This is some of my observations and analysis of the Global Village I live in...

Saturday, May 31, 2003

Some friends have added to me to their link lists without me knowing :) One of these friends is out on the Loom. Thanks :) If anyone likes to exchange links in the future, please let me know so I can reciprocate the favor :) I'm also adding a link to Me, Myself & Ehsan (in Persian), hoping that he'll add me too ;)

Tonight I got an interesting email about a group named International Commitee for Transition to Democracy in Iran. On their page, this group has published a Manifesto for Iran. If you look at the page, it cites the names of highly recognized academic scholars such as Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, and many others as the sponsors of this manifesto.

Regardless of the content of the manifesto, I saw a serious problem with its format. With all the due respect I have for each of these wonderful scholars, I am amazed to see that in the list of Irane Bidar (Awakened Iran) there is not a single Iranian name!!!

What can this possibly mean? Has the fever for democracy in Iran become so dead, that Iranians do not have a single person to even think about human rights issues and democracy? Isn't this in conflict with the name of the site that has published the manifesto? What kind of awakening is this that Irane Bidar which translates to "The Awakened Iran", has been unable to find a single person out of the 60+ million Iranians that even thinks about such issues, and thus they have only considered the opinions of non-Iranian scholars to form their manifesto for democracy in Iran?!!!

Now even more interesting is the fact that a group of my friends have been in touch with some of the scholars who "International Committee for Transition to Democracy in Iran" claims to have signed this manifesto. Here's some of what they had to say (I've omitted email address's and abbriviated last names for the respect of privacy):

From: Shayan A.
To: "Edward W. Said" (
Sent: Wednesday, May 14, 2003 12:04 PM
Subject: Question

Dear Professor Said,
This site: announces the creation of a new International Committee for Transition to Democracy in Iran (CITDI), and mentions your name as one of its supporters. This manifesto has some questionable issues which I like to ask you about, but first I should ask if you are aware of this Committee and are in fact one of its supporters?
With warm regards,
Shayan A.

and Said's response is,

From: "Edward W. Said"(
To: "Shayan A."
Subject: Re: Question
Date: Tue, 27 May 2003 19:47:28 -0400

I don't know about any such list or whether I've been put on it. Certainly it was done without my knowledge, and I shall be removed. EWSaid

A personal friend of mine wrote the following letter to Noam Chomsky:

Date: Sat, 10 May 2003 09:33:00 -0400
To: "Noam Chomsky"(chomsky@MIT.EDU)
From: Ali N.
Subject: One Question and one Request!

Dear Professor Chomsky,

I was wondering about the authenticity of the Manifesto that, apparently, has been issued by the International Committee for Transition to Democracy in Iran (Comiti International pour la Transition la Dimocratie en Iran (CITDI) (
There, your name has been mentioned as one of the members of this Committee. I will appreciate if you confirm its authenticity so that we can cite it.

Best regards,
Ali N.

and Chomsky has responded:

Date: Fri, 30 May 2003 18:05:29 -0400
To: Ali N.
From: "Noam Chomsky"(chomsky@MIT.EDU)
Subject: Re: One Question and one Request!

Dear Ali,

I was very pleased to have had a chance to talk to you a few months ago. I did sign a statement circulated by the International Committee for Transition to Democracy in Iran. Presumably it is the one you have seen. I am not a member of the committee, as far as I recall.

Noam Chomsky

Wouldn't it be better if the "Bidar" (Awakened) Iran would stop forging big name international manifesto's, and start looking inside the real Iranian society as a source of its own change?

