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Friday, January 31, 2014

XVIII



It was rather easy to pick the team I believe will win Sunday night's Super Bowl XVIII in New Jersey.

The point spread is just about even.

Denver has the best offense in the league.  Seattle has the best defense.  I'll always side with the defense.  Seattle wins, and it will be close.

This is the fifth time the best offense has met the best defense.  The defense has taken three out of four.

I'm a bit concerned about Seattle's rather young quarterback, but Ben Roethlisberger proved a young quarterback can have a bad Super Bowl and still wind up with a ring.

Keep in mind, I have no idea what I'm talking about.

I haven't seen a Super Bowl since 1999, and I'll be asleep for this one.  I'll learn the winner when I wake up to come to work.

I'll be lucky if I can catch some of the Kitten Bowl on Hallmark and the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet.

As always, spare me the "commercial" discussion.  An ad is an ad.

By the way, all the gimmicks have done nothing to help the Pro Bowl.  Get rid of it.

I hope this is the last time the NFL chooses an outdoor cold weather site for the Super Bowl.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Southern Accent


I've been watching how our friends in the south have been dealing with below normal cold, plus snow and ice.

We wouldn't bat en eye at temps around freezing and a light glaze, but this is the deep south-- where these things are extremely rare.

Above is a screen grab from WSB in Atlanta.  The ABC station had 25 reporters doing storm coverage yesterday.

Highways were closed. Businesses and schools shut down.  Many municipalities learned the value of having salt spreaders around, even if they're used once in a decade.

What we would call "spring" is the end of civilization as we know it in Atlanta.

As always, The Weather Channel added to the hysteria.  The locals provided voices of reason.

Responsible information is a powerful tool.


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

PS: The Law

Our area always seemed to have more than its share of strange legal cases and crimes.  This week is off the charts.

A Williamsport Police officer is charged with homicide by motor vehicle for allegedly being too zealous in a chase.

A former Wyoming Valley West teacher has been hit with allegations she had sexual contact with two more students.  The count is up to four.

A judge in Lackawanna County went off the sentencing guidelines to give a former Old Forge Police chief more jail time in a sex with a minor case.  A former police captain and a volunteer firefighter were also caught up in the same scandal.

A fund raiser for a fire victim in Schuylkill County might have been a scam.

A 16 year old from Mifflinville allegedly fired a shot at a State Trooper near the Maryland line Sunday morning.

The Kids for Cash scandal hit its fifth anniversary, and one of the former judges is still appealing.

Convicted Lackawanna County commissioners, where were bribed, are still appealing.

A drunk drove in to a giant hole dug by a utility company in Scranton Sunday morning.

A Scranton school director, who should be setting an example, was suspected of drunk driving, and he quickly ran for rehab.

The Hugo Selenski case became even more bizarre.  His attorney and a private investigator allegedly tried to intimidate witnesses.  Investigators say there might have been a dozen bodies buried at Selenski's old home in Dallas.

The only common thread is geography.

It makes life around here interesting, but it's still sad.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday Scrapple

The Captain and Tennille are divorcing.  I can't say I loved their music, but a lot of it was more than tolerable-- good, pop, listenable.

How many times have you heard the phrase "You are your own worse enemy."?  The latest victim is New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

Semenza, Chiavacci and Krenitsky all go to jail.  There has to be a better way to police our towns.

Why are State of the Union addresses big deals?  They're usually forgotten about a week later.  This one might be a little different, as Obama tries to put his presidency back on track.

Cold and snow don't work for me.  At least, you can still go places when it's cold.  Snow restricts mobility, and it's dangerous to drive on it.

Less is more.  The NHL had better restrict those outdoor hockey games before the novelty is gone.

I'm glad January is almost over.

The Seattle Seahawks' uniforms have grown on me.

Hugo Selenski is charming and charismatic.  He's also a cold blooded, ruthless killer.  Why would professionals throw away their careers for him?

Three people were shot to death at the mall in Columbia, MD.  I've been there.  Enormous.  Surrounded by condos, apartments, and office buildings.  It's a planned community, and it seems so artificial.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Speechless

Other than the tower falling down, it's a broadcaster's worst fear-- opening your mouth, and nothing comes out.

