### How online comments matter, and Black lives so often don't

I recently read an article at Uppercutting about a WTF_was_that_racist Tweet by sports journalist Jason Whitlock. The article is about the use of a "racist dog whistle" and the risk of lending credibility to white supremacists by making that sort of statement as a black person. The piece is well worth reading. But what inspired me to write here is what I found in the comments area.

Many people respond to terrible things that are written in online comment threads by saying something like, "Ugh! Never read the comments." I disagree with this stance. Comment threads are where you get to see how people actually think. After all, online commenters are actual people, fellow citizens of our country. While it's easy and perhaps preferable to think that the people who work with and around us are the Good People, and that racist online comments are left by Bad People. But people are people.

The more I've learned about the history and nature of racism, the more easily I can see that there is no such thing as Good People who do Good Things. The fact of the matter is that good, upstanding citizens do absolutely terrible things, and have throughout all history. Slave owners weren't Bad People. They were the venerated men who founded this country

Modern-day racists follow no special form of racism. The racism behind online comments is one and the same as the racism that has resulted in science being a mostly white enterprise in our country. Racism isn't the provenance big, scary monsters living under the beds of Black people. Racism is something propagated by everyday folk, the good, upstanding citizens of our country.

So, yeah, I don't really have the privilege of not noticing the comments. If I turn away, I miss out on key data bout how the world around me works.

Now, back to the Uppercutting article's comment section:

Go back to that comment and read that sentence ("Yet people are so outraged and shocked each time a black person is killed by a cop.") Imagine that instead of "black person" the 18-year-old who was killed---and to whom the commenter is presumably referring---was an 18-year-old white girl who was going to Yale next year. Try saying that sentence in this slightly revised scenario: "Yet people are so outraged and shocked each time a white girl is killed by a cop." Somehow it doesn't roll off the tongue so easily, does it?

The inability to transfer that sentence across race lines is precisely where American racism lives. The commenter, "Dirtyheat," is probably someone old enough to have held this thought longer than the moment she/he wrote it, and that it likely went unchallenged each time they expressed it. For many Good white people, this sort of thinking, expressed aloud may at first glance seem anomalous. "What?! In 2014?!" But the fact is, the comment is so ordinary that most people wouldn't even notice it unless it was explicitly pointed out to them. Forget Donald Sterling's use of the N-word (gasp!). No, this is the everyday racism that is absolutely everywhere.

Whether or not a Black person can see it and explicitly name it for what it is, this sort of everyday racism affects them because they are human, trained to respond to general social cues just the same as any other human. The message from white people expressing this sort of "outrage against outrage" sends a clear and powerful message to Black people, especially when it goes unchallenged by other white people. It says that Black people can be killed by the cops and it's no big deal. It's just part of the "grand scheme of things." It simply does. Not. Matter. That hurts, it adds up, and it has huge effects on the psyches of Black people.

Say it with me: Black lives matter!

### 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 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…

### 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…