Happy “Yalda”

Tonight is the longest night in the northern hemisphere, where most of humanity inhabits. Tomorrow, Earth axis is the most oriented away from the Sun which marks the “winter solstice”.

Called “Chelleh“ or “Yalda”, tonight, has been celebrated by Iranians since more than five millenniums ago. It was first as the birth of the Indo-Iranian goddess “Mitra” in the ancient Persia (which was later associated with Sun), and then as a Zoroastrian religious fest. Nowadays, it’s a social occasion where families and friends gather around and stay together, keeping the fire (or candles) burning through the longest night until the sun rises again, reading poems and eating nuts, watermelon and pomegranate.

p.s. Persian Calendar, like the Gregorian calendar, is solar. Moreover its important dates are inspired by nature rather than  human made historical events. For us, today was the last day of autumn and winter started tomorrow, not because one out of billions of humans had birthday or another took over a dynasty and took power. Only astronomy.

p.s. Many thanks to Negin Ehtesabian for that two years ago she made this copyrighted illustration for this blog and I finally use it now. 🙂

Shit happens

Mr Sarkozy said:

How is it that a people such as the Iranian people – one of the world’s greatest peoples, one of the world’s oldest civilisations, sophisticated, cultured, open – have the misfortune of being represented as they are today by some of their leaders?

Well, that’s kind of you monsieur :). If you eventually discovered “how is it that”, let us know! Meanwhile we work on it…

December 6, “Student Day” in Iran

Back to 55 years ago and during the Shah era, when Iranian police agents fired and killed three students (two marxists and one nationalist) inside the campus of University of Tehran, the day 6th of December has been recognized as an official day in Iranian calendar called Student Day. Since then, before and after the revolution, Iranian students, both seculars and religious, celebrate this anniversary, protesting against the dictatorship and policies of the government.

This year the student organizers preferred the day after, December 7, to hold the protests. Therefore, today and yesterday, students at University of Tehran synchronized with other universities in the capital and other cities have held gatherings, calling in particular for the release of the imprisoned and re-admittance of the suspended students and the fired faculty. The students of other universities who were not allowed to pass into the university broke the western entrance gate to join the crowd and some are arrested. In spite of that all of the campus universities were fully surrounded by police, the state security forces, and intelligence and security agents, many of the students succeeded to attend. According to some attendants’ observations, the atmosphere has been violated more and the slogans have become fairly more anti-governmental being compared to the previous years.

Cut this loop

This is a real story about my dilemmatic closed chain, the last night:

  1. My wallet was in the office and the door was locked.
  2. The office key was attached to my car key.
  3. The car key was in the gas station for the service.
  4. The person in charge would demand some money to give the key back.
  5. I had money/cards but it was was in the wallet! (go back to 1)

I needed to cut this loop to get the car back and drive home, accordingly by:

  1. Breaking the office door. (Trouble)
  2. Asking the man to disattach my office key, going back and force… (Time consuming)
  3. Stealing the keys! (Crime)
  4. Asking the mechanic to give me the car back trusting that he will get the money. (Embarrassing)
  5. Borrow that money from a random dude for several minutes. (Weird)

What do you think I did and what would you do?

A book called…

“The Road to Democracy in Iran”

I’ve met the author, Akbar Ganji, several times back home in Khordad newspaper, one of the dozens of reformist newspapers in the age of the Iranian former president. I’ve always been a fan of his brave investigations and an active reader of his many Persian books and articles since more than a decade ago. It was of course despite the fact that in the naturally conservative context of Iranian reformism, many of his close friends were blaming his radical approach, claiming that their own moderate solutions “to step back and pay less when fundamentals are coming forward” could be wiser. During these hard days the Iranian people are facing the results of such a wisdom, I think!

I just ordered this first English book by Ganji published by MIT Press and thus highly recommend it hereby:

Akbar Ganji, called by some “Iran’s most famous dissident,” was a commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. But, troubled by the regime’s repressive nature, he became an investigative journalist in the 1990s, writing for Iran’s pro-democracy newspapers. Most notably, he traced the murders of dissident intellectuals to Iran’s secret service. In 2000 Ganji was arrested, sentenced to six years in prison, and banned from working as a journalist. His eighty-day hunger strike during his last year in prison mobilized the international human rights community.

The Road to Democracy in Iran, Ganji’s first book in English, demonstrates his lifelong commitment to human rights and democracy. A passionate call for universal human rights and the right to democracy from a Muslim perspective, it lays out the goals and means of Iran’s democracy movement, why women’s rights trump some interpretations of Islamic law, and how the West can help promote democracy in Iran (he strongly opposes U.S. intervention) and other Islamic countries.

Throughout the book Ganji argues consistently for universal rights based on our common humanity (and he believes the world’s religions support that idea). But his arguments never veer into abstraction; they are rooted deeply in the realities of life in Islamic countries, and offer a clear picture of the possibilities for and obstacles to improving human rights and promoting democracy in the Muslim world.

Eric Singer, and Adam Matta in Trondheim

Last night Eric Singer, musician and technologist from NY, had an electronic concert in Trondheim Match Making 08, a festival for art and technology. He is the founder of LEMUR (League of Electronic Musical Urban Robots). He is talking about his invention, Guitar Bot, one of the robotic musical instruments they have built up so far:

Now he has Adam Matta, the fantastic beat-boxer in his group:

In one piece while Adam and the robots were performing together, he wanted to teach them a rhythm so that they can tap with him. Tonight, during the Norwegian folk dinner Eric Singer told me he had just finished the programming code for this part right before the concert!

