Friday, September 14, 2007

He Does Exist

If you look at a watch, you can easily tell that it was designed and built by an intelligent watchmaker. Now, what would you say if there has been no power failure in your area for a long time, you are ripping your favorite Lord of the Rings DVDs to your hard disk so you can easily watch them several times a day (skipping parts from time to time) and the operation is supposed to last about three hours and only a few minutes before it is finished the power goes out only for a few minutes? What do you conclude? If you are smart enough to see that the watch has a watchmaker (so God exists!), you can easily see that Murphy does exist, too. It is as clear as daylight!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Monday, July 09, 2007

Iraq War, and the Turtles

Three years ago I watched Turtles Can Fly in the movies. Today, I had the pleasure of watching it again on DVD. The movie is directed by Bahman Ghobadi, while the fabulous movie score by Hossein Alizadeh greatly adds to the value of this great movie. I'm quoting from my diary, the entry for November 28, 2004. Be aware that it contains spoilers.

In an artist's work, one can hear his cry; and his grief, and his pain, and his sorrow. Is the way of expressing their thoughts, the only thing that makes an artist different from others? Maybe. Anyhow, when a group of artists (although, most of them non-professional) together show their best performance led by another great artist we see such thing as Turtles Can Fly by Ghobadi, Alizadeh, and others.

Turtles penetrates to the hearts of the audience. For a short time disconnects them all from the outside world and brings them together to see the real depth of the disaster, and to do this, it does not refrain from making them suffer so that they can feel the sufferance of the children in the story. When Shirkooh tells Kak Satellite how Kak Esma'eel has beaten him, everyone smiles at his sweet childishness but this is only the beginning. When Agrin's son, Riga, touches her mom's face and hair and then his heart, the tears start falling in the theater. When Henkov sees Riga's death in a dream the hearts stop beating for a moment, but Turtles continues: Satellite crying on one side, the child's body under the water of the spring, and finally a pair of shoes at one side of the deep valley (reminding one of the opening scene of the movie in which Agrin jumps into the valley). The movie takes away everyone's breath and in the end, everyone is speechless. All are shocked by what they have seen; the result of the crimes of the dictator who was finally taken away. But then, who is going to answer the pains of all Agrins.

People leave the theater silently. Empty streets, the cold air of midnight, cabs by the door of the theater, Tehran's strange quiet at this hour, all are awaiting out there, but they're still at some distance. People get out of the doors, maybe not even thinking about their companions, each taking their way home while they have not forgotten the stare of Agrin and her child.

Friday, June 29, 2007

An Update on Iranian Censorship

I've encountered two new cases of censorship from the Islamic Republic in the last two days:

1. Journalists are warned not to report any problems related to fuel rationing as BBC reports. I checked out a few newspapers yesterday (both reformist and conservative) and I found out that is correct. No stories. It's not that difficult to hear the real news, though, here in Tehran. You should just get out of the house.

2. To my surprise, today I found out that del.icio.us is filtered out. I cannot imagine why, especially because other social bookmarking websites I know (reddit, digg and technocrati) are not filtered.

UPDATE: I'm hearing that at the "fuel night" mobile service providers had been ordered to shut down SMS services. You see, they're well aware of the importance of text messages in Iran.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

How to Set Fire to a City in Two Hours

I've recently had much difficulty updating my blog for two reasons. First, I'm heavily engaged with my final exams; and second, for some reason I can't access blogger. It seems there's something wrong with my Internet provider. I'm now using a proxy server to access blogger.com.

Anyhow, this recent piece of news was so much of a surprise that I couldn't help _not_ to write about it. Last night the government announced the fuel rationing will start from this midnight! I'm reading in the newspapers that even the Traffic Director of Tehran Municipality has not been notified of the government's decision. Now, we in Iran are getting used to arbitrary decisions of the Islamic Republic officials but this one was unexpected even for us. I've heard from the time of the announcement people have rushed to gas stations so that they can get some more fuel before the rationing starts officially. The government announcement indicates that people cannot get more than the announced amount (3.5 liters per day for private vehicles) even for a higher price.

There has been much turmoil in Tehran last night and this morning. The protectors have set fire to several gas stations, and there are HUGE lines in the remaining ones. I took this photo from one such line of cars. The cars on the right side of the street are waiting in a line to get to a gas station some two kilometers ahead.

The huge line of automobiles disrupted the traffic and I had to spend much more time to reach home.

On my way to university today, I felt something is wrong as soon as I reached the street. There were far more people and vehicles in the streets than usual, and then the cab I took charged me a higher price than previous days. I was listening to music all the time so I couldn't hear what people were saying around me. On the way back, I decided to took off the headphones and see what is going on around me. Soon, I noticed everyone is talking about rationing gas. I think this is a serious wrong step by Ahmadinejad administration. I'm personally against almost everything he does, but this one seems to be beating himself. His administration is one of propaganda. The state-run media are trying to ignore the turmoil. Today's headline of the hard-line daily Keyhan, for example, was about another one of the supreme leader's endless talks! One short column described everything about fuel rationing in two paragraphs like nothing important has happened; and just next to the same news-stand that the large number of unsold copies of Keyhan were stacked, everyone was talking about the _real_ news.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Justice?

Another poster from our university: Alliance for Justice! May I ask for some injustice, then?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Permission Denied


A poster today I saw at university about a female-only camping program in Shiraz planned. The large text over the image says "Permission Denied".

