Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sweating it Out

I owed the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania money.  I always do.  No complaints.  It shows my investments are doing well.

My income tax return was completed months ago.  The state had its palm out.  I mailed a check March 13.

I kept checking my bank account web site every few days.  The check wasn't clearing.  Panic was setting in.

I e-mailed the Department of Revenue a couple of weeks ago.  There was no record of my return or my payment.  The reply from the state also said I shouldn't be overly concerned.  It often takes ten weeks or more to get everything settled.

10 weeks or more!?!?  Are you kidding me.  What are they doing in Harrisburg?  They could have filled a lot of pot holes if they used my money earlier.

The check finally cleared May 20.

I'm relieved the state has my money and I won't be going to jail.

However, it just makes you wonder about efficiency.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

I know it's the unofficial start of the summer season, a day for picnics, barbecues and friends.  A day off, a day to relax.

I get that, and all those things are important, but please, take a moment to remember what Memorial Day is all about.

Marywood University does a field of flags thing every fall.  I took this photo a few years ago.  There is one flag here for every soldier killed since 9/11.  The new library is in this space now.  Last year, the flag display was moved to a field adjacent to North Washington Avenue.

As I've noted here before, Memorial Day is a tough one in the TV news business.  Every town and city has an observance.  We get to as many as we can.  It's impossible tovisit them all.  Please, don't be offended.

Memorial Day is to honor our war dead, but I don't think it hurts to thank a soldier or veteran-- and their family.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Andy's Angles: Rust

It's a shame there isn't enough time, money, and manpower to restore every rusting piece sitting at the Steamtown National Historis Site in Scranton.

You have to wonder how glorious this engine was as it was traveling about the country.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Andy's Angles: New and Old

Today, the new, sort of...  It's a collection of diesels, near Steamtown, on a recent Sunday morning.
As I've noted before, diesels fascinate me-- the colors, the models, how they're often taken for granted, in spite of the work they do.  They might not be glamorous, but I still like them.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Green Ridge

I'm sure it's true about a lot of places, but one of the neat things about Scranton is it's a collection of small neighborhoods rather than one big city.

There was a big fire in Green Ridge Saturday afternoon.  Flames destroyed a building on East Market Street.  Two businesses gone.  Nine people lost their homes, in the apartments above.

I've always had a soft spot for Green Ridge, and it's come a long way in recent years.  There are businesses here.  My dentist is here.  I remember mom and dad taking me to a variety store on Boulevard Avenue for various and sundry things, including comic books, as a kid.  When my kid days were over, and I was working elsewhere, co-workers and I were regulars at happy hour in a Sanderson Avenue watering hole.  I used to get hair cuts at a place on Sanderson Avenue and another one on East Market.  There were pizzas and sandwiches from restaurants and take out joints in the neighborhood.  Sports related gear and Christmas gifts came from a clothing store on one of the corners.

There's now a hole on East Market Street.  The fire damaged building could not be saved.  I'm sure the neighborhood can survive the loss, and it's possible something new and interesting will be built in the space.  Still, it wasn't easy to watch a decent neighborhood take a hit.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


David Letterman did his last show last night, and television will never be the same.

I first remember Letterman from some late 70's game show appearances.  Witty chap.  Nothing really blew me away.

Then, several appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight show, and I realized there was more than what we saw on the $ 20,000 Pyramid.

More guest appearances.  Guest hosting.  It was some fresh and funny stuff.

A daytime show followed in June 1980.  It was a 90 minute show (shortened to 60), and it became must see tv.  I remember some college classmates tried to arrange their fall schedules to see it.

The morning show was inventive and funny, and something really different for daytime tv.  It was cancelled in October because it was inventive and funny and really different for daytime tv.  I was sorry to see it go.  However, one of the replacement game shows, Blockbusters, became one of my favorites.

Late Night followed in 1982.  Again, more fresh and funny.  It really took off.  Unfortunately, our friends down the street dumped Dave for Thicke of the Night in 1983.  Alan Thicke started awful and it got worse from there.  After several months, our friends realized their horrible error and returned Dave to 12:30 AM.