Friday, May 30, 2003

My gosh, things are so much easier in this world when you have friends :) Many thanks to my new friend webgard who taught me how to move my logo picture to where it is now :) Besides helping me, webgard also runs a very cool weblog, and together with The Upper Echelon of Happiness they run an amazing art site. Great job, and many thanks :)

Thursday, May 29, 2003

I'm trying to make the image on the right as my weblog's logo. I thought it would be a good representation to show our Globe nested in a sunflower. I don't know html coding and so I don't know how to work with the blogger template editor. If anyone knows how I can put the image on top (beside the title) please let me know :)

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Now that after several days blogger has given me my template back, these are some really cool pages that I'm adding to my links:

Earth and Moon Viewer
Fone Finder for when your caller ID doesn't work :)
Visual Route Server to see how you're connecting to the web

And Persian YAHOO is a funny link that I'm not adding, but instead I'm adding Persian Google and Iran Media.

These days I'm busy preparing for my preliminary exam, that will be held on June 24th :(( I'm a PhD student in Health Services Research. Health Services Research in broad terms focuses on three questions:

1- How do people access (or not access) health care services?
2- What is the cost of health care services?
3- What is the quality of health care services?

The preliminary exam is a comprehensive exam that covers all the courses that I've taken in past two years. The exam will be in three segments:
1- Foundations: This segment includes Health Economics, Health Organizations, Health Policy, and Health Sociology
2- Research Methods: This segment includes topics from Statistics, and Econometrics
3- Core Seminars: This segment includes topics from: Health Access and Utilization, Quality of Care and Health Outcomes, and Health Cost and Financing

May god have mercy on me :(

Ok, time to go back to studying :)

One of the topics that is in my mind these days is the book Dubliners by the Irish writer James Joyce from the late 19th century. I first became familiar with Joyce when she told me that she was doing her thesis on Joyce's perspective on feminism. Then last week, I also saw a copy of a Joyce book on Ali K's coffee table here in Gainesville. Walking into two random places, and seeing the same thing, makes you think about a trend, and so I got involved. I picked up a copy of the Dubliners from the school library, and so far I've read two stories A Mother, and Clay, and I'm working on The Dead.
What is interesting to me is not the works of Joyce per-se (they're a bit too melancholic for my taste), but the reason why Joyce has found an audience among the litererary circles in Iran. I had separate discussions with her, and Ali K. and in both discussions we came to the following conclusions:
1- The economic situation of the post famine Ireland and current Iran is very similar. This is shown in the from of lack of consumer confidence, high inflation rates, lack of jobs, and widespread unemployment. These all have led to high rates of migration in both societies. Like late 19th century Ireland, I don't know a family in Iran that doesn't have at least one member living abroad. As the dean of my college once put it: Iranians have become the most migrant civilization of the modern world.
2- Both countries have a strong sense of national identity. This national identity makes them unique in almost every aspect compared to their neighbors. This uniqueness represents itself in the form of language, religion, and history. Both countries also share a powerful history of anti-colonial resistance.

However, several issues are different in today's Iran:
1- The Iranian younger generation is far more critical and far less conservative than late 19th century Ireland. Iranian youngsters openly criticize and blame their previous generation for their current sufferings. Such form of criticism is rarely seen among the young in Joyce's stories. For example in the story Mother, when Ms. Kearny gets into an argument with Mr. Holohan over her daughters salary, her 24 year old daughter doesn't even participate in the argument. In fact we hardly even have an idea about what sort of character her daughter is. In today's Iran such is not the case at all. Young women are at least trying to actively participate in determining their own faith. This participation and resistance against tradition is sometimes seen in the form of violent social protests such as suicide in the form of self burning or cases of mass social hysteria. The prominent Iranian director Daryoush Mehrjooie's movie Bemani focuses on this issue in depth.
2- In terms of social growth factors, the late nineteenth century Ireland was far behind the rest of the western European region. While other countries in Europe were booming with the benefits of the industrial revolution, Ireland was severely lagging. Such is not the case in today's Iran. Iran is in fact the leading cause of change in its region and is far ahead than any of its regional neighbors in terms of social development and growth. Literacy rates in Iran are currently above 90% and above 85% for women. Mind that, in 1979 these rates were 40% and 35% for women. Such an explosion in literacy rates has happened in less than one generation. The benefits of the information revolution are already blooming in Iran. Iran is the only country in the region that within the past two years has developed over 15,000 active webloggers. I've searched, and have not found more than twenty weblogs from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kazakhistan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, Turkey, Iraq and the entire Persian Gulf sates. It's clear that such a significant change between generations leads to conflicts and some of the mentioned forms of protest. It is naturally hard to confine a generation that has been empowered with knowledge.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

