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f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

December 16, 2008

we need our traditional pre-holiday nudge

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 10:16 pm

Maybe Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler can help . . .

married a decade
she hides
the mistletoe

setting up the creche –
the Baby’s name
uttered over and over

“easy to assemble”
I put it back and
grab a teddybear

nine days ’til Christmas –
the tree and the cat
both shedding

…. from the “not quite the holiday” sequence at dagosan’s haiku diary (Dec. 6, 2007)

.. In a week, I’ve got to head home for Christmas with the Family of Origin.  Like every other year of my adult life, pre-Christmas Scrooge Syndrome has paralyzed me (e.g., 2007 and 2005). Neither the flesh nor the spirit seems willing to work through that ever-growing Holiday To Do List.

I was about to despair, until I saw an article in the new Harvard Law Bulletin: “Intelligent Design: Cass Sunstein shows how ‘choice architecture’ can help people make better decisions” (Fall 2008).  It reminded me that I’ve been meaning since last April to read Sunstein and Thaler’s much-praised book “Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness” (Yale Univ. Press 2008).  A lifetime of Mama G’s “catholic maternalism” hasn’t helped me get my Holiday Act together, but surely the “libertarian paternalism” extolled in Nudge can lead me out of my annual Yuletime wheel-spinning and teeth-grinding.

wrapping and
packing –
she pastes on a smile

…. by grinchosan

Thaler and Sunstein seem to have me in mind when trying to understand how human beings make choices — and how to “nudge” them into making the best choices (for themselves and society) by better structuring the context in which our choices are made.  According to HLB:, S&T’s “choice architecture . . . acknowledge[s] that many people will take whatever option requires the least effort.”

. . . “Human beings will often consider required choice to be a nuisance or worse, and would much prefer to have a good default,” they write. “And, these tendencies toward doing nothing will be reinforced if the default option comes with some implicit or explicit suggestion that it represents the normal or even the recommended course of action.”

Naturally, I was hoping they’d already have a relevant Holiday Nudge to get me working on that To Do List right now.  But, a quick search at their Nudge weblog turned up nothing specific for turning on (much less sustaining or modeling) holiday spirit — no “holiday decision tree” for working past my punchbowl procrastination and finding seasonal renewal and inspiration.

I did find a link at their weblog to a dozen sample nudges from the book, and I’m planning to read them before heading to bed tonight.  If I sleep on it, I’ll surely wake up as converted as the post-visitation Scrooge.

Just in case that doesn’t work, I picked up a copy of Nudge from the Library today.  It’s almost 300 pages.  If it takes me a couple days to read and absorb Nudge — and construct my own Holiday Choice Architecture — I’ll surely have time to get that To Do List done. Buy those cards and write them on Thursday.  Start shopping Friday afternoon, and wrapping on Saturday.  Get together with my best Schenectady-area Friends on Sunday and Monday.  A bit of panic-packing on Tuesday. And, . . .

By the way, how late is the Post Office open on December 23rd?  And, does Santa have a Default Position?

update (Dec. 17, 2008; 11:30 PM): Thanks to the Nudge Blog for soliciting suggestions and solutions in response to our plea for help.  It remains to be seen whether the Nudge experts and their disciples can solve our chronic Christmas crisis.  As of this update, they’ve only attracted an additional To Do List for me.  Hmmm.

afterwords (Dec. 31, 2008):  As we wrote on December 22, a maternal nudge got us on the road to a happy holiday.   And, see this post for a Boxing Day de-briefing.

first doubts
santa sounds
like Uncle Al

…… by dagosan; photo by Mama G. (1952; larger haiga here)


  1. Mama’s pizelle —
    grinchosan’s brow
    slowly uncreases

    Have a Merry Christmas!


    Comment by Karen — December 17, 2008 @ 5:49 pm

  2. Mama’s pizelle could probably do it. How’d you know, Karen? Thanks for the nudge toward holiday cheer.

    Comment by David Giacalone — December 17, 2008 @ 5:54 pm

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