Geography Isn’t Nearly All Memorization #1

True or False: This is the flag of a country where Islam is the most common religion.

  1. pakistan
  2. argentina
  3. bahamas
  4. sudan
  5. guyana
  6. philippines
  7. ecuador
  8. saudi_arabia
  9. samoa
  10. syria
  11. algeria
  12. comoros
  13. tuvalu
  14. oman
  15. tunisia
  16. malaysia
  17. mongolia
  18. mauritania
  19. kazakhstan
  20. transnistria
  21. honduras
  22. zimbabwe
  23. missouri
  24. liechtenstein
  25. solomon_islands


  1. True
  2. False
  3. False
  4. True
  5. False
  6. False
  7. False
  8. True
  9. False
  10. True
  11. True
  12. True
  13. False
  14. True
  15. True
  16. True
  17. False
  18. True
  19. True
  20. False
  21. False
  22. False
  23. False
  24. False
  25. False

Compare the number you got correct to the number you would’ve gotten from just guessing (12.5) plus the number of flags you actually knew. Was there really just memorization guiding you here?

Alternatively, if you actually did poorly, let me drop you a hint: if you scored less than 19, than someone who answered False simply on the basis of a flag having blue would’ve done better than you (with due apologies to tritanopes).

UPDATE: previous error of listing Kazakhstan as not plurality-Muslim when it in fact is fixed.

Reflections on The Martian

(Why doesn’t WordPress allow italicizing in the title?)

About 48 hours ago, I watched The Martian. I almost cannot express how immensely I enjoyed the film.

Some of you may know that I have three favorite movies, of which I can’t really decide which among the three I appreciate the best (the one to which people respond “Yessss.”, the one to which people respond “Ooooohhh.”, and the one to which people respond “What?”). The Martian is in a place where I’m unsure if those are my favorite movies anymore and instead The Martian singularly takes that place.

I was actually pretty sure that was where my opinion is ending up through the first half of the film, and felt its quality slightly tapered as it neared its end. Now, I think there’s still a good chance it actually is my favorite film, but I need to wait to see if it remains that way in my opinion in a few days, since I could still be surging on just-watched hype.

What was I not that much a fan of later on in the film? I found that the plot went through too many incredible heightenings of tension. I don’t have a very high tolerance for suspension of disbelief, and get disappointed by lack of acknowledgement of probable realistic outcome when too many things go wrong and things end up actually going well without a good explanation. Many action movies have their plot enter too improbable a state for the good outcome to happen, and especially when one is reasonably anticipating a good outcome, this generates, at least for me, not excitement but incredulity. The latter portion of this film poked a bit far into this territory, though I’d acknowledge it could have been a lot worse.

The video-diary-like entries were curiously reminiscent of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Quality humor helped solidify a dubious but piquing connection. Does Matt Damon look that much like Neil Patrick Harris? No, although I’m more face-blind than most people. Okay, so I can be fairly sure I’m not just using physical comparisons and there’s something connecting things on a deeper level?

I approve of the care to get substantial amounts of science right. There were still questionable and incorrect aspects, and I wish they didn’t happen, but the respect for science in the film was definitely appreciable. I also think this film exhibits a rare case of relatively approvable portrayal of nerdy people.

Here’s a big thing I appreciated: minimal romance. I find that far too many films decide that a romantic plot is a requirement for a good movie, and push romance into a storyline that could have been perfectly nice (and sometimes better) without.

There was one thing that bothered me, though, and it’s analogous to one of the things that bothered me the most about biographical film Theory of Everything. The letter board with colors presented to Hawking in the film grouped Y and Z in one square and put more letters in other squares. This is quite easily recognizable as suboptimal: squares with fewer letters should have more common letters, to optimize efficiency of selection by reducing number of actions needed to communicate intent. In fact, I’m pretty sure that at the number of different squares that board had, E should’ve had one square all to itself, because E is so common that it ought to just take that short of an amount of time to express it.

Likewise, when Watney chose to set up the signs around the circle in hexadecimal, he solved a problem with arc length being too small, but my hunch is that the letter groupings by hexadecimal weighted by frequency are not even, and thus it is questionable whether hexadecimal is the right way to compress the alphabet in that communication medium. With 17 signs around the circle like Watney had, it would’ve been substantially more efficient to dedicate one entire sign to characters like a space, e, t, and s, and to either group very rare letters together since it’s probably easy to guess which one fits, or have a sign that’s like a shift key for the next character that chooses among rarer letters redistributed over the signs.

But hey, this is just a you-could’ve-done-better. Major props, Mr. Watney, for surviving as long as you did on Mars.

And overall, big thumbs up to this really great film.

Talking about the Weather

above 20°: It’s fairly obvious which of Fahrenheit and Celsius one is talking about, and one doesn’t really need to specify the temperature scale. Raise the border a little higher when in a desert.

between 20° and -30°: It may be unclear which scale one is referring to, so one might want to specify whether one’s talking in Fahrenheit or Celsius when talking about temperatures.

between -30° and -50°: Fahrenheit and Celsius are close enough that one doesn’t really need to specify the temperature scale.

below -50°: One should probably move somewhere more liveable.

