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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sooooooo Seriously


The winter olympics end today.  Thank heaven.

Note to Brian Williams and Bob Costas:  You take yourselves sooooo seriously, much like Paul Simon in this November 1976 "Saturday Night Live" clip.

I tried to watch.  I really did.  I just couldn't get interested, and the NBC attempts to create drama, where there was none, were disappointing.

Does anyone really understand curling?

Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn, Apolo Ohno?  Way too much!

I will give the network credit for its video.  It was outstanding.  Unfortunately, NBC wanted to protect its investment.  Sharing with other networks was virtually non existent.  If you were wondering why you didn't see much on the weekend morning broadcast...

It's Over

Today is the last day of February, and that means it's the last day of meteorological winter-- the three coldest months of the year.

Yes, it's been colder than normal, and it's been snowier than normal, but I look at it like this.  At least here in the valley cities, there hasn't been a crippling snowstorm.  We've had a few big ones, but none that have brought life as we know it to a grinding halt.

I'm looking forward to retiring my long underwear for the season.  I have several pair, and they all got a work out this year.

We're not out of the woods yet.  Some of our bigger storms have hit in March.  At least the sun is strong, and the snow melts after a few days.  On the other hand, there's always the danger of flooding and ice jams as the temperature warms.

Time does to seem move along a bit faster as you "mature."  It has a down side, but at least winters seem to pass more quickly than they once did.

Enjoy spring!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Baltimore

I was always good for a couple Baltimore trips a year, and no doubt I grabbed these stickers during my many visits.

Baltimore used to be one of my favorite places, but it got too "touristy."  It's just the same stuff you can see in every other city, the same chain restaurants, the same stuff at malls.  I used to grab a hotel room in the quiet suburbs just north of the city, but there are no more quiet suburbs.  Baltimore city reaches almost all the way to York, PA.

I was in Baltimore on 9/11/01, and one of the reasons I've made only one trip back since then is too many bad memories.  9/11 found me in an area between Annapolis and the Pentagon, when everyone in the area knew we were going to war.

I will never forget that drive back to the hotel.  It should have taken 20 minutes.  It took nearly two hours.  The beltway was jammed.  I got off, knowing I had to go north and west to reach the hotel.  I had no idea where I was going.  If a route had "north" or "west" on it, I took it.

For some reason dinner that evening sticks out in my mind.  It was in the Cockeysville Wendy's.  The restaurant was packed.  Yet, it was silent.  No one was speaking.

Anyway, back to radio.

B104 has been through many formats over the years.  It was a rock station until November, WCHH, called "Channel 104.3."  Clever, huh?

Just after the election, another switch to a top 40 type format, Z104.3.

98 Rock is still 98 Rock, and that's a good thing.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Those Who Talk...

The news broke Monday night.  Msgr. Joseph Bambera would be the tenth Bishop of the Diocese of Scranton.

The move surprised many.  Talk on the street was that Msgr. Joseph Quinn, a very popular local priest, now at Fordham University in New York, was the clear favorite and front runner.

Those who talk don't know, and those who know, don't talk.


We'll never know what went into the Bambera selection.  At first blush, it appears to be a good choice.  I spoke with many who know Msgr. Bambera.  They like him-- a lot.  He's proven himself as vicar general for the last six months-- the man in charge of the diocese in the absence of a bishop.

Bishop-Elect Bambera has his work cut out for him.  The diocese is millions in debt.  Many parishioners are still stinging from a round of school and church closings.

Some feel Bambera's predecessor, Bishop Joseph Martino did the hard part.  He wielded the axe and left Bambera with a clean slate.  Bambera does have to reverse the alienation that many feel.   Again, those who know him feel Bambera is up to the task.

I was live on Newswatch 16 at Noon Tuesday.  Photographer Steve Smallwood and I pulled up to a parking space on the Linden Street side of the Chancery Building around 11:30 AM.  I looked in the parking lot, and spotted Bambera and Cardinal Justin Rigali chatting away.  Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia oversaw the Diocese of Scranton after Bishop Martino left in August.

You don't see a Cardinal in Scranton every day, and I had never met Msgr. Bambera, so I walked over to introduce myself, and congratulate the Monsignor.  He seems like a nice enough chap-- someone who will be what the area needs most-- a people person.  Most will agree that it was not Martino's strong suit.

