Caltech Wins Home Opener!

I attended the Caltech men's basketball home opener last night in historic Braun gymnasium, a.k.a. the Beaver Lodge. Okay, it's not also known as that. At least not yet. Prof. Geoff Blake and I made it up while watching the first half.

The Beavers had an amazing first 10 minutes against Pacifica College, with Mike Edwards and Frosh point guard Bryan Joel raining threes as if shooting free throws. The problem was that Pacifica kept hitting layups. I have no idea how a team composed entirely of guards was able to work the ball into the paint so often and easily, but I'm pretty sure Pacifica made it the entire first half without hitting a jumper.

To be sure, their guards were bigger than Caltech's guards. And faster. And generally more athletic. In fact, to be perfectly honest, only a few of the Caltech players look like basketball players at all, at least in the strictest sense. However, the Beavers have no want for hustle and heart, and watching them progress through their offensive sets makes it clear how well Coach Eslinger and his staff prepare the players each week. If you like team ball, fundamentals and...suspense, the Beavers are your team!

Speaking of suspense, with 1:30 to go, Pacifica ball, the game was tied at 60-60. As Prof. Blake noted, one-possession games were the Beavers' downfall all last season. Bryan Joel stole the ball, took off on a fast break, and got fouled on the layup attempt. Joel went to the line for the Beavers' first free throw attempts of the game (!), missed the first and hit the second. Pacifica then worked the ball in low, with their point guard hitting a running bank shot to put Pacifica up 62-61 with 0:40 to go. Caltech worked the ball in low to Alex Runkel, who backed into the post, and...oh crap!...lost the ball.

The ball started rolling between his legs and out of bounds, he reached and grabbed it, tried to call timeout and then all hell broke loose. I don't know what happened, but a very angry Pacifica player was pulled out of a pile of 5-6 players and restrained by his team mates, while Alex walked away to the other side of the court. After 5 long minutes of deliberation, the refs called an unidentified non-shooting foul (I think), giving Tech the ball out of bounds under their hoop, with 6 seconds on the shot clock, 16 seconds on the game clock.

The ball went in to Alex. He passed it to Ethan Boroson. Ethan?! the crowd seemed to gasp and ask in that brief second of time. He had zero shot attempts all game. I groaned. Alex, why'd you pass? But Ethan calmly banked the ball in from 6 feet with no time left on the shot clock. I can still see the calm look on his face as if he were just shooting around alone in the gym. The packed crowd went berserk. Geoff and I were jumping up and down like a couple of kids. But wait, there were 10 seconds left on the clock.

Pacifica's point guard, #1, quickly advanced the ball to mid court. However, the well-coached Beavers were waiting for him and his team mates, overloading the court to his favored right side. He crossed over, dribbled right to the baseline, elevated to shoot and...was blocked! Caltech recovered the blocked shot. Beavers win! Beavers win!

It was an exhilarating finish to a well-played game. Sure the Beavers had too many turnovers, too few free throws, and gave up too many layups to 6-foot-few guards. But they executed a well-orchestrated offense, rebounded the ball well, and won their first nail biter of the season.

GO BEAVERS!

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…