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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tom Brookshier

Tom Brookshier passed away Friday night after a battle with cancer.

His Philadelphia Eagles playing days were before my time, so I remember Brookshier most as part of CBS's number one NFL broadcasting team in the 1970's.

Brookshier was teamed with Pat Summerall.  They did three Super Bowls.  Summerall said listening to one of their games was like two guys in a saloon having a conversation.  He was right.  Summerall and Brookshier sounded like they were having fun.  Too much fun, some said.  There were reports of a little too much drinking.

For various reasons, CBS split up Summerall and Brookshier in 1981.  Summerall was teamed with John Madden, and it became one of the most successful pairings in broadcasting history.  A side note:  CBS tested a match of Vin Scully and John Madden, but Scully talked too much.  Summerall was a better fit.

Anyway, I remember when the split was announced.  It was a big deal at the time, and Sundays never quite sounded the same.  Pat and Tom WERE Sunday afternoon football and big games.  After a while, you adjust.

Brookshier continued to broadcast CBS games, with other partners, until 1987.  He did radio in Philadelphia after that.

Tom Brookshier was 78.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Defunct


Today, a pair of stations now doing other things...

The Bear still rocks, but now it's 97.9 X, and it's doing okay.

FM 102.3 has been under a variety of formats and owners over the years.  It's now one of the better, in my opinion, stations in town, The Mountain.  It's still a little too talky in various dayparts, but the music is good.

Friday, January 29, 2010

In the Air

This is the time of year when cabin fever begins to set in.

There's no football on TV.  The Pro Bowl Sunday night doesn't count.  Basketball doesn't do it for me.  The same goes for golf.

Winter has returned.  Your outdoor options are limited.

Nothing at the movie theaters jumps out at me.  The mall?  There's nothing I need.

The days are getting longer, and there's a warm one on occasion.  Despite the tease, there's still quite a bit of winter left.

However, there's light at the end of the tunnel.  Pitchers and catchers report to spring training in a couple weeks, and ESPN has released its early season Sunday night baseball schedule.

April 4 - Opening Night: NY Yankees at Boston (ESPN2)
April 11 - St. Louis Cardinals at Milwaukee Brewers
April 18 - NY Mets at St. Louis Cardinals
April 25 - Atlanta Braves at NY Mets
May 2 - NY Mets at Philadelphia Phillies
May 9 - NY Yankees at Boston Red Sox
May 16 - Philadelphia Phillies at Milwaukee Brewers
May 23 - NY Yankees at NY Mets
May 30 - Texas Rangers at Minnesota Twins (ESPN2)
June 6-27 - TBD
July 4 - Kansas City Royals at LA Angels
July 11 - Chicago Cubs at LA Dodgers
July 18 - Philadelphia Phillies at Chicago Cubs (6pm)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

An Active Season


It seems like we have a "theme week" going on here, and that theme is politics.

Ray Musto announced yesterday that he's leaving the state senate at the end of the year.  It's the latest in a small string of retirements.

On top of that, it looks like there will be lively contests in the race for state house and senate, governor, U.S. senate and U.S. congress.  I love to see that.  Choice is good, and competition makes everyone stronger.

On the other hand, campaigns and campaign commercials get nastier by the year.  It makes your job harder because you have to cut through the distortions to get to the truth.  It takes work to be an informed voter these days.

I hope this year's candidates are learning from the corruption investigations here in our area.  The same old way of doing things will no longer be tolerated.  We have to expect more, and demand more from the people we elect.

The Pennsylvania Primary is May 18th.


One final thing...  I cannot think of Senator Ray Musto (pictured here) without thinking about legendary WBRE reporter Jerry Baum.  Jerry used to joke with Musto, saying that the senator's popularity was due to the fact that he looked like someone who signed the Declaration of Independence.  Senator Musto was always a good sport about it.

Jerry Baum retired several years ago.  He was one of the really good guys in the business.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

What Gets My Goat


I loved my history and civics courses in high school.  I've voted in every election for which I've been eligible.  I take my politics and public service seriously.

