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Behrooz Parhami's Blog & Books Page

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Page last updated on 2018 March 21

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

2018/03/21 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo of John Hennessy and David Patterson, co-winners of ACM's 2018 A. M. Turing Award (1) ACM's 2018 Turing Award is bestowed upon John L. Hennessy (a former president of Stanford U) and David A. Patterson (a retired professor of UC Berkeley), for their seminal contributions to computer architecture. The duo is credited with popularizing the RISC concept, writing a highly influential textbook, and putting computer architecture on a quantitative footing. ACM's A. M. Turing Award, often referred to as the "Nobel Prize of Computing," carries a $1 million prize, with financial support provided by Google. It is named for Alan M. Turing, the British mathematician who articulated the mathematical foundation and limits of computing.
(2) Misogyny in Asian soccer: Mahsa Ghorbani, the only Iranian referee at AFC Asian Cup, likely won't be acknowledged by Iran's Football Federation. Her selection to referee a soccer match between two Asian men's teams has raised eyebrows, not just in Iran, but also in a number of other Islamic countries.
(3) Here's what kids think scientists look like: A few years ago, I posted the results of a similar experiment about computer scientists, who were drawn much worse than the average depiction in this study!
(4) One more female Senator will bring the Senate total to 23, a record high: Mississippi, the only US state that has not yet elected a woman to Congress, is expected to appoint the state's Agriculture and Commerce Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith to replace the resigning Senator Thad Cochran.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Austin serial-bomber dies after detonating an explosive device in his vehicle, as police closed in on him.
- Islamic-State attack near Afghanistan's Kabul University kills at least 29 and injures many more.
- Kushner family real estate business is accused of filing false reports to skirt NYC's rent-control laws.
- Ben Carson blames his wife on the purchase of $31,000 dining set for his office.
- Facebook appears to be in a survival fight, following its mishandling of illicit data-harvesting revelations.
- Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg should post status updates re compromised Facebook users' data!
- Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei, a very close ally of former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, arrested.
- Santa Barbara weather: Much-needed rain today and tomorrow, followed by a week of sunshine.
- Evacuations from Thomas Fire burn areas create traffic jam on southbound US 101.
- Clever and interesting images for your enjoyment on this first day of the Iranian New Year.
- New viral meme, after Trump congratulated Putin for his "election" victory, against aides' explicit advice.
- If you want to practice finding typos and grammatical errors, here's a presidential tweet for you!
(6) Our clueless FLOTUS can't seem to get it that she has no credibility in her alleged fight against cyber-bullying, when the POTUS is by far the worst offender.
(7) Technical talk at UCSB this morning: Kaisheng Ma (Penn State U) spoke under the title "Self-Powered Internet-of-Things Nonvolatile Processor and System Exploration and Optimization." Dr. Ma has worked on energy-harvesting technologies that allow ultra-low-power devices, dissipating on the order of 100 micro-Watts (preferably less), to run IoT applications, with no need for batteries. Energy sources that can be exploited include solar, radio-frequency radiation, piezoelectric effect, and thermal gradient. Because these power sources are unreliable and affected by ambient environmental factors, we must develop specialized systems that are tolerant to power variations and capable of making progress on their computation tasks despite power discontinuities. Applicable techniques include frequency scaling, resource allocation for dynamic adjustment of the microarchitecture, and approximate computing. Here's a 2-minute demo of part of Dr. Ma's work.

2018/03/20 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
My Persian poem in celebration of Nowruz Hyacinth and other flowers (1) A Nowruz message to everyone: For many years now, I have composed a cheerful traditional Persian poem celebrating the arrival of spring and renewal of nature, as well as the Iranian New Year festival. Here is the 2018 (1397) edition. Initial letters of the poem's first and second half-verses spell its Persian title, "Khojasteh Nowruz,"which translates to "Felicitous Nowruz."
For more of my Nowruz/Norooz poems, see my poetry page.
A rough English translation of my Nowruz 2018/1397 follows.
Beautify your home, for the plain is covered with flowers
Light, Nowruz, spring, festivity, hubbub, all looming towers
Don colorful clothes, wash sorrow's rust from your mind
Joy, passion, love, affection, zeal for life are right behind
Apple, oleaster, vinegar, garlic, sumac, are all on a spread
Hue of grass, smell of hyacinth, fancy silk patterns in red
Smiles adorn your family and friends, and your own face
The time for merriment and movement has come with grace
Songs and dance all around, sounds of music everywhere
Beneath and above, near and far, right here and over there
(2) [Stephen Hawking's wonderful sense of humor] John Oliver: You have stated that you believe that there could be an infinite number of parallel universes. Does that mean there is a universe out there where I am smarter than you? Stephen Hawking: Yes. And also a universe where you're funny.
(3) The nasty nor'easters in recent weeks were caused by Jews, according to DC Councilman Trayon White Sr., because they control the weather. Welcome to the new "Great America," home of racism and anti-semitism!
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Renowned computer scientist Farnam Jahanian named President of Carnegie Mellon University.
- The Texas serial-bombing mystery deepens: Bomb package explodes at FedEx facility en route to Austin.
- The US East Coast does not recognize the arrival of spring; another massive storm has arrived.
- Study on male birth control pills yields unprecedented results.
- Uber halts self-driving car tests after first fatality, a pedestrian killed in Arizona.
- Cambridge Analytica, working for the Trump campaign, harvested Facebook data for use in targeted ads.
- Quote of the day: "Our character is more evident by our choices than by our abilities." ~ Rita Schiano
- Cartoon of the day: White House's new parental advisory system. [Image][Source: The New Yorker]
(5) Hardware aspects of big-data applications: Mingyu Gao (Stanford University) spoke at UCSB yesterday under the title "Near-Data Processing Systems for Data-Intensive Applications."
Big data applications must process large volumes of data within strict time limits. Thus, memory access latency and bandwidth become major challenges, what is sometimes referred to as the "memory wall." For example, at Google data centers, an estimated 60% of CPU processing power goes to waste as a result of waiting for memory accesses. The energy requirements of an off-chip memory access, roughly 1000 times that of a floating-point addition, is also a problem.
Recent 3D integration technologies allow us to put the processing logic at the bottom layer and connect it through vias to memory layers above, in order to avoid slow and energy-intensive data movements. The speaker discussed the critical challenges of such near-data processing systems, including efficient processing logic circuits, practical system architectures, user-level programming models, and scalable parallelization and dataflow scheduling schemes.
One idea is the use of DRAM-based lookup tables and reconfigurable fabric, instead of current SRAM tables in FPGAs. While DRAM tables are denser and more energy-efficient, a variety of architectural "tricks" are needed to make them work within system constraints and performance requirements. [Photo and slides]

2018/03/18 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Photo of my haft-seen spread (1) Presenting a photo of my haft-seen spread: Wishing everyone a wonderful Nowruz and a happy, healthy, and prosperous Iranian new year! I will post my traditional Persian poem for Nowruz 1397 (the new year, according to the Iranian calendar) soon, but, as a preview, you can see it in the haft-seen photo.
(2) The Fifth Dementia: This is the name of a band formed by dementia patients, when co-founders of the UCLA program MusicMendsMinds stumbled upon the effects of music therapy as a treatment option for ongoing symptoms of Parkinson's. [Sample music] [Story]
(3) No longer identical: When astronaut Scott Kelly returned to earth from a record-setting space mission, he had become different from his formerly identical twin Mark, because some 7% of his genes had changed.
(4) Obama negotiating with North Korea: Bad! Tillerson suggesting diplomacy: Naive! Trump planning to meet Kim Jong Un: Brilliant! [News clips]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Former Irish PM sings the praises of immigrants, as Trump watches with obvious discomfort!
- Pot-to-kettle joke of the day: Donald Trump calls James Comey a liar! [Comey's tweet]
- Former CIA Director John O. Brennan attacks Donald Trump directly, mincing no words! [Brennan's tweet]
- Ex-husband of an employee at Thousand Oak's Oaks Mall kills her but survives attempted suicide.
- Brooklyn Duo's wonderful instrumental version of "Despacito" on cello and piano.
- Four youngsters step up to play "Despacito" on a toe-tap piano.
- For soccer enthusiasts: A beautiful goal that defies geometry and physics.
- Cartoon of the day: Toys 'R' Us, the latest casualty of on-line shopping. RIP! [Image]
- Second cartoon of the day: The Ayatollah's race against time. [Image] [Source:]
(6) Firm working for Donald Trump campaign through Jared Kushner, and which harvested Facebook data for targeted ads, had ties to Russian oil giant.
(7) Hillary Clinton suffered an unjust defeat in 2016, but she is hurting the Democrats now: Her interview in India, where she asserted that people who voted for her are responsible for 2/3 of America's GDP, was elitist and divisive. We take pride in the one-person-one-vote principle, so saying that her voters were "better" is counterproductive. Clinton did win the popular vote, so there was really no need to make such a statement.
(8) Spending a lazy afternoon in Goleta: I am enjoying a lull in my schedule, having finished teaching and grading of homework assignments for the winter quarter, but not having received the students' research papers for my graduate course on parallel processing. At the end of my 2-mile walk from home to Goleta's Camino Real Marketplace, I listened to music by a wonderfully talented musician, before heading back.
["Save the Last Dance for Me"] ["How Sweet It Is"] ["Peaceful Easy Feeling" (The Eagles)]

2018/03/17 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Logo for Springer's Encyclopedia of Big Data Technologies (1) Encyclopedia of Big Data Technologies (EBDT) is taking shape: Many entries in this comprehensive volume, edited by Sherif Sakr and Albert Zomaya, are already available on-line and the full version will be released in early 2019. I served as a co-editor, with Bingsheng He, of EBDT's section on "Big Data on Modern Hardware Systems" and also wrote six of the sections's articles/entries, with the following titles (all of which are available via my Publications Web page):
- Computer Architecture for Big Data
- Data Longevity and Compatibility
- Data Replication and Encoding
- Energy Implications of Big Data
- Parallel Processing with Big Data
- Tabular Computation
Completed entries of Springer's EBDT can be accessed via the Worldwide Web.
(2) The Iranian government, whose thugs have attacked at least three embassies in Tehran, wants to complain to international agencies for the brief takeover of part of its embassy in London by Shi'i followers of Grand Ayatollah Sadegh Shirazi.
(3) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Russian hackers have targeted critical US energy infrastructure, including nuclear plants.
- Donald Trump Jr.'s wife, Vanessa, decides to end her 12-year marriage by filing for divorce.
- A brief history of Stephen Hawking, the man who shaped our understanding of the world.
- UCSB scholar Miriam Metzger co-authors a paper about a promising approach to detecting fake news.
- Quote: "It would not be much of a universe if it wasn't home to the people we love." ~ Stephen Hawking
- Iranian Member of Parliament struggles with pronouncing the name of "Louvre Museum."
- Cartoon of the day: The sweeping investigation of Russia's meddling in the 2016 US election. [Image]
- Second cartoon of the day: "They probably got the idea from one of those protesty video games." [Image]
(4) Author, political analyst, and University of Tehran's professor of political science Sadegh Zibakalam has been sentenced to 18 months in prison on charges of propaganda against the Islamic system.
(5) Yesterday's CS Distinguished Lecture: Held at the end of the day-long CS summit on the UCSB campus, which also featured project and research presentations by undergraduate and graduate students (with representatives of local high-tech companies present), the lecture by David E. Culler, UC Berkeley Professor and Dean of the Division of Data Sciences, was entitled "Networked Systems Design for Sustainability in the Built Environment." The talk's focus was on integrated and intelligent ways of controlling the environment in buildings so as to reduce energy consumption. Culler indicated that our challenge is to come up with ways of turning buildings into programmable entities, which would enable the application of innovative software methods to their operation and control. [Three slides]
(6) [Final post for the day] I am still working on my 2018 traditional Nowruz (Norooz) poem. Here is an unrelated Persian verse of mine, presented as a teaser. Despite the delay in completing my Nowruz poem.

2018/03/16 (Friday): Course review: Adams, Jeremy et al., Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition, 84 lectures in the "Great Courses" series (seven 12-lecture parts, each with a guidebook), The Teaching Company, 2000. [My 5-star review of this course on GoodReads]
Cover image for the audiobook course 'Great Minds of the Western Intellectual Tradition' Questions about life and existence have vexed humankind for millennia. I found listening to the arguments about and nuances of these questions intellectually stimulating, even though I had heard them before, including in other "Great Courses" series.
Taught by 12 professors, this grand tour of the most brilliant minds tackling fundamental questions such as reality, purpose of life, God, freedom in the face of causal laws, having power over others, justice, and beauty, describes the bases of the Western philosophical tradition and the fundamental debates that are still raging.
Two cities figure prominently in nurturing these thoughts: Athens contributed inquiry and emancipation, the critical and self-critical spirit; Jerusalem provided the West's mythos and its holy text. The two sets of issues that permeate the Western discourse are the nature of the world and our knowledge of it (metaphysics, epistemology) and guidelines for a contented life (ethics, social theory, politics, existentialism).
Much of what we have today in Western thought can be traced to the contributions of Aristotle, who formulated the four cardinal virtues: Courage; Temperance; Justice; Practical wisdom. The first three virtues would not exist without the fourth. Courage, e.g., is a happy medium between rashness and timidity, as guided by practical wisdom.
The following summary of the 84 lectures in this series provides a good indication of what the course covers.
Part I: Classical Origins (lectures 1-12) [The Pre-Socratics; The Sophists and Social Science; Plato's Metaphysics, Politics, and Psychology; Aristotle's Metaphysics, Politics, and Ethics; Stoicism and Epicureanism; Roman Eclecticism; Roman Skepticism]
Part II: The Christian Age (lectures 13-24) [Job and the Problem of Suffering; The Hebrew Bible; The Synoptic Gospels; Paul; Plotinus and Neo-Platonism; Augustine and Free Will; Aquinas; Universals in Medieval Thought; Mysticism; Luther; Calvin]
Part III: From the Renaissance to the Age of Reason (lectures 25-36) [Machiavelli; More's Utopianism; Erasmus; Galileo and the New Astronomy; Bacon; Descartes; Hobbes; Spinoza; The Skepticism of Pascal and Bayle; Newton and Enlightened Science]
Part IV: The Enlightenment and Its Critics (lectures 37-48) [Locke, Politics, Knowledge; Vico; Montesquieu's Political Thought; Bernard Mandeville; Bishop Berkeley; Hume's Epistemology, Morality, and Religion; Adam Smith; Rousseau's Dissent]
Part V: The Age of Ideology (lectures 49-60) [Kant's Revolution and Moral Theory; Burke; Hegel's Historicism; Marx's Materialism; Mill's Utilitarianism; Kirkegaard's Leap of Faith; Schopenhauer; Nietzsche, Will to Power, and Morality]
Part VI: Modernism and the Age of Analysis (lectures 61-72) [James' Pragmatism; Freud's Human Nature; A. J. Ayer; Max Weber; Husserl's Phenomenology; Dewey; Heidegger; Wittgenstein's Language Analysis; The Frankfurt School; Structuralism]
Part VII: The Crisis of Modernity (lectures 73-84) [Hayek's Critique of Central Planning; Popper; Kuhn; Quine; Habermas; Rawls' Theory of Justice; Derrida's Deconstruction; Rorty's New Pragmatism; Gouldner; MacIntyre; Nozick and Libertarianism]

2018/03/15 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Pollution in Pittsburgh, 1940 Native-American telephone switchboard operator, Montana, 1925 Celebrating divorce, 1930s (1) History in pictures: [Left] Pollution in Pittsburgh, 1940. [Center] Native-American telephone switchboard operator, Montana, 1925. [Right] Celebrating divorce, 1930s.
(2) Virtual kidnapping: This, according to an alert coming from UCSB Police, is an expanding crime category, in which scammers call you, often identifying themselves as members of a drug cartel, claiming that they hold one of your loved ones hostage and demanding immediate payment (often by wire transfer). They try to project a sense of urgency, perhaps by having someone scream or cry in the background, because they know they have a limited window of time before you discover the scam or contact the authorities. Be alert!
(3) Data-assisted → Data-dependent → Data-immersive: "Fifty years ago, we entered a data-assisted world. Today, the world is data-dependent—we can't check out at a store if their data systems are down. Fifty years from today, we will live in a data-immersive world, doing things we have never done before via data's ubiquitous integration into every facet of our lives. This has already begun. Enjoy the ride." ~ David Lomet, Microsoft scientist, concluding his article "The Future of Data Management" in Computing Edge, March 2018
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Multiple fatalities and injuries in collapse of a just-installed pedestrian bridge at Florida Int'l Univ.
- In a direct challenge to Trump's "red line," Mueller subpoenas records from the Trump Organization.
- Freudian typo? Sean Spicer's farewell tweet reads: Rex Tillerson has severed our country well!
- Following scandals due to opening of fraudulent accounts, Wells Fargo CEO is rewarded with a $4.6M raise.
- Borowitz Report (humor): "Vladimir Putin concedes defeat in Pennsylvania's special election."
- Cartoon of the day: David and Goliath, when Parkland students take on the NRA. [Image]
On clothing and other personal choices by women and men (5) [Final thought for the day] A message to men who criticize feminism:
You often claim that feminism is trying to make women look like the photo on the left. Feminism does not try to make women look or dress in this manner but wants them to have the freedom to do so if they wish. You and I are under no obligation to like their choices and, in a free and just society, will be under no obligation to interact with them if we prefer not to.
As a feminist, I like the woman in the middle, Oscar-nominated director Greta Gerwig, and you as an anti-feminist probably like her too, but perhaps for different reasons than mine.
I detest the man on the right, not for the way he looks or dresses, but for the way he thinks. Even then, I recognize the fact that he is a product of a particular environment or culture and, consequently, may not be entirely evil. You, on the other hand, probably like him.
Feminism isn't entirely about women; it's more about human dignity and freedom of choice.

2018/03/14 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Stephen Hawking dead at 76 GIF image for pi day National School Walkout Day, to demand action on curbing gun violence (1) Today in pictures: [Left] Stephen Hawking dead at 76: The British physicist was known for his work on relativity and black holes, and for several popular science books, including A Brief History of Time. Hawking outlived his terminal diagnosis at age 22 by some five decades. [Center] Happy pi day! March 14 is known as pi day, because 3/14 matches the first three of the infinite sequence of digits in pi = 3.141 592 653 589 793 ... [Right] National School Walkout Day: Today, one month after the mass shooting at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which took the lives of 17 students and teachers, our nation's youth walk out from school to demand action on curbing gun violence and declaring that "thoughts and prayers" won't do. [#enough]
(2) "A Brief History of Time": This engrossing 84-minute film focuses on the life and work of the late cosmologist Stephen Hawking, who possessed a brilliant mind, despite suffering near-total paralysis from ALS. Based on his best-selling book, the film focuses partly on his theories and partly on his daily life, based on interviews with friends and family.
(3) Prime Minister Theresa May indicates that Russia was behind the plot to assassinate a former double-agent by nerve gas and that UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats in retaliation.
(4) Political humor: George Takei introduces a set of commemorative plates for departed Trump administration officials at the end of this Jimmy Kimmel monlogue.
(5) Torture advocates in charge: Both Secretary-of-State nominee Mike Pompeo and his replacement at CIA, Gina Haspel, are apologists for torture, euphemistically called "enhanced interrogation techniques."
Cover image for the book 'Rules Do Not Apply' (6) Book review: Levy, Ariel, The Rules Do Not Apply: A Memoir, unabridged audiobook on 4 CDs, read by the author, Penguin Random House Audio, 2017.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Levy (, who joined The New Yorker as a staff writer in 2008, is well-known for her essays and criticisms, as well as for her book Female Chauvinist Pigs. In this highly personal memoir, Levy, who labels herself as "too much," discusses her insecurities, bisexuality, marriage to a same-sex "husband" (with whom she was deeply in love), and career decisions.
After Levy's meticulously-built unconventional life suddenly fell apart, she picked up the pieces and built a new life in which she was free and empowered to do as she pleased, while recognizing inevitable limitations that make compromise necessary. "I wanted what we all want: everything. We want a mate who feels like family and a lover who is exotic, surprising. We want to be youthful adventurers and middle-aged mothers. We want intimacy and autonomy, safety and stimulation, reassurance and novelty, coziness and thrills. But we can't have it all."
The proliferation of memoirs gives us unprecedented windows into other people's lives and aspirations, so I find myself perusing many such titles. While Levy's account is particularly appealing to women in this age of #MeToo and #TimesUp, and the resulting female ascendancy, many of life's complexities and contradictions discussed by Levy will also benefit men.

2018/03/13 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A day on the river, 1941 High-voltage power lines almost buried in snow, Siberia, 1960 Testing football helmets, 1912 (1) History in pictures: [Left] A day on the river, 1941. [Center] High-voltage power lines almost buried in snow, Siberia, 1960. [Right] Testing football helmets, 1912.
(2) New earthquake warning systems will save lives: Radio signals emitted from an earthquake's point of origin can reach population centers seconds before the actual shaking.
(3) There is a very proper version of English which is referred to as "King's English": We are now graced with "President's English"! Disgust is too mild a word to describe my reaction. [Photos, and Tom Brokaw's tweet]
(4) FCC did not sanction the launch of tiny satellites, because they are too small for proper monitoring and create risks for other spacecrafts, but a California start-up launched them anyway.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- US Secretay of State Rex Tillerson ousted and replaced by CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
- Serial bomber sought in Texas for killing 2 and injuring several more with 3 packages containing bombs.
- Turkey's direct involvement Syria: Turkish forces have encircled Afrin, a stronghold of Kurdish militia.
- Distinguished computer scientists, a mother and daughter, featured on "People of ACM."
- The US not standing up to Putin has made him more brazen in assassinating opponents and defectors.
- The year women became eligible to vote, by country. [World map]
- Francis Fukuyama, of the "End of History" fame, believes that Iran is headed toward a social explosion.
- Super Mario Bros (1985) "Coin Sound" scoresheet.
- Boy-King Tut's tomb is under study with new radar technology to resolve age-old mysteries. [Graphic]
- United flight attendant forced a family to put pet dog in the overhead bin; the dog didn't survive the flight.
(6) Isn't it odd for a US president to visit a state and not meet with its governor? Jerry Brown tries to overcome this barrier by writing a letter to Trump the day before his visit to the Golden State.
(7) Why the future of computing is analog (from the Greek "analogon," meaning "model"): Analog computers, which were sidelined when digital computers began to offer greater robustness and higher precision, are making a comeback. One key reason is analog's better energy efficiency. Today's top supercomputers consume megawatts of electric power; the comparably powerful human brain draws only 20 watts. Another reason is the benefit of specialization. Connections in analog computers are hard-wired; there is no need for instruction fetch and memory access, along with their time and energy penalties. Analog computers are massively parallel by nature, without all the overheads of digital massive parallelism. [Source] [MIT blog] [Wired article]

2018/03/12 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover of 'National Geographic' April 2018 issue (1) Black and white twins challenge our notions of race and racism.
(2) Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for some Santa Barbara County areas in anticipation of tomorrow's rainstorm. Emergency crews and high-water vehicles have been pre-positioned in the area. US 101 may be closed with little prior notice as a preventive measure.
(3) For a guy who tweets about everything and everyone, including Alec Baldwin, Oprah, Meryl Streep, Chuck Todd, and anyone else who criticizes him, Trump has been awfully quiet about Stormy Daniels.
(4) Quote of the day: "In five-billion years, as the Sun begins to die, its outer layers of glowing plasma will expand stupendously, engulfing the orbits of Mercury, then Venus, as the charred ember that was once the oasis of life called Earth vaporizes into the vacuum of space. Have a nice day!" ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson
(5) The global seed vault in Norway: After adding 70,000 new crops to this doomsday collection, which will allow the human race to recover in the event of a global catastrophe, the total number of crops in the vault now exceeds 1 million. [Source: Time magazine]
(6) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- British PM accuses Russia of crime or criminal negligence in use of a nerve agent to kill a former Russian spy.
- A former Netanyahu confidant has turned state witness against him in corruption probe.
- Super-deep diamond reveals never-before-seen minerals from Earth's mantle.
- Berkshire Hathaway got a $29 billion windfall for 2017 as a result of recent changes to the US tax code.
- Iran's premier female film director: Rakhshan Bani-Etemad is a darling of both the people and film critics.
- Magic prank: How wonderful that this older couple has found the magic of playing and laughing together!
(7) Labor laws in the age of crowd-work: Crowdsourcing (the practice of obtaining information or input into a task/project by enlisting the services of a large number of people, either paid or unpaid, typically via the Internet) is becoming increasingly important in scientific research. According to Google Scholar, the number of papers that use the term "crowdsourcing" grew more than 20-fold from 2008 to 2016. As crowdsourcing becomes even more prevalent, the nature of the relationship between project administrators and the people doing the work must be examined more closely. Do labor laws apply in this domain? Should we set a minimum wage? How is work quality assessed for the sake of payment and continuation? Do workers need protection, as an increasing number of them rely on crowd-work as a primary income source? Can/should crowd-workers organize? For thoughts on these issues and references to other articles, see: M. S. Silberman, B. Tomlinson, R. LaPlante, J. Ross, L. Irani, and A. Zaldivar, "Responsible Research with Crowds: Pay Crowdworkers at Least Minimum Wage," Communications of the ACM, Vol. 61, No. 3, pp. 39-41, March 2018.

2018/03/11 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Banner for Farhang Foundation's Nowruz celebration at UCLA (1) Farhang Foundation's celebration of Nowruz and the Iranian New Year at UCLA: The program included various free musical performances, dances, and children's activities, along with a costume parade, from 12:00 noon to 5:00 PM. A 6:00-PM ticketed Royce-Hall concert by Mojgan Shajarian concluded the program. [Photos] Mamak Khadem performed a Kurdish song, a second song, and "Aamad No-Bahaar" ("Spring Has Arrived"). She then yielded the stage to two young singers who perform "Shaaneh" ("Comb") and followed up with another Kurdish song. Beginning at 3:00 PM, there was a "Spring Walk" in colorful costumes, with music. Performances by LA Daf Ensemble and Djanbazian Dance Academy concluded the open-air part. Beginning at 6:00 PM, a highly enjoyable concert by Mojgan Shajarian was held in the fabulous Royce Hall. Shajarian, who had replaced Sima Bina at the last minute, because of Bina being denied a US entry visa, performed several standards and a few of Sima Bina's songs, concuding with "Morgh-e Sahar" ("Dawn Bird"), a signature song of her father. In her introductory remarks, she apologized for any problems arising from a lack of rehearsal time and took off her traditional head cover (dastaar) in solidarity with Iranian women who are fighting for their freedoms and against mandatory hijab laws. [Video 1] [Video 2] [Video 3] [Video 4]
(2) Trump is reportedly furious with Sarah Huckabee Sanders for inadvertently confirming (by revealing Trump's winning in arbitration) that there was a non-disclosure agreement between him and Stormy Daniels.
(3) Puzzle: Anthony was born on March 1, but he does not know the day of the week on his original day of birth. His mom, a mathematician, tells him that he was born in a year that had exactly 53 Saturdays and 53 Sundays. On what day of the week was Anthony born?
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Jeff Sessions redefines Justice: He criticizes federal judges for slowing Trump's national agenda!
- The three women hostages killed by a gunman at a California veterans home identified.
- Following Iran's lead, Houthis sentence a Yemeni Baha'i to death.
- Kim Jong Un and his dad got Brazilian passports under fake names in the 1990s to visit the West in secret.
- Trump has many, many, many friends: Believe him ... not! [2-minute video]
- Quote of the day: It's an amendment, not a commandment!" ~ Bill Mahr on the Second Amendment
(5) Saturday night's concert on the UCSB campus: UCSB's Middle East Ensemble performed in a program that in part celebrated Nowruz and the Iranian New Year. Special guest Bahram Osqueezadeh (UCSB Persian music lecturer) led the Ensemble in three Persian songs, with guest vocalist Siamak Bozorgi. Also, Besnik Yzeiri presented a rousing violin solo. Other parts of the program included a 5-piece Arabic music set, a 3-piece Turkish music set, and various dances. As usual, the ensemble had done a great job with a detailed program booklet, containing song lyrics, translations, and historical notes. ["Kereshmeh" Persian dance] [Persian song: "Sargashteh" ("Wanderer")] [Persian music piece: "Quatrains in Bayat-e Tork"; three seh-tars (9-tars?) and vocals] [Persian song: "Hamcho Farhad" ("Like Farhad")]

2018/03/10 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Fake snow on the Giza Pyramids (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.
Cover of Time magazine, issue of March 12, 2018 (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.
A very happy International Women's day to everyone Cartoon of the day: International Women's Day in Iran Not sure whether this image represents the setting of injustice or the dawn of freed! (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: [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.
Tehran University's top graduates, 1968 (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.
Poster for today's remote Skype talk at Razi University, Kermanshah, Iran (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.
Window washer, New York City, 1961 The first Disneyland ticket sold, 1955 Paris Library flooding, 1910 (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.
Persian calligraphy with ballpoint pen, by Ali Farahani (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.
Cover image for the book 'Trump Revealed' (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.
Coca Cola ad made by spreading grain for pigeons in St. Mark's Square, Venice, 1960s Announcement of the 'Harry Potter' cast in 2000 Black cat auditions, Hollywood, 1961 (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.
Cover image for Neal Branscomb's 'Sabotage' (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.
Newly engaged John Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier, 1953 Los Angeles traffic, 1950 Woman reading in Paris, 1952 (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.
Teacher holding a gun in front of a chalkboard (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.
Concentric disks Flags of the world Abstract leaves (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.
Gang of girls, Estonia, 1930s A pickup truck flees the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century, Philippines, 1991 Woman with a gas-resistant pram, London, 1938 (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
- 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.
Kids leaving school bus in combat gear 'New York Post' front page School chair, with gun-shaped desk (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.
Group photo 1 from mid-1967, showing many members of the class of 1968, Fanni College's Electromechanical Division, University of Tehran Group photo 2 from mid-1967, showing many members of the class of 1968, Fanni College's Electromechanical Division, University of Tehran (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.
Volvo's ad for its invention, the 3-point seat belt, 1959 Car Show, 1950s Coupe de Ville, Los Angeles, 1964 (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.
Audrey Hepburn, with pet deer Pippen, 1958 Marilyn Monroe, 1950s Elizabeth Taylor with a bird sitting on her head, 1948 (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:]
(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.
Red and white hearts for Valentine's Day Happy Valentine's Day to my three children Colorful hearts for Valentine's Day (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.
Cartoon: Iranian democracy The lone tall palm tree I see, as I walk home from work Cartoon: Fighting the women activists in Iran (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:
(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.
What future archaeologists might find in Iran (1) Political statement: What future archaeologists might find in Iran. [Image credit:]
(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?
Cover image of the audiobook 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' (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.
Cover image of 'Communication of the ACM,' February 2018 issue (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!
- Mihaela Noroc shows with her camera that beauty is much more than is shown on magazine covers.
- Cartoon of the day: Trump wants Americans to return to the moon. [Image: From E&T magazine]
- Next for Trump: An "Eye-Candy Army Unit," a la "Little Rocket Man"? [Photo]
(5) Authorities in Tajikistan have shut down hundreds of unregistered mosques in the past decade: Suspected of preaching extremism, the mosques have been converted to housing for the homeless or are being used for various public functions.
Cover image of the audiobook 'Argo' (6) Book review: Mendez, Antonio and Matt Baglio, Argo: How the CIA and Hollywood Pulled off the Most Audacious Rescue in History, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Dylan Baker, Penguin Audio, 2012.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
I was rather disappointed with the action-packed film version of "Argo," because of its inaccuracies in portraying the political climate in post-revolution Iran and its depiction of Iranians as either hateful revolutionaries or simpletons who had no clue. The book is much more realistic in its portrayal of the events that led to the escape of six Americans trapped in Iran, and sheltered in the homes of two Canadian diplomats, in the aftermath of hostage-taking at the US Embassy.
Assuming fake identities, the Americans pretended to be part of a Hollywood team, which had traveled to Iran to scout locations for the sci-fi film "Argo." The imaginary film had a script, a made-up production company in Hollywood (in case the Iranians decided to call to check their cover story), and fake resumes and background documents for the six Americans. CIA agent Antonio Mendez, who was the mastermind of the audacious plan, acted as the pretend scouting team's leader, publishing his secret plan and its execution details more than three decades after it was carried out.
The six houseguests, and the two US intelligence agents who went to Iran to extract them. left Tehran without a hitch on a Swiss Air flight, via Mehrabad Airport; there was no suspicion on the part of Revolutionary Guards stationed at the airport, no frantic phone calls to the airport guards to reveal the escapees' identities, and no chasing of the plane on the runway to prevent it from taking off, as depicted in the film version!
The aftermath of the escape was just as interesting as the escape plan itself. Canada arranged for its diplomats to leave Iran and closed its embassy for fear of retaliation, once the story leaked out. In fact, at least one reporter was already aware of the escape plan before it was carried out, but he agreed to keep a lid on the story so as not to endanger the Americans' lives.

2018/02/10 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Street in Birmingham, Alabama, 1940s Many centuries ago, a cat walked over an Italian manuscript, leaving its paw prints on the document forever, 1445 A fisherman in Istanbul, 1930 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Street in Birmingham, Alabama, 1940s. [Center] Many centuries ago, a cat walked over an Italian manuscript, leaving its paw prints on the document forever, 1445. [Right] A fisherman in Istanbul, 1930.
(2) Quote of the day: "Facebook has a lot of work to do—whether it's protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that the time spent on Facebook is time well spend ... We won't prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools." ~ Mark Zuckerberg, on his personal challenges for 2018
(3) A first for Iran, after 4 decades of Islamic rule: School girls dance in traditional local dresses. I hope teachers and school administrators who allowed this celebration are not imprisoned.
(4) David Brooks, the compassionate, intellectual conservative: I like David Brooks and listen to his analyses on the Friday night editions of PBS Newshour. Yet, on this opinion piece about abortion, I side with Cheryl Axelrod and her letter to Brooks. I remember someone once saying that men should not opine on abortion. While the latter proclamation is perhaps too extreme, reading musings like those of Brooks, I start to wonder.
(5) Are people dying younger these days? Scanning the obituary section of this week's Santa Barbara Independent, I noticed that a quarter of those listed were born in the mid- to late-1940s (around my age) and another quarter were born in the 1960s (~2 decades younger).
(6) Santa Barbara and UCSB product Jack Johnson's benefit concert for Thomas Fire and Montecito Mud-flow victims sold out yesterday within hours. The concert will be at Santa Barbara Bowl on Sunday, March 18.
(7) Metal parts printed in 3D: Nearly all 3D printers use metal powder to shape metal objects. The parts thus formed are susceptible to defects, which make them unsuitable for heavy-duty use in aerospace and automotive industries. Newly proposed modifications to the 3D-printing process for metal parts allow the production of super-strong parts for heavy-duty use.
(8) World's biggest battery in South Australia: Built by Elon Musk's Tesla to store energy during high wind-turbine electricity production for use when the winds die down, the 100MW/129MWh installation was completed in an impressive two months after the contract was signed.
(9) [Final thought for the day] Mr. Trump: If you really believe that your aide, Rob Porter, is innocent, why did you dismiss him? Why didn't you help him fight the unfounded allegations and sue the defamers, instead of whining about them in the following tweet? By the way, it's "people's," not "peoples."
[@realDonaldTrump: "Peoples lives are being shattered and destroyed by a mere allegation. Some are true and some are false. Some are old and some are new. There is no recovery for someone falsely accused &emdash; life and career are gone. Is there no such thing any longer as Due Process?"]
[P.S. 1: Suddenly, Trump cares about lives being shattered, while he has shattered many lives by inhumane bans against this or that group.]
[P.S. 2: There WAS a due process for Rob Porter. FBI investigated him for months and informed the WH about "credible" allegations against him.]

2018/02/09 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Hard disk ad, 1981 Colorized photo of NYC Lower East Side, 1890s Oldsmobile Cutlass coupe, 1954 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Hard disk ad, 1981. [Center] Colorized photo of NYC Lower East Side, 1890s. [Right] Oldsmobile Cutlass coupe, 1954.
(2) Nuclear powers and their arsenals. [Time magazine map] Nuclear warheads in round numbers:
~7000: USA, Russia   ~300: France, China, UK   ~100: Pakistan, India, Israel   ~10: North Korea
(3) Quote of the day: "Anyone caught involved in voter fraud should be immediately deported and have his citizenship revoked." ~ Ben Carson, US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
[How is it possible to revoke the citizenship of illegal aliens? Or, to where would we deport citizens?]
(4) After months of bragging about the record-setting rise of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, Trump now criticizes the Dow for its record-setting fall, which is, of course, treasonous: "In the 'old days,' when good news was reported, the Stock Market would go up. Today, when good news is reported, the Stock Market goes down. Big mistake, and we have so much good (great) news about the economy!"
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Caltrans may close US 101 before the next storm hits, if there is a danger of mud flow in Montecito.
- Cartoon of the day: The next Macy's Parade! [Image] [From: The New Yorker]
- "No love for you": Pakistan bans media coverage of Valentine's Day.
- Meme for our time: Flag-waving, with no regard for truth or human dignity. [Image]
- Chain migration is bad, but not for Melania Trump and her sister Ines, who brought their parents over.
- A sobering thought: Whenever you add an item to your resume, try to also add something to your eulogy.
(6) Only about 4% of crime reports are false, according to the FBI: So, domestic violence allegations are overwhelmingly more likely to be valid than made-up. When there is material evidence (photographs, court orders) and multiple corroborations, the fraction of false reports decline even further. Yet Trump, in talking about Rob Porter, the disgraced high-level White House staffer who resigned, stressed his denial, praised his character, and wished him well in his career. Trump did the same for Roy Moore, which isn't surprising, given allegations of sexual misconduct against Trump himself. General Kelly has offered to resign over the scandal.
(7) This study was conducted at the UCLA lab where my daughter works: Based on an article published in Science and a follow-up clinical trial, Newsweek magazine reports on the potential for using antibiotics to treat autism and mental disorders.
(8) Santa Barbara International Film Festival honors Allison Janney and Margot Robbie for their starring roles in "I, Tonya." Both actresses have also received Oscar nods for their roles.
(9) Lebanon isn't a country, but a place full of people, seemingly thrown together at random: This article from five years ago (which I first posted on February 9, 2013) is still an interesting read, because Lebanon remains an amalgam of diverse communities, barely seeing eye to eye.

2018/02/07 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The original Mickey and Minnie Mouse costumes in 1939, before Walt Disney had them redesigned for Disneyland in 1955 Opening day at Disneyland, 1955 Greta Garbo and the MGM lion, 1925 (1) History in pictures: [Left] The original Mickey and Minnie Mouse costumes in 1939, before Walt Disney had them redesigned for Disneyland in 1955. [Center] Opening day at Disneyland, 1955. [Right] Greta Garbo and the MGM lion, 1925.
(2) Trump (SOTU): "We have sought to restore the bonds of trust between citizens and their government."
Fact: Trust in government has dropped 14 points to 33% during Trump's 1st year. (Edelman Trust Barometer)
(3) Trump is 100% fake: From his hair and facial tan, through his wealth, religiosity, marriage, patriotism, dealmaking skills, presidency, to the bone spurs in the heels that he faked to dodge the draft in the 1960s.
(4) Quote of the day: "Data indicate that it would be nearly impossible for a physically unattractive female instructor teaching a large required introductory physics course to receive as high an evaluation as that of an attractive male instructor teaching a small fourth-year elective course for physics majors, regardless of how well either teaches." ~ Mark Guzdial, on sexism and other biases that make student teaching evaluations unreliable (Communications of the ACM, issue of February 2018)
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Magnitude-6.4 earthquake topples buildings in Taiwan, killing or trapping many residents.
- Two Time magazine cover images: "America Alone" (Feb. 5); "Making America Nuclear Again" (Feb. 12).
- "Let Trump be Trump" means it's okay for POTUS to betray, backbite, brag, berate, belittle, and bully.
- Trump's evangelical adviser: Inoculate yourself with the word of God; Jesus stops you from getting the flu.
- So, Trump wants a parade "like the one in France"? Well, I'd like a real president "like the one in France."
- Artificial intelligence vs. natural compassion: It's not a competition; we need them both!
- This building in Germany produces music, as rainwater flows down the pathways on its facade.
- Vanity Fair thinks that Trump should embrace his baldness: It would be a sign of strength.
(6) Lengthy interview with Quincy Jones: Jones is a wonderful musician, but he stumbles all over the place in this interview. Examples include believing in a Kennedy assassination conspiracy, refusing to comment about the behavior of his friend Bill Cosby, accusing Michael Jackson of stealing songs, opining that the Beatles were awful musicians, claiming that he dated Ivanka Trump, and so on. Interesting read nonetheless!
(7) Quote of the day: "I can't think of a safer place to explore complex emotions for the first time than inside the pages of a book, while sitting in the lap of a loved one." ~ Matt de la Pena, defending the presence of dark themes in kids' books (Time magazine, issue of February 12, 2018)
(8) The Uber of healthcare: Doctors on wheels may be visiting patients at their homes or workplaces, while charging less for the required treatment, if start-ups working on revolutionizing healthcare succeed.
(9) Today's "World Music Series" concert at UCSB's Music Bowl: Dannsair, "Traditional Dance Music of Ireland" [Video 1] [Irish Polka from the movie "Titanic"] [Video 3] [Video 4] [Video 5 featuring a soprano vocalist]

2018/02/06 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The top hat worn by Abraham Lincoln the night he was shot Pierre and Marie Sklodowska Curie, preparing to go cycling, 1890s The swimming pool that used to be beneath the White House Briefing Room, 1946 (1) History in pictures: [Left] The top hat worn by Abraham Lincoln the night he was shot. [Center] Pierre and Marie Sklodowska Curie, preparing to go cycling, 1890s. [Right] The swimming pool that used to be beneath the White House Briefing Room, 1946.
(2) Quote of the day: "But now we have fulfilled far more promises than we promised." ~ Donald Trump, assessing his first year in office [I wish he had listed the promises he had not made but fulfilled!]
(3) Give Trump credit for consistency: All his statements are as accurate as his inauguration-crowd-size and his SOTU-ratings claims. Can you imagine how much discipline Mueller must have not to say a word about Trump's claim that Nunes memo exonerates him?
(4) Flipping the Senate not at all a sure bet: Of the 34 seats up for re-election, 25 are currently Democratic and only 9 are Republican. Democrats must win all of their current seats, plus all three of the Republican seats that are deemed toss-ups. Please vote! [Chart]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Pharmacies in a town of 3000 were sent 21 million prescription painkillers by drug companie, 2006-2016.
- Hundreds of Russian bot accounts joined pro-Trump forces in the #ReleaseTheMemo movement on Twitter.
- Trump (2013): Obama isn't American. Trump (2018): Democrats who don't applaud me are treasonous.
- The bigger, better Rocket Man: Trump wants a military parade along Pennsylvania Avenue!
- General Kelly shows that he is a great match to Trump: "[Dreamers are] too lazy to get off their asses."
- Picasso style through the years. [Poster]
- Nothing makes the mullahs in Iran more nervous than vocal women who stand up for their rights. [Image]
- Mexico is negotiating with Trump about paying for the border wall, but wants a slight change in its position.
(6) Spring in early February: Yesterday, near UCSB's Storke Tower, blossoms and fog were reminders that Norooz (Nowruz) is just around the corner. Saal tahveel or spring equinox, when the Persian New Year 1397 celebrations begin, is in 6 weeks, on Tuesday, March 20, 2018, 9:15:28 AM PDT. [Photos]
(7) Yesterday's Dow Jones Industrial Average fluctuations and one-day drop: Opening 25,338; High 25,521; Low 23,924; Monday's closing 24,346; Previous closing 25,521 (single-session drop of 1175 points, 4.60%).
(8) Trump: "We'll do a shutdown and it's worth it for our country. I'd love to see a shutdown if we don't get this stuff taken care of. ... We'll go with another shutdown."
Sarah Sanders (cleaning up after Trump minutes later): "We are not advocating for the shutdown."
[Those who clean up after Trump. whether in the White House or in Congress, will have a lot of explaining to do when shit hits the fan!]
(9) Fairness in algorithm design: Increasingly, algorithms are being used to allocate scarce resources, thus bringing forth the notion of fair computation. However, fairness is difficult to define in a consistent and generally-acceptable manner. Problems where the notion of fairness arises are complicated and quite varied, so let us consider a rather common problem that many of us have faced in our lives: that of dividing the rent fairly among housemates. Suppose a housing unit to be rented by n people has n bedrooms, with each housemate getting one bedroom. Different housemates assign different values to the bedrooms. Let v[i,j] be the value assigned to bedroom j by housemate i. How would one go about determining a fair division of the rent? [Reference: K. Gal, A. D. Procaccia, M. Mash, and Y. Zick, "Which Is the Fairest (Rent Division) of Them All?" Communications of the ACM, Vol. 61, No. 2, pp. 93-100, February 2018]

2018/02/04 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
A siding (side track) allows trains to park or pass each other, when traveling in opposite directions (1) Our rotting infrastructure takes more victims: A siding is a piece of track parallel to the main one that allows trains to park (typically at stations) or two trains traveling in opposite directions to pass each other in an area where there is just one main track. Entry to the siding is controlled by signals at both ends. In the case of the latest Amtrak train collision and derailing that killed 2 and injured 100+, an outdated signaling system allowed the passenger train to go on a siding where a freight train was parked. It is a trivial technological fix, with simple sensing and electronic devices, to disallow trains from entering a siding when there is already a train on it. Just as gun deaths do not seem to trigger any sort of reform in our gun laws, technology-related deaths do not make our government think about rebuilding our rotting infrastructure. Thoughts and prayers never fixed anything!
(2) Salvador Gomez Colon, 15, raised more than $123,000 and helped distribute 100s of solar lamps to Puerto Rican families who are still without power, 4 months after Hurricane Maria.
(3) This Observer article presents one of the best analyses of the declassified Nunes memo, characterizing it as much ado about nothing, produced by the echo chamber around Trump.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- NYC-to-Miami Amtrak train hit a freight train in SC and derailed early Saturday, killing 2 and injuring 100+.
- Paul Ryan, realizing a secretary's annual tax savings of $78 isn't something to brag about, deletes tweet.
- Ancient Egyptian tomb, containing remarkable 4400-year-old paintings, discovered just outside Cairo.
- This must be some sort of a record: Four untrue claims (aka lies) in a single 47-word tweet!
- Trump can't see anything beyond his own elongated nose: Did Russia interfere in our elections or did it not?
- Snacks for this afternoon's concert: You know, the one that's preceded and followed by football! [Photo]
(5) Researchers at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, have developed a customizable, fabric-like power source that can be cut, folded, or stretched while maintaining function.
(6) US plans for retaking the lead in the race to develop the world's fastest supercomputer may be in jeopardy: China's pre-exascale supercomputer could overtake Summit, a machine developed for the US Department of Energy that is expected to surpass 200 petaflops when deployed later in 2018.
(7) Comedian Jimmy Kimmel's humorous ad for Trump Hotels: "Take advantage of 'Mexico Pays Days.' You stay, Mexico pays. Just pay with a credit card and write 'Mexico' on the bill to get reimbursed by Mexico."
(8) The "Storm Glass": This birthday gift from my children purportedly predicts changes in the weather. As my older son noted, not very useful for SoCal, because it will always show the same state! Perhaps I should regift it to a friend in Canada or northeastern US.
On-line sources state that its accuracy is dubious. "It contains a mixture of ammonium chloride, potassium nitrate, camphor, water, and alcohol, making a normally clear liquid in which different types of white crystals periodically grow and dissolve. The idea is that the mixture is so finely balanced that minor fluctuations in atmospheric conditions will change the solubility of the chemicals and produce a wide variety of crystal shapes, from tiny floating flakes to large masses of feathery fans. Each supposedly predicts a certain type of weather."
(9) Finally, my birthday celebrations are behind me: As in fairy tales, where celebrations go on for days, my birthday was celebrated on three consecutive days, first through dozens of birthday-wishes on my actual birthday, then a day of phone calls and belated well-wishes, and finally, yesterday, through the family dining out and gathering in Ventura for cake and gifts. Thanks to all for many kind words and generous gifts.

2018/02/03 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Painting showing Kurdish dancers (1) Kurdish dance music: A dozen videos I have come across recently.
[Bahram Osqueezadeh & Pejman Haddadi]   [Aziz Weisi]
[Omar Souleyman, "Warni Warni"]   [Jamshid, "Ten'nek"]
[Belly dance to Kurdish music]   [Hammarkullen carnival dance]
[Kurdish folk dance from Iraq]   [Female fighters dancing]
[Kurdish dance music, orchestral]   [Parwana]
[Persian and Kurdish dances]   [Turkish and Kurdish dances]
(2) Quote of the day: "Women are NOT a special interest group. They are half of this country and they are perfectly capable of making their own choices about their health." ~ Barack Obama
(3) Observation (humor): "In Spain, matadors enrage the bull with a one-meter piece of red cloth; in Iran, women do the same with a piece of white cloth." [Translated from Roya Hakakian's Persian post on Facebook, referring to "White Wednesdays," when women wear white scarves in protest to mandatory hijab laws.]
(4) Quote of the day: "Donald Trump calling for bipartisanship is just as believable as Mike Pence calling for bisexuality." ~ Comedian Jimmy Kimmel
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Jeff Bezos, worth $116B, will be world's first trillionaire in 4 years, if his fortune grows at the current rate.
- American Road & Transportation Builders Association: The US has 4259 structurally deficient bridges.
- Among wealthy nations, America is the most dangerous place for kids, and things may be getting worse.
- If Phil the groundhog sees his shadow today, we will have a few more months of Trump.
- Young men and women spell out their message: R-E-S-I-S-T [Photo]
- Julie Flapan and Jane Margolis of UCLA aim to make the next generation of programmers more diverse.
- Goleta Water District reminds us in a postal flyer that we are still in Stage-III water shortage emergency.
- A wave of rock shaped by wind and rain towers above a plain in Western Australia, 1963.
- A classic Hollywood beauty in her youth: Elizabeth Taylor as a ballerina, 1951.
- Trump to Mueller: "I'm really looking forward to talking to you—just give me a minute." [NYer cartoon]
(6) Data longevity: Big data isn't just "lots of data," although "volume" is in fact one of the so-called "4 Vs" characterizing the big-data universe. Sometimes, we refer to "5 Vs" instead of 4, to include "value." Data is valuable to the enterprise or individual generating or collecting it, so protection against loss or theft and preservation over extended periods of time is called for. Encoding and replication provide protection against accidental loss, as discussed in my EBDT article "Data Replication and Encoding" (pubs list).
However, we must also be concerned with data loss due to format obsolescence, storage-media obsolescence, and stored-data degradation, that is, we should care about data longevity. Note that storing data in the cloud does not remove any of the problems just cited, as the cloud must also use some form of storage medium to hold the data. All three problems can be dealt with via data refreshing, the frequency of which will depend on the rate of degradation or obsolescence.
It follows that lifespans of digital storage media must be studied and taken into account in ensuring data integrity. Because these days, we store our data in the cloud, cloud storage services should safeguard the data by keeping it on multiple device types and refreshing the data by making new copies every once in a while.

2018/02/01 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Graphic design: State of California and its municipalities (1) Interesting design: California and its municipalities.
(2) Today is my 71st birthday: My new age has many interesting properties. It it the 20th prime number and forms a twin pair of primes with 73. It is a permuatable prime, as its reverse 17 is also a prime. It is an Eisenstein prime, a Pillai prime, the largest supersingular prime, and a centered heptagonal number. Finally, on a psychic site, I found the following statement: "If the angel number 71 keeps showing up in your life, it signifies that your guardian angels are just around, waiting to be of assistance to you."
(3) Here we go again: Trump's claim that his SOTU Address had the highest ratings ever is utterly false. The speech itself was full of lies, false comparisons, and misstatements. After keeping quiet on Twitter for a day, Trump has resumed his attacks on Democrats and the media, forgetting his own call for unity and bipartisanship.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- In a 2016 radio interview, current EPA Chief Scott Pruitt had said that Trump would abuse the Constitution.
- About one-third (95 out of 289) of all American Nobel Prizes in the sciences have been earned by immigrants.
- I like the Google Calendar app, which I use on my laptop and cell phone, and recommend it to everyone.
- The closer Mueller gets to the full Russia meddling story, the more erratic the Republicans become.
- The White House releases a redacted version of House Intelligence Committee's classified memo. [Humor]
- Cartoon of the day: America First! [Image]
Sam Quinones speaking at UCSB on 2018/02/01 (5) Lecture on America's opiate crisis: Sam Quinones spoke today at 4:00 PM in McCune Conference Room under the title "Dreamland: America's Opiate Epidemic and How We Got Here." Quinones is an LA-based freelance journalist and author of three nonfiction books, including the highly influential Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic. He has reported on immigration, gangs, drug trafficking, and the border as a reporter for LA Times (2004-2014) and as a freelance writer in Mexico (1994-2004).
It is often claimed that the opiate epidemic went unnoticed for more than two decades, until it became a middle- and upper-middle-class problem. This isn't true, as addiction to opiates has been and continues to be a white middle-class problem, except that until 2015, families and parents felt isolated and too ashamed to openly admit the problem. Just as the gay-rights issue didn't take off until everyone knew of some gay person around them (as a result of more gays coming out), the opiate crisis was not recognized as deserving attention until it became so widespread that it affected nearly all families, directly or indirectly.
One of the complications in dealing with the opiate epidemic is that it originated from doctors and big pharma, rather than the Mafia and drug rings. Washington is reluctant to act because of the large sums of money politicians get from the medical and pharmaceutical lobbies. The situation got worse when opiates became a source of income for some, who would obtain a huge supply with a trivial co-pay and then turn around and sell it for hundreds or thousands of dollars. Things are beginning to change in the healthcare industry, though, and opiates are not prescribed as frequently or as indiscriminately. Doctors now try to limit the length of treatment with opiates, replacing them with alternative pain medications as soon as possible.
Quinones writes the "Dreamland Blog," where he discusses these and other ideas:
A side comment about Quinones' work is his spat with "60 Minutes" (the CBS newsmagazine), which he claims stole his ideas for a story, without crediting him or his book.
[Tonight's sunset, as seen from the edge of the campus to my home, as I walked back from the lecture.]

2018/01/31 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon portraits of Richard Nixon and Donald Trump (1) Russia's meddling in the 2016 US election, the probe being conducted, and Trump's reaction to it increasingly resemble the Watergate scandal.
(2) Quote of the day: "Women are NOT a special interest group. They are half of this country and they are perfectly capable of making their own choices about their health." ~ Barack Obama
(3) Sleep troubles may be signs of Alzheimer's: "A fitful night's sleep and a habit of daytime catnapping may be an early-warning sign of Alzheimer's dementia, according to new research conducted in humans and mice."
(4) Google's new search optimization tools: Google has released the beta version of its brand-new (built from scratch) search console and I was invited to try it out. It allows you to manage your presence on Google Search, confirm which of your pages are indexed, get info on how to fix indexing errors, and monitor your search performance with 16 months of data. For example, the first of these two charts shows the total number of clicks and impressions on my UCSB faculty Web site over the past three months. The second chart shows access to my computer architecture textbook page and its presentation slides (the lull in access during the Christmas break is clearly visible).
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Virginia Tech freshman who owned an assault rifle tried to buy 5000 rounds of ammo before being arrested.
- Many Republican lawmakers were on a train that hit a truck. They were headed for a legislative retreat.
- Donald Trump's approval ratings by state: It is above 50% in only 12 states. [Map]
- [Trump dictionary] Bipartisanship: Both parties agreeing with the President, when the President is Trump.
- Trevor Noah: How Joe Kennedy's speaking to the Dreamers in Spanish undermined his message.
- Explanation of the Super Blue Blood Moon we witnessed today. [Image credit: BBC]
- Vida Movahedi, the mom who created an iconic image of Iranian women's defiance, released from prison.
- Iranian women emulate the iconic pose of recent street protests by raising their scarves on sticks.
- Women's resistance movement in Iran picks up steam. [Cartoon credit: IranWire]
- Iranian and American feminists' joint statement, with Linda Sarsour a signatory, causes controversy.
(6) UCSB Music Bowl noon concert, as part of the World Music Series: Mariachi Las Olas De Santa Barbara performed a program it calls "Singing to the Moon"; quite appropriate, given today's super blue blood moon! One of the performers explained that Mariachi bands are quite flexible, taking any musical style and making it their own. Mariachi music got some jazz influences when a number of Cubans took back the jazz style from New York. The final video below shows a student musician I encountered on the way to the Mariachi concert. [Video 1] ["Blue Moon"] ["Fly Me to the Moon"] [Sing-along] [Video 5]

2018/01/30 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Qajar-era peddler of drinking water in Iran Lincoln's Head at Mount Rushmore under construction, 1937 A game of human chess, St. Petersburg (Leningrad), circa 1924 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Qajar-era peddler of drinking water in Iran. [Center] Lincoln's Head at Mount Rushmore under construction, 1937. [Right] A game of human chess, St. Petersburg (Leningrad), circa 1924.
(2) The very rare Blue Blood Supermoon lunar eclipse: The big, bright, and red moon will be visible on January 31. The lower the moon goes, the larger it will appear. NASA will cover the event beginning at 5:30 AM EST tomorrow (Wednesday, January 31, 2018).
(3) Certain big-data collections can compromise national security: Imagine a "heat map" generated from smart-phone and smart-watch data, showing the movements of many millions of people around the world over months or even years. A map published by Strava Labs in November 2017 based on its fitness-tracking service covered 17 billion miles of distance and a total recorded activity duration of 200,000 years. A visual representation of this data can reveal locations of homes and businesses (user being stationary for an extended time period), as well as the paths of military and intelligence personnel in various secret locations. Privacy provisions in the service allow a user to turn off tracking, but because privacy is an opt-in rather than opt-out provision, most people don't bother to use the features. So, the collected data is full of pitfalls for individual users and for organizations, including governmental and military units.
(4) Actual Dr. Seuss cartoon from 1941: It criticizes America's policy on denying European Jews safe haven during the Holocaust. Note the slogan on the mother's shirt. "... and the wolf chewed up the children and spit out their bones ... but those were foreign children and it really didn't matter."
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Three major firms join forces to create a company offering affordable quality healthcare to their staff.
- UCSB geologist describes how coincidence of conditions created 'a perfect storm' that wrecked Montecito.
- Suspected Canadian serial-killer, a gardener, buried bodies under his clients flower beds.
- Interesting 4-minute explanation (in Persian) of the concept of free will, or lack thereof.
- Migration of humans out of Africa may have happened a lot sooner than previously thought.
- Digital PDA of 34 years ago: Your secret telephone directory on your wrist, ad from 1984.
- Quote: "Go often to the house of thy friend, for weeds choke the unused path." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
- The New Yorker Cartoon: Interrogator to woman: "Talk, or we'll make you watch the State of the Union!"
- Travellers' nightmare: Cleaners at a Chinese Sheraton used same brush to clean toilet bowls and cups.
- Choose your pets with care: Giant pet python named 'Tiny' strangles its 31-year-old owner at home.
(6) Self-destructing circuits: Going well beyond the self-destructing tape player in old "Mission Impossible" films, Cornell University and Honeywell engineers have developed circuits capable of self-destruction via a radio command that opens graphene-on-nitride valves sealing cavities filled with damaging chemicals.
(7) ATM jackpotting: A new crime wave, taking advantage of system vulnerabilities to withdraw large sums of cash from ATMs, is spreading from Mexico to the US.
(8) The documentary film "Score": Tonight, I attended a screeing of producer Robert Craft's wonderful documentary about the art and challenges of making film music (UCSB's Pollock Theater, 7:00 PM). The process of composing film scores, with its difficult requirements and tight deadlines, was described by a multitude of talented and prolific composers, including the incomparable John Williams and Hans Zimmer. I am a film-music aficionado, and so particularly enjoyed the producer's thoughts at the end of the screening. [Photos]

2018/01/29 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The '4 Vs' of big data, in an IBM infographic (1) The "4 Vs" of big data in an IBM infographic: The fourth "V," given in this image as "veracity," having to do with correctness and accuracy of data, is sometimes replaced by "value," the data's importance or worth. Alternatively, one might view the big-data domain as being characterized by "5 Vs."
(2) This new week, with expected spring-like temperatures in the 70s, began with a spectacular sunrise. All of this would have been quite enjoyable in the middle of winter, were it not for extreme fire danger due to high temperatures, low humidity, and expected winds, particularly in Ventura and points to its south.
(3) Governor Brown's directive calls for Increasing the number of zero-emission vehicles in California to 5 million by 2030. [WSJ report] [WP report]
(4) A new antibiotic drug: Preliminary study indicates that a drug discovered in the 1970s may be more effective and better for the body than the current last-resort superbug antibiotic.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad dead at 91: Will they have a special Hijklmn furniture sale in his honor?
- Palestinian man uncovers ancient Roman burial site in his backyard after heavy rainfall.
- John McCain calls out Putin's dictatorship and sham election, following the arrest of his key opponent.
- CIA Director: There has been no reduction in Russian meddling in Europe and the US.
- Sanctions against Russia, passed by the US Congress last year, have not yet been imposed.
- Pilot makes emergency landing on the 55 Freeway in Costa Mesa, flying under an overpass in the process.
- Unintended humor: President Trump says he is not a feminist, shocking women around the world!
- Of interest to tourists and other world travelers: Health risks, security threats, road accidents. [Maps]
(6) Interesting technical talk on computational complexity: Daniel Lokshtanov (U. Bergen) spoke at 3:30 this afternoon in a Computer Science Department seminar under the title "Coping with NP-Hardness." Saying that a problem is NP-hard means that (unless P = NP) an algorithm that solves all instances of the problem optimally using time polynomial in the size n of the instance does not exist. The running time of O(2^n) or worse rises very quickly as n grows. However, faced with such problems, we do not give up, because algorithms of the following kinds may be discovered for them. Lokshtanov discussed each kind of attack with the vertex-cover (a running example) and other easily-understood problems. The vertex-cover problem is that of identifying the smallest possible set of vertices in a graph that "touch" every edge of the graph, so that removing those vertices would lead to the removal of all edges. As a practical example, consider the case where vertices represent elements in a large data-set and edges represent data incompatibilities. Solving the vertex cover problem allows us to remove the smallest set of data points (outliers) such that the remaining points are compatible with each other.
- An algorithm with O(2^sqrt(n)) worst-case time, say: The field of exact exponential-time algorithms.
- An algorithm that comes within a small constant factor of optimality: The field of approximation algorithms.
- An algorithm solving simple instances optimally: The fields of restricted-input and parameterized algorithms.
- An efficient algorithm that converts simple instances to equivalent small instances: The field of kernelization.
Here are links to the PDF file of the speaker's book on parametrized algorithms and to his Web page.

2018/01/28 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The dancer by Gustav Klimt, 1916 Logo of the Holocaust Remembrance Day Evolution of logos for five major Hollywood film studios (1) Selected images for a very special day: [Left] The dancer by Gustav Klimt, 1916. [Center] Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day: Let's remember the atrocities and renew our 'never again' pledge! This UN-designated day commemorates the genocide that led to the death of 6 million Jews, 1 million Gypsies, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people, and 9,000 homosexual men by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. [Right] Evolution of logos for five major Hollywood film studios.
(2) Trevor Noah responds to those who criticized the toughness of the female judge in monster Larry Nassar's sentencing hearing: He also says that perhaps those who enable sexual predators should get a percentage of their sentence, like a commission!
(3) California's independence or cessation movement began years ago, but it is gathering steam because of Trump. To paraphrase the dealmaker-in-chief, we are getting a very bad deal from the rest of the country.
(4) Mushrooms could solve America's crumbling infrastructure: Yes, mushrooms, or at least a type of fungus scientifically known as Trichoderma reesei. A new technique uses fungi to fill the cracks in concrete, creating a self-healing concrete that is low-cost, pollution-free, and sustainable.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- More than 100 die in Afghanistan: Suicide bomber drives an ambulance through a security checkpoint.
- South Korea fire killing 37 comes just one month after 29 died in a blaze in an 8-story building.
- Talk about scary jury duty! 'El Chapo' promises not to kill any jurors in his upcoming federal trial.
- Burger King becomes political with its support of Net Neutrality: Hoping it's not a whopper!
- Lives lost to mud-flow aside, Montecito properties lost value, slashing SB County's property-tax income.
- France may institute fines of 90+ euros for men following women on the street or whistling at them.
- Russia will go to the moon in 2019 with its first moon-landing in decades.
- The Catholic Church needs more exorcists due to increased demonic activity, says priest.
- Will Trump be able to use his deal-making prowess in making a plea deal with Mueller?
- The Religious Right is all Wrong: Which one of these two guys would you buy a car from? [Meme]
- Bill Mahr: After meeting with its president, Trump gives Rwanda "most-favored shit-hole" trade status.
- Men should support women in their rights struggle: The rise of women does not mean the fall of men.
(6) Leaked draft of Trump's infrastructure plan leaves many unimpressed: The administration will require that states assume the bulk of funding for any project, capping federal support at 20%.
(7) Red alert in the middle of winter? High temperatures, low humidity, and winds have brought renewed fire danger to Southern California, particularly points to the south of Ventura.

2018/01/26 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
'The Last Supper' selfie (1) The Last Supper: If smartphones and selfie sticks had been invented 20 centuries ago.
(2) Time to hold officials accountable: US Olympic Committee tells USA Gymnastics it will lose its status as a governing body unless the entire board resigns by Wednesday and an interim board is in place by February 28.
(3) Here is what happens when America is run by Wall Street and big oil: Trump's 30% tariff on imported solar panels is the beginning of a trade war that will hurt the renewable-energy industry and line the pockets of major oil companies. We are going backward on all fronts!
(4) Pedestrian-unfriendly streets of Isla Vista: Walking between home and work, I go through Isla Vista, a dense community of mostly students, with some family residences on its west end. Most IV streets do not have sidewalks, forcing me to walk 3/4 of the one-plus-mile distance to the edge of the campus along the roadway. Where there is a sidewalk, as along Del Playa, shown in this photo, it is often partially or totally blocked by electrical poles, parked cars, or other obstacles. The streets are also bicycle-unfriendly, because they have no bike lanes and are relatively narrow, making it a challenge for a biker when two cars cross each other in opposite directions. Talk of road improvements have been going on for years, with little tangible results.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Another politician ousted by the #TimesUp movement: Rep. Patrick Meehan will not seek re-election.
- Facebook hires Jerome Pesenti, former CEO of BenevolentTech and a leader of IBM's Watson platform.
- More women are running for congressional seats and governorships than ever before. [Images]
- Car visits the dentist in Santa Ana, California: DUI case gone a tad too high, leading to airborne car!
- Cal Poly San Luis Obispo cuts ribbon on solar farm, expected to supply 25% of its total electrical needs.
- France Cordova, US National Science Foundation Director since 2014, profiled by US News & World Report.
(6) UCSB Library is a great home to students: A few years ago, when the library expansion and renovation project began, I was skeptical, asking why the extra space was needed in the age of shrinking stacks due to e-books and e-journals. I have since changed my mind. Tonight, when I had some time to kill between an extra-help session for my course and a musical performance on campus, I snapped these photos of wonderful study spaces, including group study rooms, that the expansion has provided for students and other patrons.
(7) Talk about distraction with a shiny object: Sean Hannity dismisses the NYT story about Trump having ordered Mueller's firing in June 2017 as fake news and distraction tactic. Later in the same program, he back-pedals and reluctantly confirms the veracity of the story. But then ... watch for yourself ... he leaves the story for the next day and cuts to a high-speed police chase video!
(8) Souren Baronian's Taksim in concert: I just walked home from UCSB after attending an enjoyable concert at the Multicultural Center Theater. A full house swayed to a unique blend of Armenian, other Middle Eastern, and jazz music in two sets. There was food afterwards, but I did not stay. Baronian was born in NYC's East Harlem neighborhood to Armenian parents who had fled the genocide. He grew up with his family's heritage, while also frequenting jazz clubs during what was the golden age of jazz. This rather unusual combination of experiences led him to form an Armenian and Middle Eastern Jazz Ensemble in the 1970s. Baronian is seated second from the left on stage in these five videos.

2018/01/25 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Map showing 11 separate 'nations' within America (1) America really consists of 11 separate nations, with entirely different cultures: These cultural differences contribute to the political tensions between states and how they fit together to form a national identity.
(2) Social-media posts include a hit-list of high school students in Santa Barbara: Parents are livid that San Marcos High School administration did not act on the threats and did not notify the parents of named students.
(3) Quote of the day: "It isn't the mountain ahead that wears you out; it's the grain of sand in your shoe." ~ Robert W. Service
(4) There's nothing virtual about the massive amounts of energy used to create or exchange bitcoins: The electrical power required to create one bitcoin is equivalent to the average US household's use in two years. Advocates argue the energy cost, which has been rising steadily, is needed to secure the networks and support a financial infrastructure free from bank or government interference. In addition to the energy costs of bitcoin creation, each bitcoin transaction needs 80,000 times more electricity to process than a Visa credit card transaction. Critics who view cryptocurrency as a speculative bubble warn it contributes to global warming and waste without any real benefits.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Despite Trump's denials, leaks show that he ordered Robert Mueller fired, but backed off under threats.
- Larry Nassar gets 40-175 years. MSU President resigns over failure to act on reports of sexual abuse.
- Is General John 'nut-job' Kelly on his way out? Rumor has it that Ivanka is looking for a replacement.
- Sri Lanka reimposes ban on women buying alcohol days after it was lifted for the first time in 4 decades.
- Montecito's mud-flow killed two young mothers, and two of their children, from the same large family.
- Elderly man, who escaped the Montecito mud-flow, in critical condition after being hit by drunk driver.
(6) The Internet is abuzz with comments on changes in Ivanka Trump's Twitter bio: She has apparently stopped pretending that she cares about women's rights. Could the reasons be the same as Melania Trump's abandoning her efforts against cyber-bullying?
(7) Talk at UCSB by CS faculty candidate Dr. Negar Kiyavash: Talking under the title "Causal Inference in the Presence of Latent Nodes," Professor Kiyavash presented her work on discovering near-optimal approximations to the topology of a highly complex network, while observing only a subset of its nodes. Active (interventional) and passive (observational) inference based on limited information are critical to the successful deployment of social, financial, and biological networks, with their immense scales and correspondingly large data volumes, although, in today's talk, Dr. Kiyavash dealt only with observational inference. She highlighted how timing could be used as a degree of freedom that provides rich information about the dynamics, thus allowing the resolution of the direction of causation, even with limited observation. [Photos] [Web page]
(8) Throwback Thursday: Looking through my files in search of documents about the activities of IEEE Iran Section during the 1970s, I came across this poster from Informatics Society of Iran's formative months, when we were focused on recruitment of members. The main part of the graphic design is a TV-like display unit of those days, bearing the society's name and initials (ISI and aleph-aleph-aleph), in Persian and English.

