Power vs Force by Dr. David R. Hawkins

“Enlightenment,” according to this new book I started reading today, “is the highest emotion.”  And, interestingly to me, “shame” is the “lowest emotion.”  Not “sadness,” “depression,” or “anger.”  But: “Shame.”

For the longest time, Bagel had been trying to get me to read Power vs Force by Dr. David R. Hawkins.  I’ve literally had the book sitting on my shelf staring at me for the past several months.  And while I’d initially flipped through it back in the summer, I never continued at the time.  Hawkins’s thesis is that via kinesiology, it’s possible to via physical feeling (feeling strength or weakness) to discern the truth value of any given proposition.  Literally, any binary question:  “Should I invest in Tesla?”; “Is my boss lying?”; “Will Brazil win the World Cup this year?”; “Will this medicine cure my cancer?”

Needless to say, I was skeptical for all of the obvious reasons.  But as the months have passed, and as I’ve spent more time with Bagel, I’ve started giving more credence to this kind of “new age” philosophical thinking.  I’m not entirely bought in yet, but I’m willing to entertain the notion that humans don’t yet know how this universe works.  And for all of our fancy science, technology, and empiricism, I do buy that there are greater forces at work which we, puny humans, clearly don’t currently understand.  Thus, I’ve started seriously reading the book!  And in the coming months, as Bagel and I slowly wind our way through it, I’ll periodically post musings and learnings that I think are noteworthy here on this blog.

Usually, whenever I read nonfiction books, I like to take notes when I privately journal.  Last year when I read The Fifth Risk by Michael Lewis, I’d jotted some of my notes on this blog publicly.  And so I’ll be doing the same here as well with Power vs Force.  The two other lessons I learned today in reading the book’s four prefaces and introductions (I’m not even at Chapter 1 yet!) is that the “measure of a human” and their “contribution to the Universe” is not measured in a person’s actions (like what the Jewish believe, ie. “good deeds”) or words or beliefs (like how protestants believe that “belief and surrender to God, not good works, is how one gets to heaven); but rather, Dr. Hawkins asserts:  “The measure of a human is not in words or actions but in what they become by the time they die.”  That stuck out to me.

Finally, Hawkins –who writes well!– painted a good metaphor towards the end of his new introduction:  He writes about the story of two ships.  In the beginning, out in the ocean, they may only be a fraction of a degree different in bearing.  But a hundred miles later after weeks of sailing in the ocean, they’ll be thousands of miles apart from each other in distance.  Essentially:  Small differences are initially trivial.  But over the long passage of time, it matters!  And could mean all the difference between setting a proper course and going astray.

The Great Robert Bork: “It Would Be an Intellectual Feast.”

Robert Heron Bork is one of my all-time heroes.  Not for his values– many of those are incredibly problematic and I don’t agree with many of Bork’s beliefs at all.  But Bork was a man who lived and died on his convictions, even if they were wildly unpopular.  And I really respect that.  It’s easy to believe in something when it’s en vogue.  But when your opinion’s against the grain, and a lifetime-appointed-SCOTUS-seat is on the line, and you still stick to your guns… well, that’s really something.  I admire Robert Bork even though I vehemently disagree with him on fundamental, core issues.   I think this is perfectly reasonable and not contradictory at all.  People are complicated, multi-faceted, multi-dimensional creatures.  A simple black-and-white view of the world, IMHO, is over-simplified, reductive, foolish, and moronic and I personally hold people with such unnuanced worldviews in stupendously low esteem.  Maybe that’s just me though.  I don’t know.

