Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Swarming Bees: Yet Another Good Reason Not to Mow the Dirt

I mowed my dirt yesterday. I'd like to tell you that I did it in a fit of motivation, but that would be untrue. I didn't want to do it; I didn't feel like doing it; but I had to do it.

Since I managed to bring my dandelion problem under control, I have been able to reduce my mowing to once every two weeks. I could make it every three weeks if I could find a crabgrass killer that works as well as the Bayer dandelion killer. Bayer makes a crabgrass killer too, but it's not nearly as effective.

Hence, mowing remains an every-two-week proposition. Ugh...

I was 98% finished when I felt a hot burning sensation on my ankle. I thought maybe I had run over an ant hill or something. Looking down I saw two bees on my one ankle and another circling for a landing.

I reached down and swatted them off, and began running. Two of them were persistent little buggers and followed me for about 30 feet. Finally giving up, they flew back toward the hive.

I sat on my front step, removed my shoe and sock, and checked the damage. No stinger, but a healthy-looking red welt. I said they were bees, but they may have well been yellow jackets. I'm not sure I'd know the difference.

It was certainly more painful than any bee sting I'd had previously.

The last time I mowed, I noticed a couple of bees (or whatever) flitting in and out of a hole located in a depression in my side yard. I didn't pay much attention and obviously forgot about it. Mowing over the area the last time didn't stir up any problems.

Apparently, in the intervening two weeks, a hive developed somewhere in that hole.

I went in the house and retrieved a can of bug-killing fogger. Popping the top, I depressed the button and shoved the can into the hole. Oh, did I mention that I then ran screaming like a little girl? Yes I did.

After a couple of minutes I walked back over and took a look. A swarm of what appeared to be baby bees (or whatever) were buzzing around the hole opening. A couple of hours later, it had been reduced to just one bee.

Because it's been raining like someone should be building an ark since I got up this morning, I haven't checked today.

Maybe I solved and problem and maybe I didn't. If not, this war is far from over.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Cuisinart Disaster: How a Food Processor Almost Ruined Saturday Italian Night!

Saturday night is Italian night at Casa de Heaps.

It's the one night of the week when I am in town that I toss caution to the wind and stuff as much food down me as I can without regard for the three Cs: calories, carbs and cholesterol.

It's not that I necessarily deprive myself the rest of the week; it's just that when I wander off my diet the the other six days, I do so with a great deal of remorse.

No, I really do try to take it easy the rest of the week. I rarely eat out unless it's a special occasion or if I have out-of-town company visiting. I almost never eat red meat at home, and I stay away from from breads, sweets and so forth.

So, Italian night is a big deal to me. I look forward to staying in and relaxing. Around 4 or 4:30, I pop the cork on a bottle of red to let it breathe. I pour myself a glass of white and hunker down in my recliner in front of the TV for an evening of gluttony and movie watching.

My Italian entree of choice is spaghetti. I brew my own meat sauce. I make a batch of it and freeze enough for another four or five Saturdays.

I used to use canned tomatoes, frozen chopped onions and pre-chopped canned garlic, but not any more. In December I bought a small Cuisinart 4-cup food processor, and began using fresh tomatoes, onions, garlic and green peppers in the sauce.

I still use canned tomato sauce and paste, but really like the extra flavor using fresh vegetables provides.

Yes, it's more expensive and takes longer, but it's worth it.

This past Saturday was one in which I had to make a batch of sauce. I ran out to the store early -- I shop at Bi-Lo because it's Greenville based -- and bought everything I needed that I didn't already have.

Arriving back home, I threw the tomatoes into a pot of hot water to remove the skins while I began quartering the onion and skinning the garlic to put in the processor.

With the processor filled, I plugged it in and pushed the button: nada! I removed the plug and plugged into another receptacle -- still nothing. I fiddled with it, removing the container of onions and garlic, and then reattaching it. Nope, still not working.

I got a screwdriver, removed the base and looked inside. I might as well have been looking at the guts of an MRI machine. All the wires were attached and nothing looked out of place.

The damn thing worked fine the last time I used it. Crappy piece of, well, crap.

