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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Off the Track

You have to wonder how things got off the track, and how they got so far off the track.

Former Lackawanna County Commissioner Bob Cordaro is 50 years old.  He should be in the prime of his personal and professional life.  Instead, he's going to jail for 11 years.

Former Lackawanna County Commissioner AJ Munchak is 65 years old.  He should be enjoying his retirement.  Instead, he's going to jail for 7 years.

Both were convicted of taking bribes and kickbacks.

It wasn't supposed to be this way.  Munchak and Cordaro rode in to office on their white horses, promising things would be better.  They would be different.  Old style politics was dead.  It turns out they lied to the voters.  Things weren't better.  They weren't different.

I always say that I get over anger rather quickly.  Hurt takes a while.  Cordaro and Munchak hurt a lot of people, and they're paying the price.  It's as it should be.

I'll never understand why.  Both seemed to be financially comfortable.  Was it greed?  Arrogance?  Stupidity?  You had to know that when you're throwing around big wads of cash, that knock was going to come to the door eventually.  People ask questions.  There are no secrets in this town.

It's a question I've asked many times before:  Was it worth it?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Underappreciated

It got lost in the shuffle during a busy news week, and that's unfortunate.

Andy Musser died last week.  He broadcast Phillies games for 25 years.

When the history of sports announcing is written, I don't think you'll see Musser on the list of the all time greatest, but he he was darned solid, and always an enjoyable listen-- especially on radio.

Of course, anyone who was in the Phillies booth was overshadowed by Harry Kalas, and that's understandable.  Harry was Harry.  It should not be forgotten that Musser was a fine broadcaster in his own right.  He was one of the voices of summer.  Musser didn't have any schtick, nothing that set him apart from the pack.  He was simply a solid announcer who remembered the game was the star.

By the way, we share a birthday, so maybe there is something to astrology.

Andy Musser was 74.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Classic Bad Photography Sunday: Poe

I'm not one for the macabre.  Yet, I've always fascinated by Edgar Allan Poe.

The man was immensely talented.  Unfortunately, he was also a train wreck.  Poe spent much of his life in one of my favorite places, Baltimore.  That's where he died at the age of 40.  Poe is buried at Westminster Church, just blocks from the Inner Harbor.

Above is a picture of the Poe monument in the church's courtyard.  The body is actually elsewhere on the property.  I took the picture early on a spring morning in 1987.  As you can see, the sun was not my friend that morning.

Every year, on Poe's January 19th birthday, a mysterious man used to leave flowers and a bottle of cognac at Poe's grave site.  The tradition was 60 years old.  The "Poe Toaster" has been a no-show for the last three years, and the tradition has now officially been declared "over."

Like Poe's life, it's all so sad.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Classic Bad Photography Saturday

We've been down this road before.

There have been countless attempts to turn the old North Scranton Junior High School on North Main Avenue into a technology/business center and apartments for the elderly.

They all failed.  While the projects are worthy, and this building should be saved, it will take tons of money to get the job done.

This time, it's the apartment complex that's up for consideration, and the organization heading the effort, Goodwill, says it hopes state money will finally arrive this spring.

Pardon my pessimism, but I'll believe it when I see it.  There have been too many "we're close" proclamations over the years to get excited over the latest.

I really hope it happens this time around.  Turning NSJH into apartments for the elderly helps the neighborhood, helps the city, and helps the people who live there.

Today's photo was taken back in the summer of 2007.  Nothing's changed.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Line

It's a question I cannot answer.

Newt Gingrich is running for the Republican presidential nomination.  Gingrich is on his third wife, which is not unusual these days.  Last week, ABC News interviewed wife #2.  She claimed Gingrich wanted an "open marriage."  The ex says her husband wanted to "date" other women, while still being married to her.

Okay, here comes the question.  Where is the line?  It's nice to know a candidate's standards and morals, if he or she is trustworthy and is presidential material.  On the other hand, privacy is extremely important.

Gingrich was asked about it during a CNN debate on the 19th, and he lashed out at the media for going the tabloid route.

At what point does a candidate say "It's none of your business."

I just don't know.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hand Me Down World

I've gone off on a couple blog rants recently, complaining about cutbacks in local radio.  Today, proof that broadcast frugality is really nothing new.