2018/01/23 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Sign seen at the women's protest march on January 20, 2018 (1) This sign, photographed at the Women's March, intrigued me, both due to its cleverness and because I am currently listening to Carly Simon's memoir, Boys in the Trees. And, no, the song wasn't written about a specific person, though Warren Beatty comes close to a qualifying person!
(2) Criminal neglect: Michigan State University and USA Gymnastic had been told repeatedly about sexual assault on young gymnasts by Dr. Larry Nassar. There have been resignations at USA Gymnastics, but none at MSU. Resignations won't even cut it, because their neglect borders on criminal.
(3) Academy Awards nominations: There are nine best-picture nominees, including leading contenders "The Shape of Water" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." Here is the complete list of nominees.
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Magnitude-8.2 (revised to 7.9) earthquake off the coast of Alaska triggers Pacific tsunami warnings.
- Mind-boggling: Teen, who was repeatedly molested by Dr. Nassar, is still getting bills for 'treatments'!
- Snow-woman in the city of Marivan, Iran, defies mandatory hijab laws. [Photo]
- Deranged Trump supporter, who threatened many CNN employees by calling them, arrested.
- Woman engineer dies in prison following her arrest during Iran's street protests.
- Cars parked on UCSB walkways, Sunday 2018 /01/21: Example of many violations of campus traffic laws.
- Working child: Calligraphic artwork by Mehdi Saeedi.
- Cartoon of the day: Kelly to Trump: "This one requires the signature of your parent or guardian!" [Image]
Sign reading 'No Trolls Allowed' (5) My plan to deal with trolls (Facebook post): Internet trolls maximize their disruptive effect by commenting on high-traffic sites and posts. Instead of offering their own posts, where they can express their ideas freely in our open society, they offer their narratives as comments on others' posts. Their comments are often unrelated to the main point of the post and are designed, via name-calling and other tactics, to goad others to respond.
Over time, many of my posts have been hijacked by trolls, in a way that if you read the last few comments, you can't tell what the original post was about. The needles of relevant and helpful comments get lost in the haystack of irrelevant, and often long-winded, musings. Social media etiquette requires that one comment directly on the post, offering corrections, additional insights, and helpful suggestions. Let me provide a hypothetical example.
Me: Clinton's experience would have made her a better POTUS than Trump.
Troll: But she is crooked and her husband cheated on her.
This exchange may compel me or someone else to opine that Trump is 100 times more crooked and that he himself, rather than his spouse, is a cheater. This will then be the starting point of the discussion devolving into a comparison of deeds of cheating and other matters, real or fake, that are only tangentially related to the main point of the post: Clinton Foundation, Benghazi, uranium deal, e-mails, child sex-ring, and so on. From now on, I will exercise my right to remove irrelevant, crude, and other disruptive comments from my Facebook timeline. After all, this is my space for interacting with friends and others who honor the social media etiquette alluded to above. My previous policy of simply ignoring such comments proved ineffective: sometimes, trolls comment on their own comments, with no reply from me). In the extreme, I will block trolls from commenting.

2018/01/22 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Russian writer, philosopher, and mystic Leo Tolstoy telling his grandchildren a story, circa 1890 Kodak's first prototype digital camera, 1975 Albert Einstein at the opening of New York's World Fair, 1939 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Russian writer, philosopher, and mystic Leo Tolstoy telling his grandchildren a story, circa 1890. [Center] Kodak's first prototype digital camera, 1975. [Right] Albert Einstein at the opening of New York's World Fair, 1939.
(2) Iran's ayatollahs have moved into the digital age, bringing along their antique thoughts!
[Grand Ayatollah Gerami's Web site, showing his answer to a question about whether a man and a woman planning to get married are allowed to look at each other's body.]
(3) Russian operatives pitting Americans against one another: A CNN report reveals that during the 2016 presidential campaign, Russian-sponsored Facebook groups organized two separate rallies at the exact same time and in the exact same location in Texas. One was a rally for Muslims and the other an anti-Muslim rally. Trump's top aides re-tweeted posts by several such Russian groups.
(4) Leaning Tower of San Francisco: The 56-story Millennium Tower is sinking into mud and tilting toward its neighbors. A large contingent of lawyers is fighting it out and blaming various parties as being at fault and, thus, responsible for fixing the problem. Meanwhile, time is running out for implementing a fix.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Philippines volcano erupts, unleashing a giant ash column and molten rocks.
- World's greatest deal-maker: Donald had an idea for ending the shut-down, but Mitch wouldn't buy into it.
- Street artist 'Tom Bob' adds color to mundane object around town. [Photo]
- Tonight's colorful sunset, at the end of a beautiful, spring-like day, captured from UCSB's West Campus.
- The state of trails in the Santa Barbara area, after the fire and mud-flow. [79-minute talk]
- Cartoon of the day: "I don't understand. We followed the directions to a T. We should be there." [Image]
(6) UCSB SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind seminar: Kathleen McDermott spoke today under the title "Individual Differences in Learning Efficiency" at 4:00 PM in Psychology 1312. An alternate title could have been "Individual Differences in Long-Term Memory," as learning is synonymous with long-term retention of knowledge. McDermott was introducted as being the "M" in DRM Paradigm, a procedure in cognitive psychology used to study false memory in humans. The procedure was pioneered by James Deese in 1959, but it wasn't until Henry Roediger (McDermott's spouse) and Kathleen McDermott extended the line of research in 1995 that the paradigm became popular.
Questions addressed by McDermott are listed in one of the slides shown in these images. Her research has shown that fast learners are also better at retaining the knowledge. In particular, "memory athletes," who can memorize long random sequences of digits or order of cards in a deck of cards fairly quickly, are also excellent learners. Even though for one person, making problems more challenging, and thus slowing down the learning process, improves retention, across different learners, learning speed correlates well with improved retention.

2018/01/21 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cartoon: The murdered Iranian protesters will not be silenced (1) Cartoon of the day: The murdered Iranian protesters will not be silenced. [Cartoons like this one support the claim that Iranian cartoonists are among the most creative in the world.]
(2) Paul Ryan (rightly) removes Pat Meehan from the House Ethics Committee, upon learning of the Representative's payoff to settle sexual misconduct allegations. He should apply the same standard everywhere. What's good for the House, is good for the White House!
(3) Quote of the day: "[Tolerance] is the consequence of humanity. We are all formed of frailty and error; let us pardon reciprocally each other's folly—that is the first law of nature." ~ Voltaire
(4) Stephen Miller is brought out from the shadows and blamed for Trump's erratic behavior during government funding negotiations. Senator Lindsey Graham leads the charge against Miller.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Taliban attack on foreigners at Kabul luxury hotel leaves at least 18 dead.
- Missouri governor urged to resign amid allegations that he blackmailed ex-mistress with nude photos.
- Government shutdown: Chinese media characteriz US government as chaotic and chronically flawed.
- Lunatics galore: Texas judge asks jury to return 'not guilty' verdict, because God told him so!
- Wonderful examples of dynamic, virtual-reality art. [3-minute video]
- Girther: Anyone who doesn't believe Trump weighs 239 lb, as announced; where's the girth certificate?
(6) Formalist Quartet in concert: The LA-based group played music by UCSB composers at Carl Geiringer Hall, beginning at 4:30 PM today. The program is shown in one of these images/photos. Heena Yoon's 2018 piece "Penguin, Penguin" was performed with penguin props placed by members of the audience on a round spread representing polar ice-cap, and later removed, as the music contemplated the fate of penguins, once all the glaciers on Earth melt. Nick Norton's 2018 piece "Light Delays," inspired by communication delays in space, had the cellist play notes, which were replicated with various delays by three violinists positioned around the concert hall. The iPad score-sheet is a sign of the times!
The Formalist Quartet is an ensemble dedicated to the performance of adventurous repertoire focusing on contemporary pieces and world premieres as well as exploring a diverse spectrum of early music and the standard repertoire. [Web page]

2018/01/20 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Cover image for Roxane Gay's 'Hunger' (1) Book review: Gay, Roxane, Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Harper Audio, 2017.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Gay is the best-selling author of Bad Feminist: Essays, a 2014 title (now on my to-read list) that criticized "professional feminists" as being out of touch with women who most needed the movement. Hunger is about food, self-image, and the ability to feed your urges while also taking proper care of yourself. Gay writes primarily for women who share some of her challenges and perspectives, but as a male reader, I found myself relating to and learning from her experiences.
Gay's body is the protagonist in this memoir in several different ways. First, because she was obese and, later, overweight, Gay experienced much hardship in way of body-shaming and outright discrimination. Second, having suffered a gang rape at age 12, she carried the scar for life. In fact, the extra-weight problem resulted in part from the rape experience, as Gay tried to wrap herself in what she characterizes as a safer exterior. Third, her skin color as a black woman served as another strike against her. Fourth, her bisexuality intensified and complicated the other problems.
Gay admits her many contradictions. As a feminist who can't bother to learn to fix her car. As an obese woman who seeks acceptance but also wishes she could be smaller. As a promoter of self-confidence who also practices self-loathing. In fact, this last contradiction led to the saddest outcomes, as Gay tolerated one abusive relationship after another, because she thought she didn't deserve any better.
In my view, every feminist (I do count myself as one) should read this book, as it aptly exposes the devastating effects of gender discrimination, combined with racism, fat-shaming, and fear of alternate sexual orientations.
(2) Whoever wrote this headline is more brilliant than the genius in the White House: "Doctor: No heart, cognitive issues." The alternative, "Doctor: No brain, heart problems," would have been just as appropriate!
(3) Joke of the day: Trump's tweet about today's Women's March. "Beautiful weather all over our great country, a perfect day for all Women to March. Get out there now to celebrate the historic milestones and unprecedented economic success and wealth creation that has taken place over the last 12 months. Lowest female unemployment in 18 years!"
(4) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Government shutdown is now in effect, ruining Trump's celebration of his inauguration's anniversary.
- Trump now blames the Democrats, but he once said that any shutdown is ultimately the President's fault.
- US 101 is slated to reopen on Monday 1/22, in time for the early-morning commute.
- PBS Hewshour's coverage of today's nationwide Women's March.
- In the US, 678K Twitter users followed a Kremlin-linked troll account or retweeted/liked one of their posts.
- British teen accessed top-secret US Middle East Ops by pretending to be the CIA Director.
- Cartoon of the day: "It's almost like everything he says gives us a reason to wear a stupid hat." [Image]
(5) Women's Rally/March in Santa Barbara: The rally part in De La Guerra Plaza was extended by a couple of hours and the march along State Street cancelled, because the police had refused to provide security along the route. The gathering was much smaller than last year's and the topics discussed more diffused, hurting the effectiveness of the event's messaging. Here is a small part of one of the many eloquent speeches by young women at today's rally. The speaker aptly reminded us that it's not enough to just be non-racist in our personal lives. We must be actively anti-racist in society. This song ended the rally. [Photos]
[P.S.: Driving to downtown Santa Barbara for the Women's March, I passed by a convoy of 50+ dump trucks on their way back from northern Goleta, where they are currently dumping mud from Montecito clean-up.]

2018/01/19 (Friday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Big Data (1) What is big data? Big data isn't just a lot of data, but is distinguished by four features, the so-called "4 Vs," that create challenges for computer-based applications. One of the Vs is "volume" or data amount. Before elaborating on the other three Vs, let me introduce the terminology used to describe data volumes. Here is a rough guideline:
- KB (kilobyte, 10^3 bytes): One page of text, or a small contact list
- MB (megabyte, 10^6 bytes): One photo, or a short YouTube video
- GB (gigabyte, 10^9 bytes): A movie
- TB (terabyte, 10^12 bytes): Netflix's movies; 4-years' worth of watching
- PB (petabyte, 10^15 bytes): Data held by an e-commerce site or a bank
- EB (exabyte, 10^18 bytes): Google's data centers
- ZB (zettabyte, 10^21 bytes): WWW size, or capacity of all hard drives
- YB (yottabyte, 10^24 bytes): Worldwide daily data production by 2020
The other 3 Vs are "variety" (diverse formats, including unformatted), "velocity" (rate of generation or change), and "value" (worth of the data to an enterprise or application). Dealing with big data requires big storage, big data processing capability, and big communication bandwidth.
I have just finished the first drafts of five articles on big data that will appear in Encyclopedia of Big Data Technologies. The articles and citation for the forthcoming encyclopedia are found in my list of publications, near the top and currently preceded by the codes EBDT0 to EBDT5.
(2) Tomorrow's nationwide Women's March, including here in Santa Barbara, isn't just about Trump, but constitutes a protest about the entire US sociopolitical structure that lets misogynist men control and abuse women at every level, all the way up to the highest office in the land. #Resist #MeToo #TimesUp
(3) Trump's view of the wall has evolved according to his Chief of Staff, but not according to Trump himself.
- "My concept of the wall has not changed or evolved since I first thought of it." ~ Donald Trump
- "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
(4) The man worshiped by Mike Pence and other Bible-thumping conservatives cheated on his first wife with his second wife, cheated on his second wife with his third wife, and cheated on his third wife with a porn star. Being just as promiscuous politically, he has changed party affiliation seven times, according to the book Trump Revealed, which I am about to finish and will review soon.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Amazon and Apple have narrowed down the list of candidate cities for their 2nd headquarters.
- You can't make this stuff up: ISIS rapper who married an FBI spy was killed in a Syria strike.
- The genius in the WH tweeted: "Government Funding Bill past last night in the House of Representatives."
- Robert Mueller's investigative team is exempt from furloughs in case of government shutdown.
- Leaks are good for democracy: Dictatorships survive by keeping corruption and nepotism under wraps.
- FEMA personnel are on site in Montecito to help mudslide victims rebuild, but so are low-life scammers.
- Out of touch with reality: Reality TV crew arrested for trying to smuggle pretend explosives onto plane!
(6) A book I found on the new-arrivals shelf at the UCSB library expands my already-long to-read list by one: Michael M. Gunter, The Kurds: A Modern History, Markus Wiener Publishers, 2nd ed., 2017

2018/01/18 (Thursday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
The evolution of the US-Mexico border wall (cartoon) (1) Cartoon of the day: The evolution of the US-Mexico border wall.
(2) SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind seminar: Roddy Roediger spoke today under the title "Making It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning" at 4:00 PM in Psychology 1312. He began by observing that the typical learning strategy consists of repetition of the study-test cycle. Research has shown that tesing, or retrieval practice, enhances long-term retention and slows forgetting. Testing of memory not only assesses what we know, but changes it. Future recall is facilitated more by testing than by additional study. As an example, use of flashcards is effective because it constitutes a type of testing or active learning. In short, testing should be viewed as contributing to learning and not just as an assessment method. [Slides] [See also the following item.]
(3) UCSB's SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind has llined up an impressive array of lectures for the rest of this academic year. All but one of the lectures are held in Psychology 1312 at 4:00 PM on Mondays.
(4) A wonderful rendition of one of the most moving patriotic songs about Iran: Mohammad Nouri's "Ey Iran." Here is Mohammad Nouri's own rendition. And here is another of Nouri's memorable patriotic songs, "Safar Baraay-e Vatan" ("Journey for the Homeland").
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Interactive before and after photos of the Montecito January 9 mudslide/mudflow.
- Poetic justice: Exposing the anti-immigration immigrants.
- Anne Frank movement: Hundreds of rabbis promise to hide African refugees facing deportation in Israel.
- Twelve-year-old with epilepsy and others in her group will take Jeff Sessions to court on medical pot use.
- Apple's "Text Bomb" bug: A simple text message that crashes iPhones and Macs.
- Tonight's sunset over Devereux Slough: Clouds tend to add to the beauty of sunsets.
(6) Silicon Valley has more foreign workers than domestic ones: If talk of revoking the H1B visa program is implemented, the US tech industry will be in deep trouble. Last year, Microsoft and Google each requested about 5000 such visas, paying the recruited workers an average salary of about $130K.
[P.S.: Here goes the myth of low-paid foreign workers depressing the US job market!]
(7) Hush-money paid to a porn star: Stormy Daniels was reportedly paid $130,000 by Donald Trump's lawyer, Michael Cohen, through a specially formed LLC, just weeks before the 2016 presidential election.
(8) Trump's highly ironic "Fake News Awards" backfire: "The awards, whivh were announced on Wednesday evening (and saw Newsweek take a very respectable eighth place), singled out The New York Times, ABC and CNN for the top spots—but WikiLeaks took the time to remind Trump that his own administration was a 'frequent' source of fake news."

2018/01/17 (Wednesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Laptop computer of 25 years ago vs. today (1) History in pictures: Laptop computer of 25 years ago vs. today.
(2) The identity theft roulette: In his IEEE Computer magazine article, entitled "Equifax and the Latest Round of Idnetity Theft Roulette" (issue of December 2017), Hal Berghel maintains that what we know about the Equifax data breach, which affected half of all Americans, is just the tip of the iceberg. Companies play fast and loose with our personal information, pocketing the profits, and leaving us holding the bag when things go wrong. In another article I was reading yesterday, the claim was made that auto companies are tracking our moves in newer leased or purchased computer-equipped cars and have detailed schemes on how to monetize their information about where we drive. It's frightening to realize that your car company knows more about where you have been than your spouse!
(3) Robotic dragonfly from the 1970s: This spying tool, with an impressive range of 200 m, was built by US intelligence for putting a miniaturized listening device into place, without raising suspicion. It was never actually used, because even the gentlest breeze blew the 1-gram bug-carrying bug off course. [Source: IEEE Spectrum magazine, January 2018]
(4) Secretary of Homeland Security nominee, Kirstjen Nielsen, with her obviously Norwegian name, claimed she didn't know that Norway is a predominantly white country!
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Ex CIA agent arrested for passing classified info, including names of undercover agents, to China.
- Automakers are tapping into our personal data by tracking the vehicles they sell or lease.
- All-time record amount spent on natural disasters in the US during 2017: $306 billion.
- The January 11-18 issue of Montecito Journal documents the mud-flow that devastated the community.
- Time magazine's 2-page spread depicting the rescue of a victim from under the mud in Montecito.
- Last year, for the first time ever , Cadillac sold more cars in China (175,000+) than in the US.
- I was delighted to find this mini-lettuce 6-pack at Ralphs: Perfect size for a single-serving of salad.
(6) What if Jewish immigration had been banned in the 19th century? "[Imagine the implementation of that proposed ban] on what they perceived to be some genetic inferiority. What, in terms of enterprise, genius, imagination, and philanthropy would have been lost to America as a country? And what, in terms of human tragedy, would have ultimately weighed on our conscience? Today, American Jews are widely considered the model minority, so thoroughly assimilated that organizational Jewish energies are now largely devoted to protecting our religious and cultural distinctiveness. Someone might ask Jeff Sessions and other eternal bigots what makes an El Salvadoran, Iranian or Haitian any different."

2018/01/16 (Tuesday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Wonderful Persian calligraphic art plays on the word 'eshgh' ('love'), with its 5 dots (1) Wonderful Persian calligraphic art plays on the word 'eshgh' ('love'), with its 5 dots. [Artist unknown]
(2) Believe it or not: John Tyler, the 10th US president, born In 1790, has two living grandsons. [Both he and the last of his 15 children remarried and had children very late in life.]
(3) We should embrace change brought about by technology, not fear it: The fraction of farmworkers in the US has declined from about 80% a little over two centuries ago to 2% today. This change has come about quite smoothly. Had farmworkers of the early 1800s known that most of their jobs would be lost to automation and productivity improvements, they would have objected vehemently, just as coal-miners and factory-workers are doing today. Freeing 78% of the population to contribute in other ways to our economy was actually a blessing in disguise.
(4) My tweet on the Dunning-Kruger effect is cited in Forbes article: About 46% of men and 30% of women think of themselves as geniuses, whereas the most generous definition of the term, based on IQ scores over 140, qualifies one in every 250 people for the superlative.
(5) End of the world: In the topsy-turvey world of Trump, America is gaining respect among other countries, but we are really ridiculed at every turn, including on this Der Spiegel cover image. Interestingly, Time magazine also uses a similarly unflattering cover image of Trump in reviewing the first year of his presidency.
(6) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- US general to NATO: Russia's decade-long full modernization of its military is a threat to Europe.
- Doctors warn about deadly consequences of holding back a sneeze.
- SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket, designed for carrying humans to Mars, undergoes extensive testing.
- Foiled ISIS plot to blow up the Statue of Liberty with pressure-cooker bombs revealed.
- Inventor Peter Madsen charged with killing and dismembering journalist Kim Wall on his submarine.
- Zambia's tourism office issues new ad in the wake of Trump's racist comments.
- Adamson House in Malibu, California, features floor tiles resembling a Persian carpet.
- Tonight's majestic sunset, photographed over Goleta's Devereux Slough. [Photo]
(7) Debris basin: This is a concept I learned today. For creeks that flow over steep terrains, engineers dig giant basins at regular intervals, so that debris and boulders that are dislodged by flood-waters come to rest there and do not damage structures further downhill. The mud-flow of January 9 in Montecito not only filled all the debris basins but caused them to overflow, leading to the devastation that we witnessed. The next rain may move additional debris, including boulders that have come to rest at various locations in Montecito. The Army Corps of Engineers is working hard to open up large debris basins and move the boulders, some the size of trucks, before the next rain.
(8) On per-capita GDP growth: A GDP growth of 2% would be bad if our population were growing by 3-4%. However, given that the US births minus deaths add about 0.5% to the population and immigration contributes another 0.3% to population growth, a GDP growth rate of 2% translates to a per-capita growth rate of 1.2% per year. Such a growth would produce significant improvement in the standard of living over a decade or two.

2018/01/15 (Monday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Dr. Martin Luther King, photographed by Bob Fitch, in Atlanta, 1966 (1) History in pictures: Dr. Martin Luther King, photographed by Bob Fitch, in Atlanta, 1966. Happy MLK Day! Dr. King's ideas are even more vital today, during the presidency of a bigoted and intolerant person, who, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, has claimed he is "the least-racist person in the world"; just one of his many blatant lies!
(2) Trump thinks repeating a statement makes it true: "I am the least-racist person"; "There is no collusion"; "I have a very high IQ." The first statement has been proven false repeatedly. Robert Mueller will likely assess the second statement. See regarding the one on IQ.
(3) Computer science tops the list of fastest-growing undergraduate majors at UK universities: The trend accompanies significant increases in the percentage of women in computer science (8.4% increase over three years) and science subjects in general (39% to 42% over four years).
(4) EU's 5-year plan to build the world's fastest computer: The European Union has launched a $1.2-billion project to construct the world's fastest supercomputer by 2023, an exascale system capable of 10^18 calculations per second. The project is seen as a way to challenge the supercomputing prowess of China and the US, which have traditionally dominated the Top-500 supercomputers list.
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Digest of Micheal Wolff's Fire and Fury, for those who don't have the time to read the full book. [Humor]
- A brewery in SLO is using its facility to can water for Santa Barbara residents in need of safe drinking water.
- From the annals of useless research: Causes of death in traditional English folk songs.
- "Having empty pockets is no fun, but even worse is having an empty brain or an empty heart." ~ Anonymous
- Hawaiians make light of the false alarm they got over a ballistic missile attack in progress.
- Projection on Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC.
(6) Santa Barbara County's interactive map allows you to see the destruction caused by mud-flow in Montecito, California. Clicking on a dot reveals the property address and status. The map will be updated as additional inspections are completed. Red dots indicate total destruction, while orange/yellow designates major/minor damage. Blue dots are attached structures. It seems that there were two major flow paths, one in the vicinity of Olive Mill Road and the other about a mile to its east.
(7) Yearning for normalcy: Thomas Fire began in Ventura on December 4 and within a few days, affected Santa Barbara and its surrounding areas. We have been in a state of emergency for more than a month! UCSB's fall-quarter final exams were moved to early January (last week), but the schedule was disrupted when Montecito mud-flows broke out on January 9. Now, winter quarter classes are slated to begin tomorrow, with US 101 still closed and no reopening date specified. This is a bit too much improvisation and uncertainty for my taste. I know, I should be grateful that my house did not burn and no one in my family was buried under tons of mud, but still! On the positive front, the environmental group "Heal the Ocean" has issued a statement on mudslide clean-up efforts and depositing mud on beaches. The statement urges understanding, in the face of immense difficulty of mud removal, where the areas affected may still hold bodies of missing people. The group has been reassured that inspectors are keeping a close watch at the beach dumping sites and that any unsafe load is redirected to an alternate inland site.

2018/01/14 (Sunday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Eight-year-old Samuel Reshevsky defeating several chess masters at once in France, 1920 Women going shopping in Los Angeles, 1960 (photo by Allan Grant, colorized by Kostas Fiev) Queen Elizabeth II greets ... (Can you name the two on the right?) (1) History in pictures: [Left] Eight-year-old Samuel Reshevsky defeating several chess masters at once in France, 1920. [Center] Women going shopping in Los Angeles, 1960 (photo by Allan Grant, colorized by Kostas Fiev). [Right] Queen Elizabeth II greets ... (Can you name the two on the right?)
[Note added on 2018/01/21: A friend pointed out that the boy appears to be losing in every one of the chess matches. I can't independently verify this claim, but trust his word. My apologies for the fake description!]
(2) Bill and Melinda Gates are paying off Nigeria's $76 million debt to Japan. There are two ways you can treat a "shithole": put more shit in it (recall Trump's musing that his rich friends doing business in Africa can make a lot of money there), or remove the shit and help turn it into a livable place.
(3) What happens to books by disgraced authors? In the past, allegation of plagiarism was the main reason for cancelling a book contract or pulling books from shelves. The recent wave of sexual misconduct allegations has resulted in cancellation of multiple book deals. Books already published by such authors continue to sell, some briskly, but they are often re-assigned to less prestigious imprints or publishers. According to Jim Milliot, Editorial Director of Publishers Weekly, "Publishers are not against courting controversy. But it has to be a controversy rooted in ideas." [Adapted from Time magazine, issue of January 15, 2018]
(4) Americans to break meat-eating record in 2018: Per-capita consumption of red meat and poultry is expected to rise to 222 lb (~101 kg). Egg demand will also reach an all-time high. [Source: Time magazine, issue of January 15, 2018]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- The environmental group "Heal the Ocean" issues a statement about depositing mud on beaches.
- Trump likes immigrants from Norway: Here is why they may not be eager to come. [Memes]
- Humor: Reaction in Haiti to Trump's comments on immigration. [Photo]
- Iranian oil tanker sinks after burning for a week, killing 32. [Photo]
- Great answer to a misguided question: Granted, "good" appears in quotes, but what were they thinking?
- Something to remember on the eve of MLK Day about not standing up to evil. [Meme]
(6) Why would anyone dishonor her family to satisfy a childish dictator? RNC Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel dropped her middle name on Twitter after Trump "joked" that she should.
(7) Dumping mud on the beach near UCSB (seen in the background of this photo): My heart goes out to the one-percenters living in Montecito's multimillion-dollar homes, who lost lives and property, but ...
Homes will be replaced (the ~100 lost) or repaired (the ~300 damaged). Even though many residents did not carry flood insurance, there is speculation that because mudslides were caused by Thomas Fire, their fire insurance will provide coverage. The 20 lost lives, ranging in age from 3 to 89, are irreplaceable. They represent unrealized dreams and potentials, and grieving families, who have our deepest sympathy.
Residents of nearby communities, including Goleta, are doing all that's in their power to help. Stories published since yesterday have upset many, however: truckloads of mud, 1000s of cubic yards removed from the Coast Village Road area, are being dumped on Goleta Beach, without any community input. Earlier, authorities had said that speed of search, recovery, and road-opening efforts precluded careful planning and that they are doing the best they can to balance-out various considerations, but the emergency requires quick action.
The dumped mud, it is argued, may contain toxic material, glass shards, plastics, and other debris, which may affect our pristine beach for years to come. Engineers are assuring the public who have gone to the site that the mud will be taken care of by ocean waves and the area will go back to its natural state very soon. My neighbors have been conducting an e-mail discussion on the topic since early this morning. In the words of one, who reacted to reports of mud-dumping on Goleta and Carpinteria beaches, but not in Montecito, "reports read like another example of 1%ers dumping on the rest of us." I will follow up on these stories, because Goleta Beach is one of the favorite spots for me to walk and enjoy the nature. [TV report, with video] [Print report] [Santa Barbara County's press release of 2018/01/12 about mud-dumping on beaches]

2018/01/13 (Saturday): Presenting selected news, useful info, and oddities from around the Internet.
Winston Churchill takes a seat in Hitler's chair, Berlin, 1945 File clerks on electric elevator desks, Prague, 1937 A group of soldiers from the 369th Division, known as 'The Harlem Hellfighters,' World War I (1) History in pictures: [Left] Winston Churchill takes a seat in Hitler's chair, Berlin, 1945. [Center] File clerks on electric elevator desks, Prague, 1937. [Right] A group of soldiers from the 369th Division, known as 'The Harlem Hellfighters,' World War I.
(2) Quote of the day: "When you make a statement like you made yesterday, the question is: 'Do you even understand why we have a Martin Luther King holiday?'" ~ Martin Luther King III, on Trump's scripted statement about honoring MLK
(3) City Council of Washington DC passes a measure to rename the street in front of the Russian Embassy after murdered anti-Putin dissident Boris Nemtsov.
(4) Talk about misjudging a political situation: Early small-scale protests in the city of Mashhad, organized by Iran's hardliners as an affront to President Rouhani in his second term, quickly turned into nationwide unrests threatening the foundations of Iran's clerical regime. [Source: Time magazine, issue of January 15, 2018]
(5) One-liners: Brief news headlines, happenings, and other items of potential interest.
- Journalists struggle to find words/phrases for 'shithole' in Chinese and other languages, Newsweek reports.
- Where governors of states with ocean coastlines stand on Trump's opening of off-shore drilling. [CNN map]
- Merriam-Webster's word of the day is 'reprehensible': it could have just as easily been 'repugnant'!
- The media may be unfair to Trump, but no one empathizes with a bully who treats everyone unfairly.
- Are you curious about your ancestry (humor): If so, then this kit is just what you need.
- Cartoon caption of the day: Patron at the library: "Do you have any why-to books?"
(6) I don't believe Oprah Winfrey should run for US presidency, because, in my view, she isn't qualified. But if she does and wins, consider the contrast between 45 and 46:
Misogynist man vs. Feminist woman; White racist vs. Black activist; Bully vs. Nurturing; Inherited wealth vs. Self-made fortune; Non-reader vs. Book-club champion; Inarticulate vs. Eloquent
(7) Iranians are 15% poorer than a decade ago: This chart shows that the monthly budget of a typical urban household grew for a decade, before declining in the next, during the period 1998 t0 2017. [Source: IranWire]
(8) Recovery from the Santa Barbara mudslides has proven more difficult than anticipated. Mud is being removed from roads and other areas as quickly as possible, but not everyone is approving of where it is dumped. Some is being taken to garbage dumps, but much of it is being deposited on beaches, angering environmentalists. Authorities have revised their estimate of Monday 1/15 reopening for US 101, saying that the highway will remain closed indefinitely.
(9) Final thought for the day: "You may never know their names. They work beneath the headlines and far from the spotlight. When they receive formal recognition from bodies like the Nobel Committee, it is the exception, not the norm. But the fact remains: under the radar, grassroots organizations led by women are quietly changing the world." ~ Melinda Gates, writing under the title "From Mad Men to Marching Women," in Time magazine, issue of January 15, 2018

2018/01/12 (Friday): Here are six items of potential interest.
Charging an electric car in 1905 Mme Decourcelle, first female taxi driver in Paris, 1909 Henry Ford with his first automobile, 1896 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Charging an electric car in 1905. [Center] Mme Decourcelle, first female taxi driver in Paris, 1909. [Right] Henry Ford with his first automobile, 1896.
(2) Computers to the rescue: Ancient Coptic codex, deemed too fragile and damaged to open without destroying it, will be scanned through computerized tomography and then converted to legible text using special software.
(3) Released video shows Khamenei doubting his legitimacy to replace the deceased Khomeini as Iran's Supreme Leader: "Pity an Islamic society if even the possibility is raised that someone like me can be its leader," he reportedly told the Assembly of Experts in 1989, arguing that his selection was against the constitution and that clerics wouldn't obey him because he lacked seniority.
(4) Quote of the day: "Most positive developments are not camera-friendly, and they aren't built in a day. You never see a headline about a country that is not at war, or a city that has not been attacked by terrorists—or the fact that since yesterday, 180,000 people have escaped extreme poverty." ~ Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, writing under the title "The Bright Side" in Time magazine, issue of January 15, 2018
(5) Eight brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- US FTC received more than 4.5 million complaints about robo-calls in 2017, writes Time magazine.
- Iran bans teaching of English in primary schools, citing cultural infiltration.
- Eight flu deaths in Santa Barbara County already, nearly 3 times as many as the entire flu season last year.
- Hypocrite-in-Chief talked about honoring Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday. Makes you want to vomit!
- One of the optimist essays in Time magazine's issue of January 15, 2018, was "The Future We Will Make."
- Staff Winter Warmer: Gathering at UCSB, with coffee, pastry, and displays of staff-made handicrafts.
- Cartoon of the day: Trump world map. [Source: The New Yorker]
- Cartoon caption of the day: "The media is fake news, sad, failing, and unfair—OK, let the cameras in." [TNY]
(6) [Final thought for the day] The divide that seems unbridgeable: Here is a comment by a Trump supporter on a Facebook post. I wonder if he and I are talking about the same man. I must admit that this particular supporter is much more eloquent than most, but still ...
"Whatever, however the naysayers wish to deride and denounce President Trump, he is not at all the standard fare of lying politician, but a refreshing reprieve in a man who has strove hard to keep nearly every promise he made to the American people. Far from the slick-talking salesman that America has been stuck with for nearly 100 years, he is a businessman always getting down to business. What I personally know of him after following him for more than 30 years is that Donald Trump is a true patriot determined to bring America back to moral prominence, military dominance and market preeminence. Trump is a great man, doing an impossible job for a spoiled and ungrateful people; a man for this nation's desperate hour. As most people who have impacted their world radically, they stand alone in the midst of overwhelming opposition, doing the necessary work, though hated, because their love for what is right overrides any desire for selfish gain."

2018/01/11 (Thursday): Here are six items of potential interest.
Photo of Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in the movie 'The Post' (1) The power of real news: The movie "The Post," showcasing perhaps the best actor and actress of our time (Tom Hanks, Meryl Streep; both sure to get Oscar nods) is an affront to the fakery prevailing in the current US administration and its supporters. Steven Spielberg's retelling of the story of the publication of "The Pentagon Papers" in the 1970s is an ode to the power of real news in shaping our society and politics.
(2) On Fusion GPS's congressional testimony: Republican leaders continue to pretend that nothing was going on between Trump and Russia. Trump's own repetition that there was "no collusion" is reminiscent of Clinton's "no sexual relations," that is, parsing words. I suspect that at some future time, there will be a movie about these events, with Meryl Streep playing Diane Feinstein. Mark my words!
(3) This is Iran, where a handcuffed child is clubbed and kicked by security forces and those witnessing the assault film the incident, instead of intervening.
(4) Mudslides and road closures throw a monkey-wrench into UCSB's final exams for the fall quarter, going on this week: Some 10,000 UCSB undergrads come from "southern counties" (Ventura, Los Angels, and others). Not all are affected by the current emergency, as they may have arrived in Santa Barbara before the US 101 closure. Still, instructors are being asked to be flexible in accommodating unusual circumstances.
(5) Seven brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Search for mudslide survivors continues in Santa Barbara: Death toll is at 17, with 8 still missing.
- In an amazing feat, train service resumes between Santa Barbara and the south. US 101 remains closed.
- What an embarrassment of a President! This is so un-American and below human dignity! (#ShitHole)
- Asking Melania Trump: Do you let your son watch his dad speak? What came of your anti-bullying efforts?
- China's new Tianjin Binhai Library is a feast for the eyes: It houses 1.2 million books.
- Quote of the day: "Prejudice can't survive proximity." ~ Anonymous
- Cartoon of the day: "You know, you do have the right to remain silent!" [Image]
(6) Mind-Altering Devices: This was the title of a SAGE-Center talk today (Psychology 1312, 4:00 PM), with the subtitle "How Smartphones Shape Our Thoughts."
The speaker was tech/culture writer Nicholas Carr, whose new book Utopia Is Creepy collects his best essays, blog posts, and other writings to provide an alternative history of our tech age. Carr's acclaimed 2014 book, The Glass Cage: How Our Computers Are Changing Us, examines the consequences of our growing dependency on computers, robots, and apps. His 2011 work, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, was a NYT best-seller. He has also authored two other influential books, The Big Switch: Rewiring the World, from Edison to Google (2008), and Does IT Matter? (2004).
Carr began by observing that technology isn't neutral. When we adopt a tool, we adopt a way of thinking that the tool imposes. In the words of John M. Culkin, "We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us." For example, the invention of mechanical clock changed our way of thinking about time, which then influenced the way we think about and interact with the world around us.
Ours is the age of "compulsive consumption." Most Web pages are viewed for less than 10 seconds. Facebook newsfeed videos are watched for 16.7 seconds on average. We glance at our inboxes 30-40 times per hour (interestingly, if you ask someone how often s/he does this, the answer would be 3-4). Teens text 3300 times per month. Students spend less than 6 minutes on homework before a tech distraction. An average iPhone owner unlocks the device 80 times per day. The average number of iPhone screen touches per day is 2617. Tech media are designed for rapid-fire information consumption, which means constant distraction.
Our adaptation to tech disrupts one of the fundamental ways we turn information into knowledge. Consolidation of information from the thimble of working memory into the bathtub of long-term memory hinges on attentiveness. When you receive information at a very high rate, you don't keep anything long enough to do a good job of consolidation.
Research has shown that the presence of a smartphone near you, even if you don't act on notifications, even if it is turned off, tends to degrade your performance on mental tasks. The same holds for friendships and relationships. Presence of a phone on the table, even if turned off, pulls your attention away from the person you are conversing with. Research by psychologists shows that objects with salience attract much of our attention. And the smartphone carries a lot of salience (see the slide that shows how much important stuff we have on our phones).
There is also disruption of memory known as the Google effect: When we know that something will be easily available to us (say, via a Google search or in a photograph we snap), we are less likely to remember it. The Silicon Valley assumption that more information means sharper thinking is questionable. In reality, the way information is supplied is more important than the amount of information delivered.
We have to be concerned, as makers and users, with how we shape these powerful tools. Where will our deep thinkers and future leaders come from if everyone is so distracted and is incapable of focused thought? There are also positive aspects to these digital tools, when used properly, but the negative will perhaps outweigh the positive if we don't heed the warning signs.
On the way from the Psychology Building back to my home, I snapped these photos of a gorgeous sunset.

2018/01/10 (Wednesday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
A milkman delivers milk after an air raid on London, 1940 Tape recorder, 1932 Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth of Great Britain doing technical repair work during her WW II military service, 1944 (1) History in pictures: [Left] A milkman delivers milk after an air raid on London, 1940. [Center] Tape recorder, 1932. [Right] Princess (later Queen) Elizabeth of Great Britain doing technical repair work during her WW II military service, 1944.
(2) Hundreds of protesters (thousands according to some reports) have been arrested in Iran: Among them, three young men who died shortly after their arrests, purportedly due to suicide, but most likely victims of abuse and torture by security forces. A new report puts the number of "suicides" at five. Nasrin Sotoudeh, human rights defense lawyer and activist, is interviewed about these "suicides" and other developments.
(3) I am amused by Trump supporters lecturing us on morality, over skimpy dresses worn by protesting actresses on Golden Globes Awards night.
(4) Persian Women in Tech: Sepideh Nasiri, founder and CEO of PWIT, aims to alter tech's dreary statistics of women founders and engineers.
(5) Ten brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Lawmakers invited to support #MeToo and #TimesUp by wearing black during Trump's first SOTU Address.
- Mudslide death toll at 17: Many Montecito residents were caught off-guard by mudslides and flash-floods.
- Montecito and Summerland residents must boil drinking water: Restaurants in the area ordered closed.
- Before and after photos: Looking north from the Olive Mill Road US 101 overpass.
- Frigid cold in the US, scorching heat in Australia, and, now, sand dunes of Sahara covered with snow.
- More bad news for book lovers: The US chain Book World is closing after 42 years in business.
- Time report: Trump made 1950 false or misleading claims in 347 days in office; an average of 5.6 per day!
- UCSB's Student Resources Building and its surroundings were closed off today due to a suspicious package.
- Celebrities with big-0 birthdays include Jamie Fox (turned 50 on 12/13) and a very attractive 80-year-old.
- A wonderful Persian poem by Foroughi Bastami, and its more readable version on
(6) Trapped in Santa Barbara for the next few days: US 101, providing the shortest route from Santa Barbara to Ventura is still closed and will remain closed until late Monday. Alternate routes through the mountains are in even worse shape and are also closed. Going north, then over the mountains, south on Interstate 5, and west on State Route 126 is at least 3 hours longer than the normal route. A boating company is offering ferry rides between the two cities, as it did during the La Conchita mud-slides many years ago. So for the next 5 days, we are trapped in Santa Barbara. I hope stores don't run out of food, given that much of the supplies comes to us from Los Angeles.
(7) Final thought for the day: Trump has turned his rage to Clinton, DNC, and the media, but his fitness for presidency was questioned by those around him.

2018/01/09 (Tuesday): Here are six items of potential interest.
 Time magazine cover, issue of January 15, 2018 (1) The optimists: Bill Gates helps edit a special section of Time magazine (issue of January 15, 2018) about optimism, particularly helping kids around the world see their fifth birthdays. He recommends giving to UNICEF and Save the Children. A list of articles in the special section follows.
- Warren Buffet: The Genius of America
- Laurene Powell Jobs: What We Choose to See
- Trevor Noah: The Thing About Millennials
- Malala Yousafzai: Who Runs the World? Girls!
- Lili Cheng: Beauty in the Machine
- Samantha Buds Haeberlein: Closer to a Cure
- Steven Pinker: The Bright Side
- Bono: Why Men Must Also Fight for Women and Girls
- Ava DuVernay: The Future We Will Make
- John Lewis: Necessary Trouble
- Marcus Samuelson: The Kids Table (pictorial)
- Bill Gates (Interview): Hope By the Numbers
(2) Women ruled at Sunday night's Golden Globe Awards: Oprah Winfrey delivered a particularly passionate and pointed speech in accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award (the first black woman so honored), leading to speculation that she plans to run for president in 2020. I do hope that she remains passionate and politically active in defending the rights of women and other oppressed and disadvantaged groups, but hope that she will support a more qualified candidate for president. [1-minute video]
(3) The silver lining: Having a mentally-disturbed president allows us to learn more about psychology. We are taught from childhood that highly capable people tend to be humbler, whereas marginally capable people tend to flaunt their abilities. In psychology, this cognitive bias is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. Wikipedia has a good article on the subject.
(4) Largest known prime number gets larger: The set of prime numbers is infinite, but at any given time, the largest known prime is finite, and it grows with time. Right now, the record is held by the Mersenne prime 2^(77,232,917) – 1, which has over 23 million digits.
(5) Eight brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Winter storm causes havoc in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties in the wakes of recent wildfires.
- Five people killed in Montecito mudslides, south of Santa Barbara; US 101 closed in both directions.
- Here is another report about devastating floods, debris flows, and mudslides in the Santa Barbara area.
- Pacific railroad through Montecito, near Santa Barbara, suffers major damage from flood and debris.
- US's aging and challenged power grid has responded well to frigid weather, with only minor problems.
- Highway turned into pond: Northbound view of US 101, from Santa Brabara's Olive Mill Road overpass.
- Times Square billboard in New York City supports #TimesUp and #MeToo women's movements.
- Borowitz report (humor): "Trump warns that President Oprah would force Americans to read."
(6) Final thought for the day: By mid-afternoon today, the sun came out in my neck of the woods. A few broken branches were what reminded us of the storm that was, but 10 miles to the south, the devastation tells a different story. According to a live news conference, broadcast on KCLU in late afternoon, firefighters are back in action in Montecito and Carpinteria as search-and-rescue crew. There are 13 confirmed deaths. With many more still missing and dozens trapped in affected areas, the death toll likely to rise. The storm's rain total of 2-4 inches was not that impressive, but some areas got 0.55 inch within 5 minutes, causing flash-floods and debris flow. US 101 is still closed, and it is not knowh when it will re-open.

2018/01/08 (Monday): Here are four items of potential interest.
Cover image of Harper Lee's 'To Kill a Mockingbird' (1) Book review: Lee, Harper, To Kill a Mockingbird, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Sissy Spacek, Harper Audio, 2014.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Having recently perused Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman, I decided to revisit her classic 1960 book, the one whose critical and commercial success reportedly froze Lee's literary career, owing to her fear of not being able to match the quality of her prior work. Watchman, based on an early draft of Mockingbird, was indeed not in the same league as the latter.
A detailed review of Mockingbird won't be very useful, given the thousands upon thousands of published reviews (Amazon lists more than 10,000 reviews, with an average 5-star rating, and GoodReads offers 75,000, with an average 4.26-star rating). There is a Wikipedia page on the book, an edition of Spark Notes, and many other sources to learn about the book and its significance. So, I will focus on how my perception of the book changed from perusing it a second time, compared with what I remembered from my earlier reading and from the movie based on it.
The main change in my perception of the book is that the trial of a black man falsely accused of rape, with Atticus Finch (the father of the story-teller Jean Louise, nick-named Scout) serving as his court-appointed attorney, was but a small part of the story, whereas it is the part readers tend to remember most vividly.
The book is really about life in a small Alabama town, in which everyone knows everyone else. Most of the large number of characters showing up in the story are cartoonish, but the story as a whole is warm and absorbing. The narrative offers many detours into the peculiarities of rural life and the plight of children and adults who, despite being in what we would consider harsh circumstances, lead life contentedly, if not enthusiastically. Having the story told by a young girl (with her older brother Jem also being a major character) adds to its charm and effectiveness.
Almost all Americans have read Mockingbird as part of school curricula. I strongly recommend a re-reading, in view of racial scabs that, in the words of former RNC Chair Michael Steele, have been turned into fresh wounds by Donald Trump and other people in leadership positions picking at them. If you peruse the audiobook version, you will find that actress Sissy Spacek's voice vastly improves the experience.
(2) Fire and fury over Michael Wolff's Fire and Fury: Trump sent his loyal supporters to Sunday talk shows to defend him against allegations that he is unfit to serve as US President. After a heated interview with CNN's Jake Tapper, White House senior adviser Stephen Miller had to be escorted off the set by security.
(3) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Helping stage Trump's "Fake News" awards could get WH staff in trouble for abusing their powers.
- PDF of Fire and Fury circulates on-line: Unclear whether it's intended to hurt Trump or Wolff & his publisher.
- WH staff: Trump watches 4-8 hours of TV daily, starts meetings at 11 AM, and retires to residence at 6 PM.
- SpaceX successfully launches Falcon 9, world's largest-ever rocket, delivering top-secret satellite to orbit.
- Beware of tax scams that proliferate with the arrival of each new year. [Tips from UC administration]
- United for Children of Kermanshah: Fundraising concert, January 14, 2018, Palace Theater. Los Angeles.
(4) Passages from an article in Germany's Der Spiegel, one of the largest weekly magazines in Europe: "Donald Trump is not fit to be president of the United States. He does not possess the requisite intellect and does not understand the significance of the office he holds nor the tasks associated with it. He doesn't read. He doesn't bother to peruse important files and intelligence reports and knows little about the issues that he has identified as his priorities. His decisions are capricious and they are delivered in the form of tyrannical decrees. ... He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media's tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world."

2018/01/07 (Sunday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Hard-working women from a cotton mill, 1909 This large Times-Square billboard, bought by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, declared that 'War is over if you want it', 1969 Irony, as people wait in a breadline in Ohio, during The Great Depression, 1937 (photo by Margaret Bourke-White) (1) History in pictures: [Left] Hard-working women from a cotton mill, 1909. [Center] This large Times-Square billboard, bought by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, declared that 'War is over if you want it', 1969. [Right] Irony, as people wait in a breadline in Ohio, during The Great Depression, 1937 (photo by Margaret Bourke-White).
(2) Aftermath of Thomas Fire: From south end of Santa Barbara to Carpinteria, flood and debris threaten residents during major storm forecast for the next couple of days. On this map, blue indicates the areas were evacuation may become necessary.
(3) Quote of the day: "What I saw the president do ... was pick at the scab of race, until it became a wound again." ~ Former RNC Chair Michael Steele
(4) Does academia have a sexual misconduct problem? According to this Newsweek article, it does, and the situation is worst in Humanities, history in particular.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Collision of oil tanker and freight ship off the east coast of China leaves 32 people missing.
- Of interest to those who will be traveling in the near future: Widespread delays and flight cancellations.
- While parts of the US suffer from record-low temps, Australian roads are melting from extreme heat.
- US Air Force releases videos showing the interception of two Russian jets over Europe in late 2017.
- Bannon denies statements about Donald Trump Jr. and seems to be begging for forgiveness from DJT.
- Farm animals in search of a stable genius. [Image]
(6) Something's brewing in California: Yesterday's 5.31-PM, magnitude-3.8 quake, centered 8 miles west of my home in Goleta, about 1.4 miles under the ocean, was the latest in a steady stream of smallish quakes in California that may be omens of a larger one in the near future.
(7) Clash over the book Fire and Fury: Appearing with Jake Tapper on CNN, Trump Senior Adviser Stephen Miller seemed to think that he is entitled to ask his own questions, rather than answer the host's questions.
Here is Trump's delusional tweet afterwards: "Jake Tapper of Fake News CNN just got destroyed in his interview with Stephen Miller of the Trump Administration. Watch the hatred and unfairness of this CNN flunky!"
(8) I put in a longer walk than usual today, in anticipation of two rainy days, beginning tomorrow: My walk took me to Cathedral Oaks Rd. and by Goleta Valley Junior High, where all three of my kids attended long ago.
(9) Final thought for the day: Tonight's Golden Globe Awards produced few surprises. I am not familiar with any of the TV shows or actors, so I focus here on movies. Best-film awards went to "Lady Bird" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri." Guillermo del Toro was honored as the best director. Male acting awards went to James Franco and Gary Oldman. Female acting honorees were Saoirse Ronan and Frances McDormand. Seth Myers did a good job as host, beginning his monolog with "Good evening, ladies and remaining gentlemen!" Heres the complete list of awards.

2018/01/06 (Saturday): Here are six items of potential interest.
One of the first Egyptian women to wear a short dress, early 1960s The Bridge House (Ambleside, UK), an ultimate maneuver in 17th-century tax avoidance, was built on a river between two jurisdictions Curious girl on roller-skates watches army patrol during the Battle of the Bogside, Northern Ireland, 1969 (photo by Clive Limpkin) (1) History in pictures: [Left] One of the first Egyptian women to wear a short dress, early 1960s [Center] The Bridge House (Ambleside, UK), an ultimate maneuver in 17th-century tax avoidance, was built on a river between two jurisdictions. [Right] Curious girl on roller-skates watches army patrol during the Battle of the Bogside, Northern Ireland, 1969 (photo by Clive Limpkin).
(2) Higher education is being undermined: Call me a romantic, but I have a problem with viewing college education as an investment whose pay-off is a job at the end of the line. Higher education isn't an investment by individuals but rather an investment by society and the main pay-offs aren't well-paying jobs, but societal well-being and civility. So, the recommendation of this article, that students must "think like investors" to maximize payoff of college education, is misguided in my humble opinion.
(3) Fashion show, featuring a child bridal outfit, designed to bring attention to the plight of Pakistani girls and raise funds for dealing with the problem. [Video]
(4) Seven brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Clinton Foundation is under active Federal investigation for corruption.
- Feminism is a Zionist plot: Awaiting the reaction of Iranian women to this pronouncement by Iran's Leader!
- Fusion GPS founders ask that their entire congressional testimony be released in lieu of selective leaks.
- Sessions not invited to Trump's Camp David retreat with congressional leaders and cabinet members.
- Weather vs. climate: Day-to-day/week-to-week changes vs. decade-to-decade/century-to-century trends.
- Our stable genius president at work, trying to figure out how this works! [Photo]
- Cartoon of the day: The White House in a blizzard! [Image] [Source: The New Yorker]
(5) The Iran story takes another turn: The Islamic regime is now officially accusing former President Ahmadinejad as having a hand in the ongoing unrests, having previously pointed fingers at Trump, Saudi Arabia, and Israel. Some hardliners are on record accusing Ahmadinejad as being a closet Zionist, and the new narrative of hinting at a coordinated "sedition" by Ahmadinejad (who has a small base of support, but is generally despised in Iran) and hated foreign actors can make the regime's narrative stick. Internal opposition figures (the reformists) are taking a credibility hit, because they stayed silent, offered lukewarm support to protesters, or hedged their bets by playing both sides. There is some hypothesizing that if push comes to shove and the regime is seriously threatened, it will play the ultimate reformist card of bringing to power former officials now under house arrest, to save its behind. The protests are still continuing after two-dozen deaths and a couple of thousands of arrests.
(6) [Final thought for the day] Faux populism: Promising new jobs, higher wages, and great healthcare to the middle and lower classes, while stealing from or defunding social programs to line the pockets of one's rich friends with tax cuts and rollback of regulations put on the books to protect citizens from greedy businesses.

2018/01/05 (Friday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Trend in computer science enrollment of women, compared with other professional fields (1) Attracting women to computer science and engineering: UK is among the countries that have realized the importance of facilitating the entry of women to various fields of engineering, particularly computing. Publications of the UK-based British Computer Society (BCS) and Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) often carry articles about such efforts and their outcomes. We in the US must resume our efforts in this regard, which were quite successful a couple of decades ago, with the fraction of women computing majors rising to 37%, before taking a nosedive and settling at half that level in recent years. Med schools have been most successful in this regard, with the fraction of female students now hovering at just over 50%.
(2) Southernmost part of Switzerland: As I turned on my computer this morning, this breathtakingly beautiful aerial photo filled the screen. Thought I should share!
(3) Michael Wolff talks to "Today Show," as his book about the Trump White House is released: His body language shows discomfort, which is troubling, but he says that after many years of reporting, he has not had a single retraction or even correction. We'll see over the next few days whether his credibility remains intact.
(4) Bad news on the computer security front: Cyber-security experts have discovered two major/widespread security flaws, Meltdown and Spectre. These bugs could enable hackers to steal the entire memory contents of computers, including mobile devices, personal computers, and cloud-network servers. The Intel-specific Meltdown flaw can be exploited by renting space on a cloud service and then taking sensitive information from other customers. The Spectre flaw is more difficult to exploit, but it affects most processors currently in use and there is no known patch. A fix for it may not become available until new-generation chips are introduced.
(5) Quote of the day: "The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist-deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five." ~ Carl Sagan
(6) The Borowitz Report (humor): "Donald J. Trump, legendary among U.S. Presidents for his aversion to reading, demanded on Thursday that members of his White House circle act out Michael Wolff's new book, Fire and Fury, in a command performance in the Oval Office. According to those who witnessed the dramatic presentation, Jared Kushner played the role of Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump played the role of Ivanka Trump, and Sarah Huckabee Sanders played Steve Bannon."
(7) Claiming to have saved Christmas, Trump shows no mercy for science: "After almost a year in office, President Trump has yet to name a science adviser and director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Since World War II, no American president has shown greater disdain for science—or more lack of awareness of its likely costs."
(8) [Final thought for the day] Putting our teenagers in a state of perpetual jetlag: Tonight's PBS Newshour had a final segment about teenagers' biological clocks having been programmed to stay up later and get up later than older folks. Forcing them to start school at 8:00 AM is akin to putting them into a state of perpetual jetlag. The idea of starting schools later isn't new. For me, this is at least the third time over the past couple of decades that I am hearing these arguments for later school start times, yet there has been no action, owing to various purported difficulties such as coordination with parents' work schedules, day-care, and after-school sports programs. As a nation famous for solving the most challenging technical problems, I am surprised that these problems have not been addressed once and for all.

2018/01/04 (Thursday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Cover image of the new book 'Fire and Fury,' along with photos of Trump and Bannon (1) Talk of the town: The new book Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff, asserts that Trump and his allies expected to lose the election and were preparing to monetize on the fame resulting from an almost-presidency. When he won, and after the initial shock wore off, they started grooming their post-presidency business opportunities. Despite Trump's and his lawyers' temper tantrums, discussions of Wolff's book, which provides fuel for the "unfit" argument as a strategy to unseat Trump, are here to stay. There is just too much weirdness to dismiss it all as "fake news."
The juisiciest accounts come from Steve Bannon (now delegated to the ranks of former coffee-boys, after his open criticisms), whose motivation in dissing his former boss is unclear to me. Bannon has a small group of loyal followers, the Alt-Right, which helped put Trump over the finish line, but in and of themselves, are inadequate to even win House or Senate seats.
(2) Quote of the day: "The small eraser at the end of a long pencil is a reminder that you will have a second or maybe a third chance, but the number of chances is limited." ~ Anonymous
(3) There is unrest in Iran, but people are wary of overthrowing a government in vague hopes that something better will emerge: The 1979 experience, where a coalition of revolutionaries promised sociopolitical freedoms and economic benefits, without having a clue as to how to actually implement reforms (or, if you are a cynic, without even believing in their promises) has made people vulnerable to the Islamic Republic's lies that the uprising is led from abroad. Trump, Israel, and Saudi Arabia egging people on is unhelpful in this regard. As the Persian saying goes, "Having been bitten by a snake makes you fear a black-and-white twine."
(4) To Iranian friends: Please refrain from reposting anonymous calls for street gatherings at specific locations. This is quite dangerous, as those heeding the call may walk into an ambush by the Islamic Republic thugs. I know this is a catch-22 situation, as opposition forces are hesitant to put names of individuals or organizations on their calls, yet there is no responsible alternative to posting material solely from known or verified sources.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines from around the Internet:
- US suspends security assistance to Pakistan: Funds and military equipment are being withheld
- The White House bans use of personal cell phones in the West Wing, citing security concerns
- Iranian expats watch protests unfold throughout Iran with great interest and anxiety
- The Dow Jones Industrial average closed above 25,000 for the first time in history
- Another 39 Sears locations and 64 K-Mart stores are slated to close soon
- Michael Wolff's expose on Trump White House, Fire and Fury, will go on sale tomorrow
(6) Southern California Edison is being blamed for the largest fire in California's history: Details are sketchy, but already law firms are advertising to attract clients to sue SCE for damages in the wake of Thomas Fire.
(7) Crossword-puzzle clock, given to me as a holiday gift by my daughter: It comes with real puzzle clues!
(8) Final thought for the day: In e-mail exchanges among college buddies of 50 years ago, offering new-year's greetings and discussing plans for celebrating our 50th year since graduating from Tehran University's Engineering College (Daaneshkadeh-ye Fanni), I was asked to respond to another member's poem for the occasion. Here is my response in Persian.

2018/01/03 (Wednesday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Iconic image of a young Iranian woman raising a white scarf during recent street protests (1) Iconic image of a young Iranian woman raising her white scarf during recent street protests: Iranian women are on the front lines of the movement to claim social and political rights. White-scarf Wednesdays constitute a symbolic protest against mandatory hijab laws in Iran.
(2) A nice logical-reasoning puzzle: The numbers 1-81 should appear in this partially-filled 9 x 9 grid so that successive values are horizontally or vertically adjacent. [Hint: 6 must go between 5 and 7.]
(3) Resistance is working: Trump signs order dissolving controversial election fraud (aka voter suppression) commission after states buck information requests. [Source: AP]
(4) Trump loves street protesters, except when they march against him, in which case, they are professional protesters incited by the media.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Steve Bannon joins the ranks of former coffee boys in the Trump campaign and White House!
- A smallish Target store is coming to Santa Barbara's upper State St., corner of La Cumbre Rd.
- First drops of rain from a minor storm just showed up in Goleta. More welcome rain will arrive next week.
- America-first leads quite naturally to me-first: Everything else is considered socialism.
- Donald Trump and Mike Pence celebrating the New Year: "That's more like it!" [Cartoon]
- More cartoons: Bully seen by parents as presidential material [Image 1]; The art of distraction [Image 2]
(6) Is life in your country for people like you better now than it was 50 years ago? This is the question asked by the Pew Research Center of 43,000 people in 38 countries (unfortunately, not including Iran). Here are the percentages of 'yes' answers for some of those countries: Vietnam (88%); South Korea (68%); Russia (50%); USA (37%); Italy (23%); Venezuela (10%). [Map]
(7) My comment on a friend's Facebook post, purportedly showing women being mistreated at Kahrizak (a notorious prison in Iran), claiming that the "real" video has been released by former Iranian president Ahmadinejad, now considered an opposition member: "Kahrizak happened during Ahmadinejad's presidency by his close allies and friends. To think that he cares about people of Iran by releasing such a video is simple-minded at best. This is most definitely a forgery. [P.S.: I am not saying that women, and men, weren't tortured or otherwise mistreated, only that this particular video is fake.]"
(8) NASA aims for late-2019 flight test of Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, our next-generation deep-space launch vehicle. [Time magazine]
(9) Space exploration, including going to the moon again, will be challenging, to say the least: In 1966, NASA was allocated 4.4% of the federal budget, compared with today's 0.5%. [Time magazine]

2018/01/02 (Tuesday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Rare photo of Hoover Dam from behind, taken during construction, 1936 Bertha Benz driving the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, 1886 Russian soldier carries a statue head of Hitler, Berlin, May 1945 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Rare photo of Hoover Dam from behind, taken during construction, 1936. [Center] Bertha Benz driving the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, 1886. [Right] Russian soldier carries a statue head of Hitler, Berlin, May 1945.
(2) Unrest in Iran: A Facebook friend's apt warning about exercising care before accepting reports on street protests. There is an unusually high degree of misinformation and disinformation, which is further muddled by quite a few external actors trying to advance their agendas by encouraging and directing the protests.
(3) Cartoon of the day: #MeToo Productions presents "Twilight of the Creeps" [Full-page LA Times cartoon, resembling ads for blockbuster movies]
(4) Half-dozen notable headlines from Newsweek on-line:
- Mike Pence promises Trump won't repeat Obama's 'shameful mistake' on Iran protests
- China's new hypersonic missiles could hit anywhere in the US in under an hour: Chinese experts
- Gretchen Carlson takes over as Miss America's board chair in the wake of sexual misconduct scandal
- GOP needs new leadership after backing a president who has promoted conspiracy theories: Expert
- Vandal paints swastikas on mosque, but Muslims pay fine to keep him out of jail
- US ignores terrorists, Pakistan says, as ambassador summoned over Trump's lies-and-deceit tweet
(5) Kenichi Yamamoto, Father of Mazda's revolutionary rotary internal combustion engine (invented by German engineer Felix Wankel), dead at 95: The engine has few moving parts and is thus more reliable than conventional car engines, with their reciprocating pistons, connecting rods, and crankshafts.
(6) Playground taunt: My dad is richer than your dad! Presidential taunt: My nuclear button is bigger than your nuclear button!
(7) The world's last case of polio may have already happened: We will know for sure soon. [From an article by Jefferey Kluger, Time magazine, double-issue of December 25, 2017, and January 1, 2018]
(8) Final thought for the day: "A man raised with access to the same gamut of emotions and choices as women does not say, "Women are special," as Donald Trump recently averred after disbelieving Roy Moore's accusers; he does not delegate sugar and spice and humility and gentleness to the ladies, while defining himself through anger, lust and pride. Boys will not be merely boys. If we let them, boys will be human." ~ Faith Salie, in her "Viewpoint" column entitled "How to Raise a Sweet Son in an Era of Angry Men" (Time magazine, double-issue of December 25, 2017, and January 1, 2018)

2018/01/01 (Monday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Happy new year image (1) A very happy New Year to everyone! Hoping that your new year is filled with laughter, I'll get you started with a few funny new-year's resolutions.
"To tolerate fools more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time." ~ James Agate
"To love myself as Kanye loves himself and to believe in myself as Kanye believes in himself." ~ Anonymous
"To stop doing all the stuff I resoved to do in 2017." ~ Anonymous
"To catch up on my resolutions for 2015, 2016, and 2017." ~ Anonymous
"To break all my resolutions on January 1, because it would free up the rest of the year!" ~ Anonymous
"What's the point of new-year's resolutions? You can make resolutions and give up on them a few days later any time of the year." ~ Anonymous
(2) Socially responsible design and use of computers: The organization Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (CPSR) took shape during 1981-1983, in the wake of concerns for the feasibility and safety of the proposed SDI missile defense system and, more generally, the perils of using computers in warfare. Later, it broadened its activities to educating policy-makers and the public on the responsible use of computer technology, given the potential adverse impact of technology on societal well-being. The organization was dissolved in 2013, purportedly because there were quite a few other entities (including professional computing societies, such as IEEE and ACM) that pursued aspects of its agenda. One could argue that social responsibility and professional ethics must be built into engineering curricula, so that no product is ever developed or no policy advocated without consideration of its social impacts, thus obviating the need for a separate advocate and watchdog. However, in the fast-paced, goal-oriented world of high-tech, ethical considerations are sometimes not given their proper dues, creating the need for on-going reminders to both computing professionals and technology policy-makers.
(3) Isfahan's Friday Prayers Leader, a close ally of Iran's Supreme Leader, says he is shocked by protesters on the streets chanting "death to Khamenei" and praise for the former Shah and monarchy.
(4) Polls show that Biden would beat Trump overwhelmingly in 2020: Even if true, my advice to the Democratic Party would be to look beyond 2020 and go for fresh faces. Beating Trump should be easy, so take the opportunity to rebuild the party. Future young voters will not stomach a government with Biden (77-81 during a possible first term) at the helm, flanked by Pelosi (79-83) and Schumer (69-73) as congressional leaders.
(5) Seven brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Sea-plane crash into a Sydney river kills the CEO of a major company and five close family members.
- Trump halts Obama's $13 billion Amtrak plan to rebuild a crucial passageway from NJ to NY.
- World's youngest female leader: Jacinda Arderns quick wit and humility won over New Zealanders.
- Australia bars registered child-sex offenders from international travel. [Time magazine]
- Quote of the day: "Write your sorrows in the sand and carve your blessings in stone." ~ Anonymous
- Former-President Obama shares on Facebook his 2017 reading list and playlist.
- On January 1, 1999, the day after I signed up for Facebook. I became friends with my daughter. [Video]
(6) How to overcome the holiday blues: Five pieces of advice from celebrities, according to Time magazine (double-issue of December 25, 2017, and January 1, 2018).
- Katie Couric: Cherish lost loved ones while enjoying those you have.
- Robin Roberts: If illness changes your traditions, build new ones.
- Patton Oswalt: Don't fear a holiday alone.
- Kesha: Care for yourself before looking after everyone else.
- Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly: After tragedy, try a simpler celebration.
(7) A forgotten 100-year-old therapy using the bacteria-eating phage virus is saving patients infected with antibiotic-resistant bugs (superbugs). [Time magazine]
(8) Final thought for the day: "I remember what it was like before penicillin. I lost a lot of my classmates. It could happen again. If we don't deal with antibiotic resistance in real time, it will get worse." ~ Dr. Carl Merril, an early phage therapy pioneer, quoted in Time magazine

Blog Entries for 2017

2017/12/31 (Sunday): Here are four items of potential interest.
Ten top new-year's resolutions (1) [Reposting from years past] New year's resolutions: Everyone makes them, but very few keep them. The culprit here may be the overambitious nature of most people's resolutions. Make small, incremental changes and build up on them. If you don't exercise at all, resolve to do it for one minute, rather than half an hour, per day. As Oliver Burkeman suggested in his Newsweek magazine article, issue of December 24, 2012, "willpower is a depletable resource: the more of it you use making one change, the less you'll have left over to make others. Pushing yourself to exercise leaves you more susceptible to burgers."
(2) Los Angeles Times reports on anti-regime protests in Iran: The protesters are said to be motivated by economic hardship and government corruption. There are some reports that the demonstrators did not represent democratic forces. One version attributed the unrest to Ahmadinejad and his followers. Another report pointed the finger at Mujahedin-e Khalgh. A third report credited royalists, who want the return of monarchy. Of course, these reports may have been planted by the mullahs, who control a vast media empire. Nothing coming out of Iran can be trusted. A fourth, more plausible, report claimed that government hardliners organized the protests as an affront to Rouhani's government but that they then lost control of the crowd, who began chanting anti-Khamenei slogans. The official Islamic Republic response is, as usual, off-target, blaming Trump and the US government. Nothing coming out of Iran can be trusted. I'll have to do some research before forming an opinion.
(3) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Women's March Santa Barbara: De La Guerra Plaza, Saturday, January 20, 2018, 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM
- Killings of cops and others continue, while only thoughts and prayers are offered in response.
- Facebook's reminder of the 9th anniversary of my membership, which began on December 31, 2008.
- A year-in-review album created by a Facebook friend, to which I contributed a photo and a message.
- Julie Andrews' wonderful rendition of "Auld Lang Syne": A very happy New Year's Eve to everyone!
- New Year's Eve with my family members, in Ventura, California. [Photos]
(4) What makes America great is innovation and know-how, not confrontation and flag-waving: In a "Historical Reflection" article in Communications of the ACM (issue of January 2018), Thomas Haigh writes under the title "Defining American Greatness: IBM from Watson to Trump," using IBM as an example of what makes America great. "Decade after decade, IBM has been one of the world's largest, most profitable, and most admired companies. Of all American businesses, only General Electric, Apple, Microsoft, and ExxonMobile have generated more wealth. Despite recent troubles, it has been ranked in the 2010s as the number one company for leaders (Fortune), the greenest company (Newsweek), the second most valuable global brand (Interbrand), the second most respected company (Barron's) and the fifth most admired (Fortune)." Putting it succinctly, greatness results from long-term investments in new technologies and platforms that might be deemed risky.

2017/12/30 (Saturday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Chart showing the level of destruction caused by various quakes on the Richter scale (1) Richter scale for earthquakes: Prompted by a Telegram message that contained inaccurate claims, I did some research from Wikipedia, US Geological Survey's Web site, and other sources. Quakes that we can feel have magnitudes of 3.0 or more, although the logarithmic scale has no bottom and the rating can go to zero or below zero. The more destructive earthquakes range in magnitude from 5.5 to 8.9. One-point difference in Richter scale represents a ten-fold difference in amplitude and an approximate 32-fold change in destructive power (10^1.5 = 31.6, with the 1.5 exponent relating amplitude to the energy released).
(2) Bertrand Russel on science: "Science is at no moment quite right, but it is seldom quite wrong, and has, as a rule, a better chance of being right than the theories of the unscientific."
(3) Mahmonir Nadim, an amputee who left Iran 5 years ago and now lives in Sao Paulo, Brazil, shares her life story and sings about women's ordeal in Iran. [4-minute video]
(4) Seven brief items from Newsweek on-line and other sources:
- Ban on openly-transgender military recruits practically reversed
- Year-end parties across the US will be affected by super-cold weather
- Here's a down side of untraceable cash: Crypto-currency expert kidnapped for $1 million ransom in Bitcoin.
- Louisiana man, 67, found to be behind "Nigerian Prince" e-mail scams
- Putin vows Russia will keep permanent presence in Syria
- Man guns down his California law-firm co-worker, before shooting himself
- The Dems are back with fresh new faces: SNL skit
(5) Nectarines, an excellent indie band, will perform along with other groups on January 13, 2018, at the Echo (1822 W. Sunset Blvd.) in Los Angeles, beginning at 8:00 PM. [Sample music]
(6) Trump claims that he has brought "Merry Christmas" back: Let's see if President Obama had declared a war on Christmas! [Video of the Obamas saying "Merry Christmas" repeatedly]
(7) It is extremely difficult to keep track of Trump's blatant lies and misleading statements, which are issued at a high rate, but some are striving to keep a record: To mimic Trump, "During 2017, we have had the largest number of presidential lies in the history of this country; believe me!"
(8) Of possible interest to friends in the Los Angeles area: I was researching events in the Los Angeles area during the first half of January, and found some that interest me. Sharing the Web link and the events I found.
01/01-07: Lights at the Zoo, Griffith Park
01/01-07: Enchanted Forest of Light, La Canada Flintridge; a one-mile walk through lighting displays
01/02: La Brea Tar Pits, free museum day, 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM, with on-line ticket reservation
01/08-14: Santa Monica's Restaurant Week, featuring meals using a chosen ingredient (pomegranate)
01/12-14: Sondheim musical "Into the Woods," Cupcake Theater, evening, 11020 W. Magnolia, N. Hollywood
01/13: Free classical concert at SGI Auditorium, 525 Wilshire Blvd., 2:00-4:00 PM; Santa Monica Symphony
01/15: LACMA free museum day in honor of MLK
[Also of possible interest: LA Weekly's concert calendar, which is sortable by various keys.]

