Happy Birthday Matt

So Matt Mullenweg, co-founder of WordPress, is turning 40 in ten days and he asked for an interesting gift. He wants us to blog!

Well that shouldn’t be surprising. He made something I’m sure every blogger ever has some experience with. This blog is made possible by WordPress. There are some amazing blogging platforms out there but WordPress is something else. Its user experience is best by far.

I used to publish some blogs with static site generators but they weren’t as satisfying and convenient as it is to use WordPress. I’m writing this on a computer at my office. I don’t have my password manager on it so I created a temporary account on my WordPress installation using my phone and started writing this. After that I’ll delete the random user I created.

You see, that’s how easy WordPress makes it to blog. I can blog whenever I need, wherever I want. This is all thanks to you Matt, and Mike.

Matt is one of my favorite bloggers. He’s also on my blogroll and I’m subscribed to his feed on all of my feed readers. I enjoy reading his blogs and I have learnt so much from him. A while ago he posted a video on his blog, excited about experience a ride in a self-driving cab from Waymo. I remember thinking how cool is that, that he’s still sharing his experiences with his blog. And how amazing is that, that there are still active bloggers who enjoy updating their blogs like we used to, 15 years ago.

I’ve expressed my dislike of social networks for enough times but I don’t think I explained my still-growing enthusiasm towards blogging nearly enough and a big part of this is all thanks to what Matt created.

I’ve been using WordPress for a long time on many many blogs. It’s my go-to program when I want to set up a blog for someone. It’s everything someone needs to start. It’s easy to install and easy to use. So, why are you still not blogging? Go and start one, it’ll take about 15 minutes of your time until you publish your first post. Go and give Matt a birthday present.

Happy birthday Matt. WordPress is a wonderful gift you gave us.

Happy birthday Aaron Swartz

Swartz in 2012 protesting against the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

November 8 is Aaron Swartz’s birthday. He was involved in the development of the web feed format RSS, the Markdown publishing format, and the organization Creative Commons. He is also a co-founder of Reddit.

Born in 1986, his work focused on civic awareness and activism. He helped launch the Progressive Change Campaign Committee in 2009 to learn more about effective online activism.

Sadly, he was charged with two counts of wire fraud and eleven violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, carrying a cumulative maximum penalty of 1 million dollars in fines, 35 years in prison, asset forfeiture, restitution, and supervised release. Swartz declined a plea bargain under which he would have served six months in federal prison. Two days after the prosecution rejected a counter-offer by Swartz, he was found dead by suicide in his Brooklyn apartment. In 2013, Swartz was inducted posthumously into the Internet Hall of Fame.

I suggest watching “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz” documentary video. It features interviews with his family and friends as well as the internet luminaries who worked with him. The film tells his story up to his eventual suicide after a legal battle, and explores the questions of access to information and civil liberties that drove his work.

Global Encryption Day

Today is the first Global Encryption Day. On this day, we ask people to Make the Switch to encrypted services like Tor. Encryption is our most vital and important tool against surveillance and privacy/security-violating services and programs.

Our digital life is secured and private because of encryption. Encryption allows us to survive the dangerous time we’re living in. When our data is collected in every way possible, encryption makes us able to fight; to fight for our lives, fight for our privacy, fight for our security, fight for our freedoms, and fight for our rights.

When governments and organizations/corporations are trying hard to profile us in any way possible, encryption makes us able to resist. When everybody is trying to violate our privacy, or jeopardize our basic human rights, encryption makes us able to resist.

On Global Encryption Day we ask people to switch to encrypted services and programs:

  • For instant messaging, I use XMPP which is encrypted by OMEMO,
  • For voice/video calls, I use Jitsi, which has end-to-end encryption,
  • I only use web sites that encrypt my connection using TLS (HTTPS),
  • I use GNU+Linux operating system which lets me encrypt my computers’ hard drive,
  • I use LUKS/LVM to encrypt my portable hard drives,
  • I use GPG/PGP to encrypt my emails,
  • I use KeePassXC which encrypts my password vault,
  • I use Nextcloud which encrypts my files on the cloud,
  • and I use many more services and programs use encryption to make sure I’m private and secure.

In honor of this inaugural Global Encryption Day, the Tor Project, along with 148 other organizations and businesses have signed the Global Encryption Day Statement, calling on governments and businesses to reject efforts to undermine encryption and instead pursue policies that enhance, strengthen, and promote use of strong encryption to protect people everywhere.

As an individual, you can get involved with Global Encryption Day by:

Happy birthday Alan Turing

It’s June 23rd, Alan Turing‘s birthday. Turing is considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence. He aged 41 years, but would be 109 years today.

