Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Living the nightmare isn't funny.
I had a minor issue with the XM/Sirius satellite radio people. I called the "listener care" center Saturday, and it was abundantly clear that I reached a foreign land.
Outsourcing jobs is bad in and of itself. It's even worse when the person on the other end of the telephone has no idea what you're talking about. If you're going to outsource customer service, at least make sure your call takers know how to service the customer. After going around in circles for a while, I asked for a manager. "Bob" informed me that none were available. I gave up and decided to call another day.
A second try came Monday afternoon. The two people I got on the phone were a little more helpful, but not by much. I was ready to cancel the service, but I do like it so much, so I mustered up every ounce of patience I had.
It appears my problem was resolved. I can't say for sure because I have zero confidence in the XM/Sirius "listener care" people.
Why do I have this horrible feeling I'll be dealing with that outsourced call center again in the not-too-distant future?
Monday, November 29, 2010
As noted earlier, I covered the four alarm fire on South Franklin Street Tuesday morning. The nice people across the street, at Central United Methodist Church were kind enough to open their doors to the fire victims and the firefighters. It gave them a chance to get out of the morning chill, a place to sit down, and clean bathrooms.
Regular blog readers know I'm addicted to Diet Pepsi, and church personnel didn't turn me away from their porcelean facilities, even though I was neither firefighter nor fire victim. Thank you.
That was "mysterious way" number one.
"Mysterous way" number two appeared when I walked into the church, and saw this sign on one of the doors. It provided a much needed smile on an awful morning, and let me tell you why.
I had the pleasure of working with and learning from the legendary Kevin Jordan at the old WYOU. He was a friend long before that, during my radio days. Even though Kevin had a unique way of pushing your buttons back in the day, I'm glad I know him.
One of Kevin's favorite phrases was "walk with Jesus." Seeing the sign in the church Tuesday morning brought back some pleasant memories. When you're covering a morning of misery, every bright moment counts.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Saturday, November 27, 2010
I had a few spare moments to do a little wandering in Wilkes-barre the other day. This is the Stegmaier Mansion, a bed and breakfast on South Franklin Street. The porch looks a little cluttered due to renovations currently in progress.
There is so much to say that I'll just let their web site do the heavy lifting. Below, the mansion's fantastic gate.
Friday, November 26, 2010
I'm thankful that on this holiday weekend and on Christmas, I don't have to travel farther than the office. I don't think I could handle that airport madness, as well as all the traffic on the highways.
I'm also thankful that I will not play a role in the lunacy known as Black Friday. My family is small. My friends are few. Christmas shopping isn't much of a challenge, and I've been nibbling away at it, via internet, the past couple weeks.
Yes, some people find Black Friday enjoyable Others have to shop on Black Friday to save some money and stretch their budgets. I respect that. Getting up super early and fighting crowds just isn't my idea of fun.
If you're going to be out today, and this weekend, please be careful.
I did find a moment this morning to engage in one of my favorite post-Thanksgiving activities: a trip to the supermarket. I didn't need much, just a few items, including some soda for the overnight hours at work. The supermarket was empty, and I blew in and out at around 7 AM.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
My Thanksgiving adaptation is "Things can be better, but they sure can be worse."
I have a lot for which to be thankful, and if you give it just a little thought, I'm sure you can feel the same way.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
There are some things for which to be thankful. No one was hurt, and firefighters stopped the flames before they reached a rather large apartment building rented by college students. There was a significant chance half a block could have gone up in flames.
Continuing today's "disappointing" theme, I have to mention yesterday's indictment of State Senator Ray Musto. I preface this by noting that Musto is innocent until proven guilty. Federal prosecutors say Musto took thousands in bribes, and this is no nickel and dime stuff. Some significant money is involved. Musto is one of this area's more popular political figures. He's been around for a long time, and is well liked. You're always disappointed to learn a person like that has allegedly traveled the wrong path.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Holiday Mode arrived early this year, and it was easy to tell. I got home from work yesterday, had lunch, and took the beagle for a walk. When I arrived home after my leisurely stroll, I checked my work e-mail.
