Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Robin Williams and Me

Robin Williams is dead of an apparent suicide.  I think in all suicide, there runs a dark thread that no one really wants to talk about but everyone beats themselves up about: could I have done more?  This is the answer from my perspective

I battle depression (Bipolar II).  Not daily but at least once a month or so.  When the battle is going well thanks to my relationship with God, my therapist, or my wife (of 8 years today, Happy Anniversary) I never get close to what I can only characterize as staring into the abyss.  However, despite the best efforts of those closest to me, sometimes I do take a glimpse into the abyss and wonder what it would be like to fall infinitely. To be done with the battle, with the unending nothingness of detachment, and, above all, with the feeling of being a net negative in the world.  A world that would go on without me.  This, to a non-depressed person, makes absolutely no sense.  And to me, on even an average day, the thoughts are insanity.  Why would I deprive my daughter of a dad?  My wife of a husband?  The world of all that I have to offer?

But that's the point.  The thoughts are insanity.  An awful lie.  Dexter calls it his dark passenger and that's what it is.  A thing not of myself which attempts to manipulate my person hood into believing I am merely a speck of dust hurtling through space on a bigger speck of dust and inconsequential to everyone.  And this, my acquaintances is where you come in.  I can dismiss my relationship with those I impact in the immediate (close friends, family, etc) because I see what I do to them and can ignore what good things they say to me because they're supposed to say those things or they notice my depression and don't want to aggravate me.

The kindness of an acquaintance, however, is not so easily dismissed. You never know who is petering on the abyss and what a huge impact a single compliment or "hey, I know we haven't talked in awhile but I was thinking of you and wanted to say hello" will have.

All of those who know someone who has committed suicide wonders, in their darkest times, whether they could have done more.  It is almost never those that you know personally and closely that you could have saved.  You were already doing everything you knew how to do.  Could you, had you been a trained psychiatrist, known that the detachment was from depression and not just residual anger due to a fight? Maybe, maybe not.  My fiancee didn't see it coming and she's more emotionally intelligent than 99% of people I've met.

I have around 800 Facebook friends.  Of those, I probably see or interact with 20 daily, 75 on a weekly basis and maybe 150 a month.  The other people I am friends with because of a single interaction or a few interactions perhaps years ago.  I remember all of them.  Their faces are a tapestry of joy.  I may remember a few bad times but I dwell on good stories and better times.  And it is those stories that you can tell someone, through a simple text or a Facebook message, that will bring a smile to their faces and turn them, if only for a second, from the abyss.

To those who have thought of me even though we may have not seen each other for years, you will never know what your simple message, thoughts, or prayers have done.  I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for those sacrificed moments.  I hope this reaches you as a thank you and I hope to sacrifice moments for those I know in the coming months and years.

And to those who have lost someone near and dear or known in passing and everything in between, know this: the person didn't commit suicide because of you.  They did it because they thought they were doing it FOR you.  The only thing you can do is tell as many people as possible that they mean or meant something to you in the hope that your love will not fall on deaf ears.  Because sometimes it does.  And when that happens, no one will see it coming.

PS This is not a cry for help.  Only a message from one person.  I hope you get something out of it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Is the BCS Really Wrong?

I lived in Ohio for a long while.  While there I made friends who I will keep for the rest of my life.  Some of these friends are Ohio State fans who are unhappy that OSU is not (as of this moment) slated to play in the National Championship Game even though they have the longest winning streak in college football.

Being an inquisitive college football fan, I thought about this stuff.  The complexities of the current state of college football ranking is difficult to explain as evidenced by my futile attempts to explain the Coaches Poll, the AP Poll and the BCS formula to my wife.  In the end she asked the question that every person not sponsoring a Bowl game or profiting from a Bowl game has asked: why isn't there just a playoff?

Because.  That's why.  And the "Plus 1" that the BCS will move to next year is kind of like putting a band-aid on an infection and claiming that it's cured.  So, regardless of whether or not D1 college football will do what every major sport on the face of the planet has done and have a playoff, the question of ranking bias will exist albeit (with a 16 team playoff) an easier to stomach question of who should be 16 vs. 17 as opposed to who should be 2 vs 3.

So I did what any self respecting inquisitive person would do: I thought about it for a few days and then gave up.  The numbers and complexities are too large.  When is a win a legitimate win vs. a win against a "lower quality" opponent?  What would an algorithm to decide rank look like?  Then I found a blog and a partially implemented solution in C# and decided to finish it and fix it.

This method is not without its flaws.  I eliminated every team that hadn't played at least 9 games against teams in D1 football.  That means that the loss that Florida had against Georgia Southern didn't hurt Florida. The loss to Georgia Southern was not going to be the only loss they had (clearly). That also means that Alabama's win against Georgia State didn't count.  I think this is a fair trade-off as it is kind to bad teams and harsh to good teams.

This has room for improvement.  I still am counting games against conferences with absolutely terrible average ratings.  Here are the average ratings by conference (on a scale of 1-100 with 100 being the best)

1. SEC: 70
2. Pac 12: 67
3. Big 10: 61
4. Big 12: 58
4. ACC: 58
6. AAC: 41
7. Sun Belt: 37
7. Independents: 37
9. Mountain West: 36
10. MAC: 33
11. C-USA: 31

The algorithm is as follows which is effectively how Google stack ranks pages:

1) Every team starts with a rank of 100
2) Iterate over every team.
3) Add the rank of every team they beat together
4) Divide by the number of games they played
5) Go back to step 2 and iterate 25 times

The standings are as follows (and I'm sorry Ohio State, the math and the worthless wins against Illinois (33) and California (23) don't lie):