KLIF is a radio station in Dallas, TX.  Today's photos were taken in the parking lot of the WARM building in Avoca, PA, USA.  I believe the year was 1987.

At the time, KLIF and WARM were owned by the same company.  WARM got a hand me down truck. Of course, it was re-painted, but you couldn't escape the fact that the truck had seen better days.

There was an employee contest to name the vehicle.  The winning selection was "The Mrs."  It stood for Mobile Remote Studio.  The person who suggested the name was a sweet woman, but most of us on the staff really hated that name.  Management liked it, and that's all that counts.
If memory serves, the MRS rarely worked right, and it was still around when I left in 1991.  I don't know how long it was part of WARM's fleet.

The truck wasn't WARM's only hand me down.  We also had a van from a sister station in Norfolk, VA.  I know I have those pictures somewhere.

By the way, the black 1984 Ford Escort GT you see at the left was mine.  Driving it was a culture shock for a while.  I traded in a full size 1978 Chevrolet Blazer to get it.  I loved the Blazer, but the miles were adding up.  It ate gas, and the tires cost a fortune.  The Escort, albeit very small compared to the Blazer, was a good car until its electronic modules kept burning out.  The car died while I was visiting a friend in State College.  I rented a car to get home while it was repaired in State College, declining an offer to stay with my friend and her roommates.  The Ford and I parted company not long after that.  As for my friend, I haven't heard from her in years.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Long Overdue II

I was asleep at the switch on this one, and I'm kicking myself for it.

My old junior high school was recently torn down, and I missed getting a look at the demolition.  I really wanted to see this place reduced to rubble.
When I heard about plans to tear it down a couple years ago, I did a little thinking.  I spent three years roaming these halls, and I could think of all of two good things that happened to me here.

I'll share one with you.  This is where I met a really good English teacher, one who could make diagramming a sentence and constructing them properly understandable.  He passed away several years ago, and I'm sure he'd cringe at some of what appears here.  We later worked together at a radio station, and it was a kick.  He was taken from us far too soon.

As you can see from the first picture here, taken late last week, the site is now a pit-- which is what it was when I went to school here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Long Overdue I

It happened yesterday..  The ramp leading from Oak Street in Scranton to the northbound lanes of the North Scranton Expressway closed, and it should have happened a long time ago.

It's hard to see the ramp in this picture that I took Thursday morning, but it's on the left of the shot.  This area has long been a trouble spot.  It's where the Expressway, Interstate 81, and Routes 6 and 11 all come together.  This can of worms replaced a traffic circle decades ago.  Old timers around here still call this area the traffic circle.

The successor to the circle was okay for its time, but traffic has increased and people drive faster.  PennDOT is working on a realignment.  There are a couple other changes, in addition to closing the Oak Street ramp.

We've seen all cases where the solution is worse than the problem.  Let's have faith that the realignment actually works and this becomes a much safer area.


Monday, January 23, 2012

JVP

Regular blog readers know that Joe Paterno was not one of my favorite people, both before and after "The Scandal."

But, I am not so myopic to fail to recognize Joe Paterno's contributions to his sport and his university.

Now is not the time to go over Paterno's role in the situation that led to his November dismissal.  That can wait.

However, I will say that I'm sorry Paterno will not be around to see how it all plays out-- how the case makes its way through the courts, where the investigation leads, when we learn more about what really happened and why.

Vindication for Paterno?  It's possible, but even Paterno admitted he could have done more.

I will quote Steve Czaban of Yahoo Sports Radio:  "Maybe the saddest ending to a sports legend ever."

Jason Wilde Tweeted:  "Let's make Paterno's true legacy a cautionary tale of how devastating silence is."

I express my sympathies to Joe Paterno's family, friends, and fans.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Classic Bad Photography Sunday: Harrisburg

I haven't been taking many pictures recently.  It's been too cold, so today, the start of an occasional feature:  Classic Bad Photography.

I was going through a stack of old photographs on a recent afternoon, and I thought I'd share this one with you.  It's appropriate for this time of year.

It was taken on the morning of January 17, 1995-- the day Tom Ridge was inaugurated as governor.

