Carbon dating tips

The old snarl “Act your age, not your shoe size” didn’t really hurt until I was rather a lot older than fourteen, for reasons which might be self-evident. I am, of course, a lot older than “a lot older than fourteen” these days; heck, this Web site is pushing sixteen now. And I occasionally get weirded out by the sheer span of those years: yesterday, in the midst of something else, it occurred to me that it had been forty years since I’d taken the Oath of Enlistment, which happened on the morning of 31 March 1972.

A coworker stared at me. “I thought you were, like, forty-eight or so.”

“Thank you,” said I. “I will turn sixty next year.”

Now if I ever wanted to go broke in a hurry, I’d become a carnie and set up a Guess Your Age booth: I am far from ept at this fine art. (Someone asked me once “How old do you think I look?” I came back with “Can I cut you open and count the rings?” No, I couldn’t. Go figure.) I have no idea what “sixty next year” is supposed to look like; I have the requisite amount of grey, sort of offset by the requisite amount of male pattern baldness, but perhaps I’m not as jowly as I think I am. Traces of ancient baby-facedness lingering, maybe.

This much I know: I am not likely to get carded, unless I’m doing something outside my everyday routine, like buying beer — or um, voting.

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Eyes off the thighs

Short skirts, the newly-appointed Porn Czar in Indonesia declares, must be banned:

In comments endorsed by the country’s leading Islamic advisory body, Suryadharma Ali said “one [criterion of pornography] will be when someone wears a skirt above the knee”.

Dr Suryadharma, leader of the United Development Party, was appointed earlier this month to run Indonesia’s anti-porn taskforce, announced and supported by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The UDP is perhaps not technically a major party — they hold 38 seats in the People’s Representative Council — but in the 2004 runoff for the Presidency, they defected from Megawati’s camp to become part of SBY’s coalition, and they’ve made the most of that positioning.

Then again, this is not technically a major issue in Indonesia:

The anti-pornography taskforce is widely seen as an attempt to distract the populace from issues such as corruption scandals around the Democratic Party of President Yudhoyono and the move this week to increase petrol prices.

Distracting the populace in the wake of scandals and fuel prices? Imagine that.

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Quote of the week

Ken at Popehat directs his ire toward the Joint Committee on Judiciary of the General Assembly of the State of Connecticut:

You’ve joined the moronic headlong rush towards “cyberbullying” legislation that tramples of our heritage of free expression in exchange for a few local news headlines. You’ve drafted a bill that is stupendously overbroad and chilling of all sorts of protected expression. Frankly, it is not even a credible gesture towards complying with the United States or Connecticut Constitutions. If your lawyers wrote it for you, you need to stop hiring lawyers from gas-station bathrooms and the alleys behind methadone clinics. If you had even a minimal grasp of the power you wield — or if you cared — you would recognize that this statute purports to criminalize all sorts of criticism, argument, and satire based not on any objectively threatening nature, but on the whiny subjective butthurt of the disagreed-with. I’m guessing you’d say you’re thinking of the children. But our children are not helped by teaching them to be bad citizens, by teaching them they should look to government for redress when people hurt their feelings, or by steadily weakening their Constitutional heritage in the name of fashionable concerns.

This is, in fact, one of the milder paragraphs in the piece.

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From the “Spoke Too Soon” files

Well, so much for my capacity for prediction. Last week in this space I speculated that the new Rebecca Black video, being shot that week in Malibu, was for the oft-rumored remake of “Friday.”

BZZZZZZZT! Wrong. I managed to overlook this tweet which identifies the new song as “Sing It.” The video has wrapped and will be up, she says, “pretty soon.” And while I don’t have the key to the Wikipedia lock, someone’s already updated her Wiki page with the new title.

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A centsless waste of effort

Canada chooses a literally penniless future:

During Thursday’s budget announcement, finance minister Jim Flaherty announced that the Canadian one cent coin was going to be phased out, saying “pennies take up too much space on our dressers at home.”

Which isn’t the only drawback of the coin:

They are worth almost nothing, they are cumbersome and they cost the government at least $130 million per year to keep in circulation. Most vending machines do not accept them and bartenders sneer at the sight of them — yet the Mint is still busy pumping out 25 pennies per Canadian per year — at a cost of 1.5 cents apiece.

