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Behrooz Parhami's Blog & Books Page

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Page last updated on 2020 September 28

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 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 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020/07/29 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Will Smith at his current age and in de-aged form for the 2019 action movie 'Gemini Man' The shifting economic order: The world's top ten economies over time (chart) Technolochicas: A program that provides various types of resources to help families encourage young women to pursue computing
Federal agent aims his rifle at the face of woman protester Linguistic faux pas: This Persian ad announces a new method for losing hair! We mostly need new methods for keeping or growing hair! This billboard in Dubai declares 'We began in desert and have now gone to space' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Move over botox and cosmetic surgery: Digital de-aging has arrived! The image shows actor Will Smith at his current age and in de-aged form for the 2019 action movie "Gemini Man," where he appears alongside a younger clone of himself. [Top center] The shifting economic order: The world's top ten economies over time. [Top right] Technolochicas: A program that provides various types of resources, in English and Spanish, to help families encourage young women to pursue computing. [Bottom left] America becoming greater every day: Hope this kind of greatness ends soon! [Bottom center] Linguistic faux pas: This Persian ad announces a new method for losing hair! We mostly need new methods for keeping or growing hair; losing it needs no new method! [Bottom right] This billboard in Dubai declares "We began in desert and have now gone to space": The goals of Dubai's space program remain unclear, though, much like its urban real-estate development, now in trouble.
(2) Hostage-taking by Iran's Islamic regime enters its fifth decade: Australian-British academic and expert on Islamic studies Kylie Moore-Gilbert is serving a 10-year prison term under espionage charges.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump-McConnell $1 trillion coronavirus relief bill faces an uphill battle in the GOP-controlled US Senate.
- Trump really likes Blacks ... when they confirm his kooky ideas and conspiracy theories!
- The Trump administration finally succeeds in flattening the COVID-19 infections curve! [Cartoon]
- Visualizing the lives lost to various pandemics in the course of recorded human history. [2-minute video]
- Could expanding fires/explosions in Iran's military and industrial sites lead to an "October-surprise" war?
- Student groups in Iran condemn the re-imprisonment of activists Bahareh Hedayat and Keyvan Samimi.
- Conversion of passenger planes to carry more freight is a new trend amid the changing aviation industry.
(4) This year's hajj rites: Only about 1000 worshippers, who are already in Saudi Arabia, will be allowed to participate, and they will be monitored by electronic means to ensure the safety of all those involved. Normally, millions of pilgrims descend on Mecca for the annual rites.
(5) "Culture Clash" film discussion: "Amar Akbar Anthony" (1977) is the title of an unintentionally funny film with a social message, about three Bombay brothers who are separated from their parents, with each one raised in a different religion. At the end, they discover they are true brothers, despite their vastly different upbringings. The film is available on Amazon Prime Video. Here is the link for a 45-minute discussion with the authors of Amar Akbar Anthony: Bollywood, Brotherhood, and the Nation.

2020/07/27 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Batch 1 of photos taken during this afternoon's long walk atop Goleta's Elwood Bluffs Batch 2 of photos taken during this afternoon's long walk atop Goleta's Elwood Bluffs Batch 3 of photos taken during this afternoon's long walk atop Goleta's Elwood Bluffs
Some selfies taken during my walk on a breezy afternoon Time magazine, double-issue of August 03/10, celebrates the legacy of civil-rights legend John Lewis (1940-2020) Congressman John Lewis's body travels over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, soon to be renamed in his honor (1) Images of the day: [Top row] This afternoon, I went on a long walk atop the Elwood Bluffs: A beautiful, sunny afternoon with a strong breeze greeted me, as I explored the dozens of criss-crossing walking paths in the region. [Bottom left] Some selfies taken during my walk on a breezy afternoon. [Bottom center] Time magazine, double-issue of August 03/10, celebrates the legacy of civil-rights legend John Lewis (1940-2020). [Bottom right] Congressman John Lewis's body travels over the Edmund Pettus Bridge, soon to be renamed in his honor. He and others passed over this bridge in the iconic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
(2) Pandemic intensifies famine and food insecurity: Food aid need for 2020 is up by 25% compared with previous estimates and it's up by 31% compared with 2019.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- This is how the 2nd-Amendment is being used: Not against a tyrannical government but to quell dissent.
- Local Santa Barbara news: Black bear roams on a street in Montecito, a community just to our south.
- The RV market is sizzling: Hassles of flying has made many RV models quite popular, with long wait-lists.
- Akala, on how African and Black history was distorted to justify and propagate slavery. [77-minute video]
- Quote of the day: "Keep your words sweet, because someday you may have to eat them." ~ Anonymous
- Kurdish music: Jamshid sings "Khana-Bandan," accompanied by LA Daf Ensemble. [YouTube version]
(4) Wonderful cover of the beautiful song "One Moment in Time" by Dana Winner; written by Louis Hammond and John Bettis; originally sung by Whitney Houston. [5-minute video]
(5) My virtual tech talks: I will be speaking for Sharif University of Technology Association's Seattle Chapter on Tuesday 7/28, 7:00 PM PDT (Zoom meeting ID 953 2556 9334; Recorded lecture), and for Sharif University of Technology's Computer Engineering Department on Saturday 8/01, 11:00 AM Tehran time (Friday 7/31, 11:30 PM PDT; Virtual classroom address). The two talks overlap, but they are not identical. The SUTA Seattle talk, entitled "Recursive Methods for Synthesizing Digital Circuits" and delivered in English, contains an overview of recursive hardware design strategies, whereas the SUT CE talk, entitled "Recursive Synthesis of Counting Networks" and delivered in Persian, focuses more on my own research in recursively building a class of networks that are of interest in computer arithmetic and fault-tolerant computing. Both talks should be understandable to those with minimal background in digital circuits.

2020/07/26 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Comet Neowise, photographed by a couple of my neighbors who shared their photos Humor: Iran's President Rouhani with a new Chinese-style turban Humor: Suggestion for creating travel photos while you're stuck at home and can't go anywhere! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Comet Neowise, photographed by a couple of my neighbors sharing their photos. [Center] Joke of the day: "I am just as surprised as you! I learned on Friday morning about a new mandated turban style." [Right] Suggestion for creating travel photos while you're stuck at home and can't go anywhere!
(2) Olivia de Havilland dead at 104: The last remaining star of #GoneWithTheWind, she died of natural causes at her home in Paris, where she had lived for more than 60 years.
(3) The universal appeal of film music: Theme from "Game of Thrones," composed by the German-Iranian musician Ramin Javadi, is immensely popular across the world and sounds just as wonderful when played in a wide range of musical styles, from Indian to Persian and alt-rock. And speaking of film music ... The theme from "The Godfather" and the film's various other tunes are unmatched in beauty and musical wonder.
(4) Free conference attendance: The European Dependable Computing Conference will be held virtually from September 8 to 10, 2010. Intel and Fraunhofer IKS are covering all organizational expenses. Hence, participation is free of charge, but you need to pre-register. [Conference program] [EDCC workshops]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Anti-immigration militia member advocated lining up illegals at the border to shoot or gas them.
- One example of why Trump hates the press: Barbara Walters calls out his bullshit in this 1990 interview.
- Cal State University undergrads required to take ethnic studies or social justice course, starting in 2023.
- Right-wing artist Jon McNaughton is cashing in on the Trump cult, and laughing all the way to the bank.
- Bitter humor: Artist's reaction to Iran selling off parts of Mt. Damavand to fill empty government coffers.
- Heavenly piano music: I know neither the name of the piece, nor the two piano maestros, but here it is.
(6) I have a joke ... but: A new challenge on Twitter consists of starting to tell a joke and then explaining why you won't tell it! Monica Lewinsky stole the show by writing, in response to "I have a Charles Manson joke and it kills," "I have an intern joke and it ... nevermind." Other examples include "I have a Mitch McConnell joke, but it's in Russian" and "I have a joke, but you won't be able to hear it until a male writer repeats it as his own ten minutes later." Here is my contribution: "I have a coronavirus joke, but Trump won't let me test it."
(7) Fake degrees in Iran: A report (in Persian) on the trial of an Iranian man who forged credentials from institutions around the world, catering primarily to government officials.
(8) Insight into mathematics: Why mathematicians enjoy proving the Prime Number Theorem, that the number of primes less than n tends to n/(ln n) as n grows large, over and over again.

2020/07/25 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Hyper-realistic portrait of Jesus created by Dutch photographer Bas Uterwijk, using AI Undated photo of Nasrin Sotoudeh, holding a sign reading 'No to Execution' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Hyper-realistic portrait of Jesus: Dutch photographer Bas Uterwijk applies AI to create portraits of historical figures from paintings and other sources. When shown these portraits of Jesus, Donald Trump reacted with disdain toward the radical left that wants to make the white, blue-eyed Jesus look Middle-Easterner! [Center] Undated photo of Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iranian lawyer and human-rights activist now in prison, holding a sign reading "No to Execution." [Right] My anniversary tweet (see the next item below).
(2) My third Twitter anniversary: Can't believe I have been on Twitter for 3 years already (according to a notification from Twitter). Here is the special anniversary tweet I was asked to send. It conveys my love of books. Fittingly, I will follow this tweet with a book review.
(3) Iran recent history: Who was Masih Daneshvari and why is a hospital in northern Tehran named after him? This 4-minute video explains it all (in Persian).
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- China launches the Tianwen-1 unmanned mission towards Mars on a Long March 5 Y-4 rocket.
- New international students headed to US universities holding classes remotely told to stay home.
- Television host Regis Philbin dead at 88: He leaves behind a TV legacy that will be hard to match.
- Santur player Farshid Savar plays the "Ey Iran" anthem, in what appears to be a hot-air balloon.
(5) Professor's remains found in Arizona dumpster: Two Louisiana teens have been charged with killing and dumping the body of Junseok Chae, Professor and Associate Dean for Research at Arizona State University's School of Engineering, who was reported missing March 25.
(6) This morning, I participated in a Zoom memorial meeting for our departed Tehran University College of Engineering classmate Abbasali (Mehdi) Katiraei: Mehdi's wife Nahid, daughter Nikoo (on behalf of herself and her brothers), and several close friends said a few words and shared memories of him. Unfortunately, I wasn't very close to Mehdi during our student days in Tehran, but I have learned a great deal about him, his encyclopedic knowledge, and love of books, both as a reader and an an author, through our common friends, particularly over the last few days. My condolences to his family and friends. May his soul rest in peace!
(7) After AOC dressed down Florida Congressman Ted Yoho for insulting her on the steps of the US Capitol, Fox News posted this fake tweet attributed to her, which has since been removed with barely an apology.
[Fake AOC tweet, shared by Brian Kilmeade: "It's vital that Governors maintain restrictions on businesses until after the November Elections because economic recovery will help Trump be re-elected. A few business closures or job losses is a small price to pay to be free from his presidency. #KeepUsClosed"]

2020/07/24 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Map of the US, showing that 40 million people in CA have two Senators and 40 million in several other states have 46 Senators What to do with toppled statues? Ask Russians about their Fallen Monument Park Wikipedia map showing the history of human settlements in the Americas (1) Images of the day: [Left] Representative democracy? [Center] What to do with toppled statues? Ask Russians about their Fallen Monument Park. [Right] Humans arrived in the Americas earlier than previously thought: This map, taken from Wikipedia, dates various populations to 11,000-16,000 years ago, with a couple of exceptions. Stone tools just unearthed in Mexico date back 33,000 years.
(2) COVID-19 update from Santa Barbara Sansum Clinic: While SB County is doing much better than the US as a whole, the densely-populated South Korea has a mortality rate that is 1/10th that of SB and 1/75th that of the US. And SK has achieved this by doing nothing more than following the advice of healthcare professionals.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Federal agents tear-gas Portland protesters, including the mayor who had showed up to talk to them.
- Trump campaign misleadingly uses a photo from Ukraine's 2014 pro-democracy protests in Facebook ad.
- Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, VA, has been renamed John R. Lewis High School.
- Don't underestimate the power of trending hashtags: The hashtag #DoNotExecute saved 3 lives in Iran.
- Hand-sanitizer recall expanded to at least 75 brands across the US due to inclusion of toxic material. [List]
- Humor: Video by comedian Sarah Cooper. [#PersonWomanManCameraTV]
- Cartoon of the day: Parts of the cognitive test taken by Trump released to the public. [Image]
- Persian music: This piece includes a style of singing known as "chah-chah," which is like yodeling in a way.
(4) "UCSB Reads 2021": The program has converged on a short list of six titles, from which we will select our preferred title and a couple of alternates, in case of problems in negotiating with the publisher or author about participating in the program. I will read these titles over the summer months and will share with you both my reviews and the final selection. I would appreciate any input, sent publicly or privately, on any of these titles.
- Kiese Laymon, Heavy: An American Memoir, Scribner, 2018.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, One World, 2015.
- Patrice Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele, When They Call You a Terrorist, St. Martin's Griffin, 2020.
- Nikole Hannah-Jones and New York Times, 5-episode podcast "1619," 2019.
- N. K. Jemisin, The City We Became, Orbit, 2020.
- Natasha Trethewey, Monument: Poems New and Selected, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018.
(5) Yes, you should speak up if your family or friends post something racist: "Nice white people, including those in your family, can still be racist. ... Sometimes speaking up isn't even about educating the other person so much as it is standing up for your own morals and ethics. It's saying: Whether or not I change their mind, I refuse to let this happen without saying something." Hitting "unfollow" or deleting the person solves nothing. Try to engage (or re-engage after taking a break).

2020/07/23 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Tuesday afternoon at Goleta Beach Park: Batch 1 of photos Teachers feel unsafe returning to classrooms as the coronavirus pandemic rages out of control (protest sign) Tuesday afternoon at Goleta Beach Park: Batch 2 of photos
Racism in Iran: Milk and chocolate-milk bottles bear images of a white girl and a black boy Religious dogma: Sign at the entrance to a mourning ceremony in Iran advises against using face-masks Cartoonist Touka Neyestani's take on the #DoNotExecute movement (1) Images of the day: [Top left & right] Tuesday afternoon at Goleta Beach Park: I walked to the Park's east end and snapped photos, as my daughter paddle-boarded at the west end. [Top center] Teachers feel unsafe returning to classrooms as the coronavirus pandemic rages out of control. [Bottom left] Racism in Iran: Milk and chocolate-milk bottles bear images of a white girl and a black boy. [Bottom center] Religious dogma: Sign at the entrance to a mourning ceremony in Iran advises against using face-masks. [Bottom right] Cartoonist Touka Neyestani's take on the #DoNotExecute movement. #NoToExecutionsInIran (Source: Iranwire.com)
(2) Demand for robot cooks is on the rise: Mixing salads from customer-selected ingredients is a possible application, now that salad bars are defunct. Flipping burgers and making French fries are other possibilities.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Highlights of Chris Wallace's interview with Donald Trump on Fox News. [Tweet]
- Trump wishes arrested pedophile and sex-trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell well: Chew on that for a minute!
- US-China tension escalates: US State Department orders China to close its Houston consulate.
- Powerful magnitude-7.8 earthquake off Alaska's southern coast triggers tsunami warnings.
- A US diplomat asked UK officials for help in steering the British Open to Trump's Scotland golf resort.
- Iranian regional music: Ensemble from the northeastern province of Khorasan. [3-minute video]
Panel participants and moderator: The Iranian-American diaspora & the Black Lives Matter movement (4) The Iranian-American diaspora & the Black Lives Matter movement: Yesterday afternoon, beginning at 4:00 PM PDT, I attended an on-line discussion by a panel composed of Dr. Cornel West (Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy, Harvard University), Dr. Ali Akbar Mahdi (Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Ohio Wesleyan University), and Dr. Touraj Daryaee (Maseeh Chair in Persian Studies and Professor of History, UC Irvine), moderated by Dr. Annahita Mahdavi (Associate Professor of Social Sciences, Long Beach City College). Organizers indicated a webinar attendance of around 500, with many others participating through Facebook.
BLM is new only in terminology and methods. American Blacks have been in this struggle for 400 years. They have a proud culture, similar to, though not going as far back, as the Iranian culture. Alliance between American Blacks and Iranian-Americans would seem a natural occurrence. But the situation isn't as simple.
The notions of color and race are somewhat different in Iran compared with the US. In the 19th century, there was much trade between southern Iran and Zanzibar, one of the suppliers of slaves (ancestors of Afro-Iranians) to Iran. Color isn't a basis for discrimination in south Iran, where many Afro-Iranians reside, because those who grew up in the sunny south are naturally dark-skinned. But the situation changes if we look at north Iran.
It's a very natural question to ask whether Iranian-Americans, many of whom have been persecuted and discriminated against, in Iran, in the US, or both, identify with the BLM cause. Shouldn't Dr. King's sentiment that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," and the great poet Sa'adi's proclamation that "Human beings are like parts of a body, created from the same essence," bring the two communities together? The answer is complicated and differs by immigrant generations.
First-generation immigrants from Iran, raised in a racist society, which discriminates against racial and ethnic minorities, generally don't believe that BLM is their problem. A tad over half of this first generation (53%) say they have experienced discrimination in the US. Having weathered discrimination, and having worked hard to get resettled after their roots were forcefully cut in many cases, they see it as risky to their position to get involved in sociopolitical matters.
Second-generation immigrants from Iran, better-educated and more integrated in the American society and culture, are quite different. Interesting, and sometimes contentious, conversations go on between members of this second generation and their parents about BLM and other civil/human rights issues. Surprisingly, this second generation has also experienced discrimination, but mostly from individuals rather than institutions.
Then there is the 1.5th generation Iranian-Americans, those who immigrated to the US as young children and were almost-entirely educated here. Members of this group fall somewhere in between, being closer in opinions, behavior, and experiences to the second generation.
In short, alliance between the Iranian-American diaspora and Black Americans, while seemingly natural, has not quite materialized.
On-line information on panelists and moderator: [West] [Mahdi; aamahdi@owu.edu] [Daryaee] [Mahdavi]

2020/07/22 (Wednesday): Book review: Johnson, Allan G., The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy, Temple U. Press, revised ed., 2005. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Cover image of Allan G. Johnson's 'The Gender Knot' Image, with the message that 'The patriarchy isn't going to smash itself' Image, showing female and male symbols in a knot I was introduced to this book by Roger Green (ND State U.) and Robert Gordon (Auburn U.), who conducted a couple of "Allies" and "Advocates" workshops at UCSB, leading eventually to the formation of a staff/faculty group, "Men Advocating for Gender Equity," now in the process of organizing and planning its activities, which will include offering educational workshops for other groups of UCSB staff and faculty.
Let me begin by listing the book's table of contents in brief.
Part I: What Is This Thing Called Patriarchy? 1. Where Are We? (p. 3); 2. Patriarchy, the System: An It, Not a He, a Them, or an Us (p. 27); 3. Why Patriarchy? (p. 51); 4. Ideology, Myth, and Magic: Femininity, Masculinity, and "Gender Roles" (p. 78); 5. Feminists and Feminism (p. 99).
Part II: Sustaining Illusions, Barriers to Change. 6. Thinking about Patriarchy: War, Sex, and Work (p. 133); 7. What Patriarchy? (p. 154); 8. It Must Be Women (p. 178).
Part III: Unraveling the Patriarchal Legacy. 9. Shame, Guilt, and Responsibility (p. 207); 10. Unraveling the Gender Knot (p. 224).
Appendix: Resources for Unraveling the Knot (p. 224); Notes (p. 259); Index (p. 283).
At first glance, a book on patriarchy, white privilege, and male privilege written by a white man may appear suspect. However, after reading the book, most reviewers I sampled on Amazon.com agreed that Johnson has done a decent job of defining/exposing the problems. One reviewer characterized it as "The best book on feminism for men"!
The gist of the book and all of its key top-level ideas appear in Chapter 1 and elaborated upon in subsequent chapters. So, in the following, I present 12 take-aways from the book's Chapter 1, a list which I compiled to share at a Zoom meeting of our staff/faculty group in July 2020.
01. Women & men know that there's inequity, but we don't know what to do with that knowledge w/o tightening the knot. [p. 5]
02. Privilege is any unearned advantage available to members of a social category that's systematically denied to others. [p. 5]
03. We are trapped inside a patriarchal legacy (promoting male privilege), a topic to which the entire Chapter 2 is devoted. [p. 5]
04. Four attributes of patriarchy: Male domination; Male identification; Male centeredness; Obsession with control [pp. 6-15]
05. Women's lack of control over their bodies, sexuality, marriage/divorce, education, and profession is a form of slavery [p. 15]
06. Patriarchy encourages men to accept male privilege and perpetuate women's oppression, if only through silence. [p. 17]
07. Hot-button issues, such as abortion, pornography, violence, can prevent us from focusing on the nature of patriarchy. [p. 18]
08. We go about our daily lives, without an ongoing awareness of the deep structures that define prevailing social terms. [p. 19]
09. Sexuality is an example of what society dictates, with many of us not questioning the fixed notions or digging deeper. [p. 20]
10. We should distinguish between the positions of women and men as groups and their experiences as individuals. [p. 22]
11. Patriarchies are male-dominated, even though most men may not feel dominant, especially in relation to other men. [p. 22]
12. Men do not have to feel cruel or malevolent toward women in order to participate in, and benefit from, patriarchy. [p. 25]
Here are elaborations on take-away point #04, which isn't as self-evident as the other items:
- Male domination: Positions of political, economic, legal, religious, and educational authority are generally reserved for men.
- Male identification: Core cultural ideas about what is good, desirable, preferable, or normal are tied to men and masculinity.
- Male centeredness: Focus of attention in news reports, movie subjects, and all else is primarily on men and what they do.
- Obsession with control: Men, seen as cool and collected, control women and anyone else who might threaten their privilege.
Let me end my review of this influential and highly-recommended book with a couple of quotes from the book.
On page 33, we read: "If a society is oppressive, then people who grow up and live in it will tend to accept, identify with, and participate in it as 'normal' and unremarkable life. ... When privilege and oppression are woven into the fabric of everyday life, we don't need to go out of our way to be overtly oppressive for a system of privilege to produce oppressive consequences, for, as Edmund Burke tells us, evil requires only that good people do nothing."
And on page 50, we read: "Ultimately, the choice is about empowering ourselves to take our share of responsibility for the patriarchal legacy that we've all inherited."

2020/07/21 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Chart: COVID-19 fatality rate per 100,000 inhabitants (US has the third-highest fatality rate) Logo for the documentary film 'And She Could Be Next' Map of Asia, showing the rail route between China and Iran (1) Images of the day: [Left] COVID-19 fatality rate per 100,000 inhabitants: As of July 19, 2020, the US had the third-highest death rate in the world, ahead of countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Bolivia, and Iran (source: Johns Hopkins University). [Center] Virtual film discussion at UCSB: The two-part 2020 documentary "And She Could Be Next," currently running on PBS (it can also be streamed for free until August 29 on this Web site), will be discussed by director/producers Grace Lee and Marjan Safinia in a July 30, 7:00 PM PDT, Zoom session moderated by Wendy Eley Jackson (Film and Media Studies, UCSB). The event is free but prior registration is required. [Right] The rail route between China and Iran (see the last item below).
(2) The pot accusing the kettle: Ayatollah Khamenei scorns the US for the criminal act of separating children from their mothers, as moms languishing in Iranian prisons are denied visits from their minor children.
(3) Even zoo animals are kept in cages where they can tell day from night: Iran keeps many political prisoners in solitary confinement within tiny, windowless cells, where calls to prayers are their only markers of time.
(4) The new Birtherism: "Biden has dementia and can't pass a cognitive test." Repeat it often enough and it becomes a truth for Fox News audience and even sows doubts in non-Foxers!
(5) Don't get too excited about preliminary positive results from vaccine trials: Some positive results are expected from any vaccine that advances to the human-trial stage, or we wouldn't be doing the trial. The ultimate test of a new vaccine is how it performs in large-scale clinical trials, our ability to effectively produce and distribute it, and whether people accept it (remember that in the US, we have many anti-vaxxers).
(6) On the Iran-China cooperation deal: I have made several negative posts about the 25-year economic-security pact between Iran and China. It has been my sincere belief that the deal reeks of colonial pacts during Qajar and Pahlavi dynasties, giving the country's resources and strategic assets to foreigners on the cheap. Seeing that Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Trump administration vehemently oppose the deal, has made me doubt the previous assertions. It was the US that pushed Iran toward Russia and China through its annulment of the nuclear deal and expansion of the economic sanctions that have created extreme hardships for the people of Iran. In a world governed by powerful nations, almost no nation with an economy the size of Iran can go it alone and not align itself with a major power. When alignment with the US was no longer an option, and relations with EU also faltered due to EU's internal discord and pressure from the US, Russia and China became the only options for military support (as Saudi Arabia is armed to the teeth) and economic stability.

2020/07/20 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Map: Slave trade routes out of west Africa Afro-Iranians: A taboo minority in Iran, because Iranians generally deny the existence of slavery in our history Map: Slave trade routes out of east Africa
Photos from this afternoon's stroll on UCSB's North Campus Open Space: Batch 1, near the north entrance Photos from this afternoon's stroll on UCSB's North Campus Open Space: Batch 3, selfies Photos from this afternoon's stroll on UCSB's North Campus Open Space: Batch 2, on the bridge and to the south (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Afro-Iranians: A taboo minority in Iran, because Iranians generally deny the existence of slavery in our history (Photo-essay) ("Asia by Africa") (Slavery in Qajar Iran). Many Iranians find it hard to accept that Iran had African slaves as recently as a century ago. Iran's parliament abolished slavery in 1929. The maps show slave-trading routes out of Africa, including the often-overlooked trade from east Africa, with destinations being Persia (18%) and Arabia/India (~50%). [Bottom row] Photos from this afternoon's stroll on UCSB's North Campus Open Space, including newly landscaped areas on the north side.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Happy Int'l Chess Day: Unfortunately, like other human domains, racism pervades this cerebral activity.
- The judge whose husband & son were shot had just been assigned to probe Epstein & Deutsche Bank.
- The killer of judge Esther Salas (subject of the previous item) was found dead.
- A new record high for US dollar exchange rate in Iran: 1 US dollar = 1/4 million Iranian rials
- Emel Mathlouthi, voice of the Tunisian Revolution, sings a song based on the Persian "Soltan-e Ghalb-ha."
Venn diagram depicting a test's sensitivity and specificity (3) Do not fret lack of accuracy in testing for COVID-19: There is much discussion on social media and news outlets about the imperfection of tests available for coronavirus infection. The worries are misguided. While tests may be imperfect for each individual, they work well at the community level. The ultimate goal in controlling the pandemic is to reduce the infections to ~5% of the population. This is achievable with an imperfect test and contact-tracing.
By the way, all tests, even those for well-known ailments, have false positives and false negatives, as illustrated in the accompanying diagram. There is often a trade-off between a test's sensitivity (performance in detecting positive cases) and specificity (avoiding false positives). In the diagram, the yellow blob represents the test. If you expand the blob to cover more of the true-positive cases (a larger fraction of the sick), it may also generate more false positives. A small false-positive fraction can lead to highly misleading results when the infection rate is low. If 95% of the population does not have the infection, a very-good specificity of 90% can produce more than twice as many false-positives as true-positives.
The following article provides a good introduction to the notions of sensitivity and specificity for medical tests.
K. J. van Stralen et al., "Diagnostic Methods I: Sensitivity, Specifity, and Other Measures of Accuracy," Kidney International, Vol. 75, No. 12, pp. 1257-1263, June 2009.

2020/07/19 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The dome of Middle East's largest caravaserai in Qazvin, Iran Four images: Artists opine about face masks Four photos: Goleta's Coal Oil Point Beach, this afternoon (1) Images of the day: [Left] This is the dome of Middle East's largest caravanseria in Qazvin and these are Iranians oblivious to the need for protecting a priceless relic of their cultural heritage. [Center] Artists opine about face masks. [Right] Goleta's Coal Oil Point Beach, this afternoon: The ocean was quite choppy, and the bluest ever (video). My daughter and I walked there, before going to UCSB's North Campus Open Space.
(2) Iran repairs Qare Kelisa (Black Church), world's first-ever church, built on the tomb of Saint Thaddeus in West Azerbaijan. The original church was black (reminiscent of a 1000-year-old black church I visited in Armenia during 2018), with the white structure seen in the photo within this report added in 1810.
(3) Celebrating my 200th invited lecture: Later this year, the number of my technical lectures will reach 200. Here's the list of lectures, updated with recent and upcoming events, should you be interested in details.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Chris Wallace holds his own during today's Fox News interview, in the face of shameless lies from Trump.
- Joe Biden's VP may transform a constitutionally-insignificant office into a force for change in the US.
- Sen. Marco Rubio honors Rep. John Lewis: But he includes a photo with a different Black Congressman!
- Neuroscientists identify a small number of brain cells that help humans adapt to change.
- Who makes Costco's Kirkland-brand products? The answers might surprise you.
- A dialog, in Persian, with Mahshid Amirshahi, a novelist whose writings are banned in Iran.
- Signs of cultural decay in Iran, from the educational system to economic policies. [Video, in Persian]
- Close your eyes and try to convince your mind that you're hearing an 8-year-old harpist. [6-minute video]
(5) Competing conspiracy theories: Many recent fires in French churches, including the latest at Nantes, have fueled conspiracy theories on both sides, with the media refusing to cover the events and some claiming that attributing the fires to electrical problems is a cover-up effort.
(6) Final thought for the day: Much has been made of Trump's incompetence in running the country. I think, however, that lack of empathy, that is, not giving a hoot about anyone but himself, is an even bigger vice.

2020/07/18 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Civil-rights icon and long-time Georgia Congressman John Lewis dead at 80 The Poser: Artists install living statues of Donald Trump in Washington, DC Pals: Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein
'New Yorker' cartoon: The origins of White House's 'Don't let science stand in the way!' proclamation My forthcoming invited talk (in English) for the Seattle Chapter of SUTA 'New Yorker' cartoon: 'Ask your doctor if taking a pill to solve all your problems in right for you' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Civil-rights icon and long-time Georgia Congressman John Lewis dead at 80 of pancreatic cancer. [Top center] The Poser: Artists install living statues of Donald Trump in Washington, DC. [Top right] Yes, Jeffrey Epstein was photographed with other celebrities, but this photo conveys a special friendship. [Bottom left] New Yorker cartoon: The origins of White House's "Don't let science stand in the way!" proclamation. [Bottom center] My forthcoming invited talk (in English): Speaking for the Seattle Chapter of Sharif University of Technology Association (SUTA), I will discuss "Recursive Methods for Synthesizing Digital Circuits" on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, 7:00 PM PDT (Zoom link). [Bottom right] New Yorker cartoon: "Ask your doctor if taking a pill to solve all your problems in right for you."
(2) Shaming campaigns work: Executions of three young men may be halted by Iran, following a worldwide social-media campaign, but at at least 7 other executions have occurred in recent days. [#NoToExecutions]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Chris Wallace fact-checks Trump, but facts have never deterred Trump from repeating false claims.
- Decades after people of Behbahan, Iran, fought Saddam's army, they face Khamenei's security forces.
- Iran repairs Qare Kelisa, worlds first church, built on the tomb of Saint Thaddeus in West Azerbaijan.
- Humor: Al Capone went to jail for tax fraud, not for his many violent crimes. Take a look at his tax returns.
(4) The academy is collapsing: Writing in the June 2020 issue of IEEE Computer magazine, Hal Berghel sees ominous clouds on the academic horizon. State support of public universities has been eroding, so that they are now "public" in name only, as they charge exorbitant tuitions. The erosion will get worse in the aftermath of the pandemic. Emphasis on fundraising has made professional administrators rather than professors the faces of our universities. A side effect is that "performance-based" funding, using misguided indicators, has brought bean-counting to curriculum assessment. In the domain of research, the sloppily-prepared Bayh-Doleful Act, which was rushed through the Congress in 1980 allegedly to facilitate technology-transfer to the private sector, has not benefited universities as much of corporations exploiting the monopolistic value of exclusive licenses.
[P.S.: Chancellor Henry Yang has just warned UCSB's faculty and staff about hard times ahead. Previously-appropriated budget increases will be reversed and an actual budget cut is in the works, which will no doubt affect salaries (forming the bulk of our operating budget). And these cuts will be compounded by other revenue losses and rising expenses due to the pandemic.]

2020/07/17 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.

Abbasali (Mehdi) Katiraei, our beloved class-of-1968 friend from Tehran University's College of Engineering (class of 1968) has passed away Tehran's Keshavarz Blvd., as it looked 100 years ago Tehran's Keshavarz Blvd. in recent past (1) Images of the day: [Top row] My walk of last evening along UCSB's West Campus bluffs, Goleta's Devereux Slough, and UCSB West Campus faculty housing complex. And here is a 1-minute video taken at the West Campus stairs, looking toward Coal Oil Point and Platform Holly, during high tide. [Bottom left] Abbasali (Mehdi) Katiraei, our beloved class-of-1968 friend from Tehran University's College of Engineering (Fanni) has passed away in Iran: Sincere condolences to his wife Nahid and children Nariman, Nikoo, and Kamran. [Bottom center & right] Tehran history: "Karaj Water," as it was known a century ago, today's "Keshavarz Blvd." bore the names "Karaj Blvd." and "(Queen) Elizabeth Blvd." over the years. Sadd-e Karaj High School, which I attended from 1958 to 1963, was on this very wide street, with its tree-lined median stream a favorite picnic spot.
(2) NASA and ESA release the closest pictures ever of the sun: Taken by the joint US-Europe Solar Orbiter, these amazing images will help scientists piece together the sun's atmospheric layers and understand how it drives space weather near the Earth and throughout the solar system.
(3) Hollywood goes "big data": Film-industry tech companies are developing data-driven tools to help producers with generating and refining content that captures and retains audiences. The industry relies on a continuous feedback loop of recommendation algorithms, viewing-habit trackers, and studio production teams to sustain audience interest.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Emulating Iran: US federal agents in civilian clothes and unmarked cars grab people in Portland.
- Chris Wallace of Fox News, whom Trump has called "nasty" and "obnoxious," will interview him on 7/19.
- Louisiana's Democratic governor calls for three days of fasting and lunchtime prayers over COVID!
- IBM stands against stigmatizing America's Asian community and has also urged Trump not to end DACA.
- Shamefully lax security on Twitter: Hacker used Twitter's "Admin" tool to spread cryptocurrency scam.
- Launch of NASA's James Webb Space Telescope has been delayed from next March to October 31, 2021.
- Diversity in AI workforce is crucial to the industry's health and to ensuring that the resuls benefit everyone.
- Persian music: Kayhan Kalhor & Yo-Yo Ma play the classic song "Morgh-e Sahar" on kamancheh & cello.
(5) Math puzzle: Three people, A, B, and C, can do a job at different, fixed rates. A and B, working together, can do the job in 2 hours. A and C can do it in 3 hours. B and C can do it in 4 hours. How long would the three of them, working together, would need to complete the job? We are, of course, assuming that the job is perfectly divisible among any number of participants.
(6) Final thought for the day: "If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness." ~ Victor Hugo, Les Miserables (quote used by Mary Trump to open her just-released book on the Trump family, Too Much and Never Enough

2020/07/16 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Statue of a female protester replaces that of a 17th-century slave trader Behrooz Parhami and Djamshid Farivar, 51 years ago in Washington DC and at a Zoom gathering, 2 days ago President is all smiles while posing with cans of beans and other food products in the Oval Office! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Statue of a female protester replaces that of a 17th-century slave trader. [Center] Throwback Thursday: Fifty-one years ago, in spring of 1969, I was in Washington DC studying English with an old friend, Djamshid Farivar, in preparation for attending graduate school, I at Oregon State and he at Penn State, that fall. Djamshid and I parted ways, never to see each other again ... until Tuesday, July 14, 2020, when I attended his Zoom presentation on cosmology to a group of civil-engineering graduates of Tehran University's College of Engineering. [Right] As Americans continue to die, feel down, and suffer serious economic hardship from COVID-19, our clueless President is all smiles while posing with cans of beans and other food products on "the resolute desk" in the Oval Office!
(2) "West Side Story" re-imagined: The new, updated production of what was itself a retelling of "Romeo and Juliet" uses the same music but changes the dance movements to what today's young people can identify with. It also uses high-tech to project images on the set. [14-minute segment from CBS News' "60 Minutes"]
(3) Trump administration's attempt at limiting international students at US colleges shape-shifts: Now, ICE wants to ban visas for new students if the colleges they will attend go fully on-line. Harvard and MIT are ready to challenge the directive's new version, as they did successfully with the original version.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Russian state hackers tried to steal research data on COVID-19 vaccine development.
- Harvard's Steven Pinker is criticized in a letter signed by 550 linguists for insensitivity to racial justice.
- Multilingual message of togetherness and hope: Musical ode to coronavirus.
- Humor: This 9-second video clip is reminiscent of Persian Mullah Nasreddin stories.
- Kurdish dance music: 10-minute audio file.
- A mullah recites his humorous Persian poem, criticizing Iran's officials and regime.
(5) Local statue removal: Ventura City Council voted unanimously to move statues of Junipero Serra, the man who erected California's missions and decimated the area's Native-American culture, from public spaces to inside a mission. [Photo]
(6) Final thought for the day: Some Republicans squirmed when Trump turned a White House briefing into an incoherent campaign rant, but they are too deep in this sh*t to turn back now. Like a losing poker player, down to the last few chips, they continue to bluff, with foolish hopes.

2020/07/15 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk by Behrooz Parhami: Slide sample 2 IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk by Behrooz Parhami: Slide sample 3 IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk by Behrooz Parhami: Slide sample 4
IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk by Behrooz Parhami: Slide sample 5 IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk by Behrooz Parhami: Slide sample 6 IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk by Behrooz Parhami: Slide sample 7 (1) My IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Offered today via Zoom to 16 participants, the talk, entitled "Recursive Synthesis of Digital Circuits: Advantages and Examples," covered the role and benefits of recursion in hardware design via a well-known example (FFT networks), a lesser-known strategy (recursive multipliers & squarers), and a new class of circuits (counting networks). [IEEE CCS event page] [FB post] [Tweet]
(2) UCSB Arts & Lectures hosts free summer films under the stars: Screened Wednesday nights at 8:30 (Goleta's West Wind Drive-in, July 15 to August 19) and featuring food trucks, the 6-week series consists of family-friendly sports films.
(3) The Iranian-American diaspora & the Black Lives Matter movement: A discussion by Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Ali Akbar Mahdi, and Dr. Touraj Daryaee, moderated by Dr. Annahita Mahdavi (Wednesday, July 22, 2020, 4:00-5:00 PM PDT; free with registration).
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Hospitals ordered to bypass CDC and send coronavirus-related data to Trump administration.
- Reposting from July 15, 2018: Video from Fanni friends' 50th graduation anniversary gathering in Yerevan.
- A new girls' high school in northeast Iran is named in honor of the late mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani.
- Perry Mason, the pioneering TV law series and a favorite of mine during my youth, is coming back to HBO.
(5) Hashtags denouncing executions in Iran are trending: Masih Alinejad urges the media not to cover the violent reaction and mud-slinging of Iranian mullahs and their supporters in the name of equal time and freedom of speech for "the other side" of #StopExecutionsInIran. Meanwhile, Donald Trump, who is an avid supporter of death penalty in the US and who has never uttered a word against waves of executions in China, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, suddenly feels for three death-row inmates in Iran. Don't fall for this charlatan's crocodile tears! #NoToExecution #SaeedTamjidi #AmirHosseinMoradi #MohammadRajabi
(6) Journalist Ruhollah Zam "confesses" to his crimes on Iranian state TV: "Interviewed" by a Revolutionary Guard Corps intelligence officer, Zam was told that the Guards had hacked and taken over his Amad News Telegram Channel, causing fear among his followers. Zam is on death row, so the Guards/judiciary/state-TV unholy alliance must have promised to spare his life if he confessed. On social media, observers are comparing this method to that of ISIS butchers, who used to bring Westerners to read prepared texts in front of cameras, assuring them that their sins will be forgiven, only to utterly surprise them with an on-screen beheading.

2020/07/14 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Disney World grand re-opening, with spectacular coronaworks every night! Der Spiegel (Germany) cover image Math puzzle: Square with each of its sides divided into three equal parts and some of the points connected to an interior point (1) Images of the day: [Left] New Yorker cartoon: Disney World grand re-opening, with spectacular coronaworks every night! [Center] Der Spiegel (Germany) cover image [Right] Math puzzle: The sides of a square are divided into three equal parts and line segments are drawn to an interior point as shown. The areas of some of the resulting regions are given and the area of the one marked with "??" is sought.
(2) Visa restrictions withdrawn: As predicted by many, ICE and Trump administration back off from the threat of visa revocation for international students whose college campuses opt for on-line-only instruction during the coming academic year. Just another shiny object to distract from the dismal COVID-19 response!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump turns today's WH briefing into a campaign rally, bashing his opponents in a 63-minute monologue.
- A new low for our country: Trump openly blackmails an unnamed Senator who is "on the other side."
- Jeff Sessions, a Senator before becoming Trump's AG loses his primary bid to run for his old Senate seat.
- Three young lives are in danger of being taken by Iran's justice system to induce fear in other protesters.
(4) The mathematics of mass-testing for COVID-19: Imagine if we could test every American once every 2 weeks, asking those who test positive to self-isolate and letting the rest of the economy function as usual. According to Nobel-Laureate economist Paul Romer's simulations, this technique will keep the population's active infection rate below 5%, ensure that most people do not get infected, and spur rapid economic recovery. The requirement of testing 7% of the US population per day is unrealistic, given that only 4% of the population was tested in the 3-month period March-May 2020. Enter mathematical/statistical methods that allow dozens of patients to be pooled and cleared, in most cases, with a single test. Mathematicians are busy developing even more efficient test strategies to have a given number of tests reveal more information.
(5) Musings on acupuncture: Acupuncture, an organized system of diagnosis and treatment using needles, is at least 2000 years old, but in recent history, it was brought back from near-oblivion by China's communist regime as low-cost healthcare for the masses; what one might call "Maocare." One modern interpretation of the practice is that it works through neurohormonal pathways. You put needles through specific points in the body, stimulating nerves, which then send signals to the brain. In response, the brain releases (more accurately, commands the pituitary gland to release) hormones, such as beta-endorphines, causing euphoric feelings and increasing the pain threshold. Another hypothesis is that acupuncture works by reducing pro-inflammatory markers, or proteins, in the body. One can see from a scientific standpoint how acupuncture may help in treating pain, but believing that it helps cure other maladies requires a leap of faith. Side effects of acupuncture include soreness, minor bleeding, interference with pacemakers, and stimulating labor in pregnant women.

2020/07/13 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Trump wearing a face-mask covering only his mouth, not his nose Time magazine cover image: Some progress toward climate goals but not nearly enough Remembering her name: Giant portrait of Breonna Taylor painted in support of #BlackLivesMatter.
Physics puzzle: A cable hanging between the top of two poles One of the most-crowded freeway interchanges in Los Angeles was nearly deserted on April 24, 2020 Artist's conception of Iran conceding the Persian Gulf and other resources in southern Iran to China (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Making progress, but the nose should be covered too! [Top center] Accidental progress toward climate goals: CO2 emissions are projected to drop 7% in 2020, but this is far from adequate for meeting climate goals, especially given that it comes with much economic damage whose repair will create even more emissions. [Top right] Remembering her name: Giant portrait of Breonna Taylor painted in support of #BlackLivesMatter. [Bottom left] A physics puzzle (said to have been an Amazon interview question): A cable of length 80 m is hanging between the tops of two poles of height 50 m. What is the distance between the poles if the center of the cable is 10 m above the ground? Once you answer the interview question, take the center of the cable to be 20 m above the ground and solve the more-challenging physics problem that results. [Bottom center] One of the most-crowded freeway interchanges in Los Angeles (guess where?) was nearly deserted on April 24, 2020 (photo from Time magazine). [Bottom right] Iran's soutern-border wall: Artist's conception of Iran conceding the Persian Gulf and other resources in southern Iran to China.
(2) All Muslims not created equal from Iran's perspective: Palestinians are defended and Israel is condemned, whereas the detention & forced "re-education" of Uighur Muslims are ignored and China is praised & rewarded. [This old article has become relevant again in view of Iran's 25-year economic-military pact with China.]
(3) Not a remedy, but a positive step nonetheless: Belgium's King Philippe expresses his "deepest regrets for the wounds of the past" to the leadership of the Democratic Republic of Congo, a former Belgian colony.
(4) Teachers' unions and education advocates are determined to oppose politicians who want to use our children and their teachers as poker chips to win political points.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The White House tries to smear Dr. Anthony Fauci because of his open disagreements with Trump.
- Mental health experts express their opinions on Donald Trump and his fitness to serve as US President.
- Sunset on a hazy evening at Goleta's Coal Oil Point Beach, yesterday 7/12. [Photos]
- We have mapped 99% of the surface of Mars but only 19% of Earth's ocean floor. [Source: Time magazine]
(6) The UN virtual leadership summit for young women, "Girl Up," starts today at 10:00 AM EDT and runs until July 15: Keynote speakers include Michelle Obama and Meghan Markle.
(7) Another Great Wall: Pre-dating China's Great Wall by hundreds of years, the Great Wall of Gorgan, in northern Iran, extended 155 km along an irrigation canal, which doubled as a moat, with the aim of defending the economically-important region from huns roaming to the north. [Text and 11-minute video]

2020/07/12 (Sunday): Trying to make a dent in my backlog of book reviews by offering three reviews.
Cover image of Manoush Zomorodi's 'Bored and Brilliant' Cover of Michelle Alexander's 'The New Jim Crow' Cover image of Cal Newport's 'Digital Minimalism' (1) Book review: Zomorodi, Manoush, Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive & Creative Self, unabridged MP audiobook, read by the author, Macmillan Audio, 2017.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The average American spends 3 hours a day on his/her smartphone and 11 hours a day in front of a screen. Zomorodi, who hosted WNYC's podcast and radio show "Note to Self," led thousands of listeners through an experiment in 2015 to help them unplug from their devices. This book builds up on that experiment to show that getting bored is a prerequisite for creativity. Zomorodi does not advocate totally abandoning our devices. Rather, she aims to help us unplug long enough to give our faculties a chance to breathe and create.
In way of examples, many experimental settings have been tried for children's use of electronics, spanning a range from total ban on devices to a free-for-all attitude. A total ban on devices is nearly impractical in today's highly-connected world. A youth summer camp, that took devices away for only the first week, to allow attendees to interact more-intensely and get to know one another, achieved excellent results in the sense of the participants voluntarily limiting their device use after the first week.
Bored and Brilliant is one of numerous new books that use results from neuroscience and cognitive-psychology studies that have mapped out our brain's functioning when we engage in various activities or when we do nothing. The latter part of the brain, dubbed the default-mode network, which is active during daydreaming and mind-wandering, holds the key to creativity. Unfortunately, this vital part of the brain virtually shuts down when we use our brain's goal-oriented attention networks. Disruptions in the default-mode network have been observed in people with Alzheimer's or autism-spectrum disorders.
On the negative side, there isn't much new information in this book for those who have kept up with extensive media reports on modern society's addiction to electronic gadgets (yes, devices and their apps are addictive, and purposefully so). But Zomorodi does a good job of putting all the pieces of research together in an absorbing and convincing way. She also describes her 7-step challenge that helps readers/listeners adjust their priorities to deal with device addiction.
[Author's 1-hour interview during her 2017 book launch]
(2) Book review: Alexander, Michelle, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (10th Anniversary Edition) unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Karen Chilton, Recorded Books, 2020.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Since its publication in 2010, The New Jim Crow has influenced criminal-justice reform, judicial decisions, and community discussions. For the book's special tenth-anniversary edition, Alexander has written a new preface, assessing the book's impact and the current state of the criminal-justice reform in the US. She notes in the new preface that incarcerating immigrants is simply a new form of the same mindset that marginalizes Blacks.
Let me put forth the book's negative attributes at the outset, so that I can then focus on the many positive aspects. Alexander's writing is redundant and repetitive. The same ideas appear, with slightly different wordings, in many different parts of the book. Countless examples are given, where a couple would do. The space taken up by these redundancies, and presenting close-ups of many individual trees that obfuscate a long-shot view of the forest, could have been better used for developing the arguments further and avoiding hand-waving and overly-general statements.
As I listened to the audiobook, I was left with the impression that many of the examples are presented with lots of details around some aspects and not enough for others. This feeling was reinforced after I came upon Ryan Bert's 2-star review of the book on Amazon.com. Bert maintains that Alexander's description of President Bill Clinton as a closeted racist is unfair and inaccurate. Alexander faults Clinton for attending the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, "a mentally impaired black man," while he was Governor of Arkansas and a presidential candidate. Bert presents details of Rector's crimes: Killing a man and injuring several others in an altercation with a bar bouncer, then killing a cop he knew since childhood, who went to his house with the expectation that he would surrender to authorities. Rector was not mentally impaired at the time. The self-inflicted impairment came when he tried to commit suicide by putting a bullet through his own head and surviving the attempt.
Now, on to the positive attributes of the book. Alexander's central argument is that racial caste has merely shape-shifted in America, as reflected in the following diagram:
Slavery -----> Jim Crow -----> Mass incarceration
Today's control and marginalization of blacks occurs within the prison system and, with the help of high-tech, outside of it for parolees and those returning to society after serving time.
Jim Crow refers to an American song & dance from 1828 whose name was used to describe racial-segregation laws passed at the end of the 19th century. These laws remained in effect and were broadly enforced until the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Alexander uses "mass incarceration" (further incentivized by a privatized prison system) as the set of criminal-justice mechanisms that lead to permanent marginalization of disadvantaged communities. Even non-violent offenders who have served prison sentences face permanent restrictions in life and work and a lifetime of shame and stigma.
The danger of marginalized Blacks, forming a permanent underclass, uniting with underclass Whites to demand change, was recognized early on, leading to two preventive strategies. One was to feed underclass Whites the narrative that they are superior to Blacks (White supremacy). The other was to recognize Blacks who rose to elite status on their own or with help from elite Whites as tokens to support the claim that systemic racism does not exist. The following chart shows the main parts of the resulting caste system.
          Elite Whites
          /         \
          /           \
Underclass Whites    Elite Blacks
          \           /
          \         /
        Underclass Blacks
Evidence of unconscious racism has been piling up. In one study, participants were told to close their eyes and imagine a drug user. When asked to describe the person they imagined, 95% described a Black person, whereas only 15% of drug users were Black at the time (and now). In another study, participants were shown a number of individuals, standing in front of a variety of backgrounds, holding various objects (guns, cell phones, wallets) and asked to decide quickly whether they would shoot the person in self-defense. The result was that many unarmed Black men would be shot and quite a few White individuals holding guns would not be.
The point is sometimes raised that Blacks are most-often killed by other Blacks as proof that racism isn't at work. There is, however, the inconvenient truth that a murderer killing a White person is five times more likely to be sentenced to death as someone killing a Black person. Our prisons being disproportionately filled with Black and Brown people could be simply due to the fact that they commit more crimes, but numerous studies have shown that colored people are disproportionately targeted and arrested for drug and other offenses.
Why are so many Black and Brown people charged with drug offenses, despite the predominance of white offenders? Here is one explanation. Poor Black youth live in cramped households and have no access to private spaces, so their drug offenses (dealings and use) occur in public spaces, such as street corners and parks, in full view of everyone, including the police. These are areas that the police targets in drug raids, because they will be deemed more efficient by netting more arrests for a given level of resource deployment.
When the Reagan administration endowed the police with the authority to seize property (cars, wallets, houses, ...) during drug raids, keeping the money for their district, an incentive was created that has led to many illegal seizures, even when no charges are eventually filed. Black victims of such inappropriate property seizures are less likely to sue for the return of their property, given lack of access to legal representation.
I was drawn to reading this book as a result of nationwide outrage over police brutality, that had been building up for decades, reaching a boiling point when a Black man, George Floyd, was choked to death by a White cop kneeling on his neck for several minutes, while ignoring his repeated pleas that he couldn't breathe. Police brutality occurs in all communities, but it is particularly prevalent in Black communities, hence the #BlackLivesMatter movement. The shortcomings cited at the beginning of my review notwithstanding, The New Jim Crow is a must-read for all Americans.
(3) Book review: Newport, Cal, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author and Will Damron, Penguin Audio, 2019.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This review comes on the heels of my 4-star review of Manoush Zomorodi's Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive & Creative Self. The main difference between the two books is that Zomorodi (a fun-loving reporter and technology commentator) is a tech buff who just wants to prevent it from taking over our lives, so she aims to reduce the dose of our addiction, whereas Newport (Associate Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown University, who, among other things, has suggested that people should ignore the "follow your passion" advice) opts for more extreme recommendations. Both authors advocate taking a backward approach: Identifying life elements that matter to us and then seeing how technology can serve to improve those elements. In other words, use technology to support your goals and values, rather than letting it take over your life.
Warnings about the ill effects of "new technology" on our lives have been with us for centuries: Writing doing irreparable harm to the spoken language (Plato), the typewriter destroying the essence of writing (Heidegger), and TV as the enemy of contemplation (Thomas Merton); many more examples exist. The main difference between the latter misguided predictions and today's takeover of our lives by digital gadgets is the level of addiction caused by devices and apps, mostly by design.
Newport shows us how digital minimalists are rethinking their relationship to social media and take more pleasure in the off-line world. He suggests a 30-day digital decluttering process that has proved successful in making participants feel less overwhelmed and more in control. He uses the word "decluttering" deliberately and warns against viewing the process as "detoxing." The latter, exemplified by disabling all notifications for a period of time, may not be sustainable in the long run, leading to a return-to-normal bounce at the end of the detox period.
Part of decluttering is avoiding apps that produce only minor improvements and conveniences in our lives, focusing instead on those we cannot live without. Avoiding perpetual distractions is another sound advice. Some digital minimalists remove all social-media apps from their phones and opt to use them only on their laptops, at designated times.
A surprising fact I learned from this book is that the Amish (and Mennonites) aren't tech-hating groups; they do use tech in ways that promote their independent, sustainable lifestyles, after a trial period in which their leaders experiment with a particular technology. For example, they do use electricity, but opt for solar cells, diesel-generators, and batteries, instead of connecting to the grid.
I had previously read Newport's Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World (my 4-star review on GoodReads). The two books have a great deal of overlap, because a prerequisite for doing deep work is minimizing distractions. I recommend both books, but I think Deep Work is the more important title of the two.

