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Friday, July 31, 2009

Of Paramount Importance


It's mystified me for years, and I've asked several people who work in the neighborhood. They also do not have the answer. Why is there a Paramount Pictures logo above a garage in downtown Wilkes-Barre? It's been there as long as I can remember. You can see the logo, in the center of the building, above the garage door.

The garage is along North State Street, next to the back entrance of the Citizens Voice building. The F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts used to be the Paramount Theater. It's only a block away. Was this building a warehouse at one time? Perhaps someone from the Historical Society has the answer.
While we're on the subject of Wilkes-Barre, yesterday was the weekly Farmer's Market on Public Square, one of the better ones here in our area. The set up was underway when I was in the city yesterday morning.

Something was missing yesterday. For the past couple of years the Thursday before the Pennsylvania 500 was NASCAR Day. A few cars would be on display, and it was great fun.

I made an inquiry, and was told there was a "lack of interest" from the race teams contacted by the city. Perplexed, I was. It seems NASCAR Day drew big crowds in past years. I remember blogging that the Farmer's Market and NASCAR Day was too much for one day. NASCAR Day could have, and should have stood on its own.

Why did NASCAR blow off Wilkes-Barre? The economy? Too busy? Crowds too small? A lack of interest from the city?

While city officials are celebrating the opening of a cookie shop, and investigating the nightly brawls and vandalism at Main Street bars, they should sit down and figure out what went wrong.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

There Used to Be a Bowling Alley Here


Green Ridge Lanes, on Green Ridge Street in Scranton, was demolished this week.

It wasn't my bowling alley of choice growing up, but I'm still sorry to see it go. There aren't many bowling alleys left.

I walked around the rubble Wednesday morning, just to see what was left. I wondered if I could see anything recognizable. The answer is below-- a snack area table and a stack of lockers.



I bowled a fair amount in high school. It was a nice, and inexpensive way to kill an afternoon. MBC Lanes in Dunmore was a great place to hang out-- bowling (42 lanes!), pool tables, pinball machines, snack bar and soda machines. Bowling centers have a unique aroma-- beer, cigarette smoke, the dressing applied to the lanes, the disinfectant. I never learned what MBC stood for. Like Green Ridge Lanes, it's gone now. Unlike Green Ridge Lanes, the building is still there. It's now a furniture store. Googling MBC Lanes didn't produce much information.

Bowling is no longer inexpensive. However, it's still a good time. I stopped going regularly many years ago. Comedian Robert Klein has a great line about bowling shoes: "Renting shoes is like renting a Kleenex."

The owner of Green Ridge Lanes reasoned that an offer from a big national drug store chain was too good to pass up. I have nothing against drug stores. Unfortunately, they can't come close to a good, old fashioned bowling alley on the charm scale.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Binghamton II


I stumbled across a reference to Confluence Park in Binghamton, and I just had to take a look for myself. Calling it a park is a bit of an overstatement, but it is a rather nice area of benches and sidewalks where the Susquehanna and Chenango Rivers meet. That's the Susquehanna on the left, the Chenango on the right. I was looking to the west when the picture was snapped.

Below is a shot from the water's edge, still looking to the west.



Binghamton is trying to take advantage of its rivers. I took the picture above while standing on the old Washington Street Bridge. It's now a way for walkers and bicyclists to cross the river.

And, it leads to this-- the Chenango River Promenade.

Below is a view of the Promenade from the other side. The walkway at the left of the picture takes you under the bridge, and to Confluence Park, which leads to the pedestrian bridge over the Susquehanna. At my back, when this picture was shot, is Binghamtown's downtown business district.


It may not be as elaborate and new as the River Common in Wilkes-Barre, but it's nice. There were several people walking, jogging, and biking when I was there early Monday morning.

It's not perfect. Even though I had a GPS and I researched the area via internet before I left, it was still tough to find for someone not totally familiar with the area.

While the closest street to the park, Riverside Drive, is nice, the surrounding neighborhood needs work. I wasn't in fear, but it was a shabby neighborhood, filled with abandoned buildings. On the other hand, Binghamton University has a new building just up the street, so it's possible this neighborhood is on the way up.

I needed a beverage and a pit stop, if you know what I mean. None were in sight.