As I exchanged very brief remarks with Cardinal Rigali, I noted his accessibility.  He never turned down an interview request from WNEP, during the occasions he visited the Scranton diocese.  The Cardinal smiled, looking much younger than his 75 years.  He seemed happy that his willingness to speak was noticed, and appreciated.

It's now on to the installation ceremony, set for 2:00 PM, April 26.  Whether or not you're a Roman Catholic, these services are really something to see.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Panic !!!

I did it, and I'm so ashamed.  I went to the supermarket in advance of a snow storm.

Friday morning is my usual supermarket time.  In addition to things for home, I do grab a few things for work-- things like pretzels, oatmeal, those little styrofoam cups of exceptionally salty noodle soup, Pop Tarts, and soda.  Can't forget the soda.  Lots of soda.  Lots and lots of soda.  Diet Pepsi is my drink of choice.  It's Diet Coke if it's on sale.  I can't find a store brand that doesn't taste like turpentine.

Anyway, I saw the forecast when I got up early Wednesday.  By 7:00 AM, I was in the supermarket.  I asked the cashier, who knows me from many, many Friday morning visits, if the panic had begun.  She replied that it hadn't.  I was the first.  I was also the first who had a pre-storm cart sans milk, bread, and eggs.  Diet Pepsi was on sale for $1 for a two litre bottle, so I picked up a few extra bottles.

I have my soda.  I have my strawberry Pop Tarts.  Let it snow.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Top O' the Hour

I'm sure more than 99 per cent of you didn't notice, but it shows how radio has changed, and not for the better.

The "top of the hour" used to be a great time on the radio.  It was the time for local or network news, a little weather, and maybe some scores.  Of course, commercials are a part of the mix.

I still love a good radio network newscast.  The quality ones involve strong anchors, good reporting, and a great use of sound.  CBS and the ABC Information Network were always the best of the lot-- by far.

Okay, I'm getting to the point.  On the 15th, FOX Sports Radio cut the size of the top of the hour break given to affiliates to a whopping two minutes!  It's enough time for one quick update, followed by one commercial.  Programs now begin at two minutes after the hour.  The head of the network says it keeps people listening from one hour to the next, and there's some logic in that.  On the other hand, it's a lot less time for information.  I'm old school, and still believe that broadcasters are supposed to operate in the public's "interest, necessity, and convience," as the Federal Communications used to be fond of saying.  The airwaves belong to you, not the radio stations.

FSR has taken the commercial time that used to be at :00 and buried it later in the hour.

Look, the republic will not fall because of this change.  In the general scope of things, it's not a huge deal.  But, for some of us who used to be in the radio news business, it's another example of how radio has given up on its mission.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Farewell, Old Friend



The Dunmore McDonald's closed last week.  It was torn down yesterday, and will be replaced by another McDonald's.  The owners promise a smaller, but more efficient restaurant.  It's funny to see "efficient" in a sentence about a fast food restaurant.  "Fast" left "fast food" a long time ago.  There will be more drive thru capacity.  Personal experience shows it's faster to get out of the car and go inside

Demolition took only a few hours.  It was up when I passed by at 2:00 AM Monday.  12 hours later, on the way home, it was a pile of rubble.  It won't take long to build the new one.  The message board says it should be ready in a few months.

I know it's silly to lament the temporary closing of a fast food restaurant, but this one was a little different for me.    It was close to home, the place for pre and post high school and college snacks.  It was the place to kill a little time.  My first Quarter Pounder.  Millions of french fries.  Gallons of soda.  Countless bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits and the perfect sandwich, the Egg McMuffin.  Plus, my father was one of the contractors for a mid 70's expansion here.  I can still chuckle at the antics of the project manager.  He was from down south, and had a room down the road, at what was then the Budget Motel.  The man was fond of phoning in phony pledges to the public TV station because he enjoyed hearing his name mentioned on television, and seeing his name crawled at the bottom of the screen.

