Battle with the Law, Part II

I lost


Rao’s Recipes

Ever gotten tired of cereal for breakfast? Well then, this is going to change your life. Forever. Below you’ll find a few awesome smoothies/fruit juices that I make and drink often in the mornings. They’re a great breakfast item; they’re incredibly easy and quick to make, they’re healthy and nutritious, and they’re all very delicious.

Apple Banana Smoothie:

·         1 Banana

·         1 Apple or 1 Pear

·         A few nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc.)

·         About a cup of milk


This one is particularly filling, since it’s basically like eating a whole apple and banana.

Grape Juice:

·         A lot of grapes

·         Some ice cubes

·         Some water


Use purple grapes (red grapes?) for an especially sweet juice, or try green grapes for a tart, refreshing beverage.

Watermelon Juice:

·         A bunch of chopped watermelon pieces

·         Some water

·         A pinch of lemon juice


This is a great summer drink. It’s tasty and relaxing.

Green Juice :

·         A chunk of pineapple

·         A few grapes

·         A small piece of apple

·         A small piece of banana

·         Some kale or some spinach


Super healthy, and with all the fruits in there you don’t even taste the veggies.

Cantaloupe Juice:

·         A bunch of pieces of cantaloupe

·         A bit of milk


Another great summer drink.

I usually use a Magic Bullet to make my smoothies in college, so they’re not always as smooth and consistent as the ones we make at home with our bid ‘ol blender, but it’s still good enough. So yeah, get a magic bullet or some other blender, and use these drinks to transform your mornings. You’re welcome.

Battle with the Law, Part I

So this has not been a good week for my car. In the space of about 3 days, my poor little Corolla lost 3 hubcaps and got 2 parking citations. I’m particularly pissed off about the parking citations, because I didn’t deserve them at all!

It’s a good thing I’ve always wanted to represent myself in court. I don’t know why but it just seems really cool. So, this is my big chance. Unfortunately, I don’t know the first thing about law.The closest I’ve been to lawyering was a little speech and debate in high school. I was awful. So now it’s time to prep really hard. My training routine will consist of watching copious amounts of Suits and Law and Order every day for the next week or so. Then, when I’m sufficiently versed in all that jazz, I’ll suit up and head over to the courtroom and make the plaintiff look silly and walk away fully exonerated with a standing ovation and music playing in the background. That’s out it plays out in my head, anyway. Stay tuned next week (or the week after, depending on how far I get into my shows much practice I get in) for my next edition of Battle with the Law! I’ll be posting a recording of my court case (hopefully, that’s not illegal).

I have the major part of my appeal ready. Here are the offending tickets:


And here’s the proof of my innocence:


Case closed. Also, let me know if you see anyone with my hubcaps.

Defining Marriage

You probably know the arguments opponents to marriage equality bring up again and again: some say gay marriage should be illegal because homosexual couples cannot bear children, but of course, they now can through in vitro fertilization and artificial insemination. They can also adopt, or (gasp!) not have any children. Also, according to this line of reasoning, we should of course outlaw marriage of a couple in which the man has been castrated, the women have passed menopause, or either party is otherwise infertile, right? Another, more sinister claim is that gay couples cannot rear children effectively, but this has actually been proven pretty much false.


Clearly, these arguments are quite ridiculous. But, surprisingly, there is actually a sound, rational argument against gay marriage. Dinesh D’Souza, a conservative Republican Christian, writes that “state legislatures, drawing on tradition and appealing to the values of their constituents, have defined marriage in a very particular way”. He lays down the following list of features to define a marriage:

1. Marriage is between people

2. Marriage partners are of legal age

3. Marriage involves two partners

4. Marriage partners cannot be too closely related

5. Marriage is between a man and a woman

D’Souza argues that it is irrational to support the removal of one of the criteria while leaving the rest intact. The point is actually a good one; after all, if we look at the criteria presented, we can see they are all quite integral to the definition of marriage, right?

Some of these rules are quite vital to the institution of marriage. D’Souza writes that marriage must only involve humans, he claims that otherwise, men will want to marry their dogs. While D’Souza is joking, he actually touches at a central issue here, the issue of consent. While animals will likely never be able to give their consent to a marriage, if we came into contact with intelligent aliens whom we could understand and communicate with, there would really be no reason we shouldn’t be allowed to marry them. I mean, marrying aliens has got to be pretty awesome, right?


