Math puzzle (one of many having to do with isosceles triangles): The isosceles triangle ABC has the 20-degree angle BAC. With the other info given on this diagram, what is the measure of the angle MNB?
(3) A historic photograph: Taken at Tehran's Darolfonoon School in 1935, this photo depicts key Iranian scholars and historians of the day, alongside visiting Iranologists and Orientalists from around the world, gathered for poet Abolghassem Ferdowsi's millennial celebration.
(4) The law-and-order President: Bloomberg News reports that Trump asked his then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to stop the Justice Department from prosecuting Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman who had made billions from skirting US sanctions on Iran and had ties to Erdogan.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Thought bubbles for some Trump allies in their meeting with Congressional leaders. [Meme]
- Best-selling smartphones, 2004-2019: Apple's iPhone arrives on the scene in 2010. [4-minute video]
- The New Science of Bioball: Smart sleeves can tell baseball pitchers when it's time to get off the mound.
- Color coordination: I don't know whether this mosque image is an actual shot or a PhotoShopped one.
- Natural beauties: The ocean and its majestic creatures. [4-minute video]
- Irish dancing: Impressive athleticism and precision. [2-minute video]
(6) A Belgian startup has designed small, light, and powerful axial-flux motors for EVs: The magnetic fields used to operate the motor are parallel to the axle rather than being radial. This change leads to a clean, compact design that fits in the wheel assembly. The same principle leads to thinner generators for wind turbines. [Source: IEEE Spectrum, October 2019] [Images]
(7) Ayatollah Tabrizian, hailed as the father of Islamic medicine, has said that there is no such thing as sports in Islam: Intense physical activity is harmful and shortens one's life. Turtles and snakes have long lives because they move very slowly. [Listen to the first 3 minutes of this 11-minute audio clip, in Persian]

2019/10/20 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
 Vice President Mike Pence on the cover of Newsweek magazine Cartoon showing Iranian women breaking stadium walls to get in Results of napalm bombing in Vietnam, 1968, and Kurdistan, 2019 (1) Images of the day: [Left] The puzzle of Mike Pence: As many Republicans struggle with supporting Trump in the wake of his Syria troop withdrawal and decision to hold the G-7 summit at his golf course, Mike Pence is seemingly quite comfortable standing by the con-man-in-chief's side. He deserves to be humiliated by being replaced on Trump's 2020 ticket. [Center] Hijacking women's victory: Iranian officials are trying to take credit for "allowing women into soccer stadiums," despite the fact that they gave in only after intense pressure from FIFA and women's-rights movements (cartoon from Iranwire.com). [Right] Trump dodged the draft and didn't go to Vietnam, but his fingerprints are all over the Turkish atrocities in Kurdistan.
(2) Dumb and dumber: Mick Mulvaney's confession during a news conference that Trump withheld aid from Ukraine until that country agreed to dig up dirt on the Democrats (i.e., quid pro quo) can never be erased, no matter how hard the White House tries.
(3) Santa Barbara's first full-size Target store opened today: It's a good sign for our area and a welcome addition for restaurants and other small businesses nearby, particularly since the only Sears and K-mart stores in Santa Barbara closed some time ago. [Photos]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Blood on Trump's hands: Turkish soldiers execute two Kurdish women on the spot. [Graphic video]
- Trump starts the #StopTheCoup Twitter hashtag but others counter with #StopTheCon!
- At least 69 killed in mosque explosions in eastern Afghanistan: The death toll is expected to rise.
- Jim Mattis says he's "the Meryl Streep of generals" after Trump calls him as the most-over-rated general!
(5) Special carillon recital by Wesley Arai on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the dedication of UCSB's Storke Tower and its carillon: The recital was live-streamed by our Department of Music (recital starts at the 20:00 mark of the video), and there is a link on the site to the program, which includes historic photos and facts about Storke Tower. Two special musical pieces were commissioned for this event. The following are inscriptions on three of the carillon bells. [More photos]
- Bell #2 (C-sharp, 4028 lbs): "These bells ring for the freedom of the press and in tribute to editor-publisher Thomas More Storke whose affection for the university made this building possible.'
- Bell #3 (D, 3216 lbs), a quote from Clark Kerr, UC President, 1958-1967: "The University is not engaged in making ideas safe for students. It is engaged in making ideas safe for ideas."
- Bell #4 (E-flat, 2764 lbs), a quote from Vernon I. Cheadle, UCSB Chancellor, 1962-1977: "Our purpose is to seek the truth and seek boldly, and to stand dedicated to the cause of freedom and justice."
[P.S.: There are some 70 carillons at American universities, three of which are at UC campuses, Berkeley and Riverside being the other two.]

2019/10/18 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of Eileen Boris's new book Cover image for Cixin Liu's 'The Three-Body Problem' More than 400 million children live in war zones, according to UNICEF USA (1) Images of the day: [Left] A new book by Eileen Boris (see item 2 below). [Center] Cover image for Cixin Liu's 'The Three-Body Problem' (see the last item below). [Right] More than 400 million children live in war zones, according to UNICEF USA. That proximity to violence put over 24,000 kids in harm's way last year. See item 3 for my musings on the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Kurds by Turkish forces in northern Syria.
(2) Today's book talk at UCSB: Dr. Eileen Boris, Professor of Feminist Studies, spoke at 2:00 PM today on "How Did an Americanist End Up Writing Transnational History?" The talk was based on the speaker's new book, Making the Woman Worker: Precarious Labor and the Fight for Global Standards, 1919-2019.
In the book, Boris maintains that worries about the 'gig economy' pushing workers from full-time jobs into occupations offering no guarantees and scant benefits appear to be new, until we realize that women have been working under such conditions for a very long time.
Dr. Boris chose a one-century span for her study so that she could observe how things have evolved over time. The book isn't a social history but looks at organizations, primarily ILO, and their initiatives. One problem of this approach is that ILO is composed of representatives of nation-states with varying views and priorities. For example, rights of LGBTQ workers are never explicitly mentioned, because some countries would object, yet one can take the positive view that such rights are actually included, because they are not explicitly excluded. Another example is nation-states influencing policies and actions during conventions, while at the end not ratifying the final result (a la the Paris Climate Accord).
Historically, much of the early efforts in this direction led to women-specific standards, which aimed to protect women in the name of morality, policing sexual behavior, and the like. However, special treatment, by definition, leads to inequality. Also, early conventions accommodated forced labor (slavery, in essence), but tried to set rules: Men could be separated from their families, but were expected to feed them, and they could not spend their earnings on prostitutes and the like.
Interestingly, allowing or even facilitating women's pursuit of careers outside their homes has created the underclass of domestic workers. This is like saying that, yes, women can work outside the home, as long as their traditional family roles are delegated to others, typically underpaid women with few rights and almost no benefits. So, one category of women is liberated to the detriment of another category. A different challenge is to spread the view that women who do home-work, exclusively or partially, should be given workers' rights and associated benefits.
There was just too much material in the talk and the discussion period that followed for me to list all the key observations in this brief report. I will read Boris's book at the earliest opportunity and recommend that my readers with interests at the intersection of women's rights and labor rights do the same. [Photos]
(3) The latest gift from an unstable President: Trump's ineptitude triggered a war between two of our allies. Now the con man wants us to believe that a 5-day pause in hostilities constitutes a major victory for his administration. He then insults our intelligence by claiming that war is sometimes good, because it makes the two sides realize its futility and hardships. And this gem of an insight comes from someone who has always lived in the lap of luxury and who fraudulently avoided military service when it was compulsory in the US. If Trump read books, he would know even without serving in the military that Kurds and other oppressed groups have never lived in peace and have been assaulted from all sides, including when thousands of them were killed or maimed by Saddam's chemical attacks. And now reports are emerging that Turkey has attacked them with phosphorus bombs. Shame on Trump, his administration of spineless yes-men, and his Republican enablers!
(4) Book review: Liu, Cixin (translated by Ken Liu), The Three-Body Problem, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Luke Daniels, Macmillan Audio, 2014 (originally published in China in 2006).
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This first novel in the "Remembrance of Earth's Past" trilogy by China's most-prominent sci-fi writer provides a window into the Asian giant's sci/tech community during and after the Cultural Revolution, when speaking of the Big Bang theory and Einstein's general relativity were considered reactionary.
The book's main characters are Ye Wenjie, a female astrophysicist who witnessed the execution of her physicist father during the Cultural Revolution, and Wang Miao, a nanotechnology engineer consumed by "Three-Body," a virtual-reality on-line video game, with a cult-like following, based on the well-known physics problem in which one seeks to determine the future motions of three point-masses from their initial conditions. The venues, such as top-ranked Tsinghua University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, are familiar to academics worldwide.
While the characters and their interactions are grounded in reality, and thus quite relatable, the story goes into less familiar domains, such as supernatural phemomena, philosophical conundrums, moral dilemmas, plots of an alien race, and quite a bit of Chinese history and culture.
Despite the last trait, which makes the novel exotic, Cixin Liu [b. 1963] is believed to have been influenced by Isaac Asimov [1920-1992] and Arthur C. Clark [1917-2008].
The many characters and scientific elements comprising the story may make the reader disoriented at first, but things eventually start coming together in an interesting and rewarding way. A must-read for sci-fi aficionados!

2019/10/17 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Children suffer from the type of war Turkey is waging in northern Syria, even when they aren't killed or injured Persian moods and personality types associated with some commonly-used emojis Flyer for Rosemarie Zagarri's talk about the electoral college (1) Images of the day: [Left] Children suffer from the type of war Turkey is waging in northern Syria, even when they aren't killed or injured. [Center] For my Persian-speaking readers: Moods and personality types associated with some commonly-used emojis. Please note that the labels are meant to be humorous and are different from the common emoji meanings. [Right] Interesting talk at UCSB: Rosemarie Zagarri will talk about "The Murky Past and Contested Future of the Electoral College" (Thu. 10/24, 4:00 PM, HSSB 4080).
(2) In an Independent Persian article, Nasim Basiri argues that Turkey is deliberately targeting and killing Kurdish women leaders because it is terrified of the most successful feminist movement in the Middle East.
(3) Going from maddening to horrifying: Trump mocks the brave Kurds facing ethnic cleansing in an existential battle by inexplicably saying they have a lot of sand to play with. MAGA by disposing of this trash!
(4) Science news: Margaret Martonosi, CS Professor at Princeton University, selected as the next head of National Science Foundation's Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Congressman Elijah Cummings, civil rights icon and key figure in Trump's impeachment inquiry, dead at 68.
- California to unveil MyShake cell-phone app today, on the 30th anniversary of the 1989 Loma Prieta quake.
- Magnitude-4.7 California quake near Hollister made whales leap out of the water en masse.
- Submerged Alaskan volcano is producing giant explosive gas bubbles, according to a just-published study.
- Ancient Assyrian tablets tell of huge solar storms 2700 years ago.
- Persian music: An oldie song, presented with the backdrop of Iran's historical sites and museums.
(6) Our clueless president: Trump has awarded a contract for holding the next G-7 Summit to his National Doral Miami golf resort: Forgetting about profiting from his presidency for the moment, it will be really awkward is he is no longer president at that time!
(7) Quote of the day: "Let's have a great day! I have worked hard to send you a daily newsletter. Don't let the world down. You can make a great day out of this. History will look upon you favorably if you get this done. Don't be a tough reader. Don't be a fool! I will email you again tomorrow." ~ Newsweek magazine's e-mail newsletter mocking Trump's childish letter to Erdogan [Trump's letter]

2019/10/16 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Tea served Iranian style: With sugar cube Tea served Iranian style: With cake Tea served Iranian style: With rock candy (1) Images of the day: Tea served Iranian style, with sugar cube, cake, or rock candy.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US House resolution rebuking Trump over pull-out from Syria passes 354-60.
- Young Kurdish girl pleads with everyone to stop the war and to help her reclaim a normal childhood.
- Cartoon of the day: Satirists are imprisoned in Iran. [Image]
- An Irish man pre-recorded a voice message and asked his family to play it at his funeral. Here it is!
- Persian music: A nice rendition of "Emshab Shab-e Mahtaabeh" with santoor, tombak or daf, and vocals.
- Some surprising examples of English words that have Arabic roots. [Story]
(3) Today's noon concert at UCSB's Muic Bowl: An enjoyable performance by Los Catanes del Norte as part of the "World Music Series" program. I was particularly intrigued by the accordion in this 4-piece band, so I zoomed in on it in the second video. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3] [Video 4] [Video 5]
Image for Mahnoosh Alizadh's October 16, 2019, talk (Rusty's Pizza) (4) Tonight's IEEE Central Coast Section technical meeting: In a well-attended general talk that generated much spirited discussion, Dr. Mahnoosh Alizadeh (UCSB Assistant Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering; PhD 2014, UC Davis) outlined the challenges and some solutions in directing our society "Towards Sustainable Electric Transportation Systems."
Everyone agrees that electric vehicles, preferably charged using renewable energy sources, are the way to go. But several challenges remain to be addressed if this worthy goal is to become realizable. While we have come a long way in mitigating the old problem of limited range for electric vehicles, we still need to resolve long wait times at popular charging locations, shifting the charging load to more desirable times of day (e.g., by providing price incentives), upgrading the electric grid infrastructure to support the added load and the changing profile, and coming up with reasonably accurate models for human behavior in the face of varying transportation needs and price incentives.
Professor Alizadeh discussed some parts of her research program, which aims to guide the EV population to use transportation, charging, and power-system infrastructure more efficiently. Her work addresses both long term behavioral and structural modifications, as well as short-term strategies to make the best use of currently-available resoruces. [More images] f22-191015-making-the-woman-worker-cover

2019/10/15 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Kurdish fighter keeping watch from her lookout Poster (by unknown artist) honoring Iran's 'Blue Girl' 'Blue Girl' image on which the colorful poster in the center seems to be based (1) Images of brave women in blue: [Left] Kurdish fighter keeping watch from her lookout. [Center] Poster (by unknown artist) honoring Iran's "Blue Girl" whose sacrifice was the straw that broke the back of hardliner ruling mullahs, forcing them to open the gates of sports stadiums to women spectators, after years of activism by Iranian women. [Right] Here is an image on which the colorful poster in the center seems to be based.
(2) Moon mission: Fedor, the Russian humanoid robot, which recently spent some time on the International Space Station, will be sent to the moon after substituting wheels for its legs.
(3) The cheapening of the American military: By saying that "Saudi Arabia at my request has agreed to pay us for everything we are doing," Trump has converted the patriotic men and women in uniform from defenders of our national security to paid mercenaries working for a corrupt, authoritarian regime.
(4) Voting out vs. kicking out: I don't understand those who say Trump's fate should be decided at the ballot box, not by impeachment. Making Trump a one-term president isn't punishment enough, because it would equate criminal behavior with ineffective leadership, a la Jimmy Carter and G. H. W. Bush.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Both the US FAA and Boeing found at fault over their problematic certification of the 737 Max.
- Apt Persian saying for the Syria situation: "A lunatic throws a rock in the well that 100 sages can't take out."
- Cartoon of the day: The beginnings of a rift among Senate Republicans. [Image]
- Chris Wallace's interview with the Iranian womens-rights activist Masih Alinejad.
- Opening statement by Marie Yovanovitch, former US Ambassador to Ukraine, in testifying before Congress.
- One must be a phenomenal actor to play polar-opposite roles: The toughest bully and the meekest victim!
(6) "If we have to choose between compromise and genocide, we will choose our people": Writing in Foreign Policy, the Kurd's Commander in Chief explains why his forces are ready to partner with Assad and Putin.
(7) The 64th Annual Faculty Research Lecture at UCSB: Nelson Lichtenstein (Distinguished Professor of History, and a historian of labor) spoke this afternoon under the title "A Fabulous Failure: Bill Clinton, American Capitalism, and the Origins of Our Troubled Times." UCSB's Faculty Research Lecturer is a distinguished member of the faculty chosen annually by the Academic Senate and charged with the task of addressing the campus on his/her field of expertise. Professor Lichtenstein has written many books, the last one being the 2016 title Achieving Workers' Rights in the Global Economy, and he is now working on a history of economic thought and policymaking in the administration of Bill Clinton. In today's talk, Professor Lichtenstein argued that neoliberal globalization, which was in no small part responsible for the rise of Donald Trump, was likely avoidable in the early 1990s. Clinton arrived in Washington with no shortage of ideas on reorganizing American capitalism, while using managed trade to help areas such as Detroit and Pittsburgh and to solve the vexing healthcare problem before it got further out of hand. Clinton failed because he did not appreciate the extent to which corporate and financial power had already escaped the control of nation-states. [Images/Slides]

2019/10/14 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The Field of Light at Sensorio, in Paso Robles wine country, California: Photo 1 Alexandr Milov 2015 sculpture of children trapped inside feuding adult bodies The Field of Light at Sensorio, in Paso Robles wine country, California: Photo 2 (1) Artful images: [Left & Right] Solar-powered light spectacle: The Field of Light at Sensorio, in Paso Robles wine country, California's Central Coast. [Center] This 2015 Alexandr Milov sculpture of children trapped inside feuding adult bodies shows that love always shines through.
(2) Please, please check your sources before posting: A video has gone viral, with the caption that a brave Kurdish girl in Italy gave Mike Pompeo a package of dog food, so that he can eat it and learn to be loyal like dogs. This explanation has been debunked. The scene actually shows an Italian woman giving Pompeo a wedge of parmesan cheese, explaining that they make it "with their hearts," begging him to take it to President Trump, as a statement regarding looming tariffs on European exports.
(3) Kurds strike a deal with Syria to escape genocide: Decades of influence lost with a single impulsive (treasonous?) action by Trump. As predicted, the big winners are Syria, Iran, and Russia.
(4) She persists: Elizabeth Warren submitted a false ad to Facebook, claiming that Mark Zuckerberg supports Trump's re-election bid, to make the point that FB's monetary motives make it reluctant to fact-check ads. The Trump campaign has been guilty of posting many false or misleading ads on Facebook. [Tweet 1] [Tweet 2]
(5) The Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for 2019: The Prize was awarded in equal shares to to Abhijit Banerjee (MIT), Esther Duflo (MIT; only the second women to win in Economics), and Michael Kremer (Harvard) "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty."
(6) Two versions of the cover of Time magazine's latest issue, making the point that some soldiers now being deployed to Afghanistan are younger than the war there. [Images]
(7) In case you have forgotten over the past ~3 years what a presidential speech sounds like: Here is one by former President Barack Obama, delivered in Illinois. [65-minute video]
(8) UC and UCSB's top-paid employees: Based on the public database of UC salary data, UCSB's student newspaper has constructed these charts for UC as a whole (top earners being athletic coaches for the most part) and UCSB (lower payroll than most other campuses, with top earners including three Nobel Laureates).
P.S.: Note that the two similar-looking graphs have different scales, going to $3.3M for UC, $0.5M for UCSB.
(9) Presidential mass murder: Fictional video showing Trump entering a church and shooting news-media reps and other perceived foes gathered there was shown at a Florida pro-Trump meeting! And the man who is quick to tweet about every happening, large or small, has not yet condemned the video.

2019/10/13 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo of Syrian Kurds fleeing attacks en masse Nepotism: Ivanka Trump vs. Hunter Biden Poster advocating the saving of Rojava (1) Memes of the day: [Left] Syrian Kurds fleeing attacks. [Center] Nepotism: Ivanka Trump vs. Hunter Biden. [Right] Poster advocating the saving of Rojava. [Not shown] Fire-related road closures in SoCal.
(2) Video containing disturbing images from Syria, but the world should know what is happening to the Kurds and be shamed into acting. Please add complicity in genocide to articles of impeachment.
(3) Kurdish music: At the end of his concert in London, master kamancheh player Kayhan Kalhor announced the cancellation of his Istanbul concert to protest Turkey's attacks on the Kurds in Syria. He then dedicated this beautiful Kurdish lullaby (Facebook post, with Kurdish lyrics and Persian translation) to the suffering Kurdish children. Here's a second, unrelated, music video: "With You, Kobani"
(4) Major advance in algorithms and signal processing: A more efficient version of the Inverse Fast Fourier Transform (IFFT) that had eluded researchers for 50 years. [Full story]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Harvin Khalaf, senior Kurdish politician and women's-rights leader, killed in northeastern Syria.
- At least 35 dead in Japan after widespread flooding due to typhoon.
- Trevor Noah's "The Fantastic, Absolutely Tremendous Road to Impeachment" [Video]
- The plight of the Kurds living in northern Syria, near the border with Turkey [42-minute documentary]
- Smuggling dozens of smartphones in a pair of pants. [2-minute video]
- Persian music: A cheerful tune, sung by passengers on a tour bus; a diversion from the day's bad news.
(6) CNN's Jake Tapper exposes the stunning hypocrisy of Mike Pompeo, Lindsey Graham, and Rudi Giuliani regarding impeachment, using their own words from the Clinton and Obama eras.
(7) Leather shoe from 5500 years ago: This is an old story from 2010, but still worth sharing. A well-preseved cowhide shoe from 5500 years ago was discovered in southeastern Armenia. It was made from a single piece of leather, shaped to fit the wearer's foot.
(8) Saturday night's concert at Libbey Bowl in Ojai: The program, entitled "An Evening of Denim and Diamonds with the Spazmatics and the Boogie Knights" (two bands), featured high-energy dance music, notably from the 1980s. [Photos] [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3] [Visit to world-famous Bart's Books before the concert]

2019/10/12 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
'New Yorker' cartoon, showing Trump string puppet manipulated by four despots Cartoon: The wall that Trump has built 'New Yorker' cartoon: The king was just kidding (1) Images of the day: [Left] New Yorker cartoon: "Me next!" [Center] The wall that Trump has been building. [Right] Another New Yorker cartoon: "If anyone asks, he was just kidding."
(2) Trevor Noah's "The Fantastic, Absolutely Tremendous Road to Impeachment": Trump seems to be acting to ensure that his impeachment is like no other before, the most spectacular ever!
(3) Recent developments on the women's-rights front: Western countries should take note.
- At 67% of the seats, Rwanda holds the world record in women's parliamentary representation.
- Girls study for free, from pre-school all the way to the doctoral level, in Pakistan's Punjab province.
(4) Of interest to Santa Barbara area residents: A conversation with two soccer superstars. Main event at Arlington Theater, Tuesday, October 15, 2019, 7:00 PM, with free simulcast for UCSB students at Campbell Hall.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Tax data from 2018: For the first time in history, US billionaires paid a lower tax rate than the working class.
- Betsy DeVos is protecting the interests of defunct for-profit colleges which swindled numerous students.
- Persian music and dance: Performed on Tehran metro, right under the mullahs' noses!
- Persian music: An oldie song from Javad Badi'zadeh [1902-1979]. [3-minute video]
(6) Vanity and stupidity make for a deadly combination: According to Washington Post, Trump has renewed his attacks on energy-efficient lightbulbs because they make him look bad. I hope that someday he is put away in a cell with a huge mirror and energy-efficient lighting!
(7) Dealing with students' food insecurity: I have come across the little-known CalFresh program at UCSB, designed to connect college students to food and financial resources. Those of you who are in contact with students may wish to explore the existence of similar programs on other campuses.
(8) Book-burning incident deemed disturbing: A group of students at Georgia Southern University burned copies of a book by Jennine Capo Crucet, who spoke there and invoked the notion of "White Privilege" in her speech. It is unfortunate that students and universities are moving in the direction of "comfort" (removing anything that disturbs or offends anyone) rather then "challenge" (bringing out different viewpoints that challenge our views and assumptions). I am listening to the audiobook The Coddling of the American Mind (by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt), which deals with this subject. The authors believe that human beings are anti-fragile, which means that not only they are not fragile, breaking at slightest physical/mental discomfort, but they are literally rendered stronger by what doesn't kill them. My book review will be coming soon.

2019/10/11 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Kurdish fighters smile and dance, as they fight to protect their homeland Photos showing Kurdish women who are fighting alongside men to protect their homeland Kurdish women fleeing a Turkish air raid (1) Images of the day: [Left] Kurdish fighters smile and dance, as they fight to protect their homeland: The dancing-around-bonfire footage is from Kobani (Video 1, Video 2). [Center] The northeast Syrian border with Turkey is on fire as Turkish forces intensify their attacks on Kurds (Reuters): Photos show Kurdish women who are fighting alongside men to protect their homeland. [Right] Kurdish women fleeing a Turkish air strike: A humanitarian crisis in the making, courtesy of the most corrupt president in US history.
(2) Quote of the day: "Reading at the deepest levels may provide one part of the antidote to the noted trend away from empathy. But make no mistake: empathy is not solely about being compassionate toward others; its importance goes further. For it is also about a more in-depth understanding of the Other, an essential skill in a world of increasing connectedness." ~ Maryanne Wolf, in her book Reader Come Home
(3) The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali was honored "for his efforts to achieve peace and international cooperation, and in particular for his decisive initiative to resolve the border conflict with neighbouring Eritrea."
(4) While publicly supporting climate-change action, Google makes substantial contributions to some of the most notorious climate deniers behind the scenes.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- As feared by observers, the chaos in northern Syria has allowed some ISIS detainees to escape prisons.
- The plot thickens: Giuliani, like his two arrested associates, was heading to Vienna. [Elaina Plott tweet]
- Karma: Ukraine is reportedly investigating Rudi Giuliani and his ties to shady figures in Ukraine and Russia!
- Fueled by strong winds and dry conditions, three SoCal wildfires erupt and lead to mass evacuations.
- Iranian oil tanker struck by two missiles in the Red Sea, leading to a 2% spike in oil prices.
(6) Tonight's community concert, organized by "Viva el Arte de Santa Barbara": Cimarron, featuring Joropo music and dance from the plains of the Orinoco River, performed at Isla Vista Elementary School in Goleta. The ensemble (led by founder and harpist Carlos "Cuco" Rojas) includes a four-stringed cuatro, harp, maracas, Peruvian-flamenco cajon, Brazilian surdo, and Afro-Colombian tambura. The unique jazz-like music, wonderful beats, and masterful solo performances are captured in the following samples. The program will repeat at Santa Barbara Junior High School's Marjorie Luke Theater, on Sunday, October 13 (7:00 PM). [Video 1 and Video 2, from YouTube] [Video 3, recorded tonight]
[P.S.: I walked to/from Isla Vista School. On the way back, it was dark and I suddenly remembered that a mountain lion, spotted several times over the past few weeks, is still loose in the wilderness, with warning signs posted throughout our neighborhood. Needless to say, I walked briskly, while glancing all around!]

2019/10/10 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Excited about and looking forward to reading the 2020 selection of 'UCSB Reads' That purple speck showing women's seating at Tehran's Azadi Stadium is also an apt graphical representation of women's place in the eyes of Islamists Cover image of IEEE Computer, issue of October 2019 (1) Images of the day: [Left] Excited about and looking forward to reading the 2020 selection of "UCSB Reads": Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, described by Chicago Tribune as "the book on climate change and sea levels that was missing." [Center] Mina Akbari's tweet: That purple speck showing women's seating at Tehran's Azadi Stadium is also an apt graphical representation of women's place in the eyes of the Islamic Republic of Iran. [Right] The October 2019 issue of IEEE Computer contains a special cover feature entitled "50 Years of Networking."
(2) International soccer: Iran humiliated Cambodia 14-0 in a match made even more historic by the fact that Iranian women were allowed to attend for the first time in decades.
(3) Two associates of Trump's personal attorney Rudi Giuliani arrested at the airport: Trying to flee the US with one-way tickets, they have been indicted for conspiring to funnel foreign money to US political candidates. Seems like Giuliani is about to be bestowed the title of "coffee boy"!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The final season of "The UK": Comedy routine about the 3-centuries-old drama series. "The US" is next!
- It's pomegranate season and I am a big fan: Here is how to serve the amazing fruit. [3-minute video]
- Arabic group dance: Amazing precision, with wonderful results. [3-minute video]
- Cartoon of the day: Women trying to enter a soccer stadium in Iran. [Image] [Source: Iranwire.com]
- For my Persian-speaking readers: Interesting tweet of the day. [Tweet image]
- Listen to Joyce Carol Oates read her "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." [Audio file]
(5) Nobel Prizes in Literature: The 2018 and 2019 Prizes were awarded, respectively, to Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk "for a narrative imagination that with encyclopedic passion represents the crossing of boundaries as a form of life" and Austrian playwright/novelist/poet Peter Handke for "an influential work that with linguistic ingenuity has explored the periphery and the specificity of human experience." Last year's Prize was postponed due to a sex scancal affecting the Committee.
(6) Direct from the horse's mouth: The twin Trump Towers in Turkey can help explain the love-fest between him and Erdogan. As US comedians have pointed out, Kurds have two options to bring Trump back to their side: Offer a Trump-Tower deal in the Kurdish territories or dig up dirt on the Biden family!

2019/10/09 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Mural with images of Khamenei and Khomeini 'World Music Series' concert by Jamie Fox 'The Economist' cover cartoon: Twitterdum and Twaddledee (1) Images of the day: [Left] The unfriendly despot: According to Karim Sadjadpour, writing in Time magazine (issue of October 14, 2019), Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is one despot Trump might not be able to win over. [Center] Today's "World Music Series" noon concert at UCSB's Music Bowl (see the last item below). [Right] The Economist cover image: Twitterdum and Twaddledee.
(2) The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino for their work on lithium-ion batteries, a main power source for our digital world.
(3) Another teenage girl who scares old men with rigid minds: Malala got a bullet through her head and a Nobel Peace Prize. Greta's effigy was hung from a bridge in Rome, and there's buzz about a Peace Prize for her.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Yom Kippur attack at a German synagogue results in multiple casualties.
- Nearly 800,000 PG&E customers in California to lose electric power as a wildfire prevention measure.
- Under the guise of fighting terrorism, Turkey launches offensive into Kurdish areas in Syria. [Erdogan tweet]
- Persecution of Baha'is has intensified in Iran: Over the past 6 months, 65 Baha'is have been tried.
(5) Could Trump's concessions to Erdogan, allowing him to obliterate the Kurds in northern Syria, have something to do with the con-man's current and planned business dealings in Turkey? And, did he ask Erdogan to investigate the Bidens? Just asking!
(6) At the end of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement: Here is Alive, one of the many inspirational pieces and/or poems that were interspersed with standard Hebrew prayers during this evening's Yom Kippur service at the Hillel Synagogue in Isla Vista.
(7) Today's noon concert at UCSB's Music Bowl: Jamie Fox, a Metis (mixed-blood) fiddler, performed music from her Native-American Reservation that spans northern US (Montana) and southern Canada. She is in our area for Santa Barbara Old-Time Fiddlers' Festival, happening this weekend at Goleta's Stow House. Fiddles and fiddle music were introduced to Native Americans by the Irish, Scots, and other Europeans during the fur-trade period. Here are a few samples of her music. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]

2019/10/08 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Haaj-Mirza Tea House in Isfahan, Iran Bluest Santa Barbara skies and ocean early yesterday afternoon, in Isla Vista and UCSB West Campus Columbia University's rendering of the magnificent Alamut Castle in Qazvin, Iran, at its prime (1) Images of the day: [Left] Haaj-Mirza Tea House in Isfahan, Iran. [Center] Bluest Santa Barbara skies and ocean early yesterday afternoon, in Isla Vista and UCSB West Campus. [Right] Columbia University's rendering of the magnificent Alamut Castle in Qazvin, Iran, at its prime.
(2) My camera is my weapon: Thanks to cell phones, Iranian women are capturing and reporting previously hidden incidents of open and unabashed sexual harassment, yet the perpetrators escape unpunished or get only a slap on the wrist.
(3) The puzzle of women's rights in Iran and its Arab neighbors: In the Middle East, women have been doing everything to break through the glass ceiling, including earning more STEM degrees than their Western sisters. Yet, the system of patriarchy has blocked their progress at every step.
(4) Compulsory hijab is the most visible symbol of women's oppression, not just an inconvenience that must be tolerated in favor of attending to "bigger problems."
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- FBI confirms that Samuel Little did kill at least 50 women, more than any other serial killer in US history.
- Top US military officers abhor Trump's impulsiveness and his disdain for expertise.
- Even if he ever was a stable genius, now he is nothing but an unstable halfwit!
- Quote of the day: "Are you sure you want to post this?" ~ Instagram's new anti-bullying prompt to users
- Caught red-handed stealing billions in Iran? No problem. Just grow a beard or put on a chador at your trial!
(6) Nobel Prize in Physics recognizes work on dark matter and exoplanets: The 2019 winners contributed to our understanding of the evolution of the universe and Earth's place in the cosmos. Half of the prize went to James Peebles and the other half jointly to Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz.
(7) The money behind climate-change denial: Made of 91 think tanks, advocacy organizations, and trade associations, the American climate-change denial industry pulls down just shy of a billion dollars each year.
(8) Lindsey Graham has opined that betraying the Kurds would be a stain on America's honor and a virtual surrender to the terrorists: Hey, Lindsey: The biggest stain on our honor is your friend in the White House!

2019/10/07 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Statues of four Persian medieval scholars in Vienna Amazing fall colors (part 2): Diverse samples, selected from Google images Images related to the 1812 tsunami in Santa Barbara (1) Images of the day: [Left] Scholars Pavilion: These statues of four Persian medieval scholars, donated by Iran for display at the UN office in Vienna, include Omar Khayyam, Biruni, Razi, and Ibn-Sina. [Center] Amazing fall colors (part 2): Diverse samples, selected from Google images. [Right] The legend of the 1812 tsunami in Santa Barbara (see the last item below).
(2) William Kaelin Jr., Sir Peter Ratcliffe, and Gregg Semenza have been awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with its $9 million prize money, in equal shares, for figuring out how our cells adapt to different oxygen levels, such as at altitude or when we exercise.
(3) Betraying the Kurds once again: Trump withdraws US troops from northern Syria, allowing Turkey to execute a cross-border offensive against the Kurds. No ally will ever trust the US again!
(4) Yay, Iranian women will be allowed into soccer stadiums! But, wait, don't be too giddy: After repeated threats from FIFA about punishing Iran and its soccer federation, the purple speck in this diagram is the segregated section of Tehran's 100,000-seat Azadi Stadium which has been allocated to women for an upcoming soccer match.
(5) Trump needs a better joke-writer: His apologists now claim that his suggestion that China investigate the Bidens was meant as a joke. I watched that comment on video several times and, if meant as a joke, it was poorly written and delivered!
(6) The legend of the 1812 tsunami in Santa Barbara: According to the account from the March 16, 1864, issue of San Francisco Bulletin (see the image above), the December 1812 earthquake in Santa Barbara was accompanied by a devastating tsunami, the largest-ever for California. However, there is little evidence to confirm this account. Because of the presence of Channel Islands 30 miles off the coast, as well as the coastal bluffs, Santa Barbara is largely protected from tsunamis coming from distant places, the only danger being from one produced by a strong quake within the Channel. The 1812 quake did orginate within the Channel and its intensity is thought to have been 10 on the Rossi/Forrel scale of 10 grades (estimated as 7.5 on the Richter Scale, which was not developed until 1935). However, various accounts of the tsunami are highly inconsistent.

2019/10/06 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The latest Newsweek magazine cover Amazing fall colors: 4 photos The latest Time magazine cover (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] The latest Newsweek and Time covers. [Center] Amazing fall colors.
(2) Just a small victory, not worth celebrating yet: Under intense pressure from FIFA, Iran reverses its ban on women entering soccer stadiums, but they will be seated separately from men in a small section of the stadium comprising about 3% of the total capacity. [Photo]
(3) Music and dance: See if you recognize the Persian oldie song whose music was copied from this song. There are many examples of Persian songs which were illicit copies, with no credit to the original song/artist.
(4) Generation gap: A generation of learned old men, who sat on their behinds as our precious Earth was pilfered by the ignorant and short-sighted profiteers, is now criticizing teenage environmental activists for speaking without the prerequisite knowledge and expertise!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump 2020 campaign banners are being produced in China: MCGA!
- Renovated Safavid-style mineral-water baths near Isfahan, Iran, turn the area into a tourist haven.
- Persian music, with lyrics: A 4-minute video, with precious scenes of old Tehran.
- Persian music: An interesting 8-minute remix of the song "Shab Bood" (by Hani Niroo).
- Persian poetry: A love poem, written and recited by Houshang Ebtehaj. [1-minute video]
(6) Science and politics: Nobel Laureate theoretical physicist Max Planck said, "An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents. What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out, and that the growing generation is familiarized with the ideas from the beginning." It seems that in politics too we won't make much progress until dinosaurs like Mitch McConnell and Lindsay Graham leave the scene.

2019/10/05 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
In seventh grade, with my precious bike Breakfast in the courtyard, Iranian style! Yesterday, with my 10th-anniversary T-shirt for the 'UC Walks' program (1) Images of the day: [Left] In 7th grade, with my precious bike (see the last item below). [Center] Breakfast in the courtyard, Iranian style! [Right] With my 10th-anniversary T-shirt for the "UC Walks" program on 10/3.
(2) Trump keeps complaining that by impeaching him, the Democrats want to undo the 2016 election. Well, isn't correctin of an election error exactly what impeachment was designed for?
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Melinda Gates announces $1 billion commitment to gender equality.
- Today, I watched "The Wizard of Oz" at UCSB's Pollock Theater as part of the "Special Effects" film series.
- Today, I spent a couple of hours at California Avocado Festival in Carpinteria. [Photos] [Music video]
- College soccer: Eighteenth-ranked UCSB men defeated arch-rival Cal Poly 3-1. [Photos] [Halftime video]
- Tons of potato, crates of egg, barrels of drinks: Logistics of feeding passengers on monstrous cruise ships.
- Persian music: The oldie song "Jaan-e Maryam," performed by the cutest duo ever. [3-minute video]
(4) The year I failed a high-school course in drawing: Inspired by the story of a Facebook friend writing about how she failed a course in composition, being forced to retake the final exam at the end of summer, I decided to share my story of failing a high-school drawing course in 7th grade.
In the friend's case, she was asked to write an essay on "mothers," which she did in a minimalist, direct manner, with no "branches and leaves," as the Persian saying goes, because she thought she could not add much to what everyone already knew about how wonderful mothers are. For her very brief essay, she received a grade in single digits, which is deemed a "fail" in the 0-20 grading scale of the day.
In my youth, Iran's elementary and high-school classes went on for the entire acadmic year and you had to perform well in a final exam in June to pass a subject. In order to avoid having to repeat a full year of instruction, a student with non-passing grades in a handful of subjects would be given a chance to take make-up exams at the end of summer, the thinking being that s/he could use the summer months to study. This scheme was known as "tajdid" or "tajdidi" ("renewal").
And, now, my story. I was riding my bike (a luxury possession for me in those days) near our house in Vanak, a suburb of Tehran, when I lost track of time. By the time I remembered that I had a final exam for my drawing course that afternoon, it was already too late to take the bus to school.
The following day, after explaining to my family what had happened and being scolded for my carelessness, I took my dad along to school to talk the drawing teacher, Mr. Khodabandeh, into some sort of accommodation, but he would not budge. Non-science courses used to be second-class citizens in the curriculm, and teachers of arts and other subjects suffering from this indignity were very sensitive when students and their parents did not take such courses seriously.
The drawing teacher scolded me for not paying due attention to his course and insisted that I retake the exam in September, implying that I needed the summer to study for the exam. The irony is that I was pretty good in my calligraphy and drawing courses and I was always at or near the top of the class in every subject. Yet, the perception on the part of the drawing teacher that I cared only about math and science courses led to his decision to teach me a lesson.
I went to the venue for "renewal" exams in September, where I was the only student retaking the drawing test (repeating math and science exams was much more common). I passed with flying colors, but the incident discouraged me and left a blemish on my high-school record; who knows, I could have been a successful artist now! Repeating exams was for the loafing, truant students, not for academically serious ones!
[Facebook post, with Persian text

2019/10/04 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, NYT reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct case will be coming to UCSB on October 12, 7:30 PM Gender equity: Balance, with man and woman on the two sides Mattel has introduced gender-neutral dolls for a generation that demands inclusivity and equity (1) Images of the day: [Left] She Said: Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, the New York Times reporters, who broke the Harvey Weinstein sexual misconduct case and thereby helped start a movement, will be coming to UCSB's Campbell Hall on Saturday, October 12, 2019, 7:30 PM. [Center] Gender equity (see the last two items below). [Right] Mattel has introduced gender-neutral dolls for a generation that demands inclusivity and equity (image credit: Time magazine).
(2) Men Advocating for Gender Equity: I attended this follow-up workshop yesterday and today, as a next step to my May 9, 2019, attendance at the introductory workshop, "Men Allies for Gender Equity" (Facebook post).
The group of 10-12 men who attended the new workshop at various times are committed to helping women in their efforts to achieve gender equity at UCSB. The workshop was organized by Barbara Walker (UCSB) and led by Robert Gordon (Auburn U.) and Roger Green (ND State U.).
We crafted a mission statement (appended to the end of this post), made a list of objectives, devised our group's structure, activites, and activity timeline, and met with the Women's Advisory Board, which constitutes the primary campus entity working in the area of gender equity (and women's issues more generally).
I will post about this workshop, related challenges/strategies, and my personal action plan over the coming days and weeks. Immediately after this post, I will begin with an informative post about patriarchy, its causes and consequences.
Mission statement (draft of October 4, 2019): Men Advocating for Gender Equity is an interdisciplinary group of men-identified staff and faculty at UCSB committed to personal action and working with men in support of women on campus. Recognizing the existence of gender inequity, we will actively engage in targeted activities to measurably improve the climate for women across all units on campus, while maintaining accountability to women through the Women's Advisory Board.
(3) What is patriarchy? In the introductory chapter of his book, The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy (Temple Univ. Press, revised ed., 2005), Allan G. Johnson defines a patriarchal society as promoting male privilege by being male-dominated, male-identified, and male-centered, and organized around an obcession with control.
- Male domination: Positions of political, economic, legal, religious, ... authority generally reserved for men.
- Male identification: Core cultural ideas (what's good/desirable/preferable/normal) tied to men/masculinity.
- Male centeredness: Focus of attention in news, movies, and all else is primarily on men and what they do.
- Obcession with control: Men control women and anyone else who might threaten their privilege.
A key insight is the distinction between men and women as social classes and as individuals. There may be male domination and female oppression in a society, even though individual men may not feel dominant and some women may be shielded from oppression and objectification by factors such as class and personal accomplishments.
Most of us go about our lives without any ongoing awareness of the underlying structures and understandings that define social norms. Thus, a first step in achieving gender equity is to acknowledge the roots of patriarchy and male privilege.
Let me end this essay with a couple of quotes from The Gender Knot. On page 33, we read: "If a society is oppressive, then people who grow up and live in it will tend to accept, identify with, and participate in it as 'normal' and unremarkable life. ... When privilege and oppression are woven into the fabric of everyday life, we don't need to go out of our way to be overtly oppressive for a system of privilege to produce oppressive consequences, for, as Edmund Burke tells us, evil requires only that good people do nothing."
And on page 50, we read: "Ultimately, the choice is about empowering ourselves to take our share of responsibility for the patriarchal legacy that we've all inherited."

2019/10/03 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
San Francisco mural celebrates Iranian women imprisoned for their beliefs and political activism Mobile usability issues for my UCSB faculty Web site Someone thought that this hallway clock in UCSB's Harold Frank Hall should be given a personality! (1) Images of the day: [Left] San Francisco mural celebrates Iranian women imprisoned for their beliefs and defense of human rights. [Center] Mobile usability issues for my UCSB Web site (see the last item below). [Right] Someone thought that this hallway clock in UCSB's Harold Frank Hall should be given a personality!
(2) The Subway Soprano: Homeless opera singer receives an outpouring of support, including a recording contract, after a Los Angeles cop posted a video of her on-line. [Video report]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Doctor sentenced to 40-year jail term for illegally prescribing more than half a million doses of opioids.
- Knife-attacker shot dead after killing 4 at the police headquarters in Paris.
- All 87 paratroopers jumping out of a US military plane missed the target, landing atop trees; 23 injured.
- An Indian Mars orbiter is still working perfectly 5 years after it got there.
- I love this weather forecast for my hometown: But, it's fire season and the dry weather can spell disaster.
- Research of Prof. Yasamin Mostofi (my UCSB ECE colleague) on identifying a person from behind a wall.
(4) "Men Advocates for Gender Equity" workshop: This is a follow-up to an introductory workshop I had attended in spring. Look for the full report tomorrow. For now, chew on the following quotation.
"Discrimination isn't a thunderbolt, it isn't an abrupt slap in the face. It's the slow drumbeat of being underappreciated, feeling uncomfortable, and encountering roadblocks along the path to success. These subtle distinctions help make women feel out of place." ~ Meg Urry
(5) New mobile usability issues detected for site http://www.ece.ucsb.edu/~parhami/: This is the title of an unsolicited message I received from Google, pointing out three problems with my Web site when accessed via mobile devices: Viewpoint not set; Text too small to read; Clickable elements too close together. This was a necessary reminder, given that the template I have been using for my Web pages is designed for desktop/laptop access. It seems that a vast majority of users nowadays access Web sites using smartphones and tablets. I have to find some time to reassess the design of my Web site.

2019/10/02 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Carpet in a carpet: Clever and eerie Persian carpet design Time magazine cover: Trump has painted himself into a corner Winning entry in the 2019 'Westways' photo contest (1) Images of the day: [Left] Carpet in a carpet: Clever and eerie Persian carpet design. [Center] Trump seems to have painted himself into a corner. [Right] Westways (AAA magazine) photo contest: Here is the top pick for 2019, photographed from the hard-copy magazine. I could not find the top-winning images on-line, but the equally amazing runners-up are available on this Web page.
(2) Baha'is in Iran: In this Independent Persian article, Nasim Basiri writes about the mistreatment of Baha'is in Iran over the centuries, particularly their near-genocidal treatment after the Islamic Revolution.
(3) You would think that the Islamic Republic of Iran would be the least likely place for sex tapes and sexual scandals, but you'd be wrong: Infighting among those in power, revelations by those forced out of power, and dirty tricks by a variety of "intelligence agencies" subject to no oversight are producing a steady stream of fodder for social-media accusations and counter-accusations.
(4) Social-media humor: A guy finally asks a girl he got to know on Facebook to send him a photo. Upon receiving this photo, he asks: "Which one is you?" She answers: "The one eating Cheetos!"
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Mark Zuckerberg threatens to sue if Elizabeth Warren's administration tries to break up Facebook.
- In the largest gift of its kind, Cal Tech receives $750 million for sustainability research.
- Armenia-Iran joint stamp issue bears photos of Yerevan's Blue Mosque & Isfahan's Vank Church. [Image]
- Persian music: Old-time singer Iraj performs "Aavaa-ye Iran" ("Sound of Iran") with Salar Aghili.
(6) Disapproval voting: When we have a large number of candidates in an election, polls that force each participant to pick one and only one candidate may distort the results. Suppose that 75% of participants are almost equally comfortable with Biden, Sanders, and Warren. Forcing these voters to choose one candidate may lead to 25% support for each of the three candidates, say. If a fourth candidate gets 20%, s/he may appear to be pretty close to the leading candidates in terms of support level.
In approval voting, participants do not choose one candidate but select a subset that they would be comfortable with. In the hypothetical scenario above, each of the top three candidates would get 75% approval, which is a more accurate reflection of how the voters feel about them relative to the fourth candidate's 20%.
The opposite of approval voting is disapproval voting, reflected in this poll, which indicates Biden's selection as the Democratic candidate would disappoint twice as many voters (22%) as Buttigieg's (11%).

2019/09/30 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Teenagers' climate activism has old men in Washington running scared, viciously attacking and smearing the movement Selfie taken on Sunday 2019/09/29 en route to Goleta Lemon Festival Yesterday at Goleta Lemon Festival: Entrance to Girsh Park (1) Images of the day: [Left] Teenagers' climate activism has old men in Washington running scared, viciously attacking and smearing the movement: Make America Greta Again! [Center] Ready to greet a busy week of classes, office hours, and meetings: UCSB's fall quarter began last Thursday (selfie is from yesterday, en route to California Lemon Festival). [Right] Yesterday at Lemon Festival in Goleta (see the last item below).
(2) Mathematical puzzle: Two mathematically-talented sisters inherit 1 kg of gold dust and are instructed in the parents' will to divide it up in the following way. The older sister divides the gold dust into two piles A and B. She then divides pile A into A1 and A2. The younger sister is given a chance to take A1 or A2 or to decline either one. If she chooses one, then the other one plus pile B go to the older sister. If she declines, then she is given one of them (presumably the smaller one) and her choice of B1 or B2, after the older sister divides pile B into two parts. What is the optimal strategy for the older sister and what is the minimum amount of gold dust she will get with this strategy? [Source: Communications of the ACM, issue of October 2019]
Example: Suppose A1 = A2 = 1/4 kg and B = 1/2 kg. The younger sister will decline to choose A1 or A2 (because she would get just 1/4 kg, with the remaing 3/4 kg going to the older sister) and is given the smaller of the two (in this case 1/4 kg). Now the older sister must divide pile B and give the younger sister a chance to pick. The best she can do is to divide equally, giving the younger sister another 1/4 kg, for a total of 1/2 kg. The strategy above isn't optimal, because the older sister could get more.
(3) Trump says he wants to meet the whistle-blower who accused him of mob-like behavior: "If he wants to meet face to face with his accusers, there are about 25 women waiting ..." ~ @seraphinaspang
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- "Forever 21" is 21 no more: The chain has filed for bankruptcy and will close hundreds of its stores.
- Quote: "Rampant consumerism is not really that attractive to younger generations." ~ Rose Marcario
- UCSB's iconic Storke Tower turns 50. [Daily Nexus front page story]
- Nice performance of "Sway" by an Iranian a-cappella group. [2-minute video]
(5) California Lemon Festival, Girsh Park, Goleta, CA: I attended the Festival for a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon. Here are a few photos of the venue, kids activities, safety exhibits, and food court, where all things lemony were sold, from the obvious lemonade and lemon pie to the exotic lemon-flavored churro and lemon ale. The local rock/pop band Out of the Blue (OutOfThebBlueSB on Facebook) was performing on the main stage when I visited. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3] [Video 4]

2019/09/29 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, to all who observe it! Humor: Donald and Melania Trump in Iran Cover image of 'The Mirror of My Heart: A Thousand Years of Persian Poetry by Women' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Rosh Hashanah to all those who observe it! The new Hebrew calendar year 5780 will start tomorrow and, like all Jewish holidays, is celebrated beginning with the night before. Jewish traditional celebration of Rosh Hashanah involves several fruits and vegetables. For example, apple dipped in honey represents sweetness and pomegranate signifies fruitfulness. [Center] Humor: Iran reciprocates US's sanctions on political figures by banning the Trumps from entering Iran! [Right] Book introduction: The Mirror of My Heart: A Thousand Years of Persian Poetry by Women, introduced and translated by Dick Davis. I look forward to reading this book. From on-line sources, I couldn't determine whether the original Persian poems are included in the book. I hope they are. (List of poets)
(2) Visas revoked: The visas of a dozen Iranian students set to begin graduate programs in engineering and CS at American universities were abruptly canceled and the students barred from traveling to the United States.
(3) Physical and psychological scars of violence victims: In this 10-minute TEDx talk (in Persian), Marzieh Ebrahimi, an acid-spraying victim, wonders about the pent-up anger that led to her assailant's action and says that the psychological damage suffered by victims of violence are always worse than the physical wounds.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Facebook removes the pro-Trump "I Love America" page, because it was run from Ukraine.
- IEEE Central Coast Section talk: Professor Mahnoosh Alizadeh will speak on Wed. 10/16, 6:00 PM. [Details]
- A song that brings back fond memories from my youth: "Till the End of Time" performed by Earl Grant.
- College soccer: Last night, UCSB men's soccer team tied the top-ranked Stanford 3-3 after two overtimes.
(5) Persian music: A group of young students from Bushehr perform the oldie song "Majnoon-e To" ("Crazy for You") at Tehran's Vahdat Concert Hall. [5-minute video]
(6) Persian music: This wonderful oldie song entitled "Saraab" ("Mirage," music by Anoushirvan Rohani, lyricist unknown to me) is my absolute favorite. This 2-minute rendition, by an unnamed singer in a talent-competition show, is nice. Its original singers were Hayedeh and Hooshmand Aghili. [YouTube video]
(7) Saint Whisky: At this holy site in India, worshipers bring bottles of whisky, pouring part of the contents next to the grave and dividing the rest among the poor lined up at the entrance, bowls in hand!

