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Friday, January 19, 2018

Championship Sunday

I went .500 on NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend.  It was easy to pick the Patriots over the Titans, and I am especially proud that my upset special of Jacksonville over Pittsburgh was correct.

However, I blew the two NFC games.  I didn't think the Eagles could beat the Falcons, and I was wrong when I picked the Saints to down the Vikings.

Having laid that foundation, it's on to League Championship Weekend.

I wasn't an Eagles believer last week, and I'm still hesitant this week.  I'm getting sucked in by that "dome team playing in the cold" thing, so I'm taking the Eagles over the Vikings.  As I write this, the Eagles are getting 3.5 points.  It will be a close one.  The Eagles scored only one touchdown last week, and a weak offense concerns me.  I don't feel good about this one.

While Jacksonville is capable of putting points on the board, as we saw Sunday in Pittsburgh, the Jaguars are no match for the Patriots-- even with an injured Tom Brady.  I hope I'm wrong.

We'll have a Philadelphia/New England Super Bowl.

Now, some words about the Steelers.  Pittsburgh was my team since I was a little kid.  My passion evaporated when the team signed Michael Vick in a back up QB role a few years and I resigned my fan-dom.  I do admit to keeping watch on the team out of the corner of my eye, and I do listen to one of the all sports radio stations in Pittsburgh.  My Steelers fan days are over, and I can't see them coming back.

If that isn't enough, there are too many "me" players on the Steelers.  That shows a lack of discipline, and that comes from the head coach.  The playoff game with Jacksonville was a poorly coached disaster.  The Steelers will enter the season with a new offensive coordinator.  It's not enough.

Do I have a new team?  No.  Will I?  Probably not.  I do tune in an occasional game and catch the highlights on the NFL Network.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

SkunkWatch

I think this is the earliest I've ever written my yearly skunk blog entry.

To quickly get you up to speed, most people think seeing a robin is a sign of spring.  No way!  for me, it's the aroma of a skunk that signals warmer weather is on the way.

I was getting out of my car last Tuesday morning, 5 o'clock, after a gym visit, when the aroma hit me like a brick.  There was a skunk in my hard.  I couldn't see him, but I knew he or she was there.

You see, in the spring, skunks that had been inactive during the winter get hungry and start looking for love.  My yard happened to be ground zero on this particular morning-- and this was BEFORE the record warm spell.

I do realize that it's possible the approaching warm air threw off the skunky calendar, but I'm not so sure.  We're in for an early spring.

We'll see what the ground hog has to say next month.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

I Read the News Today

I love newspapers.  While the internet versions are great, I still enjoy hearing the thump of the paper arriving on the front porch in the morning, taking off the rubber band, and seeing what's new in the world.  Yes, I've already seen most of on the internet, but the print version has such charm and memories.

I don't know when the fascination started.  I suspect visiting some of those old downtown Scranton newsstands as a kid played a role.  The smell of the newsprint, rack after rack of out-of-town papers.  The fascination became cemented a little later.  You could get the morning paper late at night, in an edition called the blue streak.  The afternoon paper published editions  beginning just after noon.

Visiting an actual newsroom was a great joy.  The haze of cigar and cigarette smoke in the air, the rumble of the press below, the sound of typewriters in the room and the teletypes in an adjacent room.  Again, that smell of newsprint and ink.  It was magic, and I'm sorry people getting in to the business no longer have that experience.  Yes, I can do without the smoke.

As I got in to the business, I marveled at the work of newspaper reporters.  Broadcasters are generalists.  The print people had to get every detail, and while covering the courthouse, I watched them bang it out under deadline pressure.   Some of the older guys knew every person in power, knew where every body was buried.  I was in awe.

There are still a couple of "must read" columns in newspapers near me.  I wish there were more.

Having built that foundation, the newspapers I love don't love me back.  They are thinner than ever.  Big photos and big graphics disguise a decline in content.  Prices are up.  There are rumors some papers will stop publishing seven days a week.  Another might disappear altogether.  Papers in adjacent cities duplicate content.  There are circulation problems.  As I've noted here before, one paper has a major problem getting its product on the streets.

Entire generations are growing up without experiencing the power of print.  I was lucky.

