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Page last updated on 2022 November 26

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 2022
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 2022

2022/11/26 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Relief map of the Iranian Plateau and the surrounding countries Science magazine cover image, honoring 75 years of transistors The Fearless Girl: The owner of this statue has placed it in front of Islamic Republic of Iran's Embassy to express solidarity with the people of Iran (1) Images of the day: [Left] Relief map of the Iranian Plateau and the surrounding countries. [Center] Science magazine cover image (see the next item below). [Right] The Fearless Girl: This statue is usually seen in front of Oslo's Grand Hotel, but its owner has temporarily placed it in front of Islamic Republic of Iran's Embassy and has tied a headscarf around her wrist to express solidarity with the people of Iran.
(2) Celebrating 75 years of transistors: The remarkable triumph of science & technology that put silicon in Silicon Valley and jump-started the digital age is marred by the fact that William Shockley, who along with John Bardeen and Walter Brattain won the 1956 Nobel Prize in Physics for co-inventing the transistor, devoted the latter part of his life to promoting racist views and advocating for voluntary sterilization of Black women. At the time, the scientific community did not condemn Shockley's abhorrent views.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Dissident Iranian rapper #ToomajSalehi has been charged with "crimes" that usually lead to execution.
- The 2 women who first reported on Mahsa Zhina Amini's death are in prison & could face the death penalty.
- UN Human Rights Council will set up a fact-finding committee to investigate Iran's human rights violations.
- Major computing technologies of the past 75 years: Table from an article in IEEE Computing Edge.
- Yesterday at the World Cup: USA played to a 0-0 draw against England. [5-minute highlights]
- Math puzzle: If a/b + b/a = 5 and (a^2)/b + (b^2)/a = 12, find the value of 1/a + 1/b.
- This world's busiest pedestrian intersection is in Tokyo. [15-minute video compressed into 20 seconds]
- Facebook memory from Nov. 26, 2018: Most violence against women occurs at home by people they know.
- Facebook memory from Nov. 26, 2016: Veggie/fruit plate representing the Thanksgiving turkey.
- Facebook memory from Nov. 26, 2015: A beautiful Azeri folk song played by violin maestro Bijan Mortazavi.
(4) Iran beats Wales 2-0 on goals scored late in the 11-minute stoppage time: A previous goal by Iran was ruled offside, two of Iran's shots hit the goalpost, and one well-placed shot was saved by the Wales goalie. The Iranian team that showed up on the field today was very different from the disorganized, tentative squad that lost to England 2-6. Given today's 0-0 draw between England and USA, Iran may need just a draw against the US to advance, provided Wales does not beat England. [5-minute highlights]
(5) On the margins of of the World Cup: I cheered Iran, as it played a fine game to beat Wales 2-0. But seeing the Islamic regime's cruel security forces, who have killed hundreds including 50+ children during the recent street protests, cheer the same team while chanting pro-regime slogans, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Brutal dictators, including Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Francisco Franco, have used soccer in the service of their propaganda machines and repressive regimes. [Photo]
(6) Voria Ghafouri has been released from prison: Not that Iran's brutal Islamic regime has suddenly become compassionate! It is politically inconvenient for the mullahs to keep a popular soccer star in prison amid soccer celebrations by people of all political leanings in the wake of the 2-0 World Cup victory over Wales.

2022/11/24 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Thanksgiving Day! Let our lives be full of thanks and giving Family gathering for Thanksgiving: Batch 4 of photos Family gathering for Thanksgiving: Photo 5 (1) Happy Thanksgiving Day! Our family is mourning a loss, but we still got together to give thanks for the gift of family bonds, friendships, and memories that enrich our lives forever. We fondly remember my mom and are thankful for the many happy memories we have of her and with her. We are honoring one of mom's wishes to have a framed photo of her with all the grandkids & great-grandkids at her memorial, planned for Sunday.
(2) World population just hit 8 billion, but the rate of increase is slowing and may turn negative by the end of the century. [Graphic: Science magazine, based on UN data]
(3) Financial crimes don't pay, except for politicians: Southern California man sentenced to 17.5 years in federal prison for bilking investors out of $35+ million with a phony scheme to market cannabis vape pens.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Iran's security forces have killed 100+ Kurds during street protests, about half of them in recent days.
- Quote: "A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel good." ~ Comedian Steven Wright
- Facebook memory from Nov. 24, 2019: Iranian women will crush all obstacles to achieving full equality.
- Facebook memory from Nov. 24, 2013: Sweden's innovative movie-rating system.
(5) You can recognize overt and covert supporters of Iran's brutal Islamic regime by who they criticize: Branding Masih Alinejad as an American operative is one of their favorite attack lines. [Tweet]
(6) Reason for shortage of skilled workers in the US: "Currently, 75% of new jobs require a college degree. Yet in the US and Europe, only 40% of young adults attend a 2-year or 4-year college—a percentage that has either not budged or only modestly risen in more than two decades." ~ From an editorial in Science magazine
(7) Iran's Reformists were placed on the back burner for a reason: There are whispers of bringing former President Mohammad Khatami back from the dead in order to quell the rising discontent. Iranian women and youth will not fall for this trick of replacing one Islamist with a less-abhorrent Islamist.

2022/11/23 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Yesterday's burial ceremonies for my mom at Santa Barbara Cemetery Khamenei's beauties: Goons who kill people on the streets The point where four African countries meet.
Geometry and symmetry are essential elements of Islamic tilework: This example is from Morocco The beautiful city of Kyiv, Ukraine, with its colorful buildings Another example of geometry and symmetry in Islamic decorative art (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Yesterday's burial ceremonies for my mother Kowkab at Santa Barbara Cemetery. [Top center] Khamenei's beauties (see the next item below). [Top right] The point where four African countries meet. [Bottom left] Geometry and symmetry are essential elements of Islamic decoratuve art: This example is from Morocco. [Bottom center] The beautiful city of Kyiv, Ukraine. [Bottom right] Another example of geometry and symmetry in Islamic decorative art (location unknown).
(2) A question for Supreme Leader Khamenei: Are these goons, who kill people on the streets, your men? If so, then you should be ashamed and I have nothing to say to you. If not, why don't you bring them on TV and extract confessions from them that they are agents of CIA and Mossad!
(3) Preservation of wild horses in the US: A program that was a bit too successful, so now the government must prevent environmental damage by putting them in managed facilities or selling them to private owners through auctions. [13-minute CBS News report]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Be the voice for scientists in Iran: This is the title of a Science magazine editorial, Nov. 11, 2022.
- Economist Adam Smith: "Mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent."
- Panini soccer stickers: A obsession for kids, parents, and grandparents! [14-minute CBS News report]
- Biggest World Cup upset: Argentina, with its superstar Messi, defeated by Saudi Arabia 2-1. [Highlights]
- World Cup soccer: Highlights of the 6-2 victory of England over Iran. [5-minute video]
- World Cup soccer: Highlights of the 1-1 draw between USA and Wales. [5-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Nov. 23, 2019: Having pizza with the kids and mom.
(5) Half-liners: Very brief news stories of the week.
- Magnitude-6.2 quake in Indonesia kills at least 270.
- Mass shooter kills 6 at an LGBTQ club in Colorado.
- Women outnumber men in NY Philharmonic for the first time.
- NASA's Orion capsule reached the moon on Monday.
- Several top law schools withdraw from US News rankings.
- Amazon & Meta lay off workers; TikTok hires 3K engineers.
- Twitter may be near collapse due to mass resignations.
- Trump was reinstated on Twitter, but he may not return.
(6) Rampant sexual assaults in Iranian prisons: The Islamic regime claiming to represent God on Earth systematically rapes female and male prisoners as a deterrence strategy. [CNN report]
(7) Final thought for the day: "Both optimists and pessimists contribute to society. The optimist invents the airplane, the pessimists the parachute." ~ George Bernard Shaw

2022/11/22 (Tuesday): Remembering my mother Kowkab Yussefian-Parhami on the day of her funeral.
My mother Kowkab Yussefian-Parhami as a young woman A Persian poem I composed in honor of my departed mom My mother Kowkab Yussefian-Parhami in her 80s Today, my mom finally got her eternal resting place right next to my dad's grave at Santa Barbara Cemetery. Following is the English version of my Persian remarks at her grave-side burial ceremony. This isn't a direct translation of the Persian version but slightly different in details.
Kowkab Yussefian-Parhami, born in the small town of Saqqez, Kurdistan Province, Iran, passed away near Santa Barbara, CA, at age 93. Widowed 30 years ago, when her husband Salem departed at age 70, she is survived by 4 children, Behrooz, Behnaz, Mahnaz, Farnaz, 7 grandchildren, Sepehr, Sepand, Sepideh, Avi, Mina, Yalda, Kimia, and 2.5 great-grandkids, Jacob, Nicky, and the son of Yalda & Eric, due in January 2023.
Kowkab, or Kobi, Mamon, Mamoni, Mamon Kowkab, Safta, as some of her grandkids affectionately call her, grew up in the harsh, but pristine, environment of the mountainous western Iran. As a girl, she would tend to the family cattle, milk the cow, and walk a significant distance to the riverfront to fetch water and wash clothes. Kowkab was a typically strong Kurdish woman, with a zest for life. A couple of days before her passing, when she incoherently communicated with imaginary people and dead relatives, she broke into a Kurdish song from time to time.
Married at age 17 and giving birth to her first child a year later, her practical wisdom was far beyond her 6th-grade educational attainment. She enjoyed poetry and had handwritten and photocopied poems, along with proverbs & wise quotations, on display at her home. She kept herself up to date by watching satellite TV programs and radio stations, and she would share the latest political news with visiting family members or on the phone.
After making her first home in Tehran in 1946, she had to do it again multiple times, as her husband's engineering job with Iran's National Railroad Organization took him to different cities. She and her first three children lived in Jerusalem with her family for one year, when her husband attended a series of technical training programs in Paris, France. Being close to her mother, sisters, and brothers more than made up for the hardships of living in a foreign land with an unfamiliar language.
After returning from Jerusalem to Tehran, she had to set up new homes three more times in Iran and twice in the US. Her long residence at her last home in Iran near Vanak's Factory Square, roughly a mile from the trendy Vanak Square along Pahlavi Ave., was by and large a happy one. She was a gracious host, with her home serving as a hub, where family members visited often. The family lived in comfort, as respected members of the community, notwithstanding overt and covert anti-Semitism from certain religious zealots.
The 1979 Islamic Revolution brought hardships of many different kinds, especially after the outbreak of the 8-year Iran-Iraq war in 1980. Suddenly, food and other necessities were in short supply and a rationing program was implemented. It fell upon Kowkab to ensure that the family got its due rations and to stand in multiple lines each day, sometimes for hours, to obtain the rationed items. Her managing the family affairs in the face of shortages and amid blasts of falling bombs was remarkable.
In the aftermath of intensified misogyny and anti-Semitism brought about by the Islamic Revolution, Kowkab's children emigrated out of Iran one by one. The years between these departures and Kowkab & Salem joining them in the US in 1991 were tough for all parties, but particularly on Kowkab, after Salem suffered a stroke that severely limited his work and daily activities. Salem wasn't sure that they could adapt to life in the US, which would require leaving their homeland, friends & acquaintances, and a lifetime of memories and traditions behind. Kowkab insisted that they needed to be with the kids and grandkids, for their own sake and for the sake of their children's peace of mind, and she eventually prevailed.
Salem had a heart attack shortly after arriving in the US, and complications from heart-bypass surgery made him bedridden for the final six months of his life. Kowkab had to sacrifice again and put the needs of the family ahead of her own well-being, a job she performed remarkably well for the next three decades. She was the center of the family's life, always hosting the extended-family and other guests in her modest-size residence with sumptuous Persian meals. She would always cook much more food that was needed, urging everyone to take the leftovers home.
Each of Kowkab's children and grandchildren has fond memories of life with her. She lived independently, doing her own chores and walking to shops for groceries and other needs until very recently. She survived breast cancer, two broken/fractured femurs, and a heart-valve replacement surgery, but went right back to her normal life and hosting of parties. Her latest metastatic cancer diagnosis, which came out of the blue with no warning signs, was the final straw. Her health went downhill rather quickly after her hospitalization in late-August 2022.
In her final weeks, Kowkab went back & forth between being resigned to God's will, citing the fact that she had lived 93 fruitful years, and the will to cling to life a while longer, principally to see the entire family at Thanksgiving, hold Yalda's and Eric's son, and to attend Mina's and Babak's wedding in early 2023.
The family is sad that Kowkab missed these joyous occasions, but we have quite a few happy memories with her to cherish for life. Her children are also following her oft-repeated advice to continue to support each other and to have frequent gatherings as a family in her absence.
Rest in Peace, mamon joon! You have made your mark on our lives and on the world. You deserve some rest from the affairs of this hectic and cruel world. You will be in our hearts and minds forever!
[I composed a Persian poem in my mom's honor. The initial letters of the poem's half-verses spell her name.]

2022/11/20 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Our first family gathering after the passing of my mom: We remember her with a bouquet of flowers on a chair she usually occupied Members of women's basketball team collectively remove their headscarves in support of Iran's feminist revolution Our first family gathering after the passing of my mom: Dinner table (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Our first family gathering after the passing of my mom: We remember her with a bouquet of flowers on a chair she usually occupied. [Center] Members of women's basketball team collectively remove their headscarves in support of Iran's feminist revolution (#WomanLifeFreedom).
(2) Iran's 2022 revolution: This photo reminds me of the French Revolution, as depicted in films. Empty-handed Iranian women and youth are fighting riot police and Revolutionary Guards, who show up in full tactical gear and armed to the teeth.
(3) Enlightened mullahs are few and far in between, but they do exist: Ali Akbar Hakamizada, author of The Thousand-Year Secrets (Asrar-e Hezar Saleh, in Persian), who questioned the superstitious beliefs of Shi'i Islam and pointed to the need for reforms, is one example. He was one of two people, along with Ahmad Kasravi, directly attacked by Ayatollah Khomeini in his 1943 book, Kashf al-Asrar.
(4) Social media and the banality of (online) crowds: The field of crowd science may hold the key to understanding recent abuses of social media. Perhaps James Surowiecki's observation that groups are potentially more-intelligent than even the smartest people in them (made in his best-selling book The Wisdom of Crowds) should be revisited. [Article in IEEE Computer magazine, issue of November 2022]
(5) Ranking the teams of the 2022 Soccer World Cup: A statistical double-Poisson model that considers the attacking and defending strengths of each men's team gives Belgium the highest odds of winning the World Cup (~14%), whereas Brazil tops the FIFA rankings.
(6) Soccer embraces data science: Teams at the World Cup tournament in Qatar will pick or bench players via data-informed performance breakdowns. Technologies like motion sensor-equipped vests, global positioning system tracking, and camera surveillance collect a wide array of data at matches. Mathematicians, data scientists, and physicists will then try to extract sense from this information. Researchers at Google's DeepMind and the UK-based Liverpool Football Club developed a model to predict player movements in filmed matches.
(7) Darkness and ugliness can survive only by eliminating light and beauty: Two of the goons who kill Iranian street protesters, including children.
(8) Final thought for the day: Why did FIFA agree to hold the World Cup in Qatar? Qatar has little in way of soccer tradition. It will restrict spectators' clothing and what they can bring into the country (liquor and pork products are two examples). They cannot practice their faith openly. Criticism of Islam or the Qatari government won't be tolerated. Gays will be arrested. Two days before the start of the tournament, Qatar reneged on a promise to allow beer sales in stadiums.

2022/11/19 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Let the Soccer World Cup 2022 begin! Young Iranian women won't accept the rule of old reactionary men any more Archimedes discovered that if you add the volumes of a cone and a sphere, you get the volume of their bounding cylinder (1) Images of the day: [Left] Let the World Cup 2022 begin (see the last item below). [Center] Young Iranian women won't accept the rule of old reactionary men any more. [Right] Math oddity: Archimedes discovered that if you add the volumes of a cone and a sphere, you get the volume of their bounding cylinder.
(2) My dear and kind friends: I thank you for your warm messages of sympathy. My mom was a valiant Kurdish woman who created many sweet memories for the family over her 93 years on Earth. So, even though she is missed in the physical world, she has earned an eternal place in our hearts and minds. May she Rest in Peace!
(3) Brave Iranian student lets an Islamic Republic official have it: We've asked you for years to meet and talk with us, but you ignored us. Now that you are caught in a crisis of your own making, suddenly you want a dialog. You have to accept that some people do not want to live according to your edicts, and you have to acknowledge their civic rights. The angry youths aren't foreign agents, as you depict them. [7-minute video]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- One of dozens of children killed in recent weeks by Iran's murderous regime. [FB post, with image]
- Earth population hits a new milestone: There are now 8 billion people living on our planet.
- A choral performance of "Shirin, Shirin," a Kurdish folk song that was my mom's favorite. [4-minute video]
- Pari Zangeneh's rendition of "Shekar-e Ahoo," another one of my mom's favorite songs. [4-minute video]
(5) Nancy Pelosi, the first woman speaker of the US House of Representatives, steps down: As Republicans look back, Democrats choose to go with fresh faces in leadership positions.
(6) Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes sentenced to 11+ years in prison for defrauding investors: Unconnected criminals are routinely pursued and convicted, as they should, but politicians with powerful friends in the justice system aren't even investigated. Shame on us!
(7) Quote of the day: "Faith does not give you answers; it only stops you from asking questions." ~ Mohammad Zakaria-ye Razi, 9th-Century Persian philosopher & scientist
(8) G7 countries must recognize the revolution in Iran: They should condemn the killing of peaceful protesters, including dozens of children, by expelling the murderous Islamic regime's diplomats. [Tweet]
(9) FIFA Soccer World Cup round-robin stage: I plan to watch at least USA and Iran matches at the 2022 World Cup tournament. Here is the schedule for Group B. Shown in parentheses are Cox Santa Barbara channel numbers. Santa Barbara's Arlington Theater and Press Room (a sports bar) will also show many of the matches.
Monday 11/21, 05:00 AM PST, Iran v. England, Fox Sports 1 (70) & Telemundo (15)
Monday 11/21, 11:00 AM PST, USA v. Wales, Fox (11) & Telemundo (15)
Friday 11/25, 02:00 AM PST, Iran v. Wales, Fox Sports 1 (70) & Telemundo (15)
Friday 11/25, 11:00 AM PST, USA v. England, Fox (11) & Telemundo (15)
Tuesday 11/29, 11:00 AM PST, Iran v. USA, Fox (11) & Telemundo (15)
Tuesday 11/29, 11:00 AM PST, England v. Wales, Fox Sports 1 (70) & Universo

2022/11/17 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Throwback Thursday: My mom over the past decade IEEE Central Coast Section tech talk on infrared sensing: Batch 2 of photos IEEE Central Coast Section tech talk on infrared sensing: Batch 3 of photos
A group of academic employees, which includes research & teaching assistants, went on strike this week across UC campuses f22-221117-teaching-learning-2-sides-of-same-coin Cover image of Adam Smith's 'The Wealth of Nations' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Throwback Thursday: My departed mom (1929-2022) over the past decade. [Top center & right] Tech talk on infrared sensing (see the next item below). [Bottom left] A group of academic employees, which includes research & teaching assistants, went on strike this week across the University of California campuses. My photo was taken today on the UCSB campus. [Bottom center] Teaching and learning: The two sides of the same coin. [Bottom right] Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (see the last item below).
(2) IEEE Central Coast Section tech talk: Dr. Leonard Chan (Raytheon, Goleta) spoke on Wednesday under the title "Sensing Across the Infrared Spectrum." There were 22 attendees.
In applications from smart phones to industrial machine vision, the past decade has seen an exponentially increasing demand for larger-format cameras with greater functionality. This is also true of infrared (IR) cameras used in commercial and astronomy systems, where in addition to format size, there is need for increased sensitivity, higher dynamic range, faster frame rates, and improved image processing across the entire infrared spectrum. Dr. Chan discussed the basic principles of an IR sensor and looked at the short-wave infrared (SWIR), mid-wave infrared (MWIR), long wave infrared (LWIR), and very long wave infrared (VLWIR) bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. Current commercial and astronomical applications were addressed. Dr. Chan offered a few demos at the end of his talk, including capturing live images from the room and the audience, using a couple of different infrared cameras.
[IEEE CCS event page] [Speaker's LinkedIn page] [IEEE CCS Technical Talks page]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Rights groups say Iran's security forces have killed 50 minors over the past two months of street protests.
- Iranian drones used in the Ukraine war are made primarily from American, European, and Israeli parts.
- Borowitz Report (humor): Trump to try for historic third impeachment.
- Karen Bass beat billionaire developer Rick Caruso to become the first woman mayor of Los Angeles.
(4) Book review: Smith, Adam, The Wealth of Nations, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, paperback edition, 2018. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Like Karl Marx, Adam Smith was more than a mere economist. He also delved into social, psychological, and philosophical implications of his proposals. His theory that free-trade is what creates wealth is meant to criticize both mercantilism and physiocracy. Mercantilism is the economic theory that trade generates wealth and is stimulated by the accumulation of profitable balances, which a government should encourage by means of protectionism. Physiocracy (French: physiocratie; from the Greek for "government of nature") is an economic theory developed by a group of 18th-century Age-of-Enlightenment French economists who believed that the wealth of nations derived solely from the value of "land agriculture" or "land development."
In The Wealth of Nations, Smith presents his ideas in four books.
Book 1 discusses the basic theories that form the groundwork for Smith's later analyses.
Book 2 deals with "stock," defined as assets used in commercial endeavor.
Book 3 presents a review of the economic history of the Roman Empire and societies since its fall.
Book 4 contains arguments against mercantilism, which encourages exports and restricts imports.
Book 5 justifies taxation for necessary costs of governance and warns against excessive government debt.
To most people, Adam Smith is linked to the expression "the invisible hand [of the market]." Smith himself used the expression only once in his voluminous book, but the idea behind the expression is present throughout his arguments. The gist of Smith's thesis is that nations can prosper if individuals are allowed to pursue their own self-interest, with no government regulation slowing them down. This book is almost on everyone's most-influential-books list. The terms "supply," "demand," "GDP," and "the invisible hand" are parts of our vocabulary today, thanks to Adam Smith.
Adam Smith's arguments for division of labor are clear and persuasive. If one worker can produce one pin per day by going through all 18 production steps sequentially, 18 workers, each specializing in one of the steps of the production process, won't produce 18 pins per day, but 50,000. This productivity-boosting division of labor, among individuals and nations, is possible only if we opt for free trade. Thus, wealth creation is immensely facilitated by free trade. Focusing the entire attention of one person on a simple step of the production has the additional benefit of facilitating innovations that lead to additional productivity gain.
As people seek to trade surplus production brought about by productivity gains, the problem of matching supplies to demands arises. This is where money comes in as one of the most-important human inventions: Excess supplies are traded for money and money is traded for anything that may be in demand, thus removing the time & place restrictions of bartering.
To explain the values and prices of commodities, Smith points to the water-diamond paradox: Water has a great use value, but little exchange value. For diamond, it's the other way around. Scarcity makes things valuable. Water is scarce in the desert, which increases its value in that context. Circumstances affects the price of commodities, raising or lowering them to above or below their "natural" values.
Smith's original presentation is long-winded and, for most people, quite boring. There exist a number of excellent summaries of this book, originally titled An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, including a Wikipedia article. I learned from the latter article that Smith has another major piece of work, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759).

2022/11/16 (Wednesday): Here are three more book reviews on diverse topics.
Cover image of Paul Holes' 'Unmasked' Cover image of Svetlana Alexievidh's 'Voices from Chernobyl' Cover image of Naomi Oreskes' 'Why Trust Science'
(1) Book review: Holes, Paul, Unmasked: My Life Solving America's Cold Cases, unabridged 9-hour audiobook, read by the author, Macmillan Audio, 2022. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The Golden State Killer (GSK), aka the East-Side Rapist when he first struck in the SF Bay Area, has fascinated many, both because his case involving dozens of rapes and murders remained unsolved for four decades and for the way in which it was eventually solved by mining genealogy Web sites. I have reviewed Michelle McNamara's definitive 2018 account of GSK, I'll Be Gone in the Dark. Holes covers many other cold cases on which he worked over the years, but his focus is clearly on GSK and the fits and starts in pursuing him.
Holes' obsession with cold cases got him in much trouble, both in the workplace, where bosses considered such activities a waste of time, and in his personal life in terms of failed marriages.
Autobiographical elements of Holes' book are no doubt self-serving, but details of cases, their dogged pursuits, and solution strategies are admirable. In the author's own words, "I have sacrificed relationships, joy—even fatherhood—because the pursuit of evil always came first. Did I make the right choice? It's something I grapple with every day. Yet as I stand in the spot where a young girl took her last breath, as I look into the eyes of her family, I know that, for me, there has never been a choice."
(2) Book review: Alexievich, Svetlana (translated into English by Keith Gessen), Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, 236 pp., Picador, 1997. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
In retrospect, I probably should have read an actual history of this nuclear disaster. Oral histories are nice in that they provide first-hand accounts of human experiences, complete with the personal challenges faced and emotions experienced, but they tend to be highly redundant and, at times, inaccurate.
The book's Nobel-Laureate author does an amazing job of collecting in one place the raw emotions and experiences of many individuals, from local residents and firefighters who were first on the scene to spouses and other family members indirectly affected by the unspeakable tragedy, based on interviews conducted in the early- to mid-1990s. Yet, the shortcomings of oral histories cited above are still there.
Chernobyl was a disaster waiting to happen: A poorly-designed nuclear reactor, run by incompetent staff; a deadly combination that could exist only in a culture of cronyism, laziness, and indifference toward the general public. As the reactor core was burning and releasing high doses of radioactive material into the surrounding area, authorities claimed that everything was under control, causing the public to let their guards down. Incompetence upon incompetence. Criminality upon criminality.
In the end, an estimated 4000 souls, residents and clean-up crew, perished and many more faced long-term health problems. Contamination from Chernobyl affected 23% of the territory of Belarus, but only 5% of Ukraine, where the plant was located, and 0.5% of Russia.
All world citizens should read or listen to some of the stories in this book, but, collectively, they likely exceed almost everyone's patience and need-to-know.
(3) Book review: Oreskes, Naomi, Why Trust Science, Princeton U. Press, 2019.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Oreskes (geologist-turned-history-of-science-professor at Harvard U.) presents arguments in favor of science. These arguments are timely, as the world, the US in particular, is deluged with anti-science sentiments and policy proposals. After centuries of success as the ultimate in fairness and truthfulness, science faces a crisis. Today, people with certain political leanings do not hesitate to doubt science if its findings clash with their cherished beliefs or economic interests.
Oreskes is careful not to imply that science is always right. On the contrary, she stresses the fact that sometimes even Nobel Laureates have changed their minds. Science is trustworthy because it has mechanisms for error detection and correction built in. Use of control groups, peer review, requirement for reproducibility, follow-up studies, and, in the extreme, retraction of published results provides a level of trust and transparency that is lacking in almost all other human endeavors.
Oreskes offers her arguments in the form of rebuttals to four commentaries from colleagues (Chapter 3, science historian Susan Lindee; Chapter 4, science philosopher Marc Lange; Chapter 5, economist Ottomar Edenhofer & philosopher Martin Kowarsch; Chapter 6, social psychologist Jon A. Krosnick). The commentaries/rebuttals, which form the bulk of the book, are sandwiched between background material in an introduction, Chapter 1, & Chapter 2, and concluding thoughts in Chapter 7 & an afterword.
About hostile questions at her talks, Oreskes has opined in an interview that she can tell when one is coming. Empirically speaking, "They're always men, almost always over 50-ish, and they stand up using belligerent body language." Oreskes was motivated to put her pro-science arguments on paper when an audience member at one of her talks asked what she considered to be a fair question: "Well, that's all well and good, but why should we believe you or trust the science anyway?"

2022/11/15 (Tuesday): Today, I offer two book reviews on the frontiers of artificial intelligence.
Artwork combining image of a human brain with electronic circuits to visualize artificial intelligence Cover image of Nick Bostrom's 'Superintelligence' Cover image of Max Tegmark's 'Life 3.0'
(1) Book review: Bostrom, Nick, Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies, unabridged 14-hour audiobook, read by Napoleon Ryan, Audible, 2014. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Suppose you have superintelligent machines which can perform a wide array of manual and mental tasks. Is owning such machines tantamount to slavery? Should we be forced to hire such machines as free-wage laborers? These are examples of deep questions posed by Bostrom in this volume, which is a valuable addition to the expanding collection of books on artificial intelligence (AI).
AI already outperforms human intelligence in many domains. General AI isn't yet at hand, but there is little doubt that it's coming. Furthermore, there is general agreement that we will face what some call "intelligence explosion," resulting from AI recursively improving itself to achieve "superintelligence." We don't know what form these superintelligent machines will take, but we should prepare for their potential dangers and think ahead about containment strategies.
An open question is whether AI superintelligence can love or hate, as humans do, or be motivated by pride or revenge, say? If superintelligence is developed based on whole-brain emulation, combined with evolutionary strategies for improvement, the answer is clearer. The whole-brain approach begins with digitally reproducing a brain, complete with its experiences, memories, and "values." In theory, this kind of value-loading will allow the AI to act compassionately and ethically.
But there is no guarantee that once the AI gains a decisive strategic advantage, it won't escape human control. Furthermore, even if the superintelligent AI is designed to act with a human or a group of humans in the loop, how can we be sure that the human elements are not corrupted?
Ironically, human thinking is the easiest part. We will likely come to trust AI more than humans in matters of logical argument and fact-finding. It is what humans and other animals do without thinking that is difficult to master for AI.
Besides whole-brain emulation, superintelligent AI may take one of two other paths. In the "child machine" approach, a term coined by Alan Turing, a "seed AI" would create new versions of itself by learning new things as a child does. The process of recursive self-improvement can quickly lead to superintelligence. In the genetic engineering approach, a population of genetically-enhanced individuals might exhibit collective superintelligence.
No matter which of the three paths above is pursued, we must begin preparing for the consequences and thinking about safeguards, because doing so after an intelligence explosion may be too late. A superintelligent AI, or the country that owns/controls it, might become an all-powerful "singleton." A self-improving superintelligence could possibly conceal its abilities and goals, until it has amassed sufficient powers to gain a strategic advantage in performance and self-preservation. Human gatekeepers may not be able to stop such a singleton.
(2) Book review: Tegmark, Max, Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, unabridged 13-hour audiobook, read by Rob Shapiro, Random House Audio, 2017. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Tegmark, a renowned physicist, classifies life into three stages or versions. Life 1.0 covered some four billion years, when both the hardware and software of living beings were at the mercy of evolution, growing and changing very slowly. Life 2.0 took over when the software that controls the evolving hardware expanded and grew substantially through learning and other social/cultural processes. We are now at the beginning of Life 3.0, when living beings' hardware and software are both augmentable and improvable, leading in time to intelligence explosion and superintelligence.
Tegmark offers a roadmap to the promises and perils of AI in an accessible format, covering a range of concerns that include impacts on warfare, political systems, and jobs, dispelling some common myths in the process. He tries to present a broad mix of competing theories and proposals, although the presentation is biased toward infotech, to the detriment of biotech, which many believe will drive much of the progress.
Once computer programs know us and our social systems better than we do, the balance of power shifts in their favor, making elections, markets, and much else obsolete. Ironically, this takeover does not require superintelligence. It may be achieved by machines that are improved versions of what we currently have.
The fever pitch of AI advances has led to what Yuval Noah Harari calls "philosophy with a deadline." We can no longer afford to take our time in debating important philosophical issues raised by AI, essentially forcing notoriously slow philosophers to keep up with speedy engineers.
Tegmark's Life 3.0 has much in common with Nick Bostrom's Superintelligence [my review]. Tegmark is less alarmist than Bostrom, in that he does not try to demonstrate the unavoidability of risk. He presents various scenarios and asks his readers to consider the possible outcomes. Whereas alarm may not be warranted, hard thinking on technological and philosophical issues we are about to face is absolutely necessary.
You can find much interesting info on Max Tegmark's MIT Web site.

2022/11/14 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Announcing the departure of my beloved mother, Kowkab Yussefian Parhami Iran solidarity: Tehran mountaineers display a banner that reads: 'Long Live Baluchistan & Kurdistan!' My salad creation for Saturday's family lunch
Where architects find inspiration! Book cover image and photos of participants in the book talk about '30 Figures' Flyer for Dr. Abbas Milani's talk about his book, '30 Figures' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Kowkab Yussefian Parhami (1929-2022): It is with a heavy heart that I announce the passing of my mother Kowkab this morning. Details of funeral and memorial services will be announced soon. RIP. [Top center] Iran solidarity: Tehran mountaineers display a banner that reads: "Long Live Baluchistan & Kurdistan!" [Top right] My salad creation for Saturday's family lunch, when we gathered to say farewell to my mom. [Bottom left] Where architects find inspiration! [Bottom center & right] Book talk: 30 Figures (see the next item below).
(2) Sunday's Socrates Think Tank book talk: Dr. Abbas Milani (Stanford U.) talked about his book, 30 Figures. The book is a memoir, told as stories of the author's interactions with 30 influential people. Dr. Mandana Zandian, who was also present in this Zoom session, talked in praise of the book (link to her review). The author's sister, Dr. Farzaneh Milani, a prominent scholar in her own right, also spoke briefly.
(3) Khamenei's propaganda machine: With his allies taking over one media outlet after another, and by shuttering down newspapers/magazines with even mild criticisms, dissenting voices have no outlet in Iran.
(4) Criminals running free: Nearly three decades after the 1994 attack on a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 and injured hundreds, no one has been brought to trial yet.
(5) Soccer World Cup: Iran's Islamic regime threatens exiled sports journalists about consequences of unfavorable coverage during the Qatar tournament, due to start in a week.

2022/11/13 (Sunday): Here are a couple more book reviews from my substantial backlog of reviews.
Cover image of James Kirchick's 'Secret City' Cover image of Lisa Brown's 'Long Story Short' Sample strips from Lisa Brown's 'Long Story Short' (1) Book review: Kirchick, James, Secret City: Gay Washington, from FDR to Clinton, unabridged 26-hour audiobook, read by Ron Butler, Macmillan Audio, 2022. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
LGBTQ+ people are everywhere, and Washington is no exception. In fact, census data shows that DC has the highest proportion of gay people in the US. Yet, they tend to be erased from historical records. Writing about LGBTQ+ people is tricky, because outing them against their will is frowned upon. Though the author is gay himself, or, perhaps, because of it, he didn't plan to out any politician in this decade-in-the-making book.
Depending on your knowledge of US history, you may or may not be surprised by the gay politicians encountered in this book. I was surprised by most of the names. For example, Bob Livingston was on the brink of succeeding Newt Gingrich as House speaker, when he was forced to resign due to a sex scandal.
The Kinsey Reports of 1948 and 1953 opened our eyes to the fact that there are many more gays among us than we realized, creating a fear of "the gay next door" and equating homosexuality with disloyalty to the US. One reason for fearing or distrusting gays was the fact that they could be blackmailed by threatening to disclose their sexual orientation. Yet, closeted gays could also be more loyal to people in power and could devote more time to their duties in view of not having the distractions of a family life.
Throughout the 20th century, gays gradually gained more acceptance. But there were periods of repression, such as in the eras of Nixon & Reagan, alongside more acceptance during the Clinton presidency. We are now back to one of those repressive periods, with Republicans slandering LBGTQ+ people as groomers of children.
Kirchick has spent years uncovering long-hidden stories and presenting them in ~700 pages, plus 100+ pages of notes & sources. He ends his book on a positive note, pointing to a Gallup poll indicating that the number of self-reported LGBTQ+ people has doubled over the past decade. They are certainly more visible now than ever before. "I am fairly sure that there's never been a better time to be gay in this country." While I see how gays are more accepted now than ever before in certain domains, such as politics, I do not believe that others, particularly teachers, have it so easy.
(2) Book review: Brown, Lisa, Long Story Short: 100 Classic Books in Three Panels, Algonquin Books, 2020. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Illustrator Lisa Brown summarizes in three comic-strip panels (on occasion, a few more) each of the 100 selected classic books. Organized into the categories "Love," "Sex," "Death," and "Female Trouble," the chosen books include Atonement, Beloved, Don Quixote, The Inferno, Jane Eyre, Lord of the Flies, Madame Bovary, and Moby Dick. In short, all the books you have been wanting to read or reread, but haven't had the time, even during the COVID-19 pandemic!

2022/11/12 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iranian women will never go back to obeying compulsory hijab laws: This photo was taken in the city of Gorgan, Iran This is the tea glass my father used for many years, before his passing in 1992 Women's hairs are frightening: The Iranian mullahs have never been so scared of anything! (Cartoon) (1) Images of the day: [Left] Iranian women will never go back to obeying compulsory hijab laws: This photo was taken in the city of Gorgan, northern Iran. [Center] This is the tea glass my father used for many years, before his passing in 1992: After hanging on to it for 30 years, my mom recently gave it to me for safekeeping. [Right] Women's hairs are frightening: The Iranian mullahs have never been so scared of anything!
(2) Watch how French business leaders say they are looking forward to the opening of the Iranian market after lifting of sanctions: They dodge questions about how they can do business with a brutal dictatorial regime.
(3) Amnesty International has submitted a petition with 1+ million signatures (a quarter of them from Iran) to the UN, asking for an independent mechanism to investigate the crimes of Iran's Islamic regime. [Tweet]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Nearly 300 election-deniers were on the ballot during the 2022 midterm elections: They all failed miserably!
- Quote: "Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it." ~ Mark Twain
- Pianist extraordinaire: Lang Lang plays in what seems to be an awards-show venue.
- Navajo proverb: "You can't wake a person who is pretending to be asleep."
- Facebook memory from Nov. 12, 2016: When my daughter interviewed her grandma for a school project.
- Facebook memory from Nov. 12, 2012: Thanks to all the caring people in the world (humor).
- Facebook memory from Nov. 12, 2010: Humorous Persian poem by Mohammad Reza Ali Payam (Mr. Haloo).
(5) Catherine Cortez Masto beats her Republican opponent in Nevada, giving the Democrats 50 seats and, thus, control of the Senate. Georgia's run-off race is now irrelevant to Senate control.
(6) In his forthcoming memoir, Mike Pence reveals what Donald Trump told him before January 6: Too little, too late, Mike! You should have spoken up before Trump and his cronies swept all the dirt under the rug and painted people like you as wimpy and unpatriotic. You should have testified in front of January 6 Committee to make sure that the treasonous ex-president never gets a chance to endanger our country again. You still speak about January 6 in terms of not seeing eye-to-eye with Trump. Treason vs. patriotism is no minor spat, Mike!
(7) Remember Steven Spielberg's "The Terminal," starring Tom Hanks? Mehran Karimi Nasseri, the man whose 18-year dwelling at Charles de Gaulle Airport inspired the book and the film, just passed away.

2022/11/10 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The computer that guided the Apollo 11 Moon-landing mission of 1969 was a marvel of technology for its time Talangor Group Zoom meeting devoted to honoring the memory of Vanik Tatavoosian (1953-2022) AI can be attacked to gain control or to modify the behavior of intelligent systems for nefarious purposes (1) Images of the day: [Left] Throwback Thursday: The computer that guided the Apollo 11 Moon-landing mission of 1969 was a marvel of technology for its time. [Center] Remebering Vanik Tatavoosian (see the last item below). [Right] Attacks on Artificial Intelligence: When an adversary tries to use weaknesses of people to extract information for illegitimate purposes, we call it social engineering. AI can be attacked similarly to gain control or to modify the behavior of intelligent systems for nefarious purposes.
(2) Quote of the day: "Those who try to ban friendship between people of opposite sex by invoking the fire in Hell say their daily prayers in the hopes of sleeping with fairies in Heaven." ~ Ahmad Shamloo (Iranian poet)
(3) Major layoffs in tech: Meta has cut more than 11,000 of its staff positions. Twitter laid off half of its 7500 employees, before having second thoughts and recalling many of them.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump adviser characterizes his leadership and campaign operations as a sinking ship.
- Wikipedia earns respect: Once shunned, the free on-line encyclopedia is now embraced by professors.
- Preliminary study finds that meditation works as well as the popular drug Lexapro in reducing anxiety.
- Layered rocks in Western Australia, dating back 3.5 B years, are some of Earth's earliest known life.
- Iranian beach-soccer player celebrates his scored goal by showing solidarity with Iranian women.
- Simple math puzzle: If a + b = 1 and a^2 + b^2 = 9, what is a^4 + b^4?
- Solve for x (Problem from the Ukrainian Math Olympiad): 3^x + 9^x = 27^x
- Cruise ships are essentially floating hotels. Now, this concept plane aims to provide a flying hotel.
(5) Young men and women defy the Iranian mullahs by dancing on the streets: This is a joyful revolution, not like the one in 1979, which wiped the smiles off people's faces.
(6) Married life is the same, everywhere, for everyone, and at every age: "It's not easy to write about your husband. I bit through several pencils." ~ Queen Consort Camilla, 75
(7) A few quick laugh lines:
- Do you struggle with negative thoughts? No, I'm great at them.
- What's the quickest way to get a child's attention? Sit down and look comfortable.
- What do you call Old MacDonald when he runs the farm? E.I.C.E.O.
(8) Author Nina de Gramont, on making NYT's Best-Seller List: "If this had happened when I was 25, I'd think that it meant I was really brilliant. Happening at 55, I know it means I'm really lucky."
(9) Talangor Group Zoom meeting: Tonight's session was devoted to honoring the memory of Vanik Tatavoosian (1953-2022), a long-time member and one of the founders of the group. Psychotherapist Dr. Foojan Zeine provided some thoughts on mourning the loss of loved ones. Vanik's friends and collaborators spoke fondly of him and of his memories, comforting his wife Nazik and others.

2022/11/09 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Aerial photo of Tehran's Freedom (Azadi) Tower This is how software is created: 'Don't worry. Keep coding. We can fix it later' A rarely-seen aerial photo of Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Meme: Iranians of all walks of life and of all ethnicities uniting against Khamenei's brutal security forces Supporting Iran's feminist uprising: Woman holding sign B. Parhami's Socrates Think Tank talk on artificial intelligence (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Aerial photo of Tehran's Freedom (Azadi) Tower. [Top center] This is how software is created: "Don't worry. Keep coding. We can fix it later." [Top right] A rarely-seen aerial photo of Taj Mahal, India. [Bottom left] Meme of the day: Iranians of all walks of life and of all ethnicities uniting against Khamenei's brutal security forces. [Bottom center] Supporting Iran's feminist uprising: #WomanLifeFreedom #JanJianAzadi #MahsaAmini #NikkaShakarami [Bottom right] Tech talk on AI (see the last item below).
(2) Iran protests: Swedish MP, who has Iranian roots, fights back tears as he recites the names of children killed by Islamic Republic of Iran's security forces during recent street protests. [Tweet, with video]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Borowitz Report (humor): USA the envy of world after $10 billion in campaign ads changes almost nothing.
- A banner reading #WomanLifeFreedom flies over Qom, supposedly a stronghold for the Iranian mullahs.
- Scenes of mullahs harassing women in public: This is why Iranian protesters despise mullahs.
- Women in Karaj, near Tehran, greet each other & male passersby with smiles and gifts. [Tweet, with video]
- A restaurant in Malaysia gives out discounts according to how thin you are. [Photo]
- Beautiful math: Constructing the square-roots of consecutive natural numbers on the real line. [Video]
- Playing the guitar with the feet: Absolutely amazing! [3-minute video]
(4) Socrates Think Tank Zoom talk: Tonight, I spoke under the title "A Review of Methods, Applications, and Social Challenges of AI" (in Persian). I dedicated my talk to my ailing 93-year-old mother and also mentioned renewal of old friendships and support for Iran's feminist uprising as things that have been on my mind lately.
Defining artificial intelligence (AI), or plain intelligence for that matter, has proven more difficult than expected. Many people have thrown up their arms, taking the position that, even though we can't define AI, we'll recognize it when we see it! Despite the cycles of hype and disappointment in achieving general AI, success stories abound in making machines behave intelligently in limited domains. Examples include vehicle routing (Uber), logistics (airport gate assignments), and game-playing (Chess, GO). Meanwhile, we still have a long way to go in building machines that can pass the Turing test, as well as in domains such as machine translation, which may require the same, or even greater, capabilities. In recent years, we have come to realize that, as great as the technical challenges are in developing general AI, an even greater challenge is developing awareness and dealing with social implications of massive data repositories and automated decision-making. After collecting petabytes of data on each of us, there is no guarantee that machines, or their masters, will use the data to offer better services and optimal outcomes, rather than controlling and shaping our economic and social behaviors. A key consideration is thus ensuring a balance between facilitating technical progress and ensuring fairness and social justice. [Persian version of this summary]

2022/11/07 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of N. K. Jemisin's 'The Fifth Season' Math puzzles: Evaluate the three expressions shown in this image Iranians see mullahs as the cause of the country's economic & social woes: So, they show their disdain by knocking turbans off mullahs' heads (1) Images of the day: [Left] N. K. Jemisin's The Fifth Season (see the last item below). [Center] Math puzzles: Evaluate the top expression involving 90 product terms, the middle expression with its 2007-term summation, and the bottom expression, given the value of x. (Credit: @mathisstillfun) [Right] Iranians see mullahs as the cause of the country's economic & social woes: So, they show their disdain by knocking turbans off mullahs' heads and, on occasion, beating them up. I am a non-violent person, but when the ruling mullahs have protesters (including children) shot in the head and those in the parliament call for the execution of all protesters, I set aside my ideals and become more pragmatic!
(2) Lessons from history for Iranian rulers: Egyptian plain-clothes security forces attacked street protesters on horses and camels. They were tried in court after the downfall of Hosni Mubarak. [Tweet, with video]
(3) Nikki Haley's racism on full display: In a rally for Herschel Walker, she said Raphael Warnock, a black US Senator, should be deported. Deported to where? Warnock is the Georgia-born son of a US Army veteran.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Some 78% (227 out of 290) of Iran's MPs call for executing all street protesters. [Tweet]
- Facebook memory from Nov. 7, 2015: Satellite image of the San Francisco Bay Area.
- Facebook memory from Nov. 7, 2012: Three math and logical-reasoning puzzles.
- Facebook memory from Nov. 7, 2010: On languages spoken in Heaven and Hell.
(5) Iran beats Brazil to become the world champion of beach soccer: The players sided with street protesters in Iran through symbolic cutting of their hairs during goal-scoring celebrations, earning the wrath of sports and other Islamic Republic authorities, who barred well-wishers from greeting the team at the airport. [Highlights]
(6) Book review: Jemisin, N. K., The Fifth Season: Every Age Must Come to an End, unabridged 15-hour audiobook, read by Robin Miles, Hachette Audio, 2015. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
When I saw this book, I immediately wondered whether the author was a woman, using initials to disguise her gender, a la J. K. Rowling and E. L. James. Sure enough, Nora Keita Jemisin is not just a woman, but a black woman, a highly distinguished fantasy/sci-fi writer, winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novel in three consecutive years, 2016-2018 (for books in her "Broken Earth" trilogy, which begins with The Fifth Season), and recipient of a McArthur "Genius Grant" in 2020. The other two titles in this well-received trilogy are The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky.
The setting for this fascinating novel is a planet with a single supercontinent, whose inhabitants suffer from seismic activity and the ensuing extended winter, which they call a "Fifth Season," every few centuries. Jemisin reportedly took a volcano tour of Hawaii to see first-hand how seismic eruptions might affect the landscape and society. The planet's residents are divided into different castes by societal role, ethnicity, and species.
The plot begins when a powerful person, discussing the sad state of the world and the oppression of his race, threatens to use his super-powers to cause the worst Fifth Season in recorded history. The story then unfolds as the interleaving adventures of three female characters moving across the supercontinent. To avoid spoiling the intrigue, I won't reveal the ending or the connections among the various characters.
We earthlings can identify with the various elements of this story: Anti-Black and other forms of racism and racial oppression, the looming climate crisis, and the human-made nature of much of the threat. In July 2022, Santa Barbara Public Library selected The Fifth Season for its community reading program, which is how I learned about the book. Discussions and other public programming began in fall 2022.

2022/11/06 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Math puzzle: Find the measure of the two equal angles marked in this diagram Claude Monet and his love for the color blue: Sample works Math puzzle: In this diagram with a rectangle, a quarter-circle, and a half-circle, what is the area of the rectangle? (1) Images of the day: [Left] Math puzzle: Find the measure of the 2 equal angles marked in the diagram. [Center] Claude Monet and his love for the color blue: There are speculations that before he was persuaded to use corrective glasses, blue was the only color Monet could see. [Right] Math puzzle: In this diagram with a rectangle, a quarter-circle, and a half-circle, what is the area of the rectangle? (Credit: @sonukg4india)
(2) Art for a revolution: The German version of the TV talent-search program "The Voice" features Rana Mansour, performing her English translation of the anthem for Iran's feminist uprising, originally composed by the now-imprisoned Shervin Hajipour under the title "Baraa-ye." [7-minute video]
(3) Yet another significant scientific publication for my daughter Sepideh: "Broad transcriptomic dysregulation occurs across the cerebral cortex in ASD," by Michael J. Gandal, Jillian R. Haney, Brie Wamsley, Chloe X. Yap, Sepideh Parhami, et al, Nature, Nov. 2, 2022.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Oprah Winfrey, who put Dr. Oz on the map by regularly featuring him in her TV show, endorses his opponent.
- Using goons to advance political agendas and to keep/usurp power has a long history in Iran.
- There are King Cyrus Streets in Tel Aviv and several other Israeli cities, but not in Tehran, Iran. [Photo]
- Stanford Math Tournament 2022: If x^2 + 2y^2 + 3z^2 = 96, what is the maximum value of x + 2y + 3z?
(5) Iranians suck at cooperation: A few opposition figures are criticizing Nazanin Boniadi for her activism on behalf of Iranian women, citing the fact that she has not fought a single day inside Iran. Get real, people! All the key women leaders inside Iran are either in jail or wary of going back to jail if they speak up publicly. What's wrong if someone who has a platform uses it to do good?
(6) The survival condo: With thick, super-strong doors and 5-year food supply, these condos will allow the super-rich to survive natural and human-made catastrophes. [13-minute CBS News report]
(7) Nobel Laureate Peter J. Ratcliffe received this rejection letter from Nature in 1992: Of course, not every rejection letter means a future Nobel Prize, but peer evaluations can be, and far too often are, wrong! [Image]
(8) Global Women's Summit: A number of women leaders, including @HillaryClinton, @USAmbUN, @NazaninBoniadi, and @AlinejadMasih will participate in a Washington Post live meeting on Tuesday, November 15, 2022, 6:00 AM PST. This is a good chance to have voices of Iranian women heard globally.
(9) Iranian women opposed to compulsory hijab supporting each other: On the streets of Tehran, a woman hands out chocolates and a message that reads "Thank you for beautifying the city with your hair." [Video]

2022/11/04 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Leafy buildings in Hainan, China Cover image of Salman Rushdie's 'The Satanic Verses' Cover image of Salman Rushdie's 'The Satanic Verses' (Persian translation)
What's happening to Twitter? Has it fallen into the MAGA sinkhole? Are rumors that liberals are leaving the platform true? Accidental art in nature: Supporting Iranian women The US job market is hot but cooling, consistent with the beginning of a recession (chart) (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Leafy buildings in Hainan, China (more unusual/innovative buildings). [Top center & right] Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses (see the last item below). [Bottom left] What's happening to Twitter? Has it fallen into the MAGA sinkhole? Are rumors that liberals are leaving the platform true? [Bottom center] Accidental art in nature: Supporting Iran's feminist uprising (#WomanLifeFreedom). [Bottom right] The US job market is hot but cooling, consistent with the beginning of a recession (NYT chart).
(2) Math puzzle (GMAT 2017): Two horses are tied to diagonally opposite corners of a square field, using ropes of the same length. Each horse can reach half the field's area. Which is larger, the area that both horses can reach or the area that neither horse can reach?
(3) Book review: Rushdie, Salman (translated into Persian by Roshanak Irani; a pseudonym), The Satanic Verses: A Novel, Nima Publications, Berlin, 2003 (original, Viking, 1988).
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Many years after reading the original, the August 2022 assassination attempt on Rushdie prompted me to peruse a Persian edition of The Satanic Verses to show solidarity with those working on the protection of free speech across the globe. Roshanak Irani is very likely a pseudonym for the translator, whose life is just as threatened as Rushdie's. The translation is imperfect, so I found myself consulting the original text when I encountered ambiguities.
This fourth novel of British-Indian writer Salman Rushdie is loosely based on the life of Prophet Muhammad, using dream visions of two Indian expatriates, Gibreel Farishta and Saladin Chamcha, who are magically saved after their hijacked plane flying from India to Britian explodes over the English Channel. The novel achieved critical acclaim in the West and triggered violent reactions in the Islamic world, leading to the book's ban in many countries and death threats/attempts for blasphemy against the author and anyone associated with the book's publication & translation.
The titular satanic verses refer to Prophet Muhammad's revelation, later renounced as devil-induced, of the adoption of three Meccan goddesses in a dream sequence unfolding in Jahilia (land of ignorance). Upon the prophet's triumphant return to Mecca, one of his opponents hides in an underground brothel, whose prostitutes take the identities of the Prophet's wives. A second dream sequence features Ayesha, an Indian peasant girl purportedly guided by the Archangel Gabriel, who entices her village community to embark on an ill-fated foot pilgrimage to Mecca. A third dream sequence pertains to a contemporary fanatic expatriate Imam, a caricature of Ayatollah Khomeini.
Through the instrument of "magical realism," Rushdie deals with the immigrant experience in Britain, focusing on issues of suffering, identity, alienation, compromise, and conformity, which afflict all migrants. In a way, Rushdie paints his own inner struggles and conflicts. He has opined that the novel, a comic castigation of Western materialism, isn't about Islam, "but about migration, metamorphosis, divided selves, love, death, London, and Bombay."

2022/11/03 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Georgetown panel discussion on Iran's feminist revolution Abbassian Historic House in Kashan, Iran Support letters/statements for protests by Iranian women and students (1) Images of the day: [Left] Georgetown panel discussion on Iran's feminist revolution (see the last item below). [Center] Abbassian Historic House in Kashan, Iran. [Right] Support for protests by Iranian women and students (see the next to the last item below).
(2) This is how Iranian protesters are treated by security police: Beaten savagely and then shot point-blank. Even Iranian law requires that law-breakers be arrested, not beaten and shot at! [Warning: Violent video]
(3) Iran's Islamic regime has zero credibility: Security forces are shown in this video to destroy public and personal property, so that their bosses can later blame protesters for the same.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- CVS, Walmart, & Walgreens agree to pay nearly $14 billion to settle thousands of opioids lawsuits.
- Elon Musk assures civil rights groups that Twitter bans won't be rescinded until moderation process is in.
- New Yorker cartoon caption of the day: "My opponent is soft on all the violent crime I'm fomenting."
- Music students of Tehran U. of Art perform in celebration of #WomanLifeFreedom. [2-minute video]
(5) Work of women STEM researchers celebrated: A total of 1000 women researchers around the world have been named as top female scientists for 2022. [Forbes report, based on Research.com data]
(6) Persian poetry: This poem, written more than a year ago, aptly describes Iran's religious rulers, particularly their oppression of women. It is entitled "I have no religion at all." #WomanLifeFreedom
(7) Local Santa Barbara support for women & students of Iran: UCSB's Iranian Studies Initiative has posted several documents about local and global support for the women of Iran and for student activists. Among the posts is a Radio Zamaneh interview with the Initiative's Director, Dr. Janet Afary. Documents include County of Santa Barbara's resolution in support of the women of Iran, statement of support for our UCSB Iranian community, National Women's Studies Association stance in solidarity with Iranian protesters, and AIS/MESA joint statement of support for students at Sharif University of Technology.
(8) "Standing with Iranian Women": This was the title of today's interesting and informative webinar, with panelists Professor Azar Nafisi, author/journalist/activist Masih Alinejad, and analyst Dr. Suzanne Maloney. Ambassador Melanne Verveer moderated the discussion. Event page: https://giwps.georgetown.edu/event/standing-with-iranian-women/ As Iranian women risk everything for their rights and leading the charge for change, despite continued attacks, it is critical the world understands their bravery and the gravity of the moment. The three panelists in today's program focused on different aspect of the current situation in Iran and also answered some general questions about the best ways of supporting Iranian women and holding Iran's Islamic regime accountable for its brutal crackdown. The program began with the showing of a new video production of the song "Baraa-ye," which has become an anthem for the #WomanLifeFreedom uprising. Next, a female reporter joining the webinar from Iran, presented a brief overview of current events and attempts by the Islamic regime to violently quell the protests and to severely limit the flow of information to the outside world. Dr. Azar Nafisi (author & professor of English literature) put the current street protests in the context of Iranian women's movements over the years and the long tradition of feminists/activists, beginning with the 19th-century poet/scholar Tahirih who was murdered for her words and ideas. Nafisi characterized the ongoing protests and the brave, uncompromising young women who lead it as a dream come true for previous generations of women. Masih Alinejad criticized women politicians worldwide, including some who declare themselves to be feminists, and international human-rights organizations for staying on the sidelines. How can these entities remain indifferent in the face of women being flogged, imprisoned, or even killed for showing a few strands of hair from under their headscarves? Compulsory hijab is far from being a minor nuisance; it is an important tool for the regime to oppress women and to treat them as second-class citizens. Dr. Suzanne Maloney (VP and Foreign Policy Director, Brookings Institution) assessed the situation as an analyst, rather than an activist, concluding that the ongoing protests, which come on the heels of a long history of women activism, are fundamentally different in their scope and intensity. The program's recording will be made available soon.

2022/11/02 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Tonight's Socrates Think Tank talk: Homa Sarshar spoke in Persian under the title 'The Tale of Persistence' The evolution of Batman, 1939-2021 Cover image of Laura Mersini-Houghton's 'Before the Big Bang' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Tonight's Socrates Think Tank talk: Homa Sarshar spoke in Persian under the title "The Tale of Persistence." [Center] The evolution of Batman, 1939-2021. [Right] Laura Mersini-Houghton's Before the Big Bang (see the last item below).
(2) Amazing math: This series for 1/π^3, proposed by B. Gourevitch, has not been proven yet: However, imagine the work that went into its discovery and the beauty it represents, should it be proven correct.
(3) Educating the oppressors: A young Iranian girl is grilled by a TV reporter about why she doesn't believe in compulsory hijab. When the reporter is left speechless, the cameraman tries to help her, but he is also defeated by the savvy young girl, who tells the man that by comparing veiled & unveiled women to wrapped & unwrapped candy and men to flies, he is insulting women and himself.
(4) Misogyny rears its ugly head, even as Iranians protest under the feminist slogan #WomanLifeFreedom: Some men, as they walk the streets of Iran in protest, use obscene and sexualized chants against Islamic leaders and their female family members. Such chants have no place in a movement purporting to support women as human beings and freedom as an ideal.
(5) Book review: Mersini-Houghton, Laura, Before the Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe and What Lies Beyond, unabridged 6-hour audiobook, read by Xe Sands, Harper Audio, 2022.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This combo popular-science/memoir volume begins with a heart-wrenching account of the author's family life in communist Albania, where the author's father was forced to go through an ideological purification process triggered by his receiving a job offer from a foreign university. Mersini-Houghton's dad instilled in her a sense of curiosity, and the family survived intact under very challenging conditions. That scientific breakthroughs can emerge from such difficult beginnings is part of the wonder of life!
We are conditioned to think that the universe came into being some 14 billion years ago from the explosion of a miniscule, infinitely-dense singularity, and it has been expanding ever since. So, to the question "What came before the Big Bang?" we answer "Nothing." In a way, this is unsatisfying. If our universe arose from nothing, did other universes too? Put another way, if the Big Bang caused our universe to emerge, what caused the Big Bang?
A competing theory is that there are many universes and that we are but a small part of a multiverse. In the author's terminology, our universe is a wave function of a much larger multiverse, making it anything but special. And here's where the explanation breaks down. Through much hand-waving and repetition of terms, the reader is supposed to understand what it means to use "quantum mechanics on the landscape of string theory"! None of it is explained (or can be explained, I suspect) in a manner that is understandable to non-cosmologists.
Some readers have opined that the sprinkling of biographical information in this book detracts from the scientific message. I, for one, find the mix enriching. It is just as interesting to learn where scientists and their passions for particular fields of study come from as to learn the origins of the universe. Despite all that the educational system in communist Albania did to kill innovation and free thinking in the author, she emerged triumphant and went on to become a leading cosmologist of our time.

2022/10/31 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Halloween memories from years past: This year I had engagements that prevented me from hosting local trick-or-treaters Scenes from Isla Vista, the student community next to UCSB, getting ready for tonight's raucous Halloween parties and street festival Shame on Iran's brutal Islamic regime for converting this bundle of joy to a weeping young girl, mourning her murdered mother (1) Images of the day: [Left] Halloween memories from years past: This year I had engagements that prevented me from hosting local trick-or-treaters. [Center] Scenes from Isla Vista, the student community next to UCSB, getting ready for tonight's raucous Halloween parties and street festival. Law enforcement has a heavy presence. [Right] Shame on Iran's brutal Islamic regime for converting this bundle of joy to a weeping young girl, mourning the murder of her mother by the regime's thugs during street protests.
(2) Justice, Islamic Republic of Iran style: Kangaroo courts are being held in Iran for prosecuting and convicting street protesters. Trials last mere minutes, with no attorney present.
(3) The Taliban in Afghanistan and Iran's Islamic regime are in competition to see who can abuse & oppress women more: Female students outside Afghanistan's Badakhshan University are whipped by a Taliban officer while protesting for their right to higher education.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Five of the officials of Iran's Islamic regime live in mansions that put royal palaces to shame!
- Canada becomes the first country to call for removal of Iran from the UN Women's Rights Commission.
- Angered Iranian & Ukrainian activists gather in Times Square seeking the world's help against Iran.
- Facebook memory from Oct. 31, 2016: You can't scare a computer hardware engineer!
(5) Talk about hypocrisy! As teenagers are being killed by the Iranian regime for wanting to get rid of mandatory hijab and other misogynistic laws, IRGC commander and current Transportation Minister Rostam Qasemi appears in these photos with his unveiled girlfriend in Malaysia.
(6) Exposed by an investigative report: A "charity" affiliated with Iran's Islamic Human Rights Commission is operating freely in the UK and has even received financial assistance from the British government.
(7) This armed-to-the-teeth special-forces guard isn't going to face a foreign enemy but is headed to the headquarters of Iran's Medical Association, where a group of doctors are holding a protest rally. [Photo]
(8) A final scary post for this Halloween night: We may not be able to eliminate the 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures, but even reducing the rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius makes a big difference. We have no excuse for inaction. [Image]

2022/10/30 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Two math puzzles (credit: @mathisstillfun) If you waver in your resolve to vote, remember RBG and do it for her! UCLA panel discussion on the ongoing protest movement in Iran: Event flyer (1) Images of the day: [Left] Two math puzzles asking you to evaluate expressions, given some equalities (credit: @mathisstillfun). [Center] If you waver in your resolve to vote, remember RBG and do it for her! [Right] UCLA panel discussion on the ongoing protest movement in Iran (see the last item below).
(2) The non-technologist who had a deep impact on computing: Creator of the Whole Earth Catalog, author of II Cybernetics Frontiers (in which he coined the term "personal computer"), organizer of the first Hackers Conference, and leader of one of the first on-line communities, Stuart Brand was known for his unusual ability to discern interesting societal trends early on. We have learned a lot more about this influential pioneer, thanks to his recently-discovered lost journal.
(3) A wonderful STEM resource: IEEE runs TryEngineering.org as a public service. The Web site has invaluable resources for teachers who want to introduce STEM topics in their classrooms, students wanting to learn about engineering areas & careers, and tools/programs for STEM outreach.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has been voted out of office and replaced with the leftist leader Lula.
- Bridge collapse in India leaves at least 132 dead. Is this the scariest Halloween ever or what?
- Drumming: A beautiful piece of music by Planet Drum. [3-minute video]
- Meme of the day: "Each bullet kills just one bird but makes thousands of birds fly."
(5) "Panel Discussion on the Roles of Gender & Women in the Current Protests in Iran": This was the title of today's panel discussion, as part of UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran. Moderated by Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (Cal State Northridge), the panel was composed of four panelists, whose viewpoints are summarized below.
- Merhangiz Kar (human-rights activist/lawyer): The most-recent uprising has its roots in the regime's efforts to pit women against each other, with regime-supporting, strictly-veiled women physically confronting those who wear a laxer form of hijab. This strategy backfired, with women who reluctantly wore minimalist hijabs choosing to remove it altogether. The idea of hijab as a stepping stone to gender apartheid was laid by Khomeini, and it was continued by subsequent Islamic officials. Khomeini was aided in his efforts by many women who were normally unveiled but chose to wear a headscarf or chador as a form of protest in the months leading to the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Compulsory hijab laws led directly to other misogynistic laws. [Book]
- Dr. Mohammad Ali Kadivar (Boston College): What has happened in Iran over the past 40+ days is both a social movement and a revolution. As a revolution, the movement may eventually be quashed through military crackdown, but the social-demands are on the way of enacting permanent changes. Women are taking off their headscarves en masse, and university students have already taken down the walls between women's and men's sections of cafeterias on campus. This movement does have some organizers and influencers, who sign statements and issue calls for action, but more needs to be done in this regard. Leaders are currently distributed and act in small groups of friends & acquaintances. An effective leader weaves a story that reflects the path to take from where we stand (our common history & humanity) to our aspirations. [Book/Course]
- Zeynab Peyghambarzadeh (sociologist): While the current movement has an undeniable feminist component, as women fight patriarchy and misogynistic laws, there are also strong elements of modernity and anti-political-Islam thoughts in the slogans, including demands by LGBTQ+ groups. There is the main chant "Woman, Life, Freedom," with calls to extend "Woman" by using something more inclusive like "Woman*." Overt and extensive mentions of LGBTQ+ demands were unprecedented before the current uprising.
- Dr. Fatemeh Shams (U. Pennsylvania): Close links exists between literature/poetry and freedom movements in Iran. Rhyming slogans are parts of parcels of Iran's sociopolitical movements. Citing numerous examples of chants used by the protesters, Dr. Shams argued that their demands extend far beyond social reforms; they are verbally attacking the heart of the regime and its very existence. It's imperative that we pay attention to chants and slogans to understand the nature of the movement and to avoid falling behind or getting in front of it. Some tried to dilute the "Woman, Life, Freedom" slogan by adding "Man, Country, Development" to it, with little success. Ironically, an Islamic Republic official tried to hijack the main slogan by citing it in his speech, claiming that the regime is all for women, life, and freedom. Iranians in exile face a tricky situation, as they try to avoid certain slogans in the interest of greater unity. A prime example is the slogan "Down with Setamgar (Oppressor), Be It the Shah or Rahbar (Supreme Leader)." The protesters do not shy away from dissing the Supreme Leader or the Revolutionary Guards, as exemplified by rhyming "Jenayat" with "Velayat" and chanting "Hossein, Hossein, Kojaee; Yazid Shodeh Sepaahi."

2022/10/29 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Powerful memes for Iran's feminist revolution: The world is speaking up in support of Iranian women Optical illusion: All the green lines in this image are straight The Global Semiconductor Alliance Women's Leadership Initiative stands with Iranian women in fighting their second-class citizenship status
3D art at the service of public safety (crosswalk design) I don't know if Mango-olive salad is a standard dish, but do try it if you find it Sign of the times: Countdown to the collapse of Iran's Islamic regime has begun (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Powerful memes for Iran's feminist revolution: The world is speaking up in support of Iranian women. #WomenLifeFreedom #MahsaAmini [Top center] Optical illusion: All the green lines in this image are straight. [Top right] The Global Semiconductor Alliance Women's Leadership Initiative stands with Iranian women in fighting their second-class citizenship status. [Bottom left] 3D art at the service of public safety. [Bottom center] Mango-olive salad: This is what I ordered for yesterday's lunch at Masala Spice, a local Indian restaurant. I don't know if this is a standard dish, but do try it if you find it. [Bottom right] Sign of the times: Countdown to the collapse of Iran's Islamic regime has begun.
(2) It Snows in this House: Book talk by Dr. Hamed Esmaeilion, Canada-based activist whose wife and daughter perished in Iran's downing of Ukrainian Airlines Flight PS 752. [55-minute video]
(3) Two icons of courage & persistence honored by US Institute of Peace for standing up to brutal dictators: Iranian journalist/activist Masih Alinejad and Ukraine's President Volidymor Zelensky. [Tweet]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- At least 120 dead, scores more injured, in Seoul, South Korea, during a Halloween-celebration stampede.
- Words of wisdom: You cannot treat people like garbage and worship God at the same time.
- Facebook memory from Oct. 29, 2018: The day I had to be in two places at the same time.
- Facebook memory from Oct. 29, 2016: The campaign to free Narges Mohammadi.
- Facebook memory from Oct. 29, 2015: Pondering the joys of the Persian language.
(5) Funny meme of the day (regarding women's magazines):
Page 10: How to lose weight fast.   Page 11: You're beautiful the way you are.   Page 12: Cake recipe.
(6) "Computer Arithmetic: Continuing a Long and Steady Emergence": This is the title of an article by Paolo Montuschi, Jean-Michel Muller, and Florent de Dinechin, published in the October 2022 issue of IEEE Computer magazine. The article defines the field of computer arithmetic and introduces a special issue of IEEE Trans. of Emerging Topics in Computing devoted to the topic.
(7) "Crying 'Cybersecurity!'": This is the title of IEEE Computer magazine's EIC message (October 2022 issue), stressing the point that "continual cybersecurity warnings will fall on deaf ears."
(8) Universities trail the industry in embracing digital transformation: This is the thesis of an article by Jay Liebowitz (October 2022 issue of IEEE Computer magazine), arguing that for universities to stay alive, "digital transformation must take place in many areas (from student learning to financial health to IT systems ...)."
(9) Final thought for the day: "We live in a culture that discourages empathy. A culture that too often tells us our principal goal in life is to be rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained." ~ President Barack Obama

2022/10/27 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The bravery of Iranian women is celebrated everywhere: This billboard is in NYC's Times Square IKEA billbord showing support for Iranian women Meme: Mahsa Amini has become an icon of the women's-rights movement in Iran
Mourning in Saqqez, Iran, 40 days after Mahsa Amini's murder while in the custody of Iran's morality police f22-221026-Mahsa Amini's mourning ceremony in Saqqez on newspaper front pages worldwide Photo from a US national security meeting on the war in Ukraine: Where are the women? (1) Images of the day: [Top row] The bravery of Iranian women is celebrated everywhere: On an IKEA billboard, in NYC's Times Square, and in social-media memes. [Bottom left & center] Thia photo from Saqqez, Iran, went viral and graced the front pages of dozens of newspapers worldwide. It was taken as thousands of people mourned the passing of 40 days from Mahsa Amini's murder while in the custody of Iran's morality police (New York Times front-page story). [Bottom right] Photo from a US national security meeting on the war in Ukraine: Where are the women?
(2) Ban Khamenei on Twitter: Would you believe that Khamenei uses Twitter to spread his messages of hate and to order the killing of teen-age protesters, while blocking the platform for nearly all Iranians?
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Something has changed in Iran and its people: Freedom is within reach. There is no going back! [Tweet]
- The protest song "Bara-ye," performed by a group of artists under the auspices of Farhang Foundation.
- Posters of Ayatollah Khamenei are being removed from public places, because protesters are defacing them.
- Political advice: Voting is like driving: To go forward, select D. To go backward, choose R.
- Top officials have left Twitter after the completion of Elon Musk's $44 billion takeover of the company.
- Delicious rice cookies: Souvenir/gift from Kermanshah, Iran. Photo]
- Performing "Sharghi-ye Ghamguin" ("The Sorrowful Easterner") for the cause of freedom in Iran. [Video]
(4) Hating everyone: Only in America do we see the Arab/Muslim-hating public use a Hamas-Israeli conflict as an excuse to escalate anti-Semitic acts. The far-Right is supposedly pro-Israel but its rhetoric and social-media influencers help spread anti-Jewish hate.
(5) Fiftieth anniversary: Half a century ago, Stevie Wonder, 22, reinvented the sound of pop by releasing the album "Talking Book," bearing the hit "Superstition." Hats off to a music legend whose influence is still strong!
(6) Today, my mom was watching one of the Persian TV stations based in Los Angeles: As usual, a bunch of old men were discussing Iran's feminist uprising! Where are the women and the youth?

