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Behrooz Parhami's Blog & Books Page

Page last updated on 2018 March 10

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 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 2018

2018/03/10 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Snow on the Giza Pyramids after many decades? No, just another fake image on social media, leading to many re-tweets and Facebook reposts!
(2) Fake news spreads faster and wider than real news, according to new research findings. [This may be due to the fact that fake news stories are designed to be inflammatory and thus more likely to be shared by those who are predisposed to believing them, as opposed to arising from an inherent attribute of falsehood.]
(3) Threatening near-Earth object: A 1600-ft asteroid, with a 1 in 2700 chance of colliding with earth over the next century as it repeatedly zips by, may be deflected through a powerful nuclear explosion.
(4) The days of fossil fuels may be numbered: Within a couple of years, energy-storage companies such as Tesla will be allowed to compete in the wholesale electric-energy market against traditional suppliers.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Russia endangers Brits by using nerve toxin to poison ex-spy: Haz-mat crews working on assessing risks.
- China's Xi makes himself leader for life, as Trump looks on wistfully!
- Noteworthy quote: "Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow." ~ Helen Keller
- Noteworthy quote: "No one gossips about other people's secret virtues." ~ Bertrand Russell
- Robotic scarecrows: This wolf robot howls to protect farms. It's a bit too scary for kids, though.
- Is it winter or spring? Nature can't decide! [Photo]
- The strongest predictor of how long you will live isn't your weight or your exercise habits.
(6) Even in the age of #MeToo, rape victims are being shamed: Lawyer for Yale student accused of rape asks the victim what she was wearing, how much she had had to drink, and why she held hands with the accused as they walked on campus.
(7) A new scientific finding by a science-hating administration: According to Trump's Secretary of the Interior (the one who had a $130K office door installed), wind power leads to global warming, you know, the same phenomenon which is a Chinese hoax!
(8) International Women's Day at the White House: Dudes are everywhere in this March 8 photo, including on the walls. There's just one woman in the photo, and she is either a note-taker or a translator.
(9) Quantum-dot TV displays: The future of TV displays was supposed to be simple, progressing from LCDs to OLEDs (organic LEDs), which are brighter, sharper, and thinner. Enter the quantum-dot technology and you are faced with many new options and a dizzying list of acronyms, including QD, QUHD, SUHD, and ULED!

2018/03/09 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Oscar-nominated Greta Gerwig leads by example: The director of "Lady Bird," a film about the life of a teenage girl, represents the new-found power of women, in front of and behind the camera, as Hollywood finally finds its conscience.
(2) Courageous singers: Those who are born and raised in the West do not consider singing an act of bravery. But for Iranian women, singing has always been deemed a disreputable endeavor. Over the last four decades, in particular, women's voices and bodies have been viewed as profane and sinful, to be kept under wraps. This 7-minute video is an ode to brave singing women who have defied this twised world view.
(3) Interesting trends: Some of the following claims aren't strictly true, but still some head-scratching is warranted!
- Airbnb: World's largest accommodation provider owns no real estate
- Alibaba: World's most-valuable retailer has no inventory
- Bitcoin: World's biggest bank has no actual cash
- Facebook: World's most popular media owner creates no content
- Uber: World's largest taxi company owns no vehicles
(4) Puzzle: Mark has a favorite analog clock which, unfortunately, has lost its minutes hand. The hour hand is currently aligned exactly with minute 23. What time is it?
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Corruption and waste: Ryan Zinke bests Ben Carson's $31K dining set with $139K office door!
- Trump Organization ordered 12" replicas of the US Presidential Seal for use as golf course tee-markers.
- Kim Jong Un joked about his bad image abroad during dinner with South Korean officials.
- Women are receiving a larger number of college degrees than men, at all levels, but the pay gap remains.
- Following USA Gymnastics, USA Swimming is under scrutiny for a culture of sexual abuse spanning decades.
- Joke of the day: Trump administration has requested funds to promote abstinence-only sex education!
- Winter Olympics top-three medal counts: Norway (39), Germany (31), USA (23). [Source: Time magazine]
- Thursday's spectacular sunset, with interesting cloud patterns, at the end of a spring-like day in Goleta.
(6) The best things in life are free: Tonight's final post shows you how this belief of mine was reaffirmed when I attended a free community concert at the Isla Vista Elementary School, a 10-minute walk from my home. Singer/songwriter Gaby Moreno performed songs in Spanish and English, accompanied by electric and bass guitarists and a percussionist. With a warm, sultry voice and amazing stage presence, Gaby mesmerized both adults and fidgety kids, had them sing along, and persuaded them to dance (with limited success, except at the final rock-n-roll tune). I never cease to be amazed by exceptional talent I encounter in unexpected places.
[A blues tune] ["Quizas, Quizas, Quizas"] [A song she wrote about immigrating from Guatemala to US] [A Disney theme song] [Another song] ["Somewhere over the Rainbow"] [A rock-n-roll song]
[Publicly available music videos from Gaby Moreno: NPR Music's Tenth Anniversary Concert; NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concert; At the 2015 Hispanic Heritage Awards]

2018/03/08 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) In honor of March 8: [Left] A very happy International Women's day to everyone, male or female, who believes that women's rights are human rights and that full equality between men and women is the only path to a prosperous and peaceful world. [Center] Cartoon of the day: International Women's Day in Iran. (Source: Iranwire.com) [Right] Not sure whether this image represents the setting of injustice or the dawn of freedom!
(2) A kind of anthem for Women's Day and women's rights: "Break the Chain" (Lyrics by Tena Clark; Music by Tena Clark and Tim Heintz) [Facebook post with full lyrics]
(3) Message on a Chinese mom's iPhone, after her toddler entered the wrong passcode repeatedly: "iPhone is disabled, try again in 25,114,984 minutes." [That's 47 years, in case you're wondering!]
(4) Quote of the day: "Don't compete against Israelis or we'll break your legs." ~ Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, addressing Iranian athletes going to international competitions
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Dire news on Women's Day: Iranian anti-hijab protester sentenced to 2 years in prison.
- Iranian women celebrating the 2018 International Women's Day aboard Tehran's metro.
- Malala Yousafzai talks with David Letterman about women's rights. [1-minute video]
- McDonald's turns its arches upside-down to celebrate women.
- Persian poem by Shokoufeh Taghi. [Facebook post]
- Picture worth 1000 words: The agony of Syrian kids. [Photo: Time magazine, issue of March 12, 2018]
- My talk of Monday 3/05 featured on the Web site of Razi University, Kermanshah.
- Persian music: Soheila Golestani sings "Ghesseh-ye Faramoosh" ("Forgotten Tale").
- Invitees to Trump's meeting on video-game violence did not include a single psychologist or scientist!
- Borowitz Report (humor): Trump says he has been treated very unfairly by people who wrote Constitution.
(6) Report on a technical talk: Professor Mahnoosh Alizadeh spoke this afternoon under the auspices of UCSB's Institute for Energy Efficiency. Her talk, "Electric Vehicles and a Modernized Grid: Opportunities and Challenges," covered a number of opportunities brought about by the increasing availability of real-time sensing and communication technologies. Alizadeh discussed pricing and vehicle routing schemes that allow power and transportation networks to cooperatively minimize the carbon footprint of electric vehicles by providing incentives to drivers to charge EV batteries at locations with abundant energy and minimal grid congestion and to corporations for coordinating autonomous EV fleets. Alizadeh's work is highly mathematical, but this afternoon, she focused on the big picture and consequences of her models, rather than their mathematical underpinnings. [Photos of the speaker and two of her slides]
[P.S.: What can be more empowering on this Internatiobal Women's Day than a young female faculty member presenting a prestigious technical talk on the energy-efficiency aspects of transportation systems?]
(7) World Music Series: UCSB's Son Jarocho Ensemble performed at the Music Bowl, yesterday. Each of the guitar-like instruments used is carved out of a single piece of solid wood; no connections, no glue. Many school children were present, prompting the Ensemble to perform "Los Ninos, La Ninas" in their honor. There was also teaching of tap-dancing to children and adults and a performance of "La Bamba". [One more song]

