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Monday, January 31, 2011

What Happened?

I consider myself a well read individual who is up on current events.  First, it's fun.  Second, it's my job.

I work with a room full of people who also consider themselves to be news junkies.

So, why did the Egypt unrest hit like a bolt from the blue?

I'm sure the U.S. government had intelligence there was trouble brewing.  The rest of us were in the dark.

I know why.  The networks and major newspapers have just about eliminated their foreign bureaus.  No bureau.  No news.

I also know we're in an era of doing more with less.  The old saying goes "If it don't pay, it don't stay."

Before you get on my case, I will admit that all of us can do a better job of covering our community on the local level.

You know this is all about money.  You cannot argue that Egypt is not an important story.  That nation is a friendly and stable ally in an unstable and unfriendly part of the world, at least as far as the USA is concerned.

Broadcasting and publishing are businesses, but they carry with them a great responsibility.  Sorry to say, but they really dropped the ball on this one.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday

As we get ready to say good bye to the longest, darkest,. coldest month of the year, a pretty winter scene.  This is the ice covered pond at McDade Park in Scranton.

With a couple exceptions, this has been McDade Park month here on the blog.  One of the joys of the location is you have a lot of photography options here-- the coal mine related attractions, the water, the trees, the structures, etc.  If you're in need of a place to stretch your photography legs, McDade Park is it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday

I remember a day back in the old WARM 590 newsroom in Avoca, in the early 80's.  I was complaining about winter when one of my co-workers suggested I'd tolerate the season better if I found some fun winter time activity.  He suggested skiing.  I've never been on a pair of skis in my life, and it's not on my 2011 priority list.

I set out a few weeks ago to photograph some pretty winter scenes as a cold weather enjoyment activity, and I have to admit that I had a good time.  Above is an icy waterfall in the creek that runs through McDade Park in Scranton.

Another winter scene comes your way tomorrow.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Media Notes

NBC News has signed former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell to be a political analyst, heading into the 2012 campaign.  It's a great move.  Rendell has what I call "the gift."  The man can talk.

Has Oprah Winfrey ever met a camera she didn't like?

Every year, we treat the State of the Union address like it's a huge event.  The speech is usually forgotten about two days later.

The "Jay Cutler" talk continues.  Can we please move on to something else?

The Weather Channel is changing its prime time line up beginning next week.  We'll still see the same lame documentaries, but they promise live updates on the top and bottom of the hours, plus "Local on the 8's."  I'd love to see the weather, without someone predicting the end of the world.

Note to MSNBC:  Can we get a little news on weekends instead of the steady stream of prison shows?  All that "behind bars" stuff is mind numbingly monotonous.  It all looks the same.

It's been four days without Keith Olbermann.  The colors are brighter.  The air smells sweeter.

ESPN and ESPN News must have fifty anchors, and they all seem the same to me.  They're not bad, but there's no stand out talent in the bunch.

ESPN has signed Hannah Storm to a new contract, and I think that's a great move.  CBS should have kept her.

I produced Newswatch at 16 Noon on Wednesday, and I scheduled weather hits at the beginning and end of the broadcast.  That was in addition to the three minute weather segment in its normal slot.  At the end of the broadcast, there was a lot of self second guessing.  As I was preparing the line up, I saw that many schools had called in early dismissals.   The radar was looking increasingly colorful.  The Turnpike Commission had cut the speed limit in the Lehigh Valley.  Big east coast cities were going to get smacked again.  As far as northeastern and central Pennsylvania was concerned, the storm was beginning to fizzle out.  I wondered if my decision to go heavy on weather was the right one.  I'm still not sure, but management was okay with the way I stacked the broadcast.

Comcast now runs NBC Universal.  One of Comcast's first acts was to remove the peacock from the corporate logo.  Big mistake.  The bird is part of broadcasting history.  The peacock will still appear on cable and broadcast.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Overshadowed

This should have been a huge week for the National Football League.  Two teams with rich histories, Pittsburgh and Green Bay are headed for the Super Bowl.  The game will be played in the league's newest and plushest stadium, Dallas.  Playoff games the last three weeks have been filled with excitement.

Instead, we're getting a steady stream of stories, across all media, on Jay Cutler and his knee.

Let me, briefly, get you up to speed.  Cutler, the Chicago Bears quarterback,  pulled himself out of the N.F.C. championship game Sunday afternoon because he said he hurt his knee.  The criticism started immediately.  There are many who thought Cutler should have stayed in the game until he was carried off the field.  There are allegations that Cutler is a quitter.

I've never heard anything good about Jay Cutler, but are you ready for this?  I'm coming to his defense.  No one knows what's in Cutler's heart and head.  At the time, we didn't know what was in his knee, but an MRI Monday showed there is indeed some damage.  Was it enough to leave the game?  There is only one person who knows the answer to that.  None of us are in a position to second guess.

If Cutler wanted out, that's okay by me-- and it's for a reason that enters through the back door.