We're lucky that we have rivers running through our area. It's time we start taking advantage of it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Binghamton I


It was a rare day off, and an even more rare dry day yesterday. I don't get to New York's southern tier as much as I once did, and as much as I would like. I pointed the car north to brave the horrendous Interstate 81 construction and went to Binghamton.

My first stop was NYSEG Stadium, formerly Binghamton Municipal Stadium. The above photo is the big wall behind home plate. The photo below is the concourse behind the wall.

Below is the view down the first base line. This isn't the most charming ball park, but it gets the job done. 6,000 seats-- and that's adequate for a AA team.

A little history: the stadium opened in April 1992, and it was designed by a Clarks Summit, Lackawanna County firm. I was with WYOU at the time. The boss reasoned, correctly, that we should go to opening day. In addition to the Lackawanna County connection, we were sure the Binghamton Mets would attract fans from Susquehanna County, PA, and that's part of our coverage area.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. A photographer, satellite truck operator and I were enlisted to help a sports crew from the CBS station in Rochester. At the time, the home of the Rochester Red Wings was getting old. Rochester wanted a new stadium, with state help, like Binghamton. Mario Cuomo was governor at the time. We were in the plaza when Cuomo arrived. Apparently, sports people aren't used to chasing politicians. Cuomo was getting away from the Rochester people. I grabbed the microphone from the Rochester guy and made a leap toward the governor. Luckily, I didn't get shot by security and I did get a chance to ask a couple questions. The big one was what Rochester had to do to get a stadium like Binghamton. Cuomo said something like the people and governments of that part of the state had to make a proposal for state help in a unified, organized voice, like the people of the southern tier did. The guy from the Rochester CBS station was thankful I helped him get the sound bite he needed. I have my exchange with Cuomo on tape somewhere around the house. Getting Cuomo would be the last good thing to happen to me that day.

It poured, and the game was rained out. I did two pieces from Binghamton-- a long story for the 5:30 PM news, and a shorter version for the 6:00 PM edition. I hope I'm not too "inside baseball" here. Pardon the pun. Television live shots are sort of an illusion. Something called the "insert" is usually pre recorded and sent back to the station in advance. The live shot is merely a matter of wrapping around the taped piece. As Curly the Stooge would say "simple work for simple people." It's really not that hard. Most of the time.

An intern back at the office in downtown Scranton was curious as to what was going on in Binghamton. She looked at the taped inserts already fed back to the station from the satellite truck in Binghamton. There was one problem. She left the tape cued up to the wrong position. No one caught it. I introduced the taped piece, and what I expected to be there, wasn't. Silence. The producer and director came back to me live in Binghamton, on camera. Usually, I can ad lib my way out of a bad situation. On this day, at that moment, my guardian angel must have been in line, getting a hot dog at the concession stand. I stuttered and stammered my way through the rest of the piece. It was awful. I often look at the tape of the broadcast later on, and normally the live shot isn't as bad as it feels at the time. It just wasn't in me to take a look when I returned to the newsroom that night.

Yes, the intern admitted to what she did, and she apologized to me. I don't know what ever became of her.

Fast forward 17 years, and yesterday's trip. The success of my expeditions is usually due to the kindness of others. Below is the home plate high shot, and after the photo, I'll explain how I got it.

Of course, the stadium is locked up at 8:30 in the morning. I walked around, and found one, tiny open gate on the first base line. I walked in. The worst they could do is throw me out. I found a guy moving cases of beer with a hand truck. I asked him if he worked there. When the answer was "yes," I asked permission to have a few minutes to take pictures. He said I could take my time. One restriction-- no walking on the field. I was more than okay with that. I doubt you're reading this, but if you are, thank you.

17 years ago, there were predictions the new stadium would improve the neighborhood. It's in a very industrial part of the city. Sorry. No problems with Henry St. today, but it looks the same, to me, as it did in 1992. NYSEG Stadium is just a few blocks from downtown's core. I'm sure the bars and restaurants there get a nice little boost on game nights.

The stadium is a lot of concrete block, but it's nice and it gets the job done. At 17 years old, it still looks pretty good-- and there's a bonus. You can watch freight trains go by, just beyond the outfield fence.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Too Good, Too Bad


A friend who has a connection to it invited me to listen to my old college radio station recently.