2020/07/11 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The iconic Hagia Sofia: Beginning as an Orthodox Christian cathedral, it was turned into a mosque and, later, a museum Protest sign: There are only four categories of Americans Climbing Mount Everest: From a 'National Geographic' story about the search for a lost camera which may hold much valuable information
Meme: Uncle Sam has another fight against a reconstituted and increasingly-deranged 'Alt-Right' on his hands! Examples of hatred taught in Saudi school textbooks US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking, with the background of a bookcase holding no books (1) Images of the day: [Top left] The iconic Hagia Sofia: Beginning as an Orthodox Christian cathedral, it was turned into a mosque and, eventually, a museum and a World Heritage Site. Now, Turkey is turning it back into a mosque, against public outcry. [Top center] It's sad that a nation of immigrants seizing this land by force must be reminded that there are only four categories of Americans! [Top right] Climbing Mount Everest: From a National Geographic story about the search for a lost camera which may hold much valuable information. [Bottom left] Uncle Sam has another fight against a reconstituted and increasingly-deranged "Alt-Right" on his hands! [Bottom center] We sell arms to the Saudis, and they, in return, continue to preach hate in their textbooks against women, Jews, Christians, and the West in general. [Bottom right] A worrisome, but fitting, image: US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos speaking, with the background of a bookcase holding no books.
(2) Constitutional violation: Trump has threatened to have universities' tax-exempt status revoked based on the contents of their curricula. He just doesn't like educated people. Where are the freedom-of-speech, federal-government-out-of-our-affairs, and states-rights Republicans?
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Mob rule: Trump commutes the prison sentence of his long-time associate and friend Roger Stone.
- The lone Republican Senator calling out Trump for commuting the sentence of his partner in crime.
- Why is everyone so nasty to you, Donald? I suggest you have someone read your tweets back to you!
- Observation: Harvard, charging $57K/year, now tries to compete with free and low-cost streaming services!
- An incredible chain reaction involving 250,000 dominoes. [15-minute video]
- Persian music: Santur solo, followed by a santur-tombak rhythmic tune. Enjoy! [7-minute video]
(4) My keynote talk in early November: I will present a keynote talk, entitled "Hybrid Digital-Analog Number Representation in Computing and in Nature," at the 11th Annual IEEE Information Technology, Electronics and Mobile Communication Conference (IEMCON), this year being held virtually during November 4-7, 2020.
(5) My invited talk later this month: I will be presenting a remote talk entitled "Recursive Synthesis of Counting Networks" for Sharif University of Technology's Algorithms Group, within the Computer Engineering Department, on Friday, July 31, 2020, 11:30 PM PDT (Saturday, August 1, 11:00 AM Tehran time). Attendance is free to all interested parties (enter the talk site as a guest).

2020/07/10 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Math puzzle: Square, with two semi-circles and a quarter-circle inside Math puzzle: A half-circle and a circle inside a rectangle
Math puzzle: Four squares inside a circle Math puzzle: Three line segments inside a circle Math puzzle: Blue, tilted square inside a bigger square (1) Mathematical puzzles (the first one is the most-challenging): [Top left] Inside a 10-by-10 square, draw two semi-circles and a quarter-circle, as shown. Calculate the area colored in red. [Top right] We have a semi-circle of radius a inside a rectangle and a smaller circle of radius b. What is the ratio a/b? [Bottom left] Related to the next puzzle: Each of the four squares shown inside the circle has a side length of 2. What is the radius of the circle? [Bottom center] Find the radius of the circle in terms of the lengths a, b, and c. [Bottom right] Build a smaller blue square inside a 3-by-3 square as shown. What fraction of the area of the big square is blue?
(2) Gaslighting, pure and simple: Trump's linking of the rise in COVID-19 cases in the US to more/better testing is deliberate disinformation. Every health official around him admits we need more testing.
(3) California becomes the first state to join universities, including Harvard and MIT, in suing the Trump administration over its directive on international students losing their visas if universities go fully virtual.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Pretending to be dumb, or actually being dumb, on schools re-opening? The outcome is the same for us!
- "They whisper about you": Lincoln Project ad tells Trump that his entire inner circle is against him!
- Post-Trump Republican Party is being shaped: Much gaslighting is needed to explain the last four years.
- These tweets explain why Trump thinks he is a multi-billionaire: He is worth at least $10 billionth!
- Reality-show host overrules epidemiologists on the COVID-19 pandemic, and Republicans cheer!
- Mars month: Three Mars missions, by the US, UAE, and China, will be launching in July 2020.
(5) A metaphor for small problems, when ignored, snowballing into major challenges: Each domino can knock over another one that is 1.5 times as large. Starting with a tiny domino of height 0.5 cm, the height of the 29th domino will be 0.005((1.5)^28) ~ 426 m, which is taller than the Empire State Building (381 m)! [Video]
(6) Ethics in AI: A survey by the software firm Anaconda found that only 15% of instructors are teaching ethical considerations in AI and only 18% of data-science students say thay are learning about ethics.
(7) Deep-fake technology's positive side: Documentary filmmaker David France uses deep-fake technology in his HBO film "Welcome to Chechnya" to shield the identities of at-risk gay and lesbian Chechens fleeing the region, while maintaining an emotional connection with viewers.

2020/07/09 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of Jennifer Eberhardt's 'Biased' Cover image of Caroline Criado-Perez's 'Invisible Women' Cover of 'The Atlantic': On the nature of complicity (1) Images of the day: [Left] Today, I pitched two books as possible choices for "UCSB Reads 2021" program. The first book, Jennifer L. Eberhardt's Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice that Shapes What We See, Think, and Do, is about unconscious bias ingrained in all of us by our evolutionary path and our surrounding social fabric. A 2014 MacArthur "Genius Award" recipient, Eberhardt is a leading social-psychologist at Stanford, who produces top-notch scientific work and, as a black woman, has first-hand knowledge of the prevalence and impact of unconscious bias. Here is the author's 4-minute introduction to her book. [Center] My second pitch for "UCSB Reads 2021" program is Caroline Criado-Perez's Invisible Women, for which I have posted a 5-star review on GoodReads. [Right] On the nature of complicity (see the next item below).
(2) History will judge the complicit: Writing in The Atlantic, Anne Applebaum (best-known for her writings on the former Soviet Union and its satellite countries) scorns Republicans such as Lindsey Graham and Mitt Romney, who "were devoted to America's democratic traditions and to the ideals of honesty," for supporting and enabling Trump's "America First" agenda, which really meant "me and my friends first." While Romney partly redeemed himself, Graham sank deeper and deeper into making excuses for Trump's abuse of power.
(3) One day, Republicans who chose Trump over America will come to you and tell you that they can repair the damage done by Trump: Remember their names, remember their actions, and never, ever, trust them again.
(4) An honest and uncensored Iranian social documentary: Shiraz-based photographer Maryam Nematollahi captures the lives of female students living in dormitories.
(5) Iran tries to solve its housing problem by building micro-homes: At 25 square meters (~270 square feet) each, the planned homes have estimated prices that still put them out of reach of most Iranians.
(6) Khomeini criticizing the late Shah: "He left people in poverty and despair, even in areas where they lived atop vast reservoirs of oil." The words in this 2-minute clip are more applicable to Iran's Islamic regime!
(7) "Facts of Life": If you don't mind scrolling through an annoying number of ads, you might enjoy seeing how Eve Plumb and other "Facts of Life" actors look like today.
(8) IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: I will be speaking under the title "Recursive Synthesis of Digital Circuits: Advantages and Examples" (Wednesday, July 15, 2020, 6:30 PM PDT). Free event with registration.
(9) Final thought for the day: People of Yazd, Iran, convey celebratory messages on the anniversary of their city being registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2020/07/08 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Santa Barbara downtown architecture: Batch 1 of photos Santa Barbara downtown architecture: Batch 3 of photos Santa Barbara downtown architecture: Batch 2 of photos
Santa Barbara downtown restaurants/cafes have taken over much of State Street, now closed to vehicle traffic Santa Barbara downtown parks, photographed during my long walk on Monday The more things change ... : A culture built on servitude and idol worship will never achieve greatness (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Santa Barbara downtown architecture, photographed during my long walk on Monday. [Bottom left] Santa Barbara downtown restaurants/cafes have taken over much of State Street, now closed to vehicle traffic: The scene, photographed on Monday, is sad and refreshing at the same time. Sad, because the normally-bustling State Street is reduced to a fraction of its foot traffic, despite the new pedestrian-friendly changes. Refreshing, because the city is adapting to changes forced upon us by the pandemic and is making the best of a terrible situation. [Bottom center] Santa Barbara downtown parks, photographed during my long walk on Monday. [Bottom right] Plus ca change ... (The more things change ...): A culture built on servitude and idol worship will never achieve greatness. (Repost from July 8, 2019)
(2) Capitulation: Iran grants major concessions to China in a leaked draft document entitled "Iran-China Comprehensive Partnership." Among the provisions are Iran's commitment to supplying China with oil for 25 years, while giving China veto power over how it spends the revenues.
(3) US Major League Soccer games are back: The teams will play a World-Cup-style tournament, with round-robin group stage followed by a knock-out stage, in Orlando's Disney World, over the next few weeks.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Iranian civil-rights activist Atena Daemi's prison sentence extended on the day she was to be released.
- The devastating social cost of paying 27 cents less for a Big Mac at McDonald's. [Meme]
- Persian music: Wonderful performance of "Mast-e Eshgh" ("Drunk on Love") at a music store.
- Word puzzle: Transform APE to MAN, changing only one letter in each step to form common English words.
(5) Michael V. Drake, MD, named the 21st University of California President, replacing Janet Napolitano, who is stepping down: Formerly President of Ohio State University (2014-2020) and Chancellor of UC Irvine (2005-2014), Dr. Drake has served as a faculty member at UCSF's School of Medicine for over 2 decades and as UC Systemwide VP for Health Affairs for 5 years. He is the first person of color to become UC President.
(6) UC and UCSB stand by our international students: "The University of California recognizes that our country benefits when the world's brightest students and academics learn, teach and research on our shores. International students provide unique contributions that enrich our campuses and their perspectives ensure that we continue to be a leading academic force around the world. Making it more difficult for international students to study here undermines decades of collaboration between the United States and our international partners, particularly in fields that contribute to America's economic vitality." [UC's full statement]

2020/07/07 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Wired magazine cover image: Virologist Nathan Wolfe, who proposed an ingenious plan to insure businesses against the economic fallout from a pandemic Newsweek magazine devotes its latest issue to a global reckoning on race and to companies stepping up to confront the coronavirus pandemic Shannon LaNier, a TV host in Houston, is pictured in a photo in 'Smithsonian Magazine' alongside his direct ancestor, Thomas Jefferson
A rather unconventional breakfast Barack Obama's White House portrait, which Donald Trump would not unveil A yummy fruit plate for later during the day (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Ahead of his time: Virologist Nathan Wolfe proposed an ingenious plan to insure businesses against economic fallout of a global pandemic. [Top center] Newsweek magazine devotes its latest issue to a global reckoning on race and to companies stepping up to confront the coronavirus pandemic. [Top right] Shannon LaNier, a TV host in Houston, is pictured in a photo in Smithsonian Magazine alongside his direct ancestor, Thomas Jefferson. [Bottom left & right] A rather unconventional breakfast and a yummy fruit plate for snacking. [Bottom center] Barack Obama's White House portrait: The petulant child in the WH seems to have no intention of unveiling the former president's portrait, a tradition going back four decades.
(2) Iranian women can be their own worst enemies: Following requests by some women parliamentarians to be represented in committee leadership positions, MP Somayyeh Mohammadi opined that women should focus on having kids and attending to household chores. Why then, one might ask, is she in the Majlis herself?
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Some "fine person" drove a car through Seattle protesters, killing one and seriously injuring another.
- How do you crop someone out of a photo "by mistake," as Fox News claims to have done? [Image]
- Apparently, Disney's Pluto was also connected to Epstein's child-sex ring! [Photo]
- Humor: Mount Rushmore, after Trump's July 4th event there. [Image]
- The child-labor aspect of this video is sad, but the talent and skill in tiling are amazing!
- Teen enters her coronavirus-themed prom dress, made of duct tape, into a scholarship competition.
(4) Racism is ingrained in our culture and language: Everyday words and phrases that we use without much thought reek of racism: Master bedroom/bathroom; Master/Slave components (in computing); Blacklisting; Blackballing; Cakewalk (a type of plantation dance); Lynch mob.
(5) International students at US colleges may lose their visas: New ICE orders indicate that international students would lose their student visas if the colleges they attend operate fully on-line during fall 2020. This will be VERY disruptive at UCSB and other research universities whose teaching and research functions are heavily dependent on international students. Our College of Engineering and campus are hard at work, in cooperation with UC President's Office, to seek clarifications from the US State Department and other federal agencies over the next couple of days, but like most recent orders coming from the Trump administration, no one understands the rules and the intentions behind them. I hope this isn't a ploy to force universities to re-open in-person classes before it is safe to do so. Many faculty members are thinking of offering in-person independent-study courses to circumvent the restrictions, in case they actually go into effect.

2020/07/06 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Ear mask, for Republicans who don't want to hear anything about the raging pandemic and its death toll Persian poetry: Let's opt for compassion, equality, and justice for all genders and races Michigan vs. Florida: Competent, caring governor versus shoot-from-the-hip Trump crony
Is this why Trump calls the pandemic 'Kung Flu'? Mount Touchmore, a monument celebrating sexual predators, planned for Trump's second term! (Cartoon) Trump to Putin: 'When you have a minute let's talk about November' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Hear no evil: New mask for Republicans who don't want to hear anything about the raging pandemic and its death toll. [Top center] Persian poetry: Let's opt for compassion, equality, and justice for all genders and races. [Top right] Michigan vs. Florida: Competent, caring governor versus shoot-from-the-hip Trump crony. [Bottom left] Is this why Trump calls the coronavirus pandemic "Kung Flu"? [Bottom center] Mount Touchmore, a monument celebrating sexual predators, planned for Donald Trump's second term! [Bottom right] Trump to Putin: "When you have a minute let's talk about November."
(2) Home repairs: Sixteen months after reporting a crack in my master-bedroom wall resulting from a glaring construction defect to the homeowners' association, the first phase of repair has been completed, with texturing and painting to be done in the coming week. One year of the delay was due to dereliction of duty on the management company's part and four months were added by the coronavirus pandemic. [Photo]
(3) Life where no one expects it: Dubbed "extreme life," tiny creatures living in remnants of an ancient ocean at the bottom of deep South-African gold mines provide clues on what life on Mars, if it exists, might look like.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Anti-Trump Republicans, who got steamrolled in 2016, aim for better organization this year.
- Japan flooding: The country braces for more rain, as the death toll from flooding rises to at least 37.
- Legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone, best-known for his spaghetti-Western scores, dead at 91.
- A white guy sings a Bruno Mars funk tune to mostly-empty seats at White House's July 4th celebration.
- Iran's most-important uranium enrichment site suffered significant damage from an "accident."
- Boeing to retire its iconic 747 jumbo-jet, the workhorse of many long-haul flights across the globe.
(5) Inflation-adjusted non-defense R&D spending by the US government fell during the 2010-2019 decade, even as the country enjoyed the longest economic expansion in history.
(6) Isolated shootings at protest sites may devolve into a full-scale race war if POTUS continues to characterize those who demand racial justice as extreme-leftists and anarchists to his gun-toting supporters.
(7) Yet another Trump enabler: Though not brave enough to directly dispute Trump's false claims that 99% of coronavirus infections are harmless and that vaccines/therapeutics will become available way before the end of the year, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn did so by dodging the questions.
(8) Repeating from 5 years ago, today: Remember that separation of religion and state does not only protect civil liberties and social institutions from theocratic dogma; it also protects religion from secular politicization.

2020/07/05 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
IEEE Spectrum magazine article (July 2020): How air-conditioning came about IEEE Spectrum magazine cover feature (July 2020): Human sweat to provide energy source for wearable electronics IEEE Spectrum magazine image (July 2020): World's first digital camera (1) Highlights from IEEE Spectrum magazine, July 2020: [Left] How air-conditioning came about: In 1902, Willis Haviland Carrier (1876-1950) was asked to help improve production quality and worker productivity in a color-printing factory in Brooklyn, NY, by keeping the temperature at 27 Celsius and relative humidity at 55%. He used cold well water for half of the cooling and mechanical refrigeration based on evaporative cooling for the other half. [Center] Cover feature on energy scavenging: Human sweat to provide energy source for wearable electronics. [Right] World's first digital camera: Eastman Kodak engineer Steven Sasson designed this camera to test the imaging capabilities of Fairchild Semiconductor's 100-by-100-pixel charge-coupled device. The toaster-size portable camera used 16 AA batteries and weighed 3.6 kg.
(2) Quote of the day: "I will say one last thing for him. I know he would be disappointed not to have lived to see Trump's eviction from the White House, to make America safe again for honor and truth. Please VOTE!" ~ Annie Reiner, comedy legend Carl Reiner's daughter, writing on her dad's Instagram account
(3) Prince Andrew and other powerful men are sweating: Recently-arrested Jeffrey Epstein friend & procuress, Ghislaine Maxwell, reportedly has decided to talk and name names.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Kellyanne Conway's daughter trolls her on Tik Tok, and tells her father she is sorry his marriage failed.
- Decades-old Goleta murder cases finally put to rest with Golden-State Killer's guilty plea.
- Fifty years of market downs and ups: Recovery tends to be slower than the crash.
- Alan Alda: The film/TV star who is a fierce science advocate (story in AARP magazine).
- Dear Trump supporters: Sorry, but you got played by a con man. [Meme]
- Sign of the times: A friend had watermelon & blueberries at home, while attending an on-line wedding!
- Pretty healthy-looking 80-year-olds. [Image credit: AARP magazine, June-July 2020]
- Spectacle: Elvis Costello, with Diana Krall and Elton John, who interviews Krall. Wonderful music!
(5) Trumpians are obsessed with store looters: I don't condone looting, just as I don't condone the murder of 127,000 Americans by negligence, but the damage caused to the American economy by store looters (estimated at ~$0.5 billion by the Anderson Economic Group, cited on Fox Business) pales in comparison with those caused by Wall-Street execs during the 2008 financial crisis or by the current mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic. It is even orders-of-magnitude less than the damage caused by a major hurricane (Katrina, $55 billion in today's dollars). The real looters wear expensive suits and ties.

2020/07/04 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Independence Day: Two quotes on freedom Independence Day: Lady Liberty, US flag, fireworks Independence Day: Stay safe!
Meme: 'Mask it or Casket' Walmart is set to convert 160 store parking lots to drive-in theaters Biden tweet says that he will read his daily briefings (1) Happy Independence Day (top row): On this day, we Americans celebrate the freedoms that our forefathers fought hard to secure and other generations since then sacrificed to maintain. We do not celebrate our flag, but the ideals that are behind it. We do not celebrate our military might, but how it is used to safeguard our freedoms and help others protect theirs. There is a reason that Lady Liberty is holding a torch and not a gun!
Images (bottom row): [Left] Meme of the day: It took "Click it or Ticket" to get people to wear a seatbelt. I wonder if "Mask it or Casket" might work for curbing the coronavirus pandemic? [Center] Movie buffs rejoice: Walmart is set to convert 160 store parking lots to drive-in theaters. Note the absence of car-side sound systems, one of the major cost and maintenance headaches of old-style drive-ins, before the age of smartphones. [Right] One day soon we will again have a president who reads, understands, and learns!
(2) Dumb as they come: Eric Trump deleted his "Birds of a feather ..." tweet after commenters began posting photos of his dad with recently-arrested child-sex trafficker Ghislaine Maxwell (circled in the tweet).
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- This year, I will celebrate American Independence Day with a 4-month delay, on November 4th!
- The majestic Mount Damavand, observed and photographed by Majid Behzad over a decade.
- Reposting from July 4, 2010: "The great multi-colored hope" [My Facebook post]
- Are we wise enough and brave enough to divert some of our military budget to madical research? [FB post]
- Spectacle: Elvis Costello, with Diana Krall and Elton John, who interviews Krall. Wonderful music!
- French music: Zaz performs "Je Veux" in concert.
- Persian music: A nice rendition of "Gho'ghaa-ye Setaaregaan" ("Celebration of the Stars").
- Persian music by unnamed group, featuring vocals and four traditional instruments. [4-minute video]
(4) I was delighted to see David Tovar back at Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace this afternoon, performing his wonderful music, as I sipped coffee and read a couple of magazines. [Video]
(5) "Hamilton: An American Musical": The movie version (stage recording) of Lin-Manuel Miranda's hit musical production is finally out. My daughter and I watched and enjoyed it yesterday. The show's 47 musical numbers (listed in Wikipedia) span a wide range of styles, from modern hip-hop to traditional show-tunes. The Broadway production, which won the 2016 Tony Award for best musical, as well as many other accolades, has been described as the story of America's founding (America then) told by today's Americans (America now). Here is my 5-star review of Lin-Manuel Miranda's and Jeremy McCarter's book, describing the ideas behind and the making of the musical, which took many years.

2020/07/02 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Man with drywall dust on his face, despite wearing a face-mask Street signs: Behrooz Alley in Tehran, Iran JPL scientist/engineer Shouleh Nikzad (1) Images of the day: [Left] Anti-face-mask misinformation: If masks cannot stop the 10-micron drywall-dust particles, how will they stop the 0.1-micron virus? (See the next item below) [Center] My alley in Tehran, Iran! [Right] JPL scientist/engineer Shouleh Nikzad, at work (see the last item below).
(2) Russia pays the Taliban to kill Americans in Afghanistan: It is doing it more cheaply in the US, by spreading anti-face-mask misinformation. Bill Hahn Jr. addresses this particular piece of misinformation (comparing drywall dust with the much smaller virus) quite well. It's a long explanation, but well worth the read.
(3) February 27, 2020, was a typically chaotic day in the Trump White House: Events included beefing up the Coronavirus Task Force, a day after VP Mike Pence was chosen to lead it, and an early-afternoon intelligence briefing on Russian operatives paying the Taliban to kill Americans in Afghanistan.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- More than 120 die in Myanmar jade-mine landslide following heavy rains: The death toll continues to rise.
- Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro ordered by court to wear a face-mask in public.
- Insecure, paranoid leaders increasingly use national security as a pretext for persecuting their people.
- Three Iranian environmental activists die in a fire witnesses say was started by Revolutionary Guards.
- World's oldest film clip from 130 years ago, after restoration, stabilization, and dubbing.
- A museum in Tehran is wiped clean of all of its valuable artifacts in an overnight heist.
- Iran's architecture: Tour of a luxury suite in Esfahan's Abbasi (former Shah Abbas) Hotel.
(5) Humor from Iran: Teach your children English. We've been telling the Islamic Republic officials for decades that "we can't breathe," in Persian and in every regional dialect there is. George Floyd said it in English and all of our officials, from the lowest level all the way up to the Supreme Leader, understood it!
(6) Sports 2.0: Like everything else in our politically-charged society, sports are changing, and it is mostly for the better. Soccer players kneel to support BLM. College athletes speak about racial justice. NASCAR drivers want confederate symbols out. Athletes no longer accept the advice to just play and leave politics alone.
(7) Introducing a JPL scientist/engineer: Dr. Shouleh Nikzad is a Senior Research Scientist and Principal Engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where she leads the Advanced Detector Arrays, Systems, and Nanoscience Group. She heads a multidisciplinary team of cosmologists, material scientists, chemists, electrical engineers, physicists, and others to tackle key challenges in space exploration and medical science. She holds a PhD in Applied Physics from Caltech, a Masters degree in Electrical Engineering from Caltech, and a BS degree in Electrical Engineering (Electrophysics) with honors from USC. She has over 100 peer-reviewed publications and holds 20 US patents.

2020/07/01 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The historic Constitution House in Esfahan, Iran Undated old photo from Esfahan's Naghsh-e Jahan Square Forbes cover: The coronavirus pandemic is bringing about necessary innovations that improve capitalism (1) Images of the day: [Left] The historic Constitution House in Esfahan, Iran. [Center] Undated old photo from Esfahan's Naghsh-e Jahan Square. [Right] Positive spin: The coronavirus pandemic is bringing about necessary innovations that improve capitalism.
(2) Carl Reiner dead at 98: The comedy legend had a long list of acting, writing, and other film & TV credits. He was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor by the Kennedy Center in 2000.
(3) James Taylor at Fenway Park: The singer's August 2015 concert will be streamed free of charge on Saturday, July 4, 2020 (YouTube, 11:00 AM PDT; Facebook, 2:00 PM PDT). [Facebook post]
(4) Ruhollah Zam, dissident journalist and founder of Amad News, sentenced to death in Iran: Zam, who fled Iran and lived in France for many years, was kidnapped by Iran's Revolutionary Guards while visiting Baghdad.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Happy Canada Day: On July 1, 1867, Britain's Canadian colonies gained self-governing dominion status.
- Ode to Canada: Today, our neighbors to the north celebrate their country & culture, including with this song.
- Two pandemics at the same time? A new swine flu, found in China, can potentially spread worldwide.
- Exodus of advertisers from Facebook continues: Ford, Adidas, Denny's, and HP are pulling their ads.
- Protesters descend on Texas Capitol to oppose bar closures, while Americans are dying! [#BarLivesMatter]
- Persian calligraphy: Beautiful samples, in an image and a 6-minute video.
- Redesign/restoration plans for the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. [Video]
- Some impressive magic tricks. Enjoy!
- Music played with an instrument made of bottles: "Granada"
- Persian music: Solmaz Naraghi performs her own composition, playing the setar and singing. Wonderful!
- Persian music: Kayhan Kalhor, master kamancheh player, takes playing the instrument to new heights.
- Persian music: Kamancheh solo, with piano accompaniment. Wonderful! [4-minute video]
(6) Savage treatment of animals continues in Iran: Stray dogs are collected in Salmas, West Azerbaijan, and killed by putting them in the compression chamber of a garbage truck.
(7) Iran, Turkey, Iraq (triangle of murder): Turkey extradited two Iranians wanted for street demonstrations. Iraq delivered to Iran a journalist visiting from France. All three were tried and given death sentences.
(8) UCSB's 2020 GRIT talks: The GRIT (Ground-breaking Research & Innovative Technology) program introduces UCSB denizens, and, now, via Zoom, anyone else who might be interested, to the amazing breadth of research on our campus. The talks (5:30 PM PDT) are free but one must pre-register to receive a Zoom link. Past GRIT talks are available on UCTV. This year, I am particularly looking forward to the following two talks.
- 7/06: Benjamin J. Cohen (Plitical Sci.), "Currency Wars: How National Currencies Compete"
- 7/22: Tobias Hollerer (Computer Sci.), "The World as Computer Interface: How Will Humans Stay in Control?"
(9) Final thought for the day: Donald Trump sues to stop the publication of a book by his niece, Mary Trump, and loses on appeal. What could be the basis for suing her? There can't be any classified information involved!

2020/06/30 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of Claudia Yaghoobi's book, 'Temporary Marriage in Iran,' and a photo of the author Meme: CDC's new plan to increase the number of people who wear face-masks in public Teasing the great Iranian poet Sa'adi: Photos of Taylor Swift and Ahmad Khatami (1) Images of the day: [Left] Cover image of Claudia Yaghoobi's book, Temporary Marriage in Iran, and a photo of the author (see the next item below). [Center] Humorous meme of the day: CDC's new plan to increase the number of people who wear face-masks in public. [Right] Teasing the great Iranian poet Sa'adi: Are you serious? All human beings are created of the same essence?
(2) Book review: Yaghoobi, Claudia, Temporary Marriage in Iran: Gender and Body Politics in Modern Iranian Film and Literature (The Global Middle East, Book 12), Cambridge, 2020.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
[Side note: I had been wanting to write about the institution of marriage in Iran, including monogamy, polygamy, and temporary unions, in the context of women's rights, for some time. Coming across Claudia Yaghoobi's book provided this opportunity, which I grabbed with delight. What I write in this review is based on the role of marriage and women in traditional, religious Iranian communities. Things are quite different among the enlightened elites and a vast majority of the youth. Temporary marriage is frowned upon, or even ridiculed, by the latter, to the extent that sigheh has become a pejorative term and carries a stigma. Interestingly, however, the stigma affects women entering into temporary marriage disproportionately. For brevity, I will forego citing exceptions such as the ones above in my statements. I will also use a broad brush, painting the average or common case and ignoring some of the finer points of the practice, which include variations such as nonsexual temporary marriages.]
Yaghoobi's book, a comprehensive treatment of the institution of temporary marriage in Iran, consists of three parts, preceded by a 6-page prologue and followed by a 20-page bibliography and a 13-page index.
Part I, General Overview: Introduction (pp. 9-44) + Chapter 1 (pp. 45-74)
Part II, Representation of Sigheh/Sex Work in the Literature of the Pahlavi Era: Chapters 2-6 (pp. 75-200)
Part III, The Islamic Republic and Sigheh in the Film Industry: Chapters 7-8 (pp. 201-250) + Epilogue (pp. 251-265)
In any dictatorship, a lone dictator or a ruling junta makes up laws and rules. There is no independent legislature to deliberate on the wisdom or nuances of such laws/rules. Autocratic rulers often do not need to justify a new law or rule that is obviously designed to benefit them, but they sometimes do provide justifications of sorts to the masses. And, of course, religious justification is the most convenient, as it cannot be challenged without being accused of heresy.
Patriarchy is similar to autocracy, in that men, who wield power over women, make up laws/rules with or without offering justifications. Temporary marriage is a case in point. At some juncture, powerful men decided that they are entitled to more sex, and wanted to avoid the stigma of using paid sex-workers, so they came up with laws/rules for polygamy and temporary marriage (sigheh). Both practices predate Islam, so they should be considered cultural rather than religious constructs. Over the centuries, various justifications have been advanced. During the spread of Islam and other periods of war, many men died in battle, leading to a dwindling men-to-women ratio. So, men declared themselves altruistic in wanting to satisfy the sexual needs of widows and other lonely women who could not find husbands.
When, in modern times, the men-to-women ratio moved toward near-balance, economic needs of women were brought to the fore, never mind that women being economically subservient to men is the fault of the same rule-makers, who do not allow women into certain professions, or pay them less for the same job, on the account that they are physically and intellectually inferior to men. The latter justification essentially equates women with slaves, who should provide sexual and home-making services to their masters, in return for food and shelter, and, if the master sees fit, luxuries such as jewelry and creature comforts. And women should be eternally indebted and subservient to show their gratitude.
It is a sign of moral decrepitude and cultural backwardness that sexual relations between unmarried young couples, who love and respect each other, and enter the relationship as equals, is frowned upon, whereas hours-long temporary unions, in which the man sets the rules, and usually pays a sum of money as part of the "contract," is a sanctioned activity! In other words, the rule-makers approve of women being used as commodities to satisfy men's needs but they cannot enter a relationship as equal partners.
Interestingly, "nikah al-mut'ah," the Arabic term for temporary marriage or sigheh, literally means "pleasure marriage," which flushes all the other justifications down the drain! As they say, it takes two to tango. Women who enter into temporary marriage bonds do so willingly and can negotiate for better terms. However, selecting between being stoned to death or maimed for satisfying a basic human need and engaging in a sanctioned activity with financial rewards isn't a real choice.
Yaghoobi tackles the institution of temporary marriage, a staple of Twelver Shiite Islam, which is particularly ingrained in Iran's culture and legal system, by reviewing how it has been portrayed in Persian literature and film over the last century. Even though the institution is older than a century, it was apparently not discussed openly in the pre-Pahlavi era.
Literature from the Pahlavi era (1925-1979) is represented by Morteza Moshfeq-e Kazemi's Tehran-e Makhuf (Horrid Tehran) Mohammad-Ali Jamalzadeh's Ma'sumeh Shirazi (Ma'sumeh from Shiraz), Jalal Al-e Ahmad's "Jashn-e Farkhondeh" ("The Auspicious Celebration"), Ebrahim Golestan's "Safar-e 'Esmat" ("'Esmat's Journey"), and Sadeq Chubak's Sang-e Sabur (The Patience Stone). One cannot help but to notice that all the works included were written by men. For the benefit of Persian-speaking readers, Yaghoobi quotes a number of short passages from each work in Persian, followed by translations in English.
In the Islamic-Republic era (1979-present), discussion of temporary marriage virtually disappeared from the print literature, with fear of censorship or political persecution being a possible explanation, but films such as Behruz Afkhami's "Shokaran" ("Hemlock") and (Mohammad) Hossein FarahBakhsh's "Zendegi-ye Khosusi" ("Private Life") do devote some attention to it. Both films were made by men who happen to be former supporters of the Islamic regime. This may explain why they dared to tackle such a controversial and politicized topic. In the case of the two films, there is no equivalent to quoting short passages to give the book's reader a feel for the original source material (the quote from Imam Ali on p. 226 notwithstanding), so, I have included links to full versions of the films on YouTube for the benefit of readers of this review.
["Shokaran" (full 82-minute movie)] ["Zendegi-ye Khosusi" (full 96-minute movie)]
The treatment of polygamy and temporary marriage derives from how regular marriage is viewed in Shiite Islam, and thus Iranian law. A woman, regardless of her talents and accomplishments, gains her social status from her father or other male guardian before marriage and from her husband afterward [p. 45]. It is not uncommon to refer to a woman as X's daughter or Y's wife, rather than by her name. So, a woman is primarily a wife, daughter, or sister, before she is a doctor or teacher. The male "master," of whom the woman is a mere extension, controls her in every way, particularly with regard to sexuality.
Yaghoobi ends her book's epilogue thus [p. 265]: "Reading Western feminist theories alongside Iranian feminist discourse and modern Iranian fiction and cinema, I have placed texts in conversation with feminism to better understand not only female sexuality, sex work, and sigheh marriages in Iranian culture, but also the modern definition of Iranian womanhood."
Yaghoobi has produced a valuable addition to the literature on women's rights, feminism, and sexuality in Iran. I recommend the book highly to those who want to gain a better understanding of one of the key issues that separates political Islam and its patriarchal foundations from modernity.

2020/06/29 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
NYC's Central Park gets a monument of women's rights pioneers: Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] Somber reflections on the Black experience (see the last item below). [Right] NYC's Central Park gets a monument of women's rights pioneers: Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton are shown gathered around a table to draft a document.
(2) Trevor Noah interviews Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show": What if our politicians could think and talk like these literate people, instead of like people who never went to school or forgot everything they learned?
(3) "From Tehran to Jerusalem": This is the title of a Persian-language documentary film, featuring interviews with Iranian immigrants and their children living in Israel, answering questions about where they consider home and their connections with Iranian history, arts, and culture.
(4) Segments of an interview with Iranian filmmaker Masoud Kimiai (1941-): At one point, Kimiai shows the interviewer ridiculous annotations made by Iranian censors on one of his film scripts. And here is a teaser for the interview which features different segments, as well as Kimiai playing the piano.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The real looters in America aren't the ones breaking store windows: Robert Reich explains.
- Trump's PDB may have included info on bounties paid by Russia to the Taliban for killing of Americans.
- The number of COVID-19 cases tops 10 million and deaths surpass 0.5 million, 1/4 of them in the US.
- Well, suppose a COVID-19 vaccine comes along soon: What will we do with anti-vaxxers?
- Jennifer Hudson reportedly shines as Aretha Franklin in "Respect," the soon-to-be-released biopic.
- Cyber-insecurity: A new Android ransomware is disguised as a COVID-19 contact-tracing app.
- The magnificence of Paris: Eiffel Tower's aerial tour and its recent re-opening ceremony.
(6) A mathematical advance, thanks to COVID-19: While confined to their homes as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, mathematicians Joshua Greene and Andrew Lobb decided to tackle a version of an easy-to-describe problem that had remained unsolved for a century. Does every closed curve include 4 points that are the corners of a rectangle of any desired proportion? This Quanta Magazine article describes the problem and its solution method, and it includes a video.
(7) The Black experience: Thanks to recent protests for racial justice, I am learning more about the treatment of Blacks, Black women in particular, throughout our nation's history. The images above are the cover of Time magazine's July 6/13 double-issue, featuring essays on why America must change its outlook on race relations, and the illustration accompanying a New York Times opinion piece entitled "You Want a Confederate Monument? My Body is a Confederate Monument," in which poet Caroline Randall Williams describes how Black female slaves among her ancestors were raped on a regular basis by their masters, in part to produce more slaves.

2020/06/28 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia Nature's colors and design: Flower surrounded by a cobweb The Qajar-era Sa'd al-Saltaneh caravanserai in Qazvin, Iran
Happy Tau Day (6/28): Tau = 2 Pi Recycled Trump campaign signs Singer/actress Cher, 75, with her mom, 97
Family gathering in Ventura, California: Flowers and lemon tree Family gathering in Ventura, California: Members Family gathering in Ventura, California: Desserts (1) Images of the day: [Top left] The Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia (1907). [Top center] Nature's amazing colors and design: Flower surrounded by a cobweb, photographed in Goleta, CA, on June 27, 2020. [Top right] The Qajar-era Sa'd al-Saltaneh (Esfahani) caravanserai in Qazvin, Iran (photo credit: @sina.mpoor). [Middle left] Happy Tau Day (6/28): Tau = 2 Pi is an even more important constant in mathematics and physics than Pi itself. [Middle center] Discarded Trump/Pence campaign signs: Come November, it will be Trump himself and his enablers! [Middle right] Singer/actress Cher, with her mom at 86. [Bottom row] Photos from family gathering in Ventura, California, after a long time.
(2) Humor from Iran: If wearing face-masks continues much longer, pretty soon women's mouths will be classified as private parts to be covered at all times. Then, mullahs will start telling stories about how the Prophet or Imams would never enter a house where women weren't wearing face-masks!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- #ByeIvanka: A political ad that puts Trump White House's hypocricy on full display.
- The corporate response to Black Lives Matter is heartening, even if it is motivated by the bottom line.
- The coronavirus pandemic has made bicycling more popular: NYC may get a new pedestrian/bike bridge.
- Zomato food delivery guy eats a bit of each order, reclosing the boxes as if nothing happened.
- Message to POTUS and VPOTUS: #RealMenWearMasks
- Attributes required for various careers: Comedy routine with Venn diagrams and much truth.
(4) 3D integration technologies for mitigating the memory and power walls in computer architecture: As we reach the end of Moore's-Law-scaling, that has given us automatic factor-of-2 density and performance improvements every 1.5-2 years, the limitations imposed on performance by memory latency/bandwidth (memory wall) and bounds on the power we can safely consume and dispose of in the form of heat (power wall) are getting more serious, given our continued appetite to transfer and process more data arising from big-data applications, AI, and high-fidelity multimedia. 3D integration, can place the myriads of components needed in a modern digital system closer together, thereby reducing communication latency and power consumption. The down side is that denser 3D designs make it harder to get rid of the generated heat, making low-power designs even more critical. Currently, 3D technologies are at best 2.5D, meaning that the third dimension doesn't enjoy the same status as the other two, because it uses a different interconnection scheme and has strict dimensional limits (a handful of layers, perhaps a dozen or two at best). For example, we may use through-silicon-vias (essentially metal-filled holes in the silicon that connect elements on one separately-manufactured layer to those on an adjacent layer, or we may deposit layers sequentially by means of a single manufacturing process, allowing smaller, more efficient interconnects. Because energy density is smaller for memory elements compared with computational circuitry, 3D integration is currently more suited to memories.

2020/06/27 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Persian poem: Iraj Mirza's dialog with a donkey Cartoon: A new punishment in Hell The four seasons of the tiny Kotisaari Island in Finland (1) Images of the day: [Left] Humorous Persian poetry: A poem by Iraj Mirza, in which he talks with a donkey and emerges wishing humans were more like donkeys. [Center] New Yorker cartoon: "It's a new punishment. We place them in an endless video-conference with everyone they couldn't stand in life." [Right] The four seasons of the tiny Kotisaari Island in Finland.
(2) The Dixie Chicks drop the word "Dixie" from their band's name: This is part of a broad nationwide trend to get rid of symbols of confederacy and slavery.
(3) Model accuracy: Trump enablers are pointing to the pessimistic epidemic models that predicted the number of COVID-19 deaths in the US could exceed 1 million. Yes, those pessimistic models were off by a factor of 8, because they assumed no interventions, such as business closures and social-distancing. Not one of these imbeciles points to Trump's prediction that the number of cases would go from 15 at the time to 1, an under-estimate by a factor of millions in the number of cases and by a factor of 125,000 in the number of deaths!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Mike Pence: "We succeeded in flattening the curve." (He must be looking at the chart sideways. MAGA!)
- European Union to bar most travelers arriving from the US and several other countries.
- IMF predicts an 8.0% drop in US GDP this year, vs. a 4.9% drop globally.
- Colored woman sprayed with fuel and set on fire in Wisconsin: UST, UST! (T stands for Taliban)
- "Predictive policing" is euphemism for racial profiling: Santa Cruz is the first US city to ban the practice.
- Brace yourselves for jam-packed flights: Airlines are gradually removing the empty middle seats.
(5) But Montana has very few cases: This is essentially the defense offered by Trump administration officials when confronted with data about a surge in the number of new coronavirus infections, nationally as well as in several of America's most-populous states.
(6) Puzzle (not to test you, but because I am genuinely puzzled): Automatic fuses trip when excessive current flows through them. I had put one of these automatic fuses in the off position, because it feeds a microwave oven which is malfunctioning and its fan does not turn off (the fan's heat/smoke sensor must be stuck). Yesterday, the breaker flipped to the on position on its own. I had never seen such a reversal of function.
(7) Economists hate redundancy, engineers embrace it: The world economy is extensively optimized by the pursuit of maximum profits, to a degree that our systems are rendered fragile by removing all redundancies and inefficiencies. This fragility is the root cause of the socioeconomic difficulties brought about by coronavirus. The Internet, by contrast, has built into it a great deal of redundancy and adaptability, which allowed us to work/teach/learn from home during the pandemic, despite vastly increased usage and unexpected workloads. [Paraphrasing Moshe Vardi, writing in Communications of the ACM, issue of July 2020] [Full text]

2020/06/26 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Angela Merkel and her coat of many colors New daily coronavirus cases and deaths in Iran, March-June 2020 Land-o-Lakes, a butter brand, has removed the image of a Native American woman from its packages (1) Images of the day: [Left] Coat of many colors: Angela Merkel seems to really, really like this particular jacket style! [Center] Second wave in action: Iran sees a surge in daily new coronavirus infections (green curve) and daily deaths (red curve), after the government eased restrictions. While more detected cases can be attributed to increased testing, the surge in number of deaths cannot. Is this trend what awaits us in the US? [Right] Fact-based humor: Land-o-Lakes, a butter brand which featured the image of a Native American woman on the packages, has removed the Native American and kept the "Land." How American!
(2) Interesting article in the prestigious journal Science: J. R. Cimpian, T. H. Kim, and Z. T. McDemott, "Understanding Persistent Gender Gaps in STEM," Vol. 368, No. 6497, pp. 1317-1319, June 2020. [Full text]
(3) Quote of the day: "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." ~ Roman-Catholic Archbishop Don Helder Camara
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- White House ordered NIH to cancel coronavirus research funding, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.
- Three people standing on rocks just north of Malibu were swept into the ocean by a wave and drowned.
- Surprise birthday party produces a real surprise: Eighteen relatives testing positive for coronavirus!
- Mathematician and computing pioneer Alan Turing will be featured on UK's new 50-pound note.
- Observation: If you don't need a mask because Jesus protects you, then why do you need an assault rifle?
- Dangerous profession: Installing and maintaining high-voltage electric transmission lines. [Video]
- Humor, from The Onion: Clueless talking heads discuss the volatile political situation in Nigeria. [Video]
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Song & dance, Bollywood style. [3-minute video] [On YouTube]
(5) An apt analogy: Trump blames China for the pandemic, as if this would excuse his inaction. Imagine an American city being hit by a nuclear bomb and, rather than helping those injured by the blast and sickened by radiation, Trump just blamed North Korea and demanded that we stop testing for radiation effects!
(6) Humor: Putin takes a cue from Trump in telling the Olympics Committee, "Don't test our athletes for doping. We won't have any doping cases if you stop testing!"
(7) A final thought: It's scary that with all the laws Trump has broken, his incompetence, lies he has told, his incoherent & contradictory speeches, the racism he has stoked, and the pandemic he has helped worsen by his denials and science-phobia, we are still wondering whether he will be re-elected! Why is it even close?

2020/06/25 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Exchanging Khomeinis for Ben Franklins: Iranian currency continues its decline The number 36 is both a perfect square and triangular The building that is held together with a zipper (1) Images of the day: [Left] Exchanging Khomeinis for Ben Franklins: Iranian currency continues its decline. The free-market price of one US dollar is now ~200,000 rials (~20,000 tomans). There is a joke going around in Iran that Khomeini promised to make water, electricity, gas, and bus fare free for the masses; instead, he made the rial free! [Center] The number 36 is both a perfect square and triangular (see the next item below). [Right] The building that is held together with a zipper: A work by British sculptor Alex Chinneck.
(2) Math puzzle: The diagram above shows that 36 is both a perfect square and a triangular number (defined as the sum of all consecutive integers from 1 to some value n). The previous number which is both a square and a triangular number is 1. What is the next number with this property?
Challenge for the more daring among you: If we write the sequence of numbers that are both perfect squares and triangular, calling the kth one N(k), with N(1) = 1, N(2) = 36, and so on, what is the limit of N(k+1)/N(k) as k tends to infinity? [See this Wikipedia article for the answers]
(3) From Russia with lies: Alternative news from Russia pumps disinformation about coronavirus to US and Europe. And such fake news from Russian sources will be around, with or without Kremlin's backing.
(4) Coronavirus disrupts recycling: Reuse, communal use, and second-hand purchases have gone down and waste has increased, as grocers bring back the single-use plastic bag to reduce person-to-person transmission.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Powerful magnitude-7.4 off-shore earthquake hits near Oaxaca, southern Mexico.
- Iran's Supreme Court upholds the death sentences of 3 young men arrested in the Nov. 2019 protests.
- Thirty Iranian Baha'is have been sentenced to long prison terms averaging 5 years.
- Popular Iranian actress Taraneh Alidoosti sentenced to 5 months in prison for insulting law enforcement.
- Ayatollahs have issued edicts against women riding bikes, because it can arouse men! [Iranwire cartoon]
- On-line book release event: Ziba Shirazi & Kamran Afary, Iranian Diaspora Identities: Stories and Songs.
(6) Some 65% of US colleges plan to hold in-person classes in fall 2020: In many cases, the term will be shortened or shifted to end before Thanksgiving, in anticipation of a second wave of coronavirus spread.
(7) A new king of supercomputers: According to the biannual Top500 list, Japan's Fugaku, installed in Kobe, is now the world's most powerful supercomputer, dethroning an IBM system at US Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and putting us near the halfway point in the quest for ExaFLOPS performance.
(8) A final thought: Trump lives in a biological bunker, with everyone around him wearing masks and tested daily, as he insists that COVID-19 has passed and no testing or other measures are needed for you and me!

2020/06/24 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The cover of 'National Review': Nearly all Amreican magazines have highlighted the #BlackLivesMatter movement Chains and obstacles make the achievement of equity a serious challenge for women The 'weaker' sex or superhuman? You be the judge.
Collosseum at sunset, Rome, Italy IET ad: Not just a woman, but also engineer, leader, ... Iran's historic architecture: The Aali Qapu Palace (1) Images of the day: [Top left] The cover of National Review: Nearly all Amreican magazines have highlighted the #BlackLivesMatter movement. [Top center] Chains and obstacles make the achievement of equity a serious challenge for women (source). [Top right] The "weaker" sex or superhuman? You be the judge. [Bottom left] Colosseum at sunset, Rome, Italy (source): Magnificent! [Bottom center] This Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) magazine ad is unrelated to the documentary film screening, reviewed in the last item below, but it conveys the same message. [Bottom right] Iran's historic architecture: The Aali Qapu ("Supreme Port/Gate") Palace, occupies one of the sides of Esfahan's Naqsh-e Jahan Square.
(2) Quote of the day: "[T]here were [in 1982] 85 institutions in the Western world that had been in continuous existence since 1520; 70 of those 85 institutions were universities. This continuity could be seen as a sign that universities are conservative and resistant to change, but it is also a sign that they are resilient and adaptable." ~ UCSB Executive Vice-Chancellor David Marshall, quoting former UC President Clark Kerr's 1982 update to his 1963 book, The Uses of the University
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Reporter Masih Alinejad being out of reach of Khamenei's mafia in Iran, they have imprisoned her brother.
- Nine more Baha'is arrested in Iran. [Facebook post, with photos and names]
- Yet more evidence that animals enjoy music: Dancing horse. [2-minute video]
- "Azerbaijan: A Timeless Presence": Full 49-minute concert by Iranian-born German musician Sami Yusuf.
(4) "Pioneers in Skirts" (film introduction/review): This is the title of a one-hour documentary film screened by IEEE Women in Engineering group yesterday morning as part of the WIE Int'l Leadership Conference. The film's director, Ashley Maria, and producter Lea-Ann W. Berst (the director's mom) introduced the film and discussed what motivated them to make it. Maria talked about her personal experience of finding it hard to get a foot in the film industry, where only 4% of directors are women. Berst related that when she was first looking for a job, newspaper classified ads included male and female jobs in different sections! Gender apartheid and bias aren't as overt today, but they definitely exist.
Stereotyping occurs more often than we realize, even by the affected women themselves. For example, women, and other under-represented minorities, often become timid and withdrawn due to a fear of reinforcing one of the negative stereotypes. In an experiment, when the question about gender was moved from the beginning of a test to the end, women scored higher and men lower. So, just reminding someone of their sex (which is something they already know) rekindles their unconscious biases.
The documentary features a number of pioneering women, including the founder of National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT), Lucy Sanders. It also features an all-girls robotics team.
Here are a few things you can do, even before watching the film:
- Recognize and call out your own biases and pre-conceptions
- Speak out, and do it often, when you see injustice
- Support women in your own profession and elsewhere
For a list of the film's screenings, see the "Pioneers in Skirts" Web site. [Screenshot from WIE ILC session]

2020/06/23 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Some of the architectural features of Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace The entrance of Costco at Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace Flowers photographed along Goleta's Storke Road and within Camino Real Marketplace (1) Images of the day: [Left] Some of the architectural features of Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace, photographed yesterday afternoon. [Center] The entrance of Costco at Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace. And here is a 3-minute video showing about 1/4 of the gigantic store's inside. [Right] Flowers photographed during my walk yesterday afternoon: Along Storke Road and within Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace.
(2) Facebook on Trump campaign posts and ads: "We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organized hate. Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group's symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol."
(3) Kid to MAGA folks: "So, me wearing a bullet-proof backpack to school, which has armed guards and mass-shooter drills, is "the price of freedom," but you wearing a mask in Walmart for 10 minutes is "tyranny"?
(4) A lawyerly story: The amazing feat of a lawyer who insured two-dozen expensive cigars against fire and then collected $15,000 after he smoked them all! Wait for the punchline! [3-minute video]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Time-lapse video of cloud movement around Japan's Mount Fuji. [Tweet, with video]
- Like murder, racism comes in degrees: Many of us "non-racists" are guilty of third-degree racism.
- World's first flying-car race will be held in South Australia later this year.
- Abandoned ship, with trees growing on it: Must be a freshwater lake. Or is it? [Photo]
(6) The loneliness epidemic in America: In 2018, 54% of Americans said they felt lonely, vs. 61% in pre-virus 2019. In the UK, Canada, and Australia, 22% of those surveyed said they feel lonelier post-virus, vs. 31% in the US. [Source: Time magazine, issue of June 22/29, 2020]
[P.S.: I will be writing a review of former Surgeon General Vivek Murthy's book on the topic: Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.]
(7) Offerings from IEEE Computer Society's Distinguished-Lecturer webinar series (times are US EDT):
- 7/09, 11:00 AM: Leonel Sousa, "Unconventional Computer Arithmetic for Emerging Appl's & Technologies"
- 7/16, 06:00 AM: Dimitrios Serpanos, "Smart and Circular Cities: Status, Trends and Opportunities"
(8) What Fiona Hill Learned in the White House: New Yorker article about the former expert on Russia within the Trump administration, who like most women working under Trump was addressed as "honey," "sweetie," or "darling," felt out of place in a West Wing where women wore designer clothes and lots of make-up.
(9) Neo-Nazi terror plot thwarted: A 22-year-old US Army soldier was to provide location and organizational info for a Neo-Nazi terror group to ambush his unit in Turkey.

2020/06/22 (Monday): Trying to make a dent in my backlog of book reviews by offering three reviews.
Cover image for Banerjee's and Duflo's 'Good Economics for Hard Times' Cover image of Luis Alberto Urrea's 'Into the Beautiful North' Cover image of Vivek Murthy's 'Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World' (1) Book review: Banerjee, Abhijit V. and Esther Duflo, Good Economics for Hard Times: Better Answers to Our Biggest Problems, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by James Lurie, PublicAffairs, 2019.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is a welcome effort by two Nobel Laureates, a husband-and-wife team who previously wrote Poor Economics, to explain global ills and the wrong reasonings that produced and exacerbated them. In reality, there is no Nobel Prize in Economics. The economics honor that is bestowed alongside Nobel Prizes each year is an add-on from 1968, when a major bank gift allowed the Nobel Committee to establish the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel.
The authors begin by explaining why economists are among the least-trusted professionals, later confiding that economics is too important to be left to economists! Talking heads who pass themselves as economists are part of the problem, but even serious economists in academia don't have a much better record of predicting trends and prescribing remedies. Banerjee and Duflo are down to earth and know the limits of their craft: "We, the economists, are often too wrapped up in our models and our methods and sometimes forget where science ends and ideology begins."
The authors discuss many topics, from immigration to growth and taxes, providing a balanced account of the various theories and viewpoints. On immigration, for example, they contend that there is no evidence whatsoever that an inflow of low-skilled immigrants (or any other kind, for that matter) has a negative impact on the local labor market. One reason is that labor is unlike any other commodity, in that it does not obey the laws of supply-and-demand. As a case in point, incoming migrants are not just workers, but also consumers, taxpayers, and agents of social change.
On growth, the authors point out the dismal record of economists in predicting long-term growth. They cite examples where growth predictions using mountains of data did no better than using averages or random guesses. Indeed, they even doubt that a high growth rate is a positive attribute in and of itself. In fact, the high growth rates of certain countries in recent decades is a historical aberration and most-likely unsustainable in the long run.
On taxes, Banerjee and Duflo cite the discredited, but still oft-invoked, theory of trickle-down economics, which sings the praises of lowering top marginal tax rates for the rich to spur job creation and, thus, economic growth. They maintain that there is no evidence in the mountains of data collected after the Reagan and Bush tax cuts and Clinton's top-marginal-tax-rate increase that higher taxes provide a disincentive for the rich to try hard in creating more wealth.
I found Good Economics for Hard Times solid, eloquently argued, and useful in understanding how economics works, how it can be a useful tool for planning, and how it has limits that, when not exposed, can lead to more harm than good.
(2) Book review: Urrea, Luis Alberto (translated by Enrique Hubbard Urrea), Into the Beautiful North: A Novel, Little, Brown and Company, 2009. [My 3-star review of this book on Good Reads]
This book was the 2017 "UCSB Reads" selection and I tried to read it then, in order to participate in, and make sense of, various planned campus and community discussions, including a lecture by the author on April 24, 2017. For reasons that will become clear in the review that follows, I could not finish the book at the time. As part of the clean-up effort in connection with my to-read list, I recently returned to the book and finished reading it.
First, a few words about the author. Urrea was born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, received an undergraduate degree in writing from UC San Diego, did graduate work at University of Colorado, Boulder, and is currently Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at University of Illinois, Chicago.
The book's protagonist, Nayeli, a 19-year-old taco-shop worker in Mexico, who also moonlights as campaign manager for her feisty mayoral-candidate grandma, notices that there are hardly any men left in her village, most of them, including her father, having long gone to the United States in search of work. She hatches a plan for going north with a few friends to recruit seven capable men, a la "The Magnificent Seven" of movies fame, and bring them back to protect her village from bandits.
This is an interesting premise, but, unfortunately, Urrea turns it into a cartoonish quest by making constant connections to films and other artifacts of American pop culture. The characters, and their obsessions with Hollywood movies and other things American, are equally cartoonish. I started reading the book hoping to learn something about life in Mexico and the border culture. Instead, I read page after page about watered-down and distorted images of life on both sides of the US-Mexico border, presented with lots of hard-to-decipher Spanglish.
Urrea has received much recognition for his body of work, including a non-fiction border trilogy that begins with the 1992 title, Across the Wire. Perhaps, I will get a chance to read some of his other books that live up to the praise.
[P.S.: In fairness, I must admit that I am in the minority in my assessment of this book. Amazon readers give it 4.3 stars on average, with 62% giving it the perfect 5 stars and 22% opting for 4 stars. On GoodReads, the average rating is 3.8 stars.]
(3) Book review: Murthy, Vivek H., Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, HarperAudio, 2020.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Dr. Murthy is a former US Surgeon General, who believes loneliness and reduced family and social-network support is making us less well, both physically and emotionally. The root of the problem is a mismatch between how we are wired by evolution to be tribal and trust only family and/or tribe members and how we live in the modern world, where individuality drives us to achieve more by going far away from home and interact mostly with strangers.
Murthy finished writing the preface to this book in early 2020, just as coronavirus was beginning to spread, with quarantine and social-distancing recommendations adding to the problem of loneliness, which was already widespread in the Western culture. Countries like China and India, and many under-developed and developing countries, do much better in this regard. Family and even neighbors form support networks, so that a couple can feel perfectly safe to disappear for a few days, for whatever reason, and know that their children will be fed and protected.
Loneliness, which affects 22% of adults in the US, has been implicated in increased risk of heart disease, dementia, depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders, not to mention suicide and opioid addiction. Premature death upon retirement or shortly after the death of a long-time companion is certainly tied to loneliness. It's unfortunately not uncommon for hospitalized elderly to be alone most of the time and even die alone. When nurses and other medical personnel developed schemes to provide companionship for such patients and listen to what they had to say, health outcomes improved markedly.
Time magazine, in its issue of June 22/29, 2020, paints an even more-alarming picture, both pre- and post-pandemic. According to Time, 54% of Americans said they felt lonely in 2018, vs. 61% in pre-virus 2019. In the UK, Canada, and Australia, 22% of those surveyed said they feel lonelier post-virus, vs. 31% in the US.
Women are much better at recognizing loneliness and seeking help. Men are often in denial and feel discomfort in admitting their need for companionship, because they have grown up to think of such an admission as not a "manly" thing to do. When we feel awful due to loneliness, that feeling is our body's signal that we must tend to our social and emotional wounds, in the same way that pain is a signal telling us to seek treatment for a physical ailment.
What makes the problem of loneliness harder to deal with is our tendency to be ashamed of it and to place the blame on ourselves. Admitting to being lonely feels like saying that you aren't likable. Of equal importance as, if not more important than, connections to others is our connection to ourselves. Being grounded and confident in who we are makes it easier for us to connect to others. Establishing and nurturing such connections has become even more important, as we deal with the present-day quarantine and social-distancing requirements. It's much easier to multi-task and be distracted on Zoom than in person.
It is important to deal with loneliness before it becomes a chronic condition with a permanent stress-state. To this end, Murthy suggests a number of steps we can take as individuals, and describes successful social programs that provide an infrastructure for companionship and caring. Personal steps include:
- Spend time with those you love; at least 15 minutes every day.
- Focus on those near you and give them your undivided attention.
- Embrace solitude, which is different from loneliness; you can feel lonely in solitude or at a party with dozens of others.
- Give, and be open to receiving, help and provide community service to strengthen your social bonds.
Successful social support programs across the globe include helping women to defy the odds in their patriarchal villages and become health-care providers, establishing community workshops where men can socialize while tinkering and building (talking shoulder-to-shoulder, as Murthy describes it, compared with women's face-to-face interactions), and modern-age digital pen-pals, often pairing the elederly with young volunteers.