Let me tell you a story.  Once upon a time, I worked at a TV station with a very talented individual.  That person got a great job offer from a station in a much bigger city.  The station wouldn't let this person go, and the individual was held to the terms of the contract.

So, what happened next?  This person became an absolute bear (Cutler's a Bear.  Get it?) to work with-- not a team player, lazy, self centered, unhappy, downright miserable.  The moral of the story?  I'd rather have a second stringer who wants to be there than top line talent who doesn't.

I realize if you let one person out of a contract, you have to do it for everyone.  What good is a contract if you're not going to live up to your end of the bargain?  If they cut loose the miserable person, it would have opened up a whole new can of worms.

If Jay Cutler was too timid or too hurt to carry on, let someone else carry the ball.  Sorry about the pun.  What good is all that talent if you're not going to use it?  Jay Cutler wasn't helping the team.  My former co-worker wasn't helping the station.  I should add that this person and I got along great.  I was not a target of the discontent.

Jay Cutler's most important contribution Sunday might have been walking off the field.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Blame it on Yacuboski

I went and did it.  I opened a Twitter account!

What have I done?

Old friend and former co-worker Phil Yacuboski talked me in to it the other morning.  Phil is a crack assignment editor at WBAL TV in Baltimore.   Phil said more and more public officials are communicating with the media via Twitter, and jumping on the bandwagon is not a bad idea.

A lot of people apparently find Twitter faster and more effective than e-mails.  Clearly, I want to use any tool that improves job performance, so I'm now a part of Twitter Nation.

I did a quick search for local elected types, and it appears they are few and far between on Twitter.  The Baltimore Twitter phenomenon Mr. Yacuboski spoke of has not spread north.  It's possible I'm not looking in the right places.  I'm new here.  It's also possible a lot of locals DON'T like to let you to know what's going on.  They don't return phone calls. They won't see you in person.  Why should Twitter be any different?

Mindi Ramsey actually started the ball rolling several weeks ago.  Mindi commented how a lot of companies monitor Tweets, so the next time I light up Sirius/XM, Comcast, or Verizon Wireless for shoddy customer service, I might get a response.

Maybe I'll share a thing or two along the way.  Please, don't expect a barrage of Tweets.  You don't need to know what I'm doing every hour of every day, and vice versa.

I was lucky enough that no one has grabbed my name, so you can find me at www.twitter.com/AndyPalumbo

The blog continues, as usual.

Let's give it a try and see how it works.

So far, my expectations are not being met.  However, it's early.

If it bombs, I'll just blame Phil.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Back to Normal

All crimes are senseless, and arson has to be at the top of the list.  I've written about it, here, before, so I'll spare you a second dissertation.

There was a small fire set inside St. Peter's Cathedral in Scranton just before Christmas.  The cathedral closed for a final cleaning last week, and it re-opened Saturday morning.

I'd feel the same way, no matter if it were a church, synagogue, mosque or temple, public building or private home.  Arson puts so many lives at risk, and it's so sad.

So far, no arrest in the cathedral fire, and another small one next door.  It will be interesting to see who and what were behind the crimes.

The Diocese of Scranton promises security at the church.  I never thought I'd see the day when there are as many cameras and guards at a church as there are at a bank.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I Smelled it Coming

By now, you've likely seen the video of the woman tumbling into the fountain, while texting, at the Berkshire Mall near Reading.

We were watching the video at the office the other morning, when I remarked to one of our producers, Lisa, that it was a sure bet the texter was going to lawyer up and sue the mall.  It was far too easy to fall into that fountain.  There should have been a railing.

On the other hand, you really should pay attention to where you're going.  I'm sure the text could have waited.  Find a bench.  Sit down, and then look at your cell phone.

Yahoo reports the fall victim is indeed suing.  I can't say I'm surprised.

It was bad design at the mall.  No one came to help, and the "victim" alleges the security cameras violated her right to privacy.  On the other hand, texting on the move is unwise.  This is her own fault.

The security guard who posted the video has been fired.  He should have been punished because the video was not his to distribute.  Firing?  A bit severe.

Also remember that in a public place, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

I'm sure there will be a settlement long before this reaches court.  John McLaughlin once said a bad settlement is better than a good judgement.

I'd find it difficult to "award" the "victim" any money.

Speaking of "I smelled it coming..."  Keith Olbermann has left MSNBC.  No one is talking, but it looks like NBC paid Olbermann some money to go away.  No one is surprised it happened.  I am surprised it didn't happen sooner.  Olbermann has tons of talent.  Unfortunately, he is his own worst enemy.   Olbermann's nightly "Countdown" broadcast started as an interesting take on the day's news.  It wound up furthering Olbermann's agenda and becoming a hate filled broadcast, complete with childish ridicule and name calling.