Consent also underscores the necessity for feature #2 . If two five year olds wanted to get married, they wouldn’t understand what they were getting into. They couldn’t truly consent, from an intellectual standpoint as well as a legal one. We have to set the bar somewhere, and so it’s currently at 18. Really, at whatever age we recognize two people as being fully-fledged citizens of society is the age at which they should be legally allowed to marry. Luckily, young people do typically tend to grow out of this restriction, so it’s not a big deal.

But what about the rest of the “defining” features of marriage? What exactly is wrong with incest and polygamy?

These are both intensely fascinating issues. For example, one of the key problems with polygamy is that it often leads to the abuse of young girls. A polygamous farm in our backyard housed 468 children. Unfortunately, many of the young girls there had entered into the marriages of some of the older men. Again, however, the key problem here is that of age and consent; these girls were too young to enter into marriage contracts and were likely manipulated. However, apart from this rather large blip, the rest of the children on the farm were doing quite well. Just as people mistakenly assume gay couples can’t raise children well, many also assume that polygamous households must have a terrible effect on children. It’s a knee-jerk reaction to a strange and misunderstood practice. If polygamy is regulated and conducted between adults, there is no reason to think the children of their union would be any worse off.

Another issue with polygamy is that of marriage rights. In current polygamous marriages in the United States (and there are estimated to be over 100,000 people living in polyamorous households in our county, though some place that figure much higher), the key problem is that there is one legal wife, while the rest of the members of the marriage are “spiritual” wives, who get none of the benefits of the other members of the legal couple. Like the problem of the abuse of underage girls in polygamous marriages, the distribution of marriage rights can also be solved by making polygamy legal, because then all members of the marriage would be legally recognized.

In addition, polygamy is thought to disparage women, but they know what they’re getting into beforehand. After all, it’s not as though members of straight marriages don’t think it through. A final issue with polygamy is that it’ll screw up our ratio of single men to single women. A one to one ratio is optimal for society, and giving sex gods the ability to have multiple wives will surely screw that up for the rest of us. Clearly, a society with an overly large proportion of single men is going to be in for some trouble, but would that actually happen? This is similar to the procreation objection to homosexuality. Sure, if all the men in the world married one another, we’d have a  problem, but we know from the numbers that this wouldn’t happen.

Now, there are cases of kings taking dozens of wives, but for non-royalty, the average number of extra wives (or extra husbands) taken up would likely be very small. We can in fact examine what has happened in nations that allow polygamy. India allows Muslims to be polygamous, yet under 6% of the Muslim population are involved in polygamous relationships. India actually is facing a gender ratio problem, but that is more a product of infanticide than polygamy.  So really, polygamy doesn’t seem to be all that bad, and judging by the amount of cheating that generally occurs in relationships, it may actually be a more comfortable situation for some currently monogamous people.

Even more controversial than polygamy is incest. Virtually every major religion and culture shuns this practice, and most holy books condemn it. Meanwhile, this phenomenon exists as well. God, talk about mixed signals.

(As an interesting side note, the Hindu objection to incest was so strong that they developed an elaborate system of gotras in an effort to ensure that incestuous marriages were avoided as far as seven generations down the road.)

The only real objection to incest between consenting adults is that of inbreeding. The claim is true; close relatives are more at risk to produce children with birth defects. However, is this really a reason to take away their right to wed?  We’ve already established that bearing children should not be a criteria by which whether or not people are afforded the right to marry. In addition, there are alternative procedures to produce children for the educated and wealthy incestuous couple. Furthermore, there are a whole host of factors that increase the risk of birth defects in children. People who have genetic disorders are more likely to pass their disorders on to their kids. Women over the age of 35 are more likely to produce children with Down Syndrome. Women who take drugs, alcohol, or medications while pregnant are more likely to have kids with birth defects. Heck, even the children of two white people or two black people are more likely to develop certain diseases!

Yet all of these groups are allowed to marry and have children. So why shouldn’t incestuous couples be afforded the same privilege? Restricting rights and prohibiting procreation on the grounds of “inferior” genes is not a path we want to go down again.

There are a handful of smaller objections to this practice, but they are as silly as the ones raised against gay marriage. According to most, incest (and homosexuality, and polygamy) is “unnatural”, but so are elevators, cars, air conditioning, showers, toilets, cell phones, and beds. People may also fear the repercussions of widespread incest.  And like polygamy, it’s not likely to become very popular because, well, Darwin.

