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Behrooz Parhami's Blog & Books Page

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Page last updated on 2021 March 06

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 2021
Blog entries for 2020
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 2021

2021/03/06 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Persian cuisine: Inside-out eggplant tah-chin Samples of My Qalam Academy vector sheets A book-lover's paradise: Zhongshuge Bookstore in Dujiangyan, China
Lucky bride and groom: Getting married in the presence is three prior generations! These seven Iranian writers/thinkers were clerics first: Then they saw the light and chose humanism Cover image of George Orwell's 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Persian cuisine: Inside-out eggplant tah-chin (11-minute cooking video). [Top center] My Qalam Academy vector sheets (see the next item below). [Top right] A book-lover's paradise: Zhongshuge Bookstore in Dujiangyan, China. [Bottom left] Lucky bride and groom: Getting married in the presence is three prior generations! [Bottom center] These seven Iranian writers/thinkers were clerics first: Then they saw the light and chose humanism. [Bottom right] George Orwell's 1984 (see the last item below).
(2) What a wonderful toy to play with! An ad for My Qalam Academy appeared on my Facebook Newsfeed a few days ago. It's about a product, a set of patterns, that allows you to create calligraphic writing in Thuluth, Diwani, Kufi, and Persian scripts, using popular vector-editing software, such as Adobe Illustrator and PhotoShop. I can imagine myself spending hours adorning my poems and other writings with just the right appearance and proportions. I am holding off, though, until a self-contained product, containing both the fonts and the editing software, appears on the market.
(3) Book review: Orwell, George, Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel, unabridged audiobook, read by Simon Preggle, Blackstone Audio, 2006. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I had read Orwell's magnum opus twice before, but when an audiobook version of the title became available at my local library while I was waiting for a couple of holds to arrive, I decided to listen to it, write a review, and generally assess the book and its vision with new perspectives I have gained from Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution (and the ensuing dictatorship) as well as 21st-century dictatorial tendencies in the US and around the world.
In the minds of most people, Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) and Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (1932) go hand in hand. The two dystopian novels describe worlds that are opposites, yet very similar. Orwell's dystopia describes a future tyrannical system of government that rules by revising history, monitoring everyone's private thoughts, and punishing noncompliant behavior, rendering most humans into sheepish workers, who can't even enjoy a love affair without fearing its consequences. Huxley's dystopia entails a world with a caste system composed of intelligent humans and serf-like beings, with order maintained via government programs for hypnotism and producing test-tube babies. Everyone is content because of a system of drugging and forced promiscuity instilled into all beings from the moment of birth. [My 5-star review of Brave New World on GoodReads]
In his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985), Neal Postman compares the two books thus: "Orwell feared the truth would be concealed from us; Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance; Orwell feared we would become captive culture; but Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture. ... in Nineteen Eighty-Four people are controlled by inflicting pain; in Brave New World people are controlled by inflicting pleasure."
There are so many interesting ideas and insights in Nineteen Eighty-Four that it would be hard to summarize them all. People are monitored in their homes, at their workplaces, and on streets using a vast network of "telescreens" and microphones. The language imposed by the Party on society is called "Newspeak" (as opposed to "Oldspeak," the language before the Revolution). Newspeak is a rare language that instead of expanding, actually shrinks, as concepts are amalgamated and useless nuances are removed to improve efficiency.
Society members are conditioned to be capable of "doublethink," holding two opposite beliefs at the same time. Nothing is as it seems. The Party runs four ministries. Ministry of Peace is in charge of running a perpetual war. Ministry of Truth fabricates lies and revises history. Starvation is the gift given to people by Ministry of Plenty. Terrorizing and torturing people is in the domain of Ministry of Love.
The re-writing of history, mentioned above, is a nontrivial endeavor requiring the labor of many Party members. If a particular historical event needs to be changed, workers in the Ministry of Truth must work on cross-referencing to ensure that no other event that contradicts the modified event remains on the books. Other memorable terms brought to us by the novel include "Big Brother," "Thought Police," and "thoughtcrime."
Nineteen Eighty-Four has been turned into a 51-minute film, originally broadcast in 1953 on CBS's Westinghouse Studio One program. There are other adaptations, including a 108-minute 1954 BBC TV movie.

2021/03/05 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of IEEE Spectrum magazine, issue of March 2021 Calligraphic rendering of a verse by Houshang Ebtehaj, aka H. E. Sayeh Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field, the world's largest hydrogen plant and green-energy center
Belated throwback Thursday photos Data on University of California's freshman applications, by campus This image isn't PhotoShopped: It's just upside-down! (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Finding another Earth: Tiny wobbles of distant stars, measured by atomically-precise sensors, could help us detect another life-sustaining planet. (Cover feature of IEEE Spectrum magazine, March 2021) [Top center] Persian poetry: A beautiful poem by Houshang Ebtehaj, aka H. E. Sayeh. [Top right] Japan rising from the ashes of Fukushima: Fukushima Hydrogen Energy Research Field, the world's largest hydrogen plant and green-energy center, opened in 2020 (photo credit: IEEE Spectrum magazine, issue of March 2021). [Bottom left] Belated throwback Thursday photos from 1967 & 2017 (see the next item below). [Bottom center] University of California's freshman applications rise, in spite of the pandemic, while Cal State applications drop by 5%. [Bottom right] This image has not been PhotoShopped: It's just upside-down!
(2) Belated throwback Thursday: I meant to post the top photo (from 1967) yesterday, but I forgot. It shows me, with a number of my University of Tehran engineering classmates, standing inside an empty pool in our Vanak, Tehran, residence. Among today's Facebook memories was the bottom photo from 2017. It was taken during a visit, with my daughter, to Santa Monica Pier, California. The two photos were taken 50 years apart.
(3) Celebrating Women's History Month: If you aren't familiar with the 140-year-old American Association of University Women, here's their Web site. And here's a report, "AAUW Playbook on Best Practices: Gender Equity in Tech." [Full 36-page PDF report] [One-minute video teaser]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's State Department appointee arrested by FBI for assaulting police officers during the January 6 riot.
- Pope Francis visits Iraq and is greeted with a line-dance by Iraqi men and women.
- "What Is Mathematics?" is the title of Alec Wilkinson's wonderful New Yorker essay.
- Plato, quoting Socrates in The Republic: "Mathematicians are people who dream that they are awake."
- Neil deGrasse Tyson: "As the area of our knowledge grows, so too does the perimeter of our ignorance."
- Persian poetry: Fazel Nazari recites his poem entitled "Any Religion Besides Love Is a Load of Superstition."
(5) Space hotel is coming: Orbital Assembly, a space construction company, is on track to begin building its first space hotel by 2026. It could take only 1-2 years to assemble the commercial Voyager Station.
(6) Math puzzle: What integer will become 4 times as large if you append a digit 6 to its left compared with appending a digit 6 to its right?
(7) A fun calculus application: The article "How to Fairly Share a Watermelon" (Physic Education, Vol. 56, No. 1, Dec. 2020) uses the equation for an ellipsoid and introduces approximations that allow the sharing of a watermelon among n people, using only tools available in our kitchens, while incurring reasonably small errors.
(8) IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: IEEE Computer Society Distinguished Lecturer Dr. Behrooz Parhami (ECE Dept., UCSB) will speak under the title "Eight Key Ideas in Computer Architecture from Eight Decades of Innovation" (Wednesday, March 17, 2021, 6:30 PM PDT). [Details and free registeration]

2021/03/04 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Landscaping diversity in and around UCSB's West Campus: Batch 1 of photos Four different calligraphic renderings of the Persian word 'eshgh' ('love') Landscaping diversity in and around UCSB's West Campus: Batch 2 of photos (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Landscaping diversity in and around UCSB's West Campus. [Center] Four different calligraphic renderings of the Persian word "eshgh" ("love").
(2) "The Magic of RNA: From CRISPR to Coronavirus Vaccines": Distinguished Faculty Lecture Series by Nobel Laureate Prof. Tom Cech, U. Colorado Boulder, on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, 6:00-7:30 PM PDT. [Register]
(3) Additions to my reading list: My local public library has compiled a list of suggested readings for March, Women's History Month. I just went through the list, borrowed the first of the following two titles and placed a hold on the second one (will become available in ~2 weeks). Will you be reading anything special this month?
- Krohn, Katherine, Jane Goodall: Animal Scientist
- Morgan, George D., Rocket Girl: The Story of Mary Sherman Morgan, America's First Female Rocket Scientist
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hats off to Jane Fonda for her fabulous Golden Globes 2021 Cecil B. DeMille Award acceptance speech.
- Publisher withdraws six "Dr. Seuss" titles because of racist content it characterizes as hurtful and wrong.
- Walking from State Street to Stearns Wharf in Downtown Santa Barbara, CA. [55-minute video]
- Can't complain about our weather forecast: Three sunny days, 2 cloudy days of, 3 days of rain; Repeat!
- Persian music: Loads of Free music can be found on Ziba Shirazi's YouTube Channel.
(5) Assad's financier, Ayatollah Khamenei: All dictators, without exception, like to appear taller than they are, so they avoid being photographed next to tall individuals, or else have the image PhotoShopped/rotated to remove the deficit. This excellent example is from two years ago.
(6) A symbol of the wealth gap in Iran: In the US, country clubs are symbolic establishments where only members of the top 1% are welcome and can afford to frequent. In Iran, luxury restaurants, like this one featuring a retractable roof for outdoor dining on nice sunny days, are springing up, as masses go hungry or have to wait in lines for buying subsidized meat and other food essentials. [6-minute video]
(7) AI software ready to earn college degrees: Tests of an AI software tool for writing passing college papers showed that the task is achievable in 20 minutes. A real human student needs 3 days for the same task. This is both admirable and worrisome, given a rise in securing college papers in exchange for money.
(8) Maybe I am a robot: Recently, I have run into problems trying to prove to Web sites that I am not a robot. They show me a set of images and ask me to identify all images that contain a bicycle, a boat, or some other type of objects. It usually takes me 2-3 tries to pass the test!
(9) Final thought for the day: A smart person will open your mind, a beautiful person will open your eyes, and a kind, loving person will open your heart. You're lucky if you have found someone who has opened all three!

2021/03/03 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Book Cafe meeting about Nizami Ganjavi Verses from a poem by Nizami Ganjavi that have achieved the status of proverbs or adages A lesser-known female Iranian poet: Jaleh Esfahani, aka Mastaneh
The Roman stadium underneath Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy Kentucky Fried Chicken in Tehran, Iran, 1976 Ceramic tile design based on verses describing a polo match in Shahnameh (1) Images of the day: [Top left and center] Book Cafe meeting about Nizami Ganjavi (see the last item below). [Top right] A lesser-known female Iranian poet: Jaleh Esfahani, aka Mastaneh (see the next item below). [Bottom left] The Roman stadium underneath Piazza Navona in Rome, Italy: Built around 80 CE as a gift by Emperor Titus Flavius Domitianus to the people of Rome, the stadium had 15,000 to 20,000 seats and was used mostly for athletic contests. [Bottom center] Iran's history in pictures: Kentucky Fried Chicken in Tehran, 1976. [Bottom right] Ceramic tile design based on verses describing a polo match in Shahnameh: The verses appear on the four edges in this 30-by-30 cm tile (credit: British Museum).
(2) A lesser-known female Iranian poet: Here's the story of Jaleh Esfahani (aka Mastaneh, 1921-2007), whose poetry mirrored her difficult life. She married a member of the Toudeh (Communist) Party, moved to the Soviet Union to reunite with her husband, returned to Iran, only to be imprisoned, and eventually immigrated to England. [Official bio] [Encyclopedia Iranica] [Article by Dr. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak] [Video story]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Antifa pretending to be Trump supporters? It's more like Trump supporters dressing up as Antifa!
- President Biden signs executive order to address the chip shortage: Tech industry welcomes the move.
- Strange bedfellows: Russia, China, and Iran are pushing the same kind of coronavirus disinformation.
- The latest banned activity for women in Esfahan, Iran: Rock-climbing on Sefid Kooh.
- A serious challenge for self-driving cars: Object detection in heavy rain.
(4) Nizami Ganjavi's magnum opus, Panj Ganj (Five Treasures): I chanced upon an event held by Book Cafe (part of IRANSA, the Iranian Student Association of UNSW, Sydney, Australia) dealing with the great Iranian poet Nizami Ganjavi, as the date (Esfand 22, March 12) devoted to honoring his legacy approaches.
Nizami [1141-1209] was as great a Persian poet as the "big four," that is, Sa'adi, Hafez, Mowlavi (Rumi), and Ferdowsi, yet he is not as revered in Iran. In Azerbaijan, though, he is a folk/national hero, and is celebrated by naming a national museum after him and with a magnificent mausoleum, which in its current form, was erected in 1991. The original tomb in the city of Ganja was destroyed as a result of regional wars between Iran and Russia.
Nizami wrote his poetry in Persian, and Ganja was part of the Persian Empire during Nizami's life. So, Iranians have a right to claim him as their own. Needless to say, there is a bitter war of words between Iran and Azerbaijan about which country deserves credit for Nizami, just like the parallel war between Iran and Turkey in the case of Mowlavi. It was explained during the session that, in those days, nation-states as we know them today did not exist, so people identified with tribes or cities (Nizami Ganjavi, or Nizami of Ganja; Jalal-ad-Din Balkhi, Jalal-ad-Din of Balkh, a city in today's Afghnistan). The positive side of these wars is that Azerbaijan and Turkey have done more to celebrate and promote Nizami and Mowlavi, respectively, than Iran's Islamic government has been willing to do. So, the Persian literary heritage stands to win as a result of Azerbaijan's and Turkey's claims and the attendant publicity efforts.
The meeting began with Yashar Shoraka presenting a historical perspective and biography of Nizami, as a context for the rest of the discussion. He characterized Nizami as the most-prominent Persian story-telling poet, best known for his historical epic "Khosrow o Shirin" and his Arabic-folk-tale-based "Leyli o Majnun" (a tragedy often likened or compared to "Romeo and Juliet"). These two stories are both parts of his most-famous book, Khamseh or Panj Ganj (Five Treasures). Nizami wasn't just a poet; he was a philosopher/scientist, who knew a great deal about plants and other mysteries of nature. Nizami was orphaned early and was raised by his maternal uncle, who provided him with an excellent education. He married three times, and suffered great loss when his first wife died (the other two also died prematurely). Some suggest that the physical beauty, mental acuity, and moral strength of Shirin in the "Khosrow o Shirin" epic are based on Nizami's first wife.
Next, Minoo Eslami provided a summary of "Khosrow o Shirin," the story of the fun-loving Sassanid prince Khosrow-Parviz, son of Hormizd IV, and his love for his Armenian princess Shirin. When Khosrow meets Shirin, he describes her beauty in several verses. Eventually, Shirin moves to Mada'in, located in present-day Iraq, hoping to become Khosrow's wife. The Iranian city of Ghasre-Shirin (meaning "Shirin's Palace") is where Khosrow built a palace for Shirin. Later, Farhad, an engineer who was contracted by Khosrow to work on a project, enters the scene and falls in love with Shirin. Khosrow is alarmed when he learns of Farhad's attention to Shirin, and he hatches a plan to tell Farhad that Shirin is dead. Farhad's love for Shirin is legendary and is often used in poetry and elsewhere as the model for selfless, unconditional love (although Shirin apparently had no feelings for Farhad). Khosrow was eventually killed by his own son and Shirin committed suicide at the scene of his death.
Nizami used metaphors to write about Khosrow's feelings for, and sexual attraction to, Shirin, often using fruits and plants in lieu of body parts. Actual censorship, or perhaps fear of censorship, may have been at play here. In the novel Censoring an Iranian Love Story (published in English and later translated into Persian), Shahriar Mandanipour alludes to censorship of "Khosrow o Shirin," as he constructs his own love story between Dara and Sara, writing and crossing out text that would lead to his book never seeing the light of day in the face of censorship.
When I was given a chance to speak, I noted that Persian poems are rich sources of sayings or proverbs. Single verses or half-verses of poems by some of our beloved poets are recited by many Iranians to enrich conversations or to support an argument. I then shared with the group my discovery many years ago (shared in a Facebook post at the time; see the image above) of a single Nizami poem that contains several often-used Persian proverbs, with many people being unaware of the source.

2021/03/02 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Zoom lecture on 'Ecology and the Environment' (Fanni '68) Math puzzle: ABCD is a square of side length 1. What is the measure of the angle AEF? What is the perimeter of the triangle CEF? Schrodinger's plates: The plates are both broken and not broken, until you open the door
Tah-dig (crispy rice at the bottom of the pot) from my mom's adas-polo (rice with lentils) Linguistic roots of the word for 'mother' in Indo-European family of languages Selfie taken during my walk on Sunday 2/28: No, I didn't rob a bank! (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Zoom lecture on "Ecology and the Environment" (see the last item below). [Top center] Math puzzle: ABCD is a square of side length 1. What is the measure of the angle AEF? What is the perimeter of the triangle CEF? This problem was given to 9th graders in India, so try not to use trigonometry. [Top right] These plates are both broken and not broken, until you open the door! [Bottom left] Tah-dig from adas-polo (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Linguistic roots of "mother" in Indo-European family of languages. [Bottom right] Selfie taken during my walk on Sunday 2/28: No, I didn't rob a bank!
(2) How grandkids get spoiled: A few days ago, my daughter mentioned that she misses adas-polo (rice with lentils, often also including raisins and dates), which we have not had for a while. During Saturday's family get-together, I told my mom about this, given that she always asks for dish suggestions for our family gatherings. My expectation was that the next time we gather at her place, she would make the dish. On Sunday, she called to let me know that she had made a large pot of adas-polo for us and that I should go get it while it was hot! The photo shows just the tag-dig (crispy rice at the bottom of the pot).
(3) Trump in his CPAC speech: "Who knows? I may even decide to beat them for the third time!" Yes, you'll beat them for the third time, like you did the second time, that is, lose and send your goons to the Capitol!
(4) Vaccination good news: Merck has been recruited to help mass-produce the J&J single-dose vaccine: There will be enough vaccines for all US adults by the end of May, two months ahead of the previous target.
(5) Mass-casualty accident in Southern California: Head-on crash of a semitruck and an SUV, inexplicably loaded with 25 adults and children, results in at least 13 deaths.
(6) The FBI appears to be in good hands: I caught part of the Congressional testimony of FBI's Director, Christopher Wray, this morning. I was impressed by his thoughtful and direct answers.
(7) "Ecology and the Environment": This was the title of a Persian presentation in the Zoom gathering of Tehran University's College of Engineering Class of 1968 (Fanni '68) by Dr. Jalal Idjadi, Professor at a number of Paris universities. Today, he discussed background concepts, underlying philosophies, existing & emerging problems, and solution strategies at the world level. Next week, he will focus on environmental challenges in Iran. Thirteen of these screenshots (#2-#14) are from his slides. The last one (#15), from a Facebook post of mine, shows the plastics crisis.
During the lively Q&A period, I suggested that poverty and wealth/income gap is a key factor to be dealt with before other considerations and mitigation measures. One reason for the meteoric rise of plastics consumption is that it allows for making cheap products, so that even low-income families can buy toys for their children and various household items for their homes. Clean-air laws in rich industrialized countries has led to profiteers shipping old gas-guzzling cars to poor countries, where they continue their polluting lives. Focus on recycling has caused some poor communities in Third-World countries making a living by extracting material from discarded items (e.g., electronics), which exposes them to hazardous materials. The plastic shopping bags, which we pooh-pooh, are useful tools for the homeless and those living in rural areas, as they can fix roof leaks and other problems using the bags. No mitigation measure will be successful as long as the wealth & income gaps continue to grow.

2021/03/01 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Women's History Month begins today Significant birthdays, from a binary perspective Eggs for this year's Nowruz haft-seen spread and for Easter
Iraq's Central Bank, by architect Zaha Hadid Zaha Hadid (1950-2016), architect extraordinaire Souks Department Store in Beirut, by architect Zaha Hadid (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Women's empowerment: Women's History month (March) has begun and International Women's Day (March 8) is around the corner. There will be many special events about women's rights around the world, and about Iran's women's movement, in particular. I will post details of such events, as I learn about them. [Top center] Significant birthdays in binary: We tend to attach more importance to birthdays at ages that are multiples of 10. Writing in CACM, issue of March 2021, Joel C. Adams observes that birthday bit-boundaries (ages at which an additional bit becomes necessary) coincide nicely with stages of life. [Top right] Eggs for this year's Nowruz and Easter. [Bottom left & right] Two architectural creations by Zaha Hadid: Iraq's Central Bank and Beirut's Souks Department Store. [Bottom center] Zaha Hadid (1950-2016), architect extraordinaire: For consistently creating awe-inspiring structures in concrete, steel, and glass, Hadid received the highest honors from civic, academic, and professional institutions worldwide. Her practice remains one of the world's most-inventive architectural studios.
(2) Researchers have solved a decades-old problem on a D-Wave quantum computer 3 million times faster than on a classical computer, using a method known as quantum-annealing.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The global mass of human-made plastic is twice the mass of terrestrial and marine animals combined.
- Narges Mohammadi speaks (in Persian) about made-up charges and official violence against her in Iran.
- Voices of Women for Change presents Int'l Women's Day Celebration: Sat. March 6, 2021, 11:00 AM PST.
- Social media etiquette: Never post a graphical comment so large that it overshadows the original post!
- Iranian Aabgoosht (meat-and-veggies stew), prepared in a traditional way, in ceramic pots on open fire.
- Iranian regional music: From Tehran, the Istgah Orchestra performs "Dokhtar-e Boyer-Ahmadi."
(4) The fearlessness of Iranian women in fighting patriarchy and religious dogma: Azam Jangravi was part of an intense movement to defy Iran's compulsory hijab law and had to pay a high price by fleeing to Canada.
(5) UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: Professor Nazanin Shahrokhi of London School of Economics and Political Science will give a virtual book talk, "Women in Place: The Politics of Gender Segregation in Iran," based on her book by the same title (University of California Press, 2020). Sunday, March 7, 2021, 11:30 AM PST (in Persian), register here. Monday, March 8, 2021, 2:00 PM PST (in English), register here.
(6) A final thought, on this first day of Women's History Month: "At a NASA Earth meeting 10 years ago, a white male post-doc interrupted me to tell me that I didn't understand human drivers of fire, that I def needed to read McCarty et al. Looked him in the eye, pulled my long hair back so he could read my name tag. 'I'm McCarty et al.' " ~ Dr. Jessica McCarty, on sexism and mansplaining

2021/02/28 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The programming language Pascal turns 50: CACM feature article by Pascal's designer Niklaus Wirth Cover image of the March 2021 issue of Communications of the ACM Edmund M. Clark (1945-2020) dead at 75 from complications of COVID-19
Tahirih's most-famous poem Screenshot of Sholeh Wolpe speaking A poem by Forough Farrokhzad (1) Images of the day: [Top left] The programming language Pascal turns 50: Communications of the ACM, issue of March 2021, contains a feature article by Pascal's designer, computer scientist Niklaus Wirth, who reflects on its origin, spread, and future. [Top center] Cover feature of Communications of the ACM, March 2021 issue: In "The Decline of Computers as a General-Purpose Technology," authors Neil C. Thompson and Svenja Spanuth argue that "technological and economic forces are now pushing computing away from being general-purpose and toward specialization." [Top right] Edmund M. Clark (1945-2020) dead at 75 from complications of COVID-19: He won the 2008 ACM Turing Award for his work on model-checking, a discipline that has as its goal the formal verification that a system's behavior matches its specification and, thus, that it operates dependably. [Bottom row] Images from a fascinating and well-attended talk by Sholeh Wolpe (see the last item below).
(2) Massacre in Iran: Once again, the Iranian regime is killing protesters and cutting off Internet access to cover up its cruelty, this time in Sistan & Baluchistan, a most-oppressed region of the country, both politically and economically. And the world yawns! [Tweet in English] [Tweet in Persian]
(3) "Shame, Stigma and Sin: From Tahirih, to Forough, to Us": This was the title of Friday afternoon's presentation by Sholeh Wolpe (Writer-in-Residence, UC Irvine). I found the presentation enlightening and very well-organized. Unfortunately, I missed the Q&A period due to other commitments.
The first name in the title is Tahirih Qurrat al-'Ayn [1817-1852], who was an early follower of the Bab and influencer in the formation of the Baha'i faith. The second name is Forough Farrokhzad [1934-1967], who is viewed not just as a brilliant contemporary woman poet but a brilliant poet, period! The "Us" of the title represents Iranian women poets, in the homeland or in diaspora, who have flourished in recent decades, thanks in part to the trailblazers and norm-shatterers Tahirih and Forough. Wolpe urges us to discard the term "poetess," or "shae'reh" in Persian, because most women poets find it condescending and insulting.
Tahirih and Forough share a great deal in common, even though they lived more than a century apart. Tahirih was 36 (35?) when she was executed through suffocation for her beliefs and daring statements. Forough was also "suffocated" by attempts at silencing her. She died in an auto accident at age 32. Both women lost custody of their children because they were considered unfit mothers. Tahirih's unveiling in a public gathering was viewed, not as an act of liberation, but as an orgy; something a whore would do in front of men. Both Tahirih and Forough understood that in order to rebuild something, you have to destroy the old system and build up on its ashes.
When Reza Shah prohibited Iranian women from being veiled in public places, the patriarchal system replaced the veiling of the body by veiling of language and expression. This went on until Forough appeared on the scene. Forough's first poem was indeed published because a magazine publisher found it bold and "scandalous," and she faced immediate backlash for her work. Women had no business being sensual and writing about their feelings and desires. Today's Iranian women poets continue in that tradition and they are building something beautiful on the ashes of the old patriarchy.
Wolpe displayed English translations (many of them her own) of works by Tahirih, Forough, and selected other women poets. I captured some of these in these screenshots. I will include a link to the recorded version of the talk, if and when I get the information.

2021/02/27 (Saturday): Trying to make a dent in my backlog of book reviews by offering two reviews.
Cover image of Barack Obama's 'A Promised Land' Barack Obama and Donald Trump Cover image for Bob Woodward's 'Rage'
(1) Book review: Obama, Barack, A Promised Land, unabridged audiobook, read by the author, Random House Audio, 2020. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Former President Obama began writing this book immediately after he left office, planning to finish it in a year. Things became complicated and the book grew to two volumes, the first one taking almost four years to finish. Prior to this one, Obama had published Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance (2004), The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream (2006), Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama's Plan to Renew America's Promise (2008), and Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters (a children's book, 2010).
The first one-third of A Promised Land deals with Obama's presidential campaign. The remaining two-thirds covers most of his first term in the White House. This well-written, thoughtful, poetic, and engaging book is a refreshing reminder of a time when presidential decisions were made after careful deliberation, rather than conceived in the wee hours of the morning, announced via tweets, many in all caps, and justified by aides in a scramble later during the day.
Obama tells us about the stress on his marriage, brought about by his political ambitions, beginning with when he floated the possibility of running for presidency: "God Barack ... when will it ever be enough?" Michelle eventually went along reluctantly and was even encouraging and complimentary when things went well.
Obama exhibits awareness of his tendency to provide too much detail in his explanations (being professorial), which bores most people to death. Rather than simply explaining what he did in a particular situation, he provides a historical background, factors that went into the decision, what each advisor suggested, and how the clashing views were reconciled. I happen to like this style, preferring to be bored with too much detail over being left in the dark!
The list of topics covered in the book is long: The elimination of Osama bin Laden, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, intervention in Libya, relations with European allies, the threat of North Korea, nuclear deal with Iran, the puzzle of China, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and its cast of unsavory characters, the Arab Spring, and extensive discussion of the runaway financial system and recovery from the 2007-2008 financial meltdown.
On race relations and racial bias, Obama is highly reflective, demonstrating that he understands the deep fissure and why problems will persist for some time. Birtherism, racial insults against him and Michelle, and racism disguised as policy disagreements do bother him, but, in the final analysis, the hope generated by his presidency among blacks and other colored people, children in particular, seem to have made it all worthwhile.
Some topics receive less attention than they deserve: Serious escalation of drone strikes in Pakistan, increased deportations from the US, why his outreach to Republicans and other opponents did not bear fruit, and the tensions between youthful dynamism and experienced caution within his inner-circle of advisors.
Let me end my review with a poignant quote from this wonderful book of contemporary history, which has my highest recommendation: "I've often been asked about this personality trait—my ability to maintain composure in the middle of crisis. Sometimes I'll say that it's just a matter of temperament, or a consequence of being raised in Hawaii, since it's hard to get stressed when it's eighty degrees and sunny and you're five minutes from the beach. If I'm talking to a group of young people, I'll describe how over time I've trained myself to take the long view, about how important it is to stay focused on your goals rather than getting hung up on the daily ups and downs."
(2) Book review: Woodward, Bob, Rage, unabridged audiobook, read by Robert Petkoff, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2020. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Much of this book is based on information provided by Donald Trump himself during interviews with Woodward, with parts of the interview sessions recorded on tape. One wonders why Trump agreed to provide such unprecedented access to Woodward, given his record of writings about former presidents and about Trump himself (Fear: Trump in the White House, 2018; My 4-star review of Fear). He could have been following the advertising maxim that no publicity is bad publicity. Or, perhaps, it was a gamble, with possible gains deemed more significant than losses from a negative assessment that he could dismiss as "fake news," much like other negative media coverage.
As in his previous books, Woodward's meticulous research is evident in this book. In addition to Trump himself, Woodward talked extensively with other individuals, in and out of the White House. The writing style is a bit disjointed, with facts and statements strung together, without providing fillers that would smooth the transitions. The title "Rage" seems to have come about from Trump's admission (boast?) that he is good at bringing rage out, seeming to thrive equally on adulation by fans and loathing by opponents.
Woodward devotes much attention on the coronavirus and its impact on Trump's legacy. He tells Trump that his presidency will be judged by how he handles the pandemic, but Trump keeps shifting the focus to economy, particularly the stock market surge and favorable unemployment stats. Woodward's attempts to make Trump own the pandemic, and acknowledge that he was given early and repeated warnings that it would be his toughest national-security challenge, go nowhere.
In several passages, Woodward reminds Trump that they are both privileged individuals, having been raised by well-to-do families. Trump never acknowledges that he has enjoyed privilege, seeming to think that his wealth and stature result only from his genius and hard work. Likewise, he doesn't give anyone in his administration any credit, claiming that all the main ideas are his, and his alone. Economists, healthcare professionals, and pandemic specialists don't know what they are doing, soldiers killed in action are "suckers" and "losers," and the generals are all "pussies."
Woodward does not try to guide Trump toward incriminating statements. He just provides enough rope for Trump to hang himself, which he does with a barrage of thoughtless, heartless, and contradictory pronouncements. The only direct conclusion drawn by Woodward is reflected in his final statement that Trump is the wrong man for the job.
Woodward has included audio snippets of his interviews with Trump (always taped with his awareness and permission) at the end of the audiobook. Even though the information from these snippets is included in the book, hearing Trump's tone of voice, which at times indicates frustration and anger, provides valuable information about the former President's state of mind.

2021/02/26 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
My refreshing walk on a beautiful Southern-California afternoon: Photo 1 My refreshing walk on a beautiful Southern-California afternoon: Photo 4 My refreshing walk on a beautiful Southern-California afternoon: Photo 2
Secret message on Perseverance Rover's parachute revealed My beach photo made into a poster Pizza rolls made with lavash bread, and three pita-bread pizzas (1) Images of the day: [Top row] My refreshing walk on a beautiful Southern-California afternoon: I walked north from UCSB West Campus along Ellwood Beach, returning via the Elwood bluffs and UCSB North Campus Open Space. [Bottom left] Secret message on Perseverance Rover's parachute revealed: A puzzle-lover among the designers placed in binary code the message "DARE MIGHTY THINGS" and the GPS coordinates of the mission's headquarters at JPL in Pasadena, California, on the parachute.[Bottom center] My beach photo made into a poster: I had been wanting to replace a faded poster in our living room for some time. My daughter suggested using one of my photos and did the research about the best poster supplier. A few days ago, the 28"-by-40" poster arrived and is now hanging above the sofa in the living room. [Bottom right] Pizza rolls: Having been reminded by Facebook this morning about pizza rolls I had made with lavash bread a few years ago, I decided to make some for dinner tonight. Recipe: Just put standard pizza ingredients on a sheet of lavash bread and roll it before baking. I also made three pita-bread pizzas.
(2) Shameless hypocrisy & sexism: The same Republicans who approved of Trump's mean tweets, or pretended they had not seen them, attacked a female Biden cabinet nominee because of her "mean tweets"!
(3) "Gender Trends in Computer Science Authorship": This is the title of an article by Lucy Lu Wang, Gabriel Stanovsky, Luca Weihs, and Oren Etzioni, published in the March 2021 issue of Communications of the ACM.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Saudi Prince MBS personally approved the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi: What a surprise!
- Imagine preying on those looking for debt relief: Talk of student-loan forgiveness has mobilized scammers.
- Animated video of the forthcoming UCSB classroom building, located to the south of Powell Library.
- It was inevitable: Tah-dig art by Varta Melon is an episode of the #FarhangFlavor series on Iranian cuisine.
- Persian-themed clothing designs based on traditional and ancient tile patterns.
(5) Former US gymnastics coach commits suicide after being charged with two dozen cases of sexual abuse and human trafficking: This sounds sexist, but young girl gymnasts should not be trusted to male coaches and doctors, until an infrastructure of supervision and accountability has been put in place.
(6) Economist Tom Friedman's excellent questions (paraphrased): Trump wants to come back? To do what? What does he want power for? To do healthcare? To do infrastructure? He could have done those over the past four years! What are his plans? What are the Republican Party's plans? Power for the sake of power?
(7) Women in STEM: Cecilia Metra (Professor, U. Bologna, specializing in dependable computing) is featured in this 11th installment of the interview series "Prominent Women in Computing."
(8) Women in IT: In the article "Educational Interventions and Female Enrollment in IT Degrees," authors Andreea Molnar, Therese Keane, and Rosemary Stockdale report on a comprehensive study of female students enrolled in Australia's information-technology degrees.

2021/02/25 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Roundtable discussion, '500 Years Later: Recontextualizing Tenochtitlan' Webinar: 'Britain and the Abdication of Reza Shah' Webinar: 'Perpetual Computing: Technologies for Banishing Batteries' (1) Today's images, left to right, pertain to three meeting reports appearing below.
(2) Roundtable discussion, "500 Years Later: Recontextualizing Tenochtitlan": Exactly 500 years ago, a smallpox epidemic raged in the Aztec Empire, as its capital city of Tenochtitlan was under siege by Hernan Cortes and the Spanish conquistadores. A year-long lecture series, focusing on the period between the two pandemics and culminating in an art exhibition by artist Sandy Rodriguez, titled "Amid a Pandemic, After the War: 500 Years Later," is being sponsored by UCSB's Art, Design & Architecture Museum.
Today's roundtable discussion, featuring Maestra Celia Herrera Rodriguez from UCSB's Las Maestras Center, Professors Allison Caplan and Maria Lumbreras (UCSB History of Art & Architecture Dept.), and Felicia Rhapsody Lopez from UC-Merced, kicked off the aforementioned series of six lectures on our historical understanding of the Spanish invasion of the Americas, the resilience and resistance of Indigenous people despite the forces of colonialism, and the impact of these events on our contemporary society.
On August 13, 1521, after two years of massacres, a smallpox epidemic, political betrayal & manipulation, and a two-month siege, the capital city Tenochtitlan of the Aztec Empire surrendered to Hernan Cortes and the Spanish conquistadores. The legacy of this invasion still reverberates throughout the Americas, 500 years later. Looking back at the developments of 500 years ago and the five centuries of subsequent events in the Americas can teach us a lot about our past heritage and future outlook.
(3) "Britain and the Abdication of Reza Shah": This was the title of today's webinar, in which Shaul Bakhash (Emeritus History Prof., George Mason U.) spoke under the auspices of Stanford U.'s Iranian Studies Program.
Before World War II, Iran was practically a colony of Britain, though not in the same way as other colonized countries in Africa and elsewhere. Monarchs, up to and including Reza Shah (reigned: 1925-1941), would not so much drink water without Britain's permission, but there was also nominally-functioning government which did not take direct orders from Britain.
Then, Germans started to gain a foothold in Iran, making Britain, and to some extent the Soviet Union, nervous. Britain worried about Germany's new-found status as Iran's largest trading partner and its information-gathering operations within Iran, along with possible sabotage in oil facilities as hostilities grew. USSR worried about the status of the Caucuses and other territories that neighbored a Germany-aligned country, given its long border with Iran.
Reza Shah followed the British instructions of reducing the number of Germans in Iran and closing the German embassy, along with those of a few other countries. However, they thought Reza Shah was slow/reluctant in carrying out the orders. Within Britain, the prevailing view was that Reza Shah should be forced out, not harmed personally. So, they started an intense anti-Shah information campaign, using BBC's Persian Service, broadcast from England and Delhi, taking advantage of the Shah's unpopularity due to poor economic conditions and tax burdens on all societal classes.
The idea of a military coup was entertained as plan B, in case Reza Shah did not abdicate voluntarily. They also toyed with the notion of supporting someone other than Crown Prince Mohammad Reza, perhaps Prince Hassan Qajar. Anglo-Soviet forces entered Iran in 1941, with the expectation that Reza Shah, along with all his other sons, would depart promptly, leaving the throne to his eldest son Mohammad Reza (reigned: 1941-1979). Among the imposed conditions were the return of property obtained by Reza Shah (through coercing owners to sell or by outright confiscation) to rightful owners.
Reza Shah was dissuaded from abdicating then, but within a month he did leave, so as not to jeopardize his son's chances of ruling. He died in Johannesburg, South Africa, two years later. According to Professor Bakhash, PM Mohammad Ali Foroughi played a key role in the transition and served both Reza Shah and Mohammad Reza Shah faithfully. The Islamic clerics' role in this particular period of Iran's history was negligible.
(4) "Perpetual Computing: Technologies for Banishing Batteries": This was the title of today's Zoom talk by Dr. Joshua R. Smith, Milton & Delia Zeutschel Professor, Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering, University of Washington, Seattle. The talk was sponsored by UCSB's Institute for Energy Efficiency.
Batteries are the last source of bulk and weight in electronic devices and the final barrier to building ant-size robots and grain-size cameras to explore the human body. A key idea is to move all energy-intensive tasks from the mobile end-point to a base-station where power is more plentiful. Many R&D projects are underway to do away with batteries altogether. The needed power to run ultra-low-power electronics can come from a variety of sources, a few of which were outlined by Dr. Smith.
- Backscatter: Instead of generating light or radio signals for communication, which consumes a lot of power, one can reflect existing light or radio waves by tilting a reflector, requiring much less energy. Dr. Smith showed an example of a battery-free camera based on backscatter. The camera can transmit fewer high-quality images (over time) or more-numerous low-quality ones, depending on need, with the same small power source.
- Wireless ambient radio power: A TV or cell tower near a university campus can provide 10s to 100s of microwatts of harvestable power around the campus. This amount of power is sufficient for running many low-power devices. Dr. Smith showed an example battery-free phone, which uses analog amplitude backscatter.
- Near-field wireless power transfer: Use of smaller batteries, that can be charged wirelessly, may be a viable alternative to battery-free operation when more power is required. Dr. Smith has founded WIBOTIC, a company that aims to build robots receiving their energy wirelessly (e.g., small Mars rovers that get charged by a larger base station having many solar cells).

2021/02/24 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Silky Sicilian Penne: Yesterday, I tried my hand at this vegetarian pasta dish from Hello Fresh UCSB's North Campus Open Space on a pleasant late-February afternoon (two photos) Rakib-Khaneh Building, Isfahan, Iran, dating back to the Safavid era
Triple-decker bus: Berlin, Germany, 1926 Cartoon (at a construction site): 'Escher! Get your ass up here' Joking around with Mowlavi (Rumi): I wrote these verses in 1984, inspired by the Mowlavi poem that follows it (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Silky Sicilian Penne: Yesterday, I tried my hand at this vegetarian pasta dish from Hello Fresh. Fresh ingredients are delivered in pre-measured quantities, along with cooking instructions. I made three smaller meals out of a package intended for two. [Top center] UCSB's North Campus Open Space on a pleasant late-February afternoon. [Top right] Rakib-Khaneh Building, Isfahan, Iran: This is where Shah Abbas (Safavid Dynasty) kept the royal family's harness and riding equipment. After falling into disrepair, it was restored during the Qajar Dynasty and is currently a museum of fine arts. [Bottom left] Triple-decker bus: Berlin, Germany, 1926. (Update: I have learned that this is a fake photo, an edited version of the photo of a double-decker bus.) [Bottom center] Cartoon: "Escher! Get your ass up here." [Bottom right] Joking around with Mowlavi (Rumi): I wrote these verses in 1984, inspired by the Mowlavi poem that follows it.
(2) Debunking the myth that Apple software is practically hacker-proof: Sophisticated hackers have stealthily snuck sleeper malware into nearly 30,000 Macs. There is no such thing as hacker-proof software!
(3) One reason for disorder in Persian script: Sayeh Eghtesadinia views opposition to Iran's Language Academy (its perceived illegitimacy) a main reason for the ensuing chaos in Persian script.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- At least 80 people have died from Texas storm: The full toll many not become known for months.
- Senator Ron Johnson apparently had a fun day at the Capitol on January 6, with the mostly-jovial crowd!
- An interactive 360-degree view of Mars surface constructed from images sent by the Perseverance Rover.
- Iranian Students of California "Doornavazi" Music Festival: Sat. 2/27, 4:00 PM, to Sun. 2/28, 6:00 PM.
- Quote: "Love is like an hourglass with the heart filling up as the brain empties." ~ Jules Renard, French writer
- Carole King sings "So Far Away": BBC in Concert, February 10, 1971 (look for a very young James Taylor).
(5) "The Botany of Desire": This fascinating PBS feature documentary considers the relationships of humans with plants, using four common species (apples, tulips, marijuana, potatoes). [Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3]
(6) Logical puzzle: A teacher divides her students into k groups of various sizes to work on different projects on Monday and into k + 1 groups on Tuesday. Show that there are at least two students who belong to smaller groups on Tuesday than on Monday.
(7) Book review: Gabbay, Tom, The Tehran Conviction, William Morrow, 2009. I reviewed this third book in Gabbay's "Jack Teller" series (reminiscent of Jack Ryan in Tom Clancy's early spy thrillers) on February 22, 2013. I uploaded my 4-star review to GoodReads on February 22, 2021, for the record.
(8) Course review: McWhorter, Prof. John, The Story of Human Language, 2004. I reviewed this 6-DVD course (in The Teaching Company's "Great Courses" series) on August 2, 2015. I uploaded my review to GoodReads on February 22, 2021, for the record. The book is full of interesting and enlightening facts about the nature of languages. For example, here is a snippet from my summary for Lecture 36: "Words have peculiar histories and tracing their roots and variations tells us a lot about how languages develop, change, and intermix. Examples of word transformations include 'alone' (all one) and 'good-bye' (God be with you)."

2021/02/23 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Sepandarmazgan: Design 1 Happy Sepandarmazgan: Design 2 Astronomer Cecilia Payne
Talk by Dr. Valerie E. Taylor of Argonne National Lab: Slides, Batch 1 Cartoon: A Republican Senator in Texas (denying the freezing cold) Talk by Dr. Valerie E. Taylor of Argonne National Lab: Slides, Batch 2 (1) Images of the day: [Top left and center] Today is Sepandarmazgan, the Iranian day of love with Zoroastrian roots: According to Wikipedia, the deity Spandarmad protected the Earth and the "good, chaste and beneficent wife who loves her husband" (yes, Zoroastrians were patriarchal and misogynistic as well). The festival used to be dedicated to women, and men would make them "liberal presents." [Top Right] Astronomer Cecilia Payne (see the last item below). [Bottom left & right] Technical talk by Dr. Valerie E. Taylor of Argonne National Lab (see the last item below). [Bottom center] Cartoon of the day: A Republican Senator in Texas.
(2) "Energy-Efficiency Tradeoffs for Parallel Scientific Applications": This was the title of last night's talk by Dr. Valerie E. Taylor (Argonne Nat'l Lab), sponsored by IEEE Santa Clara Valley Section.
Dr. Taylor began by reviewing the energy consumption landscape among Top500 & Green500 supercomputers. We are now looking at tens of gigaFLOPS performance per watt of power. With application-level tuning, we can achieve up to 10% energy efficiency while sacrificing under 1% in speed and up to 14% energy savings with 5.5% slowdown. The tuning is aided by the use of some 39 hardware counters to instrument applications, in order to determine what needs to be done to reduce energy.
In answer to my question about whether loop unrolling, which is used to improve performance, also helps with energy efficiency, Dr. Taylor replied that it does. When significant reduction in computation time is achieved, even if it is accompanied by some increase in power consumption, the product of the the two, which represents energy, can and does go down significantly.
(3) Google fires a second AI-ethics researcher: Margaret Mitchell had become critical of Google executives, including AI division head Jeff Dean and CEO Sundar Pichai, and she had used an automated script to look through her emails in order to find evidence of discrimination against her coworker Timnit Gebru. Google accused her of downloading "confidential business-sensitive documents and private data of other employees."
(4) Academic misconduct: David Cox, IBM Director of MIT-IBM-Watson AI Lab, found his name on two papers with which he had no connection. Whatever the authors' intentions, such as increasing the odds of the papers being accepted for publication, such a despicable action is a no-no in academia. Some journals and conferences have adopted the practice of contacting all the listed authors to ensure that they are aware of the submission and their co-authorship status. This practice must be adopted universally.
(5) The story of Cecilia Payne [1900-1979]: The brilliant scientist who discovered that the most-abundant atom in the universe is hydrogen, completed her studies at Cambridge, but was not awarded a degree because she was a woman. She attended Cambridge on a scholarship, given that her mother would not spend any money on her education.
Leaving Britain, she moved to the US, began working at Harvard, and eventually earned a doctorate from Radcliffe College, writing "the most-brilliant PhD thesis in astronomy" (per Otto Strauve). Another discovery of hers about the Sun's composition is credited to fellow-astronomer Henry Norris Russell, who told her not to publish her results four years earlier.
As the first woman to be promoted to full-professorship at Harvard, Payne broke the glass ceiling and served as a role model for many women scientists.
Imagine how many more women scientists we would have and how many women's names would be mentioned in science books alongside Newton, Darwin, and Einstein if women were not held back by short-sighted and insecure men!

2021/02/22 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei: 'Hijab is a requirement even for animated characters' Humorous Persian poem I wrote shortly after Iran's Islamic Revolution Images related to the UCLA webinar 'Jews and the American West' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei: "Hijab is a requirement even for animated characters." [Center] Persian poetry: I wrote this humorous poem on May 10, 1979, in the early days of the post-Islamic-Revolution Iran. Older Iranians might recognize the characters Ebrahim Yazdi, Sadegh Ghotbzadeh, Abolhassan Banisadr, Abbas Amir-Entezam, and Dariush Forouhar in the poem. All were killed, exiled, or sidelined soon after the Revolution. [Right] UCLA webinar "Jews and the American West" (see the last item below). [Top left] [Top center] [Top right] [Bottom left] [Bottom center] [Bottom right]
(2) Hypocrisy: The same Republicans who claimed COVID-19 deaths were being overblown to hurt Donald Trump are now calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo's head for under-reporting the deaths!
(3) Did you say green energy is fragile, Mr. Tucker Carlson? Take a look at ISS. It has been in outer space, where the temperature is –270 C (–455 F), for 23 years, without experiencing a significant power outage!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- "QAnon's Corrosive Impact on the US": CBS News "60 Minutes" 14-minute story.
- A despicable new way to force female sports officials out in Iran: Threats to publish their private photos!
- Andre Hossein's "Sheherazade": Dedicated to front-line health workers by an all-women Iranian orchestra.
- Persian music: Elnaz Abedini's wonderful rendition of "Gol-e Goldun," with piano accompaniment by Arnika.
(5) Global weirding: An excellent explanation of global weirding (extreme weather events becoming more intense and more frequent), a direct result of unprecedented warming in the Arctic region. Texas has an unusual cold spell every decade or so, each time officials promising investigations and action!
(6) How many of the 0.5 million US deaths from COVID-19 were preventable? I hope Trump is asked this question repeatedly, by every reporter, once he emerges from hiding at Mar-a-Lago.
(7) Linux on Mars: NASA's Perseverance Rover and its Ingenuity drone helicopter use Linux and custom-built NASA software based on JPL's open-source F' framework, which facilitates rapid development of embedded applications. This is the first time open-source software has been used for all aspects of a space mission.
(8) "Jews and the American West": This webinar was part of a UCLA series exploring discrimination, bias, and race relations in Jewish studies. Panelists Sarah Imhoff (Indiana U.) and David S. Koffman (York U.) presented ideas from their books:
Imhoff: Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism [Link]
Koffman: No Better Home? Jews, Canada, and the Sense of Belonging [Link]
Koffman: The Jews' Indian: Colonialism, Pluralism and Belonging in America [Link]
The discussion, moderated by Caroline Luce (UCLA), explored Jews' relationship to the physical and discursive landscapes of the American west. How did the American colonial project shape Jewish ideas about masculinity, morality, and violence? How has the figure of the Jewish frontiersman been used to advance ideologies of belonging, both in the US and around the world? Using historical materials drawn from their research, Imhoff and Koffman considered western Jewish subjectivity and the place of "the frontier" in American Jewish history.
One of the interesting phenomena discussed was American Jews paying lip service to "back to the land" ideology of those moving to the American West, viewed as the essence of Americanness, while being hesitant to practice what they preached. Movement to the American West and Zionism shared in common the notion of "muscular Jewishness." But while American Jews supported the formation of Israel, very few of them moved there to help develop the fledgling country. From my personal experience, this attitude is still prevalent: I know many Jews who praise Israel and the Israeli lifestyle, while lacking any personal interest to follow the "next year in Jerusalem" mantra of their religious prayers.
Another interesting fact I learned from this webinar is that "Office (now Bureau) of Indian Affairs" was part of the War Department from its inception in 1824 to 1849, when it was moved to the then newly-formed Department of the Interior.
A recording of this fascinating webinar will be uploaded to Alan D. Leve Center's YouTube page within a week.

2021/02/21 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The Metric System prefixes, from yotta (10^-24) to yocto (10^24) The beautiful nature of Talesh region, Guilan Province, Iran (1) Images of the day: [Left] The Metric System prefixes (see the next item below). [Right] The beautiful nature of Talesh region, Guilan Province, Iran.
(2) The Metric System prefixes, from yotta (10^–24) to yocto (10^24): Computer engineers are going through prefixes at the top of the scale, necessitating the use of a new one every decade or so. Shortly before 2010, we built petaFLOPS supercomputers, capable of executing 10^15 floating-point operations per second. Now, we are on the verge of achiving exascale, or 10^18 FLOPS, computing capability. Once exaFLOPS computing power is at hand, we will start working on zetascale, or 10^21 FLOPS, systems, and a decade later, we will have our eyes on yottaFLOPS, or 10^24 FLOPS, capability. At that point, we have to expand this table with additional prefixes! At the other extreme of the scale, we computer engineers have a bit more time. We are already done with microelectronics and are focusing on nanoelectronics. An atom's size in on the order of 10^–10 meters, so even picoelectronics would be a stretch, let alone femtoelectronics and beyond. Smaller numbers do exist in nature. For example, Planck length is a bit more than 10^–35 m and Planck time is around 10^–43 s.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Imagine looking out of an airplane window and seeing this: United Airlines jet loses engine parts in flight.
- Behnam Mahjoubi's wife, mother, & sister mourn his death under torture in Iran's notorious Evin Prison.
- NASA's Perseverance Rover continues to send back images from Mars. [Images]
- Iranians living abroad: Overall distribution, plus detailed stats for the Americas and Europe. [Charts]
- Shardad Rohani is featured in this wonderful performance of Persian music by Vancouver Opera Orchestra.
(4) Sara Khatun, an ancient Jewish holy place in Iran: Pir-e Bakran, a small city located 30 km southwest of Isfahan, is named after Muhammad ibn Bakra, a Sufi saint and mystic. A stone dating to 500 BC was discovered in Pir-e Bakran's Jewish cemetery in 1948, suggesting that Jews have lived in the area for at least 2500 years. The holiest shrine of the Jews is also located in this city. The 1400-years-old shrine is known as Astar Khatun, Sara Khatun, Setareh Khatun, or Sarah Bat-Asher. Both Jews and Muslims pray there, sometimes together and at other times, separately. [12-minute video]
(5) In Iran, husbands own their wives (part 2): A husband's permission is needed for a married woman to work outside the home, study, travel abroad, or undergo surgery. The husband also has the final word on housing, wealth-sharing, birth control, number of children, divorce, and custody of children. These provisions can be overwritten at the time of marriage, if both parties agree to it and put the terms in the marriage contract. Women often do not take advantage of these rights and find themselves trapped when issues arise after marriage (such as multiple women athletes not allowed by their husbands to travel abroad for international tournaments). Recently, Hoda Amid and her attorney Najmeh Vahedi were sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison, plus professional sanctions, for offering educational workshops that made women aware of their rights and taught them how to claim these rights at the time of marriage. They are accused of cooperating with the US against Iranian family and women's affairs. [In Persian, with photos]

2021/02/20 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
An early image sent back from Mars by NASA's Perseverance Rover Cartoon: 'Masks are still tyranny! (My face is just cold)'
Webinar on social decision-making: Screenshot 2 Webinar on social decision-making: Screenshot 1 Webinar on social decision-making: Screenshot 3 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] The government can't do anything right: Except that it just landed the SUV-size Perseverance Rover (nick-named "Percy") on Mars, ~200 million km away from Earth, after it traveled for seven months through space, to look for signs of ancient life on the red planet. [Top right] Cartoon of the day: "Masks are still tyranny! (My face is just cold)." [Bottom row] Screenshots from the February 19 Zoom-based webinar, "Social Decision-Making: Insights from Decision Neuroscience" (see the last item below).
(2) One of the many unique features of NASA's Perseverance Rover: The Mars exploration vehicle has a drone helicopter (Ingenuity), which will be the first thing to fly outside our Earth.
(3) I had my second dose of COVID-19 vaccine early Friday afternoon: So far, all is well and normal, as evident from this photo. I will let you know if something bad happens!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump refuses to meet with Nikki Haley at Mar-a-Lago, after she criticized him for the January 6 DC riot.
- Ted Cruise: Carnival offering for leaving senior citizens in the snow and having fun on a luxury cruise ship.
- Shoshana Zuboff: Two-hour talk in Berlin, with Q&A, entitled "Surveillance Capitalism and Democracy."
- Farhang Foundation's 12th Annual Celebration of Nowruz (virtual event), Sat. 2021/03/20, 6:00 PM PDT.
(5) "Social Decision-Making: Insights from Decision Neuroscience": This was the title of a fascinating on-line lecture by Professor A. G. Sanfy (Radboud U. Nijmegen, the Netherlands) early Friday morning; more-reasonable time for most of the 200+ attendees in Europe and elsewhere!
Our lives consist of a constant stream of decisions and choices, from the mundane to the highly consequential. The standard approach to experimentally examining decision-making has been to examine choices with clearly-defined probabilities and outcomes (e.g., a 50-50 gamble vs. winning/losing half of the same amount of money for sure; risk aversion, loss aversion), however it is an open question as to whether decision models describing these situations can be extended to choices that must be made by assessing the intentions and preferences of both oneself and of another social partner.
The latter class of social decision-making offers a useful approach to examine more complex forms of decisions, which may in fact better approximate many real-life choices. In particular, these social interactive scenarios reveal motivations other than economic gain that appear to guide our decisions in a systematic fashion. Examples are drawn from studies that use economic games in conjunction with functional neuroimaging and computational modelling to observe how players decide in real, consequential, social contexts.
Social factors that affect our decision-making include notions of fairness, cooperation, competition, trust, reciprocity, revenge, and spite. The first of these factors was discussed in some detail through the famous experiment of giving a sum of money to one player and asking him/her to share part of the money with a second player. If the second player accepts the offer, both get to keep their shares. Otherwise, neither one gets any money. Rejecting an offer because we deem it unfair doesn't make economic sense. In fact, children (in an experiment that replaces money with candy) would happily accept even a small offer of candy. But, as we grow older, we become a lot more sensitive to unfairness.

2021/02/18 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB North Campus Open Space: Photo 1 UCSB North Campus Open Space: Photo 2 UCSB North Campus Open Space: Photo 3 (1) Another windy, but otherwise pleasant, Wednesday afternoon at UCSB's North Campus Open Space: My heart goes out to fellow-Americans, suffering from inclement weather in the Midwest and on the East Coast.
(2) IEEE Central Coast Section Student Video Contest, "Adapting to the Hybrid Virtual World": Register for submitting 2-minute video essays by March 20, 2021, 10:00 PM PDT (submission deadline May 2). Cash prizes of $300, $200, and $100 for the top-3 selections, with possible $50 awards for honorable mentions.
(3) University of California updates its library search function: A replacement for the previous catalog search software system, Melvyl, will allow seamless searching and borrowing from all 10 campus libraries. The new system will go live on July 27, 2021.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- NASA's Perseverance Rover successfully landed on Mars.
- Our apologies to Mexico: When we send our vacationing Senators there, we don't send the best & brightest!
- The tree that bears 40 different kinds of fruit. [1-minute video]
- If science is a liberal conspiracy, then liberals sure make better conspiracy theories than conservatives!
(5) In Iran, husbands own their wives: Samira Zargari, head coach of women's alpine ski team could not accompany the team to a tournament in Italy, because her husband didn't give her permission to travel!
(6) Iranian mullahs are cutting to the chase: They no longer pretend to support democracy, not even its Islamic variety. One cleric has said that Iran doesn't need a president who has a plan or an agenda. "We need an executive who obeys and carries out the Leader's commands" (I saw a video of the said cleric, but I can no longer find it on-line; perhaps the regime has silenced him to keep appearances). Meanwhile, the regime wants to show broad participation, to boast about its popularity. So, token moderate candidates may be allowed to run, provided they have no chance of winning. The regime also plans to reduce the number of conservative candidates, to prevent vote-splitting. Yet another "engineered" election.
(7) How the heart became a symbol of love: "You can have a heart, and you can lose it. You can leave it in San Francisco. Or, you can suffer from heartache, and you might get a toothache from all the sentimental heart-shaped candies that emerge each February. That's an awful lot of emotion for an organ that is, essentially, a big muscle. Over the years, the heart has gone from being the body's nerve center, to the symbolic home of the soul, and to a biomechanical marvel. Its journey tells us a little about the way we view the world and our place in it." [Source: Discover magazine] [Read more]
(8) Final thought for the day: Maybe in lieu of a border wall, Texas should have been building a modern electrical grid and connecting it to neighboring states and, perhaps, to Mexico.

2021/02/17 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of 'IEEE Spectrum' magazine, issue of February 2021 You can see, and perhaps recognize, the face in this image by squinting your eyes Image of the first page of an article on SETI in 'IEEE Spectrum' magazine, issue of February 2021
Park-bench design for avid book readers Images of Godzilla, Rodan, Mitch McConnell, and Donald Trump Hey, President Biden is carrying files and papers: I had forgotten that presidents do that! (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Cover of the February 2021 issue of IEEE Spectrum magazine: From today's controlling hands and fingers to tomorrow's restoring the sense of touch. [Top center] You can see, and perhaps recognize, the face in this image by squinting your eyes. [Top right] Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence: The SETI project is still going strong (image of the first page of an article in IEEE Spectrum magazine, issue of February 2021). [Bottom left] Park-bench design for avid book readers. [Bottom center] Bring out the popcorn: The fight scene between the film's two scary and hated monsters is starting! [Bottom right] Hey, President Biden is carrying files and papers: I had forgotten that presidents do that!
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with Iraq's Ayatollah Sistani in March. [Source: IranWire]
- Young boy's violin performance of the Hungarian "Chardash": Wonderful!
- Trump is in mourning: His rabid supporter Rush Limbaugh dies at 70. The world has a bit less hate today.
- I am surprised that no conspiracy theory has sprung up yet that the Clintons had Rush Limbaugh killed!
(3) Texas mayor, who called residents "lazy," "weak," and "socialist" when they complained about power outages and having no heat in their homes amid freezing cold, quits his post: He told his constituents, "the strong will survive and the weak will perish." He perished!
(4) US storms and cold spells have killed 20, left many without electricity (particularly in Texas), and delayed the distribution and administration of vaccines.
(5) Tonight's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Dr. Kerem Camsari (ECE Dept., UCSB) spoke under the title "Understanding Quantum Computing Through Negative Probabilities." Eighteen Section members and guests attended this enlightening talk.
Dr. Camsari began by lowering expectations about the term "Understanding" in his title, quoting physicist Richard Feynman who famously said "nobody understands quantum mechanics." Despite this tongue-in-cheek statement, Feynman provided one of the clearest conceptual pictures of quantum behavior in terms of a path formulation of quantum mechanics.
Dr. Camsari's approach is to try to understand the quantum universe by starting from a probabilistic world. As Feynman observed some 40 years ago, the main difference between a probabilistic world and a quantum world can be traced to the idea that probabilities need to be generalized to involve negative (or even complex) values. An outcome with negative probability cancels a similar one with positive probability, unlike in the case of normal probabilities, which always add up. The latter property allows us to do approximate computations by ignoring outcomes with very low probabilities.
After presenting certain applications that can be handled by probabilistic computing, which is more-easily realizable than quantum computing, Dr. Camsari proceeded to show how the difference above can be related to the recent groundbreaking demonstration of quantum advantage in engineered quantum computers and discussed some recent developments of probabilistic computing that can help accelerate the solution of computationally-hard problems. [Some screenshots]

2021/02/16 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Images related to the BBC Persian report on the Unicode Consortium Tweet responding to an Iranian cleric who declared that he is dying from women's bike-riding, which is an insult to God Cartoon: New seat design for Iranian women who ride bikes
Circular Sudoku: Discover the rules and solve it Math problem: Find the area and the perimeter of the shaded region in the figure formed by a half-circle Missing 'R': Department of Corrections is in need of correction! (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Images for the BBC Persian report on the Unicode Consortium (see the last item below). [Top center] Tweet responding to an Iranian cleric who declared that he is dying from women's bike-riding, which is an insult to God: Sister, please pedal a bit harder to finish this guy off! [Top right] Cartoon of the day: New seat design for Iranian women who ride bikes. [Bottom left] Circular Sudoku: Discover the rules and solve it. [Bottom center] Puzzle: Find the perimeter and area of the shaded region in the figure, assuming that the half-circle has diameter d. [Bottom right] Department of Corrections is in need of correction!
(2) Congressional Republicans are a special breed: GOP governors, mayors, and other local Republican officials increasingly support President Biden's $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan.
(3) Torture in Iranian prisons: Behnam Mahjoubi, a young Iranian dissident Sufi, who was tortured in prison, dies in a Tehran hospital while shackled to his bed. [In Persian: Tweet 1; Tweet 2]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Dr. Anthony Fauci wins $1M prize from a private Israeli foundation for "courageously defending science."
- So many different kinds of kebob that even the chef needs labels on the skewers to introduce them all.
- Golnoush Khaleghi, Iranian musician and music researcher, dead at 80 in Washington DC.
- Persian music: Sample work by Golnoush Khaleghi, conducting an orchestra named in honor of her dad.
(5) The disappearing flu: Masking, social-distancing, and school/business closures have reduced the number of regular flu cases to ~1% of last year. While this reduction isn't sustainable, COVID-19 does carry lessons for dealing with the mighty flu.
(6) John Oliver warns us about the next vicious pandemic in this fact-filled 20-minute video: Rather than forget about COVID-19 once things go back to normal, we really must remember the way we feel now and invest in health initiatives accordingly.
(7) Is Persian script's fate in the hands of technocrats? Not really! This BBC Persian report sensationalizes the role of the Unicode Consortium, elevating it to the level of a language academy, whereas it is merely a technical body for setting standards on how to represent letters, digits, and other symbols in binary format in such a way that different computers have a consistent view and interpretation of each language. The rules of forming symbols, using punctuation marks, and other details of languages and associated scripts continue to be set by the users of each language and cultural academies, not by technocrats within the Unicode Consortium.
[Related article by D. Ashouri: "A Look at the History of the Persian Language and Script in Modern Times"]

2021/02/15 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Presidents' Day: On this day, we celebrate caring and competent individuals who have served in our country's highest office Meme: Unity without principles makes no sense Webinar: Book talk on the politics of history in Saudi Arabia
Image of the Web page for the UCSB graduate course ECE 252B Dueling-giants meme: Apple and Facebook Image of the Web page for the UCSB graduate course ECE 1B (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Happy Presidents' Day: On this day, we celebrate caring and competent individuals who have served in our country's highest office. (P.S.: I am listening to the audio version of Obama's latest book, A Promised Land, which I will review in due course.) [Top center] Unity without principles makes no sense: The Republicans, with their total disregard of the US Constitution and political decorum, just made it more difficult for President Biden to pursue his unity agenda. [Top right] Webinar: Book talk on the politics of history in Saudi Arabia (see the last item below). [Bottom left & right] My spring quarter 2021 courses: I have updated the Web pages for my graduate course on computer arithmetic (ECE 252B) and computer engineering freshman seminar (ECE 1B). [Bottom center] Dueling giants: Apple and Facebook.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Cold snap in the US: Oklahoma activates National Guard as low temperatures set 100-year record.
- Texas administers rolling blackouts after 30 GW of production capacity is knocked off-line by freezing cold.
- Social media app Parler re-launches using independent technology, wows not to facilitate crime.
- Wall Street Journal urges Republicans to ditch Trump: Asserts he won't win another national election.
- Melania Trump's Valentine's Day tweet is conspicuously missing any mention of her husband.
- "Social Motivations in Choice: Insights from Decision Neuroscience": Webinar, 2021/02/19, 7:10 AM PST.
(3) "Archive Wars: The Politics of History in Saudi Arabia": This was the title of today's book talk by Professor Rosie Bsheer (History Department, Harvard U.), whose teaching and research interests center on Arab intellectual and social movements, petro-capitalism & state formation, and the production of historical knowledge & commemorative spaces. The event was sponsored by Northwestern University. Moderator Rebecca Johnson and two discussants, Safa Al-Saeedi and Hazal Ozdemir, posed a series of questions, amplifying and challenging the points made by the speaker.
Saudi Arabia is often viewed by Orientalists as a historyless country, which is a source of Islamist movements and is in turn threatened by those movements. The country's development plan required secularization of the post-Gulf-War Saudi state and the construction of a history in the form of a national archive, which isn't publicly accessible and is a source of endless conflicts between entities which want to house and control it. Reordering of urban spaces in Riyadh and Mecca, which transformed these two cities into world centers for commercial mega-projects and the global fashion industry, was part of this synthesized or imagined history in the service of state-building, which obliterated thousand-year-old topographies.
Controlling knowledge production in order to shape the historical record according to plans of the Saudi state is being confronted by researchers such as Professor Bsheer, who try to expose such efforts and document alternate histories that are being erased in favor of the official narrative. A striking example is the reshaping of the Ottoman history to fit the state narrative about the formation and subsequent development of the Saudi kingdom. Ironically, similar efforts are underway in Saudi Arabia's arch-enemy Iran, except that in Iran's case the task is rendered more difficult by the sheer amount of history to re-write!
My question (which went unanswered): You mentioned aggressive secularization and modernization in post-Gulf-War Saudi Arabia. Where are the external manifestations of these efforts? Buildings alone do not bring about modernity. Allowing women to drive only recently, public beheadings, and imprisonment of women activists are indicative of failure in moving toward secularization and continuing to have religion and religious authorities fully in charge.

2021/02/14 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Valentine's Day: Photos of me and my kids Valentine's Day special: My daughter's bouquet of chicken nuggets Hero vs. zero: Goodman and McConnell
Trees I photographed during my long afternoon walk in Isla Vista and UCSB West Campus: Batch 2 Trees I photographed during my long afternoon walk in Isla Vista and UCSB West Campus: Batch 1 Trees I photographed during my long afternoon walk in Isla Vista and UCSB West Campus: Batch 3 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Happy Valentine's Day: May my beloveds, family members and friends, stay healthy and recognize the vast power of love, especially in these days of anguish and uncertainly. I love you all! [Top center] Valentine's Day special: My daughter's bouquet of chicken nuggets. [Top right] Hero vs. zero: The hero helped save the lives of US legislators and their staffers. The zero hid behind the US Constitution, which he trampled on numerous occasions during the Obama and Trump administrations. [Bottom row] During today's invigorating walk on a windy, but otherwise pleasant, afternoon, I paid attention to the trees along my path in Isla Vista and UCSB West Campus, focusing on how each tree has its individual personality, much like a human.
(2) Sci-Tech Oscar: The 2021 award goes to three computer-science PhD graduates of Germany's Saarland U. (Sven Woop, Carsten Benthin, Ingo Wald) for co-developing or doing research on the Intel Embree Ray Tracing Library, used to maximize photorealism in virtual game environments and animated films.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's defense lawyers lied when they claimed he was immediately horrified by the Capitol attack.
- The pay gap between male and female scientists is widening in North America.
- Ancient beer factory, dating back ~5000 years, unearthed in Abydos, Egypt.
- Virtual guided tour of Jerusalem's Old City and Bethlehem: Monday, February 22, 2021, 12:00-3:00 PM PST.
- Persian music: A wonderful jazzy performance of the popular oldie song "Simin Bari." [4-minute video]
- Classical Persian music: Solmaz Badri performs in Female Voice of Iran concert. [36-minute video]
(4) Islamic justice: Fariborz Kalantari, the reporter who exposed deep corruption of an Iranian official, has been sentenced to 3 years in prison, while the corrupt official got 2 years!
(5) Solarwinds: How Russian spies carried out a sophisticated cyberattack against the US, as our President was preoccupied with contesting the election outcome and blaming China for the attack. [14-minute video]
(6) Germany-based Iranian artist Tina Amy performs a Persian song, "Ghazale 24," featuring a Sa'adi poem, and an English song, "Starlight," she wrote in Turkey, on her grueling immigration journey to Germany.

2021/02/13 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Things checked off my to-do list: Valentine's Day flowers & balloon-heart Things checked off my to-do list: Haircut I had decided to wait for the day after Valentine's Day to buy discounted chocolates, but this box was too tempting!
Commemorating the 29th anniversary of my dad's passing: English poem Memories from February 13 of years past Commemorating the 29th anniversary of my dad's passing: Persian poem (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Things checked off my to-do list: Taking mom for her first vaccine shot. Valentine's Day flowers & balloon-heart. Haircut. I had decided to wait for the day after Valentine's Day to buy discounted chocolates, but this box, seen at Costco, was too tempting! [Bottom left & right] Commemorating my dad's 29th anniversary of passing: Under normal conditions, we would have visited the Santa Barbara Cemetery this weekend to honor the memory of my dad, who passed away in 1992 at age 70. The English and Persian poems are from last year, which I recited at today's small family gathering, with the numbers updated to 99 and 29 for this year. [Bottom center] Memories from February 13 of years past.
(2) Key observation of the day: The First Amendment protects citizens from government's over-reach. It does not protect government officials from consequences of their words and actions.
(3) The Black Renaissance: A special Time magazine feature (issue of February 15-22, 2021) characterizes An American Marriage by Tayari Jones as "an intimate, bruising account of a couple who fall out of love." I read the book in 2018, giving it 3 stars in my GoodReads review.
(4) Trump's legal problems are just beginning: His celebration of impeachment acquittal will be short-lived.
(5) Street view of 1940s New York: During 1939-1941, the Works Progress Administration collaborated with New York City Tax Department to collect photographs of most buildings in NYC's 5 boroughs. In 2018, NYC Municipal Archives completed the digitization and tagging of these photos. This Web site places them on a map, where every clickable dot represents a building photo.
(6) How dreams protect our brains: Before the relatively recent electrification of the world, our ancestors spent half of their time in the dark. During this darkness period, the visual cortex could lose territory to other senses that aren't disadvantaged by lack of light. The "defensive activation theory" suggests that dream-sleep exists to keep neurons in the visual cortex active, to prevent a takeover by the neighboring senses. Fascinating!
(7) A new marketing scam: "The product is free. You just pay for shipping." The latter charge is the sum of the real shipping cost, the cost of the product, and a profit margin!
(8) Punish click-baiters: If the headline doesn't provide the most-important fact of the story, don't read the rest. Here is an example. "Bill Cosby's Net Worth Left His Family Stunned." The most-important fact here is Cosby's net worth. Is it too large to believe? Too small? It isn't uncommon for click-baiters to bury that most-important fact amidst many pages of text, if they even disclose it, forcing you to go through a lot of material and, of course, many ads!

2021/02/12 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Chinese New Year: Here comes the year of the ox! Some of the burgers offered by Heart Attack Grill in Chandler, Arizona Newsweek magazime cover: The long-term cost of COVID-19 in dementia and other brain disorders
(1) Images of the day: [Top left] Happy Chinese/Lunar New Year 4719: Please welcome the year of the ox! [Top center] "Taste to die for": This is the motto of Heart Attack Grill in Chandler, Arizona. Its Quadruple-Bypass Burger has 8000 calories, with four half-pound patties and buns fried in lard. Instead of a salad bar, the joint has a lard-fries bar. Needless to say that they don't put lettuce on their burgers and they don't serve Diet Coke! [Top right] The long-term cost of COVID-19 in dementia and other brain disorders is featured in Newsweek magazine. [Bottom row] Sample poems of Forough Farrokhzad (see the last item below).
(2) Roots of misogyny in Iran: This iconic 1979 photo by Abbas Attar shows that Iran's misogynistic laws were predictable by observing those who took to the streets in support of an Islamic form of government.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- White supremacy & misogyny: Nine far-right insurrectionists have a history of violence against women.
- For Valentine's Day, I'm going to do nothing. But the next day, I'll go shopping for discounted chocolates.
- Memory from February 12, 2014: "Dreams are today's answers to tomorrow's questions." ~ Edgar Cayee
- The knowledge in your mind can be acquired by anyone, but the song in your heart is yours alone. [Goethe]
(4) "Forough Farrokhzad, Modernity and Madness": This was the title of a webinar held today, 54 years after Forough Farrokhzad's passing at age 32 in a car accident. Dr. Leila Rahimi Bahmany (Goethe University Frankfurt am Main; author of Mirrors of Entrapment and Emancipation: Forugh Farrokhzad and Sylvia Plath) spoke on the brilliant and troubled poet's body of work, entrapped in the crossroad of tradition and modernity, with conflicting cultural images of womanhood and motherhood. An audience of 250+ attended this webinar.
"Poetry inserts a fracture, a duality and insanity in the structure of Farrokhzad's subjectivity, and poetry is the very same space where she confronts her insanity. Farrokhzad textualizes her madness. She addresses it by its name. Through projecting her madness into her text, and thereby exteriorizing it, Farrokhzad ultimately manages to move beyond it through the very act of writing."
The main part of Dr. Rahimi Bahmani's talk concerned the following four categories of madness and their manifestations in the poetry of Forough Farrokhzad:
- Love-madness: Personified by Ophelia in "Hamlet" and Majnoon in classical Persian literature.
- Poetic madness: Madness & creativity seem linked, particularly in artists, musicians, writers.
- Mad double: Farrokhzad sometimes refers to herself in the second or third person, the double.
- Madness as a social stigma: Deeming women mad leads naturally to alleging lack of intellect.
I have attended multiple lectures/webinars on Forough Farrokhzad. It seems that every time I listen to or read research reports about Farrokhzad, I learn several new things about this extraordinary, trailblazing poet, who singlehandedly stood against patriarchy and misogyny prevalent in her time, when other women succumbed to social pressures.
The images are screenshots from the webinar, augmented with two photos from an Internet image search.