While I do not take delight in the misfortunes of others, I shed no tears over Olbermann's MSNBC departure.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday

We're going to stick with the mining theme this weekend, with this photo.  It's the tipple at McDade park in Scranton.  The tipple was a structure used to load coal onto rail cars for transport.  In this case, a dump truck sits beneath the tipple.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday

We had a fairly large mine subsidence in Lackawanna County earlier this month, and that always gets me thinking about our area's mining past.  Specifically, the men who worked the mines and the sacrifices they made.

This is the miner's tribute statue at Mc Dade Park, before the snow fell, in Scranton.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday Scrapple

This has to be one of the best NFL final fours in a long time.  Three of the teams playing this weekend are really good.  It would be nice to see a Steelers/Packers Super Bowl, with the Steelers getting their seventh Vince Lombardi trophy.

I see the people at PBS think they dropped the ball in their coverage of the Arizona shootings.  They're right.  PBS has no news presence on weekends, and that's something that ought to be fixed.

By now, you know we lost our webmaster, Chris Nelhybel, this week.  He was a good guy to have around-- knowledgeable, and a nice person.  It's a cliche, but he will be missed.

When the history of the music industry is written, and a list of the "most influential" is compiled,  Don Kirshner has to be on the list.  Kirshner died this week.  76.

Tom Corbett toned down the inaugural pomp and circumstance a bit on Tuesday.  It's a good thing.  Celebrate, but be responsible.

The word "brutal" was tossed around quite a bit after Sunday morning's double murder in Hazleton.  Aren't all murders "brutal?"  At least we didn't get the standard "This wasn't a random act.  Be not afraid" speech.  And, but he way, why did it take until late afternoon for someone official to say something?  The missing suspect could have been on Mars by the time we received information.

This is the time of year when winter really starts to wear you down.  Try to take it in stride.  The longest, coldest, darkest, snowiest month of the year ends in ten days.

I caught some of the new Piers Morgan show on CNN this week.  It wasn't bad, but no reason to turn a dial.  He's already like the man he replaced, Larry King.  Morgan, too, takes himself way too seriously.

Anne Hathaway has been cast as Catwoman in the new Batman movie.  I still don't get this girl.

ABC News announced yesterday that Nightline is being shortened by five minutes, so Jimmy Kimmel can start exactly at midnight.  It took a while to get used to Kimmel's style, and he's become a very watchable personality.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Feeling Good

While I was alive during the Kennedy administration, I don't remember any of it.  I was all of 23 months old when JFK was assassinated.

I have a feeling that if Kennedy had a chance to reflect on his time in the White House, he'd say that the Peace Corps and the investment in the space program were his proudest accomplishments.

The first head of the Peace Corps, Sargent Shriver, died Tuesday, at the age of 95.  He had Alzheimer's Disease.

And, that brings us to another president, Ronald Reagan.

Reagan's son, Ron, has a new book, in which young Reagan says he believes his father had signs of Alzheimer's as far back as his first term in office.

I admired President Reagan for something other than his policies.  Reagan got this country feeling good about itself again after the dark years of the Carter administration.  Jimmy Carter is a good man who was a bad president.  Reagan brought respect and dignity back to the office.  He got us to believe that things could and would be better in the future.  This country really needed that at the time.

Reagan was far from perfect.  It is said he wasn't "hands on."  He delegated authority to people who took advantage of it.  The Iran Contra scandal is a prime example.  It was also said that Reagan lacked compassion for AIDS patients and the less fortunate.  I'll leave those debates up to the historians.

In Lesley Stahl's book, "Reporting Live," she writes that Reagan appeared out of it during a visit to the Oval Office in the tail end of Reagan's second term.  After all, he was an elderly man with a variety of health issues.  The CBS News correspondent says Reagan didn't perk up until they started talking about Hollywood.

It's taken me a long time to get to the point, and here it is.  I'd be more comfortable with Ron, Jr.'s comments concerning his father if he made them to an Alzheimer's support group or a medical conference.  It just looks like a shameless attempt to sell some books.

By the way, Kennedy was sworn in on this day 50 years ago, and it's also the 30th anniversary of the first Reagan inauguration.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Day One

It is the first full day of the Corbett administration, and while we haven't seen the last of Ed Rendell, it is time for a quick look back on his eight years.

Others, who cover state politics on a regular basis, can do a better job of evaluating the Rendell administration, but I can offer a few observations.

I met Ed Rendell a few times, and after every meeting, I had the same impression.  This is a man who loves the business of politics.  He was hands-on, knew all the details, and had a passion for being in the arena.

Rendell won some and lost some.  He always put up a fight for his beliefs.  There were several mistakes along the way, like the legislative pay raise and the yearly budget debacle.  A Rendell budget was never passed on time.  He had a perfect batting average.  Zero.  There's a $ 4 billion budget deficit.  The anti smoking legislation is laughably weak.  Many say he is the stereotypical "tax and spend" liberal.

On the other hand, casino gambling is here, and most people seem to like that.  Money was spent to improve our cities.  There have been some government reforms.  Not nearly enough.