I was working down the street back then.  My job was easy-- do live shots for the morning broadcast, and taped pieces for later in the day.  Our anchor would cover the evening festivities, including the inaugural ball at Founder's Hall in Hershey.

I had to work swiftly-- get my pieces written and in the hands of the video editor in the satellite truck fast, because the truck was being moved from Harrisburg to Hershey right after the inauguration was over.  It wasn't a problem, and I thought the stuff looked pretty good.  I wish I had saved it.  I was relaxing in the hotel by 2 PM.

The inauguration was different in a lot of ways.  Here are two.  Tom Ridge was the first governor from Erie, and he was the first to be sworn in on the east side of the capitol building.  When I took this shot, the capitol was behind me, and I'm looking out toward Soldiers' Grove the Walnut Street Bridge.

After Ridge took the oath, it was the first inaugural parade in twenty years, and it made for an unforgettable day.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: Patriot's Park

  I took this one on the last Thursday of 2011at Patriot's Park in Nanticoke.

Other than the monument, there really isn't much here, and there doesn't have to be.  It's a nice green space in the middle of the city, and it has that real small town feel.  I can see Opie riding his bike through the park on a summer afternoon.  It's a simple space, and simple is good.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Final 4

The National Football League is down to the playoff final four.

I need a team to root for, but I'm stuck.

There is no Tim Tebow type character on any of the four teams.  There's no compelling story that encourages interest.

I'm a Steelers fan, so that ship has sailed.

49'ers?  The team of the 80's.  No warm fuzzies here.

Ravens?  One of the main enemies of the Steelers and a thug filled team.  No can do.

Patriots?  Well known for cheating and a coach who hides injury reports.  I admire Tom Brady's skills, but there is no way I can root for New England.

That leaves the Giants, by default.  The Giants ruined the Patriots' perfect season a few years ago, so that's a plus.  That's the only one.  It's better than nothing. 

Go, Big Blue!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The King

It seems I've spent a lot of time lately noting the struggles of once great American companies-- Hostess, Sears, KMart, Kodak...

If it hasn't happened already, Wendy's was set to surpass Burger King as America's number two fast food chain.

Fast food is subjective, but I've always been a BK fan.  It is the home of one of the greatest sandwiches in history-- the Whopper.

I've been thinking about how and why Burger King lost its way.  It's impossible to knock off McDonalds, but you can still come close.

It seems like BK could never agree on an advertising strategy, and it when it finally did, the ads featured the guy in the creepy King costume.  In my view, the company lost sight of what made it different-- flame broiled hamburgers and easy customization.  I always get my Whopper without mayonnaise.  Ask for a special order at McDonalds, and prepare to wait.  Perhaps one of the reasons Wendy's is doing better is it embraced the customization concept.

Burger King's menu grew too large, and with apologies to a friend who works there, a lot of the stuff is nothing to write home about.

BK fries have always been okay.  Yet, the company seems to change them every year.  Guys, pick something and stick with it.  Easy on the salt.  McDonalds loves the shaker, and that's unfortunate.

Breakfast?  Again, okay, but it's impossible to produce anything better than an Egg McMuffin, and BK seems to be a bit too fond of the microwave.

By the way, Wendy's is achieving all of its success without breakfast.  You can get it in selected cities, but not nationally.  The fact that Wendy's, a huge company, can't get breakfast rolling, shows fast food isn't as easy as it looks.

McDonalds has a lot of 24 hour stores.  BK chooses not to compete in that area.  Apparently, BK couldn't make money from being open all night, and I respect that.

USA Today reports BK is testing home delivery in the Washington, DC area.  Are you kidding me?  BK, it's all so simple.  Go back to the basics.  Do it well.  Tell people why it's different.  Tell people why it's better.  The rest should take care of itself.

>>>UPDATE:   The news broke early this morning-- Kodak filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.  The CEO says the move will allow Kodak to return to profitability later this year.  Kodak will focus, pardon the pun, on printers, packaging, and software, among other things.  As noted in earlier blogs, there had to be a time when a Kodak product was in every home in America.  Understatement of the century:  times change.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Who Do You Blame?