I made a thousand efforts to cover the mystery of love
and yet it was impossible not to boil with its fire

I was aware from the beginning not to give my heart to anyone
I saw your face, and there was no awareness and no intelligence left

To leave in the path of drunkness is better than to sit and stay
and if the wished is not found, my best effort will be

-Sa'di (13th Century Persian Poet)

by Sarah McLachlan
from the album: Fumbling Towards Ecstacy

Listen as the wind blows
from across the great divide,
Voices trapped in yearning,
memories trapped in time,
The night is my companion
and solitude my guide,
Would I spend forever here
and not be satisfied,

And I would be the one
to hold you down,
kiss you so hard,
I'll take your breath away
and after I'd wipe away the tears,
Just close your eyes dear

Through this world I've stumbled
so many times betrayed,
Trying to find an honest word,
to find the truth enslaved,
Oh you speak to me in riddles and
you speak to me in rhymes
My body aches to breathe your breath,
your words keep me alive,

And I would be the one
to hold you down,
kiss you so hard,
I'll take your breath away
and after I'd wipe away the tears,
Just close your eyes dear

Into this night I wander,
it's morning that I dread,
Another day of knowing of
the path I fear to tread,
Oh into the sea of waking dreams
I follow without pride,
Nothing stands between us here
and I won't be denied,

And I would be the one
to hold you down,
kiss you so hard,
I'll take your breath away
and after I'd wipe away the tears,
Just close your eyes dear...

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Today something really neat happened that I just have to write here before going to bed :) The Tampa Bay Area is full of seagulls. They're those big white birds that make romantic noises that mix with the sound of waves when you're on your beach vacation (they sometimes poo on your beach towel or head too!!!). So anyway, I was driving down the stretch of I-275 towards Tampa Airport (it's a really beautiful airport. you can see it's pictures here) to pick up my mother. The car was doing about 40 miles per hour (it was relatively crowded at the 5PM rush hour), when this big seagull flew woosh right pass my right window, and slowly stated to pass me on the right hand. I just got all excited and started racing with the bird, and caught up with it at about 50 miles per hour. Then for about 20 seconds the bird just stared at me as it flew parallel to my car, and then just made a right turn off the bridge and on to the beautiful waters of the Tampa Bay. There was something surreal about the scene! Racing with a seagull on a highway bridge :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Several friends had came to Gainesville to visit over the past few days. Some of them I hadn't seen for nearly two years. I saw Arash last in August 2001 in Tehran's Mehrabad airport, where he had come to escort me on my way to the US. Now he's also in the US at UTA finishing up his masters in computer science. I also had a brief opportunity to see Homayoun after nearly a year. He's an ophthalmologist (eye doctor), who was previously doing his residency here at Shands hospital, but has now moved to Johns Hopkins University. It was nice to see both of them this past weekend :)

Today was the first day that I actually got to do some work :)

Tomorrow, my mother will arrive from Egypt to spend the next two months with me :)

I'm looking forward to Aug. 11th when we'll go back to Iran together :)

I will give a renewed greeting to the sun
To the streams which were flowing in me
To the clouds which were my elongated reflections
To the painful growth of the aspens of the garden, which with me
were passing through the empty seasons
To the flock of crows
who would bring me the fragrance of the night meadows
as a gift
To my mother, who lived in the mirror,
and looked like an old me
To the earth, whose passion of my repeat,
would fill its boiling interior, with green seeds - I will give a renewed greeting

I will come, I will come, I will come
With my tress: The continuation of the fragrances beneath the earth
With my eyes: The concentrated experience of darkness
With the shrubs that I have picked from the other side of the wall
I'll come, I'll come, I'll come
And the boarder will become saturated with love.
And at the boarder,
to those who like,
and to the girl who is still there
standing at that love-saturated boarder,
I will give a renewed greeting.