2021/02/11 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iran's architectural marvels: Feen Garden/Bath-house, Kashan (16th century) February 11 is the UN-designated International Day of Women and Girls in Science Portraits of Khomein and Khamenei, Islamic Republic of Iran's first and second Supreme Leaders (1) Images of the day: [Left] Iran's architectural marvels: Feen Garden/Bath-house, Kashan (16th century). [Center] Today is the 2021 International Day of Women and Girls in Science: The United Nations designated this day in 2015 to celebrate the critical role women and girls have in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The day also serves to encourage women and girls to enter STEM-related fields. In a tweet, UN Women thanked in particular those working in the health and social sector during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Right] Today is the 42nd anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution (see the last item below).
(2) China is gaining influence in Latin America: Nearly all countries in the region have signed up to China's Belt and Road Initiative. China and Brazil, the region's largest economy, have $100 billion in bilateral trade.
(3) Quote of the day on spineless, immoral Republican Senators: "I love the fact that the entire moral fate of the country depends on finding just 17 honest Republicans. It's like some impossible task from a fairytale." ~ (((Jennifer Mendelsohn))), sharing a text she received from her brother
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Saudis try to rebrand for the Biden era by releasing from jail women's-rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul.
- How diverse groups, from businesses to labor, formed an ad-hoc coalition to safeguard the 2020 election.
- Pile-up on icy road: Massive crash on Texas interstate highway 35, involving 100 cars, kills at least 5.
- On philosophy: "To do is to be." ~ Nietzsche | "To be is to do." ~ Kant | "Do be do be do." ~ Sinatra
(5) Today's Google doodle: The image celebrates the talented and prolific Mexican composer Maria Grever, best known in the US for her oft-performed song "What a Difference a Day Makes."
(6) Fact-checking Islamic Republic of Iran's founder on this 42nd anniversary of Iran's Islamic Revolution: IranWire has published a series of reports, each one assessing the extent to which Khomeini and his successor have delivered on their pre-Revolution promises. Spoiler alert: They were all lies!
- We respect the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- No more poverty after the Revolution
- We will reverse Shah's stifling of economic growth
- No more torture after the Revolution
- Laws will protect the rights of women and minorities
Here are a couple more, not discussed by IranWire:
- Clerics will act as observers, not as government officials
- The Islamic economy will be free from corruption

2021/02/10 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The birds of UCSB's North Campus Open Space, photographed early this afternoon: Photo 2 The birds of UCSB's North Campus Open Space, photographed early this afternoon: Photo 3 The birds of UCSB's North Campus Open Space, photographed early this afternoon: Photo 1 (1) Images of the day: The birds of UCSB's North Campus Open Space, photographed early this afternoon.
(2) Theory vs. practice: In this video montage, Ayatollah Khamenei is shown talking about how "Islamic etiquette" is lacking on social media, where people curse and insult others. Then, he is shown cursing and using vile language in his own speeches!
(3) Cartoon version of a video I had posted before: Recitation of a humorous political poem in Perabic (Persianized Arabic). It would have been rather difficult to understand without the subtitles.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Georgia finds Trump's comment "I just want to find 11,780 votes" criminal and opens an investigation.
- Fossil fuel subsidies amount to 1/16 of the global GDP, or $5 trillion. [Source: E&T magazine, Nov. 2020]
- You want rib-eye steak? Natural or 3D-printed? Get ready for questions like this at the restaurant!
- Singaporean math professor lectures for 2 hours and is horrified to learn he was muted the whole time!
- This viral image is digital art, not "the clearest picture of the Sun by NASA," as many have claimed.
- Title song from "Phantom of the Opera": Sarah Brightman and Antonio Banderas (a surprise for me) sing.
(5) Dealing with sparse data faster and using less energy through in-memory computation: Washington State University researchers have used ReRAM (resistive random-access memory) to avoid memory accesses when multiplying by or adding 0s. In simulation experiments, the new chip design operated three times faster and with 11 times greater energy-efficiency than GPUs.
(6) TurboVax: Difficulties faced by many New Yorkers in securing COVID-19 vaccination appointments has led to do-it-yourself Web sites for aggregating availability data in one convenient place.
(7) A new robbery scheme in Iran (with lessons for us in the West): A group of thieves ring your doorbell, with only one of them appearing in front of the peep-hole or camera. That person calls you by name and indicates that s/he has found some of your documents on the street. If you are naive enough to open the door, the group forces its way in and robs you at gun- or knife-point. Where do they get your name? From lists sold on the black market by Snap (Iran's version of Uber) drivers or delivery companies.
[P.S.: To make things worse, doorbell security cameras are easily hacked.]
(8) Set up, setup, set-up: Errors such as "I want to setup my app" tick me off. "Setup" (noun) refers to an arrangement, not the act of preparing for something, which is "set up" (phrasal verb). The hyphenated form is sometimes used in lieu of the preferred single word. But there are instances where "set-up" is both clearer and more appropriate, as in "the set-up process." Other examples in this category include "pickup," "makeup," "getaway" ("I want to get away"), and "login" ("my login name" vs. "I have to log in").

2021/02/09 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
QAnon logo over the Capitol Building Zoom meeting of Fanni '68 classmates: Alternate-history chart for Iran Persian humor: Secret meeting between Putin and Ghalibaf (1) Images of the day: [Left] After four years of demagoguery: A country that prided itself of leadership in science & technology now leads the world in superstition & conspiracy theories! [Center] Zoom meeting of Fanni '68 classmates: Alternate-history tree (see the last item below). [Right] Persian Humor: Putin and Ghalibaf in a secret meeting. (This is a play on words. "Putin" means "boot"; "Ghalibaf" (name of Iran's parliament leader, who recently traveled to Russia and was reportedly snubbed by Putin) means "carpet weaver.")
(2) Will Iranian women be better off if they are allowed to run for presidency? In October 2020, Iran's Guardian Council reversed course and declared that women will be able to run for presidency in 2021. Some women's-rights advocates welcomed the change of heart, but is this really an advance?
The reversal gives the Iranian regime a pass with regards to gender equity, without changing anything for women. Iran's president has essentially devolved into a powerless clerk who must carry out the wishes of the Supreme Leader, and is relentlessly attacked by the country's government-controlled media for the slightest disagreement with the Leader, so it makes very little difference if the clerk is a man or a woman. The Supreme Leader, who wields the real power, will be a man for eternity.
Candidates for presidency and other elected offices are screened by the all-male Guardian Council, so any woman passing the screening process will certainly not be a champion of women's rights. There are quite a few "conservative" women in Iran's parliament and other political centers who endorse wholeheartedly the country's patriarchal system, and the misogynistic attitudes and laws that hold it up.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The 2nd impeachment trial of Donald Trump is underway, after clearing the constitutionality hurdle. [Video]
- Only one in twelve citizens of the world live in full-democracies, according to the 2020 Democracy Index.
- Taking a cue from Donald Trump: Kansas City won Super Bowl LV. #StopTheSteal
- Kansas City management to NFL score-keeper: I just want you to find us 23 points!
- Remote learning isn't new: In the 1937 polio epidemic, radio instruction was tried. [Story]
(4) View from Australia: Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News enabled the lying, corrupt Donald Trump and his loony extreme-right supporters in the US, is doing the same through the lie-spreading Sky News in Australia.
(5) "Mohammad Mosaddeq's Report Card": This is the title of a series of presentations by Mr. Mohammad Amini in the Zoom gathering of Tehran University's College of Engineering Class of 1968 (Fanni '68). Today's Zoom session had 46 participants.
In last week's Part 2 of the discussion, Mr. Amini covered Mosaddeq and the Iranian civil society (his respect for and insistence on the rule of law). This week's discussion focused on the events leading to Mosaddeq's ouster as a result of the CIA-backed coup of 1953. This coup is one of the most-extensively debated events in modern Iranian history, with its proponents and opponents engaging in passionate, and sometimes bitter/violent, debate.
Next Tuesday, February 16, the series will conclude with a free discussion on all the topics covered in Parts 1-3.
I asked the following question: Has anyone written fictional or analytical accounts of how Iran's history would have unfolded had Mosaddeq prevailed over the Shah in 1953 or the Shah had prevailed over Khomeini in 1979? The speaker dismissed this question, but Wikipedia has an article on "Alternate history" (althist), with intriguing examples.
Here is a paragraph from the article, focusing on alternate historical accounts written over the past century:
"A number of alternate history stories and novels appeared in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (see, for example, Charles Petrie's If: A Jacobite Fantasy [1926]). In 1931, British historian Sir John Squire collected a series of essays from some of the leading historians of the period for his anthology If It Had Happened Otherwise. In this work, scholars from major universities (as well as important non-academic authors) turned their attention to such questions as 'If the Moors in Spain Had Won' and 'If Louis XVI Had Had an Atom of Firmness'. The essays range from serious scholarly efforts to Hendrik Willem van Loon's fanciful and satiric portrayal of an independent 20th century Dutch city state on the island of Manhattan. Among the authors included were Hilaire Belloc, Andre Maurois, and Winston Churchill."

2021/02/08 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Heart-shaped printed circuit: University of California loves technology! Perfect example of White Privilege: Cutting off water to a black inmate and providing organic food to a white prisoner (meme) Cover image of Carlo Rovelli's 'The Order of Time' (1) Images of the day: [Left] University of California loves technology! [Center] Perfect example of White Privilege: Cutting off water to a black inmate and providing organic food to a white prisoner arrested for the January 6 DC riot. [Right] Cover image of Carlo Rovelli's The Order of Time (see the last item below).
(2) Persian music: Faramarz Aslani collaborates with a group of people young and old, including several celebrities, to perform his signature song "Ageh Yeh Rooz." [3-minute video]
(3) Himalayan glacier breaks, likely due to climate change: Eighteen confirmed dead and 200+ missing (many of them likely dead) due to the resulting avalanche in India.
(4) Book review: Rovelli, Carlo, The Order of Time, translated from the 2017 Italian original by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre, Riverhead Books, 2018. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I am determined to find out what time is! So, after reading a number of books on the nature of time and our brain's perception of it, I picked up this book at my daughter's recommendation! Rovelli's popular-science writings include his wonderful Seven Brief Lessons on Physics, which garnered in my GoodReads review (rated 5 stars, posted in 2017). He does not disappoint in this concise book. Also, kudos to the translators for creating a highly-readable English edition.
A theoretical physicist known as one of the founders of loop quantum gravity, Rovelli also has deep interests in history and philosophy of science. His clear and scientifically-solid explanations have been likened to those of Stephen Hawking. Rovelli was born in Italy, lives in France, and is a US citizen.
Rovelli has indicated in an interview published in Physics World (2018) that his interest in time arises from the fact that "the basic equations of quantum gravity can be written without a time variable, and I wanted to fully understand what this means." He then goes on to state that: "Most mistakes about the nature of time, and much of the confusion, come from taking the full package of properties we attribute to time as forming a unique bundle that either is there or not. Now we understand that many properties we attribute to time come from approximations and simplifications." Rovelli believes that the mysteries of time will not be solved by physicists alone and that neuroscientists will have a part to play.
The book's title comes from the only surviving fragment of writing by Greek philosopher Anaximander who lived 26 centuries ago: "Things are transformed one into another according to necessity, and render justice to one another according to the order of time." Everything else we know about Anaximander comes from second-hand accounts of his ideas, including his belief that Earth floated in space. The order of time is what we denote by t in various physical equations, but what does t mean if time passes at different speeds, depending on our position and speed? From this genesis, the book unfolds in three parts.
The first part, entitled "The Crumbling of Time," covers the more-or-less familiar topics of time dilation, the arrow of time, relativity, synchronization, and Planck time, the smallest-possible length of time, 10^(–44) s. Through this first part, we see our notion of time crumble, like a snowflake that melts in your hand as you study it. We come to understand that "Physics does not describe how things evolve 'in time' but how things evolve in their own times, and how 'times' evolve relative to each other." We also learn that heat "traveling" in one direction, from warmer bodies to colder ones, is the only thing that distinguishes the past from the future. All other laws of physics are essentially reversible. In every instance when the past and the future are distinguishable, heat is involved. Clausius quantified this irreversible progress of heat in only one direction as entropy.
In the book's second part, Rovelli imagines a world without time, a notion entertained by those working on quantum gravity. To begin with, the world is made up of events, not things. Things, as we perceive them, are merely more-durable events. A stone, for example, is a long-lasting event, but it eventually turns into dust. We may ask about where the stone will be next week, but the question doesn't make sense for a short-lived kiss. A thing is nothing but a complex vibration of quantum fields, a temporary interaction of forces, a process that keeps its shape for a while. Thinking of the world as a collection of events "allows us to better grasp, comprehend, and describe it. It is the only way that is compatible with relativity."
In the highly-speculative third part, Rovelli wonders about human perception of time-flow in a timeless world, essentially undoing the crumbling act of the first part and suggesting that time is a human-made notion through which we make sense of our world; time does not exist independent of our life experiences. It is our memory that creates time and our time ends when we leave this world. "We see just a tiny window of the vast electromagnetic spectrum. We do not see the atomic structure of matter, nor do we see the curvature of space." Our vision of the world is blurred, but that's actually an advantage, not a handicap. We create tools, such as time, to help us survive in the face of uncertainty and incomplete knowledge.

2021/02/07 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Magazine cover: Popular Science Magazine cover: Time Magazine cover: Elle
Magazine cover: Entertainment Weekly Cartoon: On concerts by 1960s rock-n-roll bands Super Bowl snacks: Check! (1) Images of the day: [Top row & Bottom left] A few magazine-covers for this week. [Bottom center] Cartoon of the day: On concerts by 1960s rock-n-roll bands. [Bottom right] Snacks for Super Bowl LV!
(2) God's mood has improved substantially: No longer will he kick you out of heaven for eating an apple. Now you can gobble up billions and he won't mind. At worst, he will kick you out of Iran and into Canada!
(3) Perceptual-shift art: This art installation by Michael Murphy looks like a drawing from a distance, but it is actually composed of 2300 wooden balls of various sizes, hung in front of a blank canvas. Brilliant!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Avalanche kills 4 skiers in Utah's Salt Lake Valley: Four injured skiers were rescued by helicopter.
- More than $519 Cost to US taxpayers for Donald Trump's attempts to overturn the election result.
- A fraternity at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo was vandalized with swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti.
- Eleven-year-old piano prodigy Davin Ghazavi performes two pieces by Frederic Chopin.
- Memory from Feb. 7, 2018: A lively Irish tune, performed at UCSB Music Bowl during a noon mini-concert.
- Two-minute sample from Akira Kurosawa's 1990 film "Dreams," featuring paintings by Vincent van Gogh.
(5) The two Alis: Ali Khamenei and Ali Ansarian, one is Iran's Supreme Leader and benefits from the most-advanced health care in a fully-equipped private clinic within his residence and has likely already received two doses of a Western vaccine; the other was an ordinary citizen, a soccer star, who died of COVID-19 due to a ban on importing Western vaccines. Ordinary mortals are advised to use the healing powers of dead imams or superstitious alternative remedies such as violet oil or camel urine, while clerics and regime officials frequent clinics in Europe for the most basic care. [Facebook post, in Persian]
(6) A few black-cat analogies (from Wikipedia):
- Philosophy is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat.
- Metaphysics is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn't there.
- Theology is like being in a dark room and looking for a black cat that isn't there, and shouting "I found it!"
- Science is like being in a dark room looking for a black cat while using a flashlight.
(7) "Jews and the American West: Violence, Race, and Masculinity": This webinar about American Jewish history (Monday, February 22, 2021, 12:00 PM) brings together David S. Koffman (York U.), author of The Jews' Indian, and Sarah Imhoff (Indiana U.), author of Masculinity and the Making of American Judaism.
(8) One hundred Kurdish activists have been arrested in Iran: Among them is the 17-year-old poet from Marivan, Arezoo Mostafaei. [Masih Alinejad's tweet, in Persian] [#Free100KurdishActivists]
(9) A first at the Super Bowl: The one-sided 31-9 victory of Tampa Bay over KC was watchable, but not fun. However, Amanda Gorman's poetry recitation in honor of front-line healthcare workers, 25,000 of whom were in the stands, thanks to NFL paying for their trips, was magnificent!

2021/02/06 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
International combo meal: Pasta, salad, and barbari bread Cover image of Newsweek magazine Huge mug provides my daily exercise as I lift it repeatedly to sip tea or coffee
Flyer for Panel 2 on 'Why Women Write' Screenshot from a dance video shown during Panel 2 on 'Why Women Write' Iran's architecture: The Borujerdi House is a historic-house/museum in Kashan, Iran (1) Images of the day: [Top left & right] Food and drink: The international combo meal consists of pasta, salad, and Iranian-style barbari bread. The large green mug, shown for comparison alongside a venti Starbucks mug, is part of the birthday gifts I received from my children. Lifting it many times during the day to sip tea or coffee provides my daily exercise! [Top center] Cover image of Newsweek magazine. [Bottom left & center] Panel 2 on "Why Women Write" (see the last item below). [Bottom right] Iran's architecture: The Borujerdi House is a historic-house/museum in Kashan, Iran. It was built in 1857 by architect Ustad Ali Maryam for the bride of Borujerdi, a wealthy merchant. The bride came from the affluent Tabatabaei family, for whom the architect had built the nearby Tabatabaei House several years earlier.
(2) Quote of the day: "Thank you." ~ Two-word response from Screen Actors Guild to Donald Trump's letter of resignation ahead of a disciplinary hearing over his role in the January 6, 2021, DC riot
(3) "Why Women Write" (Panel 2): Hosted by PhD scholars Nasim Basiri (Oregon State U.) and Ozlem Has (U. Copenhagen), this second event in the series featured five participants. [Panel 1: Recording; My FB post]
As in the first panel, I was awestruck by the depth and passion with which the panelists expressed their thoughts and experiences. In my notes, I was able to capture only some of the poignant observations from each panelist, which I share with you in the following. Fortunately, the event has been recorded and the full 2-hour session is available on-line. [Panel 2: Recording; Event page; My FB post; My tweet]
Neeti Singh (mystic, poet, researcher, translator): Dr. N. Singh (PhD in English, classical vocalist) is an Associate Professor of English with The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Gujarat, India, according to her LinkedIn page. Dr. N. Singh was brought up in a culture where good women were quiet women, the quieter the better. Her latest books include a translation (The Punjabi, Sufi and Udhrite Semiotic of Baba Bulleh Shah's Verse) and a book about a woman sold into a brothel at a very young age, luckily escaping with help from a client (Peero: Maverick Bhakta and First Woman Poet of Punjab).
Katia D. Ulysse (fiction writer, educator): We learn from Ms. Ulysse's Web site that she didn't speak English when she left Haiti and came to the US. She loves Maya Angelou's quote, "There's no greater agony than bearing within you an untold story." Ms. Ulysse shared the results of her own inquiry from other women writers about why they write. She quoted from the many eloquent responses she received. One thread through the responses was survival and maintenance of the sisterhood.
Savita Singh (political theorist, feminist poet): Dr. S. Singh (PhD 1990, McGill U.) is a Professor at Delhi's School of Gender and Development, Indira Gandhi National Open University, Delhi, according to her on-line resume. She lectured at UCSB in 2019. She maintains that women write, because we wonder about ourselves from an early age. Writing opens women up to others, in defiance to patriarchy, which wants to keep them hidden. Dr. S. Singh's writings are political. They are not meant to be personally liberating, but liberating for all women. Her first important poem was a feminist manifesto entitled "Whose Woman Am I?". In the course of her presentation, Dr. S. Singh read her poem entitled "Unattended Things."
Nasrin Parvaz (author in exile): According to Ms. Parvaz's Web site, her women's-rights activism in Iran led to her arrest and a death sentence in 1982 (later commuted to a 10-year prison term). She fled Iran in 1993 and sought asylum in England. In prison, Ms. Parvaz communicated with other women prisoners via secret letters, which if discovered, would have led to severe punishment in the form of additional torture. She tried to publish her memoir, but publishers dismissed it as "unrelatable" for Western readers. Women throughout the world take care of too many other people to attend to their own ambitions and needs. The publishing world is male-dominated and women have a hard time making headway. A current project of Ms. Parvaz is trying to save the lives of 16 young men sentenced to death for political activism in Iran.
Saghi Ghahraman (poet in exile): A graduate of University of Tabriz, Iran, Ms. Ghahraman is based in Toronto, Canada, according to her LinkedIn page. Her interview as a gay activist got the Iranian paper Shargh banned in 2007. She was raised to become a writer, her parents never mentioning any other calling. Women with non-traditional gender identities are condemned for skirting social roles and wifely duties. She has received many threats from the Iranian community throughout the world, which consider her identity and activism shameful. One of the screenshots included in this post is from a dance based on a poem by Ms. Ghahraman.
During the Q&A segment of the panel, each participant was asked to read selections from her poetry or writings. Here is a question of mine (typed as a comment on the Facebook Live page, which apparently went unnoticed): I am interested in knowing how being involved in formal education (as in university level) changes the experience and activities of a writer. In other words, does the responsibility of teaching the younger generation place constraints on what you can and cannot do as a poet/writer?

2021/02/05 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Underage street vendor in Iran, trying to keep warm Cartoon: The modern-day Insolventian Man is no Vitruvian Man! Veresk railroad bridge in northern Iran
(1) Images of the day: [Top left] A child street-vendor in Iran trying to keep warm, as she awaits customers: An oil-rich Islamic Republic going on its 43rd year of existence, with its officials living in mansions and luxury condo-towers, has not been able to ensure that its children go to school, rather than be forced to peddle on the city streets to help their families survive. Eternal shame on Khamenei and his highly inept and corrupt cronies! [Top center] You have heard of Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, his concept of the ideal human-body proportions: Here is the modern-day Insolventian Man! [Top right] Veresk railroad bridge in northern Iran: Designed and built in 1934-1935 by Italians, the masonry-arch bridge is part of the south-north trans-Iranian railway connecting the Persian-Gulf port Bandar-e Shahpour (now Bandar-e Emam Khomeini) to the Caspian-Sea port Bandar-e Shah (now Bandar-e Torkaman). [Bottom row] A few magazine covers this week.
(2) Attributed to Plato: If someone's love is in your heart, don't take it too seriously, as the heart's function is to love, like the eye's function is to see. If you ever love someone with your mind, you have found true love.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The most-damning Trump tweet about the DC riot of January 6, sent after the Capitol siege.
- President Biden recommends that former President Trump not receive classified briefings.
- Christopher Plummer, classically-trained actor who also did the musical "The Sound of Music," dead at 91.
- Student tries to contact his on-line instructor via e-mail, only to discover he has been dead since 2019.
- Neural Networks: A 19-minute intro to one of the most-popular tools/algorithms for machine learning.
- A 2000-year-old Buddhist religious/educational site discovered under a cattle-grazing plot in Pakistan.
(4) Robo-race-car crash blamed on NaN: In the IEEE Floating-Point Standard, NaN (short for "not a number") is used as a special code when a computation produces an unrepresentable result or as a stand-in for an unknown value. Floating-point computation errors have been known to lead to problems, including the explosion of an Ariane 5 rocket in 1996, but this appears to be the first such incident blamed on NaNs.
(5) Gender Gap in STEM: Much has been written about the STEM gender gap, its causes, and remedies. A just-published article based on a Spanish study focuses on young girls' self-perception and test-anxiety in math. Until families equip girls to be self-confident and free from belief in gender stereotypes, the substantial gap in STEM achievement and skills will remain a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Ayuso, N., et al., "Gender Gap in STEM: A Cross-Sectional Study of Primary School Students' Self-Perception and Test Anxiety in Mathematics," IEEE Trans. Education, Vol. 64, No. 1, pp. 40-49, February 2021. [Image]

2021/02/04 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Last year, Franklin Graham, who worshipped a foul-mouthed, 'pussy-grabbing' President, was 'offended by Super Bowl's halftime show, featuring J. Lo and Shakira Photo posted by Nyshawana Francis-Thompson, Ed.D., of her daughter joining Madam VP Harris during her swearing-in ceremony Spring is already in the air: Wednesday, February 3, afternoon in Goleta's Camino Real Commercial Center (1) Images of the day: [Left] Last year, Franklin Graham, who worshipped a foul-mouthed, 'pussy-grabbing' President, was "offended" by Super Bowl's halftime show, performed by two talented & energetic middle-aged Latina moms. Nary a word, though, about scantily-clad, young, white cheerleaders who perform at virtually every football game! [Center] Little girl inspired: Photo posted on LinkedIn by Nyshawana Francis-Thompson, Ed.D., of her daughter joining Madam VP Kamala Harris during her swearing-in ceremony. [Right] Spring is already in the air: Wed. afternoon, February 3, in Goleta's "New Town" (Camino Real Commercial Center).
(2) Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering: The 2021 edition of the Prize has been awarded to UCSB's Shuji Nakamura and other scientists/engineers responsible for the development of LED lighting.
(3) Today Facebook turns 17: The social-media company has more than 9000 patents that helped create its targeted content and thus the fake-news and echo-chamber problems. Recent patents acquired by Facebook are aimed at rectifying these problems. [Source: IEEE Spectrum magazine, issue of February 2021]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- On its 17th birthday, Facebook has a lot to celebrate and much to worry about. [Newsweek chart]
- Smartmatic USA joins Dominion in suing Trump lawyers and cronies for baseless election-fraud claims.
- Conservatives are back at the drawing board, trying to figure out how they were taken for a ride by Trump.
- Health-care workers' parallel pandemic: As vaccinations ramp up, many on the frontlines burn out! [NYT]
- QOP or GOPQ: Fitting new names for the US Republican Party. [Credit: CNN's Don Lemon]
- What would you do if you found a crocodile swimming in your pool? [5-minute video]
- Persian music: Pop singer Viguen in his youth, when movies and lip-syncing were still in primitive forms.
(5) Persian warrior women: The new "Wonder Woman" films, one taking place in Europe during WWI and one 70 years later in Washington DC, have their roots in the Amazons of 2000 years ago, who maintained an idyllic all-female existence in the area now known as Turkey. Warrior women existed in many ancient cultures, including Greek, Egyptian, and Persian empires. The word "Amazon" is believed to have Persian roots.
(6) Film and TV awards are likely not front and center for most of us right now: But the Golden Globes are around the corner (February 28) and the Oscars aren't far behind (April 25).
(7) Women's Day in Iran: The Islamic Republic of Iran has ignored March 8 (Int'l Women's Day) and has instead promoted Fatima's birthday as an Islamic Women's/Mothers' Day. Fatima does not represent modern, liberated women. She is a symbol of the oppressed and of child marriage. [Facebook post, in Persian]
(8) Teen's tribute to loved ones killed by COVID-19: Sixteen-year-old Hannah Ernst drew a portrait of her grandfather, which went viral, generating requests for her to draw other people who were lost to the virus.

2021/02/02 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Life is so unfair ... Iranians' attitude toward religion, death penalty, etc. Screenshot from today's Zoom discussion on Mohammad Mosaddeq's report card (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cartoon of the day: Life is so unfair ... [Center] Iranians' attitudes toward religion, death penalty, etc.: I found the data about religion surprising. About 1/3 of Iranians self-identify as Shi'ite Muslims. [Right] Zoom discussion on "Mohammad Mosaddeq's Report Card" (see the last item below).
(2) Math puzzles: I previously introduced a puzzle asking for the construction of the shortest network of walkways to connect four houses located at the vertices of a square. We need to be able to walk from any house to any other house, but the walking distance is unimportant. Repeat the puzzle with five houses located at the vertices of a regular pentagon. Then do it with six houses located at the vertices of a regular hexagon. [These and similar problems are discussed in an article by Puzzle-master Martin J. Gardner et al.]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Two FBI agents killed and three injured when serving a child-pornography warrant in South Florida.
- Good news for Iran: The journal Lancet reports that the Russian COVID-19 vaccine is 91.6% effective.
- Unusual discovery: Purple-colored wool fabric dating back to 1000 BCE unearthed in Israel.
- About time: Disney to remove colonialist depiction of indigenous Africans in its Jungle-Cruise ride.
- Old Persian poem by humorist Hadi Khorsandi, for the anniversary of Khomeini's return to Iran. [Image]
(4) "Mohammad Mosaddeq's Report Card": This is the title of a series of presentations by Mr. Mohammad Amini in the Zoom gathering of Tehran University's College of Engineering Class of 1968 (Fanni '68). Today's Zoom session had 47 participants.
In last week's Part 1 of the discussion, Mr. Amini covered the nationalization of Iran's oil Industry.
Recording of last week's session (Video, passcode = ?hq4Jy$S).
Last week's Facebook post, for details and sources.
This week's discussion focused on Mosaddeq and Iranian civil society, that is, his respect for and insistence on the rule of law. Laws in Iran have seldom been honored. This is quite evident in the case of the current regime, which doesn't even follow the laws of its own making! Even the Constitutional Revolution failed to make the king or his appointees respect laws. The 27-month term of Mosaddeq as PM was a rare exception. Not one newspaper was closed or censored by Mosaddeq's administration. The century-old civic entity in Iran, the Iranian Bar Association, assumed independence from the government under Mosaddeq.
Next Tuesday, February 9, the discussion will turn to events leading to the 1953 CIA coup, with the series concluding on 2/16 with a free discussion on all the topics covered in Parts 1-3.
Mr. Mohammad Amini teaches on-line classes about Iran's modern history on Sundays 1:00 PM PST. Much of what he teaches is available on-line via YouTube and Ketab Corporation's Web site.

2021/02/01 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCLA panel discussion on 'Socio-Economic Development Strategies and Challenges in Iran': map UCLA panel discussion on 'Socio-Economic Development Strategies and Challenges in Iran': flyer UCLA panel discussion on 'Socio-Economic Development Strategies and Challenges in Iran': book (1) Today's event in the UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: In a panel discussion on "Socio-Economic Development Strategies and Challenges in Iran," diverse views from an urban planner, an international studies expert, and a sociologist were brought to bear. The organizer of the lecture series, Dr. Nayereh Tohidi, introduced the panelists briefly, before handing the control over to panelist/moderator Dr. Kevan Harris.
Dr. Azam Khatam (The City Institute, York U.) spoke about her experience on governing Tehran through speculative real-estate Market. She noted that more than 80% of residential units in Tehran have been built over the past 3.5 decades (since 1986). In the 50-year period 1966-2016, Tehran's population grew more than threefold, from 2.7M to 8.7M, while the built-up area increased fivefold, from 140 to 700 km^2, much of the new development coming in the northern and western parts of the city. Municipalities were required to self-rule fiscally, so laws and regulations were relaxed to allow income-generating development. The result was a predictably chaotic expansion.
Dr. Kaveh Ehsani (International Studies, DePaul U.) focused on large-scale projects that are typically imposed on localities by central planners, often with good intentions, but without integrating views from local stakeholders. An example of such disastrous plans was the Khuzestan sugar-cane agri-business, which was ill-suited to local resources and land-use patterns. Infrastructure projects can be quite transformative, but they often do not deliver what they promise. Put another way, the planning theories learned in the West by some of the Iranian regime's technocrats do not translate to viable development plans, with failure often blamed on ungrateful and "backward" critics.
Dr. Kevan Harris (Sociology, UCLA) began by citing results from a 2016 Iran social survey, which was administered through phone interviews in Persian, Turkish, and Kurdish languages, with the aim of accurate categorization of various ethnicities, going beyond naive clustering by language or other pre-conceived notions. Open-ended questions allowed self-identification with multiple ethnic groups. This kind of self-identification had been lacking in previous surveys across MENA and the Caucasus. Whereas more than 3/4 of the respondents specified an ethnic category in response to an open-ended question, the rest replied with "I don't know." Detailed reports and methods can be found at kevanharris.com/publications.
(2) The Republicans are divided: One group wants to accept Biden's election win, and work to make him a failed one-term President. A larger group wants to overturn the election results (as in Myanmar) and bring Trump back to the White House.
(3) Disputing an electoral victory: Aung San Suu Kyi detained as the military seizes control in Myanmar.
(4) How language and grammar get in the way of deep thinking: Languages are wonderful tools for informal communication among humans. But human languages were developed when we knew little about the universe and its laws. Take the words "past," "present," and "future," for instance. These three notions and their clear separations, came about before we knew about Einstein's idea that there is no objective universal present. Special relativity tells us that my present may be your past and someone else's future. Likewise, philosophical discussions are sometimes doomed by our inability to formulate precise ideas with fuzzy linguistic tools.

2021/01/31 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Two math puzzles that ask about the shortest road between two cities near a river Persian poetry: Selected verses from a beautiful Hafez ghazal Literary puzzles: Identify the first halves of these second half-verses (1) Images of the day: [Left] Math puzzles: Consider two cities near a straight-line river of constant width 50 meters. In Puzzle 1, the two cities are on the same side of the river and we want to build the shortest road between them that passes by the river. In Puzzle 2, the two cities are on opposite sides of the river and we want to build the shortest road between them that includes a 50-meter bridge over the river. [Center] Persian poetry: Selected verses from a beautiful Hafez ghazal. [Right] Persian poetry (literary puzzles): These are second halves of verses by Iranian poets that have assumed the status of maxims/proverbs. Can you supply the first half and identify the poet in each case?
(2) The politicization of CEOs: "For decades, American CEOs studiously avoided wading into controversial issues of the day. There was no possible upside, only risk. But the apolitical CEO is one of the many norms shattered by President Donald Trump. The 45th President has made it acceptable—and now necessary—for corporate leaders to be more outspoken." ~ Eben Shapiro, writing in Time magazine, issue of Feb. 1 & 8, 2021
(3) Where's Mike Pence? Trump insurrectionists wanted to hang him and put a bullet through Nancy Pelosi's head. Pence went to Trump and kissed up to him, before disappearing somewhere in Indiana.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Former Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin's wife has made a movie about a greedy hedge-fund manager!
- Amassing biological data: BGI doing COVID-19 tests on DNA samples is sending genetic data to China.
- I really care, don't U? Dr. Jill Biden to play a role in reuniting separated immigrant kids with their parents.
- Sound advice: If you love to hear birds sing, do not put a cage inside your house, plant a tree outside.
(5) Short memory: All the Senators calling for bipartisanship now were unilaterally killing the proposals for COVID-19 relief, when they held the majority just two weeks ago!
(6) Trump's legal team disintegrates: In a serious case of disagreement over whether to use the defense that it is illegal to convict a President when he is no longer in office or hang on to the discredited election-fraud claims, nearly all attorneys who were to represent Trump in his second impeachment trial have left his legal team.
(7) Book introduction: Shahin of Shiraz: Jewish Sufi Poet of the Time of Hafiz describes the life and works of a contemporary of Hafiz and other great Persian poets of the early-to-mid-1300s. He wrote masnavis (a type of long, romantic/spiritual epic poetry) in Persian, but used the Hebrew script. [Front & back covers]
(8) Math puzzle: I previously posed a puzzle involving the construction of paths with minimal total length to connect four houses located on the vertices of a square. Now, do the puzzle for five houses at the vertices of a regular pentagon. Repeat for a hexagon and six houses. [Reference]

2021/01/30 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Magazine covers this week: Newsweek Magazine covers this week: Time Magazine covers this week: People
Taliban: The US was negotiating with this kind of barbaric and misogynistic extremists in Afghanistan under Trump. Cartoon: Robin Hood asks for money back from the poor, because the rich are really getting pissed off A small family gathering at my mom's, for an early birthday celebration (1) Images of the day: [Top left and center] Newsweek and Time feature President Joe Biden and his agenda on their covers this week. [Top right] Many Iranians believe that all misfortunes are due to British conspiracies: It seems that mandatory hijab is one such conspiracy! [Bottom left] The US was negotiating with this kind of barbaric and misogynistic extremists in Afghanistan under Trump. [Bottom center] Robin Hood, to the poor who received money from him: "Look, I'm going to have to ask for the money back—the rich are really getting pissed off." [Bottom right] A small family gathering at my mom's, for an early birthday celebration.
(2) Iranian activists are roughed up and get old in prisons: Saba Kord Afshari, 20, who is serving a 24-year sentence, was recently beaten and transferred to a prison, where she is kept with violent criminals.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Former KGB agent claims that USSR/Russia cultivated Trump as an asset for 40 years.
- Major collapse closes CA Hwy 1 near Big Sur: This scenic stretch of road does not seem to be sustainable.
- Trevor Noah and his guest explain to ordinary folk what happened in the stock market with GameStop.
- Clever designs: A dining set that doesn't take up much space when not in use. [Photos]
(4) "Why Women Write": This was the title of a 2-hour panel discussion this morning, hosted by PhD scholars Ozlem Has (U. Copenhagen) and Nasim Basiri (Oregon State U.) and featuring five panelists with diverse backgrounds and experiences.
I watched the panel on Facebook Live for the most part and found the experience much more enjoyable than watching via Zoom. Near the end of the session, I went to Zoom for offering a comment and participating in the discussion. I was awestruck by the depth and passion with which the panelists expressed their thoughts and experiences. Much of what was shared was eye-opening for me, despite my background and longstanding interest in feminist causes. In my notes, I was able to capture only some of the poignant observations from each panelist, which I share with you in the following. Fortunately, the full 2-hour event has been recorded.
Anjali Purohit (artist, poet, writer, curator): For ages, Indian women were not educated, but this doesn't mean they did not write. They "wrote" through songs and story-telling. In the context of the Indian culture, many women are isolated at home, and "writing" constitutes a way for them to connect with the world in general, and with other women in particular. On her Web site, Ms. Purohit characterizes her work as "quiet and ruminative, ... about life, human character, circumstance and relationships that often pass beyond the well defined into intangible realms. Much of her work (both in her writing and her art) is obsessed with a longstanding but fatal love affair she has had with her city that often breaks her heart."
Jasmin Darznik (NYT best-selling author and literature teacher for 12 years): I write because I must. It's a matter of survival. I come from a family of "characters," so reading and, later, writing shaped and defined my life. Even now that their writings have taken the archival form, as opposed to songs and oral tales, women writers are still ignored and their works do not receive due respect. Dysfunctional narratives are those which are difficult to ignore, yet one cannot do an adequate job of describing them, so they are written about repeatedly. As someone coming from an Iranian background, I found our history filled with dysfunctional narratives that compel us to write. A good example is the tragic and mysterious death of the legendary poet Forough Farrokhzad, the subject of my book, Song of a Captive Bird: A Novel.
Nooshan Shekarabi (poet): I am a poet by accident; my background is in political science, the subject of much of my early writings and my current line of work. I began by journaling, because, as a young person, I lacked self-confidence and felt that no one would be interested in my thoughts. Writing is the best way of expressing love (for oneself or others), feelings, and anxieties, without being judged, at least in the first draft! Because I teach political science, over the past four years, I've had to hold my tongue a lot, so writing provides a space where I can express myself freely. Here is Ms. Shekarabi's Web page at Santiago Canyon College.
Usha Akela (author): Do women write for reasons different than men, and do they write differently from men? As a women poet, I know that it is important for me to name my experience (confessional, more than autobiographical) and share my stories. Writing is my way of breathing. Ms. Akela, author of three books of poetry (some samples), ended her presentation by reading a poem, "She is Speaking," she dedicated to Kamala Harris. Ms. Akela's next book will be a collection of poems about "Women's Role in Patriarchy." Ms. Akela's thoughts and works are featured on her Facebook page, with all of the posts being public.
Shokufeh Kavani (translator, visual artist): In the post-revolutionary Iran, one had to obtain many books through the black market, as quite a few books were prohibited. As a woman, I had to deal with compulsory hijab laws and with my opinions being dismissed by men in power. When I heard/read female voices, from noteworthy poets and writers, it shaped my perspective and work. I lived for a while as a student in southern Iran, where people are quite conservative, yet the area has a very high rate of incest! Despite strict censorship, sometimes things fall through the cracks and books like Shahrnush Parsipur's Women Without Men: A Novella, viewed as scandalous by the male guard, get published. Here is Ms. Kavani's Wikipedia page.
Q&A period: A question that was addressed at the end is whether it is appropriate to call a woman poet a "poetess." Most of the panelists who commented had no problem with the term, emphasizing that coming to terms with one's own identity and ideas is more important than the term used. I tend to think that using terms such as "poetess" and "actress" is harmful. Afterall, we don't speak of "technicianesses," "teacheresses," and "doctoresses," given that men and women technicians, teachers, and doctors perform the same work! Why make an exception for a few lines of work?

2021/01/29 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Persian cuisine: Tah-dig (crispy rice) with ghormeh-sabzi stew Donald Knuth, on the need for a change on how computer science history is reported T-shirt message reading: 'Science: Because figuring things out is better than making stuff up' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Persian cuisine: Having seen and been impressed by her brother's tah-dig (crispy rice) creation, my daughter decided to submit her own entry in the family tag-dig competition. [Center] Donald Knuth, on the need for a change on how computer science history is reported (see the next item below). [Right] Science: Because figuring things out is better than making stuff up.
(2) We need better historical accounts in computer science: In a now-classic 2014 lecture, leading computer scientist Donald Knuth complained that computer science historians do a disservice to the discipline by omitting technical details from their stories. He praised math historians for their dedication to including formulas and other technical matter in their writings. In its February 2021 issue, Communications of the ACM has reprinted a summary of that talk to re-open the discussion of this important topic.
(3) Conspiracy theories: Iranians see the hands of the British behind every misfortune. Now, right-wing Americans are trying to beat Iranians to become the kings of conspiracy theorists!
(4) Science and scientists will be leading the way again, not anti-science conspiracy theorists: "Science will always guide my administration." ~ Tweet by US President Joe Biden
(5) "Namaaz" or "Niaaz" (the story of a popular Persian song): The late Shah's secret police reportedly summoned those involved in producing the song "Namaaz" (daily prayers) and ordered them to change the lyrics, because likening the beloved to Islamic prayers had offended the clerics in Qom. Not everyone agreed with the mandated change of "Namaaz" to "Niaaz" (need, craving), but the change was made and the song began a second parallel path to fame.
(6) Math puzzle: Four cities are located at the corners of a square with side length of d miles. How should we connect the four cities with a network of roads, such that the total length of the roads, and thus construction cost, is minimized, while allowing us to go from any city to any other city (travel distance is unimportant).
(7) Automation in action: The new parking system at UCSB requires temporary-permit buyers to enter a license-plate number. The parking attendant then simply drives by parked cars, aiming a camera at them, instead of having to get out of his/her cart to inspect the displayed permits one vehicle at a time.
(8) Summary of a cybersecurity bulletin from University of California administration: In a momentous week in cybersecurity, international law enforcement officials took down two significant criminal enterprises: the Emotet botnet and the NetWalker ransomware ring. Emotet had more than a million PCs harnessed for malicious purposes, and Netwalker extorted more than $27 million from its victims, including the University of California.
Cyberspace is safer, but Netwalker represented only a small part of the active ransomware threat, and other botnets grow daily. Vigilance against phishing and regular backups are the best defenses against an increasingly sophisticated threat.

2021/01/28 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Engineering marvels in Iran: 5000 years of taming water, wind, earth, and fire Cartoon: Trump entertaining friends at Mar-a-Lago Cover image of Ali M. Ansari's 'Iran, Islam, and Democracy' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Engineering marvels in Iran: 5000 years of taming water, wind, earth, and fire (3-minute teaser, narrated in English; 28-minute low-quality videos, Part 1 and Part 2, narrated in Persian). [Center] New Yorker cartoon: Trump entertaining friends at Mar-a-Lago. [Right] Professor Ali M. Ansari's talk about his book, Iran, Islam, and Democracy: The Politics of Managing Change (see the last item below).
(2) Institutionalized sexism in Hollywood: Actress Carey Mulligan is alarmed by a major publication's review of her new film, "Promising Young Woman," which questions whether she was attractive enough for the role.
(3) Welfare for ordinary people, bad; corporate welfare, good: To protect wealthy hedge funds from losing money on short positions targeting companies on the verge of failure, trading restrictions were put in place for the little guys, whose stock purchases had caused a sharp rise in stock prices. So, little investors trying to make money according to established rules of trading are being penalized to protect big money. Shameful!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- USA is catching up with the rest of the world, where networks of right-wing extremists have been growing.
- Republicans moved to post-Trump era for a week, before getting scared and rushing back to the Godfather.
- We got rid of the anti-education Betsy DeVos: Now, GOP gives the QAnon Rep. a seat on education panel!
- An organizer of the "Stop the Steal" rally with ties to Trump arrested for his role in the January 6 DC riot.
(5) Book talk: Professor Ali M. Ansari (U. St. Andrews) spoke this morning under the title "Iran, Islam, and Democracy: The Politics of Managing Change" based on the 2019 third edition of his book bearing the same title. Professor Ansari maintains that the founder of the Islamic Republic was really Rafsanjani, not Khomeini. The Islamic Revolution changed much less in Iran than the Constitutional Revolution. Rafsanjani ensured that the mercantile class continued to amass capital and dominate the power structure. At first, the prime-minister position was eliminated to give the president more power. Later, power moved almost entirely to the Supreme Leader, with the president given even less authority than a PM. I tend to agree with the centrality of Rafsanjani, given that he was the main reason of Khamenei rising to the Supreme-Leader position. Ironically, Khamenei was quick in sidelining his former ally and, eventually, removing him from all positions of power.
I asked the following question: You mentioned that the position of president was first given more power, later becoming even less than a PM. What do you think of the recent calls for making the president still less influential: Some clerics are calling for a young revolutionary being put in that position to essentially serve as a clerk who carries out the Supreme Leader's directives.
The response to my question was only partial: One idea being floated by conservatives is to eliminate the position of the president altogether and establish a parliamentary system much like Britain's. The Parliament would then elect a PM who would act much like an executive officer.

2021/01/27 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day: Let's remember the atrocities and renew our 'never again' pledge! Colorful flowers, shot during my long walk in Goleta yesterday Protest sign: 'The rise of women does not mean the fall of men
Cover image of the February 2021 issue of 'Communications of the ACM' Math puzzle that involves dividing a circular disk into sections with straight lines Fine example of Europe's historical architecture: Schwerin Castle in Germany, completed in 1857 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day: Let's remember the atrocities and renew our "never again" pledge! This UN-designated day commemorates the genocide that led to the death of 6 million Jews, 1 million Gypsies, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. [Top center] Photos from my long walk yesterday, taking advantage of the last sunny day in Santa Barbara before 3-4 days of heavy rain. [Top right] Encountered this photo among my memories from the 2017 Women's March and decided to share it as an apt reminder. [Bottom left] Cover image of the February 2021 issue of CACM (see the last item below). [Bottom center] Math puzzle: Consider 2 points on the perimeter of a circular disk and connect them together, thus forming 2 regions within the disk. Now take 3 points and connect them pairwise, to get 4 regions. With 4 points, we get 8 regions. With 5 points, 16 regions. How many regions will we get with 6 points? (Answer) [Bottom right] Fine example of Europe's historical architecture: Schwerin Castle in Germany, completed in 1857.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Let's recognize that hate never disappears. It changes form and may go into hiding for a while.
- Only in the US Senate can a trial take place with co-conspirators of the accused being part of the jury.
- Things are beginning to move on the climate front: The US Federal Reserve creates a climate committee.
- Second Capitol police officer commits suicide in the aftermath of the January 6 DC riot.
- One more Bernie meme, good for a smile: Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens ... Bernie in mittens
- Memory from January 27, 2016 [Video]: I miss UCSB's Wed. 12:00-1:00 PM musical mini-concerts!
(3) The changing nature of citations: Citations in current academic literature are like references to a point in space: A particular journal, article, section, page. The on-line version of such a reference is a URL. However, unlike print literature, on-line documents tend to change over time, sometimes disappearing altogether. Authors have developed the habit of mentioning the date on which the on-line document was accessed, so if the document contains a "last-modified" date within it, the reader can tell whether or not it's the same version that was cited. This is a coarse binary mechanism. In his February 2021 column in Communications of the ACM, Vint Cerf floats the idea of adding a time dimension to on-line references, suggesting that documents be organized and stored in a way that any of their past versions can be reconstructed by taking the current version along with a record of edits. This is an idea worth pursuing.
(4) Noteworthy content from Communications of the ACM, February 2021 issue:
- Let's not dumb down the history of computer science: Donald Knuth's suggestion that historians of computer science follow math historians and include a lot more technical detail in their writings. [Interview]
- AZERTY is a layout for French keyboards, which has only recently been standardized: Previous designs varied and did not include important symbols needed for writing in French. [4-minute video intro]
- A review of the semantic web field: Brief video introduction to the timely survey/tutorial article.

2021/01/26 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of the Persian-language book 'Sowdaagari baa Taarikh' Cover image of the Persian-language book 'Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq: Aasib-Shanasi-ye Yek Shekast' Iran's regional fashions: Woman and girl from Lahijan, Guilan Province (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] Persian-language books chosen for discussion with my old classmates (see the last item below). [Right] Iran's regional fashions: Woman and girl from Lahijan, Guilan Province.
(2) Book talk: Professor Abbas Amanat (Yale U.) will speak on Sat., March 13, 2021, 2:00 PM PST, under the title "Kings and Clerics in Modern Iranian Society" (Sponsored by USC's Iranian Studies Initiative). [Register]
(3) Book talk: Professor Ali Ansari (U. St. Andrews) will speak on Thursday, January 28, 2021, 10:00 AM PST, under the title "Iran, Islam, and Democracy: The Politics of Managing Change." [Info]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- SCOTUS dismisses emoluments lawsuits against Trump: Another case of different laws for the powerful!
- Dominion Voting Systems sues Rudy Giuliani, seeking $1.3 billion over false election fraud claims.
- Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene supported the assassination of top Democrats on social media.
- Californians flee en-masse, as heavy rains threaten them with flash-floods and mudslides.
(5) Book interview: Author Lisa Selin Davis talked about her first non-fiction book, Tomboy: The Surprising History and Future of Girls Who Dare to Be Different, in a program sponsored by The Friends of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior at UCLA. The book is a tour-de-force of gender roles, gender stereotyping, and difficulties faced by girls who don't quite fit the "model" most people have of girls and girly behavior. This "virtual book launch" provides much useful information about the book and the author.
(6) "Mohammad Mossadeq's Report Card": This is the title of a series of presentations by Mr. Mohammad Amini in the Zoom gathering of Tehran University's College of Engineering Class of 1968 (Fanni '68). With 50 participants, today's meeting was the most popular among the ones I have attended.
Discussion on the brief 27-month term of Mosaddeq as Iran's prime-minister is based on the first book below, which is a response to the second book, purporting to analyze the reasons for PM Mohammad Mosaddeq's failure as a political leader. Items [3] and [4], distributed to meeting attendees a day before the event, contain additional pertinent information. The additional reference Khaab-e Ashofteh-ye Naft (Vol. 2, by Mohammad Ali Movahhed) was recommended by the speaker.
The discussion will be conducted in three parts:
Week 1. Nationalization of Iran's oil industry (today)
Week 2. Mosaddeq and Iran's civil society (Tuesday 2/02)
Week 3. Events leading to 1953 CIA coup (Tuesday 2/09)
A free-discussion session spanning all the topics above is planned for Tuesday 2/16.
[1] Amini, Mohammad, Sowdaagari baa Taarikh (Deception with History), Ketab Corp., 2012.
[2] Mirfetros, Ali, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq: Aasib-Shanasi-ye Yek Shekast (Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq: Pathology of a Failure), Ketab Corp., 2008. [Preface & contents]
[3] Amini, Mohammad, "Striving to Right Some Wrongs" (in Persian).
[4] Amini, Mohammad, "The 1953 Coup, According to Its Organizers" (in Persian).

2021/01/25 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
For Women were front and center at the Biden/Harris inauguration Meme about celebrating the life of baseball legend Hank Aaron
Yesterday's walk on the beach: Batch 1 of photos Puzzle about putting a band around the Earth Yesterday's walk on the beach: Batch 2 of photos (1) Images of the day: [Top left] For hard-core Sudoku fans: Five overlapping puzzles. [Top center] Women were front and center at the Biden/Harris inauguration. [Top right] We just celebrated the life of baseball legend Hank Aaron: Let us remember that he paid a high price for his greatness, facing terror and hate, both when he broke Babe Ruth's career home run record and when he backed Obama. [Bottom left & right] Yesterday's walk on the beach: Rocks exposed during super-low tide on UCSB West Campus Beach. A couple of small caves under the bluffs on the Isla Vista Beach. Surfers enjoying the windy conditions. Seabirds feasting on creatures left on shore by the super-low tide. [Bottom center] Math puzzle: Consider the Earth to be a perfect sphere. We put a band around the Equator, then remove the band, add 10 meters to its length and put it around the Earth again, ensuring that the band stays the same distance from the Earth's surface everywhere. What is that distance? Now, if we pull the elongated band in one direction, so that it touches the Earth's surface everywhere, except near the point A where it is being pulled, what is the distance of A from Earth?
(2) As Dr. Deborah Birx goes on her redemption tour, claiming that she constantly entertained the idea of resigning, let's not forget how she praised Trump's leadership and his ability to interpret/integrate data.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump will likely find that courts and creditors will be much harsher on him that his political opponents.
- COVID-19 cases surge among Capitol police officers and National Guard members on duty in DC.
- Trump campaign funded the DC rally that sparked the Capitol riot to the tune of $2.7 million.
- US military gets a black eye: Nearly 1 in 5 charged in the Capitol riot are current or former soldiers.
- Biden moving forward with plans, shelved by Trump, to place an image of Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill.
- Memory from January 25, 2015: Good old days, before family gatherings became Zoom events. [Photo]
(4) Book, book talk, and book review: I previously posted about Dr. John Ghazvinian's talk on his new book, America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present (see my 1/21 blog entry). Publication of Dr. Abbas Milani's review of the book in New York Times prompted this trilingual Facebook post by a friend living in Mexico.
(5) Math puzzle: We have two large barrels, one containing wine and the other water. We take a cup of wine and put it in the barrel holding water. Next, we take a cup of the mixed liquid and put it back in the wine barrel. Which barrel contains more impurity (more of the other liquid)?
(6) Toward a Digital Bill of Rights: Professor Ramesh Srinivasan (UCLA) leads a discussion, sponsored by UCSB's Center for Information Technology and Society. The Zoom meeting was held on Jan. 7, 2021.

2021/01/24 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of Elizabeth Gilbert's 'City of Girls' Cover image of Gina Rippon's 'Gender and Our Brain' Cover image of Dan Brown's 'Origin' (1) Book review: Gilbert, Elizabeth, City of Girls: A Novel, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Blair Brown, Penguin Audio, 2019. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I have previously read and reviewed two books by Elizabeth Gilbert: The Signature of All Things (5 stars) and Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (4 stars). Gilbert's character development in City of Girls isn't as good as in Signature of All Things. The fictional story begins in the late-1930s New York City and proceeds to include the start and end of World War II and beyond. Intermixing real events with the fictional narrative constitutes part of the book's charm.
The narrative consists of 90-something, self-centered, entitled, Vassar-dropout Vivien Morris telling her life story to Angela, the daughter of one of her great loves, presumably to provide her with a picture of how her father lived, but including little about his life! Vivien is at the center of the narrative throughout the book!
The story begins in Vivien's late teens, when she moves to NYC and, without much delay, begins having sex with young and old men, while using her sewing skills to prepare or repair costumes for a run-down, low-budget theater company, specializing in stereotypical plays that feature dancers and showgirls, without significant storylines. The theater's owner is an aunt, who acts as Vivien's caretaker.
The first part of the book, describing Vivien in her 20s, is quite detailed in its description of theater life in, and other aspects of, NYC and, later, her sexual episodes with servicemen passing through. In a way, Vivien is ahead of her time, living the sexual liberation of the 1960s during 1940s. Vivien leaves NYC following a sexual scandal and later returns to run a bridal boutique.
Reviews of this novel on Amazon.com are mixed, with 1- and 2-star reviews deeming the novel poorly-written and a waste of time, alongside a larger number of 5-star reviews characterizing it as fun, delicious, and captivating. I find myself somewhere in between these two extremes, perhaps because I began listening to the audiobook with much-higher hopes.
(2) Book review: Rippon, Gina, Gender and Our Brains: How New Neuroscience Explodes the Myths of the Male and Female Minds, unabridged audiobook, read by Hannah Curtis, Random House Audio, 2019.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Men and women have male and female bodies, but the physical differences do not mean that they have different brains as well. For decades, scientists used the weight/size differences between male and female brains to argue about gender-related differences in mental abilities, extrapolating from the smaller brain sizes in other mammals relative to humans.
Rippon, Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Neuroimaging at Aston University, makes a compelling case that any gender-related brain differences result from social constructs and ingrained beliefs about gender roles, beginning with toy choices and continuing on to career paths, not due to a fixed biological blueprint.
A famous neuroscience experiment showed that the brains of London taxi drivers exhibited differences with other people's brains, because their job entailed memorizing massive amounts of information about roads and neighborhoods. Similar variations can be caused by years of gender-stereotypical activity and social-messaging about what men and women can or cannot do. It is hard to believe that such stereotypes persist, as women enter many different professions and win Nobel Prizes!
Decades ago, scientists believed that human brain is developed in childhood and becomes fixed for life before adulthood. Now, we know that brain continues to evolve and re-wire itself according to our experiences. With either theory, there is no surprise that female brain develops differently, both as a result of stereotyping in rearing & education (what Rippon calls "pinkification") and because of societal pressures on adhering to stereotypical gender roles later on.
When it comes to the brain, size matters much less than wiring. If physical size mattered, then, at 2/3 the size of men's, the pumping ability of women's hearts would have been woefully deficient. Yet we know that women actually live longer than men! In ages when societal leadership required physical strength, men naturally held an advantage, hence the emergence of patriarchy. Now, leadership requires brains, not muscles, so thinking of women as inferior in mental capacities is particularly dangerous. Even the belief, turned into conventional wisdom, that in early human societies, men hunted and women stayed in the caves, is being questioned by the discovery of skeletons of women hunters.
According to Rippon, "We find that from an early age babies are searching for social messages in the outside world. If these junior 'gender detectives' are exposed to messages that, for example, boys play with Lego and are good at science and systems, whereas girls want to be princesses and are good at caring and empathy, then this can divert their developing brains down different pathways, arriving at different educational, occupational and social destinations."
So, to recap, male and female brains are different, but almost all of the difference can be traced to social conditioning that takes our brains along different developmental paths, in the same way that the brains of London taxi drivers develop differently because of the kinds of information they have to store and process. Case closed, thanks to Professor Gina Rippon!
(3) Book review: Brown, Dan, Origin: A Novel, unabridged audiobook, read by Paul Michael, Random House Audio, 2017. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This novel is the fifth in Dan Brown's "Robert Langdon" Series, beginning with Angels & Demons, and continuing with Da Vinci Code (his most-famous), The Lost Symbol, and Inferno. Christianity and history are the main themes in these books. The sixth novel may appear soon, given the four-year spacing of the titles in the series since 2000!
Langdon, a professor of symbology at Harvard University, is good as solving puzzles and deciphering codes, an ability that features prominently in Brown's novels. Actor Tom Hanks, who played Langdon in three movies, is indelibly linked with the protagonist in Brown's novels. Somehow, a beautiful woman is always part of the plot, with events putting Langdon and the woman in a position to flee evil characters and solving the mystery at the last possible moment!
Origin links a scientist/futurist/atheist, Edmond Kirsch, with Spain's royal family, an aging monarch, his charismatic heir Julian (engaged to stunningly beautiful Ambra Vidal), and Bishop Antonio Valdespino. Kirsch starts to reveal a truth he has discovered about the origin and destiny of humans that would make world religions obsolete. Religious leaders are understandably not pleased, a fact that creates the tensions and conflicts forming the novel's plot.
I find Brown's writing in this novel quite absorbing and references to history and culture informative. The story unfolds mostly in Spain, so asides about Barcelona's architectural marvels, particularly the works of Antonio Gaudi (such as La Sagrada Familia temple and Casa Mila), are everywhere. Equally prevalent are high-tech themes: An AI assistant (Winston), virtual reality, quantum computing, and a Tesla self-driving car.
Reviews of Brown's latest novel are mostly positive, although some critics have characterized the writing and plot devices as tired and the story-telling as less than engaging. I for one enjoyed the book and recommend it to mystery fans.

2021/01/23 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Another Goleta restaurant bites the dust: Beachside Bar-Cafe, on the sand beach next to Goleta Pier, has closed permanently Coloring activity: The bull has left the China shop! Shrif University of Technology Association's Zoom talk by Dr. Cumrun Vafa (1) Images of the day: [Left] Another Goleta restaurant bites the dust: Beachside Bar-Cafe, on the sand beach next to Goleta Pier, has closed permanently. Located within walking distance of campus, it was one of the most-scenic local restaurants and a favorite spot for us to entertain UCSB visitors. [Center] Coloring activity: The bull has left the China shop! [Right] Sharif Univ. of Technology Association's Zoom talk (see the last item below).
(2) The worst-ever President on trial: Trump may again escape punishment by the US Senate, with help from his cronies who find it hard to admit their own guilt, but the rioters he threw under the bus to save himself are pointing fingers at him in their criminal proceedings.
(3) We need more "losers" like Bernie Sanders: He puts his meme on $45 sweatshirts, which sell out quickly. He then donates the entire proceeds to Meals on Wheels. Hats off to you, Sir!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Twitter suspends Ayatollah Khamenei's account after he posted threats of assassination against Trump.
- UC as an engine of growth: Univ. of California generates $82 billion in economic output for California.
- Dr. Ahamad Karimi-Hakkak's Persian translation of Amanda Gorman's poem "The Hill We Climb."
- These are a few of my favorite memes: "The Sound of Music" meets Bernie Sanders!
- A short history of frozen desserts: The famous Akbar Mashti ice cream, featuring rose-water and saffron.
- Iranian music and architecture: Entry gates to buildings, old and new. -minute video]
(5) Larry King is live no more: The famous interviewer, dead in Los Angeles at 87, talked to nearly every noteworthy celebrity. His own life was very colorful, having married eight times (to seven women), undergoing quintuple bypass surgery, being convicted of fraud, and admitting to never preparing for his interviews (including not reading books by authors he talked to).
(6) SUTA Zoom technical talk: Dr. Cumrun Vafa (string-theorist, Harvard U. Physics Department) presented an engaging talk under the title "Puzzles to Unravel the Universe," based on his 2020 book of the same title, which emerged from a puzzle-based course he has been teaching at Harvard. The book's Persian translation will soon be made available in Iran free of charge.
Dr. Vafa posed a sequence of very interesting puzzle-like problems that help us understand the universe and its physical laws. The problems illustrated symmetry and symmetry-breaking, conservation laws, the power of continuity, unreasonable power of simple mathematics, power of mathematical abstraction, and duality.
This 59-minute YouTube video contains the same ideas presented in today's lecture. I will pose some of the puzzles over the next few days, giving credit in each case to Dr. Vafa.
I end this report with a puzzle. True of false: Around any circle on Earth (such as the Equator), where the temperature varies, we can always find two diametrically opposite points with the same temperature.

2021/01/22 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Wednesday 1/20 afternoon, on the majestic Elwood bluffs in Santa Barbara: Photo 3 Wednesday 1/20 afternoon, on the majestic Elwood bluffs in Santa Barbara: Photo 2 Wednesday 1/20 afternoon, on the majestic Elwood bluffs in Santa Barbara: Photo 4
Vice-President Kamala Harris on the cover of Vogue Photo of a tea-house in the Iran of 1971, the day before the Ali-Frazier boxing match Meme: Quote from imprisoned Iranian human-rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh, on absence of justice (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Wednesday 1/20 afternoon, on the majestic Elwood bluffs in Santa Barbara. [Bottom left] Pretty faces get magazine covers, but in today's America, accomplished women can also get them. [Bottom center] Photo of a tea-house in the Iran of 1971: The sign on the wall reads: "Tomorrow at 5:00 AM, kalleh-pacheh (lamb head and hoof soup); 6:00 AM, boxing match between Muhammad Ali Clay and Joe Frazier; Free tea & hookah if Muhammad Ali wins." [Bottom right] Quote from imprisoned Iranian human-rights attorney Nasrin Sotoudeh: "In Iran we are always prisoners. You might think I'm exaggerating but when our main concern is the absence of justice in our socity, being imprisoned or not does not make any difference."
(2) The Senate impeachment trial of Donald Trump is really a trial of the Republican Party: Trump himself is much less relevant today. The outcome of the trial will show whether Republicans still view their party as Trump's party, showing no remorse over their support of Trump's carnage.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- In his final days as President, Trump and a Justice Department lawyer plotted to oust acting AG.
- "What Were We Thinking?": NPR podcast featuring Carlos Lozada discussin the legacy of the Trump era.
- Monuments and historical statues/paintings say goodbye and good riddance! [2-minute video]
- Ban Iran's Supreme Leader from Twitter: He tweets, while preventing 83 million Iranians from doing so!
- Environmental activist Greta Thunberg's parting shot, as Trump leaves the White House for the last time.
- Persian music: A spirited instrumental version of Naser Cheshmazar's "Hamzaboonam Bash." [Video]
(4) UCSB scientists detect J0313-1806, the furthest quasar discovered to date: A supermassive black hole, millions to billions of times the size of our Sun, is at the center of every galaxy. Some of these black holes are particularly active, whipping up stars, dust, and gas into glowing accretion disks emitting powerful radiation into the cosmos, as they gobble up matter around them. The sheer size of quasars makes them the most-distant observable objects. J0313-1808 was formed less than 700 million years after the Big Bang.
(5) UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: "Socio-Economic Development Strategies and Challenges in Iran," a Zoom panel discussion, in English, featuring Azam Khatam (York U.), Kaveh Ehsani (DePaul U.), and Kevan Harris (UCLA), Monday, February 1, 2021, 3:00-5:00 PM PST. [Register]
(6) Book interview: Lisa Selin Davis will talk about her first non-fiction book, Tomboy: The Surprising History and Future of Girls Who Dare to Be Different. Tuesday, January 26, 2022, 5:00-6:15 PM PST. [Register]
(7) "Why Women Write": This is the title of a panel discussion, hosted by PhD scholars Ozlem Has (U. Copenhagen) and Nasim Basiri (Oregon State U) and featuring Anjali Purohit (artist, poet, writer, curator), Jasmin Darznik (NYT best-selling author), Nooshan Shekarabi (poet), Usha Akela (author), and Shokufeh Kavani (translator, visual artist). Saturday, January 30, 2021, 9:00-11:30 AM PST.

2021/01/21 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Nurses: Angels that save lives on a daily basis A quick method to solve quadratic equations A very alive man, posing in front of a billboard that honors him as a martyr of the Iran-Iraq war
Gravity energy storage: Alternatives to batteries for energy storage are being tried by many start-ups Today's Stanford University book talk Biden, shown behind his Oval Office desk, after inauguration ceremonies (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Angels, saving lives on a daily basis: Thank you. [Top center] A quick method to solve quadratic equations: Given the equation x^2 – 2bx + c, we need to find two numbers that add to 2b and whose product is c. Let's call the two numbers b – u and b + u. We must have (b + u)(b – u) = b^2 – u^2 = c, leading to u = sqrt(b^2 – c). [Top right] The living martyr: London based Iraj Zarei travels to Iran and finds out that he is commemorated as a martyr of the Iran-Iraq war on a billboard! [Bottom left] Gravity energy storage: Alternatives to batteries for energy storage are being tried by many start-ups. This 110-meter-high, six-armed crane in Switzerland is intended to demonstrate that renewable energy can be stored by raising heavy weights and dispatched by releasing them. (Credit: IEEE Spectrum magazine, issue of January 2021) [Bottom center] Today's Stanford University book talk (see the last item below). [Bottom right] Biden began work yesterday on his agenda of restoring Americans' and world's confidence in the US government.
(2) Iranian-born scholar Kaveh Afrasiabi arrested: He is accused of being an unregistered Iranian agent who was paid to lobby US lawmakers and write newspaper columns favorable to the Islamic regime.
(3) Book talk: "America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present" was the title of today's 10:00 AM PST talk by Dr. John Ghazvinian (U. Penn), based on his 2021 book of the same title. The talk was perhaps the most enlightening book talk I have ever attended.
We are so consumed by questions about what went wrong between Iran and the US (CIA's 1953 coup; Iranian extremists' 1979 hostage-taking), that we fail to ask the question of what went right in the first place, before the tensions over the past seven decades. If we go back to the 1720s, we note that there were many mentions of Persia in American newspapers. A sizable fraction of contents in the newspapers of the early 1700s was about Iran.
The US was overwhelmingly pro-Persia, as Persia faced regional conflicts. The conflict with Afghanistan was, mistakenly, viewed as the work of the Ottoman Empire, both countries being Sunni Muslim. At the time, the Ottoman Empire was threatening Europe. It was the classic case of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" mindset. The US viewed the conflict not as one between two sects of Islam, but as Muslims vs. Persians. It helped that Persia was described in glowing terms in the Bible.
The very first Christian missionary to go to Iran described it as Edenic. Later, as Russia and Britain began interfering in Persia's affairs, it was natural for Iran to look to America for support. So, Persia viewed America as a better version of the imperialistic Europe and America viewed Iran as a better version of a threatening Islam!
When America looked at the Middle East in the 1970s, it saw Arab countries, inflicted with extremism, and the seemingly-insoluble Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and just beyond them, this peaceful paradise called Iran! Earlier, in trade/navigation negotiations of the 1850s, Iran demanded protection from the US (against Britain and Russia, that were increasingly cooperating against Persia) as a pre-condition.
The legitimacy of Iranian rulers after the Islamic Revolution rested in great part on their anti-Americanism. However, the revolutionary fervor was already weakening within a decade, but the US essentially shot itself in the foot by not taking advantage of rapprochement possibilities, pursuing idealistic policies instead.
Well, now that Arabs and Israelis are seemingly uniting against Iran, perhaps Iran might again be motivated to approach the US for protection. Don't hold your breath, though!
I asked two questions:
- It seems that the "idealistic" characterization of each side by the other is still prevalent between the people, though not between the governments. Do you agree? Dr. Ghazvinian answered yes-and-no. In each country, people who oppose their government's policies are very likely to have a positive view of the other country, and just the opposite for government cronies.
- Wasn't one the most-important incentives for the US to support Iran the Soviet plan to gain access to southern oceans via Iran or at least building an oil pipeline to the south? This question went unanswered due to time running out.

2021/01/20 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The US Capitol building on inauguration day In lieu of a huge crowd, the DC National Mall was filled with 200,000 US, state, and territory flags The Biden/Harris team at Lincolm Memorial, commemorating the 400,000 victims of COVID-19
Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, and their spouses at the Capitol for inauguration Inauguration stage at the US Capitol Trump leaving the White House for the last time
Lady Gaga greets former President Obama at the 2021 inauguration Amanda Gorman, the youngest poet-laureate ever at a presidential inauguration Bernie Sanders at inauguration carrying a mysterious envolope (1) Turning the page at the end of a horror-filled chapter in US history: The Biden/Harris inauguration was non-traditional in many respects. In lieu of a huge crowd, the DC National Mall was filled with 200,000 US, state, and territory flags. On the eve of their inauguration, the Biden/Harris team commemorated the 400,000 US deaths from COVID-19 at Lincoln Memorial. Yet, Biden's and Harris's messages in their inaugural speeches represented a return to normalcy, respect for traditions, and governing as servants, not as masters. Amanda Gorman, the youngest poet-laureate ever, was very impressive, but there are some lingering questions. Did Mike Pence close his eyes during Lady Gaga's performance? Did Bernie Sanders make it to the post office?
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Twenty-two-year-old Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman's stirring inauguration poem. [6-minute video]
- There is a new @WhiteHouse Twitter account: The previous administration's archived as @WhiteHouse45.
- We remember the 400,000 US deaths from COVID-19, at least half of which were preventable.
- Mexico is reportedly worried, because it has just a few hours to pay for the wall!
- We ordered Indian food last night in honor of the incoming Vice-President Kamala Harris! [Photo]
- Kurdish music: Kurds are fond of dancing and much of their music has a lively dance beat. [Video]
(3) This evening's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Dr. Misha Sra (John and Eileen Gerngross Assistant Professor, Computer Science Department, UCSB) spoke under the title "Perceptual Engineering."
Perceptual (or perception) engineering encompasses:
- Technology development motivated by models of perception and cognition of biological systems.
- Technology development for analysis and understanding of human perception/cognition processes.
The web digitized information while social media digitized people and relationships. Technology and global events are now transforming not only the nature of work but also where it is done and when. We are likely to continue living in both our physical and digital worlds (even more so because of COVID-19) leading to the question: how can both worlds become more integrated to help shape our future hybrid lives? Dr. Sra presented work from her Perceptual Engineering lab that explores how we might design our hybrid lives with spatial computing technologies, sensor data, and AI algorithms.
Like any area of advanced technology, ethical challenges loom around every corner on Dr. Sra's work. For example, deep-fake videos enabled by research in perceptual engineering are seen as inherently evil, because we have seen them used maliciously. However, there are a large number of benevolent uses for the same technology, and perception manipulation more generally (say, in education), that Dr. Sra outlined in her talk. Ethical considerations of this line of research tie nicely into topics discussed in our December 2020 talk by Dr. Jessica Santana.
A lively Q&A period followed, during which issues such as requirements for experimenting with human subjects, the "arms race" between faking schemes and the corresponding detection algorithms, the Turing test, and living in the Matrix were raised.
[Images] [Speaker's home page] [IEEE CCS event page] [IEEE CCS Technical Talks page]

2021/01/18 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: Quotation 1 from Dr. Martin Luther King Images about Martin Luther King Jr. Day Meme: Quotation 1 from Dr. Martin Luther King
View of Zayandeh-Rud River from the special Royal Arch of Esfahan's Khaju Bridge Ayatollah Khamenei's handwritten reply to a follower, inquiring about Baha'is Cover image of Juhood academic journal, published by Duke University (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Happy MLK Day! Let us celebrate the fact that our difficult transition from darkness to light nearly coincides with the day we remember and honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the man who constantly preached love and non-violence. [Bottom left] Iran's architecture: View of Zayandeh-Rud River from the special Royal Arch of Esfahan's Khaju Bridge. [Bottom center] Brain diarrhea from the leader of 80 million Iranians: Ayatollah Khamenei's handwritten reply to a follower, advising him/her that Baha'is are filthy, devious, unscrupulous, and corrupt and that the devout should avoid any contact with them. [Bottom right] Cover image of Juhood academic journal, published by Duke University (see the last item below).
(2) Data scientist Rebekah Jones arrested: She's accused of illegally accessing private data. She claims she is targeted because she refused to falsify data to show that Florida is ready for lifting COVID-19 restrictions.
(3) Ari Melber's special report on Trump's many calls for violence, way before he was elected in 2016 and repeatedly since then: You can't forego justice for illegal acts, calling instead for unity.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- On his final two days, our President worries about issues that are important to you and me ... Not!
- Trump to fly to Florida on Air Force One after an 8:00 AM ceremony on Wednesday, January 20.
- Video footage from inside the US Capitol insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021: "Deplorables" is too mild a term!
- Political humor: Arrested January 6 rioters have been told that their legal fees will be paid by Mexico!
- Perfect use of coronavirus relief funds: Sizable loans totaling more than $850K to five anti-vaccine groups!
- Angelique Kidjo's song honoring Nasrin Sotoudeh will compete for an Oscar in the original-song category.
- The "Coup 53" documentary, which was shelved for 4 months due to legal challenges, is available again.
- Some say soccer (football) is for men: Celine Dept demonstrates why they are so very wrong!
(5) "Antifa led the Capitol insurrection" didn't stick, because of all the video evidence and confessions: Now, Trumpists allege that Democrats paid the rioters to make Trump look bad!
(6) An unfortunate name for an academic journal: Duke University's Journal of Middle Eastern and North African Affairs is named "Juhood." The journal explains its name thus: Juhood is the namesake of an Arabic word meaning "make every conceivable effort; to do one's utmost." The word is from the same root as "jihad," which would have been a more appropriate name for the journal, but was perhaps skipped over, owing to its negative connotation in the West. Looking at the journal's cover was a jarring experience for me: The word "Juhood" is an offensive Persian term for "Jew," bearing the same connotation as the now-admonished "Nigger" in English. The composite form "Juhood-koshi" (literally "Jew-killing") is comparable to lynching. I hope the journal's founders consider changing its name, given that it is aimed at a region of the world that includes Iran and other Persian-speaking communities.

