Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Business Tuesday

I found myself with a little free time on a recent icy morning, so I ventured out after the temperature came up and some of the ice melted.  I ventured in to the Wyoming Valley Mall, a place I hadn't visited in months.  Big, bright, clean-- and a lot of empty spaces.  That includes the food court, which has always struggled.

At least, all the anchor stores are still there, which is more than can be said at a lot of malls.

Macy's, Sears, and KMart started making news right after Christmas because they are closing stores.

Macy's is in the troubled "big department store" sector.  There are two Macy's near my home.  Both are very nice stores.  I'm a frequent browser, rare purchaser.  I can get the same stuff, cheaper, elsewhere.

Sears and KMart are in a different category altogether.  Other companies ate Sears' lunch.  Home Depot and Lowes do the hardware, appliance, and outdoor stuff better.  There are plenty of places to buy clothes.

I don't know how KMart has held on this long.  It does some things well, but not many.  Walmart rendered Kmart irrelevant, and KMart cut its own throat by failing to invest in its stores.  They're not fun and attractive places to shop.  Management can keep cutting, but I don't think they can cut their way out of this one.

Above all else, the internet makes things so darn easy.  A few clicks, and what I want shows up at my front door.  Yeah, it's not as much fun, and there are times you really just have to get out of the house.  There will always be a place for brick and mortar stores, but only the strong and smart will survive.

I read where Penney's CEO predicts some store closures this year.  I can't say I'm surprised.  "Big department stores" is a tough business.

A writer for PC Magazine crunched the numbers.  He didn't blame the internet for damaging big department stores.  he blamed the stores themselves and a "stale" shopping experience.  I get that.  We want to be entertained these days.  Walk into a mall or department store, and it looks the same as it did the day before, the week before, the month before, the year before...  Sears and KMart are especially guilty of that, and now they are paying the price.

I know people who work in retail.  It's a tough job.  But, how many times have we been in a store that's understaffed, and some of the people there apparently would prefer to be somewhere else?   it drives people to the internet.  No surly workers to deal with.   Labor costs a lot of money.  If you improve the shopping experience, the rest should fall in to line.

Monday, January 16, 2017

I Won't Miss You

It was surprising, but not a total shock.

The news broke late Saturday night.  Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus goes out of business this spring.

Let's back up for a moment.  Newswatch 16's Ryan Leckey and Corey Burns went to Ringling Brothers' elephant sanctuary in Florida last year.  It's where the elephants live after they leave the circus, and Ringling Brothers was in the process of phasing out the elephant act.  Wilkes-Barre Township last spring was one of the final stops.

Circus workers whispered to our guys that, with the elephants gone, they knew the end was near.  They were right.  I didn't think it would happen this quickly.   Not being a circus goer, I underestimated the elephants' popularity.  Circus management says ticket sales plummeted when the elephants left.  I thought the circus could survive without them.  Steps were taken to make the circus more contemporary, like bringing in motorcycles.  It seems fans want their favorites.

Look, I know the circus provided entertainment for tens of millions over the years.  It provided jobs to circus workers and arena people at each stop along the way.

It came at a horrible costs.  There were allegations the elephants were mistreated.  The circus denied that.  Video seemed to indicate otherwise.  A source tells me professional animal welfare people checked carefully every time the circus came to our town.  No violations.

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know I like cats.  In fact, I like all animals, with the exception of reptiles.  I took the photo you see above outside the arena in Wilkes-Barre Township back in the spring.  Big cats.  Small cages.  No.  The big cats should have been phased out along with the elephants.  It's a moot point now, but it's not natural to live in a little cage, get moved from city to city, and be forced to jump through flaming hoops.

While some will look back on the big circus days fondly, I won't.  There are still other circuses out there.  Many have chained and caged animals.  We know better.

Before I hit "publish," here is my weekend NFL pick report card.   I went 50/50.  My upset special, Green Bay over Dallas, came through.  I correctly predicted New England would cover the spread against Houston.  I underestimated Atlanta.  The Falcons easily defeated Seattle.  My modus operandi is to pick the better defense.  Kansas City kept Pittsburgh out of the end zone, but the Steelers kicked their way in to the AFC championship game.

More football thoughts later in the week.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Andy's Angles: The View

This was the view through my windshield when I got in my car Wednesday morning.  This was more than a layer of frost.  It was ice, and a heavy coating at that.

There was an ice storm in my neighborhood Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.  I heard the sleet and ice pellets pinging off my window, so I suspected my early morning gym visit would be cancelled.  A peek out the window, and a look at my car confirmed that.  The car was covered in ice, and the road was a shiny and slick skating rink.

I did stay up all night long, listening to the police radio, getting information on the internet.  It was an interesting time, and one of those mixed feeling events.  It was a relief to avoid traveling on icy roads, but I did miss on a big story-- that major crash on Interstate 81 in the Clarks Summit area.

This is what I found when I ventured out after the sun came up.  I tried a scrape.  It didn't work.  The ice was too heavy.  I turned on the car and let the defroster work from the inside.  It did the trick after just a few minutes.  It loosened up the ice, and it came off in big sheets.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Andy's Angles: Nate Nap

I haven't posted a Nathan picture in a while.

