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Monday, October 31, 2011

Sticky Snow

An October snow storm can be worse than one in the middle of January.

It's usually in the 30's, so the snow is heavy, wet, and sticky.  The leaves are still on the trees, giving that wet snow additional places to land.  Trees and power lines get weighed down, and you know what happens next-- power outages.

The above picture was taken outside the WNEP building Sunday morning.  A tree near the employee entrance is bending under the weight.

PPL had a rough weekend, with a quarter of a million homes and businesses in the dark.  As always, the calls, e-mails, and Tweets came flooding in.  I'm sorry, but we can't pressure the power companies to work faster.  Electricity can be deadly.  Do you really want to rush someone working under dangerous conditions?  On top of that, the utility doesn't make money unless your meter is spinning, so it's in their best interest to get you hooked back up as quickly as possible.
Above is the satellite dish farm behind the station.  We're lucky in that we have a big, back up generator at the studio.

To those of you who lost electricity, best of luck and please stay safe.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday: More Fog

Fog has this marvelous ability to take finite things, and make them infinite.

This is the same railroad bridge over the Susquehanna River you saw here yesterday.

Thanks to the fog, it looks like it stretches forever.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday: Foggy Bridge

How about a little spooky fog for a Halloween weekend?

This is the old railroad bridge over the Susquehanna River, between Pittston and West Pittston.  I was on the west side to take this photo.

Friday, October 28, 2011

It's Over

I come to you today with a great deal of sadness.

While I love my job, I've just burned off my last week of vacation for 2011.

How did I spend my precious time off?  Playing with my computer, watching the World Series, playing with my camera, taking advantage of Anytober, wandering through stores, Tweeting, watching Big Bang Theory reruns, walking the dog, and sleeping.  Lots of sleeping.

I even found time for a little business.  We went through a computer system switch at the office during my time away.  I had one training session before I left, and I felt I need another.  A fellow producer showed me the way yesterday morning, and for that, I am grateful.  Yes, I spent time at work while I was on vacation.

Now, it's back to the keyboard, the camera, and the microphone, with an eye already looking toward 2012.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Church

I've been showing the slow death of Holy Family Church on North Washington Avenue in Scranton for the past several weeks.

To give you the short version, the Catholic Diocese of Scranton closed the church.  It's being torn down to make way for a parking lot for the Commonwealth Medical College.

Progress.

The spectacular steeple is nearly gone.  Salvage crews have been working inside, and it won't be long before the bulldozers do their work.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Bridge

I couldn't resist.  When I saw on Newswatch 16 that part of the old 8th Street Bridge collapsed into the Susquehanna River, I just had to see for myself.

Camera in hand, I wandered down Monday morning.  This is the view from east to west.  I'm in Jenkins Township, looking toward Wyoming.

What have we learned here?  Mother Nature and gravity always win.

By the way, I drove over the new bridge for the first time Monday, and wow, what a change from the old.  The span on the left is wider and much safer.  Crossing the Susquehanna here is no longer a white knuckle ride.

I have to note one other thing before signing off today.  Two months after the water receded, there is still a ton of visible damage along the Susquehanna in Jenkins Township, and it's chilling.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lightless

I preface today's entry by saying my problems paled in comparison, by far, to those who had issues during Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

It was a little before 5 AM yesterday, and I was in the midst of my usual morning routine-- checking Tweets and e-mails, personal and professional, and going through the morning papers.  Then, it happened.  The lights went out.  I looked out the window, and I knew it was bad.  This wasn't a block or neighborhood thing.  There was darkness as far as the eye could see, or couldn't see.

In the old days, I'd flick on a battery powered radio for the latest.  I have several of those.  Unfortunately, radio news is all but extinct in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area.  If it's not on line, in the paper, or on TV first, you don't hear it.

This is 2011, so I powered up my netbook and triggered the air card.  I e-mailed the office, and learned what had happened.  There was a fire in the PPL Marshwood Road, Throop substation, pictured above.  About 5,000 homes and businesses were in the dark.

Newswatch 16 streams its newscasts, so I got the latest from Tom, Mindi, and Joe.  After about an hour, I decided to save battery power, and turned off the netbook.  The video from the scene looked serious, and I didn't know how long I'd be without electricity.

Not content to sit around and do nothing, I grabbed the beagle and went for a walk in the pre dawn darkness.  Even though I had my giant MagLite, it was still really, really dark outside.  There was only a sliver of moon, and it was shrouded by clouds.  Quality time with the beagle killed about 45 minutes.

