Thursday, October 27, 2011

I don't get it.

Everyone or at least a lot of people seem to think Tim Tebow, a professional football player for the Denver Broncos, is some kind of messiah.

I don't get it.

Before he was a professional football player he was a college football player and I didn't get it then.

I was in Jacksonville Florida near the epicenter of Tebowism two years ago during the height of his collegiate beatification. I had the temerity to express in a convention shuttle bus that "I didn't get it". I was subsequently verbal assault by the BUS DRIVER.

The expiration of his college carer was apparently enough to move his college coach to retire.

I still don't get it.

In his still nascent professional career he has played one game and most of that was pretty awful, but the press seems to be willing to anoint him as he next coming.

I'm perfectly willing to accord him his accomplishments on the football field, even grant him a measure of greatness. I simply don't get the near religious adoration accorded him as an athlete.

Perhaps it's his posture resembling a great work of art
Perhaps some of his disciples should reflect on his actual meaning.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'm Getting Old

I recently had a birthday and She took me on a plantation excursion. We spent the night at Nottoway and at Houmas House. Each of those places has evolved into a tourist destination of sorts, with numerous attractions. Both host a lot of weddings and other events, both have fine dining restaurants. Nottoway has overnight accommodations for about 100 people including rooms in the house and cottages.

This is something we have been talking about for a long time. We even did it once, spending the night at Madewood a few years ago, before I started this blog.

This was a sort of surprise. I knew something was happening but I didn't know exactly what.

Friday afternoon we took off work early and headed up the river and over the Sunshine Bridge. We arrived a Notoway
and checked into our new cottage, it had been open only a year or two.

The room was very nicely furnished.

Since it was late in the afternoon we unpacked, walked around the grounds and eventually got ready for dinner at the Mansion Restaurant, located in the lower level of the house.

Our table was the one of the far right. The food was very good and the service pretty good. I recommend it. The only drawback is like a lot of restaurants it is noisy, although that may have had more to do with the party at the next table.

Saturday morning we had breakfast in the restaurant. Two eggs any style with choice of bacon or ham, grits and biscuit ($7.00). They didn't run out of grits.

Finally the tour of the property. It was interesting. The most interesting part was how the plantation survived the Civil War. It seems the owner took his slaves to Texas where he hired them out to make cash. When the war was over he had the cash to purchase a pardon and keep the plantation. The second most interesting part was the opinion of our guide, a retired school teacher, on the state of education in Louisiana.

Heading back across the Sunshine bridge to Houmas House.

Houmas House doesn't have any overnight accommodations except their Honeymoon Cottage.

It is an old cottage with two rooms, a bed room and a bridal room. It also has a large bathroom with a giant tub. There is no TV in the cottage nor as far as I could find anywhere on the plantation.

There is however a bar on the premises

It is fairly small and serves as the bar for the restaurant and the various events. I got the opportunity to teach two bar tenders how to make a daiquiri.

We had dinner at Latil's Landing Restaurant, located in the old trading post building behind the main house. The Food was excellent and the service very good. I recommend it also.

There are several small dining rooms, this is the one we ate in.

Sunday morning we had a bit of a problem, the water went out early in the morning and didn't come back on until after 10. We were wondering whether the rest of our day would be in jeopardy, you see we wanted to take a tour and have brunch before departing.

Nothing seemed to go awry. Tours were announced by the ringing of a bell and they went on more or less as scheduled. We took the 11:00 AM tour, led by a very dramatic young lady named Katie. Whenever I take these kinds of tours I'm never sure how much of the spiel is accurate but in South Louisiana we have never been anxious about letting a few facts get in the way of a good story.

Again Houmas House survived the Civil War as a viable working plantation. The story of how that happened is also interesting. Apparently the Owner freed his slaves several months before the war started and hired them back as employees. He also kept his money in Northern banks, was an Irishman and therefore a British Subject and had a letter for Abraham Lincoln.

The most interesting thing on the tour was a large map of Louisiana from the 1840's. It showed the extent of major plantations and listed the population of each parish. It listed population in three columns White, Free Colored and Slaves. I can't recall the exact numbers but I was surprised to see that Orleans parish was listed with somewhat over 100,000 residents. Somewhat over 50,000 were white and there were almost equal numbers of slaves and free colored residents (each in the 20,000's).

After the tour we had Sunday Brunch in the Pavillion Ballroom, one of the venues on site. It was pretty good as well.

After brunch we drove back to New Orleans in time to watch the saints game on TV, but that is another story.

Thank You TOM

I was anxiously awaiting the new improved Superdome this year. I was unable to attend either of the pre-season games so my first look at the new seating was for the home season opener against Chicago.

The first challenge is the new more extensive screening procedure. They are now patting people down much more thoroughly, unfortunately they have not increased the number of screeners, not the arrangements for screening. The only solution it seem they can come up with is for everyone to get there sooner and stand in line longer.

The new concourse and concession areas a substantial improvement, there is more space less congestion.

The new plaza level seating is a big disappointment. The seats don't seem as comfortable, the sight lines don't seem as good. In order to add more seat is seems the "rake" of the seating has been decreased. the opposite of what I expected.

Our seats are on the sideline at the edge of the sideline, across the aisle is the end zone seating at a much lower price. Unfortunately although we have the same seat numbers our seats are now as last year we are about 15 yards farther down the sideline.

