Exciting Things May Soon Happen in the Indian Ocean

At the end of last month, I said that I would limit myself to four posts a month.

Yeah, that didn’t work. What ended up actually happening is that I just started writing drafts and not publishing them. And you know what? Something really, really exciting has just happened in the world (geography-wise) and I now need to write about it. So uh, screw it. I’m not going to be able to contain myself to four posts a month. That attempt lasted zero months. Yeah, I deserve to be laughed at a bit for that.

The exciting news is that the UN has voted to seek an opinion from the International Court of Justice regarding the Chagos Archipelago. Long ago, the British took the islands away from its natives and on top of this expelled all of the natives from the islands in order to build a military base to mutually benefit the UK and the US. Mauritius has asked for the islands back for a long time, but the UK has just felt that they didn’t want to take any sort of apologizing action for what they’ve done there yet. Now, though, we see this vote come through, and hopefully the International Court of Justice will demand that these islands return to the natives that have long deserved them back. Shame on the countries that voted in favor of the UK, in this day and age yet still promoting imperialism based on past injustice (though it is interesting to note that the Maldives voted against the resolution; it would be interesting to look into the reasoning behind that, because the Chagos archipelago definitely has historical ties to the Maldives and could have otherwise political significance now).

But that aside (and boy do I feel a tinge bad about feeding the geography geek in me when there’s this important sentimental significance to the event), here’s what’s very special about this from a geographical standpoint. Two things—both of these are due to the fact that the Chagos Archipelago is the only remaining portion of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT): the BIOT previously included three islands further southwest, but those islands were earlier ceded to the Seychelles.

1) The TLD .io is the ccTLD of the BIOT. If the UK loses the BIOT to Mauritius, we may see the IANA require .io to change hands. Given the development of sites using the .io TLD, this could get interesting. Might the BIOT be allowed to continue existing as a physically null entity, one that carries on as a concept but corresponds to no land on Earth, to legitimize .io’s link to a political entity?

2) The sun may finally set on the British Empire. There are more than 180 degrees of longitude between Dhekelia and Pitcairn Island. If the BIOT is no more, then sunrise in Dhekelia will come after sunset in Pitcairn, and for the first time in centuries, there will be a moment when it is nighttime over all the UK’s land on earth. The sun will continue to fail to set on the French Empire, though.

Minimum Wage, Expressed in Uselessness of Pennies

The following is a tabulation of minimum wage, except in a manner to point out how badly useless and economically inefficient the penny is. This is a chart of how long you can spend dealing with a US penny before you have spent more time dealing with it than the time-worth of a penny at minimum wage.

Federal Rate for Tipped Workers: 16.90 seconds
Federal Rate for Youth: 8.47 seconds

Federal Rate: 4.97 seconds
New Mexico: 4.80 seconds
Missouri: 4.68 seconds
Florida: 4.44 seconds
Louisville, KY: 4.44 seconds
Montana and Ohio: 4.42 seconds
Delaware, Illinois, and Nevada: 4.36 seconds
St. Louis, MO: 4.36 seconds
New Jersey: 4.27 seconds
Arkansas: 4.24 seconds
South Dakota: 4.21 seconds
Maryland and West Virginia: 4.11 seconds
Albuquerque, NM: 4.11 seconds
Michigan: 4.04 seconds
Maine and Nebraska: 4.00 seconds

Hawaii: 3.89 seconds
Colorado: 3.87 seconds
Minnesota and Oregon: 3.79 seconds
Prince George’s County, Maryland: 3.77 seconds
Rhode Island: 3.75 seconds
New York: 3.69 seconds
Alaska: 3.67 seconds
Arizona and Vermont: 3.60 seconds
Chicago, IL: 3.60 seconds
Connecticut: 3.56 seconds
California: 3.43 seconds
New York City, NY: 3.43 seconds
Santa Fe, NM: 3.32 seconds
Massachusetts and Washington: 3.27 seconds
Montgomery County, Maryland: 3.13 seconds

Berkeley, CA and Oakland, CA: 2.87 seconds
Emeryville, CA and San Francisco, CA: 2.77 seconds

The “Forbidden Friendship” Scene from How to Train Your Dragon

There’s a lot of contenders for my favorite film. How to Train Your Dragon was the first of these that I’ve watched, but I’ve also had similarly apical opinions of V for Vendetta, Imaginaerum, and The Martian, of which I’ve generally ended up concluding the last is actually my favorite film, but definitely by a notably small margin.

