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There’s something comforting about this story: even Nobel-winning economists procrastinate! Many of us go through life with an array of undone tasks, large and small, nibbling at our conscience. But Akerlof saw the experience, for all its familiarity, as mysterious. He genuinely intended to send the box to his friend, yet, as he wrote, in a paper called “Procrastination and Obedience” (1991), “each morning for over eight months I woke up and decided that the next morning would be the day to send the Stiglitz box.” He was always about to send the box, but the moment to act never arrived. Akerlof, who became one of the central figures in behavioral economics, came to the realization that procrastination might be more than just a bad habit. He argued that it revealed something important about the limits of rational thinking and that it could teach useful lessons about phenomena as diverse as substance abuse and savings habits. Since his essay was published, the study of procrastination has become a significant field in academia, with philosophers, psychologists, and economists all weighing in.

Later: What does procrastination tell us about ourselves? in The New Yorker via Nellie

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Colony collapse disorder, researched, solved! In a poetic way this news made me tear up, it’s been on my mind for years.

Since 2006, 20 to 40 percent of the bee colonies in the United States alone have suffered “colony collapse.” Suspected culprits ranged from pesticides to genetically modified food. Now, a unique partnership — of military scientists and entomologists — appears to have achieved a major breakthrough: identifying a new suspect, or two.

A fungus tag-teaming with a virus have apparently interacted to cause the problem, according to a paper by Army scientists in Maryland and bee experts in Montana in the online science journal PLoS One.

Via my friend Nellie: “This makes me excited for the world. Working together to save honeybees!! What can we work together on next? 😉 http://nyti.ms/bSsEq1

The Uses of Enchantment: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl

If Sturrock does not dwell on these interior darknesses, it may be in part because the life affords so much external drama. Interestingly, Dahl does not emerge as a particularly reflective individual: his puerile humor, his lively imagination, his rebellious zeal and his determination were all strongly at odds with any analytical bent. It’s no surprise that “Get on with it” was one of his favorite phrases.

Hidden Tigers

In the early 1990s, when Sony was still digesting Columbia Pictures and Japan was seen as an economic threat to the United States, I was urged by my father to learn to bow and wear a kimono, because we were all going to be working for Japanese companies one day. The cultural artifact of the moment was Michael Crichton’s borderline racist novel “Rising Sun,” which became a film starring Sean Connery and warned of Japanese corporate imperialism and the menace it posed to our way of life.

The business writer Eric J. Weiner offers a different sort of road map for a strangely parallel time in his dense and disturbing new book, “The Shadow Market: How a Group of Wealthy Nations and Powerful Investors Secretly Dominate the World.”

Alien Nation

“There have been as many plagues as wars in history,” notes the central character in Albert Camus’s novel “The Plague,” “yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.” The surprise is in the epidemic’s egalitarian choice of victims, in the unraveling of civic order and in the discovery that a just God may not be so just after all. This is why an epidemic makes such a great backdrop for a novel.

Birth Pangs

But in the decades since our children’s birth, results from research studies have suggested that we do not put fetal life so readily behind us. Rather, as Annie Murphy Paul writes in her informative and wise new book, “fetal origins research suggests that the lifestyle that influences the development of disease is often not only the one we follow as adults, but the one our mothers practiced when they were pregnant with us as well.” This hypothesis was initially put forth by David Barker, a British physician who in 1989 published data indicating that poor maternal nutrition put offspring at risk for heart disease decades later.

We

Theodore Rockwell, who served as technical director for the U.S. Navy’s nuclear-propulsion program in the 1950s and ’60s, shared a telling anecdote about his onetime boss, the famously irascible Adm. Hyman G. Rickover. “One time he caught me using the editorial we, as in ‘we will get back to you by… .’ ” Rockwell recalled in his memoir, “The Rickover Effect.” “He explained brusquely that only three types of individual were entitled to such usage: ‘The head of a sovereign state, a schizophrenic and a pregnant woman. Which are you, Rockwell?’ ”

Being Glenn Beck

In the middle of his analogy to me about his own personal crash and the country’s need to heal itself, Beck looked at his publicist with a flash of alarm about how I might construe what he was saying. “He is going to write a story that I believe the whole country is alcoholics,” he said. And then he went on to essentially compare his “Restoring Honor” pageant at the Lincoln Memorial to a large-scale A.A. meeting. “When I bottomed out, I couldn’t put it back together myself,” Beck told me. “I could do all the hard work. I could do the 12 steps. But I needed like-minded people around me.”

