Wikipedia Languages

It’s often curious which languages a certain Wikipedia article is available in.

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Today is September 11th

Today is September 11. If you have followed this blog for a long time, you may know my typical fare for this day of the year is to write a post about how lucky the American society is to be able to consider September 11 a disaster of historical proportions, and how the American discourse and the American media help to shape a society that fails to acknowledge the magnitude of loss of life elsewhere on earth in American hands, particularly Iraq. I follow with asking the audience to remember what America has done to other peoples and how small the blow to America has been in comparison, and to consider what the attitude of overemphasizing foreign attacks on America could cause.

These are still important to realize. The American citizenry should remember what its country has effected on numerous foreign lives in the name of freedom and the alleged spread of democracy, and what this really reflects on the legitimacy of its claims to being the world’s beacon of freedom.

This year, though, I will also add in a phrase for the more typical September 11 acknowledgment. September 11 was a heinous attack on the USA, and on many innocent lives hailing from many different countries, and it was fueled by a radical Islamist ideology. The people who perished, including the people who perished trying to reduce the number of people who perish, should be remembered.

Though 3000 lives is substantially smaller than 100000 lives, it is still 3000 lives too many to end prematurely. Just because America is incredibly lucky in the world doesn’t mean those here that were unfortunate should stay unmentioned; they must still be acknowledged and remembered.

In the world of today, sides of a disagreement are decreasingly willing to acknowledge parts of truth that the other side wishes to highlight. Truth is truth. The combination of a lack of acknowledgment along with assailing the opposition for not acknowledging what one wishes acknowledged makes for the rapid collapse of discourse and the increase of the feasibility of less peaceful means of conflict resolution. And hence, I believe it is important to here as well explicitly acknowledge and commemorate the American victims of 9/11 as well as the efforts to recover from the attack, and assure to possible unsure audiences a recognition of the gravity of the occurrence.

My hopes include that this recognition helps more potential audiences to be willing to consider the extent and severity of American military violence and other forms of oppression towards other peoples.

A Bit More Ranting on News and Science

I’ve complained about how mainstream news discusses science seven months ago. I’m going to complain again.

With the rapid rise of Hurricane Irma, probably particularly in focus due to the backdrop of Hurricane Harvey, many articles of this form have been published, appearing to put context behind the Category 5 notion, in this case, with regards to incidence in the US.

I could give some benefit of the doubt as to the actual intention of the article, but it feels fairly clear due to its timing soon after meteorological updates that Irma has upgraded to Category 5 that it intends to capitalize on the announcement and to emphasize a rarity.

What’s the problem?

Yes, there have only been 3 hurricanes that have hit the US while in Category 5 status. What’s wrong? Irma hasn’t hit the US yet! Why’s this significant? Because Irma’s getting compared to hurricanes that were Category 5 when they hit the US, and there have been many hurricanes that obtained Category 5 status but lost it before hitting the US.  And in fact, Irma is forecasted to most likely be of the such.

(Incidentally, there’s one particular Atlantic hurricane of this sort that I’ve left out of the above list. Any guesses?)

To be fair, the article eventually admits this, but in the fourth paragraph, that is, much after its first paragraph which says “It’s been 25 years since a Category 5 hurricane struck the U.S., and Irma could potentially become just the fourth storm of that strength to barrel into the states.”

Then, finally, in the last paragraph of the article, it explains a storm’s category shouldn’t be the complete predictor of its level of devastation, indeed citing the storm you may have guessed above. (And this part is very important: not category 5 is still likely very dangerous!) But of course the Saffir-Simpson scale is flawed at predicting a storm’s devastation towards the human world; the scale is based off of one absolute measured number with velocity units; it’s not like a Mercalli scale for hurricanes, where one gets a human being to look and go “wow, this place got wrecked”.

Here’s a much better estimator of the devastation brought by a hurricane than pretty much any absolute measure of natural factors of an Atlantic hurricane: For total damage, did it hit the US? For total fatalities, did it hit Haiti? Here’s five Category 5 hurricanes that together just didn’t kill as many people as this Category 1 hurricane because they failed to find the most impoverished country in the Western hemisphere, least equipped to deal with preserving life during natural disaster. Meanwhile, the seven costliest hurricanes in the Atlantic basin all hit the US, because the US is a rich enough country to have that much to lose in the first place. This Category 1 hurricane that hit the US has gotten many high-end storms that hit Central American countries instead beat in damages caused.

The most amusing part of this article is probably actually the two graphics at the end, which contradict each other: the second claims Irma the strongest Atlantic hurricane on record while the first clearly shows Allen ahead, at least on the wind speed metric (it’s also ahead in pretty much all the other metrics). Amazingly, the NOAASatellite Twitter is the one that’s wrong here, so the original error is not actually the USA Today’s fault, yet it seemed this contradiction of the two visual aids didn’t manage to bother any publishers. (The false notion that Irma was the strongest-ever Atlantic hurricane even made it to this NYTimes article before they edited it out.)

