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Page last updated on 2022 July 04

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

Entries in each section appear in reverse chronological order.

Blog entries for 2022
Blog entries for 2021
Blog entries for 2020
Blog entries for 2019
Blog entries for 2018
Blog entries for 2017
Blog entries for 2016
Archived blogs for 2015
Archived blogs for 2014
Archived blogs for 2012-13
Archived blogs up to 2011

Blog Entries for 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2022/05/18 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
IEEE CCS tech talk by Behrooz Parhami: Flyer IEEE CCS tech talk by Behrooz Parhami: Slides, batch 3 IEEE CCS tech talk by Behrooz Parhami: Slides, batch 4
Today's World Music Series noon concert: UCSB Gamelan Ensemble (Photo 1) Math puzzle: What fraction of the big square's area is covered by the four small squares? Today's World Music Series noon concert: UCSB Gamelan Ensemble (Photo 2) (1) Images of the day: [Top row] IEEE CCS technical talk by Dr. Behrooz Parhami (see the last item below). [Bottom left & right] Today's World Music Series noon concert: UCSB Gamelan Ensemble (2-minute video). [Bottom center] Math puzzle: What fraction of the big square's area is covered by the four small squares?
(2) The world is showing some movement in the direction of reason: Hezbollah loses its parliamentary majority in Lebanon. US Representative Madison Cawthorn loses his primary race in NC. Too early to celebrate, though, as several Trump-backed candidates either ran unopposed or prevailed in hard-fought primary races.
(3) "Revolutionary Engineers: Learning, Politics & Activism at Aryamehr University of Technology, 1966-1979": In this Northwestern U. MENA faculty curriculum, Sepehr Vakil, Mina Khanlarzadeh, and Mahdi Ganjavi will discuss "STEM education between a coup and a revolution." Monday, May 23, 2022, 10:30 AM PDT. [Register]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Finland and Sweden end decades of neutrality by formally applying to join NATO.
- Beautiful music: Sonbol Taefi and Elika Mahony perform "Make Haste to Love." [4-minute video]
- The cognitive effort of running a household is as intense as running a Fortune 500 company.
- Persian poetry: Recitation of a poem, attributed to Mehdi Maleki. [1-minute video]
- This is how a stunt-double man and woman celebrate their union! [1-minute video]
- Dancing is an integral part of the Persian culture: In Tajikistan, even the president shows his moves!
(5) IEEE Central Coast Section technical talk: Tonight, in an in-person event with 15 attendees, held at the Calle Real Rusty's Pizza in Goleta, Dr. Behrooz Parhami (Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, UCSB) spoke under the title "Hybrid Digital-Analog Number Representation in Computing and in Nature," a last-minute substitute talk due to illness of the originally-scheduled speaker.
The discovery that mammals use a multi-modular method akin to residue number system (RNS), but with continuous residues or digits, to encode position information led to the award of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Medicine. After a brief review of the evidence in support of this hypothesis, and how it relates to RNS, Dr. Parhami enumerated the properties of continuous-digit RNS, and discussed results on the dynamic range, representational accuracy, and factors affecting the choice of the moduli, which are themselves real numbers. He then took a step back and briefly explored hybrid digital-analog number representations and their robustness and noise-immunity advantages more generally. He concluded with suggestions for further research on important open problems in the domain of hybrid digital-analog number representation and processing.
Speaker's technical bio: Behrooz Parhami (PhD, UCLA 1973) is Professor of Electrical & Computer Engineering, and former Associate Dean for Academic Personnel, College of Engineering, at University of California, Santa Barbara, where he teaches and does research in the field of computer architecture: more specifically, in computer arithmetic, parallel processing, and dependable computing. A Life Fellow of IEEE, a Fellow of IET and British Computer Society, and recipient of several other awards (including a most-cited paper award from J. Parallel & Distributed Computing), he has written six textbooks and more than 300 peer-reviewed technical papers. Professionally, he serves on journal editorial boards (including for 3 different IEEE Transactions) and conference program committees, and he is also active in technical consulting.
[IEEE CCS: Event page; Technical Talks page] [Speaker's: Web site; Publications page]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2022/03/28 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Australian researcher Kylie Moore-Gilbert was propositioned by a prison boss in Iran while she was kept as a government hostage Math puzzle: Circles C1, C2, and C3 have radii 3, 2, and 1, respectively. Find the radius of circle C4 which is tangent to all three circles Why aren't the American super-rich called oligarchs?
Circle terminology: What would you put in the empty space on the lower-right? Math competition: Deriving the value of a factorial-based sum series Math puzzle: Find the rectangle's area, given that its height is 2 cm less than the quarter-circle's diameter and its width is 9 cm less (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Australian researcher Kylie Moore-Gilbert was propositioned by a prison boss in Iran while she was kept as a government hostage. [Top center] Math puzzle: Circles C1, C2, and C3 have radii 3, 2, and 1, respectively. Find the radius of circle C4 which is tangent to all three circles. The circlular curve omega, centered at O, is shown as a hint. [Top right] On the Russian oligarchs (see the next item below). [Bottom Left] Circle terminology: What would you put in the empty space on the lower-right? [Bottom center] Math competition: Deriving the value of a factorial-based sum series. [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Find the rectangle's area, given that its height is 2 cm less than the quarter-circle's diameter and its width is 9 cm less.
(2) Russia's super-rich are called "oligarchs": Why aren't the American super-rich similarly characterized? Because there is a difference. We don't have an oligarchy in the US. While some American billionaires do have an interest in government and in influencing political decisions, many don't. And not all of them support Washington or whoever is in the White House. In Russia, too, there exist billionaires who aren't oligarchs. But because most currently-rich Russians got rich via government favors at the time of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, they are by and large pro-government. They rely on government protections (and also need the government to leave them alone) in a lawless, authoritarian society. In a 2018 poll on Russians' attitude toward oligarchs, some 43% had negative opinions of them, with 39% being neutral.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Suspected poison attack targeted Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich and Ukrainian negotiators.
- Russian oil tankers turn off their tracking systems to evade sanctions.
- Red-hot car market no more: US auto sales slump as less affluent buyers walk away.
- The story of Ferdowsi's tomb in Toos, Iran. [2-minute video, narrated in Persian]
(4) Will Smith reduced to tears during his Oscar acceptance speech: I always thought of Smith as arrogant and self-important, but he gave an emotional and tearful speech about the opportunity to portray the father of tennis stars Venus & Serena Williams and what it means for blacks in Hollywood and the broader community. [Addendum: See the last blog entry below.]
(5) The Oscars slap is being investigated: The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is investigating the incident of Will Smith walking on stage and slapping Chris Rock, after he joked about Smith's wife. When the incident happened, I thought it was fake/scripted, but, apparently, it was not.
(6) USA men's national soccer team defeats Panama 5-1: Both the US and Mexico will very likely go to the 2022 tournament in Qatar. Canada, which is atop the CONCACAF standings, has already qualified.
(7) Book review: Fey, Tina, Bossypants, unabridged audiobook on 5 CDs, read by the author, Hachette Audio, 2011. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I wrote this book review on March 28, 2012, and posted it to GoodReads on March 28, 2022.
(8) Final thought for the day: In my blog entry about Will Smith's Oscars acceptance speech, I characterized it as emotional & tearful. At the time, I thought that his assault on Chris Rock was fake/scripted. I now realize that his emotional acceptance speech may have been fake and part of his effort at damage control for what will surely be viewed as an inappropriate act resulting from rage, not love. His behavior, that is, becoming enraged by attacks on what he considers his "property," was a textbook example of patriarchy. Rather than remove the previous entry, I will link it to this addendum.

2022/03/27 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) The 94th Annual Academy Awards: The hosts (Regina Hall, Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes) quipped that the Oscars hired three women to host, because it was cheaper than hiring a man! One highlight of the show was a tribute to 60 years of James Bond films. Another was a 50th-anniversary tribute to the "Godfather" trilogy, the first film of which appeared in 1972. There was also an "In Memoriam" segment and a plea to support Ukraine in every way possible. See also the next item below.
(2) Here are the Oscar winners in some of the popular categories. [All nominees & winners]
- Actress in leading role: Jessica Chastain ("The Eyes of Tammy Faye")
- Actor in leading role: Will Smith ("King Richard")
- Actress in supporting role: Ariana DeBose ("West Side Story")
- Actor in supporting role: Troy Kotsur ("CODA")
- Motion picture: "CODA" (Rousselet, Gianfermi, & Wachsberger, producers)
- Directing: Jane Campion ("The Power of the Dog")
- Documentary feature: "Summer of Soul"
- International feature film: "Drive My Car" (Japan)
- Animated feature film: "Encanto"
- Original score: Hans Zimmer, for "Dune"
- Original song: "No Time to Die" (Billie Eilish & and Finneas O'Connell)
(3) Beware of QR-code scams: Security experts warn against fraudulent QR codes, including some attached to parking meters, that trick drivers into entering their credit-card info at a bogus Web site.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Satellite photos show the destruction of Russian ship as it attempted to bring supplies to Mariupol.
- Women in sci/tech: Prof. Lisa Randall, theoretical particle physicist and cosmologist, Harvard University.
- Masih Alinejad calls out the UN for putting Iran on a body that monitors women's rights across the globe.
- Math puzzle: Prove that if 2x + 1 is divisible by 3, then 10x^2 + x – 2 is divisible by 9.
(5) Book review: Compilation, NPR Holiday Favorites, written and read by various authors/performers, HighBridge Audio, 2008. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I wrote this book review on March 27, 2014, and posted it to GoodReads on March 27, 2022.
(6) Book review: Daryaee, Touraj (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Iranian History, Oxford U. Press, 2012.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I wrote this book review on March 27, 2013, and posted it to GoodReads on March 27, 2022.
(7) On Reza Baraheni: I posted on November 16, 2020, "Writer/poet Reza Baraheni once related that during Shah's reign, he and cohorts tried to write political poems in a manner that people got the message but SAVAK (Shah's secret police) didn't, but it worked backwards; people didn't get the message, while SAVAK did!"
P.S.: Many have praised Baraheni's writings and political activism. I learned from a response to my tweet that he (Baraheni) once wrote a "love letter" (or, as we say in Persian, "naameh-ye fadaayat-shavam") to Ayatollah Khomeini, praising his unwavering strength, courage, vigilance, and vast political wisdom, which is viewed by young Iranians as betraying their generation. [The letter's original source]
P.P.S.: Reza Baraheni's Wikipedia page says that Baraheni tried hard to endear himself to Khomeini, but the Ayatollah rejected him. He wrote, on January 30, 1979, in Iran's Etall'at newspaper that "Soon [after Khomeini's return] there will be a permanent and deep democracy in Iran, and we will enter an era where poverty, repression, bankruptcy, hopelessness and capitalist greed will end and Iran will be saved from economic chaos and bad governmental planning."

2022/03/26 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Political art: How Escher would have depicted the Washington gridlock From National Geographic: See if you can figure out what is seen in this photo Michelle Obama, with T-shirt celebrating peace, equality, love, inclusion, hope, diversity, and kindness
Feast fit for a king: My mom's party for my younger son, before his departure Math puzzle: Cut this square board into a minimum number of pieces so that the pieces can be rearranged to form a standard chessboard Cover image for Fraser MacDonald's 'Escape from Earth' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Political art: How M. C. Escher would have depicted the Washington gridlock. [Top center] From National Geographic: See if you can figure out what is seen in this photo. [Top right] T-shirt celebrating peace, equality, love, inclusion, hope, diversity, and kindness. [Bottom left] Feast fit for a king (See the next item below). [Bottom center] Math puzzle: What is the minimum number of pieces into which this square board must be cut so that the resulting pieces can be rearranged to form a standard chessboard? [Bottom right] Fraser MacDonald's Escape from Earth (see the last item below).
(2) On Friday, the last full day of my younger son's stay in SB, my mom threw a party for him: She had made rice with two kinds of stew (fesenjoon & karafs) and others contributed several dishes. The two-part salad is my work. Sepand will left for the SF Bay Area on Amtrak today.
(3) Dropped off my younger son at Santa Barbara's Amtrak station for his trip back to the SF Bay Area: He will return in June for another family gathering. Before the train's arrival we spent some time walking at the Santa Barbara waterfront, where we ran into a cruise ship anchored near Stearns Wharf and SB Harbor.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Zelensky: "Look at Mariupol.This is exactly what happened in Aleppo." [Persian report]
- Apple eyes a hardware subscription service, which would essentially gurantees sales for new products.
- Zeinab Jalalian is the longest-held female political prisoner in Iran: She is serving a life sentence.
- Primitive, yet highly effective, water-pumping technology for irrigation.
(5) Book review: Keaton, Diane, Then Again, unabridged audiobook on 7 CDs, read by the author, Books on Tape, 2011. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I wrote this book review on March 26, 2014, and posted it to GoodReads on March 26, 2022.
(6) Book review: MacDonald, Fraser, Escape from Earth: A Secret History of the Space Rocket, Public Affairs, 2019. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
MacDonald presents a captivating history of early American space exploration, which includes lies, spies, and (fear of) socialism in 1930s Pasadena, before and after Cal Tech's 1936 founding of Jet Propulsion Laboratory. JPL is now officially a part of NASA, but it is still being run by Cal Tech. A key influence in the founding of JPL was Frank Malina [1912-1981], an engineer whose life and contributions were shrouded in mystery. Assisted by Jack Parsons [1914-1952], a friend with no college degree but with intense interest in explosives, Malina launched the first high-altitude rocket in the US.
MacDonald upends the standard narrative about US space history, which invariably entails mention of Robert H. Goddard's liquid-fueled rockets that didn't go very far and Werner von Braun's V-2 rockets that did reach space. The history then proceeds to the Soviet Sputnik and a frightened US playing catch-up and putting astronauts on the Moon.
MacDonald was drawn to this subject when he heard of the work of Frank Malina, a little-known engineer who aspired to build an experimental program for designing a viable rocket. The Malina/Parsons team was at first made up of technologists and tinkerers, but Malina, inspired and guided by mathematician/physicist/engineer Theodore von Karman [1881-1963], later recruited theoretically-inclined people into the program. Malina was convinced that building a rocket is very complicated and the big team it needs would be beyond the scope of a university undertaking, hence the impetus to found JPL.
When Malina arrived in Los Angeles and began working at Cal Tech, he was terrified by the rise of fascism. He supported labor unions, especially as they championed the cause of migrant workers. His advocacy for change drew him to membership in the Communist Party, an ironic turn of events, given that he later climbed to the height of the US military-industrial complex and became the first space-millionaire as a result of founding a company, Aerojet, with Jack Parsons. Malina is responsible for making rocketry respectable, something that is done by serious engineers, rather than attracting only wackos.
Malina and Parsons tested their first rocket in 1936. The 1945 "WAC Corporal" was the first rocket to reach really high altitude. Then, a 1947 executive order allowed FBI to look into the lives of engineers and scientists on the smallest of suspicions. FBI was concerned about the presence of activist engineers at JPL. It wasn't a matter of politics, but loyalty. Jewish, Chinese, and other engineers were pursued. Many engineers lost their licenses, and some ended up in jail.
In 1967, FBI finally decided to pursue Malina seriously, prompting him to flea to France, where he got a job with UNESCO. Later, the US pressured UNESCO to fire Malina, which ironically coincided with him becoming a millionaire as a result of selling his Aerojet company. We now know that Parsons was one of FBI's confidential informants, providing information about Malina and others.
I attended a Cal Tech talk on Thursday, March 24, 2022, in which the book, its significance, and the author's sources were discussed, as Erik Conway, JPL's official historian, interviewed MacDonald. Escape from Earth is based on the contents of archives at Cal Tech & JPL (the latter maintains its own archives) and FBI files, alongside Malina family information & documents that supplemented project-related material at the two archives and dossiers released by FBI.

2022/03/25 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The new SCOTUS member, Ketanji Brown Jackson SCOTUS has had only 7 women and people of color among its 115 all-time members Madeleine Albright (1937-2022), the first women Secretary of State in the US, dead at 84
Ukrainian women pick up arms to defend their community Earth scientist & artist Usha Farey Lingappa discusses the origins of photosynthesis South Dakota hotel owner pledges to ban native Americans from his hotel, triggering protests, staff resignations, and a lawsuit (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] The 115 US Supreme Court justices who have ever served include only 5 women and 3 people of color. Sonia Sotomayor is in both categories, as will be Ketanji Jackson Brown. [Top right] At only 4' 10", she cast a giant shadow: Georgetown remembers Madeleine Albright (1937-2022), the first women Secretary of State in the US. [Bottom left] It isn't only Kurdish women who pick up arms to defend their community: Ukrainian women also have the same fighting spirit. [Bottom center] Earth scientist & artist Usha Farey Lingappa discusses the origins of photosynthesis in today's 28-minute talk at Cal Tech. [Bottom right] South Dakota hotel owner pledges to ban native Americans from his hotel, triggering protests, staff resignations, and a lawsuit.
(2) Trying to roll back decades of progress in civil rights: "The Supreme Court was wrong to legalize interracial marriage." ~ Republican Senator Mike Braun, referring to the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The wife of SCOTUS Justice Clarence Thomas exchanged text messages with Mark Meadows on Jan. 6.
- How Jon Stewart humiliated and called out Tucker Carlson, when he was with CNN in 2004.
- The movie "Don't Look Up" inspires additional research on how to deal with a planet-killer asteroid.
- Quote: "The search for human freedom can never be complete without freedom for women." ~ Betty Ford
- Don't watch this 4-minute high-wire act, with no net or air bag underneath, if you have a weak heart!
- Aleksandra Kilczewska, specializing in Persian, Afghan, and Central Asian dances, speaks about her art.
- Iranian music: Enjoy Reyhan Boroumand's whistling rendition of "Nowruz Waltz." [1-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Mar. 24, 2016: Witty one-liners, such as a reality check bouncing!
- Facebook memory from Mar. 24, 2014: Iran even attacks UN officials; think about the fate of ordinary folk.
- Facebook memory from Mar. 24, 2011: Elizabeth Taylor in Iran, wearing a traditional local dress.
- Facebook memory from Mar. 25, 2020: Open your eyes to see misogyny all around you.
- Facebook memory from Mar. 25, 2016: A fine sample of Persian calligraphy.
- Facebook memory from Mar. 25, 2011: On the nature of memristor and how it was discovered.
(4) Iranian novelist, poet, critic, and political activist Reza Baraheni dead at 86: He taught at U. Tehran, several US universities, and U. Toronto, and helped found the progressive Writers Association of Iran in 1966, an entity that was surveilled & its members persecuted by both the Shah's & the current clerical regime.
(5) Putin, man of the hour, who is on everyone's mind: Apparently, this art form is quite old. I have seen the images of four lions on a sheet of paper, distributed shortly after CIA's 1953 coup in Iran, turn into an image of the Shah. I will post a link if and when I find the images on-line.
(6) BBC Persian launches the Shirazeh podcast series, with each episode discussing one influential book about Iran published between 1921 and 2021 (the 1300s in Iranian calendar).

2022/03/24 (Thursday): The three books I review today are all about remarkable women.
Cover image of Jennifer Keishin Armstrong's 'When Women Invented Television' Cover image of Sharon Stone's 'The Beauty of Living Twice' Cover image of Huma Abedin's 'Both/And' (1) Book review: Armstrong, Jennifer Keishin, When Women Invented Television: The Untold Story of the Female Powerhouses who Pioneered the Way We Watch Today, unabridged 10-hour audiobook, read by Nan McNamara, Harper Audio, 2021. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
In the mid 20th century, computer programming was viewed as a clerical job, so it did not attract men. For this reason, women found opportunities and excelled at it, making up nearly half of early programmers. Then, as the technical nature of programming became known and the job began to pay well, men rushed in and displaced women, who disappeared through attrition resulting from not being promoted. Television programming, too, was dominated by women in the early years of the medium. Pioneering women producers and stars of the early years typically copied or brought over their radio programs. As observed by Armstrong in a 2021 NPR interview, "If you see a lot of women doing something, it is probably because the men have either not gotten there yet, or they've already left."
In this intertwined multi-biographical volume, Armstrong, an entertainment writer and TV historian, documents the lives and careers of four trailblazers of the industry, who invented the formats of talk shows, sitcoms, and soap operas: Irna Phillips [1901-1973], the director/writer/actor who is known as the mother of daytime dramas; Gertrude Berg [1899-1966], the actor/writer matriarch of the radio/TV fictional family, the Goldbergs; Hazel Scott [1920-1981], an accomplished jazz pianist, who was the first African-American women to host her own TV show; Betty White [1922-2021], the producer/host/actor whose illustrious career continued, until her death just shy of turning 100.
After the initial easy years, all four women faces pressures and had to fight for their careers, none more so than Hazel Scott, given her blackness and unfair targeting by the House Un-American Activities Committee (McCarthyism and its attendant black-listing also affected Gertrude Berg). Among many nuggets of information in this book, we learn that a show about the life of a Jewish family would automatically lose about 15% of the audience, a fact that entered the calculations of commercial sponsors. Any hint of nor-breaking, such as portrayal of non-traditional families, also negatively impacted audience appeal and thus the chances of attracting commercial sponsors. In the early days of TV, commercials were read by announcers between program segments or by the show's performers mid-story or as asides.
Unfortunately, we will never see some of these women's work, given the live, local, and unrecorded nature of TV in its early years. Nationwide distribution required that shows be put on film, an expensive proposition in those days (Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz insisted upon filming "I Love Lucy," thus immortalizing their classic show, which is still running in syndication). Of the four women, most people are familiar only with Betty White, owing to her recent work. So, Armstrong's dusting off of the four women's early contributions fills an important void in TV history and women's place in it.
(2) Book review: Stone, Sharon, The Beauty of Living Twice, unabridged 7-hour audiobook, read by the author, Random House Audio, 2021. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Sharon Stone, the glamorous actress who rose to fame with the controversial blockbuster hit "Basic Instinct," suffered a deadly brain hemorrhage in 2001 and underwent a risky procedure, with a 1% survival chance, which gave her a second life. She went on to raise millions for HIV/AIDS research and other causes. In this candid, warm, and graceful memoir, Stone offers some startling personal revelations (for example, that she and her younger sister were victims of long-term sexual abuse by their grandfather) and urges forgiveness: "I have learned to forgive the unforgivable. My hope is that as I share my journey, you too will learn to do the same."
The second life of the title may also refer to Stone emerging from the trauma of sexual abuse, in her youth and, later, during her acting career, to become a caring and functioning adult again. She doesn't name names, but writes about a host of film-set characters who had expectations of a sexual nature. Ironically, what seems like an exploitative role in "Basic Instinct" was liberating to Stone, because it allowed her to act out her rage against her grandfather. She has only recently begun a relationship with her mother and, at 63, is optimistic about her family dynamics.
The Beauty of Living Twice has helped Stone examine her life and answer some tough questions about herself, but it has also created additional questions. Equally important, it has allowed readers to shed her image as an aloof and icy glamour queen in favor of a hurt, but kind and determined, individual.
(3) Book review: Abedin, Huma, Both/And: A Life in Many Worlds, unabridged 22-hour audiobook, read by the author, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2021. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
My perusal of this book was the result of a long-running curiosity about why some accomplished and stunningly-beautiful women get entrapped in relationships with inferior and/or morally bankrupt men. The case of Huma Abedin and Anthony Weiner is the crown jewel of such stories. The book averages 4.6 stars from Amazon's 800 reviews. Looking through the reviews, I noticed about 4% of 1- and 2-star reviews by readers who thought the book was a publicity ploy. I suspect that Ms. Abedin being a South-Asian Muslim has something to do with much of the negativity. Yet, the remarkable number of 5-star reviews from readers, who consider the book a well-written, serious work, and a page-turner, more than offsets the negative reviews.
I was mildly disappointed by the book. Yes, it contains some compelling information about Hillary Rodham Clinton (HRC), her White House days, Senate and presidential campaigns, and her stint as US Secretary of State, but there are also page-after-page of minute details that the average reader might find of lesser interest. Huma Abedin rose to high political positions in her early 20s and later became an indispensable aide to HRC. Her Muslim faith and exotic background (Indian father, Pakistani mother) served as a valuable connecting tool in HRC's international travels and meetings.
Abedin's commentary comes across as naive in some places and as insightful in others. She was alternately awestruck when meeting celebrities and remained cool and high-functioning in the circus-like atmosphere surrounding the most-famous woman in the world. She tried to iron out any wrinkles in HRC's schedule and take care of her every whim: snacks, meals, and wardrobe included. Yet, when she got into personal trouble in her relationship with sex-addict husband Anthony Weiner, it was HRC and Abedin's co-workers who took up the roles of comforters and supporters.
The segments of the book on Anthony Weiner and his indiscretions, which Abedin learned about as she was pregnant with their son, are well-written and effective in conveying the overnight transformation of her fairy-tale marriage into a nightmare. But, again, Abedin alternates between being in denial of Weiner's serious betrayal and deeming his behavior deplorable. She seems to subscribe to the theory that if there was no physical relationship with women, then marriage vows are not violated by mere exchange of explicit photos and flirtatious massages.
A similar disconnection is seen in Abedin's treatment of Bill Clinton (WJC) carrying on an extramarital affair and how HRC dealt with it. One is left with the impression that WJC's relationship with an intern was a minor indiscretion in some passages and a serious betrayal in others.
A third kind of inconsistency is seen when Abedin writes about her faith. She is a modern woman, but also a practicing Muslim, who prays & fasts, avoids eating pork, and does not drink. She considers these attributes quite personal and easily mingles with people of other faiths and with those who drink at parties. Yet, she seems to condone limitations on women in Saudi Arabia (where her family was based, as her parents held academic positions) and other backward Muslim societies, seeming to imply that women wear restrictive and uncomfortable clothing by choice.
Overall, this is a book worth reading. One gets the urge to jump forward when Abedin elaborates on uninteresting details, but I did manage to listen to the audiobook "from cover to cover," despite its 22-hour length. One can't help but wonder what course Abedin's life would have taken had she not met Anthony Weiner and had HRC won the race for US presidency, which she arguably lost, in part, due to Weiner keeping some of her e-mails on his laptop computer!

2022/03/23 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Dining with the kids on Wednesday at Santa Barbara's Met Up Restaurant Schrodinger's Smiley :): Atrocities in Ukraine: Human and material losses
Cover image of John D. Kelleher's 'Deep Learning' Tornado in Georgia lifts house with residents in it, and throws it on a nearby road Or Fatemeh Zahra: The word 'Yaa' in Persian could mean 'Or' but the proper equivalent in this case would have been 'Oh'! (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Dining with the kids (see the next item below). [Top center] Schrodinger's smiley emoji. [Top right] Atrocities in Ukraine (see item 3 below). [Bottom left] John D. Kelleher's Deep Learning (see the last item below). [Bottom center] Tornado in Georgia lifts house with residents in it, and throws it on a nearby road; the other image is from Alabama. [Bottom right] Or Fatemeh Zahra: The word "Yaa" in Persian could mean "Or" but the proper equivalent in this case would have been "Oh"!
(2) I'm finally done with winter quarter 2022: Reported the grades and e-mailed feedback to students on a dozen research projects for the course ECE 254B (parallel processing). Celebrated with the kids by having lunch at Santa Barbara's Meet Up Chinese Restaurant, where a robot brought us parts of our order. Now, it will be a few hours of rest, catching up with sleep, dealing with a bloated e-mail in-box, and finishing my tax return!
(3) Ukrainians are using two kinds of weapon against Russia: Conventional military equipment to inflict casualties on the invading forces and cell-phone cameras to document Russia's war crimes in killing/injuring people, and destroying infrastructure, residential buildings, schools, and hospitals. One of the photos shows a mother, who used her body to protect her newborn during an attack, breastfeeding him/her on a hospital bed.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Irish blessing: "May you never forget what is worth remembering, nor ever remember what is best forgotten."
- For Tiramisu lovers: A couple's restaurant in Treviso debuted the dish in the early 1970s.
- Iranian spring-themed music and dance: "Nowruz Waltz" [2-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Mar. 23, 2015: Right to own guns vs. right to be safe from gun violence.
- Facebook memory from Mar. 23, 2012: Tired of "death to" chants, Iranians yearn for "long live" chants.
(5) Book review: Kelleher, John D., Deep Learning, 296-page paperback, and unabridged 7-hour audiobook, read by Joel Richards, Essential Knowledge Series, MIT Press, 2019.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I listened to the audio version of this title, containing an accessible introduction to AI technologies enabling computer vision, speech recognition, machine translation, driverless cars, and many of our other daily conveniences, as a way of familiarizing myself with concepts of deep learning, but then acquired and read the hard-copy paperback edition in order to gain a level of understanding not possible without paying due attention to formulas and diagrams/images.
Computer scientist John Kelleher offers a concise but comprehensive introduction to the fundamental techniques at the heart of the latest surge in artificial intelligence research & development. After reviewing the history of AI and its ups and downs, resulting from successes and disappointments, Kelleher explains that deep learning enables data-driven decisions by identifying and extracting patterns from large datasets. The rise of deep learning was in no small part due to the availability of such large datasets from sources such as healthcare records, climate research, space telescopes, and sensor networks.
Kelleher describes important deep-learning architectures, including autoencoders, recurrent neural networks, and long short-term networks, as well as more-recent developments such as generative adversarial networks and capsule networks. He also covers two fundamental algorithms in deep learning, namely, gradient descent and backpropagation. He ends by discussing possible developmental paths and challenges faced in further advancing deep learning methods and their applications.

2022/03/22 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Dar-ul-Fonun: The museum in Tehran that used to be Iran's first secondary school Woman in a photo of a Ukrainian family shown lying dead on the street identified as Tatiana Perebeinis, 43, a Silicon Valley tech worker Engineering solution to the dearth and high price of parts in Iran resulting from economic sanctions
The state of computing in Europe: Cover feature of CACM, issue of April 2022 Cartoon: Iran is once more rewarded for hostage-taking The Bidens' haft-seen spread at the White House (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Dar-ul-Fonun: The museum in Tehran that used to be Iran's first secondary school. [Top center] Woman in a photo of a Ukrainian family shown lying dead on the street after being hit by Russian mortar fire identified as Tatiana Perebeinis, 43, a Silicon Valley tech worker. [Top right] Engineering solution to the dearth and high price of parts in Iran resulting from economic sanctions. [Bottom left] The state of computing in Europe: Cover feature of CACM, issue of April 2022. [Bottom center] Cartoon of the day: Iran is once more rewarded for hostage-taking. [Bottom right] Culture penetrates better than ballistic missiles or "Death to America" chants: The Bidens' traditional Nowruz haft-seen spread at the White House.
(2) Creative people are problem-finders, not problem-solvers: Our modern world places too much emphasis on problem solving and not enough on problem finding. [Key idea from Warren Berger's A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, which I will review in due course.]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Imagine Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson crying during confirmation & telling us how much she loves beer!
- Republicans diss athletes for not honoring the flag: Does one honor the flag by beating the cops with it?
- Math: What's wrong with this derivation? –1/1 = 1/–1; sqrt(–1/1) = sqrt(1/–1); i/1 = 1/i; i^2 = 1.
- Facebook memory from Mar. 22, 2015: With my departed friend Hamid and his family in Palo Alto, CA.
(4) Facebook memory from Mar. 22, 2014: "A tree can be tempted out of its winter dormancy by a few hours of southerly sun—the readiness to believe in spring is stronger than sleep or sanity." ~ Amy Leach
(5) Facebook memory from Mar. 22, 2011 (little has changed in 11 years): Conservatives and liberals continue to shout and throw mud at each other, making it increasingly difficult for the US to converge on practical solutions to what appears to be a steady decline in economic and social conditions. The latest in this series of political, ethno-class, and generational insults comes from the former Wyoming Senator, Alan Simpson, during a totally unrelated discussion on Social Security, when he berated our younger generation as those who are "listening to the Enema Man and Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dogg."
(6) "Computer Communications in 50 years": This was the title of today's Zoom talk by David Tennenhouse (Strategic Advisor, Researcher, Engineer).
The talk began with a retrospective on communication networks of the past few centuries and how three technical forces (storage, computation, information theory) have driven their evolution. In computing and communications, it is difficult to see 10-20 years ahead, let alone 50 years, but if we want computer communication to change in a big way by 2070, then we need to start sowing the seeds today. The Internet, and its packet-switching technology is now well over 50 years old, which means it's past time to lay the groundwork for its disruption.
My question: Can we talk about where computer communications will be in 50 years without also addressing the question of where computer technology (computing capability) will be in 50 years?
The speaker's answer was that the two questions are definitely related but, then, within the confines of a one-hour talk, one is forced to focus on a limited domain.
My motivation for asking the question was that, in the past, some developments in computing capabilities have increased the need for communication, whereas others have led to distributing the compute load, thus reducing the need for communication bandwidth. This relationship is most visible in sensor networks and IoT, where energy-intensive data transmissions are often avoided by doing redundant local computations requiring less energy or by means of compressed sensing.

2022/03/21 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Badshahi Mosque, Pakistan Calculus notation & conventions Disk of Nataraja: Caught in a moment of his dance, Shiva, the many-limbed figure embodies Hindu ideals of beauty and physical perfection
Cartoon: Marriage proposal in the age of 7-dollar/gallon gas Elementary-school homework in China: Determine the height of the table A segment of Nasser al-Din Shah Qajar's diary, showing the wife he slept with on various nights (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Badshahi Mosque, Pakistan. [Top center] Calculus notation & conventions. [Top right] Disk of Nataraja: Caught in a moment of his dance, Shiva, the many-limbed figure embodies Hindu ideals of beauty and physical perfection. [Bottom left] Cartoon of the day: Marriage proposal in the age of $7+/gallon gas. [Bottom center] Elementary-school homework in China: Determine the height of the table. [Bottom right] A segment of Nasser al-Din Shah Qajar's diary, showing the wife he slept with on various nights.
(2) Putin is afraid of being assassinated: He has poisoned so many people, that it's not hard to see why he is projecting. He has reportedly fired and replaced ~1000 personal attendants for fear of infiltration.
(3) Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife, Olena Zelenska, perform "Endless Love": Wouldn't our world be better off if all leaders told jokes, played music, painted, or generally paid more attention to the arts, instead of being fascinated with weapons and political power?
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Women in sci/tech: Hats off to Lise Meitner (1878-1968), a famous Austrian-Swedish nuclear physicist.
- Persian music: Iran-based Istgah Orchestra performs "Samanoo." [4-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Mar. 21, 2018: Women bringing down misogynistic rulers is poetic justice!
- Facebook memory from Mar. 21, 2014: Love does not hurt; Loneliness, rejection, loss, and envy do!
(5) The historical Muhammad: Discussions on the historical Jesus abound, reaching conflicting verdicts on Jesus, the real person, as opposed to Jesus the legend. This BBC Persian "Pargar" program conducts a similar discussion on how much or how little we know, based on historical evidence, about Muhammad the person.
(6) Comic Omid Djalili: Born to Iranian parents in Britain, Djalili jokes that he is making a film about constipation, but it won't be coming out any time soon! He has polished up his Persian language skills and will be offering a comedy program in Persian for the first time on BBC Persian.
(7) Hindu proverb: "There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong."
(8) Let's make protecting the Persian language against the second Arab invasion a priority: Iran's Islamic Revolution has tried to do what the first Arab invasion of 14 centuries ago couldn't quite accomplish, viz. erasing the Persian cultural heritage and parts of the Persian language from people's lives, replacing it with Islamic rituals and Arabic notions. For example, some clerics maintain that Nowruz is a light-headed tradition with no profound basis (one went as far as saying Nowruz is for cows & donkeys, because the growth of grass gives them more food) and should thus be abolished in favor of Islamic eids (Mab'ath, Ghorban, Fitr). Others, are a bit less extreme and have appropriated Nowruz as an Islamic tradition. A visible symbol of the second approach is reciting an Arabic prayer at the moment of spring equinox (saal tahveel), a practice carried out all the way from the Supreme Leader down to the lowest-level clerics. I was surprised to learn yesterday that a Nowruz greeting message sent by an alumni association of a certain Iranian university to its members contained the said Arabic prayer as its main content (image). Meanwhile the Persian culture thrives outside Iran, as Iranians in diaspora organize major celebrations for Nowruz and other Iranian festivals (see, e.g., yesterday's blog post about Farhang Foundation's celebration of Nowruz at UCLA) and Persian-speaking groups in many different countries incessantly guard our beloved language (video). Of course, I don't like the language police's pronouncement that we should not use any word that isn't pure Persian, but do pledge to guard Persian by avoiding foreign, and particularly Arabic, words/constructs whenever possible and practical.

2022/03/20 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Nowruz and New Year: Four designs My Nowruz poem, celebrating spring 2022 and the Persian New Year 1401 (in Iranian calendar) Farhang Foundation's announcement of its Nowruz program at UCLA's Dickson Court on March 20, 2022
Farhang Foundation's celebration of Nowruz at UCLA: Pages from the program booklet Farhang Foundation's celebration of Nowruz at UCLA: Miscellaneous photos Farhang Foundation's celebration of Nowruz at UCLA: Haft seen and a couple of selfie photos
Farhang Foundation's celebration of Nowruz at UCLA: Family group photos, batch 1 Farhang Foundation's celebration of Nowruz at UCLA: Ava Choir Farhang Foundation's celebration of Nowruz at UCLA: Family group photos, batch 2 (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] Happy Nowruz and Persian New Year! May the year 1401 be infinitely better than the last two years (here's my 2-minute recitation of the poem; see the next item below for a description and translation). [Top right] Farhang Foundation's announcement of its Nowruz program at UCLA's Dickson Court on March 20, 2022. [Middle & Bottom rows] Nowruz festivities at UCLA (see the last item below).
(2) My Nowruz poem: Each year, since 2002, I have composed a traditional Persian poem that celebrates the arrival of spring and its gifts of renewal and hope, challenging myself by having the initial letters of the poem's verses or half-verses spell a cheerful or congratulatory message. Here, Initial letters of the poem's first and second half-verses spell its Persian title, "Nowruz Pirooz," which translates to "Winsome/Triumphant Nowruz." You can read my previous Nowruz poems and a few other pieces on my poetry page.
As was the case for the last two springs, bringing myself to be cheerful wasn't easy this year, given continued challenges from the pandemic, with the outbreak of the senseless war in Ukraine adding to the difficulty. Here is the result for spring 2022 anyway! A rough English translation follows.
Kiss of raindrops, chirps of partridges and starlings     Flowers draping each stretch and every bend
Cheerfulness, dancing, and the strumming of harp     Charm of Nowruz and tranquility of green plains
Noble traditions and principles from our ancestors     Dancing and stomping from the delight of spring
The promise of a year much better than the last     Time for passionate embraces and lasting love
New year's gifts arriving from one direction     Hopes of uniting with the beloved, from another
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Iran confirms targeting a site in Iraqi Kurdistan with missiles, claiming it was a "Zionist conspiracy center."
- "Refocus: The Works of Rakhshan Banietemad": Book forum, Tue., Apr. 12, 2022, 9:00-10:00 AM PDT. [Link]
- Book introduction: Neuroscience and Philosophy, MIT Press, 2022. [More info]
- Math: For the complex number x satisfying 1 + x + x^2 = 0, evaluate x^49 + x^50 + x^51 + x^52 + x^53.
- Persian music: Old-time folk singer Sima Bina performs a Nowruz song.
- Kurdish music: Iranian Kurds celebrate Nowruz in the western city of Kermanshah.
(4) Farhang Foundation's annual Nowruz celebration at UCLA: After a 2-year absence, the annual Nowruz event returned to UCLA's Dickson Court, adjacent to the historic Royce Hall and Powell Library. There were a number of dance performances, music by LA Daf Ensemble, puppet shows and activities for the kids, alongside a traditional haft-seen spread. Food trucks and a tea house served the large crowd. I attended with a group of 12 family members and we dined at Flame Persian Cuisine on Westwood Blvd. after the program.
- Ava Choir, based in Los Angeles, performed a number of spring-themed pieces. [Sample 1] [Sample 2]
- Sample Persian dance performance and an impromptu Kurdish dance, which wasn't part of the program.