2020/06/21 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A very happy Fathers' Day to all dads, past, present, and future! Poem by Sa'adi about humans being parts of a whole, with English translation My fathers' Day gift, which I have already started to use
Fathers' Day hike on Douglas Family Preserve: Batch 1 of photos A partial list of fears of armed White people declaring that they won't live in fear of the coronavirus Fathers' Day hike on Douglas Family Preserve: Batch 2 of photos (1) Images of the day: [Top left] A very happy Fathers' Day to all dads and father-like mentors, past, present, and future! [Top center] It's puzzling why Iranians, who recite this poem of Sa'adi (and similar ones by other great Persian poets expounding on equality, justice, and human dignity) at every opportunity, do not empathize more with the #BlackLivesMatter movement. [Top right] I have already started to use my Fathers' Day gift: A practical implement for those who love seeds and nuts. Certainly more useful than a tie or other common gifts! [Bottom left & right] Photos from an enjoyable Fathers' Day hike with my daughter (see the next item below). [Bottom center] A partial list of fears of armed White people declaring that they won't live in fear of the coronavirus: Blacks, immigrants, Jews, independent women, journalists, LGBTQ+ community, progressives, environmentalists, George Soros, Bill Gates, windmills, vaccines.
(2) Fathers' Day hike: My daughter and I went to the Douglas Family Preserve (the family of Kirk and Michael), adjacent to Hendry's Beach in Santa Barbara, for a very pleasant 3-mile hike. The photos of us on the bluffs were taken with parts of UCSB showing in the distance. The photos also depict the onerous stairway leading from just outside the bluffs-top Preserve to the beach (less than half of the stairs appear in each photo), and a close-up of my T-shirt, a gift from a prior year, for the nerds among you.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Surprise, surprise! Trump is corrupt and inept, a deadly combination, according to John Bolton.
- Trump is expected to sign an order to suspend H-1B, L-1, and other temporary visas.
- Sadegh Zarza, a former PDKI leader, survives an assassination attempt in the Dutch city of Leeuwarde.
- Tesla Motors has narrowed the site of its gigafactory to two US cities: Austin, Texas, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
(4) John Bolton joined the Trump administration on April 9, 2018: By then, multiple books on the dysfunction in the White House had been published, Trump's Twitter attacks on the press and anyone else who did not praise him unconditionally were broadly known, and his nepotism, profiteering, and dictatorial tendencies were in full view. Does Bolton not read, just like Trump? Bolton has criticized the Democrats for not going wide/deep enough in the impeachment proceedings, yet he refused to testify to set the record straight. As delighted as I am with the release of Bolton's book, The Room Where It Happened, I can see why a large segment of the American public is skeptical about his sincerity and motivation.
(5) UCSB College of Engineering's faculty, staff, and students sign a letter expressing solidarity with Black students: This action came after Dean Rod C. Alferness pledged on June 5, 2020, that we will "work together to dismantle the structures of systemic racism in our community and in the broader society [and to] critically examine all components of the College to identify disparities, in order to work toward equity, access, and success for all students, staff, and faculty. ... Four hundred years after the first ships brought slaves to the American colonies, we believe it is high time to do much more than simply repeat the deeply self-evident truth that Black lives matter. We pledge to work together to dismantle the structures of systemic racism in our community and in the broader society. Now is the moment."

2020/06/20 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: For those who can't bear any news concerning the man-child in the White House, or worse, any news at all! Cartoon from Iranwire.com: Woman as a child-making appliance, in the mind of Supreme Leader Khamanei Cover image of a forthcoming book by Mary Trump (1) Images of the day: [Left] New Yorker cartoon: For those who can't bear any news concerning the man-child in the White House, or worse, any news at all! [Center] Cartoon from Iranwire.com: Woman as a child-making appliance, in the mind of Iran's Supreme Leader Khamanei and those around him. [Right] Cover image of a forthcoming book by Mary Trump (see the last item below).
(2) Trump tries to fire a US attorney who is investigating his friends, including Rudi Giuliani: Attorney General William Barr announces that US Attorney Geoffrey Berman is stepping down, but Berman says he has no intention to do so. Are we as great as Saudi Arabia yet?
(3) Thank you, President Trump, for discovering Juneteenth and making us appreciate its importance: Additional thanks for rediscovering and resuscitating racism, bigotry, White Nationalism, and a whole bunch of other evils we all thought were dead or dying!
(4) Sudoku puzzle, with a twist: Other than rules of regular Sudoku, sums for six 2-by-2 square regions are given in their upper-left corners and sums of 6 diagonals of various sizes are given in the margins. [Image] [Major hint: 23 + 30 + 31 + 22 = 16 + 30 + 24 + 28 + six other entries] [Play on-line]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's Tulsa rally was sparsely attended and the overflow area outside the BOK arena was shut down.
- Drs. Fauci and Birx warned Trump about the health risks of holding large indoor rallies amid a pandemic.
- New COVID-19 cases rising in states and counties won by Trump and declining where Clinton won. [Chart]
- Spies can eavesdrop on you via a telescope and an optical sensor to monitor a glass light bulb's vibrations.
- Art made of hardware and tools. [3-minute video]
- Prolific actors from my youth: Alain Delon & Jean-Paul Belmondo, photographed at 84 & 87, respectively.
(6) Azam Jangravi: Judge Gholamreza Mansouri, who recently turned up dead in Bucharest, Romania, after embezzling billions while in Iran, ruined my life and tried to take away my daughter, because I demonstrated against compulsory hijab. Now, my daughter and I are free and he is dead. I wish he could have been tried.
(7) UCSB lays out its plans for fall 2020: Most courses will be delivered remotely, with smaller classes that significantly benefit from face-to-face lecture/lab format convening on campus or offered in a hybrid format. Regardless of how a course is offered, there are plans to "create a meaningful on-campus experience for as many students as we can." International students, and first-year students who so choose, will be provided with tools to take everything on-line. There will be no discount in tuition and fees (this will likely be challenged, given a reduction in the availability of services for which various mandatory fees are built into what student pay). Dorm rooms may be limited to single-occupancy or, at most, double-occupancy (yet to be decided). So, residence-halls capacity will be diminished. There will be testing and mandatory face-covering.
(8) Book introduction: Are you tired of books by former administration officials exposing ineptitude and corruption by and around Trump? Well, now comes an expose by a family member. Or is it a "disgruntled former niece," just fired from the family? Mary Trump's book, entitled Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man, is scheduled for release on July 28, 2020. Mary Trump was apparently New York Time's information source for its Pulitzer-Prize-winning exclusive on Donald Trump's personal finances. [Information about Mary Trump]

2020/06/19 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Juneteenth Day: June 19, celebrated by all Americans, is the day of freedom and emancipation for African-Americans These young girls are all smiles, but what does the future hold for them in a backward patriarchal society? Photos of drought-tolerant landscaping around my housing complex
On toppling statues: Cartoon 1 Cartoon: A big tell-all book and a tiny tell-none book On toppling statues: Cartoon 2 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Happy Juneteenth Day: June 19, celebrated by all Americans, is the day of freedom and emancipation for African-Americans. [Top center] These young girls are all smiles, but what does the future hold for them in a backward patriarchal society? Absence of educational opportunities? Servitude for food and shelter? Forced marriages to older men? "Honor" killings? [Top right] Drought-tolerant landscaping around my housing complex. [Bottom left & right] Cartoons on toppling statues. [Bottom center] New Yorker cartoon: A big tell-all book (What I Saw in the White House) and a tiny tell-none book (What I Did About It).
(2) An alarming increase in arrests of Baha'i citizens in Iran: The insecure and dictatorial Islamic regime is intolerant of minorities in general, but it shows an unusual level of arbitrariness and cruelty in the treatment of Baha'is. [#BahaiLivesMatter] [Photo collage]
(3) Tesla charging stations in our neck of the woods: A section of the vast parking lot for Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace now hosts a row of Tesla EV charging stations. The stations are lightly utilized for now, but it seems Tesla is betting on an expanded EV market.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- California coronavirus order makes wearing face masks mandatory in public.
- Fox News argues in court that Tucker Carlson is not bound by the truth and his viewers know that he lies!
- Billionaire bishop: God's Will is for women to skip college so that they are not smarter than their husbands!
- This is bound to make you smile, even though Trump is still in office: The most-adorable rock 'n roll fan!
(5) Donald Trump's absolute lack of morality on full display: He doctors a CNN video to say the exact opposite of the original. The video, reporting on the friendship between black and white toddlers, is modified to suggest CNN falsely accused the white toddler of racism. He then blames CNN for what he committed himself, that is, fakery! May our country be saved from this shameless liar and hate-monger, who is stooping to new lows to get re-elected. Father of one the toddlers in Trump's fake video blasts his hate agenda.
(6) Largest open-access publication agreement in North America: University of California has reached a major open-access agreement with Springer Nature, world's second-largest academic publisher. Under the agreement, all articles with a UC corresponding author published in more than 2,700 Springer Nature journals will be open access by default. The initial agreement excludes some journals, but both sides are committed to expanded coverage in 2-3 years. The deal also includes reading access and perpetual rights to more than 1,000 journals in Springer Nature's portfolio to which UC did not previously subscribe. Ngotiations with Elsevier are still stuck, but there are reports of some progress.

2020/06/18 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Mowlavi (Rumi) on the limitations of an erudite and reasoning mind On politics tainting religion (poet unknown) Another couplet from Mowlavi (Rumi)
History in pictures: Students of Arya-Mehr/Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, some five decades ago Reyhaneh: Yet another victim of 'honor' killings in Iran (1) Persian poems, and more: [Top left] Mowlavi (Rumi) on the limitations of an erudite and reasoning mind. [Top center] On politics tainting religion (poet unknown). [Top right] A wonderful couplet from Mowlavi (Rumi). [Bottom left] History in pictures: Students of Arya-Mehr/Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, some five decades ago. [Bottom right] Yet another "honor" killing in Iran: Misogynistic laws, rooted in a fear of the backward ruling patriarchs of emancipated women, serve to enable these horrific crimes. #WomenLivesMatter
(2) The number of tweets by an increasingly worried and angry Trump is rising faster than the number of COVID-19 cases, as suggested in this cartoon-tweet by actor Jim Carrey.
(3) Scenes from "Et la Creation fut": A film by Mahmoud Chokrollahi, with the Persian title "Zan, Noor, Nagh'ghashi" ("Woman, Light, Painting"). [8-minute video] [The featured artist is Iran Darroudi.]
(4) Florida bridge closed for inspection due to imminent danger of collapse: Our infrastructure continues to deteriorate as we spend more money on the military and tax cuts for the super-rich.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Bolton didn't get his war with Iran, but his war with Trump is raging: Watch his Sunday interview on ABC.
- The US Supreme Court rules against Trump administration's proposal to end DACA.
- SpaceX to build a floating spaceport for use in Mars and Moon missions and hypersonic transport on Earth.
- Virginia librarian uses drones to deliver books to local students.
- Treasure your old books: Making a book was very labor-intensive in the early days of printing technology.
- Brooklyn Duo's rendition of Luis Fonsi's "Despacito" on cello and piano, with a touch of mandolin and cajon.
(6) Interesting lecture from IEEE Computer Society's Build-Your-Career webinar series: Elsa Velasco Paul (founder/creator of The M&E Group) talks about "What Every 'Body' Is Saying," June 18, 11:00 AM EDT (Link).
(7) The alignment of planets does affect life on Earth, but not in the way astrologers tell you: Venus and Earth, because of their relative closeness to the Sun, and Jupiter, because of its huge mass, exert influence the Sun's magnetic field, creating a 405,000-year cycle (when they all line up on the same side of the Sun) that has been verified by retrieving deep layers of sediments in at least two spots on Earth. Fascinating! [6-minute video]
(8) Report on last night's IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Dr. Di Liang (HP Enterprise Systems) spoke about "Photonics in High-Performance Computing." Besides being treated to an interesting talk (Web report), complimentary virtual pizzas and beverages were provided to the 21 attendees of the Zoom session!

2020/06/17 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Poster for the highly successful movie 'Gone with the Wind' Professor Massoud Soltani, Iranian EE educator, dead at 93 (photo collage) Professor Massoud Soltani, Iranian EE educator, dead at 93 (recent photo) (1) Images of the day: [Left] "Gone with the Wind" back in the spotlight: David Selznick's highly successful motion picture, and Margaret Mitchell's novel on which it was based, are being accused of romanticizing slavery. Many film historians argue that GWTW shouldn't be erased, but it should not be watched in a vacuum either. [Center & Right] Professor Massoud Soltani, Iranian EE educator, dead at 93 (see the next item below).
(2) Professor Massoud Soltani dead at 93: He was one of my instructors at Tehran University's College of Engineering from 1964 to 1968 and supervised the electrical machines lab where I worked as an instructor for a year, before starting my graduate studies in the US. Engineer Soltani, as we called him, is credited with significant contributions to electrical-engineering education in Iran, as well as hands-on involvement in the country's electric power generation and distribution infrastructure. RIP.
(3) Science gains from COVID-19 restrictions: Conference registration fees are in the hundreds of dollars range, even after student discounts. Now, students can "attend" ACM's Symposium on Theory of Computing, a premier computer science conference, for just $25, without also spending lavishly on travel!
(4) This is Fatemeh, an Iranian girl who lived in the southern city of Abadan: She was forced to marry her abusive cousin at age 17. Then, Fatemeh's "caring" parents helped her husband retrieve and behead her after she ran away and took refuge in a women's shelter far away from home.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump administration sues John Bolton to stop the release of his tell-all book, scheduled for June 23.
- Suspicious death of a BLM activist and lynching-style hangings of blacks are being investigated.
- These guys look so much like D. Trump: There were fake names way before there were alternative facts.
- Ten days of Iranian cinema: Free film screenings by the Berlin Film Festival.
- Persian music: Historic footage of a young Viguen performing with a band. Pop music with a conductor?
- Classical music: This 9-minute video of a young girl playing the violin came to me with no identification.
(6) An excerpt from my Facebook post of June 16, 2013, about President Hassan Rouhani's election in Iran (needless to say that I have no form of optimism seven years later):
"At best, I will remain cautiously optimistic when political prisoners have been released, the rights of ethnic and religious minorities have been reinstated, and formal apologies have been issued for lawless filterings, interrogations, imprisonments, and executions. Progress, if any, is bound to be slow, given that the powerful Revolutionary Guards and their information and intelligence operations have grown deep roots."

2020/06/16 (Tuesday): Trying to make a dent in my backlog of book reviews by offering three reviews.
Cover image of Albert Camus' book 'The Plague' Cover image of Jose Saramago's book 'Blindness: A Novel' Cover image for the book 'The Coddling of the American Mind' (1) Book review: Camus, Albert, La Peste (The Plague), 1947.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Many years ago, I read Reza Seyed-Hosseini's Persian translation of this classic novel (Niloofar Publications, Tehran). This brief review is the result of using summaries and several reviews of the book to refresh my memory in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The novel, set in the 1940s, is likely based on the 1840s plague afflicting the French-Algerian city of Oran. The effect of the plague on populace is related through a large number of characters, ranging from medical workers to fugitives.
Authorities downplay the seriousness of the situation, sounding optimistic notes, but eventually acknowledge the presence of an epidemic as the number of deaths rises. The city is finally sealed off, homes are quarantined, trains are turned away, and burials of corpses are strictly supervised.
Town people experience stress and become depressed due to isolation, leading one character to plan his escape with help from criminal elements. Later, martial law is declared and escapees are routinely shot. The plague begins to retreat as an anti-plague serum enters the scene. Eventually, the town reopens and people are reunited with their loved ones from other cities.
The Plague, originally written and published in French, has been translated into many languages. It has been turned into a 1992 feature film, a 2017 play, and a 1965 cantana (a mid-length narrative piece of music).
(2) Book review: Saramago, Jose, Ensaio Sobre a Cegueira (Blindness: A Novel), 1995.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Books about various plagues have been brought to the forefront by the coronavirus pandemic. Albert Camus' The Plague and Jose Saramago's Blindness are among the classics in this domain. Many years ago, I read Minoo Moshiri's Persian translation of this classic novel (edited by Mohammad Reza Ja'fari, Nashr-e Elm, Tehran). This brief review is the result of using summaries and several reviews of the book to refresh my memory.
As a city is hit by an unexplained blindness epidemic that spares no one, authorities confine those afflicted to an asylum, where criminal elements come to rule. The inept government resorts to repressive measures to confront social disintegration and supply shortages that lead to poor hygiene, dismal living conditions, and unrest.
A doctor's wife, herself not afflicted, though she must pretend otherwise at first, is horrified by atrocities at the asylum, such as rations being stolen and women being raped. She and her husband form family-like bonds with a few of their charges, taking them out and leading them through harrowing city streets, demonstrating the strength of human spirit in the face of adversity.
Blindness has been turned into a 2008 feature film (starring Mark Ruffalo and Julianne Moore), stage plays, and a German opera. In 2004, Saramago wrote a sequel to Blindness, entitled Seeing, aka "The Plague of Blank Ballots," which is set in the same location and features several of the same characters.
(3) Book review: Lukianoff, Greg and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Jonathan Haidt, Penguin Audio, 2018. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
In this non-fiction book on psychology, the authors argue that overprotecting children and young adults can be just as damaging to their development as underprotecting (neglecting) them. Many examples from psychological studies are cited to essentially indict "helicopter parenting" and to ague that the notion of "free-range kids" should be embraced instead.
And the problem isn't limited to young children. Overprotection excesses are abundant on college campuses, where "comfort" (removing anything that disturbs or offends anyone) rather then "challenge" (bringing out different viewpoints that challenge our views and assumptions) is becoming the norm. Professors have to issue "trigger warnings," whenever they want to discuss topics that some students might find uncomfortable, and demonstrations and hecklings have become commonplace on campuses when someone with a polar-opposite view to a group of students is scheduled to speak. Talks are often cancelled or rescheduled for fear of the speakers' safety.
The authors begin by reviewing what they call the three untruths:
- Children are fragile: What doesn't kill you makes you weaker.
- Our instincts are accurate judges of people and things: Always trust your feelings.
- The world is us-versus-them: Life is a battle between good people and evil people.
Borrowing a term from Nassim Nicholas Taleb of the "Black Swan" fame, the authors assert that human beings are anti-fragile, which means that not only they don't break at the slightest physical or mental discomfort, but they are literally rendered stronger by what doesn't kill them (with a few extreme exceptions, such as physical or sexual abuse). Extreme coddling of children and curtailment of their freedom is driven by two misguided views, the fear of abduction and the desire for them to get into elite institutions of higher learning. Children's creativity in fact suffers from too much homework and test-prep.
The common advice that if it feels right/wrong, then it is right/wrong is fraught with danger. While our emotions and instincts are accurate in many instances, they tend to mislead us in many other situations. Emotional reactions sometimes lead to "catastrophizing" of events and being inordinately affected by what have become known as micro-aggressions. Highly emotional reactions to events are the main causes of distrust and angry confrontations.
Us-versus-them ("tribalizing") leads to a version of identity politics, the common-enemy type, which is detrimental to our advancement and well-being. It leads to tribe-like hostilities that turn disagreements into open conflicts. On the other hand, the common-humanity type of identity politics (yes, we are all different, but what we share is more important than our differences) leads to greater peace of mind and better societal outcomes.
After delineating the problems in Part 1, the authors proceed to review the recent history of campus protests and confrontations, utilizing threats, intimidation, witch hunts, and the like, in Part 2. Part 3 focuses on major causes for the recent intolerance for controversial ideas. Part 4 wraps up the book with the authors' suggestions about how campuses and students can reorient themselves through the recongnition that people are resilient and can grow when exposed to challenge and controversy. Two appendices help the readers learn CBT (cognitive behavioral training) and outline the Chicago Statement of tolerance for diversity of viewpoints, which has been adopted by many campuses.
[The book's Web site; The Chicago Statement (PDF)]

2020/06/15 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Walking on the UCSB campus on a very pleasant, but rather windy, Saturday afternoon UCSB has installed a few solar-powered charging stations for electronic devices Some points of interest in the western city of Kermanshah, Iran
So, you want a statue to celebrate our civilization and history? How's this statue? Racial harmony exists in our children but we somehow manage to teach it out of them before they become adults! Tweets from Trump on kneeling by a black athlete and by a white cop (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Walking at UCSB on a very pleasant, but rather windy, Saturday afternoon. [Top center] UCSB has installed a few solar-powered charging stations for electronic devices: Solar cells are atop the umbrella and battery cells are in two benches on either side. [Top right] Some points of interest in the city of Kermanshah, Iran (credit: ISNA). [Bottom left] So, you want a statue to celebrate our civilization and history? How's this statue, which commemorates April 13, 1985, when housewife Danuta Danielsson whopped Neo-Nazi Seppo Seluska with her handbag to become a local hero in Varberg, Sweden? [Bottom center] Racial harmony exists in our children but we somehow manage to teach it out of them before they become adults! [Bottom right] Tweets from Trump on kneeling: 104 devoted to the black athlete who protested, without hurting anyone; 0 devoted to the white cop who suffocated someone to death by kneeling on his neck.
(2) US Supreme Court deals two setbacks to Trump: It rules 6-3 that anti-discrimination laws do protect the LGBTQ+ community and, in a separate case, dismisses the challenge to California's sanctuary-cities law.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Quote of the day: "If we stop testing right now, we'd have very few cases, if any!" ~ Donald Trump
- Trump's love affair with NK's Kim Jong has fizzled, so he is starting a new bromance with Iran's Ali Joon.
- Persian music: Ebi performs "Poost-e Shir" ("Lion's Hide"), accompanied by guitarist Babak Amini.
- Fusion music: An oldie, with Spanish & Persian lyrics, performed by Faramarz Aslani and Babak Amini.
(4) The true story of an iconic Persian song: "Maraa Beboos" ("Kiss Me") is a 6-decades-old song, originally written by Majid Vafadar for the movie "Ettehaam" ("Accusation"). In this 6-minute video, Vafadar's niece sets the record straight and quells the rumors that have been floating around about the song's authorship and inspiration, and its politicization by left-wing groups.
[P.S.: There are alternate accounts of this history, including an article in Encyclopedia Iranica.]
(5) America's four major problems: The coronavirus pandemic, protests for racial justice, economic downturn, and the military's increasing distaste for the Commander-in-Chief's inclination to bring them into the streets. Not one of these was addressed in Trump's West Point speech!

2020/06/14 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Walking around the UCSB lagoon on a gorgeous late-spring afternoon: Batch 1 of photos Graduation site in 2020: A view of UCSB's Faculty Club Green Walking around the UCSB lagoon on a gorgeous late-spring afternoon: Batch 2 of photos
Flowers on the UCSB Campus, photographed on Friday afternoon: Batch 1 A different kind of graduation weekend: Far fewer photo shoots and moving vans! Flowers on the UCSB Campus, photographed on Friday afternoon: Batch 2 (1) Images of the day: [Top left & right] Walking around the UCSB lagoon on a gorgeous late-spring afternoon. [Top center] Graduation site: Here's a view of UCSB's Faculty Club Green, which would normally be hidden under a giant stage and hundreds of chairs for multiple graduation ceremonies on Friday (when the photo was taken) and over the weekend. [Bottom left & right] Flowers on the UCSB Campus. [Bottom center] A different kind of graduation weekend: On the days leading to graduation ceremonies, UCSB is filled with graduates and family members trying to shoot photos in front of important campus landmarks. There were only a few such groups on Friday afternoon and a handful of moving vans, given the sparse presence of students on campus. There was also far less trash and discarded items on the streets connecting my home to the campus.
(2) A page from Jay Forrester's notebook of 71 years ago: Proposal for magnetic core memory elements that were used to build random-access main memories for early digital computers of the 1950s.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The Obamas are trending on social media: These are special gifts to President Trump on his 74th birthday!
- Can you imagine Trump in such poses with former Presidents and/or First Ladies? Me neither!
- "Black Hole": This 3-minute British film from 2008, depicting human greed, has won multiple awards.
- Practical demo of acoustic physics: Playing the sax in front of an open gas pipeline. [1-minute video]
(4) Persian music: The oldie song "Khandeh Khandeh" is performed by Elaheh, with Majid Vafadar and his orchestra, in this grainy video. Here is a better-quality sound file.
(5) The building that housed Iran's first radio station: It now provides extra working space for the adjacent Ministry of Communications and serves as a museum of radio. [6-minute video]
(6) Final thought for the day: I wonder why no one has pointed out that Trump's recent physical difficulties may be side effects of hydroxychloroquine, perhaps a reason for FDA to revoke its authorization of the drug for the treatment of COVID-19.

2020/06/13 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Linguistic composition of Iran: Map from Persian Heritage web site. Newsweek magazine cover: The end of Hong Kong, as Beijing gobbles it up A UCSB 2020 woman graduate on a campus photo shoot (1) Images of the day: [Left] Linguistic composition of Iran: Map from Persian Heritage web site. [Top right] Newsweek magazine cover: The end of Hong Kong, as Beijing gobbles it up. [Bottom right] The graduating class at UCSB and other colleges make do with individual photo shoots on campus, as they enter a highly unusual job market (photo credit: The UCSB Current).
(2) Insect-size robots might one day help us explore other planets: Bulky rovers are too inflexible and slow, and human participation is too dangerous, for exploration on the surface of other planets. CSUN scientists bet on swarms of tiny robots to help us explore far and wide.
(3) Cybercriminals extort universities: They steal sensitive information and then threaten to share it on the dark web, unless a ransom is paid. Michigan State, UCSF, and Columbia College Chicago have all been targeted by the NetWalker malicious software and given 6 days to pay as yet undisclosed amounts.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Conspiracy-Theorist-in-Chief's Press Secretary accuses others of spreading conspiracy theories! [Image]
- Trump's campaign rhetoric, revised for 2020: They are bringing drugs, they are bringing coronavirus, ...
- My new Facebook cover photo reminds us all of the primacy of racial harmony and racial justice.
- Chess grandmaster Ghazal Hakimifard plays for Switzerland, because Iran forced her to play in hijab.
(5) The Art of Her Deal: The Untold Story of Melania Trump: This is the title of a new book by Mary Jordan, asserting that Melania learned about Donald's relationships with women during the 2016 campaign and delayed her move to the White House as leverage in negotiating a new pre-nup. Melania's office calls it "fiction."
(6) On defunding the police: My fellow-liberals have developed a habit of putting their feet in their mouths when it comes to messaging. The latest episode has to do with calls for "defunding the police." When asked in interviews about what they mean by the phrase, they invariably reply that they do not want to abolish the police but to reform it, overhaul its training procedures, improve its community relations, demilitarize it, and redirect some of the funding to programs that provide appropriate remedies to problems such as homelessness and mental illness that in essence are not law-enforcement problems. Defunding a program or activity is synonymous with eliminating it. Calling for the elimination of something, and then explaining that we don't really mean that, is self-defeating. The 10-second sound bytes of today's news leave no time for additional explanation. We have to make sure that the headlines or sound bytes capture the essence our message. If we don't really want to eliminate the police, then we should not use the word "defund."

2020/06/12 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Tweet: Trump checking off Russia's to-do list Cartoon: Old artistic tree Cartoon strip: The terrorist group calling itself 'AARP' teaches its members secret tactics to use against the police! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Russia's to-do list for weakening the US, as shown at a NATO meeting last year: Judge for yourself how much of this strategy has been implemented by Trump. [Top right] Cartoon of the day: Old artistic tree. [Bottom right] Cartoon strip: The terrorist group calling itself "AARP" teaches its members secret tactics to use against the police!
(2) Racism exposed: University of Louisiana Monroe fires one instructor, Dennis Bell, for posting racist slurs and has started the termination process for Mary Holmes, who will not be teaching during fall 2020.
(3) Mike Pence, Head of the US Coronavirus Task Force, with Trumps campaign staff (photo): No mask. No social-distancing. No shame. The guidelines he issues apply only to us, mere mortals!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Someone, whom Trump called SOB, receives Amnesty International's highest honor. [#ColinKaepernick]
- Five under-age kids orphaned in Los Angeles when their parents die of coronavirus one day apart.
- Tim Cook announces a $100 million Apple commitment to promoting racial justice.
- Spirit MER-A Robotic Rover traveled to and was deployed on Mars in 2003-2004 (5-minute animated film).
- Moving a 2600-ton building in China: Time-lapse video.
- Persian music: The oldie song "Bot-e Chin," performed inside what appears to be a historic carvan-
- Persian music: Faezeh performs "Asir-e Daam-e To," an oldie song made famous by Delkash.
- Persian poetry: Kory Yazdani sets Houshang Ebtehaj's poem "Flight of the Ash" to Leonard Cohen's music.
(5) Patriarchy in action: This 2-minute Persian video-essay sounds interesting and enlightened, until we realize that it promotes manhood and manliness as attributes that women should aspire to. This attitude is a result of centuries of patriarchy that has programmed us to equate manliness with a virtue and womanliness with a liability. So, a strong, virtuous woman aspires to, and takes pride in, being "manlier than a man"!
(6) After months of coyness and playing it safe, Facebook chief finally takes a stand against Trump's dishonesty and divisiveness: "We are deeply shaken and disgusted by President Trump's divisive and incendiary rhetoric at a time when our nation so desperately needs unity."
(7) Can you imagine being a black soldier or officer assigned to a military base bearing the name of a confederate general who fought, and in some cases gave his life, for maintaining slavery?

2020/06/11 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Gakutensoku: World's first friendly robot built in 1929 My paper on evaluating research quality and impact Taking guns to protest sites is ill-advised (1) Images of the day: [Left] Gakutensoku: World's first friendly robot built in 1929 (see the last item below). [Center] My paper on evaluating research quality and impact (see the next item below). [Right] Taking guns to protest sites is ill-advised: A mistake or mis-step separates armed men appearing at racial-justice protests to "keep a watch on illegal behavior" from armed conflict. A group of citizens cannot declare moral superiority to control another group (photo from NPR).
(2) "On Research Quality and Impact: What Five Decades in Academia Has Taught Me": This is the title of an invited paper that I have just finished and submitted to J. Compter Science and Engineering. As the title implies, this work represents an effort to share with my younger colleagues in academia and elsewhere some metrics and pitfalls in assessing research quality and impact. Hope some of you find it useful. I will post a final version after the paper's acceptance. [PDF] [A couple of clarifications]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Blatantly racist post by nursing professor at ULM makes all higher-education teachers cringe in disbelief.
- As we are distracted by a pandemic and racial-justice protests, Iran ramps up its persecution of Baha'is.
- Wonderful performance of "Hava Nagila" by three players on one guitar. [2-minute video]
- Those who remember old Indian movies (now called Bollywood films) will enjoy this 6-minute musical clip.
(4) Now that spring-quarter teaching is over and grades have been reported for my freshman seminar course, "Ten Puzzling Problems in Computer Engineering," I am getting comments, such as this one, from students:
"I greatly appreciate the online lectures you have been providing ... Ever since I have watched your online lectures, I have taken great interest in computer engineering in general, and I have enjoyed approaching certain engineering problems as puzzles that you have provided. You have changed my overall perspective of this field of engineering, and I just want to spend time to say that I feel appreciative for this reason."
(5) "The Short Strange Life of the First Friendly Robot": This is the title of a fascinating article by Yulia Frumer, published in IEEE Spectrum magazine's June 2020 issue. Biologist Makoto Nishimura's giant robot, Gakutensoku ("learning from the rules of nature"), toured through Asia after its creation in 1929, appearing before enthusiastic audiences, but then it was lost under mysterious circumstances in the 1930s. The faintly-smiling robot was 3+ meters tall and had pneumatic mechanisms inside its head that allowed it to move its eyes, mouth, and neck. A faithful replica of the robot was built during 2007-2008 at a cost of $200,000 and is now sitting in a museum. The designers did not have much to go on (no blueprints or other documentation), just a few grainy B&W photos and a handful of articles written by Nishimura and others.

2020/06/10 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
GRiD Compass rugged laptop Entering a flight at the airport or ICU at the hospital? The classic Sinclair Scientific Calculator (1) Images of the day: [Left] GRiD Compass rugged laptop (see the next item below). [Center] Entering a flight at the airport or ICU at the hospital? [Right] The classic Sinclair Scientific (see the last item below).
(2) The first laptop in orbit: The GRiD (Graphical Retrieval Information Display) Compass was the first to use a clamshell design. The laptop's 21.6-cm plasma screen was bright and could be viewed from any angle and under any lighting conditions. NASA used the laptop on Space Shuttle missions through the early 1990s. The rugged 4.5-kg laptop, costing $8150 ($23,000 in today's money) reportedly survived the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger crash. [Source: IEEE Spectrum magazine, issue of June 2020]
(3) Colleges dealt one-two punch by COVID-19: On top of income reduction and rising expenses, they are expected to receive less in philanthropic donations over the next few years.
(4) COVID-19 may have plagued China as early as October 2019: Satellite photos, showing a near-doubling of the number of cars parked at some Chinese hospitals in October 2019 compared with the previous year, and records of heavy Internet searches for "chills" and "diarrhea," indicate that China hid coronavirus from the world far longer than previously thought.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US GDP predicted to fall by 5.9% for 2020, the sharpest yearly decline since the 11.6% drop of 1946.
- Cartoon of the day: The end isn't near. We're just beginning to have a serious dialogue about race. [Image]
- Wow, what a talent: Creating realistic clay sculptures from photos. [4-minute video]
- Iranian regional music: Hossein Zarouri performs "Jaan-e Maryam," with a big orchestra and choir.
(6) Trump retweets his son Eric's tweet on reopening of Trump Doral Miami: In 15 minutes, he gets 14.6K likes, 3.6K comments, and 3.5K retweets. How is this not using the office of presidency for personal gain?
(7) Internet of animals: IoT applied to live animals (both domesticated species and wildlife) becomes IoA. Potential applications include ranch herd management and monitoring of endangered species in the wild.
(8) Reverse-engineering a classic calculator: The Sinclair Scientific digital calculator was a hit upon its introduction in 1974. "Cleverly written firmware dragooned its limited processor, intended only for basic arithmetic, into performing way beyond specifications. This allowed Sinclair to sell a scientific calculator to countless folks who otherwise could not have afforded one. But it was also slow and sometimes inaccurate, provided barely enough mathematical functions to qualify as a scientific calculator, and was difficult for the uninitiated to use." [From: IEEE Spectrum magazine, issue of June 2020]

2020/06/09 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Panoramic view of a nearly-dry Devereux Slough in Goleta, California
How to build a leaning tower: Indian style Sign: Treat racism like COVID-19. Assume you have it. Listen to experts about it. Don't spread it. Be willing to change your life to end it. Sara Gideon has opened a lead over Susan Collins in their Senate race (1) Images of the day: [Top] Panoramic view of a nearly-dry Devereux Slough in Goleta, California, this evening around 8:00, as the sun was starting to set (actual panorama on Facebook). [Left] How to build a leaning tower: Indian style (could be a PhotoShopped image). [Center] Great advice re "Black Lives Matter": Treat racism like COVID-19. Assume you have it. Listen to experts about it. Don't spread it. Be willing to change your life to end it. [Right] Trump enablers must be kicked out! Susan Collins isn't the worst of them, but it is encouraging that her opponent, Sara Gideon, has opened a lead in their Senate race.
(2) Yes, we support law & order too: That's why we don't want a president who considers himself above the law and repeatedly dishonors and breaks the supreme law of our land, the US Constitution. [Trump tweet]
(3) Trump loves a sawtooth-shaped stock market curve: He just distracts us to something else when it falls and claims credit for each rise! [Trump tweet]
(4) Challenging math puzzle: Given a positive integer n, compute f(n) as follows. Begin with n. Round the value up to the nearest multiple of n – 1. Then, round up the new value to the nearest multiple of n – 2. Continue in this manner until you have rounded up to the nearest multiple of 2.
What is the limit of g(n) = (n^2)/f(n) as n tends to infinity?
[Example] f(10): 10 -> 18 -> 24 -> 28 -> 30 -> 32 -> 33 -> 34; g(10) = (10^2)/f(10) = 2.941
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The US becomes a role model again: Mexico and several other countries protest against police brutality.
- Ivanka Trump remains as clueless as ever amid economic struggles and demands for racial justice.
- Ben Carson: "Reserve judgment on Trump until he speaks again." Dozens of daily tweets don't count?
- Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson's essay "Reflections on the Color of My Skin." [18-minute video]
- The Pacific Ocean, around 8:00 PM today, as viewed from Goleta's Coal Oil Point Beach. [2-minute video]
(6) Int'l Symp. on Computer Architecture has honored a paper by UCSD scientists Dean Tullsen, Rakesh Kumar, and Victor Zyuban with its 2020 Influential Paper Award. The paper, originally presented in 2005, offered new ways of modeling the impact of interconnections on power and performance in multiprocessor chips. The paper was the first to measure real multi-core designs to assess the global trade-offs of interconnect design decisions.
(7) ACM ByteCast, Episode 2: Donald Knuth, winner of the 1974 A. M. Turing Award, discusses "what led him to discover his love of computing as well as writing about computer programming, his outlook on how people learn technical skills, how his mentorship has helped him write 'human oriented' programs, the problems he is still working to solve, and how his dissatisfaction with early digital typesetting led him to develop TeX, as well as his interest in playing and composing music for the pipe organ."

2020/06/08 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Black hand holding white hand, with US flag in the background Elnaz Abedini: A multi-talented vocalist, who is equally at ease with opera, pop classics, and Persian music  Cover image of IEEE Computer magazine's June 2020 issue (1) Images of the day: [Left] To those who dislike "Black Lives Matter" and want to replace it with "All Lives Matter": Do you also scream "All Cancers" when someone posts about breast-cancer awareness? Did you proclaim "All Cities" when people expressed solidarity with Las Vegas or Paris after mass shootings in those cities? Raising awareness and offering support to one abused or oppressed group in no way discredits or diminishes other groups. [Center] Elnaz Abedini: A multi-talented vocalist, who is equally at ease with opera, pop classics, and Persian music ("Caro Mio Ben" Arietta | "Smile" | "Sari Gelin" | "Man-o Gonjishka"). [Right] Cover image of IEEE Computer magazine, June 2020, featuring my article (see the last item below).
(2) BLM movement's surprising ally: Has the NFL finally seen the light in the realm of racial justice, or did it simply realize it won't make any money or even exist without black athletes?
(3) Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian resigns from board: He asks that his seat be filled with a black candidate, commits $1 million to Colin Kaepernick's nonprofit "Know Your Rights" Camp, and promises future donations to serve the Black community and curb racial hate. Ohanian cited his family, tennis-star wife Serena Williams and black daughter, who might one day ask him, "What did you do?"
(4) Racial awareness keeps growing: The very first Sambo's Restaurant, that grew from Santa Barbara to a nationwide chain of hundreds, and the last one still bearing the racially-charged name ("Sambo" is a derogatory term used for a person having mixed blood) opts to change its name. The name was formed in 1957 from "Sam" and "Bo," initial letters in the last names of its founders.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Needed: A leader to allay the fears and soothe the anger, rather than look for praise and photo-ops.
- Ben & Jerry's gets political: Its latest ice-cream flavor is "Pecan Resist" (see if you can resist it)!
- Fusion music: "Lambada," performed Persian style. Or is it Greek style? [3-minute video]
- Persian music/history: The central Iranian city of Esfahan, as it looked ~55 years ago. [4-minute video]
(6) Lists of former (41) and deceased (10) faculty members of Sharif University of Technology's Electrical Engineering Department: I note that one faculty member who was reportedly executed after the Islamic Revolution does not appear on the deceased list. I have no doubt that the list of former faculty members is also incomplete for ideological reasons. [Web page]
(7) My article in IEEE Computer magazine's June 2020 issue: Chosen as the lead cover feature for a special "Cyberthreats" issue, the article, entitled "Reliability Inversion: A Cautionary Tale" (Vol. 53, No. 6, pp. 28-33), points out the dangers lurking when we compare systems with respect to reliability. In brief, reliability calculations provide lower bounds, as opposed to exact values, and a lower bound for R1 being larger than a lower bound for R2 does not imply R1 > R2. [Full-text PDF]

2020/06/07 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iranian woman in traditional clothes, photographed by Amin Sedaghaty in front of Persian rugs: Photo 1 Long-range turbine-powered cargo drones are coming: The June 2020 'IEEE Spectrum' cover feature Iranian woman in traditional clothes, photographed by Amin Sedaghaty in front of Persian rugs: Photo 2
'Black Lives Matter' doesn't mean that only Black lives matter Milad Tower, Tehran, Iran, against a full moon Colorful field of flowers (1) Images of the day: [Top left & right] Iranian woman in traditional clothes, photographed by Amin Sedaghaty in front of Persian rugs. [Top center] Long-range turbine-powered cargo drones are coming: The June 2020 IEEE Spectrum cover feature. [Bottom left] How to explain to your relatives and friends, who care more about looting than violations of civil rights, the "Black Lives Matter" movement and its aspirations. [Bottom center] Milad Tower, Tehran, Iran, against a full moon. [Bottom right] Colorful field of flowers.
(2) NFL reverses course: Commissioner Roger Goodell admits that the league was wrong in its treatment of protesting athletes. Quarterback Drew Brees apologizes and tells Trump that kneeling isn't about the flag.
(3) A virtual graduation event: The Obamas and an array of other notables, including Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Malala Yousafzai, help graduates celebrate on YouTube, June 7, 2020, 12 noon PDT.
(4) Our age in 2020: Some friends posted that they won't add a year to their age on their next birthday, because they haven't actually lived this year. Others think we have aged by a couple of years just in the first half of 2020. What's your take?
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ivanka Trump's commencement address cancelled over the President's reaction to George Floyd's murder.
- Jewish-Iranian immigrant, 81, loses his Melrose Ave. store, which included much in personal memorabilia.
- Short history of women singing in Iran: This 7-minute video is loaded with memorable singers and songs.
(6) The First Couple diverge on Twitter: While Donald Trump peddles law & order and domination of the streets, Melania Trump has been tweeting about peace & healing and taking care of one another.
(7) Of interest to readers who are in the market for a new car or upgrade/trade: Car buying/leasing experience is more torturous than ever these days. I have been in touch with Goleta's Honda dealership, and the Toyota dealership as a back-up, in case of poor service from Honda. Poor service is what I got! I have been looking at various options, to upgrade my current leased car from the basic Accord LX to an Accord EX-L (or a comparable Toyota Camry), with leather interior, sun/moon-roof, and a few new electronic safety features.
It seems that, given the interruption in the supply of new cars, dealers are trying to make as much money as they can from their existing stock. They are utterly inflexible in their pricing (lease and purchase) and very devious in telling you up-front about all the costs. Of course, car salespeople have always been dishonest, but they have taken it to a new level, to maximize their sales commissions, which I assume have dropped due to the dismal economic conditions. Dealers also seem to be reluctant to swap cars to serve a customer whose desired car isn't in stock in his/her home location. I even experienced a case of bait-and-switch, where I was told my desired car was in stock, only to find out that they had a fully-loaded model with ~$6000 in additional options and $180 extra in monthly payment.
In the end, after also considering cars offered by Hertz, the rental-car company which has declared bankruptcy, I decided to pay the residual purchase price on my current Honda Accord and keep it until the car sales/lease market conditions improve.

2020/06/06 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Remembering D-Day (June 6, 1944) A few memes related to Black America's struggle for racial justice These were George Floyd's last words, as a racist cop casually knelt on his neck
Washington, DC, street: 'Black Lives Matter,' painted in giant letters Iranian-American Jews support racial justice Role reversals: Mother and child! (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Remembering D-Day (June 6, 1944): The annual commemoration of the Allied landings in Normandy is muted this year by the pandemic and racial unrest in the US. [Top center] A few memes related to Black America's struggle for racial justice. [Top right] These were George Floyd's last words, as a racist cop casually knelt on his neck. [Bottom left] Washington, DC, street: "Black Lives Matter," painted in giant letters. [Bottom center] Every professional and social group with which I am associated has condemned racial prejudice and supported the BLM movement. [Bottom right] Role reversals: Mother and child!
(2) We are keeping a record of physical deaths from COVID-19: Some suggest that we are under-counting, but at least efforts are made to keep track of the casualties. Tracking of the mental-health toll is woefully lacking.
(3) Talk about clueless: George Floyd is looking down with satisfaction at the jobless rate shrinking from 14.7% in April to 13.3% in May, according to Trump!
(4) The market shot up for, and Trump boasted about, a fake reduction in the US unemployment rate: Let's see if either one offers a correction. An error described as "misclassification" reduced the May unemployment rate by ~3%, so the rate actually went up from 14.7% in April to about 16.3% in May, as predicted by economists.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The pandemic showed us the importance of two things: Universal healthcare and free higher education.
- Jews should support BLM, given our past experience and rising anti-Semitism fueled by the Hater-in-Chief.
- A new viral challenge: Taking a photo with a book you haven't read in front of a building you never enter.
- Cartoon caption of the day: "No, Mr. President, D-Day was not named after you!"
- Michael Jackson music ("They Don't Care About Us"), played Persian style on Tar!
- Persian music: Wonderful piece in the style of (if not actually from) early 20th century. [6-minute video]
- Persian music: Darya Dadvar's musical tribute to the medical personnel battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
(6) Khamenei's deceit revealed: Fact-checking is all the rage these days. In the US, fact-checkers have the unenviable task of keeping up with the increasing rate of Trump's lies and misleading statements. Iranwire has just fact-checked a 30-minute speech by Khamenei, uncovering 10 untruthful statements.
(7) Axis of corruption: Iran's three branches of government are now headed by corrupt individuals. President Rouhani's brother is serving a 5-year prison term for corruption, enabled by his proximity to the country's power centers. Rouhani himself has not been formally implicated, but it is difficult to imagine that he was unaware of his brother's misdeeds. Rouhani has threatened on multiple occasions to expose corrupt individuals, but his remaining silent is an indication that the other power centers have "compromat" on him. Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, the new Speaker of the Parliament, has links to some of Iran's worst corruption scandals. Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's Head of Judiciary, was a member of a notorious Death Commission, which approved and oversaw the execution of thousands of political prisoners in the 1980s. He also faces allegations of financial misappropriations both before and after assuming his current position.

2020/06/05 (Friday): Trying to make a dent in my backlog of book reviews by offering three reviews.
Cover image of 'Conversations with RBG,' by Jeffrey Rosen Cover image of 'The Education of an Idealist,' by Samantha Power Cover image of Julie Andrews' memoir 'Home Work' (1) Book review: Rosen, Jeffrey, Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and Law, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Peter Ganim and Suzanne Toren, Macmillan Audio, 2019.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Based on conversations he conducted with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg from the 1990s to the present, Rosen, National Constitution Center's President, paints a unique portrait of RBG that shows her careful, minimalist approach to constitutional law, humanity, compassion, sense of humor, exercise regimen, love of opera, and astounding friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia (subject of the "Scalia/Ginsburg Opera" composed by Derrick Wang).
Among the topics discussed are the Court's Roe v. Wade decision and whether it will be overturned, her approach to and favorite dissents, the role of precedents, the #MeToo movement, the four women who have served on the Supreme Court, husband Marty's support and cooking skills, confirmation hearings then-and-now, and the Court's future.
I was surprised to learn that at the time of RBG's appointment to the Court, many feminists were against her, because she had opined that the Court over-reached in its Roe v. Wade decision. She would have preferred to see a decision to strike down the specific extreme Texas law before the Court, fearing that generalizing and issuing a broad opinion actually antagonized anti-abortion forces, who became much more animated in their opposition.
This book is filled with both serious legal arguments and personal anecdotes. The discussions of voting rights and gerrymandering are superb. So is Ginsburg relating an advice she received early in her marriage from her mother-in-law: "It helps sometimes to be a little deaf," which she took to mean that you should just tune out any unkind words.
(2) Book review: Power, Samantha, The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir, Dey Street Books, 2019.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Power, a fierce advocate of human rights and one of the "foremost thinkers on foreign policy," according to former President Obama, has lived the American dream, rising from an immigrant to a cabinet official. She served as Obama's advisor on foreign policy and human rights for four years and then became the youngest American to be named US Ambassador to the United Nations. While telling her life story, Power also answers the question of whether one person can make a difference in today's complex and highly-contentious world with a resounding "yes."
Power began her career as a journalist covering the genocide of Bosnian Muslims, which led to her writing the Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, A Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide. In The Education of an Idealist, Power weaves together four stories seamlessly and masterfully: Her personal journey, her family story, including raising two children as she held what many consider to be a 24/7 job, diplomatic history, and moral dilemmas in politics.
The jobs of presidential advisor and UN Ambassador are tough even on the most-pragmatic individuals, so they are nothing less than torture for an idealist, who must decide every day whether she has had enough and can't take it any more, or strike a compromise to be able to take her fight to the next day. Power discusses her challenges and moral dilemmas openly and honestly, giving the reader a window into her regular fights, including with Obama, who alternated between seeking her opinion and putting his realist hat on to dismiss her advice.
Power argued for intervention in Syria, a battle she eventually lost. It is very difficult to judge, even with the benefit of hindsight, whether we would have been better off if Obama had taken her advice instead of avoiding intervention and a third Middle-East war, thus giving the Syria-Russia-Iran axis an open hand in running the show. The younger Power probably would not approve of her older self, who witnessed misery during a visit to Cameroon, Chad, and Nigeria, countries involved in a vicious fight against the terrorist group Boko Haram, and contributed to the misery when her team's car hit and killed a young boy.
Having been in the no-win zone between idealism and realism, I very much identified with Power's equivocations. The Education of an Idealist is most-certainly among the best books I have read in recent years, in terms of both content and writing style.
(3) Book review: Andrews, Julie (with Emma Walton Hamilton), Home Work: A Memoir of My Hollywood Years, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Julie Andrews, Hachette Audio, 2019.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I was surprised to learn that this Julie Andrews book, a collaboration with her daughter Emma, is her second memoir, the first one having been titled Home: A Memoir of My Early Years. Andrews recaps those early years at the beginning of this new memoir, which details her transformation from a traveling vaudeville performer to a Hollywood superstar, most-famous for her roles in "Mary Poppins" and "The Sound of Music." It seems that from a young age, Andrews was her family's provider, having paid household expenses and helping to keep a roof over their head.
The prose is frank and intimate, laced with humor and sassy gossip, including her treatment by tabloids. Andrews discusses many private matters (insecurities, therapy sessions, and feeling of lack of control over her career) openly. In describing the divorce from her first husband, costume designer Tony Walton, which happened after she had met and begun to "seriously date" director Blake Edwards (of "The Pink Panther" and "The Party" fame), Andrews confesses that she felt like a failure. It seems that Andrews being tied to the movie industry in Hollywood and Walton's attachment to the theater scene in New York City was instrumental in their marriage falling apart.
One can't help but be awestruck by how Andrews pulled it all together in her Hollywood years, living with a wildly creative but very moody Edwards (occasional prescription-drugs abuser), balancing the demands and visitation calendars of three children, one from her first marriage and two from Edwards' first marriage, plus two adopted children, managing the antics of a druggie brother, and dealing with the crazy work and travel schedules of an international mega-star. Andrews tells us that she wasn't in control of her career and personal life, despite outward appearances.
One disappointment is that movies and her co-workers/co-stars are discussed superficially, for the most part. Instead, the focus is on family juggling acts which she had to perform in order to get to do the films. Perhaps, a third memoir that details her professional life will be forthcoming: Home, Home Work, Work (?). Or, it could be that Andrews' conservative disposition makes it impossible for her to describe her relationships with, and feelings toward, co-workers in greater detail.
Both memoirs of Andrews have been very well-received. I highly recommend this second one to the fans and non-fans of Dame Julie Andrews. Try to get the audiobook, if you can, as hearing the words in Andrews' own voice, and elegant British-English accent ("aafter," "baasket," "tomaato"), is a special treat.