-Foroogh Farokhzad (Iranian Poetess, 1935-1967)

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Oh fellow companion!
Travel is always the undisclosed mystery of tomorrow.
Among adventures you become anew, and return to a home, which is not the home of yesterday...
Acceleration will unite our small home.
There's a bridge... It will grow
between the particle and the universe.
Look my fellow companion!
At the untraveled roads beneath our feet.
-Ahmad Mohit (1989, Tehran-Iran)

That traveler, who is carrying a hundred caravans of my heart with herself
Wherever she may be, god keep her safe....
- Hafez (11th Century Persian Poet)

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Wow! I just noticed how long the previous post was. That should make up for the several days I was absent :)

I spent the weekend in southern Florida, with a group of friends. We had tremendous fun :)

We got out of Gainesville on Friday. I picked up Mehran and Farid at noon, and we hit the road. We drove non-stop on I-75 and the Florida Turnpike till Fort Pierce where we had lunch at Red Lobster. We then headed south on I-95, and it was around 7 that we got to Mona, and Reza's place. That evening the five of us went to Coral Gables, which is a city close to Miami and has a very live nightlife scene due to its proximity to the University of Miami. Coral Gables downtown is an interesting place for low-key partying with a crowd that are mostly college students from U of M. It has lots of sidewalk restaurants, and easy Jazz music, and shops that are open very late. All of us were a bit tired that night so we decided to leave the major South Beach partying for Saturday night.

On Saturday noon, we headed for Key Biscayne. Key Biscayne is an island resort, with only 15 minutes driving from downtown Miami. Over there we did some fishing, and Reza made us barbeque for Lunch. Yummmmmmmmmy :) We were there till 3, and then we headed out to south beach for some good swimming :)

I've been to South Beach many times, but I never get tired of it. It is insanely alive. After Laguna Beach in California, it is my favorite beach. The color of the water is just breathtaking, and the art-deco district is vibrant with lovely colors, and neon lights at night. Off the beach as far as the eye can see, there are beautiful white high-rises. We had a great swim, and became witness to one of the cutest weddings I had ever seen. The wedding took place on the beach :) The groom was dressed in Khaki pants, and white shirt, and all the guests were in casual dressing. The altar was very one of the life guard houses, and the only decorations were several small palm trees and some white chairs for the guests. The bride arrived in a yellow buggy, and she was dressed in a creme colored dress, wearing a nice tan, and small white flower in her hair. The sermon was a nicely delivered speech, and after the priest finished, they mixed some sand off the beach as a symbol of their families mixing, and becoming one. After the sermon, the groom, the bride, and their parents just circled together and they all fell in tears. I couldn't hold back my own tears. It was simply gorgeously romantic. Marrying at a beach sunset!!! My god!!!
Afterwards we went back home to change. On our way we had some Starbucks coffee. We got back to South Beach at 12AM, all of us in full blast party mode. Ali. K (another friend who goes to UF) , also joined us. He had drove in from Deerfield beach. The six of us went to a club called Level. It had two floors. On one floor the DJ was only spinning hard-core trance techno beats. On the other floor, which was larger, they played a variety of hip-hop, techno, disco, and pop dance music. I had not danced that hard since 1999. I'm not too much of a clubber, but when I feel secure, and when I'm with a good group of friends, my dancer side swings into full blast :) By the time we came out at 4AM my shirt was dripping wet!!!! After a small stroll on the beach, Ali K. left to back home, and we stopped on our way at Dennys for a late night (excuse me, early morning!!!) bite. We got to bed at 6AM!!! :)