Rendell loves the camera and he loves to talk.  He's no longer governor, but we haven't seen the last of him.
Ed Rendell was the fifth governor I've covered as a reporter.  He ranks up there with Bob Casey on the "passion for the job" scale.  I'm just not sure Rendell's accomplishments lived up to his enthusiasm for the position.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

As Strange As I

There are a lot of weird things out here in cyberspace and the blogosphere.  I stumbled across one the other day.  I preface all of this by readily admitting that I need a life.

Anyway, the blog is called Acme Style.  It's dedicated to the Acme and Super Saver supermarkets that dominated our area, and the mid Atlantic states in the 60's and 70's.  As you know, I love history, retail, and nostalgia, so this one is right up my alley.
In case you didn't grow up around here, or are too young to remember, Acme was one of the major players.  Its stores were everywhere, and they had a distinct style with peaked facades and sloped roofs.  Many of the buildings were things of beauty.

I guess you could write a book on what happened to the chain.  A lot of the stores got old in a hurry.  Big competition came to town, and Acme's parent company sold off the northeastern Pennsylvania stores.  Some were improved.  Others closed.  There were other sales to other chains.  The bottom line is that while Acme is a distant memory in this part of the state, it's still around in the Philadelphia area and New Jersey.

For those of us who spent a lot of time in the Acmes as kids, the web site is a treat.  If you didn't, it's nice to see how things used to be.

I grew up close to the store you see above, in Dunmore.  The building is now an auto parts store.  I remember it vividly from the Acme days.  The store was built in the year I was born.  You walked in over a metal grate with hot air blowers.  The first thing you saw was a bank of gum ball machines.  A walled in raised office was straight ahead, the cash registers on the left.  Baked goods along one side wall.  Produce and dairy on the opposite wall.  Meat, Lancaster brand, along the back.

I remember the night, back in the 80's, when I stopped in for a few things.  Kitty litter was on my list.  I couldn't find a bag that wasn't ripped open.  No one seemed to care.  It was a dingy, yellowed, tired store.  Management stopped caring.  Several of the local stores were sold soon afterward.  The Dunmore store closed.

The chain, at least locally, did not go out on top.  Isn't that always the way?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Brassy

This is the seventh winter this blog has been around, and I seem to write about it every year.  Curb to curb snow plowing is a foreign concept in the city of Scranton, and there's no need for it to be avoided-- especially downtown.  Here's what you do.  Establish alternate side of the street parking after a storm so the plows can get in there and clean the parking spaces.
This was the scene Thursday afternoon on Courthouse Square.  The driving lanes were clear, but the parking area was a snow covered mess.  A deep freeze is coming, so what you see here will freeze into a solid icy mass when the sun goes down.

Things will be a little different in the months to come, and not for the better.
The city upped rates at parking meters last year.  Now, the city is putting in a "smart meter" system-- one that lets meter readers know the second your meter time expires.

So, not only are you paying more for a snow covered and slippery space, you'll stand a better chance of getting a ticket if you park in one.  I thought we were trying to get more people to shop and establish businesses downtown-- not drive them away.  We're paying more, and getting less.

I know the city needs the money, but the whole concept doesn't seem quite fair to me.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Watres Bad Photography Weekend

We're taking a close look at the Watres Armory in Scranton this weekend.  Above is the statue that stands on top of the front doors.

I did a Google search for some Watres history while I was preparing this weekend's blogs.  It's unfortunate, but there wasn't much information to be found.

The construction here is amazing.  There's a ton of brick, and below is a stone arch that's above one of the side doors.  It's a cliche, but they don't build them like this any more.
I fear the days of the Watres are coming to an end.  It will be replaced by a new building on Olyphant Avenue in Scranton, near the Throop line.  I showed you a photo of that building in this space a few months ago.

So what happens to the Watres?  At this point, we don't know.  I have a feeling it will be torn down.  Take a look at it.  It's a massive, old building.  What can you do with it?
The Watres is near the hospitals and the new medical school.  It would be nice to see it converted to another use, but the cost of doing that will be enormous.  I fear it will become a parking lot, and this area will lose a huge piece of its history.

The Watres is on the National Register of Historic Places, so let's hope for the best.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Watres Bad Photography Weekend

I was passing the Watres Armory in Scranton recently, one of my favorite buildings, when I realized I'd never photographed it.  That changed the other day.  I grabbed my camera and snapped off a few of the brick behemoth.

The cornerstone is at the left.  1877.  Wow!  If these walls could talk.  Coule you imagine all the men and women who went off to war by starting behind these walls.

I've been there for departures.  I've been there for arrivals.  The common thread is tears.  Families cried when their loved ones left.  They cried upon their return.  It's a scene I've witnessed dozens of times.  It never fails to move you.

For a long time, this was also an entertainment venue.  I remember my mom and dad taking me here for a "Disney on Parade" show many, many years ago.  Seeing the show with a great set of parents was special, the experience enhanced by walking in to a massive old building that looked like a castle.