2018/03/06 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Tehran University's top graduates, 1968: Several classmates and I appear in this photo, showing first- and second-ranked graduates honored in various disciplines. The photo was sent to me by a friend in anticipation of our 50th anniversay reunion gathering in Armenia, during July 2018.
(2) Just wondering: Why would a person accepting an Oscar on behalf of a team only thank people who apply just to him/her and not to the entire group?
(3) Too much information: During discussion of blood types in a biology class, a young woman indicated that her blood type is AB, her dad's is O and her mom's is A. The teacher tells her that she must be confused, as this is impossible. Digging further, she discovers that her mom had had an affair with her dad's half-brother!
(4) Chelsea Clinton talks to Stephen Colbert: About the state of her friendship with Ivanka Trump, her new book, and many other topics, all in complete paragraphs, like her parents (as pointed out by Colbert).
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- The Vatican is overwhelmed with exorcism requests, so a private exorcism industry is filling the void.
- Officers were called to a daycare facility in Iowa, which gave the kids Gummy Bears laced with Sleep Aid.
- China's out-of-control space station will hit the Earth (likely in a northern US state) within weeks.
- Another Russian spy is poisoned in the UK: Defectors and Putin's critics face similar fates.
- Gary Cohn, Trump's economic advisor, resigns over disagreements on tariffs.
- Cartoon of the day: Trade war results in trading Trump for smart, female president! [Image]
- Pieces of a statue of King Ramses II found in southern Egypt's Temple of Kom Ombo.
- Team of international archaeologists uncovers thousands of ancient Mayan structures using aerial lidar.
- Flying with the birds: An up-close and personal view of majestic birds while flying along with them.
- Why would anyone give $130,000 to another person to keep quiet about something that never happened?
(6) Trump tweet about the Oscars' poor ratings: To the delight of conservatives, who hate it when women and non-Whites speak up. You know and we know that you are not "just kidding," Donald!
(7) The two Koreas seem to be making progress in their direct talks: Meanwhile, Trump takes credit for the thaw. He may be right, in the sense that distrust of him is bringing the archenemies together!
(8) Signing off with a few photos showing the audience at Razi University of Kermanshah during my remote Skype talk of Monday 3/05, entitled "Expanding the Understanding of Modern Technology among Students in Non-Science/Tech Majors." Thanks go to Dr. Amir Rajabzadeh for extending the invitation and Ms. Fereshteh Mousavi for handling the technical aspects of the talk, before and during the presentation.

2018/03/05 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Today's remote Skype talk at Iran's Razi University: The talk, entitled "Expanding the Understanding of Modern Technology among Students in Non-Science/Tech Majors," Monday, Esfand 14, 1396, 9:30 AM (Sunday, March 4, 2018, 10:00 PM PST), kicked off the technical seminar series for Razi University's newly established Faculty of Modern Sciences and Technologies.
Abstract: Literacy and numeracy, introduced long ago to define the skill sets of a competent workforce, are no longer adequate for the twenty-first century. We need what is described by the rarely-used term "techeracy," which is loosely equivalent to "grasp of technology." Just as numeracy is fundamentally different from literacy, there are key differences between the scopes and requirements of techeracy and numeracy. Achieving techeracy requires a further shift away from story-telling and word problems, used to instill literacy and numeracy, toward logical reasoning, as reflected in the activity of solving puzzles. In this talk, I draw upon my experience with teaching a freshman seminar to non-science/tech majors to convey how a diverse group of learners can be brought to understand the underpinnings of complex science and technology concepts. Once the basics are imparted in this manner, learners become empowered to pursue additional science and technology topics through suitably designed self-contained study modules.
Title slide (Persian, English); Slides (PowerPoint, PDF); ASEE 2018 conference paper (non-final draft).
(2) Wise quote of the day: "Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship." ~ Buddha [Note: This quote may or may not be from Buddha, but it's good advice regardless.]
(3) Idiotic quote of the day: "As long as young women work in stores, we have coed universities, and female professors lecture to male students, our society will never be cleansed." ~ Isfahan's Friday Imam [Meme]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Russia claims the US is meddling in its election: Oh no, our 'deep state' is upsetting Donald's good friend!
- Part of the story of why Jared Kushner can't get a full security clearance: Too many shady deals in his past.
- Hundreds of thousands remain without power days after severe windstorm on the US East Coast.
- Alibaba's machine-learning-based traffic management system to be rolled out in Malaysia.
- Virtual-currency theft: Japanese authorities raid the headquarters of Coincheck Inc. to investigate.
- Oh no! All hope is lost for Middle East peace, now that Jared Kushner seems to be leaving the White House!
(5) Status of DACA applicants in California: According to a directive from UC President's Office, despite lack of Congressional action, today's deadline for DACA applicants has no significance in California, given that the court has ruled in favor of University of California against the Trump administration, effectively reinstating DACA.
(6) Academy Awards, 2018: Acting categories led to predictable results. Frances McDormand and Gary Oldman (lead roles); Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell (supporting roles). Best film ("Shape of Water") and best director (Guillermo del Toro, for "Shape of Water") held the only surprises among the major award categories. [List]
[People of color winning Academy Awards in five major categories: Look at the last line of this chart!]
[Inclusion rider: In accepting the Oscar for best actress in a leading role, Frances McDormand mentioned that top actors should insist on an "inclusion rider" in their contracts, a statement that puzzled most people. The rider stipulates that in small and supporting roles, characters should include 50% gender parity, 40% people of color, 5% LGBTQ, and 20% disabled, that is, casting should be representative of the world we live in.]