The best single scene in film in my regards, though, is unquestionably the “Forbidden Friendship” scene from How to Train Your Dragon, depicting the process via which Hiccup and Toothless, as Viking and dragon universally thought to be preordained enemies, come to trust each other as good friends. (Here’s a link to the scene.) This post is dedicated to why.

It’s really weird and ironic that I am using extensive English to convey my fondness of this scene, because as I will amply elaborate later, the lack of verbal communication in this scene, and what the scene manages without, is a crucial factor in its beauty. Unfortunately I will need a substantially shared context only available in speech to elaborate my thoughts on the scene to the detail I desire, so this really much feels like a strange trade-off. As a slightly-related sidenote, I often get this feeling about music as well, that music would speak for itself so much better than the human language description of it, that I’d imagine a more beautiful world where the instructions for music were written in music, that musical works’ titles were in music rather than a spoken language, and that people talked with each other about music via music: direct, succinct, representative, and beautiful. Alas, prioritizing efficient communication requires the otherwise, and a strange feeling of overlaying another layer of dilution on the loss of magic upon explanation.

Speaking of music, one of the sparkling facets of “Forbidden Friendship” is its titularly reflective theme. It begins fading in around 0:50 in the video above, and builds up very gradually over the next three minutes. The theme itself is a wonder, and a heartwarming journey of evolution. It paves a harmony and an atmosphere for growth, making it, for instance, great background music for extensive thought or gadgets. But this also makes the theme the perfect complement for what happens on screen, for something wonderful is being built: a friendship.

As the theme progresses throughout the scene, new lines in the music subtly join in, slowly enriching the musical texture in reflection of the slow building of harmony among the characters. As the friendship grows, so grows the depth of the aural ambiance.

Continue reading “The “Forbidden Friendship” Scene from How to Train Your Dragon”


About a month ago, someone on the generals.io discord introduced me to Orbs.it. At the time, I decided not to share it further because that would probably be very detrimental during finals season; now, though, at least MIT’s finals are over.

It’s quite a fun simple game; I’d recommend checking it out. During its early days, there was a noticeable rate of connection issues, but at least for me, things seemed to have gotten much better. Like generals.io, it is a browser-based comparatively-minimalist game with 8 players in the most common mode, so I could actually make a lot of my commentary of the game in comparison to generals.io. I’m not going to go over how playing Orbs.it works here; if you go to the game and play a round it’s really quickly to asborb how the game works. It’s probably a coincidence that both games support 8 players per game; 8’s a nice round number to choose for player quantity.

Orbs.it is arguably even more minimalist than generals.io; there’s just 24 orbs rather than a whole playing field, no orb has intrinsic attributes that make them different in capacity to other orbs (unlike generals.io’s mountain tiles and city tiles), and there’s just two power-ups a player has at disposal. It’s a really simple rule set, and yet the game still has interesting possibilities in strategy consideration (though probably not nearly as deep as in generals.io). I really like this combination of two properties in a game.

Movement acuity probably matters more in Orbs.it, given that the Orbs actually move without player impulse. Neither Orbs.it nor generals.io is absolutely turn-based in nature or absolutely a dynamic game, but are somewhere in between, with Orbs.it being more towards the dynamic side.

One aspect I definitely appreciate better in Orbs.it is substantially greater fairness; players spawn in roughly evenly spaced orbs, and because the margin of interaction is rather finite, the original state has only that much variation in luck due to other players’ decisions. Free-for-all generals.io is quite plagued by the issue that most of the community agrees that happening to spawn in the center of the board is a massive disadvantage. Unlike generals.io, Orbs.it does not allow a supermajority of queueing players to decide to start a game with less than 8 players; fortunately, I have never found waiting for 8 players to be playing the game to take really long. (Which of course prompts the paranoid question: huh, are there planted bots?)