As I wandered the parking lot Thursday morning, I was struck by how un-remarkable a building it is.  It's not very attractive-- block walls and that 70's style roof line.  Yet another renovation, several years ago, gave the inside an Academy Awards/movie motif, and it was hideous.  On the other hand, I've never met someone who said they visited a fast food restaurant because it was pretty.

I have to admit, I haven't been here in quite a while.  There are too many other choices-- less expensive, healthier, faster, tastier, with better service and ordering systems.  The traffic flow here also left a lot to be desired.  Crossing the O'Neill Highway is an adventure at best, and life threatening at worst.  Even pulling out of the lot, without crossing lanes, is a nightmare.

In spite of it all, I'll be back, at least once, when the new restaurant opens.  Yes, I will have fries with that.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bad Photography Monday

I took this one on a frosty morning, a few weeks ago.

That's the Susquehanna River, with big chunks of ice, flowing beneath the Market Street Bridge.  Kingston's on the right.  Wilkes-Barre is on the left, and the River Common amphitheater is in the foreground.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Alexander Haig

He was a major figure in the US military and political scenes.

Alexander Haig died Saturday at the age of 85.

Whether or not you liked him, or agreed with him, Alexander Haig's death was big news.

I thought the cable and broadcast networks really dropped the ball on this one.  His death deserved more then a few scant mentions and some "file" video.

Haig served three presidents.  he was a presidential candidate himself.  Before Mark Felt came out of the closet, Haig was rumored to be "Deep Throat" of Watergate fame. 

It has been said that Haig, as Richard Nixon's chief of staff,  ran the executive branch during the final days of the Nixon administration.  He kept the government going through the worst of times.

I doubt we'll ever see another resume like Alexander Haig's.

Do yourself a favor.  Do what the networks didn't do.  Read up on this fascinating individual.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Stroudsburg

I don't get to Stroudsburg as often as I once did, so I can't shed much light on the sound of WSBG.  I do know the station has gone through several format tweaks over the years, and it's now known as "Lite 93.5"

I can't say I was in love with this logo.  To me, it's cluttered and hard to read, especially when it's on the bumper of a car, passing you at 70 MPH on Interstate 80.

Hey!  Including this one, just ten more bumper stickers to go.  The collection will be exhausted at the end of April.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Three Wise Men

I love my doctor, my dentist, and my accountant.  They're three great guys.  Unfortunately, I hate visiting all three.

Yesterday, it was the accountant's turn.  Tax time.  Ugh!

Luckily, I'm neat and tidy.  I save all my financial documents in a special folder, so they're ready to go.  The final piece of the puzzle is a couple year end statements from the office and some financial institutions.  Once they're in hand, it's a trip to the man who makes sense of it all.

The process is painless.  The numbers are not.  It hurts.

  The documents and the checks are in the mail.  The folder is empty, but it will soon start filling up with this year's forms and statements.

It's over, at least for another year, and I have that sense of relief that comes when a task is complete.

I consider myself very lucky.  My accountant said a lot of his clients lost their jobs last year.  Why is our area the first to feel the recession, and the last to recover?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Taking a Stand

There's a bill in the state senate to allow six-pack beer sales in  mini marts, supermarkets and similar places.

The quote of the week, comes from Brett Marcy, spokesman for State Representative Todd Eachus.  It was published Wednesday morning in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader.
We support the concept of enhancing the customer experience, but the public’s health and safety remain our top priority. We’re certainly interested in hearing more about this proposal.  We are certainly interested in doing whatever we can to modernize and improve Pennsylvania’s beer and liquor laws without compromising our commitment to public health and safety.
A little history:  Todd Eachus is the same guy who fought to weaken the anti-smoking bill a couple years ago.  He voted against the first and stronger version of the bill.   "Health and safety a top priority?"  "Commitment to public health and safety?"  Please!  It's no such thing.  It's waiting to see what way the political wind will blow.  Pro tobacco groups spent a ton of money in Pennsylvania during the anti smoking debate.  Eachus took thousands in contributions from the tobacco and restaurant industries in 2008.  His own campaign finance reporting confirms it.    A lot of people are waiting to see who's willing to pony up more this time-- the beer distributors or the supermarket/mini mart owners.  That's where the "commitment" really lies.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Nose Knows

It was a little after 2:00 AM Tuesday.  I stepped out the door to go to work.  It was snowing.  My car was covered with a light coating.  I'd been out the previous afternoon.  Add a warm car to cold snow, and you have a layer of ice beneath the fluffy white.  Brush off the snow, then scrape away the layer of ice beneath.