2018/03/03 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) History in pictures: [Left] Window washer, New York City, 1961. [Center] The very first Disneyland ticket sold, 1955. [Right] Result of Paris Library flooding, 1910.
(2) Iranian Christians have become what in Persian is called "the stick with two golden ends": Endangered at home and unwelcome in the US.
(3) Trump often says that if someone throws punches at him, he punches back ten times harder: So, where is the punch-back after Putin's announcement that he now has an "indestructible" hypersonic nuclear ICBM and showed a simulated video of it heading toward Florida? Is he afraid to punch back? Does he punch back only against weaker adversaries, such as Kim Jong Un?
(4) Econ 101: Not one leading economist believes that imposing tariffs is good for our economy as a whole. At best, tariffs benefit some parts of the economy, while penalizing many more segments, including consumers, who will pay directly or indirectly for the original tariffs and those imposed in retaliation.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Student at Central Michigan University fatally shoots both parents on campus before fleeing.
- US East Coast's massive nor'easter storm has caused 7 deaths so far. [>Pictorial report]
- Europeans are skating on ice-covered canals!
- NRA's Russian ties: Alexander Torshin cultivated ties with NRA leaders, in part to gain access to Trump.
- People who wish Trump had run to shooting scene unarmed vastly outnumber those who believe he would.
- At $2358/sf, this $2M Sunnyvale home set a record: The buyer, a young Silicon Valley techie, paid all cash!
- Terah Lyons: A young leader in artificial intelligence, dubbed AI's superhero.
- A vocal-only nostalgic Persian song: "Dush Dush Dush".
- Meme of the day: Reality beats the weirdest made-up satire. [Image]
- First, came questions about Melania's parents' chain migration. Now, there's the puzzle of her "Einstein Visa."
(6) Humor: Stephen Colbert goes to Capitol Hill to have a redacted version of his classified memo released and to learn about ongoing Russia investigations. Committee members play along!
(7) Account of world's largest family tree published in the journal Science: Project leader Yaniv Erlich (a Columbia University computer scientist) and colleagues downloaded 86 million profiles from a collaborative genealogy website and used mathematical analysis to organize the data. The resulting vast family tree includes around 13 million people and spans 11 generations on average.

2018/03/01 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Persian calligraphy with ballpoint pen, by Ali Farahani.
(2) Evacuation orders: Some 30,000 residents of Montecito and surrounding areas are warned to evacuate ahead of a storm that is about to arrive in the Santa Barbara area. The Red Cross has set up an evacuation center at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. Pre-emptive closure of US 101 is a possibility.
(3) Idiotic quote of the day: "How many Jews were put in the ovens because they were unarmed?" ~ Donald Young, Republican Congressman from Alaska and NRA Board Member
(4) Astrophysics news: A ground-based radio antenna in western Australia has detected evidence of the earliest-known stars that illuminated an infant universe just 180M years after the Big Bang.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Putin taunts the US with "You will listen to Russia now!" as he deploys a hypersonic ICBM capability.
- Former prison driver, about to start working for Uber, may have sexually assaulted 100+ female inmates.
- Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump rumored to be on their way out of the White House.
- After meetings held at the White House, Jared Kushner's family business received $500 million in loans.
- US Forest Service, with its relatively few female employees, under scrutiny for sexual misconduct culture.
- Iranian Music: Azeri song about Nowruz, from a year ago. [Video]
- Meryl Streep's reaction when she loses at the Oscars: Likely won't happen this year! [GIF images]
- Sony World Photography Awards: This photo is on the shortlist of 25 entries.
- Cartoon of the day: It's a bird, it's a plane, it's BS-man! [Image]
- Borowitz Report (humor): Sarah Huckabee Sanders organizing 'Million Liars March' to support Hope Hicks.
(6) The REAL ID Act: Beginning on October 1, 2020, the feds will require your driver's license or identification card to be REAL-ID-compliant if you wish to use it for boarding an airplane or entering military bases and most federal facilities.
(7) Deadly winter storm, dubbed "weather bomb," hits the eastern US: Hope everyone stays safe! Here in Santa Barbara, we are bracing for possible flash-floods from heavy rains in recent burn areas.
(8) Jared Kushner, the whiz kid who was going to fix everything, fades into irrelevance: He will likely go back to the private sector, where he will try to fix his failing family business.
(9) A final thought: Did you notice that February 29 flew by without any new scandals from the White House?

2018/02/28 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Book review: Kranish, Michael and Marc Fisher, Trump Revealed: An American Journey of Ambition, Ego, Money, and Power, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Campbell Scott and Marc Fisher, Simon and Schuster Audio, 2016. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
In late March 2016, with both parties' nominations still unresolved, a group of Washington Post reporters embarked on a 3-month project to research the major candidates' backgrounds, for this book and other publications, including some 30 articles.
I previously reviewed The Making of Donald Trump, by David Cay Johnson (unabridged audiobook, Blackstone Audio, 2016), which I consider much less comprehensive, not as thoroughly researched, and not as balanced as the book by Kranish and Fisher. Here is my 3-star review of the former book on [GoodReads]
Seasoned journalists Kranish and Fisher cover every aspect of Donald Trump's life, including his privileged upbringing, relationship with power-broker Roy Cohen, aggressive and often risky bets, dealings with organized crime, lack of personal friends (he has only business contacts), and penchant for winning at all cost. For Trump, politics is just another way of being in the news and grabbing headlines. He has no ideology, changing political affiliation seven times, as he jockeyed for a position from which to satisfy his presidential ambitions.
Even this most-balanced book about Trump comes across as negative. It isn't the authors' fault: the man is a large collection of contradictions and questionable behavior to get ahead, crushing rivals and shortchanging those who helped him rise. His record since becoming US President confirms many of the negative traits enumerated in this and other books about him. Yet, to about one-third of Americans who revere Trump, no revelation about him seems to be considered disqualifying, as they brush off each negative story as part of the overarching conspiracy against him.
If you read only one book about Trump, make it this one, as it presents a complete and journalistically sound picture of him up to 2016. I am looking forward to the conclusion of the Russia probe to learn the rest of the story about Trump's rise to power.
(2) Lehigh University faculty vote to revoke Trump's honorary degree: "By staying silent we are bystanders; we normalize hate speech, condone discrimination and bullying."
(3) Jumping ship: Long-time Trump aide Hope Hicks quits her White House position, supplying one of her white lies as explanation.
(4) Punching bag punches back: Attorney General Jeff Sessions has tolerated many Trump insults in the past but in the case of the latest insult, he struck back by daring Trump to fire him.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Cool temps in SoCal and a storm arriving tonight: Evacuation warning issued for recent burn areas.
- Journalist slain in Slovakia, along with his girlfriend, was investigating the government's Mafia links.
- Trump hasn't ordered NSA to disrupt Russian hacking. [Of course! Why would he hurt his re-election odds?]
- Kushner stays, despite loss of access to top-secret material, but the Kelly-vs-Trumps war is intensifying.
- Man posing as ride-sharing driver arrested and charged with raping seven Los-Angeles-area women.
- Impish quote of the day: "I use social media like a grown-up." ~ Michelle Obama
(6) UCSB's Gamelan Ensemble performed in today's Music Bowl noon concert, as part of the World Music Series. I will not post any videos, given that I have shared this type of Indonesian music fairly recently.