1. Auburn (100)
2. Missouri (97)
3. Alabama (96)
3. Arizona State (96)
5. Ohio State (95)
6. Florida State (93)
7. Stanford (91)
7. South Carolina (91)
9. Oklahoma State (89)
10. Baylor (88)
11. Oregon (86)
12. Michigan State (85)
13. Clemson (84)
14. UCLA (81)
15. Georgia (80)
16. Oklahoma (79)
17. LSU (78)
17. UCF (78)
19. Duke (77)
20. Northen Illinois (76)
21. Wisconsin (75)
21. USC (75)
21. Texas A&M (75)
21. Miami (FL) (75)
25. Washington (74)

So even if the SEC bias exists, it's correct.  Top to bottom they're strong and they beat their non-conference foes more (at least this year).  The one really surprising thing to me is the Sun Devils who are tied for 3rd despite their two losses because they have beaten UCLA, Wisconsin, USC, and Washington. This may or may not be a flaw in the system and is a better comparison of conference strength as opposed to bowl records.  A bowl game is a non-conference (ideally) game played in January.

OSU fans can take comfort in the fact that if I give them a win next week against MSU, their rank jumps to 98.  Either Auburn or Missouri will lose and, surprisingly, the only game that will hurt OSU in this formula is the Stanford v. ASU game but that game will not matter from a BCS standpoint.

I could fix this by tweaking the formula which is the mess the BCS formula is in.  There is no system, computer, human, or otherwise that can replace a good old fashioned tournament.

Even my wife agrees.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Chili Recipe

It's a work in progress, but this works really well.

Ingredients

Meat
Each one of these is subject to change depending on what my local grocery store has sliced and cheap.  Today I made it with beef neck bones instead of oxtail. You can make it with stew beef or whatever.
2.5 lbs meat (lean meats work best, lower grades of rib eye, for instance)
1 lb oxtail (bone in)
1/2 lb bacon (bacon ends work really well, so does fatback)
1 tube chorizo

Beans and veggies
Beans are unnecessary, but can be used if you like beany chili.  
2 cans light red kidney beans rinsed and drained
2 cans dark red kidney beans rinsed and drained
1 bell pepper
1 large onion
4 cloves garlic

Tomato stuff
1 can diced tomatoes drained
1 can (8 oz.) tomato sauce

Liquids
2 cans beer
2 T olive oil

Spices
3 T chili powder
6 cubes beef bullion
2 T cumin
2 t paprika
2 t oregano
2 t sugar
1 t cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1/2 t coriander
1 t red pepper flakes
1 t salt

Heat
Change levels according to your own specific needs.  You can use as much or as little of these ingredients or add your favorite hot sauces etc.  This part changes every time I make it
1/2 t Louisiana hot sauce
1 t cayenne pepper
1 t Cholula
2 T San Luis hot sauce

Final thickening
1 t corn meal
1 t flour


Steps
1) Rough cut the bacon (fatback/whatever) and brown in a pot (this pot is the one you'll use for everything) on low heat.
2) Once the bacon is browned, add the oxtail and sear on all sides.
3) Add the 2 cans of beer to the pot with the bacon and oxtail, cover and reduce heat to low
4) Chop the bell pepper, onion, and meat into bite sized chunks. Mince the garlic. Mix these 4 ingredients together and place in the fridge
5) Brown the chorizo in a pan and drain the grease.  Set the chorizo aside
6) After about 30 minutes of cooking (I normally just do steps 4 and 5 and once they're done, it's time to keep going) pour everything from the pot into a bowl and set aside to cool
7) Add the olive oil to the pot and then the meat mixture from the fridge. Pour the salt on the mixture. Keep the heat at low and the cover on, stirring occasionally, until all the meat is browned on all sides and the onions are translucent.
8) While that's browning, mix the spices together in a bowl.  Crumble the beef bullion with your hand
9) Once the meat is brown and the onions are translucent, add the tomato stuff, the spices, the heat, and the chorizo. Stir to mix. Cover and leave heat on low.
10) Take the oxtails out of the bowl it's in and put it in the pot with your chili base
11) Using a tablespoon, spoon off as much of the bacon fat from the remaining liquid and pour the liquid and pork parts (non-skin) into the chili mixture. Increase heat to medium and bring back to a boil.
12) Cover the pot, reduce heat to low, and cook for 1.5 hours
13) Add the beans and cook for .5 hour
14) If you want the chili thicker, mix the final thickening ingredients together in a bowl with some of the chili liquid until you have a paste and stir into the chili.  You can do this as many times as you want, just make sure you give at least 30 minutes between applications.
15) Put into a slow cooker on low for 2 hours.  You don't have to do this, I just like to do this to ensure the meat falls off the bone. 
16) If you didn't spoon off the bacon fat in step 11, you will have chili with a dark covering.  You may end up with this even if you did depending on the fat content of your meat.  This is fat.  You can either stir it into your chili and serve or spoon it off.
17) Pull the meat off the oxtails and remove the bones from the chili.
18) Stir to mix and serve.

Friday, June 1, 2012

On fatherhood

At possibly the last small group as leaders, we had a Charlotte Party. At this party, one of the men I respect most in my life asked this question: "What are you most scared about being a father and what are you most excited about being a father?" I'd like to answer the excitement permanently here: 1) Raising her in a household that loves God and teaching her that such love transforms the way we view society and people. 2) Watching her give something away that she holds valuable because someone else needs it more. 3) Seeing her unadulterated joy at something I view as either mundane or mildly exciting (as an aside, I like that unadulterated has the phrase un-adult in it) 4) Introducing her to the magic of books and imagination. 5) A more realized understanding of John 3:16 (God loved the world so much he gave his only son) 6) Coming home from work and her being excited to see me. That's just the tip of the iceberg, but a happy tip.