One other note before I close.  Hugh Wilson died Sunday.  74.  Wilson created "WKRP in Cincinnati."  Most in the business called it the most realistic sitcom about radio-- ever, and I have to agree.  I alsays thought "WKRP" was inconsistent, but when it was funny, there was nothing better out there.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Media Tuesday

It was a joy listening to WCBS 880 cover the recent nor'easter.  I hope the new owners don't screw it up.

Some legendary radio stations have dropped CBS News to align with ABC.  The reason is cost.  Both are fine products.

CBS picked John Dickerson to replace Charlie Rose on CBS This Morning.  It's a solid choice.  I didn't see much of it, but I read a week long test around Christmas went extremely well.

Hoda Kotb kept NBC's ratings up after Mat Lauer's departure.  She deserved the promotion.

ABC still leads the evening news race.  Jeff Glor hasn't moved the needle over at CBS.  Give it some time.  It's only been a month.  It's a solid broadcast.  As I always say, the problem isn't the network broadcast at 6:30.  CBS gets a very weak lead-in from several bit market affiliates around the country.

I know it's January, and that's not a big advertising time...  However, the daily newspapers seem thinner than ever.  I plan to write more on "print" in the days to come.  Stay tuned.

I'm happy the holidays are over because my favorite news and sports talk show hosts are back on the job.  FOX Sports Radio and CBS Sports Radio had some solid fill-ins.  It wasn't the same.

Oprah Winfrey is a gifted communicator.  She also contributes to 60 Minutes.  I wonder how the journalists at CBS feel about someone who specializes in opinion working on a serious news broadcast.

I'm intrigued by David Letterman's new Netflix talk show, but not intrigued enough to pay for it.  From the clips provided, it looks very Tom Snyder-esque.  Two chairs on stage.  Two oeple talking.  Some remote stuff.  It's odd.  When Letterman started, his interviewing was horrendous.  Now, it's become his specialty.

Speaking of Letterman, it makes me sad that I have to explain to people what a "Hal Gurnee Network Time Killer" was.

Different networks call it different things, but I love that camera that flies over a field during football games.

What can you say about Keith Jackson?  The legendary sportscaster died last week at the age of 89.  Jackson was best known for college football, but he also did the NFL, MLB, auto racing, the NBA and the Olympics.  Plus, he did all those varied assignments for Wide World of Sports.  A great talent and a great loss.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Gym Rats

I don't know what happened this year.

Right after the new year begins, the gym is filled with newbies-- people who are resolving to take off some weight and get in shape.

I will preface this by saying I visit the gym in "off peak" hours, but I didn't see the newbie influx this year.

At first, I thought it was the brutally cold weather.  The new year came in on an icy note.  It would have been very easy to put off those gym visits and wait until it gets a little warmer.

The warm weather came.  The newbies didn't.

I wish I had a reason.  My gym chain held a promotion to get new visitors.  The ads were everywhere.

Cold and flu season keeping people home?

Did Santa bring a lot of home exercise equipment?

Unfortunately, many of the newbies disappear after several weeks.  That makes me sad.

I'll give you my usual speech.  Start slow.  Have realistic expectations.  You're not going to get in shape overnight.  Take a friend.  Even if you don't burn that many calories, at least you're doing something and it all helps in the long run.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Andy's Angles: Lackawanna College

You can tell is someone is a NEPA native, and a "mature adult" if a reference to this place as Lackawanna Junior College slips out.

The "Junior" went along a long time ago, and you should see this place on a weekday morning.  The area around North Washington and Vine is filled with activity, and that makes me happy.  A solid higher educational system is important to our area's vitality.

The college has expanded down North Washington Avenue and a major expansion to the old office complex across the street is underway.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Andy's Angles: The Library

This is the main branch of the Scranton Public Library at North Washington and Vine.

It's a spectacular building int he day, and it takes on a different appearance at night-- almost like a castle.

Detractors say libraries don't have a place in society these days.  The internet has taken its place.  Successful libraries have modified their mission.  They're now places for people to gather and learn together.  And to those who are not internet savvy, head to the library.  There are people there to teach you.

Books are available the traditional way, or they can be sent to your e-reader or tablet.  Technology will help libraries survive, not kill them.