My job Tuesday was to produce Newswatch 16, from 7:00 to 9:00 AM on WNEP2, and Newswatch 16 at Noon.  I'd done those broadcasts many times before, but, as Tony Kornheiser would say, I was out of my "comfort grid."  Those shows aren't my own.  Luckily, there's plenty of help available.  Still, I really wasn't looking forward to the day ahead.

Then, something happened that changed my outlook.  It was in the air.  I was just a couple of miles away from home when I smelled it.  Could it be?  Yes.  It's unmistakeable.  A skunk!  I didn't see the little black and white critter.  I didn't have to.

To heck with Punxsutawney Phil and robins.  Skunks are the true sign of spring.  It is the time of year when they get really hungry.  They become more active.  It's also the time of year skunks go looking for love.  I breathed it in deep.  I basked in the stench.  I rejoiced in the pungent aroma.

Even on a dark, cold and snowy morning.  Even on a day when you'd like to be doing something else.  There is always a sign of hope.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mightier Than the Consultant

Frank Magid passed away a couple weeks ago.  He started a company that "consults" television stations across the country.  The goal of a consultant is to tell you what to do to increase the ratings.

We all benefit when an outsider casts a critical eye on our work.  Feedback is good, and there are times when it's important to get another point of view.

Consultants, and not just Magid, are often reviled for their cookie cutter, one size fits all, simplistic approach to the news business.  For example, dozens of tv stations around the country use the "Live, Local, Late Breaking" slogan.  There are many others.  Consultants see what works in one city, and they spread it across the country.  The consultants would come to town.  We would watch tapes of broadcasts from other stations.  Of course, the tapes contained the best stuff, the things that would make the consultant look like a genius  I always wanted to see what the "other" days were like.

I've been exposed to these people several times, and I've generally been left alone.  There is one story that illustrates how silly they can be.

A consultant watched one of my anchor tapes, and she didn't like that I keep a pen in my hand at all times.   She referred to it as a "crutch."   She asked me to stop.  I did.  For a couple weeks.  I wasn't comfortable, so the pen returned.

When the consultant paid another visit a few months later, I confessed that I went back to the pen.  She said it was okay, and that it was no big deal.

What happened?

One month, pens were banned.  Forbidden.  Absolutely.

In the space of several weeks, the pen was given the green light.

I never asked for an explanation.  I just grabbed my pen and left the room.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Bad Photography Monday

I've taken some of my favorite photos from the tops of parking garages, but this one isn't going to make the cut.

The new parking garage on North Washington Avenue in Scranton is a great facility for cars.  For pictures?  Not so good.  It's not high enough, and it's surrounded by large buildings.

This is the best I can do.  It's the view looking from North Washington Avenue, to South Washington Avenue.  Lackawanna Avenue is the cross street, dividing north and south.

First Liberty Bank is on the left.  The huge industrial building at the upper left is General Dynamics, formerly Chamberlain.  They make military shells there.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Grand Theft Blog

 Today's blog has been stolen.  The passage below, written Wednesday, comes from author John Feinstein's blog.  He's a resident of  Washington, DC.  It's the best column on the weather that I've read in a very long time.

This snow thing is now officially out of control. As I sit here the conditions outside my window are pretty close to a white-out. The snow is falling hard and fast and the wind is blowing it all over the place. How long the power holds out is anybody’s guess. Yesterday, when I tried to run errands, I had the sense that people were preparing for the Apocalypse. (the snow-palypse?)

Parking was close to impossible since there weren’t that many spaces to begin with because of piled up snow from the weekend and the whole world was out trying to get any supplies available. What was interesting was that no one was fighting over spaces or over food or even over batteries. It was as if a calm had come over everyone, a quiet acceptance that the next few days (at least) were going to be miserable and all anyone could do was hope for the best.

I’ve lived in Washington for more than 30 years and I’ve never seen anything even close to this. If you live in Buffalo you may have a sense of what this is like (except that snow belt places are far better prepared to deal with this sort of weather than we are) but otherwise you can’t imagine it. I certainly couldn’t.