Turing was prosecuted in 1952 for homosexual acts; the Labouchere Amendment of 1885 had mandated that “gross indecency” was a criminal offense in the UK. He accepted chemical castration treatment, with DES (a non-steroidal estrogen medication), as an alternative to prison.

Turing died in 1954, 16 days before his 42nd birthday, from cyanide poisoning. An inquest determined his death as a suicide, but it has been noted that the known evidence is also consistent with accidental poisoning.

Today, in a good news, the new £50 note featuring Alan Turing has been released into circulation by the Bank of England. A man who once was persecuted because of his sexual orientation is now pictured and celebrated on the highest bill in England.

Happy birthday Alan Turing, father of our computers.

Ferdowsi’s commemoration day

Abul-Qâsem Ferdowsi Tusi (or just Ferdowsi) is probably the greatest Persian poet of all time. His book, Shahnameh (The Book of Kings), is known as the book that keeps the Persian language alive. Ferdowsi is celebrated as one of the most influential figures of Persian literature and one of the greatest in the history of literature.

The writing of Shahnameh took 33 years. The Shahnameh is a monument of poetry and historiography, being mainly the poetical recast of what Ferdowsi, his contemporaries, and his predecessors regarded as the account of Iran’s ancient history.

Ferdowsi is one of the undisputed giants of Persian literature. After Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, a number of other works similar in nature surfaced over the centuries within the cultural sphere of the Persian language. Without exception, all such works were based in style and method on Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, but none of them could quite achieve the same degree of fame and popularity as Ferdowsi’s masterpiece.

Ferdowsi has a unique place in Persian history because of the strides he made in reviving and regenerating the Persian language and cultural traditions. His works are cited as a crucial component in the persistence of the Persian language, as those works allowed much of the tongue to remain codified and intact.

In this respect, Ferdowsi surpasses Nizami, Khayyám, Asadi Tusi and other seminal Persian literary figures in his impact on Persian culture and language. Many modern Iranians see him as the father of the Persian language.

Ferdowsi was buried in his own garden, burial in the cemetery of Tus having been forbidden by a local cleric. A Ghaznavid governor of Khorasan constructed a mausoleum over the grave and it became a revered site. The tomb, which had fallen into decay, was rebuilt between 1928 and 1934 by the Society for the National Heritage of Iran on the orders of Reza Shah, and has now become the equivalent of a national shrine.

Every year on Ordibehesht 25 (Persian Jalali calendar), people gather in the tomb and celebrate his legacy by reading Shahnameh and washing his grave stone.

I’ve reached the end of this great history

And all the land will talk of me:

I shall not die, these seeds I’ve sown will save

My name and reputation from the grave,

And men of sense and wisdom will proclaim

When I have gone, my praises and my fame.

Happy Nowruz

Nowruz is the Persian new year which begins on the first day of spring and is the first day of Farvardin, the first month of the Iranian solar calendar. It is celebrated worldwide by various ethno-linguistic groups, and falls on or around March 21.

Nowruz has Iranian and Zoroastrian origins; however, it has been celebrated by diverse communities for over three thousand years in Western Asia, Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Black Sea Basin, the Balkans, and South Asia.

We celebrate Nowruz by eating rice and fish, going to meet our elders, giving people gifts and presents, and throw parties. We also believe it is the day for forgiveness and we encourage each other to forgive and reconcile those we think have wronged us.

Part of Nowruz is Haft-sin. Haft-sin is an arrangement of seven symbolic items whose names start with the letter “س” pronounced as “seen” the 15th letter in the Persian alphabet; haft (هفت) is Persian for seven. The following are the primary items of Haft-sin, whose Persian names begin with the letter س in the Persian alphabet.

  1. Sabzeh (سبزه) – wheat, barley, mung bean, or lentil sprouts grown in a dish.
  2. Samanu (سمنو) – wheat germ sweet pudding.
  3. Senjed (سنجد) – Oleaster
  4. Serkeh (سرکه) – vinegar.
  5. Seeb (سیب) – apple.
  6. Seer (سیر) – garlic.
  7. Somāq (سماق) – sumac.

Coins (سکه sekke), hyacinth (سنبل sonbol), and clock (ساعت saat) are sometimes included too. Other symbolic items that are typically used to accompany Haft-sin include a mirror, candles, painted eggs, goldfish, and traditional Persian confections. A “book of wisdom” is also commonly included, which might be the Quran, the Bible, the Avesta, the Shahnameh, or the divān of Hafez.