Yep, after about six uses, this Cuisinart hunk of junk simply decided to no longer perform.

I was forced to chop everything by hand. The tomatoes were a real mess. A tsunami of tomato juice rolled off the cutting board toward everything sitting on the counter within a two-foot radius. I thought I might have to put on my galoshes.

It did, however, give me opportunity to really try out my new ceramic knife -- like the ones you see advertised on TV. In fact, it's actually made by the Fuji TV company. Catchy name, no?

It worked great, but using it rather than the Cuisinart processor added about 30 minutes to the preparation.

I haven't owned a lot of Cuisinart products in my life, and my experience with this piece of junk certainly isn't cause to buy anything else with the Cuisinart name on it.

I only paid about $28 for it at Costco. Prorating the cost means I basically rented it for roughly $4.60 each time I used it. Not a budget buster, but not very economical either.

I'm on the market for a new, small processor. I'm looking at Black & Deckers.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Little Jazz, a Little Elephant Room and a Lot of the Hyundai Veloster Turbo in Austin

Just returned from Austin -- Texas that is.

It's a little tree huggy for me, but I love visiting.

Happily this trip included a Wednesday night. Wednesdays are good because the Jazz Pharaohs play the
Elephant room on Wednesdays and have for more than 20 years. My buddy Winker took me there the first time I visited him probably 15 or more years ago.

Also happily, Hyundai put us up at the W Hotel, which is only a couple of blocks from the Elephant Room.

I was there to drive the new Hyundai Veloster Turbo, as well as the Elantra Coupe and Elantra GT. I must admit, I sort of blew off the Coupe. There was only the opportunity to drive two cars on the ride-and-drive route. The third car was left for the 10 minute loop around the hotel when we returned. I drove the two cars I really wanted to drive on the route, so I'll wait until until the Coupe shows up in my driveway for a week to drive it.

I was mightily impressed with the Veloster Turbo. It was a blast to drive.

Hyundai beefed up its appearance both inside and out. The front leather-covered seats are killer.

With a starting price of just under $22,000, it uses a 201-horsepower 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo-charged engine for its giddy-up.

It handles great with good brakes and responsive steering.

Simply a blast to drive.

But enough business....

After the ride and drive, several of us showered, changed and embarked to the Elephant Room. We arrived there around 4:45 PM. The joint was deserted except for a server and a bartender: no patrons, no barflies, no Jazz Pharaohs. WTF!

I could have sworn it said live music from "4 til 8" on the Web site. What the heck was going on?

As it turns out, the band doesn't begin until 6. I went back to the Elephant Room Web site before starting this blog to see exactly where I went wrong. What they've done is connect two separate thoughts in basically the same sentence. It reads: Live Music Nightly, Happy Hour 4-8 p.m.

I blame myself. My buddies were less than happy with me, but I avoided a lynching by buying the first round.

Yes, we did what any self-respecting group of guys would do: We sat down and poured a few beers down us as we waited.

The band started on schedule and they were well worth the wait. Shy a few members, it wasn't as good a show as I've heard from them, but still great.

We enjoyed about 40 minutes of music before we had to adjourn for dinner with the rest of the group. Hyundai went above and beyond the call of duty by directing the bus to dinner to swing by and pick us up. Otherwise, we would have had to cut our listening time in half to walk back to the hotel.

I love it when a plan comes together!

If you are ever in Austin and want to hear some great music in a joint in the basement of an office building that's so dark you can't see from one end to the other, it's the Elephant Room.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Cracking Up: My Home's Drywall Needs Some Work

My latest home-repair project, er, debacle involves patching some cracks in my drywall.

Precariously balanced on a hill, my old house is suffering from some serious settling. It's not sufficiently severe to crack the foundation, but it is doing a number on my interior walls.

I've been looking at some of these fissures for three years or more. Finally, I thought, enough is enough.

I'm not tackling all of them. I would, but I don't have the motivation to paint all of the main-level walls and all that that entails: moving furniture and so forth.

So I settled for repairing the cracks on two walls. When finished -- should that day ever come -- I will paint these walls and the one connecting them a contrasting color to what the rooms are now painted. I have that color all picked out; that was the easy part.