While the alternative rock format isn't my thing, I was still able to get a handle on the presentation.

It was good. Very good. Too good.

It's a matter of mission. I look at college radio as a place to make mistakes, develop a personality, and figure out what radio is all about.

My old station now has a slick sound, and it could give many commercial stations around here a strong run for their money. Yes, it's that good.

Allow me to have a "geezer moment." It's a big change from my day. We had brittle, old tapes and scratchy LP's. The sound was rough, but we had heart. It was a whopping ten watts when I was a freshman. You could spit a longer distance than the signal reached. We were thrilled when we got the okay to go to 100 watts. Now, it's a strong 2,000 watt signal.

The 2009 station is a tightly formatted masterpiece, and I hope the students there are still given a chance to learn within their new parameters.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Moment


CBS News legend Walter Cronkite passed on one week ago. I've read several obituaries and remembrances since Cronkite died. Many were written/spoken by people in the business, and a lot of people said words to the effect of "Walter Cronkite inspired me to get in to journalism..."

Okay then. I sat back, and thought about it for a while. Did I have a "moment?" Was there an epiphany? Was I struck by a bolt of lightning and said "This is what I want to do for a living."?

No. Sadly.

I do remember always playing with a radio as a kid. I was a news junkie as a child, leafing through the newspapers, watching Cronkite and locals John Perry and Tom Powell.

Things got kicked up a notch when my teens arrived. I recall the early days of Newswatch 16 with Ed Martelle and the slick news presentation on WPIX when the folks from Verto cabled up the house.

There were stages. It was only WARM for me very early, but I do remember being a WILK fan when the station made a short lived spurt in the late 70's.

By the time I got to college, the radio fad had passed and all I wanted to do was TV. Then, because I was anxious to get my feet wet in something, I weasled my way onto the college radio station as a freshman, during a time when you had to be at least a sophomore to get behind the microphone. The radio bug bit. TV occupied a spot on the back burner. If you count the college years, I was in radio from 79 to 91.

Toward the end of that unspectacular run, I realized I had gone as far as I could go in radio. I lucked onto a part time TV job in 1990, which became full time a year and a half later. I won't bore you with the the last 18 or so years. I will say that it's been a good time, in spite of a few stumbles along the way.

Radio was good to me. I have no complaints, and I respect those who do radio well. There are times I miss it.

Getting back to the original point, I can't point to a "Cronkite moment." It was more of an evolution with a "big bang" coming when it was time to pick a college and a major.

I envy those who had "moments." It makes for great story telling rather than a mediocre blog entry.

Enjoy the weekend. I'll see you in the morning.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Digital Fingerprints

ESPN's Erin Andrews is a strikingly beautiful woman. Some rat took naked video of her, without her consent, in a hotel room. No, I haven't seen the video.

I hope the scoundrel who violated Andrews' privacy is caught and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

That launches us into today's discussion-- the internet and privacy. I know a lot of people who are giving their privacy away.

Let me take you back to a conversation I had with a co-worker (now a former co-worker) a few years ago. It was not long after this blog got up and running. This person remarked how a blog was a bad idea because this person didn't want people knowing about private matters. I apologize for the awkward phrasing here. I'm going to great lengths to avoid revealing the sex of this individual.

Let's fast forward a couple years. This person started a My Space site, complete with personal information AND EXTREMELY PERSONAL (not obscene) PHOTOS. I would assume a FaceBook site followed, but I didn't care to search.

This person is not alone. A lot of people in "the biz" have My Space and FaceBook sites. Many are harmless, but some are just an invitation to trouble.

The person who shot the Andrews video apparently went to a lot of effort. Many others make it easy for people to access your life and learn more than you would like them to know.

Today's blog has been centered on broadcasters, but we're not alone.

It's not just cyber stalkers. You know prospective employers will "Google" you when you apply for a job. I've seen some stuff that would instantly eliminate candidates for consideration.

Please, be careful.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Too Much Time to Think


NASA was smart enough to put a man on the moon, but not smart enough to keep the video tapes.

NASA did redeem itself with repairs to the toilet aboard the International Space Station.

Back here on earth, President Obama is due to talk about health care during tonight's news conference.