We have different categories of e-mail at the station. There are designations for producers, anchors, assignment editors, reporters, and morning team members. Because I'm all of those, I get tons of e-mail. I was shocked when my e-mail box had only a few submissions. It seems like a lot of businesses and government offices have already begun coasting toward Thanksgiving.
I'm not complaining. Have a good week.
Monday, November 22, 2010
Every story usually has a hero and a villain. There are no heroes here. It seems NBC executives made some boneheaded decisions, and Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien played huge roles in creating their own problems.
Where do I start? The NBC execs tried to keep Jay and Conan happy. They went 0-for-2. Leno took a job, the 10 PM show, he never wanted. It bombed. Conan resisted attempts to make his "Tonight" show unacceptable to a broader audience at 11:35 PM. It bombed. The NBC execs revealed their ineptitude once again when they tried to fix things.
Leno got his old show back, but he also picked up a damaged reputation. O'Brien wound up on basic cable. He too is damaged goods for failing to hold on to Leno's "Tonight" audience.
I'm neither a Leno nor Conan fan. I'm not a Seinfield fan, either, but he had the best lines in the book. Seinfield was quoted as saying comics debated, for years, who would take over the "Tonight" show when Johnny Carson left, but no one realized that when Carson left, he took "Tonight" with him.
Conan, Leno, and Letterman just do nightly comedy shows. They're all trying to achieve that Carson standard, to sit in his chair, but there was only one Johnny Carson. Yes, I'm having a geezer moment. Times change. Tastes in comedy change. The point is you have a bunch of people trying to fill shoes that cannot be filled.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
That's the Firefighters Memorial Bridge, formerly the Water Street Bridge, on the upper left. The twin steeples in the center belong to St. John the Evangelist Church.
We had a dry spell several days ago, and that's "reflected" in the stillness of the water.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
This one was snapped late Monday morning. I'm in West Pittston, looking downstream. That's the old Pittston Hospital on the upper left.
Even on a grey November day, the river still has its beauty.
Friday, November 19, 2010
My car was due for an oil change, tire rotation, inspection, and 30,000 mile maintenance-- and Wednesday was the day.
I dropped it off at the dealer at 8:00 AM, and got a ride home from the courtesy shuttle. The dealer offer a ride back to the shop when my car was ready, but I declined.
I got the call, at home, that my car was ready, and walked a few blocks to the Colts bus stop. Not much has changed since my last ride, on car inspection day last year. The ride to Scranton was still $1.25. The bus was still crowded. It was still clean and was a smooth ride.
My schedule rules out mass transit for work. People who have the opportunity to ride the bus to and from their places of employment are fortunate. I'm sure waiting for a bus in the cold, snow and rain isn't fun, but it is a pleasant experience once you climb aboard.
See you next year.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
If I remember a high school class science class correctly, when you factor in early sunsets and the average number of cloudy days, November is the month with the least amount of sunshine.
We hit the jackpot last week with a few extremely sunny and warmer than average days. I took this picture Thursday morning at Nay Aug Park in Scranton. That's the pavilion surrounded by trees that still have some colorful leaves.
Even if you exclude last week's exceptional weather, November's can be a nice month. There's a nice bite in the air. No snow. I had some great times just going for a walk amidst the blowing leaves.
November isn't perfect. Thanksgiving is book-ended by two potentially miserable days. The day before is the biggest travel day of the year. Highways are a nightmare. I'll save my anti Black Friday rant for another time.
Holiday related stress and or depression is still a few weeks away from kicking in.
Get out and enjoy November.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
As is tradition on the blog anniversary, here's a a quick telling of how the blog came to be. Our news director at the time, Dennis Fisher, was looking for ideas on how to get more fresh content on to WNEP.com. I'd seen columns written by anchors and reporters on other TV station web sites, and suggested it to Dennis. He asked for a sample. Before I could provide one, then-webmaster Mark Sowers saw the blog thing taking off across the country. He pitched the idea to me one November morning, and I was blogging that afternoon.