2018/02/27 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) History in pictures: [Left] Coca Cola ad made by spreading grain in St. Mark's Square, Venice, 1960s. [Center] Announcement of the "Harry Potter" cast in 2000. [Right] Black cat auditions, Hollywood, 1961.
(2) Monica Lewinsky, 20 years after her humiliation by the Clintons, Ken Starr, and the media: Vanity Fair report, with Persian commentary by Farnaz Seifi.
(3) Quote of the day: "I cannot support a person who routinely breaks the third, seventh, ninth, and tenth Commandments." ~ Jim Sathe of Idaho Fall, in his letter to the editor of Post Register
(4) Political commentary: Trump seems to have evolved from "I am the president and everyone should do as I say" to "Just let me be the president, and I'll do whatever you say."
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Threats and vandalism against Jews in the US approached record levels in 2017, jumping 57% over 2016.
- Talk of gun-safety laws fizzles in the US Congress two weeks after the Florida school tragedy.
- John Kelly strips Jared Kushner of his temporary top-secret security clearance.
- Dolly Parton celebrates the donation of 100-millionth book by her literacy program, "Imagination Library."
- Humor: POTUS awards himself a Medal of Honor for a hypothetical act of courage. [Image]
- Humor: Librarians are campaigning for the use of silencers if it is decided that teachers should be armed!
- UCSB Middle East Ensemble's concert on March 10 will feature a Persian segment in celebration of Nowruz.
- A blind Iranian stone-worker continues to create precision objects at age 80. [3-minute video, in Persian]
(6) Analog data and computing make a comeback: For those who might be interested, here is the 7th of 8 weekly homework assignments for my graduate-level UCSB course on parallel processing, which for winter 2018, is focused on big-data hardware challenges:
For several decades now, the world has moved continuously to replace analog data with digital data, given the latter's robustness and affinity with digital computing. We read in the reference for HW4 that the share of digital data increased from near-zero to more than 90% in the period 1986-2007. There are now hints in the literature that in some cases, use of analog data and analog computing may be beneficial, as we grapple with big data and related applications. Find two on-line sources which discuss the advantages of analog data/computation or advocate greater attention to analog in the age of big data, and present a capsule summary of your sources in the form of a single PowerPoint slide. Briefly discuss how analog computing will interface with parallel processing in a second slide. Put your two slides on a single page of a PDF document.
[Follow the 1-6-6 rule in each PowerPoint slide: A slide should contain one main idea, 6 or fewer bullet points, and 6 or fewer words per bullet point (but don't take these numbers too literally; they are just guidelines). Avoiding bullet points is even better. Diagrams are always preferable. The slide title should read like a headline about the main idea. For example: "Revenue to Rise 25% for 2018" instead of "Revenue Projection for 2018"]
(7) Final thought for the day: "Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do." ~ Soccer superstar Pele

2018/02/26 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Book review: Bascomb, Neal, Sabotage: The Mission to Destroy Hitler's Atomic Bomb, unabridged audiobook on 5 CDs, read by Jason Culp, Scholastic, 2016.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book covers what has been described as the greatest act of sabotage during World War II. After Germans invaded Norway in a stealth night-time operation, they instituted martial rule, and at Vermonk, a chemical plant high above a towering gorge, they set out to produce heavy water for their nuclear-bomb program. The allies learned about the German plan and agreed that the plant must be destroyed, but a British operation failed to stop the dangerous development.
The mission to sabotage the nuclear-bomb fortress then fell to a group of young Norwegian commandos, equipped with skis, explosives, and not much else. The commandos waited for months in the snowy wilderness, enduring bone-chilling temperatures, getting by with meager rations, eluding Nazi patrols, and looking for an opportunity to strike. The commandos' first mission did not set back the Germans as much as they had hoped, so they had to finish the job with a second mission. The rest, as they say, is history, though not a particularly well-known part of it.
Several years ago, Paramount Pictures acquired the rights to make this book into a movie, but I couldn't find the current state of the film project on-line.
(2) Trump has pledged to improve background checks for gun buyers. Let's hope he does better here than for White House staff background checks!
(3) War photographer Max Desfor dead at 104: He won a Pulitzer Prize for this 1950 photo, which shows hundreds of Korean-War refugees crawling across a damaged bridge.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Ten days after the school mass-shooting in Florida, a gun show in Tampa attracts record attendance.
- SCOTUS refuses to hear request to overturn lower-court ruling that DHS continue to accept DACA apps.
- Trump wants to name his personal pilot as head of FAA. [And his chauffeur as Transportation Secretary?]
- Trumpian diplomacy: Handbag designer with interim security clearance talks N.Korea sanctions with S.Korea!
- Kabob and hummus identified as omnipotent foods for the prevention of mental disorders! [Meme]
- Subway construction in Greece reveals ancient Aphrodite statue, stunning mosaics, and other treasures.
- Stone tools unearthed in India resemble those in Africa, challenging theories on ancient human migration.
- Calligraphic variations on "eshgh," the Persian word for love. [Images]
- Borowitz Report (humor): "Trump orders parade to celebrate his hypothetical act of heroism in Florida school."
(5)Time magazine's entire March 5, 2018, issue is devoted to "The Opioid Diaries," a 60-page in-depth report on the current state of the addiction crisis in the US. Black-and-white photographs scattered throughout the report accentuate the darkness that prevails over the lives of addicts.