2022/03/19 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Celebration and Ceremony: Zoroastrianism and Nowruz, Easter, and Passover: Image 3 Celebration and Ceremony: Zoroastrianism and Nowruz, Easter, and Passover: Image 1 Celebration and Ceremony: Zoroastrianism and Nowruz, Easter, and Passover: Image 4
My haft-seen, prepared for Nowruz Description of the haft-seen tradition Portrait of Putin, made with 5000 bullet casings, by Dariya Marchenko
Math oddities: An infinite sum with a surprising result, and a mysterious set of identities involving 12 integers and their powers As lower- and middle-class families struggle at the gas pump, oil companies earn record profits Factorization diagram for numbers 1-100 (1) Images of the day: [Top row] The traditions of Nowruz, Easter, and Passover (see the next item below). [Middle left & center] Nowruz is around the corner: Here are my haft-seen and a Persian new-year prayer that has been suggested as a proper replacement for the Arabic prayer forced on Iranians for many decades. [Middle right] "The Face of War": Portrait of Putin, made with 5000 bullet casings, by Dariya Marchenko. [Bottom left] Math oddities: An infinite sum with a surprising result, and a mysterious set of identities involving 12 integers and their powers. [Bottom center] As lower- and middle-class families struggle at the gas pump, oil companies earn record profits. [Bottom right] Factorization diagram for numbers 1-100.
(2) "Celebration and Ceremony: Zoroastrianism and Nowruz, Easter, and Passover": This was the title of yesterday's panel discussion, sponsored by Georgetown U. Persian Studies Program, that explored perspectives on religious traditions coinciding with the arrival of spring. Mutual influences of the Nowruz, Passover, and Easter traditions, and their roots in Zoroastrianism, were pointed out by the panelists. For example, there are several Passover rites among Persian Jews, which are influenced by Nowruz traditions and are unique to them. The symbolism of food (lamb, fish, pomegranate, green onion) is another aspect that is shared among religious traditions. Ironically, secularization led to greater divides among the various faiths, which had lived together in peace for many centuries. The three panelists were:
- Dr. Jamsheed Choksy, Distin. Prof., Dept. Central Eurasian Studies, Hamilton Lugar School of Indiana U.
- Dr. Jason Sion Mokhtarian, Assoc. Prof., Dept. Near Eastern Studies, Cornell U.
- Dr. Maria Doerfler, Ass't Prof. of Late Antiquity, Dept. Religious Studies, Yale U.
(3) On Dr. Mohsen Ranani's Persian essay, "Let Us Salute Iran's Wounds": To be honest, I'd love to salute Iran's wounds, but there are so many of them, with new ones being inflicted at an alarming rate, that I just can't keep up! It seems that Dr. Ranani was just awakened from a deep sleep and recognized the power of Iran's women's movement, years after the rest of us spoke and wrote about it. Of course, one might argue that it is better being late to the party than never going. But I can't give him the benefit of doubt, given his body of writings. He has argued that the Iranian young elite should stay in the country rather than leave, not recognizing that unlike older professionals such as him, with jobs, homes, and many other resources, recent graduates do not have the luxury of ignoring material comforts and foregoing personal development in favor of charitable work out of a sense of nationalism, as those in power fill their pockets before emerging from some Western country. Among Dr. Ranani's opinions is that Iran's Islamic government is hopelessly inept, so citizens should go around the government to do good. This anti-government pronouncement is fine on the surface, but it ignores the fact that the said inept government is killing and imprisoning people, an inconvenient truth that cannot be ignored by simply focusing on doing good in spite of government hurdles.
(4) Working on the final instructional task for winter 2022: Assessing a dozen ECE 254B research projects.
- "Modeling of Interconnection Network Reliability"
- "An Overview of Chordal-Ring Networks"
- "Variations on the Fat-Tree Network"
- "Parallel Disjoint Paths in Parallel Processing Networks"
- "Adaptive Routing in Networks"
- "Low- vs. High-Dimensional Mesh Networks"
- "Oblivious Network Routing and Its Limitations"
- "Table-Assisted Routing Algorithm in 2D & 3D Network-on-Chip Architectures"
- "Properties and Applications of Cayley Graphs in Interconnection Networks"
- "The Degree-Diameter Problem in Networks"
- "Revisiting Perfect Difference Networks: Application Prospects from HPC to Manycore Chips"
- "A Comparison of Packaging Characteristics of Novel Hierarchical Interconnection Networks"

2022/03/17 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Nowruzistan: The collection of countries in the Middle East and south-central Asia that celebrate Nowruz Throwback Thursday: Lieutenant Behrooz, during summer military training in the mid 1970s Rock art: Grand piano
Drawing: It has been 180 days since the Taliban banned girls from attending school T-shirt: It's important to have an appropriate quotation for every situation! Emmy Noether: The woman mathematician who changed the face of physics during her short life (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Nowruzistan (see the next item below). [Top center] Throwback Thursday: Lieutenant Behrooz, during summer military training in the mid 1970s. [Top right] Rock art: Grand piano. [Bottom left] It has been 180 days since the Taliban banned girls from attending school. [Bottom center] It's important to have an appropriate quotation for every situation! [Bottom right] Emmy Noether: The woman mathematician who changed the face of physics during her short life.
(2) Nowruzistan: Nowruz, the celebration of spring, isn't just an Iranian thing. People in Afghanistan, India, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and several other countries in the region also observe this ancient festival. If Iran's Islamic regime weren't pursuing an idiotic foreign policy based on suspicion and spite, building up on this shared heritage could have led to regional good will and perhaps even to an EU-like economic coalition.
(3) Prayer for the Persian New Year (humor): Dear God: For the new year, I ask you to give me a fat wallet and a slim figure. But please, please, make sure you don't mix the two up, like you did last year!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- War crimes continue in Ukraine: Mariupol theater, turned into bomb shelter, is destroyed by Russia.
- How Russia's mistakes and Ukranian resistance alterned Putin's war. [Financial Times graphics]
- Saudi Arabia executes 81 in one day in a show of force by an emboldened Mohammad bin Salman.
- Sting operation in Florida for human-traffickers and child-predators nets 108, including 4 Disney employees.
- Nowruz & Persian New Year 1401 will begin at 8:33:26 AM PDT, Sun., Mar. 20, 2022 (7:03:26 PM Iran time).
- View from an oil tanker, as it navigates choppy waters on the Kattegat Bay off the coast of Denmark.
- Proof that a dog has 9 legs (math humor): No dog has 5 legs. A dog has 4 more legs than no dog. QED.
- Iranian/Afghan music: Mahdieh Mohammadkhani and Aryana Sayeed perform "Sarzamin-e Man."
(5) Music at a war-crimes scene: Irina Maniukina, 44-year-old, mother-of-two, Ukrainian pianist performs a final Chopin melody, before leaving her shelled apartment near Kyiv. [2-minute video]
(6) Drama at CNN: Chris Cuomo was fired by CNN for violating rules of journalism in helping his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, build a defense against allegations of sexual misconduct. Now, Chris is suing CNN for $125 million and is trying to drag down another CNN anchor, "brother" Don Lemon, with him.
(7) "Regeneration": This is the title of a free UCSB talk by Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Elizabeth Kolbert, best known for her book, The Sixth Extinction. Her new book, Under a White Sky: The Nature of the Future, takes a hard look at the world we are creating and whether technological solutions are adequate for dealing with the damage humans have caused to the environment. [UCSB, Corwin Pavilion, Mon., Apr. 4, 2022, 7:00-9:00 PM]
(8) Math puzzle: We have a triangle with side lengths x, x + 1, and x + 2. The angles opposite the three sides are b, 2a, and a + b, respectively. Find x.

2022/03/16 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Crude-oil prices hit the highest level since 2008 Gas prices at the pump have surged of late Math puzzle: Shown are two half-circles and a circle inside a quarter circle. What fraction of the quarter-circle's area is shaded?
Russian TV employee holds an anti-war protest sign during a live news broadcast Ketab-e Iqbal Naseri, an illustrated Qajar-era Persian language primer Tonight's IEEE Central Coast Section tech talk by Dr. Tim Sherwood (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] Recent changes in crude-oil & gas prices (see the next item below). [Top right] Math puzzle: Shown are 2 half-circles & a circle inside a quarter circle. What fraction of the quarter-circle's area is shaded? [Bottom left] Russian activist appears with an anti-war protest sign during a live TV news broadcast. [Bottom center] Ketab-e Iqbal Naseri, an illustrated Qajar-era Persian language primer. [Bottom right] Tonight's IEEE Central Coast Section tech talk by Dr. Tim Sherwood (see the last item below).
(2) Crude-oil prices collapse: After climbing to the highest levels since 2008 in early March, prices return to the pre-war levels. We will see whether gas prices, which shot up with the spike, will go back down or profiteering by oil companies will keep them at the current levels.
(3) To cut or maintain academic ties with Russia: Many academic institutions have condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine and some have cut research cooperations. However, cutting ties completely may not be in the cards. Firstly, academic ties persisted through the Cold War. Secondly, penalizing Russia's academics, one of the country's most-moderating forces, may be ill-advised.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Young mathematician Yulia Zdanovskaya was killed on March 8 in Kharkiv during Russia's attack on the city.
- AI applied to drone images helps locate a pebble-sized meteorite that landed in western Australia in 2021.
- Young UCSB ECE faculty member Kerem Camsari wins a grant to build a probabilistic computer.
- US citizen Solmaz Sharif, born in Turkey to Iranian parents, publishes her second book of poems.
(5) IEEE Central Coast Section tech talk: Tonight, in an in-person event with ~25 attendees, held at Rusty's Pizza in Goleta, Dr. Tim Sherwood (UCSB CS) spoke under the title "Temporal Computing: From Machine Learning to Superconducting Logic."
Dr. Sherwood began by reviewing advances in computer technology and the computer industry over the past four decades as a lead-up to asking the question, "Where will computing be in four decades?" This is what university research is all about: laying down the foundations for building cheaper, faster, and more energy-efficient systems, now that existing technologies are struggling to offer continued exponential advances.
With existing digital technologies, signal propagation delay is a hindrance, an extra challenge to be dealt with in order to build faster systems and algorithms. Rather than fight against it, what if we could instead twist this delay into something actually useful, as already done by nature? Over the past several years Dr. Sherwood's labs have been developing a new foundation for computation based entirely on controlled signal delay that operates through the application of simple but powerful temporal operators (similar in spirit to AND, OR, and NOT but operating instead through signal delay alone).
While the idea of computing with time is theoretically interesting, Dr. Sherwood's group has shown it to be also surprisingly efficient in practice. Drawing insights from programming languages, machine learning, circuit design, information theory, cognitive science, and formal methods, Dr. Sherwood described a new energy-efficient method of temporal computation, based on MIN, MAX, INCREMENT, and INHIBIT operations, that appears to both closely match edge- and pulse-based forms of computing and lead to natural application in common learning and classification tasks.
While near term, Dr. Sherwood's group has shown temporal computing to lead to efficient implementations under traditional technologies, their most-recent work has revealed even more opportunities for realizing temporal-coded computations in superconducting logic. The latter extension is joint work between UC Santa Barbara (CS and ECE), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, and National Institute of Standards and Technology.
About the speaker: Dr. Timothy Sherwood (BS, 1998, UC Davis, MS & PhD, 2003, UCSD, all in computer sci. & eng.) is a Professor of Computer Science, an affiliate of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and a member of UCSB's Institute for Energy Efficiency. He specializes in the development of processors exploiting novel technologies or provable properties. In 2013 he co-founded Tortuga Logic to bring rich security analysis to the hardware and embedded system design processes. He is a recipient of UCSB Academic Senate's Teaching and Mentoring Awards, winner of ACM SIGARCH's Maurice Wilkes Award, an ACM Distinguished Scientist, an IEEE Fellow, and co-recipient of 17 different "best paper" or "top pick" article awards.

2022/03/15 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Chaharshanbeh Soori, the Iranian fire-jumping festival: Painting Chaharshanbeh Soori, the Iranian fire-jumping festival: Calligraphy Cover image of 'Tower of Lies': By Barbara Res
A math oddity (top) and a math problem to find the maximum of a + b + c subject to a + 11/b + c/4 = 20 The southeastern city of Mariupol in Ukraine has been almost completely destroyed Math humor: Given 1/infinity = 0, prove 0 = infinity (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] A prelude to Nowruz (see the next item below). [Top right] Review of Tower of Lies (see the last item below). [Bottom left] A math oddity (top) and a math problem to find the maximum of a + b + c subject to a + 11/b + c/4 = 20. [Bottom center] The southeastern city of Mariupol in Ukraine has been destroyed by Russia (Video). [Bottom right] Math humor: Given 1/∞ = 0, prove 0 = ∞.
(2) Happy Chaharshanbeh Soori (fire-jumping festival, a prelude to Nowruz): Tonight, the eve of the Persian calendar year's final Wednesday, 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 of face (a sign of health). This year, celebrations will be more widespread, given curtailed activities over the past couple of years. Anticipating broad public participation, the joyless Iranian regime has desperately indicated that revelers will be arrested for "noise pollution," if they sing aloud or use fireworks. [Persian music: 3-minute song; 1-minute dance]
(3) Georgetown U. Persian Studies Program panel discussion on Nowruz: Entitled "Celebration and Ceremony: Zoroastrianism and Nowruz, Easter, and Passover," the Friday, March 18, 11:00 AM PDT, panel brings together perspectives on religious traditions coinciding with the arrival of spring. [Register]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Daylight Saving Time to become permanent in the US: Senate approves unanimously; House will vote next.
- Russian drone that flew into Poland, a NATO member country, is shut down over Ukraine.
- Russia drops bombs on Kyiv, as European leaders plan to visit Ukraine's capital city. [Chicago Tribune]
- Math puzzle: Find all prime numbers that are of the form n^4 – 24 n^2 + 36.
(5) Women in engineering: Interim Dean Tresa Pollock, the first woman to lead UCSB's College of Engineering, helps observe Women's History Month via a Web page that showcases the College's women faculty members and a number of pioneering women in various engineering disciplines.
(6) Book review: Res, Barbara A., Tower of Lies: What My 18 Years of Working with Donald Trump Reveals about him, unabridged 8-hour audiobook, read by Erin Bennett, Graymalkin Media, 2021.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Barbara Res worked for Trump for nearly two decades, from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s, as construction manager for many of his well-known buildings. Trump often held her up as an example of opportunities he provided to women, but the nasty treatment she got from her boss comes across loud and clear in this book. A natural question, then, is the reason Res tolerated him for so long. She was making good money working for Trump, so her portrayal of him as a cheap, nasty man loses some of its credibility.
Yet, books describing Donald Trump, the person, the businessman, the boss, the president, are remarkably consistent. Res was closer to Trump than all the journalists and politicians who have written about him, closer even that his niece Mary, so her portrayal is much more personal.
The following paragraph is an apt representation of what Res thinks of Trump, some 25 years after she quit working for him, so I use it to end my review.
"I will always have mixed emotions about Donald. Even when he was at his worst in the early days, he was human and even sometimes humane. That version of him has been so thoroughly subsumed—by his yes-men, his ignorance and arrogance, his focus on appearances, his lies and cheating, his desire for credit and avoidance of blame, his disdain for (and manipulation of) the working people of this country, his denigration of anyone who isn't a white Christian male, and his incessant need to attack. It is impossible even to glimpse any of the positive attributes of that earlier Donald."

2022/03/14 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
How to fit an arbitrarily large number of the digits of pi in a small space English-muffin pizzas, with mushroom and black-olive toppings Math puzzle: Find the measure of the pink angle in this diagram with a square and an equilateral triangle
Iranian family's transportation: Safety? Seat belts? What are those? Campaign to find Ebrahim Babaei, who has been missing for 80 days Cover image of Tim Marshall's 'Prisoners of Geography' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Happy pi (3/14) day! The image shows how to fit an arbitrarily large number of the digits of pi in a small space, and this Facebook memory from March 14, 2019, lists some of the ways for computing a large number of digits of pi. [Top center] Speaking of pi, here are my English-muffin pizzas, with mushroom and black-olive toppings. [Top right] Math puzzle: Find the measure of the pink angle in this diagram with a square and an equilateral triangle. [Bottom left] Iranian family's transportation: Safety? Seat belts? What are those? [Bottom center] It has been 80 days since the disappearance of Ebrahim Babaei: His daughter, @ShimaBabaei, is waging a campaign to find this former political prisoner (#EbrahimBabaei). [Bottom right] Tim Marshall's Prisoners of Geography (see the last item below).
(2) Inflation and pandemic-related poverty have led to a significant rise in thefts of manhole covers, light poles, and copper wires in Tehran.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- UN report decries the criminalization of Baha'is in Iran and other Middle-Eastern & North-African countries.
- Black boys were victims of racist assaults at two Santa Barbara junior high schools.
- UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will hold its 66th session, March 14-25, 2022.
- What do you get when you cross a guard dog with a computer? Something whose megabyte megahertz!
(4) Book review: Marshall, Tim, Prisoners of Geography: Ten Maps that Explain Everything about the World, unabridged 9-hour audiobook, read by Scott Brick, Novel Audio, 2016.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Geography determines a country's access to natural resources, energy, and trade routes, and it also dictates vulnerability to military attacks. These factors determine how countries develop, how/why they enter into armed conflicts, and how they establish regional and international ties. Whereas many countries are prisoners of their geography, a few lucky ones, notably the United States, have almost no geographic weaknesses that can be exploited by other countries.
Focusing on ten regions of the world, Marshall outlines how geography has played a key role in historical events and success or failure in trade and cooperation. Like any book focusing on a narrow subject, Prisoners of Geography contains some exaggerations about the impact of geography. For example, technology can help, and has helped, mitigate geographical vulnerabilities or barriers. Marshall argues that in armed conflicts, geography is a determining factor. But this is the case only when war is waged with the aim of invading and occupying a country. Acts of war or espionage to inflict damage are less constrained by geographical barriers, such as rivers or mountains. And this is even more true in the age of cyber-warfare.
In the following, I will summarize Marshall's observations about three of the ten areas covered. I also found the book's coverage of Latin America (the South American continent split lengthwise by the Andes, which make trade difficult), Africa (fairly broken up internally and isolated from the rest of the world), and the Middle East (illogically divided into countries, where people on the opposite sides of a border share much in common) quite interesting.
*Russia: The flatness of European territory leading into Russia has tempted many invaders. However, Russia's vast area and harsh climate has made is impossible for the invaders to control it. Russia's military ports in the Black Sea have very limited access to open waters, and for this access, ships have to go through the Bosporus Strait and a narrow part of the Mediterranean, the entire path surrounded and controlled by NATO countries. One reason Ukraine has been in the news lately is its strategic importance to blocking NATO's influence in areas close to the Russian border.
*China: The vastness of China is a bit misleading. It has huge deserts and a large majority of its population lives near the east coastal region. Yet China's sparsely-populated western and northern parts are important to its security and, more recently, to the establishment of the New Silk Road, connecting China to the rest of the world. China relies on the South China Sea for fishing, energy resources, and trade routes. Unfortunately for China, those routes often go through narrow passageways controlled by other countries. Building artificial islands is one of China's strategies for establishing a military presence in the area and to claim control over sea lanes that comes from owning land.
*Western Europe: The modern world is rooted in Europe, which gave birth to the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. Other than its relatively temperate climate, with good soil and ample rainfall, a key geographic advantage of Western Europe is the presence of many navigable rivers that lead to open waters with natural harbors. As a result, European rivers have led to routes and centers for commerce. Among countries in Europe, the southern ones have less arable land, such as coastal plains (Greece is a good example), a feature that has meant the development of fewer major cities, which attract educated workers to help advance the economy and technology.

2022/03/13 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Atrocities in Ukraine: Russia is systematically destroying the country's infrastructure and residential buildings Screening of documentary film about Simin Behbahani: Flyer Screening of documentary film about Simin Behbahani: Screenshot
Newsweek magazine cover: Europe's new refugee crisis History in pictures: Iran's first restaurant menu from the year 1841 Cover image of IEEE Spectrum magazine: Ready to play foosball against a robotic opponent? (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Atrocities: Russia is systematically destroying Ukraine's infrastructure and residential buildings. [Top center & right] Screening of documentary film about Simin Behbahani (see the last item below). [Bottom left] Europe's new refugee crisis: Can it handle the strain caused by the Ukraine invasion? [Bottom center] History in pictures: Iran's first restaurant menu from the year 1841. [Bottom right] Ready to play foosball against a robotic opponent? IEEE Spectrum magazine's March 2022 issue helps you prepare!
(2) Humorous Persian poetry: Young boy recites a poem about why Iranians go to Heaven after death (because they had been confined to Hell while alive)! [3-minute video]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Kremlin & Iran's state-controlled platforms try to sell Putin's war to Arabic- & Spanish-speaking audiences.
- Blatant lie: Russian Ambassador to Iran claims broad support among Iranians for Putin's war in Ukraine.
- Iranians fear that a sanctioned Russia is obstructing a return to Iran's nuclear agreement with the West.
- Riddle: Why do you think aliens haven't visited our solar system? Could be because of the reviews; one star!
(4) Iran's Ali Khamenei talks at length about Ukraine war, without once mentioning Putin/Russia: He blames "US adventurism" for the conflict, and Friday-Prayers Imams throughout the country repeat the same line.
(5) Screening of "Love at Eighty" and a panel discussion on the film: The wonderful 56-minute documentary is a retrospective of Simin Behbahani's life and poetry. Largely in her own words, using family and period photos, interviews with noted poets and critics, this portrait of "Iran's Lady of Ghazal" traces her poetic development from her family roots, modern poetry movement, and reinventing Ghazal to explore the social, political, cultural, and moral issues of an oppressive and corrupt Iranian society. The film was screened as part of UCLA' Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran, coordinated by Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (Cal State U. Northridge).
Behbahani's claim to fame is the use of classical poetic frameworks, while adapting them to modern language and concepts. In the film, Behbahani (1927-2014) speaks of poets who influenced her work and hints at an intense professional competition with another feminist poet, the beloved Forough Farrokhzad (1934-1967). One influence on Behbahani was Parvin E'tesami (1907-1941), the woman poet who brought the discussion of social problems and women's issues to Persian poetry, and Nima Yooshij (aka Ali Esfandiari, 1897-1960), who transformed Persian poetry by popularizing the free-form "she'r-e now" ("new poetry").
The first panelist, Dr. Houra Yavari (Columbia U.), praised the film's director, Hassan Fayyad, for accurately capturing the life and extensive contributions of Simim Behbahani, who composed some 700 ghazals in 200 different styles, some of them completely new. There is no doubt that Behbahani isn't just a trailblazing woman poet, but an important poet, period!
The second panelist, Dr. Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak (U. Maryland; UCLA), opined that the relatively short film, with its "testimonials" style, though quite enlightening, cannot be considered the final word on Bebahani. A cinematic treatment, by nature, isn't a scholarly study of the full impact of Behbahani. In particular, it does not provide the broad context within which Behbahani's poetry flourished and the many players who helped shape her success.
The third panelist, Dr. Roja Chamankar (poet), described the film as a faithful depiction, within a conventional documentary format (no cinematic tricks or embellishments), of Behbahani's life. The film's narrative is structured like a research paper, a structure that is highly suitable for painting an hour-long picture of 60 years of poetic innovations and impact.
The kinds of subtle disagreements evident from the introductory comments summarized above continued during the Q&A period. One major point of contention was whether there is, or should be, a feminine voice in poetry, which begs the question, "What is a feminine voice?" At one extreme is the matter of showing strong emotions and discussing sexual desires from a woman's viewpoint. At the other extreme is tinting the usual poetic words and forms with feminine perspectives and vocabulary.

2022/03/12 (Saturday): Today's blog post is devoted to the memory of my youngest uncle, Farrokh.
My uncle Farrokh, in his youth, shown holding a big Persian cat My Persian poem in honor of uncle Farrokh Playing chess with my uncle Farrokh in the early 1980s Farrokh Parhami [1939-2022], known to his many nieces and nephews as uncle Farrokh: I won't be able to attend tomorrow's family gathering commemorating my youngest uncle's life, so I have recited my poem and talked about a couple of memories of him in an 8-minute video recording (in Persian).
Born in the small town of Saqqez, Iran, on May 6, 1939 (15 Ordibehesht 1318), uncle Farrokh led a difficult life. As the youngest of my grandparents' 12 children who survived to adulthood, it is fair to say that he did not receive the same attention as his older siblings, perhaps due to the exhaustion of my grandparents' financial resources and energy. Yet he managed to finish college and become a successful high-school teacher. He loved books, and late in life, when he had retired, he tried to make a living in the world of books. He always had a book to recommend to me and the rest of the family. After the Islamic Revolution, he once tried to flea Iran through the border with Pakistan, but got unlucky, was caught, and was put in jail. This experience was quite hard on him and took a toll on his physical and emotional well-being. Eventually, he emigrated to the United States, but life in diaspora wasn't kind to him either. For much of his life, he was physically fit, with his slim and tall figure projecting an image of perfect health. In his final years, however, life's worries and other challenges took a toll, and his health began to deteriorate. His youngest son Payam was his companion and selfless caretaker, until he passed away on March 6, 2022 (15 Esfand 1400), at age 82.
Let me also share two memories from uncle Farrokh that have remained with me, even though I did not see him often over the past four decades or so.
The first memory is from us teaming up and applying to participate in Iran TV's "20 Questions" game show. Upon being selected, we went to the Iran TV studio atop a hill off Pahlavi Ave. at the appointed time. In those days, Iran had just one TV channel. We had not practiced much, but we were confident that with our general knowledge, his specialized knowledge in the natural sciences, and my expertise in math, science, and technology, we would win. I don't remember what prize we were competing for, but our secret object was the bougainvillea flower ("gol-e kaaghazi," in Persian). We went through the standard early questions and, rather quickly, narrowed the choice down to flowers. However, we were unable to name the flower, despite trying hard. Needless to say, we were disappointed. Uncle Farrokh believed that the host had misled us a bit in answering some of our yes-no questions. [Note: According to one of my sisters, the "20 questions" answer was actually The Flower Clock of Shiraz and not as I remember it.]
The second memory is from an outing with my college buddies, with uncle Farrokh also going along. We hiked in the Darband/Pas-Ghal'eh area, stopping to rest and eat in the Twin Falls area after two hours. I spread a blanket on the ground of rocks and dirt, with uncle Farrokh, who was more tired than the rest of us, immediately resting on his back. Moments later, we heard him scream and jump up. Upon inquiring, we found out that his back had been stung by a bee. We helped him take off his shirt and put some ointment on the sting area to ease his pain. I used to kid him constantly after this incident by asking him why he chose the particular spot with the only bee in sight to take a rest! I have other memories of uncle Farrokh. No doubt other family members also have fond memories of him, which they will share. Uncle Farrokh used to visit us often when my family lived in Vanak, a neighborhood in north Tehran. He and I, sometimes accompanied by one or two of my sisters, would walk to a nearby spring, with beautiful natural surroundings, talking about various topics along the way, while also getting some fresh air and exercise.
The first letters of my poem's six half-verses spell the Persian for uncle Farrokh ("amoo Farrokh") in his memory. May his soul rest in peace! [Persian version of the text above]

2022/03/11 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iran capitulates to Russia: Even some cronies of Iran's Islamic regime are complaining about the preferential treatment Russia gets Cartoon: Putin suspecting that he is all alone! Persian calligraphy as part of graphic-art pieces, with the theme of love ('eshgh') and women (1) Images of the day: [Left] Iran capitulates to Russia: Even some cronies of Iran's Islamic regime are complaining about the preferential treatment Russia gets, going as far as suggesting that Russia has infiltrated high places and that historical facts unfavorable to Russia are erased from textbooks. [Center] Cartoon of the day: Putin suspecting that he is all alone! [Right] Persian calligraphy as part of graphic-art pieces, with the theme of love ("eshgh") and women.
(2) War & science: I've received a request to boycott a journal special issue, because one of the guest-editors is Russian. There are also pleas for calm and separating politics from science. I expect to see more discussions of this nature, as well as longer-term impacts from our world's increasing tendency to politicize everything.
(3) #UkraineTakeShelter is a website created by Harvard Student Avi Schiffmann to help Ukrainian refugees find places to stay in neighboring countries. [Story]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- About 9000 Iranians, including ~1500 students, live in Ukraine, and, so far, there is no evacuation plan.
- Borowitz Report (humor): Putin upset to find Ukrainians less obedient than Trump.
- Jailed Iranian human rights activist Sepideh Gholian is gravely ill: UN is urged to intervene to save her life.
- Children growing up in Iran's Qarchak Women's Prison are vulnerable to physical harm and sexual abuse.
- Iranian female futsal players summoned to a disciplinary committee for displaying her "Stop War" T-shirt.
- Companies tweeted for Women's Day: But @PayGapApp exposed their biases, despite lip service to equity.
- UNC Chapel Hill's VC of Research caught plagiarizing his application for a cancer-research federal grant.
- Persian music: Violinist/composer Bijan Mortazavi's "Lullaby for Refugees" [5-minute video]
(5) New life breathed into content-addressable memories (CAMs): Having appeared on the scene alongside the earliest digital computers, CAMs, sometimes called associative memories or AMs, constituted the first instantiation of parallel-processing hardware, as early as the 1950s.
SRAM-based CAM cells use 10 transistors per bit of storage, 6 transistors for the SRAM storage cell and 4 for the comparison logic. Ternary or 3-valued CAM (TCAM) cells need 16 transistors per cell, because they use two SRAM storage cells to hold a 3-valued digit, or trit. Thus, the overhead seems to be high compared with regular DRAM storage cells, which need a single transistor per bit (2 transistors for a trit).
In return for the added complexity, CAMs perform certain simple processing functions within the memory, thus helping to alleviate the von Neumann bottleneck, aka the memory wall. In- or near-memory processing is one of the currently hot research areas in computing for this very reason. CAM applications include facilitation of routing decisions in high-throughput Internet routers and implementation of small, fully-associative caches, including translation lookaside buffers and branch-prediction tables.
Recent work has shown the feasibility of two-transistor TCAM cells based on resistor storage technology. Such TCAM cells provide advantages of lower complexity, lower operating power, and zero standby power due to their non-volatility. There is also the possibility of extending the designs to accommodate more than 3 values, thus further increasing compactness and energy-frugality.
Further reading: Wikipedia entry; Survey/tutorial paper; New RRAM-based TCAM cells

2022/03/10 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Throwback Thursday: A family photo from the mid-1970s and the old Iranian radio program 'Yours Truly UCSB has issued a statement regarding the invasion of Ukraine and has set up support mechanisms for students who have been impacted Young women faculty shine at UCSB CS Summit
When did Albertsons and Vons grocery stores merge? I don't recall hearing the news Survey: Southern California Edison wants to know how satisfied I was with a 2.5-hour power outage 'experience'! I was surprised to see Halle Berry on the s over of AARP Magazine: She is in her 50s. (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Throwback Thursday (see the next item below). [Top center] UCSB on the Ukraine conflict: Our campus has issued a statement regarding the invasion of Ukraine and has set up support mechanisms for students who have been impacted, particulary international students from Ukraine and Russia. [Top right] Young women faculty shine at UCSB CS Summit (see item 3 below). [Bottom left] When did Albertsons and Vons grocery stores merge? I don't recall hearing the news. [Bottom center] Survey: Southern California Edison wants to know how satisfied I was with a 2.5-hour power outage "experience"! How should I respond? [Bottom right] I was surprised to see Halle Berry on the s over of AARP Magazine: She is in her 50s.
(2) Throwback Thursday: (1) My parents (left, with sunglasses, and next to me, in light dress), along with two uncles & their wives, and the wife of a third uncle (center), in a photo from the mid-1970s. (2): "Yours Truly: Johnny Dollar" was the name of a weekly radio program in the 1960s/early-1970s Iran. This 4-minute video contains a semi-serious song about the super-popular program. (3) Facebook memory from Mar. 10, 2018: University of Tehran graduation awards ceremony, 1968. [Photo]
(3) Multidisciplinary research talks by young women faculty at yesterday's UCSB Computer Science Summit.
- Katie Byl (ECE), "Connections Between Reinforcement Learning Alg's & Classical Dynamics Theory ..."
- Jennifer Jacobs (MATP), "Expressive Computation: Integrating Programming and Physical Making"
- Nina Miolane (ECE), "Geometric Learning for Biomedical Shape Analysis"
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Half tank of gas (~9 gallons) today in Santa Barbara: $51
- Apple's pricey new monitor comes with a 1-meter cable. A 1.8-meter (6-foot) cable will cost you $129.
- UCSB Technology Management Program changes name & status to Department of Technology Management.
- Math challenge: Does the equality (–1)^1 = (–1)^2.2 make sense?
(5) Putin's pronouncements resemble those of Islamic Republic of Iran's Supreme Leader: He declared in 2007, 2011, and 2017 that Russia will become one of the world's five largest economies by 2017, 2021, and 2024, respectively! In 2020, Moscow Times reported that becoming one of the world's five largest economies by 2024 is no longer the Russian government's goal.
(6) UCSB takes a stance on bodies external to the faculty trying to dictate what can and cannot be taught: I learned in today's meeting of the Faculty Legislature that Texas is considering a law that would deny tenure to, or retract tenure from, faculty who teach certain "divisive" topics. It isn't clear who would decide that something is divisive. Other states may follow suit.
(7) Selected verses from a 1939 poem by W. H. Auden [1907-1973]:
All I have is a voice     To undo the folded lie,     The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street     And the lie of Authority     Whose buildings grope the sky:    
There is no such thing as the State     And no one exists alone;     Hunger allows no choice    
To the citizen or the police;     We must love one another or die.
(8) Math problem: The digital root of a number is obtained by adding its digits, then adding the digits of the resulting number, and so on, until a single-digit number is obtained. For example, the digital root of 3456 is 9, which is obtained thus: 3 + 4 + 5 + 6 = 18; 1 + 8 = 9. The digital roots of powers of 2 are 1, 2, 4, 8, 7, 5, ... , with the 5-digit pattern repeating. Find the digital roots of negative powers of 2, that is, 0.5, 0. 25, 0.125, 0.0625, ... , and explain the result.

2022/03/09 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB Computer Science Summit: 'Let There Be Code' T-shirts UCSB Computer Science Summit: Venue and program UCSB Computer Science Summit: My beautiful break area at the University Center
Today's nerdy talk about Wordle: Batch 1 of slides Wearing one of my two Ukraine support T-shirts, as I walked home at the end of very busy day on the UCSB campus Today's nerdy talk about Wordle: Batch 2 of slides (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Computer Science Summit at Corwin Pavilion (see the next item below). [Bottom left & right] Today's nerdy talk about Wordle (see the last item below). [Bottom center] Wearing one of my two Ukraine support T-shirts, as I walked home at the end of very busy day on the UCSB campus.
(2) UCSB CS Summit: Between class, an office hour, and a faculty meeting, I attended today's CS Summit, where student capstone projects were on display and research by three interdisciplinary faculty members, all women, was highlighted. I did ABET assessments for two projects ("Smart Grid" sponsored by AgMonitor; "Save Vision", sponsored by Alcon). Free "Let There Be Code" T-shirts were given out. Between program segments, I took a couple of breaks at UCSB University Center in a dining area overlooking the lagoon.
(3) A woman who was way ahead of her time: Iranian feminist poet Tahirih Qurratu'l-Ayn [1817-1852] said in 1852 that she might be killed, but nothing can stop the emancipation of women. [Facebook post]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ukraine's Mariupol civilian casualties surpass 1200 in 9-day Russian siege.
- US inflation rate rose to ~8% in February, and that was before the latest round of war-related price hikes.
- Back to the drawing board: Man who got a genetically-modified pig heart dies after 2 months.
- Cartoon of the day: Make music, not war. [Image]
(5) The puzzling number 195,955,200,000,000: Recently discovered to be the product of 60 and 70^7, the inordinately large number appears on a Sumerian ~650 BCE clay tablet coming from the city of Nineveh.
(6) "Wordle for Nerdles": This was the title of tonight's fun talk by Karl Geiger (kgeiger@ieee.org) in an event sponsored by IEEE Buenaventura Computer Chapter.
Wordle is a single, daily word puzzle by Josh Wardle. Solving it is the classic CS problem of finding a needle in a haystack (of 5-letter words). The number of 5-letter srtings in the English alphabet is 26^5 = 11,881,376, but because Wordle answers are actual English words, the search space has the much smaller size of 12,972. When NYT bought Wordle, it removed some offensive and a few other words, reducing the word list to 12,946.
To solve the puzzle, one suggests a 5-letter string and gets three types of feedback, identifying the letters that are correct and in the correct position (green), letters that exist in the word but are not in the correct position (yellow), and letters that do not appear in the answer word (gray). With each feedback, the player suggests another 5-letter string, until s/he guesses the correct word (five green responses). The game is very similar to the old game named "Mastermind."
In the English language, the most-frequently used letters are, in order, ETAOIN SHRDLU, so offering strings composed of these letters tends to maximize the number of correctly-guessed letters. Tables of frequencies of letters in the first, second, ... , positions are available, which help with constructing good guesses. Instead of using all English words to derive the frequencies, one can use letter frequencies in the answers to previous puzzles, which yields somewhat different results.
Wordle's code comes self-contained in a single Javascript file, which contains every possible answer. The daily answer is chosen serially from the answers list and doesn't repeat, at least until the list runs out. The only legit English word that was missed by the dictionary makers is "anons." During today's talk, Mr. Geiger presented ideas on using Unix/Linux string-handling tools to explore Wordle and derive winning strategies.

2022/03/08 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy International Women's Day: Four memes (1) Happy International Women's Day (IWD): A single day of the year isn't enough for educational activities to topple the world's patriarchal order, but it might be a good starting point. Let us pledge to work toward full gender equality and human rights for everyone throughout the year, redoubling our efforts now that women's rights are again under assault in many backward and so-called advanced countries of the world.
- The Paris-based Bahar Choir offers a wonderful musical piece in celebration of IWD.
- My 2019 Persian poem honoring both Nowruz and IWD [Image & description] [Video recitation]
(2) Newsworthy tweets on the occasion of International Women's Day (March 8).
- Dr. Jill Biden: Message to our sisters in Ukraine and Russia. [Tweet]
- Amnesty International: Afghan women have come a long way. [Tweet]
- Reuters: Turkish riot police clashed with women marking IWD. [Tweet]
- NYT: Ukrainian refugees were greeted by volunteers on IWD. [Tweet]
- Nick Sotoudeh: To all brave women of Iran on #IWD2022. [Tweet]
- Maya Angelou: You may write me down in history ... But still, like dust, I rise. [Tweet]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Women's rights movement in the United States: A brief history (by A. K. Shulman & H. Moore)
- Women's rights movement in the Iran: A brief history (by Dr. Nayereh Tohidi)
- On the origins of the word "woman." [FB memory from 2019]
- Setting of injustice or the dawn of freedom? [FB memory from 2018]
- How Trump inadvertently created more support for women's rights among men. [FB memory from 2017]
- On celebrating IWD's 111th year in 2022. [FB memory from 2015]
- Eight years ago, my ex-wife passed away one day before IWD. [FB memory from 2014]
- On us becoming more aware than ever of our built-in prejudices. [FB memory from 2013]
(4) Final thought for the day: "On the eve of International Women's Day, the Center for Human Rights in Iran celebrates women everywhere who are at the vanguard of the struggle for human rights despite crushing adversity. In Iran, courageous women, including lawyers, activists, journalists, and mothers of the victims of state violence, are demanding justice, freedom, equality, and basic civil liberties for all Iranians, despite facing systemic human rights abuses and discrimination." [Source]

2022/03/07 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Facebook memory from March 7, 2019: Lightning strikes in Santa Barbara Today's tech talk by Dr. Najme Ebrahimi (U. Florida) Meme: Customer disservice
Find the area of the center triangle in terms of A Math puzzle: A square is partitioned into four rectangles of equal area. Order the rectangles by the lengths of their perimeters Find the area of the center triangle in terms of A: Puzzle 1 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Facebook memory from March 7, 2019: Lightning strikes in Santa Barbara. [Top center] Today's tech talk by Dr. Najme Ebrahimi (see the next item below). [Top right] Customer disservice (see the last item below). [Bottom left & right] Two math puzzles: Find the area of the center triangle in terms of A (credit: #mathiratti). [Bottom center] Math puzzle: A square is partitioned into four rectangles of equal area. Order the four rectangles by the lengths of their perimeters, from smallest to largest.
(2) "Next Generation Intelligent and Secured Wireless World: From IoT and Sensors to Wideband and Multi-bands Scalable Circuit & System": This was the title of a UCSB faculty recruitment talk by Dr. Najme Ebrahimi (U. Florida), who presented novel methods to overcome the challenges for future wideband scalable high data-rate MMW transceiver arrays, from silicon-device-centric circuits to radio-frequency integrated circuits and packaging. She also discussed future directions in the field and a variety of circuit designs for overcoming various challenges in extending the state of the art.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Eyewitnesses contradict Russia's claims that it bombs only military targets in Ukraine. [14-minute video]
- Death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic, as we enter its third year: World ~ 6 million; US ~ 1 million
- Voices of Women for Change commemorated the International Women's Day with an awards ceremony.
- Cancel the war: A young girl sings, asking grown-ups about why children have to suffer in senseless wars.
- A persian poem by Hossein Monzavi: This 2-minute video also describes a folk tale that inspired it.
- Screening of Simin Behbahani's "Love at Eighty": Sunday, March 13, 2022, 11:30 AM PDT (Register).
(4) Cal State University's dirty laundry aired: Following an expose by USA Today, CSU's Board of Trustees revised a key policy and initiated an external review of Cal State Fresno's mishandling of sexual harassment complaints, including letting a senior administrator off the hook in a back-room deal.
(5) Customer disservice: I have had a terrible experience switching my family's cell phone provider from Verizon Wireless to Consumer Cellular. A couple of my neighbors recommended CC highly and praised their US-based customer service. I have already spent multiple hours waiting, during several calls, to accomplish the switchover (the on-line chat service didn't work or had similar wait times).
The problem started with trying to get SIM cards from the new provider's reps at a nearby store. They didn't have any in stock and were not expecting to get new supplies in the near future, blaming supply-chain problems. So, we tried ordering on-line and got our SIM cards a few days later.
The long phone wait times, both at the new provider and at the old one (which I contacted to resolve some residual problems) were blamed on "high demand," given the discontinuation of 3G service and many customers needing help in changing their phones. This reason seems legit on the surface, but why didn't the carriers anticipate the difficulties and either increase support staffing or delay service discontinuation until they had worked out the potential problems? Haven't they heard of planning?
The cherry on top was the mixing up of our phone numbers, because they had not labeled the SIM cards with the associated phone numbers upon shipping.

2022/03/06 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB Middle East Ensemble in concert, and haft-seen spread at the entrance to the theater UCSB Middle East Ensemble: Cover of the March 5, 2022, concert booklet UCSB Middle East Ensemble: Dance troupe
Cover image of Kathleen Fitzpatrick's 'Planned Obsolescence' Cover image of Patrick Grim's audio-cours 'Questions of Value' Cover image of Malcolm Gladwell's 'What the Dog Saw' (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Last night's UCSB Middle East Ensemble concert (see the next item below). [Bottom row] Reviews of two books and an audio-course (see items 4-6 below).
(2) In celebration of Nowruz, spring, & the Persian New Year, two weeks ahead of time: Last night, I attended an enjoyable 3.5-hour concert by UCSB Middle East Ensemble, with several guest artists performing Persian songs, alongside spring-themed pieces in Arabic and Turkish. Brief samples of several musical pieces follow.
- Persian music: "Nowruz Aamad" ("New Year's Day Has Come") [1-minute video]
- Turkish/Azeri music: "Bayram Gelip" ("Here Comes the Eid") [2-minute video]
- Arabic song & dance [1-minute video]
- Persian music: "Nowruz Aamad" ("New Year's Day Has Come") [1-minute video]
- Dance from the Bukhara region of Uzbekistan [1-minute video]
- Persian music: "Aamad Nobahaar" ("The New Spring Has Come") [2-minute video]
- Persian music: "Emshab Shab-e Mahtaabeh" ("Tonight is a Moonlit Night") [2-minute video]
- The concert's finale: A Persian-Turkish song based on a Sa'adi poem [3-minute video]
- Some of the Persian songs performed by UCSB Middle East Ensemble and its guest artists [Lyrics]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The US won't be sending soldiers to confront Putin, but Microsoft is battling Russian hackers in Ukraine.
- Facebook memory from Mar. 5, 2015: A Persian verse by Mowlavi (Rumi).
- Facebook memory from Mar. 5, 2014: The French have just one egg for breakfast, because that's un oeuf.
- Facebook memory from Mar. 6, 2018: Photos of my remote Skype talk's audience at Razi U. of Kermanshah.
- Facebook memory from Mar. 6, 2013: How digital media have made lying significantly harder.
- Facebook memory from Mar. 6, 2011: Overrated films that won best-picture Oscars, versus better choices.
(4) Book review: Fitzpatrick, Kathleen, Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy, New York U. Press, 2011. [Written on March 5, 2012, and posted to GoodReads yesterday.]
(5) Audio-course review: Grim, Patrick (SUNY Stony Brook), "Questions of Value," 24 lectures on 12 CDs, The Teaching Company, 2005. [Written on March 5, 2014, and posted to Goodreads yesterday.]
(6) Book review: Gladwell, Malcolm, What the Dog Saw, and Other Adventures, unabridged audiobook on 10 CDs, read by the author, Hachette Audio, 2009. [Written on March 6, 2014, and posted to GoodReads today.]
(7) Discussion on the Ukraine invasion: Yesterday morning, as part of the Fanni'68 group of graduates of Tehran University's College of Engineering, Mr. Mohammad Amini led a timely discussion on the latest developments in Ukraine. The discussion was simultaneously covered on Clubhouse. I decided to participate, even though I have been saturated with Ukraine news over the past week!
One theme was that the new world order does not allow smaller countries to be politically and economically independent, being forced to choose powerful international allies. For example, Iran, having been alienated from its former close ally, the United States, and having tried, with little success, to remain unaligned, has recently placed itself in the orbits of China and Russia.
It appears that Ukraine is suffering the consequences of the perennial "warm war" between the US (NATO) and Russia, which harbors some of the same ambitions as those of USSR. Hints that Ukraine might join NATO and the prospects of Russia's border with NATO allies expanding, was a key reason for Putin deciding to act, although, as pointed out by a participant, Russia's adventures in Georgia and Syria cannot be blamed on the NATO threat.
Mr. Amini stated on a couple of occasions that the world order needs a serious revision, because the post-World-War-II order no longer applies to our transformed world. I commented that talk about devising a new world order is wishy washy. Which mechanism would help set up the new order? The UN has proven ineffective, as it is distrusted by both major world powers and smaller nations. Would major world powers give up their veto power in UN's Security Council?
A couple of "conspiracy theories" were also raised about Putin being prodded by the West into doing something crazy, in order to help consolidate NATO's power and scare European countries into joining or contributing more (or, alternatively, to shut Russia out of the world oil and gas markets). Another non-traditional view was the need to hold the Ukrainian leadership more accountable for ridiculing Putin & Russia and, later, not doing enough to prevent the invasion.

