White Balloon

Daily Journal of Mahaan, an Iranian-American student residing in USA.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


My dearest friend,

Time flies quickly. It's 4 years after that beautiful day that we celeberated our wedding. Although this day is some how a secondary day for our friendship, but because that night was the night that both of our families and friends joined each other in the most sincere and beautiful form, it has got a special importance for us. In the last 3 years I had got you simple gifts, but this year my search around Edinburgh university was not fruiteful. So, I hope my current posting makes you cheerful in this beautiful day of life:

As I experience our common life, my belief that "The real love comes way after the start of partnership" gets stronger. Today when you're presenting in the conference, I kept looking at your beautiful, smart and innocent face talking to the crowd, finally with a strong confidence. Suddenly a unique sense of happiness came to me. Looking back at the difficult 15 years that you have gone through to reach this fairly stable point, I felt so proud of you, your skills and capabilites and our sincere and simple love for each other. We have been able to reach an stable stage in our life, filled with understanding, compromise and endless support which has become the main cause of serenity and progress in our life. While I'm getting mature to tackle my continious sense of insecurity, what keeps me constantly live and optimist about the future is your presense and your support that I can count in every stage. I love you and I'm thankful to be loved by you.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The city by the sea

After 82 nights of staying in Western Los Angeles, tomorrow night I'm flying back to my hometown. Both living in LA and my research internship were valuable experience. In general I found LA as one of the best places for short term stay like my condition and also a touristic site to have fun. Clearly the city is overshadowed by the Hollywood and its superficial culture. Big part of the population is very obssesed with fasion, dressings, makeup and generally a "wanna be" culture. If you think about the revenue that Hollywood generates for the US and this area, it's some how natural to see this type of Hollywood effect in the city. Although LA has a lot of alternative cultural events going on, but I generally felt that the culture of the city is very much controlled by the Hollywood. For example, considering the population of the city, the crowd that I saw in bookstores were always very limited and small.

The scale of the capital that exist in this huge metropolitan is truly amazing. A friend told me that LA county by itself is probably on is in the top 10 economies of the world! Capitalism have been able to successful segregate the city, thanks to the limited sources of public transportations. Thanks to this automobile mania, the city has an amazing network of highways that are certainly the best that I've seen.

There are two places that I enjoyed the most in LA:
1. Venice Beach (Better be called People's beach): What I call a real beach. Art, Music and beautiful scenary and the most important: People! From all levels: White, minorities, hippies, gays and God know how many languges are spoken there

2. Third Street Promenade: I generally don't enjoy shopping mall. But this is the place that I loved it the most. An open mall, next to the ocean, a lot of cafes and restuarants, 5 movie theaters, 2 large bookshops and awsome street artists and musicians. Some of the music that I heard from these guys playing on the street, had certainly very high level concert hall quality of performance.

I can't write about LA and not write about the large Iranian community here. Looking at some of the business entities in the community, I finally got a feeling that some kind of maturity is coming to this immigrant community. One of this business entities are the Iranian food related entities. I saw couple of supermarkets and also cafes which were finally presenting something beyond traditional, conservative Iranian models of business. Also it was impressive for me to see about 6-7 Iranians bookstores operating in LA which is some how an indicator of the thirst of the community for Iranian culture and literature. Specially that I observed that most of these bookstores were quite updated with recent publications in Iran.
Generally speaking about the immigrant community of Iranians, I believe that the second generation of immigrants are able to take their steps with more security and confidency and understand their life in US better and this is the key to their success and also less stressful life. From what I observed here, the first generation of immigrants is still in shock of the whole concept of their immigration and its root causes (the 1979 revolution). And their life is very much filled with contraditions of modernity and traditionalism. And I guess this is a world wide phenomena that the first generation is always sacrifised for the sake of the experience.

It's 1:33 in LA and I have to go to sleep and there is whole a lot to write about these beautiful past 3 months. I leave the rest for a later time ....