On Sunday we headed south to Key Largo. Key Largo is world famous for being the world's largest live coral reef. Boat rentals are available for $70 for 7 hours. They provide you with a boat and snorkeling gear, to go watch the reef. We got there a bit late so we didn't see the reef. (I'm happy. That's something I wanted to do with her ;). Instead we rented jet ski's. There were five of us with 2 jet skis. Me and Farid were the bigger guys so we shared one boat, and Mona, Reza, and Mehran shared another boat. It was a blast of fun :) Afterwards we went to John Pennekamp state park. Again we did some fishing, and this time Reza caught 3 yellow tails :) For dinner we went to a small seafood place called Craigs Cafe. I had a fish sandwich with a bowl of clam chowder. The food was excellent, and the portions were also huge!!! By the time we got home that night it was 11, and we spent the rest of the night playing a cards game called Hokm, which is similar to Spades.

On Monday morning, we said goodbye to our wonderful hosts Mona, and Reza, and we went to the Everglades. The Everglades is the world's largest swamp, and an amazing natural habitat. The water is shallow so normal boats would get stuck in it. Instead, they have several places that offer Airboat tours, and we took the tour with Gator Airboats. Actually, I had done the tour before, so I waited while Mehran, and Farid took their hour long tour. After the tour, we headed towards Deerfield Beach where we were supposed to meet Ali K. to head back towards Gainesville. We arrived at Deerfield Beach early, and the water was great so we took a swim before Ali K. arrived. Afterwards we had Lunch at a local restaurant called Flanigans. We then headed north, and our way we stopped to take a look at the ultra luxury Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach. Knowing that we could not afford, to have anything at the Breakers, we went back to West Palm Beach's newly created City Place shopping district to enjoy a Ghiradelli ice cream cone before heading straight back to Gainesville. I got home at 2AM :)

I've been getting some comments that my thoughts had become a bit too theoretical. All I'm trying to do is to think global and act local. Last week I did a bit of Global Thinking, and for the weekend I did a lot of Local Acting :)

I'm back, and I'm very happy to hear the news that Sina Motallebi is finally free after 22 days in arrest.

Friday, May 09, 2003

I'm going to be traveling for the weekend, so I'll be back with more on Monday.

This is a really cool add for Honda Accord :)

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Many thanks to Dr. German Barrionuevo, who first taught me the the Hebb's postulate at the University of Pittsburgh's Department of Neuroscience, and today reminded me of it.

This was a cool design, that I thought was worth sharing.

Now, as I mentioned before, the difference between individualism and just me'ism or egoism (A friend of mine suggested that I use the term egoism, instead of just me'ism. I'll use that for now, but I don't think it exactly conveys the meaning. Egoism has a sense of selfishness, while just-meism has a sense of hopelessness and depression. If anyone can think of a better term, I'm open to suggestions.) is heedful interactions. The keyword is heedful. Heedful means active, dynamic, and participatory. Heedful means thinking that your participation matters. According to Donald Hebb's postulate, heedful participation is the key to learning. Learning leads to specialization. Specialization leads to individualism. Lack of heedful participation leads to egoism, and isolationism.

I had several discussions and emails about the difference between individualism, and "just me'ism". As I mentioned before I borrowed the word just me'ism from Dr. Jane Goodall. This is where she said it:

In 1999, ABC News aired a wonderful television series called The Century with Peter Jennings. It engaged my interest when I heard that it's last part was about the 1979 Iranian Revolution, titled; The evolution of a revolution - Live from Tehran. ABC News re-aired the program after the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks, and I got to see the whole series, and eventually last year I bit the bullet, and bought the whole series with my tight student budget! I think it was a wise investment, and definitely worth it. :) At the end of this series, was a segment named: Facing the New Millennium in which they had short interviews with some scholars from different fields, to contemplate the past and think about the future. The scholars included Yo-Yo Ma (Celoist musician), Stewart Brand (Statistician), Stephen L. Carter (Ethics Scholar), James Q. Wilson (Legal Scholar), Isabel Allende (Feminist Activist), Salman Rushide (Writer), Edward Wilson (Biologist), Brian Greene (Physicist), and Jane Goodall (Biologist, Environmental Activist) and others. I strongly recommend that you take a look at each of these people's sites. Each of them is fascinating in their own way, and well worth the time. I learned a lot right now while searching for their links.