2017/12/29 (Friday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
LA's Staples Center, tonight (1) Mementos of a failed attempt to watch a basketball game at Staples Center tonight: By the time a friend and I got there, only super-expensive seats were available, even if we opted for two singles. The game was between the Lakers and the Clippers, which essentially doubles the number of locals flocking to the arena. We made it a night-on-the-town instead, dining and going to see the movie "All the Money in the World," the story of the kidnapping of J. Paul Getty's grandson, of the gruesome "ear sent in the mail" fame. There was as much intrigue in the making of the film as in the story itself, with Christopher Plummer replacing the disgraced Kevin Spacey just a few weeks before the film's scheduled release date.
[PS: Having lost the previous two matches against the Clippers this year, the Lakers sought revenge, but they ended up losing 106-121.]
(2) Having served up more whoppers than Burger King, it was only natural that Trump would win PolitiFact's "Lie of the Year" award! The lie that earned him the distinction is the May 2017 statement, "This Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story," a lie that he has repeated in various forms many times.
(3) Trump gives an interview to NYT and, suddenly, it's no longer "the failing New York Times"; rather, it is now a paper that would fail without Trump!
(4) Mission accomplished, not: Trump claims that he destroyed ISIS (before it struck again in Afghanistan) and that he won the non-existent war on Christmas.
(5) Most Americans dream of having a white Christmas, but this year it got a little too white for some! Hope everyone stays safe in the ongoing blizzard conditions!
(6) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- New York City fire kills 12: Casualties are expected to rise. At least 4 children are among the dead.
- Investigators looking into the contents of Huma Abadin's e-mails found on Anthony Weiner's computer
- Hotels are doing away with "Do Not Disturb" signs to allow daily checks on rooms.
- Quote: "Don't explain. Your friends do not need it, and your enemies will not believe you." ~ Paulo Coelho
- Humor: NRA will endorse the new Apple iGun. [Video]
- Concert performer's 98-year-old grandma steals the show when she is brought on stage.
(7) Protesting mandatory dress code, World chess champion won't go to Saudi Arabia to defend her titles: Saudi Arabia has its backward laws, but why is the Chess Federation so insensitive to restrictions on women?
(8) Apparently America has already become so great that we don't need the HIV/AIDS Council: Trump fires all Council members by FedEx letter in retaliation for their criticism of White House Policy.
(9) RISC, 35 years later: This is one in a series of articles celebrating the 50th anniversary of IEEE Computer Society by revisiting key topics that have appeared in IEEE Computer magazine over the years. This article, by the UC Berkeley researcher who coined the term "RISC" and designed one of the first processors of the type, examines how the notion of reducing or simplifying instruction sets has affected the progress of computer technology since 1982. Even though CISC, or complex instruction set computers, represented most prominently by Intel's 80x86 architecture, won the battle in the PC and server markets now dominating cloud installations (ironically, offering high performance by translating the complex 80x86 instructions into simple underlying instructions, which are then executed by RISC-like hardware), currently 99% of all processors shipped are RISC products from ARM, MIPS, POWER, and SPARC, to name a few. Products for the mobile market just can't afford the chip real estate needed by CISC's translation mechanisms and their attendant power usage. This is why close to 100% of Apple and Android phones and tablets use RISC processors. It is estimated that Amazon, Google, and Microsoft clouds collectively contain about 10M servers, which is only 4 hours' worth of RISC chip shipments in 2017. [Source: Patterson, David, "Reduced Instruction Set Computers Then and Now," IEEE Computer, December 2017, pp. 10-12.]

2017/12/27 (Wednesday): Hoping to make a dent in my book reviews backlog, I offer two reviews at once.
Cover image for Susan Cain's 'Quiet' (1) Book review: Cain, Susan, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, unabridged audiobook on 9 CDs, read by Kathe Mazur, Books on Tape, 2012.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Introversion is a misunderstood human trait, often confused with shyness or self-doubt. Shy people fear negative judgment, whereas introverts prefer quiet, minimally-stimulating environments. We learn form this book that shyness/assertiveness and introversion/extroversion are orthogonal dichotomies, producing four distinct categories of people. Shy extroverts are exemplified by Barbra Streisand, who has an outgoing personality but is at times paralyzed by stage fright. A shy person and an introvert may both sit quietly at a board meeting, one being afraid to speak up and the other clammed up from overstimulation. Given the similar outward signs, it's no wonder the two traits are mixed up.
Far from being insecure, coy, or anti-social, many introverts simply thrive on contemplation and self-examination. They make great business or political leaders. We owe some of the most exquisite works of art and many of our greatest scientific and technological innovations to introverts. Yet, introversion, like shyness, is viewed as a negative trait in many Western societies, and introverts are often disenfranchised in our world, which is increasingly enamored with fast-talkers and jokesters. Ours is a "culture of personality," which has grown to over-value extroversion.
By providing many examples of successful introverts, and drawing upon the latest psychological research, Cain convinces us that introversion isn't a dysfunction, but rather a totally legitimate way of experiencing the world and contributing to it. Cain doesn't just provide validation to introverts but much practical advice on how to overcome the many barriers they face.
Every introvert should read Quiet. Writing on, reviewer Karen Hall states that this book saved her life. Her personality was poorly matched to the demands of a noisy, stressful work environment, with frequent face-to-face interactions, that did not allow any recharging, before getting on with a difficult assignment. From Cain's book, Hall learned that she needed to take action, which eventually led to accommodations by her boss to work from home part or all of the time. Reading Quiet can also benefit extroverts. Just as introverts occasionally play extroverts when absolutely required, the reverse process is also useful, given that solitude facilitates creativity. [This 19-minute TED talk by Cain contains most of the key ideas in the book.]
Cover image of Dan Harris's '10% Happier' (2) Book review: Harris, Dan, 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help that Actually Works, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Harper Audio, 2014.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is the story of an ABC News reporter (with stints on "Nightline," "Good Morning America," and weekend evening news), who was once told by his boss that, realistically, he would never land a news anchor's position, because he lacked the requisite looks and voice, so he had better take the "Nightline" position he was being offered. This is one of the anecdotes Harris relates in his well-written and compelling book. Early in his career, Harris struggled with self-confidence issues and anxiety attacks, which drove him to drug and alcohol abuse.
The book's account is honest and full of interesting insights about our selfish tendencies. Harris admits that he has been a jerk for much of his life and that he experienced psychological lows when he did not get the assignments he coveted at work. He was always on edge and felt jealousy toward colleagues who did get the best assignments. He names Peter Jennings and Diane Sawyer as two of his most influential mentors and the people who kept him going, when the going got tough.
Harris's personal pursuit of the happiness formula, alongside his professional assignments (Peter Jennings made him the religion correspondent for ABC News), got him to mingle with self-help and spirituality gurus, such as Eckhart Tolle and Deepak Chopra. He also delved into Buddhism, approaching spirituality as a skeptic throughout. Learning about science-based methods caused Harris to settle on meditation as a key to finding inner peace and happiness. He did struggle with the seeming contradiction of a meditative existence with the drive needed to achieve success in news and other competitive businesses, but eventually came to the conclusion that the two are not mutually exclusive.
The "10% happier" moniker is what Harris devised for responding to skeptics, when they learned about his meditation and spiritual pursuits and pressed him about the results. He advises that meditation strengthens your brain in the same way that curls exercise your biceps. It prepares you for responding, rather than reacting, to events. It inserts a very short delay between stimulus and response, so that you can decide whether you want to say or do what the voice in your head is urging. Consider it the mental equivalent of the short delay inserted in certain live TV shows to guard against the broadcasting of profanities.
If you find yourself uninterested in the book or unwilling to spend much time on it, this 50-minute video of the author's talk and Q&A at Google isn't a bad substitute.

2017/12/26 (Tuesday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
50th and 30th anniversaries to be celebrated at the end of June 2018 (1) Two important anniversaries are coming up for me at the end of June 2018: As the year 2017 draws to a close, prompting me to think about what's coming in 2018, I see the end of my 30th year of service as Professor at UC Santa Barbara, and passage of 50 years since graduating from the Engineering College (Daaneshkadeh-ye Fanni) of Tehran University.
My first 16 (pre-UCSB) years of teaching/research as Assistant/Associate/Full Professor were spent thus: 1.5 years at UCLA; 12 years at Sharif University of Technology (5 years before and 7 years after the Islamic Revolution); 2.5 years in Canada, at Waterloo and Carleton Universities.
Although I did not come to the US as a refugee, practically speaking, I sought refuge here from religious persecution and denial of professional opportunities in my motherland. As I approach retirement, and the kids branch out to become independent adults, I marvel over the trek that took me from a first-grader in Tabriz (where my father was based at the time, as an engineer for Iran's National Railroad) to a recognized expert in computer engineering education and research. A tumultuous journey as it was unfolding, but one that seems rewarding, when I look at it from a point near the end of my career!
(2) The market is overdue for a correction, and when it happens, it will be the Democrats' and media's fault, not Trump's, who took credit for its rise.
(3) Trump's threat to cut funding to countries that opposed the Jerusalem decision shows that he sees US resources as his personal assets.
(4) Christmas Day in Fremont, CA: After having brunch at Black Bear Diner, I headed with a group of family members to Coyote Hills Regional Park for a 4-mile hike to burn off some of the calories! Later in the day, we had a traditional Jewish-Chinese dinner at Ho Chow Restaurant!
(5) Eight brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- A new study casts doubt on the effectiveness of calcium and vitamin-D supplements for bone protection.
- A racist Christmas tradition continues in the Netherlands.
- California's Thomas Fire ended up becoming the State's largest fire ever: A dubious distinction!
- Trump makes his own presidential coin. [Photo]
- After signing the GOP tax bill, Trump told dinner guests at Mar-a-Lago "you all just got a lot richer."
- Looking from behind the windows of a tainted presidency, the FBI, the press, and all else appear tainted.
- Trump thinks the money we pay to the UN is in return for favorable resolutions, a kind of fee for service!
- Seven women to watch in 2018: Three Senators, three Representatives, and an Ambassador. [Image]
(6) With friends like these, who needs enemies? An Iranian woman official, supposedly in charge of women's and family affairs, argues against a law written to protect women from domestic violence, saying that the law would weaken the head-of-household's authority and lead to women dodging their responsibilities.
(7) Strolling in San Francisco the day after Christmas Day: Our small group began at the Ferry Building, exploring its wonderful market and bayfront views, and walked to Pier 45. Along the way, we heard a saxophonist playing Christmas music next to a giant Christmas tree. [Video] We were lucky to be there on a gorgeous sunny day (with mild temperatures and little wind) for visiting unique shops, fine dining, and checking out World War II ships. [Photos] In the afternoon, we visited Ghirardelli Square and ended the day by going to Union Square to see its Christmas decorations. [More photos]

2017/12/24 (Sunday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Merry Christmas (1) A very merry Christmas to everyone: Hope your holidays are joyous and filled with love!
(2) Quote of the day: "Government is instituted for the common good: for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men." ~ John Adams
(3) 'Like's and other addictive social-media features: Did you know that Facebook estimates your mood and feeds you posts and ads accordingly? I scanned this article quickly, but will have to reread it to take in its numerous insights.
(4) The "84 Club," a group of 1984 UCSB graduates, dedicated this campus pyramid "in their hopes for international peace in the Olympic year." [Photos]
(5) Criticism of the GOP tax bill might sink in better when it comes from a member of the 1%: Millionaire shows his 2015 tax return to demonstrate how the just-passed GOP tax bill further enriches the wealthy. He claims that "tax reform" was Trump's greatest con, allowing him to turn a $50M investment in his campaign into a multi-billion-dollar bounty.
(6) Ten brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Mystery solved: Angelinos thought they saw a UFO, but it was actually a Space-X rocket launch.
- Rome's new subway dig unearths archaeological treasures.
- Trump won Alabama by 28 points and Texas by only 9 points. Ted Cruz's 2018 opponent feels optimistic.
- For the first time in US history, more women are enrolled in med schools than men.
- Robot drummer shares jamming session with FB friends.
- Seth Meyers explains Bitcoin: See if you can understand the crypto-currency from this smart comedy skit!
- Azeri music and dance from the Iran of yore, ~1971. [Video]
- Part of a Kurdish song performed by Iranian folk singer Sima Bina. [1-minute video]
- Modern Persian music: "Gol-e Goldun," performed by Celeste Buckingham. [4-minute video]
- Funny tale about two stoned guys driving a Volvo, with the Lone Ranger in the back seat. [5-minute video]
(7) Application development strategies for exascale computing: In an interview with HPCwire, three DOE scientists dicuss the 2017 book, Exascale Scientific Applications: Scalability and Performance Portability, which has been two years in the making. The book is co-edited by Tjerk Straatsma, Scientific Computing Group leader at the Oak Ridge Leadership Computing Facility; Katerina Antypas, Data Department Head at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center; and Timothy Williams, Deputy Director of Science at the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility.
(8) Bannon throws Kushner under the bus to save his former boss: He asserts that naive Jared went head-first toward the Russians (and disses Ivanka too). In his Vanity Fair interview, Bannon, having up to now dismissed the Russia probe as a deep-state ploy, says that Kushner was "taking meetings with Russians to get additional stuff. This tells you everything about Jared ... They were looking for the picture of Hillary Clinton taking the bag of cash from Putin. That's his maturity level." The Vanity Fair article contains many more juicy tidbits. Expect additional quotes from and tweets about it in the coming days.

2017/12/23 (Saturday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Calligraphic rendering of verse in a Sa'adi poem (1) Calligraphic rendering of a verse in a Sa'adi poem, particularly apt in view of the ongoing wildfire in our area. English translation is mine. [Calligrapher unknown]
Your fire burned me and thus rose the smoke of delight
You didn't come beside me to extinguish the flames
(2) The party that cut Amtrak funding twice, under Bush and Trump, sends its thoughts and prayers to the victims of the derailing near Seattle, just as it sends thoughts and prayers after every mass shooting, while proceeding to relax regulations on gun ownership. Trump's budget cut $630M from Amtrak's construction grants.
(3) Ventura's Via Ondulando neighborhood: While Santa Barbara and Montecito were spared by Thomas Fire, Ventura wasn't so lucky. Each fire symbol on this map marks one burned house. [From: Ventura County Star]
(4) A local Santa Barbara news anchor (Beth Farnsworth Ward) shows off one of the ways in which our community is paying tribute to the selfless firefighters who have been working hard for more than two weeks to protect us from #ThomasFire.
(5) Here is how UN members voted on the resolution to condemn US's decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The resolution passed overwhelmingly, with all major US allies voting for it. US is perfectly within its rights to offer such a recognition, but it overstepped the bounds of diplomacy and international tact when it threatened to "take names" of countries that vote for the resolution. This is bullying, plain and simple! [Israel, USA, and the following 7 countries were the only 'no' votes: Guatemala, Honduras, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau, Togo]
(6) Seven brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Former US Marine and ISIS sympathizer arrested for planning a SF Pier-39 terror attack on Christmas Day.
- White Nationalists are upset that Trump and mainstream Republicans have discarded their policies.
- Alt-Right, upset by 'feminist agenda' and 'gay' Luke Skywalker in "Star Wars," is trying to hurt its ratings!
- Sexual harassment culture was not limited to the white-collar world, as Ford factory workers are indicate.
- Meanings of Persian-Jewish Surnames: List compiled by Ephraim Dardashti [PDF file]
- Cartoon of the day: Dessert, American style. [Image]
- Kurdish music from Syria: Accompanied by scenes from life in rural Kurdistan. [5-minute video]
(7) Quote of the day: "The price of the tax bill has to be measured not only in the loss American society will face in the increase in inequality, in the impact on public health, and the growth of the deficit, but also in the damage to political culture inflicted by the spectacle of one powerful man after another telling lies of various sorts. ... The lies told by powerful men—and the thanks heaped on the most powerful man of all—are the language of a dictatorship." ~ Masha Gessen, writing in The New Yorker
(8) Trump tweet: The United Nations Security Council just voted 15-0 in favor of additional Sanctions on North Korea. The World wants Peace, not Death!
My response: Yes, peace is what the world prefers! That's why the same 15 UN members voted along with 113 other nations to condemn the unilateral US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
(9) Final thought for the day: Even Kim Jong Un won't say to his people "I'm starving you to pay for nukes." He says "I'm fighting to bring you greatness."

2017/12/21 (Thursday): Here are eight items of potential interest. [Movement of the day: #VoteThemOut]
Elephant goes shopping in this Georges Dambier photo, Paris, 1950s Drunk man rests after a night of celebrating the end of Prohibition, 1933 Private James (Jimi) Hendrix of the 101st Airborne Division, 1962 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Elephant goes shopping in this Georges Dambier photo, Paris, 1950s. [Center] Drunk man rests after a night of celebrating the end of Prohibition, 1933. [Right] Private James (Jimi) Hendrix of the 101st Airborne Division, 1962.
(2) Technology breakthrough: Israeli researchers develop a method of converting images from ordinary cameras into hyperspectral images that provide clues about material and other non-visual attributes of objects within the field of view.
(3) The next time you think a single vote makes no difference, consider this: A recount in Virginia has led to the Democratic candidate for state legislature winning over her opponent by one vote (pending certification).
(4) The Republicans are celebrating and patting each other on the back for: Giving billions in tax cuts to the rich; Taking health care from 13 million people; Opening an Alaskan wildlife refuge to drilling; Raising taxes on 100 million households [MAGA: Making Americans Greedy Again!]
(5) One dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- North Korea is hacking Bitcoin's infrastructure and poses an existential threat to the digital currency.
- In a deliberate act, car rams into pedestrians in Melbourne, Australia, injuring at least 19.
- Our local Santa Barbara headlines and covers tell the story of the devastating Thomas Fire.
- Thomas Fire 60% contained: No significant growth since yesterday. All Santa Barbara evacuation orders lifted.
- Magnitude-5.2 earthquake hits Iran's capital city, Tehran: No reports of casualties or damage yet.
- Trump considers the GOP tax bill a Christmas gift to Americans: But most people would regift it if they could!
- Trump's first pardon target was a racist. His second one is a financial fraudster. His kind of people!
- Senator Jeff Flake, who was called "Flakey" and many other names by Trump, looks at him with admiration.
- Happy winter solstice! Don't forget that as winter begins for us, summer is on its way down under.
- LeBron James lets his shoes do the talking! [Photo]
- Don't mess with the graying generation: Not that younger folks take assaults on their rights sitting down!
- "Here's how to get rid of Mueller—say that it will be great for the little guy and create jobs!" [Cartoon]
(6) Notes on the GOP tax bill, whichwas passed yesterday: A tax code has been put in place by and for the top 1%, with particular perks for real estate developers. Making America greedy again! Here is Senator Elizabeth Warren's take, in three tweets, on what she calls the GOP tax scam or tax heist, after it passed the US Senate. Graduate students were relieved, but they are not out of the woods yet. The Republican legislative agenda includes ending or curtailing other revenue streams on which graduate students depend. So, dodging taxation of their tuition-and-fees waivers in the final version of GOP's tax bill doesn't remove all their worries. They plan to stay vigilant. Employee bonuses announced by a few large companies are like thieves who clean out your house leaving you a tip on their way out.
(7) Tweet of the day: "Uh probably because I helped write the bill for the past year, have multiple provisions included, got multiple Senators on board over the last week and have worked on tax reform my entire time in Congress. But if you'd rather just see my skin color, pls feel free." ~ Senator Tim Scott, responding to a critic who accused him of being a 'black prop' during a White House ceremony
(8) Final thought for the day: I hope we won't need another Civil War to clear what's left of White Supremacists hostile to notions of human dignity and liberty.

2017/12/20 (Wednesday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Image representing the celebration of the Iranian festival of Yalda (1) Happy Yalda Night to everyone who celebrate this Iranian festival, when the gradual return to light, after the forces of darkness have achieved their maximum strength in the year's longest night, is celebrated. Tonight's celebration follows yesterday's last night of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights.
(2) "Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies": One of the statements in the just-released National Seurity Policy Report that suggest Trump may not have read the full document.
(3) The eternal flame at UCSB: Situated on a lawn, midway between the campus library and the Chemistry Building, the flame burns atop a 3-legged base holding a quote from Martin Luther King (shown in these photos) and two others from John F. and Robert F. Kennedy.
(4) Two of the most-hated men in America shown making fun of our former President: Recall that not too long ago, the father of one of these smiling buddies accused the father of the other one of being a criminal.
(5) Eight brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Twelve House Republicans voted against the GOP tax scam: 5 from NY, 4 from NJ, 2 from CA, 1 from NC.
- Whatever happened to filing your taxes on postcards? Pork and complexity were put back in to buy votes.
- CNN Arizona poll: John McCain is more popular with Democrats and independents than with Republicans.
- Water-repellent material can make windshield, sidewalk, and road ice things of the past.
- Japanese scientists develop a new polymer glass whose cracks heal when hand pressure is applied to it.
- Metalworkers in the ancient world hunted for meteorite iron for creating exotic weapons and artefacts.
- At about 110K, the number of UCSB freshman and transfer applications hit a new record for fall 2018.
- Cartoon caption of the day: CDC scientists asking the management: "Can we stil say 'moron'?"
(6) SUTA Festival and Reunion 2018: Rather than everyone gathering in one place, a distributed reunion is being planned for September 2018 by Sharif University of Technology Association (composed of graduates, students, faculty, and staff of SUT). Four major sites (Sweden, California, Washington, and Seattle) have already been announced for the gatherings and other major or satellite sites may be added. Once the sites are known, the exact dates will be announced.
(7) The inverted pendulum problem: Austrian researchers led by Ramin Hasani have developed an algorithm that exploits an established C. elegans neural circuit for the purpose of teaching a simulated worm, or wormbot, to balance a pole on its tail. The team used reinforcement learning, once the worm's neural circuitry was fully mapped out and described. Overall, the researchers discovered this training regimen works about as well as similar machine-learning approaches to the inverted pendulum problem, but with the key wrinkle that their algorithm is built from hacked wormbot brains.
(8) Having previously bought a $450M da Vinci painting, "corruption-fighting" Saudi Prince buys the world's most expensive mansion near Paris at $320M.
(9) [A family member asked me what Bitcoin was, so I provided the following explanation and link, which I share here with others who might have the same question.] Bitcoin is a digital or virtual currency. There are other examples, but Bitcoin is the most prominent and the most successful. Just like other currencies, you can exchange dollars or euros for Bitcoins and vice versa, at the prevailing exchange rate (currently $18,350 per Bitcoin), and you can have an account with Bitcoins in it, though not at conventional banks (yet). It is not issued or backed by any country and there are no assets to back it up (such as gold backing up some currencies). Increasingly, though, currencies are not backed up by anything other than the issuing country's reputation or economic strength. You don't worry that your dollars will become worthless someday, because the US is trusted internationally. Bitcoin is a sort of doomsday currency for people who don't trust the world's current economic order and think it is slated to collapse. Bitcoin exists only in cyberspace and no one person, group of people, or country controls it. Presumably, it will survive a nuclear war, say, as long as some of the millions of computers storing its distributed ledgers survive. This Web page provides more technical details.

2017/12/19 (Tuesday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Nazi youth gather at the University of Berlin to burn piles of 'un-German' books written by Jews and left-wing authors, 1933 Telephone engineer in London, 1925 Einstein and his therapist, not! (This is a widely-circulated myth; Einstein is talking politics with Cord Meyer, Jr., 1948) (1) History in pictures: [Left] Nazi youth gather at the University of Berlin to burn piles of "un-German" books written by Jews and left-wing authors, 1933. [Center] Telephone engineer in London, 1925. [Right] Einstein and his therapist, not! (This is a widely-circulated myth; Einstein is talking politics with Cord Meyer, Jr., 1948).
(2) Quote of the day: "Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So, go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you." ~ L. R. Knost
(3) Talk about insensitivity! Trump invited the NRA chief to the White House on the 5th anniversary of the Sandy Hook mass shooting. Perhaps he will mingle with Neo-Nazis on Holocaust Remembrance Day!
(4) Just-out book: Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. The author, investigative journalist Luke Harding, was one of Fareed Zakaria's guests this morning. The book already has great reviews on Amazon. I have put it on my to-read list.
(5) Ten brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Sen. Bob Corker will save ~$1M on his taxes, according to GOP tax bill's final version. He is now a 'yes'!
- The derailed Washington State train may have been going at 70-80 MPH around a 30-MPH curve.
- It is rumored that Trump's lawyers are telling him that the Russia probe will end soon to control his rage.
- Trump plans to reverse Obama's inclusion of climate change in the list of national-security threats.
- Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner failed to disclose assets owned by 30 investment funds.
- With recent phone calls, bromance between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin continues to grow.
- China accuses Trump of harboring a 'Cold War metality' With his announced America-first security policy.
- Islamic State claims responsibility for church attack in Pakistan that killed 8 and wounded 42.
- Tour bus crash in Mexico leaves 11 dead, 20 injured: Riders included cruise-ship passengers.
- Finally, a near-normal sunset last night, after a couple of weeks of smoke- and ash-filled skies in Goleta.
(6) UCSB #ThomasFire clean-up plans: Having cleaned up soot and ash from my courtyard and two patios (~400 sq ft total = 0.01 acre), I realized, upon reading an e-mail message from UCSB's Facilities Management, what an enormous task it is to clean up our 1000-acre campus! Indoors clean-up of hallways and classrooms with be done by our custodial staff, while outdoors clean-up will be done by a mix of campus grounds crew (using drivable wet-vacs; no blowers or similar equipment) and outside contractors specializing in clean-up.
(7) I did a second round of ash clean-up today at my house: No more smoke and ash are coming our way today, but winds are expected to pick up tomorrow, potentially upsetting the current tranquility. Thomas Fire has now burned 272K acres and 1000+ structures, and it is 50% contained. However, the containment percentage is a bit misleading. Imagine, for a minute, a square-shaped fire, 50 miles on each side, which is spreading westward and northward only. In other words, two sides of the fire (100 miles in total) are contained and the fire is spreading from the other two sides (also 100 miles). The containment percentage in this case would be 50%, which presents little comfort to people in areas to the west and north of the fire.
(8) Signing off with two interesting questions about the Niagara Falls that resurface from time to time.
Question 1: Do the Niagara Falls ever completely freeze in winter? The short answer is "no." There is always some water flowing underneath the snow and ice. Complete blockage due to ice sheets is prevented by installed steel ice-cutters to deal with icebergs.
Question 2: Do the Niagara Falls ever completely dry up? The short answer is "yes." It happened once on March 30, 1848, for over 30 hours, when large chunks of ice blown to the northeastern edge of Lake Erie blocked its outlet. Meanwhile, unaware of the reason, people flocked to churches, because they thought the end of the world had come. It happened a second time for the American side of the falls in 1969, when the US Army Corps of Engineers turned off the American Falls to deal with massive amounts of rocks that had accumulated at the base as a result of rock-slides and threatened to some day turn the falls into rapids.

2017/12/18 (Monday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
John Lennon, NYC, 1974 Union Army brass band playing atop Lookout Mountain, with the Tennessee River in the background, 1864 Female IRA volunteer, Northern Ireland, 1970 (1) History in pictures: [Left] John Lennon in front of Lady Liberty, New York City, 1974. [Center] Union Army brass band playing atop Lookout Mountain, with the Tennessee River in the background, 1864. [Right] Female IRA volunteer, Northern Ireland, 1970.
(2) Normally, I'd empathize with calling the media's tendency to sensationalize "fake news," but not if done by "The King of Falsehoods."
(3) The three big lies about Trump's tax plan: Robert Reich debunks the untruths. (1) American corporations are not competitive because they pay the highest tax rate in the world. (2) With their taxes cut, the rich will invest and create jobs. (3) Small businesses will be given an incentive to invest and create more jobs.
(4) Jared Kushner humiliated on live TV: He is told to his face that a bunch of businessmen and attorneys, with no pertinent knowledge of the Middle East, cannot solve the complex Israeli-Palestinian problem.
[Kushner says, with a straight face, that maybe it's good that a bankruptcy lawyer is part of his team, because no such person has ever worked on the problem! Yes, Mideast peace was missing a bankruptcy lawyer!]
(5) Eight brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Train derailment south of Seattle, WA, causes deaths and injuries: On-going emergency in the area.
- Decency police on skis is patrolling Iran's ski slopes to check on women's hijab and behavior.
- Using Google artificial intelligence tools, NASA discovers two new planets.
- Coordinated attacks on Mueller intensify: Fox News host calls FBI a "criminal cabal"!
- Racism doesn't hurt only the victims but also its perpetrators. [NPR report]
- Acronym of the day: MAGA: Mueller Ain't Going Away.
- The seven banned words and phrases at CDC create resistance! [Meme design by Debs Cane]
- Cartoon of the day: Actually, I do have several pets ... [Image]
(6) Trump's frantic fight for self-preservation: "Around 5:30 each morning, President Trump wakes and tunes into the television in the White House's master bedroom. He flips to CNN for news, moves to 'Fox & Friends' for comfort and messaging ideas, and sometimes watches MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' because, friends suspect, it fires him up for the day."
(7) Concert attendance plans cancelled: A friend and I were planning to see the Los Angeles Master Chorale at Disney Concert Hall tonight. Uncertainties brought about by #ThomasFire, including sporadic road closures between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, prompted us to cancel. The program was the 37th annual sing-along rendition of George Frideric Handel's "Messiah," arguably the greatest choral composition of all time. LAMC is world-renowned for its wonderful interpretations of great music. The celestial voices heard on the soundtrack of the latest installment of the "Star Wars" film series, now in theaters, are provided by LAMC. The singers recorded their vocal tracks live with legendary composer John Williams and his orchestra at Sony Pictures Studios in Culver City in April 2017. [LAMC flashmob from exactly seven year ago, December 18, 2010]
(8) Fire fatigue: It's two weeks since #ThomasFire began in Ventura, CA. After the initial quick spread toward Santa Barbara, it slowed down. Firefighters managed to divert it away from populated areas through back-burning, an operation that saved many homes but killed one firefighter. Winds picked up on Saturday, expanding the fire into areas that were previously thought to be safe. With the new flare-ups, smoke and ash plumes are back and air quality, which was improving, has become unhealthy again. Reports since yesterday indicate calming down of the winds and improved containment to 40%. Having destroyed 1000+ structures and burned 270,000 acres (~420 sq. miles), Thomas Fire is now the third largest in California history, spanning about 60 miles east-west and 40 miles north-south. Hoping for the holiday cheer to return to our area soon! [Here's a Detailed map of mandatory and voluntary evacuation orders in Santa Barbara, as of yesterday.]

2017/12/17 (Sunday): Here are two short book reviews, as I try to clear my backlog of reviews.
Cover image of the book 'Hope,' by Berry and DeJesus (1) Book review: Berry, Amanda and Gina DeJesus (with Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan), Hope: A Memoir of Survival in Cleveland, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Jorjeana Maric, Marisol Ramirez, and Arthur Morey, Penguin Audio, 2015.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This book is the story of two girls, the authors, who were abducted and detained at the Cleveland home of a local school-bus driver for over a decade (2002-2013), until one of them managed to escape and call 911 for help. Weaved into the girls' narrative about their horrifying days in chains, repeated rapes, and psychological abuse is the view from outside, as family members, journalists, and law enforcement searched for clues about their whereabouts.
The writing, by Pulitzer-Prize-winning Washington Post reporters Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan, is crisp and captivating, shedding light not only on the girls' harrowing experience and media headlines, but also on the life of the criminal school bus driver, who committed suicide in jail, one month into his life sentence.
The book has a blemish that I learned about from another published review. Emily Claire, a reviewer on Amazon, wonders why the third girl, Michelle Knight, is barely mentioned in this memoir, even though she was held the longest, became pregnant five times as a result of violent rapes, had each fetus beaten out of her body, and was in such poor health at the end that she needed hospitalization. "Just one miscarriage was referred to, and only in an oblique and vague manner. ... And where was Michelle when Amanda and Gina were invited to meet the president and speak at the White House?" These are interesting questions that should be answered by the authors.
Researching the story of Michelle Knight, I learned that she has written her own book, Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed, with co-author Michelle Burford (2014). A 2015 TV movie, entitled "Cleveland Abductions," was made by Lifetime based on Knight's memoir.
Cover image for Elizabeth Gilbert's 'Big Magic' (2) Book review: Gilbert, Elizabeth, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, unabridged audiobook on 4 CDs, read by the author, Penguin Audio, 2015.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Gilbert, through her hugely successful book, Eat, Pray, Love, and its sequel, Committed, has provided inspiration to many. This book does the same by discussing the nature of inspiration and the habits we need to develop in order to live most creatively. A central theme in the book is that ideas are living things that go around looking for human partners. They should be considered gifts from the universe. If you don't act on an idea, it will move on and may find someone else to partner with.
Gilbert cites an example from her own life: An idea for a novel taking place in the amazon; an adventure/love-story combination. Events in Gilbert's life forced her to shelf the idea. When she returned to it a few years later, she saw that she had no passion to write about it, as if the idea had evaporated. After Gilbert developed a close friendship with author Ann Patchett, she discovered that Patchett was writing a very similar story. That an ignored idea moves to someone else, though poetic and allegorical, is difficult to accept, but losing one's passion for what once seemed a brilliant endeavor is understandable and familiar.
According to Gilbert, we each have "strange jewels" within us that we can uncover by following a number of straightforward steps, in order to live creatively and realize our dream project, be it writing a book, creating art, or addressing work-related challenges. At times, Gilbert comes across as preachy and over-generalizing. For example, even though creativity in science and engineering does have some of the same features as in arts and literature, not everything in Gilbert's recipe is equally applicable to such dissimilar endeavors.
Overlapping the ideas in Gilbert's book are notions in another book that I happen to be perusing at the time of this writing. The book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, stresses the importance of quiet contemplation, something that introverts do naturally but that everyone can benefit from it. According to Cain, it is unfortunate that introversion, like shyness (which isn't the same thing), is viewed as a negative trait in many Western societies trapped in a "culture of personality," which places too much value on extroversion.
I highly recommend perusing Gilbert's book. The few shortcomings are more than compensated for by the exquisite writing and the motivational effect of learning about how Gilbert and other subjects cited as examples in the book overcame doubts and creativity-killing fears on the path to living a creative life.

2017/12/16 (Saturday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Eleanor Roosevelt with the .22 Smith and Wesson she often carried in lieu of secret service protection Cornell Capa's photo of traffic jam in New York City on Memorial-Day weekend, 1949 Carrie Fisher watches her mom on stage at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, 1963 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Eleanor Roosevelt with the .22 Smith and Wesson she often carried in lieu of secret service protection. [Center] Cornell Capa's photo of traffic jam in New York City on Memorial-Day weekend, 1949. [Right] Carrie Fisher watches her mom on stage at the Riviera Hotel in Las Vegas, 1963.
(2) I left Iran more than three decades ago. It seems that since then "Irani" and 2-letter names, such as "Fa," have become very common as last names! [Referring to made-up names on Facebook and other social media]
(3) The world's most-famous nerdy car: When the bare-bones 2CV first appeared, it surprised the world by being out of fashion with its added-on headlights, and by its low price of $650 in the late 1940s. Only the Citroen name stopped the car from being thought a joke.
(4) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Trump is severely compromised and a threat to US national security: Immediate removal is called for.
- White House officials say that Trump's daily intelligence update is structured to avoid upsetting him.
- CDC forbidden from using "diversity," "evidence/science-based," "fetus," "transgender," and other terms.
- Eight women doctors are running for elected office in DC, in part to fix a broken healthcare system.
- Ed Shiran's duet with Andrea Bocelli: "Perfect Symphony" [6-minute video]
- Cartoon of the day: The cartoon drawn after travel ban was blocked by the courts is updated for Alabama.
(5) A victory for grad students, but still a loss for the US as a whole: Last-minute compromise on the GOP tax bill eliminates the taxation of graduate-student tuition/fees waivers and allows student-loan deductions.
(6) Fraud extends beyond Trump and his cabinet: FCC being investigated for publishing 2M fake comments supporting the end of net neutrality, using identities of real Americans, including dead actress Patty Duke.
(7) Thomas Fire updates: Early this morning, the wind picked up in Montecito, SB County, extending the fire southward. New evacuation orders were issued for the area between routes 192 and 101. Voluntary evacuation zone now extends into the city of Santa Barbara. Edison advisory indicated that power outages were possible in view of the fire's expansion. These two photos, looking east and southeast from my home in Goleta, show that smoke and ash clouds have spared our immediate area so far, being carried south by offshore winds, but they seem to be closing in. Highway 101 re-opened mid-day, but residents were advised not to use it, except for evacuations. This fire map superimposed on Los Angeles gives you an idea of its extent. People in fire zones should keep their gas tank full; gas stations may close for safety and can't work during a power outage. In late afternoon, I took these photos showing blue skies coexisting with smoke/ash plumes in Goleta, CA.

2017/12/15 (Friday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
US President Lyndon Johnson listens to a tape sent to him by Captain Charles Robb (his son in law), from Vietnam during the height of the war, 1968 David Isom, 19, broke the color line in a segregated pool in Florida on June 8, 1958, which resulted in officials closing the facility Train wreck at Montparnasse, Paris, 1895 (1) History in pictures: [Left] US President Lyndon Johnson listens to a tape sent to him by Captain Charles Robb (his son in law), from Vietnam during the height of the war, 1968. [Center] David Isom, 19, broke the color line in a segregated pool in Florida on June 8, 1958, which resulted in officials shutting down the facility. [Right] Train wreck at Montparnasse, Paris, 1895.
(2) Other than Netanyahu, Putin seems to be the only world leader who praises Trump. So, Trump calls to thank Putin for his praise; as if Russia meddling never occurred!
(3) A theory about Trump's presidency: This may be dismissed as yet another conspiracy theory, but hear me out. What if Trump decided to run for US presidency in order to earn billions of dollars from increased business profits and tax cuts? Then, when he saw that his chances of being elected were slim to none, he recruited Russian oligarchs, by promising them something in return for helping him get elected. Viewed in this way, his presidency is nothing more than a 4-year deal that earns him lots of money. The increased profits are already materializing. The tax cuts are on the verge of passing the Congress. There is just one wrinkle that he did not foresee: His business practices and his mob ties are being exposed, which may, if pursued by Mueller (assuming he is not fired), actually bankrupt him instead of making him richer.
(4) Eight brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Some Republicans are saying, "Enough is enough; Trump must resign." Why did it take them 2+ years?
- The black superwomen of Alabama saved the Republican Party from itself, while also helping America.
- Bernie Sanders: "The Republican tax bill is a hole-in-one for Trump, who will benefit from tax breaks ... "
- Anti-Semitism rears its ugly head again: This time in the form of swastikas painted at a CA synagogue.
- Three Baha'i women arrested by Revolutionay Guards in the Iranian city of Kermanshah.
- Humor: White House safety officials have reportedly placed a large order for fire-proof pants!
- Iranian Ayatollah: Watching male wrestling can make women randy. [Source: IranWire]
- Cartoon of the day: Iranian athletes don't shake hands with women who hang medals around their necks.
(5) Google leads in the race to dominate artificial intelligence: Tech companies are walking a tightrope between divulging information about their AI research programs to attract talent and staying tight-lipped to protect their trade secrets.
(6) UC San Diego researchers develop an automated tool to determine whether a given Web site has suffered a data breach: The tool is a bot that creates accounts, each with a different e-mail address, on various candidate sites, each e-mail address always having the same password. They found that nearly 1% of the sites tested suffered a data breach during the 18-month study.
(7) Iran is stuck in the Middle Ages: Iranian athletes are told not to shake hands with women, in addition to losing intentionally to an opponent if such a loss would mean that they won't face an Israeli opponent later on.
(8) Thomas fire updates: After several days of my courtyard being covered in soot and ash, yesterday I put on a breathing mask, swept the debris, and hosed off the tiles. Ashes may be gone, but smoke advisory map for our area (update of yesterday) shows we are not out of the woods yet. One firefighter, 32-year-old Cory Iverson of San Diego, lost his life battling the fire. Today, red-flag warnings were issued for SoCal due to dry conditions and wind gusts. The worst air quality is expected in Carpinteria and Ojai; next worst will be in Santa Barbara and Goleta, all the way up to Solvang. I have just learned about a way of gauging air quality in terms of extra cigarettes per day (CPD), which makes it more readily understood by everyone. Berkeley Earth indicates that our air pollution cigarettes-equivalent index has gone up from the pre-fire baseline of 1.5 CPD to 6.5 CPD, that is, breathing our air in Goleta without a mask is like smoking 5 extra cigarettes per day. The 6.5 reading corresponds to a "severely polluted" day in Beijing.

2017/12/14 (Thursday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Colorized photo of Amelia Earhart standing in front of her single-prop plane in Burbank, California, 1932 The Last Kiss, a memorable photo from World War II A Japanese-American business owner displays a banner the day after the 1942 Pearl Harbor attack, just before his internment (1) History in pictures: [Left] Colorized photo of Amelia Earhart standing in front of her single-prop plane in Burbank, California, 1932. [Center] The Last Kiss, a memorable photo from World War II. [Right] A Japanese-American business owner displays a banner the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, just before his internment.
(2) Quote of the day: "A president who would all but call Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand a whore is not fit to clean the toilets in the Barack Obama Presidential Library or to shine the shoes of George W. Bush." ~ USA Today
(3) Why Jewish composers wrote many of the classic Christmas songs: [Psst! Don't tell Trump about this, or he might start hating Christmas!] "The overwhelming impulse among the children of Jewish immigrants was to assimilate, and the first step in becoming 'American' nearly always involved changing their names. Israel Baline became Irving Berlin, Jacob and Israel Gershowitz became George and Ira Gershwin, Hyman Arluck became Harold Arlen, Asa Yoelson became Al Jolson and Isidore Hochberg became 'Yip' Harburg. Most not only left their names behind, but all traces of their Jewishness as well."
(4) The Chase Palm Park antique carousel is gone: Its new home is reportedly a museum somewhere. We will miss it! No word yet about what will become of the now-empty building.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- France awards research grants to US climate-change scientists in rebuke to US withdrawal from Paris accord.
- Photos and videos are emerging that show Trump with his women accusers he says he never met.
- Top Google searches for 2017: iPhone 8, Bitcoin, and sex scandals. [Source: Newsweek]
- Merriam-Webster's Word of 2017: "Feminism" (It beat out "Complicit")
- Gloria Steinem opines on women having gained their voices as a result of the #MeToo movement.
- Roy Moore, on not conceding: "We know that God is in control." J. K. Rowling: "You know she is black, right?"
(6) Sean Spicer is writing a book: I hope this generator of alternative facts faces a boycott, even if he may have decided that telling the truth is now more profitable.
(7) Trump has mobilized black voters, particularly black women (98% of whom voted for Doug Jones), and there is no going back. Alabama is the start of the realization that they've got a lot to lose with Trump and his likes in power! How's your African-American doing, Donald? [Chart]
(8) Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights: I am thrilled to learn and report that Dr. Nayereh Tohidi (Professor, Cal State Northridge) has been honored with the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights from an international youth organization.
(9) Signing off with additional historical photos: Chicago in 1941, through the lens of John Vachon.

2017/12/13 (Wednesday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
A man standing in the lumberyard of Seattle Cedar Lumber Manufacturing, 1939 Abe Lincoln's Hearse, 1865 Women boxing on a roof, 1930s (1) History in pictures: [Left] A man standing in the lumberyard of Seattle Cedar Lumber Manufacturing, 1939 (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt). [Center] Abe Lincoln's Hearse, 1865. [Right] Women boxing on a roof, 1930s.
(2) Happy Hanukkah to all who celebrate this Jewish festival of lights, which began last night [Photos]
(3) Cartoon caption of the day: One man to another: "Thank goodness we finally have an Administration that speaks for those of us who don't care what happens to the planet in a hundred years because we'll be dead." [The New Yorker cartoon by David Sipress]
(4) Map of #ThomasFire boundaries, as of Monday night. [Source: CalFire,] The fire's progress has been significantly slowed down by the absence of high winds, back-burns (intentionally-set fires to remove fuel from the fire's path), and areas burned in previous years, which have limited supply of fuel.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee dead at 65: It's an eerie feeling when people younger than you start to die!
- I think Donald Trump has picked the wrong fight this time. Go Senator Gillibrand!
- One of the back-burns, intentionally set to protect population centers from the advancing #ThomasFire.
- View of #ThomasFire last night, from Santa Barbara's waterfront. [Photo]
- Bitcoin vending machine: About Can$23K buys you one. [Photo]
- Cartoon of the day: "I see you serving a six-year term, but not in the Senate." [Image]
(6) Trump tweets yet another falsehood: But his base will never read the correction included, along with the tweet, in this image. They just don't read anything anti-Trump or, if they do by chance, they dismiss it as "Fake News," liberals, or socialists trying to stain their beloved leader.
(7) I got this book-shaped light as a present a couple of years ago. It has a rechargeable battery and LED lights, with multiple, selectable colors. After lighting candles during the first Thomas-Fire-caused blackout, I remembered that I can use this light, which is both brighter and cleaner.
(8) Trump supporters always say that he likes to punch back when attacked: Well, it seems that his foes are punching back even harder. He was punched multiple times for his attack on Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. He got bloodied in Alabama. Women who accused him of sexual misconduct are now emboldened to punch back at a powerful bully. [Melania: How is your anti-bullying campaign going?]
(9) My walk of yesterday afternoon in a ghost-town: Having been confined to my home for a few days, I decided to put on my breathing mask and brave Santa Barbara's waterfront area. Hardly anyone was on the beach or on Stearns Wharf. Boats were pretty much absent on the eerily calm water. Normally-full parking lots contained only a few cars. The birds, though, went about their business as usual, seemingly oblivious to the unhealthy air. Businesses in the area must be hurting: hardly a customer in the gift shops or restaurants on the Wharf or nearby streets. [Photos]

2017/12/12 (Tuesday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Thousands await the arrival of The Beatles, 1960s Diver examines an old sunken plane Aftermath of B-25 airplane crash into Empire State Building on July 28, 1945 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Thousands await the arrival of The Beatles, 1960s. [Center] Diver examines an old sunken plane. [Right] Aftermath of B-25 airplane crash into Empire State Building on July 28, 1945.
(2) Sharing part of my reply to a friend, who is considering moving to California but is having second thoughts in view of recent wildfires: Fires are actually not that bad, relatively speaking. The number of deaths from fires (and even earthquakes) is much smaller than other natural disasters, such as storms, tornadoes, and floods. The danger is also mostly avoidable if you choose to live in fire-safe areas (there is a correlation between the natural beauty of your surroundings and fire danger, so you have a trade-off to make).
(3) Futuristic eco-resort in the Philippines: Nautilus is a pioneering eco-tourism complex, consisting of 12 hotels arranged in the form of sea snails and powered by renewable energy derived from waves, tides, and ocean heat. It aims to preserve the coast's and islands' natural beauty. Everything in the resort is built from previously used material and guests will go to and fro on electric boats.
(4) The Louvre Abu Dhabi: Designed by architect Jean Nouvel, the museum's centerpiece is a silvery dome that appears to float over the entire complex. Weighing 7500 tons (same as the Eiffel Tower), it is held up by four hidden pillars. Perforations in the roof create intricate patterns of lighting inside.
(5) Get ready for smartphone computers: Since both Microsoft and Qualcomm have announced a new kind of laptop powered by a smartphone processor running a desktop operating system (presumably as a power-saving method to extend battery life), emergence of smartphone models that replace laptops is inevitable.
(6) Trump mocks the "Resistance" movement in his Florida rally: DJT's history shows that he mocks anything that scares him, which is good! In this case, he is mocking a majority of Americans who oppose him. If you are not with him, you're dumb and don't have any rights!
(7) Causes of SoCal wildfires: At this point, fire officials are not devoting any resources to determining how the multiple fires began, but once all fires have been contained, they will investigate. Fire departments now have advanced methods and technologies to determine the exact point where a particular fire started, to within 10 square meters. They comb the small candidate starting points for clues, such as matches, lighting fluids, and so on. If the starting points of multiple fires line up along roads, there is a good chance that they were man-made. There are other indicators that are used to determine whether arson was involved. Fascinating!

2017/12/11 (Monday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
A pair of Cambridge undergraduates, 1926 Ku Klux Klan on a ferris wheel, 1925 Wooden bathing suits that were supposed to make you more buoyant, 1929 (1) History in pictures: [Left] A pair of Cambridge undergraduates, 1926. [Center] Ku Klux Klan on a ferris wheel, 1925. [Right] Wooden bathing suits that were supposed to make you more buoyant, 1929.
(2) A Trump political support group sends 12-year-old Millie March to campaign for and interview Roy Moore in Alabama. [No word yet on whether Moore asked the girl out.]
(3) NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has been searching for signs of extraterrestrial intelligence: On Wednesday December 14, a breakthrough, achieved with help from Google's AI, will be announced at a news conference.
(4) News and announcements about the spreading Thomas Fire, now moving in the Santa Barbara County:
- Video recorded from KEYT News last night: The fire is already the 5th largest in California history.
- Stats: Acres burned 230,000; Containment 10%; Structures destroyed 840; Structures threatened 18,000.
- No rain in sight: Warm, dry weather continues at least for another week. Fire control prospects not so good.
- Newsweek magazine's coverage of the still active Thomas Fire and other (mostly contained) California fires.
- First piece of good news, after a week: The sun is finally shining through, although not quite at full force yet.
- Ventura County Sheriff's Public Affairs Office has issued warnings about charity and home repair scams.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Why can't sexually abusive men say they're sorry? From show business to politics, real apologies are rare.
- NASA is surveying California fires with high-altitude ER-2 aircraft.
- Developing story about possible explosions in NYC subway, believed to have resulted from a terror attack.
- German intelligence reveals that China has been spying on 10,000 Germans via LinkedIn.
- Wonderful rendition of "Carol of the Bells" by the American rock band Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
- Beautiful song and message: "I Dream of a World Where Everyone Would Live in Peace" [6-minute video]
(6) Data science of creating the ultimate Christmas song: Forensic musicologist Joe Bennett, PhD, songwriter Steve Anderson, and singer/songwriter Harriet Green analyzed 78 different widely broadcast Christmas songs with respect to parameters in their music (style, tempo, use of bells, etc.) and lyrics (word usage and frequency), along with data about how happy they made people feel, to create the song "Love's Not Just for Christmas." [4-minute video]
(7) Math puzzle: Consider all the 9-digit numbers that can be formed by using each of the digits 1 through 9 exactly once. How many such numbers are there? How many of them are even? How many are divisible by 3? Divisible by 4? Divisible by 5? Divisible by 6?

2017/12/10 (Sunday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Logo for World Human Rights Day (1) Happy World Human Rights Day! Today, the UN kicks off a year-long campaign to honor the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which next year marks its 70th anniversary.
(2) Trump's long-time aide Hope Hicks focus of attention in Russia probe: She had been warned by the FBI that certain Russians contacting the Trump transition team weren't who they pretended to be.
(3) Thirteen mathematical problems/puzzles: A couple of days ago, I posted a review of the book Problems for Mathematicians, Young and Old, by Paul R. Halmos. My review, which is also posted on GoodReads, contains a sample of 13 mathematical problems/puzzles from the book that you may find interesting. All 13 can be solved by anyone trained in basic math and mathematical reasoning.
(4) Important warning about clean-up after fires: When houses burn, asbestos fibers from building materials may become airborne, creating a potentially hazardous situation. Cleanup can make conditions worse if not done properly. Handling materials that contain asbestos can be hazardous to your health. Care should be exercised in cleaning the debris and ash; leafblowers should not be used. [From: Santa Barbara County e-mail]
(5) News and announcements about the spreading Thomas Fire, now moving in the Santa Barbara County:
- Blackouts and air quality issues continue: We had power outage ~1:30-5:00 AM and brief outages afterwards.
- A layer of ash covered my courtyard yesterday, as the sun struggled to penetrate the haze in the sky.
- Evacuation orders have now moved further north to Montecito, a mere 5 miles to the east of Santa Barbara.
- Fire map as of early this afternoon: Light olive-green marks the mandatory evacuation areas.
- The fire's live map in Santa Barbara County shows it approaching Montecito.
- UCSB abandons its plan to hold final exams as scheduled this week. Instead, they will begin on January 8.
- UCSB's winter 2018 quarter will begin one week later on Tuesday 1/16 and will be shortened by one week.
- Santa Barbara School District declares all area schools closed until January 2, 2018.
- Authorities indicate that to filter out asbestos, one needs P-100 or N-100 masks. The N-95 masks won't do.
- KEYT is broadcasting live. Apparently, besides power & air quality, our water supply has been affected.
(6) I am sorry that the Palestinians chose to fall into Trump's trap: Violent protests are cutting into their credibility. Surely there are quite a few sophisticated political analysts among the Palestinians. Trump's announcement was an act of desperation and is viewed as such worldwide. He feels threatened by the Russia investigation and there is now a reasonable chance that his tax-cuts-for-the-rich bill will fail when it is brought back to the Senate after reconciliation with the House version. One Republican Senator already voted against it and another (Collins) is leaning toward reversing her vote the next time. It takes just one more 'no' vote to kill the bill. Tillerson is on his way out and Kushner will likely be forced out, both due to his poor judgment and the fact that after one year, he has not yet obtained the required security clearance. The Palestinians could have condemned the US and stated that they no longer consider it an impartial mediator for the peace process. Europeans are likely to step in to fill the void. Then, they could have negotiated from a position of strength. As things now stand, they are playing into Trump's hand.
(7) Understanding the Thomas Fire: In addition to dry weather and high winds, another reason for the fire's destructiveness was the fact that some of the areas affected had not burned for decades (since 1964 in some cases). So, even though some burned areas looked green from this season's rains, the greenery masked a lot of dead fuel for the fire underneath.

2017/12/09 (Saturday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Street in Istanbul, Turkey, 1898 Settling with the cabbie, New York City, 1895 San Francisco's Chinatown, 1944 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Street in Istanbul, Turkey, 1898. [Center] Settling with the cabbie, New York City, 1895. [Right] San Francisco's Chinatown, 1944.
(2) Trump has approached the Israeli-Palestinian conflict like a bull in a china shop: Not one country, other than Israel, agrees with his decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
(3) If Obama had cured cancer, we'd be having tweets about the greatness of cancer and why it should be brought back. The Trump administration is undoing even Michelle Obama's nutrition guidelines for schools.
(4) Some fire-related news and images from Southern California (Ventura County's Thomas Fire and others):
- View from Turnpike Road in Santa Barbara, before and after Thomas Fire. [Photos]
- Sunlight barely makes it through a dense cover of smoke and ash in Goleta and Santa Barbara. [Photo]
- N95 masks that were distributed today to our community in view of the very unhealthy air quality. [Photo]
- A few satellite images of Ventura County's Thomas Fire and other SoCal fires nearby.
- San Diego's Lilac Fire makes California's already record-breaking year for wildfires even worse.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- WikiLeaks e-mail provided Trump campaign with pointer to documents that had been released.
- Trump reiterates his support for Roy Moore's Senate run at Florida rally, across the border from Alabama.
- Big oops! Someone forgot to insert the actual "Splash Heading" before sending the paper to the printer.
- Melissa McCarthy and James Franco in costumes on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" (Mccarthy guest-hosted).
- Gravity is a hoax (comedy skit): Melissa McCarthy and Jennifer Aniston fight over gravity as fake news.
- The Borowitz Report [humor]: "Trump's slurred speech tied to low battery in Putin's remote."
(6) A startling AI achievement: Google's AlphaGo Zero algorithm managed to defeat the previously strongest chess-playing program only four hours after it was taught the rules of the game and told to learn strategy by playing simulation games against itself.
(7) United States and an Imploding Middle East: Where to from Here? This is the title of a lecture by Dr. Mehrzad Borujerdi (Professor of Political Science, Syracuse U.), delivered at CSUN on November 21, 2017, and video-recorded in full. He presents a capsule review, in mostly pessimistic terms, of the current situation in the region that includes the world's 10 most fragile states (where the central government wields little power). The review is very useful for those who do not know much about the region, its geography, and its political forces, but even those who follow the region's developments closely, will find something in terms of hard facts and data cited by the speaker from the 2016 edition of Arab Human Development Report (published by UNDP, UN's Development Program). Arab countries have 5% of the world's population, but account for 45% of terror attacks worldwide, 57% of refugees, 68% of battle-related deaths, and 47% of internally displaced people. World's top 5 military spenders as a fraction of GDP are Saudi Arabia and 4 relatively small Arab countries. Some 78% of Arabs live in hardship (poverty).

Cover image for 'Problems for Mathematicians, Young and Old'

2017/12/08 (Friday): Book review: Halmos, Paul R., Problems for Mathematicians, Young and Old, Mathematical Association of America, 1991.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Paul Richard Halmos [1916-2006] was a Hungarian-Jewish-born American mathematician who made fundamental contributions to mathematical logic, probability theory, statistics, operator theory, ergodic theory, and functional analysis (in particular, Hilbert spaces). He was also recognized as a great expositor of mathematics and an advocate for education and effective teaching.
In this 318-page gem of a book, Halmos has collected a wide array of problems (126 pp.), complete with hints (18 pp.) and solutions (174 pp.). The best way to review this book is to present a sample problem from each of its 14 chapters. I will exclude chapter 13, "Mappings," because it contains no problem that can be solved without resorting to advance math; the 13 problems that follow can be solved by anyone trained in basic math and mathematical reasoning.
Chapter 1, "Combinatorics" (Tennis tournament): Consider an elimination tennis tournament with 1025 participants. In each round, the remaining players are paired, and if the number of players is odd, one of them gets a bye. For example, in the first round, 512 matches are played and one player gets a bye. How many matches must be played to determine a champion?
Chapter 2, "Calculus" (Railroad track): We have a perfectly straight and flat railroad track of length 2640 m. Suppose we add 1 m of rail to the middle of the track, while keeping its endpoints fixed. The additional length causes the track to bulge upward in the shape of a circular arc. How far will the middle of the track rise above the original level?
Chapter 3, "Puzzles" (Factorials ending in 0s): The first factorial that ends in 0 is 5! = 120. To have the factorial end in two 0s, we need to go to 10! = 3,628,800. How many 0s does 1,000,000! have at its end?
Chapter 4, "Numbers" (Irrational punch): We have a weird paper punch such that when its center is placed at a point on paper, all points whose distance to that center are irrational numbers are removed. How many punchings are needed to remove every point?
Chapter 5, "Geometry" (Shortest road to connect 4 houses): Four houses are located on flat land at the corners of a square of side length 1 km. What is the shortest road system that would enable each inhabitant to visit the other three?
Chapter 6, "Tilings" (Tiling a checkerboard with dominoes): You have a standard 8-by-8 checkerboard from which 2 squares at opposite corners have been removed. Given 31 dominoes, each of which covers exactly 2 adjacent squares on the board, can you cover all 62 squares of the board with the 31 dominoes?
Chapter 7, "Probability" (Fair and loaded dice): A fair or honest die is one for which the probability of each of the outcomes 1 through 6 is 1/6. Assume we can load a die as we please, for example, to have the probabilities 3/8, 1/4, 1/8. 1/9, 1/12, 1/18 for outcomes 1 through 6 (these probabilities add up to 1). Is there a way to load two different dice so that when they are rolled together the sum outcomes 2 through 12 each occurs with the same probability 1/11?
Chapter 8, "Analysis" (Infinite mathematical expressions): What is the value of the following expression in the limit when there are an infinite number of sqrt(2) terms? sqrt(2) ^ (sqrt(2) ^ (sqrt(2) ^ (sqrt(2) ^ ... )))]
Chapter 9, "Matrices" (Square-root of a matrix): The square-root of a matrix A is a matrix B such that A = B^2. Not every matrix has a square-root. Does a 3-by-3 matrix with all entries 0, except the top right element which is 1, have a square-root? How about a matrix of all-0s, with its only 1 entry in the middle of its top row?
Chapter 10, "Algebra" (Polynomial arithmetic): If a polynomial in x vanishes when x = 2, then it must be divisible by x – 2. Is it also true that if a polynomial in x and y vanishes when x = y, then it is divisible by x – y?
Chapter 11, "Sets" (Lines on a plane): Obviously, an infinite set of lines are needed to cover a plane. Can the set of such lines whose union is the plane be countably infinite?
Chapter 12, "Spaces" (Map coloring): It has been known for sure since 1976 (and suspected long before then) that any planar map of countries can be colored using no more than 4 colors, so that no two countries sharing a border are of the same color. Show that if the countries do not have arbitrary borders but, instead, are formed by a set of intersecting circles, then 2 colors would suffice.
Chapter 14, "Measures" (Fair sharing of a cake among 3 people): When two people want to divide a cake so that they are both convinced of the division's fairness, the "you cut, I choose" scheme is used. One person cuts the cake into two pieces that s/he thinks is a fair division and the other person picks one of the pieces. Can we extend this scheme to 3 people? This is a much harder problem than fair division into 2 pieces. There exists a scheme that appears fair, but does not work upon further reflection.

2017/12/07 (Thursday): Here are six items of potential interest.
Four scenes from Ventura County's Thomas Fire Latest status of Ventura County's Thomas Fire (1) Scenes from Ventura County's Thomas Fire: The fire has expanded in multiple directions and is burning intensely, with ~5% containment. [Source of photos: LA Times]
- The live map below, captured before noon, shows the latest status for Thomas Fire: It has just crossed the Santa Barbara County line, into Carpinteria. Ojai seems to be surrounded by fire.
- US 101 was closed in both directions this morning, but has since reopened.
- Area schools are closed, as is SB City College. UCSB remains open, but has cancelled today's and tomorrow's classes. Next week's finals will be held, as scheduled.
- UCSB's Recreation Center is being used by the Red Cross to house fire evacuees (they can park in Lot 16).
- La Conchita, the coastal community devastated by deadly mudslides in 2005, is threatened to be wiped out by fire.
- It's raining ash all over Ojai Valley, as the city of Ojai is threatened by Thomas Fire. [according to KEYT]
- If you can't watch KEYT Channel 3 on TV, they are live-streaming evacuation and other info for Santa Barbara and Ventura residents.
(2) Happy 19th anniversary to ISS: Nineteen years ago today, the first two International Space Station modules (Unity and Zarya) were joined together, beginning the assembly of the orbital lab.
(3) Signs of discord in the Trump administration: President Trump's announcement that the US recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel had some people scratching their heads due to the absence of Rex Tillerson and the prominent display of Mike Pence, rather than Jared Kushner, standing behind Trump.
(4) Eight brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- FBI chief defends the agency against Trump's assertion that it's in tatters.
- Trump's war on a made-up assault against Christmas. No one is trying to eliminate Christmas!
- A tiny $289B error crept into GOP's tax bill, because they didn't allow time for even a most-basic review.
- Two new fires in northerh SB County (Santa Ynez and Santa Maria) add to the area's fire woes.
- Eight graduate students protesting the GOP tax plan arrested outside Paul Ryan's office.
- The Borowitz Report [humor]: "Broad majority of Americans support moving Trump to Jerusalem."
- Cartoon of the day: The domino gap effect. [Image]
- My wife says that nothing makes her happier than a diamond necklace, so I got her nothing for Christmas.
(5) The #MeToo movement is changing the US political scene: Not only it is driving badly-behaving men out, but it is expected to put more women in elected positions.
(6) Skier Lindsey Vonn says she will represent the people of the United States, not Donald Trump, at the winter Olympics. Expect a tweetstorm about this statement!

2017/12/06 (Wednesday): Here are five items of potential interest.
Last four couples in a dance marathon, Chicago, ca. 1930 Elton John, Diana Ross, and Cher at the Rock Music Awards, 1975 James Dean attending a ballet class in NYC, 1955 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Last four couples in a dance marathon, Chicago, ca. 1930; Notice that the women fared better than the men! [Center] Elton John, Diana Ross, and Cher at the Rock Music Awards, 1975. [Right] James Dean attending a ballet class in New York City, 1955.
(2) America's new warriors: "It's easier to put 'trainers' and 'advisers' in a country and say we don't have 'boots on the ground'." ~ GOP Representative and former Navy Seal Scott Taylor, quoted in Time magazine
(3) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- The #MeToo movement and its brave silence-breakers chosen as Time magazine's Person of the Year.
- Tillerson gets an earful from European leaders, due to Trump's "Jerusalem as capital" announcement.
- Bannon appears to be on success path in his goal of totally destroying the Republican Party.
- Cover of Montecito Journal, winter 2017-2018 issue, featuring the area's most prominent show-biz family.
- Good for a chuckle: Q: What do you call elves who work at the North Pole? A: Subordinate Clauses.
- Cartoon of the day: "Hello, I'm death and taxes ... We merged." [Image]
(4) Stories related to multiple wildfires raging in Southern California:
- Skirball Fire has closed the 405 Freeway in both directions. Bad news for LAX travelers from our area.
- Fire raging in Santa Clarita, next to Six Flags "Magic Mountain" amusement park. [Photo]
- Air quality is a tad better at UCSB today, but you can still see smoke haze in the air. [Photo 1] [Photo 2]
- Parts of Carpinteria get voluntary evacuation orders. The fire seems to be moving north from Ventura.
- Received an emergency-alert text message: Fire danger in our area due to strong winds.
- California wildfires in 2017 (thus far): 6700 total fires; 8500 structures destroyed; 43 people killed.
(5) Computer Systems for the Brain Sciences: This was the title of a CS-Department-sponsored talk this afternoon by Abhishek Bhattacharjee (Assoc. Prof., Rutgers U.). Of course, brain science makes broad use of computers and other digital systems in many different ways, so a clarification is in order. The speaker's interests lie in computing capabilities of devices implanted in the brain. Given the very limited power that can be supplied to such implants, and restrictions on heat dissipation (research shows that even a 2-degree rise in an implant's temperature can cause damage to brain tissue), the norm so far has been to use implants for collecting data and to then send the data to external computing devices for processing. The speaker has been trying to incorporate much greater computing power in the implants, without a significant increase in energy demands or operating temperature.

2017/12/05 (Tuesday): Here are six items of potential interest.
Standoff between US and Soviet tanks at checkpoint Charlie, 1961 Tokyo after World War II, 1945 An English cavalryman rides through a gas attack with protective mask and body cover, 1934 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Standoff between US and Soviet tanks at checkpoint Charlie, 1961. [Center] Tokyo after World War II, 1945. [Right] An English cavalryman rides through a gas attack with protective mask and body cover, 1934.
(2) We have already had three power disruptions since sunrise this morning: Last night and earlier this morning, we had four. This is what it means to have infrastructural problems of a Third-World country. Electric power should be a reliable resource. When balckouts occur due to an emergency, power should not be restored until there is a high assurance that it will not go back out. Cutting or restoring power to a city or even a large neighborhood should not be done casually. In a home, you can flip a switch to turn a light on and then turn it back off immediately. No damage will be done. The situation is different for large electric loads. Each disruption, however brief, sets off a chain reaction of electrical surges and system resets that create havoc, leading to potential equipment damage and secondary failures in associated services. Our power grid and its management protocols are hopelessly outdated. [This photo shows the sky around my home at the beginning of last night's 5-hour blackout, caused by Ventura County's Thomas Fire, during which I read a book by candlelight!]
[Examples of structures destroyed in Ventura County's Thomas Fire.] [Video]
[Midnight update: Thomas Fire is 0% controlled: It jumped the 101 Freeway; 12,000 homes threatened.]
(3) Definition of dim-wit: A guy, who is arrested and charged with illicit contacts with Russia and given explicit instructions not to contact the media or Russians, cooperating with a Russian intelligence operative on an editorial piece for a Russian publication.
(4) Higher Education Act Overhaul released by the GOP: The provisions will hurt traditional universities and the ability of their students to secure loans, while they remove key restrictions on for-profit colleges.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Ali Abdullah Saleh, former president of Yemen, killed by Houthi rebels near the capital, Sanaa.
- Graduate students nationwide protest GOP's removal of tax exemption for tuition and fee waivers.
- Robot taxis and delivery cars will be deployed next year, according to Delphi Automotive's CEO.
- Good for a chuckle: Q: Which nation's capital is the largest? A: Ireland. It's Dublin every year.
- Wild Wild West Wing: the story of an out-of-control president who shoots from the lip.
- Cartoon of the day: Men with crossbow heads shoot at a woman walking with a child. [Image]
(6) Overcoming Biases that Affect the Evaluation of Women and Minorities: This was the title of an informative and entertaining talk by Stephanie K. Johnson (Professor, School of Business, University of Colorado, Boulder), who spoke to a standing-room-only crowd in a large lecture hall at UCSB this afternoon. [Images]
The talk carried three main messages. First, gender and racial diversity in the workforce improves productivity, creativity, and the bottom line, whether it's measured in revenues, profitability, or stock prices. Second, perception of bias and inequality is quite subjective. Even white men may perceive that there is bias against them, so we need scientifically rigorous studies to reveal and assess bias. Third, there exist quite effective methods for increasing diversity, without imposing quotas or giving unfair attention to certain applicants.
It is very important for white men to get on board, as advocacy of women and minorities for greater diversity may be viewed as suspicious and self-serving. Numerous studies have shown that even in situations where there is a claim of fairness, bias and stereotyping creep in when making decisions. A good example is provided by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, which increased the fraction of women players significantly when it switched to blind auditions, with canidates playing behind a curtain. Double-blind reviewing of scientific/technical articles, and evaluation of outcomes of hiring decisions when the gender or ethnicity of the applicant is hidden or disguised, all point to a hidden bias that disappears with appropriate provisions.
Unconscious bias plays some cruel tricks, not always in the direction one might imagine. For example, when there are four equally qualified finalists for a job, three men and one woman, a man has more than the fair 75% chance of being offered the job. But if the numbers are reversed, hiring a woman becomes more likely than the expectation. Here, the majority of candidates establish a stereotype that affects the final decision. In the mix among four final candidates is two men and two women, then the chance of the final hire being a woman or a man becomes 50%. This odd-person-out effect is seen in other contexts as well. The speaker provided many examples of interesting situations from her consulting work with corporate clients, illustrating best practices, opportunities, and pitfalls in pursuing diversity goals.

2017/12/04 (Monday): Here are Seven items of potential interest.
About 4.5 megabytes of data on 62,500 punched cards, USA, 1955 Telephone tower in Stockholm, Sweden, that served over 5000 customer lines, ca. 1890 Scene from the 1959 classic comedy 'Some Like It Hot,' starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemon, and Marilyn Monroe (1) History in pictures: [Left] About 4.5 megabytes of data on 62,500 punched cards, USA, 1955. [Center] Telephone tower in Stockholm, Sweden, that served over 5000 customer lines, ca. 1890. [Right] Scene from the 1959 classic comedy "Some Like It Hot," starring Tony Curtis, Jack Lemon, and Marilyn Monroe.
(2) Rex Tillerson and Jared Kushner will depart the White House soon: Tillerson has been in the cross-hairs for some time now and Kushner has become a liability. It is unlikely that Ivanka will stay without Jared.
(3) James Comey pushes back against Trump's tweet that FBI's reputation is 'in tatters': "The FBI is honest. The FBI is strong. And the FBI is, and always will be, independent." After Comey's defense of the FBI, Sally Yates also tweeted on 12/03: "The FBI is in 'tatters'? No. The only thing in tatters is the President's respect for the rule of law. The dedicated men and women of the FBI deserve better."
(4) Fifty years of "60 Minutes": Last night, the iconic newsmagazine looked back on its 50-year history by showing its most-memorable stories and interviews with world leaders, celebrities, con-men, and many others.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- McCain finally caved on the middle-class-killing tax bill, sacrificing grad students in the process.
- Now that Trump has gotten his "big win" on taxes, perhaps he'll stop acting like an attention-deprived bully!
- A mostly-sunny week with spring-like temperatures is in store for us, here in Goleta! [Chart]
- "The world won't be much changed by anything I do ~ But what will change will be me." ~ Ashleigh Brilliant
- Last night's super moon, shot from my patio. [Photo]
- Some shots from the north-central part of the UCSB campus, early this afternoon. [Photos]
(6) Trump's Twitter account: His Twitter feed is a mostly one-way affair. He has 43.6 million followers, but follows only 45 (family members, family businesses, current/former advisers, a few supportive journalists, and a handful of conservative commentators. He follows no mainstream news source, not even Breitbart.
(7) Cybersecurity, Nuclear Security, Alan Turing, and Illogical Logic: This is the title of an article in Communications of the ACM (December 2017 issue), which is based on the 2015 Turing Award Lecture by Martin E. Hellman. The Turing Award honored work Hellman did four decades ago and, since then, his interests have changed. He states that he is now working, with his wife Dorothie, on a book, A New Map for Relationships: Creating True Love at Home & Peace on the Planet. Though the new book seems unrelated to Hellman's award-winning work on public-key cryptography, his Turing Lecture drew a number of parallels between the two universes, which are brought out in this important article. One of the article's key insights is that in making ethical decisions, we need to zealously guard against fooling ourselves about our real motivations. A second key insight is that a major advance in factoring integers and discrete logarithms might break existing public-key systems. From this article, we learn about political fights dictating the outcome of a standard that should have been based on technical merit. We are also given food for thought on whether cyber-deterrence will work as well as nuclear-deterrence has worked as a strategy so far, and on whether the latter is indeed a reasonable strategy. Hellman concludes his article thus: "What is the point of developing elegant algorithms (such as Diffie-Hellman-Merkle Key Exchange) if no one is around in 100 years to use them?"