But the thing that I really like about generals.io is actually something not in the gameplay itself, but how generals.io maintains a copious public profile per player, in which all replays are publically accessible, which facilitates spectating for interest, learning for strategy, and easy outing of cheaters. Of course, generals.io does a truly exemplary job of this, so it’s quite a high bar for making comparison. Orbs.it also has a profile page:


, but it’s not public, and although results for each game are saved (the right column), just the results and some basic stats and not a replay is saved:


(This was my first game of Orbs.it.) It’s unclear to me whether saving a replay of an Orbs.it game may be substantially harder than saving a replay of a generals.io game. Supposedly, the trajectories of orbs are deterministic from certain starting values, so one would need to save those, starting locations, and times of shooting and deploying powerups (times of changing of ownership of orbs can be derived from this and trajectories).

Still, it’s quite an extensive profile, and I appreciate it. If I were to ask for something likely small to be added, it would be a set of all-time stats.

Continue reading “Orbs.it”

Today I am deeply and profoundly ashamed to be an American

I said that I would try to make only four blog posts in June.

Then, I pretty much decided what four things I would talk about.

Then, I realized I felt I just needed to write this post after, let’s say, a certain piece of news.

(This really seems like the sort of thing I thought about all the time that led to my excessive posting the past few months, but maybe I’ll allow this to take up the slots of one of my four June posts. This one counts instead of slipping aside!)

The title of this post holds without the word ‘Today’, of course. I haven’t really been extensively not ashamed of being American for probably since I, let’s say…first read a history book. I have been especially ashamed of America recently for reasons I’m sure you have at least a hint for if you’re bothering to read this post. But I am now ashamed to an acute and staggering degree that I am a citizen of this country that decided to leave the Paris climate accord, an event that truly makes the selfish narcissism and pretense of exceptionalism of the land of the free and the home of the brave sparkle like a gem. Specifically a diamond, I’d even say, as there’s no better gemstone that symbolizes an insatiable pursuit of money at the cost of the world or even the advertised efficiencies of capitalism than the diamond.

This event rings a bell. What bell is it? Ah, yes, the Kyoto Protocol, volume 1 of America farting in the global elevator and then leaving to let everyone else smell it. We haven’t improved, have we?

Not actually. We improved. We did originally sign the Paris agreement after all. We, America, are historically a country of claiming a lot of grandiose and awesome-sounding principles, then hypocritically defeating them in entirety in implementation, and then eventually realizing that we kinda failed very badly at our principles, but yes, improving. We went through this phase with slavery, we went through this phase with discrimination against pretty much every new wave of immigration that happened, and we went through this phase with “gee, how okay is it to just kill all these people that originally lived on this land?” Then we slowly improved, realizing the egregiousness of the previous actions this country has taken and slowly building acknowledgment of our faults in the past, though there are always some stragglers to this.

Anyway, yeah, we improved and signed the Paris agreement under the Obama administration. Then, we started walking backwards again and backed out, because supposedly it’s better for America and it’s making America great again. Because, of course, America is a country of thermophilic entomophilic pollen-hypertolerant fish.

Of course, perhaps America hungers for the oceans to expand because the oceans gave us power. In World War II, we, America, were the country lucky enough to be separated from the bulk of action by the mighty waters of the Atlantic and the Pacific, and thus came out of the war fabulously undevastated and a world superpower. We interpreted our luck as a sign that we were the supremely righteous as the Good Guys that Won, and thus took it upon ourselves to apply our unquestionable justice all around the world, where everyone surely loves us, from Grenada to Iraq to Afghanistan to Vietnam. It was an amazing process of supporting anyone that vowed against communism regardless of what else they did; we helped all sorts of people from Yahya Khan to Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden to Muammar Gadhafi come to power, because they hated communists and that made them good guys. Fascinating, if they’re good guys, what does that make us?