I'll have to admit Letterman had some rough spots.  The early interviews weren't very good.  He was way too smart alecky.  Eventually, Letterman settled in to a nice groove.  He should have been Carson's replacement.  There was a great line in this morning's New York Times:  Leno won the ratings, but Letterman won the legacy.

Letterman rocked when he moved to CBS.  The show stayed in New York, and he made best use of his Broadway neighborhood.  Letterman kept the edge, and was a nice alternative to the smarmy, showbizzy Leno.

Eventually, Letterman morphed into the cranky old man mode.  For a long time, the show wasn't a lot of fun to watch, but it was still better than Leno.  Not to mention, Letterman had a better house band and attracted better musical guests.

I noticed it after Letterman announced his retirement last year, and Rolling Stone said the same thing in a cover story this week.  Letterman became more relaxed after he announced he was quitting.  Relaxed equals fun.  The last few months of shows, especially the last few weeks of shows have been simply a joy to watch.  Good laughs.  Good memories.  Great music.  Letterman kept his wit and sarcasm, but it mellowed.  The nasty edge was gone, and it was an absolute delight to watch.

As for the last show, I have to level with you.  I wasn't blown away.  CBS wisely gave Letterman an extra 20 minutes.  The show had all the requisite elements, big on flashbacks.  I loved the "behind the scenes" piece, even though Letterman looked very old and tired in it.

Here's where I found fault.  Letterman held his emotions in check.  You could tell he was holding back.  Letterman is outstanding when he's emotional, whether it's angry or sad.  It looked like he was just trying to make it to the end, like the last tenth of a mile by a marathon runner.

The Foo Fighters provided the last musical number.  Not a fan.  Yes, I'm in the minority.

Television is better now because David Letterman made it better.  With Letterman and Craig Ferguson out of the picture, late night TV has lost a lot of its bite.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Vote 15: The Morning After

Another election is in the books.  Let's take a look at the numbers, who won, and why...

I'll confine the analysis to my back yard.

I have to admit I'm a bit surprised Jerry Notarianni wound up as top voter on the Democratic side, in the Lackawanna County Commissioner's race.  I give Notarianni credit for running a good campaign, touching on THE hot button issue of the campaign-- landfill expansion.  Notarianni is against it.  The odd man out, Jim Wansacz didn't take a stand, and it was revealed he took campaign donations from the landfill's owner.

Party hopper Pat O'Malley came in second.  I believed the party hopping would have a negative impact.  Maybe it did, but not enough to deny him the possibility of another term.

The bottom line on this one-- I thought the power of incumbency, name recognition and money would propel Wansacz and O'Malley to the top.  I was half right.

Tony George wins the Democratic nomination for Wilkes-Barre mayor.  No major surprise.  Wilkes-Barre has a crime problem.  George is a former cop.  Do the math.  He also ran a good campaign.

Tom Leighton's endorsed candidate, George Brown, had the credentials.  He didn't appear to have the fire.  It was a passionless campaign.  It's also likely the Leighton endorsement hurt more than helped.

In Hazleton, Joseph Yanuzzi lost the Republican mayoral nomination to Jeffrey Cusat.  Yanuzzi had the misfortune of following a very popular Lou Barletta in the mayor's office.  Like Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton has some crime issues, plus budget problems.    Yanuzzi paid the price.

Correale Stevens will not be returning to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  A strong legal mind, Stevens didn't have a strong statewide base.  Being from the Hazleton area hurt.  Big city candidates usually do well in statewide court races.

Mauri Kelley won a hotly contested race for Clerk of Judicial Records in Lackawanna County, on the Democratic side.  Former state representative Kevin Haggerty came in a close second.  Big money in a county row office race is not surprising.  Winning one election is equivalent to a lifetime gig.   Row office jobs rarely open up, especially in Lackawanna County.

As of this writing, Kelly Gaughan leads Ray Tonkin in the race for the Republican nomination for Pike County district attorney.  Tonkin caught a little heat for using accused cop killer Eric Frein in a mailer.  Even before that, the Fraternal Order of Police jumped ship and endorsed Tonkin's opponent, Kelly Gaughan.    Tonkin has a 100 per cent success rate in homicide cases, and that had to strike a chord with voters.   I'm betting on a recount.  I'm also betting Tonkin regrets the Frein mailer.