One I got home, it was the radio for entertainment, not information.  The station with my favorite music plays the same taped newscast hour after hour, and there was no mention of the power outage.  I read the newspaper by flashlight, and those little LED lanterns I got cheap at Walmart really came in handy.

After about three hours, the lights came back on.  After re-setting some clocks and answering machines, life returned to normal.

To those of you who spent days without electricity this summer, I don't know how you did it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

4 Month Late Movie Review

I finally got around to seeing "Bad Teacher."   In case you don't already know, Cameron Diaz plays an unmotivated teacher, using her job to find a rich husband.

I like my comedies on the darker side, so this one was right up my alley.  It's not on the "Bad Santa" level but it's still entertaining.

Warning for those expecting a big moral lesson:  You won't find it here.  The Cameron Diaz character proves you can get what you want by lying, cheating, and stealing.  Several on-line reviews I read have a problem with that.  I didn't.  It's a movie, and a dark comedy at that.

While you really can't root for the Diaz character, you can root against one of her enemies-- a way too perky, way too nosy, and way too annoying fellow teacher.  I hate that type.

I can't say I loved "Bad Teacher," but it was better than okay.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday: Grazin' in the Grass


Most of the time, I photograph inanimate objects-- trains, buildings, etc.

Today, a change of pace-- sheep grazing in a field near Dalton in Lackawanna County.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday: Rainy Pond

I was playing with my camera on a recent rainy morning, when I stumbled upon this scene near Dalton.  Pond in the foreground, barn and house in the background.  I really have to get back up there when the sun is shining and the trees have a bit more color.

Friday, October 21, 2011

So Long

I watched the video of the final moments of the life of Moammar Gadhafi, and it was disturbing, to say the least.

It seemed to be a fitting end.  A man who built his life and regime on terror and violence meets a bloody death.  I don't think anyone will argue with you if you say "He had it coming."

You have to wonder what happens next.  The "experts" on cable news, all day long, have been saying they expect several factions to fight for control of Libya, and many are not friendly with the U.S.A.

Be that as it may, it will be hard to find someone worse than Moammar Gadhafi.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

More Unfinished Business

Today's blog is coming to you through my netbook and air card.  Comcast's internet service was a mess yesterday afternoon.

It doesn't help that Comcast has several Twitter accounts, and you can never be sure you're "following" the right one.

Speaking of Twitter, the PA Supreme Court announced it will be Tweeting rulings, and I was happy to hear that. 

I've been back on Twitter for a month now.  It was great during the flooding.  Now, it's back to its usual mediocre self.

A mini controversy erupted recently over the move to remove convicted crooked politicians from the dedication plaque at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport.  There weren't enough votes to pass the motion.  Here's an idea:  let's stop problems before they start.  Don't put politicians names on plaques.  Citizens and taxpayers foot the bill.  All the politicians do is spend the money.  There's no need for them to be on a plaque.

I'm saddened by the death of Indy Car driver Dan Wheldon.  Seeing pictures of his wife and two young children breaks your heart.  Unfortunately, one line keeps popping in to my head.  It's from Godfather II:  "This is the business we have chosen."  Dan Wheldon participated in a sport that can kill you.  It doesn't make his death less sad.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Saved

Luzerne County spent millions to acquire it, and now it will spend millions more to renovate the old train station at Wilkes-Barre Boulevard and East Market Street.  The news was announced Monday.

Costly?  Absolutely.  Worth saving?  Yes.

It's a shame that it's come to this.  The previous owner occupied the building with one bad idea after another.  There was one thing in common.  They all failed.  Now, it's taxpayers to the rescue.

I'm glad this is not the county version of the city debacle known as the Hotel Sterling. Millions spent, with demolition as the building's ultimate fate.



And, that brings us to the Huber Breaker in Ashley.  Below is a photograph I took in December of 2006.  It looks the same today.


It's another building worth saving and renovating, but the money to do it will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever be there.

I often wonder what visitors driving north on Interstate 81 think when they see it. "Welcome to a shabby, old coal town in the rust belt.  It might be time to face reality and tear it down.

We deserve better.







Tuesday, October 18, 2011

John Senio

Former Lackawanna County Commissioner John Senio died Sunday.  He served three terms, from 1988 to 2000.

I'm not going to say I knew him well, but I will tell you this.  He always made a point of coming up to me to say hello and have a brief conversation-- whether is was at a commissioners meeting, a public event, or just in a store.

You can't say he was currying the favor of a journalist, who had the ability to do positive or negative stories.  John Senio was nice to me even when I was "between jobs."