2022/10/24 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A few images celebrating the women-led uprising in Iran UCSB faculty and students held an event on campus in support of Iranian women pursuing their rights Women with all kinds of hijab and with no hijab have coexisted in Iran for centuries
Persian calligraphy: A wonderful artistic creation by Master Esrafil Shirchi Down with the oppressor, be he the king or the supreme leader Cover image of Houman Sarshar's 'The Jews of Iran' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] A few images celebrating the women-led uprising in Iran. #MahsaAmini #NikkaShakarami [Top center] UCSB faculty and students held an event on campus in support of Iranian women pursuing their rights. [Top right] Women with all kinds of hijab and with no hijab have coexisted in Iran for centuries: The mullahs created a division among women to oppress all women and to advance their misogynistic agenda. [Bottom left] Persian calligraphy: A wonderful artistic creation by Master Esrafil Shirchi. [Bottom center] Down with the oppressor, be he the king or the supreme leader. [Bottom right] Houman Sarshar's The Jews of Iran (see the last item below).
(2) Misogyny is rampant among Iranians, even "intellectuals" in opposition groups: On a Facebook post about FIFA failing to implement its threats against Iran's banning of women from sports stadiums to watch soccer, a man suggested that Massih Alinejad should abandon her activism in the US, go to Iran, and enter into a sigheh marriage (Islamic polygamy). Instead of criticizing her ideas, they attack her as a woman. On the same post, there are also many sexually-explicit insults. The women-led uprising in Iran is needed as much for such men as for the brutally-oppressive mullahs.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- COVID's impact on education: Massive decline in US math scores and a slide in reading skills.
- Fashion show in Vancouver celebrates and supports Iranian women. [Video]
- A Persian verse composed by poet Soroush Shafiian after visiting the grave of #NikkaShakarami.
- UCSB Faculty Salary Equity Analysis, 2021-2022: Conditions are improving, but we have a long way to go.
(4) Book review: Sarshar, Houman (ed.), The Jews of Iran: The History, Religion and Culture of a Community in the Islamic World, a book in the "International Library of Iranian Studies" series, I. B. Tauris 264 pp. or 352 pp., 2014. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I have previously reviewed Habib Levy's book, Comprehensive History of the Jews of Iran: The Outset of the Diaspora, on GoodReads, giving it 4 stars: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4691174645
Houman Sarshar, born in Iran and raised in a Jewish family, has written extensively on the Jewish communities of Persian-speaking countries. His mission of documenting the lives of Iranian Jews is made more urgent by the community's shrinking size, having gone from ~100,000 in the 1970s to no more than 15,000 after Iran's Islamic Revolution. Exact numbers are hard to come by, given conversions to Islam and hiding of identities out of fear of persecution.
Iranian Jews have a 2700-year history. They have co-existed under bonds of friendship and mutual respect with the rest of the community. During the reign of Shah Mohammad-Reza Pahlavi (1941-1979), Iran and Israel expanded their cultural and diplomatic relations, leading to the proliferation of research studies in Israel and elsewhere on Iranian Jews and their integration into Iran's predominantly Muslim society, so as to remedy the under-documentation of the social, political, and economic influences of Jews in contemporary Persian-language texts.
Sarshar was inspired by the biblical account of Queen Esther to write the book Esther's Children, in which he observes that Iranian Jews exist between living in hiding and acting as gate-keepers of Jewish and Iranian cultures, particularly musical and wine-making traditions. In this volume too, whose cover bears an image of the Jewish queen, the influence of Esther is evident, but the coverage is much broader. On page xiii, Sarshar writes, "Jewish Iranian studies is at last entering the next and indeed exciting stage of scholarship ... examining the social, historical, and cultural life of Jews in Iran with the objectives of arriving at hypotheses that reach beyond a mere systematic archival documentation of facts."
Sarshar thus aims to contribute to this new period of scholarship by including a set of ten diverse essays, beginning with the opening piece dealing with the Jewish settlement patterns in pre-Islamic Iran and ending with four essays on Jewish Iranian women's literary production. The book is thus not a simple historical overview but a broad-based examination of historical, cultural, and political dimensions of the lives of Iranian Jews.
I end my review with a list of chapter titles.
- New Vistas on the History of Iranian Jewry in Late Antiquity: Patterns of Jewish Settlement in Iran
- Lotera'i
- The Intellectual and Polemical Dimensions of Hovot Rafa'el
- Two Wars, Two Cities, Two Religions: The Jews of Mashhad and the Herat Wars
- The Origins of the Decorated Ketubbah in Iran and Afghanistan
- The Material Culture and Ritual Objects of the Jews of Iran
- The Things They Left Behind
- Voices of Marginality: Diversity in Jewish Iranian Women's Memoirs and Beyond
- Flights from History in Gina Barkhordar Nahai's and Dalia Sofer's Fiction
- Fantasies of Flight and Inclusion: Gina Nahai's Reclaiming of Jewish Iranian Identity in the American Diaspora

2022/10/22 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Double-birthday party at my house: Batch 10 of photos Double-birthday party at my house: Batch 20 of photos Double-birthday party at my house: Batch 15 of photos
Mothers of slain political activists in Iran are holding strong and won't be intimidated by regime threats Cover image of Jhumpa Lahiri's 'Translating Myself and Others' The youngest-ever cabinet minister in Sweden is a 26-year-old woman of Iranian heritage (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Double-birthday party at my house for my son and my niece, in which local artist David Tovar provided the musical entertainment, singing rock and country classics such as "Stand by Me," "Suzy Q," "Sweet Caroline," and "Fever" (Videos: 1; 2; 3; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9) [Bottom left] Mothers of slain political activists in Iran are holding strong and won't be intimidated by regime threats. #WomenLifeFreedom [Bottom center] Jhumpa Lahiri's Translating Myself and Others (see the last item below). [Bottom right] The youngest-ever cabinet minister in Sweden is a 26-year-old woman of Iranian heritage.
(2) World's largest supercomputer experiences several failures per day: The exaflops Frontier at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which uses 21 MW of power to feed its powerful GPUs and complex interconnects (enough to power a small town), has a mean time to failure (MTTF) measured in hours, not days!
(3) English translation of a few Persian verses from Mowlavi/Rumi:  I was dead, I found life;  I was weeping, I found laughter.  Love's blessings transformed me,  and I became everlasting power.  My eyes are content now, my soul valiant.  I have the heart of a lion, and the glow of Venus.
(4) Book review: Lahiri, Jhumpa, Translating Myself and Others, unabridged 6-hour audiobook, read by Sneha Mathan, Princeton U. Press, 2022. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Jhumpa Lahiri is a professor at Princeton U., teaching creative writing and translation. Before joining Princeton, she lived in Rome, "where [her] linguistic landscape dramatically transformed, and Italian emerged like a new island in an archipelago, just as Ovid describes in Metamorphoses ..."
I have previously reviewed In Other Words, Lahiri's love letter to the Italian language, in which she confides that writing in a different language allows her to break the molds and express herself more freely, perhaps even finding a new voice in the process: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3818863021
Because of this passion for thinking and immersing oneself in an original language, one may think that she looks down on translation. On the contrary, she has come to the conclusion that translation is nothing but a form of writing. In her May 2022 interview with NPR's "All Things Considered," Lahiri talked about how she fell in love with translating and how this love shapes her writing. In particular, she explained how translating the works of other authors and her own writings from Italian made her a better writer in Italian. She views the work of translation as both difficult and enjoyable.
When translating one's own writing, there is the constant temptation to re-write, correct factual errors, and remove inconsistencies. So, Lahiri views translation as just another round of editing, albeit an extremely rigorous one. After Lahiri translated her Italian novel Dove Mi Trovo into its English version, Whereabouts, she went back and updated the Italian version. A writer essentially translates his/her thoughts from an internal language to a chosen external language. For a multi-lingual person, internal thoughts can form in different languages.
We often praise the quality of a translation by saying that it remains faithful to the original. It was Jorge Luis Borges [1899-1986] who recognized the possibility of a translation being so much better than the original and coined the expression "the original is unfaithful to the translation," thus giving translation the status of creative thinking.
Here is a good way for grasping the challenges of translation. Any writer has faced the problem of choosing an appropriate word from a long list of synonyms for the exact feeling or thought s/he wants to convey. There are nuances that make synonyms not exactly equivalent, creating problems even for the native speaker of a language. The problem becomes even more daunting when going back and forth between languages.
The book contains ten essays, sandwiched between an introduction and an afterword ("Translating Transformation"):
- Why Italian?
- Containers: Introduction to Ties by Domenico Starnone
- Juxtaposition: Introduction to Trick by Domenico Starnone
- In Praise of Echo: Reflections on the Meaning of Translation
- An Ode to the Mighty Optative: Notes on a Would-be Translator
- Where I Find Myself: On Self-Translation
- Sustitution: Afterword to Trust by Domenico Starnone
- Extra(ordinary) Translation: On Gramsci
- Lingua/Language
- Calvino Abroad

2022/10/20 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iran's feminist uprising: Rock, paper, scissors (meme) IEEE Central Coast Section tech talk on AI, by Dr. Behrooz Parhami NASA uses information gained from shadows to create an accurate 3D model of the lunar surface (1) Images of the day: [Left] Meme of the day about Iran's feminist uprising triggered by the death of #MahsaAmini who was in custody for wearing "improper hijab": Rock, paper, scissors. [Center] IEEE Central Coast Section tech talk (see the last item below). [Right] Mapping the moon: NASA uses information gained from shadows to create an accurate 3D model of the lunar surface, in preparation for US astronauts returning to the Moon by 2025, in a mission focused on finding water in cold, permanently-shadowed deep craters.
(2) Iranians' excitement & anxiety these days has led to the spread of much misinformation & disinformation on social media: These two photos are good examples. The kicking-woman photo is from a deleted scene of a film, which was ironically made by Iran's Islamic regime. The other photo isn't even from Iran, but from Azerbaijan of 9 years ago. I am guilty of spreading the latter photo along with a false narrative. We should all check our sources diligently.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- CNN's Jake Tapper covers Iran's feminist uprising. [Video]
- Huge fire with a barrage of gunshots reported at Tehran's Evin Prison, where political prisoners are kept.
- Iran's brutal Islamic regime shamelessly uses ambulances for arrests and for transporting security forces.
- Full episode of the PBS program "Firing Line," featuring Masih Alinejad. #WomenLifeFreedom
- Music from the very popular oldie song "Soltan-e Ghalb-ha," with protest lyrics. [2-minute video]
(4) Apple Computer continues its transition to USB-C charger as a replacement for its Lightning port because of a European Union law requiring a common charger for all consumer electronic devices by 2024.
(5) On the story of hijab: Dr. Mohammad Amini, an expert in contemporary Iranian history who recently passed away, published his research on hijab ~12 years ago. I highly recommend this insightful article, which is in Persian. RIP. [Part 1] [Paert 2]
(6) Quote of the day: "Patience is not sitting and waiting, it is foreseeing. It is looking at the thorn and seeing the rose, looking at the night and seeing the day." ~ Shams Tabrizi
(7) IEEE Central Coast Section's technical talk of 10/19: Speaking under the title "A Realistic Assessment of Intelligent Behavior and Machine Learning," Dr. Behrooz Parhami (UCSB, ECE) presented a historical overview of the field of artificial intelligence, with its ups & downs, along with the status of various problems that have eluded full solution, including technical difficulties in areas such as machine translation and social/ethical challenges in applying AI technology in a safe, unbiased, and just manner.
[Full IEEE CCS report] [PDF slides] [Speaker's Web page]

2022/10/18 (Tuesday): Memorable trip to Istanbul with a group of college buddies, Oct. 13-18, 2022.
Memories of Istanbul: Our reunion gathering's banner Memories of Istanbul: Map of the Sea of Marmara and surrounding areas Memories of Istanbul: Some of the suvenior magnets I brought back with me
Visiting Istanbul's Princes Islands: Photo 4 Visiting Istanbul's Princes Islands: Photo 3 Visiting Istanbul's Princes Islands: Photo 5
Visit to the Suleymanieh Mosque and its adjacent mausoleums of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent & his wife: Photo 3 Visit to the Suleymanieh Mosque and its adjacent mausoleums of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent & his wife: Batch 1 of photos Visit to the Suleymanieh Mosque and its adjacent mausoleums of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent & his wife: Photo 5
The ancient Phanar Greek Orthodox College and its vicinity With the statue of Poseidon at the Istanbul Aquarium Walking in the vicinity of Istanbul Grand Bazaar and Taksim Squre: Batch 13 of photos
In front of Hagia Sophia, with our reunion banner featuring a photo of the same More photos of Hagia Sophia, an icon of Istanbul Walking toward Topkapi Palace adjacent to Hagia Sophia
Photos of Dolmabahce Palace, shot from outside The restaurant in Kumkapi District where we had dinner and drinks, along with live musical entertainment Photos of inside of Dolmabahce Palace and its adjacent harem-sara
Sweets and dried fruits on offer at Istanbul's Grand Bazaar Views of Istanbul from atop Galata Bridge and a scale model of a nearby neighborhood Miscellaneous photos shot at Istanbul's Grand Bazaar Introduction: Following the reunion gatherings in Armenia (50th anniversary of our graduation from Tehran University's College of Engineering) in 2018 and Georgia in 2019, we decided to gather in Istanbul to mark our 54th graduation anniversary. Locations of these anniversary gatherings were chosen to make it easy for friends from Iran to attend, given the difficulty of obtaining visas and high travel expenses for going to countries in the West. The group was smaller than those of our previous gatherings due to the current economic conditions and explosive political situation in Iran. In all, we had 9 people in attendance, counting family members. I took many more photos and am posting here only selected shots that give a feel for our experiences.
Second row of images: On Friday, our first full day in Istanbul, we took a boat tour of Princes Islands in the Sea of Marmara. Princes Islands are protected from development: Only approved renovations to existing houses are permissible. Foreign nationals aren't allowed to own property there. With very few exceptions, all vehicles must be electric. Here are samples of musical entertainment provided on the tour boat [Video 1; Video 2; Video 3]. In the evening, we tried some street snacks (broiled corn on the cob & chestnuts).
Third & fourth row of images: On Saturday, we visited Suleymanieh Mosque, the second biggest one in "the city of a thousand mosques," and its adjacent mausoleums of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent and his wife, Hurrem Sultan. Then, we explored the neighborhood where the ancient Phanar Greek Orthodox College still stands and is operating as a primary/middle school. We next visited the Istanbul Aquarium, one of the largest in the world. It has sections corresponding to different regions of the world and their characteristic climates, with the section devoted to Amazon being most impressive. We ended the day by spending some time at an outlet mall, followed by walking on the streets near our Occidental Taksim Square hotel.
Fifth & sixth rows of images: On Sunday, we began our explorations with a visit to Hagia Sophia, the ancient landmark that has become a symbol of Istanbul. The minarets were added when it was converted from a church to a mosque. Later it was turned into a museum. The adjacent Topkapi Palace is also quite impressive. Later in the day, we visited the Dolmabahce (pronounced "Dolma Baghcheh") Palace on the shore of the Sea of Marmara, where Ottoman Sultans took residence, as they approached their final decades of rule. This palace with its adjacent harem-sara is a symbol of overindulgence. We ended the day by dining at a restaurant in Kumkapi District, with ample musical entertainment provided by traveling bands playing mostly Turkish & Kurdish songs. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]
Seventh row of images: On Monday, we visited Istanbul's Grand Bazaar, a vast complex of covered and open-air alleys lined with small shops, selling everything from jewlery to herbs and sweets. Later, we got a glimpse of the city from atop Galata bridge, dining at one of the many restaurants underneath the bridge for an amazing seafood experience (again with live music). [Video]
Returning to the US: On Tuesday I had my return flight departing at 1:15 PM, so I didn't go on a tour of Spanja and its beautiful nature with other members of our party, who stayed until Thursday, 10/20. I had a class to teach and an IEEE lecture to give on 10/19. I was treated to three security checks at Istanbul Airport: Upon entering the airport, after checking (en route to the designated terminal), and at the boarding gate.
Final notes: As I awaited boarding my Turkish Airlines flight to SFO en route to Santa Barbara, I jotted down some thoughts on this enjoyable and memorable trip, where I renewed a few old friendships, some of them dating back to the late 1960s at Tehran University's College of Engineering.
Istanbul is a beautiful and diverse city, located at the watery intersection of the old and new worlds. It neighbors the Black Sea and situated on both sides of the Sea of Marmara, the latter connected to the Mediterranean via the Aegean Sea. Because of limited connectivity via a handful of bridges, the hilly landscape, and narrow, winding streets, traffic is a nightmare. Cars and pedestrians mingle on the narrow roads in a potentially deadly mix, forcing drivers to move very slowly.
The Turkish language is written with the Latin alphabet. This fact, combined with the use of many words from Persian, Arabic, and European languages, often with very slight modifications, allowed me to understand many store and directional signs. Also helpful was my exposure to the Azeri language when I attended first through third grades in Tabriz, Iran. Try to guess what the word "kebap" means!
Turkey was modernized and secularized by Kemal Ataturk (the last name means "Father of Turk"), whose profound influence on the country is quite evident. Some of that secularization has been undone in recent years, but there is little doubt that Turkey thrives because of Ataturk's visionary and bold reforms.

2022/10/13 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Bravery in the face of oppression: Iranian women are going back 40+ years to the days when they could choose their own clothing. Cartoon about arresting school girls during protests in Iran IranWire cartoon of the day: Iran's Supreme Leader is drowning in women's hair
A few shots from the plane during my SBA-SFO flight, en route to Istanbul Statue of #MahsaAmini, created by Ms. Paula Slater from California Landing at Istanbul Airport: Four photos (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Bravery in the face of oppression: Iranian women are going back 40+ years to the days when they could choose their own clothing. [Top center] Cartoon about arresting school girls during protests in Iran: "Sir, we have a small problem here. The handcuffs are too big!" [Top right] IranWire cartoon of the day: Iran's Supreme Leader is drowning in women's hair. [Bottom left] A few shots from the plane during my SBA-SFO flight, en route to Istanbul: You see a couple of iconic sights from the San Francisco Bay Area, a parallel approach to landing by two airplanes, and a couple of very rare unoccupied airplane seats next to me! [Bottom center] Statue of #MahsaAmini, created by Ms. Paula Slater from California (#WomenLifeFreedom). [Bottom right] Landing at Istanbul Airport: I and a group of college classmates are celebrating the 54th anniversary of our graduation from Tehran University's College of Engineering at this magical city.
(2) Nobel-Prize-worthy warnings about banks apply equally to other financial institutions: "As Wall Street gets jittery, Stockholm honors three economists who warned about fragilities in the banking system."
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Music from the very popular oldie song "Soltan-e Ghal-ha," with protest lyrics. [Video]
- Full episode of the PBS program "Firing Line," featuring Masih Alinejad. #WomenLifeFreedom #MahsaAmini
- "Holy Spider," a film based on a true story from Iran: A country that considers women's lives worthless.
- I am now a proud lifetime member of ACM, following 50 years of professional membership.
(4) A tale of two Persian anthems: One dictated from the top and costing millions to produce/promote in order to praise "the Commander" (Khamenei); the other coming from a little-known singer/songwriter, lauding the Commander's victims and going viral in a matter of days, free of charge.
(5) Support for Iranian protesters: The Computer Architecture Special Interest Group of ACM (SIGARCH) and IEEE Computer Society's Technical Committee on Computer Architecture have issued a joint statement in support of Iranian protesters demanding freedom and gender equity.

2022/10/11 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
T-shirts with slogans and symbols of Iran's new feminist uprising: Photo 1 T-shirts with slogans and symbols of Iran's new feminist uprising: Photo 3 Mona Lisa joins a long list of celebrities who have supported Iran's feminists uprising
Clever shot: A young woman, holding a photo of herself as an 8-year-old Statue of General Qasem Soleimani has been removed: Regime operatives in Iran apparently got tired of erasing graffiti from the base of the statue The world's largest pumpkin, weighing a hefty 2554 lbs (~1150 kg) (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] For friends of Iranian origins and their supporters, these and a couple of other T-shirt designs with slogans and symbols of Iran's new feminist uprising are available from Amazon.com. [Top right] Mona Lisa joins a long list of celebrities who have supported Iran's feminists uprising. [Bottom left] Clever shot: A young woman, holding a photo of herself as an 8-year-old. [Bottom center] Statue of General Qasem Soleimani has been removed: Regime operatives in Iran apparently got tired of erasing graffiti from the base of the statue. How interesting that the Islamic regime finds the slogan "Death to the Dictator" offensive, given that the dictator is unnamed and that Khomeini rose to power with the same slogan! [Bottom right] It's the season when we see pumpkins and pumpkin products everywhere: Here is a photo of the world's largest pumpkin, weighing a hefty 2554 lbs (~1150 kg). (Note: Guiness World Records actually lists a bigger one)
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Iran protests on two pages of the Sunday issue of New York Times.
- Book introduction: Taking off from Tehran, by Sheida White. [Cover image]
- Angela Lansbury, an award-winning actress and the voice of several Disney characters, dead at 96.
(3) Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences: The 2022 Prize was awarded to Ben S. Bernanke, Douglas W. Diamond, and Philip H. Dybvig, "for research on banks and financial crises."

2022/10/09 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Mormon Temple by Interstate 5 in San Diego, and Saturday morning snacks At a craft shop in Old Town San Diego More photos from Old Town San Diego, including a taco dish with bone marrow on top
Selfies I took at Old Town San Diego A few landscape shots from where we walked on Saturday Kayaking on San Diego's Mission Bay, alonside sea lions & birds (1) Spending the weekend in San Diego with my daughter and younger son: [Top left] Mormon Temple by Interstate 5 (Internet image & my shot from the car), and morning snacks I prepared. [Top center] At a craft shop in Old Town San Diego. [Top right] More photos from Old Town San Diego, including a taco dish with bone marrow on top. [Bottom left] Selfies I took at Old Town San Diego. [Bottom center] A few landscape shots from where we walked on Saturday. [Bottom right] Kayaking on Mission Bay, alonside sea lions & birds.
(2) Iran's brutal Islamic regime keeps killing & maiming the street protesters, yet its supporters outside Iran, including the US-based NIAC, claim that Iranians are mostly protesting Western sanctions!
(3) Bernie has a point: We defend Saudi Arabia against its regional enemies, so that it can collude with Russia to raise oil prices? Why not let Russia defend it? [Tweet]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Women's rights are human rights: Message from FMs of several countries to the brave people of Iran.
- A chain of 20 tweets containing 20 songs that honor/celebrate the 2022 uprising of Iranian people.
- Putin, the man who targets civilian sites with rockets, calls the Crimea bridge explosion "terrorism"!
- It's not just compulsory hijab: Iranian women & youth are fighting a long list of injustices & corruptions.
(5) Photographing Iranian women: "Iran is not a country that looks or sounds like its leaders. It's much more youthful. Much more liberal. And it's much, much more female." ~ Humans of New York
(6) Somewhere in the mid-Atlantic, every mermaid owns a luxury car: Twenty-thousand Porsches and Bentleys were lost when a cargo ship sank due to a fire started by one of the cars' batteries. [Story from March 2022]
(7) Nikka Shakarami died from bullet wounds during Iran's October 2022 street protests: Her mother is determined to expose the lies by Iranian officials and state TV. #WomenLifeFreedom
(8) Discussion on Quora about whether NIAC is a pro-Islamic-regime lobby in the US: There are a few statements to the effect that it isn't, but Samad Pakzad offers a long list of reason why it is.

2022/10/07 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A photo from my second Distinguished Lecture (on interconnection networks) at U. Saskatchewan, September 22, 2022, sent to me by my hosts A photo with Prof. Seok-Bum Ko, from my visit to U. Saskachewan UCSB CRML's summit on responsible machine learning
Cartoon: A strong woman crushing a mullah Cartoon: The ayatollah is about to be entrapped by women's hair! New memes, paintings, music, and other signs of support for Iranian women and other freedom fighters just keep on coming! (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] A photo from my second Distinguished Lecture (on interconnection networks) at U. Saskatchewan, September 22, 2022, sent to me by my hosts. The second photo, with Prof. Seok-Bum Ko, was taken in an ECE Dept. hallway, where an image of A. D. Booth (famous for his multiplication algorithm in computer arithmetic) is displayed. [Top right] UCSB CRML's summit on responsible machine learning (see the last two items below). [Bottom left] IranWire cartoon of the day: Three weeks after it began, Iran's feminist uprising is already the most-successful movement in the 43-year history of the Islamic Republic. [Bottom center] Another cartoon of the day: The ayatollah being chased by women's hair! [Bottom right] New memes, paintings, and music in support of Iranian women and other freedom fighters just keep on coming!
(2) Nobel Peace Prize: The 2022 Prize was awarded to human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski from Belarus and two human rights organizations, Memorial of Russia and Center for Civil Liberties of Ukraine.
(3) Keen observation: If I were you, in protest gatherings of Iranians abroad, I'd pay no attention to their chants, banners, or demands. I'd just count their numbers. What are millions of Iranians doing in so many different cities outside their homeland? Therein lies the answer! #MahsaAmini #WomanLifeFreedom [Tweet]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- This Florida community endured Ian with barely a scratch, proving that hurricanes need not be devastating.
- Borowitz Report (humor): Biden releases marijuana offenders to make room for Trump administration.
- Facebook memories from Oct. 6 of prior years: Environmrntal stewardship and Persian poetry.
- Introducing a book & an article: I learned about these at today's UCSB CRML 2022 Summit. [Images]
(5) UCSB Center for Responsible Machine Learning 2022 Summit: Today's 4th annual summit featured two keynote talks and a number of other sessions. I will write about the first keynote talk, "Differences and Similarities Between Your Brain and Deep Neural Networks," separately. I was hoping to also catch the second keynote, "Finding Patterns in Pictures" (by B. S. Manjunath, Distinguished Prof. & Chair, ECE Dept.), before I had to depart for San Diego, but a 25-minute delay in the afternoon program due to the lunch caterer being shorthanded forced me to leave 15 minutes into the talk. The summit's full program and recorded lectures are available through CRML's website.
(6) Keynote talk at UCSB CRML's 2022 Summit: Prof. Miguel P. Eckstein talked under the title "Differences and Similarities Between Your Brain and Deep Neural Networks," covering the example areas of visual search, gaze perception, and inferring other people's knowledge/expertise.
For visual search, Eckstein conducted an audience experiment, asking us to look for a toothbrush in an image shown to us for a brief time period. Most people found the small white-green toothbrush but almost everyone missed the huge blue one. A neural network has no trouble finding the blue one, but not using cues and common-sense knowledge about a toothbrush isn't really a strength!
Humans also do better in following someone's gaze direction. We tend to predict head and eye movements, leading to better performance, whereas neural networks follow head/eye movements strictly.
In the area of judging whether someone is an expert in a particular domain as claimed (e.g., medieval music or crypto), preliminary results give a slight edge to humans, but, in Eckstein's nomenclature for his scoring system, the game is still at halftime!

2022/10/06 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Support for Iranian women at New York City's World Trade Center Solidarity of Iranian women (hairs connected together) Maxxi Museum of Modern Art in Rome has set up an exhibit where women cut a clump of their hair and deposit it in a jar
UCSB's new classroom building is almost complete White & red roses from two of my four bushes Tonight's Talangor Group talk on contemporary Iranian poet Sohrab Sepehri (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Support for Iranian women at New York City's World Trade Center. [Top center] Solidarity of Iranian women (#MahsaAmini #No2Hijab). [Top right] Maxxi Museum of Modern Art in Rome has set up an exhibit where women cut a clump of their hair and deposit it in a jar. The jar will be sent to the embassy of Iran's Islamic regime. I hope they also send a camera crew to capture the reaction of the embassy staff! [Bottom left] UCSB's new classroom building is almost complete: It will provide much needed relief for our campus's classroom space shortage problem. [Bottom center] Getting away from politics for a few minutes and posting something about beauty: Roses from two of my four bushes. [Bottom right] Tonight's Talangor Group talk on contemporary Iranian poet Sohrab Sepehri (see the last item below).
(2) Nobel Prize in Literature: The 2022 Prize was awarded to Annie Ernaux, 82, a French author who wrote about her life, including abortion and affairs. She is only the 17th woman to receive literature's highest honor.
(3) "I know what is going on at the family homes of #NikaShakarami, #HadisNafaji, #MahsaAmini": Talented, full-of-life, and beautiful young women who were killed by Iran's Islamic regime. #HamedEsmaeilion lost his wife and daughter in the downing of Ukrainian Airlines #Flight752. [Tweet]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Mass-shooter kills 37 people, more than half of them children, at a daycare facility in Thailand.
- Unidentified professor of hydrology at U. Arizona shot dead on campus by a former student.
- OPEC+ countries agree to cutting 2M barrels of production per day to boost prices.
- Juliette Binoche and other French actresses cut clumps of their hair in solidarity with Iranian women.
- Clumps of women's hair are being mailed to the embassy of Islamic Republic of Iran in Rome.
- Historian Daina Ramey Berry joins UCSB as the Michael Douglas Dean of Humanities & Fine Arts.
- For #MahsaAmini, for #WomanLifeFreedom: Houser plays "Soltan-e Ghalb-ha." [1-minute video]
(5) Tonight's Talangor Group meeting: After a short presentation by Faramarz Ghaffari on the hair-cutting ritual in mourning or protest, Dr. Bahar Davary (U. San Diego) spoke about "Sohrab Sepehri: The Wistful Poet of Our Time." There were ~90 attendees.
Sohrab Sepehri [1928-1980] is sometimes described as apolitical, writing about nature and beauty when much sociopolitical intrigue engulfed Iran. Dr. Davari theorized that Sepehri was way ahead of his time. He worried about the environment, nature, and the well-being of humans, animals, & plants, when almost no one thought about these issues. Sepehri's message was the importance of oneness with nature. He was also a painter. In fact, he considered himself more of a painter than poet.
Throughout the lecture, Dr. Davary recited a number of Sepehri's poems and also showed some of his paintings, interpreting the poems to show that deep down, they are actually political, because they implicitly condemn consumerism, waste, inequality, patriarchy, and coercion. Sepehri used simple, short sentences to express deep feelings and spiritual longings. In the word of one attendee, Sepehri wasn't wistful himself but had the ability to express the pains and yearnings of the society around him.
Sepehri's poems oozed with humanity and focused on the importance of human values. He believed that humans should not rule the Earth but should rather live in harmony with other creatures, big and small. He condemned the exploitation of nature and polluting of the environment, water resources in particular. Sepehri traveled widely and was well-versed in Buddhism, mysticism, and Western traditions.

2022/10/05 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
'UCSB Reads 2023' Program announces its selected book In defiance of compulsory hijab laws, young Iranian women don't just show a little hair, but a lot of it! Tonight's Socrates Think Tank talk on the great poet Nezami (1) Images of the day: [Left] "UCSB Reads 2023" Program announces book selection (see the last item below). [Center] In defiance of compulsory hijab laws, young Iranian women don't just show a little hair, but a lot of it! [Right] Tonight's Socrates Think Tank talk on the great poet Nezami (see the next to last item below).
(2) Nobel Prize in Physics: The 2022 Prize was awarded to Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser, & Anton Zeilinger, for experiments with entangled photons, which find applications in quantum computing and sensing.
(3) Nobel Prize in Chemistry: The 2022 Prize was awarded to Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Morten Meldal, and K. Barry Sharpless, for the development of what is described as an "ingenious molecule-building tool."
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Senator Ron Johnson claims that Jan. 6 wasn't an "armed insurrection," despite Oath Keepers' admission.
- There is overwhelming evidence that chess grandmaster Hans Niemann cheated more than 100 times.
- The Mar-a-Lago stolen-documents case is headed to the US Supreme Court.
- US sports officials turned a blind eye to sexual misconduct at all levels of women's soccer.
(5) Khamenei blames everyone but himself and his cronies: After more than two weeks of street protests and the murder of hundreds by Iran's riot police and plain-clothes goons (Basijis), Ayatollah Khamenei emerges from his hideout and speaks up on 10/04, but instead of taking responsibility for socioeconomic problems & shortcomings that led to the protests, he blames Israel, the US, and their paid mercenaries for the unrest. No mention of teenagers & university students killed or injured. And not a word about intensifying criticism on corruption and lack of transparency, coming from even former supporters of the Islamic regime.
(6) Tonight's Socrates Think Tank talk: Dr. Bahram Grami was to speak under the title "Flowers and Plants in the Poems of Nezami Ganjeh-ee." There were ~100 attendees.
Nezami is one of the 5 pillars of Persian poetry, the others being Ferdowsi, Mowlavi/Rumi, Sa'adi, and Hafez.
I was disappointed that the speaker did not discuss the original topic, but covered the story of Khosrow & Shirin, without an emphasis on the role of flowers and plants in Nezami's poems. I had heard the story of Khosrow & Shirin and its interpretations several times before, so the topic wasn't of as much interest to me.
Here's one new piece of info I gained from tonight's talk: Nezami never used a foul word in his writings. He even described love-making and intimate relationships with polite words and constructions.
(7) Book selection for "UCSB Reads 2023": Charles Montgomery's 2013 book, Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design, has been chosen for campus and community reading during 2023.
"Most large American cities have poor designs. Sprawling suburbs lead to the need for longer roads, with their attendant construction & maintenance costs, nightmarish commutes, high gas consumption, increased air pollution, expensive utility & public-transport networks, and the burden of snow-plowing in cold climates. Older European cities, by contrast, are compact, allowing residents to walk or bike to more places and reducing the cost of city and emergency services. Besides the economic aspects just mentioned, residents of compact cities, with traffic-free areas and open spaces, tend to be happier, hence, the book's apt, though somewhat childish, title." ~ From my 4-star review of the book on GoodReads

2022/10/03 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Masih Alinejad speaking at a rally against Iran's misogynistic Islamic regime Cartoon: The good news after devastating floods and storm surges! Inspired by the bravery of Iranian women, Tim Fu designed this sculpture for installation in a square in Iran after the fall of the Islamic regime
Iranian women won't tolerate subjugation: They are on the front lines of the ongoing protests and won't look back Four of the many interesting/effective memes on the feminist protests in Iran UNC panel discussion on street protests in Iran (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Attacks on Masih Alinejad (see the next item below). [Top center] Cartoon of the day: The good news after devastating floods and storm surges! [Top right] Inspired by the bravery of Iranian women, Tim Fu designed this sculpture for installation at a square after the fall of the Islamic regime. [Bottom left] Iranian women won't tolerate subjugation: They are on the front lines of the ongoing protests and won't look back. [Bottom center] I have been bombarded by interesting and effective memes on the feminist protests in Iran: I will share only four, sent to me by friends inside & outside Iran. The memes include the painted face of a street marcher in Paris and women & men flashing victory signs as they pass each other on a street in Tehran. [Bottom right] UNC panel discussion on street protests in Iran (see the last item below). provided key insights into our immune system and what makes us unique compared with our extinct cousins.
(2) Masih Alinejad is under attack again: She has led initiatives to inform the world and to hold Iran's misogynistic regime accountable for its oppression of women and other crimes. She is of course human and subject to errors and careless statements, such as declaring that she is a leader of Iran's protest movement. For this one mis-statement she does not deserve to be bashed and her many good deeds forgotten. Being a target of kidnapping and terror by Iran's Islamic regime is proof enough for the effectiveness of her campaign of revealing the Islamic regime's oppressive and criminal deeds.
(3) Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine: The 2022 Prize was awarded to evolutionary geneticist Svante Paabo for his discoveries on human species that
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- North Korea's missile flies over Japan, before plunging into the Pacific Ocean, causing panic.
- Former US National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster: Russian army in Ukraine is facing a moral collapse.
- In Iran, there is freedom of speech. You can say anything you want. Freedom after speech is a different story!
- Facebook memory from Oct. 3, 2018: Is Edison in Hell or in Heaven?
- Facebook memory from Oct. 3, 2015: When Toni Morrison was inspired by a flogged Sudanese woman.
- Facebook memory from Oct. 3, 2011:
(5) Iran protests spread and intensify: Plain-clothes security forces raid Tehran's Sharif U. Technology and other college campuses, beating and arresting dozens of students. Meanwhile, SUT's Alumni Association issues a mild, vague statement, alluding to some "incidents" and calling for a dialog. When was the last time Iran's Islamic regime talked to its critics, which it routinely characterizes as paid goons and foreign agents?
(6) "Women's Leadership, and Iran's Feminist Revolution": This was the title of today's panel discussion featuring Dr. Fatemeh Shams (U. Pennsylvania) and Dr. Esha Momeni (UCLA) and moderated by Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi (UNC Chapel Hill), about the current protests in Iran and their political and social history. There were ~60 attendees. [90-minute video recording]
Dr. Momeni: Hijab is part of a bigger discussion of controlling women's bodies, and its use isn't limited to religious laws. Reza Shah forcibly unveiled Iranian women out of a concern for the nation's image. He ordered changes in men's attire as well in his modernization program. In 1979, hijab became a symbol of the Islamic Revolution and laws were passed to institute and enforce it. Iran's hijab laws are parts of efforts to enforce a hegemonic masculinity (not just hetero-normality, which views women as objects of sexual desire in a binary gender worldview). Lack of or poorly-worn hijab is viewed as a symbol of Westernization and a strategy by the West to gain a foothold in Iran. Hijab laws are quite fuzzy and their enforcement arbitrary. The "improper hijab" that led to Mahsa Amini's arrest and murder is more or less the norm: A majority of women don the same kind of hijab. The arbitrariness of what gets women in trouble has a high social cost. At a minimum you are harassed or delayed on your way to some event. But it can be much worse if you are arrested, abused, or forced to pay a hefty fine. Women pay this price daily, as their lives are disturbed.
Dr. Shams: From the poet & religious leader Tahirih Qurrat al-'Ayn to today's women, the control of women's bodies and thoughts has been a priority for men. Rabia Bent-Ka'b (Balkhi) has been framed as a mystic poet/writer by multiple male poets, thus distorting the image we have of her. She was ordered killed by her brother on the suspicion of having an affair. Historiography is highly male-dominated and women scholars are not given their due credit and in some cases are totally erased from the record. What we were dealing with up to a few weeks ago was a veiled society. That has changed. Women are bravely removing their veils, signaling the end of that veiled era. Women, even if they are beaten-up and imprisoned, will likely not go back to the era of compulsory veiling. One danger is that even if the hijab patrol is eliminated, women will still be at risk as targets of razor-blade and acid-spraying attacks by hardliners, a la what was prevalent during the 1980s, when perpetrators were never punished (they were actually encouraged).

2022/10/02 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme about Iran and its brave women and youth fighting a brutal, corrupt, misogynistic regime (2) Meme about Iran and its brave women and youth fighting a brutal, corrupt, misogynistic regime (1) 'Cut it out': Illustration by Italian artist Marco Melgrati
The captain of Iran's national soccer team speaks up about the demands of street protesters Yesterday, rallies were held in many cities across the globe in support of Iranian women and other street protesters This statue of farmers once stood in front of Iran's Ministry of Agriculture (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] Memes about Iran and its brave women & youth rising against a brutal, corrupt, and misogynistic regime. [Top right] "Cut it out": Illustration by Italian artist Marco Melgrati. [Bottom left] The captain of Iran's national soccer team speaks up about the demands of street protesters (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Yesterday, rallies were held in many cities across the globe in support of Iranian women & other protesters. [Bottom right] Forty-three years of misogyny: This statue of farmers once stood in front of Iran's Ministry of Agriculture: Islamists of the 1979 Revolution covered the woman's head with a scarf and put tarp around her legs. After public ridicule, the statue was moved to Tehran's Museum of Contemporary Art. #MahsaAmini #WomanLifeFreedom
(2) Soccer and politics: A few Iranian soccer players have spoken up in support of women's rights and other demands of street protesters. By so doing, they have risked their livelihoods (outspoken athletes have been ousted from club and national teams in the past). Meanwhile, Iran's Islamic regime finds itself between a rock and a hard place. Punishing popular soccer players or dissolving the national team a month before the Qatar World Cup will dash the people's hopes of making a strong showing on the world stage, thus adding fuel to the fire of protests. Even if the regime waits a couple of months before doling out punishments, there is no telling how the soccer-loving Iranian masses will react to the loss of soccer stars and club teams.
(3) The game "Card Nim" (by Dennis Shasha; CACM, October 2022): In this game, each player has a collection of numerical cards and there are a number of stones in the middle. In each turn, a player reveals a card and removes a number of stones equal to the number on the card. To win on a move, a player must play a card whose number equals the number of stones remaining. To lose on a move, a player plays a card whose number is greater than the number of stones remaining. [Image]
Q1: There are 5 stones left and each of the 2 players Bob & Alice has 3 cards bearing 1, 2, 3. Alice goes first. Who wins?
Q2: There are 10 stones left and each player has cards bearing 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Alice goes first. Who wins?
Q3: There are 10 stones left, but now each player has cards of only 1, 2, 3, 4. Who can force a win?
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Brawls after a soccer match in Indonesia produce 129 casualties, mostly trampled to death in a stampede.
- Project to build world's most-comprehensive map of cells in the human brain gets $500 million funding.
- President Biden's executive order re-establishes the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
- A blockbuster paper claiming the possibility of room-temperature superconductivity has been retracted.
- Joan Baez supports Iranian women by putting some Persian words to the song "We Shall Overcome."
- Comedian Shappi Khorsandi talks about women's struggles against Iran's misogynistic Islamic regime.
- Math oddity: sqrt(123456790) = 11111.11111
- One researcher's experience of returning to in-person conferences and exciting face-to-face interactions.
(5) Digital spaces and their perils: Two new books explore complementary themes of interest to everyone. Like, Comment, Subscribe zooms in on a platform (YouTube), while Meme Wars focuses on a movement (image-based spreading of ideas, particularly extremist views).
(6) Bringing rocks back from Mars: A small rocket will deliver rock samples collected by the Perseverance Rover from the floor of the Jezero Crater (which held a lake billions of years ago) to an orbiting spacecraft that would deliver them to a special facility on Earth by 2033.
(7) Should Iranians protest peacefully against the Islamic regime? Scenes like this (and others showing university students being attacked by Khamenei's goons) make me reconsider my advice to remain peaceful.

2022/10/01 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Imagination and Identity: Contemporary Iranian Women Writers of the Diaspora Chart comparing impeachment resolutions during Trump and Biden presidencies My son tries his new e-bike behind the store in Isla Vista where he bought it
What do addition carries and shuffling of decks of cards have in common? (Handout) What do addition carries and shuffling of decks of cards have in common? (Speaker) Iran news at UCSB: Page-1 story of 'Daily Nexus' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Panel on Iranian women writers of the diaspora (see the next item below). [Top center] Biden derangement syndrome: Less than two years into Biden's Presidency, Republicans have introduced 14 impeachment resolutions (10 of them targeting Biden). At the same point in Trump's presidency, five had been introduced (four of them targeting Trump). [Top right] My son tries his new e-bike behind the store in Isla Vista where he bought it: It has a top speed of 20 mph and a range of about 50 miles on a single charge. [Bottom left & center] What do addition carries and shuffling of decks of cards have in common? (see the last item nelow) [Bottom right] Iran news at UCSB: This page-1 story of Daily Nexus reflects the views of Iranians on campus on the political unrest in Iran. Separately, a number of UCSB faculty have asked the administration to take a stand on violations of women's rights in Iran and to reach out to the campus community who may need support. A response is reportedly forthcoming.
(2) "Imagination and Identity: Contemporary Iranian Women Writers of the Diaspora": This was the title of Georgetown University's Zoom panel discussion in which Dr. Jasmin Darznik (author/writer; The Good Daughter; Song of a Captive Bird; The Bohemians) and Marjan Kamali (author/writer; The Stationary Shop; Together Tea) read passages from their books and reflected on the question of their identities as writers, women, and Iranians. "Iranian woman writer" is a label that tends to overshadow personal identities such as "Jasmin" or "Marjan." An interesting point raised was about views of writing as both a refuge and a battleground. Another point was Westerners' views of Iran being based mostly on the last 43 years of its thousands of years of history. Dr. Persis Karim (Neda Nobari Distinguished Chair, Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies, San Francisco State University) moderated the discussion.
(3) Recent efforts at gerrymandering less serious than commonly believed: A NYT chart shows that the traditional Republican advantage coming from unfairly drawn district boundaries is the smallest in 40 years.
(4) During the current decade, per-capita beef and dairy consumption in the US will decrease by 25% (from 58 to 44 lbs for beef; from 196 to 147 lbs for dairy). [Source: OECD, 2020]
(5) "Adding Numbers and Shuffling Cards": This was the title of Friday's UCSB CS-PSTAT Distinguished Lecture by Professor Persi Diaconis (Stanford U.). Diaconis lectured in the old style of chalk-and-blackboard and distributed a handwritten sheet of formulas and references.
Addition of numbers creates carries, which slow down the process and complicate the circuitry. Curiosity about the nature of carries and their multiplicity are thus quite natural. It turns out that carries form a Markov chain with an amazing transition matrix. Surprisingly, this same matrix arises in the usual scheme of shuffling cards. Diaconis described the "seven shuffles" theorem that says seven shuffles are necessary and sufficient for producing a random deck of cards.
Diaconis has explored the connections of these results to all sorts of other mathematical problems, including the balanced ternary number system producing the fewest carries. Diaconis, who has always been interested in shuffling decks of cards, discovered the related problem of carries by accident, when he grabbed an issue of a journal from a shelf and found the following article.
Holte, J. M., "Carries, Combinatorics, and an Amazing Matrix," The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 104, No. 2, 1997, pp. 138-149.
Professor Diaconis gave a lecture with the same title at Stanford U. in 2019. [67-minute video]

2022/09/29 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
IranWire cartoon: The 'master' (Ayatollah Khamenei) and his toys Cover images of Terence O'Donnell's 'Garden of the Brave in War: Recollections of Iran' Talangor Group's program, featuring Dr. Cumrun Vafa of Harvard U. (1) Images of the day: [Left] IranWire cartoon of the day: The 'master' and his toys. [Center] A fascinating and insightful memoir (see the next item below). [Right] Talangor Group's program (see the last item below)
(2) Book introduction: Garden of the Brave in War: Recollections of Iran is the work of Terence O'Donnell, who resided near the city of Shiraz during the 1960s and 1970s. His observations on the Iranian character, based on thousands of journal pages he wrote during his stay, are insightful and lively. According to O'Donnell, Iranians are courteous, capricious, deeply religious yet also playful, generous, and poetic. The book, also available in Persian, has been described as a work of shimmering beauty and sensitivity.
(3) Blaming the messenger: Journalist who reported Mahsa Amini's hospitalization due to head trauma is being held in solitary confinement. #MahsaAmini #WomanLifeFreedom
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hurricane Ian and its once-in-1000-years rains devastate Florida, turning deadly.
- After devastating the west coast of Florida, Hurricane Ian heads toward South Carolina.
- Hardline politicians in Iran are putting much effort into smearing street protesters.
- Violent crackdown of Iran's Islamic regime on street protests: Collection of video clips.
- Facebook memory from Sep. 29, 2015: A so-called "moderate" Iranian politician's view on women.
- Facebook memory from Sep. 29, 2015: On the usage of letters in spelled-out English numbers.
(5) New Yorker cartoon caption of the day: "The city is so quiet in the two weeks between people complaining about it being too hot and being too cold."
(6) Q&A on Nature's Fundamental Laws: Tonight's Talangor Group program featured Professor Cumrun Vafa (Harvard U.) in a Q&A session with ~85 attendees. The topics were quite varied, so they are difficult to summarize. In the rest of this report, I briefly list a few facts/theories that were cited and were quite interesting to me.
- Our universe consists of ~70% dark energy, ~25% dark matter, and ~5% ordinary matter.
- The law of conservation of energy is a consequence of symmetry, meaning that the outcome of an experiment is independent of time. But it holds only under certain conditions. For example, experiments could have had different outcomes at the start of the universe. The universe is still changing, but the difference of state between two nearby time instants can be ignored. Like all other physical laws, conservation of energy holds approximately.
- We know next to nothing about the universe in the first second of its existence, but we have a pretty good idea about what happened afterward. There are theories about that first second, but we aren't sure which one is correct.
- We don't know the nature of dark matter or dark energy. We know that they must exist in order for known laws to be valid, but we know very little about why/how they exist.
- Dr. Vafa has recently published the article "Dark Dimension Gravitons as Dark Matter," which proposes a theory for dark matter. [Full text]
- We can convince ourselves of the existence of many more than four dimensions by thinking about a straight line, which has one main dimension and one secondary dimension corresponding to its thickness. With approximate laws of physics, we can ignore the second dimension, without committing much error. Imagine a railroad track. It definitely has a second dimension, both because of the rail's thickness and the existence of two parallel rails. Yet, we talk about the movement of a train as a one-dimensional motion.
- Time spans only one dimension but space can have more than three dimensions. Dr. Vafa explained that multiple time dimensions would kill causality, given that we won't be able to talk about the past or the future. In my thinking, if time has two dimensions but it is discrete rather than continuous, then causality isn't endangered. There will be no past or future, but we will have preceding and succeeding time points in a lattice. I didn't get a chance to discuss this point with Dr. Vafa, because time ran out.
- Dr. Vafa has written the book Puzzles to Unravel the Universe, which aims to explain laws of nature in terms of simple puzzles.

2022/09/28 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iranian women lead the struggle for liberty and human/women's rights Iranians are bent on pushing the Islamists out of the country's power centers Angelina Jolie joins a growing number of international celebrities in expressing support for Iranian women (1) Images of the day: [Left] Iranian women lead the people's struggle for liberty and human/women's rights. [Center] Iranians, particularly women, who have been systematically oppressed over the past 4+ decades, are bent on pushing the Islamists out of the country's power centers. [Right] Angelina Jolie joins a growing number of international celebrities in expressing support for Iranian women. Be careful, however, when spreading the words of celebrities in support of Iranian women and other protesters. Here are some revelations about one such sympathizer, Roger Waters, the allegedly anti-Semite, pro-Putin, and pro-Assad rocker.
(2) Financial fraud scheme in Mississippi: Funds meant to help needy families were used to build a stadium and directed to influential people, including multiple sports celebrities.
(3) UCLA purchases $80 million worth of properties from the recently-shuttered Marymount California University in San Pedro to expand enrollment via a satellite campus, in order to meet burgeoning demand.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Housing bubble beginning to burst: Published July figures show a significant downturn.
- "I've Gotta Take It Off": Women's rights song, with scenes from Iranian women's fight against oppression.
- Women and men across the world cut their hair in solidarity with Iranian women. [Video]
- Isaac Newton's college notebook, written in his own hand, ca. 1664. [Image]
- Math oddity: Can you explain this pattern, which continues indefinitely?
- Math oddity: log(1 + 2 + 3) = log(1) + log(2) + log(3)
- "Puttin' on the Ritz": Irving Berlin's timeless jazz classic, wonderfully performed. [2-minute video]
- The joy of music: Marimba band of schoolchildren plays Vivaldi in South Africa. [2-minute video]
(5) "Theology of Revolution: In Ali Shari'ati and Walter Benjamin's Political Thought": This is the title of a 2020 paper by Dr. Mina Khanlarzadeh in Religions (Vol. 11, No. 10, 504).
From the Introduction: "The twentieth century Iranian revolutionary thinker and sociologist Ali Shari'ati composed his political thought in the sixties and seventies until—a year before the 1979 Revolution—he died. He was the most prominent thinker read and discussed among the 1979 revolutionaries. Ervand Abrahamian (1983, p. 466), in his book Iran between Two Revolutions, states that Shari'ati 'is justly credited as the main intellectual, even the Fanon, of the Islamic Revolution.' Shari'ati was also nicknamed the teacher of the revolution (mo'allem-e enqilab)."
(6) The posit number system and arithmetic: As useful as floating-point arithmetic has been over the decades, it does have shortcomings. High precision in longer formats comes at the expense of wasting bits for numbers that do not need all the bits. Furthermore, no matter how many bits one uses, there exist numbers that are too large or too small to be representable, leading to overflow and underflow. Posit is a recent proposal that aims to rectify these problems. Here are some references to bring you up to speed on this new number representation scheme and its arithmetic.
[The good, the bad and the ugly] [Beating FLP at its own game] [Improving the math of AI]
(7) Shameful misogyny from an unexpected source: A college president in Iran characterizes women protesters as whores mourning the death of another whore. Sexualization of women isn't limited to the mullahs. Patriarchy is alive and well in all institutions being governed by Islamist basijis.

2022/09/27 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iranian protesters burn their hijabs and deface billboards with Khamenei's picture on them, as security forces shoot into crowds IranWire cartoons of the day: The scared little dictator and his goons Iran's Statue of Liberty (by an unknown artist)
Hurricane Ian (currently a category-3 storm) hits western Cuba and heads toward Florida My Persian poem honoring #MahsaAmini, who was beaten to death by Iran's morality police Why are news about a movement led by youth and women reported and analyzed exclusively by old men? (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Iranian protesters burn their hijabs and deface billboards with Khamenei's picture on them, as security forces shoot into crowds. [Top center] IranWire cartoons of the day: The scared little dictator and his goons. [Top right] Iran's Statue of Liberty (by an unknown artist). [Bottom left] Hurricane Ian (currently a category-3 storm) hits western Cuba and heads toward Florida. [Bottom center] My Persian poem honoring #MahsaAmini, who was beaten to death by Iran's morality police, capping decades of resistance to misogynistic laws by Iranian women. [Bottom right] My mom watches Persian-language TV stations to keep up with the news: I can't stand most of these. For example, today's programs praise the uprising of Iranian youth and women. Yet the same old men report and analyze the news. No sign of young Iranians or women!
(2) Most of the wheat traded worldwide comes from Russia & Ukraine: The US & Canada are also major exporters. Much of the world (light & dark brown on this map, taken from IEEE Spectrum magazine, September 2022) is dependent on imports.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hurricane Ian intensifies as it moves toward Florida; remnants of Hurricane Fiona devastate eastern Canada.
- Jupiter will be extra bright next week: Watch for it rising at sunset and setting at sunrise.
- The British pound falls to $1.1, its lowest level in 37 years.
- Putin grants Russian citizenship to Edward Snowden, who disclosed classified NSA documents.
- Singapore has replaced Hong Kong as Asia's premier financial hub.
- A young woman was killed by Iran's security forces: Six bullets hit her in the face, neck, & chest.
- To Ayatollah Khamenei: Come out of hiding and say something about the Iranian people's demands.
- Hair's deemed a symbol of life; hence, the Iranian practice of women cutting their hair in mourning or protest.
(4) Women Leaders Countering Authoritarianism: Roya Hakakian's eloquent testimony in front of US Senate's Foreign Relations Committee. [7-minute video]
(5) NASA's DART spacecraft crashed into a small asteroid at 14,000 miles per hour, testing a method to protect Earth from large space rocks in the future.
(6) UkraineFest in Santa Barbara: UCSB Arts & Lectures presents a free event on Thursday, October 6, 5:00-8:00 PM PDT, in front of Granada Theater, downtown Santa Barbara. [The folk band DakhaBrakha]
(7) Quantum-computing pioneer honored: Theoretical physicist David Deutsch will share this year's $3-million Prize in Fundamental Physics with three other recipients for their contributions to quantum computing.
(8) LinkedIn ran experiments on more than 20 million users without their consent: The professional networking service randomly altered the prevalence of weak and strong contacts suggested by its "People You May Know" algorithm, learning in the process that relatively weak social ties on the platform were twice as effective in obtaining employment as stronger social ties. However, the LinkedIn experiment has drawn some criticism for its potential to alter lives.

2022/09/25 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) Celebration of Rosh Hashanah with my family: Batch 1 of photos Celebration of Rosh Hashanah with my family: Batch 5 of photos
Try your hand at evaluating this expression without using a calculator An unusual view of our Earth: Seen from the side of the Pacific Ocean IEEE CCS tech talk by UCSB's Dr. Somayeh Dodge (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Happy Jewish New Year (see the next item below). [Top center & right] Celebration of Rosh Hashanah with family members at my mom's: And here is a video of yours truly, explaining why celebration of Jewish festivals, including Rosh Hashanah, span two consecutive nights. [Bottom left] Math puzzle: Try your hand at evaluating this expression without using a calculator. [Bottom center] An unusual view of our Earth: Seen from the side of the Pacific Ocean. [Bottom right] IEEE CCS tech talk by UCSB's Dr. Somayeh Dodge (see the last item below).
(2) Happy Rosh Hashanah to all my friends who celebrate the Jewish New-Year festival: The new Hebrew calendar year 5783 will start tomorrow and, like all Jewish holidays, is celebrated beginning with the night before. Observance of Rosh Hashanah involves several fruits and vegetables. For example, apple dipped in honey represents sweetness and pomegranate signifies fruitfulness.
(3) The slogan #WomanLifeFreedom defines the current Iranian uprising in which women are the clear leaders: Even the French daily Liberation put the slogan on the front page of its Sunday, September 25, 2022, edition.
(4) Trump's lawyers are probably beating their heads against Mar-a-Lago walls: In an interview with his Fox-News pal Sean Hannity, Trump essentially admitted to sending classified (or, according to him, mentally declassified) documents to his Florida residence on purpose, eliminating the line of defense that they ended up there by some accidental mishap.
(5) Independent Persian reports that a number of users in Iran have been able to connect to the Starlink satellite Internet service. [Starlink interactive map]
(6) Last Wednesday's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Today, data and data analytics pervade all domains of human activity. Geography and, more generally, spatial information, are no exception. Early geographic information systems date back to the 1960s, but the field has undergone seismic shifts with the emergence of big-data mindset, tools, and applications. Speaking under the title "Movement Data Science for Human Mobility and Animal Ecology Applications," Dr. Somayeh Dodge (UCSB Geography) reviewed the basics of geographic-information handling and a few key applications of movement data science.
Intentional movement through space is one of the traits shared by humans and animals to perform activities. Movement of individuals is fundamental to the dynamics of ecosystems, cities, and environments, and can be utilized as a key to the understanding and modeling of environmental and behavioral variability in social and ecological systems. As a result of ubiquitous tracking and the increasing access to movement data in both trajectory and aggregate forms, a number of disciplines, from animal ecology to urban planning, from biology to geography and public health, share an interest in understanding movement and activity patterns of humans and animals in natural and built environments.
While there is a shared interest in geography and ecology to understand and model movement behavior with respect to geographic space, there has been little cross-fertilization across these disciplines. Dr. Dodge reviewed recent advances in computational movement analytics from the lens of geographic information science, arguing for a convergent movement data science to study and map movement across the human and animal divide.
Brief tech bio: Dr. Somayeh Dodge (PhD, 2011, University of Zurich, Switzerland) is an Assistant Professor of Spatial Data Science at UCSB's Department of Geography. Before joining UCSB in 2019, Dr. Dodge was a postdoctoral fellow at The Ohio State University. Dr. Dodge currently serves on the Board of Directors of the University Consortium for Geographic Information and as the Co-Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Spatial Information Science. Dr. Dodge has received several honors, including the prestigious NSF CAREER award. Her work has been published in top journals of the field. [See the speaker's personal Web page, IEEE CCS Technical Talks page, or the event flyer for more detailed versions of this tech bio.]

2022/09/24 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Brave Iranian woman single-handedly faces a large group of hijab-law enforcers The initials of Mahsa Amini form the word 'ma' ('us,' in Persian), a call to unity Ready to fight misogynists, even if they are armed to the teeth
Freedom, Woman, Life: Calligraphic artwork by Daryoush Mohammad Poor Shiraz University of Art's Professor resigns in protest: Image of her resignation letter Iranian women continue to defy their authoritarian government and its misogynistic laws by burning their headscarves (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Brave Iranian woman single-handedly faces a large group of hijab-law enforcers. [Top center] The initials of Mahsa Amini form the word "ma" ("us," in Persian). She has indeed united all Iranians against Iran's brutal, incompetent Islamic regime. [Top right] Ready to fight misogynists, even if they are armed to the teeth (untitled artwork by Newsha Tavakolian, 2016). [Bottom left] Freedom, Woman, Life: Calligraphic artwork by Daryoush Mohammad Poor (cropped from the original). [Bottom center] Shiraz University of Art's Professor resigns in protest, citing in her resignation letter instances of interrogation, death threats, and other mistreatments over the period of her tenure at the university. [Bottom right] Iranian women continue to defy their authoritarian government and its misogynistic laws by burning their headscarves.
(2) Iran's President Raisi, arriving in NYC for the UN General Assembly, is greeted by Iranian-Americans with truck-mounted digital billboards displaying his crimes. [2-minute video]
(3) Iran's citizens receive text messages from the Big Brother, warning them of dire consequences of attending "illegal" gatherings which "help foreigners." [Tweet with image]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Russian men flee the country in the wake of Putin's mobilization of reservists to expand his war.
- Holocaust survivor urges Iran's President to learn compassion, following his public denial of the massacre.
- The US slaps fresh sanctions on Iran's morality police for its violence against women.
- CNN's Christiane Amanpour pulls out of interview with Iran's President over his headscarf demand.
- Kettle dissing the pot: Taliban official warns Iran against violating womens rights!
- Example of how women die in police custody in Iran: Police throws a woman against a concrete barrier.
- Elton John performed in the White House and received a surprise National Humanities Medal.
(5) Iran's brutal regime beats up street protesters and blocks access to most popular social-media & news sites: Iranians keep switching to new anti-filtering software as existing ones are neutralized.
(6) Iran's misogynistic laws and their enforcers: An Islamist, who was beaten up on the street, faced the women protesters and told them they deserved to be raped! [Tweet]
(7) Protests intensifying in Iran over the death in police custody of a 22-year-old woman arrested for violating a headscarf law. [New York Times: Day 1 story; Day 2 story]
(8) Iranians across the world worry about family & friends: News of spreading street protests across Iran and violence by the country's riot police with orders to kill, combined with an Internet blackout, are troubling.
(9) Filmmaker Asghar Farhadi supports Iranian protesters and women's-rights activists: This is an improvement, compared to his previous declarations of not being a political person. But why does he refer to "their" (women's) goal and not "our" goal? Women's rights shouldn't be a women's issue only.

2022/09/23 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Some samples of downtown Saskatoon architecture Some of the bridges over South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon More samples of downtown Saskatoon architecture
Sculptures in Saskatoon's downtown area The historic Delta Hotel at one end of the 21st Street East A few more images from Saskatoon, Canada
My Thursday morning Distinguised Lecture at U. Saskatchewan My Thursday afternoon Distinguised Lecture at U. Saskatchewan My tour of Canada's Light Source synchrotron
Looking out the window on the second leg of my flight (SFO-Calgary), en route from Santa Barbara to Saskatoon U. Saskatchewan Engineering Dean Suzanne Kresta After the last leg of my flight (SFO to SBA), I am glad to be home. Photos show SF Airport, SF Bay, and the Pacific coast near SF Top row left & right: Samples of architecture seen in downtown Saskatoon.
Top row center: Some of the bridges over South Saskatchewan River in Saskatoon: The river-front is made into a lush park with a walking path (1-minute video).
Second row left: Sculptures in Saskatoon's downtown area.
Second row center: The historic Delta Hotel (Marriott) in downtown Saskatoon, where I stayed: The hotel and an old train station (now a mall) are located at the two ends of 21st Street East, once a hub of commerce.
Second row right: A few more images from Saskatoon, including a map of the downtown area.
Third row left: On Thursday morning, I delivered my first of two IEEE Computer Society Distinguished Lectures under the title "Eight Key Ideas in Computer Architecture from Eight Decades of Innovation." The lecture was preceded by a brief tour of the campus, where I saw a portrait of A. D. Booth, of Booth multiplication fame, who worked there from 1962 to 1972.
Third row center: On Thursday afternoon, I delivered my second of two IEEE Computer Society Distinguished Lectures under the title "Interconnection Networks for Parallel Processors and Data Centers." The lecture venue was Saskatoon's Innovation Place, a technology park funded by the government of Canada. One of the photos shows the gifts I received from my hosts.
Third row right: After my lectures, I was treated to tours of Calian Advanced Technologies (a satellite telecommunications company, doing both engineering design and manufacturing) and Canada's Light Source synchrotron (a major tech facility, partly shown in the photos). Canadian Light Source produces extremely bright light, millions of times brighter than the sun, by using powerful magnets and radio frequency waves to accelerate electrons to nearly the speed of light. This infra-red, ultraviolet and X-ray light is shone down beamlines to experimental stations where scientists can select different parts of the spectrum to "see" the microscopic nature of matter, right down to the level of the atom.
Bottom row left: Looking out the window on the second leg of my flight (SFO-Calgary), en route from Santa Barbara to Saskatoon: From the plains of NW United States to the mountains of SW Canada.
Bottom row center: As part of my visit to U. Saskatchewan, I had a brief meeting with Engineering Dean Suzanne Kresta, specializing in chemical & biological engineering. Among other topics, we discussed the under-representation of women in engineering and the role of design-team diversity in producing quality systems.
Bottom row right: Home, sweet home: After the last leg of my flight (SFO to SBA), I am glad to be home. Photos show SF Airport, SF Bay, and the Pacific coast near SF.

2022/09/21 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iranian women are dying: If not at the hands of violent The word 'trumpery' was in the dictionary way before we had Donald Trump Nerdy joke about what clouds are made of (Linux servers, mostly)! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Iranian women are dying: If not at the hands of violent "gheirati" husbands or boyfriends, then in the custody of intelligence services or morality police. Why are these grim, bearded, macho men so afraid of joyful, independent, strong women? #NoToHijab #MahsaAmini [Center] The word "trumpery" was in the dictionary way before we had Donald Trump. [Right] Nerdy joke about what clouds are made of!
(2) US Department of Justice charges 44 people with stealing $240 million from pandemic aid programs intended to feed children in Minnesota. [Source: New York Times]
(3) The Iranian mullahs' ruling strategy: It is almost certain that Iran's rulers don't really care about women's clothing or a few strands of hair sticking out from under a headscarf. Just look at the ultra-modern, made-up, sharply-dressed women appearing in government-sanctioned religious ceremonies or observe foreign reporters with scant hijabs interviewing regime officials.
They have imposed and are enforcing hijab laws on ordinary Iranian women to keep their battle with the masses away from important sociopolitical issues. When people are busy thinking about the inconvenience and unfairness of hijab (or similar social restrictions such as women being banned from entering stadiums or riding bikes), fundamental demands in the domain of freedom of speech & assembly, having political parties, fighting corruption, how the country's oil wealth is spent, and women being allowed to become judges or president, remain safe from questioning.
In other words, the regime has dug trenches close to where its critics are. It knows that if these trenches are breached, it has to defend its archaic, cruel, and corrupt ways much closer to the centers of power, where any breach would lead to its collapse. [Adapted from an anonymous Internet posting in Persian]
(4) Hypocrisy of the ruling Iranian mullahs: As children of ordinary Iranians die for speaking up against corruption, demanding basic freedoms, or for a few strands of hair sticking out from under their headscarves, children of Iran's ruling class are having a mighty good time with the "infidels" in Western countries. [Images]
(5) Azerbaijani soldiers behead & mutilate the bodies of Armenian soldiers and civilians: These are disturbing images, but they need to be publicized for the benefit of humanity. Ditto for Russian war crimes in Ukraine.
(6) I have posted about this amazing expression for calculating π before: However, the expression is too beautiful to be limited to just one post. It allows the derivation of the nth binary or hex digit of π, without first deriving all the preceding digits.
(7) The evolution of floating-point arithmetic: Once upon a time, until the 1970s, each computer manufacturer had its own floating-point number format and its own rules for arithmetic in terms of precision, rounding, and inter-format conversions. Then, the IEEE Standard 754 Committee was formed and, by 1985, it issued a standard document that guided the development of floating-point arithmetic throughout the industry. The standard specified the main 32-bit (single-precision) and 64-bit (double-precision) formats, along with several ancillary formats. The standard was revised in 2008, when decimal floating-point formats as well as 16-bit (half-precision) and 128-bit (quadruple-precision) binary formats were added. The most-recent incarnation of the standard is IEEE 754-2019.
Now, with approximate or very-low-precision arithmetic being of much interest for machine-learning applications, IEEE is looking at the various existing proposals, with an eye toward extending the standard to such a format, perhaps as small as 8 bits.
[Nvidia/Arm/Intel project] [Tesla's efforts] [Graphcore/AMD/Qualcomm project] [Nvidia's LNS]
(8) Final thought for the day: Two-thirds of the world's population lives in countries where renewable sources are cheaper than fossil fuels.

2022/09/19 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Significant progress has been made over the past three decades in reducing child poverty in the US (chart) Iceland vs. Greenland. Or is it the other way around? Talk on Zakariya Razi during SUTA's 2022 virtual reunion
Three generations: Actress Reese Witherspoon, with her mom and daughter Meme: Bussing of migrants should be reciprocated by bussing banned books to Florida schools Portrait of Mahsa Amini, the young woman who was killed by Iran's morality police (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Significant progress has been made over the past three decades in reducing child poverty in the US. [Top center] Iceland vs. Greenland. Or is it the other way around? [Top right] Talk on Zakariya Razi (see the next item below). [Bottom left] Three generations: Actress Reese Witherspoon, with her mom and daughter. [Bottom center & right] Memes of the day: Busing of migrants in the US and killing of Mahsa Amini by Iran's morality police.
(2) Mohammad Zakariya Razi [865-925 CE]: During the second day of Sharif University of Technology Association (SUTA) virtual reunion, September 16-17, 2022, Dr. Nasser Kanani presented a fascinating overview of the Iranian polymath's momentous contributions to mathematics, chemistry, medicine, psychology, and philosophy. Razi had no teacher but used books that were available to him to learn about various topics. Razi's dismissive attitude toward religion led to much criticism and anger against him. A recording of this talk will be made available on suta.org. Here is a BBC Persian interview with Dr. Kanani.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Representative government faces its most serious threats in decades (New York Times lead article).
- River surge caused by Hurricane Fiona washes bridge away in Puerto Rico. [1-minute video]
- Introducing Computing Science Journal, a publication of the Informatics Society of Iran.
- How Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale warned us about the current state of women in the US.
- Rape & forced hijab have a common root: Patriarchal sense of ownership & power over women. [FB post]
- Math puzzle: Is i^i a real number?
- Math puzzle: Math puzzle: Find the maximum value of (sin x)^2 + (cos x)^4.
- Anoushiravan Rohani accompanies a street musician in Vancouver, Canada. [2-minute video]
(4) Three quotes from an article in IEEE Computer, September 2022, by Hal Berghel (UNLV).
- "The student-centric university is more centered around the economies of job placement than the enrichment of knowledge."
- "The authoritarian mantra on education appears to be 'learn very little of a controversial social issue, and nothing well'."
- "Academic freedom and free speech are both binary variables—they either exist or they don't."
(5) Socrates Think Tank talk: Dr. Hossein Javaherian will speak on Wednesday, September 21, 2022, 6:45 PM, under the title "Ayurveda: Knowledge (Wisdom) of Life—Indian System of Preventive Medicine." Zoom ID 816 4277 8906 (Passcode 221414).
(6) CBS News interview with Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi: Once again a Western journalist is forced to wear a headscarf for the privilege of talking to a mass murderer! [14-minute video] #LetUsTalk #NoToHijab
(7) NASA to test its asteroid deflection strategy on the harmless moon of a larger body: If the 6 km/s crash of a fridge-size spacecraft is successful, the effect will be to slightly shorten the moon's orbit.
(8) NYT breaking news (9/19): Queen Elizabeth II is being buried in London today.
Me: How can an event we knew about days ago be considered breaking news?

2022/09/16 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Math puzzle: What fraction of the area of the outer equilateral triangle is pink? Depiction of some simple math concepts: Real numbers and their various subsets Math puzzle: In this diagram with a semicircle inside a right triangle, calculate x (1) Images of the day: [Left] Math puzzle: What fraction of the area of the outer equilateral triangle is pink? [Center] Depiction of some simple math concepts: Real numbers and their various subsets. [Right] Math puzzle: In this diagram with a semicircle inside a right triangle, calculate x.
(2) Math puzzle: Find the values of the 10 letters in the following equality, if each letter stands for a different digit. FIFTIES + SIXTIES = PRESLEY [Hints: I = 3 and F = E + 1]
(3) Internationally-acclaimed human-rights activist Narges Mohammadi refuses to appear before Iran's Revolutionary Court to answer fresh charges levelled against her while she was in prison.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Germany's business model, built on Russian gas and Chinese demand, faces a crisis.
- We all bear responsibility for extreme weather: Footage of the flood & mudflow devastation in Pakistan.
- Violent arrest of young Iranian woman for wearing no headscarf leads to her hospitalization and death.
- Assassination attempt on Salman Rushdie may lead to additional US sanctions on Iran.
- Zahra Sedighi-Hamedani and Elham Chubdar sentenced to death in Iran for defending LGBTQ rights.
- Marginalization of Third World Feminists in Academia and Politics: A panel-discussion webinar.
- Transformation of Iranian Women's Lives in Post-Revolutionary Iran: Webinar with Dr. Abolhassan Banisadr.
- An example of "female masculinity" in Lalehzari Persian music & dance (details in this Facebook post).
- Nineteenth-century carpet (Vank Cathedral, Isfahan, Iran): Note the 3D scene & carpets within the carpet.
- Math puzzle: From the equality log((x + y)/3) = (log x + log y)/2, find the value of x/y + y/x.
- Buddhist proverb: "Everyone gets the key to the gates of heaven; the same key opens the gates of hell."
(5) The myth of Harvard architecture: Richard Pawson argues that diverse architectures labeled as "Harvard" may have more differences with each other than they do with the von Neumann architecture.
(6) It's hard to believe that the brutal treatment of Mahsa Amini during her arrest and booking by Iran's morality police led to her death: Watch these video clips to see how such murders can and do happen.
(7) A few chuckle-worthy or groan-worthy brief Q&As (from AARP Bulletin):
- Why do I need an MRI? To test you for claustrophobia!
- You think our marriage is like a vacation? That's not what "last resort" means!
- What's the best time on the clock? Six-thirty, hands down!
- Are you still opposed to organ transplants? Nope, I've had a change of heart!
(8) Final thought for the day: Only a thin line separates shipping migrants to other states against their will, or with false promises, from forceful shipping of slaves to plantations.

2022/09/15 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Throwback Thursday: Yours truly at Oregon State University, 1969 Two keynote talks at the 2022 IEEE International Symposium on Computer Arithmetic Origins of the name
Tonight's Talangor Group presentations on Khorasani poets and chess & chessboard puzzles The rare (1 in 100 million) blue lobster Tomb of the departed poet Houshang Ebtehaj, Mohtasham Garden, Rasht, Iran (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Throwback Thursday: Yours truly as a grad student at Oregon State U., 1969. [Top center] ARITH-29 keynote talks (see the next item below). [Top right] Origins of the name "Bluetooth" in wireless communication: Harold Bluetooth peacefully united Norway and Denmark. His initials are used in the Bluetooth symbol. [Bottom left] Tonight's Talangor Group presentations on Khorasani poets and chess & chessboard puzzles (see the last item below). [Bottom center] The rare (1 in 100 million) blue lobster: This creature's color comes from astaxanthin, which binds to other proteins. Depending on those bonds, the shell gets a color. [Bottom right] Tomb of the departed poet Houshang Ebtehaj, Mohtasham Garden, Rasht, Iran.
(2) Two keynote talks at the 2022 IEEE International Symposium on Computer Arithmetic: I attended these talks, which were of particular interest to me.
On Monday 9/12, William J. Dally (NVIDIA) spoke about "Number Representation for Deep Learning." It was known for some time that in deep learning and other AI domains, low-precision numbers can be used to improve performance, without much damage to result quality. Dally reviewed the use of some specific number representations for deep learning.
On Wednesday 9/14, Joris van der Hoeven (Research Director at CNRS) spoke about "Integer Multiplication in Time O(n log n)." It was known for decades that multiplication is inherently more complex than addition, which has O(n) circuit complexity for n-bit numbers. The lower bound O(n log n) had been proven, but it had not been achieved until 2019.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- On the sidelines of UN General Assembly, global women leaders call for urgent action on gender equity.
- QAnon's latest conspiracy theory: King Charles III signed a proclamation making Trump US President.
- An act of generosity: Gift of $3 billion in stocks to be used for fighting climate change.
- A 22-year-old woman, arrested by Iran's morality police and hospitalized 2 hours later, is dying.
- Warning to old Toyota Prius owners: Your car's catalytic converter is in demand by thieves.
- Academic humor: Manuscript submitted may become manuscript accepted, if you are patient enough.
- Facebook memory from Sep. 15, 2016: Bakhtiari woman demonstrates the concept of the weaker sex!
- Facebook memory from Sep. 15, 2015: Introducing two books by Nasim Basiri.
- Facebook memory from Sep. 15, 2011: The positive effects of having a sibling of the opposite sex.
- Facebook memory from Sep. 15, 2010: Logical puzzle involving a sequence of names.
(4) Massive fraud in England's succession scheme (humor): Succession was rigged. Trump claims to be the rightful King of England. Plans to jail Charles III in the Tower of London.
(5) Talangor Group talk: Dr. Zohreh Ghahremani spoke in Persian under the title "Portraits of Classical Poets from Khorasan: Part 1, Early Poets." Yours truly made a brief presentation on "Chess and Chessboard Puzzles" before the main talk. There were ~75 attendees. [B. Parhami's slides]
What was known as Khorasan is now scattered in Iran, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan. Dr. Ghahremani proceeded to discuss four early Khorasani poets: Ferdowsi, Khayyam, Attar, and Mowlavi/Mowlana/Rumi.
*Ferdowsi (literally, "from heaven") lived in poverty and, having lost his son, was worried about not being able to provide for his daughter. He spent 30-35 years writing his masterpiece, Shahnameh. Financial help from Soltan Mahmoud Ghaznavi eventually came, but it was too late. Khorasani poets, and Ferdowsi in particular, were bent on writing simply and repetitively (to facilitate understanding) and avoiding Arabic constructs/words in favor of Persian/Farsi (Dari dialect).
*Khayyam (literally, "tent-maker") studied math and astronomy. His math books and the manner of designing the Persian calendar were highly influential. Khayyam wasn't known as a poet. His first verses were discovered 2 years after his death. His thoughts centered around life and death. We humans are all concerned with life and death and with staying in the moment, so we can identify with Khayyam's poems. Edward Fitzgerald changed the focus a bit and was also accused of making up some of the poems.
*Attar (literally, "pharmacist"; his father's profession) came from a prominent family and was thus well-educated. He was one of the earliest mystic poets and influenced others, including Mowlavi. His most-famous book is Mantiq-ul-Tayr (The Conference of the Birds, in which a diverse group of birds go on a quest to choose a worthy leader), but his most-important work is Musibat-Nama (Book of Affliction, which elaborates on the 40 stages of the search for God).
*Mowlavi (aka Mowlana; known in the West as Rumi), a religious leader, was influenced by Attar and went to Konya at age 22 to meet him. At 37, Mowlavi met Shams-e Tabrizi, a disheveled old man at the time. This acquaintance and the ensuing enchantment, triggered his creativity, leading to a large volume of poems. Their mutual admiration lasted for 17 years, until the disappearance of Shams. Other companions replaced Shams after his disappearance, including Salah ud-Din-e Zarkub and Hussam-e Chalabi.