When something comes to the musical collaboration, I can not avoid thinking of collaboration over a distance. Since last night I’ve been thinking about the possibility of playing these musical instruments remotely, since in principle they are being controlled by MIDI commands.

In a remote duet we have two musicians and two instruments, each musician with his/her instrument in its own side. What if we keep a musician in one side and bring the instrument (remotely played by him through robots) to the other side? Then, instead of transferring the wave signal stream, we can send the performer’s MIDI commands and reproduce the musical sound at the destination, where the other musician is playing his/her own instrument and the audiences are attending.

An opposite mistake!

Hotel California, Eagles:

You can check-out any time you like, But you can never leave!

Last night I was listening to this for long hours, while I couldn’t believe that I’ve committed that mistake, the other way around! I did leave California but I didn’t check out! I didn’t pass through the secondary border check which is mandatory for Iranians and didn’t go through all the so-called rituals.

I’m home now without the stamp, hoping to be able to get there again without any penalty.

My very first taste of US

In order to know the people better try to imitate the stereotypes. Follow your own way to do that. Nowadays I’ve been driving long distances on huge highways while listening to country music and smelling American perfume, stopping at Starbucks and shopping from gigantic malls which are all in chains. Everything here is huge in size. I’d asked for the smallest possible car to rent and now I am driving something more or less like a ship which is still called an economy car.

Campus site seeing in California universities is wonderful. So far I’ve visited 4 UCs (Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, and LA) as well as Stanford. As expected and of course at the very first glance, the scientific atmosphere seems to be very motivating and the management system tends to be a kind of holly-wood style, as you have to feel yourself a hero and it can force you to try your best to be counted as a good guy or may punish you if you are among the bad ones. This is something that might be missed in other more relaxed systems. I am talking about a coin which has two sides; negative and positive feedback. They have a golden one I think. The system is motivating and progressive in one side and is really cruel and stressful on the other side. Being good or bad matters more here. Forget about the human rights and social health care. Give the land something and it will give you back a lot.

The context is not that humble in comparison to Scandinavia and in principle they claim about what they are which is good and bad. Although Europeans do not like this suspected right-hand system that much, I think it has its own benefits as you will see below. Well, I know such top universities of the world have a very high pass filter to admit talents. What I am saying is that besides they know how to treat them to get a better result (and perhaps nothing else). I am not in the position to judge the systems. Neither system is definitively better than the other and such a difference is just the matter of priorities.

I am now in Stanford visiting with some friends who are mentioned here:

p.s. Perhaps too much early judgment! If I change my mind, I’ll let you know.

CF in SF


Why I am going to US?

CF stands for something called “Compensation Factor”. I am going to present such a thing at 125th AES convention.

Based on the mathematical induction, San Fransisco offers a new thing about “Influence of delay on Musical collaboration” on early Octobers of each even year. I kid you not!

  • October 2004, San Francisco: Professor Chris Chafe, a multidisciplinary musician and researcher who is the head of CCRMA (The Stanford University Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics), published an important paper entitled “Network time delay and ensemble accuracy: effects of latency, asymmetry” on 117th AES convention. It was in San Fransisco, not that far from to his office, where he proposed his counter-intuitive “Chafe Effect”:

In a musical interaction short delays may produce a modest, but surprising acceleration. So, moderate amounts of delay are beneficial to improve the collaboration, keeping the tempo stability.

  • October 2006, the same place: Right two years later Snorre Farner confirmed this observed effect and tested it in various situations with his “Ensemble hand-clapping experiments under the influence of delay and various acoustic environments” on 121th AES. He was a postdoc at our center of excellence (Q2S) who is now a Researcher and developer at the Analysis/Synthesis group at IRCAM in Paris (and also a material and electrochemistry scientist based on his backgroud!). This job was done under the supervision of Peter Svensson, an acoustician who is a professor both in electroacoustics and our Q2S center. He is now my supervisor.
  • October 2008, again San Francisco: It’s my turn! I am going to the states to try my chance to add another brick in the wall ;) I continued that way and published a paper in the same convention, but more focused on the strategy  people take while collaborating. I used Snorre’s dataset to analyze but I chose another approach. This recent paper is called “Quantifying the Strategy Taken by a Pair of Ensemble Hand-Clappers under the Influence of Delay” and is going to be presented as a poster in the session Listening Tests & Psychoacoustics of 125th AES, on Friday October 3, 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm. In this work Peter, Snorre, and I, have presented a quantifiable strategy factor called “Compensation Factor (CF)”:
  • While two persons are clapping a rhythm together with a certain delay, each can take a strategy between two extreme cases: Feeling free and let the arms be synchronized with the ears (the lazy strategy which decreases the tempo), or Bothering themselves to clap earlier – as much as needed – than what is supposed to come from the other side (the less synchronized strategy which keeps the tempo stable). At each moment of a clapping trial the strategy taken by performers is something in between of these to extreme cases. We call this trade-off “Compensation Factor”.

Conditional Luck?

There is noting called «Luck». Or at least given a certain state to start with, there is nothing existing with such a name, since the good things and the bad things come with the same probability for everyone.

One can be lucky or not in very few motives of life, but not for ever. In the time-line of life, events such as when your parents met at first, and when you were the successful sperm are among those only points that we should believe in the role of “luck” in our lives.

Back to the last post, three friends told me that «you are fucking lucky!». Thanks for the notification. If you look at the whole thing the fact that my travel document was finally an «Iranian passport after 1979», among a hell of other possibilities doesn’t make me a lucky person. That’s actually one of the worst such documents to carry on the. One could say that in that specific visa case I had at least a kind of “conditional luck”.