A windy day at Stonehenge in August 2000


polite Korean fans

Korean cleanup leaves Leipzig litter-free. If only they would do the same in Seoul :-)


another favourite picture from Iran

Here's another of my favourite photos from Iran. Me, Maryam, Minoo, Marjan and Hossein. Hossein is one of my best friends in Iran and I spent my last night in Iran at his place, in Ekbatan, a logical place to stay near the Mehrabad airport. He held a 26th birthday party for me there. Naturally, I met him on the bus on the way from my place in Ekbatan to Azadi Square, where I would catch a shared taxi to Tajrish Square and then my work in Niavaran.


fact-checking the fact-checker

The exiled Iranian journalist Amir Taheri reviews Dilip Hiro's book on Iran and tries to fact check him.

Robert MacFarlane was not National Security Advisor when he led a secret mission in Tehran. And he did not talk to “low level officials” but had as interlocutor Qorban-Ali Dorri Najaf-Abadi who was, at the time, Chairman of the Islamic Majlis’s Foreign Affairs Committee and contact man for Hashemi Rafsanjani, then Speaker of the Islamic Majlis (Parliament).

It is good to know one's Iranian trivia, especially when the answer is not to be found on the Internet. (How many people would be able to correct him?) Taheri has his Najafabadis confused. McFarlane (not MacFarlane) met with Mohammad Ali Hadi Najafabadi not Qorban-Ali Dorri Najafabadi. Hadi Najafabadi was the Chairman of the Majlis's Foreign Affairs Committee, as Taheri states. (Source: "The Iranian Triangle" by Samuel Segev, page 273 and "Special Trust" by McFarlane -- also named "Dr No" in Oliver North's book "Under Fire".) Taheri has got his names wrong before. I still respect him, I just thought he'd be a little more careful with facts after his screw-up on the dress code story. I emailed him about his 1984/1988 mistake in that post, but didn't get a reply and have lost his email address since then. I wonder if I'd get a reply from him on this one, I did get a kind reply from Eleana Benador once.



At 4000dpi, the output of the film scanner produces a 24 megapixel image. It is more than even the most expensive digital SLR, the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II (16.6 megapixels). Unfortunately the files it produces are about 140 megabytes each, so they are not easy to store at full size. My SLR is a Canon EOS 500N, with a 35-80mm, 80-200mm, and 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens. The lens is much bigger than either of my digital cameras so in that sense it should take better photos. I am not sure if there really is as much detail in the image as "24 megapixels" would suggest.

Going through all my old film and trying to find it all has been a very time consuming process. Sometimes I have found shots that are so good I am not sure if I took them. Here is a striking image - I think my Dad might have borrowed my camera and taken it to O'Reillys one day.


favourite photo

This is still my favourite photo of me and Jenny in Korea. She said she looks cold but I think she looks hot. Hohoho.


The Beatles sang "all you need is love". But for me it is not true. I need respect as well. Sometimes I just feel I don't get much. I know that my boss respects me in a way, and the reason he doesn't complain that I work only nine to five is that his research would go much worse without me. I have been thinking so much lately about respect. To a large extent in our Australian society, money equals respect. It worked the same way in Iran. Dr Mahmoodian, who helped me get my job in Iran, told me that my salary in Iran was really good, and because I was not married, it made it really wunderbar. (Am I overusing this word?) The problem was that I didn't respect myself because the salary was less than my PhD scholarship had been, and it was about a third of my Australian salary after tax. There were also lots of other signs that people didn't respect me. For example, I went to lots of parties at the Australian consul's house in Niavaran (actually Manzariyeh, a posh area in north Tehran) and the consul jocularly remarked to his guests that I was an idiot for coming, and I already believed it myself. All his other guests had come to Iran for a good reason, that is, as diplomats or to work in some kind of engineering job, and everyone was being paid about ten times as much as me. (Yet obviously being so far above the average Iranian meant that they were completely out of touch with the way most people lived.) I told my English students about my salary and they said it was good but I could not lead a good life in Iran with it. Lastly one of my fellow postdocs said she had been talking to a relative and the relative couldn't understand why I had come here. Ziba, the postdoc, suggested I had discovered what Iran was about in a year and I should go back... but I enjoyed learning the language, and I was tired of Australia, so I stayed a bit longer.

So that was an intangible lack of respect based on the tangible aspect of money. (I don't have to worry about height.) More tangibly, it bothers me when people don't respond to my emails. I think it demonstrates a lack of respect, too. Dr Mahmoodian and Dr Khosrovshahi frequently did not respond to my emails when I was in Iran. Probably, this should have caused me to leave there earlier. And concerning the most unpleasant incident in Iran, when a policeman came to check one of my neighbour's reports that a foreigner was living a next door (!!), I don't feel that IPM or Dr Khosrovshahi took the incident as seriously as I did.

This should help explain why respect is very important to me and also salary. I will do almost any job, but it has to pay more than my current one, because for long periods of time in my life, I have had both a low salary and a lack of respect from people. And I am never going back to that.

(As a footnote I will say that in the past the way the vast majority of my interactions with women have gone is like this: I meet them, get their phone number/email address, then text them/write to them, and they ignore me. On the one hand, it has sometimes been good being poor, because it has weeded out superficial people, but I could never help feeling that if I earned more it would have happened much less often, and I would have got more positive attention.)


sexually frustrated computer nerds

Today I was wondering why the default random seed in the impute.knn package in R is 362436069. I was looking at it wondering if it had any special properties. The standard google search did not help, so I went to the Groups Google search and looked at the oldest article containing the number. I was flabbergasted. Truly, sex drives all research!!

The highly respected G. Marsaglia published a lot of work
on pseudorandom number generation using the modulus 362436069,
because he found it particularly easy to remember
(thirty-six twenty-four thirty-six Oh sixty-nine).


film scanner

The Coolscan arrived! I have only scanned in three shots so far, but the results are good - much better than a flatbed scanner would do, I think. Thanks Beards & Hats Photo! The first photo I scanned is of Herculaneum near Naples in Italy... compare it to the scanned photo.

And of course the next two I scanned were of cute girls. When I taught English in Tehran I insisted that my class consisted only of pretty girls in their 20s. I sort of wish I were back there, but I was only being paid $6/hour or something...


trivia questions

Last night the host asked "who made the world's first laser printer?". I wrote "Xerox" and showed it to Erina or Scott, I think, and Oddur showed me a piece of paper with "Hewlett-Packard" and I shook my head. But obviously there was a miscommunication, because Erina agreed with Oddur and wrote "HP" anyway. The correct answer is "Xerox" although the host said "Canon" - he must have meant to say "desktop laser printer".

Later one of us seemed to be certain that "pixel" was short for "picture cell". I did know the answer was "picture element" though I must have had too many glasses of wine to care too much about correcting him...

It's all fun, though it did demonstrate the problem with having ten people on the team instead of five or six - it makes it much harder to communicate with the person writing the answers - "too many cooks spoil the broth".