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The people were the source of the Han’s revenue, but could also be a source of danger. Thus, keeping them happy worked for everybody. Now that the State has chosen other sources of revenue, such as its salt and iron monopolies, they no longer depend on or fear the people. With their wealth assured, the State forgets the utilitarian value of humaneness and lets its focus shift to these new sources of wealth; the ruled become a distraction. Instead of a humane and familial relationship, the people are now looked at as the carpenter first looked at the oak tree…

The author’s Boston fern

My cat was losing interest in her toys, so I thought, hey, I’ll get one of those robot vacuums for her. I googled, “Best vacuums for cats to ride on,” but all the results were about sucking up cat hair, not about being a mode of transport. But then it occurred to me, perhaps a vacuum would be a good idea just for cleaning purposes. My floor was filthy, after all. Note I say that in the past tense, as I forgot all about my cat and her needs and bought a Roborock S5 Max, and it’s changed my life…

In The Theory of Moral Sentiments, Adam Smith explains why the poor can be imprisoned for the slightest infraction, while the rich are lauded for the biggest, and why corporations can destroy lives at the altar of their profits:

“The great mob of mankind are the admirers and worshippers of wealth and greatness. Even their vices and follies are fashionable.”

“Men in the middling and inferior stations of life can never be great enough to be above the law. […] In the superior stations of life the case is unhappily not always the same.”

“The profligacy of a man of…

The Shang Dynasty’s monopoly on divination, which they attained through adding procedural complexity, first made me think of the Roman Catholic Church’s hold on power through keeping the bible and services in Latin, so that non-Latin speakers would have to use them as their translator in godly communications.

But, then I realised it’s similar to the behaviour of anyone who jumps on some disruptive technology first, then tries to make what should be a temporary advantage, permanent. These monopolies are usually broken up when someone comes along and makes the technology widely available (e.g. open source). …

Oracle bone with Old Chinese inscription, attributed to the Lì (歷) diviner group 2 in oracle bone period II (kings Zu Geng and Zu Jia). 12th century BCEIn this online class I’m taking, China’s Political and Intellectual Foundations: From Sage Kings to Confucius, we’re learning about how the first dynasties legitimised their rule and what they viewed as the purpose of government. Because government was a new concept, they had to sell people on it.

In an online class I’m taking, China’s Political and Intellectual Foundations: From Sage Kings to Confucius, we’re learning about how the first dynasties legitimised their rule and what they viewed as the purpose of government. Because government was a new concept, they had to sell people on it.

Our naievete in attributing the problems that afflict us all on the actions of individual jerks, rather than powerful guilds of jerks, allows the putrefaction of government to continue.

It’s especially interesting, as government has gotten such a bad rap for so many years now, while at the same time, we’ve each…

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Every country has its foundation myths, which illustrate for children what it is to be a citizen of that country. George Washington’s not lying about chopping down a cherry tree stuck with me, especially, and made me think honesty under duress an especially American attribute.

The Boston Tea Party was probably the next most repeated story of my patriotic induction. Unfortunately, “No taxation without representation,” was too complex for a child’s reasoning and so has led to many Americans living by the truncated version, “No taxation!” I certainly retain an image of a big quay-side party of people celebrating as…

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I’m staying at my brother’s in West LA, and had an interview yesterday in Long Beach, and I took public transportation there. When I finally got back home that evening, my brother greeted me, “Welcome back, Ulysses.” And I did feel I had been to the land of Lotus eaters and back. For a forty minute interview, I commuted a total of eight hours.

I left home about 9:30 AM. On Santa Monica Blvd, I waved my bus goodbye (at least that’s how the driver must’ve interpreted my frantic gesticulations). So, I waited in the rain until the next bus…

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Greg’s mom invited an old woman over for Christmas dinner. She had met her at some community event. “She’ll be all alone, otherwise. She’s an intellectual, so I thought she might like meeting Greg. She says she’s lonely for people who understand her.”

When the old woman arrived, and Greg’s father was taking her coat, she said, “My own daughter and son-in-law refused to have me over. He’s a no-good idiot. And she’s an idiot for marrying him.”

At the dinner table, she studied us one by one, frowning and pursing her lips as it seemingly sank in that we…

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The bullet-proof vested train ticket guy, who wore a black cap just like a policeman, said to the young Chinese (ethnically, at least) couple in the row ahead of me, “Because you didn’t touch out after you got off the bus, the card still thinks you’re on the bus. The bus is completely different than the train. Technically, you haven’t actually paid for being on this train. The fine is $100. You need to touch out after getting off the bus, because the system still thinks you’re on the bus. Do you understand?”

The young man nodded and looked chastened…

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I don’t believe in personality tests,” said Matt, as we sloshed back white wine in a pub near Regents Park. “They just try to typecast people.”

“Oh, but the Myers-Briggs test is really accurate.”

“Perhaps.” He savoured another sip of Chardonnay. “But then, I’m a Gemini, so I can’t help being skeptical about things like that. You know, Nadia is a Gemini, too. That’s why I get her. As soon as I see her in class, I know exactly how she’s feeling.”

“Are you sure it’s not because she’s a Myers-Briggs INFP?”

He ignored my comment. “Geminis are in tune…

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