2019/09/28 (Saturday): Book review: Sykes, Bryan, The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science that Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry, W. W. Norton & Company, 2001. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Named Helena, Jasmine, Kathrine, Tara, Ursula, Velda, and Xenia, the seven daughters of the book’s title are women who lived some 10,000 to 45,000 years ago, with nearly every European genetically linked to one of them. Figure 6 of the book, reproduced here, depicts the seven daughters (dark circles), along with their age and relationships. The map (not from the book) shows where the seven women lived and what percentage of modern Europeans are descendants of each.
Tracing of a human's female ancestors is easier than male ancestors, because of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) being passed from a mother to her daughters with very little error or modification. Because of this reliable and relatively error-free transmission of genes, it is possible to verify genetic relatedness over hundreds or even thousands of generations of maternal succession with near certainty. Mutations along this line of succession are rare, occuring roughtly once every 200+ generations, a fact that can be used to date mtDNA samples in a probabilistic sense. Through this method, all human beings in the world have been linked to the so-called "mitochondrial Eve," a female ancestor of all of humanity who lived 150,000 years ago.
Before the research described in this book, the prevailing theory about the ancestery of Europeans was the so-called "wave of advance" [p. 153], which suggests that Europeans are by and large descendants of Near-Eastern farmers who moved westward and dominated (genetically) the former residents of the continent. The first known domestication occurred about 11,000 years ago in the Near East [p. 135]. So, if the wave-of-advance theory were correct, nearly all European genes should be traceable to ancestors living after the end of the last Ice Age. Yet, only Jasmine, the maternal ancestor of 17% of Europeans, supports this theory. Ancestors of a vast majority of Europeans were already living in Europe well before the advent of farming [p. 184].
Sykes got a lucky break that helped him prove his theory regarding the reliable transmission of mtDNA. When the frozen remains of a 5000-year-old Ice Man were discovered in Italy in the 1990s, Sykes was called to examine them. He was able to extract genetic material from the long-dead body and eventually located one of his living descendants in Great Britain. An amazing feat, when one thinks about it. Many of us struggle to find our ancestors of a few generations ago, and this woman by sheer luck, found her Ice-Man ancestor from some 200 generations ago!
In studying the human pre-history, genetics is only one of the available tools. Genetic deductions can be combined with linguistic and archaeological discoveries to make more accurate connections. The developments in genetics are exciting, but there are also down sides. A vigorous battle is raging among corporations to patent genes in order to facilitate and attract investments. This is very troubling, as such patents may impede scientific research.
An unfortunate roadblock in tracing a person's female ancestery, which would lead to a maternal family tree [p. 291], is the practice of women adopting their husbands' surnames. So, when going generations back, it is common to lose the thread due to name changes. If we had the complementary practice of passing a woman's surname (what we now call maiden name) to children, following the lineage via mtDNA would have been much simpler [p. 291].
More than two dozen other daughters of eve have been discovered that are responsible for populations on other continents. While the author focuses on mtDNA, there is also a parallel paternal pathway through past generations via the SRY gene that one might say leads to "sons of Adam" [p. 187].
In the book's penultimate paragraph [pp. 296-297], the author philosophizes thus: "An electronic board in the lobby continuously flashed up the DNA sequences as they came off the machines. Before my very eyes the details of the genome that had been hidden for the whole of evolution were marching across the screen. Was this, the reduction of the human condition to a string of chemical letters, the ultimate expression of the Age of Reason that first began to separate our minds from our intuition and to distance us from nature and our ancestors? How ironic that DNA should also be the very instrument that reconnects us to the mysteries of our deep past and enhances rather than diminishes our sense of self."
Let me end my review by relating a few interesting tidbits from the book.
- Two fishermen on a small island in Scotland had ancestors in Portugal and Finland, respectively, with those ancestors related through someone in Siberia [p. 295]. The magic of genetics discovered this relationship that would have remained hidden otherwise.
- The world's most prolific male was Moulay Ismail, Emperor of Morocco, father to 700 sons at age 49 in 1721 (and perhaps as many daughters, but in those days, daughters weren't all that important, so no one kept track of the numbers). Moulay Ismail died in 1727, so he may have had many more children.
- The world's most prolific female was Mrs. Fedora Vassilyev of Russia who produced 69 children from 1725 to 1765. They were all multiple births: 6 pairs of twins, 7 sets of triplets, and 4 lots of quadruplets.

2019/09/27 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Space launch, photographed from space Washington State's newly introduced apple variety, 'Cosmic Crisp' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Space launch, photographed from space: This stunning photo, taken from the International Space Station by NASA astronaut Christina Koch, shows the launch of the ISS-bound spacecraft Soyuz MS-15, which carries her best friend, NASA flight engineer Jessica Meir, alongside Oleg Skripochka, from the Roscosmos (Russian space agency), and Hazzaa Ali Almansoori, the first UAE astronaut to go into space. [Center] Introducing a new apple: No, not an iPhone or another electronic device, but an actual apple you can sink your teeth into! After two decades of research, Washington State has introduced "Cosmic Crisp," in an attempt to diversify from "Red Delicious," now constituting 70% of its production (source: Time magazine, issue of September 30, 2019). [Right] The document known as "The Whistle-Blower Complaint," which has dominated the news over the past couple of days, is now available in both text and audio formats.
(2) Are hotel-room safes safe? Not really. Some of them are inadequately secured and light enough to be carried away. This video describes another reason.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Our stable genius with the best education and oversized brain thinks an apostrophe is a hyphen! [Tweet]
- The Ukraine-phone-call whistle-blower has overshadowed another one dealing with Trump's taxes.
- Brother and mother of exiled women's/human-rights activist Masih Alinejad have been arrested in Iran.
- Director Annie Dorsen to receive a $625,000 MacArthur Fellowship for her "algorithmic theater" work.
- People on the street were asked if we should let homo sapiens go extinct. Here are the hilarious results.
(4) Sustainable computing: Nobel-Laureate physicist Richard Feynman challenged computer scientists to make computing more energy-efficient. Now, with top-of-the-line supercomputers and data-center installations dissipating multi-megawatts of energy each, and ever-slimmer mobile devices running energy-hungry apps, his challenge takes on a greater significance. Stochastic computing, dealing with probabilistic rather than deterministic bits, is one of the promising ways for computing with less energy. [Nature: Editorial; Article]
[Citation: W. A. Borders, A. Z. Pervaiz, S. Fukami, K. Y. Camsari, H. Ohno, and S. Datta, "Integer Factorization Using Stochastic Magnetic Tunnel Junctions," Nature, Vol. 573, pp. 390-393, 2019.]
(5) Is it true that base 3 (ternary) is more efficient than base 2 (binary) for number representation? Base 3 is more efficient in the following sense, per one study in the early days of building digital computers. Suppose the cost of building an s-state device is linear in s. Then, a 3-bit register and a 2-trit register would cost the same (2 × 1.5 = 3), the former being capable of representing 8 states to the latter's 9. Base 4 comes out even with base 2, and it goes downhill from there. The linear-cost assumption is problematic. And the analysis ignores stability and noise-immunity considerations.

2019/09/26 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos taken this afternoon at West Campus Beach and Coal Oil Point, batch 1 Sign warning about mountain-lion sightings at Coal Oil Point Photos taken this afternoon at West Campus Beach and Coal Oil Point, batch 2 (1) Images of the day: Walking on the UCSB West Campus Beach, Coal Oil Point, and Devereux Slough on a cloudy but pleasant afternoon, along with warning sign where one or more mountain lions have been sighted.
(2) Flowcharting templates: Smithsonian's National Museum of American History has begun posting on-line descriptions of objects in its collections. One such collection holds flowcharting templates. Each of the early computer manufacturers made its own version of the template as a tool for users and programmers. Later on, stationaries and office-supply companies started offering such tools. The IBM flowcharting template shown along with its sleeve in this photo was one of my prized possessions in the 1970s.
(3) Quote of the day: "I did this for my human soul. For myself. I wanted to practice and compete with freedom, with peace of mind." ~ Saeid Mollaei, Iranian judo champ, on defying his government's directive to throw a match against an Israeli opponent
(4) Some facts from Time magazine's September 23, 2019, special issue on how earth can survive:
- Changing our diet is a big part of the solution.
- The hottest city on Earth is Jacobabad, Pakistan.
- Africa is poised to become a launchpad for clean energy.
- Women will play a major role in saving the Earth.
- Despite the grim situation, there are reasons for hope.
- Paper straws won't save us, but they carry symbolic significance.
- Cities should not be allowed to become climate sanctuaries for the rich.
- Some pension funds are doing good through their investments.
- The people of South Pacific are uniquely threatened by sea-level rise.
- There are bad ideas for green energy that must be weeded out.
- We can innovate our way out of this mess.
(5) UCSB's Sage Center for the Study of the Mind 2019-2020 lecture series (all lectures begin at 4:00 PM)
09/26 "Becoming Human: A Theory of Ontogeny" (Michael Tomasello, Duke U)
10/24 "The Organization and Evolution of Large-Scale Networks in Human Brain" (Randy Buckner, Harvard U)
10/28 "Faces" (Doris Tsao, Cal Tech)
11/04 "Objects" (Doris Tsao, Cal Tech)
11/21 "Making Predictions in the Social World" (Diana Tamir, Princeton U)
12/05 "W.E.I.R.D. Minds" (Joseph Henrich, Harvard U)
01/06 "The 1980s Biological Revolution in Psychiatry: What Really Happened" (Anne Harrington, Harvard U)
01/13 "The 1980s Biological Revolution in Psychiatry: What RH Next" (Anne Harrington, Harvard U)
02/13 "Straighten Up and Fly Right: Long Distance Dispersal and ..." (Michael Dickinson, Cal Tech)
02/27 "Recent Advances in the Neural Dust Platform: Can We Target ... ?" (Michel Maharbiz, UC Berkeley)
03/02 SAGE Center Lecture #1 by Michael Shadlen (Michael Shadlen, Columbia U)
03/09 SAGE Center Lecture #2 by Michael Shadlen (Michael Shadlen, Columbia U)
04/20 SAGE Center Lecture #1 by James DiCarlo (James DiCarlo, MIT)
04/27 SAGE Center Lecture #2 by James DiCarlo (James DiCarlo, MIT)
05/04 "The Essential Child: What Children Can Teach Us about the Human Mind" (Susan Gelman, U Michigan)
05/11 "Sharks Attack Humans, But Most Sharks Don't Attack Humans: ..." (Susan Gelman, U Michigan)
05/18 "How 'You' Makes Meaning" (Susan Gelman, U Michigan)
05/28 "Computational Neuroimaging of the Human Auditory Cortex" (Josh McDermott, MIT)
06/04 "The Beauty of Calculus" (Steven Strogatz, Cornell U)

2019/09/25 (Wednesday): Here are three book reviews, in an effort to make a dent in my huge backlog!
Cover image for 'I'll Be Gone in the Dark' Cover image for 'Becoming,' Michelle Obama's memoir Cover image for 'The Book of Rumi: 105 Stories and Fables that Illuminate, Delight, and Inform' (1) Book review: McNamara, Michelle, I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Gabra Zackman (introduction by Gillian Flynn; afterword by Patton Oswalt), Harper Audio, 2018. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The violent predator known at the Golden State Killer committed 50 sexual assaults in northern California during the 1970s, before moving south to commit 10 sadistic murders. He then disappeared with no trace in 1986, until his identification and capture in April 2018 (a couple of months after this book was published). Joseph James DeAngelo emerged as the sole suspect, based on DNA information obtained from genealogy companies that led to some of his family members.
The story hit home for me, as I encountered descriptions of crimes and locations in Goleta (northeast area, near San Jose Creek), Santa Barbara, and Ventura, and the police forces involved in investigating some of the crimes. In fact, at one point in the course of investigations, it was believed that the killer was from Goleta.
This book, which was in progress when Michelle McNamara, the tireless crime writer who pursued the killer, died in 2016, was finished by Mc Namara's lead researcher, Gillian Flynn. McNamara's husband Patton Oswalt provides an afterword.
McNamara's unwavering dedication to finding the killer is awe-inspiring, as is her detailed and systematic pursuit of even the smallest leads. It is unfortunate that she did not live to see the monster's capture and the administration of justice; he will either be sentenced to life in prison without parole or, more likely, death.
(2) Book review: Obama, Michelle, Becoming, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Random House Audio, 2018. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The book is divided into three roughly equal parts: Childhood and youth, as Michelle Robinson ("becoming me"), the early years with Barack Obama, until he was elected US president ("becoming us"), and life in the spotlight ("becoming more").
"Becoming me": Michelle had to overcome a lot of obstacles during her working-class childhood in South Chicago. Her father was a boiler operator and, growing up, Michelle was not expected to go far in life. She essentially lived in the shadow and under the protection of her brother Craig, a basketball star who went to Princeton on athletic scholarship. She managed to attend Princeton and Harvard Law, landing at the prestigious Chicago law firm of Sidley & Austin, where she met Barack.
"Becoming us": That Michelle and Barack became a couple is rather surprising. Her organized, rule-following nature clashed with the dreamy, audacious trajectory of her husband-to-be. When Barack would call to say "I'm on my way," it did not actually mean that he was moving but that he had the intention of going home once he had taken care of urgent stuff. Punctuality wasn't his thing. Once it became clear that Barack would enter the political arena, the couple had to go through marriage counseling to keep tensions in check.
"Becoming more": This is the part I was most interested in when I decided to read the book. Any political spouse is under intense pressure and has to sacrifice a great deal. S/he isn't really free to speak and must hold his/her tongue to avoid being criticized or, worse, hurting the spouse holding office. Maintaining a semblance of family life and near-normal childhood for the kids is an even bigger challenge. Years of practice in the White House seems to have paid off, for, even though Michelle does not spare her husband's successor, she criticizes him in measured terms.
This is a very personal and literate memoir, from a political spouse who has what it takes to be a political figure herself but preferred to table her own ambitions to play a supporting role. Barack, for his part, has expressed gratitude for Michelle's role and continues to praise her as "his rock" every chance he gets. It's easy to forget the enormity of Michelle's challenges in the White House as the first black First Lady. She does mention the unfair attacks on her looks, fashion sense, and so on, but chooses not to dwell on them, preferring to maintain her optimistic outlook for our country.
The reaction to this book, like opinions on everything the Obamas did, is bimodal: On Amazon.com, the average rating for the book based on ~15,000 reviews is the near-perfect 4.9 stars; there are many 1-star reviews, though, and these negative reviews are liked by thousands of people.
(3) Book review: Mowlavi/Rumi (Translated by Maryam Mafi), The Book of Rumi: 105 Stories and Fables that Illuminate, Delight, and Inform, unabridged audiobook on 4 CDs, read by Keith Szarabajka, Blackstone Audio, 2018. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Stripped of their magnificient poetic forms, most of the translated stories in this book come across as banal and simple-minded. For someone like me, who has read Mowlavi's telling of the stories, they are eminently recognizable, but those being introduced to Rumi's musings for the first time (the book's apparent target audience), the tales are less than impressive.
The 105 stories chosen for the book are some of the shorter ones in the 6-volume Masnavi, Mowlavi's magnum opus. The classic and oft-told stories, such as "Moses and the Shepherd," fare better in this retelling, but the vast majority, particularly those with no clear "punch line" or moral conclusion, are literally left hanging.
Much like the tales of 1001 Nights, Masnavi is essentially a retelling of stories that come from various cultures around the world. One can't help but wonder whether this book and its translated stories constitute the best way of introducing Western audiences to Mowlavi's/Rumi's philosophy and magical writings.

2019/09/24 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Greta Thunberg at the UN, watching in disbelief as Donald Trump walks by Tehran University's College of Engineering 50th graduation anniversary memorabilia Time magazine cover image about the crisis of deaths from vaping in the US (1) Images of the day: [Left] Trump mocks teen climate activist Greta Thunberg in a tweet: What else can a demagogue do when he is incapable of reasoned exchange based on facts? (Photo shows Thunberg at the UN, watching in disbelief as Trump walks by.) [Center] Tehran University's College of Engineering 50th graduation anniversary memorabilia: Booklet printed with photos and bios of my classmates (cover and sample page), a trophy (which bears the name of another classmate and must be exchanged the next time I see him), and DVD collection from last year's ceremonies in Tehran. [Right] I hope we don't make the same mistake with vaping as we made with cigarettes: Let's admit to and counteract deaths from vaping while they number in the dozens, not after they reach millions!
(2) Profs at the Pub speaker series: Professor Juan Campo (UCSB Department of Religious Studies, and my next-door neighbor) will speak on "Understanding US-Iranian Confrontations in the Persian Gulf: Religion, Politics, and Oil" (Wed. 9/25, 5:30 PM, SB Cider Co., 325 Rutherford St., Suite D, Goleta). [Flyer]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Impeachment inquiry: Pelosi indicates that the House Democrats are ready to proceed with impeachment.
- Inside the quiet feud between Ivanka and Don Jr. for succeeding their father as MAGA Empire's ruler.
- Kurdish music and dance. [4-minute video]
- Space-elevator concept for transporting passengers and cargo to/from the moon deemed feasible.
(4) UCLA celebrates, as the Internet turns 50: When I arrived at UCLA in the summer of 1970 to pursue a PhD in computer science, a dedicated group of faculty members and graduate students had already laid the foundations of ARPANET, not quite knowing that they were destined to play a major role in the connectivity revolution that followed. A couple of the team's grad-student members were in the same office suite as mine, and the rest were just a few steps away along the corridor in Boelter Hall. Over the next 4 years, I had a court-side seat to witness exciting technical developments, as a long sequence of firsts unraveled right in front of my eyes. I proudly join in this celebration of the institution that made it all happen! [Announcement]

2019/09/23 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB campus in the vicinity of Campbell Hall, today Time magazine'sSeptember 23 double-issue on environmental challenges Cover of 'Know My Name,' a just-published book by the sexual assault survivor Chanel Miller (1) Images of the day: [Left] UCSB campus in the vicinity of Campbell Hall, today (see the last item below). [Center] Time magazine has published its September 23 double-issue on environmental challenges: Young citizens of the world create hope that once the anti-environmentalism geezers are gone, our precious Earth will be in good hands. [Right] Cover of Know My Name, a just-published book by the sexual assault survivor Chanel Miller (see the next to the last item below).
(2) Math puzzle/problem: A bag contains 7 red and 4 blue balls. If we draw a ball at random, the probability that it's red is 7/11. If we draw two balls at random, what is the probability that the second ball drawn is red?
(3) Representative and presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard hammers Trump for putting US military personnel and other assets at the disposal of Saudi Prince MBS.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Collapse of world's oldest travel firm, in business since 1841, strands 0.5 million vacationers worldwide.
- Drought uncovers Spanish 'Stonehenge' which had been submerged for decades.
- Shades of Atlantis: Lost continent found 1500 km under Europ reveals Earth's missing history.
- The symmetry and chaos of megacities captured by architectural photographer Ryan Koopmans. [Pictorial]
- Group photos from my Georgia trip, taken inside and at the gate of the historic Gonio-Apsarus Fort.
- Yet another batch of photos from my Georgia trip, sent to me by various friends.
(5) Know My Name: This is the title of a book by sexual assault survivor Chanel Miller, who at the time of the 2016 trial of her rapist, Stanford student-athlete Brock Turner, was known as "Emily Doe." Turner got a slap on the wrist, when the judge cited his "good character" to sentence him to 6 months in prison, with the possibility of getting out in 3. The 27-year-old, who studied literature at UCSB, has come forward with her story, hence the title of her book. Here is the must-see CBS "60 Minutes" report on this champion of the #MeToo movement who points out that the punishment for getting drunk shouldn't be rape. [28-minute video]
(6) A new academic year begins: Fall quarter officially started on Sunday at many UC campuses and classes will begin on Thursday 9/26. Today, our campus was abuzz with new undergraduate and graduate students trying to find their way to various offices and pre-instructional activities, and returning students resuming their academic plans a year closer to their goal. My own class (a graduate course on fault-tolerant computing), which kicks off my 47th year of teaching, begins on Monday 9/30. Welcome to the academic year 2019-2020!

2019/09/21 (Saturday): My journey back from Tbilisi to Santa Barbara, and some reflections on Georgia.
Returning home from Georgia, via Istanbul (miscellaneous images) A Persian couplet I wrote in celebration of our Georgia reunion Learning a few Turkish words from bilingual signs [Images: [Left] Returning home from Georgia, via Istanbul (see the description below). [Center] A Persian couplet I wrote in celebration of our Georgia reunion. The poem's half-verse initial letters spell the word "friend" in Persian ("rafigh"). [Right] Learning a few Turkish words from bilingual signs at Istanbul International Airport. Vague memories of Azeri from my grades 1-3 schooling in Tabriz were helpful.]
The 2.5-hour flight from Tbilisi to Istanbul began okay, but it soon turned into an elbow-fest when the largish guy in the middle seat next to me fell asleep. I seem to be getting more than my fair share of inconsiderate people on flights. This, however, turned out to be the smallest of my problems.
The plane had to circle the airport before landing, thus arriving 15 minutes late. I was seated near the tail of the completely-full plane, so, by the time I disembarked, 20 minutes of my 60-minute layover had been eaten up. I was happy with the short layover, given my 13-hour wait at IST en route to Tbilisi. In retrospect, the 60-minute inter-flight time was too short, given that I had to walk from one end of the world's largest airport to the other end and, much to my surprise, had to pass through security again (an unusual occurrence when transferring from one international flight to another).
Needless to say, I missed my LAX flight, given that nowadays, at many airports, they stop boarding and close the gates some 15 minutes before flight time, baggage security concerns and full flights with waiting lists being the main culprits. Where are all those flight delays when you need them?
Next, I had to find Turkish Airlines' service desk in the vast airport, based on incomplete and vague directions. Turks apparently aren't very good at giving directions. They are also unfamiliar with the notion of service (much like other Middle-Easterners), acting like bosses who are doing passengers big favors by talking to them. One young woman was playing with her phone, as I waited at a counter to ask a question, taking at least 5 minutes to acknowledge my presence.
Eventually, I was told that the earliest time I could leave Istanbul was 24 hours later (same flight, the next day) and was given a free hotel room for the night. To take advantage of this offer, I had to obtain a Turkish visa (not that I was given the info right there, but had to find out about it after going back and forth between various terminal exits). Given the rainy weather outside, I decided that I couldn't do much with an afternoon's stay in Istanbul, having to return to the airport around 9:00 AM the next day.
At any rate, my 1-hour layover turned into a 25-hour one. And I had a 13-hour layover at IST en route to Georgia. At one point, I remembered the Tom Hanks movie "The Terminal," as I went back and forth between coffee shops and restaurants in search of WiFi, having exhausted my 1-hour block of free Internet connection from Turkish Telecom's airport network. There was no way to buy more time, and my Verizon TravelPass service, announced with fanfare via an SMS as soon as I entered the airport, did not work. I was briefly connected to the Internet through a coffee shop's network, but that connection was soon lost, never to return. Next time I go to Starbucks, I will enjoy and appreciate their WiFi service even more!
Fortunately, the wonderful week-long Georgia reunion with classmates from Tehran University's College of Engineering and their families (25 people in all) made the troubles getting there and back worthwhile. It's amazing that friendships forged 51-55 years ago have remained so strong! It seems that high-school and college friendships are quite enduring.
Let me end this last installment of my "What I Did This Summer" essay (presented over the past 11 days) with some reflections on Georgia, an economically disadvantaged, but culturally rich, country, sandwiched between the Great Caucasus Mountains to its north and the Lesser Caucasus to its south. The Great Caucasus range extends between Caspian and Black Seas, but georgia itself is not connected to the Caspian (Azerbaijan sits between them). Georgia's nature is stunningly beautiful, both in its dry form to the east (Tbilisi region) and the lush greenery, reminiscent of Iran's Caspian coast, towards the Black Sea (where Batumi is located).
Georgians are erecting quite a few modern buildings, many with impressive architectures, but they remain sensitive to preserving their heritage. Historical sites are well-maintained and a source of pride. In some Tbilisi neighborhoods, building facades must be kept in their original forms by owners, limiting any renovations to the buildings' interiors, with exceptions granted for buildings that are deemed unsafe and must be razed. Transparency in government is another source of pride for Georgians.
For a country whose economy is heavily dependent on tourism (Batumi is known as the Las Vegas of the region), surprisingly few Georgians speak English or another Western language, and those who do, have very limited vocabularies. While I liked last year's visit to Armenia better, I do recommend a visit to Georgia to adventurous souls. Next year, the same group of friends may meet in Tajikistan.

2019/09/19 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
My photo with a couple of statues sitting on a bench in Tbilisi My photo in front of an 'I Heart Tbilisi' sign Part of our final group photo in Tbilisi (1) Images of the day (see the last two items below): [Left & Center] Photos taken during my last stroll in Tbilisi, Georgia. [Right] Part of our final group photo taken after dinner in our Tbilisi hotel.
(2) After years of officially denying that Baha'is and other "unofficial" minorities face education ban and other illegal curtailments of their civil rights, Iran makes the discriminatory policies public.
(3) UCSB becomes home to the nation's first NSF-funded Quantum Foundry: One of the two leaders of the $25 million center charged with developing materials for quantum information-based technologies, Professor Ania Bleszynski Jayich (Physics), is my next-door neighbor at UCSB's Faculty Housing.
(4) Another channel for the illegal data gathering: Northeastern University and UK's Imperial College London researchers have found that certain smart TVs transmit information like location and Internet Protocol (IP) addresses to Netflix, Facebook, and third-party services, in some cases even when the devices are turned off.
(5) Taking the train from Batumi back to Tbilisi: The train ride was quite pleasant and much more comfortable than the bus ride going to Batumi. [Photos and time-lapse videos] The two time-lapse videos were recorded right after leaving Batumi and just before arrival in Tbilisi. We happened to ride on the same train that carried a large group of musicians on their way to their respective home countries via Tbilisi, after attending a music festival in Batumi. A woman violinist from the group, along with our own Joseph Salimpour and the Fanni singers, entertained us en route to Tbilisi. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3] [Video 4] [Video 5] [Video 6]
(6) Last stroll in Tbilisi and our farewell dinner: After a late lunch in Tbilisi's city center [Photos] [Video], we walked through narrow streets lined with restaurants and gift shops and ended at the arts-and-crafts-rich Dry Bridge area. [Video] Back at the hotel, we had our farewell dinner [Video] and took several group photos with our reunion banner. [Sample photo]

2019/09/18 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo taken at one of Batumi's Botnaic Gardens' many vista points The walkway along the waterfront in Batumi Sample architecture along Batumi's waterfront (1) Images of the day (see the last item below): [Left] Photo taken at one of Batumi's Botnaic Gardens' many vista points. [Center & Right] Photos taken during my long walk along Batumi's waterfront.
(2) The homeless hurt property values: In case you were wondering why Trump suddenly became interested in the homelessness problem. Ditto, California's stricter clean-air standards
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Cokie Roberts, of ABC-News and PBS fame, dead at 75: The orange Grinch wishes her family well!
- Political humor: Sharpie-ing the US Constitution! [Tweet image]
- Cartoon of the day: Screaming "Death to America" (Iran) versus thinking it (Saudi Arabia). [Image]
- Iran suspended from judo competition for forcing athletes to withdraw rather than face Israeli opponents.
(4) Exploring western Georgia (day 2): The first and main stop today was Batumi's Botanical Gardens, a heavenly expanse of greenery and flowers atop rolling hills, right by the Black Sea. The park is divided into sections, with trees and shrubs from East Asia, Australia, North America, and nearly every other region of the world on display. The regional greenery areas are punctuated by flower gardens and vista points everywhere. Over a 3-hour period, we walked along the park's winding trails, from the upper (higher) entrance to the lower one, where we were picked up by our tour vans. Anyone interested in plant species can spend a full day at this wonderful park and still fall short of seeing everything. [Photos]
Our second stop today was for having lunch at Mimino Georgian Restaurant in Batumi's city center. Menu selections included a variety of local dishes. A few dogs were roaming around our tables, at times coming uncomfortably close to us. [Photos] [A video recorded around the lunch table; the jerky camera motions are due to having to walk carefully, so as not to step on several dogs resting on the floor, just behind our chairs.]
After lunch, we were on our own with regard to activities. Many went to get ice cream, others wanted to do some shopping downtown. A friend and I decided to walk to our hotel (Aqua Batumi) along the shore, thinking it was only 45 minutes away on foot. We ended up walking for more than 1.5 hours (7 km). On the way to the hotel, I photographed massive or architecturally interesting buildings (mostly hotels or condo/apartment complexes overlooking the Black Sea). With all these buildings already in place, much construction is still going on. We had already walked 3-4 km at the Botanic Gardens, so, just like my phone's battery, my own battery was drained shortly before we got to the hotel (last photo in this sequence). One of the photos shows a wide concrete walkway along the seashore that is designed to look like a wooden boardwalk.

2019/09/17 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The Batumi beach-park statue named 'Ali & Nino' Two photos of me, and their FaceApp-edited versions Group photo with the reunion banner, taken during out lunch on the river (1) Images of the day: [Left] The Batumi beach-park statue named 'Ali & Nino' (see the last item below). [Center] A friend, who likes to play with his FaceApp photo-editing software, created these portraits of me. [Right] Group photo with the reunion banner, taken during out lunch on the river (see the last item below).
(2) Ethics in research funding: Computer scientist Richard Stallman, who defended Jeffrey Epstein, resigns from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab and the Free Software Foundation.
(3) Winds of war are ablowing: Iran denies involvement in the extensive bombing of Saudi oil facilities, said to have cut their production capacity in half, but it's hard to imagine a scenario where Iran isn't a target of retaliation by the US.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Looking at the Black Sea from my 5th-story hotel room in Batumi: Early morning and at sunset. [Photos]
- Group photos with reunion banner, taken at a waterfront park in Batumi. [Photos]
- With the Khan Afshar family at a beach park in Batumi, Georgia. [Photos]
- More photos taken on the beach in Batumi, courtesy of fellow-travelers. [Photos]
(5) Exploring western Georgia (day 1): We began this morning by visiting a waterfront park in Batumi. One of the most interesting sights there was a dynamic statue named "Ali & Nino." The man and woman statues are installed on bases that rotate around eccentric axes. As the bases rotate, the statues get closer and eventually pass through each other. [More photos]
In Georgia, fruits, such as these yummy Cornelian cherries, figs, mixed berries, as well as Georgian nuts and other kinds of nuts, are sold in plastic cups for about 5 laris (~ $1.50) by street vendors.
Next, we headed to the Gonio-Apsarus Fort in an area very close to Georgia's border with Turkey, where people have resided since the 13th century BCE. Within the fort itself, excavations have uncovered artifacts, spanning in age from the 3rd century BCE. The grave of Saint Matthias, one of the 12 apostles, is believed to be inside the fort. In the 2nd century CE, Gonio-Apsarus was a well-fortified Roman city, with areas devoted to warfare, economy, arts, and so on. [My photos] [More photos, courtesy of fellow travellers] [Video 1: Our travel-mates helping with food prep for today's lunch] [Video 2: Lunch, served on a raft] [Video 3: Floating on the river after lunch] [Video 4: Music and dancing on the raft]
A beautiful waterfall constituted our last stop before returning to our hotel. The short hike from where our tour vans parked to the base of the fall reminded me of Tehran's Darband region. [Photos] [Video]
We ended our day with a gathering at one of our hotel rooms for some bread, cheese, fruits, and nuts. Midway through our gathering, we were startled when the bed gave way with a big bang! [Video] [More photos]

2019/09/16 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Athletes around the world show solidarity with Iranian women athletes and spectators (1) Images of the day: [Left] Athletes around the world support Iranian women athletes and spectators. [Center & Right] At Sighnaghi, the City of Love: The restaurant where we had lunch served native dishes and had an adjoining traditional bakery that baked exquisite French-baguette-like bread. [More photos]
(2) Tensions in the Middle East: Yesterday morning, before leaving our hotel and thus being cut off from WiFi and world news, we heard about the troubling drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities. Checking the news, I see that there still isn't reliable info about the extent of damage done and its possible consequences. Hoping for better news when I wake up tomorrow morning.
(3) Bodbe Monastery: Yesterday's main stop en route to Sighnaghi was a 9th-Century Orthodox religious complex, which has been renovated several times. [Monastery photos] [On the minibus: Video 1, Video 2]
(4) Yesterday's alternate program: When we visited Sighnaghi, the City of Love, a second group of our fellow-travelers to Georgia went in the opposite direction from Tbilisi, toward Gori. Among interesting places they visited was Uplistsikhe, an area with a wide range of historical sites, dating from the Early Iron Age to the Late Middle Ages. [Image]
(5) Dinner time gathering: Upon our return from Sighnaghi (and Gori), we gathered at one of our hotel rooms to have a light dinner (with some of the items having been brought from Iran) and to enjoy the musical talents of our fellow travelers. [Photos] [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3] [Video 4]
(6) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Our tour group with reunion banner at Turtle Lake (Tbilisi's water storage reservoir), on 9/14. [Photo]
- The song "Beh Esfahan Ro" ("Go to Esfahan") by Taj Esfahani, performed by his daughter, Ms. Homa Taj.
- Music on the bus, en route from Tbilisi to Batumi. [Video]
- Yanni in concert: "For All Seasons"
(7) There wasn't much to report from Georgia today: We took a shared bus from Tbilisi to the modern and beautiful Black-Sea port of Batumi, nick-named the Las Vegas of the Black Sea, with two other groups. The trip took nearly the entire day. Traffic was awful at both ends. There are a lot of road closures and restrictions in Tbilisi, where the movie "Fast and Furious 9" is being filmed. The cross-country road consisted mostly of winding, very narrow, 2-lane segments, where getting stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle meant significant delays. There were several bathroom/snack stops and a lunch stop. Use of bathrooms is generally not free in Georgia and there is often an old lady sitting at the entrance to collect the 0.5 lari ($0.17) fee. One bathroom, more modern than the others, also insulted the male patrons with sexist murals. We passed by, but did not stop at, the Georgia History Monument on top of a hill overlooking Tbilisi Lake. [Photos/Images]

2019/09/14 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo of me in front of the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi Map of central Tbilisi, Georgia (1) Images of the day: [Left] Today's visit to the Holy Trinity Cathedral of Tbilisi: The Orthodox Georgians take their religion seriously. Women had to wear a headscarf and I was asked to cover my legs because I was wearing shorts! The main cathedral is surrounded by some 10 smaller structures that serve as religious schools. (More photos) (Video) [Center] Map of central Tbilisi. [Right] Part of today's tour in Tbilisi: Bath houses from the era of the Persian king Shah Abbas, a nearby waterfall, and the Bridge of Love. (More photos)
(2) FIFA's puzzling stance: Rather than penalize Iran's sports bodies, as previously indicated, FIFA just asks Iranian authorities to ensure the freedom and safety of women fighting Iran's stadium ban. So, it seems that FIFA is okay with the ban itself, as long as women are allowed to protest against it!
(3) Is he really joking? Every time Trump mentions or retweets the crazy idea that he should serve a third term, he says he meant it as a joke. I am not so sure! [Image]
(4) Part of Saturday 9/14 tour in Tbilisi, Georgia: The Peace Bridge and its vicinity, including the hill-top Presidential Palace with its glass dome, said to be a symbol for transparency in government. The current President of Georgia is a woman, Salome Zourabichvili. [Photos]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- UCSB in the top 10 again, deemed the 7th best public university in the US News & World Report ranking.
- A subset of our Tbilisi reunion group, as we were getting ready to depart on our tour this morning. [Video]
- Today's late lunch at the 1001 Nights Persian restaurant in Tbilisi, Georgia. [Photos]
- Music and dancing near the Bridge of Love in Tbilisi, Georgia. [1-minute video]
- Miscellaneous photos from today's tour of Tbilisi.
- Parts of Tbilisi from the bus window: The large bus carried other tour groups besides ours. [Video]
(6) Videos from dinner at a traditional Georgian restaurant with live entertainment: The meal was served over a couple of hours in the form of many shared plates, with a local wine in pitchers and a variety of soft drinks. Having had a big late lunch, I could only partake of some bread and cheese, along with fruit dessert, missing the sumptuous appetizers and kebobs. [Around the dinner table] [Music and dance from the Caucuses] [Performance of "Hava Nagila" with some of the diners dancing to it: According to one of our tour guides, Georgians are very fond of Israel, because it supported them in their conflicts with Russia] [3-minute video, courtesy of fellow-traveler Mostafa Joharifard]

2019/09/13 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Two interesting puzzles I encountered for the first time during my LAX-IST flight Selfie taken at Istanbul International Airport Cartoon of the day: Iranian men who go to sporting events seem to be indifferent to the plight of women fighting the unfair and ridiculous ban on their attendance at sports stadiums
Selfie taken at the park on the Roof of Tbilisi A few group photos taken on Tbilisi streets Selfie taken at the inclined tram taking us to the Roof of Tbilisi (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Two puzzles I encountered for the first time during my LAX-IST flight: A crossword puzzle with 0 or 2 letters in each box and a geometric puzzle, with an example given. (Solutions) [Top center] At Istanbul International Airport (see next to the last item below). [Top right] Cartoon of the day: Iranian men who go to sporting events seem to be indifferent to the plight of women fighting the unfair and ridiculous ban on their attendance at sports stadiums (credit: Iranwire.com) (See my poem in the next item). [Bottom left] At the park on the Roof of Tbilisi. [Bottom center] A few group photos on the streets of Tbilisi. [Bottom right] On the inclined tram taking us to the Roof of Tbilisi (see the last item below).
(2) My poem for Iranian women's equity struggles: "Colors of Division and Unity: For the Blue Girl"
[The girl who self-immolated to protest her prison sentence for sneaking into a soccer stadium against the law]
In America, | They divide us, | Into Blue and Red. | Colors meant to unite; | The flag's Sky and Stripe.
In Iran, | There's a Green tribe, | And one leaning Red. | Each filled with spite, | Except alongside White.
But today, | Two other shades, | Cover my aching heart. | A girl dressed in Blue, | Engulfed in Orangish hue.
(3) Travel story, Wednesday 9/11 at LAX: During the long wait to check in for my Turkish Airlines flight, as the line snaked ahead, I intermittently found myself next to two older Iranian women. One was singing the praises of her daughter (pretty, slim, tall, smart, in that order). The other one asked if she had a photo, which she did. You have heard of a match made in heaven. This one may end up being a match made in La La Land! So, I watched my Turkish serial even before getting on the plane!
(4) Half a day at Istanbul's International Airport: I had a 13-hour layover, with no WiFi access, at IST. First, the entire WiFi system was down. Then, I couldn't make the complex connection process work. The system was supposed to send me an SMS code for access, which never arrived, despite repeated attempts. Then I got a stream of 20 or so codes upon arriving at Tbilisi Airport! IST is an architecturally stunning brand-new Airport, half of which is covered with duty-free shops, having more employees than customers. There are also many restaurants and fashion boutiques. Not a single water fountain, though. Having missed my daily dose of news whoppers from you-know-who, I took a selfie in front of Burger King, home of the whopper. I also made good progress on writing a new paper, in part because of lack of WiFi access. [More photos] [My LAX-IST flight]
(5) Tbilisi, Georgia: A City with a rich history, built atop buried ancient civilizations, including those that date from 8000 or more years ago. You can get roughly 3 laris for one US dollar. A cab ride in the city costs 5-8 laris. Most cars are fairly old, and some have their steering wheels on the right. Sidewalks are uneven, some to the point of being dangerous. [Images] In the evening of our first day in Tbilisi, we took taxis downtown, walked up steep streets (a la San Francisco), and rode a tram on an inclined track to the Roof of Tbilisi, from where the entire city can be seen. [Photos] We ended the day by dining at a food court at a shopping center, trying some local favorites, including khinkali (stuffed dumplings), khachapuri (a pizza-like dish with egg on top), and a Georgia red wine. [Panoramic photo]

2019/09/11 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Abider Heights, a district within Iran's western city of Sanandaj Broiling corn on the cob, Iranian style (balaal) Nature's wonderful colors in Tehran, Iran: Purple flowers (1) Iran-related images of the day: [Left] Abider Heights, a district within Iran's western city of Sanandaj. [Center] Broiling corn on the cob, Iranian style (balaal): Traditionally, the corns are dipped in salt water before eating. [Right] Nature's wonderful colors on the Caspian shore, Iran (photo credit: Vida Vaziri).
(2) The 18th anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks: Today, we remember nearly 3000 Americans who died on September 11, 2001, as planes were crashed deliberately into both of the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City, the Pentagon Headquarters in Washington, DC, and, in an attempt thwarted by brave passengers, a field in southwestern Pennsylvania. The events that took shape on that fateful day 18 years ago led to the still-ongoing war in Afghanistan, where in the wee hours of Wednesday, a rocket exploded at the US Embassy in Kabul, apparently with no casualties.
(3) "And the Waltz Goes On": Andre Rieu conducts a piece composed by Anthony Hopkins some 50 years ago, before he became an actor. Hopkins' wife provided the notes to Rieu, who invited Hopkins to his concert and performed the waltz as a surprise to him. [6-minute video]
(4) Another look at the Mongols: They had a technology-rich civilization and military (put to bad use, of course). They adopted technology and cultural practices from the people they conquered, growing their empire to 12 million square miles during 162 years of aggressive expansion. The empire, which at its peak covered most of Eurasia (second-largest ever), lasted from 1206 until 1368. [Photos]
(5) Persian typography and Iran's first newspaper: Sharing info sent to me by Behnam Esfahbod, following our chat in Palo Alto during the 40th TUG Annual Conference. We share interests in the printing/display of Persian script (Persian computing, more generally) and have kept in touch after the conference.
[Timeline (history) of Persian computing] [Borna Izadpanah's article about the first Persian-language newspaper, Kaqaz-e Akhbar] [BBC Persian interview with Borna Izadpanah about Persian newspaper fonts] [Talk entitled "Early Persian Printing and Typography in Europe" (19-minute video)] [Brief information about Lalezar and two other typefaces developed by Borna Izadpanah]
(6) History of desktop publishing: IEEE Annals of the History of Computing has published two special issues (July-September 2018 and July-September 2019) on the history of desktop publishing, with a 2020 issue containing more articles on the topic in the pipeline. You can find the tables of contents for the two issues, along with a wealth of extra material (including oral-history interviews) on this Web page.
(7) No blog posts for more than a week: I will be visiting Georgia (the republic) until Friday 9/20, as part of a college reunion for our 51st graduation anniversary. I will fill the gap in my posts upon my return.

2019/09/10 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Image of Iran's first newspaper: Kaqaz-e Akhbar Group photo of first-year Democratic reps in US Congress showing their unity Lost in translation: The name 'Kamal Ghassemi' somehow changes to 'Kazem Ghassemi' in English on this street sign (1) Images of the day: [Left] Iran's first newspaper (see the last item below). [Center] First-year Democratic reps in US Congress, more than half of them women, send Trump a photo to show their unity. [Right] Lost in translation: The name "Kamal Ghassemi" somehow becomes "Kazem Ghassemi" in English on this street sign.
(2) Tainted money in research: MIT Media Lab Director resigns over accusations that he helped hide from public records donations made or facilitated by Jeffrey Epstein.
(3) Only Trump can claim credit for both scheduling secret talks with Islamists who have killed thousands in bombing of civilians and in government-sanctioned executions and for canceling the said talks because the group committed an act of terrorism!
(4) To Trump, "advice" means saying "yes sir" to all of your ideas: Everyone saw the firing of John Bolton as inevitable. Just another discarded sheet of soiled toilet paper! Fortunately for Trump, there seems to be an endless supply of toilet paper. Somewhat good news for Iran, though.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Powerful message on gun safety from the leading Democratic candidates for US presidency. [Video]
- The dinosaurs' last day on Earth: Interesting new details of what happened on that day, 66M years ago.
- Riddle: What is H2O4? Answer: Drinking!
- Bean ... James Bean: Mr. Bean, being hilarious, as usual! [Video]
- Humor: Medical terminology for the layman. [Image]
- Symphony of life: Iran's nature captured by a Panasonic Gh5s camera. [3-minute video]
- Art: Did Leonardo da Vinci paint a second 'Mona Lisa'? Some art historians believe that he did.
(6) "The Blue Girl" dies in Iran: Sahar Khodayari had set herself on fire to protest her jail term for sneaking into a stadium to watch soccer. FIFA and other international bodies are under intense pressure to boycott Iran for its rampant gender discrimination. Also, Iranian men are being urged not to attend sporting events, until the ban on women's attendance is lifted. Sadly, I don't believe that the latter will happen.
(7) 42 = (–80538738812075974)^3 + (80435758145817515)^3 + (12602123297335631)^3: This seemingly useless identity supplies the last piece of a longstanding math puzzle about whether all natural numbers up to 100 can be written as sums of 3 cubes. Two numbers proved particularly challenging in this regard; 33 & 42. The solution for 33 was discovered earlier this year, and now we can give a positive answer to the puzzle.
(8) Word puzzle: Fill in the blanks in the following sentence with spelled-out numbers ("one," "two," and so on) to make it true: In this sentence, there are ___ O's, ___ T's, and ___ N's.

2019/09/09 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of 'The Moment of Lift,' by Melinda Gates Income inequality: The US gap between executive and worker compensations has grown 14-fold over the past 5 decades Zahra Mohammadi, a 29-year-old teacher of Kurdish language and literature, has not been heard of since she was arrested while eating dinner 2 months ago (1) Images of the day: [Left] Melinda Gates publishes a book: Looking forward to seeing what this highly influential woman has to say! [Center] Income inequality: The US gap between executive and worker compensations has grown 14-fold over the past 5 decades. [Right] Kurdish women face Iran regime's double wrath: Zahra Mohammadi, a 29-year-old teacher of Kurdish language and literature, has not been heard of since she was arrested while eating dinner 2 months ago (source: Iranwire.com).
(2) Science, conducted with tainted money: MIT Media Lab was aware of Jeffrey Epstein's status as a convicted sex offender and worked to hide from public records the full extent of his contributions to the Lab.
(3) Mandatory evacuation order issued for Buellton: Four separate brushfires are burning on California's Central Coast along Highway 101, whose northbound lanes are closed from Buellton northward to Highway 154.
(4) Outsourcing of college homework in the US: A global industry has developed that allows people in developing countries to bid on posted homework assignments and then provide solutions at the agreed-upon price. This has been going on for years, but, lately, the sites have grown in sophistication, offering customer service, money-back guarantees, and other perks of typical e-commerce sites.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Federal employees now risk being fired if they make statements contradicting the Dear Leader's lies.
- Jerry Falwell's aides break their silence about financial fraud and culture of fear at Liberty University.
- Three women activists in Iran sentenced to a total of 54 years for working on behalf of workers' rights.
- Mars was once a lush, ocean-covered planet with a thick atmosphere like Earth's.
- Cal State University wants to raise its admission bar by requiring greater preparation in math.
(6) Nightmare scenario: Trump campaign manager predicts that Trump will stay in power for a long time, through Presidents Ivanka, Jared, and Don Jr. Reportedly, Ivanka and Don Jr. are already at each other's throats about who will go first.
(7) Trump governs as if he is the President of 85% of Republicans (or ~35% of Americans who support him). What if we could let this group have him as President and elected another person for the remaining 65%?
(8) Quote of the day: "Imagine being president of a whole country and spending your Sunday night hate-watching MSNBC hoping somebody — ANYBODY — will praise you. Melania, please praise this man. He needs you." ~ Singer John Legend, who, along with his wife, was a target of Trump's tweet diarrhea on Sunday

2019/09/08 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet. Child's drawing for Grandparents' Day Persian poetry: A couplet by Ghodratollah Bayat Sarmadi
Photos of UCSB's Harold Frank Hall and its lobby (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Grandparents' Day: "The reason grandchildren and grandparents get along so well is that they have a common enemy." ~ Sam Levenson [Center] Persian poetry: This wonderful couplet, that reads the same horizontally and vertically (with a small change in the word "digar"), is attributed to Sa'adi in some Internet posts. Becoming suspicious of the attribution, I dug a bit and discovered that it is due to contemporary poet Ghodratollah Bayat Sarmadi. View it as a symmetric 4 × 4 matrix! [Right] UCSB's Harold Frank Hall: Formerly known as "Engineering I," this is the oldest building in the engineering area of our campus and where my fifth-floor office is located. The very first engineering building is now part of UCSB's arts district. The photos show HFH's south entrance and its lobby.
(2) Patriarchy on full display: Brazil's Minister of Economy joins the country's President Jair Bolsonaro in calling France's First Lady Brigitte Macron "truly ugly." Even if true, the world stage is full of ugly men and no one ever comments on their looks.
(3) How did a fashion model qualify for a so-called "Einstein Visa"? [Normally, I don't question anyone's immigration status, but if Melania's husband chooses to demonize all immigrants, except for models from Russia and Eastern Europe, examining his family's immigrant background becomes fair game.] [Meme]
(4) Heartfelt speech by Iranian actress Gohar Kheirandish: Sad and humorous, the speech is about heroes, and the troubles she got into when she kissed one such hero to honor him. [4-minute video, in Persian]
(5) Turning recklessness and dishonesty into dollars: After selling plastic straws with a huge mark-up, thus profiting from its disregard for the environment, the Trump campaign is now selling $15 sharpies to fans of its truth-challenged Dear Leader.
(6) Our understanding of black holes may rest on shaky grounds: UCSD philosopher-of-science Craig Callender argues that laws of black-hole thermodynamics may be nothing more than a useful analogy stretched too far.
(7) UK-based Kurdish-Iranian mathematician Caucher Birkar adds a new major honor to his Fields Medal, sometimes referred to as the Nobel Prize of mathematics. He has been chosen as the world's top thinker from among 50 candidates. [Video report, in Persian]
(8) The Magic Wand Theorem: Alex Eskin wins a $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics for a theorem he proved jointly with the late Fields-Medal-winner Maryam Mirzakhani.

2019/09/07 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo from Friday's late-afternoon walk on the bluffs of UCSB West Campus Newsweek magazine's cover image about whether science can rewire our brains Sanctuary of Madonna Della Corona in the mountains of Italy (1) Images of the day: [Left] Photo from Friday's late-afternoon walk on the bluffs of UCSB West Campus during high tide (more photos). And here is a 3-minute video I took on the stairway leading from UCSB West Campus bluffs down to the beach: Watch for a banner-pulling plane, the moon, a group of students on a raft, Platform Holly, and the waves crashing on the bottom steps of the strairway. [Center] Newsweek magazine's cover story about whether science can rewire our brains. [Right] Sanctuary of Madonna Della Corona, Italy.
(2) [Important info for SoCal residents] SoCal Edison may preemptively shut off power to our area for periods of up to one week in case of elevated fire danger. This, I believe is to protect SCE's behind at our expense, given that electric utilities were found responsible for multiple fires last year because of outdated equipment that triggered or helped spread the fires. Friends outside SB should check with their utilities or monitor the news to see whether they will be similarly impacted. Having a large ice-box may help you survive for a few days, but you do need to reduce your freezer/fridge contents and stock up on non-perishable food.
(3) An American Airlines plane, scheduled to carry 150 passengers, was sabotaged by a mechanic, but the pilots detected the problem before taking off.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Building a $3 billion settlement on the moon is being pursued by a Silicon-Valley group.
- Sally Floyd, whose RED algorithm is essential to congestion control and stability on the Internet, dead at 69.
- Here's what would happen if we nuke a hurricane: Definitely a terrible idea!
- This week's Santa Barbara Independent reports on the tragic diving-boat fire that claimed 34 lives.
- The ultimate drum solo, by Neil Peart: Rush live in Frankfurt.
- Super-high-resolution photography: Amazing 25B-pixel panorama, taken at a beautiful beach in Thailand.
(5) Shiny objects: As Trump distracts us with sharpie-gate, our country's foreign policy is in disarray. We are giving Russia a pass on its aggressive behavior, negotiating with Taliban terrorists (who continue to kill Americans and our Afghan allies), alienating European allies, and so on. And now, just as new challenges develop, our top two national-security officials aren't on speaking terms!
(6) Mind-boggling: The Trump administration plans to sue four automakers (BMW, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen) that have decided to voluntarily abide by California's stricter emission standards, as opposed to the newly-relaxed EPA standards, and to force California to abandon its clean-air efforts.

2019/09/05 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sharpie-gate: The original, and some of the memes spreading on the Internet The $86 trillion world economy, in one chart (2018 data) Vice-President Mike Pence looks at President Donald Trump adoringly (1) Images of the day: [Left] Sharpie-gate: The original, and some of the memes spreading on the Internet. [Center] The $86 trillion world economy, in one chart (2018 data). [Right] Vice-President Mike Pence looks at President Donald Trump adoringly (see the last item below).
(2) The magical pi: We always connect the number π to circles, but this versatile number turns up in many unexpected places in mathematics (so does its cousin e). One example is the sum-of-inverse-squares identity 1/1 + 1/4 + 1/9 + 1/16 + 1/25 + ... = (π^2)/6. So, what is π doing in this identity, and why is it squared? This 18-minute video provides an "enlightening" interpretation of the identity, which ties it back to a circle!
(3) Here we go again: Years ago, we watched in disbelief, as tobacco executives testified under oath that they were unaware of a link between smoking and lung cancer, even though their internal company memos said otherwise. Please don't let the vaping industry get away with similar lies. Devise regulations and enact legislation before it's too late! [Deaths from vaping]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Bahamas decimated: Hurricane Dorian's death toll is rising and 70,000 people need immediate relief.
- New fiction title: Sarah Huckabee Sanders is reportedly working on her memoir, due in 2020.
- Republicans change their views on deficit/debt, without offering one word in way of explanation. [Cartoon]
- A beautiful, and masterfully performed, Azeri folk song: "Lachin"
- How to solve a Rubik's cube: Easy-to-follow process, that with practice, can lead you to a quick solution.
(5) Trump-Pence tensions may define 2020: The POTUS and his VP maintain an outwardly cordial relationship, but there are consistent reports of problems, from Ivanka and Jared wanting to replace Pence on the ticket with a woman (Nikki Haley?) to Trump asking aides on several occasions about their opinion of Pence. Many Evangelicals will vote for Trump without Pence, but others support him because of Pence. Pence knows how to stay in Trump's good graces through adoring gazes when he speaks, frequent references to his leadership, and avoiding the limelight. It is an interesting relationship to watch!