2021/01/17 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Comparing three Presidents with regard to fitness: 44 Comparing three Presidents with regard to fitness: 45 Comparing three Presidents with regard to fitness: 46
Adam Jentleson, interviewed about his book Cover image of Adam Jentleson's book, 'Kill Switch' Heather McGhee, interviewing Adam Jentleson about his book (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Comparing three Presidents with regard to fitness: The significant external differences between 45 and his predecessor & successor are far less than internal ones, in domains such as mental acuity, literacy, compassion, and respectability! (P.S.: I couldn't find a photo of Trump in water or biking, for better comparison.) [Bottom row] Book interview (see the last item below).
(2) People making millions a year are mad about the proposal to allow some folk earn ~ $31K/yr, if they take no time off whatsoever ($15/hour minimum wage x 40 hours/week x 52 weeks/year).
(3) Meme from Trumpists: "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in confederacy against him." ~ Jonathan Swift [Meme, in Persian]
Question: Can we use the same quote about Obama or Biden? Please advise!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A look at what happened during the siege of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. ["60 Minutes" report]
- Talk about impeachment, and the Far-Right points to the need for unity. Here's how they're unifying us!
- Quote: "Some people are like photographs: the more you blow them up the fuzzier they get." ~ Anonymous
- Millions of Evangelicals prayed for Trump's electoral victory: I guess God isn't very pleased with them!
(5) Until a few days ago, my hope was that the Biden/Harris team would unite the country: Now I see nothing among Trump supporters and most Republicans that I would want to unite with!
(6) Iranian regional music from the Caspian coast: Performance to honor prolific author/translator/activist Mahmoud Etemadzadeh [1915-2006], aka M. E. Beh-Azin, on his birthday. [7-minute video]
(7) Book interview: Adam Jentleson's Kill Switch: The Rise of the Modern Senate and the Crippling of American Democracy discusses, among other things, how the filibuster began as a tool of Southern Senators upholding slavery, later becoming a mechanism to block civil-rights legislation. Of course, the structure of the Senate, giving the same representation to smaller slave-holding states as populous northern states, held the beginnings of this undemocratic process.
Dr. Heather McGhee, herself an author (Sum of Us) and political commentator, interviewed Jentleson.
Most people don't know that fillibuster is a relatively recent development. For most of its life, the Senate has been governed by majority rule. Reforming the Senate by removing its current super-majority rule is a prerequisite to all other reforms. [NPR podcast about the book]

2021/01/16 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon from this week's Santa Barbara Independent: 'Don't shoot if you see the white of their skin' T-shirt for those who trust in science: F Au C I (Fluorine, Gold, Carbon, Iodine) Webinar on history of Iranian women's poetry (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cartoon from S. B. Independent. [Center] T-shirt for those who trust in science: F Au C I (Fluorine, Gold, Carbon, Iodine). [Right] Webinar on Iranian women's poetry (see the last item below).
(2) Zoom event on "Violence and Society": This morning's interesting panel, moderated by PhD scholars Ozlem Has and Nasim Basiri, featured Parthasarathi Muthukaruppan (Ass't Prof. of Cultural Studies, EFL), Fred Petrosian (journalist/researcher), and Junaid Ahmad (Director, Center for Islam and Decoloniality). [Report]
(3) Farhang Foundation Persian-poetry event: Bearing the title "Attar: The Unending Thirst," this morning's free live event featured Sholeh Wolpe (author of The Conference of the Birds), Fahad Siadat, and Andre Megerdichian. A recording of the event will become available on farhang.org/attar. [Report]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Colleges rescind honorary degrees they awarded to Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani.
- Military veterans are helping in the DC clean-up effort, after the January 6, 2021, riot.
- Bill Maher makes Kellyanne Conway uncomfortable by listing insults that Trump has hurled at him.
- Foreign companies are using preferential electricity rates in Iran to run bitcoin farms, causing blackouts.
(5) A History of Iranian Women's Poetry: Dr. Rohangiz (Ruhangiz) Karachi, Emerita Professor of Persian literature, presented an engrossing review of 1000 years of women contributing to Persian poetry, despite facing obstacles, being ignored, suffering insults, and enduring ridicule. Around 110 viewers participated in this webinar, sponsored by University of Toronto on Friday, January 15, 2021.
Dr. Karachi is a researcher of Persian literature and is also an influential poet. She has published one poetry collection, with the second volume expected soon. During the Q&A period, Dr. Karachi mentioned that she has not included poems for children or song lyrics in the scope of her historical work.
The written history of Iranian literature includes sparse mention of the best women poets, whereas mediocre male poets are routinely included. Over the centuries, women's poetry has gone through many phases, beginning with love poems and moving increasingly toward social and political issues of the day.
During Iran's constitutional revolution, issues of gender equity were raised and poems assumed social and cultural tones. However, equity remained at the level of talk, with discriminatory laws continued to be passed. Dr. Karachi maintains that Forough Farrokhzad is perhaps the best woman poet of all time.
One attendee objected to separate studies and discussion of women's poetry, asserting that poetry is poetry and should not be divided into men's and women's genres. In the Q&A period, I pointed out that this view is misguided, much like what we are facing in the US, where talking about the problems and rights of blacks and colored people raises the objection that we are all humans and there is no need to raise divisive issues; yes, we are all humans, but we can't erase the effects of 400 years of oppression and mistreatment by simply declaring that "all lives matter."

2021/01/15 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Tonight's sunset, shot from UCSB's North Campus Open Space: Batch 1 of photos Tonight's sunset, shot from UCSB's North Campus Open Space: Batch 3 of photos Tonight's sunset, shot from UCSB's North Campus Open Space: Batch 2 of photos (1) Tonight's sunset, shot from UCSB's North Campus Open Space: The combination of orange sky and its reflection in water is magical at sunset.
(2) This former Evangelical Christian has a point: Our problem is religious fanaticism, not political extremism. Without support from Evangelicals, who want to build a Christian version of Iran, Trump couldn't do much.
(3) Right-wing activists received large bitcoin payments from a foreign account a month before the capitol riot: Twenty-two virtual wallets received $0.5M worth of bitcoin transfers on December 8, 2020.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- On Trump being depicted by some Capitol rioters as Captain America. [Jake Tapper tweet]
- Please explain why during the DC riot, the President wasn't evacuated to a secure location but the VP was.
- Borowitz Report (humor): Major spray-tan corporations break ties with Trump.
- Is anyone really surprised that Donald Trump tried to force himself on America after she said no?
- Obituary of Sensei Steven Ken Ota [1948-2020] in Santa Barbara Independent. [Link]
- Having fun with music: Dancing violin maestros play "Salsa de la Luna."
- Persian poetry: Recitation of a poem by Mahdi Hakimi in praise of the city and people of Yazd, Iran.
(5) Stanford U. publishes a new constitution for transition to a democratic Iran, written by Mohammad Reza Shajarian and others. Many have criticized using the late maestro's popularity to sell a half-baked document that leaves a lot of things unspecified or puts lipstick on existing pigs. [24-page document, in Persian]
(6) Book talk: "America and Iran: A History, 1720 to the Present" is the title of a talk by Dr. John Ghazvinian (U. Penn), based on his 2021 book by the same title. Thursday, January 21, 2021, 10:00 AM PST.
(7) The need for men's participation in combatting violence against women: Panel discussion, in Persian, featuring Shahin Navaie, Elaheh Amani, Shahrzad Roshdi, and Behrang Zandi. [85-minute video]
(8) Jared Kushner & Ivanka Trump wouldn't let the Secret Service use any one of their six bathrooms, so the Secret Service had to rent a nearby apartment at $3000/mo just for the bathrooms.
(9) Why we can't go back in time: Frenchman Lazare Carnot had a passion for the great Persian poet Sa'adi Shirazi. He named his son after the poet. Sadi Carnot wrote a misguided treatise on how steam engines worked, committing many basic errors, but getting the essential fact right that the source of energy is a drop in temperature (much like falling-water produces energy). The fact that heat "travels" in one direction, from warmer bodies to colder ones, is the only thing that distinguishes the past from the future. All other laws of physics are essentially reversible. In every instance when the past and the future are distinguishable, heat is involved. Clausius quantified this irreversible progress of heat in only one direction as entropy. [Ideas from Carlo Rovelli's wonderful book, The Order of Time, which I will review here shortly.]

2021/01/14 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: 'This is not who we are' Cover image of the book 'Then the Fish Swallowed Him' My profile on IEEE Computer Society's Distinguished Visitors Program Web site (1) Images of the day: [Left] New Yorker cartoon: "This is not who we are." [Center] Talk by Amir Ahmadi Arian (see the last item below). [Right] For IEEE entities interested in having invited speakers, with their travel expenses paid by IEEE Computer Society: Here is my profile and list of lectures within IEEE Computer Society's Distinguished Visitors Program. Three lectures are listed for now, but I may add more later.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Right-wing activists received large bitcoin payments from a foreign account a month before the capitol riot.
- Trump takes his frustrations out on Rudi Giuliani and refuses to pay him for his legal work.
- Different lessons can be drawn from an experience: Be like a needy crippled fox or a generous mighty lion.
- Persian/Azeri song, fused with Arabic-style dancing. [3-minute video]
(3) Highlights from today's meeting of UCSB Faculty Legislature:
- Governor proposes a 3.9% increase to UC budget, with the expectation that resident tuition/fees remain flat.
- Campus COVID-19 free testing programs are in place and vaccination on healthcare workers has begun.
- UCSB's response team is being led by Stuart Feinstein (MCDB) and Laura Polito, MD.
- SB County has reduced the priority vaccination age from 75 to 65, but vaccine availability is a different story.
- UCSB has lost two staff members, but no faculty members that we know of, to COVID-19.
- UC and Cal State campuses expect to return to in-person instruction in fall 2021.
- Our WASC accreditation will run out in 2023, and preparations to have it renewed are beginning.
- Proposal for a bioengineering PhD program (with possible future formation of an academic unit) approved.
(4) Book talk: In today's Stanford University webinar, Amir Ahmadi Arian discussed the back-story of his first novel in English, Then the Fish Swallowed Him (HarperCollins, 2020). The critically-acclaimed author's novel is about a disturbing, yet interdependent, relationship between an apolitical bus driver, who suddenly becomes an activist, and his interrogator at the notorious Evin Prison. The story's idea was born in 2004, when Tehran bus drivers went on strike and the city came to a standstill. The protagonist, Yunus, is put in jail and the bulk of the story happens in the Evin Prison.
Examining "prison novels," Ahmadi Arian realized that there wasn't much about the experience of solitary confinement, perhaps because the isolated environment doesn't provide much to write about. So, he talked to a few friends who had been kept in solitary confinement and realized that the relationship of the prisoner with their interrogators is the only thing that happens and one can write about (besides self-reflection and self-blame). Many prisoners found it difficult to talk about their experiences, but about half-dozen did, giving the author a window into their experiences.
Prison stories that deal with an interrogator character tend to present him as pure evil, and the author wanted to transcend this good-evil dichotomy. So, he focused on the system of interrogation, which is a kind of bureaucracy, with a hierarchy of interrogators and many internal rules, so that if you remove one interrogator and replace him with another, very little changes.
The title's "the Fish Swallowed Him" results from comparing the protagonist to Yunus the Prophet, with the belly of the fish/whale being the prison system and solitary confinement.

2021/01/13 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Surfing on Goleta's Coal Oil Point Sand Beach: Monday, January 11, 2021. Bazaar spice shop in Tabriz, Iran Sunset on Goleta's Coal Oil Point Sand Beach: Monday, January 11, 2021. (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Surf and sunset on Goleta's Coal Oil Point Sand Beach: Photographed on Monday, January 11, 2021. [Center] Bazaar spice shop in Tabriz, Iran.
(2) Citing the First Amendment, the Liar-in-Chief and his enablers cry foul over social-media bans: The US Constitution's First Amendment says nothing about your right to advance conspiracy theories and have them published or spread. Its full text follows. It only says that laws curtailing free speech should not be passed (it's about Congress and not citizens or private companies).
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." [Image]
(3) Trump has been impeached for the second time: After all their tough talk about law & order and being outraged by the mob attack on the US Capitol, only 10 Republicans voted for impeachment!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Congresswoman Sherrill reports colleagues to cops, because they led rioters on Jan. 5th Capitol tours.
- Nike and other companies pledge not to support US lawmakers who voted to decertify election results.
- Mike Pompeo cancels his final trip to Europe, after EU and Luxembourg officials refused to meet him.
- Governor Gavin Newsom rejects tuition increases for University of California and Cal State University.
- Women political prisoners in Iran: A Persian report on why there are so many and how they are treated.
(5) "Social Justice Advocacy and the Culture of Outrage": This was the title of today's Pacific Views Lecture, sponsored by the UCSB Library. Professor Tania Israel (Feminist Studies, UCSB) spoke. A key take-away from the data she presented is that the divide between various political factions (left vs. right) isn't as large as either side thinks. For example, only 1/3 of Trump supporters believe that the mob attacking the US Capitol represents their views, whereas some 3/4 of liberals think that the mob was representative of Trump voters.
Another observation is that you can't really change someone's views by presenting arguments that make sense to you. The primary method to engage in conversations about differences is to show readiness to listen: listen to understand & learn, not to respond. Social media, acting as echo chambers, are part of the problem. We have to mind the language we use on our social-media posts. In addition to the divide between left and right, there is a divide between those heavily engaged in political & social causes and the majority of Americans who are disengaged from political activity. There is a bigger divide between activists and those who choose to remain silent than there is between left and right!
Professor Israel's Web site offers resources about strategies for effective engagement, both with those who are our polar opposites as well as those who are on our side, but disagree in details or favor different strategies for acting. Professor Israel's book, Beyond Your Bubble, and the flowchart seen in this image (one that will resolve all political conflict in our country!) are examples.

2021/01/12 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Unemployed liars, who may want to erase their association with Trump from their resumes IEEE Women in Engineering affinity groups see significant worldwide growth in 2020 Turkey sandwiches, with preparation steps shown (1) Images of the day: [Left] Unemployed liars, who may want to erase their association with Trump from their resumes. [Center] IEEE Women in Engineering affinity groups see significant worldwide growth in 2020. [Right] Turkey sandwiches from a couple of days ago, with preparation steps shown (see the last item below).
(2) "History of Bab and Baha'i movements": This was the title of a presentation by Mr. Ala Alizadeh in the Zoom gathering of Tehran University's College of Engineering Class of 1968 (Fanni '68).
In 1844, Siyyid Ali Muhammad Shirazi [1819-1850], began a movement by claiming that he was the promised redeemer (Mahdi) of Islam and took the title "Bab" ("the gate" in Arabic). Followers of Bab were armed and were seen as threats by Iran's government, which executed him in 1850.
Thirteen years after Bab's execution, one of his followers, Bahaullah (Mirza Husayn-Ali Nuri, 1817-1892), founded the Baha'i faith as fulfillment of Bab's prophecy. Followers of Bahaullah are known as Baha'is; little trace of Babism, as a separate faith, has remained in the world. Abdul-Baha [1844-1921], the son of Bahaullah, succeeded him as the faith's leader.
Even though the originators of the Baha'i faith were Muslims, the faith isn't considered a branch of Islam. Islamic leaders, who consider Muhammad to be God's last prophet, view the Baha'i faith as illegitimate and its teachings as blasphemous. This is why Baha'is are mistreated in today's Islamic Iran. Their treatment was much better during the Pahlavi dynasty, particularly during the reign of its second king, but even then, Islamic clerics were quite influential and applied pressure for the exclusion of Baha'is from holding public office or other positions where they could influence the society.
Bahaullah was expelled from Iran, first to Iraq, then to Turkey (Ottoman Empire), and, from there, to Israel, and was buried in Acre, Israel, in 1892. This is the main reason for the administrative center of the faith being located in Israel. The Iranian government often arrests Baha'is and, among the accusations it levels at them, cites spying for Israel.
Even though the Baha'i faith began in Iran, most followers of the faith live in other countries. Population figures from 2010 include: India 1.9M; USA 510K; Kenya 420K; Vietnam 390K; Congo 280K; Philippines $280K; Iran 250K. The figure for Baha'is in Iran must be taken with a grain of salt, given that openly admitting to being a Baha'i is quite dangerous. Many Baha'is left Iran after the Islamic Revolution, but, again, reliable figures for the number who departed Iran do not exist.
[Recording of the event: 154-minute video; start at the 00:23:00 mark; the passcode is: 0dE!G.+2]
A reliable info/news source on the Baha'is is bahai.org/, which also has a Persian site, bahai.org/fa/. Baha'is in the US also have a Web site, bahai.us/. A couple of YouTube videos summarize the origins and teachings of the Baha'i faith. [Part 1, Origins & The Bab (20 minutes); Part 2, Bahaullah & His Teachings (24 minutes)]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump claims he did nothing wrong. Pence indicates that he won't invoke the 25th Amendment.
- Mitch McConnell and several other Republicans reportedly approve of impeaching Trump.
- Anti-Nazis on-line: Amateur sleuths who work tirelessly to expose Nazis and other right-wing extremists.
- Borowitz Report (humor): Fauci says immunity from Trump requires two doses of impeachment!
(4) Final thought for the day: I posted a photo of a mortadella sandwich with Barbari bread a few days ago, which generated some excitement but also produced complaints about showing only the completed sandwich and not all of its ingredients. In the words of one friend, "I want some naked pictures"! So, tonight's sandwiches are presented in a reverse strip-tease format. The bread is Costco's artisan rolls (look like ciabatta bread, but the texture is a bit different). Other ingredients are thin turkey slices, savory cheddar cheese, broccoli sprouts, dill pickles, tomatoes, and mayo/mustard.

2021/01/11 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Just out: MAGA 'Capitol Invasion' Lego blocks set! Commemorating victims of Baha'is' persecution in Iran Group set up at Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace as part of the well-funded effort to recall Governor Gavin Newsom (1) Images of the day: [Left] Just out: MAGA "Capitol Invasion" Lego-blocks set! [Center] Commemorating victims of Baha'is' persecution in Iran (see the last item below). [Right] A well-funded campaign to recall California's Governor Gavin Newsom: An Irvine company (a possible shell, to avoid disclosing the donors) has contributed $0.5M to the recall effort. I took this photo on Sunday 1/10 in Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace.
(2) For my Persian-speaking readers: A brave soul addresses Supreme Leader Khamenei, chiding him for not being accountable to people and endangering the lives of 80 million Iranians by his unilateral decision to ban the import of COVID-19 vaccines from the West. [13-minute video]
(3) Los Angeles hospitals are in dire straits: A niece of mine, who is a nurse, posted a frightening Facebook status on what she and her colleagues are facing at the Cedar Sinai Hospital. Here's a report from LA Times.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Info sought on 10 men captured in these images during the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol.
- As if six deaths weren't enough, the January 6 DC insurrection may turn into a super-spreader event.
- I'm not an Arnold Schwarzenegger fan, but his message about the Jan. 6 DC riot in this video is spot-on.
- Time to re-examine some older conspiracy theories: The myth of the Rothschilds. [English] [Persian]
- Iranians can dance: And they do it with gusto! Unknown location and cast.
- Iranian cuisine: This restaurant tray of rice and meat dishes is prepared for a party of 6-8! [Video]
(5) Upcoming IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Professor Misha Sra (Department of Computer Science, UCSB) will speak on Zoom under the title "Perceptual Engineering" (Wednesday, January 20, 2021, 6:30 PM PST). You don't have to be an IEEE member to attend. Details and registration link.
(6) Zoom event on "Violence and Society": Moderated by PhD scholars Ozlem Has and Nasim Basiri and featuring panelists Parthasarathi Muthukaruppan (Ass't Prof. of Cultural Studies, EFL), Fred Petrosian (journalist & researcher), and Junaid Ahmad (Dir. Center for Islam and Decoloniality). Sat., Jan. 16, 2021, 9:00 AM PST.
(7) Final thought for the day (On the plight of Iranian Baha'is): A forthcoming Zoom presentation on the history of the Baha'i faith produced misgivings among a group of my friends, who feared that the discussion might deteriorate into a shouting match. I, for one, am eager to learn about the history of the Baha'i faith, given the shame I feel for not speaking up much sooner in defense of this persecuted religious minority by Iranian mullahs and their goons. Fear was one reason. My own unsteady status as a member of another religious minority in Iran was another. After leaving Iran, I became more aware of the intensity and all-encompassing nature of the persecution and the fear component was removed. Hence, my current activism to expose the Iranian regime's shameful treatment of the Baha'is. [In Persian]

2021/01/10 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Architects are turning drab apartment buildings into sights to behold: Example 1 Architects are turning drab apartment buildings into sights to behold: Example 2 Architects are turning drab apartment buildings into sights to behold: Example 3
Architects are turning drab apartment buildings into sights to behold: Example 1 Twitter parodies multiply, after Donald Trump, aka John Barron, is banned from the platform Cover image of Shoshana Zuboff's 'The Age of Surveillance Capitalism' (1) Images of the day: [Top row & Bottom left] Architects turn drab apartment buildings into sights to behold. [Bottom center] Twitter parodies multiply, after Donald Trump, aka John Barron, is banned from the platform. [Bottom right] Cover image of Shoshana Zuboff's The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (see the last item below).
(2) Persian poetry and music: Artists from several countries perform a song based on Sa'adi's famous poem.
Opening verse: Human beings are members of a whole | In creation of one essence and soul [In Persian]
(3) Trump supporters planned the Capitol siege on-line, in plain sight: Exchanging messages on public forums, they talked about what to bring, how to storm the building, and what to use to handcuff lawmakers. Researchers catalogued the chatter and knew pretty much what would transpire. Many of the participants said they were following Trump's orders. With all the advance information, why the Capitol police was unprepared remains a mystery. US intelligence agencies must be in disarray not to be able to connect these very obvious dots! Trump supporters are already planning the next event.
(4) Book review: Zuboff, Shoshana, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power, MP3 audiobook, read by Nicol Zanzarella, Hachette Audio, 2019.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Industrial capitalism is based on controlling labor and consumer goods to amass capital. In information capitalism, knowledge of behaviors and thoughts is exploited for profit. Data required for gaining such knowledge are obtained via surveillance, often without consent, hence the alternative term "surveillance capitalism." Zuboff, Professor Emerita of Harvard Business School, is highly qualified to survey this domain and set up a framework, including the required terminology, needed for defining the problems and thinking about solution methods.
Going from exploiting behavioral data to trying to control behaviors, for even greater financial gain under the guise of improving efficiency and productivity, is a rather small step, leading to political or technological dictatorships. In essence, today's focus on predicting human behavior, as done with recommender systems, will give way to more or less deterministic behavior that is even easier to exploit.
Zuboff takes us through the slow but steady process of tech companies like Google and Facebook exerting ever-greater control over our behavioral data, in part by obfuscating their data collection and sharing policies and partly by cozying up to politicians and social-media influencers to have us believe that massive data collection is in our best interests or that it is inevitable in today's information-based society.
Zuboff draws parallels between surveillance capitalism's instrumentarianism (means of collecting data) to ideas advanced by Hana Arendt in The Origin of Totalitarianism. Even though she points out the distinction between state-run totalitarianism and business-run instrumentarianism, in terms of both objectives and means, the distinction is quickly disappearing, as illustrated in the case of the Chinese government and its giant tech companies such as Huawei, or Iran's throttling access to the Internet and running social-media surveillance.
Unfortunately, in the US, overzealous deregulation led to tech companies being tasked with self-regulation. Examples of disastrous consequences abound, from Facebook running behavioral experiments involving human subjects, without the required checks and balances which are the norms for such experiments, Google using its StreetView program to gather extremely private information by raising its cameras to peer into people's homes, and certain models of Rumba robotic vacuum-cleaners generating and transmitting floorplan maps, as they crisscross the rooms of people's houses.
Facebook, Google, Apple, and others also set surveillance-friendly default privacy settings and make it as difficult as possible to change those settings. Privacy-policy disclosures have become so long and convoluted that barely anyone reads them before clicking on the "agree" button, and even if one reads the agreements, opting out is often not a practical alternative. One ally for tech companies' obfuscation strategies is the "division of knowledge" counterpart to yesterday's "division of labor," that is, ensuring that no-one has a full picture of exactly what goes on in a complex information system.
A major take-away from this book is that self-regulation doesn't work for such powerful tech companies. There are some whistle-blowers around, but they are few and far in between. The "division of knowledge" paradigm ensures that no one has the ability to connect the dots. Errors and biases exposed in facial recognition systems constitute the tip of the iceberg of potential abuse and unethical data-exploitation.
The threat of terrorism led to the installation of more surveillance cameras and to citizens coming to accept these cameras as necessary for safety. Other surveillance tools are often justified similarly or by resorting to the notions of efficiency and convenience. Whether this book mobilizes the masses to demand transparency or leads to tech companies digging in and improving their obfuscation strategies remains to be seen.

2021/01/09 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Finest sample of Persian love poetry, by M. Zavareh Remembering the devastating mud-flow in Montecito, just to the south of Santa Barbara: Photos from January 9, 2018 My message to fellow Iranian-Americans
Cartoon: Khamenei gets vaccinated himself, while banning the purchase of American and British vaccines Donald J. Trump on the cover of Newsweek magazine: He is no longer just a joke; he is a serious threat! Cartoon: Lady Liberty to Trump: 'Enough is enough!' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Fine sample of Persian love poetry, by M. Zavareh. [Top center] Remembering the devastating mud-flow in Montecito, just to the south of Santa Barbara: Photos from January 9, 2018. [Top right] My message to fellow Iranian-Americans. [Bottom left] Khamenei has banned Iran's purchase of American and British COVID-19 vaccines, after reportedly being vaccinated himself. [Bottom center] Donald J. Trump on the cover of Newsweek magazine: He is no longer just a joke; he is a serious threat! [Bottom right] Lady Liberty to Trump: "Enough is enough!"
(2) It's safe to say that DJT's dream of having his face added to Mount Rushmore has gone down the drain: Legislation is being proposed to prevent his name from ever appearing on a federal building or property.
(3) Police officers in front of the US Capitol were seen wrestling with the mob of Trump supporters: Where were their batons? Tasers? Rubber bullets?
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Some pro-Trump insurrectionists talked about wanting to hang Mike Pence at the US Capitol. [Reuters]
- Rebuttal to those who say what happened on Jan. 6 did not represent America: It actually did! [NYT video]
- A giant step backward in gender equity: All 140,000 US jobs lost in December were women's.
- Masih Alinejad calls on Twitter to ban Khamanei's account until Iran restores Internet access to its citizens.
- Musical prodigy plays her new trumpet after losing hers when she fled political unrest in Venezuela.
(5) Iran's Conspiracy-Theorist-in-Chief: Khamenei issues order to ban the purchase of American and British COVID-19 vaccines. This order endangers the lives of Iranians, including front-line medical personnel, 3000 of whom have fled Iran in recent months. It is also a dog-whistle to Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps smugglers to flood the black market with imported vaccines, selling them to the rich at many times the actual price.
[The photo in this Facebook post shows Kamenei's son, who recently visited Britain for medical treatment.]
(6) Tweet from actress Pin Young: My tenant who rents my guest house told his friends to break into my house. They broke a bunch of shit but thankfully weren't successful in occupying it, and I got out in time. His lease is up on January 20th anyway, so should I let him finish up his lease or kick him out now?
(7) A final thought: Cabinet secretaries opting to resign two weeks before Inauguration Day are likely doing it not out of disgust but to protect themselves against having to participate in invoking the 25th Amendment.

2021/01/08 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Lighting a candle on the first anniversary of the downing of Flight PS752 by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Cartoon: IRGC general 'honoring' his Flight PS752 victims T-shirt for everyone who's flabbergasted by years of lies and stupid pronouncements
Statue of beloved Persian poet/mystic Mowlavi (Rumi) in Buca, Izmir, Turkey Mark Zuckerberg explains why Facebook has blocked Trump from posting Statue of Achaemenid Emperor Cyrus the Great in Tajikistan's capital city, Doshanbeh (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] Today is the first anniversary of the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp, as it took off from Tehran Airport: All 176 civilians on board, mostly Iranians living in or heading to Canada, were killed. So many promising lives lost to the cruelty and paranoia of a despised autocratic regime (cartoon of an IRGC general "honoring" his victims is from IranWire). [Top right] T-shirt for everyone who's flabbergasted by years of lies and stupid pronouncements. [Bottom left] Statue of beloved Persian poet/mystic Mowlavi (Rumi) in Buca, Izmir, Turkey. [Bottom center] Mark Zuckerberg explains why Facebook has blocked Trump from posting on its platform. [Bottom right] Statue of Achaemenid Emperor Cyrus the Great in Tajikistan's capital city, Doshanbeh.
(2) A history of the Internet, from the mouth of one of its pioneers and influencers: Dr. Vinton Cerf, an early networking innovator at UCLA and the current Chief Internet Evangelist at Google, is interviewed by Jessica Bell in this 33-minute ACM ByteCast.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- After Twitter's permanent ban, Trump tried and failed to tweet from other accounts under his control.
- Boeing to pay $2.5 billion in fines for criminal charges resulting from two crashes of its 737 MAX jetliner.
- Nasrin Sotoudeh is on a 3-day medical leave from prison, where she is serving a 33-year sentence.
- Persian music: Dissident Narges Mohammadi sings a protest song to commemorate Flight PS752 victims.
- Precision Kurdish dancing in Turkey. [1-minute video]
- Walking this afternoon on a most-scenic part of the UCSB campus. [3-minute narrated video]
- American College of Tehran [1929-1932]: History and memorial album of what later became Alborz HS.
(4) Glimpses of the command center for the January 6, 2021, DC riot: The commanders seem to be enjoying themselves, sheltered in the White House, while urging their followers to "fight."
(5) In case you're worried about a madman with nuclear codes: Fortunately, the President having "his fingers on the nuclear button" is a figure of speech. There are safeguards in place, and a few other people must go along for actual launch of nuclear weapons. The military is bound to obey the Commander-in-Chief, but they also take an oath to the US Constitution, so they can neutralize the madman by disobeying his command. The military is more likely to obey if enemy missiles approaching the US are detected. In other cases, with no imminent threat, they will take time to reflect and consult.
(6) Final thought for the day: We have a new example of "White Privilege": The ability to storm the US Capitol building, while carrying guns, without being called a terrorist.

2021/01/07 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
US Capitol steps, during the BLM protests and yesterday's MAGA mob assault A very fine MAGA person, with his 'Camp Auschwitz: Work Brings Freedom' sweatshirt at the US Capitol! Names of terrorists who stormed and took over the US Capitol are being released one by one (1) Images of the day: [Left] Washington, DC, security, during the BLM protests and yesterday's MAGA mob assault. [Center] Here's a gift to Jewish supporters of our treasonous President: A "very fine" MAGA person, with his "Camp Auschwitz: Work Brings Freedom" sweatshirt at the US Capitol! [Right] Names of terrorists who stormed and took over the US Capitol are being released one by one: They are giving interviews and post social-media messages, indicating that they take pride in what they did. Not a single one of the identified terrorists is an Antifa member, as claimed by Trump supporters and right-wing media.
(2) Americans should stop subsidizing the posh lifestyles of super-spreading preachers: If Jesus can protect them and their flock against COVID-19, he can surely provide them with funding as well!
(3) The forgotten first wife of Albert Einstein: Mileva Maric was a brilliant physicist too, and there are indications that she influenced her husband's work. Yet, very little has been written about her.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Four dead in DC terrorist attack on the US Capitol: One from gunshot, three from medical emergencies.
- Twitter & Facebook locked Donald Trump's account and warned about a possible permanent suspension.
- New idea for a TV series: "Duck Dynasty Goes to Washington"
- A hopeful note: James Corden of "The Late Show" reflects on yesterday's events in Washington, DC.
- Persian music: A touching vocal-piano rendition of "Ashegh Shodam Man." [Video]
- Persian music: Young Iranians performing memorable songs from their parents' generation. [Video]
(5) Trump on the Charlottesville mob, 2017: "Very fine people on both sides." Trump to the Washington DC, mob, 2021: "We love you. You are very special." [Climbing walls: Tehran, 1979, vs. Washington DC, 2021]
(6) Here we go (as predicted by many): Some Trump supporters suggest that it was a leftist mob, bearing false flags, that attacked the US Capitol, causing 4 deaths and extensive property damage.
(7) Lindsey Graham on Trump: "He is a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot" (2015).
"I think he's a kook. I think he's crazy. I think he's unfit for office" (2016).
"What concerns me about the American press is this endless, endless attempt to label the guy some kind of kook, not fit to be President" (2017).
"Trump and I have had a hell of a journey, but enough is enough" (2021).
What will shameless Lindsey Graham say in 2022, 2023, and beyond?
(8) Reaching out to my students in these difficult times: Here's a message I have sent to my students at UCSB.
We are all experiencing difficulties, as we work to fulfill our educational missions and goals, while facing a vicious pandemic. Our task may have gotten harder by political unrest unfolding in the United States, which may signal at least a few weeks of turmoil. You can reach me via e-mail or Zoom office hours, as always. Given the unprecedented challenges in front of us, I am providing you with my cell phone number. Please feel free to reach out to me with any academic or personal problems. Remember that we are in this together. Stay well!

2021/01/06 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Georgia's electoral history: Charts Candidates in Georgia Senate runoff races Georgia's red and blue counties during the 2021 Senate runoff races
Guns drawn inside the US Capitol Building Mob member inside the US Capitol Building carrying a 'Trump is My President' flag (1) Georgia takes another step in the direction of turning blue: In the US Senate runoff races, both Democratic challengers prevailed over Republican incumbents (Raphael Warnock's win over Kelly Loeffler has been declared, while Jon Ossof leads David Perdue by 0.4 point and is expected to pull off a victory). While these results give the Democrats theoretical control over the Senate, the 50-50 composition is highly fragile. However, even this shaky control makes a big difference, when bills are actually brought to the floor for discussion and positions of all Senators on various issues become known. Mitch McConnell shielded Republican Senators from embarrassment by disallowing certain sensitive issues to even be discussed.
[Addendum: A mob of Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol; lawmakers were asked to shelter in place.]
(2) "Social Justice Advocacy and the Culture of Outrage": The next Pacific Views Lecture, sponsored by the UCSB Library, will feature Professor Tania Israel (Feminist Studies, UCSB): Wed., Jan. 13, 2021, 4:00 PM PST.
(3) "In Solidarity: Then the Fish Swallowed Him": Amir Ahmadi Arian will discuss his first novel in English, Then the Fish Swallowed Him, published by HarperCollins in 2020. The critically-acclaimed author's novel tells the story of a disturbing, yet interdependent, relationship between an apolitical bus driver, who suddenly becomes an activist, and his interrogator at Tehran's infamous Evin Prison. Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, 10:00 AM PST.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Does the thought of Trump running in 2024 scare you? How about Iran's Ahmadinejad making a comeback?
- Iran's parliament to discuss a bill that would mandate the elimination of Israel by 2041.
- MacArthur Fellow Ta-Nehisi Coates to speak for UCSB Arts & Lectures: Tue., Jan. 12, 2021, 5:00 PM PST.
- Beautiful voice: Indonesian young woman Ikka Zepthia's cover of "I Will Always Love You." [Video]
- Historic photo of musical collaborators in Iran. [Photo, with legend in Persian]
- Persian music: French singer Charlotte Bozzi and Arash Fouladvand perform "Aghrab-e Zolf-e Kajet."
(5) Spreading COVID-19 misinformation is apparently good business: Several fake-news and conspiracy-theory media outlets received pandemic-relief aid from the US government.
(6) Medical debate of the day: Save the second vaccine doses for those who have received their first doses or use them to vaccinate others? (Or, which is better: x vaccinations at ~95% effectiveness or 2x at ~85%?)
(7) Lawyers used to pride themselves on the number of cases they had won: Not any more! They are marching behind Trump, filing frivolous lawsuits with no chance of winning, just to please their King (or to avoid his ire)!
(8) "A History of Iranian Women's Poetry": A lecture by Dr. Ruhangiz Karachi, presented by University of Toronto, Friday, January 15, 2021, 1:00 PM PST.
(9) General Qasem Soleimani of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps was untouchable while alive: A year after being assassinated, his corrupt practices begin to emerge, implicating other Islamic Republic officials as well.

2021/01/05 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Republican Senators who plan to object to Joe Biden's electoral victory on January 6 A love couplet by the Azeri poet Shahriar Square image of round-table on 'Data Abuse & Tech Divide: Ethical Considerations, Social Impacts, and Policies' (1) Images of the day: [Left] GOP Senators who plan to object to Joe Biden's electoral victory on January 6. [Center] Memory from January 4, 2015: A love couplet by the beloved Azeri poet Mohammad-Hossein Shahriar. [Right] Round-table discussion on data abuse and tech divide (see the next-to-the-last item below).
(2) Women in STEM receive some overdue recognition during 2020: For example, NASA named an under-construction telescope after Vera Rubin and the successor to Hubble Space Telescope after Nancy Grace Roman.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Donald Trump may be planning a trip to Scotland the day before Joe Biden's inauguration.
- Los Angeles County orders ambulance crews to conserve oxygen, as area hospitals face shortages.
- Russian hackers viewed some of Microsoft's source code.
- Proud Boys leader arrested in Washington, DC, for torching a Black-Lives-Matter banner.
- New-Year's-Day car collision in Fresno County, California, kills 9, including 7 children, ages 6-15.
- Memory from Jan. 4, 2018: "Having been bitten by a snake makes you fear a black-and-white twine."
(4) Round-table on "Data Abuse & Tech Divide: Ethical Considerations, Social Impacts, and Policies": In this morning's Zoom gathering of Tehran University's College of Engineering Class of 1968 (Fanni '68), Professor Sirous Yasseri and I led a round-table discussion on certain ethical and social aspects of high tech.
Key subareas in the domain of data abuse include hazards of big data, surveillance economy, consumer protection (laws), ethics of tech (AI, ML), fake news/reviews, and digital slavery. Subareas in the domain of tech divide include fair access to info tech, tech haves & have-nots, public infrastructure, tech literacy (techeracy), digital natives/immigrants, and digital dark ages. Today's round-table was the fourth and final installment in this discussion, which took the form of lectures in the first three parts.
Here are a set of questions that will allow you to think about the challenging issues involved:
Q1. If Russia can hack the biggest tech companies and "secure" government sites, is any data really secure?
Q2. What is Section 230 (1996 law) and why many believe that its outdated provisions should be revised?
Q3. Is Julian Assange a hero or a villain? Tensions between personal freedoms/responsibilities & social order.
Q4. Banks routinely pay fines, but continue to misbehave. Will privacy violations really stop with fines?
Q5. Should access to the Internet & digital-literacy education be declared basic rights and thus subsidized?
Q6. How do we impress the fact that info tech isn't really neutral and comes with a vast potential for abuse?
Q7. Given info-tech's global reach, is it advisable to have different national laws or do we need a global law?
Q8. With expanding use of AI, do we need machine-abuse laws or can we apply existing laws to such cases?
(5) Today's discussion of abuses by powerful tech companies reminded me of my 20-year-old "letter to the editor" about how greed influences the computer industry (from IEEE Computer magazine, April 2000).

2021/01/03 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The first beautiful sunrise of 2021, as seen from my bedroom window early this morning Cartoon: Wildlife evolving with technology 'End of an Error': Special T-shirts for January 20, 2021, are here! (1) Images of the day: [Left] The first beautiful sunrise of 2021 in Goleta, California, as seen from my bedroom window early this morning. [Center] Cartoon of the day: Wildlife evolving with technology (barcode giving way to QR code). [Right] "End of an Error": Special T-shirts for January 20, 2021, are here!
(2) Extortion: Georgia's Secretary of State releases parts of his 1-hour phone conversation with Donald Trump in which he is threatened by Trump and asked to find enough votes for him to overturn the election result.
(3) Trump secretly wants the two incumbent Republican Georgia Senators to lose to their Democratic challengers: Their win would signal that there is something wrong with Trump, who lost in Georgia.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's threatening/bullying 62-minute call to Georgia's Secretary of State: Full recording.
- Long-time journalist Larry King, 87, has been hospitalized with COVID-19.
- Quote: "Order without liberty and liberty without order are equally destructive." ~ Theodore Roosevelt
- Memory from January 3, 2016: Apt substitutes for Persian karaoke music.
- Beautiful Azeri love song: Duet by old-time singers Aref and Yaghoub Zoroofchi.
(5) Donald Trump will go down in history as the worst US President ever: Mike Pence will go along with him as the least-consequential VP; as some Trump supporters put it, a "glorified letter-opener."
(6) We are so Northern-Hemisphere-focused that we forget about people down-under, who don't dream of a white Christmas, but head to the beaches this time of year.
(7) Chicken nuggets, prepared without killing any chickens: Cultured meat, already approved for use in Singapore will revolutionize the food industry and help solve world-hunger and climate-change problems. Other than sparing animals' lives and eliminating animal cruelty in meat production facilities, production of cultured meat uses less energy and prevents diseases transmitted via animals.
(8) What is Section 230? A law enacted in 1996 has shaped the Internet, causing lies, libel, and bullying to go unpunished. The law essentially says that Internet platforms are not liable for what users post. People's lives have been ruined by this shortsighted law. Examples of those suffering as a result of Section 230 can be found in this 13-minute segment of CBS "60 Minutes" program. One woman was accused, in some 70 posted videos, as being a murderer responsible for spreading COVID-19. A father was unsuccessful in removing the video of his daughter's murder from YouTube.
(9) Final thought for the day: "It does not take a majority to prevail ... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men." ~ Samuel Adams

2021/01/02 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
IEEE Spectrum magazine's annual technology review issue, January 2021, strikes an optimistic chord Cover image of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's 'Skin in the Game' Image of the first page of the Web site 'The PrimePages' (1) Images of the day: [Left] IEEE Spectrum magazine's annual technology review issue, January 2021, strikes an optimistic chord. [Center] Cover image of Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life (see the last item below). [Right] The largest known prime number, discovered in 2018, is the Mersenne prime 2^82,589,933 – 1, possibly the 51st one, with 24,862,048 digits.
(2) Cultural backwardness: In Iran, a woman raising kids by herself isn't called "single mom" or "head of household"; She is deemed an unsupervised woman (zan-e bi sarparast)!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump to Kushner over increased COVID-19 testing: "I'm going to lose, and it's going to be your fault."
- Trump supporters call Mike Pence a "glorified envelope-opener" after he challenges their lawsuit.
- The Russian hack of US government agencies and big businesses is much more serious than thought.
- Mexicans are tired of a double-surge: COVID-19 cases and American tourists fleeing lockdowns.
- Alien technology visited Earth in 2017: Thus claims Harvard theoretical physicist Avi Loeb in his new book.
- Iranians don't let rain or snow stop them from broiling kebobs! [Tweet, with photo]
- Persian music: A wonderful piece played on tar and tombak, in honor of the late tar maestro Jalil Shahnaz.
(4) Book review: Taleb, Nassim Nicholas, Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life, Random House, 2018. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I received this book as a gift in appreciation of a technical talk I gave to Sharif University of Technology Association's Seattle Chapter. Having previously read and reviewed Taleb's opus, The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, I really looked forward to reading this new volume, and I wasn't disappointed.
Skin in the Game can be viewed as a continuation, or elaboration upon certain aspects, of Taleb's The Black Swan and Antifragile. My assessment of The Black Swan was very-positive for the most part, but I also leveled some criticism at Taleb's bashing of scientists and the scientific establishment.
[Facebook note, dated October 30, 2011] [My 5-star review on GoodReads]
I have not read Antifragile, subtitled Things that Gain from Disorder, in full, but have pursued excerpts of, information about, and discussions on it. The notion of antifragility is different from robustness, so there are three kinds of nations, societies, businesses, or even individuals: fragile, robust, and antifragile. Size creates efficiencies (in companies or countries) but also increases fragility. Risk must be visible. Failure, and learning from it, is crucial. I heard Taleb give a talk entitled "Lessons for Volatile Times" as part of UCSB's Arts & Lectures Program in October 2013, where he argued that the opposite of fragile isn't resilient or robust; the latter indicate the absence of fragility, not its opposite. What we deem resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better and better as it faces challenges or abuse. Certain natural and human-made systems thrive from adversity, variations, and uncertainty. Trying to impose order on these systems (such as attempts at controlling economic swings and cycles) is detrimental to their health.
In Skin in the Game, Taleb continues his attacks on various groups, essentially portraying everyone but himself as a know-nothing pretender. These criticisms, which are for the most part unjustified and/or too harsh, can be ignored by the reader, in favor of the book's main message, which is solid. Specifically, Taleb states that the book is about four topics:
- Uncertainty and the reliability of knowledge ("BS detection")
- Symmetry in human affairs (fairness, justice, responsibility, reciprocity)
- Information-sharing in transactions (for open and honest deals)
- Rationality in complex systems and in the real world
A primary example of desirable symmetry is an investor both benefitting from good decisions and suffering personal losses from bad ones. Investing with other people's money, raking bonuses when all goes well and suffering no consequences when disaster strikes, a norm in today's US financial industry, is clearly both asymmetric and unbecoming. So, it makes sense to demand that investors have skin in the game.
The poster child of this kind of asymmetry is former US Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin, who earned $120 million from Citibank in the decade leading to the crash of 2008. Rubin got to keep all that money and paid no penalties, once Citibank nearly collapsed, before it was bailed out. The likes of Rubin boast about their competence when investment values soar and blame uncertainty when they collapse!
The same kind of asymmetry is seen today in politicians starting wars or making policy decisions with immediate benefits to their supporters, leaving the calamitous consequences for their successors to handle. Another example of asymmetry is seen in the observation that because of trade deals with the Middle East, New Zealand produces halal lamb almost exclusively (98%), even though it also exports meat to other regions of the world. Succumbing to the will of a minority and opting for one kind of meat, rather than two separate production lines, makes economic sense for the producers but leaves buyers paying a higher price. Selling a car which you know to be defective to an unsuspecting buyer is an example of informational asymmetry.
The preceding paragraphs convey the gist of Skin in the Game. As is fashionable in today's publishing scene, authors continue to beat a dead horse, presenting an unseemly number of instances and case studies. If you prefer to see a lot of examples and details, then, by all means, read this wonderful book. If you don't want to put so much skin in the game, listening to Taleb's 61-minute talk at Google is an excellent alternative.

2021/01/01 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy New Year, design 2 Happy New Year, design 1 Cover image of Eric H. Cline's course 'History of Ancient Israel' (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] My New-Year 2021 puzzle: Every year, as a new year number emerges, I try to form the numbers 0, 1, 2, 3, ... by putting math symbols (including parentheses) between its digits. In the case of 2021, I have been able to do this for numbers up to 27. The first few appear below as hints and the rest are left to you as puzzles! 0 = 2 + 0 – 2 * 1; 1 = 2 + 0 – 2 + 1; 2 = 2 * 0 + 2 * 1; 3 = 2 * 0 + 2 + 1. [Right] Eric H. Cline's course History of Ancient Israel (see the last item below).
(2) Gone are the days when we learned about the outcome of a US presidential election in early November and then relaxed until January 20: We now have to worry about every step of the way, including the ex-president actually moving out!
(3) COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID, COVID ... That's all they talk about. And, believe me, after November 4, there will be no mention of COVID: Well Trump sure isn't talking about it, but everyone else is!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US Congress overrides Trump's veto of the defense authorization bill, a first during his presidency.
- Math lesson for Trump followers, who keep pointing out that their King got 74M votes: 81M > 74M
- Argentinian women celebrate the passage of a law that allows legal, safe, and free abortions.
- Vocal academy student Tori Matthieu does a fine job of performing Stevie Wonder's "I Wish." [Video]
(5) Course review: Cline, Professor Eric H. (George Washington University), A History of Ancient Israel: From the Patriarchs Through the Romans, MP3 audio-course in "The Modern Scholars" series, Recorded Books, 2008.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The relatively small piece of land constituting today's Israel gets more than its share of news coverage and heated discussion. This is in part due to the long-running conflict between Israelis on one side and Palestinians & their Arab/Iranian backers on the other, and partly due to the region's significance to followers of Abrahamic religions forming slightly more than half of the world's population.
This history course covers a tad over two millennia, from ~2000 BCE (the time of Abraham) to early days of Christianity. It is based on stories in the Hebrew Bible, which are corroborated, or at least not contradicted, by archaeological evidence. Where there is no direct historical evidence, consistency with existing records of movements, life-styles, and conflicts were sought.
An example of the rigor with which history is presented in this course is Cline's presentation of Exodus. According to the Hebrew Bible, Exodus occurred around 1450 BCE. Some scholars cite dates as late as 1250 BCE, given better match to written records and archaeological evidence. A compromise view is that Exodus wasn't a single mass-migration event, but a gradual flight that took place over the course of two centuries.
Similarly, the number "600,000 military-age males" cited in the Hebrew Bible for the size of Exodus (that is, around 3 million people in all) is deemed vastly off-base, perhaps by a factor of 100. Such a large group of people, marching 10-across would form a line of 200-300 km, which means crossing the red sea on foot would have taken weeks!
Historians generally discount the Hebrew Bible as a book describing actual people and events, but rather view it as a record of myths based on some facts and real people. Cline demonstrates that there is a good match between the Hebrew Bible and historical artifacts and writings, beginning with ~700 BCE. This history is still unfolding, as new evidence and counter-evidence is discovered on a regular basis. For example, the first extra-Biblical mentions of the House of David, within inscriptions uncovered in northern Israel in the 1990s, led to revisions to the history of Kings David and Solomon.
The land we now call Israel has seen many occupiers over its long history, including the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Fatimids, Seljuk Turks, Crusaders, Egyptians, Mamelukes, Islamists and others. Details about where the Lost Tribes ended up, how the two major rebellions of Israelites unfolded, and many other gaps in the region's history are subjects of heated disputes. This course provides a solid foundation upon which to build further knowledge and to follow various historical debates.

Blog Entries for 2020

2020/12/31 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Rope with knots, tied to make a heart shape Cover image for the Persian-languare book 'A Woman's Vital Signs'  My unusual sandwich for lunch: Italian beef mortadella, with Iranian barbari bread
Sunset at UCSB's North Campus Open Space: Photos, Batch 1 Holiday spirit at Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace: Community Christmas tree Sunset at UCSB's North Campus Open Space: Photos, Batch 2 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] As we end of a very challenging year, may the coming weeks and months bring you the joys of normalcy, and the ability to untie the tough knots created by a dysfunctional, swamp-enabled presidency. [Top center] A Woman's Vital Signs (see the next item below). [Top right] My unusual sandwich for lunch: Italian beef mortadella, with Iranian barbari bread. Highly recommended, freshly-baked or at least toasted! [Bottom left & right] UCSB's North Campus Open Space, this evening, on my return path from an afternoon walk (video). [Bottom center] Holiday spirit at Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace.
(2) Book review: Ronaghi, Mahnaz, Ladan Niknam, and Farzaneh Karampour, Alaa'em-e Hayaati-ye Yek Zan (In Persian), Ghoghnoos Publications, 2000. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Farzaneh Karampour [1954-] is a civil engineer by training, who started to write seriously beginning in 1996. I couldn't find much information on-line about the first two authors, other than a mention that Mahnaz Ronaghi is a university instructor and literary critic and that Ladan Niknam is a writer/poet.
The novel is in Persian, with the English translation of its title being A Woman's Vital Signs. The three authors coordinated with each other to write separate parts of the book, each part essentially telling the same story from the vantage point of a different protagonist.
Set in a hospital in Tehran, Iran, the novel depicts the lives of three dedicated nurses, as they go through their daily routines and interact with other staff at the hospital. Besides professional lives and relationships of the three nurse characters, we also learn about their personal lives, including emotional baggages they carry.
The three stories overlap substantially, giving the reader a chance to see each character from her own perspective as well as how she is seen/understood by the other two characters. The writing style and quality are uneven in the three parts, hence my 3-star rating is a generous average.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Dr. Fauci is hopeful that vaccines will bring us normalcy by fall 2021, but warns of a dark winter ahead.
- Christmas music: Better late than never ... "Santa Baby" with Persian lyrics.
- Three minutes of mesmerizing music: "Libertango"
- "Archive Wars: The Politics of History in Saudi Arabia": Free lecture, Mon. 2021/02/21, 10:00 AM PST.
(4) Final thought for the day, month, year, and decade: Happy New Year to my dear family and friends! Those who grew up in Iran view 20 as a sign of perfection (20 is the highest grade one can get in school, much like 100 in the West, and is also Persian slang for "perfect"). Unfortunately, the year 2020 was anything but doubly-perfect! Still, we learned a lot about what matters most from the horrible year we are putting behind. Hope that my motherland, Iran, and my adopted homeland, the United States of America, leave the chaos and bitterness of recent years behind and enter a gentler, less-hostile world. Let us remember that the source of our happiness is inside us and that we can make our world brighter by giving more and expecting less. Instead of going for big resolutions that are difficult to keep, I resolve to take small steps to improve myself and my surroundings. May you be empowered to take steps to reach your dreams in 2021! [Video]

2020/12/30 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Typical medical-clinic waiting room these days! Stealing the Sun Selfie, with my T-shirt bearing images of the first four women US Supreme Court Justices
Goleta's Devereux Slough looked wonderful on Tuesday 12/29, following Monday's heavy rainfall Tuesday afternoon's super-low tide brought many explorers and treasure-hunters to UCSB's West Campus Beach The surf was pretty good too on the afternoon of Tuesday 2020/12/29 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Typical medical-clinic waiting room these days! [Top center] Stealing the Sun! [Top right] This T-shirt of mine celebrating women is already outdated: The text under the images, which reads "The Supremes," has faded and the recently-added fifth woman US Supreme-Court Justice is missing from it. [Bottom left] Goleta's Devereux Slough, which was nearly dry over the past weekend, looked wonderful on Tuesday, following Monday's heavy rainfall. [Bottom center] Tuesday afternoon's super-low tide brought many explorers and treasure-hunters to UCSB's West Campus Beach. [Bottom right] The surf was pretty good too!
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's granting of pardons to war criminals violates international law, according to UN.
- What's the longest distance you can walk on dry land (no water crossings, except where there are bridges)?
- Boston Dynamics robots put on their dance moves! [3-minute video]
- Resting places of Iran's scientific and literary treasures outside Iran's borders. [14-minute video]
- Traveling Iran by train: DW documentary, narrated in English. [42-minute video]
- Iran demographics: Useful info, such as population, age structure, sex ratio, and life expectancy.
- Recitation of humorous Persian poetry, filled with political jabs: Unknown poet and venue. [5-minute video]
- Children sing in honor of the late maestro Mohammad Reza Shajarian. [2-minute video]
- Kurdish music and dancing: Uncredited performers at an unknown location. [1-minute video]
- Multi-lingual musical medley: An enjoyable 6-minute video, which includes a few Persian songs.
(3) Americans' most-admired persons: In the Gallup poll for 2020, Donald Trump overtakes Barack Obama as the most-admired man. Michelle Obama maintains her top position, followed by Kamala Harris.
(4) Mourning the loss of Iran's cultural sites: In its hay days, Tehran's Laleh Zaar Street was the home of numerous cinemas, playhouses, and night clubs. Very few of the sites, representing a mix of treasured and decadent culture, have survived.
(5) Medical encyclopedia in verse: This book was compiled, corrected, and published by the late Dr. Barat Zanjani (1924-2020) in 1987. It was written in 978 CE, more than 10 centuries ago, and is known in the West as Encyclopaedia Meysari. Here is an analysis and critique of the book.

2020/12/29 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Persian poetry: Remembering Forough Farrokhzad {1934-1967) on her birthday, 12/29, with a short love poem Circle of humans around the image of a tree, drawn on a beach Cartoon: The Trumps play Monopoly (from 'The New Yorker')
My winter 2021 UCSB grad course on parallel processing: Top of the Web page My winter 2021 UCSB grad course on parallel processing: Research section of the Web page My fall 2020 UCSB grad course on fault-tolerant computing: Top of the Web page (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Persian poetry: Remembering Forough Farrokhzad {1934-1967) on her birthday, 12/29, with a short love poem. [Top center] We are one with all living beings; indeed, with all of nature (see the last item below). [Top right] The Trumps play Monopoly: "Let's give everyone a 'Get Out of Jail Free' card before we begin—just in case" (The New Yorker). [Bottom left & center] My winter 2021 UCSB grad course on parallel processing (see the last item below). [Bottom right] Fall quarter 2020 is now in the history books: A few days ago, I finished the grading for my fall 2020 graduate course on fault-tolerant computing.
(2) Trumpists are throwing the GOP under the bus to save their King: The same GOP which enabled every single one of his vile actions, approved his judicial nominees, and saved him from being removed from office by conducting a sham Senate trial.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- From alt-right to witch-hunt: Alphabetical list of 32 words and phrases that characterized the Trump era.
- This single GIF image aptly summarizes the Trump presidency.
- Young woman talks about those imprisoned for studying or teaching at Baha'is underground university.
- Weight-gain saving time is ending: Remember to set your scale back 10 lbs. after the holidays!
- Memory from December 28, 2014: Iranian regional music from the Caspian-Sea coast. [Video]
- My attempt, four decades ago, at writing humorous Persian poetry. [Recitation video] [Text]
(4) Another international honor for Nasrin Sotoudeh: The brave attorney and human-rights activist has served significant jail time in Iran for speaking out against unjust laws and for defending other activists. In a Persian recorded message, Sotoudeh has thanked the American Bar Association for awarding her (along with Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Billie Jean King) an Eleanor Roosevelt Prize for global human-rights advancement.
(5) Getting ready for winter 2021 quarter: I will be teaching a graduate course on parallel processing, with asynchronous, recorded lectures, assessed via homework assignments (40%) and a research paper (60%). Yesterday, I spent much of my time updating the course Web page with new research topics, bearing the theme "parallel processing for machine learning with emerging technologies."
Given demonstrated bias and unfairness in machine-learning algorithms, I will tie the research component of the course to the "UCSB Reads 2021" theme of racial justice. As part of their participation, students will get free copies of the UCSB Reads selection, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir. [Review]

2020/12/27 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Young girl holding up a sign reading 'I'm hungry' This famed triangular building in Ahvaz, Iran, has a long history An undated photo of my paternal grandmother, Sorahi (1) Images of the day: [Left] People all around you may be hungry: They likely won't announce their hunger by holding up a sign, but data shows one in four Americans facing food insecurity today. Even before COVID-19, nearly 11% of Americans went hungry (source: NPR). Please donate generously to the charity of your choice! [Center] This beautiful triangular building in Ahvaz, Iran, has a very long history (see the next item below). [Right] An undated photo of my paternal grandmother, Sorahi (Serah in Hebrew; Older family members referred to her as Amneh Serah): She is shown doing exercises from an adult education textbook. Today is the anniversary of her passing.
(2) Beautiful architecture: This 1929 triangular building in Ahvaz, Iran, was designed by French architect Andre Godard (an avid fan of Middle-Eastern art, who also designed Hafiz's tomb in Shiraz) to house the central branch of National Bank in the city. It later housed the provincial government offices. When the allies occupied Ahvaz, the building constituted their command center. It changed occupants several other times, until it became the Medical College of Jondi Shapur University in 1958. Various sections of Jondi Shapur University occupied it until 1971, when College of Literature and Foreign Languages moved in. The building has been undergoing renovations since 2010, when the latter college moved out. A more complete history, in Persian, can be found on this tourism Web page.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's bluff on vetoing the stimulus & government spending bill was called: He signed the bill as is.
- The Nashville, Tennessee, explosion was likely a suicide attack aimed at destroying AT&T's Internet hub.
- A parked box-truck in Lebanon, near Nashville, is being investigated as possibly containing explosives.
- Avalanches on mountain range to the north of Tehran, Iran, a popular getaway for hikers and skiers, kill 12.
- Memories, from December 27, 2014. [Facebook post] [Tweet]
(4) The six misconceptions about heuristics: Gerd Gigerenzer has asserted that heuristics and their aims are different from what many people believe. We don't use heuristics merely for lack of better alternatives. They are integral parts of our lives and decision-making processes. Here are the six key misconceptions:
- People use heuristics only because they have limited cognitive capacities.
- Limited congnitive capacities are always bad.
- Heuristics lead to second-best outcomes whereas optimizing leads to best outcomes.
- Labels such as availability and representativeness "explain" behavior.
- Everything except optimization and logic is a heuristic.
- More information is always better.
Reference: Gigerenzer, Gerd, "Heuristics," Chapter 2 in Heuristics and the Law, G. Gigerenzer & C. Engel (eds.), MIT Press, 2006, pp. 17-44. [Link]
(5) Final thought for the day: "A human being is a part of the whole, called by us 'Universe,' a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security." ~ Albert Einstein

2020/12/26 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Charles Kushner is one of the criminals pardoned by Trump: Tweet Charles Kushner is one of the criminals pardoned by Trump: Meme Cover image for 'Algorithms to Live By' (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] Charles Kushner is one of the criminals pardoned by Trump: There are also four war criminals and a host of former partners in crime, who could potentially incriminate Trump, if they turned on him to seek leniency. [Right] Cover image for Algorithms to Live By (see the last item below).
(2) Example of Trump's priorities and worries amid a pandemic: He criticizes fashion magazines for not giving Melania any cover shoots during his presidency! [Well, I view this as yet another example of Trump ruining the lives of his family members and other people around him, as he promotes himself!]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Happy Kwanzaa (Swahili for "first fruits of the harvest"), the holiday that celebrates the African diaspora!
- With 331,000 US deaths from COVID-19, one in 1000 of 330M Americans have died of the disease.
- Nashville terror attack was apparently intended to create chaos and fear, not human casualties.
- Nicole Wallace calls out Chris Christie for making a political calculation to get the Trump stink off him.
- Today is the third anniversary of Vida Movahed taking off her headscarf in public to spark a movement.
(4) Book review: Christian, Brian and Tom Griffiths, Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Scinece of Human Decisions, Picador, 2016. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book is about how computer science theories can help us in our daily decision-making. Brian Christian, who comes from a computer science background, is the author of The Most Human Human and has had writings published in several noteworthy venues. Tom Griffiths, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at UC Berkeley, is a widely-honored author of 200+ scientific papers. The book has been praised not just for connecting computer science algorithms to decision-making in daily-life and management contexts but also as an accessible (non-mathematical) primer on algorithms and a philosophical treatise on computational and decision-making processes.
The book consists of 11 chapters, or main ideas, sandwiched between an insightful introduction and an enlightening conclusion, titled "Computational Kindness," which is followed by 52 pages of notes, 20 pages of references, and a 13-page index. I will list and briefly discuss the 11 chapters at the end of my review. Computational kindness means avoiding burdening yourself or others with unneeded computation, such as presenting or considering too many options.
Many of us have come to think of computers as cold, mechanical devices performing straightforward computations. We are thus rather surprised at the suggestion that computer science may hold life lessons for us. Modern computers are far from drudgery and answer-finding based on exhaustive calculations. They routinely use chance, latency-accuracy trade-offs, and approximations in rendering decisions. So, computers have moved in the direction of mimicking human brain's heuristic decision-making, the subject of behavioral economics and modern neuroscientific theories (see, e.g., my review of Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow). https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2111105026 Uncertainty, time-constraints, incomplete information, and a rapidly-changing environment present us with the most-challenging instances of
problems studied by mathematicians and computer scientists. Rather than discard the hard-won insights from tackling such problems, we should use them as valuable tools for managing our lives. One key lesson is that considering ALL of our options may be debilitating. We should be prepared to accept a mess, not take along everything we might possibly need on trips, make random choices on occasion, relax, bide our time, backtrack, and forgive! This may sound like an oxymoron, but seeming irrational is one of the hallmarks of rational decision-making!
1. Optimal stopping: Consider a hiring process whereby you interview applicants one by one, making a yes/no decision for each. You can't go back to hire a person you previously rejected. How many people would you interview? You probably don't want to hire the first person. You don't want to hire the last person either. The first few interviews give you an idea of the strength of the pool of applicants, allowing you to make a hiring decision soon thereafter. Sure, your decision is likely non-optimal, but nothing in real life is! It turns out that rejecting the first 1/e = 37% of applicants is your best bet.
2. Explore/Exploit: We are often faced with a choice between exploring (say, going to a new restaurant) and exploiting (choosing a restaurant we already know and like). Each choice offers some benefits, making the decision difficult.
3. Sorting: Keeping things sorted makes life easier, but sorting has a non-trivial overhead, regardless of what algorithm you use.
4. Caching: Our memory capacity is quite limited, so we better keep only the very useful information there, which means making extensive use of notes and files. We also need strategies for evicting previously-stored information to make room for new, more useful, items.
5. Scheduling: Important questions in trying to make the best use of your time during the day include how to prevent a lower-priority task from blocking a higher-priority one and how to avoid thrashing (being left with scattered chunks of time that are unsuitable for doing important tasks).
6. Bayes's rule: We have prior probability information for various events. When a new event occurs, it may change our view of other events' probabilities. Three basic probability distributions (additive, Erlang; multiplicative, power-law; average, normal) are introduced and explained in elegant, non-mathematical terms.
7. Overfitting: Models should be kept as simple as possible (a simple model is more likely to be correct).
8. Relaxation: It's okay to set aside strict rules once in while in order to keep moving. Many real-life optimization problems are NP-hard, so insisting on finding optimal solutions would be debilitating.
9. Randomness: To create beauty and get out of tight spots in optimization schemes, randomness is essential. We have evolved, in part, as a result of chance and many difficult problems become easy with appropriate use of randomness.
10. Networking: Many ideas of networking, such as acknowledgments, handshaking, and congestion control find applications in our everyday life.
11. Game theory: This field is full of gems with important practical applications. Ideas such as "the prisoners' dilemma," Nash equilibria, dominant strategies, and "tragedy of the commons" are prominent examples.
The moral of the story is that there are deep parallels between problems that we encounter in our daily lives and problems that are studied by mathematicians and computer scientists. We tend to think of rational action as exhaustively evaluating our options and seeking an optimal solution. Real rational action many not consist of considering all options or finding exact, optimal solutions. We make concessions in the interest of solving problems in a timely manner.
If you are a computer scientist, this book gives you fresh ideas about how to use your CS knowledge to improve your life. If you are not, then this book will motivate you to study or take a course in algorithms.

2020/12/25 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos of my daughter paddle-boarding yesterday on UCSB West Campus Beach Prior Christmas Days at local Chinese eateries: This year, we had to settle for take-out! Photos of the gorgeous sunset on Christmas Eve 2020 (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] On Christmas Eve, my daughter went paddle-boarding on UCSB West Campus Beach near our house. I accompanied her, to walk a bit and snap some photos of her and the sunset. [Center] Prior Christmas Days at local Chinese eateries: This year, we had to settle for take-out!
(2) Home-organizing project: The kids and I have begun the long process of organizing, reducing, and simplifying our overflowing kitchen cupboards. We tackled the challenging spice/tea rack on 12/24, getting rid of old stuff, merging, and putting bagged items into labeled jars or other containers. [Photo]
(3) Life as a professor amid COVID-19: This is the title of an article in the December 2020 issue of IEEE Computer magazine. Professor Jay Liebowitz (Seton Hall U.) shares his experiences and some insights.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- At $30 million, an 1830 edition of The Book of Mormon is deemed the most-expensive book in the world.
- Prominent Iranian-American journalist Homa Sarshar writes about her battle with COVID-19.
- Santa Barbara Piano Boys (Zeyn & Rhyan Schweyk @SBPianoBoys) play "Silent Night" with variations.
- Iranian regional music: "Ra'ana" from Guilan Province, set on the green mountains of the Caspian coast.
(5) The end of efficiency: Much of economics as a field of study, and of economic policies, is based on maximizing efficiency (read short-term profits/benefits). One thing we (re)learned from the COVID-19 experience is that resilience and sustainability (read long-term societal well-being) are more important than efficiency. I had previously posted about ideas of computer scientist Moshe Vardi in this area. Today, I came across an essay by Robert Skidelsky making the same point that efficiency is over-rated and that in future we must learn to focus on resilience and sustainability.
(6) Plagiarism detection presents a data-search challenge: This is the topic of an article in the December 2020 issue of IEEE Computer magazine. Easy access to billions of documents on the Internet has made plagiarism a snap and difficult to detect. Professor Preeti Chauhan (VP, Technical Activities, IEEE Reliability Society) describes plagiarism-detection tools, why the task is made difficult by poor paraphrasing and "rogeting" (copying text and replacing some words by synonyms), and plagiarism prevention via increased awareness.
(7) The ethics of stockpiling digital vulnerabilities for "benevolent" use: US National Security Agency discovered a vulnerability in Microsoft Windows, which it hid from everyone, including Microsoft. Information about the vulnerability and how to exploit it was stolen from NSA and offered for sale in the open market, finding its way to the North Korean government. It didn't take long for the WannaCry ransomware attack to be launched across Europe. Among organizations affected was Britain's National Health Service, which experienced blockage in doctors gaining access to patients' files. Is it ethical for NSA and similar organizations to stockpile vulnerabilities in the same way that militaries stockpile weapons? This is a complex question whose answer depends on our ethical standards and their underlying assumptions. [CACM article]

2020/12/24 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy holidays! May you have a merry Christmas and a joyous and bright New Year! Televangelist Joel Osteen's mansion in Houston, Texas Anonymous architect's design for Trump Presidential Library (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy holidays! May you have a merry, COVID-free Christmas and a joyous and bright New Year alongside your loved ones! [Center] This is Joel Osteen's mansion in Houston, Texas: He is the famed televangelist who doesn't pay taxes, received $4+ million in PPE aid, and bought a new private jet. Meanwhile, US Congress argued for months about whether $600 is too much for you. [Right] Twitter users are talking about where Trump should build his Presidential Library: Moscow and North Korea are two suggestions! There is also a fake Trump Library Web site. I don't know how long it will last, but it is well worth a visit.
(2) "UCSB Reads 2021" event: Sameer Pandya, Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies at U. California, Santa Barbara, will discuss his recent novel, Members Only, which engages with issues of racial politics and campus culture and considers the nature of brownness. Monday, January 25, 2021, 4:00 PM PST.
(3) Joke of the day: Older man to young woman at the bar: "Where have you been all my life?"
Woman to man: "For the first two-thirds, I wasn't born yet."
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Navy vet gave CPR to a man who died of COVID-19 on United flight to LAX.
- Christmas music: "Jingle Bells," played Persian style! [Video]
- Christmas music: Lois Mahalia performs "It's Christmas Once Again in Santa Barbara." [Video]
- Persian poetry: Hila Sedighi recites her poem about being worried-sick for Iran.
(5) Nurses in overwhelmed Los Angeles ICUs experience fear and despair: Meanwhile, Trump is pardoning convicted criminals, going on vacation, and tweeting about everything but the plight of front-line workers & families losing loved ones.
(6) Iran-backed militias attack the US Embassy in Baghdad with rockets: As in prior "retaliations," the attacks seem to have been designed to avoid casualties. Trump warns of a military response if Americans are killed.
(7) Women in STEM: "The best piece of advice I would give to a young person just starting out in their career is that your career is a marathon, not a sprint. You will have big hills, flat plains and valleys. You will have jobs along the way that will be stepping stones to something bigger and better as well as those jobs that may feel like you are taking a step backwards." ~ Trish Damkroger, Intel's VP and GM of High-Performance Computing
(8) Memory from Dec. 24, 2013: "How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?" ~ Pope Francis
(9) It feels like I am in a sci-fi horror movie: I seem to have escaped monster T (Trump losing the election), when monster M attacks me (Moscow Mitch refusing to provide sufficient pandemic relief). Suddenly, T emerges from its hiding place and attacks M. I watch with delight, as the two monsters fight. [Image]

2020/12/23 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Fake Wikipedia entry for Donald Trump Cover feature of CACM's January 2021 issue: Does Facebook use sensitive data for advertising purposes? Many diets allow cheat days: Better make sure you understand what cheat day means!
The blue-green color of robin eggs provides just the right amount of light absorption for optimal temperature A kingfisher diving into a hole in the ice at 100 km/hr The kingfisher emerging from the hole in the ice with its catch (1) Images of the day: [Top left] This Wikipedia entry for Donald Trump is fake, but it isn't far off the mark. [Top center] Cover feature of CACM's January 2021 issue (see the last item below). [Top right] Many diets allow cheat days: Make sure you understand what it means! [Bottom left] Why robin eggs are blue-green: The color provides just the right amount of light absorption for optimal temperature. [Bottom center & right] Amazing world: A kingfisher dives into a hole in the ice at 100 km/hr and emerges with its catch (credit: Gisela Delpho).
(2) Iranian philanthropist speaks up: Philanthropy should fill gaps left by government services. It is incapable of undoing the effects of mismanaged programs and rampant corruption that have left citizens of our country (with 9% of world's resources & 1% of its population) in need of basic human needs. [Video in Persian]
(3) "When You Go Away": Song for Donald Trump, based on the beautiful oldie "If You Go Away," Rod McKuen's English adaptation of the 1959 Jacques Brel classic "Ne Me Quitte Pas."
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Uncertainty and anxiety are feeding grounds for scammers: Please be mindful of COVID-19 vaccine scams!
- Afghan reporter challenges Iran's FM Javad Zarif and exposes his inconsistencies. [Interview in Persian]
- Sophisticated ant colonies: Uncovering a secret underground megalopolis of ants. [Video]
- Persian music: "Aahoo-ye Faraari" performed by Hooniak Band. [3-minute video]
(5) Pakistani rights activist Karima Baloch, 37, found dead in Toronto: Those who oppose dictatorial regimes or expose human-rights violations aren't safe anywhere. These regimes have operatives in the West to monitor dissidents and eliminate them when they become too pesky.
(6) Farhang Foundation Persian-poetry event: Bearing the title "Attar: The Unending Thirst," the free live event will feature Sholeh Wolpe, Fahad Siadat, and Andre Megerdichian
(7) Does Facebook use sensitive data for advertising purposes? You bet it does, although if you asked its management, they would respond with an emphatic "no"! Here is a short snippet from the January 2021 CACM article by Jose Gonzalez Cabanas, Angel Cuevas, Aritz Arrate, and Ruben Cuevas:
"Advertisers configure their ad campaigns through the FB Ads Manager. ... [It] offers advertisers a wide range of configuration parameters such as (but not limited to): location (country, region, and so on), demographic parameters (gender, age, among others), behaviors (mobile device, OS and/or Web browser used, and so on), and interests (sports, food). ... In parallel, FB assigns to each user a set of ad preferences, that is, a set of intrests, derived from the data and activity of the user on FB."
One of the article's authors found out that his interests profile, deduced by FB, included "homosexuality."

2020/12/22 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy first day of winter: Images I shared yesterday My holiday message to Georgians: T-shirt bearing the word 'VOTE' Today's Zoom meeting with Fanni '68 classmates (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy first day of winter: My memories from December 21 of prior years, shared in a Facebook post yesterday). [Center] My holiday message to Georgians! [Right] Today's Zoom meeting with Fanni '68 classmates (see the last item below).
(2) One thing I did on Sunday, during our day-long power outage: The already-tough puzzle, with eight 15-letter entries, was rendered more challenging by the newsweekly somehow leaving out the last row!
(3) Last night's great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn wasn't as spectacular in my area as I had hoped: Just after sunset, in the southwestern sky, the larger Jupiter appeared, with Saturn just below it. The two planets pass each other every 20 years, but haven't been this close, as seen from earth, for 400 years (Galileo's time), and not visible in the night sky this close for 800 years. You can find lots of images and videos on-line. NASA provides some good background for the celestial event, which will last for a few days (although, the two planets were closest on 12/21).
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A few of the day's headlines, presented as images.
- Iran's FM Javad Zarif uses the offensive Persian term "Johood" to refer to Jews in an interview.
- Borowitz Report (humor): Russian hackers disappointed to find US government already disabled.
- Planes landing more-or-less safely, after developing landing-gear and other problems. [Video]
(5) Discussion on "Data Abuse & Tech Divide: Ethical Considerations, Social Impacts, and Policies": In this morning's Zoom gathering of Tehran University's College of Engineering Class of 1968 (Fanni '68), Professor Sirous Yasseri and I led a discussion on certain ethical and social aspects of high tech.
Key subareas in the domain of data abuse include hazards of big data, surveillance economy, consumer protection (laws), ethics of tech (AI, ML), fake news/reviews, and digital slavery. Subareas in the domain of tech divide include fair access to info tech, tech haves & have-nots, public infrastructure, tech literacy (techeracy), digital natives/immigrants, and digital dark ages.
Dr. Sirous Yasseri spoke about data abuse and extensive collection of both data and meta-data for commercial gain and government surveillance. It is amazing how much personal information can be gleaned from collecting meta-data, such as who called whom, without examining the contents of calls.
I covered a number of topics, primarily taken from the two books whose covers are seen in one of the images above. I briefly reviewed CCPA, California's Consumer Privacy Act, and cited the 1909 fantasy short story The Machine Stops, by E. M. Forester (which has been translated into Persian, under the title Machine Mi-Eestad) as an example of how a take-over by machines might unfold.
Next week, Dr. Yasseri will talk about GDPR, General Data Protection Regulation, EU's version of consumer privacy law. A round-table two weeks from today will conclude this interesting discussion.