It could be worse. The U. S. penny costs 2.4 cents to make.

The next step? New Zealand is already there: the smallest coin they mint is 10 cents.

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Eventually they’ll be $20 at Target

We open with the first line from the pertinent Wikipedia article:

In the fictional Star Trek universe, a tricorder is a multifunction handheld device used for sensor scanning, data analysis, and recording data.

Trek tricorders come in a number of varieties, but they all (more or less) hew to the above description.

And so does this:

How it was done, if you’re curious.

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Lakers drained

Any night Pau Gasol gets posterized has to be a good night, and when Kevin Durant does it — well, you can see where this is going. The Lakers had a twelve-point lead after one, but the Thunder slowly wore it away — and then speeded up. In the third, OKC got the lead, and in the fourth, they were up as many as 19. This doesn’t sit well in Los Angeles, of course, and the Lakers repeatedly came back to within seven, but that’s as close as they’d get, the Thunder ultimately prevailing 102-93.

Kobe Bryant and Thabo Sefolosha will never be BFFs, so Thabo spent most of his time keeping Kobe out of his comfort zone. The Thunder division of labor was interesting: Russell Westbrook did the slam-dunking, while KD reeled in the rebounds (and, per Marv Albert, served up one “facial”). And you just knew Lakers castoff Derek Fisher would be getting big minutes: he played 16 and scored 7. But nobody had bigger minutes than Westbrook, who played 18 minutes in the first half and the entire second half, finishing with 36 points. Durant, who couldn’t buy a bucket in the first quarter, reestablished commerce quickly enough, with a 21-point/11-rebound double-double. And what’s this? Kendrick Perkins with 12 points? Yea, verily: 5 of 9 from the floor.

Your telltale statistic: yes, Kobe got 23 points. But 8 were from the line; from the floor he went 7-25. Andrew Bynum was his solid self, knocking down 25, but the Lakers were otherwise hard up for offense, shooting under 42 percent. (Gasol had 13 points; the L. A. bench in aggregate had only 16.) Metta World Peace managed to get three of six treys to fall, two in the fourth quarter; the rest of the team went 1-5 from outside.

So it’s 2-0 against the Lakers, with one left to play, the last away game of the season. That, we can worry about later. For now, or for Sunday anyway, the Bulls must be fought.

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One down, entirely too many to go

The Consumerist reports on the busting of a telemarketer:

The FTC settlement announced [Wednesday] morning bans L.A.-area company SBN Peripherals, doing business as Asia Pacific Telecom Inc., from telemarketing and requires the company to hand over about $3 million in assets.

For those not familiar with the scam, here’s how it works. The company’s auto-dialing system calls you and a prerecorded message says there is urgent information you need to know about your vehicle’s warranty (they also ran a similar set-up regarding credit card interest rates). You would be prompted to press “1” for more information, at which point the call would be transferred to telemarketers who “used fraudulent practices to sell inferior extended auto service contracts or worthless debt-reduction services.”

SBN is reported to have made 2.6 billion robocalls of this sort, which means that they’re being penalized to the tune of 0.1 cent per offense. The FTC apparently didn’t once mention ritual disembowelment, which I suspect is the only way to stop this sort of thing.

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More variable optics

“[A]ny and (almost) all specifications are negotiable,” I had said a couple of days ago. If this seems unnecessarily cryptic, well, the Advice Goddess can explain it better:

If a guy thinks a girl’s hot, he’ll buy into whatever her trip is for as long as he can. My steak-loving boyfriend once dated a militant vegan. (He’d hit the Burger King drive-through on his way home.) Obviously, it’s a problem if you go out with some engineer dude, tell him you’re an “Occupy girl,” and he says, “Wow, my company designs the water cannons the police use to spray you people.”

Perhaps this does not bode well for a long-term relationship, but, as the phrase goes, weirder things have happened.

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Mistletoe expressed

News Item: The House adopted a measure Monday that would officially give the state a motto: “Oklahoma — In God We Trust!” HCR 1024, by Rep. Danny Morgan, D-Prague, now goes to the Senate.