You can't say he was looking for a vote because we never talked politics, and he never made a self serving pitch.

My sympathy goes out to Mr. Senio's family and friends.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupy

I've been watching the "occupy" movement and related protests recently.  It's rather difficult to avoid.  There have been protests around the world, and even here in our area.  Some of those protests were downright impressive.  Others?  Not so much.

The focus appears to be corporate greed and government impotence.  Please note that I am a professional skeptic when I say good luck changing those two things.  It's the golden rule:  whoever has the gold makes the rules.

As I see it, it's not just the money aspect.  People feel there's no one listening to them, and no one cares.  Hence, the anger.  I can understand it.   I just wonder if we're going about solving it in the right way.

This country has a history of moving forward and enacting change after protest, going back to the Boston Tea Party and the Revolutionary War.  Now, we protest with the dollars we spend (or not spend) and at the voting machine on election day.  Holding up signs in the park is now a huge part of the equation.

Now, let's just see if it goes anywhere.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bad Photography Sunday: Steamtown

Okay, I like the diesels at Steamtown.  This yellow and grey beauty jumped out at me in the October sun.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bad Photography Saturday: Steamtown


For the most part, this has been a train-free year on the blog.

The weather was great recently, and I felt like taking some pictures, but I didn't have a lot of time.  Destination:  Steamtown.

Today, my favorites in the collection, the black, green and gold Reading diesels.


Friday, October 14, 2011

I'm So Ashamed

It's been a bad month.

First, I lost a bunch of e-mails and addresses at work.  The same thing happened at home a short time later.

I was able to retrieve many of the addresses, but not all of them.  Some important ones were missing, and I was forced to re-activate my LinkedIn account to find them.

For those of you unfamiliar with the site, LinkedIn is like FaceBook for business people.  I was in it once before, found it beyond useless, and bailed.

It's still as big a waste of time as ever, but at least it was a place to find some e-mail addresses I thought were gone forever.

I'm sorry.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Unfinished Business

Hank Williams, Jr. still doesn't understand why he was bounced from ESPN/Disney.  You don't compare anyone to Hitler, the killer of six million Jews.  How difficult is that to grasp?

Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis died Saturday morning, and a lot of people have been saying great things about him.  Let's look at the other side of the coin.  This is the guy who encouraged thuggery, and for years, his team was the half way house of the NFL.  Davis screwed his fans in Oakland by moving the team to Los Angeles.  He screwed his Los Angeles fans by moving the team back to Oakland, and there were rumors he was going to move the team back to southern California.  However, if you look at the body of work, there are many positives-- including the recruitment of minorities.

I've been thinking a lot about the "Occupy" movement.  Wall Street and big money operate by their own set of rules, and the institution will be difficult to change, if you believe change is needed at all.

Terry Francona worked for FOX on the first couple games of the American League Championship Series.  He's not as bad as a lot of people say, but the job should have gone to someone who worked FOX games all year.  Hiring Francona is a stunt, and I hate stunts.

I spent a little time in West Pittston this week.  Is there anything more heartbreaking than flood damaged belongings left on the curb to go to a landfill?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

What Have They Done?

It is one of my favorite buildings.  The Clarks Green Masonic Lodge in Lackawanna County reminded me of something you'd see in New England-- white clapboards, distinct steeple.  Below are photos from December 2 of 2010.

A friend tipped me off to some distrubing changes here.  Take a look at what I found yesterday.


Who messed with my beautiful steeple, and who thought it was a good idea?

I would hope there's a good reason for what happened, and I know a lot of volunteer based organizations are hurting for money these days.  It's possible the money to fix the steeple the right way wasn't there, but this building is a community treasure, and it's lost a lot of its character.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Friendly's Impossible

I've been watching "Restaurant Impossible" on the Food Network too much.  When I read about Friendly's declaring Chapter 11 bankruptcy, I had to stop by to check it out.

I arrived around 7:20 on a recent morning.  There were only about five other diners in the building, and I was the youngest of the "crowd."  The lack of customers during prime morning breakfast time is a sign something is wrong.

I was seated and given a menu quickly.  My choice, a western omlette and a Diet Coke.  The drink came first, and the omlette wasn't far behind.

The omlette was fluffy.  The onions and peppers weren't overpowering.  However, the ham was lacking.  The potatoes were hot and crispy.  The toast wasn't overly browned and wasn't overly buttered-- the way I like it.  The bottom line is the food was that typical, bland, pre fabricated family chain restaurant stuff.  It wasn't bad, but it didn't win raves either, and the food didn't provide much of a reason to come back.