2020/06/04 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Text examples: Today's Persian vs. refined Persian Cover image of 'Pure Persian Dictionary' Text examples: Pure Persian vs. eloquent pure Persian (1) Pure Persian Dictionary's cover and sample texts with various degrees of purity (see the last item below).
(2) Former Defense Secretary James Mattis sees Trump as a threat to the US Constitution: In his published memoir, he wrote that as a military-man, he won't speak ill of a sitting president. I guess he has decided that he can't take any more of this nonsense! All four living former US Presidents join retired General James Mattis in supporting the "Black Lives Matter" protesters. [My review of Mattis's memoir on GoodReads]
(3) Stocks are rising, as the pandemic, record-high unemployment, and civil-rights protests continue: Another evidence that the market has little to do with the economic well-being of the average American.
(4) University of California's Academic Council statement on current US events: Let's observe a moment of silence at 11:00 AM PDT on Thursday 6/04, when memorial services for George Floyd start in Minneapolis.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- No president has had a pandemic, an economic depression, and race riots, all at the same time. MAGA!
- One racist kicked out, many more to go: Rep. Steve King has lost in Iowa's Republican primary election.
- Haircut: Check. Dental cleaning: Check. Still far from normalcy, but at least I'm starting to look normal!
- Art heals: Wonderful artistic collaboration between cellist Yo-Yo Ma and dancer Lil' Buck.
(6) Signs of the times: Many of my fellow Iranian-Americans screaming "Law and Order" have experienced bigotry, xenophobia, and oppression first hand. So, their lack of compassion for the legitimate claims of the African-American community is quite puzzling. [Photos] [Cute protest sign] [Memes of the day]
(7) Iranian authorities shed crocodile tears over George Floyd's death: The same authorities, mind you, who used roof-top snipers and security forces armed with machine guns to kill hundreds (by some accounts, thousands) during Iran's street protests. [Photos]
(8) FIFA to suspend Iran's membership: The world soccer body has given Iran until June 5 to comply with its rules, which prohibit governmental interference in the affairs of a country's soccer federation. Dozens of other violations are also involved.
(9) Today's Persian, refined Persian, and pure Persian: Over the last two centuries (Kia, 1998), there have been movements to reestablish a pure form of the Persian language and to encourage Persian speakers and writers to avoid the use of foreign (primarily Arabic, English, and French) words. As has been the case elsewhere in the world, the task of purifying a language is a tough one, and it encounters much resistance. In the case of Iran, the task of getting rid of Arabic words and constructs is rendered more difficult by a regime whose very survival depends on the infiltration of the Arabic language and cultural norms. Here is a good example. Government documents tend to refer to "zanaan" ("women") and "mardaan" ("men") by the Arabic words "nesvaan" and "rejaal," respectively. There is absolutely no legitimate reason for these substitutions. For other words, the situation is more complicated. Sometimes a word or concept is too well-established to be changed by edict. In a WhatsApp group with old friends, we have been discussing appropriate Persian equivalents for Arabic words such as "ekhteraa'" ("invention"; "no-aafarini"?) and "ebdaa'" ("innovation"; "no-aavari"?), English words such as "luxury" (pronounced as "luck-cherry" by Persian speakers) and "start-up" (no equivalents yet), and other technical and semi-technical terms. Moving one notch down from pure Persian, one may be satisfied with refined Persian, as exemplified by the following passage from the front-matter in a dictionary of pure Persian, published by Iran's Academy of Persian Language (PDF).
Reference: Mehrdad Kia (1998), "Persian Nationalism and the Campaign for Language Purification," Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 34, No. 2, pp. 9-36, April.

2020/06/03 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Nasir al-Molk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran The Hezar-Tappeh ('Thousand Hills') region in Iran's Golestan Province A deep-blue section of Shah Mosque in Esfahan, Iran
Photos from my evening walk on Sunday evening, 5/31, around Goleta's Coal Oil Point and Devereux Slough: Batch 1 Photos from my evening walk on Sunday evening, 5/31, around Goleta's Coal Oil Point and Devereux Slough: Batch 2 Photos from my evening walk on Sunday evening, 5/31, around Goleta's Coal Oil Point and Devereux Slough: Batch 3 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Nasir al-Molk Mosque, Shiraz, Iran. [Top center] Hezar-Tappeh ("Thousand Hills") region in Iran's Golestan Province. [Top right] A deep-blue section of Shah Mosque in Esfahan, Iran. [Bottom row] Photos from my Sunday 5/31 evening walk around Goleta's Coal Oil Point and Devereux Slough.
(2) Racism is a global phenomenon: When we Iranian-Americans condemn racism and xenophobia in the US, we have to be mindful of the 40% support by Iran's citizens for kicking Afghan refugees out of Iran and for denying them educational and other opportunities. [Iranwire story, in Persian]
(3) Justice in America: One of the two individuals in this meme was arrested and murdered for a forged check (or bill?) of a few dollars. The other one embezzled millions of dollars in an insider-trading case and will not be investigated, after her husband made a sizable political donation.
(4) Why did the chicken cross the road (after tear-gassing everyone to make sure the road is clear)? To hold a Bible he hasn't read and does not follow in his personal and political lives for a photo-op!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Wow! So compassionate: Many arrests, overwhelming force, domination. I thank myself! [Trump tweet]
- For the first time ever, Blacks protesting police brutality are supported by a large number of Whites. [Photo]
- Looters linked to Neo-Nazi groups arrested in Georgia: I am not saying that all the looters were White.
- Justin Trudeau on US protests: Collects his thoughts, before providing a compassionate answer.
- Reposting from June 2, 2017: A conversation with Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi on women's rights in Iran.
- Farrokhi Yazdi [1889-1939] wrote these verses for the politics/politicians of his time, but they look so fresh!
(6) Iranian regional music: Live performance of the oldie Guilaki song "Banafsheh Gol" by its original singer/composer, accompanied by a representative from the new generation of Iranian singers.
(7) An interesting graphic novel: The Garden of Inside-Outside; Post-revolutionary Iran, as seen by Chiara Mezzalama, daughter of the Italian Ambassador to Iran. [BBC Persian report]
(8) Dr. Javad Ashjaee [1949-2020]: A former colleague of mine at Arya-Mehr/Sharif University of Technology in Iran, who went on to found Javad Positioning Systems (later sold to Topcon) and Javad GNSS (still operating), succumbs to coronavirus in Russia. He has been characterized as an industry disrupter and credited with many innovations by the global-positioning community. I overlapped with him for a few years at AMUT/SUT around the time of the Islamic Revolution and visited him and his company's sizable headquarters in San Jose in the 1990s. He had set up a branch of his company in Moscow to take advantage of cheap engineering talent. He told me horror stories about the threats faced by, and payoffs expected from, businesses operating there. I won't be a bit surprised if there is more to his death than the COVID-19 pandemic. He used to hire bodyguards for his stays in Moscow. Suspicious deaths and fake death certificates are quite common there. RIP.

2020/06/02 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Night view of the Chehel-Sotoon Palace, Esfahan, Iran Naghsh-e Jahan Square, Esfahan, Iran: This beautiful partial view of the famed square shows the dome of the Shah Mosque undergoing repairs Another view of Esfahan's Naghsh-e Jahan Square: This one from behind the dome of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque
Kurdish-speaking regions of the Middle East When an Amish-like group joins the protests demanding law-enforcement reforms, you know it's serious! Top 10 most-admired men & women in the world, 2014-2019, according to Gallup (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Night view of Kakh-e Chehel-Sotoon, Esfahan, Iran: The monument's name means "40-Column Palace," because of the reflection of its 20 columns in the pond. [Top center] Esfahan's Naghsh-e Jahan Square: This beautiful partial view of the square shows the dome of the Shah Mosque undergoing repairs. [Top right] Another view of Naghsh-e Jahan Square: This one from behind the dome of Sheikh Lotfollah Mosque. [Bottom left] Kurdish-speaking regions of the Middle East (see the next item below). [Bottom center] When an Amish-like group joins the protests demanding law-enforcement reforms, you know it's serious! [Bottom right] Top 10 most-admired men & women in the world, 2014-2019, according to Gallup.
(2) Kurdish languages: Belonging to the Iranian branch of the Indo-European family, Kurdish has three main dialects; Kurmanji, "Northern Kurdish," spoken by 15-20 million Kurds in all areas; Sorani, "Central Kurdish," spoken by 6-7 million Kurds in Iraq's and Iran's Kurdistan (which, along with Arabic, is one of the two official languages of Iraq), and Pehlewani, "Southern Kurdish," spoken by ~3 million Kurds in Iran's Kermanshah and Ilam Provinces and parts of Eastern Iraq, near Iran's border. [Source: Wikipedia, "Kurdish Languages"]
[P.S.: I chanced upon self-teaching books on the first two of the dialects above when browsing the Web site of ParsiAnjoman, which has a wealth of information and downloadable files on Persian and related languages.]
(3) Linux vulnerability: According to US National Security Agency, hackers from a unit within the Russian intelligence agency have been exploiting a Linux vulnerability since August 2019. A patch is already available, but NSA is publicizing the problem to ensure that the fix is applied on all systems.
(4) Kurdish singer with a warm voice: Sahar Lotfi sings "Sho Saal," "Kurdish lullaby," and "Summertime." In this video, she performs with an all-women ensemble. [Photo]
(5) How to curtail oversensing in IoT: Future homes will have hundreds of sensors used to collect data for various apps. The problem is that sensing for a particular parameter or condition inadvertently collects unrelated data that can be abused. As a case in point, motion sensors can also capture nearby sounds, including words and keystrokes. We have to figure out how to collect only the data needed by, and essential to the proper functioning of, specific applications. Oversensing occurs when authorized access to sensor data provides an application with superfluous and potentially sensitive information. [From: The "Inside Risks" column, Communications of the ACM, issue of June 2020, pp. 20-24]
(6) University of California's alert to faculty members regarding Chinese graduate students and post-docs: Further info will be forthcoming once UC has studied the impact of a new Presidential Proclamation, authorizing the State Department and DHS to stop issuing visas to, and to revoke visas of, Chinese graduate students and post-docs with connections to universities associated with the Chinese military. Unfortunately, these are some of the top universities in China. The list includes:Beijing Institute of Technology; Beihang University; Harbin Engineering University; Harbin Institute of Technology; Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics; Nanjing University of Science and Technology; Northwestern Polytechnical University. [Image]

2020/06/01 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme about Lindsey Graham: When it comes to duplicity, bigotry, and racism, Trump isn't our only problem. Not even close! Cartoon: Trump's new communication platform after he shuts down twitter Meme: Some Republican opinions on rape
Protesters forming a human wall to stop looters Cartoon about Iran-US relations: Crocodile tears from Khamenei over George Floyd's murder Police officers knealing to show compassion, letting the crowd know that they understand their frustrations and anger (1) Images of the day: [Top left] When it comes to duplicity, bigotry, and racism, Trump isn't our only problem. Not even close! [Top center] Cartoon of the day: Trump's new communication platform after he shuts down twitter. [Top right] Some Republican opinions on rape: I am awaiting a similar compilation of opinions on race. [Bottom left & right] You can't diffuse a tense confrontation with only threats: Cheer protesters who are forming human walls to stop looters. Encourage police officers who show compassion, letting the crowd know that they understand their frustrations and anger. [Bottom center] Cartoon about Iran-US relations: Crocodile tears from Khamenei over George Floyd's murder.
(2) New reports cast doubt on officials putting the blame for rioting on out-of-state actors. Stay tuned for more results of investigations into this matter and the underlying racism that started the whole mess.
(3) White people whining about the chaos and insecurity of the past few days refuse to acknowledge that they have been living privileged lives, at the expense of those in a permanent state of chaos and insecurity.
(4) You can be an okay real-estate developer without ever having read a book, but any high-level leader in politics or military, as General Mattis is fond of saying, must have read and digested at least hundreds of books.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- This is how you diffuse tensions: Not with threats of shooting and using vicious dogs!
- Cartoon caption: Cop to African-American boy: "What do you want to be when you grow up?" Boy: "Alive!"
- Persian music: "Gol-e Goldoon-e Man" ("Flower of My Vase"), performed by Monika Jalili.
- Iranian regional music: Shardad Rohani conducts and his daughter Sara Rohani sings tho oldie "Aziz Joon."
(6) Trump is incapable of saying we have heard your voice and understand your anger: Instead of comforting words, he speaks of shooting and vicious dogs! In the absence of compassionate national leadership, the burden of calming the protesters and quelling the riots falls upon local leaders and celebrities. Rapper Killer Mike implores, "it is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy."
(7) In Iran, both the people and officials are mourning George Floyd's death, but for entirely different reasons. The people hope to bring attention to even worse violence by Iranian police and security forces. The officials are trumpeting the notion that America is no champion of freedom or justice, even lnternally.
(8) Reposting from May 31, 2015: Many organizations and groups are recycling their previous programs to keep people company as they stay at home for the most part. Here is my FB post about a film screening from UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran, covering the life and work of children's songwriter Abbas Yamini Sharif [1919-1989]. [Link to the full documentary (the film starts at the 17:00 mark)]

2020/05/30 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Women of Sanandaj, a city in western Iran, protest against the notion of 'honor' killing Cartoon: Trump playing with his wind-up toys of choice! Meme: If 'No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service' doesn't bother you, why do you take offense at 'No Mask, No Service'?
Alt-facts quote:'The President in no way, form, or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence' Puzzle: Pieces of the triangle at the top are rearranged to increase its area by 1 unit (the empty square). How come? Street protests turn violent in Minneapolis and other cities/states across the US (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Women of Sanandaj, a city in western Iran, protest against the notion of "honor" killing, arising from men's sense of ownership over women. [Top center] Trump playing with his wind-up toys of choice! [Top right] Meme of the day: If "No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service" doesn't bother you, why do you take offense at "No Mask, No Service"? [Bottom left] Alt-facts quote of the day: "The President in no way, form, or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence." ~ Sarah Sanders [Bottom center] Puzzle: Pieces of the triangle at the top are rearranged to increase its area by 1 unit. How come? [Bottom right] Street protests turn violent in Minneapolis and other cities/states across the US (see the last item below).
(2) George Floyd's murder: Everyone is tired of the racism awakened in this country by the Racist-in-Chief, who continues to spray fuel on the fire by calling the protesters "thugs." There is a difference between recognizing that some thugs (including Russian-sponsored trolls) are taking advantage of the situation, and insulting the entire angry, fed-up African-American community. [Tweet by Michelle Obama]
(3) SpaceX capsule taking two US astronauts to ISS left Earth earlier today: This is the first American manned space mission in 9 years and the first ever on private-company technology. Since the Space Shuttle was decommissioned, American astronauts have been traveling to International Space Station on Russian rockets.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- I think Trump should make it easy on everyone and change his Twitter handle to @altFactsDonaldTrump!
- Cities across the US impose curfews, as tensions rise in the George Floyd protests.
- Graffiti on the side of a Belgian train reads: "Please, I can't breathe." [Video]
- Puzzle: Explain how the shape and area of the rectangle remain the same after adding Pieces 6 and 7.
(5) Evidence of outside/foreign infiltration in Minnesota protests: MN Governor, Mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul, and MN Attorney General allege outside meddling to cause mayhem and turn the protests violent. Mayor Carter said every person arrested last night during the protests is from out of state. The Governor has reached out to Departments of Homeland Security and Defense and fully mobilized the MN National Guard.
[P.S.: New reports cast doubt on officials putting the blame for rioting on out-of-state actors. Stay tuned for more results of investigations into this matter and the underlying racism that started the whole mess.]

2020/05/29 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Persian poetry: A wonderful couplet from Mahasti Ganjavi Not one woman in sight in this photo from the grand-opening of a women's park in Sari, Iran! Today's Persian lesson, brought to you by the letter 'seen' ('s'), appearing in the words 'das' and 'namoos' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Persian poetry: A wonderful couplet from Mahasti Ganjavi (source: ganjoor.net). [Center] Not one woman is in sight in this photo from the grand-opening of a women's park in Sari, Iran! [Right] Today's Persian lesson, brought to you by the letter "seen" ("s"), appearing in the words "das" ("sickle") and "namoos" (broadly meaning "honor," "reputation," "chastity," and one's female relatives).
(2) US slander laws: What was it you were saying a couple of years ago about the need to strengthen slander laws, @realDonaldTrump? There is material for hundreds of lawsuits against you just in your tweets!
(3) Washington-Beijing tensions will affect American universities: Thousands of Chinese graduate students may be expelled from the US in forthcoming retaliatory measures by the Trump administration.
(4) Universities brace for tough times ahead: Almost all US states are considering massive higher-education budget cuts. Other reports indicate that graduation rates may be adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and challenges of on-line instruction.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump vetoes bipartisan legislation that facilitates student-loan forgiveness benefiting many veterans.
- The first person arrested in the George Floyd murder case was a CNN reporter, not the murderous cop!
- Quote of the day: "A riot is the language of the unheard." ~ Martin Luther King Jr. [Tweet]
- The Swish Machine: A most-elaborate Rube Goldberg construction to put a basketball through a hoop!
- Babak Tafreshi, photographer of night skies, shows and discusses some of his work. [5-minute video]
- Amazing film from Iran's Lut Desert, after unusually heavy rainfall turned it into a land of lakes.
- Iran's nature: Slide show from photographs of Roya Barrette, enhanced by the music of Mohammad Nouri.
(6) "We Are One" Film Festival (#WeAreOne): Running on YouTube from May 29 to June 7, 2020, the on-line event is co-curated by over 20 film festivals from across the world.
(7) The COVID-19 pandemic brought drones to the forefront: The technology was ready to step in for many uses, including law-enforcement and medicine/test-kit deliveries.
(8) [Final post for the day] African-Americans have offered to trade Kanye West for Taylor Swift, who tweeted: "After stoking the fires of white supremacy and racism your entire presidency, you have the nerve to feign moral superiority before threatening violence? 'When the looting starts the shooting starts'??? We will vote you out in November. @realDonaldTrump"

2020/05/28 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
There is no honor in 'honor' killings Today is World Hunger Day (photo of a malnutritioned child) The Supreme Holocaust Denier has a solution for Israel: Khamanei's published poster and who is included in it betray his intentions (1) Images of the day: [Left] There is absolutely no honor in "honor" killings (see the last item below). [Center] Today is World Hunger Day: As we are preoccupied with a pandemic, let us not forget a much bigger worldwide problem that has persisted for decades if not centuries. Those of us who continue to shelter at home and venture outside on a limited basis, should try to imagine being hungry/homeless and also afraid of contracting COVID-19! [Right] The Supreme Holocaust Denier has a solution for Israel: Khamanei's published poster and who is included in it betray his intentions.
(2) Trump threatening Twitter is ironic: He would be nothing without his Twitter account, which reaches ~80M users. At 20K apiece, he needs 4000 rallies to reach the same number of people directly and unfiltered.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- In a tweet, Trump thanks "Cowboys for Trump," a group that says "a good Democrat is a dead one."
- "GREAT DAY FOR THE DOW!!" ~ Eric Trump, on the day when deaths from COVID-19 surpassed 100,000.
- Get to know this proud, and funny, black man better, before you call the cops on him. [Video]
- Artist's rendering of patriarchy, in the wake of Romina Ashrafi's beheading by her father. [Magazine cover]
- Recent heavy rainfall has turned Iran's Lut Desert, normally very dry, into a land of lakes. [Pictorial]
- Flattening my curve by practicing social-distancing from my refrigerator! [Cartoon]
(4) Disturbing facts about "honor" killings: Let me share with you some information that I have gleaned from posts/tweets, media stories, and interviews with various experts on Iran's laws and culture in the wake of the beheading of Romina Ashrafi by her father. "Shame killing" is a more appropriate name for such acts, but I will use the more common "honor killing," always putting "honor" in quotes.
According to Iran's penal code, which, as specified by the country's constitution (adopted after the Islamic Revolution of 1979) is based on Islamic law, a father/grandfather isn't accused of a criminal act if he kills his child/grandchild. The "reasoning" goes like this (what I write applies to a father, not grandfather, who for some odd reason is treated like a father by this law). The father created the child and has his/her best interests at heart. So, whatever he does is well-intentioned and not criminal. Note that there is no mention whatsoever of the mother's role in creating the child! The view is that man creates the child, using his sperm and and a piece of property known as "woman"!
This law is based on the medieval Arab notion that a father "owns" his child (again, no role for the mother here) and thus he can do all that's needed to "protect" and "improve" his property, just as he would confront a thief who enters his home and takes a rug or piece of jewelry, say. In the case of the stolen rug or valuable jewelry, it isn't destroyed after recovery, but a woman who is raped or runs away with a boyfriend becomes so worthless that her life has no value.
While lenient treatment for the murder of one's child isn't the primary reason for "honor" killings, it certainly provides an incentive in this regard. The roots of "honor" killings run much deeper than this backward law. Brothers, husbands, uncles, and male in-laws of a woman also commit murder to remove a "stain" from the family's reputation, and they are not similarly protected by law, although, certainly, they are treated leniently by Islamic judges who support this way of thinking.
On the surface, the law isn't misogynistic in the treatment of victims, just inhumane and misguided. It applies to the killing of both boys and girls by fathers. However, it is extremely rare for a father to kill his son for bringing dishonor to the family. But misogyny is certainly at play where the perpetrator is concerned, because no such "ownership" privilege is afforded to mothers. Furthermore, victims of "honor" killings are predominantly women and girls. So, the law becomes misogynistic when enacted within a culture of misogyny.
By the way, "honor" killings occur in the Christian and Jewish traditions as well, but the incidents are few and far in between.

2020/05/27 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Chart showing the first few traiangular numbers Cryptic puzzle: For this one, you have to provide the puzzle's statement and solution! Counting puzzle: How many triangles are there in this image? (1) Images of the day: [Left] Challenging math problem: Show that the sum of inverses of triangular numbers, 1/1 + 1/3 + 1/6 + 1/10 + 1/15 + 1/21 + ... , converges to 2. The nth triangular number is the sum of consecutive integers from 1 to n, that is, n(n + 1)/2. [Center] Cryptic puzzle: For this one, you have to provide the puzzle's statement and solution! [Right] Counting puzzle: How many triangles are there in this image?
(2) Yet another victim of "honor" killings: Acting as judge, jury, and executioner, father of 14-year-old Romina Ashrafi beheads her with a sickle. Romina joins an already-long list of victims of violence against women and girls in the first two months of the new Iranian year. Romina was doubly victimized by a 35-year-old "lover" (child sexual predator) and by her father. After the murder, the father reportedly boasted that he had removed the stain! To add insult to injury, Romina was mourned by the male members of the family (no mention even of her mother in the announcement of memorial services; only father, grandfathers, brother, uncles)! And now the murderous father mourns his daughter? Words fail me in describing this stain on humanity!
[P.S.: In reporting on the gruesome murder, Iran's news media PhotoShopped an image of the victim to show a headscarf that covers more of her hair and a couple of inches of neck seen in the original photo!]
(3) Musings on the misguided notions of "gheirat" and "namoos" (Persian words): This morning I read and made a couple of posts about another "honor" killing in Iran. Violence against women and girls continues under the guise of "family honor" and other misguided notions. I have made many posts over the past decade about the topic. Here are samples from my diary, found with a search for the word "gheirat."
(4) The restaurant industry is going through a near-death experience: Here is a provocative opinion piece, arguing that the racially-discriminating, economically-exploitative, and environmentally-destructive industry should not be bailed out.
(5) Racist cops: George Floyd, a black man choked to death in Minnesota when a police officer put a knee over his neck for several minutes to hold him down, kept saying that he couldn't breathe.
(6) Restrictions in Optional Practical Training being considered: OPT allows international students in the US a period of practical training in a job, while remaining on student visas. India and China are the top two countries in terms of students enrolled in OPT. Amazon is the largest employer that benefits from the program.

2020/05/25 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
US Memorial Day: Honoring all who served Meme of the day: Love, from my house to your house Chaotic reopening defies common sense: Many Americans ignore the guidelines for reopening safely
Manteqi-Nejad Historic House, Shiraz, Iran Meme: - Good morning, doctor! - Ma'am ... I'm your hairdresser! Mollabashi Historic House in Esfahan, Iran (1) Images of the day: [Top left] On this Memorial Day, we honor the memory of those who fell to protect our freedom: Kissing and hugging the flag and wrapping our misguided policies in it are cheap. Doing something for our veterans, including protecting them from predatory private colleges that mislead them and milk their educational benefits would be priceless. [Top center] Meme of the day: Love, from my house to your house. [Top right] Chaotic reopening defies common sense: Many Americans ignore the guidelines for reopening safely. [Bottom left] Manteqi-Nejad Historic House, Shiraz, Iran. [Bottom center] Meme of the day: - Good morning, doctor! - Ma'am ... I'm your hairdresser! [Bottom right] Mollabashi Historic House in Esfahan, Iran.
(2) Every move you make, every step you take, Google is watching you: How Google collects your data even if your phone has no WiFi or cellular connection and is set on airplane mode. Surveillance capitalism. Scary!
(3) Sessions v. Trump: Jeff Sessions has finally begun to stand up to Trump's abusive tweets. Sort of. But it's too late for him to recover from hypocritically supporting a man he knew to be a crook.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Kim Jong Un holds a high-level meeting to bolster NK's nuclear arsenal and put its military on high alert.
- Russia, if you are listening, please convince people that it's safe to get haircuts and congregate in churches.
- Lindsey Graham & Donald Trump: Marriage of convenience between two hypocrites and shameless liars.
- "Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it." ~ Mark Twain
- In the next Batman and Superman sequels, the heros will be working from home!
- Graceful and somewhat surprising periodic mechanical motions. [5-minute video]
- Persian music on Turkish TV: Wonderful instrumental piece. [5-minute video]
(5) Mohammad Mo'in [1914-1971]: The Iranian scholar, who, despite dying at a relatively young age, left behind many noteworthy publications, including an acclaimed 6-volume Persian dictionary. [9-minute video]
(6) Persian music: A wonderful song involving a large number of participants, including Pari Zangeneh, celebrating medical and other front-line workers and the spirit of community. [Full credits on the video]
(7) [Musings of someone who has lost three family members in the span of less than a month.]
Mourning vs. celebration of life: A mourner's focus is on the loss s/he has suffered personally, so, it is rather self-centered. We see in the Iranian culture that a mourner wails, beats himself/herself, and feels despair. A better approach when losing a loved one is to celebrate his/her life. This is what the American culture advocates. Instead of highlighting the loss, one tells stories of the departed's life and experiences, including funny ones that bring a smile to everyone's face. We should remember a loved one by his/her life-long passions and contributions, rather than by the losing battle of the final days. [Recitation of my Persian poem]

2020/05/23 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Can't blame you if you see a woman in this landscape scene with animals! Four of the women featured in Hossein Kamlay's book, 'History of Islam in 21 Women' Poster for the documentary film 'Pioneers in Skirt'
The highest marginal tax rate was not set to 37% in the Bible: It is a product of negotiations and compromise Remembering the Isla Vista mass-shooting victims of May 23, 2014 I Madonnari Street-Painting Festival 2020 goes on-line (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Can't blame you if you see a woman in this landscape scene with animals! [Top center] A review of Hossein Kamlay's History of Islam in 21 Women: "[It] has a special resonance at a time in which Muslim women are often caricatured as powerless and dependent, and their alleged oppression is often used by western powers as justification for intervention in the Middle East." [Top right] "Pioneers in Skirts" is a feature documentary which uses both real subjects and industry experts to portray how everyday people experience and combat stereotyping, sexism, and bias. The film is produced by Lea-Ann W. Berst and directed by Ashley Maria (trailer). [Bottom left] The highest marginal tax rate was not set to 37% in the Bible: It is a product of negotiations and compromise. In the US, it rose to 94% during World War II, and it was at or above 70% from 1936 to 1980. [Bottom center] Mourning mass-shooting victims (see the next item below). [Bottom right] I Madonnari Street-Painting Festival 2020: Artists will create chalk paintings on their driveways over the Memorial-Day weekend and share them on-line, instead of gathering at Santa Barbara Mission.
(2) Remembering the Isla Vista mass-shooting victims: Today, the Isla Vista Love and Remembrance Garden at People's Park provided a space for remembering the six victims of the tragic events that shocked UCSB and its surrounding communities six years ago. Six young souls and their dreams were taken by a spoiled, gun-loving rich kid, who thought women owed him love and attention he did not deserve. [2-minute video]
(3) Speaking truth to power: A brave soul, speaking (in Persian) at an unknown forum, says that Islamic Republic of Iran officials have no choice but to divert people's attention with anti-America slogans, because there isn't one thing that they can point to as a positive development under their rule.
(4) A petite woman in her 30s, who is often mistaken for a pre-teen, writes about her ordeal: Many people might think that her problem is a good one to have, but she begs to differ.
(5) Beautiful math: The Riemann hypothesis is a seemingly-simple math problem that has remained unsolved, that is, neither confirmed nor contradicted, since it was formulated in 1859. This video will help you understand the hypothesis and why it is perhaps today's most-important open math problem.

2020/05/22 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: Restaurants' new offering after they re-open to diners (hand sanitizer) Math humor: When you have no clue but get lucky Theaters are using their marquees for humor and public announcements
My walk at Goleta's Lake Los Carneros Park on a gorgeous afternoon: Batch 1 of photos My walk at Goleta's Lake Los Carneros Park on a gorgeous afternoon: Batch 2 of photos My walk at Goleta's Lake Los Carneros Park on a gorgeous afternoon: Batch 3 of photos (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Cartoon of the day: Restaurants' new offering after they re-open to diners. [Top center] When you have no clue but get lucky. [Top right] Drive-in theaters are coming back: They have built-in social distancing and allow people holed up at home to have a night out. Meanwhile, ordinary theaters are using their marquees for humor and public announcements. [Bottom] My invigorating walk at Goleta's Lake Los Carneros Park on a gorgeous Thursday afternoon.
(2) Virtual tours of important attractions in Shiraz, a south-central city in Iran. [Nasiralmolk Mosque] [Persepolis] [Tomb of Hafez] [Tomb of Sa'adi] [Shah-e Cheragh Shrine] [Vakil Bazaar] [Vakil Bath] [Vakil Mosque] [Afif-Abad Garden] [Jahan-Namaa Garden] [Quran Gate] [Ghavam Orange Grove] [Zinat-al-Molk Residence] [Karim-Khan Fort] [Haft-Tanaan Monument] [Khan School]
(3) Quote of the day: "I like to play this DVD on the TV in my bar, because my customers end up drinking a lot more." ~ Curtis Ledger, Texas, on the Ken Burns documentary film about the Trump administration
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Humor: In Trump's re-opening guidelines, you are asked to socially-distance yourself only from scientists!
- Two southern churches reclose indefinitely after pastor dies and churchgoers catch coronavirus.
- UC leads by example: Univ. of California becomes world's largest university to divest fully from fossil fuels.
- Rira Esmaeilion, a victim of the Ukrainian plane downing, would have turned 10 today. [Her dad's tweet]
- Peaceful music: "No Return," by Invisible Blue. [4-minute audio clip]
- Art reflections: Hidden designs emerge from thin air on reflective surfaces. [Video]
(5) Possible set-back to public transit: In recent years, many people had begun favoring public transit over private cars. That trend may reverse owing to health fears in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both traffic conditions and air quality will be adversely affected by greater reliance on private cars.
(6) The historic city of Darab, Iran: Located in the south-central Fars Province, this city of 55,000 residents was founded some 2500 years ago by Darius I, on a site that is believed to have once hosted a 7000-year-old civilization. It was originally called Darabgerd (round Darius-town), with a 6-km-long circular wall and moat.
(7) IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference: Comprised of one-hour sessions throughout June 2020, the conference is free with advance registration. This Web site has the program details, registration links, and a library of pertinent videos. I particularly recommend the session on June 23, during which director Ashley Maria will make a presentation about the documentary film "Pioneers in Skirts."

2020/05/21 (Thursday): Trying to make a dent in my backlog of book reviews by offering three reviews.
Cover image for David McCullough's 'The Wright Brothers' Cover image of the audio-course 'The Art of Storytelling' Cover image for Andrew McCabe's 'The Threat' (1) Book review: McCullough, David, The Wright Brothers, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2015. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Sons of a preacher and a mother who died young, Wilbur and Orville Wright grew up in Dayton, Ohio, on a small side-street. Their family's residence lacked electricity or indoor plumbing, but was filled with books, which the unschooled brothers never stopped reading. The brothers ran a fairly successful bicycle shop, that provided them with enough income to live and to pursue their main passion: human flight. Amazingly, in those days, bicycles were viewed as having negative influences on innocent youth, keeping them from reading books and encouraging sexual freedom!
Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Wright brothers did not invent human flight. Rather, they perfected the mechanisms needed to control flight in a fixed-wing, heavier-than-air machine and to make it less dangerous for humans on board. In fact, alongside their own rigorous observations of birds in flight, they read books by others who had already thought about and suggested workable schemes for human flight. The Wright brothers took immense risks in the process, leading, for example, to Orville suffering serious injuries, requiring a long recovery period, during a test flight.
The determined and mechanically skilled brothers finally demonstrated sustained flight in December 1903, thus heralding the age of aviation. They achieved this remarkable feat on their own meager income, using simple and inexpensive mechanisms. Only after their successful flight did the Smithsonian, which was conducting its own flying experiments (embarrassingly flopping into the Potomac) showed any interest in their work on behalf of the US government.
Pulitzer-Prize-winning master historian McCullough draws upon correspondence, diaries, notebooks, and scrapbooks to tell the story of Wright brothers, who were 5 years apart but often deemed to be twins; Wilbur was the older brother, but Orville became better known. The elaborate detail that the book provides was made possible, owing to meticulous record-keeping by the Wright family and interviews with the people of Kitty Hawk, the small North Carolina beach town, with an expansive beach and moderate, steady winds, where the brothers did many of their test flights.
(2) Course review: Harvey, Prof. Hannah B. (Professional Storyteller), The Art of Storytelling: From Parents to Professionals, 24 lectures in the "Great Courses" series, 2013. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This audiobook in the "Great Courses" series should be required listening for everyone. We all tell stories in our daily lives, not just to our children but also to our friends, underlings, superiors, and virtually everyone else. Research has shown that humans arrange facts and remember them by weaving little stories. In other words, our brain is hardwired to build and understand stories. It relishes good stories and experiences pain when faced with bad or poorly-told stories.
And, in teaching too, research suggests that stories play a key role in effective information transfer and understanding. You can talk for hours about the importance of following engineering and ethics rules in system design, but for students to internalize the concepts, you have to tell actual human stories of how skirting such guidelines can lead to loss and even tragedy.
skills you will learn from this course include choosing expressive language; crafting compelling characters; refining your narrator's point of view; shaping your story's plot, structure, and emotional arc; developing imagery, vocal cues, and intonation; and using body language to connect with your audience. Most people, whether they are stand-up comics or teachers, reuse stories, refining them prior to each new use, until they become finely-tuned and effective.
Sometimes, though, people overuse stories. It is a pet peeve of mine to see news reports that begin with a fascinating story, which potentially obfuscates the main point of the report. The story may pull in some readers with dramatic statements and teasers, but I think it could also lead to loss of focus and reader interest.
(3) Book review: McCabe, Andrew G., The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Macmillan Audio, 2019.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The publishing industry must love Trump, who has been the subject of best-selling book, after best-selling book, ever since he took office as the 45th president of the United States. These books have significant overlaps in describing the Trump administration's most-egregious acts and constant lying to the press and the public. Yet, each book invariably has a personal angle that adds to the overall story. Perhaps someday, someone will synthesize all the available information into a coherent and critically-acclaimed whole.
McCabe has been a central figure in the investigations of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. He personally knew James Comey, Robert Mueller, Rod Rosenstein, and Jeff Sessions, which makes him privy to much sensitive information. McCabe seems to like the disposition and cordiality of VP Mike Pence, abhor Jeff Sessions, and harbor mixed feelings about Rosenstein. He considers Comey singularly responsible for Clinton's defeat. The most positive character in the book is Robert Mueller, whom McCabe considers a role model and hero. Yet, we don't hear a final verdict from McCabe on whether Mueller did his job well in investigating the Russia connection of Trump's campaign.
On multiple occasions, Trump tried to goad McCabe into acknowledging that the rank-and-file members of the FBI loved him and hated Comey, an offer which McCabe says he refused because he felt that the exact opposite was true. In his relentless search for personal loyalty, Trump also asked McCabe about how he had voted in the 2016 presidential election, a question McCabe dodged at first, later admitting that he had not voted.
As they say, an autobiography is the story of how a person thinks his/her life was led. There are passages in this book where the reader/listener might doubt McCabe's fortitude and honesty, but the book does add another dimension to the many volumes that describe Trump and his dysfunctional administration. Many more books will be written in time and we will get to know the extent to which McCabe's self-serving claims pan out.

2020/05/20 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Woman protester holding a sign that reads 'Muzzles are for dogs and slaves' I am a free human being' Cartoon: Parts of an Instagram screen covered with a headscarf Iranian presidential adviser Shahindokht Molaverdi shares an image depicting diverse families on a Telegram channel and faces a strong backlash
Good science comes in peer-reviewed journals. Conspiracy theories come in videos. A couplet from Omar Khayyam in honor of his birthday Time magazine cover image about the proper way of reopening the US economy (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Not racist at all: Some "very fine people" are against wearing masks, which are for dogs and slaves! [Top center] Iranian police will deal harshly with hijab-less women on Instagram (news reports) Here's an excellent idea. Instead of women being forced to cover their hair, why not those who are troubled by seeing women's flowing hair not using Instagram or, if they have to be on Instagram, covering parts of their phone screens (cartoon from: Iranwire.com). [Top right] Iranian presidential adviser Shahindokht Molaverdi shares an image depicting diverse families on Telegram and faces a strong backlash. [Bottom left] It bears repeating: YouTube isn't a legit news source on science or any other matter. [Bottom center] Ordibehesht 28 (May 17 this year) is the birth date of Omar Khayyam, the Persian philosopher, mathematician, poet, and polymath. Here is one of his more-famous couplets, stating that as we increase our knowledge, we also raise our awareness of our ignorance. [Bottom right] The flag won't save us from a pandemic, science will!
(2) An Oscar-worthy acting performance: "Jane Roe" of "Roe v. Wade" fame was paid by anti-abortion groups to denounce her advocacy of abortion rights, but she later returned to her original stance. The documentary "AKA Jane Roe" details her story and deathbed confession.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- This isn't normal: Trump compared to former presidents in reacting to national crises.
- Your religious freedom and right to go to church do not take precedence over "Thou shall not kill"! [Video]
- A survey result even Fox News can't ignore: Opinions on the greatest threat to world peace.
- Iran: The Jewish shrine of Esther and Mordechai undamaged in fire, which burned in an annex building.
- Music: A talent-competition-show singer with an amazing vocal range. [Video]
- Female composers earn a stage: They set out to change Iran's male-dominated music-composition scene.
(4) Double disasters: Imagine being under stay-at-home and social-distancing restrictions because of a pandemic, when flooding causes two dams to break. How does one go to a shelter and observe social distancing? Hope Michiganders stay safe!
(5) Avoid fighting two wars at once: Matthew McConaughey shares his message about political divisiveness in the era of COVID-19 and the need to focus on defeating the virus.
(6) Dictators with failed ambitions: Hitler failed in his pursuit of painting. Stalin coveted the role of a theoretician. Khamenei aspired to be a poet, and he compensates for his failure in this domain by holding poetry-recitation sessions, where he assumes the role of a critic.

2020/05/19 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: This explains Trump's reluctance to wear a mask! Seven Iranian Baha'is sentenced to a total of 33 years jail time Meme of the day: Even on Gilligan's Island, they listened to the professor, not the millionaire!
Protests by armed and dangerous 'terrorists': Photo 1 Protests by armed and dangerous 'terrorists': Photo 2 UCSB's Pollock Theater spotlights three films in its 'Beatles Revolutions' series (1) Images of the day: [Top left] This explains Trump's reluctance to wear a mask! [Top center] Seven Iranian Baha'is sentenced to a total of 33 years jail time: Just for practicing their faith! [Top right] Meme of the day: Even on Gilligan's Island, they listened to the professor, not the millionaire! [Bottom left & center] Protests by armed and dangerous "terrorists" (see the last item below). [Bottom right] UCSB's Pollock Theater spotlights three films in the "Beatles Revolutions" series (see the last item below).
(2) UCSB's Pollock Theater, closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, spotlights its past screenings, including three films in the "Beatles Revolutions" series (follow links for details and post-screening discussions):
- "A Hard Day's Night" (1964, available on Amazon Prime Video) [Link]
- "Across the Universe" (2007, available on Amazon Prime Video) [Link]
- "Yellow Submarine" (1968, available on iTunes/AppleTV) [Link]
(3) Household-disinfectant poisoning on the rise: April 2020 saw a 121% increase in household-disinfectant poisoning (over the same month last year). It's all Obama's fault, because he did not prepare the nation for disbelieving snake-oil salesmen! [Data from Time magazine, May 25, 2020]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Increasingly worried about going to jail after leaving office, Trump invents "Obamagate"!
- US President thinks Secretary of State shouldn't have to wash dishes if his wife isn't around.
- Police in Iran to deal harshly with women showing their hair on Instagram: Are family photo albums next?
- Persian music: Japanese (Tajik?) children singing and dancing to "Gol-e Sangam." Very cute! [Video]
- Either the building's janitor wrote this sign or Iranian doctors aren't required to take a few units of Persian!
- Word-search puzzle: Find 16 country names in this 8 × 12 grid (two of them are abbreviations).
(5) Terrible historical analogies: Under the guise of protesting social restrictions imposed to limit the spread of COVID-19, certain groups of people bearing assault rifles, US and Confederate flags, and swastikas took to the streets and went as far as physically threatening governors and others at state capitols. Such groups are normally called terrorists, if their skin color is anything but white. The groups and their apologists liken the state restrictions and stay-at-home orders to Nazism and slavery. It is safe to say that none of these people has experienced or even read a book on what went on during the Nazi reign in Germany or the dark years of slavery in the US. Such ill-advised analogies aren't much different from Holocaust denial or condoning racism.

2020/05/17 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
My cousin Farkhondeh, with several members of the family Poem by B. Parhami in honor of his cousin, Farkhondeh Hatami Ghaffari-Vala My cousin Farkhondeh in her twenties and at a 2018 family reunion (1) Images of the day: My cousin Farkhondeh passed away on Saturday (see the next item below).
(2) Farkhondeh Hatami Ghaffari-Vala [1948-2020]: It's only mid-May, and the third member of the extended Parhami family has passed away this month. My cousin Farkhondeh was part of the cohort of Parhami cousins that included me and my oldest sister. Her family, aunt Zohreh's, and mine were very close. I and my sisters and Farkhondeh and her four brothers and two sisters got together often, both at our parental homes and in outings such as picnics in the country, ski trips, hiking in northern Tehran, and camping on the Caspian-Sea shores. Farkhondeh was always the life of the party, as well as a caring and kind person. I composed a poem, with the initial letters of the half verses spelling "Farkhondeh," in her honor. May her soul rest in peace!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Coronavirus stats, in round numbers: World cases 5M; US cases 1.5M; World deaths 300K; US deaths 90K.
- Toxic masculinity: Men are less likely to wear masks, because of the belief that masks are emasculating!
- Here we go again: "Arthur" is the first Atlantic storm of the year. [Map]
- Borowitz Report (humor): Trump wishes he could replace Fauci with the doctor who saved him from Vietnam.
- Having fun with face masks! [Video of woman wearing a mask painted with a big grin]
- The up side of coronavirus: Eat as much as you like; Summer is cancelled!
- Natural wonder in Iran's Lorestan Province: A 3-km-long water-carved pass, with many geologic features.
- Duet by Ed Sheeran and Andrea Bocelli: What a treat! The song is called "Perfect Symphony." [Video]
(4) The double-whammy hitting US college towns: Small towns hosting major universities are being doubly impacted by the coronavirus crisis and its economic fallout. The economies of such towns are highly dependent on the presence of, and spending by, students as well as by visiting parents, especially at graduation time.
(5) My forthcoming remote keynote address: To be delivered in English at 20th International Symposium on Computer Architecture & Digital Systems (CADS 2020), Guilan University, Iran, April 22-23, 2020 (postponed to unspecified dates in June 2020, due to the coronavirus epidemic, which has hit particularly hard in the Caspian-Sea province of Guilan). [Read the Persian title and abstract]
Title: Neurophysiological Discoveries of the 2014 Nobel Prize Winners in Medicine from a Computer Arithmetic Perspective
Abstract: The discovery that mammals use a multi-modular method akin to residue number system (RNS), but with continuous residues or digits, to encode position information led to the award of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Medicine. After a brief review of the evidence in support of this hypothesis, and how it relates to RNS, I discuss the properties of continuous-digit RNS, and discuss results on the dynamic range, representational accuracy, and factors affecting the choice of the moduli, which are themselves real numbers. I conclude with suggestions for further research on important open problems concerning the process of selection, or evolutionary refinement, of the set of moduli in such a representation.

2020/05/15 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A sample of how English has changed: The 23rd Psalm over the last 1000 years The new normal: Children playing (cartoon) Newsweek magazine cover about safety vs. privacy, as we head toward extensive contact-tracing (1) Images of the day: [Left] A sample of how English has changed: The 23rd Psalm over the last 1000 years. [Center] The new normal: Children playing. [Right] Cover of Newsweek magazine (see the last item below).
(2) Persian poetry recitation: Fereydoon Moshiri's "Gord Afarid," describing a mythical female character from Ferdowsi's Book of Kings. Ferdowsi is often credited for saving the Persian language. Were it not for his efforts, Iranians would be speaking Arabic today, much like several non-Arab countries of North Africa.
(3) COVID-19 scams proliferate: If you get e-mails, texts, or calls about stimulus checks, testing, etc., do not respond or click on links.
(4) Hope this isn't true, but the report is in line with previous defacing and destruction attempts: Holy Jewish site of Esther and Mordechai set ablaze in Iran.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Why is Trump so obsessed with Obama? This Guardian article has some answers.
- In-n-Out Burger drive-through in Goleta now has two waiting lines, which extend to Turnpike Road. [Photo]
- The Obamas read a children's book, The Word Collector, to support public libraries. [Video]
- The Water & Fire Park: Near Tehran's Vanak Square, not far from my parental home of 3 decades ago.
- Persian music: A nice rendition of "Gol-e Sangam" with kamancheh and tar.
(6) "Twenty Actresses, Twenty Destinies, Fifty Years of Iranian Cinema": Iranian families, even educated and enlightened ones, discouraged women from pursuing acting careers and, in extreme cases, disowned them or threatened them with death. [7-minute trailer]
(7) Freedom/privacy vs. safety/security: The age-old trade-off is staring at us in the age of coronavirus. Other than contact tracing, featured on the cover of Newsweek, I learned from an NPR program that monitoring the heart rates of large populations (possibly millions) can provide important clues about the distribution and spread of COVID-19. This scheme, which does not need any new equipment, because smart watches and other health-monitoring equipment already collect the data, was invented in the US, but China is its primary user.

2020/05/14 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
An artist's expression of his/her frustrations these days: Head banging a brick These women are believed to be the front-runners for becoming Joe Biden's running mate: Abrams, Harris, Klobuchar, Warren Work by another frustrated artist, this time a sand-sculptor: Lincoln with palm on his face (1) Images of the day: [Left] Artist's expression of his/her frustrations these days (GIF link). [Center] These women are believed to be the front-runners for becoming Joe Biden's running mate. [Right] Work by another frustrated artist, this time a sand-sculptor: One of the winning entries in a Texas competition.
(2) SAT and ACT are out: UC President Janet Napolitano recommends multi-year suspension of SAT and ACT test requirements. Eventually, the standardized tests will be replaced by UC's home-grown test.
(3) Higher-education News: California State University, the nation's largest 4-year college system with 23 campuses, will cancel most in-person classes in the fall and instead offer instruction primarily online.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The coronavirus timeline: Don't let Trump try to rewrite history and blame Obama for his own failings.
- "Transition to Greatness" starts on November 3, 2020. Only 174 days to go!
- Artist at work: Using a can of paint and leaving the rest to a swinging pendulum! [5-minute video]
- Persian music: A composition by Hossein Alizadeh, with lyrics by poet Fereydoon Moshiri. [5-minute video]
- Music & dance from Lorestan: The western Iranian province that is home to the oldest human civilizations.
- Puzzle: How can we use 4-minute and 7-minute hourglasses to measure 9 minutes?
- Puzzle: What two things do these words have in common? aisle | hour | knot | scent | whole | wrested
(5) Puzzle: X wants to let Y and Z know his birth date. He first indicates that the date is among the following ten options: January 13, 15, 19; February 17, 18; March 12, 13; April 12, 15, 17.
He then tells Y the month and Z the day.
Y says: "I don't know X's birth date, but I am certain that Z doesn't know either."
Z then says: "I didn't know before, but I know now."
Y then says: "Now I know too."
Which of the 10 options represent X's birth date and why?
(6) Arab literature isn't popular in Iran: Only a handful of Arab writers are known and, with the exception of those writing in English or winning international awards, their work is pretty much ignored by Iranian intellectuals. One surprising reason is the dearth of capable translators and editors, despite the fact that Arabic instruction is broadly supported by the Islamic regime and is included at all grade levels. Fascinating!

2020/05/13 (Wednesday): Trying to make a dent in my backlog of book reviews by offering three reviews.
Cover image for the book 'Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope' Cover image for 'The Book of Joy,' by the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams Cover image of 'Zero to One,' by Peter Thiel (1) Book review: Kristof, Nicholas D. and Sheryl WuDunn, Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope, Unabridged MP3 audiobook read by the authors and Jennifer Garner, Random House Audio, 2020.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
By telling stories from the lives of real Americans who are struggling to make ends meet amid unprecedented national and global economic expansion, the authors provide a sobering narrative on the current state of our country and of our national priorities. Given America's deteriorating economic situation due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the fragilities and inequities that it has exposed, the message of this book has become even more urgent.
Kristof grew up in Yamhill, Oregon, a rural community that is representative of much of the American underclass. Kristof and WuDunn draw the reader in by telling the stories of one quarter of Kristof's school-bus buddies who have died in adulthood from drugs, alcohol, suicide, or reckless accidents, all caused, directly or indirectly, by being marginalized.
The book then proceeds to outline causes and symptoms of economic inequality, which is often blamed, wrongly, on globalization. Economic strains and downturns caused by globalization are, well, a global phenomenon, but workers in Germany and many other European countries, or in Canada, aren't impacted in the same way as US workers, thanks, in part, to their better social safety nets and the government actively helping the citizens, rather than blaming them for personal irresponsibility.
Economic desperation, along with easy access to opioids and guns, is a recipe for disaster that the aforementioned countries have avoided, as they went through rough economic times. Decades of policy mistakes, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, have reversed the economic progress of the mid-twentieth-century in rural America. For example, Mississippi, which had a per-capita income of only 30% of Massachusetts in the 1930s, was catching up and reached 70% by 1975, before starting to go backwards to the current 55%.
One particular story of the life of marginalized people was eye-opening for me. A drunken Oregon man awakens his wife and orders her to make dinner for him. When she doesn't move fast enough, he punches her and chases her out of the house with a rifle. She spends the night in the fields near their house, hoping and praying that their five children are not harmed. Four of the five children die gruesome deaths in later years, while the fifth child is afflicted with HIV and hepatitis.
This book isn't an easy or pleasant read. Despite the appearance of the word "Hope" in the subtitle, there are precious few things in the book that spark hope. But we owe it to our country to familiarize ourselves with how the underclass lives and how our choices of leaders and support for fiscal and social policies contribute to the worsening crisis.
(2) Book review: Lama, Dalai, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Abrams, The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, unabridged MP3 audiobook read by Douglas C. Abrams, Francois Chau, and Peter F. James, Penguin Audio, 2016. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
On the occasion of the Dalai Lama's 80th birthday, the two spiritual leaders, Nobel Peace Laureates, and infectiously-happy old men got together for a week in Dharamsala, India, to compare notes about joy (an inner condition) and how it differs from happiness (an outer condition). The moderator and audiobook's narrator Douglas Abrams, a Jew, observes that the combination (a Buddhist, a Christian, and a Jew), which sounds like the set-up for a joke, actually adds to the serious message that joy is independent of religion or even of the belief in a deity.
The two spiritual leaders are highly qualified to talk about finding joy in the face of hardship and pain. The Dalai Lama escaped Tibet, where his life was in danger, and has lived in exile for decades. Desmond Tutu played a key role in Africa's freedom movements, including the fall of the apartheid state in South Africa. Frequent mentions are made in the book of Nelson Mandela, another spiritual leader who chose humility, forgiveness, and gratitude, the three key ingredients of joy.
The book's plan was to build a "three-layer birthday cake," with the layers being the spiritual leaders' stories/teachings about joy, the latest psychological and neuro-scientific discoveries about human happiness, and the joyful men's daily practices encompassing their emotional and spiritual lives. The two men, still jubilant and mischievous in their eighties, may never get together again. So, this book will likely remain their final collaboration in bringing joy to the world.
The audiobook's second and third narrators are voice actors, who presumably have accents similar to the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu. This makes listening to the audiobook a much more enjoyable experience than merely reading the printed book.
(3) Book review: Thiel, Peter with Blake Masters, Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Blake Masters, Random House Audio, 2014.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Building a start-up company means creating something from nothing, thus the book's title. Drawing from his experience as a founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies, Thiel outlines conditions for success in a domain where the landscape is littered with failures. Among his recommendation is starting small, focusing on one narrow domain and aiming to monopolize it by creating something that provides clear value to users. Being too ambitious at the outset, or using the finite resources of a start-up to compete with one or more established businesses is unlikely to lead to success.
Thiel's embrace of monopoly is quite unconventional. We are told that monopoly is bad and competition is good. Thiel suggests that too much competition shaves the profit margin and dampens innovation. On the other hand, a monopolistic enterprise may be highly motivated to invest in innovative processes and products, given its relative market security and long-term profit potential. Thiel does mention in passing that monopolies can be misused, but he glosses over the dangers.
Despite the book's shortcomnings, I believe that exposure to Thiel's ideas and arguments would be beneficial to many readers. For example, there is much truth to Thiel's assertion that competition restricts vision and produces obsessive hostility. Competition often leads to copying of ideas and products, rather than invention and innovation. Thiel also stresses the importance of marketing, an area that is often overlooked by techies, dismissing the myth that "if you build it, they will come."
As a co-author of The Diversity Myth, a critique of multiculturalism and the rape-crisis movement that vilifies men (he has since apologized for the latter stance), Thiel is no stranger to controversy, and he creates a lot of it in Zero to One. Read it with an open mind and take what you find acceptable to your way of thinking and priorities. As the Persian saying goes, Luqman the Wise claimed that he learned decorum/manners from the tactless/impolite!