Top Ten proposed state mottoes rejected before publication of the House Concurrent Resolution:

  1. “Are we in Texas yet?”
  2. “Try the lamb fries”
  3. “A part-time legislature — and it shows!”
  4. “Wind. Skirts. Do the math.”
  5. “Some of our roads are still free”
  6. “We had blogs before we had indoor plumbing”
  7. “Plains and fancies”
  8. “Even older than New Mexico”
  9. “Fines double in work zones”
  10. “Stay with News 9, we’ll keep you advised”

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It’s cursed, I tell you

And by “it,” I mean “Jeep.” TTAC commenter “skor” explains the whole sordid affair:

Jeep was developed by the American Bantam Car Company. The design was purchased by the US Government from American Bantam and given to Willys-Overland with large orders going to Ford. Immediately after WWII American Bantam went bankrupt.

At the conclusion of WWII, Willys-Overland and Ford fought it out over who owned the Jeep design … a court ruled that the rights to the Jeep name and design were owned by Willys-Overland. Although the Jeep sold well in the post war years for Willys-Overland, they struggled with the rest of their auto business, and in 1953 Willys-Overland was purchased by Kaiser Motors.

The Jeep sold well for Kaiser, but the rest of their car biz sank like a stone. In 1963 Kaiser renamed itself Kaiser-Jeep. Business only got worse for Kaiser-Jeep through the 60’s, so in 1969 Kaiser-Jeep was acquired by AMC.

The Jeep sold well for AMC, but their car biz went from bad to worse during the 70’s, and in 1979 AMC was purchased by Renault.

The Jeep sold well for Renault but the rest of the AMC line-up didn’t do so well. In 1986 Renault’s chairman, Georges Besse, was murdered by the communist terrorist group, Action Directe. In 1987, AMC was purchased by Chrysler.

The Jeep sold well for Chrysler, but the rest of the AMC products were canned. During the 90’s Chrysler’s fortunes were starting to wane. In 1998 Chrysler hooked up with Daimler-Benz AG in a “Merger Of Equals”.

Jeeps sold well for DaimlerChrysler AG, but soon problems sprung up with the rest of the Chrysler line. Bleeding money, the Germans unloaded Chrysler/Jeep, at a huge loss, on Cerberus Capital Management in 2007. The Germans actually paid Cerberus to take Chrysler/Jeep.

The hell hound almost never lost money on any of its business deals, but in 2009 they were forced to take Chrysler into bankruptcy. The American government essentially paid Fiat to take Chrysler/Jeep.

Today the Jeep brand continues to sell well, but it appears that Fiat is in some major trouble.

That’s what they get for naming a vehicle “Cherokee,” right? Probably not; the first Cherokee appeared for 1974, during the AMC years, by which time Jeep had already destroyed two automakers.

In an earlier article for TTAC, Rich Truesdell attempted to explain the phenomenon this way:

[Its] core strength — go-anywhere capability — has always been its weakness. In other words, whether serving the military, farm owners, off-road enthusiasts or Soccer Moms, Jeep is a niche brand. As recent history has shown (e.g., Aston Martin, Jaguar, Land Rover, Saab, HUMMER, Volvo, etc.), large companies and niche brands make terrible bedfellows. Big companies seek volume above all; a tendency that tends to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

This particular goose, though, seems to be killing its ostensible masters.

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I find your lack of ponies disturbing

Easily remedied, however:

Incidentally, Applejack shot first.

(Swiped from Equestria Daily.)

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The Virgin Allocation is coming up

“VIRGIN GRANT!” said the title. Is this the first time such a grant is being given? Is this a subsidy for some form of refloration?

No, and no. It’s just spam:

Dear Beneficiary,

This is to notify you that you have been chosen By the Board of trustees of Virgin Group Foundation based in Ireland, as one of the final recipients of a Cash Aid for your own personal and Community development, Virgin Group was Incorporated in 1989,In line with our 22 years anniversary program, this year the Virgin Group and its foundation in conjunction with the United Nations (UN) and the European union (EU),is giving out a yearly Grants to lucky local and international recipients worldwide in different categories for their personal Business development and uplift of their environment. These funds are freely given to you to use for your business, educational and personal Development and at least 30% to be used by you to develop a part of your environment, as this is a yearly program, which is a measure of universal development strategy, and eradication of poverty. It’s your chance to spend the donation wisely on something that will last you a long time. And please do not bother following up this email, if you have benefited from this donation in previous years.