In the end, there really aren’t any good reasons to oppose gay marriage, polygamous marriage, and incestuous marriage.  If the parties involved are consenting adults, then they should have the right to marry. It’s okay if you don’t like these practices. I don’t like them all that much either. But that is completely distinct from the question of whether these activities should be lawful or not, and our feelings shouldn’t weigh on the facts.


We’ve come a long way now, and so I thought we’d wrap up by revisiting the defining features of marriage laid out by Mr. D’Souza:

1. Marriage is between people

2. Marriage partners are of legal age

3. Marriage involves two partners

4. Marriage partners cannot be too closely related

5. Marriage is between a man and a woman

6. Marriage is between two people of the same race

7. Marriage partners cannot use contraception

8. Marriage partners can own property only in the name of the husband

9. Married couples cannot have abortions without the consent of the husband

10. Married couples must engage in an exchange in which the wife’s family pays the groom’s family in cash or gifts

…Wait a minute! Some of those weren’t there before! What’s with all these rules destroying the sanctity of our traditional marriages!? ….Ohh, so you’re saying that some of these features were removed, one at a time, from the legal definition of marriage? And then what happened?….Nothing? Marriage wasn’t ruined for everyone else?

Hmm, I guess it’s time to get with the times…

Bookmark It!: Quora

One of the coolest sites I’ve discovered since I’ve come to college is Quora. Some of you are already are members of this cool Q&A site, but I think this post will be pretty valuable to all of you nonetheless.

Essentially, Quora is a huge community of knowledgeable people (and Mihir), who gather together online to expand their knowledge. It has detailed, insightful questions and answers about just about every conceivable topic, and even includes stand-alone blog-type posts and spirited debates. But none of this really does Quora justice, so I thought instead that I’d leave you with one of the coolest answers I’ve seen on Quora and one of the best pieces of writing and creativity I’ve ever seen on the Internet. It’s so good that it deserves its own full link:

Now, Quora has its fair share of problems. It’s got a lot of Indian people (read: FOBs), and some of the dialogue on there is slightly condescending and haughty, but regardless, I firmly recommend that you bookmark Quora and check it out regularly. I haven’t been very active on the community yet, but I do plan to start (eventually), so be sure to follow me when you join!

Man of Steel? More like Little Girl of Steel. That movie sucked. (Don’t worry there are no real spoilers in this post in case you actually wanted to watch it. I don’t know why you would though.)

Ok fine it wasn’t that bad, I guess.

Now, this post isn’t going to be one of my usual brilliantly analytical and insightful posts that you all know and love. I’m in a bit of a hurry since I procrastinated, so I’m basically just going to rant about this terrible movie.

To start off, the very concept is bad. Superman is a bad superhero concept. He’s way too strong, which makes it ridiculously difficult to construct a believable and interesting story about him. I mean, what villain can stand up to a superhuman alien that can shoot lasers out of his eyes and fly faster than a speeding bullet? The creators of this movie actually did a decent job addressing that problem, because the villains in this  movie are other superhuman aliens that can shoot lasers out of their eyes and fly faster than speeding bullets.

Now, getting to the actual movie, there are a bunch of plot holes that tie together a poorly written story. At one point in the movie, Superman goes aboard an alien ship, who, for no reason at all, want Lois Lane to come aboard the ship as well. Seriously, the aliens have no reason for wanting this little whore from Earth (seriously, she goes from indifferent to wanting that superD really quickly). Another plot hole comes near the end of the movie, when the humans create a singularity in the middle of Metropolis in an attempt to send the aliens into deep space. Somehow, while the black hole sucks up just about everyone else, Lois Lane actually begins falling away from the singularity, triggering a typical girl-falls-and-needs-to-be-saved-by-the-superhero scene. Superman and Lois also begin making out right afterwards as well, as the rest of the city is falling into ruins. Surely, saving civilians should take a back seat in this situation, right?

The movie also tries to take a pseudo-scientific  approach to how Superman’s powers work. Apparently, his x-ray vision and laser beams come from Earth’s “nourishing” atmosphere and his super strength comes from the young, yellow Sun. Earth’s gravity is also much lighter than Krypton’s, enabling Superman to jump spectacular distances. Yet somehow, in the middle of the movie, Superman begins to fly! In the context of the movie and the scientific explanations given to his other powers, it just doesn’t make sense that low gravity can enable someone to fly.

