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IRAN: Ebrahim/Simon

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Another Santa claus

Pretty long time, no touch. I hope you and your family, specially your little baby are well.
Your willingness to Norouz encourages me to elaborate another feature of our new year celebration, Haji Firouz.
Neglecting some little differences, the role of "Santa claus" in your culture is played by " Haji Firouz" in our society. Haji Firouz, that has a meaning like "the lucky person", appears in red hat and clothes and a black face during the last days of the year everywhere in the city.
He sings a particular merry song while dancing and playing tambourine or TOMBACK; a Persian instrument like the one side narrow drum which is played by hand as a reminder of coming spring. Sometimes there are a group of people doing the perforce.
The most distinguishable difference between these two characters is related to new year presents. Santa claus shares his happiness with children by giving them some presents while Haji Firouz shares his happiness with people by singing, dancing and making all the people happy. People give them some money as a present, instead. This way they can be considered the traders of happiness.
I will write more about the interesting trip we had the first week of the year, in the coming post.

posted by ebraz @ 8:43 pm    0 comments

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Return of the New

I like the sound of your Spring Holiday more than our New Year. The thing about January 1st is that it is still in the middle of our winter - so the only thing that is new is the date. When Spring comes (as it is struggling to do as I write) there really is a sense of relief - of having once more got through the short days and dark afternoons.

It's funny you mention that you tidy your house in perparation for the arrival of the new day. We have something similar. It is called 'spring cleaning'. It is rather less formalised - and it doesn't even happen every Spring. The idea is to have a real clear-out, not just a bit of a tidy. I don't think we are going to have a spring clean in our house this year. We have a ten month old baby and keeping the house tidy is work enough.

Last night I went out to what we risk calling a 'reading group'. A group of people (more or less connected) meet together at the house of one of our number to discuss a book we are all supposed to have read. We have cheese and wine too. Last night we discussed a book called 'Cloud Atlas' by David Mitchell. It is composed of six separate but more or less connected stories. The connections are somewhat more metaphysical than, for example, the fact that people go in for Spring Cleaning all over the globe - but that could have served equally well I guess because the most fundamental connection was a thought of 'the eternal return' in the German thinker Nietzsche.

Many Happy Returns of the New.


posted by Simon @ 11:07 am    0 comments

Saturday, March 18, 2006

New Year Celebration

Hello Simon,

Regarding the anonymous proper comment, I am going to introduce a part of Iranians life that has changed the feature of my country these days, the new year celebration, Noruz.

In harmony with the rebirth of nature, the Iranians New Year Celebration, NORUZ, begins at the first day of spring, 20th March. Noruz that means “The New Day” is the most important national celebration in Iran.

A few days before New Year, people always clean and rearrange their homes and parents often provide their children with new clothes. Based on some traditions, they germinate seeds as a sign of renewal. They also provide some red fish, some beautiful flowers particularly tulip and hyacinth for Noruz.

Like your first days of the year, Iranians spend one or two weeks on vacation during the period. There are a lot of other traditions related to Noruz that I will introduce them later if you'd like.

My wife and I have planned to spend our first week of the year traveling; this is what some Iranians do. We are going to leave today.

I might not be able to update my posts during this week regularly.

I wish the best for you in these nice days of spring.


posted by ebraz @ 12:57 pm    0 comments

Friday, March 17, 2006

Quantitative Method

I fear I have some sympathy with the anonymous comment that remarked on the abstraction of the blog so far...

However, before we leave the issues you raise, I want to come back to something you mentioned at the start: whether we were far apart on the use of quantitative methods in the human sciences.

My own view is that quantitative methods are internal to human sciences and so there is no question of getting along without them. My guess is that you think the same.

However, I would not be a philosopher if I did not think that there were serious limits to science, all science but especially those sciences called 'human'.

For some time there has been a question whether there are any domains that are in principle out of reach of science. Ethics and Aesthetics are obvious candidates. But I would want to make a more radical step and say generally that the question of What it means to be a human being (the 'essence' of the human) is a fundamentally non-scientific question. So even though human (and biological) sciences can make correct reports on human life, and on human language etc. - and even on human activities like buying and selling cars - I do not think they can provide answers on questions concerning the significance, for example, the difference between human beings and other animals has for us. That, as one of my favourtie philosophers puts it, is a matter more for contemplation than observation (which doesn't mean we can't criticise what significance we have made of that difference or how we have interpreted it).