When you are elected to public office, you have a contract with the voters.  You don't leave early for a better gig.  You do your job.  You stay in office, and you don't betray the trust of the people who elected you.  Citizens deserve the best.  Don't lie.  Don't cheat.  Don't steal.

I spent a big part of my Tuesday in court, watching former Luzerne County commissioner Greg Skrepenak admit to taking a bribe.

Skrepenak still hasn't offered up a good explanation for what happened.  Neither did his attorney.  Skrepenak has a nice little history of misdeeds:   the debit card mess, the problems at the prison, a sweet lease deal for the private juvenile detention center, a county deep in debt, surrounding himself with questionable characters, and now the bribery.

I hate to see wasted potential.  It makes me angry.  Many people voted for Skrepenak because he was young and different, not your typical politician.  He fooled so many.

We all make mistakes.  This seems to be beyond a simple slip up, or an error in judgment, as Skrepenak said in a statement last month.

This wasn't some average guy, pulled off the street by federal prosecutors.  This was an elected official-- one of the top jobs at the county level.  The crime dealt with his duties as a commissioner.  You deserve an explanation. You put him in office.  You paid his salary.

Greg Skrepenak received a college education that a lot of people in our area can only dream about.  It came for free due to his athletic ability.  In court yesterday, Skrepenak said he received a degree from Michigan.  It's further proof that he should have known better.  There are no excuses.

Greg, if you want to talk, before you go to jail for three or four years, I'm here.  Any time.  Any place.

Skrepenak's attorney asked that we "respect" his client's wishes to refrain from commenting at this time.  Maybe if Skrepenak respected the voters who put him in office, he wouldn't be in such trouble right now.

Below is part of an editorial from the Pocono Record.

One of the most recent public officials to burn under the spotlight of public exposure was former Luzerne County Commissioner Greg Skrepenak, a retired pro football player who used his fame to gain public office. Accused of accepting $5,000 in gifts from a developer who sought public financing of a condo project, Skrepenak resigned in December, pleading guilty to a single count of corruption.


Skrepenak said temptation is all around in Luzerne County. "I don't think many people see a lot of wrong in what they've done," he said. He called himself "ignorant," adding that he "failed to understand what was going on."


Nonsense. Did Skrepenak or any of the 22 others accused of corruption list their ill-gotten gains on their tax returns? Did they mention the under-the-table deals to taxpayers or the news media? Of course not. Because they did know it was wrong. "Everybody does it"? Maybe so, but umpteen wrongs do not make a right. The only ignorance these individuals showed was in assuming that they would never, ever get caught.




Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Flood Watch


Monday was dedicated to river patrol, and it will be more of the same today.

I took this picture about 9 AM Monday.  That's Wilkes-Barre on the other side of the Susquehanna, with the Market Street Bridge on the right.  Kingston is at my back.  At the time of the photo, the Susquehanna was safely within its banks.  That will change today.

We go to great lengths to put things in perspective.  We always point out that flood stage at Wilkes-Barre is 22 feet, but only low lying areas take on water at that level.  It takes a few more feet to affect homes and close roads.  Dikes protect much of the valley to 41 feet.

We can't win.  There are those who complain we spend too much time on the weather.  There are others who are at the opposite end of the spectrum.  I always try to walk that middle ground-- give you information you need to know without going heavy on the drama.  Maybe I'm wrong.  In spite of repeated warnings, there are people who refuse to get out of the river's way, people who drive through high water, people who take unnecessary risks.

The Susquehanna is beautiful, and you have to respect its power.  Show a little respect this week.  Be careful if you live near a river, creek, or stream.  It appears the bulk of the precipitation has stopped, but it will take a while for all that water to drain in and out of the system.

Thank you for all the photos you e-mailed in to the station.  They are spectacular.  Traveling in this stuff isn't easy, and those photos help us-- and our viewers get an accurate view of what's going on.  Please remember, do not go into harm's way to get that perfect shot.

So, what's it like covering this stuff?  I got soaked.  There is no way to protect yourself when the rain is shooting at you horizontally.  Waterproof shoes didn't help because, in the darkness, I stepped in a puddle up to my shin.  At least I was able to go to a warm and dry home.  A lot of people didn't have that luxury.  Broadcasting and rain don't mix.  A drop or two of water in the wrong place, like in a camera or cable, can shut us down for a while.  The wind was a bear, and it rocked our mobile newsroom.  There was a moment when I thought the wheels were coming off the ground.  The mast in the air really adds to the wind load-- much more than you would think.