2022/03/04 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Colorful symmetry: Bolo Hauz mosque, Bukhara, Uzbekistan Beautiful architecture and tile design: Sheikh Lotf-Allah Mosque, Isfahan, Iran Persian carpet at the Carpet Museum of Tehran, IranPersian carpet at the Carpet Museum of Tehran, Iran
The Ukraine invasion: Newsweek magazine's cover image The Ukraine invasion: Time magazine's cover image Cover image for Garry Kasparov's 2015 book, 'Winter Is Coming' (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Colorful symmetry (left to right): Bolo Hauz mosque, Bukhara, Uzbekistan; Sheikh Lotf-Allah Mosque, Isfahan, Iran; A magnificent Persian carpet at the Carpet Museum of Tehran, Iran. [Bottom left & center] Well, of course Russia's invasion of Ukraine is on all the magazine covers this week! [Bottom right] Garry Kasparov's 2015 book (see the next item below).
(2) Garry Kasparov on Putin: In his prophetic 2015 book, Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped, the former world chess champion maintained that the collapse of the Soviet Union changed very little and that USSR's ambition for world domination persists in Russia. He also predicted the invasion of Ukraine and urged the West to challenge Putin before he became too powerful to stop. Much of Kasparov's commentary is spot on, but his assertion that the West created Putin by its inaction lets the Russian people off the hook too easily. The book has been enjoying brisk sales over the past week.
(3) Proof that the earth can be both 3-dimensional and flat (Math humor): x^3 = x^2 + x^2 + ... + x^2 (x terms). Differentiate both sides to get 3x^2 = 2x + 2x + ... + 2x (x terms) = 2x^2. Therefore, 3 = 2.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- War crime: The Russian army attacks Europe's largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine and sets it on fire.
- Ukrainian Holocaust survivors are filmed in a bomb-shelter, cursing Putin and demanding peace.
- Residents of Borodyanka, near Kyiv, repelled a Russian assault on their town, but at a very high cost.
- Anti-war protests intensify in Russia, as do arrests and police brutality.
- Russians believe their government's fake news, but doubt reports of sufferings coming from Ukraine.
- Ukraine invasion's strong impact on academic ties and on Russian & Ukrainian students in the US.
- Faster than the speed of light (humor): E = mC^2 and E = (1/2)mV^2 lead to V = sqrt(2)C ~ 1.41C.
- Thomas Jefferson: "In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock."
(5) New Russian law threatens journalists and others who contradict the government's official reports on the Ukraine invasion with 15-year jail term.
(6) "Recent Progress on Binary Deletion-Correcting Codes": This was the title of today's UCSB tech talk by Dr. Venkatesan Guruswami (UC Berkeley). Much of the throery of error codes deals with bit-reversal errors (substitution errors, for non-binary codes). Work has also been done on erasure errors, where bits or symbols are replaced with indeterminate values, denoted by question marks in writings about codes. The fact that locations of the "erased" bits/symbols are known facilitates the correction process. With deletion errors, bits/symbols are dropped, yielding a shorter received string than the one sent, with locations of the deletions unknown. It is also possible to include both insertion and deletion (insdel) errors, which can be used to deal with a substitution error as one insertion and one deletion.
Design of deletion-correcting codes is more challenging than erasure-correcting codes. Three categories of methods have been pursued, corresponding to a small, fixed number of errors (e.g., single or double deletion errors), a small fraction of errors (say, 1% or 2%; this category is of greater practical interest), and an arbitrarily large fraction of errors (say, 25% or 30%). In all cases, the length of the original (correct) string is known, so the number of deletion errors is also known. Thus, deletion error-detecting codes are senseless. After the introduction of single-deletion-correcting codes in the 1960s, many basic questions about such codes remained open. Over the past 6-7 years, significant progress has been made in all three categories cited above.

2022/03/03 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB College of Engineering celebrates Women's History Month by showcasing its women faculty members Voices of Women for Change commemorates the International Women's Day two days early (on March 6) Thorwback Thursday: UCSB West Campus faculty housing complex, under construction in 1986
Cover image of Richard Feynman's 'Six Easy Pieces' Math humor: The calculus of dairy products Math puzzle: Order the three areas A (green), B (white), and C (blue) from smallest to largest. (1) Images of the day: [Top left] UCSB College of Engineering showcases its women faculty members during Women's History Month. [Top center] Voices of Women for Change salutes the Int'l Women's Day: An awards ceremony will honor Iranian women's achievements in diaspora in music, art, literature, and women's rights, Sun., Mar. 6, 2022, 11:00 AM PST. [Top right] Throwback Thursday: UCSB West Campus faculty housing, under construction in 1986. I have lived in one of these units since Oct. 1988. [Bottom left] Richard Feynman's Six Easy Pieces (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Math humor: The calculus of dairy products. [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Order the three areas A (green), B (white), and C (blue) from smallest to largest.
(2) Book review: Feynman, Richard, Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by its Most Brilliant Teacher, Helix Books, 1994. I wrote this review on March 3, 2013, posting it to GoodReads on March 3, 2022. [My 5-star review of the book on GoodReads]
(3) Here is a Persian translation of Yuval Noah Harari's opinion piece in The Guardian, asserting that Putin has already lost the Ukrainian war. [The original article, in English]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trump's advice to Putin (Borowitz Report, humor): All he needs to say is, 'Frankly, we did win this invasion.'
- Russia's casualties mount in Ukraine: Some 500 deaths and 1600 injuries are reported by Russia.
- Many Russian soldiers are surrendering to get food or avoid being killed/captured in Ukraine.
- Captured Russian soldier, one of the many teens in the invading force, is fed & allowed to video-call his mom.
- Shame on Russia for deliberately shelling residential blocks in several Ukrainian cities.
- Iranian artists dedicated this song to the Ukrainian people. [Credits at the start of this 4-minute video]
(5) Russian oligarchs are quickly selling their assets, before they are frozen or impounded: The most notable example of such assets is Roma Abramovich's Chelsea Soccer Club, which is now on the market.
(6) Global sports bodies and a number of countries are banning Russian athletes: I can't bring myself to support this politicization of sports, especially after repeatedly condemning Iran for punishing athletes and sports teams that compete against the Israelis.
(7) Iran walks on eggshells in covering the Ukraine war: Instead of "invasion," state-controlled Iranian media use Putin's preferred term, "special operations"! Because of Western sanctions, Iran has become highly dependent on Russia (and China), so it dare not criticize the toxically masculine guy with nukes.
(8) Vladimir Putin is following in the footsteps of Saddam Hussein: In 1980, Hussein invaded Iran under the guise of liberating the Arabic-speaking population of Khuzestan and helping them form the independent state of Arabistan. In 1990, he invaded Kuwait, which he claimed to be a province of Iraq taken away by the British, miscalculating that the West, wary of the legacy of Vietnam, would not intervene. Does a fate similar to Hussein's await Putin? [Opinion piece by Gilbert Achcar, in The New Arab]
(9) Final thought for the day: There are a couple of things wrong with this 3-minute video clip. First is the presence of the black-faced Haji Firooz, a symbol of Nowruz, but also a racist trope IMHO. Rather than repeat what I have written about this issue at length, I will just provide links to my previous posts (English, Persian). The second issue is that even the woman character is operated by a man. If women can dance in public as carnival puppets, then why not let a woman operate the puppet, instead of a bearded man?

2022/03/01 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A salute to women at the beginning of Women's History Month For the first time in history, two women flank the US President during the State of the Union Address Cover image of Mary L. Trump's 'The Reckoning'
Olena Zelensky, the writer/architect wife of Ukraine's president, tweets about being a target of Putin Map: Russian oligarchs love NYC's Central Park A tale of two presidents under fire: Ukraine's Zelensky and Afghanistan's Ghani (1) Images of the day: [Top left] A salute to women at the beginning of Women's History Month: March 8 is International Women's Day. [Top center] An apt beginning to Women's History Month: For the first time in history, two women flank the US President during the State of the Union Address. [Top right] Mary L. Trump's The Reckoning (see the last item below). [Bottom left] Olena Zelensky, the writer/architect wife of Ukraine's president, tweets about being a target of Putin. [Bottom center] Russian oligarchs love NYC's Central Park. [Bottom right] A tale of two presidents under fire: Ukraine's Zelensky and Afghanistan's Ghani.
(2) #EbrahimBabaei was kidnapped more than two months ago: He had been imprisoned, tortured, and flogged earlier for his political views and for supporting his dissident daughter.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Trumpism has now transformed into Putinism among most Republicans!
- Thousands of Russian scientists sign an anti-war open letter.
- Biden bans Russian airplanes from US airspace and warns oligarchs about seizure of their assets. [AFP]
- Persian music: Played wonderfully on piano and tar. [1-minute video]
(4) Ukraine could become another Afghanistan for Russia: Even if Russia wins its battles and the current Ukrainian government falls, insurgencies, fueled by a deepening hatred of Russia, may haunt a Russian-backed puppet regime for years. In an opinion piece for The Guardian, best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari argues that Putin has already lost the war, regardless of the military outcome. Despite Putin's claims, Ukrainians do not yearn for Moscow's rule. Kyiv was already a major metropolis when Moscow wasn't even a village.
(5) Book review: Trump, Mary L., The Reckoning: Our Nation's Trauma and Finding a Way to Heal, unabridged 6-hour audiobook, read by the author, Macmillan Audio, 2021. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I read and reviewed Too Much and Never Enough, Mary Trump's previous book about her uncle Donald, in mid-2020. My 4-star review on GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3483101221 The just-mentioned first book, which sold more than one million copies in a week, can be summarized by the following paragraph from my review: "... 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."
Her second book is less about Donald Trump and more of a memoir. It is better-written and more insightful. Mary Trump has a PhD in clinical psychology. The author's disdain for her uncle still comes across loud and clear, including an assertion that he grew up racist and anti-Semite, in a home where the N-word was commonly used, but rather than dwell on the Trump presidency, she stresses the fact that "we are heading toward an even darker period in our nation's history." Hence, the part of her subtitle "Finding a Way to Heal."
Mary Trump embraces "The 1619 project" (while leveling criticism at some of its claims), the idea of reparations to Black Americans, the need for policing reforms, and the urgency of investing to fix our run-down schools. While acknowledging that we have come a long way from where we stood less than a century ago, she maintains that it is still hard to grow up white in America and not be racist. The latter point may be somewhat of an exaggeration, but it isn't far off the mark.

2022/02/28 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Ukraine map showing areas invaded by Russia Image of Putin, with the Peace Dove crapping on his helmet Map of Ukraine and surrounding countries, drawn for Putin.
Today, at UCSB: Photos shot around the Library Plaza and Harold Frank Hall: Batch 1 Today, at UCSB: Photos shot around the Library Plaza and Harold Frank Hall: Batch 2 Today, at UCSB: Photos shot around the Library Plaza and Harold Frank Hall: Batch 3 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Europe deserves peace, but so does the rest of the world: The war in Ukraine has activated alarm bells and sent everyone scrambling for peace. European suffering generates a level of empathy that war's devastations and dislocations in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, or Latin America never did. [Top center & right] Putin becomes the butt of jokes, such as this one from Iran: I hope Putin does not find out that his last name means "boot" in Persian. He's in a bad mood right now, so no telling what trouble he will cause for us! [Bottom row] Today, at UCSB: Photos shot around the Library Plaza and Harold Frank Hall, aka Engineering 1 Building, mostly to showcase the deep blue skies.
(2) The vulnerability of the US electric grid: In 2013, the most-sophisticated attack against the US electric grid occurred south of San Jose, California. A frightening vulnerability is that the entire US grid can be brought down by taking out as few as 9 of its 55,000 substations. [13-minute CBS "60 Minutes" report]
(3) IEEE Central Coast Section talk: Dr. Tim Sherwood (UCSB) will speak under the title "Temporal Computing: From Machine Learning to Superconducting Logic," on Wed., March 16, 2022, 6:00 PM PDT. [Register for free]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ukrainian couple marry under fire, then take up arms and join the defense forces to fight off Russians.
- Tribute to Ukraine: This week's SNL program began with a musical piece by NY's Ukrainian Chorus Dumka.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleads for fast-tracking of his country's membership in the EU.
- Ukrainian soldier blows himself up to destroy a bridge and slow down Russian tanks advancing from Crimea.
- Even if the current Ukrainian government falls, insurgencies may haunt a puppet regime for years.
- Russia-backed leader of Belarus warns of the danger of WW III, as he prepares troops for helping Putin.
- Belarus reverses its non-nuclear & neutral status, allowing Russia to place nuclear weapons on its territory.
- Tracking of private jets belonging to Russian oligarchs shows that they may be on the run.
- FIFA and UEFA suspend Russia's national teams & clubs from world soccer "until further notice."
- Ernest Hemingway: "Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime."
(5) Forensic linguistics: People and languages have very specific signatures when you analyze the distribution of triples-of-letters in texts. You can use chunks of 2, 4, 5, or 6 letters as well, but use of 3-letter chunks has proven highly successful. Recently, this method was used to identify the language of a text (e.g., English or French) with near-certainty. Another success story in this area is the fingering of a South-African and an American as being behind QAnon posts.
(6) A call to action on computing ethics: Writing in the March 2022 issue of Communications of the ACM, Ronald M. Baecker cites excellent reasons why we should place greater focus on ethics in computing. "We depend upon software that nobody totally understands. We are vulnerable to cyberterrorism. Privacy is overrun by surveillance capitalism. Totalitarian control advances. Daily Internet news matching our beliefs makes it difficult to tell true from false. People are addicted to devices. Jobs disappear without social safety nets. Digital leviathans threaten to control all commerce. Our values are threatened."
(7) UCSB sociology professor writes on the January 6 insurrection: Published in International Marxist-Humanist Organization Journal, January 2022, Kevin B. Anderson's "The January 6 Insurrection: Historical and Global Contexts" draws parallels with the mob attack of 160 years ago (February 13, 1861) to disrupt the counting of the electoral certificates confirming Abraham Lincoln's election. The article ends thus: "All three of these developments [rise of neofascism, efforts at voter suppression, and vote-tally manipulation at the state level] are racialized, both directly and indirectly. This is what ties Trumpism to the 1861 pro-slavery mob that attempted to overturn Lincoln's election. ... Thus, we need to recognize, on the one hand, the deep racism of U.S. society over the centuries and its connection to rural areas, while at the same time viewing those areas ... as potential sites of resistance to Trumpism. A truly dialectical analysis requires nothing less."

2022/02/27 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Heartbreaking images from the war in Ukraine An example hypergraph with 7 vertices and 4 edges UCLA-sponsored panel discussion on the plight of black Iranians (1) Images of the day: [Left] The war in Ukraine (see the next item below). [Center] An example hypergraph (see item 3 below). [Right] Panel discussion on the plight of black Iranians (see the last item below).
(2) The horrors of war: Those who have never been in a war zone are unlikely to understand what it feels like to hear the roar of fighter jets flying overhead, to be shaken by sounds of explosion coming from all directions, and to witness people fleeing their homes with a handbag worth of belongings. My heart goes out to Ukrainians and to Russian soldiers sent on a mission they likely do not believe in.
(3) Graph problems can be hard, but hypergraph problems are often much harder: A graph consists of a set of vertices and a set of edges, each of which connects two vertices. In a hypergraph, an edge can connect an arbitrary set of vertices, not just two (see the example diagram, with 7 vertices, V1-V7, and 4 edges, e1-e4).
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- David vs. Goliath: The Ukrainians are putting up a surprisingly strong defense against the Russian army.
- Verified charities working to help the Ukrainians suffering from the Russian invasion. [Link]
- Facebook memory from Feb. 26, 2018: The cast of Harry Potter film series, before the start of shooting.
- Facebook memory from Feb. 26, 2018: Variations of the word "love" in Persian calligraphy.
- Facebook memory from Feb. 26, 2017: My Persian poem for the 25th anniversary of my dad's passing.
- Facebook memory from Feb. 26, 2015: Polanyi Paradox, about our knowledge of what we know.
- Facebook memory from Feb. 27, 2015: A couple of wonderful verses from Mowlavi (Rumi).
(5) Mining free energy from the air for our electronic devices: Regardless of our location on Earth, we are surrounded by signals (Wi-Fi, cellular, RF). If we succeed in making our devices ultra-low-power so that they can communicate by reflecting the ambient signals present in the environment, instead of generating their own signals, batteries and a great deal of other cost and complexity factors will disappear.
(6) Thoughts on a good publishing strategy in the face of a multitude of choices and the effects of luck (randomness): In this CACM blog, some of my assertions in the paper "Low Acceptance Rate of Conference Papers Considered Harmful" (PDF) are confirmed within the context of a publication strategy for academics that balances exposure and impact.
(7) War is peace: Talking heads on TV insist that Russia's invasion of Ukraine is the first time since WW II that a country has violated another one's borders. Really? Afghanistan & Iraq don't count? I realize that, in the case of Afghanistan, circumstances were different, but, still, pretending that Russia is the first violator is delusional!
(8) UCLA Bilingual Lectures on Iran: Today's installment of this lecture series, which is an outreach program of UCLA's Center for Near Eastern Studies, was entitled "A Talk with the Collective for Black Iranians: On the Importance of Centering Erased Black and Afro Iranian Histories from Iran and the Diaspora." The Collective was founded out of the necessity to be seen, heard, and understood.
After the introduction of the program and participants by Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (Cal State U. Northridge), the panelists, founding members of the Collective, Priscilla Kounkou-Hoveyda & Alex Eskandarkhah, resident artist Pegah Bahadori, and resident historian Beeta Baghoolizadeh, alternated in expressing their views in Persian & English. Coinciding with the final days of the Black History Month in the US, this was a welcome discussion to raise the awareness of Iranians of a hidden part of their culture and history.
Many Iranians are surprised to learn that there exist black fellow-Iranians. Iranians do discuss race and ethnicity, but blackness is completely foreign to them. Even some black Iranians didn't have an understanding of why their skin color was black. It is hard to believe that within learned and intellectual groups, the legacy of slavery in Iran isn't acknowledged. For example, we view and admire Qajar-era art, without ever mentioning the presence of slaves in the images.
One of the goals of the Collective, and its outreach efforts such as today's presentation, is to make information about black Iranians and blackness available in Persian. Participating panel members told stories of their personal experiences and also shared other stories in words, images, and video clips. These images and videos are available on the Collective's website. [Recording of the event]

2022/02/25 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The invasion of Ukraine from the viewpoint of a Russian professional working in the US Different crime scenes (Syria, Ukraine), same criminal. New Yorker cartoon: The bird that shops at Costco (1) Images of the day: [Left] The invasion of Ukraine from the viewpoint of a US-based Russian professional. [Center] Different crime scenes, same criminal. [Right] New Yorker cartoon: The bird that shops at Costco.
(2) Here's an interesting question for you: Double letters are used in many languages. English examples include "book" and "dinner." Does any language use triple letters in words?
(3) The 5-day US work week is on its way out: For knowledge-economy workers, the normal 9-to-5 days at the office won't be coming back. Employees are starting to like working from home and are getting better at it. Over the next decade, US workers are expected to spend 25% of their time working from home. This trend will have significant ramifications for businesses and cities. Demand for office space is falling, but not by much. Fewer hours at the office will not lead to the requirement for less space, if all workers must show up at the office on certain weekdays. The most-popular model of hybrid work has employees at the office Tuesday through Thursday and out of the office Friday through Monday. This creates flexibility for travel, while continuing to work. One complication is the envy of those who don't have the luxury of working from home. Many such workers have the option of working longer hours for 4 days per week.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Massive anti-war protests across Russia lead to hundreds of arrests.
- Poland starts taking in fleeing Ukrainian: The Russian invasion could produce 5 million refugees.
- The Russian dictator is fighting against Ukrainians and against anti-war Russians. [St. Petersburg protests]
- Harsh sanctions against Russia could jeopardize safe operation of the International Space Station.
- History-making black woman: Judge Ketanju Brown Jackson nominated to serve on the US Supreme Court.
- USSR in Iran, 1941: Flyers dropped from airplanes in northern Iran to justify the Red Army's invasion.
- Linguistic detectives find clues on who is behind QAnon: A South-African and an American are fingered.
- The engineering culture repels or marginalizes women and other underrepresented minorities.
- A computer-generated 1-minute tour through the Academy Awards.
- Persian-Azeri music: Alim Qasimov & Alireza Ghorbani perform a song based on a Mowlavi (Rumi) poem.
(5) Quote of the day: "The biggest problem that computing faces today is not that AI technology is unethical—though machine bias is a serious issue—but that AI technology is used by large and powerful corporations to support a business model that is, arguably, unethical." ~ Moshe Vardi, in his March 2022 CACM column
(6) "AI at the Edge: Nanotechnology-Inspired Artificial Intelligence Hardware": This was the title of today's UCSB ECE faculty-recruitment talk by PhD candidate Haitong Li (Stanford U.).
Ubiquitous AI promises to empower broad applications, from health-monitoring and augmented-reality wearables to autonomous robots. To fulfill the big promises, future electronics must deliver unprecedented energy efficiency with new functionalities, enabling real-time adaptation and lifelong learning at the edge. Work on nanotechnology-inspired AI hardware aims to expose and connect unique properties of emerging nanotechnologies at device & circuit levels all the way to diverse AI model characteristics.
The speaker presented two specific examples of his contributions. He began with SAPIENS, the first integrated chip that enables on-chip, one-shot learning with scarce and never-before-seen data, built with 65,536 RRAMs (resistive switching memories) and mixed-signal silicon CMOS. He then discussed the first experimental demonstration of 3D nanokernels for hyper-dimensional (HD) computing, seamlessly translating the intrinsic device physics and the native 3D connectivity of multi-layer 3D memories into HD compute kernels.
The speaker ended by outlining his vision for future nanotechnology-inspired AI hardware, bridging the worlds of nanoelectronics and AI, to bring forth energy-efficient, real-time machine intelligence at the edge.

2022/02/24 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Sepandarmazgan, the Iranian festival of love, women, friendship, and Earth! Cover image of James Comey's 'Saving Justice' The most beautiful building in the world: Dubai's Museum of the Future (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Sepandarmazgan (see the next item below). [Center] James Comey's Saving Justice (see the last item below). [Right] The most beautiful building in the world: Dubai's Museum of the Future, which opened on Feb. 22, 2022, has no corners and no columns. The eye-shaped building has one floor devoted entirely to space exploration, one floor to near-term future technologies, and one floor to children's activities (5-minute video).
(2) Sepandarmazgan, the Iranian festival of love, women, friendship, and Earth: This annual celebration is dedicated to Spanta Armaiti, the feminine angelic spirit of the Earth. It was put in place on the 5th day of Esfand (Spandarmad) during the first Persian Empire, the Achaemenid, in celebration of mothers/wives, including Mother Earth. By some accounts, February 18 (Bahman 29 of the Iranian calendar) is the correct date of the festival, but February 24 (Esfand 5) is more frequently cited.
(3) "Randomized Algorithms for Efficient Machine Learning Systems": This was the title of today's UCSB ECE faculty-recruitment talk by Dr. Beidi Chen (Stanford U.). Machine learning (ML) algorithms are compute- and energy-intensive. In her research, Dr. Chen exploits model sparsity with randomized algorithms to accelerate large ML systems on current hardware. She presented two concrete examples of her contributions. First, she described SLIDE, an open-source system for efficient sparse neural network training on CPUs that has been deployed by major technology companies and academic labs. It trains industry-scale recommendation models on a 44 core CPU 3.5x faster than TensorFlow on V100 GPU. Second, she described Pixelated Butterfly, a simple yet efficient sparse training framework on GPUs. It uses a simple static block-sparse pattern based on butterfly and low-rank matrices, taking into account GPU block-oriented efficiency. Pixelated Butterfly trains up to 2.5x faster than the dense Vision Transformer and GPT-2 counterparts, with no drop in accuracy. She concluded by outlining research for further accelerating ML pipelines and making ML more accessible to the general public.
(4) Book review: Comey, James, Saving Justice: Truth, Transparency, and Trust, unabridged 7-hour audiobook, read by the author, Macmillan Audio, 2021. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The first Comey memoir, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, which I read and reviewed in 2019, provided me with a good understanding of the workings of the US Justice Department, including how it interacts with the rest of the executive branch.
In his new book, we read about Comey's early career, more on his handling of Mafia cases, and accounts of a large number of other cases that came his way in the course of his career. He includes information about his stints as Deputy AG (2003-2005) and FBI Director (2013-2017). He also rehashes the key parts of A Higher Loyalty, which was perhaps a deeper book.
Comey writes at length about the need for the US Department of Justice and FBI to stay clear of politics, an advice he clearly did not heed in the final weeks of the 2016 US presidential campaign. The question of whether Comey was responsible for Hillary Clinton's loss to Donald Trump, or that she lost due to her abrasive personality and defective campaign, will likely never be resolved. Despite the horrors we experienced over the four years of Trump's presidency, it was likely beneficial for pent-up anger and hatred to emerge when it did, rather than continue to become more malignant and explode with even greater intensity later.
Comey writes surprisingly well. That he is a literate man comes across clearly from his choice of quotations at the beginning of each chapter. I wrote in my review of Comey's previous book: "Autobiographies tend to be self-serving, and this book is no exception. Comey's description of why he treated the Clinton e-mails investigation the way he did appears artificial and reeks of after-the-fact justification. Still, he comes across as a rather ethical, compassionate, reflective, and capable leader; and that's in absolute terms and not just relative to his amoral nemesis who fired him from a job he loved and excelled at." The just-quoted paragraph applies to the new book as well.

2022/02/23 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Math puzzle: What fraction of the area of the regular pentagon is shaded blue? Test of low-contrast vision: How many digits of this 7-digit number can you read? Math puzzle: What fraction of the area of the square is shaded blue?
More signes of spring, from this afternoon's walk in Goleta Cover image of Ben Mezrich's 'The Antisocial Network' Colorful skies, captured just before sunset this evening in Goleta (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Math puzzle: What fraction of the area of the regular pentagon is shaded? [Top center] Low-contrast vision is important when driving in poor-visibility conditions: See how many digits of this 7-digit number you can read. Most people recognize only the middle 3 digits. [Top right] Math puzzle: What fraction of the area of the square is shaded? [Bottom left & right] More signs of spring and colorful skies, captured today in Goleta. [Bottom center] Ben Mezrich's The Antisocial Network (see the last item below).
(2) Power without accountability: The charlatan who approved the 2015 nuclear deal and later claimed he had nothing to do with it, cancelled Iran's press reform law with a single message to the parliament, and ordered the slaughter of street protesters in 2019, is the same person who guided the passage of a draconian Internet censorship law under the guise of protecting on-line users. [Persian tweet]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Borowitz Report (humor): Republicans support democracy in Ukraine as long as it does not spread to the US.
- Trump praises "genius" Putin and characterizes his invasion of Ukraine as a "very savvy" decision!
- Sixteen-year-old Indian boy defeats the world chess champion in an on-line tournament.
- Bye-bye 3G, hello 5G: AT&T becomes the first US carrier to shutter its 3G network. T-mobile is next.
(4) Fyodor Dostoevsky quote: "My friend, the truth is always implausible, did you know that? To make the truth more plausible, it's absolutely necessary to mix a bit of falsehood with it. People have always done so."
(5) Book review: Mezrich, Ben, The Antisocial Network: The GameStop Short Squeeze and the Ragtag Group of Amateur Traders That Brought Wall Street to Its Knees, unabridged 7-hour audiobook, read by Fajer Al-Kaisi, Grand Central Publishing, 2021. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is a very relatable story. The events described are fairly recent and we still remember learning about them from the nightly news or on-line. Much of it also happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, and, so, besides learning about the GameStop debacle, we come to understand how the lives of the story's protagonists were affected by social restrictions and the challenges of working from home: Impact on their lifestyles, family dynamics, financial needs, fears, and aspirations.
Before its recent notoriety, GameStop was an unremarkable company that sold computer games through its chain of retail stores, and it was viewed as a dinosaur ready to become extinct, a la Blockbuster Video. As usually happens for such companies that do not embrace modern trends and technologies, GameStop's stock was shorted by investors hoping to make some money when it finally went under. But a combination of two factors, a group of enthusiasts, that liked the idea of brick-and-mortar game stores, and amateur investors, who thought they could make big bucks if the company's stock defied expectations, led to GameStop's share price and thus its valuation shooting up beyond all logic.
Mezrich tells the detailed story of how giant Wall Street hedge funds lost big bucks to amateur investors, who made up for their lack of economic savvy with passion and enthusiasm. He also considers whether preying on about-to-fail companies, perhaps quickening their demise and then feasting on the result, is ethical and in line with the noble goals of capitalism. The market mechanism is supposed to allow investors to put their money in successful and fiscally-sound companies, making money by facilitating economic expansion and national prosperity. Getting rich by cheering for failure just doesn't seem right.
The key fight was between Melvin Capital, a $13 billion hedge fund and a disparate group of day-traders, video-game nuts, and Internet trolls, loosely organized around the WallStreetBets (WSB) subreddit and using RobinHood as their investment conduit. There are hints in the book that the fight was far from fair, because market authorities intervened to shield threatened hedge funds against losses, much in the same way that big banks were bailed out during the 2008 financial crisis. Yet steps taken to restrict WSB activities can be interpreted more charitably as having been required to protect the overall integrity of the system.
Elon Musk makes an appearance in the narrative as a champion of the little guy, himself having suffered the consequence of Tesla nearly going under due to hedge funds shorting its stock. The chapter on Musk is quite flattering and has been characterized by some as the author's love letter to him.
Mezrich's Bringing Down the House and The Accidental Billionaires were made into movies (the latter under the title "The Social Network"), and this one seems to be headed in the same direction, all three painting flattering portraits of some nerds.

2022/02/22 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Map of Ukraine, showing areas invaded by Russia Upcoming IEEE Central Coast Section technical talks
Cartoon: Two-hundred years from now, humans may not be around to freak out over the date 2-22-2222 Math puzzle: Calculate the area of the red quarter-circle Arguments for and against academic tenure (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Map of Ukraine and Russia's aggression: Crimea was annexed in 2014. Now Russia has invaded regions held by separatists. [Top right] IEEE Central Coast Section (serving Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo): We have put together a line-up of exciting and state-of-the-art technical talks for 2022. [Bottom left] New Yorker cartoon of the day: Two-hundred years from now, humans may not be around to freak out over the date 2-22-2222. [Bottom center] Math puzzle: Calculate the area of the red quarter-circle. [Bottom right] Arguments for and against academic tenure (see the last item below).
(2) Words of wisdom, yes, but coming from Fyodor Dostoevsky, as often claimed, no: Intolerance will reach such a level that intelligent people will be banned from thinking so as not to offend the imbeciles. [Persian]
(3) You can laugh or weep, your choice! Nowruz is a festive occasion for cows and donkeys. The growth of grass gives them more to eat, making them happy. Islam does not recognize Nowruz as a festive occasion, according to this mullah! [1-minute video]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Happy "Twosday"! Today's date is palindromic in the "ddmmyyyy" notation: 22 02 2022
- Canadian government official explains the difference between free speech and what truckers are doing.
- UCSB student arrested for installing covert cameras in women's bathrooms: Police & UCSB are investigating.
- Math puzzle: Calculate x + y, if x^2 – y^2 = 9 and xy = 3.
- For my Persian-speaking readers: Prefixes & suffixes used in different languages to denote "son of."
- Facebook memory from Feb. 22, 2019: How we judge ourselves vs. how others do.
- Facebook memory from Feb. 22, 2017: Do you remember Trump's healthcare plan? Neither do I.
(5) The renewed assault on academic tenure: Abolishing tenure is an idea that comes to the forefront every few years. Tenure was established to foster academic freedom, that is, to guard academic research against political or social retaliation. A tenured professor, the thinking went, can feel free to tackle controversial or hot-button issues, without the fear of being fired for expressing views that challenge established scholars, university administrators, or state/national political leaders.
There are some good arguments against tenure, though, the most effective one being that it creates complacency by removing accountability and competition; academic productivity does taper off in the case of some tenured professors. It also creates inflexibility, both intellectually and fiscally, making adaptation to changing research priorities and budgetary droughts difficult.
There are also good arguments for keeping tenure. It allows research to go on in important areas with no immediate pay-off and on topics that aren't currently favored/stylish. It is a "perk" that helps with the recruitment of distinguished researchers to universities in the face of salaries that are way lower than those outside academia.
The latest assault on tenure comes from conservatives who don't like what is going on in academia, blaming it on "liberal" or "leftist" faculty. This assault complements their activism against teaching Critical Race Theory or any other revisionist view of our country's history that does not whitewash topics such as the genocide of Native Americans and the horrors of slavery.
By the way, arguments against tenure in academia are equally applicable to life-long judicial appointments, including at the US Supreme Court. But conservatives who foam at the mouth at the mention of tenure, have no problem with the latter, at least while they hold an advantage in terms of the number of judges.

2022/02/21 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy US Presidents' Day: Let's celebrate all the great ones and their wonderful deeds The Taliban take a cue from Iran: Tweets about forced confessions Cartoon: Trump Presidential Papers at the National Archives Museum
The Kola Pyramids in the extreme northwest region of Russia: They are claimed to be twice as old as the pyramids in Egypt. Or are they mountains? Math puzzle: Solve the given system of two nonlinear equations This upside-down house in Colombia is a popular tourist attraction (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Happy US Presidents' Day: Let's celebrate all the great ones and their wonderful deeds, from abolition of slavery, through leadership in trying social/economic times, to signing of the Civil Rights Act. [Top center] Tweets about forced confessions (see the next item below). [Top right] Cartoon of the day: Trump Presidential Papers at the National Archives Museum. [Bottom left] The Kola Pyramids in the extreme NW region of Russia: They are claimed to be twice as old as the pyramids in Egypt. Or are they mountains? [Bottom center] Math puzzle: Solve the given system of two nonlinear equations for x and y. [Bottom right] This upside-down house in Colombia is a popular tourist attraction (3-minute video).
(2) The Taliban take a cue from Iran: They broadcast TV interviews with a number of women activists, "confessing" that they were influenced by foreigners in taking to the streets. Interestingly, the Taliban had previously denied arresting any women activists!
(3) The late Shah of Iran empowered the mullahs: He was a superstitious man who wrote in his books that his life was once saved by Abalfazl catching him when he was thrown off his horse and claimed that he had met Imam Zaman. In the words of the writer of this Persian essay on Facebook, his idea of modernity was importing wallpapers from France, not secularism or democracy.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Putin orders Russian troops into separatist-controlled regions of Ukraine under the guise of "peacekeeping."
- Who says perpetual motion (movement requiring no external energy) is impossible? [1-minute video]
- Recipe for Fibonacci's Soup: Two ingredients, "Yesterday's soup" and "The day before yesterday's soup."
- Grammar: I before E, unless you leisurely deceive eight overweight heirs to forfeit their sovereign conceits.
(5) Nineteen Eighty-Four: "War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength." Twenty Twenty-Two: The former president who lied to or misled Americans 15 times per day is now running TRUTH Social!
(6) Soon-to-be-released "Mast-e Eshgh" ("Love Drunk") movie: The Iran-Turkey collaborative project tells the story of a singular friendship between Mowlavi (Rumi) and Shams-e Tabrizi, which transformed Mowlavi's vision and created ominous threats against Shams. [3-minute video]
(7) "Data Science: Hype and Reality": This is the title of an article in the February 2022 issue of IEEE Computer magazine. After characterizing the field as "one of the most sought-after career options and as an emerging discipline in almost every industry in the world," the authors proceed to discuss data science & its evolution, the evolution of the data scientist, data science education & careers, and the future of the field.
(8) National Engineers' Week (February 20-26, 2022): Established by National Society of Professional Engineers 71 years ago to call attention to contributions of engineering and engineers to society. [Read more]
(9) Final thought for the day: Judea Pearl (UCLA) is widely honored for his contributions to AI foundations. I had a course with him on computer memory systems (not his main specialty) during the early 1970s. I learned from a tweet of his that 20 years ago, today, FBI agents knocked on his door to inform him of the death of his journalist son, Daniel, who had been beheaded by Islamic extremists in Pakistan. The pain is unimaginable!

2022/02/20 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Goleta, CA: Spring's in the air a month ahead of Nowruz in my neck of the woods My Persian poem, commemorating my dad's 30th anniversary of passing and his 100th birthday Dr. Bahman Mehri [1936-]
Images from Saturday's talk by Dr. Janet Afary: Batch 2 Images from Saturday's talk by Dr. Janet Afary: Batch 1 Images from Saturday's talk by Dr. Janet Afary: Batch 4 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Goleta, CA: Spring's in the air way ahead of Nowruz in my neck of the woods. [Top center] My Persian poem, commemorating my dad's 30th anniversary of passing and his 100th birthday. Our family gathered at Santa Barbara Cemetery to honor him and my ex-wife, who passed away 8 years ago. [Top right] Honoring Dr. Bahman Mehri, long-time professor at Arya-Mehr/Sharif University of Technology (see the next item below). [Bottom row] Saturday's talk by Dr. Janet Afary (see the last item below).
(2) Honoring a pioneering math professor in Iran: In a Zoom ceremony today, ~350 family members, colleagues, and students of Professor Bahman Mehri [1936-] gathered to honor his productive life and contributions to mathematics education in Iran. This initiative to honor notable individuals while they are still alive, rather than in memoriam, is a welcome trend.
It is difficult to summarize the many testimonials offered during this session, which also included multiple slide shows and video clips. I will just share in the following paragraph the comment I made via the meeting's chat box and urge you to watch the recording of the meeting to learn about all the touching memories shared by Dr. Mehri's colleagues and students.
I have fond memories of Bahman as a colleague and friend. I lost contact with him when I left Iran in 1986, but continued to hear about his activities and contributions through colleagues and students (his and mine). Wishing a complete recovery and a long life for this truly kind, hardworking, and impactful man, who has taught thousands of students in the course of his long academic career.
[Some images] [Recording of the event] [#DrBahmanMehri]
(3) The language of dictatorship and the language of freedom: In this Persian essay, extracted from a longer document, Mohammad-Reza Shafiei Kadkani argues that a dictatorial regime's violations of human rights extend to the violation of the sanctity of words, as their meanings are manipulated to please those in power. Lavish praise of rulers by many Persian poets is a symptom of rampant exaggeration and considering words malleable to serve our dictatorial tendencies.
(4) "Molla Nasreddin of Tiflis and the Diasporic Milieu that Gave Birth to It": This was the title of Saturday's wonderful Zoom talk by Dr. Janet Afary, sponsored jointly by UCSB's Iranian Studies Initiative and Farhang Foundation. The event was a part of a lecture series on Iranian Art and Literary Exchange Between Iran, Transcaucasia, Central Asia, and Russia in the 20th Century. The talk was based on Dr. Afary's forthcoming book, Molla Nasreddin: The Making of a Modern Trickster, 1906-1911. [Publisher's page]
In 1906 a group of Muslim Azerbaijani and Georgian artists and intellectuals of Tbilisi (modern Georgia) published the periodical Molla Nasreddin. Their journal reinterpreted the tales of the Middle Eastern trickster by the same name to construct a progressive anti-colonial discourse with a strong emphasis on social, political, gender, and religious reform. Using folklore, visual art, and satire, their eight-to twelve-page weekly, which had full-page lithographic cartoons in color, reached tens of thousands of people across the Muslim world, impacting the thinking of a generation.
Molla Naserdin is still quite relevant and is referenced widely. Several publications in the region, including Iran's satirical and political weekly Towfiq [1923-1971], which I enjoyed regularly during my youth, were influenced by it. The talk was richly illustrated with graphics from Molla Nasreddin, personalities involved in its publication, and the locales where it was created and thrived. I have captured some of the illustrations via screenshots, but you should listen to the recorded version of the talk to get the entire picture. [Talk's recording]

2022/02/18 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Lunar motorcycle: We may soon see astronauts move around the lunar surface on a motorbike Chess puzzle: Switch the places of white and black knights in the fewest possible legal knight moves History in pictures: A Qajar-era medical diagnostic lab in Iran advertises its services
Cartoon: Is AI the new snake oil? Cartoon: AI researchers replicate the thought processes of the human mind Cartoon: Transportation of choice for attending the 2050 Climate Change Conference (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Lunar motorcycle: We may soon see astronauts move around the lunar surface on a motorbike. [Top center] Chess puzzle: Switch the places of white and black knights in the fewest possible legal knight moves. White & black moves do not need to alternate. [Top right] History in pictures: A Qajar-era medical diagnostic lab in Iran advertises its services, which include urine analysis, as instructed by physicians, and glucose & albumin tests (for 1 toman). [Bottom row] Cartoons of the day, from E&T magazine. [Bottom left] Is AI the new snake oil? [Bottom center] AI researchers replicate the thought processes of the human mind. [Bottom right] Transportation of choice for attending the 2050 Climate Change Conference.
(2) "Willful Crime" ("Jenayat-e Amdi"): Documentary film by Mohammad Rasoulof about the imprisonment and death of poet/writer/filmmaker Baktash Abtin [1974-2022]. [63-minute video]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Number of victims in Brazil flooding & mudslide surpasses 120, with the same number still missing.
- Russia's troop build-up around Ukraine approaches 200,000: There is also a complete naval blockade.
- For the first time ever, Mike Pence has greater support among Republicans than Donald Trump.
- Iran's reign of attacks, kidnappings, and assassinations around the world. [Part 1] [Part 2]
- Brief life story of Fakhri Golestan: Translator, film director, journalist, and writer. [9-minute video]
- Math puzzle: What is the minimun sum of 4 distinct natural numbers, if we have a^3 + b^3 + c^3 = d^3?
- Math puzzle: Evaluate sqrt(44 ... 488 ... 89), where there are 2002 digits of 4 and 2001 digits of 8.
- Iranian regional music: The versatile Rastak Ensemble performs. [4-minute video]
(4) Virtual Summit of the Mellichamp Mind & Machine Initiative at UCSB: Held over Feb. 16-17, 2022, the Summit was sponsored by Center for Responsible Machine Learning, Institute for Collaborative Biotechnologies, and Sage Center for the Study of the Mind, all three at UCSB. [Event page] [Detailed agenda]
(5) Habib Ladjevardi [1938-2021]: Life story of the idealist member of a prominent family of commerce and industry leaders, who brought modern management science to Iran by establishing the Iran Center for Management Studies and, later, founded Harvard's Iranian Oral History project. [12-minute video, in Persian]

2022/02/17 (Thursday): Today's book reviews cover science, a math-inspired novel, and a math genius.
Cover image of Robert Zimmerman's 'The Universe in a Mirror' Cover image of James D. Stein's 'L.A. Math' Cover image of Siobhan Roberts' 'Genius at Play' (1) Book review: Zimmerman, Robert, The Universe in a Mirror: The Saga of the Hubble Space Telescope and the Visionaries Who Built It, Princeton U. Press, revised edition, 336 pp., 2010.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Now that the James Webb Space Telescope is in place, I decided to go back and take a look at the history of its predecessor, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), deployed more than three decades ago. My research led me to The Universe in a Mirror as the definitive account of Hubble's history.
Zimmerman, a science writer and historian of space exploration, puts the spotlight on heroic scientists and engineers, who worked tirelessly for decades to bring the Hubble Space Telescope project to fruition. Zimmerman mixes clear and readable descriptions of the project's technical challenges with personal stories of the participants into an engaging narrative, which also covers the herculean efforts needed to secure funding, overcome bureaucratic hurdles, and come back from brushes with extinction.
As might be expected of a book that deals with an advanced imaging project, the book contains many eye-catching and fascinating photos, the ones that shaped our understanding of deep-space, thanks to HST. There are also technical diagrams that explain the workings of HST, including the initial problem of a misshapen mirror and the actions taken to correct its optics.
As a technical reader, I would have liked to see a bit more on the technology in terms hardware elements, image resolution, and on-board data processing capabilities, including any coding and redundancy used for fault tolerance. This is a minor gripe, though, as I fully understand the need to strike a balance between describing the technology and human-interest aspects.
The narrative contains a long string of successes, missed opportunities, and ugly compromises. The mirror could have been bigger, producing better images, as it collected more light, and it could have incorporated broader capabilities, but budget fights nixed many such aspirations and almost killed the project on multiple occasions. The end product was, nevertheless, highly popular with the public, who eagerly anticipated the next image from Hubble.
(2) Book review: Stine, James D., L.A. Math: Romance, Crime, and Mathematics in the City of Angels, Princeton U. Press, 2016. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book, by an emeritus math professor at Cal State University, Long Beach, contains a collection of 14 short stories, happening in Southern California, in which mathematics plays an important role. Freddy Carmichael is a freelance private investigator who moves to the West Coast following the breakdown of his marriage. He teams up with sidekick Pete Lennox, a sports-betting enthusiast, to solve crimes using his math and deduction skills.
The stories unfold in glamorous locales such as Beverly Hills, Brentwood, Malibu, and Santa Barbara. Math concepts used to solve the crime stories include mathematical logic ("A Change of Scene"), conditional probability ("The Winning Streak"), and rules of compound interest ("Message from a Corpse"). An appendix provides detailed explanations of the math concepts at the heart of each story.
(3) Book review: Roberts, Siobhan, Genius at Play: The Curious Mind of John Horton Conway, Bloomsbury, 2015. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Born and raised in Liverpool, John Horton Conway [1937-2020] was a mathematician and explainer extraordinaire, who became known as the barefoot professor in Cambridge. He moved to Princeton in 1987 and died in New Brunswick, NJ, of COVID-19. Among the general public, he is best known for his Game of Life, which models how life unfolds among microorganisms and how extremely simple local rules can lead to complex global phenomena. His claims to fame among mathematicians include the invention of Conway groups, knot theory, and surreal numbers (so named by Donald Knuth).
Thanks to extended access, generously granted by Conway, Roberts lays bare personal and professional idiosyncrasies of the genius who loved to use props (cards, dice, ropes, and anything else he could muster) to share his mathematical obsessions with everyone around him. He used the memorable and provocative wording, "If experimenters have free will, then so do elementary particles," to explain "the free will theorem" (proved jointly with Simon B. Kochen), a startling version of the no-hidden-variables principle of quantum mechanics.
Conway corresponded and developed a friendship with Martin Gardner, who wrote a regular column on recreational mathematics for Scientific American. Gardner featured Conway's Game of Life in a 1970 column that became his most popular one. Conway himself came to hate talking about Game of Life, because he deemed it his least-important invention that overshadowed his true contributions to mathematics, including surreal numbers, which he considered his most important discovery.
After reading Genius at Play, I was delighted to discover this 63-minute Google talk, during which John Conway and Siobhan Roberts spar about the book and take questions from the audience. This talk is just as fascinating as the book!

