Friday, November 28, 2014


One of the podcasts I listen to regularly is Clark Howard. He discusses a wide variety of items concerning personal finance and spending money. Something I've heard him extol is the the ride sharing service called Uber. The idea behind Uber is the ability to quickly call up a ride (similar to a taxi). There is an app on your phone that used the GPS in your smartphone to allow a driver to come right to your location and pick you up. The cars are driven by people who simply sign up as a driver usually to make a little spare money in their spare time. The drivers are given background checks. No money changes hands, the app charges your debit/credit card once the ride ends. I've also read about a similar program called Lyft. You can get a fare estimate online to see about what your ride will cost.

I was in Indianapolis last week to see Kentucky play in the Champions Classic. I was about a mile away from the Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The wind chill was 4 degrees, so I decided I'd give these ride sharing services a try. I tried Lyft first. I was disappointed to immediately see that a "Prime Time" banner appeared that would add 25% to my regular far.e. So, I tried Uber instead. I pulled up the app on my phone and selected my location. You then select the type of vehicle you want. You can go with UberX which is the cheapest standard type of car up to UberBlack which is their luxury mode. I chose UberX and then tapped "Request a Driver". I got a message saying a driver would be there in less than five minutes. I then input my destination. I was able to wait in the hotel lobby until I got a message from Uber saying my driver was arriving - along with a photo of my driver and the make and model of his car. I then saw him pull up and headed out.

He opened the door to his car and said "Stuart?". I could see he matched the picture I was given plus the car was the correct one. I hopped in the front seat and we took off. We chatted about the upcoming game and I found out he was originally from Wisconsin so we immediately began discussing an obvious topic. My driver effectively weaved in and out of traffic and within a few minutes we were in front of Bankers Life Fieldhouse. My driver told me to have a good time and I got out. By the time I was inside, I received a notification in Uber to rate my drivers (I gave him five stars). I also got an email receipt detailing the path my driver took, the time it took and the cost (a reasonable 5.25).

Would I use it again? Absolutely I would. I enjoyed it thoroughly. It's much easier than summoning a taxi (Taxi companies don't like Uber as you might guess). There is an issue with airports (airports want Uber drivers to buck up for permits) so you need to be sure Uber can give rides to any airport you want to use. It's only in bigger cities (you can get a list on their web site). If you are ever in one the cities they serve and you want a ride, I'd say give them a try.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Champions Classic

I had realized earlier this year that Kentucky would be playing in Indianapolis this fall in the Champions Classic. This is a yearly series comprised of Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State and Duke where the teams rotate playing each other and at different sites. This is as close as they've been so I decided I'd go. They'd be playing Kansas and Duke would play Michigan State. I tried to buy a ticket when they went on sale but all the good seats were taken somehow. I ended up buying a club seat on StubHub so I was good to go. I got a hotel that was reasonably priced (Fairfield Inn and Suites) about a mile from the Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The game was not at Lucas Oil field where we'd seen the NCAA Regional last year but at the arena where the Indiana Pacers play.

The day of the game came and I headed out. When we went to Indianapolis earlier this year, we went through Indiana. This year, every mapping program I tried sent me through Illinois. I am not entirely sure what changed there, but I ended up liking that route better. I stopped in Effingham at a place called Niemerg’s Steak House. Surprisingly enough though, I got a fried chicken dinner (it was highly recommended). It was excellent. They had a bunch of kinds of pie, but I was really full so I passed. The trip was uneventful and I got to the hotel OK. I checked in and rested a bit. There was a TGIF attached to the hotel, so I grabbed some food from there and ate in my room.

It was time to leave. The wind chill was 4 degrees, so I decided to try one of the new ridesharing services (I'll blog on that separately). I got to the game no problem. While I was line, two ladies from Duke starting talking to me and of course they brought up Christian Laettner. I told him I would never get over that and told them about the upcoming (no joke) 30 for 30 series called "I Hate Christian Laettner". My seat turned out to be excellent. Being in the club section was nice. The first game got ready to start. When Duke came out, they were lustily booed (wonder why? ha). The game was close for the first half but Duke pulled away to win in the second half. The Duke freshmen (Jahlik Okafor, Tyus Jones, and Justise Winston) looked really good (I have to grudgingly admit). Although, Michigan State's defense was to play straight man to man on Okafor which seemed a bit odd.