This is how things are going on today in Iranian universities.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Thirty Years Ago, In a Galaxy Far Far Away


Thirty years ago, in a galaxy far far away, a movie came to change the world. I congratulate all Star Wars fans on the 30th anniversary of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Learn, the Direct Way

Today, I took part in a seminar about teaching Esperanto using the direct method ("rekta metodo", in Esperanto), that is in Esperanto and not in one's mother tongue. This method is usually known as the Cseh method ("Cseh" is pronounced "che") after its creator, Andreo Cseh. It was surprising to me to see how well a language can be taught without any tools (even books) and in the learning language itself (in this case, Esperanto). After some thought, I realized it is the very method everyone learns his/her mother tongue with.

In such Esperanto events, it is generally forbidden to use a language other than Esperanto (although, we did forgo this rule many times!). In Esperanto culture, to speak in one's mother tongue in Esperanto events is called "to crocodile" (in Esperanto, "krokodili"). We even had a crocodile to punish the wrongdoers!

The crocodile watched over us not to use a "nacia lingvo"!

The second part of the seminar is being held tomorrow. I am looking forward to it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Shargh Is Back

Today, I was walking past the newsstand on my usual way to the university and like always having a glance at the headlines, when I saw something shocking: Shargh. Shargh ("East") was a reformist daily that was closed down by the government some eight months ago. The major reason for the closure was this cartoon:


My non-Iranian readers may find it difficult to understand the meaning of the cartoon. President Ahmadinejad claimed that he felt there was a light around him when he was addressing the UN General Assembly last year! As we enjoy one of the world's least tolerant governments here in Iran, the newspaper was immediately ordered to be shut down, and since the representatives of the mighty Allah never make mistakes, they definitely had the right to do so!

Anyhow, as I said, the good news is Shargh is back again. Shargh used to be (and is again) the flagship of Iranian moderate dailies, and probably the most popular among them. Now, after Shargh (and also Hammihan after a seven year ban) has joined the line of moderate dailies again, I guess we should expect another wave of shutting down publications, maybe soon, and this cycle goes on and on!

[Note: Although, I noticed the return of Shargh today, the first issue after the ban has been out on Monday.]

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Contrast

At the back, you see the Islamic Republic parliament.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The President and Bananas

Today's lunch at university's self-service restaurant was quite good. Guess why?

It is a well known fact that there are "special" occasions in Iran on which everything becomes good; everyone tries to make people happy; all government officials think about the problems of people; public services run smoothly; and, in universities (like other state run institutes) the quality of meals becomes much better! A good example of such occasions is just before an upcoming "election" (they call it an election, not me!), but we're not near an election. So why there was even a banana with our lunch?

It's simple. We had a "guest": the "popular president of the nation", Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Now, one might wonder how he dared to enter another university after he was heavily protested against in Amirkabir University and called a dictator by the students. Did he imagine it would be any different in Elm-o-San'at? No. He is definitely aware of the hatred of students towards himself. And, as one might expect, he didn't show up in the public. Isn't it ridiculous that he visited the university without actually visiting any students? And I don't mean students wanted to see him (we'd rather to see a monkey in the zoo!) but everyone felt it would be great to demonstrate another Amirkabir.

And, by the way, this "popular" president of ours always pretends to be a mere teacher whose only earning is from teaching. It struck me if it is his job to teach students here (and yes, it is a shame, but he is a faculty member of our university), why should he be welcomed by placards? Doesn't that confirm that he actually doesn't attend any classes?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Everyone's Excited

Ubuntu website is almost down! I guess there are thousands (or millions) of people around the world who are refreshing the main page (and the download pages) every few seconds. Everyone's expecting the release of Ubuntu 7.04 (codenamed "Feisty Fawn"). The release is due today. Everyone's excited! I can't help not to refresh. I think I should go and read something, just to be away from my computer.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Happy Birthday to Me

My birthday cake. The text reads "Kara L'Elektito, Bonan Naskiĝtagon" which in Esperanto means "Dear L'Elektito, Happy Birthday". L'Elektito or Elektito is my Esperanto nickname. It means "(The) Chosen One".

Yesterday was my birthday. My apartment was too small for a party so I invited my friends to a restaurant but before that, they surprised me with a small party at IREJO office. I had a great night. Thanks, everyone.

Friday, April 06, 2007

King of Hearts

April 6, 2000. Tehran. More than 20000 mourners gather as the "king of hearts" is taken to where he should sleep forever.

Mohammad Ali Fardin was born in 1930 in Tehran. He became popular as a wrestler especially when in 1952 he won the silver medal in world freestyle wrestling championship, Tokyo. In 1962, he starred in Cheshemeye Abe Hayat ("The Spring of Life") as his first movie. His performance in Soltan-e-Ghalbha ("King of Hearts") and Ganj-e-Gharun ("Croesus' Treasure") will never be forgotten by the Iranian public.

After the 1979 Islamic revolution he only starred in one more movie, Barzakhiha ("The Damned"), before his films were eventually banned. After that, Fardin retired from cinema and opened a bakery until he died in 2000 of a heart attack.

There are few who had been able to won the hearts of millions of Iranians like Fardin did. While his death was completely ignored by the Islmaic Republic media, more than 20000 people gathered in his funeral.


Fardin wrestling


Fardin and Zohuri in Ganj-e-Gharun "Croesus' Treasure" (1965)


Fardin and Azar Shiva in Soltan-e-Ghalbha "King of Hearts" (1968)


Fardin and Googoosh

Monday, April 02, 2007

Lucky Thirteen

I was going to write a post titled "Unlucky Twelve" yesterday, but it was such an unlucky day that "I had a very bad feeling about it!"