2022/02/16 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Twitter account of Dr. Bing W. Brunton, U. Washington
(1) Images of the day: [Top left] Dr. Bing Wen Brunton, University of Washington (see the next item below). [Top center & right, and bottom row] Tonight's IEEE CCS technical meeting (see the last item below).
(2) "Neural Decoding in the Wild": This was the title of Tuesday's UCSB tech talk by Dr. Bing W. Brunton (U. Washington). Scientists, engineers, and sci-fi writers have long imagined direct, thought-driven interaction between humans and machines. Such human-machine interactions can assist individuals with physical & neurological disabilities (e.g., brain-controlled robotic arm), augment engineered systems integrating humans in the loop, and enhance our daily lives in an increasingly information-rich world.
One key challenge is how neural decoding may be approached 'in the wild,' where behavioral and recording variability are significantly larger than what we find in the lab. After discussing how intracranial electrophysiological recordings from human participants, gathered during thousands of spontaneous, unstructured arm movements, observed over up to a week for each participant, have revealed considerable individual variability in both movement behaviors and their neural correlations.
Dr. Brunton's team has made use of this multi-modal, large-scale dataset (now published in NWB format) to develop novel approaches to robust neural decoding, including learning self-supervised decoders without labels.
In answer to my question about whether feedback (e.g., a robotic arm asking the user a question to confirm the correctness of its decoding) would be a viable option for dealing with decoding uncertainties, Dr. Brunton thought this to be a wonderful idea, although she isn't equipped to go in that direction.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Devastating: Dozens of people dead in severe flooding and mudflow in Petropolis, Brazil.
- Western US is having its worst megadrought in 1200 years, a sure sign of the impact of climate change.
- UCLA's Judea Pearl Receives a major international award for foundational contributions to AI.
- Math puzzle: If 2^x + 3^y = 5 and 2^(x + 2) + 3^(y + 1) = 18, what is xy?
- Iran: "From Arranged Marriage to White Marriage," featuring Dr. Janet Afary. [59-minute podcast]
- Persian music: An oldie song performed by a wonderful-sounding all-female band. [3-minute video]
(4) War crimes complaint against Iran: Lawyers for Iran Human Rights Documentation Center have brought a case to the International Criminal Court alleging war crimes by the Iranian state in Syria.
(5) Donald Trump is getting close to the edge: His long-time accounting firm cut ties with the former president and his businesses, and retracted a decade of financial statements, as fraud investigations move on.
(6) Tonight's IEEE Central Coast Section technical event: UCSB Physics Circus (an outreach program of UCSB's Department of Physics) joined us at the Goleta Rusty's Pizza on Calle Real for a number of fun physics demos for the ~40 attendees. This was our second in-person event since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic (the previous one being our holiday banquet on December 15, 2021). We had asked members and guests to bring their children along, and they did!
For decades the Physics Circus has been a wonderful opportunity for UCSB students to creatively express anything that animates them about physics. Members of Physics Circus, mentored by Professor Jean Carlson, share their joy of physics with school children and others who are curious about underlying principles of physical phenomena.
Physics graduate student George Hulsey led student volunteers (David Grabovsky, Sabrina Brickner, Brian Ly, Fernanda Vasquez Sanchez, David Jiang, Raymond Hughes) who presented demos in the areas of angular momentum, sound propagation, air pressure, alternating current, static electricity, magnetism, and cooling with liquid nitrogen.
There were lots of questions, including from the little ones, during the demos and at the end of the presentations. A few future scientists may have been fashioned tonight, thanks to enthusiastic and knowledgeable physics students from UCSB. [IEEE CCS Technical Talks Page]

2022/02/14 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Valentine's Day: Family photos, featuring love and heart Valentine's Day puzzle: Find the area of the blue heart Happy Valentine's Day: Images of hearts in many colors
New Yorker Cartoon: Valentine's gifts for couples Airplane cemetery: Where planes go to rust in peace! After 200 years, the message in the bottle has turned into the message from a graveyard of bottles! (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Valentine's Day, the day of love and friendship (see the next item below). [Bottom left] New Yorker cartoon of the day: Valentine's gifts for couples! [Bottom center] Airplane cemetery: Where planes go to rust in peace! [Bottom right] After 200 years, the "HELP" message in the bottle has turned into the message of sea creatures trapped in a graveyard of bottles!
(2) Happy Valentine's Day! May my beloveds, family members and friends, stay healthy and recognize the vast power of love, especially in these days of anguish and uncertainly. I love you all!
Today's special math puzzle is determining the area of the blue heart.
And for a musical gift, consider "Heart and Soul," performed by Yo-Yo Ma and the Silkroad Ensemble.
(3) "UCSB Reads" Faculty Panel: I will participate in a faculty panel next Wed., 2/16, 12:00-1:00 PM, sharing my experience on including UCSB Reads selected books in course curricula over the past two years.
(4) Fast charging of electric vehicles: I have often wondered about the large sizes of EV charging devices in malls and other public areas. It seems that the high current they have to deliver, and associated safety concerns, contribute to their bulk. EV battery capacities range from 20 to 100 kW-hr. Taking 60 kW-hr as an average and assuming that we want it half-charged during the 30-60 minutes it takes to do shopping or have a quick meal, the required current at 400 V is in the range of 75-150 A.
(5) Fashionable Nonsense: This is the title of a book by Alan Sokal (of the Sokal parody-paper fame) and Jean Bricmont, a 5-star review of which I posted on GoodReads a tad over a month ago. I discuss quite a few ideas in my lengthy review, but, here, I want to share with you my views of the dangers lurking in certain kinds of interdisciplinary research. The rest of this post constitutes direct quotes from my review.
In science and engineering fields, the current Holy Grail is "interdisciplinary research," which draws upon knowledge and methods from two or more disciplines to create useful new ideas, understandings, processes, or products. Examples of interdisciplinary fields that have led to exciting new results include biomedical engineering, computational linguistics, and human-machine interaction. There is, however, a serious danger in any interdisciplinary field: that of abuse and deceit. It is very rare nowadays for anyone to be highly skilled and knowledgeable in two or more different disciplines. So, interdisciplinary researchers typically are people from one discipline who have picked up some information from the other discipline(s) through informal studies. For example, an engineer might pore over the biomedical literature, or pick the brains of biomed specialists, in order to understand problems in the latter field and then work on engineering solutions to those problems. Here comes the rub: it is very easy to impress medical people with engineering concepts and jargon, and vice versa, so one sees many half-baked ideas presented in the scientific/technical forums of these fields in which shallow knowledge in one or another field is imminently visible. So-called hot or trendy fields are particularly prone to abuse and deceit, given financial and status motives.
Fortunately, within the fields of science and engineering, there is a built-in safeguard against impostors lurking in the shadows between disciplines, while trying to impress specialists from each area with concepts and jargon from the other areas, without contributing anything useful. Scientific ideas are subject to experimental verification by other scientist, and processes or products can be simulated, prototyped, and assessed via testing and performance evaluation. So, charlatans do not last long in these fields, although by the time they are exposed, they may have achieved their immediate goals, be they academic promotion, award of large research grants, or fame. The same cannot be said about disciplines in humanities and the social sciences, which are the focus of the book under review. The authors thus set out "to draw attention to a relatively little-known aspect [of postmodernism in such fields], namely the repeated abuse of concepts and terminology coming from mathematics and physics ... exploiting the prestige of the natural sciences in order to give their own discourse a veneer of rigor" [pp. 4-5].

2022/02/13 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Nana Mouskouri and a 17-CD box-set of her most-memorable songs Math puzzle: What fraction of the large circle's area is shaded blue? Sharif Office Building in Tehran features a smart light-sensor-equipped brick facade that adapts to different times of day
Talk by Dr. Sam Hodgkin on Iran's newspaper poetry Dr. Ali Banuazizi, today's speaker for the UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran Dinner and desserts, at tonight's family gathering at my sister's (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Nana Mouskouri performs "Malaguena": Years ago, I bought a 17-CD box-set of the Greek superstar's songs, which brought back fond memories of my youth. [Top center] Math puzzle: What fraction of the large circle's area is shaded blue? [Top right] Sharif Office Building in Tehran: Built by Hooba Design Group, the building affiliated with Sharif U. Technology features a smart light-sensor-equipped brick facade that adapts to different times of day. [Bottom left] Iran's newspaper poetry (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Dr. Ali Banuazizi's lecture on Iran (see the last item below). [Bottom right] Dinner and desserts, at Saturday's family gathering at my sister's.
(2) "Newspaper Poetry and Representative Politics in the Revolutions of 1905-1911": Dr. Sam Hodgkin (Yale U.) spoke Saturday morning about how Constitutional Iranian newspaper verse developed new repertories of poetic voice. This kind of poetry, which marks ground zero for the modern transformation of Persian poetic production, was decidedly materialistic, rather than philosophical or spiritual. Though primarily focused on Iran, Dr. Hodgkin also included in his discussion the Ottomans and the Romanov Empire. [Recording of the talk]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Watched tons of ads, with some football and music: LA Rams beat Cincinnati Bengals 23-20.
- Burning of the Israeli flag backfires in Iran! [Video]
- More than 100 professors worldwide sign letter against the politicized firing of their colleagues in Iran.
- Engineering in action: How giant wind turbines are built and installed. [12-minute video]
- Miracles of coordination: Cats walk through dense assemblies of objects, without disturbing them.
- Persian music: Musical collaboration at Saturday night's family gathering. [2-minute video]
(4) "Iranian Cultural Identity and the Politics of Religious Nationalism": This was the title of today's Zoom lecture by Dr. Ali Banuazizi (Boston College & MIT). An English version of the lecture will be presented on Monday, February 14, 2022, at 3:00 PM PST.
After introductory remarks Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (CSUN) about the UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series and today's speaker, the lecture began with a discussion of the various bases for Iranian cultural identity (Iraniyat).
The bases include a long pre-Islamic legacy, the Persian language, Shi'ism, and the bonds and affinities among a people who have inhabited roughly the same territory for nearly three millennia. The Persian language is perhaps the most important component of the Iranian cultural identity. Today, we easily understand the poetry of Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, written a bit more than 1000 years ago. It's hard to imagine that the same holds for any other world language.
Dr. Banuazizi made a distinction between Iranian cultural and national identities, neither one of which is automatically political. To turn them into political tools in order to create collective action and mass movements, one has to sensitize the identities and use them against real or perceived others. Dr. Banuazizi examined how the latter view of Iranian national identity was transformed into nationalist political ideologies from the last decades of the 19th century to the end of the Pahlavi era.
Dr. Banuazizi concluded his talk with an analysis of the Islamic Republic's sacralization of state authority and concerted efforts to promote religious nationalism as its official ideology. In the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution, attempts were made to incorporate Islam as the most-important element of the Iranian cultural and national identities. The initial attempts included erasure or downplaying of other elements of the Iranian cultural identity, but the regime eventually came to the conclusion that it can benefit from merging the Islamic and other cultural elements of the Iranian identity.
Thus came a move, beginning with Ahmadinejad's government, toward an Islamic-Iranian identity. This shift of focus was caused by the Islamic component losing favor, particularly among the younger generation, in part because the regime's religious identity cast any policy failure as a negative blow against religion.
The latter kind of combined religious-national identities is becoming more common. We see it in Turkey, Myanmar, Israel, and even India (where the killer of Gandhi is now hailed as a hero). Non-extremist nationalism, when combined with democracy, inclusion, and secularism, is not necessarily a bad thing; it has led to salvation in the case of some countries. [Recording of the talk: 97-minute video]

2022/02/12 (Saturday): Today's three book reviews cover feminism and aspects of conservative politics.
Cover image of Clarissa Pinkola Estes's 'Women Who Run with Wolves' Cover image of Douglas Murray's 'The Strange Death of Europe' Cover image of George F. Will's 'The Pursuit of Happiness' (1) Book review: Pinkola Estes, Clarissa, Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths & Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype, abridged 2-hour audiobook, read by the author, Sounds True, 2009.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Jungian analyst and cantadora (keeper of old tales) storyteller Clarissa Pinkola Estes (PhD) contends that in today's societies, women tend to go from one prison to another as they journey through life. They are thus alienated from their wild and natural selves, that is, from their inner wolves. She further asserts that women can restore their vitality and reconnect with the healthy, instinctual, and visionary attributes of the Wild Woman archetype using multicultural myths, fairy tales, folk tales, and other stories.
Pinkola Estes tells a number of such stories in this book. The book garners 4.7 stars on Amazon.com, based on 11,000+ ratings, and this remarkable approval comes despite some 1- and 2-star ratings from people who got bored or thought that the author used extraordinarily-long sentences, with too many unnecessary words. Besides the fact that spiritual writings work their magic precisely because of the lyrical words that may seem unnecessary to some, literate writing also demands sentences that provide nuances through twists and turns, or upshifts and downshifts (see my 5-star review of the course "Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer's Craft" on GoodReads).
I highly recommend this book because of its contents, but also for its magical prose and narration, which draw even a male reader/listener in, despite being clearly targeted at women.
(2) Book review: Murray, Douglas, The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam, unabridged 12-hour audiobook, read by Robert Davies, Audible Studios for Bloomsbury, 2017.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is one of those books with bimodal reviews, receiving 5 stars from readers who deem it insightful, honest, and historically accurate and 1-2 stars from those who characterize it as one-sided, xenophobic, and run-of-the-mill scaremongering. The bulk of the reviews, however, are positive, earning the book 4.7 stars on Amazon (based on 3000+ ratings) and 4.1 stars on GoodReads (based on ~10,000 ratings). Newspaper reviews of the book are likewise divided.
Murray contends that Europe is on a suicide path, fueled by an atmosphere of mass terrorism and a global refugee crisis. The laudable goal of promoting multiculturalism has backfired, producing instead uni-cultural ghettos of unassimilated migrants and a resentful majority of established Europeans, whose declining birth rates, combined with the increasing population of newly-arriving migrants (with their much higher birth rates), is sure to make the situation worse in the coming years.
In doing his research for this book, Murray traveled throughout Europe, to see the problems up close and to hear the stories of those arriving in Europe from the world's conflict zones. He hasn't lost all hope for returning from the suicidal path, that is, he does see light at the end of the tunnel. However, he does not spend much ink on formulating solutions.
I think people on both sides of the immigration issue in general, and the challenges of accommodating Muslim migrants in particular, would benefit from reading this book.
(3) Book review: Will, George F., The Pursuit of Happiness, and Other Sobering Thoughts, unabridged 2-hour audiobook, read by the author, Recorded Books, 1983. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I came to know George F. Will through his columns in Newsweek magazine. He was, and still is, a conservative commentator, so, as a progressive liberal, I disagreed with his views, but not as often as one might think. I viewed him as a literate conservative, with a mighty pen and a wonderful sense of humor. He fell out of favor with me for his insensitive comments on rape, lamenting that the sexual-assault culture has made "victimhood a coveted status that confer privileges."
This short book contains a collection of Will's columns from the 1970s. He introduces the collection by reflecting on what a column is and what a columnist does, that is, what he might tell his children about the nature of his job. The selected columns deal with a number of heads of state, politicians, and other outsize personalities, such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill, Hubert Humphrey, and Elvis Presley. The US Supreme Court and the agony of being a Chicago Cubs fan are also among the topics discussed.

2022/02/11 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Farhang Foundation announces the winner of the 2022 Nowruz Banner Design Competition The mystery of Sadegh Zibakalam solved Color e-paper has arrived: After two decades of research, Kindle and similar devices are becoming more colorful
Cartoon: Mitch McConnell History in pictures: Kudos to designers and engineers, who cared about facilitating the job of the mechanic! New Yorker cartoon: The Gazpacho police pulls over Marjorie Taylor Greene! (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Farhang Foundation announces the winner of the 2022 Nowruz Banner Design Competition and return to UCLA's Dickson Court for its annual Nowruz celebration on March 20, 2022 (12:00-5:00 PM). [Top center] Sadegh Zibakalam (see the next item below). [Top right] Color e-paper: After two decades of research, Kindle and similar devices are becoming more colorful (source: IEEE Spectrum). [Bottom left] Cartoon: Mitch McConnell (see item 3 below). [Bottom center] History in pictures: Kudos to designers and engineers, who cared about facilitating the job of the mechanic! [Bottom right] New Yorker cartoon of the day: The Gazpacho police pulls over Marjorie Taylor Greene!
(2) The mystery of Sadegh Zibakalam solved: I had often wondered how despite harsh criticisms of the regime, Dr. Zibakalam was walking free, instead of being in prison, along with those who have spoken much milder critical words. These pictures of him, with conspiracy theorist Hassan Abbasi (gray hair) and former IRGC Commander & perennial presidential candidate Mohsen Rezaee (dyed beard & hair), both die-hard regime supporters, explains why. He is likely a regime operative, acting as a safety valve.
(3) How absent-minded we have become: Moscow Mitch (McConnell), by his own admission, worked tirelessly for 8 years to make Barack Obama a failed president. Then, he was in bed with Donald Trump for 4 full years, following his boss's every whim. Now, suddenly, he makes one statement against RNC's idiotic action, and we praise him for his courage and candor! Give me a break!
(4) Plumbers take center stage again: They played a big role during the Watergate scandal. Now, White House plumbers, who tell us that toilets were clogged by flushed papers, become key witnesses against 45. Do you remember Trump once said that the new low-flow toilets must be flushed 10-15 times? Now we know why!
(5) Iranian woman of note: Fakhr-ol-dowleh (aka Princess Ashraf al-Muluk, the 9th offspring of Mozaffar al-Din Shah Qajar), was a capable, brave, and norms-shattering woman, who made numerous contributions to the Iranian economy and society. [4-minute video]
(6) It is difficult to find a system more corrupt than Iran's Islamic regime: The great petrochemical corruption scandals, involving regime insiders and fat-cats as perpetrators and facilitators, a tragedy in 9 acts.
[Act I] [Act II] [Act III] [Act IV] [Act V] [Act VI] [Act VII] [Act VIII] [Act IX]
(7) US hacker takes matters into his own hands: As a security researcher, he was hacked by North Korea. When the US government did nothing about it, he brought NK's Internet down single-handedly.
(8) More on "honor" killings in Iran: Shaken by the gruesome beheading in Ahwaz, a man apologizes to his sister for once roughing her up to gain access to her diary, because he suspected her of carrying on an affair.
(9) A film about "honor" killings: The 97-minute film "The Paternal House" is one of the few addressing the oppressive and violent behavior toward women under the guise of "honor." Like most Iranian films, the director stretches what could have been a 10-minute short into a feature-length film (the idea of cutting, jumping forward, and moving the story along seems to be foreign to Iranian filmmakers), but the story is compelling.

2022/02/10 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
At the beautiful UCSB campus lagoon: Batch 1 of photos What's the world coming to? The health nuts won't even let us have our natural potatoes. They have to be plant-based! At the beautiful UCSB campus lagoon: Batch 2 of photos
A rural school in Iran Golden mosque built in Iraq with funds from Iran College degrees are for sale ibn Iran (1) Images of the day: [Top left & right] On a summer-like Wed., at UCSB: Given the beautiful weather on 2022/02/09, I took a longer path in walking to/from the campus. I snapped these photos at the campus lagoon. [Top center] What's the world coming to? The health nuts won't even let us have our natural potatoes. They have to be plant-based! [Bottom left & center] Instead of spending money on schools, Iran builds golden mosques (see the next item below). [Bottom right] College degrees are for sale in Iran (see item 3 below).
(2) A rural school in Iran: This abomination (school children sitting on rocks and dirt) is happening in a country with vast oil and gas reserves, which it cannot extract or sell due to mismanagement and wrong-headed economic & foreign policies, yet it does manage to send billions of dollars in cash and arms to Iraq (shown are a golden dome and golden minarets in Iraq, financed by Iran), Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
(3) Degree tourism: You have no doubt heard about health tourism. If you need to buy a college degree, then you should travel to Iran. This ad says that the degree is official and verifiable, meaning that it will show up in the issuing college's official databases. Of course, you should also include in the cost of the degree the ransom your family may have to pay if you are taken hostage while in Iran!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- U. Calif. pays $244M to settle a sexual-abuse lawsuit against UCLA gynecologist & oncologist James Heaps.
- Persecution of Christians in Iran: An IranWire forum, held on Tue., Feb. 8, 2022. [101-minute video]
- Bird attack this morning: Is Hitchcock filming in my neighborhood? [1-minute video]
- People on the street get a chance to conduct a symphony orchestra in Tehran. [6-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Feb. 10, 2017: Warnings we received about the dangers of a female president!
- Facebook memory from Feb. 10, 2015: A lovely Persian poem by Forough Farrokhzad.
(5) "Slavery, Healing Ritual, and the Indian Ocean Archive in Iranian Cinema": This was the title of a talk by Professor Parisa Vaziri (Cornell U.), who considered representations of the spirit healing ritual zar in Iranian ethnographic filmmaking in the 1960s and 1970s. Zar, a constellation of belief and therapeutic response to spirit winds, has long been considered a ritual trace attesting to the movement of African slavery in the Indian Ocean world. Professor Vaziri's book, Racial Blackness and Indian Ocean Slavery: Iran's Media Archive, is forthcoming from U. Minnesota Press. [Stanford page] [Nasser Taghvai's "Wind of Jinn": 34-minute film]
(6) "Computer Vision for Global-Scale Biodiversity Monitoring": This was the title of a talk by Sara Beary (Caltech), faculty candidate for our Computer Engineering Program. She discussed her lab's quest for a real-time, modular earth observation system that unites efforts across research groups in order to provide the vital information necessary for global-scale impact in sustainability and conservation in the face of climate change. Current ecological monitoring systems generate data far faster than researchers can analyze, making scaling up impossible without automation. Her future research agenda includes making effective use of all available modalities of data, incorporating expert knowledge systematically, and ensuring these systems are equitable and ethical; all fundamental and unresolved challenges for CV & ML. [Images]

2022/02/09 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
This portrait of Lincoln consists of one continuous line Math oddity: See if you can explain these equalities and why the pattern continues indefinitely
EV charging stations at Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace: Photo 1 EV charging stations at Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace: Photo 2 (Tesla) Mourning the beheading of Mona Heidari, the 17-year-old victim of the latest (1) Images of the day: [Top left] This portrait of Lincoln consists of one continuously-drawn snake-like line. [Top center] Math oddity: See if you can explain these equalities and why the pattern continues indefinitely. [Top right] An exotic magic square (see the next item below). [Bottom left & center] Today's EV charging stations (see item 3 below). [Bottom right] Mourning the beheading of Mona Heidari, the 17-year-old victim of the latest "honor" killing in Iran (see the last two items below).
(2) Magic squares of squares: A magic square is an array of distinct numbers whose rows, columns, and diagonals add to the same total. Magic squares have a long history, going back to 650 BCE. Medieval mathematicians in the Middle East and India studied magic squares of varying sizes.
Mathematician Leonhard Euler puzzled over a type of exotic magic square, one made entirely of squared numbers. In 1770 he introduced the first 4-by-4 example of a magic square of squares, along with a formula for producing others. Magic squares of squares of sizes 5-by-5, 6-by-6, and 7-by-7 have also been found, but the problem is still open for a 3-by-3 magic square of squares.
(3) These are today's electric-vehicle charging stations: Bulky devices, with even bigger infrastructure, shown in the background. Tesla's devices are a tad smaller, but the infrastructure (the brown enclosure behind them) seems to be bigger. Both photos were shot on Monday, February 7, 2022, at Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace. In ten years, when these photos are brought to my attention on Facebook memories, we will see how much smaller they have become!
(4) Academy Awards nominations announced on Tuesday, February 8, 2022: The 94th annual Oscars ceremony will be on Sunday, March 27, 2022 (TV: ABC, 5:00 PM PDT). [Nominees on the official Oscars site]
(5) Patriarchy sucks: Iranian woman recounts physical abuse by her father, including an incident of being stabbed multiple times for speaking against his will. #LetUsTalk about patriarchy and backward Islamic laws that encourage and protect abusers.
(6) Why we don't want absolute morality: Richard Dawkins responds, as only he can, to a question about how atheists can decide between right and wrong, in the absence of absolute morality. [3-minute video]
(7) Dreamers' Circus: The young Danish trio, a new driving force in Nordic music and winner of five prestigious Danish Music Awards, performed at UCSB's Campbell Hall last night as part of their US tour. I had tickets for the performance, but was given the option to watch live on-line, which I did. Here is a brief video captured from the screen. And here is their 2020 album-release concert (109-minute video).
(8) Putting a face to an "honor" killing victim: Mona Heidari's megawatt smile was captured by her father, who ended up assisting Mona's husband in beheading her. [3-minute video]
(9) In the wake of the latest "honor" killing in Iran: Every chance I get, I point out that the Iranian culture must abandon the patriarchal notions of "namoos" and "gheirat," which have roots in the idea of men owning women. There are multiple campaigns on the Internet in which men proclaim that they are "namoos-less" or "gheirat-less," meaning that they don't believe in these outdated notions. One man who tweeted about these campaigns received dozens of hostile and expletive-ridden comments, mostly from anonymous commenters, questioning his "manhood" (another misguided term). We have found the enemy and it is us!

2022/02/08 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Prove Stewart's Theorem for a triangle Math puzzle: Find the height AL of the triangle ABC, if the angle A is 45 degrees Math puzzle: Consider a square of side length s and a quarter-circle within it. Write s^2 - x^2 as a function of a and b
Computers were shrinking long before Moore's Law appeared on the scene: 1962 photo Book talk by Dr. Nina Kraus: 'Of Sound Mind' Cover image of former journalist Robert M. Smith's 'Suppressed' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Math puzzle: Consider a triangle of side lengths a, b, c, with side a partitioned into segments of lengths m and n, as shown. Prove Stewart's Theorem: (b^2)m + (c^2)m = a(d^2 + mn). [Top center] Math puzzle: Find the height AL of the triangle ABC, if the angle A is 45 degrees. [Top right] Math puzzle: Consider a square of side length s and a quarter-circle within it. Write s^2 – x^2 as a function of a & b. [Bottom left] Computers were shrinking long before Moore's Law: In this 1962 photo, four computing staff at the Ballistics Research Lab posed with one digit of storage from each of the four computers installed there, beginning with ENIAC in 1947 (CACM, Feb. 2022). [Bottom center] Book talk: Of Sound Mind (see the next item below). [Bottom right] Former journalist Robert M. Smith's Suppressed (see the last item below).
(2) "Of Sound Mind: How Our Brain Constructs a Meaningful Sonic World": This was the title of Monday afternoon's book talk by Dr. Nina Kraus (Professor, Northwestern University, neuroscientist, Director of the renowned Brainvolts Lab, and amateur musician), which was followed by a conversation with Mark J. Tramo (MD/PhD; UCLA Professor of Neurology and Adjunct Professor at Herb Alpert School of Music).
Dr. Kraus began her talk with an interesting audience experiment. She played a noisy sound clip and asked us if we could pick up the sentence buried in the noise. I couldn't. Then she told us what the sentence was and played the sound clip again. This time, the sentence stood out clearly!
In her groundbreaking new book, Dr. Kraus uses her experience of 30 years studying the interplay of the brain and sound to show that the processing of sound drives many of the brain's core functions. She leads us through a fascinating exploration of sound's surprisingly unrecognized role in both the healthy and hurting brain. She makes the case that the sounds of the world around us, and what sounds we're exposed to throughout our lives, impact the development of our brains, the abilities and weaknesses we develop, and who we are as human beings.
Sound affects much of what our brain does. Reading and written-language understanding, though seemingly unrelated to sound, actually go through the brain's sound-processing system. Those who sing or play music regularly develop an edge in all other aspects of brain activity as well. For example, trained musicians are able to pick up nuances (related to harmonics) in the sound of a baby crying. Because of the outsize influence of sound on the development of the brain, it is important to interact vocally with our children, instead of each of us burying ourselves in our devices.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A short introduction to the seven Iranian musical systems/styles. [9-minute video]
- A 10-minute introduction to Mithraism, the ancient Iranian religion that influenced Christianity.
- Facebook memory from Feb. 7, 2016: Kayaking with my daughter, before a Ziba Shirazi concert.
- Facebook memory from Feb. 7, 2011: My 4-star review of Ron Suskind's The Way of the World.
(4) Book review: Smith, Robert M., Suppressed: Confessions of a Former New York Times Washington Correspondent, unabridged 11-hour audiobook, read by Rick Adamson, Tantor Audio, 2021.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Most of us haven't heard of Bob Smith, first because he ended his career in investigative journalism more than four decades ago and second because he was pretty much absent from the Internet before the publication of this book. A Google search for journalist Bob Smith or Robert M. Smith returns very few hits before 2021.
Smith's memoir offers an insightful look behind the curtain of journalism: The intense competition for getting scoops; Working for peanuts, under impossible deadlines; The role of editors in promoting or demoting stories; Powerful behind-the-scenes figures who kill stories or make them appear on Page 1.
The book's title alludes to the fact that news suppression is alive and well in US media. Suppression occurs by authoritarian editors and by powerful individuals, who maintain cozy relationships with the press. Smith also discusses how bias in reporting and "advocacy journalism," unfortunately quite common nowadays, inflict pain on an already-divided country. Also harmful is "celebrity journalism," which has made journalists subjects of the news, rather than its conveyers.
Smith became disillusioned with journalism, leaving The Times for Yale Law School. The day before he left the paper, he told his editor about the Watergate cover-up, based on info he had received from FBI's Acting Director. Inexplicably, the editor did not use the leaked info and did not pass it on to his reporters, before he left on a long vacation a week later. What turned out to be the story of the century was thus inadvertently left to young, relentless Washington Post reporters to pursue.
After law school, Smith returned to journalism for a while, commanding a much higher salary and getting better assignments. Eventually, though, he decided to leave journalism to practice law in Europe and teach at Oxford. Smith mixes with his journalistic and legal stories anecdotes about his personal life, including his boyhood as the son of Eastern-European immigrants in a tough Boston neighborhood and education at elite institutions.
Virtually all important social and political events of the 1960s and 1970s are covered in the book. Besides Watergate, the stories discussed include the Bay of Pigs incident, the My Lai massacre in Vietnam, and various leaks of government documents. For many decades, ordinary people, politicians, business leaders, and other influential people have wanted to know what The Times thinks. Even though the paper benefited financially from stepping into the ring with Donald Trump, it lost its reverence by reacting to Trump's every tantrum and illogical statement.
This book may change your mind about the trustworthiness of The New York Times and its status as a beacon of truth. Descriptions of behind-the-scenes power plays and cozy relationships with certain politicians cast some doubt on the slogan "All the news that's fit to print." Do read The Times, if you want, but keep your eyes open for signs of manipulation and distortion.
This interview of the author with the US National Archives is interesting.

2022/02/07 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of CACM, issue of February 2022 Honoring the life of Dr. Fredun Hojabri Honoring the life of Dr. Fredun Hojabri: Family photos
Documentary film screening and related discussion: Dr. Nayereh Tohidi Documentary film screening and related discussion: Film director Mona Mohammadzadeh Honoring Professor Bahman Mehri in a special Zoom ceremony (1) Images of the day: [Top left] CACM cover (see the next item below). [Top center & right] Honoring the life of Dr. Fredun Hojabri (see the next to the last item below). [Bottom left & center] Documentary film screening and related discussion (see the last item below). [Bottom right] Honoring Prof. B. Mehri (see item 3 below).
(2) Cover feature of Communications of the ACM (Feb. 2022): After defeating the top GO player, Google's AlphaZero tackles chess. The "Zero" in the name "AlphaZero" signifies that the program starts with no knowledge, other than the rules of the game and its objective, learning and improving through many rounds of self-play. In particular, there is no database of expert matches, openings, or endgames.
(3) Honoring a pioneering math professor in Iran: In a Zoom ceremony on Sunday, February 20, 2022, 10:00 AM PST, family members, colleagues, and students of Professor Bahman Mehri will gather to honor his productive life and contributions to mathematics education in Iran. This initiative to honor notable individuals while they are still alive, rather than in memoriam, is a welcome trend. [Event page on Twitter]
(4) Dr. Fredun Hojabri [1936-2021]: The life of former Arya-Mehr/Sharif University of Technology chemistry professor, Department Chair, Vice-Chancellor for Education and Student Affairs, and Founder of SUTA was celebrated yesterday, in a Zoom session attended by 152 people spread across the globe. Those speaking during the 2.5-hour session included former/current university administrators, faculty members, staff, and students, as well as individuals who knew him in various capacities, including as SUTA volunteers.
I interacted with Fredun when he was Vice-Chancellor for Education & Student Affairs and asked me to head the student data-processing division, based at AMUT's Computer Center, which handled student databases (recording of grades and printing of transcripts). My tenure in that position was fairly short due to a number of disagreements, but I observed up-close his dedication to the university and its students.
Several video clips, slide shows, and musical performances by AMUT/SUT graduates appeared between biographical presentations and remembrance speeches. My condolences to Fredun's family and his many friends. May his soul Rest in Peace!
(5) "Who Is Woman" (2013 or 2015?): This afternoon, I attended a Zoom session devoted to the screening of a 50-minute documentary film about job-creation for women and discussion about it with Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (Cal State Northridge) and Mona Mohammadzadeh (the film's director, joining from Iran). This Persian-language program, presented by Cultural Society of Iranian-Americans of Sacramento, had ~30 participants.
The documentary consists mainly of interviews with working women in a garment-industry workshop. The stories are compelling, but the narrative is at times long-winded and simplistic. We hear how women are held back by patriarchal views and how they are abused and berated, even when they make it on their own, with no support from the men in their lives.
Dr. Tohidi pointed out that in the Iranian culture, women who live alone and support themselves are called "unsupervised women" as opposed to "independent women" or "heads of household." The question "what is woman?" has been asked by many, including philosophers, which is quite telling. No one has asked "what is man?" (except where "man" stands for "human"). So, attempts to understand women stems from the view that women are not quite human. The old-fashioned notion of gender as a binary attribute, and viewing women as child-bearers and nurturers, rather than as full-blown participants in societal affairs, is to blame. Women constitute 60% of university students in Iran, making headway even in scientific and technical fields, but some 2/3 of them fail to find meaningful employment after graduation.
Ms. Mohammadzadeh indicated that her aim wasn't to produce a film for screening in theaters or festivals. Rather, in her first film project, she was motivated to depict the lives of women (three generations in the same family) who have been forgotten or fallen through the cracks, so to speak. A result of this depiction was that in all three cases, men (father, husband, brother) were obstacles that the women had to overcome in order to achieve independence.
Unfortunately, I could not find any information on the film or its director on the Internet.

2022/02/06 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Vault corridors of the Blue Mosque Tabriz, Iran San Francisco's steep streets and the resulting optical illusions Cover image of Davarian L. Baldwin's 'In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower'
Math puzzle: For a quadrangle whose vertices are on a circle as shown, prove that ac + bd = ef Chart: Birthplace of Americans, by state (1850-2020) New Yorker cartoon: 'I am getting tired of this helmet mandate' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Vault corridors of the Blue Mosque Tabriz, Iran. [Top center] San Francisco's steep streets and the resulting illusions. [Top right] In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower (see the last item below). [Bottom left] Math puzzle: For a quadrangle whose vertices are on a circle as shown, prove that ac + bd = ef. [Bottom center] Birthplace of Americans, by state (1850-2020): Dark blue, in state; Light blue, outside state; Orange, outside US. [Bottom right] New Yorker cartoon of the day: "I am getting tired of this helmet mandate."
(2) Patriarchy is oppressive, but its Iranian version is sickening: A husband beheads his wife and is shown triumphantly holding her head in one hand and a knife in the other. The wife had fled to Turkey, but was sent back to Iran. In a similar recent incident, a father who beheaded his daughter was sentenced to only 8 years in prison, and he will likely get out sooner. Meanwhile, women who remove their headscarves in protest get prison sentences of 20+ years.
(3) "Honor" killings continue in Iran: The latest one is most-gruesome, with the husband, who beheaded his 17-year-old wife (she was married at 12), holding her severed head and triumphantly exhibiting it in town. This interesting panel discussion considers the root causes of such abominations.
(4) These five Iranian women have been sentenced to a total of 100 years in prison for removing their headscarves to protest compulsory hijab laws. Meanwhile, male perpetrators of barbaric "honor" killings get much lighter prison terms!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- A major world problem resolved! Camilla to be known as Queen Camilla when Charles becomes King!
- RNC has characterized the events of January 6, 2021, as "legitimate political discourse."
- Quote: "Beware of false knowledge; it is more dangerous than ignorance." ~ George Bernard Shaw
- Facebook memory from Feb. 6, 2016: The fate of our digital assets when we die.
(6) Book review: Baldwin, Davarian L., In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: How Universities Are Plundering Our Cities, unabridged 9-hour audiobook, read by Wayne Carr, Bold Type Books, 2021.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Modern universities in America are big businesses and exert an outsize influence on the surrounding communities, which, in a way have become company towns. This is particularly true in urban areas, where the control exerted by major universities has turned them into de-facto city managers. Such universities tend to view areas beyond the campus boundaries as either prime real estate for expansion projects or as trouble spots to be curbed and cut off from the campus. The author uses the term "univer-cities" for cities thus affected.
In some cases, universities are viewed as saviors of cities where they are located (such as Yale saving New Haven, formerly a factory town). But, it's also possible to view the relationship as exploitative. Universities tend to gobble up properties surrounding them and turning the areas into upscale housing and businesses that are beyond the reach of original tenants. Smaller cities, as well as larger ones (Phoenix, Chicago, NYC's Harlem & South Side neighborhoods) have been negatively-impacted.
Most people view universities as employers of faculty and other instructional staff. In reality, the bulk of workers at a university are custodial and other low-wage service providers. Universities often grow to become the area's primary employer, changing the labor market and dictating wages.
Additionally, major universities maintain their own police forces, which influence, and on occasion directly intervene in, policing of the surrounding areas. Often, under the guise of traffic flow-control and safety, universities isolate themselves from the surrounding communities, which helps to create an adversarial relationship. Physical fences/walls and gates are less common at American universities than in other countries, but invisible walls, brought about by unfriendly architecture, perform the same functions as moats and drawbridges.
In short, the author believes that modern universities, with their swollen management ranks, external tech & business relationships, and sizable endowments, are no longer ubiquitous forces for good they once were. Their tax-exempt status can create unfair competition for other businesses. These factors necessitate a re-examination of tax policies and other federal and municipal regulations to turn university-community relationships more equitable.