It happened to me, just after 8 AM, Sunday morning.  My throat just gave out.

I don't think it was due to an illness.  A number of factors conspired to give me a problem-- reading too much copy, dry air, caffeinated drinks, fatigue...

I do drink a lot while I'm on the air, and I've grown fond of those sugar free flavor packets you mix with water..  Yes, I use the "energy" version, but they can do more harm than good.  Unfortunately, caffeine is a necessary evil when you pull all nighters.

I struggled through a couple stories.  A quick thinking director had me jump forward to a tape piece.  It gave me an opportunity to guzzle some liquids to get my throat re-lubricated.  During a break, another director showered me with cough drops and I made it through the rest of the broadcast.

I've never had a good throat.  After several bouts of strep throat, I finally had my tonsils removed a little more than a decade ago.  The post surgery week was filled with pain, but it was worth it in the long run.

Tonsiled or not, there are just some days when you dry out.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Andy's Angles: The Creek

The last two from McDade Park in Scranton, before we move on to other things.

The park is more than some ball fields, a coal mine, and a duck pond.  A little creek runs through it, affording some nice photographic opportunities.
A fresh coating of snow was on the ground during my recent visit-- adding to the icy and refreshing look of the water coming down off the mountain.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Andy's Angles: Skyline

Scranton was never blessed with much of skyline.  They didn't build them that tall, in small cities, when Scranton was growing.  When your defining feature is a radio station tower, you know the skyline isn't particularly remarkable.

We are lucky to have some very nice scenery.  This is the view from McDade Park in Scranton, on a cloudy and grey winter morning.  If you're not familiar with the area, the camera is pointed to the east.

Friday, January 24, 2014

5


The fifth anniversary of the day Luzerne County judges Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan were charged with corruption is rapidly approaching.

They were charged in a scheme to stock a privately run detention center with juvenile offenders.  It was called the "Kids for Cash" scandal.  Conahan pleaded guilty.  Ciavarella was found guilty by a jury of his peers.

Ciavarella admits to being a tax cheat, but he has always denied he sent kids away in exchange for money.  In rejecting a plea agreement, a federal judge said the evidence indicated Ciavarella did indeed jail kids for money, and he would not take responsibility for what he'd done.

So, what do I remember about January 26, 2009?

A photographer and I were sent to the federal building in downtown Scranton early in the morning.  We knew something big was happening.  We knew who was involved.  We needed the official word.  It was a waiting game.

My cell phone rang during the federal building stake out.  My photographer and I were being moved to the Luzerne County Courthouse in Wilkes-Barre, and Newswatch 16's Jon Meyer would take my place in Scranton.  My job was to cover a late morning news conference by president Judge Chester Muroski.

Muroski assembled the media in a courtroom to say steps would be taken to preserve the integrity of the Luzerne County bench.  Justice would not be in jeopardy.  Muroski did not mention Ciavarella and Conahan by name.  He made no reference to the federal charges that were coming.

It presented a real challenge for our noon broadcast.  I had to report on Muroski talking about something that hadn't happened yet, with individuals who hadn't been named, and there wasn't much time to map it all out.

There was a quick consultation with management back at the office, but much of the noon broadcast was done on the fly.  It was a dangerous time.  I'm not one of those "sources say" guys.  In a major story like this, you have to be extremely careful to guard the rights of the accused (who hadn't been charged yet) and the victims.  I tossed to a "bite" from the Muroski newser, and wrapped what we knew to be true at the time.

In spite of getting the video fed back at the last minute, and things changing by the second, the noon broadcast went smoothly.  My phone rang right after I wrapped up.  It was a congratulatory phone call from Jon.  It made my day.

So what have we learned?  Power corrupts.  Ciavarella and Conahan were bad men.

Even after five years, there are still a lot of questions.  I don't think the county commissioners at the time, who had to sign off on the private detention facility plan, have told the public everything they knew.

And, you knew this part was coming, I will never understand how no one, NO ONE, in the district attorney's office ever uttered a word when thousands of kids were going before Ciavarella without the legal representation they are guaranteed under the United States Constitution.