Another trait about Bork:  This guy was super-arrogant.  Like, Level-9000-Arrogant on a 1-10 scale.  Look up chutzpah and you’ll find a photo of Robert Heron Bork.  An example:  It’s common for SCOTUS nominees to extensively prep for their senate confirmation hearings with a practice called “murder boards.”  It sounds gruesome but is basically just practicing answering really tough questions that a committee will likely grill you with.  After all, these hearings are a nationally televised event, with millions of Americans watching, and this is literally the biggest stage.  The stakes don’t get any higher than a SCOTUS seat.  (I personally think it’s even more significant than being the president.)  But Bork didn’t prep at all.  He just waltzed into those senate confirmation hearings and shot from the hip.  Yes, ultimately— it went poorly.  But genuinely, in that moment:  Do we not agree this was totally boss and a baller move?

I know today’s entry about Bork may feel non sequitur and weird but firewalk with me a moment back to those senate confirmation hearings during that fateful autumn of 1987: Bork, a preeminent conservative scholar, resplendent Yale Law professor, and towering intellectual giant, was lobbed a total soft-serve of a softball from fellow Republican, Alan Simpson of the great state of Wyoming:  “Why do you want to serve on the Supreme Court?”

To which Bork replied, publicly, in front of all those whirling cameras and microphones, live on C-SPAN before millions of watching Americans:  “It would be an intellectual feast.”

What an absolute legend. 

The man desired to preside over the highest court in all the land not out of a sense of duty or wanting to help his fellow American citizen or higher purpose or to do any corporeal good in the actual, material world.  But rather:  It was a tremendous intellectual challenge.  A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to grapple with titanic struggles of legal scholarship and the foremost quintessential questions of our times.

I should add– Bork also answered numerous other questions during those 1987 hearings extremely honestly, giving remarkably detailed replies on matters of abortion, religion, and race-relations.  The man was endlessly curious and relentlessly honest.  He was also, in the end, categorically rejected by a vote of 58 to 42– the largest margin of defeat for a SCOTUS nominee in the history of the Supreme Court, an ignominious record that still stands to this day.  His defeat, in fact, gave rise to the addition of a new verb in the Oxford English Dictionary:  Getting “Borked.”

Bork died of complications from heart disease on December 19, 2012. Mr. Bork– personally, I’m glad you never made it to the Supreme Court. But I really admire that you never withdrew your name (a coward’s move), even when you knew that defeat was inevitable. You lived and died on your beliefs and I applaud the strength of your convictions. Thank you for being who you were.

Classic Tetris World Championships

Joseph Saelee: TWELVE maxouts in two hours. Legendary.

November is going to be lit.  People who know me will know that I’ve been a diehard Tetris fan my entire life.  Back in the day, it was Tetris on the TI-83 Plus.  Then at some point I got a Nintendo DS and Tetris DS probably remains my favorite handheld version to this day (though Tetris Ultimate on the 3DS is a close second).  However, my absolutely favorite version is, by far, Tetris on the NES.  Though the game was released back in 1989, I only discovered it a few years ago when the (now famous) “Boom! Tetris for Jeff!” 2016 CTWC video landed in my YouTube recommendations.  It was mesmerizing.  That same week, I remember running to my local pawn shop and getting both an NES and a copy of the game.  I was instantly hooked.

This year, because of COVID-19, the CTWC organizers did something very special.  Normally, the event happens in person at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo in Oregon every October but this year because of the virus, they organized an online tournament!

Since 2012, CTWC has been a 32-person tournament and happens single-elimination-style over the course of a single weekend.  The shindig starts on Friday and by Sunday, a champion is crowned.

This year’s online tournament is wild though.  They expanded participation to become a 64-person tournament and qualifying rounds lasted an entire week, Oct 12-18. The extended format also now allows for double-elimination in the “group stage” play during the first two weekends of November. 

Last week, I literally had their Twitch channel up every single day on my second monitor and was watching hours of Classic Tetris each day. Since folks were attempting qualifying runs from all around the world from Finland to Japan to Spain to here, the good ol’ USA, there was nearly always some Classic Tetris on, ready to watch.  It was amazing.