I am at least somewhat capable of doing a passable patching job. The secret to repairing cracks in drywall is using several uber-thin coats of mud and sanding each thoroughly. With each coat, use a wider knife, and things should turn out all right.

My problem is that every time I think I'm ready to paint, I find another crack I hadn't noticed. I'm beginning to believe that I will never be done.

Find a new crack, drag out all the drywall-finishing paraphernalia, then mud and sand for another three days.

I'm tired of the mess and cleaning up after every application of mud is a real pain in the...well, it's just not much fun.

In fact, I was going to skip blogging today, but decided that the longer I sit at my keyboard, the longer I can put of working on this damn drywall project.

So much for that strategy....

Saturday, July 21, 2012

It's Not My Job, But I'll See What I Can Do: Our Tax Dollars at Work

Between out-of-town company and the pressures of being on deadline with several assignments, I have neglected my blogging duties.

I still have out-of-town company and a couple of pending assignments with ASAP deadlines, so I'm not out of the woods just yet.

I won't get much in the way of work done today. It's Saturday. A friend is throwing a little shindig this afternoon. Today will be completely lost.

In working on one of my assignments, I've been trying to nail down a list of gas guzzlers and the exact dollar amount each is accessed for the Gas Guzzler Tax. This sounds relatively simple, doesn't it?

Not so much.

I need this information from the source; not reprinted on some consumer Web site like AutoTrader or Edmunds. Not that being able to go to such sources would be much of help anyway; they don't have all the dollar amounts either.

No issue finding a list of the "offending" cars. It is available on the EPA's Web site. The rub comes in trying to find the exact tax each car carries.

A couple of hours of this past week were burned chatting up bureaucrats in "it's not my job" conversations about the list.

I talked to the EPA that sent me to the IRS that told me "Hey, there's no central list."


If the IRS determines the tax amounts, why isn't that centralized in a single office somewhere? Can't say, but apparently it isn't.

After investing 15 minutes or so in a phone call to our federal tax collecting agency, I was advised that a single list doesn't exist. "But please put your request in writing and e-mail it to us," the friendly lady in the IRS Media Relations office told me, "and I'll see what I can pull together."

What do you think the chances are that I will hear from her again? That was on Thursday morning and so far, nada.

Our tax dollars at work.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sun, Fun and Subaru in Hawaii

I'm freshly returned from driving the all-new Subaru XV Crosstrek. It's a crossover in the spirit of the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Juke and Mini Countryman. In fact, these are the very vehicles Subaru wants Crosstrek to engage.

For reasons I am not questioning, Subaru chose Oahu, Hawaii as the site of this press introduction. At the risk of sounding like a Hawaii snob, Oahu is my least favorite island, well if you don't count Molokai and its leper colony.

It's just way too congested and Waikiki Beach reminds me of Ft. Lauderdale, and not in a good way.

On the other hand, I find that since I no longer live in South Florida, I am less a critic of tropical locations no matter how overcrowded they might be or how long it takes to get to them. I am currently sporting what will be my only tan of the year. How can I complain about that?

Subaru put us up in the Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore. Off my terrace, I walked over a 5-foot strip of grass and was on the beach. I left the slider open at night so I could fall asleep to the sound of the waves. This was a first-class program and only the fact that we were only there for two nights took away a little of the luster.

The Crosstrek is a great looking little all-wheel-drive cruiser powered by a 148-horsepower 2-liter BOXER four-cylinder engine. The opposed-cylinder design of the engine gives Crosstrek the lowest center of gravity in its segment. Pretty remarkable when you consider it has more ground clearance than a Jeep Grand Cherokee.

The cabin is comfortable and stylish. There's more than 35 inches of rear-seat legroom and with the rear seat folded flat, there is 52 cubic feet of cargo room. Sweet! It's amazing the amount of stuff you can cram into the back.

When it finally goes on sale in September, it will come in two flavors: Premium and Limited with a starting price before delivery charges of $21,995. Fuel economy is pretty good too -- particularly for an AWD vehicle. The EPA estimate is 25 mpg city and 33 mpg highway with the CVT. That's better than some FWD competitors.