2020/12/20 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Birds on a fairly isolated beach near Santa Barbara Harbor's entrance channel 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance': The story 'The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance': Internet Research Agency ads (1) Images of the day: [Left] A day of pre-Internet existence: We had a scheduled power outage during much of today, owing to local repairs by Southern California Edison. I went to my office to work on evaluating student term-papers, shooting two videos from the east boundary of UCSB campus (video 1) (video 2). In the afternoon, the kids and I had a pizza lunch and went for a refreshing stroll around Santa Barbara Harbor, walking on the breakwater to get to a fairly isolated beach (photo) adjacent to SB Harbor's entrance channel. [Center & Right] "The Man Who Shot Liberty Vallence" (see the last item below).
(2) The story of an imprisoned murderer who taught himself advanced math: Now he has a paper on continued fractions published in an academic journal, which he co-authored with three number-theorists.
(3) A must-watch CNN report: Entitled "Pandemic: How a Virus Changed the World in 1918," the documentary film includes the shocking revelation that a political appointee allowing a huge war-related parade to go on, despite advice from medical professionals, contributed to the explosion in the number of cases and deaths.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Mar-a-Lago neighbors don't want Donald Trump to move into their neighborhood, citing security concerns.
- Jared Kushner formed a shell company to funnel inauguration funds to Trump family members.
- The country least-worried about climate change? Russia! It stands to dominate a warming world.
- Man hacks Donald Trump's Twitter account by guessing his password: maga2020
(5) Across-party-lines political appointments in US administrations: It is common for US presidents to appoint people from the other party to a few key positions. Former President Obama had an impressively-large number of such appointees. Even Donald Trump has had half-dozen such appointees (three of them still serving), but, curiously, Ivanka Trump is one of them!
(6) America's unspoken caste system: Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkinson (The Warmth of Other Suns & The Origins of Our Discontents) examines the caste system that has shaped America, and how our lives continue to be defined by a hierarchy of human divisions. Tuesday, January 26, 2021, 5:00 PM PST. [Info]
(7) "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance": The text and images above are adapted from several posts of mine in prior years, one of them showing pro-Trump propaganda on social media by Russia's Internet Research Agency. Trump won in 2016, thinking the victory signaled his infallibility, much like the wimpy character in the classic western film, who thought he had gunned down a notorious outlaw, whereas a sharpshooter killed Valance before he could draw his gun. If his reluctance to accept defeat isn't a deliberate scam to extract money from supporters, then it is certainly the case that he thinks he can shoot any outlaw, because he has done it before.

2020/12/19 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Yalda Festival! Rock-balancing art by James Brunt Cover image of the book 'The President Is Missing'
Cartoon: COVID-19 is not spread by mouths and noses, but by assholes! Cartoon: Either Vladimir's behavior has improved dramatically, or the Naughty and Nice Database has been hacked Cartoon: January 20, 2021, at the Oval Office (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Happy Yalda Festival (see the next item below). [Top center] Rock-balancing art by James Brunt. [Top right] The President is Missing: This novel by Bill Clinton & James Patterson has now become a reality. In the face of record number of deaths from COVID-19 and the most-serious-ever cyber-attack on US government agencies and private businesses by Russia, the President is nowhere to be seen or heard! [Bottom left] COVID-19 is not spread by mouths and noses, but, first and foremost, by assholes! [Bottom center] "Either Vladimir's behavior has improved dramatically, or the Naughty and Nice Database has been hacked" (from The New Yorker). [Bottom right] January 20, 2021, at the Oval Office.
(2) This year's Yalda-Night/Chelleh/Winter-Solstice is on Sunday, 12/20: 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. Yalda night is celebrated with pomegranates, watermelon, persimmons, mixed dried-fruit and nuts, and various other Iranian sweets. [Music: Video 1; Video 2]
Persian-speaking poets have written about this festival, at times likening a loved one's dark hair or a long period of separation to Yalda. Here's the English translation 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) Philanthropic donation by world's 18th-richest person: The 1-year $6B charity contributions by MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon's Jeff Bezos, is considered one of the biggest-ever annual distributions.
(4) We feminists will likely be just as busy under Biden, as we were under Trump: With an articulate, opinionated First Lady (replacing a trophy wife, who has trouble reading even from a teleprompter) and several female cabinet members and other high-level appointees in the new administration, right-wing, misogynist attack dogs are already growling. Tucker Carlson of Fox "News" called Jill Biden "illiterate" (compared to whom, Donald and Melania?) and others have argued that she should drop the "doctor" title because she isn't a physician! We are ready for the fight. Bring it on!
(5) Challenges of getting enough people vaccinated against COVID-19: Two groups of people are hesitant to get vaccinated. First, we have the anti-vaxxers, who are suspicious of any vaccines that the government promotes. Second, the Black and Brown communities still remember the four-decades-long Tuskegee Experiment, 1932-1972, which infected African-Americans with syphilis, under the guise of providing them with free medical care. In the latter case, the experiment led to an effective cure for syphilis. But, to put salt on the wound, the cure was not administered to those purposely infected. I empathize with the second group and understand their reluctance. Both Surgeon General Jerome Adams and Anthony Fauci have been working to reassure the second group and encourage participation. The action of anti-science people, which endangers all Americans, is inexcusable. Trump has been missing in action and isn't doing anything to help.

2020/12/18 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam with his younger daughter, shortly before he was executed Cover image of Arion Golmakani's 'Solacers' (English) Cover image of Arion Golmakani's 'Alireza' (Persian) (1) Images of the day: [Left] Iranian journalist Ruhollah Zam with his younger daughter, shortly before he was executed (video). [Center & Right] Cover image of Arion Golmakani's Solacers (see the last item below).
(2) The Russian cyber-attack on US government agencies and private companies was highly sophisticated much more extensive than initially thought. Removing the malware will be difficult and will talk a long time.
(3) Google will regret firing black researcher working on AI ethics: They wanted to have a black woman on their team as a show-off, but weren't ready to listen to what she had to say!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- It's that time of the year again, when fake charities spring up or go into overdrive. Be vigilant! [FB post]
- Wage gap and under-representation in higher academic ranks persists for women. [Article]
- Victoria and Albert Museum's immersive Iran show: 5000 years in 350 objects.
- Stanford Program in Iranian Studies: Web page containing listing and recordings of past talks.
(5) Let's not relax after Biden/Harris assume office: Republicans will continue their attacks on Biden, his wife, his administration, and the entire Democratic party. Their reaction to the loss in presidential election shows that they don't need any evidence to launch attacks. If we relax, they may use lies to take control of Congress in 2022, impeding any progress and perhaps even entertaining impeachment (again, they don't need any evidence to do so). I am not saying that we should anoint Biden king and consider him The Chosen One, as Trump supporters did. But, please, don't be harsher on Biden/Harris than you were on Trump/Pence! Idealism should take a back seat to pragmatism, if we are to repair the damage done by Trump.
(6) Book review: Golmakani, Arion, Solacers (Alireza, in Persian translation by Shadi Hamedi, RedCornPoopy Books, UK edition, 2014), unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Neil Shah, Tantor Audio, 2017.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
According to the author's introduction, this isn't a book about Iran, but about a boy who happened to grow up in Iran. The emotional and physical abuse he suffered could have happened anywhere on the planet Earth. It happened mostly in the city of Mashhad in northeastern Iran and neighboring locales, beginning in the 1960s. Near the end of the story, Alireza and a friend move to Abadan, the Americanized oil city in southwestern Iran, where they attend high school.
Alireza lives and is treated as an orphan, even though both of his parents are alive. His sadistically abusive father wanted nothing to do with him, even before divorcing his mom and remarrying. His mother, also remarried, was pressured by her new husband, who was initially kind to Alireza, to abandon her son, because he considered it unfair to be burdened with supporting his step-son. As a woman in a traditional (read backward) society, Alireza's mom didn't dare to do anything that went against her husband's desires, and her attempts at extracting child support from her ex were doomed.
Alireza ended up living, in temporary arrangements, with various relatives or acquaintances, pretty much ignored by everyone (save for one aunt) and going hungry most of the time. He scavenged for food, extracted small sums of money from various people, bought scant amounts of food on fraudulent credit, and generally survived to age 11, when he met the lovely Molouk, 10, the first person other than his mom to pay any attention to him. Molouk was one of the handful of solacers who helped Alireza keep going, when he saw no value in life.
By age 17, the self-made Alireza was on his way to realizing his dream of starting a new life in America and forming a family of his own. He adapted to life in the US quickly, especially since he felt no belonging to his harsh homeland. He married twice, fathering four children and adopting two. In an epilogue, Golmakani runs through his life in the United States, including his many successes, even though they did not translate to financial affluence.
This heartbreaking true story is told with painstaking details. The events and locales are rather familiar to older Iranians. Descriptions of public bath-houses, visitations to religious shrines, shopping at small neighborhood grocery stores, going to the movies, and traveling on inter-city buses are superb. Overall, this is a sincere, wonderfully-written, and inspiring book.

2020/12/17 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Beginning the last day of Hanukkah: Anticipating Shab-e Yalda in three days and Christmas Eve in a week Cartoon: Noah has had it with the woodpecker! This guy should update his T-shirt: His hoped-for Trump dynasty has fallen in disgrace!
People, trees, the sun, and the moon: Shot last evening from the Ellwood Bluffs and UCSB West Campus: Batch 2 People, trees, the sun, and the moon: Shot last evening from the Ellwood Bluffs and UCSB West Campus: Batch 1 People, trees, the sun, and the moon: Shot last evening from the Ellwood Bluffs and UCSB West Campus: Batch 3 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Beginning the last day of Hanukkah: Anticipating Shab-e Yalda (the Iranian Winter-Solstice festival) in three days and Christmas Eve in a week. Happy holidays to all! [Top center] Cartoon of the day: Noah has had it with the woodpecker! [Top right] This guy should update his T-shirt: His hoped-for Trump dynasty has fallen in disgrace! [Bottom row] People, trees, the sun, and the moon: Shot last evening from the Ellwood Bluffs and UCSB West Campus.
(2) Now we see why Moscow Mitch didn't have the guts to acknowledge Biden's victory, until the very last possible moment: He will now take fire from Trump for only five weeks!
(3) One reason, other than losing the election, for Donald Trump's distress and erratic behavior is that he wanted to fire & humiliate FBI Director Chris Wray, but was convinced to back off by White House lawyers.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump is eerily quiet on the biggest cyber-attack in US history: Russia's hacking of multiple US agencies.
- Khamenei supports negotiations with the Biden administration to revive the US-Iran nuclear deal.
- Any PhD student or fresh academic can identify with this young woman's experience! [Tweet]
- Happy family with the proverbial two children, but of virtual kind! [Tweet]
- Teenage Iranian Instagram star, who created images of celebrity-look-alike zombies, jailed for 10 years.
- Kids having fun at a public piano in London: Boogie-woogie-style performance of "Jingle Bells." [Video]
- Azeri music: A beautiful song, with Arabic and Persian subtitles. [4-minute video]
- Santa has been reading your posts all year: Most of you will be getting dictionaries or science textbooks!
- Last year's Christmas light display in Solvang, California, using an army of drones.
- Persian poetry: "Atoorpatgan" ("Azerbaijan"), a patriotic poem composed and recited by Homa Arzhangi.
- Persian music: Song, dance, and other rituals of a traditional Iranian wedding. [Video]
- Kurdish music: An upbeat rendition of "Asmar, Asmar" by the late singer Ramesh (with a touch of comedy).
(5) Atlantic City plans to demolish the former Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino: The chance to push the detonation lever is being auctioned off, with proceeds going to charity.
(6) Attacks on Biden for not including this or that group in his cabinet are misguided: He has already nominated a diverse group of highly-qualified individuals, including a Native-American woman (Deb Haaland) as Interior Secretary and a Black environmentalist (Michael Regan) as Head of EPA. [Meme]
(7) Sharon Nazarian: The Senior VP of International Affairs at Anti-Defamation League, fled Iran with her family after 1979, fearing persecution as Jews. She now works to combat hatred and intolerance.
(8) Stanford University's Yalda-Night celebration (COVID-19 edition): Saturday, December 19, 2020, 6:00 PM PST. Dr. Abbas Milani will speak in Persian under the title "Saadi, Yalda, & Ancient Iran." [Registration link]

2020/12/16 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet. br />Announcement of my selection as an IEEE Computer Society Distinguished Visitor Cartoon: Transitioning to the new year in the age of toilet-paper shortages! <This evening's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk by Dr. Jessica Santana (1) Images of the day: [Left] My selection as an IEEE Computer Society Distinguished Visitor for 2021-2023 (see the next item below). [Center] Transitioning to the new year in the age of toilet-paper shortages! [Right] This evening's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk by Dr. Jessica Santana (see the last item below).
(2) Proud to be selected as an IEEE Computer Society Distinguished Visitor (2021-2023): During the 3-year period, IEEE CS chapters can invite me to give lectures, with IEEE paying for travel expenses. Any interested IEEE entity should message me to get the name and address of the IEEE person to contact for arrangements.
The Distinguished Visitors Program, established in 1971, serves IEEE Computer Society professionals and student members by identifying recognized authorities in their respective fields who can present engaging, state-of-the-art technical talks. The Distinguished-Visitor title is a lifetime honor, which can be used even after the three-year appointment term.
I have three talks in this program (talk abstracts are ready and will be provided upon request):
Talk 1: "Recursive Synthesis of Digital Circuits"
Talk 2: "Hybrid Digital-Analog Number Representation in Computing and in Nature"
Talk 3: "Linguistic Challenges in Computer Input and Output: The Case of Persian/Arabic"
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Norman Abramson, whose late-1960s ALOHAnet was a precursor to the modern Internet, dead at 88.
- Mayor Pete nominated for Transportation Secretary; Jennifer Granholm tapped for Department of Energy.
- China's second "Great Wall": A 1200-mile southern wall is being built between China and Myanmar.
- Misguided proposal: Several U. California chancellors call for tuition increases amid budget crisis.
- The tune "So Long, Farewell" from "The Sound of Music," adapted for January 20, 2021.
- Memory from Dec. 16, 2015: Hard to believe that Ben Carson was rated a bigger liar than Donald Trump!
(4) Memory from December 16, 2019: Former President Obama believes that women ruling nations could improve just about everything. "If you look at the world and look at the problems, it's usually old people, usually old men, not getting out of the way."
(5) This evening's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Dr. Jessica Santana (Assistant Professor, Technology Management Program, UCSB) spoke under the title "Using Natural Language Processing to Measure Ethical Convergence in Scientific Discourse." TMP was formally established within UCSB's College of Engineering in 2004, following several years of experimentation with mentoring students in the business and management aspects of technology, including how to produce business plans.
While the title represents Dr. Santana's recent research, she presented in the first half of her talk a general discussion of ethics in science and technology, beginning with the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and proceeding to a number of modern-day versions of the same type of unethical behavior. Examples include the recent dispute at Google over an employee's publication of an ethics paper that led to her firing and machine-caused discrimination in the criminal justice system.
In the second half of her talk, Dr. Santana outlined the relationship between ethics and innovation. Innovation requires a certain level of boldness, which manifests itself in working at the boundaries (gray areas). Dr. Santana then focused on how codes of ethics in various professions and industry segments emerge from scientific discourse over the boundary work and how natural-language processing can be used to detect contentious issues and the path to common standards.
A Q&A period followed, during which it was emphasized that paying attention to ethics is increasingly necessary, as high-tech implements and highly-complex AI algorithms embedded therein create the risk of ethical violations. Engineering programs are becoming aware of the importance of ethics as part of their curricula. Federal legislation in the US unfortunately lags the norms set by other countries (notably EU) and even some individual states.
[Speaker's home page] [IEEE CCS event page] [IEEE CCS Technical Talks page] [Slide samples]

2020/12/15 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The origins of the Persian words 'ghoori' (tea-pot) and 'chai' (tea) Stunning road to Mount Fitz Roy, Patagonia Meme: Our future First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, stands up for women and girls (1) Images of the day: [Left] For my Persian-speaking readers: The origins of the Persian words "ghoori" (tea-pot) and "chai" (tea). [Center] Out of this world: Stunning road to Mount Fitz Roy, Patagonia. [Right] Our future First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden, stands up for women and girls.
(2) Hats off to a dedicated and selfless teacher: This young woman, who lives in an Iranian village with no Internet access, climbs a snow-covered mountain to get a signal and connect with her on-line students.
(3) Islamic mob, and liquor: In his book, The English Job, retired UK politician Jack Straw relates that in the siege of UK Embassy in Tehran, everything was broken, except bottles of liquor, which were taken away!
(4) UCSB's remote-learning survey results (fall 2020): This afternoon, I attended an informative webinar, during which UCSB's Lisa Berry, Miles Ashlock, and Linda Adler-Kassner reviewed the results of a campus survey on students' remote-learning experience during fall 2020. Of the 2265 respondents (10%), one-third were navigating GauchoSpace (UCSB's instructional site) for the first time.
Students crave predictability (weekly pattern), clarity (purpose, expectations, connections), flexibility, and low-stake assessments (frequent, helpful feedback). They prefer real-time meetings for smaller classes, but pre-recorded lectures for larger ones. They are more or less satisfied with instructor and TA communications (but not with peer communications). The results show encouraging improvements over those of spring 2020 quarter.
A number of helpful tips emerged from the survey results:
- Encourage participation in pre-recorded lectures by asking students to pause the video on occasion.
- Choose sections of your lecture where students have to turn on their cameras (warn them in advance).
- Be human, listen and respond, engage students, be blatantly available.
- Don't hesitate to refer students if you sense that they are in distress.
- Be mindful of struggling first-generation and under-represented students.
- Communicate, preferably at the same time each week, about course status and what's ahead.
(5) Discussion on "Data Abuse & Tech Divide: Ethical Considerations, Social Impacts, and Policies": In this morning's Zoom gathering of Tehran University's College of Engineering Class of 1968 (Fanni '68), Professor Sirous Yasseri and I led a discussion, in Persian, on certain ethical and social aspects of high tech.
Key subareas in the domain of data abuse include hazards of big data, surveillance economy, consumer protection (laws), ethics of tech (AI, ML), fake news/reviews, and digital slavery. Subareas in the domain of tech divide include fair access to info tech, tech haves & have-nots, public infrastructure, tech literacy (techeracy), digital natives/immigrants, and digital dark ages.
Due to a mishap in communicating the correct Zoom link to group members, attendance was a tad smaller than expected. The discussion will continue for at least two more sessions on coming Tuesdays. [Images]

2020/12/14 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
T-shirt for those who are thankful for science 'Science, Power, and Gender': Iran Academia on-line conference (in Persian), Sunday, December 13, 2020 Cover image for Viktor E. Frankl's 'Man's Search for Meaning' (1) Images of the day: [Left] T-shirt for those who are thankful for science and scientists. [Center] "Science, Power, and Gender": Iran Academia on-line conference (in Persian), Sunday, December 13, 2020, beginning at 6:00 PM CET (Report: Facebook post, Tweet): Panelist were Azadeh Kian, Saeed Paivandi, Nayereh Tohidi, and Fatemeh Hosseinzadeh. [Right] Cover image for Man's Search for Meaning (see the last item below).
(2) Math puzzle: We have two containers with capacities a and b liters (a and b are positive integers). Each container can be filled to measure a or b liters of water (assume a < b), but it cannot measure smaller amounts. For example, a 3-liter container can be used to measure 3 liters, but it is not marked for measuring 1.5 or 2 liters. We want to measure a volume v of water (v is an integer), assuming we have an unlimited supply of water and a large container of capacity much greater than v that we can use for temporary storage. Present a general algorithm for the task.
[Challenge: For v < b, try to do the required measurement without using a third container.]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Electoral College cements Joe Biden's victory. Attorney General William Barr is fired.
- Trump, Pence, WH officials, SCOTUS, and Congress will get priority access to COVID-19 vaccine.
- US Treasury Department e-mails were monitored by hackers connected to the Russian government.
- Spy novelist John le Carre dead at 89: He wrote 25 novels, many of which were adapted for TV and film.
- The Coup Nazi to Donald Trump: No coup for you!
- Memories from December 14, 2014: Family outings from the good old days! [Photos]
(4) Frankl, Viktor E., Man's Search for Meaning, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Simon Vance, Blackstone Audio, 1995. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl [1905-1997] was an internationally renowned psychiatrist who endured years of unspeakable horror in Nazi death camps. During, and partly because of, his suffering, Frankl developed logotherapy (which literally means healing through meaning), a fresh approach to psychotherapy built around identifying a purpose in life and then immersively imagining that outcome. The book is considered by many as among the top-10 most-influential books in the US.
In the book's first part, Frankl describes his observations in concentration camps and the way pressure and uncertainty affected the prisoners' physical and mental health. Most of us have read multiple accounts of the Holocaust, but learning about the cruelty and slaughter through the eyes of a psychiatrist/neurologist is a different experience. Frankl saw both swine and saints among the prisoners and he saw both sadists and basically-decent men among the prison guards.
Drawing upon his years of first-hand experience as a prisoner and as a doctor, Frankl digs deep into human nature. He recalls little joys amid an ocean of pain, like when the camp's food server accidentally or intentionally sank the ladle a bit deeper into the pot, bringing up a piece of potato or a few peas with the otherwise watery soup. He describes the stages of grief/coping, from the initial shock of imprisonment, through adaptation, apathy, and hopelessness, to re-entering the world upon liberation, an experience that, like that of a diver suddenly released from his pressure chamber, can be deadly.
Of the Jews who were taken to concentration camps, many gave up hope in the face of morbid conditions, while others survived malnutrition, disease, grueling work, and freezing temperatures. What did the latter group have that the first didn't? Frankl's answer is that they had found meaning in their lives, taking the form of work they wanted to accomplish, people they loved, and those whose lives depended on them.
In the book's second part, Frankl provides a capsule summary of logotherapy, a school of psychotherapy he developed based on his experiences in the death camps. Somewhat oversimplifying, Frankl describes the difference between logotherapy and psychotherapy thus: The latter tries to assign causes to a person's mental distress by visiting his/her past, while the former simply reveals a menu of options for the patient to choose from. Wikipedia has a nice article on logotherapy.
This important and must-read book was first published in 1946 and in various revised and expanded forms, and with different titles, in 1959, 1962, and 1984.

2020/12/13 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Jacob Hamblin Arch, within Utah's Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument Iranian art: Gorgeous samples of pottery from Soltanabad, Arak Topographic image of the Atlantic Ocean
Photos of birds on a about Santa Barbara's Stearns Wharf: Batch 1 Santa Barbara downtown on Friday, December 11, 2020, looked like a ghost town Photos of birds on a about Santa Barbara's Stearns Wharf: Batch 2
Photos snapped on Santa Barbara's Stearns Wharf on 12/11 With my daughter at Santa Barbara's Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center on 12/11 Cover feature of this week's 'Santa Barbara Independent' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Jacob Hamblin Arch of Utah's Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. [Top center] Iranian art: Gorgeous samples of pottery from Soltanabad, Arak. [Top right] Topographic image of the Atlantic Ocean. [Middle row] Mid-day Friday, December 11, 2020, in and about an empty Santa Barbara downtown: Or is it ghost town? [Bottom left] Photos snapped on Santa Barbara's Stearns Wharf on 12/11. [Bottom center] With my daughter at SB's Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center on 12/11. [Bottom right] Cover feature of this week's Santa Barbara Independent (see the last item below).
(2) #Texit: A Texas state lawmaker plans to propose a referendum on seceding from the US. While I don't like the idea of any state disliking the US election result seceding, I may in fact support Texas in such an effort. The GOP obviously does not like the idea of losing Texas's 38 electoral college votes, which would make it even more difficult for them to win elections. I just have one suggestion for Texas. Oil and cowboys aren't sufficient to make a happy, healthy, and prosperous country. Florida has the resorts and entertainment any country needs. In order to make Texas and Florida part of a contiguous land mass, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama should be added, to form a new 5-state country.
(3) Dr. Jill Biden ... Dr. Jill Biden ... Dr. Jill Biden ... This is to tick off those who consider the use of a "doctor" title out of bounds for a First Lady, but had no problem with a soft-porn model who faked a college degree.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- California sues Sutter Health System for using monopoly to jack up prices beyond reason.
- Mitch McConnell has prioritized shielding businesses from litigation over protecting families from starvation!
- An interview with the former Shah of Iran, shortly after the Islamic Revolution (when he was in exile).
- Amazing billiards shots: These are so incredible that I suspect video manipulation. [3-minute video]
- Persian music: Darvish Kahn's wonderful "Reng-e Parichehr & Parizad" (other credits on the video).
(5) Top-10 auto companies by market value, 2000-2020: Tesla did not appear on the list until 2016, but it is now at the top by a wide margin. [3-minute video] (Note: The data for 2020 is already dated.)
(6) Spring 2021 Equinox, or beginning of the Persian New Year 1400 (saal tahvil): Saturday, Esfand 30, 1399, 1:07:27 PM Iran time (March 20, 2021, 2:37:27 AM PDT).
(7) How Saudi nationals mysteriously disappear from the US just before they are arrested for crimes: Do they run some kind of intelligence operation in the US? Here is an eye-opening CBS "60 Minutes" report.
(8) Santa Barbara Independent features Miye Ota: At 102, the former dance instructor, whose husband Sensei Ken died 5 years ago at 92 and whose son Sensei Steve recently lost his battle to cancer at 72, is a force of nature. This week's Independent features an excerpt from her forthcoming memoir covering events in the aftermath of the December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor attack, particularly what Japanese-Americans experienced.

2020/12/12 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Time magazine's Person of the Year: The team of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris 'Los Angeles Times' features UCSB Library's Cylinder Audio Archive Meme: Steps of the mission to dumb-down America!
'The Beauty of Boteh' webinar: Screenshot 1 Birthday in Iran, 1973: Photo of this unidentified woman appears among other obscure historical photos 'The Beauty of Boteh' webinar: Screenshots 2 & 3 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Time magazine's Person of the Year: Many expected front-line medical workers to be chosen (and, in fact, such a cover appeared on social media and I shared it yesterday). However, the formal choice is the team of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. [Top center] Los Angeles Times features UCSB Library's Cylinder Audio Archive, a collection of some of the earliest commercial sound recordings held in its Special Research Collections. [Top right] Meme of the day: Steps of the mission to dumb-down America! [Bottom left & right] The beauty of Boteh (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Birthday in Iran, 1973: Photo of this unidentified woman is featured among obscure historical photos on this Web site.
(2) "The Beauty of Boteh: A Textile Journey Across Village & Tribal Rugs": This was the title of today's fascinating webinar by Dr. Hadi Maktabi (Instagram @hadimaktabi), hosted by Textile Museum Associates of Southern California. Boteh is a comma-like motif, known in English as paisley, which has adorned Asian textiles for centuries. Today, Dr. Maktabi reviewed the motif's history, showing numerous examples and focusing on how it began appearing in Persian carpet designs. I captured a few screenshots from the webinar and added a couple of images from public domain. [Hadi Maktabi on Facebook]
(3) Understanding women: "When a woman says 'what?' it's not because she didn't hear you; it's her way of giving you a chance to rethink what you said." ~ Anonymous
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A Trump boast that'd be truthful, for a change: No president in over a century has executed more people!
- Future fairy-tale ending: "And from that day forward, not everything was about Donald J. Trump." (NYer)
- Borowitz Report (humor): White House offers curbside pick-up of pardons.
- Humor: English accents from around the world. [1-minute video]
- Iranian cuisine: Making beef-kabobs (kabob-e barg) in a large batch. [1-minte video]
(5) Quote of the day: "Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts." ~ Aristotle
(6) Trumpism turns even a tenured economics professor into a cook: Appearing on Fox News, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany cited a tenured professor (Charles J. Cicchetti) that the odds of Biden winning in Wisconsin, after the early Trump lead, were 1 in 10^15. Because Biden won in four such states, the overall odds are 1 in 10^60. The numbers are impressive, but only for those who don't know much math, including the professor whose sworn affidavit was used by Texas in filing its lawsuit. The calculated odds take the distribution of Trump and Biden voters to be uniform across each state and across small rural and populous urban counties, the former reporting votes early and the latter needing much more time to count.
(7) post: "Science, Power, and Gender": Iran Academia on-line conference, Sunday, December 13, 2020, beginning at 6:00 PM CET (8:30 PM Iran time; 9:00 AM PST). [On Facebook] [On YouTube]

2020/12/11 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Artist Becca Saladin reimagines history's most-powerful figures: Lincoln & Cleopatra Looking west and east on the main bridge at UCSB North Campus Open Space, during my afternoon walk on Monday, 12/07 Artist Becca Saladin reimagines history's most-powerful figures: Cyrus & Catherine
My entry for this week's 'New Yorker' cartoon caption contest Money-laundering for real: A bank in Ahvaz, Iran, after recent floods! Cartoon: In Iran, multi-billion-dollar swindlers walk free, while petty theft is punished by cutting hands (1) Images of the day: [Top left & right] Artist Becca Saladin reimagines history's most-powerful figures in today's hairstyles and clothing. [Top center] Looking west and east on the main bridge at UCSB North Campus Open Space, during my afternoon walk on Monday, 12/07. [Bottom left] My entry for this week's New Yorker cartoon caption contest: At the top of the giant beanstalk, Jack finds the bean counters. [Bottom center] Money-laundering for real: A bank in Ahvaz, Iran, after recent floods! [Bottom right] IranWire cartoon of the day: In Iran, multi-billion-dollar swindlers walk free, while petty theft is punished by cutting hands.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- People eating more cookies while trapped at home has led to supply-chain problems for cookie-makers. (NPR)
- Remember the good old days when Sarah Palin was the scariest thing the Republicans could throw at us?
- Mark Twain: "If you don't read the newspaper, you are uninformed; if you do, you are misinformed."
- Grocery store "Jingle Bells": Cashiers in a German grocery store treat customers to an enchanting version.
- Remember this 1-minute video the next time you decide to call someone "bird-brain"!
- A natural wonder: Koohrang Spring at the base of Iran's Zardkooh Mountain is the source of Karoun River.
(3) Hypocrisy and literary theft: Iran's Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance tweets verses of a poem by Ahmad Shamloo to mourn the deaths of Qasem Soleimani and Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. The irony is that Shamloo is a stern critic of the Islamic regime, whose works are banned and whose admirers are harassed. Furthermore, he wrote the poem to mourn the passing of Forough Farrokhzad, a beloved poet who is considered a disgrace by the regime. To add insult to injury, the poem was used without citing Shamloo's name. And all these acts by someone who is supposedly in charge of the country's cultural advancement and publishing norms! [Tweet]
(4) On the image of my empty e-mail in-box, posted on 12/06: For those expressing disbelief and/or envy, let me share something I learned a long time ago (the source of the wisdom escapes me).
- A key to productivity is to read each e-mail message only once. When we keep an e-mail message in our in-box for months or even years, chances are that we read it multiple times, each time choosing to deal with it later. This used to be the case with pieces of paper that piled up on our desks. The first time you read an e-mail message, decide how to deal with it: Process/reply right away; Trash; Delete (I have a "Deleted" folder that is distinct from "Trash"; I examine this folder once in a while, as I do with my Spam folder, to see if there is anything that I would like to reconsider), or put it on a to-do list.
- A related wisdom is not to make your in-box your de-facto to-do list, because it's not structured for this use.
- A cluttered in-box turns into an obstacle, as we tend to become scared of looking at it. I find an in-box with fewer than two-dozen items, whose entries fit on a single screen, manageable.
(5) How a music-performance major became an influential computer scientist: To say that Jennifer Widom's path to computer science was unusual would be an understatement. In this 36-minute ACM ByteCast, she discusses her journey, leading from trumpet performance to Dean of Engineering at Stanford University.

2020/12/10 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy International Human Rights Day and Hanukkah! Time magazine's Person of the Year: Medical workers (cover image) RIP Amirali Sardar-Afkhami (1929-2020): Iranian architect (1) Images of the day: [Left] Two occasions to celebrate (see the next item below). [Center] Time magazine's Person of the Year: Medical workers. [Right] RIP Amirali Sardar-Afkhami (1929-2020): The talented architect was best known for designing Tehran's City Theater and Iran's new parliament building.
(2) Happy Int'l Human Rights Day and Hanukkah: We used to worry about human rights in Third-World and other developing countries. Now, human rights form a global concern, including in several supposedly advanced industrial countries. Let's make every day Human Rights Day! It is an interesting coincidence for this year's Human Rights Day to coincide with the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, which signifies light and hope.
(3) Watch and weep: Phoenix hospital sets up beds for COVID-19 patients in a sanitized parking garage. Trump tweets that the photos of patients in the parking garage are fake, unleashing Internet trolls on the hospital staff. What kind of animal brings such attacks on conscientious doctors and nurses who go without sleep to take care of their patients? [CNN video]
(4) This morning's headlines from Newsweek: I think the disinfected White House must also be deodorized to remove the stench of dishonesty, corruption, and nepotism.
- White House will be thoroughly disinfected in the hours after Trump's exit
- Newsmax beats Fox News for first time, as CEO says "We're here to stay"
- Donald Trump's 2024 campaign theme: "We wuz robbed and we won't be robbed again"
- Matt Gaetz among dozens of Republicans attending secret party despite COVID surge
(5) A piece of Goleta's history: "Coal Oil Point, Campbell Ranch, and Devereux School" is the title of a comprehensive article about the area that encompasses UCSB's West Campus Faculty Housing Complex (where I live) and its natural and man-made surroundings. The article contains quite a few photos and maps.
(6) Academic quote: "I find that the three major administrative problems on a campus are sex for the students, athletics for the alumni, and parking for the faculty." ~ Clark Kerr, UC Berkeley President, 1958-1967
(7) "The Life of a Data Byte": The article by Jessie Frazelle, in the December 2020 issue of Communications of the ACM, is summarized in the following timeline of key developments in storage technology.
1951 Uniservo tape drive for Univac 1     1952 IBM 726 tape unit
1956 First magnetic disk: IBM RAMAC, 3.75-MB     1963 DECtape: 3/4", inexpensive/reliable
1967 Work begins on IBM's floppy disk     1969 Appolo Guidance Computer's rope ROM
1977 Datasette: Cheap storage for Commodore PET     1978 LaserDisc for audio & video storage
1979 Seagate Technology founded: Tiny disks     1981 First 3.5" floppy drive: Sony
1984 Sony's CD-ROM: 550 MB     1991 SanDisk's prototype SSD unit for IBM
1994 Zip disk by Iomega: 3.5", 100 MB     1997 CD-RW (rewritable compact disk)
1999 IBM's Microdrive: 1", 170/340 MB     2000 USB flash drives
2005 Perpendicular-magnetic-recording disks     2007 First TB hard disk: Hitachi
2009 Industry working group for NVM formed     Last decade's developments too numerous to list!

2020/12/09 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos I took during and after yesterday's walk: Giant waves Photos I took during and after yesterday's walk: Beautiful clouds Photos I took during and after yesterday's walk: Early sunset
Photos I took during and after yesterday's walk: Late sunset Photos I took during and after yesterday's walk: Reflections Photos I took during and after yesterday's walk: My Christmas lights (1) Photos I took during and after yesterday's walk: Waves, clouds, sunset, and my Christmas lights. [Video]
(2) Building spherical reservoirs by the explosion method: Don't try this at home! First, a near-sphere is built, with a vent opening at the top. Then, the right amount of water is put in the reservoir and the right amount/kind of explosives are hung at the center of it. The explosion forcefully and evenly pushes the water to the sides, which shapes the metal into a sphere. [Video]
(3) A simple math puzzle: Use math symbols between the digits to make valid equalities.
2+2+2 = 6;  3  3  3 = 6;  4  4  4 = 6;  5  5  5 = 6;  6  6  6 = 6;  7  7  7 = 6;  8  8  8 = 6;  9  9  9 = 6
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The first SCOTUS test: The Supreme Court rejects GOP's challenge to voting outcome in Pennsylvania.
- A black market for COVID-19 vaccines is inevitable: This is an integral part of capitalism!
- The 'Fauci effect': Medical school applications are up 18% this year.
- A timely article by Cansu Canca, entitled "Computing Ethics: Operationalizing AI Ethics Principles" (CACM).
- "Women Leaving Islam": Documentary sneak preview, Thursday, December 10, 2020, 11:00 AM PST.
- Persian music: Ziba Shirazi performs "Ghesseh-ye Eshgh" ("Love Story").
- IEEE Computer Society webinar: "Next-Generation Wireless Overview & Outlook" (Mark Goldstein). [Report]
(5) Cartoon caption of the day: "We've moved a few things around: Travel books are in the Fantasy section, Politics in in Sci-Fi, and Epidemiology is in Self-Help, Good Luck."
(6) Installing cronies on his way out: Trump nominates former advisor Kellyanne Conway, along with some two-dozen other supporters, campaign donors, and billionaires to prestigious government positions.
(7) Stanford University's Iranian Studies Program pays tribute to Maestro Mohammad-Reza Shajarian [1940-2020]: The program will feature some of the foremost masters of classical Iranian music who collaborated with Shajarian or were his students. Thursday, December 10, 2020, 10:00 AM PST. [YouTube] [Facebook Live]
(8) Discussion on black holes (Part 2): We all have heard about black holes, but many of us are at a loss in explaining exactly what they are, how they are formed, and why they are important in the architecture of the cosmos. In yesterday's Zoom gathering of Tehran University's College of Engineering Class of 1968 (Fanni '68), Professor Djamshid Farivar, speaking in Persian, presented Part 2 of his talk about black holes, a topic that has become more current by the award of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics to Roger Penrose (1/2), Reinhard Genzel (1/4), and Andrea Ghez (1/4) for their black-hole-related discoveries.
These images show a visualization of the Big Bang, curvature of spacetime, and a diagram relating to one of my questions. If light bends toward a massive object due to its gravitational pull, then we should see a distant star slightly to the right of its actual position, whereas in a diagram shown by the speaker, it appeared to be slightly to the left. I am awaiting an explanation. [My Facebook post on Part 1]

2020/12/08 (Tuesday): Trying to make a dent in my backlog of book reviews by offering three reviews.
Cover image of Jason O. Gilberts 'The Mueller Report' Cover image of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's 'We Should All Be Feminists' Cover image for Mark Bauerlein's 'The Digital Divide' (1) Book review: Gilbert, Jason O., The Mueller Report: The Leaked Investigation into President Donald Trump and His Inner Circle of Con Men, Circus Clowns, and Children He Named After Himself, unabridged audiobook, read by Michael Ian Black, James Adomian, and Laura Benanti, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2018.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This fake-news, hilarious version of the serious report, with hypothetical testimonies and news headlines, is structured around real events, but fills in the details of what was said and done based on imagined narratives for comic effect. It is much easier on the reader than the real thing! I tried to read the real published report (The Washington Post, 2019), but got bored pretty quickly, especially since I had heard much of the story on TV news, press reports, and on-line posts.
The book begins with a comical discussion of typefaces considered, expounding upon Making Helvetica Great Again and the Failing Times New Roman! The actual narrative begins with the mysterious Melania T., who speaks with a Slovenian accent, pretending to be the secret leaker. It then proceeds with hilarious interview transcripts, intercepted phone calls, incriminating e-mails and text exchanges, and typo-filled all-caps presidential tweets.
The book is fun to read. It is a sign of utter dysfunction and folly in our political system that the book's fictional narrative constructed for making the reader smile does not seem too far-fetched at all!
(2) Book review: Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi, We Should All Be Feminists, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Random House Audio, 2017. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This eloquently-argued essay is adapted from the Nigerian author's 29-minute TED talk bearing the same title. Early in the essay, Adichie relates that when she was 14, a male friend told her that she was a feminist, and he did not mean it as a compliment! Then, after a number of people informed her of the negative baggage that comes with the term, including its origins in foreign cultures and anti-men connotations, she decided to jokingly call herself "a happy African feminist who does not hate men and who likes lip gloss and who wears high heels for herself and not for men"!
Adichie shines a light on outdated notions of gender and gender roles. At one point in human history, physical strength was a necessity for survival and, because men were stronger, they emerged as leaders. In today's world, leadership requires intelligence, creativity, and courage, attributes that have little to do with gender. Masculinity is a hard, small cage that we put our boys into. We then link masculinity with money and impress upon boys that they have to pay when they go out with a girl, which leads to boys being far more likely to steal money from their parents.
Gender divide and sexual politics harm both women and men. We should do better in educating our girls, and boys, to recognize blatant discrimination, which has marginalized women around the world and has given men fragile egos. Some would say that women being subordinate to men is part of our culture. But culture can change. If gender equality isn't part of our culture, then we must make it part of our culture. This is the sense in which Adichie believes that we should all be feminists.
(3) Book review: Bauerlein, Mark (editor), The Digital Divide: Arguments for and Against Facebook, Google, Texting, and the Age of Social Networking, Penguin, 2011. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The term "digital divide" refers to two concepts of inequity in enjoying the benefits of modern information technology. One is inequity in access, which may result from lack of means to buy digital devices or lack of access to high-speed Internet service. Another is inequity in the knowledge to make use of digital resources, such as being aware of privacy laws or proper/safe ways of accessing and using the Internet. Both divides are intimately related to income and wealth gaps.
I picked up this book in order to learn more about the two kinds of divides outlined in the preceding paragraph. Unfortunately, the book does not offer much about the first divide and only a couple of chapters on the second divide. I particularly enjoyed the chapter by Marc Prensky entitled "Digital natives, digital immigrants," which describes the divide between older people who migrate to the digital world vs. younger people, who are born into the digital world.
Even though the book did not meet my expectations, I still found it quite informative and learned a great deal from it, as it nicely covers the attributes of the on-line world and how going digital is affecting our personal and professional lives. It tackles questions of how our culture is being shaped by everything becoming digital and whether we are becoming stupid as a result.
Following an introductory chapter, the book unfolds in three sections, each with 8-9 essays. Some of the essays are already dated, but the structure and list of topics is still of much value. The essays are excerpted or reprinted from various sources.
Let me end my review by listing the books table-of-contents, because the essay titles are quite descriptive of the book's scope.
Section One—The Brain, the Senses: Digital natives, digital immigrants / Marc Prensky; Do they really think differently? / Mark Prensky; The internet / Steven Johnson; Learning to think in a digital world / Maryanne Wolf; Learning theory, video games, and popular culture / James Gee; Usability of websites for teenagers / Jakob Nielsen; User skills improving, but only slightly / Jakob Nielsen; Is google making us stupid? / Nicholas Carr; Your brain is evolving right now / Gary Small and Gigi Vorgan
Section Two—Social Life, Personal Life, School: Identity crisis / Sherry Turkle; They call me cyberboy / Douglas Rushkoff; The people's net / Douglas Rushkoff; Social currency / Douglas Rushkoff; The eight net gen norms / Don Tapscott; Love online / Henry Jenkins; We can't ignore the influence of digital technologies / Cathy Davidson; Virtual friendship and the new narcissism / Christine Rosen; Activists / John Palfrey and Urs Gasser
Section Three—The Fate of Culture: Nomadicity / Todd Gitlin; What is web 2.0? Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software / Tim O'Reilly; Web squared: Web 2.0 five years on / Tim O'Reilly and John Battelle; Web 2.0: The second generation of the Internet has arrived and it's worse than you think / Andrew Keen; Wikipedia and beyond: Jimmy Wales's sprawling vision / Katherine Mangu-Ward; Judgment: Of Molly's gaze and Taylor's watch: Why more is less in a split-screen world / Maggie Jackson; A dream come true / Lee Siegel; The end of solitude / William Deresiewicz; Means / Clay Shirky

2020/12/07 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of the December 2020 issue of 'IEEE Spectrum' magazine A selfie I took during a long walk around Goleta, including along the Calle Real commercial center Kid of the Year: Time magazine honors Gitanjali Rao, developer of a mobile device to detect lead in drining water
Just to be sure you don't mix up these three things, as we approach the holidays: Santa, Satan, Santana! Cartoon: Pre-occupation with basic needs makes one lose sight of the importance of freedom Tweet: 'Home Alone 2: Lost in New York ... And Georgia. And Wisconsin. And Michigan. And Pennsylvania. And Nevada. And Arizona. ...' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Hypersonics, the new arms race: The cover feature of IEEE Spectrum magazine's December 2020 issue is devoted to the quest by big military powers of the world to build missiles that can follow erratic paths at low altitude, while flying at five times the speed of sound, which would make detecting and intercepting them nearly impossible. [Top center] A selfie I took during a long walk around Goleta, including along the Calle Real commercial center. [Top right] Kid of the Year: Time magazine honors Gitanjali Rao, developer of a mobile device to detect lead in drining water. [Bottom left] Just to be sure you don't mix up these three things, as we approach the holidays: Santa, Satan, Santana! [Bottom center] If you are kept pre-occupied with basic needs, you forget about freedom, which can deliver your basic needs and more! [Bottom right] Tweet of the day: "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York ... And Georgia. And Wisconsin. And Michigan. And Pennsylvania. And Nevada. And Arizona. ..."
(2) Political humor: After holding a press conference at Four Seasons Landscaping, Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani went to a nearby food court to present his legal case!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Way to go Georgia! Thank you for helping remove Trump. Now please do the same with Mitch McConnell!
- Trump personal attorney Rudy Giuliani hospitalized after testing positive for COVID-19.
- Governor Cuomo explains challenges in procuring, transporting, and administering COVID-19 vaccines.
- Unconfirmed reports: Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei hands power to son due to deteriorating health.
- War on attorneys intensifies: Iran's mullahs create a new office for monitoring lawyers' personal lives.
- Stories from Iran's 1981 mass executions: Baha'i doctor Masih Farhangi used to treat his prison guards.
- Iran's security forces arrest 15-year-old Amir Kaabi, from Khuzestan Province, on unknown charges.
- Memories of Thomas Fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara, from December 7, 2017. [Photos]
- Indian proverb: "Dictators ride to and fro on tigers from which they dare not dismount."
- Bob Dylan sells his entire music catalog of 600+ song to Universal Music. The Beatles sold theirs in 1985.
(4) Former Iranian Vice President Shahindokht Molaverdi sentenced to 28 months in prison: Her charges include revealing classified information and documents with the aim of undermining national security, propaganda against the regime, promoting corruption & prostitution, and encouraging individuals to sexual deviancy. The last couple of charges are often leveled against those who promote women's rights.
(5) Narcissist in need of attention: Donald Trump is reportedly planning a campaign rally at the same time as Joe Biden's inauguration: I hope the media deny this attention-starved man-child any coverage.
(6) Holocaust education for a country with many deniers: IranWire has launched a series of articles about the Holocaust, antisemitism, and heroes fighting against hatred and prejudice.
(7) How Saudi nationals mysteriously disappear from the US just before they are arrested for crimes: Do they run some kind of intelligence operation in the US? Story on next week's CBS "60 Minutes."

2020/12/06 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Ziba Shirazi tells/sings the life story of Mariam Safinia in a two-hour on-line concert Screenshot showing my completely empty e-mail in-box, as of 2020/12/05 Cover image of 'The Week,' portraying a would-be dictator and his clownish legal team (1) Images of the day: [Left] Ziba Shirazi tells/sings the life story of Mariam Safinia in an enjoyable two-hour on-line concert. Safinia is Head of the School of Practical Philosophy in Pleasanton, CA, which "offers a journey of self-discovery that guides students towards understanding their own innate wisdom and an appreciation of the underlying unity connecting us all." [Center] It took me two days, but I have done it again! Last night, my e-mail in-box became empty once again, after deleting spam-like e-mails, responding to about a dozen, and creating to-do-list entries for the rest. [Right] The failed coup: The American democratic infrastructure, including our courts, seem to have held up against a would-be dictator and his clownish legal team.
(2) Ethical wranglings between Google and a fired employee: Timnit Gebru, a co-leader of the Ethical Artificial Intelligence team at Google, says she was fired for sending an email related to the Company's request that she retract an AI-ethics conference paper she had co-written with six others, including four Google employees.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Countries move to ban sale of gasoline-powered cars & auto companies signal move to electric-only models.
- Columbia U. students threaten to withhold tuition payments next semester due to economic depression.
- Salafi cleric's comments about the Yarsani minority create tensions in Iran's Kermanshah Province.
- A melting ice patch in Norway has revealed dozens of arrows, some of which date back 6000 years.
- Footage of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's wedding to his first wife in Cairo (1939) and their return to Tehran.
- Come to think of it, adjusting to the old normal at the end of the new COVID-19 normal won't be easy!
(4) Producing oxygen on Mars: The Mars mission, launched in July 2020, carries MOXIE, a small box that produces oxygen from atmospheric CO2. The device can produce enough oxygen to support one human being. A much larger version is needed to make liquid-oxygen fuel for a rocket. Future plans include using a device that can split water in underground Martian brine into oxygen and hydrogen.
(5) UCSB Music Department undergraduate student recital: Mezzo-soprano Terra Giddens (a student of Dr. Isabel Bayrakdarian) accompanied by pianist Erik Lawrence presented works by Georges Bizet, Manuel de Falla, Kurt Weill, Hector Berlioz, Stefano Donaudy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Richard Strauss.
(6) Final thought for the day: Immigrants who spread falsehoods undermining our democracy should be deported: I have had it with fellow-Iranian-American immigrants spreading falsehood about the integrity of our 2020 elections. Yes, there were problems that need to be fixed, but just because your moronic candidate didn't win, you can't undermine our democracy. Every day, I receive multiple private messages and see Facebook posts that peddle conspiracy theories, essentially repeating, without thinking, debunked ideas from far-right, Neo-Nazi, and other discredited Web sites. Meanwhile, many of those who initiate these conspiracy theories, including Donald Trump, are filling their pockets with contributions and merchandise sales.

2020/12/05 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Webinar on 'Women and Resistance Arts and Literature': Webinar flyer Webinar on 'Women and Resistance Arts and Literature': Poem by Nabina Das Webinar on 'Women and Resistance Arts and Literature': Cover of album by Azam Ali (1) Images related to the webinar "Women and Resistance Arts and Literature" (see the last item below).
(2) Rats abandoning Trump's sinking ship: Those interviewing for new jobs cite a need for employment and Trump's erratic behavior. And they just noticed the latter after a full 4-year term?
(3) Iranian women, who are not given the time of day by the Islamic regime, succeed in exile: Refugee Golriz Ghahraman is a member of parliament in New Zealand. [Green Party] [Facebook] [Wikipedia]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris picks three women to senior staff positions.
- Former Presidents Obama, Bush, Clinton volunteer to take coronavirus vaccine publicly to prove it's safe.
- Chang'e 5 Ascent Vehicle lifts off from Moon with lunar samples collected by the Chinese probe.
- The 57-year-old Arecibo Observatory's iconic radio-telescope, featured in a James Bond movie collapses.
(5) Extremist-Islamic hypocrisy: Masoumeh Ebtekar was one of the student hostage-takers in the US Embassy in Tehran. She is now a high-ranking Iranian official whose son resides in the US with his family. [MSF video]
(6) Free webinar of interest to those who want to learn about 5G/6G wireless technology:
Title: "Next-Generation Wireless Overview & Outlook"
Speaker: Mark Goldstein, President of International Research Center
Details: Wednesday, December 9, 2020, 6:00-8:00 PM PST, via WebEx [Registration link]
(7) "Women and Resistance Arts and Literature": This was the subject of today's webinar hosted by PhD scholars Nasim Basiri (Oregon State U.) and Ozlem Has (U. Copenhagen). [Recording of the webinar]
Azam Ali (Ramin Torkian; singer & visual artist) began by outlining her struggles in defining feminism. Becoming an artist was a challenge, because that simply isn't what nice Iranian girls do, if you ask parents! She has always been interested in breaking barriers and doing things that are outside the norm, which means going head-on against the male-dominated hierarchy in the arts world.
Speaking from India, where it was early Sunday morning, Nabina Das (poet) began by relating some of her family background. The history of India is marred by divisions, particularly after the British departed. She read a poem of hers that addressed these divisions, from a feminist perspective. After showing some of her amateur artwork, she read another poem entitled "My neighbour is a gau-rakshak."
A third speaker, Attasalina Theresa (singer/songwriter/artist), was added to the previously announced program. She talked a bit about being conflicted between her American identity and her roots. Praising the diversity of the participants, Theresa observed that such varying points of view are keys to making progress.
I submitted a couple of questions/comments, which were addressed by Ali and Das.
Q1: Azam Ali mentioned that she struggles with the definition of feminism. To me, feminism is simply described in four words: "Women are human beings." In her essay We Should All Be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie jokes that she began calling herself "a happy African feminist who does not hate men and who likes lip gloss and who wears high heels for herself and not for men" to counteract the cliches that feminists are angry, man-hating, Westernized women, who cannot find husbands!
Q2: Nabina Das spoke of political divisions, which have caused some people to go to sleep in one country and wake up in another. What about religious divisions, which have produced heightened conflicts lately? Do religious divisions place additional burdens on women (beyond their effects on the population in general)? There is also extreme misogyny in certain parts of India. Is there a relationship between religious dogma and the misogyny (particularly rape culture) prevalent in some regions?

2020/12/04 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: Quote on women's freedom from Simin Daneshvar History in pictures: Pyramid structures of the world On December 21, 2020, Jupiter and Saturn will align so closely in the night sky that they appear to collide from our vantage point on Earth
Photos I took during my walk in Goleta, CA, in the late afternoon of Wednesday, 2020/12/02: Sky Photos I took during my walk in Goleta, CA, in the late afternoon of Wednesday, 2020/12/02: Signs Photos I took during my walk in Goleta, CA, in the late afternoon of Wednesday, 2020/12/02: Sunset (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Quote of the day: "I am a woman and entitled to breathe the same air that enters a man's lungs. It's painful that my freedom is taken away, so that he does not commit sins. It's offensive that he pays more attention to the shape of my body than the contents of my thoughts. It's regrettable that I have to adjust my clothing according to the weakness of his faith." ~ Simin Daneshvar [Top center] History in pictures: Pyramid structures of the world. [Top right] A special once-in-800-years holiday gift to us from the cosmos: On December 21, 2020, Jupiter and Saturn will align so closely in the night sky that they appear to collide from our vantage point on Earth. The two planets will create a radiant point of light, often referred to as the "Star of Bethlehem" or the "Christmas Star." [Bottom row] Photos I took during my walk in Goleta, CA, in the late afternoon of Wednesday, 2020/12/02.
(2) There are signs that multiple legal cases will be brought against Trump, his family, and his administration after January 20, 2021: Once prosecutors are done, it will be sociologists' turn to figure out why 70+ million Americans wanted four more years of corruption and ineptitude.
(3) Iranian athletes are campaigning to remove the country's ban on competing against Israelis: While anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide, Iranians (not the ruling mullahs) accept and even embrace Israel.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Georgia official tells Trump to stop inspiring violence against election workers who are doing their jobs.
- The 2020 Right Livelihood Award goes to 4 champions of human rights, including Iran's Nasrin Sotoudeh.
- Humor: The WH has suddenly become a very polite place: Everyone is going around saying "pardon me"!
- A real queen's gambit: An Iranian female chess player describes why she left Iran to play chess in the US.
- Remote work is great and it helps with social & environmental problems, but it's applicability is limited.
- Memory from Dec. 4, 2011: Director responds to a Khamenei crony likening Iranian cinema to a brothel.
- A new, effective way to fight COVID-19: Satanize (or satanise, if you're British) your hands! [Photo]
- The soup part of this Azerbaijani dish resembles the Iranian aabgoosht: But so much food for two people!
(5) Artificial intelligence solves 50-year-old grand-challenge science problem: The AI group DeepMind has created AlphaFold, an algorithm that accurately predicts the formation of proteins in hours rather than years. This is thought to be AI's first major contribution to science.
(6) This is a Soviet-era street joke, which applies to Iran with minimal modifications: A man on his way to work in Tehran bought a Kayhan newspaper every morning, took a quick look at its first page, and disgustedly tossed it into a trash can. One day, the newspaper kiosk owner who had seen this behavior hundreds of times decided to solve the mystery and asked the man what he was looking for in the paper. The man replied that he was looking for an obituary. "But obituaries do not appear on the first page," said the kiosk owner. The man replied: "The one I am looking for would definitely appear on the first page!"

2020/12/03 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Author Dalia Sofer, who gave a talk about her second novel, 'Man of My Time' Tea bags with distinct brand names and allegedly manufactured in different countries are identical in many respects Memory from December 3, 2011: My daughter and I after her ballet performance (1) Images of the day: [Left] Book talk by Dalia Sofer (see the last item below). [Center] Manufacturing in today's world: Sometimes, I get an eerie feeling that products from different brands are really the same, but packaged and labeled differently. Here is evidence in one instance. Tea bags with distinct brand names and allegedly manufactured in different countries are identical with regards to bag shape/size, tab shape/size, and string length. [Right] Memory from December 3, 2011: My daughter and I after her ballet performance.
(2) Undergraduate MIT student pushes the frontiers of graph theory: Ashwin Sah, Portland, Oregon, native who just turned 21, has already published enough important results to qualify for a faculty position. One of his most-striking results is improving the upper bound for two-color Ramsey numbers, a problem that many talented mathematicians have worked on since the introduction of an attack method by Erdos and Szekeres.
(3) Scientists are becoming more politically-engaged: This is a double-edged sword. With political activism comes social awareness, which helps tailor science to people's needs. On the other hand, there is some danger that the politicization of science will make our society more suspicious of scientists and their recommendations.
(4) Book talk, Man of My Time: Iranian-American author Dalia Sofer, best known for her first novel The Septembers of Shiraz, talked this morning about her new novel. The talk was sponsored by Stanford University's Program in Iranian Studies. [Cover image and excerpt]
Sofer's first novel, set during the turbulent days of the Iranian Revolution, chronicled the plight of a wealthy Jewish family whose patriarch was arrested, brutally interrogated, and accused of spying for Israel. It was turned into a film, starring Salma Hayek, Armin Amiri, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Adrien Brody, and Velislav Pavlov.
Sofer's new book is also receiving critical acclaim. She began her book talk by briefly recounting her life, including how her father turned her passport into a family passport by erasing some information and writing in the new information, along with a new photo, in order to escape Iran. She said that she was conflicted about her first novel, viewing it as turning her grief into a commodity in the American consumer market, trading that grief for money and fame/awards.
Man of My Time is set in Tehran & New York and tells the story of Hamid Mozaffarian, an Iranian alienated from both himself and the world. "After decades of working with ambivalence for the Iranian government, Hamid travels on a diplomatic mission to New York, where he encounters his estranged family and retrieves the ashes of his father. Tucked into a mint tin in Hamid's pocket, the ashes propel him into an excavation of a lifetime of betrayals, forcing him to confront his past. Exploring variations of loss, Man of My Time is not only about family and memory, but also about the relationship between captor and captive, country and citizen, and individual and history." [From Sofer's narrative for her talk]
Asked whether she sees this second book also turned into a movie, Sofer responded that she had a terrible experience with the previous movie and that she would not repeat the same mistake!
Here is a question I asked Sofer, to which she responded with an acknowledgment of the positive impact of her first novel: "You mentioned that you were conflicted about trading your and your family's grief for money and recognition by writing your first novel. What about the positive side of your first novel, that is, providing many Iranians in exile and their children a window into the mistreatment of people, Jews in particular, in the post-revolutionary Iran. My daughter, born in the US, loved your book."

2020/12/02 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
RIP, Dr. Mohammad Maleki, 1933-2020: The first President of Tehran University after the Islamic Revolution Persian poetry: A couple of verses from a Hafez ghazal Neptune's Grotto, a stalactite cave located in the town of Alghero on the island of Sardinia, Italy (1) Images of the day: [Left] RIP, Dr. Mohammad Maleki, 1933-2020: The first President of Tehran University after the Islamic Revolution was jailed both by the Shah's regime and by the mullahs (an initial death sentence commuted to 10 years jail time). He was a harsh critic of the closure of Iranian universities under the banner of "Cultural Revolution" and remained a staunch critic of the Islamic regime, after retiring from his faculty post. [Center] Persian poetry: A couple of verses from a Hafez ghazal (English translation). [Right] Neptune's Grotto: Located in the town of Alghero on the island of Sardinia, Italy, this stalactite cave was discovered by local fishermen in the 18th century and has since developed into a popular tourist attraction.
(2) Memory from December 2, 2012: "It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one's life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than 'Try to be a little kinder.'" ~ Aldous Huxley, British author (1894-1963)
(3) Memory from December 2, 2017: Any demagogue or despot who ends up destroying a country keeps insisting till his last day that it is moving it toward greatness.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Daily US deaths from COVID-19 are nearing 3000: This is a much more important stat than Dow 30,000!
- The US Justice Department is investigating the White House in a case of bribe-for-pardon.
- Disputing Trump, AG Barr says the Justice Department found no widespread election fraud.
- Historians fear that Trump may destroy records on his way out, so they sue to ensure preservation.
- Memory from December 2, 2014: Kudos to the in-betweeners! [Facebook post]
(5) "The Crisis in Karabagh: Causes and Consequences" [Screenshot]: This was the title of today's Zoom talk by Anna Ohanyan, Richard B. Finnegan Distinguished Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Stonehill College, and two-time Fulbright Scholar to South Caucasus. I was able to join the webinar, after initially giving up, when technical difficulties from the speaker's side caused my loss of connection.
Information that I share below comes in part from the speaker, who, understandably, presented a pro-Armenian view, and a New York Times article, which is more balanced.
The territory of (Nagorno-)Karabagh, with majority Armenian and minority Turkish residents, has been in dispute for decades. It had recently been run as a near-independent, democratic, de-facto state (it was pushing for independence from Armenia). The word "Nagorno" derives from the Russian word for "highland," given that more than half of the 1700-square-miles region is elevated by 3000+ feet above see level.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Armenia prevailed and took control of Karabagh in an early-1990s war. A low-intensity conflict (border skirmishes, with fewer than two-dozen fatalities per year) with Azerbaijan ensued. Recent escalation of hostilities, during which Turkey supported Azerbaijan and Russia remained on the sideline, despite its defense agreement with Armenia, transferred control of the region to Azerbaijan.
Hostilities have now ended due a peace deal brokered by Moscow, with Russian and Turkish peacekeeping forces patrolling the territory, which is salt on the wounds of the area's Armenian residents, who got just a small fraction of the land they lost returned to them as part of the peace deal. Whether Russia will be willing or able to protect the Armenians returning to their homes in the area remains to be seen.

2020/12/01 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Geometry of Martian dunes: Explanation Geometry of Martian dunes: Photo Chart showing the rise in the number of multi-authored, multi-national papers and sharp decline in the number of single-authored papers (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] The eerie geometry of Martian dunes: First observed by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the dunes form a polygonal pattern similar to those seen in some live organisms on Earth. Here is one theory about how the patterns come about. Winds blowing from multiple directions push sand around. During the day, warm air rises up towards the crater's rim, possibly sweeping sand along with it. At night, cool air moves in the opposite direction, potentially blowing sand, too. Geological features within craters, such as mountains, add turbulence, causing gusts to collide and swirl around. Swept back and forth by these winds and confined to a crater, sand can pile into intersecting ridges oriented in many different directions, resulting in polygonal shapes like those seen in the images. [Right] Single-authored scientific papers are nearly extinct (gray area in chart): Papers authored by multi-national teams are on the rise (orange area).
(2) Will Donald Trump write a memoir? The publishing industry dreads the possibility. For one thing, Trump's most-ardent fans aren't book readers. For another, memoirs are filled with exaggerations and wishful pronouncements, even with the most-honest writers.
(3) Everyone was excited about the Iranian calendar date 9/9/99 a couple of days ago: A few centenarians, including the oldest Shi'i cleric in Qom, yawned, because they had seen the special date before!
(4) Black holes: We all have heard about black holes, but many of us are at a loss in explaining exactly what they are, how they are formed, and why they are important in the architecture of the cosmos. In today's Zoom gathering of Tehran University's College of Engineering Class of 1968 (Fanni '68), Professor Djamshid Farivar, speaking in Persian, provided some answers to the questions above, which have become more current by the award of the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics to Roger Penrose (1/2), Reinhard Genzel (1/4), and Andrea Ghez (1/4) for their black-hole-related discoveries. [Zoom screenshot]
One of the intereting facts I learned from this talk is an explanation of why nothing can escape a black hole. For a spherical object of mass M and radius R, the escape velocity, the minimal initial speed of an object in order to escape the gravitational pull of the sphere, is given by the formula sqrt(2GM/R), where G = 6.674 x 10^(–11) is Newton's gravitational constant. The formula is readily obtained by equating the sum of kinetic and potential energies of an object on the sphere's surface with the corresponding figures at distance h, while letting h tend to infinity. According to this formula, Sun's escape velocity is 617 km/s. For Earth, it is 11.2 km/s. For a black hole, the mass M is huge and the radius R is tiny, so escape velocity becomes greater than the speed of light, making escape impossible. If Earth were compressed into a globe of radius ~1 cm, it would become a black hole. Sun's radius must be reduced to ~3 km to turn it into a black hole.
The discussion will continue next Tuesday, December 8, 2020, beginning at 10:00 AM PST.
Here is NASA's introductory article on black holes, with links to additional information.

2020/11/30 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos from my downtown Santa Barbara walk this afternoon: Batch 1 The full moon, shot from my bedroom window at 4:17 this morning Photos from my downtown Santa Barbara walk this afternoon: Batch 2
Photos from my downtown Santa Barbara walk this afternoon: Batch 3 Photos from my downtown Santa Barbara walk this afternoon: Batch 4 Photos from my downtown Santa Barbara walk this afternoon: Batch 5 (1) Images of the day: [Top left & right] Walking along State Street in Downtown Santa Barbara: In mid-afternoon on this last day of November 2020, I had to do a store pick-up on State & De La Vina Streets. Given the sunny and mild weather, I decided to do my daily walk from there to Stearns Wharf and back (around 7 miles, round trip). Along the way, I shot photos of downtown architecture and various businesses on the almost-deserted street, given the time of day on a weekday. [Top center] The full Moon, shot from my bedroom window at 4:17 this morning: I was hoping to capture the penumbral lunar eclipse, when the edge of Earth's shadow touches the Moon, but missed it by a couple of hours. [Bottom row] More photos from downtown SB.
(2) Book introduction: Arion Golmakani's Solacers isn't a book about Iran, as the author clarifies early on, but about a boy who happened to grow up in Iran. The emotional and physical abuse he suffered could have happened anywhere on the planet Earth. My review of the book will be forthcoming here and on GoodReads.
[Unabridged audiobook, read by Neil Shah, Tantor Audio, 2017]
[Titled Alireza in the Persian translation by Shadi Hamedi, RedCornPoopy Books, UK edition, 2014]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump lawyer says Krebs should be taken out at dawn and shot for defending election security.
- The universal geometry of geology: A detailed discussion of how nature does geometry.
- Cartoon of the day: Zoom-meeting tip for cat owners. [Image]
- Croatian pianist Maksim Mrvica plays Theme from "Game of Thrones". Look him up on YouTube!
- Free on-line musical event: Ziba Shirazi tells the life story of Mariam Safinia. [Facebook page]
- Persian music: A performance of the oldie song "Bordi az Yaadam" by Hooshmand Aghili and two women.
(4) Reza Rohani (son of maestro Anoushiravan Rohani) performs a new arrangement of his dad's beautiful composition "Emshab" ("Tonight"), with vocals by Sara Naeini. [3-minute video]
(5) RIP, Ramesh [1946-2020]: Azar Mohebbi Tehrani, professionally known simply as "Ramesh," was a popular and influential singer during my youth in Iran (she was a few months older than me). Despite remaining popular after the Islamic Revolution, she chose not to be active on the music scene. [Music samples]
(6) Going back towards the Middle Ages: As the list of civilized countries banning the death penalty expands, Trump's DoJ rushes to include new execution methods such as firing squads.

2020/11/29 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Aerial view of Manhattan, New York City, 1931 Iranwire.com cartoon: Khamenei, his image, and his enablers Iranian daily 'Shargh' writes about Biden's election victory, characterizing it as a rejection of populism
The Flat-Earth Society: Have Flat-Earthers ever produced such a photo of a lunar eclipse? Cartoon: GOP obstructionism against Obama will likely be repeated for Biden. Ruth Bader Ginsburg with boxing gloves (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Aerial view of Manhattan, 1931. [Top center] Iranwire cartoon: Khamenei, his image, and his enablers. [Top right] Iran's Shargh daily writes about Biden's election victory, characterizing it as a rejection of populism. They do know a lot about populism in Iran! [Bottom left] The Flat-Earth Society: Have Flat-Earthers ever produced such a photo of a lunar eclipse? [Bottom center] GOP obstructionism, detailed by Obama in A Promised Land, will likely be repeated for Biden. (The Economist) [Bottom right] Ruth Bader Ginsburg: "Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you."
(2) "Women in STEM" interview series: Eva Tardos, Professor and Chair at Cornell University's Computer Science Department, "found it important and enjoyable to be open to changing areas throughout [her] career. A key advice for a young person staring out is to plan for this change in keeping a broad enough interest."
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Execution of Swedish-Iranian academic Ahmadreza Djalali is imminent. #DoNotExecute
- Women's rights, Wahhabi style: Saudi Arabia refers activist Loujain Al-Hathloul to terrorism court.
- Chris Krebs, cyber-security director, interviewed on CBS News' "60 Minutes": We did the election right.
- "The Female Voice of Iran": Documentary film about Iranian women's singing, despite official restrictions.
- Largest fast-food chains in the world: From 1971 (KFC at the top) to 2020 (Subway at the top). [Video]
- Memory from 2015/11/29: Celebrating the life & contributions of poet/lyricist Rahim Moeini Kermanshahi.
(4) Iran's hostage-taking mullahs: Australian-British academic and expert on Islamic studies Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who was serving a 10-year prison term for espionage charges, has been exchanged for three Islamic terrorists arrested in Thailand and welcomed back to Iran as heroes. One of the terrorists blew off the lower part of his body when he attempted to throw a bomb at Thai police.
(5) Statue of Cyrus the Great, riding a horse: The 6-meters-tall artwork, being created from reinforced concrete by Shahram Goudarzi, has been in progress for 5 years at a site in Iran's Mazandaran Province. The project has faced challenges, from sabotage to inquiries from government agencies.
(6) Final thought for the day, at the end of a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend with the family: "I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual." ~ Henry David Thoreau

2020/11/28 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Countries mentioned or alluded to in the Bible Two regions of Africa with the same population Half of all Canadians live below the red line on the map
Each of the 10 slices shown on the map hold 10% of the world's population You can fit Poland within Texas, and still be able to drive around it World's smallest country (Vatican City) vs. world's largest building (Aalsmeer Flower Auction, Netherlands) (1) Interesting facts about world geography: [Top left] Countries that are mentioned or alluded to in the Bible. [Top center] Two regions of Africa with the same population. [Top right] Half of all Canadians live below the red line on the map. [Bottom left] Each of the 10 slices shown on the map hold 10% of the world's population. [Bottom center] You can fit Poland within Texas, and still be able to drive around it. [Bottom right] World's smallest country (Vatican City) vs. world's largest building (Aalsmeer Flower Auction, Netherlands).
(2) Persian music: Iranians belonging to my generation used to wake up to the song "Morning Greetings," which was the theme of an early-morning radio program. [3-minute video]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Iran's top nuclear scientist assassinated: Iran blames Israel for killing Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in a shoot-out.
- Activists project "LOSER" in large letters at Trump's Turnberry Golf Resort. [Video]
- GM's car-insurance business to set rates according to driver behavior, as tracked by its OnStar system.
- Humor: White House landlord asks Trump to supply a forwarding address to receive his security deposit.
(4) Burnt City: This ancient archaeological site in southeastern Iran dates back ~5000 years. It holds evidence of an advanced drainage system, an artificial eye, brain surgery, and an animated picture. [11-minute video]
(5) Final thought for the day (humor): A young man was driving by a roadside eatery, when he noticed a sign reading "Eat today, we will collect from your grandson." He went in, ordered a sumptuous meal, and was about to exit the eatery when the server presented him with a huge bill. He protested, pointing to the sign. "Yes, sir," the server replied, "we will collect from your grandson, but this is your grandfather's bill!"
(6) Abolhassan Banisadr on "The Transformation of Iranian Women's Lives in Post-Revolutionary Iran": Today, on Zoom and Facebook Live, Islamic Republic's first president talked about and answered questions on the status of women in Iran. The event was hosted by PhD scholars Nasim Basiri (Oregon State U.) and Oslem Has (U. Copenhagen), with Behrooz Parhami acting as translator. I made it clear to the organizers and Dr. Banisadr that I was merely acting as a translator and would not allow my own ideas and opinions on women's rights and on the Islamic Republic of Iran to affect the discussion; in other words, I did not attempt to do any fact-checking or to insert my own commentary into the questions or answers. Dr. Banisadr began by offering a list of 30 inequities affecting women in Iran (and, in some cases, worldwide). He then proceeded to discuss the social harms resulting from these inequities and ended with a discussion of why women and their activism form the most consequential force in bringing about freedoms and social justice. [Recording] [Screenshot]

2020/11/27 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sights along Goleta's Hollister Ave.: Batch 1 of photos Sights along Goleta's Hollister Ave.: Batch 2 of photos Sights along Goleta's Hollister Ave.: Batch 3 of photos
Sights along Goleta's Hollister Ave.: Batch 4 of photos Sights along Goleta's Hollister Ave.: Batch 5 of photos Sights along Goleta's Hollister Ave.: Batch 6 of photos (1) Sights along Goleta's Hollister Ave., photographed on Tuesday, November 24, 2020: [Top left] The former Hollister-Fairview drive-in theater is now an "economy" long-term parking lot for Santa Barbara Airport, which is across the street, with its entrance ~1.5 miles away. [Top center] Many people are surprised to learn that Direct Relief International has its headquarters in Goleta, CA: The highly-effective, top-rated charity is located on Hollister Ave., across from SB Airport. [Top right] A few tech companies and an adjacent hotel: The vacant lot may have once been considered as a possible site for a Walmart or Target store. Target has now replaced our defunct K-mart. The Walmart project seems to have been withdrawn. [Bottom left] Raytheon, with multiple buildings, has been a long-term tech presence in Goleta: This particular building is near SB Airport's control tower. [Bottom center] A few more tech companies and other businesses. [Bottom right] A lushly landscaped stretch along Goleta's Hollister Ave.: Part of the route I took on foot towards home, after leaving my car at a detail shop to have it thoroughly cleaned for the holidays, when it will be sitting in the garage for the most part!
(2) When life gives you lemons, make lemonade: Instead of worrying about overgrown weeds next to my carport, I decided to enjoy their pretty purple and white flowers. [Photos]
(3) Selected courses offered to IEEE members for $10 each (until 11/30): IEEE Learning Network listings include: Understanding 5G Fundamentals; Intelligent Control of Connected and Automated Vehicles; Technical Writing for Scientists and Engineers; Introduction to Numerical Methods; The Digitized Grid.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Yesterday's small gathering of my family for Thanksgiving, at my sister's. [Photos: Batch 1, Batch 2]
- Driving from Santa Barbara to Ventura: Fairview Ave. on-ramp to Telephone Rd. off-ramp. [Time-lapse]
- Persian music: Wonderful rendition of the old song "Mihmaan" ("Guest").
- Persian music and dance: "Beh Rahi Didam Barg-e Khazaan" ("I Chanced Upon an Autumn Leaf").
- The song "El Condor Pasa" was quite popular in my youth. Here, it is played on a 5-chord zither.
- Many posts like this 1-minute video showing 3D paintings on tree trunks, are circulating on the Internet.
(5) A message from Nasrin Sotoudeh: The Iranian human/women's rights activist, on temporary medical leave from prison, thanks the city of Florence for honoring her with the key to the city and praises the Italian city for its leading role in the fight against death penalty.
(6) A story of injustice and incompetent leadership in Iran: Mohammad Nourizad tells the story of a young cell-mate, a brilliant college student imprisoned for insulting Ahmadinejad and whose father was murdered by a top Islamic Republic official. He then addresses and shames snake-oil salesman President Rohani for bringing such tragedy to the country's youth and their families.
(7) Tribute to Mohammad-Reza Shajarian [1940-2020]: Stanford University's Program in Iranian Studies will hold a virtual celebration on Thursday, December 10, 2020, 10:00 AM to 12:00 noon, PST.

