The Real Winner

So it’s fantasy football season, and I really wanted to write an article discussing draft strategy and player projections and stuff, but unfortunately, I can’t bring myself to do that, because my league hasn’t drafted yet and I don’t want to help any of them out. But I am the best in our league, so I might throw them a bone next week.

Some of the members of my league would argue, however, that I’m not the best in the league, simply because I didn’t “win”. Whatever that means. If you’ve ever played fantasy football, you would know that it’s involves a great deal of luck. Some of the Roundtable’s members know this.

Why does it involve a lot of luck? Well for one thing, football players themselves are very inconsistent, not only from year to year, but from game to game. This means owners will often get lucky with draft picks and unlucky with bad draft picks. Even the experts aren’t very good at this, with the top experts only reaching about 60% accuracy. (As an aside, here’s how fantasy pros measure “accuracy”). Basically, there’s so much randomness and so many variables involved in the sport that prediction becomes very difficult.

But that’s not really an excuse. You can still make optimal decisions to improve the expected value of the points that your team would score. The owner who made the best decisions would end the season with the greatest amount of fantasy points. And over a large period of time, this owner would also end up with the greatest number of victories. Here’s the real problem: the fantasy season is only about 15 weeks long. Let’s look at why this is a problem:

My league page isn’t loading now for some reason so I’ll post the picture once it does.

For those of you who don’t know, in fantasy football, pairs of owners “face off” each week, and the owner with the most points at the end of the week is deemed the “winner”, and receives one victory. It’s a totally binary system that doesn’t account for margin of victory at all. Also, due to the touched upon inconsistency, the best team doesn’t always win the week. The result is an inefficient week that does a poor job of rewarding good decision making and places a high degree of emphasis on luck. We can see this because of the correlation between points scored and wins, which stands at ___. This is because the distribution of points each week is far from even, and so there will be several weeks in which even the worst team would beat the best team.

As you can clearly see, I scored the most points in my league by a significant margin. The margin would have been even greater, but after I lost in the playoffs, I didn’t even set my lineups for two weeks, and had two injured players in each week. Regardless, I was still undoubtedly the best owner in our league this year. The eventual champion was 3rd in points scored, so I can’t be too pissed about him winning, but the guy in second place was a lowly 7th! The owners of my league will point and laugh at me and say that I’m just bitter about losing. And I am. But only because I think I demonstrably deserved to win. But it doesn’t matter. I know I was the real winner.


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!