We made it through the day, and we'll be back for more.

Monday, January 25, 2010

City Without Limits


The city of Allentown has a new logo and slogan.  You can see the logo on the left.  It was unveiled last week.  The slogan is "City Without Limits."

It's underwhelming.

I refer you to an earlier blog, the one about the Avoca airport.  Businesses choose locations because of cheap land, cheap labor, and cheap utilities.  A cute (?) logo and catchy slogan aren't going to get it done.

It's nice to see Allentown is trying to re-invent itself.  It's going to take more than this.  Downtown Allentown has problems, including a big perception that it's not safe.  Lehigh Valley highways can't handle the traffic flow.  Big industries, like Mack Truck, have flown south.

By the way, the cost of the logo design and slogan formulation was not released.

An update on a blog from a couple weeks ago... I remarked a couple weeks ago how the restaurant outside Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport has been vacant for three years.  Last week, the Airport Board cut a deal with a small chain called "Midtown Sundries" to take over the restaurant.  It should be open in a couple months.

One final note today...  I have to note the passing of Ken Matz.   He died Saturday.  Cancer.  I used to watch him on WMAR TV 2 during my many trips to Baltimore.  Matz had a long career before that, on radio and television in Philadelphia, Harrisburg, and Reading.  He was just a smooth, solid, professional anchor.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

My Best Guess


I'm terrible at picking football games, but I'll render my opinion anyway.  That's what blogs are for.

The Jets can make things interesting, but I think the Colts will win and make it to the Super Bowl in two weeks.  The Jets should be proud of the run they made.  It wouldn't ruin my day if my pick is incorrect.  I do love the 'dogs.

As noted earlier, I'm pulling for the Saints in the NFL post season.  New Orleans is one of five teams never to appear in a Super Bowl.  My guess is the Saints' record will remain intact.  The Vikings win and go to Miami on February 7th.   Again, I hope I'm wrong.

A Jets/Saints Super Bowl would be interesting, at least for me.  I don't think I'll get my way.  It'll be the Vikings and the Colts in the big game.  The Peyton Manning/Brett Favre match-up will draw quite an audience.

I'd like to say this is my last entry on the NBC late night mess, but I don't think it will be.  Conan O'Brien did his last "Tonight" show Friday.  While this was poorly handled by NBC, the network had no choice.  Jay Leno didn't get numbers at 10:00 PM, but he did at 11:30.  O'Brien bombed at 11:30, and published reports say he resisted suggestions on how to tweak his show for the 11:30 crowd.

I was never a Conan fan, and I held out hope for Conan's "Tonight" show for a while.  That opening night "running cross country" bit was funny.  The show went down hill after that.

I caught most of Conan's farewell show Friday night.  While he took some well deserved shots at NBC, Conan, for the most part, took the high road.  It was a good final broadcast.

My best guess is Leno gets some of the audience back at 11:30, but not all of it.  Once people depart, it's hard to get them back.

As for David Letterman, some of his comments on the NBC situation have been wickedly funny, but other things he's said made him look like a petty, childish jackass.  In spite of it all, Letterman remains the best late night choice.

If you really want to laugh, tune in the Reelz channel on cable and satellite.  That's where you can catch "Carson's Comedy Classics" a couple times a day.  It's a cut down version of some of Johnny's old "Tonight" show routines.  And, yes, it's still funny after all these years.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

WNAK


One can write volumes about WNAK, am 730, licensed to Nanticoke.

For many years, it was a daytime only operation, featuring American Standards.  That's radio biz speak for Sinatra and big bands.  The station was always near the top of the ratings.  It had an older, but fiercely loyal audience.

Several notable broadcasters got their start here, including Hugh Finn, Brian Carey, and Mark Thomas.

WNAK was odd in a number of ways.  It kept the red and blue "N" logo, long after NBC dumped it.  The owner refused to play commercials on Sundays, so he received special permission from NBC Radio to record the commercials that ran in network top-of-the-hour newscasts, and run them the next day.