2020/11/26 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Thanksgiving Day to all! What are you thankful for? My daughter's pre-Thanksgiving feast: Turkey breast, veggies, gravy, and lots of cranberry sauce 'Indigenous Communities and Intersectional Environmental Ethics' Zoom discussion session
A Taliban executioner aims his rifle at a woman's head Malala Yousafzai promotes a book as part of her book club Photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher captures tears of grief, joy, laughter, and irritation (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Happy Thanksgiving Day to all! Even under a deadly pandemic and an equally deadly presidency, we have much to be thankful for this year. There are indications that by mid-2021, herd immunity will set in as a result of vaccinations. Even before then, we will get rid of the worst President in US history and will see some degree of civility restored to our hoplessly-divided society. There is light at the end of the tunnel, as they say! [Top center] My daughter's pre-Thanksgiving feast: She prepared Turkey breast with veggies and gravy, along with a large batch of cranberry sauce from fresh cranberries to take to our small family gathering today. Lots of leftovers! [Top right] "Indigenous Communities and Intersectional Environmental Ethics": This is the title of a free Zoom discussion session, to be held on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, 5:00 PM PST (ucsb.zoom.us/j/97423097793). [Bottom left & center] In the battle between ignorance and enlightenment, one can't remain on the sideline: Executing women for minor indiscretions isn't morally equivalent to educating and empowering them via a book club. [Bottom right] Tears are not all the same: Photographer Rose-Lynn Fisher captures tears of grief, joy, laughter, and irritation.
(2) November 25 was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women: Conservatively, one in three (by some accounts, up to 70%) of women experience violence in their lifetime.
(3) Allies turning against Trump: A battle is raging between Donald Trump and three heavyweight media supporters, Laura Ingraham, Tucker Carlson, and Rush Limbaugh. I have a feeling that Trump will prevail.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump pardons his former advisor Michael Flynn. Roger Stone and Paul Manafort are rumored to be next.
- Quote of the day: "The stock market will crash if Biden is elected President." ~ Donald J. Trump [Meme]
- Humor: Melania Trump is seeking a publisher for her tell-all book, tentatively entitled I Write Book.
- Slavery behind bars: Criminals collude with prison guards to set up production lines in Iranian prisons.
- Trump, on the best people he hires and the worst people he fires: They are the same people! [Video]
- Political humor: Trump may escape to Iran, where he has lots of supporters!
- Hope humor returns to the White House: Obama's remarks at his last WH Correspondents' Dinner.
- Soccer loses one (Argentina's Diego Maradona, dead at 60) and gains one (Brazil's Natalia Guitler, 33).
(5) Iranian Baha'is harassed: In simultaneous operations in several cities, security agents ransacked the homes of tens of Baha'is, confiscating their personal effects, mobile phones, computers, and religious books.
(6) UCSB virtual talk on the Armenian crisis: Dr. Anna Ohanyan will speak on Wed., Dec. 2, 2020, at 12:00 noon PST, under the title "The Crisis in Karabagh: Causes and Consequences." [Registeration (free)]

2020/11/24 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Art in the park: An elderly couple, London A few roses and rosebuds from my four rose bushes: Many more are on the way! Art in the park: An elderly couple, Tehran
Chart: Scientists opine on whether policymakers have taken their advice into account in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic Meme: Why are we letting one man (Trump) systematically destroy our nation right before our eyes? Math puzzle: Can you spot the error in this proof of the 'identity' 2 + 2 = 5? (1) Images of the day: [Top left & right] Art in the park: Statues of an elderly couple, in London and Tehran! [Top center] A few roses and rosebuds from my four rose bushes: Many more are on the way! And I am enjoying some surprisingly long-lasting carnations, going into their third week! [Bottom left] The Economist survey: Scientists opine on whether policymakers have taken their advice into account in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. [Bottom center] We are "letting" this monster stay in the White House (very reluctantly), because, unlike him, we are law-abiding citizens. He is entitled to "serve" (if you can call what he does "serving") until the last day of his term. [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Can you spot the error in this proof of the "identity" 2 + 2 = 5? Then generalize the erroneous method to prove a = b for any a and b.
(2) A national disgrace: Trump's legal team alleges serious election fraud in tweets and press statements, but presents completely different arguments, not involving fraud, in the courtroom. Meanwhile, Trump is upset with his legal team for making him look bad!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- While remaining defiant about the election outcome, Trump endorses transition funding and briefings.
- AP's running and continuously-updated list of Joe Biden's cabinet picks.
- Biden picks former Fed Chair Janet Yellen as the first woman to head the Treasury Department.
- Biden selects two more women: Avril Haines as DNI and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as UN Ambassador.
- Other Biden picks: Anthony Blinken (State), Alejandro Mayorkas (DHS), and John Kerry (Climate Czar).
- Reporter Vida Rabbani has been arrested in Iran for the second time this year.
(4) Talk about election fraud! Mystery spoiler candidates, Republicans running as "liberals" with dark-money support, influence the outcomes of multiple Florida State-Senate races.
(5) Feeding hungry Americans: Dow Jones breaks the 30,000 barrier. Trump holds a 1-minute press briefing to boast about the record, without mentioning that record numbers of people are being hospitalized and dying of COVID-19 and miles-long food lines are appearing from coast to coast. By the way, what happened to the claim that the stock market would crash if Biden were elected? Here is a Web site that helps you find your local food bank to make an urgently-needed donation to help feed your fellow-Americans.
(6) Final post for the day: Reza Rohani (son of maestro Anoushiravan Rohani) performs his dad's beautiful composition about autumn, with vocals by Sara Naeini. [2-minute video]

2020/11/22 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Saturday 11/21's colorful sunset in Goleta, California: Batch 1 of photos Saturday 11/21's colorful sunset in Goleta, California: Batch 3 of photos Saturday 11/21's colorful sunset in Goleta, California: Batch 4 of photos
Interesting facts about the animal kingdom: An eagle's path over 20 years, tracking of wolfpacks, and tracking of sharks (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Saturday 11/21's colorful sunset in Goleta, California (1-minute video). [Bottom row] Interesting facts about the animal kingdom (left to right) The path of an eagle, tracked over a 20-year period. GPS tracking of six different wolfpacks around Voyageurs National Park shows that they really don't intrude into one another's territory. Some four-dozen sharks are being actively tracked off the US East Coast to study their movements; each dot on the map represents one shark at a particular time.
(2) Trump doesn't want to remain in office: His delay tactics are motivated by hopes that the resulting chaos will help him cut a Nixon-style deal to escape prosecution. Read Edward Norton's tweet-thread for details.
(3) Some plan to get together with their elderly loved ones during what might be their last Thanksgiving: Yes, this may be their last Thanksgiving, but please don't make it their last Thanksgiving by your actions!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Americans are ignoring Thanksgiving travel warning: Brace yourselves for many more cases & deaths!
- Attorney Sidney Powell: How crazy do you have to be for Rudi Guiliani to disavow you as part of his team?
- SBPianoBoys return to public performance after being sidelined by the pandemic. [Article] [Video]
- Academic humor: Your typical thesis committee, according to www.phdcomics.com.
- Changuiz Jalilvand, who voiced many Iranian and foreign actors in dubbed films, dead of COVID-19 at 80.
- Persian poetry: Amazing superposition of shadows, bringing to mind a verse of Sa'adi. [Tweet]
- Persian music: The oldie pop song "Mahtaab" ("Moonshine"), performed by Viguen.
(5) For those who live outside North America: Iranwire.com provides a free viewing link for the documentary film "Nasrin" (about Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iran's prominent human/women's-rights activist who is serving a long prison term), for 10 days, November 18-28, 2020.
(6) Chronic effects of COVID-19 on the young: Physically-fit and healthy people are coming down with dibiliatating conditions (post-acute COVID-19 syndrome) months after beating a mild version of the disease.
(7) Socialism is good when it benefits hard-core capitalists: Georgia Senator David Perdue's Dollar General, a chain catering to low-income customers, benefited directly and indirectly from government assistance.
(8) Donald Trump's concession speech (humor): I hereby concede that I beat sleepy Joe Biden, the worst possible candidate Democrats could have chosen, BY A LOT (all-caps text means its true).

2020/11/21 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos from yesterday's late afternoon walk along the beach in Isla Vista, California: Batch 1 Photos from yesterday's late afternoon walk along the beach in Isla Vista, California: Batch 3 Photos from yesterday's late afternoon walk along the beach in Isla Vista, California: Batch 2
Photos taken during my mid-morning walk today on Goleta's Hollister Ave.: Batch 1 Photos from yesterday's late afternoon walk along the beach in Isla Vista, California: Batch 4 Photos taken during my mid-morning walk today on Goleta's Hollister Ave.: Batch 2 (1) Images of the day: [Top row & Bottom center] Photos from yesterday's late afternoon walk along the beach in Isla Vista, California. [Bottom left & right] Photos taken during my mid-morning walk today on Goleta's Hollister Ave.: The sites include Goleta City Hall and company headquarters within business/research parks.
(2) Murphy's Law: How one Trump loyalist, Emily Murphy, is holding up the means for smooth transition of power to the Biden/Harris administration, much to the delight of our adversaries abroad.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The Emmys to honor NY Governor Andrew Cuomo for his 111 daily COVID-19 briefings earlier this year.
- Iran and the United States: Stuck in the no-man's land between peace and war.
- Iran's campaign of terror in Iraqi Kurdistan has claimed 259 victims.
- Iran sentences Kurdish girl in West Azerbaijan to 5 years in prison on political charges.
- Former Iranian diplomat faces trial for foiled bomb plot in Paris.
- Persian music: Honoring the late Mohammad-Reza Shajarian by performing one of his compositions.
(4) SUTA talk by Dr. Mehdi Zarghami (Zarghamee): Sharif/Arya-Mehr University of Technology's fifth Chancellor, and the first one to be chosen from among the institution's faculty members, spoke today under the title "Developing Science and Technology in Iran."
He began his remarks with an overview of the science & technology scene in Iran, from ancient times to the 1960s, when AMUT was founded. Zarghami, a doctoral student at U. Illinois at the time, recalls being surprised that Iran's national budget, almost entirely coming from oil revenues, was $1 billion, that is, merely 6-7 times the $150 million annual budget of U. Illinois!
One challenge in founding AMUT was making it a non-public entity to avoid bureaucratic constraints on public institutions and to be able to pay competitive salaries to the faculty in order to absorb the best talent. Yet it wasn't clear at the time where funds for running the institution would come from.
Serious political unrest at AMUT began in the 1970s, leading to the arrest of many students and formation of the University Guard, which monitored political activities on campus and made healthy interactions among students and faculty impossible. It is a testament to the strong foundations of AMUT that it survived both political unrest before the Islamic Revolution and external meddling in its affairs, including student and faculty purges, afterwards.
Construction of AMUT's Isfahan campus began in 1971, the vision being that of a two-campus university. This statement of Zarghami is at odds with my recollection that in the 1970s, faculty members were told that AMUT had been planned for Isfahan and that the Tehran campus was a temporary set-up, until the campus in Isfahan was completed (the Tehran campus had become serious trouble for Shah's regime, given the high level of student and faculty activism).
Dr. Zarghami then briefly reviewed the current state of education and research at SUT (and Iran, more generally). While various quantitative indicators (students admitted, papers published) show healthy growths, relying on such bean-counting measures, without an attendant evaluation of quality, is misleading. For example, there is no sign that the high level of publication activity translates to high impact in advancing the attendant fields of science and technology.
A lively Q&A period followed. I asked a question that appears at the &ndash'7:35 mark of the talk's recording on YouTube. [122-minute video] [Screenshot (one of three)]

2020/11/19 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Funny tweets about Zoom meetings Meme: Rudi Giuliani makes an ass of himself in court After 2+ weeks of silence re the transition process, the Trump-appointed head of GSA, issues a covfefe-like tweet
Interesting geographical facts: Australia is almost as big as the continental US Roman aqueduct in Tunisia, near Tunis Interesting geographical facts: Japan is much bigger than many of us think (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Funny tweets about Zoom meetings. [Top center] When you insult people left & right, and consider yourself smarter than everyone else, you'll be left with third-rate people (such as Rudi Giuliani), who are incapable of helping you, even if they give it their best. [Top right] Pocket tweet: After 2+ weeks of silence and refusing to authorize the presidential transition process, Emily Murphy, the Trump-appointed head of GSA, issues a covfefe-like tweet. [Bottom left & right] Interesting geographical facts: Australia is almost as big as the continental US; Japan is much bigger than many of us think! [Bottom center] Roman aqueduct in Tunisia: The Zaghouan aqueduct was built during the reign of Emperor Hadrian in 122 to bring water from Jebel Zaghouan to Carthage. The section shown in this photo is near Tunis. [Bottom right]
(2) Book talk: Iranian author Dalia Sofer, best known for her earlier novel Septembers of Shiraz, will talk about her new novel, Man of My Time, on Thursday, December 3, 2020, 10:00 AM PST.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Biden appoints someone who advised DuPont on skirting environmental regulations to advise him on EPA.
- Worst in US history: Donald Trump and his cabinet appointees at State, Justice, and Education.
- Election fraud? Supposedly-dead Georgia voter is very much alive!
- Donald Trump's 100 most-tremendous scandals. [25-minute video]
- Dancing on the side of a high-rise: Amazing skill and grace! [3-minute video]
- Having fun with music: Two young men change from casual to formal clothes, while playing the piano.
(4) COVID-19 is a health crisis, but also an education nightmare: Colleges are losing revenues, applications, students (both domestic and international), and visiting scholars, who form pillars of research programs.
(5) How Oxford English Dictionary changed its definition of "Woman": The update was sparked by a Change.org petition (started in 2019 by London-based communication strategist Maria Beatrice Giovanardi), which said the dictionary's examples of the use of "woman" in a sentence showed them as sex objects, subordinate, and/or an irritation to men, and the dictionary entry for "man" was far more substantive. Many definitions related to gender, particularly those concerning "sexual attractiveness or activity" were revised and references to gender were removed from the examples for words typically associated with women, including housework, high-maintenance, and anatomy.
(6) Final thought for the day: House and Senate Republicans who just got re-elected to office support Trump's assertion that the elections were rigged. Chew on that!

2020/11/18 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sunset on Tuesday 2020/11/17: Photographed from Isla Vista and UCSB West Campus (batch 1) Isla Vista murals: A few samples, photographed during a late-afternoon walk on Tuesday 2020/11/17 Sunset on Tuesday 2020/11/17: Photographed from Isla Vista and UCSB West Campus (batch 2) (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Sunset on Tue. 2020/11/17: Photographed from Isla Vista and UCSB West Campus. [Center] Isla Vista murals: A few samples, shot during a late-afternoon walk on Tue. 11/17.
(2) Too close for comfort: According to the Center for Near-Earth Studies, a pickup-truck-size space rock passed within 240 miles (385 km) of Earth's surface on Friday, November 13, 2020, at 5:20 UTC.
(3) Trump is fighting to keep a job he shows no interest in performing: He and his top aides have been missing in action for two weeks, as the country struggles with a worsening pandemic! [The Washington Post]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's disputed claims, clearly marked as such, are still retweeted tens of thousands of times. [Tweet]
- Sculptures come to life: Kids and adults are equally stunned or scared. [3-minute video]
- Lucio Dalla's "Caruso": History, meaning, and many renditions of the 1986 Italian song. [15-minute video]
- Well, this traditional Iranian strength-training exercise regimen is no longer for "macho" men only!
(5) What Donald Trump is doing isn't a sign of toughness: He is a scared man, who may spend the rest of his life defending decades of corruption. Russia and payment to hookers are the least of his problems. His foundation, Trump Organization, and the rest of his operations are built on dishonesty and cheating others.
(6) What'll Moscow Mitch say in 2021? Extrapolate from the despicable swamp creature's previous musings:
2010: "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a 1-term president."
2016: "One of my proudest moments was when I looked at Barack Obama in the eye and I said, Mr. President, you will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy."
2018: "Will Dems work with us, or simply put partisan politics ahead of the country?"
(7) Large-scale sexual abuse: The Boy Scouts of America, already undergoing bankruptcy, faces more than 92,000 sexual abuse claims. This is even more serious than charges against the Catholic Church.
(8) This evening's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Dr. Rich Wolski (Professor and holder of Duval Presidential Chair in Energy Efficiency, Department of Computer Science, UCSB) spoke under the title "Experiences with IoT and The New Internet as a Platform of Things." For detailed description and images, please see the IEEE CCS Technical Talks page or my Facebook post.

2020/11/17 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Memory from November 17, 2011: My daughter and her Engineering Academy teammates meet The Science Guy A most-spectacular still photo of a dance group: The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Former President Obama and a teen visitor demonstrate the 'not impressed' face
A second crook is about to bite the dust: The first one left reluctantly too, but he did not try to burn the country in contempt Cartoon: The Republicans wondering how much longer they have to keep up the circus act An amazing 3D objects that looks completely different based on the viewing angle (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Memory from November 17, 2011: My daughter and her Engineering Academy teammates meet The Science Guy. [Top center] A most-spectacular still shot of a dance group: The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. [Top right] Memory from November 17, 2012: Demonstrating the "not impressed" face! Looking forward to a healthy sense of humor returning to the White House. [Bottom left] A second crook is about to bite the dust: The first one left reluctantly too, but he did not try to burn the country in contempt. [Bottom center] Cartoon of the day: The Republicans wondering how much longer they have to keep up the circus act. [Bottom right] An amazing 3D objects that looks completely different based on the viewing angle.
(2) Category-5 Hurricane Iota isn't tiny: With winds of up to 160 mph, Iota is expected to make landfall in northeastern Nicaragua and eastern Honduras, affecting some of the areas still water-logged from Eta.
(3) Deja vu all over again: We are witnessing the second straight instance of a Republican president leaving his Democratic successor a crisis to manage and a mess to clean up.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump had to be dissuaded from bombing Iran: I hope we survive the last 63 days of Trump's presidency!
- Quote: "Science is a way of thinking much more than it is a body of knowledge." ~ Astrophysicist Carl Sagan
- Magnificent moonrise: Captured from Byron Bay Lighthouse at Australia's easternmost point. [Video]
- Magic tricks: Some of the secrets revealed! [2-minute video]
- Persian music: Kayhan Kalhor plays the kamancheh as you likely haven't seen before! [2-minute video]
(5) Immigrants' son who built Dropbox, an $8B company: Arash Ferdowsi's upbringing was a mix of Iranian traditions at home and American culture while hanging out with friends. "Nobody at Blue Valley Northwest High School cared that my parents were immigrants; my peers simply accepted me as one of their own."
(6) On social-media etiquette: When you retweet or repost something, please consider adding a brief description of your own to provide context. Notifications often include just your text and not the original tweet or post. So, if you say something like "This," "Must read," or "Hahaha," you are not helping the recipient of the alert decide whether s/he wants to pursue the tweet/post. We all receive many dozens of alerts daily and can't possibly pursue all of them. I, for one, ignore any alert that does not tell me what the tweeet/post is about.
(7) Final thought for the day: "I firmly believe that the important things about humans are social in character and that relief by machines from many of our present demanding intellectual functions will finally give the human race time and incentive to learn how to live well together." ~ Merrill M. Flood (formulator, with Melvin Dresher, of the basis of the game-theoretical Prisoner's dilemma model of cooperation and conflict)

2020/11/16 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: John McCain liked people who don't lose Arizona! Happy International Day for Tolerance! Professor Alenoush Terian: Iran's first woman physicist, a Sorbonne-educated Armenian, would have turned 100 this year (1) Images of the day: [Left] Fitting meme of the day: John McCain liked people who don't lose Arizona! [Center] Happy International Day for Tolerance: Coming amid one of the most intolerant eras in US political life. Hoping for better conditions when we celebrate next year! [Right] Professor Alenoush Terian (1920-2011): Iran's first woman physicist, a Sorbonne-educated Armenian, would have turned 100 on November 9, 2020. She is known as the mother of modern Iranian astronomy. (P.S.: Wikipedia lists her birth year as 1921, but other sources indicate that 1920 is the correct year. One of the photos indicates that she indeed celebrated her 90th birthday, before passing in March 2011.)
(2) Al Qaeda's second-in-command perishes in Tehran: Israel may have been behind the drive-by shooting that killed the experienced Al Qaeda operative. Iran's Foreign Ministry has denied that the killing occurred.
(3) The criminal administration strikes again: Trump adviser Dr. Scott Atlas encourages an insurrection against Governor Gretchen Whitmer over Michigan's new COVID-19 safety protocols.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Voter fraud: Explained by comedian John Oliver on "Last Week Tonight." [18-minute video]
- Trump has been an avid promoter of flights to Mars: He is thinking of building his Mars-a-Lago escape resort!
- An ER nurse in South Dakota says her patients dying of covid-19 continue to deny the pandemic's existence.
- Evening of Sunday 11/15 on Goleta's Coal Oil Point Beach. [31-second video]
(5) Older people should rejoice: A US study published in New England Journal of Medicine (2018) concludes that we tend to be most productive in our 60s, followed closely by our 70s, and then our 50s. So peak productivity is achieved in the second half of life, which is an argument for raising our retirement age. In his TEDx talk, "The Most Productive Years of Your Life May Surprise You," Lloyd Reeb makes the same point.
(6) Persian poetry: Khosro Shahani was bed-ridden, when a friend visited. He reportedly composed this verse impromptu: My illness led to a beloved's inquiry | I'll die of sadness for feeling better tonight [Persian poem]
(7) Virtual tour of the British Museum: As we are stuck at home due to COVID-19, let's not forget that we can explore many distant tourism and cultural sites on-line. The British Museum is one!
(8) Literary humor from Iran: Writer/poet Reza Baraheni once related that during Shah's reign, he and cohorts tried to write political poems in a manner that people got the message but SAVAK (Shah's secret police) didn't, but it worked backwards; people didn't get the message, while SAVAK did!
(9) Final thought for the day: In his wide-ranging "60 Minutes" interview, former President Obama talks about Trump's non-concession, his new book, The Promise Land, and his presidential center.

2020/11/15 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Magazine covers celebrate America returning to normalcy: Time Magazine covers celebrate America returning to normalcy: People Cover imagae of Robin DiAngelo's 'White Fragility' (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] Magazine covers celebrate America returning to normalcy. [Right] Cover imagae of Robin DiAngelo's White Fragility (see the last item below).
(2) Recommended documentary film on Netflix: "The Social Dilemma" tackles the ill effects of technology on society. And here is Journalist Katie Couric in a 75-minute conversation with tech experts and Jeff Orlowski, the maker of the said documentary.
(3) Misogyny hurts your loved ones: Just a friendly reminder that when you say ignorant things about women in power, they don't hear you, but your mother, your sisters, your daughters, and your nieces do!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US Major League Baseball gets its first woman as general manager: The Marlins hire Kim Ng.
- Amazing 3D paintings and murals. [3-minute video]
- Persian music: "Ghogha-ye Setaregan," music by Homayoon Khorram, lyrics by Karim Fakoor.
- Persian poetry: Young woman with a beautiful voice recites a politically-charged poem. [1-minute video]
(5) Both CIA and FBI directors are reportedly on the chopping block: Watch Hannity, Ingraham, and other Fox News commentator to see if the order to fire will be issued!
(6) Book review: DiAngelo, Robin, White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Amy Landon, Beacon Press, 2018.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book is about defensive moves white people make, when challenged about their racial attitudes. Counter-productive reactions range from anger to guilt, and from fear to withdrawal. The author, a race/racism-dialog facilitator who happens to be white, relates her experiences and those of her white & colored friends in interacting with people who are overtly racist and those who exhibit unconscious racist behavior. Individuals in the latter group often absolve themselves of responsibility with statements such as "I grew up in a tolerant family" or "I have black friends."
Perhaps the most revealing point in this book is the separation of racism from "badness." Not all racism results from ill intentions. Racism isn't just deliberate acts committed by evil people with the intent to harm others, but it can thrive and spread through White Privilege, even without racists. If a colleague of us discriminates against blacks by not hiring them and we (white people) don't speak up, our benefiting from the act of exclusion constitutes racism. That is, closing our eyes to racist behavior is racist. In a similar manner, sexism can also exist without sexists.
According to DiAngelo, racism is a social structure and a legacy of slavery, not specific acts by individuals. Even though this main message of the book is valid and welcome, there is too much repetition and other forms of redundancy in examples and arguments. Such redundancy can turn off readers, both those who are receptive to the main arguments and those who must be brought over to our side. Despite the latter criticism, I do recommend the book highly!

2020/11/14 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Mount Fanjing in China: Pay attention to the path for getting to the top! GIF image: This is what can happen when you add a new feature to existing code Cover image of Stephanie Winston Wolkoff's 'Melania and Me' (1) Images of the day: [Left] The spectacular Mount Fanjing in China: Pay attention to the path for getting to the top! [Center] This is what can and does happen when you add a new feature to existing code. [Right] Cover image of Stephanie Winston Wolkoff's Melania and Me (see the last item below).
(2) A talk about growth in businesses, by Clayton Christensen (Harvard Business School): Successful companies often wind up as middle-of-the-pack businesses a few decades later, and the scary thing is that this undesirable outcome is a natural consequence of good management!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The law-&-order President will face laws he claims to uphold & law-enforcement entities he feigns to support.
- The lawn-and-order President holds official event at Four Seasons Total Landscaping.
- Breath of fresh air: A day after election of Joe Biden as the 46th US President has been officially certified.
- Iranian cleric: Women with improper hijabs invested in the stock market, causing it to crash! [Meme]
- Cartoon caption of the day (Boy to his father in 2075): "Dad, how come buildings don't have 45th floors?"
- Persian/Azeri music: "Lonely," a song, with music, lyrics, and vocals by Homay. [7-minute video]
(4) Book review: Wolkoff, Stephanie Winston, Melania and Me: The Rise and Fall of My Friendship with the First Lady, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2020.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is yet another tell-all book about the Trump family. The author, Melania Trump's former best-friend and advisor, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, was unceremoniously dumped after it was disclosed that she had made millions personally from producing Trump's inaugural celebrations. I wasn't sure I wanted to peruse this book, but changed my mind when it became available at my local library during a period when I had long wait periods for other on-hold books.
Among the book's revelations is a characterization of Melania Trump as calculating, cold, and cruel, just like her husband, but, in some passages, she is described as a carefree, basking-in-the-sun person. Wolkoff also includes tidbits on Melania's relationship with the adult children of her husband, particularly "Princess" Ivanka. She confides that Melania insisted on calling herself "First Lady Elect" during the transition period, even though she was told by aides that she was not elected to the position.
It is rather odd that Wolkoff rose in stature, eventually landing a high-level political job, with dubious qualifications. She essentially leveraged her friendship with Malania Trump and connections with other famous people to get ahead. A good chunk of the book is a day-by-day diary of the two months she spent on planning Trump's inaugural festivities, including a rather boring account of budgets and who got/did what. This part is likely Wolkoff's self-defense against allegations of financial improprieties.
It is unclear when Wolkoff turned on her friend and began secretly recording her. Melania Trump's profanity-laced rant about Christmas decorations and children separated from their families is among the recordings that Wolkoff has released. In my humble opinion, the Mafia-like, greedy, and swindling Trump family deserves the back-stabbing staffers and aides that it gets.

2020/11/13 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Flyer for UCSB's 'Anti-Blackness: Difficult Dialogues' lecture series A couple of slides from this morning's IEEE Educational Activities Board webinar: Set 1 A couple of slides from this morning's IEEE Educational Activities Board webinar: Set 2 (1) Images of the day: [Left] "Anti-Blackness: Difficult Dialogues": This is the title of a UCSB lecture series, sponsored by the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, spanning fall 2020, winter 2021, and spring 2021. [Center & Right] Today's IEEE Educational Activities Board webinar (see the last item below).
(2) Trump asks supporters to help fund the recount effort: But fine print in the donation request indicates that much of the money will go to pay off his campaign's debt and finance his PAC! A final scam, before he leaves!
(3) On the Lincoln Project and other anti-Trump Republicans: They are all hypocrites. None of them ever said that an unqualified, criminal President should not be allowed to shape our country's legal system for decades to come. And no one complained about tax cuts for the rich and corporations that put us in a big hole, with exploding deficits. They used Trump to achieve their goals and should not be allowed to wash off their hands, as if they had no role in this abomination.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US Department of Homeland Security calls the 2020 election the most secure in American history.
- Do not donate to Trump's election-recount account: He is running yet another scam to enrich himself.
- A group of Iranian women remove their hijabs on streets and other public places, singing about freedom.
- Humor: The real thing is much scarier on Halloween! [13-second video]
- Kurdish music and dancing. [4-minute video]
- Persian music: A song about Isfahan, with video clips of the city's historical and cultural sights.
(5) Funny oxymorons: Found missing; Open secret; Small crowd; Act naturally; Fully empty; Pretty ugly; Original copy; Only choice; Liquid gas; and, to top them all, Social distancing!
(6) IEEE Educational Activities Board: This morning, in my role as Education Chair of IEEE California Central Coast Section, I attended a webinar offered by IEEE EAB. This global event had several panelists and more than 90 attendees. Here are some resources that are accessible to both IEEE members and non-members.
- IEEE Learning Network: A central source for continuing education opportunites from across IEEE
- IEEE Education Portal: Includes pre-university, university, and continuing-education resources
- IEEE Teaching Excellence Hub: Includes resources and tips for effective on-line teaching
- TryEngineering: Includes tools for those who want to do outreach to high-school students
- Key facts: IEEE membership is 14% women; Users of EAB resources trend younger and are ~30% women.
I asked whether it's possible for sections to purchase educational products and offer them to section members free of charge? If so, what would be the pricing model? Answer: Yes. Reach out to EAB Managing Director.

2020/11/12 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: Mitch McConnell's hypocrisy on budget deficit Women in STEM fields: Chart based on 2014 OECD data Neo-Nazis can walk on our streets openly, while black Americans are afraid to do the same (1) Images of the day: [Left] In 2017, Moscow Mitch dismissed the effect of tax cuts for the super-rich and corporations on the deficit. Now, he is worried about the exploding deficit and thinks that cutting social-safety programs is the solution. [Center] Ratio of women university students in STEM fields by country (see the next item below). [Right] Something is awfully wrong with our society and law enforcement if Neo-Nazis can walk on our streets openly, with their heads held up high, while black Americans are afraid to do the same.
(2) Women in STEM fields: According to 2014 OECD data, in three countries, at least half of university students within STEM fields are women: Portugal (57%), Italy (53%), Turkey (50%). Turkey has since moved further toward fundamentalism, so the fraction may have fallen. At 40%, the US is 14th on the list. Iran might have appeared near the top, but it is not included, perhaps due to lack of data. These two charts depict the gender-equality paradox in STEM: A higher value of Global Gender Equality Index is associated with both higher relative strength in science in favor of boys and a lower fraction of women among STEM graduates.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Reposting from November 12, 2016: Why Donald Trump Isn't My President. [My Facebook post/essay]
- Proud Boys leader, in a social-media post: "We're rolling out. Standby order has been rescinded."
- These concession speeches represent the American way of honoring and strengthening democracy.
- Chris Cuomo exposes the hypocrisy of Trump cronies by showing what they said about previous elections.
- Mayor of a small Japanese town, whose name has the alternative pronunciation "Jo Baiden" finds fame.
- The long-standing assumption that only male prehistoric humans engaged in hunting has been upended.
- In Iran, unjust laws grant husbands full control over their wives, forcing them to leave the job market.
- Disabled Iranian body builder arrested: Hardliners call for his execution over an Instagram post.
- Decipher these eight common sayings that are disguised in the fanciest verbiage.
- What number should replace the question mark? 48-12-39; 87-15-96; 56-11-74; 63-?-27
(4) Trump's three mutually inconsistent thoughts about Iran: Publicly, Trump threatened to annihilate Iran while also speaking of the noble people of Iran who love America. Privately, he was writing letters to invite Iranian authorities to agree to talks.
(5) How Hafez might have sung his verses: Maestro Ali Tajvidi speculates on this question, based on evidence that Hafez had a good singing voice and that regional melodies in Shiraz are centuries old. [6-minute video]
(6) "Women and Resistance Arts and Literature": This is the subject of a webinar to be held on Saturday, December 5, beginning at 6:00 PM PST. PhD scholars Nasim Basiri (Oregon State U.) and Ozlem Has (U. Copenhagen) will host speakers Azam Ali (singer & visual artist) and Nabina Das (poet).

2020/11/11 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Veterans' Day! (US flag and Lady Liberty) Time magazine election charts Cover image of the book 'Your Brain Is a Time Machine'
Monday 11/09 at UCSB: The beautiful blue skies inspired me to snap these photos Walnuts, with and without the two shell layers (wooden inside and soft outside) Virtual depiction of new landscaping behind my home (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Happy Veterans' Day! This ageless quote is appropriate for today, 11/11, when we honor soldiers and veterans, who make sacrifices in fighting wars, while generals and politicians are remembered in historical records as heroes: "In war the heroes always outnumber the soldiers ten to one." ~ H. L. Mencken [Top center] Time magazine election charts: In the pyramid-shape chart, block heights represent electoral votes and block widths represent margins of victory in percent. [Top right] Cover image of Your Brain Is a Time Machine (see the last item below). [Bottom left] Monday 11/09 at UCSB: The beautiful blue skies inspired me to snap these photos. [Bottom center] Walnuts, with and without the two shell layers (wooden, brown inside and soft, green outside). [Bottom right] Proposed for the area behind our home by our complex's Landscaping Committee: Major improvement over the current design. In my approval, I expressed hope that the implemented version looks as good as the virtual model (not like real Big Mac vs. the advertisement photo)!
(2) New US election records set: $14 billion total spending; 65 million mail-in votes; 101 million early votes; Ruth Graham Ray, 108, voted for President for the 22nd time.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- UAE to collect its prize for signing a trade pact with Israel: Approval to buy fifty F-35 stealth fighter jets.
- Iran's mixed reaction to US elections: Rouhani is cautiously welcoming; Khamenei sees continued enmity.
- Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei continues empowering his cronies and disenfranchising the parliament.
- The boyish Matt Damon is now 50: Here are a few more celebrities with milestone birthdays in Oct. or Nov.
(4) Book review: Buonomano, Dean, Your Brain Is a Time Machine: The Neuroscience and Physics of Time, W. W. Norton & Company, 2017. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book is composed of 12 chapters, numbered 1:00 to 12:00, arranged in two 6-chapter parts entitled "Brain Time" and "The Physical and Mental Nature of Time."
Time—Person—Year—Way—Day. No, this list of words isn't from a cognitive test designed to detect the onset of dementia! These are the five most-frequently used English nouns. The facts that "time" tops the list and two units of time are in the top five are clear indications of the importance of time in our lives. Beginning with the latter observation, UCLA neuroscientist Buonomano takes us through a non-stop feast of ideas and challenges. As we ponder the topic of this book, we "learn that our intuitions and theories about time reveal as much about the nature of time as they do about the architecture and limitations of our brains."
It's reasonable to expect that a book about time would start by defining the term precisely. Unfortunately, no such definition exists, despite scientists and philosophers attempting to get a handle on the notion for many centuries. There has been little progress since 1600 years ago, when Saint Augustine opined: "What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know." We don't even know whether time exists at all!
A key observation of Buonomano is that we don't have one internal clock, but several different ones associated with different time scales. Our internal clocks for telling days and months do not have minute and second hands, so to speak, and the mechanisms we use to measure short time periods, such as how long we have been waiting for our cup of coffee, lack hour and day hands. And this "multiple-clock principle" applies to other animals as well.
When we think of memory, our mental record of events, each one time-stamped in some way, we think of reminiscing about the past. Actually, the sole purpose of memory, from the point of view of evolution, is as a tool for predicting the future. So, if the same thing has happened at sunset every day over the recent past, we come to expect it to happen at the next sunset. This is where the brain's sense of time becomes important to our survival. Prospective timing ("Remind me to leave in 5 minutes!") and retrospective timing ("How long ago did Amy leave?") also have different brain mechanisms.
One of the difficulties in dealing with time is that we use the word "time" in three different senses, for which some languages have separate words: a lecture on the nature of time, an event ending on time, and a meeting dragging on for a long time.
Buonomano considers the brain to be a time machine for four inter-related reasons.
- Remembering past events and their timings, in order to predict the future.
- Telling time, a process similar to other computations, such as recognizing a face.
- Creating a sense of time; unlike vision or hearing, we don't have a time organ.
- Allowing mental travel, projecting ourselves backward and forward in time.
I had previously read several books about the human brain and a few dealing with the physical and philosophical underpinnings of time. How our brain influences the notion of time and how it is in turn affected by it are the key ideas we learn from this wonderful book.

2020/11/10 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: Rosa sat, so Ruby could walk, so Kamala could run Electoral maps are misleading: Land doesn't vote, people do! A few uncredited paintings of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (1) Images of the day: [Left] Rosa sat, so Ruby could walk, so Kamala could run (credit: Gemma Aitchison). [Center] Electoral maps that are constructed at election time are misleading: Land doesn't vote, people do! [Right] A few uncredited paintings of our new leadership team: Perhaps the portrait of former President Obama will finally go up in the White House after years of delay.
(2) Racism isn't just deliberate acts committed by "bad" people with the intention to harm others: Racism can thrive and spread through White Privilege, without racists. Sexism can also exist without sexists.
(3) The 50 richest Americans have more than 30% of the country's wealth: The bottom half have about 2%. Furthermore, the rich got six times richer since January 2020, as the poor struggled mightily with the pandemic and its economic consequences. The Rich Americans Club is almost exclusively male, with the first woman, Alice Walton, making an appearance at #10. Furthermore, women on the list gained their wealth through marriage or inheritance.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump is going through his third messy divorce: It's with Fox News, not Melania!
- Iranian human-women's rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh tests positive for coronavirus.
- Quote: "Rudeness is the weak man's imitation of strength." ~ American philosopher Eric Hoffer [1898-1983]
- Good old days? We used to eat cake after someone had blown on it. Chew on that!
(5) Magnitude-3.3 earthquake, today at 8:15 AM, near Goleta: Just a small shaker for us Californian, especially those who were wondering whether to get out of bed! It felt stronger than 3.3, though.
(6) The story of Zahhak in Ferdowsi's Shahnameh (Book of Kings): As part of the weekly Zoom gatherings of Tehran University's College of Engineering Class of 1968, Mr. Rashid Hazrati, civil engineer and Shahnameh enthusiast, continued his very interesting presentation in Persian. In the story's conclusion, covering a protracted conflict between Fereidoon and Zahhak, Fereidoon avenges the death of his father, Kaveh, by arresting Zahhak and imprisoning him in a cave under Mt. Damavand. Fereidoon then proceeds to reverse Zahhak's misdeeds and to erase all traces of his tyranny. [Any resemblance to the current US situation is purely accidental!] I learned some interesting points from the verses of Zahhak's story. In one passage, Ferdowsi offers the sage advice that militarymen should not enter the domain of commerce, as mixing the two roles can lead to serious problems. A good discussion on Zahhak's story is provided by Ali-Akbar Sa'idi Sirjani in his book, Zahhak-e Mardush (3rd ed., 1990). Here is a previous Facebook post of mine on this series of 3 lectures.

2020/11/09 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Fox News is trying to save itself from the poison of Trumpism (image of a tombstone for Fox, posted by Trump supporters) Iranian human/women's rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh, with her daughter Mehraveh Today's UCLA-sponsored lecture by UNC Chapel Hill's Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi (1) Images of the day: [Left] Fox News is trying to save itself from the poison of Trumpism: It is unclear whether the years-long Trump mouthpiece can remove the stain and the stench. Trump supporters are already declaring it dead! [Center] A symbol of strength still smiles: Iranian human/women's rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh, after her recent temporary release from prison to seek medical care, with her daughter Mehraveh. [Right] Today's UCLA-sponsored lecture by UNC Chapel Hill's Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi (see the last item below).
(2) Siri in hot water: Her answer to the question "How old is the President?" triggers conspiracy theories that she wants to put VP-elect Kamala Harris in charge of the White House!
(3) Structural batteries: Batteries will soon disappear, merging with the object they are powering. In cars, layers of carbon fiber in the body will form the battery, instead of a separate bulky unit sitting on the chassis. This will free up much space for adding conveniences and functionality, or just reducing size and weight.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Saudi Arabia, Israel come around to congratulating Biden on his election victory; China, Russia still mum.
- Pfizer announces 90% effectiveness for its COVID-19 vaccine: The markets rally to new record highs.
- A positive development due to COVID-19 is a re-examination of building ventilation systems.
- This fall, the changing of colors had a different meaning in a number of US states!
- Young Iranian activist Saba Kord-Afshari sentenced to 24 years for removing her headscarf in public.
(5) "Embodiment, Power, and Politics in the Context of Sigheh Marriages in Modern Iran": This very interesting talk by Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi (Roshan Institute Associate Professor in Persian Studies, UNC Chapel Hill), postponed from spring 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was offered today at 3:00 PM PST in the framework of UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran. The talk was based on Dr. Yaghoobi's recent book, Temporary Marriage in Iran: Gender and Body Politics in Modern Iranian Film and Literature (The Global Middle East, Book 12), Cambridge, 2020. My 4-star review of the latter book offers much of the needed background on the role of temporary marriages and how they are viewed and justified, both religiously and politically.
Dr. Yaghoobi began with some general remarks about the institution of temporary marriage ("sigheh"). At one point, sigheh wives were viewed essentially as maids, men bringing them home to provide help to their permanent wife/wives and merchants renting them out to earn additional income. During Ahmadinejad's government, sigheh marriages were officially encouraged, with the former President asking the youth to enter into such marriages without seeking permission from their parents. Women's rights groups opposed these efforts to further legalize and normalize sigheh. Women who enter sigheh marriages often do it due to financial need, but satisfying their sexual needs in a way that doesn't get them into trouble, socially or legally, also plays a role. For the remainder of her talk, Dr. Yaghoobi discussed Hossein Farahbakhsh's 2012 film "Zendegi-ye Khosoosi" ("Private Life"), the topic of Chapter 8 in her book.
Ebrahim, a conservative Muslim, who pursues "improperly-veiled" women and pushes thumb-tacks into their foreheads as punishment, is transformed into a reformist and meets Parisa, an educated and independent woman who looks down at the institutions of religion and marriage. They enter into a relationship (an informal temporary marriage, which was religiously sanctioned from Ebrahim's view but was not officially registered). Ebrahim considers the relationship a fling, showing his extreme hypocrisy, but when Parisa gets pregnant and confronts him about accepting paternity and officially registering the marriage, so that the child can get identity documents, he suggests abortion. When Parisa refuses to abort the fetus, Ebrahim sees his "reputation" and permanent marriage threatened and proceeds to kill Parisa and the fetus.
One of the themes of the film is referring to and portraying the independent Parisa as hysteric or crazy, state-sanctioned terms for women who step outside their limited options in social molds and relationships with men.
A discussion period followed, with questions about both sigheh marriages in general and the way the particular relationship was depicted in Farahbakhsh's film. Dr. Yaghoobi indicated that the film was one of the few she could find that address the subject of sigheh; she did not choose it for its cinematic value or realism.

2020/11/08 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
US National STEM Day: Logo US National STEM Day: My just-revised paper on women in science and engineering Cartoon: Biden wins, Trump is in denial
One of these US vice-presidents doesn't look like the others ... in several different ways! Retired Four-Star General Lori J. Robinson News media in the US and other free countries of the world are celebrating Biden's victory (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] Happy National STEM Day! I used today's fitting occasion to revise and resubmit my paper "Women in Science and Engineering: A Tale of Two Countries." Will learn about the publication outcome in early 2021. [Top right] Biden wins, Trump is in denial (see the next item below). [Bottom left] One of these US vice-presidents doesn't look like the others ... in several different ways. But she does belong! [Bottom center] Retired Four-Star General Lori J. Robinson on our 'messy' democracy and the importance of hearing harsh truths. [Bottom right] News media in the US and other free countries of the world are celebrating Biden's victory: Saudi Arabia is reportedly anxious!
(2) Despite Biden/Harris prevailing, most Democrats are rather disappointed with the election outcomes: We lost seats in the House, failed to flip the Senate (although there is still a small chance for gaining control of the Senate), and made little or no headway in local elections. I hope Biden/Harris govern in a way that restores the public trust in the Democratic Party and its policies. I, for one, wish that both Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi step aside or are driven out in favor or younger, more dynamic, and more flexible leaders.
(3) Ex-presidents tend recede from public life: But I don't think Donald Trump would be interested in writing a memoir, planning his presidential library, or pursuing hobbies. Expect to hear from him loudly and often!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Alex Trebek: Who's the popular game-show host who just passed away at 80?
- Twitter continues to flag Trump's rage-tweets, spreading falsehoods about the presidential election.
- Some Christian supporters of Trump think that he is a model human being and was chosen to lead us.
- Iranian cuisine: Making aash-e reshteh (noodles pottage). [Video]
(5) Over the past day, I have seen many black fellow-citizens, including a couple of prominent commentators, crying for joy over the election of Biden/Harris: Imagine how relieved they must be that they will no longer be frequent targets of hate speech from government officials at the highest level, that they won't be left to fend off the pandemic on their own, that their children will be a bit safer on the street, that girls of color will see a glimmer of hope for reaching the pinnacle of success. Black Lives Matter, indeed!
(6) "The Transformation of Iranian Women's Lives in Post-Revolutionary Iran": Webinar moderated by PhD scholars Nasim Basiri (Oregon State U.) and Ozlem Has (U. Copenhagan) and featuring post-revolutionary Iran's first President, Abolhassan Banisadr. Saturday, November 28, 2020, 8:30 PM CET = 11:30 AM PST.

2020/11/07 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Joe and Jill Biden 'Uninstalling Donald Trump' meme and Bruce Springsteen quote Kamala Harris and Douglas Emhoff
White Supremacy and toxic masculinity on display in the US presidential election results (maps) A young Shirazi engineer builds a complete model of Persepolis, as it appeared in its heydays Hands coming together to unify and rebuild our country (1) Images of the day: [Top left & right] Dignity restored to the White House: Joe & Jill Biden and Kamala Harris & Douglas Emhoff form a well-educated, decent, and compassionate team. [Center] Uninstalling Donald Trump and bringing back art, music, love, and joy to the White House and the country. [Bottom left] White Supremacy and toxic masculinity on display in the US presidential election results (credit: Josh Goodman). [Bottom center] A young Shirazi engineer builds a complete model of Persepolis, as it appeared in its heydays: Mehdi Fathi-Nezhad spent 14 years on research and construction to complete his model. [Bottom right] It's time for unification (see the next item below).
(2) We celebrated today and can afford to continue with the festivities tomorrow: But we need to get back to the work of rebuilding our country and removing the wall Trump erected between its citizens. I, for one, will not be worshiping the Biden/Harris team but will hold them to task in fulfilling their campaign promises. We got our country back from Trump and his fear-mongering. The next order of business is to get it back from coronavirus and the fear of losing our loved ones to it. Let's get to work!
(3) Talk about election fraud! Two armed men, arrested with a load of fake ballots they intended to deliver to a vote-counting site in Philadelphia, appear to be QAnon followers.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Start spreading the news ("New York, New York"): Joe Biden is the 46th President of the United States!
- Murdoch prepares his media outlets for the post-Trump era, asking Trump to accept defeat with grace.
- Geometric-puzzles books: Geometry Snacks and More Geometry Snacks, by E. Southall and V. Pantaloni.
- Puzzles book: If you are into number theory, try Recreations in the Theory of Numbers, by A. H. Beiler.
(5) Mark Meadows, Trump's Chief of Staff, tests positive for COVID-19: He has been appearing mask-less in a large number of campaign events and with many groups, including Trump and his family members.
(6) Persian Classical Melodies: Performed by maestros Javad Maroufi (piano) and Homayoun Khorram (violin). [Album 1, "Shokufeh-ha"; 63-minute audio file] [Album 2, "Del-e Shekasteh"; 74-minute audio file]
(7) Final thought for the day: "When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it—always." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

2020/11/06 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
US presidential election map as of late last night: Joe Biden needs 6 more electoral votes to win USA Today stops live-streaming Trump's lie-fest An extraordinary piece of art, perhaps made from broken-off pieces of china, stitched together (1) Images of the day: [Left] US presidential election map as of late last night: Joe Biden needs 6 more electoral votes to win, with any one of the three states where he currently leads (Nevada, Pennsylvania, Georgia) being sufficient for victory. [Center] Coverage of Trump's "press briefings" should have discontinued a long time ago: He would have been nothing without the press spreading his vile falsehoods. It's easy to do it now, when he is on his way out. So, "better late than never" does not apply here. [Right] An extraordinary piece of art: Can't even imagine how this is made. Perhaps broken-off pieces of china, stitched together?
(2) A second John helps Biden prevail: I wrote earlier that Biden's victory in Arizona was in part due to Trump's insults against John McCain, a respected hero in his state. It seems that the district of Congressman John Lewis, another target of Trump's insults, may have delivered Georgia for Biden. Words have consequences!
(3) Humor: "I move on him like a bitch! I just keep counting. And when it's a democracy, they let you do it." ~ Count Dracula, the avid counter of Sesame-Street fame
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- People dying from COVID-19 have been forgotten, as we watch this election circus and its orange clown!
- Talk of possible Biden cabinet members is starting! [Image]
- Today's "Sounds of Democracy" jazz concert: Wynton Marsalis performed live at the Lincoln Center.
- Iran's history: Construction of the Black Bridge over Karoun River in Ahwaz during Reza Shah's reign.
- Reposting from Nov. 6, 2013: Old saying: Think before you speak. New saying: Google before you post.
- Today, I received a certificate of appreciation for my participation in IEMCON-2020 as a keynote speaker.
(5) Iranian Women in Academia: As in every other domain, Iranian women have been rising in academic ranks within the US. Today, three young women academics shared their personal stories and their uphill battles that culminated in landing academic positions. The conversation was moderated by Nasrin Rahimieh (Howard Bakersville Professor of Humanities, Comparative Literature), an established academic in UC Irvine's School of Humanities, who has served as a mentor to numerous women in multiple fields. [Images]
Very brief descriptions of the panelists follow. It would be impossible for me to adequately summarize all the points made in this wide-ranging and informative panel discussion, so I urge you to listen to its recording.
- Annahita Mahdavi (Associate Professor, Human Services Addiction Studies, Long Beach City College), who came to the US as a refugee, related her challenges in academia, including being told on many occasions that she should be thankful for being given her position, which she characterized as a form of micro-aggression.
- Nooshan Shekarabi (Professor of Political Science, Santiago Canyon College), who found her way to a regular academic position after carrying heavy teaching loads as adjunct faculty at a liberal-arts college, and who has been chairing her current department for a decade, related the strange experience of getting a push-back from some members of the Iranian-American community when she self-identified as a woman of color.
- Claudia Yaghoobi (Roshan Associate Professor of Persian Studies, UNC Chapel Hill) related her experiences as part of the Armenian minority in Iran, coming to the US and having to go from tenured faculty member to a CVS clerk, and then navigating her status as a woman of color in academia, while belonging to the Christian majority in the US.
I end this brief report with a few words to men wondering what they can do to help women in their uphill struggles in academia: Consider forming or participating in an advocate group for gender equity. Here is an example group which we have founded at UCSB.

2020/11/05 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Electoral map: The US presidential race, as of 7:00 AM today Masala Spice Indian Cuisine on Goleta's Calle Real Architects' vision for Santa Barbara Downtown's State Street, redesigned for pedestrian-only traffic
Portrait of Joe Biden: The likely next US President Portrait of the late US Senator John McCain Homa Sarshar: Screenshot from her November 5, 2020, chat with Stanford's Dr. Abbas Milani (1) Images of the day: [Top left] The US presidential race, as of 7:00 AM today: Winning any one of these four states (NV, GA, NC, PA), all of which are close, would put Biden in the White House. [Top center] Pleasant dining experience and great conversations during Wednesday evening's IEEE Central Coast Section Executive Committee Meeting at Masala Spice Indian Cuisine, on Goleta's Calle Real. [Top right] Architects' vision for Santa Barbara Downtown's State Street, redesigned for pedestrian-only traffic. [Bottom left] The next US President, Joe Biden: Not for sure, but very likely! [Bottom center] If Arizona goes to Biden, we owe it in large part to John McCain: Trump's insults against this national hero and a legend in his home state turned off many Arizonans. [Bottom right] A chat with author/journalist Homa Sarshar (see the last item below).
(2) An embarrassment of a president: Trump holds a "press conference" during which he spews a series of baseless accusations against states and election personnel, then leaves without answering a single question.
(3) CNN is running a continuous analysis of voting in five battleground states: They are presenting vote-differentials and discussing chances that the candidate who is behind will be able to catch up. Let's not allow this illusion of precision and know-how make us forget the gross incompetence of our news media and polling industry in predicting the results in several states that went the opposite way from predictions by wide margins!
(4) Trump would have won 100% of the votes in all 50 states without Biden voters: My response to former AG of Nevada's tweet that Trump would have won Nevada decisively without mail-in ballots! [Trump retweet]
(5) Twitter permanently suspends Steve Bannon's account: After claiming that Trump had won the election, he had suggested that Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray should be beheaded.
(6) The increasingly deranged Trump: What we are seeing from Trump is something that we were repeatedly warned about by psychologists, even before his election in 2016. He himself told us that he won't commit to a peaceful transfer of power. A narcissist cannot accept defeat and will try to pull us all under, as he sinks.
(7) Stanford University's Program in Iranian Studies features author/journalist Homa Sarshar: Titled "Iranian Women: The Achilles Heel of the Islamic Republic of Iran," Sarshar's chat with Dr. Abbas Milani covered her illustrious life and work, as well as reflections on the women's-rights movement in Iran. Recordings of this and previous Stanford Program in Iranian Studies webinars are available on their Web site.

2020/11/04 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Trump's whiny tweet about 'Red' states turning 'Blue' and Trevor Noah's response Post-Election-Day sunrise is just as beautiful, even though the results may end up not to be Cartoon: Sleeplessness due to late-night anxiety (1) Images of the day: [Left] Trump whines about red results turning blue: Trevor Noah of the "Daily Show" responds! [Center] Post-Election-Day sunrise is just as beautiful, even though the results may end up not to be. [Right] New Yorker cartoon of the day: Sleeplessness due to late-night anxiety.
(2) Nail-biters in the US: Votes were still being counted as today ended, with no definitive results known in the presidential race (Biden seems headed for a win) or control of the Senate (will likely remain with the GOP).
(3) Luckily, Trump needs Arizona: So, his hands are tied in challenging late counting elsewhere. Besides tweeting, he's eerily quiet. His advisers have probably tied him to a bed to stop him from worsening the situation by dumb statements!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A kind-hearted woman reflects on the US election and how its outcome may hurt marginalized groups.
- US voter turnout is projected to exceed the previous highest of 73.7% in the 1900 election.
- Historic election of Iranian-American women to public office in the US.
- Prop 16 (restoring affirmative action) fails in CA: U. California remains committed to student-body diversity.
(5) Today, I gave two talks at IEMCON 2020: The 11th Annual IEEE Information Technology, Electronics, and Mobile Communication Conference (based in Vancouver, Canada) is being held virtually this year. My keynote address, presented on 11/04, 9:30 AM PST, was entitled "Hybrid Digital-Analog Number Representation in Computing and in Nature." It was about a number representation scheme, using analog residues, that helps explain a rat's navigation abilities and sense of location, as proposed in key scientific theories that led to the award of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. [Slides] My regular talk in Session 8, entitled "Reliability and Modelability Advantages of Distributed Switching for Reconfigurable 2D Processor Arrays," was presented at 12:30 PM. [Slides] [Paper] A third talk, entitled "Number Representation and Arithmetic in the Human Brain," will be presented by my co-author, Ms. Jennifer Volk, on Friday 11/06. [Slides] [Paper]

2020/11/03 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos of scientist dolls: Darwin, Tesla, Einstein America is expressing its disgust with the past four years, choosing blue hope over red fear. The ruling mullahs in Iran: Halloween every day, for more than 40 years! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Our scientist dolls are hoping to get more respect in the new US administration! [Center] America is expressing its disgust with the past four years, choosing blue hope over red fear. Stay tuned! [Right] The ruling mullahs in Iran: Halloween every day, for more than 40 years!
(2) This is Mohammad Zahed, one of the students killed in the terrorist attack at Kabul University: Backward minds in both Iran and Afghanistan are killing the brightest young talents or forcing them to flee their homelands, leaving little hope that their political and economic conditions will improve.
(3) Persian music: Soheila Golestani performs "Setareh Ahoo," the story of an improbable love between a star and a doe, music by Homayoun Khorram and lyrics by Houshang Ebtehaj. [7-minute audio file]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Jewish cemetery defaced with MAGA and Trump symbols: Congratulations to Trump's Jewish supporters!
- Indians, the white people of the brown people: Comedy routine by Vir Das.
- Artist at work: Taking advantage of the physics of vibrations to create amazing patterns.
- Amazing jump-rope skills! [The music does not match the context and is likely added by others.]
(5) Kurds in Georgia: According to Wikipedia, there are around 13,000 (Yazidi) Kurds in Georgia, down from ~33,000 in 1989. They moved to Georgia as a result of Ottoman and later Turkish persecution. The Persian text within this post isn't in agreement with the above, but it does contain some interesting facts.
(6) Optical physicist Nader Engheta wins a major award: Institute of Physics honors him with the Newton Medal and Prize for "groundbreaking innovation and transformative contributions to electromagnetic complex materials and nanoscale optics, and for pioneering development of the fields of near-zero-index metamaterials, and material-inspired analogue computation and optical nanocircuitry."
(7) Iranian Women in Academia: As in every other domain, Iranian women have been rising in academic ranks. Hear about the experiences of three such women in this November 6, 1:00 PM PST panel discussion. [Flyer]
(8) IEEE award/honor: I have been chosen to receive the IEEE Transactions on Computers Award for Editorial Service and Excellence. This award comes on the heels of my handling the evaluation/refereeing process for the 126th manuscript for IEEE TC, in addition to a comparable number for other IEEE publications.
(9) Final thought for the day: "Always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented." ~ Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel

2020/11/02 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sensei Steve Ota of Goleta, California, loses his battle with cancer. RIP. Sensei Steve Ota's dad and mom, Sensei Ken and Miye, ballroom-dancing Two men shown trying to lift a huge watermelon (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] Sensei Steve Ota (?-2020): My son's Aikido teacher, who taught him martial arts as well as many life skills, loses his battle with cancer. RIP. The dancing couple are his dad and mom, Sensei Ken (1923-2015) and Miye (1918-), founders of Goleta's Cultural School, which was being run by Steve. [Right] There's a Persian saying, "You can't lift two watermelons with one hand": We desparately need a new saying for the situation in this photo!
(2) Trump claims that doctors inflate the COVID-19 death counts to earn more money: Imagine attacking selfless front-line workers who save lives, including Trump's own life! What a low-life!
(3) Republicans are one by one distancing themselves from Trump: They cite being embarrassed by him as the reason. But speaking out this late, after nearly four years of destructive boorishness and 90 million votes already cast, makes one believe that they are trying to save their own political careers and/or social standings, rather than helping the country. No one will ever trust them again!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Quote of the day: "Tomorrow is another day!"
- Washington, DC, and other major cities have been boarded up in anticipation of trouble after the election.
- Terrorism in Afghanistan: Attack by gunmen on Kabul University leaves 19 dead and 22 wounded.
- These NYC fist-fights can easily escalate into armed conflict. Hope we pass Nov. 3 safely and peacefully!
- Dubbed "1001 Podcasts," Twin Cities Iranian Cultural Festival is a good source of programs about Iran.
(5) Yet another sign of the rise of fascism in America: Biden/Harris campaign bus was followed and harassed by Trump supporters in Texas. Trump retweeted the video, with the comment "I love Texas."
(6) Russia Today in the White House: Trump's new favorite medical adviser Dr. Scott Atlas gave an interview to the Kremlin-tied propaganda outlet, Russia Today, in which he slammed lockdowns. The interview endorsed Trump's policies, but it also helped Putin, who is under attack for his COVID-19 policy failures.
(7) A front-line medical worker's response to the Liar-in-Chief: She refutes his claim that doctors benefit from the COVID-19 pandemic and gets messages of appreciation and pledges to kick Trump out of office.
(8) Biden won't raise your taxes, the GOP will: Built into the 2017 "tax reform bill," which slashed taxes for the super-rich and corporations, are provisions for tax increases (already approved and signed into law) that will become effective in 2021, and will gradually raise our tax burden until 2027, when it will include almost every American. Most of us will be paying more in taxes than we did before the so-called "tax cuts." For details, read this opinion piece by Nobel-Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz.
(9) American Jews as a whole support Biden, while Iranian-American Jews support Trump, both groups by a wide margin: There are exceptions however, as reflected in this opinion piece by Karmel Melamed.

2020/10/31 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Don't worry: We're rounding the turn! (Truck shown falling off a bridge, as it rounds the turn) Connery, Sean Connery: The Oscar-winning actor and the first James Bond dead at 90 Cover image for the audio course 'Philosopy of Science' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Don't worry: We're rounding the turn! [Center] Connery, Sean Connery: The Oscar-winning actor and the first James Bond dead at 90. [Right] Cover image for the audio course Philosopy of Science (see the last item below). [P.S.: Happy Halloween! It's mostly "trick" this October 31. The "treat" will be coming on November 3 or shortly thereafter!]
(2) Stanford Program in Iranian Studies Zoom talk (November 5, 2020, 10:00 AM PST): Author/Journalist Homa Sarshar discusses her life and work and the role of women in Iran, under the title "Iranian Women: The Achilles Heel of the Islamic Republic of Iran."
(3) Interesting and important talk by Reza Zia-Ebrahimi: Delivered in 2019 at Stanford University, "The Emergence of Iranian Nationalism: Race and the Politics of Dislocation" is an insightful review of how Iran came about as a nation-state, not by adopting native-born ideas, but by following the constructions of European orientalists. Leading figures in creating Iran's national identity were Qajar-era intellectuals Fath-Ali Akhundzaden and Mirza Aqa Khan Kermani, who, somewhat simplifying here, built the identity on the white Aryan race and its violation by invading brown Arabs. [100-minute video]
(4) International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) adopts a new code of ethics and professional conduct: Based on ACM's recently-revised code, IFIP's code and its associated prologue, along with some case studies to help in its application, will appear on a website at www.ifiptc9.org in the coming months.
(5) Course review: Kasser, Jeffrey L. (NC State U.), Philosophy of Science, 36 lectures in the "Great Courses" series, packaged in three 12-lecture parts (each with a guidebook), The Teaching Company, 2006.
[My 5-star review of this course on GoodReads] [Course Web site]
This course is about the intersection of philosophy and science as fields of study. According to American Heritage Dictionary, "philosophy of science is a branch of philosophy concerned with the foundations, methods, and implications of science." That there is a branch of philosophy dealing with science is evidence of the importance of science and its special place in human history and culture.
The philosophy-of-science discipline aims to answer questions such as:
What qualifies as science?
Are scientific theories reliable?
What is science's ultimate purpose?
Ethical dilemmas in science, such as questions in bio-experimentation and scientific misconduct, are usually not considered part of philosophy of science but subjects within ethics.
Philosophy clearly has a lot to say about science, sometimes questioning the very foundations of physics, biology, and other disciplines. It is also concerned with distinctions between good science, bad science, and pseudoscience. One may wonder whether science also has things to say about philosophy? Yes, it does. In fact, some philosophers do use scientific results to reach conclusions about philosophy itself.
Philosophy of science has deep roots in history, but when we discuss it today, we use vocabulary and concepts that are only about a century old. Our discussions are based on logical positivism, aka logical empiricism.
Positivism holds that every rationally justifiable assertion admits logical or mathematical proof, thus dismissing metaphysics and theism. Empiricism, developed in the 17th and 18th centuries by the rise of experimental science, maintains that all knowledge is derived from sensory experience.
There is fundamental tension within science, because it requires scientists to be both cautious and bold. This inner tension is what creates some of the nastiest philosophical debates.
Here is a brief table of contents for this excellent course:
Lectures 1-12 introduce the basics, demarcate the problems, and tell us why induction is illegitimate and how this very serious objection can be overcome.
Lectures 13-24 begin with Kuhn and his ideas and take us through discussions of revolutions, sociology, postmodernism, probability, and reduction.
Lectures 25-36 discuss meaning, realism, naturalism, Bayesianism, and entropy, wrapping things up with a lecture entitled "Philosophy and Science."
This isn't a course to go through sequentially just once, expecting to absorb all the important concepts. I, for one, plan to revisit the 36 lectures of this course (whose CDs I happen to own) from time to time, as I learn more about the foundations of science and challenges faced by scientists.

2020/10/30 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
This evening's sunset, photographed along Goleta's Slough Road Two of today's top stories: A day before Halloween and four days before America reclaims its identity from the Trump cult Humor: Upon leaving office on January 20, Trump hides in a cabin in the woods to avoid arrest (1) Images of the day: [Left] Today's sunset, photographed along Goleta's Slough Road (Video 1) (Video 2). [Center] Two of today's top stories: A day before Halloween and four days before America reclaims its identity from the Trump cult. [Right] Humor: Upon leaving office on January 20, Trump hides in a cabin in the woods to avoid arrest (credit: Seth Meyers).
(2) Keeping Americans in the dark: HHS Department collects and analyzes COVID-19 hospitalization data to see which area hospitals are close to being overwhelmed, but it does not share the data with the public.
(3) A necessary math lesson: Trumpists are trumpeting the "good news" that US GDP grew at an annualized rate of 33.1% during the third quarter of 2020. Of course, they never mention that it fell by 5.0% during the first quarter and by 31.4% during the second quarter. Remember that if something falls by 50%, you need a rise of 100% to go back to the starting point; so, we can't just add/subtract percentages. Not only is our GDP not back to where it was at the beginning of 2020, it has fallen to where it was in 2018. [Chart]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Magnitude-7.0 quake jolts Turkey: Centered close to Izmir in the Aegean Sea, it destroys many buildings.
- "Anonymous" reveals his identity and endorses Biden: He is Miles Taylor, former Homeland Security official.
- If a cat got your tongue, don't worry: UK scientists have 3D-printed a synthetic human tongue.
- Persian music: A wonderful rendition of the classic oldie song "Beh Esfahan Ro" ("Go to Isfahan").
(5) GOP candidates abandon Trump, often dodging questions about whether they support him: Some are saying that keeping GOP's control over the Senate is an insurance policy against a possible President Biden!
(6) Melania Trump, slamming the Democrats, with a straight face and no sense of irony: "Children watching and learning about politics in our country deserve a better display of political responsibility."
(7) "The Marginalization of Third World Feminists in Academia and Politics": This was the title of a webinar sponsored by University of Copenhagen and IUAES Commission on Transnational Feminism and Queer Politics (Friday, October 30, 2020, 3:00-5:00 PM EDT). Moderated by PhD scholars Nasim Basiri and Ozlem Has, the webinar featured Drs. Faye V. Harrison (Professor of African American Studies and Anthropology, U. Illinois), Zahra Tizro (Sr. Lecturer, U. East London), Subhadra Channa (Emerita Professor of Anthropology, U. Dehli), and Noha Khalaf (long-time educator/author/poet, who has held positions in Europe, Asia, and Africa) as panelists. The speakers, seasoned academics with diverse backgrounds, endeavored to share their experiences and offer advice to younger feminists in early stages of, or about to start, academic careers. [Event page] [Recording]
My question addressed to the panel: Marginalization is perhaps universal for all academics with origins in Third-World countries. However, it seems odd to me that in a discipline specifically aiming to address injustice and marginalization based on gender, discrimination based on national origin exists. So, I wonder why (some) feminists dismiss other non-gender-based struggles for equity?
I don't think my question was understood or properly answered. Today, I wore a T-shirt bearing one of my deep beliefs: "Fem.i.nism (fem-uh-niz-uhm): The radical notion that women are people." So, a feminist, woman or man, should be even more sensitive to non-gender-based inequity or marginalization than a non-feminist.

2020/10/29 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The slogan we need for the 2020s and beyond: Make America Green Again The US econmoy's performance under Trump vs. under five recent presidents (charts from CNN) Aerial view of Silverado Fire (taken two days ago), in Yorba Linda, California (1) Images of the day: [Left] The slogan we need for the 2020s and beyond: Make America Green Again. [Center] The US economy's performance under Trump vs. under five recent presidents: There is nothing for Trump to brag about. Even without the pandemic, both the GDP and S&P 500 (Trump's favorite indicator) were rising at rates comparable to those of other recent administrations (CNN). [Right] Aerial view of Silverado Fire (taken two days ago), in Yorba Linda, California. Blue Ridge Fire is now raging nearby.
(2) Elderly-friendly Web sites: The pandemic has forced older adults to conduct more business on-line, so companies are simplifying Web page layouts, increasing text and button sizes, and improving image contrast.
(3) Jared Kushner has begun to reveal his true colors: The out-of-touch real-estate investor, born with a silver spoon in his mouth, bragged to Bob Woodward in April that Trump is taking the country back from the doctors, and he opined more recently that blacks don't appreciate Trump because they don't want to be successful.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Islamic extremists strike again: A woman is beheaded and two others are knifed to death in Nice, France.
- OAN (One America News) wants to win over Trump supporters as a replacement for Fox News.
- Talk about senile! Trump is determined to win both Nebraskas in the upcoming election!
- The dog ate my homework: Tucker Carlson had damning Biden documents, but they got lost in the mail!
- The rise of college-attendance costs, a decades-long trend, may have been paused by the pandemic.
- Quote of the day: "The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it." ~ Billy Graham (1981)
(5) Regression-to-the-mean bias: This is a concept in psychology that has wide applications in many domains, including economics, education, and sports, to name just a few.
In his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman relates that he came across the concept when talking to Israeli Air Force trainers. One trainer told him that punishing very poor performance was more effective than rewarding excellent performance, because those who were punished usually improved on the next day, while those who were rewarded often achieved worse results later. This common judgement error results from inadequate knowledge of probability and statistics.
Performance, be it in fighter-jet maneuvers, golf scores, or school GPA, has a random component and fluctuates around a mean corresponding to the person's true abilities. When we see very poor performance or excellent performance, those are extremes that will revert to the mean, if we extend the observation period. An extremely good score on the first day of a golf tournament is unlikely to be repeated on the second day, when the score will likely rise or drop towards the mean for the particular golfer.
Given a golfer's score on one day, most people would predict the second day's score to be the same, whereas predicting something between that score and the golfer's mean score is much more likely to be accurate. Regression-to-the-mean bias is a result of rendering judgement or making decisions based on small sample sizes. Here is a nice explanation of the concept in the context of investment decisions. [4-minute video]

2020/10/28 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for UCSB Reads 2021 book selection: 'When They Call You a Terrorist' Image of Mehrdad Sepehri, who has been called the George Floyd of Iran Portrait of Kamala Harris and a quote from her (1) Images of the day: [Left] UCSB Reads 2021 book selection (see the next item below). [Center] Mehrdad Sepehri has been called the George Floyd of Iran: Except that his case didn't generate an international outrage and was pretty much ignored, even in Iran. He was handcuffed to a pole by the police and then harassed with a shocker and pepper-spray for a long time. Supreme Leader Khamenei, who spoke at length about George Floyd and injustices against blacks in America, did not even acknowledge police violence against a fellow-Iranian. [Right] Republicans who have trouble pronouncing Kamala Harris's name will soon have an easier time: They can call her Madam Vice President!
(2) UCSB Reads 2021 announcement: The best-selling 2018 book by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir, has been chosen for campus and community reading. Khan-Cullors will attend virtual sessions at UCSB on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. Details of campus programs, including free books for students, discussion forums, and other activities, will be announced later.
(3) OSIRIS-REx's sample collection mission from Astroid Bennu is in trouble: Apparently, the sample collection device retrieved such a large amount of material that a rock is preventing its container door from closing. NASA engineers are scrambling to find a solution, before the collected sample is spilled back into space.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Face-masks are mandated in Russia, due to a spike in coronavirus cases: Will Trump follow his master?
- Hurricane Zeta strengthens and speeds up ahead of today's landfall in the New Orleans area.
- Trump repeatedly refers to "hypersonic missiles" as "hydrosonic missiles," and no one dares to correct him!
- Sacha Baron Cohen's refreshingly literate speech, upon receiving ADL's International Leadership Award.
- Wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas trumps up fake claims of corruption against Joe Biden.
- One hundred historical, natural, and cultural sites to see in Iran. [217-page PDF file]
(5) For jazz afficianados: Jazz at Lincoln Center is being offered as a free event by UCSB Arts & Lectures at 5:00 PM PST on Friday, November 6, 2020. Wynton Marsalis and his septet perform his composition entitled "The Democracy Suite," which will be followed by a 1-hour discussion with Marsalis. Registration is required.
(6) Isla Vista and the magnificent ocean next to it: The college town abutting UCSB has more going for it than crowded housing, streets with no sidewalks, and wild parties. [38-minute video]
(7) What should be done about social media? This is the topic of Moshe Vardi's insightful column (CACM, November 2020). A case in point is Facebook, whose global reach and content policies are undermining democracy worldwide. In the US, Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act frees companies such as Facebook from liability by classifying them as platforms, rather than publishers. Such companies have come to accept some responsibility for the proliferation of "bad speech," but it's unclear whether giant platforms with billions of users are willing, or even able, to monitor content like traditional publishers. Regulating speech on social media appears to be inseparable from the question of power concentation in technology. Currently, the five largest US corporations are all tech companies: Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft.

2020/10/27 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
CACM cover: The November 2020 issue of ACM's flagship publication contains a special section on the status of computing in Latin America Cartoon: Noah's cat-loving wife forces him to make an exception to the 'two of each species' rule Screenshots from UCSB Library's Pacific Views Lecture of October 27, 2020 (1) Images of the day: [Left] Communications of the ACM: The November 2020 issue of ACM's flagship publication contains a special section on the status of computing in Latin America. Of particular interest to me is "A Tour of Dependable Computing Research in Latin America" (by E. P. Duarte, Jr., et al.). [Center] Cartoon of the day: Noah's wife forces him to make an exception to the "two of each species" rule. [Right] Screenshots from UCSB Library's Pacific Views Lecture of October 27, 2020 (see the last item below).
(2) Amy Coney Barrett: One month from nomination to confirmation and swearing-in. If only the Republicans were as concerned about helping Americans suffering personally and financially under a worsening pandemic!
(3) The story of Zahhak in Ferdowsi's Shahnameh (Book of Kings): As part of the weekly Zoom gatherings of Tehran University's College of Engineering Class of 1968, Mr. Rashid Hazrati, civil engineer and Shahnameh enthusiast, continued his very interesting presentation in Persian. The third part of the talk will be next Tuesday. Unfortunately, I had to leave the meeting early to make an appointment. I will post a link to the recorded version of the talk, if and when I get it. Here's my previous Facebook post on this series of 3 lectures (includes summaries in English and Persian).
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Seventy million Americans have already voted: More than half of the total number of votes in 2016!
- Lindsey Graham is prominently featured in a scathing pro-Biden, anti-Trump campaign ad.
- CBS journalist Leslie Stahl and her family get security protection due to death threats. What a country!
- My friends living in Iran tell me that they are more concerned about the outcome of US election than we are!
- Mandatory evacuation orders under the threat of Southern California wildfires affect 100,000+ people.
- Ohio's Operation Autumn Hope leads to the recovery of 45 missing children and arrest of 179 criminals.
- The late astrophysicist Carl Sagan responds to CNN founder Ted Turner about being a socialist.
- Kurdish music: This rendition of a lullaby, accompanied by a big orchestra, is really special. [7-minute video]
(5) The graph isomorphism problem: This practically- and theoretically-important problem remains unresolved. There have been recent advances, such as Laszlo Babai's result that the problem is almost efficiently solvable—theoretically—but much remains to be done.
Grohe, M. and P. Schweitzer, "The Graph Isomorphism Problem," Communications of the ACM, Vol. 63, No. 11, November 2020, pp. 128-134. [Full text on ACM Digital Library]
(6) UCSB Library's Pacific Views Lecture: Diane Fujino (Professor of Asian American Studies and author of books on Asian-American activism and Afro-Asian radicalism) and Matef Harmachis (long-time social-science high school teacher) spoke on "Black Power Afterlives: From the Black Panther Party to Black Lives Matter." Fujino and Harmachis drew from their new book, Black Power Afterlives, to discuss how the Black-Panther legacy continues to influence present-day activism, even though the party vanished as an entity 38 years ago.