Cover image of the book 'Zionism: A Very Short Introduction' 2017/12/03 (Sunday): Book review: Stanslawski, Michael, Zionism: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2017. [My 5-star review on GoodReads]
Let me begin by listing the 10 chapters, excluding an epilogue, that average 11 pages in length and provide a good view of the book's contents and structure:
1. The Jews: Religion or Nation? (pp. 1-10)
2. Modern Jewish Nationalism (pp. 11-21)
3. Theodore Herzl and the Creation of the Zionist Movement, 1897-1917 (pp. 22-34)
4. The Weizmann Era and the Balfour Declaration (pp. 35-43)
5. Socialist and Revisionist Zionism, 1917-1939 (pp. 44-50)
6. Zionism in World War II and Its Aftermath (pp. 51-63)
7. Zionism in a Jewish State, 1948-1967 (pp. 64-80)
8. Nationalism and Messianism, 1967-1977 (pp. 81-94)
9. Swing to the Right, 1977-1995 (pp. 95-105)
10. Transformation of Zionism Since 1995 (pp. 106-111)
I have read quite a few of the titles in Oxford's "A Very Short Introduction" series and, in all cases, have been impressed by the balance and thoroughness of the treatment, despite the small size of the books. Given the heavy use of the word "Zionism" in today's political news and the many conflicting views of it, I seized the chance of reading the book when I found it among the volumes on UCSB Library's new-arrivals bookshelf.
Zionism, if defined as a nationalist movement affirming the right of Jews to self-determination, has a long history. However, the modern notion of Zionism is traced back to Theodor Herzl, who is credited with formulating the idea of a secular state for the Jews, which is quite different from a "Jewish state." Herzl's liberal, utopian vision (a sort of Jewish enlightenment) faced three opposing groups from within the movement. These were a "Democratic Faction," which, fearing Herzl's dictatorial tendencies, favored a revolutionary transformation based on secular Hebrew culture, the socialist/Marxist/communist front, which emphasizes solutions to the "Arab Problem" in Palestine, and the group that favored embracing Orthodox Judaism.
The internal conflicts of Zionism mirrored those of the broader European community (within which the movement grew), where nations were taking sides in multifaceted political and economic ideologies.
One of the inventors, if that's the right word to use, of Jewish enlightenment was Moses Mendelssohn, a formidable philosopher of the 18th century, who viewed Judaism as just another religion that must be tolerated in a modern free state. Following this interpretation, it would have been feasible to integrate the Arabs, who formed the majority of the population in the new state, into a modern secular state run according to the latest scientific principles.
When Herzl died at the young age of 44, Chaim Weizmann, a renowned chemist with several important inventions to his credit, led the Zionism movement, though he didn't enjoy broad acceptance right away. Weizmann tried to iron over some of the differences by gradually moving to combine cultural and political Zionism. Work on the "Arab Problem," which had led to the consideration of other locations, such as Uganda in lieu of Palestine to site the new state, continued under his leadership.
Enlightenment meant that Jews had to abandon their roles as small-time merchants to become farmers, artisans, and professionals. Modern Jewish nationalism, with Hebrew as the common language, gained strong support, because it was seen as an antidote to assimilation, which some viewed as a grave danger. Europe's rabbis "denounced Herzl as a heretical scoundrel out to destroy Judaism by disobeying God's commandments."
Over time, Zionists attracted support from politicians in Europe, who became sympathetic to the cause but who could not promise a homeland, given that they had no control over Palestine. The Balfour declaration laid out the support in principle, in a carefully-worded document which, postulates, among other conditions, "that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights or political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country" [p. 42].
World War II and the ensuing atrocities against the Jews empowered Zionism's right-wing nationalists, who gradually gained more support. The desire to settle in Palestine intensified after WW II, when a large number of Jews in Displaced Persons Camps had no place to go. At about this time, the Soviet Union reversed its decades-long opposition to Zionism, in part, it is believed, to claim a stake in the power vacuum anticipated after the departure of the British from the Middle East.
It is noteworthy that Israel's declaration of independence contained no mention of God or the "divine promise." What united the new Israelis were the Hebrew language, a secular school system, and the decidedly-secular army. Once Israel was formed, governing proved difficult and many concessions and compromises had to be made to satisfy various factions. These included religious courts, observance of Saturdays and other religious holidays, serving kosher food in the army and government institutions, and allowing separate religious schools for ultra-orthodox Jews. These concessions to the religious factions were not inevitable and, in retrospect, may have been fatal mistakes for the state of Israel. Religious groups made inroads owing to the inability of the secular and progressive groups to iron out their differences. Religious groups have also been blamed for the promised constitution not being written, because they insisted that it should be based on Jewish law.
Beginning in the late 1970s, revisionist Zionism gained power, leading to peace with Egypt's Sadat. A second major transformation occurred upon the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 and the migration of many Russian Jews to Israel. It is interesting that the bulk of migrations to Israel have been by relatively poor Jews around the world. Jews in North America, for example, constitute a minute fraction of those relocating to Israel. There is a saying that in the Diaspora, "Zionism means one Jew collecting money from a second Jew to send a third Jew to Israel"!
In 1870, no one spoke Hebrew as their primaty tongue, whereas roughly 8 million people speak the language fluently now. It is remarkable that in the history of Zionism, beginning with Herzl, not one single leader of the movement or Israeli Prime Minister has been a practicing Jew. At this writing, Zionists are predominantly secular, the only exception being a small group of ultra-orthodox Jews.
The state of Israel was finally created in 1948 under the leadership of David Ben-Gurion, five decades after Herzl initiated the Zionist movement. The Zionists success in bringing the state of Israel about and the remarkable social and technical accomplishments of the state are marred by a longstanding, and seemingly insoluble, conflict in the region, as the Middle East sinks further into destabilization.
The anthem of Zionists, "Hatikvah" ("The Hope"), which later became the Israeli national anthem, contains the following words: "We have not yet lost our hope." The hope of "[being] a free nation in our own land, the land of Zion and Jerusalem" has at best been only partially realized.

2017/12/02 (Saturday): Here are six items of potential interest.
This view of Boston is the oldest surviving aerial photo ever takan, October 13, 1860 George W. McLaurin, a 54-year-old African-American, was forced to sit apart from white students upon admission to University of Oklahoma in 1948 Coca Cola delivery truck, 1909 (1) History in pictures: [Left] This view of Boston is the oldest surviving aerial photo ever takan, October 13, 1860. [Center] George W. McLaurin, a 54-year-old African-American, was forced to sit apart from white students upon admission to University of Oklahoma in 1948. [Right] Coca Cola delivery truck, 1909.
(2) Any demagogue or despot who ends up destroying a country keeps insisting till his last day that he is moving it toward greatness. [Persian version]
(3) So, Republican and Democratic administrations are equally corrupt, huh? [Chart]
(4) Trump is reportedly looking for a larger bus to throw people under. A regular bus won't do any more!
(5) Ten brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Details of perjury charges against former National Security Adviser to President Trump, Michael Flynn.
- Trump cnanges his story about why he fired his National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
- Obama should be detained for making fun of Trump, says Fox host Lou Dobbs.
- GOP tax bill's passage isn't the end of the line. Let's expose its provisions, inserted in cowardly, secretive way!
- Supreme Leader Khamenei's Ahmadinejad problem is back, much to his consternation.
- Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps: A tangled web of corruption, illegal deals, and counterfeit money.
- The distant planet WASP-18b has no water and its atmosphere consists entirely of carbon-monoxide.
- Reuters' revolutionary AI system automatically identifies breaking news stories by analyzing Twitter data.
- Swimming robots, dubbed "PipeFish," can be inserted into water pipes to detect leaks.
- Traditional Persian music: Footage of practice session for a new song. Is it Soosan? Who is the tar player?
(6) UCSB Middle East Ensemble in concert: I have previously posted about subsets of this large, diverse Ensemble (which includes a dance troupe) performing during Wednesday noon mini-concerts, but tonight they had a full, formal program at UCSB's Lotte Lehman Concert Hall, with special guest performer soprano Dr. Isabel Bayrakdarian (of Armenian heritage, born in Lebanon). The program included Arabic, Armenian, Greek, Persian, and other musical styles. UCSB Middle East Ensemble prepares detailed program booklets, which include song histories and texts of lyrics in the original language, in transliterated form, and in English. These 12 photos and 7 videos provide a sample of the very enjoyable concert. One of the photos captures tonight's supermoon and another one shows holiday decorations I encountered as I walked home from the campus.

2017/12/01 (Friday): Here are six items of potential interest.
Berlin Wall, 1989 LEGO Minfig patent diagram, ca. 1979 Two lumberjacks on a big tree in the Pacific Northwest, 1915 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Berlin Wall, 1989. [Center] LEGO Minfig patent diagram, ca. 1979. [Right] Two lumberjacks on a big tree in the Pacific Northwest, 1915.
(2) Tweet of the day: "This tax bill will affect the lives of everyone. Your parents. Your grandparents. Children. And it's being rewritten in secret, on the same day they want to bring it to a vote. This is no way to govern." ~ US Senator Kamala Harri
(3) Our president does not understand the American justice system, the presumption of innocence, and the fact that each case must be tried on its own merit. We are not a nation of kangaroo courts. The 20th murder of a serial killer needs as much evidence ("beyond a reasonable doubt") as the first. Sad!
Here is what Trump tweeted: "The jury was not told the killer of Kate was a 7 time felon. The Schumer/Pelosi Democrats are so weak on Crime that they will pay a big price in the 2018 and 2020 Elections."
(4) You should start familiarizing yourself with the US line of succession, in case both Trump and Pence are taken down by the Mueller investigation: Meet our potential next president, Paul Ryan, the spineless, hypocritical Speaker of the House of Representatives. who once said he could not support Trump, but then quickly fell in line when Trump was elected.
(5) Eight brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Michael Flynn charged by Mueller for willful false statement on his link with Russians. He pleaded guilty.
- Now we know why DJT tried to shield Flynn: He is set to testify that Trump directed him to contact Russia.
- The GOP tax bill that may be put to vote tonight has undisclosed, handwritten corrections in the margins.
- US Treasury Department's promised and even cited analysis of GOP tax bill's impact is still missing.
- Lindsey Graham faults the press for making Trump look like 'a kook." He said in 2016 that Trump is 'a kook.'
- Soccer World Cup draw results: Iran is in Group B, which also includes Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. [Chart]
- Why are actors and journalists quickly purged for sexual misconduct, whereas politicans get free passes?
- Cartoon of the day: The strange case of President Trump and @realDonaldTrump. [Image]
(6) Phew, what a week! It began with a root-canal procedure on Monday (not too bad, as root-canals go), then a weeknight trip under very heavy traffic to Los Angeles to attend a human-rights meeting, writing a bilingual report about the forum, meeting a couple of work-related deadlines, dealing with a leaky solar-heater tank (that was finally replaced this afternoon), and getting my new cleaning lady started on her first day. Things are calming down for the weekend, when I hope to be able to catch up with a lot of stuff.

2017/11/30 (Thursday): Here are six items of potential interest.
It seems that Trump did make the cover of Time magazine after all! Doorknob for those who do not want visitors over the holidays Sample jewelry for geeks (1) Some interesting photos: [Left] It seems that Trump did make the cover of Time magazine after all! [Center] Doorknob for those who do not want visitors over the holidays. [Right] Sample jewelry for geeks.
(2) Men behaving badly: Last night, I was reflecting on all the powerful men who have recently fallen from grace for sexual misconduct. It occurred to me that, for some (usually unknown) reason, I never really liked these men. Harvey Weinstein and Bill O'Reilly constituted extreme cases of dislike (Matt Lauer, a milder case), while Charlie Rose and Garrison Keillor just seemed creepy. Kevin Spacey came closest to being likeable, but there was some unease even in his case.
(3) AI program uses Google Maps' street-view images to automatically recognize makes and models of parked cars, using the info to deduce political leanings of various neighborhoods. Scary!
(4) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- The Navajo Nation condemns Trump's "display of immaturity and short-sightedness" in a letter.
- Afghan all-girl robotics team continues to shine.
- Pottery fragments from 8000 years ago found in Georgia (S. Caucasus) hold oldest known wine residue.
- Iranian cinema is full of Harvey-Weinstein-like figures, who prey on young, ambitious actresses.
- We give Israel, a country with free healthcare and college, $10M a day. How is that "America First"?
- Cartoon of the day: "We'll have this [GOP tax plan] off the ground in no time!" [Image]
(5) Language translation, without a dictionary: Researchers at the University of the Basque Country (UPV) in Spain and Facebook have separately developed unsupervised machine-learning techniques for teaching neural networks to translate between languages with no parallel texts. Each method employs as training strategies back translation and denoising; in the first process, a sentence in one language is approximately translated into the other, then translated back into the original language, with networks adjusted to make subsequent attempts closer to identical. Meanwhile, denoising adds noise to a sentence by rearranging or removing words, and attempts to translate that back into the original. The UPV method translates more frequently during training, while the Facebook technique, in addition to encoding a sentence from one language into a more abstract representation before decoding it into the other language, also confirms the intermediate language is truly abstract. When translating between English and French in a vast sentence database, both systems received a bilingual evaluation understudy score of about 15 in both directions, compared to Google Translate, which scores about 40, and humans, who can score more than 50. [From: ACM Tech News]
(6) UCSB Arts & Lectures "Thematic Learning" event: Emily Esfahani Smith (Persian name Golnar), author of The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness, spoke at UCSB's Campbell Hall, beginning at 7:30 tonight. These photos show A&L's announcement of the book talk, the book's cover image, table of contents, and dedication page (signed by the author). The book is on my (very long) "to read" list, so for now, I include Susan Cain's praise from the book's front matter (Cain is the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can's Stop Talking, a book I am now listening to): "Beautifully written and rigorously researched, The Power of Meaning speaks to the yearning we all share for a life of depth and significance. In a culture constantly shouting about happiness, this warm and wise book leads us down the path to what truly matters. Reading it is a life-transforming experience." [Esfhani Smith's 12-minute TED talk]

2017/11/29 (Wednesday): Here are six items of potential interest.
Illustration from the first edition of 'The Wizard of Oz,' 1900 Sharpshooter Annie Oakley using a hand mirror to shoot over her shoulder circa 1899 The original Moulin Rouge the year before it burned down, Paris, 1914 (photo from Albert Kahn Museum collection) (1) History in pictures: [Left] Illustration from the first edition of "The Wizard of Oz," 1900. [Center] Sharpshooter Annie Oakley using a hand mirror to shoot over her shoulder circa 1899. [Right] The original Moulin Rouge the year before it burned down, Paris, 1914 (photo from Albert Kahn Museum collection).
(2) With sexual misconduct allegations piling up, I am starting to think that maybe invention of the zipper wasn't such a good idea!
(3) Notable SoCal faculty member: Maja Mataric, featured in "People of ACM," is a computer science professor at the University of Southern California, with appointments in the Neuroscience Program and the Department of Pediatrics. She is also founding director of USC's Robotics and Autonomous Systems Center, Co-director of the USC Robotics Research Lab, and Vice Dean for Research at USC's Viterbi School of Engineering. One of Mataric's research foci is socially assistive robotics, a field that barely existed 15 years ago, but which is now growing at a high rate.
(4) How many years of an average family's full annual income are needed to buy a home in various big cities in North America: Vancouver, 17.3; San Francisco, 13.8; Boston, 10.0; San Diego, 8.3; Mexico City, 6.1; Chicago, 5.9; Montreal, 4.2; Detroit, 1.8. [Source: Time magazine, November 27 and December 4, 2017, issue]
(5) Eight brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi cancel a budget meeting with Trump after he tweeted, "I don't see a deal!"
- Racist and alt-right groups are dismayed by Prince Harry's decision to marry a biracial American actress.
- More than 180 women have been sexually assaulted at Massage Envy franchises, according to CBS News.
- An "Impeach Trump" billboard goes up at NYC's Times Square. [Photo]
- Abraham Lincoln's presidential papers have been published on-line in full color.
- Hawaii plans to test its nuclear sirens for the first time since the end of the Cold War.
- World Music Series concert: UCSB Gospel Choir performed at the Music Bowl, today at noon. [Video]
- Cartoon of the day: Books on tape. [By John Atkinson]
(6) After NBC fired Matt Lauer over allegations of sexual misconduct, other women have come forward.

2017/11/28 (Tuesday): Here are four items of potential interest.
Charlie Chaplin in front of Federal Hall on Wall Street, 1918 Albert Einstein, his secretary Helen (left), and daughter Margaret (right) becoming US citizens to avoid returning to Nazi Germany, 1940 Testing a bulletproof vest, 1923 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Charlie Chaplin in front of Federal Hall on Wall Street, 1918. [Center] Albert Einstein, his secretary Helen (left), and daughter Margaret (right) becoming US citizens to avoid returning to Nazi Germany, 1940. [Right] Testing a bulletproof vest, 1923.
(2) Talk about fake news: Woman linked to Project Veritas, a far-right organization to which Trump has donated money, tried to dupe Washington Post reporters into publishing a fake news story about Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore (presumably to then cry "Fake News"), but WP's research unveiled the plot.
(3) What a high-IQ family! Eric Trump defends his dad's Pocahontas comment, finding it "ironic" that an ABC News reporter (whose parent company made millions from its "Pocahontas" film) would diss the comment, oblivious to the fact that making a film to honor the Native American historical figure is different from using her name as an insult.
(4) Striving for Human Rights in Iran: This was the title of a well-attended symposium held at Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, beginning at 7:30 PM (Persian time) on Tuesday, November 28, 2017. The format consisted of three speakers, named below, making extended statements and then joined by comedian and rights activist Maz Jobrani in a Q&A/discussion session moderated by Masih Alinejad. The moderator for the entire proceedings was Homa Sarshar (author, activist, feminist, and journalist), who also served as a discussant at the end.
- Dr. Kazem Alamdari, Emiritus Professor of Sociology, Cal State Northridge (author of multiple books and a frequent commentator on Radio/TV programs)
- Dr. Abbas Milani, Director of Iranian Studies Program and Professor of Stanford University's Global Studies Division (author of multiple books and biographies)
- Masih Alinejad, exiled Iranian journalist living in the US (founder of the "My Stealthy Freedom" Facebook page, human/women's rights activist)
The goals of this annual symposium have been described by the organizers as taking stock of the current status of human rights in Iran and ongoing violations thereof.
Alamdari set the stage by overviewing the various notions of human rights emerging since the 17th century, including the modern version adopted by the UN in 1948. He then cited examples of human rights violations in Iran. He planned to also discuss how Iran's Islamic clerics justify human rights violations and rampant corruption and how ordinary citizens can participate in stopping rights violations, but he ran out of time and said a few words about the latter topic during the discussion period.
Milani began by alluding to resistance exhibited by Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, observing that Iran's version of civil disobedience is both broader and stronger than any other one in the past century. Iran has a long history of honoring human rights. Today, human rights are inexorably linked to the notion of modernity and its affinity with privacy and the government staying out of citizens' private lives. Governments derive their legitimacy from people, who have the right to change the government at will. Any government that considers itself God's agent (as was also the case several centuries ago in Europe) will have issues with modernity and thus with human rights.
Alinejad delivered an impassioned speech (sample video). A major problem is self-censorship, or the hush-hush effect, imposed by other members of the society, who consider certain demands, such as freedom from mandatory hijab, less important than dealing with poverty and political oppression. She showed a video clip depicting civil disobedience by Iranian women who defy mandatory hijab laws and a touching plea by a disabled Iranian woman who asked that she be viewed as a human being and a woman, who happens to be disabled, and not the other way around. Paradoxically, the hijab problem does not stay within Iran's borders and rears its head when international sporting events (such as the upcoming Soccer World Cup) are to be shown in Iran.
During the Q&A/discussion session, Alamdari elaborated that each person can be active in safeguarding his/her own rights (every little step helps), with human-rights activists spreading the word and defending the rights of all members of the society.
Jobrani discussed his activism in opposition to the recent travel ban and his comedy performances in a number of Middle Eastern countries (not Iran, where he wouldn't be welcome), which have undergone changes leading to some openness. He quipped that some Iranian-Americans voted for Trump, expecting their taxes to be cut, whereas he cut their families!
Milani expressed his puzzlement that, given the tight grip of Iran's security apparatus, so much resistance effectively goes unpunished. One theory is that they are using the resistance as a safety valve that eases the pressures and makes the country more governable. His own theory is that the resistance is so widespread that the regime has given up trying to suppress everything. Iranians' fear of a war, which might turn the country into another Syria or Iraq, works to the regime's advantage.
Sarshar related the story of becoming upset as a girl that her religion was recorded in her national identity card, venturing a solo trip to Shiraz to have the information removed (she succeeded, after paying a bribe). She resents being asked what she thinks about various sociopolitical issues "as a Jewish woman," as if she is defined by her religion and sex. She'd rather comment as a human being.
A very unfortunate feature of the event, quite ironic, given that freedom and human rights were being discussed, was a few members of the audience shouting accusatory questions in the middle of Alinejad's talk and during the discussion period.
[A personal note: From the replies to the event invitation on Facebook, I noticed that quite a few friends attended the symposium. I am sorry I could not stay around to say hi, given that I had a 2-hour drive to get home. It took me almost 3 hours to get there from Santa Barbara, but I am glad I decided to make the trip.]
[Link to my Facebook post containing photos, a couple of videos, and the report above in Persian.]

2017/11/27 (Monday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
The first photo taken on the surface of the moon by a human being (Neil Armstrong), 1969 First photo of Machu Picchu, taken upon its discovery, 1912 First photo of Earth from outer space, taken by strapping a camera to a US-captured Nazi V-2 Rocket and hoping the film would survive the crash, 1946 (1) History in pictures: [Left] The first photo taken on the surface of the moon by a human being (Neil Armstrong), 1969. [Center] First photo of Machu Picchu, taken upon its discovery, 1912. [Right] First photo of Earth from outer space, taken by strapping a camera to a US-captured Nazi V-2 Rocket and hoping the film would survive the crash, 1946.
(2) How sales can make you overspend: Here is good advice from Time magazine, issue of November 27 and December 4, 2017, on how to view sale prices based on values rather than mark-downs. "When we see a sale price, we shouldn't consider what the price used to be or how much we're saving ... Buying a $60 shirt marked down from $100 isn't saving $40; it's spending $60."
(3) Trump targets yet another minority group with a racial slur: In a ceremony held to honor Native-American World War II veterans, he derides Elizabeth Warren by referring to her as "Pocahontas." A Native American spokesman said, "we as the Navajo Nation don't feel any member of any tribal nation should be used as the punchline of a joke."
(4) Changes (in $ millions) in federal revenues under the GOP tax plan: Positive numbers in this table mean more government revenue, or higher taxes, for the corresponding income bracket.
(5) Ten brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Bali's Mount Agung volcanic eruption deemed imminent, prompting mass evacuations.
- The Russia story: It's not about the other shoe dropping, but 99 other shoes dropping; we have a centipede!
- After apologizing for the 'Access Hollywood' tape, the Toddler-in-Chief asserted that the tape was fake!
- Borowitz Report: Trump claims the voice on 'Access Hollywood' tape is actually Hillary Clinton imitating him.
- Tehran billboard suggests Iran's regime and its opponents are united against Trump and Saudi threats.
- An important side benefit of driverless car technology is greater mobility for the elderly and the disabled.
- First-ever Jewish finalist in the Miss-Germany contest says she is proud to be a German Jew.
- Life is good—Don't spoil it by trying to understand it. ["Pot-Shots" meme, by Ashleigh Brilliant]
- SNL's word of the year: /kam'plisit/ (noun): a new fragrance for Ivanka Trump
- Tweet of the day: "A lunar eclipse flat-Earthers have never seen." ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson [Image]
(6) Piano recital: Tonight, I attended a wonderful recital by Gustavo Romero, performing as part of UCSB's Spanish Piano Festival (Alexander Boyd will perform Wednesday night in another installment). Emma Lou Diemer, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday, was in the audience and was introduced by Romero, after he performed her Sonata No. 3. [Samples of Romero's performances on YouTube]
(7) Apt final thought for the day, after a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend with the family: "I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual." ~ Henry David Thoreau

Cover image for 'The Power of Habit' 2017/11/26 (Sunday): Two items from the domain of neuroscience.
(1) Book review: Duhigg, Charles, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Mike Chamberlain, Random House Audio, 2012.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Habits are heuristics that allow the brain to control our activities without spending much time or energy. New research in neuroscience is producing a deep understanding of the role of, and formation mechanisms for, habits. Delegating much of our routine activities to the programmed habits frees our brain's resources to focus on non-routine and/or important tasks.
Formation of habits is through the establishment of special neural circuitry in the basal ganglia (a central part of our brain which controls motor activities). People who have suffered significant damage to their brain, to the extent that they are unable to form new memories, can continue to engage in activities driven by their habits. One subject, who suffered extensive brain damage, could not say where his home was located or sketch its floorplan, yet he could go for a walk and safely return home, and he could walk to the kitchen to get the snack he craved.
To put it simply, a habit consists of three components: a cue that triggers it, a routine, which is the main activity, and a reward. For example, if you have trouble exercising, you might try to form a habit with a cue (say, getting out of bed), the routine of jogging or other physical activity comprising your exercise regimen, and a reward, such as treating yourself to a smoothie afterwards. Whereas we can form new habits, modifying an old habit tends to be easier. The key is to keep the same cue and reward as the old habit and substitute a new activity. For example, to quit smoking, the cue might be craving a cigarette.
The observations above apply equally to personal habits and organizational habits (routines). One insight is that certain "keystone" habits help with the formation of other useful habits. A powerful example of habit-formation is found in the military. Trainees are exposed to different combat situations until the required reactions become more or less automatic.
Understanding habits, how they are formed, and how they can be modified constitute some of the major triumphs of neuroscience.
(2) Introduction to Neuroeconomics: How the Brain Makes Decisions (weeks 8-9; the end):
Having reported on the overall course structure and my experience in weeks 1-3 through a post on 10/24, weeks 4-5 on 10/29, and weeks 6-7 on 11/14, I briefly describe the contents of the final two weeks of the course here.
Week 8: The social brain: Games in the brain
a. Decisions in groups (game theory as a tool; the prisoner's dilemma as a model of cooperation)
Natural selection occurs at multiple levels: genes, individuals, groups of individuals. At the level of individuals, cheating may be the favored behavior, but at the level of groups, cooperation and altruism are favored.
Our brains are sensitized to face recognition, so when we look at the inside of a mask (concave), our brain automatically converts it to a regular face (convex).
In the prisoner/s dilemma game played only once, defection is the optimal strategy, whereas if the game is played repeatedly, cooperation (being nice) in the first instance and then mirroring the other side's previous move (tit for tat) is optimal.
b. Mirror neurons and empathy (a neural basis for social cooperation; mirror neurons)
Monitoring the brain activity when two players engage in a prisoner's-dilemma game allows us to predict the next move with relatively high probability by noting whether the reward area or the punishment area is activated after a move.
Oxytocin affects an individual's willingness to accept social risk arising from interpersonal interactions. We understand other people's actions/goals by simulating their brain activity in our own brain. The same may apply to empathy. Men show a stronger desire for revenge than women. Women show more empathy to all, whereas men show empathy to fair (nice) players and a desire for revenge to unfair (nasty) players. When the prisoner's-dilemma is played in large groups, the importance of punishment on ensuring cooperation increases.
Take-away message: There is strong evidence that cooperation has an evolutionary basis. People empathize with fair opponents, while favoring the punishment of unfair opponents.
Week 9: Evolutionary perspective on decision-making
a. Ontogenetic (and evolutionary) origin of cooperative decisions
Children are motivated to participate in cooperative social activity. They do not view their cooperative partner as a mere tool for achieving their own goals. They understand the value of cooperation.
Chimps exhibit human-like helpfulness by assisting other chimps or humans get food or achieve other goals. But they do not try to re-engage their partner once s/he loses interest.
b. Biological market theory
Examples of markets in nature (biological markets) include cleaning stations at sea, where certain fish eat dead skin cells, bacteria, and parasites off bigger fish, getting food and protection as rewards.
Among primates, grooming is a service that is often exchanged for food, sex, and other rewards. The grooming behavior in groups of primates follows the economic laws of supply and demand.
c. Capuchin monkeys (trading with capuchins; do capuchin monkeys reject unequal pay?)
Capuchin monkeys diverged from humans some 35M years ago. They can be trained to exchange tokens for small food rewarss. Humans are both loss-averse and risk-averse. We prefer a mediacl treatment that saves 200 of a potential set of 600 victims over one that kills 400 of the same group, even though the outcomes are exactly the same. We also take a smaller certain reward over a larger expected reward that is probabilistic.
The endowment effect: Humans overvalue objects that they own compared with those they do not own. Trading has the hallmarks of cooperation: Participants have to invest something in trading without a gurantee of better rewards. Capuchin monkeys were allowed to cooperate in pulling a tray that would provide food to only one of them. They did cooperate and then shared the food.
Like humans, monkeys reject unequal pay, and they are very similar to humans in other respects with regard to decision-making, suggesting that the observed behaviors were in the genes, many millions of years ago.

2017/11/25 (Saturday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
At my niece Yalda's engagement party (1) Today was the engagement party for my niece Yalda. We took this family photo near the end of the party.
(2) Trump lied about being considered as Person of the Year: Time magazine has disputed Trump's claim of "probably" being chosen as Person of the Year and telling the magazine editors "no, thanks."
(3) Quote of the day: "Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary." ~ Reinhold Niebuhr
(4) [A reporter, a historian, a comedian, a sociologist, and a moderator walk into a cultural center ...] Striving for Human Rights: A public forum at Skirball Cultural Center, 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles; Tuesday, November 28, 2017, 7:30-10:30 PM.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Out of 42 top economists, only one believes the GOP tax bill would help the economy.
- Roy Clark demonstrates his mastery of three different musical instruments in one song.
- This man-child's behavior was at first maddening, then it became comical, and now it is saddening!
- May I suggest that from now on, news media cover only DJT claims that are true? Wastes less paper and ink!
- Riddle of the day: If Teresa's daughter is my daughter's mother, what am I to Teresa?
- Persian-style celebration of holidays and other festive occasions! [Image]
(6) Fifty years after Forough Farrokhzad's death in a car accident at age 32, enigmatic artist Ebrahim Golestan talks about his extramarital affair with Iran's legendary poet.
(7) Passing on a wonderful song shared on Facebook by a musician friend: Ludwig Tuman directs the Choral Tales Project, which brings together music and folk tales from around the world.
(8) If you have not seen this precious little girl, you'll fall in love with her: Musical prodigy Alma Deutscher composes a piano sonata on the fly, beginning with 4 randomly drawn notes. Deutscher's compositions are performed all over the world. Here is a 20-minute documentary film about her "Finding Cindrella" opera, which she composed at age 11. In her story, Cindrella is a composer and the Prince is a poet, who falls in love with her talent, not her looks; no glass slippers and other silly things! And here is the full 94-minute opera.
(9) Observations on the human condition: "A man cannot unsee the truth. He cannot willingly return to darkness, or go blind once he has the gift of sight, any more than he can be unborn. We are the only species capable of self-reflection. The only species with the toxin of self-doubt written into our genetic code. Unequal to our gifts, we build, we buy, we consume. We wrap us in the illusion of material success. We cheat and deceive as we claw our way to the pinnacle of what we define as achievement. Superiority to other men." ~ Protagonist in the film "A Cure for Wellness," writing to his fellow board members who sent him on a mysterious mission
[The plot of this psychological thriller has the villain afflicting visitors to a spa in the Alps with a disease, because he believes disease is good for human beings. It gives them hope for a cure, otherwise there is no hope for curing the human condition.]

2017/11/23 (Thursday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Seasonal fruits Turkey and other yummy food Pies and other desserts (1) Happy Thanksgiving! On this day and every day of the year, I am thankful for my health, being surrounded by loving family and friends, and the privilege of doing what I love for a living. And, oh, for not being a turkey! Be careful about commenting on the last part, because as soon as my Chief of Staff allows me, I will retaliate!
(2) Ivanka and Kushner may be on their way out: Trump is reportedly pressuring Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner to move back to New York. Just another pair of allies thrown under the bus for his own survival?
(3) Quote of the day: "If Classical Music concerts had progress bars, then people unfamiliar with the piece would never be confused when to clap at the end." ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson
(4) Economic markets in nature: Here's another fun fact I learned from the neuroeconomics course I am taking. There are certain species of fish that work as cleaners, eating dead skin cells, bacteria, and parasites off other fish, sometimes swimming in a predator's mouth to do so. They get food and protection as rewards. Cleaning stations are set up, where fish can go to get cleaned. Clients compete for cleaner-fish services, and vice versa. In one scene near the end of this 6-minute video, a scuba-diver's mouth is cleaned by the fish!
(5) Ten brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Egypt mosque terror attack kills at least 235: Trump uses the incident to tout his wall and travel ban.
- Iranian commander: Tehran would intervene on the side of Hezbollah in the event of a war with Israel.
- Today's cyberthreats are as serious as the Cuban missile crisis. We need to de-escalate before it's too late.
- Kellyanne Conway violated federal law when she attacked a Senate candidate during an appearance on TV.
- Angry avatars help schizophrenics stop hearing destructive voices by shouting at them.
- Actress Uma Thurman just went full "Kill Bill" on Harvey Weinstein, who produced the film.
- Dopamine injection boosted our brains, thus setting us apart from chimps and monkeys.
- These majestic and endangered animals aren't trophies: Please use your house/truck for target practice!
- Putin treats Trump and his friends to a Thanksgiving feast! [Image]
- Women are leaving the party of Trump in droves: They are very active and rearing to run for office.
(6) Face recognition: Our brain is so well-tuned to recognizing faces that, when we see the reverse side (inside) of a mask, our brain automatically changes our perception to that of a regular convex face, rather than a concave one. [Something I learned in week 8 of the neuroeconomics course I am taking on-line.]
(7) Tweet of the day: "As a veteran I don't feel disrespected by those who kneel to protest injustice. I do feel disrespected by Trump pissing on the Constitution." ~ @CaseyHinds, responding to Tomi Lahren
(8) Final thought for the day: On Thanksgiving Day, we celebrate the kindness of Americans who fed diseased, undocumented, non-native-language-speaking, illegal aliens from Europe.

2017/11/22 (Wednesday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Pilot restarting a stalled propeller in flight, 1960s Young lovers embrace at Arc de Triomphe in Paris, 1960 New York City neighborhood, 1900 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Pilot restarting a stalled propeller in flight, 1960s. [Center] Young lovers embrace at Arc de Triomphe, 1960 (Thomas Nebbia, National Geographic Creative). [Right] NYC neighborhood, 1900.
(2) Iran's Supreme Leader is greeted warmly by earthquake victims: This is the fake-news headline of pro-government media in Iran about Khamenei's visit to Kurdistan's earthquake-ravaged areas. Look at this photo more closely and you will see that he was greeted not by ordinary people but by clerics and military personnel.
(3) Nasrin Setoudeh addresses the former President of Iran: Ahmadinejad is now part of an opposition group that has staged a sit-in to protest arbitrary arrests and prosecutions, conveniently forgetting that many victims of arbitrary arrests and prosecutions during his administration are still in prison.
(4) UCSB grad student in ICU: Atieh Taheri, suffering from spinal muscular atrophy, is at the ICU of Santa Barbara's Cottage Hospital. She is a graduate of Sharif University of Technology's computer engineering program and a current UCSB graduate student. Her family intends to take her to Stanford Medical Center as soon as feasible, because she can get better specialist help there. GoFundMe is being used to raise funds to help with her medical expenses. Here is Atieh's Facebook page. And here is the FB page of her sister, Atefeh Taheri, where she posts updates on Atieh's status and lists a second method of helping out via PayPal.
(5) Ten brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Saying that you should have left US citizens imprisoned because they don't like you as a leader is repugnent.
- Trump's endorsement of the misogynist and pedophile Roy Moore is the lowest point in US presidential history.
- Here we go again: Foreign-sponsored bots meddling in the on-going net-neutrality debate.
- Rafsanjani's daughter visits a Baha'i Leader: The two became friends when they served time together.
- Apple scientists publish research on their highly secretive self-driving-car project.
- AAAS and other scientific groups condemn GOP's tax bill as anti-science and harmful to graduate education.
- Kudos to this alert truck driver and the designers of his truck's braking system for saving a child's life.
- Quote of the day: "The secret of success is making your vocation your vacation." ~ Mark Twain
- Desert spring and winter: California and Texas, respectively. [Photos]
- A rather well-done 14-minute tour of Iran's geography, history, and culture.
(6) Are we any closer to solving the "P vs. NP" problem? MIT's Ryan Williams seems to have taken a step toward solving the infamous problem in theoretical computer science by connecting the domains of computational complexity and algorithm design. He has used the derivation of lower bounds on how much time a particular kind of circuit needs for solving a class of problems to derive mathematical functions for which the same class of circuits is provably inefficient.
(7) A perfect evening for walking in Santa Barbara's downtown streets and on Stearns Wharf: Spending time with my sons, watching a most colorful sunset, and dining at Santa Barbara Craft Ramen.

2017/11/21 (Tuesday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
The Bee Gees, 1959 Archery team, University of Chicago, 1935 A disabled war veteran begging in Berlin, 1923 (1) History in pictures: [Left] The Bee Gees, 1959. [Center] University of Chicago's archery team, 1935. [Right] A disabled war veteran begging in Berlin, 1923.
(2) The next step in self-driving car technology: Bringing the technology to older cars is the aim of a kit developed by the Canadian company X-Matik Inc. The kit, easily installed in about an hour, is said to provide an economical option for those who can't afford the sure-to-be-expensive initial self-driving car models.
(3) A pastor defended Roy Moore by citing the purity of young girls. Another said that more women are sexual predators than men!
(4) General McMaster believes that Trump has the intelligence of a kindergartner: "National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster mocked President Trump's intelligence at a private dinner with a powerful tech CEO, according to five sources with knowledge of the conversation."
(5) Eight brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Convoy of cars going to the aid of Kermanshah's earthquake victims in Iran creates a traffic jam.
- Quote of the day: "I don't know what I think until I write it down." ~ Joan Didion
- Question of the day: Will Trump repeal Obama's decisions on pardoning turkeys?
- Near-perfect frozen 40,000-year-old baby mammoth, discovered in 2007 by a reindeer herder in Siberia.
- Mehrnaz & Farnaz Dabirzadeh perform a cheerful traditional Persian tune: Parviz Meshkatian, composer.
- Disk drives from two old broken laptops, smashed with a hammer to make my private data inaccessible.
- I had not seen the leaning tower of Pisa and its adjacent cathedral from this angle before. Wonderful shot!
- Xi to Putin: "You were right—with this guy, [flattery] will get you ANYWHERE!" [Cartoon]
(6) Trophy hunting: A few days ago on NPR, someone observed that shooting an elephant with a high-power rifle is like shooting at a house: There's absolutely no challenge and it's not sports. I guess it's the same for other large, relatively slow-moving animals. [Image]
(7) Some photos from my visit to UCLA on Sudnay and Mondey (see the report of my lectures, posted on Monday 11/20). [The iconic Royce Hall and Powell Library] [A sampling of campus buildings, which include Dodd Hall (venue for Sunday's lecture) and the Humanities Building (venue for Monday afternoon's lecture, seen behind the trees of Dickson Court)] [Sculpture Garden]

2017/11/20 (Monday): My bilingual lectures at UCLA, today (in English) and yesterday (in Persian).
Flyer for the Persian lecture Photos taken at the lecture venues Flyer for the English lecture
"Computers and Challenges of Writing in Persian"
(Or "Fifty Years of Poor Penmanship: How Computers Struggled to Learn the Persian Script")
Speaker: Dr. Behrooz Parhami, Professor, UCSB [Photos in the middle above courtesy of Dr. Nayereh Tohidi]
Sunday, November 19, 2017, 4:00-6:00 PM, UCLA Dodd Hall, Room 121 (in Persian)
Monday, November 20, 2017, 2:00-4:00 PM, UCLA Humanities Building, Room 365 (in English)
On-line descriptions of the Persian and English lectures. Speaker's presentation slides (PDF file).
Modern Persian script is around 1200 years old and has undergone three developments in connection with modern technology. First, around 400 years ago, the introduction of printing presses in Iran necessitated significant changes to the script. Second, some seven decades ago, the script underwent additional changes for use with mechanical typewriters. Third, fifty-odd years ago, when banks and large governmental organizations imported electronic digital computers, the script had to be adapted to the fast-changing computer printer and display technologies. In all three instances, attributes of the Persian script made adaptation difficult and compromised the quality of the resulting script. Because changes made in connection with movable-type printers and typewriters subsequently affected the development of computer script, the talk covered aspects of all three transitions.
Movable-type fonts were developed based on the Naskh script, which was more suitable for the task than the artistic Nasta'liq. Each Persian letter was rendered in four variants (initial, middle, and final connected forms, as well as the solo form, not connected on either side) and realized in the form of small metal blocks that would be arranged into lines by a typesetter. Naskh script variants in the pre-printing era had many different shapes for each letter, which depended on context. Additionally, letters did not always appeared side by side, but rather were stacked on top of each other and their connections occurred as various heights within the written line. Movable fonts, on the other hand, had a horizontal connecting axis and connections between adjacent letters always occurred along that central line, thus making the shape of a letter independent of the surrounding letters, the four variants mentioned above notwithstanding.
With typewriters, even the four variants for each Persian letter were too many, because they would lead to some 120 forms (or 60 keys, assuming the use of a "shift" key) just for the letters, Add the digits, punctuation marks, and other special characters, and you see the problem. Fortunately, with very few exceptions (such as the letters "ein" and "ghein"), one can merge the two initial and middle forms, and do the same for the final and solo forms, to fit the resulting character set on a standard typewriter keyboard. This provision further degrades the quality of the resulting script, but over time, the ill effects are minimized through intelligent font design and human adaptation. IBM Selectric, a 1970s-vintage electric typewriter that introduced a golf-ball-like printing mechanism, already offered aesthetically-pleasing and very legible Persian script. Highly impressed, I chose the device to type an entire textbook in Persian, so as to give myself full technical and creative control over the final result.
Early computer displays had built-in "character generators" that drew letters and other symbols in geometric forms (a set of connected lines), which made it difficult to generate the Persian letters. There were also line-segment displays, used for calculators and other low-cost electronic devices. Early line-printers, used in computer centers, had rotating elements (drum, chain, and, later, daisy-chain, to name a few) that held a set of printable symbols. When a requisite symbol aligned with the print position as a result of rotation, a hammer mechanism would strike against the paper and ink ribbon, causing an impression of the letter to appear on paper. All oi these printing schemes would leave an undesirable space (corresponding to the mechanical spacing of the hammers) between adjacent Persian letters that should have been connected. Many ingenious schemes were proposed, implemented, and, occasionally abandoned, as we struggled to overcome technological limitations on the path to producing high-quality Persian output.
The beginnings of a solution presented itself when dot-matrix display units and printers were introduced. The idea is similar to what had been used for centuries in the Kufi script, which allowed artists to write decoratively on mosques and other important buildings in Persian and Arabic, using the juxtaposition of small square tiles of two or more colors. The simplest black-and-white dot-matrix may have 7 rows and 5 columns of dots. In both displaying and printing of information, a subset of the 35 dots would be rendered black and the others are left white, thus creating an approximate representation of the desired symbol. The simple 7 x 5 matrix is adequate for uppercase Latin letters and the larger 9 x 9 matrix also offers a reasonable representation of lower-case letters. Wide variation of letter widths and heights in Persian necessitates the use of a larger matrix to achieve the same aesthetic and legibility quality, which is now quite practical with high-definition displays and high-resolution printers, that even in their cheapest forms, now routinely offer 600 dots-per-inch quality.
The talk concluded with an overview of the current status of computer display and printing for the Persian script, features of the fonts provided by various applications, and areas where more work is still needed. Foremost among such areas is the resolution of problems in bilingual display/printing and nagging incompatibilities that cause formatting headaches when text is copied between various applications. A Q&A and discussion period ended the session.
[This Facebook post also contains a Persian version of the lecture summary presented above.]

2017/11/19 (Sunday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Easy Strimko with a 5-by-5 grid Medium Strimko with a 6-by-6 grid Hard Strimko with a 7-by-7 grid (1) Strimko, a Soduku-like puzzle that can be more challenging: As in Soduku, we have an n x n array of cells that should be filled using the numbers 1 through n, so that no row and no column contains repeated numbers. Instead of rectangular boxes in Soduku, we have cells interconnected via lines in arbitrary patterns. A set of interconnected cells also should contain no repetition. A typical puzzle has some of the cells already filled in (just as in Soduku) and you need to fill in the blank cells. Try the three puzzles above, ranging from easy 5 x 5 to hard 7 x 7. If you like these examples, you can find more at
(2) On Islamization of humanities and social sciences: Iran's Supreme Leader and his cronies want to purge their ideological rivals through the Islamization of university curricula, but their slogan "Islamization of humanities" has it backwards, according to Dr. Hossein Kamaly, quoted in this Persian-language article. Humanization of Islamic thought is the right way to go.
(3) Editing of genes inside the human body may become a reality: Previously, genes were edited in the lab, with the goal of re-incorporating them back into the patient's body. Now, a corrective gene is paired with two zinc finger proteins, which act as a kind of molecular scissors, cutting DNA to create a place where the new gene can insert itself.
(4) Columbia grad student Amanda Rose does the calculations to show how the GOP tax bill will reduce her usable income, after taxes and rent, from about $21K to approximately $6K per year, because of taxes due on her tuition and fee waivers. The last number on the page, showing the increase in her tax liability, should be 361% (the new number is 4.61 times the old one, but the increase is 361%). The same tax plan gives private-jet owners tax breaks for the costs of storage, maintenance, and fueling!
(5) The oldest piece of writing to use the word "America" appears on a 2D printed globe made by a German cartographer 510 years ago. The 2D globe will be auctioned off by Christie's on December 13, 2017.
(6) Pioneering hardware and software engineers: Howard Aiken (hardware architect, seated, center), Grace Murray Hopper (software engineer, seated, second from right), and others from the US Department of Defense in front of Harvard Mark I, 1944. [Image] [Image credit: Encyclopedia Britannica]
(7) UCSB Reads: The book chosen for community reading and discussion on our campus in 2018 is Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren, who chronicles her coming of age as a scientist, juxtaposing her scientific autobiography with beautifully-rendered meditations on the life of plants. The book, already on my to-read list, will now move forward in the queue! Community events related to this book will include a free lecture by Hope Jahren at UCSB's Campbell Hall on April 3, 2018.
(8) Headed to Los Angeles for lectures at UCLA, today 11/19 in Persian and tomorrow 11/20 in English.

2017/11/18 (Saturday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Inside a passenger plane, 1930 Before alarm clocks were affordable, 'knocker-ups' were used to wake people early in the morning, UK, ca. 1900 Londoners celebrate Christmas Day 1940 in an underground bomb shelter (1) History in pictures: [Left] Inside a passenger plane, 1930. [Center] Before alarm clocks were affordable, 'knocker-ups' were used to wake people early in the morning, UK, ca. 1900. [Right] Londoners celebrate Christmas Day 1940 in an underground bomb shelter.
(2) The anti-press President: "Most mornings, the early Twitter tweets of amateur President Donald Trump are like the loud passing of intestinal gas. They stink for a while but drift away. Thursday might have been the exception for this television-obsessed authoritarian." ~ From an article in The Observer
(3) As they say, people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones: Trump's unwise tweet about Al Franken has caused the media to revisit the history of sexual misconduct allegations against him.
(4) When Trump compared the upset victory of the young PM of New Zealand to his own, she replied to his face, in jest, "But no one marched when I was elected!" Welcome, New Zealand, to the list of failing countries!
(5) Eight brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Trump gives Palestine 90 days to get serious about peace talks with Israel, or its DC office will be closed.
- End days: How NASA monitors space for events that could end the world.
- Three-dimensional 3D-printed naonmagnets allow more compact data storage and processing.
- Machine-learning is being applied to the problem of diagnosing supercomputer malfunctions.
- Quantum computing with molecules allows quicker searching of unsorted data sets.
- Tesla unveils electric semi-truck with 500-mile range: Working on 400-mile charging scheme in 30 min.
- Fun fact of the day: In the US, 92% of Americans celebrate Christmas, including 81% of non-Christians.
- Cartoon of the day: The Gettysburg Address, delivered Trump style! [Image]
(6) [Political humor] Donald Trump: "I saw first-hand that the Great Wall of China works. During my visit there, I didn't encounter a single Mexican." ~ Seen on the Internet in various forms
(7) Given the welcome attention to the serious problem of sexual misconduct, the following would not have been tolerated, had they occurred in late 2017: Bill Clinton's continued presidency, Clarence Thomas' confirmation, Donald Trump's candidacy.
(8) Jordan Burroughs, American world and Olympic champion in freestyle wrestling who went to Kermanshah for the 2017 World Cup, sends thoughts and prayers to the people of Kermanshah in Persian on Instagram.
(9) Signing off with four black-and-white shots by photographer Helen Levitt. Titles are mine.
[Boy and the drama queen] [Curiosity killed the cat] [Couple on subway car] [Street performance]

2017/11/17 (Friday): Here are six items of potential interest.
A Japanese-American family returning home from an internment camp in Idaho One of the rare photographs of a slave ship. This was done by Marc Ferrez in 1882 Women protesting the forced hijab in Iran, days after the 1979 Revolution (1) History in pictures: [Left] A Japanese-American family returning home from an internment camp in Idaho. [Center] One of the rare photographs of a slave ship. This was done by Marc Ferrez in 1882. [Right] Women protesting the forced hijab in Iran, days after the 1979 Revolution.
(2) Donald Trump's tweet: "The Al Frankenstien (sic) picture is really bad, speaks a thousand words. Where do his hands go in pictures 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 while she sleeps?"
Great question! Fortunately, the ambiguity does not exist about where your hands would go on a woman!
(3) Some Alabama Republicans are abandoning Roy Moore: They state their respect for the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" but maintain it does not mean "electable until proven guilty."
(4) Jared Kushner is privy to the country's most important national-security secrets while having only an interim security clearance. He has not been given a full clearance yet. Given the just-released info about his contacts with WikiLeaks, there is a chance he will never be fully cleared for access to top-secret information.
(5) Seven brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Massive flash floods in Greece leave 15 dead: Several people are reported missing.
- Da Vinci painting auctioned for a record $450M: The last increase that led to the winning bid was $50M!
- Robot gymnastics: This Boston Dynamics robot does a backflip.
- What a concept! A president-to-be reading newspapers, rather than watching television. [Photo]
- Ahad Panahi's calligraphic rendering of a Rumi verse, reading "Kay shavad een ravaan-e man saaken?"
- Maybe Trump will succeed in draining the swamp, including the section of it that is him and his cabinet!
- Cartoon of the day: What the explorers were looking for. [By John Atkinson] [Image] [Image]
(6) Today's lecture on AI and computer security: Speaking under the title "AI and Computer Security: Lessons, Challenges, and Future Directions," Dr. Dawn Song, EECS Professor at UC Berkeley, discussed how AI can be used to improve or hurt computer security and how security techniques can be introduced into AI systems to make them less vulnerable to adversarial interference.
In the area of applying AI to the security domain, examples were provided of how deep learning can be used to spot security threats before they do damage to our systems, as well as how hackers can benefit from AI method to penetrate relatively secure systems that may not be vulnerable to established methods of attack. A case in point is the recent progress in the design of bots that can solve captcha codes.
In the reverse direction, many research teams have revealed the extreme vulnerability of deep learning methods to adversarial interference. One of the speaker's slides showed that when photographs of different individuals are compressed for storage economy and then decompressed before use, a knowledgeable adversary can modify the images slightly, in a way that is invisible to a human observer, so that the compression-decompression sequence always leads to the same targeted image, effectively defeating a face-recognition system. Dr. Song concluded by enumerating the many open problems that exist at the boundary between AI and computer security.
Even though I learned much from this talk, there were two aspects of it that bothered me. First, just as we have cheapened "A"s and "B"s at our universities through grade inflation, we have cheapened the designation "distinguished speaker/lecture" in recent years. Not every successful or prolific researcher is "distinguished," a designation, that, in my view, requires having been around the block a few times, so to speak, and being able to synthesize ideas from a broad range of disciplines.
Second, the speaker was very difficult to understand, given her accent, tone of voice, and fast speech. One of the greatest time/resource investments that young researchers can make in their careers is to take professional training courses in voice/speech and public speaking. Such an investment is particularly important for those who have to speak regularly in a language different from their primary one.

2017/11/16 (Thursday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Aerial view of Manhattan, 1951 British soldier on a horse in zebra camouflage, German East Africa during World War I Two million people gathered in NYC's Times Square on May 8, 1945, to celebrate the end of World War II (1) History in pictures: [Left] Aerial view of Manhattan, 1951. [Center] British soldier on a horse in zebra camouflage, German East Africa during World War I. [Right] Two million people gathered in NYC's Times Square on May 8, 1945, to celebrate the end of World War II.
(2) Dictators don't like social media: Among social media apps, the largest number of countries (12) have blocked WhatsApp and the largest number (27) have arrested Facebook users. [Source: E&T magazine, issue of November 2017]
(3) Some facts about the "Uranium One" deal, from Fox News. [Yes, that's Fox News, which I rarely use as a source, but here it might just stop conservatives from spewing their usual hatred against the Clintons.]
(4) Sign of the times: If you ever frequent this business, make sure to point out where your eyes are and stress that you want a RETINAL exam, just in case!
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Censored topics by country: A few (e.g., China and Iran) censor everything. Others are more selective.
- Kurdish women engaged in clean-up and reconstruction after the devastating magnitude-7.3 quake.
- Borowitz report: "Trump warns that dumping Roy Moore could start a dangerous trend of believing women."
- The Sound (and Visions) of Silence: Mesmerizing NASA footage, set to the Simon & Garfunkel song.
- Cartoon of the day: BRB note on Elon Musk's office door: "Gone to NY, back in 10 mins."
- The Chase Palm Park carousel will be leaving Santa Barbara in a couple of weeks; free rides on 12/2-3.
(6) A story from one year ago, today: Many fake-news posts of the past couple of years make more sense now, given what we have learned about the Russian meddling in our 2016 election. The year-old post begins thus: "Did you read the Denver Guardian story ... ," referring to a nonexistent newspaper.
(7) [Humor] Sharing what a neighbor wrote in a community newsletter: We Silver Surfers know that sometimes we have trouble with our computers. Yesterday I had a problem, so I called Georgie, the 11-year-old next door, whose bedroom looks like Mission Control, and asked him to come over. Georgie clicked a couple of buttons and solved the problem. As he was walking away, I called after him, "So, what was wrong?" He replied, "It was and ID ten T error." I didn't want to appear stupid, but nonetheless inquired, "An ID ten T error? What's that? In case I need to fix it again." Georgie grinned. "Haven't you ever heard of an ID ten T error before?" "No," I replied. "Write it down and I think you'll figure it out." So, I wrote it down: ID10T; I used to like Georgie.
(8) Attitudes are really changing: Singer Drake interrupted his concert to warn a man who was touching the women in the audience inappropriately. It is now everybody's business to stop sexual assaults.
(9) Today was my cleaning lady's last day. She is moving in a few days to be closer to her family members. She recruited a local friend to continue her work at my house. I will miss this very conscientious and hard-working woman. My daughter baked a blueberry bread/cake for her as one of the parting gifts. [Photos]

2017/11/15 (Wednesday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Mount Rushmore, as the carving project begins, ca. 1929 School playground equipment in the year 1900 Statue of Liberty, being constructed in France (1) History in pictures: [Left] Mount Rushmore, hland and Japan take positions 3 and 4 with entries that are not only a tad more powerful than the US's Titan (at #5), but also more energy-efficient. [Image]
(3) Russia's Ministry of Defense posts, then deletes, footage from a computer game as 'evidence' that the US is helping ISIS!
(4) Entertainment industry figures accused of sexual harassment: Most of the cases on this list are still at the accusation stage and no verdict is implied, but the list is useful as a way of seeing the extent of the problem.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Trump better be careful in going after critics from prior administrations. There will be a next administration!
- Twelve lawyers are being hired to start the process of seizing land for Trump's border wall.
- The United States was one of 18 countries to have its elections influenced by foreign bots.
- Iranian poet Tahirih recognized as an early feminist and a role model for Western suffragette movements.
- Observation: We are no longer allowed or able to fix our electronic gadgets.
- Patent diagram from 1891 settles proper use of a toilet paper roll (no more fights about "over" or "under").
(6) Earthquake update: Reports from the magnitude-7.3 earthquake devastation in Iran's western province of Kermanshah continue to come in. Here is a video report from a village that suffered near-total destruction. No government aid has arrived there yet, according to the villagers. Here are more images of the destruction. And here is how to help the victims. Not many international relief organizations have a presence in, or are allowed to go to, the devastation zone, particularly the epicenter, Sar-Pol Zahab. Moms Against Poverty (MAP) is a reputable organization that can help, and much help is needed according to pleas for help coming from the region. Amid the sad news, there are also glimmers of hope: Kianoush Rostami, Iran's Olympic weightlifting champion, is auctioning off his gold medal to raise money for earthquake relief efforts.
(7) Concert at the Music Bowl: UCSB Gamelan Ensemble performed at noon today. I don't much care for Gamelan music, which comes primarily from Indonesia, but the kinds of instruments used (mostly percussion) and the intricate playing techniques fascinate me. [Photos] Almost all Gamelan music pieces are soft and dreamy, with this dance tune being a rare exception. [Fun fact: More Muslims live in Indonesia than in the entire Middle East combined.] Taking the library shortcut on the way from the Music Bowl to my office, I was asked by a young lady attending a desk in the lobby whether I wanted to share on a special display my thoughts about what I am thankful for. So, I wrote something on a brown leaf. If you know me well, you may be able to spot my leaf in this photo, either from the content or from the handwriting.

2017/11/14 (Tuesday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
R2D2 and C3PO visit Big Bird on Sesame Street, 1970s Colorized photo of Captain Walter Young and his crew in front of their caricatures on their B-29 Superfortress, 1944 The first color photograph of the Sphinx and the Pyramid of Giza, 1913 (1) History in pictures: [Left] R2D2 and C3PO visit Big Bird on Sesame Street, 1970s. [Center] Colorized photo of Captain Walter Young and his crew in front of their caricatures on their B-29 Superfortress, 1944. [Right] The first color photograph of the Sphinx and the Pyramid of Giza, 1913.
(2) Today is "National Run-for-Office Day": Make a difference by running for a local or national office. Run for dog-catcher, if you must. Anything will do. Just act!
(3) At least four people and the gunman are dead after shootings in multiple locations, including an elementary school, in Northern California's Tehama County, according to the Assistant Sheriff. [Hush, don't talk about gun control; this isn't the time!]
(4) One-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Report on Iran's 7.3 earthquake, showing widespread destruction, including major cracks in a dam.
- John McCain tweet: "Human rights obviously not a priority in @POTUS's meeting with Dutert—again, sad."
- Jeff Sessions is either lying or has a very poor memory. Either way, he is unfit to serve as a cabinet member.
- Bill Gates invests $50 million to start a wide-ranging battle against dementia.
- Universities oppose the GOP tax plan over its adverse effects on endowments and student loans.
- Broadcom's new GPS chip will bring a resolution of 30 cm to smartphones in 2018.
- Selfie with Hitler: A museum in Indonesia removes Hitler's wax figure in front of Auschwitz after backlash.
- TSA agent risks his life to remove a smoking backpack from an airport security-check area.
- An antique car I encountered on the street during my afternoon walk. [Photo]
- Comic strip of the day: includes several spot-on observations. ["The Modern World"]
- Remnants of 260M-year-old forest discovered in Antarctica: The trees lived before dinosaurs.
- These "Flying Pencils" were installed on the UCSB campus by Peter Logan in 1986.
(5) Cartoon of the day: "... there won't be any dividends this quarter due to increased operating expenses ... we have to buy a whole new bunch of Congressmen ..." [Image]
(6) Iranian earthquake: Kurdish women use their resilience and improvisation talents to make up for shortage of tents to weather chilly nights outside their earthquake-damaged homes near Kermanshah. [Photo]
(7) Inverted priorities: Anti-riot forces arrive in some western Iran earthquake areas before search-and-rescue groups. Foreign reporters are banned from the region. [Photos of the devastation]
(8) Pacific Views, UCSB Library Speaker Series: Professor Yasamin Mostofi (UCSB Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering) spoke this afternoon under the title "Robotics Meets Wireless Communications: Opportunities and Challenges." These photos show some of the speaker's slides, as well as sweeping views of the campus and Pacific Ocean from the 8th-floor venue at the campus library (the Pacific Views Room). Professor Mostofi outlined her recent NSF-supported research that uses a combination of drones or other robotic vehicles and wi-fi to solve various practical problems, such as seeing beyond/around walls or counting human occupants in a particular environment. These problems are solvable with radar, but use of wi-fi constitutes a more cost-effective and broadly-accessible method. Radar can provide both directional and distance information, but wi-fi supplies only the signal strength as the sole clue, thus requiring sophisticated signal-processing techniques to deduce the information of interest. [Professor Mostofi's Web page]

2017/11/13 (Monday): Here are four items of potential interest.
A veteran and his son gaze at the Golden Gate Bridge from the shoreline of the nearby San Francisco VA Medical Center, 1943 Children cross the river using pulleys on their way to school in the outskirts of Modena, Italy, 1959 A group of immigrants traveling aboard a ship celebrate as they catch their first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, 1910 (1) History in pictures: [Left] A veteran and his son gaze at the Golden Gate Bridge from the shoreline of the nearby San Francisco VA Medical Center, 1943. [Center] Children cross the river using pulleys on their way to school in the outskirts of Modena, Italy, 1959. [Right] A group of immigrants traveling aboard a ship celebrate as they catch their first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty, 1910.
(2) The Utah teapot: This image is the result of a 3D graphical model created by Martin Newel for his PhD thesis in the mid-1970s. The model, which made appearances in several well-known animated films and earned the moniker of "World's Most Famous Teapot" foretold of mind-boggling advances in computer graphics. [Image credit: IEEE Spectrum magazine, issue of November 2017]
(3) One-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Magnitude-7.3 earthquake kills at least 300 in the Iran-Iraq border area.
- Message from Kermanshah, Iran: "We don't need condolences, we need help." [Photo]
- Donald Trump Jr. was in contact with WikiLeaks for months, requesting info and suggesting leak ideas.
- Trump believes Putin's election meddling denials but disbelieves US intelligence that indicates otherwise!
- Mass approval of Trump-branded businesses in China raises questions about conflict of interest.
- Random thought for the day: Now, no one can say that Trump didn't go to Vietnam!
- Viola Brand: German champion of artistic cycling, a combination of bicycling, gymnastics and ballet.
- Condensation-trail of a plane flying below high cirrus clouds, with a low Sun casting an upward shadow.
- Persian poetry: I spent some time on Saturday, browsing a book of poems by Parvin Etesami. [Samples]
- Percent of college graduates in STEM fields that are women, by country. [Chart]
- Cartoon of the day: Is anything real if there's no record of it on social media? [Image]
- Wow, the sun is already down at 4:45 this afternoon! [Photos]
Cover image for 'Option B,' by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant (4) Book review: Sandberg, Sheryl and Adam Grant, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, unabridged audiobook on 5 CDs, read by Elisa Donovan, Random House Audio, 2017.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg emerged as a champion of women's empowerment with her best-selling book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead. This new book by Sandberg and her co-author, a Wharton professor, relates what she learned about loss and ways of coping with it, after the sudden death of her husband of 11 years David Goldberg in a freak exercise accident at a hotel gym. Her task was made more difficult by the fact that she had to help her two children cope with the loss as well.
The thesis of the book is that our resilience isn't finite, but resembles a muscle that we can strengthen, regardless of how much it has already been used. Sandberg's personal experience and Grant's research provide coping mechanisms and practical strategies to bounce back and find joy. The strength to cope comes in part from our built-in mechanisms and partly from external support.
In a way, there isn't much new in this book. Humans have evolved to cope with loss and adversity, and there are many people around the world who have coped and are coping with even greater losses. Yet, each personal story provides a new angle and fresh ammunition to attack our sense of loss and disappointment. The fresh angle in Sandberg's story is her ability to cope, while engaged in a fast-moving and high-pressure business environment in Silicon Valley.
A key piece of advice that stuck in my mind is that each person should try to recover at his/her own comfortable pace, that is, one should not rush it. A second take-away is not to feel guilt for seeking and finding joy after the loss.
The Option-B Web site provides a community for those struggling with loss or adversity. There is also an affiliated Facebook page for coping with grief.

2017/11/12 (Sunday): Here are five items of potential interest.
Wonderful example of Persian calligraphic art (1) Wonderful example of Persian calligraphic art: The artist's name is inscribed on the bottom left, but I can't quite make it out.
(2) "International Relations," a comedy in many acts: Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me "old," when I would NEVER call him "short and fat?" Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend - and maybe someday that will happen! [Donald Trump tweet from Vietnam]
(4) Tonight, I attended a musical program entitled "Montage 2017" at the Trinity Episcopal Church, downtown Santa Barbara, in which UCSB's Department of Music showcased the talent of its faculty members and students. Following are some videos from the program.
["The Speaking Drums," performed by Shashank Aswath on tabla] [Performance by Petra Persolja of "Venezia e Napoli: Tarantella" (Franz Liszt) on piano] [Arabian music, performed by Sam Khattar, voice/oud, Scott Marcus, Ney, Sue Rudnicki, tabla, and Solmaz Soleimani, violin] ["Trio in A minor, Op 114: Allegro" (Johannes Brahms), performed by Jonathan Moerschel, viola, Jennifer Kloetzel, cello, and Robert Koenig, piano] [Traditional Iranian music on santoor by Bahram Osqueezadeh]
(3) Trump takes back his comment that he believes Putin's words over the assessment of US intelligence agencies: Like the taking back of his Charlottesville comments, someone has told him that he made a boo-boo and, again, he took back his words in a way that was obviously half-hearted. He did not say that he trusted US intelligence agencies, only the leaders he has installed there. One of those leaders, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, has explicitly accepted the intelligence assessment that Russia meddled in the US election.
(5) Introduction to Neuroeconomics: How the Brain Makes Decisions (weeks 6-7):
Having reported on the overall course structure and my experience in weeks 1-3 through my 10/24 post and weeks 4-5 on 10/29, I briefly describe the contents of the next two weeks here. There are 9 weeks in all, so I will offer one last post for the final two weeks.
[Week 6] Dual process theory of decision-making: Toward a neuroeconomics perspective
a. Dual process theory (Valuation system at a glance; Dual process theory and neuroeconomics) Real values are subjective; when different outcomes are possible with corresponding probabilities, a weighted sum is used to derive the expected value for comparisons and eventual decision-making. Emotions play an important role in decision-making through affecting our valuations and probability estimates. Decisions are intuitive (system 1: emotional, heuristic-based, fast, parallel, effortless) or rational (system 2: neutral, rule-governed, slow, serial, effortful). Ironically, for complex decisions, system 1 yields better results.
b. The role of DLPFC in self-control (Modulation of the value signal by the DLPFC; Self-regulation & DLPFC)
Brain activity pattern is substantially different for self-controllers (who reject tasty, unhealthy food) versus non-self-controllers. Decisions do not always follow self-interest (as economics would predict) but also consider fairness. Experiments in which one person is given a sum of money, which s/he splits in two parts, offering one of them to a second person. If the second person rejects the offer, neither one gets any money. The second person typically rejects small offers of less than 20%, despite losing money as a result. The average acceptable offer, across many different culutres, is around 40-50%. Anterior insula (area involved in negative emotions and disgust) is activated when there is an unfair offer. System 1 (emotional) is particularly sensitive to immediate rewards and tends to severely discount delayed rewards, whereas system 2 (rational) is better at weighing delayed versus immediate rewards.
c. Guest lecture by Samuel McClure (Dual or single; expert opinion)
Arguments in favor of dual process theory vs. single decision-making process using various subsystems.
[Week 7] Decision-making under risk: Toward a neuroeconomic mechanism
a. Risk and the anticipatory affect model (Risk as uncertainty of the outcome; Anticipatory affect model)
The term "risk" is used when the probabilities of various outcomes are known; otherwise, we have ambiguity. Through repeated sampling and learning, one can gradually turn ambiguity into risk. Risk is highest when the probability is around 0.5 (very low probabilities or near-certainty entails less risk). In risk-return models, the valuation is reduced by b times the risk, where b is the index of risk aversion.
b. Risk aversion (Neuroeconomics of risk aversion; "Decision weights," framing effect and prospect theory)
Humans and other animals are generally risk-averse. They might choose a smaller reward that is certain over an uncertain reward with a larger expected value. Nucleus accumbens when activated leads to more openness to risk. Prospect theory suggests that both probability estimations and valuations are non-linear. We tend to overestimate small probabililties and underestimate large probabilities. Also, we underestimate gains (leading to joy) and overestimate losses (pain). One way to measure risk aversion is via the "certainty equivalent" measure. If you choose a $30 certain reward over an expected reward of $50 ($0 or $100, with equal probabilities, say), you are more risk-averse than someone who would require $45 to choose the certain outcome under the same conditions.
c. Guest lecture by Brian Knutson (The nucleus accumbens: Rewards and risks)
Rewards prediction totally unrelated to the choice at hand (e.g., seeing arousing photos) can push someone to more risk-taking. Conversely, negative stimulation can trigger greater risk aversion. Another example is sunny versus rainy weather or running into someone you like/hate affecting decisions.