Ponder this: if you're accused of a crime in this country, you are entitled to a lawyer. If you get sick, you're not entitled to a doctor.

While a lot of us do have some form of health insurance, a major illness involving you or a loved one can still bankrupt you.

It's clear something has to be done. I'm not passing judgement on the Obama plan. That's not my job.

There are no easy answers.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Two Weekends


It's a question I get a lot, and it's usually just people in the office making small talk. I really don't mind. That question is "How was your weekend?"

I usually say the same thing in response: "Work weekend or whopee weekend?"

My work week includes Saturdays and Sundays, so even though it's the weekend, it really isn't.

My days off are Wednesday, Thursday, and part of Friday. That's my weekend, even though it likely isn't yours.

I spend "work weekends" at the office. "Whopee weekends" consist of time away from work.

Yes, it can be confusing-- especially for people who ask me the question.

There isn't much "whopee" in "whopee weekends" these days. Time off is reserved for walking, sleeping, and re-charging the battery. I'm okay with that. I'm not complaining. Sleep is good. No, sleep is great.

Even though my life is generally opposite of the lives people lead in the rest of the world, it does have its charm. First, it's the best excuse for getting out of all those social engagements you despise. "I can't. I have to work." The malls, banks, post offices, mechanic, dentist, hotels, parks, etc. are never crowded when I have time off. It's a blessing for someone who hates to be part of large groups of people.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a "whopee weekend" that needs attention.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Apollo 11


Today is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon walk. You know the one-- Neil Armstrong's "small step for man, giant leap for mankind" stroll on the lunar surface. Buzz Aldrin followed.

Even though I was just 7 years old at the time, I have great memories of the Apollo 11 mission. The first moon walk was late at night. I remember being sprawled out on the foot of my parents' bed, watching things unfold on a portable black and white television. I can still see that set. General Electric. Blue plastic case, off white/beige speakers at the bottom. It was a decent size for a portable. Reception wasn't the greatest. WDAU came in the best, and as long as you had Cronkite, you had all you needed.

Thanks to Vietnam, 1969 was a tough time to be a young adult, but it was a great time to be a kid.

Only a dozen men have walked on the moon. Three have died.

A couple years later, I remember standing in line, with my dad, in Scranton to see a travelling moon rock exhibit. Finally, there it was-- a grey rock, with little sparkles, sitting in a brightly lit glass case.

For a while, it was the answer to a good trivia question: What's the most expensive material on earth? If you use a little logic, it would be the material of which there is the least on this planet. Answer: moon rocks. I'm not sure if it's still true.

I gave it some thought the other day, and even asked a couple co-workers for input. Man's landing on the moon was probably the last universal positive event for the country. There have been many "I remember where I was when..." events, but they were all bad.

Apollo 11 revived the American spirit, at least for a little while.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

I Hate to Say It, But...





I realize it sounds strange, but I'll say it anyway. I really enjoyed the coverage of Walter Cronkite's passing.

Regular blog readers know I'm a broadcast history junkie. Heck, I'm the guy who just wrote several paragraphs on the "anklepants" font.

I flipped around so much, and viewed so many items on the internet that it's impossible to single out any one network's coverage. They were all good. You can't miss if you have good material. The life and work of Walter Cronkite is good material.

I do admit there are some sad feelings. Many of the Cronkite clips dealt with tragedies.

Some of the video brought back childhood memories. Some good. Some, not so good.

Jumping forward a few decades, I remember how thrilled I was when Governor Casey called me by my first name. Kings, prime ministers, and presidents called Cronkite "Walter." Those who knew Cronkite say it didn't go to his head.

A New York Times reporter nailed it perfectly when she described Cronkite's appeal as "approachable authority."

Walter Cronkite led an amazing life.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cronkite


Douglas Edwards had the job first. Dan Rather was in the anchor chair longer, but Walter Cronkite will forever be remembered as THE anchor of the "CBS Evening News."

I was too young to remember Cronkite's coverage of the Kennedy assassination, but I do remember how Walter Cronkite handled space flight missions and the trips to the moon. It was a combination of hard nosed journalism and plain old American pride.

I've been watching a lot of YouTube.com stuff on the Apollo 11 mission, and I was struck at the long periods of time Cronkite said nothing-- how he let the pictures and the words of Mission Control and the astronauts tell the story.