I see most of the Tweets and e-mails that come in to the station.  While I don't have a Facebook page, I did read a stack of printed comments over the weekend.  The topic was the layoffs at Offest Paperback in Dallas.

Offset is trimming 70 workers at the end of the month.  There is less of a demand for traditional books because, according to the company, more people are turning to e-readers, like the Nook and the Kindle.

Many of the comments blasted the manufacturers of e-readers and the people who buy them.

I recognize that jobs are extremely important, and losing one is emotional.  I've been there.

I don't have an e-reader, but I do see their value.  They get books in readers' hands faster and cheaper.  Everything has a price.  In this case, the printers take it in the shorts.

You can't stop technology from advancing.  My heart goes out to the people leaving Offset at the end of the month.

I will end with this.  I recently paid a visit to the book store that replaced Borders at the Viewmont Mall in Dickson City.  It was busy on a January weekday afternoon.  People still want books, and that's a good thing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cold and WARM

We've just come through a cold snap, and it happens any time the temperatures dip.  I think of one of my former co-workers, the great Ray Magwyre.

I worked at WARM 590 for ten and a half years, beginning in 1981.  We had the edict from management, when giving the temperature, we always had to tag it by saying "WARM degrees." 

Saying it's 80 WARM degrees sounds rather natural.  Saying it's 2 WARM degrees does not.

Ray did the morning and mid day news, until he left for other challenges.

I didn't have the stones to defy management.  Ray did.  He never said "WARM degrees" when it was cold, and he got away with it.  Ray was talented-- fantistic voice, wonderful spartan writing style.  The guy was smooth.

It might be in the single digits, but it was always WARM for me.

Monday, January 16, 2012

No $ale

I still don't buy it.

Joe Paterno, in the Washington Post, gave his side of the story of the Jerry Sandusky sex scandal-- the one that got him fired after six decades with PSU.

Let's examine some of what the sainted Mr. Paterno had to say.

Paterno said he didn't know how to handle the allegations against Sandusky, and he didn't want to jeopardize "university procedure."  That's the heart of the problem.  It shouldn't have been a case of "university procedure."  Paterno was confronted with evidence that an illegal act had been committed.  It wasn't a university matter.  It was a police matter.  It was university above all else.  Wrong.  This is a coach who fought outside discipline for his players.  It's apparent he was also against outside discipline for his long time assistant coach.

Paterno said he went to his "superiors."  It's a joke.  In the universe known as Penn State, Joe Paterno had no superiors.  The fact that Paterno went to people inside the university community is more evidence of an attempt at a cover up.

Paterno has been quoted as saying "In hindsight, I wish I had done more."  I'm sure there are about a dozen kids who feel the same way.

People involved in this case really should stop talking with the media.  They're hurting the school.  They're hurting themselves.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: The Creek

When the water leaves Lackawanna Lake, and goes over the dam, and down the spillway, it goes here-- Tunkhannock Creek.  I took this photo on a grey December day.  Even though there was no sunshine, there was a plus.  The evergreens popped against all the dullness.

I took the photo from the foot bridge you see below.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: The Falls

Okay, I made another visit to Lackawanna State Park.  forgive me.  I like it there.  As I've said in the past, the park system is one of the few things the state has done right.

I've been meaning to get a closer look at the dam and spillway on the west end, and I finally discovered the easy way to get there.  I worked some extra overnight shifts before Christmas.  My afternoons were free, so I grabbed my camera and took a look.  Here it is.  It's impressive.  I did my shooting on a cloudy day, so the colors and brightness weren't the greatest.  I'll get back there one of these days, when the sun is shining.

Tomorrow, another view.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Business Friday

Hostess, the Twinkie maker, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this week.  The company says sales are down and costs are up.  A Wall Street Journal story says thecompany has union problems and pension fund issues.  I've never been a Twinkie guy, but it would be sad to see an American legend go away.

Kodak is said to be flirting with Chapter 11.  The company never successfully transitioned from film and cameras into digital technology and printers.  At one time, there had to be at least one Kodak product in every home in America.  We've changed, and Kodak couldn't keep up.