2022/09/13 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Post-storm skies: Last night at UCSB West Campus, looking at my house (on the left) and an adjacent unit State-controlled media in Iran report on the death of Queen Elizabeth II with innuendo and insults Nobel Laureate John C. Mather talks about his work on the James Webb Space Telescope
Last night's food prep results: Pasta with meat sauce, and more From Saturday: Stuffed chicken breast with sides Meme: Accusing Iranian Baha'is of being spies doesn'g make sense (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Post-storm skies: Last night at UCSB West Campus, looking at my house (on the left) and an adjacent unit. [Top center] Iranian mullahs bite the hand that fed them: State-controlled media report on the death of Queen Elizabeth II with innuendo and insults. [Top right] Today's talk on JWST (see the last item below). [Bottom left & center] Last night's food prep: I made some pasta with meat sauce, salad, and maast-o-moosir (yogurt with shallots). The other photo, from 9/10, features stuffed chicken breast with sides. [Bottom right] Iranian Baha'is are arrested and imprisoned under made-up charges of spying. No one asks why these "spies" openly declare their religion, instead of pretending to be Muslims and infiltrating key agencies!
(2) IEEE 29th Int'l Symp. on Computer Arithmetic: I am attending the 3-day virtual event from today until Wednesday. It's quite a challenge to organize a virtual international event. The talks begin very early in the morning and extend until noon in my time zone (US Pacific). They begin in mid-afternoon and end around 8:00 PM in Central European Standard Time. Organizers decided to make attendance free and also provide links to the published papers. This is a boon to researchers, particularly those residing in Third-World countries, where payment of registration fees would be a major burden.
(3) Remembering 9/11: Heart-wrenching report of CBS News "60 Minutes" on FDNY rescue efforts in World Trade Center's Twin Towers, 21 years ago. FDNY lost 343 members on that fateful day. [40-minute video]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- SoCal residents should enjoy the cooler temps: Another heat wave is expected at the end of September.
- Worse-than-expected inflation data leads to a 4.3% plunge in the S&P 500 index.
- Prince Charles (now, King Charles III) visited Iran in 2004, at the invitation of President Khatami.
- Iran begins counting down to World Cup 2022, with a successful old coach returning to lead its team.
- Theme from "Game of Thrones": Composed and played on piano by German-Iranian Ramin Djawadi.
(5) A Conversation with Mahnaz Afkhami: Iran's former Minister of Women's Affairs, joins Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi, director of the UNC Center for Middle East & Islamic Studies, to talk about her memoir and her women's-rights advocacy. Thurs. Nov. 17, 2022, 2:00 PM PST. [Event page on Facebook]
(6) This classic Chaplin clip reflects the situation in Iran brilliantly: Regime-official mom helps filter the Internet, while her son sells filter-breaking tools from Canada!
(7) "Opening the Infrared Treasure Chest with JWST": This afternoon, under the auspices of the National Air and Space Museum's John H. Glenn Lecture in Space History, Nobel Laureate and James Webb Space Telescope senior project manager John C. Mather discussed his groundbreaking research on the James Webb Space Telescope, the product of efforts by some 20,000 people.
Launched in 2021, with science operations beginning in 2022, JWST will peer into the past to find the first objects that formed after the Big Bang, the first black holes, the growth of galaxies, the formation of stars & planetary systems, and more. One hundred times more powerful than the celebrated Hubble Space Telescope, JWST could observe a 1 cm^2 bumblebee at the Earth-Moon distance, in reflected sunlight and thermal emission and promises to reveal more wonders of our universe. [69-minute recording]

2022/09/11 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Twenty-first anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks It takes a mere 4 minutes for world population to increase by 1000: Where will the next 1000 babies be born? Ten years of global sales of electric vehicles
Cartoon: Steve Bannon is finally getting his wall. Trump's wall may be coming soon too! Math puzzle: This diagram contains a unit square at the lower left, a 5-by-5 outer square, and a blue square whose area is sought Cover imag of the book 'Pederasty in Persian Literature' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Remembering 9/11 (see the next item below). [Top center] It takes a mere four minutes for world population to increase by 1000: Where will the next 1000 babies of the world be born? [Top right] Ten years of global sales of electric vehicles. [Bottom left] Cartoon of the day: Steve Bannon is finally getting his wall. Trump's wall may be coming soon too! [Bottom center] Math puzzle: This diagram contains a unit square at the lower left, a 5-by-5 outer square, and a blue square whose area is sought. [Bottom right] Pederasty in Persian Literature (Shahed-Bazi dar Adabiyat-e Farsi) (see the last item below).
(2) Twenty-first anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks: The event's mass casualties and its economic fallout devastated us. Yet, the losses also led to a sense of unity and purpose in confronting extremism, regardless of its source. It is unfortunate that much of the camaraderie vanished during the Trump years due to his purposeful sowing of the seeds of division and distrust. Let's hope we get back on track in putting common American values ahead of our differences.
(3) Happy grandparents' Day! It is a blessing to grow up alongside grandparents. To young family members, they represent history, continuity, resilience, and unconditional love. This photo shows my paternal grandparents, with some of their children, ~90 years ago.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Joke going around in American legal circles: MAGA stands for "making attorneys get attorneys."
- Facebook memory from Sep. 11, 2019: A match made in La La Land, a la Turkish soap operas!
- Facebook memory from Sep. 11, 2019: My Persian poem for Iran's Blue Girl.
- Facebook memory from Sep. 11, 2017: Does the Earth weigh more today than it did 3 million years ago?
(5) Russia suffers military setbacks as a result of Ukraine's counteroffensives in the northeastern part of the country: Putin faces criticism by hawkish Russians who have been supportive of his war.
(6) Quote of the day: "If something comes to life in others because of you, then you have made an approach to immortality." ~ Norman Cousins
(7) Book review: Shamisa, Sirous, Pederasty in Persian Literature (Shahed-Bazi dar Adabiyat-e Farsi), unabridged 8-hour audiobook, read by Maryam, Avay-e Boof, 2018 (original version 2002, ISBN: 9645509166).
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book, banned in Iran almost immediately after its publication, is difficult to obtain. This review is based on a bootleg audio version of the book, available on the Internet.
[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5]
The audiobook is also available on AVAYe BUF Telegram channel.
A key reason for banning the book is that Islamic officials are in denial about the existence of homosexuality in Iran, let alone admitting its prevalence for many centuries. Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was widely ridiculed when he said in a 2007 US appearance that "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country."
The book, the only one of its kind, tackles the subject of male homosexuality in Persian literature, particularly in poetry, from the Ghaznavid period to the Pahlavi era. The author's thesis, which he proves beyond any doubt, is that "the beloved" in Persian literature is usually a young man/boy, the rare exceptions being in certain older poems. Homo-erotic musings among Persian poets date back at least 1000 years.
The book begins with a review of the nomenclature of homosexuality, as used by Persian writers and poets, along with its various categories (Chapter 1). Chapter 4 is devoted to homosexuality among Sufis. The book's other 6 chapters present overviews of the subject, along with poets & samples of work, from various historical periods: Ghaznavids; Seljuks; Kharazmshahids; Teymourian; Safavids; Afsharids; Zands; Qajars; Pahlavis.

2022/09/10 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iran's Ayatollah Jannati is happy to have outlasted Queen Elizabeth II! Cyber art titled 'Cyberspace' (artist unknown) Cover image of the September 2022 issue of 'IEEE Spectrum' magazine features the James Webb Space Telescope
How the world's $100 trillion GDP us divided among countries Distinguished lecture by Dr. Farzaneh Milani Different countries' share of world military spending (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Iran's Ayatollah Jannati, 95, is happy to have outlasted Queen Elizabeth II! [Top center] Cyber art titled "Cyberspace"(artist unknown). [Top right] Engineering the James Webb Space Telescope: Cover feature of the September 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum magazine. [Bottom left] How the world's $100 trillion GDP is divided among countries. [Bottom center] Distinguished lecture by Dr. Farzaneh Milani (see the next item below). [Bottom right] Countries' shares of world military spending.
(2) "A Literary Journey: On Walls, Veils, Borders, and Thresholds": This was the title of U. Toronto's Second Annual Elahe Omidyar Mir-Djalali Distinguished Lecture by Dr. Farzaneh Milani, Raymond J. Nelson Professor of Iranian Literature and Gender Studies, U. Virginia, on 9/09. There were ~40 attendees.
Dr. Milani intermixed personal reflections on her life with literary and feminist influences to describe her journey through life in Iran, relocation to the US, and her academic work, including the books Veils and Words (1992) and Words Not Swords (2011), along with books on Simin Behbahani (1999) and Forough Farrokhzad (2016).
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Aerial footage of the aftermath of devastating floods in Pakistan, affecting 33 million people. [Tweet]
- Nevada county official charged with murder of investigative journalist exposing misdeeds in his office.
- California faces the threat of fire, rain, wind, and mudslide, all at once, as Hurricane Kay passes offshore.
- Mississippi gave QB Brett Favres company $1.1 M from welfare funds for 2 speeches he never gave.
- The faces of Elizabeth II [1926-2022] over the years. [1-minute video]
- Political humor: In England, they have installed a man as the Queen. This wokeness has gone too far!
- The Golden Age of Islam: An informative visual introduction. [9-minute video]
- Persian music: An oldie song, with rather silly lyrics. [2-minute video]
- The super-rich are prepping for societal collapse by building luxury bunkers and hiring military security.
(4) Quote of the day: "Yes, I did make a movie ... I hope people see it. But if not, we're all going to die anyway, so who cares." ~ Actress Jennifer Lawrence
(5) Persian poetry: Sholeh Wolpe recites bold, beautiful verses written by Farough Farrokhzad (1934-1967), with English translations. [8-minute video]
(6) Life story and sample works of the Iranian singing legend Esmat Bagherpour Baboli (1925-2004), better known as Delkash. [27-minute video]
(7) A most-deplorable act: Republican congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas presents convicted January 6 rioter with flag flown over US Capitol after her release from prison.

2022/09/08 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Throwback Thursday: Women target-practicing in Malayer, a city in western Iran, during the 1950s Chart: Inflation-adjusted annual cost of public higher education in the US rose from about $10K in 1970 & 1990 to $23K in 2020 Queen Elizabeth II, who ruled Britain for seven decades, dead at 96
Math puzzle: In this diagram, with two squares and a triangle whose apex is connected to the middle of the opposite side, what is the length x? An evening with Iranian maestro Shardad Rohani Geopolitics of Oil: Talangor Group talk by Dr. Sirous Yasseri (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Throwback Thursday: Women target-practicing in Malayer, a city in western Iran, during the 1950s. [Top center] Inflation-adjusted annual cost of public higher education in the US rose from about $10K in 1970 & 1990 to $23K in 2020 (NYT chart). [Top right] Queen Elizabeth II dead at 96: Britain's longest-serving monarch ruled for seven decades. [Bottom left] Math puzzle: In this diagram, with two squares and a triangle whose apex is connected to the middle of the opposite side by a unit-length line segment, what is x? [Bottom center] An evening with Iranian maestro Shardad Rohani, in an intimate setting (see the next item below). [Bottom right] Talangor Group talk by Dr. Sirous Yasseri (see the last item below).
(2) An evening with musician/conductor/composer Shardad Rohani: On Wednesday night, Socrates Think Tank presented the Iranian maestro in a Zoom meeting, with ~130 attendees.
After showing a video of Rohani conducting a performance of "Esfahan," the guest performer was introduced. He spoke about his musical experiences, including a 4-year stint as Director of Tehran Symphony Orchestra, following a long period of regular appearances with the group as guest-conductor. Rohani's stories were interspersed with videos of his performances with different orchestras at worldwide venues.
What follows is my selection of Rohani's work from YouTube.
"Esfahan," arranged & orchestrated by Shardad Rohani, melody by Javad Maroufi. [7-minute video]
Shardad Rohani's concert in London's Cadogan Hall. [Part 1, 26 minutes] [Part 2, 25 minutes]
Shardad Rohani, with Yanni, live at the Acropolis (dueling violins, at the end). [8-minute video]
Shardad Rohani conducts Tehran Symphony Orchestra, live in Milad Tower. [65-minute video]
Shardad Rohani conducts "Epic," performed live in Tehran's Vahdat Hall. [12-minute video]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- At 73, King Charles III will rule England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.
- Membership list of Oath Keepers includes politicians, military members, and law-enforcement officers.
- Sharif U. Tech Association Virtual Reunion, Sep. 16-17, 2022. [Registration link & event program]
- Heat wave: Summer of 2022 was the hottest on record in Europe and many other places on Earth.
(4) "Hype vs. Reality of 5G": This was the title of today's panel discussion organized by IEEE Educational Activities on LinkedIn Live. There were more than 1300 attendees. [62-minute video recording]
Despite being hyped at a fever pitch for several years now, with terms such as "ultra-wideband" and "extended range," 5G's impact on everyday life has been rather limited. This IEEE panel discussion brought together experts David Witkowski, Joe Madden, Prakash Sangam, and Monisha Ghosh for a discourse on the challenges created by how the wireless carriers promote 5G, and what the real value of 5G technology is likely to be.
It seems that 5G's greater coverage is a boon in rural settings; most other users don't experience much difference in 5G vs. 4G. As we prepare for the onslaught of hype on 6G, we need to understand that 5G's impact is mostly in the domain of communication infrastructure, rather than consumers or phones.
(5) This evening's Talangor Group talk: Dr. Sirous Yasseri (Brunel U., UK) spoke in Persian under the title "Geopolitics of Oil." A short presentation by Dr. Reza Toossi (Cal State U. Long Beach) on "The Role of Energy in Our Daily Lives" preceded the main talk. There were ~70 attendees.
Dr. Yasseri began his talk with a definition of geopolitics, including a list of personalities who were instrumental in the adoption and spread of the term. He then presented a historical overview, beginning in the early 1900s, when there were two world powers: The Russian Empire, which controlled a large land-mass in Asia and Eastern Europe, and England, whose navy controlled the waters of the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea to the south. There were skirmishes and wars between the two powers, but neither one could eliminate the other. So, a kind of delicate balance prevailed that adversely affected countries like Iran that sat between the two domains of influence.
Dr. Yasseri then proceeded to describe the changes in the energy scene, as uses of energy sky-rocketed, oil prices rose, and the United States entered the stage as a newly-minted world power. The US later became energy-independent, but continued to exert influence on other oil-producing countries. The US still maintains military personnel in excess of 600,000 in the Middle East and is the predominant world power controlling oil shipments from the region to Europe and elsewhere.
Near the end of his talk, Dr. Yasseri showed part of a 10-minute film clip of a 1973 speech by the Shah of Iran, which reveals some of the tensions that existed around the world regarding energy resources, the role of OPEC, and other geopolitical issues.
A lively Q&A period ensued, during which both technical/economic aspects of oil production and their political consequences, particularly in the case of Iran, were discussed. Perhaps, the title of the talk, "Geopolitics of Oil," or, more aptly, "Geopolitics of Fossil Fuels" (given the current importance of gas) should be expanded to "Geopolitics of Energy" in a future talk, as the share of renewables rises to beyond the current 10-15% of the total (excluding hydropower & nuclear plants).

2022/09/06 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
DARPA reincarnates the Soviet-era Sea Skimmer, a transport plane that can fly meters above the ocean Iran's architecture: The exquisite beauty of the dome tiles at Esfahan's Shah Mosque Venn diagram: Overlapping traits among Autism, ADHD, and Giftedness (1) Images of the day: [Left] DARPA reincarnates the Soviet-era Sea Skimmer, a transport plane that can fly meters above the ocean. [Center] Iran's architecture: The exquisite beauty of ceiling tiles at Esfahan's Shah Mosque. [Right] Overlapping traits among Autism, ADHD, and Giftedness.
(2) NYT's annotated version of the affidavit that led to the search of Mar-a-Lago: The 32-page affidavit, with additional pages of exhibits and attachments, details FBI's concerns with the year-long efforts to retrieve classified and national-defense documents from Donald Trump and his actions to deflect and avoid compliance with a subpoena.
(3) Research quality and impact: According to a study of 6.6 million papers published from 2000 to 2019 by 7.6 million medical researchers (PNAS, Vol. 119, 2022, No. 36), gender-diverse teams produce more novel and higher-impact scientific ideas.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Juul agrees to pay $438.5 M to settle a multi-state investigation into its role in the teen vaping crisis.
- Ukraine's children went back to school today: So did Uvaldi school kids in Texas.
- Germany asks for forgiveness 50 years after the terrorist attack on Israeli athletes during Munich Olympics.
- Homosexuality = Death: LGBTQ rights advocate Zahra Sedighi-Hamedani sentenced to death in Iran.
- Elham Chobdar is the second Iranian LGBTQ-rights activist to be sentenced to death in recent days.
- IEEE Symp. Computer Arithmetic: Sep. 12-14, 2022. Free on-line attendance if you register by Sep. 08.
- SBPianoBoys, Zeyn & Rhyan Schweyk, head to college to pursue dual degrees in engineering & music.
- Two interesting free technical talks (Sep. 8 & 13) about hot topics of the day, 5G and JWST. [Details]
(5) Insurrectionist ousted: Couy Griffin, a county commissioner in New Mexico, becomes the first official in more than 100 years to be removed under the US Constitution's bar on insurrectionists holding office.
(6) Afghan men are concerned: A Taliban official has opined that all circumcisions performed over the past 40 years under the Soviet rule and American occupation are deemed un-Islamic and thus invalid, because secular doctors did not chant "God is Great" at the time of cutting. Thus, all men must be circumcised anew.
(7) IEEE Women in Engineering celebrates 25 years: With more than 35,000 members, the group has planned a host of activities for 2022 to mark the occasion.
(8) "The Spectacular Collapse of CryptoKitties": Subtitled "A Cautionary Tale about NFTs and the Future of Cryptocurrency," this article by Matthew S. Smith in the September 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum magazine reiterates what many computer experts have been warning about.
(9) Final thought for the day (humor): An Iranian entrepreneur plans to open a US restaurant specializing in dizi, a kind of Iranian meat stew. The restaurant will be called "Washington DZ."

2022/09/05 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy US Labor Day! This image shows mine workers put in cages during their off-hours Happy US Labor Day: Street marchers demand that Labor Day be observed Fifty years ago (on Sep. 5, 1972, at the Munich Olympics), the threat of terrorism, as we know it today, was born (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] Today we observe Labor Day in America (see the next item below). [Right] Fifty years ago, the threat of terrorism, as we know it today, was born: On September 5, 1972, eight Palestinian terrorists attacked the Olympic Village in Munich during the Summer Olympic Games, taking hostages and eventually killing 11 members of the Israeli team (4-minute video).
(2) Happy Labor Day! Today, we celebrate the progress we have made on the path of providing humane working conditions and decent wages to those who make the world go around with their labor. The progress isn't complete, but we have come a long way from when mine workers were treated like cattle.
(3) Boris Johnson will be replaced by Liz Truss, starting tomorrow: The 47-year-old is Britain's third female prime minister. Truss will inherit an inflation crisis, the aftershocks of Brexit, a war in Europe, and sinking support for the Conservatives in opinion polls.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Pakistani official: "This is very far from a normal monsoon—it is climate dystopia at our doorstep."
- Why no bridge or tunnel connects Europe to Africa, despite the 9-mile shortest distance. [4-minute video]
- Everything can be faked with tech: Ships use fake satellite signals to evade sanctions or smuggle drugs.
- A war is raging between big companies and their employees on the need for physical presence at the office.
- Basic mathematical symbols and notation, nicely organized. [Chart]
- Math oddity: The formula n^2 + n + 41 generates prime numbers for consecutive values of n, from 0 to 39.
(5) Exposing Iran's so-called "reform movement" for what it is: Its most-prominent member, Khatami, speaks "scientifically" about homosexuality being a crime that is punishable by death, according to the Quran.
(6) Walmart was duped into selling fake 30 TB SSD drives: One terabyte of SSD storage costs at least $50, so at $18, or $0.60 per TB, the fake drive was too good to be true. The scam artists had modified the drive's firmware to show 30 TB of storage when plugged into a Windows computer.
(7) Math puzzle: Consider the strings of symbols nnn = 6, where n is a whole number from 0 to 9. Insert mathematical symbols in each of the 10 strings so that the equality holds. For example, (0! + 0! + 0!)! = 6. You are allowed to insert only math symbols. Inserting digits or numbers is not allowed.
(8) Biden laid a trap in his Philadelphia speech: And Trump walked right into it in his Wilkes-Barre rally. The GOP had hoped that Trump would stay out of the 2022 midterm elections. But he made the rally, supposedly held in support of two Republican candidates, all about himself and victimhood, lashing out at everyone and everything, including the city of Philadelphia. Imagine bad-mouthing Philadelphia in a rally held in Pennsylvania!
(9) Skill at performing a physical task deteriorates when one is forced to verbalize how s/he does it: In an experiment with golfers, they were asked to sink three short putts in a row. After devoting some time to practice, it took them an average of 10 tries to succeed. Then the golfers were asked to describe their putting techniques between the practice session and the actual test. The average number of attempts needed more than doubled to 21. The more skillful you are, the greater the negative impact of verbalizing your technique. [Source: Adam Grant's August 31, 2022, newsletter]

2022/09/04 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
'New Yorker' cartoon: The surreal world of cryptocurrency IranWire cartoon: Ali Khamenei grooms his son, Mojtaba, to replace him as Supreme Leader UCLA Zoom talk by Dr. Mohammad B. Bagheri on logical positivism (1) Images of the day: [Left] New Yorker cartoon of the day: The surreal world of cryptocurrency. [Center] IranWire cartoon of the day: Ali Khamenei grooms his son, Mojtaba, to replace him as Supreme Leader. Mojtaba was recently advanced to the rank of Ayatollah over objections by many senior clerics. [Right] UCLA Zoom talk by Dr. Mohammad B. Bagheri on logical positivism (see the last item below).
(2) The five pillars of American success have been in decline over the past two decades: Education, Immigration, Infrastructure, Encouraging & regulating investment, and R&D. [Adapted from Thomas Friedman]
(3) SCE power outage in Goleta: Our power went out around 1:00 PM and is expected to be restored at 4:30. Let's be more considerate in using power during the ongoing extreme-heat emergency!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ten people killed by two suspects in a series of stabbings in Saskatchewan, Canada.
- The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out 20 years of US progress in math and reading skills.
- US life expectancy fell by 3 years from 2019 to 2021, the largest decline in 100 years.
- The gap of worrying about COVID-19 between liberals & conservatives is narrowing. [Chart, from NYT]
- Glenn Kirschner on what Trump might have done with now-missing classified documents he took.
- Hype vs. Reality of 5G: LinkedIn panel discussion, Thurs., Sep. 8, 2022, 9:00 AM PDT. (Virtual; Register).
(5) Iran's Minister of Communication is an Australian citizen: His fellow-Iranians, who have fled the reign of terror & censorship which he has helped establish, are rotting in refugee camps as they try to enter Australia!
(6) "Logical Positivism and the Vienna Circle, Part 2": This was the title of today's talk by Dr. Mohammad B. Bagheri under the auspices of the Association of Professors and Scholars of Iranian Heritage. The speaker was identified as a "Researcher with UCLA." It would have been clearer if the speaker's actual affiliation/title were specified. The session included a second talk on pain medication and a Q&A session on women's health, which I did not attend.
building up on a talk he presented last month, Dr. Bagheri began by observing that positivism does not recognize anything but natural sciences, in which theories can be experimentally verified (or falsified). In particular, it considers fields such as psychology, philosophy, and even math as fake sciences. Later, positivists came to the conclusion that they have reached a dead end, thus coming up with the term "logical positivism," thanks to Bertrand Russell, who was a mathematician more than a philosopher. Logical positivism brings philosophy and mathematics under its umbrella. Logical positivism is still limited in what it can cover/explain, so, all forms of positivism are now considered dead.
In Dr. Bagheri's view, such discussions are particularly useful for people of Iranian heritage, who tend to be dismissive of scientific/logical thinking, primarily due to growing up with poetry and mysticism. A small group flip completely and become extreme positivists. The speaker's motivation in presenting this talk was to see if a middle ground can be found to unify our thinking. A lecture of Dr. Bagheri on critical thinking is available on YouTube. Dr. Bagheri also mentioned that he has a YouTube channel, which I have been unable to find.
The following are my supplementary notes from on-line sources: The doctrine of positivism is the brainchild the 19th-century French Philosopher Auguste Comte. He stated that the world was progressing through three stages in the quest for truth: theological, metaphysical, & positivist. He believed that theology and metaphysics should be replaced by a hierarchy of sciences. Positivism is similar in its outlook to scientism and is also closely connected to Naturalism, Reductionism, and Verificationism. Positivism later branched out into legal positivism, logical positivism, and sociological positivism. Positivists eventually came to the conclusion that their worldview leads to a number of unresolvable problems. Karl Popper opined that metaphysics is different from science but it isn't nonsense.

2022/09/02 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Math puzzle: What fraction of the area of the regular hexagon is outside the six semicircles? Math puzzle: Six squares of the same size are embedded in a 13-by-11 rectangle, as shown. Find the area of the dotted region Math puzzle: A 4-by-3 rectangle is divided up as shown. Find the area of the yellow region (1) Math puzzles of the day: Find the fraction of the outer shape's area that is shaded.
(2) UCSB's Fourth Annual Responsible Machine Learning Summit: Friday, October 7, 2022, 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM PDT, Room 1010 Henley Hall. [Register]
(3) Miye Ota turns 104: The matriarch of the Ota family miraculously recovered from health problems to celebrate her 104th birthday at Hendry's Beach in Santa Barbara on Friday 8/26. Her son, the late Steve Ota, was my son's aikido sensei. [Photo]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- SoCal heat wave, bringing temperatures of up to 110 F, will last until Tuesday: Power conservation urged.
- Putin denies Gorbachev the honor of a state funeral and will stay away.
- Russian energy mogul who criticized the Ukraine war dies in Moscow after falling from 6th-floor window.
- Among items found in FBI's search of Mar-a-Lago were empty folders marked for classified files.
- California passes climate measures, allocating $54 billion for reaching net-zero emissions by 2045.
- Lesson from Alaska's election: Ranked-choice voting diminishes parties' role, empowering independents.
- A Michigan town's library may be defunded because its staff refused to remove an LGBTQ book.
- American women should remember to vote. This choice has not yet been taken away from them!
- Iran's 4th National Informatics Conf., January 4-5, 2023, Tehran. [Announcement & call for papers]
- Understanding how waves work: Scientists & engineers use wave tanks to experiment. [1-minute video]
- Movie-making magic: Green screens and other ways of creating make-believe scenes. [1-minute video]
- Persian music: Japanese young man plays multiple instruments & sings in Persian. [3-minute video]
(5) Iranian mullahs weep for Iman Hussein and his followers, who went thirsty some 1400 years ago, but they are indifferent to the thirst of Iranian citizens in several cities suffering from severe droughts right now.
(6) County of Santa Barbara sues UCSB over its failure to follow the 2010 long-range development plan in the area of student housing: Housing availability has not increased along with enrollment growth.
(7) On the desirability of ranked-choice voting (RCV): Also known as instant-runoff voting, RCV allows a voter to rank the available candidates from first to nth. If a candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, s/he wins. If there is no majority, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated from further consideration and lower-ranked candidates in those lists move up one notch. One key advantage of this scheme is that when there are two major-party and a number of lesser-known candidates, a voter can still rank one of the latter at the top, without a fear that s/he would draw votes from more viable candidates. So, voters can vote honestly, rather than strategically.

2022/09/01 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Throwback Thursday: Iranian high-schoolers in the 1960s and cartoon portraits of me over the years Tonight's Talangor Group technical talk on historic and modern bridge designs Poetic Persian proverb due to Naser Khosrow: Az maast keh bar maast
Math puzzle: What is the height of this right-angled triangle? You don't need to make new signs for each protest: Here are some general-purpose protest signs! Math puzzle: Find the area of this isosceles right triangle (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Throwback Thursday (see the next item below). [Top center] Tonight's Talangor Group technical talk (see the last item below). [Top right] Poetic Persian proverb due to Naser Khosrow (see item 3 below). [Bottom left] Math puzzle: What is the height of this right-angled triangle with known base? [Bottom center] You don't need to make new signs for each protest: Here are some general-purpose protest signs! [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Find the area of this isosceles right triangle.
(2) Throwback Thurday: (a) Iranian high-schoolers in the 1960s, more than a decade before the Islamic Revolution of 1979. (b) These cartoon portraits of me were drawn by street artists in 1999, 2016, and 2022. The last two are by the same artist, Michael, on Santa Barbara's Cabrillo Blvd. Another such cartoon was drawn in Honolulu in the late 1980s or early 1990s, but I have not been able to find it.
(3) Poetic proverbs: Many Persian proverbs come from the works of great poets. Here is one which is part of the last verse in a poem by Naser Khosrow ("az maast keh bar maast"). It tells us to take responsibility for our actions and not to blame others for our misfortunes. The poem is the story of an eagle which is shot down by an arrow and, when it looks to see how this metal-wood implement has flown so high as to hit it way up in the air, it discovers eagle feathers as part of the arrow.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- New COVID-19 booster shots targeting Omicron subvariants could become available next week.
- Route Fire along California's Interstate 5 closes the freeway in both directions.
- Iranian novelist Abbas Maroufi [1957-2022], best known for 'Symphony of the Dead,' falls to cancer at 65.
- Incredible math: Indian mathematician Ramanujan discovered this formula for π. [Tweet]
- The wonder of math: A large number of circles formed by a family of equations lead to a Bird in Flight.
- Engineering in action: One way to convert circular motion to linear motion. [Tweet]
- One way to generate electricity from nearby traffic. [Tweet]
- This brave Canada goose isn't intimidated by cows! [Tweet]
- Facebook memory from August 31, 2017: Divination by [Conference] Program Committee.
- Facebook memory from Sep. 1, 2018: An exquisite Persian love poem from the great poet Sa'adi.
- Facebook memory from Sep. 1, 2013: The night when I was honored by my kind nieces.
(5) "Bridge Construction: An Overview of Common Practices for Historical Conventional, and Modern Bridges": This was the title of tonight's Talangor Group talk by Dr. Majid Sarraf (earthquake and bridge expert). A short presentation by Dr. Mohamad Navab on the National Grief Awareness Day, August 30, and mentions of a couple of other notable "today in history" events preceded the main talk. There were ~60 attendees.
Beginning with conventional bridges and their various components (foundation, substructure, and superstructure), Dr. Sarraf reviewed the main variants of bridges along with their construction technology, benefits, and drawbacks. Among topics discussed were pile, beam, truss, suspension, cantilever, and cable-stay. Also included in the discussion were construction techniques such as those used to set up bridge foundation and substructure under water. This 7-minute YouTube video contains some useful information.
During the Q&A period, I mentioned Henry Petroski and his book, To Engineer is Human: The Role of Failure in Successful Design, in which he uses the historical pattern of bridge collapses as a learning cycle: Successful design leads to skimping in materials and engineering, until a failure tells us that we have gone too far.

2022/08/30 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Spaceship Neptune will take tourists to the stratosphere using a giant hydrogen-filled balloon Math humor: Integral of a.dx is ax + c Approximate reconstruction of what Egypt's Luxor Temple might have looked like 3500 years ago
Look carefully at this painting and you'll see details that are quite different from the first impression: Sample 1 Look carefully at this painting and you'll see details that are quite different from the first impression: Sample 2 Science humor: Carbon dating (cartoon) (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Spaceship Neptune: Florida-based Space Perspective will take tourists to the stratosphere using a capsule attached to a giant hydrogen-filled balloon. [Top center] Math humor: Integral of a.dx is ax + c. [Top right] Approximate reconstruction of what Egypt's Luxor Temple might have looked like 3500 years ago. [Bottom left & center] Amazing art: Look carefully at these paintings and you'll see details that are quite different from the first impression! Focus on the noses and eyes. [Bottom right] Science humor: Carbon dating (credit: Analytical Science Network).
(2) "Opening the Infrared Treasure Chest with JWST": Nobel Laureate and James Webb Space Telescope senior project manager John C. Mather will discuss his groundbreaking research on Tuesday, September 13, 2022, 5:00-6:00 PM PDT, in-person and via YouTube. [Registration] [Presentation link]
(3) Not funny, in any language: A bittersweet essay by Firoozeh Dumas, author of Funny in Farsi, describing grief and eventual return to a functioning human after her husband of 36 years blindsided her with a divorce.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, dead at 91: World leaders pay tribute.
- Iran's attempt to seize an uncrewed US ship in the Persian Gulf interrupted by the US Navy.
- NASA will put an Alexa-enabled voice assistant on its next moon mission.
- Mercedes Benz EQXX prototype breaks the 1000 km barrier, for a range 75% more than Tesla Model 3.
- Worst heat wave of the year to hit Southern California this week: Record-setting temps expected.
- Game shows in the age of MAGA and litigation: "You don't have to answer that!" [Cartoon]
- A history of music in Iran: From Chaghamish to Chehel-Sotoon. [74-minute video]
- This 2-minute video clip is an example of many similar ones characterized as one instrument, n hands.
(5) Interview with Beth Holmes: Amazon Alexa's Principal Knowledge Engineer discusses her work and life as a technologist with autism.
(6) The late poet Houshang Ebtehaj (Sayeh) recalls the day when he cried in prison upon hearing one of his patriotic compositions over the prison's loudspeaker.

2022/08/28 (Sunday): Pictorial report on a day spent in San Diego's Coronado Island and Balboa Park.
Sight-seeing in San Diego: Batch 5 of photos Sight-seeing in San Diego: Batch 10 of photos Sight-seeing in San Diego: Batch 15 of photos
Sight-seeing in San Diego: Batch 25 of photos Sight-seeing in San Diego: Batch 30 of photos Sight-seeing in San Diego: Batch 35 of photos
Sight-seeing in San Diego: Batch 41 of photos Sight-seeing in San Diego: Photo #36 Sight-seeing in San Diego: Batch 46 of photos (1) Top row of images: My daughter and I started our exploration of Coronado Island with a visit to the historic Hotel del Coronado (est. 1888), photographing the Victorian building from the ocean side and from its north side. We also went inside, snapping photos of its beautiful lobby, courtyard, and ballroom.
(2) Middle row of images: We next walked on a walkway along the beach, taking in the views of downtown San Diego, many shops/businesses, and art. We stopped by at a quaint coffee/tea shop, before heading toward the Bay Bridge, which connects the Island to the city center. As we drove over the bridge on our way back from the Island, I snapped a couple of photos of the San Diego US Navy shipyard.
(3) Bottom row of images: From Coronado Island, we headed to Balboa Park for an organ concert. Walking to the concert venue, we spotted an Iran exhibit or mini-museum as part of the Park's International Cottages. We also photographed a stone plaque bearing a description of the Cyrus Cylinder near the Cottage's entrance. The highlight of the day was a concert on world's largest outdoor instrument, the Spreckels Organ, donated to the City of San Diego by the Spreckels family, of sugar fame. San Diego Civic Organist Raul Prieto Ramirez treated us to some wonderful music, with one piece played by a guest organist. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]
(4) Dining experiences: We began the day with this fruit plate. Upon arriving on Coronado Island, we had an early lunch at Lobster West, which advertises its fare as "ZAGAT #1 rated lobster dish in San Diego." Lobster is often served in fancy dishes, but we experienced unique lobster sandwiches. We ended the day's dining with dinner at Del Mar Seaside Grill, a combo Persian/Mediterranean restaurant with excellent food.

2022/08/27 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Math puzzle: An interior point of a square and midpoints of its sides are used to divide the square into four areas. Determine the unknown area Visualizing the amount of water on Earth by collecting it into a ball Math puzzle: In this circle of radius 2 centered at O, find the area of the yellow section
Day 1 of my trip to San Diego: Batch 7 of photos Day 1 of my trip to San Diego: With my daughter at her place Day 1 of my trip to San Diego: Batch 12 of photos (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Math puzzle: An interior point of a square and midpoints of its sides are used to divide the square into four areas. Determine the unknown area (@mathisstillfun). [Top center] We really don't have much water on Earth: (Big sphere) All the water on or above the Earth; (Medium) Fresh water in ground, lakes, swamps, and rivers; (Tiny) Fresh water in lakes and rivers. [Top right] Math puzzle: In this circle of radius 2 centered at O, find the area of the yellow section (@mathisstillfun). [Bottom row] With my daughter in San Diego and hiking with her in the Crest Canyon Open Space Park: The lagoon seen in the distance in one photo and closer-up in others is one of many in the San Diego area. The canyon's open space is surrounded by houses with gorgeous views. You can see a hint of a rainbow in the first image
(2) Math puzzle: If a, b, and c are the roots of the equation x^3 – 16x^2 – 57x + 1 = 0, what is the value of a^(1/5) + b^(1/5) + c^(1/5)?
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Climate-change deniers won't care about 1000 dead Pakistanis and millions displaced by floods. [More]
- University of California is no longer affordable: Total annual cost for an in-state student is nearly $40K.
- SoCal news: Bankruptcy court rules in favor of CA Lands Commission in dispute with Venoco.
- Eight-year-old cartoon, which is still relevant today: Mana Neyestani's take on Iran-West nuclear talks.
- "Libertango": Wonderful dancing and exquisite cello music by Yo-Yo Ma. [3-minute video]
- Humor: Some of you may agree with this statement; a few of you will be exciteder by it!
(4) Two new BBQ restaurants in Goleta: Yesterday, my son and I dined at a new BBQ joint on Hollister Avenue, next to Goleta Valley Community Center. Another BBQ joint, Shalhoub's Meat Company is set to open in Magnolia Shopping Center, at the former location of Woody's BBQ.
(5) An interesting film about Iran, "Rediscovering '12 Persian Folk Songs' by Blair Fairchild (1904)": An American diplomat, with no musical background, takes an interest in Persian music and documents a dozen folk pieces, publishing them years later after his retirement. [65-minute video]
(7) Final thought for the day: Native-Americans lived on this land for at least 7000 years, before Europeans came over. Why didn't God see it fit to send a prophet to guide them?

2022/08/26 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of 'Science' journal, issue of August 26, 2022 The new peach-colored surface of our sun-deck looks a lot better than the old grayish material/color that was ugly and a pain to keep clean Roundtable discussion on the overturning of Roe-v.-Wade (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Ancient DNA traces linguistic links that tie Anatolia to Europe: Cover feature of Science journal, issue of August 26, 2022. [Top center] We've had a crew hired by the homeowners' association working on resurfacing & painting our sun deck this week: The old grayish material/color was ugly and a pain to keep clean. The new peach-colored version looks a lot better. [Top right] Roundtable discussion on the overturning Roe-v.-Wade (see the last item below).
(2) A New genre: After the publication of Kellyanne Conway's memoir, librarians have added a third classification of "alternative facts" to fiction and nonfiction categories!
(3) Celebrity dissenters under assault in Iran: Two more filmmakers have been indicted. Actors, soccer players, and social-media influencers are relentlessly attacked by conservatives and Revolutionary Guards.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US retaliates against Iran-backed groups in eastern Syria for their rocket attacks on US bases.
- Climate change is real: The US has been hit with five 1000-year rain events in five weeks.
- Unprecedented droughts reveal treasures & historic monuments in shrunken lakes and dried-up rivers.
- Jamie Kirchick, author of Secret City: A Hidden History of Gay Washington, is interviewed on "Firing Line."
- The WH tells scientific journals to remove pay walls and provide free access to publicly-funded research.
(5) Imagine this young boy, living in a country that sits atop vast natural resources, being so excited about getting a piece of bread. Shame on those whose mismanagement and swindling has caused the people in the oil-rich Iran to face record poverty! [Video]
(6) Shol-kon, seft-kon: This is a Persian expression meaning "go easy, be strict," a kind of political flip-flopping to deflect criticisms of government policies. The Iranian regime has partially relented in the face of pressure from FIFA by allowing a limited number of women into a soccer stadium to watch the match between Esteghlal and Mes Kerman teams. I predict that as soon as the Qatar World Cup tournament is over, women will again be barred from attending sports matches.
(7) "Overturning Roe v. Wade, a Misogynistic Decision by the US Supreme Court": This was the title of a roundtable discussion in Persian, organized under the auspices of Voices of Women for Change. The panelists were Dr. Mariam Ghazvini, Sousan Manteghi Safakish, Mahboubeh Abasgholizadeh, and Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson.
I was surprised with the relatively low interest in such an important topic (22 attendees, with only 3-4 men). As the saying goes, women's rights are human rights, so we must bear in mind that the SCOTUS over-reach will not remain limited to the domain of women's issues. It so happens that they felt comfortable at this juncture, given the support of conservative men and women, to attack this right first. Be assured that other rights for all Americans, regardless of gender, will be on the chopping block. So, I am especially disappointed with low attendance by men in this event.
One key observation was that this SCOTUS decision doesn't affect only American women, but has global implications. We as Iranian-Americans are doubly affected: Directly, as people living in the US, and indirectly, because of US attitudes toward immigrants and similarity of abortion laws in our homeland and in our adopted country. Important differences have been observed in views toward abortion in different social groups, religions, and generations. The notion of honor among Muslim Iranian families puts additional pressure on young women, who happen to get pregnant before/outside marriage.

2022/08/25 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Today's sumo wrestling demo, today at UCSB Talangor Group technical talk on mind-reading computers Aikido exhibition and awards at the Goleta Valley Community Center (1) Images of the day: [Left] A sumo wrestling demo, today at UCSB: Japan's heaviest human ever, at ~600 lbs, and an Egyptian at ~500 lbs, were two participants, but the winner at the end of six matches was a 215-lb Japanese. There is a sumo tournament in Los Angeles in two weeks. [Center] Talangor Group technical talk on mind-reading computers (see the last item below). [Right] Aikido exhibition and awards: After a couple of years of disruption due to COVID-19 and the untimely passing of sensei Steve Ota, a few of the people involved in Steve's dojo got together to mark the start of a new school at GVCC and to present Sepehr with his black belt, which he was about to receive when the school was forced to close.
(2) Mr. Haloo's take on, and questions about, The Disaster of Holy Ignorance, a book by Ayatollah Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad: The book posits that ignorance is significantly more dangerous when it is combined with religious beliefs, citing the fact that Imam Hussein and several other prominent martyrs were killed not by apostates, but by deeply religious Muslims. [84-minute video, in Persian]
(3) President Ebrahim Raisi's crimes against humanity are extensive enough to justify denial of a US entry visa for him to attend the UN General Assembly in NYC. [Tweet]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Transportation news: California to ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2035.
- UCSB in Shanghai Ranking: 14th US public university; 32nd US university; 57th world university.
- The Manchester Atlas Computer pioneered the concept of virtual memory 65 years ago. [Plaque]
- Throwback Thursday: Kissinger watching an Arabic dancer during his visit to Iran in the early 1970s.
- Remote learning in the 1940s: Teachers speak over the radio during the US polio outbreak.
- Plastic processors costing under 1 cent: Simple, flexible, & fully-functional plastic microchips are coming.
- Sierpinski triangle: An example of how structure can emerge from randomness. [Tweet]
- I bought a bag of air today. The company that made it was kind enough to put some potato chips in it too.
(5) Under the hood of the first exascale computer: At a performance of 1.1 exaflops, Oakridge National Lab's Frontier supercomputer is more powerful than the next seven top supercomputers combined.
(6) Student-loan forgiveness: After months of anticipation and rumors, President Biden announces plans to forgive up to $20,000 in student debt for borrowers earning less than $125,000 per year.
(7) "How the Computer Reads Your Mind": This was the title of my Persian talk for the Talangor Group tonight. A short presentation by Mahdi Saremifar covering Iran's Khayyam remote-sensing satellite project preceded the main talk. There were ~70 attendees. [126-minute recording of my talk]
I began with the observation that reading your mind is good for business, that is, it can be monetized. Knowing what excites you, what keeps you up at night, and what you contemplate is invaluable for selling goods and services to you. Obviously, mind-reading is difficult and, at best, imprecise. So, as a complement to reading your mind, businesses strive to make your behavior and thought process more predictable. Because I dealt with many of the social challenges of AI in a previous talk for the Talangor group, I didn't dwell on negative aspects of AI technology in this talk. I pled with the audience to keep all the negative stuff in the back of their minds and to follow me in exploring clever methods for finding out about people's preferences and desires.
The starting point for this exploration was a class of puzzles involving sequences of numbers, words, or images, in which one is asked to guess the next entry in the sequence, given a few initial terms. Such puzzles are among common questions in aptitude tests. I provided many examples of sequence puzzles and explained why they may not have unique answers, leading to problems, particularly for brighter test-takers. These puzzles nicely model recommender systems: Imagine the known terms in the sequence representing movies you have watched or books you have read, with the next, unknown term being a suitable recommendation for what to watch or read next. Predicting the future (forecasting) is also similar in nature.
The key to predicting the next term in a sequence (or the next book to recommend to you, after you have read a number of books) is extracting patterns, that is, commonalities and differences, from the known terms (or books) and looking for those features in the proposed answers to the test question (or available books in the database). In the last third of my talk, I presented examples of pattern extraction, using fairly simple feature spaces and told the audience about video links embedded in the presentation slides which they can use to pursue the ideas in greater detail.

2022/08/24 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Colorful salt hills in southern Iran (Persian Gulf region) New York's Manhattan Island: 1851 vs. 2022 Tuesday's UCSB-sponsored walking tour of Goleta's Storke Pond
Wrath of God: This hijabless woman was turned into stone! Iran has apparently decided to monetize on women ignoring hijab laws, by using a system of fines, instead of criminal prosecution. Many people say they will travel a lot after retirement: Not a good idea. Travel while you are young! (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Colorful salt hills in Iran's Persian Gulf region). [Top center] New York's Manhattan Island: 1851 vs. 2022. [Top right] Storke Pond: Tuesday afternoon's guided walk took us to the Storke Tower on the UCSB campus, with its pond, which provides a sustainable habitat for turtles and fish. [Bottom left] Wrath of God: This hijabless woman was turned into stone! [Bottom center] Change of strategy in dealing with hijab violations in Iran: The government has apparently decided to monetize on women ignoring hijab laws, by using a system of fines, instead of criminal prosecution. [Bottom right] Many people say they will travel a lot after retirement: Not a good idea. Travel while you are young!
(2) Kevin McCarthy may have to make another trip to Mar-a-Lago to apologize. He said on Fox News: "I just have one rule of thumb. I really don't trust anyone that keeps a mural of themselves in their office."
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Aug. 24 is Ukraine's Independence Day: Festivities included a parade of wrecked & captured Russian tanks.
- Angela Merkel awarded UNESCO's 2022 Peace Prize for her courageous decision to welcome refugees.
- Facebook memory from Aug. 24, 2018: Having burgers with my mom & kids at In-n-Out.
- Facebook memory from Aug. 24, 2018: This Trump Tower appears to be getting closer to reality!
- Facebook memory from Aug. 24, 2017: Gregorian calendar vs. Persian calendar.
- Facebook memory from Aug. 24, 2017: Slide show from my memorable Seattle trip.
- Facebook memory from Aug. 24, 2014: How banks exacerbate the wealth gap.
(4) "A Brief History of Censorship in Iran: The Acumen of Doubt vs. the Inanity of Certainty": This was the title of today's Persian talk by Partow Nooriala (writer, poet, & literary/art critic), presented under the auspices of Socrates Think Tank. There were ~100 attendees.
Censorship has been a fact of life throughout the world for many centuries. It takes the severest forms in dictatorships, because dictators thrive in an information vacuum. The late Shah had a censorship apparatus that banned books, movies, and even certain newspaper cartoons. The saying went that you could criticize or ridicule anything and anyone, except for the Shah himself. The Islamic Republic and its leaders have taken censorship to new heights. You cannot be critical of the Supreme Leader, but now even criticizing lower-level officials and regime policies is also out of bounds. This is a direct consequence of one of the foundations of the Islamic Republic, the principle of the "Leadership of the Jurisprudence" ("Velayat-e Faghih") and the closely-linked notion of taghleed (ordinary people following the orders of a top clergy in every facet of their lives). According to these principles, mere mortals are incapable of making important decisions for themselves and need to copy a religious authority. It follows immediately that you can't independently decide what to read, what to watch, and what to believe, and must follow a faghih or his representatives in these regards. You need a Ministry of Guidance, a Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue & the Prevention of Vice, and many other entities that watch/guide what you do and what you think.
The word "censorship" comes to us from ancient Rome, where "censor" was in charge of monitoring the society's morals as well as conducting the census (a word from the same root). The Arabic word "momayyezi" is sometimes used in Iran. In the modern sense of the term, censorship in Iran emerged in the Qajar era, although even earlier, many thinkers were spurned or even killed because of their anti-religion musings. Censorship was eased to some extent after the Constitutional Revolution. Censorship intensified during the rule of Reza Shah to counteract opposition by the clergy to sociopolitical reforms. Upon Reza Shah going into exile and his son taking over, freedom of speech flourished, until the establishment of SAVAK (Shah's secret police).
Another golden era for free speech, lasting just one year, emerged after the fall of the Pahlavi Dynasty and before the Islamic Regime solidified its power. Iran currently ranks fourth from the bottom in terms of strict censorship. And Iran's censorship isn't just a matter of suppressing the press, writers, cartoonists, and filmmakers: The Islamic regime physically eliminates its critics through terror squads and kidnappings. Iran is ranked as one of the most-dangerous countries, not just for foreign visitors but also for its own citizens.
P.S.: After a couple of mentions of censorship in Western counties, I commented through chat: Equating a school board not allowing a textbook in a handful of schools with systemic, centralized censorship, with severe punishment up to death, is highly insincere.

2022/08/21 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iranian family at the beach before the onset of the Islamic Republic Men's shirt doubling as women's hijab: This UN worker in Iran apparently couldn't find a headscarf! Iranian anti-hijab activist convicted of a long list of serious crimes as a pretext of giving her a long prison sentence
Beautiful math: The numbers 1-32 arranged in a circle, without repetition, so that any two adjacent numbers add up to a perfect square Cover iamge of 'Science' journal's August 12, 2022 issue Cartoon: The emperor's perfect aim (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Iranian family enjoying the beach before the onset of the Islamic Republic. [Top cneter] Men's shirt doubling as women's hijab: This UN worker in Iran apparently couldn't find a scarf! [Top right] Sepideh Rashno's opposition to misogynistic hijab laws is interpreted by Iranian mullahs as "collusion to disturb national security," "propaganda against the Islamic Republic," and "promoting prostitution." With these made-up charges, a very long prison sentence awaits her. [Bottom left] Beautiful math: The numbers 1-32 arranged in a circle, without repetition, so that any two adjacent numbers add up to a perfect square. [Bottom center] Amazing features of death's-head moth's guidance system are described in the cover story of Science journal's August 12, 2022 issue. [Bottom right] Cartoon of the day: The emperor's perfect aim.
(2) Space-X's Starship: The biggest rocket ever, with its unprecedented payload capacity, is being developed for exciting space missions, including sending large robots to the Moon to probe lunar ice.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- By one key metric of research impact (number of most-cited papers), China replaces the US at the top.
- U. Delaware's star marine ecologist found guilty of research misconduct for data fabrication & falsification.
- Software update gives the Curiosity Mars Rover a 50% speed boost.
- Smash hit: Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation" contains a frequency that crashes certain Windows XP laptops.
- Susan B. Anthony: "The true republic: men, their rights & nothing more; women, their rights & nothing less."
- Honoring Dr. Firouz Partovi, former Professor of Physics, Arya-Mehr (Sharif) U. Tech. [165-minute video]
- Engineering in action: Monorail track switching in Osaka, Japan. [1-minute video]
- Clever student's answers to a few true/false questions. [Tweet]
- Sheyda-ye Hamedani recites his defiant, anti-mullahs poem after being released from prison in Iran.
(4) Outrageous case of injustice involving Trump's CFO: Steal a loaf of bread and you'll go to jail for years. Engage in financial fraud to the tune of millions, and you get a plea deal with 3-4 months in jail.
(5) Director Rakhshan Banietemad's powerful statement on economic desperation in Iran leading to mothers selling their bodies to feed their families. [5-minute video]
(6) An interesting chess variant: White has pawns and 3 queens (white pawns can turn into queens only). Black has pawns and 7 knights (black pawns can turn into knights only). Which side is stronger?
(7) My two IEEE Computer Society Distinguished Visitor lectures at U. Saskatchewan, Thurs., Sep. 22, 2022:
- Room 2C88, 10:00 AM, "Eight Key Ideas in Computer Architecture from Eight Decades of Innovation"
- Boffins Event Center, 01:00 PM, "Interconnection Networks for Parallel Processors and Data Centers"
(8) A decade of milestones for ACM: Association for Computing Machinery, an international organization of computing professionals with ~100,000 members worldwide, has celebrated three important milestones over the past decade. The whole world observed Turing's Centenary in 2012. Then came 50 years of ACM's Turing Awards, computing's most-prestigious honor, in 2017. And this year is ACM's 75th anniversary!

2022/08/20 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Since the 1800s, US recessions have become both less frequent and shorter in duration (chart) French woman Isabella Boyer was the model for Lady Liberty Cover image for Elizabeth Royte's 'Bottlemania'
The tragic end of Anne Heche at age 53: Photo with Ellen DeGeneres Math puzzle: Is more of this rectangle shaded blue or red? Old is new again: Iranian wind towers, an ancient and natural cooling system, could inform modern urban planning (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Since the 1800s, US recessions have become both less frequent and shorter in duration. [Top center] French woman Isabella Boyer was the model for Lady Liberty. [Top right] Elizabeth Royte's Bottlemania (see the last item below). [Bottom left] RIP Anne Heche (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Math puzzle: Is more of this rectangle shaded blue or red? [Bottom right] Old is new again: Iranian wind towers, an ancient and natural cooling system, could inform modern urban planning.
(2) The tragic end of Anne Heche at age 53: The talented and witty actress, who was linked romantically to Ellen DeGeneres, had a few films to her credit, but she never became a mega-star. She went into a coma after a car crash on August 5, 2022, and was taken off life support on August 14. RIP.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Being indicted is shameful, except if you are part of the MAGA crowd, in which case it's a badge of honor!
- Frank Zappa was mocked in 1986 for his assertion that the greatest danger facing America is theocracy.
- This is how low people sink under a theocracy: Chest-beating and religious mourning in evening gowns!
- Data privacy concerns: Some 96% of apps that track reproductive health fail to protect users' data.
(4) Book review: Royte, Elizabeth, Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It, Bloomsbury, 2008. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Selling bottled water has become big business, competing neck-and-neck with sodas, having already surpassed milk and beer. Royte begins her narrative by describing Nestle's water-bottling facility, located in the woods of western Maine. This largest plant of its kind in the US aggregates water from five nearby wells to produce water-filled plastic containers bearing the label "Poland Spring." Our ancestors, who fetched water from wells, springs, streams, rivers, and lakes, never imagined that this plentiful compound would one day be offered in bottles and jugs (or that they would buy other plentiful substances, such as gardening soil and sand, in bags).
In the rest of the book, Royte traces the history of bottled water through the decades. There are several inflection points in this history. We humans began polluting nearby water supplies or building large cities with inadequate local water resources, which forced us to transport water in aqueducts and pipes over long distances. In rural settings, we began bathing with and drinking tap water, until we became alarmed at the number of chemicals needed to make it potable. Over time, various engineering innovations made tap water safer, but they did not make it completely free from germs and other pollutants.
Then came one of the greatest marketing coups that convinced us to pay a couple of bucks per bottle to buy drinking water, instead of working toward improving the quality of tap water. Once selling water became big business, a number of related questions arose: Who owns water resources? Can a company set camp outside our towns to tap into springs and other groundwater? Who regulates water-bottling plants to make sure their products are safe? How do we know a product advertised as "spring water" isn't made by purifying tap water (or, worse, isn't plain, untreated tap water)?
Royte has done for the water-bottling industry what Eric Schlosser did for the fast-food industry in Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal (My 5-star review on GoodReads).
That most of the claims about the qualities of expensive water products are pure hype has been demonstrated time and time again by anonymous taste tests and scientific analysis. In addition to dubious claims about quality, the water-bottling industry has a large environmental footprint: There are manufacturing and transportation impacts; and recycling claims for containers of bottled water do not pan out. As stressed by Tom Szaky in The Future of Packaging: From Linear to Circular, something being recyclable and actually being recycled are two different things (my 4-star review on GoodReads).
Royte concludes (p. 225): "[N]ot all tap water is perfect. But it is the devil we know, the devil we have standing to negotiate with and to improve. Bottled water companies don't answer to the public, they answer to shareholders ... Bottled water does have its place—it's useful in emergencies and essential for people whose health can't tolerate even filtered water. But it's often no better than tap water, its environmental and social price is high, and it lets our public guardians off the hook for protecting watersheds, stopping polluters, upgrading treatment and distribution infrastructure, and strengthening treatment standards."

2022/08/18 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Throwback Thursday, 1: I attended Frank Sinatra's 1975 concert in Tehran's Arya-Mehr (Azadi) sports complex a year after my return to Iran Throwback Thursday, 2: Scenes from Tehran, 50+ years ago Talangor Group talk on 'The End of Shahnameh' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Throwback Thursday, 1: I attended Frank Sinatra's 1975 concert in Tehran's Arya-Mehr (Azadi) sports complex a year after my return to Iran (video). [Center] Throwback Thursday, 2: Scenes from Tehran, 50+ years ago. [Right] Talangor Group talk on Shahnameh (see the last item below).
(2) Overt anti-Semitism in Iran: This mullah says that even though Iranian Jews constantly conspire and commit crimes against Muslims, they are allowed to live in safety! [1-minute video]
(3) Women's sports: Iranian women volleyballers make history by reaching the finals of the Islamic Solidarity Games for the first time ever, winning a silver medal after losing to Turkey. And they did it wearing clothing that restricts their movements! The team's only previous medal was a bronze in 1966.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- CVS, Walgreens, & Walmart have to pay $650M to two Ohio counties for their roles in the opioid crisis.
- Women journalists speak of biases and obstacles they face in Iran. [15-minute video, narrated in Persian]
- Humor: Frequent urination protects you against kidney stones (as well as other stones)! [Video evidence]
- Math challenge: Try your hand at this 2021 Oxford math admission test.
- Optical illusion: Even when you know these boxes aren't moving, you can't help but see motion!
- This master-key opens any lock: I was unable to verify the claim from on-line sources.
- Iran's nature in a 7-minute slide show: Photos by Roya Barrette; music by Mohammad Nouri.
(5) Tonight's Talangor Group talk: Dr. Mahmoud Sabahi spoke under the title "The End of Shahnameh: The Fall of the Sassanids According to Ferdowsi" (in Persian). There were 78 attendees.
There is an oft-used Persian saying that "Shahnameh turns happy at the end." This saying, and another prominent one, "The chicks should be counted at the end of autumn," suggest that one should not judge too quickly, as things might change by the time we arrive at the end of a process.
Well, it turns out that Shahnameh's ending is anything but happy! It retells the story of the fall of the Sassanid Empire to Arab/Muslim invaders. Multiple wars were fought between Persians and Arabs. Various reasons are cited for the defeat of Iranian forces. One oft-cited reason is corruption among Zoroastrian priests, but the real reasons, somewhat like conditions leading to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, are much more complex.
After the decisive Qadisiyyah Battle, Yazd Gerd III, the last Sassanid King, fled toward Khorasan (northeastern Iran), hoping to find support there. Eventually, the Sassanid Dynasty fell ca. 651 CE. Dr. Sabahi read selected verses covering the conflict and the eventual Arab victory. Some of these verses are included in screenshots captured during the talk. The entire Shahnameh, in 8 volumes, can be downloaded for free from Bookiha.
Shahnameh has a dual character: It has a mythical component and a historical one. The ending is usually judged to be historically accurate, as it matches quite well with other historical accounts of the Arab invasion and the fall of the Sassanid Empire. Still, quite a few disagreements still exist about the nature of Iran's defeat by the Arabs, which changed the course of history for Iranians.

2022/08/17 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for Salman Rushdie's 'The Satanic Verses' Minimum number of knight moves required to reach each square on a chessboard IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk on machine translation by Dr. Lei Li of UCSB CS Dept. (1) Images of the day: [Left] Persian translation of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses (see the next item below). [Center] Math puzzle: Shown is a chessboard, with each square marked with the minimum number of knight moves required for the knight to reach it. Show that placing the knight in a corner will make the matrix symmetric and will also increase its maximum element from 5 to 6. [Right] IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk on machine translation by UCSB's Dr. Lei Li (see the last item below).
(2) Let's all stand up for free speech: One way to support Salman Rushdie and his fight for free speech is to read or re-read The Satanic Verses: A Novel. I have come across a Persian translation by Roshanak Irani (a pseudonym). Many years after reading the original (Viking, 1988), I will be reading this translation to show solidarity with those working on the protection of free speech across the globe.
(3) Almost all of those who were 20 or older when we defeated Hitler are dead now: This is why fascism and would-be dictators are beginning to rear their ugly heads again. [Tweet]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Liz Cheney loses Republican primary battle: Heads for political engagement at the national level.
- Former VP Mike Pence condemns attacks on the FBI and leaves the door open to January 6 testimony.
- US Space Force tries using robotic dogs to patrol Cape Canaveral.
- Massive mudflow in California's San Bernardino County closes roads. [Video]
- Monday was the first anniversary of Taliban leaders entering Kabul and taking charge of the government.
- Saudi women's-rights activist Salma al-Shehab sentenced to 34 years in prison for her Tweeter activity.
- Kick him out of the UK: London-based Iranian ex-VP defends his book praising the fatwa to kill Rushdie.
- Persian music: Soheila Golestani performs "Setareh Ahoo" (music by Homayoun Khorram, lyrics by Sayeh).
(5) Thefts of catalytic converters: You may have heard through your local news outlets that almost everywhere in the US, catalytic converters are removed from cars by bands of thieves. I don't know how much they earn for each converter they steal, but the car owner is left with a repair bill of up to $3000. The thieves are apparently quite brazen, hitting cars parked right next to the victim's residence. Here's a list of cars most targeted.
(6) As multiple investigations unfold, Trump reportedly can't find competent attorneys to represent him: He is described as an impossible client by some and as a non-paying one by others.
(7) Tonight's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Machine translation (MT) is the holy grail of AI. It was first viewed as one of the easier tasks for intelligent machines but then revealed its complexity, establishing itself among the most-challenging AI problems. Speaking under the title "Breaking the Language Barrier with Neural Machine Translation," Dr. Lei Li (UCSB CS) presented an overview of machine translation's 7.5-decade history, followed by his team's work on neural-network-based machine translation.
Machine translation has been instrumental in modern global business and daily life. A recent study has shown machine translation to be responsible for a 10% rise in trade on global e-commerce platforms. In recent years, powered by deep learning methods, machine translation has seen dramatic progress. Dr. Li discussed recent advances of MT technologies and models for bilingual translation, also briefly alluding to multilingual and speech-to-text translation scenarios, as well as challenges ahead in the domain of MT for every language.
Dr. Li discussed some of the remaining challenges in MT, using examples from various languages. In languages with vast amounts of textual material in original and translated forms, the learning process for neural-network translation is straightforward, but even there, many problems remain because of inherent ambiguity and imprecision in natural languages.
[IEEE CCS event page] [Speaker's personal Web page] [IEEE CCS Technical Talks page]

2022/08/16 (Tuesday): A pictorial report of my 2-day bus-trip to Laguna Beach, with a stop in Pasadena.
Bus trip to Laguna Beach: Photographing Pasadena's City Hall Bus trip to Laguna Beach: Photographing Pasadena's City Hall Bus trip to Laguna Beach: Photographing Pasadena's City Hall
Bus trip to Laguna Beach: Photographing sites around Pasadena's City Hall Bus trip to Laguna Beach: Photographing sites around Pasadena's City Hall Bus trip to Laguna Beach: Photographing sites around Pasadena's City Hall
Enjoying the Laguna Beach Art Festival and its Pageant of the Masters Enjoying the Laguna Beach Art Festival and its Pageant of the Masters Enjoying the Laguna Beach Art Festival and its Pageant of the Masters
Enjoying the Laguna Beach Art Festival and its Pageant of the Masters Tuesday morning at Laguna Beach's Sawdust Art Festival Tuesday morning at Laguna Beach's Sawdust Art Festival
Tuesday morning at Laguna Beach's Sawdust Art Festival Tuesday morning at Laguna Beach's Sawdust Art Festival Leaving Laguna Beach's Sawdust Art Festival and heading back to Santa Barbara On Monday 2022/08/15, my travel group left Santa Barbara on a chartered Airbus, stopping in Old Town Pasadena for lunch. I skipped lunch with the group at Cheescake Factory, opting instead to walk to the City Hall, a beautiful building I had seen and admired during a previous trip. I photographed the building from different viewpoints (row 1 of photos above) and submitted some of the photos to the site Paatowgh-e Akkaasaan (Photographers' Hangout). The longshot photo of Pasadena's City Hall on the bottom left of the center panel was a top-10 pick on the site.
Before returning to my group, I also photographed a few other sites around the City Hall, including churches, some statues, and a commercial plaza with a Westin Hotel & other businesses (row 2 of photos above).
We checked into Ayres Hotel & Spa in Mission Viejo and, after a brief rest, rode the bus to the Laguna Beach Art Festival. We dined at the Festival, as we took in the art (row 3 of the photos above). Here are a couple of videos, featuring both music and samples of art on display. [2-minute video 1] [2-minute video 2]
The Festival's highlight was a living-art performance with live orchestra music entitled "The Art of Travel," in which well-known art pieces from around the world were recreated by actors on stage. Photography was not permitted, so I took a couple of photos upon entry and at the intermission and added a couple from the Internet (left panel in row 4 of photos above, and the top half of the middle panel).
On Tuesday, we took the bus to Sawdust Art Festival, across the street from last night's event, where posters advertising the event in earlier years were on display (right panel in row 4 of photos above). This larger art show features artists whose work did not pass the jury selection process at the main art festival. The grounds are covered with sawdust, hence the name (row 5 of photos above). Here are a couple of videos, featuring both music and samples of art on display. [1-minute video 1] [5-minute video 2]

2022/08/14 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Kayhan Daily, an official mouthpiece of Iran's government, gloats over Salman Rushdie having met the wrath of God Photos from Saturday's family gathering for belated celebration of two birthdays Maryam Hosseini's 'The Roots of Misogyny in Classical Persian Literature'
Someone was asked to find the square-root and he found it! You can make pizzas with any kind of bread: These are my pita-bread pizzas Siberian unicorn: Elasmotherium, which went extinct ~30,000 years ago. (1) Images of the day: [Top left] The entire Iranian government, not just its Revolutionary Guards Corps, is a terrorist organization: Kayhan Daily, an official government mouthpiece, gloats over Salman Rushdie having met the wrath of God, predicting that Trump and Pompeo will be next. [Top center] Saturday's family gathering for belated celebration of my sister's and my brother-in-law's birthdays. [Top right] Maryam Hosseini's The Roots of Misogyny in Classical Persian Literature (see the last item below). [Bottom left] Someone was asked to find the square-root and he found it! [Bottom center] You can make pizzas with any kind of bread: These are my pita-bread pepperoni pizzas. [Bottom right] Siberian unicorn: Elasmotherium, a species that split from today's living rhinoceroses at least 35 million years ago, went extinct ~30,000 years ago.
(2) Do James Webb Space Telescope images contradict the Big Bang theory? They show too small, too smooth, too old, and too numerous galaxies, which seem to be incompatible with an expanding universe.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The fatwa to kill Salman Rushdie was approved by all Iranian politicians, both hardliners & reformists.
- At least 41, mostly children, died in a church fire in Giza, Egypt.
- The "stepping feet" optical illusion: Colored boxes moving at constant speed appear to take discrete steps.
- Persian music: Darya Dadvar's 2007 performance of "Goftam beh Chashm." [7-minute video]
(4) Book review: Hosseini, Maryam, The Roots of Misogyny in Classical Persian Literature (Risheh-ha-ye Zan-Setizi dar Adabiyat-e Classic-e Farsi), Nashr-e Cheshmeh, 2009. (ISBN: 978-9643626037)
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The Iranian culture has been, and, in many respects, still is, patriarchal & misogynistic. The dawn of Islam in the region did not help, although some scholars claim that the negative impact of Islam on women resulted from misinterpretation of Quran and Prophet Muhammad's edicts. Women are viewed as property and reproductive machines, and are often characterized as cunning, satanic, half-witted, lacking in faith, and generally weak.
Patriarchy and misogyny form the background in many works of literature and, at times, come to the forefront in ugly insults and put-downs. The roots of avoiding women and considering them inferior humans dates back to the time of Aristotle and Plato. Even Sa'adi, who is among the most-revered classical poets, wasn't immune from misogyny, writing in one his verses, "A good, obedient, chaste woman will turn a dervish into a king." Another great poet, Khaghani, expressed shame when a daughter was born to him, praying to God that this stain be removed from his life.
Of course, there are also positive depiction of women in Persian poetry, notably in Ferdowsi's Shahnameh. However, even in such works, where women are seen as queens or in other influential roles, one often encounters female characters who cause discord or lead men astray. Interestingly, if we go back further in history or study the more-recent periods after our classical poets, we encounter celebration of women as nurturers (e.g., Mother Earth) and/or wise beings (e.g., Scheherazade the story-teller). But such instances are rare and wisdom often manifests itself as an old man.

2022/08/13 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
On the assassination attempt against Salman Rushdie and Iran's role in it Pick's formula/theorem: The area of a simple polygon on unit-lattice Driver apparently knows nothing about center of gravity!
A page from the 'Yek Kalameh' ('One Word') treatise Persian poetry: A quatrain by Eghbal Lahouri Persian poetry: A Mowlavi/Rumi verse that inspired a quatrain by Eghbal Lahouri (1) Images of the day: [Top left] On the assassination attempt against Salman Rushdie (see the next item below). [Top center] Beautiful math: The area of a simple polygon on unit-lattice (formed by a closed loop of non-intersecting line segments that connect the lattice points) equals i + b/2 – 1, where i is the number of lattice points inside the polygon and b is the number of boundary lattice points. This important result, known as Pick's theorem, has a relatively simple proof, which I will let you discover. [Top right] Quick! Someone tell this guy about center of gravity! [Bottom left] The "Yek Kalameh" ("One Word") treatise: According to this historical document, the "one word" that governs the organization and functions of Western societies is "law." [Bottom center & right] Persian poetry: A quatrain by Eghbal Lahouri & the Mowlavi/Rumi verse that inspired it.
(2) Iran must be held accountable for the assassination attempt against Salman Rushdie: Many years ago, they claimed that the fatwa to kill Rushdie had been revoked. Yet, one cannot unleash the crazies and then claim that they did not mean it (a la Donald Trump). Ayatollah Khamenei and his state-controlled media have praised Rushdie's attacker, who was a fan and follower of Khamenei and Khomeini. The connection with Iran is clear. Nothing that Iran says can be trusted. There was supposedly a fatwa against building a nuclear bomb, but now Iranian authorities are openly boasting about their A-bomb.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Salman Rushdie is reportedly alive after he was attacked in New York: The assailant is in custody.
- Austrian doctor takes her own life after months of abuse & death threats from anti-science bullies.
- Four Iraqi citizens bearing false French passports arrested in Buenos Aires: Links with Iran are suspected.
- John Bolton disappointed that only $300K was offered by Iran to an "assassin" to eliminate him!
- Drawing flowers based on the physics and mathematics of fluid interactions. [2-minute video]
- I have posted jazzy renditions of classical music before, but this one's truly special. [3-minute video]
(4) Stabbing of author Salman Rushdie by an Islamic extremist: The reformists' so-called "Golden Era of Imam Khomeini" is when the fatwa to kill Rushdie was issued.
(5) Liz Cheney's demise was set in motion by her father: "It has all the makings of a Greek tragedy. The tragic hero, a statesman of great ability, is driven by hubris to abuse power. The forces he unleashes spread uncontrollably—and eventually destroy his own daughter. He comes to her aid, but it is too late."
(6) A tale of two Williams: William Clifford discussed the theory of gravity as curvature of spacetime in 1860, when he was only 25. This theory was ignored for five decades, until Albert Einstein rediscovered and was given credit for it. Clifford is best-known, however, for a contribution to moral philosophy (ethics), which later became known as "sufficient evidence theory," or, simply, "evidentialism." At age 33, a year before his death, William Clifford formulated the notion of responsible believing and dismissed evidence-less belief as irresponsible. He argued that beliefs aren't private matters, because they can potentially affect other people's lives, directly or indirectly. Years later, Harvard philosophy professor William James criticized evidentialism and proposed the "right to believe theory," which gives anyone the right to believe in anything, without being required to justify the belief or explain it to others. William James sought to provide a philosophical cover for faith, in the process arguing that moral questions can't simply be settled by the facts. Which William do you believe?

2022/08/11 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Intellectualism in Iran: History since the Constitutional Revolution Math puzzle: Find the height h of this figure formed by two right triangles Throwback Thursday: Penniless young family hitchhiking on US Highway 99 in California (November 1936) (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Intellectualism in Iran (see the last item below). [Top center] Math puzzle: Find the height h of this figure formed by two right triangles. [Top right] Throwback Thursday: Penniless young family hitchhiking on US Highway 99 in California (November 1936).
(2) AG Merick Garland holds a news conference about the recent search warrant at Mar-a-Lago: DoJ has asked for permission to unseal the search warrant and the list of property seized during the search.
(3) The Russian Embassy in Tehran contradicts Iran: Authorities had claimed that the Khayyam surveillance satellite, launched from Kazakhstan on a Russian Soyuz rocket, uses native Iranian technology. It was in fact built by Russian companies and will initially be used to spy on Ukraine.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Firetornado engulfs an area in northwestern Los Angeles County. [KTLA tweet]
- Hooshang Ebtehaj wrote many patriotic & anti-tyranny poems: He was also an avid supporter of Khomeini.
- The Commodore 64, which was introduced in 1982 and went on to become an all-time best-seller, turns 40.
- Math puzzle: How many real roots does the equation x^5 – 5x + a = 0 have?
- Juggling, as seen from above. [Video]
- Facebook memory from August 11, 2015: TED talk by a girl who didn't let her limitations define her.
(5) Censorship had positive effects on Iranian cinema: This is the opinion of Fatemeh Motamed-Arya, who thinks the censors removing violence, sex, & drinking from films gave Iranian cinema a respectable identity.
(6) Tonight's Talangor Group Zoom meeting: Speaking in Persian under the title "A Look at the History of Intellectualism, from the Constitutional Revolution to the Present," Dr. Mehrzad Boroujerdi (Dean, College of Arts, Sciences, and Education; Missouri U. Science & Technology) reviewed the contributions and failures of Iranian intellectuals during Qajar & Pahlavi dynasties and after the Islamic Revolution.
He began by defining the term "intellectual," which was coined in 1894 in France. In Iran, intellectual has sometimes been used, incorrectly, as a synonym of educated. Jean Paul Sartre viewed an intellectual's role as the small pebble in someone's shoe: Causing discomfort and triggering corrective action. An intellectual has the dual role of criticizing the government and the people (the masses). An intellectual asks questions and holds up a mirror in front of society, not to expose how things look today, but to show future paths and possibilities. Intellectuals are also in charge of connecting different cultures.
In Iran, the term "intellectual" was translated to the Arabic "monavvar-ol-fekr," which later became "rowshan-fekr" ("enlightened thinker"). Due to a dearth of educated people, much of the function of intellectuals fell upon the clergy at first. By the mid-19th century, the world was controlled by empires. Iran fought Russia twice and was badly defeated both times, which led to the humiliating Gulistan and Turkmenchay treaties, ceding significant chunks of land to Russia. In such an environment, intellectuals were both dissatisfied and ineffective.
Dr. Boroujerdi opined that the quality of Iranian intellectuals declined from the first to the second king in the Pahlavi dynasty, with additional deterioration evident after the 1979 Revolution. Intellectuals with religious leanings, notably Jalal Al-e-Ahmad and Ali Shariati, brought a kind of nativism with them, as they preached the abandonment of Western values in favor of a national identity informed by Islam. The Islamic Revolution threw everyone, including intellectuals, off their tracks, leading to noteworthy confusion and attendant mistakes.
Interestingly, Iran has a long history of intellectualism that has remained unexplored. The great poet Sa'adi wrote the treatise "Nasihat-ol-Molouk" ("Advice to Kings"), which is comparable to the best Western works of political advice of many centuries later. In it, Sa'adi describes a king as a kind of shepherd, serving the people. If we are dissatisfied with the work of a shepherd, we let him go and find someone else to do the job. A king does not own his country; he is the people's servant.

2022/08/10 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
'Travellers,' a 1992 film by Iranian director Bahram Beyzaie On the importance of data thinking: Three-way Venn diagram Socrates Think Tank talk by Dr. Alayar Kangarlu (1) Images of the day: [Left] "Travellers," a film by Bahram Beyzaie (see the next item below). [Center] On the importance of data thinking (see item 3 below). [Right] Socrates Think Tank talk (see the last item below).
(2) Bahram Beyzaie's "Travellers" (1992): I watched the 94-minute Persian film via a link provided by Stanford Global Studies, in advance of today's post-screening Zoom discussion. The session began with an introduction to Bahram Beyzaie and his work by Professor Abbas Milani and recorded reflections of Mojdeh Shamsaie (Beyzaie's life partner and the woman who played the bride in the film), followed by a Q&A session with Dr. Milani. I would have liked to see a few independent commentators, beyond Beyzaie's boss and spouse!
I am sorry to say that I was quite disappointed! There are some positive cinematic elements, but the storyline and script are disastrous. Many Iranian films, this one included, are like short stories that are stretched into novels through slow-moving scenes, repetition, inconsequential details, and redundancies.
The film's premise is realistic: A young couple is getting married and a family of four from the bride's side travels to attend the wedding. Their car crashes into an oil tanker, killing all four, along with their intercity-taxi driver and a guest; the tanker's driver and his apprentice escape injuries.
Everything else about the film is unrealistic or forced. The grandmother who is in denial. The groom who worries about himself more than an entire family's demise. The police officer, who was first on the scene of the gruesome accident, attending the wedding-turned-mourning ceremony, the tanker driver who shows up to ask for forgiveness but is beaten up by the wedding party, and ghosts of the departed appearing at the end to turn the mourning ceremony back into a wedding.
Part of the artificiality is a direct result of Islamic Republic's censorship rules: A fully-clothed and veiled woman lying in bed, no one comforting a woman wailing in grief, no expression of affection between people of opposite sexes. Iranian directors are sometimes praised for circumventing censorship rules and still finding ways of telling their stories. But, at some point, when the story, dialogue, and normal human emotions are butchered to please the censors, the viewer is betrayed.
Ironically, viewers of Iranian films have also adjusted to censorship and learned to read between the lines. However, dishonesty and pretense don't mix with art.
(3) We have to move from computational thinking to data thinking: Learning environments should be enriched by using real-life data. Just as we shifted from literacy to numeracy to techeracy as the basis of functioning effectively in the modern world, it's time to upgrade computational thinking to the next level. Here are definitions of the three components of thinking.
Computational thinking: A set of cognitive and social skills applicable to problem-solving processes.
Statistical thinking: The awareness that real-life data contains outliers, errors, biases, and variance.
Domain thinking: Understanding and exploiting intrinsic properties of a specific application domain.
(4) Thousands of the children of Iranian regime officials live abroad: They enjoy the benefits of living in free societies, while their parents lead chants of death to this or that country.
(5) Quote of the day: "You see the mob takes the 5th. If you're innocent why're you taking the 5th Amendment?" ~ Donald Trump's 2016 statements going viral after he invokes the 5th during today's deposition
(6) "Human Dignity: A Basis for Forming a Government in Exile": This was the title of tonight's Socrates Think Tank Persian Zoom talk by Dr. Alayar Kangarlu (Columbia U.). There were ~110 attendees.
Prosperous and happy societies are the ones that enable/encourage each individual to convert his/her innate potentials into tangible skills. Respect for human dignity, which is intimately related to national sovereignty and human rights, is an underlying requirement. Such countries, which constitute ~2/3 of those on Earth, have constitutions that are based on human rights.
Dr. Kangarlu referred multiple times to the scientific basis for human dignity, and thus human rights, but he did not elaborate, other than saying that humans are products of a long evolutionary process that has endowed them with exquisite capabilities. I don't subscribe to this "ashraf-e makhlooghat" ("noblest of all creatures") viewpoint, which puts living beings into a hierarchy, with us at the top. It's a small step from there to a caste system that classifies humans according to their perceived capabilities. Dr. Kangarlu promised to send the attendees information about a recent article on the scientific basis of human dignity.
Dr. Kangarlu opined that the achievement of a united, integrated world is being threatened by China and Russia (and their allies such as Iran) trying to erect a new iron curtain that separates the free world of liberal-democracies from authoritarian systems, thus shaping a bipolar world. In his view, what separates the two sides is the primacy of human dignity on one side and rewarding slave-like obedience on the other. Russia's energy supremacy in Europe and China's economic power and aggressive posture, particularly over the US, have led the two countries to believe they can get away with challenging the world order. But Russia's misadventure in Ukraine, and the West's reaction to it, have shown these calculations to be amiss.
The economic might of Iranians in exile exceeds the total budget of the Islamic Republic. Forming a government in exile and challenging the legitimacy of the Islamic regime in Iran is the best way for the opposition to push aside the current regime and install people's representatives in world institutions, up to and including the United Nations. Such a legitimate government in exile cannot be shaped from disparate groups, except by acknowledging the primacy of human dignity.
I found the premise of the talk rather unsatisfying. Concepts such as human rights are timeless and, even though they are fairly recent in formulation, no one expects significant changes in our understanding or defense of human rights. Mixing such timeless concepts with transient sociopolitical realities, such as the current strategy of Russia or China, or the energy landscape in Europe, is problematic. The Russian regime or its world view may change in a decade or two. Ditto for China. We can't base a world order or governing philosophy on such transient notions.