So our disagreement (if there is one) would not be over the use of quantitative methods in human science but, perhaps, either (i) the value of such inquiry or (b) the limits of that inquiry.

Best wishes,


posted by Simon @ 1:34 pm    0 comments

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Hello Simon,

The topic you have started is very interesting for me. Maybe, you and I are completely different in our thought style about quantitative methods in Social Science, anyway; preceding the topic will determine it.

I would like to talk about your third and fourth paragraph, first. I agree with you in that the best predictor of the weather tomorrow is today's and also the best predictor of the price of a share in the stock market is the last period's price and finally, the idea is accepted anywhere you are considering a system as the summation of completely uncertain random shocks (or events in your expression). In such circumstances, the most complete information for t+1 period is the one of period t.

And about your second paragraph; I'm going to restate it in my own words: as you know, econometricians are concerned with estimating an equation that has two terms; a deterministic term and a stochastic one. maybe it is the most controversial matter in our talk. They estimate the deterministic section and use that as a foundation for policy analysis and forecasting. Considering a deterministic section in econometrics models, stems from the belief in the idea of existance of a firm relation in a limited duration, at least. What should be considered in the application of the relation, is the assumptions under which the relation has been estimated. … Totally, this is a method that works.

I'm looking forward to hearing about any comments in this matter.

And the two determined subjects that I'm interested or obsessed with these days, are as following:
1- The stochastic process of the stock market prices.
2- Demand for new cars.
I think these two example are proper to go on the topics around them if you'd like.

I'm so interested to know about the subject of your cources or researches over there.

posted by ebraz @ 3:54 pm    1 comments

Monday, March 13, 2006


Ebrahim, I think I am one of the few people working at the LSE who does not regard what they do as 'science', whether social science or human science. My training is in philosophy - and most of my work has a concern with what happens 'when science becomes our passion' (as the German thinker Heidegger put it). There is a kind of mythology and idolatry surrounding the idea of science - particularly in the West - that is problematic. On the other hand, I would not want to reject science either.

Before I went to university I worked in an economic forecasting centre in London. I was just an assistant but I worked with economists who were making econometric models of the UK economy. They would make equations which made a good fit with past data and then project them forward on the basis of general assumptions about the economy in the future. I have no idea how accurate they were - but they made lots of money selling their forecasts (predictions) to companies over here.

There was an academic (a Russian specialist) at my college where I was a student who was interviewed on the radio about what people wear to work. He said he knew exactly what he would wear: the same as yesterday!

As far as I know that expectation remains the most powerful predictor in almost every sector of life. The best weather forecast for today, for example, is nearly always: the same as yesterday.

Of course one thing that cannot account for is: events. But then neither can econometrics...

What are you working on at the moment?


posted by Simon @ 10:16 am    0 comments

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Ebrahim says

Hi simon,

It is really pleasant for me to share some pieces of information about a typical life in my country and listen to yours about the life style in London.

I'm so surprised about your workplace(London School of Economics). LSE is a known name for me ; sometimes I trace the Economics cource materials there,particurlarly Mathematical Economics and Econometrics, to compare it with my cources here and it has always been useful.

I work in the Economics department of Institute for Management and Planning Studies (IMPS) , an educational and research Institute, that is placed in Tehran.

posted by ebraz @ 3:05 pm    0 comments

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Simon Says

Hello, Ebrahim.

This is where I am:

I am in building 'J' - Cowdray House. It is the "European Institute" and I am the Fellow in European Philosophy.

Speak to you soon.


posted by Simon @ 3:19 pm    2 comments

Friday, March 03, 2006


Welcome to Channel 4's 121. 121 is a place for alternative perspectives on countries in and out of the news, an opportunity to go beyond the tired old tales and get a fresh story from everyday individuals. It's based around international dialogues (using ‘blog’ technology) between paired individuals with similar concerns or occupations from the UK and the other country in question.

posted by Clifford @ 8:52 pm    0 comments

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