2020/05/12 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The Council to Reopen America has no experts on it Grandma trying to be helpful (breathing mask) Puzzle: Of the four screws in this figure, three are known to have the same length. Which ones are they?
$100 bill, with Ben Franklin wearing a face mask Optical illusion: Two different visualizations, depending on whether you focus on the top or bottom of this GIF image Professor Mona Ghassemi, Virginia Tech Engineering (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Meme of the day: And no surprise! [Top center] Grandma trying to be helpful! [Top right] Puzzle: Of the four screws in this figure, three are known to have the same length. Find the lengths of the screws, assuming that the squares shown are 1 x 1. [Bottom left] Coronavirus stimulus $100 bill! [Bottom center] Optical illusion: Two different visualizations, depending on whether you focus on the top or bottom of this GIF image. [Bottom right] Virginia Tech is proud of Professor Mona Ghassemi, whose research on accelerated aging of electrical insulators has been recognized with an NSF CAREER award.
(2) Ghost guns: Do-it-yourself firearms are flying off the shelves like toilet paper. These guns have no serial number and need no background check, making them essentially untraceable. Criminals are now attracted to ghost guns, which were originally popular only with gun enthusiasts. No one knows the exact number of such guns in the US or how many crimes have been committed with them. A ghost gun was involved in at least one school mass-shooting. [14-minute video]
(3) Mini-Louvre Museum in Izad-Shahr, Iran: Built by a philanthropist, the Caspian-Sea-region museum houses works by contemporary Iranian artists. [3-minute video]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Thirteen killed in attack on Kabul hospital's maternity ward run by Medicins Sans Frontieres.
- Never again: High-ranking Ukranian police official requests list of Jews in western city of Kolomyya.
- US Supreme Court will start hearing oral arguments on Trump's tax-returns case today.
- Iranian navy ship hit by friendly fire in the Gulf of Oman: The "incident" leaves 19 dead and 15 injured.
- Examples of people responding to museums' challenge to recreate works of art at home. [Pictorial]
(5) Petulant-in-Chief: At 4:56 this morning, Trump experienced a fit of jealousy over governors with high approval ratings for their handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, so he had to send this tweet!
(6) Mitch McConnell thinks that Obama is "classless" for criticizing Trump: Says nothing about the propriety of Trump talking and tweeting about Obama's "failures" almost daily.
(7) Invasive species are loving it: Many conservation, eradication, and control efforts have been paused around the world due to stay-at-home mandates. The final toll may be a set-back of years in such efforts.
(8) The missing billion years in the geologic record: A feature known as "The Great Uncomformity" in the Grand Canyon has puzzled scientists for well over a century. The feature refers to more than one billion years of missing rock in certain places. UCSB Earth Sciences Professor Francis Macdonald and a number of co-workers in Colorado have a new theory about the missing rock, attributing it to the movement of tectonic plates, rather than mass movement of glaciers some 700 billion years ago, the previous dominant theory.

2020/05/10 (Sunday): Today's posts are all in honor of Mothers' Day.
Photos of Iranian human-rights activists Nasrin Sotoudeh and Narges Mohammadi Photo of my mom, alongside the poem 'Mother,' by Fereydoon Moshiri Cover image for Parinoush Saniee's 'Sahm-e Man' ('My Share') (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] Happy Mothers' Day! I wish my own mother and all other selfless mothers in the world a wonderful day filled with love, celebration, and appreciation. 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 women have demonstrated repeatedly that they won't be silenced by made-up charges of treason or acting against national security (#NasrinSotoudeh #NargesMohammadi #HumanRights). [Right] Parinoush Saniee's 'Sahm-e Man' ('My Share'): See the last item below.
(2) Special Mothers' Day book review: Saniee, Parinoush, Sahm-e Man (My Share), in Persian, Roozbehan, 2003. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is a best-selling debut novel by Iranian sociologist/psychologist Parinoush Saniee, whose writings were twice banned in her homeland. Sahm-e Man has been translated into English by Sara Khalili under the title The Book of Fate (2013).
Massoumeh, the novel's protagonist, moves with her family from Qom to Tehran. Her family views girls as trouble and easy targets for corruption in the capital city. Massoumeh is envied by her older brothers, because she is bright and a favorite of their father, and one of them, a sadist, drinker, and drug addict makes life difficult for her and her friends. When a young man, a pharmacist, is smitten by Massoumeh and sends her private notes, the brothers accuse her of being loose and blame Parvaneh, a friend and confidante, for leading her along a deviant path.
After turning down several suitors seeking arranged marriages, and forgetting about the pharmacist who left town with no trace, Massoumeh agrees to marry a man whom she did not know at all, because she saw marriage as her ticket out of her suffocating home life. The man turns out to be quite enlightened and an advocate of women's rights, who suggests that she pursue her education, but he is too busy with a left-wing underground group, with secret meetings and operations, to pay much attention to his wife. The marriage produces two sons and, years later, a daughter, who fill the void in Massoumeh's life.
In time, Massoumeh comes to love her husband but feels uneasy about her place in his life, her relationship with his friends, and the dangers he puts the family through. He vanishes for days or weeks at a time and does not talk about his activities when he returns. He justifies this silence by telling his wife that she would be better off if she knew less. The husband is eventually arrested and imprisoned. The Islamic Revolution takes him out of the prison, and, for a while, he pays more attention to his wife and children. But he soon returns to underground activities and the attendant long absences.
Saniee weaves an intricate tale of the life of a lonely woman, who is a prisoner of societal norms and expectations of family members, her own and her husband's. She keeps herself occupied by reading, taking courses, cooking, cleaning, and tending to her children's physical and emotional needs. When her husband is home, she comes to enjoy his presence and spending time with him, if his other commitments do not interfere.
Hundreds of pages later, we see Massoumeh as a middle-aged woman who takes pride in her accomplishments. Her sons are out of the house, one fleeing to Germany and the other getting married after fighting in the Iran-Iraq War, and her daughter finds love, having started her college education. In a final dramatic twist, Massoumeh's pharmacist crush reappears in Tehran. Dealing with decades-old suppressed feelings, in the face of surprisingly selfish reactions of her children to their mother pursuing a new romance, creates major complications in her life.
I found this book one of the best-written modern novels in Persian. The prose is engaging, grammatically solid, and correctly punctuated, while being rather informal, a rarity in Persian-language books. On the negative side, I found the overly long chapters (~100 pp.) at the beginning of the book somewhat distressing. I like a bit more structure in a book, including reasonably-sized chapters with titles, that provide milestones and guidance to the reader. Frequent citation of poems is another annoyance, in my opinion. But these are minor qualms for an otherwise excellent and highly-recommended book.

2020/05/09 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iran of a century ago: Color photos from the April 1921 'National Geographic' special: Batch 1 Today, we celebrated my daughter's birthday on Zoom, with the extended family Iran of a century ago: Color photos from the April 1921 'National Geographic' special: Batch 2 (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Iran of a century ago: Color photos from the April 1921 National Geographic special. [Center] Today, we celebrated my daughter's birthday on Zoom, with the extended family.
(2) Iran's other side: I often make positive posts about the nature, architecture, and culture of Iran. Unfortunately, all this beauty has a flip side that is often hidden from view. In this 8-minute video, Mohammad Nourizad shows us around a town in southeastern Iran, near the Pakistani border and less than half-km away from the resource-rich Gulf of Oman, where people live in abject poverty, forsaken by both the central government and local authorities.
(3) Seems like Trump has come to accept that the US economy is in the dumps: Every chance he gets, he talks about a "transition" third quarter, which will morph into a "great" fourth quarter and a "phenomenal" 2021. In other words, suck it up and I will make it wonderful after you re-elect me!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Little Richard, the rock legend who was an inspiration to many who came after him, dead at 87.
- The US unemployment rate is now worst since the Great Depression, when it hit 25.4%. [Time cover]
- Tech companies are America's bright spots, as we strive to come back from the COVID-19 pandemic's abyss.
- Meme of the day: "I am not a crook,*" (*By today's standards). [Image]
- A group of UCSB students have joined forces to recreate that campus feeling in Mine-Craft.
- Interpreting the eyes' language in the age of coronavirus and social distancing. [Cartoon strip]
- Theme music from "Titanic," reimagined in classical Indian style. [Video]
(5) Health workers are in a war zone: Those who are put in a position to reuse masks and gowns bear the same risks as soldiers in the early months of the Iraq War patrolling the combat zone in unarmored vehicles.
(6) Persian music: A nice-sounding trio, one of the many musical groups that have sprung up across Iran, in defiance of the government's restrictions on arts and artists, particularly women artists who are excluded from many public performance venues.
(7) Disneyland's "Star Wars" attraction: Theme-park attractions and other mass-gatherings are disallowed until the fourth stage of the state's re-opening plan.
(8) UCSB's Pollock Theater spotlights "Shakespeare on Film" with three virtual screenings.
- Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet" (1948; available on Amazon Prime Video); film info and video of post-screening discussion with UCSB English Professor Mark Rose.
- "Haider" (2014; available on Netflix), "Hamlet" reimagined as a contemporary crime drama; film info and video of post-screening discussion with USC Cinema and Media Studies Professor Priya Jaikumar.
- "Macbeth" (2015; available on Amazon Prime Video); film info and video of post-screening discussion with screenwriters Todd Louiso and Jacob Koskoff.

2020/05/08 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
This is our president's understanding of diagnostic tests The floor was somewhat taken aback by the alarmed door and the startled window The late Forough Farrokhzad: Famed contemporary Iranian poet, with her brother Fereydoon and a sample of her work (1) Images of the day: [Left] This is our president's understanding of diagnostic tests. [Center] The floor was somewhat taken aback by the alarmed door and the startled window. [Right] The late Forough Farrokhzad: Famed contemporary Iranian poet, with her brother Fereydoon and a sample of her work.
(2) Obama to deliver televised commencement speech for the entire high-school class of 2020: The special, hosted by The LeBron James Family Foundation, XQ Institute, and The Entertainment Industry Foundation, will air simultaneously on ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC (May 16, 8:00 PM EDT). Many other celebs will participate.
(3) Exciting news from the 3D-printing front: University of Bath (UK) researchers have produced an open-source design that allows the 3D printing of a laboratory-grade microscope for less than $20. The microscope has motorized sample-positioning and focus control.
(4) A failed presidency on full display: Not caring about 70,000+ deaths, but sweating over a 7000-point drop in DJIA. A just-us system that wants to dismiss charges against a confessed criminal and seems to be okay with White Supremacists gunning down an unarmed black man while jogging. [Meme and tweet]
(5) Earthquake near Tehran: Centered to the south of Mt. Damavand, a volcanic peak 70 km east of Tehran, the magnitude-4.8 quake (5.1?) seems to have caused few casualties and little damage.
(6) Coronavirus in the White House: VP Mike Pence's Press Secretary Katie Miller (wife of Trump aide Steven Miller) has tested positive for the coronavirus. White House staff will now be tested daily for the virus, but testing is unnecessary for the rest of US population!
(7) A secret love affair that emerged from the shadows after 60 years: The story of Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel began in 1947, when they fell in love. But they had to hide their love for each other from even their families, until 2009, when they decided to cautiously reveal the nature of their relationship to their loved ones. The documentary "A Secret Love" (Netflix), directed by Chris Bolan, tells this incredible story. [Trailer]
(8) Many college-bound students will take a gap year: Quite a few high-school seniors say they will definitely or most likely delay their college attendance by a year. Google searches for "gap year" have increased by 60%. Meanwhile, many colleges are still trying to fill their open slots for fall 2020.
(9) A final thought: While we are distracted by the pandemic and its economic fallout, Trump is pushing and implementing his dictatorial vision for America. Examples include DoE's watered-down sexual assault rules on university campuses and DoJ's dropping of charges against Michael Flynn, who had confessed to his crimes.

2020/05/07 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UK newspapers celebrating Monday's easing of restrictions on economic activities Roohangiz Saminejad was the first Muslim Iranian woman to appear in movies Success at last: After several trips to Costco, today I finally emerged with paper towels! (1) Images of the day: [Left] UK newspapers celebrating Monday's easing of restrictions on economic activities. [Center] Roohanguiz, and breaking taboos (historic footage): She was the first Muslim Iranian woman to appear in movies, including the very first Persian talkie, "Dokhtar-e Lor" ("Lor Girl"). For this, she was disowned by friends and family and needed security protection for the many threats against her life. She eventually abandoned acting after making a few films. [Right] Success at last: After several trips to Costco, today I finally emerged with paper towels! P.S.: Does anyone else miss Costco samples?
(2) To mark National Nurses' Week, RNs protested PPE shortages in front of the White House, symbolically placing 88 pairs of shoes on the ground in memory of nurses who have perished due to COVID-19.
(3) From Rebecca Solnit's highly-acclaimed book, Recollections of My Nonexistence: A Memoir, Viking, 2020.
"Mostly when people write about the trauma of gender violence, it's described as one awful, exceptional event or relationship, as though you suddenly fell into the water, but what if you're swimming through it your whole life, and there is no dry land in sight?"
(4) Years of progress in addressing the campus rape culture is being flushed down the drain: Betsy DeVos releases new campus sexual-assault rules that will likely discourage victims from coming forward.
(5) On the importance of perspective, from an unknown author: "For a small amount of perspective at this moment, imagine you were born in 1900. When you are 14, World War I starts, and ends on your 18th birthday with 22 million people killed. Later in the year, a Spanish Flu epidemic hits the planet and runs until you are 20. Fifty million people die from it in those two years. Yes, 50 MILLION. When you're 29, the Great Depression begins. Unemployment hits 25%, global GDP drops 27%. That runs until you are 33. The country nearly collapses along with the world economy. When you turn 39, World War II starts. You aren't even over the hill yet. When you're 41, the United States is fully pulled into WW II. Between your 39th and 45th birthday, 75 million people perish in the war and the Holocaust kills 11 million, 6 million of those were Jews. At 50, the Korean War starts and five million perish. At 55 the Vietnam War begins, and it doesn't end for 20 years. Four million people die in that conflict. Approaching your 62nd birthday you have the Cuban Missile Crisis, a tipping point in the Cold War. Life on our planet, as we know it, could well have ended. Great leaders prevented that from happening. As you turn 75, the Vietnam War finally ends. Think of everyone on the planet born in 1900. How do you survive all of that? A kid in 1985 didn't think their 85-year-old grandparent understood how hard school was. Yet those grandparents (and now great grandparents) survived through everything listed above. Perspective is an amazing art. Let's try and keep things in perspective. Let's be smart, help each other out, and with a little time we will get through all of this as well."

2020/05/06 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Some of the hospital beds and associated equipment purchased for and donated to a hospital in Tehran by Fanni graduates, class of 1968 Coronavirus has given us the cleanest air in decades In addition to upbeat music and colorful costumes that raise the spirit, two other features of Kurdish dancing, mix of men and women and holding hands, are noteworthy (1) Images of the day: [Left] Helping to fight the pandemic in Iran: Some of the hospital beds and associated monitoring equipment purchased for and donated to a hospital in Tehran by Fanni graduates, class of 1968. [Center] Coronavirus has given us the cleanest air in decades: Remember this fact when we return to normal. Many of the car trips we make are inessential and avoidable. Many of the possessions we collect, all made by expending natural resources and energy, are likewise dispensable. [Right] On Kurdish dancing: In addition to upbeat music and colorful costumes that raise the spirit, two other features of Kurdish dancing are noteworthy. Alternating positions of men and women in the line-up reflect their equal social status and holding hands represents community and solidarity. Unfortunately, after Iran's Islamic Revolution, mixed dancing has become much less common and we often see separate men's and women's lines.
(2) "Mourning in America": Playing on Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" slogan, the Republican-led Lincoln Project airs an ad on Fox network that slams Trump for his failed presidency.
(3) ABC's David Muir went very soft on Trump: He got a rare interview opportunity outside of Fox, but failed to ask follow-up questions or challenge Trump's many blatant lies, including blaming Obama and the Russia probe for the lack of adequate preparation to deal with COVID-19. Interestingly, Trump essentially acknowledged that we were unprepared, contradicting his many previous claims that "we have it totally under control." [Tweet]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US skips the meeting in which world leaders pledged $8 billion to fight COVID-19.
- New York subways deliberately shut down for the first time in history to disinfect more than 500 stations.
- NASA confirms that it is working with Tom Cruise on a feature film about the International Space Station.
- Observation: Not only did we not get flying cars, even our planes aren't flying any more!
(5) Eight Starbucks locations in Goleta and Santa Barbara are re-opening: "In order for this to happen, employees must wear protective gear and have their temperature checked before shifts. Customers will be able to order and pay ahead of time using the Starbucks App and pick up orders at the door."
(6) Is a war between the US and China inevitable? Trump will be a major beneficiary of a conflict, but there are others, like Pompeo and his backers, who are worried about China's threat to US supremacy and are stoking the fire of war. Here is a 19-minute TED talk by Harvard political scientist Graham Allison, arguing that war between the two world powers might be inevitable. [Abridged version, with Persian subtitles]
(7) Humor from Iran: After the removal of four 0s from finanacial figures (that is, rolling out a new monetary unit equal to 10,000 rials), officials are thinking about also removing four 0s from Ayatollah Jannati's age!

2020/05/05 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Mona Lisa in coronavirus quarantine: No longer smiling! Older women photographed at Hajj pilgrimage wearing an 'I Love Sex' T-shirt Time magazine's clever cover image, issue of May 11, 2020: Open? Nope! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Mona Lisa in coronavirus quarantine: No longer smiling! [Center] Older woman photographed at Hajj pilgrimage: Reminds me of two young men chanting "Death to America" while wearing Harvard and Disney T-shirts. [Right] Time magazine's clever cover image, issue of May 11, 2020: Open? Nope!
(2) Quote of the day: "Realizing justice, freedom, and human rights is worth losing all that I have, including not hearing the voices of my Ali and Kiana." ~ Anti-death-penalty activist Narges Mohammadi, on her twins, who were 7 when she began serving a long prison term 6 years ago [Tweet]
(3) On Trump claiming future credit: He boasted that he's done a good job, because the 15 COVID-19 cases at the time "will soon go to 0" (the current number actually has 5 more 0s and a 1)! Now he says he's done a good job because deaths will not surpass 100,000. As a bonus, he will also eradicate AIDS in 8 years!
(4) Almost everyone saw this coming: Gun-packing goons protesting against shutdown orders, coming face-to-face with law-abiding citizens trying to enforce federal and state regulations, such as the Michigan security man, father of 7, who was shot to death for asking people to wear face-masks. The accused may or may not be Trump supporters, but it doesn't matter, when POTUS encourages lawless individuals to "liberate" their states (from Democratic governors). I am fearful for November 4th, the day after the US election.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- It was bound to happen: ABC News reporter Will Reeve went on air without pants and it showed! [Photo]
- Modern Persian music and dance: Beautifully choreographed and performed. [Video]
- Persian poetry: Baran Nikrah, a social-media star and a physics PhD student, recites one of her poems.
- Azeri dance: This performance features wonderful drum beats and a replica of a culturally-significant rock.
- Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" as you've never heard it before: Gimnazija Kranj Symphony performs.
- Violinist Caroline Campbell's wonderful rendition of the theme from "Skyfall" (music by Adele).
(6) Last night's casserole: I set out to use leftovers, such as baked sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and mushrooms, which I combined with penne pasta, cheese, chicken, and marinara sauce. I gave some to my daughter (who isn't a pasta fan to begin with, and was skeptical about my choice of ingredients) and she complimented me thus: "It's not atrocious!" [Photos]
(7) Trump's "nobody knew what was coming" defense falling apart: This new whistle-blower complaint by ousted vaccine scientist Rick Bright is much more devastating than the one about "the perfect phone call." Administration officials ignored his January warnings and, instead, tried to push investment on unproven drugs.
(8) Drs. Fauci and Birx contradicted Trump on multiple occasions, so they couldn't stay. Firing them would have been politically inconvenient. The solution: Dissolve the entire coronavirus task-force!

2020/05/04 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Clean-up of nuclear waste from plutonium processing is still ongoing after 3 decades Chart: 'Peak Oil' doomsday prediction did not materialize Trump cannot hide his disdain for Anthony Fauci
Beautiful spring colors of Aligudarz, a county in the western Iranian province of Lorestan Radio invented by the Russian physicist Aleksandr S. Popov Two multi-panel paintings depicting the four seasons (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Clean-up of nuclear waste from plutonium processing is still ongoing after 3 decades: Located in Hanford, south-central Washington state, the 177 underground storage tanks holding remnants of materials from some 60,000 nuclear weapons built during World War II and the Cold War, hold a total of 212 million liters of toxic waste, enough to fill 85 Olympics-size swimming pools. [Top center] "Peak Oil" doomsday prediction did not materialize: Whereas a peak was reached as predicted, the post-peak drop did not pan out. (IEEE Spectrum article) [Top right] Trump cannot hide his disdain for Anthony Fauci: The White House has blocked Fauci's testimony at a Congressional hearing next week. [Bottom left] Beautiful spring colors of Aligudarz, a county in the western Iranian province of Lorestan. [Bottom center] The invention of radio: Russian physicist Aleksandr S. Popov demonstrated on May 7, 1895, a device for detecting electrical disturbances in the atmosphere, thereby proving the feasibility of radio transmission. Around the same time, Guglielmo Marconi was developing his radio apparatus in Italy, which led to his recognition as "the inventor of radio" in much of the world. The Soviet Union celebrated, and Russia now marks, "Radio Day" on May 7. (Photo credit, IEEE Spectrum, May 2020) [Bottom right] Two multi-panel paintings depicting the four seasons.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- SB News Press chief editor leaves paper after owner likens public-health restrictions to Nazi Germany.
- Najaf Daryabandari, prolific Iranian author and translator, dead at 90. [Tribute video]
- Nostalgia: Scenes, artifacts, and music from Tehran of six decades ago. [Video]
- Fishing with raw eggs and Pepsi: This guy makes it look so easy! [3-minute video]
- Nested fruits of various kinds (and a final surprise): I don't even know how this is possible! [Video]
- Modern Persian music: Played with the backdrop of streets and historical sites of Isfahan, Iran. [Video]
(3) Trump supporters are demanding that churches, hair salons, and tattoo parlors re-open: No mention whatsoever of bookstores or libraries!
(4) Innovation in coronavirus testing: A team of Israeli researchers has built upon previous work on a mathematical framework for detecting carriers of rare mutations within large populations to develop efficient and accurate coronavirus tests. This idea was used by the US during World War II, when samples from 5 soldiers were combined to test for syphilis. If the test came back negative, all five soldiers were cleared; if not, then individual tests were carried out. The Israeli technique pools samples from 384 subjects, with each individual sample incorporated into six different pools mixed by liquid-dispensing robots. This translates to only 48 tests required for all 384 subjects, with the outcome deduced in just one round. Because each individual sample is tested six times, the method more effectively addresses false positives or false negatives.

2020/05/03 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
World Press Freedom Day: May 3 is when we celebrate press freedom where it exists and strive to establish it where it does not Several photos of my uncle Yacov and his family from decades ago English and Persian poems in memory and honor of my uncle Yacov Yussefian (1) Images of the day: [Left] World Press Freedom Day: May 3 is when we celebrate press freedom where it exists and remember marginalized and imprisoned journalists where it does not (Iran and Turkey, to name just two). In reality, every day is Press Freedom Day! [Center & Right] Ya'ghoub Yussefian (?-2020): The month of May has not been kind to the extended Parhami family so far. I have learned of my uncle Yacov's passing in Israel. He is survived by four sons. As the oldest of my mom's three brothers (she also has two sisters, one living and one deceased), he had been in poor health for some time. He became ill and lost the zest for life after his wife's passing. Because he lived in Israel, I had very little personal contact with him, other than during several trips there, including a 10-month stay in the late 1950s. I knew him in his younger years as a kind and good-humored man. I worte the two poems above in his memory and honor. May his soul rest in peace!
(2) World Press Freedom Day special: Ali Alinejad, brother of journalist Masih Alinejad, has been jailed in Iran for his sister's "sins" abroad: Yet, he has refused to disown his sister Masih.
(3) Iranian authorities are terrified of women activists: While many prisoners have been released due to the COVID-19 threat in prisons, women political prisoners are being guarded closely.
(4) Iran continues to batter dissidents: Ali Younesi, student of Sharif University of Technology and winner of an international gold medal in has not been heard from since his violent arrest a couple of weeks ago.
(5) The mother of all freight trains: This amazing train with 200 containers is used for shipping between China and Germany: It travels the 10,000 km distance in 2 weeks, whereas shipping by sea takes 2 months. Plans are underway to increase the number of containers to 300. [5-minute video]
(6) Synchronous vs. asynchronous instruction: I am doing what may be called semi-synchronous teaching myself, recording lectures and posting them a few days ahead of the originally-scheduled date, allowing my students to watch them at their preferred times. But it turns out that synchronous instruction has its benefits, in the sense of providing socially-isolated students a schedule and sense of community. It does, however, create disadvantages for some students, including those with disabilities, and it can also overwhelm professors.
(7) "The Magic of Content-Addressable Storage": This is the title of an interesting, and accessible, article by Konrad Hinsen in IEEE Computing in Science & Engineering (Vol. 22. No. 3, May/June 2020). [Access link]

2020/05/02 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sample of Mattel's #ThankYouHeroes collection of 16 action figures Scenes from Friday afternoon at Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace An eagle and its big catch out of the water
Math puzzle: A regular hexagon is divided into six sections by connecting an interior point O to the midpoints of its sides (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Mattel's #ThankYouHeroes: The 16 action figures, whose sales will benefit front-line workers, include doctors, delivery drivers, nurses, EMTs, and store clerks. [Top center] Friday afternoon at Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace: Starbucks and a few other stores are closed. Restaurants have removed their indoors and outdoors seating, offering only take-out. The movie theater is now a popcorn store. The normally-bustling parking lot holds a few socially-distanced cars. Rather sad to see this de-facto town square devoid of life! [Top right] A bird of prey and its big catch: After struggling to pull the big fish out of the water, it is barely able to hold on, as it flies away. [Bottom left] Math puzzle: This is an extension, and a more challenging version, of the square puzzle I posted on April 30, 2020. A regular hexagon is divided into six sections by connecting an interior point O to the midpoints of its sides, as shown. Areas of three of the sections are given. What are the areas of the remaining sections? (Solution) [Bottom center & right] Nahid Sami Parhami, one of the tree last members of Parhami family's old guards, has passed away. May her soul Rest in Peace! I have composed a Persian poem in her memory and honor.
(2) International Teachers' Day is on Monday, October 5, 2020: A number of former students of mine from Iran were kind enough to send me congratulatory messages for the Iranian Teachers' Day, which is chosen to coincide with the date of passing of Ayatollah Morteza Mottahari (May 2, 1979; 12 Ordibehesht). While being remembered on any day is a thrill, choosing religion-specific days for such honors is against my beliefs. I prefer international celebrations.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Evidently, the virus did not miraculously go away by April: 4/01 cases = 220K; 4/30 cases = 1.1M.
- Joining New Zealand, Canada bans the buying and selling of some 1500 types of assault weapons. [Tweet]
- Universities are hurting financially and the inevitable layoff of staff and faculty may have begun. [Tweet]
- "Deep-speare" AI crafts Shakespearean verse that few readers could distinguish from the real thing.
(4) University of California campuses unlikely to fully re-open in fall, according to UC President Janet Napolitano: Financial losses in the month of March alone amounted to $600 million, half of it due to dorm-fees and other refunds to students and the other half at UC hospitals.
(5) "Information Technology and the Fight Against COVID-19": This is the title of a free IEEE Computer Society webinar, May 26, 2020, 6:00 PM EDT. [Registration link]
(6) Muhammad Ali's 1971 seriocomic musings on why everything of significance is white (Jesus, Santa Claus, angels, the White House), while a lot of bad things are black (black cat, the ugly duckling, blackmail).

2020/05/01 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy International Labor Day, aka May Day! (Historical photos) Finding friends (pen-pals) before the age of social media: Iranian magazine page with personal profiles/ads Screenshots from yesterday's Zoom meeting of the UCSB Faculty Legislature (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy International Labor Day, aka May Day! In these challenging times, we have come to appreciate the value of labor and its effects on our society's well-being and prosperity even more. The men and women in the world's labor force should be extolled, not exploited. [Center] Finding friends (pen-pals) before the age of social media: Iranian magazine page with personal profiles/ads. [Right] These screenshots are from yesterday's Zoom meeting of the UCSB Faculty Legislature (see the last item below).
(2) Universities adjust "commitment deposit policies": Traditionally, May 1 is decision day for prospective college students, but things are complicated this year. Some parents are comfortable paying a deposit to secure their child's spot in hopes that things will return to normal soon. Others are struggling to afford $500 right now, and the looming tuition. Schools are adjusting accordingly. Some are giving students until June 1 to make their decision. Others are still asking for commitment now, but accepting deposits later.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US GDP contracted by an annualized rate of 4.8% during Q1: Results of Q2 are expected to be even worse.
- Photos of empty Los Angeles locations you may never experience again. [Pictorial]
- Will glass tanning booths on the beach be the new normal?
- Tulip park in Iran: Located in Kondor Village of the Alborz Province, the colorful park is a sight to behold.
- One of my all-time favorite musical pieces, performed by a symphony orchestra: "Miserlou"
- And here is an energetic performance of "Miserlou" by a smallish group of virtuosos.
(4) UCSB Faculty Legislature meeting: Fresh out of the oven (announced in yesterday's meeting and not yet posted on-line), the list appears in the image above. I will describe two of the awards.
- UCSB Faculty Research Lecturer: Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry Alison Butler has been chosen for this highest honor UCSB faculty can bestow on one of its members.
- UCSB Faculty Diversity Award was given to Art Professor Kip Fulbeck, College of Creative Studies.
A summary of other business discussed at the meeting follows.
- Professor Susannah Scott (Chemistry and Biochemistry) will be the incoming Academic Senate Chair.
- The status of fall quarter has not been settled, but commitment has been made to allow those international and domestic students who cannot attend for whatever reason to take courses remotely, even if the campus re-opens. This will create serious challenges for instructors, who will be faced with more work to manage the dual instruction mode. Statements of intent-to-register for fall 2020 are about 10% below normal, so we may have to resort to the waiting list to get our 5000 incoming freshmen.
- UC faces multibillion-dollar revenue loss, should the pandemic-caused restrictions and the associated economic slowdown continue past the fall quarter.
- There is some tension between the faculty and systemwide administration about who owns the copyright to recorded material from on-line teaching. Apparently, UC views the material as a possible source of revenue.

2020/04/30 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Puzzle: What number should replace the question mark? Puzzle: How many triangles are there in this diagram? Puzzle: What is the area of the blue section in the given square?
Puzzle: See how many of these movies you recognize from their emoji renderings. (1) Math and word puzzles: [Top left] What number should replace the question mark? [Top center] How many triangles are there in this diagram? [Top right] A square is divided into four sections by connecting an interior point O to the midpoints of the four sides, as shown. What is the area of the blue section? (Note: The drawing isn't to scale.) [Bottom] See how many of these movies you recognize from their emoji renderings.
(2) A self-evident statement: If your jokes and sarcastic remarks are always interpreted as serious suggestions, then perhaps you aren't good at humor or sarcasm!
(3) Image processing pioneer Thomas Huang dead at 83: His method of deriving a relationship between 2D and 3D imaging was foundational to innovations in 3D urban-modeling programs like Google's StreetView.
(4) Clean energy under attack: UCSB Professor Leah Stokes faults Michael Moore's new documentary, "Planet of the Humans," coming to us on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, as unfairly criticizing energy and climate activists, thus giving a gift to Big Oil. [The documentary in full: 100-minute video]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Armed protesters storm Michigan's State House: State troopers are protecting the Governor.
- Los Angeles is the first major city to offer coronavirus testing to everyone, with or without symptoms.
- NASA awards human moon-lander contract to three US companies: Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX.
- A couple of screenshots from my Zoom office hour early yesterday afternoon. [Photos]
- The Borowitz Report: VP Pence starts wearing mask after Dr. Fauci tells him it will protect him from women.
- A joyful and virtuous piano performance at a London train station. [Video]
- Andre Rieu introduces an incredibly-talented young soprano: Amira singing "O Mio Babbino Caro"
- Persian music: Iran's National Orchestra performs "Sabokbaal," a composition by the late Hossein Dehlavi.
(6) According to Ben Shapiro, discussing COVID-19 deaths in the US, those who have lived past the US life expectancy of 80 are disposable: This statistically-challenged moron does not realize that statistical measures, which are valid in large groups, cannot be applied to individuals. A particular 81-year-old may have 20 years of life left, whereas a particular 30-year-old may have 10 years left. We should not put anyone in a position to decide who's worth saving! Following his logic, we should line up all 80-year-olds in front of a firing squad and end their misery! The only problem is that eliminating people at 80 will reduce the life expectancy figure, so we will be forced to eliminate people earlier and earlier.
(7) Iranian sports celebs and social-media influencers, a couple with children who are 4 and 2, were summoned, questioned, and threatened by Iran's Ministry of Information. When will this nightmare end?
(8) Jared Kushner thinks the US response to coronavirus is a success story! He is the "many people" Trump constantly references when he wants to push a crazy idea. A shadow president controlling the orange puppet!

2020/04/29 (Wednesday): Trying to make a dent in my backlog of book reviews by offering three reviews.
Cover image for Yuval Noah Harari's '21 Lessons for the 21st Century' Cover image of Philip Rucker's and Carol Leonnig's 'A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America' Cover image of Malala Yousafzai's 'We Are Displaced' (1) Book review: Harari, Yuval Noah, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, unabridged audiobook on 10 CDs, read by Derek Perkins, Penguin/Random-House Audio, 2018. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Harari's previous two books, Sapiens and Homo Deus, explored the past and long-term future of us humans. His new best-selling social-science book, 21 Lessons, focuses on today's most-pressing issues and the key choices we face as we navigate the new landscape. Among the challenges highlighted are technological progress, the roles of computers and robots, the fake-news epidemic, the place of religion, and educating the next generation.
In 21 thought-provoking chapters, Harari untangles political and social issues in order to prepare us for fundamental changes brought about by big data, new jobs and skills, the threat of terrorism, and the potential demise of liberal democracy. One challenge that cuts across all human endeavors is the ability to function in a world filled with noise and uncertainty.
Here is a 59-minute video of Harari's October 2018 moderated talk about this book at Google. The video's caption describes Harari as a "macro-historian," a term I found interesting!
(2) Book review: Rucker, Philip and Carol Leonnig, A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump's Testing of America, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the authors and Hillary Huber, Penguin Audio, 2020.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The title of this book comes from Donald Trump's self-description, boasting about his stability and intelligence, apparently in response to reports of mental fickleness, volatility, and intellectual limitations. This is one of a continuously-appearing string of books about Trump and his dysfunctional administration. I have read and reviewed several of the previous volumes, but this one is head-and-shoulders above the others in terms of detail, sourcing, and connecting the dots.
While there is a great deal of overlap between this book and accounts by other authors, the book does contain a few exclusive scoops, but the most important contribution of the authors is in cataloging in great detail and providing context for how reasonable and patriotic individuals were driven from the administration, until only yes-men and yes-women were left.
For example, each Chief of Staff exerted less control than his immediate predecessor, in time letting Trump run loose with his crazy ideas, conspiracy theories, and idiotic pronouncements. John Kelly, Trump's second Chief of Staff, is quoted as saying that he chose to join the administration in order to defend the Constitution and the rule of law, pointing out that the oath he took "doesn't say anything about being loyal to the president. It doesn't say anything ... about the GOP being more important than your integrity."
If you choose to read this book, you can safely ignore other tell-all books that preceded it, though not future volumes. I have a sense that much remains untold about this abomination in the history of America. Rucker's and Leonning's story ends, as Trump launches his 2020 campaign in a Florida rally. Trump's handling of the coronavirus epidemic, and the inept individuals around him who enabled his murderous inaction, dishonest happy-talk, and peddling of dubious remedies will no doubt provide ample material for future tell-alls.
(3) Book review: Yousafzai, Malala, We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Neela Vaswani and Deepti Gupta (with prologue read by the author), Hachette Audio, 2019. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani education and women's/girls' rights activist. She begins this book with "I Am Displaced," which contains a brief version of her own story, told in greater detail in her previous book, I Am Malala. Her family was displaced, both within Pakistan, and outside their home country, when they eventually moved to England to escape atrocities by Taliban extremists who shot Malala in the head because of her advocacy on behalf of girls' education.
The second part, "We Are Displaced," contains the experiences of nine refugee girls and young women. Yousafzai provides a brief introduction to each story, with the narrative continued by the subject. Girls from Yemen, Syria, Congo, and other diverse lands are featured in this part. Yousafzai is uniquely qualified to tell these stories, given her own background and societal oppression as a girl. Fortunately for Yousafzai, her parents were enlightened and believed that girls and boys should be educated. Her father ran a school for girls, but under Taliban rule, was forced to shutter it.
An epilogue covers Yousafzai's 2018 visit to Pakistan after a 6-year absence. The 4-day visit to her old home in Swat Valley required extensive security provisions. Yousafzai reportedly said in an interview that she missed everything about Pakistan: Rivers and mountains, of course, but also the dirty streets and the garbage around their house.
I find it amazing that a girl who grew up in a society where women were considered inferior and suffered from numerous restrictions has accomplished so much by age 22: Winning the Nobel Peace Prize, writing best-selling books, and becoming one of the most-recognized advocates of women's/girls' rights!

2020/04/28 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Governor Cuomo's charts showing that blue states have been bailing out red states for decades Young women in Kabul, Afghanistan, nearly five decades ago (1972) Image of the Iranian flag is projected on Matterhorn in Switzerland
A few pencil drawings of mine from the end of the 1960s Brainwashed Iranians, at an audience with Khamenei, holding a banner that says they would give their lives for the Supreme Leader Cartoon: Role reversal (coronavirus wearing mask) (1) Images of the day: [Top left] On the federal government bailing out states or letting them go bankrupt: Governor Cuomo shames Mitch McConnell for wanting to bankrupt blue states. McConnell has said that NY and other coronavirus hot spots should not be bailed out. In fact, the charts Cuomo flashed show that blue states have been bailing out red states for decades. [Top center] Young women in Kabul, Afghanistan, nearly five decades ago (1972). [Top right] The Swiss project images of different flags, including Iran's, on Matterhorn to show international solidarity in the fight against coronavirus. [Bottom left] A few pencil drawings of mine from the end of the 1960s (50+ years ago). [Bottom center] Brainwashed Iranians, at an audience with Khamenei, holding a banner that says they would give their lives for the Supreme Leader. [Bottom right] Cartoon of the day: Role reversal!
(2) I was so spot-on in this April 28, 2014, Facebook post about racism in the US: "If someday a racist administration comes to power in the US, then we will see the true extent of the hidden racism in our society."
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- History's lesson: San Francisco reopened too soon after the 1918 flu pandemic and paid a heavy price.
- Contributions to COVID-19 relief efforts: Hard cash vs. thoughts and prayers! [Meme]
- If you didn't know the leader of the US coronavirus task-force, would you be able to tall from this photo?
- Meat-supply disruptions may be coming: Meat processing plants have become coronavirus hot-spots.
- Why Trump is incapable of showing empathy toward COVID-19 victims: "I like people who didn't die, okay?"
- SuperbadTransmittableContagiousAwfulVirus: Mary Poppins sings about coronavirus! [Video]
- If classic Disney songs were about quarantine and social-distancing. [Video]
(4) Coronavirus humor: One-liners to bring a smile to your face in these challenging times.
- I am so excited! It's time to take the garbage out. I wonder what I should wear!
- The longer this goes on, the harder it will be to return to a society where pants and bras are required!
- Don't open any e-mail with the subject "Knock Knock." It's a Jehovah's Witness working from home!
- When we were little, our underwear had the days of the week on them. They'd be so helpful right now!
(5) We are living in an inverse-welfare state: Wealth is created at the bottom and devoured at the top, through a multitude of subsidies and tax breaks for billionaires and giant multinational corporations.
(6) Tehran University faculty and staff develop an open-source ventilator: According to an IEEE Spectrum newsletter, Professor Hadi Moradi and colleagues will share the design details with others worldwide.

2020/04/27 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of the book 'Concurrency: The Works of Leslie Lamport' IEEE Computer Society honors women in computing The COVID-19 cloud's silver lining (1) Images of the day: [Left] Book introduction: Concurrency: The Works of Leslie Lamport, edited by Dahlia Malkhi, consists of two parts. In Part I, experts in the field of concurrency, where Lamport made seminal contributions, describe and interpret his original ideas. Part II contains a selection of Lamport's most-influential papers. In addition to academic/technical contributions to concurrent computation, Lamport is known for designing the widely-used LaTeX typesetting system (Lamport's TeX). [Center] Honoring women in computing: IEEE Computer Society accepts new nominations through October 1, 2020. Here is a list of women honored in recent years. [Right] The COVID-19 cloud's silver lining (see the next item below).
(2) The COVID-19 cloud's silver lining: Our world is in despair over the social isolation and economic woes resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Yes, the glass is more than half-empty, but we may emerge from this crisis stronger and more focused on important things in life. We have already become aware of the critical importance of healthcare workers and other job categories we used to dismiss as boring and unglamorous, but which are really the engines that make our society work and move forward. As the saying goes, one week without sanitation workers leads to disastrous filth and odor, but years without clerics or reality-show stars won't cause a ripple in society! We have also become more aware of inequities in the way such pandemics affect different races and social group. The history of human progress is riddled with tragedies and disasters.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Reposting from April 27, 2017, along with today's update after three years. [Image]
- A compilation of Donald Trump's "scientific" musings: A large brain, indeed, but unclear what it's made of!
- The largest number of from-home collaborators that I have seen in producing a music video. [Image]
- Delightful art humor: Life imitates art for these stay-at-homers during the coronavirus pandemic.
- It takes a village: Washington Conservatory musicians play together on a single piano, to delightful effect.
- Persian music: Wonderful performance of "Del-e Sheyda" by Hessar, an all-women ensemble.
- Persian music: The newest version of "Ta'neh" ("Taunt"), a song made famous by Mahasti.
(4) Immigrant-bashing continues amid the pandemic: More than a million Americans who are married to immigrants without Social Security Numbers aren't eligible for $1200 stimulus payments.
(5) Mother Teresa wants an Indiana GOP congressional candidate to stop using her image in campaign ads: I guess she doesn't like tax cuts for the rich, stripping the poor of healt insurance, and similar policies!
(6) Google claims its AI design tool can produce a chip layout, which honors placement-density and routing-congestion constraints, in hours instead of weeks it would take human experts: Rather than each time starting from scratch, Google's AI leverages knowledge gained from placing prior chips to improve over time.
(7) Some good news: These COVID-19 death-rate charts, for the US (top) and California, indicate that social-distancing orders can be lifted (with proper testing and contact-tracing) around May 18 for our state and in early June for the entire country.
(8) Sea-level rise and local Santa Barbara marshlands: This 13-minute presentation by UCSB researchers Andrew Brooks and Charles Lester provides an overview of how sea-level rise might affect us locally in Santa Barbara. The presentation is part of the "UCSB Reads 2020" program. [Main talk, by author Elizabeth Rush]

2020/04/26 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
New Yorker cartoon: With everyone wearing masks, it's impossible to tell who in the cartoon is speaking Photo of a group of fully-veiled women Cartoon: The Adam and Eve story in China has a happy ending, because the snake, not the Apple, is eaten
The May 2020 issue of 'Communications of the ACM<' has a cover feature on fairness in machine learning Next ACM President will be a woman The April 2020 issue of 'IEEE Computer' magazine stresses the fact that complexity is at odds with trustworthiness (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Cartoonists' dilemma (from The New Yorker): "Personally, I worry that, with everyone wearing masks, readers won't be able to tell who in the cartoon is speaking." [Top center] All-purpose commemorative photo: No matter how many places this group of women visits, there in no need to take more photos! [Top right] The Adam and Eve story in China: It has a happy ending, because the snake, not the Apple, is eaten and they live in heaven happily ever after! [Bottom left] The May 2020 issue of Communications of the ACM has a cover feature on fairness in machine learning. [Bottom center] Next ACM President will be a woman: Both candidates for ACM's top leadership position for the 2-year period from July 2020 to June 2022 are women. [Bottom right] The April 2020 issue of IEEE Computer magazine stresses the fact that complexity is at odds with trustworthiness: Two modern examples where needless complexities in design and operation led to disaster are the Boeing 737 MAX jetliner and the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
(2) Dr. Deborah Birx on "Meet the Press" this morning: She did not answer even one question directly and honestly, citing unrelated facts and using scientific jargon to obfuscate. She clearly has a political appointment in her sight. There are reports that she is being considered as HHS Secretary, replacing Alex Azar.
(3) Republicans are worried about losing the Senate, as Trump sinks: They seem to be blaming Trump for their own doings. GOP Senators up for re-election fully deserve being ousted!
(4) Melania Trump celebrates her 50th birthday: Donald Trump's short tweet ("Happy Birthday to Melania, our great First Lady!") calls her a "great First Lady," but does not contain a single affectionate word!
(5) How orchestras coordinate their performances in the age of social distancing: They can't just play simultaneously as usual, given the varying communication latencies between different points. I learned today that their leader/conductor produces a master tape, containing the piano part, say, along with a beat guide, that they use at home to record their portions of the performance. Musicians have to be able to perform their parts individually, in isolation, for this to work. Someone then puts the various recordings together, producing the video that depicts dozens of musicians performing together. It's definitely more complicated than doing FaceTime with family members! [Screenshot]
(6) My improvised lasagna dinner: These leftover portions from tonight's dinner look like spaghetti, but they are really lasagna, made with spaghetti noodles. Not seen in the photo is a bottom layer of fried potato slices (tah-dig) and garlic bread on the side.

2020/04/25 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sunset photos taken around Devereux Slough and Coal Oil Point: Batch 1 Bittersweet word-play, for Persian-speakers Sunset photos taken around Devereux Slough and Coal Oil Point: Batch 2 (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Walking around the Devereux Slough and Goleta's Coal Oil Point: After walking with my daughter and taking videos of surfers (Video 1, Video 2), I went out for a second solo round and photographed the gorgeous sunset from various vantage points. Surfers were out in full force, due to a combination of gorgeous weather and excellent waves! [Center] Bittersweet word-play, for Persian-speakers.
(2) A decades-old conjecture about computational complexity is proven in just a few pages: Typically, longstanding open problems tend to have complicated solutions. A prime example is Fermat's Last Theorem that persisted for 358 years and eventually required 100+ pages to prove. By contrast, Emory University mathematician Hao Huang needed just 2 pages to complete the proof of the Boolean Sensitivity Conjecture, dealing with a particular measure of computational complexity.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Sources report that Kim Jong Un has died of heart surgery complications. No confirmation from NK yet.
- Dr. Anthony Fauci, who had joked that he wanted to be portrayed on SNL by Brad Pitt, got his wish tonight!
- Mitt Romney endorses Joe Biden: A story meant as satire goes viral, with many falling for it!
- Quote of the day: "Every disaster movie begins with a scientist being ignored." ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson
- In-house data centers are migrating to the cloud: 80% of corporate data centers will be shuttered by 2025.
- Posted on April 25, 2019, this cartoon reminded me that now, every day is Take-Your-Child-to-Work Day!
(4) Humor: "A bunch of governors have said that my opinion about allowing states to go bankrupt is incredibly irresponsible. I've been morally bankrupt for years. It's not that bad." ~ US Senator Mitch McConnell
(5) A new word is born: "Multislacking" is a relatively new word that means having multiple windows open on your screen to create the appearance of working, while actually slacking. This is one of the many interesting things I learned from Professor Anne Curzan's delightful course "The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins," a set of 36 lectures in the "Great Courses" series, which I reviewed on GoodReads last year.
(6) Nepotism personified: While the jobless ranks swell and numerous small businesses fold, Kushner Cos. gets an $800 million federally-backed apartment loan.

2020/04/24 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Remembering the Armenian genocide on its 105th anniversary Cartoon: The administration of billionaires doing the bidding of the billionaires Humor: The Lysol brand seizes a marketing opportunity in treating COVID-19 patients! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Remembering the Armenian genocide on its 105th anniversary: Yes, there are Holocaust deniers, but their number pales compared with those who deny the mass murder of Armenians by the Ottoman Turks, generally believed to have started on April 24, 1915. [Center] Cartoon of the day: The administration of billionaires doing the bidding of the billionaires. [Right] Humor: The Lysol brand seizes a marketing opportunity in treating COVID-19 patients!
(2) Stable genius proposes new coronavirus therapies: Trump's ideas about disinfecting the inside of your body with ultraviolet light or household cleaners ridiculed.
(3) Cartoon caption of the day (for those who listened to Marie Kondo and are stuck at home, with not much to keep them busy): "I'm not the one who threw out everything that didn't spark joy, Robert. Enjoy spending the next few months rolling and unrolling your seven T-shirts."
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The United Nations fears coronavirus-related famines of "Biblical proportions" in developing countries.
- Giuliani thinks if we do contact-tracing for coronavirus, we should also do it for heart disease & cancer!
- Trump's golf resorts seek coronavirus bailout money from Ireland and Scotland to pay workers' salaries.
- Trump has a $211 million loan from the state-owned Bank of China, which will come due in 2022.
- Jordanian study claims that Arabs are genetically immune to coronavirus.
- Iranian folk music and dance: From the Caspian-Sea Region. [Video]
- Azeri music and dance: The dance seems to have been modernized a bit. [Video]
(5) USPS won't get bailout money unless it raises prices: Yet another devious plan to tax the middle and lower classes, via higher postal rates and across-the-board price hikes triggered by increased shipping costs.
(6) Trump's imaginary friend didn't know that there are 184 countries in the world: And he was playing with reporters when he suggested that injecting disinfectants can help cure COVID-19 (although he was clearly asking questions of, and referring to promises made by, medical professionals on the coronavirus task force, and they acknowledged his queries as he ranted).
(7) Celebrating 30 years of Hubble Space Telescope: Hubble helped us explore distant galaxies and showed us in vivid colors parts of our universe that we had never seen before. [Video]
(8) Final thought for the day: In a country with many leading researchers, including more Nobel Laureates than any other country, isn't it amazing that an illiterate politician dispenses medical advice?

2020/04/23 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
MIT Professor Daniela Rus to serve on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology Calligraphic rendering of the Persian verse 'Love turns thorns into flowers' Photo of Nasrin Sotoudeh, the conscientious and courageous human-rights activist
A nice aerial photo of Isfahan, Iran, featuring Zayandeh Rood and one of its historic bridges Cartoon: Our planet celebrated Earth Day with sister planets via a Zoom meeting! Quarantina Street in downtown Santa Barbara is tied to multiple past pandemics since 1851 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] MIT Professor Daniela Rus to serve on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology: Rus is Director of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab and College of Computing's Deputy Dean of Research. She works in robotics, AI, and data science. [Top center] Calligraphic rendering of the Persian verse "Love turns thorns into flowers." [Top right] Nasrin Sotoudeh is still serving a long prison term: More than a year ago, I included a photo of Sotoudeh on my traditional Norooz/Nowruz haft-seen spread. I am still keeping that beautiful photo on display, as a daily reminder of the horrible injustice dealt to this conscientious and courageous human-rights activist. [Bottom left] A nice aerial photo of Isfahan, Iran, featuring Zayandeh Rood and one of its historic bridges. [Bottom center] Cartoon of the day: Our planet celebrated Earth Day with sister planets via a Zoom meeting! [Bottom right] Local Santa Barbara history: Quarantina Street in downtown Santa Barbara is tied to multiple past pandemics since 1851 (video).
(2) Governor Cuomo slams Senator McConnell for saying that the feds should not bail out New York: He points out that it is NY that bails out states like Kentucky by putting more into the federal coffers than they take out!
(3) College campuses planning for the fall term: Several, including Boston University and Cal State Fullerton, have announced that they will continue with on-line instruction through the fall term. Others, like Purdue, plan to bring the students back to campus in August. Most remain undecided at this time.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- College students forced to go home by the coronavirus pandemic stuck paying rent for empty apartments.
- A love story from the time of World War II, and an unlikely reunion of the lovebirds after 75 years!
- Kurdish music: Two different styles, but equally pleasant! [Video 1] [Video 2]
- Creative dancing with traditional Persian music: "Circle," featuring Ziya Azazi. [Video]
- Humor: Trump singing an Indian song! [Deep-fake video]
- Indian music: Romantic comedy, old Indian style. Indian films are now a tad more sophisticated! [Video]
(5) California has sent 36 doctors and nurses to NYC: These compassionate souls are putting their lives at risk and donating their time to help fellow-Americans and to bring back first-hand experience to our state.
(6) Certain features of modern homes, such as tiled bathrooms and easily cleaned kitchen surfaces, have their origins in the 1918 Spanish-Flu pandemic. Experts believe that COVID-19 will also affect future home designs. A possible change: Prominent and easily-accessible sinks for frequent hand-washing.

2020/04/22 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Earth Day! My Earth Day selfie, taken as I awaited students during my Zoom on-line office hours Lapel pin: Save your earth, you can't get off (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, 2020 (see the next item below). [Center] My Earth Day selfie, taken as I awaited students during my Zoom on-line office hours: Scrapes from last week's fall while climbing a beach cliff are nearly healed. I was scolded by friends and family members, who told me I was getting too old for adventures and "Tarzan-like behavior"! My response was that each person should decide for himself or herself what activities make life worth living. If one sat down all day, the probability of taking a fall would be near-zero, but then ...
(2) Happy Earth Day: Today, April 22, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, inaugurated a year after the Santa Barbara oil spill of winter 1969, which remains the largest spill off the coast of California (it is now the all-time third largest, including the subsequent Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon incidents). This year, there is no Earth Day Festival in Santa Barbara, but various on-line events have been scheduled to mark the occasion, including Elizabeth Rush's 4:00 PM on-line talk. Details are in the last item below.
(3) How the Earth has changed over the past 50 years: As research and monitoring projects go dark or dim, climate, weather, and other data sets going back for decades will soon develop coronavirus-associated gaps.
(4) Today's webinar by author Elizabeth Rush: In a talk sponsored by UCSB Library, Rush discussed her book, Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, the "UCSB Reads 2020" selection for campus and community reading/exchange. After being introduced by UCSB's David Pellow, Rush began by showing an 11-minute documentary film entitled "Home or High Water," in which "Rush shares her experience among coastal communities large and small, from the storm-ravaged eastern shore of Staten Island to the disappearing bayous of Louisiana."
An objective of Rush in writing her book was to show that sea-level rise has repercussions here in the US, whereas most people associate coastal flooding and disappearing lands with far-away regions of the world, such as Bangladesh. In order to make people relate to the problem, she felt the need for telling stories from communities closer to home. Likewise, if you want Mexicans to see the magnitude of the problem, you need to relate stories from communities in Mexico, not Asia or the US.
One dire consequence of sea-level rise is the creation of "climate refugees." To appreciate the scope of this problem, consider that a single storm, Hurricane Maria, led to 130,000 people leaving Puerto Rico. Throughout Rising, Rush tells stories about families, who after multiple storms and floods, give up their fight and relocate to higher grounds.
Rush is now working on another book about her 2.5-month journey alongside researchers investigating Antarctica's "Doomsday Glacier" to gather observational data about its rapidly-crumbling ice. Currently 8 months pregnant, Rush will be weaving the glacier story with her own journey through pregnancy, including challenges induced by COVID-19.
Rush explained that we humans are pretty good at thinking about three generations: our own, our parents', and our children's. So, even though climate change is a greater peril than COVID-19, the immediacy of the pandemic deprives the other problems of due attention. When we try to talk about the year 2100, people lose focus. In today's electronics age, we constantly concentrate on a screen that is 12-18 inches away from us. This proximity makes it even harder to see events happening across space and time. She joked that we are becoming Zoombies!
I submitted the following written question, for which there was no time before the webinar ended at 5:15. There is a great deal of skepticism among the general public about models that predict catastrophes (climate change, pandemics, overpopulation). What should we do to improve these models and to convince the skeptical general public that models do not have to be 100% accurate to give us useful warnings?
[Video recording of today's webinar] [Facebook event page] [Event poster] [Zoom meeting, with Q&A] [Live-stream via UCSB Library's Facebook page] [My 4-star review of Rising on GoodReads]

2020/04/21 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of Ezra Klein's 'Why We're Polarized' No traditional royal gun-salute for today's 94th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II A 2-hour concert filmed at the 2020 Grammys aired tonight on CBS to honor Prince
Super-clean air in downtown Los Angeles Cartoon: Cinderella, in the age of coronavirus Anti-vaxxers are pro-choice when it comes to their own bodies: They just want to control other people's bodies! (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Ezra Klein's Why We're Polarized (see my review under the last item below). [Top center] No traditional royal gun-salute for today's 94th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II: She has ruled Britain for 68 years. [Top right] A 2-hour concert filmed at the 2020 Grammys aired tonight on CBS to honor Prince on the 4th anniversary of his death. [Bottom left] A gorgeous week ahead in Santa Barbara and super-clean air in downtown Los Angeles: Would have been much more enjoyable without the vile virus and POTUS! [Bottom center] Cinderella, in the age of coronavirus: "Quick! Someone give me a Clorox wipe." [Bottom right] Anti-vaxxers are pro-choice when it comes to their own bodies: They just want to control other people's bodies!
(2) Joke of the day (with reference to oil futures prices dropping below zero): "I told you that after the Revolution oil will be free!" ~ Iran's former Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khomeini [Photo]
(3) A woman ruler for North Korea? With Kim Jong Un not seen in public for a long time, there is much speculation about his health after surgery and the future role of his trusted sister in case of his death.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- American can-do story: Protective-gear workers slept at factory for a month, as they split 12-hour shifts.
- Demands by college students for tuition-and-fees refund escalate.
- Harvard University, with its $41 billion endowment fund, gets $9 million in taxpayer CARES aid.
- UCSB holds a virtual open house for admitted students on Wednesday 4/22, 1:00-7:00 PM PDT.
- Persian poetry and music in honor of poet-philosopher Sa'adi's birthday. [Video]
- Persian music: Musicians perform the oldie song "Lab-e Darya" ("Sea Shore") from their homes.
(5) Book review: Klein, Ezra, Why We're Polarized, Unabridged MP3 audiobook read by the author, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2020. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Once upon a time, our two major political parties contained a somewhat even distribution of economic, social, and racial groups. There was little change when one party gave up power and the other one took over. This continuity or moderation, which has been a hallmark of the American political system, preventing wild policy swings with the change of leadership, is now being threatened, as one party reverses the decisions of another one and imposes its own priorities, only to be overturned in the next change of guard. Such wild swings are at the root of businesses shunning long-term planning, focusing instead on their annual metrics or, worse, on quarterly performance.
The problem began in the 1960s, when Democrats championed civil-rights legislation. Blacks and other minorities were thus drawn to the Democratic party, while many white Democrats defected to the Republican party. The formerly-very-similar parties thus assumed much different economic, social, and racial distributions. The increased homogeneity within the parties intensified their external conflicts, aided, in part, by our evolutionary urges toward tribalism.
With changes in their compositions, the two parties have been moving further apart, cementing their differences with each new election. Klein tells us, among other things, that the Republicans call their party "The Party of Lincoln," mostly to hide the fact that the hard-line conservative and racist/bigot Strom Thurmond was its actual architect. Thurmond single-handedly directed the mass defection of white Democrats to the Republican party.
So, to recap, human beings are tribal and tend to organize around their perceptions of friends and enemies. The current political-party structure in the US is a reflection of this tribalism, which was kept in check until a few decades ago by wise political and social leaders and is now rearing its ugly head. As Richard Dawkins put it, "the universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. ... DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music." What about our reasoning mind, you might ask? It's a scary thought, but could it be that our reasoning mind is merely a rationalization of our loyalties and prejudices?