Once again, for the force of fascination, the news fails at science. Somewhere among the forces and incentives behind publishing science-dependent articles to the public, both the misleading and the utterly wrong are promoted.

Opinions on Food Around MIT

Yesterday, E. Tey made a Firestorm presentation on food options around MIT. I felt I’ll also lay out my opinions on various food choices as well. Mines fairly differ from his at certain points.

Student Center

There is no food in the student center.* Don’t look for food there. Particularly the Subway and La Verde’s. Eww.

*Shawarma Shack is actually food. And it is actually decently priced, for the things with obvious price tags. The things without obvious price tags tend to be surprisingly expensive given the price of other things there.

MIT Campus Establishments

There are no viable food options in the various food stores on MIT’s campus. Occasional food is not that bad, but they are pretty much universally overpriced for campus food (often $10+ for a lunch at Forbes Café, even more at Koch Café). The closest options to viability are the soups.

MIT Dining Halls

If you want an even worse option than eating at the Student Center or the food service locations on MIT’s campus, enroll on a dining plan. If you’re on something like a 5000-calorie diet, at which point the all-you-can-eat nature might pay off, maybe it’s worth it. If you’re not, you’re spending restaurant-level money on dining hall food. Sit back and evaluate your life.

MIT Campus Food Trucks

This is by far the best choice* for food one can obtain on MIT’s campus. There are several food trucks offering very tasty food at decent prices, most particularly Saté (previously momogoose), a southeastern-Asian food truck, with many delicious curries. The Chinese food truck (called “Savory Food Truck”) on Mass. Ave. is also very decent, though note their website has automatic sound, if you ever decide to visit it. The Chinese food truck also has a second window for falafel. I’ve never tried it. There’s also Jose’s Mexican food truck, which has much better Mexican food than Beantown**. In most of these food trucks, a nice, hearty meal is $7 to $9.

*Excepting the next section.
**I appear to be very unusual in the MIT community in having this opinion.

Free Food

This is the other best choice for food obtainable on MIT’s campus. Just subscribe yourself to the free-food mailing list. Get notifications of when free food appears on campus, or just happen to stumble upon it when strolling through campus. Free food appears often enough during the school year that one could reasonably live off of it. Help fight food waste while keeping your wallet happier.

Supermarkets Around Campus

There’s a store behind Random Hall called Shaw’s while being called Star Market (the brands are owned by the same people, and nearly everyone uses the names interchangeably, which can get quite confusing for people not accustomed to it), interestingly integrated into the building of a hotel. It’s an okay standard place to shop; though prices in nearly any other market around are slightly cheaper.

A bit more north of whatever-you-call-the-above is H-Mart, probably the best option on this end of Cambridge for Asian groceries. They have lots of free samples and even accept TechCash. Note that only one counter has a TechCash processing machine, so ask where it is before you get in a line.

[CORRECTED ON EDIT] On the other side of the street, there’s the Harvest Co-Op. The options here are pretty good in quality, but prices are quite high. They accept TechCash. Membership here is one of the most headscratchingly nonsensical things I’ve ever seen; I’ve not even saying it’s a ripoff—in fact it almost certainly isn’t—it’s just that it might cause me to scratch my brains off.

[CORRECTED ON EDIT] Also around here, there’s a Target in Central Square which has a surprisingly decent groceries section for, well, a Target.

Trader Joe’s near the western end of Cambridgeport (and thus somewhat north of the west end of MIT’s campus) is my strongest recommendation. There’s lots of high-quality options for very reasonable prices. They also have free samples and are good with being allergen-informative with their samples.

A bit north of Trader Joe’s is a Whole Foods. I strongly recommend Whole Foods to anyone who derives pleasure out of watching their wallets shrink at unimaginable pace from the buying of items pretentiously differently worded to look massively fancier than they really are, living a deluded belief that doing this is better for their bodies.

If one’s willing to take a longer walk west, there’s a Hong Kong Supermarket/Super 88 (once again a Shaw’s/Star Market nomenclature situation) a whiles west in Boston (specifically in the Allston neighborhood). I strongly recommend this supermarket, especially if you’re willing to deal with the derpiness of derpy Asian markets that do things like pile way too many products in rather crowding locations (which I very much am willing to deal with). Unlike H-Mart, the restaurants in front of this supermarket are generally actually worth it. Prices at this supermarket are shockingly nice, and it’s in Boston instead of Cambridge, so at least for now you don’t get charged for bags for your groceries. (But please still bring your own reusable containers. The Earth is a nice place.)

Restaurants in Cambridge

The following is the complete list of restaurants in Cambridge I consider worth it to dine at: Saloniki, Veggie Galaxy, Pepper Sky’s, Rangzen, Friendly Toast, Dumpling House. I’ll talk about these first.

Saloniki is a fairly new Greek fast-food restaurant just a block north of main campus at MIT, thus making it convenient from a campus perspective. Service is really fast and friendly. If you show them your MIT student ID you can get a free box of Greek fries with your order. Most food is very refreshingly flavored, and the place even smells nice. I just wish the containers they served their food in were more conducive to stirring. Most meals are $8-$10.