For much of its existence, WNAK was a 1,000 watt daytime-only operation.  It now broadcasts after sundown with a big 12 watt signal.

The old studio on Prospect Street in Nanticoke was torn down a couple years ago.  If memory serves, it used to be a funeral home.  It's now a parking lot.

Nothing lasts forever.  The station was sold.  The new owner went Spanish.  The listeners disappeared, and even after the switch back to a standards-style format, they didn't come back.   WNAK is in the process of yet another sale.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sentimental Favorites and Unfavorites


My team, the Pittsburgh Steelers didn't make the NFL playofs this year. 

While that's unfortunate, there is a slight up side.  I can enjoy the playoffs without that fear and anxiety associated with watching your favorite team in do-or-die situations.

I haven't been watching much football, anyway.  Most of the games are after my bed time, and the Super Bowl next month is totally out of the question.

I do have to pick a team to root for.  I've chosen the New Orleans Saints.  It's nice to see some fresh blood make it this far.

Staying with sports today, former Oakland Athletic/Saint Louis Cardinal Mark McGwire recently admitted to what we all knew.  He used steroids.  Watching him hit was a thing of beauty.  He had an amazing swing.   The apology and admission are good.  It's not enough to overcome the fact he cheated-- for years.

Roberto Alomar narrowly missed being voted into the baseball Hall of Fame earlier this month.  His statistics are impressive, but it's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Numbers.  This is the guy who spat in the face of an umpire in 1996.  Roberto Alomar should not be in the Hall of Fame.  Ever.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Price of Progress


The Scranton Parking Authority Garage at North Washington Avenue and Linden Street is undergoing renovations.  There are structural repairs and cosmetic changes.

Among the changes in appearance are a faux brick face, and, what troubles me, the corners are being boxed in!  I love those corners.  I need those corners.

The corners are my vantage point for bad photography of Lackawanna County Courthouse Square.  I took the above photo in early September, just before La Festa Italiana.

I haven't been in the garage since the renovations began.  It appears there is still a lot of room to look down and snap a few photos, but the angles will be different.  The now boxed in corners were the perfect spot.

I will admit, the brick face helps the parking garage blend into the neighborhood a bit better.  Losing my photographic vantage point is the price of progress.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Civics 101


I was in federal court in Scranton yesterday to watch yet another scoundrel caught in the corruption scandal plead guilty.  He lined his pockets with extra money while you paid his fat salary.  He was on the take while the rest of us struggle to pay our taxes, put food on the table, heat our homes, and put gas in our cars.

There was a bit of a silver lining yesterday.  A class from Dunmore High School was there to watch the proceeding and tour the federal building.  Bravo!  I love it when kids get an up close look at the justice system.  You'd be amazed at how many people have absolutely no idea how it works.  I wish I had a teacher with vision, someone who wanted to do a little extra, when I was in school.

I talked with a court officer after the kids left.  He was impressed with their behavior and the questions they asked.  Yes, there are good kids out there.  I'm sure they learned lessons yesterday that will last a lifetime.

If you're an educator, get your kids out of the classroom and into a courthouse.  Prepare them to be good, intelligent, informed citizens.  Most, if not all, counties are willing to help.  The same goes for federal court.

If you're a parent, talk with teachers in your school district.  Ask the teachers what they're doing to give kids a look at the way things really are.

Maybe if more people knew how government and the courts work, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in.

It can be done.  It's not hard, and it's free.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Touch of Grey

The shoe is on the hand that fits.
There's really nothing much to it
Whistle through your teeth and spit, cuz
It's alright


Oh well, a touch of grey
Kinda suits you anyway
And that was all I had to say, and
It's alright


I will get by
I will get by
I will get by
I will survive
I found a nice suit sale last week and I grabbed one. You couldn't beat the price.


Unfortunately, it's grey. My closet is already filled with grey suits and coats.

Grey is a good color for me. It works on our set. It's also boring. I try to liven things up with a colorful tie, but that horse will only take you so far.

