Xi’an, Terracotta Army

This is the last post of our trip to Xi’an, and the last schedule post of our recent trip to China.

It deals with the most amazing thing I saw this year: the Terracotta Army. It’s often called the Terracotta Warriors, but it is not merely a number of buried soldier-dolls. For reasons I’ll speculate at below, the Terracotta forces are well organized and clearly well-run in their burnt-earth world.

So come with us, and experience that wonder of the world only discovered in the 1970s: the Terracotta Army.


The terracotta army is located outside of Xi’an, and instead of spending a fortune on a taxi we went back to the train station…


Western Peace

… and took a countryside bus for 7 RMB (less than one dollar). Besides seeing no other tourists and plenty of farmers, the sites by the road were pretty interesting too. I’ve mentioned that Xi’an is touristy before — but did you know that it’s also home to an ancient Egyptian civilization?

Once we were in the Terracotta parking lot, we noticed that the Communist party, as the guiding ideology of the monument, erected a giant statue to the Qin Dynasty.


The People’s Mandate of Heaven

Before we entered the park itself we ate at the Hong Kong Star Restaurant, which is just outside the grounds

The experience was bizarre. The service was the same ernest-incompetence that characterizes so much of Chinese entry-level labor (as opposed to the stereotypically American attitude of surly indifference), and they stole from us through a fake receipt. But the “pizza italiante,” when it finally came, was delicious. One of the best I have ever had.

The entry gate reminded me of the exterior of Mount Rushmore

Once we were inside the gate there was still a long way to go


The interpretive museum in the distance


View from the steps of the museum

We stepped into Pit 1, and at first could only see other tourists. What was the big deal?

Oh. This:

And this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

I suddenly realized, looking at the scope and enormity of the pit, that the Qin Emperor planned on invading heaven. The Terracotta Army is no honor guard or collection of trusty friends-and-relatives. Rather, it is a spawling Grand Army in at least four pits with hierarchical leadership, Imperial look-alike sedans, and all the rest. The Emperor was prepared for both conventional resistance and assassination attempts from the forces of Heaven. And he planned to win.


Don’t mess with the Army

Hard to see, but part of the Army’s roof complex

A section of another pit

Finally, though, admist this grandeur there was goofiness too.

Who can resist dressing up as the warriors of ancient days and putting on a big smile? Especially after such a trip as ours!


Xi’an, a tdaxp travelogue
Prologue, The Last Express
Old Town
Terracotta Army
Xi’an Technological University
Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Epilogue, “I’m —-ing tired

The Wary Student, Introduction: In Search Of…

Last year, tdaxp hosted SummerBlog ’06. Back-to-back for more than a month, four different series explored different parts of our world. Redefining the Gap critically examined the theories of Thomas P.M. Barnett, while Coming Anarchy looked at the genius of that weblog. Perspectives and Peers examined a theory of rational development, and finally Variations of the OODA Loop wondered if perhaps rational decision-making was maladaptive.

This year, an equivalent amount of work went into one project, which in turned merged two others: my examination at Wary Guerrillas and proposal to go in search of wary students.

This series, The Wary Student will examine how cognitive load impacts altruism. But this isn’t your grandmother’s “altruism.” Rather, cooperative behavior can be kind (helping another), cool (rejecting a bad deal), or downright vindictive (digging into your reserves to punish a cheater).

The results may surprise you.


The Wary Student, a tdaxp research project
1. Abstract
2. Cognitive Load
3. Cooperative Behavior
4. Method
5. The Experiments
6. Hypotheses
7. Main-Effect Results
8. Interaction-Effect Results
9. Discussion
10. Future Research
11. Bibliography

John Kerry and/or Bob Shrum slam John Edwards

Shrum, R. 2007. Kerry’s regrets about John Edwards. Time. May 30, 2007. Available online: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1626498-2,00.html.

I can’t imagine a more personal attack than this:

Kerry talked with several potential picks, including Gephardt and Edwards. He was comfortable after his conversations with Gephardt, but even queasier about Edwards after they met. Edwards had told Kerry he was going to share a story with him that he’d never told anyone else—that after his son Wade had been killed, he climbed onto the slab at the funeral home, laid there and hugged his body, and promised that he’d do all he could to make life better for people, to live up to Wade’s ideals of service. Kerry was stunned, not moved, because, as he told me later, Edwards had recounted the same exact story to him, almost in the exact same words, a year or two before—and with the same preface, that he’d never shared the memory with anyone else. Kerry said he found it chilling, and he decided he couldn’t pick Edwards unless he met with him again. When they did, Kerry tried to get a better personal feel for his potential number two; as rivals for national office since 2000, shortly after Edwards had entered the Senate, the two men hadn’t spent a lot of time together. Kerry also wanted a specific reassurance. He asked Edwards for a commitment that if he was chosen and the ticket lost, Edwards wouldn’t run against him in 2008. Edwards agreed “absolutely,” as Kerry recalled him saying. If Kerry had shared this at the time, I would have told him what I did later: it was naive to think he could rely on a promise like that. Unlike Joe Lieberman, who’d been plucked from relative obscurity by Gore, Edwards had made his own mark in the primaries. He was ambitious—and if he saw his chance the next time, he was likely to go for it.

Depending on who is lying, either John Kerry, John Edwards, or Bob Shrum seems to be one of the worst human beings in the world.

A Medical No-Fly List?

Responding to the case of Andrew Speaker — the carrier of drug-resistant TB who flew on an intercontinental jet and potentially infected fellow passengers from all over the world, Cecilia writes:

The Atlanta lawyer who went to Europe for his wedding and honeymoon despite knowing he had drug-resistant tuberculosis and having been told not to travel is a selfish idiot. I’m sure having to postpone his wedding and honeymoon would have been a hassle, but now a lot of people might be infected, including his wife! TB is a serious illness, it’s not something minor like a cold from which people recover after a few days. People could die as a result of his actions.

It’s hard to disagree. We have an (admittedly faulty) TSA No-Fly list for potential terrorists, so a Medical No-Fly list is the next logical step in protecting ourselves. Indeed, the attacks of 9/11 may end up making it easier to institute such a No-Fly list because the political fight to keep certain individuals from flying has already been won.

As has been said before:

Rule #1: Super-empowered individuals may rule vertical scenarios, but nation-states still rule horizontal scenarios.

In other words: individuals are able to do great damage in a short amount of time. But countries do great good over long periods of time.

Osama bin Laden and Andrew Speaker are both super-empowered individuals who exploited the modern world to achive their goals, and ended creating outrage. Yet by exposing problems to solutions, they end up making the system more safe and secure than it was before.