Ciavarella and Conahan were only the tip of the iceberg.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thank You

Super Bowl XVIII is still nine days away.  The National Football League, FOX Sports, reporter Erin Andrews, and dozens of radio shows already owe a debt of gratitude to Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks.

Sherman is the Seattle cornerback who shot his mouth off, and delivered a classless rant after the Seahawks beat San Francisco in the NFC championship game Sunday night.

Sherman has been the topic of the week, saving everyone from endless discussions of Peyton Manning's injuries, Omaha, and New Jersey's weather.  It gave America a story, and we love stories.  Sherman's rant has been debated for several days now, and it shows no signs of letting up.  In fact, I'm sure Sherman will be one of the huge stories in the week leading up to the big game.

Okay, so where do I come down on this?  Sherman was out of line, but he was caught up in the moment.  I can understand what he did.  Having said that, Sherman shouldn't have done it.  Lose with class and dignity.  Win with even more.

Even though I was 0 for 2 in championship game predictions last week, I'll deliver my Super Bowl guess next week.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Skunk Watch

I do a skunk blog every year.  When you smell a skunk, he or she is out from a winter's nap, looking for food and love.

I couldn't believe my nose.  I spelled a skunk New Year's morning, and there have been several more in the past few weeks.

Something is wrong somewhere.  Either we will have an exceptionally early spring, or the critters were fooled by a few mini bursts of mild weather.

If it's an early spring, it can't be this early.  There's more cold weather and surely some snow in the weeks to come.  After all, it's only late January.  The average daily highs and lows don't bottom out until the end of the month.

Is it possible the skunk is more than a harbinger of spring, and is also a sign of climate change?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

-21

Today is the 20th anniversary of the coldest morning ever in northeastern Pennsylvania.  It hit 21 degrees below zero.

While I wasn't at WNEP at the time, I was a TV reporter down the street, and here's what I remember about that day.

I was a normally daysider, scheduled to start work at 9 AM, but on this day, I had the early morning shift because the woman who usually held that position had the day off.

My car started just fine, and I made it to work without a problem.  The rest of the day moved non stop, which was a good thing because it was too cold to stand still.

I don't remember the order in which a photographer and I knocked off the stories, but I recall we talked with trash collectors in Scranton.  They were dressed for the cold, and they really didn't seem to mind.  The reasons-- their constant movement keeps them warm, and trash smells less when it's cold.

Bus loads of pro lifers were headed to Washington.  The next day was the anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, so I talked with a few about their annual march.  They were on a mission.  Cold wasn't a factor.

There was a water main break in front of the state veterans home on Penn Avenue in Scranton.  The water froze nearly as fast as it bubbled from the ground, and it sent up wisps of icy vapor.  Here's what made that story especially difficult.  We wanted to do the water main break live in our morning newscast.  One of our cables became brittle and broke in the cold.  We had to use a shorter spare cable.  Due to the length limitation, and because we needed the shot of the bubbling water behind me, I had to stand in a snow bank up to my knees to get the proper angle.  Yes, 21 below zero, and I was standing in snow and ice.  Dedication is my middle name.

After the morning broadcast, we went back to the office to warm up for a few minutes, and set out to do something for the upcoming noon show.  We had no plan in mind.  We pointed the truck north and hoped for the best.  We stumbled on a farm-- where they never take a day off.  A friendly farmer provided some interesting information.  Cows can get frost bite on lower appendages.  Most cows actually give more milk in the cold.  They eat more to keep their body temperature up, and the extra food intake equals extra milk output.  It was TV gold, with great pictures.  We headed back to the office to put together a story.

I don't remember much after work, other than a warm shower and a long nap.

I was at WNEP by the time the 10th anniversary of the coldest day ever rolled around.  I dug into the archives and found some stories from 1/21/94.  I tracked down some of the people, including an oil delivery man, a PPL executive, and a mailman-- who developed a frostbitten index finger.

I enjoy saying "Yeah, I was out in it" when talk of the coldest ever comes up.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sneakers

Regular readers will likely remember I've been a visiting a gym a few times a week since November of 2012.

It's a nice little two hour work out, with my time divided between the bike, treadmill, elliptical, and stepper.

