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August 09, 2009|David Colker; Shari Roan; Deborah Bonello

TECHNOLOGY

Movie help for when you gotta go

Just when you thought the Internet provided every possible information service, along comes Runpee.com.

The site lists movies in theaters and suggests points in the action during which you could quickly run to the restroom without missing anything substantial.

For example, let's say you're watching the latest "Harry Potter" movie and feeling the need. Runpee (which almost sounds like the name of a character in the movie) suggests you hold on until minute 33, at which point "Dumbledore says, 'Off to bed, pip-pip.' "

Or you could wait until 1 hour and 47 minutes, when "Harry invites Professor Slughorn to go and see Hagrid with him."

Those are your cues to run to the john, ASAP.

Later, if you want to check out what happened during either of those scenes, you can click to unscramble a synopses of the next few minutes.

There are also suggested pee times on the site, currently, for "Funny People," "Bruno," "Transformers" and several more.

If you don't plan ahead, it would of course be inconvenient to carry a laptop into a theater and hope for wi-fi. But no worries, Runpee has an iPhone app. And users have already suggested to the site that it develop similar apps for other cellphones.

Let's just hope Runpee doesn't get too popular. Otherwise there would be a mass run to the restrooms right at the point in "Land of the Lost" when Dr. Marshall talks to the space lizard. That is, if anyone had gotten that far into the movie.

If nature calls in an empty theater, does anyone hear it?

-- David Colker

From Technology: The business and culture of our digital lives

For more, go to latimes.com/technology

BOOSTER SHOTS

We're easily tempted

Humans regularly succumb to greed, lust and self-destruction. One reason we fail so often in the face of temptation is that we routinely overestimate our personal powers of restraint, researchers say.

A study from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University tested how an individual's belief in his or her ability to control impulses -- such as greed, drug craving or sexual arousal -- influenced his or her response to temptation. It found that people usually miscalculated the amount of temptation they could truly handle, which led to a greater likelihood of indulging in an impulsive behavior.

"People are not good at anticipating the power of their urges, and those who are the most confident about their self-control are the most likely to give into temptation," the lead author of the paper, Loren Nordgren, said in a news release.

"The key is simply to avoid any situations where vices and other weaknesses thrive and, most importantly, for individuals to keep a humble view of their willpower. . . . We expose ourselves to more temptation than is wise, and subsequently we have millions of people suffering with obesity, addictions and other unhealthy lifestyles."

Besides individual behavior, the study raises important questions about whether we can trust our leaders and the need for regulations and oversight in business and government. People also tend to overestimate another person's ability to resist temptation, the study's authors say.

People (say, parents) should think carefully when judging whether a person (say, a teenager) might fall prey to temptation.

The study will published this year in the journal Psychological Science.

-- Shari Roan

From Booster Shots: Oddities, musings and news from the world of health

For more, go to latimes.com/boostershots

LA PLAZA

New buses for Mexico City

Avenida de la Reforma is a six-lane traffic artery that cuts all the way across Mexico City and is one of the most-transited roads here, both day and night. But commuters might enjoy a little less traffic, noise and pollution from now on: The city has just introduced 173 new buses that will replace the more than 300 beat-up, green-and-white micro-buses, or peseros, that can make traveling a risky venture.

Some of Mexico City's peseros have been around for up to 30 years, and many are in a terrible state of disrepair, way past their useful lifespans. As a Mexico City resident who uses them daily, I can testify that they're frequently overcrowded and often driven dangerously.

The old peseros have been taken out of circulation along the Reforma route and replaced by the new buses, but they will continue to operate in nearly every other part of the city.

The new green buses -- announced by Mexico City mayor Marcelo Ebrard last week -- are much bigger than the old ones, and will operate along a nearly 18-mile route that runs from north to south. A statement from Ebrard's office says the new vehicles produce 90% fewer carbon emissions.

In fact, the only bad news for commuters is the cost of riding the buses. The old peseros charged between 3 and 4 pesos per ride, depending on how far you were going, and now the new units are going to cost at least 4.50 if not 5 pesos (around 38 cents) a ride.

-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

From La Plaza: Latin American news from Los Angeles Times correspondents

For more, go to latimes.com/laplaza

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