2018/02/25 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) History in pictures, the early 1950s: [Left] Newly engaged John Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier, 1953. [Center] Los Angeles traffic, 1950. [Right] Woman reading in Paris, 1952.
(2) The new tax law has dozens of bugs: Republicans want to fix the bugs as early as next month, but Democrats are in no mood to help, given that they were totally shut out from the process of writing the bill.
(3) An epic intelligence failure: The Florida school mass-shooter could and should have been stopped. He did not live off the grid. Far from it, his activities and threats were splattered all over the social media and official police records.
(4) Printable Oscars ballot: You can mark your choices, as you watch the 90th edition of the Academy Awards Ceremony on ABC (hosted by Jimmy Kimmel), on Sunday March 4, 2018, beginning at 5:00 PM PST.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Heavily redacted Democratic Intelligence Committee memo finally released: Here is the full text.
- Irony: Republicans supported lavishly by the NRA accuse activist youth of being paid to oppose guns!
- Mexico's president postpones his White House visit after receiving a testy call from Trump.
- Banners in Los Angeles announce the arrival of Nowruz and Farhang Foundation's celebration on March 11.
- Boycott of NRA continues to spread: United and Delta are the latest to join.
- Beijing to NYC in 2 hours: Chinese scientists propose a plane that would fly at 5 times the speed of sound.
- Mahatma Gandhi: "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
- US men's gold medal in curling has renewed fascination with scientific theories behind the Olympics sport.
- Four interesting images and memes from around the Internet.
- Nurikabe: An interesting puzzle, reminiscent of Minesweeper. [Puzzle and instructions in this image]
(6) Michelle Obama's memoir, Becoming, to be published by Crown in late 2018. The former First Lady will read the audiobook version. International publishers will release the book in a multitude of other languages.
(7) Ziba Shirazi's concert at Santa Monica's Morgan Wixson Theater: Entitled "Songs of My Life," tonight's Persian/English biographical program included songs the Iranian songstress, poet, and feminist grew up with. Danny & Farid (guitars and some vocals) and a percussionist accompanied Ziba on this magical night. Ziba alternated between telling stories of her growing up in Tehran's Davoudieh neighborhood and singing songs that she enjoyed and learned to sing during her childhood and youth. The musical part was a tour-de-force of Iranian pop music that resonated with the sold-out crowd. Ziba described her family (including 4 siblings), schooling, marriage, motherhood, and divorce, leading up to 1985, the year she immigrated to the United States; she promised a second installement of her musical bio covering the last 3+ decades. Throughout the concert, images of artists whose songs she sang were projected on the screen, including photos from when they performed the songs, newer photos showing the older artists, and factual tidbits about them. Don't miss this highly enjoyable concert if it comes your way! [Photos]

2018/02/23 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Teachers with guns: So, you want underpaid, under-appreciated, stressed, and resource-deprived teachers to also act as security guards? Are you aware that as in any other profession, there are sickos among teachers too? What about janitorial staff at schools? Should they be armed? College professors? Ushers at movie theaters and concert venues? This Trump proposal is NRA's dream come true: Turning a tragedy into a major uptick in gun/ammo sales, instead of restrictions on gun ownership!
(2) Farhang Foundation's March 11, 2018, Nowruz celebration at UCLA: In addition to the ticketed 6:00 PM Royce Hall concert by Iranian folk singer Sima Bina, there are lots of free performances and activities (including appearances by Mamak Khadem and LA Daf Ensemble), from noon to 5:00 PM at UCLA's Dickson Court.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Mueller files 32 new charges against Manafort and Gates; Gates pleads guilty to two of the charges in a deal.
- McMaster will be leaving the White House soon. Of Kelly and Kushner, one will likely depart as well.
- US State Department waters down or removes language on women's rights from its human rights report.
- Hubble Space Telescope data indicates a faster-than-expected rate of expansion for the universe.
- Canadian women's ice-hockey team disappointed to lose the Olympics gold medal to the US.
- After an 8-day hiding period, the NRA chief comes out swinging with blanket rejection of any new gun laws.
- Sign banning guns outside CPAC, where NRA's head was speaking: Don't they have good guys with guns?
- On March 18, Russians will go to the polls to elect their president. Can you guess who will be elected?
- Brigham Young University's male-only panel discusses women in math!
- Long-awaited Amtrak commuter service will begin April 2 between Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties.
- Quote of the day: "The absurd does not liberate, it binds." ~ Albert Camus
- Facebook's reminder from February 23, 2016: Jasmine vines on my carport trellis 2 years ago, and today.
(4) Final thought for the day: The real hoax is the theory that if the US government decides to take away your rights, you and your gun-owning buddies can stop it!

2018/02/21 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Colorful designs: [Left] Concentric disks. [Center] Flags of the world. [Right] Abstract leaves.
(2)White Houses: A novel by Amy Bloom, based on the now well-known 1930s secret love affair between Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena Hickok, is amassing critical acclaim.
(3) Hollywood recognizes the box-office draw of action heroines: Co-stars of the sci-fi thriller "Annihilation" began as artistic colleagues and ended up as political colleagues. From left in this photo, Tessa Thompson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Natalie Portman, and Gina Rodriguez. [Photo credit: Time magazine]
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Trumpian logic: The Russia thing is a hoax! Sessions should investigate Obama for not confronting Russia.
- Uber CEO: Self-flying taxis will be launched through Uber Elevate in the next five to 10 years.
- An icon, whose time had passed, passes: Evangelist Billy Graham dead at 99.
- George/Amal Clooney and Oprah Winfrey each donate $500K to students organizing the "March for our Life."
- Daylight saving time may end or become permanent: Europe and the US are considering legislation about it.
- In the aftermath of Thomas Fire, Montecito residents will face more evacuations in the next few years.
- Five killed in violent clashes between protesting Gonabadi dervishes and Iran's police forces.
- Khamenei apologizes for "injustices" to protesting masses he had previously labeled "troublemakers."
- Iranian parliament member: People should be happy about cutting off hands as punishment. [Cartoon]
(5) Noon concert at UCSB's Music Bowl: The Very Lonesome Boys performed bluegrass/country music today, as part of the World Music Series. The band began with a disclaimer about some of their lyrics from early/rural American music being "borderline offensive" and joked that they carry signed statements to this effect for anyone who's interested! One band member indicated that he had done one of these noon concerts at UCSB 55 years ago (with a different band)! Here are samples of the music the band performed today.
["Everybody Does it in Hawaii"]   [A swing-style blues tune]   [A Texan love song]
[A banjo tune]   [An old-time fiddle tune]
(6) Cudamani, Gamelan and Dance of Bali: Tonight, I attended an enjoyable concert at UCSB's Campbell Hall, featuring an ensemble of 20+ musicians and dancers from Indonesia. Video recording was disallowed, so, as a sample, I post a 10-minute YouTube video here. In her intro, the group's announcer indicated that they were lucky to get all the required visas in time for their US visit.
(7) Final thought for the day: Knock these Florida teens as much as you want, but until they got involved, politicians paid only lip service to school safety.