Subaru routed our drive so that we wound up at the Kualoa Ranch for lunch. Here's what you need to know about this property: It's stunningly gorgeous. It has been the location for exteriors for more movies than you can count on all your fingers and toes. And it's a tourist trap of the first order.

These guys have developed quite the business model. They charge movie companies exorbitant amounts of cash to use their property for shoots. Then they charge tourists -- mostly Japanese tourists if what I witnessed is indicative of their daily traffic -- any where from $49 to $140 to tour the ranch in buses, on ATVs, on horseback or some other conveyance where they get to stop and snap photos of signs with names of different movies and TV shows on them. I'm not making this up. You don't see actual movie sets. Nope, you see a sign with the name of the movie painted on it.

There was a huge carved-out footprint with a sign that read "Godzilla." My driving partner and I found that rather hilarious considering the bus loads of Japanese tourists crisscrossing the property. We could only imagine 40 Japanese tourists yelling "Godzirrah" from their windows as the bus passed by.

I did see one set of sorts. It was what appeared to be the ruins of a temple of some kind. No one seemed to know exactly what movie it was from. Everything from "Jurassic Park" to "Windtalkers" to "50 First Dates" had scenes filmed there. It wasn't until watching movies on my flight home that I chose the semi-lame "Journey 2" as one of my selections. Turns out the set I saw was supposed to be part of the Lost City of Atlantis on Mystery Island around which the movie's plot revolved.

Subaru had lunch catered near the top of one of the mountains scattered around the ranch. We were then invited to hike another 40 or 50 yards straight up to get to the top. Once up there, it was easy to establish that the view was the same one used in the Clooney movie "Descendents" that was supposed to be his family's land.

We were on a cattle ranch after all, so after lunch I decided to herd a few head. This is where AWD comes in really handy.

By mid afternoon we arrived at a remote beach on Turtle Bay's property where we were treated to a beach party. Subaru brought in vendors for paddle boarding, kayaking and snorkeling. Chairs and lounges were provided for catching sun and napping. They also provided shuttles back to the resort proper, so they had a bar set up as well. What a blast. I had to hustle to get back to my room in time to shower, dress and arrive at the hospitality suite for cocktails before dinner.

I may have slept 10 minutes during the 9-hour flight back to Atlanta on Friday night/Saturday morning. I need a nap.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Sandbar in Delray Beach, Florida: Great Decor-Lousy Service

I was in a new joint in Florida over the weekend. Well, it's sort of new. It's actually a new bar operated by Boston's on the Beach in Delray and located just next door to it.

Just off a major renovation of its main building late last summer, I guess the owner didn't think there was already enough going on and sank a ton of money into this new joint.

It's called the Sandbar. Get it? The décor is uber cool with sand, comfortable sofas, a big bar and lots of room. It's basically all outside. No clue what was spent on putting it all together, but the big bucks were apparently invested on the décor and not for training the squads of new help.

Spend some time in South Florida and you almost become numb to rude, indifferent service. In fact, South Floridians, for some odd reason that defies all logic, love to be treated like crap by restaurant help. Make a South Floridian stand in line for an hour or more to get into a joint and then treat him like crap once he's inside and you'll have his business for years to come.

Crazy, isn't it? I never understood it.

The evening began around 5 p.m. when my friend Amy and I found two seats at the bar. The bartenders and servers were, by in large attractive, and clad in bikini tops and short-shorts. So far I can't find anything wrong. I am a guy, after all. Then we sat and sat and sat. There were three bartenders behind the bar waiting on roughly 20 people. This bar staff took ignoring us to brand-new heights. Hellooow...nope, nothing.

We probably sat there for 10 or 12 minutes before one of these geniuses tore themselves away from whatever riveting conversation they were having to stroll over and see what we wanted. Once we had our first beers in hand, things didn't improve. Our little group swelled to six and still we were ignored. I'm not exaggerating when I write that they would come over and stand in front of us mixing someone else's drink and never make eye contact with any of us. Six of us are sitting there with empty beers as a bartender makes drinks directly in front of us without so much as glancing at us.

This went on and on and on. It almost became funny -- almost.