When it comes to men's clothing, your choices are limited-- navy, black, grey. I've tried brown. I wasn't thrilled with the look. Tan? Not my thing.

I'll just have to learn to live with more grey.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Guest Photography Monday


This is a shot of Elk Mountain in Susquehanna County, courtesy of old friend Phil Yacuboski.

We all do a lot of complaining about winter, but it can be a visually spectacular time of year.

There is a certain charm to being out on an icy cold day.  Everything seems so clean, crisp, and clear.  On the other hand, I can live without driving in the snow.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

wNbc


This one was so long, it didn't fit on my scanner.  It's bland, but it gets the point across.

I don't remember how I acquired this sticker, but if you saw Howard Stern's movie, "Private Parts," you already know a little bit about WNBC.

50,000 watts, always battling WABC for New York supremacy, the home of Imus, and later Howard Stern.  There are a few very good web sites dedicated to WNBC history, so Google them up if the mood strikes you.  A lot of interesting people spent time at WNBC, including Soupy Sales, Captain Frank Reed and Wolfman Jack.

NBC had quite a radio operation at one time-- a top notch news network, and several strong stations around the country.  NBC was "the" radio network for a very long time.  NBC eventually got out of the radio business, and a lot of what made radio special was lost.  I miss the chimes at the top of the hour.

You could easily pick up WNBC in northeastern Pennsylvania.  Some preferred it over WABC.  I didn't.

AM 660 is now home to WFAN, all sports radio.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Half


Today, January 15th, is a very big day.

We're now half way through the darkest, coldest, snowiest month of the year.  We've come this far with some extremely chilly weather, but no major snow storms.  I'm okay with that.

Meteorologists consider December, January, and February to be "winter."  If you look at it on a larger scale, we're also half way through with the winter season.

While I don't enjoy summers as much as I once did, it is nice to see a little light at the end of the winter tunnel.

I shared a mall bench with an elderly woman a few months ago.  We both felt time moves faster as you age.  It seems like things took forever when you were a kid-- a long time in school, an interminable wait for the driver's license, the days to the 18th birthday dragged.  I won't mention the joys of turning 21.

It would be nice to see the rest of winter zip by, but too much is moving along with it.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The U

I never quite knew how to feel about the University of Scranton.  I considered going there, but chose Marywood instead.  I remember a member of the Marywood administration, saying at orientation back in 1979 that the U of S was twice as big.  Marywood was twice as good.  I was never convinced of that.  I'm sure there would have been those at the University of Scranton who would have said they were twice as big and twice as good.


Back in my day, Marywood clearly had the aesthetics advantage.  We had trees and grass.  The U has caught up, a little.  It's become a nice looking urban campus.



I stopped by the other morning for a look at the new science building.  While I never had any interest in the construction business, I do like to watch it.  It brings out the kid in all of us.                                                



The building is nearly out of the ground.  As you can see, there's a lot of work left.  The new science building should be ready by fall of 2011.                                                                                                                                  

                                                                                                               
Construction on college campuses always touches off heated debates.  Some argue the colleges, especially those with urban campuses are eating up property that should be on the tax rolls.  On the other hand, it seems colleges are the only ones with money to spend these days.  Colleges provide jobs and they could help slow the NEPA brain drain.

I know the U of S does pay Scranton in lieu of taxes.  Many will argue it's not nearly enough.

Some good friends are University of Scranton graduates.  It's a good school, and it's a growing school.    Both aspects are extremely important.                                                                                          

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Homeless


I took the picture you see above Monday morning at Holy Family Church in Sugar Notch.

A van is backed up to the church hall entrance.  Supplies for the homeless are inside.

Note the sign.  "All Are Welcome!"

Some in Sugar Notch do not welcome the shelter, even though it's here for only a week, and it's not scheduled to be back until the middle of summer.

The head of the group that runs the shelter stands by their record.  Shelters do not create problems.

We've heard of the occasional dust up.  Someone's drunk.  Someone has a criminal record.   I'd rather let someone questionable in rather than let four dozen freeze to death.