As for the decor, it looks like the restaurant was recently refreshed, and boy, they are really fond of plaid here.  As I was looking around, I wondered what Robert Irvine would do, and I was stumped.  It was clean and in good shape.

The help was, pardon the pun, friendly, and showed no signs of the kick in the gut from the company declaring bankruptcy.  Service was prompt and with a smile.

I did look at the rest of the menu, and that's where I think Chef Irvine would make the most changes.  They need items that are NOT covered in cheese and gravy.

Prices?  Omlette, drink and tip came to $12, and that's a lot to spend on breakfast for one, especially when Subway is running its $5 Anytober promotion.  The Diet Coke alone was $2.29.  Are you kidding me?  That's robbery.

I tried to think of the last time I ate at Friendly's and it was after a late night freelance job in Corning, NY a few years ago.  I don't remember what I had, but I do recall it was one of those all encompassing things, complete with the Happy Ending Sundae.  Dinners at Friendly's are easy to forget.

The Boston Globe did a big piece on Friendly's Thursday.  It noted how the chain didn't score well, 10th out of 12, in a national survey that looked at food, value, and reputation.  The company is said to be working on a new look, including modern decor and healthier menu items.

As we know, it's tough to remain viable after declaring Chapter 11.  Friendly's has been around for a long time, so a lot of people apparently like it, especially the ice cream, and it would be sad to see it go.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Bloomsburg

It's no secret that we will feel the impact of the Flood of 2011 for quite some time.

Last week, a lot of memories headed to the landfill.  I was in Bloomsburg as crews loaded up flood debris and hauled them away.

There was sadness because that wasn't just stuff at curbside.  It was peoples' lives.

There was optimism because with the debris gone, people can begin to start over.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Wall Sunday

We'll wrap up Wall Weekend with this one.  I took it Thursday afternoon, shortly after the wall's arrival.

Today is the wall's last day at Nay Aug Park in Scranton.  It's worth the trip.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Wall Saturday

"The Wall That Heals" is more than boards with names.  It's a traveling museum, along with other exhibits, like this helicopter.

The Wall is at Nay Aug Park in Scranton through the weekend.  Stop by if you get a chance.  You won't be sorry.
There are people to talk with and stories to hear, around the clock.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Wall

"The Wall That Heals" is at Nay Aug Park in Scranton this weekend.

It's a replica of the Washington, DC Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
No matter how many times this wall, or similar ones, pass through our area, it never fails to have an impact.

I'll share a couple more photos this weekend.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Media Notes

Kroger supermarkets has issued an edict.  The company will not advertise on radio stations that use the phrase "commercial free."  Bravo!  I'm still surprised there are stations out there using that horrible marketing technique.  When you say "commercial free," you're telling the audience that commercials are bad.  It's something every programmer should have learned during the first week of college.  Emphasize the music, not the lack of commercials.  Broadcasting isn't hard.  Yet, there are a lot of people out there doing their best to screw it up.


I've been listening to Dick Stockton do the Phillies/Cardinals NLDS series on TBS.  He's really good at baseball.  Stockton is one of those old style announcers who can call everything-- baseball, football, and basktball.  At 69, he's lost a little off his fastball, but he's still creates an anjoyable broadcast.


I haven't seen anything locally, but news and news/talk radio stations around the east are seeing a bump in ratings thanks to the earthquake, hurricanes, and flooding.


Has there ever been an American company that gets as much media attention as Apple?  Apple was due to make an iPhone announcement Tuesday afternoon.  It was all over cable TV, all day, before and after.  Amazing.


By the way, I wrote the previous paragraph before the passing of Steve Jobs.  I own one Apple product, an iPod.  I respect the man's accomplishments, but I always found Apple products to be supremely over-priced, and I survived quite nicely buying the products of others.

Reality TV ratings are down at the beginning of the season.  All those talent competition shows look alike to me, and they all have something in common.  I don't watch them.

ESPN has yanked Hank Williams, Jr. off Monday Night Football after some outrageous comments on the FOX News Channel.  Williams has the right to say whatever he wants.  ESPN has the right to say yes or no to using his stuff.  Simple.  By the way, one fast and easy way to get in trouble on TV is to compare people to Hitler.


NBC's "The Playboy Club" is the first cancellation of the fall season.  In the end, it wasn't the protests that killed the show.  It simply wasn't very good.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Big Bang Theory

I watched most of the first season of "The Big Bang Theory."  The reason was simple.  It was fresh and funny.