Finally a guy bartender -- Phil, I think was his name, but it could have been Randy for all that I remember by that point -- came on duty and actually seemed to be there to, gasp, wait on customers. It was too little too late, however.

Since I first arrived in South Florida 25 or so years ago, I have gone through periods of liking then hating Boston's. I probably went as long as six or seven years once without darkening its door. Believe me, they didn't miss my business. And that's part of the problem: Boston's is one of those places that because of its location -- basically on the beach -- can do a lousy job and still make money. People just go back no matter what.

Recently I've been generally pleased with the food and service, well at least until this week.

Here I am doing a little posing. No, really. This is the third of three photos of basically the same shot. I just really liked this wall. Amy, who has been to the Bacardi distillery in Puerto Rico, tells me this looks just like its entrance. I've been to its distillery in Barbados, but I couldn't pick its entrance out of a lineup. I'm wearing my T-shirt from the Kona microbrewery in Kona, Hawaii. Oh, and the beer in my hand is a Kona Longboard. I love it when a plan comes together.

I like the idea of the Sand Bar and will probably give it another shot. Maybe in the months between my last Florida visit and the next, someone there will take an interest in the terrible service and maybe hold a training session or two. But it is Boston's, so that is highly unlikely.
A fella can hope, can't he?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Organized Softball: It's More a Religion Than a Game

I grew up in a different time. Kids walked, rode their bikes, or took the bus to get around. Parents weren't entertainment directors, calling our friends' parents to set appointments for playing together. We went outside to play with nothing more in the way of parental participation than an admonishment to come home when the street lights went on.

That's right, young readers; we played outside for hours on end without any parental involvement.

Because of this independence, organized sports weren't such a big deal. I had a few friends who played baseball on a Little League team, but that was about the extent of it. And when they did, it didn't require their entire family to be sucked into the activity.

I didn't get much in the way of encouragement to participate in any sort of extracurricular activity. In fact, when I expressed an interest in playing football in high school, I had to secure my own rides home from practice since the car pool we were part of operated immediately after school. I don't think my dad ever came to a game during the season I warmed a bench.

There is a reason for this stroll down Memory Lane: My, how things have changed.

I flew to Florida this week to help celebrate my friend Amy's birthday. It's not a zero-year birthday or anything special beyond the birthday itself, but I knew the party would be epic. And, I am always on board for an epic party.

Both of Amy's daughters are on traveling softball teams. Amy's husband coaches the younger daughter's team. For the uninitiated, "travel ball" is a cult-like activity requiring huge swaths of a family's time and enough bags of cash to make Scrooge McDuck catch his breath.

A typical travel ball schedule consists of one or two nights of practice per week punctuated by marathon weekend tournaments that often begin on Friday and can last -- depending on a team's success -- into Sunday night. This doesn't include the occasional fund-raising activity or team meeting.  

"Travel" is a relative term. It just means that the team isn't anchored to a specific set of fields as "recreational" teams are. Travel may just mean driving across town to whatever fields are hosting the weekend's bracket of games. However, it can also mean the team overnighting somewhere 100 miles or more from home. This, of course, means entire families making the trip, paying for hotel rooms and meals. Cha-ching.     

Through all of this a parent's responsibility includes running their kid to the various practices and games, as well as populating the stands to show their support for the team. Many weekend meals consist of junk dispensed by the concession stands at the ball fields.

Usually, I try to avoid visiting South Florida during the travel-ball season, or seasons, really, because there seems to be more than one season per year.

Despite Amy's younger daughter being my official Goddaughter and the older one being my unofficial Goddaughter, I have no desire to spend two days and change on a ball field. I draw the line at a game or so per day per kid.

I planned this particular trip to Florida some time ago and didn't bother to double check that there would be no softball -- a serious oversight to be sure.

The tournament in question involved the younger daughter's team. She is an accomplished pitcher, who usually strikes out more than half the batters she faces. Pretty good for a ten-and-under pitcher. I marvel at the speed and accuracy of these lady pitchers who heave a ball underhanded and manage to get it into the strike zone.