2020/10/26 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos of Friday evening's sunset over Goleta's Devereux Slough Cartoon: Centipede's laundry day Late Sunday afternoon on Goleta's Coal Oil Point Beach: Windy, cloudy, and a bit on the chilly side for our area (1) Images of the day: [Left] Photos of sunset over Goleta's Devereux Slough, from Friday, October 23, 2020 (panoramic photo, 1-minute video). [Center] Cartoon of the day: Centipede's laundry day. [Right] Late Sunday afternoon on Goleta's Coal Oil Point Beach: Windy, cloudy, and a bit on the chilly side for our area.
(2) Iran's #MeToo moment: Prominent Iranian painter Aydin Aghdashloo has been accused by 13 women, most of them journalists or former students, of sexual misconduct. He is actress Shohreh Aghdashloo's ex, and thus she too has been dragged into media stories on the topic.
(3) I hope Pete Buttigieg is given a job in the Biden/Harris administration: Every time I hear him speak, it's like a breath of fresh air. Coherent thoughts and sentences are such rarities these days! [Tweet]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Five members of VP Pence's inner circle, including Chief of Staff Marc Short, test positive for COVID-19.
- Putin indicates that he sees nothing wrong in Hunter Biden's dealings with Ukraine or Russia.
- Donald Trump's and Mike Pence's full interviews on CBS News' "60 Minutes."
- Campaign to sow discord in the US: Chinese bots, posing as US citizens, are ever-present on social media.
- Anti-Trump Lincoln Project's response to a lawsuit threat from Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
- Al Khwarizmi: The Persian mathematician after whom algorithm was named. [3-minute video]
(5) Talk about irresponsible: Despite having been exposed to five close associates with COVID-19 and the CDC recommendation to self-isolate, Mike Pence will go to the Senate to vote for nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
(6) A poem from John Lithgow's poetry book, Trumpty Dumpty Wanted a Crown: Verses for a Despotic Age: Recited by Alan Alda, Annette Bening , Glenn Close, and Meryl Streep. [4-minute video]
The moral of the story for Republicans who have been gobbled up by Trump:
If you coddle a tiger and venture to ride it | You're certain, dear reader, to end up inside it
(7) NASA has revealed evidence that water on the moon isn't limited to cold, shadowed areas: There is enough water on the moon's sunlit surface to sustain a human colony.
(8) Sacha Baron Cohen responds to Trump's jabs: "I don't find you funny either ... yet the whole world laughs at you. I'm always looking for people to play racist buffoons, and you'll need a job after Jan. 20. Let's talk!"
(9) Serious security breach involving 2/3 of all Americans: Trustwave, a cybersecurity company, discovers a hacker selling personal information on 245M Americans, including voter-registration data for 186M. Trustwave found the hacker by trawling "dark web" forums for threat information and used fictitious identities to induce Greenmoon2019 to provide more information, including a bitcoin wallet for collecting payment.

2020/10/24 (Saturday): Trying to make a dent in my backlog of book reviews by offering three reviews.
Cover image of Daniel Kahneman's 'Thinking, Fast and Slow' Cover image of 'Iranian Romance in the Digital Age: From Arranged Marriage to White Marriage' Cover photo for Blake Crouch's 'Recursion: A Novel'
(1) Book review: Kahneman, Daniel, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Farrarm Straus and Giroux, 2011.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This best-selling book by Daniel Kahneman, the 2012 Nobel Laureate in Economics, is based on the author's ground-breaking research in psychology that upended a key common assumption of economics theories. Humans, it turns out, aren't rational actors behaving in a way that maximizes their personal well-being. With the rationality assumption shown to be on shaky grounds, much of economics had to be revised and reformulated.
In the 500+ pages of this remarkable book, Kahneman outlines the results of a lifetime of psychological research in an accessible format. The verdict is that we really don't understand how human beings think and make decisions. There are two competing and often conflicting systems at work in human thinking and decision-making: One is fast, instinctive, and emotional, and the other one is slow, logical, and deliberative. Kahneman describes numerous well-designed experiments to show the existence of the two systems, their differences, and the implications of they being at odds with one another.
The book isn't about the Internet or social media, but what one learns from it provides valuable tools for avoiding traps set by those who try to manipulate us for personal gain. Once you become aware of cognitive biases in humans as a group, it should be possible (though it's by no means easy) to recognize and control these biases in yourself.
The book is full of gems that we have likely read about in other sources but seeing them all in one place is eye-opening. A prime example is the experiment in which participants are asked to watch a group of people passing basketballs around and to count the number of passes made. Most participants get so absorbed in this task, as they try to succeed in getting the correct count, that they fail to notice a person in a gorilla costume walking among those passing the balls around. The message is: If we miss such an obvious feature of a scene, what else do we miss as we process information in order to make decisions?
The choices we make are highly dependent on the framing used to present the choices to us (as in survey questions). Even though, logically, a 10% probability of losing $1000 cancels out a 10% probability of winning $1000, our aversion to loss leads to the two not being deemed compensatory, contradictory to what what economic theories predict. As a result, putting too much confidence in human judgement is misguided.
Kahneman presents numerous examples of people ignoring statistical characteristics in large populations, being influenced instead by a limited number of examples (sometimes just one) to justify their decisions. We human beings are not very good at estimating or understanding probabilities, particularly when it comes to rare events.
I end my review by listing the books table of contents.
Introduction
Part I. Two Systems
1. The Characters of the Story; 2. Attention and Effort; 3. The Lazy Controller; 4. The Associative Machine; 5. Cognitive Ease; 6. Norms, Surprises, and Causes; 7. A Machine for Jumping to Conclusions; 8. How Judgments Happen; 9. Answering an Easier Question
Part II. Heuristics and Biases
10. The Law of Small Numbers; 11. Anchors; 12. The Science of Availability; 13. Availability, Emotion, and Risk; 14. Tom W's Specialty; 15. Linda: Less is More; 16. Causes Trump Statistics; 17. Regression to the Mean; 18. Taming Intuitive Predictions
Part III. Overconfidence
19. The Illusion of Understanding; 20. The Illusion of Validity; 21. Intuitions vs. Formulas; 22. Expert Intuition: When Can We Trust It?; 23. The Outside View; 24. The Engine of Capitalism
Part IV. Choices
25. Bernoulli's Errors; 26. Prospect Theory; 27. The Endowment Effect; 28. Bad Events; 29. The Fourfold Pattern; 30. Rare Events; 31. Risk Policies; 32. Keeping Score; 33. Reversals; 34. Frames and Reality
Part V. Two Selves
35. Two Selves; 36. Life as a Story; 37. Experienced Well-Being; 38. Thinking About Life
Conclusions
Appendix A. Judgment Under Uncertainty
Appendix B. Choices, Values, and Frames
Notes | Acknowledgments | Index
Here is some additional useful information about the book and Kahneman's ideas.
Kahneman's 2011 talk at Google
Kahneman's 2013 lecture "A Psychological Perspective on Rationality"
Animated book summary on YouTube
My Facebook post about regression-to-the-mean bias
(2) Book review: Afari, Janet and Jesilyn Faust (eds.), Iranian Romance in the Digital Age: From Arranged Marriage to White Marriage, I. B. Tauris, 2020. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Dr. Janet Afari holds the Mellichamp Chair Professorship in Global Religion within UCSB's Department of Religious Studies. She has written and spoken extensively on Iran's history as well as feminism and sexual politics in post-revolutionary Iran. Jesilyn Faust is a doctoral student at UCSB's Department of Global Studies.
This 272-page book consists of 10 separately-authored chapters, packaged in three parts, sandwiched between an introduction and an epilogue. Here are the titles of the three parts and the chapters therein.
Part I. Norms, Romance, and the Breakdown of Arranged Urban Marriage
- "The Emergence of Independent Women in Iran: A Generational Perspective," Masserat Amir-Ebrahimi
- "Transnational Marriages of Christian Filipinas and Muslim Iranian Men and Social Experiences of their Biracial Children," Ashraf Zahedi
- "Ideological Codes, Multiple Biases, Textbooks, and the Standard Iranian Family: Local and Global Hegemonic Formations of the Ideal Family," Amir Mirfakhraie
- "Beyond the Shari'a: 'White Marriage' in the Islamic Republic of Iran," Gholam Reza Vatandoust and Maryam Sheipari
Part II. Online Dating, Hymenoplasty, and Assisted Reproductive Technologies
- "Negotiating Intimacy through Social Media: Challenges and Opportunities for Muslim Women in Iran," Vahideh Golzard and Christina Miguel
- "Recreating Virginity in Iran: Hymenoplasty as a Form of Resistance," Azal Ahmadi
- "Whither Kinship? Assisted Reproductive Technologies and relatedness in the Islamic Republic of Iran," Soraya Tremayne
Part III. Reconstructing Hierarchies: Rural and Tribal Marriages
- "How Marriage Changed in Boir Ahmad, 1900-2015," Erika Friedl
- "Changing Perceptions and Practices of Marriage among People of Aliabad from 1978 to 2018: New Problems and Challenges," Mary Elaine Hegland
- "Changing Established-Outsider Relations? A Case Study of Bakhtiaris in Iran," Behrouz Alikhani
This book, a collaboration among highly informed and qualified authors, forms an important addition to the literature on women's movement, family traditions, and sexual intimacy in Iran.
(3) Book review: Crouch, Blake, Recursion: A Novel, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Jon Lindstrom and Abby Craden, Random House Audio, 2019. [My 4-star review of this course on GoodReads]
We have come to think of time as the fourth dimension. If time were a normal dimension T, just like the X, Y, and Z dimensions, we would be able to move in 4D space from point (T1, X1, Y1, Z1) to point (T2, X2, Y2, Z2) with ease, thus traveling in time just like we travel along the other three dimensions. In this alternative world view, there is no such thing as the flow of time and everything is happening all at once.
Of course, if all events are pre-determined and free-will does not exist, no problem arises from such time travel: No matter how many times we arrive at point (T2, X2, Y2, Z2), we will experience the same things, and nothing ever changes. But, if we do have free will and are capable of changing those experiences and modifying some of the events, then serious inconsistencies will arise, because we would be able to live an infinite number of parallel lives, with memories of those lives intermixed.
In Crouch's time-travel novel, New York City cop Barry Sutton comes across the phenomenon of intermixed memories of multiple "timelines," dubbed by the media as "False Memory Syndrome" (FMS), which drives people mad from experiencing memories of lives they have never lived. In his quest, Sutton meets Helena Smith, a neuroscientist, who has dedicated her life to technological means for preserving our most-precious memories. The two work together against a dark force that causes, and aims to benefit from, FSM.
A well-written, highly-enjoyable, and fear-inducing sci-fi story!

2020/10/23 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Duct tape does miracles: Changing TRUMP to RUMI Cartoon: On herd immunity, or 'herd mentallity,' according to Donald Trump UCSB IEE Emerging Technology Review event (1) Images of the day: [Left] Duct tape does miracles: "Be patient where you sit in the dark ... Dawn is coming." ~ Mowlavi (Rumi). [Center] On herd immunity: Or "herd mentality," as Donald Trump once said. [Right] UCSB IEE Emerging Technology Review event (see the last item below). [Top left] [Top center] [Top right] [Bottom left] [Bottom center] [Bottom right]
(2) Many have opined that Trump isn't running for re-election: He's setting up his next act, "Celebrity Hatemonger Former Politicians." His entire administration will be involved.
(3) Please support Joe Biden's boring campaign with full enthusiasm: His dullness and thoughtfulness are exactly what our country needs to recover from four years of mayhem and mindlessness.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Light at the end of the tunnel: Only 10 days left, 50 million have voted.
- Arrested: Teen with a van full of guns and explosives, who planned to assassinate Joe Biden.
- A gay feminist tells the story of being trolled by "mean Christians" and other right-wing Breitbart followers.
- During maintenance work at a UNESCO WHS, huge Feline geoglyph, dating back to 200-100 BC, emerges.
- Deepfake videos and the dangers they pose, explained in Persian. [2-minute video]
- Unsolved Mysteries (WH Edition): What exactly is Ivanka Trump's job in Trump's White House? (Humor)
(5) A very good question: Why is it that "if you can't pay rent, buy fewer lattes" makes sense but "if you can't pay your employees a living wage, buy fewer yachts" does not? [Credit: @Strandjunker]
(6) Semantic Scholar: Given that one of the talks at UCSB's "Responsible Machine-Learning Summit: AI and COVID-19" was by Oren Etzioni, who talked about Semantic Scholar, I decided to write a few words about this service/website that hails itself as "a free, AI-powered research tool for scientific literature." The About-Us page of Semantic Scholar, which was launched in 2015 and partners with IEEE, Microsoft Academic, Springer Nature, and more than 500 other publishers, university presses, and scholarly societies, reads in part: "Our mission ... is to accelerate scientific breakthroughs by helping scholars locate and understand the right research, make important connections, and overcome information overload. ... Semantic Scholar applies artificial intelligence to extract the meaning from the scientific literature allowing scholars to navigate research much more efficiently than a traditional search engine."
(7) UCSB IEE Emerging Technology Review: "Food-Energy-Water Nexus" was the focus of today's third and final installment of UCSB Institute for Energy Efficiency's annual event. The first part was a workshop on "Energy-Efficient Cloud and Data Center" and the second part dealt with "Smart Societal Infrastructure." A list of presentations/discussions follows.
- Olivier Jerphagnon (CEO, AgMonitor): "AI to Solve Practical Problems in the Food and Agriculture Sector"
- Chandra Krintz (Computer Science, UCSB): "The SmartFarm Project"
- Debra Perrone (Environmental Studies, UCSB): "Groundwater Depletion Amplifies the Water-Energy Nexus"
- Steve DenBaars (Materials, UCSB): "Development of UV LEDs for Disinfection & Sterilization for COVID-19"
- Stuart Woolf (Pres./CEO, Woolf Farming & Processing): "A Perspective from the CA Agricultural Industry"
- Speakers' panel discussion: "The Food-Energy-Water Nexus," Moderated by Bob Wilkinson (UCSB)

2020/10/22 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo of Dr. Yangying Zhu, cover image for 'Disoriental,' photo of Negar Djavadi, cover of Time magazine, and presidential debates (a flyer and a cartoon) (1) Images of the day: [Top left] IEEE Central Coast Section talk by Dr. Yangying Zhu (see the next item below). [Top center & right] Book introduction and interview (see the last item below). [Bottom left] Time magazine changes its cover logo for the first time in its history. [Bottom center & right] The final presidential debate: "Sleepy Joe Biden vs. Donny Bone Spurs" (Cartoon from The New Yorker).
(2) Last evening's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Dr. Yangying Zhu (Assistant Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, UCSB) spoke under the title "Microscale Thermal-Fluids Engineering for Next Generation Energy and Electronics Systems." Detailed reports of the talk, including a link to the presentation slides, are available as a Facebook post and on IEEE CCS's Technical Talks Web page.
(3) Quote: "They're children of God and have a right to a family. Nobody should be thrown out, or be made miserable because of it." ~ Pope Francis, on the need for civil-union laws to allow homosexuals to form families
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- This is what Trump calls "rounding the corner": 60,000 new daily COVID-19 infections, and rising!
- Utah's Democratic and Republican gubernatorial candidates air a joint ad about the upcoming elections.
- Purdue Pharma pays $8.34 billion settlement fine for its role in spreading opioid addiction.
- On people picking and choosing among scientific truths, believing only what is convenient for them. [Tweet]
- Study: 28% of US college students come from immigrant families.
- Needy California community-college students to be helped by gift of $100 million.
(6) An amazing sci/tech event: Watch images and a short video of NASA's OSIRIS-REx spacecraft touching down on asteroid Bennu, more than 300 million km away from us, to collect samples before returning to Earth.
(7) US Department of Homeland Security agents arrest 15 international graduate students: They are accused of abusing the OPT (optional practical training) program.
(8) Book interview, with author Negar Djavadi: This morning, starting at 10:00 AM PDT, Dr. Abbas Milani of Stanford's Iranian Studies Program interviewed the award-winning author of the best-selling first novel Disoriental in the course of an hour-long program. The historical novel, based mostly on the author's experiences of living in and fleeing Iran through Kurdistan's treacherous mountains, has been translated into many languages (not yet available in Persian). The title of the novel is perhaps derived from the two words "disoriented" and "oriental," denoting the double lives of many refugee and exiled easterners. By the way, Negar Djavadi is the daughter of the late writer and dissident (Ali-)Asghar Haj Seyyed Javadi.

2020/10/20 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Something of possible interest to my daughter: Cat earring Photo of Donald Trump, Jeffrey Epstein, and two unnamed children US election campaign art: Senator and future Vice-President Kamala Harris (1) Images of the day: [Left] Something of possible interest to my daughter! [Center] Donald Trump has maintained that he hardly knew Jeffrey Epstein: Photos taken at social occasions tell a different story. Here, they are shown with two unnamed children. Are these child-sex victims or family members? Either way, more than a casual acquaintance is implied. [Right] US election campaign art: VP candidate, Senator Kamala Harris.
(2) Quote of the day: "We need a president with decency and a sense of respect." ~ Retired Admiral William McRaven (who was in charge of the operation that eliminated Osama Bin Laden), endorsing Joe Biden
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A fridge-size asteroid will narrowly miss Earth the day before the November 3 US election.
- A NASA probe will attempt touching down on Astroid Bennu today to gather a sample.
- Stay tuned for more gender pay equity actions: Women professors sue Rutgers University re pay equity.
- Persian music: This song is about a victim of violence against women in Iran.
- "One Love": Bob Marley's hit, performed by John Legend, Kelly Clarkson, Blake Shelton, & Gwen Stefani.
(4) Teaching theory of computation via search problems: Much of computing theory is formulated in terms of decision problems, such as whether or not a graph has a Hamilton(ian) cycle, which has a single-bit or yes/no answer. The corresponding search problem to find and output such a cycle, if one exists, is much more useful in practical terms. The answer to a search problem can be converted to the answer of the corresponding decision problem, but not the other way around. Writing in the October 2020 issue of CACM, John MacCormick argues that computer programs and search problems should be the foci of courses on the theory of computation.
(5) The story of Zahhak in Ferdowsi's Shahnameh (Book of Kings): As part of the weekly Zoom gatherings of Tehran University's College of Engineering Class of 1968, Mr. Rashid Hazrati, civil engineer and Shahnameh enthusiast, made a very interesting presentation in Persian. [Screenshot]
In this mythical story of Shahnameh, Iranians turn against Jamshid, the vain king who had provided all sorts of creature comforts for his people, but had begun referring to himself as God. They select Zahhak to rule over them, based on the reputation of his father, Merdas, as a fair and compassionate ruler. This turns out to be a dire mistake, as Zahhak, with a snake growing from each of his shoulders, takes to feeding the snakes the brains of two young men daily to keep them in check. Iranians grow disillusioned and set their hopes on a child, Fereidoon, to rid them of Zahaak. Sensing danger, Zahhak sets out to find Fereidoon and eliminate him before he becomes old enough to act. Eventually, Feridoon succeeds in overthrowing Zahhak and Iranians live happily ever after.
In the story of Zahhak, Ferdowsi demonstrates his mastery of the Persian language and of political intrigue, not to mention the frailties of human nature.
[Note: According to Wikipedia, the Persian folkloric character Azhi Dahaka pre-dates Ferdowsi, who renamed the supernatural monster and turned it into an evil human being, Zahhak.]
[P.S.: This discussion will continue for 2 more weekson the next two Tuesdays, with the end of Zahhak's story appropriately coinciding with the US election!]
[Shahnameh on Ganjoor.net: Jamshid, Zahhak, Fereidoon; Once you go to Part 1 of the multi-part sections above, you can navigate to other parts through links at the bottom of the page.]
[Summary of Zahhak's story (in English). Ali Akbar Saeidi Sirjani's book on Zahhak]

2020/10/19 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Afghan girls and boys in an outdoor classroom Wear the damn mask: COVID-19 transmission risks, with and without masks The year 2020 in emojis: Four frowny faces (1) Images of the day: [Left] UNESCO defines literacy (see the next item below). [Center] Wear the damn mask: COVID-19 transmission risks, with and without masks. [Right] The year 2020 in emojis.
(2) UNESCO's definition of literacy: Just having gone to school is no longer enough to be considered literate in the 21st century. According to UNESCO, "Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate, and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts." Therefore, literacy also has emotional, interactional/social, financial, media (distinguishing fake news from real news), educational, and computational components.
(3) Quote of the day: "Patience isn't sitting and waiting, it's foreseeing. It's looking at the thorn and seeing the rose, looking at the night and seeing the day." ~ Mowlavi (Rumi)
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Several officers of a Russian military intelligence unit charged for multiple high-profile cyber-attacks.
- Rudy Giuliani is under FBI investigation for a disinformation campaign guided by Russia.
- After using a voice clip from Anthony Fauci in a campaign ad, Trump resumes his anti-Fauci rants.
- Free on-line access to Iranian news media archives: From Qajar era to the present.
- Persian poetry: Sholeh Wolpe recites a Forough Farrokhzad poem and her own English translation of it.
- What's the difference between a genie and a scientist? One grants wishes, the other wishes for grants!
(5) Why the #MeToo movement has fizzled in universities: According to Aisha Ahmad (U. Toronto Assoc. Prof.), it is extremely difficult to have tenured professors fired over sexual misconduct, because such predators know the system; and institutions worry about liability and risk.
(6) "Parts of a Circle: History of the Karabakh Conflict": Armenian and Azerbaijani journalists cooperated in making this 76-minute 2019 documentary about the continuing conflict.
(7) "The Marginalization of Third World Feminists in Academia and Politics": This is the title of a webinar sponsored by University of Copenhagen and IUAES Commission on Transnational Feminism and Queer Politics (Friday, October 30, 2020, 3:00 PM EDT). The webinar is moderated by PhD scholars Nasim Basiri and Ozlem Has and features Drs. Faye V. Harrison, Noha Khalaf, Zahra Tizro, and Subhadra Channa as panelists.
(8) "Women of the Gulag": This 2019 documantary film will be screented virtually by UCSB (Tuesday, 10/27, 7:00-8:00 PM PDT; registered participants will receive a link to view the film). There will be a discussion with its director Marianna Yarovskaya and author Paul Gregory. Solzhenitsyn's classic Gulag Archipelago focused on the experiences of men caught in Stalin's camps. Here is your chance to hear the women's stories.

2020/10/18 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Protest sign: 'This suburban housewife supports BLM' Torment of the Uyghurs: 'The Economist' cover story Meme of the day: In lieu of flowers for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, please go vote (1) Images of the day: [Left] Protest sign: "This suburban housewife supports BLM." [Center] Torment of the Uyghurs: The Economist cover. [Right] Meme: In lieu of flowers for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, please go vote.
(2) It's funny how the Iranian regime tries to smear its opponents, even after their passing: The mullahs are doing it to the immensely-popular late singer, Mohammad-Reza Shajarian. Because their opposition research has not revealed anything negative and people would not believe manufactured dirt about him, they are taking the path of calling him a decent but simple-minded man, who allowed Iran's enemies to take advantage of his popularity. The "simple-minded" attack had been used multiple times before on people with impeccable credentials, including PM Mohammad Mossadeq, PM Mehdi Bazargan, and Grand-Ayatollah Montazeri.
(3) Je Suis Samuel: The world rallies in support of the French teacher who was beheaded outside his school for showing his students cartoons of Prophet Muhammad to make a point about freedom of expression.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Chants of "lock her up" are back at Trump rallies: This time the target is Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
- This isn't a joke: Trump issues proclamation on "National Character Counts Week," October 18-24.
- Corruption at the highest level: Mexico's defense chief was "El Padrino," godfather to drug cartel.
- Fourth annual Women's March: The main event in DC and sister marches in other cities draw thousands.
- "Girl in the Mirror": The Lincoln Project's highly-effective ad against Donald Trump.
- Iranian regional music and dance: The Rojin all-women ensemble performs.
- "We Must Save Democracy from Conspiracies": Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's Time magazine essay.
(5) Jacinda Ardern scores a landslide election victory: New Zealand's PM vows to resume her reform programs, which were interrupted by a string of disasters.
(6) Rats abandoning Trump's sinking ship: Republicans are distancing themselves from Trump, as they eye life in a post-Trump world, but four years of enabling his vile behavior (still continuing in the form of the SCOTUS confirmation hearing) has left them no credibility.
(7) Joke: I dreamt I was walking along in mid-2021. We were all wearing diapers because of the diarrhea-21 pandemic and were thinking to ourselves that last year's face-masks were so much more comfortable!
(8) Persian talks about Zahhak in Ferdowsi's "Shahnameh" ("Book of Kings"): Rashid Hazrati, civil engineer & Shahnameh enthusiast, will talk on Tuesdays, Oct. 20 & 27, 2020, 10:30 AM PDT, 9:00 PM Iran time. [Details]
(9) "The Iranian Jews Who Joined the Islamic Revolution": Haaretz article about Jewish participants in the anti-Shah street protests and their surprising stance on the Islamic Revolution.

2020/10/17 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Replacing my beat-up umbrella has brought new color and life to the patio adjacent to my study Newspaper headline from the early post-revolutionary days in Iran, assuring women that there will be no compulsory hijab My daughter on her last day with two foster kittens: They have been adopted and will leave this weekend (1) Images of the day: [Left] Replacing my beat-up umbrella has brought new color and life to the patio adjacent to my study. [Center] Liar, liar, pants on fire: Newspaper headline from the early post-revolutionary days in Iran, assuring women that there will be no compulsory hijab. [Right] My daughter on her last day with two foster kittens: They have been adopted and will leave this weekend.
(2) Loris Tjeknavorian: The Iranian-Armenian composer/conductor lives modestly in Iran, despite being a most-celebrated cultural figure in Armenia, Iran, and Australia. Here is the story of his life (in Persian).
(3) Fiscally conservative GOP? The US federal budget deficit hits $3.1 trillion, more than double the previous record of $1.4 trillion set in 2009 after the financial crisis. Well done the party of don't-tax-and-spend!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Rudy Giuliani's daughter, Caroline Rose, urges everyone to "vote this toxic administration out of office."
- In the competing, simultaneous town-halls, Trump was hit where it hurts most: He got lower ratings.
- Is confirming a Supreme-Court judge more important than helping people cope with financial disaster?
- Mark your calendar: 11/1, set clocks back by one hour; 11/3, move the US forward by many decades!
- Why gender equality isn't just about women: An eye-opening 18-minute TEDx talk by Caroline Strachan.
- Matthew Whitaker: The blind teen jazz prodigy amazes audiences as well as scientists who study him.
- Humor: Eating junk food and drinking, when someone tries to instill healthier habits in you! [Video]
- Persian music: Street art honoring the late great singer Mohammad-Reza Shajarian. [Video]
(5) University of California's "Expanded Curtailment Program": This is euphemism for salary cuts to address the financial crisis the University faces as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
(6) UCSB IEE Emerging Technology Review: "Smart Societal Infrastructure" was the focus of yesterday's 2nd installment of the UCSB Institute for Energy Efficiency's annual event. The first part was a workshop on "Energy-Efficient Cloud and Data Center" and the final part, scheduled for Friday, October 23, 2020, will be a workshop on "Food-Energy-Water Nexus." A list of today's presentations/discussions follows. [Screenshot]
- Sila Kiliccote (eIQMobility): "From Demand Response to Fleet Electrification: A Search for High Impact Sol's"
- Raphaele Clement (UCSB), "Towards Next-Gen Energy Storage Sol's for the Grid and Electric Transportation"
- Igor Mezic (UCSB): "Improving Building Energy Efficiency through Machine Learning"
- Gary Barsley (Southern California Edison): "Southern California Edison Smart Grid/EV Plans"
- Mahnoosh Alizadeh (UCSB): "Real-Time Control Mechanisms for Community Energy Management"
- David Erne (California Energy Commission): "Towards a Zero-Carbon Electric Grid"
- Panel discussion (moderated by Mahnoosh Alizadeh and Igor Mezic)
- Closing talk: Sangwon Suh (UCSB), "Moving Bits Not Watts"

2020/10/15 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A special report by 'The Economist' discusses how COVID-19 is reordering the global economy, creating winners and losers Angela Merkel goes grocery-shopping Cover image for the book 'Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus'
Cartoon: 'Welcome to our in-person voting site: please proceed when ready' UNC symposium on Persian-language pedagogy: Screenshot and a sample slide Cartoon: 'According to the latest poll, we are 50% for Biden and 50% for Trump' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] A special report by The Economist discusses how COVID-19 is reordering the global economy, creating winners and losers. [Top center] The most-powerful woman and most-respected leader on the world stage goes shopping: Angela Merkel leads one of the world's strongest economies, yet, as a leader, she receives no free state services, no free housing, no free phone, no entertainment expenses, and no personal chef. She pays for groceries and carries her own grocery bags, like any other German citizen. She is a scientist by training. Besides German, she speaks English and Russian fluently. [Top right] Book introduction: A new book by Jennifer S. Hirsch (Columbia U.) and Shamus Khan (Columbia U.), Sexual Citizens: A Landmark Study of Sex, Power, and Assault on Campus, is hailed as a groundbreaking study that transforms how we see and address the most-misunderstood problem on campus, that is, widespread sexual assault. [Bottom left] New Yorker cartoon: "Welcome to our in-person voting site: please proceed when ready." [Bottom center] UNC symposium on Persian-language pedagogy (see the last item below). [Bottom right] New Yorker cartoon: "According to the latest poll, we are 50% for Biden and 50% for Trump."
(2) Trumpery: A dictionary word pre-dating Donald Trump by five centuries. It means "attractive articles of little value or use = junk" as a noun and "showy but worthless" as an adjective.
(3) "Persian Language Pedagogy: Challenges, Obstacles, and Innovative Responses": This was the title of Thursday's wonderful UNC virtual panel discussion, organized by Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi (UNC) & Dr. Pouneh Shabani-Jadidi (McGill U.) and moderated by Dr. Shahla Adel (UNC). [Facebook Live recording]
I became interested in language teaching pedagogy more than 5 decades ago, while attending English-language classes at the Iran-America Society in Tehran, where spouses of Americans stationed in Iran as diplomats, military advisers, and corporate officers taught English classes, with focus on conversational skills. A question that arose at the time, and which has occupied me since, is whether being a native speaker of English is sufficient qualification for teaching it to others. The answer, I soon discovered, is a definite "no."
Teaching English as a second language is a highly-developed field and knowledge of discoveries and advances in the field is necessary for effectiveness as a teacher. I was curious to see how teaching of Persian fares in comparison with the highly-developed state of ESL teaching. The presentations in this panel, some of which were a bit too technical for my level of knowledge, did not disappoint. I will pursue some of the works presented and cited by the panelists in due course.
Here's a list of the six panelists. [The title announced by the moderator was sometimes different from the one appearing in the speaker's slides, perhaps due to attempts at limiting the presentation scope, given the 15-minute time limit per speaker.]
- Dr. Pouneh Shabani-Jadidi (McGill U.): "Second Language Morphology: Case of Idiomatic Expressions"
- Dr. Karine Megerdoomian (MITRE Corp.): "Linguistics Competence of Persian Heritage versus Second Language Speakers"
- Dr. Nahal Akbari (U. Maryland): "Second Language Reading in Persian"
- Dr. Michelle Quay (Columbia U.): "Communicative, Task-Based, and Content-Based Approaches to Persian Language Teaching: Second Language, Mixed, and Heritage Classes at the University Level"
- Mohamad Esmaili-Sardari (Johns Hopkins U.): "The Persian Language Educator's Role in Developing Effective Blended Language Learning: From Principles to Practice"
- Dr. Peyman Nojoumian (USC): "Using Technology to Develop Instructional Materials for Persian, Based on Task-Based Language Teaching"

2020/10/14 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sharif University of Technology: Entry gate & campus overview Sharif University of Technology: Administration building & landscaping Sharif University of Technology: Math sciences & computer engineering buildings (1) Sharif University of Technology: This 20-minute film, narrated in Persian, introduces and sings the praises of SUT as a leading educational institution in the world. Like everything else produced by the Iranian government, it contains some distortions and religious propaganda, but, by and large, it is well-done. I was delighted to see some of my former SUT colleagues in the various testimonial clips. The images above are screenshots from the film, depicting the entry gate & campus overview (left), the administration building & landscaping (center), and math sciences & computer engineering buildings (right).
(2) The Russia-Taliban-Trump axis: Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers. Trump invited the Taliban to Camp David for peace talks. The Taliban endorsed Trump against Joe Biden.
(3) Narges Mohammadi retells stories of torture of Iranian female political prisoners: In her just-published book, White Torture, Mohammadi records first-hand stories of torture, sexual abuse, and coercion by male interrogators and prison guards. [BBC Persian story]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- UN Human Rights Council rejects Saudi membership: It's a sign of the times that we are surprised!
- At a Vatican conference, economist Jeffrey Sacks warns of dire consequences if Trump is re-elected.
- Trump-era version of the classic song "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" (humor): "The Liar Tweets Tonight"
- [Cancelled] New Frontiers in AI (Sat. 11/17, 10 AM to 6 PM PDT). [Web site] [Registration]
- Five stupid questions women ask men: Comedy routine. [10-minute video]
(5) "Songs that Never End": This is the title of a documentary film about the Jewish Dayan family, who fled their home in Iran and settled in the Houston, Texas, area. There will be a post-screening discussion with the film's director, UC Merced Professor Yehuda Sharim. [Flyer] [Zoom link]
[Brief review: The film was quite disappointing, so I stopped watching at the halfway point. It looked more like the stitching together of a bunch of random home videos than a professionally-made documentary.]
(6) "Lessons from COVID-19: Efficiency vs. Resilience": This morning I watched an ACM webinar by Moshe Vardi, Prof. at Rice U. and Sr. Editor of CACM. I had previously posted about Vardi's ideas in this domain based on his July 2020 column in Communications of the ACM, paraphrased in the following paragraph.
"Economists hate redundancy, computer engineers embrace it: The world economy is extensively optimized by the pursuit of maximum profits, to a degree that our systems are rendered fragile by removing all redundancies and inefficiencies. This fragility is the root cause of the socioeconomic difficulties brought about by coronavirus. The Internet, by contrast, has built into it a great deal of redundancy and adaptability, which allowed us to work/teach/learn from home during the pandemic, despite vastly increased usage and unexpected workloads."
In today's talk, Vardi added many more wonderful quotes, some of which are captured in the accompanying slide images. A key insight is viewing efficiency as short-term optimization and resilience as long-term optimization. Social benefits take a long time to materialize. Meanwhile, politicians are elected by our votes, not the votes of our grandchildren. It's difficult to forego short-term gains to achieve long-term benefits. Referring to the infamous quote "Greed is good" from the movie "Wall Street," Vardi reminded the audience of the common knowledge in computer science that greedy algorithms are seldom optimal.

2020/10/13 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Victims of police violence memorialized in front of the White House New shelter in our courtyard for my daughter's cats, in anticipation of the rainy season Cover image for Bernardine Evaristo's 'Girl, Woman, Other: A Novel' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Victims of police violence memorialized in front of the White House: Photo by Larry Irving. [Center] New shelter in our courtyard for my daughter's cats, in anticipation of the rainy season. [Right] Cover image for Bernardine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other: A Novel (see the last item below).
(2) Trump gains new endorsements: Domestically, the Proud Boys have warned about civil war if Trump isn't re-elected and, internationally, the Taliban have endorsed him.
(3) IBM to split into two companies: It will spin off lower-margin lines of business into an as-yet unnamed company, with the main part focusing on higher-margin cloud services.
(4) Amy Coney Barrett on "Roe v. Wade": The Supreme Court nominee has given several lectures on the topic of abortion laws, including a public talk in 2013 entitled "Roe at 40: The Supreme Court, Abortion, and the Culture War that Followed." Video of the lecture, advertised as being available on YouTube, has since been removed. Hers is the only lecture out of a group of 11 that has been removed by Notre Dame's Law School.
(5) "Nasrin": Filmed in Iran by women and men who risked arrest for making the anti-regime documentary, "Nasrin" paints a detailed portrait of Nasrin Sotoudeh, one of the most-prominent Iranian human/women's-rights activists, and the surprisingly-resilient women's-rights movement in a country where women are still viewed as second-class citizens. Today's film screening, sponsored by CSUN, UCI, and UCSB, was followed by a panel discussion featuring the filmmakers, Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (Professor, CSUN), and Reza Khandan, Nasrin's husband.
Unfortunately, due to recurring screen-freeze problems from the streaming site or my computer, I could not watch the film or the discussion. Other participants experienced similar problems, but they were able to get over them by refreshing the page or updating their browsers; no such luck for me. I had seen much of the film in another screening by Stanford U., but was looking forward to this particular post-screening discussion featuring the viewpoints of Dr. Tohidi.
(6) Book review: Evaristo, Bernardine, Girl, Woman, Other: A Novel, unabridged audiobook, read by Anna-Maria Nabirye, Blackstone Audio, 2019. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Evaristo, the first black woman to win the Booker Prize for fiction (she was co-winner along with Margaret Atwood for her book The Testaments), follows twelve very different characters (Amma, Yazz, Dominique, Carole, Bummi, LaTisha, Shirley, Winsome, Penelope, Megan/Morgan, Hattie, Grace), mostly women, Black, and British, as they lead their lives and face life's challenges. The stories of these "members of the human family" are told separately in the first four chapters, with three characters per chapter, and then they come together in Chapter 5, entitled "The After-Party." In the Epilogue, Evaristo reveals a number of surprising facts about the characters, their connections, and their self-images.
I listed the names of the 12 characters in the opening paragraph of this review, because the names by themselves hint at the diversity of the lives portrayed. Evaristo's book reveals to us that it is utterly simplistic to refer to someone merely as a "Black woman." Evaristo's British-accented characters have roots in countries such as the Caribbean, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Scotland. Even though the book is fiction, it still constitutes a significant contribution to Black British history.
Evaristo is an unapologetic feminist, and her sociopolitical views are clearly visible in the stories she tells. Her writings span a broad range, covering novels, poetry, verse-fiction, and essays. On her Web site, Evaristo states that one of her aims as a writer is "to explore the hidden narratives of the African diaspora, to play with ideas, conjure up original and innovative fiction and forms, and to subvert expectations and assumptions." She enjoys breaking "the shackles of convention." Girl, Woman, Other is a perfect example of Evaristo's philosophy.

2020/10/12 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Indigenous Peoples' Day, formerly known as Columbus Day Results of 4.5 hours of work laying down weed screens in my two patios: Patio 2 Results of 4.5 hours of work laying down weed screens in my two patios: Patio 1
Time magazine cover: The White House is now a coronavirus hot-spot A seldom-seen view of Iran's highest peak, Mt. Damavand: Photographed from its north side, in Mazandaran Province Two of my posts from October 12 of 2018 and 2017 that are still quite relevant (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Happy Indigenous Peoples' Day in the US, formerly known as Columbus Day. [Top center & right] Results of 4.5 hours of work laying down weed screens in my two patios on Sunday: All the bending and kneeling took a toll on me, necessitating a period of rest! [Bottom left] Time magazine cover: The White House is now a coronavirus hot-spot. [Bottom center] A seldom-seen view of Iran's highest peak, Mt. Damavand: Photographed from its north side, in Mazandaran Province.[Bottom right] Two of my posts from October 12 of 2018 and 2017 that are still quite relevant. Please vote!
(2) The Nobel Prize in Economics awarded to two Americans: Stanford University economists Paul Milgrom and Robert Wilson have been honored for new insights on auctions, including explanations of how bidders seek to avoid the so-called "winner's curse" of over-paying, and what happens when bidders gain a better understanding of their rivals' sense of value.
(3) The green tsunami: The GOP is running scared, because Democratic candidates are out-fundraising their Republican rivals by a wide margin. Hope this enthusiasm in financial support leads to a massive voter turnout!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Twitter slaps warning label on Trump claim that he's immune from coronavirus and no longer contagious.
- Talk about voter fraud! The GOP installs unauthorized ballot drop-off boxes in California to harvest ballots.
- 50 = 165,000,000: That is, net worth of the richest 50 Americans equals that of the poorest 165 million.
- Trump: "Maybe I'm Immune" (parody of a Paul McCartney song, by the Late Late Show's James Corden).
(5) Glad to see the talk by Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi (UNC Chapel Hill) in the framework of the UCLA Bilingual Lectures on Iran rescheduled, after it was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic: "Embodiment, Power, and Politics in the context of Sigheh Marriages in Modern Iran," Nov. 9, 2020, 3:00 PM PST. [Flyer] [Registration]
(6) Real, live war as entertainment: This is so sad, but residents of northernmost area of Iran flock to the border to watch the raging war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, as if they are going to a drive-in movie.
(7) Iran's historic treasures were given away by weak, incompetent rulers: The French got their share, snatching artifacts from archaeological digs in Shush and displaying them proudly at Louvre. [6-minute video]
(8) After beating Miami in Game 6 of the NBA finals to win the series 4-2, Los Angeles Lakers dedicated their 17th championship trophy to the memory of their late star player Kobe Bryant.
(9) There are many wonderful performances of "The Impossible Dream" (aka "The Quest"): Here's a rendition of the 1966 song by Andre Rieu and The Platin Tenors, along with my Persian translation of the lyrics.

2020/10/11 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB Faculty Association's Racial Justice Series: 'Acknowledgment and the Land-Grab University' Cover page of my accepted article 'On Research Quality and Impact: What Five Decades in Academia Has Taught Me' UNICEF celebrates Halloween virtually with its Halloween box
Kamala Harris and Michelle Obama: 'Monster' and 'monkey' to Trump and his supporters New Yorker cartoon: Word salad recipe for your upcoming corporate meeting Right-wing American militia vs. ISIS: Please explain the difference (in goals and methods) (1) Images of the day: [Top left] UCSB Faculty Association's Racial Justice Series: "Acknowledgment and the Land-Grab University," Zoom meeting, 7:00 PM, October 12 (Indigenous Peoples Day), PDF flyer. [Top center] "On Research Quality and Impact: What Five Decades in Academia Has Taught Me": This is the title of an article of mine that has been accepted for publication in J. Computer Science and Engineering. [Top right] Virtual Halloween: While traditional trick-or-treating may be canceled, teachers, parents, and kids can still make a difference all October. Get your UNICEF box today. [Bottom left] Trump and his supporters have called these accomplished, beautiful women "monster" and "monkey." Judge for yourself! [Bottom center] Word salad recipe for your upcoming corporate meeting (image source: The New Yorker). [Bottom right] Right-wing American militia vs. ISIS: Explain the difference (in goals and methods).
(2) A troll unmasked: Craig Chapman, a male U. New Hampshire professor, is placed on leave because he pretended to be an immigrant woman to make racist and sexist social-media comments in response to those supporting social justice and other progressive causes.
(3) All Iranians, in their homeland or in exile, are mourning the loss of Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, except for one person: That one person is Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has not spoken, tweeted, or posted anything about the loss of the once-in-a-century music legend. Khamenei is a petty, self-absorbed person, much like Donald Trump, who cannot see anything great in someone who opposes him.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hope someday girls around the world will bear broad smiles on this International Day of the Girl. [Photos]
- Bill Barr is a staunch supporter of Trump, but his servitude has not protected him against Trump's wrath.
- Risk of COVID-19 transmission is low on airliners: Who did the studies? Boeing, Airbus, and Embraer!
- October 10 was World Mental-Health Day: WHO hosted a global on-line advocacy event.
- Princeton University agrees to pay $1.2 million to female professors after the feds find men earned more.
- Deadline for IEEE's student poster competition extended to October 19, 2020. [Flyer]
- A Third-World refugee's apt response to a tweet about migrants' inability to assimilate into civil societies.
- Persian poetry: Another amazing-sounding woman, also named "Baran" (like Baran Nikrah) recites a poem.
(5) Vote to end attack on science: Scientific American takes a position in the 2020 US elections for the first time in its 175-year history. "As president, Donald Trump's abuse of science has been wanton and dangerous. It has also been well documented. Since the November 2016 election, Columbia Law School has maintained a Silencing Science Tracker that records the Trump Administration's attempts to restrict or prohibit scientific research, to undermine science education or discussion, or to obstruct the publication or use of scientific information. By early October, the tracker had detailed more than 450 cases, including scientific bias and misrepresentation (123 instances), budget cuts (72), government censorship (145), interference with education (46), personnel changes (61), research hindrances (43) and suppression or distortion of information (19)."

2020/10/09 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Responsible Machine Learning Summit at UCSB Portrait of the late singer Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, combined with a map of Iran, created by visual artist Hassan Nozadian A new slogan and meme has emerged after the VP debate: 'MAGAS' (the word means 'fly' in Persian) (1) Images of the day: [Left] Responsible Machine Learning Summit at UCSB (see the last item below). [Center] Portrait of the late singer Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, combined with a map of Iran, created by visual artist Hassan Nozadian. [Right] A new slogan and meme has emerged after the VP debate: "MAGAS" (the word means "fly" in Persian).
(2) The 2020 Nobel Peace Prize goes to the United Nations World Food Program for its efforts to combat hunger under challenging conditions, including war, conflict, and climate extremes.
(3) Two University of California women were honored with Nobel Prizes in STEM fields this week: Andrea Ghez of UCLA was awarded a Nobel Prize in physics; Jennifer Doudna of UC Berkeley received hers in chemistry.
(4) Editors of a prestigious medical journal call for Trump's ouster: New England Journal of Medicine condemns the Trump administration for its bungled response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(5) "Stand back and stand by": Thirteen members of two right-wing extremist groups who wanted to kidnap Michigan's Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer, and execute her after a show trial, have been arrested.
(6) Cheating over Zoom: We had our departmental PhD screening exam today, held for the first time over Zoom, instead of via in-person oral questioning. There is evidence that some participants cheated by sharing the exam questions among themselves. This is being investigated. The irony is that the department went through a lot of trouble to organize the Zoom exams, in part because canceling the exam would have inconvenienced many students. The investment of time and effort by our staff was significant, given the large number of examinees and examiners involved. Taking advantage of the trust placed in examinees in order to help them is unconscionable.
(7) "Responsible Machine-Learning Summit: AI and COVID-19": Today, in between several other commitments, I sampled a few of the talks in this very interesting event, run by CS Professor William Wang. This was the second in an annual series sponsored by UCSB's Center for Responsible Machine Learning.
There were three keynote speakers, a panel on "AI and COVID-19," and a number of speakers in four sessions.
Keynote 1: Oren Etzioni (CEO, Allen Institute for AI, and Prof. Emiritus, U. Washington)
Keynote 2: Ryan Tibshirani (Assoc. Prof., CMU)
Keynote 3: Jeannette M. Wing (Director, Data Science Institute, Columbia U.)
Session 1: Contact Tracing
Session 2: Health Data Processing and Resources
Session 3: Epidemiological Forecasting
Session 4: Prediction, Diagnosis, and Vaccine Design

2020/10/08 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Panel discussion on the documentary film 'Narsin': Screenshots Delusional Trump supporters are still posting nonsense like this: Biden vs. Trump 'I am for' lists Panel discussion on the documentary film 'Picture a Scientist'
Mohammad-Reza Shajarian dead at 80: Portrait Mohammad-Reza Shajarian dead at 80: Call to sing-along Ballot drop-off box in Isla Vista, California (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Panel discussion on the documentary film "Narsin" (see the next item below). [Top center] Delusional Trump supporters are still posting nonsense like this (the actual list is much longer). [Top right] Panel discussion on the documentary film "Picture a Scientist" (see the last item below). [Bottom left & center] Mohammad-Reza Shajarian dead at 80: He was the best-known and most-popular male singer among Iranians inside and outside Iran, in part because of his political stances (siding with people against a brutal autocratic regime) and interpretation of mystical lyrics. Various gatherings and sing-alongs in his honor are being planned. Shajarian is best-remembered for his signature song "Morgh-e Sahar" ("Dawn Bird"; lyrics). [Bottom right] I voted, using a drop-off box: Now, I will relax and await the outcome in early November.
(2) Stanford panel discussion entitled "Nasrin": Having watched the documentary film "Nasrin", this morning I attended a webinar in which participants Shirin Ebadi, Marietje Schaake, Jeff Kaufman (film director), and Reza Khandan (Nasrin's husband) discussed Nasrin Sotoudeh's life; moderated by Abbas Milani.
(3) The 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature: The honor went to American poet Louise Gluck "for her unmistakable poetic voice that with austere beauty makes individual existence universal."
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The Monster-in-Chief calls Senator Kamala Harris "a monster" during his Fox News interview.
- Iranian state-TV network drops coverage of an international soccer match because it had a woman referee.
- The film "Coup 53" withdrawn over its false claim that the British government censored an interview.
- One of the best performances of Bahar Choir: "Khoun-e Arghavanha" ("Blood of Judas Trees").
(5) "Medicare for all" means that everyone will get free health care, financed by our taxes: Just like President Trump, but without the dozen or so attending doctors or helicopter rides to/from the hospital!
(6) Trump will not debate Biden in a virtual format: After the Debates Commission announced switching to a virtual format in the second (October 15) US presidential debate because of Trump's COVID-19 infection, Trump indicated he won't participate. I think it was fear of the mute button that did it!
(7) A piece of good news in a year filled with disasters and tragedies: Human/Women's-rights activist Narges Mohammadi is released from prison after serving more than half of her 10-year prison term.
(8) UCSB panel discussion on the documentary "Picture a Scientist": Having watched the film on Vimeo, this afternoon I attended a webinar in which participants Ian Cheney and Sharon Shattuck (co-directors and producers) and moderator Emily Goard Jacobs (Psychological and Brain Sciences, UCSB) discussed the making of this documentary, which chronicles the groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists. Biologist Nancy Hopkins, chemist Raychelle Burks, and geologist Jane Willenbring lead us on a journey deep into their own experiences in the sciences, overcoming brutal harassment (including overt sexual advances), institutional discrimination (from hiring to advancements and promotions), and years of subtle slights (such as women scientists assigned smaller labs than men) to revolutionize the culture of science.

2020/10/07 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
My daughter and I, with our ballot envelopes and 'I Voted' stickers Hurricane Delta headed for likely landfall in Louisiana: Map Trump portrait by the Dutch artist Seigfried Woldhek (1) Images of the day: [Left] Getting ready to take our household's mail-in ballots to a local drop-off location. [Center] Hurricane Delta headed for likely landfall in Louisiana: After rapidly intensifying in the Caribbean, the 110 mph winds could soon top 130 mph. [Right] Trump portrait by the Dutch artist Seigfried Woldhek.
(2) Who says nothing can come out of a black hole? The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics has been awarded to Roger Penrose (1/2; British; U. Oxford), Reinhard Genzel (1/4; German; UC Berkeley and Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics), and Andrea Ghez (1/4; American, UCLA) for their discoveries about black holes.
(3) The 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry: Awarded in equal shares to Emmanuelle Charpentier (French, affiliated with Germany's Max Planck Unit for the Science of Pathogens) and Jennifer A. Doudna (American, U. California Berkeley), the Prize recognizes the development of a method for genome editing.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Rules of virus transmission are the same for the meek and the mighty: A lesson GOP officials are ignoring.
- The British government is under pressure to intervene in the sale of ARM to the US company NVIDIA.
- How China and Russia are benefiting from hostilities between the US and Iran.
- Lincoln Project's parody song, mocking Trump's Peron-like appearance on the White House balcony: "Covita"
- Persian music: Paris-based Bahar Choir performs the "Ey Iran" anthem. Enjoy!
- Iranian regional music: Partak Ensemble performs "Sherti Shapaki," an old song in the Shirazi dialect.
(5) Trump lacks a basic understanding of ordinary people's illness ordeals: Here's the story of a woman who had to nurse her husband and three children at home when they came down with COVID-19, getting only minimal help from doctors over Zoom. No tests. No x-rays. No monitors. No state-of-the art therapeutics.
(6) A huge TRUMP sign, installed next to Interstate 405 in Los Angeles, a la the famed HOLLYWOOD sign, has been taken down: The same fate awaits Trump himself in less than a month!
(7) War between Armenia and Azerbaijan: Iran is purportedly "neutral" in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict happening just outside its border, but a long history of meddling on both sides tells a different story.
(8) Panel discussion on "Black and Afro-Iranians in Iranian Cultural Imaginary": I missed this UNC event due to other commitments. Glad to see that it was recorded in full. [Screenshot] [124-minute video]
(9) Hillary Clinton trumps everything: Four years after Trump won the US presidency, with Russia's help, he wants us to focus on Hillary Clinton, not the pandemic, not the economic devastation under his watch, not the fact that he cheated on his taxes, not he and his family benefiting financially from his presidency, not our country being ridiculed worldwide, not heightened racial tensions, not the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia, not driving Iran to the laps of Russia and China, not his failure in forging trade deals, ...

2020/10/05 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
White House Rose Garden ceremony to introduce Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett emerges as a super-spreader event Happy International Teachers' Day: Logo (1) Images of the day: [Left] White House Rose Garden ceremony to introduce Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett emerges as a super-spreader event. [Right] Happy International Teachers' Day: The day was inaugurated in 1994 to honor "the anniversary of the adoption of the 1966 ILO/UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of Teachers. This Recommendation sets benchmarks regarding the rights and responsibilities of teachers and standards for their initial preparation and further education, recruitment, employment, and teaching and learning conditions."
(2) The 2020 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been awarded to Harvey J. Alter, Michael Houghton, and Charles M. Rice for discovering the hepatitis C virus.
(3) The lying club: The same doctor who said Trump isn't obese is now saying he's doing well with COVID-19 and allowed him to go on a car ride outside the hospital, when he was highly contagious: I for one have doubts about his honesty and competence!
(4) New Trumpian narratives: Trump defeated COVID-19; see, it isn't a big deal! Trump now has first-hand experience with the pandemic, while Biden does not. I'm not kidding you; this is what they are saying!
(5) Light at the end of the tunnel: I am so looking forward to next month, when the big fat liar is voted out, my phone stops ringing every five minutes, and every other post on Facebook isn't about the election!
Cover image of Layla F. Saad's 'Me and White Supremacy' (6) Book review: Saad, Layla F., Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Blackstone Audio, 2020.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Saad is an East-African, Arab, British, Black, Muslim woman living in Qatar. In this book, after some introductory material about White supremacy, Saad introduces her 28-day program for recognizing White supremacy in yourself and beginning to deal with it. Each day's work concerns a single term or concept, beginning with familiar ones and ending with ones that are used or understood less commonly. Activities on each day include thinking about personal experiences in a particular domain and reflecting journaling.
One thing I learned from this book is the importance of clearly-defined terms and concepts in dealing with difficult issues that are sometimes well-hidden in our conscience. Understanding terms such as "White privilege," "White exceptionalism," "tokenism," and "White saviorship" goes a long way toward formulating personal strategies for dealing with their undesirable consequences. New acronyms I learned from this book are "BIPOC" (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), and its subset "POC."
All of us living as a big, color-blind human society would work, were it not for White Supremacy and the privileges it bestows on White people, whether or not they are consciously aware of them. So, color-blindness isn't a strategy, until we have worked through all the damage done by White supremacy. In way of analogy, if a scale is tipped because of one side being much heavier than the other, adding equal weights to both sides will not bring it back to balance.
Week 1: The basics
1. White privilege: Advantages you have, or things you don't have to worry about, because of your whiteness
2. White fragility: Being easily offended by discussions on race, because you feel criticized or accused
3. Tone policing: Trying to silence people by criticizing the tone (anger, harsh words) they use in conversations
4. White silence: How you are silent or stay on the sideline about racial issues, often caused by White fragility
5. White superiority: Considering BIPOCs morally or intellectually inferior and thus in need of "White saviors"
6. White exceptionalism: I am a good person; can't possibly be racist ("It can't be me, I voted for Obama")
7. Week-1 review: Take stock of what you have learned and reflect on journal entries you made
Week 2: Anti-Blackness, racial stereotypes, and cultural appropriation
8. Color-blindness: The falsehood that if we stop seeing race, racism goes away; racism can exist w/o racists
9. Anti-Blackness against Black women: The most disrespected, unprotected, and neglected group of people
10. Anti-Blackness against Black men: Trapped in a one-dimensional imagining of who they are supposed to be
11. Anti-Blackness against Black children: Viewed as cute early on, they transition into being a danger later on
12. Racist stereotypes: Stereotypes and pre-judgement exist not just for Black people but for all non-Whites
13. Cultural appropriation: A dominant culture using clothing, hair styles, or objects of a non-dominant culture
14. Week-2 review: This week's work was heavy and ugly. If you didn't run away, you are making progress
Week 3: Allyship
15. White Apathy: A self-preservation response to protect yourself from having to face your complicity
16. White-centering: Nothing (no film, no book) is complete w/o including white people as central characters
17. Tokenism: Including non-White people or multiple cultural motifs to create a superficial sense of diversity
18. White-saviorism: White heros rescuing BIPOCs from misery, e.g., by going to Africa and hugging Black kids
19. Optical allyship: Acting as allies at the level of writings and slogans, without doing the hard work needed
20. Being called out or called in: White fragility may cause hurt or defensiveness when errors are pointed out
21. Week-3 review: White supremacy can be perpetuated by actions that are apparently well-intended or noble
Week 4: Power, relationships, and commitments
22. White feminism: Discounting the role of race and other factors in what women experience (intersectionality)
23. White leaders: Your relationships with White-privileged people ahead or above you in the power hierarchy
24. Your friends: Your relationships with White-privileged or BIPOC peers (friends, co-workers, etc.)
25. Your family: Your relationships with racist relatives, and discussing racial matters within the family
26. Your values: Principles/beliefs that guide our lives and determine where we choose to place our energies
27. Losing privilege: You must be willing to let go of some of the privilege bestowed upon you by Whiteness
28. Your commitments: This is the finish line of the book but not the end of your lifelong work on anti-racism
I was pleased to learn that I have been doing things right, for the most part, in this domain. I am definitely not on the sideline regarding racism and racial-injustice, although I do realize that some deep-seated attitudes towards race, infused in me due to growing up in Iran, will need more time to properly deal with. I also learned that being an introvert isn't a valid excuse for staying away from activism and participation, as you can still do much as an introvert. [Here is the author's C-SPAN presentation about her book.]

2020/10/04 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
If you say that Jesus was white, then we say Elvis was black: White Jesus Trump gets top-notch free health care, while trying to take Obamacare away from us If you say that Jesus was white, then we say Elvis was black: Black Elvis (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Humor that's dead serious: Since you white folk have made Jesus white, we colored folk decided to make Elvis black. Hope no one takes offense in our "colorblind" society. [Center] The man getting free health care from an army of doctors at a world-class medical facility has an army of lawyers in court trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act and take away its vital protections for the rest of us.
(2) Orwell's Animal Farm: After demonizing humans for a long time, the pigs (Farm leaders) explained to the other animals that trading with humans was now necessary for their well-being.
Trump's White House: Trump is reportedly mad at his Chief of Staff for contradicting Dr. Sean Conley on his health status after contracting COVID-19! So, now specialists are good and must be believed?
(3) Is lying contagious? (Lying doctor downplays the status of his lying patient): "Conley ... admitted Sunday that he had omitted those alarming drops in the President's oxygen levels during Saturday's news conference because he wanted to 'reflect the upbeat attitude' that the team and the President had about his condition and didn't want 'to give any information that might steer the course of illness in another direction.'"
(4) Humor: "I've tested positive. Experts say it's the most positive test they have ever seen. It was so positive they couldn't believe it. They say no one has tested this positive ever. They're quite frankly amazed!"
(5) Doctors condemn Trump's PR stunt of riding in a motorcade outside the hospital: Under no circumstances should a contagious patient endanger the health of others, including Secret-Service agents, in this way.
(6) UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: On Sunday, October 04, 2020, 11:30 AM PDT, Dr. Kaveh Madani was featured in a Zoom conversation in Persian on "Environmental Security in Iran and the Middle East," with Professor Nayereh Tohidi (Cal State Northridge and Coordinator of the UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran) acting as moderator. Dr. Madani will more or less repeat the lecture in English on Monday October 05, 2:00 PM PDT, under the title "Water Bankruptcy and Environmental Politics in Iran."
Dr. Madani is currently the Henry Hart Rice Senior Fellow at the MacMillan Center for International and Areas Studies of Yale University and a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Environmental Policy of Imperial College, London. He has received many honors and briefly held a position within Iran's President's office, but did not last long in that capacity.
Dr. Madani spoke as part of this lecture series on October 28, 2019, under the title "Water Bankruptcy and Environmental Politics in Iran." [Facebook post] [Tweet] Because the talk and its associated discussion have been recorded in this 155-minute video, I will provide only a one-paragraph summary below.
The main environmental problems in Iran stem from mismanagement and doling out favors to this or that group. Stakeholders are rarely consulted and they are routinely excluded from decision-making circles. Somewhat surprisingly, politicians are aware of the problems, talking about them and making promises to voters at election time, but serious action is missing. Iran's environment and resources are quite different from its neighboring countries and from the West, so cookie-cutter solutions do not work across the region. The know-how is there and careful plans are sometimes laid, but the political and social chaos resulting from a tanking economy (sanctions) and the existence of numerous centers of power at the regional level doom these plans to failure. There are some bright spots, though, including heightened awareness in Iran's society of environmental problems and the active presence of many NGOs devoted to environmental preservation. By the way, climate change and its associated environmental challenges aren't handled much better in advanced countries of the West. In the Middle East, Israel and a couple of rich Arab countries appear to be more advanced in their planning and implementation efforts, but even they have a long way to go.
A super-long Q&A session concluded the event. Even with multiple time extensions, many questions from the 600+ participants remained unanswered. [a href="https://www.facebook.com/bparhami/posts/10158771168127579">Screenshot]

2020/10/03 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
One of the four rose bushes that I pruned a few days ago has begun flowerin UCLA lectures on the environment and water resources in Iran and the Middle East: Flyer A talk on Iran's Academy of Persian Language and Literature: Flyer (1) Images of the day: [Left] One of the four rose bushes that I pruned a few days ago has begun flowering. [Center] UCLA lectures on the environment and water resources in Iran and the Middle East (see the next item below). [Right] A talk on Iran's Academy of Persian Language and Literature (see the last item below).
(2) UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: On Sunday, October 04, 2020, 11:30 AM PDT, Prof. Kaveh Madani will be featured in a Zoom conversation in Persian on "Environmental Security in Iran and the Middle East." Then, on Monday October 05, 2:00 PM PDT, he will discuss "Water Bankruptcy and Environmental Politics in Iran," in English. The events are free with pre-registration. [Registration links: Sunday, Monday]
(3) Persian poetry: Mr. Haloo, famous for his humorous poetry, recites his serious poem honoring Navid Afkari and other martyrs of the fight for freedom killed by the Iranian regime.
(4) "Revisiting Discourses of Love, Sex, and Desire in Modern Iran and Diaspora: A Symposium in a Series of Panels" (Organized by Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi, UNC Persian Studies Program): Today, I watched the final part of the Symposium, the previous parts having been three panels and a keynote address. In this part, a round-table discussion, three prominent women's-rights scholars discussed their views on the topics covered in the Symposium. I take this opportunity to thank Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi, others involved in organizing the Symposium, and, above all, the participants in this wonderful series.
- Mehrangiz Kar (Writer, Attorney, and Women's-Rights Activist): "Laws Against Love and Loving in Iran"
- Janet Afary (Chair Prof., UCSB): "Iranian Romance in the Digital Age: From Arranged Marriages to White Marriages" (based on a book by the same title, due out in February 2021)
- Nayereh Tohidi (Professor, California State U., Northridge): "The Trajectory of Change and Continuity in the Past 40 Years in Attitude, Norms, and Discourses Toward Love, Marriage, Sexuality, and Body Politics"
[Recording of the discussions on Facebook Live] [Symposium Program] [Screenshot]
(5) "History of the Academy of Persian Language and Literature, and Word Selection": This was the title of a presentation in Persian by Sayeh Eghtesadinia, Deputy Head of the Academy's Contemporary Literature Department. The talk was sponsored by Sharif University of Technology Association (SUTA) over its Telegram channel. I found the presentation absorbing and highly informative. The questions asked by members of the audience also brought out quite a few interesting points.
The current Academy, headed by Gholam-Ali Haddad Adel, is known as the Third Academy, the first (called "Academy of Iran"; note the absence of "Language" or "Persian" from the name) having convened during Reza Shah's rule and the second (called "Language Academy of Iran") having operated under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
It is very difficult to summarize the many interesting points discussed by Ms. Eghtesadinia, who seemed quite informed about the subject matter. Many useful, pleasant, and popular Persian words have emerged from the three Academies. Key criteria for word selection are derivability ("eshteghagh-paziri," or the ability to form derivatives, such as "Pasban" and "Pasgah" from "Pas," or "Fann-avari" and "Fann-salari" from "Fann"), conjugatability ("tasrif-paziri," such as "Rayanidan" from "Rayaneh"), and attachability to prefixes/suffixes ("tarkib ba vand-ha").
I will just cite one set of examples having to do with the five senses: Vision ("Bina-ee," which replaced the Arabic "Basereh," now almost defunct), hearing ("Shenava-ee," which replaced the now-defunct "Same'eh"), touch ("Basava-ee," which has seemingly lost the battle to the Arabic "Laameseh"), and words for the senses of taste and smell ("Chesha-ee" and "Booya-ee," with Arabic forms "Za'egheh" and "Shammeh"), which live parallel lives, as both the original Arabic terms and the new Persian terms are in use. These five terms were introduced nearly simultaneously, with some catching on and others (partially) failing.

2020/10/02 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
An oasis in a very dry area of Iran: Shazdeh Mahan Garden is located 6 km away from Mahan, Kerman Province Santa Barbara City Council approves name change for a street named Three panoramic photos I took at Goleta's Coal Oil Point Beach this afternoon (1) Images of the day: [Left] An oasis in a very dry area of Iran: Shazdeh Mahan Garden is located 6 km away from Mahan, Kerman Province. [Center] Santa Barbara City Council approves name change for a street: How the name "Dead Indian" was allowed to exist for so long (since 1851) is beyond me! [Right] Three panoramic photos I took at Goleta's Coal Oil Point Beach this afternoon: The beach was packed with surfers and sun-bathers; UCSB students are back, as fall quarter classes began yesterday. [Video 1] [Video 2]
(2) October surprise? If you lie a dozen times per day, no one sympathizes with you when you get sick. Everyone is waiting for a leaked story or NYT expose about the trick that is being played on them!
(3) Trump identified as the single-largest source of misinformation on coronavirus: By analyzing 38 million articles about the pandemic, Cornell University researchers found that mentions of Trump made up 38% of the overall "misinformation conversation."
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Tested positive for coronavirus: Donald & Melania Trump. Negative: Mike & Karen Pence, Joe & Jill Biden.
- Biden tests negative for COVID-19: But, given the up to 2-week incubation period, he isn't in the clear yet.
- Watching this video clip of two young men playing volleyball at a dizzying height isn't easy!
- Persian music and dance: Two young women from Helia Dance Company perform. [2-minute video]
- Persian music: Bahar Panjehpour, 14, demonstrates her talents in playing 25 different musical instruments.
(5) Ireland's Supreme Court rules that Subway sandwich bread has five times as much sugar as the maximum of 2% allowed for bread, so it is classified as confectionery, not as a tax-exempt staple food.
(6) Former FLOTUS aide Stephanie Winston secretly recorded Melania Trump's profanity-laced rant about Christmas decorations and children separated from their families. You know what? The cruel, cold-hearted Trump family members deserve the back-stabbing staffers and aides that they get.
(7) "Emerging Technology Review: Clouds and Data Centers": This was the title of a half-day webinar sponsored by UCSB's Institute for Energy Efficiency. The webinar began with introductions by Dean of Engineering Rod Alferness and IEE Director John Bowers (who reviewed IEE's various divisions and the brand-new energy-efficient buiding that houses it).
Session 1: Data Center and Cloud Efficiency and Sustainability [Screenshot]
- Raj Yavatkar (CTO, Juniper Networks): "The Revolution in Data Center Communications and Interconnects"
- Nicola Peill-Moelter (Sr. Director for Sustainability, VMWare), "Hunting Zombies (unintentionally-hidden compute/storage resources) for Fun, Profit and Sustainability"
- Rich Wolski (CS Professor, UCSB): "Energy Efficiency on the (IoT) Edge"
- Tim Sherwood (CS Professor, UCSB; Panel moderator): Speakers 1 & 2, plus Jonathan Balkind (UCSB), Brent Gorda (ARM), Michael Haney (ARPA-E)
Session 2: Energy Efficient Photonic Interconnects and Data Centers [Screenshot]
- Katharine Schmidtke (GM of Silicon and AI, Facebook): "Cloud-Scale Interconnect Architectures in the Context of Hardware and Software Codesign"
- Daniel Blumenthal (ECE Professor, UCSB): "Low Energy Frequency Stabilized Coherent WDM for Data Center Interconnects"
- Robert Blum (New Business GM, Si Photonics, Intel): "The Promise of Co-Packaged Optics: Paving the Way for Improved Power Efficiency, Size, and Cost"
- John Bowers (IEE Director, UCSB): "Photonic Integration for Data Centers"
- John Bowers (Panel moderator): Speaker 3, plus Alexis Bjorlin (Broadcom), Gordon Keeler (DARPA), Kushik Patel (Cisco), Clint Schow (UCSB)
Closing Talk and Discussion
- William Wang (CS Professor, UCSB): "Towards Dramatically Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Machine Learning"
- John Bowers (IEE Director, UCSB): Closing discussion

2020/10/01 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Kicking off the US National Cyber-security Awareness Month: First half of poster Kicking off the US National Cyber-security Awareness Month: Second half of poster You know it's election time when you open your mailbox and stuff spills out! (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] Kicking off the US National Cyber-security Awareness Month: Now in its 17th year, the month-long program aims to ensure that all Americans have the resources they need to be safer and more secure on-line. [Right] You know it's election time when you open your mailbox and stuff spills out!
(2) More interesting than the Harris-Pence VP debate: Face-off between SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett and one of her questioners, Senator Kamala Harris, member of US Senate's Judiciary Committee.
(3) Logical puzzle: We want to poll 2000 people to find out the level of support for candidates A and B among them. Assume that all participants support one of the two candidates, that is, there are no undecided voters. We want to preserve the privacy of those polled, so that we cannot tell from their answers who they really support. How can such a privacy-preserving polling be accomplished? [Source: CACM, issue of October 2020]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Not wearing face-masks and ignoring other common-sense pandemic guidelines have consequences.
- Make America Great Again: Third 2008 presidential debate between Barack Obama and John McCain.
- Generic question that works at any technical talk these days: How will all this be affected by 5G and beyond?
- Israeli orchestra covers the Emirati hit song "Ahibak" ("I Love You").
(5) Armenia and Azerbaijan are on the brink of war in a strategically-important Mideast region: Russia, Turkey, and Iran are stoking the fire. The US is too wrapped up in shouting matches to notice. We have no credibility left to do much internationally anyway, other than broker fake "peace treaties" between friendly countries that were never at war!
(6) Iranian regional music: The lyrics of this wonderful modern song by Faghan appear to be in Guilaki, a dialect spoken on the Caspian shore. ("Nooshoo" = "Don't go")
(7) First-grade Persian textbook from pre-Revolution Iran: Note four full-page portraits of the Shah and his family at the beginning and a few more near the end. [Video]
(8) NOVA on PBS: Episode 13 of Season 47 of PBS's science program premiered on Wednesday, September 30, 2020, and it will run several more times (check your local listings). This episode, entitled "A to Z: How Writing Changed the World," explores how writing and printing press technologies transformed the spread of information and ignited the Industrial Revolution. I was interviewed on 2020/09/25 by NOVA journalist Alissa Greenberg for a story on Persian/Arabic script's adaptation to print technology, in connection with this episode of the program. I will post a link to the story when I get it. [54-minute video]

2020/09/30 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Humor: Debates om the US, the UK, and Russia The restaurant scene in downtown, Santa Barbara: Photos from my walk along the new pedestrian-friendly State Street Burgers in ads, vs. reality (1) Images of the day: [Left] If we don't laugh at last night's presidential debate, we'll have to cry! [Center] The restaurant scene in downtown, Santa Barbara: Photos from my walk along the new pedestrian-friendly State Street, yesterday afternoon. [Right] Burgers in ads, vs. reality: Sort of like political candidates!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- COVID-19 deaths: World, 1,000,000+; USA, 200,000+ ... and rising (USA has 5x per-capita deaths).
- Fox News commentators are attacking debate moderator Chris Wallace for making Trump look bad!
- Trump and his cronies aren't sure whether to deny or justify his not paying taxes: So, they do both!
- Political humor: After NYT report on Trump's taxes, Melania realizes what she was digging into wasn't gold!
- Eric Trump said he's part of the LGBT community, then clarified when people thought he had come out.
- Yesterday at Sprouts Farmers Market in Goleta, California, filming mostly the fruits and vegetables.
(5) Everyone is freaked out over Trump not denouncing White Supremacists during the first presidential debate: Seriously, how can he denounce them, when he is counting on them to help him win the election?
(6) I couldn't bring myself to write something about the first presidential debate last night: I needed to sleep on it and calm myself down, letting the anger arising from the most-uncivil debate in memory disappear. There was no debating, that is, presenting plans, arguments, and counter-aguments. It was a series of attacks and interruptions, with little bearing on the questions posed. And Chris Wallace's performance was just as disappointing as Trump's and Biden's. [Fact check]
(7) "Transcendence: A Sufi Music Festival": Today's second program in the Smithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art series, entitled "Persian Mystic Songs: Omar Khayyam and Farid al-Din Attar," featured Sahar Mohammadi (vocals), Siamak Jahangiri (ney = Persian recorder), and Farhad Safari (tombak). Next week's installment will feature Moroccan music. [Attar love poem, with English translation]
(8) Book discussion (in Persian): As part of the weekly Zoom gatherings of Tehran University's College of Engineering Class of 1968, Dr. Sirous Yasseri presented and led a discussion on Daniel Kahneman's ground-breaking 2011 book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. Kahneman is a psychologist who won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for a lifetime of work that upended a key common assumption of economics theories. Humans, it turns out, aren't rational actors behaving in a way that maximizes their personal well-being. With the rationality assumption shown to be on shaky grounds, much of economics had to be revised and reformulated. The book isn't about the Internet or social media, but what one learns from it provides valuable tools for avoiding traps set by those who try to manipulate us for personal gain. Once you become aware of cognitive biases in humans as a group, it should be possible (though it's by no means easy) to recognize and control these biases in yourself. I will complete and publish my review of the book in the near future. A lively extended discussion followed the talk. [Facebook post, with images] [Tweet]

2020/09/28 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Homeless under-the-bridge art: For discovery by archaeologists thousands of years from now! This is not a photo: Oil painting by Iranian artist Akbar Beigi Feast for the eyes: Pavement tiles in Barcelona (1) Art images: [Left] Homeless under-the-bridge art: For discovery by future archaeologists! [Center] This is not a photo: Oil painting by Iranian artist Akbar Beigi. [Right] Feast for the eyes: Pavement tiles in Barcelona.
(2) Demand for major appliances far exceeds the supply: This NPR story confirms what I shared with you about my difficult experience of buying a new fridge. Delivery times of two months or more are common.
(3) Coal-miner's daughter attains first rank in Afghanistan's university entrance exam: Shamsieh Alizadeh, who became a national sensation before she learned of her achievement (because she does not own a cell phone), plans to study medicine.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- California's Napa Valley burns: Heat, dry conditions, and gusty winds create a dangerous cocktail.
- Look what Trump tweeted in 2012, attacking Obama for paying an income tax of only 20.5%!
- In 2016, Trump whined in a tweet that he gets audited by the IRS every year, while his rich friends don't.
- Bullying diplomacy: Trump warns Iraq that the US is preparing to shut down its embassy in Baghdad.
- Persian music: Payam Samimi and Yoosef Rasti play a lively tune on one piano.
- Persian music: French Street musician plays & sings the "Ey Iran" anthem, despite not speaking Persian.
(5) Anyone who paid his/her fair share of taxes should be outraged, but only some Democrats appear to be. America's system of "justice" punishes petty crime tenaciously, while encouraging and rewarding grand theft!
(6) Trending on Twitter: Retweets of Trump tweets in which he whines about "our" tax dollars being spent on this or that. OUR tax dollars? Your tax dollars aren't being spent on anything, because they don't exist!
(7) Donald Trump's business empire built on sand: He has $300 million in loans coming due in the next four years, as his businesses continue to lose millions annually: His run for presidency and, now, re-election bid has been motivated by a desire to do favors for despotic foreign leaders and international banks, in order to get new loans or have existing obligations restructured to give him more time.
(8) Trump family's epic fight over finances: When Donald faced financial ruin, he tried to take control of his elderly father's estate, which enraged the rest of the family. So, not only did Donald build his business with millions of dollars in direct contributions by his dad, he tried to cheat him and the rest of the family out of more money to survive after making disastrous business decisions.