Now back to Dr. Goodall, in this series she says: "We suffer from 'Just Me'ism'. Most people say: 'I'm just one person. The world has millions of people. I know I shouldn't be wasting water or polluting the environment or etc, but what I do can't matter because I'm just one person.' So if we could turn that around and make each of the millions say 'what I do is really important' the world would change overnight. So the most important message is that you as an individual matter. You have a very important role to play in this life and don't forget it."

Wow! The power of the Internet is amazing! It's barely a week that I've started my blog, and I'm finding many new friends that have honored me with their emails. Thank you :) I'll try my best to respond to them individually, and on this blog as appropriate.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

After reading my previous post, I think I need to clarify the difference between individualism and "just me'ism". The key difference is heedful interactions. Just me'ism can lead to isolationism, which lacks heedful interactions. This form of individualism is often practiced by mystics and sufi's. Ali N. argues that rigid forms of mysticism and sufism contributed to underdevelopment of Iran after the Mongolian invasion during the 12th century, when the Nazmiyeh schools were created. Such schools played a role similar to Christian Seminaries in which students practiced deep forms of prolonged meditation often several months at a time.

Another clarifying point that I should make is on the transformation from tribalism to an organization based society in Iran. This movement started in Iran with the 1906 Constitutional Revolution. In fact the revolutionaries of this movement were tribes that fought their way from Esfahan, Khoozestan, Rasht, and Tabriz to Tehran to create a modern organization, which was the Majlis or the parliament. Even today this event is considered a landmark in Iran's continuing historical struggle towards modernism and democracy.

Today I had lunch with Ali N. (there are several Ali's here, so I'll use last name initials to separate them from now on). This Ali is a very cool character, and my discussions with him are always fruitful. One of our discussions was about Shadi Sadr's recent article in Cappuccino e-zine, about feminism(in Persian). For my English readers, in her article Ms. Sadr discusses the topic of feminism under the theory of modernism which is originally from the book "The Experience of Modernity" by Marshall Berman. In our discussion today, Ali N. opened the discussion by saying that modernism is different from modernity. A society can be very modern in terms of technological use, and non-modern in terms of method of thought. For example, we know that Poland is a more modern society than the United Arab Emirates despite the fact that one sees more of the technological signs of modernity in the United Arab Emirates with very little signs of modernism such as free elections, interactive public participation, and etc.

In her article Ms. Sadr argues that transformation to modernism is connected with the transformation from tribalism, to individualism. She argues that tribal life is a simplistic life form with rare encounters with what is considered outside the tribe. Thus everything must be simplified to meet the level of understanding of the tribe. Tribal societies define 'us' versus 'others' and suffered from the 'fear of aliens', and the 'fear of unknown natural phenomenon' such as lightning, and thus the sacredness of such phenomenon became unquestionable, and heavily guarded by the sources of power within such societies often with heavy penalties for violators. For example, according to Islamic law, a Moslem is defined by birth or by voluntarily accepting the faith. Exit from Islam however is considered takfir, and a person who practices such an exit, is punishable by capital punishment. Although this law is not heavily enforced in Islamic countries, recently the university scholar Hashem Aghajari was sentenced to death by an Iranian court for questioning the validity of the clerical rule. Under the strong pressure from the public, his death sentence is now pending review. The power game in such societies is played in the pyramidal fashion and the very few tribal leaders enjoy the privileges of power at the higher portions of the pyramid. In case of feministic theory, the transformation from tribalism to individualism was along with the definition of citizenship. Women movements were first defined when citizens had the right to vote, and women did not. Thus the questioning of the validity of the pyramid began.