You see more problems in and around certain bars in the area on your average weekend night.  No one says anything about that, until some drunk kid urinates on a Wilkes-Barre nativity scene.  If you want an eye opener, and I've said this before, go to your local store and buy a police scanner.  There are three big alcohol fueled trouble spots that keep police hopping:  Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, a certain major establishment in Plains, and Linden Street in Scranton.  Last time I checked, there's not a homeless shelter at any of those three places, but there are bars.  Mayors think the "entertainment venues" re-vitalize downtowns.  They're proud.  They should be ashamed.

There are more criminals on the county pay roll than there are at the shelter.

You could do worse than having a homeless shelter in town.

All Are Welcome!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The End Of The World As We Know It


Society is now officially in the toilet.  It's over.

Wilkes University is offering a spring course on "Public Relations and Social Media."

Yes kids, you can waste your parents' money learning how to Twitter and Facebook in college.

Due to what I do for a living, I meet a lot of college students.  Many are interns.  Others, I encounter while doing stories at colleges and universities.  Twitter and Facebook are the last thing these young people should be learning, even if you cloak it in using those resources in a business environment.  I've met many, too many, unprepared for the real world and lacking in skills.

Offer another English course.  Politics.  Government.  Civics.  Writing.  Speech.  Anything but the monumental waste of time (next to blogging) that is Twitter and Facebook.

What's next?  Instruction in texting?  Making microwave popcorn?  Loading your i-Pod?  Computer solitaire? Yahoo Personals?

It's not too late to get on the right "course."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bad Photography Monday: AVP


I had to blow through Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport for a story a couple weeks ago.  It's a magnificent building-- bright, airy, big, and functional.

Still, the whole project left a bad taste in my mouth.  The chamber of commerce types told us the airport would attract new business to the area.  I'm still waiting for that.  Businesses don't choose a location because of the airport.  They look for cheap land, cheap utilities, and even cheaper labor.  Period.

They can't even find someone to take over the restaurant a stone's throw from the new terminal.

We have the best looking airport that no one uses.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jay and Ted






Everything old is new again.

NBC finally realizes a Jay Leno hour at 10 pm is a major mistake. It wants Leno back at 11:30. There's a problem. Conan O'Brien currently has that time slot, another mistake.

There are two scenarios floating around. One has Leno doing a half hour show at 11:30, followed by O'Brien at midnight. The other is O'Brien leaving the network totally, but with a fat settlement.

I've never been an O'Brien fan. You can't trust a host who attempts to be funnier than his guests. O'Brien tries-- and fails.

It will take a while for Leno to get the stench of failure off him, even after a move back to 11:30. His 10 pm show wasn't funny, wasn't well constructed, and featured b-list guests, at best.

On the other hand, people like Leno. You can't teach that. You can't bottle that. You can blame the 10 pm failure on the time slot and the show NBC built around Leno.

NBC is in a no-win position, but it's clear the network has to do something. Leno provides a poor lead-in to the 11 pm news across the country. O'Brien has lost a huge chunk of the "Tonight" show audience. Affiliates are in revolt.





Now, ABC has some issues of its own. It has to find a "This Week" replacement for George Stephanopolous.

Internet rumors have former "Nightline" anchor Ted Koppel doing the show three Sundays a month, with a rotating host on the fourth Sunday. Koppel is pushing 70, but he's still as sharp as ever. It would be a wise choice. He'd be perfect on "This Week."

I'm still not sold on Stephanopolous on "Good Morning America." He's okay. Robin Roberts is okay. The combination, however, is not okay. She overwhelms him. The team has been together only a month, and it will take some time for them to find their footing and their voice.



And, one more thing...  why do the Philadelphia Eagles continue to stick with quarterback Donovan McNabb and head coach Andy Reid?  Yes, they have a winning record, but they've plateaued.  They can't win the big one.  In fact, they look absolutely horrible in big games.  There is repeated failure under pressure.  It's embarrassing.  It's time to realize these guys have taken the team as far as it can go, and the Eagles have to make a change.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The OC


I've never been to Ocean City, MD, but I have a friend who worked there.  He sent me these bumper stickers years ago.

Google didn't provide much information.  It appears KHI has changed formats and call letters, while WSTW is still around, and still playing the hits.