I have a couple more Watres photos for you tomorrow.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Snow Day


Fate smiled on me, for a change, this week.  The snow fell on one of my days off.  There was always the chance of getting called in to help, but this wasn't major storm.  The people already on the schedule were more than enough to do the job.
There was a down side to having a snow day.  After the walks were shoveled, the snow was removed from the car, and the dog was paraded around the yard to inspect the work, cabin fever set in.

I'm usually okay with a day of reading, net surfing and sleeping, but the itch to get out was overwhelming.

By mid morning, the roads were okay, so I drove up to Viewmont Mall.  I didn't want anything.  I didn't need anything.  I just desired a change of scenery.

The mall was just the way I like it-- empty.  I walked around and chatted with a few bored retail industry workers.  Proof of their boredom was they actually stopped  and had time to exchange a few words with me.
I spent a few minutes in the parking lot, watching the heavy equipment clear the lot.  While I never felt the urge to get in to the construction business, I do enjoy watching it.  It appeared they had clearing the acres of pavement down to a science.

Hunger hit on the way home, so it was a turkey and swiss, loaded with vegetables, with a quick shot of oil and vinegar at one of the chain sub shops that are on every corner these days.  While the mall was empty, the sub shop was busier than normal.  I guess snow makes you hungry.

After inhaling the sub, it was back home to work on the blog for a bit and catch up on some personal paperwork.

I missed this storm, and I'm sure there will be plenty of other opportunities for working in the snow before winter ends.

See you tomorrow.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Out of the Tube

Whether or not it actually played a role, the Arizona shootings are forever linked to nasty partisan politics,across the spectrum.  There is no changing that.  There is no going back.  The toothpaste is out of the tube.

That brings us to Tuesday's op-ed piece in the New York Times, authored by former Rep. Paul Kanjorski.  It was well done, well written, well reasoned, and I enjoyed reading it.

In the NYT piece, and other interviews Kanjorski has given, he's called for a return to civility in American politics.  Can't argue with that.  Right?

Well, let's give it a little more thought.  Kanjorski "approved" some of the nastiest campaign commercials in the history of northeastern Pennsylvania.  They were designed to smear opponents, and scare seniors and veterans.

To be fair, Kanjorski was hit with as much mud as he threw.

And, let's not forget Kanjorski's October comment that a health care legislation opponent and candidate for Florida governor should be shot.  Did Kanjorski really mean that?  Of course not.  Kanjorski is a smart man who used words poorly and unwisely on that particular day.

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.  Kanjorski's op-ed piece is part of the solution.  Unfortunately, he was also part of the problem.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Money

We keep hearing about how the economy continues to be in the tank, gas prices will hit record highs and unemployment is hovering around ten per cent.

I don't doubt that, but I did come away with some observations during the aforementioned "Great Sneaker Hunt of 2011."

One of my stops took me to Sam's Club.  People were wheeling big screen televisions out of there like they were giving them away.  I'm talking about massive screens-- 50 and 55's.  On top of that, it was early in the morning, when Sam's Club entry is restricted to businesses.  There's money out there somewhere.

In case you're wondering, I still have a 24 inch TV.  It's old, and it still works fine.

Another stop was the Shoppes at Montage in Moosic.  I expected the shopping center to be empty on an early January mid week, mid afternoon.  Wrong.  It wasn't packed, but it was busier than expected.  Again, there's money out there somewhere.

I've read where many financial experts excpect big problems with the credit card industry because people have been racking up big balances.  A search reveals it hasn't happened-- yet.

That brings us to the banking industry.  I was in a long line at a Wachovia branch the other afternoon, depositing money into an account I use for emergencies and unexpected situations, and cashing a rebate check.

As I stood in line, I thought about the years I've been using that branch and all the banks that have owned it.  I opened my accounts when it was a Third National Bank and Trust.  Core States followed.  Then, it was First Union, and now Wachovia.  I might have missed someone, possibly Meridian.  It's not over yet.  The bank flips to Wells Fargo in the spring. The Wells Fargo signs are already up, but covered by vinyl Wachovia banners.

There really is no moral to the banking story, other than to note the consolidation that's been going on in the industry for the past quarter century or so.  The name of the bank doesn't mean much to me.  The location is great.  The service is tolerable, so that's where I bank.  It's as simple as that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday Scrapple

Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar were elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame last week.  I'm okay with Blyleven.  He won 287 games during his career.  Alomar once spit in the face of an umpire.  Putting him in the HOF nauseates me.

The president of Tastykake says the company is struggling.  It might have to sell or merge.   A new bakery isn't saving as much money as expected.  The price of ingredients is up, and people are buying fewer snacks because of the bad economy.  It's a sad situation.  Tastykake is a mid Atlantic legend.  Its lemon pies are awesome.  I'd hate to see Tastykake morph into something different.

I finally found a pair of plain white sneakers I can live with.  Strangely enough, the pair I really wanted was in a big box discount store.  I tried two different stores, and they didn't have my size.  10's seem popular, and they should keep more in stock.  My purchase finally came from a clothing store.  It was more than I wanted to pay, but I wanted the odyssey to end.  I'm old school and I just can't se paying big money for sneakers.  Next item on my list is a computer printer.