On the other extreme of this argument is individualism. In an ideal individualistic society, individuals act according to self-interest. Definitions such as entrepreneurship, and specialization are defined in such societies. Power, and the interaction of such individuals is no longer simple, and the number of players in the power game is equal to the number of individuals which have a vested interest in the outcome of game.

Today, in our discussion with Ali. N, I argued that in the modern western societies of the world we live in, tribes have not been eliminated as Ms. Sadr claims. Instead they have been transformed to create the meaning of an organization. In modern societies an individual defines him/herself based on the organizations that s/he chooses to belong to, and sometimes takes great effort and risk in order to become and remain a member of an organization. Each of us partially define ourselves according to our spouse, job (our role in an organization) our school, our hobby club, or the political party we vote for. All these organization have rules, and laws, and we consider joining them if abiding by their rules advances us towards our individual interest and we work hard towards such joint goals. There are several major differences between modern organizations and traditional tribes:
1- Entry and exit to an organization is based on individual merit rather than the inherited law of tribal societies.
2- Entry and exit to an organization is a binding contract based on the meeting of the minds. Such a contract is universal in the tribal society and thus irrelevant to be discussed.
3- Both the individual and the organization reserve the right to exit the contract and to disengage according to their interest.

My personal choice between individualism and tribalism, is strongly influenced by the ideas of Dr. Jane Goodall. I am an individualist, but I do not believe in 'just me'ism'. As Dr. Goodall puts it I believe that what I do in this world influences the world. I hope that I can influence it in a positive way.

I just noticed something very funny, and that is I guess I live in Pacific Time!!! So in my previous post when I said today, and the post is dated Tuesday May6th, today actually meant Monday May5th!!! :)) This is all because it's 2:17AM right now, and yes you guessed it correctly, I'm a night owl!!! :)) Another lip error that I hope you'll pardon me for it :)

My meeting today was very productive. It wasn't directly related to a thesis, although it could lead to one. Our dean is very interested in Iran, and was the keynote speaker on behavioral health at a conference in Tehran during May 2002 where he delivered a paper that we had worked on together. During that meeting, he's had some preliminary discussions with some people about developing something similar to the Medical Expenditures Panel Survey (MEPS) in Iran. I think if our college would be able to do this it would be excellent :) As of right now, in it's move towards providing universal health insurance coverage, the Iranian National Organization for Health Services Insurance has no method of individual risk assessment. Data does exist on the capacity of the system, but not on the users. As a result mass pooling based on system usage is the only way to estimate costs. Using a survey similar to MEPS would help to eliminate this problem.

This is almost like running a webpage with a counter (as an indicator of system usage), and without providing an email address (as a mechanism for feedback) where as a result you know how many people are reading what you write, but you have no idea about why they read it, what they think about it, and will they continue to read it in the future.

The discussion we had today was very preliminary, and from now till August we will be working on a preliminary proposal. If it goes through, sometime in the fall of this year, we will all gather in Tehran for a feasibility study. Lets see what happens... At least this meeting was productive :)

Monday, May 05, 2003

Well, I guess my short couple days of summer vacation are slowly coming to an end... Although we are still in an official break till next week, tomorrow I have a joint meeting with the Dean of my college, and two of the faculty of my department. I guess its some sort of preliminary discussion towards developing a thesis topic. I have hope it'll be productive :)

Shadi Sadr seems to be intelligent woman to me. Her article in Cappuccino Magazine (in Persian) on why feminism has so many enemies in Iran was really interesting. I need to write her an email on the affect of colonialism on the transformation of tribalism to individualism in semi-colonized countries like Iran. Previously, due to her work with Women In Iran, I thought she was just an activist. It now seems to me she's also a strong thinker and analyzer.