Today is Farvardin 13, aka "Sizdah-be-Dar". I couldn't find a good translation for this phrase in English. It means something like "throw away the thirteen". Sizdah-be-Dar is the last day of the Iranian Norooz festival. Iranians believe it is unlucky to remain at home on this day so almost all people go on picnic. On the picnic, they throw away their Sabzeh, the seeds they grow in a dish as part of Norooz traditions, (usually) into a river.

On Sizdah-be-Dar some people fasten a few grass leaves together. They believe when the knot opens one of their problems will be solved (this is especially done by unmarried girls who think it will help them find Mr. Right).

Another thing some people do is pulling practical jokes or telling others a "thirteen's lie" (it is something very similar to April Fool; Farvardin 13 normally falls on April 2 and in some years on April 1). An excellent example of a thirteen's lie was Shargh newspaper's "lies" two years ago. Shargh, printed a full paper of false news on that day. Some of them, like that the Milad tower is going to collapse due to a technical mistake in its design, were widely believed, although the page was titled "The Thirteen's Lie" (apparently many people had not noticed it!).

Another good tradition many people do is releasing the Norooz gold fish back into rivers.

And, again, we have the story of Islamic Republic's struggle to weaken Iranian traditions. The IRI media forecasted a rainy day (it did rain, but late at afternoon). They also held a Sabzeh Fair on Farvardin 12 so that people would not do the normal tradition of throwing their Sabzeh into rivers. I pointed out Farvardin 12 is an unlucky day; it is the day "they" call The Islamic Republic Day. 28 years ago on such day, Khoemini called for a nation wide referendum in which the large number of ignorant people voted "Yes" to Islamic Republic. I'm curious how many of them had really read the new constitution draft. Anyhow, which one's an unlucky day? The day on which everyone goes out and has fun (and few really believe in the unlucky thirteen), or the day on which one of the most brutal governments of the world officially recognized itself?

Monday, March 19, 2007

A New Day

A new order came and a new day

Farvardin 1
3:37:26 AM, Tehran Time

On this time begins the Iranian new year 1386 (2566 with imperial origin), and again it comes another Norooz.

If you are not familiar with the Iranian calendar, it may seem strange to you that the Iranian new year does not start at midnight. The Iranian calendar is a true solar calendar. Being far more accurate than the Gregorian calendar, it begins each year on the vernal equinox as precisely determined by astronomical observations from Tehran (and Kabol). If you want to know when the new year begins in other places in the world, this web page may be useful.

But this Norooz is not an ordinary festival. It is the true symbol of the Iranian culture, and it is so powerful that even the hands of Islam could not eliminate it, although I can assure you they did their best to do so (and still we see the hard struggles of the Islamists today to wipe Norooz off the minds of Iranians, of course to no avail).

Here's a list of some quick facts about Norooz.

Khane Tekani --Home Cleaning
Home Cleaning, or "Khane Tekani", may start as early as the beginning of Esfand (the last month of the Iranian year). It is customary for people to clean their houses before the coming of the new year. During this time, they also buy new clothes, and probably renew their furniture. The point is to start a "new" year. All these activities make Esfand a busy month. The traffic gets much heavier and the Bazaars get a lot more crowded.

Haft Sin Table
"Haft Sin", literally "seven S", is a table with seven major items whose names start with letter "sin" (an equivalent of English S). The seven items are usually:
  1. sabzeh: wheat, barley or lentil sprouts growing in a dish
  2. samanu: a sweet pudding made from wheat germ
  3. senjed: the dried fruit of the oleaster tree
  4. sir: garlic
  5. sib: apples
  6. somaq: sumac berries
  7. serkeh: vinegar (as far as I know, this has originally been wine which was banned by Islam after the Arab conquest)
Besides them, there are usually these items too: a mirror, candles, goldfish in a bowl, decorated eggs, and a poetry book (almost always Divan of Hafez). Depending on how religious a family is, there may also be a holy book on the table.


My family's "Haft Sin"

As I have already pointed out in one of my previous posts, the stories (such as in Shahnameh) say Norooz was the day in which Jam flied in the sky with the help of the divs in his service, and after that the day was called Norooz ("Novroch", in Pahlavi). "No" means "new" and "rooz" means "day", so Norooz is a "new day", marking a new era as Jam brought new order to the world (and was called Jamshid after that, because as he flied in th sky everyone saw him shining in light; "shid" means "light").

And today, again, a new order came and a new day. As Iranians always say on this day:

Har roozetan Norooz
Noroozetan pirooz

May your everyday be Norooz,
and your Norooz be happy!

Big Brother

When I finished reading George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, I was wondering who is the real Big Brother among all those I know. My first candidate was the Supreme Leader, but I reconsidered that because even "they" don't claim he is watching us. Who is the one then? The one that watches over? The one that we should fear and yet love?

Quickly I started remembering about him. I remembered I read in "the Book" that he is watchful over all things. I even remember I heard the world is his very presence, and that we should not "commit sins" in his presence.

They say someone will come, a reformer, who will rebuild our "corrupt" world and make it a place in which everyone loves him. Don't they say how he is going to do that? Of course, they do; he will kill those who don't love him.

And now I think I know the Big Brother, but unfortunately I hate him. Maybe they should take me to the room 101; although I doubt if even that can make me love Allah.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

In Memory of Pooh

I just posted my translation of part of A. A. Milne's "Us Two" to my Esperanto blog. I very much like this poem (my favorite part is where where it says "I'm never afraid with you"). In case you have not read it, you might like to read it here.

Wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
"Where are you going today?" says Pooh:
"Well, that's very odd 'cos I was too.
Let's go together," says Pooh, says he.
"Let's go together," says Pooh.