2022/02/05 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Tehran's Azadi Tower, with projected Chinese and Iranian flags History in pictures: Laying the foundations of the Eiffel Tower in 1887 Tehran's Azadi (Freedom) Tower, shown with more than just lip service to freedom
Cartoon: Those speaking up against oppressive compulsory hijab laws are fighting two battles These tiny openings show the extent of women's rights recognized by the patriarchal culture of Islamic extremists Cartoon: Those who arrest and flog women for showing some hair from under their headscarves complain that Westerners don't respect women's freedom to choose their clothing! (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Tehran's Azadi Tower, with projected Chinese flag (see the next item below). [Top center] History in pictures: Laying the foundations of the Eiffel Tower in 1887. [Top right] Tehran's Azadi Tower, shown with more than just lip service to freedom. [Bottom left] Cartoon of the day: Those speaking up against oppressive compulsory hijab laws are fighting two battles. [Bottom center] These tiny openings show the extent of women's rights recognized by the patriarchal culture of Islamic extremists: And don't tell me that these women have chosen their clothing happily and freely! (#LetUsTalk) [Bottom right] Bonus cartoon of the day: Those who arrest and flog women for showing some hair from under their headscarves complain that Westerners don't respect women's freedom to choose their clothing!
(2) Tehran's Azadi (Freedom)Tower displays the Chinese flag to mark the lunar new year: Or is this done to celebrate the economic/military deal between the two countries? And why does the Iranian flag occupy such as small portion of the display? Is this an omen for China reaping the lion's share of the benefits from the deal, much like Russia gobbled up a good chunk of the Caspian Sea in a previous bilateral deal?
(3) "Abstractions, Their Algorithms, and Their Compilers": This is the title of Alfred Aho's and Jeffery Ulman's Turing Lecture, published in the February 2022 issue of Communications of the ACM. [Link] [Video lecture]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Right-wingers sought power to overturn votes: Rusty Bowers, the Speaker of Arizona's House, said no!
- Spring equinox (start of the Persian New Year 1401): Sun., Mar. 20, 2022, 8:33:26 AM PDT [7seen.com]
- The great cream-cheese shortage: Santa Barbara's supermarket shelves are bare in the cream cheese area!
- A funny story based on Mowlavi's (Rumi's) satire, as told by the late Iraj Pezeshkzad. [Poem] [Video]
(5) Historical reflections: "Looking at users has helped historians broaden the history of computing beyond the traditional focus on inventors." ~ Thomas Haig, writing in the February 2022 issue of CACM
(6) What is left of the Islamic and republican aspirations of Iran's Islamic Republic: Iranian revolutionaries have failed in both of the keywords, "Islamic" and "Republic," in the country's name. The current government is a far cry from the lip service they paid to the just rule of Islam and the empowerment of the meek. It definitely has nothing left of the claim of republicanism, some saying that democracy was never part of Khomeini's plans to begin with. In this lively round-table discussion, four panelists express diverse views on why Iran's Islamic Republic has failed so miserably. [54-minute BBC Persian video]
(7) The James Webb Space Telescope: Dr. Jamshid Farivar talked this morning as part of the Fanni'68 group of graduates of Tehran University's College of Engineering. This was a timely discussion, as the telescope, launched on December 25, 2021, has just detected its first photon.
Dr. Farivar discussed the design of the telescope and the ingenious schemes used to fold its components to fit inside the Ariene rocket compartment, while allowing it to unfold after deployment to its 6.5-meter size, roughly 3 times the diameter of Hubble Telescope's primary mirror. If the mirror were built of the same material as Hubble's mirror, it would be too heavy to launch. Therefore, it was decided to make the mirror panels from beryllium, which is both strong and light (each of the 18 hexagonal-shaped segments weighs ~20 kg). The telescope is protected from the Sun's heat by always being behind the Earth relative to the Sun and, besides, is protected by a multilayer heat-shield. [Screenshots: The speaker and one of his slides]

2022/02/04 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
IEEE Computer Society is marking its 75th anniversary this year ACM celebrates the 75th birthday of ENIAC, the first digital computer Afghanistan sinking further into despair: A mother holds up a sign indicating that her daughter is for sale
Let's be the voice of Narges Mohammadi: She is serving an 8-year prison sentence in Iran for defending human rights and opposing the death penalty A gorgeous Wednesday with deep blue skies on the UCSB campus, photographing the iconic Storke Tower This brave Iranian woman flaunts her beautiful, super-long hair on a street in Tehran, in defiance of the Islamic government's compulsory hijab law (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] I am in good company: IEEE Computer Society is marking its 75th anniversary this year and ACM celebrates the 75th birthday of ENIAC, the first digital computer, whose photo shows two of its six primary programmers: Kay McNulty, Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Marlyn Wescoff, Fran Bilas, and Ruth Lichterman. [Top right] Afghanistan sinking further into despair: A mother holds up a sign indicating that her daughter is for sale. [Bottom left] Let's be the voice of Narges Mohammadi: She is serving an 8-year prison sentence in Iran (not her first imprisonment) for the "crimes" of defending human rights and opposing the death penalty (#FreeNarges). [Bottom center] A gorgeous Wednesday with deep blue skies on the UCSB campus, photographing the iconic Storke Tower. [Bottom right] This brave Iranian woman flaunts her beautiful, super-long hair on a street in Tehran, in defiance of the government's compulsory hijab law.
(2) Many Iranians fleeing the brutal Islamic regime are denied Canadian visas: Yet, Tehran's former police chief and Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Morteza Talaei seems to be enjoying his vacation in Canada.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Seventeen Historically-Black Colleges & Universities have received bomb threats, leading to class closures.
- US Special-Forces raid in northwestern Syria kills the Islamic State's leader.
- Dr. Abbas Milani's 14-minute summary of the popular 1979 revolution in Iran and its outsize consequences.
- Bringing ancient Egyptian statues to life with the magic of artificial intelligence. [4-minute video]
- Azeri dance: Little dancer puts on quite a show alongside her dance instructor! [1-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Feb. 3, 2016: On the need for precision in writing and other communications.
- Facebook memory from Feb. 3, 2015: Violence against women must be condemned unconditionally.
- Facebook memory from Feb. 4, 2012: Why conservatives also worry about the US income gap.
- Facebook memory from Feb. 4, 2011: The Fermi Paradox, and why it isn't really a paradox.
(4) The Iranian regime fears social uprisings, as prices soar and public services are cut: IRGC budget has been increased by 142% to bolster "internal security," a euphemism for reinforced police state.
(5) Math puzzle: For which values of the natural number n does the following expression yield an integer value? (1 + 1/2)(1 + 1/3)(1 + 1/4) ... (1 + 1/n)
(6) Finger-pointing in Iran: All-powerful Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has his hand in his country's every major economic and political decision and whose underlings don't even dare to drink water without his permission, blames previous cabinets for making "wrong decisions" that hurt the country's economy.
(7) Advice from the great Persian poet Ferdowsi: There are ten vices/devils that can bring the mightiest kings down. They are greed (aaz), neediness (niaz), wrath (khashm), envy (rashk), disgrace (nang), spite (kyn), gossip (bad-gooeiy), hypocrisy (do-rooeiy), impurity (naa-paaki), ingratitude (na-sepassi). There is much overlap between the above and "seven deadly sins" in Roman-Catholic theology. [Verses from Shahnameh]
(8) Final thought for the day: Instead of wasting your time and energy fighting Satan, spend them on loving fellow human-beings, as Satan would then die of ennui. [Based on a statement attributed to Hellen Keller]

2022/02/03 (Thursday): Today's three book reviews cover economic decay, activism, and environmentalism.
Cover image for Philipp Meyer's 'American Rust' Cover image of Christopher Noxon's 'Good Trouble' Cover image of Tom Szaky et al.'s 'The Future of Packaging' (1) Book review: Meyer, Philipp, American Rust: A Novel, unabridged 13-hour audiobook, read by Tom Stechschulte, Recorded Books, 2009. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is a combined road/crime novel, whose story revolves around the decline of the American middle class, disappearance of well-paying manufacturing jobs, and a prevailing sense of economic and social malaise. The setting is a Pennsylvania steel town, with beautiful vistas that enchant visitors but offer little comfort to its residents. The protagonist, Isaac English, dreaming of an academic career in Berkeley, is the son of a widowed, handicapped man. Isaac's friend Billy Poe is a second main character.
Isaac steals money from his dad and sets out to pursue his dreams, moving westward by using freight trains and other means. From this point on, mistakes by the protagonist and other main characters (including Isaac's Yale-educated, Harvard-bound sister Lee, Billy's mom, and the town's police chief) pile up, as do the potential consequences. After much misadventure, Isaac turns around and heads home, where he might face punishment for his actions.
Meyer paints a dark but lucid picture of realities of life in economically-devastated small towns, where friendships and family loyalties are the only tools left for dealing with the present discontent and future uncertainties. American Rust gives us a front-row seat to observe how small towns falter from inattention by political leaders and how the result can be moral decline and blunders stemming from not having any good choices.
American Rust has been turned into a 2021 TV series, with David Alvarez and Alex Neustaedter cast as Isaac and Billy. Jeff Daniels, Maura Tierney, Bill Camp, and Julia Mayorga play the other main roles.
(2) Book review: Noxon, Christopher, Good Trouble: Lessons from the Civil Rights Playbook, unabridged 2-hour audiobook, read by the author, Abrams, 2019. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
When we think of the US Civil Rights Movement, we picture some beginning (Rosa Parks not giving up her bus seat), a few marches and sit-ins, a handful of names, and an end (the Civil Rights Act of 1964). In reality, the Movement has gone on much longer and is still continuing. Many more people have been involved in it than those named in history books. For example, on the same day that Rosa Parks performed her act of civil disobedience, two other women also refused to give up their bus seats.
The book's title is a tribute to Representative John Lewis, who famously said: "Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble." The author confides that as a White man, he was apprehensive about writing a book on Civil Rights. But then, civil rights, far from being of interest to Black & Brown people only, are relevant to the entire society and its progress. White people's activism should not be deemed condescending toward Blacks. It's not only what I, as a White person, can do for my Black & Brown fellow-citizens, but what I can do to enlighten other White folks, including White Supremacists.
Noxon also reminds us of the central role played by women and the church in the success of the Civil Rights Movement. We have come to associate religiosity with conservatives, but there is a fairly large population of religious liberals in America. Conservatives have latched on to a few divisive issues, such as abortion and gay rights, but devout liberals practice their religious beliefs according to the Christ's teachings on kindness, generosity, and tolerance. And we should not forget the outsize role of music as a solidarity-building tool and a coping mechanism in Black churches.
The entire proceeds from this wonderfully-written book is donated to a non-profit devoted to work on racial justice, healthcare, and poverty. The hard-copy book is beautifully illustrated by the author. At the end of the audiobook, there is an interview with the author, who describes his thought process in writing and illustrating the book.
(3) Book review: Szaky, Tom (with 15 industry experts, contributing chapters), The Future of Packaging: From Linear to Circular, unabridged 6-hour audiobook, read by Jeff Hoyt and Natalie Hoyt, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, only about 1/3 of the 240M metric tons of waste generated annually in the US gets recycled. We have gone from a natural, voluntary recycling economy (buying milk and juice in bottles, some 95% of which got reused) to the convenience and low cost of plastic containers and packaging (very little of which is recycled). And the waste problem does not arise from packaging only. Some 99% of everything produced becomes trash within a year of production.
Saying that something is "recyclable" is quite different from saying that it is "recycled." Nearly everything is technically recyclable, but items that are actually recycled are those that produce profits for material recycling facilities (MRF's). Additionally, some readily-recyclable materials are not recycled due to contamination and the impossibility of economically separating them from undesirable material. Thus, much of what we put in our recycling bins actually ends up in trash dumps. Producers would do well to ensure that their packaging materials are actually desired, rather than reluctantly accepted, by recycling companies.
Plastics have led to conveniences and cost-savings in our lives. Not all plastics are recycled, even though they are recyclable. It is estimated that, by weight, our oceans will soon contain more plastics than fish! A typical new car is 15% plastics by weight; a Boeing passenger jet is 50% plastics. The latter use of plastics is less problematic due to its long life-expectancy. A significant portion of plastics, ~1/4, is used for packaging, where the recycling percentage is quite low. Mixing different material in packaging for the sake of aesthetics or strength makes recycling more difficult.
An eye-opening revelation for me was the fact that we, as consumers, are aware only of post-consumer waste in packaging and other material. Over-packaging is common in e-commerce. We have all received a small item, such as a pen or watch, that arrived in a huge box, with a tiny box and much filler material inside. Over-packaging is also a method used by manufacturers of top-of-the-line consumer products to set their products apart or to prevent theft. Hidden from our view as consumers is the pre-consumer waste, which includes packaging for raw material sent to factories, discarding of defective products, and scraps of material such as cloth and metal, and extra layers of packaging to facilitate and prevent damage during shipping.
Much planning and effort will be needed to return to a circular economy, from the current predominantly-linear economy, where materials take a one-way trip from production to garbage dumps.

2022/02/02 (Wednesday): Today's three book reviews cover US politics and sociopolitical awareness.
Cover image of the book 'Peril,' by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa Cover image for Peter Wehner's 'The Death of Politics' Cover image of Robert E. Coleman's 'The Master Plan of Evangelism' (1) Book review: Woodward, Bob and Robert Costa, Peril, unabridged 14-hour audiobook, read by Robert Petkoff, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2021. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
In many ways, this is a typical Bob Woodward book. It reads very much like Woodward's first two books in his trilogy on Trump, namely, Fear (2018) and Rage (2020), so the contribution or influence of Robert Costa is unclear.
Woodward tends to get much information out of the people in the know, but then bores you with minutia about who said what to whom. If Joe Manchin said the same thing about the American Rescue Act or voting rights legislation to different people during various encounters or meetings, then you would read the same wording multiple times in Woodward's retelling. He tends to build a log of events, rather than a big picture that connects and informs. To use a science analogy, he presents you with the raw data, rather than build and argue for a hypothesis based on the data.
Despite the just-cited weakness, I found the book enlightening and full of new information about the dysfunction in the White House, shortly before and immediately after the November 2020 US election. We learn about how people berated and discarded by Trump gravitate back toward him, because they see no future for themselves without the new Republican kingmaker. Brad Parscale, Trump's campaign manager, is a case in point, as is one-time adviser Steve Bannon.
Besides Trump lapdogs and those who kiss his ring to find a place within his circle, we also learn about those who stood firm against him, notably General Mark Milley, who held his tongue in public but worked behind the scenes to de-escalate the rising tension with China and to ensure that transition and succession would work according to Constitutional provisions.
Woodward and Costa also dish much dirt on two-faced Republicans, such as Mitch McConnell appearing supportive in public and making a joke at Trump's expense in private. Another example is Kellyanne Conway, Trump adviser and 2016 campaign manager, whose public statements portrayed Trump as a God who makes no mistakes but in private gave her boss the unwelcome advice to ditch the grievances and "get back to basics," so as not to turn off part of his base.
I know that many of us have grown tired of the monthly publication of exposes and tell-all books on Trump, but I advise against skipping this one.
(2) Book review: Wehner, Peter, The Death of Politics: How to Heal or Frayed Republic after Trump, unabridged 6-hour audiobook, read by Charles Constant, Harper Audio, 2019.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Wehner, a senior adviser to George W. Bush, was perhaps the first prominent Republican to take a stand against Donald Trump and to declare publicly that he will not vote for the real-estate developer "under any circumstances." In this book, Wehner tells us that Trump's presidency was even worse than he feared, intimating that "when words are weaponized and used merely to paint all political opponents as inherently evil, stupid, and weak, then democracy's foundations are put in peril."
Wehner maintains that politics is the art of solving problems in the face of disagreements, a feat that requires civility and compromise, attributes that have all but vanished from today's political leaders. We need to go back to the drawing board to rediscover politics in an effort to chart a path toward a working democracy.
What Wehner says makes sense at an abstract level. However, one becomes suspicious of his sincerity and motives when he lays praise at the feet of GWB and other political leaders, who, in spite of being significantly better than what we've had in Washington since Obama's agenda faced overt hostility and obstructionism, were far from ideal politicians.
(3) Book review: Coleman, Robert E., The Master Plan of Evangelism, unabridged 3-hour audiobook, read by Scott Grunden, Christianaudio.com, 2009. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I was drawn to this book because I have been wanting for some time to understand the nature of evangelism and evangelicals. I found the book utterly disappointing in this regard. The book, deemed a classic, was first published in 1962 and has been reissued from time to time to attract new generations of readers.
Coleman claims to have thoroughly examined the gospel accounts to discover Christ's strategy for evangelism. The gist of Coleman's claims is that Christ came to prefer working closely and intensively with a small number of dedicated individuals (e.g., the disciples) over paying attention to the "multitude." Judging by how evangelicals are behaving these days, Christ's strategy, and Coleman's formulation of it, must have been ineffective!
The writing is extremely dry, with some sentences containing a Bible citation after every few words. The arguments aren't based on logical deduction but on faith: If Jesus did it, then it must have been the right way to do it! Even after rising from the dead, the number of believers in Christ was in the low hundreds, so someone who tries to justify his strategy has no viable option except to claim that he kept the number of his followers small on purpose.
On Amazon and GoodReads, the book garners average ratings of 4.1 and 4.7 stars, respectively, from thousands of evaluations. I believe that most of these ratings are also faith-based, rather than derived from the quality of ideas and writing.

2022/02/01 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCSB North Campus Open Space and the beautiful Ellwood Bluffs: Batch 2 of photos UCSB North Campus Open Space and the beautiful Ellwood Bluffs: Batch 1 of photos UCSB North Campus Open Space and the beautiful Ellwood Bluffs: Batch 3 of photos
Happy Chinese New Year, as we enter the year of the Tiger! And happy first day of the Black History Month! Photos of Darya Safai, Belgian MP, with and without hijab Math puzzle: Determine the ratios of the shown areas in this diagram involving a square, a regular hexagon, a half-circle, and a circle (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Walking on a spring-like Sunday in Goleta, CA: UCSB North Campus Open Space and the beautiful Ellwood Bluffs. [Bottom left] Happy Chinese New Year, as we enter the year of the Tiger! And happy first day of the Black History Month! Not happy World Hijab Day, a misguided celebration of misogyny & oppression. [Bottom center] Compulsory hijab isn't just about a piece of cloth: It also brings with it a grim outlook, as the same philosophy that forces hijab on women also requires them to not smile or behave in a friendly manner (photos of Darya Safai, Belgian MP). [Bottom right] Math puzzle: Determine the ratios of the shown areas in this diagram involving a square, a regular hexagon, a half-circle, and a circle.
(2) Persian music: Medley of a few super-popular old songs. Unfortunately, this 4-minute video, which I have received over WhatsApp, is cut right when the only female performer in the bunch is introduced.
(3) Anonymous advice of the day: Silence doesn't always mean 'Yes.' Sometimes it means, 'I'm tired of explaining to people who don't even make an effort to understand.'
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- UCLA would-be mass-shooter is apprehended in Colorado: In-person classes to resume tomorrow.
- Afghan woman sings the women's equality & solidarity anthem. [1-minute video]
- Moderna joins Pfizer as the second COVID-19 vaccine with full FDA approval.
- The Persecution of Christians in Iran: IranWire forum, Tuesday, February 8, 2022, 6:00 AM PST.
- Math puzzle: If a and b are real numbers, find x and y from the two equations x^2 – y^2 = a and 2xy = b.
- Persian music: An oldie song, with the backdrop of a Qajar-era house, turned into a museum.
(5) Lebanon's economic collapse: Having experienced the largest GDP shrinkage anywhere in the world and facing an inflation of ~150%, Lebanon's future looks bleak, a situation that is blamed on Iran and the country's elite, who are profiting from the collapse. Having given up hopes of being able to fix the economy, Lebanon's ex-PM Saad Hariri quits politics and won't run in the country's next election.
(6) Developments in digital storage and memory in the age of big data: IEEE Computer magazine, issue of January 2022, features a round-table discussion on the future of memory and storage, including trends in NVM Express storage, Compute Express Link, heterogeneous memory, and object storage. [Forbes report]
(7) The Iranian government devises a policy for choosing baby names: A document issued by the High Council for Cultural Revolution stresses the need to encourage and strengthen the use of Islamic and Iranian names (in that order) for newborns. Naming of children is among the most-personal affairs of families, so, why is the Iranian government walking in the footsteps of some of the most-reviled dictatorial regimes to restrict this practice? Use of Islamic names for newborns was quite common in Iran, even before the Islamic Revolution. Some 58% of babies born in Tehran in the late 1960s were given Islamic names (a tad more for boys, and a bit less for girls). The late Shah and all male members of his family had Islamic names. The percentage increased in the lead-up to and shortly after the Revolution, reaching the 65% high mark in 1979. And it went mostly downhill from there. The latest data from 2016 shows a 40% share of Islamic names, hence the regime's panic.

2022/01/31 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
February 1 is World Hijab Day: For opponents of compulsory hijab laws, it is #NoHijabDay (#FreeFromHijab) Cartoon: Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi in the Court of Vladimir Putin FIFA chooses money over women's rights: Photos and a cartoon (1) Images of the day: [Left] February 1 is World Hijab Day: For opponents of compulsory hijab laws, it is #NoHijabDay (#FreeFromHijab). [Center] Cartoon of the day: Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi in the Court of Vladimir Putin. [Right] FIFA chooses money over women's rights (see the last item below).
(2) Teaching a donkey to speak like humans (humor): Here is an Iranian folk tale.
A clever man volunteers to teach the local ruler's donkey to speak like humans. He demands 100 gold coins up front, with another 100 coins payable when the donkey speaks, and indicates that he will finish the task in 10 years. The ruler protests that 10 years is too long, but the man convinces him that the task is quite difficult and needs much time. The man's friends tell him that he is sure to lose his head over this impossible feat, but he tells them not to worry: "In 10 years, the ruler will be dead, or I will be dead, or the donkey will be dead!"
This folk tale went viral on social media, when Iran's interior minister claimed that in 15 years, Iran will have the world's third largest economy!
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Former UCLA Philosophy Department lecturer Matthew Harris threatens mass shooting on Tuesday 2/01.
- NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory appoints Dr. Laurie Leshin as its first female director.
- Facebook cannot be trusted to police itself: It open up its algorithms to both regulators & CS researchers.
- ACM will consider a candidate's ethical conduct, alongside technical achievements, in its awards program.
- Borowitz Report: Trump's claim that he won the presidency twice disqualifies him from running again.
- Math puzzle: If a/(1 – a) + b/(1 – b) + c/(1 – c) = 1, evaluate 1/(1 – a) + 1/(1 – b) + 1/(1 – c).
- Canada beats the US 2-0 in a World Cup qualifying match. [9-minute extended highlights]
(4) Trump falls in the "double-negative" trap, set up by the deep state: "Anybody that doesn't think there wasn't massive Election Fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election is either very stupid, or very corrupt!"
(5) Quote of the day: "A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special." ~ Nelson Mandela
(6) Photo Ark: Noah supposedly put a pair of animals from every species on his ark to save them from becoming extinct by a biblical flood. Photo Ark is a 25-year project for digital preservation of information about current species, half of which will be threatened with extinction in the coming decades.
(7) FIFA's empty threats: For years now, FIFA has warned Iran that its national team will face sanctions if authorities continue to ban women from entering sports stadiums. The devious mullahs have finessed the problem by allowing a small, select group of women into stadiums for some, but not all, matches and have them sit is a separate section, overseen by security forces.
The number of tickets allotted to women is typically small and certain regime insiders often grab them, leaving other eager women out. The photos and cartoon are reminiscent of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale.
The problem has returned to the forefront, now that Iran has qualified for the 2022 World Cup tournament in Qatar. Soccer is a big-money sport, internationally and in Iran. Iranian soccer players are treated like rock stars in the West. They command huge salaries, but like other Iranians, they are not free to talk. One highly-skilled player was recently kicked out of the country's national team for taking the side of street protesters.
Soccer is used by the regime as a pacifier for the masses, but the country's pesky women will not let the mullahs sleep comfortably, until their rights as human beings are recognized.
Meanwhile, FIFA has demonstrated that it is not serious about its threats of sanctions, given that it has removed women from official publicity posters on Iran's team.

2022/01/29 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Professor Nima Arkani Hamed, Princeton U. Math puzzle involving a quadrangle, one of whose sides is divided into two equal segments Celebrating my 75th birthday with the family, a few days ahead of schedule
GIF image: Happy 75th birthday Dinner table for celebrating my 75th birthday GIF image: Happy 50th anniversary (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Professor Nima Arkani Hamed, Princeton Univ. (see the next item below). [Top center] Math puzzle: For this quadrangle, one of whose sides is divided into two equal segments, show that a^2 + b^2 = c^2. [Top right and bottom row] Celebrating my 75th birthday with the family, a few days ahead of schedule (see the last item below) (1-minute video).
(2) Why are people of Iranian origins so successful in the West? Do Iranians have a right to boast about the immense success of scientists like Nima Arkani Hamed, who was appointed to a Physics Chair at Princeton, originally held by Einstein? In my humble opinion, Iran and Iranians have absolutely no bragging rights. Nima's parents, both distinguished physicists, along with the Canadian higher-education system are the sources of Nima's success, not his Iranian roots.
Nima's father, Jafar, was a professor at Tehran's Sharif University of Technology, when he was summoned to the Revolutionary Court, because he had taken a stance against the early-1980s closure of Iranian universities under the banner of Cultural Revolution. Fearing that he may be imprisoned and possibly executed for his dissent, he secretly fled Iran with his family, walking on foot to Turkey through the snow-covered mountains of western Iran.
Nima, a young boy then, nearly froze to death during the trip and his parents paid all the cash they had brought with them to have Nima treated in Turkey. Finally, they made it to the American Embassy, exhausted and penniless. But the story has a happy ending. The family soon settled in Canada and the rest, as they say, is history. What would have become of Nima had he and his family remained in Iran?
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- In a span of 9 days during late 1981 and early 1982, Iran's Islamic regime executed 14 Baha'is.
- Women expressing fear of Islamic Republic's and Taliban's misogynistic laws and deeds isn't Islamophobia.
- Five-minute trial, 8-years in prison & 70 lashes, for Iranian human-rights activist Narges Mohammadi.
- Hacking of Iran's TV channels: A "Death to Khamenei" message & photos of MEK leaders were broadcast.
- Iranian cuisine: Friday's herb stew (khoresh-e ghormeh sabzi) and rice. [Photos]
- This brave Iranian is in double danger, if spotted by the morality police (no hijab, dancing in public).
- You have seen the joyful dancing in the movie "Dancing in the Rain": Now see "Dancing on the Snow"!
- Sights and sounds of Iran's northeastern province of Khorasan. [3-minute video]
(4) On reaching another milestone: This weekend, my family helped me celebrate my 75th birthday, a few days ahead of schedule. It is said that age is just a number, but each new number makes us look back at a treasure-trove of memories and be grateful for coming this far, while still being healthy and active.
One of the pleasures of getting old is that you experience important milestones in your life. In my case, besides my age, several other milestones have been reached or are coming up soon.
- 50 years since graduation from Tehran University's College of Engineering: Celebrated in Armenia with some 2 dozen friends during July 2018.
- 50 years since earning my doctorate from UCLA: Coming up in March 2023.
- 50 years of working as a professor: Coming up in March 2023.
- 50 years of membership in Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' Computer Society, of which I am now a Life Fellow and Distinguished Lecturer, 2022 (total IEEE membership 53 years).
- 35 years of working at UCSB and living in Santa Barbara: Coming up in July 2023.

2022/01/28 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Colors of nature: Berry-themed fruit plate (including raspberry blood oranges) and a veggie tray ready to go into the broiler Math puzzle: Mathematically-inclined warden and two prisoners My order of Sadaf products (Iranian stews, pickled veggies, and more) arrived today
Unprecedented snowfall in Iran's Kermanshah Province: Photo 1 Unprecedented snowfall in Iran's Kermanshah Province: Photo 2 Cartoon: Western feminists, who wear the hijab in front of Iranian mullahs and the Taliban, are complicit in the oppression of women in the Islamic world (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Colors of nature: Berry-themed fruit plate (including raspberry blood oranges) and a veggie tray ready to go into the broiler. [Top center] Mathematically-inclined warden and two prisoners (see the next item below). [Top right] My order of Sadaf products (Iranian stews, pickled veggies, and more) arrived today. I was impressed by the ordering process (user-friendliness of the Web site, notifications) and the immaculate packaging. [Bottom left & center] Unprecedented snowfall in Kermanshah Province, western Iran. [Bottom right] Cartoon of the day: Western feminists, especially some European leader, who wear the hijab in front of Iranian mullahs and the Taliban, are complicit in the oppression of women in the Islamic world.
(2) Math puzzle: The precise description of this puzzle is rather long, so I refer you to this Web page, which also contains several solution strategies, for possible clarification.
A warden places a key to the prison in a hidden compartment under one square of a standard 8-by-8 chessboard. Each square of the chessboard has a coin placed on it, showing heads or tails. Two prisoners are allowed to plan ahead, before one of them is told about the location of the key. The prisoner who knows the location of the key flips one of the coins (from tails to heads or heads to tails) before the second prisoner comes in. How can the second prisoner find the location of the key by just looking at the board (in particular, not knowing which coin the first prisoner flipped). No information exchange is allowed between the prisoners.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Another reminder of our rotting infrastructure: Snow-covered bridge collapses in Pittsburgh, injuring 10.
- Math puzzle: If 2^x = 3^y and 2/x + 3/y = 1, what is 2^x + 3^y?
- Math puzzle: If x + 1/x = 1, find x^7 + 1/x^7.
- The life and musical genius of the Iranian composer Abolhasan Saba. [8-minute video]
(4) UC panel discussion on data privacy: Two weeks ago, the documentary film "The Social Dilemma" was screened by University of California. The film is also available on Netflix. [My FB post about the film]
In the documentary, a number of former employees of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other tech giants discuss how social media, that began as a force for good (reuniting families, locating old friends, raising money for noble causes, matching patients to organ donors) turned into spreaders of hate, disinformation, and fake news. Given the helpfulness of these negative attributes for generating clicks and thus revenue, tech platforms lack incentives to confront the problem.
Some say that we will adapt to the influence of social media. Afterall, we adapted to the printing press, newspaper, TV, and so on. But this time around it is fundamentally different. We are being manipulated and aren't even aware of it. The saying "if you don't pay for a service, then you aren't a customer, but the product being sold to whoever is paying" doesn't go far enough. Social-media companies don't just sell your data, but also try to modify your behavior so that you become a more valuable commodity.
Today's panelists discussing the film included Safya Noble (UCLA), Gillian Hayes (UC Irvine), Bryan Cunnigham (UC Irvine), Sean Peisert (LBNL), Pegah Parsi (UCSD), and Allison Henry (UC Berkeley). Jennifer Lofthus moderated the discussion.
Many important points were raised by the panelists, of which I will cite two examples. We are responsible for protecting not just our own data but also our students' data. There are many useful educational products that are free to use, if students provide a wealth of personal data. We have to be extremely careful in using such products. An important step to take is to improve data literacy across the UC system. We have to change the mindset that the more data we have, the better off we are. Even if we do not share the collected data outside our classrooms, labs, or other academic units, the mere accumulation of data exposes it to hacking and data theft. So, the mindset should be to minimize data collection to the bare minimum required.

2022/01/27 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Math puzzle: What fraction of the square's area (cut out by the four half-circles) is shaded blue? Math puzzle: Sides of an equilateral triangle are divided into segments of lengths 3 & 5, as shown. What is the area of the blue triangle? Math puzzle: In the triangle within the square, what is the measure of the angle labled with a question mark?
Posters for World Space Week, 2020 & 2021 Iranian activist Atena Daemi is home after being imprisoned for 7+ years Photo from a memorable trip to Armenia during July 2018 to reunite with some two dozen Tehran U. College of Engineering friends, 50 years after we graduated (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Math puzzle: What fraction of the square's area (between the half-circles) is shaded blue? [Top center] Math puzzle: The sides of an equilateral triangle are divided into segments of lengths 3 and 5, as shown. What is the area of the blue triangle? [Top right] Math puzzle: In the triangle within the square, what is the measure of the angle labled with a question mark? [Bottom left] World Space Week posters for 2020 & 2021 (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Iranian activist Atena Daemi (see item 3 below). [Bottom right] Throwback Thursday: A memorable trip to Armenia during July 2018 to reunite with some two dozen Tehran U. College of Engineering friends, 50 years after we graduated. One friend joined us, even though he broke a leg while hiking shortly before the trip. Moses also rose from the dead to be there with us!
(2) Irony of ironies: Iran's Space Agency participated in UN's 2020 World Space Week, which bore the theme "Satellites Improve Life." Iranian citizens highly appreciate this theme, but don't understand why regime authorities periodically raid their homes to remove or destroy their satellite dishes! The 2021 theme "Women in Space" was even less convenient for the Iranian authorities, as they didn't know whether the hijab should be worn under or over the space suit!
(3) Iranian activist Atena Daemi is home after being imprisoned for 7+ years: Many other women (and men) are still languishing in Iranian prisons for "crimes" such as advocating for human rights, opposing the death penalty, or demanding attention to the environment. [#FreePoliticalPrisoners]
(4) Ice-Cream-Gate: Fox News (all anchors and commentators) had a meltdown over President Biden going to an ice-cream shop to have a double-scoop cone! This is the same network that had no problem with 45 showing up at the Oval Office around noon and playing nearly 1/4 of his four years in office playing golf.
(5) "What Is Responsible AI?": This was the title of a talk in UCSB Library's Pacific Views Lecture Series. The talk was also tied to the theme of UCSB Reads 2022 Program, whose selected book, Exhalation, by Ted Chiang addresses issues in human-computer interaction and ethical dilemmas presented by AI. I could not attend the talk on Tuesday 2022/01/25, but was able to view its recording.
Professor Wang, who directs UCSB's Center for Responsible Machine Learning, described important recent advances in artificial intelligence and outlined emerging challenges in building human-centered AI technologies, focusing on issues of fairness, bias, transparency, and energy efficiency of AI algorithms.
(6) "Computing Using Time": This was the title of today's in-person/Zoom talk by George Tzimpragos (UCSB CS PhD Candidate). Some of the key ideas discussed came from a paper, by the speaker and 6 co-authors, entitled "Temporal Computing with Superconductors" (IEEE Micro, Vol. 41, No. 3, pp. 71-79, May-June 2021).
The end of CMOS transistor scaling has led to greater focus on new computing paradigms which would meet our ever-increasing data-handling needs. Using time (more specifically, signal delays) to represent information is one such paradigm. The method isn't suitable for applications that need high precision, but is quite feasible for levels of precision required for sensor-based systems and machine learning. Tzimpragos presented the foundations of temporal computing, demonstrated how this foundation allows unique ways of working with sensors and machine-learning systems, and described how temporal operators provide answers to several long-standing problems in computing with emerging devices. The talk ended with a preview of future work, with themes ranging from in-sensor online learning to hybrid quantum-classical computing and formally-verifiable hardware. [A few screenshots]

2022/01/26 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Newsweek magazine cover story: The forever virus and its evolution Calligraphic rendering of part of a verse from Hafez Time magazine cover story: Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned dissisdent whom Putin fears
Workers wave from the top of a tower built from confiscated barrels of alcohol, being prepared for burning during the Prohibition, 1929 Colorized photo of Mary Wallace, the first female bus driver of Chicago Transit Authority, 1974 Stick-wielding goons patrolled the streets in pre-revolution Iran, intimidating and beating-up dissenters (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Newsweek magazine cover story: The forever virus and its evolutionary path. [Top center] Calligraphic rendering of part of a verse from Hafez. [Top right] Time magazine cover story: Alexei Navalny, the imprisoned dissident whom Putin fears. [Bottom left] History in pictures: Workers wave from the top of a tower built from confiscated barrels of alcohol, being prepared for burning during the Prohibition, 1929. [Bottom center] History in pictures: Colorized photo of Mary Wallace, the first female bus driver of Chicago Transit Authority, 1974. [Bottom right] Stick-wielding goons are nothing new in Iran: They patrolled the streets in pre-revolution Iran, intimidating and beating-up dissenters.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Imagining how huge structures, like the Giza Pyramids, were built in ancient times. [6-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Jan. 26, 2016: Iran's forgotten political prisoners.
- Facebook memory from Jan. 26, 2014: Three beautiful songs by Pink Martini.
- Facebook memory from Jan. 26, 2012: Capitalism is ailing because of the outsize power of corporations.
(3) Facebook memory from Jan. 26, 2020: I once explained why I endorse the efforts of Masih Alinejad. It's time to repeat that argument, as I am again being criticized by certain individuals regarding the said support.
(4) Apprehensions about resuming in-person instruction: Many universities are set to return to in-person classes on Monday, January 31, 2022. I am personally delighted to go back to class and interact with my students face-to-face, but not everyone is.
For example, UCSB Faculty Association has demanded that the data on which decisions are made be shared with faculty, staff, and students. They have asked whether the omicron trend data from South Africa and other countries have been used, versus deciding based on our local situation in California. They are also concerned about adequate availability of testing and personal protection equipment.
Additionally, there are reservations about increased faculty workload (especially when a class must be taught in two modes to accommodate both in-person and remote students) and pressures faced by students, who have to adjust to new academic and personal-living conditions midway through the quarter.
In the case of my course, problems are minimal, given pre-recorded lectures and optional class attendance, but I do sympathize with other faculty members and TAs, especially those involved with large classes.

2022/01/25 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
This is the share of Iranian women from the country's nature and recreational resources: Watching with envy, as men enjoy them Cultural contrast: Raising children with musical instruments or guns! Taliban officials travel to Norway on a private jet, paid for by the Norwegian government
Three Iranian physicians wrote influential books: Ali-ibn Abbas Majusi, Ibn-Sina, and Mohammad-ibn Zakariya Razi Restoration work on a landmark Egyptian temple unearths colossal pair of Sphinxes Cover image of Ray Kurzweil's 'The Singularity Is Near' (see the last item below). (1) Images of the day: [Top left] This is the share of Iranian women from the country's nature and recreational resources: Watching with envy, as men enjoy them (#LetUsTalk). [Top center] Cultural contrast: Raising children with musical instruments or guns! [Top right] Taliban officials travel to Norway on a private jet, paid for by the Norwegian government. [Bottom left] Three Iranian physicians wrote influential books that were translated into Latin for educational use: Ali-ibn Abbas Majusi, Ibn-Sina, and Mohammad-ibn Zakariya Razi. [Bottom center] Restoration work on a landmark Egyptian temple has unearthed colossal pair of Sphinxes. [Bottom right] Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity Is Near (see the last item below).
(2) Humor from Iran: Dear God: In the Quran, you tell us Muslims to travel as much as we can. Couldn't you have commanded in the Bible that Christians not deny our visa applications?
(3) Please don't bring religious symbols to newsrooms: Over the past few days, PBS News Hour anchor Amna Nawaz has appeared with a poster that reads "Hussein" behind her. I consider this background inappropriate. Imagine the outrage that would have resulted from a news anchor using Jesus, the Ten Commandments, or some other religious symbol as background. [Screenshot]
(4) Book review: Kurzweil, Ray, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology, unabridged 25-hour audiobook, read by George Wilson, Penguin Audio, 2019.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is an important book, hence my 4-star rating, but gets annoying by unneeded elaborations and repetitions. Few people would dispute Kurzweil's assertions that AI is getting more complex, and thus "smarter," at an accelerating rate. Similarly, the prediction that biological capabilities of humans will soon be augmented with nano-computers and nano-robots rings true. What made me as a techie somewhat uncomfortable is the inclusion of claims such as "exponential growth, with the exponent also growing exponentially." This just doesn't make sense.
According to Kurzweil, human-beings are on the verge of achieving immortality, if not within a biological frame that defies aging, because it is constantly repaired from the inside by nano-robots moving through the bloodstream, then through the persistence of one's ideas and life experiences in a mechanically constructed "host" (avatar). Again, few would argue with this line of thought, except perhaps disagreeing with the speed of its realization.
Kurzweil uses "Singularity" to refer to a point in human history when the speed of change becomes so great as to make predictions impossible. We see a mind-boggling speed-up in new ideas and technologies entering our lives. Whereas acceptance of new technologies used to take decades, now many innovations find their way into our devices and gadgets within a couple of years, with further speed-up inevitable. Human evolution, too, is speeding up.
Kurzweil spends considerable time on the possibility of nano-robots and biomechanical beings we construct going haywire and bringing life on earth to an end. He argues that we can prevent such scenarios from happening, given our own increasing complexity and expanding computational power. In addition to these big questions, and in support of his assertions, Kurzweil reviews advances and potential developments in many areas, such as machines passing the Turing test, DNA computing, gene therapy, brain-cloud interfaces, and the universe as a colossal computer.
I end my review of this thought-provoking book with a listing of its nine chapters.
Chapter 1 sets the stage by describing civilization's "six epochs" leading to the Singularity.
Chapter 2 describes, in a bit too much detail, the exponential growth of hardware capabilities.
Chapter 3 deals with the workings and computational capabilities of the human brain.
Chapter 4 contains an account of scientists' efforts to reverse-engineer the human brain.
Chapter 5 covers revolutionary changes in genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics (GNR).
Chapter 6 ponders impacts of the above on bodies, brains, aging, warfare, learning, work, etc.
Chapter 7 considers questions of consciousness, identity, and the Singularity as transcendence.
Chapter 8 elaborates on intertwined promises and perils of GNR, including possible defenses.
Chapter 9 tackles criticisms against, and possible roadblocks on the path to, the Singularity.

