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 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!