The Liquor Control Board is raising proces of several products.  It's a nice way to make friends while the governor is trying to put you out of business.  It's tough to get bent out of shape about this one because alcohol is clearly a product you can do without.  Still, it's unfortunate that your after work drink to unwind might become unaffordable.

The Brookstone store at Mohegan Sun in Plains Township closes at the end of the month.  Do people go to casinos to shop?  Gamble, drink, eat-- and that's about it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dead of Winter

I didn't realize it had a formal beginning and end time until I read about it on a weather web site.

Welcome to the dead of winter-- the coldest time of the year.  According to Accu-Weather, it begins on January 10 and ends on February 10.

That's a little long for me.  I always considered the dead of winter to be the last two weeks of January.  When we hit February, average highs and lows start creeping up by a degree every couple days.  You notice the days getting longer, and the sun getting a little stronger.

As I've said before, getting a little older has its advantages.  Time really seems to fly by.  I was giving it some thought as I was walking the dog yesterday morning.  When you're a kid, you have goals-- the start of summer vacation, entering a new grade in the fall, getting a driver's license, graduation, voting, legal drinking age...

Once you pass 21, there's really nothing big on the horizon.  My current next big event is a meeting with my accountant to get my taxes done.  It's not the same thrill as getting that driver's license, but a happy time nonetheless.

Getting back to winter, it's been a good one so far.  Little snow.  Above normal temperatures.  You know it can't last.  We'll get whacked with a few storms before spring arrives.  Relax.  There's nothing you can do about it.

The Dead of Winter can't last forever.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Season's End

I'm pretty good at shooting off my mouth about the shortcomings of other professional sports teams, so in the interest of fairness, a look at my team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, getting knocked out of the NFL playoffs.

First, the big excuse.  The Steelers were physically banged up.  Key injuries really hurt, pardon the pun.

Plus, it appears to me the Steelers really didn't take the Denver Broncos seriously.  The Broncos finished the regular season at 8-8.  Their offense was weak, and I have a horrible feeling Pittsburgh wasn't prepared.

Strange to say, I'm not that upset over this.  If you're going to lose to someone, I'm glad it was a team led by Tim Tebow.  For years, the guy heard he couldn't be a quarterback in the NFL.  He's proved his critics wrong.  Yes, some of the religion stuff can be heavy handed.  But, nothing makes me happier than seeing an underdog succeed.

Even though they are a long shot, the Broncos are my sentimental favorite this year.

Being a realist, I can't see how anyone can stop Green Bay.  The Saints can put points on the score board.  Never bet against the Patriots.  The Giants are peaking at the right time, and Baltimore can be tough.

The last month of the season is guaranteed to be entertaining.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I Knew It Was Over When...

Radio is my first love, but I knew it was over when...

I was at a staff meeting at my radio station back in the late 80's.  My boss said, and I remember it like it was yesterday, "I'm not interested in new listeners.  I just want to keep what I have."

He essentially threw in the towel.  How do you expect your staff to compete and excel when you've given up?  That was the day I realized radio was cooked and it was time to move on.

Fast forward to a recent morning.  I work with a part time kid who has a good voice.  I asked him if he's ever considered a job in radio.  He replied that radio is dead.  Nice!

The kid is in his early 20's.  He should be in radio's prime demographic.  Yet, he sees radio as passe, and I bet many of his peers feel the same way.

Two radio friends recently lost their jobs, at separate stations last month.  Both had been there more than twenty years.  A local weekend sports talk show I sort of liked went belly up a couple weeks ago.  It's so sad.

Radio is a great medium.  You can't beat the immediacy and the intimacy.  Done well, there is nothing better.  Unfortunately, station operators don't see the wisdom in keeping the live and local sound.  Yes, live and local costs money, but it pays off in the long run.

My former college station, which should be the epitome of live and local, is now nothing more than an iPod, and the commercial stations in town aren't far behind.

Radio will never be what it once was, but that doesn't mean it can't be special again.

Monday, January 9, 2012

They Just Don't Get It

I like old music.  I like old TV.  I have my habits, and there are times I find it difficult to move on.

I'm trying to NOT be hypocritical when I tell Joe Paterno supporters that it's time to give it up.

JoePa is gone.  Fired.  He's not coming back.  Never.  Not ever.