As all this was going on, there was a very unpopular war in Vietnam. I can still hear Cronkite giving the nightly numbers of American servicemen and enemy troops killed in action-- the body count. The Cronkite commentary against the war, delivered after a visit to Vietnam for a first hand look, was one of the factors in Lyndon Johnson dropping his bid for re-election. Johnson reasoned, correctly, that if he lost Cronkite, he lost the nation.

Woodward and Bernstein did the leg work on Watergate, but Cronkite explaining it, over two nights on CBS, brought it into focus.

And then, there was Cronkite's sign off in March of 1981. It was blessedly simple and low key.

On a lighter note, I was the producer of WYOU's morning news for eleven months in 1997 and 1998. I'd write something funky. Anchor Derry Bird would walk over to my desk and ask "Would Cronkite say it that way?" I knew exactly what Derry meant, and I changed my copy to keep Derry happy. There was another reason to do it. It was the right thing to do.

I have tons of books in boxes. A select few are kept on a book shelf where I can grab them at a moment's notice. Cronkite's autobiography is always close at hand.

The cable news networks, except for HLN, dropped the Michael Jackson stuff for Cronkite tributes Friday night. They were well done. It was nice hearing from Cronkite's colleagues, those who helped invent television news.

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams spent some time working for WCBS several years ago. One of the first items on his agenda when he got to CBS was the see the remnants of Cronkite's old set, the one with the world map on the back wall.

There are several good newspaper columns out there today. It would be impossible to list them all, but make it a point to read What Kurtz and Shales had to say in the Washington Post.

There are several other Cronkite clips at YouTube, and take a look when you get the chance. It was all so clean, so simple. Here's what you need to know. Cronkite was the biggest name in American television journalism. Yet, he was never bigger than the story. There was none of that "Hey, look at me" stuff I'm constantly complaining about.

There will never be another Walter Cronkite.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Anklepants

One of the joys of working in a newsroom is you have the most interesting conversations.

A co-worker and I were discussing one of our favorite news sources the other morning, KYW AM 1060 in Philadelphia. Even though the station has lost a bit off its fastball, it's still a great news operation with a solid presentation, and really good coverage of the state capitol. I manage to catch an early morning hour, via internet, just about every day. Harry Donahue and Ed Abrams are the best, and the third member of the morning team more than holds her own. She's Carol MacKenzie. The name may be familiar to a lot of you. She worked at WBRE for a while in the 90's.

The KYW admiration society then launched into a discussion of the Westinghouse television and radio stations, also known as "Group W." Westinghouse became a part of CBS several years ago. Under Westinghouse ownership, these stations were among the best in the country. I'm expecting e-mails from two of my former bosses who are also former Westinghouse employees.

Anyway, you could always tell a Westinghouse station by the logo. It was the same font for every station. That font was instant credibility because you automatically knew the owner.

I won the "geek of the day" award because I actually know the name of the font. Don't ask me why, but it's called "anklepants." An old KYW-TV 3 logo is at the right. I recently re-did my blog header to show you a bit more of the anklepants font.


While all news radio stations KYW and WINS 1010 in New York kept anklepants, most of the television stations, sadly, have ditched it. A couple, like WJZ in Baltimore and KPIX in San Francisco have one font for the call letters, but they kept anklepants for the number.

It was especially sad when KDKA TV in Pittsburgh said good-bye to anklepants. This is the old logo. KDKA radio still used anklepants, and that's a good thing. The station is a legend, and even though it's just a font, it's a nice link to a lot of history.

I realize this is more than you really wanted to know.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hello?


I mentioned Chris Moore of FOX Sports Radio the other day. He has a theory: after you reach a certain age, a phone call is never a good thing. When you're young, you get party invitations, those "Hey, let's go out for a beer" and similar calls.

When you grow a little older, it's the bank, the broker, the credit card company, the doctor, the dentist, and the mechanic on the line.

Or, it could be the office.

I was snoozing away at 6:00 PM Tuesday when the phone rang. The caller ID on my cell phone said it was the TV station. I answered anyway. The assistant news director said Tom Williams was sick, and I was needed to co-anchor the Wednesday morning news. I'm normally off Wednesdays, but, hey, you know me. Team player. I took the gig.

