The trouble with everything

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Telemarketers and other pests

Too funny to be missed!

copyright by Robert Byron -

One thing that has always bugged me, and I'm sure it does most of you, is to sit down at the dinner table only to be interrupted by a phone call from a telemarketer. I decided, on one such occasion, to try to be as irritating as they were to me. The call was from AT&T and it went something like this:

Me: Hello
AT&T: Hello, this is AT&T...

Me: This is AT&T?
AT&T: Yes This is AT&T...

Me: Is this AT&T?
AT&T: YES! This is AT&T, may I speak to Mr. Byron please?

Me: May I ask who is calling?
AT&T: This is AT&T.

Me: Ok, hold on.

At this point, I put the phone down for a solid 5 minutes thinking that, surely, this person would have hung up the phone. Much to my surprise, when I picked up the receiver, they were still waiting.

Me: Hello?
AT&T: Is this Mr. Byron

Me: May I ask who is calling please?
AT&T: Yes this is AT&T...

Me: Is this AT&T?
AT&T: Yes this is AT&T...

Me: This is AT&T?
AT&T: Yes, is this Mr. Byron?

Me: Yes, is this AT&T?
AT&T: Yes sir.

Me: The phone company?
AT&T: Yes sir.

Me: I thought you said this was AT&T.
AT&T: Yes sir, we are a phone company.

Me: I already have a phone.
AT&T: We aren't selling phones today Mr. Byron.

Me: Well what ever it is, I'm really not interested but thanks for calling.

When you are not interested in something, I don't think you can express yourself any plainer than by saying "I'm really not interested", but this lady was persistent.

AT&T: Mr. Byron we would like to offer you 10 cents a minute, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Now, I am sure she meant she was offering a "rate" of 10 cents a minute but she at no time used the word rate. I could clearly see that it was time to whip out the trusty old calculator and do a little ciphering.

Me: Now, that's 10 cents a minute 24 hours a day?
AT&T: (getting a little excited at this point by my interest) Yes sir that's right! 24 hours a day!

Me: 7 days a week?
AT&T: That's right.

Me: 365 days a year?
AT&T: Yes sir.

Me: I am definitely interested in that! Wow!!! That's amazing!
AT&T: We think so!

Me: That's quite a sum of money!
AT&T: Yes sir, it's amazing how it adds up.

Me: Ok, so will you send me checks weekly, monthly or just one big one at the end of the year for the full $52,560, and if you send an annual check, can I get a cash advance?
AT&T: Excuse me?

Me: You know, the 10 cents a minute.
AT&T: What are you talking about?

Me: You said you'd give me 10 cents a minute, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That comes to $144 per day, $1008 per week and $52,560 per year. I'm just interested in knowing how you will be making payment.
AT&T: Oh no sir I didn't mean we'd be paying you. You pay us 10 cents a minute.

Me: Wait a minute here!!! Didn't you say you'd give me 10 cents a minute. Are you sure this is AT&T?
AT&T: Well, yes this is AT&T sir but......

Me: But nothing, how do you figure that by saying that you'll give me 10 cents a minute that I'll give you 10 cents a minute? Is this some kind of subliminal telemarketing scheme? I've read about things like this in the Enquirer you know. Don't use your brainwashing techniques on me.
AT&T: No sir we are offering 10 cents a minute for.....

Me: THERE YOU GO AGAIN! Can I speak to a supervisor please!
AT&T: Sir I don't think that is necessary.

Me: Sure! You say that now! What happens later?
AT&T: What?

Me: I insist on speaking to a supervisor!
AT&T: Yes Mr. Byron. Please hold.

So now AT&T has me on hold and my supper is getting cold. I begin to eat while I'm waiting for a supervisor. After a wait of a few minutes and while I have a mouth full of food:

Supervisor: Mr. Byron?
Me: Yeth?

Supervisor: I understand you are not quite understanding our 10 cents a minute

Me: I'd thish Ath Teeth & Teeth?
Supervisor: Yes sir, it sure is.

I had to swallow before I choked on my food. It was all I could do to suppress my laughter and I had to be careful not to produce a snort.

Me: No, actually I was just waiting for someone to get back to me so that I could sign up for the plan.
Supervisor: Ok, no problem, I'll transfer you back to the person who was helping you.

Me: Thank you.

I was on hold once again and was getting really hungry. I needed to end this conversation. Suddenly, there was an aggravated but polite voice at the other end of the phone.

AT&T: Hello Mr. Byron, I understand that you are interested in signing up for our plan?
Me: Do you have that friends and family thing because you can never have enough friends and I'm an only child and I'd really like to have a little brother...

AT&T: (click)

Thursday, April 20, 2006

How to be a billiards snob

Don't play American pool; the tables are too small and the balls too large.

Don't play snooker—all the scoring comes from potting balls (potting can be boring; every time I play I end up with an aching neck).

Do play English pocket billiards, arguably the most interesting and elegant of all billiard games.

In Europe and the States, they play variations of two- and three-cushion billiards without pockets, which Europeans call karambole.

In the Orient, they sometimes play a type of cushion billiards with two large red and two large white balls.

But nothing beats English billiards, or pocket billiards as it's sometimes known. The game has everything: potting, cannons, and winning and losing 'hazards'.

It's played on a full-size (6' x 12') snooker table, so there's lots of challenge in it. It's hard to make a foul shot, and if you do, the point penalties are small -- just two points. In fact, when we play, we normally just sacrifice our turn on a foul stroke and forget about the points, unless the foul leaves the other player at a significant disadvantage.

Let the game begin!

Here, roughly, is how you play English billiards: There is one red ball (the object ball) and two white cue balls (one plain, one with a spot). The game begins with one of the cue balls in hand (the D), the other cue ball on the centre spot, and the red (object) ball on the top spot.