Veggie Galaxy is a vegetarian restaurant where all their options can also be made vegan (and their entire dessert menu is vegan). Their food is on average highly tasty, although I’d also say with high variance. Never substitute onion rings here: it costs more and they only give you three; if you must, order a side of onion rings instead. Most meals are $11-$15.

Pepper Sky‘s is a pretty good Thai restaurant. Most meals are $11-$14.

Rangzen, a Tibetan restaurant, in terms of food quality by itself, by far earns my highest marks of any restaurant I’ve been in in the area. The food is utterly gorgeous and feels ethereal to my taste buds. It even combines well with the calm music they provide for the setting to really nourish a place to momentarily feel happy and content. My strongest recommendations go to dishes involving eggplant or yucca, the egg noodles, and the deshi. The chicken broth soup is very fulfilling. They have lunch buffet on weekdays, for $14. Other meals tend to cost $11-$17. These are price tags I’d usually scream at, but here I consider it absolutely worth it for this particular food. I treat it as a place to occasionally dine where I’m willing to spend much more than I typically budget on food for the special experience.

The Friendly Toast is a rather weird restaurant north of Technology Square (around Kendall Square) that is generally diner-like. They serve many really weird combinations of ingredients that often come out admirably well. Meals tend to cost $9-$15.

Dumpling House is a Chinese restaurant that I’d say barely makes the mark for being worth it. There’s plenty of tasty options, but food portions are kind of small and there’s also some not-so-tasty options. It’s a typical Chinese restaurant in being family-style, so I could only estimate how much a dinner will be, which is…$10-$16?

Now for the not-worth-it options.

A lot of people at MIT really like Flour. I can see it: quite some food there is quite delicious, particularly the soups. It just doesn’t get delicious enough for me to feel it’s worth it often, though. Sandwiches are $9, soups are $5. Usually when I eat at Flour it’s more for the convenience of location, which is just slightly further from main campus than Saloniki.

Along similar lines is Clover. I find food at Clover even tastier than at Flour, but whereas Flour’s pricings feel expensive, Clover’s are outrageous. Their sandwiches are tiny yet $7.5-$11 [CORRECTED ON EDIT], and other items are even more not worth it. Clover brands itself as a “Food Lab” (and, incidentally, sprang out of MIT), and it really provides that impression, with how they concoct their foods. There are some drinks, though, that though still overpriced, are just really tasty. Top notch goes to the Coriander Soda.

Darwin’s is a sandwich restaurant a bit north from Random Hall. Its prices are similar to Flour’s, and…I never understood what the niche of this restaurant really was.

Beantown is the absolute worst Mexican food I’ve ever had in my life.* A lot of people actually really like this restaurant. I don’t get it. There’s about nothing redeeming here. Even their guacamole tastes like it is subpar, and that’s guacamole.

*I appear to be very unusual in the MIT community in having this opinion.

I have never eaten at Chicago Pizza, but people I talk to who have nearly universally consider it inedible beyond belief, and the worst pizza they’ve had in their lives. Maybe it says something that their hour of peak traffic is 1am, when people are desperately hungry in the middle of the night and everywhere else has closed.

Bailey & Sage seems to like to brand themselves as a place with really healthy options. Unfortunately, their food tastes like cardboard.

Bon Me is a Vietnamese-ish restaurant next to The Friendly Toast. The food is actually fairly good, but like Flour, the food is not good enough for its price.

Patty Chen’s Dumpling Room is an often-reviled restaurant at the Central Square end of Main Street. Despite most people considering this one of the worst options for Chinese food, I actually think it’s fairly okay. It’s not great, but I don’t find it bad. But it’s still just okay.

Dosa Factory is just slightly less than worth it in my opinion. There’s some good choices for Indian street food here. I’ll occasionally go there for variety.

Mary Chung has both terrible food and terrible service. Just never eat there.**

**This is also an unusual opinion, but unlike my opinion with Beantown, there’s actually substantial quantities of people that agree with me regarding Mary Chung.

Thelonius Monkfish’s most redeeming quality is its name really. It serves Thai food and sushi. It’s not particularly good at either.

Shanghai Fresh is an okay restaurant. That’s all.

Boston Burger Company is also just slightly less than worth it in my view, like Dosa Factory. Their food is generally quite good; it’s just not worth it.

There’s probably also a bunch of other restaurants I’ve eaten at that I didn’t even find good enough to remember.

Restaurants outside Cambridge

The one that most comes to mind is Fu Loon in Malden. There’s nice hearty and delicious Chinese food there.

Allston in Boston is the place to go to find a fascinatingly high concentration of Korean restaurants, many of which serve really good Korean food. But as always, disclaimer: Korean is my favorite cuisine.

EDIT1: I can’t put H-Mart, Harvest, and Target in south-to-north order, apparently.
EDIT2: Oops, I used post-tax amounts for Clover.