Wednesday, November 26, 2014

First Person: Gas Leak

It was a quiet Monday morning in the newsroom.  Then, we heard a burst of police and fire department activity on the scanner.  Gas leak.  A big one.  Main Street.  Dickson City.

I've had a lot of experience with gas leaks over the decades.  Most start off sounding big.  Then, the gas company turns a valve.  Problem solved.  Quickly.

This one sounded a little different.  Plus, it was on a very busy street during the morning rush hour.

Photographer Corey and I jumped in one of our trucks and headed to Dickson City.  On the way, we heard about street closings.  We wondered how to get there.  Both of us know the area rather well, and we knew there would be back roads and side streets to get to the desired location.

We saw the road block as we approached from the south.  Police and firefighters were accommodating We were allowed to pull off into a supermarket parking lot with a great view of what was happening.  A pressure relief valve at a UGI gas compressor station blew, sending a plume of natural gas rocketing in to the air.

It was an impressive and frightening sight.  First of all, natural gas was shooting in to the air.  We didn't know if it would blow.  Second, the noise was deafening.  Literally.  It was painful to be around.  There was so much noise, I had to do my 8:27 AM live report from inside the truck.  It would have impossible to hear, or be heard over the jet engine like noise.

After about 90 minutes, the pressure was back to normal.  The leak stopped.  It was business as usual in Dickson City.  We gathered some interviews from frightened people who saw what happened, and got the official reaction from the fire chief and the deputy director of Lackawanna County's Emergency Management Agency.

When I got back to the office, I placed a call to UGI, to get their explanation.  Cause of pressure build up unknown.  The pressure relief valve worked as designed.  No one was hurt.  No mains were shut.  No one lost service.

An Aleve aided with my headache and ear pain.  Sleep also helped.  The noise was gone, but the image if that natural gas plume streaking in to the air will stay with me for quite a while.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Brother Vince

courtesy:  Citizens Voice
I was very sorry to learn Vince Kabacinski passed away over the weekend.

Our paths crossed many times over the years.  Kabacinski was an advocate for the homeless, long before it became one of the fashionable and popular causes.

He taught us to care, not just during cold snaps and holidays, but every day.  Vince was always there in his V.I.S.I.O.N. van to get the homeless off the streets and in to the warmth of a shelter.

Kabacinski had his detractors.  Who doesn't?

When all is said and done, when the history of the Wyoming Valley is written, it will be noted that Vince Kabacinski made his community a better place, and he was always there to help men and women in need.

Vince Kabacinski made a difference.  We should all be as fortunate.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Scrapple

I fear we're hitting the holiday doldrums a bit early this year.  Other than normal Thanksgiving related stories and events, there doesn't appear to be a lot going on this week.

I've grown weary of the fear mongering and long term winter predictions.  You can't forecast the whole season based on one cold week.

For those who say the economy has turned the corner, spend some time this holiday season with the Salvation Army, or Friends of the Poor, or the Commission on Economic Opportunity, or United Neighborhood Centers.  There are a lot of people, families with kids, out there still hurting.

I wish the NFL would stop playing games in London and stop entertaining thoughts about putting a team there permanently.  Los Angeles first.

There is likely a Bill Cosby blog in my future.  There are some serious questions on both sides.  Why did the women wait so long to say something?  All have similar stories, leading me to believe there's a lot of truth to the stories.

I will forever be amazed that we landed a spacecraft on a comet.

A friend showed me her iPhone 6+.  It's an amazing device, but it's not for me.  I phone.  I text.  That's all I need.

NBC hired a guy to overhaul the Today show and fired him because he wanted to overhaul the Today show.

I will never understand how Marion Barry kept getting elected in Washington.

Seven feet of snow, then flooding?  Good luck, Buffalo.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Andy's Angles: Library Update

My alma mater, Marywood University, is building a new library.  It'll replace the one you see on the right, built in 1968.

I'm trying very hard to like the new building.  I'm just not there yet.

My concerns-- the look and scale.  It might be too big part for this part of campus, overwhelming buildings around it, especially the spectacular Liberal Arts Building and its dome.  There's some brick in the back.  The rest of steel and glass.  It just doesn't look like what a Marywood building should be.

I'm not arguing against the need for a new library.

Maybe I'll feel better when it's closer to completion next year.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Andy's Angles: As Far As the Eye Can See

I'm usually first to point out things my alma mater. Marywood, does wrong...

But, Marywood does a lot right.  Below is a perfect example.
For the last few Veterans Days, Marywood students have been planting one flag for every service man and woman killed in recent wars.  Due to construction, this year's location is different.  The emotions are just as strong.
It was a simple, yet powerful way to remember the cost of war.  Thanks, Marywood.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Law & Order

No matter how hard you try, there are some issues you really have trouble wrapping your head around.

Our first case in point is the borough of Shenandoah, in Schuylkill County.

More than 80 drug related arrest warrants were issued Wednesday, representing 1 per cent of Shenandoah's population...  and those are just the ones that law enforcement knows about.  I'm sure there are others who escaped the net-- this time.

Drug crimes are always a tough call.  Abuse is a disease as much as a medical and mental problem...  but dealing and using is still a crime.  It leads to other offenses, so you have to slap on the handcuffs sooner or later.

And, then there is the case of the ten year old accused killer, Tristin Kurilla, in Wayne County.  His attorney gave up the right to a preliminary hearing Wednesday, and is concentrating his efforts on getting the case moved to juvenile court.  Kurilla is accused of killing a 90 year old woman by holding a stick against her throat.

It really hits home when you look at Tristin's "signature" on the court papers-- that little kiddie handwriting.

