### Have Not A Spirit of Fear

I was sitting in the living room working on my laptop when Owen wandered in and laid his head on my lap. "Daddy, I keep having bad dreams and I can't go to sleep." I walked him back into his room, tucked him in and told him to look at his stuffed animals if he got scared again. After all, how can you feel scared when Piglet is grinning in your face? Owen agreed with that logic and soon fell asleep.

The whole incident brought to mind one of the most vivid memories of my childhood. I used to have a hard time falling asleep because I had an active imagination and I was extremely susceptible to imagery from TV. For instance, there was an episode of McGyver with a Sasquatch in it. Even though the Sasquatch turned out to be a bad guy dressed up, and even though he was eventually caught by the bemulletted hero, I still feared the 7-foot-tall monster would emerge from my closet the moment I closed my eyes.

To help me and my sisters with our bed-time fears, my father used to sing us a song based on a Bible verse: "God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power and a sound mind!" He'd get out his guitar and we'd sing this verse several times, reminding ourselves that we didn't have to be afraid. We'd remember what we were raised to be: loving, yet powerful people with sound minds.

So it all came together when Owen interrupted me, because I was reading an essay by Bruce Schneier (by way of Andrew Sullivan) about the current state of fear in which we in America now live. The tongue-in-cheek conclusion of his essay is that we should close the Washington Monument due to the complications involved in protecting it from terrorists. By doing so, we will finally erect a proper monument to our state of fear:
An empty Washington Monument would serve as a constant reminder to those on Capitol Hill that they are afraid of the terrorists and what they could do. They're afraid that by speaking honestly about the impossibility of attaining absolute security or the inevitability of terrorism -- or that some American ideals are worth maintaining even in the face of adversity -- they will be branded as "soft on terror." And they're afraid that Americans would vote them out of office if another attack occurred. Perhaps they're right, but what has happened to leaders who aren't afraid? What has happened to "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"?
It's so true that it literally hurts me to read it. Somehow we have moved from being a country of sound-minded people to a collection of flinching, wincing individuals. This article dovetails with another essay I recently read by Patrick Smith (from Ask a Pilot), who reminds us that terrorism existed before 9/11, and somehow we, as a nation, didn't go scurrying and hiding. We didn't overreact and ban nail clippers and snow globes from carry-on luggage.

He describes a harrowing four-year time span between 1985 and 1989 during which there were eight major terrorist attacks on planes and airports.
In the 1980s we did not overreact. We did not stage ill-fated invasions of distant countries. People did not cease traveling and the airline industry did not fall into chaos. We were lazy in enacting better security, perhaps, but as a country our psychological reaction, much to our credit, was calm, measured and not yet self-defeating.
It's really too bad that we didn't react more calmly nine years ago, but
With respect to airport security, it is remarkable how we have come to place Sept. 11, 2001, as the fulcrum upon which we balance almost all of our decisions. As if deadly terrorism didn't exist prior to that day, when really we've been dealing with the same old threats for decades. What have we learned? What have we done?
What our country has done, I would argue, is traded in a spirit of love and power for one of fear.
And what more could the terrorists have hoped for? Perhaps the cliche "the terrorists have won" is a cliche because it's so often true, given our reaction to it.

Well, I for one have made up my mind to not give into fearfulness. We get one chance at life on this planet, and I'm determined to enjoy it here while I can. And I want to teach that same attitude to my children so they can grow up with sound minds.

mama mia said…
So true, and a lovely remembrance, John...thanks for sharing...my heart is warmed thinking about you and the boys...can't wait to see you all later this month!
Anonymous said…
Here here. :) Thanks for the nice post this morning! :)
blissful_e said…
I was thinking about this the other day, that often as a parent I say "don't worry," (such as, "don't worry, I'll get to you as soon as I've helped your brother" or "don't worry, the loud toilet won't hurt you") and Jesus said "do not be afraid" a lot to his disciples, too.

Reading the Bible, I believe that there are two spirits, the spirit of fear (and other destructive things), and the Holy Spirit, which is God's indwelling of Christ-followers, and is the spirit of love, power, and a sound mind.
kel said…
Nice, thank you for the reminder, John. I was scared of Michael Jackson & ET popping out of my closet as a kid! I can't wait to see you guys later this month as well!
JohnJohn said…
Kel: I'm not sure I'm yet over my fear of Michael Jackson coming out of my closet (shudders). See you and the rest of the fam at Xmas!

### On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on NBA.com, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

### The Force is strong with this one...

Last night we were reviewing multiplication tables with Owen. The family fired off doublets of numbers and Owen confidently multiplied away. In the middle of the review Owen stopped and said, "I noticed something. 2 times 2 is 4. If you subtract 1 it's 3. That's equal to taking 2 and adding 1, and then taking 2 and subtracting 1, and multiplying. So 1 times 3 is 2 times 2 minus 1."

I have to admit, that I didn't quite get it at first. I asked him to repeat with another number and he did with six: "6 times 6 is 36. 36 minus 1 is 35. That's the same as 6-1 times 6+1, which is 35."

Ummmmm....wait. Huh? Lemme see...oh. OH! WOW! Owen figured out

x^2 - 1 = (x - 1) (x +1)

So $6 \times 8 = 7 \times 7 - 1 = (7-1) (7+1) = 48$. That's actually pretty handy!

You can see it in the image above. Look at the elements perpendicular to the diagonal. There's 48 bracketing 49, 35 bracketing 36, etc... After a bit more thought we…

### The Long Con

Hiding in Plain Sight

ESPN has a series of sports documentaries called 30 For 30. One of my favorites is called Broke which is about how professional athletes often make tens of millions of dollars in their careers yet retire with nothing. One of the major "leaks" turns out to be con artists, who lure athletes into elaborate real estate schemes or business ventures. This naturally raises the question: In a tightly-knit social structure that is a sports team, how can con artists operate so effectively and extensively? The answer is quite simple: very few people taken in by con artists ever tell anyone what happened. Thus, con artists can operate out in the open with little fear of consequences because they are shielded by the collective silence of their victims.
I can empathize with this. I've lost money in two different con schemes. One was when I was in college, and I received a phone call that I had won an all-expenses-paid trip to the Bahamas. All I needed to do was p…