I was out doing some errands Thursday afternoon, and It seems like I was behing a PennDOT salt brine truck every five minutes.  You can't convince me that stuff actually works.

ESPN has renewed its Monday Night Football deal, and that's unfortunate.  I think the other networks do football better.

Nancy Grace has renewed her deal with HLN, and that's unfortunate.  She's a horrible person.

New Year's resolution:  be nicer.

Impressions on day two of Wild Card Weekend:  I can't root for any team that employs Michael Vick, so it was nice to see the Packers win.

I expected Baltimore to beat Kansas City handily, even though I was pulling for the underdog Chiefs.  If there's a team that can stop New England, it's the Ravens.  I'm a Steelers fan, so it's difficult for me to say that.

We had a little snow Friday.  More is on the way, but it looks like we'll go through the first half of January without a major storm.  That's not too shabby.  However, I fear I've jinxed it and a big storm has Pennsylvania in its cross hairs.

Piers Morgan's first guest on his new CNN show next week will be Oprah Winfrey.  Are you kidding me?  Oprah is a self absorbed phony who never has anything interesting to say.  It's not a big "get" because Oprah will appear in front of a camera any time, any place.  And, they wonder why CNN can't get ratings.

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno won't release freshman quarterback Rob Bolden from his scholarship.  Why would you force someone to be on your team who doesn't want to be there?  A miserable player doesn't help anyone.  Of course, Bolden could still leave for another university, with severe restrictions.  Let him go.

Brent Musberger and Bob Uecker have both been elected to the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association Hall of Fame.  Both should have been there years ago.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Rush to Judgement

I scanned the internet, the cable news networks, and the Sunday morning network talk shows for information and analysis of the shootings in Arizona.

20 people were shot Saturday.  Six died, including a nine year old girl.  Among the wounded is the presumed intended target-- Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Giffords is a Democrat.  There was early speculation the gunman is someone on the right, the far right, who opposed Giffords' policies.

That's dangerous.

Not everyone on the right is a maniac, but it sure looked that way yesterday on tv.  Not everyone on the left is a killer in waiting, either.  This was one troubled young man who pulled the trigger.  One.

When the federal building in Oklahoma City blew up, there was an initial rush to judgement.  Remember all the fears about international terrorists?

America has seen some school shootings in recent years, including a deadly one last week.  The vast majority of U.S. schools are safe, although it soulds like teachers and students are putting their lives on the line every day.

You know what scares me?  The Arizona shootings will drive our public officials behind even more walls than now exist.   We need and deserve access, even if it has dangers.  Our democracy depends on that access.  Public service has often been called a "sacrifice."  Truer words have never been spoken.  If you're in the public eye, if you ask for people to send you to Washington, or the state capitol, or even the town hall down the corner, you have to give up some things in return, within reason.  Privacy and some element of safety are on the list.

And while the soap box is out, let's talk about privacy for a second.  What follows is not an original thought, but I'll pass it along anyway.  There is a different standard of privacy for people who are in the public.   With things like Facebook, because of what you put on line, we're all in the public.

Be careful, but act and think rationally.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday

Welcome to my first ill fated attempt at being artsy in 2011.  This is the pergola covered walkway at McDade Park in Scranton.  I took this on Wednesday afternoon, before the snow fell.  Very few people were in the park on a cold and windy day.

While I have a moment, some Wild Card Saturday NFL thoughts...  while I like the Saints, I also like underdogs, so I'm not that concerned at the Seahawks' upset win Saturday afternoon.

As for the second game, I wish there was a way for both teams to lose, but it doesn't work that way.  I'd like Jets' head coach Rex Ryan to shup up for a while, and I'm sick of the Colts.  The Jets were the lesser of two evils, so I'm as satisfied as I can be under the circumstances.

Today should be an interesting day.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday

Just one more Marywood photo before we move on to other things.  This is the Liberal Arts Building, the signature building on Marywood's Scranton campus.  As I've said before, if you're ever in the neighborhood, stop by to take a look at the rotunda.  The art work inside is nothing short of spectacular, and we're lucky to have it in our area.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Last Call

There's a fascinating debate underway in Albany, NY.

Bars can stay open until 4 AM in New York state.  Albany's mayor is asking for bars to close, voluntarily, at 2 AM.  The mayor reasons there will be less violent crime if there's less alcohol late at night, or early in the morning, depending on how you look at it.

Most bar owners quoted in a Times Union newspaper story say they need the money.  Their customers behave, and they'll stay open until 4 AM.  In other words, Mr. Mayor, take a hike.  I'd like to use another phrase here, but I'm a gentleman.

As you know, bars here in Pennsylvania have to close at 2 AM.  For a long, lone time, at least in Lackawanna County, 2 AM was a mere rough guide.  A lot of bars stayed open all night, under the radar.  Ernie Preate got elected district attorney and that practice came to an end.  Remember the furor his crackdown caused?

