### The conservative candidate won

I was actually gearing up to write an open letter to downcast conservatives. But then William Saletan went out and did a much better job than I could have done (at Slate.com). He argues that conservatives---not modern-day Republicans, but true conservatives--should take heart: Obama is the best moderate conservative candidate we've had in decades.
Obama’s no right-winger. You might have serious issues with his Supreme Court justices or his moves on immigration or the Bush tax cuts. But you probably would have had similar issues with Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, or Gerald Ford. Obama’s in the same mold as those guys. So don’t despair. Your country didn’t vote for a socialist tonight. It voted for the candidate of traditional Republican moderation. What should gall you, haunt you, and goad you to think about the future of your party is that that candidate wasn’t yours.
This is the thing that had me scratching my head for so long. Obama is pretty damn far from a liberal or progressive. I consider myself a progressive, and Obama has given me precious little to celebrate on issues such as the drug war, torture, indefinite detention, warrantless eavesdropping, drone-ing people, etc. Where did this caricature of a radical socialist muslim come from? It finally dawned on me when I watched Fox News the other night. The irony, of course, is that by casting Obama in this way left the Republican party completely flatfooted in their ability to counter him as he actually is. Hence the "surprising" landslide Tuesday night.

Just goes to show that you shouldn't live in an echo chamber. The problem is, I'd love to debate politics with conservatives, but I just can't find any true conservatives. The only "conservatives" I encounter are the weird modern-day Republicans whose worldview is shaped by either gun rights and zero taxes on one front, or abortion and teh gays on the social front. All the while the people they vote for only care about ensuring that the rich get richer while the poor have their safety nets pulled out.

As a somewhat related thought, an interesting point came up in a recent conversation with (liberal) friends. The idea is that people vote against their self interests because they vote according to what they aspire to be, not where they are. This really helps me understand tea partiers who protest against universal health care despite being the people (blue collar workers) who will need it the most if they lose their jobs. They're not voting against health care as people who need it, but as people who aspire to make the kinds of 1% money that would ensure they don't need it. Interesting notion.

Anyway, if anyone knows of any actual conservatives living in the Pasadena area, let me know. I'd like to have a beer with them. I think we'd have a lot to talk about as reasonable adults. But if you've ever entertained the notion that our president is a far-left, anti-American, teleprompter-needing socialist, well, I just feel bad for you son.

### 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…