The anchor desk is nothing new. I've been there weekend mornings for ten years. I haven't filled in on the weekday broadcast in quite a while. It's a little different. I've "co-anchored" exactly one newscast since August of 2000.

I will preface this by saying it's not brain surgery. No one dies if it doesn't go well. It's not extreme manual labor like digging a ditch. To many, co-anchoring appears quite easy. I'm sure it is once you're used to it. I'm not.

I was lucky. I had Mindi Ramsey to my right. She was patient with my stupid questions and very easy to work with. Two good producers also helped in the process. Tom Williams is very fortunate.

Tom, I hope you're feeling better.
Mindi, thanks.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stones


ABC's Bob Woodruff is reporting from Iraq-- the place where he was nearly killed in 2006.

Woodruff suffered a severe head injury when a roadside bomb went off. The fact that he's able to function is a miracle. The long recovery period, along with some post-injury skills issues, meant Woodruff had to give up his anchor job. He had that job for only 28 days. A network news anchor gig is seen as the best you can do in the industry. It's too bad he didn't get a chance to prove himself, but Bob Woodruff is proving his mettle in other ways.

I wonder, would I be able to do the same thing-- go back to a place where such a horrible thing happened? I'm sure Woodruff looks at this as part of the healing process, maybe a little closure, making sure he conquers fear-- rather than the other way around.

According to the New York Times, Woodruff wrote on a web site that he "wanted to get back on the horse again."

I applaud, and am in awe of, his courage.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Where've You Been and Other Issues


I've been anchoring the weekend morning news, as usual, but I haven't been reporting much lately. Due to a maternity leave and some vacations, I've been pressed in to service as a producer for the past few weeks. I really don't mind. It keeps me out of the rain, and it's a chance to use a different skill set, as well as another part of your brain. Having said that, I'm looking forward to getting out again.

I can live with sunny and low/mid 70's for the rest of the summer. Some people say they've already acquired that "end of summer" feeling. Not me. Not yet-- even though I like fall and eagerly anticipate its arrival.

The Lackawanna County Stadium story continues to be embarrassing.

My camera has been getting a workout lately. It's a good thing. There are a few other places to visit left on my list.

The Major League Baseball All Star Game is tonight. I remember when that used to be a big deal.

Chris Moore does the weekend morning show on FOX Sports Radio and is a darn good listen.

I went to junior high school near the site of Monday morning's explosion in Dickson City, so I know that neighborhood rather well. It's such a sad story.

The same goes for Friday night's deadly boating accident on the Susquehanna River near Lock Haven.

And, that double murder in Effort last week.

Whether or not you agree with his policies, President Obama carries himself well. The man oozes confidence.

When you work, you should get paid for it. Pennsylvania state employees are looking at partial pay days, and pay-less pay days. Yes, you deserve better, but considering the state hasn't produced an on-time budget in seven years, are you really surprised?

Michael Jackson: enough already.

Monday, July 13, 2009

TCMC


After a week of complaining about the debacle that is Lackawanna County Stadium, a positive turn. It's only a few miles away from the ballpark.

The new Commonwealth Medical College is going up on Pine Street, near Mercy Hospital. The buildings on this site won't be ready until 2011. The college will use near-by Lackawanna College until then. The first students arrive in about one month.

The photo below shows it's out of the ground. I took this picture from the Mercy Hospital parking garage. You can find a 24 hour "construction cam" at the school's web site. To give the photo a little perspective, Scranton City Hall and Lackawanna College are in the upper left.

Could they have chosen a better site? Probably. Blue Cross dumped a lot of money into this. Could Blue Cross have used that money to lower your premiums? Likely.

Still, it's close enough to downtown. A few hospitals, Lackawanna College, and the University of Scranton are within walking distance. If TCMC delivers everything it's promised, it should be a huge plus for the area.

We can't forget about satellite TCMC operations in Wilkes-Barre and Williamsport.

Getting off the serious stuff for a second, I'm not one for getting my hands dirty. I'm not good at building things, but there's something about watching a construction site that's a ton of fun.