2020/04/20 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
This guy thinks COVID-19 is a lie, but, judging by his protective gear, he isn't absolutely sure! Mug, bearing the photo of Anthony Fauci face-palming Trump supporters have turned pro-choice when it comes to wearing breathing masks!
Monetary value of a human life (scale) Cartoon: Coronavirus squeezing in on Tehran's Metro! Woman professor teaches an on-line class in Iran (1) Images of the day: [Top left] This guy thinks COVID-19 is a lie, but, judging by his protective gear, he isn't absolutely sure! [Top center] Anthony Fauci mug: Get it before it's gone, or he's gone! Fauci-palming should be the new name for the face-palming emoji! [Top right] Never thought such a day would come: Trump supporters are now pro-choice! [Bottom left] Risk assessment in policy-making and engineering design, or the monetary vlaue of a human life (see the last item below). [Bottom center] Cartoon of the day: New passenger squeezing in on Tehran's Metro! [Bottom right] Woman professor teaches an on-line class in Iran.
(2) This is why Trump hates oversight: The funds set aside to help small businesses were depleted because loans were given to some giant hotel and restaurant chains.
(3) Fairness doesn't mean that "the other side" composed of small groups of anti-science and anti-logic protesters should be given the same coverage as the entire medical establishment, public-health experts, and a majority of Americans who approve of social-distancing measures.
(4) The oil glut hits the markets: There is so much excess oil in the world that all storage facilities are full, so, for the first time in history, oil future prices have gone negative (people who own the options must pay big bucks to get rid of them).
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Canadian police arrests mass shooter who killed at least 16 in Nova Scotia, disguised as a police officer.
- While Trump eggs on anti-lockdown protesters, VP Pence is siding with governors facing the protests.
- Clever street art: Revolution, with love! [Photo]
- Persian music: Hassan Kasaei's instrumental piece "Salaam" performed by Hamavayan Ensemble.
(6) Trading off citizens' lives for economic recovery (it isn't as crazy as it sounds): I am writing this essay, because there is much discussion about saving human lives vs. economic recovery in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. Let me begin with an answer, which I found jarring upon my first encounter, and then go back to explain. The current going rate for a human life is roughly $10 million! I won't blame you if you protest, but please read on!
In policy-making and tech development, we are forced to place a monetary value on a human life. This may seem cold and cruel, but we really have no choice. Consider the dilemma faced by an airplane designer. The design process often involves choosing a target life-critical failure probability, such as 1-in-100-millions, which means that for an average flight, there is a small, but non-zero probability of 10^–8 that the plane crashes, killing all on board. We cannot make this probability zero, no matter how hard we try or how much time and money we spend. It may be feasible to reduce the probability to 1-in-a-billion, say, but that may increase the cost of the plane ten-fold or more.
Let's say the plane carries an average of 100 passengers and that it flies 10,000 times over its life, to use round numbers. The expected number of passenger deaths over the plane's life will be (10^–8)(10^4)(10^2) = 0.01. If a human life is worth $10 million, as reflected in the payment for each fatality upon a plane crash, then the airline/plane-manufacturer must budget $100,000 for payments due to the plane's crash (or, alternatively, buy insurance for it). The loss of the plane itself is a much bigger financial hit to the airline. From an economic standpoint, the plane manufacturer and the airline are not motivated to reduce the crash probability by making the plane ten times more expensive, given the relatively low budget of $100,000 in average payments due to fatalities.
Now, let's see how a public-safety advocate or official may view the problem above. S/He may take the view that human life is too precious to accept even one fatality, but such a pronouncement is just a slogan. We accept fatalities all the time. When we pay double the salary for a job that has a high risk of death, we are essentially putting a value on human life, which equals the difference in lifetime pay between the dangerous job and an ordinary low-risk job, divided by death probability. If the difference in lifetime payment is $1 million and the cumulative death probability is 0.1, then we are valuing a life at $10 million. This trade-off is essentially a contract between the employer offering the job and the employee who accepts it.
Here is a thought experiment I often use in my graduate course on fault-tolerant computing to get the students thinking about the ethical issues involved in evaluating life-critical computer system failures. Suppose you are in a stadium of 100,000 people and a terrorist announces that he will randomly kill one of the spectators, but he will remove those who make a payment of $100 from the pool of candidates. Are you willing to make the payment? Your risk of death is 10^–5 and the $100 payment represents a life valuation of $100/(10^–5) = $10^7. Most people won't pay the $100 and accept the 10^–5 risk of death. Of course, the decision depends on whether you are a poor student or a multi-millionaire watching the game from a luxury box, so the valuation of one's own life has a personal/circumstantial component.
I admit that the analyses above are over-simplified, but the reality isn't much removed from this simple view. To reiterate, policy-making and engineering design decisions, whether we are building a passenger-jet, a bridge, or a space station, involve life-vs.-cost trade-offs in the context of socially-acceptable risks.

2020/04/19 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of 'National Review': The Battle of COVID-19 Screenshots from the 2-hour 'One World' concert carried last night by ABC, NBC, and CBS: Batch 1 The war in Afghanistan rages on amid the coronavirus pandemic
Screenshots from the 2-hour 'One World' concert carried last night by ABC, NBC, and CBS: Batch 3 Screenshots from the 2-hour 'One World' concert carried last night by ABC, NBC, and CBS: Batch 2 Screenshots from the 2-hour 'One World' concert carried last night by ABC, NBC, and CBS: Batch 4 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] The cover story of National Review ("The Battle of COVID-19") says it all. [Top right] The war in Afghanistan rages on amid the coronavirus pandemic. [Top center & bottom row] "One World: Together at Home": Screenshots from a 2-hour concert carried last night by ABC, NBC, and CBS. Great music from internationally-acclaimed artists. More importantly, segments featuring those who put their lives at risk to help, including health workers, a woman giving haircuts to the homeless, and groups feeding the needy. I felt ashamed of how little I have been doing to help!
(2) Criminally sad: Trump encourages protestors to "liberate" their states from restrictions imposed by governors following his administration's guidelines, which he uttered (reluctantly, it seems) at press briefings!
(3) Press briefing or campaign rally? During Yesterday's COVID-19 briefing, Trump called Joe Biden "a patsy" and Vladimir Putin "a gentleman." Stop airing this festival of lies and stupid pronouncements!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The data is in: Coronavirus infection, hospitalization, and death rates depend on ethnicity/race. [Chart]
- Persian music: A song about rain, with scenes from Isfahan, Iran, on a rainy day. [1-minute video]
- Persian music: The oldie song "Shaaneh" ("Comb"), with some Turkish lyrics.
- Persian music: A powerful rendition of the old popular song "Beh Khaater-e To" ("For Your Sake").
- Lady Struna performs soothing music on a santur-like instrument. [Also, Pink Floyd's "The Wall"]
- Ode to on-line teaching: Talented teacher wrote a song to express her feelings about on-line instruction.
(5) Extreme hypocrisy: Donald Trump, who is fond of the expressions "a lot of people think" and "an extremely credible source tells me," faults the media for using anonymous sources.
(6) Access Engineering: McGraw-Hill offers free access to its on-line content database for UCSB Library patrons through May 31, 2020. Check with your library to see if they have the same offer.
(7) Trump now blames China and World Health Organization for his inept COVID-19 response: But WHO was issuing warnings and guidelines, week after week, as Trump held rallies, praised China, and went golfing!
(8) Final thought for the day: Economist Jeffrey Sachs bashes Trump in his concluding remarks of February 5, 2020, at a conference on "New Forms of Solidarity: Towards Fraternal Inclusion, Integration, and Innovation."

2020/04/17 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover story of the May 2020 issue of 'Scientific American' suggests that we are on the verge of conquering Alzheimer's Art in unlikely places: Accidental shadows (4 panels) Cover image of the book 'Revolution and Its Discontents: Political Thought and Reform in Iran'
Saudi Princess Basmah reveals that she is in prison Selfie at my workstation, with band-aid on my forehead Photo of NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, who just returned home after 200+ days at the ISS (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Cover story of the May 2020 issue of Scientific American suggests that we are on the verge of conquering Alzheimer's. [Top center] Art showing up in unlikely places: Accidental shadows. [Top right] Cover image of Eskandar Sadeghi-Boroujerdi's Revolution and Its Discontents: Political Thought and Reform in Iran, 2019. [Bottom left] Saudi Princess Basmah, who had called for Saudi Arabia to become a constitutional monarchy, reveals that she is in prison. [Bottom center] I took this selfie at my workstation this morning, where I plan to prepare a couple of course lectures for the coming week and, later during the day, record them: Thanks to everyone who expressed concern and sent well-wishes. [Bottom right] NASA astronauts Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan, along with Russian cosmonaut Oleg Skripochka, have returned to Earth after spending 200+ days at the International Space Station.
(2) Promoting and using medical "experts" like Dr. Mehmet Oz, who think it's no big deal if 2-3% of children die after reopening of schools should be criminalized. [Tweet]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Returning to normal too quickly can wipe out progress in flattening the curve through social-distancing.
- Anti-vaxxers and climate-science deniers target a new enemy in science: Coronavirus-spread models.
- Super-rich US Treasury Secretary thinks Americans can get through 10 weeks on $1200 stimulus pay!
- Iranian teen chess prodigy, Alireza Firouzja, scores shocking victory over #1 grandmaster Magnus Carlsen.
- Iranian musicians play on roof-tops during the stay-home period. [Pictorial]
- Ziba Shirazi's musical life story, featuring songs she grew up with, is now available on-line. [Part 1] [Part 2]
(4) Cryptogrphy: Here is an introductory lecture on cryptography, prepared for my freshman seminar course, "Ten Puzzling Problems in Computer Engineering" (UCSB ECE 1B). In this course, each lecture begins with puzzles, which are then related to practical and research problems in computer engineering.
(5) On Saturday, April 18, "One World: Together at Home," a series of concerts from 100+ musicians and celebrities will be streamed worldwide in support of healthcare workers and the World Health Organization. Watch on NBC, CBS, ABC and most major social media platforms, beginning at 8:00 PM PDT.

2020/04/16 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Lady Liberty follows New York's face-mask order Republican chart of disaster fatalities Healthcare workers display photos to help patients see the real person behind the protective gear
Walking from home to Goleta Beach Park and getting injured by a fall Concentration puzzle: How many squares are there in this diagram? Photos shot while walking from home to Goleta Beach Park (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Lady Liberty follows New York's face-mask order. [Top center] Republican chart of disaster fatalities: The rightmost bar has now shrunk to more than 30,000! [Top right] Trending: Healthcare workers display photos of themselves to help patients see the real person behind the protective gear. [Bottom left & right] Walking to Goleta Beach Park (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Puzzle: How many squares are there in this diagram? (Answer is in the last item below.)
(2) Low tide allowed me to walk along the beach, all the way from home to Goleta Beach Park: The invigorating walk and beautiful sunny afternoon were somewhat marred by a fall when trying to climb a rock near Goleta Beach. No major damage though; just a few scrapes! [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3] [Video 4] Right after I finished shooting the fourth video, a nasty wave soaked me!
(3) Classical music: "Sword Dance," by the Armenian composer Aram Iljitsch Khachaturian, who also has compositions based on Persian folk music, a reflection of his early training in Tehran.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ultraviolet LEDs prove effective in eliminating coronavirus from surfaces and, potentially, air and water.
- White Supremacist, planning to blow up a nursing home in Massachusetts on "Jew killing day," arrested.
- Research misconduct: Rice University pays $3.7 million to settle National Science Foundation fraud claims.
- New guests arrive on the south coast of France, now that the tourists are gone. [Video]
- UCSB Library's on-line exhibitions: Past events to enjoy, as we await the return to normal on campus.
- Kurdish women discard their despised compulsory headscarves and dance! [Video]
(5) UCSB's Pollock Theater presents classic films: Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" (1963; available on Amazon Prime Video), along with previously-recorded post-screening discussion with actress/author Tippi Hedren.
(6) UCSB's Pollock Theater presents classic films: Frank Capra's "Meet John Doe" (1941; available on Amazon Prime Video), along with previously-recorded post-screening discussion with author Victoria Riskin.
(7) The answer to the square-counting puzzle is 51: In counting tasks like this, one must devise a systematic method to ensure that nothing is overlooked. For example, one can count squares of various sizes separately, beginning with the smallest 1x1 squares, then proceeding to 2x2 squares, and so on. In this particular puzzle, there are two 3x3 squares that are the most-difficult to see; so, 49 is a common wrong answer.

2020/04/15 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
ACM Athena Lecturer for 2020-21: Sarit Kraus of Bar-Ilan University receives the honor Images from ACM Web talk on history and future of computer graphics Los Angeles County billboard: Being a hero has never been easier. Stay home to save lives (1) Images of the day: [Left] ACM Athena Lecturer for 2020-21: Sarit Kraus of Bar-Ilan University receives the honor for foundational contributions to artificial intelligence, notably to multi-agent systems, human-agent interaction, autonomous agents, and nonmonotonic reasoning. [Center] ACM Web talk on history and future of computer graphics (see the last item below). [Right] Los Angeles County billboard: Being a hero has never been easier. Stay home to save lives.
(2) Iran claims technological superiority: The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps claim to have invented a machine that detects the presence of coronavirus from a distance of 100 meters. The device is eerily similar to a 2013 "invention" of a universal detector by someone who was later convicted for fraud! [Tweets] [Video]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Tax filing deadline, normally on April 15, has been extended by 3 months to July 15.
- Coronavirus-related scams keep coming: The latest is IRS/stimuls-check scam. Stay vigilant!
- Many students are rethinking their college choices, citing cost-cutting and staying closer to home.
- Pastors sue California's Governor Gavin Newsome for "criminalizing the free exercise of religion."
- Life under COVID-19 lockdown provides a window into how humans might fare during a mission to Mars.
- Drone footage of the eery calm on Los-Angeles-area beaches. [Video]
- Heavenly guitar music ("Malaguena"), with dancing. [Video]
- Historic Iranian wedding photos: Slide show, with nostalgic Persian music.
(4) "Past, Present and Future of Computer Graphics: Perspective from Two Forerunners on the Inception and Evolution of CG": This was the title of yesterday's ACM-sponsored Web-talk by Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and 2019 Turing Award Laureate, and Richard Chuang, co-founder of PDI/Dreamworks. Scheduled to run for 1 hour, this facsinating talk, moderated by Juan Miguel de Joya, actually took 2 hours.
Both speakers began by acknowledging the heroic efforts of healthcare and other essential workers on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19, as we sit at home and pursue our technical interests via this Web-talk. Just as WW II triggered decades of sci/tech progress, our hope is that this on-going war will also trigger advances that would make our lives better.
Catmul related that his interest in computer graphics has its roots in his art (drawing) interests as a child. He later took a course on computer graphics, which he considered just another course to take. Chuang was also interested in art as a kid. He showed some of his medical and abstract-nature paintings, and followed them with a description of his breaking into his school's computer room to gain access to its PDP minicomputer.
Beginning with the 1970s, technology produced advances in film-making, as clearly visible in Lucas Films' "Star Wars." Subsequent challenges included convincing the predominantly-analog film industry to embrace digital graphics technology. Innovations such as the use of frame buffers helped in subsequent advances. The speakers then proceeded to describe their early experiences with graphics and the "ancient" hardware devices they used to solve seemingly-insurmountable technical challenges by building special-purpose systems, such as the Pixar Image Computer.
Pixar eventually failed as a hardware company and moved into producing commercials and special scenes in films such as "Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast." Silicon Graphics revolutionized the field of computer graphics by offering powerful supercomputers, which were, unfortunately, unaffordable at first.
Catmull related that the special-effects business was a low-margin enterprise, so Pixar concluded that it had to move into making feature films to become commercially viable. This led in the 1990s to producing a 22-minute TV program and, eventually, feature films for Disney. Getting from brief commercials to a 22-minute program and then to a 75-minute feature film was quite challenging in the face of film-industry's brutal deadlines.
One of the latest advances in computer graphics for live-action film-making, now being used by Disney, is to produce the entire background (including all the CG elements) on an LED screen in real time, while live actors perform and are filmed normally in front of it. This reduces production costs substantially.
Relevant free books for ACM members:
Peter Shirley, Fundamentals of Computer Graphics, A. K. Peters, 2nd ed., 2005, 651 pp.
Andy Beane, 3D Animation Essentials, Sybex, 2012, 352 pp.
Rachel Nabors, Animation at Work, A Book Apart, 2017, 80 pp.

2020/04/14 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Magazine cover about coronavirus: Newsweek Wonderful colors of nature in stay-home snacks Magazine cover about coronavirus: Time (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Magazine covers continue to be dominated by the coronavirus pandemic: It never becomes too repetitive to remember and appreciate those who are risking their lives to save us. [Center] Wonderful colors of nature in stay-home snacks.
(2) Trump halts funding to World Health Organization: Even if there are legitimate concerns here, did the WHO funding cut have to occur amid a devastating pandemic which has mobilized the entire world and exposed our interdepedencies? Or is this just one more shiny object to divert attention from Trump's own failings?
(3) Joke of the day: Upon hearing that the COVID-19 pandemic may set back world's economy by 30 years, Iranians celebrated. They are secretly praying for a set-back of 45 years!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Former President Obama strongly endorses Joe Biden for President, while also praising Bernie Sanders.
- Wildfires in Ukraine, near Chernobyl's nuclear plant, are within 2 km of critical nuclear-waste site.
- In the fight against coronavirus, Iranian NGOs try to fill the void left by government inaction.
- Blaming Israel in Iran's downing of a Ukrainian airliner adds salt to the wounds of mourning families.
- The woman who aims to Persianize aerobic workouts. [Video]
- Persian Jeopardy! There are a couple of other segments of this show on YouTube. [Video]
(5) People helping their fellow citizens: NGOs and individual citizens have jumped into action in Iran, US, and elsewhere to fill gaps left by government inaction and/or incompetence. This Iranian woman from the Kurdish city of Kermanshah works on disinfecting her neighborhood, donating her time and paying for supplies.
(6) Final thought for the day: I learned, from an NPR program, why we are experiencing severe shortages of various kinds. Yes, some people are hoarding, but there is an even more important reason. Take toilet paper, for instance. As we stay home, we need more TP at home. Meanwhile, there is an excess of commercial TP of the kinds used at work, hotels, and other public places. The two kinds of TP aren't interchangeable, as they have different sizes and even different producers and distributors. The same differences apply to restaurant vs. supermarket food supplies. It takes a while for producers and distributors to adjust to the new demand profile. But adjustments will be made and shortages, other than those due to dearth of raw material, will disappear.

2020/04/13 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Reposting a few quotes and memes from April 13 of years past Persian poetry: Reposting two Mowlavi/Rumi couplets from April 13 of years past Please consider ordering food directly from restaurants: Grubhub and similar outfits charge high commissions (1) Images of the day: [Left] Reposting a few noteworthy quotes and memes from April 13 of years past. [Center] Persian poetry: Reposting two Mowlavi/Rumi couplets from April 13 of years past. (Another poem) [Right] Please consider ordering food directly from restaurants: This restaurant owner writes that his/her business barely makes any money from orders placed through Grubhub and similar outfits due to the high commissions they charge.
(2) The dysfunctional presidency: Infighting within the US administration and Trump's inattention to warnings from intelligence and public-health experts delayed the US pandemic response by weeks. Trump was warned about the potential for a pandemic early and often, but internal White House divisions, lack of planning, and reliance on his own instincts led to a halting response.
(3) Acid spraying comes to the US: Seems like the Great-Again America will look a lot like Afghanistan or Islamic Republic of Iran, where women and other "undesirables" are killed or scarred for life!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- In a tweetstorm over Easter weekend, Trump congratulated himself repeatedly for his pandemic response.
- Luxembourg court releases $1.6B in blocked Iranian assets: One lawyer defending Iran was American!
- Brazilian study on using chloroquine to treat COVID-19 halted after the death of 11 patients.
- A comprehensive New Yorker profile of infectious-diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.
- This year's college grads will be entering the worst job market since the 2008-09 recession.
- Citing lack of in-person attention from on-line instruction, college students file lawsuit for tuition refund.
- Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli sang inside and in front of Milan's empty Duomo Cathedral for Easter.
- Nature is not fazed by COVID-19: It seems to even be thriving in the space regained from us humans.
(5) The Sokal hoax: This year, we are commemorating the 25th anniversary of the formal publication by Alan D. Sokal (NYU) of a brilliant parody entitled "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" in the peer-reviewed journal Social Text. Sokal's article maintained that quantum gravity has progressive political implications. When interviewed on the US radio program "All Things Considered," Sokal cited as his inspiration to submit the bogus article the 1994 book Higher Superstition, in which Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt claim that some humanities journals would publish anything as long as it had "the proper leftist thought" and quoted (or was written by) well-known leftist thinkers.

2020/04/12 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Kansas City's World War I Museum Persian poetry: Selected verses from a 'ghazal' on aging, by Shahriar Convincing people to stay home and practice social-distancing would be much easier if the virus were big enough to be seen
What a difference a year makes: Lazy bastard becomes responsible adult Meme: Healthcare workers' slow-moving but determined battle against coronavirus and COVID-19 Justin Trudeau breaks down when talking about the hardships Canadians are enduring (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Kansas City's World War I Museum: April 6 marked the 103rd anniversary of America's entry into "The Great War." [Top center] Persian poetry: Selected verses from a tender 'ghazal' on aging, by Shahriar. [Top right] Convincing people to stay home and practice social-distancing would be much easier if the virus were big enough to be seen. [Bottom left] What a difference a year makes, 52 little weeks! (Adapting the Dinah Washington song title/lyrics) [Bottom center] Meme of the day: Healthcare workers' slow-moving but determined battle against coronavirus and COVID-19. [Bottom right] Justin Trudeau breaks down when talking about the hardships Canadians are enduring. A very weak person, according to you-know-who!
(2) Playing politics with people's lives: The feds seize Colorado's order for 500 ventilators. Now, Trump claims he is sending 100 ventilators to the state at the request of his crony, Senator Cory Gardner, who is facing an uphill reelection battle. Colorado has a Democratic Governor who is being punished by his state getting 400 fewer ventilators than requested, while Trump makes himself and Cornyn look good. Shame!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- OPEC+ agrees to a reduction of ~10 million barrels per day in oil production, beginning in May.
- Nobody is fuller than himself than Donald Trump, believe me! [Video mashup]
- Countries with women leaders seem to have responded better to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Artist at work, drawing spring blossoms and birds (with a live model) on a domed ceiling. [Video]
- Debra Messing's amazing transformation into Lucille Ball, to bring joy to us when we need it most.
(4) Trump claims he knew all along about dangers of coronavirus and that he was acting as a cheerleader when he presented happy-talk: Our country needs a knowledgable and trustworthy leader, not a mindless cheerleader! Even cheerleaders know to stop pretending when their team is down 0-45!
(5) What's the situation with Rudi Giuliani? He has been lurking in the background for months now. There is a real possibility that he'll be indicted soon, yet Trump has not dumped him like so many other inconvenient former allies. Perhaps Rudi wasn't kidding when he said he had insurance against being discarded!
(6) Misogyny personified: A male Iranian psychologist tweets that women must be held tight and brought into focus by men, because they are naturally uncollected and diffused! [Response tweet]

2020/04/11 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover of 'Mother Jones': Take-down of Lindsey Graham Cover image of 'The Atlantic': How to destroy a government Cartoon: Pinocchio has difficulties wearing a breathing mask
Cartoon: Captain Trump reassures passengers on the Titanic that lifeboats and vests are on order! Meme: Religion is eerily quiet these days. No worries though. It will return with claims of saving us, once the current pandemic fades away Cover image of Adam Hart-Davis' 'Fibonacci's Rabbits' (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] New magazine covers: I'd be delighted to see Lindsey Graham ousted in November, because he is complicit in Trump's destruction of the US government. [Top right] Why Trump said he won't be wearing a breathing mask! [Bottom left] Cartoon of the day: Captain Trump reassures passengers on the Titanic that lifeboats and vests are on order! [Bottom center] Meme of the day: Religion is eerily quiet these days. No worries though. It will return with claims of saving us, once the current pandemic fades away. [Bottom right] Book introductions: Adam Hart-Davis, Fibonacci's Rabbits, and 49 Other Breakthroughs that Revolutionized Mathematics, Elwin Street Limited, 2019. Hart has also written other books that might be interesting: Schrodingers's Cat, and 49 Other Experiments that Revolutionized Physics and Pavlov's Dog, and 49 Other Experiments that Revolutionized Psychology.
(2) Evidence points to the presence of coronavirus in California since December 2019: There was a peak in February, when COVID-19 deaths began, and it remained undetected because of an unusually-nasty flu season.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Fox News commentators and Wall-Street execs to decide when the US economy should reopen!
- Reposting from April 11, 2011: Remember when our Secretary of Energy was a Nobel Laureate?
- Dr. Anthony Fauci jokes that he wants Brad Pitt to portray him on SNL: It will more likely be Ben Stiller!
- I just read that bell peppers have male & female varieties, discovering right away that the claim is false!
- We watched a Facebook jazz concert by a couple of my daughter's friends this afternoon. [Photo]
(4) More than 12,000 of the 150,000 Android apps studied found to contain backdoors: These included secret access keys, master passwords, and secret commands, which could allow unauthorized access to user accounts, grant hackers access to a device, or allow them to run code on a device with elevated privileges.
(5) Quote of the day: "[T]he business practices of Facebook and Google are closer to those of Enron and Theranos than they are to Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft. ... [Attributing] honorable motives to social media companies like Facebook is both naive and misplaced. It is not so much that the executives of these companies are immoral, but amoral. Considerations of truth, justice, fairness, diversity, rights to privacy, and so on do not appear on their compass cards." ~ Hal Berghel, in a March 2020 IEEE Computer magazine opinion piece entitled "New Perspectives on (Anti)Social Media"

2020/04/10 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Primitive PhotoShopping to erase women: Iran's state TV replaces singer Elaheh with poet Rahi Moayyeri in a historical photo Borna Izadpanah's photo of his 1850 printed edition of Sa'di's Golestan, produced in Cairo with Nastaliq movable type Meme: If anything distracted Trump from the coronavirus pandemic it was ignorance and playing golf, not impeachment! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Primitive PhotoShopping to erase women continues: Iran's state TV replaces singer Elaheh with poet Rahi Moayyeri in a documentaty about music. Why do they even have to produce such films, if it requires distortion of history? [Center] Borna Izadpanah's photo of his 1850 printed edition of Sa'di's Golestan, produced in Cairo with Nastaliq movable type. [Right] Meme of the day: If anything distracted Trump from the coronavirus pandemic it was ignorance and playing golf, not impeachment!
(2) I don't know what to make of this dance routine: I have never seen this type of dancing before, and someone has replaced the jazz music in the original clip with a Kurdish song, a variation on "Asmar, Asmar."
(3) Spies are hard-pressed in this social-distancing period: They often rely on crowded bars/restaurants and streets to meet with their contacts, or for drop-offs and pick-ups, without being noticed or raising suspicion.
(4) The story of the movement to ratify the Equal-Rights Amendment and the opposition to it led by the conservative Phyllis Schlafly: "Mrs. America," starring the talented, and beautiful, Cate Blanchett, will premiere on April 15, 2020.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Stanford researchers: Californians may have developed a kind of herd immunity to coronavirus last year.
- US Representative Katie Porter tells it like it is and has no time for bullshitters. We are with you, Katie!
- Rain has raised SB Cachuma Lake's water level from the 2016 low of 7% to 15 feet from spilling.
- Good for a smile on this Good Friday: Hidden-camera subjects thought it was their lucky day! [Video]
(6) Multiple-choice math puzzle: A shopper buys a $20 item and presents a $100 bill. The merchant does not have change for $100, so he goes to the neighboring store and gets change for the bill, returning $80 to the shopper and keeping $20. After the shopper leaves, the neighboring merchant comes rushing in to tell the first merchant that the $100 bill is counterfeit, asking for his money back. The original store-owner takes the counterfeit bill and gives the other merchant a genuine $100 bill. How much money did the first merchant lose?
Choose one: (a) $20   (b) $80   (c) $100   (d) $120   (e) $180   (f) $200   (g) None of the above
(7) Two convicted Iranian women: One, who handed flowers in Tehran's Metro to promote women's rights, is languishing in prison, the other, guilty of corruption and price gouging, is living in a gated luxury community.
(8) Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, in a Time magazine interview: Two interesting questions on how FDR and the US industry prepared for World War II, and what we can learn from that monumental mobilization.

2020/04/09 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
My phone screen early this morning: Virtual social interactions seem to be rising to make up for physical social distancing Some of this morning's news stories, in images Cover image of Elizabeth Warren's 'This Fight Is Our Fight' (1) Images of the day: [Left] My phone screen early this morning: Virtual social interactions seem to be rising to make up for physical social distancing. [Center] Some of this morning's news stories: The Editorial Board of Wall Street Journal finally says what I have been pondering all along. Why does the supposedly free press subject itself to lies and humiliation by attending Trump's press briefings? [Right] Cover image of Elizabeth Warren's This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America's Middle Class (see the last item below).
(2) VP Pence's office blocks public health officials from appearing on CNN: Pence was put in charge of the US coronavirus task force to serve his master, not the American people. He is barely allowed to speak himself, and Kushner was put on the panel to keep an eye on him and others on behalf of The Dear Leader. [Image]
(3) Sign this petition to help Persian-speaking authors expand the publication channels available to them: It asks Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing to support the Persian (Farsi) language.
(4) Trump still keeps insisting that nobody saw this pandemic coming: Well, Bill Gates repeatedly warned us about a pandemic potentially being more deadly than war. And here is Barack Obama talking about the need for preparation and building a response infrastructure in 2014. [Tweet]
(5) Book review: Warren, Elizabeth, This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America's Middle Class, unabridged audiobook on 9 CDs, read by the author, Macmillan Audio, 2017.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I read and reviewed Warren's best-selling book, A Fighting Chance, in December 2014. As I wasn't on GoodReads in those days, I recently entered my 4-star review there for archiving and easier access.
Warren is the rare law professor who descended from the ivory tower to become a highly effective policy activist and communicator. Having been elected to the US Senate in 2012, she wasn't on the ballot in 2016, when she sat down with her family to watch the election returns. In the early pages of this book, she describes her horror as she witnessed the outcome.
Also early on, Warren describes her life as a skinny young girl in Oklahoma, when her father needed heart surgery and her mother had to accept a minimum-wage job at Sears to help keep their home and put food on the table. Her disdain for those well-fed and well-dressed lawmakers who take the position that setting a minimum wage is unnecessary and that in a free market, an employer should be able to pay whatever wage the workers accept, comes across clearly and forcefully.
Going to college appeared an inaccessible dream for Warren. Given her family's finances, her aspiration to attend college was dismissed as selfish and unrealistic. The fact that she eventually attended college and became the success that we see now is in good part due to the availability of low-cost, quality higher eduction, all but vanished these days. "A $50-a-semester tuition changed my life," she declares. The corruption of big-money has taken away the fighting chance we used to enjoy, while further widening income and wealth gaps to record levels.
Warren follows the stories of three individuals, one of them mobile-home dweller Gina, a Walmart employee asking for anonymity, because she really needs her job. We learn that Gina was a proud Trump voter, who hoped he will "shake things up." The message seems to be that Democrats should strive to earn the votes of people like Gina. Warren's policy views, once considered fringe and too far to the left, are now more accepted by rank-and-file Democrats, which explains her rise in the race to the White House in 2020.
Warren was a fierce advocate of, and helped establish, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which successfully reduced financial fraud in the US. She is maddened by the revolving door between US government and big business (Goldman Sachs, in particular, which had its fingerprints all over the subprime crisis). Warren criticizes Bill Clinton for aggressively pushing tax cuts and deregulation, asking, "Is this the best that capitalism has to offer?"
I am very impressed with Warren's command of facts and figures. She argues convincingly that trickle-down economics, peddled since the time of Ronald Reagan (and famously dismissed by Reagan's own VP George H. W. Bush as "voodoo economics") has never worked as advertised but, instead, has served to increase inequality. On the negative side, formulating all problems and reactions to them in economic terms is a tad simplistic. Democrats did not lose in 2016 merely because of Trump's economic message, as dishonest as it was, but also because of cultural and religious factors, again laced with dishonesty.
Warren speaks kindly of her former fellow-presidential-candidate Bernie Sanders, but slams Michael Bloomberg for pretending to be fair and balanced by criticizing both Democrats and Republicans even-handedly, without considering the significantly different social and economic implications of the two types of extremism.
Warren's candidacy was very appealing to me, giving her working-class family background and first-hand knowledge of the challenges faced by the vanishing American middle class. Too bad it didn't work out. I recommend Warren's book highly.

2020/04/08 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Passover: Greeting card Passover: Cartoon about virtual gathering Passover: Screenshots of my family's virtual gathering (1) Happy Passover to all those who observe this Jewish holiday! Tomorrow is the first day of Passover, and, as is usual for Jewish holidays, its observance began tonight (over FaceTime and Zoom). New commandments for our time should read "Thou shall not socialize in the flesh during a pandemic" and "Thou shall be grateful to tech for enabling virtual gatherings"!
(2) This is no time for negativity, but US colleges have a difficult road ahead: They are paying all the salaries for now, while also having to refund some educational, residential, and dining fees. Enrollments may not rebound to the pre-coronavirus levels, once current emergency conditions go away. Layoffs are a real possibility come fall term, whose status with regard to in-person or on-line instruction is still unknown. For students, colleges are offering pass/fail grades to ease their immediate worries, but such grades will cost the students in the long run. Disabled students are struggling to adapt to the new normal, where they don't get much, if any, personal attention. Tutoring programs, financial aid, and other key resources for students are also slow to adapt. Graduate students' legitimate claims for salary upgrades are all but forgotten. Overall, it seems that community colleges might survive, but most research universities which do not have deep pockets will be in for long-term challenges, if not outright closure.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Bernie Sanders drops out of the presidential race: A loss, if his healthcare and higher-ed ideas are discarded.
- Baghdad's Mutanabbi St. hosts a thriving literary scene, fueled by rare/subversive books and their fans.
- Lateral-thinking puzzle: What is the missing entry in the sequence 16, 06, 68, 88, __, 98?
- Persian poetry: Young contemporary poet Hila Sedighi recites her poem about love and loss.
(4) The all-consuming emotional labor caused by coronavirus—and shouldered by women: "The coronavirus has laid bare many divisions in our society. And, like any serious crisis does, it has elevated the extent to which structural sexism permeates our lives: impacting the gendered division of labor within the home and also shaping what is possible for women, and particularly mothers, in the public sphere."
Sexism isn't the only thing exposed in this crisis, although it, and its domestic-violence product, are very important side effects. Racism, whose cumulative effects over the years has made the African-American population more vulnerable to COVID-19 is on full display too. I was impressed with Dr. Anthony Fauci who addressed the latter issue in a press briefing. Unfortunately, we lack political leaders who can, or are willing to, make the connection. As they say, it's easy to be friendly and generous in good times. Human beings' true natures emerge during difficult times.
(5) Final thought for the day: Why do conservatives oppose conservation and progressives disdain progress produced by exploiting natural resources? [Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century; written from memory (not an exact quote)]

2020/04/07 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
World Health Day: Logo World Health Day: Medical workers Nina Balkan of CMU honored with ACM's 2019 ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award
Photos from my beach walk on a sunny April 6 afternoon, following overnight and morning rain Product of my cooking night: Mixed-green salad Product of my cooking night: Pasta, with meat and vegetables (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] Today is World Health Day: An opportunity to raise awareness of health issues and to appreciate heroic healthcare workers. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts, and lungs! [Top right] Association for Computing Machinery has named Maria Florina "Nina" Balcan of Carnegie Mellon University the recipient of the 2019 ACM Grace Murray Hopper Award for foundational and breakthrough contributions to minimally-supervised learning. [Bottom left] Photos from my walk on a sunny April 6 afternoon, following overnight and morning rain: Low tide had significantly widened the beach at Goleta's Coal Oil Point. The "No Drone Zone" sign was a first sighting for me. [Bottom center & right] Tonight was my food-prep night: I made pasta, with meat and vegetables, along with mixed-green salad. For some reason, elbow macaroni was the only type left on the otherwise empty pasta shelves at the supermarket!
(2) COVID-19 deaths surpass 10,000 in both Iran and the US: Iran's authorities, much like the Trump administration, called coronavirus a hoax and an enemy plot, losing much valuable time in curtailing it. One reason for Iran having suffered so many deaths, despite its five times smaller population than the US, is religious dogma. Just like certain evangelicals in the US who think that the blood of Jesus will protect them (they have said this in many interviews), some Iranians believe that dead imams, whose shrines they frequent, have the cure for everything. Iran also has significant trade with China, and there was much travel between the two countries, including dozens of Muslim religious students from China studying under the ayatollahs in the city of Qom, the epicenter of the infection.
(3) January 29 memo of Peter Navarro to NSC about risks of coronavirus: Apparently, he put his thoughts in writing to make sure Trump would see the analysis and would act accordingly. Alas! [Page 1 of the memo]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump has a stake in the drug company that makes the anti-malarial drug he promotes at press briefings.
- Stephanie Grisham dismissed: The WH Press Secretary never held a press briefing during her 9 months.
- Apple and 3M to produce many millions of face shields for healthcare workers.
- Persian/Turkish music: Let's take a break from grim news with an oldie song. (Video from 45+ years ago).
(5) New Jersey's information systems are hopelessly outdated: Their four-decades-plus-old mainframes (that's Stone Age in computer technology) are struggling to meet increased demand from unemployment applications and other vital services. Recently, the state has advertised to hire COBOL programmers to help maintain and upgrade the systems. I won't blame you if you don't know what the six-decades-old COBOL is!
(6) Final thought for the day: Questions you cannot answer are far better than answers you cannot question. [Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century; written from memory, not an exact quote]

2020/04/06 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Free on-line community talk by Elizabeth Rush, 'UCSB Reads' author: April 22, 2020, 4:00 PM Chart: The world economic pie My mom preparing halegh for Passover (1) Images of the day: [Left] Free on-line community talk with the "UCSB Reads" author Elizabeth Rush: Wednesday, April 22, 2020 (Earth Day), 4:00 PM, based on her acclaimed book on the topic of sea-level rise, Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore. [Center] The world economic pie. [Right] My mom preparing halegh (which the younger members of the family affectionately call "matzo sauce") for Passover.
(2) It's not just tech gurus like Bill Gates; even George W. Bush could see this coming in 2005: "There is no pandemic flu in our country or in the world at this time. But if we wait for a pandemic to appear, it will be too late to prepare. And one day many lives could be needlessly lost because we failed to act today."
(3) Those of us who work from home (and urge others to stay home) must not forget that many workers lack the luxury of staying home. Hats off to heroic doctors, nurses, first-responders, and those involved in producing and distributing life's necessities, so that we can stay home.
(4) Tensions in the federal coronaviarus response team: Non-doctors, Donald Trump and Peter Navarro, are pushing a therapy, which infectious-diseases expert Anthony Fauci doesn't endorse, citing insufficient studies/data. Another sour point is over issuing a national stay-at-home recommendation.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Americans may be dying from COVID-19 all around the country, without being included in the official stats.
- Coronavirus has dispelled the myth of equality among students in university classes.
- Iranian doctor making Instagram posts on coronavirus is summoned to court and threatened with murder.
- Airbus blends aircraft body and wings, creating new options for cabin designs. [Photo]
- Latest dieting aid: 3D-printed foods can be designed to trick diners into eating less while still feeling full.
- Persian music: "Cheshm beh Raah" ("Expectant"), from Alireza Eftekhari's "Safar" album. [YouTube mix]
(6) Two Iran-related tweets of the day (in Persian):
- An Iranian MP maintains that Iran's Revolutionary Gaurds Corps did the right thing in shooting down the Ukranian airliner, because it was suspicious and under the control of the United States and Israel!
- Iran's national database of identity registrations has been hacked, exposing the names, national ID-card numbers (similar to SSNs in the US), and phone numbers of the country's entire population.
(7) Humor from Iran: Those planning to send donations to Iran from abroad for fighting this pandemic, please send funds directly to Hezbollah Leader Sheik Nasrallah, to save on the double-transfer bank fees!
(8) Trump has spoken to his friend, Saudi Crown Prince MBS: He happily reports in a tweet that MBS and Putin are set to reduce oil production and thus raise prices. Americans are dying or struggling financially, and The Dear Leader is concerned with oil-company profits rather then cheaper gas for our citizens!

2020/04/05 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Yesterday's hearty brunch, Photo 2 Yesterday's hearty brunch, Photo 1 Healthy snacks: Cottage cheese and fruit on Triscuit crackers
A new style of painting: Pieces of old, worn-out Persian carpets used as canvas to produce interesting art pieces Cartoon: Marriage ceremony in the age of social-distancing! Eco-efficient smart city designed for Mexico: Italian architect Stefano Boeri has unveiled plans to create a forested smart city near Cancun, Mexico (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] I prepared a hearty brunch yesterday, trying to reconstruct the good old pre-coronavirus days. Your place was empty! [Top right] This morning's healthy snacks: Cottage cheese and fruit on Triscuit crackers. [Bottom left] A new style of painting: Pieces of old, worn-out Persian carpets used as canvas to produce interesting art pieces, some of which are displayed on a street near Isfahan's City Hall, Iran. [Bottom center] Cartoon of the day: Marriage ceremony in the age of social-distancing! [Bottom right] Eco-efficient smart city designed for Mexico: Italian architect Stefano Boeri has unveiled plans to create a forested smart city near Cancun, Mexico, which will absorb 116,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.
(2) Cyber security is no longer a human-scale problem: Writing in Communications of the ACM (April 2020), Gaurav Banga argues that the dizzying array of devices and apps, and the multitude of things that can go wrong on each, make totally-secure systems all but impossible. The points on the 2D device-vulnerability plane exploited in the Equifax breach are depicted in this diagram.
(3) Puzzle: Each of three people knows a number. Is there a way for them (among themselves, without using an external agent) to let all three know the average of the three numbers but not the other two numbers?
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trevor Noah's very informative interview with Bill Gates about his warnings on the threat of pandemics.
- How Fox News influences Trump's statements and decisions, leading to deaths and misery.
- News of corruption have gotten lost amid the life-or-death challenges of a health emergency. [Tweet]
- COVID-19 stats in Southern California. [Map, with number of cases and deaths]
- Either six feet apart, or six feet under: The choice is yours!
- Forty Kurdish artists perform "Bella Ciao" to show solidarity with the devastated people of Italy.
- Kurdish music and dance: Omid performs "Shirina Sowza," a song about Norooz/Nowruz. [5-minute video]
(5) Trump is fond of blaming Obama for inadequate supply of breathing masks: It turns out that his HHS Department squashed an Obama-era R&D program for a machine designed to churn out millions of masks during a pandemic. The Dear Leader literally has blood on his hands!
(6) Theme music from Disney's "Elephant": Listen to snippets of the film's theme music, composed by the German-Iranian musician Ramin Djawadi.
(7) Book introduction: The 14-year-old book The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track (Oxford, 2006), by Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, shows us that the dysfunction in US Congress is nothing new. The book is the culmination of decades of work by the authors, beginning in 1969, when fellowships to study the US Congress brought them to Capitol Hill.

2020/04/04 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
This is me, at the end of stay-at-home and social-distancing period Tweets of the day, for my Persian-speaking readers Newsweek magazine cover: Coronavirus has taken over everything in our lives
My daughter made us a salmon dinner, with Greek lemon-potatoes and brown-buttered carrots Tomb of Hafiz in Shiraz, Iran, after and before coronavirus Vanity Fair ad: Seizing on Trump's attack tweets to boost sales (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Coronavirus humor: This is me, at the end of stay-at-home and social-distancing period, unless my hair stylist adopts this clever method. [Top center] Two Iran-related tweets for my Persian-speaking readers. [Top right] Coronavirus has taken over everything in our lives, including nearly all magazine covers. [Bottom left] My daughter made us a delicious salmon dinner, with Greek lemon-potatoes and brown-buttered carrots. [Bottom center] Tomb of Hafiz in Shiraz, Iran, aka Hafezieh, after and before the arrival of coronavirus. [Bottom right] Here is Vanity Fair seizing on Trump's attack tweets to boost sales!
(2) COVID-19 news: Number of confirmed cases reaches 1 million worldwide, a quarter of them in the US. Some countries are restricting travel from the US. Ten million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits.
(3) Persian poetry: Selected verses from Mowlavi (Rumi): I was dead, then alive | Weeping, then laughing | The power of Love came into me | And I became fierce like a lion | Then tender like the evening star
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump fires intelligence watchdog who forwarded the whistleblower complaint leading to impeachment.
- The mother of all conspiracy theories: COVID-19 is caused by 5G cellular service!
- Sniffer dogs are being trained to detect the smell of coronavirus in carrier, but asymptomatic, individuals.
- Bill withers, of the "Lean on Me" and "Ain't No Sunshine" fame, dead at 81 of heart problems.
- How the food supply chain is adapting to eliminate shortages. [Graphic: Time magazine, April 6/13, 2020]
- Taking breathing masks and other protective gear seriously! [Humorous/uplifting video]
- Obama, on Trump's weakening of fuel-economy standards. [Tweet image]
- Persian music: "Sarnevesht" ("Destiny"), joint work by Anoushirvan Rohani and Homayoun Shajarian.
(5) Government by the corrupt for the corrupt: Not just rewriting history, a la 1984, but changing wordings on Web sites to correspond to erroneous claims by The Dear Leader and his cronies. We will have so much history and records to correct when this band of criminals is gone!
(6) Excesses of the nouveau-riche in Iran: This video, showing a three-story penthouse atop a tower in northern Tehran, appears to be a commercial for a real-estate development company.
(7) Final thought for the day: What does a "Stay Home" order mean for those with no home, be they homeless elderly in Los Angeles or homeless children working on the streets of Tehran to avoid starvation?

2020/04/03 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Selfies takan around the deserted UCSB campus: Batch 1 The spookily empty central plaza next to the UCSB library Selfies takan around the deserted UCSB campus: Batch 2
These days, the deserted UCSB campus is being safeguarded by police patrols 3D-printed fine violins Photo taken at a mystery college campus (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Selfies taken around UCSB campus on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. The spookily empty central plaza next to the library appears behind me in the center photo. [Bottom left] These days, the deserted UCSB campus is being safeguarded by police patrols. [Bottom center] 3D-printing of violins: Will artisans, who spend dozens of hours crafting a fine violin, become dispensable? (Photo credit: IEEE Spectrum, April 2020) [Bottom right] Some among my readers will immediately recognize this college campus. Others may even know the exact spot from which the photo was taken!
(2) Water on Mars has two different sources: This conclusion was reached by University of Arizona's Jessica Barnes, after studying the hydrogen-isotope compositions of 1.5- and 3.9-billion-years-old Mars meteorites.
(3) Trump pivots 180 degrees: After his early assertion that the then 15 US COVID-19 cases will soon go away "like a miracle," Trump reluctantly comes to terms with the fact that tens or even hundreds of thousands of Americans will likely die of the disease. He has redefined "beating the disease" as keeping the number of deaths under 100,000. He still insists that his reaction was "perfect" though; like the phone call, you know!
(4) Islamic extremist escapes death: Pakistan overturns the death sentence of British-born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh who killed journalist Daniel Pearl: Three accomplices with life sentences are set free.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The failed federal response to COVID-19: Bidding wars for medical supplies raise prices up to 15-fold.
- Gaps in the availability of medical equipment and supplies are being filled with 3D printing.
- Some 8.5% of 150,000 phone apps studied had backdoors for unauthorized access or sharing of user data.
- As numerous oil platforms reach the end of their useful lives, decomissioning is becoming a hairy problem.
- Fake 16-yolked egg? The odds of a double-yolked egg is 1 in 1000. For a triple-yolker, it is 1 in 25 million.
- Puzzle: The numbers 512, 4913, 5832, and 17,576 have something surprising in common. What is it?
(6) Charitable donations to help the fight against coronavirus: Last year, I recommended Moms Against Poverty for Iran flood-relief donations, after thoroughly researching their impressive activities and alliances on location. The charity is accepting coronavirus-relief donations. You can select US or Iran as the target of your donation.

2020/04/02 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Combating COVID-19 in the US: Makeshift hospital in New York City's Central Park. Burial place of COVID-19 victims in the city of Langarud, Iran's Caspian-Sea region Cover image for Giuseppe Primiero's 'On the Foundations of Computing' (1) Images of the day: [Left] The US combats COVID-19: Makeshift hospital in New York City's Central Park. [Center] Burial place of COVID-19 victims in the city of Langarud, Iran's Caspian-Sea region (photo credit: Reza Khandan). [Right] Giuseppe Primiero's On the Foundations of Computing (see the last item below).
(2) Yesterday was April Fool's Day: Instead of good-hearted tricks/pranks and hearty laughs, many of our fellow citizens faced vanishing paychecks, just as rent and other monthly bills became due. If you are less-affected by the pandemic and its economic consequences, please donate generously to charities!
(3) Iran does not release or furlough political prisoners amid COVID-19 threats: Reza Khandan's observations on women's section of Evin Prison, where his political-activist wife Nasrin Sotoudeh is serving a long jail term.
(4) Any day now, Anthony Fauci can become "Little Faux-chi" if he continues to contradict Trump on COVID-19 realities. Fauci has been getting death threats from some Trump goons who don't like his regularly correcting The Dear Leader's absurd statements. His security detail has been ramped up.
(5) Journalism and communications professors write open letter to Fox News: Stop causing loss of life by spreading coronavirus misinformation, especially given the large fraction of older people among your viewers. Interestingly, Fox actually suffers financially (losing ad revenues) because of its lying/racist/sexist commentators, which is tantamount to the organization subsidizing Trumpism.
(6) Big-data to the rescue: Fever map of the US, built with data from one million Kinsa Health Internet-connected thermometers, shows that restrictions have reduced the cases of high fever substantially.
(7) Campaigning on the back of a health crisis: Why these coronavirus guidelines were distributed under Trump's name, rather than the country's health organizations or authorities, is being investigated.
(8) Book review: Primiero, Giuseppe, On the Foundations of Computing, Oxford, 2020.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Popular-press headlines, such as "Rise of the Machines" and "How Algorithms Control the World," play on readers' fears (AI vs. humanity), arising from opacity and complexity, and amplified by lack of knowledge. This book attempts to bridge the knowledge gap via a transparent and rigorous exposition of the foundations of computing.
Sandwiched between a 3-page introductory chapter and a 1-page concluding chapter (the latter followed by an extensive 19-page bibliography), Chapters 2-16 are divided between mathematical (6 chs., 110 pp.), engineering (5 chs., 99 pp.), and experimental (4 chs., 56 pp.) foundations of computing. Primiero does an admirable job of revealing the structure of the field in terms of the three main foundations that have guided its birth and evolution. The book strikes an excellent balance between historical, philosophical, and pragmatic aspects of the three foundational domains.
In the mathematical domain, foundational crises in math/logic, the birth of decision problems, computability (including Church's Thesis), the notion of mechanical computation, the nature of algorithms, and computing as a methematical discipline are discussed. This part alone contains 103 numbered definitions.
Discussion of the engineering domain consists of early computer history (beginning with Shannon's circuits), laws of evolution, properties of implemented computations, specification vs. implementation, and computing as an engineering discipline.
Discussion of computing as an experimental discipline in the penultimate chapter is preceded by elements of experimental computing, models and simulations, and formal relations (including identity and dependence, isomorphism, and similarity).
This isn't casual reading of the kind that one would peruse sequentially from cover to cover in short order. Rather, I recommend an initial scan of the chapters, reading Chapters 1 and 17, followed by Chapters 7, 12, and 16, and concluding with as many of the other chapters as the reader feels interested and motivated to pursue. In fact, I am writing this review, having finished the first pass according to the recommendation above. I am looking forward to spending many hours, over time, on detailed examination of these and other chapters.
Chapter 7, "Computing as a Mathematical Discipline" (pp. 81-114): The essence of this chapter, which ends the book's Part I, is the assertion of equivalence between establishing correctness, that is, formal verification, with mechanical computability.
Chapter 12, "Computing as an Engineering Discipline" (pp. 199-213): The essence of this chapter, which ends the book's Part II, is the belief by some, including Richard Hamming, that "the theoretical question whether something can be done is considered less important for the discipline than finding a cost-effective way of building it" (p. 206). An aspect of the ongoing debate is whether computing has what it takes to be a "legitimate" science.
Chapter 16, "Computing as an Experiemental Discipline" (pp. 255-270): The essence of this chapter, which ends the book's Part III, is a discussion of "minimal criteria" (usability and fitness) and "maximal criteria" (robustness and reliability) of artefacts we create for computing.
In the concluding chapter, the author reveals the book to be "a plea for a methodologically rigorous approach to computing and its overall impact, as well as for a critical stand towards its ontological and epistemological principles. Once these are solidly grounded ... ethical, political, and social principles can be formulated in a similarly consistent fashion" (p. 271).

