### The art of passing

I used to get frustrated with my teammates for not passing when I play pick-up ball. I'm not saying I'm a particularly good player, it's just that the number of missed passes in a typical game is pretty astounding. Before I worked on the mechanics of my jump shot, passing used to be my go-to skill. It was a big revelation when it occurred to me one day that passing isn't easy. In fact, it's a skill to work on just like a jump shot or post move.

I think this sort of revelation has dawned on me in other areas of life. I used to think of myself as very average when it came to doing math in my head (I used to estimate our time to arrival every time my family traveled anywhere in the car), calculating odds at a poker table (cluster-counting poker chips!), estimating various quantities to an order of magnitude (let's see, could we make that observation?). Then I'd find out that, hey, not everyone can do that. These things are skills that I've acquired through practice and repetition. I was making assumptions about how other people find it easy, or that they could do these things at all. But while I was feeling insecure about my own abilities, by simply doing what I was doing, I was potentially impressing people around me.

Think on that the next time you're worried about how everyone seems so much better than you (if that thought ever occurs to you). Like I tell my students before they go out and give their first talks at other institutions: be the expert in the room. Don't assume that everyone in the audience has mastered what you mastered. It has taken you a lot of time and effort to get where you are, and it'll help the audience, and yourself, to just own your skills and tell people how it is!

So, um...yeah. All that to introduce this video of Lebron James' oft-overlooked passing skills. The dude is 6-foot-8, 260 pounds and passes like a damn point guard...

mama mia said…
impressive and uncanny ....how does he know just where to get the ball in an instant, on the fly? and seemingly without looking in that direction? is that why he gets paid like he does?

### 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…

### Finding Blissful Clarity by Tuning Out

It's been a minute since I've posted here. My last post was back in April, so it has actually been something like 193,000 minutes, but I like how the kids say "it's been a minute," so I'll stick with that.
As I've said before, I use this space to work out the truths in my life. Writing is a valuable way of taking the non-linear jumble of thoughts in my head and linearizing them by putting them down on the page. In short, writing helps me figure things out. However, logical thinking is not the only way of knowing the world. Another way is to recognize, listen to, and trust one's emotions. Yes, emotions are important for figuring things out.
Back in April, when I last posted here, my emotions were largely characterized by fear, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion and despair. I say largely, because this is what I was feeling on large scales; the world outside of my immediate influence. On smaller scales, where my wife, children and friends reside, I…

### 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…