2019/09/04 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The path of, and damage inflicted by, Hurricane Dorian Pillar of courage and resistance Nasrin Sotoudeh Four images pertaining to child marriages in Iran (1) Images of the day: [Left] Hurricane Dorian's wrath (see item 2 below). [Center] Pillar of courage and resistance Nasrin Sotoudeh (see the last item below). [Right] Child marriages in Iran (see item 4 below).
(2) Hurricane Dorian moves along the US coast: After decimating Bahamas, as it moved very slowly over the island nation at full strength, Hurricane Dorian weakened, picked up some speed, and pretty much spared Florida by turning northward. The Carolinas are now bracing for landfall.
(3) As storms get stronger due to climate change, a Category-6 storm designation may be needed: "While any hurricane with sustained winds above 155 mph is labeled Category 5 under the 1971 Saffir-Simpson scale, ... the progression between categories 1 and 5 suggest the next tier would start at 182 mph. Dorian's sustained wind speeds maxed out at 185 mph Sunday, tying a handful of other hurricanes for the second-strongest storm in the Atlantic since 1950. The strongest was 1980's Allen, with winds hitting 190 mph."
How to help Hurricane Dorian survivors in Bahamas: My go-to charity in such cases is Direct Relief International. Two years ago in September, they did a wonderful job in helping the victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria and the quakes in Mexico. This NYT article lists many more. The survivors require basic necessities at this point. Reconstruction, which takes years, will come later.
(4) Child marriages in Iran: The viral video of a 30-something man and a girl who looks 10 (definitely underage) on their wedding night, with family members laughing and cheering, has rekindled the discussion of Iranian regressive laws that sanction such marriages. Child marriages occur worldwide and Iran isn't even the worst offender. However, Iran does seem to be the only country where, under the guise of "family protection," laws are being taken backwards.
(5) Happy Climate-Change Discussion Day: As Bahamas and parts of the US East Coast struggle with the impact of Hurricane Dorian, we science buffs struggle to convince nay-sayers and deniers that the future of our chidren depends on responsible action today. Tonight, CNN is hosting a 7-hour-long Town Hall on Climate Change, featuring the 10 Democractic candidates who have qualified for the next week's debate.
(6) Final thought for the day: It has been more than a year since Iranian lawyer and human-rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh was imprisoned yet again. I placed this photo of hers on my haft-seen spread, holding seven items whose names begin with the sound 's,' for Norooz (Persian New Year) in March 2019. I have since kept the photo among the flowers near my desk for daily remembrance of Sotoudeh's courage and sacrifice on behalf of her clients and other Iranian citizens. Reminding the world of her cruel treatment by the so-called "justice system" in Iran is one thing we can do to honor her and to exert pressure on the Iranian dictatorial regime to free all political prisoners.

2019/09/03 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Challenger 2P: An early personal computer, circa 1980, with a huge 4KB RAM! Cartoon: Jeffrey Epstein finds himself on the Devil's private island Cover image for Dean Nelson's 'Talk to Me' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Challenger 2P: An early personal computer, circa 1980, with a huge 4KB RAM! [Center] Jeffrey Epstein finds himself on the Devil's private island in Hell. [Right] For my review of Dean Nelson's Talk to Me, see the last item below.
(2) Humor for Persian speakers: A mass wedding of 41 couples was held in Hashar, a township in Kangavar, a county within Iran's Kurdistan Province. This banner celebrates the marriage of 41 Hashari couples!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Look who's complaining about baseless claims, spread without fact-checking! [Trump tweet]
- Mass-casualty accident off the Santa Barbara Coast: All 34 passengers presumed dead in diving-boat fire.
- It's so sad that family members and guests cheer the temporary marriage of this 13-year-old child bride.
- First commercial space hotel: Earth-view rooms and low-gravity basketball court will be among the perks.
- Spectacular nature park in China (or Thailand?), seen from the ground and the air. [3-minute video]
- Persian fusion music: Kamancheh master Kayhan Kalhor shines in the 9-minute piece "Chaharpareh."
(4) Book review: Nelson, Dean (Journalism Professor, Point Loma Nazarene U., San Diego), Talk to Me: How to Ask Better Questions, Get Better Answers, and Interview Anyone Like a Pro, unabridged audiobook on 8 CDs, read by Michael David Axtell, HarperCollins, 2019. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book is very useful to journalism students and aspiring reporters. However, in this age of connectivity and primacy of knowledge, everyone can benefit from it. We all ask questions in the course of performing our jobs and pursuing personal hobbies. A social worker or a psychiatrist is as much in need of questioning skills as a journalist. So is a professor, when a student stops by to discuss a personal challenge or (ethical) dilemma.
Choice of who to interview and what questions to ask are of course the most important elements of a successful interview. Nelson offers many practical suggestions, both on the details of interviewing techniques and on big-picture issues. For instance, as an interviewer, you should check your ego at the door. The interview isn't about you but about the subject. You should neither try to be super-friendly nor overtly hostile. Don't ask questions whose answers are already available in your subject's writings or prior interviews. Good interviews are the results of hard work and preparation, not rapport or luck.
From this book, I learned the exact definitions of terms such as "background interview," "off the record," "not for attribution," and many more. I also realized the importance of detailed note-taking (while not being so immersed in your note pad that you do not make eye contact with your subject) and recording the interview whenever possible (if agreed to by the subject). Nelson also offers useful tips on tools of the trade, such as always having enough pens or pencils and carrying a pre-tested recording device loaded with fresh batteries.
Several actual interviews, including Barbara Walters' now-classic interview with Mike Wallace, are used as case studies, with detailed discussion of what was right or wrong at each step.
A journalist's main asset is his/her reputation and trustworthiness. Unlike most other professions, no formal training or exam is needed to become a journalist. So, when a story appears inappropriate or iffy, it is better to lose the story than the reputation.

2019/09/02 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Labor Day greetings, with the US flag Cover image of the latest issue of the Persian-language journal Azadiye Andishe Time magazine's cover image, focusing on workers who live on tips, being paid as low as $2.13 per hour (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Labor Day! (see item 2 below) [Center] Cover image of Azadiye Andishe (see item 3 below). [Right] The left-behind economy: Time magazine's cover feature on workers who live on tips, being paid as low as $2.13 per hour (the federal minimum wage for tipped workers).
(2) Today is Labor Day in the US: The very first Labor Day Parade was held in New York City on September 5, 1882. On that day, 137 years ago, participants began from City Hall, marched past viewing stands at Union Square, and assembled in Wendel's Elm Park for a picnic, concert, and speeches. As in the past two years, this year's Labor Day celebration is marred by broad assaults on, and proposed curtailments of, labor rights, including restrictions on unionization, elimination or reduction of minimum wage, relaxation of safety regulations, stagnant wages, and arbitrary dismissals. Such assaults often come with misguided laws and misleading slogans, such as "Right to Work," which really means crushing labor unions to keep wages low.
Let me wish everyone a happy Labor Day with this wonderful quote from Indira Gandhi: "My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition."
(3) Journal special issue with focus on Iranian women: The 7th issue of the Persian-language journal Azadiye Andisheh (Freedom of Thought) has been published. This issue focuses on women, gender, and sexuality in Iran, with original contributions by several scholars inside and outside Iran. As seen on the cover, the issue includes a tribute to Prof./Dr. Mansoureh Etehadiyeh, a highly-regarded historian in Iran. [PDF]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Bahamas shocked by category-5 Hurricane Dorian's destruction, now headed toward Florida. [Image]
- The Chinese Lunar Rover finds weird, gel-like substance on the far side of the moon.
- Persian poetry: Simin Behbahani recites her wonderful poem entitled "You Want Me Not to Be." [Video]
- Humor: "I want the same thing he's having" (a la "When Harry Met Sally"). [1-minute video]
- Persian music: Bahar Choir presents a tar and zarb (tonbak) duet. [7-minute video]
- Paris-based choreographer Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam and his dance partner perform a Persian dance.
(5) Rumi fan in the Trump family: Tiffany Trump posts a Rumi poem to her Instagram, which some believe to be a response to her father's disparaging remarks about her "weight" problem to his personal assistant.
Study me as much as you like, you will never know me.
For I differ a hundred ways from what you see me to be.
Put yourself behind my eyes, and see me as I see myself.
Because I have chosen to dwell in a place you cannot see.
(6) Science creates mass-shooters: "We've taught our kids that they come about by chance through primordial slime and then we're surprised that they treat their fellow Americans like dirt." ~ Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, placing blame for mass shootings on 'not enough Jesus' in schools

2019/09/01 (Sunday): Here are three course/book reviews, in an effort to make a dent in my huge backlog!
Cover image of the audio course 'The Origin and Evolution of Earth: From the Big Bang to the Future of Human Existence' Cover image of Bob Woodward's 'Fear: Trump in the White House' Cover image of Benjamin Alire's 'Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe' (1) Course review: Hazen, Robert M. (Professor of Earth Sciences, George Mason U.), The Origin and Evolution of Earth: From the Big Bang to the Future of Human Existence, 48 lectures on 24 CDs, The Great Courses Series, 2013. [My 5-star review of this course on GoodReads]
Professor Hazen is a leading authority on earth sciences, having coined the term "mineral evolution" (focus of Lecture 11), perhaps the biggest take-away from this course. When we talk of evolution, we automatically think of animals and plants. Hazen makes it clear early on in this course that minerals have also evolved over billions of years, giving rise to new "species" and forms. In fact, the biosphere and geosphere have co-evolved, each affecting changes in the other. This co-evolution is the focus of the final or 48th lecture.
From this course, I understood for the first time how self-replicating molecules, the precursors to life, came about and how a combination of gravitational forces and plate tectonics shaped our Earth. Essentially, heavier materials sink and lighter materials rise under gravity, thus the presence of water on the Earth's surface and the atmosphere higher up. Another interesting fact is that our Earth has at least 80 times more water than what we see in the oceans. Water molecules exist in minerals and even in the Earth's mantle. Seemingly lifeless planets and their moons also contain much water.
I highly recommend this wonderful course to those with enough patience to listen to more than 24 hours of lectures (the average lecture length is 31 minutes). Professor Hazen makes it easy to persevere through the unusually-long course. A very helpful guidebook accompanies the 24 CDs, each holding 2 lectures. In addition to lecture summaries, the guidebook includes a timeline (pp. 326-327), a table of eras and stages of mineral evolution (p. 328), and a bibliography (pp. 329-335).
(2) Book review: Woodward, Bob, Fear: Trump in the White House, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Robert Petkoff, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2018. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
[This review was updated/augmented on September 25, 2019.]
This book complements the Isikoff-Corn account of Putin's interference in the 2016 US presidential election and the election of Donald Trump: Russian Roulette: The Inside Story of Putin's War on America and the Election of Donald Trump. The two books are perhaps the two best-researched accounts of Trump's rise to power (my 4-star review of Russian Roulette on GoodReads).
Woodward tells us about the events after Trump's election. The "Fear" of the title seemingly refers to US citizens being fearful of the consequences of Trump's thoughtless actions and pronouncements and those working for Trump fearing his ire and retaliation upon the smallest infraction. Trump recognizes just two groups of people: adoring fans and mortal enemies.
Woodward opens this book with one of the most explosive revelations about the Trump administration: National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, in collaboarion with Staff Secretary Rob Porter, steal a memo about cutting security cooperation ties with South Korea, which was placed on Trump's desk for signature, and make sure that all existing copies of the memo were pulled, counting on Trump's poor memory and short attention span for their action to go undetected. Cohn believed that signing the memo, which had not gone through proper vetting channels, would be highly detrimental to US interests and our national security. Later on, Jim Mattis had to explain to Trump that we are spending $1 billion on missile defense in South Korea because it is vitally important to our security, not out of charity to that country.
As is typical of Woodward's reporting, the book is meticulously researched and engagingly presented. One might say that the treatment is too even-handed, paying the same attention to the most explosive events and the smallest procedural details. Somewhat surprisingly, alongside the negative portrayal of Trump as cruel, childish, and possessing a very short attention span, there are positive tidbits about his instincts and low tolerance for bullshit.
Woodward's observations are insightful for the most part. As usual, Woodward does not disclose all of his sources, some of which the reader can guess, while others remain enigmatic. Like several previous books, Woodward presents incontrovertible evidence that Trump isn't fit to be president.
I have read half-a-dozen other books on Trump, his administration, and the dysfunction in the White House, none of which comes close to Woodward's in terms of matter-of-fact reporting and refraining from passing judgment, although the judgment is really built into the numerous mind-boggling incidents and encounters that he describes. Rob Porter emerges as a heroic character, constantly trying to delay and derail Trump's inclination to withdraw from treaties or issue ill-thought-out dierctives. Was Porter the anonymous NYT op-ed writer who told of covert adult supervision of Trump in the White House? We don't learn the answer from Woodward's book, but he certainly seems to have performed the same functions that the op-ed writer described.
The so-called "adults in the room" have been ineffective in controlling Trump's worst impulses. Some of them burned out and left, while others were fired unceremoniously. It is unclear whether VP Mike Pence is one of those "adults," as his public role has been quite limited. Pence will have a lot of explaining to do when Trump's presidency comes to an end.
Many cabinet members and staffers, as well as Republicans outside the White House, are aware of Trump's tendency to lie, but seem to be unable to confront him directly. So, they talk behind his back, using terms such as "moron" and "idiot." Attorney John Dowd comes closest to pointing out the problem and its consequences, when he insists that Trump should not talk to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, because he will surely perjure himself. The book, which ends with Dowd's resignation when he sees no hope of being able to manage Trump, was completed before Michael Cohen's and Paul Manafort's indictments.
(3) Book review: Saenz, Benjamin Alire, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, unabridged audiobook, read by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2013. [My 4-star review on GoodReads]
Aristotle, a timid, angry teen with an imprisoned brother no one talks about, meets and befriends Dante, a gay young man who is confident and knowledgeable, and has a completely different take on life. Aristotle, the teller of the story in this young-adult title, is a Mexican-American who does his best not to look or sound like a Mexican, which includes calling himself "Ari."
Ari tries to fit in by pursuing girls and driving the truck he got as a birthday present from his parents. He admires his mom, who is very understanding of his challenges, but his dad, harboring inner wounds from Vietnam, isn't very communicative. Ari likes and enjoys the company of Dante's parents, who become a second family to him.
The novel, which explores problems faced by teenagers, ethnic minorities, and homosexuals in a refreshing way, has received universal acclaim.
Apparently, there are plans by Big Swing Productions to turn the novel into a movie.

2019/08/31 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo of Donald Trump, with hair blowing in the wind Optical illusion: There are 12 black dots at the intersections in this image; it's impossible to see them all at once Marijuan benefits: Hype or science? (Newsweek magazine cover)
Sculpture of a woman, by Angus Van Zyl Taylor Cartoon of the day (scene at a beach in France): 'It's my ball!' Falcon: Inspiration for the B2 Stealth Bomber? (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Real political news (with humor): Trump's long-time personal assistant resigns abruptly after being accused of cozying up to the press. Perhaps she was responsible for releasing this photo! [Top center] Optical illusion: There are 12 black dots at the intersections in this image; it's impossible to see them all at once. [Top right] Is all the excitement about marijuana justified or are we witnessing just another business hype? [Bottom left] Sculpture by Angus Van Zyl Taylor. [Bottom center] Cartoon of the day (scene at a beach in France): "It's my ball!" (Bonus cartoon: "Mr. President, there's a farmer here to share his thoughts on your trade war with China ...") [Bottom right] Falcon: Inspiration for the B2 Stealth Bomber?
(2) Another fault-line for Angelinos to worry about: The hidden 12.4-mile Wilmington Fault, presumed to have sat quiet under southern Los Angeles for eons, is actually capable of producing quakes of magnitude 6+.
(3) Hurricane Dorian: The International Space Station passed directly over Hurricane Dorian's eye near The Bahamas, around 9:30 AM yesterday. The Independent showed the breathtaking live footage.
(4) Let's support this devastated mom: Mother of Saba Kord Afshari, the 20-year-old Iranian journalist recently sentenced to 24 years in prison, tries to inform the world of this dreadful injustice, while pointing her finger at Iranian officials and influential celebrities for remaining silent. #SabaKordafshari [Video via tweet]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Predicted path for category-4 Hurricane Dorian changes: They may have nuked it to change its course!
- A small cadre of women helped recruit victims to feed Jeffrey Epstein's insatiable appetite for young girls.
- Trump attacks the Justice Department, with his lapdog at the top, for clearing Comey of illegal acts.
- Trump's lie about Chinese phone calls asking to resume trade talks deemed illegal market manipulation.
- Trump is considering another tax cut for the rich: Adjusting capital gains downward to account for inflation.
- Persian music: Bahar Choir performs "Zanan-e Sarzaminam" ("Women of My Homeland"). [9-minute video]
(6) Math puzzle/problem: See if you can prove Viviani's Theorem, which states that "The sum of distances from any point inside an equilateral triangle to its three sides is the same."
(7) The real fake news: According to Bloomberg, US military unleashes the power of its research arm, DARPA, to create software for detecting fake news (disinformation, in military parlance). This type of fake news is truly harmful to national security, and is different from "fake news" according to Trump.

2019/08/30 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Math puzzle: How many triangles do you see among these 6 intersecting lines? Please behave like animals: On the beach, it means the opposite of what you think! Cartoon: Management puzzled that streamlining the work force did not improve performance (1) Images of the day: [Left] Math puzzle: We have six lines in the plane as shown, no two of them parallel and no three intersecting at the same point. How many triangles are formed by the lines? (One of the triangles is highlighted in the image.) [Center] Please behave like animals: Usually the advice goes the other way around, but not here on the beach! [Right] Cartoon of the day: "I don't get it ... After all the budget cuts to streamline the work force, why aren't we moving faster?"
(2) A Jewish leader reacts to Trump's divisive rhetoric: David Wolpe is an enlightened rabbi (based in Los Angeles), but I am still surprised that he stuck his neck out, knowing that he'd be attacked for calling Trump's "disloyalty" comment about American Jews "foolish and dangerous."
(3) Humorous Persian poetry: If I played a sound file of this 5-minute poetry recitation, you probably wouldn't think that the poem's composer and reciter is a cleric!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Advice: Live without pretending; Love without depending; Listen without defending; Speak without offending.
- NYT word puzzles: Fill in each grid to form four 8-letter words horizontally and four vertically. [Solutions]
- Here's an idea for all empty-nesters to help them not miss their kids. [Cat cartoon]
- Music: "Million Years Ago," a song by Adele, with lyrics and Persian translation. [2-minute video]
(5) On crowdfunding for healthcare: A new trend on social media is people asking for funds to help cure their own or their friends' loved ones of serious diseases, because they do not have health insurance or the required procedures are not covered by their health plan. On occasion, the requests are for patients in Iran and other Third-World countries, where the healthcare infrastructure is shaky or the needed medications aren't available.
As such requests grow in number, one experiences difficulty in choosing which ones to support or how not to fall prey to scams. Donation requests that I have seen came from well-meaning individuals who try to help someone with crushing healthcare costs. But the scheme is unsustainable and inherently unfair, because it favors people who are better-connected socially. Also, the fundraising goals seem arbitray (don't accompany any justification) or are occasionally adjusted upward once the initially-stated goal is met.
The fact that we have such requests in the US is one more reason to advocate for universal healthcare. No one's child, spouse, or parent should die of a disease because of the lack of (adequate) insurance, not having enough people in their social circles to raise funds, or being too modest to even ask for help on-line.

2019/08/29 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Group photo at TUG 2019 Conference, Palo Alto, CA
Photo of me with Donald Knuth at TUG 2019 Conference; Saba Kord Afshari; Spiral book stacks (1) Images of the day: [Top] Group photo at TUG 2019 Conference. And here is a 10-second pan-video. [Left] Photo of me with Donald Knuth at TUG 2019 Conference (see the last item below). [Center] Saba Kord Afshari is a 20-year-old Iranian journalist sentenced to 24 years by a regime of 70- and 80-year-old mullahs, who, after being in power for 40 years, are terrified of bright, feisty young women. [Right] Spiral book stacks.
(2) Quote of the day: "I did as well as I could for as long as I could." ~ James Mattis, on his service in the Trump White House, in a Wall Street Journal essay based on a forthcoming book
(3) A consequence of xenophobia and bullying: Even in normal times, graduate students are under a lot of pressure to make progress in research, get their results published, make ends meet as the graduation date slips further away, and lead a pseudo-normal social life. Add to this mix, for international graduate students or those from immigrant families, the xenophobic and racist attitudes perpeterated by our hater-in-chief, and the results could be explosive, as they were for Malaysian graduate student Jerusha Sanjeevi at Utah State.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hurricane Dorian: After sparing Puerto Rico, Dorian is projected to hit Florida as a category-4 storm.
- Fire attributed to a gang dispute kills at least 23 at a bar in Mexico.
- A puzzle that occupied me as I waited at a red light: Statement on a bumper, c < rb. [Photo]
- Regional music from Iran: Young boy performs a song from the northeastern province of Khorasan. [Video]
(5) A farewell to summer: On the calendar, we still have 3.5 weeks of summer left, but all evidence of summer in my neck of the woods ("Concerts in the Park," "Cinema under the Stars") is gone and yesterday, I attended the last of "Concerts at the Gazebo" at Goleta Valley Community Center. Mezcal Martini performed a wonderful collection of songs in the "Latin-flavored jazz" genre, bringing a large number of the attendees to their feet. [Photos] [Video 1] [Video 2]
(6) Musings on TeX and my work on printing and displaying the Persian script: My attendance at the 40th TeX Users Group (TUG) Conference in Palo Alto, California, August 9-11, 2019, was my first extensive interaction with the group dedicated to the study and use of the desktop publishing aid for mathematical manuscripts, which was invented in the late 1970s by Stanford University Professor Donald E. Knuth, who initially was looking for some help for himself and his secretary, as he worked on his magnum opus, The Art of Computer Programming book series, and technical manuscripts on algorithms.
I was encouraged to attend the TUG Conference and share my work on computerized rendering of the Persian script by Dave Walden, who has worked extensively on the history of computing. Recently, he shared with me a two-part article, written by Barbara Beeton, and Karl Berry, and him, which is full of interesting tidbits:
"TeX: A Branch in Desktop Publishing Evolution," Parts I and II, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 78-93, July-September 2018, and Vol. 41, No. 2, pp. 29-41, April-June 2019.
I found the TUG gathering amazing, both because of presentations directly related to TeX and for several non-technical presentations dealing with history and the artistic aspects of typography. A special treat for me was Donald Knuth's attendance at my talk and an extended chat with him after the conference session in order to complete my answer to a question of his and to get a couple of pointers from him on people working on the Nastaliq script (he does have an extensive network of contacts due to the international scope of his TeX work).
I told Knuth that my work on typography was mostly a hobby and a social calling, my main research area being computer architecture, adding that one reason for the Persian-script work being in the background is that it could not help with my academic advancement, both in Iran and in the US. He expressed regrets that CS and CE departments do not value such practical work more highly. He confided that when he began work on typography and TeX, he faced a similar dilemma, but that as an already-tenured and highly-respected academic, he could afford to ignore such attitudes.
Let me conclude by providing you with the links to already published pieces of my work on the topic above and a comprehensive historical paper, which has been submitted for publication. All three versions are available on-line from my Publications Web page:
Persian version, to appear in the next issue of the Iranology journal, Iran Namag, summer 2019. [PDF]
Short English version, to appear in the next issue of TUGboat (TUG journal), 2019. [PDF]
Comprehensive "personal history" and survey (submitted for publication). [PDF]

2019/08/28 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sunset photo 1 Sunset photo 2 Sunset photo 3 Sunset photo 4 Sunset photo 5 Sunset reflected on railroad tracks (1) Sunset/sunrise photos: [First five] Taken on Monday, as I walked around Goleta's Devereux Slough and Coal Oil Point Beach. [Bottom right] Posted by SciencePhile: "My dad waits every year for the day the sun rises just right and reflects along railroad tracks. Today was the day!" (Credit: Raymond Cunningham; Homer, IL)
(2) Pasta straws: Coming soon to the pasta aisle of your supermarket, right next to spaghetti, thick spaghetti, macaroni, fettuccine, and dozens of other products with the same taste but different shapes, will be pasta straws, claimed to be better than paper straws; they do not get soggy and are fully biodegradable. [Photo]
(3) Chinese restaurant closing: Ming Dynasty, a fixture in my neck of the woods for as long as I can remember, will be closing at the end of this week, allegedly because the owner has decided to retire. My son and I had one last buffet lunch there to bid farewell to one of our favorite local eateries. [Photo]
(4) Samples of dances from different periods of Iran's history, reconstructed from paintings, sculptures, and other art forms, performed at Tehran's Golestan Palace. [28-minute video]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- CNN fact-checks Trump's embarrassing string of lies on the world stage, at the G-7 Summit.
- Smooch diplomacy: After Trump greeted Macron's wife by kissing her, Melania got a better deal! [Photo]
- Cartoon of the day: That sneaky Emmanuel Macron! [Image]
- The fate of 9 prominent Baha'i leaders who were abducted in Iran 39 years ago is still unknown.
- That's not funny: Iranian satirist Keyomars Marzban gets 23+ years in prison for his writings.
- Iranian journalist Marzieh Amiri gets 10 years and 148 lashes for reporting on Int'l Workers' Day rallies.
- Many among you probably couldn't have guessed this video depicts Iran if I had not told you!
(6) Iran's summer of deception and cruelty: Lengthy jail terms for dual nationals (hostages, essentially), harsh crackdown on women activists opposing compulsory hijab, and a record number of prosecuted/jailed women reporters fly in the face of FM Javad Zarif's pretense of civility and dialogue with the West.
(7) Brazil's Bolsonaro says he would accept G-7's offer of help with Amazon fires only if Macron apologizes to him: It's not about Brazil's well-being or saving the environment, but about his bruised ego. In fact, Bolsonaro started the spat by insulting Macron's wife. Gee, who does Bolsonaro remind you of?
(8) The Miami property Trump is promoting as the G-7 summit site for 2020 was sued by a guest who suffered an extreme case of bedbug bites. The case was settled out of court just before Trump became president.

2019/08/27 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos taken in and around UCSB's central library after Sunday's carillon recital Afternoon tea and sweets, Iranian style! Cover image and box, along with sample pages, of an English translation of 'Shahnameh' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Photos taken in and around UCSB's central library after Sunday's carillon recital. There were also a number of paintings depicting US West Coast's National Marine Sanctuaries on display at the campus library. [Center] Afternoon tea and sweets, Iranian style! [Right] Cover/box and sample pages of the English translation of Shahnameh, which I recently purchased and received in the mail yesterday.
(2) Nutty idea from our high-IQ stable genius: Stop hurricanes from entering the US by nuking them. I guess he is rearing to use our nukes, one way or another!
(3) My reply to a hateful meme which called liberals "lazy": Liberals have worked their butts off to help you earn all the rights that allow you to express your opinions freely, and you use those right to spew hatred and insults? The Western civilization of which you are proud is a product of liberal democracy.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hilarious comedy routine: Teaching kids how to read an analog clock. [Video]
- Frank Tender Band performs "Rock-n-Roll Medley" (6-minute video).
- Not bad for a bunch of old men: Cliff Richard and the Shadows perform "Do You Wanna Dance."
- Instrumental movie theme music: The Shadows perform "Theme for Young Lovers" (live on final tour).
(5) Useful tip for Microsoft Word users: You can insert a non-breaking space (a space that is not stretched when justifying lines and stays with the characters on its two sides at line-break) by using control-shift-space.
(6) Can we get rid of time zones? In this age of worldwide travel, global social media, intercontinental phone calls, and teleconferencing, time zones have become a headache. Many people miss meetings or are otherwise confused when they travel internationally or cross-country. When I enter my travel plans on my Google calendar, I use local times, as they appear on my itinerary. During travel, Google "converts" the times to local time, creating a nuisance!
Setting the time independent of daylight is already in use. China, which would normally have 5 time zones, has chosen a unified national time. The International Pilots Union has mandated the use of Coordinated Universal Time on pilots' watches to avoid dangerous miscommunication.
The proposal to abolish time zones has been around for a long time. If adopted, we would all go to bed and rise according to the Sun's cycle, but will communicate according to Universal Time. A wonderful byproduct would be the disappearance of Daylight Savings Time and the designations AM and PM.

2019/08/26 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: On the proposal that teachers should carry guns Meme: White Supremacy and demonizing of immigrants Meme: Mothers for gun control (1) Memes of the day: [Left] On the proposal that teachers should carry guns. [Center] On White Supremacy and demonizing of immigrants. [Right] Mothers for gun control.
(2) A biologically-plausible mathematical model of human vision: The vivid images of the world in our brains are reconstructed from scant data transmitted between the retina and the visual cortex. We are learning how the reconstruction is achieved.
(3) The US is slipping in R&D spending as a fraction of GDP: In absolute terms, US is still first, with $511 billion (2.74% of GDP) in research spending, but as a fraction of GDP, it's no longer first, ranking 10th behind: South Korea (4.29%), Finland (3.17%), Sweden (3.16%), Japan (3.15%), Austria (3.10%), Taiwan (3.10), Denmark (3.09%), Switzerland (2.97%), Germany (2.94%) [Source: Wikipedia]
(4) Articulate and informed: Watch Mayor Pete Buttigieg on Fox News speak intelligently, with complete sentences that have subjects and verbs. What a refreshing change over the past ~3 years!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- WSJ to Trump, on his ordering US companies to leave China: "This isn't the People's Republic of America."
- Twitter had a field day with Trump's oxymoronic claim that the media is destroying the free press!
- Job growth down in Trump's 2.5 years compared with last 2.5 years of Obama. [#ObamaOutdidTrump]
- Iran's FM Javad Zarif appears at the G-7 Summit site, fueling speculations on meetings with leaders.
- US Jews are less enthusiastic about traveling to Israel, but Evangelicals fuel a strong growth in tourism.
- UC Irvine tops Money magazine's list of the nation's best colleges: The first public college ever to top the list.
- Yesterday's carillon recital at UCSB by Professor Wesley Arai. [Photos] [Video 1] [Video 2]
(6) SBPianoBoys two-pianos concert at Santa Barbara's First United Methodist Church, last night: The super-talented brothers Rhyan (14) and Zeyn (15) performed classical music selections from Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Haydn, Schubert, Brahms, Grieg, Bach, and Lecuona, ending with "Libertango" as their encore. [Photos] [Program/Bio] ["Hungarian Dance No. 1"] ["Malaguena"] ["Libertango"]

2019/08/25 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism aren't the same Beautiful garden at Museum of Tea History, Lahijan, Iran Sign reading 'Free Stuff' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism aren't the same (see the next item below). [Center] Beautiful garden at Museum of Tea History, Lahijan, Iran. [Right] The Republicans' claim that a Democratic administration will give everyone free stuff is patently false (see the last item below).
(2) On the distinction between Judaism and Zionism: The following is a comment I made on a discussion thread which raised the question of whether anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism. I argued that it is not.
According to Wikipedia, Zionism is a nationalist movement, presumably begun when Jews were ousted from their original homeland, so it cannot be an integral part of Judaism. There are Jews who do not embrace Zionism and there are non-Jews who do. In way of analogy, consider the case of Native-Americans starting a nationalist movement to reclaim the lands from which they were ousted.
From Wikipedia: "Zionism ... is the nationalist movement of the Jewish people that espouses the re-establishment of and support for a Jewish state in the territory defined as the historic Land of Israel (roughly corresponding to Canaan, the Holy Land, or the region of Palestine)."
(3) What free stuff? The Republicans are foaming at the mouth, claiming that the Democrats will be giving free stuff to everyone, including illegal immigrants. This is just a scare tactic to mobilize the base.
Single-payer universal healthcare isn't really free. The premiums salaried workers and their employers now pay, as well as the amount the government already spends on healthcare, will fund universal coverage. Not only we won't need extra money, but we would save money by emulating the much-more-efficient healthcare systems of other developed countries, including insistence on and negotiating for reasonable prices for pharmaceuticals.
Tuition- or debt-free college education also isn't free. It just calls for redirecting our priorities from building more fighter-jets and aircraft-carriers to funding public colleges. How tax revenue is spent is a legitimate topic of discussion and having different priorities for allocating funds is par for the course in a democracy. We already have free primary and secondary education, programs that were put in place because we felt that people cannot function properly in a modern society without at least a high school education. Now, increasingly, college education or technical training is needed for most good-paying jobs, so it makes sense for us to move to the next step of expanding publicly-funded education.
Illegal immigrants are by law not eligible for any of these benefits. They pay taxes just like you and me but do not get public support (except in the case of charitable organizations offering such services, or states, within their rights to weigh the benefits and costs of public programs to the state's economy, deciding to provide some support), nor can they benefit from Medicare and Social Security, despite paying the taxes.
Go ahead and keep on screeming about "the free stuff" the Democrats will give away! Repeating these lies won't make them true!

2019/08/24 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: The pitchfork lobby advising a frightened medieval king to divide and rule! Cartoon: Back-to-school sale NY Daily News cover image: The Last Whopper (1) Cartoons of the day: [Left] The pitchfork lobby advising a frightened medieval king to divide and rule! [Center] Back-to-school sale: "Do they have to ruin a perfectly enjoyable summer vacation?" [Right] Nothing outrages the Republicans any more, except demands for human rights and a clean environment: New York's Daily News makes fun of Trump retweeting a far-right conspiracy nut's claim that "the Jewish people in Israel love him like he's the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God." Aargh!
(2) Voodoo economics: It's scary that Trump seems to be enjoying his power to move the market up or down with a tweet (like someone who has just discovered that voodoo dolls work). I wonder if his family or associates are cashing in on the movements via prior knowledge of the tweets. With electronic trading, all they would need is a few seconds of advance notice (as in the case of someone editing the tweet before sending it).
(3) Brilliant comedy: Bill Maher "flatters" the genius in the White House and says that he'd vote for Trump, in case he was watching the HBO show "accidentally," if he committed to saving the environment!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The US delegation criticizes Macron for G7 summit's focus on "niche issues" such as climate change.
- UCSB Professor Emeritus Bob Schrieffer, 1972 Nobel Laureate in Physics, dead at 88.
- Iranian-style omelette, tea, and setar music for your pleasure on this beautiful Saturday morning. [Video]
- Ode to simpler times: Cliff Richard and The Shadows perform "Sea Cruise" (4-minute video).
- Cliff Richard and the Shadows perform "The Young Ones" (from their final reunion DVD).
- Oldies but goodies: Cliff Richard and The Shadows, 50th Anniversary Concert, 2009. [45-minute video]
(5) Post-Trump Republican camps: Both Mike Pence and Nikki Haley have denied it, but there is much talk in Republican circles about their rivalry for possible 2024 White House run in the post-Trump GOP and becoming/remaining the VP candidate for Trump's 2020 run.
(6) Earliest-known human civilizations are in the Kurdish regions of the world: Archaeological discoveries in southern Turkey have doubled our estimate of the earliest human civilizations from 6000 to 12,000 years ago. In the unearthed ruins, there are hints of a "great flood" (subject of many subsequent myths/legends, including in the Bible) that may have actually been due to sea-level rise at the end of the last ice age. [8-minute Video, narrated in Persian] [P.S.: In case the video above is blocked for you due to copyright issues, here is a shorter English version from YouTube. And here is a 45-minute documentary from 'National Geographic.'

2019/08/23 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Symbols I proposed to represent the Iranian monetary units of rial and toman some four decades ago Meme: America the melting pot (1) Images of the day: [Left] The cliff-top Kurdish town of Amadia (Amedi in Kurdish, Emadieh in Arabic) in northern Iraq, with 1200 houses, is 5000 years old. [Center] Symbols I proposed to represent the Iranian monetary units of rial and toman some four decades ago (see the last item below). [Right] Meme of the day: Vote in 2020 to bring back the pride of this melting-pot nation of Native Americans and immigrants.
(2) Many of the raging Amazon rainforest fires were set by farmers and loggers to clear land for illegal use: The far-right government of Brazil is idly watching, as world leaders declare the situation an international crisis.
(3) Billionaire David Koch dead at 79. A friend's Facebook post of the news contained this quote from Clarence Darrow: "I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."
(4) Humorous news: A truck loaded with thousands of copies of Roget's Thesaurus crashed yesterday losing its entire load. Witnesses were stunned, startled, aghast, taken aback, stupefied, confused, shocked, rattled, paralyzed, dazed, bewildered, mixed up, surprised, awed, dumbfounded, nonplussed, flabbergasted, astounded, amazed, confounded, astonished, overwhelmed, horrified, numbed, speechless, and perplexed.
(5) On Iran's forthcoming changes in monetary units: The current official unit is rial, introduced in the early 1800s and put into widespread use in 1932. Some five decades ago, the rial was very roughly equivalent to the American cent, as one US dollar sold for around 70 rials. For decades, the unit toman, equal to 10 rials, was the de-facto unit used by ordinary people, as they went about their financial transactions. Toman was also used informally to mean 1000 tomans or 10,000 rials for purchases of high-priced items, such as a car or a house (similar to the use of 1 grand in America).
Rial and toman lost much of their values under Iran's Islamic regime, so that in recent months, one US dollar cost around 10,000-14,000 tomans. Let's use the smaller, round value of 10,000 tomans for a US dollar. This means that a toman is worth 0.01 cent and a rial, 0.001 cent.
This devaluation has led to the government deciding to designate 1000 old tomans as a new toman, a proposal that is sometimes referred to as removing four 0s from the rial (one new toman = 10,000 old rials). The transition should be easy, as people are already referring to 1000 tomans as a toman (such as saying that a mid-range restaurant meal is 100 tomans).
With the new official monetary unit, a US dollar will cost 10-14 tomans, using exchange rates from recent months, a much more manageable number! The new toman will consist of 100 parsehs, each parseh being worth 10 old tomans or around 0.1 US cent.
P.S.: Some four decades ago, when I was working on the standardization of Persian print and display characters for computers, I proposed symbols for rial and toman (see the image above), while suggesting that the government officially switch to toman, the de facto standard unit. Neither symbol was adopted at the time!

2019/08/22 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Quote from Francois de la Rochefoucauld about how absence affects love, with Persian translation Pencil drawing of an old woman by 16-year-old artist Shania McDonagh Quote by Lord Byron about love and friendship, with Persian translation (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Quotes of the day about degrees of love and friendship, with Persian translations, from my Facebook posts. [Center] Pencil drawing by 16-year-old artist Shania McDonagh.
(2) Painful and hopeful at the same time: Iran's dire economic conditions are devastating the underclass, creating many criminals and drug addicts in the process. But amid hardships caused by suffocating sanctions, philanthropists are rising to the occasion. In this 19-minute talk (in Persian), one such angel of mercy outlines his programs to create jobs for the unemployable and tells several tales of redemption.
(3) Danny Cohen, pioneering computer scientist responsible for advancements in flight simulation, Internet telephony, teleconferencing, cloud computing, and on-line dating, dead at 81.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Amazon rainforest fires can be seen from space. [Story] [Satellite image]
- On moronic self-centered people who assume they know better what's good for Jews. [Facebook post]
- Where are Jewish WH Senior Advisors Ivanka and Jared hiding, as Trump is attacked for anti-Semitism?
- Star Wars Symphonic Suite: Solo performance by Jelani Eddington on a pipe organ. [7-minute video]
- A unique arts/archaeology museum in Iran: Donated private residence of Professor Mohsen Moghaddam.
- Old photos of Iran: City cabs in Iran's western city of Kermanshah more than 50 years ago. [Photos]
(5) Next month's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Professor Yasamin Mostofi (UCSB) will speak under the title "Robotics Meets Wireless Communications: Opportunities and Challenges" (Wednesday 9/18, 6:00 PM, Rusty's Pizza, 5934 Calle Real, Goleta).
(6) New York Times "1619 Project": August 20 was the 400th anniversary of the first ship carrying slaves entering the US. NYT is marking the occasion with this conversation and other activities.

2019/08/21 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Heavenly flowers in four panels Heavenly flower: Single purple rose Heavenly flower: Single red rose (1) Heavenly flowers: Uncredited photos, chosen from various Internet sources.
(2) Animal abuse in Iran: Sharing this Facebook memory from 4 years ago, because animal rights have been front and center in the Iranian news this past week, with police attacking peaceful protesters who demand that animals not be abused by citizens and authorities.
(3) Very recent selfie photos of me: One in front of my home's maps wall and the other with a free T-shirt bearing Persian calligraphic art (courtesy of my daughter), after I bought a couple of others on-line.
(4) Recipe for UCLA admission: Pay $100K bribe; Get soccer scholarship; Attend school without even playing soccer. [Source: Tribune News Service]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump and Netanyahu have poisoned Israel's relations not only with Palestinians but also with America.
- Cindy McCain writes about her husband John as "a man of civility" a year after his passing.
- Jeffrey Epstein continued his sex-trafficking activities while on work-release during his incarceration!
- Why opposition to compulsory veiling is important: From Masih Alinejad's "My Stealthy Freedom" FB page.
- Oh, the charms of our beloved English language: I before E; Commas save lives. [Images]
- And now the charms of programming languages: Proper use of "while"! [Cartoon]
- A year of abuse: This woman took a selfie on each day of her first year of marriage and published them.
(6) Trump's anti-Semitism on full display: Calling 71% of American Jews who vote Democratic uninformed or disloyal is the ultimate in anti-Semitism. Jewish supporters of Trump should wake up and stop being pawns in his power grab and destructive foreign policy.
(7) Tonight's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Dr. Tali Freed (Professor, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering Department, Cal Poly SLO) spoke at Goleta's Flightline Restaurant and Lounge under the title "UAV-RFID for Outdoor Applications." In the first part of her talk, Dr. Freed introduced PolyGAIT (Cal Poly's Interdisciplinary Center for Global Automatic Identification Technologies, which she directs), including its mission, collaboraters, and ongoing projects. In the rest of her talk, Dr. Freed discussed two specific ongoing projects. The first project entails optimizing a UAV-RFID cattle search tour, with the goal of allowing a UAV with limited battery life to optimally scan a pasture for RFID-tagged cattle to determine their locations. The second project concerns the efficient management of oil-field equipment inventory. [Details on Facebook] [Tweet]

2019/08/19 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Teenagers whose photo was snapped by Ringo Starr nearly 50 years ago recreate the pose Cartoon (Garden of Eden) and sign (jack of all trades) These six Iranian women, who attended soccer matches disguised as men, have been arrested (1) Images of the day: [Left] Teenagers whose photo was snapped by Ringo Starr nearly 50 years ago, as they were returning from a disappointing trip in which they failed to see the Beatles arriving at the airport, recreate the pose. [Center] Cartoon (Garden of Eden under DAESH or Taliban) and funny sign (for my Persian-speaking readers). [Right] These six Iranian women, who attended soccer matches disguised as men, have been arrested (photos: My Stealthy Freedom Facebook page).
(2) Musings of a stable genius: What economic slowdown? What Russian election meddling? Ignore North Korea's missiles, because Kim sent me a beautiful letter! Khashoggi was cut into pieces? Says who?
(3) The US economy is doing great. So is the guy with $75K in credit-card debt, who just leased a luxury car and upgraded his house by using his line of credit.
(4) ShakeAlert: The phone app is being upgraded after it failed to provide warning of two July 2019 earthquakes in Los Angeles, although the system that feeds the app had a 49-second early warning.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Suicide bombing: The Afghan wedding with hundreds of guests that turned into a funeral for 63.
- How Iranian women influencers have evolved over the significance of restrictions on women in sports.
- Super-funny juggling act, from the era of Johnny Carson's "The Tonight Show."
- This children's book was banned, because Iranian censors didn't like the ant's Kurdish costume! [Image]
- Iranian music: The girls of Bushehr. [1-minute video]
- Mont-Saint-Michel Monastery in Normandy, France, is visited by 3 million tourists annually. [Photo]
(6) A bit of history for those who think genocide can't happen in the US: German concentration camps were not built for Jews. They had been operating since 1933 to hold socialists, communists, Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexuals, and other "social deviants." The camps weren't awful places in 1933. Guards abusing prisoners were disciplined and sometimes prosecuted. Even in 1944, those working at the camps did not consider themselves evil, but normal people who enjoyed breaks during "routine" daily work. [Read on]

2019/08/18 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Monarch butterfly: Surprise visitor on my front lawn late this Sunday morning Two T-shirts bearing Persian calligraphic art Beautiful sunset shots this evening on northbound US 101, between Thousand Oaks and Ventura (1) Images of the day: [Left] Surprise visitor on my front lawn late this Sunday morning. This male Monarch butterfly is definitely in the wrong place at the wrong time. Perhaps its malfunctioning GPS navigation led it to North America instead of South America! [Center] Google/Amazon ads 3, Behrooz 0: A few weeks ago, I was searching for images related to Persian script for possible use in my August 10 conference presentation about computers and the challenges of writing in Persian. Predictably, I was shown many ads, including several for T-shirts bearing Persian calligraphic art. These two purchases, along with an illustrated copy of Shahnameh, with English translation, were the results! [Right] I snapped these beautiful sunset shots on the way back from Los Angeles, where I had gone to help my daughter with bed-assembly and a couple of maintenance projects.
(2) Forced attendance at Trump events: This story reminds me of bussing of school children and factory workers in the 1970s Iran, whenever the Shah gave a speech or attended a public function.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The stock market (DJIA) has shown no gain over the past 12 months. [Chart]
- University of California faculty urge UC President to have the institution divested from fossil fuels.
- Christianity 2.0 and why its relationship with Jesus has grown to be inconvenient. [Video]
- Kurdish music: An old song of Nasser Razzazi. [5-minute video]
- Unbelievable performance by a 6-year-old drummer: "Wipe Out" (originally performed by The Ventures)
- Kurdish poetry: Recitation of a poem, with the backdrop of photos showing prominent Kurds. [Video]
(4) Looking forward to attending a concert by the super-talented SBPianoBoys at Santa Barbara's United Methodist Church (305 East Anapamu) on Sunday, August 25, 2019, 6:30-8:00 PM. [Videos]
(5) Brave young Iranian woman challenges the idiotic assertion that hijab is a candy-wrapper that protects women (chocolates) from flies (men). [Interview in Persian]
(6) Final thought for the day: Many who consider themselves pro-life are really pro-birth: They are against any form of support for children or their parents after birth. For them, life begins at conception and ends at birth.

2019/08/17 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Heavenly fruits and vegis. Portrait of me from August 2015 Heavenly Persian food (1) Images of the day: [Left/Right] Heavenly fruits/vegis and Persian foods. [Center] My portrait from 2015.
(2) The Ridgecrest quake, SoCal's strongest in the age of the Internet and smartphones, provided scientists with priceless data. For example, a Caltech network of sensing devices revealed that the top of an LA skyscraper swayed back and forth surprisingly long and far.
(3) Hypocrites: Ahmad Alamolhoda, a powerful mullah, praises the Shah's qualities and his contributions to the advancement of religion in Iran, in a speech he delivered three years before the Islamic Revolution.
(4) Trump predictably abandons his endorsement of expanded background checks under pressure from the gun lobby and focuses on red-flag laws, essentially blaming mental illness for mass-shootings.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Where to go, now that schools, malls, concerts, cinemas, and clubs are unsafe because of guns. [Cartoon]
- Dr. Bandy Lee analyzes Trump's mental capacity to make sound decisions, based on Mueller's report.
- Two kayakers in Alaska witness and record the collapse of a massive glacier.
- Useful tip: If a service dog without a person approaches you, follow it to where it leads you.
- Music from a talent competition: Wonderful rendition of "You Raise Me Up" by young boy and girl.
- Why Trump wants Greenland: To rename it Trumpland; Gift for Melania's BD; Thinks it's green (for golf).
(6) "Feathers of Fire": A shadow-theater play produced by Hamid Rahmanian, based on Shahnameh (The Book of Kings), to counteract the negative image of Iranians in the US.
(7) Be Best: Two senior political appointees at the State Department have been engaging in a campaign of harassment and retaliation against career staffers whom they perceived as independent or disloyal to President Trump, a report from the department's inspector general concluded on Thursday. [Source: Newsweek]
(8) A rare Trump apology: Confusing an overweight supporter for a protester, he said in New Hampshire, "That guy's got a serious weight problem. Go home. Start exercising." (Talk about a serious weight problem!)
(9) Misguided priorities: Only 20% of mass shooters are mentally ill. Only 3-5% of those with serious mental illness are violent (source: MentalHealth.gov). Yes, mental illness is a factor to be dealt with, but it isn't the primary cause of mass shootings. Hatred and hate-filled ideologies are the main culprits.

2019/08/16 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Interesting memes/quotes for the absurdities we face as we struggle to unseat an illegitimate president Painting of a famous Tehran landmark: Gate of the National Garden @realDonaldTrump is a real bigot who lies through his teeth (1) Images of the day: [Left] Interesting memes/quotes for the absurdities we face as we struggle to unseat an illegitimate president. [Center] Painting of a famous Tehran landmark: Gate of the National Garden (artist unknown). [Right] @realDonaldTrump is a real bigot who lies through his teeth.
(2) The widening pay gap: America's CEOs were paid an average of $17.2 million in 2018, that's up 1008% since 1978. Over the same 40-year period, pay for average workers grew just 12%. [Source: Newsweek]
(3) The new profile of terrorism in the US (chart from Time magazine, issue of August 19, 2019). [Red, right wing; Blue, left wing; Green, Islamist; Gray, unknown/other]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump pressures Israel to ban two US citizens holding elected public office from visiting that country.
- Cartoon of the day: RIP gun violence victims. RIP political will to stand up to the NRA. [Image]
- Persian music: Maryam Rashid Farrokhi performs a santoor solo. [Video]
- The polygraph machine was developed for monitoring of patients' vital signs, not for lie detection.
(5) Dayton mass-shooter's obituary is glowing with praise: It bears no mention of his murderous rampage or even the killing of his own sister.
(6) Rep. Steve King considers rape and incest necessary for population growth: "What if we went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest? Would there be any population of the world left if we did that?" [Please vote to kick such sickos out of public office!]
(7) Ken Cuccinelli's CNN interview: That statue of liberty poem ("Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!") was about people coming from Europe.
(8) Wednesday's Concert at the Gazebo (Goleta Valley Community Center): SoLuna, featuring a Janice-Joplin-soundalike vocalist, performed pop and country songs. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]
(9) Thursday's Concert in the Park: The fantastic-sounding, high-energy 8-member Blue Breeze Band performed Motown and R&B music at Santa Barbara's Chase Palm Park, bringing many of the audience members to their feet. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3] [Video 4] [Video 5]

2019/08/15 (Thursday): Here are three book reviews, in an effort to make a dent in my huge backlog!
(1) Book review: Rioux, Anne Boyd, Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters, unabridged audiobook on 8 CDs, read by Kimberly Farr, HighBridge Audio, 2018.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott's surprise hit, tells the story of four sisters in Civil-War-Era rural New England (loosely modeled after Alcott and her three sisters) is now viewed as a "girls' book," but when it was published in 1868, boys and adults also read and loved it. Professor Anne Boyd Rioux, who read Little Women in her twenties, tells us how Alcott came to write the book and its sequel, Good Wives. The latter volume was published under several different titles and was eventually combined with the first volume under the title Little Women. Little Men and Jo's Boys can also be considered as sequels.
We learn, among many other behind-the-scenes details, about how Alcott had to make changes to the story at the request of her publisher, so as not to rock the boat too much, and how all four girls had to be married off to satisfy the period's social norms. Even though it isn't difficult to see why a story about the coming of age and resilience of young women would become a classic, the fact that a 1.5-century-old story resonates with 21st-century readers is still rather surprising.
Alcott is both praised and dissed by modern feminists. Some view Little Women as promoting feminism, because it depicts girls as having aspirations other than just getting married, a bold proposition for the 1800s, while others consider it anti-feminist, because even Jo, the most independent and daring of the girls, eventually gets married to a professor, abandoning her writing career and settling into domesticity.
Rioux also discusses the many film and television adaptations of the story, along with the strengths and shortcomings of each version. The iconic 1994 film adaptation that starred Winona Ryder as Jo, alongside Kirsten Dunst and Christian Bale, is praised as the best version, even though the petite, super-feminine Ryder is often viewed as a poor choice to portray the tom-boyish Jo.
(2) Book review: Wolitzer, Meg, The Female Persuasion, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Rebecca Lowman, Penguin Audio, 2018. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is Meg Wolitzer's 11th novel and the second one that I have read recently, the other one being The Wife, the basis for a successful movie with Glenn Close in the title character (my review). The Female Persuation is a timely novel for the age of #MeToo, boasting a number of strong female characters coping with the challenges of feminism, when many of the barriers to women's progress have been broken in principle, but not quite in practice. Men still get only a slap on the wrist for sexually aggressive behavior, and they endorse women's equality half-heartedly at best. A world in which women are expected to use their "indoors voice" when conversing with men feeling no such inhibition.
Faith Frank, the feminist role model of Greer Kadetsky, considers women not succumbing to society's idea of womanhood as an ongoing challenge. She views feminism not only as empowerment and equal rights, but also as a sisterhood organized around connectedness rather than competition. Honoring the said sisterhood isn't always easy, as it may require personal sacrifice to achieve a collective good; even the most dedicated feminists may fail on occasion in this respect.
The idealist Kadetsky eventually clashes with the pragmatic Frank, who seemingly compromises her principles to acquire funding for her causes from an unscrupulous business tycoon. Wolitzer exposes the moral failings of all the "heroic" characters and the basic decency of the less flashy types in her story. A key part of feminism is accepting such failings and understanding that one does not have to be perfect to be useful to society or even an esteemed role model.
Wolitzer's richly detailed and nuanced story ends in the present time, with the current US president in the White House and feminists outraged by the seeming loss of earlier gains. It has become extremely difficult for people like Faith Frank, who believe in affecting change by working within the system, to maintain hope. In the end, we are left with the open question of whether changing the system from within is even possible.
(3) Book review: Comey, James, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Macmillan Audio, 2018. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
It's difficult to read this book without taking sides in the clash between the former FBI Director and President Donald Trump, although the book also contains a lot about Comey's service under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, when he had similar, though less intense, conflicts with members of the administration. There is also much about Comey's personal struggles, the main one being his family's dealing with the loss of a son.
Autobiographies tend to be self-serving, and this book is no exception. Comey's description of why he treated the Clinton e-mails investigation the way he did appears artificial and reeks of after-the-fact justification. Still, he comes across as a rather ethical, compassionate, reflective, and capable leader; and that's in absolute terms and not just relative to his amoral nemesis who fired him from a job he loved and excelled at.
Comey's credentials include prosecuting the Mafia and Martha Stewart (he provides a bitter-sweet reflection about the latter case, which amounts to dealing with small fish in a world of many nasty big fishes) and helping change the Bush administration's policies on torture and electronic surveillance.
Comey is a literate man who writes surprisingly well. Going in, I was ambivalent about reading his book. But I am glad I did, because it provided me with a good understanding of the workings of the US Justice Department and FBI, including how they interact with the rest of the executive branch.