I became addicted pretty fast. For years, I had to stick to the script. The blog allows for some "rest of the story" stuff.
I don't know if it was ever envisioned as a daily thing, but that's the way it's turned out. The first years were text only. Graphics and photos gradually entered the picture.
Many blogs have come and gone over the years. I think Facebook and Twitter have taken some wind out of blogs' sails. The way I look at it, I'd prefer one long poorly expressed thought a day rather than several smaller ones.
I still don't get Facebook. People have suggested it to me as a way to get back in touch with old friends. There are reasons people are in my past, and I'd prefer, with a few exceptions, to leave them there. I'm not that hard to find. Check the dollar store or the stool in the darkest corner.
As for Twitter, my life really isn't that fascinating. There's no need for regular little updates. The blog is more than enough, thank you very much.
Your daily visits are greatly appreciated.
Monday, November 15, 2010
I know the Christmas season is officially here when I see the Hickory Farms kiosk pop up in malls throughout our area. I took the above photo, with my camera phone, Wednesday afternoon, at Viewmont Mall in Dickson City.
Hickory Farms and Christmas are forever linked in my mind, and if you can excuse a long story, I'll tell you why.
Many members of my mom's family moved to Connecticut after the Big War because really good manufacturing jobs weren't available around here. Not much has changed in 65 years, has it? Anyway, one of my mother's brothers, my Uncle Al married a woman who became my Aunt Mary. She was also my godmother.
Uncle Al passed away while I was very young, and I really don't remember much about him. Aunt Mary remained in Bridgeport, CT. While I liked my Aunt Mary, I hated those Bridgeport trips. It was the days before Interstate 84, and getting to Bridgeport meant spending a lot more time in a car than I liked. Bridgeport in and of itself was a completely different issue. If you've ever been there, you know what I'm talking about.
Hickory Farms used to have a store at Viewmont Mall year-round. It was great. You never knew when you'd need a ball of cheddar rolled in nuts. As I got a little older, but still a kid, I'd always make sure to set aside a few dollars at Christmas, get to the mall somehow, and send a Hickory Farms gift pack to Aunt Mary. It was allowance money, and there wasn't a lot of it. I could never afford the top of the line Hickory Farms assortment. I don't think the small size of the gift mattered to Aunt Mary.
You have to remember, this was the time before Al Gore invented the internet. I don't think Gore was even born yet. Christmas catalogs were from Sears and Penney's, and that was it. Having someone like Hickory Farms do the packing and shipping for you was an amazing convenience at the time, especially if you were too young to drive to the post office.
How can I describe Aunt Mary? I thought she resembled Florence Halop, the woman who played Mrs. Hufnagel on St. Elsewhere and Flo the bailiff on Night Court, only a little taller.
Aunt Mary is in a better place now. She must be gone close to thirty years, and I still can't walk past a Hickory Farms kiosk without thinking of her.
Merry Christmas, Aunt Mary.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
The big building in the middle of the photo is Community Medical Center.
Last week's sunny and warm days was the best spell of November weather in recent memory.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Friday, November 12, 2010
I showed you this in the spring, when it was barely out of the ground. As you now can see, it's grown in to a massive complex. It's the new Army Reserve Center, between Olyphant Avenue and Boulevard Avenue in Scranton, near the Throop line.
This land had been vacant for years, and it's great to see it being put to a fantastic use.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Why do newspapers insist on interviewing college professors for political analysis? All it proves is the professors teaching our kids are hopelessly out of touch with reality.
Keith Olbermann still doesn't get it. He made a stupid mistake, and he blames his bosses.
I watched "Conan" Monday night on TBS. The first show was really nothing special, and I do admit that I'm not in Conan's target demographic.
ESPN dumped Jon Miller and Joe Morgan from Sunday Night Baseball after 21 years. Morgan brought nothing to the table. Miller is one of the best in the business. He's been offered a job doing Sunday Night Baseball and the post-season on ESPN Radio.
