What I learned last week (#126): insoculation

Illustration of living room with tomato plants and dog.

A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.

C.S. Lewis

Walmart, Amazon, and the decline of America:

A really long article but with exec summaries that you can skim through. Interesting throughout. The section on Chinese potting soil is particularly entertaining.

In this section we examine oddly priced, $250 a bag “potting soil” sold by a New Jersey Distributor “We The People” as one such example of the many dubious offerings available from un-vetted third party sellers. In all likelihood, these odd examples of absurdly priced goods sold by shell company websites are likely designed to move money to places it shouldn’t go. Of course, I’m not accusing anyone of anything here, but lets say, hypothetically, that a Chinese drug smuggler wanted to get paid. He might start a New Jersey Distributor and instruct his customers to purchase “luxury potting soil” as payment for Opioids. The payment makes its way back to China, ostensibly as payment for the potting soil. I picked this example solely because I find it pushing the envelope of absurdity. There are lots of “less goofy” products out there, but they all serve the same purpose, to get money back to China via dubious GMV on Walmart and Amazon storefronts. I’m hoping this piques your curiosity since, at least to me, it’s actually pretty entertaining financial comedy.

Read Amazon, Walmart…..Chinese potting soil…..and the 34th Amendment…. on deep-throat-ipo.blogspot.com

Reminder: meetings, especially recurring ones, should be heavily scrutinized

If you discover that you’re calling meetings where people abstain, or worse, call for nullification, perhaps you should be more careful about which meetings you call and who you invite.

Does your organization have the guts to try this out? Do you, as an attendee, care enough to abstain?

The fact that even discussing this idea is stressful helps us understand status roles and power.

Read Meeting Nullification on seths.blog

Who pays for Amazon Prime?

Related to the above. If something seems to good to be true, it probably is. Some thoughts on a recent antitrust suit being brought against Amazon that alleges the Prime program makes prices higher for everyone.

No matter how amazing your logistics operation, you can’t just offer free shipping to customers without having someone pay for it. Amazon found its solution in the relationship between Prime and Marketplace. It forced third party sellers to de facto pay for its shipping costs, by charging them commissions that reach as high as 45%, according to Racine, merely to access Amazon customers. That’s nearly half the revenue of a seller going to Amazon! And this high fee isn’t just because fulfillment or selling online is expensive; Walmart charges significantly less for its fulfillment services and access charges to its online market, and eBay’s market access fees are also much lower than Amazon’s.

Read Amazon Prime Is an Economy-Distorting Lie on mattstoller.substack.com


Inosculation is a natural phenomenon in which trunks, branches or roots of two trees grow together.


In addition to exchanging water, sugar & nutrients, grafted plants can trade chloroplasts and DNA.

Similar melding happens not only across species, but also across kingdoms of life. Trees & other plants are really composite creatures, part fungi & microbe

There is are a couple of trees on my running route that have grown together in this way, and it is the craziest thing. I’ve always wondered what it was called and it if was common.

The best thing for being sad is to learn something:

The season for commencement speeches always seem to yield a lot of great advice put into writing. I’ve started keeping track of all of this in a collection of pages in Notion (see How I organize using Notion and a notebook for more). Give this one a shot, it is worth it.

From a commencement speech by Lewis H. Lapham delivered on May 11, 2003, to the class of 2003 at St. John’s College in Annapolis, where the curriculum centers on the great books.

The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then—to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.

When I was your age, I made the mistake of imagining the future as a destination—like Paris or Baltimore or the Gobi Desert—and I thought that in the so-called real world the people who ran the place were made of Greek marble or Gothic stone. As I grew older I began to notice, first to my surprise, and then to my alarm, that the more loudly the Wizards of Oz claimed to know all the answers, the less likely that they knew even a few of the questions. The walls of the establishment are made of paper, as often as not the fortress manned by soldiers already dead, propped like sandbags on the parapets of office.

Read Merlins Owl on laphamsquarterly.org

Stuff I wrote and drew about this week:

Other things I was reminded of, or thankful for, last week:

  • Now that things are opening up more in Scotland, there has been a noticeable uptick in general sickness in the fam (and plenty of COVID worries). Despite this past week, we’ve hardly had a sniffle for a year.
  • Our son “graduated” from pre-school (aka nursery) last week. He pretended not to care (but really did). My wife and I tried to keep from making a scene over him getting his diploma (but really did). 😀

Last but not least, check out what I’m up to now.

One response

  1. Inosculation! What a great word! And trees are amazing. They talk to each other and share nutrients and information through their roots. And people are only just figuring out the half of what trees do.

Comments welcome!

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