The Kentucky Kansas game started and the atmosphere totally changed. It felt like a NCAA tourney game. There were quite a few Kansas fans but still more from UK. A few minutes into the game, a man behind me complained to an usher about a bunch of guys using very audible foul language. The game was close at the first as the teams looked tight. Kentucky started to pull away. It seemed like every time Kansas drove to the basket, Kentucky blocked their shot. Kentucky was up 17 near the end of the first half, but Kansas nailed two threes and a basket to a single free throw for UK and it was a ten point game at half (38-28). Kentucky's 2nd platoon would be starting the second half and I was a bit nervous. I had no need to worry. They shut down Kansas completely. In fact, UK shut down Kansas completely in the 2nd half. They scored a grand total of 12 points and only 3 baskets. The UK crowd kept getting louder and louder. Kansas fans began leaving. By the time the game was over, Kentucky had won 72-40 over the 5th ranked team in the country! It was a great game for UK. I was so happy I even bought a Champions Classic shirt on the way out. I was so pumped and warm, I just walked back to the hotel. There were enough fans on the street so it was safe. I didn't get back til almost midnight. I got up the next morning and drove back without incident.

If UK can play like that, they will be tough for anyone to beat. I thoroughly enjoyed myself. The game is in Chicago next year and Kentucky plays Duke so I plan on going again.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Paul McCartney

I’ve liked the Beatles for about 35 years now, but the path to how I got there was strange. When I was a senior in high school, I started hearing some songs on the radio like Got to Get You into My Life and Come Together. They were from a movie called “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. The movie starred a diverse cast of the Bee-Gees, Peter Frampton, George Burns and Alice Cooper. I was talking about the music in Calculus class and my friend David Darnell scoffed. He said “those songs don’t compare to the original releases by the Beatles”. I was skeptical and just filed that away in my brain. The movie by the way was absolutely terrible. I thought about the Beatles again when I was watching Monday Night Football on Dec 8, 1980. Howard Cosell broke in to say John Lennon had been murdered. I knew who he was and remember being really saddened by the tragedy of it. He had this song he’d just released called “Starting Over” which I really liked. How do I remember that date you might ask? Turns out the most wonderful woman in the world celebrated her 16th birthday that day.

A couple of years later, my friend Keith “Corky” Johnson re-introduced me to the Beatles. He had most of their albums which he loaned to me. When I listened to them, I was blown away. Where had this music been all my life? I became totally obsessed with the Beatles to the point where I was obnoxious about it. It was all I talked about. I spent every spare cent I had on Beatles albums and read everything I could find about them. I got a Beatlemania trivia game (that I still have) for Christmas that my friend Rick Alvey and I used to play a lot.

I’ve calmed down about the Beatles since then. But, I still would count them as my favorite. I still scoff when somebody claims to have been as popular or talented (Garth Brooks comes to mind). I’d always hoped they would get back together just once even after John died. I thought Julian Lennon could fill in for his dad. But once George Harrison died in 2001, that dream pretty much ended. My next idea was I really wanted to see Paul McCartney in concert. The right opportunity never came along til recently. His “Out There” tour started last year and I noticed happily he would come to Nashville and Louisville. I chose Louisville because the concert was going to be on June 25th (a Thursday) which worked out better for me. Lo and behold I get an email that Paul had been ill and that concert wouldn't be held. Fortunately, the concert was rescheduled for Tuesday October 28th.

The date finally came and I took off for Louisville. I had to stay across the river in New Albany because an FFA convention pretty much taken every room in the city. I grabbed some Five Guys and headed for downtown Louisville. I got to the Yum center at 6:45 (the concert started at 8). For some reason, they didn’t open the doors til 7. Even when we got in, they didn’t let anybody take their seats til about 7:30. I guess they were trying to convince you to buy stuff. It worked on me – I bought a pretzel and an outrageously priced tour shirt. Finally, I got in to my seat. I had purchased a floor seat and the view looked like it was going to be great.

They were still seating people at 8. The concert finally started at about 8:40. Paul took to the stage and started with “Eight Days a Week”. He played a lot of Beatles songs including my favorite “The Long and Winding Road”. He sang “Something” in a tribute to his old bandmate George Harrison (another favorite of mine). He alternated between bass guitar, guitar and piano. I had to stand most of the time but I didn’t mind at all. He put on a great show. He even got in a reference to Louisville and Kentucky by talking about the time the Beatles met Muhammad Ali in Miami right before he fought Sonny Liston. He played for over two and a half hours. He came out to his first encore with his band and him carrying British, US and Kentucky flags. I could tell his voice was straining a bit when he sang Helter Skelter in his first encore but he still did well. He finished a three hour concert with a second encore singing “Yesterday” and ending with the Abbey Road “Golden Slumbers” finish. I’ll just simply say what I said on Facebook that night “The Paul McCartney concert was AWESOME!!”.

He actually said “We’ll see you next time”. I cannot imagine he’ll tour again. He did great this time – a three hour concert for a 72 year man is amazing to me. I’ve knocked this item off my bucket list. But if he tours again, I’ll be there.