This extra dose of sunshine generated vitamin D feels really good :) Today Reza, Mona, and I went to Wet 'n Wild, which is a waterpark in Orlando. The day was ultra fun :)

On Sina's news, still nothing good :( After Behnood's letter (in Persian) in which he has said we should act and do something, and considering that May 2nd was World Press Freedom Day, the whole journalist community in Iran has become active, and everyone is saying something. Among all the chatter, the best one that I liked was Shadi Sadr's word who said: Sooner or later Sina will be freed, but it is only the miracle of the blue eyes of his ten month old son that will be able to save us from this sinking whirlpool that we're caught in...

Saturday, May 03, 2003

Wow! Now that the semester is over, everybody's having fun!!! Tonight Mona and her brother Reza came over and we went clubing. It was exactly a year since I had last been to a club, and it was fun. The whole Persian gang was there :) Afterwards we came to my place to watch the dance ceremony, and then we played Hokm, which is card game that is almost like Spades. My last guests left about 20 minutes ago. Mona said the best word of the night when were in the car... She said: I wish your lady and Reza's lady were here too :) I'm happy that I have a good group of friends so when she comes, we all can have fun together :)

Friday, May 02, 2003

OK. It's 3:45AM and after a good night out, I'm here with Alireza teching him how to write a blog :)

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Gosh, this methods course has frustrated me :(( So many models and I still can't explain how the world works:(( Maybe the problem is that there's too many of them!!!

I first entered the world of weblogs about a year ago when I started reading Persian blogs. When I was in Iran for the past winter holidays, the hand of faith led me to the award ceremony of the first Persian Top Weblogs Competition. The environment of the award ceremony was exhilarating. It was the first time in years that I was among 400 people, who were not only amazingly technically competent, but all of them were also extremely socially aware, and mind you I was in Tehran, Iran and not in Silicon Valley. Sina was also there, and he gave a short speech on the social impacts of weblogs. Now, isn't that ironic?!!! They first give them awards, and then they arrest them!!! Well, welcome to Iran, the land of irony (or maybe Irany ;)

So anyhow, coming out of that ceremony I knew I had to write. However, although most of the difficulties for writing a Persian blog had been solved by Hoder, I had three problems with writing a Persian blog:

1- I can't type fast enough in Persian to be an efficient bloger :(
2- I didn't know whether I could write freely in Persian without falling into self censoring. This is a big problem considering the environment in Iran, and now with the arrest of Sina, I'm sure it will have echoed implications. The English blog world is so big that writing an English blog will allow me to remain somewhat anonymous, and still write freely :)
3- If I wrote in Persian, my audience would be limited to those who can read in Persian, and this would undermine a large part of my life experience spent in the English speaking world.

So here I am with my English blog. You can call me chicken for not writing a Persian blog, but oh well, at least I started writing :)

The biggest issue on my mind these days, besides the frustration of being here (I really would have loved to be in Iran), and my exams , is the problem of the arrest of Sina Motallebi.

The arrest of writers and journalists in Iran is nothing new. However, Sina's arrest has a dual importance. First he was the first person from my generation to be arrested for what he has wrote. Second he was the first person to be arrested for what he wrote in his weblog.

This problem has been occupying a good portion of my thoughts. It has also led to series of discussions and actions. We had a discussion a couple days ago with my friend Ali. After Sina's arrest I emailed a bunch of friends from all sorts of nationalities to read and sign the petition for Sina's freedom. This list also included some American friends. Ali is not very happy about what I have done. He believes that by spreading the news to people who can't directly help Sina, will cause Sina's situation to grow worse. I don't believe in this. In fact I believe in the global village of communications, where news is transferred instantaneously, people share their hopes, aspirations, and concerns. I believe that by contributing to the discussion of these concerns, and adding more ideas to this discussion, I will become a better citizen myself. This is why I have started this weblog.