I have not so benefited, of course, but “please do not bother following up” seems like good advice.

The amount in question is a trifling, by spam standards anyway, £750,000. And please note:

Kindly be informed that the Virgin Group Donation Board of trustees do not know you in person, you are therefore required to send your C.V along with your Facial means of Identification on your contact with the Secretary for documentation and processing of your payment.

By “Facial means of Identification,” they want “Drivers License or International Passport.”

Oh, but I may just have blown it:

You are by all means hereby advised to keep this whole information confidential until you have been able to collect your donation, as there have been many cases of double and unqualified redemption, due to beneficiaries informing third parties about his/her donation.

Um… oops?

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Emergency flats

Are those damnable heels killing you? The answer — or at least an answer — has come to Los Angeles:

Salvation has come to the high-heeled hordes of L.A. nightlife, in the form of the city’s first flat-shoe vending machine. Squat, unobtrusive, the size of a dresser, the thing is currently located beside the women’s restroom at the Colony in Hollywood… Called Rollasoles, they cost $19.95 (or “an easy $20″). They are basically ballet flats. Soft and squashy, they drop out of the machine rolled up in a plastic can.

The reception has been cordial:

Club owners like the shoes because girls who wear them stay out later (an average of 40 minutes longer, according to a survey [the vendors] commissioned), dance more and, one assumes, drink more. Guys like the shoes because it keeps girls out partying for the night. Girls like the shoes because, well, they’re shoes.

(Snagged from Joy McCann’s Facebook page.)

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Everybody loves a recap

Despite Zooey Deschanel’s public disdain for the band, I have always been a fan of Gary Lewis and the Playboys, though in terms of what we laughingly call “authenticity,” in terms of playing on one’s own records, they fall somewhere in the general vicinity of Monkeeville, despite the fact that like the Monkees, the Playboys could actually play reasonably competently, and had been doing a live gig at Disneyland (with Lewis’ surname left off) at the time they were picked up by the Liberty label.

Producer Snuff Garrett was having none of that. He brought in members of the Wrecking Crew, top-rank L. A. session players, and singer Ron Hicklin, and anywhere the Playboys were deemed inadequate, the pros were employed. Which explains the tympani, for instance, on “This Diamond Ring.” (And maybe on the answer record, Wendy Hill’s “(Gary, Please Don’t Sell) My Diamond Ring,” which, said Dawn Eden, had “the loudest, scariest tympani I ever heard.”)

I did know that Leon Russell played on several of those Playboys sessions, especially “She’s Just My Style,” which he cowrote. (Complete credits: Al Capps, who sang the bass part; Russell; Lewis; and “Thomas Leslie,” which is almost Snuff Garrett’s real name.) I did not know, though Roger did, that this was drummer Jim Keltner’s first session. (Keltner would go on to play with three of the Beatles, albeit not simultaneously.)

Knowing that Ron Hicklin was spelling Lewis on vocals explained neatly why Lewis sounded so much like his dad on the last half of “Time Stands Still” (B-side of “Everybody Loves a Clown”) and nowhere else. What I never did quite figure out was how it was that neither of my LP copies of “Sure Gonna Miss Her” sounded anything like the 45. Steve Kolanjian, who wrote the heavily-detailed liner notes for the Legendary Masters compilation in 2000, didn’t find out why either.

After “Where Will the Words Come From”, Lewis was drafted and packed off to ‘Nam; his last big hit was a cover of “Sealed With a Kiss,” which barely scraped into the Top 20. After that, he opened a music store, and after a few years eventually settled comfortably into the nostalgia circuit.

Disclosure: One of these songs is uncomfortably close to my heart. No fair guessing which one.

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O, the hazards of lawns

The prettiest whistles, said the Decemberists, won’t wrestle the thistles undone.

For that, you need an industrial-strength mower, or access to Eeyore.

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