serving brain food since 1998

The Paradox of Choice

I just read this really interesting article on a fairly recent psychology book called The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz. I haven’t read it, although I might give it a shot after I’m finished reading the baby books I’ve already committed to. It appears to provide a breadth of common sense knowledge for anyone who’s ever shopped for a digital camera, decided on a school, dived head-first into the world of parenting, or made any kind of decision at all—significant or not—in today’s increasingly choice-based world.

Using the concept of “maximizers” and “saticficers” Schwartz argues that sometimes it is best not to go crazy searching for the absolute best possible solution to a problem. In his world, which appears to be largely supported with data, having too much choice is a problem with certain consquences. Having more choice, its seems, can be overwhelming.

Ostensibly, and possibly more than interesting by itself, this theory can extend to nearly all areas of decision making, even web page design.

Take any of the most commercially successful websites –, for example – and look at what they offer. Click Bestsellers; down come 20. My view is, when people look at 20 book titles, each of them is competing with the others, making the others less attractive. This one looks exciting, this one looks educational, this one is about my own childhood, but this one is exotic and will take me into a world of imagination. Each is attractive in some way.

The result is that you look at 20 and buy none. But what if Amazon did a simple experiment of not showing 20 books, but only the top five? You can always click to the next screen and see more. My prediction is that if you reduce the choice set, you increase the number of books sold. This should be true of anything you’re selling – office chairs, CD players, vacation packages; the shorter the list, the more attractive the items on the list will be.

culture, music

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I See Grammy People

I had this bizarre dream last night.

Jack White, looking more like a degenerate cousin doing a parody of a rock star than a real rock star, received an award with Loretta Lynn, who behaved more like a degenerate aunt hooked on pain killers than a bona fide legend of country music.

And then Ellen Degeneres came out wearing an Iggy Pop T-shirt.

Then it got weird.

At some point, that guy from Friday Night Lights sang a song I swore had “then I loved her deeper and smoked a little weeder” somewhere in the lyrics. But I couldn’t be sure.

After that, I remember a gaggle of famous and not-quite-as-famous musicians gathering together to do what a gaggle of famous and not-quite-as-famous musicians always do. They sounded terrible—each one vocally show boated their way around the stage, wildly out of tune, off beat, and out of sync with the rest of the group. It sucked on a grand scale. But, hey, it was all for charity.

The last thing I really remember was how enamored everyone was with the memory of Ray Charles. So, you see, it wasn’t really as silly a dream as you might think. In a way, it all made perfect sense. The vast disparity of style on stage could have been the perfect tribute to a man who absorbed just about every musical taste and sensibility in his lifetime.

And in this dream, his inspiration was shared by all.


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Happy Birthday Liz

I know she thinks I forgot.

And this morning, maybe I did (for just a little bit).

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you… the haaaAARdest workin’ preggo this side of the river. Mrs. Please please me herself, with a birthday candle on top!

Happy Birthday Liz!

Like a Prayer

Ross did all the heavy lifting while I did my best to hijack the conversation (walking in late, as usual).

Residents of Harrisburg and the surrounding area take note. Jason N. Smith will answer your questions about his upcoming bid to challenge Mayor Reed for the city of Harrisburg.

If anything, he’s totally up front in regards to his plans for the arts, the area in which he has shined as a watchdog against Reed, and the area I’m most interested in as a cultivating effort (despite the fact that I’m not really a city dweller). Here’s a smidgen of his response in the full thread.

I envision a city that has multiple arts and cultural venues–live theatre, jazz clubs, galleries, coffee houses, street music, and more. (Not saying close Whitaker by any means, but that a rising tide raises all boats and a thriving arts CULTURE is what we need). I believe that Midtown is the ideal place for a “cultural corridor” and I believe we should consider a gaslight district on 3rd St. Midtown similar to the one in San Diego and elsewhere. I think we should close the street at 6PM or so and thereby create a walking district with a concentration of artistic and cultural venues. Mind you, Midtown is already known for art cinema, rare books, and delicious ethnic foods. And it is where I have proposed we place the African American Heritage Center (with its own performance space, museum, small business incubator, jazz club, and restaurant). Hook all of this in with a rejuvenated Broad Street Market and some additional parking and we could see a major tourist destination for our city, perhaps dwarfing and complementing restaurant row and providing a magnet for artists regionally


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Broken Hearts Are For Assholes

And I’m not talking about the Eagles either.

As it turns out, Frank Zappa was right. There is actually a medical condition called “broken heart syndrome” which can lead recently love-lost sufferer’s to symptoms of chest pain and shortness of breath.

Something to ponder this Valentine’s day.

But don’t take my provocative use of title too seriously either. I’ve had my heart broken a few times in life and I’m not too much of an asshole for it.

I don’t think, anyway.

Actually, I’m a firm believer in a certain amount of “necessary” pain which I’m sure in the end only makes us stronger. But alas, that’s a really big philosophical discussion for another time.

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