I wish I could give you a great location to watch the TCMC project, but there really isn't one. The Mercy parking garage is about the best, but watch the traffic, and I'm not sure the hospital will be thrilled with tourists walking the ramps.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Louisiana Perspective


Jeff Jumper used to do weather at another station here in town. He's now working in Lake Charles, LA.

Jeff has a blog, and I'm sure you'll find it interesting. It's nice to catch up with old friends.

And, while we're on the subject of blogs, the Allentown Morning Call has one of the best newspaper blog sections around. Personal favorites are "Capitol Ideas," "Retail Watch," and "Blogging Through a Layoff." The topics are timely, and unlike a lot of blogs out there, they are updated regularly.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I Found It !


I really have nothing to say today (What else is new?), but there is a reason for this blog.

I knew I took pictures of the new turf going down at Lackawanna County Stadium a couple years ago, but I couldn't find them.

After some deductive reasoning and a little searching, I found the file. March 22, 2007. The infield sod was in. The outfield was still grass-less and covered with drainage sand.

I saw in the Allentown Morning Call that Iron Pigs fans were lining up for tickets to the games that were supposed to be played here. Some people got to the Coca Cola Park box office three hours before it opened! Yes, AAA baseball is still new to the Lehigh Valley, and the stadium is only in its second season. The novelty remains. I hope that enthusiasm is eventually re-captured in these parts. It's not going to be easy. There is a lot of blame going around, but no real solutions, and no guarantees AAA baseball will be here after the 2010 season. Good luck selling tickets next year, for a lame duck team.

Enjoy your weekend. See you in the morning.

Friday, July 10, 2009

El Nino


In case you missed it, NOAA, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, came out with a big announcement: El Nino is here.

El Nino is the periodic warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean. It usually means fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic, and milder winters here in the northeast.

California could be stormier, as if the state already didn't have enough problems. The southwest could be wetter. Florida won't have as many wildfires.

Of course, all of this is a little more than an educated guess, based on the temperature of the ocean, thousands of miles away from your backyard. The last El Nino year was 2006, and I really can't remember if that winter was better or worse than others.

It is what it is. NOAA does a yearly hurricane severity and frequency forecast. It's usually wrong. The experts will tell you a forecast more than seven days out is extremely inaccurate. However, you can look at trends and climatological data for illumination. It's a fun sport.

The year without a summer could also be the year without a winter.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Lackawanna County Stadium

If you're not sick of the Lackawanna County Stadium story, you will be after today's blog.

The stadium has been in the news a lot lately. Right field won't drain. Games on sunny days had to be postponed over the lucrative Independence Day Weekend. Yankees' management threatens to move games to other locations until the water problem is fixed.

The team made good on the threat Wednesday afternoon. The next four "home" games will be played in Allentown and Syracuse. That is plain sad. As stated in previous blogs, you can't have a player ruin his career over an injury suffered in a water logged outfield.

The drainage system was given short shrift a few years ago because a lot of people felt the team would be in a new ballpark by now. Overly optimistic? Short sighted? Foolish? Pick your description. We can all agree that this shouldn't have happened.

Some will argue we need a new stadium. This one is 20 years old. A report says the stadium needs $13 million in repairs. They're looking for the attendance boost a new stadium would bring. In my view, a new stadium is only a temporary remedy. The "Yankees affiliation" bump didn't last two years. You need more than a building and a name. You need marketing, and people who know how to make a ballpark experience fun and entertaining.

Here are pictures taken during an informal and unguided tour.

It's a nice "stadium." It's not a "ballpark." This was state of the art at one time. You are likely never to hear "Lackawanna County Stadium" and "charm" in the same sentence. This was the way they built them 20 years ago, prior to the "retro ballpark" trend that was kicked off by Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

However, it's a comfortable place to watch a game-- even if many of the seats are far from the action.

I've always thought the left field party box was ugly and inappropriate for the site.

No matter what it's called, has the restaurant in right field ever consistently drawn a crowd?

Real grass replaced the artificial turf when the Yankees moved in. It's been both a blessing and a curse. Baseball should be played on real grass, but it meant an end to high school football games and band competitions at the stadium. Who was the genius who decided real grass didn't need to drain rainwater?

Concourses are dark and narrow, and not visually appealing. They have been dressed up isnce the Yankees arrived, but there's only so much you can do. I guess you can always make it a "history of exposed plumbing" exhibit.