Anyway, don’t watch this movie. It sucks.

Backyard Basketball: Alternative Scoring Systems

Welcome back to another edition of Backyard Basketball! In this much awaited sequel, we’ll examine how the discussion on shot selection presented in the first edition of Backyard Basketball changes in the alternative scoring systems often used in recreational basketball.

Playing By Ones and Twos

Sometimes, recreational basketball is played by ones and twos rather than by twos and threes. This means that shots inside the arc are worth one points and shots from downtown are worth two points. The implications of this are immediately obvious: long-distance shots are now twice as valuable as all other shots! To see exactly how valuable they are, let’s take a look at the table on shooting percentages presented in the first edition, adjusted for the new scoring system:

At the Rim

3-9 Feet

10-15 Feet

16-23 Feet

Beyond 23 Feet






Wow! Under this scoring system, three pointers gain incredible value. They’re even more effective than the average layup! So if you’re on offense, and you’re even reasonably competent at shooting three pointers, I recommend shooting them. At least half of your shots should be threes, anything less is simply unacceptable. In fact, I recommend for you to shoot 75% of your shots from beyond the arc. While picking players for your team, prioritize three point shooting above all else.

If you’re on the defensive side of the ball, work as hard as you can to prevent your opponent from getting good looks from three point land. Close out hard on shooters and force them to drive to the rim; remember, layups are worse shots to take than threes!

Of course, this assumes that you are as good at shooting from each location on the floor as NBA players. However, given the shorter distance of the three point line in recreational courts, I think it is likely that these percentages are proportional to shooting percentages at the equivalent distances in recreational basketball.

I don’t know why this scoring system is ever used. I don’t think it’s really any easier to count by 1s and 2s than by 2s and 3s, and even if it is, such ease comes at the cost of giving three pointers ridiculous value relative to other shots. It may be the case that certain courts are very tough places to hit threes from, “justifying” their high value. While I’m pretty sure most basketball player don’t take this into account, it still doesn’t truly address the issue, as the eFG% of the threes are still likely to be higher than mid range shots. So, the next time your opponent wants to play by ones and twos, jack up as many threes as you can and destroy him (or her, I guess).

No Three Pointers

In this scoring system, all shots count equally, regardless of where on the floor they come from. This is often used on courts without any three point lines. To understand the implications this, lets revisit the shooting percentages by distance. You math whizzes nerds may have realized that this is the same chart as previously, with the eFG% of “two pointers” cut in half :

At the Rim

3-9 Feet

10-15 Feet

16-23 Feet

Beyond 23 Feet






Threes are now the worst shot in the game, so even if there is a line on your court, don’t take any threes under this scoring system. Shots at the rim stand out as the best shots to take by far, so try to have as many of your shots come from here as possible, preferably 100%. Of course, even without a shot clock forcing you to shoot, this isn’t realistic, especially as the best defensive strategy under this scoring system is to clog the paint as much as possible.

So how do you best take advantage of this scoring system? One way would be while picking teams; disregard perimeter shooting entirely and focus on getting big men and strong, physical basketball players. Rebounding and put backs will be invaluable, as will having a post presence who can get deep inside the paint and get those high percentage shots at the rim.

Another way to gain a leg up is to play a 2-3 zone defense. This will help you have more bodies down low to protect the rim and gather rebounds. Pack the paint as much as possible, sag off shooters, and go under screens.

Unfortunately, I can’t provide much more help for this scoring system. It’s a tough nut to crack, as the inventors of basketball learned early on. The original game of basketball (which of course had no three pointers), had become an overly physical, grind of a game. Shorter players were getting phased out; they couldn’t contribute much to their teams compared to their bigger counterparts. The three point shot completely revitalized the game and made it a much more fun and exciting product.

In conclusion, both of these scoring systems cause certain skill sets become much more valuable than they would under the normal “twos and threes” scoring system. Use this to your advantage. If you have a team with great shooters, tell your opponents that you’ll be played by ones and twos. If you have a team with great big men and slashing forwards, but limited shooting, try to play with the traditional “twos and threes” rule, or ideally, play without three pointers at all. Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more Backyard Basketball!