(above 200°: someone wants to use Kelvins for temperature without realizing that Kelvins aren’t degrees)

This lack of confusion in some areas can be fixed by reporting your temperatures in Réaumur.

Online Influences

(Please refer to this list for specifics on username notation.)

Throughout my life so far, the presence of a friend of mine in an online community has caused me to decide to join, or at least give me affirmations about a decision to join. I reflect on some of these occurrences here.

O(ak909090) was the sole influence in getting me to join AoPS. He both introduced me to the website, and showed me a lot of the places around. I really wish I got to know the website earlier. I spent so much time learning so much from people younger than me. I also made a huge number of online friends, which to today I endeavor to meet as many of as I can in real life after years of online acquaintance, and even now when I don’t really wish to associate with my AoPS presence anymore.

O(ak909090) is the main reason I’m on WordPress and blog on WordPress. I read some of what he wrote and felt like I wanted to blog as well. Very much of the writing influence of my writing is O(isabella2296). O(ak909090) does not blog on WordPress anymore. is, interestingly, a community for which I pretty much joined purely out of my own decisions, revolving around a game I started playing seriously also entirely out of my own decisions. The reason this happened revolved a lot around the feeling of a need of self-assurance and the building of a part of my life out of the reach of parents; there’s quite a bit of story behind this and some of it can be found in earlier posts of this blog. (Minesweeper is the reason I’m on Twitter. That’s an even funnier story.)

I somehow entirely don’t remember who the people who caused me to join Sporcle were. I don’t use Sporcle anymore, at least not consistently, anyway.

K(xylitian) was pretty much the sole influence in getting me to join Kongregate. This is a significant stepping stone because this is actually the first place I used the username ‘dzaefn’, the first username I’d ever use in more than two websites, and for which I will probably continue to use for at least quite a while. When I joined Kongregate, K(xylitian) was Level 32. I remember playing around a bit on the website and thinking “whoa, K(xylitian) must be, like, addicted to this website. How much does one have to play to become *Level 32*?” Well.

(I believe this is the first time in this blog I have explicitly mentioned that I am the person known in other places as ‘dzaefn’. Hi, if you knew both identities and didn’t unify them yet. I’ve had a lot of people ask me about whether this blog was written by me or ask me if I knew this blog, because material posted here often seems relevant to me.)

_______e caused me to start using Project Euler. I don’t do things on Project Euler anymore. I find their problems generally subpar in interestingness; in particular, the mathematical content would be more appealing if it didn’t have so many problems on finding things that were only cool in the decimal base and not in intrinsic rather than expressive properties of a number.

O(redcomet46) convinced me to get myself filmed and then to have a few YouTube videos.

_______e was the main cause of me joining zephyr. At the time that she introduced me to zephyr, her class was still growing in traffic and nowhere near its glorious peak about a year later when it contended for the most trafficked non-spew class on zephyr. No traffic happens on her class anymore, but my class has also gone through several periods of time when it contended for zephyr’s most trafficked non-spew class.

I actually forgot exactly who caused me to make a GitHub account. It may just be a general awareness that as someone who will eventually code a lot I should get a GitHub account. I proceeded to spend many months completely bewildered by Git without any idea what’s going on.

T(f____3) is probably the person of most influence in me joining Twitch. I have wanted to Twitch-stream ever since I watched T(ExtraTricky), who I really looked up to as scintillating with coolness, and a closer friend using Twitch kind of gave me the final push to decide to figure out how it’s done and join. (It was a lot easier than it seemed!) Nearly all of my Twitch output is in playing and clones of, a game srobin introduced to me.

B(ichung) is the reason I’m now on Bitbucket. I’m glad he introduced me to the site and to the Mercurial version control system. It seems vastly nicer to use than Git.

I am very thankful to the people who have introduced me to various communities and modes of expression across the web. Looking back, most of these augmentations of online presence have been contentedly horizon-expanding.