2020/09/27 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iranian authorities take no offense at the sight of this destitute woman: But if she tries to ride a bike, all hell will break loose! Becca Saladin: Imagining iconic historical figures, as they might have looked today 'Notorious ACB' T-shirt
Some wonderful and somewhat surprising mathematical identities Weeding and pruning in the COVID-19 era: Before Weeding and pruning in the COVID-19 era: After (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Iranian authorities take no offense at the sight of this destitute woman: But if she tries to ride a bike, all hell will break loose! [Top center] Imagining iconic historical figures, as they might have looked today: Becca Saladin has been transforming historical figures, from Mona Lisa to Marie Antoinette, into modern-day people. [Top right] "Notorious ACB" T-shirts? Come on, Republicans! What happened to your American inventiveness and originality? [Bottom left] Some wonderful and somewhat surprising mathematical identities. [Bottom center & right] Weeding and pruning in the COVID-19 era: I had ignored my two patios (one of which is shown in the photos; the other one is similar) for so long that I had to hire help to do the weeding yesterday. Today, I pruned my rose bushes to give them a chance at fresh growth. Over the next couple of days, I will lay down weed screens to make my job easier in future. By the way, gardening gloves are necessary when dealing with rose bushes! I tried to go without them, the way Trump supporters go without face-masks. The result was regrettable!
(2) Presidential debates: All 2020 debates will be held 9:00-10:30 PM ET (6:00-7:30 PM PT). Tue., Sep. 29 (Fox News), Wed. Oct. 07 (VP debate, USA Today), Thu. Oct. 15 (C-SPAN), Thu. Oct. 22 (NBC).
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A new low for the party of Lincoln: Reagan and Trump opine on presidential transfer of power.
- It's more than incompetence: It's pure evil against people who are not white, Republican, and rich.
- COVID-fighters' best friend: Helsinki Airport deploys dogs trained to sniff out the coronavirus.
- People around the world: Slide show of beautiful and heartwarming photos of human-beings being human.
(4) Ofjesse (aka Amy Coney Barrett) nominated by Trump for the Supreme Court seat left open by RBG's passing: If you have read The Handmaid's Tale or its sequel, The Testaments, you will understand the name "Ofjesse." Sects similar to People of Praise, which teach that husbands are the heads of families and have authority over their wives, inspired Margaret Atwood's best-selling novels.
(5) "Fake News" New York Times reports: Surprise! Trump paid $750 in taxes the year he was elected and during his first year of presidency. He paid no taxes at all during 10 of the previous 15 years, claiming substantial business losses. In one instance, he received a $73 million tax refund, which the IRS is trying to reclaim, because it deems the refund illegitimate.
(6) My Facebook post of September 27, 2019: I shared an article that outlined the role of stochastic computing in solving the immense challenges of building highly-energy-efficient digital systems. I am happy to report that one of the article's authors, Dr. Kerem Y. Camsari, is now a colleague of mine, having just joined UCSB's ECE Department. He has hit the ground running with his OPUS Lab (Orchestrating Physics for Unconventional Systems). A warm welcome to him!

2020/09/26 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Spanish Flu vs. COVID-19: Niwrad's theory of devolution confirmed! Sample slide from today's talk on 5G technology by Dr. Masoud Olfat Screenshot from today's UNC Symposium panel (1) Images of the day: [Left] Niwrad's theory of devolution confirmed: Humans during the 1918 Spanish Flu vs. the 2020 COVID-19. [Center] Sample slide from today's talk on 5G technology by Dr. Masoud Olfat (see the next item below). [Right] Screenshot from today's UNC Symposium panel (see the last item below).
(2) Sharif University of Technology Association's technical talk this morning: Telecommunications expert Dr. Masoud Olfat spoke (in Persian) about 5G technology. After an introduction covering the seven pillars of the fourth industrial revolution and basics of wireless communications, Dr. Olfat discussed the nature of 5G (what it is, ITU process, performance metrics, standardization), 5G use cases, 5G economics, 5G around the world, 5G distinctions/enablers, and what comes next (6G and beyond). Communications services companies use 5G as a marketing tool, even though many of them do not actually offer 5G (the same thing previously happened for 4G). The authority for defining 5G is International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which sets clear definitions and performance standards. I had to leave the talk after 1 hour, some 10-15 minutes before it ended. The lecture was recorded and is available on YouTube.
(3) Post Trump: Even more satisfying than seeing Trump and his enablers, such as Pompeo and Barr, ousted will be the info that will emerge about their attempts at destroying democracy and silencing critics.
(4) Trump administration's withdrawal of a journalism award scrutinized: The International Women of Courage Award was given in 2019 to Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro for exposing Russia's misinformation campaigns and troll factories. Shortly after notifying Aro of the honor, the State Department rescinded the award, because an employee discovered social-media posts that were critical of Trump's "fake news" narrative and attacks on journalists as "enemies of the people." What's more, a false reason was stated for rescinding the award.
(5) "Revisiting Discourses of Love, Sex, and Desire in Modern Iran and Diaspora: A Symposium in a Series of Panels" (Organized by Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi, UNC Persian Studies Program): Today, I watched the third panel in the series, entitled "Religio-Political Dimensions of Desire in Modern Iran," with the following three participants. Looking forward to the the final installment of this wonderful program, a round-table discussion on Saturday, October 3, 2020.
- Maryam Zehtabi Sabeti Moqaddam (PhD student, U. Mass, Amherst): "Girls for Sale: The Politics of Child Marriage in Iran"
- Nasim Basiri (PhD student, Oregon State U.): "The Politics of Love in Iran: Implications of 'Religious Hypocrisy of Clerics' in the form of Temporary Marriages"
- Mahdi Tourage (Assoc. Prof., King's U. College, London, Ontario, Canada): "The Supreme Leader and I: Erotic Desire in Iranian Female Poets Reading their Poems for the Supreme Leader of Iran"

2020/09/25 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover of 'The New Yorker' magazine, issue of October 5, 2020 Santa Barbara Independent polls young voters in our area about national and local issues that will influence their votes Gold coin, marketed to MAGA folks and Evangelicals, puts Donald Trump and Cyrus the Great side-by-side, staining Iran's proud history (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cover of The New Yorker magazine, issue of October 5, 2020. [Center] Inside the minds of young Santa Barbara voters: SB Independent polls our youth on national and local issues that will affect their voting decisions in November. [Right] Capitalists cashing in: Gold coin, marketed to MAGA folks and Evangelicals, puts Donald Trump and Cyrus the Great side-by-side, staining Iran's proud history.
(2) Twitter's racist image-cropping algorithm exposed: The company apologizes after many Twitter users confirmed the bias, which takes the form of cropping non-White people out of displayed images. Here is a most-striking experiment to show the racial bias of Twitter's image-cropping algorithm.
(3) The election that could break America: Unless Biden wins a resounding victory, Trump may attempt to steal the election by using the courts, which he has stacked with judges friendly to him. The final step in this plan is to fill RBG's seat, giving him a 6-3 or 5-4 edge, should the challenge go all the way to the high court. Before leaving or being forced out, Trump will run America into the ground, much like his casino businesses.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Borowitz Report (humor): If Trump refuses to step down, just cancel White House's cable subscription!
- Silicon Valley threatened by wildfires: Will SV techies start producing solutions for wildfire control?
- Amazon's indoor drone to fill gaps in the coverage of static cameras in home security systems.
- Deep-learning robots beat humans in curling: Not the most-exciting of sports, but a good start for robots!
- Iran's nature in winter: Mountain-climbing in the vicinity of Babak Fort, near Kaleybar, Azarbaijan Province.
- Good morning: Finding good music you used to love is like getting back in touch with an old friend.
- A beautiful Persian song, composed for Mohammad Reza Shajarian on the occasion of his 80th birthday.
(5) The social-bot pandemic: As we learn how to detect existing bots, new ones are developed with advanced characteristics that make them much harder to detect. This CACM article discusses the progress made in, and challenges of, detecting bots. [Cresci, Stafano, "A Decade of Social Bot Detection," Communications of the ACM, Vol. 63, No. 10, October 2020, pp. 72-83.
(6) "Picture a Scientist": This 2020 film, screened by UCSB (October 8, 2020, 4:00 PM PDT; free with pre-registration), chronicles the groundswell of researchers who are writing a new chapter for women scientists. A biologist, a chemist, and a geologist lead us on a journey deep into their own experiences in the sciences, overcoming brutal harassment, institutional discrimination, and years of subtle slights to revolutionize the culture of science. Ian Cheney and Sharon Shattuck (co-directors and producers) will join moderator Emily Goard Jacobs (Psychological and Brain Sciences, UCSB) for a Q&A about the making of this documentary.

2020/09/24 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
TScreenshots from today's UCSB ECE Department day-long retreat Newsweek magazine cover: Will the American public trust a COVID-19 vaccine? Reaching a milestone: 200,000 US deaths from COVID-19 (1) Images of the day: [Left] Today's UCSB ECE Department day-long retreat (see the last item below). [Center] After all the political meddling into CDC, FDA, and NIH, will the American public trust a COVID-19 vaccine? [Right] The 200,000 US COVID-19 deaths constitute 25% of global deaths, while our share of the world population is 4%. Alternative facts: We have done "a great job" that merits an "A+ grade"!
(2) "The State of the Islamic State" (an AFPC Webinar I attended yesterday morning): Alberto Fernandez (Vice-President, Middle East Media Research Institute), Craig Whiteside (Associate Professor, Naval Postgraduate School), and Katherine Zimmerman (Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute) were panelists in this program offered by American Foreign Policy Council. The unnamed AFPC moderator asked the panelists questions about how ISIS came about, how it describes itself (its messaging), how it's different from Al Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups, and why it is showing alarming new signs of life after going downhill from its 2013-2014 peak and being banned from social media platforms. A video recording of the webinar will be posted to afpc.org and AFPC's YouTube channel in a day or two. [Screenshot]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The woman who promised never to lie to the press is a more-shameless liar than Sarah Huckabee Sanders!
- Mitch McConnell breaks with Trump, saying there will be a peaceful and orderly transition in November.
- California Governor Gavin Newsom orders new gasoline-powered autos to be phased out by 2035.
- Univ. of California (including UCSB) admitted well-connected or rich students over more-qualified ones.
- Iranians advocating for the rights of ethnic and religious minorities are targeted by government hackers.
- NASA maneuvers the International Space Station to move it out of the way of space debris.
(4) UCSB ECE Department's day-long Zoom-based retreat, today: Here is a very brief summary of key points.
- UC has borrowed $2B as a result of the pandemic; $1.8B already spent. Paying back this loan will put additional budgetary pressures on our campuses.
- Student enrollment: 299 grad students; 261 CE undergrads; 293 EE undergrads; 853 in all. CS has 182 grad students, 648 in all.
- Pre- and post-graduation student polls re their impressions of college experience and quality of education.
- About 70% of our entering freshman students graduate from ECE, with the remainder almost equally divided between not graduating and graduating from some other department.
- Improving our undergraduate advising program and providing more opportunities for undergraduate research.
- Intensifying our efforts to recruit women students. Currently, the percentage of women among our students is dismal, compared with other (engineering) departments at UCSB and elsewhere: CE ~11%; EE ~13%; ChemE, with 40% women, has the best record within our College of Engineering. Must examine successful disciplines, such as medicine and law, in this regard.
- Departmental Committee for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI): Charged by the Dean with developing an action plan for eliminating discrimination of all kinds in our College of Engineering.
- Formalizing our junior-faculty mentoring arrangements.
- Decadal Curriculum Reform; improving the undergraduate experience; providing more flexibility for students to tailor their study plan to their interests and career plans (increasing the number of elective courses).
- Research excellence: ECE has $31M in annual research funding (largest department in both enrollment and research funding).
- Reforming our PhD screening exam to better serve its purposes.
- Looking at our long-range plans: How do we want to distinguish ourselves, as a mid-size ECE department, from much-larger programs, nationally and internationally?
[Photos are from early morning breakout "breakfast" session and one of the general sessions.]

2020/09/22 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy first day of autumn Jewish holidays: Six-year calendar Flowers laid in front of the US Supreme Court building in Washington, DC, commemorate the Notorious RBG (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy first day of autumn! Paris-based Bahar Choir performs the Persian song "Paeez" ("Autumn"). [Center] Jewish holidays: Six-year calendar (see the last item below). [Right] Flowers laid in front of the US Supreme Court building in Washington, DC, commemorate the Notorious RBG.
(2) Criminal lies: No, it's not hyperbole when Trump calls himself a champion of health care or the great environmentalist. It's lying through his teeth, plain and simple! His administration is in court, trying to gut Obamacare and its consumer protections. He is 100% against environmental-protection laws and regulations, in order to line the pockets of his billionaire friends and supporters.
(3) The GOP leadership says they have the votes for replacing RBG: So, they'll vote to confirm the nominee, regardless of who she is? The Senate's role used to be "advice & consent." Now it's "accede & rubber-stamp"!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Worst pandemic since 1918. And now, worst storm season, in terms of hurricanes' US landfall, since 1916.
- Today's walk in downtown Santa Barbara: I walked along State Street, filming the city's farmers market.
- Footprints found in Saudi Arabia, believed to be human, are 120,000 years old.
- Classical music on the guitar: Lily Afshar plays J. S. Bach's "Cello Suite No. 1, Prelude."
- Persian music: Ali Ghamsari's wonderful tar performance, with tombak accompaniment.
(5) What the Bible says about "Black Lives Matter": For those who claim to be Christians but don't seem to have understood the meaning of Luke 15. [Image]
(6) "Building 3D Models from 2D Images, and Vice Versa: From Puzzles to Real Applications": This is the title of my talk this morning to a group of graduates of Tehran University's College of Engineering. Unfortunately, video recording of the talk ran into problems and was terminated very early, but the PDF file of my slides, which includes links to a number of interesting videos, is available for perusal. [Screenshot of Zoom meeting]
(7) Hebrew leap years: Because the Hebrew calendar is based on lunar months, a 12-month year would be about 11 days shorter than a solar year. In order to synchronize the years with the Earth's rotation around the Sun, seven 13-month leap years are used within 19-year cycles, with years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 assigned 13 months. Because of this anomaly, Jewish holidays and festivals fluctuate by about a month relative to solar-calendar dates. Things become complicated because of solar leap years, so the number of days in a Hebrew year also fluctuates. The year 5781, which just started, is year 5 in the cycle above, so it is not a leap year. Mathematically, a leap year's number y satisfies (7y + 1) mod 19 < 7. So, the next Hebrew year, 5782, is a leap year. Definitely not the simplest or most-logical of calendars!

2020/09/21 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Women political prisoners in Iran: Nasrin Sotoudeh Someone added one of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's collars to the Fearless Girl statue in NYC Women political prisoners in Iran: Saba Kord Afshari (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Women political prisoners in Iran: Nasrin Sotoudeh and Saba Kord Afshari were transported from proison to hospitals due to poor health. Sotoudeh is in CCU, following her 40 days of hunger strike. [Center] Someone added one of Ruth Bader Ginsburg's collars to the Fearless Girl statue in NYC.
(2) CDC flushes its credibility down the toilet: After informing us that COVID-19 can spread through the air, the statement disappears from CDC's Web site. Explanation: It was posted due to an error!
(3) Iranian operatives hack their way into secure messaging systems: Both Telegram and WhatsApp have been broken into. The goal appears to be access to data on Iranian opposition groups in Europe and the US.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- As justification for withholding federal funding, DoJ declares a number of cities "anarchist jurisdictions."
- Great sense of humor: Biden uses a 10-second clip from Trump's campaign rally as an ad!
- Electric cars are becoming mainstream due to improved technology and rapidly-declining battery prices.
- One of my UCSB Faculty Housing Complex neighbors, Dr. Petra Persolja, offered a Zoom recital on 9/20.
(5) President Rouhani's VP for Science & Technology: "Brain drain from Iran is on the decline." Yes, because very few "brains" are left in the country and, at 280,000 rials per US dollar, those who want to leave can't afford airfare, visa fees, and other immigration costs, even ignoring travel restrictions due to COVID-19.
(6) Table-Top Shakespeare: UCSB Arts & Lectures offers the Complete Shakespeare, all of his plays, each with a single performer using a table-top stage and household items as stand-ins for the characters. The program runs from Thursday, September 17 ("Macbeth"), through Sunday, November 15 ("The Tempest"). With a few exceptions specified on the following Web page, all performances are at 12:00 PM PDT.
(7) What my daughter did this summer: One of her summer projects was teaching herself to play the piano, using an electronic keyboard. Here is a part of one of the songs she has been practicing! [1-minute video]
(8) What I did this summer: One of my accomplishments as summer 2020 comes to a close is clearing my backlog of book reviews, that is, books that I had finished reading/hearing, without having compiled my notes into public reviews. As I write this note, I have posted my completed reviews to GoodReads (now containing 222 items), Facebook, Twitter, and my Blog & Books page. So, other than two hard-copy books, an e-book, and an audiobook I am currently perusing, I'm all caught up with book reviews! I have also completed half-dozen research papers and prepared a dozen or so lectures for conferences, keynote addresses, technical talks to various groups, and informal presentations. Now, on to preparing and recording lectures for my fall 2020 graduate course at UCSB, "Fault-Tolerant Computing" (ECE 257A)! [Screenshot of my GoodReads page]

2020/09/20 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for Narges Mohammadi's 'White Torture' Cover image of Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World' My daughter and I, with our RBG T-shits (1) Images of the day: [Left] White Torture: A dozen women political prisoners in Iran talk about experiencing solitary confinment. The book is written in Persian by Narges Mohammadi, who is herself in prison and has endured solitary confinement. (Nigara Afsharzadeh; Atena Daemi; Sima Kiani; Fatemeh Mohammadi; Sedigheh Moradi; Nazila Nouri; Hengameh Shahidi; Mahvash Shahriari; Reyhaneh Tabatabaei; Shokufeh Yadollahi; Nazanin Zaghari; Zahra Zehtabchi) [Center] Cover image of Aldous Huxley's Brave New World (see the last item below). [Right] My daughter and I with our RBG T-shirts, yesterday, the first day of Rosh Hashanah, and the first day following a major loss for the cause of women's rights.
(2) Every week, someone described as a "disgruntled employee" speaks or write about Trump's cluelessness, dangerous behavior, and narcissism: Are there any "gruntled" employees in the White House?
(3) Next time someone calls Trump "The Jobs President," show them this chart: New jobs created, in absolute numbers and as a fraction of total jobs.
(4) Donald Trumps 2015 deposition in the case of Trump University (extended video clips): For someone with "one of the greatest memories of all time," he remembers very little!
(5) Book review: Huxley, Aldous, Brave New World, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Michael York, Blackstone Audio, 2008. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I first read this 1932 dystopian sci-fi novel, whose title is a quote from Shakespeare's "The Tempest," in my 20s. Having gotten my hands on this special 75th-anniversary audiobook edition, I thought a deeper second perusal and writing a review might be appropriate, given enormous changes in my knowledge, attitude, and world-view in the intervening five decades. The book has stood the test of time and is now considered one of the top-100 greatest novels in history. Brave New World has been turned into a play, multiple radio broadcasts, and at least two films. Huxley [1894-1963] followed this book with the 1958 essay "Brave New World Revisited" and with his 1962 utopian final novel, Island.
Huxley's Brave New World is often compared to Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, because both revolve around totalitarianism in a futuristic society. Huxley envisages a world with a caste system composed of intelligent humans and serf-like beings, with order maintained via government programs for hypnotism and producing test-tube babies, a swipe at eugenics, which had come into prominence in the 19th century, having been first proposed by Plato around 400 BC. Everyone is content because of a system of drugging and forced promiscuity instilled into all beings from the moment of birth.
Huxley's frightening futuristic society, dubbed the "World State" and having the motto "Community, Identity, Stability," is built around science and efficiency. Years are designated as before- and after-Ford (BF & AF), in honor of the 1908 introduction of Model-T by Henry Ford, who is referred to as "Our Ford," a la "Our Lord." Brave New World can be viewed as a critique of the prevailing technological optimism between the two World Wars, as Huxley focuses on limitations of technology in saving us from ourselves.
In Huxley's imagined world, citizens are put in classes, named "Alpha" through "Epsilon," with nearly everything controlled by Alphas and their subordinate Betas. The other three classes perform low-level jobs. Outsider "Savages," who live in reservations, constitute another social group. Citizens are taught to be happy within their castes and are instilled with the belief that everyone is equally important to society. Each fetus is assigned to a specific caste, with interference measures guaranteeing that the lower-caste members are born with limited intellectual abilities.
The most-important question asked and answered by Huxley's Brave New World relates to things humans would miss in a society where shortages of food and consumer goods, as well as aging, are relics of the past. The book's critical reception was quite negative when it was published, and it still appears on lists of banned books because of its depiction of promiscuity and drug use as mechanisms for holding the masses in check.

2020/09/19 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo of Ruth Bader Ginsburg My poetic tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg (1) Ruth Bader Ginsburg passes at 87: The champion of gender equality served on SCOTUS for 27 years.
(2) Air quality in California's Yosemite National Park: The place people used to choose for rejuvenation and enjoying the fresh outdoors is breaking air-quality meters! [Image]
(3) Flu shot this fall: California Department of Public Health recommends it for almost all individuals, and University of California mandates it for all students and employees. (UCSB flu-shot clinic, 9/30-10/7)
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Last night's mag-4.6 jolt felt stronger to Angelinos: Same area had quakes in 1987 (5.9) and 2014 (5.1).
- Approximate solution of the "traveling salesperson" problem, using a deterministic O(n^2) algorithm.
- A soothing, continuously-running video of a stream in Stubai, Austria.
- Parisa Tabriz's 10/2019 keynote talk: "Google's Security Princess" asks "So, You Wanna Work in Security?"
- Country music: Chris Stapleton performs "Starting Over." [4-minute video]
- Iranian regional music: Ronak Ensemble performs.
- Persian music: The instrumental piece "Bidaad," performed by a group of young girls from Tabriz, Iran.
(5) Everything Trump touches dies: CDC is the latest casualty. Under pressure, it has issued statements that go against the scientific consensus, and it is then forced to reverse itself upon further consideration. One of the many formerly-trusted entities that has been forced to mud-wrestle with a demagogue!
(6) Iran to cut the fingers of three young men for theft: There is no such savage and cruel punishment for regime insiders who steal billions!
(7) "Revisiting Discourses of Love, Sex, and Desire in Modern Iran and Diaspora: A Symposium in a Series of Panels" (Organized by Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi, UNC Persian Studies Program): This morning, I watched the Symposium's Horner-Jarrahi keynote lecture by Dr. Janet Afari (Chair Professor, UCSB), entitled "The Growing Popularity of Non-Standard Marriages and Unions in Iran and South West Asia/North Africa (SWANA)." Dr. Afari listed the various forms of non-standard marriage, such as temporary marriage (Shi'a), traveling marriage (Sunni), and white union (cohabitation), excluding child marriages from her discussion and focusing on the last form for much of her talk. She presented data from a Facebook study that sought to assess the practices of non-traditional unions and the participants' attitudes toward them, including whether or not they should be legal. A lively Q&A session followed the talk. [Facebook Live] [My Facebook post, with a few slides] [Info]

2020/09/18 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Rosh Hashanah to all those who observe this Jewish holiday! Cover image for Ta-Nehisi Coates' 'We Were Eight Years in Power' Cover image of IEEE Spectrum magazine, issue of September 2020 (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Rosh Hashanah to all those who observe this Jewish holiday! The new Hebrew calendar year 5781 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] Cover image for Ta-Nehisi Coates' We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy (see the last item below). [Right] For legacy software, it's perpetual crisis: The COVID-19 pandemic has pulled back the curtain on legacy software's slow-motion catastrophe, according to IEEE Spectrum magazine's September 2020 issue.
(2) Hypocrisy exposed: Lindsey Graham kept bugging his opponent Jaime Harrison to release his tax return if he has nothing to hide. He did, and now he is pressing Graham to demand the same of Donald Trump!
(3) "Is Privacy Dead?" is the title of an interesting and timely article in IEEE IT Professional magazine, September-October 2020. In the article, Nir Kshetri and Joanna F. DeFranco observe that "governments and big companies have been aggressively collecting personal data in an unprecedented scale in legal as well as deceptive and illegal ways ... [helping to create] a data market based on an ethically questionable foundation."
(4) Book review: Coates, Ta-Nehisi, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Beresford Bennett, Random House Audio, 2017.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Ta-Nihisi Coates, a MacArthur Fellow, who is widely regarded as an influential writer and thinker, rose to fame through the essay "The Case for Reparations" and his best-selling book Between the World and Me, written in the form of letters from a father to his teenage son.
We Were Eight Years in Power consists of eight of Coates' essays on race, written during Barack Obama's presidency and published in The Atlantic. Each piece, reproduced as originally written, is preceded by a newly-written essay that includes reflections on the events in America when he wrote the essay and the path of his development as a writer. Here is a list of the essays, along with links to them on The Atlantic Web site.
- This Is How We Lost to the White Man [Link 1]
- American Girl [Link 2]
- Why Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War [Link 3]
- The Legacy of Malcolm X [Link 4]
- Fear of a Black President [Link 5]
- The Case for Reparations [Link 6]
- The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration [Link 7]
- My President Was Black [Link 8]
Whereas one can read the original essays through the links above, the new introductory essays do add much value to the collection. For example, in Essay 1 about Bill Cosby, Coates discusses Cosby's brand of black conservatism, warts and all, but, in retrospect, admits that he should have written more than a single sentence about allegations of sexual misconduct against him, which, though, not widely publicized at the time, were quite well-known.
Coates considers "The Case for Reparations" the best piece in this collection and "My President Was Black" the second-best. He observes that Barack Obama's presidency led to the emergence of a large number of black writers and journalists. There were many other positive outcomes too, including the fact that black children and youth were energized with hope and pride. Unfortunately, however, the election of Donald Trump was, in part, a way of erasing Obama's presidency, raising the prospects that our country's embrace of the first black president was disingenuous.
The book's title is a quote from South Carolina's African-American congressman Thomas E. Miller [1849-1938], who wondered why Southerners hated African Americans, despite all the good they did during the Reconstruction. Coates sees parallels between that earlier era in US history and Obama's presidency. All eight essays are insightful, informative, and eye-opening.

2020/09/17 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Contrast: Feast for Iran's mullahs and their cronies; dumpster-diving for children of the streets Cover image of former President Obama's latest book, 'A Promised Land' Meme: The word 'LOSERS' spary-painted, using orange spray tan, on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington, DC
Photos from my walk along Isla Vista streets: Some religious establishments Venus may harbor life in the form of microbes Photos from my walk along Isla Vista streets: Some street signs (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Contrast: Feast for Iran's mullahs and their cronies; dumpster-diving for children of the streets. [Top center] Former US President Barack Obama's latest book, A Promised Land, will be released two weeks after the November election. [Top right] Meme of the day: "LOSERS" spary-painted, using orange spray tan, on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington, DC. [Bottom left & right] Photos from my afternoon walk along Isla Vista streets: A few of the many religious establishments and some of the mostly-Spanish street names in the student community adjacent to UCSB. [Bottom center] Attention in the search for extraterrestrial life turns from Mars to Venus: Scientists believe that microbial life forms may exist on Venus. A spacecraft scheduled to fly by the planet may help us assess this claim.
(2) Microsoft retrieves an underwater data center off the coast of Scotland to assess its performance: Over two years, only 8 of the 855 servers in the submerged data center had failed. Microsoft attributes the lower failure rate to the absence of humans and the center being filled with nitrogen rather than oxygen.
(3) Editor-in-Chief of the prestigious journal Science: "It's pretty hopeful that in another year we'll have people vaccinated and we'll be able to go back to the way things were, but the situation—both in terms of the virus and the ways in which the administration has tried to undermine scientists and scientific research—is something we've never seen before." [Source: Wired]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Bob Woodward's Rage has already been forgotten, even before its official release, much like his 2018 Fear!
- Sedition: AG Bill Barr discovers the word used by Iran's Islamic regime to describe anti-government protests!
- Republican Senators are worried about losing their control over the US Senate, according to a GOP memo.
- No one attempted this puzzle (The Sanjay Gupta Problem) when I posted it 7 years ago, today!
(5) Our worst fears may be coming true: In a Facebook Live video, Department of Health and Human Services spokesman Michael Caputo (now on leave) warned of a CDC plot against President Trump and urged Trump supporters to stock up on ammunition.
(6) Poetic humor: Hossein Golchin recites his Persian/Arabic/English poem. Arabic words are used within Persian constructs for comic effect. The English words used contain a few typos. [5-minute subtitled audio]
(7) Lecture of possible interest to my Iranian readers and others who might want to learn about women's rights (or lack thereof) in Iran: Dr. Mehrangiz Kar will discuss "Women, Power and Politics Before and After the Iran Revolution 1979" on Saturday, September 26, 2020, as part of The Global Square program of Gothenburg Book Fair in Sweden. [Image]
(8) No sharpie needed this time to include Alabama in a hurricane's path: Widespread flooding wrecks havoc, as the slow-moving Hurricane Sally dumps 50 inches of rain on Alabama.
(9) Fox News disagrees with the president: Trump has opined that his ABC-sponsored town hall went great, while Laura Ingraham of Fox News thinks that he was ambushed by the TV network.

2020/09/16 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
'Africa is a poor country': Feeling sorry for Iranian kids, who have to learn from textbooks prepared by ignorant fools Images of Nasrin Sotoudeh and Navid Afkari We humans grow, then stop growing as adults: Redwood tree, on the other hand, continue to grow as long as they are alive
A couple of slides from IEEE CCS talk by Dr. Luke Theogarajan: Batch 1 A couple of slides from IEEE CCS talk by Dr. Luke Theogarajan: Batch 2 A couple of slides from IEEE CCS talk by Dr. Luke Theogarajan: Batch 3 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] "Africa is a poor country": Feeling sorry for Iranian kids, who have to learn from textbooks prepared by ignorant fools. [Top center] Images of Nasrin Sotoudeh and Navid Afkari (see the next item below). [Top right] We humans grow, then stop growing as adults: Certain life forms, such as the redwood tree, some mollusks, and possibly elephants, continue to grow as long as they are alive (source: IEEE Spectrum magazine, issue of September 2020). [Bottom row] Sample slides from this evening's IEEE California Central Coast Section talk by Dr. Luke Theogarajan (see the last item below).
(2) A movement is afoot to have Iran banned from the Olympics for executing champion wrestler Navid Afkari: There has been some criticism of anti-regime activists in Iran and abroad for focusing on the cases of "celebrities" such as Nasrin Sotoudeh and Navid Afkari. For each such famous individual, they maintain, there are hundreds of nameless political prisoners suffering the same or worse fates. While this observation is quite true, campaigns, political or otherwise, need symbols in way of recognizable faces in order to reach mass audiences globally. So what if Sotoudeh or Afkari get a bit more attention than they deserve, as long as the Iranian regime is exposed for its oppression and brutality? Apparently, FM Javad Zarif's visit to Germany has been put on hold because of the execution of Afkari. Such is the power of symbols!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's "peace" in the Middle East: Palestinians fire rockets and Israel bombs Gaza Strip in retaliation.
- US West-Coast residents report health problems from poor air-quality caused by a blanket of smoke.
- Ignoring COVID-19 guidelines kills other people: Maine wedding linked to the death of 7 who didn't attend.
- US Space Force confirms detecting Iranian missiles aimed at US forces in Iraq, using infrared satellites.
- This isn't a joke (a la Borowitz Report): Trump blames Biden for not implementing national mask mandate.
- Confusing the totally-different "herd immunity" and "herd mentality" is a sure sign of cognitive decline.
(4) This evening's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Dr. Luke Theogarajan (Professor and Vice-Chair, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, UCSB) spoke under the title "Electronics Meets Biology."
The vision of electronics closely integrated with biology, popularized in science-fiction, is now becoming a reality. Dr. Theogarajan outlined the role of electronics in biology, within the two areas of neural interfacing and biosensing. Rapid advances in CMOS devices with the ever-shrinking transistor dimension has enabled the packing of unprecedented power in a small silicon area. However, there has not been a concomitant advance in the technology currently used for therapeutic devices. Some fundamental reasons as to why this is the case and ways of overcoming the barriers were outlined. Additionally, work in biosensing and interfacing at the micro-, nano-, and macro-scale done by Dr. Theogarajan's research group was highlighted. Challenges of remote-powering of these devices and some of the clever techniques that have been explored constituted another area of discussion. The continued role played by electronics in advancing human health concluded the talk.
[Speaker's website (includes his bio)] [IEEE CCS Technical Talks page] [Facebook post] [Tweet]

2020/09/15 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
For firefighters in California, this week may be worse than last week Time magazine's cover, as we approach 200,000 US deaths from COVID-19 Last night's gathering of old friends, including a couple visiting from Iran
Cartoon: Trump takes no responsibility; everything that happens is someone else's fault The Trump campaign can't even spell the name of the 'Nobel Peace Prize' for which he has been nominated Cartoon: Don't panic ... Keep calm ... Rest in peace! (1) Images of the day: [Top left] For firefighters in California, this week may be worse than last week: The entire US West Coast continues to burn. [Top center] Time magazine's cover, as we approach 200,000 US deaths from COVID-19. [Top right] Sunday night's gathering of old friends, including a couple visiting from Iran. [Bottom left] Trump takes no responsibility: What happened in the past is Obama's fault. What happens now or in future is Biden's fault. Some of the stuff in the past was Hillary Clinton's fault. (Cartoon by Akeem Roberts) [Bottom center] The Trump campaign can't even spell the name of the "Nobel Peace Prize" for which he has been nominated: As for the claim that he has "achieved PEACE in the MIDDLE EAST," I refer you to Middle Easterners! [Bottom right] Don't panic ... Keep calm ... Rest in peace!
(2) University of Washington's David Baker wins the $3 million Breakthrough Prize: Baker's use of computers to design complex molecules has the potential of leading to new treatments for COVID-19.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- At least 33 dead and dozens missing in ~100 separate wildfires raging on the US West Coast.
- Portland has the worst air quality among major world cities: Smoke from West-Coast fires has reached NYC.
- Projection: Because pro-White movements are anti-Black, they think pro-Black movements are anti-White.
- A nerdy thought: 7^2 days to the US election. 2^7 days to Trump's disappearance.
- Roger Stone says Trump should declare martial law to seize power if he loses the election.
- #YouKilledNavidAfkari, because you hate both "navid" ("promise" or "good tidings") and "afkar" ("thoughts").
- "The State of the Islamic State": Public webinar, hosted by American Foreign Policy Council.
(4) US News & World Report's 2021 university rankings: Among public universities, UCSB ranks #6, behind UCLA, Berkeley, Michigan, Virginia, and UNC Chapel Hill. In the overall rankings, Princeton, Harvard, Columbia, MIT, Yale, and Stanford occupy the top six spots.
(5) My general lecture (in Persian): I talked about "Recommender Systems: How Machines Can Discover Your Thoughts and Preferences" on Tuesday 9/15, 10:00 AM PDT. One thread in the discussions, included in the lecture video, was the potential of robots (technology, more generally) taking over, or one social group controlling other groups, through amassing data about individuals in huge databases. One participant recommended the film "Social Dilemma" (available on Netflix) about issues of privacy and vast amounts of private data collected by tech companies.[104-minute video] [PDF slides]

2020/09/13 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Schrodinger's Cat T-shirt: Wanted, Dead & Alive! Cartoon: Hangings of young people in Iran for merely protesting oppression and economic hardships Talk about a dysfunctional family! Kellyanne & George Conway, and their daughter Claudia (1) Images of the day: [Left] Schrodinger's Cat T-shirt: Wanted, Dead & Alive! [Center] Image of the day (#YouKilledOmidAkbari): Hangings of young people in Iran for merely protesting oppression and economic hardships. [Right] Talk about a dysfunctional family! Kellyanne Conway, who recently left her White House job to focus on her family, is a fierce defender of Trump's every action and word. Her husband, George Conway, is one of Trump's harshest critics and co-founder of the Lincoln Project to help defeat him in 2020. Their daughter Claudia has posted about her hellish family life, accusing her parents of abuse via social media!
(2) A quote I first posted two years ago, today: "There is rape because there are rapists, not because there are pretty girls." ~ Leni Lobredo, Philippines VP, responding to President Rodrigo Duterte's remark that rape will exist "as long as there are many beautiful women"
(3) Andriy Derkach has officially been identified as a Russian spy: He had been working closely with Rudy Giuliani, who claims he didn't know Derkach was a spy. Okay, let's take Giuliani at his word. Then, any day now, he should be releasing a record of all his contacts with the spy to US intelligence officials to help them build their case against Derkach and perhaps uncover other spies. And, of course, Trump should fire Giuliani, because he is either a traitor or a patsy. Don't hold your breath in either case!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Happy Grandparents' Day: For a chuckle, search for grandparents' answering-machine greeting!
- Prominent wrestling champion Navid Afkari executed in Iran, despite international campaign to save him.
- Do you know anyone who wants to quit drinking? Buy him/her this gadget!
- Persian music: An old song by Viguen, which, somehow, I had never heard before. [6-minute audio]
(5) Humorous Persian poetry: Mr. Haloo recites his confessions ahead of time, because he is worried that at his age, he may not survive confession-extracting torture in Iranian prisons.
(6) Spineless Republicans are keeping quiet these days in the face of new revelations about Trump: They don't want to rock the boat and lose the support of Trump voters. Meanwhile, they are hoping for, and in some cases working to ensure, Trump's defeat in the election. Their plan is to maintain power, while getting rid of Trump!
(7) "Revisiting Discourses of Love, Sex, and Desire in Modern Iran and Diaspora: A Symposium in a Series of Panels" (Organized by Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi, UNC Persian Studies Program): On Saturday 9/12, I watched the second panel in the series, entitled "Embodied Bodies, Non-normativity, and Power Dynamics in Modern Iranian Literature and Film," with the following two participants. Looking forward to the rest of the program.
- Dominic Parviz Brookshaw (Assoc. Prof., U. Oxford): "Shirin's Equal, Leyli's Rival: Allusion, Embodiment, and Archetypal Stand-off in the Poetry of Forugh Farrokhzad"
- Alexander Jabbari (Ass't Prof., U. OK): "Race Against Time: Racial Temporality and Sexuality in Modern Iran"
* Mostafa Abedinifard (Ass't Prof., UBC) withdrew his presentation "Negotiating (Un)Desirability: Non-Normative Bodies and the Patriarchal Economy of Power in Modern Iranian Fiction and Film" for personal reasons.

2020/09/11 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Honoring the ~3000 victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks: The Twin Towers burning Honoring the ~3000 victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks: Tower designer Leslie E. Robertson Cover images of Iran's third-grade math textbooks, last year and this year (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] The 19th anniversary of 9/11: As we remember and honor the ~3000 victims of that dark day in US history, let us also honor Leslie E. Robertson, the engineer, who, with his then partner John Skilling, designed the unique structure of World Trade Center's Twin Towers that saved thousands of additional lives in the minutes following the two Boeing 767s crashing into the buildings. [Right] There is no limit to the Islamic Republic's misogyny: For a country that gave the world Maryam Mirzakhani, the first woman winner of mathematics' Fields Medal, it is indeed shameful to have ignorant officials who would order the removal of images of two girls from the cover of the third-grade math textbook. Iranians are not standing by idly, raising objections and suggesting alternate covers bearing the image of the late math genius.
(2) Disney's "Mulan" opens in China, the world's second-largest market for movies: Disney is under fire for making the $200M live-action remake of the original animated film with the approval of the Chinese government and using actors and locations in China, including sites near Muslim re-education camps.
(3) Iran's corrupt regime: A cleric who is very close to Supreme Leader Khamenei claims that his only worldly possession is an apartment given to him as a friendly gift. He has been accused of land-grabbing.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Elbow-bumping masked men: Joe Biden and Mike Pence have a brief encounter at NYC's 9/11 Memorial.
- Today in Goleta, California: This photo shows the sun, not the moon!
- Arab rulers' distaste for satire: Jordanian cartoonist Emad Hajjaj arrested for mocking the Israel-UAE pact.
- Fitness routine, Iranian style: If this video doesn't motivate you to get on the treadmill, nothing will!
- Iranian boy paints-in the girls removed by the government from the cover of his 3rd-grade math textbook.
- Iranian regional music: "Shirin Joonom" ("My Beloved Shirin"), performed by Dafan Band.
(5) Today's political lesson: Defining two common terms.
- The fire department arrives minutes after you call them and doesn't charge you a penny: That's socialism
- The insurance company nickle-and-dimes you or refuses to pay altogether for fire damage: That's capitalism
(6) Walking tour of UCSB's North Campus Open Space: I have posted photos and other information about the area before, as I explored it during my daily walks. This illustrated Web page has in-depth information about the space and its various natural and artificial features.
(7) Our new fridge arrived today: I opted for a simpler model, with few bells and whistles. Each appliance repair costs more than half the price of a new one, if you go for the low-cost models. They are all energy-efficient nowadays, thanks to policies of previous US administrations. Now on to buying food to replace what we had to toss during the heat wave, a probable cause of the failure of our previous unit!

2020/09/10 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of the new book 'Iranian Romance in the Digital Age: From Arranged Marriage to White Marriage' Math puzzle: The side length of a square inscribed in an isosceles triangle of side lengths 10, 10, and 12 Cartoon: Tomb of the unknown loser
Babak Khorramdin Fort sits atop a 2600-meter-high mountain near Kaleybar, Azarbaijan Province, Iran: Photo 1 Babak Khorramdin Fort sits atop a 2600-meter-high mountain near Kaleybar, Azarbaijan Province, Iran: Photo 2 Cover image of the Iranian 9th-grade textbook for civic education, 1973 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] New book on Iran (see the next item below). [Top center] This math problem is due to Heron, with Al-Khwarizmi's solution described in A History of Mathematics (by Uta C. Merzbach and Carl B. Boyer, 3rd ed., 2011): Find the side length of the square inscribed in an isosceles triangle of side lengths 10, 10, and 12. [Top right] Cartoon of the day: Tomb of the unknown loser. [Bottom left & center] Iran's historical architecture: Babak Khorramdin Fort sits atop a 2600-meter-high mountain near Kaleybar, Azarbaijan Province, Iran. [Bottom right] Cover image of the Iranian 9th-grade textbook for civic education, 1973.
(2) Book introduction: Janet Afari and Jesilyn Faust (eds.), Iranian Romance in the Digital Age: From Arranged Marriage to White Marriage, I. B. Tauris, 2020. This 272-page book consists of 10 separately-authored chapters, packaged in three parts, sandwiched between an introduction and an epilogue.
Part I. Norms, Romance, and the Breakdown of Arranged Urban Marriage
Part II. Online Dating, Hymenoplasty, and Assisted Reproductive Technologies
Part III. Reconstructing Hierarchies: Rural and Tribal Marriages
(3) Trump revises a part of his stump speech (humor): "I could stand in the middle of the US, unleash a pandemic, and kill 200,000; and I wouldn't lose any voters, okay?"
(4) "History of Iranian Cinema": This was the title of today's highly enjoyable and informative webinar by Dr. Shaherzad Ahmadi, Assistant Professor of History at University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN. [Screenshot]
The talk announcement promised answers to the following questions. How did film express Iran's national aspirations, gender roles, and class tensions? Why did film become such an important art form in the post-revolutionary period? How did Iranians challenge Hollywood's dominance in the industry?
Dr. Ahmadi reviewed the history of film and filmmaking, beginning around 1900, when Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar ordered the purchase of two cameras and as many films as could be obtained. At first, films were a government/court affair. It took a while for the experience to become democratized. The first movie theater was opened in 1904.
The first talkie, the highly successful "The Lor Girl" was made by Abdolhossein Sepanta, with sponsorship from India's Parsi community. The film, which depicted pre-Pahlavi era's lawlessness, made its female actor, Roohangiz Saminejad, a target of abuse and sexual harassment. This unfortunate view of Iranian actresses as "prostitutes" or "loose women" has continued to date.
During Reza Shah Pahlavi's reign, movies were made with the intent of introducing Iran to the West. The first film depicting a female actor without a veil was made possible by the fact that the actress (name?) was Armenian and thus not subject to the Islamic dress code.
During the second Pahlavi monarch, cinema became much more standardized. Foreign advisors created the Ministry of Culture and helped jump-start various art projects. Ebrahim Golestan and Mohammad Ali Issari were major forces in Iranian cinema in those days. The problem of how Iran was portrayed abroad became of utmost importance for the Shah. Isari, who produced nearly all the country's newsreels, directed "A Mother for Shamsi." The film depicted a very poor Jewish family, a portrayal that was of interest to Israelis worried about the status of Jews in Iran. Showing this abject poverty nearly destroyed Isari's career. Golestan was perhaps the most serious filmmaker of the Pahlavi era. He was the lover of Forough Farrokhzad, Iran's most-influential women poet, who herself made films as well.
After the Islamic Revolution, Iranian cinema was in disarray, while those involved tried to figure out what can and cannot be portrayed, especially with respect to female actors. Later, however, the film industry flourished, catering both to Iranian audiences (who favor comedies) and international film festivals (looking for dramas).

2020/09/09 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Trump impersonator in London Satellite image of US West Coast Wildfires, from northern California to southern Washington Cartoon: 'You're really disrespecting all of the suckers and losers.'
A dangerous gap between Wall Street and Main Street T-shirt: Multi-lingual apologies to the world for our president Panoramic view of Tehran and its two iconic pre- and post-revolution landmarks: Shahyad monument and Milad Tower (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Trump impersonator in London. [Top center] Satellite image of US West Coast Wildfires, from northern California to southern Washington. [Top right] Cartoon of the day: "You're really disrespecting all of the suckers and losers." [Bottom left] A dangerous gap: Stock-market performance and real economic conditions are quite different animals. Despite rises and falls, the market has been doing reasonably well during the current pandemic. The real economy, however, is in the dumps. [Bottom center] Multi-lingual apologies to the world for our president. [Bottom right] Panoramic view of Tehran and its two iconic pre- and post-revolution landmarks: Shahyad, aka Azadi, monument in the foreground (designed by architect Hossein Amanat, 1971) and Milad Tower in the background (designed by architect Mohammad Reza Hafezi, 2008).
(2) Spinelessness personified: Republicans are in denial, keeping eerily quiet and pretending they haven't heard what Trump has said on the record about intentionally downplaying the pandemic (tape-recorded interview with Bob Woodward). [CNN interview with Senator John Kennedy]
(3) Mars in high-resolution: Stunning images of the red planet, captured by three different NASA rovers, stitched together into a 10-minute video.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- It's official: Donald Trump has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by a Norwegian parliamentarian.
- This 98-year-old WWII prisoner of war has a clear message for Donald Trump and his GOP enablers.
- California sees its worst fire season on record: Many evacuation orders forthcoming. [Update]
- Apocalyptic scenes and red skies, as fires multiply and spread in Oregon.
- Persian poetry: Recitation of a Sa'adi poem by Baran Nikrah.
- English cover of a Persian song: Martin Bogren's "Gol-e Yakh" sounds just as good as the original.
(5) Economic news: Iran's stock market is expected to crash soon, devastating many who invested their life savings, and, in some cases, sold their homes to buy stocks, falling for the promise of lucrative gains.
(6) Now that the initial shock of Woodward's book, Rage, has worn off, a question arises: Wasn't Woodward morally obligated to reveal what he learned about the pandemic in February, rather than wait for his book release seven months later?
(7) I thought I am done with reading books on Trump: I have read about a dozen; they all reveal damaging info, with no consequence to the Teflon-Don, so what's the point? However, this one seems to be different in extent & degree (Watergate tapes, on steroids), so I will read it, and hope others do too, before the election!

2020/09/08 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sample works of the humanist photojornalist Reza Deghati: Portraits Sample works of the humanist photojornalist Reza Deghati: NatGeo covers Photos taken during my 9/08 beach walk
Cartoon: Why students may not object to wearing face-masks! Humor: A 2020 model-year slide! Cartoon: Why Mona Lisa smiled (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] French-Iranian photojournalist extraordinaire Reza Deghati describes himself as a humanist photographer and his more than 50 years of work in 100+ countries is a testament to the accuracy of this label. [Top right] Photos taken during my 9/08 walk along the UCSB West Campus Bluffs, and a video of the crowded surfing scene. [Bottom left] Why students may not object to wearing face-masks! [Bottom center] I previously posted the photo of 2020 model-year swings: Here's a 2020 model-year slide! [Bottom right] Cartoon of the day: Why Mona Lisa smiled.
(2) Yes, Biden has problems and weaknesses; lots of them: But as someone noted, his supporters compare him to the alternative, not to God almighty!
(3) Iranian women's-rights activist Gity Pourfazel has been arrested and imprisoned: She was one of the signers of a letter demanding Supreme Leader Khamenei's resignation. #SetThemFree
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- COVID-19's US death toll for 2020 could double before the year ends.
- Surveiling students is wrong, with or without the pandemic: It's also ineffective.
- Inspiring TEDx talk by Sam Berns, progeria sufferer [1996-2014]: "My Philosophy for a Happy Life"
- Borowitz Report: Trump fears that military controversy could overshadow his fantastic pandemic response.
- Several times each day, robotic apps want to deny me service if I can't prove that I'm not a robot!
- A food-truck in San Diego has made tah-dig (crispy rice) self-sufficient, using a small amount of rice.
- Arabic music: A human-rights anthem, with the refrain: "I breathe freedom; don't constrict my breathing."
(5) Heat wave and the pandemic: This is a heads-up about possible delays, in case you need to replace major appliances. Our large fridge-freezer combo has been failing intermittently since Friday, leading to the tossing of a lot of foodstuff and use of ice-boxes. We guess that the extreme heat wave overloaded it. I have been looking on-line and visiting local stores (Costco, Home Depot, Best Buy) to find a replacement. Unfortunately, most models aren't available for delivery until October and in some cases November. I was told that appliance manufacturers are struggling to catch up with orders after factory closures. I finally found a model on-line that will be delivered on Friday 9/11; not the ideal unit in terms of capacity and fit to our space, but it seems we can't afford to go without a fridge during the continuing hot spell!
(6) Attending the European Dependable Computing Conference (EDCC), since very early this morning: I listened to a number of talks, including a keynote address by Ignacio Alvarez, entitled "Towards Universal Safety Guarantees of Decision Making in Automated Vehicles." Attendance this year is free, thanks to a grant from Intel. As you log-in to the Web site for the event, you are taken to a virtual venue, which starts with the image of a lobby having clickable elements for auditorium and help desk. Nice, intuitive user interface!

2020/09/07 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Labor Day! A bridge in Jolfa, Iran, dedicated to a sergeant and two soldiers who gave their lives to delay the advance of the Soviet army Meme: Some Americans complain that face masks cause breathing difficulties, but they can breathe okay in their pointed hoods! (1) Images of the day: [Left] The US Labor Day tradition began 138 years ago, with a New York City parade on September 5, 1882: I wish everyone a happy Labor Day with this wonderful quote from Indira Gandhi. "My grandfather (Mahatma Gandhi) 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." [Center] A piece of modern Iranian history: Dedicated to a sergeant and two soldiers who gave their lives to delay the advance of the Soviet army into Iran for 48 hours during August 1941, a bridge over Aras River in northwestern Iranian city of Jolfa merits a visit if you are ever in that area. [Right] Some Americans complain that face masks cause breathing difficulties, but they can breathe okay in their pointed hoods!
(2) Quote of the day: "What is the point of having countless books and libraries whose titles the owner could scarcely read through in a lifetime?" ~ Roman philosopher Seneca, predicting information overload some 2000 years ago, but failing to foresee search engines for dealing with it
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Washington Post editorial: "This is a president who does not so much govern the country as harass it."
- Massive fire traps campers at Sierra National Forest: Military helicopters air-lift 163 to safety.
- Intense California heat wave sets many temperature records and fuels dangerous wildfires.
- If you are sweating during this record-shattering California heat wave, remember that it's all a hoax.
- SoCal Edison requests energy conservation to avoid power outages during the long-weekend heat wave.
- Nasrin Sotoudeh to receive the biennial Human Rights Prize of the German Association of Judges.
- Women's-rights activist Maryam Shariatmadari is detained in Turkey for possible extradition to Iran.
- Persian music: Veteran singer guides a newcomer in performing his 40-year-old song. [2-minute video]
(4) The costs of male entitlement: Kate Manne's ideas from her two books, Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (2017) and Entitled: How Male Privilege Hurts Women (2020), are discussed in this interview. Among other topics, Manne discusses the difference between sexism and misogyny. She cites Trump as an example: "I'm thinking of Kellyanne Conway & Betsy Devos & Sarah Huckabee Sanders. These are women whom he thinks of, I believe, as competent. So that's the sense in which he's not particularly sexist, but he is misogynistic, in how he lashes out viciously and disproportionately against women who don't defer to his authority."
(5) Final thought for the day: An upside of being surrounded by criminal associates is that when you dump them and they write books about what a horrible person you are, no one believes them!

2020/09/06 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for Hector Tobar's 'The Last Great Road Bum: A Novel' Meme: President Harry Truman on the use of socialism as a scareword Prehistoric sharks living millions of years ago had a length of ~15 m, according to U. Bristol researchers (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cover image for Hector Tobar's The Last Great Road Bum: A Novel (see the last item below). [Center] President Harry Truman on the use of socialism as a scareword. [Right] Prehistoric sharks living millions of years ago had a length of ~15 m, according to U. Bristol researchers.
(2) Batteries for electric airplanes: If all-electric air transportation is to become technically and economically viable, much lighter, high-capacity batteries must be developed. Improvement in battery weight will pay off in other domains as well, such as enabling lighter and extended-range electric cars.
(3) New Yorker cartoon caption of the day (Congressional commentary): "I abhor his despicable tweets, but I'm not going to abandon my core principles of keeping the base happy and getting re-elected."
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump to cut funding for sensitivity/anti-racism training in government agencies, calling them "un-American"!
- Iran, filmed in high-resolution: From the Persian Gulf to the Caspian Sea. Breath-taking! [3-minute teaser]
- Painting an entire life in a 4-minute time-lapse video!
- Persian Mystic Songs from Omar Khayyam & Farid al-Din Attar (Free event, 2020/09/30, 12:00 PM EDT).
- Persian music: Elnaz Abedini's wonderful rendition of "Ze Dast-e Mahboob" ("What to Do with My Beloved").
(5) Virtual conference of Friends of Persian Culture Association: Yesterday, I watched parts of Day 2 of the conference (run by the Baha'i community) and enjoyed a number of talks, discussions, and musical interludes.
(6) Trump claims that Democrats are destroying our cities and states: I have news for him. Cities and states are not destroyed by windows breaking and a few buildings burning. They are destroyed by decadence, greed, incivility, divisiveness, self-centeredness, and deriding civil rights.
(7) Glaciers are melting: This is one of the worrisome consequences of global warming, which also has the dangerous side effect of filling unstable lakes to the brim, thereby creating serious flood dangers.
(8) Book introduction: A fascinating new book by journalist Hector Tobar and his dead collaborator, adventurer Joe Sanderson, is entitled The Last Great Road Bum: A Novel (MCD, 2020). Sanderson, an epitome of White Privilege, traveled the world, telling his distinguished parents that he was trying to write the ultimate great American novel. In his notes, that Tobar studied for a decade, Sanderson refers to his blue eyes opening many doors for him. Sanderson traveled to many dangerous places across the globe, at times coming close to starvation in Africa, eventually ending up in El Salvador, where he died in 1982 fighting alongside anti-government rebels before he could publish anything. Tobar, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning Latino, put himself in Sanderson's skin to write the book for him. [NPR source of the story]

2020/09/05 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UNC Chapel Hill Persian Studies Program Symposium First page of my article in the October 2020 issue of 'Computers & Electrical Engineering' The original Iron Man: Fe-male! (T-shirt design) (1) Images of the day: [Left] UNC Chapel Hill Persian Studies Program "Revisiting Discourses of Love, Sex, and Desire in Modern Iran and Diaspora: A Symposium in a Series of Panels" (see the last item below). [Center] A new article of mine: Just published in the October 2020 issue of Computers & Electrical Engineering, the comprehensive survey paper is entitled "Computing with Logarithmic Number System Arithmetic: Implementation Methods and Performance Benefits" (PDF). [Right] The original Iron Man: Fe-male!
(2) UCSB Institute for Energy Efficiency's Emerging Technologies Review: Free on-line event, with registration.
Friday, October 02, 2020 (Day 1, 09:00-14:00 PDT): Energy Efficient Clouds and Data Centers
Friday, October 16, 2020 (Day 2, 09:00-12:00 PDT): Smart Societal Infrastructure
Friday, October 23, 2020 (Day 3, 09:00-13:00 PDT): Food-Energy-Water
(3) Several news outlets, including Fox News, confirm that Trump did call our fallen soldiers "suckers" and "losers," which makes his denial a blatant lie. [I have lost count, but it is at least Lie # 20,051].
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Endorsements: Biden/Harris (81 Nobel Laureates); Trump/Pence (My-Pillow guy).
- Borowitz Report (humor): Eric Trump downplays dad's comments on soldiers: 'He calls me a loser every day'
- Daylight-saving time is literally killing us: Sleep experts officially call for the elimination of DST.
- Students apparently more upset about partying restrictions than curtailment of instructional activites!
- The Oxford Handbook of Iranian History, edited by Professor Touraj Daryaee, is now available in Persian.
(5) Cowardice: It's mind boggling that General John Kelly continued to serve Trump after he called Kelly's son and others killed on the battlefield "losers" and "suckers" early during his presidency.
(6) My virtual tech talk: This morning Iran time (late last night, California time), I gave a virtual talk entitled "Recursive Synthesis of Digital Circuits" to Department of Computer Science and Information Technology, Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Sciences, Zanjan, Iran. I enjoyed the experience and am delighted that my efforts were appreciated by attendees. [Tweet].
(7) "Revisiting Discourses of Love, Sex, and Desire in Modern Iran and Diaspora: A Symposium in a Series of Panels" (Organized by Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi, UNC Persian Studies Program): Today, I watched the first panel in the series, entitled "Love and Desire Across Borders in Modern Iran and in Diaspora," with the following three participants. Looking forward to the rest of the program.
- Leila Zonouzi (PhD student, UCSB), "Integration in Diaspora: A Study of Interracial Partnerships in Iranian Diasporic Literature"
- James Barry (Research Fellow, Deakin U., Australia): "Intermarriage and Ethnic Boundaries in Iran"
- Ehsan Sheikhalharam (PhD student, UNC Chapel Hill): "Crumbling of Spatial Boundaries and the Collapse of the Intimate Domain in Farhadi's Cinema"

2020/09/04 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The triple torments of black mothers in America Armed and heavily-armed criminal White-Supremacists are arrested with no incident, while unarmed black men are murdered during arrest Mine workers at the end of their shift: Bringing mining jobs back is nothing to brag about! (1) Images of the day: [Left] The triple torments of black mothers in America: Fear for their children's safety, having colored skin in the world's most-racist developed country, and womanhood in a resurrected patriarchal order. (Photo credit: National Geographic) [Center] A disturbing pattern: Heavily-armed criminal White-Supremacists are arrested with no incident, while unarmed blacks are murdered during arrest. [Right] Mine workers at the end of their shift: Bringing mining jobs back is nothing to brag about! (Photo: Keith Bernstein)
(2) "The Septembers of Shiraz" is now on Netflix: The 2015 film, directed by Wayne Blair and starring Adrien Brody and Salma Hayek, as the husband-and-wife protagonists, and Shohreh Aghdashloo, as their housekeeper, is similar in lack of depth and authenticity to "Not Without My Daughter," starring Sally Field, which also received poor reviews. The producers have taken liberties with the original source material, Dalia Sofer's highly-acclaimed 2007 debut novel of the same title. [New York Times review]
(3) The greatest political con job: "To watch a President wage a 4-year campaign of deliberate division, trolling, and stoked unrest, and then when that steady injection of national division boils over, to watch him blame the party not in power." ~ Seth MacFarlane
(4) Million LED Challenge: UC students, staff, and faculty can purchase LED light bulbs at nearly half the price of on-line competitors through this Web site, as part of University of California's carbon-Neutrality Initiative. California State University is also included on the Web site.
(5) Trump's scorched-earth policy: Having become convinced that he won't be re-elected, Trump has begun taking revenge on the American people for rejecting him, the way he takes revenge on whistle-blowers and everyone else who stands up or speaks back to him. He will try to take America down with him if he goes down. Listen to author Frank Schaeffer's musings in this 6-minute video.
(6) Effects of racism go deeper than most of us might think: "How systemic racism destroyed black innovation in the US: Violence and segregation undermined African-American inventors throughout the 20th century" is the title of a short report in the September 2020 issue of IEEE Spectrum magazine. The report argues that racism, far from affecting only those who are discriminated against, holds back our country's progress and prosperity by stifling innovation. By the way, the same kind of damage has been reported as a result of holding women back from participation and advancement. This chart shows variations in the number of patents awarded to black inventors in the context of the prevailing social conditions during the perio4 1870-1940.
(7) Final thought for the day: Trump has made it clear that he does not respect those who were captured on the battlefield (a swipe at John McCain). Now, there are reports that he also dismissed as losers those who died while fighting wars! New chant at the GOP Animal Farm: Bone spurs good, capture/death on the battlefield bad!

2020/09/03 (Thursday): Trying to make a dent in my backlog of book reviews by offering three reviews.
Cover image of Margaret Atwood's 'The Testaments' Cover image of Kamala Harris' 'The Truths We Hold' Cover image of Melinda Gates' 'The Moment of Lift' (1) Book review: Atwood, Margaret, The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid's Tale, unabridged audiobook, read by Derek Jacobi, Mae Whitman, Ann Dowd, Bryce Dallas Howard, Tantoo Cardinal, and the author, Random House Audio, 2019. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Not having read Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (1985), broadly viewed as foreseeing Donald Trump's vision for America, complete with internal divisions, border walls, and "Eyes" (secret police), I jumped at the opportunity to check this title out, when it unexpectedly became available at my local library. In this sequel, Atwood picks up 15 years after where she left her hugely successful book, which was adapted into a successful 2017-2021 Hulu series.
The setting of this sequel, like the original dystopian novel, is Gilead, a state run by the "Sons of Jacob" sect that has overthrown the US government, having killed the President and most of Congress. In Atwood's own words, addressed to her readers: "Everything you've ever asked me about Gilead and its inner workings is the inspiration for this book. Well, almost everything! The other inspiration is the world we've been living in."
The totalitarian state's quasi-Christian ideology is based on strict censorship and denial of individual rights, most notably to women, who are prohibited from reading, writing, owning property, and handling money. When assigned as a baby-producer for a commander, a woman's name changes to correspond to her owner, such as "Offred" belonging to Fred and "Ofkyle" being the property of Kyle.
Women of Gilead, deemed cunning and dangerous, are nothing more than sex objects who are routinely raped. The grim state of affairs in Gilead, which teaches women to be good wives and avoid tempting men, comes with a number of positive traits. Food waste and consumerism are frowned upon, and children take nature-appreciation classes.
It is in this setting of a totalitarian state subjugating fertile women to reverse a serious decline in population that the main characters (the compromised Aunt Lydia, a survivor who uses her knowledge of history and literature to keep a grip on power and to remain relevant, and two idealists, Agnes and Daisy) interact. Both men and women have suffered a decline in fertility but, of course, only women are blamed for the problem.
The young women are products of the new order, so their courage and friendly demeanor appear odd at first. But even though Agnes and Daisy do not remember the old order, their human nature drives them toward hope and freedom. Like all young people, Agnes and Daisy see holes in fairy tales that they are fed and dig deep to discover the truth. As Agnes puts it, "Once a story you've regarded as true has turned false, you begin suspecting all stories."
Read the print book if you must, but the audiobook, with multiple narrators acting out the experiences (testaments) of the main characers and what happened to them since the end of The Handmaid's Tale, and how current events relate to the original story, is a special treat.
(2) Book review: Harris, Kamala, The Truths We Hold: An American Journey, unabridged audiobook, read by the author, Penguin/Random-House Audio, 2019. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Senator Kamala Harris, one of 23 candidates to run for US presidency in the current cycle, rose to fame as California's Attorney General, paving the way for her successful run to occupy the US Senate seat vacated by Barbara Boxer in 2016. Harris, with her semi-progressive credentials, is one of the rising stars of the Democratic Party who can attract young, minority, and women voters, while also appealing to middle-of-the-road Democrats, some of whom have voted Republican in the past.
According to this, her second, book (the third one, if you also count her 2019 picture-book Superheroes Are Everywhere; her first book, Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor's Plan to Make Us Safer, was published in 2009), Harris's Indian cancer-researcher mother and Jamaican economist father met at Berkeley during the Civil-Rights movement. So, she is considered to be both an African-American and an Asian-American.
With her experience as a prosecutor and AG of a large, diverse state, Harris is uniquely positioned to contribute to the much-needed reforms in our policing methods and criminal-justice system. She devotes a good part of this book to her law-enforcement career, citing examples of cases she handled and contributions she made to making the voiceless heard. Her biggest accomplishment in this regard was winning a major settlement for working families during the foreclosure crisis.
Harris believes that we should live our common truth, focusing on our shared struggles, shared purpose, and shared values, sustaining this great nation through shared effort. This is in direct contrast to those who try to convince us that our differences are much greater than our commonalities.
Now that Harris is a VP candidate, becoming familiar with her background, professional experience, and life philosophy, described in this book, is a must for every voter. The book is also an uplifting read for young Americans, particularly women and men of color. Harris's special brand of feminism is likely to propel her to new heights, in a country where misogyny and patriarchy not only persist but are strengthening.
(3) Book review: Gates, Melinda, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Macmillan Audio, 2019.
[My 4-star review of this title on GoodReads]
In a July 2020 Foreign Affairs article, entitled "The Pandemic's Toll on Women," Gates writes: "History teaches that disease outbreaks—from AIDS to Zika to Ebola—play out with a certain grim predictability. As they infect societies, they expose and exploit existing forces of marginalization, seeking out fault lines of gender, race, caste, and class."
In this book, Melinda Gates describes her philanthropic philosophy, which has the empowerment of women as a main pillar. Gates has made it clear in her previous writings, and stresses the fact further in this book, that access to contraception saves lives, helps end poverty, and empowers women by allowing them to time and space their pregnancies. The result is more-productive women and happier, healthier, more-accomplished children. To sell this idea to skeptics, she characterizes it as capitalism, not feminism, at work. The position above has not endeared Gates, a Catholic, to the Vatican, but she sees no contradiction in being a devout Catholic and supporting women's right to choose.
After years of progress in bringing down the rates of teen and unintended pregnancies in the US, we face a danger of regression through the dismantling of family-planning and reproductive-health programs. Not only are policies of the US government doing long-term damage to the health of mothers and children in the US, they are contributing to even more serious problems internationally, by withholding aid to NGOs that provide abortion services or referrals in other countries.
Gates stays away from politics and advocacy of specific policies, which, depending on your point of view, is a shame or a wise choice. It is a shame, because the immense power of her foundation could be used to mobilize women, and Americans more generally, to seek change. It is a wise choice, because a charitable foundation tainted by politics may be less-effective in the US and in areas of the world where autocracy and patriarchy are dominant.
This book by one of the most-powerful women of our time is a must-read for everyone. The wealth of data Gates uses in support of her arguments is eye-opening and enriching, as are accounts of her interactions with authorities and philanthropists worldwide.

2020/09/02 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Every task becomes easy with the right viewpoint! Swings: The latest 2020 model! Cartoon: Your username or password is incorrect!
Congressional candidate who prefers murderer Kyle Rittenhouse to environmental activist Greta Thunberg Meme about claims that Jesus statues will come down next! Iranians claim that the country has a 2500-year-old civilization: It would be more accurate to say that we were civilized 2500 years ago! (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Every task becomes easy with the right viewpoint! [Top center] Swings: The latest 2020 model! [Top right] Your username or password is incorrect! [Bottom left] Idiot running to enter the swamp: This woman, who prefers murderer Kyle Rittenhouse to environmental activist Greta Thunberg may end up in Congress in a couple of months. Scary! [Bottom center] Jesus is the only colored activist liked by right-wing extremists: That's because they don't realize he was colored! [Bottom right] Iranians boast about having a 2500-year-old civilization: It would be more accurate to say that we were civilized 2500 years ago!
(2) Sarah Huckabee Sanders writes a book: Not a tell-all, because she is still a loyal Trump supporter. But she does reveal his misogyny. Now, coming from an admirer, that's something! [Image]
(3) Young UCSB faculty member honored: Political Science Assistant Professor Leah Stokes has been chosen to receive the prestigious Plous Award, for her exceptional achievements in research, teaching, and service. Stokes is the author of the acclaimed 2020 Oxford University book, Short Circuiting Policy: Interest Groups and the Battle Over Clean Energy and Climate Policy in the American States, which examines the role played by utilities in promoting climate denial and opposing clean-energy laws.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Facebook and Twitter remove Russian-troll accounts masquerading as a left-wing news group.
- What if Fox News covered Trump the way it covered Obama? No need to guess. Here's what you'd hear!
- UCSB's fall reopening plans are scaled back after a rise in COVID-19 infections among students.
- Ventura County completes the construction of a specializing in Autism Spectrum Disorder.
- Amnesty International reports torture and sexual abuse of political prisoners in Iran.
- Iranian regional music: A wonderful song with Guilaki lyrics from the Caspian-Sea region.
(5) Yet another tell-all book about the Trump family: This one by Melania's former best-friend and advisor Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, who was unceremoniously dumped after it was disclosed that she had made millions personally from producing Trump's inaugural celebrations. I am not sure I want to read this one, so I took a look at some excerpts. Among the book's revelations is a characterization of Melania Trump as cold and cruel, just like her husband. There are also tidbits about Melania's relationship with the adult children of her husband, particularly "Princess" Ivanka.
(6) Quote of the day: "Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent disinclination to do so." ~ Douglas Adams, English humorist and sci-fi novelist (1952-2001)
(7) Final thought for the day: Remember that the same Russian hackers who swung the 2016 election are capable of infusing a false sense of security in you that Democrats have an insurmountable lead in 2020. Don't believe them. Vote and encourage others to vote!

2020/09/01 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of Vanity Fair's September 2020 issue Portrait of Nastin Sotoudeh, Iranian lawyer and human-rights activist Newsweek magazine cover: Issue of September 04, 2020
Cover image of John Bolton's 'The Room Where It Happened' This incredible spiral staircase was carved from a single tree in 1851 and is located in the Lednice Castle in the Czech Republic How to do quick measurements of length with your hands (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Cover image of Vanity Fair's September 2020 issue: Edited by best-selling author Ta-Nehisi Coates, the special issue bears the theme "The Great Fire." [Top center] Fighting for rights and justice: Imprisoned Iranian lawyer and human-rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh, who is continuing her hunger strike, is reportedly in poor health. [Top right] Newsweek magazine cover (Issue of September 04, 2020): Posing a question about undecided voters. [Bottom left] Bolton, John, The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir, Simon & Schuster, 2020 (my 4-star review on GoodReads). [Bottom center] This incredible spiral staircase was carved from a single tree in 1851 and is located in the Lednice Castle in the Czech Republic. [Bottom right] How to do quick measurements of length: Numbers are in centimeters. In some sources, the first number is listed as 25, but my own measurement indicates that 20 is a better approximation.
(2) Nimrata Randhawa thinks that America isn't a racist country: Yet, she wouldn't be where she is today, had she not assumed the name Nikki Haley.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- "Racial Violence and the Global Protests Against It": Webinar in Persian, by Professor Nayereh Tohidi.
- The alarming increase in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths among children. [Charts]
- Meme of the day: America's homegrown ISIS-like militants seeking a religious state. [Image]
- The 2nd Amendment gives you the right to fight government tyranny, not a license to kill political opponents!
- The $2000 smartphone is here: Samsung goes to the extreme in the war of features and capabilities.
- A feast for the eyes and the ears: Houser plays music from "The Godfather." [4-minute video]
(4) [So much is happening in the battle against authoritarianism and racial injustice that women's rights internationally and in the US seem to be taking the back seat. Let's not drop one fight to engage in another!]
Iranian women's #MeToo message: No means no, and nothing in woman's demeanor or clothing should be viewed as a license or invitation to rape her. [4-minute video]
(5) Jared Kushner has come out of his White House dungeon: He has begun making statements and giving interviews, showing how ignorant and out-of-touch he is. In his latest faux pas, Kushner characterized NBA players as lucky rich people who can afford to take a night off from work with little financial consequences.
(6) Videos taken during my beach walk this afternoon: The first one is a time-lapse video of a 20-minute northward walk from Goleta's Coal Oil Point beach. The second video shows a large population of snowy plovers (endangered bird species) on the Coal Oil Point nature preserve. The preserve, which is off limits to human visitors, is beyond the ropes that can be seen in the video. The birds in my video are actually outside the protected area, so there are likely larger populations further inland.

2020/08/31 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Donald Trump's plans for his second term: In his own words, uttered on August 27, 2020 Let us thank Scotland for giving us a word we have sought for more than four years: Cockwomble Humorous full-page newspaper ad: Law firm catering to soon-to-be-ex-presidents facing criminal charges, whose lawyers are in jail
T-shirts being marketed to fashionable and classy MAGA folk: Sample 1 Cartoon: 'Look at how terrible America is right now! Vote for four more years of it!' T-shirts being marketed to fashionable and classy MAGA folk: Sample 2 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Donald Trump's plans for his second term: In his own words, uttered on August 27, 2020. [Top center] Let us thank Scotland for giving us a word we have sought for more than four years: Cockwomble. [Top right] Humorous full-page newspaper ad: Law firm catering to soon-to-be-ex-presidents facing criminal charges, whose lawyers are in jail. [Bottom left & right] T-shirts being marketed to fashionable and classy MAGA folk! [Bottom center] Cartoon of the day: So, basically, the key takeaway from the RNC is: "Look at how terrible America is right now! Vote for four more years of it!"
(2) Los Angeles Times op-ed sees Kamala Harris as potentially becoming our country's second black and first woman president: Donald Trump thinks that his daughter Ivanka is more qualified for the latter honor!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The Borowitz Report (humor): White House rally a huge success, says the coronavirus.
- To right-wingers, killing in response to inflicting property damage is okay, but not the other way around!
- Data vs. the pandemic: Jobs and salaries of data scientists show immunity to COVID-19.
- The decommissioning of Oil Platform Holly off the coast of Goleta has stalled due to the pandemic.
- Self-sailing boats out-perform self-driving cars: Not a surprise, given their more-predicatable environment.
- Elon Musk demonstrates Neuralink's coin-size wireless brain-computer interface device on live pigs.
- Azeri music: Young boy joyfully displays his tombak-playing and dancing talents. [4-minute video]
- Music history: Years of research has brought this 3400-year-old Persian harp back to life. [6-minute video]
(4) Tech talks of general interest: I will offer the following two Zoom talks in Persian to a group of my college classmates on Tuesdays September 15 and 22, 2020, 10:00-11:30 AM PDT (9:30 PM Iran time). These talks are based on lectures from a puzzle-based freshman seminar that I teach at UCSB every spring.
- Recommender Systems: How Machines Can Discover Your Thoughts and Preferences [Zoom link, TBA]
- Building 3D Models from 2D Images, and Vice Versa: From Puzzles to Real Applications [Zoom link, TBA]
(5) We need comedians to tell us like it is: John Oliver's review of the Republican Convention, events in Kenosha, and Jared Kushner's clueless reaction to NBA players suspending playoff games is pure brilliance. It's filled with insightful observations, important video clips (including one of Jacob Blake's sister speaking), and a conclusion that Biden's election won't solve all of these deep-rooted problems, but will only be a start.
(6) Selective freedom: A Wisconsin high school refuses to require face-masks to save students' lives but prohibits girls from wearing tops with spaghetti straps which "distract boys"! Two girls fought back and won!