Penn State selected a new head coach Friday, and he's from outside the family.  The ink wasn't even dry on the contract when the complaints began flooding in.

Look, PSU had no other choice.  It's out to change the culture-- the culture of secrecy, and special treatment for players, and ignoring complaints that could have stopped a pedophile from preying on children.  As radio talk show host Steve Czaban put it, this is the culture that gave you a dirty old man in a shower with little boys.

Change is difficult, but that doesn't mean it's bad.

If LeVar Arrington wants to put his PSU stuff in storage, so be it.  If the alumni are out to change the board of trustees because of alleged unfair treatment meted out to Paterno, take your best shot.  The change at PSU is long overdue, and it's tragic that it took a child molester to start the avalanche.

On the surface, Bill O'Brien seems like a wise choice.  He has an impressive track record, and he knows how to win.  Give him a chance.  O'Brien has an enormous task ahead of him.  He not only has to re-build a football program.  He has to re-build confidence in Penn State.  O'Brien also has to get fans to start looking ahead and not repeat past mistakes.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Bad Photography Sunday: The Bridge

It's my first patented, ill fated attempt at being artsy in 2012.

This is the turnpike bridge in Clarks Summit, in the early morning sun, framed by some winter time trees.

Enjoy, and have a great weekend.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bad Photography Saturday: Up the Creek

A couple more from South Abington Park, leftovers from 2011 as we begin 2012.

If this section of Leggett's Creek was bigger, I guess you could call it a spillway.  Here, it's just a minor change in elevation.  The creek was running fast due to some recent rainfall.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Friday Scrapple

It's our first scrapple of the new year.  Much of it is sports and broadcasting related.

CNN/TBS commentator Jim Huber died this week.  Leukemia.  67.  He also wrote for the Atlanta Journal Constitution.  The man was a poet, and he never tried to make himself bigger than the stories he covered.

CNN has revamped its morning show line up again.  Ashleigh Banfield is back.  Yes, the "it's all about me" anchor who's never pulled any ratings has been given a prime spot on CNN.

I tune in Charlie Rose's PBS interview show from time to time.  It's good.  Unfortunately, I don't see Rose as a dynamic personality who can draw viewers to CBS in the morning.

With all the talent on the NBC/MSNBC bench, why did MSNBC have Rachel Maddow anchor its Iowa caucuses coverage?

Pittsburgh travels to Denver for the first round of the AFC playoffs Sunday.  I know Denver won its division, and Pittsburgh didn't, but there is no reason a 12-4 team should have to go on the road to play a team that barely won half its games this season.

Andy Reid has a good winning record in Philadelphia, but he strikes me as one of those guys who can't get you over the top.  I would have made a change.

Verizon quickly backed off its $2 fee for customers who make one-time on-line payments.  Who thought that was a good idea in the first place?  Clearly, Verizon wants you to sign up for those monthly auto-withdraw plans, but whacking you with a fee was the wrong incentive.

Why does it take so long to get rid of a cold?

Hershey is pushing candy bars and Kisses with little bubbles of air inside.  Genius!  Hershey is getting you to pay for nothing.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Uh Oh

This one has been on the back burner due to the holidays...

Sears and KMart had a rough holiday season.  The chain is closing more than 100 stores.  so far, none are here in our area.

Management is spinning this one as a positive.  The stores that remain will make for a stronger chain.  There's some logic in that, but you can't escape the fact that there's blood in the water.  Closings, of this scale, are always a sign of major trouble.

Let's take a closer look.

You can occasionally see me wandering about the aisles of the KMart in Moosic.  I'm an early riser.  The store opens at 7 AM, and it's rarely crowded at that hour of the day.  Hey, you have my business.  The prices for the basics, toiletries, batteries, little hardware items, etc. are competitive.  There is a small food section in case I need some canned soup, cereal, soda, and so on.

Here's where the problems lie.  It's a tired, dated store.  It's clean and orderly, but the look really needs to be refreshed.  On top of that, the only cash register open at 7 AM is the one at the courtesy desk.  If someone is in front of you with a full cart, or if that person has a return, forget it.  Plan on spending the better part of your morning in Moosic.  Why is it that when a company has problems, customer service is the first thing to suffer?