These are two of the favorites in my collection-- simple look, big, bright, bold colors and logos.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Ethics and Table Games




A co-worker reminded me of the following episode.

Our TV station was once owned by the New York Times.  After some well publicized blunders by the print staff and their managers, the Times decided to make us take a short on-line ethics course.

It came down to three simple rules:

1. Don't give gifts.
2. Don't accept gifts.
3. Tell on those who do.

A slew of elected officials took their oaths of office this week.  I hope some of them are blog readers, and I also hope they remember the little lesson taught to us by the New York Times.

When you are elected to an office, people put their trust in you.  Please, don't throw it back in our faces.

Home improvement guru Bob Vila used to call it the "you might as well's."   Simply put "While you're installing that new furnace, you might as well upgrade the duct work."  "While you're putting in that water heater, you might as well make some changes in the plumbing."  "Those new windows are nice,  but you might as well put in a new door while you're at it."  You get the picture.

Pennsylvania has had slot machines for a few years.  The governor and state legislature reasoned "You might as well have table games."  If you look at it closely, the jump from slots to cards and dice is not a large one.  You might as well.  The state really needs the money.  Revenue table games was plugged into the budget, even before a table games bill was passed and signed.

Having said that, there are concerns the money raised from table games doesn't go to the right places.  There will be no property tax relief at first.  Some complain the casinos are getting the licenses at bargain rates, and they won't be taxed enough.  It's severely flawed legislation and bad policy.

We should be used to that by now.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Man of the Minute

That's life, that's what all the people say.
You're riding high in April,

Shot down in May
But I know I'm gonna change that tune,
When I'm back on top, back on top in June.

A week ago, they were ready to bestow knighthood upon Luzerne County Judge Chester Muroski.

Now?  It's a completely different story.

Let's back up for a moment.  Judge Muroski was left to clean up the mess left by those alleged criminals in black robes, Judges Michael Conahan and Mark Ciavarella.  Muroski was open, honest, and accessible.  He was faced with a nearly impossible task-- restore faith in the court system, and he did the best he could.



The other night, Muroski wrecked his car and took out a couple mail boxes along a slippery Route 115 in Bear Creek.  He admitted drinking beforehand, but not to excess.  Muroski had someone call police.  He left the scene, called police again, and sought medical attention on his own.  There was no blood alcohol test.

Muroski has not and will not be charged with drunk driving.

Because of the way this all came down, questions surrounding the incident remain.  Judge Muroski answered those questions satisfactorily, at least according the police.  The "court of public opinion" is something completely different.  Would you and I be afforded the same benefit of the doubt?  Unlikely.  Has Muroski earned the benefit of the doubt?  Likely.

I learned a long time ago that "You do your best.  Let the angels take care of the rest."  You do what you think is right.  You can't control what people think, what they say and do.

People make mistakes.  I'm sure Judge Muroski would do things differently if the same thing were to happen again.  Did alcohol play a role in the crash.  Maybe.  We'll never know.  All we have is his word, and considering Muroski's track record, that might be enough.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mundane


Okay.  It's now the middle of the first full week of 2010.  The holidays are over.  It's time to get back to work.

The planet begins to slow down around Thanksgiving.  It grinds to a halt just before Christmas, and it stays that way until after the new year.  Just try to call a government office to get information during the week between Christmas and January 1st.  If you can get a human being, it's likely they don't have the answer you need.

This is the time of year when the reality of winter begins to set in.  Yes, it gets cold and snowy in December, but you have Christmas to distract you.  January is a long, dark, cold, often miserable month.  We've had horrible weather in February and March, but at least the days are longer and there's the tiniest hint of spring in the air.

If you can make it through January, you can make it through winter.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Adventures in Retailing, 2010

I was going through a "business year in review" piece the other day, looking back at the horrible predictions as we entered 2009.

While it was a rough year, the only major retailer to exit the stage was Circuit City.  That doesn't mean there weren't struggles, but that string of bankruptcies and going out of business sales never materialized.

Saturn is a goner.  GM is dropping some lines.  Kodak is dumping Kodachrome, which didn't sell anyway.

There is a long way to go before we're out of this economic mess.