Words Spent Singing the Title

Of Monsters and Men: “Little Talks” — 2/313 (0.6%)
Avril Lavigne: “Complicated” — 4/457 (0.9%)
Maroon 5: “Payphone” — 6/556 (1.1%)
System of a Down: “Highway Song” — 2/155 (1.3%)
Billy Joel: “Piano Man” — 6/380 (1.6%)
Nicki Minaj: “Anaconda” — 13/595 (2.2%)
Nightwish: “Nemo” — 5/225 (2.2%)
Taylor Swift: “Fifteen” — 9/389 (2.3%)
Ke$ha: “Tik Tok” — 12/474 (2.5%)
Rihanna: “Umbrella” — 15/526 (2.9%)
fun.: “Some Nights” — 14/479 (2.9%)
P!nk: “So What” — 14/478 (2.9%)
One Direction: “What Makes You Beautiful” — 12/404 (3.0%)
Miley Cyrus: “Wrecking Ball” — 10/335 (3.0%)
Imagine Dragons: “Warriors” — 6/187 (3.2%)
Taylor Swift: “Sparks Fly” — 12/333 (3.6%)
Of Monsters and Men: “Dirty Paws” — 6/163 (3.7%)
Bob Dylan: “Like a Rolling Stone” — 16/400 (4.0%)
OneRepublic: “Apologize” — 8/195 (4.1%)
Taylor Swift: “22” — 17/393 (4.3%)
Amaranthe: “The Nexus” — 12/271 (4.4%)
DragonForce: “Fury of the Storm” — 16/356 (4.5%)
Katy Perry: “California Gurls” — 20/403 (5.0%)
fun.: “We Are Young” — 18/353 (5.1%)
Lady Gaga: “Applause” — 24/403 (6.0%)
Rebecca Black: “Friday” — 27/439 (6.2%)
The Beatles: “Help!” — 17/269 (6.3%)
Cascada: “Everytime We Touch” — 18/273 (6.6%)
Flo Rida: “Right Round” — 40/579 (6.9%)
Ke$ha: “Die Young” — 30/391 (7.7%)
Rick Astley: “Never Gonna Give You Up” — 30/369 (8.1%)
Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” — 20/246 (8.1%)
Carly Rae Jepsen: “Call Me Maybe” — 36/409 (8.8%)
Lady Gaga: “Bad Romance” — 56/603 (9.3%)
Karmin: “Hello” — 48/513 (9.4%)
Ylvis: “The Fox” — 22/235 (9.4%)
Coldplay: “Paradise” — 18/182 (9.9%)
Gotye: “Somebody That I Used To Know” — 36/363 (9.9%)
Mark Ronson: “Uptown Funk” — 58/558 (10.4%)
Nightwish: “I Want My Tears Back” — 35/306 (11.4%)
Bob Dylan: “Blowin’ in the Wind” — 24/187 (12.8%)
Elton John: “Can You Feel the Love Tonight?” — 24/181 (13.3%)
Walk the Moon: “Shut Up and Dance” — 48/349 (13.8%)
Simon and Garfunkel: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” — 24/160 (15.0%)
Billy Joel: “We Didn’t Start The Fire” — 80/509 (15.7%)
Lady Gaga: “Born This Way” — 93/580 (16.0%)
Bo Burnham: “Repeat Stuff” — 116/689 (16.8%)
Jay Sean: “Down” — 62/368 (16.8%)
The Beatles: “Can’t Buy Me Love” — 40/218 (18.3%)
The Beatles: “Yellow Submarine” — 50/229 (21.8%)
Wiz Khalifa: “Black and Yellow” — 144/653 (22.1%)
Rihanna: “We Found Love” — 48/206 (23.3%)
Imagine Dragons: “I Bet My Life” — 80/343 (23.3%)
a-ha: “Take On Me” — 54/205 (26.3%)
Reel 2 Real: “I Like To Move It” — 150/559 (26.8%)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Theme Song — 32/115 (27.8%)
Europe: “The Final Countdown” — 48/160 (30.0%)
The Black Eyed Peas: “Imma Be” — 208/665 (31.3%)

Darude: “Sandstorm” — 0/0 (??.?%)

Note that, for instance, just adding “Anthem” to the end of your song title may make it appear zero times in the lyrics, while maintaining the same annoying effect on people who have to listen to it. Or adding an article in the middle on every lyrics occurrence.

50 States of Cray

Having to remember what 50 things are like can be a daunting task. Here’s a breakdown of just the important parts of each of the USA’s 50 fine states, in no particular order.


WARNING: Consider whether you value the eyesight of your viewers if you decide to draw a map of the US and write entire states’ names inside the states.

NOTICE: This state’s highest point is lower than Colorado’s lowest point.
Really, that just means Colorado is very high.

Delaware is special as the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, and thus the first state in the Union. This fact is special as the only thing people generally know about Delaware.

Very much about Delaware revolves around how small it is: it has the least counties of any state of the US (excepting the ones that don’t care for counties), the interstate system barely enters it, and its hottest and coldest recorded temperatures occurred in the same town. Its border with Pennsylvania consists of the only US state border defined as a circle arc. How cute.


NOTICE: This state is a “Commonwealth”, whatever that means.

WARNING: This state once elected an anal sex byproduct as senator.

NOTICE: This state’s highest point is lower than Colorado’s lowest point.
Really, that just means Colorado is very high.

NOTICE: This state has places in it named Stalker and Intercourse.
They’re fairly near each other.

NOTICE: This state has cities near each other named Lancaster and York.
Ha. Hahahaha. Haha. Ha.

FUN FACT: The last person to get executed in this state for a non-homicidal crime was executed for sodomy. 

NOTICE: This state contains the entirety of a particular interstate highway.
Dammit, don’t you understand how to share?

Pennsylvania was founded by the Quaker William Penn, and also named after him. It is home to Philadelphia, the first capital of the United States and to this day one of the largest cities in the nation. Due substantially to the influence of the beliefs of Quakers, Pennsylvania was very early on an opposer of slavery, although only just north of the Mason-Dixon Line. It was also pretty much as far north as the South managed to get in the Civil War.

Pennsylvania is well known as a home of the Amish, a group of people dedicated to pretending the human race has not progressed anywhere in the past 300 years.

In the heart of Pennsylvania is I-99, an interstate highway that exists west of I-95, because 99 is less than 95.

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