I recently noticed some shin discomfort while on the treadmill.  I dropped the incline level a bit.  It helped, a little.  I also broke up my 30 minute brisk treadmill session in to 15 minute spurts, and I used another machine in between.  Again, it helped, a little.

The next step, pardon the pun, was a change in footwear.  My general purpose Reeboks just weren't getting it done.  I looked for running shoes in a few stores.  I couldn't find anything I liked in my price and style range.

My shins were hurting and I got tired of shopping.  I finally went to a big box sporting goods store and told the kid in the shoe department that I wanted an inexpensive shoe, and one without neon colors.  My options were severely limited.  "Severely" is an understatment.  The shoe kid suggested a black and grey model from Nike, and they were on sale.  Done.

I took the shoes to the gym Friday morning.  It helped, a little.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Andy's Angles: The Mine

This is what it's all about-- the coal mine tour at McDade Park in Scranton.  I haven't been down there in years, but I do remember it's fascinating.  I cannot even begin to imagine what it was like spending all day down there, picking, digging and blasting.

By the way, the aesthetics of the mine area wold be improved so much if they did something with the power lines.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Andy's Angles: Tipple

The phot queue was getting rather short, so I grabbed my camera the other day and headed to McDade Park in Scranton.

It was a rather grey day, but there were still some interesting opportunities, like what you see above.

The tipple is a structure that was used for loading coal into rail cars.  That's Montage Mountain, south Scranton and Moosic in the background.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Final Four

Conference Championship Sunday in the National Football League is only two days away.

No Steelers = no major interest for me.  The games are after my bed time, anyway.

It's tough to find one of the four to root for.  A Steelers fan can never pull for Denver.  New England is a bunch of proven cheaters.

San Francisco's coach can be a bit much, and Seattle coach Pete Carroll had to get out of college football before the NCAA kicked him out.

Welcome to contemporary big time sports!

Having said all that, and admitting that I'm no expert, I predict a San Francisco vs New England Super Bowl February 2nd.

Enjoy the games.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Really?

Three young people are charged with criminal homicide after they were allegedly upset with a drug deal.

A mobile meth lab was found in the parking lot of the Dorrance Twp. Municipal Building.

Some communities appear to have a meth lab on every corner.

Wilkes-Barre Police say the majority of the Sherman Hills problem are drug related.

They are lined up around the block to get legal marijuana in Colorado.

Some police officers will secretly tell you the War on Drugs hasn't gone as planned.  They can occasionally choke off supply.  Demand is an entirely different story.

I wouldn't be surprised to see legal marijuana in Pennsylvania one day, but not soon.  The gambling and lottery money is nearly maxed out, if it's not there already.  There is talk of adding a "keno" type lottery game, as many other states already have.  Marijuana will become the new cash cow.

Investment advice:  buy stock in companies that make pee cups, blood vials, and testing equipment.  Police and potential employers will have their hands full, so to speak.

This is a blog with no conclusion.  That's up to you.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

PS Wednesday

Revisiting a few issues from the past today...

The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce has hired an outside expert to take a look at Scranton's financial mess.  It's nice to have an outsider and a fresh set of eyes look at things.  Taxpayers won't pay for the consultant.  The Chamber will.  Follow the money.

Traffic on Interstate 81 north, between Wilkes-Barre and Pittston was down to one lane Monday and Tuesday.  Pothole.  A big one.  Crumbling concrete.  At least ten cars were damaged.  For those of you who remember, we sent a man to the moon.  Yet, we can't make long lasting road materials.

HBO and Aaron Sorkin say the next season, the third, of "The Newsroom" will be the last.  It's a darn fine show, and it gets major points due to the charismatic Jeff Daniels.

The same goes for NBC's "The Blacklist."  It really gets by on the talents of James Spader.  However, it's violent, creepy, and disturbing.  There are times I wonder how much more I can watch.

DirecTV and The Weather Channel are involved in those urinating contests that crop up from time to time.  The Weather Channel keeps trying to sell its importance.  Yeah, like I need to see more of those "end of the world/global warming" shows.  TWC is in a bind.  People get their weather from local TV, plus tablets and cell phones.  It had to change the game a bit.  TWC went too far.  Cut back on the shows.  Give us the weather.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

I Love This!