2018/02/19 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) History in pictures: [Left] Gang of girls, Estonia, 1930s. [Center] A pickup truck flees the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, Philippines, 1991. [Right] Woman with a gas-resistant pram, London, 1938.
(2) Today is US President's Day: Too bad we don't have a sitting President whom we can celebrate. The one now acting as our president could not even stay presidential over the President's Day weekend! So, here's to all great men who have made us proud as Presidents and even those who tried nobly, but failed to do right.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Meme of the day: There are more President's-Day clearance items than the ones shown in this photo!
- More than 100 killed in Syrian government's assault on Damascus suburb. [Update: 200+ killed]
- One month left to Nowruz (Norooz): Spring equinox and Persian New Year 1397. [Image, with detaied info]
- Persian music: Bahar Choir performs "Shaadi" ("Joy"), featuring a poem by Rumi.
- Some Muslim women are sharing stories of sexual abuse at Hajj and other religious venues. [#MosqueMeToo]
- Women in Tech: #HereWeAre https://twitter.com/i/events/950190256216621057?lang=en
- If it's too early to talk about the school shooting in Florida, how about discussing shootings from years ago?
- For someone who considers himself a ladies' man, Trump sure paid a lot of money for sex!
- A teacher's notes to his/her students put up in the classroom. [Photo]
- Refrigerated parking garage in Slovenia, where the country's Olympic teams trained. [Photo]
(4) Diplomatic child-play: In retaliation for DC authorities renaming the street in front of the Russian embassy after Boris Nemtsov, a critic of Putin who was assassinated, Russia has renamed the street in front of the US embassy "North American Dead End"!
(5) Final thought for the day: Some Republicans are now saying that teenagers don't have opinions of their own and they have been paid to speak up against guns! A Texas school district will reportedly suspend students who walk out to demand sensible gun laws. It is now responsible kids vs. irresponsible adults!

2018/02/18 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Three images to impress upon you the dire situation with regard to gun violence in US schools.
(2) Wishing everyone a great day in celebrating love in all its shapes and forms; yes, one more time, a few days after Valentine's Day! Happy Sepandarmazgan, the ancient Iranian festival of love!
Some history: Sepandarmazgan is the ancient Iranian day of love during which both romantic love and love of nature are celebrated; a sort of combination Valentine's and Earth Day! This annual celebration is dedicated to Spanta Armaiti, the feminine angelic spirit of the Earth. It was originally held on the 5th day of Esfand in celebration of mothers/wives, including Mother Earth. The festival's currently popular date of Bahman 29 (coinciding with February 18 this year) emerged after multiple reorganizations of the Persian calendar, beginning with the work of the Persian philosopher/poet Omar Khayyam. [Wikipedia]
(3) Remembering my father 26 years after his passing: I had written this bilingual text five years ago, when our family commemorated the 21st anniversary of his passing. Then, as today, the family gathering to mark the occasion coincided with Sepandarmazgan (see the previous blog entry). Some call it the ancient version of modern Valentine's Day, but not everyone agrees. What better day to declare our love for a great man!
(4) A verse celebrating love, by the great Iranian poet Sa'di: If I break your love's bonds, where can I flee / For freedom away from you is captivity and life without you, prison [Original Persian version]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Plane with 66 passengers, flying from Tehran to Yasuj, has disappeared; wreckage has not been found.
- The Florida school mass-shooting brings about the #MeNext? movement on social media.
- How to mobilize Republicans against children dying in our schools: Change the word "school" to "uterus"!
- Meme of the day [Image]: Also, other countries have mentally ill people, but not as many mass shootings.
- Wife reunited with husband, imprisoned in Iran for 10 years due to refusing to renounce his Baha'i faith.
- How to contribute to politicians who think now isn't the time to discuss gun violence. [Check image]
- Answer to the argument that gun laws limit only law-abiding citizens, because criminals don't obey laws.
- Quote: "A healthy attitude is contagious, but don't wait to catch it from others. Be a carrier." ~ Tom Stoppard
- Cartoon of the day: US budget allocation process. [Image]
- Memories from an early department store in Tehran, which opened in 1957. [2-minute video]
(6) Trump thinks the world revolves around him: He can't even discuss the Florida school mass shooting, without making it about his own fat behind! [Trump tweet and a response]
(7) Bill Gates was interviewed by Fareed Zakaria this morning: One of the first things he offered was an explanation of why we feel so distraught at the current state of the world. His optimistic explanation, which I like very much, is that part of our anxiety comes from our rising expectations about fairness and justice, not necessarily because things are getting worse. For example, once we decide that gay people deserve to be treated like all human beings, bias and discrimination against them eats at our soul.
(8) [Signing off with some political humor] Donald Trump: "So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed." Bill Maher: "Yes, we saw; he was wearing a MAGA hat!"

2018/02/17 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) A couple of group photos from mid-1967, showing many members of the graduating class of 1968 (1347 in Iranian calendar), Fanni College's Electromechanical Division, University of Tehran. The group is planning a 50th anniversary gathering in June or July 2018, likely in Turkey or Armenia.
(2) Thoughts and prayers are cheap: Trump blames mental illness, and even classmates who did not report the gunman's erratic behavior, but last February, he revoked a law that restricted gun purchases by the mentally ill.
(3) Correction: After the Florida school mass-shooting, I posted a widely circulated claim on social media that it had been the 18th school shooting this year. Everytown, an anti-gun-violence organization which originated the claim, explains on its website that it defines a school shooting as "any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds." As such, the number included several incidents where no student or staff life was in danger.
(4) The "Russia hoax" gets very real: Sixteen Russian nationals/entities indicted for meddling in the US election. Separately, senior figure in the Trump campaign Rick Gates is said to be ready to cooperate fully with Bob Mueller's investigation.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- An earthquake of magnitude 7.2 jolted southern Mexico yesterday. It also shook Mexico City.
- Santa Barbara County man helped Russians acquire fake American identities for the 2016 election meddling.
- Russian agents paid American women to attend Trump rallies as Hillary Clinton dressed in prison uniform.
- Dreamers' fates in limbo, as US Senate rejects all four immigration proposals.
- Kelly may have been hinting at Kushner's ouster when he vowed to reform WH's security clearance process.
- Melania hiding in the aftermath of new affair allegations: She reportedly likes books and "her private space."
- Marco Rubio, NRA apologist, is toast in the aftermath of the Florida school mass-shooting. [Meme]
- Cartoon of the day: A new category of toys, featuring hundreds of political "inaction figures." [Image]
(6) Pianist Saman Ehteshami plays Persian music: "Soltaan va Shabaan" ("The King and the Shepherd"); "Nasim" ("The Breeze"); "Ageh Yeh Rooz" ("If Someday"); and here's his playlist on YouTube.