I also blow through Sears once in a while.  My last purchase was a pair of pants, and that was several months ago.  I can't speak for them all, but the Viewmont and Wyoming Valley Mall stores are nice.  Sears, according to industry analysts, is stuck in the middle.  It gets pressure from higher end department stores, and lower end discount stores.  Sears is in danger is becoming irrelevent, the Montgomery Ward of the new century.

Can Sears and KMart pull out of the downward spiral?  Sure.  Will it be easy?  No.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

And So It Begins...

The Iowa caucuses were held last night, and it's a fascinating story in and of itself.

However, I'll pose the same question that we hear every four years:  Is this any way to choose a president?

A small number of Iowa voters will center on a candidate, who will have a ton of momentum heading into Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.  For those who finish down in the pack, they will see campaign contributions dry up.  Some will likely exit the race before the month is through.

As I write this, Rick Perry is going back to Texas to "reassess" (translation:  exit) his campaign, and Michele Bachmann is denying reports she's about to quit.

Two little states have a major role in selecting the nominee, and that's wrong.  We need a national primary, or at least a series of regional primaries.  Too few have too much power.

Of course, a win in Iowa does not guarantee you the nomination.  Ask Mike Huckabee.

I will admit that today's blog is a waste of time.  Election reform will never happen.  Iowa and New Hampshire don't want to give up the power, and I really don't blame them.  Influence is nice.

Governor Ed Rendell floated a plan to hold the Pennsylvania primary earlier in the year.  By the time we go to the polls, the race will likely be over.  A lot of people, including myself, had problems with Rendell's plan.  First, voters shouldn't have to deal with potential snow storms.  The real answers is for more states to vote later in the spring-- not while Christmas decorations are still up.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Money Laundering

It happened just before Christmas.  I had to do some extreme early morning "stocking stuffing."  My task was completed, and I was on the way home.

Suddenly, I became very hungry, so I drive through McDonald's at 2 AM.  By the way, those 24 hour McDonald's are the best inventions-- ever.  Plus, they don't switch to breakfast until 4 AM.  Yes, burgers and fries all night!  How I wish Burger King would do the same.

Anyway, I paid for my food with a $10 bill.  I received some coins and three singles as change.  The money was stuffed into my shirt pocket.  I inhaled the Big Mac and fries in McDonald's parking lot.  As I drove home, something didn't smell right.  I did more sniffing around when I got in the house  It was the three singles I received as change at McDonald's.  I had never encountered such horrible smelling money in my life.  It reeked of cigarette smoke.

There was one quick and easy solution.  I threw the three dollars in the sink, squirted the bills with soap, and washed them.  Problem solved.

Now, I've been accused of being Felix Unger.  I'm fussy.  I'm tidy.  I'm a neat freak.  There are some things I can let slide, but I draw the line at malodorous money!

I hope the person who gave the singles to McDonald's had a good time smoking and presumably drinking.  The money had that "bar" aroma.  I also hope the person who received the singles after me appreciates the springtime freshness.

Monday, January 2, 2012

About the Cover



Big, steel truss bridges aren't as common as they once were.

This is the Nanticoke/West Nanticoke bridge, in a picture taken on a late December morning.  I'm on the west side, looking east.

It's strange to see the bridge and the Susquehanna River free of snow and ice at this time of year.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012

Well, it's finally here, and it wasn't easy.

As we begin 2012, let's take a quick look back at 2011...  snowstorms, fires, an earthquake, Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee, the flooding Susquehanna, Conahan, Ciavarella, kids for cash, Cordaro, Munchak, Penn State, Paterno, Sandusky, Syracuse, the Sterling, city hall hijinks, gas drilling, the Yankees dismal attendance, the Penguins and the elusive Calder Cup...

I cannot remember a newsier year.

Let's hope 2012 is just as interesting, but far less tragic and corrupt.

Thanks for reading the blog and Tweets this year.  Have a great 2012.

I paused for a moment, just before the start of the new year to watch Dick Clark.  He sounds much better than recent years, and I will always admire his courage.

Now, it's back to the keyboard to continue banging out the morning news.