This shot was taken Thursday morning.  Nathan was enjoying a cat nap in one of his Christmas presents.  It's a bed in the shape of a cat's head.  The thing is made out of corrugated cardboard, so he can claw the heck out of it, then crawl inside for a snooze.

I was concerned the bed would be too small, but Nathan isn't a large cat, and he enjoys curling up to catch a few winks.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Divisional Weekend

This is the time of year when I start putting my football picks here on the blog.  It's harmless fun, and I preface this by saying that I have no idea what I'm talking about.

Here goes.  It's Divisional Playoff weekend, and the NFL is down to its final eight, a fast and efficient playoff system.  Why can't the NBA and NHL do this?

Atlanta is a 4 point favorite over Seattle.  Take Seattle and the points, and I think Seattle wins the game.  The Lions didn't give Seattle much of a tussle last weekend.  Seattle isn't what it used to be, but the team is still strong in the right places.  I will admit that I really don't know much about the Falcons.

The late Saturday game is Houston visiting New England.  The Patriots are giving up 14.  The Patriots win and cover the spread.

Pittsburgh is a 2 point underdog in Kansas City, in Sunday's early game.  Pittsburgh looked really good last week, but Miami didn't show up.  The Steelers' defense has improved as the season progressed.  However, I'm still not a believer.  KC wins and covers.

My upset special is the late Sunday game.  The Packers are a 5 point underdog in Dallas.  The Packers are peaking at the right time, and although Aaron Rodgers has struggled, I'll take his playoff experience over the rookie on the other side of the field.

My report card will be issued next week.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Drive By

I'm not what you would call a "car guy."  I don't have to own the newest, biggest, and best.  I just want something simple and dependable, and something that's decent in the snow.  I don't get snow days.

Now that another foundation has been established, let's get going.  Like yesterday's entertainment rant, I do keep an eye on automotive news.  Part of my job is knowing a little bit about a lot of different things.

Toyota is concerned that its Camry will lose the coveted title as the most popular car in America, so it's going through a redesign for next year.  Lower, longer, rounder.  It really looks good.  The current Camry has been compared, by some,  to a kitchen appliance.

I owned a Camry many years ago.  I picked up during a zero apr promotion.  I loved it.  Big, but not too big.  Roomy.  Comfortable.  A little power.  Some nice toys inside.  Unfortunately, I thought it was too low and it wasn't great in the snow.  If I lived in a snow-less climate, or at least one where the snow doesn't get deep, I would have no problems with getting another one.

My current vehicle is a small SUV, and so was the one before that.  It was the first time in my life that I've owned the same thing twice.  It's not what you would call fun or sexy, but it makes a lot of sense for me.  It's good on gas and great in the snow.  There's enough room for my bike in the back.  It handles nicely.

There are three packages of this particular SUV.  My first was the basic.  I missed little creature comforts like a storage area between the seats, a thermometer and a sun roof.  When I bought my second one, I opted for the middle package.  There are still a few options I'd like.  I found the top tier package just didn't make sense and offered things I'd never use, so the middle package was a good compromise.

I have mixed feelings on technology and options.  On one hand, it's nice to be pampered.  On the other, it's just more stuff that could go wrong.  I've been lucky.  There has never been an issue.  Plus, I'm a regular at the dealer.  I have confidence in its service.

I read where Ford is bringing the Bronco back.  It looks to be the smaller 70's version rather than the big OJ model we saw in the 80's.  A friend had one back in high school, and it was a great little truck.

It's nice to have choices.  Drive carefully. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Award Winning

I'm not big on entertainment industry news, but I keep an eye on it because of what I do for a living.  I really have to know a little bit about a lot of different things.

The last time I visited a theater, it was to see the first "Ted" and I think that was almost five years ago.

Okay, foundation established.

The Golden Globes were handed out Sunday night.  I doubt most people can name an award winner, but they do know Meryl Streep and some others went off on president-elect Donald Trump, and Trump responded via Twitter.

This has nothing to do with any past, present, or future occupant of the White House, but I wish entertainers would stay out of politics.  We watch TV, and go to movies, to escape for a little while.  Award shows should celebrate the best of the industry, note the accomplishments of legends and new stars.   Glitz.  Glamour.  Gowns.  Tuxedos.  Fun.   Leave the real world out of it.

I've never voted for or against any candidate because a movie or TV star told me to, and I suspect you're the same way.

We are a divided country.  I have a NewsFlash for you.  It's always been that way, and it will always be that way.  Red states.  Blue states.  Liberal.  Conservative.  Republican.  Democrat.  When an entertainer starts spewing political views, half the potential audience is instantly alienated.  That's simply bad business.

I hate to keep going back to Johnny Carson, but I will do so again.  His old shows run nightly on Antenna TV, seen in this area on WNEP2.  Carson was an equal opportunity offender-- Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.  He joked about them all, and he did it with clever quips and a smile on his face.  Stephen Colbert should spend less time being nasty and more time studying the master.  Maybe his mediocre ratings would turn around.  It's just not fun to watch the same thing night after night.

