### Happy Kleptocracy Day!

Kleptocracy (n): a government or state in which those in power exploit national resources and steal; rule by a thief or thieves.

Today is what most Americans know as Columbus Day, in the honor of Christopher Columbus. Ol' Chris was a murdering, thieving, trifling, evil little turd of a man who "discovered" the Caribbean Islands. The "New World" that we often think of Columbus of "discovering," namely North America, had been occupied for about 12 millennia---yes 12,000 years---before any European arrived. The first European to arrive in the Americas was probably a Viking, Leif Ericson, about 500 years before Columbus was born. Also, the Earth was known to be round since the time of the Greeks by Erastosthenes; a discovery replicated by Arab scientists hundreds of years before Spainish rule. So, yeah, most of what I learned about Columbus in school was a flat out lie: Columbus didn't discovery anything except a new, quick way of obtaining gold: straight up stealing it from other people.

When Chris arrived, he encountered peaceful natives who helped his men come ashore and readily traded with them. Chris and the Spaniard soldiers with him then proceeded to brutally enslave the Natives during several subsequent visits to their islands, working them literally to death and cutting off the noses, ears and limbs of those who protested their treatment. They also forced the native women and girls into sexual bondage, and shipped Natives back to Spain as fealty to the Queen. The trip left the majority of the Natives dead before arrival. Classy, right?

 Screen capture of a larger illustrated history by theoatmeal.com. In case there is anything vague in the wording,Columbus casually states in his journal that his soldiers prefer girls of age 9-10 years as sex slaves. Since he'ssuch an upstanding Catholic hero, I'm sure Chris preferred his sex slaves to be a bit older.
This is a true historical account of our national "hero." We have a day off because a white dude stumbled onto occupied lands and stole gold and people. Here's a quick account based on Columbus' own journal. Here's a cartoon account with more details. Here's an excellent essay on the evolving perception of Columbus.

This is why we have a day off work. This is just one of many racist aspects of our society. Please don't turn away. This is our history. This informs who we are today as a nation and a people.

Happy Kleptocracy Day!

So instead of just celebrating just one thief, I propose that we celebrate a long history of nation-building via thievery. I propose that today be known as Kleptocracy Day. To celebrate, I suggest we all go out, "discover something" (Oooh! A microbrewery!), and steal whatever we want. Then I propose that on Tuesday we name a sports team after the owner of the store we stole from, force his family to live in a desert, and call ourselves exceptional heroes. Because America!

Benjamin Nelson said…

### 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…