Last weekend I escaped the first storm by leaving town Friday afternoon to drive to West Point so I could do the Army-Colgate game on TV on Sunday. That turned out to be a wise decision. There wasn’t a drop of snow up there and I saw a bunch of my Army friends and stayed in the Thayer Hotel where there was plenty of heat, plenty of food and no snow to be found. My trip home was a breeze—until I hit Baltimore.

Only then did I have a real sense of what had happened. The interstate was closed because abandoned cars (there had been a trailer-truck accident in the middle of the storm Saturday) were still being removed. I zigged over to The Baltimore-Washington Parkway, which was down to one, snow and ice-covered lane. The rest of the trip home was a nightmare.

We’re being told it will snow all day today. Given that travel was still very difficult yesterday three days after the weekend storm had ended, I can’t see the area being close to dug out before the weekend. It will, of course, be much more difficult this time because there is already so much snow piled up from plowing.

I would have loved to have gone to the VCU-George Mason game last night, which turned out to be a great game—Mason coming from 15 points down to win in overtime. I would have gone to tonight’s Virginia-Maryland game except there is no Virginia-Maryland game because it was postponed by the snow. Now, among other issues, I have to figure out a column for Sunday’s Post since one of those two games would have supplied me with a column of some kind. I’m supposed to do Bucknell-American on TV tomorrow night. Normally, AU is a 15-minute drive from here. I have no idea if the game will be played or, if it is played, if I’ll be able to get out of my driveway, off my street and to the campus. I just have no idea.

Back in 1985, the first time I covered The British Open, Bob Woodward dropped me a note when I got home. I still have it someplace. (I’ve kept any and all notes I’ve ever received from people I admire and Bob is at the top of the list). The note said something like this: “Great job on the British Open. Best thing you did all week was make people understand what the weather was like and how it affected everyone. You can never write too much about the weather: it affects us all and we can’t control it.”

Just as when Woodward told me a few years earlier that the key to any investigative story and most stories of any kind was, “getting the documents,” I remembered what he said. In fact, a year later, when I wrote ‘A Season on the Brink,” I almost always described the weather on a given day. If you go back and look, the first sentence of the book describes the weather.

Jeff Neuman, the editor who (after five rejections from other publishers) who bought my proposal for the book for McMillan and Company, kept trying to get me to take out all the weather references. “People don’t need to know what the weather was every single day you were there,” he said.

“Yes they do,” I said. “Bob Woodward says they do.”

To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of snow.

I know people romanticize it all the time, “winter wonderlands et al,” and if you watch movies like, “White Christmas,” you’d think there’s nothing better than snow. I just don’t see it that way. It may look pretty on TV and, I’m like everyone else, I remember sledding as a kid (In Riverside Park, right near the 79th street boat basin there was a great hill) and loving it. Now, snow is a nuisance at best and frightening at worst.

I don’t mind cold. The two mornings I was at West Point I happily got up in the morning and walked around the post for an hour in temperatures that never got much above 20 degrees. That’s fine. I also know there are people who will say, ‘hey, what’s wrong with a couple of days at home, sitting in front of a fire, taking it easy.

When I hear stuff like that I think of something Gary Williams said to me a few years ago. Maryland had ended its season with an embarrassing first round loss in the NIT at home against Manhattan. I called Gary that night just to see how he was doing. The next day he called me back.

“Hey, sorry I just got your message,” he said. “I drove right to my beach house (in Delaware) after the game to get away.”

“Good idea,” I said. “A few days just walking on the beach will do you some good.”

“John,” he said. “There are only so many days you can walk on the damn beach before you lose your mind.”

He’d been there 24 hours.

To be honest, I’m the same way. Sitting at home in front of a fire at night watching the Islanders (they finally won a game last night!) is fine. But one night in a row—maybe two—is enough for me. There are games to go to, work to be done, places to go.

I won’t be going anyplace for the next couple of days. No games, no work, nothing. I can’t stand it. And I still need a Sunday column.

 

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Froggy 101


Talk about a station that hit the ground running !!!