Basic scoring is easy:

  • Pot the object ball - 3 points (also called a winning hazard)
  • Pot your opponent's cue ball - 2 points
  • Hit the object ball and your opponent's cue ball on the same stroke (order doesn't matter) - 2 points (this score is called a cannon)
  • Hit the red ball and then go into a pocket - 3 points (this is called a losing hazard, or loser)
  • Hit your opponent's cue ball then go into a pocket - 2 points (a different losing hazard)

NOTE: When the object (red) ball is pocketed, it is put back on the spot at the top of the table. When you pocket your opponent's cue ball, it stays down until you miss a shot. Most of the time, it's not a good idea to pocket a cue ball, since your play afterwards is restricted to pots and losers.

When a cue ball returns to the table, it is played "from hand," i.e., from the 'D' at the bottom of the table. All shots from hand must be aimed ahead of the balk line (that is, up the table).

Of course, you may combine scoring shots:


Hit the white, then hit the red, then enter a pocket to score
2 + 2 = 4 (cannon + loser)

Hit the red, then pocket the other cue ball
2 + 2 = 4 (cannon + 2-point pot)

Hit the red, pocket it, and then hit the other cue ball
3 + 2 = 5 (3-point pot + cannon)

Hit the red, then hit the white, then have your ball enter a pocket
2 + 3 = 5 (cannon + 3-point loser; you hit red first)

Hit the white, pocket it, then hit the red and then enter a pocket
2 + 2 + 2 = 6

Hit the red, pocket it, then hit the white and pocket it
3 + 2 + 2 = 7 (2 pots + cannon)

Hit the red, pocket it, then hit the white and then enter a pocket
3 + 2 + 3 = 8 (pot + cannon + 3-point loser)

Hit the white, pocket it, then hit the red, pocket it, then enter a pocket
2 + 2 + 3 + 2 = 9 (2-point pot + cannon + 3-point pot + 2-point loser)

Hit the red, pocket it, hit the white, pocket it, then enter a pocket
3 + 2 + 2 + 3 = 10
(3-point pot + cannon + 2-point pot + 3-point loser)

As you can see, when combining scores, the ball you hit first controls the subsequent score you receive for pocketing your cue ball.

Now, here are two of my favourite shots:

This first, we call "The Morrison" because my billiards partner, Gordon, was practising it one evening as I came to meet him with another friend called Rob Morrison, visiting from the land of Oz.

As we entered, Gordon announced his 10th consecutive success with the shot and promptly named it in Rob's honour. This shot is a "loser" or losing hazard, because it is your cue ball that enters the pocket, not the object ball.

The shot is made as a plain 'half-ball' stroke. That is, you aim the very centre of your cue ball at the very outside edge of the object ball, and shoot with a smooth, follow-through stroke, being careful to hit your cueball slightly above centre, but with absolutely no side.

You can find a complete description of this shot in Useful Strokes for Billiard Players by Wallace Ritchie (if you can find this long out of print gem).

This second one we call "That Shot."

I sprang it successfully on Gordon during one of our regular competitions for the Billiards Championship of the Civilized Universe, If Any.

After I made the shot, Gordon exclaimed: "How did you make that shot?" The rest is billiards history, not that any really good players anywhere took note.

To make this shot, a cannon, you aim half-ball (see above) at the object ball, but stroke your cueball sharply, well below centre, with your cue as parallel to the table as is practical.

Again, you'll find details in "Useful Strokes..."

We've since gone on to whimsically name a number of other shots: The Ustinov, The Berton, and the Rodney -- each name in honour of departed favourites: Peter Ustinov, Pierre Berton and Rodney Dangerfield.

The Berton happens when you pot the other cue ball and follow it into the pocket. Why the name?
Pierre wrote extensively about Canada's North, where there is lots of white.

The Rodney is a shot that gets "no respect". It can happen for ill or good. Say, for instance, you are about to make a loser and one of the other balls trickles by and nudges it out of its intended trajectory -- you've been Rodneyed! Or the same in reverse: Your shot is about to fail when another ball intervenes and saves the score.

The Ustinov deserves diagramming (eventually). It is a loser into one of the side pockets that sends the object ball up (or down) the table, leaving it pretty much where it was, but on the opposite side of the table. Where you can make another Ustinov from hand (the "D").

We like to say the shot works only if you put "yoost enough" stuff on the ball (our apologies to any Scandinavians reading this).

We may add the Charlton, once Heston finally dies: You shoot at anything that moves -- which is illegal, since, of course, you may not shoot until all balls have come to rest.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Logophilia: the love that
can’t stop speaking its name


  1. Members of the family rosaceae would be cognate odoriferously, notwithstanding their designation by alternative appellations or sobriquets.
  2. The erection of bona fide boundaries (of lignaceous or petraceous composition) are essential to the maintenance of orderly vicinage.
  3. A surfeit suffices.
  4. Verity is oft disclosed in oeniphic potations.
  5. The application of effective impetus is best achieved when the implement designed for eradicating protuberous habiliment has been allotropically enhanced in a calorimetric fashion. (Is there an element of paranomasia here?)

  • Zoetrope
  • Aperient
  • Pavonine
  • Irrecusable
  • Pluviometrical

Where might you find a pair of thole-pins? What has Archimedes to do with them?

Finally: I don’t know about the tune, but the words are royalty free:

Felicitations on your nascence.
Felicitations on your nascence.
Felicitations on your nascence dear Insert Anyname
Felicitation on your nascence.

PS: If you're really a logophile, you likely have a copy of Poplollies and Bellibones, a Celebration of Lost Words, by Susan Kelz Sperling.

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