2019/08/14 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for the book 'Dividing America' (1) Dividing America: This e-book, released by presidential candidate Michael Bennett, exposes the extent of Russia's interference in our 2016 election that the US Government seemingly does not care about.
(2) A 78-year-old conjecture in number theory is finally proven correct by two 30-something mathematicians: The conjecture has to do with the approximation of real numbers with rational numbers. For example, the number pi can be approximated as 3.142 = 1571/500, but we also have the very old approximation 22/7, which is more appealing, because it uses a smaller denominator. It's impossible to explain the conjecture in non-technical terms, but it essentially says that if one excludes a relatively small set of numbers from the list of possible denominators, then many numbers won't have accurate approximations.
(3) Jeffrey Epstein had dirt on powerful people: This explains the source of his wealth (up to now a mystery) and his "suicide," which was either carried out by others or was a pre-emptive action, knowing that a fate similar to Jamal Khashoggi awaited him.
(4) Hostage negotiations between France and Iran: The fate of Fariba Adelkhah, the dual French/Iranian national jailed by the Revolutionary Guards, hangs in the balance.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Recession fears and global turmoil caused by trade wars lead to ~3% drop in the stock market.
- Drug bust in Philadelphia results in a shoot-out: Six officers injured in a possible hostage situation.
- North Korea's cyberattacks on banks and other institutions net it billions, which it spends on weapons.
- Cray awarded $600M contract to build US DoE's first exascale computer for nuclear security applications.
- Goleta's Lemon Festival and Carpinteria's Avocado Festival are considering extra security measures.
- Lady Liberty's 2019 redacted poem. [New Yorker cartoon]
(6) The man sees everyone's faults but his own: "Trump, commander in chief and president of the world's only superpower, thinks he is the world's most picked-upon person. The man who victimizes others insists that he is the biggest victim of all. And the greatest indignity? His critics (sometimes a majority of Americans) keep calling him racist and misogynistic, fiscally irresponsible, lazy, corrupt, authoritarian, impulsive and erratic based on his racist and misogynistic, fiscally irresponsible, lazy, corrupt, authoritarian, impulsive and erratic rhetoric and actions. The unfairness of it all!"
(7) The story of Zari Khanoom: In this real story (in Persian), Zari, a young girl who seems pregnant, is tortured and almost killed by her brother. Others in the household and neighborhood either join in the abuse or watch passively, day after day. Long story short, Zari ends up attending medical school, becomes a prominent doctor, and, with her husband, emigrates to the United States, where she chairs a department and leads a large research team working on AIDS. She is also active in charity and helps several members of her family in Iran financially. This one woman was saved by circumstances and sheer luck, but many others are never allowed to achieve their full potential because of antiquated notions of a woman's place and family honor.
[P.S.: Reprinting of the book bearing this real story has been banned in Iran.]

2019/08/13 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Coasters with Persian designs, from an ad A persian couplet by Rahi Mo'ayyeri Four old photos of Tehran (1) Some Iran-related images: [Left] Coasters with Persian designs, from an ad: A Google search reveals many other calligraphic, rug, fabric, and miniature designs. [Center] A couple of Persian verses by Rahi Mo'ayyeri. [Right] A few old photos of Tehran (source: "Old Photos of Iran" Facebook page).
(2) Chernobyl 2: The stupid nuclear arms race, restarted by Trump and Putin, has claimed the lives of at least seven Russian scientists who died when a nuclear-powered cruise missile exploded during testing.
(3) Iran's FM Javad Zarif is just a puppet: Even his boss, President Hassan Rouhani, has only a very small share of the power, which is concentrated in the hands of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his cronies.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Best memes of the day, showing the two ends of the decency spectrum. [Image]
- Hackers challenged to break into US voting machines did so with ease.
- Nvidia touts its language-understanding tech, claiming new performance records for conversational AI.
- "Rise" and others: Persian poems by Parvaneh Forouhar, translated into English by Nasim Basiri.
- Hilarious tweets about the Moon-landing hoax, pulled off 50 years ago and about to be repeated!
(5) Facebook has users' audio chats recorded and transcribed for use in targeted ads: In a segment on tonight's PBS Newshour, a gambling addict complained about losing tons of money because of Facebook ads that targeted her. Shame on Facebook and other tyrannical/immoral tech companies!
(6) Multiple investigations have been opened on charges of sexual misconduct against Placido Domingo: Several of the world-famous tenor's performances have already been cancelled. Is there a famous/powerful man who hasn't abused his power over young underlings?
[Postscript: True that powerful men attract many women and that kind of attention may be what causes their downfall: Such a man may think that because some women vie for his attention, he has a license to take advantage of all women. I realize that this is a slippery slope and have no solution for how to deal with the problem. Does someone's brilliant painting, wonderful poem, musical masterpiece, or scientific discovery suddenly become worthless if s/he is found to be guilty of sexual misconduct or murder? Many women enjoy their relationships with such men, getting lots of attention socially and all the perks financially, and then decide, in middle age or old age, that they really did not want that attention and perhaps it was forced on them.]

2019/08/12 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon of the day: Guns stink even more than garlic! Cartoons: Food for thought: How things have changed over the past few decades People are demanding action on curbing gun violence, while politicians have retreated into their holes to avoid talking about it (1) Images of the day: [Left] Guns stink even more than garlic! [Center] Food for thought: How things have changed over the past few decades. [Right] People are demanding action on curbing gun violence, while politicians have retreated into their holes to avoid talking about it.
(2) How the American music scene has changed: In the 1970s, nearly all Billboard 200 top albums were rock (orange tiles in this chart from Wall Street Journal). The ratio of rock top albums dropped in each decade, giving way to pop, R&B/Hip-hop, and Country/Folk.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Child rapist Jeffrey Epstein did not deserve an easy death by suicide, before facing his victims in court.
- Trump says the Clintons are pedophile murderers: Whatever happened to strengthening libel laws?
- The current rate of increase in US national debt is unprecedented when the economy is booming.
- Regarding Trump's criticism of Beto O'Rourke that he moves his hands and body too much! [Tweet]
- Gymnast Simon Biles put her name into record books with her triple-double: Here is the move's physics.
- Several of the 14 Iranian women activists who had called for Khamenei's resignation have been arrested.
- Persian jazz music: Ziba Shirazi sings "Untold Love." [Video]
- Persian piano music: A memorable composition by Anoushiravan Rohani, made famous by Marzieh. [Video]
- Persian music: A wonderful song based on a spiritual/patriotic poem by Soroush Esfahani. [Video]
- An unusual 16-by-16 hexadecimal Sudoku puzzle, from Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle. [Image]
(4) Brave Iranian women activists have crossed a major red line of the Islamic regime, and the consequences may be dire: The Supreme Leader is viewed as God's representative on Earth, and is thus not subject to the usual checks and balances. Khamenei effectively heads all three branches of the government in Iran and issues directives to all of them. He has not given an interview to domestic or international reporters in decades and there isn't a way of asking him questions. His communications are one-way affairs, where he pontificates and the attendees cheer or chant in approval. He can be for a particular policy or initiative in one speech and against it in another. There is no channel for calling him out on the inconsistencies. Through extra-judicial arrests and allegations of acting against national security, which come with long prison terms, the press has been repeatedly warned against criticizing him, and, thus, has chosen self-censorship. It is thus quite significant that a number of women activists have called for Khamenei's resignation and dissolution of Iran's Islamic form of government in favor of a democratic system.

2019/08/11 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos from my lecture and with other attendees The art of lettering: Typography contrasted with Graffiti Random snapshots from the TUG 2019 Conference (1) Photos from the TUG conference: [Left] Me during my Saturday lecture, with Dr. Mostafa Mortezaie, and both of us with Dr. Donald Knuth. [Center] Art in lettering (see item 4 below). [Right] Random snapshots.
(2) TUG Conference attendance: On Fraiday, I drove from Goleta to Palo Alto to attend the 40th TeX Users Group Conference, held August 9-11 at Sheraton Palo Alto. On the way there, I passed through Gilroy, home of the Garlic Festival. I arrived in Palo Alto just in time for lunch and the ensuing afternoon sessions. My talk, entitled "Evolutionary Changes in Persian and Arabic Scripts to Accommodate the Printing Press, Typewriting, and Computerized Word Processing" was on Saturday at 3:45 PM [Paper] [Slides] [Program], and, to my delight, it was attended by Donald Knuth, the Grand Wizard of scientific typesetting and the inventor of TeX (pronounced "tek"). At the end of the afternoon session, I had a discussion with Knuth on the Nastaliq script and the history of Arabic typesetting, about which he gave me a couple of important leads. At the end of Saturday, I drove to Fremont to attend my sister's birthday party, where my son Sepand was also present. I also attended the morning sessions of the Conference on Sunday, before starting my southward drive to Goleta.
(3) Quote of the day: "Science is what we understand well enough to explain to a computer. Art is everything else we do." ~ Donald E. Knuth, Stanford Emeritus Professor and inventor of TeX
(4) Art in lettering: One of the more interesting events at the conference on Saturday was a non-technical talk by high school teacher Jennifer Claudio, entitled "A Brief Exploration of Artistic Elements in Lettering," in which she contrasted the rather rigid rules of typography (regarding how the letters should look) with the free forms and rule-breaking styles we see in graffiti and other street-art forms.
(5) In the margins: My small (Tokyo-hotel-size) Palo Alto hotel room had a very Silicon-Valley-like feature: A glass panel and a set of dry-erase markers for impromptu discussions about the next start-up idea!
(6) Heading back to Santa Barbara: Farewell TUG Conference! Farewell Palo Alto! Farewell University Avenue, with its many restaurants and sidewalk dining areas, excellent for strolling and people-watching! [Photos]

2019/08/10 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Persian poetry: A couplet from Anvari Persian poetry: Selected verses from a poem by Sa'adi Persian poetry: A couplet from Abou-Saeid Abolkheir (1) Persian poems by Anvari (left), Sa'adi (selected verses, center), and Abu-Saeid Abolkheir (right).
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Woman with no medical training who ran a children's care center in Africa responsible for 100+ deaths.
- Trump's big grin and thumbs-up in photo-op with the baby who lost both parents in the El Paso massacre.
- Biden said poor kids are just as smart as white kids: Dems need a candidate with feet outside mouth!
- Third debate for Democratic candidates: Who's in, who's out, who still has a shot. [Chart]
- A group of laid off Kentucky miners blocked a train loaded with $1 million in coal to protest owed back pay.
- We have said "Enough" before: Do we mean it this time? Will we oust politicians who don't act? [Image]
(3) Book review: Blight, David W., Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, unabridged audiobook, read by Prentice Onayemi, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2018. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Cover image of 'Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom' This book turns the myth of Frederick Douglass into the biography of a real person, who was born into slavery but went on to become a wise public figure, a skilled and effective orator, and a man of distinction. Life on "Great House Farm," the southern plantation where Douglass was born to a slave mother and a white man in the early 1800s, was brutal. Slaves were beaten or whipped, given little food, and were routinely over-worked.
As a child, Douglass was exempted from the harshest treatment, but what he saw on the planataion shaped his personality and world view for the rest of his life. He was separated from his mother at age 7, when he was given to a relative of his father, who took him to Baltimore.
City slaves received much better treatment, because of the owners' fear of appearing cruel in the eyes of non-slave-owning neighbors. The new owner's wife was particularly kind to Douglass, but her behavior changed under extreme pressure from her husband, who believed that education made the slaves unmanageable. Over the succeeding years, Douglass was "rented" to various masters, with different tempers and attitudes toward slaves.
Still, Douglass managed to teach himself to read with the help of local boys. Through reading, he became aware of the evils of slavery and learned of the abolitionist movement. Eventually, after saving money from extra work, Douglass escaped to New York, where he changed his name from Bailey to Douglass for fear of recapture. He devoted the rest of his life until his death at age 77 to the anti-slavery movement as a writer/preacher/orator and to educating slaves.
Besides writing three autobiographies, Douglass accomplished much during his life. He is recognized as the most distinguished African-American of the 19th century. He was a fierce advocate of equality for all human beings (blacks, women, immigrants, and all other groups) and of social causes (peace, land reform, free public education, and abolition of capital punishment).

2019/08/08 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB's Storke Tower and campus lagoon Professor Shokoufeh Shahrabi of U. Tennessee's Health Science Center displays her pride in working at a hate-free campus Cartoon: On Russia swindling Iran's rights to the resources of the Caspian Sea (1) Images of the day: [Left] Reflections on UCSB (last item below). [Center] Professor Shokoufeh Shahrabi of U. Tennessee's Health Science Center displays her pride in working at a hate-free campus. [Right] Cartoon of the day: On Russia swindling Iran's rights to Caspian-Sea resources (credit: Iranwire.com).
(2) Wine-making in Iran and the roots of Shiraz wine: This 45-minute documentary, narrated in Persian, traces the history of wine-making from early human civilizations in Georgia to points further south in Iran.
(3) Brotherhood among criminals: Trump is considering pardoning the corrupt-to-the-core former Governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich, who appeared with him on season 9 of "The Celebrity Apprentice." Trump blames James Comey and his pals for Blagojevich's harsh 18-year sentence. Blagojevich was caught red-handed soliciting bribes, using the powers of his office, and was convicted in 2011 on multiple corruption charges.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Robberies and hate/anger-filled attacks by a 33-year-old leave 4 dead and 2 injured in Southern California.
- Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are said to be harboring ambitions of aging in the White House! [Image]
- Beautiful moving image: Earth reflections. [Video]
- Dutch artist Ard Gelinck PhotoShops celebrities next to their younger selves, with amazing results.
(5) Concert in the park: The blues band Lightnin' Willie and the Poorboys performed at Santa Barbara's Chase Palm Park this evening. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3] [Video 4] Before the concert, I had a refreshingly long walk along Santa Barbara's waterfront that took me to SB Zoo's Bird Refuge and SB Cemetery [Photos]. Got to the Cemetery shortly after it had closed, so couldn't go in to pay respects. I needed the walk, given several busy days preparing for a 3-day conference trip to Palo Alto (Stanford U.), beginning early tomorrow morning.
(6) The perils of an aging campus: When I joined UCSB 31 years ago, it was nearly a century old in all its shapes and forms and 44 years old as a UC campus, but the faculty and staff were mostly young. Over the past three decades, the campus has become grayer. The rising prestige of UCSB (with many top-10 or otherwise honored programs in recent years) has meant that more people stay around and retire here, rather than jump ship for greener pastures. A consequence of this aging is the regular arrival of e-mail messages from our Chancellor, bearing the subject line "Sad News," informing us of the passing of an emeritus (or, occasionally, an active) colleague. The impressive academic bios that accompany such messages are signs that our sadness in losing a colleague should be accompanied by much pride for having come such a long way!

2019/08/07 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB campus, as seen from the other side of Santa Barbara Airport Meme: Putting the carnage caused by assault rifles in the hands of domestic terrorists into perspective Meme: How come no one says contaminated lettuce doesn't kill people, it's the fault of those who eat it? (1) Images of the day: [Left] UCSB Campus, as seen from the other side of SB Airport: Today, before an IEEE Central Coast Section meeting at Flightline Restaurant and Lounge (former Elephant Bar), I walked alongside Goleta's Firestone Road to the north of the airport, learning about the area and its businesses and photographing the UCSB Campus beyond many small planes parked inside the Airport property. You have to look hard to spot the Storke Tower and other UCSB landmarks. [Center] Putting the carnage caused by assault rifles in the hands of domestic terrorists into perspective. [Right] Meme of the day: How come no one says contaminated lettuce doesn't kill people, it's the fault of those who eat it?
(2) Three physicists awarded $3-million prize for their highly influential 'supergravity' theory, even though 40 years after its introduction, the theory remains speculative.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Calbright College, California's new on-line community college, will open "its doors" on October 1.
- A scientist created this shadow sculpture of Trump bearing overt and hidden messages.
- A cookbook author and a food critic tried out as many Persian restaurants in LA as they could over 2.5 days.
- Kurdish/Azeri music: Hassan Zirak, the legendary Kurdish singer performs a duet with an Azeri singer.
(4) Tehran's architecture: How faculty members, students, and graduates of Tehran University's School of Fine Arts created the city's post-modern architectural gems. [7-minute video, narrated in Persian]
(5) Funny in mathematics (with apologies to Firoozeh Dumas): There is a fairly long story, involving knights and squires, with the punchline, "And it just goes to prove, the squire of the high pot and noose is equal to the sum of the squires of the other two sides," which you might enjoy.
(6) Everything Trump and his cronies dislike or are criticized for is a hoax: First it was climate change, then the Russian election interference, and now, according to Tucker Carlson, it's the problem of White Supremacy.

2019/08/06 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos of Trump with three brutal dictators Tweet that indicates 9 US Senators received $3-7 million each in campaign contributions from the NRA New business-class seat designs for airplanes (1) Images of the day: [Left] Impaired judgement: These brutal dictators are "strong leaders," but American war heroes and civil-rights icons are terrible people! [Center] Mitch McConnell has an A+ rating from the NRA, which gave him $1.3M in campaign donations as of last year, according to Newsweek. Here is the rest of the story. [Right] Airlines' quest to come up with the most-efficient business-class seat (more photos).
(2) Trade-war escalation: China lets its currency tumble to the lowest value in a decade and halts purchases of US agricultural products in response to Trump's tariff threats.
(3) Another day, another mass shooting in the US: Chicago shootings at a playground and elsewhere in the city overwhelm the emergency room of Mt. Sinai Hospital.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Nobel-Prize winner Toni Morrison, a transformative figure in American literature, dead at 88.
- Wonderful read, from New Yorker: How Toni Morrison fostered a generation of black writers.
- After Sandy Hook massacre, we said "never again." What do we say 2191 mass-shootings later?
- GOP explanations for recent mass shootings: Mental illness; Video games; Trans people and gay marriage.
- Former President Barack Obama sends a Twitter message about mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.
- Barbra Streisand's hilarious parody at Madison Square Garden: "Send in the Clowns," rewritten for Trump!
- This isn't a scene out of the 1800s: Texas police arrests a black man and leads him on a leash in 2019!
- Basketball star tried to fake his drug test, but the urine sample he provided bore signs of pregnancy!
(5) Persian piano music: Anoushiravan Rohani's talented son, Reza, composed and dedicated this beautiful melody entitled "As Sweet as You" to his dad on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
(6) Quote of the day: "A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy." ~ Edward P. Morgan
(7) Math puzzle: ABC is an isosceles triangle with its BAC angle being 20 degrees. Point E is located on the side AB, such that AE = BC. What is the measure of the angle BEC? [Puzzle image] [Various solutions]

2019/08/04 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos of Iran from the 1960s, Batch 1 Photos of Iran from the 1960s, Batch 2 Photos of Iran from the 1960s, Batch 3 (1) Iran in the 1960s: A dozen photos from The Guardian archives. [Link to the full pictorial]
(2) Poignant comedy: Bill Maher ridicules Evangelicals' likening of Trump to the ancient Persian King Cyrus, whose name and deeds in saving Jews appears in Isaiah 45! (45, get it?)
(3) Mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio: We don't even get a day between mass shootings, nowadays: There have been more shootings in 2019 than we've had days so far, thanks in large part to the bozos in the White House and Congress. Send them back!
(4) Evaluate this arithmetic expression, 8 / 2 × (2 + 2): Problems of this kind have been around on the Internet for years. This particular one has caused quite a stir recently.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The republicans are hiding from reporters after the latest mass-shooting in Dayton, Ohio.
- An opinion poll indicates that Americans favor/oppose returning to the Moon by a 2-to-1 ratio.
- Social isolation in the age of constant connectivity: One in five millennials has no friend.
- Voice of America's Persian program honors the legendary Kurdish poet Sherko Bekas [1940-2013].
- Amid all the ugliness that surrounds us, sometimes a beautiful soccer move awes us or makes us smile.
(6) More on the fish-pond puzzle: In the puzzle, we had a pond holding n fish, 99% of which are goldfish. The question was how many goldfish we need to remove to be left with a pond holding 98% goldfish. The counter-intuitive answer was that we had to remove 0.5n goldfish, that is, a tad more than half of the original 0.99n goldfish, to reduce the percentage by 1 point. The justification consists of setting up the equation (0.99nx) / (nx) = 0.98, which yields x = 0.5n for the number of goldfish to be removed.
On a discussion forum with friends, someone noted that the number n of fish must be a multiple of 100 (he took the 99% and 98% ratios to be exact). Setting n = 100k, the equation becomes (99kx) / (100kx) = 0.98, leading to x = 50k. As an engineer, I take the ratios to be non-exact, so that if there are 102 fish with 101 goldfish, the ratio is still 99% (though the exact value is 101/102 = 99.02%). The answer still is to remove 102/2 = 51 goldfish, with the new ratio becoming 50/51 = 98% (98.04%, to be exact). Percentage is a statistical concept and is often not meant as an exact number. For example, if we say that 50% of Iranian-Americans support Trump, this does not imply that the number of Iranian-Americans is necessarily even!
Then, someone else wondered what the answer would be if we were to remove both goldfish and other fish. Denoting the number of other fish to be removed by y, the new equation becomes (0.99 – x) / (nxy) = 0.98, which simplifies to x = 49y + 0.5n. For y = 0, we get x = 0.5n, the answer to the original puzzle. If we remove 1 non-goldfish, we must remove x = 49 + n/2 goldfish. In general, for each non-goldfish removed, we must remove 49 additional goldfish to reach the desired 98% ratio.
(7) Final thought for the day: Trump blames mental illness for mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. He is absolutely right. These hate crimes are incited by a mentally-ill leader!

2019/08/03 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Poignant photograph: 'A beautiful future awaits you' Architect Ronald Rael installs seesaws along the US-Mexico border wall for children on the two sides to play together From entering big time with the release of C64 in 1982 to declaring bankruptcy in 1994, Commodore was a most-beloved computer company (1) Images of the day: [Left] Poignant photograph: The bank ad on the back of the bus reads, "A beautiful future awaits you!" [Center] Architect Ronald Rael installs seesaws along the US-Mexico border wall for children on the two sides to play together. [Right] A bit of nostalgia for older geeks: From entering big time with the release of C64 in 1982 to declaring bankruptcy in 1994, Commodore was a most-beloved computer company.
(2) Math puzzle: A pond contains a very large number n of fish, 99% of which are goldfish. How many goldfish should you remove from the pond so that 98% of the remaining fish are goldfish?
(3) Touching musical performance: Professor Maryam Mirzakhani's husband and their daughter, Anahita, honor her memory on the anniversary of her passing. [3-minute video]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Remembering Charlottesville, the starting point of Trump's descent into overt racism 2 years ago. [Image]
- Another mass shooting, thoughts/prayers sent, all forgotten tomorrow, until the next mass shootings.
- A modern automobile being built: This is where most manufacturing jobs have gone, not overseas!
- How the use of lasers is producing many new archaeological discoveries in both urban and rural areas.
- The joy of baking cookies can make long space journeys to distant worlds bearable for astronauts.
- Centenarian fish: What does a 112-year-old fish tell the youngsters in the sea? "When I was your age, ..."
- Some very interesting magic tricks. [3-minute video]
- Persian music: Artoosh sings his signature song to honor another old-timer, Viguen. [5-minute video]
(5) Seasonal fruit: Yesterday, I bought a mini-watermelon and a cantaloupe at the bargain price of $1.25 each. Given their roughly equal sizes, here is how I decided to present them for today's family gathering.

2019/08/02 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Bisheh Waterfall: A major tourist attraction in Iran's Luristan Province Cartoon: Iran's Islamic regime has renewed its ruthless attacks on artists Hayghar Canyon in Fars Province: Iran's little-known 'Grand Canyon' (1) Iran-related images of the day: [Left] Bisheh Waterfall, a tourism fixture in Iran's Luristan Province. [Center] We have seen this movie before: Iran's Islamic regime has renewed its ruthless attacks on artists (credit: Iranwire.com). [Right] Hayghar Canyon in Fars Province: Iran's little-known "Grand Canyon."
(2) Tucker Carlson wanted to discuss the topic of tax avoidance by the super-rich, but he didn't like what his guest had to say: That Fox commentators are millionaires funded by dirty money from billionaires.
(3) Misogyny in Iran: Women's-rights activists Yasaman Aryani, Monireh Arabshahi, and Mojan Keshavarz, have been sentenced to a total of 55 years in prison by Iran's Islamic regime.
(4) Oh, the joys of being an author! Firoozeh Dumas is puzzled by the appearance of an unauthorized Arabic version of her book, Funny in Farsi. [Image]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Humorous quote of the day: "Donald Trump is 72. The 7 is silent." ~ Anonymous
- After its revenue fell, Pearson recognized that the $300 textbook is no longer a lucrative business model.
- Persian poetry and music: Verses by Iranian poet Taleb Amoli [1586-1627]. [4-minute video]
- Joan Baez sings "Nasty Man," about a certain president. [Words and music by Joan Baez] [Video]
(6) Quote of the day: "Every cell phone adds $3000 to the GDP of a developing country." ~ Steven Pinker, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, a book I am perusing now
(7) One-dimensional random walk: Imagine a drunk at point S along a straight horizontal line. The drunk takes one random step per second, with the step being equally likely to take him left or right. After 2N seconds, the drunk is most likely to be at the starting point S, but he can also be far from S with non-intuitively large probabilities, as shown in this table, where rows are labeled by the number of steps taken and columns are headed by the drunk's distance from S.
Now, about why I reviewed the notion of random walk. Trump is sometimes described as playing 3D-chess politically, the implication being that he has a sophisticated strategy to win re-election. The truth is that he is playing 1D chess like the random-walking drunk. The fact that he seems to be progressing in some direction is totally random, as he tweets and throws tantrums depending on what he just heared on Fox News, his mood at the moment, and what people are saying about him, not according to some grand strategy.

2019/08/01 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Putin on the cover of Newsweek magazine, issue of August 2, 2019 Time magazine's cover image, issue of August 5, 2019 An Indian boy's 526 extra teeth (1) Newsworthy images of the day: [Left] Despite warnings from multiple fronts that Putin continues to meddle in our elections, "Moscow Mitch" refuses to put election security bills to vote in the US Senate, on grounds that they are "partisan." [Center] Time magazine's cover feature, issue of August 5, 2019: Who ends up controlling the Democrats' 2020 message will determine Trump's fate. [Right] An Indian boy went to the hospital with a swollen jaw, which turned out to be due to 526 extra teeth in a sac underneath!
(2) A couple of quotes from last night's CNN Democratic presidential debate in Detroit, Michigan:
- "The first thing I'm going to do when I'm president is ... to Clorox the Oval Office." ~ Kirsten Gillibrand
- "The opposite of Donald Trump is an Asian who likes math." ~ Andrew Yang
(3) Notes on last night's Democratic presidential debate: Tulsi Gabbard did well with her methodical attack on the prosecutorial record of Kamala Harris. Biden continued to show his age by a clumsy closing statement in which he referred to "8 more years of Trump."
(4) What do Russia, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia have in common, other than being loved by Trump? Their "enemies of the state" disappear or are murdered in the most gruesome ways! [Story on Saudi Arabia]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Was Trump exonerated and completely vindicated by a conflicted, angry man on a witch hunt? [Cartoon]
- Trump re-tweets this post from a fake account that was subsequently suspended by Twitter.
- Quote of the day: "Donald Trump is 72. The 7 is silent." ~ Anonymous
- An amazing sight: The Earth rising over the Moon's horizon. [1-minute video]
- Interesting neighborhood sign, from people who are tired of cleaning up after irresponsible pet owners.
- In Goleta, we welcome August with 10 days of mostly-sunny weather, featuring high temps in the 70s.
(6) The return of the Taliban: They oppressed and killed the dreams of an entire generation of Afghan women. They held public executions of both men and women who disobeyed their antiquated laws. They continue to kill and maim innocent civilians via road-side bombs, suicide attacks, and other terror tactics. Now the US is negotiating to return them to power when our forces leave. Shame on us! [A young woman's story]
(7) Yasaman Aryani, the young woman who walked the streets unveiled to protest Iran's compulsory hijab law, got a 16-year prison term, along with her mother. [Video]

2019/07/31 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Historical photos of La Fiesta, batch 1 Poster for Old Spanish Days (La Fiesta) in Santa Barbara Historical photos of La Fiesta, batch 2 (1) Old Spanish Days (La Fiesta) begins today: The 95th annual festival, which includes a street parade, music and dance performances, food, arts and crafts, and much more, will continue until August 4. The B&W historical photos, ca. 1940, are from Santa Barbara Public Library's collection.
(2) Iranian music and dance: Shahrokh Moshkin Ghalam, a Paris-based choreographer and dancer, dances with his Spanish partner to a tune made famous by folk singer Sima Bina. A young woman from the audience joins them mid-way through the performance. [9-minute video]
(3) Reagan, viewed as a champion for immigrants, also had a racist side: In a newly-released audio clip of a 1971 call between the then-California-Governor and President Nixon, Reagan refers to "monkeys from those African countries" to show his displeasure over how they voted to recognize China as a UN member.
(4) Quote of the day: "For politicians, including my fellow candidates who themselves have taken tens of thousands and, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars from these same corporate donors, to think that they now have the moral authority to say, 'We're going to take them on,' I don't think the Democratic Party should be surprised that so many Americans believe 'yadda, yadda, yadda'." ~ Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Taliban roadside bomb kills at least 32 on a bus: Why is the US negotiating with these murderers?
- Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof speaks out on his interrogation, censorship, and prison sentence.
- Persian love poetry at its best: A beautiful couplet by Abou-Saeid Abolkheir. [Image]
- Tetris turned 35 on June 6: Human fondness for tidying up is one reason the game is so appealing to us.
(6) Old Spanish Days (Fiesta) kicked off at Santa Barbara's de la Guerra Plaza this afternoon: The formal opening was at the SB Mission, beginning at 8:00 PM, which I watched on TV. Upon arrival, I shot this video along de la Guerra Street, with Fiesta merchants on both sides, and de la Guerra Plaza, with its food booths and performance stage. Next, I watched mariachis perform at the entrance to the Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center. I took in some of the music at de la Guerra Plaza's performance stage. On the way back home from Fiesta events, I stopped by at Goleta Valley Community Center to watch part of today's installment of the "Concerts at the Gazebo" series, held on Wednesdays. Cadillac Angels (swing, Americana, R&R) performed for a surprisingly small crowd; Fiesta refugees, as the band leader joked about us! [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]

2019/07/30 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Facebook memories: A few photos originally posted on July 30 of years past A very recent selfie Some of the currently featured photos on my Facebook page (1) Images of the day: [Left] Facebook memories: A few photos originally posted on July 30 of years past, including one with my daughter, one in front of the Freedom Sculpture in Century City, a couple with friends, and one showing support for Iranian women's fight against compulsory hijab. [Center] And here is a very recent selfie. [Right] Some of the currently featured photos on my Facebook page.
(2) Capital-One data breach affected 100 million customers: A tip from someone who noticed data with names, DOBs, and SSNs stored on GitHub led to the arrest of Paige Thompson, a former Amazon employee.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Death toll in the Brazil prison brawl between gangs rises to 57, with 16 the victims decapitated.
- Amazon Prime Air's MK27 drone cleared by FAA for package deliveries.
- One of these men, who boasted about his "German blood" and "good genes," deems the other a racist!
- Remember Trump asking black voters "What have you got to lose?" Well, he's providing the answer now!
- Trump uses everyone for personal gain, then discards them like soiled toilet paper when done. [Photo]
- Trump's first of 19 tweets bashing Cummings came just after Fox News aired a segment on Baltimore.
- You know what is infested with rodents? Thousands of rental units that Jared Kushner owns in Baltimore!
- Persian Music: A wonderful rendition of the oldie song "Bahar-e Delkash." [2-minute video, with lyrics]
(4) My discovery stroll in a Goleta neighborhood: I don't live far from Goleta's Cabrillo Business Park, a partially-developed area bounded by Hollister Avenue on the north and Los Carneros Road on the east. This afternoon, beginning from what used to be K-mart Plaza (soon to be Target Plaza, I suppose), I walked on Hollister Avenue, turning right into the Park at Coromar Drive, which becomes Discovery Drive (lined on its entire north side by the huge Extra-Space storage facility), as it turns toward Los Carneros Road. Another major business on the Hollister side of the Park is Deckers Outdoor Corporation. Signs on the property tell of plans to erect many new buildings within a couple of years in the undeveloped area of the Park immediately behind the US Postal Service's large regional sorting facility. There is a long trail, beginning and ending on Los Carneros Road, which goes around a nature preserve within the Park. It is marked as private, but that is mostly to limit their legal liabilities toward visitors, I suppose. Smack in the middle of the nature preserve one can see a row of communications towers which help planes land at the adjacent Santa Barbara Airport. [Map/photos]

2019/07/29 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Evening photography: Sunset photo 3 Evening photography: Sunset photo 1 Evening photography: Sunset photo 2 (1) Evening photography: Magnificent sunset shots, from a tweet by @NIGAR01030789.
(2) The final adult on the way out: Dan Coats, Trump's Director of National Intelligence, seems to have had enough. He is being ousted after repeatedly and openly disagreeing with Trump's statements and decisions. Texas Republican Rep. John Ratcliffe is mentioned as a possible replacement.
(3) Active shooter(s) at Gilroy, the garlic capital of California: I pass by Gilroy on the US 101 each time I drive to the SF Bay Area. A dozen people are down at the small, sleepy town's Garlic Festival, but because the situation is still active, no official police report about fatalities and injuries was available as of late Sunday.
[Monday morning update: Three of those shot, and the shooter, are dead. Fifteen individuals suffered injuries.]
(4) Talk about rats: Trump bashed Baltimore's poor neighborhoods, but he made no mention of "slumlord" Jared Kushner who owns a large number of decrepit rental units in the city.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Extreme, unusual, dangerous: An amazing compilation of video clips, set to music. [3-minute video]
- Willie Nelson sings "Immigrant Eyes" from his new album "Ride Me Back Home."
- The popular Azeri song "Reyhan" performed by the legendary Rashid Behbudov. [Another rendition]
- Earth's deserts are expanding, and that's very dangerous. [National Geographic report]
(6) Jennifer Lawrence delivers a highly effective message on behalf of Represent.US, advocating changes in our corrupt political system. Right now, the probability that Congress passes a law is virtually independent of the level of public support for it. [13-minute video]
(7) Assyrian Jews' Neo-Aramaic Language: This 5-minute video clip, containing samples of spoken Neo-Aramaic, the language of Iranian Kurdish Jews, is my latest discovery in the course of studying the culture of my Kurdish ancestors. The clip has no reference citation, but it is likely from one of the researchers of Neo-Aramaic who have recorded native speakers as part of their studies.

2019/07/28 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo showing lemons and avocados Photos showing closed stores at Santa Barbara's La Cumbre Plaza The Pacific Plate has been inordinately active in recent weeks, leading to multiple earthquates on both sides (1) Images of the day: [Left] Annual California Lemon and Avocado Festivals: The 28th edition of the Lemom Festival will be held at Goleta's Girsh Park, September 28-29, 2019. The 33rd edition of the Avocado Festival will be held along Carpinteria's Linden Avenue, October 4-6, 2019. [Center] Economic woes: The once-bustling La Cumbre Shopping Center, located near the east end of Santa Barbara, has become a ghost town. It lost Sears, one its two anchor stores, months ago, and now, it seams, nearly half of its stores are closed or in transition (photos taken on July 25, 2019). [Right] Three earthquakes, measuring 5.5, 5.9, and 5.7 rocked the Philippines: The quakes killed 8 and injured dozens, because they hit in remote areas. The Pacific Plate has been inordinately active in recent weeks. A 4.7-magnitude quake shook California's Ridgecrest region on the other side of the Plate on July 25, preceded and followed by several smaller quakes.
(2) Quote of the day: "Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances." ~ Mahatma Gandhi
(3) Someone has to tell Trump that if parts of Baltimore are rat-infested, he as the president of this country should care and do something about it, instead of complaining and pointing fingers!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- In one of the biggest crackdowns in years, Moscow security forces arrest 1000 protesters.
- Today's Baltimore Sun editorial: "Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one."
- Child-like adult brothers, admiring each other's divisive politics from across the Atlantic. [Image]
- People are leaving certain regions of the US and moving to others. [Map source: Forbes]
(5) Trailer for the soon-to-be-released film "Soeurs d'Armes" ("Sisters of Weapons"), by French filmmaker Caroline Fourest, about the plight of Kurdish women fighting IS/DAESH. [2-minute video]
(6) More than 20,000 people have signed a petition in support of film director Mohammad Rasoulof's right to free expression. He has been banned from working and traveling by the Iranian government.
(7) Cadaveric spasms: For up to a few days after death, animal corpses can exhibit spontaneous movement. In this spooky video, whose varacity has not been confirmed, raw chicken meat is shown crawling off the plate.

2019/07/27 (Saturday): Here are three book reviews, in an effort to make a dent in my huge backlog!
Cover image of Stephen Hawking's 'Brief Answers to the Big Questions' Cover image of Lev Grossman's 'The Magicians' Cover image of Alafair Burke's 'The Ex: A Novel' (1) Book review: Hawking, Stephen, Brief Answers to the Big Questions, MP3 audiobook read by Ben Whishaw, Random House Audio, 2018. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Hawking was repeatedly asked the same set of questions everywhere he went. In this slender volume, written in the final year before his March 2018 death at age 76, Hawking sums up his contemporary writings in a concise format. Origins of the universe, the Big Bang, and, of course, black holes, are all featured in the book. He also tackles more contemporary topics such as shaping our future and climate change, which he judges to be more likely to spell our doom than an asteroid collision.
Hawking maintains that rising temperatures, melting ice caps, deforestation, overpopulation, species extinction, disease, war, famine, and dearth of water resources are all solvable problems that remain unsolved due to a lack of political will. But he is optimistic that humans will eventually rally to solve all these challenging problems. One reason for Hawking's optimism is artificial intelligence, which, despite his earlier warnings about the dangers it poses, is among the bright spots.
This unfinished book was completed by Hawking's family and academic colleagues, with help from material in his vast personal archive to answer these ten big questions: Is there a God? How did it all begin? What is inside a black hole? Can we predict the future? Is time travel possible? Will we survive on Earth? Is there other intelligent life in the universe? Should we colonize space? Will artificial intelligence outsmart us? How do we shape the future?
I am just as curious as the next person about black holes and other incredible features of our universe. Not being a theoretical physicist, however, I find it difficult to believe many of Hawking's arguments, which amount to hand-waving in my view. Sure, the universe could have emerged from nothing if you hypothesize the exsistence of particles and anti-particles, which cancel each other out, but then, what does it mean to have an "explosion" amidst that nothingness? Nevertheless, I will keep on reading about these notions in the hopes that someday it will all click!
(2) Book review: Grossman, Lev, The Magicians, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Mark Bramhall, Penguin Audio, 2009. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
A young man, wandering around in an urban field, suddenly finds himself in a different location and a different season, amid the grounds of a secret college of magic. He is admitted to the college, thinking that his dreams have come true and behaving cautionsly for fear that he might be thrown out back into the miserable real world. Though proving fairly good at the craft, he finds that magic is more difficult than he imagined and that, like other forms of power, it comes with a terrible burden.
Grossman's characters and other depictions are vivid and quite believable, despite the far-fetched premise of the story. Predictably, there is The Beast, a powerful evil character a la Lord Valdemort, who is eventually defeated with much sacrifice. Magic acts and magical events aside, the interactions and concerns of the story's characters are very much like those of any other coming-of-age story, the main themes being love, sex, alchohol, and boredom.
This 2009 Harry-Potter-like fantasy was followed by two sequels, The Magician King (2011) and The Magician's Land (2014). Syfy channel produced a TV series based on Grossman's trilogy in 2015.
(3) Book review: Burke, Alafair, The Ex: A Novel, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Xe Sands, Harper Audio, 2016. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The titular "ex," the story's narrator, is a former fiancee of a man with a teen-aged daughter from a wife who died in a mass-shooting, while trying to help other victims. The ex, a top criminal defense attorney in New York City, carries deep guilt over the way she had treated the man, so when the opportunity arises for her to represent him after he is charged with a triple homicide, she jumps at the chance to make it up to him. Having known the man for years, she is absolutely certain of his innocence, but is puzzled by why anyone would go to great lengths to frame him.
One of the three murder victims is the unapologetic father of the 15-year-old mass-shooter who killed the man's wife, turning him into a celibate bachelor while raising his daughter, so there is apparent motive (there had been a lawsuit and threats). However, it is unclear which of the three victims, if any, was the primaty target of the killer(s). As evidence mounts against the accused, the ex begins to doubt her judgment and whether she really ever knew him.
Burke's well-constructed story keeps the reader on edge and interested, as she methodically untangles the mystery, until the final plot twist. I had previously read Burke's The Wife, giving it 4 stars. So, when this title came up on the availability list of my library, I did not hesitate to borrow it. And I wasn't disappointed!

2019/07/26 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Side-by-side photos, taken at the same spot 68 years apart, 1 Side-by-side photos, taken at the same spot 68 years apart, 2 Side-by-side photos, taken at the same spot 68 years apart, 3 Side-by-side photos, taken at the same spot 68 years apart, 4 Side-by-side photos, taken at the same spot 68 years apart, 5 Side-by-side photos, taken at the same spot 68 years apart, 6 (1) Side-by-side placement of photos taken at the same spots, 68 years apart, magically changing black-and-white to color, suits to casual-wear, and film cameras to digital. [Credit: New York Times]
(2) New Yorker humor: Archaeologists discover the long-sought-after racist bone. Funding request for additional exploration denied by the White House.
(3) Very presidential: Donald Trump was once eager to appear on SNL to get free publicity, but when the show started making fun of him, it became "unfunny"! [Video]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- As more countries and US states ban the death penalty, the US government is set to resume executions.
- Crime of passion: Woman kills two Israeli men at a Chinese restaurant in Mexico City.
- An amazing set of clips (with some deep fakes?) imagining Fox News giving Trump the Obama treatment!
- Trump suggests that investigators should look into book deals by Barack and Michelle Obama!
- Neat mathematical facts: 365 (days in a year) = 10^2 + 11^2 + 12^2 = 13^2 + 14^2
- Omid Djalili's stand-up comedy routine, with jokes about his Iranian roots, Brexit, and Prince Charles.
(5) Quote of the day: "If you don't follow medical teachings from hundreds of years ago, why would you follow moral teachings from thousands of years ago?" ~ Anonymous
(6) [Final thought for the day] Be suspicious of apps that need access to your full personal data on Facebook or elsewhere to do something trivial: To paraphrase a New Yorker cartoon caption, "There is this amazing app that generates a photo of you in old age, if you give it a photo, your name, and Social Security Number!" In reality, the app, if legit, would only need a photo, not full access to your photos and personal data.

2019/07/25 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo of an Alaskan glacier that is melting fast Cover image for the August 2019 issue of 'Communications of the ACM' Trump spoke in front of a prankster's fake Presidential Seal (1) Images of the day: [Left] Alaskan glaciers melting 100x faster than previously thought. [Center] Cover image for the August 2019 issue of Communications of the ACM (see the last item below). [Right] Audiovisual prankster fired: "As the President took the stage Tuesday morning before a sea of 1,500 teenage cell phones, a screen behind him showed a fake presidential seal featuring a two-headed eagle—which bore similarity to the state seal of the Russian Federation—clutching a set of golf clubs in its talons" (CNN).
(2) Beautiful weather in Santa Barbara and Goleta for the next 10 days: Spoiled as we are here in heaven, we think of high temperatures in the high-70s as hot weather, but recent heat waves worldwide, including in the US, Europe, and southern/western Iran, with 100+ temps and high humidity, tell us otherwise.
(3) Next IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Dr. Tali Freed (Cal Poly) will speak on "UAV-RFID Outdoor Applications" (Wednesday, August 21, 2019, Flightline Restaurant and Lounge, 521 Firestone Rd., Goleta, buffet-style dinner 6:00 PM, talk 6:30 PM). [Flyer]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Note passed by woman to a Domino's employee when she picked up a pizza led to her rescue in NM.
- Financier and child rapist Jeffrey Epstein found injured in his jail cell from apparent suicide attempt.
- Cartoon of the day: Epitomes of un-American behavior accusing others of being un-American! [Image]
- Picture of me, in 40 years: I didn't need any app to produce this image that shows me 4 decades hence!
(6) Integrating ethics broadly across CS education: This is the cover feature of CACM's August 2019 issue. I have written on several occasions about the importance of teaching ethics and ethical decision-making to students in computer science and engineering. However, as I routinely mention to my students in a graduate-level course on dependable computing, teaching dependability issues in a separate course is akin to teaching structural engineers about bridge-building in one course and about bridge reliability and integrity in a different course that they may or may not take. Every computer science and engineering course has to have dependability concerns built in. The same goes for ethics. Taking a stand-alone course on ethics during the senior year, after students have been exposed to many science and engineering concepts, creates the impression that ethical considerations are optional add-ons. The truth is that no algorithm should be developed and no system designed without explicitly thinking about ethical issues. Ethical reasoning should be an integral part of every single course our students take. The CACM feature points out that CS and philosophy experts working together on improving CS curricula has the dual benefit of introducing ethical reasoning to computing professionals, while bringing technology awareness to philosophy experts.

2019/07/24 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sign for 'Zzyzx Rd' Salads for a week: Mixed-greens and Iranian-style Shirazi (cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, dry-herbs seasoning, lime juice) Mt. Squad, featuring four freshmen Congresswomen (1) Images of the day: [Left] The name of this road is bound to be last on any alphabetical list: Try to guess where it is located. Hint: It isn't in Eastern Europe! [Center] Salads for a week: Mixed-greens and Iranian-style Shirazi (cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, dry-herbs seasoning, lime juice). [Right] Mt. Squad: This is just a joke. Please don't get too riled up about it or go into a tweetstorm lambasting socialism and communism!
(2) Criminal law-professor (not criminal-law professor): The esteemed law professor who was an inmate a decade ago (on bank robbery conviction) and taught himself law while in prison. [CBS "60 Minutes" report]
(3) Meet me in Georgia (the republic): A revised poster to mark the occasion of Fanni graduates' 51st anniversary reunion in Tbilisi and Batumi, Georgia, September 13-20, 2019. A group photo from the previous gathering in Yerevan, Armenia, has been pasted over an image of the Peace Pedestrian Bridge in Tbilisi.
(4) iPhone 11, due later this year, may be the last model to use the Lightning port: There goes my investment in half-dozen iPhone/iPad charging cables for home, office, car, and backpack!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- UK elects Trump-like Boris Johnson as prime minister. God save the Queen! [CNN report]
- Can women's rights and religious freedom co-exist or are the two contradictory notions?
- Neshat Jahandari flies as certified captain after earning her commercial-pilot credentials.
- Cartoon of the day: Islamic Revolutionary Pirates Corps. [Image source: Iranwire.com]
(6) Meme of the day: Those who can't tolerate criticism of the US government are free to move to another country where such criticisms are illegal. [Meme]
(7) Losing a former colleague: My former Sharif University of Technology departmental colleague, mathematician Dr. Ali-Akbar Jafarian, passed away a couple of days ago in Connecticut. RIP.
(8) UCSB Emeritus Professor Alan G. Konheim [1934-2019]: He joined our Computer Science Department in 1982, after 22 years at IBM, retiring in 2005. He thought courses in discrete mathematics, computer networks, and cryptography, wrote three outstanding books, including the 2010 volume Hashing in Computer Science, and served as a mentor to several current CS faculty members. RIP. Link to CV]

2019/07/22 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
My mom (right), her mom (middle), and her look-alike younger sister, in a photo dating back around 60 years Meme of the day: Women will spell the downfall of our racist and sexist president! 'New Yorker' cartoon of the day: 'You will not use presidential language in this house, young man!' (1) Images of the day: [Left] My mom (right), her mom (middle), and her look-alike younger sister, in a photo dating back around 60 years. [Center] Meme of the day: Women will spell the downfall of our racist and sexist president! [Right] New Yorker cartoon of the day: "You will not use presidential language in this house!"
(2) Say it three times and it becomes a fact: Republicans are now embracing what they used to criticize (e.g., deficit spending) and attacking what they used to represent (e.g., fiscal conservatism).
(3) The man who built his political brand by saying "America is going to HELL" now claims that criticizing America is unpatriotic as long as he is president!
(4) The humongous Persian underground city that was accidentally discovered in Turkey when excavating for a new building in 1963. [Video narrated in Persian]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- India launches an ambitious lunar-landing mission on the heels of Apollo 11's 50th anniversary.
- Pitted against each other, veiled and unveiled Iranian women join forces in opposing compulsory hijab.
- Muslim US Marine says he is staying to Make America Great Again, just not the way Trump means it.
- Hunters in Mongolia partner with golden eagles to increase their efficiency. [CBS "60 Minutes" report]
- Persian music: Song by Koorosh Yazdani, based on a poem by Siavash Kasrai, honors political prisoners.
(6) Meet me in Tbilisi: A poster to mark the occasion of Fanni graduates' 51st anniversary reunion in Tbilisi, Georgia, September 13-20, 2019. A group photo from the previous gathering in Yerevan, Armenia, has been pasted over an image of Tbilisi's Holy Trinity Cathedral.
(7) It's amazing how little money is needed to make people look the other way: Jeffrey Epstein employees are now saying that they saw him fly young girls to his private island. Why didn't they talk before? Apparently, he tipped well! Now that he isn't in a position to tip them, they are selling their stories to the highest bidder.

2019/07/20 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Fiftieth anniversary of Moon landing: Poster Fiftieth anniversary of Moon landing: NYT front page Fiftieth anniversary of Moon landing: Crew Fiftieth anniversary of Moon landing: American flag Cartoon: Women who support Trump Close the camps: Holding people in concentration camps is un-American! (1) Images of the day: [Top row & bottom left] Fiftieth anniversary of Moon landing: On July 20, 1969, 4:17 PM PDT, Apollo 11's Landing Module touched down on the surface of the Moon, allowing humans to step on the surface of a celestial boday for the first time. [Bottom center] Unlike the token number of African Americans in his camp, Trump actually does have a sizable group of women supporters, which is truly mind boggling. [Bottom right] Close the camps: Holding people in concentration camps is un-American!
(2) New Congresswoman Katie Porter isn't part of "The Squad" but she is giving bank executives and administration officials a hard time by exposing hypocrisy and incompetence.
(3) Belt with two pouches: This belt is ideal for travelers and joggers: The two zippered pouches expand to securely hold items such as cell phone, wallet, and passport.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Records are being shattered, as the US Midwest and East Coast deal with a brutal heat wave.
- Hateful speech has consequences: Louisiana police officer suggests on Facebook that AOC should be shot.
- Hackers steal 5 million tax files with personal information in Bulgaria (population ~7 million).
- How did a 30-something with a bachelor's degree become the most-influential presidential adviser? [Meme]
- When Nazi supporters gathered in NYC 80 years ago, they packaged and sold it as a patriotic rally.
- Creating 3D sculptures via 2D imaging and robotics technology. [Video]
- Undated film (mid-1900s?), showing streets in Iran, with pedestrians, shops, and street vendors. [Video]
(5) Iranians, regardless of their ethnicity and political views, are united by their love for certain kinds of food: Chelow-kabob is at the top of the commonly-loved food list. From this video, we also learn that rice is a recent addition to the country's diet, aash having been the most common before then. This explains the word "aashpaz" ("cooker of aash") for a cook/chef and "lebaas-e polow-khori" ("clothes for eating rice"), fancy clothes that people used to put on for special occasions when rice/polow was on the menu.
(6) Why is a man, a billionaire himself, supported by a substantial number of other billionaires, holding the world's most powerful office, and having 62 million Twitter followers, so afraid of a new 29-year-old congresswoman?

2019/07/19 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Michelle Obama tops the list of most-admired woman in the world Map showing recent incidents in and around Strait of Hormuz Melania Trump and her 'Be Best' program/cause Cartoon by Michael de Adder, comparing McCain and Trump Wondrous patterns of nature: Cacti in Mexico, posted by Orgullo Wixarika Cartoon for the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing: Louis/Neil/Lance Armstrong (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Michelle Obama tops the list of most-admired woman in the world, according to the latest annual YouGov.com poll. [Top center] Conflicts around Strait of Hormuz: An Iranian drone allegedly downed by the US through electronic jamming and two British cargo ships seized by Iran confound an already tense situation. [Top right] All these women with foreign-sounding names, who try to tell us how to behave: Let's send them home! [Bottom left] Cartoon by Michael de Adder. [Bottem center] Wondrous patterns of nature: Cacti in Mexico, posted by Orgullo Wixarika. [Bottom right] Cartoon for the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing.
(2) Trump admits on camera to kissing a married TV host, while her husband had his back turned: Not that such revelations would cost him any support, including among evangelical Christians and the so-called "values voters." He is a despicable person, but so are the women like this host who have enabled him for decades!
(3) Trump and his ilk, to Americans: If you don't like your government, you should leave!
To asylum seekers: If you don't like your government, you should stay and fix it!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Mastaneh, singing in this video, has the great Iranian singer Marzieh as her maternal grandmother.
- Persian Music: The warm voice of Fatemeh Mehlaban. [2-minute video]
- Modern Persian dance: This little girl kicks up a storm! [3-minute video]
- A vary talented chicken, indeed! [1-minute video]
- Humor: Remember never to swallow your bubblegum! [Photo]
- The Internet is abuzz with so-called "iPad magic tricks," but this one is particularly impressive.
(5) Women scholars often not given due credit: Professor Sarah Milov gave an interview to a male journalist. When the article was published, she found that her ideas were used widely, without any mention of her name or even a single link to her contributions to the field.

