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.

Lengths of Selected Countries

These calculations are performed with the assumption of nullification of Antarctic claims. These diagrams are generated using the daftlogic wrapper over Google Maps.

(And in case these maps constitute obscuring copyright, these maps are ©Gregorian 2017 Google, INEGI, ORION-ME.)

For reference, the equatorial circumference of the Earth is 40075 km, so 20037 km is the furthest apart two points on Earth can be.

France: 18168 km


United Kingdom, according to British claims: 16139 km


United States: 15326 km


Norge (Norway): 15098 km


United Kingdom, according to Mauritian, but not Argentinian, claims: 13589 km


United Kingdom, according to Argentinian and Mauritian claims: 10989 km

(Sidenote: the longest distance from the Shetlands to Tristan da Cunha just barely edges out the longest distance from Grand Cayman to Dhekelia, that is, by about 60 km, so we will not have to also address British-Cypriot territorial disputes.)

Россия (Russia), according to Russian claims: 8188 km


Nederland (Netherlands): 8057 km


Россия (Russia), according to Ukrainian, but not Japanese, claims: 7974 km


Россия (Russia), according to Ukrainian and Japanese claims: 7941 km


Australia: 7869 km


中國 (China), according to claims of the Republic: 5750 km


Aotearoa (New Zealand): 5721 km


中国 (China), according to claims of the People’s Republic: 5582 km


Canada: 5555 km


Continue reading “Lengths of Selected Countries”

The Four-Colorability of the World: Addendum on Planarity

After presenting my conclusions in my previous post on the four-colorability of the world to several friends and friends of friends, we pondered the question of whether the map of the world’s countries is planar. It is in fact not: consider the induced subgraph of (that is, consider the connections among) Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Russia.

Views Here on zyxyvy, and McDonalds

A while ago, I saw a data map depicting the number of McDonalds in each country.

I noticed the numbers were rather reminiscent of the distribution of views here on this blog, and after a while of thinking, it made quite some sense: in both cases, one would expect the number to correlate with how much interchange with America a country exhibits, in my case, because I live and blog here in the USA and thus what I write about is probably more pertinent to people with more similar situations. In fact, it so happens that around now the number of views I’ve had here on zyxyvy is around the number of McDonalds for several countries, which probably won’t persist because the rate at which one of these increases is (and will hopefully stay) substantially greater than the other.

So in the interest of comparing these really-shouldn’t-be-compared quantities while we can, here’s a map of ratios:zyxyvy_ratio_mcdonalds

Given the language of this blog, it makes sense that several countries and territories with higher numbers of McDonalds than zyxyvy views are countries where English is less prevalent. In the case of China, we are seeing the manifestation of the fact that China blocks WordPress and thus all views from China this blog gets are through firewall workarounds, whereas China has happily endorsed the incoming of brands like McDonalds from America. The only other country where McDonalds are at least 8 times as numerous as zyxyvy views is Panama.

The dark blue countries on the map include both countries and territories where zyxyvy views outnumber McDonalds by at least 8 times, like the United States and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and countries where zyxyvy has received at least 16 views but no McDonalds have opened yet, like Algeria and Bangladesh. (Yes, Bangladesh—it rather surprised me too that somehow not a single McDonalds is open in Bangladesh. Searching around the internet, it appears the word on the street is that McDonalds closed its Bangladesh establishments due to insufficient regulations for quality control, but I haven’t yet found a source that is beyond an online-forum-style page.)

A Round of Extraordinary Luck at LearnedLeague

The first MiniLeague that I decided to participate in was the Just Images Maps league, since, well, I love maps. The second round of the MiniLeague went ridiculously well for me in that I answered 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 correctly when I only legitimately knew the answer to 5.




This was probably the least ridiculous of my guesses. I knew what the idea behind the map was, that it shows what would’ve happened if land reclaimed from the sea was reflooded; I just didn’t know what the agents of water blockage were called (levees?). After a lot of weighing options, I decided to guess dikes because I often hear that word in association with the Netherlands and I guessed it sounded like the sort of thing that would function as a levee.



I’m definitely not familiar with a map of this sort, but this just looked like a rock face, so I guessed rock climbing. Well.



I had no clue what this was, but it looked like a museum. I literally just randomly guessed a museum for which I did not know what its floorplan was like. Turns out, this was in fact a Guggenheim Museum.