"What's twice eleven?" I said to Pooh.
("Twice what?" said Pooh to Me.)
"I think it ought to be twenty-two."
"Just what I think myself," said Pooh.
"It wasn't an easy sum to do,
But that's what it is," said Pooh, said he.
"That's what it is," said Pooh.

"Let's look for dragons," I said to Pooh.
"Yes, let's," said Pooh to Me.
We crossed the river and found a few-
"Yes, those are dragons all right," said Pooh.
"As soon as I saw their beaks I knew.
That's what they are," said Pooh, said he.
"That's what they are," said Pooh.

"Let's frighten the dragons," I said to Pooh.
"That's right," said Pooh to Me.
"I'm not afraid," I said to Pooh,
And I held his paw and I shouted "Shoo!
Silly old dragons!"- and off they flew.

"I wasn't afraid," said Pooh, said he,
"I'm never afraid with you."

So wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
There's always Pooh and Me.
"What would I do?" I said to Pooh,
"If it wasn't for you," and Pooh said, "True,
It isn't much fun for One, but Two,
Can stick together, says Pooh, says he.
"That's how it is," says Pooh.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

New Blog

I'm trying to further my knowledge of Esperanto, so I decided to write a new blog in Esperanto. This blog will remain my first priority, but I'll do my best to have good posts in the new blog, too. Remember that my Esperanto writing is far from perfect. Please bear with me, and let me know my mistakes.

You may find the new blog here.

The Red Wednesday

"Give me your fiery red color,
and take back my sickly pallor."

The eve of the last Wednesday of the year (in Iranian calendar) marks a familiar event: "Charshanbe Suri" (or more correctly, "Chaharshanbe Suri"). Charshanbe Suri, which literally means "Red Wednesday", is celebrated with lighting bonfires and using firecrackers. People go to streets, gather in groups, sing and dance.

A major tradition is jumping over fires and singing "Sorkhie to az man, zardie man az to". A literal translation would be "Your redness is mine, my yellowness is yours." I found the above translation more interesting, "Give me your fiery red color, and take back my sickly pallor." I was going to write on the origins of the festival here, but I think my information on the subject is not complete and I don't want to post incorrect information to my blog. As far as I know, today's form of the festival does not seem to adhere completely to ancient Iranian beliefs. Ancient Iranians respected fire deeply and would not jump over it. The true festival of Fire, "Sadeh", is far different than Charshanbe Suri. However, the tradition, even in its today form, is very old and it does not have any religious significance. Today, Iranians with different religious backgrounds, Zoroastrians, Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists and others take part in the festival as a completely secular event.

In recent years, Charshanbe Suri has become quite a dangerous event. Last year, I went to Gisha, one of the major centers in Tehran people usually go to on this night. It was an experience much like being in a real battle front. The constant sound of Firecrackers bursting was much like the sound of bombs. As we left the place, I saw riot police coming to attack people.

Charshanbe Suri is not very much liked by the Islamic regime (and that's why I like it!). Maybe that's because on this night a lot of people gather and go completely out of control. In fact, the night before the last Wednesday of the year is one of the few occasions in which the Islamic Republic laws practically are not applied. Many women go to public places without the Islamic hejab (Islamic cover) dancing and singing with men.

This year my Esperantist friends and I went to a private garden for the festival (and one day earlier; the festival is now expanded in many days and other days are much safer than the "red Wednesday"!). Among many other things, we sang a few Esperanto songs together. It was a wonderful night.

Friday, March 09, 2007

The Pre-Norooz Meeting

Twelve years ago on a day like this, on March 9, IREJO held the first "antaŭ-noruza renkontiĝo" or "pre-Norooz meeting," to celebrate the coming of the Iranian new year. From that time, there have been more pre-Norooz meetings (although not every year) celebrated in Esfand, the last month in the Iranian calendar. The meeting have been held by IREA in the last few years, but this year again we, the new IREJO, decided to hold the meeting ourselves. We chose the same date for the meeting when the first "renkontiĝo" was held: Esfand 18.

About an hour before the beginning of the program I arrived at the door of Mr. Habibpoor's gallery. As I left the taxi, I saw Soheyl and Farmehr coming. We could easily find the apartment.

The label reads "bonvenu" which means "welcome" in Esperanto.

Elaheh had already arrived there with the "haft sin" table she had promised.

"Haft Sin" is a major tradition of Norooz. (Sorry for the low-quality photos. It seems I need some time to get used to my new cell phone's camera!)

We prepared the memorial cards we wanted to give our guests.

Inside the card you see the large word IREJO, to which is attached a few symbols of Norooz along with the Esperanto green star. Under it, it is printed "Bonan novjaron! 1386" which means "Happy New Year! 1386".

After the cards were ready we quickly made other preparations. We started on 17:10. I was the host of the program. I started by welcoming the guests in Esperanto and then in Persian, then I invited Mr. Mamduhi, current president of IREA, who talked about human communications, languages, and Esperanto. After him Mr. Shafi'ee, the vice-president of IREA gave us the IREA Year Report and also introduced the newly elected Komitato (literally "committee", the legislative body of Esperanto organizations). In the third part of the program, Mr. Torabi (one of the founders of IREJO and later IREA, a chief member of the Komitato, and the editor of Irana Esperantisto quarterly) talked about the future programs of IREA. During his speech something unexpected happened!

Little Alma does not like to be apart from her father for a long time!

After Mr. Torabi's speech we had a not-so-short break. This break is the main reason for which the renkontiĝo is held; after all, it's all about meeting each other. During this time, the guests had time to talk (some of the guests come from other cities and we can meet them only on such occasions), and of course to eat!