2019/07/18 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Persian calligraphy: Hafez poetry rendered with a ball-point pen by Ali Farahani Four portraits of me from years past, collected from recent Facebook memories Poster: Iran's Municipality of Northern Savad-Kooh bans colorful clothing for women (1) Images of the day: [Left] Persian calligraphy: Hafez poetry rendered with a ball-point pen by Ali Farahani. [Center] Four portraits of me from years past, collected from Facebook memories. [Right] Meme of the day: Iran's Municipality of Northern Savad-Kooh bans colorful clothing for women, even when visiting their brothers!
(2) Just another hypocrite: Today, I watched a video in which Paul Ryan praises Trump's "exquisite leadership"! Ryan is now trying to rewrite history by claiming that he supported Trump in order to have some influence on his crazy decisions. Too late, Mr. Ryan. The damage you did to our country may be irreversible!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Man kills 33 by setting fire to an anime studio in Japan, while shouting "You die!"
- This huge chart lists every attempt to go to the moon by the US, the Soviet Union, and other countries.
- Preparing cold yogurt soup ("aabdoogh-Khiaar"). [Video]
- The best place to be an AI entrepreneur is communist China! [CBS "60 Minutes" report]
- Serving 3-course meals to the poor: The celebrity chef who is giving back. [CBS "60 Minutes" report]
(4) Yesterday's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Dr. Dmitri Strukov (Professor, UCSB, and Distinguished Lecturer, IEEE Nanotechnology Council) spoke at Goleta Valley Public Library under the title "Alternative Computing with Memristors." Dr. Strukov is one of the pioneers of memristive (resistive switching) technology and its applications. Memristors offer two key properties that are essential to brain-inspired or neuromorphic computing: High device density and nonvolatile storage. Dr. Strukov's recent focus has been on metal-oxide memristors, whose 3D version resolves Feynman grand challenge of implementing an 8-bit adder in 50-nm cube. Dr. Strukov covered the application of memristors to neuromorphic and alternative-style computing. He also planned to discuss work on memristor-based security primitives, but there was insufficient time to do so. Slides for Dr. Strukov's talk will be posted to the IEEE CCS Tech Talks Web page for those who could not attend and interested individuals who would like to review the material not covered. [Photos]
(5) Concert in the park: Having caught up with the backlog of work due to a couple of recent trips, I decided to spend the evening at Santa Barbara's Chase Palm Park, enjoying music, breathing clean air, reading a book, and being energized by young & old dancing their worries away. The band Pop Gun Rerun played memorable 80s tunes. [Video 1, upon my arrival] [Video 2, just before the intermission] Both before and after the concert, I strolled along Santa Barbara's beautiful waterfront. [Panoramic photo] [360-degree video]

2019/07/16 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Memes for our beloved country, currently diseased by a bigoted, racist president #1 Memes for our beloved country, currently diseased by a bigoted, racist president #2 Memes for our beloved country, currently diseased by a bigoted, racist president #3 (1) Memes for our beloved country, currently diseased by a bigoted, racist president.
(2) Untangling Iran's economic corruption: In this 6-minute video (in Persian), an investigative reporter exposes corrupt officials who enable and benefit from multi-million-dollar scams in the private sector.
(3) NASA's Apollo 11 mission was launched on July 16, 1969, landing astronauts on the Moon on July 20. Many 50th-anniversary observances are planned for July 20, 2019. Here's a video to celebrate the launch.
(4) Iranian Oral History Project: This 1-hour interview with Karim Sanjabi is part of Harvard University's archive, which includes both audio files and transcripts of interviews with individuals involved in Iran's political scene from the 1920s to the 1980s.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Video shows Trump having a good time with child-rapist Jeffrey Epstein, as they ogle young women.
- Meme of the day: We should actually be thankful to Trump for exposing all the racists in our midst! [Image]
- Rep. Mark Meadows, who claims he isn't a racist, once vowed to send President Obama home to Kenya.
- Aras Amiri, a student serving 10 years on charges of espionage, writes to Iran's Head of the Judiciary.
- Fariba Adelkhah, a Paris-based political scientist, has been arrested in Iran on charges of espionage.
- Cartoon of the day: Five stages of White House unemployment. [Image]
(6) Memorable photo from last year's gathering with my college buddies in Yerevan, Armenia: This year, we are planning a get-together in Tbilisi, Georgia, in mid-September.
(7) Two 2020 Granada Theater programs of possible interest to Santa Barbara area residents.
February 05-06: "Beautiful" (Carole King musical); May16-17: Beethoven's 250th birthday celebration
(8) UCSB Emeritus Professor Ian B. Rhodes dead at 78: He was a long-time member of our ECE Department (control systems specialty) and once served as its Chair. Although our technical interests were different, we exchanged ideas frequently on educational and administrative matters, particularly with regard to our service on the campus Committee on Academic Personnel, charged with the evaluation of merits & promotions. RIP!

2019/07/15 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sights from Tehran, Iran: An underpass, with Milad Tower in the background Sights from Tehran, Iran: A traditional chelow-kabob meal, with yogurt drink and condiments A couple of photos of mine from recent Facebook memory reminders (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] Sights from Tehran, Iran: An underpass, with Milad Tower in the background, and a traditional chelow-kabob meal, with yogurt drink and condiments. [Right] A couple of photos of mine from recent Facebook memory reminders.
(2) Republicans are either shunning the media or like Congressman Andy Harris offer this explanation for Trump's racist tweets: "He could have meant go back to the district they came from—to the neighborhood they came from." Since when do districts and neighborhoods have governments?
(3) Supporting Trump is becoming harder by the hour: British PM Theresa May joins the chorus of voices criticizing Trump for his overtly racist and xenophobic "love the US or leave it" tweets targeting brown-skinned Congresswomen who have criticized him.
(4) Trump now says that what he meant by his tweets was that anyone who complains or is unhappy can leave the country. Make sure to remind him of this option the next time he whines about witch hunt, deep state, stupid judges, fake news, and a host of other ills in our country!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Turing-Award winner Fernando Corbato, father of time-sharing, Multics, and user passwords, dead at 93.
- Pioneering code-breaker and computer scientist Alan Turing unveiled as face of new £50 note.
- She got a shiner for telling a man who followed her she was not interested.
- Extraordinary art: Stunning sand-and-gold paintings. [1-minute video]
- Watch the labor-intensive process of preparing the famous Yookhe bread in Shiraz, Iran.
(6) The squabbling between several Democratic Congresswomen and the House Speaker should be a cause for joy, not panic: It shows, perhaps even to the Republicans, that in a democracy, party members do not have to blindly follow the "Dear Leader."
(7) Iranian woman tells off a man who insults her for not wearing a headscarf: This is the proverbial "tooth-shattering" response. Hats off to this brave woman! [1-minute video]
(8) Six women photographers explore the complexities of life inside and outside Iran: Smithsonian Museum of Asian Art's exhibit of works by Newsha Tavakolian, Malekeh Nayiny, Shadi Ghadirian, Gohar Dashti, and Mitra Tabrizian (running from August 10, 2019, to February 9, 2020; Washington, DC, National Mall).
(9) Iran has been arresting quite a few visitors with dual citizenship on charges of "spying": Most of these dual citizens are social scientists or environmental activists whose studies reveal systemic social ills and environmental mismanagement/abuse. A clear case of punishing the messenger when the message isn't to one's liking! A term favored by regime elements in such cases is "siaah-namaaee" ("showing blackness"), referring to the activities of such individuals painting an unfairly dark picture of the social/environmental conditions in Iran. Those whose antiquated ideas and misguided policies have brought black days to Iran, now punish others who honestly portray the darkness!

2019/07/14 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Image from the sci-fi short story 'To Serve Man' Antique Persian typewriter belonging to Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar, currently on display at Tehran's Golestan Palace Museum 'Musica Italiana' organ/vocals concert (1) Visuals for today: [Left] Image from the sci-fi short story 'To Serve Man' (see the next to the last item below). [Center] Antique Persian typewriter belonging to Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar, currently on display at Tehran's Golestan Palace Museum. [Right] "Musica Italiana" organ/vocals concert (see the last item below).
(2) I enjoy serving fruits and vegetables in interesting and artistic ways and find some on-line videos helpful in this regard. But videos like this one are rather discouraging to us mere mortals!
(3) Trump outdoes his previous racism and sexism: He tells four progressive congresswomen to "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested [countries] from which they came." He did not realize that they are doing exactly that, because all four come from the US! Any Republicans have a problem with this unashamedly racist tweetstorm from Trump?
(4) VP Mike Pence's ice-cold stare and lack of compassion as he visits overcrowded and filthy migrant detention camps at the US-Mexico border fuels the #FakeChristian trend on-line.
(5) The night sky last night had Jupiter, the brightest planet in the Solar System next to the Moon.
(6) The Iranian police stops a woman for violating a ban on women riding motorcycles: She flashes her international motocross credentials to no avail! [1-minute video] Along the same lines, Iranian women will soon be banned from eating ice cream in public, according to a new law!
(7) Yet another manisfestation of rampant corruption in Iran: This 10-minute expose, narrated in Persian, shows BastiHills, a walled community with mansions that put those in Beverly Hills to shame.
(8) "To Serve Man": This is the title of a 1950 sci-fi short story by Damon Knight, which formed the basis of a 1962 episode of the TV program "The Twilight Zone." The title is a double-entendre, with "serve" meaning "to assist" or "to provide as a meal." In fact, within the story, "How to Serve Man" is the title of a cookbook! (Info from Moshe Vardi's "Insight" column in the July 2019 issue of Communications of the ACM, Vol. 62, No. 7, p. 7)
(9) "Musica Italiana": This afternoon, I attended an enjoyable concert by "Minister of Keyboard Music" Thomas Joyce, accompanied by soprano Adriana Ruiz, at Santa Barbara's Trinity Episcopal Church. Dr. Joyce performed solo organ pieces and transcriptions of Italian orchestral works spanning four centuries, concluding with Rossini's "William Tell" overture. What made the concert even more impressive were detailed and witty introductions to the selected works. [Photos and Program]

2019/07/13 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Fruits at a Tehran market Forest wedding reception in Washington State Fruits on an Iranian-style serving plate (1) Natural wonders: [Left] Fruits at a Tehran market. [Center] Forest wedding reception in Washington State. [Right] Fruits on an Iranian-style serving plate.
(2) I don't feel one bit sorry for Paul Ryan: He deserves all the insults Trump is throwing at him (again) for his comments in a forthcoming book: Ryan is trying to justify the unjustifiable, that is, his support for Trump's policies, including deficit-funded tax cuts for the rich, after building his political career as a deficit hawk.
(3) Azalia Mirhoseini, is a Google scientist who uses artificial intelligence to design better chips for doing AI: The Rice University PhD is on MIT's list of "35 Innovators Under 35."
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Coast Guard leaps onto and seizes submarine carrying 17,000 pounds of cocaine.
- Labor Secretary resigns after exposure of his role in a sweetheart plea deal for child rapist Jeff Epstein.
- Two Trump campaign chairs in jail for child sex trafficking: But they have been fantastic campaign chairs!
- UCLA adjunct professor Yi Chi Shih convicted for illegal attempts to send dual-use microchips to China.
- Today's "big brother": Google employees listen to private audio played on its home-speaker systems.
- Instrumental version of "The Phantom of the Opera" by Prague Cello Quartet.
- In-nature design by Marentes Partners. [Photo]
- Quote of the day: "People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude." ~ John C. Maxwell
(5) Best uses of Moon's real estate for doing science: The dark side of the Moon from which you cannot see or hear Earth would be an ideal location for installing a radio telescope, because it would be shielded by the bulk of the Moon from human-made electromagnetic noise and other Earth-related phenomenon. [From an article entitled "Project Moon Base Science," IEEE Spectrum, Vol. 56, No. 7, pp. 38-39, July 2019, special issue on "The Coming Moon Rush"]
(6) Will floating-point numbers and computations ever be replaced? The short answer is "no." A somewhat longer answer is "rather unlikely." Here's why.
Alternatives to floating-point have been around for decades. Logarithmic number representation, proposed in the 1970s, has superior error characteristics and relative ease of multiplication and division, which are converted to addition and subtraction. Similarly, squaring and square-rooting simplify to doubling and halving of the logarithms (shifting). However, addition and subtraction become more difficult, dooming the scheme for high-precision computations and relegating its applications to low-precision domains (which are increasingly important). [See pp. 366-367 & 386-387 in the second (2010) edition of my book on computer arithmetic.]
Unified schemes have been proposed over the years to represent all numbers within a single variable-length format for integer and real-valued numbers, while also avoiding overflow and other undesirable exceptions.
One such scheme was championed by John L. Gustafson in his book The End of Error: Unum Computing (CRC Press, 2015). The name "unum" (you'-num) stands for "universal number." The latest incarnation of this approach is called "posits," in which a number is represented by a sign bit, several "regime bits," denoting the kind of number represented, zero or more exponent bits, and zero or more fractional bits. For details, see Gustafson"s 2017 article, "Posit Arithmetic." With this scheme, many commonly-encountered numbers are representable with only a few bits, saving on storage, memory-access, and data transmission costs.
Here is an example of a 16-bit posit: 0 | 0 0 0 1 | 1 0 1 | 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 1
The fields from left to right represent the sign (positive), regime bits indicating 256 to the negative-third power (in a kind of unary representation), exponent bits indicating 2 to the fifth power, and fractional part of the significand 1.11011101 (1 + 221/256).
Acceptance of new ideas does not rest solely on technical merit but is affected by social and economic factors. Imagine that you have invented a new programming language that is provably better (more consistent and complete) than any existing language. If you try to force others to come to the same conclusion and adopt your language, you will encounter serious resistance, given the extent of investment in software written in old languages and the vast amount of human expertise built around those languages.
In the case of floating point, hardware implementations and associated skills will constitute a barrier to entry for alternative representations. Billions of dollars have been invested in existing floating-point hardware and the tools and expertise that continue to create them. And there are many thousands of people who earn a living because they know how to do floating-point hardware design and software implementation.

2019/07/12 (Friday): Book review: Silver, Nate, The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—But Some Don't, Penguin, 2012. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Figure 5-7B in Nate Silver's 'The Singal and the Noise' Cover image of Nate Silver's 'The Singal and the Noise' Figure 12-11 in Nate Silver's 'The Singal and the Noise' It has been a long time since I was so impressed with a book. Given the arrival of the age of "big data" (whatever that is) and the rise to prominence of "data science," every literate person should read this book and heed Silver's warnings.
A statistician and founder of NYT's political blog FiveThirtyEight.com (the blog's name comes from the number of electors in the US), Silver rose to prominence by his baseball and election analyses and was named by Time magazine as one of the world's 100 Most Influential People. The FiveThirtyEight blog began with a forecasting model based on averaging many polls, each weighted according to its past accuracy. It then evolved to include more sophisticated forecasting techniques.
Early in the book (pp. 12-14), we learn of bias as a human defense mechanism against information overload. The human brain is remarkable; it can store several terabytes of information, according to Robert Birge of Syracuse University, yet this is only one-millionth of the information produced in the world each day, as estimated by IBM. So, we have to be extremely selective about the information we choose to remember. In his 1970 book, Future Shock, Alvin Tofler hypothesized that one way of dealing with information overload is to simplify the world in ways that confirm our biases, shedding nuances and key details in the process. As a result, rather than serving to bring us together, more information tends to push us into the familiar confines of our biases.
Also relevant to the notions above is a view of judgment as lazy thinking. When you see something new, your brain goes into overdrive until you identify it and assign a noun to it ("Oh, that's a fork"); you then relax and stop thinking. The same is true with regard to people ("Oh, that's a Latino/feminist/Republican"). Stoppage of thinking at this point makes you miss all the nuances.
This lust for detecting patterns according to our biases is also what makes us bad at predictions. Yet, predictions are also essential to our decision-making and achieving favorable outcomes for ourselves and those we love. It turns out that the more extreme our beliefs, the less accurate our predictions. Carrying an extreme position makes us less likely to use all the information that is available to us and more likely to make our predictions emotionally, rather than logically.
It's scary to think that we can never make objective predictions, as they will always be tainted by our subjective beliefs. However, just being aware of the problem and believing in the pursuit of objective truth (regardless of our ability to find it) go a long way toward making better predictions.
The noise of the title refers to all the inessential or irrelevant information that prevents us from focusing on what is important. We read on pp. 60-65, for example, that "Political news, and especially the important news that really affects the campaign, proceeds at an irregular pace. But news coverage is produced every day. Most of it is filler, packaged in the form of stories that are designed to obscure [their] unimportance." "Rooting for the story," that is, hoping for a more dramatic turn, is the classic form of media bias. "Candidates, strategists, and television commentators—who have some vested interest in making the race seem closer than it really is—might focus on outlier polls."
The book has a two-part structure: The first 7 chapters, 231 pp., deal with diagnosing the prediction problem (prediction pitfalls, ch. 1-3; dynamic systems such as weather, ch. 4-7) and the last 6 chapters deal with applying the Bayes' fix (Bayes theorem to the rescue, ch. 8-10; examples, ch. 11-13). A concluding section (9 pp.), acknowledgments (3 pp.), notes (56 pp.), and index (20 pp.) end the book. Here are the chapter titles:
Chapter 1: "A Catastrophic Failure of Prediction" (the 2008 financial crisis)
Chapter 2: "Are You Smarter than a Television Pundit?"
Chapter 3: "All I Care About Is W's and L's" (success of predictions in baseball)
Chapter 4: "For Years You Have Been Telling Us that Rain is Green"
Chapter 5: "Desparately Seeking Signal"
Chapter 6: "How to Drawn in Three Feet of Water"
Chapter 7: "Role Models"
Chapter 8: "Less and Less and Less Wrong"
Chapter 9: "Rage Against the Machines"
Chapter 10: "The Poker Bubble"
Chapter 11: "If You Can't Beat'em" (global warming)
Chapter 12: "A Climate of Healthy Skepticism" (terrorism)
Chapter 13: "What You Don't Know Can Hurt You" (market bubbles)
Every chapter is jam-packed with interesting observations, often accompanied by mind-opening visuals (graphics). In the rest of this review, I will cite just a few examples, in the interest of keeping my review shorter than the book itself!
Figure 10-9 (p. 321) is a scatter-plot of batting averages for a number of baseball players during the months of April and May, 2011. The two variables show almost no correlation, highlighting the role of chance in batting success. A similar lack of correlation is seen in Figure 11-3 (p. 340) for stock-market fund performance from year to year. Figure 11-4 (p. 341) stresses the point that market index trends are almost indistinguishable from random walks!
Silver repeatedly stresses the well-known distinction between mere correlation and causation, something that can baffle even experts. Here is one of the most bizarre examples. For three decades, between Super Bowls I and XXXI, stock market rise and fall in the US showed near-perfect correlation with whether the Super Bowl winner was from the National League or the American League (p. 185).
The importance of communicating uncertainties is another key point. For example, there may be a prediction that the water level in a river with 51'-high levees will rise to 49' (p. 178). With these numbers, area residents may feel relieved and safe. However, the prediction may have an uncertainty of plus-or-minus 9'. Knowing this uncertaintly makes a big difference in how people prepare for the upcoming storm.
Another cautionary tale pertains to the dangers of overfitting. Fitting a curve through the data showing frequencies of earthquakes of various magnitudes in Japan (Figure 5-7C, p. 170) might lead to the conclusion that a magnitude-9.5 quake is nearly impossible and that magnitude-9.0 quakes occur once every 10,000 years. A more reasonable extrapolation (Fig. 5-7B, p. 169) puts the frequency of magnitude-9.5 quakes at once every 1000 years. There is a very big difference between these two forecasts! In fact, we have never observed a magnitude-10.0 quake and don't know whether it is even possible.
Predicting rare events is one of the major challenges of forecasting. In predicting quakes, we have gotten pretty good at forecasting long-term trends (Tehran, the capital of Iran, will have one major quake every 300 years) and, more recently, very-short-term trends (a quake will be coming to Los Angeles within minutes). Filling the gap between these two extreme time frames isn't easy! Predicting terrorism is quite similar to earthquakes. Is the one-off event of September 11, 2001, really the worst that can happen (p. 432) or do still more calamitous terror attacks await us?
Complexity does not necessarily make the models better. If you performed linear regression on global temperature records and the levels of CO2, you would get a near-precise prediction (within microseconds, on a laptop) of the trend of 1.5 degrees Celcius warming per century since 1990 (p. 401), even though your model ignored sunspots, the level of sulfur, el-nino effect, and a host of other parameters (whose inclusion would have required hours to run the model on a supercomputer).
Mistaking short-term variations for long-term trends is another pitfall. Global temperatures since 1900 (Figure 12-11, p. 405) show an unmistakable rising trend, but within that trend, there are multiple flatlines (e.g., during the 2000s) and even downshifts (e.g., 1930s-1940s). Some people have a hard time wrapping their head around the notion that such a long-term problem might need immediate (short-term) action, even if the rising trend eases for a decade or two!
Let me end my review with a final example which many of us experienced first-hand. The economic crash of 2008 resulting from a housing bubble was said to have taken analysts by surprise. However, the crash came as a "surprise" because many of them had closed their eyes to warning signs (p. 22). Quite a few people saw the said signs, but their opinions were dismissed, a classic case of skirting inconvenient truths! Similarly, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a "surprise" because people missed or dismissed a large number of warning signs (p. 413).

2019/07/11 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet. Poster for Santa Barbara Fiesta (Old Spanish Days)
The Mississippi is already at dangerously high levels, with another 20 inches of rain expected from Hurricane Barry Iran's culture of hand-kissing: A culture built on servitude and idol worship will never achieve greatness (1) Images of the day: [Left] Looking forward to Santa Barbara Fiesta (Old Spanish Days), July 31 to August 4. [Center] Katrina II? The Mississippi is already at dangerously high levels, with another 20" of rain expected from Hurricane Barry. [Right] A culture built on servitude and idol worship will never achieve greatness.
(2) Let's not sugar-coat the allegations against Jeffrey Epstein: A 14-year-old girl isn't an "underage woman" or "woman on the younger side." She is a child. You can't have sex with a child. The proper expression is "raping a child." [Composite from various Internet sources]
(3) Quote of the day: "It makes perfect sense that Trump kicked off his re-election campaign in Orlando, home of Disney World, because his ideas are Goofy and his base is Snow White." ~ Comedian Stephen Colbert
(4) The top-10 things executives should know about software: From an article by Thomas A. Limoncelli in the July 2019 issue of Communications of the ACM (Vol. 62, No. 7, pp. 34-40). "DevOps" means removing the wall between developers and operation (IT). 1. Software is not magic; 2. Software is never "done"; 3. Software is a team effort—nobody can do it all; 4. Design isn't how something looks—it is how it works; 5. Security is everyone's responsibility; 6. Feature size does not predict developer time; 7. Greatness comes from thousands of small improvements; 8. Technical debt is bad but unavoidable; 9. Software doesn't run itself; 10. Complex systems need DevOps to run well.
(5) Persistent memory: Many new non-volatile memory technologies have emerged over the past few years. Using such technologies effectively requires that we develop suitable abstractions across memory hardware and file systems, according to Yan Solihin (U. Central Florida), writing in IEEE Micro magazine, issue of January/February 2019 (Vol. 39, No. 1, pp. 65-66).

2019/07/10 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Astronaut Harrison Schmitt near Tracy's Rock, 3 km from the Moon landing site of Apollo 17 mission (1) Moon landing is back in fashion: NASA's plans for a 2024 Moon landing has led to renewed interest in past landings and future activities there. This photo shows astronaut Harrison Schmitt near Tracy's Rock, 3 km from the Moon landing site of Apollo 17 mission in December 1972.
(2) More power to this wonderful woman: Investigative journalist Julie K. Brown of Miami Herald got victims of a cold case involving sexual abuse and human trafficking to speak up, thus bringing down Jeffrey Epstein, a most powerful sexual predator, who may have had support from other powerful men in escaping just punishment via a sweetheart plea deal in 2008.
(3) Iran's war on women: Nasim Basiri's insightful article, in Persian, about how Iran's mullahs try to realize their misogynistic goals by smear campaigns against prominent women, both activists living in Iran and, through their paid agents and apologists, those living in exile.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump has the best medical knowledge, not just among all US presidents, but in the entire universe. [Tweet]
- Borowitz Report (humor): UK unable to find replacement ambassador who does not think Trump is an idiot.
- Travel destination within Iran for experiencing winter (including a snow tunnel) in the middle of summer.
- Iranian regional music and dance from the Caspian province of Guilan. [2-minute video]
- Impressive medical complex opens in Isfahan, Iran, to serve the region and to promote health tourism.
(5) Confusing political activism with treason: See the entire Fox News team freak out over the political activism of the US women's national soccer team! They equate criticism of Trump with being unpatriotic.
(6) Santa Barbara's "Concerts in the Park" program is back for 2019 (Thursdays, 6:00 PM, Chase Palm Park).
7/11, Area 51 (dance band); 7/18, Pop Gun Rerun (80s music); 7/25, Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries (50s/60s rock n' roll); 8/01, no concert (Fiesta); 8/08, Lightnin' Willie and the Poorboys (blues); 8/15, The Blue Breeze Band (Motown/R&B)
(7) The edge of computational photography: This is the title of an interesting article by Keith Kirkpartick in the July 2019 issue of Communications of the ACM (Vol. 62, No. 7, pp. 14-16). Modern digital cameras use hardware to capture image data and software to adjust image parameters to yield a final image. Even though the best computational techniques still fall short of professional photographers with pro-grade equipment, there is no reason to believe that they won't catch up soon, in a manner similar to chess-playing programs.

2019/07/09 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
E&T magazine's June 2019 cover image: Celebrating Leonardo da Vinci's contributions 500 years after his death Among eight other all-round geniuses listed in the June 2019 issue of E&T magazine, commemorating Leonardo, is the Iranian scholar, poet, and polymath, Omar Khayyam Skyrmions have been in the limelight over the past decade as candidates for building atomic-scale magnetic memory devices and processing logic in combination, as parts of neuromorphic computing structures (1) Images of the day: [Left] E&T magazine's June 2019 cover feature celebrates Leonardo da Vinci's broad contributions to multiple engineering disciplines, in addition to arts and architecture, 500 years after his death. [Center] Among eight other all-round geniuses listed in the June 2019 issue of E&T magazine, commemorating Leonardo, is the Iranian scholar, poet, and polymath, Omar Khayyam. [Right] Skyrmions, discovered in the 1960s by theoretical physicist Tony Skyrme, have been in the limelight over the past decade as candidates for building atomic-scale magnetic memory devices and processing logic in combination, as parts of neuromorphic computing structures (image credit: E&T magazine, issue of June 2019).
(2) The courts are baffled by emojis: "Can a knife emoji double as a threat to kill someone? Does a heart emoji from a manager constitute sexual harassment?"
(3) Ivanka Trump wants to be the first female US president: Having grown up with privilege, she probably thinks that her dad can appoint her US president or buy the presidency for her!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- H. Ross Perot, entrepreneur and former presidential contender who ran on a populist platform, dead at 89.
- Trump's tax reform has reduced charitable donations by $54 billion, doubly hurting the poor.
- Trump once praised Jeffery Epstein, accused child molester, for liking women "on the younger side."
- Trump claims credit for cleaner air and water by citing improvements made over the last 49 years!
- Trump retweets a false quote about himself, attributed to Ronald Reagan, originating from a fake account!
- Leaks expose widespread corruption and sex scandals in Iran's judiciary and Revolutionary Guards.
- Wonderful street art being created. [1-minute video]
- USA Today reports that Melania Trump was an undocumented working model in 1996.
(5) Iran's Islamic regime spends a lot of money on attacking its critics, but it only loses legitimacy by focusing on women's head coverings instead of rampant corruption and sex scandals among its own officials.
(6) World's most-dangerous travel destinations for 2019: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central African Republic, and Iraq top the list (at positions 1-4), with Norway, Luxembourg, and Switzerland at the bottom (184-182).

2019/07/07 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Family cruise: Departing Long Beach, California, USA Family cruise: My mom at her 90th birthday celebration Family cruise: In Ensenada, Mexico, in front of a huge Mexican flag (1) Today, I returned from a family-reunion cruise to Ensenada, Mexico, during which we had a belated celebration of my mother's 90th birthday.
- Long Beach departure photos, including glimpses of the Queen Mary luxury liner, now a museum/hotel.
- Some photos of activities taken aboard the Carnival Imagination cruise ship during our July 4-7 trip.
- Family group photos on board the Carnival Imagination cruise ship.
- Photos taken during the cruise ship's stop and our walking tour in Ensenada, Mexico.
- Independence Day celebrations aboard the cruise ship: Video 1, Video 2
- Mary performed solo guitar songs at the cruise ship's atrium lounge: Video 1, Video 2
- Latin music performances aboard the cruise ship: Video 1, Video 2
- The piano-bar's piano man accepted song requests and led the audience in sing-alongs: Video 1, Video 2
(2) Today's soccer news: The US women's national team claimed its fourth World Cup trophy, after beating Netherlands 2-0, on second-half scores by Megan Rapinoe (PK) and Rose Lavelle (a solo-effort goal). The US men's national team, on the other hand, was dealt a 0-1 loss by its arch-rival Mexico in the championship match of CANCACAF Gold Cup.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Amazon asks for FCC's permission to lauch 3236 communications satellites for consumer broadband.
- Saudi Arabia funneled $650 million to US universities to gain benefits from America's top brain trusts. [NYT]
- Fund manager Jeffrey Epstein is charged with human trafficking and sexually abusing dozens of young girls.
- US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman helped Trump ditch 70 years of US diplomacy.
- What appeared to be an exotic bird was actually a seagull who had somehow doused himself in curry!
- Persian Music: Homayoun Khorram's legacy in creating memorable songs for generations of Iranians.
- Musician/lyricist Homayoun Khorram in his last concert, playing "Saagharam Shekast Ey Saaghi."
(4) The US supposedly has a zero-tolerance policy against terrorism: Yet we are negotiating with the Taliban, who have just blown up 17 people and wounded around 200 in central Afghanistan via a suicide car-bombing.
(5) Unbelievably high temperatures in Iran's Khuzestan Province: ~50 C = 122 F. Some reports put the temperature at 65 C = 149 F, but these reports may have rehashed stories from the heat wave of August 2015.

2019/07/05 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Enemies of the People calling their critics 'Enemies of the People'! Meme: You'll never have enough resources if you don't learn to use them properly Cover image of Ron Stallworth's 'Black Klansman' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cartoon of the day: Enemies of the People calling their critics "Enemies of the People"! [Center] Meme of the day: You'll never have enough resources if you don't learn to use them properly. [Right] See the review of Ron Stallworth's Black Klansman under the last item below.
(2) Ronald Reagan's final thought in his last speech as President: "If we ever closed our door to new Americans, our leadership in the world would soon be lost."
(3) Nasim Basiri's article (in Persian) about the misogynistic work environment of Iran's women lawyers: Head of Iran's Supreme Court warns judges to not fall for coquettish female defense attorneys!
(4) After he "fell in love" with Kim Jong Un and his spectacular military parades, Trump changes his relationship status on Facebook!
(5) Book review: Stallworth, Ron, Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime, unabridged audiobook on 5 CDs, read by the author, Macmillan Audio, 2018.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The first black detective in Colorado Springs thinks of infilterating the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in order to understand its methods and to prevent crimes, if possible. Obviously, conventional infiltration is impossible, given the detective's skin color. So, he teams up with a white detective, of similar build and features, who would do the face-to-face meetings when needed.
As daring and unusual as the plan was, the book does not deliver the typical action and intrigue associated with undercover detective work. Instead, it is a methodical, and somewhat dry, account of the project and its challenges. In the course of his investigation, Stallworth carried out regular phone conversations with the KKK Grand Wizard David Duke, and, ironically, he was assigned as a bodyguard to Duke, during his visit to Colorado Springs.
Stallworth had orders to destroy all records of the undercover investigation, but he kept many of the documents, including his KKK membership card. Hence, he was able to reconstruct much of the operation's details in writing the book.
Director Spike Lee turned Stallworth's 2014 memoir into the critically-acclaimed 2018 movie "BlacKkKlansman," which was nominated for six Academy Awards and won in the "Best Adapted Screenplay" category.

2019/07/04 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Happy Independence Day: On this day, we Americans celebrate the freedoms that our forefathers fought hard to secure and other generations since then sacrificed to maintain. We do not celebrate our flag, but the ideals that are behind it. We do not celebrate our military might, but how it is used to safeguard our freedoms and help others protect theirs. There is a reason that Lady Liberty is holding a torch and not a gun!
(2) A widespread problem with social media, affecting Facebook and WhatsApp: Images and videos were not displayed or clickable yesterday. As usual, users were kept in the dark, rather than being provided with a clear explanation of the troubles.
(3) University of Florida PhD student commits suicide: There are suspicions that academic bullying (pressure to publish in a highly selective computer architecture conference) may have played a role. University authorities, as well as ACM's and IEEE's Computer Architecture Technical Groups, are looking into the matter.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- One of these people isn't like all the others; one of these people doesn't belong. Actually, make that two!
- Draft-Dodger-in-Chief wants his toys on July 4th, the toys he wouldn't look at during the Vietnam War!
- Part of ESPN Magazine's feature on Megan Rapinoe and her basketball-star girlfriend Sue Bird. [Photo]
- Mouth-watering fruits and vegetables, presented with beautiful guitar music (3-minute video).
(5) Use of lotus rhizomes in Asia: They are fried or cooked (mostly in soups), soaked in syrup, or pickled in vinegar. I learned about this interesting (both in looks and taste) vegetable during my Taiwan trip and dug up information about it with help from my host/guide.
(6) US national soccer teams will compete on Sunday: The US women will play in the final match of the World Cup on Sunday 7/07 (8:00 AM PDT, Fox). Their opponent is Netherlands, 1-0 victors in overtime against Sweden on 7/03. The US men will play against Mexico (which edged past a surprisingly tough Haiti 1-0) in the CONCACAF Gold Cup championship game, Sunday 7/07 (6:00 PM PDT, FS1) having prevailed yesterday 3-1 against Jamaica (the team that eliminated them from competing in World Cup 2018).

2019/07/02 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The five Democratic women who are running for US presidency Ivanka Trump with Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin Ivanka Trump with Jack and Rose, as The Titanic sinks (1) Images of the day: [Left] Women rule in 2020: Lost in the shuffle of two-dozen Democrats running for US presidency is the fact that there are five highly qualified women contenders. Our civil rights in general, and women's rights in particular, are being threatened by a Grabber-in-Chief, who keeps setting new records in ignorance and dishonesty. Let's give these women serious consideration! [Center & Right] The Internet is having fun with inserting Ivanka Trump in historic settings where she does not belong!
(2) Women's Soccer World Cup: USA squeaked by England 2-1 to advance to the finals against the winner of the Sweden-Netherlands match, to be played tomorrow. The US goalie saved what appeared to be a sure goal late in the first half and a poorly-taken PK in the second half to cement the win. [7-minute highlights]
(3) ARM processors find their way into supercomputers: NVIDIA is promoting ARM CPUs, alongside its own GPUs, for building compact, energy-efficient supercomputers with open-architecture designs. ARM is known for control-oriented embedded applications, not for raw processing power, so the move comes as a surprise.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Jimmy Carter does not mince his words in calling Trump an illegitimate president.
- Borowitz Report (humor): Trump praises Kim on Immigrtation. "No one is trying to get into your country."
- Underwater dance: I have no idea how this is feasible, but it's graceful and mesmerizing. [7-minute video]
- Quote of the day: "The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(5) UCSB Arts & Lectures "Cinema Under the Stars" program of free movies at the Courthouse Sunken Garden focuses on "Those Fabulous Fifties" in its summer-2019 incarnation (Fridays, 8:30 PM).
7/05 "Roman Holiday"; 7/12 "North by Northwest"; 7/19 "Rebel Without a Cause"; 7/26 "Some Like It Hot"; 8/02 No movie (Fiesta SB); 8/09 "On the Waterfront"; 8/16 "High Noon"; 8/23 "Sunset Boulevard"
(6) When is a soccer score an own goal? If the shot isn't on frame but is deflected into the net, it's an own goal, otherwise (when it is on target but deflected), it is a regular goal credited to the player taking the shot.
(7) Be safe tomorrow: "A statistician made a few calculations and discovered that since the birth of our nation, more lives had been lost in celebrating independence than in winning it." ~ Curtis Billings

2019/07/01 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Flag of Canada A fake 'Best Teacher' magazine cover that would make Trump proud! Cartoon of the day: USS Bone Spurs avoiding rough waters! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Canada Day: Honoring a country that has just added White-Supremacist and Neo-Nazi groups to its list of terror organizations. [Center] A fake Best Teacher magazine cover that would make Trump proud! [Right] Cartoon of the day: USS Bone Spurs avoiding rough waters!
(2) Trump brings his daughter to work: Handbag designer, with absolutely no qualifications to be a "senior" presidential adviser, finds herself conversing with world leaders at the G20 Summit! Try to imagine all the other world leaders also bringing their kids along to the Summit: What an embarrassment!
(3) Hypocrisy to the extreme: Fox News bashed candidate Obama for his willingness to meet with heads of "terrorist nations" like Iran and North Korea. Now that Trump has met one of those leaders multiple times and has offered to meet the other (it hasn't happened only because the other side has declined his offer), "the world is a safer place" and he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize!
(4) CONCACAF Gold Cup: Analysts were concerned that the US men's national soccer team might succumb to over-confidence in its match against the tiny nation of Curacao (population 160,000). The exact opposite, under-confidence, happened! In a barely-good-enough performance the US team edged past Curacao with a score of 1-0 to advance to a semifinals match against Jamaica, to be played on Wednesday 7/03.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Birtherism 2.0, targeting Senator Kamala Harris, spread by the son of the perpetrator of Birtherism 1.0!
- Financial Times editorial title ("No, Mr. Putin, ...") and op-ed page cartoon. [Images]
- AMA sets aside its neutrality stance on abortion rights and begins suing states over their new restrictions.
- Computer Engineering at UCSB: An updated Web site is up and running. Here is its research section.
- Viral video: Young man saves a child's life by catching her, as she falls from a building in Istanbul, Turkey.
- "Happiness does not depend on what you have or who you are. It solely relies on what you think." ~ Buddha
(6) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweet: On the irony of people coming to America as immigrants, facing hardships and discrimination, and perhaps going as far as changing their names for protection against bigots, now acting as staunch anti-immigrants.
(7) Oppressing the Baha'is: Iranian authorities tried to shutter an assisted-living facility for the Baha'i community, but were forced to retreat when some residents refused to follow orders to leave.
(8) Persian cuisine and music: This 9-minute video shows the environment and live-music performance at Sara-ye Aryaee, a restaurant established by the son of a college classmate of mine in Tehran.

2019/06/30 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Women's Soccer World Cup continues with excitement and controversy: USA beat Spain 2-1 on two PKs, the award of the second of which seemed rather sketchy. USA then faced the host team France, which labored to beat Brazil in extra time. It is heartbreaking that the tournament's top two teams met in the quarterfinals (round of 8 teams), which also included England, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, and Italy. France dominated in terms of possession (60%) and had more scoring chances, but co-captain Megan Rapinoe scored a goal in each half to give the US team a 2-1 victory and a chance to play England in the semifinals round on Tuesday 7/02. Sweden and Netherlands will play the other semifinals match. The top 3 teams in this tournament will get automatic bids to the Olympics.
(2) Leader of the MAGA movement: Putin says that liberalism is obsolete. If you agree with him, remember that you'll be judged by the company you keep.
(3) Day 6 of my visit to Taiwan (June 29): We headed back from Hualien to Kaohsiung via the same route. So, there isn't much to report. A space-suit-like cat backpack, seen in an elevator at Hualien's Zhixue Train Station, was the only interesting/new sight! I shot this video from the side window of the train, in a region that features agriculture and light industry, en route from Hualien to Kaohsiung, along Taiwan's east coast.
(4) Returning home: After landing at Hong Kong Airport, I was amused by the prospects of time travel en route to Los Angeles: HKG departure 12:55 PM; LAX arrival 11:35 AM; Gaining 80 minutes! After a grueling 26-hour day that began at 5:30 AM in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, I arrived in Santa Barbara. My body's time was 7:30 AM, Monday 7/01, whereas the local time was 4:30 PM Sunday 6/30. I managed to hang on and not sleep until midnight, in order to put myself back on the normal schedule, and it worked like a charm!

2019/06/28 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
I was surprised about the extent to which women are objectified in Taiwanese ad campaigns Happy Tau Day! Megan Rapinoe, co-captain of the US women national soccer team (1) Images of the day: [Left] A surprise during my Taiwan trip: The extent to which women are objectified in ad campaigns. I took this photo on a Kaohsiung metro ride. [Center] Happy tau day (6/28): Most people know about Pi Day, celebrated on 3/14. However, 2 x pi, or tau, is a more fundamental scientific constant, because it represents the ratio of a circle's circumference to its radius (The Tau Manifesto). [Right] Megan Rapinoe, co-captain of the US women national soccer team: New target of attack by Trump for saying she would not go to the White House if her team wins the World Cup.
(2) Day 5 of my visit to Taiwan (June 28): Today was devoted to a day-trip from Hualien to Taroko National Park and the amazing Taroko Gorge within it (think Grand Canyon, but only 20-100 meters, or 60-300 feet, wide). I will get to details of our trip soon, but first a few mind-boggling facts about Taiwan (formerly Formosa).
The island of Taiwan is only 5 million years old whereas the Earth as a whole is about 1000 times older. Collision of the Pacific Plate and the Eurasia Plate created the island and pushed the Eurasia Plate up, shaping the formidable mountain range that splits the island down the middle, from its northern tip to its southern tip. The range has an average height of 2000 meters, with scores of peaks that are 3000+ meters high. There are thus only a couple of roads connecting the island's west and east coasts. One of these roads goes through Taroko Gorge and reaches an elevation of about 3200 meters along the way.
Even more amazing is the fact that Taiwan has been inhabited for only about 600 years. The first aborigines arrived here from the Philippines and certain Pacific Islands, likely because ocean currents carried them off their daily fishing routes. Taroko National Park used to be inhabited by a tribe of aborigines, whose members were offered generous benefits to resettle elsewhere, so as to allow the National Park's establishment. Today, there are some 0.5 million aborigines in Taiwan, who belong to many different tribes (maps).
Driving up the east coast of Taiwan, one is impressed by the very high mountains nearby, extending all the way to the coast in places. When this happens, as seen in some of these photos, building roads becomes very challenging. The Japanese built the first road in the area, cutting extremely hard, steep rocks in the process. The current modern north-south highway and the train track make it through the area via long tunnels and impressive bridges.
The Taroko National Park's Visitors Center provided maps and also housed exhibits on the region's plants and animals. Scale models of houses and lifestyles of Taroko aborigines and a 3D model of parts of the enormous park were also on display. [Photo]
Lunch at one of the Park's hotels, that features an adjacent musesum, included beef steak, rice cooked within a bamboo shoot, several side items, and a special wine that one would drink by kissing the pig that contained it. The museum exhibited statues and sample living quarters of the area's aborigines. Because these tribes collected heads as trophies, they used facial tattoos to identify themselves to fellow tribesmen. Men also would get a special tattoo as a sign of maturity and heroism upon acquiring the first head. Women's facial tattoos indicated possession of desirable domestic skills. These facial tattoos created a class system in which men with no bravery tattoos were barred from marrying "desirable" women. Given a lack of proper hygiene in those days, imprinting tattoos sometimes led to infections and permanent facial disfigurement.
One of my photos shows the elderly man, perhaps retired, who served as our driver/guide, dropping us off at various points of interest and picking us up at the same location or at the other end of a trail. He provided much of the historical narrative that appears in this and other posts of mine.
A good part of our day was spent walking along scenic trails (~1 km each) to take in the impressive beauty of the gorge. The grayish water flowing at the bottom likely takes its color from minerals in the rocks. Wearing hard hats, provided to visitors free of charge, is strongly recommended in some areas. Of course, the car-size and, occasionally, house-size boulders strewn all around left little confidence that the hard hats would protect us from falling rocks!
The system of tunnels constructed in the area for both roadways and trails is a sight to behold. Building the Park's roadway system began decades ago by army veterans, using only very primitive tools (no heavy equipment and no machinery). Some of the original roadways and tunnels are still in use, but most of them have been widened or replaced. The Eternal Spring Shrine (closed to visitors today due to a heightened danger of rock slides from recent rains) commemorates dozens of workers who perished during the project. [Photos]
A small section of one of the scenic trails along Taroko Gorge, including its elaborate tunnels and concrete covers that protect visitors from falling rocks, is shown in this video. Toroko National Park is a hikers' paradise, with trailheads at virtually every turn. The scenic trails featured in my posts are easy hikes, thanks, in part, to their paved paths and tunnel/bridge shortcuts, but there are quite a few challenging trails for the serious hiker.
On the way back from our day-trip, we stopped at the historic arch-gate marking the east entrance to Taroko National Park, now spanning only part of the much-widened roadway. The Chinese writings on the nearby marker rock identifies the entrance and also states that it is the beginning of an east-west highway to Taiwan's west coast. At a prior stop, I photographed one of the monkeys moving freely on the trees, seemingly unafraid of the visitors walking by. I also photographed one of the local buses, which along with a large number of tour buses, constitute much of the area's traffic. [Photos]
Given how tired we were, we bought some food (dumplings, steamed in stacked bamboo containers) from a road-side joint and drinks from a 7-Eleven store, to take back to our hotel in lieu of going out to dinner. Apparently, 7-Eleven stores are quite prominent in Taiwan, forming important hubs of activities, such as paying bills, transferring money, mailing letters, and, of course, buying food, snacks, and drinks.

2019/06/27 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Father and daughter drown, as they try to cross the Rio Grande in desperation (1) Two examples of rapists and drug dealers crossing our southern border: Father and daughter drown, as they try to cross the Rio Grande in desperation. Shame on us!
(2) After hiding for 2.5 years behind White House fences, we learn that Jared Kushner can actually talk, and he speaks the same language of deception and deflection as his father-in-law, but with better vocabulary and grammar!
(3) One-liners: News headlines, happenings, memes, and other interesting items.
- Dotard May meet Little Rocket Man at the DMZ between the Koreas.
- Saturn's moon Titan is reportedly NASA's next destination.
- Google maps leads dozens of drivers using GPS navigation into a mud pit, where they get stuck!
- Dutch Rail has agreed to pay 50 million euros to the families of Jews transported to concentration camps.
- Humor for today: The problem with small change! [1-minute video]
- Very touching sign-language performance of a father at his daughter's wedding!
(4) Day 4 of my visit to Taiwan (June 27): I had another wonderful breakfast (my last in Tainan's Zenda Suites), before heading, via a 5-hour train ride between Kaohsiung City and Hualien, to Taiwan's east coast, where a tour of Taroko Gorge is part of my schedule. This morning's Taipei Times features two big stories: A Women's World Cup quarterfinals dominated by Europeans (plus USA, no Asian team) and the years-long state-sponsored hacking of telecom and other tech companies for gaining access to their customers' data and trade secrets, with the said customers having no inkling about the thefts.
After a 25-minute train ride from Tainan to Kaohsiung, I and my graduate-student host/guide boarded a long-distance train to Hualien. The beautiful route of 5+ hours along Taiwan's east coast has high mountains on the left and ocean on the right. We passed through dozens of tunnels of various lengths, including several multi-kilometer ones. [Photos]
Riding the train up the east coast of the island reminded me of driving along Iran's Caspian coast: Greenery as far as the eyes can see, rice paddies and other crop fields stretching all the way to the mountains, and a continuous gentle rain or mist. [Photos] My host and I walked around the enormous and stunning campus of Hualien's National Dong Hwa University, in the vicinity of University Guest House (where we are staying), before going out to dinner in downtown Hualien. [Photos] [Video of super-loud cicada insects on the campus of National Dong Hwa University]
My host's dining choice for tonight was a restaurant in downtown Hualien, which is known for its wonderful beef noodles dish. It also has a mini-museum on its second floor. [Photos]
After dinner, my host and I strolled in downtown Hualien, going into a temple, visiting a night market, and buying a boba dessert to take back to our hotel. [Photos]

2019/06/26 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Interesting observation by Dan Rather: Several of the Democrats running for US presidency speak Spanish more fluently than Donald Trump speaks English!
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump attacks everyone and everything in phone call to Maria Bartiromo at Fox Business.
- Europe has been burning under extreme heat.
- Iranian girls attacked brutally by the police for playing with water guns in a park.
- The exquisite traditional cuisine of Isfahan, Iran. [3-minute video]
- Iranian woman walks/dances on the street without a headscarf, in defiance of the mandatory hijab law.
- Meme of the day: Don't blame a clown for acting like a clown. Ask yourself why you keep going to the circus.
(3) Day 3 of my visit to Taiwan (June 26): Having delivered both of my lectures over the past two days, today was my turn to listen to NCKU graduate students, with the aim of learning about the research programs here, providing feedback, and identifying possible collaboration themes. The morning program began with three network-related presentations.
- Dun-Wei Cheng spoke under the title "Hub Location Problem," the combinatorial problem of identifying a number of nodes in a network such that increasing their resources, such as communication or transportation speed/bandwidth, would help achieve good system performance in a cost-effective manner. [Images]
- Chih-Ten Chen spoke under the title "Construction of Independent Spanning Trees on Pancake Networks," showing that an n-pancake network embeds n – 1 edge-disjoint spanning trees, which is the maximum possible, given the node degree of n – 1.
- Chien-Fu Lin spoke under the title "Constructing Independent Spanning Trees on Transposition Networks," defined as networks with n! nodes, labeled by permutations of 123...n, such that two nodes are neighbors if the label of one can be obtained by transposing two adjacent symbols in the other node's label. The presenter showed that n different node-disjoint spanning trees can be embedded in a transposition network of order n.
After a short break, the session continued with two presentations having healthcare informatics themes.
- Hung-Yu Yan: "Prediction of Recurrence of Colorectal Cancer Patients by Clustering Algorithm."
- Tzu-Hsuan Vu: "Analyzing Protein Stability with Rosetta and 3D HP Model to Predict Pathogenic SNP."
I took this photo of part of NCKU campus from the 8th floor of the building housing Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering.
After the morning presentations, a group of NCKU graduate students and staff had took me to have lunch at a traditional Taiwanese restaurant, with too many dishes served (family style) for me to even sample all of them. The food photos show fewer than half of the items served. I asked to be excused from tonight's planned dinner outing, given how much food I have consumed over the past two days! [Photos] Behind us in a glass display case is a 100-year-old lantern.
After lunch we had a half-visit to Chimei Museum. This private museum, built by Shi Wen-long of Chi Mei Corporation, boasts impressive collections in fine arts, musical instruments, natural history & fossils, arms & armor, and antiquities & artifacts. We were supposed to have visited the museum yesterday, but last-minute schedule changes postponed the visit to today, the day the museum is closed. Instead, I and two graduate-student companions walked within the gorgeous grounds and took some interesting photos of the natural and architectural marvels therein.
Student presentations with health informatics themes continued in the late afternoon. [Photos]
- Yun Li spoke under the title "Development of Tunable Dielectrophoresis Enabled Microfluidic System Based on L-Shaped Electrodes for Size-Based Particle Sorting," a system with the goal of separating particles of various sizes on the order of a few micrometers.
- Tsorng Haw Chen: "Atrioventicular Reentrant Tachycardia Detection with Convolutional Neural Network."
After a short break, I engaged in exchange of ideas, offering some suggestions on how to advance the research on edge-disjoint spanning trees by considering implications to edge and node fault tolerance.