Converting a meat-space event into a virtual one is no easy feat. And while I didn’t participate in the tourney (am nowhere near good enough!) I did read through the rules that they posted online. In particular, I found this section (specifically, Rule 9) impressive about how a judge verifies a player’s authenticity:

Since everything is streamed over Twitch, they needed to be thoughtful about how they would suss out bad actors who were trying to cheat. This verification system, while simple, I feel is a reasonable deterrent.

In this age of COVID-19, everything has changed. It’s unclear, at the moment, if things will ever return to normal. But personally, I am really enjoying CTWC 2020 this year. It’s a genuinely remarkable logistical accomplishment and, importantly, really gives folks, especially those far away and who are younger, a chance to participate who otherwise never could. Not everyone can fly to Portland and stay in hotels for a weekend every year! This year’s online tourney has truly democratized the competition– hooray for technology! 😊😀😁

The Dewey Decimal Classification System

Melvil Dewey was one of the great intellectual giants of his time.  One of his awesome inventions that I’ve been recently studying is the Dewey Decimal Classification System.  Dewey first began developing the DDCS in 1873 while he was working at the Amherst College library and finally published its first version in 1876.  Over time, the proprietary system has slowly evolved and is currently maintained and licensed out to small libraries by the OCLC; the latest revision of the DDCS was released in 2011.  Today, the Dewey Decimal Classification System is used in more than 200,000 libraries in over 135 countries.

The DDCS fascinates me because it represents one man’s vision of how all of human knowledge should be mapped out.  In the DDCS, knowledge is organized into ten divisions:

  • Class 000:  Computer Science, Information, and General Works
  • Class 100:  Philosophy & Psychology
  • Class 200:  Religion
  • Class 300:  Social Sciences
  • Class 400:  Language
  • Class 500:  Science
  • Class 600:  Technology
  • Class 700:  Arts & Recreation
  • Class 800:  Literature
  • Class 900:  History & Geography

Then each division is further organized into more granular subdivisions.  For example:  “010” corresponds to “Bibliographies” and “790” corresponds to “Sports, Games, & Entertainment.”  For instance, if you were trying to search for a book on “Tom Hanks,” it’d likely be classified in 791 (“Public Performances”).

Building on Dewey’s work, I feel like I can adopt his DDC system when I build my own ontology of Wobble2.  Online, I found some great work by Cameron Mence who has used the D3 library to build this nifty tree map that represents a subset of how books are distributed in the DDCS.

Of course, whenever you start trying to develop meta-level schemas, taxonomies, and ontologies to organize all of human knowledge, you’re going to import your own biases into the project.  If you’re a human being, it’s simply impossible to be unbiased.  Thus, the DDCS has sustained its fair share of criticism over the centuries since its inception.  Times change and the world around us, and how we understand it, likewise evolves.  A great example:  In 1932, topics related to “homosexuality” were initially added under 132 (“mental derangements”) and 159.9 (“abnormal psychology”).  In 1932, that’s simply how humans (or at least, the humans in power who organized libraries) viewed the world.  But what’s fascinating is watching how human knowledge progressed and evolvedBy 1952, “homosexuality” was added to the 301.424 range (“the study of sexes in society”) and in 1989 was added to 363.49 (“social problems”).  It wasn’t until 1996 that it was added to 306.7 (“sexual relations”) which OCLC calls its current “preferred location.”

Finally, I found it fascinating (though, I guess, predictable) that nearly the entire 200 range covering “religion” is actually just all about “Christianity.”  Amusingly, all of the world’s thousands of other religions (for example, including Islam– a pretty big one at 24.1% vs 31.2% of Christianity, globally) are relegated to just a narrow band inside the 290s.   Christianity occupies everything else in the 200s!

The Global Positioning System

GPS, aka The Global Positioning System, is now something we just take for granted. But its history is fascinating and worth 300 words today. First– GPS is owned by the United States government and operated by the US Space Force. Technically, it’s today a network of 33 satellites not in geosynchronous/geostationary orbit. At any given point in time, at least four satellites are visible from anywhere on earth.

The GPS project started at the US Department of Defense in 1973; the first prototype satellite launched in 1978; the first constellation of 24 satellites came online and operational in 1993.