2022/08/09 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Organic-fruit sampling stand at the start of today's UCSB sponsored group walk from Isla Vista to Ellwood Mesa trails Houshang Ebtehaj, the Iranian poet who wrote under the pen-name Sayeh, dead at 94 in Cologne, Germany I use these painted stones and beach finds for decoration and also to keep my courtyard table cover in place during windy days
Cartoon 1: Focusing on small problems, as we ignore a major problem and a catastrophic one Cartoon 2: Future traffic stop in the US: 'Relax. I hid the contraceptive pills in the gun' Cartoon 3: 'The fourth little pig's house was made of wolf skulls. They aren't very sturdy, but they send a message' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] At the start of today's UCSB sponsored group walk from Isla Vista to Ellwood Mesa trails, we were treated to yummy organic fruit from certified local farms. [Top center] Houshang Ebtehaj dead at 94 in Cologne, Germany: This poem of the beloved Iranian poet, who wrote under the pen-name Sayeh, is entitled "Dard" ("Pain"). [Top right] I use these painted stones and beach finds for decoration and also to keep my courtyard table cover in place during windy days. [Bottom left] Cartoon 1: Focusing on small problems, as we ignore a major problem and a catastrophic one. [Bottom center] Cartoon 2: Future traffic stop in the US: "Relax. I hid the contraceptive pills in the gun." [Bottom right] Cartoon 3: "The fourth little pig's house was made of wolf skulls. They aren't very sturdy, but they send a message."
(2) Color-blind accessibility manifesto: Nearly 8% of men and 0.4% of women are color-blind. So, relying exclusively on colors to convey information on your Web site or in print material will cut these people out. Use shapes and other geometric cues, instead of or in addition to, colors. Hundreds of world-renowned designers have signed on to this manifesto.
(3) EU puts forward what it calls the final text to resurrect the Iran nuclear deal: The designation "final" implies that the text must be accepted or rejected as a whole and that accepting/rejecting sections is not an option. Iran appears to be unpersuaded.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Four Muslim men murdered in a spree in New Mexico: Suspected killer is in police custody.
- Suspicion that certain classified documents were whitheld by Trump leads to an FBI search of Mar-a-Lago.
- S. H. Sanders: "When you're attacking FBI agents because you're under criminal investigation, you're losing."
- A beautiful composition by Mikis Theodorakis, theme from the movie "State of Siege." [3-minute video]
(5) Security of brain implants: We know from experience that any electronic device can be hacked. There are no exceptions! Today, brain implants are used only to help treat serious medical conditions. However, the day when brain augmentation becomes a thing isn't that far off. We scientists should start thinking about problems way ahead of time, not react to them when they create a crisis. Let's talk about regulating brain implants.
(6) Well, for once, I find myself agreeing with 45: "Anyone being investigated by the FBI is not qualified to be the president of the United States." Uttered in 2016, on 8/03, 9/07, 10/15, 10/20, 10/21, 10/25, 10/30
(7) "Margin Call": An eye-opening drama about the 2008 financial crisis, what caused it, and how it affected our world. An unnamed investment bank becomes aware of its assets crossing volatility thresholds and tries to be the first out of the door by dumping the assets before others catch on. Firings and other internal conflicts ensue in the 24-hour time period depicted. A margin call refers to a broker's demand that an investor deposit additional money or securities into the account so that it is brought up to the minimum value, known as the maintenance margin. [2011; available on Netflix]
P.S.: There are multiple documentary films and docu-dramas about the 2008 financial crisis. They include "Inside Job" (2010), "The Big Short" (2015), and "Panic" (2019).

2022/08/07 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
History of the California flag History of Santa Barbara's Lincoln Elementary School History of a park along Cabrillo Blvd., once occupied by the Chumash Tribe and later hosting the glamorous Potter Hotel, 1901-1921
Santa Barbara's De La Guerra Plaza, after the Fiesta Some of the art on display along Cabrillo Blvd. on this Fiesta Sunday Santa Barbara's Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center, after the Fiesta
Stearns Wharf, one of two premier tourist spots in Santa Barbara Cartoon portraits of me, drawn by Michael in 2016 and 2022 The four main restaurants on Santa Barbara's Stearns Wharf (1) Walking in downtown Santa Barbara and along the waterfront on the final day of Fiesta (Old Spanish Days): [Top row] Parts of our history: How California got its flag; Memorial for Lincoln Elementary School, 1870-1979, whose site is now a city parking lot; A park on Cabrillo Blvd., across from the West Beach, from its Chumash origins to the glamorous Potter Hotel, which occupied the lot from 1901 until its destruction by fire in 1921. [Middle row] Other than the Fiesta edition of Sunday arts-&-crafts exhibits along Cabrillo Blvd., Fiesta programs had ended, both in De La Guerra Plaza & Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center. [Bottom row] Stearns Wharf is a premier tourist spot in Santa Barbara (along with the Old Mission). Near the wharf, an old Chumash home was on display. Along Cabrillo Blvd., I found Michael, who had done a cartoon portrait of me in 2016, and asked him to do an update. I will pay him another visit in 6 years, if both of us are still alive!
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Weaving Persian carpets in Bulgaria: An endangered art form. [3-minute video]
- At the Illusion Art Museum in Prague: Works of illusion and perspective by Patrick Hughes.
- Amazing art: Image composed of thousands of dice. [Tweet]
- Sa'adi's Persian verse: A sinner who has God in mind is preferable to a believer who feigns prayers.
- Facebook memory from August 6, 2018: This post was way premature! Will it come true in 2022?
- Facebook memory from August 6, 2017: When Iranian MPs competed to take selfies with a blonde.
- Facebook memory from August 6, 2015: No women, drunkards, criminals, or dogs allowed (signs in Iran).
- Facebook memory from August 6, 2011: The Air and Space Museum isn't empty at all!
- Facebook memory from August 7, 2016: Fiesta edition of Santa Barbara's arts-&-crafts street exhibits.
- Facebook memory from August 7, 2014: Mowlavi/Rumi on the stench of conceit, avarice, and gluttony.
- Facebook memory from August 7, 2013: Bertrand Russell, on the truth & supreme beauty of Mathematics.
- Facebook memory from August 7, 2011: Selected verses from the Persian poet Feiz-e Kashani.
(3) Nothing is sacred (play on Persian words): Iranians joke about everything, even somber Muharram mourning rituals. In this Persian meme, someone says, "I wept profusely when the chant leader talked about burning the gheimehs (a kind of stew, often served to mourners). I calmed down a bit when I realized he was referring to kheimehs (tents, temporary settlements)."
(4) Ayatollah Jannati, the 95-year-old head of Iran's Guardians Council hopes to end up as a martyr: A veteran of the Iran-Iraq War has responded that Jannati can realize his wish instantaneously by simply ditching his two bullet-proof cars and dismissing his 15 bodyguards, collectively costing struggling Iranians billions!
(5) An elderly couple from Milwaukee and a Los Angles man by lightning strike near the White House: A fourth person is in critical condition. [P.S.: Expect Trump to claim credit for no one dying by lightning strike near the White House during his presidency.]
(6) US Senate passes $430 billion anti-inflation bill along party lines, with Vice-President Harris casting the tie-breaking vote: Among the bill's provisions are tackling climate change, lowering cost of medication for the elderly, reducing energy prices, and forcing the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes.

2022/08/05 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Optical illusion: Squares A and B are the same shade and color Fourier transform explained in one color-coded sentence Cartoon: Smart student follows the teacher's advice to question everything!
Humor: When a nurse takes up gardening Santa Barbara Independent cover image, issue of August 4-11, 2022: Fiesta Walking in Santa Barbara's downtown/waterfront areas (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Optical illusion: Squares A and B are the same shade and color. The best way of confirming this incredible claim is to use an image editor (e.g., Paint), cut one piece of square A, and move it next to square B. [Top center] Fourier transform explained in one color-coded sentence. [Top right] Cartoon of the day: Smart student follows the teacher's advice to question everything! [Bottom left] Humor: When a nurse takes up gardening. [Bottom center] Santa Barbara Independent cover image, issue of Aug. 4-11, 2022: Love letter to Fiesta, plus complete event schedule. [Bottom right] Today, I went walking in Santa Barbara downtown & waterfront areas and on Stearns Wharf, dining at Buena Onda Empanadas before returning home.
(2) Kansas stuns the nation by rejecting a ballot measure that would have removed abortion-access protections from the conservative state's constitution.
(3) Bringing pigs back from the dead: Scientist have successfully revived cells in dead pigs. The revival system consists of a specialized machine and a synthetic fluid carrying oxygen and other components that promote cellular health and suppress inflammation. The hearts of the totally-unconscious pigs began to beat, as the OrganEx solution circulated in their veins and arteries.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump sues Clinton, claiming that statute of limitations shouldn't apply, given how busy he was as President.
- A dozen Iranian cities in the southwestern province of Khuzestan see high temps of 48.7+ C (120+ F).
- Shame on Iran's Islamic regime: Recent arrests of Baha'is accompanied by bulldozing of their homes.
- Forced confessions on Iran's state TV and the role of interrogators/"journalists" (21-minute video).
- MIT CSAIL's chart of all major neural networks. [Tweet]
- MIT-led research team builds AI that converts college-level math problems into code and solves them.
- Borowitz Report (humor): Justice Department urges Trump to hire Alex Jones's lawyers.
- This modified 1921 US dollar coin features a tiny sword that unlocks a secret vault. [Tweet]
- Dinosaur plays with visitors snapping photos! [Tweet]
- Time-lapse video of 5 hours of flights over Europe, West Asia, and North Africa: Note the void over Ukraine.
(5) Marcel Baltazard [1908-1971]: This 12-minute documentary film (narrated in Persian) focuses on the third French head of Iran's Pasteur Institute, who served from 1946 to 1961, but also covers the Institute's history and development of vaccines for various contagious diseases.
(6) IEEE CCS talk: Professor Lei Li of UCSB's Computer Science Dept. will talk about "Breaking the Language Barrier with Neural Machine Translation." Wed., Aug. 17, 2022, 6:00 PM. [Free registration and details]
(7) We need reform in the US Congress: Did you know that Wyoming has a single Representative but two Senators? California has 53 Representatives and two Senators!
(8) Final thought for the day: Sharing these statements attributed to Abdu'l-Baha, to show support for, and solidarity with, persecuted Iranian Baha'is. #BahaiRights

2022/08/04 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Tonight's Talangor Group talk on poet Forough Farrokhzad A Khayyam ruba'i (couplet, quatrain) on the riddle of death The many versions of a female scientist: dealing with stereotyped female scientists
On the legend of Yusuf and Zulaikha: Zoom talk by Dr. Nahid Pirnazar (title slide) On the legend of Yusuf and Zulaikha: Zoom talk by Dr. Nahid Pirnazar (summary of differences) On the legend of Yusuf and Zulaikha: Zoom talk by Dr. Nahid Pirnazar (Jami's take) (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Talangor Group talk on poet Forough Farrokhzad (see the next item below). [Top center] A Khayyam ruba'i (couplet, quatrain): From the mass of black mud, to the pinnacle of Saturn; I have solved all the general problems; I used tricks to untie difficult bonds; They all opened, save the bond of death. [Top right] The many versions of a female scientist: Analytical chemist Alexandra A. Phillips decided to tackle the problem of stereotyped female scientists by setting up an Instagram page and a Web page. [Bottom row] On the legend of Yusuf and Zulaikha (see the last item below).
(2) Tonight's Talangor Group Zoom meeting: Speaking in Persian under the title "Forough, the Hafez of Our Time," Faramarz Ghaffari presented his view of Forough being a master descriptor/critic of the society of her time, just as Hafez was a keen observer of his time. He recited several of Forough's poems as examples of her skillful and passionate compositions. There were ~85 attendees.
Forough Farrokhzad [1934-1967] is a beloved contemporary poet, whose bold/defiant/feminist poetry has become even more popular since the current Islamic regime took power in Iran. She used feminine language is some of her poems, but also composed poems in which her humanity overshadows her gender. Politically aware and a master of using allegories, she criticized the callousness of the powerful and the tyranny of religion.
The main talk was preceded by a not-so-short presentation by Dr. Hashem Etminan on the place of satire in Persian literature.
(3) Iranian terrorists awaited Israeli tourists at their Istanbul hotel: The assassination plot was discovered and the tourists were immediately taken from their shopping locations to the airport for a flight home. Several Iranians suspected of being IRGC operatives were arrested by Turkish intelligence.
(4) The Breonna Taylor case: US Department of Justice charges three Kentucky cops with falsifying info to obtain a search warrant and conspiring in a subsequent cover-up, and another cop with using excessive force during the search (shooting 10 rounds through a window and a glass door which were covered with blinds).
(5) "Yusuf and Zulaikha: From the Torah to Jami": This was the title of Wednesday night's Socrates Group Zoom talk by Dr. Nahid Pirnazar. There were 110 attendees.
The biblical legend of Yusuf and Zulaikha is based on a true story that has been embellished and distorted over time in sources from different cultures and time periods.
Beginning with the narrative in the Torah, Dr. Pirnazar has embarked on an as-yet-unfinished project to compare the various sources of the legend and understand & reconcile the differences. The additional sources include, but are not limited to, Jewish legends, the Quran & other Islamic texts, and divans of two poets: The 14th-century Farsihood poet Shahin and the 15th-century Persian poet Jami. There are also Christian, Indian, and European sources (the latter mainly paintings) to consider. The differences are extensive and much remains to be done in extracting the real story.
Yusuf resided in Egypt around 1800 BCE (plus/minus 200), under the rule of Pharaoh Sesostris II. Sources differ on details of the story, including dates. The essence of the story is as follows. An incredibly handsome Yusuf becomes a victim of his brothers' jealousy and is thrown into a well. A merchant hearing his cries for help rescues him and decides to sell him in a slave market. Yusuf astounds everyone who sees him by his wondrous beauty. Zulaikha, the rich and beautiful wife of Potiphar (Pharaoh's warlord), is struck by Yusuf's beauty and outbids everyone.
The rest of the story revolves around Yusuf overcoming Zulaikha's enticement & sexual advances and running away, only to return to Zulaikha many years later and reciprocating her love. Jami maintains that Zulaikha's marriage to Potiphar was never consummated, due to her husband's impotence, implying that Zulaikha's lust for Yusuf was thus not forbidden.
Interestingly, distortions in the story as told in Islamic and other sources later affected Jewish sources.
The main program was followed by poetry recitation, dance videos, and musical performances.
[Dr. Pirnazar's June 2022 presentation on "The Intellectual Heritage of Iranian Jews in Judeo-Persian"]

2022/08/03 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Gunman with loaded AK-47 rifle arrested outside the home of journalist Masih Alinejad Roses from two bushes in my patio, picked last night Men and women los Presidentes of the annual Fiesta celebration aka Old Spanish Days in Santa Barbara
Cartoon by Mana Neyestani: Forced confession of an anti-hijab activist on Iran's state TV Made these broiled veggies & pepperoni-mushroom English-muffin mini-pizzas Monday night Cover image of Theodore Darlymple's 'In Praise of Folly' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Gunman with loaded AK-47 rifle arrested outside the home of journalist Masih Alinejad, whose campaign against misogynistic laws has rattled the ruling mullahs in Iran. [Top center] Roses from two bushes in my patio, picked last night. [Top right] A bit of local Santa Barbara history: The annual Fiesta celebration aka Old Spanish Days, held August 3-7 this year, has a ceremonial President. It took 6 decades until the first woman was chosen to lead the ceremonies in 1985. Over the past 20 years, 8 of the Presidents have been women. [Bottom left] Cartoon of the day (by Mana Neyestani): Forced confession of an obviously beaten-up anti-hijab activist on Iran's state TV. [Bottom center] Made these broiled veggies and pepperoni-mushroom English-muffin mini-pizzas Monday night and took some to my mom, who loves pepperoni pizza. [Bottom right] Theodore Darlymple's In Praise of Folly (see the last item below).
(2) Record-setting journey in a rowboat: Four women (two former UCLA rowers, one former USC rower, and the owner of a yoga studio in Santa Barbara), 34 days, 2400 miles, from San Francisco to Honolulu.
(3) We must be the voice of Baha'is in Iran: Having been persecuted for decades, they now face a new wave of arrests with made-up charges of acting against national security and spying for Israel. #BahaiRights [Tweet]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- By burying his first wife Ivana in his NJ golf club, Trump has converted it to a tax-exempt cemetery.
- Iran's President Raisi gifts to Putin a silk rug containing 3.5 kg of gold and 3/4 kg of silver.
- Orwell: "Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations."
- Facebook memory from August 3, 2017: Two different views of the White House (45 vs. 44).
(5) Jared Kushner's upcoming memoir: When Jared asked DJT for Ivanka's hand in marriage, he discovered that the Donald preferred to have Tom Brady as his son-in-law.
(6) ACM webinar by Margaret Martonosi (Princeton U.): "Seismic Shifts: Challenges and Opportunities in the 'Post-ISA' Era of Computer Systems Design." [Slides] [On-demand viewing registration]
(7) Book review: Dalrymple, Theodore, In Praise of Folly: The Blind Spots of Our Minds, Gibson Square, 2019. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
A conservative cultural critic, columnist, prison physician, and psychiatrist, Theodore Dalrymple (born Anthony Malcolm Daniels in 1949) is an excellent writer with a knack for tongue-in-cheek and self-deprecating humor. He also tends to stir much controversy. His writings, based mostly on his experience of working with criminals and the mentally ill, have been characterized both as simplistic/cliche-ridden and as brilliant/prophetic.
This book offers the thesis, supported by examples among theologians, philosophers, generals, judges, writers, astrophysicists, and others, that high achievers, praised for their accomplishments in one area, are more often than not naive and error-prone in matters that fall outside their areas of expertise. This is something that we might know intuitively, but seeing a large number of examples is both reassuring and entertaining.
Do not confuse this book with a Latin essay by the same title, a satirical attack on superstition in Europe by Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, which was published in 1511.

2022/08/02 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Uyuni salt sea in the south of Bolivia becomes a mirror during the rainy season Misogyny in Persian poetry: The great poet Nezami has some deplorable opinions about women UCSB campus, the paradise where I have worked for 34 years
Today's UCSB-sponsored group beach walk and some of my beach finds Cover image of Naomi Klein's 'This Changes Everything' My keynote talk at the eighth SUTA Global Reunion in Milan, Italy (2014) (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Where the sky joins the Earth: The 10,588 km^2 salt sea of Uyuni is in the south of Bolivia at an altitude of 3656 meters. During the rainy season, water covers the salt sea and reflects the skies (1-minute video). [Top center] Misogynistic verses (see the next item below). [Top right] Facebook memory from August 2, 2020: UCSB campus, the paradise where I have worked and lived for 34 years. [Bottom left] Today's UCSB-sponsored group beach walk and some of my beach finds. [Bottom center] Naomi Klein's This Changes Everything (see the last item below). [Bottom right] Facebook memory from August 2, 2014: My keynote talk at the eighth SUTA Global Reunion in Milan, Italy.
(2) Misogyny in Persian poetry: The great poet Nezami has some deplorable opinions about women. He does write in one passage of Eskandar Nameh about a city where the women are not only unveiled but don't even wear clothing appropriate to the time. A visitor inquires about the situation and is told that they teach men to control their urges, instead of telling women to cover themselves. But in other places, he praises a woman for having the mentality of a man and not of a woman (zan-sirat nist). The image above shows a few Nezami verses replete with misogynistic notions. [The full poem]
(3) Juris Hartmanis [1928-2022] dead at 94: A professor of computer science at Cornell U. since 1965, Hartmanis won the 1993 Turing Award (with Richard Stearns) for the seminal paper "On the Computational Complexity of Algorithms," which laid the formal foundations of modern computational-complexity theory.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Man with loaded AK-47 gun arrested outside the home of exiled Iranian journalist/activist Masih Alinejad.
- Bill Russell, basketball legend (with 11 NBA championships) and civil-rights icon, dead at 88.
- Euro Cup women's soccer championship: England prevailed over Germany 2-1 in overtime. [Highlights]
- Persian music: The oldie song "Majnoon-e To" ("Crazy for You"). [4-minute video]
- Facebook memory from August 1, 2011: A couple of Persian verses from Anvari.
- Facebook memory from August 1, 2010: Computing with secret data is possible.
- Facebook memory from August 2, 2011: Solving a trivial equation in lieu of a complex, realistic one.
- Facebook memory from August 2, 2010: Advice on humility from the great Persian poet Sa'adi.
(5) There is no end to persecuting Baha'is by Iran's evil Islamic regime: There have been numerous reports over the past week of Baha'is being arrested across Iran. In some cases, those who had previously served a decade in prison have been re-arrested.
(6) Al Qaeda's #2 man and 9/11 mastermind: Eleven years after the elimination of Osama bin Laden, Eyman al-Zawahiri is killed by a precision drone strike in a posh neighborhood of Kabul; no one else was hurt.
(7) Book review: Klein, Naomi, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, unabridged audiobook on 17 CDs, read by Ellen Archer, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2014. [Image file: .jpg; 768w, 768h] [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/4891216969] Read 2022/08/02-02 [I listened to this audiobook during my trip of three weeks ago to the Silicon Valley to attend the ARITH-23 conference.] [I wrote this review on August 2, 2016, and posted it to GoodReads on August 2, 2022.]

2022/07/31 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iranian dissident/activist Sepideh Rashno Math puzzle: A rectangle is divided into 4 smaller rectangles of known areas and a unit square, as shown. What are the rectangles' side lengths? Masih Alinejad is on Iran's hit list (1) Images of the day: [Left] Activist Sepideh Rashno (see the next item below). [Center] Math puzzle: A rectangle is divided into 4 smaller rectangles of known areas and a unit square, as shown. What are the side lengths of the five rectangles? [Right] Masih Alinejad is on Iran's hit list (see the last item below).
(2) This vivacious young woman is #SepidehRashno: She was virtually unrecognizable during her forced confession (after days of interrogation, threats, and, likely, torture) on Iran's state-run TV. These inhumane "confessions" are designed to break and humiliate dissidents.
Galileo's "confession": "In the 70th year of my life, I have been brought to my knees in front of you, masters of the world and religion. Embracing the holy book, I declare that my false and misguided claim of the Earth rotating around the Sun was the result of drunkenness."
(3) Ukrainian academics continue to work under very harsh conditions: More than 200 Ukrainian educational institutions have been destroyed and those that remain struggle to maintain their research infrastructure.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Iran bars top female soccer referee from attending the World Cup because of her veil & uncovered legs.
- The treasures of Lake Mead: As the reservoir's water levels shrink, strange artifacts emerge from the mud.
- Why great leaders take humor seriously: An engaging 9-minute TED talk by two Stanford U. professors.
- Math puzzle: The value of this expression involving the integer N is k. Find the largest possible value of N.
- Facebook memory from July 31, 2017: When Turkey's Deputy-PM said women should not laugh in public.
- Facebook memory from July 31, 2013: Statue of the great poet Ferdowsi in Rome's Ferdowsi Square.
(5) "The Court is Lost" (Science editorial): "The US has an insatiable desire for technological advancement but is governed by founding documents that are completely unsuited for science and technology. This incongruity has manifested in recent disastrous actions by the Supreme Court on guns, abortion, and climate. The decisions suggest that the battle is being won by the portion of America who—while lionizing the past and clinging to the infallibility of words written in the late 18th century—can't put down their cell phones. Reactionary posts on social media wouldn't get very far without a hundred years of technical advances—and massive amounts of power to recharge mobile device batteries and run the server farms that support the digital world. ..."
(6) How a small group of young women took on a powerful network of Trump cronies: These women found themselves under vicious personal attacks, up to death threats, and formed their own support network.
(7) Advice from Adam Grant: We are often advised not to repeat ourselves. Yet, Martin Luther King Jr. made his 1963 March-on-Washington speech memorable and transformative by repeating "I have a dream" 8 times in the span of 2 minutes; and he had uttered the same words in previous speeches. Research has shown that over-communication is better than under-communication. "Great communication is like a song. It isn't enough to hear it once. You don't know the melody [or the chorus] until you hear it multiple times."
(8) Iranian terrorists in the US: Masih Alinejad wants women of Iran to be free in choosing their clothing and for women & men worldwide to support their cause. Yet, Iran's Islamic regime deems her a national security threat and sends assassination squads to kill her in the US. [Tweet]

2022/07/30 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Science journal cover feature: Did you know that there are pollinators under the sea? World War II history: How four years of war changed the face of a soldier Kummakivi: A 5000-ton rock in Finland that has been balancing on top of another rock for 11,000 years
'Picture a Scientist': A must-see documentary film Some of the theme articles in Computer magazine's July 22 issue: Technology Predictions The human brain as a maze to be explored (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Did you know that there are pollinators under the sea? Science journal tells us all about them in its cover feature of the July 29, 2022, issue. [Top center] World War II history: How four years of war changed the face of a soldier. [Top right] Kummakivi: A 5000-ton rock in Finland that has been balancing on top of another rock for 11,000 years. [Bottom left] "Picture a Scientist": A must-see documentary (see the last item below). [Bottom center] IEEE Computer magazine's July 2022 issue focuses on "Technology Predictions": Here are some of the theme articles. [Bottom right] The human brain as a maze to be explored.
(2) "Prosperity Theology Goes Online": This is the title of a column by Hal Berghel in the July 2022 issue of IEEE Computer magazine. "We are entering the latest incarnation of the religious great awakenings in the United States. While e-commerce has been ubiquitous for decades, uniting e-commerce with a great electronic religious awakening is new to our millennia."
(3) Course review: Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life, a series of 36 lectures in the Great Courses series (Prof. J. Rofus Fears, U. Oklahoma). [My 4-star review of this course on GoodReads]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- War crimes: Russia is the new ISIS. Video shows Russian soldiers castrating a Ukrainian captive.
- AAAS: "CHIPS and Science Act" a most-important piece of science & technology legislation in a generation.
- Facebook memory from July 30, 2016: My symbolic support for women opposing compulsory hijab.
- Facebook memory from July 30, 2013: The slippery-slope of censorship.
(5) Women are left out on flexible, lucrative, and high-status careers: Only 20% of computer science degrees and 22% of undergraduate engineering degrees go to women. We need a better understanding of how the education and workplace cultures of these fields dissuade women.
(6) Shrinkflation: Manufacturers raise prices way above the inflation rate by shrinking package sizes. For example, Angel Soft toilet paper, which used to have 425 sheets on a roll, now has 320. So, even assuming the same price, the packaging change amounts to a 25% price hike, way above the inflation rate of 9%.
(7) "Computing Nearer to Data": This is the title of a July 2022 article in IEEE Computer magazine which reviews new & emerging technologies that allow in-memory and near-memory computing in an effort to reduce the effect of the von Neumann bottleneck (aka "the memory wall").
(8) "Picture a Scientist": This 2020 documentary film, available on Netflix (also as an episode of Nova on PBS), "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 viewers on a journey deep into their own experiences in the sciences, ranging from brutal harassment to years of subtle slights. Along the way, from cramped laboratories to spectacular field stations, we encounter scientific luminaries — including social scientists, neuroscientists, and psychologists — who provide new perspectives on how to make science itself more diverse, equitable, and open to all." Please don't think that the cases put forward in this film are extreme. They happen every day in real workplaces.

2022/07/29 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A huge empty void in the universe? Cover image of Mehdi Farshad's 'History of Engineering in Iran': Version 1 Cover image of Mehdi Farshad's 'History of Engineering in Iran': Version 2 (1) Images of the day: [Left] Is there really a huge empty void in the universe? (see the next item below). [Center & Right] Mehdi Farshad's History of Engineering in Iran (see the last item below).
(2) Dispelling an Internet myth that refuses to die: This image has been spreading on the Internet for years, with the description that "according to NASA, there is an empty void in space so big that if you traveled across it, you wouldn't bump into anything for more than 752 million years." There is no such empty void or hole!
(3) Dissent among religious leaders: Iran defrocked Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Nekoonam and sentenced him to jail & flogging for saying, among other things, that the vast sums of money spent on gilded shrines for the imams would be better spent feeding the hungry and taking care of other societal needs. [4-minute video]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Assault Weapons Ban passes the US House of Representatives 217-213. It will next go to the Senate to die!
- Khamenei's anti-Semitic rant on Twitter generates calls for banning him. [Tweet] [IranWire story]
- A vigilante mob storms concert halls in Iran and tries to cancel shows that have government permits.
- From old crime files: The elderly landlady of a boarding house in Sacramento, CA, was a serial killer.
- Math puzzle: Find the limit of this expression as x tends to 0 from above. [Credit: @mathisstillfun]
- Actors who played the children of the von Trapp family pay tribute to Julie Andrews. [3-minute video]
(5) Comedian Jon Stewart unloads on hypocritical politicians who support the war machine while paying only lip service to the needs of our veterans. [10-minute video]
(6) "A Century of Using Women's Hijab as a Political Tool": This is the title of a Persian article by Parastoo Sarmadi, in which she condemns politicians (predominantly men), who argue on the pros and cons of the hijab as a way of solidifying their power, instead of letting women decide for themselves.
(7) Book review: Farshad, Mehdi, History of Engineering in Iran (in Persian), Gooyesh Publications, 1983 (ISBN: 9786006040042). [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Since its first edition of 1983, this book has been re-issued in several versions, with various degrees of revision and editing, by different organizations, including the Alumni Association of Tehran University's College of Engineering. The 494-page PDF file on which I have based my review belongs to an undated 2nd edition.
The book consists of 13 chapters, described below, sandwiched between a preface and a concluding Chapter 15. A timeline or chronology of tech/engineering (Chapter 14), several appendices, a bibliography, and 28 pages of historical images appear at the end. Despite a number of shortcomings, such as uneven breadth & depth in coverage and poor-quality diagrams/images, History of Engineering in Iran is still
- The Beginnings of Technology in Iran (starting from the region being settled some 0.5 million years ago)
- Substances and Materials (rock, dirt, organic material, mortar, metals, oil-based material, glass, paints)
- Tools and Machinery (primitive tools, rotational, water/wind-based, flight, measurement, naval, electrical)
- Architecture and City Planning (architectural forms & functions through the ages, cities through the ages)
- Roads and Communications (road construction, The Silk Road, waterways & canals, sailing, lighthouses)
- Water Resources, Irrigation, and Agriculture (qanats, wells, purification, irrigation, agriculture, food)
- Bridges and Dams (bridge-building methods & underwater foundations, dam construction through the ages)
- Clayworks and Weaving (clayworks techniques & glazing, weaving material & machinery, carpet-weaving)
- Building and Structural Forms (evolution of frame-based and arch-based structures, architectural styles)
- Script and Measurements (script, masonry, paper-making, units of measurement for space & time)
- Engineering Know-How (applied geometry, math, geology, astronomy, chemistry, physics, education)
- Art in the History of Engineering (form in engineering, artistic elements, symmetry in shape & colors)
- Early Engineers in Iran (Zakariya Razi, Abu Reyhan Biruni, Ibn Sina, Khayyam, Nasir al-Din Toosi, . . .)

2022/07/28 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Shared uppercase letter glyphs among Greek, Latin, and Cyrillic alphabets (Venn diagram) Math oddity: Divide 1 by 998001 and you will get a fraction in which all 3-digit patterns 000 to 999, except for 998, appear in order Magic circles: In this diagram, consecutive numbers 1-80 appear on 80 intersections, with the numbers on each circle adding to 324
Clean and healthy environment recognized as a universal right Cartoon: Chopping off the head of one's shadow! Talangor Group talk on the evolution of ghazal in Persian literature (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Shared uppercase letter glyphs among Greek, Latin, & Cyrillic alphabets. [Top center] Math oddity: Divide 1 by 998001 and you'll get a fraction in which all 3-digit patterns 000 to 999, except for 998, appear in order (credit: @mathisstillfun). [Top right] Magic circles: The numbers 1-80 appear on 80 intersections of this diagram, with the numbers on each circle adding to 324. Reading the outermost numbers, starting from the top and moving in clockwise direction, one sees the digits of pi = 3.14159265358... (credit: Michael Keith). [Bottom left] Clean and healthy environment recognized as a universal right. [Bottom center] Cartoon of the day. [Bottom right] Talangor Group talk (see the last item below).
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump threatens to sue CNN & other media for defaming him and calling his election-fraud claims baseless.
- The 2016 refrain "Lock her up" will become "Vote for me, or I'll be locked up" in 2024.
- Passerby in China uses water to revive a swallow that had fainted from extreme heat. [Tweet, with video]
- The Line: Visualizing a mirror-covered high-rise city, with a footprint of 170 km by 200 m. [2-minute video]
(3) Tonight's Talangor Group Zoom meeting: After a short talk on "Immigration," by Dr. Reza Sarmast, Dr. Ryan Homafar presented the main talk on "Evolution of Ghazal in Persian Literature" (in Persian; 80+ attendees).
[UC Irvine's introduction to Dr. Homafar's background and honors]
Poetry plays an important role in propagating the Iranian culture, given that several other art forms (notably music, painting, and dance) have faced certain restrictions. The word "ghazal" comes from "moghazeleh," which means "companionship of a woman," so it is often composed from a masculine perspective. Things changed over time, in terms of both the composers and the themes. It emerged during the Q&A period that ghazal, often containing 7-12 rhyming verses, was sometimes used as the "abstract" or summary of the longer ghasideh, containing 15-100, or even more, verses.
Dr. Homafar divided the 1000-year history of ghazal into five periods or eras, during which ghazal evolved as a result of sociopolitical events and forces, as well as due to the influence of notable poets. In these five eras, ghazal moved up from earthly love or everyday concerns to spiritual themes, eventually returning to its origin. Dr. Homafar recited many ghazals or parts thereof as examples during his presentation.
- The era of "eini'at" or objectivity: Roodaki's ghazals were earthly. Mowlavi/Rumi also offered examples of earthly poems, where matters such as death are viewed logically and matter-of-factly.
- The "elahi-erfani" or Godly-spiritual era: Ghazal assumed a spiritual tone, in part in reaction to pompous kings and poets who praised them profusely. Sana'ii, who himself was guilty of praising kings, later regretted his actions and began praising God. Mowlavi/Rumi took the spiritual focus of ghazal to new heights.
- The era of Hafez: The poems of Hafez can be said to have one foot in the sky and one foot on earth. His ghazals tend to be ambiguous and can be interpreted as describing earthly passions or spiritual concerns. This ambiguity is responsible for people using his poems as a kind of omen, with predictive powers. Simin Behbahani offers noteworthy recent examples of this style.
- The "gozar" or transit era of 14th-19th century CE: Persian poetry remained stagnant during this period; everyone mimicked Hafez, with various degrees of success. Dr. Homafar read verses from Gha'ani and Hafez side by side to demonstrate similarities.
- Modern ghazal since the 20th century: Politics entered the domain of poetry with the Constitutional Revolution and other transformative developments, including the 1979 Revolution and the ensuing Iran-Iraq War. Suddenly, words and notions that were kept out of poems began pouring in. One can cite many examples, but compositions of Simin Behbahani, one of the few poets to write about war and its consequences, stand out.
During the Q&A period, I asked a question about changes in ghazal's form and structure, having heard the speaker discuss changes of themes and vocabulary. I also inquired about the relationship of ghazal to other poetry formats.
Dr. Homafar's answer was quite detailed and enlightening. The short answer is that ghazal's form has indeed undergone changes. For example, Simin Behbahani experimented with different styles and brought many innovations to the form. Ghazal can be said to be a constant in Persian poetry. Almost all poets have composed ghazals, whereas ghasideh is almost nonexistent today. Couplets are also less common. So, one can view ghazal as providing continuity in Persian poetry through the ages and among many different poets.
At the end of the Q&A period, Dr. Homafar was asked to recite one of his own ghazals, which he obliged.

2022/07/27 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Raisi, shown holding hands with Putin and Lavrov, has been likened to Pinocchio, who was deceived by a couple of con artists, the cunning fox & the dumb cat Whether taken intentionally or by accident, this photo of Putin by an Iranian photographer has gone viral Oppression of women in Iran (1) Images of the day: [Left] Iran's Ebrahim Raisi, shown holding hands with Putin and Erdogan, has been likened to the cartoon character Pinocchio, who was deceived by a couple of con artists, the cunning fox and the dumb cat. [Center] Whether framed intentionally or by accident, this photo of Putin by an Iranian photographer has gone viral. [Right] Oppression of women: Iranian men engage, on occasion, in symbolic acts in support of women's rights and opposition to compulsory hijab, but when it comes to physically defending women against the brutal morality police, they are often reduced to bystanders.
(2) Americans seem to not like anyone any more: Approval ratings for politicians are at record-lows, but opinions of journalists, scientists, and educators aren't much better!
(3) A $280 billion bill to strengthen US's position in the semiconductor industry as it competes with China is headed for passage in the Senate and may become law within days.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Will a jury convict the parents of a 15-year-old mass-shooter who gave him a handgun for Christmas?
- A solar-powered drone has been flying in the stratosphere for 40 days straight.
- Believe it or not: Iran and Syria are set to help Russia charge Ukrainian soldiers with war crimes!
- Iran's Language Academy launches a utility for finding Persian literary sources by searching for words.
(5) Iran presses on with the enforcement of hijab laws in the face of growing opposition: An official has opined that because women are sexually attractive beings, the Quran commands that they be chaste. Anyone who ignores hijab laws has not been raised properly. [Meme]
(6) Traditional Iranian gyms (zoor-khaneh-ha) were directed a few years ago to pray for the well-being of Ayatollah Khamenei, "Iran's premier athlete/champion," with drums & bell, at the beginning of each session.
(7) "Ashkha va Labkhandha" ("Tears and Smiles"): This was the title given to the Persian version of the 1965 musical "Sound of Music." A unique feature of the dubbed version of the classic Robert Wise film, featuring music by Rogers & Hammerstein, was that all the songs were performed with Persian lyrics. Here is the story of the widely-acknowledged masterpiece in film dubbing. [Metronom podcast]
(8) Tchogha Zanbil (Basket Mound) UNESCO World Heritage Site: The site holds the ruins of the holy city of the Kingdom of Elam, surrounded by three huge concentric walls. Founded ~1250 BCE, the city remained unfinished after it was invaded by Ashurbanipal, as confirmed by the thousands of unused bricks left at the site. It was unearthed during the 1940s by a group looking for oil in Iran's southwestern province of Khuzestan and excavated over a period of ~15 years.
(9) The myth of data privacy: I never cease to remind people that data privacy is a myth. Even when we explicitly ask data aggregators not to share our data, or opt out of various data-sharing arrangements, our data may still leak out due to errors, dishonesty on the part of service providers who prefer to make a buck instead of honoring their privacy promises, or hacking. Here's a letter I received a few days ago from Frontier Communications, informing me that my home address was "inadvertently" shared, despite my explicit opting out. They offered $6.00 credit on my next bill as compensation for this error!

2022/07/26 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The passing of a colleague: Dr. Arthur C. Gossard [1935-2022] Meme: Iranian women are under assault from all directions by the mullahs and their patriarchal allies Cover image of Johanna Drucker's Inventing the Alphabet
Today's UCSB-sponsored guided walk to Student Farm and Student Gardens: Batch 1 of photos Today's UCSB-sponsored guided walk to Student Farm and Student Gardens: Batch 2 of photos Today's UCSB-sponsored guided walk to Student Farm and Student Gardens: Batch 3 of photos (1) Images of the day: [Top left] RIP Arthur C. Gossard (see the next item below). [Top center] Iranian women are under assault from all directions by the mullahs and their patriarchal allies: One bird-brained Iranian official has recently opined, "If you allow women to put their headscarves on a stick, they will use their shorts next"! [Top right] Johanna Drucker's Inventing the Alphabet (see the last item below). [Bottom row] Today's walk: The UCSB-sponsored guided walk took us to UCSB Student Farm, where those involved with campus's Sustainability Program grow various crops, which are periodically harvested and offered for sale. I sampled a couple of the cherry tomatoes, which were delicious. We also visited Student Gardens, where small plots of land are given to students living in the nearby Family Student Housing to grow herbs, vegetables, and flowers for personal use.
(2) The passing of a colleague: Dr. Arthur C. Gossard [1935-2022] joined UCSB in 1987, holding appointments in Materials and ECE Departments. For his pioneering and impactful technical contributions, Art was honored by membership in National Academy of Engineering & National Academy of Sciences and the award of a 2016 National Medal of Technology and Innovation by President Obama. [UCSB Engineering tribute page]
(3) Dead women also sexually arouse men: The CEO of Tehran's public cemetery reports of "corrections" to 98 tombstones bearing pictures of women without or with improper hijabs.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The southern US city of St. Louis is struggling under several feet of water. [Tweet]
- Heat wave in China caused road pavements to buckle, creating dangerous traffic hazards.
- People picnicking on an almost-dry riverbed in Estahban, Iran, escape a flash flood in the nick of time.
- Islamic Republic of Iran agents raided a dog shelter in the desert and killed all 300 dogs residing there.
- History in pictures: This is how beachgoers and bathers looked like in 1910. [Photo]
- Visualization of road construction during the Roman Empire. [2-minute video]
(5) Trump must be indicted: One of the strongest arguments for prosecuting Trump is protecting his supporters. As many of his devotees sit in prisons or face charges, their master is holding hate rallies to recruit the next clueless batch of insurrectionists to go to jail for him.
(6) Book review: Drucker, Johanna, Inventing the Alphabet: The Origins of Letters from Antiquity to the Present, U. Chicago Press, 2022. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Invention of the alphabet is one the most-important discoveries of our human civilization. The history of alphabetic writing, which is replete with myths and alternate explanations, is generally traced to the fifth century BCE, that is, the time of Herodotus and Socrates. Much has happened in the intervening 2.5 millennia and charting these events was overdue. Key milestones along the way include the much-stressed biblical account (Moses and his stone tablets) and the relatively recent discoveries of hundreds of alphabetic inscriptions in Egypt and Palestine.
In his foundational work, The Histories, Herodotus writes that the Phoenicians brought the alphabet to Greece, and that, over time, the sounds and forms of the letters underwent changes. Drucker supports the view that, inspired by the Phoenician alphabet-based script (itself likely inspired by older occurrences), Greeks living in Phoenicia invented their alphabet, which subsequently spread to the mother country over the period 1000-500 BCE. Discoveries near the end of the 20th century suggest that the first alphabet may have been inspired by the script of ancient Egyptians some 4000 years ago. Debate is still ongoing in this domain and a definitive history of how the alphabet came about remains to be written.
This 2003 interview with Dr. Drucker ("Art Meets Technology: The History and Effects of the Alphabet") contains a great deal of interesting and useful information about the topic.

2022/07/24 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Armenian woman of Isfahan: Original 1840s drawing by Eugune Flandin Republican women are teaching the old crows in the party lessons in courage and integrity Gender equity, Islamic style: Man wearing a brief bathing suit, woman covered from head to toe (1) Images of the day: [Left] Armenian woman of Isfahan: Original drawing by Eugune Flandin (1840s). [Center] Republican women are teaching the old crows in the party valuable lessons in courage & integrity. [Right] Gender equity, Islamic style: As much of the man's body is covered at the woman's is revealed.
(2) Persian music: This 100-year-old feminist anthem, "Daughters of Cyrus," was performed by Molouk Zarrabi, an Iranian activist, who was physically assaulted because of singing and being unveiled. [Lyrics]
(3) Liz Cheney wraps up the July 21 hearing of the Jan. 6 Select Committee: She pays tribute to several women among key witnesses who testified, despite knowing that they will be smeared "by the 50-, 60-, & 70-year-old men who hide themselves behind executive privilege," and asks Republicans some tough questions.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- There is a new MAGA in Texas: Mothers Against Greg Abbott. [Facebook page]
- The Oak Fire at Yosemite National Park is expanding and is currently 0% contained.
- Boston temperature reaches 100 F, breaking the 1933 record of 98 F for July 24.
- Iranian women's-rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh sends message of solidarity to American women.
- Persecution of Baha'is in Iran: Mother and two sons have been arrested in Bojnord.
- Unnecessary provocation: Khamenei advisor announces that Iran has the ability to make a nuclear bomb.
- Math puzzle: Consider the decimal representation of 100! How many 0s are there at the end of this number?
- Math puzzle: Math puzzle: If 3^x + 3^y = 10 and 3^(x + y) = 5, evaluate 3^(xy) + 3^(yx).
- Looking around from the top of Mount Everest: 360-degree panorama.
- Persian music: A performance by legendary singer Delkash at age 75. [2-minute video]
(5) Iran deploys pregnancy patrols to hospitals: Their charge is to intervene where planned medical treatment could affect a woman's fertility. Don't laugh; the US may be headed in the same direction!
(6) US states with more liberal abortion laws may prosper: College applications are up in such states and young professionals may prefer such states as their base for in-person or remote work.
(7) Engaging Afghan Women & Civil Society in US Policymaking: The Launch of the US-Afghan Consultative Mechanism": Thursday, July 28, 2022, 12:15 PM PDT, featuring Anthony Blinken. [RSVP]
(8) Iran's mullahs clamp down on the opposition to compulsory hijab with even harsher punishments: Sending videos to exiled women's-rights activist Masih Alinejad is now punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
(9) Kelileh va Demneh (Kalila wa-Dimna): You can download for free a PDF version of the Persian translation of this book of old Indian fables, originally written in 1220 CE by Ibn Muqaffa in Arabic. [Images]
[P.S.: An English translation of this book of fables also exists.]

2022/07/23 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Nature asserting itself in a most unlikely environment: Arsanjan, Iran Artist was dealt lemons, made lemonade Cover image of Nathan H. Lent's 'Human Errors'
Russian reporter interviewing Iran's Minister of Telecommunications in Moscow is forced to comply with the Islamic dress code, but ... The drying Lake Mead (behind Hoover Dam): 2000, 2021, 2022 Mothers of young Iranians killed by security forces during street protests gather in solidarity (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Nature asserting itself in a most-unlikely environment: Tree growing out of a rock in Arsanjan, Iran. [Top center] Artist was dealt lemons, made lemonade! [Top right] Nathan Lent's Human Errors (see the last item below). [Bottom left] It's all a facade: While the Russian reporter interviewing Iran's Minister of Telecommunications in Moscow is forced to comply with the Islamic dress code, a woman sitting nearby, outside the camera frame, is left undisturbed! [Bottom center] The drying Lake Mead (behind Hoover Dam): 2000, 2021, 2022. [Bottom right] Mothers of young Iranians killed by security forces during street protests gather in solidarity: Many of these brave women have been arrested or are serving prison terms.
(2) It seems that Iran's morality police targets only certain types of women: Those who participate in regime-sanctioned ceremonies and religious rituals are free to don any kind of clothing. #No2Hijab [[1-minute video]
(3) Massive brain drain: This official of Iran's clerical regime has apparently woken up from a 43-year slumber and realized that experts are leaving Iran, not just individually but through entire tech companies moving to other countries. [Image]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The ingenious design of an Italian antique safe from 1840. [1-minute video]
- Combo rock-star/cleric tries to spread Islamic Republic propaganda in the West! [1-minute video]
- Donkey-powered fan: Advanced technology to combat global warming!
- Persian music: A rhythmic piece, with spiritual lyrics. [2-minute video]
- Persian music: "Aaseman-e Kabood" ("Azure Sky"), performed by Rastak Rnsemble. [4-minute video]
(5) Book review: Lent, Nathan H., Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, From Pointless Bones to Broken Genes, unabridged 8-hour audiobook, read by L. J. Ganser, HighBridge Audio, 2018.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book is about errors in us humans, not in the sense of "to err is human," but concerning the fundamental flaws in our bodies that evolution failed to correct or, worse, actively propagated. As we look at humans, animals, and plants, we are often awestruck by the efficiency with which various functions are performed. Yet, alongside those numerous optimal functionalities and beautiful designs, we have many instances of inefficiencies and dumb designs. Human Errors explains how the latter came about, why evolution didn't take care of them, and how they are affecting the lives of modern humans.
An example of a serious design flaw in our bodies is our throat being a passage for both food and air, leading to much discomfort and, on occasion, death. Nature offers multiple designs for vision in the form of eyes that have evolved multiple times along different paths. If it's true that evolution selects the best variation, why is it that the photoreceptors in our eyes face backwards, creating a large blind spot where a bundle of nerves exits the eyeball? Why is it that the recurrent laryngeal nerve takes a path that is twice as long as necessary, instead of going directly from our brain to our voicebox? The precursor to this nerve in our fish ancestors connected the brain, the heart, and the gills, which were on a more-or-less straight line. As fish evolved into creatures with necks, the path became quite inefficient, and, yes, it is worst in giraffes!
Besides errors such as the ones above that became impossible to correct through small changes (mutations), thus remaining intact, we also have errors that were actually propagated by evolutionary forces. If there is a mutation that leads to reproductive disadvantage many generations down the line but offers some immediate benefit, say, in terms of greater immunity to some disease, it may become a preferred trait that is actively favored by evolution.
Our bodies are incapable of synthesizing vitamins that many other organisms make, thus rendering us dependent of external sources in our diets. Our reproductive system is one of the least-efficient in the animal kingdom. An estimated 97% of our genome consists of broken genes, ancient viral DNA, and other "junk" elements, which though not completely useless, could have been a lot more efficiently structured. As a final example, consider cognitive biases and less-than-ideal heuristics in our brains, which make us prey for advertisers, casinos, and fortune-tellers.
Despite the errors cited above, and others enumerated in this wonderful book, Lent's objective isn't to scare us by implying that we are doomed. Rather, he marvels at our ability to survive and thrive, despite all these design flaws. At least some of these flaws came about because our evolutionary development was stifled by changes in our diets and lifestyles that were rather quick on an evolutionary time-scale. Others were bugs that were turned into features. Yes, our reptilian brain continues to deceive us every day, but we have developed ways of circumventing this shortcoming.
Despite the book's positive outlook, one isn't surprised that Creationists don't like it! For example, this review on creation.com finds many faults with Lent's assertions, claiming that most of the supposed errors aren't errors at all.

2022/07/22 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Menger sponge or cube: A fractal object with a volume that tends to 0 and a surface area that tends to infinity 'UCSB Reads 2023' program short-list of books Satellite-image reconstruction of the surface of Mars
Cover feature of 'Science': Switchable structures Family of 10 riding a motorbike Cover image of Steven Strogatz's 'Sync' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Menger sponge or cube: Recursively constructed from a unit cube by dividing each cube into 27 smaller cubes and removing 7 of them, this fractal object has the volume (20/27)^n, which approaches zero for very large n, and a surface area that tends to infinity. [Top center] "UCSB Reads 2023" (see the next item below). [Top right] Satellite-image reconstruction of the surface of Mars (source: Science). [Bottom left] Cover feature of Science, issue of July 15, 2022: Molecules capable of reversibly switching their structures under controlled changes in their environments (chemically, photochemically, or electrochemically) are of interest in nanotechnology for applications in molecular computing or responsive drug-delivery systems. [Bottom center] With 10 riders, it's just a matter of keeping your balance: Seat belts? Air bags? What are those? [Bottom right] Steven Strogatz's Sync (see the last item below).
(2) I have finished reading & reviewing the books on "UCSB Reads 2023" program short list. Here are the book titles and links to my reviews on GoodReads.
- All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake [Review]
- The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred [Review]
- Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America [Review]
- Happy City: Transorming Our Lives Through Urban Design [Review]
- There, There [Review]
(3) Book review: Strogatz, Steven, Sync: How Order Emerges from Chaos in the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life, Hyperion, 2003. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Strogatz (Professor of Math, Cornell U., famous for his ideas and results on "small-world networks," a Nature article of his on the topic having garnered ~50,000 citations) spoke at UCSB on June 2, 2022, under the title "Synchronization in Nature." My review below incorporates some of the ideas from his inspiring talk. Strogatz excels in bringing the joy of math to the masses, in much the same way that Richard Feynman did for physics. I have read and reviewed two of his expository books, The Joy of x and Infinite Powers.
Sync is composed of three parts, sandwiched between a preface and an epilogue, followed by notes.
We learn in Part I, "Living Sync" (Chapters 1-3), that sync is a difficult problem to study mathematically, because it is a highly nonlinear phenomenon. An interesting tool for getting a feel for sync is the Kuramoto Model, nicely presented in the "Ride my Kuramotocycle" interactive app for experimentation with the synchronization of phase-coupled oscillators. Using apt analogies, Strogatz presents the sync problem with minimal use of math. For readers interested in the hidden math behind the examples, G. Bard Ermentrout's Notices of the AMS review is quite helpful. In his UCSB talk, Strogatz provided examples of systems showing spontaneous synchronization, including five metronomes in a viral YouTube video, London's Millennium Bridge swaying from side to side on its opening day, and male fireflies flashing synchronously along the tidal rivers of Malaysia.
In Part II of the book, "Discovering Sync" (Chapters 4-6), we learn about pendula, planets, and Josephson junctions, along with their connections to the Kuramoto model.
In Part III of the book, "Exploring Sync" (Chapters 7-10), we read results on synchronization of chaotic attractors, Strogatz's and Art Winfree's work on the topology of singular filaments in excitable media, his work with Duncan Watts on "small-world" networks, and some final thoughts on synchrony and cognition.
In his UCSB talk, Strogatz also devoted some time to what happens on networks. In other words, he discussed synchronization under limited connectivity, which makes the problem even more messy. Whether or not sync is achieved depends on the minimum node degree in the network. Discussion of sync on networks reminded me of the old computer science "firing-squad synchronization problem," where finite-state machines are designed so that they all enter the common "firing" state simultaneously, regardless of their initial states and system size. I suspect that fireflies synchronizing over a wide geographic area may have something to do with the latter problem, but I'm not sure.

2022/07/21 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Only about a dozen world countries are capable of launching space rockets (chart) Twitter users are waging a campaign in support of Iranian women who are imprisoned for opposing compulsory hijab The Iranian regime is waging a campaign equating opposition to Supreme Leader Khamenei with saying no to Islam
Throwback Thursday: Engineer Karen Leadlay worked on analog computers in the Space Division of General Dynamics (1964) The American flag, with state names for stars Cover image of Charles Montgomery's 'Happy City' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Only about a dozen world countries are capable of launching space rockets. [Top center] Twitter users are waging a campaign in support of Iranian women who are imprisoned for opposing compulsory hijab (#FreeNo2HijabWomen). [Top right] The Iranian regime is desperate: It is waging a campaign equating opposition to Supreme Leader Khamenei with saying no to Islam, even though he has at most 20 million followers among 1.8 billion Muslims. [Bottom left] Throwback Thursday: Engineer Karen Leadlay worked on analog computers in the Space Division of General Dynamics (1964). [Bottom center] American flag, with state names for stars. [Bottom right] Charles Montgomery's Happy City (see the last item below).
(2) Quote of the day: "I love everybody. Some I love to be around, some I love to avoid, and others I'd love to punch in the face." ~ Anonymous
(3) Accident on UCSB campus: CHP is investigating allegations by a skateboarder that UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang hit him with a car and then failed to stop to investigate or offer help.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Iran: Drop off your preschoolers; pick them up, after they've flogged themselves & wept for Hussein!
- An iconic Led Zeppelin song: Mary J. Blige performs "Stairway to Heaven" (live & studio).
- Tonight's Talangor Group Zoom meeting: Short & long presentations in Persian. [Flyer]
- Throwback Thursday, and Facebook memory from July 21, 2009: All dressed up for a formal occasion!
(5) Book review: Huffman, Felicity and Patricia Wolff, A Practical Handbook for the Boyfriend: For Every Guy Who Wants to Be One, for Every Girl Who Wants to Build One, unabridged audiobook on 4 CDs, read by Shelly Frasier, Tantor Audio, 2007.
[I wrote this review on July 21, 2015, and posted an edited version to GoodReads on July 21, 2022.]
(6) Book review: Montgomery, Charles, Happy City: Transorming Our Lives Through Urban Design, unabridged 13-hour audiobook, read by Patrick Lawlor, Tantor Audio, 2015. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Most large American cities have poor designs. Sprawling suburbs lead to the need for longer roads, with their attendant construction & maintenance costs, nightmarish commutes, high gas consumption, increased air pollution, expensive utility & public-transport networks, and the burden of snow-plowing in cold climates. Older European cities, by contrast, are compact, allowing residents to walk/bike to more places and reducing the cost of city and emergency services. Besides the economic aspects just mentioned, residents of compact cities, with traffic-free areas and open spaces, tend to be happier, hence, the book's apt, though somewhat childish, title.
The book opens with a description of how Enrique Penalosa, former mayor of Bogota, Colombia, decided to make his city more livable by various means, including the creation of car-free streets and greater investment in public buildings & spaces. A city's design influences our relationships with other people and affects our participation as active members of the society. The author also cites Vancouver, Canada, and Copenhagen, Denmark, as thriving, pedestrian-friendly cities.
Everyone benefits when people spend less time in cars, are physically closer to each other, and have more opportunities to meet within the community. Suburban sprawl just doesn't make economic or social sense. We have four times as many traffic deaths on suburban roads as on city streets. Driving 20 minutes for grocery shopping, dining at our favorite restaurant, or watching a movie is sheer insanity. Fortunately, dense, urban living within mixed-use developments is being embraced across the globe.
That urban sprawl is detrimental to our well-being isn't a new idea. Much has been written in this area. Studies in psychology and neuroscience have established a strong connection between city design and happiness. However, given that communities like Stockton, California, known for its poverty, crime rate, and car-dependency, are still being built, another attempt at discouraging such developments is worthwhile.

2022/07/20 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Life always finds a way, even after we give up hope (image of a sprouting axe handle) Tonight's IEEE Central Coast Section tech talk by Dr. Yufei Ding of UCSB Cover image for Tiya Miles' 'All that She Carried'
Book introductions: Rachel Ignotofsky is a California-based best-selling author and illustrator Cartoon: One-hundred-year-old celebrating the pay-off of his student loans Komodo dragons, the biggest lizards on Earth, fighting over territory in Indonesia (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Life always finds a way, even after we give up hope. [Top center] Tonight's IEEE CCS tech talk by Dr. Yufei Ding (see the next item below). [Top right] Tiya Miles' All that She Carried (see the last item below). [Bottom left] Book introductions: Rachel Ignotofsky is a California-based best-selling author & illustrator. Here are cover images and sample pages from two of her books. [Bottom center] Cartoon of the day: One-hundred-year-old celebrating the pay-off of his student loans. [Bottom right] Not a scene from "Jurassic Park": Komodo dragons, the biggest lizards on Earth, fighting over territory in Indonesia.
(2) Tonight's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Speaking under the title "Full-stack System Optimization for Quantum Computing," Dr. Yufei Ding (UCSB CS/ECE) presented her team's interesting work, which is contributing to the second quantum revolution, the transition from quantum theory to quantum engineering or practical quantum computing. Along this path, we need methodologies for transferring the knowledge we have gained in building classical computing systems to the new context. Examples of gaps to be filled include general compiler support with efficient qubit mapping, domain-specific compiler designs enabled by new intermediate representations, design flow for quantum accelerators, and automatic surface code synthesis for fault-tolerant quantum computing. Award for Excellence in High Performance Computing (2019), NCSU Computer Science Outstanding Dissertation Award (2018), NCSU Computer Science Outstanding Research Award (2016), and Distinguished Paper Award at OOPLSA (2020).
[IEEE CCS event page] [Speaker's personal Web page] [IEEE CCS Technical Talks page]
(3) Book review: Miles, Tiya, All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake, unabridged 9-hour audiobook, read by Janina Edwards, Random House Audio, 2021.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is more-or-less a conventional book on the horrors of slavery, but with a twist: Its narrative is informed by a cloth sack, now held at the National Museum of African-American History, that was passed on for some 200 years from one generation to the next. The author is a history professor at Harvard U. and a McArthur Foundation "Genius Award" recipient.
It was common for women slaves to have a sack filled with basic necessities, in case they had to depart in a hurry, such as when they were sold. The sack typically contained some clothing and personal items. Miles takes us to the 1850s South Carolina, where an enslaved woman named Rose gave a sack filled with a few precious items to her daughter, Ashley. It was meant as a token of love and a way of ensuring her daughter's survival. Soon after, Ashley, 9, was sold, and, decades later, her granddaughter, Ruth, embroidered a brief version of this family history on the sack.
Women slaves, and black women more generally, have a faint presence in archival records, so pursuing the history of this remarkable sack provides Miles with an opening to reveal some of the missing passages in our country's history. What emerges from this retelling of the history of slavery is a new appreciation for the resilience and love passed down through generations of black women, using their creativity and resourcefulness to overcome incredible barriers and steep odds.
Here is a one-hour C-SPAN book interview with Tiya Miles.

2022/07/19 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
My Tuesday, July 19, 2022, day-trip to Olvers Street in Los Angeles: Batch 3 of photos My Tuesday, July 19, 2022, day-trip to Olvers Street in Los Angeles: Batch 4 of photos My Tuesday, July 19, 2022, day-trip to Olvers Street in Los Angeles: Batch 5 of photos
My Tuesday, July 19, 2022, day-trip to Olvers Street in Los Angeles: Batch 6 of photos My Tuesday, July 19, 2022, day-trip to Olvers Street in Los Angeles: Batch 7 of photos My Tuesday, July 19, 2022, day-trip to Olvers Street in Los Angeles: Batch 8 of photos (1) My day-trip to Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles: Conveniently located across the street from Union Station West, the historic Olvera Street, with its Mexican Marketplace, unique restaurants, and other attractions, is worth a visit. I had allowed too much time, though, given that two key attractions (Museum of Social Justice and Avila Adobe, the oldest house in Los Angeles, dating back to 1818) were closed.
I ended up spending the final two hours of my visit at Union Station, where there were no electrical outlets to charge my drained cell phone (what looked like outlets had keyholes, perhaps accessible only to the cleaning crew). Amazingly, both of the nearby Starbucks Coffee Shops were outlet-free as well! I definitely need a high-capacity external cell-phone battery for such occasions, not to mention a hard-copy book in my backpack! Fortunately, my train had electrical outlets and WiFi, so I did a few Facebook posts about the trip and also got some work done during the 3-hour return trip.
Besides Olvera Street [2-minute video], I also walked in some areas of downtown, including China Town, with its quaint food and merchandise markets. Multiple street musicians performed on Olvera Street and surrounding spaces. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3] [Video 4]
One down side of my visit was the heartbreaking sight of the many tents erected by the homeless along city streets. Another shock was my encounter with a screaming young man and a weeping young woman (unrelated individuals, perhaps mentally disturbed, who were being attended to by the station security). I was also disappointed that I could not eat at any of the area's unique restaurants, because they were jam-packed, with barely a foot of spacing between diners.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- I so look forward to DeSantis and Trump going at each other in a Republican primary!
- US tech unemployment rate of 1.8% is half of the general figure (down from 2.1% in May).
- One of the finest examples of a smart, cool interviewee facing a dumb questioner.
- Today's top story: Nobody did anything about anything that you wanted them to do something about. [NYer]
(3) A mother, whose daughter was arrested by Iran's morality police, tries to block the police van: Shades of Tiananmen Square, except that the Chinese soldiers actually stopped the tanks.
(4) The new Editor-in-Chief of Communications of the ACM: This month, James "Jim" Larus, Professor & former Dean of the School of Computer and Communication Sciences at EPFL and a former director at Microsoft Research, will begin a 5-year term as the EIC of ACM's flagship publication, succeeding Andrew Chien.
(5) Healthcare in the US: An unintended consequence of the reversal of Roe-v.-Wade is an increase in health insurance premiums to counteract an expected rise in high-risk pregnancies & abortion complications.
(6) Renewable (green) energy: Past efforts to coax geothermal energy from hot, dry rock deep underground have faltered. But new techniques could crack the problem.
(7) France introduces research integrity oath: The new oath is expected to become mandatory for researchers in all fields beginning their PhDs or renewing their PhD enrollment, starting in fall 2022.

2022/07/17 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The Al-Naslaa rock in Tayma Oasis of Saudi Arabia The Kailasa Temple at the Ellora Caves, Maharashtra, India Unusual naturally-occurring Mushroom Rock in Algeria
AI does recycling: Computer-vision systems can sort your recyclables at super-human speed Very small family gathering on Saturday: Afternoon walk, followed by dinner at my sister's 'Computer Report' ('Gozaresh-e Computer'), the journal/magazine of Informatics Society of Iran, enters 44th year of publication (1) Images of the day: [Top left] The Al-Naslaa rock in Tayma Oasis of Saudi Arabia: No one knows how the perfectly-straight cut happened in this 4000-year-old natural wonder. [Top center] The Kailasa Temple: This remarkable mid-700s CE structure is the largest of 34 Buddhist, Jain, and Hindu cave temples/monasteries at the Ellora Caves, Maharashtra, India. [Top right] Unusual naturally-occurring Mushroom Rock in Algeria: The unique shape of such "pedestal rocks" is due to weathering and different rates of wind erosion at the rock's top and bottom parts. [Bottom left] AI does recycling: Computer-vision systems can sort your recyclables at super-human speed, according to the cover feature of IEEE Spectrum magazine. [Bottom center] Very small family gathering on Saturday 7/16: Afternoon walk, followed by dinner. [Bottom right] Computer Report (Gozaresh-e Computer), the journal/magazine of Informatics Society of Iran, enters 44th year of publication.
(2) IEEE provides library STEM activity kits that can be checked out like books: Using the kits, children can build robots, write code, and design video games.
(3) ACM podcast on wearable computing: Special guest host Scott Hanselman (of The Hanselminutes Podcast) welcomes entrepreneur, researcher, and hacker Charu Thomas (Founder & CEO of Ox).
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Diabetics rejoice: A breath test for blood-glucose level monitoring is 90% accurate.
- Government report: Women make up less than 30% of US federal STEM employees.
- Iranian researcher discusses the admissibility of temporary marriage in exchange for free rent.
- Art: Drawing the four-season tree. [4-minute video]
- Futuristic vision of firefighting in dense cities with high-rise buildings. [1-minute video]
- A most-impressive rally in beach volleyball. [1-minute video]
(5) Russia is no friend to Iran: After his country sabotaged Iran's nuclear talks in Vienna by making demands that were outside the scope of the negotiations, the Russian ambassador to Iran said that the two countries are fighting in the same bunker against the evil West, whose only goal is to bring abhorrent behavior such as homosexuality to Iran.
(6) Iran's state media report on a lecture by Masih Alinejad, depicting her as the devil: An entire regime is up in arms against a woman who advocates for women's rights. To deflect attention from the country's dire economic and social conditions, the mullahs have taken the hijab fight to Iranian streets, pitting the veiled against those who oppose compulsory hijab. [#No2Hijab]
(7) The priorities of Iran's Islamic regime: Nuclear scientists are assassinated, key military equipment are blown up, and women are sprayed with acid, with the culprits still unknown. A woman takes off her headscarf in the morning, and she is identified & arrested in a city of 10 million later on the same day!
[Iran's new clothing directive for women] [The new directive side-by-side with one from the 1980s; Competing with the Taliban in marching backwards on women's rights]
(8) Police inaction: Scathing report details how lack of leadership caused ~400 police officers to wait rather than act to save the 21 victims on the Uvalde school mass shooting.
(9) Europe and parts of the US are bracing for extreme heat: Northern Europe will be most-severely affected due to inexperience and lack of preparation for 40+ C temperatures.

2022/07/15 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of Chanda Prescod-Weinstein's 'The Disordered Cosmos' Chart: Countries that spend way less than the US on health care achieve higher life expectancies China's Pompeii: Skeletons, from 2000 BCE, of a mother trying to shield her child during a major earthquake that triggered massive floods
Iranian woman burning her headscarf in protest to mandatory hijab laws Islamic propaganda: Stairways to Heaven and Hell for women with and without Islamic attire Iranian women have stepped up their opposition to mandatory hijab laws through civil disobedience (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Chanda Prescod-Weinstein's The Disordered Cosmos (see the last item below). [Top center] Countries that spend way less than the US on health care achieve higher life expectancies. Time to change? [Top right] China's Pompeii: Skeletons, from 2000 BCE, of a mother trying to shield her child during a major earthquake that triggered massive floods. [Bottom row] Iran's Islamic regime has intensified its brutal enforcement of compulsory hijab laws: Women have also stepped up their opposition by taking their headscarves off in public places, burning their hijabs, and participating in other acts of civil disobedience.
(2) The problem with a patriarchal culture is that its misogynistic beliefs poison even the minds of writers and other "intellectuals." To Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, "Woman means reproduction, beauty, and marriage."
(3) I will be a keynote speaker at the 12th International Conference on Computer and Knowledge Engineering (ICCKE 2022), a mid-November virtual conference organized by Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran. Title and abstract are in this image. Other details will be forthcoming.
(4) Book review: Prescod-Weinstein, Chanda, The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred, unabridged 11-hour audiobook, read by Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Bold Type Books, 2021.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is a wonderful book, with a few shortcomings; hence, my 4-star review. The book isn't just about physics. It is also an autobiography of the author and contains her musings on the social significance and consequences of doing science, including obstacles faced by the underprivileged who want to become scientists. The book's shortcomings pertain to the way in which concepts of physics are described in the first quarter of the book. Far from putting complicated notions of cosmology into everyday language, the author simply uses jargon and hand-waving in her exposition.
She presents herself as a theoretical physicist, who, as a child, terrorized her single mother by persistently asking questions. She tells us that, just as matter comes in phases, with a phase transition occurring, e.g., when water changes from liquid to solid or to vapor, she too has undergone phase transitions in her life, from a black girl, who loved but did not understand particle physics, to a black woman who is one of the chosen few to understand how much we don't understand particle physics. She wrote the book to convey her love for science and the difficulties someone like her faces to hang on to that love.
Science, we usually think, is the ultimate equalizer. There is no such thing as White science or Black science. Christian science, or Jewish science, or Islamic science. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth. Science itself may not be racist or elitist, but the sociocultural systems that support scientific practice are discriminatory; they are racist and sexist. "Physics and math classrooms are not only scenes of cosmology ... but also scenes of society, complete with all of the problems that follow society wherever it goes."
The author, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy and a core faculty member in the Department of Women's and Gender Studies at U. New Hampshire, elaborates on the exclusionary culture of physics, which has been quite harsh on her, the first Jewish queer agender Black woman to become a theoretical cosmologist and the first Black woman ever to earn a PhD in the subject. I started the book with some misgivings about the potential for the author watering down the science to make room for social issues in a single volume, but I emerged a great deal more informed about obstacles, deliberately and inadvertently placed, on the paths of many people like her.
The author's struggles in reaching the top of her discipline made her more aware of the plight of undervalued and underserved people, because "part of science is emptying the garbage. ... Learning about the mathematics of the universe could never be an escape from the earthly phenomena of racism and sexism." She was hesitant to share a very private part of her life, but she eventually decided that "Rape is a part of science and a book that tells the truth about science would be a lie if I were to leave out this chapter."
One cannot study the physical world without confronting the social world. We must face the privileged stories of science head-on. The author considers Black slave women, who looked up at the night sky in awe and navigated the stars to freedom, as much her intellectual ancestors as Isaac Newton.
I end my review by presenting an overview of the book's contents, structured in four phases and 14 chapters.
Phase 1 (Chs. 1-4): Just the Physics; where the universe is for a time human-free.
Phase 2 (Chs. 5-7): Physics and the Chosen Few; certain controlling humans want to decide who studies theoretical physics.
Phase 3 (Chs. 8-11): The Trouble with Physicists; there's the universe and there's the very human process of developing a mathematical understanding of it.
Phase 4 (Chs. 12-14): All Our Galactic Relations; can we situate ourselves collectively and humanely in the universe?