Some folks in Washington appear optimistic.  There are still a ton of "doom and gloomers" out there.  Like most things, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.


Speaking of "in the middle," nearly HALF of the Mall at Steamtown is either vacant or is occupied by a small business with a temporary lease.  HALF!

You really have to wonder what's going on here.  The two anchors remain-- Bon Ton and Boscov's.  I've read Boscov's isn't totally out of the woods, even though the company has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

On top of that, the movie theaters aren't scheduled to re-open for another month.  A fire next door kept the cineplex closed for nearly six months.

I realize that in a bad economy, there's only so much you can do.  Competition is fierce.  I get the feeling that if the mall isn't at the "no turning back" point, it has to be close.  A stroll around the mall Monday afternoon showed a fair number of people, and that was a bit surprising.  Boscov's seems filled with "As Seen on TV" products and dollar store items.  The biggest crowd was at the Comcast office, where people were paying their cable bills.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Bad Photography Monday: Steamtown in the Snow



I took this picture back on December 7th, a couple days after the first significant snowfall of the season.  People go to Steamtown for the big steam engines.  For me, I find the massive old diesels have a certain charm.  These two were out in the yard when I stopped by on a Monday afternoon.

And below, a look at an older form of transportation from the Nay Aug collection.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sunday Questions


How does Kathy Griffin keep getting work?

What is Ryan Seacrest's talent?

Why doesn't Wilkes-Barre have a New Year's Eve celebration?

How can a team win the Super Bowl one year and look so bad the next?

Is there any thing on TV besides Mythbusters, little people, chef competitions, and the Kardashians?

Why did they stop playing all the good college football bowl games on the same day?

Does anyone miss Jon & Kate?

How could Tiger cheat on a Swedish model?

Why do people start blogs and never update them?

Is there anything that can be done to tone down Robin Roberts? 

Is there anything that can be done to liven up George Stephanopolous?

Why did the "Today" show stop doing real news?

Is there anything that can be done to make January go faster?

Isn't it nice to see Navy and Air Force win bowl games?

Why are businesses bailing out of the Mall at Steamtown?

Why is there always a bad documentary on The Weather Channel when I need the forecast?

Who's in charge of updating, or rather not updating, the Scranton Parking Authority web site?

Is it "American Idol" time again?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

KRZ


We'll begin 2010 with a quick look at a station that's been at or near the top of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton ratings for decades.

I think the year was 1981.  The family that then owned Channel 28 also owned two radio stations-- WBRE am 1340 and WBRE fm 98.5.  Both had an all news format.  The family sold the stations.  I don't remember the am's first format, but the fm went on the air with contemporary hit radio, the modern name for top 40.  It was an instant hit, and KRZ overtook WARM as the number one station in town in less than one year.

You couldn't miss that day glow orange and yellow logo on the stickers.  It was everywhere.

The logo has changed a bit over the years.  I don't have the current version, but you can see it on the KRZ web site.   KRZ is still CHR, and it's still one of the most popular stations in town.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010



Welcome to 2010!  I hope the new year found you happy and healthy.

Looking over the past month or so of blogs...Jeez O'Pete, there were a lot of photos!  I don't know what got in to me.

I still have a few more from the bumper sticker collection to show you.  That epic will draw to a close in April.  I didn't realize I had that many, and a few go back more than thirty years.

Looking ahead, it should be another interesting year.  Shenandoah is back in the news.  We haven't seen the last of the corruption investigations.  Our 10 PM news is coming home to WNEP2.  Arlen Specter is looking to keep his senate seat.  There are hot congressional races.  Politics will be big this year.  The Yankees.  The Penguins.  The Crosscutters.  Penn State.  High school sports.  Snow storms.  Summer construction on the interstates.   Graphics with the anklepants font.  Bad photography on the blog.  We'll be busy.  In the news business, busy is good.

I'll save the "welcome to the new decade" speech for next year, when the new decade actually starts.  Remember, time started on year 1.  There was no year zero.  Therefore, new decades begin on years ending in 1.  I know it's easy and clean to say the decade begins with a year ending in zero, but you know me.  I'm stickler for some unusual things.