I Hate Everything!

“Everyone is essentially either sad, angry or afraid,” Mike, my best friend, said. We were sitting on the linoleum floor in my college dorm room. It was 1990. It was 3:45 in the morning. We were down to brass tacks.J

“I’m definitely sad, then,” I said.

“Well, I’m angry,” he said.

As a dutiful sad person, I felt instantly defeated. Anger seemed like something that lean, focused, going-places people had, especially men — rage and fury and indignation. Anger meant glory. Where depression would just mean shame and Dove Bars. How horrible to be essentially sad. Why couldn’t I be essentially angry?

Enter the Finnish video game Angry Birds. Angry Birds HD for iPad has finally filled my life with the wrath I’ve long aspired to.

Is Michelle Rhee’s Revolution Over?

Around the country, supporters of education reform — or at least of the test-scores-driven, tenure-busting, results-rewarding sort of reform epitomized by organizations like Teach for America and championed by Education Secretary Arne Duncan — gave a collective gasp of dismay last month when voters in a number of districts handed primary defeats to candidates closely associated with just this type of reform.

A Prison-Library Reunion

I stopped in the park and held out the money, two crisp $20 bills, plus a few singles, all folded up to seem like more. I was calm, but my hands were shaking. I looked at the ground and caught a glimpse of his weapon — not a gun, but a six-inch knife, barely concealed under a shredded sleeve. I sensed he was looking at me. He took the money, but didn’t move.

Why isn’t he leaving?

“Hey,” he said. There was a new tenor in his voice. “You work at the Bay?”My body tensed. It was true: my work was following me home.

Found in Translation

— I’ve come to understand that all literature is a product of translation. That is, translation is not merely a job assigned to a translator expert in a foreign language, but a long, complex and even profound series of transformations that involve the writer and reader as well. “Translation” as a human act is, like so many human acts, a far more complicated proposition than it may initially seem to be.

Film Version of Zuckerberg Divides Generations

“When you talk to people afterward, it was as if they were seeing two different films,” said Scott Rudin, one of the producers. “The older audiences see Zuckerberg as a tragic figure who comes out of the film with less of himself than when he went in, while young people see him as completely enhanced, a rock star, who did what he needed to do to protect the thing that he had created.”

The actual Facebook has been playing clumsy defense against the film, including having the real Mr. Zuckerberg pop out of nowhere on “Oprah” to donate $100 million to the schools of Newark, but my hunch is that the company doesn’t have much to worry about.

More States Allowing Guns in Bars and Restaurants

Freakonomics

Mr. Spurlock’s segment, “A Roshanda by Any Other Name,” is a facetious contemplation of baby names in the age of branding. Does a child’s name determine his or her adult destiny? The answer is, probably not, although the downward spiral of one girl unfortunately named Temptress might suggest otherwise. An opposite message is gleaned from the biographies of two boys, one named Winner, the other Loser. The segment addresses the widening gap between the names of white and black babies, which began with the black power movement in the late 1960s. It can barely contain its amusement at the many variations of the name Unique.

Arthur Penn, Director of ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ Dies

“Arthur Penn brought the sensibility of ’60s European art films to American movies,” the writer-director Paul Schrader said. “He paved the way for the new generation of American directors who came out of film schools.”Many of the now-classic films of what was branded the “New American Cinema” of the 1970s — including “Taxi Driver,” directed by Martin Scorsese and written by Mr. Schrader, and “The Godfather,” directed by Francis Ford Coppola — would have been unthinkable without “Bonnie and Clyde” to point the way.