2022/07/14 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iranian men are supporting women's demands for their rights more than ever Iran's next Kaveh (a heroic Shahnameh figure who saved Iran) will be a women Space telescope humor!
Tuesday's guided walk/tour of Goleta's Storke Ranch: Batch 1 of photos Tuesday's guided walk/tour of Goleta's Storke Ranch: Batch 2 of photos Tuesday's guided walk/tour of Goleta's Storke Ranch: Batch 3 of photos (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Iranian men are supporting women's demands for their rights more than ever. [Top center] According to Shahnameh, Kaveh the Blacksmith saved Iran from the tyranny of Zahhak. Iran's next savior will be a woman, carrying her headscarf as a flag and joyously eliminating the Zahhak of our time. [Top right] Space telescope humor! [Bottom row] Tuesday's guided walk/tour of Goleta's Storke Ranch: Located on Storke Road, across the street from UCSB North Campus Open Space, the partially developed former ranch has a nature preserve that features vernal pools. The pools are dry during summer/fall, so I plan to go back in spring and/or winter to see the area buzzing with life.
(2) Hamid Nouri sentenced to life in prison: A Swedish court exerts its international war-crimes authority over one of the key players in the mass-execution of Iranian prisoners in the late 1980s.
(3) Trump and Meadows are in deep legal trouble: The man with a "big brain" and "good genes" is, through his lawyers and close advisers, blaming his erratic behavior on "the crazies" surrounding him at the WH. But, as Liz Cheney put it, he is an old man, not an impressionable child, and must be held accountable for his actions.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ivana Trump, the Czech-born first wife of Donald Trump, dead at 73: Cause of death may have been a fall.
- Humor: Mimicking how a few politicians walk! [1-minute video]
- Quote: "The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." ~ Plato
- My daughter's quiche and flat-bread pizza. [Photos]
- Math puzzle: Prove that adding the terms (n^3)/(2^n), for integer values of n from 1 to infinity, yields 26.
- Explain the following pattern: 1^3 = 1;   2^3 = 3 + 5;   3^3 = 7 + 9 + 11;   4^3 = 13 + 15 + 17 + 19
(5) Tonight's Talangor Group Zoom meeting: After a short program on "The Megatons to Megawatts Program" (using retired nuclear warhead material for energy production), presented by Mr. Hamid Shirazi, I talked about "Data Abuse & Tech Divide: Ethical Considerations, Social Impacts, and Policies" (both in Persian).
I began by warning the audience that moral and social problems do not have unique answers, as they are tied to personal beliefs and political leanings, so I am presenting my views regarding these problems, with the hopes of making others think about them. If you disagree with some of my viewpoints, we have a Q&A segment at the end where alternate views can be aired. Better yet, I encourage, indeed challenge, you to make your own presentation on these topics in a future meeting.
Big data is being pushed by the tech industry as the cure to all technical and social ills. Data, big or small, is indeed quite useful in many domains, including understanding genetic and other diseases based on analyzing vast amounts of data collected from patients. The same genetic information, however, can be abused if it falls into the hands of health and life insurance companies (denial of coverage, exorbitant premiums). Surveillance economy, consumer protection, engineering/technology ethics, amplification of biases by AI & ML, fake news, bogus product/service reviews, and digital slavery are among other dangers.
We are all familiar with wealth and income gaps, which are generally viewed as detrimental to the economic health of nations. Tech gap/divide, including its specific instances of information gap and digital gap, can also be problematic. In today's information-based economies, broad and fair access to information and associated technologies are key prerequisites to prosperity and justice. Setting up the needed public infrastructures and regulatory frameworks is an important function of governments. Other topics I touched upon included technological literacy (techeracy), digital natives vs. digital immigrants, and the dangers of leaving a segment of our society in digital dark ages.
[Slides for today's talk] [Recording of the talk] [Recording of my previous talk on AI] [Image

2022/07/12 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
First full-scale images from the James Webb Space Telescope put Hubble images to shame Conversation on the quantum world: A Caltech public lecture
Iran's judiciary has begun a very strict enforcement of compulsory hijab laws: Meme 1 Iran's judiciary has begun a very strict enforcement of compulsory hijab laws: Meme 2 Cover image of Wil Wheaton's 'Still Just a Geek' (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] First full-scale images from the James Webb Space Telescope put Hubble images to shame (side-by-side comparison). [Top right] Conversation on the quantum world (see the next item below). [Bottom left & center] Iran's judiciary has begun a strict enforcement of hijab laws: It is referring the matter to intelligence agencies, implying that women's movement in opposition to hijab is led by foreign agents. A woman opposing misogynistic hijab laws was sentenced to 24 years in prison, twice as long as a billion-dollar swindler. [Bottom right] Wil Wheaton's Still Just a Geek (see the last item below).
(2) "Conversations on the Quantum World: Why Space Isn't What You Think It Is": This was the title of today's discussion by theoretical physicist Kathryn M. Zurek and experimental physicist Rana X. Adhikari, in the framework of Caltech's public lecture series. Science writer Whitney Clavin moderated the discussion.
It has been said by several prominent physicists that the fraction of those who understand quantum mechanics is tiny, even among physicists! So, I may be forgiven to try to gain an understanding of this intriguing topic every chance I get.
Today's focus was on quantum gravity. By now, we have a good understanding of spacetime and how gravity causes it to curve, thus affecting the behavior of objects and beings. An important question is whether spacetime is continuous or quantized. Take the analogy of a digital picture. Even though it may appear continuous at first glance, a sufficiently-magnified version will reveal the pixels. Could the universe itself be pixelated or quantized? Today's speakers discussed how they use innovative instrumentation and approaches to unify the microscopic world of quantum physics with the macroscopic world of gravity.
This kind of unification, that is, coming up with "a theory of everything," is the holy grail of physics research. Before quantum mechanics came along, we had a nice, unified model of the world. Now, quantum mechanics explains everything, except for gravity. So, it's more than a matter of mere curiosity to try to unify quantum effects with gravity. Physicists working in the field of quantum gravity aim for such a unification.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- One euro = One dollar: Parity between the currency units has been reached for the first time in 20 years.
- Trump attacks his staunch defender Elon Musk, after the billionaire tries to annul his bid to take over Twitter.
- The most-amazing camouflage: Here's a butterfly that looks like a dry leaf when it closes its wings.
- Surface tension at work: You can put a lot of liquid on a penny before any of it spills.
- Math puzzle: Prove that the sum of 1/sqrt(k), for integer values of k from 1 to 80, is between 16 and 17.
(4) Here's the latest musing by apologists for Iran's brutal Islamic regime: Repression and violence are the works of spies/agents who have infiltrated the government to damage its reputation!
(5) Book review: Wheaton, Wil, Still Just a Geek: An Annotated Memoir, unabridged 24-hour audiobook, read by the author, HarperAudio, 2022. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
In this sequel to his 2004 book, Just a Geek, Wil Wheaton, celebrated actor from "Stand by Me," "Star Trek," and "The Big Bang Theory," tackles mental health face-on. Wheaton has charted a career course unlike anyone else, and has emerged as one of the most-popular and well-respected names in science fiction, fantasy, and pop culture.
On May 25, 2022, I attended a UCLA Semel Institute webinar in which Wheaton talked about his new book in conversation with Katrina L. DeBonis, MD. Wheaton began by acknowledging that he felt uneasy promoting his book, as our nation reeled from the second mass-shooting in less than a week. I was so impressed by Wheaton's eloquence, compassion, and openness that I decided to read his book.
In his new book, equal parts funny and poignant, Wheaton opens up about love, his mental health challenges of depression, anxiety, trauma, confronting tragedy, and the worst parts of himself, while celebrating all the strange, awful, and beautiful adventures in between. Wheaton relates that he has come to accept that his dad never loved him (regularly humiliating him in front of others and laughing in his face) and that his mom placed him in a co-dependent relationship to satisfy her own ambitions.
Wheaton became a drunk to escape, later seeking therapy. He really could not talk to his parents, so he put his feelings in an e-mail to them. The e-mail went unanswered for months. He then decided that, even though not having parents sucks and leaves a hole in one's life, he would be better off without his parents. He was lucky to have a support network, including his wife, his sister, and adult cast members of "Star Trek" for love and guidance.
Wheaton's final advice is that even though recovering from mental-health challenges is hard work, you are absolutely worth the effort. You deserve to feel happy, to feel the sun on your face, and to experience love. It is important for traumatized individuals to work on themselves and their parenting skills to break the cycle of generational trauma. It's also important to do what you love. Wheaton himself gave up acting and the entertainment industry to become a writer and story-teller.

2022/07/11 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Book intro: 'Iranian Masculinities: Gender and Sexuality in Late Qajar and Early Pahlavi Iran' I finally got started on a project to organize my books by subject category
Iran's Lake Urmia faces certain death: Rampant mismanagement of water resources has shrunk the lake over the past two decades Is Iran's Islamic regime truly misogynistic or is it using restrictions on women to deflect attention from its many failures? Iranian women, and their male supporters, have had it with 43 years of oppression, one of whose most-visible symbols is the compulsory hijab (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Book intro: Balslev, Sivan, Iranian Masculinities: Gender and Sexuality in Late Qajar and Early Pahlavi Iran, Cambridge U. Press, 2019 (also available in Persian). [Top right] I finally got started on a project to organize my books by subject category: The project, which also involves getting rid of unneeded books and merging my books kept at home and at work, will take a few months to complete. [Bottom left] Iran's Lake Urmia faces certain death: Rampant mismanagement of water resources has shrunk the lake over the past two decades (image credit: @IranianPlateau). [Bottom center & right] Hot topic of the day: Is Iran's Islamic government truly misogynistic or does it focus on arresting & punishing women for "improper hijab" to deflect attention from its utter domestic and international failures?
(2) Bahar Choir's International Unit: Arash Fouladvand's Bahar Choir, which is Paris-based, has been spreading its wings. It is forming a North-American Unit and it has an International Unit, which you see in this on-line performance of "Noushin Laban." [5-minute video]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Russia gets military assistance: Iran will send hundreds of armed drones to Russia for use in Ukraine.
- Prince vs. spy: The Saudi spymaster who fled to the West after he was targeted by MBS. [14-minute video]
- California inferno at Yosemite National Park threatens some of the world's oldest trees.
- The life story of a lesbian Iranian volleyball player/referee who was forced into exile. [Video]
- Sri Lankans enjoy the amenities in their president's & PM's residences, after taking them over in protest.
- A new campaign against compulsory hijab & the brutal treatment of Iranian women by the morality police.
- It's never too late to learn: Musings of a man who taught himself calculus at age 65.
- Physics, mathematics, and symmetry: Laws of nature in action. [2-minute video]
- Math oddity: You probably think that π = 3.14159...; Here's a proof that π = 1.
- Ballet of arms: Sadeck Waff's paralympics choreography and another one for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
(4) The next IEEE CCS tech talk: Prof. Yufei Ding (UCSB) will speak on "Full Stack System Optimization for Quantum Computing," Wed. July 20, 2022, 6:00 PM PDT, Rusty's Pizza on Calle Real, Goleta. [Register]
(5) On forming new words: In English, and some other Western languages, Latin & Greek constructs are used to form many new words. For example, the Greek prefix "tele-" is used in forming "television," "telephone," "telecommunications," "teleconferencing," and "telework." Other versatile prefixes used in English scientific terms include "micro-," "inter-," "ultra-," "hyper-," "meta-,"and "hemi-." Not all languages are lucky enough to have access to such simple extension modes. For example, in Persian, the prefix "door" ("far") has been used in "doorkari" ("telework") and "doorbin" ("camera," "binoculars"), but it isn't useful for other combinations.
(6) The return of supersonic passenger jets: Twenty years after the Concorde was grounded, start-ups and NASA are working on planes flying faster than the speed of sounds. [14-minute video]
(7) Scary analogy: Trump's 2020 coup attempt was like Al Qaeda's failed attempt to blow up WTC with an explosives-laden van. The second time, they came back with planes and succeeded. The planes are analogs of secretaries of state and other election officials Trump is helping install in battleground states. [Credit: Bill Mahr]
(8) If you do not raise your voice when they oppress or harass your fellow-citizens, others may not be supportive when they come for you: Mostafa Tajzadeh, the pro-regime filmmaker, who covered up or or justified Khamenei's crimes, has been arrested in Iran, along with a number of other artists, including two other filmmakers, Mohammad Rasoulof & Jafar Panahi.

2022/07/10 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Saturday's triple-celebration of my niece's birthday, 4th of July (belated), and the said niece's announcement of expecting a baby These three girls from Netherlands, who visited Iran, were told that the country requires girls to wear headscarves All set for a few days: Results of my own meal-prep night on Friday and leftovers (bottom right) from the family gathering on Saturday
Talk by Dr. Sirous Yasseri on transition to renewable energy: Batch 3 of slides Talk by Dr. Sirous Yasseri on transition to renewable energy: Batch 2 of slides Talk by Dr. Sirous Yasseri on transition to renewable energy: Batch 4 of slides (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Saturday's triple-celebration of my niece's birthday, 4th of July (belated, with the requisite BBQ), and the said niece's announcement of expecting a baby boy in January 2023. Congrats! [Top center] These three girls from Netherlands, who visited southwestern Iran, were told that the country requires girls to wear headscarves! [Top right] All set for a few days: Results of my own meal-prep night on Friday and leftovers (bottom right) from the family gathering on Saturday. [Bottom row] Talk by Dr. Sirous Yasseri on transition to renewable energy (see the last item below).
(2) Iranians just celebrated Eid Al-Adha (Eid-e Ghorban), an Islamic festival, with rituals that encourage cruelty to animals, as they are sacrificed on the streets. [Meme]
(3) Let's put today's ridiculously-high gas prices in perspective: We can drive 33% longer distance in 2022 with the same fraction of our income as we did 60 years ago! [Tweet]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Persian piano music, played by Fariborz Lachini. [Dar Fekr] [Del Yar] [Jan-e Maryam] [Niloufar]
- Facebook memory from July 8, 2019: Greatness is never achieved by servitude and idol-worship. [Photos]
- Facebook memory from July 8, 2017: A man's most-basic need is the company of an intelligent woman.
- Facebook memory from July 8, 2014: Young Iranian girls chart their path around restrictions. [Photo]
- Facebook memory from July 8, 2011: Tahereh Ghor'ratol-eyn, 19th-century feminist and poet extraordinaire.
- Facebook memory from July 9, 2014: Remember the World Cup when Germany humiliated Brazil 7-1?
- Facebook memory from July 10, 2020: The day when Donald Trump said something 0.01 times!
- Facebook memory from July 10, 2010: A memorable night with old-time friends in Brentwood, California.
(5) "The Geopolitics of Energy and Transition from Fossil Fuels to Renewable and Clean Energy": This was the title of a two-part presentation in Persian by Dr. Sirous Yasseri (Brunel U.), in the framework of the Zoom gatherings of the 1968 graduates of Tehran U. College of Engineering (Fanni'68). Today's attendance was 21.
Part 1 of the presentation on June 5 was devoted to oil & gas, including the attendant transportation and market considerations. Here is a link to my Facebook post on Part 1.
Dr. Yasseri began by presenting an overview of various existing and forthcoming options for renewable energy. Solar energy is tapped in two ways. Direct methods (converting solar energy to electricity by photovoltaic cells) and indirect methods (heating water or other substances and converting the resulting thermal energy to electricity). The cost of photovoltaic cells has been plummeting in recent years. China is a major manufacturer of these cells. Wind energy is generated by two different turbine types: horizontal axis (what we are used to seeing on wind farms) and vertical axis (a new scheme being pursued, which may have a bright future). Various methods of tapping into geothermal energy were also discussed. Some people consider nuclear energy among renewable sources, but there is some disagreement in this regard. If we include nuclear energy, about 15% of today's world energy comes from renewable sources, so we have a long way to go in cutting our dependence on fossil fuels. In the final segment of his presentation, Dr. Yasseri pointed to the dependence of the renewable-energy industry on certain hard-to-get elements, including lithium for batteries and rare earths for electronics and other high-tech uses.
During the Q&A period, I offered several questions and comments. I pointed to the notion of "green premium," which is the incremental cost of green energy relative to existing options. If oil-based energy costs us $x per kW-hr and solar energy costs $1.5x, say, the extra 50% cost is a penalty we have to pay to use green energy today. The problem is that in computing the green premium, the eventual costs of cleaning-up the environment and combatting global warming are not included. We pollute and defer the clean-up responsibility to future generations. Oil companies invest a lot of money in promoting this way of thinking and they buy politicians through campaign contributions to oppose additional investments in clean energy. In spite of these dishonest methods, the green premium for most kinds of renewable energy sources has been coming down and, in a few instances, the green premium has turned negative. Those who point to the high current cost of green energy purposely leave out the fact that if we do nothing, fossil fuel prices will rise as supplies dwindle, so we will be paying higher prices regardless, either today, via investing in clean energy, or tomorrow, in the form of higher fuel prices. Oil companies are following in the footsteps of tobacco companies, which for decades, denied that cigarettes cause cancer, and gun manufacturers, who still insist that easy availability of guns has nothing to do with the gun violence epidemic in the US. I also offered some comments about energy storage options, which, used in conjunction with a global or multiple regional grids, can solve the problem of unsteady supplies in the case of solar or wind energy. This kind of undertaking may be considered too expensive now, but necessity (mother of invention) and proper incentives will unleash the creativity of the private sector toward solving the technical and economic problems, much like what led to Space-X deploying many thousands of satellites to provide seamless Internet coverage worldwide.

2022/07/08 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Stay tuned for 'UCSB Read 2023' book selection An evening with master-pianist/composer Anoushirvan Rohani Meme: Why haven't the rich & powerful people who visited Epstein's private island to rape children been charged yet?
The majestic Mount Damavand in north-central Iran, entirely covered with snow Cover image of 'Santa Barbara Independent' The Moon, as it emerges from behind Mount Sabalan (northwestern Iran) and moves up in the sky (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Stay tuned for "UCSB Read 2023" book selection (see the next item below). [Top center] An evening with Anoushirvan Rohani (see the last item below). [Top right] Meme of the day: Many rich and powerful people visited Epstein's private island, where they paid to rape children. Who are they and why no one has been charged yet? [Bottom left] The majestic Mount Damavand in north-central Iran, entirely covered with snow (elev. 5609 m = 18,403 ft). [Bottom center] How a Santa Barbara mathematician beat the casinos: Dr. Eliot Richardson, the card-counting expert, who was banned from a wide array of casinos before switching sides and becoming a consultant for the casino industry, reflects on a one-of-a-kind career. [Bottom right] The Moon emerging from behind Mount Sabalan (northwestern Iran) and moving up in the sky.
(2) "UCSB Reads 2023" program short-list of books: The following 5 titles are being read by the program's Advisory Committee members for in-depth discussion and final selection in our August 8, 2022, meeting. If you have an opinion on any of these titles, I'd be delighted to hear from you.
- All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley's Sack, a Black Family Keepsake, Tiya Miles (2021)
- The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and ..., Chanda Prescod-Weinstein (2021)
- Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America, Marcia Chatelain (2020)
- Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design, Charles Montgomery (2013)
- There, There, Tommy Orange (2019)
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- British prime minister Boris Johnson resigns under the threat of an upcoming vote of no-confidence.
- Former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe assassinated by a lone gunman during a speech.
- European Parliament condemns US abortion ruling: Vows to protect abortion as a basic right in Europe.
- A seemingly-impossible math puzzle involving 100 prisoners strategizing to get free. [Statement] [Solution]
- Did you know that the Persian word for engineering ("mohandessi") appears in a Khaghani verse? [Tweet]
- History of Engineering in Iran: Book by Dr. Mehdi Farshad (Gooyesh Publications, 1983). [Free PDF]
- I keep getting these affirmations about my sense of humor, but my children remain unimpressed! [Image]
(4) Thursday night's Talangor Group event: The Zoom meeting, beginning at 6:45 PM, was supposed to have master-pianist/composer Anoushirvan Rohani as the guest for the introductory short program and a talk by Farmarz Ghaffari entitled "Forough, the Hafez of Our Time" for the main event.
The short 15-minute program ended up taking 135 minutes due to audience enthusiasm, necessitating postponement of the talk about Forough Farrokhzad. Rohani talked a bit about his 500+ compositions, many of them standards of Persian music (only about half of these compositions have been recorded). He played a few samples of his work, including the very famous birthday song and a number of other classics.
Rohani then answered questions from the audience, most of whom related personal memories from meeting or otherwise interacting with him on various social occasions ot growing up listening to his music. I shot a couple of samples (Video 1; Video 2) from Rohani's piano music, but the Zoom quality does not do justice to his performance. You can find many samples of Rohani's music on his Web site, which also includes photos and a store where you can buy books and sheet music.
Next week, Thursday, July 14, 2022, 6:45 PM, I will be the main speaker of the event, talking about "Data Abuse & Tech Divide: Ethical Considerations, Social Impacts, and Policies."

2022/07/06 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Working/relaxing at Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace Starbucks on the Fourth of July New Yorker cartoon: Happy Fifth of July! Walking in Isla Vista this afternoon (1) Images of the day: [Left] Working/relaxing at Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace Starbucks on July 4th. [Center] New Yorker cartoon of the day: Happy Fifth of July! [Right] Walking in Isla Vista this afternoon.
(2) America in black & white: A 22-year-old white man, who killed 6 and injured dozens in a Chicago mass-shooting on Fourth of July, was arrested without incident. A 25-year-old unarmed black motorist died from 60+ bullet wounds inflicted by 8 Ohio police officers in the aftermath of a traffic stop.
(3) At the Highland Park July 4 mass shooting, a 2-year-old boy lost both of his parents: Damn those who, by their inaction, allow these tragedies to recur! [NPR story]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Police brutality: Black man killed by the police had 60 bullet wounds on his body.
- Scary thought: Texts and Web searches about abortion have already been used to prosecute women.
- Math challenge: Evaluate the expression (1 + 2007^4 + 2008^4)/(1 + 2007^2 + 2008^2)
- Pianist with amazing skills, playing with passion: Michael Jackson's "Beat It" [3-minute video]
- Some celebrities turning 60, 70, or 80 in June/July 2022. [Image]
- Persian music by Fattaneh, along with the story behind her popularity and rise to fame. [Facebook post]
- Persian music: "Mast-e Eshgh," a jazzy song by Rana Farhan, based on a poem by Mowlavi (Rumi).
- Facebook memory from July 5, 2020: Video for the oldie Persian song "Mast-e Esgh" ("Drunk on Love").
- Facebook memory from July 5, 2012: Americans are heaviest. Guess the next four overweight countries.
- Facebook memory from July 5, 2011: A challenging math/probability problem.
- Facebook memory from July 6, 2017: A wonderful Persian verse by Sa'eb Tabrizi.
- Facebook memory from July 6, 2015: Separation of Church and State is good for both of them.
- Facebook memory from July 6, 2013: Happy International Kissing Day!
- Facebook memory from July 6, 2013: Unfair attacks on Forough Farrokhzad have made her super-popular.
- Facebook memory from July 6, 2010: Selected verses from a Persian poem by Mowlavi (Rumi).
(5) Book review: Roach, Mary, Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, unabridged audiobook on 7 CDs, read by Emily Woo Zeller, Tantor Audio, 2013. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
(6) Book review: Stone, Brad, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, unabridged audiobook on 11 CDs, read by Pete Larkin, Hachette Audio, 2013. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
(7) Book review: Silverman, Sarah, The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee, unabridged 6-hour audiobook, read by the author, Harper Audio, 2010. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
(8) Industrial-strength 3D-printing makes headway in aerospace, defense, and medical applications: The US is poised to lead in 3D-printing technology and can use it to boost a resurgence of American manufacturing.
(9) "The science of making work not suck": This is the title of an article in the latest 'Adam Grant Thinks Again Bulletin.' Grant is the author of the wonderful book Think Again and host of the TED podcast WorkLife.

2022/07/04 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy birthday to America: Celebrating the freedoms that our forefathers fought hard to secure for us and other generations since then sacrificed to maintain Observing America's birthday is an excellent occasion for reflecting on our relationship with the original owners of this land Cover image of Marcia Chatelain's 'Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America'
Cartoon: The US Supreme Court's Tiananmen Square The average American has visited only 5 of these interesting places Cartoon  from a San Diego paper: Dedicated to my readers in Australia! (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Happy birthday to America: On this day, we celebrate the freedoms that our forefathers fought hard to secure for us and other generations since then sacrificed to maintain. We do not celebrate our flag, but the ideals that are behind it. We do not celebrate our military might, but how it is used to safeguard our freedoms and help others protect theirs. There is a reason that Lady Liberty is holding a torch and not a gun! [Top center] Observing America's birthday is an excellent occasion for reflecting on our relationship with the original owners of this land. [Top right] Marcia Chatelain's Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America (see the last item below). [Bottom left] Cartoon: The US Supreme Court's Tiananmen Square. [Bottom center] The average American has visited only 5 of these interesting places. [Bottom right] Cartoon from a San Diego newspaper: Dedicated to my readers in Australia!
(2) Women's independence: As we celebrate our country gaining its independence, half of our society is mourning a gradual taking away of its independence! Let's show that the other half is with them!
(3) Updated and reposted from July 4, 2016: Our country was born 246 years ago and I, for one, am grateful for that. America educated me in the early 1970s and later accepted me with open arms in the late 1980s, when my country of birth made life miserable for me and my family as members of a persecuted religious minority. Even though it is becoming increasingly difficult to recognize, from news headlines and campaign speeches, the generous and tolerant nation that took me in, I am still in awe of my fellow Americans for their warmth and compassion in my day-to-day interactions. Here is to the hope that the public face of America returns to matching the private sentiments of the vast majority of Americans!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Simple math fireworks: From a Jan. 2014 paper by R. De Luca & O. Faella in European J. Physics. [Image]
- Facebook memory from July 4, 2015: Visiting an old-time friend in Palo Alto, CA.
- Facebook memory from July 4, 2015: Spending part of the July 4 weekend with the family in Fremont, CA.
- Facebook memory from July 4, 2012: Subversiveness of the US Declaration of Independence & Constitution.
- Facebook memory from July 4, 2012: A Persian poem of mine inspired by "the great white hope."
(5) Book review: Chatelain, Marcia, Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America, unabridged 11-hour audiobook, read by Machelle Williams, HighBridge Audio, 2020.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Fast-food franchises seem an ideal fit to poor black neighborhoods: They provide inexpensive food in areas that have come to be known as "food deserts," youth employment opportunities, and investment vehicles for local entrepreneurs. Yet, the reality is much different from this purely-economic assessment. Obesity and type-2 diabetes epidemics, dead-end jobs, and exploitative relationships between corporate headquarters and franchisees are some of the down sides.
Chatelain, a Georgetown Univ. historian, offers much information about black entrepreneurs & civic leaders, political activism in the form of sit-ins, uprisings, & boycotts, and inequities of white-vs.-black franchises, but her presentation is flawed. The dry, repetitive prose fails to keep the reader's interest. Additionally, there is a lack of theme or focus in much of the book. In the end, it is difficult to write down a summary of the book and pinpoint the author's motivation & objectives for writing it. Even the fundamental question of whether, on balance, the presence of McDonald's, KFC, and several other fast-food franchises has been a positive or negative influence in black neighborhoods remains unanswered.
While the book exposes some of the hidden history of the US Civil Rights Movement, it does not do so in a compelling and coherent way. Yet, the book has won a Pulitzer Prize and has garnered many positive ratings (an average of 4.5 stars on Amazon.com and 3.9 stars on GoodReads)! Perhaps my 3-star rating is a bit too harsh, but, despite my deep interest in race relations and social justice, I had trouble staying awake as I listened to the audiobook!
Here is a 7-minute PBS NewsHour story on the book and the author.

2022/07/03 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos from Friday 7/01 hike with my daughter at Torrey Pines State Natural Preserve in San Diego Fruit plate at my daughter's, after we went shopping and before dining at a Persian restaurant, followed by hiking Sweet memories from family gatherings, collected on the occasion of my niece's birthday
A few Egyptian spoons dating back 3500-4000 years Cover image of 'There There: A Novel,' by Tommy Orange A 1500-year-old cave in India, carved out of a massive rock (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Photos from Friday 7/01 hike with my daughter at Torrey Pines State Natural Preserve in San Diego. And here are some cacti at the Park. [Top center] Fruit plate at my daughter's, after we went shopping and before dining at a Persian restaurant, followed by hiking. [Top right] Sweet memories from family gatherings, collected on the occasion of my niece's birthday. [Bottom left] A few Egyptian spoons dating back 3500-4000 years. [Bottom center] There There: A Novel, by Tommy Orange (see the last item below). [Bottom right] A 1500-year-old cave in India, carved out of a massive rock.
(2) Be safe on this 4th of July: "A statistician made a few calculations and discovered that since the birth of our nation more lives had been lost in celebrating independence than in winning it." ~ Curtis Billings
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Prominent anti-vaxxer, Dr. Vladimir Zelenko, dead at 48.
- Magnitude-6.1 earthquake hits Iran's Persian-Gulf coast, near the Strait of Hormuz.
- Iran continues to persecute Baha'is: Father suffers heart attack, as agents take away his daughter.
- Devastating physical & cyber attacks on sensitive Iranian sites lead to an intelligence chief's ouster.
- Admitting to widespread Internet censorship, Iran's Supreme Leader claims he is doing God's work!
- Looking forward to the next 10 days of fun in the sun! [10-day weather forecast]
- Facebook memory from July 2, 2014: There are no such things as holy rage and pure hate.
- Facebook memory from July 2, 2013: "Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally."
- Facebook memory from July 2, 2012: A very effective exercise for losing weight!
- Facebook memory from July 3, 2014: Summer concert in the park, featuring a Beatles tribute band.
- Facebook memory from July 3, 2011: When my daughter and I visited the UC Berkeley campus.
(4) Kellyanne Conway had to say negative things about some people to boost her book sales: She decided to (partially) diss Kushner and a few small fish, sparing the big fish completely. And no one will feel sorry for her because of being mistreated in the White House.
(5) Book review: Orange, Tommy, There There: A Novel, unabridged 8-hour audiobook, read by Darrell Dennis, Shaun Taylor-Corbett, Alma Ceurvo, and Kyla Garcia, Random House Audio, 2019.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This powerful fictional story, featuring 12 Native-American characters headed separately to Oakland's Powwow (a gathering of Native-American people to meet and dance, sing, socialize, and honor their cultures), tells of the plight of urban American-Indians, who face challenges that are different from, and, in many ways, greater than, those faced by communities living on reservations. Superficially, Native-American experiences resemble those of other marginalized people. African-Americans, for example, have faced many of the same injustices, including forced mass-displacements. Yet, there are unique elements to the American-Indians' history that are worth pursuing. [Indigenous Peoples' Day Archives]
In his widely-acclaimed debut novel, whose title is inspired by Gertrude Stein's line "there is no there there" about Oakland, California, the city of her childhood, Orange, an Oakland resident and a citizen of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, writes with passion and urgency "about violence and recovery, memory and identity, and the beauty and despair woven into the history of a nation and its people" (from publisher's summary). Orange focuses on city life and does not dwell on the romantic open plains of his ancestors, because, for that, "we have it in our heads, Kevin Costner saving us, John Wayne's six-shooter slaying us, an Italian guy named Iron Eyes Cody playing our parts in movies."
In California, it has become common practice at the start of formal meetings and large social gatherings to read an indigenous land acknowledgement statement, reflecting on the history of the land we now occupy and the often-overlooked displacements that brought us the privilege of living on a piece of paradise. If you want to go beyond such a mere acknowledgement and learn more about the lives of Native-Americans in today's America, this book is a good place to start.

2022/07/01 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The last four SCOTUS Justices: Liar, liar, pants and skirt on fire! Math puzzle: Two equilateral triangles share a vertex. Prove that the marked vertex and the triangles' centers are collinear Meme: Women are just too emotional for top leadership positions!
Khara-Khoto: An abandoned city in Inner Mongolia, built in 1032 Chair with paws/socks: My daughter's solution for metal chair legs denting or scratching the wood floor Cross-section, showing the inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Liar, liar, pants & skirt on fire! [Top center] Math puzzle: Equilateral triangles share a vertex as shown. Prove that the marked vertex and the triangles' centers are collinear (Mirangu.com). [Top right] Meme of the day: Men should lead us, because they remain calm and collected in the face of adversity. Women are just too emotional for top leadership positions! [Bottom left] Khara-Khoto: An abandoned city in Inner Mongolia, built in 1032. [Bottom center] Chair with paws/socks: My daughter's solution for metal chair legs denting or scratching the wood floor. [Bottom right] Inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt.
(2) Math puzzle: What is the value of the following infinite sum?
S = 1/2 + 1/4 + 2/8 + 3/16 + 5/32 + ... + Fib(n)/2^n + ... [Fib(n) is the nth Fibonacci number]
(3) Iranian agents have killed many opposition figures abroad: The killers are either living freely in the West or have been exchanged with hostages taken by Iran. Now, Belgium wants to pass a law that would allow Iranian criminals to be returned to Iran to serve their jail time there. This law, which would give a green light to Iran to intensify its terror campaign, must be stopped. [Facebook post, in Persian]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- One of the nine people at the very top of our justice system is a conspiracy-minded nut! [Tweet]
- The US Supreme Court may not be anti-science, but it's not pro-science either! [Tweet]
- Scary: Think for a moment about the fact that a US rapist can now choose the mother of his child!
- For the computer scientists among my readers: What comes after C, C++, and C#? [Meme]
- Fun fact: The sum of the first n perfect cubes equals the square of the sum of the first n natural numbers.
(5) The myth of the Apple Computer logo: The iconic logo, consisting of an apple, with a bite taken off, has been explained in several different ways. The real explanation is that the designer wanted to make sure the image would be interpreted as an apple, not another fruit with a similar shape. The bite puts a scale on the image and says, for example, that it is not a cherry. Now, for the myths. Contrary to some accounts, the bite isn't a word play on byte, unit of storage. And it does not represent the bite that Alan Turing took of an apple laced with cyanide to commit suicide, after the British government chemically castrated him for being gay. Steve Jobs, denied the latter explanation, but said he wished it were true. [Images]
(6) On the misogyny and bisexuality of great Persian poets: Following a discussion on allegations of misogyny against poet Ahmad Shamloo and scholar Mohammad-Ali Eslami Nadooshan, a Fanni classmate recalled a misogynistic French expression "Sois belle et tais-toi" ("Be beautiful and stop talking") which essentially represents what most Iranian poets thought of women. He referred me to an article entitled "Gender and Sexuality in Sa'adi's Golestan," which asserts that Sa'adi, like other great Persian poets, with the possible exception of Ferdowsi, was a misogynist and a bisexual. It is common knowledge that "the beloved" in classical Persian poetry often refers to a young boy, not a woman. Love of women is discussed, but it is deemed a physical, inferior tryst, in contrast to the heavenly love for another man. By the way, the same held in ancient Greece, wherefrom we get the expression "Platonic love," a reference to asexual love for another man. [Images of two book covers relating to the preceding discussion]

2022/06/30 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Throwback Thursday: With my immediate & extended family in the early-1950s and with college classmates in the mid-1960s Yours truly, wearing a T-shirt with the message 'Enough: End Gun Violence' Technical talk on exoplanets, by Dr. Knicole Colon (1) Images of the day: [Left] Throwback Thursday: With my immediate & extended family in the early-1950s and with U. Tehran College of Engineering classmates in the mid-1960s. [Center] End gun violence (see the next item below). [Right] Technical talk on exoplanets (see item 3 below).
(2) As I had predicted, talk about gun control has fizzled again: This happens every time. A few days of sloganeering after a mass shooting, followed by silence, until the next outrageous event (mass shootings occur nearly every day, but most of them don't make the headlines). We need more than half-hearted measures and patting ourselves on the back for coming up with a watered-down "bipartisan" agreement. We have to root out the evil of unrestricted gun ownership, including military-style assault rifles, which obviously have no relevance to self-defense or hunting. They are designed to kill people en masse.
(3) "Earth, Exoplanets, and Everything in Between": This was the title of Wednesday's fascinating talk by Dr. Knicole Colon, sponsored by the US National Air and Space Museum. [Recording]
Fun facts from the talk: Stars have an average of 1 planet, which means that some of them don't have any planet while others have multiple planets. So far, 5000+ exoplanets have been discovered. Such planets are too small and too dim for direct observation, so scientists detect them indirectly by measuring variations in the star's brightness as the planet passes in front of them.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Sex traffickers sentenced in the US: R. Kelly to 30 years; Gislaine Maxwell to 20 years.
- Anonymity is a sought-after feature in period-tracking apps, following the reversal of Roe-v.-Wade.
- NOAA triples its computing power for weather & climate modeling via twin 12-petaflops supercomputers.
- At Los Angeles Union Station, on the way from Santa Barbara to San Diego on Amtrak. [Photos]
- Facebook memory from June 30, 2014: Why insurance paying for birth control makes double-sense.
- Facebook memory from June 30, 2011: Guess the average number of years a US President holds office.
(5) Another 15-year-old victim of "honor" killing in Iran: Such killers, often the husband, father, brother, or uncle of the victim, either go unpunished or receive token punishments. [Facebook post, in Persian]
(6) Plastic recycling is a big lie: We recycle only 5% of plastics. We reached nearly 10% a few years ago, but that was when we sent plastics to China and counted them as recycled, whereas they weren't.
(7) "Rising Tide: Tackling Sea Level Rise from Above and Below": This was the title of today's Caltech Watson Lecture by climate scientist Josh Willis (JPL), presented, and available for viewing, on YouTube.
Given the centrality of Earth's oceans for our climate, sea level rise isn't something that is happening only at the beach; it affects our entire planet and is one of the major environmental challenges of the 21st century. As lead scientist for multiple NASA JPL projects, Josh Willis and team are addressing this urgent problem from above and below. The Jason and Sentinel-6 satellites are measuring sea levels from space, and Oceans Melting Greenland, an airborne mission, is probing the island's warming coastal waters to help better predict the rising seas of the future. Willis discussed how these missions will provide revolutionary data for modeling ocean and ice interactions and lead to improved estimates of global sea level rise.

2022/06/29 (Wenesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sign held by a man protesting the US Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe-v.-Wade Civil disobedience in Iran: Shirazis remain defiant after dozens of pre-teens and teens were arrested for breaking Islamic social norms A UNESCO World Heritage Site in Iran: Arg-e Bam (the citadel of Bam)
Math puzzle: Shown are a semicircle and two congruent right trapezoids. What is the measure of the marked angle? Tuesday afternoon walk, a UCSB-sponsored group activity to explore Campus Point Beach and the campus lagoon, including lagoon island with its huge labyrinth Math puzzle involving the areas of squares built on the sides of an arbitrary triangle (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Sign held by a man protesting the US Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe-v.-Wade. [Top center] Civil disobedience in Iran: Shirazis remain defiant after dozens of pre-teens and teens were arrested for breaking Islamic norms. [Top right] The Citadel of Bam (see the next item below). [Bottom left] Math puzzle: Shown are a semicircle and two congruent right trapezoids. What is the measure of the marked angle? [Bottom center] Tuesday afternoon walk: I went on a UCSB-sponsored guided group walk around the campus lagoon, covering also Campus Point Beach and the lagoon island with its huge labyrinth. This program, featuring walks to explore local natural attractions will continue every Tuesday until the end of August. [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Take an arbitrary triangle and build three squares on its sides. Show that there is a unique decomposition of the three areas, so that I = A + B, II = B + C, and III = C + A.
(2) A UNESCO World Heritage Site in Iran: Arg-e Bam (Citadel of Bam), is the largest adobe brick construction in the world. Built of sand and straw clay bricks, the sprawling structure is located in Bam, a southeastern town in Iran. The area of the citadel of Bam is approximately 180,000 m^2 and is bounded by mighty walls 6-7 meters high and 1815 meters long. The Citadel was severely damaged in a 2003 earthquake.
(3) I had predicted that women will bring Trump down: Mark Meadows' Assistant and January 6 Committee witness Cassidy Hutchinson, a 26-year-old with more courage than all the supposedly alpha-males surrounding Trump, proved me right. I had also predicted that Iran's Islamic regime will be brought down by women.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Impressive digital light-show on a skyscraper. [3-minute video]
- Persian poetry: Dr. Mostafa Badkoobei recites his politically-charged poem. [3-minute video]
- Persian music: The oldie song "Ey Yaar-e Jaani." [1-minute video]
- Facebook memory from June 28, 2014: A magic trick that isn't so magical!
- Facebook memory from June 28, 2011: The US Constitution—A document under siege.
- Facebook memory from June 29, 2017: A humorous magazine cover, featuring yours truly!
- Facebook memory from June 29, 2013: Poems resulting from Google's auto-complete feature!
- Facebook memory from June 29, 2012: A concise history of money.
(5) Summer concerts in the park: Anyone who is in the Santa Barbara area on Thursday nights during July 2022 can enjoy an impressive array of free concerts (bring a lawn chair and a blanket) at the Chase Palm Park, near Stearns Wharf. The programs begin at 6:00 PM.
- 7/07, The Molly Ringwald Project: 1980s cover band
- 7/14, Blue Breeze Band: Motown/soul/funk/jazz fusion
- 7/21, Captain Cardiac and the Coronaries: 50s & 60s rock
- 7/28, Pepe Marquez Band: Santa Barbara-based Latin R&B
(6) Martians are scratching their heads: After two decades of seeing the European Space Agency's Mars Express probe, with its Windows 98 operating system, they witness a software upgrade!
(7) Persian poetry and calligraphy: A verse by the great poet Sa'adi. "If you come to me, I will give you my life, and if you don't, I'll die of sorrow. So, my fate is to die, whether or not you come to me." [Image]

2022/06/27 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: The US Supreme Court joins Donald Trump in his efforts to take down Lady Liberty! Was Mohammad-Ali Eslami Nadooshan a brilliant thinker or a misogynist? Was poet Ahmad Shamloo a misogynist? A believer in patriarchy?
Stuff I bought from Valley Produce in Reseda: Photo 2 Persian/Esfahani restaurant at the intersection of Reseda and Vanowen Stuff I bought from Valley Produce in Reseda: Photo 1 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Cartoon of the day: The US Supreme Court joins Donald Trump in his efforts to take down Lady Liberty! [Top center & right] Patriarchy is like a poisoned water well: It kills even the brightest drinkers. Under items 2 & 3 below, I have shared claims that Mohammad-Ali Eslami Nadooshan & Ahmad Shamloo harbored misogynistic views. You be the judge! [Bottom row] Before returning home from visiting a friend in the Chatsworth suburb of Los Angeles, I did some shopping at Valley Produce. I am always impressed by the freshness and low price of mint bunches there. Another friend and I then dined at a Persian/Esfahani restaurant at the intersection of Reseda and Vanowen.
(2) A brilliant thinker or a misogynist? This Facebook post (in Persian) places the patriarchal & misogynistic views of Mohammad-Ali Eslami Nadooshan under the microscope.
(3) Was poet Ahmad Shamloo a misogynist? A believer in patriarchy? This Facebook post (in Persian) about one of Shamloo's interviews raises a number of valid points in this regard. And it creates some push-back in the comments! I have selected four snippets from the interview. The original FB post contains the full interview.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Fifty migrants crossing into the US were found dead inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas.
- With sorrow ... we dissent: A spot-on analysis of the SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe-v.-Wade.
- Borowitz Report (humor): Women declare themselves corporations so SCOTUS grants them rights as people.
- Unrepresentative SCOTUS: Two-thirds of the current members are Catholics, vs. only 22% of Americans.
- Math puzzle: Which value is larger, (6/5)^sqrt(3) or (5/4)^sqrt(2)?
(5) On inflation: Not too long ago, commercials for some fast-food joints ridiculed the outrageously-priced $6 restaurant burgers. Now we have $6 fast-food burgers and $15 restaurant burgers. The latter is 100x the 15-cent price of the original 1955 McDonald's burgers.
(6) Let's get rid of offensive scientific and technical jargon: I have written about this issue occasionally for at least 5 decades. A column in the July 2022 issue of CACM prompted me to renew my call for avoiding biases (I was going to write "blind spots," but caught myself; read on). It really is no big burden to avoid a dozen or so terms that can be deemed offensive. Here are a few examples: master/salve flip-flop; blind review; whitelist/blacklist; mob programming.
(7) Embracing critical voices: This is the title of a CACM editorial by Jeanna Matthews, CS Professor at Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY, in which she announces her role as the Chair of the new Viewpoints section. "ACM has not always been an organization that embraces voices critical of computing or of ACM processes. Embracing critical voices is an important step in involving younger members ... making ACM a broad tent with room for members of the computing community broadly defined. I see Viewpoints playing an important role in both highlighting and responding substantively to critical voices."
(8) Hidden assumptions and biases in author recognition: Writing in CACM, Carlos Baquero and Rosa Cabecinhas bring to fore some of our troublesome practices in giving credit to authors of technical papers. A notable example is the Matthew Effect, which is a biblical reference: "In the imaginary Alice, Bob, and Eve paper, if Eve is very well-known in the field and the others are less known, it is very likely that readers will attribute most of the paper's merit to Eve and probably say to others: 'I read this very nice paper from Eve's team.' Readers might not even recall the other authors' names."

2022/06/26 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Iranian mullahs always dream of turning the White House into a mosque. They seem to have started from the US Supreme Court! An article with 115 authors in the journal 'Science' Cover image of Siamak Vakili's 'Theory of Boundlessness' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cartoon of the day: Iranian mullahs always dream of turning the White House into a mosque. They seem to have started from the US Supreme Court! [Center] Article with 115 authors (see the next item below). [Right] Siamak Vakili's Theory of Boundlessness (see the last item below).
(2) Article with 115 authors: Having just joined AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science), I received the June 24, 2022, issue of the weekly journal Science. One of the first things that caught my eyes was this article with 115 authors. And this isn't even a record. Some physics journals feature articles with thousands of authors. The record of 5154 authors is held by a May 14, 2015, paper in Physical Reviews Letters, in which 9 pages of actual research description are followed by 24 pages of author names and affiliations!
(3) Iran's sweet deal: In a country where inflation has been in double digits for many years, a regime crony got a 10-year multimillion-dollar bank loan at 4% interest, with no payment due for 3 years.
(4) Book review: Vakili, Siamak, Theory of Boundlessness (Nazarieh-ye Bi-Karanegui), Persian book in two volumes, Agah Publishing House, Tehran, 2015. [My 2-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The two volumes of this book are subtitled "Book One—Place" and "Book Two—Space-Place." I downloaded the Persian PDF files for the two volumes from Academia.edu and was able to also download a short version in English. I couldn't find a Web site for Agah Publishers or Agah Publishing House to get more details about the book, given that the available PDF files lack the usual front and back matter.
Using on-line sources, we learn that space and place are distinct notions, the first one coming from the Old French word "espace," which in turn has Latin roots ("spatium"). Place, on the other hand, comes from the Latin word "platea" (which carries the same meaning as another Latin word, "locus"). Distinct languages and cultures deal somewhat differently with the two notions. The notion of place is directly tied to human experience, so it is more familiar and concrete. By contrast, space is more abstract. Eminent geographer Yi-Fu Tuan opines that "place is a space infused with human meaning" (Space and Place: The perspective of Experience, U. Minnesota Press, 2001).
The more I read of the book's Persian version, the less I understood the author's intention, methodology, and destination. One can only guess that he wants to present arguments in favor of space being infinite/boundless. I found myself trying to translate the Persian text into English in order to facilitate my understanding, but I soon gave up and decided to look at the English version, where I could read the author's meaning directly.
Unfortunately, the English version doesn't make any more sense than the Persian one. For example, we read on p. 11: "... when we lose the place, time is also lost spontaneously. This indicates that the time is a follower of the place and cannot exist independently and substantively. Accordingly, the time cannot exist, and its existence is only accepted as a feature, a measurement criterion, a place, and a subjective element. Therefore, the sense of time ... is stronger than the sense of place. One of the reasons for this is that time has by no means an outer existence." If we believe in Einstein's notion of spacetime, the passage above is a near tautology, and its wording, aside from containing English usage errors, does not make any sense.
The notion of infinity, in space, time, and other domains, has been pursued by philosophers and scientists for many centuries, beginning with Aristotle. So, a glaring deficiency in Vakili's book is the total lack of references to earlier work on the subject. A Google search for "theory of infinity" produces 60+ million hits. A Google Scholar search for the same returns 1.2+ million results. An Amazon.com book search yields 1000+ matches. I cite these search results to show evidence for a great deal of thought and writings on the subject, even outside mainstream scientific and philosophical sources.
Vakili does provide citations, but to literary works, mostly by Persian-speaking writers and poets. I could not find a single reference to non-Persian sources in physics or philosophy. Reading the book, an uninitiated reader may be led to believe that Vakili is describing original ideas on these topics. On p. 13, the author gives us a nonsensical reason for not examining scientific and philosophical literature: "... we will not examine the time and the place in the literature. Rather, we will examine them both in philosophy and cosmology."
I end my review (see also the Persian version on GoodReads) by citing a couple of elementary discussions on infinity in space and time. On this "The Conversation" page, five experts opine on whether space is infinite (two say "yes," two say "no," one answers "maybe"). Reading Vakili's book one is left with the impression that there is no disagreement about the boundlessness of space. This Interesting Engineering page leaves less room for debate, concluding that time is finite, given that it did not exist before the Big Bang and will cease to exist in 5 billion years, once the universe dies, according to prevailing multiverse theories. However, Vakili is of the opinion that the Big Bang did not exist, which requires significant discussion and criticism.

2022/06/25 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Contraception and same-sex marriage appear to be next on the US Supreme Court's chopping block Final thought for the day: 'The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry.' ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson Science magazine's cover fature: Focusing on climate change (1) Images of the day: [Left] On to the Middle Ages: Contraception & same-sex marriage appear to be next on the US Supreme Court's chopping block. [Center] Final thought for the day: "The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson [Right] Focusing on climate change (see the next item below).
(2) A choice of futures: This is the cover feature of Science magazine's June 24, 2022, special issue on climate change. "Most people now fully accept that climate change is occurring and is caused by human activities. In light of current public attitudes, one could be forgiven for thinking that the data that support these conclusions are relatively new. The truth, however, is that climate scientists have known and warned for decades that our activities are leading to dangerous climate change, the eff ects of which we are experiencing now. Technologies for alternative energy sources have also existed fordecades, yet political and financial interests have prevented their widespread uptake, as well as the transformational economic and social change needed to end our alteration of climate. Today, when our options are limited and our need is urgent, these same forces are preventing transformation. Even if carbon emissions are halted today, the climate will continue to warm, with profound impacts on the Earth system. In this special issue, we explore ways that science can help guide us to a more promising climate future, from understanding where we are in our climate trajectory and how natural systems may respond, to providing options for mitigating climate change and adapting our systems (and ourselves) to the forces we have unleashed."
Here is a list of articles, reports, reviews, and policy statements pertaining to the special issue theme.
*Can biofuels really fly? *Strengthen climate adaptation research globally *How trade policy can support the climate agenda *Current global efforts are insufficient to limit warming to 1.5 C degrees *Harnessing the potential of nature-based solutions for mitigating and adapting to climate change *Climate change and the urgency to transform food systems *Getting ahead of climate change for ecological adaptation and resilience
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A career story, from the June 24, 2022, issue of Science magazine: Doing what you love to do. [Image]
- A paper co-authored by my daughter, Sepideh Parhami, posted on BioRxiv before peer review.
- Facebook memory from June 25, 2016: A batch of photos from my memorable first visit to Taiwan.
- Facebook memory from June 25, 2013: Review of the book The Logician and the Engineer.
- Facebook memory from June 25, 2012: Stop shouting slogans or raising your fists & get some work done.
- Facebook memory from June 25, 2011: Review of a comedy performance by Jerry Seinfeld.
- Facebook memory from June 25, 2010: My foray into humorous Persian poetry!
(4) Trump ally and conservative pro-lifer Herschel Walker, who supports a total ban on abortions (with no exceptions), has 3 more children than he previously disclosed: One of those "hidden" children has accused him of being an absentee father. What a way to honor life!
(5) US labs face severe post-doc shortage: Early-career researchers increasingly avoid low-paying, insecure post-doc positions, according to a report in Science. Today's strong job market gives fresh PhDs other options.
(6) Don't ask kids what they want to be when they grow up: Young children don't yet have a complete picture of career possibilities or of their abilities, so their answers can be unreasonable. They may be influenced by parents' expectations, peer pressure, or the cliche "You can be anything you want to be." Once they are forced to choose an answer, they may enter a state known as "identity foreclosure," defined as premature commitment to an identity, which makes it difficult for them to change their minds, as they encounter opportunities or gain a better understanding of the range of possibilities.

2022/06/24 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Verifiable and trustworthy artificial intelligence Brain implants get real: Article in the July 2022 issue of CACM Meme: Title IX's 50th anniversary (1) Images of the day: [Left] Verifiable and trustworthy AI (see the next item below). [Center] Brain implants get real (see item 3 below). [Right] Title IX's 50th anniversary: In the 50 years since legislation was passed to provide US women equal opportunities in education, the number of women athletes in colleges has increased tenfold. Of course, Title IX isn't just about athletics.
(2) Roe-v.-Wade is no more: The landmark decision has been officially overturned by a 5-4 vote of the US Supreme Court, ending 5 decades of abortion-rights protections and allowing states to ban abortions.
(3) Women vs. Guns, according to the Supreme Court of the United States: Women's right to choose is for the states to decide, not the judiciary. Permission to carry concealed weapons cannot be left to states.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The modest US gun-control bill passed by the Senate and the House goes to Biden for signature.
- A group of pre-teens & teens have been arrested in Shiraz, Iran, for failing to wear headscarves in public.
- The art of arranging stones into amazing patterns. [3-minute video]
- Persian music: Chance connection of a violin player & a singer at a Berlin metro station! [2-minute video]
- Persian music: Life story of the old-time singer Marzieh, in her own words. [10-minute video]
- Facebook memory from June 24, 2018: Benford's Law on the distribution of digit values.
- Facebook memory from June 24, 2017: I wonder if Robert Mueller regrets not doing his job properly!
(5) The ultimate reality show will bring down the reality show star: The public hearings of the January 6 Select Committee are must-watch TV for me. While one can get a sense of the revelations from news summaries, I've been unable to skip watching the hearings live or on delayed streaming. They are spellbinding!
(6) Toward verified artificial intelligence: Techniques for building verifiable and trustworthy AI are among today's hottest research topics, as intelligent systems proliferate and pervade our decision-making processes. In a feature article by Sanjit A. Seshia, Dorsa Sadigh, and S. Shankar Sastry (July 2022 issue of Communications of the ACM), we read: "We need techniques to model ML components along with their context so that semantically meaningful properties can be verified. ... We need to develop an understanding of what can be guaranteed at design time, how the design process can contribute to safe operation at runtime, and how design-time and runtime techniques can interoperate effectively."
(7) AI-related quote of the day: "The future isn't better smartphones or AR glasses; it's making the sensorium itself directly programmable, and maybe even adding new senses entirely." ~ Samuel Greengard, writing about the future of brain implants in the July 2022 issue of Communications of the ACM
(8) Ex-professor Simon Ang sentenced to one year in federal prison: While charges that the U. Arkansas professor had improper contacts with China were dropped, he was found guilty of lying to an FBI special agent about patents filed under his name in China, without disclosing the inventions to his US employer.
(9) University of California issues a statement critical of US Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe-v.-Wade, calling the decision antithetical to UC's mission and values.

2022/06/23 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
An abandoned Synagogue in Romania Cartoon: Khamenei uses the IRGC to clear a path for his swindlers and corrupt buddies Some of the men Iran's Reza Shah came to despise (1) Images of the day: [Left] An abandoned Synagogue in Romania. [Center] Cartoon of the day: Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei uses Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps to clear a path for his swindlers & corrupt buddies. [Right] Some of the men Iran's Reza Shah came to despise.
(2) One of the biggest revelations in Thursday's January 6 Select Committee hearing: Multiple Members of Congress asked for blanket presidential pardons, both before and after the insurrection.
(3) Justice in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Five students, who demanded explanation for the vaccine-import ban that led to thousands of preventable deaths, sentenced to prison terms under the guise of acting against national security. The students had questioned the financial profits gained by a number of individuals and organizations, as they peddled ineffective domestic COVID-19 vaccines, while also profiteering from the black market on life-saving, imported vaccines.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A magnitude-6.1 quake kills at least 1000 in Afghanistan's Paktika Province: Casualties are still rising.
- Trump blames Kevin McCarty for the January 6 Committee not containing any "real" Republicans.
- Defying the compulsory hijab laws in Iran: Shirazi youth take to the street in latest fashions.
- Researchers find traces of 400 different insects in a single tea bag!
- Quote: "Love is an emotion experienced by the many and enjoyed by the few." ~ George Jean Nathan
- Iranian regional music: A song from the western provice of Luristan. [2-minute video]
- Throwback Thursday: This photo of mine, with a sister and four cousins, is from the mid-1960s.
- Facebook memory from June 23, 2014: Have you forgotten the password for your life outside Facebook?
- Facebook memory from June 23, 2011: Give proper credit to the source when using intellectual property.
- Facebook memory from June 23, 2011: Diaspora, which aimed to dethrone Facebook, didn't quite succeed!
(5) Nomination of engineer/physicist Arati Prabhakar as President Biden's science adviser constitutes a triple-first for that position: woman, person of color, immigrant.
(6) AI researchers at 132 institutions want to replace the "Turing Test" of machine intelligence with 204 diverse tasks of the "Beyond the Imitation Game" (BIG) benchmark, currently not handled well by machines.
(7) First Iranian-American to assume WH arts advising position: "Farhang Foundation is delighted to announce that Mr. Andrew Tavakoli has been appointed by the President of the United States to join the President's Advisory Committee on the Arts."
(8) Name the top franchise in the world: Surprisingly, it's Taco Bell, for the second year in a row! Taco Bell's secret sauce is listening to the franchisees and giving them the freedom to experiment with new ideas.
(9) Faculty pay experiences largest drop in 50 years (ever since records have been kept): When adjusted for inflation, faculty pay dropped by 5% in the 2021-2022 academic year, according to American Association of University Professors, which conducted a salary survey with 900+ responding institutions.

2022/06/21 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: Privilege to know comes with duty to act Cartoon: Big problems, ineffective solutions Hazards of surfing for some Flat-Earthers!
The Persian Tirgan Festival, celebrating the arrival of summer Gas prices across the US, compared with the national average Will the next leader of Iran be a man or a woman? (1) Images of the day: [Top left] The privilege to know comes with the duty to act. [Top center] Cartoon of the day: Big problems, ineffective solutions. [Top right] Hazards of surfing for some Flat-Earthers! [Bottom left] The Persian Tirgan Festival (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Gas prices across the US, compared with the national average. [Bottom right] Will a woman ever lead Iran? (see item 3 below)
(2) Longest day of the year: We have just entered summer, which means that today we have the most daylight. Iranians celebrate the beginning of each season with an appropriate festival: spring (Norooz), summer (Tirgan), fall (Mehregan), and winter (Shab-e Yalda, the longest night of the year).
(3) Will the next leader of Iran be a man or a woman? What kind of question is this? It will be a man, of course! The fact that no one entertains the notion of a woman leader is a key ailment in Iran. There are many women political activists, inside and outside the country. Even though quite a few of these women have better name recognition and stronger credentials than their male counterparts, they are just viewed as rabble-rousers and not as potential future leaders. Even the royalists never mention any woman from the royal family: Shah's oldest child, the Swiss-based Princess Shahnaz (81) and his surviving younger daughter Farahnaz, born Masoumeh (59). Only Reza (61) is ever mentioned as the rightful future leader by royalists. No country can prosper if half of its leadership talent remains untapped.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The US should get ready for a messy presidential election in 2024: Adam Kinsinger warns.
- Russian Dmitry Muratov auctions his Nobel Prize medal, raising $103.5 million for Ukrainian children.
- A heat dome, carrying temperatures exceeding 100 F, covered the US Midwest this Monday (CNN).
- American Assoc. of Univ. Professors condemns the UNC system for political interference & systemic racism.
- Impact of COVID on college faculty: As observed and assessed by their students. [Infographic]
(5) I walked around Goleta's Old Town today, as I waited for my car to be serviced: I was shocked by empty lots of car dealerships in the area. Prices of new and used cars have shot up due to short supply and buyers are paying more than MSRP to get their hands on a new car. [Photos]
(6) Einstein's "God Letter": Einstein's only letter about God was sold in 2018 for nearly $3 million at Christie's of New York. The handwritten letter was a reaction to Eric Gutkind's book, Choose Life: The Biblical Call to Revolt. [16-minute Persian video] [7-minute English video] [The Times of Israel article]
(7) Final thought for the day: Life advice from Pablo Neruda.
You start dying slowly | if you do not travel, | if you do not read, | if you do not listen to the sounds of life, | if you do not appreciate yourself.
You start dying slowly | When you kill your self-esteem; | When you do not let others help you.
You start dying slowly | If you become a slave of your habits, | Walking everyday on the same paths ... | If you do not change your routine, | If you do not wear different colors | Or you do not speak to those you don't know.
You start dying slowly | If you avoid to feel passion | And their turbulent emotions; | Those which make your eyes glisten | And your heart beat fast.
You start dying slowly | If you do not change your life when you are not satisfied with your job, or with your love, |If you do not risk what is safe for the uncertain, | If you do not go after a dream, | If you do not allow yourself, | At least once in your lifetime, | To run away from sensible advice.

2022/06/19 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A very happy Fathers' Day to all dads and father-like nurturers & mentors, past, present, and future! Celebrating Freedom Day: Happy Juneteenth! Cartoon: The GOP will play dead until the threat of gun control legislation passes!
Because of runaway inflation, some Iranian merchants no longer post prices Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1971 and 2020: A model for other countries to follow Math puzzles: Simplify the top expression and solve the bottom equation (1) Images of the day: [Top left] A very happy Fathers' Day to all dads and father-like nurturers & mentors, past, present, and future! [Top center] Happy Juneteenth! (see the next item bnelow). [Top right] Cartoon of the day: The GOP will play dead until the threat of gun control legislation passes! [Bottom left] Because of runaway inflation, some Iranian merchants no longer post prices: The sign in this photo reads "Chips and Cheetos sold at market prices." [Bottom center] Amsterdam, Netherlands, in 1971 and 2020: A model for other countries to follow. [Bottom right] Math puzzles: Simplify the top expression and solve the bottom equation.
(2) Celebrating Freedom Day: Juneteenth, the 19th day of June, commemorates the end of slavery in America's confederate states. On this day in 1865, that is, 157 years ago, the Union Army established authority over Texas, setting free the slaves who still didn't know about the Emancipation Proclamation of Jan. 1, 1863.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Persian poetry for Fathers' Day: Selected verses from a ghazal by Sa'eb Tabrizi.
- The distinguished lawyer who sounded the alarm and lowered the boom on the GOP. [WaPo story]
- Computer architecture podcast (Episode 8; 1 hour): Durable security and privacy-enhanced computing.
- Aziz Ansari, comedian & author of Modern Romance, marries forensic data scientist Serena Skov Campbell.
- A tour group of 120 arrested in Iran's Caspian-Sea province of Mazandaran for having too much fun!
- Facebook memory from June 19, 2014: How Iranian women marked Iran qualifying for the 2014 World Cup!
(4) Five short Fathers' Day quotes: By Tim Russert, Reed Markham, Anonymous, Al Unser, & Linda Pointdexter.
- "The older I get, the smarter my father seems to get."
- "Being a great father is like shaving. No matter how good you shaved today, you must do it again tomorrow."
- "By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong."
- "Dad taught me everything I know. Unfortunately, he didn't teach me everything he knows."
- "If you enjoy being a dad, thank your kids. You wouldn't be one without them."
(5) How the UK became a laundromat for Russian oligarchs: On the mutually profitable relationship between the British government and Russian money-launderers. [13-minute story on CBS "60 Minutes"]
(6) Trevor Noah: From being "born a crime" (title of his memoir, because his parents' mixed-race marriage was illegal in South Africa) to the highest-paid comic in the US. [14-minute story on CBS "60 Minutes"]
(7) Final thought for the day: A conservative gay group has complained about being excluded from the Texas Republican convention. Well, what did they expect from the folk demonizing gays and considering every single one of them a pedophile?

2022/06/18 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The quantum-sensor boom: Atomic-scale sensors find a wide variety of applications Cover image of Carolyn Chen's 'Work, Pray, Code' My local Ralphs store has gone both local and international!
Math puzzle: Find the area of the square Math puzzle: A point outside an equilateral triangle is at distance 3, 8, and 5 from its three vertices. What is the triangle's area? Math oddity: Here's a weird triangle drawn on a world map (1) Images of the day: [Top left] The quantum-sensor boom: Atomic-scale sensing methods are being used in a variety of domains, from brain scans to COVID detection. [Top center] Carolyn Chen's Work, Pray, Code (see the last item below). [Top right] My local Ralphs store has gone both local and international! [Bottom left] Math puzzle: Find the area of the square. [Bottom center] Math puzzle: A point outside an equilateral triangle is at distance 3, 8, and 5 from its three vertices. What is the triangle's area? [Bottom right] Math oddity: Here's a weird triangle on a world map.
(2) Believe it or not: If printed on paper, Wikipedia would be a 7,471-volume encyclopedia, with at least 11 of those volumes carrying the designation "ART to ART" on their spines. This information snippet is from a post of mine on June 18, 2015. I wonder what the number of volumes would be today!
(3) Mystery plane grounded: Argentine authorities have seized a cargo plane carrying 14 Venezuelans and 5 Iranians, including ex-IRGC commander Gholamreza Ghasemi and several members of the Quds Force.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Femicide: Yet another Iranian woman, who married as a child, killed by her husband. [Tweet, in Persian]
- Republicans drag their feet in "bipartisan" gun-control talks, hoping that the matter will be forgotten soon.
- The Golden State Warriors win their 4th NBA titles in 8 years by defeating the Boston Celtics in Game 6.
- The panel "Holding the Taliban Accountable" advocates using international leverage to stop rights abuses.
- Lost in translation: "Need not apply" becomes "need no application" in Persian! [Tweet]
- Oudlajan: The oldest neighborhood in Tehran dates back ~400 years. [8-minute video, narrated in Persian]
- Move-out charity sale underway near UCSB: Students donate household items to benefit local non-profits.
(5) Book review: Chen, Carolyn, Work, Pray, Code: When Work Becomes Religion in Silicon Valley, unabridged 10-hour audiobook, read by Jennifer Lim, Princeton Audio, 2022.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book explores the relationship between work and spirituality, both the notion of work taking the place of spirituality, in the sense of leaving a lot less time for the latter, and using spiritual practices, such as meditation, mindfulness, and yoga, to improve work focus and productivity. While the idea merits attention, the book has too much repetition, making the reader less and less interested as the narrative drags on.
Highly-skilled workers, particularly those in tech fields, have been leaving churches and other places of worship in droves. This is in part because the time and energy they spend on work leaves little time for anything else (including social life) and partly due to such workers finding that their exciting and impactful professional contributions satisfy their need for belonging, identity, purpose, and transcendence. Interestingly, many tech firms offer on-site "spiritual care," for their employees, because they have discovered that Buddhist-inspired spiritual practices tend to increase productivity, in much the same way that perks such as on-site gyms, childcare, and free or low-price food boost employee satisfaction and performance.
The bottom-line is that highly-skilled workers tend to put their souls into their work, making spiritual connections with it. There are advantages to this devotion to work, but what happens when there is a tech downturn and older employees are laid off? Tech firms are loyal to their employees as long as the business is profitable. The same employees are readily discarded when times are tough, companies change hands, or they speak up on moral issues. The latter is a good argument for spirituality, whatever form it takes, to be separate and independent from work.

2022/06/16 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The supposedly pro-freedom Iranian Revolution has turned into an anti-women enterprise Behrooz Parhami's 'Talangor' tech talk on AI: Flyer Throwback Thursday: Visiting the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California, on June 16, 2011 (1) Images of the day: [Left] The supposedly pro-freedom Iranian Revolution has turned into an anti-women enterprise. [Center] Behrooz Parhami's "Talangor" tech talk on Artificial Intelligence (see the next item below). [Right] Throwback Thursday: Visiting the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, California, on June 16, 2011.
(2) "A Fair & Balanced Assessment of AI": This was the title of my talk this evening to the Talangor Cultural Group, with ~70 attendees. The talk was an updated & tailored version of my May 8, 2022, Fanni'68 talk. Here are links to my description, slides, and recording (Passcode 4K%*b?bR; talk begins at the 59:30 mark) of the previous, nearly-identical talk. I will post a link to the recording of tonight's talk, if and when I get it.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hate crime: The mass-shooter in Buffalo apologized to whites, as he shot black shoppers!
- Yellowstone National Park sustained severe damage as a result of severe flooding.
- Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (ISSN 2161-0002): A peer-reviewed academic resource. [Link]
- UCSB is proud to have brought everyone together for an amazing in-person 2022 graduation experience.
- An intricate set of mechanical linkages provide a mesmerizing visual effect. [Tweet]
- Quote: "The downside of fame is having to read about yourself." ~ Actress Helen Mirren
- The charms of Kermanshah, Iran: Natural beauty and tourist attractions. [3-minute video]
- Facebook memory from June 16, 2017: The US has more gun murders than the next 15 countries combined.
- Facebook memory from June 16, 2017: Why women are attracted to and excel in mountain climbing.
- Facebook memory from June 16, 2014: Nighttime satellite image of Iran and the Persian Gulf.
(4) Iran and women chess players: American chess champion @NaziPaiki sacrificed a lot professionally when, in solidarity with Iranian women, she decided not to participate in the 2016 World Chess Championships hosted by Iran. Some women chess players criticized her for the boycott, claiming that compulsory hijab in Iran isn't an injustice. A few of the latter women ended up leaving the country and removing their hijabs, without ever apologizing for their stance.
(5) Samin Ehsani, a Baha'i children's-rights activist in Iran, who was sentenced to 5 years in prison a decade ago, has been re-arrested and taken to Tehran's Evin Prison. [Tweet]
(6) Tiny heads-up displays: Mojo contact lenses pack batteries, motion sensors, and a micro-LED display, bringing the promise of a self-contained heads-up display one step closer to reality.
(7) Ukrainian engineers prevent Kyiv from plunging into darkness: In a daring move that carried some risk, they disconnected the country's grid from Belarus, Russia, and the rest of the giant IPS/UPS synchronous AC power zone controlled from Moscow and plugged it into Europe's 50-hetrz current traversing ENTSO-E's wires
(8) Congressional hearings on the January 6 insurrection: In three public hearings, the January 6 Select Committee has presented ample evidence on Donald Trump and a number of his closest associates breaking multiple laws of the land. The need for criminal referrals from the Committee has vanished, as the evidence is now in plain sight for the Justice Department to note and pursue.

2022/06/15 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: Laws from the 18th century need updating for 21st-century technology Math puzzle: In this diagram, with a rectangle, two semi-circles, and four quarter-circles, find the ratio of the blue area to the red area IEEE Central Coast Section tech talk by Dr. William Wang (1) Images of the day: [Left] Meme of the day: Laws from the 18th century need updating for 21st-century technology. [Center] Math puzzle: In this diagram, with a rectangle, two semi-circles, and four quarter-circles, find the ratio of the blue area to the red area. [Right] Tonight's IEEE tech talk (see the last item below).
(2) Food for thought: Isn't it ironic that supporters of the Second Amendment, purportedly advocating for gun ownership to stop a dictatorial government, are the ones we now fear as followers of a would-be dictator?
(3) Here come p-computers: Quantum computers (q-computers) have been all over the news lately, but much of their promise remains on the drawing board, rather than appearing in practical applications. UCSB professor Kerem Camsari thinks that probabilistic computers (p-computers) can offer some of the same benefits of q-computers, using technology that is already available. In a June 2 Nature Electronics article, Camsari and his collaborators discuss the promise of p-computers.
(4) Quote of the day: "I wouldn't want to be younger for a million bucks. There are problems with age, but we're wiser and more accepting, you know? It's falling into place how the world works." ~ Anne Tyler, 80
(5) "Women Building Peace": This is the title of a new series of podcasts, offered by Georgetown U. and BBC World Service, that explores the stories of remarkable women in Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ethiopia, and Colombia. Hoping that Iranian women will be featured in a future episode.
(6) IEEE Central Coast Section technical talks for the second half of 2022:
07/20 Dr. Yufei Ding, UCSB, CS (Area: Hardware acceleration, and software support for it)
08/17 Dr. Lei Li, UCSB, CS ("A Review of Recent Progress in Machine Translation")
09/21 Dr. Leonard Chen, Raytheon, Goleta ("Sensing Across the Infrared Spectrum")
10/19 Dr. Nina Miolane, UCSB, ECE ("Geometric Learning for Shape Analysis from Bioimaging Data")
11/16 Dr. Somayeh Dodge, UCSB, Geography ("Computational Movement Analytics")
12/14 Dr. Roland Geyer, UCSB, Bren School (Area: Industrial ecology; author of The Business of Less)
(7) Tonight's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Speaking under the title "Self-Supervised Language-and-Vision Reasoning," Dr. William Wang (Computer Science Dept., UCSB) introduced his team's recent work on visually-grounded language reasoning via the studies of vision-and-language navigation, emphasizing three benefits of self-supervised learning:
- Improving generalization in unseen environments;
- Creating counterfactuals to augment observational data;
- Enabling transfer learning for challenging settings.
A key challenge for AI research is going beyond static observational data and considering more-challenging settings that involve dynamic actions and incremental decision-making. Dr. Wang considered the problem of an autonomous agent navigating in an environment known to it via images captured in real time (no floorplans, maps, overhead views, or GPS) as it follows word instructions about how to get to a desired destination.
Here is an example of word instructions: "Leave the living room. Go through the hallway with paintings on the wall and head to the kitchen. Stop next to the wooden dining table." With each action, such as turning left/right or moving forward, the environment, as seen by the agent, changes. Success is determined primarily by whether or not the agent reaches the destination and secondarily by various other figures of merit.
Dr. Wang concluded by briefly introducing other reasoning problems that his groups are tackling.
[IEEE CCS event page] [Speaker's personal Web site] [IEEE CCS Technical Talks page]

2022/06/14 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
At Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History: Batch 1 of photos At Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History: Batch 2 of photos At Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History: Batch 3 of photos
At Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History: Photo 4 At Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History: Batch 5 of photos At Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History: Photo 6
At Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History: Batch 7 of photos At Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History: Batch 9 of photos At Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History: Batch 8 of photos (1) Saturday's family visit to Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History: [Top row] We saw a wide variety of butterflies at one of the special exhibits. [Middle left] A wall display showed the underwater topography of California's South Coast. [Middle center] An interesting exhibit about the Chumash, our local Native Americans. [Middle right & bottom row] The Rare Earth Special Exhibit featured a large collection of gems and minerals.
(2) Tribonacci sequence: It is formed like the Fibonacci sequence, except that it starts with 1, 1, 2, and each term is formed by adding the previous 3 terms. T(1) = T(2) = 1, T(3) = 2, T(4) = 4, T(5) = 7, T(6) = 13, ... , T(n) = T(n – 1) + T(n – 2) + T(n – 3). Derive a closed-form expression for T(n).
(3) Reign of terror continues in Iran: The ransacked home of a mother, whose son, Mostafa Karimbeigi, was killed in the 2009 Ashoura protests and whose daughter Maryam Karimbeigi was arrested by security forces.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ann Frank would have been 93 today. [Tweet by Auschwitz Memorial]
- Congratulations to Russia for taking control over the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. [Photos of devastation]
- The "law & order" party tried to illegally access Michigan voting systems 11 times.
- Erol Gelenbe: The computer pioneer & IEEE Fellow whose packet-voice phone switch made Zoom possible.
- Engineer claims AI chatbot LaMDA is "sentient": Google denies it.
- Ukrainians are resilient, proud people: This is how they are holding graduation ceremonies!
- Graduating students make a statement against Seattle Pacific University's LGBTQ+ ban.
- Simple acts of defiance allow oppressed people to remain hopeful: Woman dancing in a Tehran Metro car.
- Classical music: Vittorio Monti's "Czardas," with whistling. [5-minute video]
- Persian music: Mohammad Nouri's "Dar Khamoushi-haa-ye Sahel" ("In the Stillness of the Shore").
- Persian music: The oldie song "Rosva-ye Zamaneh" performed on qanun and tonbak. [4-minute video]
- Facebook memory from June 13, 2019: Children are blind to race. They have to be taught to be racist.
- Facebook memory from June 13, 2010: Technical books published by my dD, Salem Parhami [1922-1992]
- Facebook memory from June 14, 2015: How physics courses in medical schools save lives (humor).
- Facebook memory from June 14, 2012: Mowlavi's take on the limits of an erudite and reasoning mind.
(5) Reza Pahlavi, a savior or aspiring dictator? A recent address by Reza Pahlavi and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's fearful reaction to it in a speech, warning that Royalty actually returned to power after the French Revolution, have triggered many discussions on social media. Commentaries span a broad range, between two extremes. On one side are those who argue that we can't let fear of a new dictatorship stop us from acting to remove a brutal, misogynistic, and inept regime, which has terrorized Iranians and left the country's economy in tatters. On the other side are those who point to the lessons of the 1979 Revolution, observed directly or heard from parents and grandparents, that wishing for freedom and democracy won't cause them to appear magically. The truth is that as long as there are people with guns or influence, who love to live, or thrive under, a dictatorship, a dictator will rise to fill the need. [Images]

2022/06/10 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Commencement gift booths and trash resulting from students getting ready to move out UCSB archival photo from the 2021 commencement ceremonies The first in-person graduation ceremonies after three years feel good to students and their families
A star of the first public-hearing session of the January 6 Commission: Rep. Liz Cheney Cover image of Adam Grant's 'Think Again' A star of the first public-hearing session of the January 6 Commission: Police officer Caroline Edwards (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Commencement weekend has already begun at UCSB: These photos, taken on the way to and from the campus, show a couple of the gift booths, along with trash resulting from students preparing to move out. Today's first in-person ceremonies after 3 years feel good to students & their families. Commencement will continue with the main events, and much larger crowds, tomorrow and on Sunday. [Bottom left & right] Two stars of the first public-hearing session of the January 6 Commission: Rep. Liz Cheney and police officer Caroline Edwards. [Bottom center] Adam Grant's Think Again (see the last item below).
(2) "UCSB Reads 2023" Program kicked off today: The Program's Advisory Committee gathered in a hybrid meeting, with each member presenting 2-minute pitches for up to 2 books. The Committee will vote on-line to reduce today's long list to a short-list of 5 books, to be read over the next couple of months and discussed in a second meeting, when our top choice and a couple of back-ups will be selected. The image shows the chosen title for the just-completed 2022 Program. Here are my two pitches:
- When Women Invented Television: The Untold Story of the Female Powerhouses Who Pioneered the Way We Watch Today, by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong, 2021, 352 pp. [My 5-star review]
- Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity, Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods, 2020, 304 pp. [My 4-star review]
(3) Here's what's wrong with the Republicans: Fox News was the only network not covering the Jan. 6 hearings. Many Republicans are asking why the Capitol Police wasn't prepared to control a riot, not why the riot occurred or why we need riot control at the Capitol in the first place.
(4) New Yorker cartoon caption of the day: "It's a beautiful day, so I'm going to sit outside with my book and think about everything else I should be doing."
(5) Book review: Grant, Adam, Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know, unabridged 7-hour audiobook, read by the author, Penguin Audio, 2021.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Flexibility is one of the most-important human traits, even more so than intelligence. History is replete with examples of businesses and societies that perished due to inflexibility. A prime example in the business world is the story of Mark Lazarius of BlackBerry fame. Lazarius, whose company dominated the smartphone market before iPhone came on the scene, resisted the suggestion of adding Internet access to his devices, all the way to his company's demise.
In a world that is changing faster than ever, rethinking through "settled" questions and updating our beliefs are necessary skills. Intelligence is the ability to think and learn. However, alongside these abilities, we need the skills to unlearn and rethink, that is, the willingness to admit that the situation and facts may have changed, invalidating what was once right.
As important as it is to know what we don't know, it is even more important to be a bit suspicious of things that we think we know. Reexamining and updating our beliefs is tough, as it can be disorienting and humiliating, but we have to learn to do it, or else face the danger of going the way of the BlackBerry.
Changing one's views requires the expenditure of energy. "Some psychologists point out that we're mental misers: we often prefer the ease of hanging on to old views over the difficulty of grappling with new ones." Scientists are trained and paid to rethink; it's part of their jobs. For many others, pride in what they know and staying true to their beliefs and opinions are the main reasons of insisting on old ideas and thoughts, which constitutes a distinct disadvantage in a rapidly-changing world. We should all aspire to think like scientists, not like preachers, prosecutors, or politicians.
A practical consequence of the difficulty of changing one's mind is that we should avoid making it even more difficult. Young kids are often asked what they want to be when they grow up. Not knowing much about career options or their own abilities, their answers are usually influenced by parents' expectations, peer pressure, or the cliche "You can be anything you want to be." Once they are forced to choose an answer, they may enter a state known as "identity foreclosure," defined as premature commitment to an identity, which makes it difficult for them to change their minds, as they encounter opportunities or gain a better understanding of the range of possibilities.
It is unfortunately the case that people who are better thinkers may be worse at rethinking. At any rate, we are rather poor judges of our abilities and knowledge. Aside from the fact that most of us think we are above-average in many regards, such as in driving ability, the well-studied Dunning-Kruger effect suggests that our confidence in being right actually decreases as we learn more about a subject.
I can't think of anyone who would not benefit from reading this book. I discovered the book by hearing its Persian summary in BPlus podcast #77.