After that, I introduced Soheyl as the official speaker of IREJO to the audience. Soheyl talked about what the new IREJO has done since this Fall and what we plan to do. He also informed the participants about two programs IREJO is going to hold: Charshanbe Suri, and an excursion to Taleghan this Norooz.

The renkontiĝo finished by awarding prizes to a few active members, and finally having a group photo.

Here are a few more photos from the meeting. As the host of the program I didn't have much time to take photos. Others have taken more photos which I may post later here.

Note: I know you may have had difficulties understanding this post because I didn't describe all of the terms I used about Iranian traditions. That's because I'm going to have more detailed posts about these traditions in the next few days.


A painting of L. L. Zamenhof, the initiator of Esperanto. Ahmad and Elham brought the painting. I didn't have time to ask them who the painter is, though.



"Haji Firooz" also took part in the renkontiĝo!


A "Sabzeh". The placard reads "Happy Norooz" in Persian and Esperanto.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Is This a Joke?


The picture shows http://cesa.iust.ac.ir when viewed from Firefox (and other non-IE browsers). The text reads "For better viewing and more security, please view this website using Internet Explorer."

We have to use this website to download the practices for some of the university courses.

I get angry when I see some people who hardly know anything about web design (this is apparent from the first time you visit the website) claim such things about "security." Of course, the implementor of the website is not concerned about our security (if he was, surely he would not recommend using IE). He only wants to use Internet Explorer's non-standard features instead of the world wide accepted standards and using a free software equivalent (IF the website really needs those features, which I doubt about it).

Non-free software bothers, non-free "standards" ruin.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

High Rise

J.G. Ballard's "High Rise" probably can be classified in the genre usually known as New Wave Science-Fiction. I am a big fan of Sci-Fi (and Fantasy), although it is very hard to exactly tell what Sci-Fi is. There are totally different definitions for Sci-Fi. I prefer to use the term in a general sense to include the works of Stanislaw Lem, Arthur C. Clark and Issac Asimov, for example, although their works are totally different in both style and content, and despite the fact that Lem does not consider himself a Sci-Fi writer (and if you have read his works, you can easily notice how much different they are).

High Rise is even more different than the Sci-Fi works I have read so far but, Sci-Fi or not, I pretty much enjoyed Ballard's masterful style when reading High Rise, as the first book by him I read.

(Spoilers Coming)
High Rise is about the life of the 2000 people who live in an ultramodern forty-story building. The high rise offers all the services needed by its occupants (who are mostly highly educated professional people). Just by the time the tenants of the last apartment arrive life in the high rise starts to gradually change.

It starts quite innocently by things like a wine bottle smashing over Dr. Laing's balcony and later by short power failures. Soon violence spreads quickly across the building. The residents divide themselves into three classes: the lower class, the middle class, and the higher class. This classification matches both their social class and the floors they live in (the lower class are those who live in the first ten floors, the higher class live in the upper floors, and the middle class in between).

The high rise, initially designed to offer anything its tenants need, now becomes a completely isolated world in which the residents try abandoning all their relationships with the outside world and even convincing others that everything is going fine inside.

Life in the high rise changes quickly from the three-class environment into a hunter/gatherer culture; just like they have time-traveled thousands of years back in time, to the dawn of the human kind.
(No more spoilers)

I came across High Rise accidentally in the library, and I'm glad I found it. Now I'm planning to read more books from Ballard. If you're not sure which book you're going to read next, you may want to try High Rise.

I have also read a film adaptation is underway for 2008.

New Cellphone

I forgot to tell you about my new cellphone. After a lot of deliberating I finally bought a black Nokia N80. With a stylish design, 3 megapixel camera (plus a VGA front camera), great Music Player, excellent connectivity options (including Mass Storage and PictBridge modes), wireless LAN support, and driven by a 3rd edition series-60 user interface it seems to suit my needs well. I replaced the in-package headset with another one with a remote control to enjoy the music player the most.

I celebrated the WLAN support with connecting to the Internet during Dr. Barangi's class (Electric Circuits 2) and ignoring the boring topic!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Copy Protection

A brilliant definition for "copy protection," from the Jargon File.

copy protection: n.

A class of methods for preventing incompetent pirates from stealing software and legitimate customers from using it. Considered silly.

Esfandgan, a Day for Women

During the last one or two months I have been considering a post about the Iranian calendar and/or ancient Iranian festivals (which are closely related, and both are in line with my series of mythology related posts), so I was delighted to see a post in my friend's blog on the same topic. Since her blog is in Esperanto I decided to translate the post here (with her consent, of course). I thank Fifio for her great post. Be aware that this is a free translation. I'm not going to do a literal exact translation, nor I'm going to keep the author's writing style! I hope you enjoy it.

The title of the original post is "The 'Esfandgan' festival, an Iranian Day for Women."

In ancient Iran each day of a month had a name. Those names were names of deities. But don't get me wrong; ancient Iranians' beliefs were not polytheistic. In their beliefs, each natural power had it's own sacred master (or deity), while the all-powerful One God was "Ahuramazda."

All months in the old Iranian calendar had 30 days each of which, as I said, had it's own name. So there were thirty day names. For example, the first day was Ahuramazda day, the second was Bahman day, the third was Ordibehesht day, and so forth.

Note that today's Iranian official calendar has four seasons and twelve months:

Spring
1. Farvardin
has 31 days; from March 21, to April 20.

2. Ordibehesht
has 31 days; from April 21, to May 21.

3. Khordad
has 31 days; from May 22, to June 21.

Summer
4. Tir
has 31 days; from June 22, to July 22.

