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.

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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.

Declaration of Universal Acceptance of Listening or Conversation with Minority and Unpopular Opinions

I am willing to hear, with a guarantee of non-counteraction, the opinions and thoughts of anyone with perceived uncommon or unpopular opinions, or opinions that one fears garners significant societal judgment or ostracization upon expression, either in the global scene or in the particular specific communities one is a member of. I consider this important both for the spirit of understanding and open-mindedness, and believe that it is both healthy and intellectually useful to be exposed to a wide swath of thoughts and perspectives.

I will respond with such a request with either an acceptance of discussion or a response that I do not actually believe your opinion is a minority or unpopular opinion within your stated context. If the community of context that you mention is one I’m unfamiliar with, I may default to the latter. I also may listen to opinions that aren’t minority and unpopular opinions; I’m only saying I *might* decline.

I can only guarantee non-counteraction as far as you present your opinion as simply just an opinion. If you suggest that you wish to take action based on this opinion, than I can no longer guarantee non-counteraction.

This is an opportunity for the honest and well-intended exchange of thoughts, and people, like me, do not have enough time to take conversation to full rigorosity of analysis. If you manage to give me the impression that you are a troll and are using this as an opportunity to troll, thus wasting my time, I may become wholly uninterested in discussion with you. Although I cannot well-define what makes me categorize you as a troll, actions that suggest the stuff may include repeatedly bringing up already-discussed material, resorting to arguments on aspects clearly irrelevant to the conversation at hand, or being oppositional when from other contexts you are clearly not actually of such an opinion. It is okay to play Devil’s Advocate, and I’d in fact encourage doing so, but make it clear that you are.

Openmindedness

Being openminded means accepting all sorts of different people, of all sorts of different backgrounds, having all sorts of different tastes, with all sorts of different opinions.

Being openminded means being okay with people around oneself that disagree on a few major ideas, as long as the two agree on the most central and important points, and still working on them in the directions of what one does agree on.

Being openminded means having an enormous personal Overton window. No, not large. Enormous.

Being openminded means understanding rejecting a view after discussion is not narrowmindedness; prejudice on a view is.

Being openminded means not assuming, when one hears someone say something, that the reason they say that is because they have certain underlying beliefs, just because another person who says the same things happens to have those underlying beliefs.

Being openminded means “I wonder why they think that way.” comes before “That’s a ridiculous belief.”. It doesn’t mean “That’s a ridiculous belief.” never comes. It means it’s not the first thing.

Being openminded means acknowledging that a slight difference in two people’s fundamental principles could lead to drastically different conclusions, and entertaining the possibility that the cause of a vast difference in view could be a tiny nuance in ideas.

Being openminded means recognizing that over the course of history, a massive number of ideas considered unthinkable or insane at some point by some society eventually becomes a mainstream view.

Being openminded means recognizing that it can be socially detrimental or emotionally devastating to someone when they express unpopular views.

Being openminded means understanding that when a view is deemed unacceptable, it is extremely difficult to try to share and discuss such a view. Being openminded means understanding these forces could prevent discussion that could convince someone with a deemed-unacceptable view to consider otherwise.

Being openminded means acknowledging that the public centroid of opinion could be a very bad idea. Being openminded also means considering that someone at the centroid of opinion might not have arrived there via conventional means.

Being openminded means understanding that just because a view is popular globally does not mean it is hard to express within a certain community. Being openminded means recognizing that using the excuse that such a view is not in an oppressed state because of how many people globally have that view does not help, and may convince them that it’s just that much easier on themselves to go associate with the more welcoming global community instead, making them stronger and increasing polarization, itself increasing the difficulty of openminded discussion.

Being openminded means accepting that within the vast volumes of knowledge and facts about the world, it could certainly be the case that what one does not know could change one’s evaluation of an issue, and that someone that disagrees may be about to fill a vacancy in one’s knowledge.

Continue reading “Openmindedness”

Meta: Polling on Feedback

I’m going to take a moment here to ask you, the readers of zyxyvy, a few questions for purposes of feedback and consideration. Feel free to tell me your answers to these in any form, whether by comment to this post or via private message on any of the various chatting systems I am on. Focusing particularly on more recent posts helps. Thanks for your time and thoughts!

1) In terms of the point being made, are there posts you particularly liked? Particularly disliked? Which ones?

2) In terms of the way ideas were presented, are there posts you particularly liked? Particularly disliked? Which ones?

3a) To people who knew about me from this blog before knowing me in real life: how has knowing me in real life changed your perception of me; what aspects did you not expect from your understanding of me from this blog?

3b) To people who knew about me in real life before knowing me from this blog: how has viewing the material I publish here changed your perception of me; what aspects did you not expect from your understanding of me from real life?

4) Are there posts that have changed the way you think about or do something? Which ones? Was this a good or bad thing?

5) Are there certain topics you wish I discussed more on this blog?

6) Any other comments?

“America First, Netherlands Second” is Much More Respectable than Mainstream American Comedic Fare

For those unfamiliar with the work, here you go.

Notice that the video contained several moments during which its makers could have easily made an “orange” joke or a “tiny hands” joke about Donald Trump, but those didn’t happen. They had enough material to make fun of Donald Trump for already by taking from actual issues with Donald Trump and his proposed agenda, and they made good jokes with them. They didn’t have to descend to the name-calling of resorting to calling Donald Trump orange or tiny-handed, attributes that don’t affect legitimacy as a leader, unlike much of America’s mainstream liberal comedy, which not just embraces the cheap jokes but tend to elevate them above the legitimate issues, referencing them whenever the opportunity arises, while deciding that the more important problems are the one-time fare. This makes this Dutch comedy piece much more respectable.

Unfortunately, the follow-ups to this piece didn’t quite resist temptation as well as this piece did. (They were also, in my opinion, mostly not as funny.)

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.