15 March 2020
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Tennis Fraud, Travel, and Toilet Repair

What better subjects to cover on the day after the president (of the United States) declares a national emergency?

Tennis Fraud

Sport in general and tennis in particular hasn't been a feature of this blog. For many decades I gave it almost no consideration at all, and it's been only in the last decade and a bit that I've become a fan. Part of the reason is my initial-sake Roger Federer, about whom I've written approvingly. Another is due to a shocking admission I'm about to make. (Comporting with this blog's no-suspense policy, it appears in the next sentence.) I've been taking tennis lessons.

If you know me personally, you'll suspect, correctly, that I'm only slightly less clumsy than I look. And I'll never be a fast runner or a competitive player. My one candidate skill, mostly due to being tall, is the occasional effective serve. I'm hopeful that my serving skill will increase faster due to my continuation of these lessons than it will deteriorate due to my increasing age. How long before the increments inevitably turn to decrements is conjectural.

Which brings me to the point of this item: money. Sedona boasts no eleemosynary organization dedicated to improving the serve of superannuated residents. Rather, the lessons are a commercial partnership between our Parks & Recreation department and our tennis pro, a fine gentleman who, unaccountably, doesn't age. Until recently I had a practical and somewhat lackadaisical attitude to paying for my lessons, one that had proven tenable over several years. First, I would take a lesson without paying. The following week I'd call the P&R department to pay for three lessons, and take a lesson that week and the next, having paid in advance for the third. Suddenly, and without warning that became a problem. I have to guess that there had been enough cases of tennis fraud that it became necessary for long-term customers such as myself to pay in advance for every lesson. I sustained a fraught email from the pro admonishing me to that effect.

You know how easy it is to make a purchase on Amazon? Imagine what it would be like if one of their competitors were in charge of their commerce site. They would make it impossible to pay for more than two items at once, make navigating the web site difficult with obscure and almost incomprehensible instructions, and finally, after about three times too many steps, let you click on PAY. But if you made any mistakes in the webarynth* of pages, you would find out only at the final payment step, when your (unknowable) mistake was flagged. <Fiction>You would be told "sorry, please correct your entry for..."</Fiction>. Not exactly. The actual "flag" was an increase in the final amount of $1,000.

It worked, at least to the extent of encouraging me to make the short trek to Parks & Rec to hand over my physical credit card. I was finally allowed on the court.


I have written enough blogitems about airlines' policies and depredations that I needn't establish my credentials. So it was with shock and surprise that I had a good travel experience on United Airlines in recent weeks. As I may have mentioned not so many paragraphs ago, I'm tall. Presumably this doesn't qualify as a "handicap" although it probably should as far as airline seating is concerned. I'm also cheap, and when I tried to book a flight at the "Basic Economy" rate, I sustained any number of emails warning me of the privations I might incur. No "full-size" carry-on. No seat choice. No upgrades, no itinerary changes, no print-at-home boarding pass, be in the last boarding group. Still want the cheap fare, you fool?

Hell yes! If you have an assigned seat and no reason to compete for an overhead bin, why wouldn't you want to be last on the plane! Boarding group 5 suits me just fine. As long as my knees aren't crushed into the seat in front of me, which they aren't, quite, why pay for a couple of extra inches? Discomfort in the service of parsimony is no vice.

Back to the good travel experience. If you have Basic Economy, they make you use a kiosk instead of printing your own boarding pass. When you've checked in at the kiosk, it summons a United employee to approve your pass. The purpose of this seems to be that they don't want you to sneak on the airplane with an unapproved carry-on luggage item. An extra, irritating step, but in this case...

  • I dutifully did the kiosk chore and a United employee named Rasha Polk came over to approve my data entry and carry-on.
  • I explained to her how wonderful boarding group 5 was and how absurd it was to try to cram someone of my height into their narrow pitch seats.
  • She said let me see what I can do for you, and replaced my back-of-plane boarding pass with one near the front, with more legroom.

We love Rasha Polk! But wait, there's more, unexpected, and totally fortuitous.

  • When I settled into my window seat near the front of the plane, the guy in the middle seat was in the process of changing to a different, aisle seat in some other row. In this otherwise full flight, the one empty seat was next to mine. I actually had a bit of room to stretch out, and could share that seat's tray table with the aisle guy in my row.
  • Being near the front of the plane, I got off several minutes earlier.
  • Those several minutes were sufficient, just barely, to catch the shuttle to Sedona prior to the one which I had booked, saving me 90 minutes of travel!

We love Rasha Polk even more!

Toilet Repair

Bored yet? OK, I was going to do this with photographs, but I'll make it quick. I'm at least as good a plumber as I am an epidemiologist, so when I was notified that the toilet in the bedroom wasn't working, I fairly leapt at the household wrench. Fortunately that was the right tool, since it's the only plumbing tool I have. "Not working" was a bit strong; it seems that after flushing, you had to—wait for it—jiggle the handle to get the water to stop running. Applying the mighty wrench, I disassembled the handle and found a small piece of plastic had cracked off a much larger piece.

Q: One little photo?
A: Oh, alright.

You know where this is going. I contacted the toilet manufacturer, who referred me to a local distributor. "How much to replace the $1 plastic bit, please"? Oh we don't do that, you have to buy the whole assembly, including the exterior handle. That will be $28. Not having a spare lifetime to pursue this, I agreed, and immediately received an invoice for $52.

"WHAT?" I expostulated!

Shipping. The whole assembly weighed a few ounces, which Amazon would have shipped for free, or anyone else should have shipped for a few dollars. I capitulated. Clearly I'm much better at epidemiology than getting plumbing parts. Grrrr. Wanna rent a wrench?

* Neologism I just thought of. Do you like it?

Richard Factor


"Melancholy Man"

The Moody Blues




Another who-knows-how-I-got-this-one. But at least I know what most of it is: It's a Pepsi Cola logo.

My possession of the shirt is even more mysterious since my beverage of choice is ice water. I don't drink soda of any persuasion.

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