Turnout yesterday was fairly weak.  That's unfortunate.  I'm always unable to process why people fail to exercise their right and privilege to cast a ballot.

And, once again, Luzerne County numbers trickled in.  It's 2015.  You deserve better.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Municipal Election

Most people call it the primary election.  The real name is "municipal election."  If this blog is available in the afterlife, Kevin Jordan is smiling right now.  He was a stickler about things like that.

It was standard procedure.  I wrote some preview stories last week.  They were tweaked over the weekend and the audio recorded.  Photographer Bonnie matched the words to the pictures and we're good to go today.

Barring breaking news, it's a look at the big races for Newswatch 16 This Morning, followed by an election update for our noon broadcast.

After that, it's home.  Lunch.  Nap.  Evening of watching the numbers come in on WNEP2 and WNEP.com.

Notice, I left something out.  Voting.  May elections are to select party nominees for the November election.  I don't belong to any party, so I have to sit this one out.  I can vote on ballot questions, but there are none in my area this time around.

I'll try to get a few updates here as the day rolls along, and possibly a Tweet or two.

I have some ideas on who wins and why.  Post election analysis will be shared in this space tomorrow.

Off year elections usually have low turnout, and that's unfortunate.  I've always believed your local offices-- mayor, council, school board are more important than president, house and senate.  The people we elect today control the taxes, the city services, police, fire, schools, etc.

Do yourself and your community a favor today.  Vote.

>>> 11:00 AM UPDATE:  Noon piece is edited and is good to go.  We're live at noon with the latest.

>>> 10:00 AM UPDATE:  Sorry it's been five hours between updates, but I got busy.  Some Wilkes-Barre precincts had a large voter turnout early.  In Scranton, mixed.  A couple of precincts were dead at mid morning.  Some others were a little busier.  Looks like the Lackawanna County Commissioner's race and Scranton School Board are bringing people out.

My noon story has been approved and is ready to go.  I'm about to record the audio and get rolling.

>>> 5:00 AM UPDATE:  Live at a polling place along Coal Street in Wilkes-Barre.  Nice location.  Plenty of parking, lots of room to run lights, cables, and wires.  Thankfully, the rain has stopped, but there's the potential for more.  Conventional wisdom has rain keeping casual voters home.  That has to worry some candidates.  Polls open in two hours.

>>> 3:30 AM UPDATE:  Finished fast food spicy chicken sandwich and fries for breakfast.  I considered changing election morning meals because service and quality at the only fast food outlet that sells that stuff overnights has gone downhill.  I decided to give it one more try.  It's improved, just a little.  After arriving at work, it was like a pre flight check.  Scripts and video look good.  It was a couple of other duties, and it's just about time to get on the road.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Yearly Fear

This time of year frightens me, and let me tell you why.

It's prom and graduation season.  Young people are on the move, and they always don't make the best choices.  It seems like there's a party related fatality every year.

The first, and hopefully the last, was early Saturday morning, north of Lock Haven.  A woman and her date were killed in a crash, not long after leaving her high school ball.  She wasn't driving.  State Police say speed was a factor.  Translation:  This didn't have to happen.

You're young only once, and you should enjoy every second.  Don't drink.  Don't speed.  Don't do anything stupid.

The other half of this is fire.  When it gets hot, people have this awful habit of running big air conditioners off dollar store extension cords, or overwhelming their electrical systems.

We had a big fire in Scranton Saturday afternoon, and "electrical" was the first thought that entered my head.  As it turns out, an overturned candle sparked the fire.  That doesn't lessen the tragedy, but it does explain it.
Bad things happen to good people.  That's just the way it goes, sometimes.  However, you can take steps to lessen the risk.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Andy's Angles: BBC

I racked my brain, and I can't remember ever visiting Baptist Bible College in Clarks Summit.

That came to an end on a recent morning.  BBC changed its name to Summit University.  I guess they want to show it's not just a Baptist bible college.  I can't say I'm thrilled with Summit University.  It sounds rather generic.

The campus is dominated by Jackson Hall, seen above.

Another building caught my eye, Buckingham Hall.  It looks like a building you'd see in the southwest, and I like it.

And, how can you not love a campus that has a pond, complete with ducks, at its entrance?