As a veteran of decades of working all nighters, let me tell you about the typical evening/morning.  The alcohol fueled bar fights usually start around midnight.  Then, when the bars close at 2 AM, there's a rash of DUI arrests and crashes.  When the drunks finally arrive home, around 3 AM, there's a spurt in the number of domestics.  I don't need a watch to tell what time it is.

As has been noted earlier in this space, I have no problem with the responsible consumption of alcohol.  The 2 AM closing time here in Pennsylvania seems reasonable.

If the state is looking for a quick infusion of cash, how about selling late night/early morning licenses for bars and restaurants-- much like beer distributors pay extra for a Sunday license.  Throw more money to the state, and you can stay open until 3 or 4 AM.  Police and the MADD people would likely oppose it, and I see the wisdom in their thinking.

Would an earlier last call time in Albany reduce crime, or will it just slide the timeline a bit, like we have here in Pennsylvania.  I don't think we'll ever know because the suggestion by Albany's mayor appears to be falling flat onto its face.

Let me throw something else into the mix.  There's a 24 hour fast food restaurant in South Scranton.  It was the scene of a triple stabbing early Sunday morning.  It seems there's always a fight or some other incident there.  The last time I checked, this restaurant doesn't serve alcohol-- just over priced, over salted food.  It shows you don't need alcohol to attract a bad element and cause problems.  Ask the people who work at the other 24 hour eateries in the area.  Hardly a night goes by where there's not a fight or someone skipping out on their bill, or some other assorted incident.

To sum up, the alcohol issue is more of a societal problem than one involving the clock.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Mundane Week

You can tell the holidays are over.  I spent my week taking care of mundane and relatively boring little tasks.

Most of them are predictable-- the supermarket, the drug store, bank, the gas station, a new watch battery at the jeweler, etc.

I've been shopping for a new pair of sneakers-- plain white.  Why is it so difficult to find a pair of plain whites at a decent price?  I'm spending way too much time in stores.

I did take a little time to watch "Easy A" on dvd.  Yes, I could have viewed it through the Comcast, excuse me, Xfinity, On Demand system for a few dollars less than what the dvd cost.  However, I got tired of playing with the system and its PIN numbers.  I gave up out of frustration, and when I saw the dvd in a store during sneaker shopping, I grabbed it.

"Easy A" is the story of a high school girl, Olive, who makes up stories about sleeping with classmates.  The stories helps get her noticed at school when she was invisible before.  It also improves the reputations of the guys who allegedly spent time with her.

As you can guess, the rumors get out of hand.  Some of it is funny.  Most of it is not.  Emma Stone is really, really good.  While she was 22 years old when the movie was filmed, the rest of her "classmates" looked to be in their 30's.  I don't know who was in charge of casting.  Other than Stone, I didn't buy them as high school aged students.  The adults, especially Olive's parents, were dowright creepy.

Borrowing the schtick of the "Screening Room" guys on WNEP:  2 out of 5 popcorn bags, and the 2 are for the Emma Stone performance.  By the way, the movie isn't as dirty as it sounds.  No nudity.  All the "relations" are implied.  Rated PG 13.

I have to jot down a few words on this week's passing of an extremely talented man, Gerry Rafferty.  "Stuck in the Middle" was a major hit for Rafferty and Stealers Wheel in the 70's.  A solo effort, "Baker Street" was huge a few years later.  Do yourself a favor.  Get yourself a good copy of "Baker Street" and a great set of headphones.  I mean a quality pair.  "Baker Street" has to be one of the best headphone songs ever.  Rafferty was 63.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A New Day

The 112th Congress will be sworn in today, and today's blog is dedicated to rambling reflections on the new and the old.

Republicans will control the House while Democrats will narrowly be in charge of the Senate.  Both parties say things will be different.  Pardon me if I remain skeptical.

Cliche alert:  The people aren't broken, but the system is.  If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.

I would never advocate not voting, but if you cast your ballot in November, expecting great change, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed.  There's more than enough blame to go around.

Can we talk about seniority for a moment?  Specter, Kanjorski, and Carney are gone.  State senators Musto and Mellow opted not to see reelection.  Let's stay with Washington for the time being.  I have a feeling the Republicans will throw Marino and Barletta a bone in the form of a project or two for their districts.  It will show the new guys have clout, and it will help in their reelection bids two years from now. 

Seniority might be over-rated.  We had some people from our area with a lot of government service years under their belt.  Yet, we have 10 per cent unemployment, and it's tough to support a family on the jobs that we do have here.

We have a spiffy, under-used airport.

What ever became of the plan to expand that parking lot called Interstate 81?

How's that State Department security training facility in the Shickshinny area coming along?

We have seas of warehouses in parts of our area.  Big buildings that take up a lot of room, yet provide few jobs per square foot.

Are the casinos helping?  Marcellus Shale drilling?