2019/06/25 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Rise in the global sea levels has brought island nations to the front line of the fight against climate change: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the cover of Time magazine, issue of June 24, 2019.
(2) Iran's sports policies questioned: FIFA gives Iran a final ultimatum to allow women into all sports stadiums unconditionally, or face being banned from international competition. FIFA has made it clear that show admission of small numbers of women, with many restrictions, will not do.
(3) Day 2 of my visit to Taiwan (June 25): Began the day by enjoying breakfast at Zenda Suites, the hotel where I was based during my stay in Tainan. The buffet featured a large variety of items, including super-fresh fruits and vegetables. Taipei Times' top story was about Taiwan's new, highly-advanced weather satellite, to be launched later today from Florida, on a SpaceX Falcon Heavy Rocket. [Photo]
I had a couple of free hours between breakfast and my 10:30 AM technical talk, so I set out to explore parts of Tainan, the city of scooters and hybrid architecture. I had to limit the walk to much less than my normal routine, given the extreme heat and humidity. Half an hour after I ended my walk, a downpour started that lasted for a couple of hours. [Photos]
Next, I delivered my second talk entitled "Neurophysiological Discoveries of the 2014 Nobel Prize Winners in Medicine from a Computer Arithmetic Perspective" at NCKU's International Conference Room. The audience was smaller than yesterday, both due to the more specialized nature of the talk and a heavy downpour (not to mention the fact that the talk included discussion of rats at times)! [Links to slides: PPT, PDF] [Photos]
After the talk, I had lunch with a group of NCKU graduate students at a traditional Taiwanese restaurant. The delightful meal, served family-style, included many items that were new to me. And there was the ever-present fountain, which represents good luck (flow of water = flow of customers) for business owners. [Photos]
After taking a short break at the Department of Computer Science and Information Engineering, I met with Dr. Chi-Chuan Hwang, Chair Professor at Department of Engineering Science, and some members of his research team. The group has invented a new class of interconnection networks based on chordal rings and is pursuing plans to include it in the design of an actual supercomputer. After a video presentation of their work, we engaged in a discussion of various approaches to the design of interconnection networks, during which I described some of my work on periodically-regular chordal rings (IEEE Trans. Parallel and Distributed Systems, Vol. 10, No. 6, June 1999). We parted with promises of future contacts and possible collaboration. [Photos]
Later, we had dinner at a traditional Taiwanese restaurant, with my host and his adorable children, Lucy and Ray, to whom I am "Uncle Parhami." The dinner was wonderful, although most of the items (including a "dessert soup") and their ingredients had to be explained to me! [Photos] [Lucy and Ray, when I first met them three years ago and today, as fourth-graders]

2019/06/24 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The eruption of Raikoke Volcano (Kuril Islands in the northwest Pacific Ocean), as seen from the International Space Station Actress portraying the plight of an acid-attack victim This is Donald Trump's vision for a newly-great America: Migrant children in detention camps, with no soap, toothbrush, medical care, or even a place to sleep! (1) Images of the day: [Left] The eruption of Raikoke Volcano (Kuril Islands in the northwest Pacific Ocean), as seen from the International Space Station. [Center] Actress portraying the plight of an acid-attack victim (see item 2 below). [Right] This is Donald Trump's vision for a newly-great America: Migrant children in detention camps, with no soap, toothbrush, medical care, or even a place to sleep!
(2) Acid attacks and other forms of violence against women: The photo above is a dramatization, but real acid-attacks exist, are abhorrent, and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms, no matter where they occur, the perpetrators' motives, and statistical distribution of the attacks (geographically or relative to other forms of violence against women). Acid attacks, "honor" killings (which aren't honorable at all), and other forms of punishing a woman for what she does (or is suspected of having done), and sometimes for what others do, arise from the extreme patriarchal sense of ownership of women by men. It is also rooted in religious brainwashing that "sinners" should be confronted at all cost to help them avoid punishment in Hell, even if this requires killing them. In a religious fanatic's mind, killing such people is tantamount to doing them a favor. Furthermore, such punishments serve to warn others about dire consequences of "sinning." Violence against women is rampant in Islamic-majority countries (Afghanistan being perhaps the most extreme example), even though official stats may not show it due to most cases going unreported for fear of revenge or being shamed. But the problem is by no means limited to Islam. In my home region of Southern California, there are many reports of women (particularly Latinas) being beaten, shot, or killed by (ex-)husbands or (ex-)boyfriends, their "sin" being dumping a man or violating the "property rights" of the offender by carrying on a relationship with someone else. Patriarchy is at the root of these evils, and religious dogmas are enablers of patriarchy.
(3) Day 1 of my visit to Taiwan (June 24): I flew over the vast Pacific Ocean to Hong Kong and back to Kaohsiung, the international airport at the south tip of Taiwan. Which is a 1-hour drive away from Tainan City and NCKU. Ironically, my 14-hour LAX-HKG flight went right over Kaohsiung and Tainan! [Images]
In the late afternoon, I delivered my first talk entitled "Eight Key Ideas in Computer Architecture from Eight Decades of Innovation" at NCKU's International Conference Room. [Links to slides: PPT, PDF] [Photos]
After the technical talk, I was treated to a sumptuous 8-course Taiwanese dinner at Far Eastern Plaza Hotel's Shanghai Pavilion, boasting a fantastic view of the NCKU campus and Tainan City. [Photos]

2019/06/23 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The Beatles, in one of their good-natured, mischievous poses Part of a bigger poster, which suggests that reading changes one's life journey For those who continue to use logic and arguments with MAGA folk (T-shirt with insults and foul language) (1) Images of the day: [Left] The Beatles, in one of their good-natured, mischievous poses. [Center] Part of a bigger poster, which suggests that reading changes one's life journey. [Right] For those who continue to use logic and arguments with MAGA folk: This is the level of their discourse and language ability. Good luck!
(2) A most-surprising finding about honesty: Scientists drop 17,000 wallets in 40 countries around the world. Economics theories predict that a wallet with more cash is less likely to be returned to its owner. The findings, published in the journal Science, showed the exact opposite. Read on for many more interesting results.
(3) A very revealing and accusatory speech (in Persian) by the late Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani, who clarifies that the nuclear deal was sought and directly approved by the Supreme Leader, who was terrified of the possibility of an oil-for-food program similar to what the UN imposed on Iraq.
(4) Persian music: The song "Morgh-e Sahar," performed with lyrics that are taken from a different part of the same poem by Malek-ol-Shoara-ye Bahar used in the standard version. [4-minute video]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump and Iran's mullahs just need some favorable headlines that show they are winning. [Cartoon]
- What ails Iran's economic and educational systems. [7-minute video, in Persian]
- Toddlers react to experiencing rain for the first time. [1-minute video]
- Adorable baby, kissing and enjoying being kissed while asleep. [Video]
- Persian poetry: Recitation and interpretation of a poem by Mowlavi (Rumi). [4-minute video]
- Persian music: The song "Bahaar-e Delkash," with its history and various performances. [3-minute video]
- Persian Music: School children, offering their wonderful rendition of the popular oldie "Jaan-e Maryam."
(6) Day 0 of my visit to Taiwan: I boarded my flight to Hong Kong at LAX, with the final destination being Tainan, Taiwan, in the wee hours of this Sunday morning. I will be in Taiwan from Monday through Saturday, June 24-29 (Days 1-6), about which I will report in the coming days. I am traveling very light, with only a smallish checked bag and a tiny backpack; highly recommended, if feasible. [Selfies]

2019/06/22 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on a flight to Miami Meme of the day: Wars are started by rich old men but kill poor young men New stores at Goleta's Fairview Center (1) Images of the day: [Left] Bernie Sanders (seat 15A) and Elizabeth Warren (seat 16A) flying to Miami: There were no reports of Warren kicking Sanders' seatback or otherwise disturbing him (source: Tweet by Steve Clemons). [Center] Meme of the day: Wars are started by rich old men but kill poor young men. (No need to be gender-neutral here, it has been predominantly men in both cases.) [Right] New look for a local shopping center in Goleta: When a Vons supermarket closed at Fairview Center, a Sprouts Farmers Market moved in, but the new store used only about 70% of the space. The remaining space is being renovated for a new mystery business, with no signs or other indications regarding its nature. The closed OSH store will soon be replaced by another hardware store (Miner's/Ace). The Radio Shack store, located between the Fairview Center sign and Starbucks, is now a T-Mobil store.
(2) The next IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Professor Dmitri Strukov (UCSB) will speak under the title "Alternative Computing with Memristors" (Goleta Valley Public Library, 500 N. Fairview Ave., Wednesday, July 17, 2019, 6:00 PM; free admission). [Flyer]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Some interesting facts about Northern Summer Solstice, which occurred at 8:54 AM (PDT) yesterday.
- One of these 12 women astronauts will go on a NASA Moon mission soon. [Photo]
- Wonders of nature, set to music. [3-minute video]
- Santa Barbara has an elaborate Summer Solstice festival, including a parade along State Street. [Poster]
(4) The atoms in our bodies come from distant stars: Neil deGrasse Tyson narrates this amazing video (bearing Persian subtitles) about how the universe is in each of us.
(5) Soccer puzzle: Teams 1-4 in a round-robin group have played two matches each. Here are the stats for the four teams, in order from 1 to 4: Wins, 2, 1, 0, 0; Draws, 0, 1, 1, 0; Losses, 0, 0, 1, 2; Goals for, 3, 2, 2, 0; Goals against, 1, 1, 3, 2. Can you determine the matches that have been played and their scores?

2019/06/20 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Logo for Top 500 Spercomputers site (1) World's most-powerful supercomputers: For the first time, every entry on the top-500 supercomputers list has a performance of at least 1 petaflops. The performance range is from 1 to ~150 petaflops. The top two machines are US-based. China has 219 computers in the top 500.
(2) IEEE Floating-Point Standard 754-2019: The new version of the standard, first issued in 1985 and last updated in 2008, is now up and running after years of discussion and more than a year in the final stages of fine-tuning and voting.
(3) Humorous Persian poetry (with some Arabic thrown in): Well, it appears that even some mullahs have turned critical of ineptitude, corruption, and despotism in Iran's government! [Video]
(4) My souvenir magnets display board: Just completed one more deferred project during the week I took off between the end of the academic year and my upcoming research trip to Taiwan, starting on Sunday 6/23.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Scores of police officers are under investigation for racist and misogynistic posts on social media.
- Women's Soccer World Cup: USA beat Sweden 2-0, scoring one goal early in each half. [Highlights]
- The US women's soccer team will face Spain on 6/24 in the round-of-16, potentially facing France after that.
- "Love takes off masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within." ~ J. A. Baldwin
(6) How the Democrats and the liberal elites failed to tell the four stories on which America stands: Two stories based on hope (the triumphant individual, the benevolent community) and two based on fear (the rot at the top, the mob at the gates). Failing to use some of these real stories, they left the political scene open to fake stories which produced Trump. [16-minute commentary by Robert Reich]
(7) War is dangerously close: Trump reportedly ordered air strikes against Iranian targets but pulled back at the last minute. This may not represent a reversal but a delay, due to various conditions such as low visibility or giving time to the Saudis and other Persian Gulf countries to prepare for possible retaliatory strikes. Trump has painted himself into a corner and may not have any way out other than starting a war.
(8) Final thought for the day: Some conservatives counter every argument I make against Trump and his policies with "You say that because you're consumed by a hatred for Trump." Guilty as charged! I wear my liberalism and Trump-hatred as badges of honor.

2019/06/19 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Some of my certificates of appreciation and awards 'New Yorker' cartoon for the caption contest (1) Images of the day: [Left] Some of my certificates of appreciation and awards: These photos, taken at different times today, show the completion of another long-postponed project, thanks to the week-long break I took after the end of the academic year 2018-2019. [Center] I entered New Yorker's latest cartoon caption contest with this caption: "The good thing about a do-it-yourself maze is that we can place the cheese right at the entry." [Right] This evening's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk (see the last item below).
(2) Beating/dragging of a woman by Iran's security forces: I don't know what this woman is accused of, but the police brutality and the nonchalant behavior of the bystanders are very troubling.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Iran-aligned Yemeni Houthi rebels strike a power station in Saudi Arabia with a cruise missile.
- Mother of a young Iranian political prisoner who was stabbed to death while in custody speaks up.
- Small colleges across the US are closing down because of lack of funding and low enrollments.
- Persian poetry: Little girl recites a Hafez poem. [1-minute video]
(4) Today's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Professor B. S. Manjunth (Distinguished Professor of ECE, and Director, Center for Multimodal Big-Data Science and Healthcare, UCSB; Co-Founder and CEO, Mayachitra, Inc.) spoke under the title "Computer Vision, Deep Learning and Big Data: Opportunities and Challenges." The AI revolution, fueled by the resurgence of neural networks, has affected all areas of computing, and computer vision is no exception. The amount of visual data available is growing exponentially and the number of important applications that rely on visual data is rising correspondingly. Cameras are being put everywhere for reasons ranging from security to quality control and traffic-flow analysis, to name just a few areas. The Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) alone has some 5000 cameras. Robotics, medical imaging, and self-driving cars are but a few of the emerging applications.
Professor Manjunath gave an overview of his lab's current work on computer vision that spans a broad range of applications, from cybersecurity and media forensics to camera networks and activity recognition. The fundamental problems that cut across these applications are feature extraction and matching, and one can train neural networks to learn these effectively when large amounts of data is available. At the same time, these neural networks are quite brittle, and could be easily fooled. A well-known example is provided by strategic alteration of a small number of pixels in the image of a stop sign to cause a computer vision system to interpret it as a speed-limit sign. The presentation also included an overview of BisQue, an open-source scalable platform for scientific image analysis developed by Professor Manjunath's research team. Evolved as part of work on microscopy imaging, BisQue is now used in applications ranging from life science and medicine to marine sciences and materials science.

2019/06/18 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Old photos of my sons Humor: Being in tune with nature Old and new photos of my daughter (and some of her handicrafts) (1) Images of the day: [Left] Old photos of my sons, which I organized over the past week to display on our foyer wall. [Center] Humor: Being in tune with nature. [Right] My daughter and some of her handicrafts.
(2) Shameless hypocrisy: Mitch McConnell, tobacco industry's "special friend" who benefited from millions in campaign contributions in exchange for promoting the industry's talking points, now pretends to care about the high rate of lung cancer in Kentucky!
(3) Ratcheting up hate for 2020: "Next week ICE will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States. They will be removed as fast as they come in." ~ Donald Trump, in a tweet
(4) Behind in the polls for even his second term, Trump keeps "joking" about serving more than two terms as president. Apparently, that's the only plan he can muster to stay out of jail!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- An environmental activist becomes Slovakia's first female president.
- Writing in The Atlantic, Peter Wehner exposes Trump's sinister assault on truth.
- I didn't know about these sign-offs: Play it safe and never end a professional e-mail with Xs and Os!
- News of the weird: Missing Indonesian woman was swallowed whole by a 23-foot python. [Graphic video]
(6) A loss for right-wing conspiracy theorists: Father of a Sandy Hook Elementary School victim wins defamation lawsuit against conspiracy theorists who claimed in a book that the mass-shooting never happened. The book's publisher has apologized and indicated that it will withdraw the book.
(7) The very first national anthem of Iran: Alfred Jean Baptiste Lemaire composed this anthem, entitled "Vatanam" or "Salam-e Shah" ("My Homeland" or "The King's Salute") in 1873 on orders from Naser al-Din Shah Qajar. The music was arranged by Siavash Beizai, with lyrics attributed to Bijan Taraghi. The signer is Shaghayegh Kamali. Lately, "Ey Iran" has become Iran's de-facto national anthem, in defiance of the mullahs' regime, which prefers its own version.
(8) Tweet of the day: "Call it a concentration camp or call it something else. What's happening on our southern border is moral stain on the US. Cruelty as policy means these children are in impossible and inhumane situations, and a for profit company is making 750 bucks per day per person." ~ Brian Schatz

2019/06/17 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Satellite image of the Caspian Sea Cover image of Robert Galbraith's 'Career of Evil' Trump tweets that his contacts with foreigners, such as 'Prince of Whales' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Satellite image of the Caspian Sea (see item 2 below). [Center] Cover image of Robert Galbraith's Career of Evil, reviewed under item 5 below. [Right] Trump tweets that his contacts with foreigners, such as 'Prince of Whales,' present no problem whatsoever and, thus, need not be reported to FBI.
(2) The Caspian Sea: When seen from space, it's hard to imagine that it takes 10 hours to drive across the giant lake's south edge, from Gorgan on the right, through Sari, Amol, Chalus, Ramsar, Lahijan, and Rasht, to Bandar-Anzali, east to west, and then turning northwest to Talesh and Astara. Lately, the Caspian has been shrinking, but over the past few decades, it has gone up and down. As a closed system, the water level is a function of three factors: Percepitation (variable and unpredictable), river inflow (mostly from Volga, but also Ural and smaller rivers), and evaporation (rising, due to global warming). So far, the net effect has not been worrisome. There was an average rise of 13 cm/year in sea level from 1979 to 1995 and an average decline of about 7 cm/year from 1996 until now.
(3) My Sunday hike on More Mesa bluffs: More Mesa is a huge open-space/nature-preserve by the beach, between Goleta and Santa Barbara. The weather was ideal for hiking. [Selfie] [Panorama] [Video]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US women's soccer team generates more revenue than men's, yet women players are paid much less.
- Hackers that shut down a Saudi oil facility in 2017 are now targeting electric utilities in the US and Asia.
- Trump discussing his favorite author and the book he is reading in this 1987 interview!
- The flying fish: Tweet, with 1-minute video recorded at Sistan Dam, Iran.
- Underwater artist: The fish that creates amazing art on the sea-floor to attract females.
(5) Book review: Galbraith, Robert (pen name for J. K. Rowling), Career of Evil, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Robert Glenister, Hachette Audio, 2015. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I did not realize, until I had finished the novel, that it was the work of J. K. Rowling, writing under a pseudonym about private detective Strike and his secretary/business-partner Robin Ellacott. It is the third volume in the Cormoran Strike series. Each chapter begins with a song lyrics segment from the band Blue Oyster Cult, and "Career of Evil" is the title of a song by the band.
Early in the story, Ellacott receives a package that contains a woman's severed leg. Strike, a former military policeman and an amputee, has several theories about why Ellacott was targeted to send a message to him. He thinks that one of four people from his past could be the culprit, and he and Ellacott pursue leads throughout the rest of the story, as the police also conduct their own investigation.
The writing in this crime-mystery is quite absorbing, particularly where it concerns the personal lives of the two main characters and the affection and sexual tension between them. Ellacott is about to get married, but isn't sure whether she should proceed, and Strike in involved in a half-hearted relationship, so he too is wary of letting his feelings mar the business partnership.
To add to the intrigue, Strike is impressed with Ellacott's wit and investigative abilities, but sometimes gives her a hard time, when he acts in an overly protective manner, because he doesn't want her get hurt by nefarious characters from his past.
The book, rich in detail and character development, is sure to appeal to those with more-than-minimalist taste in crime-mysteries.

2019/06/16 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Fathers' Day greeting One more year's gone by and I am relieved I didn't get a tie as Fathers' Day present. Congratulations to UCSB Gauchos, class of 2019 (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Fathers' Day! [Center] One more year's gone by and I am relieved I didn't get a tie as Fathers' Day present. The message and coffee-club subscription (with a bag to keep me going until the first shipment arrives) are both very thoughtful! [Right] Congratulations to UCSB Gauchos, class of 2019!
(2) At today's Fathers' Day lunch, my fortune cookie (reading "A sense of humor is one of your greatest assets") vindicated me, although the kids think it was meant as humor!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- On this Fathers' Day: Seven dads describe the onset of fatherhood.
- Trump campaign upset over leak of internal polling data to Americans (leak to Russians would be okay).
- Tens of millions of subscribers affected by massive power outage in two Latin-American countries.
- Power of civic engagement: Hong Kong's leader nixes unpopular extradition law after massive protests.
- Pandering, to the extreme: Israel unveils a new town called "Trump Heights."
- NASA news: First female astronaut to walk on the Moon by 2024.
(4) Winds of war are blowing: The chess game in the Persian-Gulf region continues to baffle ordinary observers. The US and Saudi Arabia insist that Iran is to blame for attacks on oil tankers near Strait of Hormuz. Neither country has credibility with the international community, given US's fake intelligence data that led to the Iraq war and the Saudis' less-than-subtle approach to attacking and eliminating their opponents (remember Khashoggi?). Europeans are cautioning against a rush to assigning blame. Iran, meanwhile, has accused the US of instigating the tanker attacks to create an excuse for starting a war with Iran. Again, the Islamic regime has zero credibility with much of the world. It also has ample motivations for stirring the pot, given serious economic hardships it faces as a result of sanctions and the easing of economic woes that rising oil prices would provide. The Israeli government is acting as a cheerleader for the US and the Saudis, in continuation of its long-term stance against Iran as an existential threat to Israel. [Photo]
(5) A whole lot of soccer's going on: The Under-20 men's World Cup just ended, with Ukraine claiming the championship. The Gold Cup (which includes the US men's team) is in progress, with Mexico beating Cuba 7-0 yesterday. And the US women just played their second preliminary-round match in the Women's World Cup against Chile, having beaten Thailand 13-0. After leading 3-0 at halftime, the US failed to score in the second half, thanks to world-class goalkeeping on the part of Chile, a missed PK, and a lot of help from the crossbar and goalposts. The US team now occupies the top spot in Group F, as it awaits the 6/20 match against the second-place Sweden. [10-minute highlights]

2019/06/15 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of Mehrnoosh Mazarei's 'Madam X' (1) Book review: Mazarei, Mehrnoosh, Madam X: Collection of Stories (in Persian), Baran Press, 2008 (2nd printing, 2018).
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads] [ISBN: 978-91-85463-19-0]
Written from 2003 to 2007, this collection of short stories, whose titles and very brief descriptions are given below, does not seem to have a unifying theme. Some of the stories happen in the US, others, in Iran; some appear to be autobiographical, others, works of fiction. I liked Mazarei's English-language novel, Mina's Revolution, better. The writing isn't as good in this volume and there are quite a few typos and a glaring factual error (where, on p. 63, San Pedro in California is described as being an Atlantic port).
- "A Great Movie": Husband, the narrator, and wife have good chemistry, but can't seem to agree on the movie they've just seen.
- "The Road Behind the Orange Grove": Adventures of a woman, apparently married or otherwise attached, on a solo get-away.
- "The Day My Brother Was Born": A girl's mom gives birth to her brother, amid the traditions (and anti-Semitism) of rural Iran.
- "Can One Clean All Stains?": Story of a woman who's obsessed with removing stains from all household items and surfaces.
- "Madam X": In this farce (or is it a farce?), the female narrator decides to pre-emptively cheat on her husband, because he'll eventually cheat on her, but her inhibitions are too great to overcome.
- "Trip to the North": Family drives to a long-awaited vacation at the Caspian shores, only to experience heartbreak upon arrival.
- "Can You Imagine Nooshin at the Moment of ...": A battered women in hiding reflects on her own and her daughter's fate.
[Side note: Persian writing is from right to left and book pages also go in the opposite direction of English. So, the GoodReads entry for the book shows the image of its back cover, instead of its front cover!]
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump warns of epic stock market crash if he's not re-elected in 2020.
- Shooting inside a Costco store in Corona, Southern California, leaves 1 dead, 3 injured.
- It's alarming that the Chair of US Federal Election Commission felt compelled to issue this statement!
- The five biggest whoppers by the departing WH Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
- An inspired Ukraine came from behind to beat Korea 3-1 and win its first U-20 Soccer World championship.
- On whether it's okay to have liquids with your meal: It is, if you believe this 7-minute video.
- Vittorio Monti's "Czardas" played by a military band, featuring wonderful violin and mandolin solos.
- A group of my college friends gathered in Tehran, at a restaurant founded by the son of a classmate.
(3) On Iran's opposition groups: This article divides them into anti-sanctions/war (including reformists, religious-nationalists, secular leftists, labor groups, human-rights activists) and pro-sanctions/war (including monarchists, MEK, some ethnic groups).
(4) The authoritarian regime: Tweet about how an Islamic Republic of Iran official ended the career of Shabnam Tolouei with a confidential memo decreeing that she be banned from all artistic activities.
(5) Dining with my children on the patio of Kyle's Kitchen Restaurant: The beautiful afternoon weather and the ongoing UCSB graduation weekend are good for Santa Barbara's and Goleta's food joints, which are all jam-packed. Other than great soup and salad, we enjoyed live music by a talented duo. [Video 1] [Video 2]

2019/06/14 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Locations of the two oil tankers attacked near Strait of Hormuz (map) Photos of kids of different races hugging Persian calligraphy: A verse from Mowlavi (Rumi), rendered by unknown artist (1) Images of the day: [Left] Locations of oil tankers attacked near Strait of Hormuz: There are conflicting accounts on who did it and how. [Center] Children deem racial differences unimportant: They have to be taught by adults to hate. [Right] Persian calligraphy: A verse from Mowlavi (Rumi), rendered by an unknown artist.
(2) A humorous Persian poem about the perils of being single ("azab" in Persian): The poem is quite funny and nicely written, but I am less impressed with the setting where the poet recites his work.
(3) First NBA championship for Toronto: It was a close game, 114-110, but that's all the Toronto Raptors needed to win the NBA finals series 4-2 over the defending champs, the Golden State Warriors.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- NASA honors women computer scientists by renaming its headquarters street "Hidden Figures Way."
- Now's the time to graduate with an IT degree: Information technology unemployment rate stands at 1.3%.
- NIH Director pledges not to participate in all-male panels and urges other science leaders to do the same.
- Women's Soccer World Cup: Australia comes back from a 0-2 deficit to defeat Brazil 3-2.
- Impressive flash-mob dance in Belgium to "Do Re Mi" from "Sound of Music."
- New Yorker cartoon caption: "Says here he leaves behind a wife, two children, and 47 Tweeter followers."
(5) Persian music: A variety of genres, mostly oldies composed/written in the pre-Islamic-Revolution Iran.
- Duet performance of the old song "Shaaneh" (unknown artists and venue).
- The old song "Omid-e Jaanam," performed by Leyla Marvdashti and a band of female players.
- The old song "Bordi az Yaadam," performed by Leyla Mavdashti and her dad. [5-minute video]
- The old song "Raghs-e Guisoo" ("Dance of Locks"), made famous by Delkash.
- Tajik's performance of the very old, popular song "Rud-e Karun" ("Karun River").
- The little master-tombak-player: He really feels the instrument and the music! [1-minute video]
(6) Equal Rights Amendment (ERA): John Oliver reminds us that even though Congress passed the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution decades ago, we are still one state short of the 38 states required to ratify it. The 13 hold-out states that do not believe in women's equality include Arizona and Florida.
(7) An interesting article (in Persian) about the Persian script: Hamid Sahebjami, writes in Iran Namag (Vol. 3, No. 3, Fall 2018, pp. 45-61) under the title "The Persian Script and Iranian Temperament." [PDF]

2019/06/13 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Goleta Beach pier at the end of a summer day (1) Goleta Beach pier at the end of a summer day: Having completed my spring teaching, exams, and grading, I eagerly await the arrival of summer and will be transitioning into summer research mode after a brief break.
(2) George Orwell's service to humanity: Seventy years ago, he delayed crucial medical care to finish 1984, because he believed so much was at stake. Half a year later, he was dead. [Source: Time magazine]
(3) Prospects of war in the Persian Gulf: With oil tankers hit by torpedoes in the Gulf of Oman, the odds of war in the Persian Gulf region have risen. All it takes is an error or a deliberate provocation from those itching for war on either side to start armed conflict. Ironically, the two oil tankers hit had Japan-related cargo, as Japan's Prime Minister Abe is in Iran trying to ease Iran-US tensions. [WSJ report] [Japan Today report]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Cartoon of the day: "I don't know how much more of this Mexico can take." [Image]
- Three months after protesting unsafe conditions, Iranian political activist is stabbed to death in prison.
- Iranian police forces assault women peacefully gathered in front of a sports stadium.
- Artificial intelligence used to construct human faces based on their voices.
(5) Sarah Huckabee Sanders will leave the White House at the end of June, and Kellyanne Convey has been recommended for dismissal by a federal watchdog because of repeately violating the Hatch Act (meddling in elections as a federal employee).
(6) Jews of Iran's Kurdistan in Israel: In the years after the end of World War II, Iranian Jews in Kurdistan felt insecure, given the inability of the central government to quell cessation-seeking insurgents who also had anti-Semitic tendencies. As a result, many Jews were provided with assistance from the newly formed nation to emigrate to Israel. The flow of Jews from Iran to Israel has continued since then, with a second peak occurring around the time of the Islamic Revolution (both before and after). Some 200,000 Kurdish Jews from Iraq and Iran live in Israel, about half of them in Jerusalem and the rest scattered throughout the country. I learned from a cousin living in Israel that Iranian Kurdish Jews have begun an effort to document the lives of members of their community, in particular publishing their names and photos as they pass. The 8-page newsletter captured in these images is one example. I don't read Hebrew, so will ask my bilingual friends to help me with understanding the contents of this newsletter, including a more accurate transcription of names.

2019/06/12 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The number of hyphens used in a paper's title significantly affects its citation count Plant growth seems ad-hoc, but much of it can be predicted by precise mathematical models A collaborative robot system automatically treats back, neck and head pain caused by soft tissue injury (1) Today's illustrated science posts: [Left] Our scientific ranking system based on the number of citations is broken: In a bizarre new finding, researchers from Hong Kong and Australia investigated the world's two leading citation indexing systems, Scopus and Web of Science, and found that the number of hyphens used in a paper's title significantly affects its citation count, with more hyphens being detrimental to the paper's influence. [Center] Plant growth seems ad-hoc, but much of it can be predicted by precise mathematical models: The influence of the Fibonacci sequence on spiral patterns in sunflowers and pine cones is well-known. Generally speaking, leaves protect their personal space, thus preventing new leaves from growing nearby. It is now believed that movements of the growth hormone auxin and the proteins that transport it throughout a plant are responsible for such patterns. [Right] Robotic laser therapy: A collaborative robot system treats back, neck and head pain caused by soft tissue injury. Based on an analysis of the patient by a thermal camera, the system uses a collaborative robot to apply targeted laser therapy to identified pain hot-spots.
(2) A Swiss billionaire, who had formerly given $125 million to Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, adds another $131 million to his support.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Nancy Pelosi reacts to Trump calling her a 'nasty ... horrible person': "I'm done with him!"
- Trump claims that China's $13 trillion economy has lost $15-$20 trillion in value since his election!
- The little master-painter: Unbelievable skill and talent! [4-minute video]
- Instrumental harp music: Talented harp player performs "Despacito." [3-minute video]
(4) Quote of the day: "You don't build a business telling people not to eat what they love. You build a business helping people to eat what they love, and more of it. It's about separating meat from animals. When you think of meat in terms of its components, it's five things—amino acids, lipids, trace minerals, vitamins, and water. None of that is exclusive to animals. Animals spend massive amounts of energy consuming plants to make protein. We start directly from the plant material [pea protein] and build from that." ~ Ethan Brown, founder of Beyond Meat, in Time magazine interview, issue of June 17, 2019

2019/06/11 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Area being set up near the UCSB lagoon for graduation ceremonies Meme of the day: The wall that's falling apart and must be rebuilt (separation of church and state) Senator Bernie Sanders on the cover of 'Time' magazine, issue of June 17, 2019 (1) Images of the day: [Left] End of the academic year: We are only on the second day of the finals week at UCSB, but work on setting up the seats and stage for graduation ceremonies has already begun, moving vans are seen near student residences, and graduation photo shoots are going on across the campus. [Center] Meme of the day: The wall that's falling apart and must be rebuilt. [Right] Bernie Sanders 2.0: Seeking a balance between plain Bernie, who participates in taking selfies and cracks jokes, and Senator Sanders, who recites facts and figures in support of his arguments.
(2) Hats off to Jon Stewart: Speaking on behalf of the 9/11 first-responders with serious health problems, Stewart blasts Congress for not showing up to the hearing.
(3) 'Seinfeld' fans, rejoice: Seth Meyers calls Trump 'The Kramer of International Diplomacy'! He barges into a room and says the most inappropriate thing possible!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Some Chinese exporters are dodging US tariffs with fake "Made in Vietnam" labels.
- A $120 billion aerospace/defense giant will be created by merger of United Technologies and Raytheon.
- Trump's bull-in-the-china-shop approach to foreign policy has led to closer ties between Russia and China.
- A new astronomical discovery, by the greatest president ever: The Moon is part of Mars. [Tweet]
- Musical performances from the 2019 Tony Awards ceremeony: Eight YouTube videos, all in one place.
- Duck dancing to Azeri music! [1-minute video]
- Kurdish music: Dina performs a beautiful dance tune, "Destu Desmal" (4-minute video).
(5) Zelle, the digital payment service included in banking apps, has made it easier for scammers to divert funds from personal checking and savings accounts.
(6) NBA finals: The Golden State Warriors pulled off a miraculous 106-105 come-from-behind victory over the Toronto Raptors to avoid elimination, but they lost Kevin Durant to injury and still face the nearly-impossible task of winning the two remaining games in the 2-3 series.
(7) A record-breaking performance in women's Soccer World Cup: After taking a comfortable 3-0 lead in the first half, USA demolished Thailand 13-0, with Alex Morgan scoring 5 goals. [5-minute highlights]

2019/06/09 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Religiosity seems to hamper innovation (from 'The Economist') Number of researchers per million inhabitants in different countries (from ChartsBin.com) (1) Two science/tech-related charts: [Left] Religiosity seems to hamper innovation (from The Economist). [Right] Number of researchers per million inhabitants in different countries (from ChartsBin.com).
(2) Director Abbas Kiarostami's old interview about the recently-disgraced former minister/mayor Mohammad-Ali Najafi shows that he was never the man he is made out to be.
(3) Exploration of a mountain cave in the western Iranian province of Luristan, hiding treasures from 2700 years ago. [3-minute video, narrated in Persian]
(4) Bad news and good news: An earlier story I posted told of a group of London teenagers who savagely beat up a lesbian couple, because they would not kiss for the teens' entertainment. The teenagers in this story rushed into a burning house to save a 90-year-old woman they did not know!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Despite incontrovertible evidence that the Earth is round, the Flat-Earth movement keeps growing!
- Here come the 2019 wildfires in the western United States! [ABC News report]
- Little-known facts about the great Persian poet Khayyam. [4-minute video]
- The Practicing Atheist: Hilarious sit-down comedy routine! [5-minute video]
- Put a Woman in Charge: A wonderful song, in English, with Persian subtitles. [4-minute video]
- Kurdish music: A song performed in the setting of a fabric/handicrafts shop with colorful offerings.
(6) Senator Chuck Schumer's sarcastic response to Trump's declaration of victory in the negotiations about illegal immigration with Mexico. [Tweet]
(7) Misplaced priorities: In this Persian tweet, a member of Iran's parliament from Tehran laments that people had celebrated Eid-e Fitr in the recreation area behind a dam in ways that he characterizes as norm-shattering (apparently, they engaged in swimming and dancing). I read around 100 of the comments under his post and did not see even one endorsement or positive reply. There are several comments to the effect that his very existence is norm-shattering, as are the parliament's ignoring many cases of corruption, while getting riled up about people enjoying themselves.
(8) Today's family gathering at my late-uncle Nouri's: More than a year after Nourollah Parhami's passing, my extended family got together with his family to reminisce and enjoy each other's company. A couple of verses of a longer poem I wrote for him (modified to be self-contained) appear on his gravestone. After dinner, my talented niece Mina played several pieces on the piano.

2019/06/08 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Quote of the day: US Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D-HI) to AG William Barr Cartoon of the day: Visiting Mueller Island in some distant future Senator Chuck Schumer's sarcastic response to Trump's declaration of victory in the negotiations about illegal immigration with Mexico (1) Images of the day: [Left] Quote of the day: US Congresswoman Mazie Hirono (D-HI) to AG William Barr. [Center] Cartoon of the day: Visiting Mueller Island in some distant future. [Right] Senator Chuck Schumer's sarcastic response to Trump's declaration of victory in the negotiations about illegal immigration with Mexico.
(2) Can the Golden State Warriors, masters of come-backs, recover from a 1-3 NBA finals deficit by beating the inspired Toronto Raptors in three straight games? Historical data predicts that it's unlikely.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ohio doctor is accused of killing 25 patients: His motive is unknown at this time.
- Faux-News masterpiece: Laura Ingraham denies what Trump told her in front of millions of witnesses!
- Gay couple beaten up on a bus after they refuse to kiss for the sake of entertaining their male assailants.
- Borowitz Report (humor): Mexico agrees to pay for Trump's psychiatric care.
- On-line archive preserves Iranian women's lives and quiet resistance in late 19th & early 20th century.
- The joy of graduation: Photo taken at Goleta's San Marcos High School. (Credit: Santa Barbara News Press)
(4) At the end of spring-quarter classes: Pretty good weather ahead, as we head into the final-exams week, followed by graduation ceremonies and Fathers' Day, before greeting summer. [10-day weather forecast]
(5) The enigma of Mohammad Nourizad (my Facebook post, with Farsi text): He is a journalist who relentlessly criticizes the Iranian regime and the mullahs leading it. In this 8-minute video (in Persian), he goes further than before and directly accuses the ayatollahs of corruption and dirty deeds for preventing the Baha'i residents of a village in Kashan from producing and selling rose-water, their primary business and source of income for decades, if not centuries, confiscating their means of production and shuttering their primitive workshops/warehouses, with no explanation or accountability. Over the years, multiple religious leaders in Iran have issued fatwas that Baha'is are filthy and thus Muslims should not consume or even touch anything that they produce. Nourizad maintains that it is the mullahs who are filthy, because they oppress Iran's poor citizens and confiscate their property, while sending billions of dollars to Palestinians and Muslims in other countries. The "enigma" in my title arises from not understanding how such harsh criticisms go unpunished by the mullahs, who are more than happy to prescribe multi-decade prison terms for attorneys, journalists, and others engaged in much milder acts of opposition or civil disobedience. Some believe that Nourizad has immunized himself by becoming notorious, so that assassinating or imprisoning him will cause more trouble than letting him vent (he has been imprisoned before, though). Others consider him a tool that serves the regime by providing a safety valve or, worse, helping identify those who favor toppling the mullahs.

2019/06/07 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The tube-shaped endangered Mexican amphibian, the axolotl, which looks like a smiling fish with four legs A city council member in Shiraz, Iran, was arrested and sentenced to one year in prison for defending two Baha'is in this tweet Tweet by Marzieh Ebrahimi about Iranian women's resistance (1) Images of the day: [Left] The ultimate self-healer: Those studying regenerative medicine are looking to a tube-shaped endangered Mexican amphibian, the axolotl, which looks like a smiling fish with four legs. It can regenerate a nearly-perfect replica of almost any body part it loses, including up to half its brain. (Source: ASEE Prism magazine, summer 2019) [Center] A city council member in Shiraz, Iran, was arrested and sentenced to one year in prison for defending two Baha'is in this tweet. [Right] Tweet by Marzieh Ebrahimi: "I still walk in this city. I still pedal in Isfahan's beautiful Chahar-Bagh Avenue. And I laugh. Women have not been, are not, and will never be erasable."
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Who's benefiting from the US-China feud over Huawei? Samsung, for one!
- A dormant Russian volcano has woken up: A massive eruption may be in the offing.
- Google's doodle honoring the first day of women's 2019 Soccer World Cup. [Image]
- Is GPS ruining our brains? This Washington Post article argues that it is.
(3) Senior project presentations at UCSB Engineering Design Expo: The all-day program began with Computer Engineering project presentations in ESB 1001, 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM. The seven projects are listed below, in order of their presentation. Drones ruled this year, accounting for 4 of the 7 projects. [Photos] [The projects]
- 9:15 AM: Hands-On Flight (Oscar Wang, Alex Berlanga, Eduardo Olmos, Juan Reyes, Miguel Berlanga) Glove used to control the flight of a drone in an intuitive manner
- 9:35 AM: IEA Linguistics (Ryan Kirkpatrick, Dali Xiao, Dang Nguyen, Min Yang) Speech recognition and natural-language processing for user interface with an IC-manufacturing system
- 10:05 AM: Cloud Control (Andrew Thompson, Anna Lee, Brent Morada, Jair Carranza, Reed Taylor) Flying a drone over a target person, such as a distressed surfer, to maintain contact until help arrives
- 10:30: Drone Scout (Austin Hwang, Anthony Chen, Maga Kim, Sung In Kim) Collecting data on drones (e.g., size and speed) within a targeted area
- 10:50 AM: BLiPS (Matt Speck, Ahmed Saied, Amber Du, Kevin La) Tracking the movements of doctors and nurses in the operating-room environment
- 11:15 AM: Watchdog (Ryan Lorica, Anzhe Ye, Jiacheng Liu, Jingzhe Chen, Liqiang Mei) Use of AI to track and guide astronauts' actions when they are too far away for Earth-based tracking and control
- 11:30 AM: Eternal Flight (Aditya Wadaskar, Kyle Douglas, Richard Boone, Sang Min Oh, Sayali Kakade) System to allow in-flight swapping of drone batteries to extend flight time for remote missions
- 1:30 PM: Poster session, held in the open space between Campbell and Cheadle Halls: As the session was winding down, a group of students arrived to protest against Northrop-Grumman, one of the project sponsors, on account of its close ties with Saudi Arabia and other human-rights abusers around the world. [Photos]
- 3:30 PM: Two of the CE projects were chosen in the morning session for top awards. "Eternal Flight" won first prize ($2000) and "Hands-on Flight" came in second ($1250). I was charged with choosing one of the remaining projects for the "Best-Poster Award." The award went to "Cloud Control." In these photos, you see the winning poster & team, yours truly, capstone project course instructor, Dr. Yogananda (Yoga) Isukapalli, and one of the two TAs, Brandon Pon. The other TA was Carrie Segal.
- 4:00 PM: Brief EDx-style project pitches, video presentations, musical interludes, and presentation of awards concluded today's senior-projects day. [Photos]
- 5:00 PM: Isla Vista Elementary School students were excited to participate in the presentation of dancing robots as the finale of today's Engineering Design Showcase. [Video]

2019/06/06 (Thursday): Book review: Beard, Mary, S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome, unabridged audiobook, read by Phyllida Nash, Recorded Books, 2015. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Cover image of Mary Beard's 'S.P.Q.R.: A History of Ancient Rome' I first came across the abbreviation SPQR when I was setting up my research Web page, in which the four key aspects of my research program, that is, performance, quality, reliability, and scalability, as applied to the design of computer systems, was represented by the abbreviation PQRS. Doing an image search for 'PQRS' to find something to use for illustrating my Web page, I became aware that ancient Romans used SPQR as an abbreviation for "Senatus Populusque Romanus," which means "The Senate and People of Rome." So, when I saw the title of Beard's book, I had to peruse it!
Mary Beard is a well-known scholar in the UK. She is a professor of classics at Cambridge University, author of numerous books, and a regular commentator on TV and radio programs. In this book, which is both scholarly and accessible, Beard presents a nuanced historical perspective that pays attention to issues of class and the lives of various groups of people, aspects that are missing from other accounts of Roman history.
The history of Rome, that is, how a small township grew in influence until it dominated the entire Mediterranean region and beyond, has been told many times, from different perspectives. The duration of Rome's existence isn't totally clear. Many accounts trace the history for 10-12 centuries, from around 8th-7th century BCE to 3rd-4th century CE.
Beard begins with Rome's founding myth, involving the abandoned twins Romulus and Remus being fed by a lactating wolf, and continues through 212 CE, when Emperor Caracalla declared that all free inhabitants of the empire were considered Roman citizens. Beard's account includes the 2+ centuries of Rome being ruled by kings, before transforming into a republic for about 5 centuries, and, later, becoming the Roman Empire just before the Christian era.
Throughout the three phases of its existence, Rome came close to falling several times. Beard tells us about what caused the near-collapses and how Rome recovered from them. We need more of this kind of history book that tell us not just what happened but how the events were inter-related and what consequences they carried.

2019/06/05 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A beautiful, serene, and vastly underutilized outdoor area next to UCSB's Student Resource Building Persian poetry: A couplet from Khayyam on the futility of wishing someone ill This object, recently unearthed in Iran, is believed to be part of an Egyptian king's statue (1) Images of the day: [Left] A beautiful, serene, and vastly underutilized outdoor area next to UCSB's Student Resource Building. [Center] Persian poetry: A couplet from Khayyam on the futility of wishing someone ill. [Right] This object, unearthed in southwestern Iran, is believed to be part of an Egyptian king's statue.
(2) Quote of the day: "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." ~ Rumi
(3) IEEE issues guidelines to its members and volunteers on dealing with the updated US Bureau of Industry and Security's expanded "Entity List," which now includes Huawei and 68 of its affiliates. [PDF document]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Leader of the world's sole superpower picked a fight with Bette Midler during a major foreign trip.
- New Yorker cartoon: "Sorry, Mr. President. I'm afraid D Day has nothing to do with your name."
- UCLA Engineering is gifted $100 million by Henry and Susan Samueli for faculty/programs expansion.
- A month after arrest of 3 Baha'is in Semnan, Iran, there's no news about their conditions or whereabouts.
- The unbearable beauty of women singing for Iran's mullahs. Ole! [Cartoon] [Credit: Iranwire.com]
- Instrumental music: A couple of popular Italian oldies played by three people on a foot-keyboard piano.
- "The higher you climb in life, the more ridiculous your hats will become." ~ Charlie Day's words of wisdom
(5) Resources on the moon that are fueling a race among advanced countries to colonize it: Silicon; Rare earths; Titanium; Aluminum; Water; Precious metals; Helium-3.
(6) Talk about income redistribution (socialism): US individual taxpayers paid $93 billion more in taxes during 2018, while corporations got a tax break of $91 billion as a result of Trump's tax "reform."
(7) Royal gift: Queen Elizabeth II gave Trump an abridged (single-volume) first edition of Churchill's The Second World War: Was there a hidden message in her gift choice?
(8) Son Jarocho Ensemble: After missing spring quarter's series of noon music concerts (World Music Series) because of time conflict, I caught the tail end of the last performance for 2018-2019 due to my class ending early and the concert being longer than usual. [5-minute video]

2019/06/04 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Graffiti on a wall along Tehran's Vali-asr Street, in protest to mandatory hijab laws Queen Elizabeth II with Presidents Obama and Trump (1) Images of the day: [Left] Graffiti on a wall along Tehran's Vali-asr Street, in protest to forced veiling. [Center] Supply your own narrative: Two American presidents on state visits to the UK, presented side by side. (P.S.: QE II has met with 11 of the last 12 US presidents, Lyndon B. Johnson being the only one not to have visited her.) [Right] Street artist JR's installation on the southern side of the US-Mexico border wall.
(2) Quote of the day: "People have only as much liberty as they have the intelligence to want and the courage to take." ~ Emma Goldman
(3) Iranian music: This song is in a regional Iranian dialect that I don't understand, but it is reminiscent of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" in the way it recites names of politicians and other famous people.
(4) Shortsightedness to the extreme: Since Trump took office, there have been some 50 completed rollbacks of environmental regulations, with another three dozens in progress.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Today marks 30 years since Chinese troops opened fire on student demonstrators in Tiananmen Square.
- "Sleepy," "low-energy" Trump caught nodding off during Queen Elizabeth II's speech at a state dinner.
- Hope Hicks: The first former Trump aide to defy his non-compliance directive and offer to cooperate.
- Shostakovich's Waltz No. 2 (flashmob): 11 minutes of comedic build-up, followed by 5 minutes of music.
- Persian Music: A song by Gholam-Hossein Banan, accompanied by historic photographs of his life.
(6) Parallelism destruction and extraction: Mathematical problems often possess a great deal of explicit parallelism. Coding the problem in a conventional high-level language kills the parallelism by introducing artificial sequentiality. Compilers typically recover some of the parallelism when they build the computation's data-flow graph as an aid to translation. Again, the generated machine code kills the exposed parallelism. Finally, out-of-order CPUs salvage some of the destroyed parallelism by hardware-level dependence analysis within the instruction-issue logic. What a wasteful way to go about exploiting parallelism for performance enhancement! An article in Communications of the ACM, issue of June 2019 (by Tony Nowatzki, Vinay Gangadhar, and Karthikeyan Sankaralingam, with a synopsis/intro by Rishiyur S. Nikhil) proposes the design of a hybrid von-Neumann/dataflow microprocessor to preserve explicit parallelism, from the application domain to hardware environment. [Chart]

2019/06/03 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme on the problem of fake super-patriotism in the US Meme on those who think everyone lies but Trump Gilbert Hill: Mumbai's 66-million-year-old natural high-rise smack in the middle of a suburb (1) Images of the day: [Left] The problem of fake super-patriotism in the US had been diagnosed a long time ago. How can anyone love a country while hating 93% of its residents? [Center] It's sort of like the drunk wrong-way driver who thought everyone else was driving the wrong way! [Right] Gilbert Hill: Mumbai's 66-million-year-old natural high-rise smack in the middle of a suburb.
(2) This morning's local news in Santa Barbara: I received a Twitter alert this morning about KEYT News being broadcast live on Twitter and Facebook. They had audio problems in the studio, which they could not resolve immediately. So, the news crew took out their cell phones and began broadcasting the news and weather, along with some behind-the-scenes images and interviews. The weather person walked in front of the green screen she normally uses and went to her computer screens to present the forecast. [Screen shots]
(3) Campus Point at UCSB: This is my favorite spot on campus to have a bag-lunch or to take a rejuvenating break. The peace and quiet, along with views of the campus lagoon and the ocean, are wonderful. Today, I discovered an out-of-the-way equipment rental trailer, which is open on weekdays and weekends, including throughout the summer. And here is a panoramic photo, shot from UCSB's Campus Point parking lot, looking toward Goleta Beach Park and Goleta Pier. [Interactive] [Static]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Studying underground ant colonies, with their intricate architectures, ventilation routes, and superhighways.
- The amazing Lyrebird from Australia masters fairly complicated songs in its attempt to attract females.
- Old timers (photo, left to right): Dick Van Dyke, 93; Carl Reiner, 97; Mel Brooks, 92; Norman Lear, 96.
- An impressive 4-player performance of "Despacito" on a foot-keyboard piano. [3-minute video]
(5) UCSB students testing their drone outside the main Engineering Building: They are likely getting ready for Capstone Project Day on Friday, June 7, 2019. This particular drone has a battery hanging under its belly. It can land on a special platform, where a new battery slides in, pushing the old one out, so the drone can continue to fly around with no need for human intervention. [1-minute video]
(6) RIP, iTunes: Having defined music and helping Apple rise to most-valuable-company status, for all practical purposes iTunes is dead, becoming a victim of its uncontrolled expansion and cluttered design.

2019/06/02 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The US women's soccer team headed to the 2019 Women's Soccer World Cup: Time magazine cover The US women's soccer team headed to the 2019 Women's Soccer World Cup: Groups for preliminary round The US women's soccer team headed to the 2019 Women's Soccer World Cup: Ball and logo (1) The US women's soccer team is set to defend its 2015 world title in the upcoming Women's Soccer World Cup, to be held in France over a month, June 7 to July 7, 2019. US team's matches will be on Friday, June 11 (v. Thailand, 3:00 PM, on Fox), Sunday, June 16 (v. Chile, 12:00 PM, on Fox), Thursday, June 20 (v. Sweden, 3:00 PM, on Fox); and more, if the team advances past the preliminary rounds. All times are US Eastern.
(2) Child labor, child poverty, and other injustices are facts of life in our world today, but are we really powerless to do something about them? [2-minute video]
(3) College students running on empty: The summer 2019 issue of ASEE Prism magazine includes a cover feature about college students' food insecurity problem and engineering solutions to it. I will post a direct link to the story, if and when it becomes available on-line. [Cover image] [ASEE Prism on-line]
(4) University of California bans the use of the active ingredient found in Monsanto weed-killers Roundup and Ranger, and hundreds of other herbicides, on all of its 10 campuses.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Tweet of the week: Playing "Taboo," Mueller says "impeach" without using the word! [Tweet image]
- Humor: Trump rushed off stage after Secret Service spot man carrying photo of John McCain! [Photo]
- The Golden State Warriors beat the Toronto Raptors 109-104 to even up the NBA finals series 1-1.
- Eight kids were declared joint winners of Spelling Bee 2019, after the judges ran out of challenging words.
- Barack Obama has been the most admired man in the world for 11 straight years, 2008-2018.
- Journalist Maad al-Zekri, first from Yemen to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize, denied entry into the US.
(6) Despite an audio recording of Trump calling Meghan Markle "nasty," after learning that she will not meet with him during his visit to England, he claims he did not say it and blames the fake-news media!
(7) Scientific impact of trade wars: The China Computer Federation has suspended its collaboration with the publications division of IEEE over US-China disputes regarding Huawei Technologies.

2019/05/31 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
 Cartoon: Mr. Mueller teaches Logic 101 to Americans and their spineless representatives! Cartoon: A Turkish serial for cats! Cartoon: 'There was a concern that it was reminding the President of John McCain.' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Mr. Mueller teaches Logic 101 to Americans and their spineless representatives! [Center] Just out: A Turkish serial for cats! [Right] New Yorker cartoon of the day: "There was a concern that it was reminding the President of John McCain."
(2) Announcing the next IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk (free event): Dr. B. S. Manjunath (Distinguished Professor of ECE at UCSB) will speak about "Computer Vision, Deep Learning, and Big Data: Opportunities and Challenges" on Wednesday, June 19, 2019, at Rusty's Pizza (big meeting room, 5934 Calle Real, Goleta, CA 93117; food/beverages at 6:00 PM, talk at 6:30 PM). [Flyer]
(3) US businesses are against tariffs: They have developed highly-tuned markets and supply chains that keep them going. Trade isn't a set of abstract numbers that you can change at will. It's an intricate network of relationships with consumers, suppliers, and middlemen worldwide.
(4) A touching tribute to old-time Iranian musician Samin Baghtcheban and his wife Evelyn, major contributors to opera-style Persian music, both of whom died in self-imposed exile in Turkey. [12-minute video]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Mass shooting in Virginia Beach leaves 12 dead: Thoughts & prayers, or actions & legislation this time?
- Trump suggested in a March 2019 tweet that SNL is colluding with the Democrats and Russia!
- At Harvard, Angela Merkel speaks at length about Trump, without ever mentioning his name.
- America Ferrera's TED talk on her career obstacles, as she was forced into stereotypical Latina roles.
- First flying vehicle will use hydrogen fuel cells for powering its multiple rotors.
- SNL alum Nasim Pedrad is bringing the Iranian-American experience to TV in a new sitcom.
(6) Trump considers "impeachment," one of the safeguards thoughtfully included in the US Constitution, a filthy word. So are "checks" and "balances," I suppose!
(7) The roots of a Kurdish expression: An article entitled "The Eternal Fire at Baba Gurgur" caught my attention, because growing up, I had heard my parents (born and raised in Iran's Kurdistan region) use the expression "baba gurgur" to refer to a strong or resilient individual, who cannot be shaken by hardship or misfortune. A large oil field near the Iraqi city of Kirkuk, famous for the Eternal Fire burning at its center, Baba Gurgur (literally "Father of Fire") was the largest-known oil field in the world, from its discovery in 1927 until losing the title to Saudi Arabia's Ghawar Field in 1948. The estimated 4000-year lifespan of the Eternal Fire may be why "Baba Gurgur" is used as a metaphor for strength, resilience, and longevity.