Why won't the Pennsylvania House of Representatives go back to work?
Most school districts wouldn't have permitted us to go beyond the parking lot. Mid Valley administration allowed our camera inside the elementary center Monday morning to see the repairs made after a Friday morning fire. I'm sure seeing the progress helped put parents' minds at ease.
The Dallas Cowboys' problems go far beyond Wade Phillips.
Best resignation line-- ever, was uttered by Gene Shalit. He's leaving NBC's "Today" after 40 years: "It's enough already."
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Right after the initial call comes the complaints that there are people out there scamming the system-- people who can afford food and toys, but who would rather take things for free.
You know what? The complaints are true. There are people out there taking advantage of the kindness of others. It always happens. Other than careful screening, there's not much you can do about it.
I'm grateful that I have the ability to make donations.
I look at it like this: I'd rather have a few scammers infiltrate the system than deny help to the people who really need it.
Monday, November 8, 2010
In one of Saturday's newspapers, a political consultant put part of the blame for his guy's loss on the fact that he had opposition in the primary.
I learned a long time ago that you miss 100 per cent of the shots you never take. The challenger had every right to run. Voters deserved a choice, and if he thought he could do a better job than the person currently in the post, he had the duty and responsibility to run. Since when are party nominations handed out on a silver platter? Primary elections are for voters to choose a party's nominee. They shouldn't have that done for them. Incumbency is not a free pass. Competition and choice make everyone stronger.
While a primary challenge can be expensive, it does give a candidate time and opportunity to hone his message, to sharpen up.
The political consultant went on to list several other factors for his candidate's loss. There was plenty of blame to go around. By the way, that candidate was criticized, in many other circles, for being inaccessible to the public and making unpopular votes.
I should also point out this candidate nearly lost the vote in his home town, and you can't blame that on a primary challenge.
It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves. Thank you, William Shakespeare.
Then, there is the case of Mr. Keith Olbermann. MSNBC suspended him last week for making contributions to political candidates. It opens up an interesting can of worms.
Olbermann is an employee of NBC, and the company has a policy of frowning on political contributions by employees of the news division. There can be exceptions, but you have to ask first. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough donated to a candidate, after receiving permission from management. Olbermann apparently skipped that step.
While Olbermann is on a "news" network, he hosts a clearly opinion based program. Should he be held to the same standards as, for example, the anchor of the NBC Nightly News? I really don't know, but I do know this whole mess could have been avoided if Olbermann went to his bosses first and made a full disclosure to the people who view his program.
It has nothing to do with his political slant, but Olbermann often comes off as mean. Having said that, we all make mistakes, and Olbermann should keep his job-- after NBC lays down the rules.
Keith Olbermann hosts the highest rated program in MSNBC's line up. I assume management will go on easy on him to protect those numbers. Other employees wouldn't be as lucky.
>>>UPDATE: NBC announced Sunday that Olbermann will have a two day suspension, and he'll return tomorrow.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
Saturday, November 6, 2010
I had a little time to kill a couple weeks ago, and that meant some wandering, camera in hand.
Let me explain what you're looking at. The bridge here is in the glow of a late October sunrise. The corn in the field is long gone, but the frost covered stalks remain.
Friday, November 5, 2010
I know I'm in the minority, and I respect the views of all those who love late sunsets.
There are people who argue the switches between Standard Time and Daylight Saving Time are archaic, and I agree with that. Big parts of the planet function on one clock, and we should be no different.
There is one drawback, albeit slight. While you get an extra hour of sleep Sunday morning, I have the pleasure of working an extra hour. Things will even out in the spring, and that will be here soon enough.
I will say that working the overnight shift speeds my adjustment to Standard Time, and then back to Daylight Saving Time.
No matter how you feel, please remember to set your clocks back one hour Saturday night or Sunday morning.
