Miscellany as the school year looms.

Today I’m going to play in a soccer game for the first time since visiting the ER. It’s the beginning of a new season, the team is back in a more appropriate division for our skill level (i.e., the lower division), and I feel a hell of a lot better than I did two months ago. Hopefully all will go according to plan, which would mean burying the bad guys under an avalanche of spectacular, rapture-inducing goals, but if not, I’ll settle for playing well and not feeling like my heart’s going to explode at the end of the game.

This morning I weighed 191 pounds, down from a high of 220 this year. That means I’m roughly 13.2% smarter on a pound-for-pound basis. It also means I’m within striking distance of several weight-related resolutions I’ve made over the last few years, and making progress on my latest project, which is to never have to go back to the ER again.

Speaking of resolutions, 2010 Resolution #11 just got blown up spectacularly. Smoke, fire, bodies and blood everywhere. Happily, I think there’s enough time left in the year to replace it.

New pet peeve: choice architecture has found its way onto the bills at my favorite local restaurant. Choice architecture is the study of how to present a choice in order to affect that choice. The term gained greater fame (and notoriety) when Cass Sunstein, one of Obama’s advisors from the University of Chicago, wrote a book called Nudge about how to use choice architecture in public policy to influence people into freely making “better” or “more desirable” decisions.

For instance, when you apply for a driver’s license, the DMV asks whether you’d like to be an organ donor. The default answer is “no.” Sunstein suggests changing the default option, so that the DMV would instead ask if you’d like to not be an organ donor. He believes that the extra effort necessary to remove your name from the donor list would lead the lazier among us to become organ donors by default. Add these folks to those who truly wanted to be organ donors, and you get more organ donors than if the default choice was non-donation. So you get a more socially optimal result, and you exercised free will by choosing to remain a donor, even though you did what the choice architect intended. Got it?

Back to my complaint: I bought a sandwich and a drink, and they brought me the bill with the 15% tip included. I wasn’t in a large-enough party that the tip would be mandatory (a practice that is perfectly understandable because you’re paying for the inconvenience of a large party). They just printed the tip on the bill for my convenience. How thoughtful. If I wanted to tip more, there was a line for “additional tip.” But if I wanted to tip less, or tip in cash, I had to ask to speak to the manager. I’d have to go out of my way, meaning it was (in theory) more likely I’d just pay the automatic 15%. The size of the gratutity isn’t the point; the idea that I’d have to go out of my way to alter the “default tip” aggravated me. I’ll tip plenty, but I don’t want to be led or defaulted into it.

Therefore I propose that if you ever get a bill with the default tip added in (again, assuming your party’s not too large), harass the manager. I don’t care how big a tip you leave, just find some way to harass the manager mercilessly about the difference between 12% and 15%, or 20% and 25%, or a cash tip versus adding it to a credit card. After all, if you have to talk to them about changing the tip, you may as well make it memorable. Given enough complaints, the manager will see that the wiser choice is reprogramming the cash registers and printers.

9:32 PM: Still breathing and functioning normally. The game was scoreless at halftime, then we fell behind 3-0 on flukey goals, one of which was entirely my fault. I switched up to forward the last ten minutes or so. Seven minutes left, BAM, left-footed shot into the top of the net. Three minutes left, BAM, right-footed shot underneath the goalie. One minute left, a ball is served into their penalty area, I run after it between two of their defenders with a third defender on me the whole time, and with the bad guy quite literally collapsing on me, I shot a left-footed side volley as I hit the deck. I looked up, saw it had gone in the net, and punched the ground with great exuberance. There may have been some loud, joyful swearing during the ensuing celebration, which featured fireworks, a military fly-over, and Brazilian supermodels wearing sequined bikinis and tossing rose petals.

So, the “avalanche of spectacular, rapture-inducing goals” did occur despite my not-playing-well-at-times. Unfortunately it didn’t begin early enough for us to pull ahead of the bad guys, but given the circumstances I’ll take the hat trick and the tie.

7 thoughts on “Miscellany as the school year looms.

  1. “Nudge” is one of the more interesting books on behavioral econ… much unlike Dan Ariely’s two “Irrational” books.
    It actually inspired me to reference homo economicus in one of my college application essays!


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