Country formatted Froggy 101 used to be Stereo 101, WGBI.  By the way, an elusive Stereo 101 bumper sticker is NOT part of my collection, and I'm still upset over that.  It was one of the best stickers of all time.

Anyway, Stereo 101 was sold several years ago.  The new owner dumped the adult contemporary format, and went modern country.  It did well, almost from day one.  I thought a lot of the imaging and the phony "frog related" jock names were corny, but it was marketing genius.  Everyone knew what Froggy 101 is all about, and a monster signal doesn't hurt.

Also, it was refreshing to see a country station WITHOUT cowboy boots and/or a cowboy hat in the logo.  It's one of radio's biggest cliches.

Froggy 101 recently lost its morning man, Doc Medek, to a Philadelphia station.  Doc is one of the truly nice guys in the biz.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Day to Give Thanks

In five years and four months of blogging, I don't think I've ever done a Valentine's Day rant.  Get ready.  Here comes the first.

Yes, it is a Hallmark holiday and it's become needlessly expensive.

But, as you shell out money for roses, candy, and cards, be thankful you have someone special in your life, and quit complaining.

Shifting gears, Monday is Presidents Day.  We should also be thankful we have a democracy that works more often than not.

Enjoy your weekend.   Spring is on the way.  Be happy.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday Scrapple

It's been a while since we've visited the scrapple section of the blog supermarket.

Discussions of Super Bowl commercials are mind numbingly tedious.  It seemed to be the topic on every radio and TV morning show on Monday.  My hand couldn't hit the "off" button fast enough.  When I got up Monday, I saw a couple internet stories on the Letterman/Leno spot.  I found it on-line. I read where Letterman himself conceived the promo.  The man is a genius, the king of late night.  NBC rues the day they passed over Letterman for the "Tonight" show.

Once again, I didn't watch the Super Bowl.  My last one was in 1999.  I remember getting filled up on boneless wings at a party, getting bored with the game, and watching "Clueless" with the girls on a small kitchen television.  Good times.

I would have pulled for New Orleans, even without Katrina.  I love underdogs.  I'm attracted to lost causes.

The line of the week came Monday morning on the CBS "Early Show."  The Saints have three Haitian-Americans on the team.  Reporter Jeff Glor asked one of them if he has a message for the people "watching back in Haiti."  I'm sure all the Haitians had their big screens fired up and their satellite dishes pointed at CBS.  The Haitians don't have a place to live, and Glor came up with a question like that.

One other Super Bowl issue before I move on...  Sunday night's telecast was the most viewed in history, beating the MASH finale, sort of.  More people watched Sunday night because the country's population has grown 31 per cent since the last MASH episode.  MASH still has a huge lead in the audience share.

I cannot think of MASH without recalling the episode where Frank Burns passed out after a night of drinking.  Hawkeye and BJ put a toe tag on Frank that read "emotionally exhausted and morally bankrupt."  It was one of the best television lines, ever.

There are two interesting stories, at least to me, out of Albany, NY.  First, the AHL's River Rats are moving to Charlotte, NC.  The Rats had been in Albany for 17 years.  A few other teams are said to be interested in filling the void in Albany.  Second, WROW-AM 590, a legendary news/talk station, is now simulcasting an FM soft rock station.  Management says low ratings forced the change.   I've written about the demise of AM radio here in the past.  There's no need to go in to it again.

As if newspapers didn't have enough problems...  Governor Rendell wants to make them more expensive via a sales tax.

Veterinary services will also be taxed.  There are too many animals whose owners can't provide and afford the proper care.  This is another mistake.

You find good products in the strangest places.  I bought a pair of shoes from a restaurant supply catalog.  They're the most comfortable shoes ever.  I found underwear in a catalog filled with products for construction workers.  It's the most comfortable underwear ever.

Lake Erie could freeze over, entirely, for the first time in 15 years.

The winter olympics begin tomorrow.  Rock 107's John Webster says it's two weeks that seems to last a month on TV.  I disagree.  Two months is more like it.

The new mayor of Harrisburg spent more than $35,000 to renovate the mayor's suite of offices in city hall.

I've encountered several people who've said January flew by.  It did.  It could be due to the lack of a major snow storm and a short burst of above normal temperatures.