Originally, GPS was solely meant to be used only by the US military but President Ronald Reagan authorized its civilian use via executive order sometime in the 1980s. It really only became truly useful to civilians starting on May 3, 2000 though when the US government disabled “Selective Availability” which had hitherto deliberately added errors (up to 100 meters) to GPS precision when civilians used it. Not good for Google Maps navigation, one can imagine.

Finally: It’s worth noting that the US government can selectively deny or degrade access to GPS to selective endpoints at the government’s discretion. For example, Uncle Sam did this in 1999 during the Kargil War to the Indian Army when India and Pakistan were fighting over the Line of Control in Kashmir.

Since foreign nation states understandably don’t want to forever be at the whim and mercy of America, they’ve also started launching their own GPS satellites in the past two decades. Russia developed GLONASS (which finally completed in 2011, but its origins actually date back to the USSR, 1976); China launched BeiDou in 2000; the EU’s GNSS (Galileo Global Navigation Satellite System) went live in 2016, India put NavIC into orbit in 2018; and Japan even contributed QZSS (“Michibiki”) –four additional satellites– that augmented in the American system in 2018. In 2023, Japan plans to launch seven additional satellites to create its own independent system.

Anyway, America did it first. And also: For anyone who wonders why a fourth of the federal budget goes to defense each year, this is one reason why. So America can be #1 and have nice things. Even if it means our citizens don’t get universal healthcare and the poorest among us are consigned to dying in the streets. At least we gave the world GPS.

Bill Simmons & David Epstein on Range: “Tiger Versus Roger”

Yesterday when I was driving around, I listened to Bill Simmons interview David Epstein about Epstein’s new book, Range.  I learned six important takeaways from that podcast & this article:

  1. Practices and exercises that make a soccer player good at age 12 could make them bad at 22.  The incentive structure is all wrong.  Bill Simmons cites her daughter in Southern California where soccer clubs are forming around the players just to monetize them.  Children are a business!  Apparently, SoCal has invented a U-6 team… only in America!
  2. France has instituted a system that produces a diverse pipeline of players.  Children are encouraged to try different sports during a sampling period… during this time they’re encouraged to try to find what most interests them and what they’re best at.  In Croatia (I think?), Epstein cites a study where all the most gifted and most promising girls are pulled out of the general pool between 9-12 to be put into a specialized soccer program.  By 16-18, virtually all of these girls had quit due to burnout.
  3. The American military is starting to change its program to be more of a “talent branching system”— people change as they grow older.  It’s important that their careers change too. 
  4. “Grit” is not a constant quality– Epstein/Simmons cites James Harden.  Growing up, Harden apparently possessed tons of grit.  But after he became a superstar, Harden started to slack off and wasn’t as consistently hardworking.  Grit changes.  People change.
  5. Major League Baseball hitters able to knock 100 MPH+ fastballs outta the park are unable to hit 60 MPH softballs (which are larger than baseballs!) thrown by women.  It’s because it takes 200 MS for the human brain to just to even visually see the ball.  By this time, the ball is already halfway to the plate.  Epstein remarks: “You could close your eyes at that point and you’d have all the exact same information by the time the ball got to you.”  When players hit baseballs, they’re doing it based on visual cues that the pitcher emits; they’re not actually reacting to the ball (which would require faster-than-human reflexes).  When confronted with a new pitcher, like a woman from softball or a baseball professional from Japan, MLB hitters strike out because they don’t possess the pattern recognition and experience to react to hit the ball.
  6. The one upside to this is that American Women’s National Team being so dominant in soccer is proof that gender equality in America (for sports) far outstrips gender quality is the rest of the world!  Both Alex Morgan and Abby Wambach have said to Simmons that they didn’t start playing soccer until 16!  Morgan played lots of softball and Wambach played lots of basketball.  Wambach credits learning how to rebound well in basketball as the reason why she’s so good at headers in soccer.