It's clear the defense admits to the crime.  The appropriate punishment will be debated for a long, long time.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Count Your Blessings

Okay, so it's a little cold.  It's November.  It happens.  Relax.  There's a lot more cold weather before spring finally rolls around in June of July.

The cold might be unpleasant, but we're Pennsylvanians.  We know the drill.  Bundle up.  Check on the elderly and pets.  Be careful with heating systems.  Don't do anything stupid.  We'll get through this.

Be thankful you're not in western New York, where they're measuring snow in feet.  People are trapped on highways.  They're trapped in their homes.  It might be days before streets are open again.  Residents are running out of food and supplies.  It's ugly, and it's frightening.

Perspective, my friends.  We have nothing to complain about.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Feeling Your Pain

I've long believed "as Scranton goes, so goes the area."  It's the largest city around here.  To outsiders, it's just Scranton.  Dunmore, the mid valley, the Abingtons, down valley...  it's all lumped in to one.

The weekend replays of Thursday night Scranton city council meetings are must see tv.

To get you up to speed, the nearly broke Scranton is asking property owners to swallow a 19 per cent tax increase.  According to our friends at the Times~Tribune, Scranton taxes will have doubled over the past few years.

Speaker after speaker before council begs for cuts.  Okay, good idea.  Tell me where.  Maybe you can trim an administrative salary or two, drop a solicitor/lawyer here and there, possibly pink slip someone in public works.

It's a drop in the bucket.

I'm sure public safety could be more efficient.  Do you remember when Mayor Doherty tried to cut the fire department?  The cuts were quickly reversed after people started losing their homes.  We need more police, not less.

Ask the non profits to kick in?  They've already exhibited a reluctance to do that, and I understand.  Most of them are squeaking by, at best.  There are a lot of poor people out there.  Social services are stretched to the max.

Past councils went out of their way to alienate the University of Scranton.  You have to take the good with the bad at the U.  Can it kick in more?  Certainly.  On the other hand, it's one of the few entities bringing people to the area and improving the local economy.

That brings us to taxes.  There's no other solution.  I'm sorry.

A tax increase does set off an unfortunate spiral.  People sell houses.  People leave the city, and those who stay have to carry a larger share of the burden.

These problems weren't created overnight.  Some strong leadership and bold decisions could have averted this impending disaster.  It's time to look forward, not back.

If anyone has a good idea, now is the time to speak up.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Media Tuesday

One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different outcome.  Every morning, when I get in the car, I punch in 590 AM on my car radio.  Every morning, I hear nothing.  The station has been off the air due to transmitter problems.  There's no word if and when it will return.

I've watched journalists calmly report from war zones in Syria, Iran, and Iraq.  Many have risked their lives to venture into Ebola ridden areas of Africa.  And, The Weather Channel goes hysterical when Bemidji, Minnesota gets an inch of snow.

The FOX Sports baseball team of Buck, Reynolds, and Verducci got generally good reviews during the World Series.  I like Joe Buck.  Always have.  I can do without the other two.

You knew that Honey Boo Boo clan would eventually self destruct.  They got their 15 minutes of fame, and then some.  They made my skin crawl, and I'm glad their gone.

I'm not disputing his heroism, which is considerable.  The former Navy SEAL who shot bin Laden is making the media rounds, saying "it's not about me."  It doesn't sound that way.

CBS Sports Radio is dropping John Feinstein's 9 AM -noon show.  Mistake.  Literate and funny-- a rare combination in sports talk radio.

The Wall Street Journal is dropping its radio division.  I frequently listened to The Wall Street Journal This Morning at 5 AM.  It wasn't stodgy at all-- world news, national news, business news, consumer news...  It was a solid hour, and it will be missed.   The end comes December 31.  WSJ's editor says radio doesn't fit in with the company's growth plans.  One of the trades reported yesterday that a company called Compass is interested in filling the void, and it's already been in touch with many of the people who work on The Wall Street Journal This Morning.  Outside of major cities, and some syndicated offerings, news on the radio is hard to come by.  Running a newsy format is expensive, but you can attract upper socioeconomic groups, with nice incomes, and you can sell the commercials at a premium.

I stopped watching the Blacklist because it got too creepy and violently disturbing.  I've cheated a bit and watched some clips on YouTube.  I was saddened to see the Alan Alda character, Alan Fitch, get killed off.  It wasn't pretty.  Collar bomb.  The Blacklist is clever and well acted.  It doesn't need the gore.  Yet, producers seem content to shove it down our throats.  That's why TV's come with "off" switches.

Alton Brown says he won't produce any more of his Food Network series Good Eats.  He says the shows were too much work.  I understand.  They were a lot of work to watch.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Mail Call

A caller to Talkback 16 last week took me to task for using the term "snail mail."  It was during a story on COLTS taking public input on its plan to slash service.  The caller lumped me in with the rest of the station, accusing us of putting nails in the coffin of the United States Postal Service because you can e-mail guesses to our annual snow thrower contest.

Apparently, the caller is not a blog reader.  I've used this space in the past to thank a letter carrier for trudging through a snow storm to make sure my mother received a social security check.  By the way, this was before the federal government put a nail in the USPS coffin by going to direct deposit.  I've also marveled here on how a letter can go coast to coast for 50 cents.

I occasionally visit the Olyphant and Stafford Avenue, Scranton post offices-- where the employees are professional and courteous.  Package shipping is fairly easy and at a reasonable cost.

However, you cannot escape the face that once you've paid for internet access, e-bill paying, and e-mail are free and instantaneous.

Ben Franklin, the first Postmaster General, was one of my heroes.  I'd hate to see the USPS go away.  Unfortunately, the services it provides aren't as necessary as they once were.

Society and technology hammered the nails.