We're nearly half way through with February.  It too is moving faster than usual.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Last

Tom Kaczmarek died last week, one of my high school math teachers. 

Math wasn't one of my favorite subjects, and I wasn't one of his favorite students.  That's okay.

Being a curious fellow, I scanned the school district's faculty e-mail list to see if I could ask someone what happened.  Mr. Kaczmarek was a very nice man, and 59 is too young to die. 

After checking the list, I discovered that Mr. Kaczmarek was the last one of my teachers on the payroll.  The others have retired, or passed on, or both.

There were a couple remaining from my era, but I wasn't in their classes.

High school seems like it was yesterday.

My sympathy to Mr. Kaczmarek's family, friends, co-workers, and students.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Popeye Report

"That's all I can stands, cuz I can't stands n'more!"


I've tried to avoid sounding off on the whole pierced kitten controversy, but Popeye and I "can't stands n'more!"


Putting ten holes in a kitten and cutting off the flow of blood to the tail, until the tail dies, is animal abuse.  Case closed.


Let's take a quick look at some of the opposing arguments.


I've heard people say piercing the ears of children is okay. Therefore, piercing cats is permissible.  Ear piercing involves a tiny needle, not the 14 gauge mother that was used on the cats.  Perhaps we should stop piercing children until they're old enough to make the choice for themselves, and old enough to realize it hurts.  There's no need to decorate our kids.


Another person said we pierce wild animals for tagging purposes.  True, and it's something we should do to learn more about them, and how to protect them.  Wild animal piercing has a reason.  Piercing kittens serves no purpose.  No one was trying to sell a pierced bear on E-Bay, as the kitten piercer was.  The woman accused was not an experienced piercer. She told authorities she did it because she thought it was "neat."  Brilliant!  At least she had a good excuse.


Some breeds of dogs regularly have their tails and ears altered.  It's time we stop doing that, as well.


The next step has to come from Harrisburg.  Animal abuse laws need to be toughened.  The penalties need to be more severe.  Perhaps it would cause some people to think twice before they pick up a needle.


This was a disgusting case from the word "go."  The rationalization for the abuse is just as horrible.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Guest Photography Monday

It's another submission from regular contributor Phil Yacuboski.

It was taken after the storm that hit Baltimore a couple weeks ago.

Phil has sent a lot of photos my way over the past couple years.  This has to be one of my favorites.

By the way, I was severely wrong about last night's Super Bowl, and I've never been happier.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Oldies

Today, it's WQFM, or Oldies 92.

I can speak volumes on this, so I'll try to be brief.

The owner dumped "Oldies" a couple years ago, and went with a contemporary format, called "The Q" or something like that.  It never gained traction, possibly because management didn't give it enough time.  Anyway, the oldies returned last year, only the station is now called "Cool 92."

Oldies is one of the toughest formats to do well.  The biggest reason is there's no new product coming in.  You have to make old songs sound fresh, even though you play them over and over and over again.  It's not easy.

I always hated it when stations call themselves "oldies."  That just sounds so stale.  Cool is good.  So is something like "solid gold."  "Classics" also works.

While the music on 92.1 is good, I'm not thrilled with the presentation.  There are no local announcers.  The format is piped in via satellite, and the jocks are disgustingly milquetoast.  They say nothing, and take too long to do it.

I'm not sure my radio brethren feel the same way, but it feels funny when I hear songs on the oldies stations that I played on the radio when they were new.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Big One


Super Bowl 44 is Sunday evening in Miami, as if you didn't know.

Here's my pick:  take the Colts, and they'll even cover the spread.  The Colts have been there before, and Peyton Manning knows how to get it done.  The Jets did their best to pressure Manning a couple weeks ago, in the AFC title game, and it didn't work.  The Colts will get the big trophy late Sunday night.

I bleed Steelers' black and gold, and I've been pulling for the black and gold Saints throughout the playoffs.  I'm sorry to say I don't think it will be their night.

The Colts have been on my you-know-what list since the thieving owners snuck the team out of Baltimore in March of 1984.  I'm one of the best at holding a grudge.