MacArthur Foundation Honors 23

“Obviously, I’m very grateful but I have a vague sense of not belonging,” Mr. Simon said in a telephone interview about his grant. He said past winners had done “tangible things to improve conditions.”

Still, storytellers can also make a difference, said Mr. Simon, who now splits his time between Baltimore and New Orleans. He expects the MacArthur imprimatur to help move the discussion of the ideas in his work from the “entertainment pages to the op-ed pages,” he said. “One overt argument that ‘The Wire’ was making is that the drug war is amoral and untenable,” Mr. Simon added.

Let Me In (2010)

Vampire romanticism is nothing new, of course. Millions of us, not just teenage girls, have followed the courtship of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen through every deep breath and smoldering glance. But the love story in “Let Me In,” between two 12-year-olds, one of them a blood-craving undead pixie named Abby, is both more intense and more innocent.

The subtext of the relationship is not sexuality, as it is in “Twilight” or “True Blood,” but rather the loneliness of children and their often unrecognized reservoirs of rage. Abby (Chloë Grace Moretz) and her pal, a trembling, big-eyed boy named Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee), are fragile and quiet but also capable of horrifying violence.

As Henrich et al show, many phenomena we’ve assumed are universal probably aren’t: we can only really say they’re universal among Weird people, who make up 96% of subjects in behavioural science, or Americans, who make up 68%, and often only among US college students, who provide US researchers with a supply of guinea pigs. And the Weird, they say, “are particularly unusual compared with the rest of the species”.

also

This is more than a curiosity. In his book Crazy Like Us, Ethan Watters argues that American notions of mental illness are colonising the world, with a handful of diagnoses – depression, anorexia – squeezing out culturally specific ones. (Intriguingly, though, the Indonesian concept of “amok”, combining brooding with murderous rage, is listed in the US psychiatric bible, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual.) It’s also a reminder that even if you are Weird, advice that’s been “experimentally proven” has been proven for only the average person, who doesn’t exist.

This column will change your life: Weirdness just got weirder. We’re all born Weird, but some are born more weird than others. in The Guardian

One of the things that you realize when you’re in my seat is that, typically, the issues that come to my desk — there are no simple answers to them. Usually what I’m doing is operating on the basis of a bunch of probabilities: I’m looking at the best options available based on the fact that there are no easy choices. If there were easy choices, somebody else would have solved it, and it wouldn’t have come to my desk.

Obama in ‘Obama in Command’ in the Rolling Stone

There’s some really good stuff in here, I particularly liked what he had to say about the ending of the Iraq war and the plan in Afghanistan on page 3. On page 5 there is some stuff about MMS and the BP oil spill, as well as global warming—which on page 6 he says he’s going to throw the whole weight of the presidency behind, eventually, like he did on health care. And then there’s the cathartic bit at the end about music and getting people to participate in democracy. Anyway, worth a read, certainly.

Link: Your Mind Blown: It’s illegal to be fat in Japan

sirmitchell:

yourmindblown:

Thanks to an anti-obesity law passed last year, Japanese salarymen across the nation are pulling up their shirts to have their guts measured… and if they’re overweight, they face consequences. If you’re male and your waist is over 33.5 inches, you’re considered fat. If you’re female, the…

Whether you want to believe it or not, this is a big reason why health care is retardedly expensive in the US. 

My favorites from the New York Times. This last couple weeks have been pretty transitional, so I’ve been slow—you’ll probably need a NYT account (free) to view the archived articles.

Phys Ed: Can Exercise Make Kids Smarter?

Previous studies found that fitter kids generally scored better on such tests. And in this case, too, those children performed better on the tests. But the M.R.I.’s provided a clearer picture of how it might work. They showed that fit children had significantly larger basal ganglia, a key part of the brain that aids in maintaining attention and “executive control,” or the ability to coordinate actions and thoughts crisply. Since both groups of children had similar socioeconomic backgrounds, body mass index and other variables, the researchers concluded that being fit had enlarged that portion of their brains.