I only knew the names of so many aviators. I decided to guess one of them, Amelia Earhart. Turns out, one of these was indeed Amelia Earhart.



This was the only of the five questions I got right where I actually straight-up knew the answer: Biafra.



Ah, tricky question. This one’s a good puzzle.

A Season with LearnedLeague

I recently finished playing in my first (and probably only, the reason for which I’ll explain shortly later) season of LearnedLeague, an online trivia league. I’d say it was a fun experience, and that the ideas behind how competition in LearnedLeague works are generally good ideas.

Each round (of which there are 25 in a season, at least in the one I participated in) consists of a head-to-head match between two league players, that involves answering trivia questions (called “offense”), and assigning numbers of points each question is worth for your opponent (called “defense”), for which one is allowed to consult their history to know what one’s opponent tends to be good at.

And this gets to why I don’t think I’ll be back for another season. LearnedLeague has failed to deviate from a problem I find in most trivia competitions: an excessive favoring of generalists. Frankly, there are four categories of LearnedLeague trivia (Film, Lifestyle, Pop Music, and Television) than not only am I terrible at but also I honestly have less than zero interest in getting better at (really, four and half, given the Games/Sport category; it’s a really easy exercise for the reader to figure out which half of that I don’t care about). But there are categories of trivia I am definitely extremely interested in. Overall, my trivia knowledge is terribly category-polar, and this makes me ridiculously easy to defend against. As much as I like the assigning-points-for-opponent mechanic, the resulting effects of the such for highly non-generalist people like me make it something I’m not willing to give money for. A second factor lies in excessive references to alcoholic drinks, which many may know I find elevated discomfort in. There’s quite a few questions for which it looks like the writer specifically wanted to force an association with alcohol. Yes, it turns out unfortunately trivia is often associated with bars. *Sigh*.

Anyway, my category stats:


Below I’ll make some notes on specific items in some categories.

Some of these questions have images that are part of the item when you click ‘Click here’. I’m too lazy to copy those over, so I’ll leave it to your imagination what those items were.



MD15Q3 was the least-correctly-answered item in the entire season, with only 5% answering correctly.

MD06Q2 was a guess. They all looked like portraits. Might as well guess that they were of the self variety.



I only got MD13Q1 because of knowing where Qaanaaq is and knowing there’s a military base named Thule nearby, and thus just guessing “Thule” off of only this information, possibly the most distant answer derivation I’ve underwent this entire season. Does this count as love towards Sweden via proxy?

I entered “Hand of God” instead of “Invisible Hand” for MH08Q5. Oops.

Current Events


I’m fairly ashamed of having not been able to name the new UN Secretary-General. Apparently, neither could most of LearnedLeague, so shame on everyone else too.



MD12Q5: Booo Othello. I can’t believe the world accepted the game of Reversi getting a second name.

What is sportsball.



Apparently the most frequently incorrectly guessed answer to MD20Q2 was “Washington”. I guess that’s what “Bellevue” tipped people off to?

I was not actually sure of the answer to MD12Q6; I based my guess off of understanding the Central American isthmus as gradually less inhabitable as one moves south and east.

American History


I don’t really have many comments to make here.

World History


I really should’ve gotten MD24Q5, but didn’t answer “Peloponnesian League” because of the inclusion of Corinth, which I recalled as not-all-that-Peloponnesian, although maybe I should’ve still considered the isthmus Pelopennesian. I guessed “Dorian League”.

For MD15Q4, I knew where relatively chronologically the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was; I just couldn’t exactly remember where it was delimited and wasn’t exactly sure which monarchs came between Victoria and Edward $LARGE_NUM. I ended up deciding I had the best chances with guessing Victoria, which it turns out was too early.

For MD12Q3, I made the rather hilarious-in-retrospect mistake of calling the Ostrogoths the “Orthogoths”. Herpity derp.

MD07Q5 was the most-correctly-answered item in the entire season, with 88% answering correctly. Fortunately, I was in the 88% for this case.

I was wondering whether MD01Q2 wanted the real (legal) name of Kim Il-Sung, since that is not it, but ended up deciding they probably just want “Kim Il-Sung” for the purposes of the question. It turns out that was a good assumption.



I consider the FANBOYS question a bad question.