2018/02/16 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Car-related historical photos from the 1950s and 1960s: [Left] Volvo's ad for its invention, the 3-point seat belt, 1959 (Volvo licensed the invention to other car manufacturers free of charge). [Center] Car Show, 1950s. [Right] Coupe de Ville, Los Angeles, 1964.
(2) Happy Chinese New Year: All the best to those celebrating the new year, as we begin the year of the dog!
(3) This week's Santa Barbara Independent shines a light on the culture of sexual assault in the student community of Isla Vista, adjacent to the UCSB campus. Cover image]
(4) The Borowitz Report (humor): "Study: Americans Safe from Gun Violence Except in Schools, Malls, Airports, Movie Theatres, Workplaces, Streets, Own Homes" [Source: The New Yorker]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- How America has failed miserably in protecting its children. Our record is a disaster! Sad.
- The man who cut taxes for corporations and the super-rich has proposed a gas tax hike to pay for his plans!
- Reince Priebus is the latest WH departee to tell horror stories about the dysfunctional administration.
- Russian pro-gun bots flock to Twitter in the aftermath of the Florida school mass shooting.
- FCC reviewing SpaceX's application to offer satellite Internet service in the United States.
- US Department of Energy creates new office for cyber, energy security.
- Removal of a single enzyme shown to reverse Alzheimer's disease in mice, benefiting also the offspring.
- Some genes stay active even after we die, a finding that opens up new possibilities for forensic science.
(6) Homework assignment: The following is the 5th of 8 weekly assignments for my graduate-level course on parallel processing, ECE 254B, at UCSB. Some of you might find it interesting to try it on a voluntary (ungraded) basis! Consider the "5 Vs" of big data (1. Volume; 2. Variety; 3. Velocity; 4. Veracity; 5. Value; see my blog post of 2018/01/29 for details). Establish a one-to-one mapping between these "5 Vs" and the following five American-English idioms involving straw and hay. Explain your choice of association briefly in each case. Don't worry that the connection isn't direct or very relevant in every case. Just try to make the best possible assignment of a different "V" attribute to each idiom.
a. Clutching at straws    b. Finding a needle in a haystack    c. Making bricks without straw
d. Straw that broke the camel's back    e. Turning straw into gold
(7) Phone case helps with monitoring blood sugar: UCSD engineers have created a smartphone case, along with an app, for blood glucose monitoring on the go. The device consists of a slim 3D-printed case with a permanent, reusable sensor in the corner and small, single-use pellets that attach to the sensor with a magnet.

2018/02/15 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Iconic Hollywood beauties with trademark smiles, as young women: [Left] Audrey Hepburn, with pet deer Pippen, 1958. [Center] Marilyn Monroe, 1950s. [Right] Elizabeth Taylor with a bird sitting on her head, 1948.
(2) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Baltimore Sun: How serving a belligerent POTUS turns ordinary, family-loving Americans into monsters.
- Florida school-shooting survivor challenges us to act like "adults" and enact gun-safety measures.
- Congresswoman Katherine Clark's powerful message of apology to future victims of gun violence.
- Mass shootings (1966-2012) vs. the number of guns: Do you see any correlation? [Chart]
- "New theory suggests gunman ... was assisted by 51 Senators and 298 Representatives." ~ Sarah Perry
- Black-Sea storm washes up Roman ruins on Turkish beach.
- Threat of in-prison "suicide": A new strategy of Iran's Islamic rulers for silencing activists.
- Cartoon of the day: Not a very happy birthday for Iran's Islamic Revolution. [Image credit: Iranwire.com]
(3) An Architect's Point of View on Emerging Technologies and the Future of Digital Computing: This was the title of today's talk by George Michelogiannakis (Research Scientist, LBNL), who wondered aloud about what awaits us once we achieve exascale computing power in the 2021-2023 time frame. As one slide shows, all performance indicators will flatten out by then, bringing about a need for greater innovation at all levels, from devices, through assemblies, to architecture. Tools at our disposal include emerging transistor technologies, new types of memory, 3D integration, photonics, innovative on/off-chip networks, and specialization.
(4) Laurence Olivier's "Hamlet" at UCSB's Pollock Theater: The screening, part of the "Shakepeare on Film" series, was followed by a discussion with Professor Mark Rose (right, in one of these phosos). What a feast for the eyes and ears! [Video 1] [Video 2: Play within the play]
(5) My extended beach walk [Photos]: On Wednesday, low tide allowed me to take the beach path home from work. I found the walk so invigorating that I took a detour and extended the walk from the normal 2.5 miles to 5.0 miles. Near the end of the walk, I took a tumble, when I tripped over some roots sticking out of the ground. All is fine, though; just a few scratches! I also shot a 2-minute video of the ocean, with coastal rocks, which surfers have to negotiate when they surf at high tide, exposed.

2018/02/14 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Wishing everyone a great day in celebrating love in all its forms and shapes. Happy Valentine's Day!
(2) Millimeter-scale robots: Tiny robots that jackhammer their way through the body have already been tested on lambs and goats, guided by magnetic fields from outside. "Fantastic voyages" of biomedical discovery in the human body aren't far away.
(3) Not Your Father's Analog Computer: This is the title of an article in IEEE Spectrum (issue of February 2018) that discusses how analog devices, with their simplicity and energy efficiency, are making a comeback, particularly in applications involving machine learning and biomimetic circuits, where high accuracy, the forte of digital circuits, is not required.
(4) Programming with a slide-rule: This is one of the lesser-known details in the history of digital computing. A circular slide-rule allowed Univac II programmers to figure out where on the surface of a continuously rotating drum memory to place the next instruction, so that it would be available for fetching and execution immediately after the current instruction has run to completion (by then, the drum has rotated a bit).
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Another school shooting, with 17+ dead: Yes, send thoughts and prayers, and forget the tragedy tomorrow!
- Iran's downed drone over Israel was based on Lockheed Martin RQ-170, which crashed in Iran in 2011.
- Driving was a start. Now, Saudi women need jobs: 107,000 women applied for 140 jobs open to them.
- Iranian-Canadian environmental activist dies in prison following his arrest in Iran.
- Autonomous delivery vans will hit the streets much sooner than self-driving cars.
- Face recognition offerd greater accuracy for white men, a result of biased data sets driving the software.
- Deaf musician performs a song on "America's Got Talent." Inspiring!
- Bravo Canada, for replacing "all thy sons" in the lyrics of its national anthem with gender-neutral verbiage!
- The top-10 megastructures of Dubai: Unprecedented ambition and scale marks these 10 building projects.
- Taipei, Taiwan, has become home to fascinating architectural styles, blending nature, art, and high-tech.
(6) Female graduates of Iran's Sharif University of Technology rule: I have encountered quite a few of them during job interviews and faculty recruitment seminars. They are as bright as they come and, just like their male counterparts, are highly sought after within graduate studies programs, as faculty candidates, and in the high-tech industry. I don't have access to any hard data, but my guess is that SUT's female graduates are at least twice as likely to leave Iran and seek professional opportunities elsewhere. And the reason isn't difficult to understand. While these women are celebrated worldwide, in Iran, they have to mind their hijabs, refrain from laughing in public, and curtail their aspirations of landing plum jobs in academia or in government. Those who suppress these women's talents are doing their homeland a great disservice!