Then, it took a turn I didn't like.  The producers got Penny and Leonard together way too fast.  I enjoyed the dynamic of Leonard pining after Penny, the pretty girl he could never have.  His social awkwardness was cute and charming, a lot like the Niles/Daphne thing "Frasier" had going for several years.  Leonard's heartache gave his character some depth, and it took the show to a level above sitcom slapstick.  It got you to care.

Penny and Leonard eventually broke up.  It was too late for me.

Fast forward a few years.  "The Big Bang Theory" is now out in syndication, and I stumbled across some episodes from the most recent seasons.  Guess what?  It's still very funny.  Most of that is on the shoulders of multiple Emmy award winning Jim Parsons, who plays Sheldon.  Parsons could turn Sheldon into one of the most memorable TV characters of all time, but it's still early.

I still miss the way the Leonard/Penny relationship worked, or didn't work, very early in the series' run, but the producers and writers have managed to keep the show fresh and funny.  You can't say that about many series on TV these days.

You may say I'm inconsistent.  Regular blog readers know "Scrubs" was one of my all time favorites.  JD and Elliot hooked up early in the first season.  That was different.  JD and Elliot were both train wrecks in that first season.  There was none of that Penny/Leonard, Daphne/Niles cool girl, geeky awkward guy thing going on.

Yes, I've put way too much thought in to this.

One other TV note today...  I caught a few episodes of another CBS sitcom, "2 Broke Girls."  It's off to a good start.  There's tremendous potential here, and I hope the writers can keep it going.  Any series with a horse called "Chestnut" has to be good.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Who Would Have Thought...?

NewsFlash:  America is changing.

Let me back up a bit.

I bought a bunch of New York Times stock while that company owned WNEP.  The stock remained with the companies NYT chose to administer the plan, UBS and Morgan Stanley.  UBS recently informed me that it will charge me $75 a year for the privilege.  Thanks, but no thanks.  I transferred the stock to my Merrill Lynch account, and while I was at it, I did the same thing with the NYT stock in my Morgan Stanley account.

I met with my broker last week, and we talked about what to do with the NYT stock-- hold or sell.  I'm inclined to sell.  It's been a loser, and it's worth a lot less than what I paid for it.  Unfortunately, I don't see it coming back.  As radio talk show host, and former Washington Post columnist, Tony Kornheiser says, "print newspapers are dead."

The one division of NYT that was making money was the TV stations, and it sold that.

During my discussions with my broker, I asked "Who would have thought America's greatest newspaper would be struggling so much?"  She sympathized with me, because her company has had its share of issues recently.

By the way, we didn't come to a final decision on what to do with the NYT stock.

Then, along comes Kodak-- perhaps the greatest name ever in American photography.  There had to be a time when there was at least one Kodak camera in every American home.  Kodak stock plunged Friday after rumors the company would declare bankruptcy.  Kodak denied the rumors.  Kodak stock Friday traded for 78 cents a share.  Heck, NYT stock is worth more than that, and no, Kodak is not part of my portfolio.

Kodak has struggled during the transition from film to digital photography.  It does have a solid line of consumer cameras, with a variety of other professional digital imaging devices.  A noted former investor, Carl Icahn, said a few years ago that the Kodak changes came too late.  It looks like he was right.

As we all know, bankruptcy doesn't necessarily mean going out of business.  Still, watching Kodak circle the drain is just plain sad.

Monday, October 3, 2011

About the Cover

Columbus day is next Monday, so I thought it would be appropriate to feature ol' Chris this month.

This is the Christopher  Columbus statue in Pittston.

As for the blog header itself, it looks a little funky to me-- some unusual depth.  I swear I didn't tinker with it with an editing program, but I did use my camera's flash, to fill in some shadows, when I took the picture, around 7:30 on a recent morning.

October can be a great month-- warm days, cool nights, and colorful leaves.

Enjoy!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

...and the New

 I don't know who designed it, but the new Commonwealth Medical College building on Pine Street in Scranton is really a nice building.




There's plenty of stone, glass and steel, plus some green space, including grass, trees and flowers, in the front.  It really is impressive, and it's hard to believe we have something like this here in our area.



Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Old...


As has been noted here in the past, Holy Family Church on North Washington at East Gibson in Scranton is being torn down to make way for a parking lot.

Demolition/salvage crews have been hard at work lately.  As you can see, half the copper has been stripped from the steeple, and there's much more work to do below.