Archive for the ‘Social Norms’ Category

An Alternative View from the Wing (and the hotel bed)

I never watch Larry King. If I were to have a dishonorable mention for retiree of the year, King would be it. Yet, recently while staying in a hotel, I watched nearly ten minutes of Larry King. I have other more systematic preference shifts when in different contexts. On airplanes, I almost always order tomato juice despite rarely ordering it on the ground.*

*I do remember taking a flight once in which they oddly took the drink orders before the plane left the ground. After regaining my composure, I believe I opted for no drink.

This phenomenon of changing preferences with changing environments is not limited to me. A German study found that tomato juice is incredibly popular on airplanes, for example. And, apparently, Ginger Ale is also disproportionately popular on airplanes.*

*A quick Google and Google Scholar search did not reveal anything on the hotel television preference issue. There is plenty, however, on Larry King’s awfulness.

Now, a shift to some classic economic theory: revealed preference theory holds that a consumer’s preferences are revealed by their behavior, or purchasing habits. So, if a woman usually buys two apples each week rather than two oranges, the revealed preference theorist would say that she prefers the bundle of two apples.*

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New Year’s Eve

: any ideas?

: i just want to have fun

: stop

: i just want to have fun

: i get it

: all i want, is to have fun

: you done? happy?

: this is fun

: im sure it is

so im guessing you have no ideas

: i have no ideas

aside from the having fun part

: ok, i think i have one

: really?

: i think we should see the black swan

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This Day in Revisionist History: Christmas Edition!

December 25:

“Okay, I’m just spit-balling here, but what if we organized some type of Secret Santa?”- the rather feckless Lt. Cecil Farnsworth to his commanding officers during World War I, shortly after combat with the Germans was unofficially suspended in the famous “Christmas Truce.”

Cecil Farnsworth had been an only child, and with no siblings to compete for the affection of his parents he had enjoyed a rather privileged, sheltered childhood, especially when the holidays came around and he was spoiled with presents. But Cecil, if perhaps entitled, was also very generous, wishing to share the gift of Christmas with those around him. And it was this benevolent spirit, long engendered within him, that led to his naïve, entirely inappropriate question in the brief intermission of an otherwise savage battle. Continue reading

The Drawing Board: Abortion

Oh, great. Another MAN weighing in on abortion. Well, ladies, if you don’t like it, exercise your “right to choose” to not read it. But as it turns out, this man has the answer. And no, it’s not one of those stupid joke answers like “dude we shouldn’t make abortion legal, we should make it mandatory hahahaha!” That’s dumb, the population would run out. What I will offer instead are a few points of clarification from the legal and moral perspectives, points that will cause you not to reconsider your stance on abortion, but rather to reconsider whether abortion is even a real issue. Sounds interesting, huh? Remember this whole thing is a joke though.

First, let’s evaluate the claim that a fetus has a right to life. Ridiculous. But let’s grant for a second that the fetus is a human being, which, come on, that’s like saying a baby chicken is the same as a real chicken. Regardless, let’s give them that and consider the right to life from a legal perspective. Now, abortion isn’t a pleasant issue, and this could get ugly, so you might not be well suited to this if you have a weak constitution (looking at you, France!). That was a funny joke, huh? But it also segues into me talking about the actual United States Constitution. In one part it says, no kidding: Continue reading

Going Shopping

Dear Retail Clerks,

I am fine. I am always fine when you ask. How are you? I never care how you are. I don’t need your help right now. Does anyone ever require your assistance this quickly? I know to ask if I do need your help. You’re not that difficult to find. I am aware of your sales. If they are not the reason I am here, I can see them advertised–often ostentatiously–throughout your store. Please don’t follow up with me. I can find everything okay. Your store is neither that large nor complexly laid out. If I require a fitting room, I will find it on my own, and then I will consult with your colleague who is relegated to that area. I do not want to sign up for your special membership card, even if it’s free and especially if it only takes a minute.

And yes, I want the receipt in the bag. Everyone does.

You too,

Tim

Teaching, Parenting, Happiness, and Dogma

What popular activity leads to a statistically significant drop in personal happiness, drastically reduces leisure time, and decreases romantic satisfaction? Parenting, of course. We engage in other activities that are, in general, displeasing, but they are often a means to a greater end: We endure traffic or crowded public transportation to live in a neighborhood that better suits our lifestyle, or we work to earn money to sustain that lifestyle. That’s not to say that driving home or working universally reduce people’s happiness—but, when it does, it’s generally for a clearly more desirable end. Not so with raising children. Child-rearing or creation is supposed to, in itself, generate the sort of transcendental happiness that makes it all worth it. New York Magazine’s Jennifer Senior questions the dogma of parenting as a universal good.

Why is there such a dogma? Surely the reverence most religions accord to raising and bearing—well, sometimes just bearing—children plays some role. Maybe parents are aware of the negative effect of children on their happiness level, but merely follow the broader trend of embracing altruistic acts as the ultimate good—the epitome of which is committing most of your life to another human or two. But, perhaps something else not unique to parenting is at work.

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Against Patriotism

America: At least it's got a pretty good flag...

It’s the Fourth of July, which means it’s time for barbecues, fireworks, and celebrating America. I’m definitely in favor of the first; I’m iffy at best on the second (though not necessarily as opposed as Josh). But I’m adamantly against the last one.

There have been a lot of famous, pithy criticisms of patriotism: George Bernard Shaw said, “Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.” Bertrand Russell said, “Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.” And, of course, Samuel Johnson most famously called patriotism “the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

And yet none of that wit has changed the fact that people generally regard patriotism as a virtue. Every year—most vocally on the Fourth of July, but not just during this time of year—we hear about how important loving your country is. Pundits and politicians are constantly arguing over what constitutes “true patriotism,” and attacking each other for not being sufficiently patriotic. And if you start questioning someone’s patriotism…well, few things piss people off more.

But why is this? Why should someone love his country? I’ve never understood why patriotism is seen as an admirable quality. Continue reading

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