Documentary? Better Call It Performance Art

At least one element in the film was genuine, Mr. Affleck said. That was a snippet of a home movie that showed Mr. Phoenix and his very young siblings performing, Jackson Five style, on the streets of Los Angeles.

The rest, Mr. Affleck said, clearly requires a bit more understanding than he has allowed the viewers to date. “It is a hard movie to watch,” he said.

A Dictionary of the Near Future

DENARRATION The process whereby one’s life stops feeling like a story.

CLOUD BLINDNESS The inability of some people to see faces or shapes in clouds.

Take a Look at Him Now: Questions for Phil Collins

But now you’re divorced from her. Did I read somewhere that your divorce settlement was $50 million and, at the time, the largest paid by an entertainer in British history?

I think Paul McCartney’s was the largest.

Ditch Your Laptop, Dump Your Boyfriend

Chances are, if you are taking the time to read this advice, you already have the quality necessary to undertake the intellectual challenges of a college education — a seriousness of purpose.

Carrot Talk

In the study, children from the ages of 3 to 5 tasted five pairs of identical foodstuffs (including, as it happens, carrots). In each pair, one item was offered in plain, unmarked packaging — and the other was in McDonald’s packaging. The kids, on average, said they preferred the stuff they thought came from the fast-food chain, which of course is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. They thought McDonald’s fries tasted better with branded packaging than without it; they preferred milk in a McDonald’s cup to milk in a plain cup. This, the study noted, “was true even for carrots,” a food they are unlikely to have experienced at the fast-food chain.

The Empowerment Mystique

“Free to Be” was foremost about vanquishing gender stereotypes. By choosing girls to liberate from the tyranny of antimaterialism, Target implied that buying its wares was part of thevictory. That’s part of a trend I’ve noticed across a whole range of sectors over the last several months from big-box stores to high-end fashion to wireless-phone services to politics: all have discovered the sales potential in female pride.

Phys Ed: Looking at How Concussions When Young Influence Later Life

But when researchers looked at the electrical activity of the students’ brains, they found that the concussed athletes showed noticeably less activity in portions of the brain associated with attention. ‘‘They had suppressed attentional resources,’’ said Steven Broglio, a professor of kinesiology and community health at the University of Illinois. He and his colleagues speculated that, as a result, the injured athletes most likely were devoting a greater percentage of their total mental reserves to each task than the uninjured athletes in order to achieve similar intellectual results. The effort wasn’t obvious. ‘‘These were high-performing college students,” Dr. Broglio said. ‘‘They were succeeding in school.’’

Time Is Money

Maybe I’m the only one who still sees time-shifting as all upside — working your own hours, reading a news story two weeks late, watching TV and movies only on disk, DVR or download. Time-shifting is the enemy of advertising, after all; it may also be the enemy of communal experience.

The Ethicist: Father Exposure

Here’s the key question: Would your acquaintance want to know about the affair? Some children crave a deep understanding of their late parents; some cling to an idealized version. If your acquaintance is among the former, give him the letter. If not, or if you are simply unsure, consign it to the flames. Or frame it on your bedroom wall as a reminder of the labyrinthine recesses of the human heart.

Kafka’s Last Trial

During his lifetime, Franz Kafka burned an estimated 90 percent of his work. After his death at age 41, in 1924, a letter was discovered in his desk in Prague, addressed to his friend Max Brod. “Dearest Max,” it began. “My last request: Everything I leave behind me … in the way of diaries, manuscripts, letters (my own and others’), sketches and so on, to be burned unread.”

A New Kind of Cineaste

Over the past quarter century or so, Assayas has emerged as a mainstay of what might be called the middle generation of post-New Wave French auteurs — filmmakers who still labor in the shadow of a heroic band of ancient young rebels, many of whom have shown remarkable, even maddening longevity. Erich Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, part of the groups that burst out of Cahiers in the late 1950s and early ’60s, died this year, at 89 and 80. Jacques Rivette, Agnès Varda and Alain Resnais are all still around, in their 80s, as is Jean-Luc Godard, perpetual imp and inscrutable sage of le cinéma français, who may or may not show up to collect an honorary Oscar in November.