Parts of the structure have peeling paint, plus bug and bird residue. It's nothing a good cleaning won't solve.

This is the right field swamp. If you have lemons, make lemonade. Put a picture of an alligator on the outfield fence. Make it a marketing tool. In spite of an increase in outfield advertising over the years, the view here remains nice.

Heavy equipment prowled the outfield during my visit.

It's time to face facts. This isn't a great stadium. It's good enough. You're not going to get a new one in the near future. I'm not a plumber, electrician, or engineer. The problems outlined in a recent report are "fixable." The issue may not be with the building, but rather with the people we choose to run it-- now and in the past. The stadium was "all politics" at one time. Now, it's all money, with the impression the people here care nothing about NEPA. This is just a place to do business until something better comes along.

This is a critical time in the history of minor league baseball in our area. Let's not blow it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thank a Cucumber


It's July 8th. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has been without a budget for exactly one week.

The house yesterday designated August as "Pennsylvania Produce Month."

That's good to know. I was afraid the really important work in Harrisburg had come to a standstill.

Your tax dollars at work.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

And So It Begins...


To make a short story long...

I first visited Erie in 1994, and I got to like the city. More specifically, I really grew to like the trip to Erie on Route 6. I've made the journey several times over the years, and I read the Erie newspaper just about every day.

Mandalay owns the Erie SeaWolves, a AA minor league baseball team.

Mandalay manages the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.

It seems like a yearly occurrence in Erie. Mandalay says something like "Buy us a new scoreboard, or we might move the team." or "Build us a party pavilion, or we might move the team." The SeaWolves have been shopped around quite a bit under Mandalay ownership.

The two year old grass outfield at the Moosic stadium apparently holds too much water. Mandalay is threatening to move the team out of town, temporarily, if the situation can't be fixed during the year. The drainage system will have to be re-done in the off season.

Call me cynical, but can't you see what's coming? Mandalay has the option to buy the SWB Yankees at a sweetheart price. There are cities that would kill to have a AAA baseball team. Attendance here is weak. There is more money to be made elsewhere. The Newark rumor refuses to go away. The same goes for Albany. Richmond lost its team to suburban Atlanta this year. I'm sure it would like another shot at AAA.

Every bit of peeling paint, every bit of rust, every piece of cracked concrete will be complained about and we'll hear the phrase "You know, we might be forced to move the team..."

The bad economy could work in our factor. No one is willing to throw a bunch of money at a baseball team to get it to move into their city. On the other hand, a city may be looking for the quick economic boost AAA baseball can bring.

The powers that be say we're protected. The Yankees aren't going anywhere. There are a lot of people who aren't so sure.

There are some people should be out in front of this issue. So far, it's been a bunch of e-mails and news releases. Pardon the pun, but it's time for some people to step up to the plate.

Yes, a dry and safe outfield is not a luxury. It has to be fixed, and you can't have players jeopardizing their careers on a dangerous playing surface. I'm sure it wasn't easy to send fans home on what should have been the biggest weekend of the season.

Still, there's something about the team's weekend news release, management's behavior, and the county's behavior that sounded an ominous chord.

We have to be careful.

It might also be time to face facts. Fan support could be a lot better. Look at the numbers. Are we a AAA town? There is evidence to indicate we're AA at best.

It's time for some hard decisions.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Admission


This one slipped under the radar last week.

The Pennsylvania State Museum in Harrisburg, for the first time in its history, is charging admission. It started July 1st-- $3 for adults, and $2 for kids and seniors.

It's funny. A co-worker and I were discussing the museum a few days ago. I remarked how I paid a visit a few years ago, and it hadn't changed since I was a kid. The civil war uniforms and Indian canoe are still there, and I suspect they'll always be there.

The admission fee is more a psychological thing than anything else. A big part of me believes it should still be free. On the other hand, a few bucks from every visitor could mean a better museum. Still, fiscal responsibility and improvements, and state government rarely go hand in hand.

I came across this photo on the internet. Clearly, it's not recent and it's not mine. Check out the cars on the street.

Getting to Harrisburg for a photography expedition is always on my list of things to do. Unfortunately, when I have the time, it's either raining, I'm too tired, or both.