pakistan hit by quake

29 10 2008

[By Shideh]   Pakistan suffered from a magnitude 6.4 earthquake today: about 500 people were killed and thousands were left homeless. I want to offer my condolences to the people of Pakistan and particularly to those who were affected. It is truly heart-breaking and it’s a shame that we still witness such losses in a century of information technology and knowledge.  




Photo courtesy of Daily Nation



The tremor is reported to have flattened entire villages (click here for more detail).  The earthquake struck southwest Pakistan before dawn as people were preparing for the first prayer of the day. Many evacuated their homes after the first, smaller tremor shook their houses, went outside and waited for awhile but returned back in because of cold weather. It is reported that about 20 minutes later the large earthquake hit, flattening many houses and killing hundreds.


The earthquake was located about 60km northeast of the provincial capital Quetta.  Timber and mud with heavy walls are common construction materials in the area. The challenge now is to provide food and shelter to those who survived – in this cold weather. The ability of the government to respond effectively to the people’s urgent needs is questionable. Click here for news.


This earthquake affected a few villages in Pakistan, but it is yet another warning to every village and city in the region where active faults are present.  All these cities will face the same fate sooner or later when the next earthquake hits (in Pakistan, India, Iran, Turkey, etc.).  Why does it remain to be a challenge to understand the risks that we are facing and to act promptly? Read the rest of this entry »


game of your dream

25 10 2008

[By Shideh]   UC Berkeley had a football game against UCLA today.  Typically, these games have quite an impact on everything in town, most importantly transportation and parking become almost impossible.  How lively it is to fight for winning though, to have a favorite team, and to show your support for something you relate to.  Today, while I work at a café next to the football stadium in Berkeley, I am witnessing hundreds of students and alumni from both universities walk by wearing UCLA or Berkeley shirts, hats, or shorts.  Many have brought their children, and of course the children are wearing shirts with the name and colors of their parents’ favorite school.  As I write, Berkeley’s marching band passes by with the loudest drums and a few hundred uniformed students marching Bancroft Avenue while the crowd waves at them with open smiles.  I am automatically a part of this excitement as I hear that Berkeley has won the game: 41 by 22.  Why do I care? What is it that is so exciting about being a part of a community united for a purpose, a community that has a team and is relating to that team to feel better or to fight against something in common?  Would I be disappointed in Berkeley if she had lost the game? Perhaps, but I think not for long; I would probably continue smiling and congratulate the UCLA folks passing by.


 Photo courtesy of nybox6



I recently had a job interview in England and did not get the job.  When I was invited to interview for a faculty position that seemed to be a dream job at the time, I remember getting extremely nervous to even attend the interview fearing for the outcome.  I wished I had not applied for the job at all and thought it was too early for me to do this as I was not prepared and not even close to graduating.  My father told me something that completely changed my attitude, which is why I want to talk about sports.  He said: “this interview is like a football match of your dream.  You are invited to play in your national team against another excellent team.  What matters is that you play for the sake of playing, the excitement, the glory of the game in itself – pay no attention to the results.  Life is not about the outcome, it’s about the game.  You will go and you will play your best and will enjoy the game regardless of the results. Do not pre-judge, judge, or post-judge the outcome.  Just play…”

tehran vs. tokyo

17 10 2008

[By Shideh]   Tehran mayor, Mr. Qalibaf, has been trying to learn from and collaborate with other big cities in the world to improve Tehran in many ways.  I find his attempts promising and in the right direction:


Tehran can learn a great deal from Tokyo in terms of pollution reduction and earthquake safety.  Perhaps Japan is one of the few remaining nations that has not paid much attention to the US attempts to impose international sanctions on Iran – up to debate.  This is a great start for Qalibaf to attract Japanese investment and collaborate with the mayor of Tokyo to improve Tehran’s infrastructure.  However, an important part of the problem in Tehran and Iran in general is not related to technical expertise and lack of knowledge.  The main problem seems to be deeply rooted in social awareness and culture.  It takes a great number of local experts on the social psychology of Tehranians to solve the essential problems that are unique to Tehran and do not apply to Tokyo.  Japan in particular has a culture vastly different from those of Iranians and I hope that their solutions and policies will not be blindly applied to Tehran. Iran has a history of blindly following policies of developed nations to improve its system (i.e. education, infrastructure, architecture, city planning, etc.) and my impression is that these attempts have lead to disastrous results and confusion on our own social/cultural identity.