2020/08/29 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Black kids wearing four T-shirts, with the words 'Please Don't Kill Us' My daughter's pie creations: In progress and all done Plans for UCSB's new classroon building in central campus (1) Images of the day: [Left] Meme of the day: Please Don't Kill Us! [Center] My daughter's pie creations: In progress and all done. [Right] Construction of UCSB's new classroom building to begin soon: We've had a chronic shortage of classroom space on campus, which has made scheduling of classes very difficult and acquiring space for special meetings, such as out-of-class exams and make-up/review sessions, nearly impossible. Classroom audio-visual equipment have also been lacking in quality. The new 3-part building, to be erected at a central location between the Powell Library and Psychology Complex, will go a long way toward improving the situation. (Construction-site photos, taken this afternoon.)
(2) Laughable: The guy most of whose close associates and family members are in jail, under indictment, or being investigated, and he himself would be too were he not a sitting president, talks about law & order!
(3) Trump 21.6M, Biden 24.6M (TV audience for the candidates' acceptance speeches): Normally, I don't care about TV ratings, but citing the lower ratings is fair game for a man who always mocks other people's ratings.
P.S. (humor): The difference is due to the 3M illegal aliens who gave Hillary Clinton her edge in popular vote!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- In an unprecedented show of force aimed at Moscow, six B-52 bombers fly over all 30 NATO nations.
- Trump ads trying to scare people from lack of safety in Biden's America use footage from Trump's America!
- Meghan McCain to Ivanka Trump: Your father's Twitter use isn't a "communication style"; it's "cruelty"!
- Sending submarines to Saturn's moon Titan in a decade or two is being explored by scientists.
- Berkeley and Merced plan to open classes this week as the first two University of California campuses.
- Pakistani-American astrophysicist Nergis Mavalvala appointed Dean of Science at MIT.
(5) Islamic Republic of Iran "justice": Saba Kord Afshari gets a prison term of 15-24 years, for "promoting prostitution" because of removing her headscarf during protest marches. Father of Romina Ashrafi gets 9 years for beheading his 13-year-old daughter. [Persian tweet]
(6) Iranian-Canadian software engineer Behdad Esfahbod tells of his detention and interrogation in Iran earlier this year: He was coerced by the intelligence arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps to spy for Iran.
(7) Free on-line beginning-English lessons: ESL teacher Richard Campbell has a YouTube channel on which he posts videos (~15-20 min each) teaching English as a second language at an elementary level. I have looked at a few of the videos and found them to be reasonable. Here are direct links to the first 10 lessons, plus samples of other lessons. Campbell began posting these lessons 2-3 years ago and is now in the process of updating and expanding them (the first few lessons are already updated for 2020 and the remainder will be updated in due course). Interested parties can subscribe to Campbell's YouTube channel to keep informed.
[Lesson 1] [Lesson 2] [Lesson 3] [Lesson 4] [Lesson 5] [Lesson 6] [Lesson 7] [Lesson 8] [Lesson 9] [Lesson 10] [Lesson 26] [Lesson 50] [Lesson 95] [Lesson 103]

2020/08/28 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Computer networking history: An ALOHAnet terminal and its operator Indian woman seeks divorce, because her husband helps too much with housework and does not fight with her Poster for the documentary film 'Shirin Ebadi: Until We Are Free'
Tamir rice, 12, was killed while wielding a fake gun; Kyle Rittenhouse strolled with an assault rifle, with no one stopping him Cartoon about dual standards in treating blacks and whites Melania Trump wearing an outfit that resembles Fidel Castro's (1) Images of the day: [Top left] ALOHAnet began the wireless networking revolution (see the next item below). [Top center] A funny real incident: Indian woman seeks divorce, because her husband helps too much with housework and does not fight with her, apparently messing with everything she has learned about marital relationships! (Source: Gulf Times, August 22, 2020) [Top right] "Shirin Ebadi: Until We Are Free": This is the title of a documentary by Dawn Gifford Engle, to be featured at the upcoming Venice International Film Festival. [Bottom row] Two viral memes and a cartoon: Try to imagine Michelle Obama wearing that outfit!
(2) Computer networking history: Early networked computers linked together via telephone lines on a point-to-point basis. In 1968, University of Hawaii researchers began to investigate if radio communication could be used to link multiple computers at once. The resulting protocol of the Additive Links On-line Hawaii Area network (ALOHAnet) forms the basis of modern wireless communication systems that send packets over shared channels. The ALOHAnet protocol was based on detecting transmission collisions, with the colliding units abandoning their attempts and retransmitting after random delays, with small probability of further collisions.
(3) The 2020 Virtual March on Washington, with the theme "Get Your Knee off our Necks," is being held today on the 57th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Unprecedented solidarity: NBA playoffs shut down in protest over yet another racial killing by the police.
- Japanese Prime-Minister Shinzo Abe will resign, citing health reasons.
- Fire at University of Delaware's Jewish Center on August 25, 2020, ruled arson.
- Trump 41, Biden 0: Number of mentions of the opponent by name in each candidate's convention speech.
- Start-up formed by former SpaceX and Tesla employees aims to build self-flying planes.
- Elon Musk will introduce his Neuralink company and its brain-computer interface technology today.
(5) My forthcoming virtual talk (in Persian) at Department of Computer Science and Information Technology, Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Sciences, Zanjan, Iran: "Recursive Synthesis of Digital Circuits" (Saturday, September 5, 2020, 10:00 AM Iran time; 2020/09/04, 10:30 PM PDT; final connection link TBA)
(6) A carnival of disinformation thankfully comes to an end: "Americans who tuned in to this week's Republican National Convention were treated to a slickly produced, four-day dispatch from an alternate reality—one in which the president has defeated the pandemic, healed America's racial wounds, and ushered in a booming economy. In this carnival of propaganda, Donald Trump was presented not just as a great president, but as a quasi-messianic figure who was single-handedly preventing the nation's slide into anarchy."
(7) Toxic masculinity, on full display in the 2020 US election, has turned Kamala Harris into a footnote: What a shame, because our problems call for more femininity!

2020/08/26 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Women's Equality Day! Time magazine cover: Issue of August 31, 2020 Gifts received from SUTA's Seattle Chapter in appreciation of my July 28 remote lecture to its members
Underage young man carrying a military-grade assault rifle Cartoon: Our caring First Couple Trump supporter, with 'New Aryan Empire' tattooed on his back (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Happy Women's Equality Day: One hundread years ago, on August 26, 1920, the US Congress officially adopted the 19th Amendment to our Constitution, establishing women's right to vote. [Top center] Time magazine cover: Issue of August 31, 2020. [Top right] Gifts I received yesterday: An interesting book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and an appreciation plaque were sent by Sharif University of Technology's Seattle Chapter because of a remote lecture I presented to its members on July 28. Thank you! [Bottom left] Police shot a black man seven times in the back ... SEVEN TIMES! ... IN THE BACK! Meanwhile, this boy, who can't possibly own his military-grade assault rifle legally, roamed the streets for hours under the watchful eyes of the police. The boy later killed two peaceful protesters and maimed several others, before driving himself away from the area undisturbed. Double-standards doesn't even begin to describe the travesty! [Bottom center & right] Our caring First Couple and one of their supporters!
(2) "Persian Language Pedagogy: Challenges, Obstacles, and Innovative Responses": This is the title of an interesting UNC virtual panel discussion to be held on Thursday, October 15, 2020, 8:00-10:00 AM PDT.
(3) How does contact-tracing work? If someone tests positive for COVID-19 and mentions you as a person s/he has been in contact with, you may get a call from a contact-tracer asking questions and suggesting self-isolation. As usual, criminals have stepped in to defraud people, while posing as contact-tracers. Be careful!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hurricane Laura upgraded to category 4: Hurricane Center warns of "unsurvivable" storm surge.
- The Borowitz Report (humorous news headline): Hundereds of RNC attendees test positive for delusion.
- My cheese-crackers-fruit plate from this morning. [Photo]
- New style of musical self-flagellation for Muharram mourning rituals in Iran!
- Persian music: An old song entitled "Iran Kojaast" ("Where's Iran"), based on lyrics from Mirzadeh Eshghi.
(5) Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers on the Republican Convention: They're spewing this fear, but we're the ones being killed! We keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back.
(6) Math puzzles from the August 2011 issue of Communications of the ACM (reposting from 2011/08/26): Show that any given number n divides: (a) Some non-zero decimal number whose digits are only 0s and 1s; (b) Some Fibonacci number. For example, 7 divides 1001 and it also divides 21, the 8th Fibonacci number. As a second example, 9 divides 111,111,111 and it also divides 144, the 12th Fibonacci number.
(7) Quote of the day: "This God-damn tweet and the lying. Oh, my God, I'm talking too freely, but you know, the change of stories, the lack of preparation, the lying, the—holy shit!" ~ Maryanne Trump Barry, former federal judge and Donald Trump's sister, talking about him

2020/08/25 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Only one of these women is a natural-born US citizen (Kamala Harris and three Trump family members) A view of California fires from the air: Almost pretty from a distance, but devastating up close! Presidents and wives deplaning: One of these photos is not like the others, one of these photos just doesn't belong! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Only one of these women is a natural-born US citizen. [Center] A view of California fires from the air: Almost pretty from a distance, but devastating up close! [Right] Presidents and wives deplaning: One of these photos is not like the others, one of these photos just doesn't belong!
(2) Another "family values" evangelical exposed: Jerry Falwell Jr. was fired from his job as President of Liberty University, but he denies that he has been sidelined. The reasons for his troubles read like a bad soap opera, involving marital infidelity, sex scandals, financial intrigues, and other Godly activities!
(3) Alternative facts are on full display at the RNC: Trump is a caring individual, a champion of equality and racial justice, working on behalf of all Americans, and bent on saving our suburbs from lawless protesters!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Reports of Kim Jong-un being in a coma resurface: His younger sister faked his recent appearances.
- UC Santa Cruz evacuates 1200 staff and students living on campus due to encroaching wildfires.
- Texas A&M researchers develop a technique for using a 3D-printer to build greener buildings from soil.
- Beethoven's "Fur Elise," piano duet in the style of jazz. [Another version] [Jazzy "Symphony No. 5"]
(5) Benford's Law: The highly-recommended Episode 4 of the Netflix documentary "Connected" is devoted to the amazing Benford's Law, which is also described nicely by Wikipedia. The science-documentary's coverage includes the Law's applicability not just to fraud detection in financial data, but also the understanding of many natural phenomena, such as the height of volcanoes, inter-galactic distances, and so on.
(6) On technical problems affecting on-line instruction: There are legitimate concerns about the effectiveness of on-line instruction in terms of engaging the students, but technical glitches and the attendant disruptions do not constitute a significant problem. Yes, Zoom, like all other systems, can fail from time to time, but the level of disruption is far less than if we had in-person instruction. Here are some examples of my in-person classes being disrupted over the years: Fire alarm (real/false), evacuation due to hazardous materials leaking in nearby labs, power outage, strikers/marchers being too loud, and audio-visual classroom equipment not working.
(7) Persian panoramic travelog: Russian physician Pavel Yakovlevich Piasetsky depicted the scenes he encourtered during a trip from Anzali Port (at the west end of the Caspian Sea coast) to Tehran on a continuous roll of paper, which upon completion in 1895 became known as Panorama of Persia. According to Wikipedia, the 60-meter roll is now in the possession Russia's State Hermitage Museum.
(8) Are we the only intelligent life form in our ginormous universe, spanning 93 billion light-years across? Probably not, but no one knows the answer beyond a statistical argument that puts the probability of us being the only intelligent life form in our universe very close to zero.
(9) Science detective work: One infected person attending a Feb. 2020 Boston meeting of Biogen caused 100s of infections worldwide (super-spreader event). We know this due to a simple error in the virus's genetic code, the switching of two letters in the 30,000-character code, which made the virus distinct and thus traceable.

2020/08/24 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for the book 'It Was All a Big Lie' Collaboration: My daughter's cheese/deli tray and my fruit plate Cover image for the audio course 'The Skeptic's Guide to American History' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Book introduction: It's not that Trump has destroyed the Republican Party. He is actually a fitting representative of the modern GOP that has repeatedly violated its supposed bedrock principles. [Center] Collaboration: My daughter's cheese/deli tray and my fruit plate. [Right] Cover image for the audio course The Skeptic's Guide to American History (see the last item below).
(2) Outsmarting the king of the jungle: Sometimes a simple idea produces amazing results. In an experiment, cows with eyes painted on their rears became totally immune to lion attacks.
(3) The Russian hackers of the 2016 US elections never left: They are still very much active, trying to influence the 2020 elections. This "60 Minutes" investigative report is bone-chilling. [14-minute video]
(4) The egotist in the WH hasn't said much, if anything, about two developing climate-related disasters in our country: Fires in the west and the 1-2 punch of simultaneously-arriving tropical systems in the south.
(5) Kellyanne and George Conway are either trying to mend their marriage or need time to focus on a divorce settlement: will leave her job of defending Trump at the end of August and George is stepping away from the Lincoln Project, a Republican anti-Trump group that is trying to promote Joe Biden.
(6) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- California fires keep multiplying and spreading. [Map]
- Six years ago, Joe Klein recognized that race remained an open wound, but no one was listening.
- Persian dance: Improvisations by Banafsheh Amiri of Miniature Dance Academy.
- Music and scenes from Iran's Caspian-Sea region: Rasht Grand Bazaar on a rainy day. [3-minute video]
(7) Course review: Stoler, Professor Mark A., "The Skeptic's Guide to American History," 24 lectures (on 12 CDs, with an accompanying booklet) in the "Great Courses" series, 2012.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
What we are fed as "American History," be it in high-school courses, college programs, and in much of the media is an idealized version of real events. History is full of myths, but American history has an even greater share of false narratives and half-truths. This course tackles such myths about American history, as well as myths about history and its study in general, such as the belief that history repeats itself.
The pitfalls of projecting contemporary values onto the past, the changing meanings of key words over time, why people/events in history are lost and then rediscovered, and differences between history and memory are also discussed.
A main take-away message is that history is a dynamic field that changes with the questions each new generation asks of it. For example, women's history did not exist a century ago, because no one was asking questions about it.
A second take-away is that politicians have an outsize role in the historical narrative, with much less weight given to civic leaders, moralists, industrialists, and educators; this deficit needs to be corrected.
A third take-away is that our tunnel vision tends to attach much greater weight to recent events and experiences. Statements such as "the computer is the most important technological innovation of all time" is questionable, because railroad, electricity, flight, and many other innovations have arguably had comparable influences. As another example, we tend to think that anti-war activism began with the Vietnam War, but the Civil War was supported by only 1/3 of all Americans (this is an estimate, because there were no polls then). These latter points are the focus of the final lecture.
The following listing of lecture titles provides a good synopsis of the course's contents.
1. Religious Toleration in Colonial America?   2. Neither American no Revolutionary?   3. The Constitution Did Not Create a Democracy   4. Washington—Failures and Real Accomplishments   5. Confusions about Jefferson and Hamilton   6. Andrew Jackson—An Odd Symbol of Democracy   7. The Second Great Awakening: Enduring Impacts   8. Did Slavery Really Cause the Civil War?   9. The Civil War's actual turning points   10. The Myth of Laissez-Faire   11. Misconceptions about the Original Populists   12. Labor in America—A Strange History   13. Myths about American Isolation and Empire   14. Early Progressives Were Not Liberals   15. Woodrow Wilson and the Rating of Presidents   16. The Roaring Twenties Reconsidered   17. Hoover and the Great Depression Revisited   18. What Did Roosevelt's New Deal Really Do?   19. World War II Misconceptions and Myths   20. Was the Cold War Inevitable?   21. The Real Blunders of the Vietnam War   22. Myths about American Wars   23. Who Matters in American History?   24. History Did Not Begin with Us  
And here is the Web site with an overall introduction and more details on each lecture, including a synopsis that becomes visible by hovering your mouse over the lecture title.

2020/08/23 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of IEEE Spectrum magazine, issue of August 2020 The world's most powerful mobile crane was built in 2014 to help repair the 169-meter-tall Washington Monument For the price of a luxury car (around $75K), you can have a very smart, very capable, very yellow robot dog
Poster: The Collective for Black Iranians Cartoon: Mailing a package at the post office Cartoon: Seeker going to see the wise man (1) Images of the day: [Top left] IEEE Spectrum magazines August 2020 issue carries a special feature about how AI can help forestry. [Top center] Interesting fact: The world's most powerful mobile crane, built in 2014, has a lift height of 188 meters and a capacity of 1200 metric tons (image from IEEE Spectrum magazine, issue of August 2020). [Top right] The choice is yours: For the price of a luxury car (around $75K), you can have a very smart, very capable, very yellow robot dog (image from IEEE Spectrum magazine, issue of August 2020). [Bottom left] The Collective for Black Iranians: An organization founded to bring the previously unheard voices and unseen faces of Black and Afro-Iranians into the consciousness of Iranians within the diaspora. [Bottom center] At the post office: "Does this parcel contain anything liquid, fragile, perishable, or potentially hazardous to the President's re-election chances?" [Bottom right] Seeker going to see the wise man.
(2) Compounded ignorance (jahl-e morakkab, in Persian): There are some kinds of ignorance so outrageous that there is a Persian expression to describe them. Compounded ignorance is so deep-seated and so zealously protected that there is just no way to get through to or educate the subject. This video clip shows Pakistanis uprooting trees recently planted to convert a stretch of baren land into a forest. The reason? Their imam told them that if god wanted that stretch of land to have trees, he would have created it with trees already in place! I bet that citizens of other countries are posting videos of certain groups in the US with similar commentaries!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Republicans continue to create false narratives to distract voters from their utter failure in governing.
- Talk show host Larry King, 86, loses two adult children within weeks of each other: Andy, 65, and Chaia, 51.
- Breath-taking glass-floor platform in China for viewing the surrounding nature and a musical waterfall.
- Here are several more amazing nature-viewing platforms in China.
(4) Another upcoming virtual talk of mine: This one is at the invitation of Department of Computer Science and Information Technology, Institute for Advanced Studies in Basic Sciences, Zanjan, Iran. The talk, entitled "Recursive Synthesis of Digital Circuits," will be on Friday, September 04, 2020, 10:30 PM PDT (Saturday, Shahrivar 15, 1399, 10:00 AM Iran time).
(5) This morning, Trump tweeted: "Happy Sunday! We want GOD!" After he was done with tweeting, he headed to his golf club to play a few rounds. Yes, that's what God-loving Christians do on Sunday mornings!
(6) The conspiracy-theorist POTUS: When asked about QAnon, Trump said he didn't know much about the group (shades of David Duke in 2016), but that he appreciated their support. Meanwhile, FBI deems QAnon a terrorist group. Shouldn't our President try to learn more about the group before basking in their support?

2020/08/22 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover of Ervand Abrahamian's 'The Coup': English Cover of Ervand Abrahamian's 'The Coup': Persian Cover image for Robert Galbraith's 'The Cuckoo's Calling' (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] Book introduction: Ervand Abrahamaian's 2013 book, The Coup: 1953, the CIA, and the Roots of Modern U.S.-Iran Relations, is generally viewed as the definitive account of the joint MI6-CIA coup that reinstated the Shah to power, overthrowing PM Mohammad Mosaddegh's popular government that was bent on nationalizing Iran's oil resources and facilities. Persian translations of this and several other books by Abrahamian on Iran's recent history are available. [Right] Cover image of The Cuckoo's Calling, a novel by Robert Galbraith (see the last item below).
(2) Ann Syrdal dead of cancer at 74: She was a psychologist and AT&T computer science researcher who helped give computers female voices such as those used for Siri and Alexa.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Northern California battles extensive wildfires, while facing a severe shortage of firefighters.
- Two tropical systems are approaching the US, with potential simultaneous landfall on the Gulf Coast. [Map]
- Partying students throw a monkey wrench into carefully laid-out college re-opening plans.
- Archaeology: Exploring the tunnels and passageways under the Persepolis palace in Iran.
(4) Book review: Galbraith, Robert (pen name for J. K. Rowling), The Cuckoo's Calling, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Robert Glenister, Mulholland Books, 2014. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is the debut novel in the Cormoran Strike crime-mystery series, written by J. K. Rowling under the pen name Robert Galbraith. I had previously read and reviewed the 2015 third title in the series, Career of Evil.
Because I don't read much fiction, it is rare that I encounter books with recurring characters. I found this appealing, as familiar characters facilitate understanding and heighten enjoyment.
Newly homeless due to being essentially kicked out by his long-time, well-to-do, gorgeous girlfriend, and struggling financially in his private-detective business, Cormoran Strike, who lost a leg during a stint in Afghanistan, gets lucky within a single day, when a highly capable temp secretary, Robin Ellacott, reports to work for him and he lands a lucrative murder investigation contract from a rich attorney obsessed with the death, ruled a suicide, of his supermodel sister (by adoption).
The writing is quite absorbing. The affection and sexual tension between the two main characters begins here and was quite evident in the third title of the series cited earlier. Ellacott is engaged, but seems to want to do something exciting and meaningful, even if it does not pay as well as a position in human resources, a choice her fiancee scoffs at. Strike, just freed from a tumultuous relationship, is wary of letting his feelings mar the business partnership. He thinks to himself that, in terms of looks, Ellacott is no match for his ex, but he does admire her initiative, wit, and discretion.
The story goes through twists and turns typical of crime-mysteries, as it introduces a host of characters who could have potentially benefited from the supermodel's death or who might have helpful information on her state of mind. There are also the standard decoys of crime-mysteries, but the story is well-constructed, with realistic and richly-developed characters. There's a bit too much cussing for my taste, but, I guess, that goes with the realism territory.

2020/08/21 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Newest form of Muharram mourning ceremonies in Iran: Take-out food and loan raffle! UCSB summer music concert Part of the poster for the documentary film 'Coup 53' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Newest form of Muharram mourning ceremonies in Iran: The ad boasts a large, open-air facility, with free take-out food and nightly raffle of a 2-million-toman loan! You know you won't find a better deal, so come on in! [Center] UCSB Summer Music Festival 2020 (see the next-to-the-last item below). [Right] Review of the film "Coup 53" (see the last item below).
(2) Memories: Three years ago today, my daughter and I were in the Salem area of Oregon to watch a historic solar eclipse that spanned the entire length of the Continental US. A side benefit of the trip was a visit to Oregon State University, where I earned my master's degree 50 years ago (August 1970). [Photos]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Chinese-made COVID-19 vaccine enters phase-III clinical trials in UAE and Peru.
- Another opponent/rival of Putin falls ill is in critical condition, with poisoning suspected.
- Susan B. Anthony Museum declines Trump's pardon (of her defiant act of voting illegally) on her behalf.
- Big trees lost to fire at the Big Basin Redwoods State Park are irreplaceable.
- Repost: Regretting vs. apologizing. Or, nobody respects pieces of ass (I mean women) more than Trump.
- Doctor and women's-rights activist Riham Yaqoob assassinated in Basra, Iraq.
- College soccer season has been postponed from fall 2020 to spring 2021.
- Santa Barbara continues to have air-quality problems from SoCal fires, none of which is in SB County.
(4) Some highlights from UCSB's Summer Music Festival 2020, on YouTube:
- Sat. 8/22, 01:15 PM: Percussionist/vocalist/producer/educator Miguel "Miguelito" Leon performs.
- Sat. 8/22, 02:30 PM: Marc Evanstein presents compositions featuring the computer as a creative partner.
- Sat. 8/22, 05:00 PM: LA-based new-music piano duo HOCKET shares excerpts from its new project.
- Sun. 8/23, 12:00 PM: Wesley Arai presents arrangements of well-known classical and popular music.
- Sun. 8/23, 01:15 PM: Concert/discussion on steelpan (or steel drums), popular in Trinidad and Tobago.
- Sun. 8/23, 02:30 PM: Gamelan singer Surya performs Indonesian songs with UCSB Gamelan Ensemble.
(5) "Coup 53" (film review): I rarely write film reviews, but I was compelled to write about this documentary film because of its sensitive subject (being released on August 19, 2020, the 67th anniversary of the MI6/CIA-led coup that overthrew the government of Iran's PM Mohammad Mosaddegh and reinstated the Shah to power) and the hoopla surrounding its release. After decades of denial, the role played by MI6 and CIA in removing Mosaddegh and putting him on trial has been in the open for a couple of decades, particularly since 2013, when CIA declassified many secret documents.
The film has some positive elements, among which I should mention the use of new archival material and on-camera interviews with some of the Brits and Americans involved in the planning and execution of the coup. The role played by Ashraf Pahlavi, the Shah's twin sister, in the process was also news to me.
Overall, however, I was underwhelmed with the film's production aspects. There is too much talking and showing images of documents, instead of cinematically more-interesting historical footage. The presence of the co-writer/producer/director Taghi Amirani in much of the film, a la Michael Moore documentaries, is also detrimental to the viewing experience. Finally, there is much reference to the British "End of Empire" book/TV-series, hardly a source of objective information.
The film's on-line release was less than smooth. I encountered difficulties watching the film, which I had pre-ordered, on my iPad and, after repeated trials without success, had to switch to my laptop, where it worked, but with fits and stops.

2020/08/20 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Mehraveh Khandan, the daughter of political prisoner Nasrin Sotoudeh and Reza Khandan, has been attested by Iran's security forces Trump's 2007 fan-letter to Putin The Democratic campaign bus begins its historic journey with the end of DNC
Selected verses from a poem by Nader Naderpour, with English translation by Behrooz Parhami (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Mehraveh Khandan, the daughter of Nasrin Sotoudeh (a political prisoner, now on hunger strike) and Reza Khandan, has been attested by Iran's security forces. Hostage-taking and applying pressure on family members have become standard tools for Iran's brutal regime. [Top center] Released by the US Senate Intelligence Committee: Trump's old fan mail to Putin, long before he became President. "As you probably have heards, I am a big fan of yours! Take care of yourself." [Top right] With the end of its national convention, held virtually over four days, the Democratic Party started its historic journey to bring the politics of empathy, hope, and inclusion to save our country from a government of cruelty, grievance, and division. [Bottom] Persian poetry: Selected verses from a poem by Nader Naderpour, translated into English at the request of my dear friend Koorosh Yazdani, who composed and performed a song based on it and wanted to use English subtitles in his music video. My translation includes only the verses that Koorosh used in his song. I have maintained the poem's Persian rhyming scheme (javaani; nahaani; zabaani; khazaani; jahaani) using the rhyming English endings (youth; sleuth; tooth; truth; booth).
(2) Big Brother at UCSB: We have just received notification that as part of the process of implementing virtual parking permits, cameras will be installed on campus to scan and read license-plate numbers.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The pressure is on Trump to produce a national convention that matches the Democrats' in scope & impact.
- The criminal administration: One more former member of Trump's inner circle charged with fraud.
- Forbes reports that several business partners of Donald Trump were allegedly involved in serious crimes.
- Kurdish music and dance. [Video 1] [Video 2]
(4) In a Fox News interview, Ted Cruz accidentally advanced an excellent idea: "If these guys win, we're gonna wake up in January with Elizabeth Warren as treasury secretary."
(5) Final thought for the day: It is regrettable that instead of spending time on refining her programs and plans as VP and focusing on her party's platform, Kamala Harris is being forced to deflect viral falsehoods thrown at her by Trumpians and their Russian helpers on social media. The most frequent accusations via retweets and other social-media posts are pretty much the same ones used against former President Barack Obama:
- She wasn't born in the US; she was in fact born in Oakland, CA (not that this fact would deter the birthers!)
- She isn't black enough; why does this even matter, except to drive black Americans away from her?
- She isn't a Christian, implying that she is a Muslim; she is in fact a baptist
- She is a leftist/radical; she is a moderate on most issues, but her feminism frightens powerful patriarchs

2020/08/19 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
My keynote lecture at CADS 2020: Conference flyer My keynote lecture at CADS 2020: Title slide IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk by Dr. Eckart Meiburg (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] My keynote lecture at CADS 2020 (see the next-to-the-last item below). [Right] IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk (see the last item below).
(2) Many children in Iran's Sistan & Baluchistan have no shoes to wear: Not wearing shoes isn't part of their local culture. In a land with vast natural resources, they just don't have enough money to buy a pair, because the country's oil revenue is plundered by corrupt officials or given away to terrorist organizations.
(3) Extreme hypocrisy: Ayatollah Alam-ol-Hoda, a prominent and powerful Islamic Republic of Iran cleric, is shown lavishly praising both Ayatollah Khamenei and the late Shah in this 6-minute video.
(4) Fires sparked by lightning rage in Northern California: Fighting fires amid a pandemic is quite challenging for our heroic firefighters. Let's hope that the need for evacuations does not add to their challenges.
(5) My remote keynote address at CADS 2020: The 20th International Symposium on Computer Architecture & Digital Systems (CADS 2020), Guilan University, Iran, August 19-20, 2020, is in progress now. Late last night (this morning, Iran time) I gave the following talk, in English, to conference attendees. [62-minute video]
Title: "Neurophysiological Discoveries of the 2014 Nobel Prize Winners in Medicine from a Computer Arithmetic Perspective" [Persian title and abstract]
Abstract: The discovery that mammals use a multi-modular method akin to residue number system (RNS), but with continuous residues or digits, to encode position information led to the award of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Medicine. After a brief review of the evidence in support of this hypothesis, and how it relates to RNS, I discuss the properties of continuous-digit RNS, and present results on the dynamic range, representational accuracy, and factors affecting the choice of the moduli, which are themselves real numbers. I conclude with suggestions for further research on important open problems concerning the process of selection, or evolutionary refinement, of the set of moduli in such a representation.
(6) IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Today's event was held over dinner, beginning at 6:00 PM, in the courtyard of Santa Barbara's Arnoldi's Cafe. Dr. Eckart Meiburg, Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering at UCSB, spoke under the title "Modeling the Pacific Ocean on the Computer." This interesting and highly-relevant climate-related talk was our first live event, after two months of cancellations and another two months of on-line talks. [IEEE CCS Technical Talks Web page]
Professor Meiburg earned his PhD degree from U. Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1985 and joined UCSB in 2000, after appointments at Stanford U., Brown U., and USC. A Fellow of American Physical Society and American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Dr. Meiburg has been widely honored for his research on computational fluid dynamics, focusing on environmental and multiphase flows.
The transport of heat, CO2, and other substances by ocean currents plays a crucial role in shaping Earth's climate. Dr. Meiburg highlighted some of the important mechanisms that dominate the dynamics of the ocean and generate large-scale ocean currents. He discussed the basic concepts underlying his research team's approaches to modeling and predicting the dynamics of the ocean on the computer, introducing some of the smaller-scale models developed in his research group. To illustrate the power of such computational models, he showed several computer-generated movies of oceanic transport processes.
Some of the interesting facts alluded to in this talk included ocean currents and their effects on global climate, movement of sediments that enter the oceans from rivers and how they create underwater landslides and canyons, underwater ocean waves, and differences in computational requirements and accuracies between fine-grain and coarse-grain models. [Speakers slides (281 MB)]

2020/08/18 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Pages from Hamid Rahmanian's Shahnameh: Sample 2 Michelle Obama, shown during her DNC keynote speech Pages from Hamid Rahmanian's Shahnameh: Sample 3 (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Pages from Hamid Rahmanian's Shahnameh (see the last item below). [Center] Michelle Obama's moral call to action: In her DNC keynote speech, the former First Lady said things that every politician wishes s/he could say about the conditions in the US and its broken leadership structure.
(2) In Praise of Folly: This is the title of a book by Theodore Dalrymple, subtitled The Blind Spots of Our Minds (Gibson Square, 2019). There is also a Latin essay by the same title, a satirical attack on superstition in Europe by Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, which was published in 1511. Dalrymple's book offers the thesis, supported by many examples among theologians, philosophers, generals, judges, astrophysicisists, writers, and others, that high achievers, praised for their accomplishments in one area, are more often than not naive and error-prone in other areas.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Talk about being out-of-touch: Kushner repeats his claim that the US pandemic strategy is a success story.
- This guy has no shame: He began destroying the USPS and now wants to save it ... from himself! [Tweet]
- After community outrage, the drive-up mail-drop box on Goleta's Patterson Avenue returns.
- Turkey's version of #ChallengeAccepted: The social-media movement about women supporting women.
- Breath-taking beauty, both natural and human-made. [3-minute video]
- Ney-anbaan: A bag-pipe instrument that originated in southern Iran and, from there, spread to Europe.
(4) The Borowitz Report (humor): "To obtain my birth certificate, I have to send a letter to the California Department of Public Health. That is really tricky without a mailbox." ~ Kamala Harris, to Donald Trump
(5) Virtual gathering of a group of Tehran University's College of Engineering (Fanni) graduates: In what turned out to be a visual and spiritual feast, graphics artist Hamid Rahmanian (graduate of Tehran University's School of Fine Arts) spoke to us about "Shahnameh and Visual Arts." Rahmanian has created the highly-successful children's pop-up book Zahhak: The Legend of the Serpent King, a magnificently-illustrated abridged Shahnameh (which I happen to own), the shadow-theater play "Feathers of Fire," and the forthcoming "Song of the North" shadow-theater play, all in English and based on Ferdowsi's Book of Kings.
Rahmanian works tirelessly to promote the wonderful Iranian culture in the face of growing xenophobia in the US, and the West more generally. You can contribute financially to his endeavors through his Kingorama page. Let's support this wonderful artist by contributing directly or by buying his books, say, as gifts to our kids and other family members. [Mano-To TV report] [LA Times 2017 interview] [Shahnameh audiobook]

2020/08/17 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Trump wants to build a DC statue to honor women: Ivanka's preferred design Trump wants to build a DC statue to honor women: Trump's own concept Cover iamge for the book 'In Praise of Folly' (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] Trump wants to build a DC statue to honor women: Here is Ivanka's preferred design involving a handbag, which is an actual statue in Russia. Trump's own preferred design involves some sort of grabbing. [Right] Cover image for the book In Praise of Folly (see the last item below).
(2) A beautiful and tender Kurdish song: I asked a friend, and she confirmed that the words are in Kurdish, even though the clothing and other lifestyle details do not match those of Iranian Kurds. [3-minute video]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- California's Death Valley hits the third-highest temperature ever recorded: 130 F (54.5 C).
- Belarus protesters subjected to extreme violence, as the country's dictator rejects calls for new elections.
- Facebook, far from removing anti-Semitic content, promotes Holocaust denial through its algorithms.
- DeVos wrecked our education system. DeJoy is just getting started at the USPS. DeVote the bums' boss!
- "It Is What It Is": New Trumpian lyrics for the Doris Day oldie, "Que Sera Sera."
- UNC Chapel Hill returns to on-line classes after detection of COVID-19 clusters in dorms and a fraternity.
(4) "Foundations of Social Justice for Engineers": This is the title of an ASEE webinar I attended from 10:00 to 11:30 PDT this morning (a few slides). Facilitated by Brenda Bryant (Marygrove College) and Carol Miller (Wayne State University), the webinar introduced key concepts of social justice, provided case-study examples to illustrate social justice issues, and explored ways that engineers and engineering educators can ground their practice in these concepts. Key concepts in social justice include equal/just relations; dignity; common good; human rights; humanitarianism vs. humanism. Today's college students yearn for socially-relevant work. Nearly half of them would give up 15% in salary to have a job that makes social or environmental difference. For those who want to get involved, Engineers Without Borders provides an excellent channel. An important on-line resource is Ethics Center for Engineering and Science. There is also a book, now somewhat dated, but still a good starting point: Donna Riley, Engineering and Social Justice (Synthesis Lectures on Engineers, Technology, and Society), Morgan and Claypool, 2008. [Here is a question I submitted to organizers at the time of registration (not satisfactorily answered): Social justice is intimately related to ethics. Is it possible to augment the ethics course required in most engineering programs to include ideas on social justice?]
(5) In Praise of Folly: This is the title of a book by Theodore Dalrymple, subtitled The Blind Spots of Our Minds (Gibson Square, 2019). There is also a Latin essay by the same title, a satirical attack on superstition in Europe by Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, which was published in 1511. Dalrymple's book offers the thesis, supported by many examples among theologians, philosophers, generals, judges, astrophysicists, writers, and others, that high achievers, praised for their accomplishments in one area, are more often than not na´ve and error-prone in other areas.

2020/08/16 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The goodies I brought back include kabobs, herbs, veggies, jams, and three kinds of Persian bread Cartoon: Understanding data, information, knowledge, insight, wisdom, and conspiracy theory Bahai's are still being persecuted in Iran, just as they were in the 19th century (1) Images of the day: [Left] Returning from Los Angeles after a lunch date: The goodies I brought back include kabobs, herbs, veggies, jams, and three kinds of Persian bread, one of which is a blanket-size sangak! [Center] Cartoon of the day: Understanding data, information, knowledge, insight, wisdom, and conspiracy theory. [Right] Bahai's are still being persecuted in Iran, just as they were in the 19th century.
(2) For Donald Trump, women come in two flavors: "Housewives," who are dependent on men and must be protected from exposure to black and brown people, and "Nasties," a group which includes all independent women who are self-sufficient, speak their minds, and can't be bullied into submission. [Sample images]
(3) Disloyal: A Memoir: Yet another tell-all book about the Teflon President to whom nothing seems to stick. This one is by his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, and is due out on September 8, 2020.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Robert Trump, the younger brother of Donald Trump, dead at 71: He was an avid supporter of Donald.
- Despite Trump's claims re wide margin of victory over Clinton, his electoral college win was rather weak.
- Hand-drawn animation: An age-old art form is brought back to life. [3-minute video]
- Yesterday, on Goleta's Coal Oil Point Beach: The heat wave brought out many surfers and sunbathers.
(5) "Peace" deal between UAE and Israel: Trump supporters are hailing their Dear Leader for brokering a peace deal between UAE and Israel. What does a peace deal between two countries that were never at war mean? UAE and Israel have actually been on friendly terms for many years. They were united by trade and by their opposition to the Iran nuclear accord. The new "peace" deal reminds me of this joke. A drunk was on his knees looking for his lost wallet near a lamp post. A passerby asked him whether he had dropped the wallet in that area. He answered that he had not, but that it was the only place with enough lighting to allow him to search!
(6) A retelling of how MI6 & CIA overthrew Mohammad Mosaddegh's government: On Wednesday, August 19, 2020, the 67th anniversary of the Anglo-American coup in Iran that returned Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to power, the documentary film "Coup 53" will premier at 6:00 PM. A live Q&A session with director Taghi Amirani, editor Walter Murch, and actor Ralph Fiennes will follow on August 20. Please buy your tickets from UCLA's Celebration of Iranian Cinema to support this excellent program. [2-minute teaser] [The film's Web site]

2020/08/15 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: What Donald Trump has said recently when asked about a few women Cartoon: The Barr Exam (only Democrats who are against Trump are prosecuted) Grain storage bins in Iowa suffer extensive damage from storm
Photo of my shower curtin with a world map Africa is 14 times as big as Greenland, but not on many maps! Cartoon: In the absence of football and other sports, colleges must again rely on academics if they crave news headlines (1) Images of the day: [Top left] What Donald Trump has said recently when asked about women in the news. [Top center] The Barr Exam: It involves two questions. Friend or enemy of the White House? Republican or Democrat? [Top right] Storm renders extensive damage to Iowa corn fields and destroys many grain-storage bins. [Bottom left & center] Learning geography in the shower: I had received this shower curtain as a gift several years ago. Yesterday, I finally installed it, after my old shower liner fell apart. The map is unfortunately an older Northern-Hemisphere-centric one. Africa is 14 times as large as Greenland! [Bottom right] Cartoon: In the absence of football and other sports, colleges must again rely on academics if they crave news headlines.
(2) The Borowitz Report (humor): Obama hurt by Trump's reuse of birther strategy [for Senator/VP-candidate Kamala Harris]. "I thought it was a special thing between him and me," said the former president.
(3) Lily from AT&T: The geeky TV spokesperson with her girl-next-door looks is Russian-born actress Milana Vayntrub, who is also active on behalf of refugees (she was one as a little girl).
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's claim that he has done more for women than just about any president gets its due. [Tweets]
- Racist birtherism is followed by planted rumors that Kamala Harris refused being sworn in on the Bible.
- Misogyny on display: "Harris is like AOC, but w/o the bar-tending experience." ~ LA Sen. John Kennedy
- Iowans struggle to find assistance for recovery from storm-caused damage to homes and farms.
- Unprecedented heat wave causes electricity shortages and rolling blackouts in California.
- Simple math puzzle: What do the following numbers have in common? 6, 28, 496, 8128
(5) Math puzzle: A man who owns a contiguous piece of land wills the land to his five children, provided they can divide it up into five contiguous pieces, so that each piece has a border of some non-zero length with each of the other four pieces. Is such a division possible?
(6) A significantly more-challenging math puzzle: Finding the minimum number of straight line-segments needed to form exactly n squares on a plane is a challenging task. For example, you can readily verify that we need 6 line-segments to form 5 squares, and 7 line-segments for 8 squares. Now, try your skill at forming exactly 168 squares with the minimum possible number of line-segments.

2020/08/14 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: TV 'confession' of political prisoners in Iran Cartoon about USPS: Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor @#*$? Cartoon: Mike Pence brings a chaperone to his debate with nasty woman Kamala Harris (1) Cartoons of the day: [Left] Sham TV "confession" of political prisoners in Iran (source: Iranwire.com). [Center] US Postal Service: Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor @#*$? (The New Yorker). [Right] Mike Pence brings a chaperone to his debate with nasty woman Kamala Harris (The New Yorker).
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Birtherism 2.0: The Trump campaign retweets a claim that Kamala Harris was not born in the US!
- Former FBI lawyer is expected to plead guilty in review of the Trump-Russia inquiry.
- AOC challenges Trump to release his college transcripts, after called her a poor student on Fox News.
- How to support "Black Lives Matter" if you can't, or don't feel comfortable to, attend protests. [Tips]
- If BLM has to answer for looters, shouldn't the NRA answer for school shooters?
- Tokyo Olympics fireworks show goes on: I guess too much money was spent to just let it go to waste!
(3) Authoritarian regimes cannot survive without external and internal "enemies": For Iran's Islamic regime, Israel, America, and several other Western counties serve the first purpose, with religious minorities, particularly Baha'is, serving the second. Meanwhile, parliamentary representatives of "sanctioned" minority religions have turned into mouthpieces for the regime out of the need for survival and protecting the few rights given to their constituents. Misbehaving members of religious minorities are routinely accused of being Israeli and American spies or of acting to undermine national security.
(4) What I learned from the UCSB webinar entitled "Creating Conditions for Effective Dialog about Difference": Held yesterday, the webinar was conducted by Caroline Adams and Brett Collins. The need for the webinar arose because it's not enough to believe in diversity, racial justice, or other important philosophies; you need to acquire skills to communicate about these issues with those who may not agree with you. Academia teaches us how to read, critique, or rebut, but not how to listen. To listen effectively, you need to suspend disbelief and stop yourself from judging. In an effective dialog, you need to connect your comments to what came before. Repeat or paraphrase what came before and connect it to what you want to say. Doing so does not imply confirmation, just connecting ideas together. Speak of your own experiences ("I"); avoid using "you," "I heard," or "they say." If you find yourself talking a lot, step back, listen, and invite others to pitch in. Put your own needs aside and imagine you are watching yourself talk. Find out what goals the others are trying to meet. The main barriers to effective communication are anxiety, confusion, ignorance, and insecurity. A prerequisite for changing someone's mind is to show that you care about them and that you want to understand them.
I end this description with a couple of pertinent quotes.
- "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." ~ Anais Nin
- "You can't listen to others unless you listen to yourself first." ~ Anonymous
At the end, I asked the following question, because I believe much of what we know is from books and other accounts by other people (not direct experiences); the answer did not quite satisfy me: Isn't speaking with "I" a tad too limiting? Over the past two weeks, I have read four books on race and racial justice. How can I bring what I learned from those books into the conversation, even though they do not involve personal experiences?

2020/08/12 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Portraint of Kamala Harris, Joe Biden's VP choice Image describing the root and meaning of the Hindu name 'Kamala' Dr. Delaram Shakiba, Post-doctoral fellow at Washington University of St. Louis (1) Images of the day: [Left] Joe Biden has consistently said that he views himself as a transitional figure, a bridge: We now have a better picture of what the next generation of Democratic leaders at the other side of the bridge looks like! [Center] "Kamala" is a Hindu name related to "Kamal," a male name used in Arabic and Persian. Though not mentioned in sources I checked, it likely is related to the Arabic form "Kameleh." Wait until Trump discovers this! [Right] Iranian women worth knowing: Dr. Delaram Shakiba, Post-doctoral fellow at Washington University of St. Louis leads a team that studies ways in which wounds heal.
(2) UCSB Reads Program narrows down the short-list of 6 titles to 3: I am not at liberty to reveal those choices at this time, while our Arts & Lectures Program contacts the authors and publishers to forge a participation contract for the top selection or, failing that, one of the two alternates. The alphabetized short-list, all of its titles I have reviewed on GoodReads, is given below. Links to my reviews are also provided.
- '1619' the 5-episode podcast by Nikole Hannah-Jones and The New York Times [My review]
- Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates [My review]
- Heavy: An American Memoir, by Kiese Laymon [My review]
- Monument: Poems New and Selected, by Natasha Trethewey [My review]
- The City We Became, by N. K. Jemisin [My review]
- When They Call You a Terrorist: A BLM Memoir, by Patrice Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele [My review]
(3) Hot and cold, as only Neil deGrasse Tyson can explain them: Thermal energy, how you can make things hotter or colder, absolute zero, and the unit kelvin (yes, with lower-case "k") for temperature.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The new Web site of the authoritative Dehkhoda Persian Dictionary is up and running.
- Iran continues to arrest and imprison Baha'is during the coronavirus pandemic. #NoPrisonForBahais
- Puerto Rico's Arecibo Observatory is badly damaged by a thick support cable falling onto the dish.
- An oldie but goodie French song: "Une Femme Amoureuse" ("A Woman in Love"). [4-minute video]
(5) Puzzle: Throw k balls uniformly at random into n bins. What is the probability of having a bin with at least s balls? The special case of s = 2 and n = 365 leads to the famous birthday paradox. [Source tweet]
Reference: K. Suzuki, D. Tonien, K. Kurosawa, and K. Toyota, "Birthday Paradox for Multi-Collisions," Proc. Int'l Conf. Information Security and Cryptology, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Vol. 4296, Springer, pp. 29-40.
(6) [Final thought for the day] UCSB West Campus Point Faculty Housing Palm Plaza in photos: The top photo of the then new drought-tolerant landscaping, taken on August 12, 2014, popped out on my Facebook memories today. So, I had to go and take the bottom photo to show the difference after six full years.

2020/08/11 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Rumors confirmed: The White House did reach out to the Governor of SD about adding Trump to Mount Rushmore McDonalds introduces the McTahdig (aka Bozorg Mac) sandwich Exercise regimens of the last six US presidents
Photos from my visit to the UCSB campus this evening UNC symposium 'Revisiting Discourses of Love, Sex, and Desire in Modern Iran and Diaspora' An interesting panel discussion about blacks in Iran, offered by UNC Chapel Hill (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Rumors confirmed: The White House did reach out to the Governor of SD about adding Trump to Mount Rushmore. (Humor: No word on whether the inquiry included a hotel permit at the base of the iconic mountain.) [Top center] McDonalds introduces the McTahdig (aka Bozorg Mac) sandwich. [Top right] Rule of etiquette: Don't make fun of anyone's appearance or weight, unless s/he makes fun of other people's appearance or weight. [Bottom left] My visit to the UCSB campus this evening: Around 7:00 PM, the campus (Storke Tower, Central Library) and our departmental mail-room, where mailboxes are overflowing with pieces of mostly-unwanted mail, looked deserted. The selfie was taken in my office. [Bottom center] "Revisiting Discourses of Love, Sex, and Desire in Modern Iran and Diaspora": This is the title of a UNC Zoom-based symposium consisting of a series of panels held on September, 5, 12, 19, 26, and October 3, 2020 (tweet, with links). [Bottom right] Another interesting panel discussion about Iran, offered by UNC Chapel Hill.
(2) Biden-Harris, a historic Democratic ticket: An excellent pick by Biden that has Trump running scared, because both he and his daughter Ivanka have supported Harris's campaigns in the past.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Perseids meteor shower peaks tonight: Nature is putting on a show for all of us who are bored at home!
- An old woman's joy of painting street art. [1-minute video]
- Sights of Tehran, Iran: Slide show, set to Viguen's song "Del-e Divaaneh" ("Crazy Heart").
- Iranian regional music: Rastak Ensemble shines as usual in this 3-minute video.
- Iranian regional music: A spirited and highly-enjoyable Azeri song. [3-minute video]
(4) Iranian officials intend to kidnap exiled Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad: Such acts are regular occurrences. Kidnapping and hostage-taking is in the Islamic Republic's DNA.
(5) Hafiz's influence on Goethe: This 14-minute video, narrated/subtitled in Persian, offers a description of new information gleaned from the just-discovered Persian and Arabic handwritten texts left by the German writer/philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Under the influence of Hafiz, Goethe composed his West-Eastern Diwan (book of poetry). These two images show the Diwan's table of contents from Wikipedia and a sample poem from its Book 2, "Hafiz-Nameh" ("Book of Hafiz"). Here is the Diwan's English translation.

2020/08/10 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover of Newsweek magazine, featuring Trump and the upcoming elections T-shirt bearing the inscription 'Yo Semite' Cover of Time magazine, featuring Trump and the upcoming elections
Photos from my walk at UCSB North Campus Open Space: Batch 1 Photos from my walk at UCSB North Campus Open Space: Batch 2 Photos from my walk at UCSB North Campus Open Space: Batch 3 (1) Images of the day: [Top left & right] The latest issues of Newsweek and Time magazines feature Trump's images as part of their election coverage. [Top center] These T-shirts are selling like hot-cakes (another one). [Bottom row] Photos from yesterday's long walk around Goleta and UCSB North Campus Open Space: I arrived in the Open Space from the Ellwood or east end, via a creek-side trail, rather than the usual Stork-Road or west end, thus experiencing some new sights.
(2) Humorous Persian poetry: Recitation of a poem about the dumb people who don't wear masks and go on pleasure trips, totally oblivious to the coronavirus pandemic. [1-minute video]
(3) Ancient Persian statue: The story of a 7-meter-tall statue of Shapour the First, looking out from the entrance of a cave at the elevation of 800 meters. [5-minute video, narrated in Persian]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- After forcing the government to resign, Lebanese protesters celebrate their power.
- Well, who is in decline and allegedly "not all there," Donald Trump or Joe Biden?
- Trump has strong feelings about presidents signing too many executive orders and playing lots of golf!
- Please don't go to church, God will understand: One infected man's church visit led to 91 COVID-19 cases.
- Persian music and dance: Dilnoza Ortiqova performs in this 5-minute video.
- Persian music: Beautiful song, played as a conversation between two tars. [2-minute video]
(5) Is Donald Trump obese? Not according to official figures, which put his weight at 239 lbs and height at 6'3", for a BMI of 29.9, only 0.1 below the obesity level. Politico has obtained a copy of Trump's NY driver's license on which his height is listed as 6'2" (and even that is self-declared). A one-inch growth at such an advanced age is remarkable, especially, since most of us older folks actually shrink in height!
(6) Two silent centuries are beginning to talk: In his 1957 Persian-language history book Two Centuries of Silence (translated into English by Avid Kamgar in 2016 and by Paul Sprachman in 2017), Abdolhossein Zarrinkoub maintained that for some 200 years after the Arab invasion, native Persian writers and scholars went mostly silent, so that there is hardly any documentation on how ordinary people lived in the immediate aftermath of the Arab rule. Touraj Daryaee of UC Irvine believes that with recent discoveries of tablets and other texts in eastern Iran, we are beginning to see accounts from that period by people of Iranshahr (as today's Iran was known then). Here is a Daryaee's recent article entitled "Getting Over Two Centuries of Silence: Newly Discovered Texts from Tabaristan," published in Bokhara. And here is a link to the PDF file of Touraj Daryaee's book, Sasanian Persia: The Rise and Fall of an Empire, I. B. Tauris, 2009.

2020/08/08 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
This photo is from Sedona Airport in Arizona, but a similar table-top runway caused Friday's crash-landing of Air India Flight 1344 in Calicut, killing at least 17 Anthony Fauci's January 2017 warning about a pandemic during Trump's presidency Iranian 1,000,000 rials bill, with four of the zeros printed in faded color
Art to the rescue during isolation periods at home! Cover image of, and a photo described in, Esabel Wilkerson's new book 'Caste' Tea with perfect color, served in traditional tea glasses, somewhere along Iran's Caspian-Sea coast (1) Images of the day: [Top left] The dangers of table-top runways: This photo is from Sedona Airport in Arizona, but a similar table-top runway caused Friday's crash-landing of Air India Flight 1344 in Calicut, killing at least 17 of the 190 on board. [Top center] "Nobody saw this coming": Actually, several people saw this coming and talked/wrote about it. You were just too pre-occupied with your hair, fake facial tan, and Fox-News cronies to hear them. [Top right] Mental conditioning: Iran's central bank, to prepare citizens for a change in the country's monetary unit that will remove four zeros from financial figures, has printed bills with four of the zeros in faded color. [Bottom left] Art to the rescue during isolation periods at home! [Bottom center] Book introduction: We all think we can be the man in the 1936 B&W photo, standing for our beliefs among a herd of blind followers. But voicing our opinion when we see tyranny or bias is much harder than we think. The photo is described in the introductory pages of Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, a new book by Isabel Wilkerson I am looking forward to reading. [Bottom right] Tea and memories: Tea with perfect color, served in traditional tea glasses, somewhere along Iran's Caspian-Sea coast.
(2) Former President Obama's final White House Correspondents' Dinner speech: It's distressing to see how far we have sunk in four years! If you don't have time for the entire 33-minute video, skip ahead to the 28:00 mark to hear Obama's final remarks about his relationship with, and the importance of, the press.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Help for defeating Trump: American Bridge 21st Century's Trump oppo research is available for free.
- Looking back at Obama's presidency: His remarkable 42-minute 2011 speech at the British Parliament.
- UCSB webinar "Creating Conditions for Effective Dialog about Difference" (Thu., Aug. 13, 2020, 11:00 AM).
- Persian lullaby: Rita, the Israeli singer from Iran, brings tears to the cameraman's eyes in an interview.
(4) Larry Kudlow, Trump's chief economic adviser: You would think that the man influencing every economic decision in the world's richest and most-powerful nation is a top-notch economist. Far from it. Kudlow got a history degree from U. Rochester in 1969. He enrolled in a master's program in public and international affairs at Princeton, but he left before completing his degree. He was an early supporter of George W. Bush's invasion of Iraq and Trump's border wall. Now you know the reason for the current economic mess in the US!
(5) Individualism vs. community: Much has been made of the benefits of individualism and personal freedom in spurning growth in a capitalist society. However, during a national crisis, we need the opposite of individualism. We need community, to help, care for, and comfort each other, as we battle a common enemy, be it a foreign power or a pandemic. Imagine if during World War II, everyone said that the government sending soldiers to fight against fascism is tyranny and a violation of people's individual freedoms! Please wear a face-mask!

2020/08/07 (Friday): Book review: Trump, Mary, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, Simon & Schuster, 2020. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Fred Trump and family Mary Trump, with her uncle Donald and her book Donald Trump with his parents [Note: Page numbers cited in this review pertain to the e-book (PDF) edition.]
Mary Trump, Donald Trump's niece, who earned a PhD in clinical psychology from the Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, opens her book with this quote from Victor Hugo's Les Miserables: "If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness." This is nice, but needs a clearer accompanying explanation about why the author waited this long to illuminate the darkness.
The author relates that she liked her name as a child, but when "Trump" began appearing on buildings throughout Manhattan, a series of failed products, and, later, on shampoo, conditioner, shower cap, shoe polish, and many other items at the Trump International Hotel, where she stayed for a night to attend a birthday party for her aunts at the White House, things became complicated. She takes another jab at the "Trump" name a few pages later, when in describing a wine served at WH's Executive Dining Room, she writes that it was genuine wine, not Trump wine.
Mary Trump gets to the inevitable psychological diagnosis part quite early in the book [p. 21], opining that considering Donald Trump's condition "malignant narcissism" or "narcissistic personality disorder" may not go far enough. Other conditions that are amply supported by evidence include "antisocial personality disorder," "comorbidity," "dependent personality disorder," and a form of "chronic learning disability."
The author then goes on to state [p.22] that, "many, but by no means all of us, have been shielded until now from the worst effects of [Donald's] pathologies by a stable economy and a lack of serious crises. But the out-of-control COVID-19 pandemic, the possibility of an economic depression, deepening social divides ... and devastating uncertainty about out country's future have created a perfect storm of catastrophes that no one is less equipped than my uncle to manage."
Here is another example of Mary dissing both her grandfather Fred and her uncle Donald: "Donald, following the lead of [Fred] and with the complicity, silence, and inaction of his siblings, destroyed my father. I can't let him destroy my country" [p. 25]. The author's grandmother, Mary, also does not escape blame, although, in her case, the roots of emotional unavailability, instability, and neediness are traced to her husband's callousness, indifference, and controlling behavior [p. 31]. Both parents cared for their children out of their own needs, not the children's.
Mary Trump considers her grandfather, Fred, responsible for her father Freddy's death at age 42, because he created within the Trump family the same kind of division that Donald later inflicted on the entire country. Fred always preferred Donald, the trouble-maker who was sent to the Military Academy to reign him in, over Freddy, who worked hard to please his dad, only to be put down as a "glorified bus driver in the sky" when he became a commercial pilot with TWA for a short while. Mary does hint that Donald was favored because he possessed attributes that even Fred lacked, so he hoped to make use of his middle son's attributes in advancing his business [p. 98].
Mary's father, Freddy, was also slighted by his siblings, who did not offer his family a reasonable share of Fred's inheritance or include him in the quasi-legal wealth-transfer scheme from Trump Properties to a sham company they founded to receive funds for purported services. This fact does trouble an objective reader, who may wonder whether the bulk of what Mary Trump writes results from a family dispute over finances. Besides the financial disputes, Mary has another reason to be bitter: As a lesbian married to another women, she was never really accepted by her prudish family. So, is the book simply sour grapes over the issues just mentioned? Not entirely, in my judgement.
One dominant theme in the book is that Donald Trump has always gotten away with bullying, lying, cheating, and scamming. Neither at home nor, later, when he ran the Trump Organization, did anyone care or dare to challenge him. So, with his life and actions under close scrutiny by the media and his political opponents, he has been thrown off-balance, thus committing many unforced errors and having to double down on misguided opinions/statements even more often.
Donald Trump's need for affirmation, from his father and everyone else around him, is another prevalent theme. "Donald's need for affirmation is so great that the largest group of his supporters are people he wouldn't condescend to be seen with outside of a rally" [p. 220]. Mary Trump confirms a point that I have been making about Trump's intensifying edginess and paranoia, since he occupied the White House: "For decades, he has gotten publicity, good and bad, but he's rarely been subjected to close scrutiny, and he's never had to face significant opposition. His entire sense of himself and the world is being questioned" [p. 221].
The book's penultimate paragraph sums up Mary Trump's assessment of her uncle: "Donald's monstrosity is the manifestation of the very weakness within him that he's been running from his entire life. For him, there has never been any option but to be positive, to project strength, no matter how illusory, because doing anything else carries a death sentence, my father's short life is evidence of that. The country is now suffering from the same toxic positivity that my grandfather deployed specifically to drown out his ailing wife, torment his dying son, and damage past healing the psyche of his favorite child, Donald J. Trump."
This is an easy book to read, packaged into 16 fairly short units and logically well-organized. A brief table of contents follows.
Prologue
Part One. The Cruelty Is the Point: 1. The House; 2. The First Son; 3. The Great I-Am; 4. Expecting to Fly.
Part Two. The Wrong Side of the Tracks: 5. Grounded; 6. A Zero-Sum Game; 7. Parallel Lines; 8. Escape Velocity.
Part Three. Smoke and Mirrors: 9. The Art of the Bailout; 10. Nightfall Does Not Come at Once; 11. The Only Currency; 12. The Debacle.
Part Four. The Worst Investment Ever Made: 13. The Political Is Personal; 14. A Civil Servant in Public Housing.
Epilogue. The Tenth Circle

2020/08/06 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Emmanuel Macron in Beirut: He walked the streets. People surrounded and hugged him and asked for help in changing Lebanon's conditions Throwback Thursday: I still have this T-shirt, which I wore to Fiesta celebrations in August 2017 Photo of Khomeini's Mausoleum in Iran (1) Images of the day: [Left] Emmanuel Macron in Beirut: He walked the streets. People surrounded & hugged him and asked for help in changing Lebanon's conditions. No local officials were in sight. Hassan Nasrallah is somewhere in Beirut too, but no one knows where. He likely changed his secret hiding place after the blast. [Center] Throwback Thursday: I still have this T-shirt, which I wore to Fiesta celebrations in August 2017. [Right] Plans to set up a branch of Iran's National Museum at Khomeini's Mausoleum criticized from many sides: The site includes a mish-mash of styles, not bearing any elements from ancient Persian architecture.
(2) Vice-President Mike Pence says that SCOTUS Chief Justice John Roberts has been a disappointment to conservatives: I can name at least two people who have been greater disappointments to conservatives!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US deaths from COVID-19 approached 2000 over the past 24 hours: That's one death every 40 seconds!
- Facebook and Twitter remove Trump posts claiming falsely that children have immunity to coronavirus.
- Foreign countries take sides: Iran and China are against Trump, while Russia is working against Biden.
- Corruption & mismanagement: Gathering to clean up their city, Beirut residents demand answers.
- There are five kinds of vaccines and all five varieties are under study for COVID-19. [Table]
- Goleta City Council has selected a traditional train-station design, reflecting our agricultural heritage.
(4) The roots of "honor" killings: A collection of Persian articles on "naamoos," arising from the patriarchal notion that men (husbands, fathers, brothers, and male guardians in general) own the women around them and can force these women, under the threat of violence, to behave according to what the men deem appropriate for preserving family "honor" and reputation ("aabroo").
(5) Foreign trolls, posing as Trump's African-American supporters, kicked out from Facebook: Many accounts associated with the right-wing outlet Epoch Times, specializing in conspiracy theories, were also removed.
(6) Persian music: This 6-minute performance, entitled "Song of Humanity," is dedicated to doctors, nurses, and other front-line workers in the battle against COVID-19.
(7) Quote of the day: "To assert conspiracy is to believe what you want when you are missing data to fully support what you want to believe." ~ Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson
(8) Beirut photos and videos are heartbreaking and heartwarming: A was blown away as she was shooting photos on a street (she was unharmed). A baby's arrival was delayed by an hour, when the delivery room was torn to pieces by the explosion (everyone survived).

2020/08/05 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Port of Beirut photos, before and after the devastating explosion Frances E. Allen, the first female IBM Fellow and the first woman to be awarded ACM's Turing Award, dead at 88 The kulbar phenomenon: Humans used like mules in Iran's border regions (photo and cartoon) (1) Images of the day: [Left] The devastating explosion of an ammunitions warehouse in Beirut's port area is a human tragedy, brought about by incompetent leadership, much like ours. Please support the relief efforts of Lebanon Red Cross (another pair of before and after photos). [Center] Frances E. Allen, the first female IBM Fellow and the first woman to be awarded ACM's Turing Award, dead at 88. [Right] The kulbar phenomenon: Humans used like mules in Iran's border regions #Dont_Kill_Kulbars (images from Iranwire.com).
(2) Mostafa Salehi executed on August 5 in Isfahan, Iran: Sentenced to death because of participation in the protests of December 2017 and January 2018, he maintained his innocence under torture. #NoToExecution
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Search and rescue efforts continue in the Beirut blast that killed 100+ and injured thousands.
- Why do cartoon characters' hands have 4 fingers? Are they from civilizations that do arithmetic in base 8?
- Please do not validate the sham Nov. 3 election by voting. Stay home to teach the liberals a lesson. MAGA!
- Grand opening of Iran's trans-national railroad, connecting southern and northern parts of the country.
- Spiral honeycombs of stingless bees are based on the same math model that explains crystal growth.
- Lecture by Dr. Nayereh Tohidi on the global problem of racism, with an emphasis on the case of the US.
- Try to replace "Hey guys" with one of these gender-neutral greetings at the start of meetings.
- Here are highly-successful and stunningly-beautiful daughters of famous athletes that inspire many.
- Persian music: "Negaah-e Garm-e To" ("That Warm Look of Yours"), performed by Abdolvahab Shahidi.
- Persian music: A nice rendition of the oldie song "Mey-Zadeh" ("Intoxicated"), made famous by Marzieh.
(4) We are waking up to the reality of hidden racism in America: A racist President heightened our awareness of racism and helped reduce our denial, and the pandemic exposed the horrific consequences of racial injustice, but a shift of attitude toward race and racism was already afoot before Trump. The percentage of Americans who thought that racial and ethnic discrimination is a big problem has changed as follows.
51% (January 2015) ---> 68% (July 2016) ---> 76% (June 2020)
(5) Persian music and dance: "Zendegui" ("Life"). [Thanks to my violinist friend Joseph Salimpour, whose brother wrote the piece and whose sister sang it; talent runs in the family, it seems!]

2020/08/04 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
This photo of a bird facing to the left can also be seen as a baby goat looking to the right Relaxing on Sunday afternoon with fava beans from a can and a challenging crossword puzzle Keivan Beiranvand's statue of 'koolbar,' a kind of porter in Iran's border regions
Sunset and sturgeon full moon, photographed from atop UCSB West Campus Bluffs during my Monday walk Today's gorgeous fruit plate New Yorker cartoon: The strongman thinks that he is all by himself, but he would be nothing without his enablers (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Baby goat optical illusion: This photo of a bird facing to the left can also be seen as a baby goat looking to the right. [Top center] Relaxing on Sunday afternoon with fava beans from a can (couldn't find fresh ones) and a challenging crossword puzzle. [Top right] Keivan Beiranvand's statue of "koolbar," a kind of porter in Iran's border regions who carries the heaviest objects, usually smuggled, across arduous terrains, often losing his/her life to accidents, the elements, or to bullets of Revolutionay Guards. [Bottom left] Sunset and sturgeon full moon, photographed from atop UCSB West Campus Bluffs during my Monday walk (1-minute video). [Bottom center] Today's gorgeous fruit plate. [Bottom right] New Yorker cartoon: The strongman thinks he's doing things all by himself, but he would be nothing without his enablers.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump finds out that gaslighting doesn't work with a well-prepared, hard-pressing interviewer.
- SpaceX capsule bringing two US astronauts back from the ISS splashes down safely in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Judge Salas says she was the target when her son was killed: He took a bullet trying to protect his dad.
- Navy Seals demonstrated K-9 attack using someone wearing Colin Kaepernick's Jersey.
- Massive explosion in the port area of Beirut causes extensive damage with unknown casualties.
- Trump Organization is under investigation for insurance and bank fraud.
- Premature vaccine roll-out a real danger, as Trump runs out of options for overcoming growing polls deficit.
- Spread of coronavirus at summer camps provides a preview of what might happen when schools reopen.
- MI6 documents show the outsize role of the Brits in the 1953 coup that reinstated the Shah to power.
(3) The massive Beirut explosion occurred in a missile warehouse built amid a residential/commercial neighborhood. Third World (new definition): Where protection of missiles is more important than people's lives!
(4) Having your cake and eating it too: Trump often admonishes our helalthcare system for doing too much testing, because tests reveal COVID-19 cases, which he doesn't like. But then, when he compares the US to other countries, he cites our low death rate as a fraction of cases, not population. A large number of cases helps him in this regard, but he is just too stupid to see the contradiction!

2020/08/02 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Painting by Farah Ossouli, the second wife of Khosrow Sinai 'The Chess of the Wind' (1976), a most-important Iranian film that has been restored for screening at festivals Painting by Gizella Varga, the first wife of Khosrow Sinai (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Paintings by the two wives of Khorow Sinai (see the last item below). [Center] "The Chess of the Wind" (1976): A most-important Iranian film has been restored and will be shown at Cannes and other festivals. The film was screened in Iran just once before the revolution but was never released for screening in theaters, not because of censorship, but due to poor critical reception.
(2) "The Pandemic's Toll on Women": This is the title of a Foreign Affairs article by Melinda Gates. "History teaches that disease outbreaks—from AIDS to Zika to Ebola—play out with a certain grim predictability. As they infect societies, they expose and exploit existing forces of marginalization, seeking out fault lines of gender, race, caste, and class."
[P.S.: I will soon review Melinda Gates' The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World.]
(3) UCSB Summer Music Festival: Offered on YouTube on August 22 and 23, 2020, the free program includes performances by multi-percussionist/vocalist Miguelito Leon, LA-based new-music piano duo HOCKET, carillonist Wesley Arai, Nesta steel-drum band, and more.
(4) Corruption is the new normal: A brave soul (unknown to me) speaks of rampant corruption in Iran and how the new elites don't even feel shame for living in mansions, while many of their fellow-citizens, teachers and factory workers in particular, are being crushed due to low or unpaid wages.
(5) Reimagining downtown Santa Barbara for the next century: In the coming months, the Santa Barbara Chapter of the American Institute of Architects will be creating designs and a new vision for our downtown (from Sola Street to the freeway, from Chapala Street to Anacapa Street). Volunteer architects will work with landscape architects, planners, engineers, and cost estimators to provide plans and 3D images of a possible new downtown for the next century.
()6 Khosrow Sinai [1941-2020]: Much has been written since yesterday about Sinai's death. A film director, screenwriter, music composer, and scholar, his death is generally viewed as a great loss to the art scene in Iran. Yet, I have seen only a couple of mentions of the fact that he had two wives: Gizella Varga (his sweetheart from student days in Hungary) and Farah Ossouli (a younger Iranian woman), both painters, who are apparently friends with each other and have even held joint painting exhibitions. Sinai wasn't religious, a common trait of polygamous Iranian men. In fact, his works attack superstition and religious dogma. A question that's being asked is whether it is even relevant that he had two wives. "What's wrong with being in love with two women?" In my humble opinion when praise is offered to a public figure who serves as a role model (even if reluctantly), negative traits must also be mentioned, hence this post.

2020/08/01 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Two photos from the beautiful UCSB campus Walking around my mom's housing complex in Goleta, California, with a few cute visitors Two photos from UCSB's gorgeous West-Campus Faculty Housing Complex (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Working and living in paradise (see the last item below). [Center] This afternoon, walking around my mom's housing complex in Goleta, California, with a few cute visitors.
(2) The crisis in the antibiotics industry: As the coronavirus heightens the need for antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections, pharmaceutical companies have stopped researching and producing new antibiotics, essentially because the profit margins are too thin.
(3) The fun-loving, cheerful lesbian in front of the camera may not be so nice backstage: Ellen has denied that she was aware of sexual misconduct on her TV show.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Dr. Anthony Fauci schools a questioner who tries again to promote hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.
- Chinese disinformation agents dupe Larry King into conducting a fake interview with a Russian journalist.
- Khamenei criticized for being out of touch with Iran's woes, because he dismisses sanctions as ineffective.
- A symbolic depiction of Mount Damavand in Tehran pays tribute to its historical and mythical significance.
- Marjane Satrapi's "Radioactive" captures the humanity of double-Nobel-Laureate Marie Curie.
- What does a guy earning a living from travel reports do in a pandemic? Rick Steves counsels patience.
(5) Here is the recording of my August 1, 2020, virtual talk for Sharif University of Technology's Computer Engineering Department, "Recursive Synthesis of Counting Networks" (69-minute video, in Persian).
(6) Living in paradise: I have been residing at UCSB's West Campus faculty housing complex for 32 years. This is a planned development with below-market purchase prices to help attract faculty to our area, where open-market housing is unaffordable for most young recruits or senior faculty coming from areas with much lower real-estate prices. From time to time, I and my faculty neighbors worry or complain about the prices of our houses not appreciating as much as houses on the open market (basically, we have to sell back to the university at a formula-derived price). An ongoing discussion on this topic led to some neighbors listing the benefits of living in this paradise, which more than offsets what many view as a poor investment in housing.
- Living steps away from the ocean and nearly surrounded by a nature preserve.
- Living at walking/biking distance to work.
- Living in a friendly community, with faculty colleagues from many disciplines.
- Lower assessed prices translate directly to lower property taxes.
- Paying less for housing has allowed us to invest in educating our children and helping them in other ways.
As usual, it is always a good idea to sit down and take stock of the positive aspects of your life, when something negative bothers you and threatens to bring you down.

2020/07/31 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Former presidential and future Darwin-Award candidate Herman Cain dead of the nonexistent Wuhan Flu Charts: COVID-19 cases are rising exponentially in South Santa Barbara County Top travel destinations for 2020, as reflected on our passport pages! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Former presidential and future Darwin-Award candidate Herman Cain dead of the nonexistent Wuhan Flu. [Center] COVID-19 cases are rising exponentially in South Santa Barbara County: The positivity rate for the County hovers around 10% (charts from report by UCSB's Vice Chancellor for Research). [Right] Top travel destinations for 2020, as reflected on our passport pages!
(2) Persian-language webinar: "Racial Violence and the Worldwide Protests Against It," Dr. Nayereh Tohidi, Prof. of Gender & Women's Studies, Sun. August 2, 2020, 7:00 PM CET (9:30 PM Iran time; 11:00 AM PDT).
(3) Yes, China caused the spread of coronavirus by its lack of transparency: But blaming China, justified as it is, does not solve our current problem. Each country's leader is responsible for helping citizens cope with the pandemic and its health and economic consequences, in the same way that a paramedic helps an injured victim, regardless of who caused the injuries.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US economy shrank at a 33% annualized rate during April-June 2020, the worst downturn since WW II.
- The racial-violence legacy of British colonialism: Eye-opening facts from an erased history. [7-minute video]
- White-Supremacist David Duke permanently banned from Twitter for racism and other hateful conduct.
- Music video: The beauties of music and nature are combined in this video of the Croatian cellist Hauser.
- Persian music: The all-women ensemble Mah Banoo in concert. [26-minute video]
- Persian music: A wonderful song featuring ney, an ancient end-blown flute. [2-minute video]
- Persian music: Pink Martini performs "Kaj Kolah Khan" live in a June 2017 concert.
- Persian Poetry: Saeed Biabanaki recites a humorous poem re Zakariyya-ye Razi, who discovered alcohol.
(5) Invited virtual talk at Sharif U. Technology (Friday 7/31, 11:30 PM PDT; Saturday 8/01 11:00 AM Iran time): I spoke in Persian under the title "Recursive Synthesis of Counting Networks." English abstract follows.
Abstract: Recursive synthesis of digital circuits leads to systematic design methods, reuse of building blocks, and clean mathematical models for circuit cost and delay. Recursive integer and matrix multiplication, and Fourier transform, are prime examples. In this talk, I will show that counting networks (parallel counters and other weight determination and comparison circuits), can be synthesized from smaller counting networks in a simple and easily analyzable way. At the end of the recursion, we get to readily-available AND and OR gates, 3-input counters (or full-adders), and 2-out-of-3 majority circuits, which are realizable in a variety of designs, including with emerging atomic-scale digital technologies. [Title slide] [69-minute video]
(6) Final thought for the day: Trump is asking Americans to re-elect him so that he can put a stop to the prevailing social and economic chaos. But he is President now, and all this chaos is happening under his watch!

2020/07/30 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Selfie taken during my Wednesday afternoon walk, with face-mask at the ready in case of close encounters! Logo for the documentary film 'And She Could Be Next' Screenshot from moderated discussion on the documentary film 'And She Could Be Next' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Selfie taken during my Wednesday afternoon walk, with face-mask at the ready in case of close encounters! [Center & Right] Virtual film discussion at UCSB: The two-part 2020 documentary "And She Could Be Next," available for streaming on PBS, was discussed by director/producers Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia in tonight's Zoom session, moderated by Wendy Eley Jackson (Film and Media Studies, UCSB).
(2) David T. Hines got $4 million in COVID-19 relief loans from the US government for his moving business: He immediately bought a $318K super-luxury car, the Lamborghini Huracan Evo.
(3) The RBG class: Remarkable stories of the other nine women in the Harvard Law School class of 1959, as told by them, their families, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
(4) Jockeying for position in Iran's next presidential election begins: The sham process entails disqualifying all but a few candidates, hand-picked by the Supreme Leader and his cronies.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Prison diaries of Iranian activist Sepideh Gholian, who was tortured to "confess" and got 18 years in jail.
- Religious apartheid in Iran under scrutiny after the killing of a Zoroastrian priest.
- What's with the #ChallegeAccepted glam B&W photos being posted by women? This article explains it all.
- Persian-language BBC interview with Lord David Alliance, who recalls his family residence in Kashan, Iran.
(6) Drone videography: Recently, several Iranian dams and their artificial lakes have been videographed using drones. Here is one such video from Lar Dam. I am posting this particular one, because it features Mount Damavand in the background. Fortunately, the majestic volcanic mountain appears to have been saved from partial sell-off to private entities as a result of significant public opposition and social-media campaigns.
(7) UCSB is disabling many networked printers: Printer firmwares are often old and unsupported, so once a vulnerability is discovered, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to implement a fix.
(8) Trump re-tweet categorized as fake news: A video featuring a group of "doctors" making false and dubious claims about coronavirus was removed by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, but not before it went viral.
(9) Mitch McConnell needs a remedial math class: In response to a PBS interview question about cutting unemployment benefits from $600 to $200 per week amid the ongoing pandemic, he responded that the GOP proposal also includes a $1200 payment to make up for the cut. Basic math: $1200 / ($600 – $200) = 3. So, the one-time $1200 payment makes up for only 3 weeks of the reduced unemployment benefit. The question referred to unemployed people needing money for rent, medications, and other expenses. I am curious to know what McConnell thinks people pay for rent and prescription medications these days!

2020/07/29 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.