2022/06/09 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Computer arithmetic pioneer, James E. Robertson, most-famous for SRT division Cartoons: Second Amendment, milking Africa, water for the masses, using solar & wind power Gender equity in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Both men and women can use the beach!
New logo for Iran's National Bank, after safe deposit boxes were broken into and emptied en masse. English teas in cute containers: Souvenirs brought from Europe by my sister Cartoon: External perception vs. reality of summer for those in academia (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Computer arithmetic pioneer, James E. Robertson (see the next item below). [Top center] Cartoons of the day. [Top right] Gender equity in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Both men and women can use the beach! Actually, what you see in this photo is likely illegal now. There are separate designated beach areas for men and women. [Bottom left] New logo for Iran's National Bank, after safe deposit boxes were broken into and emptied en masse. [Bottom center] English teas in cute containers: Souvenirs brought from Europe by my sister. [Bottom right] Academic's summer: External perception vs. reality.
(2) The Cherokee who envisioned redundancy in computer arithmetic: James E. Robertson [1924-1993], my grandfather in academic genealogy, was a professor of computer science at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where he supervised Algirdas Avizienis, my PhD advisor. I was motivated to write about Robertson because of his son, David, MIT faculty member and author of Brick by Brick, contacting me as part of his research on his dad's contributions. A record of Robertson's contributions is available in this UIUC archive. Robertson was involved as an architect and arithmetic designer in the first two of UIUC's four influential computer design projects:
ILLIAC I (1952): An early von-Neumann architecture, kickstarting UIUC's homegrown series of computers.
ILLIAC II (1962): An innovative early supercomputer, with ideas that found their way into IBM machines.
ILLIAC III (1966): A fine-grained SIMD pattern-recognition computer, featuring a pattern-articulation unit.
ILLIAC IV (1971): The first general-purpose, massively-parallel supercomputer to reach the production stage.
He is best-known for speed-up methods in computer arithmetic via the introduction of redundancy, which allows precise computation using less-than-precise estimates for some intermediate entities. This principle is used in SRT division, still one of the most-beautiful and awe-inspiring ideas in computer arithmetic, whose name comes from the initials of Sweeney, Robertson, and Tocher.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US National gas prices surpass $5.00 per gallon on average: In California, the average is $6.40.
- OPEC+ will increase production in July and August to offer modest relief in the soaring energy costs.
- Study finds that women, black, and Latinx employees of Cal Staue U. are paid less than white males.
- The carbon-removal industry attracts significant funding from backers to fight climate change.
- UK government urged to investigate Iranian officials who held Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe hostage.
- A great suggestion: On campaign contribution checks, enter in the amount field "Thoughts & Prayers"!
- Teachers do not belong in jail: Call on Iran to release all imprisoned teachers right away. [Tweet]
- Most Iranian retirees sink below the poverty line, as inflation outpaces their income growth.
(4) The Islamists in Iran don't have an ounce of creativity or shame: They hijack songs by pre-Revolution Iranian artists and turn them into mourning chants. Now, it is revealed that the "Hello Commander" musical piece, unveiled with much fanfare, was also stolen from an Iraqi production.
(5) NVIDIA's Hopper GPU and Grace CPU: Named in honor of Grace Hopper, a pioneering woman computer scientist, the new family of products aims to cover from small enterprise workloads through exa-scale high-performance computing and trillion-parameter AI models.
(6) The computing field's use of Latin & Greek words/concepts: We should tell our students the origins of the most-common ancient words used in computing. Other than prefixes appearing in terms such as Internet and telecommunications, we have borrowed ancient concepts such as algorithm, firewall, and Trojan horse.

2022/06/07 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iran bans women's coats and manteaux cut above the knee and requires longer ones to be buttoned up at the front Physics puzzle: This 3D cube is made of R-ohm resistors. What is the resistance between two opposite corners? Cover image of Cathy O'Neil's 'The Shame Machine' (1) Images of the day: [Left] "Deviant clothing" criticized by mullahs: Iran bans women's coats/manteaux cut above the knee and requires longer ones to be buttoned up at the front. [Center] Physics puzzle: This 3D cube is made of R-ohm resistors. What is the resistance between two opposite corners? As an added challenge, tackle the 4D hypercube case. [Right] Cathy O'Neil's The Shame Machine (see the last item below).
(2) US retakes the lead in the most-powerful-computer race: Frontier, a massive machine at Oak Ridge National Lab, is the first to demonstrate exa-scale performance. There are indications that China may have already surpassed this level of performance, deciding not to submit test results due to the US-China tensions.
(3) The rotating mask illusion: Yesterday, I posted the image of a coin and its upside-down version, which seemed to turn the raised features on the coin into indented ones. Here is a related illusion. Face recognition is an important brain function, so much so that a special brain region has been trained for it. In this video, a mask is rotated, so that we see its front, raised part and its back, indented part. But our brain can't help seeing the indented image as a raised one, because that's how faces are!
(4) Book review: O'Neil, Cathy, The Shame Machine: Who Profits in the New Age of Humiliation, unabridged 6-hour audiobook, read by the author, Random House Audio, 2022.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Previously, I reviewed O'Neil's best-selling 2016 book, Weapons of Math Destruction, giving it 4 stars and noting that the documentary film "Coded Bias" is based on it. This new book can be viewed as a continuation of O'Neil's 2016 magnum opus. The two books share a lot in common. Surveillance is about persuading consumers to share a great deal of personal data, so that they can be manipulated by marketers of products and services. Shame is, in part, about exploiting consumer weaknesses to shame them into buying products and services. Of course, having more data on consumers makes it easier to identify traits that can be used to shame them.
Shaming comes in at least two flavors: Upward shaming to force the powerful into ethical behavior is good. A prime example is how the Purdue pharma family was shamed into admitting their role in the opioids-abuse crisis, forcing them to fork-over their ill-gotten gains, and placing an indelible stain on the family name (some buildings and programs they sponsored have been renamed). The downfall of Harvey Weinstein due to the #MeToo movement is a second good example. Downward shaming, like punching down at the weak and already-fallen, is bad. Shaming the poor or the homeless does nothing to solve their problems. O'Neil opens her book by describing how Hopi Native-Americans use shaming rituals to enforce their cultural norms. This kind of sideways shaming may be okay if not done in a mean-spirited way. Unfortunately, sideways shaming could also be perilous, as we have seen in the case of vaccination and masking, in both directions.
O'Neil was a long-time victim of fat-shaming, before she took control and decided that she wanted to focus on remaining active and preventing diabetes, instead of striving toward the ideal weight. She writes about "the shame industrial complex," best exemplified by the wellness and weight-loss industries. What makes us suckers for diets and supplements is low self-esteem, an ailment that no amount of spending can fix. Hence, our perpetual consumption of diets, exercise regimens, and miracle-cures. Social-media platforms are uniquely positioned to reap profits from the shame industrial complex, so they have no incentive to prevent shaming and the associated abuse/violence.
O'Neil gave a book talk at UCSB on May 3, 2022, in which she explored the realities and dangers of social networking, the consequences of algorithm design, and defending human dignity in the context of predatory capitalism. I was planning to attend her talk and looked forward to it, but a last-minute change in my schedule prevented me from doing so. O'Neil's 13-minute TED talk, entitled "The Era of Blind Faith in Big Data Must End," covers some of the same ground.

2022/06/06 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Two-rial coin appearing concave with unusual lighting Math puzzle: The smaller square has area 16 and the shaded triangle has area 1. What is the area of the larger square? Two-rial coin appearing convex under usual lighting (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Puzzle: Look at these two images normally and after you turn them upside-down. Explain what you see and why (credit: Amir Shobeiry II). [Center] Math puzzle: The smaller of the two squares has area 16 and the shaded triangle has area 1. What is the area of the larger square?
(2) World Cup soccer: Ukraine played well against Wales but ended up losing 0-1 due to an own goal to end its fairy-tale run at a chance to appear in Qatar. [10-minute highlights]
(3) Quote of the day: "Wearing unbranded and cheap clothes does not mean you're poor. Remember, you have a family to feed, not a community to impress." ~ Emma Watson
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Israel unveils a laser weapon capable of intercepting rockets, mortar shells, drones, & anti-tank missiles.
- Sales of Kellyanne Conway's memoir fall flat after she is attacked by both the right and the left.
- New Yorker cartoon caption of the day: "I'd like to meet the algorithm that thought we'd be a good match."
- Math puzzle: Find the value of x satisfying 16^x + 20^x = 25^x.
- Persian poetry: A poem by Rahim Moeini Kermanshahi [1923-2015]. [Facebook post]
- Facebook memory from June 6, 2020: Remembering D-Day (June 6, 1944).
(5) Business and economy seating at a gathering to pledge allegiance to Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei: Social distancing for regime insiders; cattle-like treatment for mere mortals. [Tweet]
(6) Karim Sanjabi: One of Iran's nationalists who bowed to Khomeini's wishes or were played by him. Khomeini used these "intellectuals" to gain legitimacy, before moving to eliminate or sideline them one by one. He finished his complete takeover by mass-murdering the leftists. [Facebook post, with videos]
(7) A gunman who killed a retired judge in Wisconsin carried a hit list that included US Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
(8) Hypocrisy: MAGA folk want us to move on from the insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, but they are unwilling to move on from their electoral loss of Nov. 3, 2020, or, for that matter, from their 1865 loss in the Civil War!
(9) A few interesting recorded events in Georgetown U.'s Jalinous Lecture Series: Magnificent Designs: Persian Influence in Textile Arts; Celebration and Ceremony: Zoroastrianism and Nowruz, Easter, and Passover; Kiarostami: Imagination and Existence in Film.

2022/06/05 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Persian calligraphy: Oh, cleric! Do not threaten someone who is already living in hell with being held accountable in the other world Today was the last of three days to wear orange to show support for victims of gun violence Some large powers of 10: You probably won't encounter most of these numbers, but here are their names anyway!
On-line presentation on energy: Part 1, oil & gas Persian poetry: A few verses from a ghazal by Hafez Last lecture in the UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran for this academic year (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Persian calligraphy: Oh, cleric! Do not threaten someone who is already living in hell with being held accountable in the other world. [Top center] Today was the last of three days to wear orange to show support for victims of gun violence. Even though orange days are over, I pledge to continue working to bring about sensible gun laws, beginning with efforts at the city and county levels and working my way up. [Top right] Some large powers of 10: You probably won't encounter most of these numbers, but here are their names anyway! Curiously, 10^33 is missing from the list. [Bottom left] On-line presentation on energy: Part 1, oil & gas (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Persian poetry: Five selected verses from a ghazal by Hafez. [Bottom right] Last lecture in the UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran for this academic year (see the last item below).
(2) "The Geopolitics of Energy and Transition from Fossil Fuels to Renewable and Clean Energy": This is the title of a two-part presentation, in Persian, by Dr. Sirous Yasseri (Brunel U.), in the framework of the Zoom gatherings of the 1968 graduates of Tehran U. College of Engineering (Fanni'68). Today's first part was focused on oil & gas, including transport of fossil fuels and the energy market in Europe, particularly the shipment of Russian gas to Northern Europe. Part 2 on Sunday, June 12, 2022, will cover transitioning to clean energy and its associated problems.
Dr. Yasseri began by displaying the interactive map "What Powers the World?" that provides, for each country, the fraction of energy coming from fossil fuels, nuclear power plants, and renewables. In addition to seeing the share of each kind of energy in various countries, one can produce scatter-plots of the three kinds of energy around the world.
Dr. Yasseri's historical overview began in the early 1900s, when there were two world powers: The Russian Empire, which controlled a large land-mass in Asia and Eastern Europe, and England, which controlled the waters of the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea to the south. There were skirmishes and wars between the two powers, but neither one could eliminate the other. So, a kind of delicate balance prevailed that adversely affected countries like Iran that sat between the two domains of influence. He then proceeded to describe the changes in the energy scene, as uses of energy sky-rocketed and the United States entered the scene as a newly-minted world power.
A 10-minute film clip of a 1975 interview by the Shah reveals some of the tensions that existed around the world regarding energy resources and other geopolitical issues.
Gas is a relatively cleaner source of energy than coal or oil, but its transportation is complicated, dangerous, and expensive. Natural gas is usually liquified (LNG), shipped via special tankers, and converted back to gas at the destination. Lately, the use of pipelines is becoming common for gas transport to avoid some of the complexities and dangers, but gas (and oil) pipelines have to go through multiple countries en-route to the final destination, making them vulnerable to political squabbles and unrest, as we witness today in the case of Russian exports.
There are several choke-points in the world's shipping lanes for fossil fuels. The best-known of these is the Strait of Hormuz, which allows Iran to exert much influence. The second important choke-point is the Strait of Malacca, a source of tension between China and US allies in the region.
One of the charts shows that we will continue to rely to a great extent on oil and gas until the end of this century. New energy sources will expand gradually, assuming that problems with production, cost, and raw-materials they require are resolved. More on these topics next week.
[My Facebook post, containing the images in larger format]
(3) UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran (last one for the 2021-2022 academic year): Dr. Nahid Pirnazar (UCLA; an expert on Judeo-Persian literature) spoke in Persian under the title "The Intellectual Heritage of Iranian Jews in Judeo-Persian." Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (Cal State U. Northridge; coordinator of UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series) introduced the speaker and the discussant, Dr. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak (U. Maryland & UCLA), and moderated the Q&A session afterwards.
Dr. Pirnazar began by stating that she will discuss literary contributions in the Farsihood language (Persian, written with the Hebrew alphabet, augmented with special symbols to accommodate certain Persian sounds), not linguistic issues. The last image included in this report shows some of the correspondences between Hebrew letters and Persian letters/sounds. Farsihood was developed because there were many Jews who knew Hebrew from reading the Torah, so, as the Persian script underwent transitions at the time, the use of the Hebrew alphabet provided a kind of familiarity and continuity for the intended audience. Farsihood literature remained obscure for a long time.
Farsihood was, of course, influenced by Iran's language and culture, but it also included some Islamic/Arabic terms, along with Hebrew/Jewish and Zoroastrian notions. Many of the mythical tales of Shahnameh also found their way into the Farsihood literature. It wasn't uncommon for Jewish poets, writing in Farsihood, to quote great Persian poets, such as Sa'adi, or to compose poems in their styles.
Dr. Pirnia read and interpreted verses and prose originally written in Farsihood, including passages describing Ardeshir's reign, the story of Yusuf and Zulaikha, and a short passage from the introduction to Simantov Melamed's Hayat al Ruh (The Eternity of the Soul).
Work on Farsihood literature has been going on for some time, but things are starting to get more interesting with new discoveries and interpretations. During the Q&A period, I pointed to some problems in terms of rhyme in the poems displayed by the speaker. Much work is being done, and remains to be done in the domain of cleaning up and correcting these works. Many Farsihood sources come to us from rare library copies, mostly in poor shape, with smudges, torn pages, and missing parts.
I also asked about possible discrepancies between historical accounts written in Persian and in Farsihood, in the same way that the story of Esther is told in different ways in Islamic and Jewish sources. Dr. Pirnia replied that the story of Esther is very real to Iranian Jews, but that it is considered a myth by others, despite its retelling in the Bible. Esther's tomb in the city of Hamadan, a Jewish sacred site, may in fact belong to some other queen.
This was a fascinating and eye-opening lecture for me. I look forward to examining Dr. Pirnazar's books.
[My Facebook post, containing the images in larger format]

2022/06/03 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Well, the unbroken string of positive, encouraging fortune-cookie messages continues! Designers for Peace: Work by Dr. Roshanak Keyghobadi, Assistant Professor at Farmingdale State College Cover image of the book 'The Age of AI' (1) Images of the day: [Left] The unbroken string of positive, encouraging fortune-cookie messages continues! [Center] Designers for Peace: Poster designed by Dr. Roshanak Keyghobadi, Assistant Professor at Farmingdale State College. [Right] The Age of AI, by Kissinger, Schmidt, and Huttenlocher (see the last item below).
(2) The amazing world of near-integers: From time to time, we run into an irrational number that is very close to a whole number. Here is an example: e^(π sqrt(163)) = 262,537,412,640,768,743.999,999,999,999
(3) Santa Barbara's housing market: A May 2022 advertising newsletter from SB Village Properties included the following stats on homes sold: Most expensive, $52 million; Least expensive, $820,000; Median price, $2.5 million; Average price, $4.35 million; Average days on market, 20 days.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- President Zelensky praises Elon Musk's Starlink for saving Ukraine from Russian propaganda.
- The Daily Show's bio of Tucker Carlson, the aristocrat pretending to be a champion of the working class.
- Here's a trick that helps you forget all the troubles that are bringing you down. [2-minute video]
- An old Russian film clip showing Tehran, ca. 1930. [5-minute video]
- Domino's pizza-delivery drone. [Video]
(5) White privilege: Trump Aide Peter Navarro was arrested at Nashville Airport for defying the January 6 Committee. He complained about being put in handcuffs and leg-irons. In a TV interview, he related that he has 4 years of life left according the life-expectancy charts and going to jail for a year would deprive him of 1/4 of his remaining time on Earth. Oh, the poor little White guy worries about being jailed for one year for the crime of insurrection! Hasn't he heard about how colored folks are killed during traffic stops, let alone how they are arrested or detained for petty crimes, such as passing a counterfeit $20 bill?
(6) Book review: Kissinger, Henry, Eric Schmidt, and Daniel Huttenlocher, The Age of AI: And Our Human Future, unabridged 7-hour audiobook, read by Eric Pollins, Little, Brown & Company, 2021.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book, written by a former US Secretary of State, a technologist/philanthropist (who was affiliated with Google and Alphabet during 2000s & 2010s), and an MIT dean of computing who is also a corporate director, presents a high-level introduction to artificial intelligence (AI), focusing on political, social, and economic impacts, rather than on technical details. One may call it a geopolitical treatise on AI, which is seemingly targeted at politicians and business leaders.
Such a view is useful, even for a scientist like me, who can benefit from looking beyond academic research teams and technical aspects of innovation. Yet, I don't see how this book can enlighten the masses that don't already know a great deal about AI (and tech more generally). I was curious to learn how other readers have viewed this book, and, sure enough, there are low ratings based on superficiality, vagueness, and lack of new insights, alongside high ratings that cite informativeness, historical insights, and impactful premonition.
The second and third authors have the technical credentials to write about AI, whereas the first author's level of involvement is questionable. Kissinger's role here is reminiscent of Bill Clinton's in the novel The President Is Missing, which he wrote with the prolific thriller/mystery author James Patterson. At his advance age, Kissinger can barely put a couple of coherent sentences together when not reading from a script, so, very likely, a technology assistant did the work for him.
Recently, Kissinger opined that Ukraine should cede some territory to Russia in the interest of achieving peace. The equivalent of this "real-political" assessment for AI would be that we humans should accept some level of AI dominance in order to take advantage of useful services AI provides! Yet, the main message of the book is exactly the opposite. We are advised to keep tabs on AI and always have humans on the loop (supervising the process), if not in the loop (approving all decisions).
One point that the authors make forcefully is the possibility of AI gaining insights that are just beyond the human reach. This has already happened in chess, where new board configurations and move sequences overlooked by humans have been profitably exploited. Humans won't trust such insights, unless they are presented with justifications and roadmaps of how they were derived. Another intriguing thought pertains to the unforeseeable results of AI agents interacting with each other, as on a battlefield.
In one passage, after likening AI technology to nuclear arms, which are dangerous but their regulation has been somewhat successful, given the large footprint that makes covert testing and deployment rather difficult, the authors note that regulating AI via international treaties may prove impossible. Much of the value of AI arises from hidden features, whose disclosure would be tantamount to losing the edge they provide.

2022/06/02 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Throwback Thursday: A group of my college classmates (I was the photographer), ca. 1967 New design for the American flag: Dead children replacing the stars Chaos in the US Supreme Court: Civility seems to have melted away under John Roberts
UCSB SAGE-Center talk by Steven Strogatz: Speaker UCSB SAGE-Center talk by Steven Strogatz: Two slides A small gesture: Wear orange June 3-5 to remind everyone of the death toll of gun violence (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Throwback Thursday: A group of my college classmates (I was the photographer), ca. 1967. [Top center] New design for the American flag. [Top right] Chaos in the US Supreme Court: Civility seems to have melted away under John Roberts. [Bottom left & center] UCSB SAGE-Center talk by Steven Strogatz (see the last item below). [Bottom right] A small gesture: Wear orange June 3-5 to remind everyone of the death toll of gun violence.
(2) The Asch Experiments: Named after Polish-American psychologist Solomon Asch [1907-1996], the experiments measure the extent to which our desire for conformity (fitting in) motivates us to ignore the truth and go along with opinions we know to be wrong. [5-minute video]
(3) Indian parents sue their son for not giving them a grandchild six years after getting married: Iranian parents are upset they didn't think of filing such a lawsuit first!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Defining acronyms: GOP = Guns Over People
- Comedian Trevor Noah calls out the nonsense Republicans are promoting as causes of gun violence.
- British Museum head describes the historical significance of the clay object known as the Cyrus Cylinder.
- U. Central Florida offers an on-line Kurdish language course (Sorani or Central Kurdish) during fall 2022.
(5) "Salam Darmandeh": Protest Persian rap song, attacking Supreme Leader Khamenei and his supporters, who salute him with "Salam Farmandeh" ("Hello, Commander").
(6) "Synchronization in Nature": This was the title of today's inspiring UCSB SAGE-Center talk by Steven H. Strogatz (Professor of Mathematics, Cornell U.), famous for his ideas and results on "small-world networks," a Nature article of his on the topic having garnered ~50,000 citations. His 2003 book, Sync: The Emerging Science of Spontaneous Order, is now on my to-read list. In addition to being a distinguished researcher, Strogatz excels in bringing the joy of math to the masses, in much the same way that Richard Feynman did for physics. I have read and reviewed two of his expository books, The Joy of x and Infinite Powers.
Today's talk consisted of three parts.
In Part 1, "Systems that Sync Themselves," Strogatz provided examples of systems showing spontaneous synchronization, including five metronomes in a viral YouTube video, London's Millennium Bridge swaying from side to side on its June 10, 2000, opening day, and male fireflies along the tidal rivers of Malaysia.
In Part 2, Strogatz discussed "The Simplest Model of Sync," essentially assuming complete connectivity in the associated graph model. Sync is a difficult problem to study mathematically, because it is a highly non-linear phenomenon. The notions of limited-cycle oscillation and the Kuramoto Model were presented. Mention was made of Dirk Brockmann's Web site and his "Ride my Kuramotocycle" interactive app that allows experimentation with the synchronization of phase-coupled oscillators.
In Part 3, entitled "What Happens on Networks?" Strogatz discussed synchronization under limited connectivity, which makes the problem even more messy. Whether or not sync is achieved depends on the minimum node degree. Researchers know that when the connectivity parameter μ crosses a certain threshold, spontaneous sync becomes inevitable. While we have upper and lower bounds on the value of μ, the gap [0.6838, 0.75] between the two bounds is yet to be closed.
During the Q&A period, I asked about the relation of the sync problem, as studied by him, to the old computer science "Firing Squad Synchronization Problem," where finite-state machines are designed so that they all enter the common "firing" state simultaneously, regardless of their initial states and system size. He said that he didn't quite know the relationship, but that sync does find practical applications in distributed systems.

2022/06/01 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
June is LGBTQ Pride Month Rainbows at Yosemites Falls, California, USA One of the colorful paintings of the late Leonid Afremov
Recycling is good: But dealing with the serious environmental challenges we face requires a lot more; it needs a circular economy with no waste Iranian soccer star Voria Ghafouri brings his daughter onto the field to send a message about banning women from sporting events Cover image of Melanie Mitchell's book on artificial intelligence (1) Images of the day: [Top left] June is LGBTQ Pride Month: "The more I've been able to learn about gay rights and equal pay and gender equity and racial inequality, the more I've realized that it all intersects. You can't really pick it apart. It's all intertwined." ~ US soccer star Megan Rapinoe [Top center] Rainbows at Yosemites Falls, CA, USA. [Top right] One of the colorful paintings of the late Leonid Afremov (1955-2019). [Bottom left] Recycling is good: But dealing with the serious environmental challenges we face requires a lot more; it needs a circular economy with no waste. [Bottom center] Iranian soccer star Voria Ghafouri brings his daughter onto the field to send a message about banning women from sporting events. [Bottom right] Melanie Mitchell's book on artificial intelligence (see the last iten below).
(2) IEEE Central Coast Section tech talk for June 2022: Professor William Wang of UCSB's Computer Science Department will speak under the title "Self-Supervised Language-and-Vision Reasoning." Wednesday, June 15, 2022, 6:00 PM PDT, Rusty's Pizza, Goleta. [Register]
(3) Free summer cinema in Santa Barbara: Held at SB Courthouse Sunken Garden, Friday nights at 8:30 PM under the stars, the series extends from July 8 to August 26. UCSB students presenting valid IDs can watch the films two days earlier, on Wednesdays, at Campbell Hall.
7/08 "American Graffiti"; 7/15 "Dirty Dancing"; 7/22 "Thelma & Louise"; 7/29 "The Adventures of Priscilla"; 8/12 "Moonrise Kingdom"; 8/19 "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle"; 8/26 "In the Heights: The Time Has Come"
(4) World Cup soccer: Ukraine overcame long odds to prevail 3-1 over the host Scotland. It will face Wales on June 5, to determine the team that will join England, USA, and Iran in the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group B. I am rooting for Ukraine! [8-minute highlights]
(5) Another assassination fatwa may be forthcoming: Iranian authorities are dissatisfied with the success of the movie "Holy Spider" at Cannes Film Festival (best-actress award for Zar Amir-Ebrahimi) and have likened it to the works of Salman Rushdie. The film is based on the story of a vigilante mass-murderer who hunted prostitutes in the holy city of Mashhad and the real-life woman reporter who investigated the crimes. [Image]
(6) Today, I tried to walk home from UCSB via the gorgeous beach path: I was stopped by the high tide, being forced to walk up to the street level. Students are getting ready to leave town at the end of the academic year, hence many signs about available rentals. [Photos]
(7) Book review: Mitchell, Melanie, Artificial Intelligence: A Guide for Thinking Humans, unabridged 10-hour audiobook, read by Abby Craden, Melanie Mitchell, and Tony Wolf, Macmillan Audio, 2019.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The book's contents are packaged in five parts (16 chapters), sandwiched between a prologue entitled "Terrified" and ~20 pages of notes. Here is the table of contents in brief:
Part I. Background (Chs. 1-3): The Roots of Artificial intelligence; Neural Networks and the Ascent of Machine Learning; AI Spring
Part II. Looking and Seeing (Chs. 4-7): Who, What, When, Where, Why; ConvNets and ImageNet; A Closer Look at Machines That Learn; On Trustworthy and Ethical AI
Part III. Learning to Play (Chs. 8-10): Rewards for Robots; Game On; Beyond Games
Part IV. Artificial Intelligence Meets Natural Language (Chs. 11-13): Words, and the Company They Keep; Translation as Encoding and Decoding; Ask Me Anything
Part V. The Barrier of Meaning (Chs. 14-16): On Understanding; Knowledge, Abstraction, and Analogy in Artificial Intelligence; Questions, Answers, and Speculations
The author, who earned her PhD under Douglas Hofstadter, of the Godel, Escher, Bach fame, was attracted to computer science, despite having no background in it. She does a fine job of exposing AI's essence, main tools/methods, applications, and impact. She is particularly thorough in describing machine learning and the various forms it takes, weaving into the technical narrative interesting human stories about AI luminaries and their worst fears.
As I write this review, I am listening to another audiobook, The Age of AI: And Our Human Future (by Henry Kissinger, Eric Schmidt, and Daniel Huttenlocher). Mitchell's book has my highest recommendation, whereas The Age of AI is more hype than substance, apparently targeted at politicians and business leaders.

2022/05/31 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
America's gun culture: It's never too early to introduce a baby to machine guns! Cartoons: GOP's tough choice between guns and children! Alarming images captured by Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti
Math puzzle: We have 3 squares and 2 line-segments, as shown. Find the measure of the angle alpha Math puzzle: Five circles of radius 2 are centered at the four vertices and center of a square of side length 5 Math puzzle: Find the ratio of the areas of the yellow square and the green square. (1) Images of the day: [Top left] America's gun culture: It's never too early to introduce a baby to machine guns! [Top center] Cartoons of the day: GOP's tough choice between guns and children! [Top right] Americans and their guns: Alarming images captured by Italian photographer Gabriele Galimberti. [Bottom left] Math puzzle: We have 3 squares and 2 line-segments, as shown. Find the measure of the angle alpha (credit: Mirangu.com). [Bottom center] Math puzzle: Five circles of radius 2 are centered at the four vertices and center of a square of side length 5. Find the difference MN of the two shaded areas (credit: @bilalsarimeseli). [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Find the ratio of the areas of the yellow square and the green square.
(2) My IEEE Computer Society Distinguished Lecturer webinar: Here's the 91-minute recording of the historically-themed webinar entitled "Eight Key Ideas in Computer Architecture from Eight Decades of Innovation," presented on September 30, 2021.
(3) Good to see that the attitude "shut up and play basketball" no longer prevails: Steve Kerr, coach of NBA's Golden State Warriors, has had it with outdated gun laws and the resulting mass shootings.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Two brands of organic strawberries identified as the culprits in Hepatitis A outbreak in the US and Canada.
- Memes of the day: Outcome of the GOP economic policies, and the Second Amendment scorecard. [Images]
- Independent Persian reports that Instagram has deleted some content criticizing Iran's IRGC & Ali Khamenei.
- UCSB Jazz Ensemble at the Music Bowl on Tuesday 5/31: "The Girl from Ipanema." [8-minute video]
(5) Today's hot topics in computing, along with one-line definitions of jargon.
Computing (architectures, technologies, platforms)
- Cloud: Using a network of remote servers on the internet to store, manage, and process data
- Edge: Processing client data at the network's periphery, as close to the data source as possible
- Fog: Placing data, compute, storage, and apps somewhere between the data source and the cloud
- Neuromorphic: Designing computer systems modeled after the human brain and nervous system
- Quantum: Developing computer technology based on the principles of quantum theory
Data science: A scientific discipline dealing with knowledge and insights extraction from noisy data
Internet of things: Internet connectivity of everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data
Machine learning: Computer systems able to learn and adapt without following explicit instructions
- Reinforcement: The machine learns by getting positive/negative rewards for right/wrong decisions
- Supervised: Human supervisor feeds the algorithm information that facilitates the learning process
- Un- or self-supervised: The machine discovers patterns on its own and uses them for classification
Neural network (NN; shorthand for ANN)
- Artificial (ANN): Computing systems inspired by biological neural networks in animal brains
- Convolutional (CNN): A type of ANN specifically designed for image processing and recognition
- Deep (DNN): ANNs with increased number of hidden layers between input and output layers
- Feedforward (FNN): Any ANN wherein connections between the nodes do not form a cycle
- Recurrent (RNN): Any ANN with a directed or undirected cyclic path along a temporal sequence
[I will update this post, as other topics/terms come to my mind.]

2022/05/30 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Santa Barbara's I Madonnari Street Painting Festival: Overview of the event On this US Memorial Day, we honor the memory of those who fell to protect our freedom Santa Barbara's I Madonnari Street Painting Festival: SB Mission's Rose Garden
Santa Barbara's I Madonnari Street Painting Festival: Artists at work Santa Barbara's I Madonnari Street Painting Festival: Artworks in progress Santa Barbara's I Madonnari Street Painting Festival: Some of the younger artists
Santa Barbara's I Madonnari Street Painting Festival: Batch 1 of finished paintings Santa Barbara's I Madonnari Street Painting Festival: Batch 2 of finished paintings Santa Barbara's I Madonnari Street Painting Festival: Batch 3 of finished paintings (1) Santa Barbara's "I Madonnari" Italian Street-Painting Festival: The annual Festival is held at the historic Santa Barbara Mission during the Memorial Day weekend. The photos in the middle row show some of the chalk art in early stages on Saturday, along with the artists, young and old. Also shown on the top right is Santa Barbara Mission's famous Rose Garden. Here's my 6-minute video tour from Saturday. Among the performers on the music stage were the talented Santa Barbara Piano Boys (Video 1; Video 2). The photos in the bottom row show more-or-less finished paintings on Monday. Here's my 6-minute video tour from Monday. The local Latin jazz band Mezcal Martini was one of the performers on the music stage (4-minute video).
(2) On this US Memorial Day, we honor the memory of those who fell to protect our freedom: Behind each loss or injury is a person, with interests and aspirations; a loved one to many. Kissing and hugging the flag and wrapping our misguided policies in it are cheap. Putting fewer of our soldiers in harm's way and doing something tangible for our veterans would be priceless!
"Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it." ~ Mark Twain
(3) "The Geopolitics of Energy and Transition from Fossil Fuels to Renewable and Clean Energy": This is the title of a two-part presentation, in Persian, by Dr. Sirous Yasseri (Brunel U.), as part of the Zoom gatherings of the 1968 graduates of Tehran U. College of Engineering (Fanni'68). The first part will be on Sunday, June 5, 2022, 9:30 AM PDT (9:00 PM Iran time). Please contact me for the Zoom link, if interested.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- NRA convention speaker thanks Wayne LaPierre for all his thoughts & prayers after each mass shooting!
- New GOP credo: Life begins at conception and ends at elementary school.
- Did you know that Democrats grow fake meat in a "peach tree dish"? So says Marjorie Taylor Greene!
- After a few days of unseasonably-hot weather, I have prepared my courtyard for summer! [Photos]
- Math that amazes & delights: Periodic grid of cubes. [Credit: @HedronApp]
- From now on, taking of an earthling by aliens will be deemed a rescue operation instead of an abduction!
(5) Actress Zar Amir-Ebrahimi wins the best-actress award at Cannes Film Festival: She expresses concern for people of Abadan, who are mourning the loss of loved ones in the collapse of a high-rise building. It was indeed super-classy for Amir-Ebrahimi to show concern for hardships faced by the people who were complicit in destroying her acting career in Iran and forcing her into exile!
(6) Math puzzle: Draw a parallelogram ABCD. Consider points E & F on sides BC and CD, respectively. Given that each of the three triangles ABE, ADF, and CEF has area 1, find the area of the triangle AEF.
(7) Weeping for Abadan: The oldie song "Lab-e Karoun" from Abadan, Iran, was always associated with joy and dancing. This somber version of the song was performed to mark the anniversary of Khorramshahr's liberation from the invading Iraqi forces in the 1980s. Now, Abadanis are faced with another invading enemy force: The riot police sent by the Islamic government to suppress them, as they mourn and lick their wounds in the aftermath of a residential/commercial tower collapse, killing dozens. The riot police arrived in town before rescue teams. Ironically, this 2-minute ad for Metropol twin luxury towers ran on Abadan's state TV right until the collapse of the residential/commercial project, killing dozens.

2022/05/28 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Visual puzzle: Can you spot a butterfly, a bat, and a duck in this image? Believe it or not: Charles Dickens read to Ada Lovelace, known as world's first programmer, while she was on her deathbed Cover image of Marlo Morgan's 'Mutant Message Down Under'
Dr. Ammar Maleki's talk on measuring public opinions: Speaker Dr. Ammar Maleki's talk on measuring public opinions: Sample slides Parastoo Abtahi's talk on improving haptics in VR: Sample slides Parastoo Abtahi's talk on improving haptics in VR: Speaker (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Visual puzzle: Can you spot a butterfly, a bat, and a duck in this image? [Top center] Believe it or not: Charles Dickens read to Ada Lovelace, known as world's first programmer, while she was on her deathbed. And Florence Nightingale was a good friend of Ada. [Top right] Marlo Morgan's Mutant Message Down Under (see the last item below). [Bottom left & center-left] Dr. Ammar Maleki's talk on measuring public opinions (see item 2 below). [Bottom center-right & right] Parastoo Abtahi's talk on improving haptics in VR (see item 3 below).
(2) "How Do Leading Methods Mislead? Measuring Public Opinions in Authoritarian Contexts": This was the title yesterday's Stanford U. webinar by Dr. Ammar Maleki (Tilburg U., Netherlands). Well-known as a pro-democracy advocate, Dr. Maleki is the author of From Civil Disobedience to Civil Misobedience, published in Persian (Az Nafarmani Madani Ta Badfarmani Madani).
Measuring public opinions is difficult everywhere, but it presents tougher challenges in authoritarian societies, particularly with regard to sensitive socio-political questions. Examples include asking about support of the Ukraine war in Russia or approval of President Raisi's policies in Iran. A phenomenon known as "preference falsification" is at play here.
polling organizations use a number of methods for face-to-face and phone interviews that have proven effective, based on experience, but these methods often fail in the case of sensitive topics. On-line surveys, which provide some anonymity, reduce self-censorship compared with face-to-face or phone surveys, but they suffer from self-selection and, thus, face the danger of not being representative. One can use a number of adjustments to improve the representativeness of on-line sampling. Internet penetration and widespread access to it, even in authoritarian societies, makes on-line surveys feasible, without worrying about unrepresentative samples due to access exclusion.
In the rest of his talk, Dr. Maleki presented results from a number of on-line surveys conducted by his team, comparing the results with those obtained via leading methods. He discussed how "multiple chain referral sampling" can be used for balancing and making a representative sample based on benchmarks (national census reports and Gallup survey data) and cross-checking the results with respect to various socio-economic factors, such as employment and income-level stats.
Dr. Maleki's work begins with the hypothesis that for non-sensitive questions, results from different surveys are in agreement. Examples of non-sensitive questions include asking participants about the importance of family, friends, or work. For a sensitive question, such as the importance of religion, a factor of 2+ difference was observed between results from various surveys.
(3) "From Haptic Illusions to Beyond-Real Interactions in Virtual Reality": This was the title of Parastoo Abtahi's PhD-defense talk at Stanford U. yesterday. Parastoo, whose father, Ebrahim, was a graduate student of mine decades ago, is headed to Princeton U. as a faculty member after graduation.
Virtual reality has been around for a long time, but only in recent years have we had VR headsets of sufficient quality to present a truly real experience to users. Even with recent advances, haptic rendering remains limited (vibration of a handheld object is really the only thing now), thus leaving a void for the sense of touch in VR. The goal of this thesis was to improve the sense of touch by providing a feel for textures and forces.
A possible approach is to bring a reasonably similar object to the user, as s/he reaches out to touch something. In her project, Parastoo used a drone to bring objects within the user's reach. In other experiments, a table-top robot was used for this purpose, but the limited movement speed for such a robot presented challenges that had to be overcome.
One helpful attribute of us humans is that our perception of touch is imperfect, so "haptic illusions" can be used to deceive us into believing that we are touching a sphere, say, whereas a digital approximation of the sphere is rendered. Another example is using somewhat different directions or sizes between the real objects touched and the experience of the virtual finger.
Beyond VR, one can use surreal experiences, such as increased size of our avatar (like what one experiences in a fantasy world at a theme park) or exaggerated motion speeds. These may run into human limitations, such as experiencing motion sickness, which must be resolved.
(4) Book review: Morgan, Marlo, Mutant Message Down Under, unabridged 6-hour audiobook, read by Eliza Foss, Harper Audio, 2010. [My 2-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book has been characterized as a work of fiction by many reviewers who question the author's integrity. The bulk of reviews, however, are quite positive, earning the book an average of 3.8 stars on GoodReads, despite quite a few 1-star ratings. The author has admitted to "novelizing" her own experience.
Morgan uses the lifestyle of a remote tribe of Australia's nomadic Aboriginals, which she claims to have observed up-close during a 4-month walkabout through the Outback, to advocate for living with fewer worldly possessions and a smaller footprint on our fragile planet. This message resonates with me, regardless of whether the events described by the author are real or made-up.
Morgan tells us that she was summoned by the tribe to carry an important message to the world. The tribe described by Morgan is part of a 50,000-year-old culture that does not have a written or even formal spoken language, its members interacting primarily via gestures and mind-reading. They live in an environment with meager natural resources, when judged by our standards, yet they get by, always managing to find something to eat. More importantly, they nurture their environment, leaving some food for other creatures and making sure not to kill the sparse vegetation by over-harvesting. They cherish their wisdom, calling themselves "real people," in contrast to "mutant" humans.
Rather than continue with my description of other claims in Morgan's book, I think I can serve the readers of this review better by pointing them to the highly-critical review written by Chris Sitka, a white Australian woman with some knowledge of the Aboriginals. Sitka points to numerous factual errors and discrepancies in the book, ending her review thus: "In 1996 a group of Aboriginal elders, seriously disturbed by the book's implications, received a grant to travel to the States and confront Marlo Morgan about her book and to try to prevent a Hollywoodisation of it. ... This is very damaging to their very real struggle for survival."
P.S.: I learned about this book from its Persian translation by Elaheh Kianfar, under the title Lost Message (Payaam-e Gom-Gashteh, Nashr-e Aali-Tabaar, 2018).

2022/05/27 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
When the Ukraine war is finally over, among its casualties will be tens of thousands of scarred-for-life children Newsweek magazine's cover story (President DeSantis): God forbid! Cover image of Thomas Piketty's 'A Brief History of Equality' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Invisible casualties of war: When the Ukraine war is finally over, among its casualties will be tens of thousands of scarred-for-life children. [Center] Newsweek magazine's cover story: God forbid! [Right] Thomas Piketty's A Brief History of Equality (see the last item below).
(2) Have we already forgotten the massacre of 2nd-, 3rd- and 4th-graders in Texas? After each such tragedy, GOP politicians and NRA officials hide from us, until the event has been forgotten or another crisis has replaced it on the evening news. Keep the incident alive by repeatedly saying "never again"! Get involved in gun-control movements at the local level, to show the fake "pro-lifers" that you are the ones who truly value life.
(3) Fun with math: The equality sqrt(3 + 2 sqrt(2)) = 1 + sqrt(2) prompted me to derive similar equalities, in which a nested square-root expression equals a non-nested one. A simple generalization is sqrt(n + 1 + 2 sqrt(n)) = 1 + sqrt(n), which produces infinitely many examples.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- China & Europe lead the push to regulate AI: The US may come to regret inaction.
- Iran nuclear deal appears dead, as Biden leans toward keeping IRCG on the US foreign terrorist list.
- Efforts by many activists paid off and the friendly soccer match between Canada and Iran was cancelled.
- Iran seizes 2 Greek tankers in the Persian Gulf, days after Iranian oil cargo was confiscated near Greece.
- Today's America: Where it's easier to buy guns than baby formula!
- Performance of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" by an amateur singer and a one-man band.
(5) Campus housing project gets a key go-ahead: UCSB's Ocean Road workforce housing project, proposed as part of its 2010 Long-Range Development Plan, gains the approval of the UC Regents and will break ground in summer of 2023. The housing units will be located between the campus and the neighboring community of Isla Vista and constitute part of a plan to better integrate the campus with the residential neighborhood where many of our students live.
(6) Book review: Pagel, Mark D., Wired for Culture: Origins of the Human Social Mind, W. W. Norton & Co., 2012. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I wrote this review on May 26, 2013 and posted it to GoodReads on May 26, 2022.
(7) Book review: Piketty, Thomas, A Brief History of Equality, unabridged 9-hour audiobook, read by Fred Sanders, Harvard U. Press, 2022. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Piketty, a French economist, is the author of Capital in the Twenty-First Century (my review). Capital and Piketty's new book have quite a bit of overlap, as the dangers of increasing inequality are discussed in both books. In Capital, Piketty argues that if wealth's rate of return exceeds an economy's growth rate, wealth-to-income ratio and inequality tend to rise. This is the normal state of capitalism, unless we intervene.
There's much disagreement among economists, but nearly all of them agree on a few tenets. No one questions the importance of well-defined property rights or the key role of incentives in economic growth and prosperity. The necessity of trading off growth for equality is another one of the points on which there is broad agreement. In capitalist societies, risk-takers are rewarded and thus get rich, as they should. So, some inequality is an inevitable part of capitalism. However, societies get in trouble when inequality crosses a certain threshold.
Piketty questions the centrality of growth to economic prosperity, favoring justice as the theme to be emphasized. He defends progressive taxation, with fairly high rates at the top of the income/wealth scale, as both desirable and necessary, challenging the view that high tax rates stifle innovation and productivity. Piketty reviews the rise of living standards around the world and traces the erratic path of inequality, falling for a while and then rising again.
Piketty passionately advocates for concrete steps to reduce inequality by instituting or strengthening programs that guarantee jobs, a minimum income, and a greener economy, through raising income and wealth taxes, including on large fortunes and inheritances. He also believes that employees should have more of a say in running corporations, as is done in parts of the German economy. To make this last proposal practical, he distinguishes between small and large businesses, with the voting power of owners declining, as the number of employees rises. He labels his proposed interventions "participatory socialism."
Unfortunately, as soon as the term "socialism" enters into the discussion, the ideas, worthy as they may be, become hard to sell. Even Europe's social democracies are starting to move away from socialism, as the hard-right gains more followers and power. Debate on the merits of free market (higher growth, better living standards) and government regulations (economic justice, equality) is not one to be resolved quickly, given its long history. Piketty argues that we better address the problem of inequality in short order, or an unpleasant social explosion awaits us.

2022/05/26 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Mistreatment of women Suffragists in the early 1900s: Scene 1 Mistreatment of women Suffragists in the early 1900s: Scene 2 A woman in a Marietta, Georgia, office using an IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Data Processing Machine (ca. 1953)
In the wake of a building collapse in Abadan, Iran, the government's first reaction was to send the riot police, not rescue teams Four photos: A foggy spring day on the UCSB campus Cover image of Wil Wheaton's 'Still Just a Geek' (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Throwback Thursday: Scenes from the mistreatment of women Suffragists in the early 1900s, and a woman in a Marietta, Georgia, office using an IBM 650 Magnetic Drum Data Processing Machine (ca. 1953). [Bottom left] Building collapse in Abadan, Iran, leaves dozens dead and scores trapped: The government's first reaction was to send the riot police, not rescue teams. [Bottom center] A foggy day on the UCSB campus (see the next item below). [Bottom right] Wil Wheaton's book talk (see the last item below).
(2) Yesterday on the UCSB campus: This quarter, while on sabbatical leave, I visit the campus once a week, usually on Wed., when I hold an office hour, attend the noon concert at the Music Bowl (UCSB Gospel Choir performed), and participate in occasional faculty meetings. My summer routine will start in about 3 weeks.
(3) Mental illness doesn't kill, guns do: America doesn't have a lot more mentally ill people than other advanced countries, but it does have a lot more guns. [Tweet]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- UCSB returns to indoor masking policy, beginning May 27, 2022.
- Geometric animation: The infinite variety of symmetric patterns that arise as we vary the size of the circles.
- OST's a cappella performance of the theme from "Mission Impossible." [1-minute video]
- Facebook memory from May 25, 2020: Remembering and honoring the life of my cousin Farkhondeh.
- Facebook memory from May 25, 2016: Iran's novel extra-judicial tools to ban or restrict the regime's critics.
- Facebook memory from May 25, 2013: Hardware limitations helped NASA's Space Shuttle program succeed.
- Facebook memory from May 25, 2011: The genius of Persian scientist, philosopher, & poet Omar Khayyam.
- Facebook memory from May 26, 2020: A father beheads his 14-year-old daughter and then mourns her loss!
(5) "Still Just a Geek" (an important talk and book intro): This was the title of yesterday's Semel Institute book talk by Wil Wheaton, celebrated actor from "Stand by Me," "Star Trek," and "The Big Bang Theory," based on his book, Still Just a Geek—An Annotated Memoir, that tackles mental health face-on and is a sequel to his 2004 book, Just a Geek. Wil Wheaton has charted a career course unlike anyone else, and has emerged as one of the most popular and well-respected names in science fiction, fantasy, and pop culture. Katrina DeBonis, MD (UCLA), joined Wil Wheaton in conversation.
Wheaton began by acknowledging that he felt uneasy promoting his book, as our nation reels from the second mass-shooting in less than a week. In his new book, which has been characterized as equal parts funny and poignant, Wheaton opens up about love, his mental health challenges of depression, anxiety, trauma, confronting tragedy, and the worst parts of himself, while celebrating all the strange, awful, and beautiful adventures in between.
Wheaton related that he has come to accept that his dad never loved him (regularly humiliating him in front of others and laughing in his face) and that his mom placed him in a co-dependent relationship to satisfy her own ambitions. He became a drunk to escape, later seeking therapy. He really could not talk to his parents, so he put his feelings in an e-mail to them. The e-mail went unanswered for months. He then decided that, even though not having parents sucks and leaves a hole in one's life, he would be better off without his parents. He was lucky to have a support network, including his wife, his sister, and adult cast members of "Star Trek" for love and guidance.
Wheaton's final advice was that even though recovering from mental-health challenges is hard work, you are absolutely worth the effort. You deserve to feel happy, to feel the sun on your face, and to experience love. It is important for traumatized individuals to work on themselves and their parenting skills to break the cycle of generational trauma. It's also important to do what you love. Wheaton himself gave up acting and the entertainment industry to become a writer and story-teller.

2022/05/24 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Eighteen-year-old with handgun and AR-15 assault rifle kills 19 in Texas elementary school: Another hoax by the liberals who want to take your guns away? Thoughts and prayers, but no legislation or regulation! The uniquely American mass-shooting phenomenon, complete with TV coverage, began in 1966, when a man climbed the U. Texas tower and mowed down the students below with a variety of guns, having previously killed his wife and mother. The incident is referred to as The University of Texas tower shooting.
(2) On yet another White House memoir: I don't trust anyone who slams Jared Kushner as "shrewd and calculating" (from Kellyanne Conway's "tell-some" memoir) but throws not a single word of criticism at Donald Trump, who brought his sleazebag son-in-law into the White House.
(3) On why Iranian Muslims recite a prayer when the lights come on: Backward mullahs and the superstition they promoted led to the rejection of the first electric light bulbs to arrive in Iran. Years later, a clever soul decided to electrically illuminate the tomb of Imam Reza in Mashhad, in order to shed evil spirits from electric lightbulbs. When the lights were turned on for the first time, those present recited a prayer, which became a custom that is still followed. [4-minute video, narrated in Persian]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- So, you are pro-life? Lives are saved by banning assault weapons, not books!
- Russian UN-Geneva diplomat resigns in protest: "Never have I been so ashamed of my country."
- Investigation report: Southern Baptist leaders routinely silenced sexual-abuse survivors.
- Massive sinkhole in China reveals hidden forest with ancient trees growing at its floor.
- Under-construction building collapses in Abadan, Iran: At least 5 killed & scores injured or trapped.
- As much as students crave stronger connections with their professors, office-hour visits remain infrequent.
- Facebook memory from May 24, 2014: My thoughts on the day after the Isla Vista mass-shooting tragedy.
- Facebook memory from May 24, 2012: When Google removed the name "Persian Gulf" from its maps.
(5) Even at this early development stage, self-driving cars are safer than human-driven ones: The press sensationalizes every autonomous vehicle crash, while crashes of human-driven cars rarely make the news.
(6) Finally, a glimmer of good news on improving gender diversity in computer science education: There is enrollment growth across all degree levels. The share of women students edged upward, from 21.5% last year to 22.7% in the 2021 Taulbee Survey.
(7) "Realizing Women, Peace and Security in Ukraine": A program sponsored by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security. "Despite bearing the brunt of the conflict, women peacebuilders and women human rights defenders are at the frontlines, and we are seeing that clearly in Ukraine." [Recorded virtual event, featuring 6 distinguished panelists and grassroots women leaders: 97-minute video]
(8) Book review: Levitt, Steven D. and Stephen J. Dubner, Think Like a Freak, unabridged audiobook on 5 CDs, read by the second author, Harper Audio, 2014. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
[I wrote this review on May 24, 2016, and posted it to GoodReads on May 24, 2022.]
(9) Persian poetry from a Facebook memory: I posted a wonderful verse 12 years ago, not knowing at the time the verse's Iranian poet. The verse has assumed the status of a proverb, advising that one should seek permanent remedies, not band-aid solutions. [Read more about the poet, including a few sample verses]

2022/05/23 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Activist and grieving father Hamed Esmaeilion, with his daughter Rira Optical illusion: Circles? Newsweek magazine's cover feature: A new age of big storms threatens coastal cities like New York--and we're not ready!
Colloquium on student activism at Iran's AMUT/SUT: Batch 11 of screenshots Colloquium on student activism at Iran's AMUT/SUT: Batch 12 of screenshots Meme: If a woman can't back out of a pregnancy, a man shouldn't be able to either (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Quote of the day: "My Rira! Before leaving this Earth, one must leave signs, so humans know we lived here and the evilest ones on Earth killed us. On this May 23, when you would have turned 12. I love you." ~ Hamed Esmaeilion, who lost his wife & daughter in the downing of Flight #PS752. [Top center] Optical illusion: Circles? [Top right] Newsweek magazine's cover feature: A new age of big storms threatens coastal cities like New York—and we're not ready! [Bottom left & center] Colloquium on student activism at Iran's AMUT/SUT (see the last item below). [Bottom right] Meme of the day.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Efforts by US women national soccer team bore fruit with the signing of an equal-pay agreement.
- Facebook memory from May 23, 2014: We may be too stupid to recognize a super-intelligent alien we meet.
- Facebook memory from May 23, 2010: Many of our fears are based on emotions, not logic.
- Facebook memory from May 23, 2010: From the fun of scientific research to the grunt work of applications.
(3) Facebook memory from May 23, 2020: Today is the 8th anniversary of 6 young souls and their dreams being erased from this world by an evil mass shooter, purportedly because his sexual needs were unmet by women who had higher standards than this lowlife. It's difficult to imagine what the six victims could have contributed to our world and how their family members & other loved ones are dealing with the empty spots in their hearts. Mass shooting is a uniquely American phenomenon. Yes, it does happen elsewhere, but not at the horrifying rate we experience it in the US. Shame on us for not dealing with this problem, among whose main causes is easy access to guns, including military-style weapons of mass murder.
(4) "Revolutionary Engineers: Learning, Politics, and Activism at Arya-Mehr University of Technology, 1966-1979": This was the title of today's mixed, in-person/on-line, MENA Faculty Colloquium at Northwestern University in which three speakers outlined some aspects of a broad research project they are conducting on student activism in the decades leading to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
- Dr. Sepehr Vakil (Assistant Professor of Learning Sciences, School of Education & Social Policy, Northwestern U., and Faculty Affiliate, Middle East & North African Studies Program) presented an overview of the research project, along with a brief history of Arya-Mehr/Sharif University of Technology (AMUT/SUT) and its place in Iran. AMUT was established in 1966, with the Shah himself acting as the honorary Chancellor, appointing "presidents," formally referred to as "Vice Chancellors," to run the University's affairs. Mohammad-Ali Mojtahedi was the founding Vice-Chancellor, with philosopher Seyyed Hossein Nasr becoming the University's second Vice-Chancellor. The MIT-educated Nasr set out some conditions about prioritizing Islamic culture, that the supposedly-secular Shah accepted. Nasr was suspicious of the west and of science & technology. Later, AMUT added a second campus in the central city of Esfahan.
- Dr. Mina Khanlarzadeh (Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Education & Social Policy, Northwestern U.; PhD, Columbia U.) spoke about the experience of women students at AMUT/SUT. Revolutionary students viewed the increased presence of female students as a government conspiracy to "soften" the guerilla-like male students. In reality, many female students were also revolutionaries. In the revolutionary climate on campus, love was forbidden: You shall love the revolutionary cause, not another individual. Once joining the revolutionary cause, a student had a life expectancy of ~ 6 years. Students were chided, put on trial, and, in one case, killed for entering romantic relationships. Women tried to look like revolutionaries, so feminine fashions and make-up became taboo. Some began to don headscarves, which symbolized resistance to the regime.
- Dr. Mahdi Ganjavi (Postdoctoral Fellow, School of Education & Social Policy, Northwestern U.; PhD, U. Toronto) began by noting that the history of student activism was suppressed by the Pahlavi regime and only selectively told by the Islamic regime, so there is much to explore. Student activism was a problem, not just for SAVAK, but also for the American Embassy. Briefly, student activism in Iran began in the mid-1940s, underwent suppression in the aftermath of the 1953 coup, became radicalized in the 1960s, and developed into a major social & political force in the 1970s. Some of this history is told in Shahrzad Mojab's book, Iran Through the Prism of Student Movement. Students had developed clandestine ways of reproducing and distributing pamphlets. At times, groups of faculty members joined in supporting the students and their demands. In the last two years before the Islamic Revolution, the government tried to dissolve AMUT and transfer all operations to the Esfahan campus, where students would be easier to control.
The photo showing AMUT's set-up to accept applications from incoming students, even though the government had indicated that there would be no new admissions at the Tehran campus, brought back a lot of memories for me. I was secretary of AMUT's Faculty Council at the time and signed the declaration of student admission, which was distributed to all major dailies in Tehran. I had a few tense weeks after that, expecting SAVAK to show up at my door, but, I guess, the Shah's regime was occupied with bigger problems at the time. I mentioned this fact during the Q&A period and offered to help the project advance to the extent that I can, given that the circumstance of my departure from Iran did not allow me to take along many documents and my memory may not help me reconstruct all the events after more than five decades.

2022/05/22 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Humor: Three-way Venn diagram for BAT, MAN, and WOM Cover image of the book 'Tehran Children' Cover image of the book 'The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Humor: Venn diagram for BAT, MAN, and WOM. [Center] Mikhal Dekel's Tehran Children (see the next item below). [Right] The Beautiful poetry of Donald Trump (see the last item below).
(2) Book review: Sears, Rob, The Beautiful Poetry of Donald Trump, Canongate Books, 2017.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
It's not difficult to write satire about Donald Trump, as he provides you with ample source material. This is why comedians and late-night talk-show hosts thrived during his presidency. Often, simply reading his many tweets (before he was banned from the platform for emitting dark, dangerous tweets, rather than the usual idiotic ones) could be interpreted as satire.
What Sears has done is somewhat different. He has taken snippets of Trump's words, rearranging and mixing them to produce text that can pass as poetry, at least in the modern sense of the term. With this exercise, Sears may have shown us "a hidden dimension of Donald Trump," unearthing "a trove of beautiful verse that was just waiting to be discovered." An example of the resulting poems, "I am the least racist person there is," is recited in this YouTube video.
GoodReads user Harrison recommends this book to anyone who enjoys satire, commenting: "Folks, this book is great. These poems are fantastic. That I can tell you. And I am really smart. Believe me, I know words. I know the best words. Everyone agrees. That's a true fact. ... Trump is poetic. So poetic, with tweets. It's tremendous, what Sears did. Crooked Hillary uses too many words in her books. Far too many words. You just can't trust her. Too many words to trust."
(3) Hate speech isn't just harmless words: It is pure evil that can lead impressionable or mentally unstable people to pure-evil acts. [Four pages from a feature in People magazine]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The term for living creatures who aren't permitted to control their own reproduction: "Livestock"
- Russian state media show videos of Fox's Tucker Carlson as part of their propaganda against the US.
- Official music video: Jennifer Lopez performs "Let's Get Loud" (from July 2020).
- Facebook memory from May 22, 2013: When Wolf Blitzer asked an atheist whether she thanked the Lord.
- Facebook memory from May 22, 2011: My daughter's timeline of Iran's recent history and her dad's life.
- Facebook memory from May 22, 2010: A Persian poem of mine, with a special message in its initials.
(5) Book review: Dekel, Mikhal, Tehran Children: A Holocaust Refugee Odyssey, W. W. Norton & Company, 2019. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book's Israeli-born author learned in 2007, while working at City College of New York with colleague Salar Abdoh, that far from being a German sympathizer, Iran actually tried to save its Jews, whose roots went back many centuries (and had, therefore, fully assimilated into the Iranian society), from Hitler's wrath.
Even more, Iran provided shelter to about 1000 Jewish children from Poland, who became known as "Tehran Children," until they could be moved to Israel. Dekel came to realize that her father Hannan, her aunt Rivka, and their cousin Noemi were among Tehran Children; up to that point, she had thought of her father as a Tehran Child, not as a Holocaust survivor. Furthermore, she had thought of Tehran as something that helped define her father, and not as an actual place. In her words, "Little has been written on this history ... in part because for a long time, and despite decades of Holocaust research and a boom of Holocaust stories in popular culture, the history of those who fled the Nazis into the Soviet Union and the Middle East still did not fall under the category of 'Holocaust history.' And so I began to write it."
Dekel's telling of the story of Tehran Children isn't just about one family, or even one ethnic group. It is a timely reminder of the plight of all refugees fleeing war zones and ethnic cleansing throughout history.

2022/05/21 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The first 262,144 bits in the binary representation of pi, depicted in a 512 x 512 bit-map, with 0 and 1 appearing as black and white pixels, respectively Photo: Schrodinger's cat escapes the box and brings uncertainty to time! Gun-lover's Bible: This gun hidden in a Bible was made for Francesco Morozini (1619-1694), the Doge of Venice
Math puzzle (credit: Mirangu.com): A square is divided by 3 line-segments, with the red & blue areas equal. What is the ratio a/b? Math puzzle: The large square is 2 × 2, centered at P, and the small square is 1 × 1. What is the perimeter of the shaded region? Cover image of the book 'This Will Not Pass' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] The first 262,144 bits in binary representation of π, depicted in a 512 × 512 bit-map, with 0 and 1 appearing as black and white pixels, respectively. There are several variants of this representation, including a spaghetti-like pattern resulting from blurring the image and increasing its contrast. [Top center] Schrodinger's cat escapes the box and brings uncertainty to time! [Top right] Gun-lover's Bible: This gun hidden in a Bible was made for Francesco Morozini (1619-1694), the Doge of Venice. The owner could pull the silk bookmark to shoot, while the book was closed. [Bottom left] Math puzzle (credit: Mirangu.com): A square is divided by 3 line-segments, as shown. If the red and blue areas are equal, what is the ratio a/b? [Bottom center] Math puzzle: The large square is 2 × 2, centered at P, and the small square is 1 × 1. What is the perimeter of the shaded region? [Bottom right] This Will Not Pass (see the last item below).
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Workplace mass shooting in Iran: A fired employee of Mostazafan Foundation kills 3 colleagues and himself.
- Facebook memory from May 20, 2015: On wanna-be FB friends with fake names and nearly-blank pages.
- Facebook memory from May 21, 2020: There's no woman in this picture, or is there?
- Facebook memory from May 21, 2019: Iranian-Americans opposing the mullahs are still very divided.
- Facebook memory from May 21, 2017: Young Iranian couple performing an Azeri song.
- Facebook memory from May 21, 2014: Sangak-bread bakers dance for joy, which isn't authorized in Iran.
(3) Book review: Martin, Jonathan and Alexander Burns, This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America's Future, unabridged 15-hour audiobook, read by Dennis Boutsikaris, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2022.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
By now, the routine is familiar: A reporter or a team of reporters has some juicy bits of information about Trump and his cronies. They hold on to the info, until they have packaged it with hundreds of pages of material that we already know, to turn it into a hot-selling book. This is a highly inefficient way of disseminating information, and it is also immoral. Reporters have a duty to share important information with the public right away, the only exceptions being when someone's life or national security would be endangered by disclosing the information. Authors of nearly all recent books about Trump are guilty of monetizing sensitive bits of information by hiding them, until their books are announced.
As a long-time member of the academia, I recognize the process described above as resembling something we have come to call "the least publishable unit." Here is an over-simplified description of the trend. Upon the completion of a research project, the findings are chopped up into small pieces, with each piece packaged with known results and filler material to produce a research paper. Thus, results that could have been presented in one publication appear in a dozen or more, contributing to a mind-numbing information explosion. Researchers aren't the only ones to blame; the academic rewards system is also at fault.
Martin & Burns present an account of an 18-month crisis in American democracy, beginning with Trump's election-hoaxes in the second half of 2020 and ending with the first year of Biden's presidency, during which Trump continued pushing lies about the 2020 election and kept undermining his successor in the White House. A big part of the story is, of course, the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol and those who aided and abetted the rioters. Trump continues to claim that the patriot rioters are being treated unfairly, promising to consider pardoning them if he returns to the White House.
A second big chunk of the story is the behind-the-scenes struggles of Biden and his team in the choice of a running-mate, keeping the left wing of the party in check, and efforts, largely unsuccessful, to bring back bipartisanship, which has been dying a slow death in recent years. Just as "mainstream" Republicans despise and are fearful of Trumpism, establishment Democrats feel sabotaged by the two extremes within their party: The progressive wing, flanked by "The Squad," and the "moderates" like Joe Manchin (who has entertained the idea of leaving the Democratic party to caucus with the Republicans) and Krysten Sinema (another Republican in Democrat clothing, who is very proud of her cleavage and its effect on uptight GOP men). And, to be sure, there is always Senator Lindsey Graham to ridicule, with ample justification.
The most-shocking revelations in the book come from recorded private conversations of top Republicans, including sound bytes in which Kevin McCarthy says, on January 10, 2021, that he had considered asking Trump to resign, because his second impeachment resolution was likely to pass. While McCarthy continues to stand by Trump in public statements and appearances, privately he has admonished the former president and indicated that he is responsible for violence on January 6.
I, like many other Americans, am addicted to reading books about Trump. The fact that each additional book offers only a minimal amount of new information does not deter me, given the importance of understanding and foiling Trumpism. After so many books on Trump, an overall understanding of what went wrong is still lacking. Perhaps the forthcoming report of the January 6 Select Committee will shed more light on what is ailing our increasing-divided country.

2022/05/19 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Throwback Thursday: Visiting the tomb of Hafez in 1976, with computer pioneer Professor Maurice Wilkes The 10-vertex, degree-3 Petersen graph has many interesting properties The exquisite symmetry and colors of the ceiling in Hafez's tomb, Shiraz, Iran
Math puzzle: Squares in a regular decagon Math puzzle: The first three equations can be used to find x, y, and z, but, as is the case for nearly all puzzles, there is a shortcut Math puzzle: Triangles in a regular decagon (1) Images of the day: [Top left & right] Throwback Thursday: Visiting the tomb of Hafez in 1976, with computer pioneer Prof. Maurice Wilkes. He was the keynote speaker of a symposium we held at Tehran's Arya-Mehr U. Technology. On the right, you see the exquisite symmetry and colors of the ceiling in Hafez's tomb. [Top center] The 10-vertex, degree-3 Petersen graph (see the next item below). [Bottom left & right] Math puzzles: Within a regular decagon, the red square has area 1. What are the areas of the other two squares? The puzzle on the right is similar, but with triangles, instead of squares. [Bottom center] Math puzzle: The first three equations can be used to find x, y, and z, but, as is the case for nearly all puzzles, there is a shortcut.
(2) Canadian activists demand the cancellation of a friendly soccer match with Iran: They deem such a match inappropriate, given the many Canadian victims of the downing of flight #PS752 and Iran's restrictions on women playing sports and on entering stadiums as spectators.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Why aren't Taliban leaders sanctioned? They have broken every promise they made on women's rights.
- Drug-smuggling tunnel, connecting a warehouse to Mexico, discovered in San Diego.
- Critic vs. critique: A critic is a person; a critique is a piece of work, an in-depth evaluation of a subject.
- Washington Irving: "Great minds have purpose, others have wishes."
- Anonymous quote: "The difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them."
- Facebook memory from May 19, 2019: One of Sa'adi's poems that has assumed the status of a proverb.
(4) Fun mathematical fact: The minimum number of vertices for a graph of girth 5 and degree 3 is 10, corresponding to the Petersen graph. The girth of an undirected graph is defined as the length of the shortest cycle within it. The Petersen graph has a host of other interesting properties, including being a Moore graph.
(5) The Jewish journalist who interviewed Iran's Raisi: Well, it's complicated! At the time of the interview, she was a Shi'i Muslim, later denouncing her adopted faith and returning to her Jewish roots as an atheist.
(6) Jabbar Baghchehban [1886-1966]: Mirza Jabbar Asgar oglu Asgarzadeh, aka Jabbar Baghtchehban, was an influential Iranian credited with establishing the first kindergarten and the first deaf school in Tabriz. He was also the inventor of Persian language cued speech. [6-minute video, narrated in Persian]
(7) Freudian slip: Intending to condemn the Ukraine war, former President George W. Bush calls the Iraq war unjustified. He then jokes about the mistake, something that the families of US servicemen and Iraqis who died in the war can't possibly consider funny! [NPR story]
(8) In Iran, sports, like everything else, are politicized: Athletes who toe the regime's line prosper and those who take the people's side are sidelined. Showing or broadcasting the picture of popular soccer player Voria Ghafouri has been banned by the mullahs. [Persian tweet]
(9) The vibration-detection capability of quantum communication: Twin-field quantum key distribution offers the byproduct of detecting the tiniest vibrations in the ground, useful for landslide & quake prediction.

2022/05/18 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
IEEE CCS tech talk by Behrooz Parhami: Flyer IEEE CCS tech talk by Behrooz Parhami: Slides, batch 3 IEEE CCS tech talk by Behrooz Parhami: Slides, batch 4
Today's World Music Series noon concert: UCSB Gamelan Ensemble (Photo 1) Math puzzle: What fraction of the big square's area is covered by the four small squares? Today's World Music Series noon concert: UCSB Gamelan Ensemble (Photo 2) (1) Images of the day: [Top row] IEEE CCS technical talk by Dr. Behrooz Parhami (see the last item below). [Bottom left & right] Today's World Music Series noon concert: UCSB Gamelan Ensemble (2-minute video). [Bottom center] Math puzzle: What fraction of the big square's area is covered by the four small squares?
(2) The world is showing some movement in the direction of reason: Hezbollah loses its parliamentary majority in Lebanon. US Representative Madison Cawthorn loses his primary race in NC. Too early to celebrate, though, as several Trump-backed candidates either ran unopposed or prevailed in hard-fought primary races.
(3) "Revolutionary Engineers: Learning, Politics & Activism at Aryamehr University of Technology, 1966-1979": In this Northwestern U. MENA faculty curriculum, Sepehr Vakil, Mina Khanlarzadeh, and Mahdi Ganjavi will discuss "STEM education between a coup and a revolution." Monday, May 23, 2022, 10:30 AM PDT. [Register]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Finland and Sweden end decades of neutrality by formally applying to join NATO.
- Beautiful music: Sonbol Taefi and Elika Mahony perform "Make Haste to Love." [4-minute video]
- The cognitive effort of running a household is as intense as running a Fortune 500 company.
- Persian poetry: Recitation of a poem, attributed to Mehdi Maleki. [1-minute video]
- This is how a stunt-double man and woman celebrate their union! [1-minute video]
- Dancing is an integral part of the Persian culture: In Tajikistan, even the president shows his moves!
(5) IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Tonight, in an in-person event with 15 attendees, held at the Calle Real Rusty's Pizza in Goleta, Dr. Behrooz Parhami (Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, UCSB) spoke under the title "Hybrid Digital-Analog Number Representation in Computing and in Nature," a last-minute substitute talk due to illness of the originally-scheduled speaker.
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, Dr. Parhami enumerated the properties of continuous-digit RNS, and discussed results on the dynamic range, representational accuracy, and factors affecting the choice of the moduli, which are themselves real numbers. He then took a step back and briefly explored hybrid digital-analog number representations and their robustness and noise-immunity advantages more generally. He concluded with suggestions for further research on important open problems in the domain of hybrid digital-analog number representation and processing.
Speaker's technical bio: Behrooz Parhami (PhD, UCLA 1973) is Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, and former Associate Dean for Academic Personnel, College of Engineering, at University of California, Santa Barbara, where he teaches and does research in the field of computer architecture: more specifically, in computer arithmetic, parallel processing, and dependable computing. A Life Fellow of IEEE, a Fellow of IET and British Computer Society, and recipient of several other awards (including a most-cited paper award from J. Parallel & Distributed Computing), he has written six textbooks and more than 300 peer-reviewed technical papers. Professionally, he serves on journal editorial boards (including for 3 different IEEE Transactions) and conference program committees, and he is also active in technical consulting.
[IEEE CCS: Event page; Technical Talks page] [Speaker's: Web site; Publications page]

2022/05/17 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Farhang Foundation's exhibition of art by Kamran Khavarani Protests against soaring food prices continue in Iran, with government crackdown and Internet outages spreading My courtyard and patio furniture cleaned for use in the coming months
Math puzzle: What fraction of the large circle's area is shaded blue? Mathematical curiosity: Plot of the function y = x sin(1/x) Math puzzle: Find the ratio of the diameters of the two circles and the ratio of orange and blue areas (1) Images of the day: [Top left] I learned about this exhibition of art by Kamran Khavarani too late to attend the opening reception on May 14, 2022. Will definitely make plans to visit some time before its end on June 17. [Top center] Protests against soaring food prices continue in Iran, with government crackdown and Internet outages spreading. This video shows an unarmed old man brutally beaten & protesters shot at. [Top right] I'm now ready for summer-like weather: After a few hot days, I was motivated to clean my courtyard and patio furniture for use in the coming months. The new umbrella, ordered on-line, replaces the one that broke in last week's sustained high winds. [Bottom left] Math puzzle: What fraction of the large circle's area is shaded blue? [Bottom center] Mathematical curiosity: Plot of the function y = x sin(1/x). [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Find the ratio of the diameters of the two circles and the ratio of orange and blue areas.
(2) Many Web sites collect everything you type, even before you hit submit: The data collection is usually done by third-party software components, including those supplied by the Russian tech company Yandex.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- President Biden & Dr. Jill Biden visit Buffalo, NY, to honor the victims of a racially-motivated mass murder.
- Hezbollah suffers major electoral defeat in Lebanon.
- How racists influence society: Surges in Google searches for "Replacement Theory," and the instigators.
- Math puzzle: If x + 1/x = 1, what is x^29 + 1/x^89?
- Facebook memory from May 16, 2014: The world has its ups and downs, don't worry (Hafez verse).
- Facebook memory from May 17, 2011: On wife-beating in Islamic societies.
(4) Brain-computer interfaces come of age: Dennis DeGray, paralyzed since 2006, has regained a semblance of control over his body via a brain-computer interface (BCI). Implanted in 2016, BCI enables DeGray to move a cursor on a computer screen by thought, via machine-learning algorithms. DeGray has learned to control videogames, robotic limbs, and a simulated aerial drone.
(5) Until further notice, down with liberalism: In this Persian article, Mehdi Tadayyoni writes that Iran cherry-picks some liberal economic principles, such as removal of subsidies, which recently led to skyrocketing prices for essential goods, when they benefit the government, while ignoring other tenets of liberalism. Heavy tariffs on car imports is an example of the latter, which has led to poor-quality domestically-produced cars selling at higher prices than luxury cars in other countries. A similar kind of cherry-picking is occurring in the US: Certain personal freedoms, such as owning guns and spewing hateful speech are honored, while others, such as women's choice and right to vote, are curtailed.
(6) Iran's soccer shenanigans: I have written before about how FIFA is complicit in Iran's repression of women, who are not allowed to attend sporting events.
For many years, FIFA has been threatening Iran with sanctions if the ban on women's attendance was not removed, but the threats never had any teeth. Iran would remove some of the restrictions in a couple of matches, assigning a small section of a large soccer stadium to women and selling the tickets to women linked to the government, so technically satisfying FIFA's requirement of not banning women.
Now, in response to the latest FIFA threat ahead of the 2022 Qatar World Cup, the government has announced that, until further notice, league matches will be held with no spectators, citing the spread of COVID-19 infections as a reason! As we say in Persian, "khar khodeti"!