2017/11/11 (Saturday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Young couples dancing, 1950 French actors Alain Delon and Brigitte Bardot, 1968 Young couple at a drive-in theater, 1961 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Young couples dancing, 1950. [Center] French actors Alain Delon and Brigitte Bardot, 1968. [Right] Young couple at a drive-in theater, 1961.
(2) Happy Veterans' Day! This ageless quote is appropriate for today, when we honor soldiers and veterans, who make sacrifices in fighting wars, while generals and politicians are remembered in historical records as heroes: "In war the heroes always outnumber the soldiers ten to one." ~ H. L. Mencken
(3) Saudi Arabia's transition of power from Alzheimer's-afflicted 80-somethings to a brash, inexperienced prince is worrisome: With 70% of the Saudis under age 30 and 25% unemployed, the snail-paced reforms of the past no longer cut it, but one corrupt prince (who once impulsively bought a $550M yacht from a Russian) arresting 7 others for corruption is like Donald Trump suddenly firing seven cabinet secretaries for lying, as observed by NYT's Thomas Friedman.
(4) Political humor: Saudi princes accused of corruption are imprisoned at Ritz-Carlton Hotel. They are told to behave, or else they will be transferred to Marriott! [Video]
(5) Ten brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Trump blames previous US administrations for what a year ago he called "China raping our country"!
- The wealthiest 3 Americans (Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet) hold more wealth then the bottom 50%.
- Mass shootings aren't about mental illness, but about easy access to killing machines. [Image]
- Fascinating discovery of how a fungal parasite takes over an ant's body, turning it into a zombie ant.
- Clearest-ever 3D images of neurons firing in the brain recorded, using laser technology.
- From the "corporations are people" bunch: Their new tax plan says that corporations are above people!
- Disney rejection letter to a woman job applicant, 1938. [Note: I'm uncertain about the letter's veracity.]
- Someone's excited to be singing in the choir: Good thing she is standing on the side! [Video]
- Cartoon of the day: Special section for mass-shooting condolence cards in your favorite store. [Image]
- A selfless teacher helps little students on their way to school across a stream in a rural part of Iran.
(6) An indictment for Mike Flynn now seems likely: He and his son were reportedly offered millions to help remove from the US a Muslim cleric wanted by Turkey.
(7) Information exchange via shoelaces: During the Cold War, CIA agents used a method of communication based on how their shoelaces were tied. [Image]
(8) China is expanding its global reach: By investing in road and rail networks, along with ports and other transportation infrastructures, China is connecting itself to the world and increasing its international influence. [Image credit: Time magazine, issue of November 13, 2017]
(9) The floodgate of sexual misconduct allegations has opened: It seems that the downfall of several very powerful men (and in very few cases, women) in various domains has emboldened victims to step out of the shadows. Sure, there may be false allegations mixed in with valid ones, but even if we unrealistically estimate that half of the accusations are false, we still have a serious social problem to contend with. The despicable behavior of the men accused of improper sexual conduct will no doubt lead to a welcome behavioral change. Initially, the change will be fear-based, in the sense of men not wanting to get in trouble with their families or to compromise their careers. But, over time, with the new generation being raised to be aware of issues related to sexual aggression and abuse of power, the behavioral change will be internalized as part of a cultural shift. A worrisome part of the new revelations is that some Republicans/conservatives dismiss them as politically motivated or, worse, say that nothing is wrong with predatory sexual behavior (some going as far as citing the Bible about sexual relations with minors being okay).

2017/11/10 (Friday): Report on yesterday afternoon's panel discussion entitled "Is There Any Good News About Fake News?" at UCSB's Mosher Alumni House: [This report is subject to updates and corrections]
Photos from panel discussion entitled 'Is There Any Good News About Fake News?' A standing-room-only audience heard the views of four panelists, joined by panel organizers/moderators, Professors Cynthia Stohl and Bruce Bimber, the current and founding Directors of the UCSB Center for Information Technology and Society. Seated from left to right in the accompanying photo (the moderators are on the far right and Leila J. Rupp, UCSB's Interim Dean of Social Sciences, opening the session, stands on the far left) are:
- Yochai Benkler, Prof. Entrepreneurial Legal Studies, Harvard Law School; Co-Dir. Berkman-Klein Ctr. for Internet and Society
- Maggie Farley, Creator of "Factitious," a game that tests users' skill in detecting fake news; formerly of the LA Times
- Eugene Kiely, Dir.; formerly of USA Today and Philadelphia Inquirer
- Miriam Metzger, Prof. Communication, UCSB; Dir. Information and Society PhD Emphasis
The short answer is "yes." We have become accustomed to exercising caution in accepting opinions about medical treatments (hence, the prevalence of seeking second opinions) or how to plan our finances. Yet, until last year, we routinely trusted any news that came to us from news organizations whose names were even vaguely familiar.
Stohl began the proceedings by outlining how the panel, and the day-long gathering of researchers, of which the public panel was a part, came about, naming and thanking all those who played a part in making the event a reality. She also set the stage for presentations by the four panelists and the Q&A segment that followed.
Benklar showed a number of slides visualizing, in the form of large graphs, the results of studies on how news sources link to one another and the impact of fake news on the linking structure. One interesting observation is that fake-news sources, far from being isolated bad actors, influence how other sources cover the news (e.g., by running stories refuting the fake news items). His "good news" was the fact that we are making progress in understanding fake news from a scientific perspective.
Farley spoke about her efforts, through designing the Tinder-like game "Factitious" (where you swipe left or right to indicate whether you consider a story fake news), in the area of educating the public on how to recognize fake news. Among the results of her study are the fact that the source of a news story has a singularly important effect on whether we believe it and that many people share news stories having read only the headline, thus making the wording of the headline very important.
Kiely mentioned that even though the public has only recently become interested in fact-checking, foresaw the importance of checking the veracity of news stories since its inception in 2007 and was very active throughout the onslaught of fake news during Obama years. The good news is that social media have begun cooperating with fact-checking organizations to flag suspicious stories as "Disputed." Another piece of good news is a collaboratively prepared list of fake news sources.
Metzger had more good news than the other panelists, some of them selfish (such as her long-term area of research on credibility having been validated) and the spread and deepening of our knowledge about the role played by social-media companies, how people process information, and the nature of journalism. Other benefits include greater collaboration between fact-checking organizations and the entry of researchers from various disciplines into the field.
Bimber asked two questions to begin the Q&A segment of the panel.
Q1: Of the disciplines tackling the fake-news problem, which one is the most-likely source of possible solutions?
Q2: Given cognitive limits, are citizens up to the task of sorting out so much information and disinformation?
As expected, the two questions elicited a variety of reactions from the panel. We humans have developed heuristics to simplify the task of processing vast amounts of information, and resorting to tribalism and trusting a small number of sources (friends, people with the same mindset) are our ways of reducing the effort. Of course, going to the other extreme of being skeptical about everything is not helpful, so we need to work on a happy medium. Another difficulty related to human cognition is that, even after we are shown (with incontrovertible proof) that something is false, the false information is solidified in our mind with repetition.
An audience member asked whether our focus on fake news in the context of modern US politics is too short-sighted, elaborating that we should seek to learn about the problem in historical and geographic contexts (how our ancestors and other countries have dealt with the problem). It turns out that France as well as 11 US states mandate media literacy programs that produce more informed citizens in the area of consuming news. In Germany, the strength of public broadcasting prevents fake news stories from gaining a foothold. In the UK, BBC serves the same function.
I end my report with two related anecdotes. Today, on NPR (hope it's not fake news!), I heard a story about how the Chinese government is setting up a system that assigns a "social score" to each citizen based on his/her activities, purchases, social-media interactions, and so on, in a manner similar to the credit score in the US. Presumably, the social score can then be used to judge people's trustworthiness. Most of us realize that this is a very dangerous scheme, but, ironically, the Chinese consider this "transparent" system an improvement over secret data-gathering on individuals by the Communist Party! The second anecdote is about the book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do (by Charles Duhigg) which helps explain why we process information the way we do. I am listening to the audiobook version of the title now and will review it in the near future.

2017/11/09 (Thursday): Here are six items of potential interest.
The American soldier behind an iconic kiss photo The nurse behind that same iconic kiss photo Iconic movie kiss from 'Breakfast at Tiffany's.' (1) History in pictures: [Left] The American soldier behind an iconic kiss photo. [Center] The nurse behind that same iconic kiss photo. [Right] Iconic movie kiss from "Breakfast at Tiffany's," 1961.
(2) Grad students will be hurt by the GOP tax plan: Most live based on a stipend/salary of ~$20-30K, along with tuition waivers. The waivers will be taxed as income in the new plan, reducing their net incomes.
(3) Russia undergoes a history war in parallel with the US: At issue is how to handle Lenin's corpse, as the country celebrates halfheartedly, the 100th anniversary of its October Revolution in November.
(4) Tweet of the day, by Erica Buist (I couldn't have said it better): "Why not just ban guns and when people are upset about it, just send them thoughts and prayers? If 'thoughts and prayers' are good enough for people who've lost their families then [they're] good enough for people who've lost their guns."
(5) Ten brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Governor Brown appoints an Iranian-American woman to the Superior Court of Santa Clara County.
- Volkswagen and Google expand their quantum-computing research partnership.
- Exceptionalism: Syria to join the Paris Climate Agreement, leaving the US as the only country opposing it.
- California, the EU, and China to create a common carbon market to fight climate change.
- Santa Barbara, CA, just elected its 5th female mayor in a row: Ads against Cathy Murillo were super-nasty.
- This Cayman Islands building is home to 20,000 tax-dodging corporations, according to Bernie Sanders.
- UCSB is hiring two tenure-track assistant professors in computer engineering.
- Just-elected NJ and VA governors are utterly unqualified: Neither one has any reality-show experience!
- Santa Barbara's current sales-tax rate of 7.75% will increase by 1% on April 1, 2018.
- The White House blames losing Republican candidates for not fully embracing the Trump agenda.
(6) Interesting facts from a sexual harassment training course I completed as part of the University of California requirements for senior staff with supervisory responsibilities: Of stalkers pursuing victims, 42% are acquaintances, 28% are current/former partners, 9% are strangers (in the remaining cases, the victim did not know or could not identify the stalker).
(7) Historian and presidential biographer John Meacham speaking on Trump: Meacham's American Lion, a Pulitzer-Prize-winning biography of Andrew Jackson, has been chosen for Santa Barbara Public Library's Book Club discussion ahead of Meacham's visit to give a lecture at UCSB's Campbell Hall on November 16, 2017.
(8) An effective "Facts First" ad by CNN: Showing an apple, the narrator indicates that some would like you to believe this is a banana through screaming "banana" over and over again or putting "BANANA" in all-caps. But this is an apple.
(9) Final thought for the day: Republican candidates realize that they are in a lose-lose situation. Get too close to Trump and you are doomed, given his overall approval rating of around 35%. Keep your distance, and you are doomed, particularly in primaries, given his approval rating of a tad over 80% among Republicans.

2017/11/08 (Wednesday): Here are Seven items of potential interest.
Pele's famous bicycle kick at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, 1965 Alfred Hitchcock seeking inspiration in the river Thames, 1960s Albert Einsteins Princeton office exactly as he left it upon his death on April 18th, 1955 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Pele's famous bicycle kick at Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, 1965. [Center] Alfred Hitchcock seeking inspiration in the river Thames, 1960s. [Right] Albert Einstein's Princeton office exactly as he left it upon his death on April 18th, 1955.
(2) When it comes to sexual harassment, scientists and technologists are no different from others: "As with just about any area of human endeavor where men hold the lion's share of power, the world of science and technology is plagued by sexual harassment. Women in STEM fields have long known this, of course. But just as in Hollywood, where the predatory behavior of producer Harvey Weinstein was long whispered about but never discussed openly, the phenomenon of professors and researchers hitting on undergrads, grad students, postdocs and colleagues has mostly been hushed up—not only by victims fearing retaliation but also by institutions determined to keep their good name untarnished and their superstars happy."
(3) Quote of the day: "[Build] your cars in the United States instead of shipping them over." ~ Trump in Japan, apparently unaware that for years, Japan has built more cars in the US than the Big Three US auto makers.
(4) Tweet of the day: "I hope Donald doesn't use his 280 characters to subject us to twice as many daily lies, rants and spelling errors." ~ George Takei
(5) Ten brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- "I never knew we had so many countries." ~ Trump in Japan, on world leaders calling him after the election
- "I'm sure I could have built it for a lot less." ~ Trump, on the $11B expansion of US's base in South Korea
- Corruption probe in Saudi Arabia leads to arrests of several members of the Royal Family.
- Why is the Saudi coup "bold reform," whereas such mass arrests in any other country is condemned?
- Speaking from Saudi Arabia, Lebanon's PM Hariri resigned, citing assassination threats and blaming Iran.
- Khamenei rearing to start a war: Missile attack on Saudi Arabia by Yemen's Houthis masterminded by Iran.
- Putin praised by another dictator, Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei, during trilateral talks in Tehran, with Azerbaijan.
- Harvey Weinstein hired spies to dig dirt on his sexual-harassment accusers and to intimidate them.
- The Borowitz Report (humor): Trump accomplishing little in final year as President, poll indicates.
- Some of the Americans just elected may cause nightmares for misogynists and White Supremacists.
(6) Today's noon mini-concert: UCSB Middle East Ensemble (about 1/3 of the members) performed at UCSB's Music Bowl. The one-hour program included an early-20th-century Armenian Song, a Greek dance tune, which was quite popular in Iran way back when, a Lebanese song, in the original form and the Persian version, and an Arabic dance tune, with its slow portion, featurng Scott Marcus, the Ensemble's Director, on the ney, recorded separately.
(7) Walking along the UCSB campus bluffs, on my way to a meeting this afternoon: On gorgeous days like this, looking on the natural beauty of the campus and its surroundings, I ask myself how I got so lucky to end up here 29 years ago. The Santa Barbara Channel Islands and a lone paddle-boarder are seen in two of the photos each. Later in the afternoon, I recorded this 360-degree view of the south end of the UCSB campus, featuring a student crew team practicing on the Lagoon.

2017/11/07 (Tuesday): Here are six items of potential interest.
Top of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1937 Fixing the antenna atop the Empire State Building, 1950 Man waling on a tightrope between the tops of NYC's Twin Towers (1) History in pictures: [Left] Top of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, 1937. [Center] Fixing the antenna atop the Empire State Building, 1950. [Right] Man waling on a tightrope between the tops of NYC's Twin Towers.
(2) The sad story of an immigrant family: A child prodigy of Greek origins, who learned to write at 2 and began taking college courses at 7, is stifled in developing her enormous potential by poverty, bullying, misogyny, and the sick obsession of a man in his late seventies. This powerful and expertly-written true story about the gifted Promethea (nee Jasmine) is quite long, but well worth reading. [Partial translation in Persian]
(3) Quote of the day: "Tonight, as my colleagues go to sleep, they need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theaters, and city streets. They need to ask themselves whether they can claim to respect human life while choosing fealty to weapons-makers over support for measures favored by the vast majority of their constituents. My heart aches for Sutherland Springs. Just like it still does for Las Vegas. And Orlando. And Charleston. And Aurora. And Blacksburg. And Newtown. Just like it does every night for Chicago. And Bridgeport. And Baltimore. Now is the time for Congress to overcome its cowardice and do something." ~ US Senator Chris Murphy, Connecticut
(4) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Election day 2017: Governorship and congressional races may indicate how the midterrn elections might go.
- All the President's men: "The Shady Bunch" (song of the week)
- ISIS leaders defend the Second Amendment and oppose gun control; they need fewer terrorists this way!
- Photo of the day: The Moon and the volcano. [Photo]
- Reposting from four years ago: Old saying: Think before you speak. New saying: Google before you post.
- Experts believe that a newly unveiled charcoal drawing is an early draft of da Vinci's "Mona Lisa."
(5) The Borowitz Report: "White House claims Flynn's job was to make coffee when Papadopoulos was busy. ... [Sarah Huckabee] Sanders said that, in the weeks to come, the White House is likely to release the names of additional campaign staffers whose roles were limited to the preparation of coffee beverages, and that such names might include Jared Kushner and Donald Trump, Jr."
(6) Gendered expectations hold women7back: Writing under the title "I'm Your Mentor, Not Your Mother" in Science, Larisa R. G. DeSantis complains about the expectations that female academic mentors be motherly.

2017/11/06 (Monday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Mouth-watering snacks & exotic fruits, offered by street vendors in Iran (1) Mouth-watering snacks & exotic fruits, offered by street vendors in Iran: [Top, left to right] Fresh almonds; Green plums; Fresh walnuts; Boiled fava beans; Loquat ("Azguil"); White mulberries ("toot") [Bottom] Fresh pistachios; Mayhow ("Zalzalak"); Broiled corn; Baked beets; Sour cherries; dogwood fruit ("Zoghal-akhteh")
(2) Political debate in Iran: Sadegh Zibakalam argues passionately against having a cleric as Supreme Leader, who isn't accountable to anyone. Only Zibakalam's side of the debate is compiled in this video (in Persian), but it is hard to imagine any reasonable defense of an absolute dictator, who does not even abide by the country's constitution that he helped enact.
Zibakalam's arguments in this and other settings are solid and very logically constructed. I like his positions, but there is a nagging doubt in the back of my mind about why people with much milder criticisms of the Islamic regime are sentenced to long prison terms, while he is free and allowed to speak in public forums.
(3) Sexual harassment in Iran (#MeToo): Employment ads for secretarial work openly and unabashedly specify that they seek young single women only. Privately, they also add "pretty" to the list of qualifications.
(4) Eight brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- First 3 "witches" netted in Robert Mueller's "witch hunt": Paul Manafort, Rick Gates, George Papadopoulos.
- Netflix cancels the hit series "House of Cards" and fires its star Kevin Spacey over sexual misconduct.
- Trump repeats the tired line that the Texas mass murder was a mental health problem, not a gun problem!
- "Thoughts and prayers" are useless, even if you are someone who actually thinks and prays! [Image]
- Massive leak reveals new ties between Trump administration officials and Russian entities.
- Cartoon of the day: The NRA flag flying high, while the US flag is at half mast. [Image]
- Sharing to raise awareness of the Toranj app, which may help Iranian women facing domestic abuse.
- Today's views of UCSB Lagoon, under the clouds and with a seasonably cool breeze. And a panorama.
(5) I wonder whether Trump still believes in something he has stated on at least 13 different occasions: "Anyone being investigated by the FBI is not qualified to be the president of the United States."
(6) An interview with the editor of The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: Dr. Bandy X. Lee, who began a movement, later joined by thousands of psychologists, maintains that her duty to warn the public in the face of imminent danger takes precedence over the ethics of refraining from discussing the mental conditions of someone not directly examined.
(7) Decades of progress in race relations going down the drain: Appalling racism on display at a Wisconsin football game by "fine people" (Trump's words), one dressed as Obama with a noose around his neck, being pulled by another dressed as Trump. Equally telling is the fact that the duo were not ejected from the game.
(8) Don't send prayers to the Texas mass-shooting victims (which left at least 27 dead): They had plenty of prayers, as they were shot in a church. Send them financial help and ideas about gun-control legislation.

Cover image for Mary Roach's 'Packing for Mars' 2017/11/05 (Sunday): Book review: Roach, Mary, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, unabridged audiobook on 9 CDs, read by Sandra Burr, Brilliance Audio, 2010.
[My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The back-of-the-CD-box blurb aptly summarizes the main points of Roach's book. It reads in part: "Space is a world devoid of things we need to live and thrive: air, gravity, hot showers, fresh produce, privacy, beer. Space exploration is in some ways an exploration of what it means to be human. How much can a person give up? How much weirdness can they take? What happens to you when you can't walk for a year? have sex? smell flowers? What happens if you vomit in your helmet during a space walk? Is it possible for the human body to survive a bailout at 17,000 miles per hour?"
NASA tries to answer these questions for would-be astronauts, before they ever set foot in space. Some fail quickly and miserably, others can tolerate much discomfort, motivated by the allure of being one of the few human beings to travel in space. Under the very difficult conditions of sensory deprivation, isolation, lack of privacy, claustrophobic living quarters, and the like, it is quite easy for human beings to snap. For example, Russian male astraonauts have been reported as becoming sexually aggressive towards female co-workers, reflecting their culture's attitude towards women, which they could not suppress under extreme pressure. Japanese astronauts seem to be ideal candidates, in view of their culture's expectation of self-scarifice and respect for authority.
Roach describes many experimental set-ups used to train and acclimate astronauts for their eventual space missions and the cut-throat competition between many candidates for the few actual space-flight spots available. True to form, she also divulges a lot of interesting details about the challenges of life in space and interesting tidbits one would not know, if one were just looking at NASA's space programs from the outside. Here are a few examples.
a. Motion sickness isn't really a sickness but a natural condition. Even fish experience it, as confirmed by a group of fish, tank-raised and later transported by boat, emptying their stomachs into their tank. It may be the unfortunate result of an evolutionary accident that placed the control centers for motion-sensing and stomach cleansing next to each other, leading to the possibility of cross-talk between them.
b. Beached whales often die from gravity before lack of water gets them, because their skeletal structures are incapable of supporting their weight, absent the help they get from buoyancy. In many situations, gravity can be the real enemy. Gravity can also be a great help. The difficulty of having sex in zero- or low-gravity environment has been studied and confirmed by placing seals in a pool and observing them struggle to mate.
c. Opening to a space shuttle toilet is 4 inches across, compared with 18 inches in ordinary toilets. Alignment is challenging in the absence of sensory feedback from the seat in zero gravity. So, astronauts must be potty-trained. The relationship between diet and the stool type and consistency is rigorously studied, as it affects the frequency and ease of doing #2 in space. Pre-launch diet is particularly important, in view of 8 hours or more of waiting on the launch pad, with no possibility to going to the toilet.
d. For long-distance space missions, such as going to Mars, mice are the most efficient source of protein to take along, in terms of the amount of nutrition they provide per unit weight. Eating soiled clothing, that must be discarded due to the impossibility of washing them, has also been explored. Research on digestable and nutritional clothing material holds much promise for solving the problem of the enormous payload needed for travel to Mars.
The four examples above are just a few of the interesting ones. To learn more about these examples and/or to pursue many other examples of the enormous challenges of space travel, Roach's book is your best bet.

2017/11/04 (Saturday): Here are five items of potential interest.
Lady Liberty, as seen from the torch, now closed to visitors Future NYC, as imagined in the early 1900s Navajo young man, photographed by Carl E. Moon, 1906 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Lady Liberty, as seen from the torch, now closed to visitors. [Center] Future NYC, as imagined in the early 1900s. [Right] Navajo young man, photographed by Carl E. Moon, 1906.
(2) The GOP tax plan is smoke and mirrors: Not all middle-class families will see a tax cut, particularly those who live in states with expensive housing and/or high local tax rates. Even those who will see a modest immediate cut, will end up paying more, when the 5-year temporary cuts expire. Corporate tax reduction from 35% to 20% and repeal of estate tax are permanent though. Current deductions on mortgage and student-loan interests will be taken away. So, this is a tax cut plan for corporations and the super-rich, financed with increased deficit spending and sugar-coated with temporary cuts for a subset of other taxpayers. Some refer to the plan as the "Trojan-Horse tax cut." [Based on a panel discussion on the PBS program "Washington Week"]
(3) Sharing a comment I made on a friend's Facebook post of a passionate attack on the GOP tax plan by Elizabeth Warren: Warren's ideas are great, but unfortunately, given the current political climate, they are somewhat toxic when described by the right as socialistic. This label turns off all of Trump's base, plus a sufficient number of Clinton supporters to make her doomed in a general election. I think Warren (68), Sanders (76), and Pelosi (77) should move to the sidelines and support some young, energetic, middle-of-the-road Democrat in 2020.
(4) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Purported "Mossad agent" sentenced to death without a trial in Iran.
- Government crackdown on Iranian journalists continues: Reformist journalists receive jail sentences.
- Iran bans BBC Persian Service, harasses its journalists, and freezes their families' assets.
- AG Jeff Sessions continues to be belittled and pressured by Trump to do things he deems inappropriate.
- [Message to US Congress] Make America Great Again: Impeach Trump!
- [Signs held by protesters in Hawaii to greet Trump] "Welcome to Kenya" | "I'm Not Orange, Impeach"
Cover image of the audiobook 'Earth' by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (5) Book review: Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Earth: A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Jon Stewart et al., Hachette Audio, 2010. [My 4-star review on GoodReads]
The expansion of scope from Stewart's earlier book, America, to Earth in this book, may suggest that some future book of his will be titled Galaxy and then, perhaps, Universe! As expected, there is a great deal of smart writing in the book, but there's also filler material to expand the main ideas (barely) into a book-length presentation.
The book's premise is that humans, realizing that they will soon vanish from the face of Earth, start writing down some answers to questions that the eventual alien visitors might have about us and our habitat, when they arrive. The print version of the book apparently has many color photographs, graphs, and charts.
Much of the book follows the format of a dictionary or glossary, with typical entries being of the following kinds (example entries are abbreviated and paraphrased).
RELIGION: We are the only species that realizes life does not last forever. This leaves us two options. (a) Find comfort in life as a transitory and purposeless side show. (b) Find comfort in death as a doorway to a far richer and fulfilling state of being. We mostly went with (b), that is, God and religion. Religion tells us that we were created for a reason: To be grateful for being created and to kiss God's ass at every opportunity!
FASTER: Smaller's more demanding technology twin. You'd think we would be endlessly grateful for travel time from New York to San Francisco having been cut from 6 months to 6 hours in less than 100 years. Far from it, we tend to complain about every small delay or wait that we encounter. The only thing that exceeds the speed of technological progress is the speed with which we get irritated at its now relative slowness!
This is an enjoyable listen/read, not just for fans of Stewart's brand of humor, but for everyone else as well. It is a rare comic work that makes one think seriously about what we are doing to our environment and how close we are to the brink of extinction.

2017/11/03 (Friday): Here are six items of potential interest.
Interesting range of facial expressions in a sex-education class, 1929 A 5000-year-old toy chariot found in the ancient city of Sogmatar, southeastern Turkey (photograph by Halil Fidan) Soviet plane-spotters, circa 1917 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Interesting range of facial expressions in a sex-education class, 1929. [Center] A 5000-year-old toy chariot found in the ancient city of Sogmatar, southeastern Turkey (photograph by Halil Fidan). [Right] Soviet plane-spotters, circa 1917.
(2) Trump's shocking assertion in his latest Fox News interview: He is not worried that 5 of 6 undersecretary and 21 of 24 assistant-secretary positions in the State Department remain vacant, because his own opinion is the only thing that matters in making decisions.
(3) Twitter accounts connected with election meddling banned: The 2752 users include handles posing as local news titles, activist groups, and political commentators.
(4) Rich Americans giving up their citizenship to avoid taxes: In 2016, a total of 5411 US citizens renounced their citizenship, up 26 percent from 2015. A comparable increase is expected this year.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Trump's Twitter account shut down for 11 minutes by an employee, who went rogue on last day of work.
- Make sure to look at the full "Beaver Moon" tonight, around 10:23 PM Pacific time.
- The Supreme Court reportedly unexcited to be hearing an important gerrymandering case.
- John Kerry and top US generals, 573 e-mail addresses in all, were on Russia's cyber-hit-list.
- Bin Laden, the enemy of the decadent West, had several American films in his movie collection.
- Cartoon of the day (about iPhone X): "There is no home button. You just click your heels three times."
Cover image of 'The Andy Cohen Diaries' (6) Book review: Cohen, Andy, The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Mcmillan Audio, 2014. [My 2-star review of this book on GoodReads]
The American author and radio and TV host/producer, best known for his Bravo series "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen" and as the executive producer of "The Real Housewives" franchise, reads his diary entries, which document in great detail his activities and thoughts. The reader/listener gets bored quickly, as the account for each day sounds pretty much like the previous one: walk the dog, mingle with famous people, film show, work out, and make some comment about being fat.
As a TV producer, it's not surprising that Cohen comes in contact with a lot of people. He is careful about dishing dirt, so as not to compromise his ability to book people on his shows. Throughout, Cohen name-drops B-list to D-list celebrities, such as X's son/daughter, Y's publicist/agent, or Z's hair stylist. A-listers, such as Madonna and Lady Gaga, are also mentioned, but do not form central players in the narrative.
I was able to stomach only 3 of the 14 parts of this audiobook, before thinking that my daily walking time would be better spent on something else (such as the intelligent comedy of Earth: A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race, by the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, to which I turned my attention). Going in, I thought that a book by a gay Jewish author should be doubly funny. The book does have some haha funny passages, but you have to mine for a long time to find the gems.

2017/11/02 (Thursday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Martin Luther King with his son, removing a burnt cross from their front yard, 1960 Leo Tolstoy with his granddaughter Tatiana, Russia, ca. 1910 President John F. Kennedy having a tea party with his daughter Caroline (1) History in pictures: [Left] Martin Luther King with his son, removing a burnt cross from their front yard, 1960. [Center] Leo Tolstoy with his granddaughter Tatiana, Russia, ca. 1910. [Right] President John F. Kennedy having a tea party with his daughter Caroline.
(2) Russians working at a "troll farm" alternately pretended to be rednecks, blacks, and other classes of Americans on social media, and they watched "House of Cards" to familiarize themselves with US politics.
(3) Oldest solar eclipse ever recorded: By allowing us to determine when Ramesses The Great actually ruled Egypt, the recently uncovered record could change the chronology of the ancient world.
(4) A heartfelt essay in Persian, with the provocative title "Iran is the Africa of the Sexually Hungry": In this 2-year-old story, a married woman writes about sexual harassment on the streets of Tehran and other hazards of being a woman in Iran.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- US corporate taxes highest in the world? Here's what big corporations actually paid (average = 3.4%).
- Slow to react to the Las Vegas shooting, Trump wasted no time in blaming liberals for NYC's terror attack.
- The pattern continues: An utterly unqualified nominee for the post of USDA's top scientist.
- Is our number sense a neural capacity we are born with or is it a product of our culture? [Article]
- New York City memorial for bicyclists killed in truck terror attack of October 31, 2017.
- Full text of a very short story, entitled "The Oval Portrait," by Edgar Allan Poe.
(6) Responses to Donald Trump Jr.'s tweet about Halloween: DT Jr. likened socialism to taking half of his daughter's candy haul and giving it away to kids who stayed home. He heard back from many, including author J. K. Rowling.
(7) Robert Reich's talk at Campbell Hall this afternoon (which I did not attend): Entitled "How Did We Get into This Mess: Reclaiming Our Economy and Our Democracy," the talk was the inaugural event of the new Blum Center for Global Poverty Alleviation and Sustainable Development. Reich, Secretary of Labor under President Clinton and author of 15 books, including his latest, Saving Capitalism for the Many, Not the Few, has turned into a popular figure and sought-after speaker, given his searing social-media posts. I thought that getting to the venue 20 minutes before the 4:00 o'clock start time would be adequate, but upon getting there, I discovered that the large auditorium (capacity ~850) was already full and a line had formed of those still hoping to get in, as the ushers tried to compact the audience to unveil open spaces. At any rate, I was too far back in the line to get in. Here is Reich talking about his latest book at the Kansas City Public Library as a substitute for my would-be report. [Reich begins at the 8:00-minute mark of the video]

2017/11/01 (Wednesday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Sunset in the wild Moon over canyon Flower Paradise, Japan (1) Our beautiful nature: [Left] Sunset in the wild. [Center] Moon over canyon. [Right] Flower Paradise, Japan.
(2) Casualties of North Korea's nuclear tests: Some 200 people have died in a tunnel collapse caused by underground tests and scores of soldiers and their families are being treated for radiation exposure.
(3) NYC's truck-terrorist was a "friendly" Uber driver: No version of Trump's travel ban would have prevented the Uzbek's entry into the US.
(4) Getting out of prison vs. being freed from prison: Many reports on Iranian Baha'i leaders recently completing their prison terms refer to their "being freed from prison." I prefer to use "got out of prison." The former may be interpreted as some sort of pardon or shortened term, whereas these leaders actually served their full unjust prison terms. Unfortunately, we do not have a special term (in Persian or English) to refer to getting out of prison after serving a term, so we use "freed" ("azad shodan") to describe both a benevolent pardon event and completing one's prison term. [Persian version of this post]
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Volkswagen management knew about emissions cheating much earlier than previously admitted.
- Trump reportedly blames Kushner for the Mueller probe, because he urged the firing of Flynn and Comey.
- Houston beats LA 5-1 in game 7 to win the MLB championship. Well-deserved celebration, after Harvey!
- Marine Corps Vietnam War veterans recreate photo pose with surfboard after being apart for 50 years.
- Postmodern Jukebox's wonderful jazzy renditions of "Bad Romance" and "Careless Whisper."
- "Trump accuses Clinton of deliberately losing election so he could be impeached." ~ The Borowitz Report
(6) Saudi Arabia plans to build a $500 billion city of the future: Thirty-three times the size of New York City, Neom mega-city will be powered entirely by renewable energy. [Promotional video] [Web site]
(7) Former U. Iowa athlete arrested over high-tech cheating: He used spying software to gain professors' passwords and then entered their accounts to change grades numerous times, for himself and others.
(8) Today's noon concert at the UCSB Music Bowl: The UCSB Jazz Ensemble performed some wonderful tunes (New Orleans & other styles), including this tune, this fragment, and "Caravan" (with long improvisations).
(9) College soccer playoffs: By losing 0-1 at home to UC Riverside on an 87th-minute goal in a quarterfinals match, UCSB is eliminated from the Big West and NCAA tournaments. As they say, next year is another season!

2017/10/31 (Tuesday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
German prisoners of war being paraded through the streets of Moscow Tiananmen Square protests, China, 1989 Merit Ptah, perhaps the first woman of science to be known by name, practiced medicine ~5000 years ago in Egypt (1) History in pictures: [Left] German prisoners of war being paraded through the streets of Moscow. [Center] Tiananmen Square protests, China, 1989. [Right] Merit Ptah, perhaps the first woman of science to be known by name, practiced medicine ~5000 years ago in Egypt.
(2) As we are distracted by Trump's tweets about the Russia investigation, kneeling, "Fake News," uranium deal, and by other "breaking news" of the day, members of his cabinet are quietly attacking civil rights provisions, environmental regulations, consumer protections, and many other anti-bigotry, anti-greed, and anti-exploitation laws/institutions. [Time magazine cover image]
(3) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Truck terror attack on NYC bike path kills 8: The Uzbek suspect, shot by the police, shouted "Allahu Akbar."
- Good news: Iranian Baha'i leader Fariba Kamalabadi is out of prison after serving a 10-year sentence.
- More good news: Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says she isn't leaving the Supreme Court.
- First inter-stellar object from beyond our solar system has been observed in our neck of the celestial woods.
- The new $0.12 increase in CA gas tax will mean a larger increase in gas prices, if history is any indication.
- Proof that a missing hyphen can be just as dangerous as a missing Oxford comma. [Image]
(4) For ramen lovers: Are you the kind of person who slurps when eating noodles? No worries! For $130, you can buy one of the new noise-canceling forks being offered by the Japanese instant-ramen company Nisin.
(5) Donald Trump Jr. posts an ill-advised Halloween tweet, with a photo of his very young daughter dressed up as a police officer, and hears back about it.
@DonaldTrumpJr: "I'm going to take half of Chloe's candy tonight & give it to some kid who sat at home. It's never to (sic) early to teach her about socialism."
@jacobinmag: "Just wait until she finds out about capital income!"
@Bearpigman: "My man, 'socialism' was her getting that free candy in the first place. You taking half for reasons she can't understand is capitalism."
(6) My afternoon walk: Had a long, refreshing walk to the Camino Real Marketplace, returning via the bluffs at Coal Oil Point. The experience was enhanced by a message on a memorial bench and somewhat spoiled by the discourtesy of the area's horseback riders. [Photos]
(7) My Halloween 2017: Decoration and treats set-up. More photos, taken later in the evening.

2017/10/30 (Monday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Four future US presidents on their wedding days Comparing Oxford of 200 years ago (1810 painting) and today (2015 photograph) shows very little change Paul Newman at the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington (1) History in pictures: [Left] Four future US presidents on their wedding days. [Center] Comparing Oxford of 200 years ago (1810 painting) and today (2015 photograph) shows very little change! [Right] Paul Newman at the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington.
(2) Puerto Rico Governor cancels the contract awarded to the tiny Whitefish Energy company, with ties to the Trump administration, for repairing the island's power grid.
(3) [Here's an item to help you forget the grim political scene] Google criticized for placing cheese under the patty in its cheeseburger emoji: Cheese is almost always placed on top of the patty, because its stickiness helps hold other toppings in place!
(4) Fox guarding the hen house: Former dean of a for-profit college accused of fraudulent practices is now in charge of the fraud-handling unit of the Department of Education.
(5) Ten brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Rumors of imminent Mueller firing intensify amid indictments issued in the Russia collusion investigation.
- Thirteen different cancers can now be linked to sugar and carbs.
- Saudi Arabia lifts ban on women going to sports stadiums.
- The number of times Trump has offered the non-answer "we'll see" to different questions. [Chart]
- Cartoon of the day: The getaway cart. [Image] [From The New Yorker]
- Apple fires an engineer whose daughter posted a video of iPhone X before its release date.
- Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey apologizes for sexually assaulting a minor on movie set.
- Security info on Queen Elizabeth II and various UK officials found on USB stick discarded on London street.
- Preteen boy's suicide attempt by jumping off a freeway overpass kills 22-year-old woman.
- Postmodern Jukebox's wonderful jazzy rendition of "Call Me Maybe" and "Straight Up."
(6) Looking forward to attending "Montage 2017," UCSB Department of Music's talent showcase. Featuring classical, jazz, world, and contemporary music, the event will be held on Sunday November 12, 2017, 7:30 PM, at Trinity Episcopal Church, downtown Santa Barbara.
(7) I wouldn't have guessed it, but it's fairly easy to prove: You need on average e = 2.718... uniformly-distributed random numbers in [0, 1] for the sum to exceed 1 for the first time.

2017/10/29 (Sunday): Here are six items of potential interest.
West Palm Beach, Florida, 1910 The Rouchomovsky skeleton, circa 1890s Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy on an NYC street, 1960; photograph by Cornell Capa (1) History in pictures: [Left] West Palm Beach, Florida, 1910. [Center] The Rouchomovsky skeleton, 1890s. [Right] Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy on an NYC street, 1960; photograph by Cornell Capa.
(2) By a tie vote, broken by VP Pence, the US Senate threw out a key consumer-protection provision: "Yes" votes by all three "heroes" (Corker, Flake, McCain) enabled this gift to fraudulent or reckless financial firms, such as Wells Fargo and Equifax, which can now include forced arbitration clauses in their contracts to guard against lawsuits. Senators Lindsey Graham and John Neely Kennedy were the Republican "no" votes.
(3) Twitter suspends the account of former Trump aide Roger Stone: In a particularly vulgar tweetstorm, reported by numerous Twitter users, @RogerJStoneJr went after Don Lemon, Jake Tapper, Charles Blow, and other news-media figures. Conservatives are crying foul.
(4) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- As Mueller closes in, Trump goes back to Clinton e-mails, Comey, and other old subjects in a tweetstorm.
- Dodgers vs. Astros, Game 5: 4-4 after 4 innings; 7-7 after 5; 9-12 after 8; 12-12 after 10; 13-12 Houston!
- Jared Kushner traveled unannounced to Saudi Arabia "to continue discussion of Middle East peace."
- Fire in Santa Rosa's Fountaingrove region destroyed Hewlett-Packard's key historical archives.
- Fox News says that the real scandal is "Hillary Clinton's administration," a non-existent entity.
- Quote: "You know [things are] bad when W goes, 'Please dad, stop embarrassing the family!'" ~ Bill Maher
(5) Piano recital by Paul Berkowitz: This afternoon, I attended an enjoyable recital by UCSB Professor of Piano Paul Berkowitz, held at Music Academy of the West. Berkowitz, who has been described as being "in the royal class of Schubert interpreters," performed Schubert's last three piano sonatas to promote the release of his two new CDs, the final volumes 8 and 9 of his "Schubert Piano Works" series. Recording was prohibited, so here is the first piece in today's concert, "Sonata in C Minor, D958," from YouTube.
(6) Introduction to Neuroeconomics: How the Brain Makes Decisions (weeks 4-5): Having reported on the overall course structure and my experience in weeks 1-3 through my 10/24 post, I briefly describe the contents of the next two weeks here. There are 9 weeks in all, so I will likely offer two more posts.
Week 4: Neural representation of subjective values
a. Neural substrates of valuation (Value, utility, and brain; The nucleus accumbens, the core valuation region): Value is defined as the rate of firing of certain neurons. Animals work to stimulate the valuation neurons, even when no food reward is involved.
b. The nucleus accumbens codes anticipated gains (Expected value; Shopping, marketing, and learning): Traditional decision theory uses decision matrices as tools. Dopamine has developed into a prediction-error mechanism in the brain.
c. The orbitofrontal cortex derives a value signal (Decision values; The diffusion model & valuation process): Many lobotomies were performed (40,000 in the US alone) to disconnect the orbitofrontal cortex from the rest of the brain to deal with certain behavioral problems. Now we know that such an operation causes apathy and cognitive alternations. The amygdala is activated when assessing potential costs (negative effects) of a decision. The activity of the prefrontal cortex (decision-making region) has been observed to be proportional to the difference between the nucleus accumbens (benefits) and the amygdala (costs).
Week 5: Affective mechanisms of decision-making
a. Emotions I: Biological level of emotional stimuli processing (Innate reactions to emotional stimuli; Emotions as heuristics): Subliminal exposure to happy/neutral/angry faces affects decisions made subsequently. Exposure to photos of good-looking members of the opposite sex can modulate our discount parameter, intensifying our preference for immediate rewards. Sunshine is significantly correlated with daily stock returns. Emotions play a major role in decision-making. Certain emotions also act as releasers for our innate reactions, such as our built-in ability to recognize faces.
b. Emotions II: Neurobiology of emotions (Amygdala—an emotional computer; Emotions, consciousness, and optimal decisions): Humans have innate abilities to exhibit and recognize emotional expressions. Even blind children, who have never seen a facial expression, make the same faces to display happiness, disgust, etc. Our old brain consists of the reptilian brain, the paleomammalian brain (limbic system), and neomammalian brain. MacLean theory (no longer popular) suggests that the limbic system links our emotions to our social behavior, such as care for our children. Newer theories suggest that emotions are distributed throughout the brain. Emotions are states elicited by stimuli with subjective values (non-zero utility). Unemotional people have been shown to make poor decisions. However, in certain cases, emotions can inhibit optimal decisions.

2017/10/28 (Saturday): Here are six items of potential interest.
Downtown Las Vegas, 1912 Henry Behrens, the smallest man in the world, dances with his pet cat,1956 Illegal alcohol being poured out of storage building during Prohibition, Detroit, 1929 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Downtown Las Vegas, 1912. [Center] Henry Behrens, the smallest man in the world, dances with his pet cat,1956. [Right] Illegal alcohol being poured out of storage building during Prohibition, Detroit, 1929.
(2) Words and phrases used to describe the various parts of the Web we ordinary mortals do not see but that have a deep impact on our lives. [Source: IEEE Spectrum magazine, issue of October 2017]
Black Web | Dark side | Dark Web | Darknet | Deep Web | Hidden Web | Invisible Web
(3) Making big data a little smaller: The Johnson-Linderstrauss Lemma (JLL) states that for any finite collection of points in a high-dimensional space, one can find a collection of points in a lower dimension, while preserving all distances between the points. This allows us to reduce dimensionality before running algorithms to improve speed. It was recently demonstrated by Jelani Nelson (Harvard) and Kasper Green Larsen (Aarhus U.) that there exist 'hard' datasets for which dimensionality reduction beyond what is provided by JLL is impossible.
(4) On Alan M. Turing and the award that bears his name: Would Turing have won the prestigious award (often characterized as the Nobel Prize of Computing) named after him? This question sounds bizarre, but there is some substance to it. The history of the Turing Award and the question above are discussed by Moshe Vardi in his November 2017 column in Communications of the ACM. It is unclear that he would have, but Vardi concludes that he should have!
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- MLB Dodgers-Astros championship series is tied 2-2. Game 5 tomorrow at Houston. Games 6-7 in LA.
- Going backwards: Russia decriminalizes certain forms of domestic violence.
- Robots vs. Music: Robotic band plays/destroys various instruments. [Video]
- Cartoon of the day: "You knew what you signed up for!" [Image]
- Team Tyson/Nye wants to make America smart again! [T-shirt]
- Here are some of the images I found that illustrate the spread of fake news on Facebook.
(6) The singles scene: I keep being presented on Facebook with advertising posts from the site "Santa Barbara Singles." Among the insights doled out by the site is the fact that people in their 20s and 30s consider "dinner" to be the ideal first date, whereas those over 40 prefer "coffee." Good to know!

2017/10/27 (Friday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Cutting a sunbeam, 1886 (photo by Adam Diston) Soldiers and German townspeople react, as they are brought in to watch footage from concentration camps Female steel-workers during wartime, 1942 (soon to be a statue in Sheffield) (1) History in pictures: [Left] Cutting a sunbeam, 1886 (photo by Adam Diston). [Center] Soldiers and German townspeople react, as they are brought in to watch footage from concentration camps. [Right] Female steel-workers during wartime, 1942 (soon to be a statue in Sheffield).
(2) My upcoming bilingual lectures at UCLA: I will be giving a Persian lecture (Sunday, November 19, 2017, 4:00-6:00 PM, UCLA Dodd Hall, Room 121) and its English version (Monday, November 20, 2:00-4:00 PM, UCLA Humanities Building, Room 365), as part of UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran. The talks are titled "Computers and Challenges of Writing in Persian" (with the alternate title: "Fifty Years of Poor Penmanship—How Computers Struggled to Learn the Persian Script").
(3) Joke of the day: A prisoner goes to the librarian at Tehran's Evin Prison and asks him if they have a particular book. "No," he responds, "but we have its author." [Persian version in image]
(4) Women who are conditioned to enable men who behave badly: A different perspective on the ongoing discussion about sexual predatory behavior and its victims. "Culturally, we are taught as women that our main power is our looks and sexuality."
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Insightful interview with a female Jewish reporter who traveled to Iran twice and fell in love with its people.
- Trump considers funding his infrastructure plan by raising federal gas taxes, a regressive form of taxation.
- Former Trump aide Sebastian Gorka raises the refrain "Lock Her Up" against Clinton to "Electrocute Her."
- Uber drivers caught charging riders bogus cleaning fees, at times exceeding $100.
- Modern Persian music: Eendo performs "Naghsh-e To" ("Your Image") and "Sahm-e Man" ("My Share").
- Surfer builds a board out of 10,000 cigarette butts he collected from the sand and beach parking lots.
(6) The failing peer-review system: No, this isn't a Trump tweet; it's really happening. Too many research papers are being published, too little time is being spent on their evaluation, and journal publishers' profit motive is too strong for bad science to be properly filtered out. "Any paper, however bad, can now get published in a journal that claims to be peer-reviewed."
(7) "In-memory" computing can lead to 200x performance improvement: IBM researchers have developed a "computational memory" architecture, which would enable ultra-dense, low-power, massively parallel computer systems. The idea is to use one device, such as phase-change memory, to both store and process data, thus removing the von Neumann bottleneck (limited bandwidth in transferring data between memory and processor) in conventional architectures.
(8) Russia is building naval bases on island chain under longstanding dispute with Japan: Let's see if our President eventually complains about this aggressive move. For now, he is occupied with the Seth Rich murder conspiracy theory and the JFK assassination files!

2017/10/26 (Thursday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Complete map of American rivers and tributaries (1) US rivers and tributaries: Every single one of them! The largest network of rivers, shown in pink, includes basins for the Mississippi, Missouri, and Arkansas rivers.
(2) Quote of the day: "When a leader correctly identifies real hurt and insecurity in our country and instead of addressing it goes looking for somebody to blame, there is perhaps nothing more devastating to a pluralistic society. Leadership knows that most often a good place to start in assigning blame is to first look somewhat closer to home. Leadership knows where the buck stops. Humility helps. Character counts. Leadership does not knowingly encourage or feed ugly and debased appetites in us." ~ Republican Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona
(3) Everyone in Iran seems to be happy about Trump's recent speech on the "5 + 1" nuclear deal:
- Hardliners gleefully point out that they knew the US cannot be trusted (and lno "terrorsit" label for IRGC)
- Reformers are jubilant that the nuclear agreement was given a 2-month life extension, with no sanctions
- Anti-regime factions are pleased that Trump did not rule out the military option and regime change
- All 3 groups, however, are united in their condemnation of Trump referring to the Persian Gulf as "Arabian"
(4) Yu Darvish, the half-Iranian half-Japanese Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher: The MLB championship series between LA Dodgers and Houston Astros is tied 1-1 going into the third game tomorrow. Darvish will start.
(5) One dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Trump's Department of Education rescinds 72 guidance documents outlining rights for disabled students.
- With fewer than 10,000 AI specialists worldwide, $500,000 salaries are quite common.
- Persian music by Eendo: "Waltz-e Chaman" ("Greenery Waltz"); "Hamin Lahzeh" ("This Very Moment").
- Cartoon of the day: Monument to incompetence. [By John Atkinson] [Image]
- Boo! Americans spent $3.13B on Halloween in 2016, $420M of it on costumes for pets.
- PhotoShopped images of the Founding Fathers reacting to Trump go viral.
- Afghan girls try mountain-climbing despite numerous obstables and it gives them a chance to breathe free.
- Posing as an accountant, female Russian spy tried to gain access to Hillary Clinton's inner circle.
- First "unmanned" Southwest STL-SFO flight, with all-female flight crew: Pilot, co-pilot, and 4 attendants.
- Self-driving lidar-equipped wheelchairs debut in hospitals and airports.
- Magnitude-4.3 quake strikes near Lompoc, ~50 miles north of Sanata Barbara, CA, at 12:38 PM today.
- Babcock ranch in Florida aspires to be the most sustainable town in America.
(6) A different kind of arms race: In the face of threats from hatemongers, gays and other threatened groups are buying arms and taking shooting lessons in record numbers. Will we need a national disarmament treaty to defuse the danger of armed conflicts on our streets?
(7) The Final Transition Project: As if receiving funeral and cremation flyers in the mail wasn't bad enough, I now see Facebook ads for The Final Transition Project, described on its FB page as being "about science, death, and consciousness, from experts in joyful living, emotional health during dying, nursing, and palliative care."

2017/10/25 (Wednesday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Abraham Lincoln, before he grew his trademark beard Alfred Hitchcock, 1920 Music to be murdered by, 1958 album (1) History in pictures: [Left] Abraham Lincoln, before he grew his trademark beard. [Center] Alfred Hitchcock, 1920. [Right] Music to be murdered by, 1958 album.
(2) US-Iran interactions are not limited to political bickering: There is also much scientific collaboration and data sharing. The unraveling of the nuclear deal might put much of these programs at risk.
(3) Iraqi Kurds are being attacked once again: With Iraqis' common top enemy, ISIS, on the run, the Iraqi government seems to be ditching the truce with Iraqi Kurds, beginning attacks on them, a la Saddam Hussein.
(4) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- US cities are competing for the privilege of hosting Amazon's new headquarters.
- Japan's Kobe Steel chief apologized for falsifying quality data, including parts used for high-speed trains.
- Trump recalls retired pilots to put nuclear bombers on 24-hour alert.
- Super Bowl LII halftime show will be headlined by Justin Timberlake (w/o Janet Jackson).
- Apt Halloween decoration in hurricane-damaged US areas. [Photo]
- Trump's efforts to close the door on Obamacare have been largely unsuccessful. [Image]
(5) Today's noon concert at UCSB's Music Bowl: Vientos del Sur (Winds of the South) played as part of the World Music Series concerts. ["El Condor Pasa"] [A wonderful love song] [Short percussion sample]
(6) College soccer: Tonight, UCSB played its last home game of the regular season against Sacramento State. The game ended 0-0 after two golden-goal overtime periods. UCSB should make it to the Big West playoffs, as it will tie for first place (if UC Davis loses to Cal Poly tonight) or will be the second-place team. The UCSB Dance Team performed at halftime. As I walked home around 9:30 PM, my weather app showed 94 degrees as the temperature, which was 20-25 degrees off. Perhaps the app overheated over the past three very hot days!
(7) Fascinating talk by Google's Director of Research: Peter Norvig spoke at UCSB's Campbell Hall this afternoon under the title "Creating Software with Machine Learning: Challenges and Promises," as the inaugural talk in the Data Science Distinguished Lecture Series. [Selected slides]
Software creation is moving from being a mathematical science (logical, certain) to an empirical science (probabilistic, uncertain). The process is changing from micromanaging the computer (telling it how to do things) to teaching it about what we want to accomplish and letting it discover how to meet our needs. This change is motivated by our desire to develop software faster (in days, not months or years), produce magical results (unexpected deductions or insights that sometimes emerge from the analysis of massive data sets), and update the software in real time, as we learn more about the application domain.
Deep learning, which Norvig characterized as a cushy marketing term for what a scientist might call "hierarchical basis-function regression," is the key tool in ML-based software creation. A good example is Google's AlphaGo-Zero, the latest Go-playing program that self-trained, after being given the Go rules, by playing against itself (it wasn't fed with any human-played games). The program managed to rise to the level of a human player in 3 days and to world's top player in 40 days.
Unlike the game of Go, many applications do not have clear-cut rules, so they present greater challenges. Norvig provided several examples from the domain of image labeling, where two pizzas sitting on a stove-top were correctly identified (though awkwardly described) by the program, but a horse in pajamas and Elvis dancing were mislabeled.
Translation between languages is another example, where much improvement is needed, but the problem of developing 9900 different translators for 100 languages would be infeasible without using ML.
One of the challenges of ML-based software creation is debugging. In the case of image labeling, one can always achieve better performance by feeding the program with more pre-labeled images, but it would be nice to be able to go under the hood, so to speak, to see why a program decided in a certain way and which features of the image, or which pixels, figured prominently in that decision.
One final topic covered in the talk was the use of ML in an environment with adversaries. It is one thing to be able to recognize naturally-created images and quite another thing to deal with images modified by an adversary to throw the system off. As an example, Norvig showed the photo of a panda that, when augmented with less than 0.1% pixels of noise by an adversary, would be labeled by the program as a gibbon, whereas the picture still looked very much like a panda to a human viewer.

2017/10/24 (Tuesday): Here are six items of potential interest.
JFK bought 1200 Cuban cigars just hours before signing the embargo against Cuba Public humiliation of class enemies during the Cultural Revolution, China, 1966 London's first black police officer, PC Norwell Roberts, on point duty near Charing Cross Station, 1968 (1) History in pictures: [Left] JFK bought 1200 Cuban cigars just hours before signing the embargo against Cuba. [Center] Public humiliation of class enemies during the Cultural Revolution, China, 1966. [Right] London's first black police officer, PC Norwell Roberts, on point duty near Charing Cross Station, 1968.
(2) Blockchains everywhere: Looks like every science/tech periodical I read these days has a feature story on blockchains. This photo shows the 2-page spread at the beginning of 38 pages of coverage in the October 2017 issue of IEEE Spectrum magazine. The same issue also contains an interesting article about how China is mining for Bitcoins in Ordos, a city in Inner Mongolia, with many coal-fired power plants and a booming economy. Fully half of the $8M daily Bitcoin mining rewards go to miners in China.
(3) Rope memory: Built for the first time in this 1963 prototype for NASA's Apollo missions, rope memory stores the 0s and 1s of a program as wires going or not going through tiny magnetic cores. Workers carefully embedded each bit of information by hand into this robust and non-volatile memory. Note that this read-only storage scheme is different from the read-write magnetic core memory, in which a core's direction of magnetization signals 0 or 1. [Image credit: IEEE Spectrum magazine, October 2017]
(4) Eight brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- From UCSB Library's wall exhibit "Art of Science 2017."
- A woman's experience in being cat-called, to put it mildly, and in reporting the incident.
- Imagining the future is a form of memory: Amnesia patients also lose the ability to predict the future.
- The latest Halloween costume for dreamers: Scared of being deported by Trump!
- Great idea: Crosswalk painted in 3D to make it more visible to drivers (photo shows a town in Iceland).
- A world wonder: These hex-shaped columns formed naturally by cooling lava 60M years ago.
- Facing 100+ temps and severe fire dangers, warnings are already out about flood risks come winter!
- Break the Chains: A cheerful tune with an empowering message for women everywhere. (Persian subtitles)
(5) The golfing Trump family: From Donald, who repeatedly declared during his campaign that as President, he would have no time for vacations or golfing, to Ivanka, who is shown golfing in a dress and high heels. Here is a compilation video about Trump dissing Obama many times for playing golf.
(6) "Introduction to Neuroeconomics: How the Brain Makes Decisions": This on-line Coursera offering introduces one to a new field of research that is less than two decades old. I covered 3 of the 9 weeks worth of lectures over last night and today. This write-up of my experiences is intended to give the reader a feel for the course, to see if s/he wants to pursue it.
The instructor, Vasily Klucharev (Moscow Higher School of Economics; neurophysiology PhD from St. Petersburg State Univ.), is a tad difficult to understand, but the slides and reference material make up for this shortcoming.
Here are some of the references:
- Chapters from Handbook of Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain, by Paul Glimcher et al., 2014.
- Those with no neuroscience background can use "Foundations of Neuroeconomic Analysis" P. W. Glimcher.
- Handbook of Cognitive Neuroscience: The Biology of the Mind, M. Gazzaniga et al., 2013, ch. 1-3, 12-14.
- Journal articles in neuroeconomics, selected for their clarity and accessibility [Visit the course plan]
Here is a list of the 9 weekly "lectures," each of which consists of a number of short videos and ends with a multiple-choice quiz:
Lecture 1: Introduction
Lecture 2: Brain and anatomy functions
Lecture 3: Introducing brain models of decision making and choice
Lecture 4: Neural representation of the subjective value, basal ganglia and choice value
Lecture 5: Affective mechanisms of decision-making
Lecture 6: Dual process theory of decision-making
Lecture 7: Decision-making under risk
Lecture 8: The social brain
Lecture 9: Taking an evolutionary perspective: the 'economic animal'
Here are some bits and pieces of info I gleaned from the first three lectures:
"A person's mental activities are entirely due to the behavior of nerve cells, glial cells, and the atoms, ions, and molecules that make them up and influence them." ~ Francis Crick [1916-2004]
Neuroeconomics = Neuroscience of decision-making; it is a branch of neuroscience, not economics
Brain signals can predict a decision seconds before one becomes aware of the decision (free will is an illusion)
Reference: Glimcher, Paul W. and Ernst Fehr, "Introduction: A Brief History of Neuroeconomincs," in Neuroeconomics: Decision Making and the Brain, 2nd ed., Academic Press, 2014. [On-line]
Two events gave birth to neuroeconomics: The neoclassical economics revolution of the 1930s and the emergence of cognitive neuroscience during the 1990s.
Neoclassical economics derives hidden preferences from observed choices, using mathematical models and divorcing the process from psychology and basing it on simple axioms. Demonstration of examples where some of these axioms didn't hold (paradoxes) led to the birth of behavioral economics, experimental economics, and, eventually, neuroeconomics. Although roots of the ideas go a few years further back, neuroeconomics was born at a small 2003 invitation-only gathering.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a key tool for neuroeconomics studies.
Huettel, Scott A., Allen W. Song, and Gregory McCarthy, Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging, 2014.
Diffusion model, comprised of collecting evidence, integrating inputs over time, and comparing the cumulative evidence to a threshold, is a main decision-making scheme in the human brain, which can also help explain collective decisions (such as those of honey bees).

2017/10/23 (Monday): Here are five items of potential interest.
Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in 1971 Rita Hayworth, 1948 Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean in 1955 (1) History in pictures (movie stars edition): [Left] Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in 1971. [Center] Rita Hayworth, 1948. [Right] Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean in 1955.
(2) On feelings about movies produced by Harvey Weinstein: "In the days after the Weinstein story broke, I noticed a number of young women on social media fretting that movies they had loved growing up ... now seemed tainted. Could they ever bear to enjoy them again? But to reject the movies themselves amounts to punishing the victim. It undercuts the fine work that so many women—and decent men—have put into Weinstein-produced movies over the years. The ugly reality that some of those women were working under duress makes their contribution, and their fortitude, even more admirable." ~ Stephanie Zacharek, writing as part of Time magazine's cover feature on Harvey Weinstein's sexual misconduct, issue of October 23, 2017
(3) Quote of the day: "[M]any women can't risk the financial consequences of standing up to power and subjecting themselves to retaliation, character assassination, demotion, termination and blacklisting." ~ Gretchen Carlson, writing as part of Time magazine's cover feature on Harvey Weinstein's sexual misconduct, issue of October 23, 2017
(4) Eight brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- EPA has canceled appearances of three of its scientists slated to speak at a climate change conference.
- Draft dodger, comparing his risky sexual behavior to dangers of war, thinks that a POW isn't a war hero!
- Homes can and should be made a lot harder to burn: Some existing homes are like a pile of wood.
- Hot, hot, hot: Expecting 100-degree temps over the next couple of days in Santa Barbara and Ventura.
- The chilling story of a Muslim-American who infiltrated Al Qaeda as an FBI undercover agent.
- Meet some of the Kurdish female fighters who helped defeat ISIS in Raqqa.
- Fake Navy-Seal/Vietnam-vet, with two fake Purple Heart medals, praises Trump on Fox News.
- Interesting 10/27 talk on the Iranian-American Contributions Project, for those in the Los Angeles area.
Photo of Richard Feineman (5) Thoughts on Physicist Richard Feynman: A discussion on a Facebook friend's post about Nobel Laureate and explainer-in-chief Richard Feynman led me to a search on Facebook to find and repost a book review I wrote a few years ago. Facebook doesn't make it easy to find your old posts. Fortunately, I keep copies of my Facebook posts in a diary and also make parallel posts of most items on this page.
First, let me share with you this Feynman quote that I found during my search: "When a scientist doesn't know the answer to a problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is, he is uncertain. And when he is pretty darn sure of what the result is going to be, he is still in some doubt. We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress we must recognize our ignorance and leave room for doubt."
Now on to my review of Classic Feynman: All the Adventures of a Curious Character (W. W. Norton & Company, 2006), which contains all the material from the 1985 book, Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character), and its 1988 sequel, What Do You Care What Other People Think? Further Adventures of a Curious Character. The two books are not simply juxtaposed but their essays and chapters are merged to form a new arrangement of the material.
You can find the review of the book as a September 16, 2014 entry in the reverse-chronological PDF file which is accessible from near the top of my Blog & Books page. Here is a direct link to the PDF file. Also, I have just posted my review of the book on GoodReads to make it more widely accessible.
One of the remarkable things about Feyneman was his exemplary marriage to his first wife, Arline. His love letters to his terminally-ill wife, before and after her untimely death, are discussed in this post. Fearing that her illness might be contagious, they made love for the first time 2.5 years after they got married.
Feynman was the rare scientist who saw the big picture spanning not just the entire domain of science but life. An excellent example of Feyneman's curiosity and playfulness is on display in this 24-minute interview, where Feynman describes how he came to know of the tiny country Tannu Tuva (now part of Russia), and its capital Kyzyl, and how he and a friend went about exploring and learning about the country. Feynman passed away two weeks after this interview, a few days before an invitation from the Russian Academy of Sciences for a fully-paid visit to Tannu Tuva arrived.

2017/10/22 (Sunday): Here are six items of potential interest.
The Great Alaska earthquake of 1964, magnitude 9.2 William Harley and Arthur Davidson, 1914 A vending machine that sold already-lit cigarettes for a penny in 1931 England (1) History in pictures: [Left] Magnitude-9.2 Alaska earthquake of 1964. [Center] William Harley and Arthur Davidson, 1914. [Right] A vending machine that sold already-lit cigarettes for a penny in 1931 England.
(2) China is headed for dominance in the clean-energy market: Having made giant strides in solar and wind energy, China is now eyeing the energy storage market; lithium-ion batteries in particular. China already has 156,000 electric-vehicle charging stations and plans to increase the number to 4.8 million by 2020. It is projected that by 2020, China will produce 121 GWh of lithium-ion battery capacity annually. [Source: Time magazine, issue of October 16, 2017]
(3) A previously unreported sexual-harassment settlement: Worth $32 million, the newly unveiled case brings the total paid by Fox to victims of Bill O'Reilly to $45 billion. Fox paid O'Reilly $25 million as he was forced out earlier this year.
(4) A Facebook friend's heartfelt essay (in Persian) on having to flee her home in a rush, with empty hands, as the Santa Rosa fires, in northern California, were closing in: She recalls three previous flights, once in the aftermath of bombs falling on her hometown of Ahwaz during the Iran-Iraq war; a second time when she had to move from house to house, as Iraqi rockets targeted Tehran; and yet again when she fled her home country of Iran, taking with her a single suitcase.
(5) Half-dozen news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- US-backed militias have declared the total liberation of Raqqa, which was the de facto capital of ISIS.
- Former head of ACLU defends free-speech rights, even for Neo-Nazis.
- Wonderful cover of the classic love ballad "Dream On" by Postmodern Jukebox.
- Cartoon of the day: On increasing deficit spending to finance tax cuts for the super-rich. [Image]
- Five former US presidents participate in concert to benefit hurricane victims. [Photo]
- Efforts by China's Communist Party to woo the youth via glossy propaganda films produce box-office flops.
Cover image of David McCullough's 'The American Spirit' (6) Book review: McCullough, David, The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For, unabridged audiobook on 4 CDs, read by the author, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2017. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This slim book, a collection of speeches spanning three decades (including several commencement addresses), was one of the most enjoyable reads/listens of recent years for me. McCullough reminds us of things that made this country great, but which have been forgotten amidst conflicts and divisions.
Politicians used to be thinkers, orators, and strategists who cared and thought about long-term interests of our country (many of them, anyway), rather than petty paper-pushers and deal-makers who can see only as far as the next election, if that far. The halls of Congress have seen many great men (and very few women, unfortunately) who shaped our country, its passion for social justice, and its can-do attitude.
Great presidents and other politicians of our past did not have the Internet at their fingertips, and often did not enjoy access to a decent library or a large stash of books, as they wrote their speeches and other documents, such as the Declaration of Independence. Yet, they managed to say or write statements of lasting value. And this thoughtfulness extended to people in other walks of life, from industrialists to artists.
McCullough is often described as the elder statesman of American history. But this book isn't just about American history. It's also about life, about expectations, about events (historical or otherwise) not being inevitable but dependent on our actions, and it is full of words of wisdom from someone who deserves to be looked up to. Let me end my review with this gem of an observation from one of the book's speeches: "We should never look down on those of the past and say they should have known better. What do you think they will be saying about us in the future?"

2017/10/21 (Saturday): Here are six items of potential interest.
Abstract drawing of a distributed network for sharing of information (1) Silvio Micali's "Algorand: A Better Shared Ledger": On Friday, October 13, 2017, I made a brief post about the 2017 Turing Lecture right after listening to it streaming on-line. The sound quality was poor and the absence of slides, which did not advance due to a technical difficulty with the platform, combined with the speaker's enunciation/accent made it difficult to understand the technical concepts. I have pursued the matter on-line and have found a paper by Jing Chen and Silvio Micali, posted on May 26, 2017, on arXiv, that describes the concept of Algorand and its implementation in great detail.
Shared ledger is a chunk of shared data that is accessible freely, with everybody allowed to read from and write into it, but nobody allowed to change what is already written. Such a secure shared ledger has become quite important, given the spread of digital currencies. Even in the case of US dollar, which isn't a digital currency, it is estimated that 80% of the supply only exist as ledger entries. To post a new block to a secure distributed ledger, one must show proof of work. The amount of work needed is so extensive that, roughly speaking, only one block can be posted every few minutes, even if substantial computational power is applied to the problem. This is also very wasteful, because a great deal of energy is expended by computers that carry out the computations, to the extent that BitCoin-related computations can be viewed as significant contributors to global warming. Micali's work combines the original scheme of BitCoin with the notion of Byzantine agreement (in a fast and scalable implementation) to make block generation much more efficient, while keeping the security and trustworthiness unaffected. Asked about the term "Algorand," Micali described it as a mythical place for people to play and explore.
(2) Orionid Meteor Shower: Around this time each year, the Earth's orbit intersects with the path of Halley's Comet, whose debris (bits of dust, essentially) appear as shooting stars, as they streak through our sky. Good viewing times are just before dawn, both today (Saturday) and tomorrow (Sunday).
(3) Joke of the day: Question: What's the difference between Donald Trump and illegal immigrants?
Answer: Illegal immigrants pay taxes and some of them could pass a citizenship test.
(4) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Trump is anti-Obama in every possible way: Opinion piece, entitled "Trump, Chieftain of Spite," in NYT.
- Jacinda Ardern is New Zealand's youngest female PM in 150 years: They had a female leader 150 years ago?
- The fake "Blacktivist" Facebook page had 20% more likes than the real "Black Lives Matter" page. (CNN)
- Trump gave his administration a 10 on Hurricane Maria relief efforts. 10 out of what? 100?
- Iranian Baha'is face new wave of arrests, just before the 200th birthday of the faith's founder.
- Racist nursing textbook lists how blacks, Jews, Arabs/Muslims, ... might react to pain and treatment.
(5) Quick-and-easy guide to happiness: I am suspicious of a quick-and-easy guide to anything, but most of these 8 suggestions (from Time magazine, issue of October 2, 2017) resonated with me.
- Write a thank-you note: Reflecing on a friend's impact can brighten your day and his/hers.
- Snap a smartphone photo: It directs your attention, which may enhance your pleasure of the moment.
- Drop (almost) everything: Higher degrees of multi-taskeing has been found to increase anxiey levels.
- Get some sun: It may help regulate mood by boosting serotonin, a brain chemical linked to calmness.
- Jot down what you are grateful for: Doing so has been linked to greater feelings of happiness.
- Think about doing someone a favor: Research shows the thought to be enough for a lift, even before acting.
- Do a mini-meditation: A brief but consistent mindfulness habit can help us better react to stress.
- Buy tickets to events: Experiences give us more joy than things, and many memories sweeten with time.
(6) Former UCSB student headed to prison for 36 years: The sentence resulted from various crimes committed in 2014, including two counts of brutal rape as member of a group, whose other members remain at large. The case went cold and thus remained unsolved for 2 years, until DNA evidence led to an arrest in 2016.