However the biggest annoyance is the increased cost of beer. It's now $8.50 a piece. I have long been annoyed by the stupid beer guy games where in an obvious and petty effort to increase tip. They count out change slow motion, stopping after each dollar with a questioning, sometimes sad puppy, sometime aggressive look, hoping you'll get bored and give them a bigger tip. This year there is a new aggravation, then never have "change" tacking on an automatic $ 0.50 surcharge announced after they have my money. I understand these people deserve a tip for their service. I think I'm a pretty good tipper, but I'm also old fashioned. I like to think the tip is my idea adn I gave it freely.

In our section there used to be one really good beertender. He worked the section, came to the regulars at the right times. He knew what kind of beer we liked. He always had correct change and was cheerful about making it. I know he got more in tips from me and some of the other people than the current group does. I would often give him an extra tip at the end of the third quarter, for taking care of us during the game. I now often go out in the concourse rather than deal with the vendors.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Customer Service MSY-ery Style

Today I left town again. Because of my flight time and her schedule She dropped me off at the Airport earlier than necessary.

I decided to have breakfast. That turned out to be a mistake. I was on the B Concourse so there is only one establishment there that serves actual breakfast food. Another place does serve a bacon and egg po-boy.

I got in line and decided to order the $8.50 breakfast special which includes pre-scrabbled eggs, bacon or sausage and grits or hash browns off the steam table. Not a real good price, but whatever. I got into line and said "I'll have the #1 Special Breakfast with bacon and grits" the response was "We're out of grits". I later found out they were also out of bacon.

Now my first question is how do you run out of grits? They are cheap you could make enough to feed an army for a couple of dollars. Surely at the prices they are charging they could make extra. Even instant grits are better than no grits at all. I decided to pass, not mostly because they were out of grits (I like hash brows just fine) but mostly because the person serving seemed completely uncaring about me the customer standing right there. The announcement that they were out of grits was not prefaced with even a perfunctory "I'm sorry" or any other indication of interest.

I suppose no one in the tourist industry cares because no one stops to eat at the airport on their way into town. By the time they get to airport food the tourist industry has already separated the tourist from as much money as they could manage and don't see a need to be nice any longer.

That is a shame for two reasons.

First is that most places in New Orleans do a pretty good job of Customer Service maintaining a fairly good balance between hospitality and respecting guests privacy. There is very little of the TGI Friday's institutionalized perkiness "Hi! I'm Heather and in addition to bringing you your food I'm you new best friend!" and the sort of haughty service some pseudo-star restaurants affect announcing "The Chef prefers to serve you food his way, so sit there and like it remember to leave a big tip."

The second is it damages the name of a fairly well known Soul Food Resturant, The Praline Connection. I don't blame them. I understand that they and a few other places ( Acme Oyster House) licensed the food service vendor at the airport to use their name. While they may get some royalties they have no control over the operation. I just hope it doesn't hurt them too much.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Enhancing Security through Preferential Treatment

TSA is at it again. They are enhancing Security by reducing privacy and providing preferential treatment to some people.

WASHINGTON – The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today announced that it began testing a limited, voluntary passenger pre-screening initiative with a small known traveler population at four U.S. airports. The TSA PreCheck initiative implements a key component of the agency’s intelligence-driven, risk-based approach to security. This pilot program will help assess measures designed to enhance security by placing more focus on pre-screening individuals who volunteer information about themselves prior to flying in order to potentially expedite the travel experience.
This is apparently an effort to salvage the failed program where travelers paid a fee for expedited clearance.

One of the Airports is Atlanta and one of the Airlines is Delta. I frequently fly to and from Atlanta and just after this pilot program started I flew through the Atlanta airport.

Part 1 -Assured Success

I usually park my car in the Airport Park and Ride and use the South Security Screening Area as it is closer to the first bus stop at the terminal. Delta and TSA have selected this area for im0limenting the pilot program. It should work out well, you see they have dedicated one of the 3 ID check lines for the PreCheck program, and judging by the traffic those traveler should be very expedited, you see there was only about one passenger ever 15 or 20 seconds in that line, meaning the the TSA agent sat there frequently with nothing to do. Of course diverting one third of the passengers using that Check Point into the other lines delayed everyone else.

Part 2 - It Gets Better
I am an Airtran A+ Elite and our company has an A2B Corporate Account.

On Wednesday October 12, 2011 I arrived at the Atlanta airport early for my flight to New Orleans, about 4:15 PM. I parked in the Airport Park and Ride. Since I had my boarding pass and no luggage to check I went to the South Security Screening Area as it was closer to the shuttle bus drop off.

This is the area Delta and TSA are running their pilot PreCheck program in. This is the second time I had been through this check point since the program started and I expected that one line would be dedicated to that program (although very few people seemed to be using it the previous time). I was surprised to see several uniformed Delta Employees pre-checking boarding passes and directing each passenger into one of the three available ID checking lines. I paid little attention at the time, however once I was in line it became apparent that the Delta employees were not merely directing people to the appropriate line but screening passengers and reserving two lines for their preferred passengers. As I result it took me 15 minutes to clear security while two uniformed TSA agents sat in plain sight with virtually no passengers going through their lines. Of course those passengers were "expedited".
Of course diverting two thirds (or more) of the passengers using that Check Point into the other lines delayed everyone else.

As a Corporate customer and as an A+ Elite passenger I am supposed to be eligible for "dedicated check-in lines and security entrances at select airports". In the past I have always been able to access the Preferred check-in lines for airline frequent flyers.

I don't expect any airline to be able to block anyone from using government services we all pay for.