2019/05/30 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Small section of a 107 x 16 ft. San Francisco mural by street artist JR Fashion design with help from nature 'New Yorker' cartoon of the day: 'I swear, if he continues to do that, I will strongly consider beginning proceedings to do something, as soon as it becomes politically tenable.' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Displayed on interconnected screens, this 107 × 16 ft. mural (only a small section shown here) by street artist JR portrays many layers of San Franciscans, from millionaires to the homeless, and how they have become invisible to each other. [Center] Fashion design with help from nature. [Right] New Yorker cartoon of the day: "I swear, if he continues to do that, I will strongly consider beginning proceedings to do something, as soon as it becomes politically tenable."
(2) Quote of the day: "When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand." ~ Henri Nouwen
(3) Putting profits ahead of public safety: Why can't a technologically advanced country with a stellar record of innovation eliminate the possibility of injuries from baseballs hitting spectators?
(4) The gender gap no one wants closed: Girls contemplate suicide more often, but boys die from suicide far more regularly. An annual increase of 13% in suicide rate among girls ages 10-14, is narrowing the gap. [Source: Time magazine, issue of June 3/10, 2019]
(5) The "Yes, ... but" defense: The story of a former Iranian minister/mayor, Mohammad-Ali Najafi, shooting his fairly young second wife to death in the bathroom is all over news and social-media headlines/posts about Iran. There are many speculations about every element of the story: The evils of polygamy; An apparently respected older official going mad over a passionate relationship; A gold-digger getting what was coming to her; Framing of a reformist politician by his hard-liner opponents; Najafi's "explanation" that he was only trying to scare his wife, when the gun accidentally went off; And many more. I am against trying offenders in the (social) media, so I leave the determination of Najafi's guilt and punishment to the judiciary (though I must add that I have zero respect for, and trust in, Iranian courts). What prompted me to write this post are many Iranian ex-pats taking the side of Najafi, because they knew him as a professor, colleague, or friend. The prototypical defense goes like this: "Yes, murder is bad, but ... " (e.g., the woman was no angel either). A murder victim is a victim, regardless of her moral character. Furthermore, killing a woman over her perceived wrongdoings is misogynistic, regardless of the circumstances, especially when she had suffered domestic violence as well. I have written in the past that terrorism should be condemned in no uncertain terms. Murder is the same. Other than in self-defense, there is no situation in which murder isn't an abhorrent crime. Please discuss your ifs/buts separately, if you must: Don't let them dilute your condemnation of the act of murder.

2019/05/29 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iran's southern city of Khorramshahr, 37 years after it was reclaimed during the Iran-Iraq War Iranian women, young and old, continue their non-violent acts of civil disobedience against mandatory hijab laws How Iran's police treats people: A protesting worker and a murderous former minister/mayor (1) Iran-related images: [Left] Iran's southern city of Khorramshahr, 37 years after it was reclaimed during the Iran-Iraq War (Iranwire.com pictorial). [Center] Iranian women, young and old, continue their non-violent acts of civil disobedience against mandatory hijab laws. [Right] How Iran's police treats people: A protesting worker (top) and a former minister/mayor who has confessed to murdering his second wife (bottom).
(2) We are paying for Trump's tariff wars twice: Once through higher prices for products subject to tariffs and again through government handouts to businesses impacted by tariffs. [Source: Los Angeles Times]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- White House requested that the warship USS John S. McCain be out of sight during Trump's Japan visit!
- Mueller finally speaks: He is resigning from DoJ and will have nothing more to say on his Russia Probe.
- Former mayor of Tehran kills his second wife, who was on the verge of giving a damning interview.
- All-girls robotics team from Ghana wins the World Robofest Championship, held in Michigan in mid-May.
(4) "How to Win the Fight Against Gun Violence": This was the title of an interesting and important UCSB talk by Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. [Images] [Web site]
Robyn Thomas, Executive Director of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence Throughout the talk, Ms. Thomas presented interesting facts about gun violence and forces that support the status quo, making the US by far the worst country in terms of deaths caused by guns. Some 40,000 Americans died from gun violence in 2017, the highest number in nearly four decades. There are 350 million guns in private hands in the US. A gun in a home is 22 times more likely to be used against someone at that home than for self-defense. Women are five times more likely to be killed if their abuser has access to guns. American children are 16 times more likely to be killed by guns than children in any other developed country.
Interestingly, mass shootings, which get more media attention than other gun-related deaths, form a small part of the problem. Suicides, homicides by intimate partners, and urban gun violence account for many more deaths. The NRA, which was formed as a gun-safety and gun-education entity but has since become the mouthpiece of gun manufacturers, broadly opposes any kind of legislation, proposing instead that the solution is to arm more people.
Progress in enacting sensible gun laws (background checks, restrictions on military-style assault weapons, safety requirements, training, etc.) has been slow. Things are changing though. The second bill taken up by the new Congress was a gun-control bill. When Ms. Thomas testified in front of the Congress in February, she found the atmosphere much friendlier and supportive of gun legislation, in no small part due to the new crop of representatives who have become sensitized to the problem of gun violence by events in recent years (including shootings of and by police officers).
I end this report with a light aside: When a questioner asked whether Ms. Thomas agrees with the proposal to train and arm teachers (she does not), a gentleman jokingly interjected that in the university setting, arming of teaching assistants (many of whom were in attendance) should be considered instead!
[P.S.: In an embarrassment of riches, I had to choose between this talk and a concurrent one in an adjacent building, KITP's 73rd Annual Public Lecture, delivered by Wojciech Hubert Zurek under the title "Quantum Theory of the Classical," dealing with the question of why quantum theory that rules the nature results in a familiar "classical reality" we find quite persuasive, given the immediacy of our perceptions.]

2019/05/28 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of 'Understanding Nanotechnology (1) Book review: Editors of Scientific American, Understanding Nanotechnology, Warner Books, 2002.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
In this imminently accessible book (even for younger readers), a number of scientists write chapters on scientific notions and technology topics comprising the important field of nanotechnology. Even though the field has come a long way since 2002, this book is still useful for learning about the fundamentals of a branch of technology that deals with dimensions and tolerances of less than 100 nanometers, which is 200-1000 times the diameter of an atom.
The book's table of contents follows.
Foreword: Understanding Nanotechnology; Introduction (p. 1); Little Big Science (p. 6); Plenty of Room, Indeed (p. 18); The Art of Building Small (p. 36); Less Is More in Medicine (p. 56); Making Molecules into Motors (p. 72); Nanobot Construction Crews (p. 86); The Incredible Shrinking Circuit (p. 92); Machine-Phase Nanotechnology (p. 104); Computing with Molecules (p. 110); Nanotubes for Electronics (p. 124); Conclusion (p. 139)
Cover image of 'Easy American Idioms (2) Course review: The Living Language Method, Easy American Idioms, Random House, 2008. [My 5-star review of this course on GoodReads]
Idioms such as "Bite the bullet" and "Don't fly off the handle" are used extensively in conversational American English. They make the language colorful and natural-sounding, but they can be quite confusing to non-native speakers. In this well-thought-out course, hundreds of idioms are presented in groups, by first having the students listen to a conversation that contains a particular group of idioms and then asking them to provide the appropriate idioms in particular contexts.
I found it interesting that, whereas I could understand nearly all of the idioms presented, I don't use very many of them in my own speech. This might be quite natural for someone who has learned English as the second language. However, hearing the idioms explicitly and collectively will no doubt help me in their application.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- In Japan, Trump downplays North Korea's missile launches and embraces their insult on Joe Biden.
- Overcrowded Mount Everest continues to take victims: Death toll for 2019 reaches 11.
- Mass-stabbing of school girls at a bus stop in Kawasaki, Japan, leaves 2 dead and 16 injured.
- Perfectly-timed photo: Cat with antlers. [Photo]
- Hybrid and other interesting fruit species. [4-minute video]
- Laminar flow: When water flows smoothly with no turbulence or interference, it looks like it's frozen.
(4) Quote of the day: "My hearings were not televised, and on the first morning, five minutes after I'd been introduced, they started asking questions. Now the first day is consumed by statements by the Senators about how important the hearings are." ~ Former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, 99, on SCOTUS confirmation hearings
(5) UCSB Computer Engineering Program Capstone Project Presentations: Friday, June 7, 2019 (talks at ESB Room 1001, 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM; posters at Campbell Hall Courtyard, 1:30-3:00 PM). I am looking forward to my role as the "best poster" judge.

2019/05/27 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Memorial Day: US flags installation at UCSB, next to Storke Tower Neo-Arameic-speaking region located in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey Arameic-speaking Kurdish women (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Memorial Day: UCSB observes this important day of courage and sacrifice with an installation that contains one flag for every 2000 of the 1.4 million individuals who have given their lives in service to our nation. [Center & Right] Professor Geoffrey Khan lecturing on Neo-Arameic language dialects and Neo-Arameic-speaking Kurdish women (see the last item below).
(2) Quote of the day: "I didn't mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12. But you're adults now, and this is an actual crisis." ~ Bill Nye, urging everyone to take climate change more seriously
(3) It's sad that we find adversarial leaders' opinions more palpable than our own leaders': "If someone thinks their own race and civilization is superior and insists on remolding or replacing other civilizations, it would be a stupid idea and disastrous act." ~ Xi Jinping, President of China
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Severe weather in central US claims 10th victim in a week and causes billions in damage. [Image]
- Trump downplays North Korea's missile launches and embraces their insult on Joe Biden during Japan visit.
- An interesting upcoming lecture at UCSB: "How to Win the Fight Against Gun Violence in America" [Flyer]
- Playful whales and dolphins filmed in the Pacific Ocean. [1-minute video]
(5) Jews of Kurdistan and their language (continued): I have written before about my long-standing interest in tracing the roots of the Parhami family in Iran's Kurdistan region. This pursuit is currently on the back-burner due to many other projects, and I may have to wait for retirement to make progress! A chance meeting and conversation with a fellow Jewish Kurd at the UCLA film screening of 5/19 rekindled my interest and prompted me to pursue a few leads that she provided. Geoffrey Khan (U. Cambridge) has written a 4-volume book, The Neo-Aramaic Dialect of the Assyrian Christians of Urmi. The language of my ancestors in Iran's Kurdistan is one of the extinct or near-extinct dialects of Arameic. The existence of hundreds of dialects is a sign of the language's antiquity, according to Khan.
[81-minute lecture by Khan] [61-minute lecture by Yona Sabar and Ariel Sabar on Jews of Kurdistan]

2019/05/25 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Persian poetry: Sa'adi poem about a man needing two lives, one for gaining experience and one for using it The great Persian poet Sa'adi: Worry about matters that can create endless joy. It's silly to pursue pleasures that turn into sorrow Persian poetry: Sa'adi isn't the first name that comes to mind when thinking of love poems, but he has some of the most beautiful and tender romantic poems (1) Persian poetry: A few wonderful verses by Sa'adi, bearing life advice and praise for his beloved.
(2) On robot locomotion: This 3-minute video was suggested by my colleague, Dr. Katie Byl, who gave a very interesting talk entitled "Mesh-based Tools to Analyze Deep Reinforcement Learning Policies for Underactuated Biped Locomotion" for IEEE Central Coast Section on May 15, 2019. The video contains an enchanting set of animations from DeepMind linked to the ideas in the arXiv paper entitled "Emergence of Locomotion Bahviours in Rich Environments." [IEEE CCS Technical Talks Web page]
(3) Poetic justice: Merrick Garland (Obama nominee for SCOTUS, who never got a hearing for confirmation) has been assigned to handle Trump's appeal over his financial records.
(4) "Lock Her Up" 2.0: Trump rally crowds now chant "Lock Them Up," alluding to allegations of spying/treason against the FBI. Or, maybe, they are referring to the Trump family!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's recent statements, fact-checked by Associated Press: Not that facts matter for his supporters!
- John Urschel, who carried a 4.0 GPA at Penn State, gave up his NFL career for a PhD, and life, in math.
- A Colorado road is closed due to rock slides bringing boulders the size of buildings onto the road.
- New York City's Times Square, as it was 107 years ago. [3-minute video]
- Architectural masterpiece by Zaha Hadid: Library and Learning Center at Vienna University of Economics.
(6) Iranian political prisoners are threatened with harsher sentences if they talk to the media and some dual-citizen hostages are offered leneancy if they agree to spy for Iran. [Source: Iranwire.com]
(7) Selling democracy: "Nearly three decades after the Cold War's end, it's no longer clear that American-style liberal democracy has carried the day." ~ Ian Bremmer, writing in Time magazine, issue of May 27, 2019
(8) Donald Trump Jr. has landed a book deal (a fiction title, I assume), so Twitter users are having fun with suggested book titles, such as: Pride and Extreme Prejudice; The Tax Man Cometh; Coward's End; A Fail in Two Cities; Malice in Blunderland; Collusion Runs Through It.
(9) The problem with news apps: Content creators are yet to recognize the problems caused by headlines being cut short due to limited screen space. This is reminiscent of "prefix codes" in computer science, that is, variable-length codes with no codeword being a prefix of any other codeword, ensuring correct decoding. Here, no misleading headline should be a prefix of the composed headline! In other words, the main point of the headline should be made with its first few words. Here are a few extreme examples of truncated headlines.

2019/05/24 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Beautiful nature: Jungle, seen from the ground up Chalk paintings: Santa Barbara will hold the 33rd edition of its iMadonnari Italian Street-Painting Festival on May 25-27, 2019 Brilliant art: Colorful pencil sculpture by Molly Gambardella (1) Images of the day: [Left] Beautiful nature: Jungle, seen from the ground up. [Center] Chalk paintings: Santa Barbara will hold the 33rd edition of its iMadonnari Italian Street-Painting Festival on May 25-27, 2019, at the historic Santa Barbara Mission. [Right] Brilliant art: Colorful pencil sculpture by Molly Gambardella.
(2) French mathematician Michael Rao completes the solution to century-old problem of classifying convex pentagons, and therefore all convex polygons, that tile the plane.
(3) Mile-wide asteroid and its tiny moon will zoom past Earth at a distance of 3 million miles this weekend.
[I had a concern that the asteroid's moon would tumble to our Earth, given the Earth's much larger gravity, so I did the following back-of-the-envelop calculation: Earth's diameter is about 8000 miles, so, assuming identical densities, it is 8000^3 = 0.5 × 10^12 times heavier than the asteroid. Animation in the news story shows the asteroid's moon to be at a distance of about 1 mile from it. The ratio of the distances squared is thus 3,000,000^2 = 9 × 10^12. The latter figure is much larger than the ratio of the masses, so we are safe! Had the asteroid been passing at a distance of 0.5 million miles, say, then a more precise calculation, involving exact distances and densities would have been warranted. For comparison, Earth's moon is about 0.25 × 10^6 miles from it. A related interesting question is whether Earth's gravity will slightly change the tiny moon's orbit around the asteroid.]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Parcel-bomb explosion in Lyon, France, injures 13. A cyclist was seen leaving the parcel outside a bakery.
- Cartoon of the day: "Not again, again. And again. And again. ... ad infinitum!" [Image]
- Most new GM cars will be able to download software upgrades over the Internet by 2023.
- Founders of Twitter likely didn't envisage it as a medium for countries threatening each other with war!
(5) SpaceX deploys 60 Starlink satellites: Launched on a single Falcon 9 rocket, whose reusable first stage was successfully recovered on a drone ship, the satellites form the beginning of a space-based worldwide broadband Internet service that will provide a steady funding source for the company.
(6) The problem of the last 50 feet: Use of driver-less delivery vehicles faces the final challenge of getting the package from the vehicle to the customer's door-step. Ford plans to solve this problem with an android capable of carrying a 40-pound load.

2019/05/23 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Funny-looking, but perfectly functional, engineering fixes to broken thingss: Example 7 Funny-looking, but perfectly functional, engineering fixes to broken things: Example 4 Funny-looking, but perfectly functional, engineering fixes to broken things: Example 1 Funny-looking, but perfectly functional, engineering fixes to broken things: Example 6 Funny-looking, but perfectly functional, engineering fixes to broken things: Example 8 Funny-looking, but perfectly functional, engineering fixes to broken things: Example 2 (1) Half-dozen funny-looking, but perfectly functional, engineering fixes to broken things.
(2) Temper tantrum: "I won't work with Democrats until they stop investigating me." How is that "putting America first"? It's more like taking American interests hostage to escape prosecution for fraud!
(3) Trump on Rex Tillerson, upon appointing him as SoS and after firing him in a tweet:
- "[Tillerson has] tenacity, broad experience and deep understanding of geopolitics ... one of the truly great business leaders of the world."
- "Tillerson, a man who is 'dumb as a rock' and totally ill prepared and ill equipped to be Secretary of State."
(4) News headline of the day: "Boeing officials suggest faulty sensor data unlikely to cause another 737 Max crash." Really? Unlikely? How reassuring!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Tornadoes cause serious damage in Missouri and other parts of the US Midwest.
- Movements to boycott states which enact ultra-restrictive abortion laws are afoot.
- Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocks efforts to pass election-security bills.
- Cartoon of the day: Iranians have to fight on two fronts. [Image]
- Did you know that Bulgaria, Chile, and Iraq guarantee paid maternal leave? [Source: Time magazine]
- Recent history of Iran, as played out on the cover of Time magazine. [2-minute video]
(6) "Men Allies for Gender Equity": I wrote about attending this workshop on May 9, 2019. I have now received two files, holding the workshop handouts (higher quality than what I had posted using cell-phone photos) and PowerPoint presentation slides by Roger Green and Robert Gordon (credit for both goes to NDSU).
(7) Fifth anniversary of the Isla Vista massacre: Five years ago today, six UCSB students became the victims of what is sometimes referred to as "toxic masculinity." A young man, who was distraught over not being able to get dates and also harbored White-Supremacist tendencies, killed three male friends (engineering students) and three other students, two women and one man, and injured more than a dozen. I wore the T-shirt I was given on the first anniversary of this dark event and visited a memorial next to Storke Tower that celebrates the lives of the six victims and displays photos and notes. [Photos]

2019/05/22 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Gray is okay: Women taking pride in their roots A family's sculptures made of stones The selfie craze does not recognize political, cultural, or age differences (1) Images of the day: [Left] Gray is okay: Martha Truslow Smith, whose first gray strands showed up at age 14, urges women to take pride in their roots (image from AARP Magazine, May 2019). [Center] Stone family (source: Sculplovers). [Right] The selfie craze does not recognize political, cultural, or age differences.
(2) For my Persian-speaking readers: A heartfelt and well-written essay, by Dr. Hossein Kamaly, about the meanings of Iran and Iranophilia, as Iranians face oppression from inside and saber-rattling from outside.
(3) I was planning to see Jafar Panahi's "This Is Not a Film" tomorrow night at UCSB's Pollock Theater, but the screening was abruptly cancelled, with no explanation. I wonder if it was sanctions-related.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's plan to pardon US troops accused of war crimes is opposed by senior military leaders.
- NK's official news agency attacks Joe Biden as 'fool of low IQ,' seeming to side with the real dumb fool!
- US House bill seeks to preserve NASA's legacy Earth-science programs facing elimination.
- A passionate defense of tech, despite all its excesses and mistakes.
- Activists continuing the work of Jamal Khashoggi targeted by the Saudi regime. [Source: Time magazine]
- Sign at SB rally against abortion restrictions: "If you cut off my Reproductive Choice, can I cut off yours?"
- Meanwhile, in one of those every-life-is-precious states. [Meme about hypocrisy]
- New Yorker cartoon of the day: "Just refuse to step down. That's how I'd do it." [Image]
- Giant-Impact Hypothesis: A Mars-size body struck the proto-Earth, giving it water and creating the Moon.
- The singer at this wonderful street concert in the Iranian town of Abyaneh has been summoned to court!
- Cartoon of the day about Iran: "As I was saying, it's a sin for women to ride bicycles ..." [Image]
- "Ancient Iran and the Classical World": May 29 (at UCLA) and May 30 (at Getty Villa). [Poster] [Program]
(5) Extreme heat-shielding: The Parker Solar Probe is on a 7-year mission to collect massive amounts of data about our Sun. It has completed its second fly-by at a distance of 6M km (the previous-closest had been 43M km). Heat-shielding to protect the Probe and its on-board equipment, including solar cells that provide it with power, is of utmost importance. The probe got its energy from solar cells in the normal way when it was far from the sun, but now that it is so close, it protects the cells by tilting them so that most of the cells are behind its heat shield. Only a small patch of cells, that is well-cooled, remains exposed to the sun. [Images]

2019/05/21 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Showcasing our planet's amazing nature: Example 3 Showcasing our planet's amazing nature: Example 1 Showcasing our planet's amazing nature: Example 2 Showcasing our planet's amazing nature: Example 5 Showcasing our planet's amazing nature: Example 4 Showcasing our planet's amazing nature: Example 6 (1) Half-dozen photos showcasing our planet's amazing nature.
(2) The Art of Science: Exhibit at SB Museum of Art, May 20 to June 20, 2019, with Artists Reception on Wednesday, May 22, 5:00-7:00 PM.
(3) Iranian women shine in Karate at the world level: They win two gold medals, despite the fact that they have to fight on two fronts (against the mullahs and on the mat). In this Facebook post, Mehdi Fallahi presents a sample of religious edicts against women competing in sports (in Persian).
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump very upset over his lover (Fox News) cheating with Dems (Sanders, Buttigieg)!
- Book introduction and announcement of book talk at UCLA on May 22, 2019, from 4:00 to 6:00 PM.
- Continued fall of Iran's currency has led to the doubling of prices for basic goods.
- Nothing riles the joyless Iranian mullahs as much as people, stressed as they are these days, dancing!
- Iran, according to two-dozen photos from a Bosnian tourist. [Pictorial]
- WhatsApp has urged updating apps ASAP due to possible injected into it by exploiting a security flaw.
Graphic designs showing showing the possibility of armed conflict between the US and Iran (5) Iranian-Americans are more divided than ever: The prospects of the US waging war on Iran has widened the gap, already significant due to incompatible political views, to alarming levels. Most Iranian-Americans are anti-war, although their involvement remains at the "empty pacifism" level, to borrow a phrase from journalist Roya Hakakian, consisting of changing their profile pictures and posting "No War with Iran" memes. Others think that war is the only way of getting rid of the mullahs, who have grown thick roots after being in power for four decades. This group seems unconcerned that along with the mullahs (the most prominent of whom may actually go into hiding with their billions of dollars in personal wealth), tens of thousands of innocent Iranians may be killed. They view such deaths as a necessary sacrifice on the road to a free Iran, although, residing comfortably in the West and away from the conflict zone, they aren't the ones to make the sacrifice. Civil disobedience, from street music/dance performances to walking hijab-less in public, is at an all-time high, which gives one hope of toppling the regime without a blood-bath. Regardless of the fate of the brutal regime, I wonder if we will ever recover from the discord that it has caused among us.
(6) A stroll in Old-Town Goleta: As I awaited the completion of routine service on my car this morning (they now text you when the work is done or to seek authorization for extra work), I walked on Hollister Avenue, toward Fairview. This area is home to the very first Hamburger Habit and many shuttered businesses. My favorite Chinese restaurant, the family-run Red Pepper, located just off Hollister, has also announced permanent closure due to health problems. [Photos]

2019/05/20 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The seeds of continued resistance to mandatory hijab law have been sown! A waterfall in Iran Persian-style courtyard and fish pond (1) Iran-related images: [Left] The seeds of continued resistance to mandatory hijab law have been sown! [Center] A waterfall in Iran. [Right] Persian-style courtyard and fish pond.
(2) An anniversary of sorts: The book Guns of August by Barbara W. Tuchman traces the beginning of World War I to events occurring in the morning of May 20, 1910 (109 years ago). [Facebook post, in Persian]
(3) I thought my daughter and future granddaughters will have it easy, because we fought for women's rights, but they may have to start from square one. [Meme]
(4) Suspicious financial transactions: "Anti-money-laundering specialists at Deutsche Bank recommended in 2016 and 2017 that multiple transactions involving legal entities controlled by Donald J. Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, be reported to a federal financial-crimes watchdog. The transactions, some of which involved Mr. Trump's now-defunct foundation, set off alerts in a computer system designed to detect illicit activity." [New York Times story]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- This is America, nearly two decades into the 21st century! [Photos]
- The "life-valuing" Alabama is near-worst in infant survival and child development. [Meme]
- Finally, a Republican Congressman (Justin Amash) calls for Trump's impeachment. [Tweet]
- Does the Earth have a heartbeat? Yes, it does: Billions and billions, actually! [Meme]
- On women having a choice: The notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg always says it best. [Meme/Quote]
- Artist Alex Gordon at work: Portrait in black and white. [1-minute video]
(6) Quote of the day: "I think the dialogue has gotten so caught up on where you draw the line that we've gotten away from the fundamental question of who gets to draw the line and I trust women to draw the line when it's their own health." ~ Pete Buttigieg, on how late an abortion should be allowed
(7) "Emoji: Lingua Franca or Passing Fancy?": This is the title of an interesting article in the May 2019 issue of IT Professional. The author, George F. Hurlburt provides a timeline of how emojis came about in the course of human communication (we all know that the very first one was the smiley icon in 1963). Among the more interesting facets are the facts that there is a Unicode Emoji Standard, an Emoji Encyclopedia, and the entire Moby Dick written in emoji (Emoji Dick).

2019/05/19 (Sunday): Following is my report on a film screening and discussion at UCLA this afternoon.
Screening of the documentary film 'Poets of Life' at UCLA: Rakhshan Banietemad, with Nayereh Tohidi Screening of the documentary film 'Poets of Life' at UCLA: Flyer Screening of the documentary film 'Poets of Life' at UCLA: A shot of the audience Held in Room 121 of Dodd Hall on the UCLA campus this afternoon, the screening of "Poets of Life" and the subsequent discussion with the film's artistic consultant, Rakhshan Banietemad, moderated by Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (CSUN), was well-attended. The list of film director Banietemad's honors is extensive and includes recognitions by more than 50 international film festivals. As a side note, this event ended the 15th year of UCLA's wonderful lecture series on Iran.
To me, this event was more than just the screening of a single film; it was exposure to an important film series that not only portrays independent and self-made job creators in Iran but also introduces a new model of independent film-making. Banietemad mentioned that more than two-dozen individuals had been identified for portrayal (from among a much larger pool of candidates), but that only seven documentaries have been made so far: three 90-minute feature films and four 45-minute films (see the list and 9-minute video at the end of this report). She also noted that the Karestan project is itself a fine example of the job-creating endeavors portrayed in its documentaries.
Today's film, "Poets of Life" (90 minutes, in Persian, with English subtitles; directed by Shirin Barghnavard and produced by Mojtaba Mirtahmasb) portrays agricultural entrepreneur Shirin Parsi, who upon inheriting some land from her father-in-law, decided to return home from France to pursue her passions of organic farming and living off the land. The farm, she established with her husband, is near the small town of Rezvanshahr on the Caspian shore. The "Poets" of the title alludes to the husband-and-wife's love of poetry, which they recite in parts of the film.
The main crop of Parsi's farm is rice, which she grows using sustainable, organic methods. Lower-quality rice, imported from other countries, is more affordable to the masses, in the same way that in the US, say, many lower-income households cannot afford organically-produced vegetables, fruits, dairy, and meat. Parsi isn't just an entrepreneur but also an environmentalist and social activist. In one of the film's scenes, speaking in front of what appears to be a symposium or official hearing, Parsi laments about lack of financial rewards for women farmers, who constitute more than half of the country's agricultural workers. They are perceived as working to contribute to their families, so the financial rewards of their labor go to the man of the household.
Originally, it had been announced that another Karestan documentary film, "Mother of the Earth," would be screened, but the program was later changed. In the course of the post-screening discussion, Banietemad suggested that perhaps the entire set of Karestan documentaries should be screened as part of a cultural gathering or mini-festival. Here are the films' titles, along with links to 2-minute trailers:
- "Puzzleys" (A group of four IT students set out to establish their own business) [Trailer]
- "Flax to Fire" (Life and work of industrialist/entrepreneur Aliasghar Hajibaba) [Trailer]
- "Poets of Life" (Shirin Parsi: rice farmer, environmentalist, and social activist) [Trailer]
- "Friends at Work" (Building a steel foundry in war-torn post-revolutionary Iran) [Trailer]
- "Mother of the Earth" (A couple's efforts to end the dumping of urban garbage) [Trailer]
- "Mahak: A World She Founded" (Saideh Ghods' crusade to help cancer sufferers) [Trailer]
Shirin Barghnavard is now working on a new documentary film about the Keep Children in School (KCIS) Foundation. Jila Kashef, Founder and President of KCIS (known by its Persian name, "Anjoman-e Yaaraan-e Daanesh o Mehr," in Iran), who was in attendance, spoke very briefly about her Foundation and offered assistance to attendees for ordering DVDs of "Poets of Life" to help with spreading its message and to support Karestan's culture-building programs.
A few more links: Karestans Web site; About Karestan documentary film series [9-minute video];
Rakhshan Banietemad on Wikipedia and on IMDB; More photos from today's event (Thanks to Jila Kashef)
Facebook post of this report, which also includes a Persian version; Tweet about this report

2019/05/18 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The Bell Labs' Belle computer was the first to achieve master-level chess play (1983) Cartoon: John Bolton, Trump administration's War-Monger-in-Chief and puppet-master, who has been wanting a war with Iran for decades E&T magazine's review of 'The Gendered Brain,' by Gina Rippon (1) Images of the day: [Left] The Bell Labs' Belle computer was the first to achieve master-level chess play (1983). [Center] John Bolton, Trump administration's War-Monger-in-Chief and puppet-master, who has been wanting a war with Iran for decades. [Right] The Gendered Brain is the title of an important book by Gina Rippon that bears the subtitle "The New Neuroscience that Shatters the Myth of the Female Brain." [Review]
(2) German engineering: Every techie should want to own this compact charging cable that gives you USB A, C, and Micro, as well as Apple Lightning in a size/form that you can carry with you on a key chain. It is made by Vonmaehlen, but, the last I checked, isn't available on Amazon.
(3) Memes about the hottest issues of the day: Rescinding women's rights ("I dream women will one day have the same rights as guns") and war-mongering in the Middle East ("Iran wants war: Look how close they put their country to our military bases"). [Images]
(4) The Republicans have just invented the phrase "Consensual rape": "Consensual scam" (a la Trump University) and "Consensual murder" (NRA's favorite) can't be far behind. Where have these men and women (yes, there are Republican women, some of them governors, who believe this) been over the past few decades of progress toward gender equality and women's rights? [Meme]
Cover image for 'The Road to Character,' by David Brooks (5) Book review: Brooks, David, The Road to Character, unabridged audiobook on 10 CDs, read by Arthur Morey and the author, Random House Audio, 2015. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Writing with his by-now-familiar wit and curiosity, Brooks focuses on deep values that should inform our lives but that have fallen by the side in our culture of "Big Me." He makes a distinction between attributes that bring external recognition and material success ("resume virtues") and those, such as kindness, courage, honesty, and faithfulness, that exist at our core ("eulogy virtues"). Building a strong inner character requires awareness of our limitations and willingness to exercise self-control in the service of a larger cause.
Perhaps the most important ingredients of eulogy virtues, and the joys they bring to our lives, are humility and moral depth. Brooks elaborates on the importance of eulogy virtues using a blend of psychology and spirituality, similar to what he used in his best-selling 2012 book, The Social Animal. In a way, by focusing on inner peace, as opposed to rewarding external connections, this book complements Brooks' 2012 book.
Brooks is an optimist, so in his eagerness to paint a rosy picture of our society, where hard work and competence rather than inherited money, shapes the new American upper class, he fails to note that study after study has indicated that social mobility in the US is much lower than in most other advanced countries.
On the positive side, Brooks takes many research results from the field of psychology and makes them accessible to everyone through his skill of communicating and relating the research to our daily lives. On the negative side, much personal opinion is mixed in with the science-based assertions. All in all, this is a good read/listen, but the reader must stay vigilant to separate supported facts from matters of opinion: Not always an easy task!

2019/05/17 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Penny Mordaunt, UK's new Secretary of Defense San Francisco becomes the first city to ban the use of facial-recognition technology for surveillance The face of a man living 1300 years ago, reconstructed from a skeleton discovered in 2014 (1) Faces for today: [Left] This is Penny Mordaunt, UK's new Secretary of Defense: VP Mike Pence is terrified that he may have to meet with her (alone, for security reasons) some day soon. Iran's President Rouhani and FM Zarif are similarly worried that some future photo op with her might rile their conservative foes and state-supported, PhotoShop-loving press. (The new Secretary of Defense is real; the rest of the story is satire.) [Center] San Francisco becomes the first city to ban the use of facial recognition technology for surveillance purposes by police and other agencies. [Right] The face of a man living 1300 years ago, reconstructed from a skeleton discovered in 2014 (National Geographic).
(2) Marching backwards: Not just "Roe v. Wade" (women's choice) but also "Brown v. Board of Education" (segregation), which was decided 65 years ago today, may be overturned by the US Supreme Court.
(3) Today's technical magazine arrivals: Interesting articles about the state of quantum computing (IEE E&T, May 2019) and life-saving applications of drones in Africa (IEEE Spectrum, May 2019).
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Donald Trump pardons Conrad Black, a fraudster who has just published a glowing biography of him.
- Manufacturing facilities moving out of China owing to Trump's trade war will go to Mexico, not the US.
- The recent measles case at UCLA prompted UCSB Student Health to issue an alert to campus denizens.
- Six months after California's Camp Fire, the area's water remains undrinkable due to contamination.
- Thought-provoking cover cartoon of The New Yorker, issue of May 20, 2019.
- Prison riots by criminals and the ensuing clashes have put the lives of Iran's political prisoners in danger.
- Iranian students continue to challenge the autocratic Islamic regime. [Cartoon source: Iranwire.com]
- Kurdish music: An all-female ensemble performs the song "Kermashan, Kermashan." [6-minute video].
- Islamic Andy: A Persian dance tune, similar to pop singer Andy's songs, sanctioned by Iran's mullahs!
(5) "Public Interest Technology Research and Education": This was the title of a CS Distinguished Lecture at UCSB this afternoon. The speaker, Ellen W. Zegura (CS Professor and Co-Director of the Center for Serve Learn Sustain at Georgia Tech), has research interests in computer networking and computing for social good, which she has brought together in a set of projects in collaboration with Elizabeth Belding at UCSB to study and expand Internet access on Native American tribal lands.
We science/technology researchers often focus on the questions of "Why?" and "How?" in studying challenging problems. Speakers like Zegura remind us to also pay attention to "So what?" Ford Foundation's and New America's Public Interest Technology (PIT) network of universities, of which Georgia Tech is a charter member, was launched to advance the intersection of technology and public problem solving.
In her talk, Zegura highlighted 3 Georgia Tech efforts, one in education (a course entitled "Civic Data Science"), one in research (challenges of universal Internet access), and one in research about education (how to instill professional and social responsibility in students, who come in with public-service experience from high school, but their interest declines over their time as undergraduates). She also made suggestions on how all computer scientists can connect to public problem solving.
[Photo/slides] [Zegura's faculty Web page] [ACM COMPASS Conferences: First-2018; Second-2019]

2019/05/16 (Thursday): Report on today's UCSB IEE symposium "Emerging Technologies Review 2019"
UCSB IEE 'Emerging Technology Review': Poster UCSB IEE 'Emerging Technology Review': Program UCSB's Dean of Engineering Rod Alferness opened the Symposium by welcoming the attendees and discussing the importance of energy efficiency to the future of our state, country, and planet. He also reviewed the mission and accomplishments of UCSBs Institute for Energy Efficiency (IEE), the day-long symposium's sponsor, over its decade of existence. IEE Director John Bowers then described IEE goals and activities in greater detail, provided information on the soon-to-be-completed campus building that will house the Institute, and concluded with future plans, or what he called "IEE 2.0." [Images]
(1) Gary Barsley from Southern California Edison, a utility company with 15 million customers, outlined SCE's consumer-side programs for improving energy efficiency. There are parallel programs on the grid/distribution side that he did not discuss. SCE no longer has power generation facilities, which have moved to the private sector. Impressively, despite population growth and increase in the kinds of usage (such as EVs), power consumption has remained flat. Differential time-of-day pricing and other measures are expected to lower the peak consumption in future. [Images]
(2) Hydrogen is a clean source of energy and it is abundant in nature, not just in water, but also in methane (CH4). Speaking under the title "Transitioning to a Hydrogen Energy Economy with the Help of Natural Gas," Eric McFarland (UCSB) outlined his research team's efforts, supported by US DoE and several industry partners, in low-emission production of hydrogen for varied uses. This approach forms a bridging step in transitioning from fossil fuels to cleaner alternative technologies that aren't economically attainable yet. [Images]
(3) The Symposium's keynote lecture, entitled "New Compute Models to Power the Data Revolution," was delivered by Rich Uhlig (Intel). The shifting nature of data, from numerical values, through multimedia content, to IoT sensing/control, has motivated Intel to start thinking differently about the design of computing resources. Uhlig outlined three key aspects of the new technologies that Intel is pursuing, that is, in order of immediacy (likelihood of bearing fruit in the near future), graph analytics, neuromorphic computing, and quantum computing. Uhlig outlined the key challenges of each of the three technologies. [Images]
(4) Brent Gorda (ARM) spoke under the title "ARM Entering the Data Center Business—What to Expect." Lately, ARM has operated primarily as an IP company. It's processor ISA effectively dominates the embedded-systems market, and thus IoT. More ARM processors are put on silicon than all other processors combined. ARM has strict policies to ensure that diverse realizations of its ISA remain consistent and software-compatible. Fujitsu's super-high-performance implementation of the ARM architecture has opened the way for its use in high-performance computing and data-center applications. [Images]
(5) VMware is a software virtualization company devoted to offering easy-to-use cloud computing services. Speaking under the title "Compute Inefficiency: The Low Hanging, Costly, and Overlooked Fruit," VMware's Mark Honer discussed energy-efficiency advantages of cloud-based services. He maintained that customers value and demand sustainability. That's why tech giants are striving for zero carbon footprint (Microsoft achieved it in 2012). Our goal shouldn't just be to pursue enabling technologies that maintain planetary health at the current level, but to regenerate/improve its health. A growing number of major companies have made a commitment to go 100% renewable. [Images]
(6) Chandra Krintz (CS, UCSB) addressed the topic of "Energy-Efficient Software Development for the Internet of Things (IoT)." She advocated leveraging cloud and big-data analytics in order to release end-users from the burden of figuring out how to achieve their desired results. Rather, they should be allowed to express, in high-level terms, what they need, with the hardware and software infrastructure figuring out how to satisfy those needs through appropriate and energy-efficient use of local (edge), regional, and global (cloud) resources. This approach leads to the development of short, portable programs/scripts by end-users. [Images]
(7) Energy considerations are intimately linked to food and water resources. Speaking under the title "Coastal Water Security with Distributed Offshore Reverse Osmosis," Peter Stricker (Ecomerit) described a patented reverse-osmosis system to address climate-driven drought. Like desalination plants, the system can be used as part of the permanent water-supply infrastructure, if desired. While California's water-shortage problem has been solved for now due to above-average rainfall, drought-caused problems are here to stay in the long term. Stricker claimed that water from the proposed RO system would cost less than what our area pays to get state water. [Images]
(8) Brian Tarroja (UC Irvine) spoke under the title "Navigating the Design Space of Trajectories Toward Low/Zero Carbon Energy Systems in California," citing the dual motivations of environmental sustainability and resource security. Following a description of the problems and goals, Tarroja focused on two specific examples, viz., electrification of transportation (problems with increased load on the electric grid and increase in peak demand, if everyone charges the EVs at about the same time) and large-scale energy storage deployment (which helps match the supply to demand, but comes with environmental impacts of battery production and disposal). [Images]
(9) "Cutting-Edge Modeling Tools to Enable Low Carbon Grids" was the title of a talk by Ranjit Deshmukh (UCSB). He described open-source investment and operational cost models that he helped develop and has used successfully in parts of Africa and India to help assess the cost-effectiveness of various placement options for renewable energy sources versus the space and time distribution of consumption. [Images]

2019/05/15 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Perfectly-timed photos: Example 3 Perfectly-timed photos: Example 5 Perfectly-timed photos: Example 4 Perfectly-timed photos: Example 7 Perfectly-timed photos: Example 6 Perfectly-timed photos: Example 8 (1) Half-dozen very interesting examples of perfectly-timed photos.
(2) Distinguished CS PhD graduates: Chelsea Finn (UC Berkeley) was awarded the 2018 ACM Doctoral Dissertation Award for "Learning to Learn with Gradients," which introduces algorithms for meta-learning that enable deep networks to solve new tasks from small datasets. Honorable mentions went to Ryan Beckett and Tengyu Ma, both from Princeton. [Photos]
(3) Early this morning on the beach: Before embarking on 11 straight hours of classes, office hours, meetings, and seminars, I walked for about an hour in Goleta Beach Park, where a normally-wide UCSB beach had all but disappeared due to high tide and the birds sat lazily between a tide-pool and the ocean. [Photos] [Video]
(4) "Mesh-Based Tools to Analyze Deep Reinforcement Learning Policies for Underactuated Biped Locomotion": This was the title of an interesting and well-attended technical talk by Dr. Katie Byl (UCSB), given at a meeting of IEEE Central Coast Section today. [Images] [Schedule of the remaining IEEE CCS talks for 2019, held on the third Wednesday of each month]
Robots come in many shapes and forms and use a variety of methods for locomotion. Among challenges being addressed in the field of robotics, control of biped robots is arguably one the most difficult. The dynamics of biped robots are nonlinear, hybrid, and underactuated, and they must operate in stochastic environments, without falling (an occurrence that is all too common, if you look at YouTube videos of such robots in various tests and competitions). Ideally, robots should be robust, agile, and energy-efficient, and there are trade-offs among these three desirable attributes.
Recently, deep learning has been applied to generate successful control policies for a variety of simulated and real legged robots. Intuitively, one would expect that including perturbations and/or other types of noise during training of a deep learning policy would likely result in more robustness of the resulting control policy. However, one would like to have a quantitative and computationally-efficient means of evaluating the degree to which this might be so. Rather than relying on Monte Carlo simulations, Dr. Byl's goal is to provide more sophisticated tools to assess robustness properties of such policies.
Dr. Byl presented a mesh-based approach to analyzing stability and robustness of the policies obtained via deep reinforcement learning for various biped gaits of a five-link planar model. Dr. Byl's presentation was punctuated with video clips showing her own work as well as work by other research teams.
Additional information and learning resources: [Speaker's personal home page] [UCSB Robotics page] [UCSB Robotics on YouTube] [Guide to deep reinforcement learning] [A beginner's guide to Reinforcement Learning] [Not-so-deep reinforcement learning for dummies] [Speaker-supplied videos of interest: forthcoming]

2019/05/14 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon showing the impact of China tariff on Middle-America Cartoon about the need to move some works of fiction to the non-fiction department Cartoon about AG Bill Barr's campaign of spin and obfuscation (1) Cartoons of the day: [Left] The tariffs imposed on China are hurting farmers and other low/middle-income Americans. [Center] From New Yorker: "Can you give me a hand moving these?" [Right] Bill Barr prepares for a lucrative post-AG career of spin and obfuscation in Washington.
(2) Automatic text-generation tools advance to the next age: If you provide the start of a made-up news article to this Web app, it will finish it for you.
(3) John Bolton, a chief architect of the Iraq War, and one of the few people worldwide who still think it was a good idea, is at it again, promoting a war with Iran, that is sure to take longer and cause more casualties than his previous disaster.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- We'll pay for the tariffs on Chinese goods, not China. Just as we're paying for Trump's wall, not Mexico.
- India was the first of the world's great democracies to fall to populism: Can it survive the political division?
- Pregnant 11-year-old rape victim in Ohio won't be allowed to have an abortion under new state law: MAGA!
- Tech2Peace is an initiative to bring Israeli and Palestinian youth together via technology partnerships.
- Magnificent 3D painting of a bird.
- One in four US homes is now all-electric: The trend is particularly notwworthy in the South and Midwest.
- Quote of the day: "Everyone is so happy on social media. It's depressing." ~ Actress Meg Ryan, 57
- A rather sassy performance of one my favorite songs, "Sway."
- A popular Spanish song: "La Paloma" ("No More") wonderfully performed by Placido Domingo.
(5) A proposal to geeks who love Persian poetry (this Facebook post contains my proposal's Persian version): Poetry Web sites have vastly simplified the task of finding the works of great Persian-speaking poets. Search capabilities, however, remain at a primitive level. For instance, ganjoor.net allows searching of its database for poems containing a given keyword (such as 'love' or 'Farhad'). But if you are interested in poems containing both 'love' and 'Farhad,' you are stuck with the unpleasant task on manually searching the results of one keyword search for the occurrence of the other keyword. Google searches are sometimes helpful, but they tend to return many blog posts and other Web content with incomplete or incorrect versions of the poems. And you still have to examine the hits one by one. Adding such a capability to ganjoor.net, or designing a post-processor that works based on the results returned by ganjoor.net, shouldn't be too difficult. The tool can be made even more useful by employing machine-learning methods to handle alternate spellings and typographical variations.

2019/05/13 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A young Doris Day Cover image of Armistead Maupin's 'Logical Family: A Memoir' Michelle Obama in a stunning purple outfit (1) Images of the day: [Left] Que sera, sera: Doris Day, an icon of Hollywood's glamour years with the girl-next-door image, has died at 97. Here's a video showing Doris Day's transformation, as she aged from 1 to 96. [Center] Armistead Maupin's Logical Family: A Memoir, reviewed in the last item below. [Right] A woman who's comfortable in her skin: Michelle Obama's purple outfit has turned some heads.
(2) Cliff erosion is Isla Vista: My bluff-top walk of Sunday afternoon coincided with extreme high tide, bringing the water all the way to the base of the cliffs. This condition has eroded the cliffs over the years, leading to the installation of fencing in some areas to prevent people from getting too close to the bluffs' edges. [Photos] And here are a couple of selfies taken earlier that same afternoon at Coal Oil Point Nature Reserve.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- World markets lose $1 trillion in value as US-China tariff war heats up.
- Tension continues to build up in the Persian-Gulf region: Two Saudi oil tankers targeted with sabotage.
- This police-misconduct story, from Santa Barbara Independent is about UCSB, so it hit close to home.
- The deepest-ever submarine dive finds plastic waste on the Pacific Ocean floor.
- Persian music: An oldie song performed by the legendary late singer Gholam-Hossein Banan.
- Iranian music: This kamancheh-koobeh duet sounds like Kurdish music, but I'm not sure.
- Cartoon of the day: "They keep sending us their 'thoughts and prayers' ..."; "... And their kids." [Image]
- Cartoon caption of the day: "This is the true MIRACLE drug; it costs less this year than it cost last year!"
(4) Book review: Maupin, Armistead, Logical Family: A Memoir, unabridged audiobook on 7 CDs, read by the author, Harper Audio, 2017. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Maupin, best known for his Tales of the City series, was raised in North Carolina among conservative, racist, and Confederate-nostalgist Republicans. The law-school dropout served in the US Navy in Vietnam and, after he discovered the joy of gay sex in the early 1970s, was offered a job as a journalist in San Francisco. "Logical Family" presumably refers to his close circle of friends and lovers in San Francisco, which replaced his real, illogical/biological family. Among his "friends with benefits" was actor Rock Hudson, who remained in the closet until he was afflicted with AIDS, when he was ousted by Maupin.
This 300-page memoir covers six decades, so, many of the author's life events are left out. The focus is on Maupin's transformation from his conservative, chaste, and intolerant background to the exact opposite: Liberal, promiscuous, and advocating diversity/equality, and the joy he found as a result. Maupin is considered an influential writer, particularly in regards to gay rights. His life and work are featured in the documentary film "The Untold Tales of Armistead Maupin."
Maupin writes passionately and skillfully about his triumphs and misadventures, but many of stories in the book, while entertaining as you read them, are utterly forgettable.

2019/05/12 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A waterfall in Amol, Mazandaran Province, Iran Happy Mothers' Day! The winning entry at Texas Sand Sculpture Festival, 2019 (1) Images of the day: [Left] A waterfall in Amol, Mazandaran Province, Iran. [Center] Honoring Mothers' Day (see item 2 below). [Right] The winning entry at Texas Sand Sculpture Festival, 2019.
(2) A happy Mothers' Day to my precious mom and to all the wonderful mothers who nurture our youth and serve as role models in every important aspect of life. As I write this note, mothers are imprisoned in Iran for behavior that not only isn't criminal but represents noble resistance against backward-looking patriarchy, making their children and everyone else proud. And here are some flowers and a Persian poem (by the contemporary Iranian poet Fereydoon Moshiri) honoring mothers.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Afghan journalist Mina Mangal shot and killed in broad daylight en route to work.
- Okay, climate-change deniers: How much more evidence do you need? [Chart, atmospheric carbon]
- Here's what happens to a plane wing when hit by a small drone: Result of experiment at U. Dayton, Ohio.
- The devastating consequences of deforestation. [4-minute video]
- Persian music and dance: A 3-minute video from foroozan.dance.
- Nostalgic Kermanshah II: Music, with the backdrop of a family outing in the 1960s. [Grainy video]
(4) An often-misused Persian idiom: Some people spell the idiom "kaj daar o mariz" so that it ends with the word for "sick," which sounds the same as the word for "don't spill," the correct usage. The idiom means to carry a wineglass or bowl in tilted position, while taking care not to spill the contents, that is, being deliberate or diplomatic. A couple of verses from a Persian poem, whose poet I was unable to find, are often cited as evidence for the correct form. [Facebook post, with the Persian poem and related text]
(5) Satire? No, it's, at least in part, serious: An unnamed person dares Iran's mullahs to take advantage of the Great Satan bringing forces to the Persian Gulf to show their military might, heretofore used only against cardboard mock-ups of fighter jets and aircraft carriers, not to mention to suppress and jail unarmed women's and labor rights activists. As the Persian saying goes, the sheep has walked into the slaughterhouse on its own volition, the writer continues. Show that you can turn the burning of the American flag and chants of "Death to America" into a military victory! [Facebook post]

2019/05/11 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Agha Bozorg Mosque in Kashan, Iran Unnamed shrine in Iran (from Navid Fatehpour's Instagram) Shah-e-Cheragh Shrine in Shiraz, Iran (Photographed by Nora Piero) (1) Iran's amazing mosques/shrines: [Left] Agha Bozorg Mosque in Kashan, Iran. [Center] Unnamed shrine in Iran (from Navid Fatehpour's Instagram). [Right] Shah-e-Cheragh Shrine in Shiraz, Iran (Photo by Nora Piero).
(2) Talk about infrastructure: China's ambitious projects to redirect water from its south to drought-stricken areas hundreds of miles to the north. [5-minute video, narrated in Persian]
(3) Big meeting in Tehran: This is the first color (colorized?) film I have seen of the late-1943 Tehran Conference attended by Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Joseph Stalin. [2-minute video]
(4) How a teen fought her school's discriminatory dress code for graduating women and won: She had nothing against dresses or skirts, but thought that the no-pants-for-girls policy was outdated. After failing to convince school authorities of the need to update the dress code for the 21st century, she took her fight to the school board and gave an impassioned speech during the comments period. Now, the policy reads "professional attire" for both men and women.
(5) Egyptians laugh at veiling of women (I wish Iranians had done the same 4 decades ago): Gamal Abdel Nasser relates how he could not reach a deal with Muslim Brotherhood, because they demanded that he veil all 10 million Egyptian women. [2-minute video, in Arabic, with Persian and English subtitles]
(6) My daughter Sepideh's 25th birthday celebration, today: The party was a hit, thanks to the presence and food/work contributions of our extended family and a visit from a cousin who is here from Israel, along with her daughter's US-based family. Our celebration also included honoring mothers a day early, an apt combination, given that Sepideh was born on Mothers' Day. [Photos: Batch 1; Batch 2, including Video 1]
The very talented duo SBPianoBoys provided live musical entertainment at our party. [Video 2] [Video 3]
They took turns playing and later joined together for several wonderful duet performances, including two Hungarian dances by Brahms. Bravo! [Video 4] [Video 5] [Video 6] [Playlist]

2019/05/10 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Trump and Barr make a mockery of our justice system and separation of powers Universal healthcare is not a radical idea but mainstream throughout the free world Historic site in Kashan, Iran (1) Images of the day: [Left] Trump and Barr make a mockery of our justice system and separation of powers. [Center] Universal healthcare is not a radical idea but mainstream throughout the free world. [Right] Historic site in Kashan, Iran (credit: Navid Fatehpour's Instagram).
(2) Quote of the day: "It's time to go back to the moon, this time to stay." ~ Jeff Bezos, upon revealing a new moon lander, Blue Moon, along with a smaller rover
(3) It would be great if we could retire the misogynistic Persian terms "gheirat" and "namoos," which have had no use over the centuries other than curtailing women's freedom. [Persian translation]
(4) Exaflops milestone to come in 2021: The $600M supercomputer being developed by the the US Energy Department will offer a performance of 1.5 × 10^18 floating-point operations per second or 1.5 exaflops.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- IranWire journalist target of fatwa and death threat for writing a poem against extremist/irrational Islam.
- Iran's Minister of Intelligence is worried that Christianity is spreading in parts of the country.
- Humorous breaking news for my Persian-speaking readers. [Image]
- Kurdish music, with the backdrop of old (grainy) late-1950s/early-1960s film clips from the region.
- Flowers are everywhere around my home in southwestern oceanfront area of Goleta. [Photos]
- Climate-change song: We need to build a better future, and we need to start right now! [Video]
- This one's for my Persian-speaking readers: The themes of death and dying in Persian idioms and slang.
(6) Persian comedy routine: In this video clip, the humorist known as "Mr. Haloo" pretends to ask a cleric for religious guidance on whether it is permissible to show a woman wearing a wig in a film he his making. The cleric answers that it's okay, provided the woman's own hair is well hidden under the wig. Follow-up questions: Can the wig be made from natural hair? Can one woman's natural hair be made into a wig for another woman? Can we cut a woman's hair and make it into a wig for that same woman? The answer is "yes" in all cases. Punch-line question: Isn't it stupid to cut a woman's hair and put it back on her head, when it is already there?
(7) I have been preparing for tomorrow's major quarter-of-a-century birthday party and celebration of Mothers' Day (a day early). Part of the prep is putting together a platter of Persian-style fresh herbs.