2020/04/01 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Giant US Navy hospital ships have anchored on both coasts to provide relief for inundated hospitals Magazine covers this week: Time Magazine covers this week: Newsweek (1) Images of the day: [Left] Giant US Navy hospital ships have anchored on both coasts to provide relief for inundated hospitals, by taking in their non-COVID-19 patients. [Center & Right] Magazine covers this week focus on feeding the needy and working from home, as we deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
(2) New Yorker cartoon caption selection for the day: "Are you talking about the new normal of an hour ago, or is there a new new normal right now?"
(3) Cuba becomes an icon of the global fight against COVID-19: At the risk of being accused of praising Castro and/or communism, and be beaten on the head like Bernie Sanders, I share this Persian-language video about how Cuban doctors/nurses are helping Italy and several other countries deal with medical emergencies.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Idaho is hit with a magnitude-6.5 earthquake for the first time in 50 years.
- UCLA biodesign student builds a low-cost ventilator from parts he bought at Home Depot.
- Cool tricks and optical illusions for your enjoyment on this April Fool's Day! [Video]
- Satellite images show markedly clearer skies due to reduced emissions during the coronavirus emergency.
- Close to home: A COVID-19 case has been confirmed in Isla Vista, a community adjacent to UCSB campus.
- Santa Barbara and Goleta grocery store hours for seniors.
- Have you ever wondered about who provides the beautiful whistling sounds in spaghetti-Western themes?
(5) The digital divide rears its ugly head: One in five teens report having difficulties doing their homework because of lack of access to computers and the Internet. Access to the Internet has always been considered a basic right. The current work-from-home and study-at-home paradigms make it an even more important commodity. Tech companies should step forward to provide computers and ISPs should consider providing free Internet access and the requisite equipment.
(6) Assisting the poorly equipped hospitals and medical personnel in Iran: I am extremely proud of Tehran University College of Engineering's Class of 1968 (my college buddies) for kicking into action to procure emergency medical equipment and personal protective gear for the heroes fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of dead among Iran's medical teams is mind-boggling.
(7) UCSB's Pollock Theater goes on-line: The Theater is highlighting some of its past screenings and providing access to recorded post-screening discussions.
- "Knock Down the House" (2019) is available on Netflix. [Recorded discussion]
- "Anthropocene: The Human Epoch" (2019) is available on Amazon Prime Video. [Recorded discussion]
(8) Learn about the history of computer graphics and its future development: Two forerunners of the computer graphics industry, Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and 2019 ACM Turing Award Laureate, and Richard Chuang, co-founder of PDI/Dreamworks, will share their personal reflections on the past, present, and future of CG. [Details: Tuesday, April 14, 2020, 9:00-10:00 AM PDT, Registration link]

2020/03/31 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Yesterday afternoon on the UCSB campus, batch 1 of photos Yesterday afternoon on the UCSB campus, batch 2 of photos Yesterday afternoon on the UCSB campus, batch 3 of photos
Yesterday afternoon on the UCSB campus, batch 4 of photos Humor: Indians are ordered to stay home! The calendar section of this week's 'Santa Barbara Independent' (1) Images of the day: [Top row & bottom left] Monday afternoon on UCSB campus (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Humor: Indians are ordered to stay home! [Bottom right] This week's Santa Barbara Independent is quite thin: Its calendar section lists a few webinars and other on-line events on one page.
(2) Yesterday at UCSB: On Mondays, I have a scheduled office hour and two class sessions converted to office hours, to give students a chance for one-on-one discussion and advice-seeking about course material and other academic matters. Between the scheduled times in my office, I walked on campus twice, going to different parts, to see first-hand how the coronavirus pandemic has affected us. Beautiful as ever, and even cleaner than usual (including disinfected restrooms), the campus has become a ghost town. Three of the photos in the fourth batch above show the usually-bustling library plaza at the heart of our campus and the equally-busy bike path and walkway connecting central campus to Isla Vista. It seems that the UCSB campus is one of the safest places to be during this crisis! My plans call for being on campus all afternoon on Mondays and Wednesdays.
(3) A thought from March 2017: I'd take an arugula-loving, fist-bumping, bookish President, who does not take himself too seriously, over an arrogant, emotionless, amoral, ignorant one, who considers himself God-sent savior of the masses, any day!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- We have found the society's real heroes: Let's not forget them once this crisis is over! [Video]
- Of the first 3 doctors who died protecting the UK from COVID-19, two were Sudanese and one was Iraqi.
- ACM has made its Digital Library freely available during the coronavirus emergency (through June 30).
- Wonderful cuisine from the city of Rasht in Iran's Caspian-Sea region. [9-minute video]
- Persian music and dance: Traditional and coronavirus-modern!
- This video appears 3-dimensional, with vivid apples on trees that you feel you can reach out and touch.
(5) History of medicine: Ten centuries ago, Avicenna [~980-1037] (known to Iranians as Abu Ali Sina or Ibn Sina) told people to stay away from mosques and bazaars in order to control the spread of cholera, according to this clip from a 1956 Soviet biopic.
(6) Infomercial during Trump's press briefing: Trump gives the "MyPillow" Guy the podium to announce his planned production of medical face-masks. Whether this is a great act of charity or grabbing of a business opportunity, his infomercial-like announcement, which included lavishing praise on Trump, doesn't pass the smell test. And to top off the absurdity, the guy seems to think that all Americans are Christians! [Image]
(7) Final thought for the day: Health-care activist Ady Barkan sees COVID-19 as yet another reason to pass Medicare-for-All: "ALS made me really see what a moral abomination our health care system is."

2020/03/30 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of the book 'A Warning,' by Anonymous Viruses have no nationality or religion: Jewish and Muslim paramedics, working side by side People are dying and our insecure President rants about ratings for his news briefings, aka campaign rallies! (1) Images of the day: [Left] Anonymous, on Trump's shortcomings and dysfunction in the White House (see the last item below). [Center] Viruses have no nationality or religion: Respect nature and be kind to your fellow human-beings. [Right] People are dying and our insecure President rants about ratings for his news briefings!
(2) Coronavirus in Iran: President Rouhani asserts that all is well in the fight against coronavirus in Iran and that America and Europe are in dire straits. Meanwhile, it's business as usual in waging war around the Middle East and in handing down long prison terms to political activists in Iran's kangaroo courts. [Persian tweets]
(3) Adios to the all-too-brief spring break, which I spent in my study, with occasional visits to its adjacent courtyard! The coming first week of the spring quarter will be hectic, with adaptation to exclusively on-line classes and working through all the uncertainties and questions adding to normal first-week challenges. I'll keep my face-to-face contact with students via in-person office hours. By mid-April, I will settle into a routine and will start the countdown to summer!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- US COVID-19 deaths surpass 2000: Anthony Fauci warns 100 times more may die before it's all over.
- Former Defense Chief, centerist Benny Gantz, to form a coalition government in Israel. [Time magazine]
- Israeli historian/author Yuval Noah Harari interviewed on BBC Persian by Rana Rahimpour. [In English]
- Iran denies that pilgrims still flock to the country's religious shrines, but this video suggests otherwise.
(5) Book review: Anonymous (a senior Trump admiminstration official), A Warning, unabridged MP3 audiobook read by Robert Fass, Twelve, 2019. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I have mixed feelings about this book, which is a follow-up to the September 2018 anonymous op-ed "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration," published by New York Times in September 2018.
On the one hand, much of what Anonymous writes makes sense and is consistent with numerous other accounts of Trump's presidency and his dysfunctional White House. The book provides a comprehensive catalogue of laws Trump has violated and immoral/corrupt acts he has committed. The author describes himself/herself as part of the "Steady State" (countering Trump's "Deep State" label), or the so-called "adults in the room."
On the other hand, Anonymous isn't a never-Trumper and professes to like most of the policies that Trump promotes, although, over the years, Trump has promoted every possible policy and its opposite. S/he accuses others, in the cabinet and Congress, of cowardice in facing up to Trump, yet strings together excuses for not joining a growing number of other adults in the room in leaving a White House that has become a den of incompetent yes-men and yes-women; enablers who go out of their way to justify any stupid and obviously-wrong pronouncement by the Egotist-in-Chief.
While a year and a half into Trump's presidency, anonymous criticism of his actions and exposure of his insanity might have been helpful, near the end of his first term, and with the prospects of his re-election looming, it is doubtful that anonymous resistance is the way to go. Anonymous justifies his/her actions by pointing to Alexander Hamilton's use of a pseudonym for the Federalist Papers. But it is not likely that Anonymous has a stature like Hamilton's, whose words would have carried much more weight had he written under his own name.
Still, there is no reason to doubt the veracity of the author's characterization of Trump as constantly stumbling, slurring, confused, paranoid, irritable, and having trouble synthesizing information. The reader is left to wonder, though, whether the accuracy of the information presented has been compromised, and facts fuzzified, by the need to remain anonymous.
Among the more interesting passages in the book is where the author cites negative comments certain politicians made about Trump, before he won the presidency and after they joined his administration or became his staunch allies in Congress. Every single Trump apologist and derriere-kisser had made nasty remarks about him and about his lack of qualifications and temperament for presidency, before and/or after his election.

2020/03/29 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Perhaps this beautifully-rendered calligraphic message convinces you to stay home! Printing in Persian: Two figures from an article by Borna Izadpanah Positivity and negativity in two consecutive tweets: Asian-American feminists and Donald Trump (1) Images of the day: [Left] Perhaps this beautifully-rendered calligraphic message convinces you to stay home! [Center] Printing in Persian (see the last item below). [Right] Positivity and negativity in two consecutive tweets: While Asian-American feminists endeavor to issue an entertaining and informative newsletter for the age of coronavirus, our supposedly very-busy President is spreading disinformation and picking fights with governors who dare criticize his handling of the crisis.
(2) Quote of the day: "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." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, American essayist (1803-1882)
(3) Universities may face challenges in student retention: After the on-line instruction period due to the coronavirus epidemic is over, many students may not return to campuses, particularly given the reduced quality of instruction as well as faculty apathy and tech-aversion in the interim period.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Can the US government be charged with criminal negligence in its handling of the coronavirus epidemic?
- Adult dependents and many students are left out of the coronavirus economic stimulation package.
- Coping with social isolation: UNICEF Exec. Dir. Henrietta H. Fore shares ideas from her day 4 at home.
- Traditional Persian music, with a modern big-orchestra twist. [7-minute video]
- Beautiful Iranian dances: Azeri and Kurdish.
- Humorous country song: "I'm My Own Grandpa" (with a graphical explanation).
(5) How the coronavirus pandemic will end: "A global pandemic of this scale was inevitable. In recent years, hundreds of health experts have written books, white papers, and op-eds warning of the possibility. Bill Gates has been telling anyone who would listen, including the 18 million viewers of his TED Talk. In 2018, I wrote a story for The Atlantic arguing that America was not ready for the pandemic that would eventually come. In October, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security war-gamed what might happen if a new coronavirus swept the globe. And then one did. Hypotheticals became reality. 'What if?' became 'Now what?'" [Article]
(6) Historical nuggets about the Persian script and its printing (figures above): Three dots were added to existing non-dotted Arabic letters to form the Persian letters "pe," "che," "zhe," and "gaaf." The current form of the letter "gaaf" is different from this early European practice.
In this example of typesetting the Nastaliq Persian script, composition of kernel characters and dots forming the Persian word "shahrak" is shown. Printing in Nastaliq script requires many multi-letter combinations to be produced for results with acceptable aesthetic quality.
[Source: Figs. 4 & 25 in Borna Izadpanah's "Early Persian Printing and Typefounding in Europe," J. Printing Historical Society, New Series, No. 29, Winter 2018, pp. 87-123]

2020/03/28 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Persian word puzzle: Persian proverbs/sayings and poem half-verses in emoji Cover image of the book 'Call Sign Chaos,' by Jim Mattis and Bing West Word puzzle: Movie titles in emoji (1) Images of the day: [Left] Persian word puzzle: Persian proverbs/sayings and poem half-verses in emoji. [Center] Call Sign Chaos (see the last item below). [Right] Word puzzle: Movie titles in emoji.
(2) Update by Dr. Siavash Kurdistani from UCLA Medical Center, late last night: "We have tested a total of 2,503 patients since March 9. Of those, 193 tested positive. We currently have 27 patients hospitalized who have tested positive, including 8 who are ventilated. Test results are pending for 18 hospitalized patients. Six of our health care workers have tested positive for COVID-19 because they were exposed to a colleague in the workplace who tested positive."
(3) Trump's character flaws make him unsuitable for dealing with a crisis of this magnitude: He is trapped in a deadly situation from which he cannot escape by lying or changing the subject to Clinton's e-mails.
(4) Coronavirus-related hacking: Computer-security experts warn that a hack of Linksys and D-Link routers for homes and small offices is redirecting users to malicious sites that pose as COVID-19 info resources.
(5) Trump wants governors to thank him for the health-care supplies the federal govenment is providing to states, as if they are procured with his personal funds. Now, there are reports that he wants his signature to be on the checks sent to families as part of the stimulus bill he just signed!
(6) Book review: Mattis, Jim and Bing West, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Danny Campbell, Random House Audio, 2019. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
James (Jim) Norman Mattis makes it clear at the outset that he refrains from commenting on the actions of a sitting president. So, if you want to learn about what went on in the White House between Mattis and Trump that led to his eventual resignation in February 2019, this book isn't for you.
True to form for a lifelong military man, the prose is very dry: Bing West's co-writing and Danny Campbell's reading can't help liven the drudgery of trying to learn from detailed description of military deployments confronting insurgencies. This is why I gave the book 4 stars; were I rating the content, rather than the overall book, the rating would have been higher.
CHAOS (Colonel Has Another Outstanding Suggestion) was the call name given Mattis by his underlings. Other than brief references to growing up in the west and going to jail for underage drinking, Mattis does not reveal much personal information. The book is primarily about Mattis the military man or "Mad Dog," rising from a US Marine recruit to 4-star general, and less about Mattis the never-married private man, "The Warrior Monk."
Even though Mattis doesn't comment on Trump directly, the occasional barbs are there. Mattis believes that any leader, or any person for that matter, must learn from books: "If you haven't read hundreds of books, you are functionally illiterate." Mattis reads a lot himself, particularly about past military leaders and military campaigns, ideas and quotations from which appear throughout the book. He also sings the praises of the US Constitution and the need to follow processes and precedents.
Mattis discusses three types of leadership: Direct, executive, and strategic. A rather old-fashioned man, Mattis does not seem to have learned to use gender-neural language, as if women do not lead!
Direct leadership, where the leader is in close contact with his charges (a few dozens at most) and often knows them better than family members, requires leading with compassion and personal examples. In this part, Mattis draws on his own experiences leading US Marines into battle.
Executive leadership requires clear communication to ensure that the leader's intent is well-understood by all those carrying out the commands, such that they can make independent, local decisions consistent with the leader's intent. The leader should not spell out step-by-step actions but rather leave the details to those carrying out the commands in the field. Examples in this part come mostly from the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Strategic leadership requires a military leader to interface with political leaders, reconciling decisions that can cost lives with human aspirations and the attendant ambiguities. Imprudent decisions at this level can have catastrophic consequences. Examples in this part relate to Mattis's CentCom and other command posts and, later, Secretary of Defense.
Mattis provides much detail about his military campaigns in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq. There is a great deal of information about the interaction between military generals and civilian leadership, shedding light, in particular, on all the misguided decisions in Iraq that produced and then strengthened the insurgency, leading eventually to the rise of ISIS.
Learning that the civilian leadership sitting in Washington has no clue about the complexities of war and the sacrifices made by military leaders and "the grunts," under difficult and sometimes inhumane conditions, was quite valuable for me.

2020/03/27 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Not every American is hoarding: A kind soul's offer to his/her neighbors The decades-long fonts war: The letter 'm' in Times New Roman font The decades-long fonts war: Irregularities from rasterization
Humor: He thought she wanted an 18-carrot necklace! Social-distancing requirements have closed movie theaters Social distancing: This park bench has been upended to prevent people from sitting on it (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Not every American is hoarding: A kind soul's offer to his/her neighbors. [Top center & right] The decades-long fonts war (see the next item below). [Bottom left] He thought she wanted an 18-carrot necklace! [Bottom center & right] Social-distancing requirements have closed movie theaters and upended park benches at a Goleta housing complex.
(2) Article on the history of computer fonts: A just-published article by Charles Bigelow, "The Font Wars" (IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, Vol. 42, No. 1, January-March 2020; Part 1, pp. 7-24; Part 2, pp. 25-40), reviews a decades-long competition in the computer industry for dominance in font technology, viewed as necessary for success and market dominance in personal computing. These two figures from the article show the bitmap of the letter "m" in Times New Roman font and irregularities from rasterization that needed to be hand-edited to improve regularity and alignment.
(3) UCSB ECE 252B, spring 2020: I have recorded the first 2 of ~20 lectures to cover the first week of classes for my graduate course on computer arithmetic. Here is the course Web page, in case you'd be interested to learn more about the class or to follow it.
- Lecture 1, Redundant Number Representation: 81-minute video
- Lecture 2, Residue Number Systems: 74-minute video
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Close to home: There are now 32 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Santa Barbara and 61 in Ventura County.
- Emergency food distribution centers on California's Central Coast (Carpinteria to Santa Maria). [List]
- Classical music: Yo-Yo Ma (cello) and Kathryn Stott (piano) perform "The Swan" (Camille Saint-Saens).
- My nature walk around Goleta's Devereux Slough, on a sunny and windy Thursday afternoon. [Photos]
- After only a few weeks of reduced human activity on Earth, nature has begun to reclaim the space!
(5) Comic news that is dead-serious: It is mind-boggling that a comedic-journalist, Trevor Noah, provides the most level-headed and informative interview with infectious-diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci.
(6) Lack of self control intensifies during a crisis: There are disturbing reports about a sharp rise in violence against women at home (euphemistically called "domestic violence" to hide the gender imbalance), as families are confined to home, perhaps in cramped quarters. In the West, people are raised to mind their own business and not be nosy. Please do be nosy at this critical time. If you see/hear violence against women, report it to authorities. You may just save a life!
(7) Trump's media allies continue to fall in disgrace: Fox ousts Trish Regan after her rant about critical reactions to Trump's handling of the coronavirus epidemic being "impeachment all over again"!

2020/03/26 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Trump's daily press briefings have become substitutes for his campaign rallies Cartoon: Science, not religion, will save us from this pandemic Satellite photo of North America
Chart: Most countries are on the same coronavirus trajectory, with the number of confirmed cases doubling every 2-3 days Table: Courses that should incorporate discussion of ethical practices in computing Hidden misogyny: Self-quarantined Angela Merkel and Queen Elizabeth II doing house chores Cartoon depicting Schrodinger's cat (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Trump's press briefings have become substitutes for his campaign rallies: News outlets are considering whether to give him prime-time live coverage to spread lies and misinformation. [Top center] Coronavirus cartoon: Science, not religion, will save us from this pandemic. [Top right] Satellite photo of North America: Our planet looks peaceful from above, even as a pandemic ravages us humans. [Middle] Teaching about ethical practices in computing is more important than ever: Here is a partial list of computer science and engineering courses which are ripe for discussing ethical challenges. (Table from an editorial by Cherri M. Pancake, Communications of the ACM, April 2020) [Bottom left] Most countries are on the same coronavirus trajectory, with the number of confirmed cases doubling every 2-3 days: The US is one of the worst in the effectiveness of government response. Hong Kong and Singapore limited the spread. Japan and South Korea slowed it. [Bottom center] Misogyny, disguised and presented as humor (see the next item below). [Bottom right] A depiction of the quantum-physics "hoax," as Donald Trump would call it!
(2) Hidden misogyny: The image above of two of the most-powerful women in the world in self-quarantine appears funny at first, but that is because we are all unaware of our decades of social programming. Here is another example, disguised as a joke. Woman talking to a friend: "I wasn't expecting so much shared life when I agreed to marry him. I was told that he would leave every morning and return in the evening."
(3) Quote: "There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the top. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong." ~ Hindu proverb
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Not as bad as people dying, but still sad: Holland destroys 80% of its flower production for lack of buyers.
- Computers at healthcare facilities inundated by COVID-19 patients become targets of cyber-criminals.
- Algorithms take charge of policing disinformation, as Facebook sends its moderators home on paid leave.
- Coronavirus humor: Wear a face mask, even when you are alone at home. It will help you avoid over-eating!
(5) Dumb, paranoid leaders: Iranian health official contradicts Supreme Leader Khamenei, who had advanced the conspiracy theory that a special strain of coronavirus was made by the US to cause maximum damage in Iran! Donald Trump is also frequently contradicted or corrected by US health experts.
(6) When it comes to spending money we don't have, bipartisanship takes hold: By a vote of 96-0, Senators approve $2 trillion disaster-aid bill to boost the US economy and help those who are suffering from COVID-19 or its economic impact.
(7) Atena Daemi, an Iranian anti-death-penalty activist will mark her birthday in prison tomorrow, for the fifth consecutive year. Happy 32nd birthday! Shame on the Islamic Republic authorities who can't tolerate dissent, even peaceful activism on behalf of a humanitarian cause. [Tweets]

2020/03/25 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Hiking on Santa Barbara's beautiful Jesusita Trail: Photo 2 Hiking on Santa Barbara's beautiful Jesusita Trail: Batch 1 of photos Hiking on Santa Barbara's beautiful Jesusita Trail: Photo 3
Eight construction projects that used a lot of concrete: Batch 1 Eight construction projects that used a lot of concrete: Batch 2 (1) Images of the day: [Top] My daughter and I hiked on Santa Barbara's beautiful Jesusita Trail, an easy hike that was made challenging by a muddy path. [Bottom] Eight construction projects that used a lot of concrete: 0.1-65.5 million metric tons (source: IEEE Spectrum, March 2020). Note: "The Pentagon" image is mislabeled.
(2) Happy 10th birthday, Obamacare! The Affordable Care Act has survived numerous challenges from the Republicans, thanks in part to its defense by Democratic Attorneys General Association.
(3) World's largest networked-computer is helping in our fight against coronavirus: Folding@Home, a distributed system offering 470 petflops of peak performance in the exhaustive search to find possible cures for COVID-19, is more powerful than world's top seven supercomputers combined. The #1 supercomputer on the Top-500 list has also been enlisted to help in the search.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Yemen set to execute 24 Baha'is, including a child, on charges of spying for Israel.
- Plea from medical professionals, fighting the coronavirus pandemic, that we help them by staying home.
- Stores are facilitating proper social-distancing through the use of floor markers in check-out lines.
- Historians: In 2020, the US had a president so full of **it that the whole country ran out of toilet paper!
- Italy in quarantine: Balcony sax performance of "Bella Ciao" for neighbors across the street.
- Will we ever feel such joys again? Concert pianist disguised as janitor performs at a shopping mall.
(5) A virus speaks to humans: A virus warns humans that they were on the path of destroying their planet with excesses, before the current coronavirus pandemic woke them up. Did it, really, or will we go back to our old ways, once the crisis is over? [Video in Italian, with subtitles in English and in Persian]
(6) Computing helps endangered and extinct languages: There are currently 7000 known languages in the world, 2500 of which are endangered (children no longer learn to speak them). Over the past 70 years, 230 languages have gone extinct (there are no speakers left). Automatic language translation via machine-learning has been making enormous progress in recent years. The results are particularly impressive in translating between English and French, because of the vast collection of past translations, but improvements are being made for other language pairs. Now, researchers are trying to extend these methods to translating from extinct languages. [Communications of the ACM, issue of April 2020]

2020/03/24 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: View the days of isolation like 'Groundhog Day' (the movie) Former Iranian ambassador to Venezuela Ahmad Sobhani has disowned his son Sasha, professing failure in raising him properly! Cover image for Andrea Berstein's 'American Oligarchs' (1) Images of the day: [Left] My advice. [Center] This is the son of an Islamic Republic official: Former Iranian ambassador to Venezuela Ahmad Sobhani has disowned his son Sasha Sobhani, professing failure in raising him properly! [Right] Cover image for Andrea Berstein's American Oligarchs (see the last item below).
(2) UCSB ECE 1B, spring 2020: I have recorded the first of ten hour-long weekly lectures for my freshman-seminar class, Ten Puzzling Problems in Computer Engineering. Here is the course's Web page, in case you'd be interested to learn more about the class or to follow it. [Lecture 1: 65-minute video]
(3) The story of a legendary $20M Buenos Ayres bank heist in 2006 that puts Hollywood fiction to shame: The perpetrators created an ordinary bank robbery scene, with hostages, to distract the police and buy time, as they cleaned out safe-deposit boxes in the basement. They got away and thought they had pulled the perfect heist, but a lovers' dispute over the haul, and an affair, unraveled the plot.
(4) Two cancelled events: Among casualties of universities moving to on-line instruction for spring 2020 and restrictions on gatherings and travel are the following two events in UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran:
- 4/26, UCI's Dr. Roxanne Varzi, "Tehran Tourist" screening/discussion, an example of guerilla film-making
- 5/18, UNC's Dr. Claudia Yaghoobi, "Embodiment, Power, and Politics in Farahbakhsh's 'Zendegi-ye Khosusi'"
(5) Borna Izadpanah's tweet about Mirza Malkom Khan's new Persian alphabet of the 1880s, known as "Khotout-e Adamiyyat" or "Alefba-ye Malkomi," and the books he published using it.
(6) Book review: Bernstein, Andrea, American Oligarchs: The Kushners, the Trumps, and the Marriage of Money and Power, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Random House Audio, 2020.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The Trumps and the Kushners are a match made in Hell! Both families were corrupted by money and in turn corrupted everything around them, including lawyers, cops, and politicians. Veteran investigative reporter Andrea Bernstein digs up the dirt on both families, which had constant brush-ins with law enforcement.
The Kushners are the lesser-known of the two families, so there is more new material about them than about the Trumps. Charles Kushner, Jared's father, did time in federal prison for using a prostitute and recording a sex tape to frame his brother-in-law over business disputes. The Kushner family broke multiple laws, in Europe and the US, in trying to make it to America, including using false names and faking their country of origin. Jared's paternal grandfather, who morphed from Yossel Berkowitz into Joseph Kushner, passed himself off as the son of his father-in-law, because immigration officials treated sons more favorably than sons-in-law. It is interesting that with all this in Trumps' and Kushners' background, Trump had the nerve to mock comedian Jon Stewart for ditching the name "Jonathan Leibowitz"!
Both Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump came very close to being indicted for scams involving Trump's Soho Hotel, and Donald Trump himself escaped indictments by settling dozens of cases out of court. Bernstein describes failed project after failed project that bankrupted many investors, while the Trumps, who used licensing agreements, rather than putting up cash, emerged making millions. In many cases, the Trumps misrepresented their association with the projects, falsified the buildings' sales/occupancy levels, and used other misleading data to lure investors.
Criminal families attract other criminal families. A case in point is Rudy Giuliani, who may be in serious legal trouble now, given the indictment of two of his close associates, and whose father served time in Sing Sing correctional facility for armed robbery. Both families, the Trumps and the Kushners, associated with criminals, some of whom are now in prison or are under investigation. Jared Kushner has obtained questionable loans, abusing his position as a top advisor to President Trump. Bernstein's narrative is peppered with characters from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, Persian Gulf states, and other corrupt foreign countries, as well as a few mobsters.
Bernstein's book has significant overlaps with other recent books about the Trump family. For example, both the 2016 presidential campaign and the dysfunction within the Trump White House are given broad coverage, topics that are included in dozens of other books. Nevertheless, I found American Oligarchs absorbing and informative. Sometimes a fresh perspective or narrative on an old incident can be enlightening. I recommend Bernstein's book highly, particularly in this election year.

2020/03/23 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover of Time magazine for the issue of March 23, 2020 Meme: We have too many nukes and not enough ventilators The quantum-dot image sensor will revolutionize digital imaging
English tweet: Face of someone who has been wearing protective gear all day Persian tweets: Criticizing Khamenei's incompetence and mad pronouncements The Ten Commandments, updated for the age of coronavirus (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Cover of Time magazine, issue of March 23, 2020. [Top center] We have too many nukes and not enough ventilators. [Top right] The quantum-dot image sensor will revolutionize digital imaging—and it could come to smartphone cameras within 5 years (source: IEEE Spectrum, March 2020). [Bottom row] Topical tweets about immense sacrifices from our doctors and nurses, criticism of Ayatollah Khamenei who, like Trump, is blaming everyone but himself or his government's policies for the coronavirus pandemic, and the Ten Commandments, updated for the age of coronavirus.
(2) The sick mind of Iran's incompetent Supreme Leader: The US created this new disease to reduce Iran's population. Now, in the guise of medical assistance, the West wants to bring in drugs that make the virus a permanent presence in Iran. [Not an exact quote, but an accurate translation of his words]
(3) From the US CDC Web site: The practice of quarantine, as we know it, began during the 14th century in an effort to protect coastal cities from plague epidemics. Ships arriving in Venice from infected ports were required to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing. This practice, called quarantine, was derived from the Italian words quaranta giorni which mean 40 days. [Explanation in Persian]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- USA had a CDC expert in China to provide advance warning of epidemics: The position was cut in 2019.
- Japan considers postponing the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after several countries withdraw from participation.
- Humor: On the perils of working from home in the age of social-distancing! [Video]
- Neil Diamond modifies the lyrics to his song "Sweet Caroline": Hands ... washing hands ... ! [Tweet]
- Students recreate their choir performance virtually, after their concert is cancelled. Wonderful!
- Iranian music: Medley of highly-popular regional/folk songs, played on santoor. [3-minute video]
(5) Donald Trump tweet: I watch and listen to the Fake News, CNN, MSDNC, ABC, NBC, CBS, some of FOX (desperately & foolishly pleading to be politically correct), the @nytimes, & the @washingtonpost, and all I see is hatred of me at any cost. Don't they understand that they are destroying themselves?
Me: Well, if you see so many going the wrong way, start thinking that maybe you are the wrong-way driver!
(6) Do not hog Internet bandwidth: Many of our fellow citizens are working at home and there are reports of significant Internet slowdown in parts of the country (there have been multiple complaints from my neighbors living in the same faculty housing complex, where suddenly dozens of us are placing extra load on the network). Be mindful of bandwidth limitations when streaming movies or TV shows during working hours.

2020/03/22 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos I took early this afternoon, during my nature walk before the onset of rain: Batch 1 Photos I took early this afternoon, during my nature walk before the onset of rain: Batch 3 Photos I took early this afternoon, during my nature walk before the onset of rain: Batch 2
In the age of coronavirus and social distancing: Classic art In the age of coronavirus and social distancing: Park bench (1) Images of the day: [Top] Photos I took early this afternoon, during my nature walk before the onset of rain. [Bottom] In the age of coronavirus and social distancing: Classic art, and park bench.
(2) South Korea and the United States had their first coronavirus case on the same day: South Korea took it seriously and is beating it. The US called it a hoax and ignored it for weeks.
(3) Why we aren't over-reacting: Comparing the spread of coronavirus infections in the United States (red) and Italy (gray) shows that things are likely to get much worse for us in the days ahead. [Chart]
(4) I think young people are genuinely spooked by our behavior: After hearing from us repeatedly to get off their butts and do something useful for society, they don't know what to make of the advice to sit on the couch and do nothing, in order to save humanity.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Compilation of Trump supporters talking about race, LGBTQ rights, and possibility of a Trump dynasty.
- Humor (in Persian): Remeber that President Rouhani has your home address and the key. [Image]
- Persian music: Shardad Rohani plays and conducts his composition "Dance of Spring." [4-minute video]
- Quote: "The search for human freedom can never be complete without freedom for women." ~ Betty Ford
(6) Be alert for fraud in these difficult times: As in other disasters and emergencies, fraudsters have sprung into action to take advantage of people's empathy and fears. Fraudulent charities, purported preventive and therapeutic treatments, cries for help by people showing up at your door (with an accomplice lurking behind), tax-refund assistance, and just plain robberies are things to watch for.
(7) This mullah says that Norooz/Nowruz is a Zoroastrian festival and celebrating it would be un-Islamic: "What's so special about grass regrowing? Cows and donkeys should celebrate, not people"! Every time these dotards attack Iranian traditions, people become more resolute in observing them. Meanwhile, another mullah, mask-less and not wearing any protective gear, is seen in other news reports walking among COVID-19 patients in a hospital to bless them with a perfume "from the prophet." All mullahs are like this, although some do manage to hide their hatred of values and traditions from pre-Islamic Iran.
(8) Humor from Iran: With all the disasters that have descended upon us lately, I am totally confused. Today, there was an earthquake and, instead of jumping out of the house, I began washing my hands. [Persian]
(8) Coronavirus joke from Iran: My grandpa had symptoms of coronavirus, so we took him to the hospital. He has been dancing with the nurses for three hours now. When we tell him that if he feels okay, we should go home, he tells us to shut up: "You idiots, can't you see that I'm dying?"

2020/03/21 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Our heroes nowadays, cartoon 2 Our heroes nowadays, cartoon 1 Shopping report: Garlic is still in short supply everywhere (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] These are our heroes nowadays: They have always been, but we are now coming to recognize them as heroic. [Right] Shopping report: Garlic is still in short supply everywhere. Sprouts Farmers Market was business-as-usual otherwise. European Market, a local joint which specializes in East European and some Middle Eastern foods, was impressively well-stocked.
(2) Highest Math Prize: The 2020 Abel is shared by Hillel Furstenberg, 84, of Jerusalem's Hebrew University, and Grigory Margulis, 74, of Yale University, two trailblazing retired professors of probability and dynamics.
(3) Words matter: The following word pairs have the same number of letters, but that's the only thing they have in common. Be mindful of your words!
Love/Hate. Friends/Enemies. Positive/Negative. Right/Wrong. Heal/Hurt. Happy/Angry. Raise/Lower.
(4) The simulation hypothesis: Is everything we do or happens to us, including the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, part of a grand simulation? Fasten your seatbelts and listen to Neil deGrasse Tyson explain why this isn't as likely to be the case as some argue.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- COVID-19 Response Team of London's Imperial College issues report on non-pharmaceutical interventions.
- Life is suspended in Iran: National Geographic article on how Iran is dealing with the coronavirus epidemic.
- Breaking: Fox News has asked its commentators to lie from home!
- Once this video clip goes viral, Dr. Anthony Fauci will be toast: He must be a spy planted be the Democrats!
- One more attempt at arguing that the Haji Firooz concept is racist and quite offensive. [2014 post]
- If you think you need to use a facial mask, here is an on-line source (courtesy of a neighbor of mine).
(6) Quote of the day: "There's a mythology that if you want to change the world, you have to be sainted like Mother Teresa or Nelson Mandela or Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Ordinary people with lives that go up and down and around in circles can still contribute to change." ~ Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams
(7) The tech prophet: Bill Gates warned us in his 2015 TED talk that we'll likely lose millions of people to microbes, not to missiles. Spending loads of money on military instead of public health is thus misguided.
(8) Okay, I am officially overwhelmed: My in-box is deluged with daily coronavirus-related e-mails, most of them long ones, from UC President, our Chancellor, multiple Vice-Chancellors, various instructional offices offering help with on-line classes, my department chair, and a host of other campus uits announcing their modified schedules. And this is just from within UCSB. Add to these messages, e-mails from organizations with which I interact and alerts from news services to which I subscribe, and you'll understand the problem. As soon as I read and deal with a batch of e-mails, the in-box grows even larger with newly arriving messages!

2020/03/20 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Norooz/Nowruz poem, greeting, and flowers 'Where's Waldo' puzzles vastly simplified in the age of social distancing! Flowers for Norooz/Nowruz and the Iranian new year
Lily Weng's Zoom lecture at UCSB Iran releases or furloughs some prisoners, but many political prisoners remain behind bars On-line MATLAB course for IEEE Central Coast Section (1) Images of the day: [Top left & right] Happy Norooz/Nowruz and Iranian new year (see the next item below). [Top center] "Where's Waldo" puzzles vastly simplified in the age of social distancing! [Bottom left] Lily Weng's Zoom lecture at UCSB (see next-to-last item below). [Bottom center] Iran frees or furloughs some prisoners due to the spread of coronavirus: But while embezzlers and others imprisoned for corruption are now roaming free, many political prisoners, women in particular, remain behind bars. [Bottom right] On-line MATLAB course for IEEE Central Coast Section (see the last item below).
(2) Spring is upon us (and so is the nasty coronavirus): Nature's renewal and human health concerns are battling for our attention. As we passed the moment of Spring Equinox (Persian "Saal Tahveel"), last night at 8:50:00 PM California time (Friday, March 20, 2020, 7:20:00 AM Iran time), I hoped we can turn the lessons of this global pandemic into positive changes in our lifestyles: consuming less and loving more; mistrusting less and believing more; letting the sun shine on our faces, as we go out and help those who are less fortunate. Wishing you an enlightening Norooz/Nowruz, alongside your loved ones, and a healthy and joyous new year!
Here's an eloquent Persian greeting for Norooz/Nowruz and the Iranian new year: May spring bring renewal and joy, not only to humans, but to all creatures and to the entire planet we call home.
And here's a typical Iranian's wish for the new year: Looking forward to a year with no coronavirus and no Islamic Republic! [My message above in Persian]
(3) Important news of the day related to the coronavirus epidemic: Putting these one-dozen news headlines in one place reveals the enormous global impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
- After classified coronavirus briefing, GOP Senators dumped stocks
- Governor Newsome issues California-wide "Stay at Home" order
- Multiple American auto factories are shutting down until April
- Employee furloughs begin in US aviation and other industries
- Trump assumes "war powers" but decides against using them
- Adjunct faculty and foreign students more affected by college closures
- Face-to-face research activity also comes to a halt at college campuses
- Electricity demand in the US plummets, as Internet usage surges
- EU asks residents to stream videos in standard-definition, not HD
- French President Macron suspends rent, taxes, and utility bills
- Woman marks 100th birthday in isolation; family cheers from outside
- Publishers/repositories, like Cambridge/JSTOR, provide free e-access
(4) "Evaluating Robustness of Neural Networks": This was the title of a March 18, 2020, Zoom (remote) technical talk by Tsui-Wei Lily Weng (MIT), a faculty candidate for UCSB's Computer Engineering Program.
Robustness of neural networks to adversarial examples (imperciptable modification of images that can lead to incorrect classification by neural-network-based image classifiers, such as a stop sign being misidentified as a different sign) has important reliability and security implications. One adversarial attack is deemed stronger than another if it leads to misclassification with a smaller change in the image. So, researchers are interested in finding the absolute strongest attacks against a particular neural network. Ms. Weng asserted that little has been developed towards a comprehensive measure of robustness. She then presented a series of examples from her research on robustness evaluation and certification, including the first robustness score CLEVER, efficient certification algorithms Fast-Lin, CROWN, CNN-Cert, and probabilistic robustness verification algorithm PROVEN. Her proposed approaches are computationally efficient and provide good quality of robustness estimate/certificate as demonstrated by extensive experiments on MNIST, CIFAR and ImageNet.
(5) "Data Analysis and Visualization with MATLAB for Beginners": This was the title of a 2.5-hour course presented on March 18, remotely via Webex, by Dr. Aycan Hacioglu (Customer Success Engineer, MathWorks). Mathworks Application Engineers Dr. Bo Luan and Dr. Sharon Kim were also in attendance, as were 20 IEEE Central Coast Section members taking the course.
MATLAB is a programming environment for algorithm development, data analysis, visualization, and numerical computation. With MATLAB, one can solve technical computing problems faster than with traditional programming languages, such as C, C++, and Fortran.
During the first 75 minutes of this introductory course, Dr. Hacioglu provided an overview of MATLAB and its powerful statistical analysis and visualization capabilities, demonstrated how to acquire, analyze, and visualize data, briefly discussed desktop tools for editing and debugging code, and showed how to publish the results. Highlights included:
- Accessing data from files, spreadsheets, and other sources
- Performing statistical analysis, curve and surface fitting routines
- Developing algorithms and applications to automate one's workflow
- Generating reports in HTML and other file formats to share one's work
A one-hour hands-on session, involving interactive MATLAB Onramp training, followed. The course's final 15 minutes consisted of a short competition, with winners getting unspecified prizes, to be sent to them via e-mail.
[Slides (User = customer; PW = MathWorks)] [Webinar] [MATLAB Onramp] [MATLAB trial license]

2020/03/19 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
ACM 2019 Turing Award recipients Patrick M. (Pat) Hanrahan and Edwin E. (Ed) Catmull Man who wasn't allowed to visit his wife at a nursing home on their 67th wedding anniversary communicates with her from outside
Cartoon: Mouse ordering food at a restaurant Cartoon of the day: The US government's rescue plan (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] The 2019 ACM Alan M. Turing Award, the highest honor in computing, has gone to Patrick M. (Pat) Hanrahan and Edwin E. (Ed) Catmull for fundamental contributions to 3-D computer graphics, and the revolutionary impact of these techniques on computer-generated imagery (CGI) in filmmaking and other applications. [Top right] Man who wasn't allowed to visit his wife at a nursing home on their 67th wedding anniversary communicates with her from outside. [Bottom left] My entry in New Yorker cartoon caption contest #700: "A block of Swiss cheese, please; mousetrap on the side." [Bottom right] Cartoon of the day: The US government's rescue plan.
(2) US colleges in disarray: Transition to on-line instruction, even where feasible, is hampered by dearth of knowledge and tools. International students are disproportionately affected by classroom and dorm closures. A deluge of tuition-refund requests is expected, for which no funding exists.
(3) Persian music: "Sar Oomad Zemestoon" ("Winter Is Over") is based on an Armenian folk song. The song is often taken to mean "Better Days Are Ahead," which is a great sentiment for both Iran and the US.
(4) Facebook spam filters contain an apparent bug, says Business Insider: "Facebook is blocking users from posting some legitimate news articles about the coronavirus in what appears to be a bug in its spam filters."
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- An article, published in Nature, dispels the claim that coronavirus is human-made (biological weapon).
- China reports an expected 9% contraction in its economy, compared with last year's first quarter.
- As Trump repeatedly talks about the Chinese virus, Asian-Americans report increased assaults.
- There was talk of the Dow breaking 30,000 not too long ago: Instead, it broke 20,000, going down.
- Musical humor: "I Will Survive" teaching on-line!
- "Imagine": A message of hope and solidarity for our difficult times and beyond. [Video]
(6) Racist White House talk about Chinese or "Kung-Flu" virus, total lack of empathy, and Trump's Twitter attacks on governors who are taking or demanding action, are in direct conflict with Trump's call for non-partisanship and cooperation at the podium!
(7) On universities moving classes on-line: Some students lack access to shelter, food, or Wi-Fi in the wake of college campus closures. Calls for tuition refund are on the rise.
(8) Donald Trump admitted that he fired the NSC Pandemics scientists, explaining that he didn't want them on the payroll when there was no active threat and "when we need them, we can get them back very quickly." His apologists, however, are going around denying that he eliminated the office!
(9) The hoax becomes a health crisis: Trump and his apologists on the Dear-Leader news network pivoted, virtually overnight, from characterizing the coronavirus epidemic as "a hoax" and "totally under control" to talking about it as a serious national emergency.

2020/03/18 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Closed-theater owner's creativity and optimism are on display! During the period of not working or working from home, these pointers are quite helpful What people visualized if you said 'coronavirus' before 2020!
Goleta Trader Joe's: The stock is partially restored, but shoppers are limited to two of each item The mystery of how glass forms Humor: Tightened security in stores selling toilet paper! (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Closed-theater owner's creativity and optimism are on display! [Top center] During the period of not working or working from home, these pointers are quite helpful. [Top right] What people visualized if you said "coronavirus" before 2020! [Bottom left] Goleta Trader Joe's: The stock is partially restored, but shoppers are limited to two of each item. There is a line to get in, so that in the aisles and at checkout, 6-foot spacing between people can be maintained. [Bottom center] The mystery of how glass forms (see the next item below). [Bottom right] Humor: Tightened security in stores selling toilet paper!
(2) Physicists are working to create ideal glass to unravel the mystery of why glass exists at all: When you cool a liquid, it will either crystallize (molecules are locked in a regular, repeating pattern) or harden into glass (free-flowing molecules don't reorganize, but simply grind to a halt). Which of the two happens depends on the substance and on the process subtleties that glassblowers have learned through trial and error over millennia.
(3) Lebanon's economy is on the verge of collapse: The country's financial system is hurting under the triple threat of coronavirus epidemic, Syrian refugees, and sinking oil prices, which has led to Labanese migrant workers in oil-rich countries sending home much less money. [Source: PBS Newshour]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Don't feel bad at home: Isaac Newton accomplished much while working from home during a pandemic.
- Music stars are live-streaming mini-concerts from home to provide entertainment for quarantined folks.
- Yesterday, I completed the US 2020 Census questionnaire on-line. It was quite painless! [Image]
- Humor: Mexico is now willing to pay to speed up the construction of the border wall!
- Persian music: Beautiful song based on a Hafez poem, which is included with this 3-minute video.
- May your sorrows burn in the bonfires of Chaharshanbeh Soori! [Calligraphic art]
(5) US national cybersecurity study: After a year of work, the Congressional Cyberspace Solarium Commission issued its report on the state of cybersecurity in the US, offering 75 recommendations for shoring up cyberdefense and tightening the government's cybersecurity policy responsibility. The recommendations include creating a Senate-confirmed National Cyber Director, a Bureau of Cyber Statistics, House and Senate cybersecurity committees, and a special fund to respond to and recover from cyberattacks.
(6) Chaharshanbeh Soori (a prelude to Norooz): The eve of the Persian calendar year's final Wednesday (last night), is when Iranians jump over bonfires, while telling the flames: "My yellow be yours, your red be mine." With this "purification rite," one wishes that the fire would take away sickness (yellow face) and other problems and in return provide warmth and redness (a sign of health). This year, many skipped the actual jumping but, in Iran, people appeared on balconies or at windows with a candle to celebrate and express solidarity.

2020/03/17 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Genius comic Robin Williams handing a roll of toilet paper to 'The Thinker' statue My traditional Norooz/Nowruz haft-seen spread Mehrangiz Manouchehrian: The first woman to earn a law degree in Iran as well as the first woman Senator (1) Images of the day: [Left] Robin Williams had predicted the shortage of toilet paper a long time ago! [Center] Haft seen: I finally brought myself to set up a haft-seen (seven S's) spread for Norooz/Nowruz and spring, due to arrive in two days. As we say in Persian, I did not have the heart and the mind (del o demaagh) for this annual tradition, given all that is going on in the world. In the end, what else can a very active house-bound person do but keep himself busy with something pleasant! I actually have eight S's, after replacing the unavailable Samanu with Sonbol and Sekkeh. [Right] Mehrangiz Manouchehrian (see the last item below).
(2) Joke of the day: A reporter asked a Jewish man, who had been praying at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall daily for 60 years, what he prayed for. "Harmony among different nations and religions, elimination of war, and safe transition of our youth into caring and responsible adults," was his answer. The reporter then asked how the old man feels about his efforts. He responded: "I feel like I have been talking to a wall."
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Senator Warren sounds the alarm on again bailing out corporations and leaving US taxpayers with the bill.
- It's really difficult not to touch your face: We do it habitually, without realizing that we do it.
- People are hoarding not just toilet paper, but also guns: Sales are reportedly surging in many states.
- Coronavirus distribution/spread: Informative article, with practical tips and lots of charts. [In Persian]
(4) Reviewing four of the best computers on the market. [Disclaimer: The opinions expressed aren't mine but come from a March 2020 article, based on CNET.com assessment.]
- Lenovo Yoga C930 puts its 360-degree hinges to work as the two-in-one's speaker system. The active pen is discreetly housed and charged in the body. Speed and battery life are excellent for its class. ~$1100
- Dell XPS 13 (2019): Dell has fixed this laptop's only remaining serious flaw, designing a super-slim 2mm webcam to fit into the thin screen bezel. Excellent keyboard, and decent battery life for a 4K laptop. $1700
- HP Spectre x360 (13-inch, 2019) is one of the best ultraportable two-in-ones, with lots of component options, including 3 display choices and class-leading battery life. Includes a sleeve and full-size active pen. ~$1000
- Microsoft Surface Pro 6 now comes with new quad-core processors that provides big performance gains. The new black color option looks cool. Still the best kickstand and keyboard for Windows tablets. $605-$900
(5) Mehrangiz Manouchehrian [1906-2000]: The first woman to earn a law degree in Iran as well as the first woman Senator, Manouchehrian was a fierce advocate of children's and women's rights. She resigned from her Senate seat when the Prime Minister insulted her during parliamentary debate and refused to apologize publicly. At issue was a law that required women to get permission from their husbands to travel abroad. She was the architect of Iran's pre-Islamic-Revolution family protection act, which was opposed by the clergy, who deemed its provisions un-Islamic. Not surprisingly, the law was scrapped after the mullahs took over.

2020/03/16 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A 104-year-old Iranian tombstone: It marks the grave of someone who perished in the Spanish Flu epidemic Coronavirus humor: Trump's and Pence's white-washing strategy exposed inadvertently in this photo! Bread shortage continues in the Santa Barbara area: Shopping at Ralphs on Sunday (1) Images of the day: [Left] A 104-year-old Iranian tombstone: It marks the grave of someone who perished in the Spanish Flu epidemic, which, according to the inscription's cautionary tale, killed 2/3 of the population. [Center] Coronavirus humor: Trump's and Pence's white-washing strategy exposed inadvertently in this photo! [Right] Bread shortage continues in the Santa Barbara area: Shopping at Goleta's Ralphs store on Sunday.
(2) Killing coronavirus with heat: This proposed heat-treatment is based on the fact that the virus dies at the temperature 56 C (133 F). It sounds reasonable, but I'm not certain.
(3) Santa Barbara County gets the first case of coronavirus in its northern part: Also, five UCSB students have been quarantined for coming in contact with a San Diego man who tested positive.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The big picture: Coronavirus cases have now been reported in 100 countries. [World map]
- A glimmer of hope: The last temporary hospital closes in Wuhan after dramatic fall in coronavirus cases.
- With coronavirus, the US faces a crisis that disproves everything the country believes about itself.
- Trump's ex-FDA chief critiques the administration, while maintaining respect in its inner circle.
- Persian music: Humorous song about the coronavirus epidemic and how people are dealing with it.
- For my Persian-speaking readers: Humor is the universal tool for coping with anxiety and stress! [Joke]
(5) In these difficult times, don't forget that many people are worse off: Those of us who have a home, where we can shelter or self-quarantine, have food in our pantries and freezers, continue to get paid (e.g., by working from home or using sick leave), and can keep in touch with our loved ones, even if remotely, should remember others who are less fortunate. Think of the homeless facing coronavirus. Of schoolchildren who relied on free or subsidized food programs, no longer available to them due to school closures. Of sports-arena workers and others who no longer have jobs. Of mom-and-pop restaurants that have lost up to one-half of their customers. Charitable giving is even more important now. [Touching video of Angelina Jolie accepting an award]
(6) Facebook & Twitter suspend Russian-linked accounts targeting African-Americans: The operation combined bogus accounts and actual residents of Ghana and Nigeria, apparently deceived into thinking they were serving an NGO by promoting inauthentic accounts, pages, and groups on social media platforms.