Continue reading “Today I am deeply and profoundly ashamed to be an American”

Idea Overflow

A few months ago, I decided that I spent way too much time blogging and should free up some time in my life to do all the other things I need to do. I decided I should give myself a goal of making just 4 posts a month, on average, and that really should be plenty of room in which to pour out my thoughts, ideas, and opinions, but I’ll let myself slide a few more posts in if I feel I really need to say something. I’d supposedly end up with 48 posts a year, possibly a bit more for those extra thoughts, which seems plenty.

Just one slight problem.

This is my 50th post in the past five months.

Ugh, how did this happen? Maybe I’d make myself be able to swallow the fact that this happened, if it weren’t for that I have not nearly poured out a significant fraction of all I’ve wanted to write. Along with the posts I do publish, this blog now carries a magnificent backlog of half-baked drafts, filled with currently-orphaned thousands and thousands of words. I don’t think three years ago I’ve had as many of these thoughts and opinions as I do now, that I feel I must tell the world.

It’s quite clear given the things I do now that I really need to get a grip of the fact that there just isn’t time for everything that I’d like to do, even if I perform them optimally efficiently. And it’s sad just thinking about this. But maybe if I actually told myself I get only four posts each month, this will cause myself to cherish the space and only write what I most would like to say. I’ll need to find some good means of content concentration.

I think I will try this for June. Let’s see how it works out.

50 States: Descriptions, for Another Demographic

I’ve introduced America’s 50 States previously. Here, I’ll introduce them more concisely for another demographic.

Delaware: Finally, a state.
Pennsylvania: Finally, a state people know for something other than being FIRST.
New Jersey: Like Jersey, but for the new world.
Georgia: Finally, a state with slaves. (Well, not anymore. (We’re pretty sure.))
Connecticut: Disrupt connecting with doing the exact opposite.
Massachusetts: Disrupt sunny day with sudden thunderstorm. And sudden drivers.
Maryland: Like Snake, but for Congressional Districts.
South Carolina: Disrupt America with secession.
New Hampshire: Disrupt life with freedom xor dying.
Virginia: Disrupt president with next president.
New York: Building a city that matters. (The other ones don’t, right?)
North Carolina: Like Maryland, but with occasional sane districts.
Rhode Island: Disrupt being an island with not being an island plantations.
Vermont: Like nature. (Or at least, I hope you like nature.)
Kentucky: Disrupt smoking with…nah, just keep smoking.
Tennessee: Disrupt evolution with lynchings.
Ohio: Disrupt having four letters with having three syllables.
Louisiana: Disrupt counties with parishes.
Indiana: Like India, but for Batman.
Mississippi: Like a third world country, but for America.
Illinois: Like New York, but for the Midwest.
Alabama: Disrupt screaming with consonants.
Maine: Disrupt delicate senate balance with existing.
Missouri: Disrupt existing with delicate senate balance.
Arkansas: Like Kansas, but for pirates.
Michigan: Disrupt industry with bankruptcy.
Florida: Like Australia, but for America.
Texas: Building Bible thumpers that matter.
Iowa: Like Ohio, but for corn.
Wisconsin: Like Illinois, but colder.
California: Disrupt disruption with disrupting.
Minnesota: Like Wisconsin, but even colder.
Oregon: Disrupt lush forest with hipsters.
Kansas: Like a pancake, but flatter.
West Virginia: Disrupt secession with secession.
Nevada: Disrupt unending desert with radioactive waste.
Nebraska: Like Kansas, but more boring.
Colorado: Like Tibet, but for America.
North Dakota: Like South Dakota, but North.
South Dakota: Like North Dakota, but South.
Montana: Building sky that matters.
Washington: Finally, a president.
Idaho: Like Iowa, but for potatoes.
Wyoming: Like Montana, but with less people.
Utah: Like Jesus, but with latter-day saints, whatever that means.
Oklahoma: Like a river delta, but for the Trail of Tears.
New Mexico: Disrupt ugly flag designs with aesthetic taste.
Arizona: Like your oven, but for real life.
Alaska: Like your freezer, but for real life.
Hawaii: Like Florida, but many years later.