5. Mordad
has 31 days; from July 23, to August 22.

6. Shahrivar
has 31 days; from August 23, to September 22.

Fall
7. Mehr
has 30 days; from September 23, to October 22.

8. Aban
has 30 days; from October 23, to November 22.

9. Azar
has 30 days; from November 23, to December 21.

Winter
10. Dey
has 30 days; from December 22, to January 20.

11. Bahman
has 30 days; from January 21, to February 19.

12. Esfand
has 29 days (30, on a leap year); from February 20, to March 20.

Today's calendar is a little bit different from the old one. One difference is the number of days in each month. Another difference is that we don't have the day names anymore. The month names are the same, though.

You might have noticed that some month names are the same as the day names I gave as an example. In fact, all month names are also day names. So in each month, there is one day in which the name of the month and the name of the day are the same. These are the twelve festivals of ancient Iranians. For example, on Bahman 2, we have the "Bahmangan" feast. The "gan" suffix pluralizes a noun, so Bahmangan literally means Bahmans.

These are the twelve festivals:
  • Farvardingan (on Farvardin 19)
  • Ordibeheshtgan (on Ordibehesht 3)
  • Khordadgan (on Khordad 6)
  • Tirgan (on Tir 13)
  • Mordadgan (on Mordad 7)
  • Shahrivargan (on Shahrivar 4)
  • Mehrgan [also pronounced "Mehregan"] (on Mehr 16)
  • Abangan (on Aban 10)
  • Azargan (on Azar 9)
  • Deygan (on Dey 1)*
  • Bahmangan (on Bahman 2)
  • Esfandgan (on Esfand 5)

* As I mentioned, the name of the first day of each month is Ahuramazda. The word "Dey" in old Persian language means "God" or "Deity." Ahuramazda was the One God so Deygan was celebrated on Dey 1. You might have noticed the similarity between the word "dey" and the English (Latin) "deity." That's because these words, in ancient Persian and Latin, are from the same root.

I said every natural power has its master. As an example, Aban is the master of water, Azar is the master of fire, and Bahman is the master of good thoughts. Esfand is the mistress of the Earth and plants. Esfand's incarnation was a woman because in Iranian mythology the Earth is usually described as a woman. There's a simple philosophy behind this; the Earth is the mother of all.

On the 5th day of month Esfand, we celebrate Esfandgan. It is the festivity of women --the women's day. Although it is an old belief, we still celebrate it. (By "we" I mean everyone who loves Iran and the Iranian culture.)

I wish a happy Esfandgan for everyone.

(Here, Fifio thanks Ms. Emrani for correcting her Esperanto post. I thank both of them. Happy Esfandgan!)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Lost: a Long Loved One

During the last two years, we hardly ever parted. Almost anywhere, at parties, out with other friends, at work, in university classes, and even occasionally at night in my bed, we were together. There were many times that I was depressed, and she cheered me up. There were many times that no one was around but her.

At the time that we were almost washed away together by the stream in flood at Tangeh Savashi, we didn't even think about parting; and all that night after that when she was horribly sick. But sooner or later, it happens.

I always enjoyed reading A. A. Milne's poems.
"Wherever I am, there's always Pooh,
there's always Pooh and Me."

And now I even enjoy more since it reminds me of the time she was my Pooh.

I'm going to buy another cellphone but I will not forget the happy days we had together. Whether or not we will meet again some time in the future, I don't know.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Paranoid

It may be a small thing, but these small things sometimes really hurt; especially, when there are a lot of them. What is it? Simple. take a look at the picture: Google "Code Search" is not available in your country. And so is Google Toolbar, and Sun Java Runtime, and Paypal (which ironically is also blocked by the government), and a lot more of these small things.

And why? Because of the paranoid one who is always thinking and speaking about "the enemy." or because of the other guy who feels responsible to "wipe" another nation "off the map," but does not feel that responsible to tackle the problems of his own nation (if he has any feelings towards his homeland; or probably he follows his leader on this, that when returned to Iran after years and was asked "How do you feel, Ayatollah Khomeini, now that you have returned to your homeland after all these years?" and he simply answered, "Nothing.")

Because of them? This one, then, really hurts.

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Journey to the White Spaces

"He looked at maps, and wondered what lay beyond their edges: maps made in the Shire showed mostly white spaces beyond its borders." --The Fellowship of the Ring

There are things about the old world one may miss. For me, it is living in a mysterious world; one in which you can imagine anything you like about what lies a few miles away. A world in which "the road" is the start of a journey you do not know about its end.

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to. Do you realize that this is the very path that goes through Mirkwood, and that if you let it, it might take you to the Lonely Mountain or even worse places?"

I get disappointed when I think about what we call "a road" today. You can drive as much as you like and you will keep seeing signs saying, "Qom 40", "Esfahan 175", "Ahvaz 680", and things like that.

When I think more about it, our maps do show white spaces beyond our planet; Well, yes, they are usually painted black and there are small white points on them our physicists can tell you exactly what atoms they are made of. What the physicists cannot tell you, is how it looks like to live there (and even their information about what they are made of [or even if they exist or not] is a little bit out-dated; they cannot tell you anything about our neighbor galaxy, Andromeda, newer than 2.5 million years ago). So we do have white spaces; quite exciting. The disappointing fact is that we cannot take a backpack and start a trip to see the mountains ("Mountains Gandalf, mountains!"). I believe a time will come, sooner or later, that people will be able to do that. I don't have much hope that I will be alive by that time. Seems we are in the wrong time.