2022/05/15 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The Scaligero Castle is a fortress built in the 14th century in Sirmione Chinese history: Gilded medallion with a dragon and five amethyst spheres (Qing Dynasty, 1736-1795) Inverted tower: Initiation Wells, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra, Portugal
Historical document: Mahatma Gandhi's 1939 letter to Adolf Hitler The first picture of the massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy is the result of 10 years of work UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: Talk by Dr. Mina Kalantarzadeh (1) Images of the day: [Top left] The Scaligero Castle is a fortress built in the 14th century in Sirmione, Italy. [Top center] China history: Gilded medallion with a dragon & amethyst spheres (Qing Dynasty, 1736-1795). [Top right] Inverted tower: Initiation Wells, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra, Portugal. [Bottom left] Historical document: Mahatma Gandhi's 1939 letter to Adolf Hitler. [Bottom center] The first picture of the massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy is the result of 10 years of work. [Bottom right] UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: Talk by Dr. Mina Kalantarzadeh (see the last item below).
(2) Saying that a child of rape or incest turned out okay, so we must force women to carry such children to term, is like saying a driver survived a head-on collision, so we must have more head-on collisions.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The on-line data detective tracking Vladimir Putin's alleged atrocities in Ukraine and elsewhere.
- Iran plunges into darkness again, as the regime cuts Internet access to hide its massacre of street protesters.
- Iranian women continue to defy compulsory hijab laws and saying no to the Islamic Republic. #No2IR
- The underwater canyon off the coast of the Persian Gulf in Iran. [Tweet]
(4) UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: Dr. Mina Khanlarzadeh (Northwestern U.) spoke in Persian under the title "The Performance of Female Masculinity in Lalehzari Music." Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (Cal State U. Northridge; coordinator of UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series) introduced the speaker and moderated the Q&A session afterwards. Monday, at 3:00 PM, Dr. Khanlarzadeh will present the same lecture in English.
Men performing as women used to be quite common throughout the world, in large part due to misogyny and restrictions on women appearing in public. So, I was intrigued by the notion of women performing as men, effectively turning the tables. In the three decades preceding Iran's Islamic Revolution, the Lalehzari (or kucheh-bazari) musical genre, which was heavily influenced by Arabic music, became popular among Iran's underclass, with performers often coming from the same underclass. Characterized by the mainstream culture as debauchery, even criminality, and lacking social consciousness, Lalehzari music was performed in theaters/cabarets/cafes for very specific audiences and was shunned by Iran's radio or TV programs.
The women involved in such performances were neither victims nor lesbians. Rather, they found performing as men empowering. The men they depicted were super-masculine, uneducated "laat" types or generous-to-a-fault "mashtis." These two masculine archetypes were in opposition to "fokolies" (those wearing suits and ties), who were viewed as self-centered and not into helping others or defending their friends. Many of these women were not considered beautiful per Hollywood-dictated norms, yet they were quite attractive to their audiences.
These women performers formed a kind of sisterhood, meeting weekly to compare notes about the fights they got into or acts of generosity they committed. Those more successful as Lalehzari performers were involved in charitable acts, such as adopting and raising children or giving alms to the poor. Critics of these women viewed them as retrograde and belonging to the past, whereas to their fans and audiences, they represented modern, take-charge women.
Throughout her presentation, Dr. Khanlarzadeh played short clips of music from the 1960s & 1970s to illustrate various points, including the fact that, far from being sexualized and objectified by the entertainment industry, these women wielded a great deal of power that actually threatened some among their male audiences.

2022/05/14 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Grand reopening of UCSB's North Campus Open Space: Photo 7 Grand reopening of UCSB's North Campus Open Space: Photo 6 Grand reopening of UCSB's North Campus Open Space: Photo 5
Grand reopening of UCSB's North Campus Open Space: Batch 2 of photos Grand reopening of UCSB's North Campus Open Space: Batch 4 of photos Grand reopening of UCSB's North Campus Open Space: Batch 3 of photos (1) Grand reopening of UCSB's North Campus Open Space: After 10 years of restoration work in the space formerly occupied by a golf course, UCSB officially opened the space to the public this morning. The area's plants and wildlife were featured in stations positioned around the Mesa Trail, where visitors could collect stickers to receive a T-shirt. Included in the photos above are a station highlighting native vegetation and Chumash history and an overlook sponsored & staffed by Audubon Society.
(2) Health organizations fear effects of abortion ruling: The medical journal Lancet has published an editorial that asks: "What kind of society has the USA become when a small group of Justices is allowed to harm women, their families, and their communities that they have been appointed to protect?"
(3) Musk puts the Twitter deal on hold: The reason he cites is that he has discovered a lot of bot accounts, something that everyone already knew! The true reason is that he realized he was overpaying, given that Twitter's value, like those of other tech companies, has been sinking in recent days.
(4) Math puzzle: Can you cut a regular hexagon into 5 pieces, so that the pieces can be rearranged to form a square? The solution to this puzzle was first published in 1901.
(5) The mysterious disappearance of a revolutionary mathematician: "While living in an internment camp in Vichy France, Alexander Grothendieck was tutored in mathematics by another prisoner, a girl named Maria. Maria taught Grothendieck, who was twelve, the definition of a circle: all the points that are equidistant from a given point. The definition impressed him with 'its simplicity and clarity,' he wrote years later. ... In 1970, Grothendieck abruptly left. He left the I.H.E.S., he left the twelve to sixteen hours a day of thinking about math, he left his wife and his three children. His work on the Weil conjectures was not yet complete: his theory had solved only three of the four conjectures. His stated reason for leaving was that he had found out that five per cent of the I.H.E.S.'s funding was coming from the French ministry of defense. But those who knew him say they felt that this could have been resolved and was not the real reason."
(6) Racist, anti-Semite mass-shooter kills 10 (9 of them black) at a Buffalo supermarket: The shooter's 180-page manifesto leaves no doubt the attack was White-Supremacist terrorism.

2022/05/13 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
PEN America roundtable discussion on freedom to write Message in a bottle: High-tech version, involving not a one-page note, but many gigabytes of data! Humor: As we approach graduation season, here's a guide to academic regalia
Math puzzle: In this diagram containing a rectangle and a half-circle, compute the area of the green region Math puzzle: Find the area of the green rectangle Math puzzle: Find the area of the green circle, given that the orange rectangle is 1-by-2 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Forum on freedom to write (see the last item below). [Top center] Message in a bottle: High-tech version, involving not a one-page note, but many gigabytes of data! [Top right] Humor: As we approach graduation season, here's a guide to academic regalia. [Bottom left] Math puzzle: In this diagram containing a rectangle and a half-circle, compute the area of the green region (credit: @0y6tr4). [Bottom center] Math puzzle: Find the area of the green rectangle. [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Find the area of the green circle, given that the orange rectangle is 1-by-2.
(2) Reports from Iran indicate that security forces have been shooting street protesters in the Persian-Gulf port of Mahshahr: Cutting of Internet access in the area signals plans of even more-violent crackdowns.
(3) The sad state of women's rights in Iran: I stand with Iranian women against systematic misogyny, including cyber-attacks disrupting the social-media accounts of feminists and women's-rights activists.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The author who invented the fictional Gilead is alarmed by the US Supreme Court's efforts to make it real.
- A new slogan for the US Republican party: Make America Gilead Again!
- Iran's cyber-army has targeted feminist & women's-rights Instagram accounts with coordinated attacks.
- As subsidies are abolished and prices of basic goods skyrocket, panic-buying ensues in Iran.
- Four 1-minute clips of poetry recitation by old-time Iranian radio/TV stars. [FB post]
- "Bella Now": Inspired by the struggle to free all political prisoners in Iran & Afghanistan [5-minute video]
- Iranian regional music & dance: A song from the western Caspian Sea coastal region. [2-minute video]
- More than 10 years in the making, UCSB's North Campus Open Space project is officially finished.
- Facebook memory from May 13, 2011: Oh, no, its Friday the 13th again!
(5) Intel launches new artificial-intelligence chips, directly challenging NVIDIA, which dominates the AI market with its hardware and the CUDA software platform.
(6) How a tiny tuning-fork helped prevent SUV rollovers and plane crashes: In 1992, Asad Madni led BEI Sensors and Controls, which specialized in sensor and inertial-navigation devices, with aerospace and defense-electronics industries being the sole customers. The cold war had ended and the UCLA graduate had to make adjustments in his line of work. Lucky for the automotive and commercial aerospace industries, which benefited from his work on a little quartz sensor at the heart of the all-important GyroChip.
(7) "Translating and the Freedom to Write: Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan": This was the title of Friday's PEN America roundtable discussion, in which Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (Cal State U. Northridge) talked to three translators of works by freedom writers. In PEN America's annual "Freedom to Write Index," Iran and Turkey consistently rank among the worst, while Azerbaijan continues to harass its most-prominent writer. [Recording]
- Katherine E. Young talked about her translation of the works of Azerbaijani novelist Akram Aylisli, who has been under house arrest for nearly a decade, after the burning of his books in 2013.
- Yasemin Congar indicated that the prison memoir of Turkey's Ahmet Altan has been published in different languages around the world, but no Turkish publisher dares to touch it.
- Frieda Afary has worked on translating the writings of Iranian human/women's-rights activist Narges Mohammadi, who has written about Iran's extensive use of solitary confinement in its prisons.

2022/05/12 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The Hippodrome of Caesarea, Israel: With dimensions of 300 m by 50 m and estimated capacity of ~12,000, the structure was built around 10 BCE Dear readers: Your cultured and artistic status was confirmed today by a fortune cookie. Congratulations! Iran's large spy network in Europe
Wednesday 5/11 World Music Series noon concert at UCSB's Music Bowl: The Jasmine Echo Chinese Ensemble performed (Photo 2) Wednesday 5/11 World Music Series noon concert at UCSB's Music Bowl: The Jasmine Echo Chinese Ensemble performed (Batch 1 of photos) Wednesday 5/11 World Music Series noon concert at UCSB's Music Bowl: The Jasmine Echo Chinese Ensemble performed (Photo 3) (1) Images of the day: [Top left] The Hippodrome of Caesarea, Israel: With dimensions of 300 m by 50 m and estimated capacity of ~12,000, the structure was built around 10 BCE. In the 2nd century CE, the south end was reconstructed as an amphitheater for use in gladiatorial contests. [Top center] Dear readers: Your cultured and artistic status was confirmed yesterday by a fortune cookie. Congratulations! [Top right] Iran's large spy network in Europe (see the next item below). [Bottom row] Wednesday 5/11 World Music Series noon concert at UCSB's Music Bowl: The Jasmine Echo Chinese Ensemble performed traditional Chinese music & a couple of Western pieces, using traditional Chinese instruments. The versatile musicians formed smaller combo groups for some of the pieces. Multiple members conducted the entire Ensemble. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3]
(2) Throwback Thursday: On May 12, 2017, I posted about the history of rial, Iran's monetary unit. The rial is now worthless, as is the tooman/tuman, which is 10 rials. A few years ago, the government removed four 0s from all monetary figures, effectively making 10,000 rials (1000 tumans) the new official unit, a la the term "one grand" in English. This unit, the new tuman, or simply tuman, has now become worthless. One US dollar is equivalent to 43,000 tumans or 43 new tumans, making each new tuman worth about 2 cents. A dozen eggs cost 200 new tumans. People have begun using 1000 new tumans, or 1,000,000 old tumans, as an unofficial unit. A low-quality, domestically-produced new car (known locally as a "death trap") costs 300,000 new tumans or 300 new new tumans. Imported luxury cars cost upward of 3 billion tumans (3000 new new tumans).
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Brush fire in SoCal: Parts of Orange County are threatened by a 200-acre fire in Laguna Niguel.
- The US Supreme Court's overturning of Roe-v.-Wade, and reactions to it: A comprehensive analysis.
- Conservatism is no longer respectable: Memes about 45 and his favorite US Supreme Court appointee.
- Anti-Asian hate rears its ugly head again: Three Korean women are shot at a Texas hair salon.
- Facebook memory from May 11, 2011: A beautiful Persian couplet from Ghaa'aani.
- Facebook memory from May 12, 2010: A few Persian verses from Hafez.
(4) Iran's paid operatives in Europe: Assadollah Assadi, an Iranian "diplomat"/spy-chief arrested in Belgium, along with three others, for planning terrorist attacks, possessed a little green notebook bearing 285 names of other Islamic Republic operatives throughout Europe, who were on his payroll. Iranian opposition activists are urging the German government to release the names of 144 of these operatives who are based in Germany.
(5) Brave critic: This guy lets Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei have it, by saying that a leader should act transparently and be held accountable for his decisions. [9-minute video, in Persian]
(6) Undergraduate student graduation recital: Soprano Serybe Aryeh performed Monday night (May 9, 2022) at UCSB's Karl Geiringer Hall. [Sample of her work, from 2019]
(7) The kids are allright: Egor Polyakov and Alexandra Miroshnikova, young employees of the pro-Kremlin website Lenta.ru, posted stories about the truth of the Ukraine war and fled the country. The stories were soon taken down, but not before they were archived on the Web. Another group hacked all Russian TV channels, inserting anti-war programming instead of the normal government-produced programs.
(8) We seem to have forgotten Afghanistan, but the Taliban continue their assault on women: A new decree requires that women should be covered from head to toe, wearing either a burqa or a niqab.
(9) Final thought for the day: Let's assume Biden is dumb and Trump is smart, as the MAGA crowd claims. I would take a dumb, compassionate person, whose heart is in the right place, over a two-timing smart person, who schemes to increase his personal power and wealth at all cost.

2022/05/11 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB's Davidson Library, with a display of Ted Chiang's 'Exhalation: Stories' in front of it Drangonfly 7 x 7 chess starting board configuration Cover image of Orlando Figes' 'Natasha's Dance'
Simple math puzzle: Shown are three rectangles and areas of two enclosed white regions. Find the area of the gray region. Math puzzle: Shown are a rectangle of height 8 and width 9, along with a semi-circle. What is the ratio of the red area to the green area? Math puzzle: In this messy pile-up of geometric shapes, find the length of the top side of triangle sitting on the pile (1) Images of the day: [Top left] UCSB's Davidson Library, with a display of Ted Chiang's Exhalation: Stories in front of it (see the next item below). [Top center] Drangonfly 7 x 7 chess: This variant of chess, with no queen pieces, alternate positioning of bishops & knights, and different rules of play, was invented by Christian Freeling in 1983. [Top right] Orlando Figes' Natasha's Dance (see the last item below). [Bottom left] Simple math puzzle: Shown are three rectangles and areas of two enclosed white regions. Find the area of the gray region. [Bottom center] Math puzzle: Shown are a rectangle of height 8 and width 9, along with a semi-circle. What is the ratio of the red area to the green area? [Bottom right] Math puzzle: In this messy pile-up of geometric shapes, find the length of the top side of the triangle sitting on the pile.
(2) Author talk for the "UCSB Reads 2022" program: Ted Chinag spoke at UCSB's Cambell Hall Tuesday night about his book, Exhalation: Stories (my 4-star review), this year's choice for collective reading at UCSB and surrounding communities. The book, composed of nine short stories, from really short to novella-length, is the second collection of short stories published by Chiang.
Topics explored in Exhalation: Stories include humanity & its place in the universe, artificial intelligence, bioethics, virtual reality, determinism vs. free-will, and time-travel. Chiang studied to become a physicist, later switching to computer science, always intending to write sci-fi on the side. He joked that his Asian parents would not have approved of writing as a day job, so he knew not to ask. His science training shows in his stories' solid foundations and clear expositions.
The talk culminated year-long campus activities, including discussing the book in various UCSB courses and in a number of lectures and panels. Planning for "UCSB Reads 2023" is already underway, and I am looking forward to participating in the program.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Biden announces his plans for lowering prices and fighting inflation. [Starts at the 33:45 mark of this video]
- The feminist face of Russian protests: Article in The Moscow Times.
- A 22-year-old Iranian girl, set on fire by her father for having a boyfriend, dies: The father was acquitted.
- Californians consider both University of California and California State University unaffordable.
(4) Book review: Fonda, Jane, Prime Time: Making the Most of Your Life (Love, Health, Sex, Fitness, Friendship, Spirit), unabridged audiobook on 10 CDs, read by the author, Books on Tape, 2011.
[I wrote this review on May 10, 2012, and posted it as a 4-star review to GoodReads on May 10, 2022.]
(5) Book review: Figes, Orlando, Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia, Metropolitan Books, 2014.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is an important book about Russia for those who want to understand the enigmatic country, particularly in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine. Noting similarities with Tolstoy's War and Peace is inevitable, especially given that historian Figes begins his narrative by invoking Natasha, the young countess of Tolstoy's magnum opus, effortlessly performing a peasants' dance, despite growing up in an aristocratic family with different dances. Figes' description of Natasha's dance is reminiscent of the Irish folk dancing of the aristocratic Rose DeWitt in the movie "Titanic," when Jack Dawson takes her to the ship's stirrage section. Rose, too, knew nothing about Irish folk dancing, but, after a few minutes, the unfamiliar dance becomes a natural form of expression for her.
Figes opines that Natasha's dance is symbolic of "an encounter between two entirely different worlds: The European culture of the upper classes and the Russian culture of the peasantry." The two facets of Russia came together during the war of 1812, with the aristocracy, stirred by the serfs' patriotism, breaking free from foreign societal conventions in search of a sense of Russian nationhood. Still, Russia as a single nation or culture remains a myth.
In addition to the 8 chapters (1. European Russia; 2. Children of 1812; 3. Moscow! Moscow!; 4. The Peasant Marriage; 5. In Search of the Russian Soul; 6. Descendants of Genghiz Khan; 7. Russia Through the Soviet Lens; 8. Russia Abroad), the book contains an introduction, a set of maps with notes, a glossary, a table of chronology, and a guide to further reading. The book's focus is on the two centuries between the mid-1700s and the early-1900s, although links to the Mongol Russia are explored in Chapter 6. The book's narrative ends in the Brezhnev era, which brought about the rather different Russia that we know today.
Sandwiched between Natasha's dance in Chapter 1, presented along with an ode to the carefully-planned & artistically-built city of St. Petersburg, and the 1962 emotional return of Igor Stravinsky to Russia during the Khrushchev thaw, in Chapter 8, is an expansive review of Russian literature, visual arts, architecture, music & opera, ballet, and film in the context of Russian history, including Napoleon's 1812 invasion, the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution & the ensuing 5-year civil war, and the ongoing conflict between Moscow (subject of Chapter 3, a la "New York! New York!") and St. Petersburg.
Figes does an excellent job of exposing the Russia that Winston Churchill famously described as "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma." Everything about Russia is different: Even Russian novels aren't novels in the traditional sense; they are often characterized as realistic histories, philosophical treatises, and sociopolitical commentaries that are devoid of fantasies. To quote Albert Einstein: "Dostoevsky gives me more than any scientist, more than Gauss."

2022/05/10 (Tuesday): Today's book reviews include a memoir and two math-for-everyone marvels.
Cover image of Daniel Ellsberg's 'Secrets' Cover image of Steven Strogatz's 'The Joy of x' Cover image of Steven Strogatz's 'Infinite Powers'
(1) Book review: Ellsberg, Daniel, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, unabridged 10-hour audiobook, read by the author and Dan Cashman, HighBridge Audio, 2004.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I first heard of the Pentagon Papers when I was a graduate student at UCLA. The 1971 release of Top-Secret documents, officially entitled "Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force" and covering the US political & military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967, upended the public confidence in government's truthfulness. The Johnson administration systematically lied not only to the people of the United States but also to US Congress, hiding its secret expansion of the war in Vietnam and much of the ensuing consequences.
For disclosing the Top-Secret document, Ellsberg was charged with conspiracy, espionage, and theft of government property, but the charges were officially dropped when the Watergate scandal revealed unlawful efforts to discredit Ellsberg. The 47-volume, 7000-page encyclopedic report, containing both historical analyses and original government documents, was eventually declassified and released to the public in 2011. The Pentagon Papers are discussed in multiple film and TV adaptations, including "The Post" (2017) and "The Pentagon Papers" (2003).
Ellsberg wasn't just an ordinary think-tank employee. He had deep knowledge of Vietnam, obtained through fighting there, a direct hand in decisions during the Johnson and Nixon administrations, and close relationships with key players in the Vietnam Task Force. Most everyone involved in policy-making about our engagement in Vietnam knew that the US could not win that war. Yet, they collectively decided that admitting defeat wasn't an option and helped in, or at least did not object to, building a facade that showed everything was going well.
In this book, Ellsberg moves effortlessly between describing his observations in Vietnam, during his 2-year stint as a US State Department observer, and commenting on secretive decisions, always accompanied by deceptive actions to mislead Americans about what was actually going on in Southeast Asia. Descriptions of his movements inside Vietnam under Viet Cong fire and atrocities committed by US and South Vietnamese armed forces are detailed and gripping.
Incidentally, Secrets was first published in 2002, as the Bush administration prepared for invading Iraq, under very similar false pretenses and deceptions. If you are looking for a convincing argument that government secrecy, particularly in war time, is poisonous for our country's democratic aspirations, then look no further than this monumental book.
(2) Book review: Strogatz, Steven, The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity, unabridged 6-hour audiobook, read by Jonathan Yen, Tantor Audio, 2019.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The author states that he wrote this book for people who are intimidated by math but do have a desire to learn about it. I don't fall in this category, as I love math and use it regularly in my work (as a computer engineer) and leisure (as a puzzle enthusiast). Yet, I loved the book, because I learned much from it. In math, as in other domains, there is no topic that cannot be better understood by looking at it from a different perspective.
The book arose from Strogatz's well-received New York Times column. Beginning with the basics, such as how the invention of the symbol "6" freed us from having to say "fish, fish, fish, fish, fish, fish" when referring to the fish we caught, Strogatz considers the importance of such inventions and the discovery of their relationships. "This is how mathematics grows. The right abstraction leads to new insight ... we invent the concepts but discover their consequences."
Strogatz divides his topics into five domains, corresponding to key subfields of math, and discusses their fundamental concepts in Parts 1-5. He then devotes Part 6, "Frontiers," to advanced ideas and trends in each of the five domains.
- Numbers: Arithmetic (rock groups; the enemy of my enemy; commuting; division)
- Relationships: Algebra (finding your roots; my tub runneth over; power tools)
- Shapes: Geometry (square dancing; something from nothing; take it to the limit)
- Change: Calculus (it slices, it dices; all about e; step into the light)
- Data: Statistics (the new normal; group think; twist and shout; the Hilbert hotel)
Strogatz's knack for providing intuitive explanations for mathematical concepts is reminiscent of the way in which Nobel-Laureate physicist Richard Feynman brought physics to the masses. In another one of his wonderful books, Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe, Strogatz takes a detailed look at calculus, its unbounded powers, its centrality as the language of the cosmos, and the ways in which it contributes to our everyday lives.
No matter how much or how little you know about math, this book contains some delights for you.
(3) Book review: Strogatz, Steven, Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe, unabridged 11-hour audiobook, read by Bob Souer, Tantor Audio, 2019.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Strogatz's accessible introduction to and overview of calculus is a delight. Even those who were scared away from the subject in high school or college may at last understand calculus as an essential tool of modern science and technology, along with how it was conceived as a result of a string of events, beginning in ancient Greece and proceeding to the 20th-century discovery of gravitational waves, overcoming roadblocks and challenges at every turn.
Strogatz considers calculus the greatest discovery of humankind, because none of the achievements of modern science and technology would have been possible without it. Even though calculus grew out of geometry, it isn't just about describing curves and shapes. It also helps us deal with how things change, which is the domain of differential equations. Combined with probability and statistics, calculus has produced many of today’s key R&D areas.
Infinite Powers expands greatly on Chapter 4 of another book by Strogatz, The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity, which is a broader look at mathematics. Herman Wouk [1915-2019], American author best-known for historical fiction, was inspired to write the book The Language God Talks: On Science and Religion, after learning about calculus from interviewing Nobel-Laureate physicist Richard Feynman. Strogatz also considers calculus the language of the cosmos.
Strogatz discusses at length why linear problems are a lot more-tractable than nonlinear ones and how "the infinity principle" allows us to break down a wild and complicated problem into an infinite collection of simpler parts, which can then be analyzed and their results added back together to get a solution for the original problem. Infinitesimal changes can be viewed as being linear, without much error, by keeping only the linear term and ignoring all the higher powers.
To me, one of the most-fascinating applications of calculus is its use by immunologists to model how the HIV virus behaves during the period when a patient's viral load appears stable, leading to the questionable conclusion that no treatment is necessary. It turned out, however, that the stability resulted not from the virus being dormant but, in a manner similar to having a faucet running and a drain open at the same time, viruses continued to multiply at roughly the same rate that the body's defenses cleared them. Administering multiple HIV drugs during this stage, rather than waiting for the later, out-of-control replication stage, helped turn HIV from a death sentence into a manageable chronic condition.

2022/05/09 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
IEEE Computer magazine's April 2022 cover image: Machine learning Visual challenge: How many faces can you spot in this tree? Today's Plous Award Lecturer: Dr. Leah Stokes
Math puzzle: Find the measure of the angle theta in terms of the angles a and x Math puzzle: Given an equilateral triangle and three squares as shown, find x Math puzzle: Find the ratios of the perimeters and areas of the square and circle (1) Images of the day: [Top left] IEEE Computer magazine's April 2022 cover feature: Several articles on machine learning, along with an editorial introduction entitled "Algorithms: Society's Invisible Puppeteers." [Top center] Visual challenge: How many faces can you spot in this tree? [Top right] UCSB's Dr. Leah Stokes (see the next item below). [Bottom left] Math puzzle: Find the measure of the angle theta in terms of the angles a and x. [Bottom center] Math puzzle: Given an equilateral triangle and three squares as shown, find x. [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Find the ratios of the perimeters and areas of the square and circle.
(2) Harold J. Plous Memorial Award Lecture: In an in-person/streaming event at UCSB's Mosher Alumni House, Dr. Leah Stokes (Political Science) spoke under the title "What Can I Do? A Guide to Climate Action." Dr. Stokes is a model scientist/activist, whose research is driven by practical policy actions. The key message of her lecture today was that there is a lot we can do in our homes and businesses to help slow down global warming. Our efforts are best spent on improving infrastructure, such as electrifying our homes and using heat pumps instead of furnaces and air-conditioners. Avoiding the use of disposable plastic bags and other plastics, while laudable, won't cut it.
In his introductory remarks, Chancellor Yang stated that, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Plous Memorial Award lectures had been postponed for 3 years. Today's lecture was the second lecture from the backlog. Last week, Dr. Alenda Chang (Film and Media Studies) spoke under the title "Playing for the Planet."
The next Plous Award Lecture will be delivered by biologist Carolina Arias.
The Harold Plous Award is given annually to one young assistant professor in UCSB's College of Letters and Science on the basis of distinction in research or creative activities.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Pandemic milestone: The number of COVID-19 deaths in the US will surpass one million within a week.
- "A Knot Called Palestine": Iran Emrooz article by Armin Langroudi (in Persian).
- Borowitz Report (humor): Kavanaugh asks if anyone has seen briefcase he accidentally left at bar last week.
- Stanford U. receives $1.1 billion donation for establishing a school for climate change and sustainability.
- AI/ML specialist: What society thinks I do, what other programmers think I do, and what I really do! [Image]
- Kurdish music: The Kamkars perform "Larzan." [3-minute video]
(4) Hats off to Poland: For accommodating hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, not in crowded, unsanitary refugee camps but at Polish homes.
(5) World's oldest unearthed civilization isn't in Egypt or Sumer (today's Iraq): It is in central Iran, next to a large ancient sea that disappeared over time, leaving a desert and covering the structures, including a gigantic temple, for archaeologists to discover. [12- minute video, narrated in Persian]
(6) Final thought for the day: The word a**hole is nowhere to be found in the US Constitution. So, anyone behaving like an a**hole has no rights and should be kicked out of his/her position of power!

2022/05/08 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Mothers' Day to my precious mom and to all other mothers in the world Happy birthday to my daugther, as she celebrates her birthday on Mothers' Day Two natural beauties in one frame: Colorful flowers and gorgeous sunset
Behrooz Parhami's talk on AI & ML: Slide 29 Behrooz Parhami's talk on AI & ML: Title slide Behrooz Parhami's talk on AI & ML: Slide 45 (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] Double-celebration of Mothers' Day and my daughter's birthday (see the next two items below). [Top right] Two natural beauties in one frame: Colorful flowers and gorgeous sunset. [Bottom row] Behrooz Parhami's talk on artificial intelligence and machine learning (see the last item below).
(2) Happy Mothers' Day to my mom, my three sisters, and all the women friends whose motherly instincts and love make the world go around!
As we honor our mothers in the West, let's not forget that in Iran and elsewhere, mothers are separated from their children and other family members, as they serve long prison terms for the "crime" of advocating for human/women's rights and justice-system reforms. Brave mothers and other women have demonstrated repeatedly that they won't be silenced by made-up charges of treason or acting against national security. And let us also think of mothers in war zones, who have little to celebrates under assault by war criminals.
(3) Happy birthday, my dearest daughter, as you celebrate your birthday on Mothers' Day, just like when you were born and when you celebrated your birthday in 2005. Wishing you a wonderful special day and the very best of luck, as you start your life as a career woman in San Diego!
(4) "Algorithms with Predictions": This was the title of Friday's UCSB CS Theory Colloquium by Michael Mitzenmacher, Harvard U. Professor of Computer Science and author of:
- "Algorithms with Predications: How ML Can Lead to Provably Better Algorithms" [arXiv version]
- Probability and Computing: Randomized Algorithms and Probabilistic Analysis [PDF]
The talk's main theme was using predictions, such as from machine-learning, to circumvent worst-case algorithm running time, with the aim of deriving algorithms that have near-optimal performance when these predictions are good, but maintain provable bounds, even when the predictions have large errors. Several examples of recent results were presented to show how predictions can be used effectively while still allowing for theoretical guarantees. A toy example is searching in a sorted list. Binary search has O(log n) latency, but if the position of the item can be guessed or predicted, the performance becomes O(log(prediction error)).
(5) A Persian essay about motherhood and making women feel guilty: Iranian superstar singer Googoosh admits, after a suggestive question from interviewer Homa Sarshar, that she has failed as a mother. Her son, Kambiz, has also complained that his mother did him wrong. Where was the society and where were the support systems to help Googoosh, who was a child bride and a child performer, exploited by her father to make him rich? Where are her husbands, and why aren't they blamed or held responsible for the neglect her son claims to have experienced? Googoosh herself is as much of a victim as her son. Mothers aren't, and shouldn't be viewed as, the sole cause of a failed marriage or problematic childhood experiences.
(6) "Let's Not Call Everything Artificial Intelligence: A Realistic Assessment of Intelligent Behavior and Machine Learning": This morning, as part of the Fanni'68 group of graduates of Tehran University's College of Engineering, yours truly presented a semi-technical overview of AI & ML.
Defining artificial intelligence, or plain intelligence for that matter, has proven more difficult than expected. Many people have thrown up their arms, taking the position that, even though we can't define AI, we'll recognize it when we see it! Despite the cycles of hype and disappointment in achieving general AI, success stories abound in making machines behave intelligently in limited domains. Examples include vehicle routing (Uber), logistics (airport gate assignments), and game-playing (Chess, GO). Meanwhile, we still have a long way to go in building machines that can pass the Turing test, as well as in domains such as machine translation, which may require the same, or even greater, capabilities. In recent years, we have come to realize that, as great as the technical challenges are in developing general AI, an even greater challenge is developing awareness and dealing with social implications of massive data repositories and automated decision-making. After collecting petabytes of data on each of us, there is no guarantee that machines, or their masters, will use the data to offer better services and optimal outcomes, rather than controlling and shaping our economic and social behaviors. A key consideration is thus ensuring a balance between facilitating technical progress and ensuring fairness and social justice.
[My talk begins at the 59:30 mark of this recording, Passcode: 4K%*b?bR] [My PDF slides]

2022/05/06 (Friday): Today's three book reviews cover math/logic, bioinformatics, and science history.
Cover image of Kordemsky's 'The Moscow Puzzles' Cover image of Stevens's 'Life out of Sequence' Cover image of Gribbin's and Gribbin's 'The Cat in the Box' (1) Book review: Kordemsky, Boris A., The Moscow Puzzles: 359 Mathematical Recreations, Dover, 1992 (first published in 1956). [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Kordemsky has been praised for making math fun for his high-school students. This book was edited, and contains an introduction, by Martin Gardner of the Scientific American "Mathematical Games Department" fame.
The book's 359 problems are presented in 14 chapters (184 pages): Amusing Problems; Difficult Problems; Geometry with Matches; Measure Seven Times Before You Cut; Skill Will Find Its Applications Everywhere; Dominoes and Dice; Properties of Nine; With Algebra and Without It; Mathematics with Almost No Calculations; Mathematical Games and Tricks; Divisibility; Cross Sums and Magic Squares; Numbers Curious and Serious; Numbers Ancient but Eternally Young. The puzzle statements are followed by 118 pages of answers.
Here is an example puzzle from the "Amusing Problems" chapter: Combine plus signs and five 2s to get 28; combine plus signs and eight 8s to get 1000. Here's another example from the same chapter: What is the sum of all digits if you write the numbers 1 through 1,000,000,000; you are asked for the sum of the digits, not of the numbers, which would be 10^9(10^9 + 1)/2.
I own quite a few books on mathematical and logical puzzles. This book is a wonderful addition to my collection.
(2) Book review: Stevens, Hallam, Life out of Sequence: A Data-Driven History of Bioinformatics, U. Chicago Press, 2013. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
While the buzz phrases "big data" and "data-driven x" are relatively new and are pushed by various actors as ground-breaking and exciting, science has always been data-driven. What's new is our expanded ability to process and find patterns in vast data sets with help from powerful computers. We still tend to visualize biologists and chemists as wearing white lab-coats, surrounded by chemicals and petri dishes, in a wet lab, whereas, today, scientists in nearly all disciplines spend a considerable portion of their time in a dry lab, facing computer displays and dealing with computational analyses, modeling, or simulations.
Bioinformatics, a discipline at the intersection of biology and computing is concerned with the acquisition, storage, analysis, and dissemination of biological data, most often DNA and amino-acid sequences. The word "bioinformatics" is derived from "biology" and "informatics," which, along with the French form "informatique," is the preferred word for "computing" or "computer science" in Europe. "Bioinformatics" is nicer-sounding than "biocomputing"; furthermore, the latter term has come to signify the design and use of computing devices built from biological components.
In a broader sense, bioinformatics is the study of information content and information flow in biological systems and processes. Even though bioinformatics (aka computational molecular biology) emerged in the 1960s with the efforts of Margaret O. Dayhoff, Walter M. Fitch, Russell F. Doolittle, and others, it came into prominence in the 21s century, when, on the heels of successes in the sequencing of genomes for simple organisms, the sequencing of the human genome became feasible.
In Life out of Sequence, Stevens draws from his own field work, interviews, and published research to explore the dynamic relationship between biology and computing, that is, the manner in which biology shapes and is shaped by digital technologies. Stevens's highly-accessible account informs us of the ways in which computers influence the organization of research in biology and how they assist with data collection and knowledge production. The role of data in biological research is far from a one-way journey from the lab to the computer. Data also plays a key role in shaping the experiments.
(3) Book review: Gribbin, John and Mary Gribbin, The Cat in the Box: A History of Science in 100 Experiments, Race Point Publishers, 2017. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
There are many ways of telling the history of science and quite a few of these ways have been tried. For example, one can present a chronology of important contributors/scientists. Or, one can construct a timeline of major discoveries/ideas. Focusing on key experiments is an interesting approach. Science relies to a great extent on experimental verification of theories, but there also exist scientific contributions, notably in math and computer science, that do not rely on experiments.
This richly-illustrated book tells the story of scientific advances from the third century BCE to 2016, by selecting 100 (actually 101) key experiments and discussing each one in 2-4 pages. In the following, I name some of these experiments to give you a flavor of book's coverage.
01. The upward thrust of water (Archimedes)
11. All the colors of the rainbow (Isaac Newton)
21. Weighing the Earth (John Michell)
31. Thinking about the power of fire (Sadi Carnot)
41. The Levithan of Parsonstown (William Parsons)
51. Feeling the squeeze (Jacques & Pierre Curie)
61. Journey to the center of the Earth (Emil Wiechert)
71. Splitting the atom (Ernest Walton)
81. The alpha helix (Linus Pauling)
91. Clocking onto relativity (Joseph Hafele & Richard Keating)
"The Cat in the Box" of the title refers to #75, the famous thought experiment of Erwin Schrodinger, suggesting that a cat in an unobserved chamber can be both dead & alive. The book ends with the bonus Experiment 101, the detection of gravitational waves in 2016. "Experiment 101" represents the ultimate scientific experiment, in the same way that the course "Physics 101" captures the essence of physics.

2022/05/05 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iran's Safavid kings didn't promote only religious superstitions: They also regarded astrology as one of the most-noble sciences Architectural marvel in Kashan, Iran One of the biggest pre-roman mosaics ever found: The highly-elaborate Palace of Aigai
Clock-face markings, using 1s only: See if you can improve on the expressions shown, in the sense of using fewer 1s Clock-face markings, using 3s only: See if you can improve on the expressions shown, in the sense of using fewer 3s Math puzzle: Shown are a circle and two squares, with the circle's center on the side of the bigger square. Find the circle's area as a function of a (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Iran's Safavid kings (1501-1736) didn't promote only religious superstitions: They also regarded astrology as one of the most-noble sciences. A revered astrologer of the court was given the title "Munajjim-bashi." [Top center] Architectural marvel in Kashan, Iran (credit: @amir.hossein.mirmoeini). [Top right] One of the biggest pre-Roman mosaics ever found: The elaborate Palace of Aigai is considered the second most-important structure of classical Greece after the Parthenon. [Bottom left & center] Clock-face markings, using 1s or 3s only: Can you improve on the expressions shown, in the sense of using fewer 1s/3s? [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Shown are a circle and two squares, with the circle's center on the side of the bigger square. Find the circle's area as a function of a (credit: Mirangu.com).
(2) May 2-6, 2022, is Teacher Appreciation Week. Words from someone who has been a teacher for 54 years: "In the school of life, everyone's a teacher. If you are willing to learn, everyone has something to teach you."
(3) As the trial of Hamid Noury, an Iranian official who was directly involved in mass-execution of prisoners in the 1980s, ends in Stockholm and he faces the prospects of a long prison term, Iran indicates that Ahmadreza Djalali, a dual Swedish-Iranian citizen, will be executed in two weeks. I bet that behind the scenes, Iran has offered to exchange #AhmadrezaDjalali with #HamidNoury. Yet another case of overt hostage-taking by Iran!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Justice Samuel J. Alito's SCOTUS draft opinion on overturning Roe-v.-Wade fact-checked.
- Karine Jean-Pierre to become White House press secretary when Jen Psaki leaves her post next week.
- Licensed and helmeted woman is stopped in Iran for riding a motorcycle. [Video]
- Relic from the Roman-Gallic Wars: This spearhead has been in the bone for 2070 years! [Tweet]
- The historic Palangan Village in Iran's Sanandaj Province hosts the "1000 Dafs Festival." [2-minute video]
- Math puzzle: For what values of n is the sum 1! + 2! + 3! + . . . + n! a perfect square?
(5) Math puzzle: For triangle ABC, how many points P in the ABC plane are such that the three triangles PAB, PBC, PCA all have the same area?
(6) Familial relations between Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the Green Movement Leader Mir-Hossein Mousavi, who has been under house arrest for more than a decade. [10-minute video]
(7) Math oddity: The number tan(9^(9^(9^9))) is well-defined, but we will likely never know whether it is positive or negative, more than a billion or less than a billionth, or even/odd when we drop its fractional part.
(8) Restricting women's choice isn't about protecting babies: If this were the case, we'd have free healthcare for mothers & babies, paid maternal/paternal leave, and assistance with childcare for working moms.
(9) Life is much more than birth: The Republicans seem to think that life begins at conception & ends at birth. They like to force women to give birth but oppose any form of support (maternal/paternal leave, healthcare) to ensure that the newborns remain healthy and thrive. They should be called pro-birth, not pro-life.

2022/05/04 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Today's noon concert at the Music Bowl featured UCSB's Middle East Ensemble SCOTUS set to overturn Roe-v.-Wade: The five justices in favor of overturning Today's lecture by Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi of UNC Chapel Hill
Spineless GOP candiates kneel before a twice-impeached former president: Newsweek magazine cover image Set theory symbols/notation Bloated supervisory/management ranks: This diagram is the CS/programming version of something that has been around for some time (1) Images of the day: [Top left] UCSB's World Music Series mini-concert at noon (see the next item below). [Top center] SCOTUS set to overturn Roe-v.-Wade (see item 3 below). [Top right] Today's lecture by Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi of UNC Chapel Hill (see the last item below). [Bottom left] Spineless GOP candidates kneel before #45. [Bottom center] Set theory symbols/notation. [Bottom right] Bloated supervisory/management ranks: This diagram is the CS/programming version of something that has been around for some time.
(2) Today's noon concert at the Music Bowl featured UCSB's Middle East Ensemble: The program included a song belonging to the Turkemans of Kirkuk, a region in northern Iraq, a song from Turkey's Istanbul area, with Turkish and Sephardic lyrics, a song from Egypt, and a few Arabic dance tunes, with some audience participation. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3] [Video 4]
(3) The US Supreme Court is set to overturn Roe-v.-Wade: Why not stop abortion at the source? Vasectomies are reversible, so, making every young man have one will prevent all unwanted pregnancies. It will be reversed when a man is deemed financially and emotionally fit to be a father. This stops abortions and a host of other societal ills. But, perhaps, our misogynistic society isn't ready for regulating male bodies.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Russia is pulling out of International Space Station collaboration due to sanctions.
- Brain drain: The US is planning to capitalize on highly-educated citizens leaving Russia.
- Israeli researchers are applying 3D-printing technology to the repair of coral reefs.
- Trevor Noah's complete remarks at the 2022 White House Correspondents' Dinner. [26-minute video]
- Math puzzle: Evaluate the infinite expression sqrt(1 + 2 sqrt(1 + 3 sqrt(1 + 4 sqrt(1 + 5 sqrt(1 + ... ))))).
- Our blue planet and its wonderful creatures. [3-minute video]
(5) An operative of Iran's IRGC Quds Force arrested in Europe: He was involved in plans to assassinate an Israeli diplomat in Turkey, an American general in Germany, and a journalist in France.
(6) "Multiple Consciousness in Diasporic Works of Iranian Armenian Authors and Artists": This was the title of a Duke U. Iranian Graduate Students Association talk by Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi (UNC Chapel Hill), based on her forthcoming third book, to be published by Edinburgh U. Press next year.
Dr. Yaghoobi showed examples of visual arts and literature created by Iranian-Armenians in diaspora, which reflect their experiences as a marginalized minority, scars inflicted by the Armenian genocide, whether or not it impacted them directly, and longings to return to their homeland. Many of the items discussed were of transnational nature, in that they reflect not just the Armenian experience but can be viewed as representing hardships faced by other marginalized and displaced people.
The program began 25 minutes late (this must be some sort of a record!), so I couldn't stay for the Q&A segment due to other commitments.

2022/05/03 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
My daughter's move to San Diego: Loading a U-Haul truck and driving it from SB to SD Honey we shrunk ourselves! My daughter's move to San Diego: Arriving in San Diego
My daughter's move to San Diego: Waiting for the movers to arrive to unload the truck My daughter's move to San Diego: Settuing up the living room and the dining area My daughter's move to San Diego: Home-office, bedroom, and master bath On Monday and Tuesday, I was out of town, helping my daughter relocate to San Diego. We loaded a U-Haul truck on Sunday evening, which I drove to San Diego on Monday morning. The rental was one-way, so I returned on an Amtrak train Tuesday evening. We had a late lunch on Monday at a shopping mall in SD's Del Mar Heights, where we shrunk outselves!
Monday evening and much of Tuesday was spent unpacking and bringing the living room, dining area, and home-office to usable condition, with some work remaining to be done in the kitchen and bedroom. A real bed will be arriving soon and WiFi connection will take a couple more days.
It's amazing how many e-mail messages and other tasks can pile up over a 2.5-day period!

2022/05/01 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy International Workers' Day! UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: Dr. Fatemeh Shams (Flyer) UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: Dr. Fatemeh Shams (Book cover) (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy International Workers' Day, aka May Day! (see the next item beow). [Center & Right] Lecture on the connection between poetry & power (see the last item below).
(2) May Day: We white-collar workers seldom come in close contact with the so-called blue-collar workforce. We see them around and appreciate their indispensable contributions to our society, but we are prone to be unaware of their daily struggles, which are fundamentally the same as our own: worrying about health, family budget, kids, elder parents, insurance, and old-age security. There is one fundamental difference, though: they have to face these issues with far fewer resources and often with less support. All of our conveniences, the house we live in, the infrastructure we use, the food we eat, and so on, would not exist without them. Happy International Workers' Day to all hardworking citizens of the world!
(3) Trump's latest big-lie: "I am not stupid." He keeps repeating this at his campaign rallies, hoping that, like his "stolen election" big-lie, it will stick.
(4) UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: Dr. Fatemeh Shams (U. Penn) spoke in Persian under the title "The Tension Between Poetry and Power in Post-Revolutionary Iran." Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (Cal State U. Northridge; coordinator of UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series) introduced the speaker and moderated the Q&A session afterwards. After the talk, Dr. Ahmad Karimi Hakkak (U. Maryland; UCLA) offered a commentary on Dr. Shams's latest book, A Revolution in Rhyme: Poetic Co-option under the Islamic Republic (Oxford U. Press, 2021). Dr. Shams began by expressing regrets that a major project on an important aspect of Persian poetry, taking her many years to complete, does not get a chance to be published in Iran. Both Dr. Tohidi and Dr. Karimi-Hakkak expressed hope that a Persian translation can be produced in the West and disseminated on-line.
The lecture covered diverse topics, including the role played by poetry & poets during the 1979 Iranian Revolution & establishment of the Islamic Republic, reasons for Iran's new rulers paying so much attention to poetry, the identity of state-sponsored poets, how they entered the literary scene, what they write about, & who sponsors them, and the relationship between poetry, language, despotism, & collective memory.
- Islamic Revolution & Islamic government: Dr. Shams began by relating a memory from a series of poetry recitation events in Mashhad, which always began by reciting a sura from the Quran about poets and poetry. In the sura, poets are characterized as untruthful people, with followers among those who have lost their way. This tension between what Quran says about poets and how poetry is used by those in power to advance their goals was one of the factors motivating Dr. Shams to write about the relationship between poetry and power.
- Why the mullahs promote poetry: Poems, particularly those that rhyme, provide an excellent source of revolutionary slogans that the masses can enjoy and remember. A prime example is the poem containing the verse "Deev cho biroon ravad, fereshteh dar-ayad" ("Once the demon leaves, the angel emerges"), which assumed the status of an anthem immediately after the Revolution. Use of poetry in school textbooks is also a tool for indoctrinating the country's youth.
- State-sponsored poets & their narratives: One of the Islamic regime's programs is training/supporting "revolutionary," "committed," or "ritualistic" poets. Supreme Leader Khamenei holds regular poetry nights and, of late, he also attends a night of ritualistic poetry ("maddahi"). Staging these nights, with cameras and broad news coverage, requires an extensive organizing entity. Poets are identified by organizers and encouraged to submit poems, before being invited to attend.
- Poetry, language, despotism, & collective memory: Poets cozying up to those in power isn't a new phenomenon. It has existed throughout Iran's long history. Dr. Karimi-Hakkak pointed to the tension between Reza Shah and Mohammad-Taqi Bahar (Malek al-Sho'ara), who was imprisoned for his opposing views, but was later persuaded by Mohammad Ali Foroughi to compose a poem in praise of Reza Shah.
- During the Q&A period, I raised a related topic: The use of poetry, especially in humorous form, to criticize those in power, an art form that Iranians have taken to new heights. I asked whether this is a noteworthy development or just a way of blowing off steam? Dr. Shams answered that humorous poetry is indeed important and has a long tradition. Khamenei himself insists that poetry nights include at least one humorous poem, and, ironically, that poem tends to cause controversies & discomfort. Poets are often asked to cut certain parts of their poems from the oral presentation and, at least in one instance, from social-media postings.

2022/04/30 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Ancient Rome in the 4th century CE: This incredible 1:250 scale model sits in the Museum of Roman Civilization, which opened in the 1930s Persian poetry: A playful quatrain by Abbas Sadeghi Zarrini Architectural marvel: Santa Maria del Fiore in Firenze, Italy, with its 13th-15th-century marble floor
Math puzzle: We have regular octagon, a regular pentagon, and a square, as shown. What is the measure of the angle marked? Optical illusion: Three concentric circles that look anything but! Math puzzle: Find the rectangle's area as a function of a and b (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Ancient Rome in the 4th century CE: This incredible 1:250 scale model sits in the Museum of Roman Civilization. [Top center] Persian poetry: A playful quatrain by Abbas Sadeghi Zarrini. [Top right] Architectural marvel: Santa Maria del Fiore in Firenze, Italy, with its 13th-15th-century marble floor. [Bottom left] Math puzzle: We have regular octagon, a regular pentagon, and a square, as shown. What is the measure of the angle bearing a question mark? [Bottom center] Optical illusion: Three concentric circles that look anything but! [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Find the rectangle's area as a function of a and b.
(2) People of Iran have no say in who will become the next Supreme Leader: The Supreme Leader makes all the important decisions and, at times, overrides the decisions of the country's president and parliament, yet he isn't accountable to anyone. He doesn't hold news conferences, doesn't give interviews, and feels no obligation to explain his decisions, even when he reverses earlier ones. Iran's president is just a scapegoat, to be blamed when something goes wrong. Iran's Assembly of Experts may have already chosen the next Leader, but it won't divulge who he is. They won't even share the names of members who serve on the subcommittee in charge of deliberations in this regard. [5-minute video, in Persian]
(3) My daughter is partially packed for her Monday move to San Diego, where she will continue her career as a data scientist with Mindera Health, after 4+ months of working from home, while looking for a place to live in "America's Finest City" (and a darn expensive one too). I will travel with her, returning on Tuesday.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ohio Republican lawmaker Jean Schmidt says pregnancy from rape is an opportunity for women.
- UN's Human-Rights Rapporteur Alena Douhan to receive red-carpet treatment in Iran.
- Iranian Baha'i woman held in unknown location: Her family members have no idea where she is.
- Summary and Interpretation of Three Epic Love Poems by Nezami Ganjavi: Book by Dr. Mehdi Abedinejad.
(5) "The Evolution of Gender Discourse in Modern Iran": This is the title of Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi's latest paper (in Persian), published in Freedom of Thought Journal, No. 11, spring 2022, pp. 77-90. [PDF]
(6) A couple of ducks have made our housing complex in Goleta their home: They were seen in the pool area for a few days but were driven away for fear of water contamination. On Friday, April 29, 2022, they were hanging out on a patch of grass next to the mailboxes of the 900s cluster. [Photos]
(7) "Neural Networks: Optimization, Transition to Linearity, and Deviations Therefrom": This was the title of today's talk by Mikhail Belkin (UCSD), who discussed the theoretical underpinnings of why gradient-based optimization methods for deep learning have been so successful in practice, despite our expectation of major nonlinearities. We often imagine a curve or surface with many local minima, that suggests the likelihood of getting stuck in one of those local minima. In reality, once the number of parameters (dimensions) grows, system behavior becomes modelable in a linear manner, with high probability of gradient-based methods working perfectly. Recent deep-learning models span millions and, in the extreme, 1+ trillion parameters. Very general, wide neural nets, with linear output layers, are essentially linear functions. Optimization methods can be adjusted to reduce the chances of over-fitting that often results from having a very large number of parameters. A number of new results allow the handling of some of the deviations from non-linearity. [Speaker's Web page] [Belkin's thoughts on deep learning] [Expository article on deep learning]

2022/04/29 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet. A Roman bathhouse in Khenchela, Algeria, which is still in use after 2000 years
CACM cover image: ACM celebrates its 75th anniversary London, imagined as it looked ca. 120 CE (~1900 years ago)
Math puzzle: What fraction of the regular pentagon's area is shaded blue? Spiral of Pythagoras Math puzzle: We have two circles of radius R, with their centers separated by R. What is the radius of the small circle? (1) Images of the day: [Top left] This Roman bathhouse in Khenchela, Algeria, is still in use after 2000 years. [Top center] ACM turns 75 (see the next item below). [Top right] London, imagined as it looked ca. 120 CE (~1900 years ago). [Bottom left] Math puzzle: What fraction of the regular pentagon's area is shaded blue? [Bottom center] Spiral of Pythagoras. [Bottom right] Math puzzle: We have two circles of radius r, with their centers separated by r. What is the radius x of the small circle?
(2) ACM celebrates its 75th anniversary: The name "Association for Computing Machinery" was chosen in 1947, because in those days computers looked like factory equipment. The name has stuck, despite subsequent efforts to change it to something more appropriate.
In the intervening 75 years, the number of ACM members has risen from the original 52 to nearly 100,000 in 190+ countries. ACM publishes dozens of prestigious journals, holds hundreds of conferences annually, and maintains an extensive digital library of computing resources.
ACM will hold a special celebration at Palace Hotel in San Francisco on June 10, 2022, to review its history and to discuss, in multiple panels, important challenges facing our profession.
(3) Math puzzle: We have 4 points on the XY plane. The smallest distance between any two points is 1. The largest pairwise distance is D. What is the minimum possible value of D?
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ukrainians' heroic efforts help restore electric power under heavy Russian shelling. [6-minute video]
- An American software developer is on trial for being a military-trained "sleeper agent" for Hezbollah.
- Executions in Iran rose 25% in President Raisi's first year, with twice as many taking place in secret.
- Iran's "Jewish Studies Center" brings in one place all of the Islamic regime's anti-Semitic efforts.
- Optical illusion: Escher Rubik's cube. [Video]
- Mariculture: Growing food in our oceans is possible & necessary, as we head toward 10B people on Earth.
(5) Efficiency vs. resilience: Over the past few decades, we built an efficient global economic system, without realizing that it was highly vulnerable to shock. The COVID-19 pandemic, and, later, the war in Ukraine, made us realize that extreme efficiency (in supply chains and elsewhere) is achieved by sacrificing resilience. We are now in a world of sanctions & tech-exchange restrictions that make openness in research & development a relic of the past. This new world demands prioritizing resilience over efficiency. [Moshe Vardi's CACM column]
(6) Jubilations & alarms over Elon Musk's takeover of Twitter are premature: Twitter is a business and what Musk does with it will be driven primarily by the bottom line, not ideology. If lax control leads to more hate speech, Neo-Nazi propaganda, or child pornography, say, users/sponsors will walk away, something that businessman Musk would not like to see. It is in Musk's financial interest to keep Twitter pretty much intact, with only cosmetic changes.
(7) Incredibly, US Department of Education has shared personal data of FAFSA applicants with Facebook: The "feature" has now been disabled, but it is unknown how many applicant profiles are already compromised.
(8) Hitler's newfound popularity: Iran's Kayhan daily, an official mouthpiece of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, runs a report praising Hitler on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

2022/04/28 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Throwback Thursday: Street scenes from the 1950s in the US, Canada, Mexico, and Iran Wednesday, at Sprouts Farmers Market in Goleta, California The beauty and amazing colors of nature
Cartoon: Calculus is more effective than a ghost costume for scaring people on Halloween Keelan Overton's lecture on Persian tiles: Sample slides Keelan Overton's lecture on Persian tiles: Flyer (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Throwback Thursday: Street scenes from the 1950s in the US, Canada, Mexico, and Iran. I'll let you guess which is which! [Top center] Wednesday, at Sprouts Farmers Market in Goleta, California. [Top right] The beauty and amazing colors of nature. [Bottom left] Cartoon of the day: More effective than a ghost costume for scaring people on Halloween. [Bottom center & right] Keelan Overton's lecture on Persian tilework (see the last item below).
(2) Two things happened on January 6, 2021: One was the Capitol riot. The other was planning to overturn the election by discarding legitimate electors and replacing them with fake electors.
We talk more about the former, which actually had little chance of succeeding, even if a few lawmakers had been killed and Mike Pence had been hanged. The second one, though, came very close to succeeding and its perpetrators are more dangerous to our country than the ragtag band of rioters, who are being prosecuted.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- In 1896, the Indiana House of Representatives considered a legislative bill that would have made π = 3.2.
- Persian music: Little boy plays the "Ey Iran" anthem on santoor. [Video]
- Math puzzle: What is the rightmost (least-significant) decimal digit of Q = 216^5192 + 25^4317 + 97^7892?
- Facebook memory from Apr. 28, 2016: Religion at its best and at its worst.
- Facebook memory from Apr. 28, 2015: A wonderful Persian verse from Sa'eb Tabrizi.
(4) Standing up for women's rights: A number of departmental soccer teams at Tehran Polytechnic University refused to participate in competitions because women students were barred from watching. If only Iran's club and national teams would do the same!
(5) When smoke gets in your wine: California wildfires have led to an unpleasant aftertaste in some wines, which vintners, grape-growers, and scientists are working to remove.
(6) Stop passing the harasser: This practice has been common in the Catholic Church, where priests accused of sexual misconduct are simply transferred to another diocese. In academia, too, a sexual harasser of one campus can become a prized recruit of another. A campus may stay quiet about problematic conduct for fear of lawsuits or due to signing a settlement agreement with the departing employee. Now, universities are starting to incorporate a "reference check" with an applicant's previous institution as part of the hiring process.
(9) "Iran Unglazed: Local, National, and Global Histories of Persian Tilework": Dr. Keelan Overton (independent scholar, based in Santa Barbara; PhD, 2011, UCLA) delivered today's installment of the UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran.
Tiles have constituted important features of Iranian architecture since ancient times. Tiles weather-proof simple clay bricks, while also serving as ornaments, particularly in combination with calligraphic writings. Dr. Overton highlighted the circumstances that have informed the transformation and reception of Persian tiles over the last two centuries, including documentation, plunder, preservation, exhibition, commodification, and most importantly, audience.
At stake is a balancing act between prevailing narratives of world heritage and local and national histories, as well as the reconciliation of museum exhibits and their original architectural homes. Today's lecture, based on an in-progress, Getty-sponsored monograph, sought to unglaze the study of Persian tilework by moving beyond pristine surfaces and illuminating contested, conditional, and at times even ugly histories.

2022/04/27 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
FIFA has asked Iran for immediate resolution of the problem of women not allowed to attend sports matches Officials in Kyiv dismantle the Ukraine-Russia Friendship Statue Narges Mohammadi speaking before reporting to prison
Part of an illustrated periodic table of the elements Small Island, Big Song: Concert at UCSB's MCC Theater (Poster) Small Island, Big Song: Concert at UCSB's MCC Theater (Photos) (1) Images of the day: [Top left] FIFA's empty threats against Iran continue: In a letter to Iranian authorities, FIFA has asked for immediate resolution of the problem of women not allowed to attend sports matches. Ejecting Iran from World Cup 2022 will awaken the mullahs from their 1400-year slumber. [Top center] Officials in Kyiv dismantle the Ukraine-Russia Friendship Statue. [Top right] I am in awe of Narges Mohammadi: As the Iranian human/women's-rights activist observes her 50th birthday, getting ready to report to prison for the umpteenth time, she smiles and tells everyone to be hopeful. [Bottom left] Part of an illustrated periodic table of the elements (complete, high-res PDF version). [Bottom center & right] Small Island, Big.Song: An enjoyable concert at UCSB's Multicultural Center Theater, with a program that explored the cultural connections between the descendants of seafarers of the Pacific and Indian Oceans through the Austronesian migration. Many unique instruments, sounds, and beats! (Sample music).
(2) Patriarchy permeates every aspect of Iran's culture: In this movie clip, a grandmother baffles her young granddaughter by invoking the saying "Collect your hens, the roosters are on the loose." Girls/women are held responsible for, and are blamed for, boys/men misbehaving.
(3) Consequences: US states passing restrictive laws will find out, as Iran did, that taking people's freedoms away will lead to brain drain. There are already indications that college students are shunning such states.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Nearly 60% of Americans, including 3 of 4 children, have been infected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The US and Russia swap prisoners, walking them simultaneously between two planes parked side by side.
- Borowitz report (humor): Kevin McCarthy amazed by incredible new invention called tape recorder.
- Archaeology in your alley: This Roman mosaic floor was discovered in the old town of Hvar, Croatia.
(5) Persian music: This 14-year-old Iranian girl from Isfahan can reportedly play 25 different musical instruments proficiently. Here, she demonstrates some of her skills, performing the oldie song "Shahzadeh-ye Ro'ya" ("Prince of My Dreams"). [5-minute video]
(6) The Paris-based Bahar Choir holds a concert in London: The program will be aired on BBC Persian. I will post a link, when it becomes available (in a couple of months, I think). [Medley of selected songs]
(7) Stalled progress in academic gender pay equity: American Association of University Professors' annual faculty compensation survey has revealed that women are making roughly $0.82 for every dollar their male counterparts earn. The gap has barely budged over the past decade (the figure was $0.81 in 2010-2011).
(8) In desperation, Russia shoots itself in the foot: By refusing to sell gas to Poland and Bulgaria, Russia is helping destroy its market share. Once these countries look for and find alternate suppliers, they are very unlikely to resume dealing with Russia.
(9) Bioinformatics vs. biocomputing: "Informatics," or its French form "informatique," is the preferred word for "computing" or "computer science" in Europe. However, bioinformatics and biocomputing aren't the same. The former, aka "computational (molecular) biology," refers to an interdisciplinary field combining biology and computer science; the latter refers to the design and use of computers built from biological components.

2022/04/25 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
West-to-east, south-to-north, and odd-even numbering of the US Interstate Highways Golden military helmet from ~4600 years ago: Discovered in southern Iraq in 1924, the helmet belonged to the Sumerian King Meskalamdug Street sign in Iran: Did you know that 'Hafez-e Jonoubi' ('South Hafez'), when translated into English, becomes 'Hafez-e Shomali' ('North Hafez')?
Math puzzle: Shown are two circles and two straight lines. Find the length x Nerdy T-shirt, featuring non-binary logic. Math puzzle: Two circles are inscribed in a semicircle, with both of them tangent to an altitude. What is the measure of the angle alpha? (1) Images of the day: [Top left] West-to-east, south-to-north, and odd-even numbering of the US Interstate Highways network. [Top center] Golden military helmet from ~4600 years ago: Discovered in southern Iraq, the helmet belonged to the Sumerian King Meskalamdug. [Top right] Street sign in Iran: Did you know that "Hafez-e Jonoubi" ("South Hafez"), when translated into English, becomes "Hafez-e Shomali" ("North Hafez")? [Bottom left] Math puzzle: Shown are two circles and two straight lines. Find the length x, given the other three lengths. [Bottom center] Nerdy T-shirt, featuring non-binary logic. [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Two circles are inscribed in a semicircle, with both of them tangent to an altitude. What is the measure of the angle α?
(2) Quote of the day: "A good leader takes a little more than his share of the blame, a little less than his share of the credit." ~ Arnold H. Glasow
(3) Separation of church & state is being tested: The complaint of a fired high-school football coach who had his team pray on the field after each game reaches a seemingly sympathetic US Supreme Court.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The board of Twitter approves Elon Musk's $44 billion takeover offer.
- Deep mathematical beauty: The Cayley graph of the group [6, 4], with a Hamiltonian path. [Image]
- There's so much talent in the world: Inay & Monday perform Bond's "Victory" on guitar and violin.
- Facebook memory from Apr. 25, 2017: The day when 4000+ Santa Barbara residents marched for science.
- Facebook memory from Apr. 25, 2014: The day I left the digital Stone Age by ditching my Blackberry.
- Facebook memory from Apr. 25, 2012: On algorithmic information theory and conservation of information.
(5) Book introduction: In The Digital Mindset: What It Really Takes to Thrive in the Age of Data, Algorithms, and AI, UCSB Technology Management Program's Paul Leonardi and Harvard Business School's Tsedal Neeley help businesses deal with the pressures and challenges of going digital. [Cover image] [Article]
(6) Book review: Kerman, Piper, Orange is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison, Spiegel & Grau, 2011 (paperback edition 2012). [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I wrote this review on April 25, 2015, and posted it to GoodReads on April 25, 2022.
(7) Iran is spending a fortune in Lebanon: This Islamic Republic official boasts about the large numbers of homes, schools, clinics, mosques, roads, bridges, and electrical infrastructure they built for the Lebanese. The 2-minute video clip ends with a woman's testimonial that Lebanon owes everything to Iran. Meanwhile, Iranians lack clean drinking water, suffer from dust-filled air, face sky-high food, drug, & clothing prices, and many have sunk below the poverty line.
(8) For the first time in US history, an Air Force general is convicted by way of court martial: Major General William T. Cooley was found guilty of sexual misconduct.
(9) Final thought for the day: "It is a thousand times better to have common sense without education than to have education without common sense." ~ Robert G. Ingersoll

2022/04/24 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Five & ten symmetries with two rhombuses Seven-way Venn diagram with its 128 regions Art from Spain: Maria Montiel's 'Monochrome Gardens'
SB Earth Day celebration at Arlington Theater: Batch 7 of photos SB Earth Day celebration at Arlington Theater: Batch 5 of photos SB Earth Day celebration at Arlington Theater: Batch 8 of photos (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Five & ten symmetries with two rhombuses (credit: @ThomasTBurgess1). [Top center] Most of us can draw 2-way, 3-way, and maybe 4-way Venn diagrams: But drawing a 7-way Venn diagram with its 128 regions isn't for everyone! [Top right] Maria Montiel's "Monochrome Gardens" (credit: @Eyauukart). [Bottom row] Santa Barbara Earth Day celebration on Saturday (see the next item below).
(2) Saturday's Earth Day celebration at the Arlington Theater in downtown Santa Barbara: The program included talks, poetry reading, art displays, and short-film screenings. Also on display were green vehicles, electric bikes, and windows that can power buildings via embedded, film-like solar cells. I enjoyed myself and learned a lot during the day. I usually dont win anything at raffles or drawings, but today, I won one of two certificates allowing me free visits to 14 Santa Barbara museums that have formed an environmental alliance.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Borowitz Report (humor): Florida judge rules that airlines cannot require passengers to have tickets.
- Most Europeans couldn't communicate in their home country if they were sent back in time to 600 CE. [Map]
- The world according to Eratosthenes, ca. 220 BCE. [Map]
- Calculus is cool, but it may lead to divorce: Here's the divorce complaint of Richard Feynman's 2nd wife!
- You have heard of half-and-half pizza when a couple's tastes differ: Here is the tah-dig version!
- Math puzzle: Triangle AEF is built inside unit-square ABCD. Derive the measure of the triangle's F angle.
- Math puzzle: What is the constant term, when the expression (x^12 + 1/x^18)^25 is expanded?
- Example of a "thousands of flowers" Persian-carpet pattern. [Tweet, with photo]
- A banana I found in a backpack that I don't use much: It must have been there for months! [Photo]
- Classical music, with pizzazz: Wonderful violin trio. [3-minute video]
(4) Presidential election in France: Emmanuel Macron has been re-elected to a second term, but his 17% margin of victory over Marine Le Pen is smaller than in their last face-off.
(5) Trump used to tell his supporters that he would pay their legal fees if they got in trouble: The tables have now turned and Trump supporters are paying his mounting legal fees!
(6) A toxic co-dependency: Kevin McCarthy is well aware that he cannot achieve his political ambitions without Donald Trump and his supporters (voters and minions). Similarly, Trump has no other senior political supporter in Congress. He would smear and belittle McCarthy in a second, just as he has done to other non-loyalists with much less serious missteps, if he had another option. The two have no choice but to tolerate each other.
(7) The Bin Laden papers: When US Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Laden, they took back with them an unexpected treasure-trove of personal papers and documents, written out on paper or stored on computer hard drives. Al-Qaeda/ISIS specialist Dr. Nelly Lahoud, who is fluent in Arabic, has been studying the papers to understand Al Qaeda's mode of operation and other secrets. Lahoud's conclusion is that Al Qaeda and its leader had been significantly diminished after the 9/11 attacks. Bin Laden was personally surprised at the strength of US reaction to the attacks. [CBS News "60 Minutes" 13-minute video] [Book cover image]

2022/04/22 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Earth Day 2022: With every passing year, we get closer to a climate disaster, making Earth Day exceedingly more-important than before: Image 1 Special Earth Day observation: The same spot in the Arctic Ocean, 105 years ago and today Happy Earth Day 2022: With every passing year, we get closer to a climate disaster, making Earth Day exceedingly more-important than before: Image 2
Math puzzle: An equilateral triangle is divided into 4 triangles, with the areas of two of them given. Find the area of the middle triangle In this triangle with known side lengths, angle B is divided into three equal parts, as shown. Find the measure of the angle alpha Math puzzle: Find the radius of the circle (the diagram isn't to scale) (1) Images of the day: [Top left & right] Happy Earth Day 2022: With each passing year, we get closer to a climate disaster, making Earth Day even exceedingly more-important than before. Every day should be Earth Day! [Top center] Special Earth Day observation: The same spot in the Arctic Ocean, 105 years ago and today. [Bottom left] Math puzzle: An equilateral triangle is divided into 4 triangles, as shown, with the areas of two of the triangles given. Find the area of the middle triangle. [Bottom center] Math puzzle: In this triangle with known side lengths, angle B is divided into three equal parts, as shown. Find the measure of the angle α (diagram not to scale). [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Find the radius of the circle (diagram not to scale).
(2) Santa Barbara Earth Day events on Saturday 4/23 at the Arlington Theater (complete list).
10:00-17:00: Green-car and e-bike show, behind the theater
11:00: CEC's "Reverse, Repair, Protect Mission," presented by Policy Director Michael Chiacos
12:00: Short films, from Wildling Museum, NOAA, and other sources
13:15: Climate and Culture: Winners of various poetry and art contests
13:45: Recycled fashion show, featuring second-hand clothing (organized by UCSB students)
19:30: Ticketed concert, featuring local bands: Party like it's 1972
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Earth Day calendar puzzle: How many digits are there in 22! (22 factorial)?
- More evidence of Russian war crimes: Satellite images show mass graves in a town 19 km west of Mariupol.
- Florida revokes Disney World's special tax status over Disney's opposition to its "don't say gay" law.
- Following much promotional fanfare, CNN+ streaming service shuts down a month after its launch.
- From the Russian Empire, to the USSR, and back to Russia: A 24-minute history lesson on a map.
- Gibraltar's earliest humans date back 7500 years: Here's a re-creation of a woman's face from the period.
(4) Shocking release of audio files: To me, the shocking part isn't what Kevin McCarthy said about Trump and his dishonesty in denying it. I already knew him to be a scumbag who would do anything to become Speaker of the House, should the Republicans gain majority next year.
The more-shocking part to me is that some person or group held on to these audio files for 15 months, before releasing them to the American people, despite knowing them to be significant evidence of dishonesty and power-grab on the part of public servants.
So, people, who pretend to care about democracy and keeping people informed, withheld evidence from the public in an effort to boost the sales of a book. Bob Woodward did the same for his book, when he withheld evidence of Trump deliberately lying about the seriousness of COVID-19 and its airborne transmission.
(5) The next IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Dr. Nina Miolane (UCSB ECE) will discuss "Geometric Learning for Shape Analysis from Bioimaging Data." Wed. May 18, 2022, 6:00 PM, Rusty's Pizza Event Room, 5934 Calle Real, Goleta. [Details & registration]
(6) "Small Island, Big Song": UCSB Center for Taiwan Studies and Multicultural Center present a program that explores the cultural connections between the descendants of seafarers of the Pacific and Indian Oceans through the Austronesian migration. Tue. April 26, 2022, 6:00 PM PDT, MCC Theater. [More info]

2022/04/21 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of IEEE Spectrum magazine, April 2022, bearing a photo of feature interviewee Andrew Ng Documentary film screening and discussion at UCSB: 'Be Natural' Cover image of the audiobook 'Stephen Sondheim in His Own Words' (1) Images of the day: [Left] IEEE Spectrum magazine's April 2022 feature interview, "In AI, Small Is the New Big": Dr. Andrew Ng, has become "something of an evangelist for what he calls the data-centric AI movement, which he says can yield 'small data' solutions to big issues in AI, including model efficiency, accuracy, and bias." [Center] Documentary film screening and discussion at UCSB (see the next item below). [Right] A gem of an audiobook: Stephen Sondheim in His Own Words (see the last item below).
(2) Tonight's documentary film screening and discussion, Pollock Theater, UCSB: "Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blache" covers the illustrious career of Guy-Blache, who founded her own studio and wrote, directed, and/or produced 1000 films. Directed by Pamela B. Green from eight years of research, "Be Natural" celebrates a woman who pioneered the art of cinema at its inception and looks into the enduring legacy of her accomplishments. Narrated by Jodie Foster, the documentary features interviews with many filmmakers and actors. The post-screening discussion featured director/co-writer Pamela B. Green and co-writer/exec-producer Joan Simon in a conversation with Cynthia Felando (UCSB Film & Media Studies). [Images]
(3) Today's meeting of the UCSB Faculty Legislature: One highlight was the introduction of the winners of UCSB Academic Senate's Teaching Awards, beginning with Chancellor Henry Yang's congratulatory message.
Distinguished Teaching Awards: Gordon Abra (Sociology); Ken Hiltner (English); Jennifer King (Geography); Jen Martin (Environmental Studies); Danielle Whitaker (Education); Vanessa Woods (Psychology)
Outstanding Graduate Mentor Awards: Bhaskar Sarkar (Film & Media Studies); Jill Sharkey (Counseling, Clinical, and School Psychology); M. Scott Shell (Chemical Engineering)
Outstanding TA Awards: Stephanie Arguera (Education); Trevor Auldridge (Sociology); Janeva Chung (Biology--MCDB); Hannah Garibaldi (Film and Media Studies)
The rest of the meeting was spent on reviewing the campus status in various domains, including COVID-19 mitigation efforts, freshman/transfer applications & admissions stats, Staff Celebration Week (May 2-6), Commencement preparations, formation of a review panel for Munger Hall, UC campus support for scholars at risk, and revision of the method for teaching evaluations by students (replacement for ESCI).
Three formal votes to approve various academic proposals concluded the meeting.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Military parachute event, not coordinated with the Capitol Police, triggers evacuation of the US Capitol.
- Persian music: In celebration of Ridvan, Sonbol Taefi performs "Eid-e Gol o Vasl-e Yar." [4-minute video]
- Film footage of the Shah's 1939 wedding to his first wife, Princess Fawzia Fuad, held in Cairo and Tehran.
- Throwback Thursday: A high-school friend recently dicovered this postcard, which I sent to him in 1962.
(5) Book review: Sondheim, Stephen, Stephen Sondheim in His Own Words, unabridged 2-hour audiobook, BBC Audio, 2021. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This audiobook is a collection of segments from interviews with Stephen Sondheim [1930-2021], originally published in the Guardian and the Observer. In the interviews, the genius American songwriter comes across as pensive, cultured, and quotable. For example, he mused in 1987 that "All works of narrative must have a point to do with the consequences of one's action. If it turns out well it's comedy; if badly, tragedy."
Sondheim, best known for "West Side Story" (1957), "Gypsy" (1959), "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" (1962), "A Little Night Music" (1973), "Sweeney Todd" (1979), and "Into the Woods" (1987), did not like to repeat the formulas that proved successful. Rather, he preferred to experiment with new material and styles. The son of a Jewish garment-maker father and an abusive mother, he went on to win 8 Tony and 8 Grammy Awards.
Sondheim was a closeted homosexual for much of his life, marrying Jeff Romley in 2017. He believed that writing song lyrics is a lot harder than writing music or play scenes. In writing lyrics, "you are restricted; you have certain rhythms and meters and rhymes." He credits Oscar Hammerstein, his mentor and surrogate father, for teaching him to underwrite, not overwrite, because music is a very rich art in itself.

