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.