2019/05/09 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB's West Campus Beach this afternoon, with one of the clearest views of Platform Holly UCSB's Faculty Club, where today's 'Men Allies for Gender Equity' workshop was held This afternoon at Goleta's Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve, not far from UCSB's West Campus Beach (1) Images of the day: [Left] UCSB's West Campus Beach this afternoon, with one of the clearest views of Platform Holly. [Center] UCSB's Faculty Club, where today's workshop (see the last item below) was held. [Right] This afternoon at Goleta's Coal Oil Point Natural Reserve, not far from UCSB's West Campus Beach.
(2) Alert to tomato lovers: New tariff on imported tomatoes from Mexico will lead to price increases at US supermarkets and Mexican restaurants, which use lots of tomatoes.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Roya Hakakian's Facebook post about a teen's bravery during Colorado's STEM school mass-shooting.
- Iranian-American mother and daughter graduate with University of Arizona engineering degrees.
- Today's English lesson: The word "Dangerous"! [Video]
- Cleaning advice: How to remove different kinds of stain. [Meme]
(4) Men Allies for Gender Equity: This was the title of a 2-hour workshop taught by Professors Roger Green (EE, NDSU) and Robert Gordon (Psychology, Auburn) at UCSB's Faculty Club today. The workshop was conducted in separate sessions for men and women participants, so as to allow honest and open exchange of ideas and to optimize the presentations to the different awareness levels and information needs.
As my friends know, I am an advocate for complete and unconditional gender equality and am quite active in the domain of women's rights, so I wasn't sure whether I would gain anything from the workshop. I was mistaken in this belief, especially in the area of recognizing and dealing with unintentional or unconscious bias. One recurring theme in the workshop was the need for men to speak up when they see gender bias and not leave the entire burden to women colleagues. Examples include acting when they see women interrupted during meetings, making sure that women are nominated for awards and honors, and keeping both men and women in mind in all endeavors (NASA's lack of suitable space suits for women comes to mind).
It's impossible for me to even mention all the key ideas and strategies presented in the workshop, which focused on understanding the challenges faced by women in disciplines, such as sciences and engineering, where they are significantly under-represented. Instead, I will share the comprehensive and highly informative presentation slides. Here, I just reiterate the 5 quick and easy actions that will get you started on the way to becoming a gender-equity advocate:
- Attend an Advocate FORWARD Ally Workshop, if you get an opportunity to do so.
- Take a few Implicit Association Tests.
- Watch the 10-minute video "5 Ways Men Can Help End Sexism."
- Read these 14 Advocacy Tips.
- Begin a Personal Action Plan and write down the first action you will take to promote gender equity.
The workshop was organized at the invitation of UCSB's Deans of Science and of Engineering, who should be commended for their initiative.
[Selected workshop handouts: Male privilege; References, Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4]
[NDSU's FORWARD Resource Page] [Presentation slides for today's UCSB workshop (forthcoming)]

2019/05/08 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover of the latest issue of 'National Geographic': Leonardo, a Renaissance man for the 21st Century Cartoon: How the Republicans represent the Democrats' plan Cover of Newsweek magazine, issue of May 10, 2019 (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cover of the latest issue of National Geographic: Leonardo, a Renaissance man for the 21st Century. [Center] Republicans' strategy to smear Democrats: Placing a noble, patriotic, and morally right action (impeaching Trump) alongside four falsehoods to make the former also seem undesirable or wrong. [Right] Those who dismissed China are realizing their mistake: But Trump continues on his trade-war path.
(2) The tectonic plate off the coast of Portugal is peeling: This phenomenon, which Is being detected for the first time, can shrink the Atlantic Ocean and send Europe toward Canada.
(3) Stereotyping STEM women: Despite much progress toward gender equality, STEM women are still portrayed in stereotypical ways in the popular media. Fay Cobb Payton and Eleni Berki discuss the consequences of stereotyping and other sociocultural gender barriers in their insightful May 2019 article, published in Communications of the ACM, Vol. 62, No. 5, pp. 56-63.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- What was Donald saying about freeloaders not paying income tax despite crippling government debt?
- Felon-in-Chief bought stocks and pretended to be a corporate raider to boost prices, before selling off.
- Can't eliminate poverty? Move the goalpost by redefining it, as Trump admimistration is doing! [Newsweek]
- CIA warns an Arab pro-democracy activist in Norway about Saudi threat against him.
- Texas bartender faces jail time for serving drinks to an intoxicated, armed man, who later killed 8 people.
- Private jet that disappeared en route from Las Vegas to Monrerrey found with all 13 occupants dead.
- Iranian school girls say no to mandatory hijab law and the regressive mindset that produced it. [Photos]
- Low-tech gadgets, with big impacts on worker comfort and productivity. [3-minute video]
- Emergency patient transport, when every second counts. [Video]
- Persian music: Three players, one of whom doubles as a singer, play two instruments (a tar and a tonbak)!
- Persian music: Mahsa Vahdat sings. [3-minute video]
- Quote: "When you shoot a zebra in the black stripe, the white stripe dies too." ~ African proverb
(5) I snapped these photos on campus today, on the way to my 12:00 PM class: Yes, I get my share of sleepy/exhausted (8:00 AM, 6:00 PM) and hungry students!

2019/05/07 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos taken during a pleasant campus walk on May 6, 2019 Old-time college friends, photographed in a restaurant on their last day of touring Kurdistan Photos I took during a stroll through UCSB's arts building on May 6, 2019 (1) Images from yesterday: [Left] Photos taken during a pleasant campus walk, between my 12:00-2:00 class and 3:00-4:30 office hours on May 6, 2019. The Lagoon Island, a piece of land between the C-shaped campus lagoon and the Pacific Ocean, and mountains on Santa Barbara Channel Islands are seen in one of the photos. [Center] Good to see old-time college friends in this photo, as they end their tour of Kurdistan, but the restaurant's chair design choice isn't the best for a bunch of older diners! [Right] Photos I took during a stroll through UCSB's arts building on May 6, 2019, where even the courtyard benches are artsy!
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Study finds that Americans cross structurally-deficient bridges 178 million times per day.
- Microbots, which move due to different expansion characteristics of various materials, are coming.
- Deep-sea drones help discover seafloor habitats, volcanoes, faults, and tsunami-triggering slopes.
- Bird's-eye view of Orkney is Scotland: Natural-drone videography! [3-minute video]
- The Seven Wonders of the World, as they look today and if they had survived. [Pictorial]
- Afghan boy dances for joy in the hospital after being outfitted with an artificial leg. [Video]
- Japanese ensemble performs "Morgh-e Sahar" to honor Mohammad-Reza Shajarian. [8-minute video]
- Kurdish music: Sadigh Ta'rif sings, accompanied by the Norooz Ensemble.
- Persian poetry: A few verses from Mowlavi (Rumi). [Facebook post]
- Celebrating Iran's national soccer team with Hooshmand Aghili at a Tehran park before the Revolution.
(3) My afternoon stroll at Goleta's Lake Los Carneros Park: I had not been to the Park for a couple of years, so decided to go back for a walk on this overcast spring day. The large, serene park is less than 1/2 mile to the north of the US 101, but if it weren't for the sound of cars traveling on the 101, it would feel like an isolated wilderness area. The beautiful lake and its surrounding areas, with their birds and wildflowers, are wonderful resources in the middle of a rapidly-developing urban region. [Photos: Batch 1; Batch 2; Batch 3; Batch 4]
(4) Police closed Highway 101 in Goleta mid-day today, May 7, 2019: The closure in both directions between Patterson and Turnpike was due to a standoff with an armed suspect while executing a high-risk search warrant at an apartment complex just to the south of the freeway on Turnpike. The area, which includes San Marcos High School, was evacuated. Nightmare traffic on Hollister Avenue ensued. The suspect was found dead from a (self-inflicted?) gunshot wound.

2019/05/06 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Satellite image of western United States NASA satellite image of the Iranian Plateau: Night NASA satellite image of the Iranian Plateau: Day (1) Satellite images: [Left] This satellite image of western United States reminds me that on maps and satellite images, oceans (and bodies of water in general) are under-represented. There is much going on in terms of topography and vegetation under the featureless light-blue color in maps or bluish-gray texture in satellite images. [Center & Right] Night and day NASA satellite images of the Iranian Plateau, with exaggerated topographical features for greater clarity.
(2) Happy Teachers' Day: Sharing a Facebook post from May 5, 2015, in honor of teacher appreciation day in the US and its Iranian counterpart, which was 3 days earlier.
(3) Trump's tax returns: It is not the Dems that have weaponized the IRS but cheating taxpayers in high places who are hiding their criminal activities behind noble causes such as privacy and personal liberties.
(4) ACLU excesses may give us a second Trump term: The organization's attempt to get Democratic candidates on record on issues such as abortion rights and voting by criminals is giving ammunition to Trump.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The fragile Israel-Gaza truce, brokered by Egypt, has fallen apart with renewed hostilities.
- Russian plane bursts into flame upon emergency landing, killing more than half of the 78 on board.
- Taliban kill 13 in attack on Afghan police headquarters: And the US is negotiating with these terrorists?
- Boeing knew about and ignored problems with its 737 Max plane the year before Lion Air crash.
- Nurse sets world record in London Marathon but is denied recognition because she wore trousers!
- Stocks-friendly US presidency may end: A few mentions of Medicare-for-all has hurt healthcare stocks.
- Artists are turning the US-Mexico border wall into a monument for peace.
- World's 10 best destinations for flower lovers, according to National Geographic.
(6) The United States, China, India, and an expanding field of smaller players are planning moon-landing missions in search of opportunities to exploit resources on the surface of the moon.
(7) Breaking news: Royal baby boy arrives through the same path taken by all babies and makes the exact same crying sound, but more will be said and written about him than all other babies combined!
(8) The Borowitz Report (humor): Trump claims Mueller called to say that "[I am] the most innocent person he'd ever come across, and maybe in history."
(9) Quote of the day: "There could be a powerful international women's rights movement if only philanthropists would donate as much to real women as to paintings and sculptures of women." ~ Nicholas D. Kristof

2019/05/04 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Two multi-panel paintings representing the four seasons (likely by the same artist, unknown to me) March for Science 2019: My T-shirt inscription reads 'Science Is Not a Liberal Conspiracy' Goleta Valley Public Library in the 1960s, when it was located on South Fairview Avenue (1) Images of the day: [Left] Two multi-panel paintings representing the four seasons (likely by the same artist, unknown to me). [Center] March for Science 2019: I couldn't be at today's Washington DC march and there was no march in Santa Barbara this year, so I did my own solo march in the wilderness near my home (more photos). [Right] Goleta Public Library in the 1960s, when it was located on South Fairview Avenue.
(2) We are at a defining moment in sports: Can/should we regulate natural variations in bodily functions? The answer appears to be "yes" for a black African woman and "no" for a white American man. [Meme]
(3) A Trump supporter lamented on Facebook about how she misses the days when our president was honored, not attacked. Personally, I miss the days when our president was honorable, not a felon!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Racism is nothing new in America: After a period of dormancy, it has reared its ugly head under Trump.
- Someone who once called Trump a kook and unfit for office shown criticizing others for doing the same!
- Pink Floyd's "The Wall," wonderfully performed in Middle-Eastern style.
- A couple of humorous memes for my Persian-speaking readers. [Images]
- Azeri dance: Taking a break from research work in the lab! [3-minute video]
- The amazing gap between the ultra-rich and ordinary people in Tehran, Iran. [11-minute video]
- The bridges of Isfahan, Iran: An informative 15-minute travelogue.
- Quote of the day: "A man is incomplete until he is married. After that, he is finished." ~ Anonymous
(5) On economic indicators: GDP doesn't measure the well-being of the average American. Building a yacht and selling it to a rich person contributes more to the GDP than all economic activities in a small urban neighborhood. And unemployment rate isn't a good indicator by itself. As Kamala Harris points out in The Truths We Hold, which I am now reading, yes, people have jobs but many two-income families still have to decide whether to pay for their meds or their children's education; forget about saving for retirement! In some cases, their choice is between food and meds. A country can have near-full employment and starving citizens. A recent study by Temple University's Hope Center for College, Community and Justice has revealed that nearly half of all college students face food insecurity, because they have to give priority to paying their tuition and fees to stay in college. To these college students, and to graduates facing a similar situation due to the burden of eductional debt, GDP growth and low unemployment rate mean very little.

2019/05/03 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Amazing coastal sunsets: Photo 1 Amazing coastal sunsets: Photo 2 Amazing coastal sunsets: Painting (1) Amazing coastal sunsets: Two photos and a painting.
(2) Quote of the day: "I realized that it was necessary, once in the course of my life, to demolish everything completely and start again right from the foundations if I wanted to establish anything at all in the sciences that was stable and likely to last." ~ Rene Descartes
(3) Politics with random numbers: Headlines read that Trump and Dem leaders have agreed on a $2 trillion infrastructure plan. But the "plan" is just that number and nothing else; no agreement or even discussion on where the money will come from or how it will be spent. Along the same lines, I have a $10 trillion "plan" to deal with climate change. No, make that a $15 trillion "plan"!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump just gave Putin the green light to interfere in our 2020 presidential election.
- New York Times apologizes for publishing an anti-Semitic cartoon in its international edition.
- Patricia Arquette urged Congress to pass the Equal-Rights Amendment, ending 232 years of inequality.
- Journalist Roya Hakakian on rising anti-Semitism globally and its counter-intuitive receding in Iran.
- The dark side of hi-tech and how Facebook was an accessory to election-meddling. [4-minute video]
- Let's begin the countdown to a new president in 2020 and NASA's new moon landing in 2024!
- Meme of the day: An insightful characterization of our news diet lately! [Pie chart]
- I hope you keep on dancing, regardless of your circumstances! [Photo]
- Sanctions have hit Iran hard on the currency exchange market. [Photo]
- Five things invented by Iranians (2-minute video): Refrigerator; Postal service; Algebra; Guitar; Chess.
(5) On fake Twitter followers: "Twitter is trash, Facebook's the devil, I bought a million followers for like $400. None of this shit matters. Antarctica is melting." ~ Comedian Joe Mande, who has 1.01 million Twitter followers
(6) March for Science returns tomorrow, Saturday, May 4, 2019: Among protest topics is Trump administration's proposed removal of any mention of climate change from its Arctic policy statement.
(7) On May 2nd, Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, everyone stops and reflects for 2 minutes, as sirens wail nationwide. Well, almost everyone! [Video]

2019/05/02 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Perfectly-timed photo: Lightning bolt strikes a Delta passenger jet FedEx van driving/parking on UCSB walkways My college classmates during their tour of Iran's Kurdistan region (1) Images of the day: [Left] Lightning bolt strikes near the tail of a Delta passenger jet and exits through its landing gear below. [Center] UCSB walkways are being used as roads (see item 2 below). [Right] My college classmates during their tour of Iran's Kurdistan region (see item 3 below).
(2) Vehicles invading campus walkways at UCSB: The photos above, taken in mid-afternoon of May 1, 2019, show a large FedEx van parked in front of Ellison Hall (near Campbell Hall) and later driving past Cheadle Hall, on its way to University Plaza. Since many years ago, when I started tracking such violations, FedEx and UPS have been told that their delivery vehicles should not use campus walkways. But lack of enforcement has led to recurring violations, which endanger the safety of students and staff.
(3) Wish I could have been there: A number of my Tehran University College of Engineering (Fanni) classmates, with whom I celebrated the 50th anniversary of our graduation in Armenia last year, are touring Iran's Kurdistan region. They have been sending me photos and got in touch this morning through a video call from Mahabad to say that I am missed. The bottom photo above was taken at the Central Square in Saqqez, the birthplace of both of my parents.
(4) Compressive sensing: In this excellent 74-minute lecture, given at Microsoft Research, Professor Richard Baraniuk (Rice U) explains the modern tool that helps us mitigate data explosion in a variety of applications.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Possible defeat of AIDS: Broad study finds the effectiveness of drugs in stoping the transmission of AIDS.
- While the nation was fixated on AG Barr's testimony, Trump took a further step to dismantle Obamacare.
- An overview of quantum computing and its significance, in 10 minutes.
- Amnesty International demands the release of labor-rights activists detained in Iran.
- Iran still uses child soldiers: And it proudly advertises this policy for propaganda and in recruitment ads.
(6) "A Roadmap for Reverse-Architecting the Brain's Neocortex": This was the title of today's talk by Dr. James E. Smith, Emiritus Professor of U. Wisconsin and Adjunct Professor of CMU Silicon Valley, under the auspices of UCSB's Institute for Energy Efficiency. Smith has made seminal contributions to the field of computer architecture and was honored by the prestigious ACM/IEEE Eckert-Mauchly Award in 1999. Of late, he has been developing neuron-based computing paradigms at his Montana home.
It has been a dream of researchers in computer science and engineering to understand and replicate the computing paradigm(s) used in the brain's neocortex. The first milestone along the road is the development of feed-forward biologically plausible neural networks capable of unsupervised, continual learning, and with energy-efficient implementations. Recent results in neuroscience provide a foundation for this first step.
The next step moves from plausible primitives to functional building blocks that may be combined to achieve the milestone neural network. Here, there is much less experimental support, and the problem becomes more challenging. This also means that the research space is wide-open, with many opportunities for architectural innovation for decades to come. [Images]

2019/04/30 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Why you don't see crocodiles in the orchestra! Cartoon: Modern family at the dinner table Cartoon: Soldiers going to war and returning home (1) Cartoons of the day: [Left] Why you don't see crocodiles in the orchestra! [Center] Modern family praying at the dinner table. [Right] Soldiers going to war and returning home.
(2) Quote of the day: "We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people." ~ John F. Kennedy
(3) US presidential candidates for 2020, by the numbers: 23 Candidates; 13 White men; 6 Women; 6 Senators; 6 People of color; 4 Would be youngest president; 3 Would be oldest president; 3 Veterans; 2 Obama officials; 2 Have never held office; 1 Out gay man.
(4) "Ecosystems of Oil at the Ocean's Floor and Other Secrets of the Santa Barbara Channel": This was the title of an interesting talk in the "Pacific Views Lecture Series," held in UCSB Library's 8th-floor conference room today. The speaker, Dr. David Valentine, Professor of Earth Science and Biology at UCSB, focused on three basins off the coasts of Santa Barbara, Santa Monica, and Long Beach (San Pedro). These are deep, bowl-like areas of coastal waters (~2000-3000 feet at their deepest points) that have fairly unique ecosystems, because of the dearth of oxygen at the isolated depths. Seepage of gas/oil and, in San Pedro Basin's case, large-scale deposits of waste from a now-defunct DDT plant nearby, have created varied life forms that shape and are shaped by the available nutrients. And yes, some life forms survive without oxygen, by adapting to what is available. The tools used by Dr. Valentine's group to investigate the aforementioned basins include a fully-equipped research vessel, a 3-passenger submarine, and an autonomous underwater vehicle. Dr. Valentine's presentation relied heavily on showing videos taken at the ocean floor, but, unfortunately, technical difficulties with the projection system did not allow the screening of all but a handful of videos (at the end of the presentation, after technical problems had been resolved). [Photo] [Dr. Valentine's Web page]
(5) A final thought for today, as we end the National Poetry Month: Saying "I don't like poetry" makes no sense, just as claiming "I don't like music" is nonsensical. There are so many different kinds of poetry that everyone is bound to like some of it. Try to find your kind!

2019/04/29 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The 5 different covers of the Time-100 special issue Selfie from the Time-100 gala (1) Time-100: [Left] The 4/29-5/06 special double-issue of Time magazine about "The 100 Most-Influential People" has 5 different covers, one for each of the 5 categories of pioneers, artists, leaders, titans, and icons. [Right] Comedian Trevor Noah takes a selfie at the Time-100 Gala.
(2) One death and multiple injuries are still heart-wrenching, but had the San Diego synagogue gunman's weapon not jammed, we'd be looking at a different scale of carnage.
(3) Would-be terrorist, who wanted to avenge the mosque murders in New Zealand by launching mass-casualty attacks against synagogues, churches, and other targets, has been arrested in Los Angeles.
(4) Quote of the day: "I wish my stove came with a 'Save As' button like Word has. That way I could experiment with my cooking and not fear ruining my dinner." ~ Jarod Kintz
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Are we too dazed to be shocked by an unhinged president who deems his critics 'scum' and 'stupid'?
- Trump on Easter: It means something very special ... And it really represents family and get-together ...
- Top general resurrects the threat of closing down the Strait of Hormuz if Iran faces increased hostility.
- This humorous Persian poem about a donkey's advice to his son led to the closure of Ghaanoon Newspaper.
(6) Apple doesn't like apps that fight iPhone addiction: Over the past year, Apple has removed or restricted at least 11 of the 17 most downloaded screen-time and parental-control apps. In some cases, Apple forced companies to remove features that allowed parents to control their children's devices or that blocked children's access to certain content, while other apps were simply pulled from the App Store. [From: New York Times]
(7) Oh, the irony: This letter is said to have been written by Khamenei some 42 years ago, when he was imprisoned by the Shah's regime. In it, he asks that prison guards obey the law that a prisoner is entitled to making phone calls. Quite funny, given what goes on in Iranian prisons nowadays!

2019/04/28 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
'New Yorker' cartoon: 'It's take-your-child-to-work day!' The way Putin looks at Trump is reminiscent of the Persian idiom 'a wise person's glance at a fool'! School-girls in Iran, then and now (1) Images of the day: [Left] New Yorker cartoon: "It's take-your-child-to-work day!" [Center] The way Putin looks at Trump is reminiscent of the Persian idiom "a wise person's glance at a fool"! [Right] Iranians' dilemma: Trying to explain to their kids that the top photo shows their mom's generation at school and the bottom photo shows their grandma's.
(2) Historian Ron Chernow's speech at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner: There was no comedian for 2019, because "they wanted to try boring at this year's dinner"!
(3) Dr. Shokufeh Taghi on bi-gender governance and civil religion: In this Persian article, Dr. Taghi draws on Shahnameh's examples to demonstrate that order prevails in a society only when both the masculine and feminine elements influence all aspects of governance.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Continuing the journey toward "greatness": Trump pulls back Obama-era workplace protections for women.
- Exhuastion of vote-counters in the 10 days following the Indonesian election leads to 272 deaths
- Why do men find it hard to apologize? A psychotherapist responds in Psychology Today.
- This afternoon, on Santa Barbara's Stearns Wharf, after dining with old-time friend Faramarz Davarian.
(5) Robert Mueller's scientific method: Having come to the conclusion that he cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump obstructed justice, Mueller sets out to falsify the null hypothesis that obstruction did not occur.
(6) Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival: Held in Alameda Park, the festival spanned May 26-28. There were many different booths and activities. [Photos] Among the main attractions were exhibits of electric and "green" autos and bicycles. [Photos] There was also a pictorial display about Santa Barbara's 1969 oil spill of 50 years ago that spurred environmental activism and led to the establishment of Earth Day. [Photos] Musical performances ran on two different stages, and a special stage in the children's area. [Video 1] [Video 2]

2019/04/27 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Perfectly-timed photos: Example 1 Dr. Dale Clark, who passed away on March 8, 2019 Perfectly-timed photos: Example 2 (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Perfectly-timed photos. [Center] Dr. Dale Clark, who passed away on March 8, 2019 (see item 2 below).
(2) Dr. Dale Clark [1943-2019]: This morning, I attended a memorial service for a former (retired) UCSB colleague at the Goleta Presbyterian Church. Quite a unique and talented individual, Dale unfortunately retired before I got to know him well. Today, through heartfelt comments and remembrances of several of his friends, including one who came all the way from Denmark to be at the service, I learned much about him, such as his love for music and poetry. Memorable lines from what his friends shared (related here from my memory) included "One was never sure whether dale was smiling" and "To say that his sense of humor was dry is an understatement." May he Rest In Peace! Among survivors is his wife Margie, another retired UCSB colleague, who managed our Student Affairs Office for several years. Warm condolences to her and other survivors!
(3) "Ashraf-e makhlooghaat": This Persian/Arabic expression means "the noblest of all creatures," referring to us humans, who do the following to a bull before a bullfight! [Meme]
(4) US law actually does allow charging someone with obstruction of justice, even when there is no underlying crime: Comedian Trevor Noah provides the clearest explanation of why this makes sense. Imagine your mom accusing you of eating all the cookies. You deny doing that, but when she wants to go into the kitchen to show you the empty jar, you block her way, as you continue to scream your denial. You know what your mom will do!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's 3-part tweet of Thursday, 2019/04/25 contained 6 demonstrably wrong statements.
- Is something wrong with this WH tweet about the First Lady's birthday, or is it just me?
- Kurdish Music and dance: Celebrating Sanandaj Day. [Video 1] [Video 2]
- This Norooz 2020 program may be of interest to my readers om the San Francisco Bay Area.
(6) Quote of the day: "When the thieves who robbed your house start fighting among themselves, don't raise your hopes that the winner will give part of your property back." ~ Anonymous (alluding to the infighting among Islamic Republic of Iran officials)
(7) IEEE Central Coast Section technical talks: Here's the latest update to IEEE CCS schedule of lectures (with some details of the forthcoming lecture by Dr. Katie Byl on May 15, 2019). We now have all third-Wednesdays of the month covered for 2019 and there are 3 speakers listed for early 2020 (2 confirmed and to be scheduled; 1 willing but not committed yet). [Web page]
(8) Goleta Valley Public Library: This under-used and under-appreciated community resource on North Fairview Avenue is my favorite place for browsing and reading books/periodicals. I use the library heavily, borrowing many audiobooks on CDs and in electronic form. [Photos]

2019/04/26 (Friday): Review of Thi Bui's remarkable and highly personal graphic memoir.
Table of contents for Thi Bui's graphic memoir Announcement of Thi Bui's April 25 lecture at UCSB Sample panels from Thi Bui's graphic memoir Book review: Bui, Thi, The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir, Harry N. Abrams, 2017.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is only the second graphic novel that I have read. I found the first one, Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, a tad disappointing, even though it has received broad international acclaim and was made into a feature film.
Bui's book was the 2019 selection for the "UCSB Reads" program, now in its 13th year, so I was able to get a free copy on campus, in a book-sharing bin where campus denizens deposit their unneeded books. I attended Bui's UCSB lecture of April 25, 2019, and had the book signed by her. I will incorporate the notes I took during the lecture into my review. [Photos/Images]
Bui's graphic memoir, which has garnered many awards and honors, tells the story of an immigrant family from Vietnam (part of the so-called "Boat People"), including their lives during various stages of the Vietnam War, their daring escape after the fall of Saigon, and the challenges they faced in their new American surroundings. Bui left Vietnam when she was 3, so she had to piece together much of her early family history through long interviews with her parents and others.
Beautifully illustrated and poetically told, the book relates the universal story of the need for belonging and the challenges faced by many of us, immigrants or otherwise, having to act simultaneously as children and parents. "A book to break your heart and heal it," opines the Pulitzer-Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen.
Like many war-ravaged countries, corruption and injustice prevailed in Vietnam during the war. I can very much relate to this aspect of Bui's story, which I also experienced after Iran's Islamic Revolution, and particularly, during the 8-year Iran-Iraq War. "People with access bought goods at a low price ... then sold them at a profit to relatives and middlemen ... who in turn sold them at an even higher price." [p. 201] Everyone was under suspicion: "[In school, we learned] about heroes such as Le-Ninh and how to report suspicious behavior. They said we should even report our parents!" [p. 225] Again, this is very similar to my first-hand observations in the post-Revolution Iran.
The parts of the memoir that describe the family's life in the United States are more predictable, as immigrants from many different countries face very similar challenges in terms of harassment, stereotyping, and lack of a sense of belonging, not to mention the difficulties of adapting to a new language and culture. This shared aspect is perhaps a tad more intense for the Vietnamese, given the US media's negative portrayals, both during and after the War.
Rather than simply read from the book during her UCSB talk, Bui chose to get several audience members engaged by giving them microphones and speaking parts, moving the volunteers to the front of the auditorium (she joked that she worked as a teacher for many years and thus likes to rearrange furniture and people in the room). The result was a very entertaining 20 minutes or so at the start of the lecture, especially when a very young boy spoke as several of the characters in Bui's story.
During a fairly long Q&A period, I asked Bui if the occasionally conflicting recollections from her parents (who were divorced and did not quite see the events in the same way) resulted in a need for guesswork or extrapolation to produce a complete narrative, and whether she has gone back to Vietnam for a first-hand look at the locations and settings of the early parts of her story. I learned that she has indeed gone back to Vietnam multiple times to get valuable insights about the country and its culture, although much has changed since those events occurred. She also showed the initial drafts of her drawings and text to her parents, thus giving them a chance to smooth things out or "veto" any part of the story they did not want told, although she reserved the right to make the final decision in each case.
Bui is now working on a number of projects, which include her next book, Nowhereland, and a sci-fi story about climate change, told from the perspective of the world's poor and disadvantaged people. Bui indicated that the number of people displaced as a result of climate change already exceeds displacements due to conflicts, and things will only get worse.

2019/04/25 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Italian artist plows a 10-square-miles portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci on a field, using a tractor, to honor the 500th anniversary of his death White House Correspondents Dinner: Washington's glamour night Throwback Thursday: Five years ago, on April 25, I came out of the Stone Age of digital gadgets and replaced my Blackberry with an iPhone! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Italian artist plows a 10-square-miles portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci on a field, using a tractor, to honor the 500th anniversary of his death (video). [Center] White House Correspondents Dinner: With Trump skipping Washington's glamour night for the third straight year, his staff ordered not to attend, and A-list celebrities increasingly fearful of showing up, the event's future looks grim (image: Politico). [Right] Throwback Thursday: Five years ago, on April 25, I came out of the Stone Age of digital gadgets and replaced my Blackberry with an iPhone!
(2) Survivors of natural disasters need more than food and shelter to cope: Jila Mcvandi tweets that when she said she wanted to make dolls for kids in the flood-stricken areas of Iran, she was ridiculed. When she went there with a few dolls, she regretted that she had not made and distributed more dolls. [Tweet, in Persian]
(3) Community activism in Iran: Retired teacher Safura Ghallehzari helps build libraries for the Caspian port city of Bandar Anzali by collecting trash and discarded paper.
(4) Kim Jong Un demands $2 million for the care of comatose US citizen, Otto Warmbier, who died days after being released from imprisonment in North Korea.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump obstructs Congressional investigations, likely driving the Democrats toward impeachment: His plan?
- Trump repeatedly asked former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prosecute Hillary Clinton.
- US measles outbreak (about 700 confirmed cases so far) leads to quarantines at UCLA and Cal State LA.
- Driver whose semi plowed into stopped traffic near Denver faces multiple counts of vehicular homicide.
(6) You're having too much fun: Iran's state-owned TV cancels a game show modeled after "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" in view of objections by Khamenei that such shows go against the culture of hard work and creativity, and a fatwa from a senior cleric against all game shows with cash prizes.
(7) Modern network vulnerabilities: In the afternoon of April 24, 2019, UCSB experienced a campus-wide disruption of its computer network for more than 3 hours, and, even though service was restored before the end of the day, sporadic problems persisted for another day. The disruption was traced to a misconfigured departmental virtual machine, which caused a network loop that overloaded UCSB's core router. And all of this occurred despite modern security and operational controls on the campus network. It is like a whole bunch of careful drivers being endangered by a single wrong-way driver. In other words, it's not enough for you to obey traffic laws; you have to also watch out for careless drivers around you.
My 3:30 PM class was disrupted, because there was no Internet access in the classroom. Luckily, I had the PDF file of my lecture slides on my iPad, which had to do for the day, despite the fact that all slide animations and video clips were lost. My lecture topic was cryptography, which relied heavily on animation.

2019/04/24 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Trump's portrait, rendered with spaghetti Passwords will soon become things of the past: Gone but not forgotten! Cover image of Meg Wolitzer's 'The Wife' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Sorry, not a pleasant image to see, but it's artistically interesting! [Center] Passwords will soon become things of the past: Gone but not forgotten! [Right] Cover image of Meg Wolitzer's The Wife, reviewed below (see item 6).
(2) Professional sports bettor James Holzhauer wins for the 14th straight time on "Jeopardy!" to become the 2nd player ever to top $1 million during a run on the game show.
(3) What a propaganda piece by Glenn Beck! Racists and White-Supremacists always wrap themselves in the American flag to claim legitimacy. Saying that attacking Kate Smith for racism is an attack on 'God Bless America' makes as much sense as saying that an attack on a racist US President is an attack on US presidency, because he once occupied that position.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- After thrashing US intelligence agencies, Trump accuses UK intelligence of helping Obama spy on him.
- Alphabet-owned Wing Aviation gets the first FAA approval for deliveries by drones.
- Supreme Leader Khamenei asserts that Iran can export as much oil as it needs, despite US sanctions.
- Sri Lankan suicide bombers were highly educated and financially independent; more terror attacks feared.
(6) Book review: Wolitzer, Meg, The Wife, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Dawn Harvey, Blackstone Audio, 201. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Having listened to and enjoyed The Wife: A Novel, by Alafair Burke, which I had mistaken to be this book, I decided to go after my original intent and read the book on which the 2017 Sony Pictures film "The Wife," featuring the award-winning performance of Glenn Close in the title role, was based.
[My GoodReads review of Alafair Burke's book, The Wife: A Novel]
Wolitzer opens her book with the title character reflecting upon her unsatisfactory life as the devoted wife of a successful American novelist, at 35,000 feet above the ocean en route to Helsinki, where her husband is to receive a major literary honor. Reviewing all the compromises she made, infidelities she ignored, and dreams she left unfulfilled, the wife thinks that she has reached a breaking point and wants to end her marriage.
The author then flashes back to decades earlier, when the couple's relationship began; he was then an unhappily-married professor and she was his super-talented student. The decades-long relationship is explored in the rest of the novel, with wonderful writing and keen observations about life and its challenges, particularly the question of whether an ambitious woman has a place in a world dominated by men.
The couple's marital troubles are accompanied by a secret, which I won't reveal in my review. During his acceptance speech for the Helsinki Prize, the honoree thanks his wife profusely, which upsets her. She had asked not to be mentioned in the speech, because she did not cherish the fact that she had tossed aside her own writing projects, to be a comforter and server.
An ambitious young writer, who was snubbed by the honored novelist, when he revealed that he aspired to be his authorized biographer, befriends the wife and gains some useful insights. Being forced into writing an unauthorized biography, the young writer also gathers morsels of information from other sources, most of which are unflattering.
Wolitzer's The Wife is generally viewed as an assault against the literary establishment and its misogyny in assuming that only men can write the Great American Novel. Wolitzer's Great American Novel is a highly enjoyable read, and a page-turner to boot!

2019/04/23 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Blossoming trees in rural Kurdistan, Iran: Photo 1 Blossoming trees in rural Kurdistan, Iran: Photo 2 Photo showing the center of Singapore Changi Airport's Jewel dome (1) Natural and artificial beauty: [Left & Center] Blossoming trees in rural Kurdistan, Iran, are threatened by expected snow from an approaching cold front. [Right] Singapore Changi Airport's Jewel dome, a mega-structure that houses an impressive array of recreational and shopping options (4-minute video).
(2) Persian Music: Anoushirvan Rohani is known as a master composer and piano player. In this video clip, from a concert at UCLA's Royce Hall, he demonstrates his mastery of the accordion.
(3) UCLA Bilingual Lectures on Iran: On Sunday, May 19, 2019, at 3:30 PM, a Karestan documentary film entitled "Poets of Life" will be screened (UCLA Dodd Hall 121; in Persian, with English subtitles). The film highlights the sustainability efforts of Hayedeh Shirzadi and her husband, whose work has led to 100% of the city of Kermanshah's garbage being recycled and its biowaste converted into organic fertilizers. The film's artistic consultant Rakhsan Banietemad and producer Mojtaba Mirtahmasb will participate in a post-screening discussion, in Persian, moderated by Dr. Nayereh Tohidi. [Corrected flyer] [This is the corrected version of a post from Sunday, 4/21]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Three-dozen Saudis beheaded on terrorism charges and another one both beheaded and crucified.
- Human rights organizations condemn Saudi Arabia's mass execution of prisoners on terrorism charges.
- Quote of the day: "Anger is a wind which blows out the lamp of mind." ~ Robert G. Ingersoll
- Three young men dining in Alabama invited an elderly woman who was eating alone to their table.
(5) The behind-the-scene puppet-master speaks: Emboldened by the administration's positive spin on the Mueller Report, Jared Kushner asserts that the report was more harmful to our democracy than Russia's interference. I really would like to see this parasite behind bars! That's why impeachment of Trump is so important. It may not lead to his removal, but it will expose a whole lot of lies and misinformation.
(6) Iranian's 2019 Norooz parade in NYC: Nice dances and floats, representing Iran's provinces and their diverse people. My only criticism is that they did not try to be more inclusive politically.
(7) Final thought for the day: The worst thing the Democrats can do is to send an old, white man, who lacks an understanding of women's issues and women's movement, to face Trump. The Democratic nominee should be as dissimilar to Trump as possible, which means a youngish woman with strong public-service credentials.

2019/04/22 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Earth Day! The future of humanity depends on the health of our planet, so let's stop abusing her My departmental colleague Dr. Mahnoosh Alizadeh has received two prestigious honors (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Earth Day! The future of humanity depends on the health of our planet, so let's stop abusing her. [Center] Congrats to an exceptional young scientist/engineer/educator! My departmental colleague Dr. Mahnoosh Alizadeh has received two prestigious honors: An NSF CAREER Award for 2019 and a Northrop Grumman Excellence-in-Teaching Award (co-recipient for 2018-19). [Right] A sample of Sri Lanka's beautiful nature, a point of attraction for foreign tourists, who may now shun the country.
(2) French game-maker, which created a digital model of Notre Dame for its "Assassin's Creed" video game, pledges $0.5 million for restoration efforts.
(3) A dinosaur poised to enter Trump's orbit: Stephen Moore once wrote that women should be banned from participating in March Madness basketball tournament in any role. Herman Cain, the other nominee, has already withdrawn from being considered for the job.
(4) Sri Lanka's government issues an apology for having failed to act on credible intelligence tips (in some cases with names and addresses of terrorists) from the US and other countries about planned suicide attacks.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Identities of the nearly 300 locals and tourists killed in Sri Lanka's suicide bombings are being released.
- Fake news about the Mueller report, being spread by the White House and AG Barr, according to Haaretz.
- Something to watch tonight: The Lyrid meteor shower at its peak!
- So you think you can drive: Try making this U-turn!
- Persian music performed by a group of talented young kids. [3-minute video]
- Persian music: Sepideh Raissadat performs a song composed by two band members accompanying her.
(6) The world's shortest commercial flight is scheduled for just 90 seconds: Loganair's 1.7-mile hop connects the Scottish islands of Westray (population: 640) and Papa Westray (population: 72) in the Orkneys. In reality, the flight takes anywhere from just under a minute to 2.5 minutes, depending on wind conditions.
(7) "Nand to Tetris": This is the name of a course and the title of today's talk by Shimon Shocken, Founding Dean of the Efi Arazi School of Computer Science at IDC Herzliya, Israel, and former faculty member at NYU. Shocken outlined the design of a project-based course in which the semester-long project of building a modern computer from the ground up and programming it to play Tetris is divided into 12 one- or two-week mini-projects. Many universities worldwide use the notions used in this course, which has guides, modules, data files, and even a textbook freely available on-line. [Images]

2019/04/21 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A restaurant in Kashan, Iran (photo by Navid Fatehpour) A food-truck owner is criticized for advertising a T-Shirt that says, 'I support LGBTQ. Liberty, guns, bible, Trump, BBQ' All smiles, while taking a shoe-selfie! (1) Images of the day: [Left] A restaurant in Kashan, Iran (photo by Navid Fatehpour). [Center] Insensitivity to the extreme: A food-truck owner is criticized for advertising a T-Shirt that says, "I support LGBTQ. Liberty, guns, bible, Trump, BBQ." [Right] All smiles, while taking a shoe-selfie!
(2) Santa Barbara Earth Day Festival 2019 (49th annual; Alameda Park): Friday 4/26, 5:00 PM, concert only (no booths); Saturday-Sunday 4/27-28, 11:00 AM, booths and various programs. [Image]
(3) UCLA Bilingual Lectures on Iran: On Sunday, May 19, 2019, at 3:30 PM, a Karestan documentary film entitled "Mother of the Earth" will be screened (UCLA Dodd Hall 121; in Persian, with English subtitles). The film highlights the sustainability efforts of Hayedeh Shirzadi and her husband, whose work has led to 100% of the city of Kermanshah's garbage being recycled and its biowaste converted into organic fertilizers. Film director Rakhsan Banietemad and film producer Mojtaba Mirtahmasb will participate in a post-screening discussion, in Persian, moderated by Dr. Nayereh Tohidi. [Flyer] [See the corrected version of this post on Tuesday, 4/23]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Easter attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka leave more than 200 dead.
- It's not just the 737 Max: A second Boeing jet is under scrutiny for shoddy production.
- Which is it Donald? Does Mueller's report exonerate you or is it a bunch of bullshit? Can't have it both ways!
- Why does the media give Giuliani or Conway a platform for spreading lies on behalf of the big conman?
- Several late-night show hosts form exploratory committees after TV comedian is elected president of Ukraine.
- With clean-up efforts ongoing after the floods that affected 10M people, Iranians brace for more rain.
- Pakistan accuses Iran in deadly cross-border attack that killed 14; Pakistani PM in Iran for talks.
- Boxer Sadaf Khadem cancels plans for returning to Iran after authorities issue arrest warrant for her.
(5) A technical assessment of Mueller's report: The released PDF file isn't searchable and it has low quality, because it was not electronically redacted, but scanned after redaction.
(6) The boundary between Russia's government and the country's criminal gangs/hackers has all but disappeared: An eye-opening report from CBS' "60 Minutes," broadcast this evening.
(7) A beautiful and bright spring day on the UCSB campus, with the magical sound of the Storke Tower carillon: Recital by Wesley Arai, UCSB Department of Music. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]

2019/04/20 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Colossus firefighting robot (1) Paris firefighters' secret weapon during the Notre Dame fire: They used Colossus, an 1100-pound, tank-like robot to mitigate damage to the cathedral and prevent the conflagration from spreading further, by entering environments too hazardous for humans. The battery-powered robot has a motorized water cannon, is waterproof and fireproof, and tolerates thermal radiation. It also can crawl up stairs, and be outfitted with cameras, sensors, and a smoke-extracting fan.
(2) Trump's approval ratings in March-April 2019, according to Reuters. AG Barr circulates 4-page summary of Mueller's report, 43%; Mid-April 2019, 40%; AG Barr releases redacted form of Mueller's report, 37%.
(3) Isn't it ironic that the only person from the corrupt Trump Organization who will serve jail time is Michael Cohen? He is a liar no doubt, but his lies are dwarfed by Trump's and those of other members of his family.
(4) Boston Dynamics set to market its "SpotMini" robotic dog: The robot can be used for patrol duties within buildings. A recently released video shows a herd of such robots pulling a truck down the street with ease.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- be grateful for Robert Mueller and the unlikely heroes who stood up to Trump's illegal/immoral demands.
- This 3-minute video features people from all races and walks of life, aged 0 to 100.
- Life on Earth, seen through the lens of National Geographic. [Pictorial]
- Finally, fake videos are used to spread the message of love and unity, instead of hatred and division!
- The beloved Persian song "Ey Iran," performed wonderfully as a tribute to Mohammad Nouri.
(6) Senator Rand Paul schools Mike Pompeo: This 7-minute video clip from a Senate hearing is rather old, but its message remains fresh. Paul, with whom I disagree on many issues, reminds Pompeo that the US cannot expect Iran to disarm unilaterally, while we arm Saudi Arabia to the teeth. Similarly, it is bizarre to demand that Iran not meddle in Yemen, without also chiding Saudi Arabia for the humanitarian crisis it has created there through indiscriminate bombing.
(7) Ten instances that constitute obstruction of justice, according to Mueller's report: Here's a summary. * Campaign's response to reports on Russian support for Trump * Conduct involving Comey and Michael Flynn * Trump's reaction to the Russia investigation * Firing of Comey and attendant explanations * Efforts to remove Special Counsel Mueller * Efforts to prevent public disclosure of evidence * Asking the AG to take control of the investigation * Asking McGahn to deny attempted removal of Mueller * Conduct towards Flynn and Manafort * Conduct involving Michael Cohen
(8) A key step toward realizing biocomputers: ETH Zurich researchers have integrated two CRISPR-Cas9-based core processors into human cells, marking a significant advance toward creating powerful biocomputers. A special variant of the Cas9 protein forms the core of the processor. In response to input delivered by guide RNA sequences, the CPU regulates the expression of a specific gene, which then makes a particular protein. The method allows researchers to program scalable circuits in human cells, consisting of two inputs and two outputs that can add two single-digit binary numbers. The cell computer could be used to detect biological signals in the body, process them, and respond accordingly.

2019/04/19 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Books wrapped in barbed-wire: Art by Dusko Vukic A very happy Passover and Easter to everyone! AG Bill Barr redacts Dickens' 'A Tale of Two Cities' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Books wrapped in barbed-wire: Art by Dusko Vukic. [Center] A very happy Passover to all those who observe this Jewish holiday. Chag Sameach! And happy Easter to my Christian readers. (See item 2 below) [Right] Before tackling Mueller's report, Bill Barr practiced his redaction skills on Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.
(2) Happy Passover! This year, Passover and Easter coincide. The two holidays have common roots and similar traditions, but they can be separated by up to a month in some years. Passover, a spring Jewish festival, is observed based on the lunar calendar. To ensure that the holiday is synchronized with spring, the Jewish calendar adds a 13th month, Adar 2, to some years in order to make up for the 11-day difference between the lengths of lunar and solar years. This article has a nice explanation of the pertinent calendar adjustments.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Weaponizing drones is quite dangerous, so we must be very cautious about what we allow in this domain.
- The frightening power of water in river-rapids and waterfalls. [3-minute video]
- Unusual art: Painting blind-folded, upside-down, or sideways. [4-minute video]
- Turning the lowly egg into many interesting meals. [5-minute video]
(4) Proud to be a member of the UCSB community: The focus of last Thursday's meeting of UCSBs Faculty Legislature was awards and honors (even in the Chancellor's report).
- Faculty Research Lecturer: Nelson Lichtenstein (History)
- Faculty Diversity Award: Diane C. Fujino (Asian American Studies)
- Distinguished Teaching Awards: Six faculty members, all women.
- Distinguished Teaching Awards: Four TAs, all women.
- Graduate Mentor Award: Three faculty members, all women.
[Note that in a stunning sweep, all 10 teaching awards and all 3 graduate mentorship awards went to women!]
In his report to the campus, Chancellor Yang mentioned a number of important UCSB faculty honors: A Pulitzer Prize won by Jeffrey C. Stewart (Black Studies) for his book The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, memberships in national academies, and many more.
(5) This afternoon's #UCSBGradSlam: Nine graduate-student finalists (7 of them women) presented 3-minute pitches describing their research for a chance to win a $5000 grand prize (George Degen) and a couple of $2500 runner-up prizes (Zachary Reitz; Taylor Heisley-Cook). The other 6 finalists got $750 each. [Photos] After the competition, there was a reception along with musical entertainment. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]

2019/04/18 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A woman carrying a child in a basket over her head during Iran's recent floods Iranian boxer Sadaf Khadem's victory on the world stage is a first for Iranian women Meme of the day on women's rights and gender equality (1) Images of the day about women: [Left] During Iran's recent floods, a member of "the weaker sex" proves that the term is an oxymoron! [Center] Iranian boxer Sadaf Khadem's victory on the world stage is a first for Iranian women. [Right] On women's rights and gender equality.
(2) Bernie Sanders was a hit with the crowd at Fox News' town hall: Trump's reaction was bizarre, as if Fox News were a spouse who had been unfaithful to him!
(3) Iran used the Red Crescent (a humanitarian relief organization, similar to the Red Cross) as cover for Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps operations in Europe, a retired Guards commander claims.
(4) I feel obligated to make a post about the redacted Mueller report released today, but I will wait for a day or two, until all the details have been analyzed and understood. [448-page document, accessible via this link]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Doctors in five US states charged with prescribing pain killers in exchange for cash and sex.
- Ivanka Trump says she declined World Bank job: She was considered because "she is good with numbers"!
- Canadians are advised to drink and not drive, now that beer is cheaper than gas! [Photo]
- Persian music: An old-style song whose lyrics also tell of a longing for the simpler, more joyful past.
(6) Last evening's technical meeting, sponsored by IEEE Central Coast Section: Dr. Pradeep Sen (UCSB) spoke under the title "Monte Carlo Denoising." Monte Carlo path-tracing replaces the very large number of computations, needed to determine the lighting of each image pixel by tracing all possible paths from different light sources to the pixel, by a random sampling of those paths. While this approach reduces the amount of computation significantly, it also makes the image quite noisy and thus unsuitable for "final frame" output. Even though Monte Carlo path-tracing was suggested as early as the 1980s, practical applications did not materialize until a few years ago, when effective and computationally efficient denoising techniques were devised. These new techniques had to overcome the difficulty of distinguishing random noise from scene details (such as texture) that can also look "noisy." The Monte Carlo denoising revolution is now recognized as one of two key enabling technologies that brought path-tracing to feature-film production at Disney and elsewhere. Despite significant improvements in the speed of denoising, which now allows rendering to occur in minutes rather than days or weeks, more work is still needed to bring rendering to real-time speed, which would be needed if virtual-reality exploration of buildings and other scenes, represented by 3D models, were to become possible. [IEEE Central Coast Section event page] [IEEE CCS calendar of lectures] [The speaker's home page]

2019/04/16 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: A page from the redacted Mueller report! Meme: This is the US President! Humor: Suggested letter for requesting Trump's tax returns (1) Memes of the day: [Left] A page from the redacted Mueller report! [Center] This is the US President! [Right] Tax humor, a day after Tax Day: Comedian Seth Myers suggests that the Democrats might have a better chance of getting Trump's tax returns if they use his English syntax and vocabulary in their request.
(2) Joke circulating in Iran after the unprecedented flooding: If only all the officials and reporters interviewing while standing in floodwaters got out of the water, the water level would go back to normal!
(3) A report on academic research into the old Iranian radio program "Golha" ("Flowers") and its successors such as "Golha-ye Rangaarang" ("Flowers of Many Colors"), which featured poetry and music
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Notre Dame Cathedral burned intensely, but the damage, though substantial, was less than expected.
- Besides Notre Dame, three other major losses occurred on April 15 (and I'm not even counting Tax Day)!
- The announcements board outside my office, as recently updated. [Photo]
- Nostalgia: Tehran of 1980, a year after the Islamic Revolution. [6-minute video]
- Persian music: Old-time singer Aref performs "Donya Do Roozeh" ("Life Is Very Short").
- Azeri music & dance: Joyful, rhythmic tune brings about some impressive dance moves! [3-minute video]
(5) Concealed bribe: The father of a current Harvard student bought the $550K house of the school's fencing coach for $990K (a $440K bribe). Harvard is investigating. [Source: Time magazine, issue of April 22, 2019]
(6) Displaying affection: Given that Joe Biden does not plant kisses on men's hair as a way of showing affection, his behavior toward women is at worst creepy, and at best, condescending.
(7) "Where Credit is Due": This is the title of an interesting feature in Time magazine (April 22, 2019) which deals with the achievements of female scientists being ignored or, even worse, wrongly credited to their male collaborators. Esther Lederberg (PhD in biochemistry, U. Wisconsin), is used as a case in point. She collaborated with and co-authored joint papers with her husband Joshua Lederberg, who eventually won a Nobel Prize for his work on upending the notion that bacteria always make identical copies of themselves when they reproduce.

2019/04/14 (Sunday): Reporting on today's lecture in the UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran.
Photo showing Lalehzar Street in its early days Photo of Dr. Ida Meftahi, today's speaker Map of today's central Tehran, showing Lalehzar Street and its vicinity [Images, from left to right: Lalehzar Street in its early days; Dr. Ida Meftahi; Map of today's central Tehran, showing Lalehzar Street (extending from the map's top-center to its bottom-center) and its vicinity. For more images, see my Facebook post of this report, which also includes a Persian version of what follows.]
"Film and Discussion on Lalehzar Street: A Socio-Historical View": This was the title of today's talk by Dr. Ida Meftahi (U. Maryland). [Flyer 1, for today's lecture] [Flyer 2, for tomorrow's English lecture by Dr. Meftahi on a different topic]
Dr. Meftahi, who earned her PhD from U. Toronto and does research at the intersections of politics, gender, and performance, is the author of Gender and Dance in Modern Iran: Biopolitics on Stage, and she is now working on another book, a geo-political reading of Tehran's Lalehzar district and its vicinity; in the latter area, she is also directing the Lalehzar Digital Project, introduced in this 4-minute video.
Lalehzar, a relatively narrow north-south street in central Tehran, which runs parallel to the broader Sa'adi and Ferdowsi Streets on its east and west, was known as a center of arts and culture for many decades. The name "Lalehzar" means "Tulip-Grove." Theaters, cinemas, cafes, and night clubs, as well as fashion boutiques and other businesses (many of them new to Iran) lined its two sides between Shahreza (now Enghelab) Street on the north, through its intersection with Naderi (now Jomhoori) Avenue, another center of entertainment and commerce, and continuing further to the south.
I remember walking on Lalehzar Street as a young man, window-shopping and people-watching, usually en route to other destinations further south, including an area where there was a concentration of shops specializing in electronics and other tech items. I also frequented the Gutenberg Bookshop in the same general area that offered low-cost English books, printed in Russia, including many titles on science and technology that interested me.
After a brief introduction, Dr. Meftahi screened a 20-minute film composed of footage from Lalehzar Street over the years and commentaries from individuals who worked there or are otherwise familiar with the district.
[Link to the video will be added here when it becomes publicly available.]
For many years, European fashions arrived in Lalehzar boutiques mere days after they were introduced in the West. The bars offered billiards and other games to visitors. Early in the history of Lalehzar district, upper-class Iranians, foreign diplomats, and other dignitaries lived there and foreign embassies were either located there or on nearby streets. Bar and liquor stores operated legally in the pre-Islamic-Revolution days, but, even then, there was always tension and conflict between sellers of liquor and the police.
The period 1941-1953 is characterized by some as the golden era of arts and culture in the Lalehzar district. Foreign governments were engaged in propaganda, often competing with each other in the cultural domain, offering, on occasion, free theater performances and film screenings. Particularly targeted were society and culture influencers who received invitations to lav