Maybe years later, a grand grandchild of me will take a backpack and start a journey towards the white spaces to see the lonely mountain. Maybe, on the road, he/she will be singing:

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

And a Spark Came Down from the Eternal Flame

It happened by the will of Mazda, when Hushang, the grandson of Kayumars the second shah of all, returning from a hunting expedition saw a black snake and decided to hit it by a stone. He missed the snake and the stone struck another stone and a light came out of it. The light was the first spark of the flame that came down from Mazda's eternal flame. The king suggested that this is a divine flame worthy of being held high in regard.

And then the king ordered a feast of singing, dancing, and drinking around the fire. It was the day we call Sadeh.

There are different stories about Sadeh and the origin of the feast but nonetheless Sadeh has been one of the most important Iranian festivals during thousands of years. The story I pointed out above is indeed the most famous account narrated by Ferdowsi in Shahnameh. The word Sadeh, literally means "century" or "one hundred". This is said to be due to the fact that Sadeh is celebrated on Bahman 10 (January 30), 100 days after the beginning of winter in the old Iranian calendar. Ancient Iranian calendar had only two seasons, summer and winter, and winter started on October 21. Another popular tradition suggests that the word Sadeh points out to the fact that from the celebrated day there are 100 days and nights remaining to the beginning of Norooz, the Iranian new year festival. There are other traditions about the meaning of the name and its historical origin.

Although Sadeh is not a widely celebrated tradition in today's Iran, many people, especially Zoroastrians in Yazd, hold feasts on this day. Unfortunately, Sadeh has coincided with Shi'ite tradition of Ashura, the day (in lunar calendar) in which the third Shi'ite Imam was killed, and so the Zoroastrians in Yazd had to cancel the feast. So unfortunate.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Islamic Bureau for Censorship

A few days ago I had a post about the rumors I had heard about registering websites/blogs, recently required by the government of Iran. At that time, I could not find the website it was said people have to register their websites in; I finally found it: samandehi.ir ("samandehi" literally means "organizing"). As the website says, all websites and blogs with a top-level domain name has to be registered with the Bureau for Organizing Iranian Websites within two months beginning from January 28, 2007. As I have read, the term for having a top-level domain name has been silently added after the huge amount of protest from bloggers (and it is not reflected in the bylaw, yet!).

I spent some time reading all the information in the website and I found the entire plan enormously ridiculous. The bylaw, as presented in the website, defines an "internet sites" as "all centers in the Internet network that provide www and FTP services" (I'm literally quoting the phrase used). I cannot translate all the bylaw here for your amusement (it's quite long) but, accept it from me, everything about the website and the plan (including the very text of the bylaw) looks completely amateur and apparently shows the knowledge of the "governors" about the Internet itself.

An amusing point among all I read in the website, was that nowhere I could find anything about who this law applies to. Does it apply to Iranians? To those who live in Iran? To those who provide Persian language content? Or something else? No answer. And together with the fact that the government has announced that access to non-registered websites will be blocked, it can be used to block *any* website easier than before. Also notice that the bureau has complete power over the matter and does not even need the decision of a court.

Another issue that has been a matter of much discussion by Iranian bloggers is the location of the web servers that are going to store the important information the information the bureau collects (the information which even includes which database servers the website uses, if any). The location of the web servers can be easily tracked by looking up the location of the IP addresses obtained by a "whois". The web servers are located in China and the U.S.! Keyhan's justification of this is funny, too. (Keyhan is a hard-line Iranian daily). Keyhan believes this is a mistake made by "tracking the incorrect IP (Internet Provider)". Apparently, the Keyhan reporter does not have the slightest idea what IP and IP addresses are.

It seems the Islamic regime is strengthening its place as the greatest enemy of the Internet (only after China), but probably we'd better call it the most frightened government from the Internet (and the power of its citizens), and I believe "The Islamic Bureau for Censorship" makes a much better name for the bureau than "The Bureau for Organizing Iranian Websites", and it follows the tradition of calling the state-run agencies, "Islamic" ones. What do you think?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Why We Need Arc

A lot of Lisp enthusiasts, including me, have been eagerly expecting the arrival of Arc ever since Paul Graham announced working on it. I think not only having Arc is exciting, the Lisp community really *needs* Arc.

Back in the old good days Common Lisp had one of the largest standard libraries ever. This has changed dramatically in recent years and now CL's standard library can correctly be called "tiny". This becomes a real problem along with the fact that CL does not have a de facto standard, only an official one which is not sufficient, nor does it have a de facto implementation and although the lack of a single prominent implementation can be beneficial (Darwin's evolution theory) along with the fact that CL's standard library is really tiny in comparison to many new languages today (Python, for example) and there is no way for adding new packages to the standard library, a fundamental problem arises, and this problem for the Lisp community. Many good libraries have been written for Common Lisp, but they are not anyhow part of the standard and neither they have become a de facto standard. I believe, Arc can change that. Why? Because there is one man behind it, just like Python. In case of Python, the language and the libraries are largely being developed and enhanced by the community, but the presence of Guido assures that everything runs smoothly and when there cannot be a consensus (like for the new "if" expression in Python 2.5, or the "print >>" statement) there is one man who decides what to do. This sometimes may sound undemocratic, but at least it will help things run.The position of Paul Graham in today's Lisp community is probably even stronger than Guido in Python community. Many new Lispers will tell you that they turned to Lisp only because of reading Graham's essays and in fact he has become kind of mentor to them.

Whenever we have Arc, we will have a real evolving de facto standard: new libraries can be added to the standard library and language enhancement proposals can be made. We can enjoy an evolving language, as much as Python, Perl and Ruby programmer can.