There is a separation between church and state.  While I support the rights of everyone in this country to speak out, including entertainers, a voluntary and friendly separation between politics and entertainment doesn't seem like a bad idea at times.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Coat + 20

I've told this story here once before, but considering it's the 20th anniversary of the purchase, I'll tell it again.

At this time 20 years ago, I was "between jobs."  If you've ever been there, and I hope you never are, it's not fun.  You worry about everything-- especially money.  Even though I've always been a saver, I had no major expenses, and the government provides a safety net, I was still frightened.

You do have to live, and I allowed myself one minor extravagance a week.  Most of the time, it was an afternoon movie and a big soda.  Some weeks, I'd go for a long drive.  There were times I'd walk around the mall.  I'd confine my purchases to a soft pretzel and a soda.  I just liked looking at stuff and people watching.  Plus, I had to get out for a while.

I don't remember how I wound up at Burlington Coat in Eynon one day in January of 1997, but I did and I saw a winter coat I liked.  It wasn't expensive, and I didn't buy it.  Several days had passed, and I started thinking about the coat.  I went back to see if it was still there.  It was, and I bought it.

Part of me felt guilty for buying something I really didn't need, but after getting beat up for a while at the old job, and then the early days of unemployment, I felt a small need to be nice to myself.

I still wear the coat many times every winter, and I'm wearing it in the photo above, taken Thursday morning.  The coat and I went back to Burlington for a visit.  No, I didn't buy anything else last week.  Burlington used to have a kick butt tie selection.  It looked like the store needs to replenish stock after Christmas, in many departments.  There were vast spaces of emptiness.

The moral of the story:  no matter how miserable things might be at the moment, there are times you have to stop and be kind to yourself.  Don't do anything silly.  Don't do anything stupid.  A winter coat was a decent investment, and I still have it.

If you know someone who is unemployed, be kind, be patient, be understanding and be supportive.

I eventually found a new job, and then a better job when that one ended.

I was lucky.  I found a good coat and a great way to make a living.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Media Monday

ABC's "World News Now" celebrated its 25th anniversary last week.  While the broadcast gets a bit too goofy at times, it is rather nimble in switching gears to breaking news.  In these days of cost cutting, I'm glad it's still around, and it makes overnight gym visits go by a bit faster.  I still think the original anchor team of Aaron Brown and Lisa McRee was the best.  The same goes for the original theme.

It's been clips-a-plenty on World News Now this week.  Has there ever been a better newscast set than that big Peter Jennings newsroom of the 80's and early 90's?  When you saw that room, the desks, the people, the huge logo...  you got the distinct and unmistakable feeling that you were watching 'THE NEWS. "

Brent Musberger got in a bit of hot water during the New Year's night broadcast of the Sugar Bowl on ESPN.  He hoped Joe Mixon gets a solid second chance, and has a great NFL career.  Mixon is the college player who smacked a woman in the face so hard, he broke bones.  This is a tough one.  We are a forgiving society, but Mixon committed a horrible act, and it was caught on video.  I will always be a huge Musberger fan.  It wasn't really what he said, but how he said it, and there was no mention of the victim.  Musberger will be 78 in May.  I'd hate to see him go out this way.

Megyn Kelly has left FOX for NBC.  It looks like she'll get the third hour of the "Today" show plus a Sunday night broadcast and be featured on big events.  This could work.  Handing her an established show is easier than creating a new one.  Ask Katie Couric and Meredith Vieira.  By the way, I think FOX News will be just fine.

Tony Kornheiser, Maury Povich and others have purchased a Washington DC restaurant.  Kornheiser wants to add a podcast/radio studio to the building. 

Former FOX personality Greta Van Susteren is headed to MSNBC.  Good move.  MSNBC needs more moderate voices and established personalities.

Once again, CNN embarrassed itself on New Year's Eve.  One anchor drank during the broadcast had had his ear pierced.  Why?

I got in to the business because I was influenced by giants like Cronkite, Rather, Reasoner, Brinkley...  Will we ever hear someone say "I was influenced by (insert some of the geniuses working today)?

Sundance is running old Mary Tyler Moore Show episodes.  Has a sitcom ever had a stronger cast of supporting characters?

Chris Berman will be doing fewer events for ESPN.  I respect his longevity, but the act was very, very, very tired.

I was working while the Mariah Carey debacle unfolded on live TV.  I was watching out of the corner of my eye, so I didn't appreciate the scope of the mess until web sites were being updated.  It seems like there's enough blame to go around.  Carey should have rehearsed.  Technical people should have been better prepared.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Andy's Angles: State Park

It's another winter shot from Lackawanna State Park...

Except for the green grass, it's rather bleak.  The sky was pale blue, but clouds were rapidly changing that.  A thin layer of ice took on the grey from the sky.

Still, I like the shot and the way the leaf-less trees form a bit of a frame.

The park was dead when I took this shot early Thursday morning, not even a dog walker.  If you're looking for a place to bundle up and enjoy winter, head to Lackawanna State Park.