I guess because of it being the Fourth of July week, the tournament began on Friday morning. I avoided Friday's games. They had an game that could have morphed into a string of games throughout the day. Losing that first game, though, put them into a second game at . Losing that one as well, the team went into the "losers" bracket and a game schedule that didn't resume until Saturday at .

I avoided going to that game as well. After yet another loss, the family returned home to rest and rejuvenate before the next game at . Did I mention that the tournament was on a field about 45 minutes away?

Even knowing that a win at that game would entail sitting through another game at , I attended the game. Because of tie-breakers and such, games can begin as much as an hour later than scheduled as the day wears on and on and on. This was the case here. The game began around .

Winning that game, they went to another field for the game that didn't begin until about . It was the second loss of the day, the fourth of the tournament and the last one. Had they won that last game, they might have played as many as five games on Sunday to make it to the finals and sixth game of the day: All taking place in 95-degree temperatures and 98-percent humidity. Are you kidding me?

Saturday finally ended around .

So, you can see why I call this religion-like devotion Cultball. Can't begin to picture my father in its grip.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Nightmare on the Fourth

I'm no stranger to traveling on holidays. I've flown on Thanksgiving, as well as Christmas and New Year's Eves. Usually my willingness to spend a portion of such days on an airplane is rewarded with unpopulated flights, loads of attention from flight attendants, and almost guaranteed upgrades.

In other words, they are very pleasant experiences -- nothing like typical flights.

It was with this experience set in mind that I made the decision to fly from Greenville to West Palm Beach on July 4th. I was looking forward to an uncrowded Atlanta airport, a nearly empty airplane and a first-class upgrade. Boy was I ever disappointed.

About half the flights I take originate and return to the Atlanta airport. I have an arrangement with one of the vendors that delivers my cars to pick up my current car from the valet at Park and Fly Plus when I drop it off there; and then, bring a different car for me to pickup on the day of my return flight. Easy-peasey.

I can practically make the 2.5-hour drive from my backdoor to Park and Fly Plus blindfolded. What I interpreted as a positive harbinger for my flying experience later that morning, my drive to Atlanta was remarkably easy.

I-85 was nearly deserted, compared to a typical airport run. I was on the road 40 minutes before I had to pass my first 18 wheeler. Usually I could practically walk from Greenville to Atlanta across the tops of trucks without my feet ever touching the pavement. I-85 is lousy with big trucks. Not so on the 4th.

I was driving a Fiat 500 Convertible. I contemplated dropping the top on it, for my early morning haul, but at the last minute decided I'd rather be able to hear the satellite radio instead.

As though to make up for the lack of truck traffic, the cops were out in full force. Apparently every person with a badge and a poor attitude was pressed into action. Radar traps were everywhere. I've found that if I close my eyes as I streak past them, they can't see me.

Just kidding. Typically I set the cruise control at seven or eight miles an hour above the limit and ignore the constabulary. They must be fine with that because I buzzed past several of them. Having said that, the 500 isn't exactly a speed merchant. Its 101-horsepower 1.4-liter engine cruises just fine, but you won't smoke anything, other than maybe a Toyota Yaris, when the light goes green.

Despite the 500's postage-stamp-like size, its front-seat area is roomy enough, and quite comfortable. I had to stow my suitcase in the backseat, however, because I couldn't cram it through the miniscule trunk opening. All in all, it was an enjoyable transport.

Park and Fly Plus was also uncharacteristically calm and quiet. I was the only person valet parking while I was there, and had a gaggle of employees milling around the 500 when I came to a stop.

Park and Fly Plus has baggage check-in for Delta passengers, and I utilized that. As the shuttle dumped me out at the terminal I got my first inkling that the day wasn't going to be the cake walk I had anticipated.

Traffic at the terminal was bumper to bumper and a swarm of humanity was funneling through the doors.

My flight was completely booked. I was number five on the upgrade list, competing for the last available first-class seat. Drat!

Glancing around the gate area I was aghast at the number of kids running and screaming around the wall-to-wall passengers. Eleven strollers pushed to the front of the line as the preboarding announcement was made. By the time I headed down the jetway, I could barely walk in the plane for the mountain of folded strollers strewn in front of the door.