Some people have been criticizing Paul Graham for announcing a vaporware and that Arc is only a delusion. I disagree with this belief. Why there isn't a running implementation of Arc after so much time, and despite the fact that Paul Graham is always encouraging software startups to release a working edition as early as possible? Shouldn't he follow his own advice? I don't think so. When he encourages startups to release early, he is teaching them how to start a company and finally make money out of it (and releasing early, as he argues, is essential for today's startups). But he himself is not going to start an Arc company; Arc is his hobby, and besides that, releasing even a very early alpha or beta, will start his career of leadership in a community and it will certainly take a lot of time from him; a time he may not be able to spare now. Also, releasing a working edition will probably take his hobby from him. Paul Graham, as far as I can understand from his website, is a language enthusiast and he seems to really enjoy constantly changing the language to see only what happens. He won't be able to do that as much after release. This reminds of J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien was a language enthusiast (of course, human languages I mean) and he loved to change the languages he invented, the process which started from early Qneya and resulted the modern Quenya beside others (and not to mention other languages he invented). After release of Lord of the Rings he was not able to play with his favorite hobby as he liked anymore. So I don't think it is correct to blame Paul on not releasing Arc. We're asking him to leave his hobby, and then spare a lot of his time for the coming community. Although he himself has decided to do that, it would be very ungrateful of us demand anything else. We should only hope!

Monday, January 22, 2007

I'm a Free Man Again

Well, at least as much free as one can be in Iran!

Side Note: I really don't think that I'm going to pass Engineering Mathematics, but it's not important now!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

After Three Days

"Thus spake the master programmer: after three days without programming, life becomes meaningless." The Tao of Programming, Geoffrey James

This is what's happening to me --I'm losing my life's meaning. The exams have been one of the causes. One other reason was I didn't know what to write. If you're a devout programmer, you know what I mean. It's the worse feeling ever. I'm a little picky about what to write and it becomes a problem sometimes (like now). Anyhow, I got a few ideas, and I will start one in the next few days --hopefully, before I commit suicide for not having a reason for life!

No More Math Tonight

I have about 11 more hours to study for tomorrow morning's exam, and you know many students do use such time to read more, but I don't. Although I'm not yet quite sure if I know enough to pass the exam, I simply can't study more. Whatever I do, my brain does not like over-studying!

Tomorrow, I'm going to be a free man again!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Is Your Website Officially Registered?

I have read in several news websites (including BBC and The Guardian) about a recent announcement by the government requiring the owners of all Iranian websites and blogs to register their websites/blogs with the authorities. I could not find any information on this from domestic news agencies, though. I cannot say, such thing is impossible (nothing foolish is impossible when someone like Ahmadinejad is in power), but it seems completely impractical to me, especially about bloggers. Many Iranian bloggers already blog anonymously; others can go underground as well. I saw Several bloggers have added a banner reading "I won't register my blog" on their blog header.

I'm awaiting new information about the issue to be released. This can be the next step in a series by one of the thirteen enemies of the Internet. Maybe next year we will miss the current "great" conditions.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Exam Time

This term's final exams have already begun. I'm sorry if my posts are getting infrequent. I hope I'll have more post after the exams are finished on Monday, next week.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Visit to Sa'ad Abad

Sa'ad Abad Complex is a group of palaces and facilities located at Shemiran area of Tehran. Before the 1979 Islamic revolution, it was the official residence of the royal family and was also used to host the royal family guests, like foreign officials visiting the country. Sa'ad Abad is currently used as a multi-function complex: some of the buildings serve as public museums, while some others are occupied by organizations like Baseej and Presidency.

Today, I went to visit Sa'ad Abad with my friends from IREA (Iranian Esperanto Association). Here are a few photos from our visit.

A snowman located opposite the fine arts museum!


Ferdowsi statue built out of snow.


Statue of Omar Khayyam, the famous Iranian poet, mathematician, and astronomer, out of snow.


Statue of Maestro Mohammad Reza Shajarian, the famous traditioanl singer, again out of snow.
Shajarian is one of the most well known Iranian artists and probably the greatest singer in the history of the recorded Persian traditional music.


An interior view of the White Palace. The curtains show images of Iranian mythology.
(I did not take this photo myself).


We had to wear these to enter the Shavand Palace (also called Green Palace)


An interior room in Shahvand Palace. Shahvand Palace was the residence of Reza Shah.


Reza Shah's suits. He is wearing these suits in most of his photos I've seen.


Most of the trees in the complex are about a hundred years old.


Omidvar brothers traveled round the world with this car.


Names of the countries they visited (plus the poles) is written on their car.


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Would You Replace the Washing Machine?

"If your car or washing machine is still running well, do you replace it? Would you replace your car if a new one required you to learn a new way to turn it off?"

I came up with this question today in an article discussing if upgrading to Windows Vista is really essential for most users or not, considering that they are doing their everyday tasks before that normally, and also that according to a study by Softchoice, 94 percent of PCs do not meet the system requirements for Vista Premium. You may know that I'm not using Windows anymore, but the question and the article made me think seriously, and I finally concluded that, "yes, I would!"

Now you're probably wondering why I would do that. It's simple. Consider the case of the washing machine. What if you don't upgrade the washing machine and keep receiving emails containing attached dishes that can only be washed with the washing machine that can be turned off some new way (probably the new way consists of a nine item menu and even an "Are you sure?" dialog after that)? And in the case of the car, probably most new parts have a "new-turn-off-way certified" or a "modern-turn-off tuned" seal on them? Wouldn't the average user just upgrade to the new washing machine (or car)? Seems reasonable, ...or probably the whole thing is seriously wrong.

Don't bother with Vista, and also put an end to Word attachments.