Every US County I Remember the Name For

This is a map of US counties and county-equivalents for which I currently remember their names.



Alaska is Smaller than Larger-than-you-think

You may have seen several visualizations or statistics on how massively large the state of Alaska is: a juxtaposition of Alaska onto the contiguous states, or a reading on how many degrees of longitude Alaska spans. These often drive home the point that Alaska is much larger than one might be convinced it actually is, from maps of the United States where Alaska is in a small inset, and the such.

Indeed, Alaska’s contribution to American area is substantial, without which the United States would actually be smaller than Brazil. It is by quite a margin the largest state. It is also easy, however, to arrive, particularly from such visuals, to the conclusion that Alaska is larger than it really is.

There are two factors at play here:

  1. Alaska is very far north, and thus is portrayed as disproportionately large in popular projections like Mercator.
  2. Much of Alaska’s impression of massiveness comes from significantly long “appendages”: the mightily extended Aleutian Islands and the also impressive Alaskan Panhandle. There is a lot of not-Alaska within Alaska’s bounding box.

When looking at the main mass of Alaska, here’s what we find from some comparisons with Texas:

  • The distance from Barrow to Anchorage is 1164 km. The distance from Amarillo to Brownsville is 1117 km.
  • The distance from Nome to Tok is 1099 km. The distance from El Paso to Houston is 1086 km.
  • One can’t actually fit Texas inside Alaska, no matter how one rotates it.

Alaska really does just have seriously extended protrusions: Juneau is 924 km from Anchorage, nearly four-fifths the height of the main part of Alaska. Ketchikan is 1246 km from Anchorage: around this height, and closer to Seattle than to Anchorage.

Attacker-Defender Balance (and Curious Reflections in Culture) in Ingress and Pokémon Go

This post will delve a fair amount into specific mechanics of Ingress and Pokémon Go. I will try my best to provide a good context of relevant details and aspects for those that have not played the games.

Although Ingress is older than Pokémon Go by several years, I only started playing Ingress after I started playing Pokémon Go. On top of this, I started playing Pokémon Go more than a month after release, at a point when many have already quit.

I’ve on several occasions had the pleasure to listen to stories from Ingress players that have been there from the beginning, and thus got to learn, for instance, how even though Ingress seems really stable now, Ingress’ first few months were actually as painfully glitch-ridden as Pokémon Go’s. (So given this and how much of Pokémon Go entities are taken from Ingress, why didn’t Niantic do it right this time around given how well Ingress has come to run?) It’s really interesting to find out about the various ways veteran Ingress players view the rise of Pokémon Go and the Pokémon Go community.

I will start with pointing out that the current four most upvoted posts to r/Ingress all remark on Ingress and its relation to Pokémon Go. It’s pretty much impossible to be an Ingress player unaware of the presence of Pokémon Go, whereas it’s quite possible to be the other way around. And there are quite a significant number of such Pokémon Go players. Many Ingress players have some quite extended opinions and thoughts about Pokémon Go players and the newer game’s incredible rise.

One thought I hear substantially frequently is that Pokémon Go players are very obvious and open about their playing, a thought conveyed sometimes as just an observation but sometimes with annoyance. It is in fact the case: Pokémon Go players usually make no effort to hide themselves as Pokémon Go players, whereas Ingress players much more tend to operate subtly and secretly. There’s several conventions that are likely contributing factors.

  1. Players in Pokémon Go are ‘trainers’, in a Pokémon context. Players in Ingress are ‘agents’, in a sci-fi context. Ingress’ backstory much further suggests to the player that the role they are taking in the game is one associated with subtle operating.
  2. Pokémon Go has frequent (several occurrences a day) events—called ‘raids’—that often require people to work together in groups, and thus to actively look for and contact other Pokémon Go players, including from other teams. There is no such parallel in Ingress. Many people often pull large operations in groups with their faction, but these are also executed in elevated secrecy to those not in on the operation, and for good reason, as will be touched on later.
  3. Although both communities acknowledge the issue of GPS spoofers, Pokémon Go has had substantial enough of a spoofer problem that people are quite actively wary for spoofers. Letting oneself be visible to others when taking action (attacking a gym, participating in a raid) confirms to them that one has brought their physical body to an area, demonstrating playing honestly. There is no corresponding confirmation tendency in the Ingress community.

But this difference in openness of playing actually also parallels differences in strategy in optimal playing between the two games.

Continue reading “Attacker-Defender Balance (and Curious Reflections in Culture) in Ingress and Pokémon Go”

The Imbalance of the Hemispheres

Earth’s Northern and Southern Hemispheres are drastically unalike. Substantially more of Earth’s land is in the Northern than in the Southern Hemisphere. Whereas the planet overall is substantially more ocean than land, land and ocean are notably closer to balance in the Northern Hemisphere, whereas the Southern Hemisphere is uncontestedly dominated by ocean.

Correlated to this but also to other factors, the Northern Hemisphere hosts an even more lopsided proportion of Earth’s human population: more than 7 of 8 humans on Earth live North of the Equator. In fact, so much of the land of the Southern Hemisphere is so sparsely populated that 1 in 5 humans in the Southern Hemisphere live on the Indonesian island of Jawa (Java).

What I really want to highlight here, though, is a drastic discrepancy in climate. Water has a massively higher specific heat than most of the composition of continents, so much of the Southern Hemisphere is significantly more moderated in seasonal variations than the Northern. Furthermore, the Southern Hemisphere is plain out of land in mid- and mid-high-latitudes, and at the intersection of the population distribution and this land distribution, there are many populated areas of the Northern Hemisphere that climatologically have no Southern Hemisphere equivalent. In the Southern Hemisphere, there is tropical, then there’s a gradual easing that makes it slightly into temperate territory, and then there’s Antarctica.

A particularly stark factor in which to behold discrepancies: snow. The Northern Hemisphere is dotted with large cities that regularly experience snow in the winter: Chicago, Toronto, New York, Berlin, Belgrade, Tehran, Kabul, and Seoul. There’s just no such thing in the Southern Hemisphere.

Even the cities on east coasts of the southern ends of non-Antarctic continents receive barely any snow: Hobart on Tasmania, Dunedin on the South Island of New Zealand (Te Waipounamu), Port Elizabeth in South Africa, and even Maseru, the capital of Lesotho with quite some elevation. One who’s willing to travel to the very southern reaches of South America could finally find some significant snow in Ushuaia, but Ushuaia really doesn’t count as anywhere near a large city. In none of these cities will one find a July where below freezing is the norm like the frozen Januaries of places like Chicago (sidenote: even Boston on average spends more of January below than above freezing historically, but this balance has become questionable with global warming). For lots of snow, one needs to start going up the Andes. Otherwise, the next step is straight to polar Antarctica (where for much of the continent, it still doesn’t snow much; it’s a desert after all).

It is worth mentioning that there are a handful of sub-Antarctic islands that somewhat bridge the gap between climate on Antarctica and climate on other continents, but they only do as much bridging as they can while being small and so moderated by the waters around. This is how amusing Bouvet Island’s climate chart is.