They Did What?

“All the self- examination in the world isn’t going to help anyone bent on self-deception,” she writes, “which is no doubt true of any of us at least some of the time.”

When Life Gets in the Way of Art

But beyond issues of personal betrayal, the news raised much more difficult and fundamental questions — ones central to photography and documentary work but to the history of art and popular culture as well — about artistic intent, about the assumptions and expectations of the viewing public and about the relationship between artists and their work.

The Temporary Vegetarian: Roasted Mushrooms With Goat Cheese and Grits

A Teenager Flying Over a Cuckoo’s Nest

WHEN thinking of the directors Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, light comedy may not be the first thing to come to mind. The team’s first movie, “Half Nelson,” examined the life of a drug-addicted schoolteacher, while the follow-up, “Sugar,” tracked the trials of a Dominican baseball player who joins a minor-league team in Iowa. But the filmmakers have a message for audiences: They do have a sense of humor. And they love John Hughes.

Enter the Void (2009)

More specifically, “Enter the Void” is the latest from the never uninteresting, sometimes exasperating Mr. Noé, whose films, like “Irrevérsible” (2002), skew toward provocations, filled with flashes of genius and irredeemable nonsense. The title of “Enter the Void,” which sounds like both a dare and a fun-house attraction, makes sense in a work about death and other hard times, but it also expresses Mr. Noé’s bad-boy, punk attitude, which can be hard to take seriously. His insistence on representing ugly extremes (incest, rape, murder) can be especially wearisome, coming across as weak bids to shock his audience (épater la bourgeoisie, as the French poets once said), which, already expecting (perhaps eagerly) a Gaspar Noé freakout, is unlikely to have its world genuinely rocked. But bring it on, Gaspar!

Sunday Book Review: Fairer Deal

Reich insists instead that American consumers, and particularly the middle class, have been buying too little. For years, the United States has consumed more than it has produced; the excess demand has sucked in products from abroad, which is why the nation has run a trade deficit. The idea that the economy has suffered from a lack of demand is, shall we say, eccentric. But Reich declares repeatedly that the stagnation of middle-class buying power has been a drag on growth. “If earnings are inadequate,” he asserts, “an economy produces more goods and services than its people are capable of purchasing.” If that sentence described the American condition in the 1990s and the period leading up to the crash, Reich’s predicted excess output would have gone abroad and the United States would have run a trade surplus.

Festivals Grow Up, Even as Screens Grow Small

It may be that the Toronto International Film Festival has emerged as one of the biggest, most influential festivals in the world specifically because it learned how to bridge that art-cinema world and those conglomerate-owned movie studios we nostalgically refer to as Hollywood. (Other factors doubtless have played a role, including support from the Canadian government and the festival’s location: it’s an easy flight for New York journalists.) To judge from the Lightbox, this balancing act has paid off nicely. It remains to be seen whether the Lightbox, like the new film complex at Lincoln Center, can fill its theaters year-round with viewers who are as eager to dig into cinema’s past as they are to take part in its uncertain future.

Link: Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 182, Haruki Murakami

Link: Sam Arbesman and Greg Laughlin predict that the discovery of the first Earth-like exoplanet will likely occur in early May 2011.

Of course, it’s a bit more complicated than that, but here’s an overview of what we did. Using the properties of previously discovered exoplanets, we developed a simple metric of habitability for each planet that uses its mass and temperature to rate it on a scale of 0 to 1, where 1 is Earth-like, and 0 is so very not Earth-like. Plotting these values over time and taking the upper envelope yields a nice march towards habitability.

via kottke

Mysterious force holds back Nasa probe in deep space

Researchers say Pioneer 10, which took the first close-up pictures of Jupiter before leaving our solar system in 1983, is being pulled back to the sun by an unknown force. The effect shows no sign of getting weaker as the spacecraft travels deeper into space, and scientists are considering the possibility that the probe has revealed a new force of nature.