2017/10/20 (Friday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Two daredevils playing tennis on a flying airplane at 1000m altitude, Los Angeles, 1925 Albert Einstein visiting the Grand Canyon in 1931 First UN assembly in New York City (1) History in pictures: [Left] Two daredevils playing tennis on a flying airplane at 1000m altitude, Los Angeles, 1925. [Center] Albert Einstein visiting the Grand Canyon in 1931. [Right] First UN assembly in New York City.
(2) Russia created fake black-activist group to stir racial tensions in the lead up to the 2016 US election and, according to several recent reports, is still active in this domain. If Trump truly did not collude with Russia, he should show outrage over a foreign power meddling in domestic US affairs with the goal of creating discord. Paying lip service to respecting the flag, without a willingness to defend the country against external forces of evil is extremely hypocritical!
(3) Sexist homework assignment: Asked to use synonyms with the 'ur' sound, a young girl provided a perfect answer to Question 1, "Hospital lady." Yet, the teacher couldn't let her correct answer ("Surgeon") go without adding the "expected" answer ("Nurse") in red!
(4) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- US soldiers killed in Niger, tasked with fighting IS, appear to have been poorly equipped and supported.
- Trump is torn between McConnell and Bannon, needing one to govern and the other to maintain his base.
- Quote of the day: "Bigotry and white supremacy are 'blasphemy' against the American creed." ~ G. W. Bush
- Time magazine cover of October 23, 2017, portrays Harvey Weinstein as "Producer, Predator, Pariah."
- Senator John McCain supports Democrats' bill seeking greater transparency in Facebook ads.
- MLB World Series will be played by LA Dodgers and the winner of NY Yankees vs. Houston Astros.
(5) Quote of the day: "This man in the Oval Office is a soulless coward who thinks that he can only become large by belittling others. This has of course been a common practice of his, but to do it in this manner—and to lie about how previous presidents responded to the deaths of soldiers—is as low as it gets. We have a pathological liar in the White House: unfit intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically to hold this office and the whole world knows it, especially those around him every day. The people who work with this President should be ashamed because they know it better than anyone just how unfit he is, and yet they choose to do nothing about it. This is their shame most of all." ~ San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
(6) Trump again calls the ongoing Russia investigation "a hoax," suggesting that the US sale of uranium to Russia is the "real Russia story": Hey, you are the US President with a vast Department of Justice, headed by your puppet, under your control. Why don't you suggest investigations by DoJ on all of Obama's and Hillary Clinton's supposed wrongdoings? Stop complaining, as if you are the underdog here!
[The increase in the number of tweets and statements about Russia in recent days is an indication that the probe is getting uncomfortably close to Trump and that he is feeling the heat, so to speak!]
(7) Energy Leadership Lecture 2017: Dr. Urs Holzle, Senior VP for Technical Infrastructure and Senior Fellow at Google, spoke under the title "Advances in Energy Efficiency through Cloud and ML" at UCSB's Corwin Pavilion today at 4:30 PM. As the title implies, Dr. Holzle discussed how moving computations to the cloud and application of machine learning can significantly lower energy consumption and replace dirty energy with clean, renewable energy. [Selected slides]
Energy implications of computing have become quite important. Servers use ~ 200 TWh of energy, which is comparable to energy use in all of Mexico. Google alone uses as much energy as the city of San Francisco. Given that Google has a lot of users, the per-user energy consumption, which is about 0.5 W on an on-going basis, is rather insignificant, when compared with the user's laptop or other computing equipment. Energy used in computing falls into three categories: Buildings housing computing equipment, be they server rooms in smaller organizations or giant data centers run by Google and the like; Servers themselves; User equipment and associated communications.
As for the energy used in data-center installations, it consisted until fairly recently of three nearly equal parts devoted to mechanical cooling, IT equipment, and everything else (lighting, UPS, etc.). So, the energy used for the actual computation was multiplied by a factor of 3.0, implying a 200% overhead. More efficient modern data centers reduced this factor to 1.8, for an overhead of 80%. Now, we can go as low as 10% overhead through a variety of energy saving schemes, including the application of machine learning to adjust a building's cooling strategy based on information about the applicable parameters.
Servers have undergone similar efficiency improvements. Earlier, some 50% of energy went to waste, even before power got to the actual circuits. By eliminating this waste, we are now at about 10% overhead relative to the actual energy used by the circuits. The circuit energy has been going down by 20% per year in recent years (post-Moore's-Law era). Factors leading to this reduction are smaller circuits, clock-gating (disabling the parts of the circuits not in use, so that they don't draw energy), frequency scaling (operating at lower speed when the workload is light), and specialization (tailoring the circuits to computations). In the latter domain, Google's hardware optimized for machine learning uses 0.2 MW of power, compared with 2.5 MW needed by a general-purpose supercomputer doing the same job.
As a whole, the IT industry uses about 2% of the world's energy, which is of the same order as the amount used by airlines. Because modern data centers are way more efficient than local server installations, moving to the cloud will reduce the energy consumption associated with computations by some 87%. Additional benefits of this migration are that it makes the use of renewable energy possible (in 2017, Google has achieved its 100% renewables goal) and requires less redundancy to ensure reliability (Gmail uses 1% redundancy, whereas a typical local e-mail server installation needs at least duplication to avoid service disruptions). This makes the user-side energy consumption even more important. Fortunately, with the move away from desktops and laptops to tablets and smartphones, user-side energy consumption is also going down.

2017/10/19 (Thursday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Inauguration of the statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, 1931 Riverfront street in Baghdad, Iraq, 1965 View from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, 1900 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Inauguration of the statue of Jesus Christ in Rio de Janeiro, 1931. [Center] Riverfront street in Baghdad, Iraq, 1965. [Right] View from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, Paris, 1900.
(2) New on-line scam: I received this notice of traffic fines, already paid from my account. I became suspicious, both because I have not driven in NYC lately and I rarely use this particular e-mail account. The scammer counts on you becoming sufficiently alarmed to click on one of the links in the message and thereby infect your computer with malware or go to a phishing Web site. The scam is more authentic-looking than most, but it has tell-tale signs of fraud, such as not including my name or the name/address of a contact. Be vigilant!
(3) Neuroscientists claim that the stereotype that women are kinder than men is true: University of Zurich reserchers have confirmed this claim via experiments. They report their results in a paper entitled "The Dopaminergic Reward System Underpins Gender Differences in Social Preferences" (Nature Human Behavior, October 2017). A natural question is whether this is merely due to social conditioning or reveals some biological and/or neurological differences.
(4) Ten brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Tillerson characterizes China as a predatory rule breaker, 3 weeks before Trump's scheduled visit there.
- Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei says on President Trump: He is "foul-mouthed" and "pretends to be an idiot."
- Like President Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz spreads falsehoods about US corporate taxes.
- Some DC park benches have been rendered unusable by the homeless, apparently without authorization.
- The four most populous American cities all have teams in MLB playoffs (Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, Astros).
- Two decades of progress: CGI has come a long way from 1997. [Image]
- On the perils of getting old and technologies becoming obsolete: 3D-printed version of the "save" icon!
- Professor Touraj Daryaee's 3-minute review of the history of the Persian Gulf and the origins of its name.
- Bread-bowl Pizza: A simple and fun dish to bake; works better with a round loaf of bread. [Photos]
- Potato lasagna: Made like meat lasagna, except that potato slices are used in lieu of pasta. [Photos]
(5) Achievement of quantum supremacy may be only months away: Quantum supremacy means achieving computational capability that is beyond the limits set by conventional computing. This supremacy need not be achieved in a general-purpose environment; it suffices to demonstrate it for a single or a very limited number of applications. It is thought that, for certain apllications, a 50-qubit quantum computer would outperform the most powerful supercomputers now in existence. Researchers at UCSB and Google are aiming to create a system that can support about 50 qubits in superposition reliably. If this can be done, the thinking goes, the rest is straightforward. So far, they have shown that a 9-qubit system, capable of representing 512 numbers at once, operates reliably and without the accompanying exponential increase in errors. There is no guarantee that the scheme can be extended to 50 qubits, but the team of researchers believes the extension to be possible in a matter of months.
(6) "The buck stops here": This phrase was made famous by Harry Truman, who considered himself responsible for whatever went wrong in the US government. Former President Obama took responsibility, used the phrase "the buck stops with me" many times, accepted his mistakes, and pledged to learn from them. President Trump passes the buck and blames everything and everyone for his failures (Fake News, Congress, Repubicans, Democrats, NFL, Obama, Clinton, McCain, ...).
(7) Grand opening of UCSB's state-of-the-art Bioengineering Building: Chancellor Yang, campus academic deans, research center directors, and several local industry leaders were present at today's celebration and ribbon-cutting ceremony. An important point made during introductory speeches was that, unlike many other institutions where bioengineering stands for biomedical engineering (dealing with the design and production of medical devices), UCSB's vision is much broader and includes a wide array of concepts and techniques at the intersection of biology and engineering. Examples include drug delivery mechanisms, mimicking nature in engineering designs, and biologically-inspired materials.

2017/10/18 (Wednesday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Photo intallation entitled 'Eyes of a Dreamer' (1) Eyes of a Dreamer: This photo installation across the US-Mexico border by French artist JR served as a massive table for an international picnic in September.
(2) The advent of gravitational-wave astronomy: In an exciting development, UCSB scientists, using data from a large network of observatories, were able to detect the collision of two neutron stars and use the info to pinpoint a small region of the sky to look for visual confirmation. The kilonova (1000 times brighter than a nova) observation would have been impossible without the hint about where to look.
(3) A Mars colony near Dubai: Mars Science City is a $140 million project funded by UAE which will be used to acclimate a team of astronauts to the harsh environment on Mars. The occupants will research food, water, and energy self-sufficiency. The colony is the first step in UAE's ambitious Mars 2117 project, which aims to establish a human colony on the red planet within a century.
(4) This Time magazine cover image, issue of October 16, 2017, reminds us that mass shootings fade from our memories, before they lead to preventive laws.
(5) Ten brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- The US took over possession of Alaska 150 years ago, today: Happy Alaska Day!
- French women start their own version of the #MeToo campaign: #BalanceTonPorc
- Mitch McConnell can't believe Donald Trump actually said that! [Interesting facial expression]
- Suspicious package led to bomb-threat investigation in Isla Vista, a student community adjacent to UCSB.
- In Trump's own words: Texas & Louisiana vs. Puerto Rico [Image; racist disaster aid].
- Feminism is alive and well in Iran: Protesting mandatory hijab by wearing white scarves on Wednesdays.
- Postmodern Jukebox has jazzed up many pop songs, but this one's really special: "All About That Bass"
- Young Paul McCartney visiting the late Iranian pop singer Viguen and enjoying aash-e reshteh. [Photos]
- German researchers resign from posts at Elsevier journals to protest resistance to an open-access policy.
- An example from "My Uncle Napoleon" as a metaphor for Iranians' sensitivity to the name "Persian Gulf"!
(6) US losses from anti-immigration policies are Mexico's gains: Some American companies are looking to expand their operations south of the border. Maybe they can afford to pay for the wall, after all!
(7) Bluegrass music at UCSB's Music Bowl: Santa-Barbara-based band "The Salt Martians" performed as part of the World Music Series (noon mini-concerts on Wednesdays). [Sample 1] [Sample 2] [Sample 3]

2017/10/17 (Tuesday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
The Beatles crossing Abbey Road in 1969 Bob Dylan, with his harmonica cigarette-holder in 1964 Fleetwood Mac band in 1979 (1) History in pictures: [Left] The Beatles crossing Abbey Road in 1969. [Center] Bob Dylan, with his harmonica cigarette-holder in 1964. [Right] Fleetwood Mac band in 1979.
(2) Quote of the day: "I'm an expert on personality disorders. I don't just know a media portrayal of Donald Trump. I have hundreds of hours of behavior that I have observed on video of his own words not mediated by anyone. I have more samples of behavior and speech from Donald Trump than most of my patients." ~ John Gartner, a psychotherapist, who taught psychiatric residents at Johns Hopkins University Medical School, and founder of the "Duty to Warn" PAC, whose goal is to get Trump impeached on account of his mental instability
(3) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Low unemployment and worker participation rates show mismatch between market needs and worker skills.
- By referring to the Persian Gulf as "Arabian," Trump has united factions of normally-feuding Iranians.
- Iranian Baha'i poet and teacher Mahvash Sabet honored with the International Writer of Courage Award.
- Californians favor greater emphasis on science and computing education in K-12 schools.
- Students are increasingly hiring professionals to write their college application essays.
- Breakfast, anyone? Cheese, nuts, and fruit make this plate an appetizing one! [Photographer unknown]
(4) If Trump's tax plan is implemented:
- The Trump Family will save billions in inheritance and other taxes, recovering all the money spent on the presidential bid several times over.
- The Koch Brothers will get a handsome return on their investment in funding far-right causes, institutions, and politicians for decades.
- Corporations that used every possible loophole to pay less in taxes will get additional breaks; these include Big Oil, Big Pharma, and Big Health.
- Income-tax cuts for the middle class, if any, will be more than eaten up by elimination of certain exemptions, increased healthcare costs (not just premiums, but also out of pocket costs), and cuts to social programs.
(5) The impotent despot: Iran's Supreme Leader has pardoned a man serving a jail term for insulting the prophet and the imams, but no one in the judiciary or Evin Prison is paying any attention to his decree.
(6) A most blatant lie: Asked why he had not reached out to the families of four fallen US soldiers in Africa, Trump began with a lie (he had written letters that had not yet been mailed) and followed up with a string of lies about former presidents not doing it either. Both George W. Bush and Barack Obama [photo] met with and personally comforted families as a matter of course.
(7) Half-baked nationalism: While accepting the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia on Monday night, Senator John McCain warned against turning toward "half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems."
[P.S.: In another report, Trump warned McCain to be careful, because at some point he will fight back.]

2017/10/16 (Monday): Here are five items of potential interest.
Trinity College library, Dublin, Ireland Snack service on a Scandinavian Airlines flight, 1969 Princess Fawzia Fuad of Egypt, the first wife of the last Shah of Iran, 1940s (1) History in pictures: [Left] Trinity College library, Dublin, Ireland. [Center] Snack service on a Scandinavian Airlines flight, 1969. [Right] Princess Fawzia Fuad of Egypt, the first wife of the last Shah of Iran, 1940s.
(2) A beautiful day and a new week begins: Besides opening my eyes to the colorful eastern sky in Goleta, I am glad that my waking up ended a dream that began fine but took a horrible turn. In the dream, I was trying to take a photo of gorgeous artwork inside a covered entryway and was about to give up, because of the poor lighting conditions, when a man approached me and offered to help make adjustments to my iPhone's camera settings to improve the image. He had in his hand what looked like an expensive camera, so I trusted him. You can guess the rest of the story. The funny thing is that as I was chasing him, l thought about all the time and effort needed to secure my accounts and recover lost data. I can now spend that time on something enjoyable on this hot Monday in Santa Barbara and Ventura areas.
(3) On the #MeToo movement: Since yesterday, many women have posted the Facebook status "Me Too," indicating that they too have experienced sexual harassment and/or assault. So, in solidarity, I am sharing this post of mine from a year ago today. In this essay entitled "Grab Her," a woman explains what it means to be groped, abused, chased, ignored, interrupted, talked over, talked down to, and feel unsafe when walking alone. In recent days, a number of men have posted stories about how they too were groped or assaulted as young men, implying that women can be predatory as well. I do accept their main point, but believe me when I say that the two experiences are not the same. I hope that someday they will become the same and the two sexes are treated equally and symmetrically. A day when all men start seeing women as human beings and not as objects of conquests; not as a brain and a bunch of other uninteresting body parts attached to the main sexual organs; a day when we men understand why a woman might keep a sexual assault under wraps for years or even take the secret to her grave.
[P.S.: I recommend watching the first 5-7 minutes of this 41-minute video, to hear Michelle Obama's take, in a speech of last year (more relevant than ever today), about the way women and girls are treated by many men. "This is not normal. This is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful and intolerable. ... No woman deserves to be treated this way."]
(4) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Ophelia: First-ever Atlantic storm to reach Ireland, has caused 3 deaths and widespread power outages.
- Massive double-car bombing kills at least 300 in Somalia. The terror group Al Shabab is being blamed.
- UCSB bows to changes in psychology by abolishing its BA program and offering BS degrees only.
- Just-opened walkway and bike path foretell the opening of UCSB's Bioengineering Building on Thu. 10/19.
- Cartoon caption of the day: Fortune cookie says "Someday you will die."
- Postmodern Jukebox transforms the Justin Bieber song "Love Yourself" into vintage-1929 New Orleans jazz.
(5) Childish name-calling among the Republicans: Trump has suddenly become friendly with Senator Rand Paul, whom he once called "Gollum" (animal-like creature from "Lord of the Rings"), and Senator Lindsey Graham, who has referred to Trump as "jackass." Meanwhile, Rex Tillerson, who refused to deny for the second time on Sunday that he called Trump "a moron" is on thin ice, judging by past Trump reactions towards those who cross or insult him.

2017/10/15 (Sunday): Here are six items of potential interest.
The sun shines through NYC's Grand Central Terminal in 1929, before it was surrounded by tall buildings Paper money recovered from the Titanic German kid with a portable lemonade stand, 1931 (1) History in pictures: [Left] The sun shines through NYC's Grand Central Terminal windows in 1929, before it was surrounded by tall buildings. [Center] Paper money recovered from the Titanic. [Right] German kid with a portable lemonade stand, 1931.
(2) Quote of the day: "The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn't very good for the economy. ... To be calm becomes a kind of revolutionary act. To be happy with your own non-upgraded existence. To be comfortable with our messy, human selves, would not be good for business." ~ Matt Haig
(3) Is English the new tool of world dominance for America? In a way, by spreading cultural symbols and weakening local languages, English does seem to be expanding hegemony. Yet, when I look at my own case, learning English and, more recently, developing a passion for it, has opened my eyes and helped me, both personally and professionally. A "world language" is not only helpful, but inevitable. And, even though a newly-designed synthetic language may be a better choice, past failures in this domain have led to the de facto choice of English. Learning a second language is a time-intensive undertaking, so, it is very natural that people would choose one that carries some tangible benefits. For example, people in southern US tend to choose Spanish. China's economic progress and its becoming a world power has motivated many to learn Chinese.
(4) Talk is cheap, results matter: I am very surprised that a number of seemingly educated Trump supporters are jumping for joy at his recent words and actions regarding healthcare. Talk is cheap, results matter (look at the beautiful, tall wall that was supposed to be built along the US-Mexico border, with Mexican funding). The glee of the healthy about being able to pay less for less coverage is misguided. As we know from people around us, a healthy person can turn into a sick person overnight. The 2018 ACA premiums had been set before the recent Trump words and actions. I will talk to supporters of Trump's healthcare actions in late 2018, once the 2019 rates and coverage limits have been published.
(5) Video showing the devastation in Santa Rosa, California: Blocks and blocks of burned homes.
(6) On-skin interfaces: These interfaces constitute one of the two cover features in the October 2017 issue of IEEE Computer. The feature has an introduction by the guest editor, along with the following two articles.
- "On-Skin Interactions Using Body Landmarks": As a surface for input to computers, the human skin differs fundamentally from existing touch-sensitive devices. This article discusses the use of skin landmarks (anatomical characteristics, body adornments, and the like) that offer unique tactile and visual cues, to enhance body-based user interfaces.
- "Interactive Systems Based on Electrical Muscle Stimulation": EMS has been used since the 1960s in rehabilitative medicine to regenerate lost motor functions, but researchers have started to explore new EMS applications including guided training, muscle-propelled force feedback, novel forms of information access, and human-computer interaction.

2017/10/14 (Saturday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
T-shirt with the message 'Avoid Negativity' T-shirt with the message 'Intelligence is the Ability to Adapt to Change' T-shirt with the message 'That's How I Roll' (1) Scientists and engineers, flaunting their opinions on their T-shirts! [All three images on Facebook]
(2) Message to my oldest son, on the occasion of his 33rd birthday: A very happy 33rd birthday to you! Thirty-three is an interesting number, both mathematically and historically. It is 3 x 11, or (11)_10 x (11)_10, where the first (11)_10 is the base-2 representation of 3 and the second one is the base-10 representation of 11. Thirty-three is the sum of the first four positive factorials, 33 = 1! + 2! + 3! + 4! It is XXXIII in Roman numerals and 100001 in binary (the latter is a fact I will use for cake candles). It was the RPM speed of old phonograph LP records, which you likely have never seen! Speaking of records, 33 is the number of innings played in the longest baseball game on record. Finally, according to Al-Ghazali, the dwellers of heaven will exist eternally in a state of being age 33. [The Magic Number 33] [Photo set 1] [Photo set 2] [Photo set 3]
(3) The magic of TED talks: Here is a wonderful, quite funny, 19-minute TED talk about how our schools kill creativity: Try to imagine Shakespeare as a 7-year-old, being taught by an English teacher! And here is a second wonderful 18-minute TED talk about why we have trouble admitting that we are wrong.
(4) After income and wealth gaps, comes activity gap: A Stanford study, based on the smartphone data of 717,527 people worldwide over 68 million days of activity, has produced interesting results, including the fact that women walk far less than men. "While media coverage focused on the overall results (generating headlines such as Do YOU live in the world's laziest country?), the study shed new light on an important health inequality issue. The researchers found that high 'activity inequality'—where a country has a wide gap between those who walk a lot and those who walk very little—was a strong predictor for a nation's obesity levels among the 47 countries studied."
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- California leads again: Puppy breeding is banned by a new law. Pet stores must sell only rescue animals.
- Book bans precursors to book burnings: What is the moral justification for banning an anti-racism book?
- Death toll of Santa Rosa area fires reaches 40: Ill effects of climate change on full display. [Aerial photo]
- Usetul tip for pre-planning of hors d'oeuvres set-up for entertaining at home or taking plates to pot-lucks.
- Cartoons of day: Couldn't decide between the two, so I am posting both. [Images]
- Who is this baby actor? A tough one, but not impossible to identify, if you look carefully at facial features.
(6) The power of meaning: This is the title of a free lecture (to be presented by Emily Esfahani Smith at UCSB's Campbell Hall on Thursday, November 30, 2017, 7:30 PM) and of a book being given away on campus for the occasion. Looking forward to attending the talk.
(7) Donald Trump claims he spoke to the President of the Virgin Islands (did he speak to himself?). Rick Perry thinks that Puerto Rico is a country. This is a match made in heaven! As the Iranian Azeri saying goes, "bilah dig, bilah choghondar"!

2017/10/13 (Friday the 13th): Here are seven items of potential interest.
A gypsy-owned, horse-drawn caravan from the mid 1800s (1) History in pictures: Luxurious and colorful gypsy-owned, horse-drawn caravan from the mid-1800s.
(2) The 2017 ACM Turing Lecture: I logged on to listen to Silvio Micali's Turing Lecture entitled "Algorand: A Better Shared Ledger," as it was streaming live, beginning at 12:00 noon EDT (9:00 AM PDT) today. Very briefly, Algorand offers a computationally faster and less energy-intensive replacement for BitCoin-like distributed ledgers, while maintaining their security and trustworthiness. Unfortunately, the on-line presentation (screenshot) left much to be desired, in terms of sound quality and the fact that slides did not advance due to a platform snag. If ACM and other professional organizations are serious about spreading the benefits of on-line learning, they should do a better job of developing the needed user-friendly and aesthetically alluring platforms. I will pursue the off-line version of the lecture later and will present a brief report on it.
(3) The San Francisco Bay Area is suffering from very poor air quality: Raging fires have not only caused at least 30 deaths and immense loss of property, but they are threatening the health of millions.
(4) One-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- The marriage loophole for having sex with underage girls seems to be closing in India.
- The American Dream more accessible if you live in Denmark or Finland.
- Friends of Bill & Melinda Gates raise $30M for a U. Washington building, to be named after the couple.
- Cartoon of the day: Deadly California fires sadden and overwhelm Smokey the Bear. [Image]
- Three hurricanes, two earthquakes, and multiple major fires have stretched Direct Relief to the max.
- The doomsday eruption of of Yellowstone supervolcano may occur sooner than previously thought.
- Google commits $1 billion in grants to train US workers for high-tech jobs.
- This is a tough one: Who is this guy? [Hint: The word "guy" in the question is a subtle hint.]
- Bruce Arena resigns as coach of the US men's soccer team after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
- Stats for the 9/16 Day of Caring: 49 UCSB volunteers removed 1104 lbs of junk from 6 miles of IV streets.
- Gravity-defying statues. [Pictorial]
- Sign seen at a protest march: "Without Science It's Just Fiction." [Photo]
(5) White Christian male caught one week ago by a bomb-sniffing dog at a North Carolina airport: This bomb-planting is news to you? There were no tweets about the would-be bomber? The title of my post explains why.
(6) Trump finds the First-Amendment guarantee of the right to free speech disgusting; and his oath of office included an explicit pledge to safeguard free speech! He wrote in a tweet: "It's frankly disgusting the way the press is able to write whatever they want to write, and people should look into it."
(7) Europeans on the nuclear deal with Iran: While stressing that they are also worried about Iran's destabilizing influence in the region, they see no need for pulling or renegotiating the nuclear deal, to which Iran has adhered by all measures. If the US reimposes sanctions on Iran, the EU will be more than happy to replace Boeing planes with Airbus models and to take over in other high-tech trade areas.

2017/10/12 (Thursday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Robert Kennedy in a drive-in diner, 1960 The exact spot where JFK was killed in Dallas Theodore Roosevelt becoming the first president to ride in an automobile, 1902 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Robert Kennedy in a drive-in diner, 1960. [Center] The exact spot where President John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas; this is the last scene he saw. [Right] Theodore Roosevelt becoming the first president to ride in an automobile, 1902.
(2) Donald Trump makes up a story about the firing of his Chief of Staff John Kelly and then blames the media for it: No major news outlet had reported such a thing! According to Washington Post, Trump has made 1318 false or misleading claims over 263 days, for an average of 5 per day.
(3) Trump claims that the recent stock market gains are erasing the national debt: You'd think that a "successful businessman" would know something about economics, but you'd be wrong! Whoever is giving him these talking points is doing him no favor.
(4) US soccer shocker: For the first time in three decades, Team USA will not go to the soccer World Cup tournament. The embarrassing 1-2 loss to Trinidad and Tobago (last-place team in the qualifying group, with one win in 9 games) eliminated the US from the 2018 competition in Moscow. The United States would have qualified with a win or a tie. But a US loss, combined with Panama and Honduras winning over Costa Rica and Mexico, respectively, meant elimination.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Ancient hieroglyphs discovered in Turkey solve the mystery of the Biblical Mediterranean "Sea People."
- California couple, 100 and 98, married for 75 years, are two of the 21 people who perished in NorCal fires.
- With fires raging in both NorCal and SoCal, Santa Barbara also gets a red-flag warning for high fire danger.
- Cartoon of the day: The life of a memoirist. [Image]
- Farhang Foundation's Shab-e Yalda: An event of interest, although I'm not sure I will be able to attend.
- Eerie face-paintings and other 3D illusions created by make-up artists for Halloween.
(6) Why Amazon is different from many other high-tech businesses: Yes, Amazon deals in information, as do Google and Microsoft, but it "was never a completely virtual business," observes Michael A. Cusumano in the October 2017 issue of Communications of the ACM. Amazon began operating out of a warehouse and now, with the opening of its own stores and acquisition of Whole Foods, is moving further away from virtuality and closer to a physically-based company. Bezos likes to experiment and innovate to expand his company's reach, and, at least in the short term, isn't motivated by profits.
(7) The anonymous designer of this meme about Trump did not mince any words!
(8) Quote of the day: "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." ~ From a US Supreme Court decision of 1943

2017/10/11 (Wednesday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
International Day of the Girl banner (1) On this International Day of the Girl, let us pledge to give girls (and boys) every opportunity they need to become tomorrow's leaders.
(2) A probability problem for serious geeks: It is about self-correcting random walks (the random-walking drunk is replaced with one having limited control).
(3) Will computers ever be able to think like humans? This has been a longstanding question in the field of artificial intelligence. In a wHaray, this question may be misguided. A recent interview with Douglas Hofstadter has brought this question to the forefront again. In the words of the late computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra, "The question of whether Machines Can Think ... is about as relevant as the question of whether Submarines Can Swim." Dijkstra's point was that planes do not fly like birds and submarines do not swim like fish, yet they are both quite useful in allowing humans to do tasks they aren't capable of doing by themselves. So why do we expect that computers should think like humans? The key question is whether computers can act like intelligent assistants to us, rather then whether they can replace us.
(4) Three cheers for American immigrants: Now that all Nobel Prizes for 2017 have been announced, it is time for some reflection. Approximately 40% of US Nobel Laureates in physics, chemistry, and medicine since 2000 have been immigrants (12 of 30 in physics; 11 of 29 in chemistry; 10 of 26 in medicine).
(5) The new MacArthur "Genius Grant" honorees are as diverse as they come, from both social and disciplinary points of view.
(6) Jimmy Kimmel responds to Donald Trump Jr.'s tweet: Junior asked Kimmel if he had any thoughts on Harvey Weinstein, the movie industry mogul ousted from the company that bears his name, owing to serious allegations of sexual misconduct (something conservatives are trying to exploit, given that Weinstein was a major donor to the Democratic Party and liberal politicians, conveniently forgetting their own association with the sexual-predator-in-chief). Here's what Kimmel wrote: "You mean that big story from the failing, liberal, one-sided @nytimes? I think it is disgusting."
(7) NAE announces winners of 2017 Ramo Founders and Bueche Awards for extraordinary impact on the engineering profession: National Academy of Engineering's Ramo Founders Award went to John E. Hopcroft, widely regarded as one of the most influential computer scientists. NAE's Bueche Award was given to Louis J. Lanzerotti "for his contributions to technology research, policy, and national and international cooperation."
(8) Iranian women and men unite in protesting mandatory hijab laws by wearing white on Wednesdays. [Photo credit: "My Stealthy Freedom" Facebook page]
(9) Growth at the cost of poisoning people: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt wants to repeal Obama's 2015 Clean Power Plan, which was put in place to cut carbon emissions by 30%. Released from the bonds of environmental regulations, some mines and manufacturing plants may become profitable and thus expand to create jobs, but at what cost? Workers in these industries as well as other Americans will be exposed to harmful emissions that will adversely affect their health, at precisely the same time when healthcare protections are being sabotaged by the administrations. Future generations will be left to pay for these shortsighted policies, which are reminiscent of corporate focus on quarterly statements and stock prices undermining long-term results.

2017/10/10 (Tuesday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
An East German border guard offering a flower through a gap in the Berlin Wall on the morning it fell, 1989 Freed slaves by a canal in Richmond, Virginia, 1865 German soldiers cut off the beard of an old Jewish man (1) History in pictures: [Left] An East German border guard offering a flower through a gap in the Berlin Wall on the morning it fell, 1989. [Center] Freed slaves by a canal in Richmond, Virginia, 1865. [Right] German soldiers cut off the beard of an old Jewish man.
(2) The delay is troubling: The Clintons and Barack Obama are being rightly criticized for staying mum on recent allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein, a major contributor to their political campaigns. They will no doubt say something soon, but the delay in making statements is troubling, especially in the case of Hillary Clinton, a champion of women's rights. [Image]
[P.S.: By the end of the day, condemnation statements from Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama were issued.]
(3) Northern California fires burning out of control: The containment level is 0%, because of high winds and dry conditions making the fires burn super-hot and spread super-fast. Some residents, who were waken up by smoke, escaped with literally seconds to spare (a number of cars caught fire as they were being driven out of the area). There are at least 15 dead, hundreds missing, and 2000 structures destroyed. This image shows a neighborhood in Santa Rosa before and after the fire. There are aslo fires raging in Anaheim, close to Disneyland in Southern California.
(4) Europeans are making fun of our Nonsensical Rifle Addiction (NRA) and suggest that NRA Anonymous can help deal with the problem! [3-minute video]
(5) Tehran's Thakht-e Jamshid Street in the 1960s: I believe the two views are looking west and east from Kaakh Circle. If so, in the color photo, a couple of blocks away on the right, was Ferdowsi Elementary School, which I attended, and the 2-story brick building on the right contained a small grocery store ("bagh'aali") where we sometimes bought snacks during lunch hour. Across the street from Ferdowsi School were a stationary store, a sandwich shop, and various street vendors. The street ended at the eastern boundary of Tehran University. In the black-and-white photo, a couple of blocks past the tall Oil Ministry Building, and on the same side of the street, was the US Embassy.
(6) Imprisoned British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces additional charges from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps that would be punishable by 16 more years in prison, reports Maziar Bahari on Iranwire. Apparently, IRGC are using Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe's case as a threat to gain leverage over President Rouhani and his government.
(7) The risks of artificial intelligence (AI): For decades, we have been working to make computers more trustworthy, primarily by increasing their predictability and auditability. The entire field of dependable computing emerged in the early 1970s, and continues to be an active area of research, including for yours truly, to ensure that computers behave according to their specs and that any deviation from the expected behavior can be readily detected and subjected to remedial action. Now, AI builds unpredictability into our computers and computer-based systems, making it difficult, if not impossible, to monitor and check their behaviors against pre-supplied specs. In an interesting "Inside Risks" column in Communications of the ACM, issue of October 2017 (pp. 27-31), long-time software-engineering expert David Lorge Parnas chimes in on the dangers of AI, including heuristic algorithms, to system trustworthiness.

2017/10/09 (Monday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Jesse Owens winning a gold medal in Nazi Germany's 1936 Olympics Tollund Man, a perfectly preserved 2300-year-old corpse A copy of Uthman's Quran from the early 600s, kept in Topkapi Palace in Istanbul (1) History in pictures: [Left] Jesse Owens winning a gold medal in Nazi Germany's 1936 Olympics. [Center] Tollund Man, a perfectly preserved 2300-year-old corpse. [Right] A copy of Uthman's Quran from the early 600s, kept in Topkapi Palace in Istanbul.
(2) Wonkavators allow architects to be more creative: By moving up and down and sideways without using cables, they free architects from the constraint of strictly vertical skyscrapers and the height limit dictated by cable weight and extreme area waste due to many elevator shafts. With Wonkavators, many cabins can be moving in one shaft.
(3) First US exascale computer to be built by 2021: The project, dubbed "Aurora," is a modification and extension of an earlier plan to deliver 180-200 petaflops by 2018. The change came about because the US Department of Energy was disappointed in the inability of an Intel/Cray partnership to fulfill its objectives.
(4) The wonderful music of James Bond films: The plots may be unbelievable and the special effects (until fairly recently) cheesy, but the music is always first-rate, thanks to the foundation laid by John Barry.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Trump's treating the presidency like "The Apprentice" could lead to WW III, says Senator Bob Corker.
- Most-destructive fires in state's history raging in northern California: Ten dead, 1500 structures lost
- NYT reporter claims her story exposing Harvey Weinstein's sexual misconduct was quashed in 2004.
- Tops of UCSB parking structures were retrofitted with solar panels as part of our green energy initiative.
- Brutal murder, posted on social media, shocks Iran: A young man was bludgeoned, then burned to death.
- South Korea can now build graphite bombs, non-lethal weapons for taking down N. Korea's power system.
(6) Ideas that lead to Nobel Prizes aren't always accepted at first: Here is a list of 8 papers that were rejected at first but later won the world's most prestigious scientific award.
(7) What is blockchain? I pursued this question and am sharing a summary of my findings here. An introductory article (by T. Aste, P. Tasca, T. di Mateo) in the September 2017 special issue of IEEE Computer magazine begins thus: "Blockchain is a technology that uses community validation to keep synchronized the content of ledgers replicated across multiple users. Although blockchain derives its origins from technologies introduced decades ago, it has gained popularity with Bitcoin."
People trust regular currency, because it is difficult to forge and occasional forgers are vigorously prosecuted. If you claim that you have a certain amount of money, and actually have that amount of money, the claim is verifiable by trusted sources that keep track of financial transactions. In the case of Bitcoin, transactions are broadcast to a network and their validity is verified by peers. Once validated, transactions are collected into blocks that are cryptographically sealed. The blocks are then competitively interlocked like a chain, hence the name. There is no central authority; everything is fully distributed.
In essence, blockchain allows machines to act as intermediaries between humans that do not trust each other. Blockchain is an important special case of distributed ledger technologies, which include other methods of decentralized record-keeping and data-sharing across multiple servers. The winner of this year's ACM Turing Award, Silvio Micali, will talk about "Algorand: A Better Distributed Ledger" on Friday, October 13, 2017, beginning at 12:00 noon EDT. You can sign up to hear the lecture without being an ACM member.
(8) The 2017 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences: The Prize went to Richard H. Thaler (U. Chicago) for integrating economics with psychology, founding the field of behavioral economics which replaces rational decision-making with limited rationality, social preferences, and lack of self-control.

2017/10/08 (Sunday): Here are five items of potential interest.
New York City, circa 1900 New York City's Times Square in 1903 Paris in 1900 (1) History in pictures: [Left] New York, circa 1900. [Center] NYC's Times Square, 1903. [Right] Paris, 1900.
(2) Practical solution to the problem of guns in the US: If NFL athletes, instead of kneeling, stand up during the National Anthem while holding a rifle above the head, we will have gun control legislation by halftime! ["The Daily Show" video clip]
(3) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Driver and several others taken to hospital, as truck crashes into the side of a Santa Barbara restaurant.
- This must be the brand of paper towels Trump threw at Puerto Ricans during his visit to the island!
- Clever "Black Lives Matter" T-shirt for science buffs.
- Hurricane Nate's projected path and timeline. [Map]
- A very Parisian way to avoid floodwaters! [B&W photo]
- Rows 1-3 of a triangle are shown in this image. What would the 100th row be if we extend the triangle?
(4) California Avocado Festival: Like many other festivals in the US, this one is mostly about food! Aromas of BBQ and guacamole were very enticing, but I had eaten just before arriving, so they weren't difficult to resist. Being outdoors on a gorgeous day and doing some walking made the trip worthwhile for me. [Music video]
(5) Today's talk about Iran at UCLA (4:00 PM, 121 Dodd Hall): Dr. Kamran Talattof (U. Arizona) delivered the talk "Sexuality and Cultural Change in Iranian Cinema" under the auspices of the UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran, that began its 2017-2018 program today. Tomorrow, Dr. Talattof will present an English lecture entitled "What Kind of Wine Did Rudaki Fancy" (2:00 PM, 348 UCLA Humanities Building). The lecture series, under the directorship of Dr. Nayereh Tohidi, has become quite popular and serves an important need of Southern California's large Iranian-American community and others who are interested in learning about Iran.
In his research, Dr. Talattof focuses on issues of gender, sexuality, ideology, culture, language pedagogy, and creation of cultural artifacts. Among his many publications is the award-winning volume Modernity, Sexuality, and Ideology in Iran: The Life and Legacy of a Popular Female Artist, which tells the story of Shahrzad, a dancer, actress, filmmaker, and poet, who performed in theater productions, became an acclaimed film star, flirted with journalism and poetry, was imprisoned after the Islamic Revolution, and eventually became homeless on the streets of Tehran. Today's talk can be viewed as an elaboration and expansion on a small part of the latter book.
Dr. Talattof began with a discussion of modernity in Iran and why, despite significant efforts over the past century, it has never really taken hold. There are various theories as to why anti-modernity forces were able to foil attempts at establishing true modernity. As a result, Iranian society has become what Dr. Talattof terms "modernoid": having the outward appearances of modernity, without exhibiting its key characteristics and benefits. His thesis is that lack of attention to, or insufficient treatment of, issues of sexuality is one of the main factors that inhibits progress toward true modernity. In film and cinema, we find excellent examples that allow us to formulate and analyze this problem. Cinema has a long tradition in Iran. It took hold and was viewed as a serious art form shortly after its introduction in Iran, to the point of being deemed on par with poetry and other traditional art forms dear to Iranians.
In the 1960s and 1970s, a decadent form of cinema, named derisively as "FilmFarsi" (literally, "PersianFilm") spread and formed the basis of a profitable and prolific film industry. The formulaic stories of these films often had a poor or rich girl wanting to marry a man belonging to the opposite social class, a man falling for a cabaret dancer or prostitute (the two being viewed as one and the same in Iranian culture of the day), and slapstick comedies, a la "Three Stooges." Women were routinely objectified and depicted as weak, dependent souls who needed the protection of the male protagonist. Manliness was a recurring theme and a big part of many movie plots, where a man's authority or virility was threatened, only to be restored by the end of the film.
FilmFarsi titles were often not shown in top-notch movie theaters, because they were frowned upon by most intellectuals, who preferred foreign films (usually dubbed into Persian). Although depiction of sex and sexuality was by no means explicit, some films were viewed as going too far in their partial nudity and suggestive dialog, given Iran's social norms at the time.
In fact, Dr. Talattof's examination of official documents of that era has revealed that certain government officials openly worried about film depiction of female characters (and the giant, sexually arousing posters that graced movie-theater marquees) had gone too far and likely to create a backlash within the society's conservative elements. These excesses of the film industry are some of the key elements often cited for the success of Islamic Revolution and for cinema becoming dormant for several years after the Revolution. In fact, revolutionaries resorted to burning movie theaters to show their distaste for what they considered decadent forms of culture promoted by the Shah and by his Western allies.
The movie "Gheisar" is often cited as a turning point because of its treatment of more important social issues, although it still had some of FilmFarsi elements. Subsequently, serious filmmakers appeared on the scene and Iranian art films began to make a good showing at international venues and festivals.
The story of Iranian cinema after the Revolution is quite interesting. After the initial hiatus, films emerged that tackled the safe subjects of Shah's secret police, ridiculing the leftists and intellectuals, and later, depicting the Iran-Iraq war. Within a few years, filmmakers had gathered the courage to make films about relationships, social issues such as poverty, and cultural dichotomies, without being overtly political. They often had to change the story-line or dialog to satisfy the censors.
An important challenge for post-revolutionary filmmakers was the depiction of intimate relationships. A man taking a woman home (of course, after officially entering into temporary-marriage with her) would open the door, with the couple going in and the door closing behind them, as the camera remains fixed on the closed door. A scene happening in the bedroom of a married couple presented similar challenges. It would be utterly artificial for the woman to appear in bed with a manteau and headscarf, so the filmmaker had to find alternatives, such as filming in the dark.
One of the remarkable feats of Iranian cinema in recent decades has been the filmmakers' ability to tell interesting and complex stories in the face of restrictions on content and appearance of actors/actresses. Many influential filmmakers have emerged, each with his/her own ingenious schemes for getting around the myriad restrictions, while still telling an interesting story.
The 105-minute lecture was longer than usual, in part because Dr. Talattof showed several film clips to exemplify the points he wanted to make. A brief question-and-answer period ensued, before we had to leave the lecture hall a few minutes after 6:00 PM. [Photos of the speaker and movie posters]

2017/10/07 (Saturday): Here are five items of potential interest.
Cover image of Candice Bergen's 'A Fine Romance' (1) Book review: Bergen, Candice, A Fine Romance, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Simon & Schuster Audio, 2015.
[My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
In this intelligently-written book, a follow-up to her best-selling autobiography (Knock Wood), Bergen begins with her marriage to French director Louis Malle, and covers a number of subsequent events in her life: The birth of her daughter, Chloe, her successful and controversial TV series "Murphy Brown" (1988-1998), losing Malle to cancer, finding love again with New York real estate magnate Marshall Rose, and raising her daughter to become an independent adult.
Bergen's writing style is charming, honest, and funny. She does come across as privileged and a tad whiny on occasion, but these are small blemishes on an otherwise wonderful book. Of course, the faults are easier to forgive if, like me, you are an admirer of Bergen's acting talent, comic chops, and looks.
Bergen, like Mary Tyler Moore before her, came to represent the modern, liberated, independent, opinionated, professional woman through her TV persona, and thus got into scuffles with the likes of Vice-President Dan Quayle, when her Murphy Brown character decided to have a child without getting married and defied other social norms of her days.
Other readers' opinions about this book are quite varied, with assessments ranging from "painfully boring" to "entertaining and well-written." Many readers who did not like this book praised Bergen's earlier memoir.
(2) Ten brief news headlines and other interesting items from around the Internet:
- Helicopters mimic drones to become safer and easier to fly. [Annotated image: E&T magazine]
- High-winds test: Here's how a typical US home would fare under 100 mph wind.
- Erasing data won't erase the problems: FEMA removed Puerto Rico's unflattering stats from its Web site.
- Logical answer to an ignorant tweet about trucks and guns!
- To-do list, attributed to the late country music star Johnny Cash: He likely meant it as a joke.
- Cartoon of the day: Ant identification. [By John Atkinson]
- Caught a wonderful musical performance last night on PBS SoCal (KOCE). [Sample 1] [Sample 2]
- Tillerson's exit will cost Trump dearly: But that high cost is unlikely to save his job.
- In a thwarted plan, three ISIS-inspired men wanted to bomb NYC's landmarks, the subway, and concerts.
- Can solar solve Puerto Rico's electric-power problems? Elon Musk thinks so and has offered a proposal.
(3) Three teens arrested in Carpinteria (near Santa Barbara): One Carpinteria High student had posted a photo with a firearm along with a threatening text. The other two, identified when the first teen was investigated, also face firearms-related charges.
(4) Trump's tweet of October 7, 2017, 5:04 AM: "More and more people are suggesting that Republicans (and me) should be given Equal Time on T.V. when you look at the one-sided coverage?"
My response: By ending the tweet with a question mark, you seem to agree that your demand is questionable. Anyway, I'm sure they would be glad to comply, if you too gave them equal time on your Twitter feed!
(5) This afternoon at Santa Barbara's La Cumbre Plaza: On a relatively hot day, a keyboardist played tunes from The Great American Songbook [Sample 1] [Sample 2] and people were enjoying various activities, such as reading (me), oversized board games, and more.

2017/10/06 (Friday): Here are six items of potential interest.
Sexy Albert Einstein in 1932 A group of samurai from Japan visiting the Sphinx in Egypt, 1863 An 8-year-old coal miner in the early 1900s (1) History in pictures: [Left] Sexy Albert Einstein in 1932! [Center] A group of samurai from Japan visiting the Sphinx in Egypt, 1863. [Right] An 8-year-old coal miner in the early 1900s.
(2) Cats behaving badly: In Australia, cats kill one million birds per day: Some bird species are facing possible extinction as a result.
(3) Ten brief news headlines from Time magazine on-line:
- ICAN, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear weapons, was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.
- Tropical storm Nate is moving north to threaten New Orleans and other Gulf Coast regions in the US.
- NRA chief blames Hollywood for Las Vegas mass shooting (I guess he forgot to mention fake news)!
- After dining with US military leaders, Trump characterizes the meeting as "the calm before the storm."
- Hawaii, the first state to challenge Trump's earlier travel bans, takes on the new ban in court.
- Robert Meuller's team interviews former British spy Christopher Steele (of the "Trump Dossier" fame).
- US-based employees of the Kremlin-linked Russia Today news service are leaving in droves.
- Elon Musk's Tesla company offers to fix Puerto Rico's energy crisis with solar panels and batteries.
- Huge celestial fireball appears in the night sky, as Superboldie Meteorite explodes over China.
- Twelve-mile-wide comet, the furthest such observation, has been spotted hurtling towards the sun.
(4) Gun control and safety: How did a serious discussion of gun control and safety deteriorate into passing legislation banning a single device that converts semi-automatic rifles into automatic ones? Yes, the bump-stock device was responsible for massive deaths and injuries in Las Vegas, but in the grand scheme of things, the total number of deaths that would be prevented by banning the said device is a tiny fraction of all gun deaths. Very few mass shootings involve automatic or converted semi-automatic rifles. And the bulk of gun deaths are not from mass shootings. A good chunk of gun deaths results from children finding guns at home and "accidentally" shooting themselves or a relative. Don't get me wrong, such a ban would be great, but only as part of comprehensive gun control legislation.
(5) The first paragraph from Abraham Flexner's 1939 article, "The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge," on which a 2017 book by the same name (see my blog for Wednesday 2017/10/04), is based:
"Is it not a curious fact that in a world steeped in irrational hatreds which threaten civilization itself, men and women—old and young—detach themselves wholly or partly from the angry current of daily life to devote themselves to the cultivation of beauty, to the extension of knowledge, to the cure of disease, to the amelioration of suffering, just as though fanatics were not simultaneously engaged in spreading pain, ugliness, and suffering? The world has always been a sorry and confused sort of place—yet poets and artists and scientists have ignored the factors that would, if attended to, paralyze them. From a practical point of view, intellectual and spiritual life is, on the surface, a useless form of activity, in which men indulge because they procure for themselves greater satisfactions that are otherwise obtainable. In this paper I shall concern myself with the question of the extent to which the pursuit of these useless satisfactions proves unexpectedly the source from which undreamed-of utility is derived."
Puzzle regarding a fractal shape (6) [As bad news keeps piling up, here is my sign-off post for today to distract you, if you are so inclined!] Math puzzle: Start with an equilateral triangle (image 0 on the left), divide each side of length 1 into 3 equal segments, and replace the middle segment with two segments of the same length that bulge out (image 1, after one step). This will increase the perimeter of the figure from 3 to 4. Repeat this process for 9 more steps (the next two steps, images 2 and 3, are also shown). What is the perimeter of the 10th figure?

2017/10/05 (Thursday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Screenshot of ResearchGate showing 1511 reads for my article (1) An article of mine has been read by over 1500 people on just one research site: My research publications tend to be highly specialized and are often read by at most a few dozens of researchers with technical interests similar to mine. So, it surprised me to find out that "Low Acceptance Rates of Conference Papers Considered Harmful" (IEEE Computer, Vol. 49, No. 4, pp. 70-73, April 2016), which is somewhat more general in scope and less technical in content, has been read 1511 times already on ResearchGate. This is, in part, thanks to prominent social-media users posting about and discussing it.
(2) At one point, I was hoping for Rex Tillerson's resignation: Now, I hope he stays. According to retiring Senator Bob Corker, Tillerson, Mattis, and Kelly are the only obstacles to chaos in our country.
(3) Examples of posters, from Southern California (left) and Nice, France, announcing the celebration of the ancient Iranian festival of autumn. [Image]
(4) Communication between smart cars: When a car is driving right behind another one, its view of the road ahead is limited. It is possible to acquire a complete view by communicating with the car driving ahead. So, the parallel with the saying "two heads are better than one" is "two smart cars are better than one"!
(5) Iraqi Kurds celebrate the huge 98% approval in their independence referendum, but the practical implications of this win remain unclear. [Photo credit: Time magazine]
(6) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting finds on the Internet:
- The 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature goes to Kazuo Ishiguro, whose novels include The Remains of the Day.
- Here's what the official NRA magazine @AmericanHunter tweeted hours before the Las Vegas mass murder.
- Las Vegas mass shooting: Some memes and cartoons.
- Who was the genius behind the idea that the POTUS should throw paper-towel rolls at Puerto Ricans?
- Lone wolves gather in the wild to issue a joint statement: "Stop comparing crazy white mass shooters to us!"
- The perfect gift for your favorite nerd this Christmas. ["Oh Chemis Tree" T-shirt]
(7) Artificial intelligence benefits outweigh risks: According to Google engineering director Ray Kurzweil, AI will be far more beneficial than harmful, and the "singularity" when computers overtake human intelligence should be welcomed. Kurzweil bases his opinion on human history, where technological innovation has helped humanity more often than worsened it. While Kurzweil acknowledges that all technologies pose risks and that the risks of powerful ones (biotechnology, nanotechnology, AI) are potentially existential, he is certain that the elimination of certain trades will be offset by the creation of new types of jobs. "It creates a difficult political issue because you can look at people driving cars and trucks, and you can be pretty confident those jobs will go away. And you can't describe the new jobs, because they're in industries and concepts that don't exist yet."
(8) Faculty Research Lecture: Annually, UCSB honors one of its faculty members by asking the honoree to deliver a general-audience public lecture. Today, at Corwin Pavilion, Professor Charles E. Samuel, of our MCDB Department, spoke under the title "Viral Threats to Humankind: Antivirals and Lessons Learned from Interferons." Much progress has been made in developing virus-specific vaccines, to the extent that some viral afflictions have been eradicated. However, we do not have vaccines for all viruses and, in many cases, no treatment once the illness sets in. A potent anti-viral agent, interferon, discovered in 1957, interferes with virus growth (non-virus-type-specific) and provides a first line of defense for the human body. Whereas I understood the main message of the talk and the importance of interferons, I was disappointed with the pace and tone of the speaker, which was quite inappropriate for a public talk to an audience of mostly non-specialists.

2017/10/04 (Wednesday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Cover image for Abraham Flexner's book 'The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge' (1) Book introduction for science buffs: Flexner, Abraham, with a companion essay by Robert Dijkgraaf, The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge, Princeton University Press, 2017.
The thesis of this book is that focusing solely on short-term applied research is misguided. We should strike a balance between applied and basic research. Basic research that seems to be useless today will inevitably turn valuable in future. For example, the invention of radio is often credited to Guglielmo Marconi, but earlier experimentation and theoretical development by Faraday, Hertz, and Maxwell should not be forgotten. Here is an article by the author from 1939 making the exact same point. Flexner lived from 1866 to 1959, so this book presents some of his work from decades ago, along with modern examples that confirm his thesis.
(2) Engineering identified as the top major for world's wealthiest people: Among the world's top 100 wealthiest people, the largest number (22) have majored in engineering. The list includes Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Larry Page of Google. [Source: Business Insider, based on a poll conducted by British recruiting firm Aaron Wallis]
(3) Don't worry, your personal information will be safe! Equifax, the company that lost to hackers the personal info for nearly half of all Americans, whose execs sold off their stock holdings after they learned about the massive data breach, but before telling us about it, and whose CEO "retired" after the breach with a multi-million-dollar parting gift, has been hired by IRS to help with "taxpayer and personal identity verification service." And I am not joking!
(4) Can you guess the party affiliation of an anti-abortion US Representative who sent a text message to his mistress, asking her to get an bortion?
(5) Why is it that what would have been knock-out punches for any other politician simply make Trump wobble for a while and return to upright position? Question of the day, indeed! [Time magazine cover image]
(6) Gerrymandering, via an example: This chart, from Time magazine, issue of October 9, 2017, shows why it is a good idea for Congressional districts to be drawn by non-partisan entities. It shows a hypothetical state with 60% red voters, 40% blue voters, and 5 districts (thus 5 representatives). Districting map 1 is fair, as it leads to the election of 3 red and 2 blue reps, in proportion to the population's political leanings. Districting map 2 results in 5 red reps, leaving the blue minority unrepresented. Districting map 3 leads to the minority actually gaining a majority 3 out of 5 reps. As I write, there are weirdly-shaped Congressional districts in which geographically separated areas are connected by a road, along with houses on its two sides. You may be in the same district with someone who lives 50 miles away, but in different districts with your left-side and right-side neighbors. See the map of the most gerrymandered districts (from a different on-line source) at the link above.
(7) Tonight's concert by Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles at UCSB: The event was preceded by a party, with DJ music, free goodies, and more in front of the venue, under a nearly full moon. The concert itself was a high-energy program that had the audience members clapping and singing along. The last song performed brought the audience to their feet. Here is an 18-minute video of the group's work from YouTube.

2017/10/03 (Tuesday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Waterfall in Ecuador Transforming war ('harb') to love ('hubbun'), by hiding its middle letter in Arabic Improvising for some fun, with minimal resources (1) Three interesting photos: [Left] Waterfall in Ecuador. [Center] Transforming war ('harb') to love ('hubbun'), by hiding its middle letter in Arabic. [Right] Improvising for some fun, with minimal resources.
(2) Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to three American researchers for the first observations of gravitational waves: Rainer Weiss is honored with half of the prize. Kip Thorne and Barry Barish will share the other half.
(3) Trump in Puerto Rico: He downplayed PR's dire conditions by citing the death toll of only 16. He told Puerto Ricans that they have thrown "our budget a little out of whack," as if they caused or invited the storm.
(4) Trevor Noah's insightful take on the Las Vegas mass-shooting tragedy: Why is it that some people say this is no time to discuss gun safety? Don't we discuss airline and flight safety right after a plane crashes, or infrastructural problems the same day a bridge collapses?
(5) Half-dozen brief items from the news, personal stories, and Internet postings:
- Portraits of Las Vegas massacre victims begin to emerge. And here are more portraits.
- White privilege in action: Criticizing how some media reports try to humanize the Las Vegas mass killer.
- Near-miss: A 100-foot asteroid will pass within a mere 27,000 miles of Earth on October 12, 2017.
- Israel plans to build an artificial island in Gaza, with air/sea ports, power station, and desalination plant.
- Tillerson working quietly to save the Iran nuclear deal, as the October 15 certification deadline nears.
- Mattis contradicts Trump on the Iran nuclear deal: Says US interest lies in sticking with the deal.
(6) You have more in common with the world, including people you hate, than you think: Proud Kurd finds out through DNA analysis that she is mostly Iranian/Turk/Jewish. Interestingly, DNA analysis of this kind is possible because for much of human history, we have been confined to the vicinity of our birthplace. DNA analysis of human remains from various regions allows us to deduce connections for living people who do the test. We are now quite mobile and within a couple of centuries (my guess), differences will all but disappear.
(7) Charity recommendation: Direct Relief International has been the charity of my choice through the recent Atlantic hurricanes and Mexico quakes. If you don't know where to donate or are dissatisfied with organizations you have used in the past, please look into DRI. Reports from Puerto Rico show them to be front and center in a wide array of relief efforts.
(8) The new "Star Trek: Discovery" TV series will have two women of color in lead roles: Just as was the case for the "Ghostbusters" film with female leads, reaction to CBS's casting decision has been nasty. Ever since Gene Roddenberry's creation, "Star Trek" has been a leader in raising awareness of social issues, such as introducing the first inter-racial kiss on American TV in 1968. I, for one, am rooting for the success of the new series. It's about time women are given roles they deserve based on merit. [Adapted from: Time magazine, issue of October 2, 2017]

2017/10/02 (Monday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Refrigerator, 1920s Captain Kirk of 'Star Trek' in a scene involving the first inter-racial kiss on American TV How babies used to fly on airplanes (1) History in pictures: [Left] Refrigerator, 1920s. [Center] Captain Kirk of "Star Trek" in a scene involving the first inter-racial kiss on American TV. [Right] How babies used to fly on airplanes.
(2) October 2, 1988, was the day we arrived in California from Canada: Next year will be the big 30th anniversary of arrival in Santa Barbara and working at UCSB. Still love the place after 29 years!
(3) Bernie Sanders digs up a Donald Trump tweet from 2015 about the absolute necessity of saving out social safety nets. Medicare will be gutted according to his budget proposal. Medicaid were to be eliminated altogether according to his healthcare plan.
(4) Gunman (now dead) fires from Mandalay Bay's 32nd floor on attendees of a Las Vegas music festival, using an automatic assault rifle, killing at least 50 and injuring more than 400, many critically. Unfortunately, if past events are any indication, no gun-control law will result from this horrible incident. This isn't a Second-Amendment issue but one of common sense and human empathy.
(5) Half-dozen brief items from the news, personal stories, and Internet postings:
- Tom Petty dead at 66 of cardiac arrest: Here's one of his hit songs, "You Don't Know How It Feels." RIP.
- Summer months wasted, leaving major repairs of UCSB's walkways to this first week of classes.
- Seven hilarious photo pose re-creations. [Pictorial]
- Sholeh-zard emojis. [Photo] [Should make it clear these Persian treats aren't my work!]
- Trump opponents and allies, according to comedian Tony Posnanski's tweet: "Just a reminder ... Hillary—Nasty | Mayor of San Juan—Nasty | NFL Players—Sons Of Bitches | Democrats—Losers | Nazis—Fine People
- Maybe Lady Gaga is on to something: xoxo, Gaga @ladygaga "Oh I see @realDonaldTrump you're not helping PR because of the electoral votes u need to be re-elected #Florida=29 #Texas=38 #PuertoRico=0"
(6) Three American scientists awarded the 2017 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine: Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael Young are honored for helping to explain how biological clocks work.
(7) Technical talk: Today, I attended a talk by Hsien-Hsin Sean Lee (Deputy Director of TSMC and Associate Professor at Georgia Tech) entitled "Moore and More: Design Trends and Challenges of Modern Chips." The main focus of the talk was extreme design and manufacturing difficulties as we move into the 7-nanometer regime and the necessity of leveraging various 3D IC technologies to make further progress when Moore's Law expires.
(8) Social/technical gathering: Members of IEEE's Central Coast Section and their guests met at Goleta's Rusty's Pizza for a pizza-and-beer mixer and to hear Dr. Michael C. Wicks of University of Dayton present a talk entitled "Advanced Sensor Concepts, Exploitation, Signal Processing, and Systems Engineering." The focus of the talk was how the availability of cheap sensors and the massive amounts of data they collect is changing many technologies and applications.

2017/10/01 (Sunday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Our beautiful world: Lake Louise, Canada (1) Our beautiful world: Lake Louise, Canada.
(2) Iran, 33 years after 1984: How PhotoShop is being used to alter historical photographs, a la "1984," to match the narratives of the Islamic regime. A photo of a mosque was PhotoShopped to insert Ayatollah Khamenei's image alongside that of Ayatollah Khomeini. In another instance, photo of a cabinet meeting was cropped in a textbook to remove Mir Hossein Mousavi, who appeared seated on the right edge.
(3) Interesting info about codes on your cell phone: One wonders, though, why the codes are secret and why the associated useful functionalities aren't provided in a more convenient form. I don't want to lock something and then not remember the code for unlocking it!
(4) Women are inferior, according to many Islamic clerics and their followers: In the aftermath of ending the driving ban for women in Saudi Arabia, a prominent cleric, who believed women should not drive because they have only a quarter of a brain, has been prohibited from preaching and other activities. The cleric had elaborated that women only have half a brain to begin with, but when they go out shopping, they end up with only a quarter. Maybe the rule for having four wives stems from this view: it's just a way of getting a complete brain in your women collectively! If I were him, I would stay indoors for a while due to the danger of being run over by the new female drivers!
(5) Ten brief news and other personal/on-line stories of the day:
- Anti-Fascist protesters confront far-right Neo-Nazis, who took to the streets in Sweden on Yom Kippur.
- Cymatics: Science and music linked in awe-inspiring experiments. [6-minute video]
- Chuck Schumer exposes Trump's tax-cuts-for-the-rich plan being peddled as tax-reform plan.
- Afghan soccer player Nadieh Nadim to join Manchester City's women's team.
- Further to my post on Hugh Hefner's passing, this article also suggests that he helped normalize misogyny.
- Women leaders in software engineering: The list compiled by Anita Borg Institute.
- Don't you wish your President would give this speech on diversity and race relations, and really mean it?
- Will Rex Tillerson be the next Trump cabinet member to go? [Trump tweet of 1 October 2017, 7:30 AM]
- Time to set aside Trump and his silly tweets to get some real work done! And here's the result.
- Did some work in the garage to clear up my little workspace, where I do minor repairs and small projects.
(6) Isn't it ironic that the guy who colluded with a country that wants to undermine the American democratic system represented by our flag is demanding that others respect that flag? [Bill Maher's take]
(7) [Final thought for the day] "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match: Tennis star Billie Jean King related in an interview with Seth Meyers that a 12-year-old Barack Obama watched her match against Bobby Riggs on TV and that he later told her that watching the match changed his life as the father of two daughters.

2017/09/30 (Saturday): Here are six items of potential interest.
US National Parks fundraising T-shirt (1) US national parks are in grave danger: The Trump administration plans to sell parts of our national parks to mining companies and developers. If you have been to national parks and enjoyed their serene beauty, consider helping the effort to fight these misguided policies. [Fundraising T-shirt]
(2) Puerto Ricans are suffering: San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz is really upset that Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke called Puerto Rico's recovery a "good news story." "This is a people are dying story; this is a life-or-death story," she said. Later, the Bully-in-Chief attacked the mayor caught in the middle of a humanitarian crisis. Can't get more narcissistic than this. Here's the Trump tweet:
"The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump."
People are dying, Mr. President! This isn't about you! Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz is living in a shelter, having lost her home. Any normal human being would give her a break, in light of her dire living conditions and feeling of helplessness as her people suffer. [Another Trump tweet, with response]
(3) Puerto Rico may become a testing ground for new electricity grid innovations: Among new methods being considered at Department of Energy's national labs is a collapsible grid system that can come down in high winds but be quickly restorable. Then, small modular nuclear reactors can be transported by cargo planes to the disaster area and plugged into the restored grid to provide temporary power. [Source: Bloomberg]
(4) Ten brief news and other personal/on-line stories of the day:
- Today's pets: My daughter told me she needed to order a book using my Amazon Prime account, because her kittens partially ate a loan copy. I agreed, but suggested that the kittens should at least write a review!
- Target has announced that it is raising its starting pay to $11 per hour, pledging to reach $15 in 2020. The main reason is to be able to attract and keep employees in a competitive job market.
- The US Senate committee investigating Russia ties chides Jared Kushner for failing to disclose his use of a private e-mail account for official WH business when he turned over records of his pertinent communications.
- Whole Foods has revealed a data breach for customers who made in-store purchases.
- Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price resigns amid serious questions about his use of private jets for travel: I guess the "Price" wasn't right for this country!
- The Trump administration is trying to roll back decades worth of civil rights gains: This time, it is proposing that companies should be allowed to consider an employee's "out-of-work sexual conduct" in making decisions.
- Sports Illustrated, issue of October 2, 2017, cover image: SI makes a political statement, but plays it safe by excluding a controversial athlete.
- Can you name the beautiful actress shown in her 20s in this photo?
- Israeli-Iranian singer Rita's 16-minute TEDx presentation, including some music and the story of her family's immigration from Iran to Israel when she was 8.
- "Welcome to the driver's seat": Ford's clever ad, playing on Saudi women's newly gained freedom to drive.
(5) The Equifax massive data breach: After exposing to digital thieves the personal data of nearly half of all Americans due to neglect, the CEO of Equifax, Richard Smith, retires and will get $90 million in payments. If history is any indication, he will not do jail time for what is certainly criminal conduct.
(6) College soccer: Tonight, UCSB men's team played at home against UC Riverside. Riverside scored in the 13th minute and UCSB in the 38th minute, for a 1-1 tie at halftime. In the second half, UCSB scored in the 54th and 86th minutes to win the game 3-1. Having scored 8 goals in the last two games (they got rather unlucky tonight, or they would have had 2 more goals), UCSB's offense seems to have found its touch, just in time for the harder part of the conference schedule. At halftime, kids' soccer teams participated in a banner parade.

2017/09/29 (Friday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Skull of a Roman soldier who died during the Gallic Wars, first century BC American soldiers show off their personalized Easter eggs, 1945 Liberated Jewish prisoner holds one of the German guards at gunpoint (1) History in pictures: [Left] Skull of a Roman soldier who died during the Gallic Wars, first century BC. [Center] American soldiers show off their personalized Easter eggs, 1945. [Right] Liberated Jewish prisoner holds one of the German guards at gunpoint.
(2) The GOP tax plan would hit California hard: The federal deduction for state and local taxes, to be eliminated, allowed California residents to reduce their taxable income by a total of $101 billion in 2014. The proposed restrictions on mortgage interest deduction would also hit Californians harder than residents of other states. California is being punished, it seems, by making it the single biggest loser state in a reckless tax scheme. [From: Los Angeles Times]
(3) Shadow theater performance in Los Angeles: A team of talented Artists from New York will present performances of "Feathers of Fire: A Persian Epic" at Bram Goldsmith Theater, October 20-29, 2017.
(4) Brief news items, entertaining clips, and head-scratching thoughts from around the Internet:
- If someone who believes in reincarnation dies, should the gravestone inscription include BRB instead of RIP?
- Simplified but useful view of which jobs will be obliterated and which will survive in our AI-driven future.
- The disastrous system that turned genius in four years! [Two Trump tweets]
- Cutting corporate taxes does not spur job growth: Here is why.
- Talented group of horn players: Street musicians perform a medley of several songs. [6-minute video]
(5) Iran may have faked a missile test to goad Trump: After the Iranian media re-broadcast a failed missile test footage from January 2017, pretending it was a new test, Trump tweeted that Iran is cooperating with North Korea and could reach Israel with this missile. [Source: Maziar Bahari, writing in the Iranwire Newsletter]
(6) Brain-inspired computing: UCLA researchers are constructing a brain-inspired device composed of highly interconnected silver nanowires. The mesh device, which self-configures out of random chemical and electrical processes and executes simple learning and logic operations, contains 1 billion artificial synapses per square centimeter. It enables users to select or mix outputs in a such way as to produce the result for a desired function of the inputs. [Source: Quanta magazine]
(7) Fake "Black Lives Matter" ads were directed at selected groups on Facebook: Russia also bought a wide array of other ads, including the ones shown in these images, using the name of a fictitious organization with no trace in the US. In fact, investigators have linked "Secure Borders" to Russia. Now, these ads do not implicate Trump directly, but each of the ads was precisely targeted to demographic groups in Pennsylvania and other states. It is highly unlikely that a Russian hacker, sitting in Moscow, would have the knowledge about which group of Americans would be most receptive to a given ad. Kushner was Trump campaign's digital media manager and, with help from a data analytics company owned by Steve Bannon, used similar targeting of Trump's own ads. It would be very surprising to me if Kushner's and Bannon's fingerprints aren't found all over Russia's targeted-ad campaign. This sheds some light on Bannon characterizing Trump's firing of James Comey as the biggest political mistake in modern times.
(8) Maryland sues EPA over power-plant pollution from other states: It contends that EPA failed to act on the Clean Air Act's good-neighbor provision, when it allowed pollution from upwind states (Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia) to nullify Maryland's progress in improving its air quality.
(9) Cartoon of the day: Declaration of full equality between men and women would be my preference, but in its absence, small victories in the domain of women's rights should be cherished. Last September, the mullahs in Iran were issuing edicts about bicycling ban for women. Needless to say, Iranian women took to the streets on bikes and, a year later, the mullahs seem to have retreated. [Image: From FB's "My Stealthy Freedom" page]

2017/09/28 (Thursday): Here are six items of potential interest.
Behrooz Parhami's PQRS Computer Architecture Lab at UCSB (1) Classes began at UCSB today: With the 2017-2018 academic year rolling out, various departmental and campus Web pages are being reviewed to ensure that they provide up-to-date information. Here is my latest lab/research spotlight on the ECE Web site.
[CE Research at UCSB] [Lab Spotlights]
(2) Voter fraud? Newsweek and Wired have confirmed, via access to public records, that White House aide Jared Kushner is registered to vote in both New York and New Jersey, with his gender listed as "Female" in NY and as "Unknown" in NJ.
(3) College soccer: This evening, the UCSB men's team played at home against Cal State Fullerton. Having gone winless in their first 6 games, the Gauchos won the next 3, to come into this first conference game with a 3-4-2 record (or 2-4-2, if the exhibition match against Club America U-20 is not counted). The student section of the stadium was filled to capacity for the first time this season. Fullerton scored first, with UCSB tying the game 1-1 just before halftime. In the second half, after ceding a second goal, UCSB recovered to score 4 goals in rapid succession to win 5-2, in its best game of the season.
On my way to Harder Stadium, I captured this view of the sunset on campus.
(4) While you were distracted by the NFL "kneeling" affair, a lot happened on the sidelines:
- The humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico worsened, with lives being lost or seriously threatened
- Tom Price's scandal regarding excessive use of private jets for business/personal travel worsened
- Republicans unveiled a $5 trillion tax cut plan, which includes a deep cut in the corporate tax rate
- The IRS agreed to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his Russia-ties investigation
- Bill O'Reilly told Fox news' Sean Hannity, "They don't want white people, generally, calling the shots"
(5) Sexual exploiter dead at 91: Everyone is writing about Hugh Hefner's passing. I resisted the urge to compose a blog entry about him, but I feel like I have to say something in the face of all who are making him look like a cultural icon or, even worse, a hero. In my student days, many men pretended that they read Playboy for its articles and interviews. Yes, it did have some good material, but the pretense was laughable. Others defended Hefner and his establishment by stating that they gave women a chance to make inroads into show business and successful careers as performers. They further stated that no one forced the women to pose nude or work at the Playboy Mansion. This is true in the same sense that no one forces women and children to work in sweatshops of Third-World countries. They have a choice between working as slave laborers (which would allow them to eat) and not working (which would mean starvation). Some choice!
(6) SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind lecture: Organizers of the SAGE Center lecture series didn't waste any time by scheduling the first lecture of the new academic year on this first day of classes. The lecture room was packed, with about 20 people standing along the walls.
The lecture topic was neuroeconomics or, more precisely, "How Neuroscience Can Inform Economics." Economics tries to explain consequential human choices and discover what variables change those choices. According to Wikipedia, neuroeconomics studies how economic behavior can shape our understanding of the brain, and how neuroscientific discoveries can constrain and guide economic models.
The speaker, Professor Colin F. Camerer of Caltech, has a long list of achievements and honors, including receiving a MacArthur Genius Award. An unexpected tidbit about him is that he owns his own record label (he lives in the Los Angeles area after all)!
While economics tends to explain human behavior by means of equations and optimizing value functions, neuroeconomics also pays attention to context, values, emotions and the like. An interesting example is provided by the assessment of future rewards. Economics typically models the present worth of a future reward by postulating a constant discount factor d per unit of time, so that the worth after t time units is discounted by d^t. Neuroeconomics, on the other hand, may take many other factors beyond the reward's degree of immediacy into account.
Just another point of learning, and something to follow up on. Coursera has a free on-line course, "Neuroeconomics: How the Brain Makes Decisions" which I may pursue.
Here is a list of other scheduled lectures by the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind, all held in UCSB's Psychology Building, Room 1312, Thursdays at 4:00 PM. Given the gaps, there is a chance that other lectures will be added to the series.
11/16: John Ioannidis (Stanford), "Towards More Reproducible and Unbiased Research"
12/07: Helen Fisher (Indiana), "Addicted to Love: The Drive to Love, Who We Choose, and the Neural Foundations of Romantic Happiness and Love Addictions"
01/11: Nicholas Carr (tech writer), "Mind-Altering Devices: How Smartphones Shape Our Thoughts"
02/22: Albert-Laszlo Barabasi (Northeastern), "Taming Complexity: From Network Science to Network Control"
06/07: Ned Block (NYU), "A Joint in Nature between Perception and Cognition without Modularity of Mind"

2017/09/27 (Wednesday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Secret kiss Paso Los Libertadores, a winding road in Chile North Dakota under 40 feet of snow, 1966 (1) Our world in pictures: [Left] Secret kiss. [Center] Paso Los Libertadores, a winding road section in Chile. [Right] North Dakota under 40 feet of snow, 1966.
(2) Changes in Twitter's terms of use: In response to many inquiries about why Trump's account is still active, despite violating Twitter's policy against bullying and threats of violence (example tweet), Twitter will update its terms of use and will make them more transparent. The main change is an exception to the prohibitions above for tweets that are deemed newsworthy. So, if you want to spread lies, bully people, and publicly threaten violence, you should first become an important person whose tweets are newsworthy!
[P.S.: Also, some users are being allowed tweets of double the length, 280 characters, on an experimental basis, to see if a systemwide change would be desirable. Trump isn't in this group. Someone quipped: "What would he do with longer tweets anyway?"]
(3) People have not died for the American flag but for the ideals it represents, including freedom of speech.
(4) Trump has deleted certain tweets that reflect badly on him: This has raised the question of whether deleting tweets and other social media postings violates the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which defines and states public ownership of the records and postulates that disposal of any record be done after consultation with the Archivist of the US.
(5) Some good news for education: Trump instructs the Department of Education to commit $200 million in grants for STEM programs, and tech giants, such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft, pledge an additional $300 million.
(6) Giant 10-MB hard disk anyone? And it will cost you less than a new car! I don't have a date for this ad, but guess it to be from the late 1970s or early 1980s. My guess is based on the mention of "inquiry card" at the bottom of the page. In those days, technical magazines came with a card, bearing a number for each ad. If you needed info about a product, you would circle its ad number on the card, mail it in, and wait for 2-3 weeks to get some brochures in the mail.
(7) Slavery is alive and thriving in the US: The latest example comes from NCAA basketball players, mostly black and poor, having replaced plantation workers and coaches acting as slave masters. College sports is supposed to promote athletic excellence alongside academic progress for student-athletes, who are not paid for their participation. Let's put aside, for a minute, the fact that athletic scholarships and some perks provided by schools to athletes violate this spirit. My focus here is on coaches, who, besides drawing obnoxious salaries (they earn more than virtually all professors), have now been caught receiving bribes from athletic agents, and companies seeking product endorsers, to steer the most talented athletes their way. In some cases, the coaches in turn have bribed families of athletes to enlist their help in placing athletes with their clients. A small number of such athletes end up signing lucrative contracts to play professionally, so their pro-bono participation can be viewed as investment in their future. The bulk of players, however, get nothing in return. Any fitness benefits are far outweighed by major injuries resulting from being pushed to the limit on the court. Other money-making college sports, such as football, have similar problems, whereas less lucrative fields, such as soccer, tennis, and water-polo, are truer to the spirit of college sports.