2020/03/15 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Time magazine celebrates 100 women, one for each year over the period 1920-2019 New species of tiny 'bird dinosaur' discovered UCSB's Professor Yasamin Mostofi has become an IEEE Fellow
Commemorative jewelry for 2020: Toilet-paper earrings Near-empty bread ailse at the Goleta Trader Joe's on Pi Day (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Time magazine's double issue of March 16/23, 2020, celebrates 100 women for the past century, 1920-2019. It has multiple covers and a large centerfold. [Top center] New species of tiny "bird dinosaur": Smaller than a hummingbird, the newly-discovered Oculudentavis, trapped in 99M-years-old amber, had sharp teeth on upper and lower jaws, suggesting that it was a predator. [Top right] UCSB's Professor Yasamin Mostofi honored: She has become an IEEE Fellow "for contributions to communications and control co-optimization in mobile sensor networks." An important achievement, particularly at such a young age. Congrats! [Bottom left] Commemorative jewelry for 2020! And here is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, 2020 edition. [Bottom right] Yesterday, I took my mom shopping at Goleta Trader Joe's and a couple of other stores, after dining at In-n-Out. The photo shows the bread aisle at TJ's. While shopping at Sprouts Farmers Market, wearing my Pi Day T-shirt, I encountered a beaming cashier, who began reciting the digits of pi from memory for a long time! She said she learned them for a school competition.
(2) Clever advertising by Wolfram for Pi Day: The company that markets Mathematica is offering a discount of 31.415%, rounded up to 32%, because a discount of only 3.14% would be totally irrational!
(3) Ayatollah Donald Trump has designated Sunday 3/15 as national prayer day for the coronavirus epidemic. What a brilliant idea: Dismiss the scientists; summon the preachers!
(4) Times are tough: I have made the Monday 3/16 final exam for my course on parallel processing optional, offering students the choice to be graded based on work already completed, with the final usable to improve their grades. I have also informed them of their tentative grades, without the optional final. This way, each student can decide based on his/her risk averseness whether s/he wants to take the in-person final.
(5) YouTube Live: In case you are looking for a way to put lectures and other instructional media on-line, I am experimenting with YouTube Live. Right now, I am at the beginning of the road, but will share on social media my experiences throughout the spring 2020 quarter. Here is the playlist I have started on my YouTube channel for the graduate course on computer arithmetic (UCSB ECE 252B). And here is my playlist for the freshman seminar, "Ten Puzzling Problems in Computer Engineering" (UCSB ECE 1B).
(6) My first experimentation with YouTube Live: This video, recorded on March 14, 2020, is an introduction to the graduate course "Computer Arithnmtic" (ECE 252B) at UCSB, along with its requirements for spring quarter 2020. Although I have recorded my class lectures before (for example to cover for absence during a conference trip), this is my first experience in recording an entire course, necessitated by the cancellation of in-person instruction at UCSB due to the coronavirus epidemic. Please excuse the rough edges, as I get used to the medium. [Course Web page] [Textbook Web page]

2020/03/14 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Colorful design: Happy Pi Day! My traditional Norooz/Nowruz poem, dedicated to family and friends a couple of weeks before the Persian New Year A bowl of jasmines from the plant on my carport trellis (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Pi Day! March 14 is known as Pi Day, because 3/14 matches the first three of the infinite sequence of digits in pi = 3.141 592 653 589 793 ... [Center] My traditional spring poem: Each year, I compose a cheerful poem to greet the arrival of spring, the Norooz/Nowruz Festival, and the Persian New Year. I must admit that in 2020, with the grim political situations in the US and Iran, and with the coronavirus spreading worldwide, I found it difficult to muster positivism and hope, and had to work harder as a result. Here is the poem, whose half-verse initial letters spell "New Year" and "Norooz." It is with pleasure that I dedicate this poem to my dear family members and Iranian friends, a week before the Persian New Year! I recite the poem in this 2-minute video. [Right] A bowl of jasmines from the plant on my carport trellis.
(2) In these days of social-distancing, real and virtual friendships become even more important. This meme, which I dedicate to all my friends, reads: "Take care of yourself, because there's just one of you in the world."
(3) UCSB cancels its Saturday 4/19, Open House 2020 (introducing the applicants to the campus, in an attempt to recruit them) and will hold a Virtual Open House on Wednesday 4/22, 1:00-7:00 PM, instead.
(4) In 2018, Trump fired all the scientists that formed the country's Pandemic Response Team within the National Security Council. On Friday, when asked about the team's dissolution, he characterized the question as "nasty" and denied that he had any role in the firings.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- We need more of such knowledgeable and persistent public servants: Rep. Katie Porter grills CDC Director.
- Computer/data scientists have begun studying how COVID-19 spreads and what can be done about it.
- Meme of the day: The keys to defeating an epidemic are trust and listening to the scientists. [Image]
- The Daily Show replaces March Madness with a competition to pick Trump's best word from 64 candidates.
- "I Can Get No Disinfection": The classic Rolling Stones song for the age of coronavirus. [Video]
- This is how a group of high-spirited Iranians spent their 10th day of self-quarantine! [Video]
- Iranian music: "Norooz Waltz," a cheerful oldie celebrating the Persian new year, performed a cappella.
- Iranian TV commercial from the mid-1970s, promoting a special Norooz/Nowruz edition of lottery tickets.
(6) Weather and climate modeling: US NOAA signs contract with Cray Computing to triple its weather and climate supercomputing capacity and improve forecast accuracy by closing the capabilities gap with Europe.
(7) Climate-change discussion at UCSB: Here is how I incorporated the "UCSB Reads 2020" seletion, Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, into my winter course on parallel processing through a series of micro-projects, constituting half of the course,s homework assignments. [My review of Rising]

2020/03/13 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
New Yorker cartoon: 'I really don't mind coming into the office to work' Probabilistic computing: Some slides from a talk by Dr. Kerem Camsari Protest sign reading 'How am I supposed to eat this pizza without my COLA?' (1) Images of the day: [Left] New Yorker cartoon of the day: "I really don't mind coming into the office to work." [Center] Probabilistic computing (see the last item below). [Right] Sense of humor by striking graduate students who want COLA (cost of living adjustment).
(2) Killing people for profits: This news report shows how water is sold to Iranian people as disinfectant, at high black-market prices, after going through four intermediaries, each one marking it further up. Disgusting!
(3) Iran introduces a coronavirus phone app, but Google pulls it from its App Store: Fear of spying on citizens may have played a role, given that the Iranian regime's past record makes it hard to believe that transparency and information sharing was the goal.
(4) Compulsory hijab isn't a minor or secondary problem: This backward law is at the heart of women's oppression in Iran. Watch this woman, minding her own business as she walks on the street, being harassed and physically assaulted by a pro-regime vigilante.
(5) Things are being cancelled, closed, or moved on-line, but war rages on!
- At my university (UCSB): Classes, Arts & Lectures, music/film events, meetings, ...
- In the United States: NCAA games, NBA season, Disneyland, Broadway, movie releases, ...
- On the world stage: Cruises, conferences, sporting events, non-essential travel, ...
(6) I don't know about you, but I am growing weary of things people say about the coronavirus pandemic: What to eat. What not to eat. What boosts your immune system. What weakens it. I've got the basics down and will be ignoring all the disinformation as well as the detailed, but unhelpful info.
(7) A practice worth reconsidering: Does the tradition of a father walking his daughter down the aisle for delivery to her husband-to-be represent transfer of ownership from one male to another? [Persian tweet]
(8) This afternoon, I attended a campus-wide Zoom meeting of the UCSB Faculty Legislature. The poor experience made me reconsider using Zoom for my classes during spring quarter, which begins on March 30.
(9) "Probabilistic Computing: From Materials and Devices to Circuits and Systems": This was the title of yesterday's interesting talk by Dr. Kerem Camsari (Post-doc, Purdue U.), a faculty candidate for UCSB's Computer Engineering Program. Probabilistic bits or p-bits exhibit some of the advantages of quantum bits or q-bits over conventional or deterministic bits, but they can be built scalably with present-day technology used in magnetic memory devices.
Dr. Camsari showed that p-bits can be used to build autonomous p-circuits to accelerate applications such as optimization, invertible logic, and machine learning, while providing a bridge to Noisy-Intermediate-Scale Quantum (NISQ) era quantum computers. He described a recent experimental 8-bit p-computer implementing a quantum-inspired optimization algorithm.

2020/03/12 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A math teacher in southern Iran teaches an on-line class from home Coronavirus-related meme: Helping you avoid touching your face Coronavirus-related meme: 'aaftaabeh,' the Iranian solution to the shortage of toilet paper
UCSB's Computer Science Summit IranWire.com cartoon on the coronavirus: The Ayatollah's guests Two computer engineering capstone projects
Throwback Thursday, Part 3 Chart: US stock market performance under the last four presidents Throwback Thursday, Part 4 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Teachers rock: A math teacher in southern Iran teaches an on-line class from home, using the side of her refrigerator as a make-shift white board. [Top center & right] Coronavirus-related memes: Helping you avoid touching your face, and "aaftaabeh," the Iranian solution to the shortage of toilet paper. [Middle left] UCSB's Computer Science Summit on Wednesday 3/11 (see the next-to-last item below). [Middle center] IranWire.com cartoon of the day: The Ayatollah's guests. [Middle right] Two computer engineering capstone projects (see the last item below). [Bottom left] Throwback Thursday: March 12 images from years past. [Bottom center] Trump, who boasted daily when the stock market was breaking records, is now eerily quiet: Stocks are down ~10% for today, ~15% for the past week, ~20% for the past month (indexes today: Dow ~21,200; NASDAQ ~7,200; S&P500 ~2,480). The chart shows stock market performance under the last four presidents. [Bottom right] Throwback Thursday: In a commentary about her Time-magazine essay of 50 years ago, Gloria Steinem writes: "The single biggest determinant of whether a country is violent, or will use military violence against another country, is not poverty, natural resources, religion, or even degree of democracy; it is violence against women."
(2) Bernie Sanders commits an unforced error (in my opinion): He has strong support among Muslim-Americans, which constitute an important voting block. However, allowing a Shi'i cleric to speak in Arabic at a Sanders campaign rally is a big mistake. I can imagine clips of this speech used against him by both parties. Don't get me wrong. Sanders has every right to pander to any group of voters and Muslim-Americans have every right to exercise their electoral power. It is the optics of a speech in Arabic by a mullah that troubles me.
(3) "Start spreading the flus": The song "New York, New York" needs to be updated! Governor Cuomo has designated a containment zone around New Rochelle, an area with the largest number of coronavirus infections in the US, and has sent in the National Guard, not to enforce isolation but to help people with acquiring food and other necessities. [Heading credit: Steven Colbert]
(4) Trump looks on wistfully: Russia has approved sweeping constitutional reforms that will allow Vladimir Putin to stay in power for another 12 years after his current term ends in 2024. [Source: AP]
(5) Throwback Thursday: (Part 1) "Tears and Smiles": This was the title under which the beloved 1960s movie "Sound of Music" was shown in Iran. As was common then, the film was dubbed into Persian, masterfully I might add, and for the first time ever, even the song lyrics were converted to Persian. [Facebook] [YouTube] (Part 2) "Horse with Golden Hoof": This 1950s Iranian song, performed by Viguen, appears to be based on Greek music, with lyrics in the Shirazi (Bakhtiari?) dialect of Persian. [Video] (Part 3) Reposting from March 12 of years past, 2014-2017 (image above). (Part 4) In a commentary about her Time-magazine essay of 50 years ago, Gloria Steinem writes: "The single biggest determinant of whether a country is violent, or will use military violence against another country, is not poverty, natural resources, religion, or even degree of democracy; it is violence against women" (image above).
(6) UCSB's Computer Science Summit: Wednesday, March 11, 2020, began with undergraduate student presentations, which I did not attend, due to other commitments, followed by a poster session on capstone projects of CE and CS seniors. Graduate student presentations were followed by Distinguished Speaker Dr. Li Deng (Chief AI Officer, Citadel), who talked about "From Speech AI to Finance AI, and Back."
(7) The two CE capstone projects I helped evaluate for ABET during yesterday's lunch-hour poster session:
#5 "Smart Meetings" (aka "Meeting Is Believing"), aimed at maximizing productivity during and after meetings. Sponsor: Invoca. Team: Max Ginger, Jackson Li, Christina Tao, Sarita Phoosopha, Tuan Le. [Vision] [Video]
#7 "Grand Potato" (aka "Text2Pay"), a secure app that allows consumers and merchants to complete transactions via texting or SMS on the consumer's phone, with no need for a terminal. Sponsor: PayJunction. Team: Benjamin Liu, Joanne Li, Howard Lin, Julia Liu, Junayed Naushad. [Vision] [Video]

2020/03/11 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: The price of a barrel of oil drops below the price of a family-size bucket of fried chicken! Iranian trucker puts up a banner to pay respects to Muhammad ibn Zakariya-ye Razi Stop thinking of this as the hottest summer of the last 125 years ... Start thinking of it as the coolest summer of the next 125
Meme by Doctors Without Borders about bombings in Syria Preparations in Iran's sports arenas are telling signs that coronavirus infections have spread to the point of overwhelming hospital facilities Canopy which collapsed in my courtyard under the weight of rainwater (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Meme of the day: The price of a barrel of oil drops below the price of a family-size bucket of fried chicken! [Top center] Iranian trucker puts up a banner to pay respects to Muhammad ibn Zakariya-ye Razi, 9th/10th-century Persian polymath, physician, alchemist, and philosopher, who is said to have discovered alcohol (now in great demand as a disinfectant against the coronavirus). [Top right] Stop thinking of this as the hottest summer of the last 125 years ... Start thinking of it as the coolest summer of the next 125 (see the last item below). [Bottom left] Doctors Without Borders: "A military bombing offensive in northwestern Syria has left hospitals destroyed, supplies depleted and over 600,000 people displaced. As this humanitarian crisis continues, we're increasing our assistance for those in need." [Bottom center] Preparations in Iran's sports arenas are telling signs that coronavirus infections have spread to the point of overwhelming hospital facilities. [Bottom right] Cleaning up in my courtyard: Besides working hard to plan for the rest of winter quarter and the beginning of spring quarter, in the wake of campus-wide directive to cancel in-person classes whenever possible (see the next item below), I have the challenge of disassembling and removing a canopy that collapsed and turned into a mangled mess of metal, under the weight of rain accumulation since Tuesday night. The product is likely defective, as the sloped tarp should not have collected rainwater.
(2) UCSB in-person classes mostly cancelled until the end of April: The recommendation is to cancel large lecture classes and meetings and to hold small classes/meetings for the rest of winter quarter, only if alternate arramgements cannot be made (student absences should be excused in the latter case). In my case, this affects just a single lecture on Wednesday 3/11. I have cancelled that lecture and am holding extra office hours, instead. My exam on Monday 3/16 will be held as scheduled, because I found it impossible to make alternate arrangements for it.
(3) How the US government bungled its coronavirus response: A team of researchers in the Seattle area were studying the spread of the flu and, once the first case of coronavirus was detected in late January, they asked the authorities to repurpose their aleady collected samples to monitoring the new virus. Authorities rejected the idea. Then came delays in testing, despite ample evidence of the virus spreading in Washington State.
(4) Climate Crisis 101: This highly-recommended free and open course, which is also offered for credit as English 23 at UCSB, is accessible through this Web site. Taught by Professor Ken Hiltner via YouTube lectures and open-source material, the course is built around environmental humanities. "The #1 thing that we can do to roll back global greenhouse gas emissions does not involve wind turbines, solar panels, electric vehicles, or any sort of similar technologies. Instead, what is required is a cultural change regarding food: we need to waste far less of it and to switch to largely plant-rich diets. Doing so will result in a staggering reduction of 137 gigatons of CO2 or equivalent gases."

2020/03/10 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos: Trying to eat at home as much as possible, in the wake of the coronavirus threat The Hindu/Indian Festival of Holi, also known as 'Festival of Colors,' begins today Illustrating the robust on-line discussion about the shapes of pizzas and pizza boxes (1) Images of the day: [Left] Trying to eat at home as much as possible, in the wake of the coronavirus threat: Perhaps this positive habit will be reinforced by the current negative situation! I may have sauteed the barberries for a tad too long, as they are supposed to be a brighter shade of red when properly prepared. [Center] The Hindu Festival of Holi begins today: Also known as "Festival of Colors," this Indian celebration of spring involves jubilant crowds throwing colored water and powders at one another in a frenzy of festivities. [Right] Would you believe there is a robust on-line discussion about the shapes of pizzas and pizza boxes? Here are some examples besides the standard round pizza in a square box.
(2) Today is Mario Day, named for the most-successful video game franchise in history. [Mar 10, get it?]
Mario the plumber first appeared in 1981's Donkey Kong. Many retailers are holding Mario-themed sales.
(3) It would be interesting to see how the spat between Saudi Arabia and Russia, which led to a sharp drop in oil prices and contributed to a correction in the US stock market, will affect Trump's relationships with his top two favorite dictators!
(4) Christian convert Ismaeil Maghrebinejad gets two more years of prison time in Iran for "Evangelical Zionist Christianity" and "insulting Islamic sacred beliefs." [Source: IranWire.com]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Iranian-French academic Fariba Adelkhah, jailed in Iran since June, is ill from her 51-day hunger strike.
- Elizabeth Warren and her impersonator Kate McKinnon on "Saturday Night Live." [10-second video]
- Amazing acoustics: Scholars recreate how music sounded inside Istanbul's Hagia Sofia five centuries ago.
- Word puzzle for my Persian-speaking readers: Unscramble these Persian words to form animal names.
(6) Iranian officials should be tried for crimes against humanity: Qom clerics, who appealed to officials to quarantine the city, long before any public announcement on the coronavirus crisis, were bullied into keeping quiet. [Source: IranWire.com]
(7) In-person class cancellations: The number of US colleges that have cancelled in-person classes because of coronavirus concerns reaches 40 and is rising daily. UCSB is preparing for alternate instructional methods, in case needed, but is continuing as usual in this last week of winter-quarter classes.

2020/03/09 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Bernie Sanders seems to enjoy his Persian rug, likely coming from Iran's Kerman Province S&P chart: Stocks tumble on double-whammy of coronavirus spread and oil price drop The latest Newsweek magazine cover: OK Millennial (1) Images of the day: [Left] Bernie Sanders seems to enjoy his Persian rug, likely coming from Iran's Kerman Province. [Center] Stocks tumble on double-whammy of coronavirus spread and oil price drop: Chart shows S&P 500 index. At today's market close, S&P 500 stood at 2747; Dow closed at 23,851, down by 2014 points. [Right] The latest Newsweek magazine cover.
(2) Coronavirus is creating conflicts and social unrest: Six inmates died in Italy during protests over virus measures. Street clashes are reported in Iran's Mazandaran Province between locals and Tehrani vacationers.
(3) Coronavirus infections in Iran likely in the millions, not the thousands: Models based on the number of senior officials afflicted or dead, and the number of cases in other countries originating from Iran, predict with high certainty that Iran is deliberately under-reporting the number of cases.
(4) In Mexico, 10-15 women are killed daily and more than 50% have suffered violence due to their gender. Today women across Mexico will take part in a "national stoppage" by not going to work or school, in protest.
(5) Today is the Jewish holiday of Purim, which commemorates Jews living in the Persian Empire being saved from massacre in the 5th century BCE, as recounted in the Bible's Book of Esther.
(6) Climate change puts the future of Netherland's famed 125-mile speed-skating race in doubt, as waterways no longer freeze in winter. [Compelling 13-minute report from CBS News' "60 Minutes"]
(7) What is social democracy? I recently engaged in an on-line argument with a relative who is nominally educated, but like all Trump supporters I have interacted with on Facebook, resorts to insulting and labeling people, instead of presenting arguments and facts. I pointed out that neither I nor Democratic presidential candidates support "communism" (her favorite scare word) or unqualified "socialism." One candidate self-identifies as a democratic-socialist, which is something quite different. I suggested that she educate herself in this area before expressing opinions and pointed her to this very short introduction to social democracy.
In response to her reminder about this being America (typical Trumpster's flag-waving and misrepresentation of American values), I suggested that it is she who needed a reminder of this being America, where ideas are heard with respect and debated with arguments and facts, not with insults and labels.

2020/03/08 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Banner for International Women's Day
Portrait of Senator Elizabeth Warren Photo: What if we saw real women on fashion runways? Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the cover of Time magazine (1) Images of the day: [Top] Happy International Women's Day to all the women of the world and to all others who support their struggle for equal rights! [Left & Right] On this International Women's Day, no images are more representative of perseverance and women's-rights activism than those of Senator Elizabeth Warren and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. [Center] What if we saw real women on fashion runways?
(2) Iranians aren't taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously: This photo shows the traffic jam on one of the roads connecting Tehran to the Caspian-Sea region. The flood of travelers using the opportunity of work/school closures to "vacation" in Guilan and Mazandaran has turned these provinces into coronavirus hotspots.
(3) Brave Iranian woman lashes out at authorities, whose inept handling of the coronavirus epidemic has led to many infections and deaths in the Caspian-Sea province of Guilan. [3-minute video]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Politicizing public health: White House over-rules CDC, which recommended that seniors avoid flying.
- Jailed Iranian lawyer and activist Nasrin Sotoudeh writes a plea for peace on International Women's Day.
- Not all sociopolitically-active Iranian women self-identify as feminists, but they are feminists indeed!
- Stanford University joins University of Washington in cancelling class attendance, until further notice.
- Genetics research: Almost 1/4 of Hispanics and Latinos are descendants of forcibly-converted Jews.
- On panic-buying being a symptom of individualism gone awry. [Tweet, by Julia Simons]
- Let's forget about diseases and the stock market with this dance performance by two young boys.
(5) OPEC discord leads to major oil-price drop: Meeting to deal with oil prices in the wake of the economic slowdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, OPEC members failed to reach agreement. The Saudis promptly announced that they are slashing oil prices and expanding production. The result was a 30% drop in crude-oil prices and a 1000-point decline in oil futures index. This price drop will be particularly hard on Iran, which needs resources for combatting the coronavirus epidemic.
(6) An interview with Dr. Fiona Hill, the competent and courageous Russia advisor, who gave compelling testimony during Trump's impeachment inquiry. [13-minute report from CBS News' "60 Minutes"]

2020/03/07 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Moronovirus: Donald Trump Moronovirus: Supreme Leader Khamenei The Great Mosque of Mecca, normally filled to the brim with pilgrims, is nearly deserted in this recent photo
PhotoShopped photo of Donald Trump with a man-bun Cartoon: Your pilot is working from home today Disney's release plans for the $200 million remake of 'Mulan' upended by the coronavirus outbreak (1) Images of the day (special coronavirus outbreak edition): [Top left & center] Inept leaders, blaming "hoaxers" and "enemies" for the coronavirus-caused havoc in their countries. [Top right] The Great Mosque of Mecca, normally filled to the brim with pilgrims, is nearly deserted in this recent photo. [Bottom left] Trump is likely furious with this fake photo of him, tweeted by his son, using the caption, "Now, liberals will love him." I've got news for Don Jr.: Liberals won't love any version of this vile man! [Bottom center] Cartoon of the day: Coronavirus and the trend of working from home. [Bottom right] Disney's release plans for the $200 million remake of "Mulan" upended by the coronavirus outbreak.
(2) NASA's rover-naming contest result announced: Curiosity. InSight. Spirit. Opportunity. These are the names of past NASA rovers. What will come next? Perseverance!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Two die from coronavirus in Florida, constituting the first East-Coast deaths and raising the US total to 19.
- Experts identify Trump as "Patient 0" in a deadly misinformation epidemic being spread in the US.
- Another GOP hypocrite, fiercely against LGBTQ-protection laws while in US Congress, comes out as gay.
- Trump uses Jews/Israel to get votes from evangelicals: Fewer than 1/3 of American Jews will vote for him.
- An impressive example of digital projection of images on buildings. [3-minute video]
(4) Transformation of the US to a banana republic is nearing completion: Officials at CDC and other US government entities are now considering ways of releasing facts to the public, without antagonizing Trump!
(5) Coronavirus takes a toll on celebrations and other gatherings: I was planning to cancel my visit to Farhang Foundation's Norooz/Nowruz celebration at UCLA on Sunday 3/08, given CDC's recommendation that people over 60 stay away from crowded areas. Tonight, I heard from my daughter that the event has been cancelled. At UCSB, too, events, including conferences, are being cancelled left and right.
(6) Economic aftermath of the coronavirus: Entire industries are hurting (cruise-ship operators, hotels, and airlines, in particular), and some may go under if the current emergency persists.
Healthcare and job benefits, or lack thereof, are front and center. Most Americans lack guaranteed sick leave to be able to self-quarantine at home. It's unclear who will pay for the required tests and through-the-roof med prices, now that people are asked to stockpile in case of supply disruptions.
Work-from-home is applicable to managerial and office workers. Nearly half of Americans, who work in service industries (sales, flipping burgers, cleaning, gardening, etc.), don't have that luxury.
So, we have the health risks and potential deaths, which clearly have the highest priority, but these will be followed by even more serious economic problems for the next president to clean up. [Map]

2020/03/05 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
New Yorker cartoon caption contest #670 Cartoon, mocking some supporters of the Iranian regime who deliberately kiss or even lick enclosures at religious shrines Cartoon: 'It's cultural, gentlemen--these other countries can't possibly understand that nothing is ever our fault.' (1) Cartoons of the day: [Left] My submission to New Yorker cartoon caption contest #670: "I carry only one of the meds. The other one you have to get from a vet pharmacy." (I participated regularly in this contest a few years ago, but this is my first entry after a long while. Never won by being among the top-three submissions, but came close once, when my caption was chosen as a "runner-up" in fifth postion!) [Center] Certain supporters of the Iranian regime deliberately kiss or even lick enclosures at religious shrines to show that the healing powers of such shrines are stronger than the coronavirus. [Right] "It's cultural, gentlemen—these other countries can't possibly understand that nothing is ever our fault." (From: New Yorker]
(2) Hindu nationalism: While Trump was praising Indian PM Modi for unifying his country, 50 Indian Muslims were being killed in Delhi attacks: Protests are scheduled today at 21 US universities led primarily by the schools' Indian populations, as they prepare to celebrate the spring festival of Holi.
(3) Refugees as political pawns: Turkey is allowing refugees, mostly from Syria but also from Iran and elsewhere, to try to cross into Greece, but Greece is pushing them back. Both countries are playing to get EU's attention by compromising the physical and emotional well-being of desperate people.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A cruise ship is held off California coast after a disembarked passenger dies of coronavirus.
- World Health Organization announces 3.4% death rate from coronavirus: Trump disputes the number.
- Couple, 84 and 81, married for 58 years, among the dead in Tennessee tornadoes.
- NBC (and Japan) nervous about the possibility of Tokyo Olympics cancellation due to coronavirus.
- This 7-minute video states and visualizes the effects of sea-level rise on New York and other coastal cities.
- And this 27-minute documentary focuses on the effects of sea-level rise on south Florida.
(5) Elizabeth Warren drops out of the US presidential race: This is a sad day in our history, as we mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Warren was likely not going to be the Democratic nominee, but absence of a woman on the front lines of US politics will be felt, as the assault on women's rights continues.

2020/03/04 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
VP Mike Pence leads his coronavirus task force in prayers Winning designs for Farhang Foundation's 2020 Norooz banners Humorous meme of the day about Ayatollah Jannati, famous for his longevity (1) Images of the day: [Left] VP Mike Pence leads his coronavirus task force in prayers, asking God to not let the epidemic ruin Trump's chances of re-election in 2020! [Center] Farhang Foundation's Norooz banners for 2020: Paris-based graphic designer Setareh Feylizadeh submitted these winning designs. [Right] Humorous meme of the day: Ayatollah Jannati, famous for his longevity, assures the people of Iran that he will let future generations know about the hardships they have endured!
(2) Coronavirus messaging in Iran: Revolutionary Guards put the squeeze on healthcare workers by ordering that all treatment and fatality data must go through them for release to the public.
(3) Democratic institutions in the US are under attack: An article written by Russian-American journalist Masha Gessen a couple of days after our 2016 election is a must-read now, because she warned against the assault on the Department of Justice and other institutions by Trump, who had said in his campaign speeches that he would instruct his Attorney General to prosecute Hillary Clinton. Why didn't America believe at the time that it wasn't hyperbole and that he really meant it? Gessen cites eye-opening examples from how Putin and Erdogan took over, crushed long-standing institutions, and amassed power in short order.
Here are Gessen's six rules that help us survive autocracy (from her article of November 10, 2016). Pay particular attention to Rule #3, because we have had numerous examples of people who acted according to their responsibilities within our democratic institutions being fired or forced to leave. Not only that, but, in many cases, conscientious actors were attacked viciously and retaliated against even after they left the government.
Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says.
Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality.
Rule #3: Institutions will not save you. They depend on the good will of actors within, not on law.
Rule #4: Be outraged. If you follow Rule #1, you will not be surprised.
Rule #5: Don't make compromises, as Ted Cruz and other Republicans have done.
Rule #6: Remember the future. Nothing lasts forever.
(4) Global Higher Education in 2050: Imagining Universities for Sustainable Societies (UCSB Loma Pelona Center, March 4-5): Today, I attened a couple of talks in this open-to-the-public conference on campus to get a sense of what education visionaries have in mind for universities of the future. I heard nothing earth-shattering, so I won't attend any of tomorrow's talks, when I have no class or office hour. [Program] [Flyer & Photo]
(5) Borna Izadpanah's "Early Persian Printing and Typefounding in Europe" (J. Printing Historical Society, 2018) includes a description of Persian nasta'liq punches of the Medici Press, cut by Jean Cavillon in the 1590s.

2020/03/03 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photos taken on March 2, 2020, around UCSB North Campus Open Space and Devereux Slough Cartoon: Happy Super-Tuesday! Two episodes of the 1950s TV program 'Stars of Jazz' screened at UCSB's Pollock Theater
Math puzzle: The triangle ABC has side lengths 3, 4, and 5. What is the size of its inscribed circle? UCSB Conference (March 4-5, 2020): Global Higher Education in 2050 Tweets of the day for my Persian-speaking readers (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Photos I took during yesterday afternoon's walk around UCSB North Campus Open Space and Devereux Slough. [Top center] Happy Super-Tuesday! [Top right] "Stars of Jazz" screening (see the last item below). [Bottom left] Math puzzle: The triangle ABC has side lengths 3, 4, and 5. What is the size of its inscribed circle shown in the diagram? [Bottom center] Global Higher Education in 2050: Imagining Universities for Sustainable Societies (UCSB Loma Pelona Center, March 4-5, 2020, 9:00-6:00): Scholars from several countries discuss what universities will be like, and what we want them to be like, in 30 years. [Bottom right] Tweets of the day for my Persian-speaking readers.
(2) Three West Coast colleges (in WA, OR, CA) potentially exposed to coronavirus: Cancellation of athletic events and international student-exchange programs are under consideration nationwide.
(3) Coronavirus in Iran: A nation banned from simple pleasures of life by grim-faced, hate-mongering mullahs for four decades suddenly discovers music and dance as coping tools in its bleakest hour.
(4) Israeli stand-up wheelchair gets FDA approval for marketing in the US.
(5) Gender inequality in science careers and publishing: Men's and women's contributions are similar in terms of amount and impact, so the gender gap is due to woman having shorter careers and higher drop-out rates.
(6) "Fast and Accurate Deep Neural Network Training": This was the title of a technical talk by faculty candidate Yang You (UC Berkeley) at UCSB this morning (March 3). [Speaker's detailed abstract]
(7) "Architecting Persistent Memory Systems": This was the title of a technical talk by faculty candidate Aasheesh Kolli (Penn State U.) at UCSB this afternoon (March 3). [Speaker's detailed abstract]
(8) "Stars of Jazz": Attending tonight's screening of two episodes of the late-1950s TV show, restored digitally from material held by the UCSB Library, was an amazing experience. The two episodes screened at UCSB's Pollock Theater as part of the "TV at the Pollock" series had Modern Jazz Quartet and Count Basie Orchestra as performing guests. The sparsely-attended screening was followed by a discussion with sound engineer Nicholas Berg and archivist Mark Quigley. This UCLA Web page has a description of the restoration project.

2020/03/02 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sports Illustrated cover image Spending on healthcare and outcome in terms of life expectancy for the US and several other countries Time magazine cover image, issue of March 2&9, 2020 (1) Images of the day: [Left] Dominant athletes in many sports become household names and celebrities: Not in skiing, at least not in the US! [Center] The US Healthcare system is sick: We spend more money on healthcare than any other country and the results, as measured by life expectancy, are the worst among advanced countries. (Source: Time magazine, issue of March 2&9, 2020) [Right] Time magazine's special report about the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom (issue of March 2&9, 2020).
(2) Shades of the Japanese-American internment during World War II: People are reportedly avoiding China towns and Chinese restaurants for fear of the coronavirus. Chinese-American businesses are hurting as a result. There is absolutely no evidence that any area or ethnic group in the US is more likely to transmit the virus.
(3) Human-testing of a treatment drug for COVID-19 coronavirus has already begun and trial of vaccines shipped to NIH by US-based Moderna Therapeutics may start as early as April 2020.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- History shows that, on average, epidemics have no long-term impact on global market performance. [Chart]
- A graphic designer expresses the gratitude of the people of Iran to health-care workers. #Coronavirus
- Quote: "Love is like an hourglass with the heart filling up as the brain empties." ~ Jules Renard (1864-1910)
- Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius died in 1744 at 43, though his rival Farenheit was convinced he was 109.
- Persian poetry recitation: This 1-minute video is uncredited. [The poem's full text]
- Iranian regional music and dance: These two young Iranian boys break the taboo of dancing like women.
- Music and dance of southern Iran: Hikers take a break to perform "Pol-e Karoun" ("Karoun River Bridge").
- Mesmerizing music: Credits at the beginning of this 3-minute video say "Paola," followed by text in Greek.
(5) India publishes a most-impressive Shahnameh: This new version of Ferdowsi's "Book of Kings" weighs 32 kg (50 kg with its ivory-decorated box). It boasts calligraphically-written and fully-decorated pages of dimensions 50 cm by 90 cm.
(6) Coronavirus cases and deaths continue to rise: There have been 6 deaths in the US, 66 in Iran (but no one believes the government's stats), and 3000 worldwide.
(7) Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof wins Berlin Film Festival's Golden Bear Award: Not one mention of this achievement in Iran's state-controlled media, because Rasoulof isn't one of the regime-supported artists.
(8) "Science, the Endless Frontier": This is the title of a report submitted in July 1945 by Vannevar Bush, an American engineer and science administrator in charge of military research during World War II, to President Harry S. Truman, who had just replaced President Franklin D. Roosevelt upon his death. In 2020, we will be celebrating the 75th anniversary of that landmark report. Vannevar Bush is also credited with foreseeing in his celebrated 1945 article "As We May Think" what we have come to know as the Worldwide Web.

2020/03/01 (Sunday): Climate change and parallel processing: Participating in the "UCSB Reads" program.
Each year, "UCSB Reads" selects a book for campus-wide perusal/discussion and encourages professors to incorporate the book into their curricula, if feasible. I had never had an occasion to do this, given that I teach graduate engineering courses not easily connected to the typical "UCSB Reads" book. This year is different. The selected book, Elizabeth Rush's acclaimed Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, is about climate change (see-level rise, to be exact), and my ECE 254B graduate course on parallel processing deals with the design of high-performance supercomputers that play key roles in running computationally-intensive weather and climate models.
The topic is particularly timely, given alarming developments in the US in opposing climate-change action and the fact that April 22, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, inaugurated a year after the Santa Barbara oil spill of winter 1969, which remains the largest spill off the coast of California (it is now the all-time third largest, including the subsequent Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon incidents). Speaking of oil spills, I recently read Rachel Maddow's meticulously-researched book, Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth, about the global oil industry and its greedy, devious practices. Here is my review of Blowout on GoodReads. And here is my review of Rising.
My participation in "UCSB Reads" via ECE 254B entails the use of four micro-projects as part of homework assignments during winter 2020. Enrolled students have gotten free copies of Rising from UCSB Library. The micro-projects will explore the role of high-performance computing in modeling various aspects of climate change, with the third in the series focusing on sea-level rise.
Micro-Project A: From Weather Forecasting to Climate Modeling
Micro-Project B: Ocean-Temperature Modeling: Monster Storms
Micro-Project C: Modeling of Sea-Level Rise: Disappearing Lands
Micro-Project D: Extreme-Weather Projections from Climate Data
Each micro-project entails studying the types of computer models involved, computational requirements of the models, how the computations are performed on top-of-the-line supercomputers, and data sets that allow drawing various conclusions from the modeling results. At the time of this writing, the students have completed and turned in their reports for three of the micro-projects, and the fourth one has been assigned on the winter quarter 2020 edition of ECE 254B Web page, which also contains a list of additional references (beyond the few listed in the statements of microporjects).
Descriptions of Micro-Projects A-D are given below, for those who are interested in more details.
Micro-Project A: From Weather Forecasting to Climate Modeling
Numerical weather prediction has a long history. As noted at the beginning of Section 1.3 of our textbook, British meteorologist Lewis Fry Richardson formulated a vision for using a large number of "computers" (humans, with mechanical calculators) to speed up the required calculations. Now, fast processors can do a decent job of running weather models and many thousands of processors can be used to perform the calculations required by more sophisticated models within hours, not weeks or months.
Your assignment is to prepare a single-spaced typed report (12-point font, 3 pages max, including figures and references) that discusses the computational requirements of modern weather prediction models, as well as models for climate forecasting, enumerating the differences between the two kinds of models in terms of the data they use, prediction time-frames, and the kinds of calculations involved. How does the availability of exascale computers help improve accuracy and execution speed for these models?
Micro-Project B: Ocean-Temperature Modeling: Monster Storms
An aspect of climate and long-term weather modeling is predicting ocean temperatures, as briefly discussed on p. 7 of our textbook. One might think that the oceans all being connected to one another means that temperature should stabilize after a while to a common global ocean temperature. This is far from being the case, as this world-sea-temperatures map indicates. So, a key question is: How do we go about predicting ocean temperatures in a decade? In 20 years? In 50 years? This is important, because ocean temperatures have a direct impact on the number and intensity of hurricanes and other storms, and they also affect weather phenomena more generally.
Your assignment is to prepare a single-spaced typed report (12-point font, 3 pages max, including figures and references) that discusses the computational requirements of ocean-temperatures forecasting models, the kinds of calculations involved, and trade-offs between model accuracy and computation time. [Link 1] [Link 2]
[Wand19] N. Wanders, M. T. H. van Vliet, Y. Wada, M. F. P. Bierkens, and L. P. H. van Beek, "High-Resolution Global Water Temperature Modeling," Water Resources Research, Vol. 55, pp. 2760-2778, April 2019. [PDF]
Micro-Project C: Modeling of Sea-Level Rise: Disappearing Lands
Sea levels rise by three distinct mechanisms: (1) Thermal expansion; (2) Increase in water mass; (3) Depth changes due to movements in the Earth's crust. Predicting sea-level rise is important. Entire island nations will disappear with a rise of only a few feet. Other nations will lose low-lying coastal lands, which are usually densely-populated regions. New York and 16 other US cities will suffer significant displacements and property loss with just a 10-foot rise in sea level (some projections go well beyond 10 feet). Stories from some of these endangered US coastal regions are covered in the "UCSB Reads" book, Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore. Cities like Venice (Italy) are particularly vulnerable to sea-level rise.
Your assignment is to prepare a single-spaced typed report (12-point font, 3 pages max, including figures and references) that discusses the computational requirements of sea-level rise models, the kinds of calculations involved, sources of uncertainty in the predictions, and probabilistic resolution of such uncertainties.
[Swee17] W. V. Sweet, R. Horton, R. E. Kopp, A. N. LeGrande, and A. Romanou, "Sea Level Rise," Climate Science Special Report: Fourth National Climate Assessment (Vol. I), D. J. Wuebbles, D. W. Fahey, K. A. Hibbard, D. J. Dokken, B. C. Stewart, and T. K. Maycock (eds.), US Global Change Research Program, Chapter 12, pp. 333-363, 2017. [Link]
Micro-Project D: Extreme-Weather Projections from Climate Data
The term "extreme weather" refers to intense heat/cold waves, widespread floods, prolonged droughts, severe winds, and the like. An analogy with performance records in sports and other domains might be helpful. Over time, sports records improve, because of enhanced techniques and better training, as well as random variations. However, there are factors at play that also lead to more frequent breaking of records. Examples include better equipment (e.g., soccer balls, running shoes, or baseball bats), which are sometimes viewed as giving modern atheletes an unfair edge. In the domain of music, record sales provide another example, where higher sales figures do not necessarily mean better music. In extreme-weather modeling, too, we look for underlying factors beyond random variations. Predicting droughts in California is one of the important areas of focus in the US.
Your assignment is to prepare a single-spaced typed report (12-point font, 3 pages max, including figures and references) that discusses the computational requirements of extreme-weather projection models, the kinds of calculations involved, and how the models tie in with those of the previous three micro-projects.
[Pete13] T. C. Peterson et al., "Monitoring and Understanding Changes in Heat Waves, Cold Waves, Floods and Droughts in the United States: State of Knowledge," Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, Vol. 94, pp. 821-834, June 2013. [PDF]

2020/02/29 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Humor, memes, cartoon for the end of a wild week! Table: Comparing a few recent deadly epidemics Rural Iran: Nature and lifestyles, batch 2
Rural Iran: Nature and lifestyles, batch 1 Rural Iran: Nature and lifestyles, batch 3 Rural Iran: Nature and lifestyles, batch 4 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Humor/memes for the end of a wild week! [Top center] Comparing a few recent deadly epidemics: COVID-19 (Wuhan coronavirus) is more widespread than others and more deadly than all, but Ebola, as of Friday, February 28, 2020. First US fatality was reported today in Washington state. [Top right & bottom row] Rural Iran: Nature and lifestyles.
(2) One of the reasons Iran is a coronavirus hotspot: This is the second person to post a video demonstrating his "faith" (licking the enclosure at a religious shrine) in recent days. Worthy "Darwin Awards" candidates!
(3) Soap is your best bet for hand sanitization, but you must wash for at least 20 seconds: When you don't have access to soap, use hand sanitizers with 60% alcohol. Alcohol-free "natural" hand sanitizers don't work.
(4) US-Taliban peace deal signed: Normally, I would jump up for joy when there is any progress towards peace, but bringing a religious cult that oppressed and slaughtered Afghan people, particularly women, back to power is no cause for celebration. After decades of violence against Afghans and US troops, the Taliban are being rewarded for refraining from violence for a single week. Just one week! This is retreat, not peace!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Happy Leap Day: Four times as many birthday wishes to the poor souls who celebrate once every 4 years!
- A paper that predicted the outbreak of a bat-borne coronavirus one year ago. [5-minute video]
- British theoretical physicist, mathematician, and influential author Freeman Dyson dead at 96. RIP.
- Joe Coulombe, 1967 founder of Trader Joe's, dead at 89: Let's open a $2 bottle of wine in remembrance.
- Bernie Sanders doesn't golf: That's $334 million in savings right there!
- UCSC fires 54 graduate-student workers who went on strike to demand a cost-of-living salary adjustment.
- Leaning Tower of Dallas: Designer takes pride in his creation that has proven super-tough to demolish.
- My jasmines are blooming: Norooz and spring are on their way! [Photo]
- John E. Southard: "The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you."
- Persian Music: Two videos, each with its unique charms. [Happy New Year song] [Pop-songs medley]
(6) Today's screening of "Toy Story 4" at UCSB's Pollock Theater, as part of the "Script to Screen" series: The film tells the story of Woody (a cowboy toy, voiced by Tom Hanks) finding his way and place in the world. The screening was followed by a conversation with co-screenwriter Stephany Folsom. [Images]
(7) "If at first you don't succeed, welcome to Trump administration" (Steven Colbert): Two cases in point. Mike Pence, who failed bigly in controlling the HIV epidemic when he was governor of Indiana, is now heading the coronavirus task force. Congressman John Ratcliff, who withdrew his candidacy for Director of National Intelligence when it was revealed that he had faked his credentials, is renominated by Trump for the post.

2020/02/28 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Big rig stalled at Goleta's busiest intersection (Storke & Hollister) Deadlier than the coronavirus: A cartoon by Touka Neyestani Iranwire.com cartoon: Khamenei hiding the coronavirus under his robe (1) Images of the day: [Left] Early yesterday morning, a big rig that had stalled at Goleta's busiest intersection (Storke & Hollister), along with a utilities repair project further south, created a rarely-seen traffic nightmare. [Center] Deadlier than the coronavirus: A cartoon by Touka Neyestani. [Right] Iranwire.com cartoon: Only a few people, mostly law-enforcement personnel, died in the 2019 street protests. Ukraine Airlines Flight 752 crashed due to technical problems. The enemy wants to harm us by spreading coronavirus rumors. Right!
(2) Pence will be heading the coronavirus task force to control the messaging, not the disease: Remember that Trump gave himself an A+ for handling the response to Hurricane Maria. I hope virus and pandemic experts speak the truth and are not intimated into sugar-coating their reports out of fear of the Bully-in-Chief!
(3) Coronavirus #Injustice: Iran's parliament members have been given free tests, kits with masks and other supplies, and a break until after the Norooz holidays. Meanwhile, government workers have gotten none of these. In fact, they have been threatened with replacement if they don't show up for work!
(4) Your brain knows the meds you need: Results of an exciting new study, reported in Nature Biotechnology, suggest that a simple brain test, combined with the use of AI, can help prescribe the right antidepressant to depressed individuals. The current practice of prescribing one med, tracking its effects for weeks, and then moving on to the next option, takes too long. A non-invasive EEG test that records brain waves can predict which med will work. [Source: Time magazine, issue of March 2&9, 2020]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Makers of hand sanitizers and household disinfectants step up production as demands rise.
- A space rock, a few feet across, has become a second moon to our Earth, at least for now.
- Humor-challenged mullah: Ayatollah Jannati's attempted joke about his being a subject of US sanctions!
- Persian poetry: Recitation of a poem from Sa'adi's Boustan collection (on justice, wisdom, and opinion).
(6) Iranian sprinter Farzaneh Fasihi finishes first in this 60-meter race, despite her cumbersome clothing: Interestingly, the race cannot be shown in Iran.
(7) Get to know junk healthcare plans that the Trump administration is pushing to replace Obamacare: They have lower premiums for healthy individuals but don't cover even essential healthcare needs, can charge arbitrarily high premiums for sick people, and have various caps and lifetime limits that leave patients stranded once they begin treatment.
(8) Final thought for the day: We all need to take a break from coronavirus, Republican corruption, and Trump-created crisis of the day and laugh for a minute. Hope this video helps!

2020/02/27 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Nurse Narjes Khanalizadeh, 25, dies in northern Iran after caring for coronavirus patients New Yorker cartoon: On Facebook's handling of fake news! A few college classmates visiting my home in the Vanak neighborhood of Tehran, posing inside our empty pool (1) Images of the day: [Left] Waves of bad news are arriving from Iran: I am posting this announcement merely as an example. Narjes Khanalizadeh, a 25-year-old nurse, has died in the Caspian-region city of Lahijan, taking care of coronavirus patients. RIP. [Center] New Yorker cartoon: On Facebook's handling of fake news! [Right] Throwback Thursday: A few college classmates visiting my home in the Vanak neighborhood of Tehran, posing inside our empty pool.
(2) John Oliver's hilarious take on Trump and Modi: Trump calls Modi "The Father of India" (unaware that Gandhi already has that title) who has brought the country together. But Modi's Hindu nationalism has actually torn the country apart, much as Trump's White nationalism has done in the US.
(3) India built a 7-foot wall to hide a slum on Trump's path to a rally: Reminds me of overnight filling of potholes and painting of dilapidated roadside walls whenever the Shah or Empress Farah came to the Vanak neighborhood of Tehran to visit the Girls' College.
(4) The stock market is in free fall: Meanwhile, Trump, who has taken credit for every single upward movement and each new record set, is blaming others for the 10% drop of the last few days. This is very similar to Iran's leaders blaming "the enemy" for coronavirus fears and their country's other ills.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Long overdue: Will the time for a woman US President arrive soon? [15-minute video]
- Living on and climbing frighteningly steep mountains: China's beautiful nature on full display!
- Quote (humor): "Coronavirus under complete control in the US." ~ Biology lab at Trump University
- Persian music & poetry: Keivan Saket plays the setar and recites Fereydoon Moshiri's poem entitled "Hand."
(6) Believe me, I know more about coronavirus than doctors: We usually laugh at Trump's incompetence and stupid pronouncements, but, in the case of a deadly disease, "alternative facts" can kill us, especially now that we have the anti-science VP Mike Pence in charge of the US coronavirus task force. Rush Limbaugh thinks that warnings about the potential spread of coronavirus are parts of a conspiracy to bring Trump down! In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia suspends pilgrimage visits for fear of coronavirus pandemic.
(7) All the coronavirus news from Iran: A doctor complains that while his hospital's intensive care unit lacks sufficient coronavirus test kits for critical patients, members of the parliament have been tested so that their precious lives are not threatened! [Tweet] Khamenei, Rouhani, and other Iranian officials are dismissing the threat of coronavirus. As people live in fear and continue to die, they claim that the risk is exaggerated by "the enemy." Much like Donald Trump's incredibly uninformed claim that the virus will go away on its own! [Image] This Iranian cleric says that the dirt from Imam Hussein's burial place is a potent antibiotic. You have to consume it every 6 or 8 hours, though, much like a regular antibiotic. Stressed health workers in Iran's Kurdistan region try to remain in good spirits by dancing! Elsewhere, a group of Iranians criticize officials for directives against public gatherings, including for Friday prayers. They believe that the government is depriving citizens of the healing powers of the tombs of imams and other Shi'i figures.

2020/02/26 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Historic 1936 letter containing directives about the use of the newly-coined words 'behdaasht' and 'behdaari' Cartoon: And tonight, live from Washington, it's 'America's Funniest Conspiracy Theories' Recent Persian tweets about the coronavirus
New book on Leonardo da Vinci: 100 Milestones Meme asking Iranian mullahs to go to hospitals and use their devine aura to help cure coronavirus patients This is what karma looks like: Roger Stone and Hillary Clinton (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Historic document from Iran's Language Academy: This 1936 letter contains directives for the use of new Persian terms coined for the Arabic "hefz-ol-salheh" ("Behdaasht" = hygiene, health) and "sahiyeh" ("behdaari" = dispensary, public health bureau). [Top center] New Yorker cartoon: "And tonight, live from Washington, it's 'America's Funniest Conspiracy Theories'." [Top right] Recent Persian tweets about the coronavirus. [Bottom left] Leonardo da Vinci continues to awe and inspire: Five centuries after his death in May 1519, we are still learning about his contributions to art, science, and Technology. A new 224-page book picks 100 of da Vinci's works and presents them in rough chronological order to map the development of his interests and skills. [Bottom center] Meme asking Iranian mullahs to go to hospitals and use their devine aura to help cure coronavirus patients. [Bottom right] This is what karma looks like.
(2) Technology and coronavirus: Both South Korea and China are using phone apps that allow one to track where infected people have been, so that you can avoid the locations. In this video message (in Persian), a young Iranian woman living in China provides some useful information about the disease and describes the comprehensive measures taken in China to protect the citizens.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Iranian health official tested positive for coronavirus a day after dismissing the severity of the outbreak.
- On-line courses get a boost: NYU Shanghai resumes educational activities by moving classes on-line.
- Existence of seismic activities on Mars ("Marsquakes") confirmed by NASA's InSight Lander.
- Beautiful, spring-like day (72F) for an early-morning walk on campus, before my first engagement on 2/25.
(4) Today's "World Music Series" noon concert at UCSB's Music Bowl: I considered skipping today's performance by the UCSB Gamelan Ensemble, because I have seen them many times before. But then, what else can beat being outdoors for an hour on this gorgeous 74-degree sunny day? [With apologies to friends dealing with icy conditions, blizzards, flooding, and the like!] [Photos] [Video]
(5) "Building Data-Driven Computers: Reimagining Systems to Reduce the High Costs of Large-Scale Data Processing": This was the title of yesterday's talk at UCSB by Dr. Saugata Ghose (Systems Scientist, ECE Dept, CMU; PhD Cornell U.), a faculty candidate for our Computer Engineering Program.
Many new computing applications are data-centric, spending a significant fraction of their time on accessing and processing very large datasets. Unfortunately, hardware platforms remain compute-centric, whose designs are rooted in decades-old principles for computer architectures. This mismatch results in inefficiencies, with significant energy waste and program stalls. Data-centric platforms can eliminate these inefficiencies, but require that we fundamentally rethink our approach to computer design.
Dr. Ghose's research is focused on developing practical data-centric architectures and systems, beginning with experimental characterization of the sources of energy-inefficiency and poor performance in existing architectures as they run modern applications, particularly the impact of current memory systems. After showing how breakthroughs in memory technologies have made near-data computing practical, Dr. Ghose outlined his efforts in developing programmer and architectural support for near-data computing, including efficient data coherence and domain-specific system design. [Sample slides]

2020/02/25 (Tuesday): Book review: Rush, Elizabeth, Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore, Milkweed Editions, 2018 (with an afterword written in 2019). [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
US and world maps showing the effects of sea-level rise Cover image of Elizabeth Rush's 'Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore' Graphs showing the extent of sea-level rise This book is the chosen title for "UCSB Reads 2020" program that encourages communal reading and discussion among the campus denizens and the community at large. I have incorporated the book into the curriculum of my graduate course on parallel processing during winter 2020, with a description of projects related to the theme of the book appearing on the ECE 254B page, under "Course Announcements" and "Homework Assignments." Specifically, the projects encourage and guide the students to explore the role of high-performance computing in running data- and compute-intensive models for the prediction of climate change and various other weather-related phenomena.
Rising consists of three parts, sandwiched between "The Password" and "Afterword," ending with 5 pages of acknowledgments and 31 pages of notes. The three parts are "Rampikes" (dead trees; 5 chapters), "Rhizomes" (horizontal underground plant stems capable of producing the shoot and root systems of a new plant; 6 chapters), and "Rising" (3 chapters).
A key message of Rush's book is that sea-level rise isn't just a problem for a distant future; it is already affecting US populations, as they migrate inland from our disintegrating shorelines. Rush provides first-hand accounts of how people's lives are affected in California, Florida, Louisiana, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island.
When we talk of sea-level rise, many of us imagine catastrophes of disappearing island nations and submerged coastal cities. But, even a much smaller amount of sea-level rise leads to the ocean water working its way into the aquifer, stunting the growth of trees and later killing many of them. And this begins a chain reaction in the ecosystem, given that of the 1400 endangered or threatened species in the US, over half are wetland-dependent [p. 6].
Since we began keeping records in 1880, global sea levels have risen about 9 inches (22 cm). At this rate, a rise of about 5 additional inches (12 cm) would be expected by 2100. But there is widespread agreement that sea-level rise is accelerating, leading to estimates of a rise from 24 to 84 inches (0.6-2.1 m) by the end of the century [p. 55].
Unfortunately, seashores are often densely populated. This is an unfortunate new development. Coastal areas used to be desolate, because swamp-borne diseases and natural disasters made them undesirable locations. Misguided federal flood insurance programs led to people migrating to and residing in such coastal areas in unprecedented numbers.
A pet peeve of mine about books of this ilk is that they do not make use of charts/graphs and maps (The only images in Rush's book are those of trees and marshes, one at the beginning of each chapter). The inclusion of at least one map would have been very natural, just to mark the locations around the US featured in the book (see the example US map above, showing migrations caused by a 6-foot rise in sea levels, and the world map depicting the distribution of sea-level rise over one decade). Comparative maps of coastlines and low-lying lands over the decades would have also been a welcome addition. The reader would get a much better sense of the accelerating sea-level rise from a graph covering a few decades or, preferably, the entire recorded history (see the examples above). Graphical representations of melting ice and other causes of sea-level rise would have also been helpful. There is no excuse for text-only communication in the age of multimedia.
Rush does an admirable job of showing us the human face of climate change. A family, with roots in one of the coastal areas enduring increasingly harsher storms that take a toll on its ancestral home, now in disrepair, with money not available to fix it, may eventually be forced to leave. People do move for various reasons, such as seeking better career opportunities, but being forced out of your home and abandoning a generations-long lifestyle is a different story. Viewed in macroeconomic terms, the migration of thousands or even millions of people, in a world with 7+ billion inhabitants, may seem insignificant, but emotions and sense of belonging cannot be measured only in economic terms.
It is also possible to go too far in the emotional direction, and Rush is guilty of this excess by portraying all change as bad. We humans can in fact deal with and control some aspects of environmental changes. It is critical to tackle climate-change problems from both prespectives: Devising policies that limit global warming and its consequences, and instigating changes in our communities to minimize the impact of those changes that we cannot prevent.

2020/02/24 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Sepandarmazgan, the ancient Persian festival celebrating women, love, friendship, and Earth! Katherine Johnson (1918-2020): NASA mathematician and inspiration behind 'Hidden Figures' dead at 101 A 5.7-magnitude quake hits the Iran-Turkey border region (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Sepandarmazgan, the ancient Persian festival celebrating women, love, friendship, and Earth! There are various opinions about the date of the festival, but Esfand 5 (February 24 in 2020) is the most-commonly cited. [Center] Katherine Johnson (1918-2020): NASA mathematician and inspiration behind "Hidden Figures" (book and movie) dead at 101. [Right] A 5.7-magnitude quake hits Iran & Turkey, killing 9 in Turkey's Van Province: There are no casualty or damage reports from Iran's East Azerbaijan region, but Iranian authorities are slow in assessing damage and in reporting bad news.
(2) I don't know, Donald, whether there is a law about this stuff: But since you claim to be the chief law enforcement officer of the country, you should know or should be able to find out through your lapdog at the Justice Department. Why do you throw the question at us? [Trump tweet]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Coronavirus hot spots outside China include South Korea, Iran (where schools/colleges are closed), and Italy.
- If relations between the US and India sour, Trump may start using the nickname "Midi Modi"! [Photos]
- Announcement of Harvey Weinstein's conviction on two charges, which will bring him 5-25 years in jail.
- Two 13-year-old boys charged with murder for starting a blaze that killed two firefighters at a CA library.
- Republicans salivate over Sanders becoming the Democratic nominee: Trump and Russia are promoting him.
- Cancer death rates dropped 29% from 1991 to 2016: Targeted therapies continue to work miracles.
- War crime: In 1992, Serbians torched a library with 2 million books, including rare, historical volumes.
- Quote: "You are free to choose, but you are not free from the consequences of your choices." ~ Anonymous
(4) Google and Brexit: To avoid legal issues arising from Brexit, Google is moving its UK-based data, including those of Gmail, YouTube, and Android Play Store, from Ireland to the US.
(5) Europeans don't just pay less for healthcare (through taxes): They also get cheaper cell-phone service and better deals on many other products and services! [From: The Great Reversal: How America Gave Up on Free Markets, by Thomas Philippon (interviewed by Fareed Zakaria on Sunday 2/23)]
(6) US military branches request $17 billion in additional funding for items not included in their 2021 budgets: I hope Congress asks some tough question about how the already increased funding was allocated to projects, including billions diverted to Trump's border wall.
(7)