In Iran, the Nowruz holidays last thirteen days. On the thirteenth day of the New Year, Iranians leave their houses to enjoy nature and picnic outdoors, as part of the Sizdah be-dar ceremony. Sizdah Bedar (Thirteen Outdoor) also known as Nature’s Day is held on the thirteenth day of Farvardin during which people spend time picnicking outdoors. It marks the end of the Nowruz holidays in Iran.

On that day, we celebrate the beautiful mother nature we have and encourage each other to take care of it. Also, “Lie of the Thirteenth” is the Iranian version of the prank-playing April Fools’ Day which is observed on the first or second day of April in Iran, on the day of Sizdah Bedar.

Nowruz is a nice holiday. It brings us joy and happiness and time to spend with family and friends. It’s one of the nicest holidays I know. Everybody is happy, everybody is joyful, everybody is friendly and everybody is just a human being, regardless of differences we have.

Happy Nowruz everybody. Wish you a great new year.

Happy International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is celebrated on 8 March around the world. It is a focal point in the movement for women’s rights.

After the Socialist Party of America organized a Women’s Day in New York City on 1909 February 28, German delegates Clara Zetkin, Käte Duncker, Paula Thiede and others proposed at the 1910 International Socialist Woman’s Conference that “a special Women’s Day” be organized annually.

After women gained suffrage in Soviet Russia in 1917, March 8 became a national holiday there. The day was then predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted by the feminist movement in about 1967. The United Nations began celebrating the day in 1977.

Women around the world are suffering from inequality and need special attention. I don’t believe men and women should be treated exactly the same. People should be treated good and without discrimination, not completely equal. Being equal doesn’t bring justice and doesn’t eliminate discrimination.

Commemoration of International Women’s Day today ranges from being a public holiday in some countries to being largely ignored elsewhere. In some places, it is a day of protest; in others, it is a day that celebrates womanhood.

Read more about women’s rights on Wikipedia

Red Hand Day

On Red Hand Day or the International Day against the Use of Child Soldiers, February 12 each year since 2002, pleas are made to political leaders and events are staged around the world to draw attention to child soldiers: children under the age of 18 who participate in military organizations of all kinds.

The aim of Red Hand Day is to call for action to stop this practice, and for support for children affected by it.

Hundreds and thousands of handprints have been collected in more than 50 countries and handed over to politicians and to responsible parties, including UN Secretary General. There is progress, but there are still 250,000 child soldiers in the world.

Our demands are

  • Straight 18: No child under the age of 18 may be used or trained in armies, armed groups or other military units.
  • Punishment of those responsible.
  • Care, protection, and political asylum for former child soldiers.
  • Expand financial support for aid programs for child soldiers.
  • Stop of arms exports.
  • Promotion of peace education.

Data Privacy Day

Every year on January 28, we celebrate the international event of Data Privacy Day. The purpose of Data Privacy Day is to raise awareness and promote privacy and data protection best practices.

Privacy is a human right. Many people confuse privacy with secrecy and anonymity. While privacy is a human right, anonymity is a choice. Anonymity is one of choices made possible with privacy.

I’m very careful about my privacy and I take it very seriously while I’m not an anonymous person. I don’t have anything to hide, except for my personal data, but I’m still very cautious about privacy. Privacy is like free speech. I respect my right even if I have nothing to say, or hide.

As Data Privacy Day is about raising awareness about best practices of it, I decided to write a note about one of the ways I keep my personal files secure through encryption.

Continue reading Data Privacy Day

Celebrate Newtonmas (Grav-mass) with us

December 25 is the birthday of Isaac Newton. On this day, we celebrate the existence of comprehensible physical laws and we call it Newtonmas or Grav-mass.

The name Newtonmas can be attributed to The Skeptics Society, which needed an alternative name for its Christmas party.

Celebrants send cards with “Reason’s Greetings!” printed inside, and exchange boxes of apples and science-related items as gifts. The celebration may have had its origin in a meeting of the Newton Association at Christmas 1890 to talk, distribute gifts, and share laughter and good cheer.

One other way to celebrate Grav-mass is to decorate a tree with apples and other fruits. Glue them or attach them, but not too well! The idea is that occasionally a fruit should fall.

Another way to celebrate Grav-mass, in a group, is by telling each other about scientific knowledge and understanding, or discussing what kind of experiment could answer an unresolved question about the world.

A Grav-mass tree poster

Newtonmass can be celebrated by anybody who loves science and wants to have a reason for a celebration. It’s not exclusive to any specific group or belief.