As I close my summer internship, I'm heading to UK for a 10 days conference trip in Scotland and later a short visit to Iran.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

My problems with research

There is something fundamentally wrong in my research methodology. I have been around research community since my junior year of college, but I constantly feel that I have problems in:
1. Picking a well defined and isolated problem that is practically solvable in the given time frame.
2. Defining the problem clearly for myself and others.
3. Following major research priorities as I progress. (Based on wrong estimations, I have spent over extra amount of time on poritons of the work that have minor effects in the final result).
4. Wrapping up the work

At the same time, for the areas that I'm able to clear things up and understand and solve the problem, I'm able to present my work fairly clearly. That's the reason that my major presentations in conferences and seminars usually go fine, because I am able to selectively talk about the things that are crystal clear for me.

Today for the first time, I clearly felt that if I can not overcome the above problems, I'll have serious problems not only in my future research career, but even in finishing my PhD. I feel the continuation of this situation, makes me very insecure in dealing with new research questions and with presenting my ideas to my advisors and local research community properly.

Fortunately or unfortunately, before this summer I've usually worked with advisors who were fairly liberal towards my research direction. In many cases this liberalism has resulted a feeling of being lost in the research work and feeling unable to really proceed. I believe that an advisor needs to have two types of criteria for dealing with a student researcher: 1. For some students that for whatever reason know what they are doing, leave them alone and let them impress you and the research community with their work. (This is what most of advisors do) 2. For students who might not have clear ideas who to advance: Assign them small tasks in a way that it builds up towards a long term research direction. This second strategy is something that I've observed happening in the research lab that I currently work as a summer intern in LA. I've observed that majority of successful PhD students, have developed very basic toolsets upon their arrival and throughout that development, many interesting and well defined research ideas have been brought up and shaped their research direction.

Minor part of the blame of being unfamiliar with right research methodology might go to my background in Iranian education system which lacks serious research training in secondary and highschools. Couple of months ago, I was picked to be the judge of a Math competition in a local secondary school. I was so impressed to see how much those young American students were capable of analyzing a simple research problem scientificaly and clearly. This was something that was totally absent in our dry and fully theoric secondary and hight school education. I should admit that this is definitely a minor issue with respect to my problem, because I've seen tens of successful Iranian students in American universities who have similar educational backgrounds like me.

But big part of the blame goes to my personal mistakes in over reaching and in most cases my obsession with balancing many minor issues when I pick a problem. Actually at the moment, I'm again dealing with this problem because I'm trying to define the right and interesting research question to pick.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Year of Living Dangerously

How long this game of terror and fear is going to last? How many lives is enough for these people to prove their agenda? How much more should people pay for military and defense? how much more poverty? How many Palestinians, Israelis, Iraqis, Americans, British, Moslems, Christians, should die that these folks end their game?

Here is roughly what I heard on FOX news this morning:
There has been a lot divergence from the war on terror and there is whole a lot of talk about issues not as important like poverty, climate change, etc. And it's the time that we once again concentrate on the main issue which the war on terror.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

After Election

I left LA for a conference couple of hours after the election results were clear. Being away from my desk and news flow of the Internet was a blessing after such a depressing week of events. It is a fortunate part of our nature that we get used to bad events quickly and find our ways around it. The first round of the election was the main blow for me and I was more relaxed in the second round. There have been tremendous amount of depressing and dark writeups in Persian blogs. But what's truly admiring for me is the quick critical view that I saw among many bloggers about their own false strategies and analysis of the country. Some sort of admission about the fact that many people in the reformist group had distanced themselves from the daily problems of ordinary people who don't give a damn about human rights and equality of men and women, etc... because they are simply struggling with very basic elements of their life. Those who dare to admit these mistakes are the one who truly think progressively and loosing the administrative power does not change their fundamental believes and vision. This is the difference of the politics of progressive and repressive groups.

There is whole a lot of fuzziness about future of Iran that makes many people like me very concerned. But what can we do, except caring and learning from today and keepinh the optimism and hope alive for the future?

It has been a very busy summer filled with my summer internship and alot of scheduling and planning for several trips and of course the dilemmas of this past election. Over the past few days, I deeply felt the over exposed to the political affairs which is not healthy at all. What I 'm really missing is fine art, literature and music to be able to concentrate my mind and thoughts.
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