2017/09/26 (Tuesday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
The Rat Pack in Las Vegas, 1960 Cleveland's Balloon Fest, 1986, when over 1.5M balloons were released simultaneously London of the 1930s, in a rare colorized photo (1) History in pictures: [Left] The Rat Pack in Las Vegas, 1960. [Center] Cleveland's Balloon Fest, 1986, when over 1.5M balloons were released simultaneously. [Right] London of the 1930s, in a rare colorized photo.
(2) The villain in the Republican repeal-and-replace horror movie is down again, but assume that it's dead at your own peril!
(3) Four years ago, Donald Trump was against the President telling an NFL team what to do, because "our country has far bigger problems!"
DJT's tweet of October 8, 2013: "President should not be telling the Washington Redskins to change their name-our country has far bigger problems! FOCUS on them,not nonsense"
(4) Eight brief news headlines of the day:
- Multiple Trump aides used private e-mail accounts for official communications
- In tweets, Trump blames Puerto Rico's excessive debt for its post-storm devastation
- San Juan mayor to Trump: PR's debt crisis and disaster relief are separate issues
- WH Chief of Staff John Kelly displeased with Trump's culture war against NFL
- NASA's Katherine G. Johnson computational research facility opens in honor of the "Hidden Figures" leader.
- More than 100,000 foreign nationals are under surveillance in the US, says NSA
- Bali's Mount Agung volcano can erupt at any time; more than 75,000 evacuated
- Trump-supported Senate candidate is soundly defeated in Alabama's Republican primary race.
(5) A few observations and tweets of the day:
- Puerto Rico needs help: Federal aid is not getting there fast enough. Private citizens should mobilize.
- Lopsided victory: NFL triumphs over Puerto Rico in the total number of Trump tweets 24-4.
- Somehow, I can't get very excited about Saudi Arabian women's newly earned permission to drive!
- Any normal, decent human being would have apologized for calling Americans who disagree with him SOBs.
(6) UCSB College of Engineering welcomes its new students: In today's noon event dubbed "Discover Engineering" and held on the Chemistry Lawn, our new students were greeted by faculty, staff, and their peers who run various professional organizations and technical-interest clubs on campus. And, of course, serving pizza is essential for ensuring good attendance!
(7) This afternoon in downtown Santa Barbara: I have posted about Santa Barbara's wonderful architecture previously, but my focus was on churches, museums, historical theaters, and the like, that are expected to be architecturally impressive. During today's walk on State Street, from Mission Street to the waterfront, and back, I concentrated on photographing run-of-the-mill businesses, such as banks, restaurants, and retail stores, including the just-completed Californian Hotel and its adjacent plaza. [Photos] The exterior gates of this locked-up business reminded me of the von Trapp family's hiding place near the end of "The Sound of Music." I also took a few photos of Santa Barbara's Stearns Wharf and an art installation in a downtown open space.

2017/09/25 (Monday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Hajj pilgrimage goes better with Coca Cola, 1953. Hair ironing ritual in the 1960s Result of two bullets colliding in the air, when a Frenchman and a Russian fired at one another in the Crimean war, about 160 years ago (1) History in pictures: [Left] Hajj pilgrimage goes better with Coca Cola, 1953. [Center] Hair ironing ritual in the 1960. [Right] Result of two bullets colliding in the air, when a Frenchman and a Russian fired at one another in the Crimean war, about 160 years ago.
(2) Cyprus is building a spaceship-shaped observatory: The idea is to make it more fun for people to visit. To be completed in 2019, the Troodos Observatory will have a public roof terrace, varied programs, and collaborations with NASA and other scientific entities around the world. [Image]
(3) Selfies at historical sites in 31 Iranian provinces: The maker of this 1-minute video compilation traveled 17,000 km on bus and 1000 km on foot.
(4) A wonderful photo pose re-creation by a couple married since 1947.
(5) Modern Persian poetry: "Window," by Forough Farrokhzad.
(6) Persian poetry: By Mohammad-Reza Shafiei Kadkani. [Persian; my English translation follows]
I can neither join you, nor get away from you | Neither free myself from your snare, nor sit by your side
Oh, the one whose glance is my shelter! Know that it's a sin | To shut your window to a bird fleeing the storm
(7) This Tavaana story (in Persian) reviews how Trump's new multi-country travel ban affects Iranians: Each of the countries included in the ban, to become effective on October 18, 2017, will have different sets of restrictions. For Iranians, only student visas, issued after extreme vetting, will be allowed. Issuance of all other visa types will be permanently suspended. The reason for this action is cited as the Iranian government's lack of cooperation in identity verification and intelligence exchange.
(8) History's best overlooked inventions: In Tim Harford's new book, Fifty Inventions that Shaped the Modern Economy, we see the expected inventions that everyone knows about and appreciates. However, we also see some of the less-appreciated inventions that have had great impacts on the world's economy, without being prominent. Examples include barbed wire, which significantly cut the cost of protecting priave property on the American prairie, replaceable razor blades, and Ikea's Billy bookcase. As explained by the author, Billy "is a symbol of how innovation in the modern economy isn't just about snazzy new technologies, but also boringly efficient system." [Info from Time magazine, issue of September 18, 2017]
(9) Distinguished scientist/engineer featured in ACM Bulletin: Bill Dally, Professor at Stanford University and Senior VP of Research at NVIDIA, has been at the forefront of computer-architecture and interconnection-network research for decades. In a 2011 talk, he predicted that reaching exascale computing would require significant breakthroughs in power efficiency, programmability (viz., ease of programming and program portability), and execution granularity. In a new interview, Dally offers updates on how far we have come in these three areas since 2011 and what we need to cover by the end of the decade. Progress in energy efficiency has been most impressive, amounting to a factor of 10+ over the past 6 years. NVIDIA's new Tesla GPU achieves a computational throughput of 25 gigaflops per watt (this translates to an exaflops machine using only 40 kW for its computing nodes; memory and communication have to be accounted for separately). Programmability is the most problematic of the three areas, as porting a parallel application from one machine to another requires substantial effort at present. We still lack machine-independent languages, along with fully automated mapping to specific target machines.

2017/09/24 (Sunday): Here are five items of potential interest.
Rare vintage photo of an onna-bugeisha, a female warrior of the upper social classes in feudal Japan The two Michaels palying basketball in 1992 Little girl being rescued by a soldier from her London home after a series of bombings, 1944 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Rare vintage photo of an onna-bugeisha, a female warrior of the upper social classes in feudal Japan. [Center] The two Michaels palying basketball in 1992. [Right] Little girl being rescued by a soldier from her London home after a series of bombings, 1944.
(2) Trump has picked the wrong fight: Not only does his criticism of NFL and NBA athletes come at an inopportune time, in terms of distracting attention from the North Korean crisis and his legislative agenda (health care and tax reform), it puts him in direct conflict with two hugely popular leagues dominated by black athletes, reinforcing his image as racist. Early indications are that his attack is backfiring. Trying to backtrack a bit, Trump tweeted today that "... standing with locked arms is good, kneeling is not acceptable ... ," ignoring the fact that the standing pose is to support freedom of speech for those who protest by kneeling or otherwise. My son, who no longer watched football games on TV, is watching today to show his distaste for what Trump is doing. Where are the WH "advisers" to tell Trump that it's morally wrong and politically stupid to attack black athletes more than Russia as threats to American values?
(3) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other stories from the Internet:
- Germany's Angela Merkel wins a fourth term, but exit polls show increased support for the far right.
- With her re-election, Merkel has cemented her role as the West's political and moral leader.
- Syrian-American anti-Assad journalist and her mother murdered in Turkey.
- Tehran traffic on the first day of school. [Photo]
- Aerial view of a scenic road in Japan, mistakenly attributed to being from the Tehran-Chaloos road in Iran.
- Move-in weekend is in progress at UCSB, with fall-quarter classes for 2017-2018 set to start on 9/28.
(4) Planned Parenthood fundraising book sale: The sale, wonderfully organized and featuring 70,000 volumes, was held over the weekend at Santa Barbara's Earl Warren Showgrounds. Today's prices were 50% off from the already very low markings. I bought four books for $2.50 total, and my daughter bought a larger batch (I had better self-control, I guess).
Map of Kurdish regions in the Middle East (5) The Kurdish problem is front and center again: The Kurds, which reportedly constitute 20% of the population in Iraq, 9 % in Syria, 25% in Turkey, and 10% in Iran, have suffered injustice and bias for decades.
Among them, Iraqi Kurds have achieved better outcomes, having gained autonomy even under Saddam Hussein. For them, independence (subject of tomorrow's referendum) is a matter of formality, as they already have all the benefits of autonomy (including an independent army). Whether Iraqi Kurds' bid for independence is just a political ploy to get even more concessions from Iraq's central government or constitutes a serious step to establish an independent country, a positive outcome for the referendum will no doubt lead to additional instability in the Middle East. Not surprisingly, all four countries in which Kurds reside are against the independence movement. The US has warned the Kurds that their actions will distract from the fight against Islamic State and lead to further instability in the region.
Syrian Kurds are the quietest and most oppressed among the Kurdish populations. As far as I know, they have not made any political demands.
Iranian Kurds have been better integrated into the country and they do proudly declare themselves Iranians. But it does not help that the central Iranian government, both under the Shah and under the Islamic regime, has systematically oppressed and, at times, brutally attacked the Kurds and their leaders. Practically speaking, Iranian Kurds have not been given any significant role in running the country.
Despite their larger fraction of the population, the Kurds of Turkey appear to be in the worst shape among their brethren, having been oppressed by their government for many years, under the guise of fighting terrorism.
Even though some Kurds in other countries are supportive of the Iraqi Kurds' independence plight, the disparate Kurdish groups are far from united. Should Iraqi Kurds attain independence, the fate of these other Kurdish groups is unclear.

2017/09/23 (Saturday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
The final evening of NYC's Twin Towers, September 10, 2001 In the 19th century, firefighters looked like Darth Vader and C3PO Ad for Philip Morris cigarettes, 1952 (1) History in pictures: [Left] The final evening of NYC's Twin Towers, September 10, 2001. [Center] In the 19th century, firefighters looked like Darth Vader and C3PO! [Right] Ad for Philip Morris cigarettes, 1952.
(2) The petty president rages on in a tweet: "Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!" [Please stop tweeting long enough to reflect on what makes the WH no longer honorable?]
(3) Tweet of the day: HBO CEO Richard Plepler on the culture behind hits like "Game of Thrones," "Big Little Lies," and "Insecure."
(4) News from social media: Two-thirds of adult Americans, and more than three-quarters of those under the age of 50, get some of their news from social media. Here is the share of various platforms in supplying the news: Facebook (45%); YouTube (18%); Twitter (11%); Instagram (7%); Snapchat (5%). [Source: Time magazine, issue of September 25, 2017]
(5) Mexico in the news: A 6.1-magnitude aftershock rocked the country today. Meanwhile, an advisory has been issued after meth-laced bottles of 7-Up killed one person and sickened several in Mexicali.
(6) Athletes' silent protest in Seattle: Only Trump can take a harmless gesture of protest and turn it into a national issue that divides Americans. You would think athletes are greater enemies of our country than Russia!
(7) "9 to 5" stars (Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda) "still refuse to be controlled by a sexist, lying, egotistical bigot." [From their presentation intro at the Emmy Awards ceremony]
(8) US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a self-proclaimed feminist, is preparing for the fights of her life, come the new SCOTUS term beginning in October.
(9) Goleta Sanitary District's plant tour: We tend to take for granted so much of what goes on behind the scenes in our modern society. We open the tap, and water flows out. We flush the toilet, and wastewater disappears, along with other stuff in the bowl. So, I took advantage of an open-house and walking tour to go see the huge campus of Goleta Sanitary District, right across from the airport. The signs I photographed tell part of the story of what they do. The reference to "Jurassic" arises from the fact that the water we use today has existed on earth since the days of the dinosaurs. If you look carefully, you can see parked planes in one photo and a small plane landing in another.

2017/09/22 (Friday): Here are six items of potential interest.
The original 1924 Hollywoodland sign was advertising for a housing development California redwood loggers, early 20th century New York City's Central Park, 1933. (1) History in pictures: [Left] The original 1924 Hollywoodland sign was advertising for a housing development; the last four letters were removed in 1949 to give us the iconic "Hollywood" sign. [Center] California redwood loggers, early 20th century. [Right] New York City's Central Park, 1933.
(2) Bike racks are so passe: Especially in cities where bicycles are heavily used. Uterecht in the Netherlands now has a bike parking garage with spaces for 12,500 bikes. More than 125,000 bikers pass through the city center daily. The new garage will have digital signs for directing bikers to available spots and will offer 24-hour free bike parking.
(3) Comedian Jimmy Kimmel has come under fire for discussing healthcare as a non-expert: It's not like they are listening to experts, such as dozens of groups having medical doctors and other healthcare specialists as members. Also, can our President say a few more words about the plan, other than "It's a great bill, vote for it"? His focus seems to be "repeal," with "replace" thrown in just to pretend that affordable health insurance isn't being taken away from millions!
(4) Eight brief news headlines and other stories from the Internet:
- Facebook will hand over the ads it sold to Russian-linked accounts for the Russia meddling investigation.
- Mexico City moves from shock to action: Citizen groups assist in rescue efforts and distribute supplies.
- My farewell dinner with visiting scholar Dr. Chenggui Zhao, who is about to return home to China.
- The world's richest woman, L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt, dies at 94.
- Cartoon of the day: Chains of hijab. [Image]
- Puerto Rico may remain sans power for 6 months: Maria wiped out an already feeble electrical infrastructure.
- A large dam in Puerto Rico has cracked, forcing people to flee and the government to order mass evacuations.
- Hope fades in Mexico: Survivors are still being pulled out from buildings, but rescues are becoming less likely.
(5) Seven of my brief Facebook and Twitter posts about current politicical developments:
- What do the US and Syria have in common? A: They're the only countries rejecting the Paris Climate Deal. [Nicaragua just signed.]
- The frightening thing is that Trump may be tempted to escalate the conflict with North Korea, because it would rally Americans to his side.
- Trump tweet: Rand Paul, or whoever votes against Hcare Bill, will forever (future political campaigns) be known as 'the Republican who saved ObamaCare.' Me: Hush! Don't give other Republicans ideas!
- Doctors: First, do no harm. Republicans: First, do more harm.
- Remember the good-old days when our leaders just forgot names of countries? Now, they can't even read the names from prepared text!
- Why would any country, including NK, negotiate with the US when it sees the previously-negotiated Iran deal unilaterally dissed.
- Trump has neither acknowledged intelligence failures that led to Russia meddling in our 2016 election, nor has he taken any steps to fix them.
(6) As the storms get stronger, so do we: A powerful storm like Irma would have done much more damage before we learned how to prepare for and recover from hurricanes. [Time magazine cover image]

2017/09/21 (Thursday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Claude Monet in his garden at Giverny, 1905 Burbank High School parking lot, 1966 Finding a place to be alone on crowded Santa Monica beach, 1950 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Claude Monet in his garden at Giverny, 1905. [Center] Burbank High School parking lot, 1966. [Right] Finding a place to be alone on crowded Santa Monica beach, 1950.
(2) Happy International Peace Day! Even though there isn't much to celebrate right now, let's use this occasion to remind ourselves that peace begins with us. It gains life from each of us being peaceful inside and committing to peaceful interactions with others. [International Peace Day logo]
(3) Myanmar's dire situation: I have now seen several statements by, and interviews with, the country's Nobel-Laureate leader, Aung San Suu Kyl, about ethnic cleansing in her country. She has not yet acknowledged the killings by Buddhists and, in one statement, expressed puzzlement over the reasons for Rohingya Muslims fleeing into neighboring countries. Really? She does not read the news? Or does she think, like another world leader, that the news reports are fake?
(4) Silicon Valley's culture of sexual misconduct showcased on NYT's front page: A lawsuit brought by Elizabeth Scott (digital media manager) against virtual-reality tech startup Upload has been settled for an undisclosed sum. Rather than the company's management getting in trouble for supporting a lurid culture, which has changed little since the settlement, Ms. Scott was fired and became virtually (no pun intended!) unemployable, once potential employers learned that she had filed a lawsuit. She has since secured employment, though. Twelve other employees quit in solidarity with Ms. Scott, but they have all remained quiet about Ms. Scott and their own reasons for resigning.
(5) Healthcare debate reduced to trivialities: Which medical conditions will be covered? How are the premiums determined or adjusted from year to year? How are affordability and accessibility ensured? These concerns are missing from debates of the new Republican replacement for Obamacare. And defenders of the new bill, including its two sponsors, refuse to answer direct questions about the details. Discussion is centered around how it will be administered financially (through block grant to states), as if the administrative scheme is important to those worried about losing their health insurance or being priced out of the market. And thinking only about money is not limited to healthcare proposals. It pervades the current administration, beginning at the very top. At the UN General Assembly, Trump paid a "compliment" to African leaders by telling them that many of his friends go to Africa to make a lot of money. He did not say that his friends go to Africa to help, or to create solutions, or to educate. No, none of these. They go there to convert the continent's resources into wealth for themselves! The new healthcare plan too takes resources from the less fortunate and converts them to wealth, in the form of tax cuts, for the rich.
(6) This is why the Republicans are hell-bent on repealing Obamacare: Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley explains their very principled (not!) approach. "You know, I could maybe give you 10 reasons why this bill shouldn't be considered. But Republicans campaigned on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign. That's pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill."
(7) Films for us senior citizens: Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton have agreed to appear in the next "Terminator" movie. It is rumored that the cyborg portrayed by Arnold will appear with a walker! This photo depicts an imagined scene from the fourth "Titanic" sequel.

2017/09/20 (Wednesday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Jewish refugees, as they become aware of their liberation by a group of allied soldiers, 1945 Rejected designs for the Eiffel Tower Priest holding a dying soldier, as bullets fly around them, Venezuela, 1962 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Jewish refugees, as they become aware of their liberation by a group of allied soldiers, 1945. [Center] Rejected designs for the Eiffel Tower. [Right] Priest holding a dying soldier, as bullets fly around them, Venezuela, 1962.
(2) Happy Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, to all who observe it! The new Hebrew calendar year 5778 will start tomorrow and, like all Jewish holidays, its arrival is celebrated beginning with the night before.
(3) Here is a link to Direct Relief International's donations page: The page has a drop-down menu from which you can select "Mexico Earthquakes," "Hurricane Maria," or some of the earlier natural disasters, as well as their ongoing aid programs. The donation process, using a credit card or PayPal, is very quick and painless. DRI is an effective charity, which has been given 100% scores by Charity Navigator on both financial indicators and accountability/transparency.
(4) Interesting series of photographs, showing reactions of UN delegates to Trump's speech: Guess which is the only group shown smiling? (No, it's not the US delegation, all of whose members seem to be in pain!)
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other stories from the Internet:
- Puerto Rico is devastated by Hurricane Maria: It is 100% without power. [Brief video of flooding]
- Mexico City quake's death toll keeps rising; many collapsed buildings remain to be searched.
- The evolution of Dubai over two decades (three photos, covering 1991-2012).
- Thunderstorm over the Golden Gate Bridge: Time-lapse photography covering 3 hours. [1-minute video]
- Quote of the day: "So many of my friends are going to Africa to get rich." ~ Donald Trump to African leaders
- Geographical goof: At a lunch with African leaders, Trump referred to the non-existent country of "Nambia"!
(6) Caving in Parau, Kermanshah, Iran: This 19-minute documentary is about an Italian team's expedition, along with Iranian climbers, to an amazing 562-meter vertical cave. [Screenshots from the film]
(7) Emmanuel Macron's interview with "fake news" CNN: "Loser" French President criticizes our Dear Leader, citing North Korea as an example of why ditching the Iran nuclear deal is a bad idea. He also says that the Paris climate pact isn't up for renegotiation.
(8) Helping out, by translating Trump-speak for non-narcissists: "I have decided how to proceed with the Iran nuclear deal, but won't discuss that decision now" = I have no freaking idea what to do; I have some gut feelings, but General Kelly will get mad at me if I discuss those in public.
(9) Data centers held up well during the recent hurricanes: Some cell towers were disabled, thus cutting access to local customers, but the data centers themselves continued humming with no disruptions, thanks to built-in emergency power sources. In fact, some data centers served as headquarters for US marshals in their emergency response mode. One criterion observed in building data centers is that they be located above 500-year floodplain. [Adapted from: NYT]

2017/09/19 (Tuesday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
US soldier (Vietnam, 1968) keeps photos of his girlfriend with him at all times Mahatma Gandhi as a young lawyer, India, 1893 Former Australian prisoners of war, after they are freed from Japanese captivity in Singapore, 1945 (1) History in pictures: [Left] US soldier (Vietnam, 1968) keeps photos of his girlfriend with him at all times. [Center] Mahatma Gandhi as a young lawyer, India, 1893. [Right] Former Australian prisoners of war, after they are freed from Japanese captivity in Singapore, 1945.
(2) Trump will fall shortly after Jared Kushner resigns, owing to his role (along with a company owned by Steve Bannon) in enabling Russia's targeted Facebook ads.
(3) American healthcare exceptionalism: A popular myth perpetuated about the US healthcare system is that it is the best in the world and the envy of other nations. Not even close! [Image]
(4) The paradox of Iranian-Americanness: I don't fully endorse this letter to Chronicle of Higher Education, but it does present some food for thought. Equating Iranianness and Aryanness smacks of racism and plays into white-supremacist narratives. How do the Iranian-Americans promoting Aryan purity reconcile their views with the brutal fact that we are essentially colored people in this country? As far as our rights or lack thereof are concerned, we are in the same boat as blacks and Hispanics.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other stories from the Internet:
- For someone often dissing the UN, deeming it impotent and inefficient, DJT seems to be enjoying the UNGA!
- Dance montage to brighten your Tuesday! [Video]
- A new magnitude-7.1 quake rocks central Mexico, killing at least 140.
- A new shopping mall in Tehran, Iran: Notice all the foreign store names! [10-minute video]
- Another iconic American business bites the dust: Toys 'R' Us files for bankruptcy protection.
- Equifax hid its massive data breach affecting 40% of Americans, for almost 5 months, before disclosing it.
(6) An embarrassment of a speech: Trump's UN General Assembly speech, full of childish anger and alternative facts, enrages world's diplomats. Later today, watch his clean-up crew put lipstick on the pig by trying to explain the inexplicable! The looks on the faces of Rex Tillerson and Nikki Haley tell it all, as Trump threatens to totally destroy North Korea and repeats his "Rocket Man" insult in front of the entire world.
(7) Hurricane Maria has strengthened to category 5 and is headed for a direct hit to Puerto Rico: Residents have been instructed to evacuate or face possible death. This storm of the century looks devastating. Our thoughts are with the residents and visitors of the island and others nearby who are at risk.
(8) I'm done with not being believed: This is the title of a NYT opinion piece by Amber Tamblyn (about sexual harassment in the entertainment industry), which is gaining a lot of attention and support.
(9) Students are trickling in to UCSB for fall 2017: A bike and a mattress are among the essentials they need early on, so Goleta businesses are catering to these needs. [Photo]

2017/09/18 (Monday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
In the 1950s, Vanity Fair cigarettes came in fashionable pastel pink or pastel blue A northern Iraqi women's accessory from the 14th century, which may be the earliest surviving handbag in the world Little boy examining a super-size cabbage, Alaska, 1959 (1) History in pictures: [Left] In the 1950s, Vanity Fair cigarettes came in fashionable pastel pink or pastel blue! [Center] A northern Iraqi women's accessory from the 14th century, which may be the earliest surviving handbag in the world. [Right] Little boy examining a super-size cabbage, Alaska, 1959.
(2) Baha'i leader Mahvash Sabet Shahriari has been released from Tehran's Evin Prison, having served her full 10-year jail term. That she can still smile so broadly is a testament to her iron will and unbreakable spirit. Welcome back! [Or, in the words of Nasrin Sotoudeh, happy relocation from the little prison to the big prison!]
(3) Funny how Trump supporters insist that the election is over and that we should move on! I wonder how they explain Trump's frequent tweets about Obama and Clinton?
(4) Sean Spicer's surprise appearance at last night's Emmy Awards ceremony: His brief entry with a rolling podium (a la Melissa McCarthy), to make fun of his statements about inauguration crowd size, may be a signal that he wants to get out from under Trump's shadow. Many who watched his appearance did not consider it funny at all. What's funny about telling lie after lie to the American people, and then pretending that it was all a big joke? What happened to accountability? I, for one, hope that he will write a tell-all book, but do not consider such an expose as adequate for erasing all of his sins.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other stories from the Internet:
- African-American cop protecting a KKK member during a recent protest in Houston. [Photo]
- Graphic designer, appalled with girls' magazine covers, redesigns one to show what it should look like.
- Hurricane Maria expected to become category 5, as it passes the already devastated Caribbean islands.
- Governor Jerry Brown stands up to Donald Trump's climate-change denial at a UN round-table.
- Governor Jerry Brown's popularity is soaring, in part because of Trump presidency.
- New research shows that stifling a yawn might make it worse! [Source: Time magazine]
(6) Quote of the day: "Your neighbor is still your neighbor regardless of what has happened." ~ Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenyan President, calling for calm, after the country's Supreme Court declared his re-election invalid [Compare this statement from a Third-World-country leader with what might transpire in our country under similar circumstances.]
(7) Trump has cut the advertising budget for Obamacare as part of his plan to sabotage the program. Please share this info about the shorter 2017 open enrollment period, November 1st to December 15th.
(8) Adjective order in English: I hope no one tries to use all the adjective kinds together! [Rules]
(9) And now for something truly unusual: "Black Lives Matter" activists were given 2 minutes on stage at a pro-Trump rally to express themselves, and they used the time wisely. A definite step in the right direction!

2017/09/17 (Sunday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Louis Armstrong and his wife Lucille, Rome, 1949 Golden Gate Bridge opening day, 1937 Mini-skirted girls turning heads in Cape Town, South Africa, 1965 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Louis Armstrong and his wife Lucille, Rome, 1949. [Center] Golden Gate Bridge opening day, 1937. [Right] Mini-skirted girls turning heads in Cape Town, South Africa, 1965.
(2) Iran beats France 3-2 in FIVB volleyball: In the exciting first match, Iran came from behind to win 38-36. Iran emerges from the competition with its first-ever medal, a bronze.
(3) Islands devastated by Hurricane Irma may be hit again: If the developing storm does materialize, it will be called Maria (Lee is trailing Maria in the Pacific). Following Irma's ire, Jose is going north off the US East Coast and can still generate dangerous surf. Katia affected Mexico only.
(4) The horror movie playing out in US Congress: Near the end of many a horror movie, the villain appears dead, only to rise and attack again. And this sequence may happen more than once. Well, the Republican-health-care-plan villain, previously thought dead, is up and about. And this time, the villain may have the votes, according to Senator Elizabeth Warren. Stay vigilant and help put it down once and for all!
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other stories from the Internet:
- Very Presidential: Trump retweets a GIF of him hitting Hillary Clinton with a golf ball.
- Meet potential Senator Kid Rock, as he kicks off his bid for a US Senate seat: Where is this country headed?
- Four American women visiting France are attacked with acid in Marseille.
- Trump's Law: For every new Trump tweet, there is an equal and opposite previous tweet.
- Fake-news methods of the 2016 US elections are being applied in Germany and the rest of Europe. [Image]
- Cartoon of the day: Types of bees. [By John Atkinson] [Image]
(6) Where the trolls live: Analysis of social media comments and rating them according to toxicity levels yields some interesting results. "The South is disproportionately hostile, with Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina all hovering at over nine percent of all comments being toxic. Nevada (10.1 percent) and Iowa (10.3 percent) also have a high proportion of toxic comments. The 'winner' though in the troll wars goes to Vermont. The proportion of toxic comments is higher there than in any other state at 12.2 percent. Neighboring New Hampshire, on the other hand, had the lowest at 4.7."
(7) California Lemon Festival, held in Goleta's Girsh Park: Along with all the lemon-related stuff, fully electric cars were prominently displayed. Could it be the car exhibitors did not pay attention to the connection with lemons? [Photos] There was also a stage featuring live music. I was there for parts of the acts by two bands, both trained at Santa Barbara Youth Music Academy. The first band consisted of junior high and high school students. [Video 1] [Video 2] The next performer, Brandi Rose, and her band are featured in this video.
(8) Exhibition soccer match: UCSB men's soccer team played Club America Sub-20, a Mexican youth team, at Harder Stadium today. UCSB trailed 0-1 at halftime but recovered to score in the first few minutes and again near the end of the second half to win 2-1. Halftime entertainment was provided by a mariachi band. [Video]

2017/09/16 (Saturday): Here are six items of potential interest.
Major General Horatio Gordon Robley, with his collection of Maori heads, 1895 Snowfight between Republican and Democratic page boys in front of the US Capitol building, 1923 The big three (Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin) at Yalta Conference, 1945 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Major General Horatio Gordon Robley, with his collection of Maori heads, 1895. [Center] Snowfight between Republican and Democratic page boys in front of the US Capitol building, 1923. [Right] The big three (Winston Churchill, Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin) at Yalta Conference, 1945.
(2) Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of Trump's presidency is the support he received, and continues to receive, from hoards of people who self-identify as devout Christians. [Photo]
(3) The Democratic Coalition, an anti-Trump super-PAC, has filed a complaint against the White House spokesperson for her suggestion that an ESPN employee be fired: "When Sarah Huckabee Sanders called for Jemele Hill to be fired by ESPN, she crossed the line and put herself in dubious legal territory. For Sanders to publicly call for the dismissal of a Trump critic is bizarre and disturbing, to say the least. If anyone is to be fired, it should be her."
(4) United Way's Day of Caring: After gathering at 8:00 AM with other volunteers at the Page Youth Center for signing in, breakfast, introductions, and orientation, I headed to Isla Vista Park and Recreation Department for 4 hours of trash pick-up and community clean-up. I walked along two paths, 5 miles in all, filling 6.5 five-gallon buckets with trash, mostly cigarette butts, food wrappers/boxes, and bottles. An estimated 2/3 of the trash colleted consisted of recycleable items. Here are some photos from the morning gathering, video of a dance/exercise routine to lift the volunteers' spirits, and a selfie of me with the tools for the day (bucket, trashgrabber, and map of the streets to be cleaned).
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other stories from the Internet:
- Quote of the day: "Do the women get to talk around here?" ~ Nancy Pelosi, being interrupted at WH dinner
- The original cast of "Sesame Street." [Photo]
- London terror incident triggers the usual insensitive tweet from Trump and a response from the British PM.
- Simon and Gurfunkel's "Sound of Silence" played by Jamie Dupuis on an 18-string harp-guitar.
- Oxnard, California, may soon get a third commercial high-rise building, according to KEYT news.
- Pardall Road and Embarcadero Del Norte: The busiest intersection in Isla Vista gets traffic lights.
(6) Trump's tweeting record: It has been observed that there is a Trump tweet for every occasion. An on-line, keyword-searchable compilation of all of his tweets would be very useful for finding just the tweet you need to support a particular viewpoint. Soon there will be books of his tweets, neatly organized and indexed. [Funny tweet by Eric Williams] For example, Trump's racist tweets are being dug up. [Two sample tweets]

2017/09/15 (Friday): Here are six items of potential interest.
Sketch on a glass panel in front of a ruined edifice helps with visualizing its original form School in Afghanistan: Heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time Clinton's new book is just one piece of the 2016 US election story (1) Photos. [Left] Brilliant idea for historic sites: Sketch on a glass panel in front of a ruined edifice helps with visualizing its original form. [Center] School in Afghanistan: Heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. [Right] Hillary Clinton's new book is just one piece of the 2016 US election story: Two other key pieces will come in time. One is the outcome of the Russian meddling investigation (the official report, or an insider's account). Another is a tell-all book by a Trump campaign figure motivated by financial gain or revenge. Thus far, resigned and fired aides are keeping mum, but some of them are no doubt shuffling their notes, talking to agents, and weighing their options.
(2) I don't understand. DACA was in place and working well. Trump decided to repeal it and is now trying to reach a deal to keep it. So, at the end, we have a lot of hoopla, with nothing changing, except the sense of security and peace of mind for 800,000 productive members of our society. Talk about destructive behavior!
(3) Atlantic hurricanes are getting stronger: Over the last 40 years, the percentage of hurricanes that reach categories 3-5 has at least doubled. Wind speeds go up linearly in the hurricane rating scale, but destructive power, which is proportional to the square of wind speed, goes up quadratically. Stronger hurricanes also tend to last longer after landfall, thus giving rise to another multiplicative factor (energy = power x time). And this is just direct destructive energy from the winds. Storm surge, a leading cause of destruction in the wake of hurricanes, rises by more than a factor of 2 (up to 2.4 m, vs. an average of 4.7 meters), as we go from category 2 to category 4.
(4) A prime example of where regulations are needed: The real-estate industry still builds rows and rows of Florida oceanfront homes like these, pocketing the profits and leaving taxpayers to shoulder the consequences through government-subsidized flood insurance. And we keep being told that regulations are stifling business growth. We need this kind of growth like we need more poison!
(5) College soccer: Tonight, I watched the tail end of a women's soccer match between UCSB and University of the Pacific, which ended 2-2 after two overtime periods, and a men's soccer match between the the same universities. Pacific men came to Santa Barbara with a 6-0-0 record and a national ranking of 14th. UCSB had lost 4 games in a row and had a winless overall record of 0-4-2, including two scoreless ties, having scored only 3 goals in 6 games. Tonight, UCSB played with much more energy than its previous appearances and was rewarded with a 1-0 win against a strong opponent. On Sunday 9/17, at Noon, UCSB will play Club America, a Mexican youth team.
Cover image for Kelly Carlin's 'A Carlin Home Companion' (6) Book review: Carlin, Kelly, A Carlin Home Campanion: Growing Up with George, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the author, Macmillan Audio, 2015.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Kelly Carlin is a talented writer, who as the only child of comedy genius George Carlin, provides valuable insights into the late entertainer's character, career path, and family life, while relating how her own life was affected by the family's dysfunction and crazy schedule. Kelly, who does not aspire to become a stand-up comedian, does have good comedy chops, providing in her book many funny stories alongside the sad tales.
Adored by his fans, George Carlin had issues at home he would rather not reveal (or let others in the family discuss). Kelly, holder of a master's degree in psychology, has written a book that shows the human side of her father as much as his successful career in comedy, gaining a therapeutic self-understanding in the process. It is safe to say that George would not have approved of this book, were he still alive.
The audiobook contains bits and pieces of Carlin's work and the ups and downs of his career (comedy specials, TV contracts, and so on), which was shaped, to some extent, by the massive sum he owed to the IRS. His path was further complicated, as he struggled with alcohol and drug abuse, and experienced many health scares.
At times, Kelly comes across as a spoiled child who felt entitled to a special place in the world by virtue of being a celebrity's daughter. She was on her father's payroll for quite a while, including periods when she didn't do much for him professionally. Yet, she found herself having to play the adult among "The Three Musketeers," her father's nickname for the family.
As might be anticipated from the title, the book is a cross between Kelly's memoir and George's biography. Fans of George Carlin will love the book for revealing a side of the comedy whiz he himself never discussed. Others might enjoy the writing, but may not find the detailed stories compelling.

2017/09/14 (Thursday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Man being fined for wearing indecent clothes on the beach, Netherlands, 1931 Margaret Hamilton, lead software engineer of the Apollo Project, stands next to the 5-foot-high printout of her hand-produced code, which was responsible for humans landing on the moon in 1969 African girl on display in (1) History in pictures: [Left] Man being fined for wearing indecent clothes on the beach, Netherlands, 1931. [Center] Margaret Hamilton, lead software engineer of NASA's Apollo Project, stands next to the 5-foot-high printout stack of her hand-produced code, which was responsible for humans landing on the moon in 1969. [Right] African girl on display in "human zoo," Belgium, 1958.
(2) UCSB earns the number-8 spot among public universities in the 2018 US News & World Report ranking. Four other UC campuses are in the top 10 (actually, top 11, due to a 3-way tie in the 9th position). UC Berkeley and UCLA are tied at first, while UC Irvine and UC San Diego share the 9th spot with University of Florida.
(3) Trump denies having reached a DACA agreement with the Democrats: The Democrats may have a strategy here. But then again they may be setting themselves up for failure or ridicule by negotiating with someone who called them losers and much worse.
(4) Quote of the day: "If 97% of engineers agree the bridge ahead is going to collapse and 3% say not to worry, would you keep driving?" ~ Message seen on a sign at a climate-change protest march
(5) Trump's nominee for the number-2 position at FEMA withdrew his application after NBC revealed that he had been investigated by the FBI and DHS for favoritism and other improprieties after Hurricane Katrina.
(6) Swiss robotics firm designs an orchestra conductor: YuMi, as the robot is called, conducted the Lucca Philharmonic Orchestra and tenor Andrea Bocelli in a concert to mark the First Int'l Festival of Robotics.
(7) Half-dozen interesting odds and ends from the Internet and other media:
- Temporary golfing rules for disruptions caused by exploding bombs at Britain's Richmond Golf Club, 1940.
- Comedian John Oliver's highly detailed expose of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Trump's decision to pardon him.
- Can you identify the four Beatles from these images of their lips?
- Time-lapse video: Constructison of a cruise ship, from structural assembly to putting on the trims.
- Quote of the day: "In my country, we go to prison first and then become president." ~ Nelson Mandela
- Cartoon of the day: Trump eyeing the Democrats! [Image]
(8) DHS bans Kaspersky Lab software in federal agencies: The Russian brand of security software is banned on account of it posing security risks, because of its producer's ties to state-sponsored cyber-espionage.
(9) Susan Rice acted appropriately when she had Trump officials 'unmasked' in US intelligence reports: In closed-door testimony, Rice told the House Intelligence Committee that she was concerned about the motives for UAE Crown Prince's secret visit to NYC (to meet with the Trump team, it turned out), breaking protocol by not informing the US administration about the trip. There was also a subsequent secret meeting in the Seychelles Islands between Michael Flynn, Jared Kushner, and Steve Bannon with the Crown Prince, in which a Russian close to Putin was also present.

2017/09/13 (Wednesday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
George Harrison, 1967 Fleetwood Mac's airplane. The faces of peace in Jerusalem. (1) Photos: [Left] George Harrison, 1967. [Center] Fleetwood Mac's plane. [Right] Faces of peace in Jerusalem.
(2) A nice Wednesday in store, and a great week ahead (weather chart): Makes one feel guilty, as Hurricane Irma victims slowly return to their devastated neighborhoods to see if their houses are still standing and to begin recovery efforts.
(3) Jessica Lange: According to an August/September 2017 AARP Magazine feature on the talented actress, two years shy of hitting the big seven-oh, she is comfortable with where she is today and what she has accomplished (having won virtually all honors available to an actor/actress).
(4) Syria has complained about Iran forcing their women to wear headscarves at a soccer match: It has asked that Iran not host future soccer matches involving Syria, so that Syrian women can watch freely and without being harassed. Interestingly, Iranian women were not allowed to watch the same match, played at Tehran's Azadi Stadium! [Thanks to Masih Alinejad for this photo of Hamshahri newspaper's sports page]
(5) Half-dozen science and technology news headlines of the day:
- China is building the world's largest quantum research facility. (South China Morning Post)
- Hackers can purchase sufficient personal information to rig on-line voting rolls. (Harvard Gazette)
- Healthcare industry intrigued by diagnostic potential of artificial intelligence. (WSJ)
- Energy Department announces that Obama's solar goals have been met early (Bloomberg)
- Texas flood shows need for chemical safety rules. (Chemical & Engineering News)
- iPhone X inches forward on battery life, but major battery advances are just ahead (Scientific American)
(6) Bernie Sanders' Medicare-for-All proposal is gaining support: Healthcare will again be front and center in the 2020 elections, but this time in the direction of strengthening and expanding Obamacare, not repealing it.
(7) Half-dozen brief news headlines of the day and other interesting odds and ends:
- CNN reports that of the 42 US Attorney nominations by Trump, only one is a woman.
- Hurricane Irma death toll Rising: At least five dead in Florida nursing home left with no air-conditioning.
- The Obamas announce the fall 2017 launch of their charitable foundation.
- "Tu Vui' Fa' l'Americani": What a wonderful jazzy song!
- Captivating performance of Tomaso Albinoni's "Adagio" by violinist David Garrett.
- Apple mimics Microsoft in announcing iPhones 8 and X in a recent event: Microsoft skipped Windows 9 as well.
(8) A network of more than 50 Web sites create fake 'like's and comments for Facebook posts: Research, to be presented at London's 2017 Internet Measurement Conference, reveals how a Facebook software loophole has been exploited by scammers, who make money through inserting fake 'like's and bogus comments.
(9) College student is helping people sue Equifax: Stanford University student Joshua Browder, who has built a bot to help replace lawyers in routine matters, by helping people quickly fill out the requisite forms, is encouraging its use to punish Equifax. The company apparently had very lax security and almost no empathy in the face of data breach for nearly 44% of all Americans.

2017/09/12 (Tuesday): Here are six items of potential interest.
You have seen similar photos, with a car going through the tree, but this one's from 1879, when horse-drawn carriages were the norm Natalie O'Donald, service-station attendant, 1943 Black sea bass weighing 384 lb caught with a rod and reel off Catalina Island, 1900. (1) History in pictures: [Left] You have seen similar photos, with a car going through the tree, but this one's from 1879, when horse-drawn carriages were the norm. [Center] Natalie O'Donald, service-station attendant, 1943. [Right] Black sea bass weighing 384 lb caught with a rod and reel off Catalina Island, 1900.
(2) Newly released film of Marzieh from 1963: It shows the popular Iranian singer paying a visit to and performing in the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan.
(3) Tweet of the day: "Fascinating to watch people writing books and major articles about me and yet they know nothing about me & have zero access. #FAKENEWS!" ~ From @realDonaldTrump
[My tweet in response: "You know, Mr. President, that people write highly accurate bios of long-dead presidents, with absolutely no access to them!"]
(4) UCSB's San Joaquin Villages: The villages form a just-completed student housing complex for ~1000 third- to fifth-year undergraduate students, which hosted an open-house and self-guided tour today. The 6-occupant residences are lovely, each with generously-sized bedrooms (3), bathrooms (2), kitchen, living/dining area, and closets. The complex has study lounges, a market/food-court, and a brand new dining commons, to be shared by San Joaquin and the pre-existing Santa Catalina twin towers (whose old dining commons will be converted for other uses).
Oregon's Eagle Creek fire Washington State's Columbia River Gorge fire (5) Wildfires on the US West Coast: Oregon's Eagle Creek fire (left) and Washington State's Columbia River Gorge fire are just two examples of fires raging in the smoke-filled western United States. Climate change does not just affect weather patterns and produce extreme storms, it is also creating more devastating wildfires.
(6) UCSB North Campus Open Space: This aerial photo (credit: Bill Dewey) shows the southwestern area of Goleta where I live, with Devereux Slough (center right) and decommissioned Ocean Meadows Golf Course that now belongs to UCSB (starting in center left and extending to the right, below the Slough), which includes areas designated for faculty housing. The mountains on Santa Cruz Island are sticking out of the low clouds covering the Santa Barbara Channel. The intersection of Storke and El Colegio Roads, with new student-housing developments, is close to the center of the left edge. The main campus begins near the top left of the photo. The yellow arrow shows about half of the 2-mile distance I walk from home to work, with the other half being within the campus itself. This afternoon, I went for a walk in the open-space area and took a few photos. Much of the area is fenced off due to landscaping and installation of irrigation system. Looking forward to a future visit after the work is completed. Restoration work on the open space is described in this newsletter.

2017/09/11 (Monday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Abraham Lincoln's head under construction on Mt. Rushmore What is believed to be the last photograph taken of RMS Titanic, before it sank in April 1912 Lady Liberty's hand and torch being built in a Paris studio, 1876 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Abraham Lincoln's head under construction on Mt. Rushmore. [Center] What is believed to be the last photograph taken of RMS Titanic, before it sank in April 1912. [Right] Lady Liberty's hand and torch being built in a Paris studio, 1876.
(2) Today is the 16th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001: Here is what I wrote last year on this occasion. "It wasn't the scale of destruction and loss of life that made the [September 11] event memorable. Many more people have died in wars of the kinds we are still waging. Much more property has been destroyed by natural disasters we no longer remember. What makes 9/11 memorable is the effect it had on our nation's psyche. The loss of trust it brought about (not only between America and its adversaries but also among us Americans). The end of care-free living it signaled for most of us. But there were also some positives. That horrible event helped open our eyes to deep-rooted ideological, cultural, and economic problems in the world." I went on to express hopes, alas unrealized, that the outcome of the 2016 US presidential election does not move us further in the direction of hatred, division, conflict, distrust, and injustice. Beginning with 2018, September 11 will also mark the anniversary of the widespread destruction of Hurricane Irma, which as I write these lines in the early morning hours, has left 7 million without electric power and many without drinking water and other necessities.
(3) CNN should offer Rush Limbaugh a chance to report live from Tampa to help him prove that Irma is a hoax.
(4) University of California legally challenges the Trump administration over rescinding DACA protections.
(5) EPA chief says this is no time to discuss climate change: Yes, helping victims of Harvey and Irma has high priority, but so does understanding how these monster-storms come about and how we can help slow down the death spiral.
(6) Talk about insensitive: In a post-9/11 interview, Donald Trump had said that a building of his, which was the second-tallest in downtown Manhattan had just become the tallest, after the collapse of the World Trade Center Twin Towers.
(7) Half-dozen brief news headlines and observations from the past couple of days.
- I've seen so much rain and wind on CNN that I think I will get soaking wet and blown away if I go outside!
- Photo collection depicting Jews of Mashhad, Iran.
- Sylvia Earle is the first female chief scientist of NOAA. [Time magazine story]
- The photo of Donald Trump and Chuck Schumer that drove the Republicans crazy. [Photo]
- AARP Magazine has published a special feature commemorating "The Summer of Love," Woodstock 1967.
- Look who's celebrating a milestone birthday in August or September 2017! [Image from AARP Magazine]
(8) Old Daneshkadeh-ye Fanni classroom: This photo shows the standard classroom layout when I attended Tehran University's College of Engineering in the mid-1960s. Next year, my classmates and I will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of our graduation in 1968. [Image credit: Fanni Reunion Foundation's Web site]

2017/09/10 (Sunday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Goodbye kiss, 1960s Children being shown to their grandparents, over a section of the Berlin Wall Wedding day of JFK and Jacqueline Bouvier, 1953 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Goodbye kiss, 1960s. [Center] Children being shown to their grandparents, over a section of the Berlin Wall. [Right] Wedding day of JFK and Jacqueline Bouvier, 1953.
(2) This is a repost from 2013 to honor today's Grandparents' Day: In 1978, President Carter designated the first Sunday after Labor Day as US Grandparents' Day. Here is the "Grandparents' Song" and four fun facts.
- The average age of first-time grandparents in the US is 47 (2012 AARP survey).
- Your grandma is likely on Facebook: Research suggests that 38% of adult social-media users are over 65.
- The average number of grandchildren is 7; almost a quarter of grandparents have 10 or more grandkids.
- Not everyone likes the terms "grandma" and "grandpa"; some may favor "nana," "papa," "granny," etc.
(3) Let's start a Wealther Movement to dig into Trump's claims about his wealth, just as the Birthers questioned Obama's birthplace.
(4) My proposed nationalistic slogan: Make America Respect Truthfulness and Honesty Again (MARTHA)
(5) A question to ponder: Is it true that, even though there are 7 billion more people today than 3 million years ago, the world weighs the same now? [Answered by Neil deGrasse Tyson: Earth gains several hundred tons of mass per day, mostly from (small) meteors. People are in equilibrium with the Sun & food chain.
(6) Trump's NASA pick: True to form, he nominates Jim Bridenstine, who, if approved, will be the first NASA administrator ever with no scientific credentials. He is a climate-change denier to boot! The nominee has reportedly been scrubbing parts of his on-line presence ahead of Congressional hearings.
(7) EU funds a high-performance computing project using ARM Cortex processors and Xilinx Ultrascale FPGAs: Dubbed EuroEXA, the ambitious project aims to provide energy-efficient exascale computing capability within the 2022-2023 time frame. [Source: HPCwire]
(8) Half-dozen brief news headlines and other interesting items from the Internet, encountered today.
- Bannon in hot water with Catholic bishops he accused of having financial motives in supporting DACA.
- Cartoon of the day: "Gone with the Wind: Frankly my dears, I don't give a damn about climate change!"
- Russian artist Mikhail Sadovnikov uses his bare hands to create hypnotizing patterns on spinning wet clay.
- Cassini orbiter to meet its death, by being intentionlly crashed on Saturn, for the benefit of science.
- A great explanation of the origins of most US hurricanes. [2-minute video]
- Feminist Kristen Gillibrand has become the most effective resistance figure in the US Senate.
(9) The eye of Hurricane Irma reaches Florida: More than a million electric-company customers are without power, as the category-4 storm arrives and begins crawling up the state's western coast. Storm surge, on both Florida coasts, is considered the greatest threat to life. [Irma live update link]

2017/09/09 (Saturday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Dal Lake, Kashmir, 1956 Hikers on a natural rock bridge on Mt. Rainier, Washington, 1963 Gorky Park in Moscow, 1954 (1) History in pictures: [Left] Dal Lake, Kashmir, 1956. [Center] Hikers on a natural rock bridge on Mt. Rainier, Washington, 1963. [Right] Gorky Park, Moscow, 1954.
(2) Responses to Melania Trump's tweet about Read-a-Book Day include "What was the last book you read?" and "Tell your husband to read the Constitution."
(3) A dozen brief, but interesting, news and other items encountered on the Internet today:
- Bill Mahr's take on Irma, the approaching category-5 liberal hoax.
- After telling his radio listeners Irma was a liberal hoax, Rush Limbaugh quietly evacuates south Florida!
- Cuba was spared a direct hit from Hurricane Irma, but Florida won't be
- Largest evacuation in US history underway in southern Florida
- Disney World and other Florida theme parks are closing down
- Get ready for higher prices in your supermarket's produce aisle after Irma
- The US stops short of admonishing Myanmar for attacks on the Rohingya
- NBA encourages pro basketball players to engage on social issues
- Political humor: Vicente Fox, former Mexican president, will be running for US presidency in 2020.
- Can you name the two artists in this photo?
- Cartoon of the day: In search of a brick-and-mortar bookstore. [Image]
- The cast of "Harry Potter," from the fist day they met to their last day on set. [Photos]
(4) Thinking of Florida and Mexico on this beautiful Saturday morning in Goleta: As I sit in my courtyard under a sunny sky, sipping coffee, and reading a book, my mind wanders to the plight of Floridians, awaiting the arrival of category-5 (or 4) Hurricane Irma in their homes, shelters, or other temporary accommodations, and to Mexicans recovering from a devastating 8.1 earthquake, whose death toll of 60 and property damage estimates are certain to rise in the coming days. I try to imagine all my downstairs rooms in waist-deep or chest-deep water, or the roof of my house blown away, or debris strewn in every room. I am donating to funds to help the victims of both disasters right now, even though Irma has not yet made landfall on the US mainland (it is a near certainty that this Chinese/liberal hoax will devastate Florida). Please help now if you can!
(5) Watching/reading reports on Hurricane Irma: It now seems that Irma will go up Florida's western coast, with a more limited, though still severe, impact on the state's eastern coast. I am grateful to storm-chasers and journalists, who are braving extreme weather conditions to bring us up-to-the-minute info about Hurricane Irma, its path, and its impact, and to people working on setting up and staffing shelters.
(6) College soccer: Tonight, UCSB played the prennial soccer powerhouse Akron. My daughter's high-school friend Sydney Kovacs sang the national anthem before the game. Akron led 2-0 at halftime, on goals arising from defensive breakdowns. Akron won the game 3-1 after UCSB scored with a header off a free kick and Akron was awarded and scored on a penalty kick.
UCSB is having one of its poor season starts, remaining winless in 5 games (two scoreless ties and three losses), having scored only 2 goals in all. I hope they can turn it around, but that's doubtful, given the painfully slow defense and impotent offense that did not create a single scoring opportunity in the first half tonight.
Cover image for Jennette Walls' 'Glass Castle' (7) Book review: Walls, Jeannette, The Glass Castle: A Memoir, unabridged audiobook on 10 CDs, read by Julia Gibson, Recorded Books, 2005.
[My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Walls is the product of two uniquely unfit parents, a free-spirit, hands-off mother and a seductive, deeply-damaged father, who seems to have turned out okay at the end, against all odds. The author's adoration for her father and his unorthodox ways comes across loud and clear.
The glass castle refers to a fanciful project of the author's engineer/math-whiz father, who could not hold on to a job and was constantly on the move to avoid bill collectors (the FBI or mobsters, in his euphemistic language). The family would move into a small town, where they stayed until the mounting bills forced them to the next small town.
Because of the oddball parenting, the children suffered all sorts of health and safety hazards. Jeannette was molested by a neighborhood pervert and all the family members got themselves into tight spots, be it at the zoo, while lighting the Christmas tree, and virtually any other routine and non-routine activity. Their unorthodox family life sank the author's mom into depression, but the children were apparently much more resilient and turned out okay at the end, mainly due to escaping their family at the first opportunity.
As a memoir, the book is quite good, with much impeccable detail, along with insights into relationships. The writing is engaging, but the book isn't a masterpiece in any sense of the term. A film adaptation of the book, starring Brie Larson (as Jeannette), Naomi Watts, and Woody Harrelson, was released very recently.

2017/09/08 (Friday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
This helmet, dubbed 'The Isolator,' was proposed in 1925 for allowing people to focus on work without the distraction of outside noise One of the first self-serve gas stations in Los Angeles, 1948 Mobile booking cage, 1920. (1) History in pictures: [Left] This helmet, dubbed "The Isolator," was proposed in 1925 for allowing people to focus on work without the distraction of outside noise. [Center] One of the first self-serve gas stations in Los Angeles, 1948 (pictorial). [Right] Mobile booking cage, 1920.
(2) Hurricanes and earthquake: Hurricane researchers have never seen an image like this before (from left to right, Katia, Irma, Jose). Here is the predicted status of Irma over the next 5 days. Katia is less threatening than the other two. It is a low-grade hurricane, which will quickly turn into a tropical storm and then a tropical depression, as it hits the east coast of Mexico. Lucky for Mexicans, as the double hit of a major 8.1 earthquake near its southern Pacific coast, with 60+ deaths, major destruction, widespread blackouts, and possible tsunamis, and a strong hurricane on its opposite coast would have been quite devastating.
(3) Ten brief, but interesting, items encountered over the past couple of days:
- Why was AG Jeff Sessions smiling just before he announced the repeal of DACA?
- DeVos wants to undo the progress made in taking sexual assaults on college campuses more seriously.
- History in pictures: Iran of the 1960s/1970s. [Image]
- Trump's $1M donation to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, walked back by WH aides, is back on again.
- Finally, with the opening of Luna Grill at 3925 State Street, we have Persian-style kabob in Santa Barbara.
- The 2017 California Lemon Festival will be on Saturday-Sunday, September 16-17, at Goleta's Girsh Park.
- Cool poster for the 2017 California Avocado Festival, October 6-8 (Friday-Sunday), in Carpinteria.
- The cover of this week's issue of Santa Barbara Independent, in support of Dreamers. [Image]
- Cartoon of the day: Lawyer to clients: "He left everything to his friends on Facebook." [Image]
- How an old Israeli folk song ("Mayim Mayim") became a hit on Japanese video game soundtracks.
(4) In this weekly Iranwire newsletter, journalist Maziar Bahari tackles some tough subjects: Topics include women banned from entering stadiums to watch Iranian male athletes compete and rampant nepotism in getting jobs and contracts.
(5) Math puzzle: Famed mathematician Augustus De Morgan reportedly answered a question about his age thus: "I was x years old in the year x^2." When was De Morgan born?
(6) No, America isn't the highest-taxed country in the world: When truth-challenged saleseman Trump makes the claim that taxes in America are highest worldwide, he is referring to corporate taxes, which, on paper, are 35%. However, the same tax code provides corporations with many loopholes, placed there by their lobbyists' efforts. The average tax actually paid by American corporations is around 17%, half the paper rate. Many of our largest corporations pay a measely 3-5%; quite a few of them pay nothing. And this is excluding various illegal tax shelters. In fact, if Trump cuts the paper rate to 20%, while closing all the loopholes, he can get credit for a tax cut, while increasing tax revenues. American businesses will certainly love a "tax cut" of this sort! Such a slight of hand wouldn't be beyond Trump, who tried to sell tax cuts for the rich as healthcare reform! In terms of overall taxes paid, which is a fairer comparison, given that many other countries do not have separate federal, state, and other taxes, the US is the fourth-lowest-taxed country among OECD countries. [Data from a Twitter post by Aimee Lutkin, referring to economic data from several economists]
(7) It turns out that this story I posted to Facebook on September 8, 2016, exactly one year ago, was just the tip of the iceberg: In recent days, new information has emerged, indicating that the Wells Fargo Bank fraud was much more widespread.
(8) A very serious data breach: The Equifax data breach, announced yesterday, entails 143M people and 209K credit card numbers. Given the scope of this breach, I am sharing an e-mail I received today from the UCSB administration in the hopes of being of help to others. Please pay attention to all the recommendations therein, including being wary of fake Web sites pretending to belong to Equifax and offering to help you with your security concerns.

2017/09/07 (Thursday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Ageless beauties almost everyone knows Super-smart beauties, with a need for introduction (1) [Top-row photos] Ageless beauties almost everyone knows (left to right): Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly.
[Bottom-row photos] Super-smart beauties, with a need for introduction (left to right): The late Dr. Maryam Mirzakhani, Stanford University math professor and Fields Medalist; Dr. Jennifer McCarty, PhD in material science and engineering, currently at Oregon Health and Science University; Dr. Aditi Shankardass, MD/PhD in neuroscience, one of Britain's top young scientists.
(2) Taking the game of golf extremely seriously: With numerous fires raging in the western United States, many activities, including golf, are affected. But not for this guy!
(3) For the first time in history, four Americans are the top four women tennis players in the US Open semifinals: And they accomplished this feat in the absence of Serena Williams, who is on maternity leave.
(4) See if you can recognize these now-famous youngsters, shown in a 1994 photograph.
(5) Houston pastor returns to his Harvey-flooded home to play his piano, perhaps as a last farewell to it.
(6) American energy sector target of hacking campaign: According to the cyber-security company Symantec, a group of hackers previously linked to Russia gained hands-on access to the US power-grid operations, enough control that they could have induced blackouts at will. [Source: Wired]
Cover image of Ashlee Vance's 'Elon Musk' (7) Book review: Vance, Ashlee, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by Fred Sanders, Harper Audio, 2015. [My 5-star review of this book on GoodReads]
This is an impressively well-researched book. It appears to be thorough and honest, despite being an authorized biography. Musk was at one point in total ruins, both emotionally and financially. That he managed to pull both of his signature companies, Tesla and SpaceX, out of looming bankruptcies, is a testament to his will and work ethics. He used his own money, earned when he became a multimillionaire in his late 20s, after selling his interest in eBay, and amassed further wealth from other ventures, to pull the companies along, as they struggled to meet payroll and other expenses. Musk was one of the early beneficiaries of the dot-com boom.
There is much detail in this book about engineering challenges, which tech enthusiasts will love. There is also a lot of information about Musk's eccentricities and explosive temper, that reminds one of another tech genius, Steve Jobs. Other similarities between the two tech giants, who played important roles in advancing the US economy, include the fact that Musk was an immigrant (from South Africa) and Jobs, born in San Francisco, was the son of Syrian immigrants.
I enjoyed listening to this wonderful audiobook, which taught me a great deal about electric-car, battery, solar-power, and privatized-space industries. It comes with my highest recommendation.

2017/09/06 (Wednesday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
French little girl kisses American soldier after the liberation of France from German occupation, 1944 Personnel working on the atomic bomb (Manhattan Project) at the Oak Ridge facility in 1943 were warned about gaurding their secrets French Resistance fighters, Paris, 1944 (1) History in pictures: [Left] French little girl kisses American soldier after the liberation of France from German occupation, 1944. [Center] Personnel working on the atomic bomb (Manhattan Project) at the Oak Ridge facility in 1943 were warned about gaurding their secrets. [Right] French Resistance fighters, Paris, 1944.
(2) Hypocrisy to the extreme in Iran: Iranian women are still banned from sports stadiums, yet when Syria's soccer team played in Tehran, women accompanying the team were allowed to watch. Interestingly, Syrian male spectators came to their women's defense against Iran's morality police, which warned them for their improper hijab. Reporter Masih Alinejad has asked Iranian men to similarly support their women by announcing that they won't attend sports games until the ban on women entering stadiums is lifted. The man in this photo has joined the campaign.
(3) Climate change is a Chinese hoax, according to Trump: If so, the Chinese are a lot better at manufacturing hoaxes than actual products; these last two fake hurricanes (Harvey and Irma) were very convincing!
(4) Quote of the day: "Repealing DACA in order to MAGA is a load of CACA." ~ Comedian Steven Colbert
(5) Hurricane humor: Trump is extremely concerned that Jose is following Irma, because he may be a rapist.
(6) Finally, a killer app for Apple Watch: Boston Red Sox found guilty of using a smartphone and Apple Watch to record Yankee pitching signals, analyze them, and signal to the batter the type of pitch he might expect.
(7) A white woman's open letter to White Supremacists and Neo-Nazis.
(8) Oh, the irony! Photo taken at a KKK rally in Atlanta, Georgia, 1992, shows a Klan young child playing with the shield of a black riot policeman. You have to try very hard to teach a child to hate.
(9) After two days of hard work, my e-mail inbox is empty once again: My to-do list has, of course, expanded. I'll finish my social-media posts for the day and take the rest of the evening off to celebrate with a book.

2017/09/05 (Tuesday): Here are six items of potential interest.
Russian bear-hunting armor from the 19th century The first-ever photo of the Rolling Stones Elephant-mounted machine gun from World War I (1) History in pictures: [Left] Russian bear-hunting armor from the 19th century. [Center] The first-ever photo of the Rolling Stones. [Right] Elephant-mounted machine gun from World War I.
(2) Hurricane Irma measures like an earthquake: Having just been upgraded to Category 5, Irma is said to be the most powerful storm to hit the East Coast. It is now more likely than previously thought to hit Florida.
(3) Interesting signs seen on church announcement boards:
- Tweet others as you would like to be tweeted.
- Cremation is your last chance for a smoking hot body.
- Sin is a short word with a long sentence.
(4) Fridge, come here! If it's too hard for you to walk a few steps to your fridge to fetch a drink or snack, this new product is for you. Responding to voice commands, the fridge navigates through your house, avoiding obstacles, to bring itself to you. Just in time for the final lazy days of summer!
(5) Andy Borowitz: Trump is afraid he doesn't have any fake empathy left for Hurricane Irma!
(6) Punish click-baiters by not clicking on their links (social media advice, with implications to journalism and scientific writing): If you see the headline "Trump Leaves for Weekend of Golf," you may or may not click on it to read the full story, depending on your level of interest in Trump's golfing vacations. But if the headline reads "Trump Does It Again!" your interest may be piqued enough to click and thus generate ad revenues for the posting entity. This method of generating clicks by baiting is at best dishonest and at worst immoral.
Unfortunately, many print and TV journalists do the same thing to pull in readers or viewers. Journalism is supposed to be about conveying information to readers/viewers in the most direct and efficient way possible, and such tricks deter from that mission. The fictitious TV-news teaser "The world will end tomorrow; details at eleven" isn't far off the mark.
As a professor who trains researchers, I tell my students that a good research paper begins with a clear and informative title, which does not over-promise or under-specify. Old-style paper titles used to be very long, precise, and super-boring, at times resembling abstracts in the modern sense. Here's a sample from British philosopher Bishop George Berkeley's writings in 1734: "The Analyst; or, a Discourse Addressed to an Infidel Mathematician. Wherein It Is Examined Whether the Object, Principles, and Inferences of the Modern Analysis Are More Distinctly Conceived, or More Evidently Deduced, than Religious Mysteries and Points of Faith."
Recently, it has become fashionable to have catchy or cute titles, but such titles should always be accompanied by subtitles to better define the content. Here is an example from my own work, the title of a forthcoming pair of bilingual lectures at UCLA (Sunday-Monday, November 19-20, 2017): "Fifty Years of Poor Penmanship: How Computers Struggled to Learn the Persian Script." Note how the catchy main title is supplemented by a more informative subtitle, all within a reasonable total length in wordsor characters.

2017/09/04 (Monday): Here are six items of potential interest.
First-ever Labor-Day Parade in the United States, NYC, 1882 (1) A very happy Labor Day to everyone! This historic photo shows the very first Labor-Day Parade in the United States, New York City, September 5, 1882. On that day, 135 years ago, participants began from City Hall, marched past viewing stands at Union Square, and assembled in Wendel's Elm Park for a picnic, concert, and speeches.
(2) The $10 million Oxford comma: Workers sue and win their overtime pay challenge case, because the company interpreted a sentence in its written regulations as if it had a comma between the last two items in a list of exemptions from overtime pay, whereas the judge ruled that the complaining workers were correct in their interpretation without the implied comma!
(3) The North Korean problem seems to be unaffected by sanctions or threats of military action: Kim Jong Un has proven himself smarter and a shrewder politician than he is given credit for. North Korea has absolutely no incentive to attack anyone militarily. So accepting it as a nuclear power and then taking our time in dealing with the problem would be much more logical than acting in haste.
(4) Half-dozen brief news and other items of interest:
- US economy humming along: But the job growth trend is very much a continuation of last year's trend.
- Yesterday's freak storm (microburst) in the Santa Barbara area, captured on video at Arroyo Burro Beach.
- This photograph purportedly depicts the US Border Patrol trying to stop a fugitive from escaping into Mexico.
- Relating the percentages of genetic sharing to family relationships. [Diagram]
- My daughter's "Choice Cuts of Potatoes" (a la the diagram depicting choice cuts of beef).
- Pictorial oddities: Jumping rope at a dizzying height; don't try this at home!
(5) Hurricane Harvey donations: Preacher Joel Osteen has blamed the criticism of his church's inaction in the wake of Hurricane Harvey on "misinformation" and advised victims not to have a "poor me" attitude. White House aides walked back Donald Trump's initial pledge of $1M from personal funds for Harvey victims.
Cover image for Leah Remini's 'Troublemaker' (6) Book review: Remini, Leah and Rebecca Paley, Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology, unabridged MP3 audiobook, read by the first author, Ballantine Books, 2015. [My 3-star review of this book on GoodReads] ]
[On some versions of this book, Leah Remini is listed as sole author, while on others, Rebecca Paley appears as co-author.]
Indoctrinated into the Church of Scientology as a child, outspoken actress/producer/talk-show-host Leah Remini provides an insider's account of Scientology, based on her three-decade association with the secretive church. Much of her attacks are aimed at Scientology's high-level officials as well as Tom Cruise, who, as Scientology's highest-profile adherent, had achieved the status of an idol in the church. In fact, this celebrity worship is one of the main red flags for an organization having claims of being based on scientific principles.
Remini herself rose to a high status in the church, but then fell out of favor when she began to question certain dubious practices and the fact that punishment (financial and otherwise) administered to low-level church members did not seem to apply to its leaders.
One feature of the church is members ratting on one another, with the resulting "reports" of transgressions becoming part of the person's permanent record accessible to monitors and others charged with programming and reprogramming members. Remini ended up being declared a "suppressive person," or SP, in Scientology speak. Remini eventually succeeded in freeing herself from the bonds of the church and the financial ruin that it had brought to her and her family.
I had listened to Lawrence Wright's book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief (Random House Audio, 2013) in early 2016 and reviewed it in April of that year. So, many of Remini's revelations aren't new to me. Along with the aforementioned review, I had provided a link to an expose by ABC's newsmagazine "20/20" based on the book Ruthless, by Ron Miscavige, the father of the church's leader. Needless to say, the church dismisses Miscavige Sr.'s book as a shameless effort to make money.
Remini's book does add some personal experiences and anecdotes that confirm previous accusations of financial scamming and cruelty by the church. The trouble with such accounts is that we are left with the unsatisfying feeling of not being able to verify the claims, given that the church never properly responds to the accusations. There is enough corroboration among the various negative accounts about the church to suspect that something is seriously wrong. In other words, there is a lot of smoke, so it would be very surprising if there were no fire!