2022/01/24 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Clearest Images of Jupiter ever: These are some of the photos taken by NASA's Juno Space Probe Snow-covered mountains along the Haraz Road, connecting Tehran to eastern Caspian Coast Nature's art: Mah-Neshan hills in Iran's Zanjan Province
Sweets at Saturday's family gathering: The cakes are by my daughter (the heart-shaped one) and my sister Birds on the Isla Vista beach this evening: Batch 1 of photos Birds on the Isla Vista beach this evening: Batch 2 of photos (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Clearest Images of Jupiter ever: These are some of the photos taken by NASA's Juno Space Probe. [Top center] Snow-covered mountains along the Haraz Road, connecting Tehran to eastern Caspian Coast. [Top right] Nature's art: Mah-Neshan hills in Iran's Zanjan Province. [Bottom left] Sweets at a family gathering: The cakes are by my daughter (the heart-shaped one) and my sister. [Bottom center & right] On the Isla Vista beach this evening (1-minute video).
(2) Atena Daemi, the brave Iranian woman who spent more than seven years in prison for her peaceful dissent on behalf of human rights and against the death penalty, finally returns home.
(3) Josh Hawley's lies exposed: CNN's Brianna Keilar rolls the tape on the hypocrite Senator in wanting to overturn the 2020 election, raising money off his claims, and then denying, with a straight face, that he did it. Hawley wasn't a bit-player, but actually led the effort to overturn the election result. [8-minute video]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Iran's Holocaust denial, from its official statement against UN's Holocaust Resolution.
- Opinion piece in Newsweek magazine reflects the will of Iranian women not to be silenced. [#LetUsTalk]
- Computer-generated visualization of dangers of space debris to the Int'l Space Station and its occupants.
- Turkish proverb: "When cattle enter a palace, they don't become royalty. The palace becomes a stable."
- Kurdish music: Performance by Kurdish girls of Khanaqin, Iraq. [6-minute video]
- Kurdish music: The song "Mastureh Mastan," performed by Nishtiman Group. [5-minute video]
- Kurdish music: Live concert by Nishtiman (Home or Homeland) Group. [74-minute video]
- Jewish Kurdish music: A lively dance song, with the distinctive sound of sorna. [4-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Jan. 24, 2011: An essay on how Iranians manufacture and deal with lies.
(5) With these women's rights champions, who needs women's oppressors? Norway and Finland are among the top-5 best countries for women. Yet, women politicians of both countries don the hijab when they visit Iran, Norway paid for a private jet to bring a Taliban delegation to Oslo, and Finland approved of Iran joining the leadership of UN's Commission on the Status of Women! [Tweet]
(6) California's first major fire of 2022 is burning near Big Sur: More than 200 homes are endangered by a fire that shouldn't have happened after three months of record rainfall.
(7) An inept dictatorial government sees any criticism as part of a plot to overthrow it: So environmental activists Niloufar Bayani, Sepideh Kashani, Morad Tahbaz, Houman Jokar, Taher Ghadirian, Sam Rajabi, Amir Hossein Khaleghi, Abdolreza Kouhpayeh, and Kavous Seyed-Emami have been detained by Iran's Islamic Revolutional Guard Corps since four years ago.
(8) Iran on Razor's Edge: This the title of a book by Mohammad Fazeli, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Tehran's Shahid Beheshti University, who was fired from his academic position for his critical writings. The main message of Fazeli's book is that Iran faces a perfect storm of crises, in its economy, environment, foreign relations, and trust, that have become malignant as a result of decades of inattention or sweeping the dirt under the rug. For example, Iran's water crisis was predicted in development plans, years before the Islamic Revolution, yet nothing has been done about it for nearly five decades. [85-minute discussion, in Persian]

2022/01/23 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Bahar Choir's 'Voice of Peace, Voice of Solidarity' concert, London, April 23, 2022, and Paris, April 29-30, 2022 Analysis of current and future computer science needs via advertised faculty searches for 2022 Oppressed vs. dressed: Speaking up against misogynistic laws isn't Islamophobia
Art: Afghan women, not men, are standing against the Taliban! Meme: Instead of 'Protect your daughters,' say 'Educate your sons to respect women' Horizontal flight to space will be coming to an airport near you, according to Radian (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Bahar Choir's "Voice of Peace, Voice of Solidarity" concerts: London, April 23, and Paris, April 29-30, 2022 (Tickets). [Top center] Analysis of current and future computer science needs via advertised faculty searches for 2022: In the chart, DataOrient represents the aggregation of AI/DM/ML, DataSci, and DB, accounting for ~1/3 of all hirings. [Top right] Oppressed vs. dressed: Speaking up against misogynistic laws isn't Islamophobia (#LetUsTalk). [Bottom left] Afghan women, not men, are standing against the Taliban! [Bottom center] Meme: Instead of "Protect your daughters," say "Educate your sons to respect women." [Bottom right] Horizontal flight to space will be coming to an airport near you, according to Radian.
(2) Campaign against "honor" killings: Mehrangiz Kar will speak in Persian, Sat. Jan. 29, 2022, 10:00 AM PST, under the title "How the Women's Movement Can Change Discriminatory Laws Against Women." [Zoom link]
(3) The lightbulb that never burns out: The carbon-filament bulb is kept in Livermore, California, and it has been in use continuously since 1901 (for 121 years). Rumor has it that a European inventor built a similar bulb, but he was killed by lightbulb manufacturers, who feared he may put them out of business.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Nine poets whose works appeared in Iranian school textbooks in the 1980s. [6-minute video]
- Math puzzle: Find all positive-integer solutions of the equation 1^2 + 2^2 + 3^2 + ... + m^2 = n^2
- Quote of the day: "Running away from a problem only increases the distance to its solution." ~ Anonymous
- A feast for the eyes and ears: Scenery and music from Mohsen Makhmalbaf's film, "Gabbeh."
- English-Persian glossary (humor): Here's one example: "Accessible" = "Photo of mustache."
- Facebook memory from Jan. 22, 2019: Bahar Choir collaborates with musician/composer Majid Derakhshan.
- Facebook memory from Jan. 22, 2016: Yearning to return to America's Golden Age, but which one?
- Facebook memory from Jan. 23, 2020: Retort to "Whoever doesn't like the Islamic Republic should leave."
(5) Touching tribute: A group of boys, dressed as firefighters, pay tribute to those who perished in Tehran's Plasco Building fire, on the opening day of a new replacement building. No mention though of the developer of the original building having been executed by the Islamic regime! And where are the girls? They would have loved to join in for this tribute. [5-minute video]
(6) Realistic math word-problem: If Dr. Chan has a schoolteacher husband, a diabetic mother-in-law, twins in preschool, and a daughter who stays with her father across town on alternate weekends, and one twin and the daughter have colds, how many free rapid COVID tests are required to alleviate Dr. Chan's breaking-point levels of despair? (a) Fewer than four; (b) Four; (c) More than four
(7) Waste is all around us: We often worry about product packaging and go out of our way to recycle glass bottles, cans, and plastic containers. This is quite important, but we should not lose sight of the fact that packaging is just one facet of waste. Some 99% of everything produced in the world becomes trash within a year of production. [Mind-numbing fact I learned from The Future of Pakcaging: From Linear to Circular, a book which I will review in due course.]
(8) Final thought for the day: "If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history." ~ Hannah Arendt

2022/01/21 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
History in pictures: Edward Charles Pickering, director of Harvard Observatory, and the 'computers' on his team (1913) Redundant clock Rahman Golzar Shabestari, developer of Tehran's Ekbatan housing mega-complex, dead at 92
Agenda for UCSB IEE's Technology Review 2022: Day 1 Agenda for UCSB IEE's Technology Review 2022: Day 2, morning Agenda for UCSB IEE's Technology Review 2022: Day 2, afternoon (1) Images of the day: [Top left] History in pictures: Edward Charles Pickering, Harvard Observatory Director, and the "computers" on his team (1913). [Top center] Redundant clock! [Top right] Rahman Golzar Shabestari, developer of Tehran's Ekbatan housing mega-complex, dead at 92: I had an 8th-floor condo in one of the first buildings completed in the complex in the mid-1970s. Construction quality was first-rate and views quite good, looking north. [Bottom row] Agenda for UCSB IEE's Technology Review 2022 (see the last two items below).
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Quote: "Forgive, O Lord, my little jokes on Thee and I'll forgive Thy great big one on me." ~ Robert Frost
- Facebook memory from Jan. 21, 2019: In a society organized around lies, truth-telling becomes political.
- Facebook memory from Jan. 21, 2018: When "Girthers" asked for Donald Trump's girth certificate!
- Facebook memory from Jan. 21, 2017: The year when politicians' subtle lies changed into "lies with horns"!
- Facebook memory from Jan. 21, 2013: When our Black president's inauguration coincided with MLK Day.
- Facebook memory from Jan. 21, 2012: When people ignored executions and criticized an actress's actions.
(3) UCSB Institute for Energy Efficiency Technology Review 2022, Day 1 of 2 (Energy Efficiency in Buildings in the Post-COVID-19 Era): Workshop participants included Mary Ann Piette (LBNL), Martin Fischer (Stanford U.), Tim Salsbury (Pacific Northwest Nat'l Lab), Zheng O'Neill (Texas A&M U.), Dan Nall (ASHRAE Fellow), and Mead Rusert (Automated Logic Corp.).
There are large gains in energy efficiency in buildings that have been achieved by a combination of more efficient equipment and AI-driven automation. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a keen emphasis on health aspects that the industry is tackling in order to provide a safe environment for building occupants. This workshop's focus was on the interplay between the two, specifically how the increased needs on the health side and the consequent increase in energy expenditure can be mitigated by further deployment of automation and artificial intelligence.
In dealing with buildings and energy, we should consider both operational energy and embodied energy. Building climate-control systems are increasingly adding data collection capabilities. There is a trade-off between occupant comfort and energy-efficiency in buildings. COVID-19, having led to the need for better ventilation, has added health to the side of comfort. As in the case of other national disasters, we may have over-reacted to COVID-19 by putting in place mitigation measures that provide only marginal benefits at exorbitantly high cost.
(4) UCSB Institute for Energy Efficiency Technology Review 2022, Day 2 of 2 (Future Data Center Architectures and Increased Energy Efficiency): Today's virtual workshop, organized by Katharine Schmidtke (Meta) and John Bowers (UCSB), focused on architecture, communications, and systems issues driving energy efficiency in the cloud and the data center.
Participants included representatives from Meta (Katharine Schmidtke, Bharath Muthiah, Rob Stone, Ravi Agarwal), Intel (Thomas Liljeberg, filling in for Robert Blum), NVIDIA (Robert Ober), Broadcom (Manish Mehta, Surendra Anubolu), Google (Cliff Young), AMD (Frank Helms), Microsoft (Ram Huggahalli), Parallax Group (Chris Cole), and UCSB (John Bowers, Clint Schow, Yufei Ding, Lei Li).
On this second day, the workshop's morning session focused on AI/ML. There are two ways in which discussion of AI/ML is relevant to data centers. First, a good chunk of computational resources at today's data centers, such as those of Facebook, are used for running AI/ML applications. Second, AI/ML methods play major roles in improving the energy-efficiency of data centers. Before breaking for lunch, the presenters and a few others participated in a round-table discussion on cloud systems and related architectural considerations.
This afternoon's session focused on interconnect optimization in data centers. Optical interconnects took center stage in all presentations and in the panel discussion that ended the program. The discussion began with an overview of drivers and application spaces, continuing with a review of existing technologies, silicon-photonics integration, predictions for the coming decade, and proposed hardware capabilities and associated optimization technologies that will fundamentally transform data centers and their energy efficiency going forward.

2022/01/20 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
IEEE CCS technical talk by Dr. Behrooz Parhami, January 2022: Slides, Batch 1 IEEE CCS technical talk by Dr. Behrooz Parhami, January 2022: Slides, Batch 2 IEEE CCS technical talk by Dr. Behrooz Parhami, January 2022: Slides, Batch 3
IEEE CCS technical talk by Dr. Behrooz Parhami, January 2022: Slides, Batch 4 IEEE CCS technical talk by Dr. Behrooz Parhami, January 2022: Slides, Batch 5 IEEE CCS technical talk by Dr. Behrooz Parhami, January 2022: Slides, Batch 6 (1) Last night's IEEE Central Coast Section tech talk: After holding its December 2021 talk in person alongside a holiday banquet, IEEE CCS returned to Zoom format, given new developments in the COVID-19 pandemic. The speaker was yours truly, presenting one of my IEEE Computer Society Distinguished Visitors Program talks entitled "Interconnection Networks for Parallel Processors and Data Centers." My Web site includes a great deal of information about me, my research program, and list of technical publications.
The gist of my talk was that both parallel processors and data centers are composed of a collection of compute nodes (or servers) and a set of interconnects, the latter being just as important as, if not more important than, compute nodes. In fact, chip-multiprocessors and computer networks, such as the Internet, are also similar, in that they have nodes and links, but differ in their scales. Chip-multiprocessors, which are essentially small-scale parallel processors, have given rise to the area of networks-on-chip. The Internet is not as sensitive to delays as networks for parallel processors and data centers. If you type in a Google search query, response times on the order of a second are tolerable, whereas in one second, a top-of-the-line parallel processor executes on the order of 10^18 operations (exa-ops).
Interconnecting multiple processors in a parallel supercomputer or servers in a data center constitutes a challenging problem. There are so many ways to interconnect the computing nodes that the range of options has come to be known as "the sea of interconnection networks." In this talk, I began by outlining the theoretical underpinnings of interconnection network design in a way that exposed the challenges. In addition to the underlying, as-yet-unsolved mathematical problem known as the degree-diameter problem, practical considerations such as power-frugality, performance under realistic loads, packageability, quality of service, robustness, reliability, symmetry, scalability, and serviceability (which I refer to as the PQRS attributes) come into play. I then reviewed desirable network properties and related them to various network classes that have been used or proposed. Emphasis was placed on robustness attributes of networks, given that large networks with many thousands or perhaps millions of nodes are bound to experience malfunctions in nodes & links.
[IEEE CCS Technical Talks Page; Speaker's slides; Recording of the talk (67-minute video)]
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Volcanic disaster in Tonga: A thick layer of ash and damage from tsunami have devastated the islands.
- Battle between airlines and communications companies over possible dangers of 5G to air travel.
- Ex-Pope Benedict failed to act on four child-abuse cases when he was archbishop of Munich.
- U. Michigan pays $490 million to settle a sexual-abuse case involving former football doctor.
- Freudian slip: Mitch McConnell says African-Americans vote just as much as Americans. [Tweet]
- COVID-19 aggravated disparities affecting professional advancement of early-career women scientists.
- The rise of artificial-intelligence fighter-pilots: Should we be worried, now that AI can fly warplanes?
- In upcoming auction, a 556-carat black diamond believed to be from space is expected to fetch ~$7M.
- Facebook memory from Jan. 19, 2019: Participating in Women's March Santa Barbara. [Photo]
- Facebook memory from Jan. 19, 2014: IRI TV covers birth of panda in China but not Iran's street protests!
- Facebook memory from Jan. 19, 2011: The trouble with college education in the US (still quite relevant).
- Facebook memory from Jan. 20, 2010: Goleta storm, as seen from my office window. [1-minute video]
(3) Humor (Ode to Microsoft Word): "From Windows 95 all the way to 365 Premium, Word has been my parent, my guide, and at times my lover on this journey we call life."

2022/01/18 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Single-wheel transportation, 1931 RV for the age of through-the-roof gas prices! A father and son ride bicycles outfitted to move on train tracks in Pelston, Michigan, circa 1910
Results of Monday's food prep: Rice with tah-dig, pasta sauce with meat, and taco meat Rooster-brand gum: Nostalgia from pre-revolutionary Iran The unrealized promise of digital TV: Example of distored image (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Single-wheel transportation, 1931. [Top center] RV for the age of through-the-roof gas prices! [Top right] A father and son ride bicycles outfitted to move on train tracks in Pelston, Michigan, circa 1910. [Bottom left] Monday was my food prep day: I made rice, pasta sauce, and taco meat for the next few days. [Bottom center] Rooster-brand gum (nostalgia): Like many other industrial and commercial entities, the largest chewing-gum factory in pre-revolutionary Iran was confiscated by the Islamic government, because it was owned by a Jew. [Bottom right] The unrealized promise of digital TV (see the next item below).
(2) Digital TV was supposed to improve image quality: True in theory, but not in practice. Those of us who get digital TV through cable companies, face frequent disruption of service on one or more stations, constant freezing of images, and image distortion, which are likely the results of offering too many TV channels under limited bandwidth. Using Zoom for interviews has made things worse. Virtual backgrounds in Zoom cause frequent distortion in the foreground image.
(3) A day late, but still timely: Dr. Martin Luther King's lecture on the occasion of accepting the Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10, 1964. [12-minute video] [English text] [Persian translation, by Dr. Kazem Alamdari]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Facebook memory from Jan. 18, 2018: A patriotic Persian song. [4-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Jan. 18, 2016: A bilingual romantic proposition!
- Facebook memory from Jan. 18, 2014: Same person is described differently in various historical accounts.
- Facebook memory from Jan. 18, 2012: My daughter's first and last ballet pictures. [Photos]
(5) Iran talks about its economic resilience: But this resilience is a mirage, given rampant inflation (40%) and persistent unemployment (11% overall; much higher for the college-educated).
(6) Iran's former president, Hassan Rouhani, was reprimanded by the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guards in front of top generals and told to stop defaming them.
(7) Venezuela welcomes criminal Iranian general: Mohsen Rezaei, wanted internationally for his alleged role in a July 1994 bombing in Argentina, is welcome as a guest of honor by Nicaragua's dictator-president.
(8) The myth of Apple software being highly secure goes out the window: A 4-month-old flaw in Safari and iOS 15 expose user browsing activity in real time. The bug is easy to exploit, making it even scarier.

2022/01/17 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Martin Luther King Day! View of MLK Memorial in Washington DC Cartoon: Kind pizzeria owner decides to continue selling one-dollar pizza slices Cover image for Fritjof Capra's 'The Tao of Physics' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy Martin Luther King Day! We celebrate MLK's legacy, not because he was a perfect human-being, but because he reminded us of the imperfections and blind spots that afflict us all. [Center] New Yorker cartoon of the day: Kind pizzeria owner decides to continue selling one-dollar pizza slices. [Right] Fritjof Capra's The Tao of Physics (see the last item below).
(2) Iran continues to take Westerners hostage as leverage: French-Iranian acadmic, Fariba Adelkhah, is sent from house-arrest back to prison, as the nuclear talks enter a sensitive stage.
(3) IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference: To be held in hybrid format in San Diego, June 6-7, 2022, the conference has issued a call for speakers (deadline: 2022/02/01).
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- All four hostages escape unharmed, hostage-taker dies, in rescue effort at Texas synagogue.
- Details of Iranian hackers' digital-espionage and ransomware files released by the US to bolster defenses.
- Abdollah Shahbazi, Iran's chief hate-monger against Baha'is and Jews, may have emigrated to the US.
- If you don't plan on having a baby but keep being pressured by family and friends, this article is for you!
(5) Book review: Capra, Fritjof, The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism, abridged 3-hour audiobook, read by Michael McConnohoi, Audio Renaissance, 1990.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I learned about The Tao of Physics from David Kaiser's wonderful book How the Hippies Saved Physics (My 5-star review of Kaiser's book on Goodreads).
Capra's thesis is that the new principles of physics, after the introduction of quantum mechanics, have a lot in common with Eastern spirituality, notably Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism. After perusing the book, I emerged unconvinced! The book's physics parts are pretty accurate and well-described, but when it comes to the relationship between physics and Eastern spiritual traditions (religions, really), there is much hand-waving and little substance. While it is satisfying to think of the universe as an amalgam of interconnected systems, we cannot wish these interconnections into existence but must provide falsifiable hypotheses for their nature, in the scientific tradition.
The author apparently thought about the connections between quantum physics and Eastern mysticism when sitting on a beach and pondering the grand dance of the universe: His body, his mind, grains of sand, and the ocean are all in constant motion at the atomic level and thus can be likened to the cosmic dance of Shiva, the Hindu deity. This epiphany inspired Capra to shift his view of the world from mechanistic to holistic, incorporating biological, cognitive, social, and ecological dimensions. In fact, he was later moved to change his research focus from physics (centered on inanimate objects) to biology (dealing with life).
The most-ironic part of Capra's grand claims is that he acknowledges the limitations of natural language in discussing scientific theories (limitations that have led to the need for mathematical and formal systems), yet he takes superficial linguistic similarities between notions of physics and those of Eastern mysticism as evidence that they are one and the same.
Capra has been criticized for ignoring new developments in physics that inconveniently clash with some of his ideas. Just as The Tao of Physics was coming out in December 1974, dramatic confirmations of the standard-model quantum field theory in November of that year were creating excitement in scientific circles. Yet, through multiple editions of his book, including new forewords and afterwords that he wrote for them, Capra has not acknowledged the almost complete debunking of the bootstrap theory. On the contrary, he has claimed: "It has been very gratifying for me that none of these recent developments has invalidated anything I wrote."
Capra has been teaching "The Capra Course" in Berkeley, based on his 2016 book, The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision. The 12-lecture course is advertised as providing "conceptual tools to understand the nature of our systemic problems and to recognize the systemic solutions that are being developed by individuals and organizations around the world." Grandiose and vague promises, I would say!
[Conversation with Capra, October 2020; 71-minute video]

2022/01/16 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Art that makes you think: Hooked and chained! Cartoon: As long as families and societies tell girls they cannot or are not allowed to do certain things, women will not achieve their full potential Father-and-son statue in Brazil: The son's body is made up entirely from pieces removed from the father's body
Today's tech talk on value-centered algorithm design Math puzzle: In this diagram, featuring one square, two rectangles, and three equal line segments, what is the angle alpha? If you always wanted a piano but your space is tight, this corner piano may be right for you! (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Art that makes you think! (Artist unknown) [Top center] As long as families and societies tell girls they cannot or should not do certain things, women will not achieve their full potential. [Top right] Father-and-son statue in Brazil: The son's body is made up entirely from pieces removed from the father's body. [Bottom left] Value-centered algorithm design (see the last item below). [Bottom center] Math puzzle: In this diagram, featuring a square, 2 rectangles, and 3 equal line segments, what is the angle alpha? [Bottom right] If you always wanted a piano but your space is tight, this corner piano may be right for you!
(2) Pig heart transplanted to human patient in Maryland: This is a huge deal. If successful, it may open the door to similar animal-to-human transplants that would save the lives of many who currently die waiting for organ donors. The pig's heart was genetically modified using CRISPR technology to make it less likely for it to be rejected by the human body and also to control its growth within the body. The patient is past the critical first few days and has already been taken off machinery that assist in heart and kidney functions. Regardless of whether the patient survives, a giant leap has occurred! On the periphery of this case, the fact that the patient has had a criminal record is raising some ethical concerns.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Yesterday's tsunami caused Soquel Creek in Santa Cruz to flow backwards! [Video]
- If people tell you they did their own research on COVID-19, ask them: "In which lab?"
- Anonymous: "Having empty pockets is no fun, but even worse is having an empty brain or an empty heart."
- "The Persians: A History of Iran": BBC Documentary, Episode 1. [51-minute video]
- The late Iraj Pezeshkzad talks in 2007 about his book "My Uncle Napoleon" and its TV-series adaptation.
- Andre Rieu's full concert in Maastricht, Netherlands. [136-minute video]
(4) The Siberian permafrost is melting: Russia's permafrost is filled with microbes, mammoths, and twice as much carbon as the atmosphere. Its melting can potentially have dire consequences on the Earth's climate.
(5) SUTA technical talk: This morning, Dr. Niloufar Salehi (UC Berkeley) spoke in Persian under the title "Value-Centered Algorithm Design." Dr. Salehi's focus was on an algorithm used, apparently unsuccessfully, to match students to public schools in San Francisco, based on preferences expressed by students/families and by schools. Matching algorithms, when supplied with reliable input data, do a remarkable job of producing optimal results. The problem is that the input is often messy and misses some relevant parameters that are either hard to measure or unquantifiable. In other words, the model used is a poor reflection of reality. The US scheme of school funding based on local property taxes is part of the problem, because it creates certain expectations for better quality in more affluent neighborhoods.
A lively Q&A period ensued. I asked about the process used to come up with the four values reflected on the accompanying screenshot, adding that once we include values in our designs, an immediate question is "whose values?" Professional societies sometime spend years crafting a code of ethics (values for member conduct), because the issues are subtle and there is so much disagreement about what to include or exclude. In the US, we can't even agree on community values (masking and vaccination for COVID-19) that appear to some of us to carry significant social benefits.
A recording of this talk will be made available on SUTA's YouTube channel.

2022/01/15 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Poster for women's movement under oppression by Islamist regimes Masih Alinejad's tweet about the French magazine 'Charlie Hebdo' picking up her #LetUsTalk campaign Women athletes from Iran and Afghanistan speaking about compulsory hijab
Screening of the documentary film 'The Social Dilemma' Math puzzle: This one's a toughie! Giants of the Alps: The Hugo Brothers, Baptiste & Antoine, shown with their family (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Women ask that we hear them: Second-class citizens under Islamist regimes, women want to talk about their life experiences of oppression and exclusion. Under the hashtag #LetUsTalk, athletes and other Iranian & Afghan women post their photos with compulsory hijab and their natural selves. [Bottom left] Screening of the powerful documentary film "The Social Dilemma" (see the last item below). [Bottom center] Math puzzle: This one's a toughie! [Bottom right] Giants of the Alps: The Hugo Brothers, Baptiste (7' 7"; 231 cm) and his younger brother Antoine (7' 5'; 226 cm), shown with their family.
(2) Twitter suspends one of the accounts of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, for inciting violence: He still has many other accounts in multiple languages.
(3) There was a tsunami advisory this morning for the entire West Coast of the US from an underwater volcanic eruption near the Tonga Islands: The area at risk for us is downtown Santa Barbara, which is mostly at sea level. The rest of Santa Barbara and Goleta is considerably above sea level, unless you happen to be at the beach. Anyway, the warning interval is now behind us, with no incident!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- The FBI is assisting Texas authorities with a hostage situation at a synagogue in Colleyville.
- Modern Azeri music: A beautiful song performed with piano and vocals. Enjoy! [4-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Jan. 15, 2016: My New-Year resolution, again coming a couple of weeks late!
- Facebook memory from Jan. 15, 2016: The pot (Javad Zarif) calling the kettle (the Saudis) black!
(5) "The Social Dilemma": This powerful documentary film (available on Netflix) was screened on Friday as part of UCSB's information campaign on data security and privacy. In the film, a number of former employees of Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other tech giants discuss how social media, that began as a force for good (reuniting families, locating old friends, raising money for noble causes, matching patients to organ donors) turned into spreaders of hate, disinformation, and fake news. Given the helpfulness of these negative attributes for generating clicks and thus revenue, tech platforms lack incentives to confront the problem.
According to one of the participants, it's frightening to think that fifty or so 20- and 30-somethings at Google make decisions that affect the lives of 2 billion people. Because of this outsize influence, they carry a heavy burden of responsibility. With sufficient data, detailed models of people can be built that accurately predict their future actions, and this is worth a lot of money. When A is communicating with B on social media, there is C who pays for this communication and hopes to make money in return.
Another participant urges us to think of social-media strategy as a form of hacking: Exploiting vulnerabilities, not in software, but in human psychology. Saying that social media are just tools is misguided. Hammer is a tool. It sits there until you decide to use it. If you don't use it for a year, it won't complain. Social media don't sit there idly. They try to lure you into engaging: X tagged you in a photo. Y posted a new status. Today is your "friendversary" with Z.
Some say that we will adapt to the influence of social media. Afterall, we adapted to the printing press, newspaper, TV, and so on. But this time around it is fundamentally different. We are being manipulated and aren't even aware of it. The saying "if you don't pay for a service, then you aren't a customer, but the product being sold to whoever is paying" doesn't go far enough. Social-media companies don't just sell your data, but also try to modify your behavior so that you become a more valuable commodity.
In two weeks, on Friday, January 28, 2022, 12:00 noon, a panel discussion will be held to discuss this film. Panel members include Safya Noble (UCLA), Gillian Hayes (UC Irvine), Bryan Cunnigham (UC Irvine), Sean Peisert (LBNL), Pegah Parsi (UCSD), and Allison Henry (UC Berkeley).

2022/01/13 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Tonight's dinner: Karafs vegetarian stew from Sadaf, to which I added stew meat, plus rice, Shirazi salad, and a side of Indian coconut squash dal COVID-19 data: The dominant variant over time and projections on the peak of the omicron variant, according to four different models Raspberry blood oranges: They really do taste like raspberries!
A nice view of the central part of the UCSB campus: Cheadle Hall is in front and SAASB behind it Metz Car Adventure: L. Wing drove his Metz Model 22 to the rim of the Grand Canyon in 1914 Some geographic terms, nicely illustrated (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Tonight's dinner: Karafs vegetarian stew from Sadaf, to which I added stew meat, plus rice, Shirazi salad, and a side of Indian coconut squash dal. [Top center] COVID-19 data: The dominant variant over time and projections on the peak of the omicron variant, according to four different models (source: UCSB COVID-19 response team). [Top right] Raspberry blood oranges: They really do taste like raspberries! [Bottom left] A nice view of the central part of the UCSB campus: Cheadle Hall is in front and SAASB behind it. [Bottom center] Metz Car Adventure: L. Wing drove his Metz Model 22 to the rim of the Grand Canyon in 1914. [Bottom right] Some geographic terms, nicely illustrated. (Correction: The word "STRAIGHT" near the center of the diagram should be "STRAIT.")
(2) More power to Iranian women: These brave women, who take their headscarves off to protest against mandatory hijab laws, are normal, decent citizens who are tired of being oppressed and treated like cattle. They are not paid "enemy" agents, as Iran's Supreme Leader callously asserted in a recent speech.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Prince Andrew's pedophilia finally catches up with him: What took the royals so long?
- Brief report on today's meeting of UCSB Faculty Legislature. [Facebook post]
- A promising swimmer, whose dreams were shattered by the misogynistic Islamic Republic. [Tweet]
- Persian music: Istgah Orchestra performs the oldie song "Porsoon Porsoon." [3-minute video]
(4) The pipeline bringing Islamic Republic officials to US universities: The number of US academics who had important positions within the Iranian government is steadily growing. Some of these are technocrats, who gave up on trying to reform the system, leaving the government and the country and becoming regime critics. I have no problem with this group, as long as they don't have blood on their hands.
Others were forced out of their positions for various reasons, such as being deemed insufficiently religious, trying to grab too much power, or swindling money. The real reason is often unknown, given the Islamic regime's proclivity for protecting its own reputation (Khamenei famously said that lengthy legal proceedings against corrupt officials hurts the regime). Among members of this group are those who filled their pockets as Islamic Republic officials, essentially retiring in the US and taking an academic job to hide the fact that they can lead comfortable lives without working.
The most troubling group for me are those who held key government positions, benefiting from the regime's largesse, and leaving their positions on amicable terms. Some of these have maintained their extreme Islamist views and are abusing the openness and tolerance of the American academic system to gain prestige. Some in the latter group don't even pretend to criticize the mullahs' regime and in fact travel back and forth between the US and Iran under academic pretenses.
With this long introduction, here is why I am posting about this group of former Islamic Republic of Iran officials. This article from AllIsraelNews (admittedly not an impartial source) names two such academics against whom Amnesty International has amassed and published documentation of being involved in the Iranian regime's criminal policies. They are Mohammad Jafar Mahallati (Oberlin College) and Seyed Hossein Mousavian (Princeton). As Iran's Ambassador to the UN, Mahallati played a role in justifying the 1988 mass-murder of prisoners under the co-leadership of Ebrahim Raisi. Mousavian was forced out by the German government from his ambassadorial position because of his involvement in political assassinations and plots.

2022/01/12 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iranian writer/satirist/diplomat Iraj Pezeshkzad dead at 93 Federal agent inspects a 'lumber' truck in 1928 Los Angeles, during the prohibition era Participants in the webinar on anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in Iran (1) Images of the day: [Left] Iranian writer/satirist/diplomat Iraj Pezeshkzad dead at 93: He was best known for his 1973 Persian novel My Uncle Napoleon, a sociopolitical satire, turned into a successful 1976 TV series in pre-revolutionary Iran. [Center] Federal agent inspects a "lumber" truck in 1928 Los Angeles, during the prohibition era. [Right] Webinar on anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in Iran (see the last item below).
(2) Persian poetry: This poem, from Samet-e Borujerdi, is sometimes attributed incorrectly to Sa'eb-e Tabrizi. It contains some sound advice (a few of the half-verses have assumed the status of proverbs), as well as the standard misogynistic views of the time (see the next to the last verse).
(3) "Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial in Iran": This was the title of today's IranWire webinar, moderated by Maziar Bahari (Editor-in-Chief & Founder, IranWire) and featuring three panelists from the Iranian Jewish community outside Iran. After a brief introduction to the topic by Bahari, the panelists spoke in multiple rounds, answering various questions. In what follows, I have reported a number of key points made by each panelist. [Recording of the webinar: 66-minute video]
- Hamid Sabi (Lawyer & Human Rights Activist): Anti-Semitism in Iran didn't start with the Islamic Republic. During Reza Shah's reign, the closeness of the Iranian government with Nazi Germany, along with the existence of many Iranians who were educated in Germany, created strong anti-Semitic tendencies. Most political parties at the time, even some of those that were characterized as socialist or leftist, harbored anti-Semitic ideas. Islamic religious groups, which have come to wield power after the 1979 Revolution, abhor Jews and anything that is connected to them, including Zionism and the state of Israel. Even some clerics who were against executing prominent Jews shortly after the Revolution thought so because they felt it would damage the Islamic Republic, not because they thought it was wrong. The Iranian government holds a Quds (Jerusalem) Day every year, forcing Jewish community leaders to attend the anti-Israel ceremonies, sitting next to IRGC generals bent on destroying Israel.
- Sharon Nazarian (Vice-President for International Affairs, Anti-Defamation League): Iran's anti-Semitism is in many ways similar to those of other countries in the region. A major difference is that Iran is the top state-sponsor of anti-Semitism. It broadcasts, in many different languages, anti-Semitic ideas, opposition to the state of Israel, and Holocaust denial (such as holding an international Holocaust cartoon contest). The Iranian regime acts as an exporter of anti-Semitic ideas and is thus an existential threat to Jews worldwide. Anti-Semitism isn't a Jewish problem. It serves as a warning sign that a country's sociopolitical structure is ailing, something that will affect its entire population. Mistreatment of Jews often leads to other forms of intolerance against minorities and opposition groups. Countries that lose their minorities (brain drain) suffer in terms of their economy, although the loss has not been quantified. This loss is very obvious in the case of Iran, whose minorities and elites are doing very well and have been of great service in exile. School textbooks are full of anti-Jewish and, of course, anti-Israel propaganda, instilling in students' minds that Jews have always conspired against Islam.
- George Haroonian (Human Rights Activist): Shiite ideology, as interpreted by many clerics, reserves a strong hatred for Jews, who must live under Muslims and pay special taxes. After the execution of several prominent Jews in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution, Jews, particularly businessmen and community leaders, left Iran en masse, reducing Iran's Jewish population from ~85,000 to the current ~20,000. Most of the remaining Jews are younger ones born after the Revolution. Many Muslim Iranians do not regard Jews as proper Iranians, even though Jews have deeper roots in the country than Muslims (going back 2700 vs. 1400 years). Accusing Jews of having dual loyalties is a standard anti-Semitic trope. So, what is a Jew's life like under Iran's anti-Semitic society and government? Iranian Jews do live their lives, but, like many other Iranians, they would leave if they could. Iranian Jews have a natural love for Israel, where many have friends and family members. They often contribute to charity and social programs in Israel, contributions that the regime tends to interpret as contributions to the state of Isreal and, thus, as a form of spying for Israel.

2022/01/11 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
View of the US 101, the day after the devastating 2018 Montecito mudflow, killing 23 Motorcycle mail-carrier in Washington DC, May 1912 Meme: One doesn't really get more conservative with age: I can testify to that!
My upcoming technical talk on 1/19, as part of IEEE CS DVP Poet Maya Angelou becomes the first black woman to be featured on a US quarter-dollar coin My 2021 in books: Here are my final book-review stats on GoodReads for 2021 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Facebook memory from Jan. 10, 2018: View of the US 101, the day after the devastating Montecito mudflow, killing 23. [Top center] Motorcycle mail-carrier in Washington DC, May 1912. [Top right] One doesn't really get more conservative with age: I can testify to that! [Bottom left] My upcoming technical talk on 1/19 (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Poet Maya Angelou becomes the first black woman to be featured on a US quarter-dollar coin. [Bottom right] My 2021 in books: Here are my final book-review stats on GoodReads for 2021. A handful of the 104 reviews are ones I had written earlier, posting them in 2021. But I take pride in reading ~100 new books, raising my total to ~350. I have already posted two reviews for 2022, The Tao of Physics and The Death of Politics.
(2) My next IEEE Computer Society Distinguished Visitors Program talk: Speaking for IEEE Central Coast Section, I will discuss "Interconnection Networks for Parallel Processors and Data Centers," on Wednesday, January 19, 2022, 6:30 PM PST. [Register for Zoom link]
(3) One bad news after another about political prisoners in Iran: First, it was Baktash Abtin's death in prison from medical inattention. Now, Kurdish teacher Zahra Mohammadi has begun serving a 5-year prison term.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Give a man a program and you frustrate him for a day. Teach him to program and you frustrate him for life.
- This video should help with Abdolkarim Soroush's amnesia about the damage he did to Iran's universities.
- World's waterfalls: Switzerland's Rhinefall with its massive flow has amazed people for some 15,000 years.
- Math puzzle: If x + y = 1 and x^2 + y^2 = 2, what is x^8 + y^8?
- Mesmerizing combination: Painting, Persian calligraphy, & music, in an animated short. [4-minute video]
- Eric Hoffer: "Our greatest pretenses are built up not to hide the evil and the ugly in us, but our emptiness."
- Persian music: Talent-show contestant's wonderful performance of Bijan Mortazavi's "Fire Dance."
- Facebook memory from Jan. 10, 2018: My daughter's article on mirror neurons (Total Wellness magazine).
(5) A positive result of the January 6 Commission: A bunch of crazy Trump supporters, such as Rep. Jim Jordan and attorney Rudy Giuliani, have shut their mouths, to the delight of most Americans!
(6) Words from the late Baktash Abtin: The political prisoner, who died in prison from medical inattention a few days ago, had spoken these words about the corrupt, inept Islamic regime in Iran, which has sunk the country in poverty and taken all hope away from the younger generation. [3-minute video]
(7) Stolen lives: This is the theme of a number of IranWire feature articles about victims of the downing of Ukranian Airlines Flight PS752 by the Iranian government two years ago. Among the victims were promising scholars, newlyweds, and unborn babies. Here's one of the stories.
(8) Oral history of Iran: Harvard University's collection of interviews with Iranian politicians and intellectuals (audio & text) about their lives during the 6 decades leading to the Islamic Revolution (1920-1979).
(9) This study is of interest to women in computing and men allies for gender equity: "We find that subfield prestige correlates with gender inequality, such that faculty working in computing subfields with more women tend to hold positions at less prestigious institutions. In contrast, we find no significant evidence of racial or socioeconomic differences by subfield. Tracking representation over time, we find steady progress toward gender equality in all subfields, but more prestigious subfields tend to be roughly 25 years behind the less prestigious subfields in gender representation. These results illustrate how the choice of subfield in a faculty search can shape a department's gender diversity."
[N. LaBerge, K. H. Wapman, A. C. Morgan, S. Zhang, D. B. Larremore, and A. Clauset, "Subfield Prestige and Gender Inequality in Computing," Full text on arxiv.]

2022/01/09 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
We had a BBQ late lunch at my sister's on Saturday, before doing our belated Secret-Santa family gift exchange, in-person and over Zoom: Photo 1 We had a BBQ late lunch at my sister's on Saturday, before doing our belated Secret-Santa family gift exchange, in-person and over Zoom: Photo 2 Secret-Santa's gift to me was a fruit-carving kit, that came with a recipe/instruction booklet
The historic Keshvarieh bathhouse on Tehran's Sirous (Mostafa Khomeini) Street was built in 1947 by Soleiman Sanaee and named after his wife, Keshvar Khodadad (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] We had a BBQ late lunch at my sister's on Saturday, before doing our belated Secret-Santa family gift exchange, in-person and over Zoom. [Top right] Secret-Santa's gift to me was a fruit-carving kit, that came with a recipe/instruction booklet. [Bottom left] Tosay's screening of Narges Mohammadi's documentary film (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Keshvarieh Bathhouse in Tehran: This historic bathhouse on Tehran's Sirous (Mostafa Khomeini) Street was built in 1947 by Soleiman Sanaee and named after his wife, Keshvar Khodadad, after she passed away unexpectedly. The bathhouse was intended for use by Jews, who were not welcome at other bathhouses (6-minute video). [Bottom right] Today's UCLA lecture on Iranians' awareness of the country's ancient history (see the last item below).
(2) Free Narges Mohammadi Campaign: Eight women's rights and human rights organizations joined Voices of Women for Change for today's screening of "White Torture," a documentary film by Narges Mohammadi. The film screening was followed by a panel discussion.
The documentary, and the book by the same title on which it is based, stress the fact that Iran uses solitary confinement as a form of torture to break the resistance of political prisoners and extract confessions from them that are then used to strike them with long prison terms or even death sentences. Isolated from other prisoners and kept in the dark about their own case and whether their families even know where they are, detainees become extremely vulnerable to pressure and manipulation, often making self-incriminating false statements in the hopes of ending their torturous isolation.
Tiny solitary-confinement cells and social isolation affect not just the detainees' mental well-being but also impair their physical health. Many detainees emerge from solitary confinement with various physical ailments, not to mention lifelong mental scars. In the case of women prisoners, a routine part of solitary confinement is sexual humiliation and abuse.
In the panel discussion, the following participants presented their views on the documentary film and its assertion that solitary confinement is tantamount to torture: Elise Auerbach (Amnesty International); Tara Sepehri Far (Human Rights Watch); Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (Cal State Northridge); Dr. Mansour Farhang (Campaign for Human Rights in Iran); Taghi Rahmani (Narges Mohammadi's spouse; journalist/writer).
[Recording of today's event: 73-minute video of the proceedings, minus the documentary film]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Today marked the fourth anniversary of the devastating mudflow near Santa Barbara that killed 23.
- Iranian Kurdish poet Baktash Abtin dies in detention: He is the second political prisoner to die in 2022.
- UCSB has extended the period of on-line instruction at the beginning of winter quarter from 2 to 4 weeks.
- Facebook memory from Jan. 9, 2020: Be grateful to have survived to your current age!
- Facebook memory from Jan. 9, 2017: Here's your key to happiness!
- Facebook memory from Jan. 9, 2014: Persian verse about a dervish's dilemma at a sultan's feast.
(4) Killing is killing, be it by shooting, hanging, or denial of medical services: Iranian Kurdish poet Baktash Abtin did not die in prison, he was killed! Iran's Islamic regime should be held accountable for this killing. He was a poet, not an armed fighter, yet he was chained to his bed as he languished in prison.
(5) UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: Today, sociologist Dr. Ahmad Ashraf (affiliated with Center for Iranian Studies, Columbia U.) spoke in Persian under the title "How Has Iranians' Awareness of the Medes, Achaemenids and Parthians Been Shaped." As the program's coordinator, Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (Cal State Northridge) started today's session by providing a brief overview of upcoming events [Link 1] [Link 2] in UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series and introducing today's speaker.
Recognized as a major contributor to the social history and historical sociology of modern Iran, Dr. Ahmad Ashraf [1934-] is a senior editor of Encyclopedia Iranica and has contributed several articles to the project. Themes in his works include social hierarchy in Iran, tradition and modernity, national identity of Iranians, agricultural relations in Iran, and charismatic leadership and theocratic government in post-revolutionary Iran.
According to Dr. Ashraf, Iranian historians became aware of the Medes, Achaemenids, and Parthian dynasties just over a century ago. As a case in point, Ferdowsi's 10-centuries-old epic poem, Shahnameh, regarded as the first written account of the ancient history of Iran, bears no mention of the Medes, Achaemenids, or Seleucid kings. Ferdowsi's very brief treatment of the Parthian dynasty, which ruled Iran for nearly 5 centuries (just before the Sassanids, indicates that perhaps not much was known about Persia's fairly-recent past history, let alone earlier history, at the time.
Awareness of Persia's long pre-Islamic history among native historians came about from the works of Western scholars, beginning with translations and compilations by writer/politician Mohammad Ali Foroughi [1877-1942], eventual prime-minister to Reza Shah. Later, Persepolis & Pasargadae excavations by German archaeologist Ernst Herzfeld [1879-1948] and the 3-volume History of Ancient Iran by Hassan Pirnia [1871-1935] solidified and expanded the Persian-speaking world's awareness of the Medes, Achaemenids, and Parthians. Due to the importance of contributions of Ernst Herzfeld, Encyclopedia Iranica devotes five articles to his life and contributions as an archaeologist and Iranologist.
Thousands of tablets, held in numerous Western museums, provide a window into what went on in ancient Iran. Particularly detailed are accounts of finances (taxes). So, even though we know much about the economic conditions at the time, almost no traditional history is recorded. According to Dr. Ashraf, this dearth of information stems from the fact that much of history was considered confidential or, perhaps, too sacrosanct to share with commoners and enemies. Essentially, we know what the kings wanted us to know!
In the absence of authoritative written histories, the tradition of oral retelling of history took hold. Throughout ages, Shahnameh reciters presented in tea-houses and other public places their own interpretation of historical events, entertaining questions and comments from those in attendance. In this way, common people, from farmers to merchants, got involved in exchanging information and presenting their takes on history.
Dr. Ali Mousavi (UCLA) also spoke briefly, given that he was asked explicitly by Dr. Ashraf to comment on some aspects of the talk. Dr. Mousavi's work on an on-line encyclopedia of Iranian archaeological sites can be accessed via this Web site.