2022/04/20 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB's World Music Series noon concerts are back! Today's performers were Los Catanes del Norte Smithsonian-sponsored talk on space archaeology: Speaker Smithsonian-sponsored talk on space archaeology: Sample slide
Tonight's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Speaker Tonight's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Three laptops Tonight's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Audience (1) Images of the day: [Top left] UCSB's World Music Series noon concerts are back! Today's performers were Los Catanes del Norte (Video 1; Video 2; Video 3). [Top center & right] Smithsonian-sponsored talk on space archaeology (see the next item below). [Bottom row] Tonight's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk by Professor Sumita Pennathur of UCSB's Mechanical Engineering Department (see the last item below).
(2) "Ancient cities and Landscapes from Space: How Remote Sensing is Transforming Archaeology": This was the title of tonight's talk by Professor Timothy Murtha (U. Florida), under the auspices of Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. [The talk on YouTube]
Dr. Murtha began with a brief introduction to the field of space archaeology, in which NASA has played a key role. He then detailed a study of the Maya lowlands in Central America, undertaken by a large group of researchers from different disciplines. The project aims to study not just large structures that have been the focus of archaeology so far, but also small dwellings that often surrounded the bigger structures. Dense vegetation in the area of study makes it difficult to discover land features. Various technologies are used to penetrate the vegetation and see the earth underneath, leading to amazing discoveries.
(3) A prominent one-line proof: The upper bound 22/7 for π is established by the following clearly-positive definite integral, which evaluates to 22/7 – π: Integral from 0 to 1 of [x^4(1 – x)^4/(1 + x^2)]dx
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A majority of college graduates don't work in their field of study: One in seven earn under $15K/year.
- Africa-wide Quran-reading contest held in a stadium with 60,000 spectators: Iran's mullahs are envious!
- Ziba Shirazi, interviewed by Roqe, Ep #174. [Begins at the 1:33:00 mark of this 145-minute video]
- Sound advice: Be careful when following the masses, as the M is sometimes silent.
(5) Research in natural-language processing: Today's UCSB CS colloquium featured two speakers with Cal Tech and AWS affiliations. The topics were a lot more specialized than I expected. So, I learned little about NLP and machine translation. Here is a record of the talks anyway.
First, Giovanni Paolini spoke under the title "Structured Prediction as Translation Between Augmented Natural Languages." Next, Allesandro Achille discussed "Reversible and Irreversible Learning in DNNs," were reversibility means the ability to forget past training.
(6) IEEE Central Coast Section tech talk: Tonight, in an in-person event with 22 attendees, held at the Calle Real Rusty's Pizza in Goleta, Dr. Sumita Pennathur (Professor of Mechanical Engineering, UCSB) spoke under the title "MEMS-Based Innovations for Optimized Management of Type I Diabetes."
Dr. Pennathur began talking without the benefit of her PowerPoint slides, while her team worked on three different laptop computers to see if any one of them could properly interface with the digital projector. She did a great job of holding the audience's interest and attention, telling stories about her background (her name Sumita, she said jokingly, reflects her education at Stanford U. and MIT) and what motivates her in doing her work at UCSB and at start-up companies she has founded.
Once she regained the use of her PowerPoint presentation, Dr. Pennathur recapped the points she had made orally and moved on to discuss some of the details of devices she has developed and built to assist in frequent self-monitoring of blood glucose levels and appropriate insulin adjustment & administration in order to avoid hypo- and hyperglycemia and life-threatening diabetic ketoacidosis.
Artificial pancreas systems now on the market do allow real-time communication between continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps for closed-loop delivery, but they are bulky, require a separate wearable glucose sensor on the body to achieve closed-loop operation, and have suboptimal delivery. Hence, the need for a small-footprint, low-power, and easy-to-use artificial pancreas system that takes advantage of recent advances in microfluidics and microfabrication.
[IEEE CCS event page] [IEEE CCS Technical Talks page] [Speaker's Web site]

2022/04/19 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of Dr. Roland Geyer's book 'The Business of Less' Dr. Roland Geyer, speaker of UCSB Library's April 19, 2022, Pacific Views Lecture Beef kebabs: A new item I noticed at my local Costco (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] UCSB Libarary's last Pacific Views Lecture for 2021-2022 (see the last item below). [Right] Beef kebabs: A new item I noticed at my local Costco store.
(2) Fake journals, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty: Faculty members are expected to publish research papers as a way of showing that they are contributing to their fields of specialization. Those who are incapable of coming up with new ideas, or who are greedy (not to mention dishonest) and want to claim more credit than they deserve, be it for accelerating an academic promotion or earning a salary raise, copy other researchers' works and publish them under their own names.
Some such "researchers" are lazy or sloppy, copy-pasting text, formulas, and diagrams from their sources. Such thieves are easily caught, although this may happen after the damage has been done (they have earned an undeserved promotion or salary increase). A couple of days ago, I became aware that one of my co-authored papers, appearing in IEEE Trans. VLSI, had been plagiarized by two different groups of "researchers," who published the copied work in two separate journals (IJERT; IJATIR). I reported the case to the journal editors, but, unfortunately, do not expect any action, given the ill repute of the journals involved.
Others are somewhat more sophisticated, slightly modifying the stolen material to make detection more difficult. We now have plagiarism detection tools, that is, programs that search the Internet for exact or approximate copies of material appearing in a paper suspected to have been plagiarized. Again, detection may occur after the damage has been done.
Some publishers now run similarity-check tools on submitted papers to detect plagiarism before evaluating a paper for publication, which is a positive step. But it is unknown at this time whether the tools are capable enough to catch a clever thief. Ironically, the thief must spend a lot of time on modifying the stolen work in order to minimize the detection probability, a time that could have been spent on creating original work!
The trend toward open-access publishing (author pays a fee, reader gets free access) has exacerbated the plagiarism problem. We now have a large number of predatory publishers who publish anything, without proper evaluation, to earn a profit. If authors are charged $1000, say, as the publication fee, then a journal publishing 1000 papers a year earns $1 million. A dishonest publisher has no incentive for quality-checking, as it earns more money by publishing questionable papers.
A couple of years ago, I wrote an invited paper entitled "On Research Quality and Impact: What Five Decades in Academia Has Taught Me," which, among other topics, discusses fake journals and predatory publishers. A slightly-shorter version of the paper has been translated into Persian.
(3) "The Business of Less: The Role of Companies and Households on a Planet in Peril": This was the title of Tuesday's Pacific Views Lecture of the UCSB Library, in which Dr. Roland Geyer (Professor of Industrial Ecology, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, UCSB) challenged the prevailing notions of "eco-efficiency" and "win-win," through which corporations have hijacked the environmental movement.
Dr. Geyer began with an overview, in which he divided the period from the beginning of the 20th century to the present into four periods: (1) The period up to the 1930s saw the rise of mass production, typified by the introduction of Ford Model T and putting lead in gasoline to improve efficiency. (2) The 1940s and 1950s were characterized by the rise of mass pollution, exemplified by the Love Canal tragedy and smog-filled big cities. (3) The period from the 1960s to the mid-1980s saw the rise of mass resistance, including the designation of Earth Day, whose 52nd anniversary will be marked tomorrow, and environmental regulations. This year is also the 50th anniversary of the landmark MIT study, The Limits to Growth. (4) From the mid-1980s, we note the rise of corporate sustainability efforts, which include a disavowal of a dichotomy between environmental protection and business success, along with the advancement of "win-win" narratives.
Dr. Geyer then presented some data points about primary production and secondary (recycled) material to show that we still have a long way to go in converting the current more-or-less linear economy to a circular one. Despite expansion of our recycling efforts, production and consumption have increased by a larger factor, giving rise to an increase in primary production. One way out of this vicious cycle is to increase our spending on people/labor, as opposed to material. We should try to buy stuff with little or no packaging and treat ourselves to a massage or concert, instead of a new electronic gadget. Furthermore, we cannot make significant progress along the path of saving our planet without regulations and mandates. Voluntary reuse/recycling programs and incentives such as cap-and-trade have proven quite ineffective.
P.S.: Here is Dr. Geyer's op-ed in The Guardian, "It's Unavoidable: We Must Ban Fossil Fuels to Save Our Planet. Here's How We Do It."

2022/04/18 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Math puzzle: Shown are an equilateral triangle and three squares, the smallest of which is unit square. What is the triangle's side length? A page from a school textbook for Iranian girls: The narrative makes girls ashamed of their bodies and advises deference to men Shown are two half-circles in a unit square. Find their diameter
Cover image for Bryan Stevenson's 'Just Mercy' Cover image of Stanley Milgram's 'Obedience to Authority' Humor for my Persian-speaking readers: Unfortunately, the 37th Alley has been martyred (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Math puzzle: Shown are an equilateral triangle and three squares, the smallest of which is unit square. What is the triangle's side length? [Top center] A page from a school textbook for Iranian girls: The narrative makes girls ashamed of their bodies ("foul smell of your period") and advises deference to men. [Top right] Math puzzle: Shown are two half-circles in a unit square. Find their diameter. [Bottom left] Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Humor for my Persian-speaking readers: Unfortunately, the 37th Alley has been martyred. [Bottom right] Stanley Milgram's Obedience to Authority (see the last item below).
(2) Book review: Stevenson, Bryan, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Spiegel & Grau, 2014.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I wrote this review on April 18, 2016, and posted it to GoodReads on April 18, 2022.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hina Rabbani Khar becomes Pakistan's Foreign Minister, a decade after she first assumed the post.
- Quote of the day: "Education isn't something you can finish." ~ Isaac Asimov
- Facebook memory from Apr. 18, 2019: A quatrain from Omar Khayyam, with advice against hoarding.
- Facebook memory from Apr. 18, 2014: Verses from a beautiful Persian poem by Parvin E'tesami.
(4) Book review: Milgram, Stanley, Obedience to Authority, Harper Prennial, 1983. Originally published under the title Obedience to Authority: An experimental View, 1974.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Hitler was a single person who could not have slaughtered millions of Jews and other innocent victims with his own hands. He needed a large number of people, both supervisors and executioners, to carry out his wishes, even when they considered the orders to be abhorrent or immoral.
During the early 1960s, Milgram conducted a series of psychological experiments, now considered among the most important in the field, in which human subjects were instructed to administer what they thought to be progressively more-painful electric shocks to other human beings. The experiments highlighted the surprising ease with which ordinary people can be commanded by authorities to act with malevolence against innocent individuals. According to English novelist C. P. Snow, "far more, and far more hideous, crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion."
This book elaborates on those experiments and implications of their results, first published in J. Abnormal and Social Psychology. Obedience is the deeply-ingrained dispositional cement that binds humans to systems of authority. It is an impulse that overrides training in ethics, sympathy, and moral conduct. The urge to obey among Milgram's subjects was so strong that, despite the tensions they felt, all of them reached an electric shock level of 300 or more before stopping.
At an abstract level, most individuals would agree that our moral judgments must override authority when the two are in conflict. But Milgram's experiments, and similar studies since then, have confirmed that this abstract belief may not extend to practice.
In case you are wondering about how experiments of this nature can be conducted ethically, the usual set-up is to recruit random subjects as pain-inflicting "teachers" and to seek the services of actors to play "student" victims who feign feeling pain and protest, despite receiving no shock at all.

2022/04/17 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The equation of egg, in honor of Easter: phi is the golden ratio Traditional Passover breakfast items: Matzohs, halegh, and hard-boiled eggs Nerdy T-shirt: Maxwell's Equations
Humor: Mathematical limerick Sunset shots: This evening at Goleta's Coal Oil Point Beach Math: You have heard of triangular numbers, the nth one being n(n + 1)/2. Square-pyramidal numbers are defined analogously, but in 3D (1) Images of the day: [Top left] The equation of egg, in honor of Easter and Passover: phi is the golden ratio. [Top center] Traditional Passover breakfast items: Matzohs, halegh, hard-boiled eggs. [Top right] Nerdy T-shirt: Maxwell's Equations. [Bottom left] Humor: Mathematical limerick. [Bottom center] This evening at Goleta's Coal Oil Point Beach. [Bottom right] Math: You have heard of triangular numbers, the nth one being n(n + 1)/2. Square-pyramidal numbers are defined analogously, but in 3D. What is the nth square-pyramidal number?
(2) The unfolding January 6 story: It's less like a who-done-it, a la Agatha Christie, and more like a how/why-done-it, a la Columbo! In the Columbo TV series, each episode opened by showing a crime, with the criminal in plain sight. Liutenant Columbo's task consisted of finding the manner of, and motive for, the crime.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Volunteers scramble to preserve Ukraine's digital culture before the country's servers are destroyed.
- Persian music: An Iranian children's group performs to help the plight of cancer victims. [3-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Apr. 17, 2018: Fox News begins, "Light, camera, fiction!"
- Facebook memory from Apr. 17, 2011: On spreading of rumors on social networks.
(4) The 2022 Biennial Ehsan Yarshater Lecture Series: "Empire and Borderlands at Interplay: A Structural Approach (First Millennium BCE — First Millennium CE)," Wed. April 20, 2022, 4:00 PM PDT.
(5) UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series event for Wed., April 27, 2022: Dr. Keelan Overton will speak in English about "Iran Unglazed: Local, National, and Global Histories of Persian Tilework," 11:00 AM PDT.
(6) This lavishly-decorated Omar Khayyam book of poetry sank with the Titanic: A second ordered version burnt in London during WE II. Will anyone dare to commission a third version?
(7) Iran's loss is Germany's gain: Dr. Nargess Eskandari-Grunberg, former political prisoner in Iran is serving as the mayor of Frankfurt. BBC Persian tells her life story in this 27-minute interview.
(8) Roya Hakakian: BBC Persian tells her life story, from a love affair with Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution to working as a journalist, writer, and poet in exile, in this 32-minute interview.
(9) Final thought for the day: A prisoner need not be behind bars or in chains. One can be a prisoner of his/her own biases or of other people's expectations.

2022/04/16 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Passover and Easter The resilience of Afghan girls: A young girl and her beautiful smile Second night of Passover at my sister's
Japanese art: Laborer enjoying Sake, by Doraku, early 19th century The keyboard's escape key shown escaping: Well, what did you expect? Cover image of Benjamin Errett's 'Elements of Wit: Matering the Art of Being Interesting' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Happy Passover & Easter (see the next item below). [Top center] Resilient Afghan girls: Looking at this young girl and her beautiful smile, you would think that she has no worries in the world. But she is denied the right to attend school and will likely be forced into an arranged marriage before becoming an adult. [Top right] Second night of Passover at my sister's, with my niece playing the piano. [Bottom left] Japanese art: Laborer enjoying Sake, by Doraku, early 19th century. [Bottom center] Well, what did you expect from a key named "Escape"? [Bottom right] Benjamin Errett's Elements of Wit: Matering the Art of Being Interesting (see the last item below).
(2) A very happy Passover to my Jewish readers! And happy Easter to my Christian readers! This year Passover and Easter are on consecutive days. The two holidays have common roots and similar traditions, but they can be separated by up to a month in some years. Passover, a spring Jewish festival, which began last night, on the eve of its first day (as is common for all Jewish festivals), is observed based on the lunar calendar. To ensure that the holiday is synchronized with spring, the Jewish calendar adds a 13th month, Adar 2, to some years in order to make up for the 11-day difference between the lengths of lunar and solar years. This article has a nice explanation of the needed calendar adjustments and how they are carried out.
(3) Iran's own polling shows that more than 70% of Iranians oppose compulsory hijab laws: Here is an unprecedented Iranian state-TV debate on the pros and cons of forcing hijab on women.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ever wonder why there are no restaurant ads for Passover specials?
- Math problem: Solve for x the equation x! = x^3 – x.
- Have you heard of right-angled hexagons? Here they are! [1-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Apr. 16, 2021: Russians performing a lively Kurdish music/dance routine!
- Facebook memory from Apr. 16, 2018: We professors do have a sense of humor!
- Facebook memory from Apr. 16, 2012: There are more engineer & lawyer jokes than any other profession.
(5) RISC-V dives into the AI domain: Adoption of the latest incarnation of "reduced instruction-set computer" architectural philosophy, which is free and open-source, is taking off like a rocket, with the fuel provided by the demand of AI and machine-learning applications. An extensive redesign was needed to make the implementation of RISC-V more compact and energy-frugal, so that thousands of them can be deployed.
(6) Book review: Errett, Benjamin, Elements of Wit: Mastering the Art of Being Interesting, unabridged 6-hour audiobook, read by Erik Synnestvedt, Gildan Media, 2014. [My 4-star review of this book on >GoodReads]
We all yearn for coming up with the right words at the right time. I don't know about you, but it happens to me often that I think of a witty response to some remark, a long time after the opportunity has passed. Like everything else, being witty requires preparation and practice. Extensive reading is a big part of the preparation. Reading this book is also quite helpful, although it's not really a how-to book.
Errett begins by defining wit as an act of spontaneous creativity. Being witty is different from being funny, although a witty remark is often considered funny. Errett then presents different facets of wit in 12 chapters. He deems wit an endangered quality of our modern world. Discussion of wit has, for the most part, been replaced with talk about creativity.
Here are a few examples of witty remarks or responses:
- Always remember never to use the words "always" and "never."
- Upon being arrested, Energizer Bunny was charged with battery.
- He was a modest man, with much to be modest about.
- If money doesn't grow on trees, why do banks have branches?
- I have lost 20 pounds! — I'm sure you'll find them at McDonald's.
- You should go out for a walk on an empty stomach. — Whose?
A witty remark is never offensive or down-putting, rather it relies on the element of surprise to impress and delight. With preparation and practice, witty remarks come effortlessly, in much the same way that a jazz musician isn't thinking during improvisations. Wit is associated more with kindness than cruelty, although it can be used to do both good and evil. A prepared, mean-spirited remark, even if funny, isn't wit. Wit must arise in the moment, during normal interactions.

2022/04/14 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
TI calculator 'The Little Professor' made learning arithmetic fun for millions of children, beginning in 1976 Throwback Thursday: Did you know that at one point, a street used to go under the Eiffel Tower? Cover image of 'The Fragile Middle Class: Americans in Debt' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Throwback Thursday: TI's funny-looking "The Little Professor" calculator, on display at the Whipple Museum of the History of Science, Cambridge University, made learning arithmetic fun for children, beginning in 1976. It was initially priced at $17, with the price dropping to $13 by mid-1977. [Center] Throwback Thursday: Did you know that at one point, a street used to pass under the Eiffel Tower. [Right] The Fragile Middle Class: Americans in Debt (see the last item below).
(2) Parisa Rajabi, is facing deportation from Turkey to a violent husband: In February, Mona Heydari was beheaded by her husband in a case of "honor" killing, after being returned from Turkey where she had fled.
(3) Iran's security services have re-arrested human/women's-rights activist Narges Mohammadi in the wake of her Washington Post and "Iran International" interviews: The Islamic regime has also unleashed its cyber-trolls on Mohammadi's social-media posts as part of its grand strategy to attack and discredit dissenters.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- "Abu Rayhan Biruni's Scientific Legacy": SUTA-Sweden's on-line event, Sun., Apr. 24, 2022, 9:00 AM PDT.
- WiFi for the Moon: Argotec and JPL's relay satellites could deliver bandwidth for more than 90 missions.
- Move over scarecrows: How drones are being used for autonomous pigeon harassment.
- Five charts that explain the global chip shortage, and why there's no quick solution.
(5) Book review: Sullivan, Teresa A., Elizabeth Warren, and Jay Lawrence Westbrook, The Fragile Middle Class: Americans in Debt, unabridged 12-hour audiobook, read by Suzie Althens, Yale U. Press, 2020.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is a re-issue of a 2000 book, with a new preface that examines the persistence of old threats and emergence of new threats to the American middle-class in the two decades since the book's original publication. The fragility of the title refers to people being crushed by heavy debt burdens and thus being forced to declare bankruptcy. Bankruptcy laws were introduced to allow people who get in serious financial trouble, whether as a result of uncontrollable circumstances (such as job loss or serious illness) or because of unwise personal decisions, to have a chance at a fresh start.
The personal-bankruptcy crisis in the US is viewed as a natural consequence of a free-market approach to getting rid of bad debts. Taking credit-card debt as a case in point, all users of bank cards share in losses from those who are unable to repay what they owe, by being burdened with a high interest rate, typically around 18%. In Europe, and to a lesser extent in Canada, credit isn't as easily granted, but strong safety nets (such as generous unemployment benefits and free healthcare) constitute a social approach to dealing with the inability to pay back debts.
Personal bankruptcies are handled according to Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 of the bankruptcy law. Chapter 7, the more common option, is often used by people with substantial unsecured debt, such as medical and credit-card bills. Chapter 13 liquidates the assets to pay off one's liabilities. Because Chapter 13 only reorganizes the debts and provides more time for paying them off, it is a good option for people who earn enough money to cover an adjusted repayment schedule.
Almost all borrowers defaulting on credit or declaring bankruptcy are middle-class. The poor don't have enough income to get loans. Amazingly, people at the bottom tier of the middle-class are too poor to go bankrupt, given rising attorney fees, courtesy of Congressional "reforms" that have made the bankruptcy process, entailing $750-$1500 in attorney fees at the time of the book's original publication, much more complicated and, thus, quite expensive.
After two chapters entitled "Americans in Financial Crisis" and "Middle Class and Broke: The Demography of Bankruptcy," the book's next 5 chapters focus on main reasons for bankruptcies in the US (un-/under-employment, credit cards, sickness/injury, divorce, housing), before ending with Chapter 8, entitled "The Middle Class in Debt." Two appendices present the data used in the study and list other published studies in this area.

2022/04/13 (Wednesday): Pictorial report on my visit to Getty Villa Museum's exhibition on Ancient Persia.
Photos taken at the Getty Villa Museum: Batch 1 Screenshot of the Web page for the special exhibition on Iran at the Getty Villa Museum Photos taken at the Getty Villa Museum: Batch 8
Photos taken at the Getty Villa Museum: Batch 3 Photos taken at the Getty Villa Museum: Batch 5 Photos taken at the Getty Villa Museum: Batch 9
Photos taken at the Getty Villa Museum: Batch 4 Photos taken at the Getty Villa Museum: Batch 6 Photos taken at the Getty Villa Museum: Batch 7
Photos taken at the Getty Villa Museum: Batch 2 Photos taken at the Getty Villa Museum: Batch 11 Photos taken at the Getty Villa Museum: Batch 10 The exhibition, which runs through August 8, 2022, is a collaborative project of Getty Museum with Farhang Foundation and several other entities. There have been many exhibitions on ancient Persia, but this one is unique in that it connects the Persian Empire (550 BCE to 650 CE, involving the Achaemenid, Parthian, and Sassanian dynasties) to its contemporary civilizations in Greece and Rome. The following narratives are lightly-edited versions of the official Getty descriptions.
*The first part of the exhibition examines the establishment of the Achaemenid Empire in mid-6th-century BCE, when Cyrus the Great captured western Asia Minor (in present-day Turkey) and conquered the Greek settlements there. Achaemenid sculpture, silver vessels, and jewelry are on display alongside Greek depictions of the Persian wars (490-79 BCE). The Greek cities long established on the western coast of Asia Minor and the native people in nearby Lydia, Caria, and Lycia at first resisted Persian demands for submission but eventually came to terms with living in a great empire. These regions produced works both in Greek and Persian style, reflecting the complex cultural influences around them.
*The second part of the exhibition begins around 330 BCE, following Alexander the Great's conquest of the Achaemenid Empire. The victorious Greeks inherited rule over Iran and much of the ancient Middle East for some time, but in the 3rd century BCE another Persian dynasty, the Parthians, emerged and soon became the dominant state of the Near East, remaining in power for nearly 500 years. It was also the primary rival of Rome, which replaced the Greeks as the new superpower of the Mediterranean, with the borderlands of Mesopotamia being a frequent battleground. The Parthian art on view in the exhibition, including luxury silver drinking vessels made for the Parthian aristocracy, is highly eclectic, displaying a mixture of Greek, Mesopotamian, Achaemenid, and nomadic Iranian influences.
*The third and final part of the exhibition is devoted to the Sasanian Empire, which, beginning in 224 CE, created a new Iranian self-image with distinctive trappings of kingship and splendid royal art, a more centralized administration, the founding of many cities, and an aggressive military policy. Despite near constant warfare, the Romans and Sasanians recognized the advantages of maintaining a balance of power and were often allied in fighting mutual enemies until the Arab conquest in 651 CE. On display are palace decorations and Sasanian silver plates and vessels ornamented with depictions of royal court life, along with Late Roman and Byzantine silver that served similar purposes.
*A separate online digital experience created in conjunction with the exhibition allows visitors the opportunity to soar over a 3D re-creation of Persepolis and take an interactive "walk" through the palaces, terraces, audience halls, and chambers of the massive complex in southern Iran, enlivening the many relief sculptures and architecture with their original colors and textures.
Exhibition's announcement and description [Museum's Web site]
Books on the exhibition [Gorgeous coffee-table book; Shorter highlights book]
Getty's Digital Persepolis [My video sample from 3D projection at the Museum; On-line version]
Description of the photos above: [Top row] Entering the Museum, announcement of the exhibition, and some outdoors shots. [Second row] Shots highlighting the Museum's architecture and some of the descriptive posters placing ancient Persia in the context of other civilizations. [Third row] The Museum Store and its Herb Garden. [Bottom row] Some of the exhibition's murals, pages from its guidebook, and objects on display.

2022/04/12 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Professor Mona Jarrahi of UCLA, the 11th winner of the prestigious A. F. Harvey Prize Cover image of Maryam Ghorbankarimi's 'ReFocus: The Films of Rakhshan Banietemad' Cover image of Warren Berger's 'A More Beautiful Question' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Professor Mona Jarrahi of UCLA is the 11th winner of IET's prestigious A. F. Harvey Prize, which carries a cash stipend of 350,000 British Pounds. Her lecture, beginning at the 15:30 mark of this video, is entitled "Realizing the Untapped Potentials of the Terahertz Spectrum." [Center] Maryam Ghorbankarimi's book talk on Rakhshan Banietemad (see the next item below). [Right] Warren Berger's A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas (see the last item below).
(2) Book forum: Today's webinar in Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies "Rethinking Iran" series was entitled "ReFocus: The Films of Rakhshan Banietemad," by Maryam Ghorbankarimi, based on her edited book of the same title. [The webinar on YouTube]
Ghorbankarimi is a filmmaker and film scholar, studying transnational cinemas and cultures, with special focus on the representation of gender and sexuality in Iranian cinema.
Rakhshan Banietemad is a skillful and influential film director/screenwriter, whose films combine sociopolitical commentary with family themes. She is popular with Iranian audiences and critics and has also earned important honors from international film festivals. Banietemad began her career with a focus on documentary films. Later, she gained recognition for her dramatic features, but she continued making documentary films. She is an inspiration and role model to numerous Iranian filmmakers, both women and men. Banietemad is active in humanitarian & women's-rights causes, both through her films and via community involvement.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Gunman fires 33 rounds in New York City subway shooting: Al least 29 shot or otherwise hurt.
- Virginia GOP official resigns after his post calling for lynching of the Pentagon chief resurfaces.
- Putin purges more than 100 FSB agents in apparent retaliation amid Ukraine invasion quagmire.
- Egyptian mummy from 3500 years ago is digitally unwrapped with 3D imaging technology.
(4) Book review: Berger, Warren, A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, unabridged 9-hour audiobook, read by Michael Quinlan, Brilliance Audio, 2016.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Warren Berger has written extensively on the relationship between how people ask questions and their inventiveness. Questioning has been defined as "the ability to organize our thinking around what we don't know." The keyword here is "organize," so not all questions are created equal. People sometimes use questions to criticize, attack, or show off, rather than to seek additional information to fill gaps in their knowledge or quench their curiosity. Of course, answers cannot be found without posing appropriate questions, what we call hypotheses in scientific inquiry. Our world is teeming with answers awaiting the right questions that would lead to their discovery.
Berger is of the opinion that children enter school as question marks and leave as periods, so they seem to be losing their curiosity and ability to ask questions. What causes this critical loss? Ironically, knowledge is a hindrance to questioning. The more we know, the less we question. Fear is another roadblock. We need to make questioning safe for kids at schools (and for adults at workplaces), by making it part of the expectation. An interesting exercise is to ask students to formulate questions on a sheet of paper. Only questions are allowed. No answers!
Our modern world places too much emphasis on problem-solving skills and not enough on problem-finding aptitude, which is the essence of creativity. In an article entitled "Why Problem Finders Are More Creative than Problem Solvers," Saga Briggs suggests three steps to finding problems that lead to creativity:
- Don't take issues at face value
- Play devil's advocate
- Ask questions before seeking answers
Questioning isn't important only for knowledge acquisition. We need to be able to ask proper questions of political candidates to discover their views. In a rapidly-changing world, answers don't last, so we need to keep asking questions to remain functional human beings. Moreover, the ability to ask good questions in intimately related to one of the most-important skills we need to navigate the modern world: Performing effective on-line searches. There are now problem-finding-centered school curricula, in which students are encouraged to formulate their own problems, rather than directed to solve problems posed by the teacher.
Here is an 8-minute TEDx London talk about the just-mentioned curricula. You might also want to check out Berger's 62-minute talk at Microsoft Research or his 11-minute TED-like talk on the subject.

2022/04/11 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Traditional Iranian costumes on 1974 stamps from Iran Math problem: Evaluate this multi-level fraction Beautiful colors: Nature in full bloom
Math puzzle: Three squares are shown. What is the ratio of the area of the green square to the area of the blue square? Math puzzle: What is the angle beta in terms of the angle alpha? Math puzzle: Shown are two squares within a unit square. What is the ratio A/B of the colored square areas? (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Traditional Iranian costumes on 1974 stamps from Iran. [Top center] Math problem: Evaluate this multi-level fraction. (Credit SQRT, @mathisstillfun) [Top right] Beautiful colors: Nature in full bloom. [Bottom left] Math puzzle: Three squares are shown. What is the ratio of the area of the green square to the area of the blue square? [Bottom center] Math puzzle: We have two tangent circles and two tangent lines to them from a point outside. The three tangency points are shown. What is the angle beta in terms of the angle alpha? (Credit: @Mirangu1) [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Shown are two squares within a unit square. What is the ratio A/B of the colored square areas?
(2) Saudi Arabia's MBS gave Jared Kushner $2 billion: And the Republicans insist on investigating Hunter Biden? Kushner was a senior presidential adviser, with responsibilities that spanned several cabinet departments and with a great deal of influence on his father-in-law, Donald Trump.
(3) For those who are curious about Russia: I have posted a review of Anne Garrels' 2016 book, Putin Country: A Journey into Russia. Alternatively, you can listen to her NPR book-interview. I am now reading Orlando Figes' epic book, Natasha's Dance: A Cultural History of Russia, which I will review in due course.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ballet tells gymnastics #MeToo: The ballet world is shaken by allegations of sexual abuse.
- The Paris-based Bahar Choir will hold concerts in London (April 23, 2022) and Paris (April 29 & 30).
- Math puzzle: If 2^x = 81 and 3^y = 64, what is xy?
- Interesting approximations involving e and π: e ≅ 3 – sqrt(5/63) and π ≅ (1 + 1/π)^(1 + π).
(5) Pakistan's parliament chooses opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif as prime minister: Former PM, Imran Khan, was ousted in a vote of no-confidence. Khan, an educated man, and an aristocratic playboy, said in late 2021 that the Taliban's traditions, including how they treat women, must be respected. Good riddance!
(6) The future of construction: Our buildings will soon feature bricks that can produce/store electric energy. Several technologies (biological, solar-powered, concrete batteries, and super-capacitors) are being tried.
(7) I am honored to have been chosen as a Charter Member of IEEE Computer Society's newly-designated Distinguished Contributors. "The IEEE Computer Society Distinguished Contributor Program was introduced in 2021 as part of the Society's 75th Anniversary. The program showcases the immense combined technical expertise and innovation power of its membership while recognizing volunteer commitment. In the program's first year, 52 Charter Members and 66 members by application were awarded this designation." Tracing its roots to 1946, the IEEE Computer Society currently has ~400K members.

2022/04/10 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Four posters with the theme of peace and love: Batch 2 Four posters with the theme of peace and love: Batch 1 Four posters with the theme of peace and love: Batch 3
Panel member in UCLA's discussion on Afghanistan: Homeira Qaderi UCLA panel discussion on Afghanistan: Publicity flyer Panel member in UCLA's discussion on Afghanistan: Farah Karimi (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Today, we need to have peace in our thoughts more than ever. Here are a few posters with the theme of peace and love in different languages. [Bottom row] Panel discussion on "Latest Developments in Afghanistan and Implications for Iran" (see the last item below).
(2) Book review: King, Ross, Michelangelo & the Pope's Ceiling, abridged audiobook, read by Alan Sklar, Blackstone Audio, 2003. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I wrote this review on April 9, 2012, and posted it to GoodReads on April 9, 2022.
(3) The man known for building modern schools in Iran: Mirza Hassan Tabrizi, better-known as Roshdieh (his schools' name), didn't give up when religious leaders destroyed the schools multiple times. [8-minute video]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Russian war crimes continue: Rocket attack on railway station in Ukraine kills at least 50 civilians.
- The letter S of the Latin alphabet: Interpolation from regular font to boldface font. [Tweet]
- The second-highest mountain lake in the world is atop Sabalan Mountain in Iran. [3-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Apr. 9, 2020: PhotoShopping women out of historical photos, Iranian style!
(5) Who are the two people least likely to carry on a conversation? How about the two Seans, Penn and Hannity? Penn says he still doesn't trust Hannity, but unity in support of Ukraine is too important to not spread the word in any way possible. Hannity still inserts his crazy talking points within and between questions, but Penn has done the cause of Ukraine a great service. He is intimately familiar with Ukraine and its president (he was making a documentary in the country when the Russian invasion began). [24-minute video]
(6) "Latest Developments in Afghanistan and Implications for Iran: A Panel Discussion": This was the title of today's discussion, in Persian and Dari, under the auspices of UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran. After introductory remarks by the director of the lecture series, Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (Cal State U. Northridge), two panelists offered their views on the status of woman in Afghanistan. A third panelist, Dr. Nilofar Sakhi (George Washington U.) was scheduled to participate, but she couldn't make it.
[Unfortunately, due to other commitments, I could attend only part of the meeting, but I will complete this preliminary report by watching the panel discussion's recorded version, when it becomes available.]
Afghanistan is often characterized as the graveyard of empires. I don't remember who opined that it is also the playground or laboratory of international charity groups, where they experiment with unproven programs of dubious value. Educated Afghan women are quite active in fighting for their rights and they may have been helped in their efforts by the work of such international organizations. But, educated women form a small minority in Afghanistan. Overall, the aforementioned programs have not been successful in bringing men into the fold to support women. In other words, a 2-decade opportunity for building social infrastructures in support of fairness, equity, and justice may have been lost. So, I attended the meeting, eager to learn about the reasons for this failure from the distinguished panelists.
*Homeira Qaderi (writer, educator, women's-rights activist), "How Women in Afghanistan Have Strived for Their Rights": Afghanistan has always limited women, and traditions such as stoning women for illicit sexual affairs pre-dates the Taliban. When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, it fought in every village and street. Today's war in Ukraine is similar, but it is both more limited in scope and much better documented through social media (during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, there were no social media to document it and Afghans heard about it via TV, which wasn't available in every home, and radio, which broadcast government propaganda). The Soviet invasion was followed by a civil war, which destroyed the little that was left intact by the Soviet army. Extreme poverty led people to think only of survival, so the young girls' struggles were not supported by their parents. Therefore, resistance was essentially crushed. Women began sewing and knitting as a way of coping and supporting their hard-pressed families. The practice of self-immolation also spread. Arranged marriages became common and girls saw no way of surviving without accepting such marriages. When the US invaded Afghanistan, women's issues were all but forgotten, becoming just a tool for fundraising and certain people gaining political power and earning international awards. Ministry of Women did little more than celebrating Women's Day and holding exhibitions of handicrafts. Unfortunately, most Afghan women are aware only of physical violence, being much less informed about economic or other forms of violence.
*Farah Karimi (Head of the Dutch Parliamentary Delegation to the OSCE PA and former UN Consultant for Capacity Building of the Afghan Government), "An Expert Reflection on International Responses to the Crisis in Afghanistan": Karimi began by explaining her place/role in talking about Afghanistan. She visited Afghanistan during the Taliban rule. Description forthcoming.

2022/04/09 (Saturday): Today, I offer my reviews of two books about Iran and its business climate.
Cover image for the book 'Megamalls and Large Commercial Complexes in Tehran' Cover image of Nigel Coulthard's 'Iran, Hussein's Dilemma': Original English edition Cover image of Nigel Coulthard's 'Iran, Hussein's Dilemma': Persian translation (1) Book review: Kazemi, Abbas and Masserat Amir-Ebrahimi, Megamalls and Large Commercial Complexes in Tehran: A Sociological Study, Tehran Municipality, 2021. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Iran's capital city of Tehran is quite different from the rest of the country. Certain of its posh neighborhoods resemble European capitals, with slums that house the poor and the disenfranchised only a few kilometers away. Its population of 9+ million constitutes roughly 11% of the country's total inhabitants. Tehran is not only Iran's seat of political and financial power, but also a center of commerce, communication, and culture, including numerous museums.
Iran's sick economy and the attendant high inflation rate, resulting from mismanagement of natural & financial resources, rampant corruption, and the effects of economic sanctions, have made investments in real estate attractive for both government-run entities and private parties. Highly visible signs of excessive real-estate development, with fairly low occupancy rates, are residential towers in the city's northern neighborhoods and gigantic commercial complexes (including megamalls) throughout the city.
Dr. Kazemi's and Dr. Amir-Ebrahimi's 660-page sociological study was carried out for Tehran Urban Research & Planning Center (Markaz-e Motaale'aat va Barnaameh-Rizi-ye Shahr-e Tehran), a unit of Tehran's Municipality, with many PhD-holding researchers. The report is structured in 11 chapters of varying lengths, with a few pages of front matter, a 17-page bibliography, and a 4-page index (which, in my PDF review copy, lacked page numbers).
This is primarily a reference work and not a book that one would read from cover to cover. For my review, I sampled key parts of the book and plan to go back to it from time to time. The book's many charts, tables, photographs, and news-media clippings make it possible to browse it for a high-level view of its scope and the issues it addresses.
Chapter 1 ("Introduction") traces the history of commercial centers since the end of the Iran-Iraq war. One motivation for building megamalls is cited as the government wanting to move the city's public spaces from streets and parks to shopping centers.
Chapter 2 ("Theoretical Outlook") ponders the question of whether shopping centers can truly be considered public spaces; it also considers the effects of such commercial centers on social norms and public behavior (food courts, etc.). Keeping women's attire and demeanor within limits that are tolerable to the government is a major headache for both developers and merchants.
Chapter 3 ("Methodology") outlines the methods and data sources used in the study and presents, in Table 1, a list of the 14 commercial complexes that form its basis. Other tables present the profiles of experts and shoppers interviewed for the study.
Chapter 4 ("Expansion of Shopping Centers in Asia") provides a regional context for developments in Tehran.
Chapter 5 ("The Political Economy of Tehran's Autonomy") deals with laws and regulations affecting the development of commercial centers and the attendant ups & downs with shifts in economy and political power.
Chapter 6 ("Classification of Shopping Centers in Tehran") deals with commonalities and differences in the studied shopping centers by categorizing them into suburban, city-center, and novel/unconventional developments (Table 12). Map 1 contains a scatterplot of all of Tehran's shopping centers of various kinds, not just the 14 studied in detail. There are other maps/charts, highlighting the distribution of commercial centers by neighborhood and by size, type, & age.
Chapter 7 ("The Evolution of the Culture of Shopping Among Tehran Residents") discusses, among other things, whether people consider shopping an enjoyable activity or a chore, their modes of transportation, and time spent at shopping malls.
Chapter 8 ("Ethnography of the Selected Neighborhoods") considers the geography, history, economics, and demographics of neighborhoods where the 14 selected commercial centers are located and the mutual influences among the factors above and how they were affected by the commercial development, including the latter's environmental impacts.
Chapter 9 ("Ethnography of Users of the Commercial Centers") deals with the characteristics of shoppers, including their lifestyles, hobbies, and social-media use, including how their demeanor is affected by the luxury that surrounds them.
Chapter 10 ("Expansion of Commercial Centers and Its Consequences") discusses the social impact of the rapid expansion of shopping centers and how they affect society, including their perceived neoliberalizing and feminizing effects on the city.
Chapter 11 ("Conclusion") pulls things together by discussing issues such as consumerism, social classes, and fulfillment, including how these important notions, as well as the city fabric, are affected by large commercial centers and megamalls. This concluding chapter ends with some suggestions for principled development of commercial centers in a way that minimizes social disruption and alienation. As in the West, some of these malls will no doubt be devastated by shifts in consumer demographics and preferences, requiring planning in the direction of alternate uses of their spaces and structures.
Given the sad state of US shopping malls in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I wrote in a Facebook post on March 28, 2021, that "Shopping malls must be re-architected: Big anchor stores, food courts, and many other elements no longer make sense and need reexamination. In my area [southern California], multiple shopping centers have vacant anchor stores and chances of their revival are slim." Given that on-line shopping is also taking off in Iran, I suspect that a similar fate awaits Tehran's megamalls, once the tech-savvy youth reach middle age.
(2) Book review: Coulthard, Nigel, Iran, Hussein's Dilemma: A Key to Understanding the Reality and Challenges of Iran, Books on Demand, 2014. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Born in Wales and educated in Great Britain and France, Coulthard has an interesting background. As a youngster, he spent many years in the pre-Revolution Iran. He studied electrical engineering and physics and also earned an MBA as well as an Advanced Diploma in Persian Studies. Later, he lived in Iran with his Iranian wife during the Khatami and Ahmadinejad presidencies. He held engineering and management positions with several international companies and served as Country President for a major European engineering group in Iran.
Spanning several decades of Iran's contemporary history, from the Shah's heyday in the early 1970s, through the Islamic Revolution (1979) and the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), to the internationally sanctioned and isolated Iran of the 2000s, this book aims to introduce Iran to people in other countries, particularly those pursuing business ventures in the widely-misunderstood nation and culture. A Persian translation of the book, by Mohsen Mahmoodi, is available under the title Among the Iranians (Dar Miaan-e Iraaniaan; Mehregan Kherad, 2014).
The "Hussein" of the book's title refers to two people. One is Imam Hussein, a grandson of Prophet Muhammad, who has become one of the symbols of the Iranian identity, particularly after the Islamic Revolution, by virtue of his gruesome death in the battle of Karbala, an event that has produced the sternest Islamic mourning ritual during the month of Muharram. The other is US President Barack Hussein Obama, who tried to bring Iran out of its isolation and into the international community.
A broad mix of often-humorous and occasionally-grim stories about Iranians, alongside autobiographical anecdotes, make the book entertaining as well as informative. Iran, Hussein's Dilemma is structured in three parts, sandwiched between an introduction and an epilogue.
Part 1 presents general information about the country, its inhabitants, and the flow of people's lives. Among the topics covered in this part are history, differences with Arab states, the notion of "taarof," demography, religious mourning rituals, regional caste system, travel, and tourism.
Part 2 focuses on business & politics, including how Iran is perceived by the West, the nuclear question, and trouble spots in the relationship with the US. Specific topics addressed include the opaque inner-circle of power, missed opportunities for reconciliation between Iran and the US, and whether Dick Cheney was an Iranian agent!
Part 3 paints a picture of capitalism in Iran and how one might run a business or carry out a project in the country. Chapters or sections in this part cover business norms, expenditure, cash & control procedures, currency, inflation, exchange rates, taxation, negotiations, and HR questions.

2022/04/08 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Obsolete bionic body parts: People with bionic eyes were left in the dark due to lack of support from the company Second Sight Cover image of Clifford A. Pickover's 'The Physics Book' (1) Images of the day: [Left] What happens when a bionic body part becomes obsolete? The company Second Sight is under attack, because it left patients with retinal implants unsupported. [Center] Stanford conference on Ehsan Yarshater (see the next item below). Right] Pickover's The Physics Book (see the last item below).
(2) Ehsan Yarshater Conference: Moderated by Dr. Abbas Milani, today's conference included presentations by Mahnaz Afkhami, Dr. Mandana Zandian, and Dr. Ali Banuazizi.
Ehsan Yarshater [1920-2018] wasn't only a distinguished scholar who helped spread Iranian history, culture, & literature through his original contributions, but also a builder of institutions facilitating the scholarship of others. In this conference, scholars reflected on Ehsan Yarshater's remarkable contributions and lasting impact.
Yarshater was Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies at Columbia University, the founder and director of Columbia's Center for Iranian Studies, and the founding editor of the Encyclopedia Iranica, the latter taking much of the last 35 years of his life. Stay tuned for a recording of this wonderful event.
P.S.: Dr. Milani recommended watching Yarshater's 5-minute acceptance speech upon receiving the Eighth Annual Bita Prize for Persian Arts in 2015 (begins at the 29:00 mark of this video).
(3) SAT and ACT scores became optional for many colleges during the COVID-19 pandemic: Much was written about how requiring these tests impedes efforts to increase diversity. Now that several prestigious universities have gone back to requiring the tests, there is an analysis claiming that SAT & ACT may protect diversity. This reversal reminds me of periodic announcements of certain foods as cancer-causing and health-promoting!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ketanji Brown Jackson is confirmed: She becomes the first black woman to sit on the US Supreme Court.
- Battle of the sexes: SCOTUS is now composed of three female liberals and six male conservatives.
- Data-harvesting code in mobile apps sends user data to "Russia's Google." [Arstechnica story]
- Extensive analysis of Web pages concludes that gender-neutral "people" is often interpreted as "men."
(5) Computational resources used for AI training grow ~10x per year: This is one of the take-aways from this 18-minute talk by Robert Ober (NVIDIA), speaking for UCSB's Institute for Energy Efficiency, under the title "AI Cluster Trends." Currently, AI clusters use 100s to 1000s of synchronous GPUs, and the rate of increase creates problems in both the cluster cost and its power consumption.
(6) Book review: Pickover, Clifford, The Physics Book: From the Big Bang to Quantum Resurrection, 250 Milestones in the History of Physics, Union Square Co., 2011. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book follows Pickover's highly successful The Math Book (2009) and The Science Book (2018), the first one of which I have reviewed on GoodReads. I have also reviewed Pickover's A Passion for Mathematics: Numbers, Puzzles, Madness, Religion, and the Quest for Reality.
In The Physics Book, Pickover chooses 250 topics, extending from the Big Bang in the beginning of time to Quantum Resurrection in the distant future, and describes them in chronological order. The Big Bang description is followed by two entries from billions of years ago, before getting to Atlati and Boomerang from tens of thousands of years ago. The bulk of entries are between ~3000 BCE and 1999 CE, followed by four entries for billions and trillion of years into the future. The pace picks up around the year 1600 and becomes even faster from the 1800s, reaching a crescendo in the 1900s. As in The Math Book, each topic is described in an illustrated, engaging, encyclopedia-style article.

2022/04/06 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Is there another toilet-paper shortage I don't know about? For my Persian-speaking readers: Banner about fasting during Ramadan, containing content and spelling errors! Tehran Municipality's idea of an Iranian woman: Sculpture installed right in front of Iran's top technical university (1) Images of the day: [Left] Is there another toilet-paper shortage I don't know about? [Center] For my Persian-speaking readers: Banner about fasting during Ramadan, containing content and spelling errors! [Right] Tehran Municipality's idea of an Iranian woman: Sculpture installed right in front of Iran's top technical university, where a significant fraction of students are women.
(2) Misogyny in Iran comes from the very top: Supreme Leader Khamenei has said in multiple speeches that Iranians must forget the Western notion of gender equality. In this 2014 speech, he criticizes the West's treatment of women as goods & cheap labor, forgetting the deep-seated & abhorrent misogyny in Iran/Islam.
(3) Humor: Only an Iranian can praise the history, nature, climate, and people of Iran for hours, making everyone wonder why s/he doesn't live there.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Kyiv City Council began acting like a start-up to bring technology solutions to the war-torn city.
- Borowitz Report (Humor): Scientists—Earth endangered by new strain of fact-resistant humans.
- I bet you didn't know this: The volume of a pizza of radius z and thickness a is pi*z*z*a.
- Persian dance: Expertly performed, with colorful costume, in a beautiful venue. [2-minute video]
(5) Cartoon caption of the day: Moviegoer coming out of the theater—"That sucked—you couldn't talk, you couldn't text, and you couldn't pause it to go to the bathroom."
(6) Francisco Gonzalez, a former neighbor of mine at UCSB West Campus Faculty Housing, and a founding member of the pop band Los Lobos, dead at 68. [Los Angeles Times tribute]
(7) Humor from Iran: Islamic Republic authorities regret freeing British citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratrcliffe. After the announcement of World Cup 2022 groups, which places Iran and England in the same Group B, Iran could have added a 3-0 win over England as one of the conditions of her release.
(8) What's behind the air-taxi craze? A wave of electric vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicle (eVTOL) start-ups aim to revolutionize transportation. [IEEE Spectrum magazine article, March 2022]
(9) Donald Trump's interview with presidential historian Julian Zelizer (Princeton U.) and his co-authors: The interview was held at Trump's request "to correct the record," and Zelizer wrote about it in The Atlantic, noting that "the former president made an unusual effort to influence how historians will view him." Zelizer is the editor of an upcoming book, The Presidency of Donald J. Trump: A First Historical Assessment. While Trump admitted for the first time that he didn't win the 2020 election (adding, however, that it was rigged and stolen), his comments confirmed "that he construed the presidency as a forum to prove his dealmaking prowess; that he sought flattery and believed too much of his own spin; that he dismissed substantive criticism as misinformed, politically motivated, ethically compromised, or otherwise cynical. He demonstrated a limited historical worldview: When praising the virtues of press releases over tweets—because the former are more elegant and lengthier—he sounded as if he himself had discovered that old form of presidential communication. He showed little interest in exploring, or even acknowledging, some of the contradictions and tensions in his record." [Glenn Kirschner's discussion of Zelizer's article]

2022/04/05 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: Ukraine needs our assistance and protection A big bunch of mints, harvested outside my house, where it had grown spontaneously Math puzzle: Determine the areas of the triangles A, B, C, and D as fractions of the area of the equilateral triangle
World Cup 2022 bracket and groups Exhibition on ancient Iran at the Getty Villa Museum: Logo Satellite images expose Russian lies about dead civilians in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Meme of the day: Ukraine needs our assistance and protection. You can help financially or by spreading the word on war crimes committed by Russian forces. [Top center] A big bunch of mints, harvested outside my house, where it had grown spontaneously (perhaps by winds carrying seeds from my neighbors' vegetable gardens). [Top right] Math puzzle: Determine the areas of the triangles A, B, C, and D as fractions of the area of the equilateral triangle. [Bottom left] World Cup 2022 bracket and groups (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Exhibition on ancient Iran at the Getty Villa Museum (see item 3 below). [Bottom right] Lying keeps getting harder: Satellite images analyzed by NYT refute Russian claims that civilians were killed in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, after Russian troops had left. I am waiting for war tribunals!
(2) World Cup 2022 bracket: For those following USA & Iran teams, here are their group-stage games.
November 21, 2022 (Monday): Iran vs. England (05:00 AM PST); USA vs. TBD (11:00 AM PST)
November 25, 2022 (Friday): Iran vs. TBD (02:00 AM PST); USA vs. England (11:00 AM PST)
November 29, 2022 (Tuesday): USA vs. Iran (11:00 AM PST; concurrent with England vs. TBD)
(3) "Persia: Ancient Iran and the Classical World" opens at the Getty Villa Museum in Pacific Palisades (17985 Pacific Coast Highway), California: The exhibition, which will be on view through August 8, 2022, is "the first major U.S. exhibition to highlight the relationship between the Classical World and Ancient Iran. In addition to the spectacular ancient works on view that explore the artistic and cultural connections between the rival powers of Iran, Greece, and Rome, the exhibition is supported by two innovative digital experiences: a 360-degree immersive film onsite at the Villa and a highly interactive online website."
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Oscar-winning Iranian director Asghar Farhadi indicted on charges of plagiarizing his latest film, "A Hero."
- Only an Iranian uses a car horn to greet someone, bid good-bye, celebrate, exhibit ire, swear, & say thanks.
- Facebook memory from Apr. 5, 2015: Two verses on old age from the great Persian poet Sa'adi.
- Facebook memory from Apr. 5, 2013: An interesting legal case having to do with whether prayers work.
(5) Quote of the day: "If you don't know what dictatorship is, you are probably living under one." ~ Ifnazio Silone (pseudonym for Secondino Tranquilli, author of The School for Dictators)
(6) After a long span of virtual events, UCSB's Pollock Theater has returned to in-person film screenings and accompanying discussions, beginning with tonight's "Death in Venice." [Partial program for spring 2022]
(7) "Death in Venice": Luchino Visconti's highly-acclaimed 1971 film was screened tonight at UCSB's Pollock Theater, as the first in-person film screening in more than two years, followed by a conversation between moderator Stephanie Malia Hom (UCSB French & Italian Studies) and Professor Joan Ramon Resina (Stanford U.), author of the 2022 book, Luchino Visconti: Filmmaker and Philosopher.
The film, based on a novella (or long short story) by German author Thomas Mann, tells the story of an orchestra conductor (Dirk Bogarde) who travels to Venice in order to recover from an illness and recharge after a disastrous concert. His stay in Venice is less than pleasant, as his visit coincides with the onset of cholera in the city and he becomes obsessed with an adolescent Polish boy (Bjorn Anderesen, with his mother played by Silvana Mangano), going back and forth in his experiences between reality and fantasy. The lush music of Gustav Mahler is enchanting.
Despite the film's artistic values and philosophical musings about art, beauty, obsession, and death, sparse dialog, extended shots, and redundant scenes needlessly stretch a story that could have been told in 30 minutes into a feature-length film. Interestingly, very little of Venice is shown in the film, with much of the story happening in a luxury hotel and on its beach. [Images]

2022/04/04 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
More evidence of war crimes in Ukraine: In areas where Russian troops have pulled out, Ukrainian are discovering many dead civilians Poem composed by Parvin E'tesami for her tombstone, shown in her own handwriting Portrait of poet Parvin E'tesami
Tonight's book talk by Elizabeth Kolbert: Cover image for the book Tonight's book talk by Elizabeth Kolbert: The author speaking Today's UCLA lecture, 'The Fall of Reza Shah' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] More evidence of war crimes in Ukraine: In areas where Russian troops have pulled out, Ukrainian are discovering many dead civilians shot execution-style, several of them with hands tied behind their backs. [Top center & right] Today, Farvardin 15, is the birthday of a pioneering woman poet, Parvin E'tesami: She would have been 115 today. Her accompanying poem, shown in her own handwriting, was composed for her tombstone. [Bottom left & center] Tonight's book talk by Elizabeth Kolbert (see the next item below). [Bottom right] Today's UCLA lecture, "The Fall of Reza Shah" (see the last item below)'
(2) "Regeneration": This was the title of tonight's talk at UCSB's Corwin Pavilion by author Elizabeth Kolbert, based on her new book, Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future. Kolbert is best known for her Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, and Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change. Kolbert's new book takes a hard look at the world we are creating and whether technological solutions are adequate for dealing with the damage humans have caused to the environment.
(3) "The Fall of Reza Shah": This was the title of today's talk, in English, by historian Dr. Shaul Bakhash (George Mason U.), under the auspices of UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran, coordinated by Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (Cal State U. Northridge). At the conclusion of Dr. Bakhash's talk, Dr. Mehrzad Boroujerdi (Director, School of Public & Int'l Affairs, Virginia Tech) spoke as a respondent, praising the book's coverage and scholarship. What follows is a mix of info from the talk and its response.
Reza Shah rose to power as a result of a coup against the Qajars in 1921, aided in part by the British, who saw in him, then an army general, the potential for unifying Iran. One hundred years later, some anti-Islamic-Republic protesters in Iran invoke his memory fondly and bless his soul. His image among Iranians is more positive than that of his son and post-exile successor, Mohammad Reza Shah, who is seen as a weak ruler.
Despite Iran's declaration of neutrality in 1941, at the outset of World War II, British and Soviet forces invaded Iran from the south and the north, occupied it, and brought an end to Reza Shah's reign. This talk, based on Dr. Bakhash's latest book by the same title, described the British role in forcing Reza Shah's abdication and their flirtation with the idea of doing away with the Pahlavi dynasty altogether by restoring the Qajar Dynasty to power. A couple of influential Iranians managed to convince the British that there was little support for the Qajars and that a lawful shift of power in the framework of Iran's constitution was a wiser course of action. The Brit's desire for regime change came closer to realization than previously realized.
Dr. Bakhash covered Reza Shah's journey into exile, his severely-restricted life in Mauritius (which included an almost-total ban on visits by family members), the reasons and circumstances of his later transfer to Johannesburg, and, briefly, his finances in exile and the settlement of his estate. At the time of Reza Shah's death in 1944, the South African government wanted to collect inheritance taxes, an act that was vehemently opposed by his son Mohammad Reza. Legal action ensued and South Africa eventually withdrew its claims of taxes owed. The cash value of the assets, in the form of a BP100,000 check (worth ~$6 million today), was sent to Mohammad Reza Shah, who refused to share it with his siblings.
At the time of abdication, Reza Shah was a very rich man. He went into exile with a group of 18 relatives and a secretary, and virtually no money. His wealth was transferred to his son, to be used for charitable causes. He viewed his existence in exile, as a prisoner, a kind of death in life, particularly because of his dislike of Mauritius. Pleas by his son Mohammad Reza Shah finally convinced the British, who needed the young Shah's cooperation, to move Reza Shah to Johannesburg, but denied the old shah's requests to travel to Latin America and elsewhere, which they deemed impractical at the time of war. His family were allowed to visit him in Johannesburg. During the day, the deposed king listened to Persian-language news on BBC, German radio, and Radio Tehran, when it was available.
Interestingly, Reza Shah was buried three times, once in Cairo and twice in Tehran, the last burial occurring when his mummified remains were accidentally discovered by construction workers. Ayatollah Khalkhali, who was a notorious executioner in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution and ordered the bulldozing of Reza Shah's mausoleum, did not find his body.
Reza Shah was a disciplined and authoritarian leader who didn't really like the press or the parliament, but he did lay the foundation of modern Iran, including the setting up of the requisite bureaucracy that survives to this day. Dr. Bakhash's talk to some extent dismissed the vast influence of Germany on Iranian industry and administration, which made the British and other World War II allies nervous.
The Fall of Reza Shah has not been translated into Persian yet, but a couple of publishers have expressed interest in pursuing a Persian edition.

2022/04/03 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Amazing architecture and tiling: The ceiling of Vank Cathedral, Esfahan, Iran Persian calligraphic art Math puzzle: Describe a simple way of finding the ratio of the purple area to the yellow area
Two math puzzles: Compute the infinite sum and derive a relationship between the areas P, Q, and R of the three squares shown Math puzzle: What is the sum of the five marked angles? Cover image of the Persian edition of Afshaneh Najmabadi's The Story of Daughters of Quchan (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Amazing architecture and tiling: The ceiling of Vank Cathedral, Esfahan, Iran. [Top center] Persian calligraphic art. [Top right] Math puzzle: Describe a simple way of finding the ratio of the purple area to the yellow area. [Bottom left] Two math puzzles: Compute the infinite sum and derive a relationship between the areas P, Q, and R of the three squares shown. [Bottom center] Math puzzle: What is the sum of the five marked angles? [Bottom right] Cover image of the Persian edition of Afshaneh Najmabadi's The Story of Daughters of Quchan (see the last item below).
(2) World Cup 2022 full match schedule: On the first day, Mon., Nov. 21, Iran will face England (5:00 AM PST) and USA will play the yet-to-be-determined winner of a 3-way European playoff (11:00 AM PST).
(3) The Boston Symphony Orchestra honors the people of Ukraine: BSO and Tanglewood Festival Chorus dedicated their 3/31 performance to the people of Ukraine, opening with the Ukrainian national anthem.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- California mass-shooting: Six dead, 10 injured, this morning in downtown Sacramento.
- Spring-break bash (Deltopia) goes haywire in Santa Barbara, leading to mass medical emergencies.
- Women's rights: Intense competition between Iranian mullahs and the Taliban on restricting women!
- Persian dancing: A compilation, from around the world. [2-minute video]
- Persian music & dance: "Nowruz Khosh Aamad" (Melika Fathi Dance Company). [4-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Apr. 3, 2011: A touching Persian poem by Forough Farrokhzad [1935-1967].
- Facebook memory from Apr. 3, 2010: Kidding with the beloved Azeri poet, Mohammad-Hossein Shahriar.
- Facebook memory from Apr. 3, 2010: A few members of three generations of my family, twelve years ago.
(5) Book review: Najmabadi, Afsaneh, The Story of Daughters of Quchan: Gender and National Memory in Iranian History, Syracuse U. Press, 1998. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I read the Persian edition of this book, bearing the title The Tale of Quchan Girls: Forgotten Facets of the Constitutional Revolution (Sweden: Baran, 1995).
Najmabadi holds the Francis Lee Higginson Chair of History and of Sudies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality at Harvard University. She arrived at her current position in a roundabout way. I learned, through a social-media group for the 1968 graduates of Tehran U.'s College of Engineering, that Najmabadi entered Tehran U. in the same year as we did. In the nationwide university entrance exam, she was second-ranked, the first-ranked applicant being the late Parviz Rafinejad, who was our classmate in EE. Even though, in those days, top-ranked college applicants invariably chose engineering or medicine, Najmabadi's interest in nuclear physics led her to choose the Faculty of Science, eventually earning an MS in physics from Harvard U. She later pursued social studies, earning a PhD in sociology from Manchester U. Her other books include Women with Mustaches and Men without Beards: Gender and Sexual Anxieties of Iranian Modernity (2005) and Familial Undercurrents: Untold Stories of Love and Marriage in Modern Iran (2022).
During the reign of Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar, government tax collectors in Quchan, Khorasan Province (northeastern Iran), would snatch girls away from parents who were unable to pay their taxes, selling them at exorbitant prices and getting rich as a result. Girls were also taken as war booties by Turkomans who raided northern Khorasan regions. The story spread by word of mouth, forming one of the narratives used in the Constitutional Revolution.
The book is structured in two parts. Part 1 is the 28-page tale of the girls of Quchan. Part 2 contains seven essays and analyses (a total of 220 pp.) on the tale in Part 1 and its ramifications. Among other questions, Najmabadi asks why this very important tale has been pretty much forgotten in historical records and what we can learn about women's status in Iran by the said amnesia.
This state of affairs was in part due to the weakness of the central government that gave provincial rulers excessive powers and partly due to the influence of foreign governments, Russia in particular, over Iran's administrative structure. Russia was a clear beneficiary, as many of the snatched girls ended up in Russian territories. When the crop was meager, either due to pests or drought, residents not only sold their daughters, but also their wives to pay the exorbitant taxes that were based not on a fraction of income but levied on a per-capita basis.
Eventually, the story of repression reached the Majlis, leading to the removal of the governor of Khorasan. This story also drove part of the narrative for Iran's Constitutional Revolution, which, among other things, aspired to institute social justice and the rule of law. Perhaps the story of Quchan girls provided the impetus for women to enter the political domain so as to participate in writing Iran's history to remedy the masculine perspective dominant until then.

2022/04/02 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Qatar 2022: World Cup tournament groups are set, with three teams still to be determined Math puzzle: Solve this equation for x Cartoon (Ameriqanon Gothic): US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife
Math puzzle: In this diagram, with 9 unit-squares and 4 quarter-circles, how large is the blue area? Math puzzle: We have an equilateral triangle in a unit-square. Find the areas of the three colored triangles Math puzzle: Shown are a regular hexagon, two squares, and a semicircle. Is the red vertex located on the semicircle? (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Qatar 2022: World Cup tournament groups are set, with three teams still to be determined. Iran and USA will face off again in the group stage, after Iran's surprising 2-1 victory in 1998 (see also the next item below). [Top center] Math puzzle: Solve this equation for x. [Top right] Cartoon of the day: US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife. [Bottom left] Math puzzle: In this diagram, with 9 unit-squares and 4 quarter-circles, how large is the blue area? [Bottom center] Math puzzle: We have an equilateral triangle in a unit-square. Find the areas of the three colored triangles. [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Shown are a regular hexagon, two squares, and a semicircle. Is the red vertex located on the semicircle?
(2) Iran doesn't play by FIFA rules: Iranian officials downplay the incident of women being banned from entering a soccer stadium despite holding tickets. They sell tickets to women to satisfy FIFA's requirements, but then ban and pepper-spray them at the gates.
If FIFA did not care so much about losing revenues from banning noncompliant countries & teams, the problem would be solved in no time. Iranians take soccer very seriously, so banning their team from Qatar World Cup 2022 would lead to street riots and a quick reversal of the policy to ban women. FIFA must act now!
And where are Iranian male soccer fans in this fight? Why don't they support the women by boycotting matches from which women are banned?
(3) IEEE Central Coast Section tech talk: Dr. Sumita Pennathur (UCSB, Mechanical Engineering Department) will talk on Wednesday, April 20, 2022, under the title "MEMS-Based Innovations for Optimized Management of Type I Diabetes" (Rusty's Pizza, 5934 Calle Real, Goleta, 6:00 PM). [Details & free registration]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Math oddity: There exists only one integer N that can be written as N = x^y = y^x for xy.
- An approximation to pi that differs from it by roughly one-billionth (10^–9): fourthroot(2143/22)
- Facebook memory from Apr. 1, 2021: My musings about the Iran-China strategic pact. [English] [Persian]
- Facebook memory from Apr. 1, 2021: About April Fool's Day (today) and its Iranian counterpart (tomorrow).
- Facebook memory from Apr. 1, 2019: 43rd anniversary of the referendum creating Iran's Islamic Republic.
- Facebook memory from Apr. 1, 2018: This year, Passover is on Sat. 4/16 and Easter is on Sun. 4/17.
- Facebook memory from Apr. 1, 2017: Half-dozen rather-realistic April Fool's news headlines.
(5) Despite their outward support for the Taliban, Iranian authorities are anxious about Afghanistan's future and its impact on Iran: An analysis in a journal aligned with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps lists the points of worry, if the Taliban were to return to their earlier violent reign.
(6) Geofencing: A virtual tool being tried in Sweden, a country with one of the lowest vehicle death rates in the world, to automatically restrict some aspects of a vehicle's motion, so as to make traffic-flow safer.
(7) Iran #MeToo: More than 300 Iranian women in cinema call attention to workplace violence, harassment, and expectations of sexual favors. [Story, in Persian]
(8) The pandemic causes a reassessment of the need for grading: I tell my students that I don't like exams & grading any more than they do, but assessing student work is a necessary evil, given our system of education. Now, U. Richmond's Prof. Elisabeth Gruner advocates putting an end to the tyranny of grades. "I've been teaching college English for more than 30 years. Four years ago, I stopped putting grades on written work, and it has transformed my teaching and my students' learning. My only regret is that I didn't do it sooner."

2022/04/01 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Math puzzle: Find the lengths of two of the sides of a quadrangle, drawn within a quarter circle Last night, I managed to solve the tax puzzle for 2021 and filed my tax returns Cover image of Bill Gates's 'How to Avoid a Climate Disaster' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Math puzzle: Find the lengths of two of the sides of a quadrangle, drawn within a quarter circle. [Center] This isn't an April fool's prank: Last night, I managed to solve the tax puzzle for 2021 and filed my tax returns. Of course, the IRS may not believe anything I wrote on my return, when it receives it today! [Right] Bill Gates' important book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster (see the last item below). [Breaking news: Biden proposes, and the US Congress approves, the designation of April 1 as Donald J. Trump Day.]
(2) Russia faces more than just economic hardship from military expenses and international sanctions: A significant tech brain drain has already begun, to the delight of other countries that will attract the experts. An estimated 70,000 computer specialists have left the country since Russia invaded Ukraine five weeks ago.
(3) Math puzzle: In a 101 x 126 array, we write the numbers 1 through 12,726, once in row-major order and once in column-major order. Each array element at the end will contain two numbers. How many of the 12,726 elements will have a repeated number?
(4) It's possible that we'll go extinct as a result of internal volcanic activity, not from an external event such as an asteroid strike: Two giant blobs in Earth's mantle, halfway between the surface and the core, one under Africa & the other under the Pacific Ocean, contribute to the movement of continents and to volcanic eruptions.
(5) Book review: Gates, Bill, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, unabridged 7-hour audiobook, read by Wil Wheaton, Random House Audio, 2022. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Gates provides an accessible assessment of where we are in our fight against global warming and how far we still need to go to avoid a global disaster brought about by climate change. As one would expect from Gates, his solutions are technology-based. He reviews a large number of technologies that are already available for making a dent in solving the problem, but he also acknowledges that there is still room for innovation. The alternative view that fixing one problem with technology can produce other problems is advocated by Elizabeth Kolbert (Under a White Sky), among others.
A point made by Gates early on is that talking about greenhouse-gas emissions in terms of absolute numbers does not make sense to most people. If we say that the US emits 6.5 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases per year, there is no way for the average reader to assess how bad the situation is. He advocates formulating everything as a fraction of the 51 billion tons global total we currently put into the atmosphere annually and must eliminate in order to reach net-zero. He divides sources contributing to this total as follows:
- Making things (plastic, steel, etc.): 31% of emissions
- Plugging in (electricity): 27% of emissions
- Growing things (food): 19% of emissions
- Getting around (transportation): 16% of emissions
- Keeping warm or cool (heating, air-conditioning): 7% of emissions
In very rough terms, we can remember these numbers by thinking about three nearly-equal contributors to emissions: (1) Making things; (2+5) Power, heating, cooling; (3+4) Growing, moving.
We must address all five areas. It would be a mistake to discount heating & cooling, because they contribute only 7% of the total emissions. Designing efficient/smart buildings can easily reduce the 7%, whereas dealing with the larger contributors may need longer-term plans and heavy investments. Every little bit counts, so, we must begin with the low-hanging fruit.
One effective way to think about our actions is to assign to each contributing component a "green premium," defined as the additional cost of choosing a green alternative over the one that emits greenhouse gases. At present, clean solutions tend to cost more than high-emission ones. However, this higher cost is rather unfair, because it is derived by ignoring the true economic and environmental costs of high-emission solutions, such as using fossil fuels.
Let's take an example. Assume that gasoline costs ~$2.70 per gallon in the US, averaged over several years. If electrofuels cost ~$8.00 per gallon-equivalent, a factor of about 3 higher than fossil fuels, then the green premium is $5.30 per gallon. Thinking in terms of the green premium allows us to see where the greatest need for innovation lies. Of course, it is possible for green premium in some areas to become negative, in which case we have the best of both worlds. In addition to telling us where to invest and innovate, green premiums also allow us to use subsidies strategically to direct demand to more desirable alternatives. Electric-car subsidy is a prime example.
This is an important book. The idea that we should aim for net-zero, rather than simply think about reducing emissions, is significant. As an example, replacing coal-powered plants with natural-gas-powered ones will cut emissions in half, but the latter plants will still be emitting greenhouse gases in 30 years, hindering our efforts to reach net-zero by 2050. So, in a way, replacing coal with natural gas may be a step in the wrong direction!

2022/03/31 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Throwback Thursday: This ad from ~50 years ago announces that Tehran's Moulin Rouge Cabaret would be closed for the entire month of Ramadan Throwback Thursday: This 2-rial coin, now worth 0.005 cent, was used some 5 decades ago to make local calls from pay phones in Iran Dress design inspired by mosque tiling patterns and other architectural motifs from Iran
Math puzzle: In this diagram, O is the center of both the circle and the square. Determine the length x Jack Dongarra: The 2021 ACM Turing Award honoree Math puzzle: We have a square within a quarter-circle, as shown. Determine the length x (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Throwback Thursday: Iran was never a secular society. This ad from ~50 years ago announces that Tehran's Moulin Rouge Cabaret would be closed for the entire month of Ramadan. [Top center] Throwback Thursday: This 2-rial coin, now worth 0.005 cent, was used some 5 decades ago to make local calls from pay phones in Iran. Because if the coin did not fall through into the pay phone's coin reservoir, you could not make the call, the expression "his/her 2-rial coin did not fall through" became a way of indicating that someone doesn't get a point. [Top right] Dress design inspired by mosque tiling patterns and other architectural motifs from Iran. [Bottom left] Math puzzle: In this diagram, O is the center of both the circle and the square. Determine the length x. [Bottom center] Jack Dongarra: The 2021 ACM Turing Award honoree (see the next item below). [Bottom right] Math puzzle: We have a square within a quarter-circle, as shown. Determine the length x.
(2) The programmer who paved the way for supercomputers: Jack Dongarra, recipient of the 2021 ACM Turing Award, has been honored for his work on basic concepts and code that enabled software to keep up with hardware inside the most powerful computers. In the 1970s, Dongarra helped write the Linpack software library, which offered a means for running complex mathematics on what eventually were called supercomputers and to assess their level of performance.
(3) As men smiled & danced on the field, women were humiliated & tear-gassed outside the stadium: When will FIFA act on its threats of sanctions against Iran for excluding women from sporting events?
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Throwback Thursday: History of a Persian song from 70+ years ago, "Neshaat," aka "Aamad Now-Bahaar."
- Persian music: Mahdieh Mohammadkhani performs "Bogzar Az Koo-ye Ma" with a big orchestra.
- Humor: Unfriending (or is it Academy Awards Ceremony?) in the Stone Age. [Cartoon]
- Facebook memory from Mar. 30, 2017: The European Union turns 65, reaching retirement age.
(5) US men's national soccer team clinches a spot in the Qatar 2022 World Cup by losing 0-2 to Costa Rica: Yes, it is strange to earn a spot by losing, but that is because goal differential is used as a tie-breaker in case of equal number of points. Having won 5-1 against Panama, the US had a comfortable cushion in goal differential. Costa Rica was clearly the better team and would have won with a wider margin, were it not for spectacular saves by the US goalie. [10-minute extended highlights]
(6) Silkroad Ensemble: Tonight's "Home Within" program of the Ensemble at UCSB's Campbell Hall combined Kinan Azmeh's haunting clarinet music and a whirlwind of images, produced in real time, by Syrian-Armenian visual artist Kevork Mourad to mirror the seven years of war that have made their country unrecognizable. The program was "Dedicated to 500,000 Syrians ... and still counting." There was a Q&A session following the hour-long performance. My tickets included an at-home viewing option, which I gladly used. Starting to doubt if I have grown too lazy to ever be comfortable with attending a live performance, when there is an at-home viewing option! [Screenshot images] [2-minute video]

2022/03/29 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Architectural marvels: Mysore Palace in India and fountain at Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco Afsaneh Najmabadi, Professor of History, Harvard U. Cover image of IEEE Computer magazine, issue of March 2022 (1) Images of the day: [Left] Architectural marvels: Mysore Palace in India and fountain at Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. [Center] Afsaneh Najmabadi, History Professor, Harvard U. (see the next item below). [Right] Cover feature of IEEE Computer magazine, issue of March 2022: How artificial intelligence and software engineering complement each other in various ways.
(2) Afsaneh Najmabadi: I learned through a social-media group for the 1968 graduates of Tehran U.'s College of Engineering, that Najmabadi entered Tehran U. in the same year as we did. In the nationwide university entrance exam, she was second-ranked, the first-ranked being the late Parviz Rafinejad, who was our classmate in EE. Even though, in those days, top-ranked college applicants invariably chose engineering or medicine, Najmabadi's interest in nuclear physics led her to choose the Faculty of Science, eventually earning an MS in physics from Harvard U. She later pursued social studies, earning a PhD in sociology from Manchester U. Now, as a faculty member at Harvard, she holds the Francis Lee Higginson Chair of History and of Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. I have come across her 1998 book, The Story of Daughters of Quchan: Gender and National Memory in Iranian History, which I look forward to reading. My 1995 Persian edition bears the title The Tale of Quchan Girls: Forgotten Facets of the Constitutional Revolution.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Palestinian gunman kills at least 5 people near Tel Aviv, in what is the third terrorist attack in a week.
- War of deep-fakes: A video of Zelensky was spread in which he urged Ukrainians to surrender to Russia.
- Between explosions: Ukrainian musicians play classical music in a subway station used as bomb shelter.
- Firing squad for trans rights supporters? Yes, says former GOP lawmaker Robert Foster.
- Red-hot car market is no more: US auto sales slump, as less-affluent buyers walk away.
- Book talk in English, "The Fall of Reza Shah": By Shaul Bakhash, April 4, 2022, 3:00 PM PDT. [Register]
- Math magic: A few remarkable mathematical identities involving logarithms, sketched by Ramanujan.
- A problem from American Invitational Mathematics Examination, AIME 2022. [Tweet]
- Math puzzle: If x + y = 2 and 2^x + 2^y = 6, what is 4^x + 4^y?
- Persian music: Wonderful rhythmic improvisational piece on santoor. [4-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Mar. 29, 2017: Fist-bumping president preferable to an ignorant one.
- Facebook memory from Mar. 29, 2017: Four perfectly round circles that look anything but.
(4) Ralph Waldo Emerson: "We ascribe beauty to that which is simple; which has no superfluous parts; which exactly answers its end; which stands related to all things, which is the mean of many extremes."
(5) Ransomware is a relatively new crime category in computing: Many folks don't realize that, even if we are not directly targeted, just as with shoplifting, we all pay ($412 million in 2020 alone, according to Nir Kshetri & Jeffrey Voas, writing in the March 2022 issue of IEEE Computer magazine).
(6) Biden's 2023 budget: The $5.8 trillion budget proposal for the fiscal year beginning in October includes funding increases for the military & the police, a minimum tax on billionaires, and a deficit of $1.15 trillion.
(7) Banning women from sports stadiums in Iran: This ban & other restrictions are imposed under the guise of protecting women. Protecting them from whom? From the morons, who put restrictions on them! Why don't you put restrictions on yourselves to curb your vile acts? #WomensRights

2022/03/28 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Australian researcher Kylie Moore-Gilbert was propositioned by a prison boss in Iran while she was kept as a government hostage Math puzzle: Circles C1, C2, and C3 have radii 3, 2, and 1, respectively. Find the radius of circle C4 which is tangent to all three circles Why aren't the American super-rich called oligarchs?
Circle terminology: What would you put in the empty space on the lower-right? Math competition: Deriving the value of a factorial-based sum series Math puzzle: Find the rectangle's area, given that its height is 2 cm less than the quarter-circle's diameter and its width is 9 cm less (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Australian researcher Kylie Moore-Gilbert was propositioned by a prison boss in Iran while she was kept as a government hostage. [Top center] Math puzzle: Circles C1, C2, and C3 have radii 3, 2, and 1, respectively. Find the radius of circle C4 which is tangent to all three circles. The circlular curve omega, centered at O, is shown as a hint. [Top right] On the Russian oligarchs (see the next item below). [Bottom Left] Circle terminology: What would you put in the empty space on the lower-right? [Bottom center] Math competition: Deriving the value of a factorial-based sum series. [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Find the rectangle's area, given that its height is 2 cm less than the quarter-circle's diameter and its width is 9 cm less.
(2) Russia's super-rich are called "oligarchs": Why aren't the American super-rich similarly characterized? Because there is a difference. We don't have an oligarchy in the US. While some American billionaires do have an interest in government and in influencing political decisions, many don't. And not all of them support Washington or whoever is in the White House. In Russia, too, there exist billionaires who aren't oligarchs. But because most currently-rich Russians got rich via government favors at the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, they are by and large pro-government. They rely on government protections (and also need the government to leave them alone) in a lawless, authoritarian society. In a 2018 poll on Russians' attitude toward oligarchs, some 43% had negative opinions of them, with 39% being neutral.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Suspected poison attack targeted Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian negotiators.
- Russian oil tankers turn off their tracking systems to evade sanctions.
- Red-hot car market no more: US auto sales slump as less affluent buyers walk away.
- The story of Ferdowsi's tomb in Toos, Iran. [2-minute video, narrated in Persian]
(4) Will Smith reduced to tears during his