Sen. Casey is BFF's with President Obama.  Has our area benefited?  Polls show Casey is vulnerable when he's up for reelection in 2012.

Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Clinton both have ties to our area.  Has it helped us?

We've been fed a lot of promises, from both parties, over the years.

There is a glimmer of hope.  There always is.  It's possible the folks in Harrisburg and Washington smelled all that voter anger and rage in November, and maybe they finally saw the light.

It's a new day, and the slate is clean.  We'll see how long the political honeymoon lasts.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

January Blues

This is the time of year when it really hits you.  We're in the dead of winter.  Holiday distractions are over.  January is a long, dark, cold, snowy month, with little to divert you from the dreariness.

I'm trying to look on the bright side.  One third of winter is over.  The days are getting longer, and average daily highs and lows start to increase at the end of the month, and the end of the month is in sight.  It's only a few weeks away.

It looks like we'll make it through the first week of January without a major storm.

January does have its charm.  I do enjoy a clear, cold morning with bright sunshine and the NFL playoffs.  I can do without ice and snow.

February and March can be cold and snowy, but at least signs of spring appear once in a while-- the occasional robin, spring training baseball, St. Patrick's Day.

In my book, if you can get through January, you can get through winter.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Unfinished Business 2011

It's the first business day of the new year.  Things are returning to normal, and the flood gates have opened.  It's time to write about all the things that have happened during the past couple weeks, while I was boring you, in this space, with silly photos.

First, a few of you have commented on my Christmas Day dog photo.  I used a timer and had the camera on a tripod.  She just wouldn't look at the camera.  I gave up after five tries.  Don't get the wrong idea.  She's a very, very good dog.

Governor Rendell felt the decision to postpone the 12/26 Eagles game was a bad one.  I thought we were supposed to stay off the roads during a blizzard.  If that wasn't enough, Rendell's crack about the Chinese was insulting to both the Chinese and Americans.  Rendell really dropped the ball on this one.  He should have known better.

USA Today called 2010 the "year we stopped talking" because ot texting, Twitter, and Facebook.  Then, why do we still call it "social media"?

Those supermarket wine kiosks worked well, didn't they?  I'm not in favor of alcohol being sold in every store in the state, but Pennsylvania's laws clearly need updating.  For years, there's been too much bowing to the special interests and not enough of listening to the people.  A recent survey shows the vast majority, vast, favor getting the state out of the liquor business.

I have to say that in the general scheme of things, the storm wasn't that big of a deal.  It fell on a holiday weekend, when not much else was going on.  Therefore, the networks and the cable "news" channels jumped all over it like it had never snowed before.

Steve Landesberg died a couple weeks ago.  While he is most famous for playing Det. Arthur Dietrich on Barney Miller, Landesberg was an extremely funny stand up comedian.  He was great with voices and accents.  Do a You Tube search, and you can find some old stuff, including a Mike Douglas Show appearance.

Do you think President Obama's support of a dog killer is a wise move?

A couple cities here in our area had a round of December violence.  Once again, those in charge trotted out the standard and tired line-- that these were not random acts.  Sorry.  It doesn't make me feel any better.

There was a year in review/look ahead to the 2012 presidential race panel discusion on MSNBC the other morning.  Holy cow!  Those folks are in love with the word "paradigm."

I know you have to send them to receive them, but this was a very weak year for Christmas cards.  I read where Facebook is killing the greeting card business.  It's still not enough enticement for me to establish a Facebook page.

CNN must be in rough shape.  It keeps hiring Kathy Griffin for New Year's Eve work.   You can't tell me there aren't more talented people out there.  I read where Griffin behaved her self this year, and that's a first.

Hugh Hefner, 84, anounced his engagement to a 24 year old former Playmate of the Month.  I've read about the outrage.  Hey, if they're happy, I'm happy.

Ex coaches Bill Cowher and Brian Billick have turned into talented broadcasters.  Billick is especially good on the NFL Network, where he has time to talk.

I still haven't found a cell phone that I like.

This year's schedule of bowl games is boring me.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday

We're coming off a huge time of year for mailing letters, cards, and packages.  While I was at Marywood University photographing the Christmas tree a couple weeks ago, I snapped off a shot of the Marywood post office building.

The building was much smaller during my time here, but it was still made of red brick.  I wish I had a picture to show you.  It always reminded me of a place where Santa's elves would work.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

About the Cover

A new month and a new year bring a new blog header.  This is the Waverly Masonic Lodge on North Abington Road in Clarks Green.

It was a church before becoming a lodge.  I swear I saw a web site with a little history on it a few months ago, but when I was looking for it, to write this blog entry, I couldn't find it.  The basis for the design would be interesting to learn.  I've read where this area was settled by people from Connecticut and Rhode Island, and the building does have a New England/colonial feel to it.

I've tried to photograph this place a couple times, but I never timed it right.  The sun angles were all wrong.  I'll keep trying.

I hope you have a great 2011.