2018/02/13 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Three interesting images: [Left] Iranian democracy. [Center] The lone tall palm tree I see, as I walk home from work: Normally, trees grow taller than usual when they seek the sun over surrounding plants. Why this one grew so tall is unclear. [Right] Fighting the women activists in Iran. (Image credit: Iranwire.com)
(2) The Wonder of Women (WOW) Summit at UCLA: Lisa Kudrow will emcee this all-day event on Wednesday, May 2, 2018. Featured speakers include Candice Bergen, Tipper Gore, and Diane English. There is no on-line source for additional information yet, but details will follow, according to an e-mail announcement.
(3) Transmission lines are increasingly going underground: Denmark and Germany have mandates to avoid overhead high-voltage lines. Puerto Rico is burying power lines in areas that tend to get the strongest gusts. However, underground routing of high-voltage AC lines is tricky because of the greater heat they produce.
(4) A unique UCSB Arts & Lectures program I am looking forward to: The Huayin Shadow Puppet Band, with Wu Man, the world's premier master of the pipa (Campbell Hall, Thursday March 8, 2018, 8:00 PM).
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- The pattern continues: Deficits fall under Democratic administrations and rise under Republicans. [Tweet]
- White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders is emulating Sean Spicer in attacking the press.
- The WH was repeatedly briefed on FBI's background check of Rob Porter and domestic abuse allegations.
- UCSB Professor Elizabeth Belding named one of ten stars in computer networking and communications.
- Chloe Kim, America's new Olympics sweetheart, is the daughter of Korean immigrants.
- New York Times: Universities to bring "medicine-like morality" to computer science. Me: Oh no!
(6) Quote of the day: "It's disappointing that such an iconic women's brand @Guess is still empowering Paul Marciano as their creative director #metoo." ~ Kate Upton, on rampant sexual misconduct in the fashion world
(7) A welcome change to remove Facebook News Feed pollution: According to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook will revise its News Feed algorithm over the next few months to promote "meaningful social interactions" via shifting away from public content by companies and media and toward posts by family and friends.
(8) My afternoon stroll: I often post photos/videos of Santa Barbara's gorgeous sunny days, as I go on my daily walks. Today, after a long stretch of spring-like days, we experienced winter, which, for SoCal, means temps in the 50s! The nature is no less beautiful on cloudy days, though. [18 photos] [2-minute video]

2018/02/12 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1) Political statement: What future archaeologists might find in Iran. [Image credit: Iranwire.com]
(2) Sunday, February 11, 2018 (Bahman 22, 1396, in the Iranian calendar) was the 39th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution taking hold in Iran. Nearly four decades of despotism, chaos, ineptitude, deception, and corruption. Will we see the reign of terror celebrate its 40th anniversary?
(3) A Honda sports-car model with see-through wheels allows a peek at the brake mechanism and its inner workings. Fascinating! [Photographed on 2/09 at SB Honda]
(4) Netherlands first, second, and third: Jokingly apologizing to Trump for contradicting his "America First" slogan, the country swept the medals (a first in Olympics history) in women's 3000-meter speed skating.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Russian passenger plane crashes near Moscow, killing all 71 on board: Crash cause is still unknown.
- A Pennsylvania forty-something woman wrote letters to Trump six times a week, for an entire year.
- The Trump family gives publishing another try with a magazine called (what else?) "Trump."
- Bannon: Women will punish Trump in future elections, given his cavalier dismissal of abuse allegations.
- Melania Trump follows only 5 Twitter accounts: POTUS, Donald, Mike Pence, Karen Pence, Barack Obama.
- Cartoon of the day: The American version of Tiananmen Square. [Image]
- On my way to class, as we begin winter quarter's 5th week: Do you see any winter in these photos?
(6) Book review: Kundera, Milan (translated by Henry Heim), The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Richmond Hoxie, Harper Audio, 2012. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The story in this Czech novel flips back and forth between the lives of two men (a surgeon, torn between love and lust, and an idealistic professor), two women (a photojournalist, who is married to the surgeon and tolerates his infidelities, and her husband's free-spirited artist mistress, who is also involved with the kind and compassionate professor), the surgeon's estranged son, and a dog. The story happens during the Prague Spring of the late 1960s, in the aftermath of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and three other Warsaw-Pact countries.
Kundera masterfully mixes his description of life's prosaic events with philosophical musings about existence, political activism, and the human condition. The "lightness" of the title refers to the fact that life events happen but once, so they should not be taken seriously, whereas human beings are obcessed with heaviness: burdens they carry and difficulties they face. The single-occurrence hypothesis means that we can't make thoughtful decisions, because there is no basis for comparison.
Political circumstances force the surgeon to abandon his prestigious position and work as a general-practitioner for a while, eventually becoming a window-washer, struggling all along with pressures to sign a statement of regret over an opinion piece he had published earlier.
This 1984 philosophical-fiction title was not published in Czechoslovakia until a year later. In 1988, the book was made into a film bearing the same title and starring Daniel Day Lewis, Lena Olin, and Juliette Binoche. Kundera condemned the film as bearing no resemblance to his novel and the characters therein, vowing never to allow adaptations of his work again.

2018/02/11 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
(1)Communication of the ACM, February 2018 issue: In their cover feature, "The Next Phase in the Digital Revolution," John Zysman and Martin Kenney argue that intelligent tools simultaneously replace, transform, and create work. Whether deployment of intelligent tools and platforms will augment human skills or replace humans as workers depends, in part, on social and political choices.
(2) Quote of the day: "[One of the hardest things about being sick is other people trying to explain your suffering. I'd prefer people] who hug you and give you impressive compliments that don't feel like a eulogy. People who give you non-cancer-thematic gifts. People who just want to delight you, not try to fix you, and make you realize that it is just another beautiful day and there is usually something fun to do." ~ Kate Bowler, mother with an incurable cancer diagnosis, in an interview with Time magazine about her new book, Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I've Loved
(3) My reply to a friend who noted that Trump talks about abuse and sexual assault as if he's Dr. Seuss:
Oh, chum, there's no need to jab them; Let me teach you how you can grab them.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- If you were in or close to the recent fire areas, your car may need new engine and cabin air filters.
- [VP Pence on military parades] N. Korea's: Displaying menacing threats. Trump's: Celebrating our military.
- Sima Bina will perform at Farhang Foundation's March 11 Nowruz (Norooz) celebration at UCLA.
- Donald Trump believes the men, always; unless they're Democrats, in which case the accusers are credible!

Похоже, что-то стряслось, - сказала Сьюзан.  - Наверное, увидел включенный монитор. - Черт возьми! - выругался коммандер.  - Вчера вечером я специально позвонил дежурному лаборатории систем безопасности и попросил его сегодня не выходить на работу.

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