Re: vortex bowl problems :(
If feel your frustration hdwindex. When I first got my Vortex I was also disappointed at first and I almost ditched the thing but thanks to some patience, and help from some of the forum members, I eventually found the packing method that works best for me. From my experience, getting the right packing method is absolutely crucial with a Vortex bowl.
The packing method I use (regardless of what tobacco I'm using) is to sprinkle the tobacco loosely, but evenly into the bowl until the tobacco is level with the rim. I then take a fork and then going around the spire, I push the tobacco down until the holes in the spire are completely open/exposed. I also take my finger and push down on the tobacco a little to get the level of the tobacco nice and even so there's no bits sticking up.
Something else to remember is to double-up on the foil if you plan to smoke AF. I don't double-foil with Nakhla as it's not nearly as heat sensitive as AF.
Try this method and see how it works for you.