2022/01/07 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sidney Poitier dead at 94: Among his many firsts as a black actor was winning the best-actor Oscar in 1964. RIP! Santa Barbara's Stearns Wharf turns 150: Built in 1872, Stearns Wharf changed the face of the then-isolated Santa Barbara Asghar Farhadi's 'A Hero,' Iran's entry for the best-international-film Academy Award, is being shown at Santa Barbara's Riviera Theater, this weekend and next week (1) Images of the day: [Left] Sidney Poitier dead at 94: Among his many firsts as a black actor was winning best-actor Oscar in 1964. RIP! [Center] Santa Barbara's Stearns Wharf turns 150: Built in 1872, Stearns Wharf changed the face of the then-isolated Santa Barbara, opening the City to large-scale commerce & trade. [Right] "A Hero": Director Asghar Farhadi's latest film, Iran's entry for the best-international-film Academy Award, is being shown at Santa Barbara's Riviera Theater, this weekend and next week.
(2) Khamenei shows that he fears women: Iran's Supreme Leader attacks those, including some regime insiders, who believe that compulsory hijab laws are oppressive & unjust, suggesting that women who take their headscarves off in protest are paid by the "enemy" to do so. #LetUsTalk
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Kazakhstan follows in Iran's footsteps by having security forces shoot at peaceful protesters.
- Aggressive passenger is escorted off her flight for refusing to wear a mask, as other passengers cheer!
- Global Village, Dubai: A 3-minute tour of the shopping center's Iran Pavilion.
- Persian music: Oldie song, performed as part of a pre-Revolution TV variety show. [3-minute video]
(4) Iranian regional music from the Caspian-Sea province of Guilan: A wonderful performance to honor Beh-Azin, a prolific Iranian writer/translator, on his birthday. [6-minute video]
(5) PDF files of my 1969 paper entitled "The Computer: Man's New Brain": After posting about a paper I wrote in May 1969 as part of the requirements for graduating from an English-language school in Washington DC, many friends/readers on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn inquired whether they could access the paper's PDF copy. In those days, we typed papers using manual typewriters, so PDFs didn't exist!
I decided to honor these requests by photographing the document's pages, which are within a bound volume holding a set of my miscellaneous writings over the years. The PDF documents produced from the said photos aren't ideal, but they are legible.
As you read the documents, please bear in mind that the paper was intended to show my mastery of the English language and not my knowledge of computer science. In fact, at the time, I had not yet embarked on studying computer science.
[English (the original, as submitted); Persian (translated by my father Salem Parhami & published in 1973)]
(6) We need to rethink higher education in the US: We have long known about serious problems in American universities, among them swollen administrative ranks and dearth of campus maintenance budget and staff support for teachers and researchers. The pandemic revealed further weaknesses in the way we deliver educational content and interact with our students. Now, triggered by a news story that University of Nebraska is considering eliminating its philosophy major, I began thinking about whether the majors we offer and the number of students in each major truly serve our national interests. Elimination of majors can be a slippery slope, if done with a purely utilitarian view, but instituting checks and balances, that allow us to evaluate all majors every few years and come up with new priorities and budget allocations, is a good thing. (On paper, this is already being done, but I have not seen a major eliminated or substantially shrunk in size over my ~3.5 decades at UCSB). It's too easy to just close our eyes to inefficiencies and relics from years past, and decide to "let things be" in the face of new economic realities and national needs. Rocking the boat takes courage, but if our boat is sinking, getting rid of inessential cargo is the only option for safe continuation of our journey.

2022/01/06 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Today's book talk on 'good anxiety': Zoom screenshots Today's book talk on 'good anxiety': Book cover and the author Professor Bahman Mehri: An old-time math professor at Arya-Mehr/Sharif University of Technology (1) Images of the day: [Left & Center] Today's book talk on 'good anxiety and how to reap its benefits' (see the next item below). [Right] Professor Bahman Mehri: An old-time math professor at Arya-Mehr/Sharif University of Technology, Mehri (left) is shown here being visited by Professor Bijan Zohuri-Zangeneh.
(2) Harnessing the power of anxiety into unexpected gifts: This was the theme of today's book talk on Zoom by Neuroscientist Dr. Wendy Suzuki, based on her new book, Good Anxiety: Harnessing the Power of the Most Misunderstood Emotion. After presenting an introduction to her book, Dr. Suzuki was joined by Dr. Catherine Mogil (UCLA Associate Professor) in a discussion. [Recording of the event: 57-minute video]
Dr. Suzuki wrote the first draft of her book before the pandemic. Even then, she saw the anxiety level among students increasing. From evolutionary standpoint, anxiety and the stress response it triggers were developed to protect us. Good anxiety is different from debilitating (clinical) anxiety, which requires professional treatment. However, the tools described in Dr. Suzuki's book can be used alongside an expert's care.
Anxiety is essentially anticipation of threats and the resulting fears. So, fear results from an immediate threat, whereas anxiety comes about from thinking of possible threats. The fight or flight response creates anxiety, but our nervous system has another mechanism that acts to de-stress. The best way to activate the de-stressing response is deep breathing. Another tool is to just get up and walk, ascend and descend the stairs, or do any other physical activity. If you are headed into a situation that you know will cause anxiety (such as going to the doctor), prepare yourself by doing deep-breathing, walking, or dancing beforehand.
Anxiety brings to us several gifts or superpowers. One is the gift of improved productivity. Anxiety sometimes strikes when a number of what-ifs parade through our mind as we try to go to sleep. To deal with such a stress-inducing list of what-ifs, try to convert it into a to-do list for the following day. Another is the gift of empathy. As a teacher, Dr. Suzuki identifies with her students being shy or fearful to interact with her, because she suffered from the same form of anxiety as a student.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Armenians celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6, which they regard as the date of Christ's birth: Merry Christmas!
- Rallies are planned across the US to remember January 6, 2021, and to act to protect American democracy.
- Philadelphia fire at a house converted to apartments kills 12, including 8 children.
- A record 4.5 million Americans left their jobs in November 2021.
- Canadian court orders Iran to pay millions to families of victims of flight PS752.
- In a high-profile Tehran rape trial, #MeToo is branded a 'Zionist movement.'
- Antisemitism and Holocaust Denial in Iran: IranWire panel on YouTube, Wed. Jan. 12, 2022, 6:00 AM PST.
- Old-time Iranian singer Pooran: Her rise to fame, marriages, and sad ending. [11-minute video]
(4) Remembering the victims of flight PS752: Imagine being a parent, photographing your children as you see them off at the airport, and hearing a bit later that their flight has been shot down by the Iranian government, because it was "mistaken" for a missile. [Tweet photo] [#IWillLightACandleToo]
(5) SUTA technical talk: Dr. Niloufar Salehi (UC Berkeley) will speak in Persian under the title "Value-Centered Algorithm Design," Sunday, 2022/01/16, 9:00 AM PST. [Register]
(6) Final thought for the day: One year after the Capitol insurrection, the Republicans' chickens are coming home to roost. One by one, they are being exposed as intimately involved in encouraging/coordinating the rioters or complicit in stepping aside to allow their rampage.

2022/01/05 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
over image of Ted Chiang's 'Exhalation: Stories,' the UCSB Reads 2022 pick Cartoon: 'I freeze all my leftovers until I feel less guilty about throwing them away' Cover image of the January 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum magazine (1) Images of the day: [Left] Ted Chiang's Exhalation: Stories (see the next item below). [Center] New Yorker cartoon of the day: "I freeze all my leftovers until I feel less guilty about throwing them away." [Right] Cover image of IEEE Spectrum magazine, issue of Janauray 2022, features "Top Tech 2022" (see the last item below).
(2) Let us all support #UCSBReads & @UCSBLibrary for providing a community reading experience: The #UCSBReads2022 pick Exhalation: Stories, by Ted Chiang, will be discussed in panels and other special events over winter & spring quarters, culminating in an author talk at Campbell Hall on Tue., May 10, 2022, 7:30 PM.
(3) Ketamine therapy is going mainstream: The mind-altering drug has been shown to help people suffering from anxiety and depression, but there isn't general agreement on who can benefit from it.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- France detects the new IHU variant of COVID-19 with 46 mutations, which is more infectious than omicron.
- Women's plea: #LetUsTalk about abusive Islamist laws. Asking for dignity & justice isn't Islamophobia.
- Donald Trump's aides talked him out of giving a speech on January 6, for fear of bad publicity.
- CA Deputy DA Kelly Ernby, 46, who spoke out against vaccine mandates, dies of COVID-19 complications.
- Optical illusion: Reflection of a seemingly random pattern on a cup produces surprising images.
- Spiritual music: Performed by a big orchestra & choir in Turkey, based on verses from Mowlavi/Rumi.
(5) Persian music: This instrumental, recorder-plus-tonbak, version of the oldie song "Moo-ye Sepid" ("White Hair") with lyrics in the subtitles is ideal for karaoke. [4-minute video]
(6) On anti-Semistism: Whereas anti-Israel sentiments do not always result from anti-Semitism, very often anti-Semitism hides itself behind anti-Israel rants, because the latter is deemed more acceptable socially.
(7) IEEE Spectrum magazine's technology-review issue, January 2022: Featured on the cover is Boston Dynamics' robot for the worst possible job in a warehouse, that of loading heavy boxes onto a truck. It does the job at the rate of 800 boxes per hour. A list of the 12 feature articles in the magazine issue follows.
- First Win for the Neurorights Campaign: Chile plans to regulate all neurotech and ban the sale of brain data
- Flying Pallets Without Pilots: A startup will test a radical new vision of long-range cargo transport in Europe
- Brakes that Slam Themselves: Automatic emergency braking will become standard in Europe
- The Exascale Era Is Upon Us: The Frontier supercomputer may be the first to reach 10^18 operations/s
- NASA's Space Launch System Will Lift off: But with many rival rockets, the ultimate value of SLS is murky
- AI Computing Comes to Memory Chips: Samsung will speed up neural nets with processing-in-memory
- Bitcoin Currency for the Masses: Square simplified credit-card transactions. Now it wants to build hardware
- China's Green Winter Olympics: A variety of climate-friendly strategies will be on show, with the athletes
- Planet-Cooling Tests to Start: A geoengineering plan aims to spray reflective particles into the stratosphere
- A Robot for the Worst Job in the Warehouse: Boston Dynamics' Stretch can move 800 heavy boxes/hr
- Quantum Dots + OLED = Your Next TV: Formerly rival technologies will come together in Samsung displays
- A Pinch of Fusion: Zap Energy's new Z-pinch reactor will demonstrate a simpler approach to an elusive goal

2022/01/04 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A triangle on the Euclidean plane can have at most one right angle. On a sphere, however, a triangle can have up to three right angles These Afghan boys, playing with toy and real guns, will forever be trapped in a culture of violence because of their upbringing Iranian activist/lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh chosen as one of Time magazine's 100 most-influential people for 2021
Persian poetry: Sa'adi had this to say about the difference between a preacher and a teacher #IWillLightACandleToo: For the second anniversary of the downing of Flight PS752 in cold blood by the Iranian government New Yorker cartoon: 'I keep writing Stone Age instead of Bronze Age on all my checks' (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Mathematical fact: A triangle on the Euclidean plane can have at most one right angle. On a sphere, however, a triangle can have up to three right angles. [Top center] These Afghan boys, playing with toy & real guns, will forever be trapped in a culture of violence because of their upbringing. [Top right] Iranian activist/lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh chosen as one of Time magazine's 100 most-influential people for 2021. [Bottom left] Persian poetry: Sa'adi had this to say about the difference between a preacher and a teacher. One barely manages to pull his own rug from the waves, the other strives to save those who are drowning. [Bottom center] #IWillLightACandleToo: For the second anniversary of the downing of Flight PS752 in cold blood by the Iranian government. [Bottom right] New Yorker cartoon of the day: "I keep writing 'Stone Age' instead of 'Bronze Age' on all my checks."
(2) Ames Window: This is a fascinating optical illusion. A trapezoid painted to look like a window is spun. Our brain is programmed to assume that the longer side is closer to us (perspective). So, even when the shorter side is closer, we assume otherwise, leading to some weird effects.
(3) Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos, found guilty on 4 of 11 federal charges, potentially facing a 20-year sentence: The story of Theranos, and the greed and hubris that sank it, is told in the book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. Read my 4-star review of the book for a summary.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Accidents create traffic nightmare on I-95: Many drivers were stuck on the road for more than 24 hours.
- Kevin McCarthy, with a straight face: "Democrats are using the Capitol riots to divide our country."
- Marjorie Taylor Greene has been permanently banned from Twitter for spreading COVID-19 misinformation.
- Tesla recalls ~0.5M vehicles: Failure-prone cable connecting to Model 3's rear camera is the culprit.
- The Taliban behead female mannequins: Is it permitted for men to touch these mannequins' bodies?
- Broiled veggies, which we had for dinner: Or, as my son put it, chelow-kabob without the kabob! [Photo]
- Facebook memory from Jan. 3, 2018: Iranian women on the front lines of the fight for freedom & justice.
- Facebook memory from Jan. 3, 2016: On karaoke music for Iranian songs.
(5) Math puzzle: There are several numbers on a board. For example:   6   2   –1   –5   2   –4
An action consists of replacing two of them by their mean, such as replacing –4 and 2 by –1 and –1. What is the necessary and sufficient condition for the existence of an action sequence leading to 0s everywhere?
(6) Poor service from AAA SoCal: My car's battery was drained, possibly due to insufficient use in these work-from-home times, so I had to contact AAA. I used their on-line request form, but when I heard nothing back after 50 minutes, I called. It took me 15 minutes to speak to a live operator, who wasn't sure why the request, which was in their system, had not been answered. So, he sent the request forward "manually."
By this point, it was 65 minutes since I had placed the request. Another 10 minutes passed before I got a call and another 10 minutes before a technician arrived. He did not have a tow truck, so if the battery problem could not be resolved by electrical means, I would have had to wait for another 30 minutes for a tow truck to arrive. I had the 5-year-old battery replaced, just to be on the safe side.
The moral of the story is to use your car regularly and request roadside service by phone, not on-line.

2022/01/02 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
From the presentation 'Prisoners of geography': Russia From the presentation 'Prisoners of geography': China From the presentation 'Prisoners of geography': Persian Empire
From the presentation 'Prisoners of geography': Iran Daughter of Ebrahim Babaei asks for help in finding her missing father, apparently kidnapped by Iran's security forces Iranian student activist Leila Hosseinzadeh has been released from prison on a bail of 1.5 billion tomans, pending her trial (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Today's presentation on "Prisoners of Geography" (see the last item below). [Bottom left] Fun geographic fact: Iran has 250 villages & town called Ali-Abad (credit: Dr. Sirous Yasseri). [Bottom center] Missing political prisoner: Daughter of Ebrahim Babaei asks for help in finding her missing father, apparently kidnapped by Iran's security forces. [Bottom right] Iranian student activist Leila Hosseinzadeh has been released from prison on a bail of 1.5 billion tomans, pending her trial. The Iranian regime is scared to death of political activists, women in particular!
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Ritchie Boys: Secret US unit, bolstered by German-born Jews, that helped defeat Hitler. [41-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Jan. 2, 2017: Santa discriminates between rich and poor kids!
- Facebook memory from Jan. 2, 2015: The great Persian poet Sa'adi, on the prison of freedom without love.
- Facebook memory from Jan. 2, 2013: False and misleading stories on Fox News aren't new.
(3) "Prisoners of Geography": This was the title of today's Zoom meeting of the Fanni Class of 1968, in which Dr. Sirous Yasseri (Brunel U.) drew upon Tim Marshal's book by the same title and other sources to discuss the impact of geography on nations' destinies. The presentation and Q&A were in Persian. The meeting had some 50 participants at its peak.
Geography determines a country's access to natural resources, energy, and trade routes, and it also dictates vulnerability to military attacks. Limiting the scope of the discussion to fit the 2-hour meeting, Dr. Yasseri chose to discuss Asia, further focusing on three countries: Russia, China, and Iran. Whereas many countries are prisoners of their geography, a few lucky ones, notably the United States, have almost no geographic weaknesses that can be exploited by other countries.
*Russia: The flatness of European territory leading into Russia has tempted many invaders. However, Russia's vast area and harsh climate has made is impossible for the invaders to control it. Russia's military ports in the Black Sea have very limited access to open waters, and for this access, ships have to go through the Bosporus Strait and a narrow part of the Mediterranean, the entire path surrounded and controlled by NATO countries. One reason Ukraine has been in the news lately is its strategic importance to blocking NATO's influence in areas close to the Russian border.
*China: The vastness of China is a bit misleading. It has huge deserts and more than 90% of its population lives near the east coastal region. Yet China's sparsely-populated western and northern parts are important to its security and, more recently, to the establishment of the New Silk Road, connecting China to the rest of the world. China relies on the South China Sea for fishing, energy resources, and trade routes. Unfortunately for China, those routes often go through narrow passageways controlled by other countries. Building artificial islands is one of China's strategies for establishing a military presence in the area and to claim control over sea lanes that comes from owning land.
*Iran: With its long borders separating it from many different countries, Iran faces serious strategic challenges. It is vulnerable in the flat area of Khuzestan (which Iraq exploited in its invasion), from the northwest (Turkey and several former Soviet Republics), and from northeast (Afghanistan and several former Soviet Republics). Historically, the greatest vulnerability has been from the west, as exemplified by the ancient wars with Ionia. Iran has always wanted access to the Mediterranean Sea, which it achieved through expansion in the days of the Persian Empire. It seems that the Islamic Republic is trying to resurrect that access through controlling Iraq and Syria.
Dr. Yasseri recommended three sources for further study, all three of which have been translated into Persian: Tim Marshal's Prisoners of Geography, Robert D. Kaplan's The Revenge of Geography, and Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel (Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens covers some of the same ground as GG&S).
The talk generated much interest and it is likely that one or more additional sessions will be devoted to covering geographic influences in other world regions.
During the Q&A period, I pointed out that the technologies of naval and air warfare have made geography less of a factor, at least where military action is used to inflict damage, rather than to occupy & rule.
Another point raised was that the title "Prisoners of Geography" is somewhat of an exaggeration. Geography does have its influence, alongside many other factors. Nations have risen and fallen over time in the same geographic region. One should note, however, that exaggeration in book titles is the norm. Each author wants to stress some key points, and an exaggerated title does help in spreading the word. "Impact of Geography" is much less likely to grab the attention of potential readers.

2022/01/01 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy new year to my family & friends: Wishing everyone a love-filled and bright 2022! Cover images of my 1969 paper entitled 'The Computer: Man's New Brain': English and Persian versions The 2022 Soccer World Cup (1) Images of the day: [Left] Happy new year: Wishing everyone a lovely & bright 2022! [Center] My foray into AI in 1969 (see the last item below). [Right] The 2022 World Cup is coming (see the next item below).
(2) Soccer World Cup 2022: This year, the world's most-popular sports tournament will be held in Qatar. FIFA keeps threatening Iran with sanctions and ouster if it doesn't let women into sports arenas, but its threats seem to be toothless. Iran, being one of Asia's powerhouses in soccer, brings much revenue to FIFA; hence, the reluctance to go ahead with sanctions. We should increase the pressure on FIFA to act on its threats. World Cup 2022 provides an excellent stage to expose Iran's oppression of women. #ExpelIranFIFA
(3) The 2022 puzzle: Each year, I try to use the digits of the year number, in the original order and without repetition, to form as many different numbers as possible by inserting arithmetic operators. Here are a few examples. I have found expressions for all the numbers 0-12, except for 7 and 10.
0 = 2 × 0 + 2 – 2     1 = 2 × 0 + 2 / 2     2 = 2 × 0 × 2 + 2     3 = 2 + 0 + 2 / 2
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Technical error leads to the "accidental" destruction of 77 TB of data at Kyoto University.
- Legacy BlackBerry devices are said to be dying (losing functionality), again: This time it's for real, or is it?
- Arash Fouladvand and The Bahar Choir invite you to join virtual classes for singing with a big orchestra.
- Facebook memory from Jan. 1, 2013: Kurdish women baking bread in an outdoor oven.
(5) Facebook memory from Jan. 1, 2017: "It is the men who are attacking the women—if there is a curfew, let the men stay at home." ~ PM Golda Meir, when asked to establish a curfew for women to end a series of rapes
(6) Math puzzle: We roll n fair and independent dice with k faces, bearing the numbers 1 through k. What is the expected value of the minimum number showing up?
(7) My next IEEE Computer Society Distinguished Visitors Program Lecture: Speaking for IEEE Central Coast Section, I will discuss "Interconnection Networks for Parallel Processors and Data Centers," on Wednesday, January 19, 2022, 6:30 PM PST. [Register for Zoom link]
(8) "The Computer: Man's New Brain": I am preparing a talk entitled "Let's Not Call Everything AI: A Realistic Assessment of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning." Working on this talk, reminded me of how I was introduced to computer science and fell in love with it. I was studying English at ELS Language Center in Washington DC during early 1969, in preparation for beginning my graduate studies in electrical engineering at Oregon State University. One graduation requirement of the Center's program was writing a paper. I frequented the DC public library and immersed myself in books. The books I chanced upon included Irving Adler's Thinking Machines (1961), W. Ross Ashby's Design for a Brain (1962), Edmund C. Berkeley's Giant Brains or Machines that Think (1949), and John von Neumann's The Computer and the Brain (1959). The topic fascinated me so much that instead of EE, I pursued CS in grad school. The rest, as they say, is history! Four years later, my father translated the paper into Persian and published it in Iran as a bilingual booklet, pricing it at $1.50, while I was working at UCLA after earning my PhD there. The cheesy cover art is mine!

Blog Entries for 2021

2021/12/31 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Auto wash bowl: In the early 1920s Chicago, drivers could drive around this bowl several times to clean their car's undercarriage Math humor: Pretty logical conclusion, I'd say! Ayatollah Khomeini (1964): 'Give us control over the country's culture. Appoint one of us Minister of Culture and if after 10-15 years, we don't do better than you, kick us out.'
Cover image of Joshua Greene's 'Moral Tribes' Betty White is interviewed by People magazine about her secrets to a happy life at 100 Goodbye 2021! The year's calendar (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Auto wash bowl: In the early 1920s Chicago, drivers could drive around this bowl several times to clean their car's undercarriage, before pulling into a stall and getting a regular wash by an attendant. [Top center] Math humor: Pretty logical conclusion, I'd say! [Top right] Ayatollah Khomeini's proclamation of 1964: "Give us control over the country's culture. Appoint one of us Minister of Culture and if after 10-15 years, we don't do better than you, kick us out." Well, I'd say that 42 years is more than 15 years. Will your followers honor your words and not shoot us when we try to kick them out? [Bottom left] Joshua Greene's Moral Tribes (see the last item below). [Bottom center] Betty White is interviewed by People magazine about her secrets to a happy life at 100. (P.S.: Unfortunately, she didn't make it to her 100th birthday in 2022, passing away today at 99. RIP!) [Bottom right] Goodbye 2021! (see the next item below)
(2) A year-end wish: As we count down the final hours of 2021 and look past the challenges of the past two years and gloom-and-doom predictions to 2022, may your transition to the new year be accomplished with peace and joy, and may the new year bring you much hope, health, happiness, & success! [3-minute video]
(3) To fundamental-Islamists in Iran, who say expats living abroad should return and help build the country: Well, we were building the country, when you forced us out! Now that you have had your own and your fellow gang members' pockets filled and turned the country into a sewage dump, you expect us to come clean up your mess. No, thanks. We won't abandon the new life that we built for our families and return to Iran, so as to face baseless accusations and prison terms! [In Persian]
(4) "Prisoners of Geography": This is the title of a Zoom meeting for Fanni Class of 1968, in which Dr. Sirous Yasseri (Brunel U.) will draw upon Tim Marshal's book by the same title and other sources to discuss the impact of geography on nations' destinies. In Persian, Sunday, January 2, 2022, 10:00 AM PST. [Contact me for link]
(5) Book review: Greene, Joshua, Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them, unabridged 15-hour audiobook, read by Mel Foster, Brilliance Audio, 2013.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book describes the workings of our moral judgement system and seeks to offer solutions to the crisis in public morality. Joshua Green [1972-], Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, is a Harvard-educated American experimental psychologist, neuroscientist, and philosopher. His research is primarily in the domain of psychology and neurology of moral judgement and the complementary roles of emotional and reasoned responses to moral challenges.
Let me begin by presenting the book's table of contents (chapter numbers are given in parentheses).
Introduction: The Tragedy of Common-Sense Morality
I. Moral Problems (1-3): The Tragedy of the Commons; Moral Machinery; Strife on the New Pastures
II. Morality Fast and Slow (4-5): Trolleyology; Efficiency, Flexibility, and the Dual-Process Brain
III. Common Currency (6-8): A Splendid Idea; In Search of Common Currency; Common Currency Found
IV. Moral Convictions (9-10): Alarming Acts; Justice and Fairness
V. Moral Solutions (11-12): Deep Pragmatism; Beyond Point-and-Shoot Morality: Six Rules for Modern Herders
Moral challenges arising from conflicts of interest between an individual and his/her group or tribe are referred to as me-versus-us problems. Our emotional response is capable of dealing with such problems, because it has evolved to do precisely that. Human societies share some principles of moral conduct and a larger number of notions on which they disagree. These points of disagreement create the category of us-versus-them problems. Our emotions are ill-equipped to deal with such problems. To make progress, we need to learn to negotiate, and negotiation requires compromise.
Consider an important example of the latter kind of moral challenges: The pro-choice vs. pro-life debate. If the two sides focus on "rights," that is, right-to-choose or right-to-life, they will never reach agreement. According to Greene, the proper way of conducting this debate is to take a utilitarian view and examine in detail the social consequences of abortions and forced-births.
The overlap between Greene's book and Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow is obvious (see the title of Part II). [My 5-star review] Less obvious is the book's overlap with another book I have recently read and reviewed, Survival of the Friendliest, by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods (friendliness, which requires sacrifice and understanding, gives us an evolutionary advantage). [My 4-star review]
I recommend Moral Tribes highly, but also urge caution about accepting Greene's pronouncements wholesale. In particular, bear in mind that utilitarianism has its critics, most noteworthy among them being Aldous Huxley in his dystopian sci-fi novel, Brave New World. [My 5-star review]

2021/12/29 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Calutron Girls: The women of the Manhattan Project, Oak Ridge, 1944 This one-room school in Iran, with no door or windows, is given the grandiose name 'Imam's Heritage' Optical illusion: A young woman or an old one?
Remembering two of the victims of the downing of Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 by Iran's Revolutionary Guards: Mother & daughter Parisa & Reera Esmaeilion Women sharing photos of themselves with forced hijabs and without hijab Contrasting personalities: Freedom-fighter Saba Kord Afshari and hostage-taker Masoumeh Ebtekar (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Calutron Girls: The women of the Manhattan Project, Oak Ridge, TN, 1944. [Top center] This one-room school in Iran, with no door or windows, is given the grandiose name "Imam's Heritage." Imam's heritage, indeed! [Top right] Optical illusion: Most people see these two identical drawings as showing a young woman. Stare at them for a while and you may see them as an old woman. Now, try to see one as a young woman and the other as an old one. [Bottom left] Remembering two of the victims of the downing of Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 by Iran's Revolutionary Guards: Mother & daughter Parisa & Reera Esmaeilion. [Bottom center] Inspired by Masih Alinejad's posting of photos of herself as a little girl with forced hijab and as a grown-up without hijab, other Iranian women are sharing similar stories. [Bottom right] Look at these two faces: Saba Kord Afshari, on the left, received a 24-year prison sentence in Iran for opposing compulsory hijab laws. The one on the right, Masoumeh Ebtekar, a leader of the hostage takers at US Embassy in Tehran, is a darling of international media as the face of moderates in the Islamic Republic! (Source)
(2) Justice served: A jury has found Ghislaine Maxwell guilty on five of six counts related to her role in Jeffrey Epstein's sexual abuse of minor girls between 1994 and 2004. The monstrous Epstein got off too easy. He should have been humiliated in a trial.
(3) Book review: Ferguson, Niall, The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World, unabridged audiobook on 9 CDs, read by Simon Prebble, Tantor Audio, 2008. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Math humor: If pi = 3.14 and e = 2.72, then pie = 8.54.
- Math oddity: 1^7 + 4^7 + 4^7 + 5^7 + 9^7 +9^7 + 2^7 + 9^7 = 14459929
- Awkward note (humor): Please know that the "one-way" frosty glass in your bathroom is installed backwards!
- Facebook memory from Dec. 29, 2015: How I spent my Christmas holidays in France six years ago.
(5) Iran's exported fruits & vegetables are being returned to sender: They contain unsafe levels of pesticide residues. Other reports indicate that the government distributes the returned produce to the needy! Apparently, Russian, Iraqi, and other lives matter more than Iranian lives. [4-minute video]
(6) Making money off Imam's name: The organization that manages the tomb/shrine of Ayatollah Khomeini is involved in business/commercial activities that have nothing to do with its original function. [5-minute video]
(7) Major scientific accord: The management entity for Imamzadehs (tombs of Imams' children) Eynali and Zeynali sign an agreement with Iran's Medical Sciences University to expand the use of traditional medicine. Note the Imamzadehs' website address appearing on the screen behind the signers in this image.
(8) Forough Farrokhzad's name is everywhere on her birthday (December 29): She was a wonderful and brave poet and has left us a treasure-trove of poetry. However, there is a sense among some, including the writer of this essay (in Persian), that Iranians' dead-people-worship tendency has led to exaggerating her influence and contributions, particularly in the areas of politics and feminism. I think this view makes some sense. To honor someone, we don't need that person to be an angel or superhuman.
(9) Final thought for the day: You don't have a civil right to make other people sick. You do have the right to stay home and not fly on a plane if you strongly oppose getting vaccinated.

2021/12/28 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of Jeremy Rifkin's 'The Empathic Civilization' Global GDP 2021: Visualizing the $94 trillion world economy in one chart. Only 18 countries have greater than 1% share of the world's economy Cover image for the book 'Fashionable Nonsense' (1) Images of the day: [Left] Book: Jeremy Rifkin's The Empathic Civilization (see the next item below). [Center] Global GDP 2021: Visualizing the $94 trillion world economy in one chart. Only 18 countries have greater than 1% share of the world's economy. [Right] Book: Fashionable Nonsense (see the last item below).
(2) Brief book review: Rifkin, Jeremy, The Empathic Civilization: The Race to Global Consciousness in a World in Crisis, Tarcher, 2010. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
(3) Fredun Hojabri, one of the founders of Sharif U. Technology Association (SUTA) has passed away: Here is a 79-minute conversation with him, recorded in 2018 as part of SUTA's oral-history project.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Sudden deaths: Football player/coach/broadcaster John Madden, 85; Former Senate Leader Harry Reid, 82.
- COVID deaths per 100,000: Unvaccinated 6.1; Vaccinated 0.5; Boosted 0.1; Case closed, dear anti-vaxxers!
- Masih Alinejad's Washington Post opinion piece: "Why Twitter should ban Iran's Supreme Leader"
- Per-capita gross national income over Seven decades: South Korea (blue) vs. North Korea (red). [Chart]
(5) A crony of Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei tweets one of his old statements without attribution: He is accused by his compatriots of being a counter-revolutionary and an Israeli spy! This is what happens when there is no accountability and the dictator can say whatever is expedient at the time.
(6) Sokal, Alan and Jean Bricmont, Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science, translated from the French original, Picador, 1998. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
[I wrote this review on Dec. 28, 2010, and am posting it to GoodReads and elsewhere on Dec. 28th, 2021.]
This book (which I learned about through an e-mail message sent to me by someone I do not know, who thought I might find it interesting, given my book reviews and other writings) resonated with me, for reasons that I will outline first, before writing about the book itself.
In science and engineering fields, the current Holy Grail is "interdisciplinary research," which draws upon knowledge and methods from two or more disciplines to create useful new ideas, understandings, processes, or products. Examples of interdisciplinary fields that have led to exciting new results include biomedical engineering, computational linguistics, and human-machine interaction. There is, however, a serious danger in any interdisciplinary field: that of abuse and deceit. It is very rare nowadays for anyone to be highly skilled and knowledgeable in two or more different disciplines. So, interdisciplinary researchers typically are people from one discipline who have picked up some information from the other discipline(s) through informal studies. For example, an engineer might pore over the biomedical literature, or pick the brains of biomed specialists, in order to understand problems in the latter field and then work on engineering solutions to those problems. Here comes the rub: it is very easy to impress medical people with engineering concepts and jargon, and vice versa, so one sees many half-baked ideas presented in the scientific/technical forums of these fields in which shallow knowledge in one or another field is imminently visible. So-called hot or trendy fields are particularly prone to abuse and deceit, given financial and status motives. [Read more]

2021/12/27 (Monday): My bilingual English/Persian review of Fariba Sedighim's novel, I in Parentheses.
My review of Fariba Sedighim's novel, 'I in Parentheses': Cover My review of Fariba Sedighim's novel, 'I in Parentheses': Author My review of Fariba Sedighim's novel, 'I in Parentheses': Blurb Book review: Sedighim, Fariba, I in Parentheses (a novel, in Persian), Aftab Publications, 2021, 252 pp. in PDF file (ISBN: 978-1-716-07255-0). [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
From the back-cover blurb: "How many centuries had we been living together? Twice we had upgraded our residence in accordance with Mani's income. Our house had changed, but we had remained the same. Objects change more than we do; a table is scratched, cloth is stained, iron rusts, but a person builds a mental story and will remain its prisoner for a lifetime. I built the story of me and him, and of our life together, in my mind, and after all these years, was still playing my role in that story." [From the bottom of p. 37 in the PDF copy]
Fariba Sedighim has written children's books and published poetry collections. Her recent books reflect not only the experience of writing in exile, but also the challenges faced by women and religious minorities in Iran and abroad. Writing fiction is a blessing for authors, Iranians in particular, because it allows them to tackle many subjects beyond their personal experiences, including those considered taboo, of which there are many examples, not only in Iran but within the Iranian diasporic community.
The author apparently uses "parentheses" in her title, I in Parentheses, as a restraining harness, which may crush whoever or whatever comes between its two arcs. In the English language, we use "in parentheses" to indicate that we are about to add something, perhaps a tangential detail, before returning to the main topic. So, one might surmise that the author wants to offer some comments about herself or the story's protagonist, Niloofar, before going back to the main story. But what is the main story?
The story, centered around the co-dependent, lustful relationship between Niloofar and Mani, unfolds in 18 segments (chapters), the first two focusing on the protagonist's parents, Narges & Nasser, and the last one, entitled "We Will Forget," shows Niloofar finally freed from an unhealthy relationship, having acquired an unspecified professional skill through education. Niloofar's mother emerges as a loving character, while her father is painted as stifling her spirit and creativity. She sometimes wanted her father dead, and felt guilty for wishing him harm.
The main part of the story is that of unhappy Niloofar, who follows her boyfriend, Mani, from Iran to Los Angeles, in part to flee her authoritarian and smothering father, while coping with the fact that she is no more than a plant in her boyfriend's life. Niloofar doesn't have a life of her own. No friends. No regular job. She is fully dependent on Mani and appears to have no choice but to endure his antics. There is no discussion of what Mani does for a living, but we do learn that Niloofar doesn't know his work phone number. As a love interest, Mani is sandwiched between uncle Esfandiar, the subject of Niloofar's teenage infatuation, and Borzoo, the father of a student she tutors, becoming a love interest when Mani begins seeing another woman and urges her to experiment as well.
The novel begins when the 13-year-old Niloofar loses her mom, an event that crushes her and sends her dad into depression. The dad eventually recovers and feels guilt for having neglected his daughter for a long time. Despite the attention of several family members, Niloofar is quite lonely, projecting various real and imaginary characters onto the ceiling, which serves as her best friend. This reliance on imagined and projected friends is part of the anti-social character of Niloofar, which leads to her making unwise choices and always worrying about whether she has damaged a relationship beyond repair.
The three love interests forming the story's canvas allow the author to paint other characters and concerns, including neglect, interpersonal mistrust, hard-to-leave toxic relationships, abortion, self-harm, alcohol/drug abuse, and sexual assault. In Niloofar's description of her life with Mani, there are multiple references to a spider in the bathtub, likely a stand-in for something scary in that home or relationship. She is hesitant to kill the spider. But one day, she gets rid of it as her life takes a new turn.
Niloofar is the main narrator of the story, but, occasionally, another character takes over and narrates a small part, providing the reader with a different perspective on Niloofar's relationship with that character. I sometimes have problems with stories that go back and forth in time. Describing events out of sequence can be intriguing, as it forces the reader to put the story together in his/her mind like a jigsaw puzzle. However, if not done right, flashbacks and flashforwards can be disorienting, given the human mind's proclivity for linear stories, with logical progression from one event to the next.
I have previously reviewed Sedighim's Persian-language novel, Liora, a 2016 book which has only recently become available in Iran. Lack of historical references and focusing exclusively on characters, free from the sociopolitical context, makes this new story a bit less compelling. The writing and editing, though improved, remain uneven, becoming more absorbing in segments where the author describes Niloofar's infatuation with Esfandiar and her early relationship with Mani, languishing a bit when she gets to her romantic involvement with Borzoo.
[Persian version of this review] [My reviews of Liora: English, on GoodReads; Persian, on Facebook]

2021/12/26 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Our small family gathering on Christmas Day: Dinner table Our small family gathering on Christmas Day: Showing off our hats and antlers Our small family gathering on Christmas Day: Desserts table
Charging an electric AMC Gremlin at a curbside charging station, 1 hour for $0.25 (Seattle, 1973) Trending on social media: Iranians are asking Twitter to ban Supreme Leader Khamenei Pedal-powered personal transportation option: Nautilus Steampunk Velomobile (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Our small family gathering on Christmas Day, with dinner & dessert tables (we also celebrated Yalda Night, aka winter solstice, belatedly). [Bottom left] Charging an electric AMC Gremlin at a curbside charging station, 1 hour for $0.25 (Seattle, 1973). [Bottom center] #BanKhamenei: Iranians are asking Twitter to ban Supreme Leader Khamenei, who spews hateful messages and orders killings on social media while blocking access to 88 million Iranians. [Bottom right] There are quite a few pedal-powered personal transportation options, none more beautiful than this Nautilus Steampunk Velomobile.
(2) Book review: Dixon, Thomas, Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford, 2008.
I wrote my review of this small (11 cm by 17 cm), thin (150 pp.) book on December 24, 2009 and posted it as a 4-star review to GoodReads 12 years later, on December 26, 2021.
(3) Will AI destroy education? This question is asked by Moshe Vardi, who, writing in the January 2022 issue of Communications of the ACM, describes AI as the new shiny hammer of the tech industry in search of nails. He concludes thus: "The educational system is one of the treasures of human civilization. Applying the attitude of 'disruptive innovation' to education risks causing tremendous damage. Technology can lead to improved education, but only if we move slow and do not break things."
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Laureate who helped end apartheid in South Africa, dead at 90.
- Optical illusion: These boxes never actually move, despite strong visual cues to the contrary. [GIF image]
- What's the next Greek-alphabet letter after omicron? Here's your reference list for the next variants!
- I like how these guys enjoy their snake kabob with vodka, but I doubt I'd try it! [6-minute video]
- Azeri music: A beautiful song, played with accordion and tonbak. [1-minute video]
- Iranian street-food in Paris: offering Kabob-e Luli on Neauphle-le-Chateau Street. [3-minute video]
(5) Here is my simple rule for social-media platforms: Any leader who blocks his/her people from using a platform should be banned from that platform. [#BanKhamenei]
(6) Mathematical curiosity: The largest-known prime number whose decimal representation contains only two different numerals has 4157 digits. It begins and ends with 35353.
(7) Vostok Lake under the ice of Antarctica: Hidden under 4 km of ice, the 0.9-km deep lake, the largest of hundreds of such lakes under the Antarctic ice, harbors ancient life, isolated and evolved independently from the rest of life on Earth for 25 million years.
(8) Holy grail or fool's gold? After years of claims and doubts, nuclear fusion is making news again. Can we finally reverse global warming by tapping into the atomic-level process that powers the stars?

2021/12/25 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Wishing everyone a joyous Christmas, a peaceful week ahead, and a bright new year! A most-stunning photo from the 'Wahington Post' collection: Bride and groom kissing on a flooded road Meme: 'If people don't respond voluntarily to our call for having more children to help increase Iran's population, we will make them bear more children'
Last digits of Fibbonaci numbers, when written in decimal, are periodic, with a period of 60 Last digits of Fibonacci numbers are also periodic in other bases Persian calligraphic art offers endless variations, symmetries, and geometric designs. (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Wishing everyone a joyous Christmas, a peaceful week ahead, and a bright new year! [Top center] A sample from Washington Post's most-stunning photos of 2021. [Top right] Iranian MP: "If people don't respond voluntarily to our call for having more children to help increase Iran's population, we will make them bear more children." [Bottom left & center] Last digits of Fibonacci numbers, when written in decimal, are periodic, with a period of 60. They are also periodic, when numbers are written in other bases. [Bottom right] Persian calligraphic art offers endless variations, symmetries, and geometric designs.
(2) British women are demanding that men be banned from the streets at night, instead of advising women not to go on the streets, because a male serial-killer is on the loose. [Persian tweet]
(3) NASA's James Webb Space Telescope launched this morning: Lifting off atop an Ariane 5 rocket from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana, the world's most-powerful space observatory will start orbiting the sun in about a month, and will look deeper into space than we have ever been able to do. Among other activities, the telescope will take a closer look at some exoplanets to answer questions about their formation & evolution.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Wishing all essential and front-line workers a merry Christmas and a bright new year! [Image]
- Despite judicial and security crackdowns, Iranian teachers continue their peaceful protests in 100+ cities.
- Facebook memory from Dec. 24, 2020: "Jingle Bells," played Persian style! [1-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Dec. 24, 2015: Memorable Christmas Eve, when we visited my daughter in France.
- Facebook memory from Dec. 24, 2013: My review of David Sedaris's Naked, just uploaded to GoodReads.
- Facebook memory from Dec. 25, 2016: Christmas dining tradition for Jews! [Photo]
(5) Fifty years of P vs. NP and the possibility of the impossible: The P vs. NP problem turned 50 in 2021 and its resolution remains far out of reach. Advances in algorithms, machine learning, and hardware can help tackle many NP-hard problems once thought impossible. So, P vs. NP is now more a way to chart the future possibilities for our field, rather than an urgent question to be settled.
(6) Is the global computing community irrevocably divided? The technological, economic, and geopolitical rift between the US and China, world's two computing superpowers, is hurting information-sharing and academic research, writes Andrew A. Chien, CACM's Editor-in-Chief, in the magazine's January 2022 issue.
(7) Article of possible interest to my Iranian readers: Nile Green, "The Survival of Zoroastrianism in Yazd," Iran (J. British Institute of Persian Studies), Vol. 38, No. 1, 2000, pp. 115-122. [Link]
From the article's conclusion: "In the early days of the Islamic Republic, many Zoroastrians feared for their futures in the new Iran, and there were numerous emigrations as a consequence. Ironically, it is perhaps this that has proven to be the most damaging force for Zoroastrianism in Iran in decades. The main problems facing the Zoroastrians of Yazd during the 1990s appeared to be their shrinking numbers and the legislation requiring conversion to Islam on marrying any Muslim Iranian. ... The old Zoroastrian way of life, preserved for centuries in the isolation of the villages of the plains around Yazd, is regrettably close to extinction, but the decline of village life in Iran is not a uniquely Zoroastrian process. Yet there is great commitment on the part of the Zoroastrians to hand on their traditions to their children. Provided too many more of them do not either migrate to Tehran or emigrate completely, and so long as their parents manage to dissuade them from inter-marriage with Muslims, the Zoroastrians of Yazd seem assured of a prolonged future."