I'll be asleep during the game.  I don't think I've seen a Super Bowl in 12 years, and I'm okay with that.  There have been 43 Super Bowls, and most have been lackluster.  I'll find out what happened when my alarm goes off at 2:00 AM Monday.  The networks will have more than enough highlights to keep me happy, and I'll find a place with the NFL Network for a mid-week replay, minus the commercials.

That launches me into my yearly "anti-commercial" rant.  Now matter how much money they spend on production, no matter how cute and clever they are, they're still commercials.  Thank heaven for the TV remote control.

Enjoy the game.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

FDBD


I was watching an old documentary on one of the WVIA digital channels the other day, "The Once and Future City."  It dealt with Scranton in the early 80's, a decaying city, and that's being kind. 

We had Mayor Jim McNulty back then, probably the best promoter I've ever seen.  Scranton was falling apart, but there were signs of a turn-a-round.  The old Erie Lackawanna train station became a luxury hotel.  We imported Steamtown USA, a pile of rusting, rotting junk with no significance to Scranton, from Bellows Falls, Vermont.  Talk of a downtown mall began.  I remember Jim McNulty's inaugural ball in the vacant Oppenheim's department store.  The city had its share of problems, but at least it looked like we were trying to make things better.

I will concede the point that McNulty could have handled the city's finances better, and the guy was never at city hall.

On the other hand, he knew how to think big.  He knew how to draw a crowd, and he knew how to get people talking.

Fast forward to February 1, 2010.  An $11 million dollar parking garage opened on North Washington Avenue.  Just before 7:00 AM, a construction worker came by to remove a couple wooden horses from the entrance, and the garage was open.  Talk about thinking big! 


In the McNulty days, we would have had a high school band, and hot dogs, and balloons, and free parking, and a big party.  It would have been hokey, but gloriously and unashamedly so.  I likely would have made fun of it here.

Instead, there was an "official" parking garage ribbon cutting at 12:30 PM.  FDBD:  For Dullards, By Dullards.

We have more press people and public relations geniuses on government payrolls and ever before-- and their job is to keep their bosses away from the media.  The Scranton Parking Authority web site is a joke.

We've given up on trying to get people to feel good about themselves and their city.  If the locals don't do it, sure as heck, the outsiders aren't going to do it.

We've lost our ability to promote ourselves.  We've lost the ability to think big.  The dullards have taken over.  Let's think small.

There was a big party when the new airport building opened.  Common folk not invited.

Wilkes-Barre has "I Believe."  It's a slogan with no meaning  You have to back up, and after the initial flourish, "I Believe" fell on its face.

And, by the way, why is the P for parking bigger and more important than the S for Scranton?


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Return to Hershey


The body that oversees high school sports in Pennsylvania, the PIAA, last week, decided to keep the state high school football championships in Hershey through the 2013 season. 

The championships have been in Hershey since 1998.

Before that, it was Altoona-- a city that's hard to reach, and there's nothing to do when you get there.  It's also plagued by bad weather, right around championship time.

Keeping the games in Hershey makes sense. 

The PIAA often has trouble doing the right thing, but this was an easy and smart decision.  The reason?  There was no competing offer.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

He's Just Not That Into You

Last week, President Obama handed out a bunch of money for rail projects across the country.

The Pittsburgh/Harrisburg/Philadelphia line got more than $26 million for improvements.

Poconos to NJ/NYC?  Zero!

When are people going to realize that passenger service between the Poconos and the New York metropolitan area isn't going to happen?  Clearly, there's a need.  A rail line makes a lot of sense.  Unfortunately, there are too many flaws in the project, it will take a lot of time and a lot of money.

The Poconos to NY rail project has been suffering from neglect for years, regardless of the party in control.

Rail isn't THE solution to the country's transportation problem, but it does play a role.  We're too used to traveling in our own cars, and on our own schedule.  You don't reverse decades of habits in the blink of an eye.

It's painful to watch the death of a project.  It's just as bad to watch the charade by people who still think it will happen.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Bad Photography Monday


I was playing around with my camera one morning last week, about 4:30 AM.  This is the Lackawanna County Courthouse in Scranton.  It sort of looks like a castle in the dark.

The framing isn't the best.  I didn't have my tripod with me, so I was steadying the camera on a trash can.

I still can't warm up to what they did with the square, but the building looks a lot better without the hideous, old annex.