Thursday, November 4, 2010
Monday morning found me in the Scranton State Office Building, a public building. You own it. We were there do do a story on people applying for the LIHEAP program, something that helps people in need pay their home heating bills. It was an important story. People need to know there's help out there, and I'm glad a couple individuals agreed to share their stories with me. It's better to hear it from people going through the process, rather than listening to me pontificate.
All the people you saw were asked if we could show their faces. If the answer was no, you saw them from the back, or from the waist down. While they had no reasonable expectation of privacy, they did have a reasonable expectation of dignity.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I covered the 11th Congressional District race yesterday, so let's start there. I took the pictures you see here-- Mr. and Mrs. Kanjorski arriving at their polling place in Nanticoke, and Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta voting at one of his city's fire houses. I talked to Kanjorski on the day of the primary,an election he won with less than fifty per cent of the vote, and I think he knew then it would be an up hill battle to be re-elected. Mid term elections usually go against the party in power and it was destined to be a Republican year. Kanjorski is a smart man, but he really made some mistakes here. Kanjorski avoided town meetings and meeting people face to face. It hurt. He gave a good and insightful interview yesterday morning, and if people had seen that Kanjorski during the campaign, the outcome might have been different. I don't think people really dislike Paul Kanjorski, but they felt 26 years in office is long enough. Lou Barletta admitted to me that learned from past mistakes and missteps during the campaign two years ago. He didn't have to swim against the Obama wave this time around. The outcome is clear-- Mr. Barletta goes to Washington.
In the 10th, Tom Marino defeated incumbent Chris Carney. Carney was the accidental congressman. In his first election, be heat an incumbent who allegedly assaulted his mistress. In his second, he defeated a candidate who was the result of a bruising and divisive Republican primary. There were mistakes in the third campaign, and it cost him. The Carney people chose to attack Marino on one issue. Apparently, people don't care who Marino worked for in the past. Carney didn't do enough "here's who I am and what I stand for" ads. The mix was all wrong.
Tara Toohill beat state house majority leader Todd Eachus last night. Eachus has some fingerprints on the Bonusgate scandal, although he hasn't been charged. We repeatedly pressed him for answers, and never got them. Eachus also has an association with some of the individuals involved in the Luzerne County corruption scandal, and it cost him his job. Money should have been a clue. The vast majority of Eachus' campaign money came from out of the district while Toohill raised her money in the area. If the locals weren't donating, you knew you were in trouble.
Staying in Luzerne County, the home rule charter question passed easily. Three commissioners out, in favor of a county council and an appointed manager. Blame this one on Greg Skrepenak the crooked judges, and the dead wood at the courthouse. People lost their faith in county government. It's as simple as that. The commissioners got fired last night. While there are many good, decent, and hard working people in county government, the referendum's victory shows people want the current courthouse crowd swept out.
What happened to Dan Onorato? He had tremendous momentum coming out of the primary, and quickly lost it. Tom Corbett, who ran a solid campaign, is the next governor. He inherits a lot of problems in January. The state has no money. I looked at the numbers from the northern tier, Marcellus Shale country. Corbett opposes a severance tax on the drillers. Republicans normally do well up north, and Corbett was no exception. With 98 per cent of the vote in, it was close, but Onorato lost his home county-- Allegheny. That says a lot. If you're not popular at home, and you can't bank all those votes, it's trouble.
Republican Pat Toomey narrowly defeated Democrat Joe Sestak in the race for senate. It was a typical Pennsylvania night-- the Democrat pulls out to an early lead because the first votes come from the big cities-- Democratic strongholds. When the rest of Pennsylvania returns are in, the Republican usually gets close, or goes ahead. Purely anecdotal evidence, but this was a tough race for a lot of people I spoke with. Toomey was too far right. Sestak was too far left. Toomey squeaked by.
The Toomey and Corbett wins are even more impressive after you look at the vote from Philadelphia. Both got CRUSHED! It meant they had to make up a ton of votes in the rest of the state, and they did it.
I will close by saying this was the nastiest election cycle in history, and this year's record will likely be broken two years from now.