2021/12/24 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image of David Kaiser's 'How the Hippies Saved Physics' Cover image of Joan Didion's 'The Year of Magical Thinking' Cover image of Joan Didion's 'Blue Nights' (1) Images of the day: [Left] David Kaiser's impressive science-history book, How the Hippies Saved Physics (see the last item below). [Center & Right] RIP, Joan Didion, 1934-2021 (see the next item below).
(2) Farewell to California writer Joan Didion [1934-2021]: In a course I took on writing great sentences, this sentence from Didion was included as a prominent example: "The San Bernardino Valley lies only an hour east of Los Angeles by the San Bernardino Freeway but is in certain ways an alien place: not the coastal California of the subtropical twilights and the soft westerlies off the Pacific but a harsher California, haunted by the Mojave just beyond the mountains, devastated by the hot dry Santa Ana wind that comes down through the passes at 100 miles an hour and whines through the eucalyptus windbreaks and works on the nerves."
Let me also share with you a review of her book Blue Nights, which I wrote on November 23, 2015.
(3) Gender inequity in academia: It's no secret that women face discrimination in academia, as in other work environments. Yet, it's jarring to learn that the percentage of women in the assistant-professor rank rises with age (peaking at 60% around age 60), while the female percentage declines at higher academic ranks (dipping below 33% for full professors, beginning at age 60). [Chart] [Source]
(4) These little school girls in Gorgan, Iran, are jubilant and they show it in no uncertain terms: Shame on grown men who view these bundles of joy as objects of sexual desire and make them cover their hairs and wear loose-fitting dresses. [Tweet, with video]
(5) Book review: Kaiser, David, How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival, unabridged 12-hour audiobook, read by Sean Runnette, Blackstone Audio, 2011.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
In the 1970s, funding for physics went on a downward spiral. Large numbers of graduates had to compete for scarce employment opportunities, so students began shunning the field. Then, a quirky band of underemployed physicists in Berkeley, California, decided on a freewheeling approach to physics research, discussing ideas while sitting in hot tubs, high on drugs, or in secret locations, away from the eyes and ears of their skeptical, establishment mentors, mixing in doses of philosophy, psychic mind-reading, and Eastern mysticism.
Quantum physics is hailed as a towering achievement of humankind, yet the path to its monumental discoveries wasn't well-defined or smooth. Bell's Theorem (dispelling the belief that quantum physics is incomplete and thus requires consideration of physical properties outside the theory, the so-called "hidden variables," to make accurate predictions) is a case in point. It took years before John Stewart Bell's 1964 paper was even cited and many more years before skeptics could be brought to accept it.
Kaiser, an MIT physicist and historian of science, takes us on a tour of the development of quantum physics, from its inception in the 1920s to nearly a century later. Today, the exotic and endangered quantum physics of the 1970s is but a distant memory, having produced quantum information theory, hyped to be our ticket out of computationally-tough problems and a cure for the end of exponential hardware performance growth.
Particularly intriguing for me was Kaiser's discussion of how entanglement or "spooky action at a distance" predicted by Bell's Theorem was taken by some to mean that mind-reading and other notions of parapsychology made sense. The conclusion that human mind and consciousness were quantum-mechanical in nature followed. Similarly, attempts were made to describe the observer effect in terms of the involvement of human consciousness in any measurement.
The book is a masterful piece of science-history writing, weaving just the right amount of science, alongside human-interest stories that provided the context for scientific advances in quantum physics. In writing the book, Kaiser set out to untangle the counter-intuitive aspects of quantum physics and how the "shut up and compute" attitude of its early days has been replaced by a quest for impact and meaning, while also providing a window into the lives of physicists, as they worked on scientific problems in a turbulent world of culture clashes and Vietnam War.
Here is an interesting interview with the author as part of the "Voices of the Manhattan Project" series.

2021/12/23 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Distribution of US faculty by academic rank & age Meme: Pakistani PM says that Afghan traditions, particularly in the area of girls' education, should be respected Math puzzle: The blue square's area is one-half that of the outer square's. What's the measure of the unknown angle?
My portraits digitized nearly four decades ago as arrays of printable characters: Sample 3 My portraits digitized nearly four decades ago as arrays of printable characters: Sample 4 My portraits digitized nearly four decades ago as arrays of printable characters: Sample 1 (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Distribution of US faculty by academic rank & age (see the next item below). [Top center] You are entitled to your own opinion, but not to respect: "The world should respect Afghan traditions, particularly in the area of girls' education." ~ Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan [Top right] Math puzzle: The blue square's area is one-half that of the outer square's. Find the measure of the unknown angle. [Bottom row] Throwback Thursday: Nearly four decades ago, I experimented with an old photo-digitization app that created files for character-printers. I used the app to digitize some of my portraits at different resolutions for use in documents and for submission to certain journals along with accepted papers. Recently, I found these images in a file, as I was looking for something else.
(2) The aging of tenure-track faculty in the US: Normally, one would expect the number of faculty members to decline in higher academic ranks. It makes sense that not all assistant professors make it to the associate rank and a number of those in the associate rank leave academia or fail to earn the next promotion. However, the aging of US professors has upended this logical distribution. Academic rank is correlated with age, as shown in the accompanying chart. Because the areas of various colors represent the total number of faculty at different ranks, it seems that the numbers do not decline as we go to higher ranks, indicating that faculty members are advancing in age. Another chart (Figure 4) in the source article shows the number of women in the assistant professor rank actually rising with age, while their numbers decline at associate and full-professor levels.
(3) The White House, to unvaccinated Americans: "You're looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm."
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- UCSB will go back to remote instruction for the first few weeks of the winter 2022 quarter.
- Parts of Highway 101 in the San Luis Obispo area were flooded for a few hours, but the road is open now.
- Trump can deny it all he wants, but his anti-Semitism shows, again and again.
- Former Israeli officials are having second thoughts about their government opposing the Iran nuclear deal.
- Today's Iran is defined by two words, "corruption" & "brutality": Advice to those who want to travel to Iran.
- Robotic students: How one bot-sleuthing professor fought back fake community-college enrollees.
- Harnessing the power of anxiety into unexpected gifts: Book talk by Neuroscientist Dr. Wendy Suzuki.
- Lady Gaga's wonderful rendition of a medley of songs from "The Sound of Music." [5-minute video]
(5) Early warning: Seconds before a 6.2-magnitude quake struck the sparsely-populated Northern California coast on Dec. 20, the phones of 0.5M area residents began to buzz, giving them a bit of time to take cover.
(6) Why I didn't return to Iran, after my 1986-1987 sabbatical leave: I would like to share with you my letter of January 30, 1987 (Persian original; my just-completed English translation), two days before my 40th birthday, explaining the reasons for resigning from my faculty position at Sharif University of Technology in Iran, after 13 years of service, 5 years before and 8 years after the Islamic Revolution.
By not returning to Iran, I forfeited three years of salary that I had deposited in a special government account, all funds in my retirement & other university accounts, and a piece of land that I had acquired from a university cooperative to build a house. As a result, I had to start my life from near-zero at age 40 (I had a job, but almost no belongings). I don't regret that decision, though!
I received word from the university administration that I should retract my letter of resignation and submit a different version that wasn't antagonistic! I responded that the letter you see in this post wasn't a part of my official resignation letter, but an attempt to explain my decision to colleagues, to whom I felt an obligation.

2021/12/21 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Happy Yalda Night (winter solstice) Festival Essential supplies for Yalda's Night (winter solstice) celebration The Iranian regime issues guidelines for mourning Fatemeh Zahra, but advises against get-togethers to celebrate Yalda Night
Dollar Tree has become Dollar-and-a-Quarter Tree! Cover image of the book 'Survival of the Friendliest' New Yorker cartoon: 'Of course you feel great. These things are loaded with antidepressants.' (1) Images of the day: [Top row] Happy Iranian Yalda Festival: Essential supplies, from Costco, for our celebration and the Iranian regime's desparate attempt to discourage people from getting together to celebrate (see the next item below). [Bottom left] Our Dollar Tree store has become Dollar-and-a-Quarter Tree store! [Bottom center] Survival of the Friendliest (see the last item below). [Bottom right] New Yorker cartoon of the day: "Of course you feel great. These things are loaded with antidepressants."
(2) This year's Yalda-Night/Chelleh/Winter-Solstice is on Tuesday, 12/21: The eve of the first day of winter is celebrated by Iranians, marking the night when forces of evil (darkness) have reached their maximum strength and the Sun begins its offensive, as the days grow longer. Yalda is celebrated with pomegranates, watermelon, persimmons, mixed dried-fruit & nuts, and various other Iranian sweets. [1-minute music video]
The Iranian regime promotes Islamic mourning rituals and shuns Iranian celebrations: It issued guidelines for mourning Fatemeh Zahra's martyrdom, but recommended that people not get together to celebrate Yalda Night, owing to COVID-19! The Iranian culture is filled with festivals and other happy occasions, while the Islamic culture imposed on the country by the mullahs observes mostly sad occasions.
[P.S.: As we celebrate the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, summer is arriving down under.]
(3) Book review: Hare, Brian and Vanessa Woods, Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity, unabridged 6-hour audiobook, read by Rene Ruiz, Random House Audio, 2020. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Darwin's expression "survival of the fittest" has been interpreted and misunderstood in many different ways. The thesis of this book is that friendliness (sociability, cooperation) is the correct interpretation of fitness for survival. When animals are domesticated, they become friendly, first because they are selected from among the friendliest of their species (for example, friendly wolves that hung out around human encampments to benefit from discarded food were domesticated to become dogs) and second due to artificial selection once they are in the company of humans.
In this book, the husband-and-wife team Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods explore selection pressures and adaptations that help explain why we can be kind toward one group of strangers and cruel toward others. The explanation proceeds along the line of self-domestication theory that the first author helped develop. The self-domestication theory posits that around 200,000 years ago, less-aggressive individuals became preferred social partners, enabling the formation of larger social groups and, over millennia, leading to cities with many thousands or even millions of inhabitants.
The friendliness trait of modern humans helped us prevail over other human species that coexisted with us for long periods of time. These other species were also strong, smart, and inventive, but they did not have our remarkable ability to coordinate and communicate with others. Our ability to cooperate has allowed us to benefit from specialization, which is one of the driving forces of technological advancement.
As a species becomes domesticated, it loses brain mass, given its reduced need for decision-making due to being fed and cared for. It also undergoes many other transformations in physical and mental traits, including shortened reproductive cycles, changes in coat colors/patterns, altered tails, floppiness of ears, reduced body mass, and smaller teeth. Self-domestication of humans has brought about changes that are consistent with the general trends.
The dark side of friendliness toward some groups (family, clan, tribe) is protectiveness, which leads to cruelty toward outsiders. This cruelty is often justified by dehumanizing those outside our group. Such acts of dehumanization are seen among racists who might equate blacks with apes or consider them a link in the evolution of apes to humans. Bear in mind, however, that dehumanization does not occur only in racial contexts. Any social group can be dehumanized by focusing on certain traits or behaviors that are deemed disgusting by another group.

2021/12/20 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: 'How has Iranians' Awareness of the Medes, Achaemenids and Parthians Been Shaped' My year in books, so far, according to Goodreads: 31,372 pages, 95 books Political prisoner Alieh Motalebzadeh faces violation of her human rights in Iran
Sunday's walk in Santa Barbara: Along State Street, downtown Sunday's walk in Santa Barbara: Stearns Wharf (Batch 1) Sunday's walk in Santa Barbara: Stearns Wharf (Batch 2) (1) Images of the day: [Top left] UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: Dr. Ahmad Ashraf will speak in Persian under the title "How has Iranians' Awareness of the Medes, Achaemenids and Parthians Been Shaped," Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, 11:30 AM PST (Register). [Top center] My year in books, according to GoodReads: I think I'll make it to 100 books over the holidays! [Top right] Political prisoner Alieh Motalebzadeh faces violation of her human rights in Iran. [Bottom row] Sunday's walk in Santa Barbara's downtown and on Stearns Wharf.
(2) Carole King and James Taylor, together again: CNN will air a new documentary/concert by the storied duo on Sunday, January 2, 2022, 9:00 PM EST.
(3) Trump was unsuccessful in overturning the election result: However, Joe Manchin seems to have accomplished the feat, at least in the area of domestic policy. He acted as a 51st Republican Senator in helping defeat Joe Biden's most-important domestic policy proposal.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- According to Trump, evangelical Christians love Israel and care about it, while Jewish Americans don't.
- Kurdish political prisoner #HeidarQorbani secretly executed in Iran, even though appeals were still pending.
- News from Australia: Six children killed after wind lifted a bouncy castle at a school event.
- Iran's Imam Sadegh U.: Cash cow for an ayatollah's family and degree mill for the family & regime insiders.
- Math puzzle: The blue square inside the 1 × 1 outer square has an area of 1/2. What's the unknown angle?
- Got my COVID-19 booster today: Dealing with some mild side-effects. Will be back in full force tomorrow.
(5) Self-healing concrete: By adding bacterial spores to concrete, along with a food source for them, cracks in concrete can be filled automatically, thus preventing harmful substances from creeping in and causing performance degradation. [4-minute video]
(6) SpinLaunch: This company claims that it can send satellites into orbit by accelerating them through a spinning mechanism instead of by using rockets. The technology is hyped as being cheaper and environmentally friendlier. There are skeptics, of course, so we must wait before judging. [6-minute video]
(7) The Hill reports that White House incivility lost Joe Manchin: Sure, it seems that others also have trouble believing Manchin's verbal and written explanation, that the bill was bad for people of West Virginia.

2021/12/19 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Patriarchy in Iran: Family photo with naked son Patriarchy in Iran: Senator Mehrangiz Manouchehrian I am going another year with minimalist holiday decorations. Happy holidays!
A large batch of mini-pizzas, made with English muffins and veggie toppings My sister making schnitzels outdoors, on a table-top hot-plate Cover image of Ken Jennings' 'Because I Said So!' (1) Images of the day: [Top left & center] Patriarchy in Iran (see the next item below). [Top right] I am going another year with minimalist holiday decorations. Happy holidays! [Bottom left & center] Food to share with family: English-muffin veggie mini-pizzas made by me and one of several batches of schnitzels made by my sister on an outdoor hot plate. [Bottom right] Ken Jennings' Because I Said So! (see the last item below).
(2) Patriarchy and the complicity of "modern" women: Believe it or not, Iranian families, even some educated ones, used to undress their male children for family photos, to show their pride in having a son! Recently, Iran's former Empress, a French-educated woman, indicated in an interview that she was jubilant when she gave birth to a son as her first child, adding that a daughter would have been okay too, given that she and her husband could try again! Around the same time, Senator Mehrangiz Manouchehrian was trying to reform Iran's stone-age family laws and went as far as to suggest that the successor to the Shah did not have to be a male child. The Shah tried to silence her, so as not to offend the Islamic clerics. She was later accused of being an infidel and a closet communist! [Adapted from a poignant Facebook essay, in Persian, by Mehrnoosh Mousawi]
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Tickets of $100+: "Trump's History Show" with Bill O'Reilly continues with many unsold seats.
- God told a Texas pastor to build a $7M mansion, so, he claims, he shouldn't be required to pay taxes on it.
- Math puzzle: If x + 1/x = 3, what is x^3 + 1/x^3?
- Persian music: Beautiful rhythmic piece, performed by Fariba Tavakkoloi & Mohammad-Ali Salmanpoor.
(4) Known as the Harvard of evangelical schools, Moody Bible Institute reprimanded women who complained about sexual abuse for tempting their male classmates.
(5) Book review: Jennings, Ken, Because I Said So! The Truth Behind the Myths, Tales, and Warnings Every Generation Passes Down to Its Kids, unabridged 5-hour audiobook, read by the author, Tantor Audio, 2012.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Record-setting "Jeopardy!" (TV trivia game show) champion Ken Jennings decided to test the proposition that "parents know best." Spoiler alert: They don't! People with young kids better safeguard their copy of this book, as it could be quite damaging to your sense of self-importance if your kids get a hold of it!
Examples of the many dozens of myths busted by Jennings include:
- Swallowed chewing-gum can remain in your stomach for 7 years
- You'll cramp up if you swim within an hour after lunch
- Eating snow will make you sick
- If you cross your eyes, they'll get stuck like that
- Most of your body heat escapes through your head
- Don't swallow watermelon seeds; they'll sprout in your stomach
- Einstein sucked at math in school (used to motivate kids)
- We only use 10% of our brain cells
One of the most-interesting misguided pronouncements is "Don't talk to strangers," which confuses kids and makes them anxious and miserable. Child-safety advocates present examples of lost children hiding from strangers who were searching for them. The best advice to kids is that, in the event of getting lost, they should talk to a stranger, perhaps helping them choose the stranger judiciously, such as a mother with kids in tow.
Alongside many busted myths, identified with the label "false," Jennings also gives the conditional verdicts of "false—but" and "true—if," or, in a small number of cases, "true."
Here is Ken Jennings's 52-minute book talk at Google.

2021/12/18 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
America's deadliest accidental building collapse: Collapse of a Hyatt Hotel's skywalk in Kansas City, Missouri Cover image for Andrew Ervin's 'Bit by Bit: How Video Games Transformed Our World' Art: Inga Guzyte's art of recycled skateboards takes off
Boromean rings: Try to explain why the rings cannot be pulled apart, even though no two of them link Math problems: A weird equality and a trig expression to simplify The universe of numbers (1) Images of the day: [Top left] America's deadliest accidental building collapse: Forty years before the collapse of the Surfside condo tower in Florida, the collapse of a Hyatt Hotel's skywalk in Kansas City, Missouri, killed 114 people. [Top center] Andrew Ervin's Bit by Bit (see the last item below). [Top right] Inga Guzyte's art of recycled skateboards takes off (from SB Independent, Dec. 16-23, 2021). [Bottom left] Boromean rings: Try to explain why the rings cannot be pulled apart, even though no two of them link. [Bottom center] Math Challenges: A weird equality and a trig expression to simplify. [Bottom right] The universe of numbers.
(2) List of "Research 1" universities expands by 6 members: Three universities were downgraded and moved into the next-lower designation (Brandeis, NJIT, Rensselaer Poly) while 9 universities were added (Baylor, Kent State, ND State, Old Dominion, Denver, Louisiana at Lafayette, Memphis, Texas-San Antonio, Utah State).
(3) #WhereIsLeila: Iranian student activist Leila Hosseinzadeh, who had been arrested and imprisoned repeatedly, has not been heard from over the past 10 days.
(4) Book review: Ervin, Andrew, Bit by Bit: How Video Games Transformed Our World, unabridged 7-hour audiobook, read by the author, Hachette Audio, 2017. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Tracing the 6-decade development of electronic-games (video- & computer-games), beginning with the late 1950s, when "Tennis for Two" appeared on an oscilloscope, Ervin discusses hardware technology, programming, artistic aspects, and addictive nature of these games, now played by 2/3 of American households. Whereas early gamers were predominantly young men, today, the average player's age is 34 and 2 in 5 are women.
To write the book, novelist/critic/gamer Ervin visited labs and game-designers, as he tracked down original versions of old games. Early on, games were text-based or had rudimentary graphics, such as using a square to represent a game character. As hardware speed and memory capacity increased, game designers took advantage of the new capabilities to create more realistic characters and larger game-worlds. In fact, some advances in hardware capabilities were motivated by gaming applications.
As game realism and complexity increased, game-controllers also became bigger and were endowed with more buttons. Ervin maintains that at some point, controllers became too complex to operate, leading to some gamers losing interest. On the other hand, the artful design of some game-worlds, the variety of experiences they offered, their sophisticated narratives, and hidden elements/worlds to be discovered by die-hard players attracted great interest.
One of Ervin's interesting observations is that the theme music of electronic games have always been highly-developed and quite attractive, thus evolving less than the visual and story aspects over the years. Another observation is that the introduction of depth and 3D features proved tricky at first, causing some disorientation. Ervin considers well-designed electronic games as art, a position that is somewhat controversial. In support of Ervin's position, one may note that some museums of modern art now have electronic games on display.
As a non-gamer, I found the book interesting and absorbing. I was familiar with some of the games, particularly those that ran on the original Nintendo game-console and NES that I bought for my children. I can imagine that gamers will get more enjoyment out of Ervin's detailed descriptions of both popular and lesser-known games.

2021/12/17 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Meme: Where is Narges Mohammadi? Following her arrest last month, Mohammadi's whereabouts and condition are unknown Look into these four faces and tell me which one looks most trustworthy Meme: Getting rid of trash at Iran's parliament
UN General Assembly condemns Iran's violations of human rights Components of the evaluation of student performance in college courses (1) Images of the day: [Top left] One month after the arrest and imprisonment of Iranian human/women's-rights activist Narges Mohammadi, her whereabouts and condition are unknown. [Top center] Look into these four faces and tell me which one looks most trustworthy: One of the two highest-ranking male Iranian officials, Ali Khamenei or Ebrahim Raisi, or one of the two female human/women's-rights activists, Nasrin Sotoudeh or Narges Mohammadi? [Top right] Meme of the day: Getting rid of trash at Iran's parliament. The artist preferring to remain anonymous is hardly surprising! [Bottom left] UN General Assembly condemns Iran's violations of human rights. [Bottom right] Notes on inverted classes (see the last item below).
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- How the scribblings of a young Austrian soldier in World War I trenches changed philosophy forever.
- Iranian environmentalists up in arms over the granting of hunting licenses to foreign tourists.
- Love, Iraqi/patriarchal style: Woman is disfigured in acid attack after turning down a marriage proposal.
- The lower-half of a mathematical expression spells love message. [Video]
- In largest deal of its kind, Bruce Springsteen sells the entirety of his music catalog to Sony for $550 million.
- The site onezoom.org allows you to explore the tree of life in its entirety, zooming on branches at will.
(3) My notes on flipped or inverted classes: Now that fall quarter is over, I take this opportunity to share my experience with using a flipped/inverted class. I taught the graduate course ECE 257A (fault-tolerant computing) with ~10 students, so my observations may not apply to undergrad courses. They certainly do not apply to lower-division courses with scores or hundreds of students.
According to an article in the October 2021 issue of Prism, the magazine of ASEE, the lockdown opened engineering educators' eyes to valuable teaching tools, new ways to connect with students, and a couple of worrisome trends. Among other innovations, flipped classrooms came out of their exotic status and became a lot more common. One reason that many instructors avoided inverting their classes is the amount of time it takes to create lecture videos, as well as components like discussion boards and quizzes. But now instructors have all the required components in place. Making videos is also a lot easier these days. Support systems for course management and grading (e.g., Gradescope) have also improved, taking less of an instructor's time. The worrisome trends include cheating (e.g., seeking homework or exam help from Chegg or Course Hero). A second worrisome trend in the effect of isolation on students' mental health.
Back to my personal observations. The flexibility provided by a small, graduate course allowed me to base my evaluation of student work on homework assignments, worth 40%, and a research paper, worth 60%. I had 16 pre-recorded lectures for the 10-week quarter, leaving three leftover flipped-class sessions of the 19 total (two 1-hour sessions per week over the 10-week quarter). I used one of these sessions for a guest lecture on ethical considerations in engineering in general & safety-critical systems in particular, one for a poster-presentation session, and the third one as time off for focusing on research.
The homework part of a flipped class is identical to a regular class. In both cases, homework assignments do not cover the entire course material. So, while homework does provide an incentive for students to actually watch the lecture videos, it is possible for them to watch selectively only the parts that relate to the assigned problems. My impression from discussions/comments in the flipped classes was that not all students had watched the assigned lecture in full.
The research component allows students to dig deeper into one or more aspects of the course material. The research process is actually facilitated by the flipped format, as students can also ask questions about their research during the flipped class or separate office hours. During fall 2021, I did not assign new lectures to watch for one week in the middle of the quarter (a week that contained a holiday) and one week at the end, to allow students to devote more time to advancing their research. This worked out quite well, judging by the quality of submitted papers and poster presentations.
I have already planned my winter 2022 course, ECE 254B (parallel processing), along the same lines, but will be looking to make changes in future based on the 2-quarter experience. The accompanying diagram shows other components that may be included in assessing students' work.
In a regular course, exams, with unpredictable coverage, provide additional incentive to study. Exams are much harder to manage in on-line courses, but with a hybrid format, exams may be re-introduced. In the past, I have tried a mixed format of allowing the students to choose a final exam or a research paper. This is a bit more work for the instructor but accommodates both students who thrive in an independent-study context and those who prefer to have a well-defined scope for their studies.
There are other options for motivating students to watch the lecture videos in full. One mechanism is to have short (10-minute?) quizzes at the start of some or all of the flipped classes. The quiz option will effectively make attendance mandatory, which goes against the spirit of a flipped class. The effect can be moderated by taking grades from the best-half of the quizzes as a performance indicator. With this provision, students need to attend only half the time, but, of course, more frequent attendance will give them a performance edge.
Another option is to use a participation grade based on student questions & comments in the flipped class. Such a component is likely much less objective than using quizzes. Taking attendance does not help in the flipped-class format.
Flipped-class attendance averaged ~75%, comparable to my in-person graduate classes. I actually expected a number lower than attendance for in-person classes, given that the flipped class was advertised as being for those who have questions/problems. One reason may have been the fact that the students craved personal interactions, after a long period of isolation.

2021/12/15 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Scenes from the IEEE Central Coast Section holiday banquet: Batch 1 IEEE Central Coast Section speaker Kristin Bell: Photo 8 Scenes from the IEEE Central Coast Section holiday banquet: Batch 1
IEEE Central Coast Section speaker Kristin Bell: Photo 10 IEEE Central Coast Sections technical talks, January-July 2022 IEEE Central Coast Section speaker Kristin Bell: Photo 11 (1) Images of the day: IEEE Central Coast Section holiday banquet and tech talk (see the last item below).
(2) One of the tragedies in Afghanistan: Mother tells the Iranian "reporter" in this video interview that she found no buyer for her child in the marketplace. The reporter says she is puzzled, given how cute the child is! This is the level of discourse by state-sanctioned "reporters" in Iran.
(3) Record-breaking tornado: The tornado that devastated six states and caused 70+ deaths (downgraded from 100+, after it was discovered that the number of deaths in a razed candle factory wasn't as large as first estimated) in Kentucky alone had a record-breaking path length of ~250 miles.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Big loss in the fight for gender equality: Belle Hooks, feminist, professor, and prolific author, dead at 69.
- Cornell University is hit hard by the new #Omicron variant of COVID-19. [Tweet]
- Apparently, everything there is to know fits in two books! [Tweet]
- Wonderful street musician on the beach: Note how he builds up the rhythm at the beginning. [Video]
- Azeri music: Beautiful song, performed on piano and kamancheh. [3-minute video]
(5) Australia's Ambassador donned a chador, the most-restrictive form of hijab, in meeting with Iranian officials and while visiting religious sites: With feminists like this, who needs patriarchs to oppress women?
(6) Education in Iran and the US: Iranian teachers are on strike, and students support their demands for higher pay and better working conditions. In the US, school enrollments show worrisome decline. [Memes]
(7) Software vulnerability: University of California is responding to the critical Log4j vulnerability by urging staff to power down systems as they leave for the winter break. Attackers know that campuses are minimally staffed during the holidays and take advantage of the situation. Patches are being installed where needed.
(8) Tonight's IEEE Central Coast Section holiday banquet & tech talk: After appetizers, salad, and main course at Santa Barbara's Mulligan's Cafe and Section Education Chair's brief review of seven upcoming IEEE CCS tech talks in early 2022, Ms. Kristin Bell (Community Manager of Hub101, Cal Lutheran U.) spoke under the title "Bringing Entrepreneurial Ideas to Life to Build and Scale New Businesses." [Slides]
Ms. Bell shared with the audience of ~30 aspects of how Hub101 enables entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to life and ultimately build and scale businesses. Hub101 serves startups, including collaboration through coworking, discovery through educational programs, growth through mentorship, and community-building through events. One of the incubator's newest initiatives is a 12-week, cohort-based program that takes entrepreneurs from an idea, through validation and development, to launch.
Ms. Bell also highlighted various startups that launched out of Hub101, including those that closed tens or hundreds of millions in fundraising, found their technical co-founders, received mentorship that changed their trajectories, secured substantial partnerships, and more.
Finally, Ms. Bell discussed the immense value mentors and advisors bring to an entrepreneur's journey and the various ways Hub101's network of mentors supports its programs with a "Give First" mindset—the most critical ingredient in a vibrant, resilient startup community.
The program closed with random drawings from among the attendees for holiday gifts.
[IEEE CCS event page] [IEEE CCS Technical Talks page (includes speaker's bio)] [Hub101's home page]
[Recording of the speaker's earlier talk on the same topic for IEEE Buenaventura Section: YouTube video]

2021/12/14 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Lopsided gift exchange between Iran's Ghalibaf and Turkey's Erdogan Elon Musk has been chosen as Time magazine's 'Person of the Year' for 2021 Elon Musk's many companies
Meme: Nationwide protests of Iranian teachers enter their third day Software Engineering is the theme topic of the December 2021 issue of IEEE Computer magazine Meme: Sign at Imam Zaman's shrine (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Lopsided gift exchange (see the next item below). [Top center & right] Time magazine's "Person of the Year" and his many companies (see the item 3 below). [Bottom left] Nationwide protests of Iranian teachers enter their third day: There are reports from Iran that Internet connections have slowed down and, in some cases, cut. This is usually a sign that security forces are getting ready to attack. [Bottom center] Software Engineering is the theme topic of the Dec. 2021 issue of IEEE Computer magazine. [Bottom right] Sign at Imam Zaman's shrine: Please submit your notes in Arabic, as Imam Zaman isn't fluent in Persian. Also, do not throw food in the well. This sign may be made up, but it is funny, given that people from all walks of life believe that Imam Zaman has been hiding/living in a well for more than 1100 years!
(2) Iran's Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf gifts a invaluable hand-woven carpet to Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan: In return, Erdogan signs a copy of his book and gifts it to Iran's envoy. This reminded some observers of a similar episode many decades ago, when Iranian diplomats gifted two highly-valuable carpets to Adolf Hitler. Hitler signed a photo of himself and gave it to the Iranians, commenting that unfortunately, the German leader isn't as rich as the Shah of Iran and, thus, cannot give an expensive gift.
(3) Elon Musk's pluses & minuses: Musk has been chosen as Time magazine's "Person of the Year," based on his wealth (top in the world) and influential businesses (Tesla & SpaceX). On the negative side, Musk is being hypocritical when he bashes the proposed spending on infrastructure. He says he is against subsidies, but his companies are beneficiaries of government subsidies and a couple of them were saved from going under by the government's largesse. Tesla is thriving because of electric-vehicle rebates and tax breaks. SpaceX survives because of NASA and military contracts. Musk's original source of wealth, PayPal, thrived because of major government investments on computer-networking and the Internet, the enabling technologies for e-commerce.
(4) A story from Iranian poet/humorist Obeid Zakani [1319-1370]: A teacher took his students to the desert to pray for rain. A passerby asks him why he is using the students for this prayer. The teacher responds that kids have pure hearts and immaculate spirits, so their prayers may be more effective. The passerby responds: "If students' prayers were effective, not one teacher or school would have been left on this Earth!"
(5) Britain names three Iranians involved in hostage-taking, according to IranWire.com: Interrogator-journalist Ali Rezvani, who plays a key role in forced confessions on TV; Judiciary's Evin Prison rep Ali Ghanaatkar, who detains the hostages; Sadistic prison chief Gholamreza Ziaei, who is known for personally beating detainees.
(6) The Nobel Peace Prize's challenge: The Nobel Peace Committee can select uncontroversial social figures, such as Malala or various feed-the-poor programs, who, valuable as they are, don't really create peace, or opt for politicians, who have taken steps toward creating peace, like Egypt's Anwar Sadat or US's Henry Kissinger. Unfortunately, politicians come with baggages of their past actions and can also turn from peaceniks into war-mongers a few years after the award is bestowed upon them. The Nobel Peace Committee has to walk a tightrope between honoring goodness and rewarding impact. [Adapted from a narrative by Fareed Zakaria]
P.S.: Speaking of the Nobel Peace Prize, here is journalist Maria Ressa's full 20-minute Nobel Lecture. She and dmitry muratov were co-recipients of the 2021 Peace Prize.
(7) Adios fall quarter 2021! Today, I finished evaluating my students' research papers for the graduate course ECE 257A (Fault-Tolerant Computing), tabulated the course grades, and reported the grades to the Registrar. I am ready to go into holiday mode for a few days, before starting to prepare for winter 2022, when I will be teaching another graduate course, ECE 254B (Parallel Processing). Spring 2022 will bring a long-awaited sabbatical leave, giving me six months of sustained research time, extending to the end of summer.

2021/12/12 (Sunday): Today's blog post is devoted entirely to an event on abuses of human rights in Iran.
Abuses of human rights in Iran: Example 1 Moderator and speakers of the 12th annual conference on 'Striving for Human Rights in Iran' Abuses of human rights in Iran: Example 2 "Striving for Human Rights in Iran": This was the title of today's webinar (in Persian), the 12th program in the annual series, streamed on YouTube and Facebook Live. You may find it interesting to read my report on the 2017 event: http://www.facebook.com/bparhami/posts/10155898863837579
Ms. Homa Sarshar (author, activist, journalist), acting as moderator, opened the program with introductory remarks, followed by the screening of segments from a 140-minute memorial ceremony for the departed artist/activist Parviz Kardan. Later, she introduced each speaker by reading his/her short biography.
Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (Cal State Northridge) was the first speaker. In 2001, the US government was on the verge of recognizing the Taliban, at the insistence of oil interests. The September 11 terrorist attacks halted that process and brought about an increased focus on human rights and, in particular, women's rights. Now the Taliban are back in power and there is some pressure for the world to recognize their rule over Afghanistan. Dr. Tohidi then enumerated the barriers on the path to realizing human rights, particularly in the Middle East and Islamic countries.
First, are those who consider human rights a tool of the West to dominate Third-World and Islamic countries.
Second, are groups that consider human rights to be Euro-centric, opposing them by appealing to cultural relativism. Double standards by world powers, such the the US, which close their eyes to blatant human-rights violations in countries such as Saudi Arabia because of commercial interests, feed this narrative in religious and secular dictatorships alike.
The truth is that, even though Western countries led the efforts to ratify the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, many non-Western and non-Christian countries were intimately involved in the discussions and the drafting process. Certain notions and elements of the declaration were adapted from the constitutions of Latin American countries. Such objections, coming from religious fundamentalists, Muslims in particular, is hypocritical. Their claim of women's rights being an imposition on Islamic countries loses legitimacy, when we note that they constantly impose their own views on other groups. They condemn restrictions on hijab in certain European countries, while arresting women for not wearing "proper" hijabs.
The third wave of opposition comes from leftists, which sometimes operate in unison with liberals in characterizing human-rights efforts as Islamophobic or colonialist in nature. These groups are suspicious of any effort in the direction of demanding human rights, accusing the activists of being foreign agitators.
Dr. Mohsen Kadivar (Duke U.) was the second speaker, who offered a pre-recorded talk. Human rights have never been a priority for the Iranian regime. He classified barriers to human rights in Iran into cultural, law-based, and religious.
Cultural elements are independent of the current regime or the dominant religion in Iran. Patriarchy can be viewed as the main culprit.
Barriers due to lawlessness are equally important. Even though Iran's Constitution does contain many elements of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the law isn't followed. He then read a large number of articles from Iran's Constitution that are completely ignored by the current regime.
Dr. Kadivar emphasized religious barriers, that can be divided into 4 categories.
1. Religious discrimination: In this domain, having an official religion or Islam are not at fault; 43 countries have official religions and 40 countries have preferred/dominant religions, but very few of them have as bad a record in the domain of human rights. Iran's Constitution recognizes religious minorities, but does limit their participation in many official positions. Khamenei is the main force behind discrimination against Baha'is. Ayatollah Montazeri was the first Shiite leader who recognized civic rights for everyone, including Baha'is, and paid a dear price for this.
2. Gender discrimination: Iran's Constitution does not recognize women's right, so the status of women is relegated to religious laws. Women cannot assume many important political and administrative positions.
3. Lack of freedom of expression and severe punishment for leaving Islam: Iran's laws, including the law governing the press, specify harsh punishments, including execution, for insulting Islam, the Supreme Leader, and other top religious authorities.
4. Torture and harsh/arbitrary punishments: The Islamic Penal Code is one of the most-serious obstacles to human rights. In summary, obstacles to human rights in Iran are in part cultural, but mostly religious.
Ms. Parastoo Forouhar (political artist) was the third speaker. Ms. Forouhar is the daughter of political activists Parvaneh and Dariush Forouhar, who were assassinated in 1998 as part of Iran Ministry of Intelligence's "chain murders." She has played a major role in pursuing the murder cases and documenting the lives and contributions of her parents.
The system that committed those gruesome murders does not only remain unaccountable, but has become emboldened in repressing any type of dissent with violence. Ms. Forouhar travels to Iran every year to participate in ceremonies honoring the memory of her parents and others who have been killed for their activism on behalf of human rights. The chain murders awakened Iranians, whose rage overcame fear, forcing the regime to confess to the extrajudicial, politically-motivated murders.
The Islamic regime later retracted the confessions, accusing the perpetrators of the murders as being foreign agitators, including agents of Israel. The entire file disappeared for a while and discovered only after relentless follow-ups. Investigators of the case were arrested and imprisoned. When the file was eventually closed, it was a mishmash of documents, with many key parts missing. Confessions of perpetrators were obviously made up.
Some of the perpetrators have indicated that such political assassinations were commonplace and never led to problems before the chain murders. The file had clear statements to the effect that Minister of Information had directly ordered the killings. The judge in charge of the case did all in his power to pretend that the killings were ordinary crimes, with the perpetrators already pleaded guilty and punished, so there was nothing more for the judiciary to do.
Eventually, the survivors' opposition to the death penalty was interpreted by the justice system as forgiveness, leading to reductions in all of the punishments. Iran's Ministry of Information has filed a lawsuit against the victims' survivors and its agents have repeatedly raided the crime scene to steal documents and other artifacts.
Mr. Hadi Khorsandi (humorist, poet) was the fourth speaker, who recited his poem entitled "I Won't Give Away My Country." [Full text of the poem]
Ms. Narges Mohammadi (human-rights activist and long-time political prisoner) was the fifth and final speaker. She is now serving jail time and her presentation was prerecorded before her latest emprisonment. She focused on the plight of Iranian Baha'is. Even though Iranian Baha'is have been oppressed for a long time, the oppression took a serious turn after the Islamic Revolution. Widespread execution of Baha'i leaders or long prison terms for them, including being kept in solitary confinement, are common.
Mistreatment of Baha'is is not confined to execution and imprisonment of their leaders. Ordinary Baha'i citizens are subjected to inhumane treatments, such as being expelled from universities and confiscation of their homes and businesses. Lately, under pressure from human-rights activists in Iran and abroad, the regime has started charging Baha'is with national-security and spying charges, to hide the fact that they are subject to religious persecution.
Despite the regime's attitude toward the Baha'i community, ordinary Iranians are quite sympathetic to their cause and view them as victims of religious zealots. The regime's propaganda against the Baha'is, including broadcasting "documentary" films on state-controlled media accusing them of various crimes, is no longer effective and, in fact, brings the masses closer to their Baha'i neighbors and fellow-countrymen.
There is a danger that the new Iranian government will pursue even greater oppression and discriminatory practices against the Baha'i

2021/12/11 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Last night's food prep results: Pasta, salad, and barbari bread Math puzzles: See if you can evaluate the formidable-looking expression and find the angle X in the diagram with three squares Last night's food prep results:  Pasta leftovers and taco ingredients (1) Images of the day: [Left & Right] Last night's food prep results: A large batch of pasta with meat sauce for my own consumption and ingredients for tacos to share with the family today. [Center] Math puzzles: See if you can evaluate the formidable-looking expression and find the angle X in the diagram with three squares.
(2) A short documentary about National Iranian Radio & TV's chamber choir: Three years in the making, this 15-minute documentary reviews the highly-acclaimed chamber choir's history and brings some of its members from decades ago together to perform virtually a patriotic anthem with lyrics by Fereydoon Moshiri.
(3) Quote of the day: "If we are to answer the challenge of our times successfully, we must manage to combine the new economy and old morality." ~ British fiction writer E. M. Forster [1879-1970]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, memes, and other items of general interest.
- Scores killed in Kentucky, as tornadoes devastate central and southern US states.
- The trial of Ghislaine Maxwell has shed light on the fact that 38% of human traffickers are women.
- Dr. Abbas Milani's poignant speech of 2014, as part of the "Striving for Human Rights in Iran" event.
- Armenian women in Iran: Noteworthy individuals and their many contributions. [2-minute video]
- Facebook memory from Dec. 12, 2017: When we wore breathing masks against smoke from wildfires.
- Facebook memory from Dec. 12, 2013: Khwarizmi Awards ceremony of Informatics Society of Iran, 1985.
- Facebook memory from Dec. 12, 2010: Tired of homework, my daughter decided to do something else.
(5) Humor from Iran: Life is moving underground. We've had underground music and movies for some time. Recently, chains of underground restaurants have opened that don't follow the regime's dress code or its ban on dancing and alcoholic drinks. The way things are going, soon Iranians will be living underground, with mosques, mortuaries, and cemeteries being the only things remaining aboveground. That is, we'll live underground while alive and aboveground after death!
(6) Fifty funny classical-art memes: Here's an example for "The Last Supper." Jesus: "Table for 26, please." Waiter: "But there are only 13 of you." Jesus: "Yes, but we're all going to sit on the same side."
(7) Gohar Eshghi, the activist mother of Iranian political dissident Sattar Beheshti, who died under torture while in custody, has been beaten up for demanding justice.
(8) Thieves stole an entire railroad bridge in Russia in 2019: Now, there are reports of two bridges in Ahvaz, Iran, having been closed to traffic after they were deemed unsafe due to certain stolen metal fittings.
(9) The Iranian regime is surprised by brutal criticism from an unexpected source: On Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, Iran's President Raisi visited Sharif University of Technology to observe the Day of College Students (16th of Azar). He must have been under the impression that SUT students will praise him, the way a state TV "reporter" did by throwing at him softball "questions" with answers built-in, so that he did not have to say much. Imagine Raisi's surprise, when the Secretary of SUT's Islamic Students Association blasted him by mentioning that he had become president in the least-competitive elections of the past few decades, that he had shaped his cabinet from cronies, embezzlers, and IRGC generals, and that attacking peaceful protesters will come back to bite the regime in the form of a revolution. His remarks were censored by state media, but students have made them go viral through social media and other news outlets. [10-minute video, in Persian]

2021/12/10 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Iran's indirect talks with the US about reviving the nuclear deal encounters snags, as evident from these headlines Happy International Human Rights Day! People magazine's special 'Year in Pictures' issue features four strong women on its main and alternate covers
Cover image of IEEE Micro magazines Nov./Dec. 2021 issue celebrating the microprocessor's 50th birthday Math puzzle: In this diagram, containing two concentric circles, a square, and a triangle, what fraction of the big circle's area is shaded blue? Hoover Institution webinar on Ardeshir Zahedi (1) Images of the day: [Top left] Iran's indirect talks with the US about reviving the nuclear deal encounters snags, as evident from these headlines. [Top center] Happy International Human Rights Day! In reality, every day should be Human Rights Day, but no harm results from putting an extra emphasis on human rights on the UN-designated date of December 10. [Top right] People magazine's special "Year in Pictures" issue features four strong women on its main and alternate covers. [Bottom left] Microprocessor at 50 (see the next item below). [Bottom center] Math puzzle: In this diagram, containing two concentric circles, a square, and a triangle, what fraction of the big circle's area is shaded blue? [Bottom right] Webinar on Ardeshir Zahedi (see item 3 below).
(2) The microprocessor reaches middle age: The Nov.-Dec. 2021 issue of IEEE Micro magazine (Vol. 41, No. 6) marks the microprocessor's 50th birthday. Today, in a Zoom ceremony, IEEE Computer Society President Forrest Schull presented a virtual copy of the Special Issue to Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger. Other industry leaders and authors of the special-issue articles also offered brief remarks.
(3) "Ardeshir Zahedi & the Zahedi Archives at Hoover": Whatever we think of Zahedi's role in the former Shah's dictatorial rule and subservience to the US, and as an apologist for Iran's Islamic regime in his later years, he has provided an important window into Iran's history via his multi-volume memoir and the massive collection of documents now housed at Hoover Institution. Today's 2.5-hour Hoover Institution webinar on Zahedi, who passed away on November 18, 2021