The flight was a cacophony of screaming, crying, blathering kids. Thank, God, it's only an 80-minute flight.

I was in an exit row over the plane's wing. By the time I exited the plane, there was a traffic jam of strollers, uncontrolled kids and stressed-out parents clogging the area immediately outside the plane door. I pushed through the mayhem and sprinted up the jetway for the terminal.

Daylight never looked so good.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Tom and Katie Sitting in a Tree.....

How about that: Katie is divorcing Tom.

Who saw that coming? Anyone, anyone?

Apparently Katie is more than happy to rub shoulders with the freak show that is Scientology, but draws the line at immersing her six-year-old daughter in a crazy cult.

What little I've read about Katie, she seems to come from a rather normal background. I never did understand how she would adapt to Tom's belief system, religion or whatever it is. What the hell is it, anyway?

Of course, one would assume Tom will have custody rights of some sort, so he will still be able to do a little freelance indoctrination of little Suri. That shouldn't cause Katie too many sleepless nights.

Perhaps now that she's out from under Tom -- I shudder at the image -- she can return to her career. Maybe they can resurrect her character for the next Batman installment.

I wonder if Tom's sofa-jumping days are behind him.

What a moron.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A Little Bit of Audi and a Little Bit of Delta

So I participated in one of the car companies' "Bantaan death march" events last week. It was an Audi event to Colorado. We flew in on morning No. 1 and flew out the next afternoon. For us Eastcoasters, it meant a dark O'thirty run to the airport on the first day and a late-nite run from the airport home on the second night.

I must admit, it wasn't as bad as one of the California "Bantam death marches" that some of the car companies host, but it was still a very long two days.

On the plus side, however, was that Audi puts on quite the event. Everything from the Ritz Carlton Hotel to the obscenely stocked hospitality suite was top shelf.

This was the first Audi event I've been invited to in years. I wasn't in the minority on this trip. Nearly everyone I spoke with at the program hadn't been on an Audi event in years. I'm not sure what put us back into good favor with Audi, but I'm not taking issue with Audi's decision.

It was a great trip.

The star of the show was the rebirth of its Allroad. It's the replacement for Audi's A4 Avant wagon. It's all-wheel drive with a 211-horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder engine. As you might expect, it looks great inside and out.

We landed at the Denver airport and drove to the Ritz Carlton just west of Vail. The next morning we drove back.

As I was driving on the return leg, my cell kept ringing. I really don't like to talk on my cell when driving, so I pretty much ignored it. Finally about the third time in 15 minutes that it rang, I pulled it out of my pocket and looked at the caller ID. It said "Delta."

I typically fly Delta, and was doing so on this trip. I figured the news couldn't be good, but waited until we got to the out-lying hanger at the airport where Audi was staging the event to check the actual message.

Delta had been attempting to reach me to alert me that my connecting flight from Atlanta to Greenville -- some 10 hours in the future -- was delayed by 2 hours. Instead of putting me into Greenville at 9:30 p.m., it would land nearer to midnight. Nuts!

The second message repeated the alert, but the third message was Delta calling to say that my flight from Denver to Atlanta was oversold and would I be willing to change flights to the Denver-to-Cincy flight that was scheduled to leave Denver 15 minutes earlier.

I called the Delta number back and chatted with one of its agents. She told me that if I rebooked I could get into Greenville at 9 p.m. I himmed and hawed for a few seconds to which she said that Delta would issue me a voucher good for $200 on any Delta flight. Hmmm, I said, I'm not sure if I want to do it.

Well, we can upgrade you to first class from Denver to Cincy. I replied, "Let me think about it for a couple of minutes...sign me up!"

We got it all rebooked. As I was being shuttled from Audi's hangar to the regular Denver terminals, I got yet another robotic message from Delta telling me my flight from Denver to Cincy would be delayed 45 min.


I called Delta back to make sure that if I missed my connection in Cincy (I only had 30 minutes factoring for the delay.) that Delta would put me up in Cincy since my scheduled flight from Cincy to Greenville was the last one of the night. Yes, I was told.

Some how it all worked out and I walked in my backdoor about 9:30 that night. Sometimes it's really good to have some clout with an airline.