I do have a library card, and my library of choice is a bit closer to home.  I'm happy the system is there when I need it.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Divisional Playoff Weekend

This is the time of year when I pick football games.  I will admit that while I have a very good Super Bowl record, my playoff choices leave something to be desired.

I know it's not wise to pick a domed, warm climate team to come up north and beat a team that plays outside.  Based on the Eagles' performance on the last weekend of the season, I think the Atlanta Falcons will beat the Eagles in a close game.

I have no doubt New England destroys Tennessee Saturday night.  By the way, other than the league and NBC, who thought a January night playoff game in Massachusetts is a good idea?

The Sunday early game is my upset special.  Pittsburgh has 13 wins.  Many were squeakers, on the toe of their kicker.  I don't thing the Steelers are well coached or well disciplined.  Jacksonville beat them in week 5.  While The Jaguars are not a great team, I think they have enough to beat Pittsburgh.

The Sunday late game could be the best one of the bunch.  New Orleans heads north to play Minnesota.  Two dome teams.  The Vikings' strength surprised me this season. The Vikings should be nicely rested after a week off.  New Orleans seems to be peaking at the right time.  I have no confidence in this pick, but give me the Saints.

Just a guess, but I would not be surprised to see a New Orleans/New England Super Bowl.



Thursday, January 11, 2018

Tie One On

Little things often make my day.  Case in point, yesterday's blog on the supermarket popcorn incident.

I was at the Veterans Administration hospital in Plains Township last week and was complimented on my ties.  I gave my usual response:  "Don't compliment me.  Compliment Al Boscov."

Here's the skinny on my ties.  I have no store or brand loyalty.  Many came from sales at Boscov's.  A big number came from discount places like Marshall's, Maxx, Kohl's and Burlington.  I visit the big national department store chains only when there is a huge sale.  Tie prices are outrageous!  I have found a couple of on-line sites that offer quality stuff at low prices.  Buying ties on-line is risky business.

Most of my suits are navy, grey or black.  The tie lends a splash of much needed color.

Believe it or not, there is some pattern to my color choices.  Icy blues come out in January.  You'll see pastels in the spring and around Easter.  Orange dominates September, October, and November.  Reds and greens pop up around Christmas.  The rest of the year is a mixed bag.

One of my favorite news directors insisted on white or pale blue shirts when anchoring, so I stick with that.  I've added some stripes and checks to the mix for my reporting days.

And, yes, I try to select my clothes the day before work.  Anything that saves time late or night or early in the morning is a huge help.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Does It Really Work?: Popcorn

I love popcorn, but most microwave varieties are too salty and greasy.  I've tried several.  I spotted what you see above on-line and decided to give it a try.  It's a silicone bowl and lid.  You place the kernels on the bottom.  Oil is optional, but I've found it works best with a tiny, tiny splash.  Three minutes later, you have popcorn.

Yes, it works and it works well.  You can generally find it for less than $15.  It cleans easily.

My first experiences were with generally available supermarket popcorn varieties.  No problem.

I read about a brand called Bob's Red Mill.  If you're not familiar with Bob's, the company has a huge line of grains and cereals, including tons of gluten free items. The popcorn is well reviewed.  The problem was finding it.  I could have bought it on-line and had it shipped, but you had to buy four bags and the shipping costs are rather high.

Wegman's has just about everything Bob's sells-- but not the popcorn.  An internet search revealed Bill's ShopRite in Daleville carries it, so that's where I wandered the aisles last week.  I couldn't find it!  It wasn't in the snack section.  Not in cereals, with all the other Bob's products.  I finally cornered an employee and she gladly took me to the unpopped popcorn section-- near the candy and nuts.

I have to add that several Bill's employees and customers are fans of WNEP and the weekend morning broadcasts.  Thank you, and you all treated me so nicely.  You made my day.

Of course, I had to pop some Bob's as soon as I returned home.  My review:  it tastes the same as other popcorns, but the big difference is at the bottom of the bowl.  Just about every kernel popped, a much higher percentage than other brands I tried.

I tried the yellow variety.  It also comes in white.  Will I buy it again?  Yes, I'll grab another bag the next time in the neighborhood.

It's the new year, and so many of us intend to eat lighter and healthier.  Try popping your own corn.