2017/09/03 (Sunday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Albert Einstein at 3 Nikola Tesla in his lab JFK with astronaut John Glenn, on February 23, 1962 (1) History of science/technology in pictures: [Left] Albert Einstein at three. [Center] Nikola Tesla in his lab [Right] JFK with astronaut John Glenn, on February 23, 1962.
(2) Those who need health insurance should be reminded that sign-ups for the Affordable Care Act begin on November 1. Please help publicize this fact, because the Trump administration has slashed funding for health-care publicity as part of its efforts to sabotage Obamacare.
(3) Winshield wiper invented in 1902 by a woman who didn't drive: Entrepreneur Mary Anderson thought it made no sense that New York streetcar drivers had to keep jumping off to clean snow from the windshield. She soon won a patent for her "window cleaning device."
(4) Half-dozen brief news and other items of interest:
- North Korean 6.3-magnitude quake believed to be due to a nuclear explosion/test, likely an H-bomb.
- Hurricane attire: And someone must have told Donald to hold the umbrella over Melania's head! [Photo]
- McCain to Trump: Congress isn't the president's subordinate. [CNN story]
- Helpful GIFs explain concepts in trigonometry.
- An interesting photo: Harry Potter portrayer reads Harry Potter on the set of "Harry Potter."
- "Dignity" is the name of a new statue that just went up in South Dakota.
(5) Abstracts of my forthcoming November 19-20 talks as part of UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran.
Persian abstract of my forthcoming talk as part of UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran English abstract of my forthcoming talk as part of UCLA's Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran
(6) Trump praises the Coast Guard for its Texas rescue efforts: But was it really necessary to slam the media in the same sentence? We are all aware of the extent of devastation and the urgent need for assistance based on media reports. Reporters stood in chest-deep contaminated waters to give us compelling photos and to relay pleas for help. Previously, Trump had referred to "ratings" during the storm coverage, as if this is just another reality show and not a human tragedy.
(7) Evacuation orders have been issued for the Alamo burn areas and flash flood warnings are in effect for much of Santa Barbara County in the wake of a fast-moving massive storm.
(8) Wildfires out west: More than 1000 firefighters are battling the largest wildfire in the history of Los Angeles, to the north of downtown. This is just one of many wildfires raging the western United States.
(9) Multi-tasking in computers and humans: In computing, multi-tasking refers to the presence of several partially-completed tasks in memory, which allows the OS to switch to a different task when one task encounters a glitch that requires waiting. There is some overhead in switching from one task to another, but when potential wait periods are long, the overhead is well worth paying. We humans often take pride in our ability to multi-task, but ours is far less efficient than the computer's. Our brains are super-slow in context-switching. Moreover, gathering all resources (physical, digital, and mental) required to resume an interrupted task takes time and leads to slowdown. Multi-tasking in humans tends to reduce productivity and interferes with developing expertise. [Abridged from an article by Peter J. Denning in the September 2017 issue of Communications of the ACM, where he offers suggestions to reduce the ill effects of human multi-tasking]

2017/09/02 (Saturday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Martin Luther King Jr. being arrested in St. Augustine, Florida, for demanding service at a white-only restaurant, 1964 An African-American girl eating lunch alone, after being newly integrated into a high school, 1959 Until the 1960s, Australian Aborigines came under 'Flora and Fauna Act,' that is, they were considered animals not human beings (1) History in pictures: [Left] Martin Luther King Jr. being arrested in St. Augustine, Florida, for demanding service at a white-only restaurant, 1964. [Center] An African-American girl eating lunch alone, after being newly integrated into a high school, 1959. [Right] Until the 1960s, Australian Aborigines came under "Flora and Fauna Act," that is, they were considered animals not human beings.
(2) How the 1953 CIA-engineered Iranian coup opened the way for religious fundamentalism, and other stories about the coup, in one newsletter.
(3) Start-up provides services for teaching endangered languages that have only a few thousand speakers.
(4) History in pictures: Next time you go to NYC's Madison Square Garden to enjoy a ballgame or concert, imagine the venue filled with 20,000 Nazi sympathizers, aka Friends of New Germany, in the early 1930s.
(5) Test your geographic knowledge: Which US state has the longest coastline? Which European country has the longest coastline? Which world country has the longest coastline?
(6) The Republicans learn that disaster funding is important: Right before Hurricane Harvey, the GOP had proposed $1B cut to FEMA's budget.
(7) About Angelina Jolie's 2015 movie "Difret": I seldom review movies, but this one affected me, not just because of its direct story and message, but also because of an indirect lesson it contains. The film's story is about a 14-year-old Ethiopian girl, who is tried for killing a man who abducted and forced her into marriage. The only thing standing between the girl and the death penalty is a zealous young lawyer determined to save her client's life. In one scene, after the lawyer brings the girl home and feeds her, the girl asks why the attractive lawyer does not have a husband, wondering if she was a "bad" woman who had dishonored her family. Here is a girl who was abducted and forced into marriage, thinking that not being married is unnatural and shameful. We are all conditioned, some more than others, into thinking that we are not complete or functional human beings if we don't have a spouse or mate. And this is the film's indirect lesson referenced above. The film isn't a masterpiece by any stretch of imagination, but it is definietely worth watching.
(8) Today was a big day in Trump news: It appears that General Kelly won't last much longer as Chief of Staff. He is barely tolerated now, given that Trump has no other option. But soon, someone will whisper something in his ears, and his oversized ego will take over in an early morning tweetstorm! Meanshile, Trump pledges $1M to Hurricane Harvey victims, yet Hurricane Sandy victims haven't seen a dime from a similar pledge of four years ago. On the Russia front, Robert Mueller is reportedly looking at a multi-page draft of FBI Director Comey's firing letter for evidence of obstruction of justice. A much shorter version of the letter, with modified justification for the firing, was eventually sent, but the longer version, drafted by Stephen Miller, reportedly hints at the true reasons. Finally, on tax cuts, there is a Persian proverb that "a liar is forgetful." In a speech in Springfield, MO, Trump sang the praises of Reagan's tax cuts, saying that "it was really something special ... Under this pro-America system, our economy just went beautifully through the roof." Here is what he had said at the time about Reagan's tax cuts, which caused property prices to plummet: "This tax act was just an absolute catastrophe for the country."

2017/09/01 (Friday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Ballerinas over New York City, 1925 View from the top of the Empire State Building in NYC, 1947 Square du Vert-Galant, Paris, 1960
(1) Some interesting historical photographs: [Left] Ballerinas over New York City, 1925. [Center] View from the top of the Empire State Building in NYC, 1947. [Right] Square du Vert-Galant, Paris, 1960.
(2) Subway cleared to sell 11-inch foot-long sandwiches: A class-action settlement about the shortened sandwiches is thrown out by an appellate court, because its only beneficiaries were the lawyers. But isn't that the case for nearly all class-action lawsuits?
(3) Shady Russian figures emerge left and right in the Trump collusion probe: Here is an insightful summary of new developments by Trevor Noah. (Yes, these days, comedians provide the most insightful commentaries).
(4) Trump administration ditches Obama-era equal-pay data collection rule, with Ivanka Trump's blessing.
(5) The Harvey disaster wasn't just bad weather, but also bad city planning: Houston's sprawling hands-off growth did not take natural disasters into consideration, while boasting about economic performance and creature comforts. The compassionate nation that we are, we will bail them out, but then some other community decides to play Russian roulette with its city planning, and so on.
(6) Half-dozen brief science/technology news headlines of the day
- Humans, cover your mouths: Lip-reading bots are out to get you (ZDNet)
- Software/IT top list of high-paying jobs, with $105,000 average (TechRepublic)
- Machine-learning earthquake prediction shows promise in lab (LANL News)
- US House of Representatives to vote on autonomous vehicle bill next week (Reuters)
- Michael Dell donates $36 million for Harvey; says he rode bike there (USA Today)
- Drones could help in Texas, but emergency responders disagree (Scientific American)
(7) Fox News poll assesses Trump's performance, overall and on specific issues: I post the raw poll data with no interpretation, so that my conservative friends stop claiming that Trump is being vilified by the liberal media.
(8) Odds and ends, in four images: The Beatles taking selfies in the mirror, before selfies were cool. Design evolution of soda cans, from 1948 to the present. Museum/theme-park in Billund, Denmark, built out of Lego-like large blocks. Currently at the letter 'Y,' Sue Grafton is almost done with her alphabet series!
(9) Divination by [conference] program committee: This is the title of a column by Professor Moshe Vardi of Rice University in the September 2017 issue of Communications of the ACM.
The Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) conference conducted an experiment in 2014, which was the first of its kind to quantitatively assess the effectiveness of decision-making processes in choosing conference presentations from among a large number of submissions. The program committee split itself into two independent committees and then subjected 10% of the submissions, or 166 papers, to decision-making by both committees. The two committees disagreed on 43 papers, which, given NIPS' acceptance rate of 25%, implies that close to 60% of the papers accepted by the first committee were rejected by the second one, and vice versa [see the analysis by Eric Price]. Vardi then asserts that, in a typical conference, there is broad consensus on accepting the top 10% of the papers and on rejecting the bottom 25%. For the remaining 65%, the acceptance/rejection decision is fairly random. He likens the decision process to "guilty until proven innocent" (reject, unless there is a compelling reason to accept) and suggests that switching to the "innocent until proven guilty" mode of operation may be beneficial.
After reading Vardi's column, I brought to his attention a paper entitled "Low Acceptance Rates of Conference Papers Considered Harmful," about the pitfalls of being too selective in accepting papers, which I published in IEEE Computer more than a year ago [PDF]. He had not seen the paper before, but liked it enough to refer to it both on the on-line version of his column and on his Facebook page, where it has already generated dozens of shares. The latter led to a spirited discussion that is still ongoing. It's quite telling that my paper produced hardly any feedback for more than a year but that a reference to it on social media led to extensive discussion in a couple of days. Kudos to social media!

2017/08/31 (Thursday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, backstage at the 1956 Academy Awards Saint Thaddeus, an ancient Armenian monastery in Iran's West Azerbaijan province How the area impacted by Hurricane Harvey compares with California. (1) Some interesting photographs. [Left] Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly, backstage at the 1956 Academy Awards. [Center] Saint Thaddeus, an ancient Armenian monastery in Iran's West Azerbaijan province. [Right] Putting it in perspective: How the area impacted by Hurricane Harvey compares with my state.
(2) Alternative facts, taken to absurd heights: Kellyanne Conway says that Trump's greatest attribute is humility! You can't make this stuff up, believe me!
(3) Female physicist, 23, has the potential of becoming the next Einstein: Cuban-American Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski, a PhD student at Harvard with full freedom to pursue whatever she wants, has been a standout since age 9, when she flew a plane. She later graduated from MIT in 3 years, with a perfect GPA of 5.0.
(4) Even machines become sexist when exposed to our societal norms: University of Virginia professor Vincent Ordonez and colleagues fed two large collections of photos to train their image recognition software. The built-in biases in the photos (depicting more men than women and containing significant gender bias in objects shown) led not just to a corresponding bias in software but actually an amplified form of it. Conclusion: Algorithms cannot be applied blindly to solve problems. [Source: Wired]
(5) Tone-deaf president: Trump tweets about more important matters, as Houston is submerged. [Image"]
(6) Resignations continue from the Trump administration: New departures at State Department, combined with scores of unfilled positions, leave the government short-handed in the event of a major crisis.
(7) Half-dozen brief news headlines of the day:
- Harvey's death toll rises to 28, as it is downgraded to a tropical depression
- Flooded Texas chemical plants raise concerns about toxic emissions
- Arizona judge makes pardon of Arpaio contingent upon holding a hearing
- Floods in India, Bangladesh, and Nepal kill 1200
- Kamala Harris is co-sponsoring Bernie Sanders' Medicare-for-all bill
- Whole Foods prices slashed after Amazon's takeover becomes effective
(8) Apple's removal of Iranian software from its App Store punishes the country's techies and ordinary people much more than it affects the government: Some very useful apps have been developed over the past few years, which help both Iranian and international users make productive use of their smartphones. Even more so than in Western societies, smartphones are lifelines for Iranians, who use them extensively for work, play, and, most importantly, political activism on social media. Revenues from the App Store also serve to motivate and sustain many a techie or tech business, with the results benefiting not just them, but also technology development worldwide. I hope that Apple reconsiders this decision, which was likely brought about by pressures from the Trump administration, hell-bent on undoing the nuclear agreement and the associated easing of economic sanctions.

2017/08/30 (Wednesday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Protester at the 1969 Miss America Pageant Earth, as seen from Apollo 17: Africa and the Arabian Peninsula are seen near the top Female Lockheed employee working on a P-38 Lightning in Burbank, CA, 1944 (1) Some interesting photographs. [Left] Protester at the 1969 Miss America Pageant. [Center] Earth, as seen from Apollo 17: Africa and the Arabian Peninsula are seen near the top. [Right] Female Lockheed employee working on a P-38 Lightning in Burbank, CA, 1944.
(2) First announcement of my talks as part of UCLA Bilingual Lecture Series on Iran: "Fifty Years of Poor Penmanship: How Computers Struggled to Learn the Persian Script" (both venues are on the UCLA campus)
[Persian] Sunday, November 19, 2017, Dodd Hall, Room 121, 4:00-6:00 PM
[English] Monday, November 20, 2017, Humanities Building, Room 365, 2:00-4:00 PM
(3) "Confounds the Science": Trump parody, sung beautifully by Simon and Garfunkel look-alikes to the tune of "Sound of Silence"
(4) Time travel added to alternative facts: Obama is blamed on Twitter for not paying enough attention to Hurricane Katrina, which hit 3.5 years before his presidency began.
(5) Sean Spicer finally gets his wish of meeting the Pope: Spicer surprises the pontiff with some alternative facts from Breitbart about Jesus and circumstances surrounding his conception! [Photo]
(6) Half-dozen brief news and other items that came up today:
- Harvey's death toll rises to 28: Years-long recovery needed to restore America's fourth largest city.
- Looking years older, Iranian journalist Hengameh Shahidi released from jail after 6 months.
- Funny protest signs, batch 3: This final batch completes a dozen sign selections. Enjoy!
- A wonderful Persian poem by Mowlavi (Rumi).
- Street in Homs, Syria: 2011 (top) vs. 2014 (bottom). [Photos]
- Looking forward to 2020: No shortage of passionate, highly qualified women to run for US presidency.
(7) Here is a comment I made on a Facebook post 7 years ago, today (August 30): "Let me put in a few last words to close this discussion thread. I hope no one dismisses arguments from the other side without giving them a fair hearing. According to the American way of life, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. And the said guilt should be proven in a court of law; it cannot be inferred from personal statements or newspaper stories. In particular, I cannot be presumed guilty by association, that is, by something that a friend or acquaintance of mine has done. Bear in mind that the situation is quite complex and should not be approached with simplistic generalizations. If a bunch of cousins with the same ethnic background, same religion, and pretty much the same family upbringing cannot agree on an issue, then you can imagine how much more disagreement there will be at the national or global level. Just keep your eyes, ears, hearts, and minds open."
(8) Walking from work to home this afternoon: I paid a visit to the UCSB library to take a look at new books and snapped this photo of the elevators in the old part of the building, which were given a make-over when a new section was added to the building. In this set of photos, subjects include the newly opened Starbucks at the University Center and super-high tide at the beach. [Panorama 1] [Panorama 2] Finally, I filmed some gentle waves at high tide on an Isla Vista beach. [2-minute video]

2017/08/29 (Tuesday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
College dorm room, 1905 Thousands of returning US troops pulling into NY Harbor in 1945. Two-horse street cleaner, NYC, 1905 Boys working in a coal mine, 1911 The shadow of a Hiroshima victim permanently etched on a set of steps Boy reads The History of London amid the ruins of a London bookshop after an air raid on October 8, 1940 (1) History in pictures: [Top left] College dorm room, 1905. [Top center] Thousands of returning US troops on Queen Elizabeth, pulling into NY Harbor in 1945. [Top right] Two-horse street cleaner, New York City, 1905. [Bottom left] Boys working in a coal mine, 1911. [Bottom center] The shadow of a Hiroshima victim permanently etched on a set of steps. [Bottom right] Boy reads The History of London amid the ruins of a London bookshop after an air raid on October 8, 1940.
(2) "Witch hunt" produces "smoking guns": Trump attorney reached out to Kremlin during campaign about building a Trump Tower in Moscow. [CNN story] Also, proposed Russia business deal was seen by Trump associate as helping elect "our boy." [Marketwatch story]
(3) A furniture-store owner offered his store to Hurricane Harvey victims, but preacher Joel Osteen refused to open his church.
(4) Capitalism and socialism at work: Gas stations in the Harvey disaster area are raising prices of gas and other supplies severalfolds (by the way, gas prices will go up nationwide in a day or two). Meanwhile, socialist rescue workers and good Samaritans are working to save lives at the same salaries or for free.
(5) Two dumb statements in fewer than 140 characters: "I don't believe Hurricane Harvey is God's punishment for Houston electing a lesbian mayor. But that is more credible than 'climate change.'" ~ Ann Coulter in a tweet
(6) This is no time to get even: Both Texas Senators and nearly all of the state's House members opposed aid to Hurricane Sandy victims. Hoping that aid to Hurricane Harvey victims is approved quickly and with broad support. Meanwhile, there are reports that South Houston levees have breached and residents are told to get out NOW! This calamity ain't over yet. Many residents who were cleared to return to their neighborhoods discovered there's nothing left to go back to. Please help!
(7) The rise of Iranian-Americans in tech: This insightful article discusses Dara Khosrowshahi, the new Uber CEO, his extensive network of techies, and elements of the Iranian culture that contribute to success in tech. "As The Washington Post noted in an article earlier today, Khosrowshahi's brother, Kaveh Khosrowshahi, is a managing director with Allen & Co. His cousin, Amir Khosrowshahi, co-founded Nervana, an artificial intelligence company that Intel acquired last year for more than $400 million. He is also cousins with Hadi and Ali Partovi, high-powered twins who are both founders and tech investors."

2017/08/28 (Monday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
What 1988 Angelinos thought their city would look like in 25 years The most iconic photograph of all time, shot nearly 5 decades ago, on December 24, 1968, from Apollo 8 Segregation in Shady Grove, Alabama, 1956 (1) Some interesting images. [Left] What 1988 Angelinos thought their city would look like in 25 years. [Center] The most iconic photograph of all time: Dubbed 'Earthrise,' it was shot nearly 5 decades ago, on December 24, 1968, from Apollo 8. [Right] Segregation in Shady Grove, Alabama, 1956.
(2) The business of kids' sports: Time magazine, issue of September 4, 2017, has an extensive cover story about how the main goals of kids' sports (physical activity, fun) have been eclipsed by the big-business aspects. Families pay exorbitant sums for equipment and clinics, while the youth leagues serve as free training grounds for big-money college and professional sports.
(3) Heat wave coming this week to our area (100+ degree temperatures): Goleta, Santa Barbara, and other coastal communities will be around 15 degrees cooler.
(4) Ukraine topples Soviet statues: The country has dismantled all 1320 of its statues of Lenin, as well as an additional 1069 Soviet-era monuments as part of a ban signed into law by President Petro Poroshenko in 2015. [US opponents of removing statues and other symbols of Confederacy please take note.]
(5) Ebrahim Yazdi, Islamic Republic of Iran's first FM, dead at 86: A medical doctor by training, he had been battling cancer and passed away in Izmir, Turkey. He was generally viewed negatively as a Western-educated enabler of Khomeini and someone who helped the mullahs solidify their power immediately after the Islamic Revolution. He was later sidelined and jailed intermittently with other opposition figures. As a key member of Iran's Freedom Movement, he also opposed the Shah and returned from exile to participate in the post-revolutionary interim government of PM Mehdi Bazargan.
(6) Persian music: Mojgan Shajarian sings, accompanied by traditional Persian instruments. Mojgan's dad, Mohammad Reza, is a beloved master musician, as is her brother, Homayoun. Talent runs in the family!
(7) Iranian-American Dara Khosrowshahi new CEO of Uber: He is aware of the company's misogynistic past and seems set to make improvements in hiring and promotion policies.
(8) Insurance solicitations: Every time disaster strikes somewhere in the country, insurance companies go into overdrive, trying to use the shock of the event to convince you to buy insurance products. While it is a good idea to review your insurance needs from time to time, try not to make snap decisions in this area based on current events. Insurance companies make money when there is no illness, accident, or disaster. Selling flood insurance, say, to someone who lives in a low-risk area for floods is a gold mine that they would readily exploit. Be alert! In many cases, spending your money to help flood victims is a much better use of the funds than buying flood insurance of your own.
(9) Final thought for the day: This photo shows Nepali men carrying a Mercedes that Adolf Hitler gifted to King Truibhuvan in 1940. A natural question is why the car had to be carried in this manner. It presumably arrived at a port and needed to go to some location where the King could enjoy driving it. Were there no roads for transporting the car, or was it just a matter of economizing on cost, perhaps because slave labor was cheaper than the alternatives?

2017/08/27 (Sunday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Logo for Santa Barbara Public Library's 100th anniversary event Gaston Rebuffat mountain-climbing in France, 1944 The Williams sisters with the Reagans (1) Some interesting images: [Left] Santa Barbara Public Library System's Centennial; see item 2 below. [Center] Gaston Rebuffat mountain-climbing in France, 1944. [Right] The Williams sisters with the Reagans.
(2) Today is the 100th anniversary of Santa Barbara's Public Library: There are ceremonies and community activities at the central branch, downtown, which I will miss owing to time conflict with a soccer match I am attending. However, I will visit during the week to see all the exhibits and the results of a community-built Lego-block model of our city. Here is a news story from Santa Barbara News Press, dated August 27, 1917.
"Without ceremony, the doors of the new public library were opened to the public at 9 o'clock this morning and the librarians began lending and receiving books. All about the great reading room were signs of unfinished work. From other parts of the building came the sound of hammers and busy workman and carpenters in aprons and painters, with brushes and pails, now and then passed in the library among the librarians and the patrons at the reading tables or the book racks. The library was opened today before the building was finished so that the students who begin their fall term of school today may not be hindered in their work by the lack of library accommodations."
(3) Helping Harvey's victims: Hurricane/tropical-storm Harvey's damages are already quite extensive and they will likely grow in the coming days. If you are wondering about how to help victims of the Texas floods in the wake of Harvey, may I suggest Direct Relief International, which is at the top of the list of best and most effective charities of both Charity Watch and Charity Navigator. If you have another charity in mind, make sure to check it with respect to effectiveness (how much of the money you donate goes to actual aid), using one of the sites linked above.
(4) Instrumental music: Una Despacito instrumental mix. [18-minute video]
(5) The anti-arts/culture president: Donald and Melania Trump won't attend this year's Kennedy Center Honors, "to avoid political distraction."
(6) Cartoon of the day: Guide to Redundantown. [By John Atkinson] [Image]
(7) Funny protest signs, batch 2: One more batch coming on a future date.
(8) Fake-news Oscars night selfie. [Image]
(9) College soccer: In its second game of the young season, UCSB faced Siena College at Harder Stadium, early this afternoon. The 0-0 tie after 110 minutes (including two 10-minute golden-goal overtime periods) was highly unsatisfying, given that UCSB held the upper hand throughout. The inability to score against a weak opponent, despite numerous opportunities that included many corner kicks, does not bode well for the rest of the season, including games against Big West Conference opponents.

2017/08/26 (Saturday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
First Apple computer ever made Screenshot from an SNL parody of Trump's rally in Phoenix (1) A couple of interesting pictures: [Left] First Apple computer ever made, sold for $667 in 1976 and 1000x that amount at auction in 2013. [Right] Screenshot from an SNL parody of Trump's rally in Phoenix.
(2) Removing a statue is no more a revision of history than impeaching a president: In both cases, we come to realize that what we did was ill-advised and muster the courage to own up to and correct our mistake.
(3) Funny protest signs, batch 1: Two more batches coming on future days.
(4) Exaggeration by a factor of 3.6 isn't really a lie, by Trump's standards: He claimed a crowd size of 15,000 in his tweet, whereas the Phoenix Fire Department indicated a crowd of 4169 in a venue with capcity of 4200.
(5) Twitter is officially banned in Iran, but anybody who is anybody is using it: Thus begins an article about Iran's top tweeters, which include several government officials, conservative and reformist opposition figures, and journalists.
(6) Hurricane Harvey hits Texas with a vengeance: Meanwhile, hurricane Donald, too busy hiring and firing press people, still hasn't gotten around to naming heads for FEMA and NOAA.
(7) Trump pardons Sheriff Joe Arpaio: Arpaio was convicted under Arizona's state laws, which makes Trump's pardon a case of Federal government interfering in state affairs, though he has the authority to pardon anyone. More than a simple pardon of one person, Trump's action is seen as a signal to his current and former aides to not cut deals with the Special Counsel investigating connections with Russia, essentially telling them that Trump would pardon anyone who is loyal to him.
(8) College soccer: UCSB's 2017 season began last night, with a match against St. Mary's. I chose to watch soccer over the last installment of the James Bond summer film series, "Skyfall."
Luckily for UCSB, the score was 0-0 at halftime. A slow-moving defense, routinely circumvented by fast forward and wing players, and imprecise passing were just two of the problems. The goalie performed well, however.
It was still scoreless at the end of the second half, which was a tad more evenly played. Per college soccer rules, there were two 10-minute overtime periods, where the first team to score wins (golden goal).
The overtime periods were also scoreless, leading to the final score 0-0, a desirable outcome for UCSB, given St. Mary's dominance throughout the game.
(9) Today is Women's Equality Day in America: The August 26 observance commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, giving women the right to vote in 1920.

2017/08/24 (Thursday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Turing Laureates at the ceremony to celebrate the award's 50th anniversary (1) Turing Laureates celebrate the award's 50th anniversary: This photo shows 15 of the 22 honorees present at the event celebrating the Turing Award, informally known as the Nobel Prize of computing. [Photo credit: Communications of the ACM, issue of September 2017]
(2) The cleaner, more logical structure of the Persian calendar compared with the Gregorian (Western) calendar. [Image]
(3) Pot to kettle: North Korea criticizes Trump's Twitter habits, calling them weird and ego-driven!
(4) Some fine people among Trump supporters. [Credit: Time magazine, issue of August 28, 2017]
(5) What a difference a year makes: From "Mexico will pay for the wall" (2016) to "If Congress does not pay for it, I will shut down the government" (2017)!
(6) Creative photo editing! [Image]
(7) Anderson Cooper deconstructs Trump's lie-a-minute Arizona speech: Unfortunately, it's no longer about documenting Trump's lies in the hopes of having his supporters see the light. That will never happen. It's now about the sane majority taking the controls away from a hateful, conspiracy-minded minority.
(8) The greatest disservice one can do is to teach naturally happy, trusting, and tolerant children to hate.
(9) Final thought for the day: Yesterday's flight back from Portland to Santa Barbara was uneventful, which is good! But it was quite heartbreaking to see multiple wildfires raging in Oregon, with the largest one being more than a month old. One airline-industry innovation, which I encountered for the first time on this trip, is offering on-board wi-fi access, not just for communications, but also for entertainment on passengers' personal devices. This likely saves airlines a bunch for not having to worry about providing devices on seat-backs and doing away with the associated maintenance and obsolescence challenges.

2017/08/23 (Wednesday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Grande Galerie of Louvre Museum, abandoned during World War II Poor mother and children during the Great Depression (California, 1936) San Francisco's Market Street after the 1906 earthquake (1) History in pictures: [Left] Grande Galerie of Louvre Museum, abandoned during World War II. [Center] Poor mother and children during the Great Depression (California, 1936). [Right] San Francisco's Market Street after the 1906 earthquake.
(2) Our morning in Seattle: We began by taking the monorail downtown and strolling around the city. We next visited the Pike Place Market, sampled the fruit and food, and listened to street musicans. [Photos] [Music video 1] [Music video 2] Google Photos made this nice slide show with music from some of our shots. The final stop on our stroll in downtown was Starbucks Roastery on Pike Street. This is where the now-giant company had its humble beginning. In this expansive store, you can watch coffee beans being roasted and enjoy a large variety of exotic drinks not found in ordinary coffee shops. [Photos] [Video]
(3) Seattle's Museum of Pop Culture: Special exhibits today included the history of science-fiction, a separate section on "Star Trek," a guitar gallery (where both the evolution of guitar as a musical instrument and guitars owned by famous musicians were on display), a digital-games gallery, and a special tribute to David Bowie. A maternal cousin of mine, a long-time resident of Seattle, accompanied us on this visit. [Photos] [Video]
(4) Final activities for the day in Seattle: Picnic-Style late lunch (take-out food) and a stroll in a beautiful park near downtown with a Seattle-resident cousin, followed by a drive-through visit to the University of Washington, so that my daughter could form an idea of the campus. [Photos]
(5) Hurry up: You have only a few hundred million years to catch a total solar eclipse. As the moon slowly drifts away from the Earth, totality will go extinct.
(6) Musical performance in Kermanshah, Iran, nearly five decades ago, 1970. [1-minute video]
(7) Steve Bannon's first all-out attack on Trump: Breitbart slams his Afghanistan speech.
(8) Yesterday in Olympia, Washington: After having a very tasty, authentic Italian pizza in the Capitol district of Olympia, we visited both the old and new Capitol buildings and walked along the magnificent waterfront, before continuing on to Seattle. [Photos] [Panorama]
(9) Last night in Seattle: What should have been a 3.5-hour drive from Lincoln City, Oregon, to Seattle took us 7+ hours (not counting our stop in Olympia), owing to unusually heavy traffic and a large brush fire on both sides of the freeway along the way. Once in Seattle, we walked to the Space Needle from our hotel, leaving the exploration of the Pike Place Market and Museum of Pop Culture for tomorrow. [Photos]

2017/08/21 (Monday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
NASA's beautiful capture of today's total solar eclipse (1) The great solar eclipse of 2017: My daughter and I watched from a Starbucks patio in Salem-Keizer, Oregon. We were unable to find viewing glasses, but as we sat trying to figure out the best way to enjoy the experience, a group of Middle-Easterners (perhaps students) sat nearby and began taking out their viewing glasses. I asked one member of the group where they got their glasses. He said that he had an extra pair, and immediately reached into his backpack to retrieve them for us. My daughter and I shared that pair. At 10:10 AM, the area was in a soft glow, like late evening hours. By 10:20 AM, the totality, which lasted a tad under 2 minutes, was over. Here are some highlights of the eclipse in Salem, Oregon. After we watched the eclipse in Salem-Keizer, my daughter and I drove to Salem and went to visit the Capitol Building, just as the crowds shown in this video were dispersing. [Photo by NASA]
(2) On scientific predictions: Several prominent scientists and science advocates have pointed out that whereas we had been told many decades ago about today's total solar eclipse, with precise predictions about the time of occurrence, the event had no skeptics or deniers!
(3) Rescheduling the eclipse: Here is a story on the margins of today's once-in-a-lifetime experience. When a museum in Dallas announced a free solar eclipse viewing event, a mom asked that the event be rescheduled to a weekend day, so that kids don't miss school.
(4) Comedian Jerry Lewis dead at 91: I grew up with his films (many with Dean Martin) and his comedy, which seems quite silly looking back.
(5) Mysterious piano appears at La Cumbre Peak in Santa Barbara: Instagrammer 'Josegarcia_4' said he wanted to add to the peak's beauty. "I thought it would be a great idea to bring these two things that I love together. Music with an incredible view, it's like the cherry on top for La Cumbre Peak."
(6) Today in Salem, Oregon: After visiting Oregon's Capitol Building (including its entry hall, Senate and House chambers, governor's ceremonial office, and its beautiful grounds), we walked to the waterfront, taking some photos along the way and by the river. An interesting feature of downtown Salem streets is the flower pots hung from some light and traffic-signal posts. [Photos] [Panorama 1] [Panorama 2]
(7) This afternoon at Oregon State University: My daughter and I spent a couple of hours on the OSU campus, my MS-degree alma mater (1969-1970). We walked by Sackett Hall, the graduate-student dormitory, whose wing C housed me then, the engineering area, and the magnificent Memorial Union. After grabbing a bite to eat, we were fortunate to be able to have coffee with my dear Facebook friend Nasim Basiri, who had arrived at OSU just days ago to pursue a PhD degree and to teach in women's studies. [Photos] [Panorama]
(8) Lincoln City, Oregon: At the end of today, here is where we ended up, walking on the beach, dining at a seafood restaurant, and relaxing at our overnight airbnb accommodations. We walked a lot, both yesterday (8 miles) and today (5 miles). [Photos]
(9) Yesterday in Portland: As part of our solar-eclipse trip to northern Oregon, my daughter and I explored the city of Portland. We visited the world-famous Powell Books, a city-block-size heaven for book lovers. I took notes at their "New & Recommended" bookshelf, while trying hard not to yield to temptation! While my daughter spend part of the afternoon with an old friend, I visited OMSI, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, with its wonderful exhibits, hands-on science and technology displays for curious people of all ages, and book/gift shop. And here are some photos from our morning stroll downtown and at Oregon Health Sciences University (one of the schools my daughter is considering for MD/PhD), taking the sky-cabin to the waterfront, and walking over a bridge devoted to pedestrians, bikers, and mass transit.

2017/08/19 (Saturday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Rolling of the eyes: A picture is worth a thousand words. Traditional strongmen ('pahlavans') are shown holding up elevated roadways in these Tehran murals Funny yard-sale lawn sign (1) Interesting pictures to ponder about. [Left] Rolling of the eyes: A picture is worth a thousand words. [Center] Traditional strongmen ("pahlavans") are shown holding up elevated roadways in these Tehran murals. [Right] Funny yard-sale lawn sign.
(2) The psychology of hate: "In a study by Stanford neuroscientist David Eagleman, the brains of participants were scanned while they watched as six hands on a screen were randomly swabbed with cotton or stabbed with a needle. When people witnessed the hands that were punctured by the syringe, the regions of their brains associated with pain activated. They felt empathy. The study was then replicated and each hand was displayed with a one-word religious label such as atheist, Christian, Jew or Muslim. When participants saw the hands being stabbed of those who shared their religious affiliations, their brains on average showed more activity in the regions known for empathy. Even atheists were more empathetic towards fellow atheists. As concludes Eagleman in his book The Brain: The Story of You: 'It's about which team you're on'." [Newsweek story]
(3) Late-night talk-shows: Even though they have a seemingly inexhaustible daily supply of material for their humor, hosts of all four major late-night talk shows would rather see their source of jokes gone! Seth Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel have had particularly brutal comedy routines about the liar-in-chief.
(4) Persian poetry: A folk tale or proverb from Sa'adi's Boustan, warning against being so self-centered as not to mind the burning of half a city, as long as our own house or business is spared.
(5) The paradox of tolerance: First described by Karl Popper in 1945, this decision-theory paradox states that if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant will eventually be seized or destroyed by the intolerant. Hence, Popper's seemingly paradoxical conclusion that in order to maintain a tolerant society, the society must be intolerant of intolerance!
(6) Quote of the day: "All these folks worried about erasing history when the Confederate statues come down will be thrilled to learn about the existence of books." ~ Jamil Smith
(7) Final thought for the week: Yes, that's for the week, not for the day! I am signing off for a few days, as I prepare to travel to the Salem, Oregon, area to experience the total solar eclipse of 2017 (coming on Monday 8/21, 10:16 AM). My daughter and I will take the opportunity of going to the beautiful Pacific Northwest to visit Portland, Seattle, and the Oregon coastline, and to pay a quick visit to my MS-degree alma mater, Oregon State University in Corvallis.

2017/08/18 (Friday): Here are seven items of potential interest.
Cincinnati's old main library, demolished in 1955 The German airship Hindenburg flies over NYC in 1937 Candidates for the job of painting the Brooklyn Bridge, showing that they have what it takes A restored photograph of Abraham Lincoln Chevrolet assembly line, 1957 Manhattan Beach, CA, in the 1950s (1) History in pictures. [Top left] A man browsing for books in Cincinnati's old main library, which was demolished in 1955. [Top center] The German airship Hindenburg flies over NYC in 1937. [Top right] Candidates for the job of painting the Brooklyn Bridge: The four men are being put to the test to see if they have what it takes (1926). [Bottom left] A restored photograph of Abraham Lincoln, which was used for the design on the penny. [Bottom center] Chevrolet assembly line, 1957. [Bottom right] Manhattan Beach, CA, in the 1950s.
(2) General Kelly's posture and downward gaze spoke volumes, as he listened to Trump taking back his condemnation of white supremacists and neo-Nazis during a bizarre news conference!
(3) The retweet that was deleted: Donald Trump's retweet showed Trump Train smashing into a man, with his torso and head replaced by the CNN logo. Apparently, the similarity of this image with the car mowing down protesters in Charlottesville did not occur to our high-IQ, tweeting president!
(4) Half-dozen brief news headlines of the day and other miscellaneous items of interest:
- Fiat-Chrysler, BMW, and Intel to team up for developing self-driving cars.
- Hundreds dead in Sierra Leone mudslide: Rain continues to fall, creating additional dangers.
- Talk about "top of the world": So impressive! [Photo and video]
- Cartoon of the day: The allies attacked the Nazis from all sides in World War II, and they had no permit!
- Model photographed on a Paris street in 1920. [B&W photo]
- Missouri State Senator urged to resign over expressing 'hope' for Trump's assassination.
(5) The most-liked tweet in history: "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion ... " ~ Barack Obama [Photo]
(6) Reactions to Trump's comments on racism: Three prominent magazines (Time, The New Yorker, The Economist) respond with cover images.
(7) Steve Bannon leaves the White House: As we cheer his firing, let us not forget that he was at least partially competent for the job he had, whereas the boss who fired him has zero competence and no credibility! Right after the firing, Breitbart turned on Trump and reinstated Bannon in the position he held before joining the Trump team. Little will change as a result, though. Anti-Trump forces will continue to distrust Breitbart, the original fake-news source. Trump supporters will easily lump it with CNN, NYT, WP, and other sources they consider fake news. Here is a depiction of Trump's White House after seven months: Flynn, Spicer, Priebus, and Bannon aer gone. Can he fire Pence? Sebastian Gorka is rumored to be the next adviser to fall: He served as an assistant to Bannon.

2017/08/17 (Thursday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Helmet cam from 1966 (1) History in pictures: Formula One world champion wearing an early helmet camera to capture on-board footage in 1966.
(2) Mississippi's first inter-racial couple: August 3, 1970. [Photo]
(3) College soccer season is about to begin at UCSB. [Image]
(4) Goleta Public Library secedes from the Santa Barbara Library System: Conflict had been brewing for some time over what the Goleta staff considered excessive overhead fees and stifling regulations. It is estimated that going solo will save money and lead to more of the donations going toward book purchases. [Source: Santa Barbara Independent]
(5) Stanford computer science lecturer ladysplains the now-infamous Google manifesto and why it has won so much support.
(6) A dozen killed, scores injured in Barcelona's terror attack: Islamic State claims responsibility for a van plowing into a crowd. Two suspects have been arrested.
(7) Finding humor in death: What message would you want etched on your gravestone? Here are a dozen funny ones.
- Merv Griffin: I will not be right back after this message.
- Frances T. Dederich Thatcher: Damn, it's dark down here.
- Robert Clay Allison: He never killed a man that did not need killing.
- Billy Wilder: I'm a writer. But then, nobody's perfect.
- Andrew J. Olszak: Pardoned in old age by wife and children.
- Gay Vietnam veteran: ... they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.
- Joel Dermid: My loss, but your gain.
- Jerry L. Farrer: I was supposed to live to be 102 and be shot by a jealous husband.
- Anonymous: I was hoping for a pyramid.
- Esther E. Freer: I'd rather be reading this.
- Pancrazio Juvenales: Buen esposo, buen padre, mal electricista casero.
- Steve and Anya: ... Mastercard & Visa still looking for the payment they missed.
(8) Michael Chabon's open letter to 45's Jewish supporters: He addresses all Jews, particularly Jared Kushner, Steve Mnuchin, and others who serve him. "To Sheldon Adelson and our other fellow Jews still engaged in making the repugnant calculation that a hater of Arabs must be a lover of Jews, or that money trumps hate, or that a million dollars' worth of access can protect you from one boot heel at the door: Wise up."
(9) RIP, Trump presidency: Resist racism and bigotry! Insist on your rights! Persist in seeking justice!

2017/08/16 (Wednesday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Photos of Neda Agha-Soltan and Heather Heyer (1) Two women freedom fighters: Several posts on social media since the events in Charlottesville have noted the parallels between Neda Agha-Soltan, who died in June 2009, when government-backed thugs and snipers targeted peaceful marchers protesting Iran's rigged elections, and Heather Heyer, who was intentionally mowed down in August 2017 by a bigot's car, because she was peacefully protesting the hateful messages of Nazis, white supremacists, and KKK, newly empowered by the Trump administration.
Neda's death became an inflection point in the opposition and freedom movements in Iran. Will Heather's death advance similar causes in the US?
(2) Turning the body into a cancer fighter: A new approach, awaiting FDA approval converts the body's own cells into cancer-destroying agents. Here is how it works. [Source: Time magazine, August 21, 2017]
- T cells, which can seek and destroy cancer cells, are extracted from a patient's blood.
- The T cells are genetically modified to produce chimeric antigen receptors that make them better fighters.
- The CAR T cells are grown in large numbers in the lab and are infused back into the patient.
- The CAR T cell receptors recognize unique proteins on the cancer cells, latching onto and destroying them.
(3) Advice on the desirability of solitude: "Before you can be with others, first learn to be alone." This is the title of an article by Jennifer Stitt, with Persian translation by Erfan Sabeti. Lately, many sociologists and psychologists have made this same point about the need to be able to spend some time with yourself.
(4) See if you can name these five musicians, photographed at the 1975 Grammy Awards. What about the five musicians in this old photo?
(5) Mesmerizing gif images created by a blind artist.
(6) Many white nationalists who do genetic ancestry testing don't like the results: They aren't as white as they think. One prominent member of the group was determined to be 86% European and 14% African.
(7) Mom-Killing: This is the title of a 76-minute documentary in Persian ("Maadar-Koshi") about the crisis awaiting the human race (Iranians, in particular) in terms of water shortage, resulting from serious abuse of Earth's resources. This abuse amounts to killing Mother Earth, hence the title.
(8) A recurring pattern: Trump embarrasses himself and his party by saying or doing something utterly unpresidential and the Republicans grumble in tweets and on-camera statements. But after a few days, they rally around the bigot-in-chief and liar-in-chief, as if nothing had happened. Taking their congressional majorities away from them is the only way to make them see that their abhorrent behavior has a cost.
(9) James Bond film screening at UCSB's Campbell Hall: In this penultimate installment of this summer's film series, I watched "Goldeneye," with Pierce Brosnan as Bond. Afterwards, I snapped this photo of Campbell Hall, before it went dark.

2017/08/15 (Tuesday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
A statue being toppled in the US Faces of hatred and violence look the same everywhere Anti-nazi protester who escaped the Nazis once (1) Some thought-provoking pictures. [Left] Toppling statues isn't appropriate for citizens of a country where the rule of law is respected; see item 2 below. [Center] The faces of hatred and violence look the same everywhere: Iran, top; America, bottom. [Right] Woman who survived the Nazis in Europe holds anti-nazi sign in a protest against Charlottesville march of racists and bigots; see item 3 below.
(2) Toppling statues is so Third-World: I do understand that honoring traitors and white supremacists is hurtful to groups that have been victimized by their actions and to others who defend justice and freedom for all, but we are a nation of laws and there are much better ways of fielding our grievances. Take your ideas about removing statues or erecting new ones to city councils and other civil bodies. Suggest that statues of historical figures who are not universally admired be moved to museums and be displayed as part of balanced narratives of our country's past. If you don't succeed in having a statue removed, simply accept it like any other unpleasant fact of life and move on.
(3) To my pro-Trump Jewish friends: Trump's support for Israel, like his support for Alt-Right groups, is just a slogan to appease his voters. He would abandon any group of supporters if it is politically expedient. A genuinely pro-Israel president would not appoint a political novice as an emissary for solving a decades-long conflict that has taken thousands of lives. Peacemaking requires a genuine respect for both sides of the conflict.
(4) Floating +pool in NYC: This large plus-shaped pool can float in any body of water and can filter the water intake to make it safe for swimming. It has been deployed on the Hudson River in New York City.
(5) Too bad the e-mails diversion made us miss Hillary Clinton's warnings about the empowerment of white supremacists and other hate groups. [Video]
(6) Enabler-in-Chief: Here is how Trump emboldened white supremacists and gave them permission to attack their opponents. Today, he essentially took back his condemnation of hate groups, by claiming that most of the people gathered in Charlottesville did not belong to the hate groups he had named, that they were there to peacefully protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, and that alt-left instigated the attacks.
(7) Oklahoma City dodges a second bombing: A 23-year-old man, who activated what he thought was a detonator for a bomb, supplied to him as part of a sting operation, has been arrested and charged. The first OKC bombing was perpetrated in 1995 by anti-government militant Timothy McVeigh.
(8) Google's DeepMind AI teaches itself by watching videos: The new system learns concepts, even when it has not learned the words to describe what it hears or sees. Instead of relying on human-labeled datasets, the new algorithm learns to recognize images and sounds by matching what it sees with what it hears. The potential of learning by analyzing huge unlabeled datasets, such as millions of YouTube videos, is immense. [Source: New Scientist, August 10, 2017]
(9) Final thought for the day: Two-thirds of white men and 53% of white women in America voted for Trump. So, when David Duke warns Trump not to forget that he was elected by white America, he is absolutely right. This is why Trump can't criticize white supremacists (and, by the way, the same reason he can't criticize Putin)!

2017/08/14 (Monday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Selfie with a stick, 1934 Paying tribute to horses, donkeys, and mules that died during World War I Woman receiving a ticket for wearing a bikini in Italy This rhino-size 1956 hard disk drive had a capacity of 5 MB VW bug owners watching a 'Herbie' movie at a 1960s drive-in theater Children of Chicago, 1941 (1) History in pictures. [Top left] Selfie with a stick, 1934. [Top center] Soldiers pay tribute to 8 million horses, donkeys, and mules that died during World War I. [Top right] Woman receiving a ticket for wearing a bikini on a beach at Remini, Italy. [Bottom left] A rhino-size 5 MB computer hard-drive being loaded onto a PanAm plane in 1956. [Bottom center] Volkswagen bug owners watching "Herbie, The Love Bug" at a 1960s drive-in theater. [Bottom right] Children of Chicago, 1941.
(2) An oft-ignored Nazi legacy: A thought-provoking film about how children and grandchildren of war criminals deal with their guilt by association. A grim reminder of the legacy of Nazis in the wake of Charlottesville events.
(3) A very talented 16-year-old: Ethan Bortnick, whom I saw on a PBS television concert on Saturday, sings songs of several generations, with a voice that foretells of greatness. He is also a songwriter, pianist, composer, actor, and philanthropist. Here is a 4-minute teaser for his concert, which should not be missed.
(4) Paid maternity leave around the world: I posted an interesting collection of 40 world maps years ago. Here, I'd like to single out one of those maps. Ours is the only major country with no paid maternity leave, accompanied by Surinam, Liberia, and 5 other small Third-World countries.
(5) Racism and bigotry have consequences: Some participants in the Charlottesville rally have been outed through social-media efforts and at least one has lost his job.
(6) An explanation of irregular verbs in English. [4-minute video]
(7) Pets have significant carbon pawprints due to the meat they consume. [Image from Time magazine, issue of August 21, 2017]
(8) Kennedy Center honorees have harsh words for the Trump Administration: They express disappointment over Trump gutting the budget for arts and humanities. One honoree, legendary producer Norman Lear, will skip the White House reception preceding the ceremony, though he doesn't know what he will do if Trump and his wife are seated among the honorees, as is customary, during the awards ceremony. Another honoree, immigrant Gloria Estefan, will try to make a point that immigrants have had and are having significant positive impact on the US. The ceremony will be on December 3, 2017, with CBS broadcasting it on 12/26, 9:00 PM ET.
(9) I have logged off my e-mail account and won't log back on until tomorrow morning. This is to allow our IT staff to complete the transition from campus-based e-mail servers to Google Connect (a UCSB-customized version of "Google Apps for Education" platform), which will provide seamless e-mail (work/personal), calendaring, collaboration, and other services. I have just returned from an information session about the transition process and am excited to set up and start using the new service tomorrow.

2017/08/13 (Sunday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Professor Lotfi A. Zadeh in his later years (1) Professor Lotfi A. Zadeh dead at 96: Born on February 4, 1921, in Baku, Azerbaijan, and educated at University of Tehran and Columbia University, he was best known for his formulation of fuzzy logic and its later generalization to soft computing. According to Google Scholar, Zadeh's research papers have been cited a total of 150,000 times, with his ground-breaking paper on fuzzy sets alone receiving nearly 60,000 citations. When he settled in the United States, he shortened his name from the original "Lotf-Ali Asgarzadeh." I met him on November 3, 2000, when his BISC research group at UC Berkeley invited me to present a talk entitled "Gaining Speed and Cost Advantage from Imprecise Computer Arithmetic," a precursor of a field of research now known as approximate computing. We kept in touch since then via e-mail, as he kindly endorsed my application or nomination for various honors. May his soul rest in peace!
(2) Separation of powers: It's alarming that Trump thinks members of Congress are there to help and follow him, rather than represent the interests of their constituents. As much as I detest Mitch "do-nothing" McConnell and other Republicans who talked about repealing Obamacare for years, without thinking through a replacement plan, I detest Trump even more for thinking that he can bully his way to legislative victories.
(3) Do you miss a president who was an orator, now that you have one who talks like a NYC cabbie? If so, this 2-minute video clip of Obama talking about climate change is for you.
(4) History in pictures: These aren't Iranian men wearing scarves to show solidarity with women objecting to mandatory hijab laws. They are LAPD officers going undercover to pursue a purse-snatcher in 1960. [Photo]
(5) Piano with Johnny: A ragtime-jazz version of the birthday song for all those who are celebrating birthdays. This talented Disney pianist has many other wonderful performances on YouTube.
(6) Gypsy Kings concert in Tehran: Hard to believe, but there they are, in four photos and a video! Maybe this is what caused flooding in northeastern Iran!
(7) Quote of the day: "The poison spewed by Nazis, white supremacists, and the KKK is not who we are as a country. Takes less than 140 characters to say it." ~ Sally Yates
(8) On the Charlottesville events (march by Nazis, white supremacists, and KKK): This is no time to condemn violence on all sides. You don't blame all sides when a Muslim terrorist mows down people with a car, do you? One by one, Trump aides and apologists appeared on various Sunday news shows to claim that his condemnation of Charlottesville "was perfectly clear"!
(9) Carillon recital at UCSB's Storke Tower: There aren't very many functioning carillons around the world, and UCSB has one of them atop Storke Tower. Today, Department of Music Adjunct Professor Margo Halsted played the carillon for one hour, beginning at 1:00 PM. After the recital, which was streamed live on Facebook, I took the opportunity to photograph Storke Tower and its surroundings, including its pond with colorful flowers and fairly large fish. [Photos] [Video 1] [Video 2, "Music of the Night"] [Video 3] [Video 4]

2017/08/12 (Saturday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
A photographer, looking like a robot Hidden Buddha statue near Sapporo, Japan The little girl in the movie 'Titanic,' then and now (1) Some interesting photographs. [Left] This isn't a robot, but a photographer holding a camera in front of his face! [Center] Hidden Buddha: A hill of 150,000 lavenders has been built around the giant statue in the outskirts of Sapporo, Japan, because it was deemed too imposing for the pristine environment of the cemetery where it is located. [Right] The little girl in the 1997 movie "Titanic," then and now.
(2) After driverless cars, will come pilotless planes: Research by investment bank UBS indicates that pilotless passenger planes will save the airline industry $35 billion a year and could lead to substantial fare cuts, that is, if people choose to actually fly in them (54% of respondents in a poll said they were unlikely to take a pilotless flight). [Fortune and USA Today have reported on this story]
(3) On anti-Semitism in Iran: The ruling mullahs and a sizable subset of their opposition share in anti-Semitic views. Whereas they all proclaim that they have nothing against Jews, they accuse anyone opposing them as being Jewish, Zionist, or an infiltrator planted by Jews or Israel. Prevailing narratives in this area use several perjorative terms to refer to such undesirable Jews. Even former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was accused of being a Jew pretending to be Muslim (much like the years-long assertions that Obama was a closet Muslim). [Radio Zamaneh's Persian article on this subject]
(4) Blues Beatles' rendition of "You Can't Do That": The Fab Four's music sounds great in any style! Look for other performances by Blues Beatles on YouTube.
(5) Half-dozen brief news headlines and noteworthy Internet memes of the day:
- White Supremacists hold rally at University of Virginia: Clashes with counter-protesters reported.
- Making America great again, one city at a time: Charlottesville, check! 19,353 cities to go!
- Flooding in northeastern Iranian provinces leaves 11 dead. [Video caption incorrectly says "northwestern"]
- Ridiculously overloaded vehicles from around the world: Pictorial with 23 photos.
- Fire and fury | will not stop | the grand jury!
- How to safely view an eclipse with a cereal box. [NASA instructional video]
(6) Kim Jong Un's major gift to Donald Trump, China, and Russia: North Korea's threat of nuclear attack has given Trump the perfect tool to deflect attention from the Russia probe and other woes, while quieting his opponents, who do not dare criticize him in the face of a dire national-security situation. Meanwhile, China and Russia are playing the good guys by counseling calm on both sides, even though, secretly, they take delight in seeing the US enter an international crisis.
(7) Observation by comedian Bill Maher: How ironic that the two bombs dropped by the US on Japan almost exactly 72 years ago were code-named "Fat Man" and "Little Boy"! We seem to have come full circle.
(8) CNN severs ties with Jeffrey Lord for using a Nazi slogan on social media: Of course, he was just being facetious, not! I didn't know about Lord's Nazi links, but I was outraged by the way he always offered an "explanation" for the most idiotic Trump statements or actions. Anderson Cooper once said to his face that if Trump defecated on his desk, he will come up with a justification! Trump supporters seem to be falling like flies.
(9) Final thought for the day: "Most presidents evolve and become more mature with experience in the Oval Office. Trump may be the only one devolving and turning more infantile with time served." ~ Anonymous

2017/08/11 (Friday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Graduating physicians in 1885 Philadelphia Penniless young family hitchhiking in 1936 Young Saddam Hussein joking around with a female companion (1) History in pictures. [Left] Just-graduated physicians in 1885 Philadelphia: Women from India, Japan, and Syria. [Center] Penniless young family hitchhiking on US Highway 99 in California (November 1936). [Right] Young Saddam Hussein with a female companion: Totally irresistible charm!
(2) UC Irvine's admissions snafu: This story about the withdrawal of 500 admission offers by UC Irvine is from several days ago, but now that NYT has covered it, I am sharing the story. Withdrawal of admission over incomplete paperwork or other problems in the dossier isn't uncommon and it has been done by other UC campuses as well. What is unusual is the large number of students affected. The article explains that colleges sometimes underestimate how many students will accept their admission offers, leaving them in a bind to either create room or look for excuses to revoke some of the offers.
(3) Half-dozen brief tech news headlines of the day:
- Chinese developers file antitrust complaint against Apple (WSJ)
- A stretch of road in France has been paved with solar panels (BBC)
- Ford studies fix to carbon monoxide leaks in police SUVs (Detroit News)
- Power plants burning West Virginia coal to get subsidies (Bloomberg)
- Solar power industry prepping for the August 21 solar exlipse (Vox)
- Canada's anti-Google ruling has broad free-speech implications (Yahoo)
(4) Two views of the current stand-off with North Korea: Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper likens it to World War I, when the world blundered into conflict. President Trump, on the other hand, views the situation like a game of poker, tweeting: "Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely. Hopefully Kim Jong Un will find another path!"
(5) Trump's response to Putin's expelling 755 US diplomats: Trump makes light of the situation by thanking Putin (jokingly, I suppose) for reducing our payroll costs. Hundreds of people lose their jobs because of Putin's action and Trump jokes about it? No criticism of Putin, no harsh words for him? What roles were the 755 employees playing in Russia? How will their functions be replaced? Even assuming that we want to reduce our payroll, why should we let Putin decide which positions to cut?
(6) Ironic fact: Glen Campbell's final studio album, released just weeks before his death, is entitled "Adios."
(7) SNL's Weekend Update summer edition premiered on NBC to good reviews: Scaramucci was like Christmas in July; actually, he was like Hanukkah in July, because he was around for about a week and it's a miracle he lasted that long!
(8) Meanwhile on Facebook: It's National Book Week. The rules are: Grab the closest book to you. Go to page 56. Copy the 5th sentence as your status. Don't mention the book. Post these rules as part of your status.
"Even if famine, plague and war become less prevalent, billions of humans in developing countries and seedy neighbourhoods will continue to deal with poverty, illness and violence even as the elites are already reaching for eternal youth and godlike powers."

2017/08/10 (Thursday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
'This Modern World' cartoon by Tom Tomorrow (1) Cartoon of the day: Last panel of "This Modern World" comic strip, suggesting why Trump thinks that he received congratulatory phone calls from the Chief Boy Scout and the President of Mexico.
(2) One of a series of useful PSAs to help us recognize fake news sources: There are fake sources that we all know based on their track records. Then there are fake sources that pretend to be legitimate media outlets we trust by using a trusted source's name within their Web domain names. [Video]
(3) North Koreans hold rally to mock Trump and renew their threat of military action: Thousands vow to "become bullets and bombs" to defend their regime. "[Trump is] bereft of reason," says the kettle to the pot!
(4) Archaeologists uncover "little Pompeii" south of Lyon: Famous for its Roman theater and temple, the city of Vienne was a key hub on the route connecting northern Gaul with the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis.
(5) Former President Obama sings Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You": Nice montage!
(6) Half-dozen brief Donald Trump news headlines of the day:
- Transgender service members sue Trump over his exclusion order (NYT)
- Seventy percent of Americans think looking at Trump finances fair game in Russia investigation (CNN)
- Trump picks racist birther Sam Clovis to head FDA's science division (Scientific American)
- Trump's Tudor-style early-childhood home is listed on Airbnb (CNN)
- Trump's solution to opioid crisis: Telling kids drugs are 'no good' (NY Magazine)
- Trump says his 'fire and fury' response wasn't tough enough (Yahoo News)
(7) Trump doubles down on his response to North Korea: In fact, he says that perhaps his previous response wasn't tough enough. Here's a question. What is tougher than 'fire and fury' the world has never seen before?
(8) Irreconcilable views: I watched Fox News videos on-line for about half an hour on Tuesday, as I was pursuing stories about a Fox report containing classified material. By the end of the half-hour period, I came to see why those watching Fox News think in a certain way about Trump's presidency. Nowhere in the videos I watched was there a hint of discord in the White House, disagreements between the Congress and the president, the 73% distrust of words spoken by the president revealed by a recent poll, Trump family's many conflicts of interest in their business dealings, and his flip-flopping on scores of issues from his candidacy to his presidency. Let me conclude by citing five news headlines from Fox about the Russia investigation and Special Counsel Robert Mueller; no sign here that the probe is closing in on Trump himself.
- Fox News: Top congressman calls for Mueller to resign
- Judge Jeanine: Russia probe is a phishing expedition
- Fox Nation: Mueller has already destroyed his own legacy
- Sean Hannity: Rod Rosenstein should be ashamed of himself
- Sean Hannity: Mueller's witch hunt is beyond corrupt
(9) History in pictures: Ottoman 1911 calendar page in Ottoman Turkish, Arabic, Greek, Armenian, Hebrew, French, and Hungarian languages.

2017/08/09 (Wednesday): Here are eight items of potential interest.
Jovial Afghan girls in traditional costumes at a regional music festival Giant chicken balloon, seen near the White House Distances from North Korea to some US territories and states (1) [left] Afghan girls at a regional music festival. [Center] Giant chicken balloon, with Trump-like hair, seen near the White House. [Right] Distances from North Korea to Guam, Hawaii, and San Francisco: Other US mainland cities may also be within the range of North Korean missiles.
(2) Protocol for the death of a monarch: If and when Queen Elizabeth II passes, the information will be communicated to her private secretary and the prime minister and then, over secure phone lines, to a host of other officials, all by means of the code phrase "London Bridge is down." Next, dozens of countries for which QE II is the official or symbolic head of state will be notified one by one. Eventually, the general public will be informed. Thought you might want to know!
(3) Half-dozen miscellaneous items for your enjoyment.
- The cutest pastry chef ever: She is only 2.5! [Video]
- Amazing graphic art, involving liquid gold. [Video]
- We are fairly comfortable on the CA coast, but it's scorching hot just a few miles inland! [Map]
- The amazing human spirit: Ballet class in a destroyed Russian town during World War II. [Photo]
- Osborne: The very first laptop (for super-strong laps) from 1981. [Photo]
- History in pictures: Taking a screenshot in 1983. [Photo]
(4) Words of wisdom from Moniro Ravanipour: Two statements are forbidden in the Iranian culture. One is saying that you are happy and successful. The other is saying that you don't need anyone's help. You have to play the victimhood and despair cards to be taken seriously. [Persian text]
(5) Income growth, 1980 vs. 2014: The percentage growth used to be higher for low- and middle-income families. Now, not only has the curve flipped, but the discrepancy has gone through the roof. [Source: Bernie Sanders tweet] [Chart]
(6) Half-dozen of today's Trump-related news headlines:
- Donald Trump is fed 'propaganda' every morning to keep him happy
- FBI's raid of Paul Manafort's home indicates that Bob Mueller means business
- Trump calls for acting FBI director's firing after the Manafort home raid
- Trump attacks Mitch McConnell for his failure to repeal Obamacare
- Tillerson and Trump seem to be playing good-cop, bad-cop on North Korea
- Pence is mistaken if he thinks he'll have a political afterlife once Trump exits
(7) This evening on the UCSB campus: After watching "The Spy Who Loved Me," another installment in the James Bond summer film series, I made a brief stop on the way back at a Storke Plaza concert, recorded this sample video, and shot this photo of a nearly-full moon over UCSB's Campbell hall.
(8) Final thought for the day: I'm flattered to be receiving the young-adult e-mail newsletter from GoodReads. They counteract, to some extent, the regular cremation and funeral deals I have been receiving in the mail!

2017/08/08 (Tuesday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
(1) Book review: Barker, Kim, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, e-book, Doubleday, 2011. [My 4-star review of this book on GoodReads]
Cover image of Kim Barker's 'The Taliban Shuffle' The author of this bittersweet (humorous writing about dire situations) was a reporter at ProPublica and the South Asia Bureau Chief for The Chicago Tribune in the late 2000s. Barker tells us that she got so addicted to the adrenaline rush of war zones that living in the West, along with routine work and family matters, became a downer. Even her relationship with a steady boyfriend suffered in comparison with the thrills of living in a lawless society.
Barker marvels at the utter lack of security in Pakistan and Afghanistan, to the point that even a meeting between the heads of the two states, each with many thousands of sworn enemies, did not have security screening. She argues that two events derailed America's progress in Afghanistan: Diversion of manpower and other resources from Afghanistan to Iraq in 2003 and a US military truck plowing into rush-hour traffic in Kabul some 3 years later, which created much resentment against the Americans.
Barker's book is ultimately about human bonds and understanding the context and circumstances that produce behaviors and customs that appear quite strange at first sight. Another take-away (hardly a revelation) is that incongruities of war bring out the worst in everyone, regardless of why they got involved.
Barker ends on a pessimistic note about the prospects of the US and its allies being able to bring the conflict to a satisfactory resolution. The fragile balance of power in the region and the realities of a harsh environment, with rampant distrust between the warring parties, leaves little room for optimism that a workable system of governance can be implemented. The long-term commitment of the entire world to bring about solutions is simply not in the cards.
The 2016 movie "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" was based on this book.
(2) President Trump apparently re-tweeted a bot or a fake account: The account @protrump45, whose post Trump retweeted, is a fake account for pro-Trump propaganda, which has since been suspended by Twitter.
(3) US-China relations enter a sensitive phase: Typically, seasoned envoys are sent to deal with China. But, 7 months into the Trump administration, the position of Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia remains vacant. So, Trump is sending novices Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to lay the groundwork for his own visit. Not only is China too sophisticated an adversary to be handled by novice politicians, but reactions of other Asian countries, especially South Korea and Japan, to such visits requires careful gauging by experienced diplomats.
(4) Climate change draft report published: Fearing that the Trump administration will bury the alarming report, scientists have a draft published by The New York Times as a safeguard.
(5) Two losses in the music world: Country music legend Glen Campbell (81) and Broadway performer Barbara Cook (89) passed away today. I was a regular viewer of Campbell's musical variety show in the 1970s. RIP.
(6) Today is International Cat Day: Our local TV channel, KEYT, celebrates with, what else, cat videos.
(7) The scarred face of a hockey goalie, before masks became mandatory equipment. [Photo]
(8) Leaker-in-Chief: Fox News reported a story containing classified intelligence on US spy satellites detecting movement of anti-ship cruise missiles onto N. Korean patrol boats. President Trump, rather than asking who the leaker was and advocating punishment, tweeted a link to the Fox News story. Ambassador Nikki Haley, on the other hand, refused to discuss the matter with Fox News, on account of it being classified.
[P.S.: The classification and declassification process is dictated by an executive order, which is updated from time to time. Here is the latest version of that executive order.]
(9) A predictable pattern: As usual, Trump has not said a word about the mosque attack in Minnesota. Fortunately, even though worshipers were in the building when a bomb was thrown in through a window, no one was injured. One of Trump's advisers actually said that the attack may have been faked.

2017/08/07 (Monday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Newsweek magazine cover, showing Trump sitting on a Lazy Boy recliner (1) Newsweek magazine cover, issue of August 11, 2017.
(2) Northwestern University professor accused of murder.
(3) Smartphones and the future of the young generation: There is increasing evidence that heavy use of smartphones (2 hours a day or more) has a negative impact on young people's mental health. The author of this article in The Atlantic was interviewed on today's PBS Newshour. Girls seem to be affected more than boys. While more detailed studies and controlled experiments are needed, the preliminary signs are unmistakable.
(4) It's the Republicans' turn to be targeted by Russian bots: What goes around comes around!
(5) Google execs denounce engineer's memo attributing gender inequality to biological differences: Both the VP of diversity and engineering VP have criticized the engineer's stereotyping and incorrect assumptions.
(6) Fake news is about to become photo-realistic: Researchers have figured out a method of making fake videos that appear super-realistic. Fake news of the future will be much harder to detect!
(7) Trump may be building a casino in Macau: South China Morning Post reports that DTTM Operations LLC, a Delaware-based company affiliated with the president, filed four trademark applications in Macau under the Trump name, one of which was for gambling and casino services and facilities.
(8) Yesterday in Fiesta events: After spending some time with visiting friends from the SF Bay Area, I attended some Fiesta performances at Paseo Nuevo Mall's outdoors stage. Later in the afternoon, I attended a "Spanish-flavored" concert by the West Coast Symphony Orchestra at SB Courthouse's Sunken Garden.
- Instrumental music performance at Paseo Nuevo Mall.
- A short sample of West Coast Symphony Orchestra's Fiesta concert.
[When I returned home, I found this exotic visitor in my courtyard! I had begun the process of seeking help from the Wildlife Care Network (suggested by non-emergency police dispatch), when it quietly moved away.]
(9) Final thought for the day: Love thy neighbors; not just your English-speaking, highly skilled, rich, self-supporting neighbors but all of them.

2017/08/05 (Saturday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Iranian women walking near a mosque in Shiraz US price list for selected itens in 1938 Hanging play cage for children from the late 1930s (1) [Left] Iranian women show their colors (and style) in Shiraz!
[Center] The good old days: Some data points for cost of living in the US eight decades ago.
[Right] History in pictures: Baby cage from 1937, for families who did not have outdoors play areas.
(2) Quote of the day: "Give me your wealthy, your rich, your huddled MBAs yearning to be tax-free, your English-speaking, fully insured, to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door! And lift my leg upon your filthy poor. P.S.: No fatties, please." ~ Stephen Colbert
(3) Kurdish territories in Iran and other countries of the Middle East in the first half of the 20th century: This first slide show focuses on Jews and Jewish traditions of the region. And this second slide show features Kurdish fashions from the region for the same time period.
(4) Two interesting photos: Drive-in movie theater, from 1955, and the amazing tree that refuses to die, bringing to mind the words of Jeff Goldblum's character in "Jurassic Park," that life finds a way!
(5) Obama impersonator says some of the things Trump has said: The Real Obama would have been lynched, believe me! Bill Maher turning facts into brilliant comedy, as usual.
(6) Cartoon of the day: Disappointing moments in evolution. [By John Atkinson] [Image]
(7) The embarrassing way in which Iranian members of parliament competed to take photos with Federica Mogherini: The same men, who deem Iranian women incapable of holding leadership positions, salivate over a powerful, blonde, blue-eyed foreign woman. The accompanying Persian text is a satirical take on what Mogrini might write in her memoirs about how she was treated by Iran's male politicians.
(8) Half-dozen brief items of note.
- Smart folks: Rather than standing in line, they sit down and let their shoes keep their places in line.
- A teacher explains and demonstrates how Hellen Keller (also shown in this video) learned to speak.
- Castle Bazaar in Guilan, Iran. [Photo]
- A wonderful a cappella performance: Iran's Damour Vocal Band performs music from memorable cartoons.
- Simon and Gurfunkel reunited after many years to play "The Sound of Silence," sounding as good as ever.
- "Millennial Song": Different lyrics on Beatles' "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" [3-minute video]
(9) Fiesta celebrations in Santa Barbara: There were musical offerings, dance routines, jovial crowds, colorful costumes, and lots of exotic foods at the historic De La Guerra Plaza and performances at the center stage of the Paseo Nuevo shopping mall.
[10 photos] [Music video] [Group dance 1] [Group dance 2] [Solo dance] [The T-shirt I wore]

2017/08/04 (Friday): Here are nine items of potential interest.
Trump and Obama talking about the White House Cartoon, showing Santa playing Scarbble with hie reindeer The Titanic compared with a modern cruise ship (1) [Left] Two different views of the White House, from Presidents Trump and Obama.
[Middle] Cartoon of the day: Santa's dilemma in a game of Scrabble with his reindeer.
[Right] The Titanic compared with a modern cruise ship.
(2) Salem and Madras in Oregon are among the best places to watch the upcoming total solar eclipse: I won't be very far from these places on August 21, 2017, as I plan to watch the eclipse from Corvallis, Oregon, the site of Oregon State University (I will also visit Portland and Seattle during the same trip). As they say, it's killing two birds with one stone or, in Persian, "ham faal o ham tamaashaa": experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime event and rekindling memories from 1969-1970, when I was studying for a master's degree in computer engineering at OSU. If you can't experience this event directly, then do the next best thing: follow the eclipse with NASA. This NASA site has detailed state-by-state maps of the upcoming total solar eclipse, safety instruction for watching, and a wealth of other information.
(3) A heart-warming TEDx talk: A successful professional woman, nicknamed "Mother Parisa" at work for her caring ways, shares her experiences at home with her autistic son Payam, who found his voice when he was presented with a letter-board communication device. Ms. Khosravi generalizes at the end, noting that we all have muffled voices and must find our metaphorical letter-boards that would allow us to speak up.
(4) An effective TEDx-Tehran talk (in Persian): Lili Golestan, famed translator and art gallery owner, talks about the challenges she faced as the daughter of an authoritarian, aloof, and disparaging dad, as the wife of a non-committed husband whom she adored, and, eventually, as a single mother of 3 in a misogynistic society. For her, success is something she wanted to happen, so it did!
(5) History in pictures: So, you think new technology is making us anti-social?[Photo]
(6) Congressional Republicans are turning against Trump: In my opinion, even if they do help oust Trump, they should be held accountable for the damage already done, including their yes votes for Trumpcare and their complicity in sabotaging Obamacare.
(7) On curbing legal immigration: Stephen Miller, the young anti-immigrant face of the Trump campaign and administration is the great-grandson of refugee Wolf Lieb Glotzer and his wife, Bessie, who arrived in the US in 1903, after fleeing a dreary life in Antopol, Belarus. Wolf was eventually joined by his son Natan and his brother Moses, who had arrived earlier, having escaped conscription in the czar's army.
(8) A Persian poem written and recited by Noushin Moeini Kermanshahi. [Video]
(9) Commander-in-Cheat fact of the day: Donald Trump's mother, Mary Anne McLeod, immigrated to the US (some say illegally) in 1929. Daughter of a fisherman, with no wealth or marketable skills, McLeod marri