MD02Q4 was an item I really should’ve gotten, but I mind-blanked a bit much and put “al-“.



Maybe if I thought a little harder on MD18Q4 I would’ve gotten it.




MD08Q1 was the second-most-correctly-answered item in the entire season, with 87% answering correctly.

Classical Music


MD19Q4 was the second-least-correctly-answered item in the entire season, with only 14% answering correctly.

The Classical Music section consists of an excess of…I guess I’ll call it “applied” music and way not enough “pure” music, grump, grump. I’m saying “applied”, I guess because terms like “incidental” and “operatic” don’t actually capture the set I’m trying to describe.



I was actually quite surprised with how long it took me to recall what Newton’s Second Law was. It turned out my physical knowledge had progressed to a state where I only know if I’m supposed to know things. Fortunately, I did eventually remember the Law. I wonder if I would’ve forgotten it if I hadn’t taken an olympiad qualification test whose name is the equation of the Law.

Anyway, that’s all; ’twas a fun season. I’m going to stay around for some MiniLeagues, but then vanish from LearnedLeague. I did refer a friend to LearnedLeague, though, so maybe he will stay.

Why These Seven Countries

Very soon after inauguration, Donald Trump signed an executive order blocking people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen from entry to the US. Why exactly these countries? The reasons often provided and often alleged for this selection tend to match up rather badly with facts about these countries, and are dotted with holes in reasoning. Making a possibly unjustified assumption that some sort of thinking went into figuring out exactly which countries were included in the ban, let’s investigate some theories and see what comes closest.

Theory 1: Keeping out Terrorists

The administration’s officially provided reason for the ban is incredibly blatantly false. Zero of the nineteen 9/11 terrorists hailed from any of the seven countries covered by the ban (so Trump would’ve likely been closer to blocking these by randomly choosing seven countries), nor did the San Bernardino shooter who pledged alliance with the IS. Saudi Arabia, a long-recognized breeding ground for radicalization and the production of terrorists, is not blocked by the ban.

Theory 2: Keeping out Muslims

This very common accusation among liberals for the motivation behind Trump’s ban still matches up with specifics very poorly. The ban neither blocks several countries with the greatest percentage of Muslims in the population (like Morocco) nor the countries that politically exhibit the most fundamentalist implementations of Islam (like Saudi Arabia and Qatar). In fact, many of these countries are countries with relatively larger diversity among those in the Muslim world, both in terms of non-Muslim sects and different sects of Islam itself (which unfortunately contributed to the elevated magnitude of sectarian clashing in several of these countries).

Theory 3: Blocking Countries the Islamic State is in

This is quite inconsistent with the countries selected as well. The IS has failed to have significant headway in Iran (which, in fact, has been one of the most crucial players in the fight against the IS), one of the countries included, but controls a macroscopic amount of land in Lebanon, not one of the countries included in the ban. With errors in both directions, this is by quite a stretch not what these seven countries have  in common, but is still much closer than the above two approximations.

The ban does not respond to support for the IS, either: Qatar is the country against which the most substantive claims of secret funding of the IS has been made, and is not on the ban list. Most of these countries the IS has managed to control parts of have governments that have repeatedly denounced the IS. At least the ones on this list for which it’s clear what the government of the country is, which brings us to…

Theory 4: Blocking Countries with Political Instability or Refugees

Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of the Congo produce lots of refugees, but they aren’t included in the ban. Maybe Trump is only blocking Muslim refugees? This isn’t the case either: Afghanistan has a gigantic outflux of Muslim refugees, but Afghanistan didn’t make the block list.

Nevertheless, there is one striking trait that many countries on Trump’s list posses: countries in political strife. Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia are all countries with several major threats to the current de jure government, the last three to an extent that it is hard to say exactly what the government of the country even is, especially if one puts a requirement of minimum effectiveness in their definition of a government.

But what about Iran? Iran is doing substantially solidly as a country, particularly in its region. Yes, they may have had a Twitter revolt and other clashes, but these have amounted to nowhere near what nearby countries have seen.

Regardless, it seems that this theory would be the closest to the reasoning behind the selection of countries: blocking politically unstable countries, but tacking on a slice of hating on Iran while at it. With Iran taken out, the political situation is the stark connecting link among Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia. Now if only this made sense as a justification for the ban.