I always enjoy it when the blog gets a rise out of people.

I don't have a Facebook site, but a couple co-workers showed me comments, lighting me up over last week's entry on my old college radio station, WVMW 91.7.

I admire how you're defending your operation.  I'm sorry, but you still don't get it.  The most successful stations are the ones that do the best job of reflecting their community.  WVMW has a pre-set on my car radio.  I listen often.  You've become a juke box, not a radio station.

I understand the need to automate during parts of the day.  Even the big guys do that, and I like that WVMW is on 24/7. 

WVMW is a college station, and its primary mission is to train students in the art and science of broadcasting.  Your sound is polished and professional.  It's also canned.

Having a radio station and not using it to its fullest capabilities is like having a chemistry lab, and doing the same experiment every day.

What are you learning?  What are you teaching?

I take pictures.  I'm not Ansel Adams.

I write a blog.  I'm not Hemmingway.

You record liners and breaks on a hard drive.  That's not broadcasting.

"Alternative" is more than a genre of music.  It's also an attitude.  Give me something I can't hear or experience elsewhere.  You can do it.  As Dan Rather used to say "courage."

Congratulations on the awards, but remember what Einstein said:  "What is right is not always popular, and what is popular is not always right."

WVMW is my first radio station, I cherish my time there and it will always be special to me.  Please, use the microphone more than the keyboard.

By the way, I'll offer some thoughts on the TV station in the weeks to come.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Monday Scrapple

What did you know and when did you know it?  If New Jersey Governor Chris Christie used George Washington Bridge traffic tie-ups as retribution for a political opponent, his political career could be over.  Don't mess with drivers' commutes.

I've been beating up on Scranton lately, and deservedly so.  However, I have to say I really like the credit card accepting parking meters.  I should also note, the credit card meters come from the company hired to run the parking project, not the city itself.

Adam Sandler won the People's Choice award for best comedic movie actor.  Think about that for a while.

At least, it wasn't Will Ferrell.

GSN recently started re-running "Blockbusters" from the early 80's, at 9 AM-- one of the most under rated game shows in history.  Blessedly simple, but still loads of fun.

If you hear me scream in pain, it means my gas bill has arrived.

The NFL is thinking of expanding the playoffs.  Please don't.  It's fine as is, and an expansion will put some mediocre teams in the mix.

James Franklin appears to be a good football coach, but his baggage makes him a poor fit for Penn State.  Do a Google search.  There's an interesting NY Times story on the reduction of standards at Vanderbilt.  Is this what you really want?

I interviewed for a job in Charleston, WV in 1998, so I've been watching the water contamination story there with great interest.  The side of the city with the chemical plants is ugly beyond belief.  However, I found the rest of the city to be rather nice, and the people were friendly.

Seeing discarded Christmas trees on the curb makes me sad.  I know they're grown to be used and thrown out (or recycled).  That part doesn't bother me.  I think a tree on the curb signifies the holidays are truly over, and there's a long, dark cold late winter ahead.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Andy's Angles: Downstream

Same creek as yesterday, and shot from the same Route 407 bridge in Susquehanna County.  Yet, the downstream view looks different.  The trees have the last of the yellow and brown leaves.  There are more rocks in the creek bed.

You have to love this area.  A creek can change character in the span of a few feet.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Andy's Angles: Up the Creek

We'll begin 2014 with a couple leftovers from the year gone by.

This is a late fall shot, taken of the creek that runs below the Marshbrook/Glenwood area of Susquehanna County.

We were in a dry spell when the photo was taken, and that's why the water is calm.  You can actually see the creek bottom.

Friday, January 10, 2014

WVMW

It's been a while since I've taken a chomp out of this old chestnut, so let's have another bite.  Shall we?

As noted several weeks ago week, I made my annual trip to Marywood's Christmas tree lighting in early December.  Part of my visit usually involves poking my head inside my very first radio station, WVMW.  It's at 91.7 now.  It was down the dial, at 91.5 during era.

My first time on the air was in December of 1979.  Freshmen weren't allowed on the air, but I weasled my way in to a shift because they needed extra bodies for a 48 hour rock marathon.  Back in the day, the station was on 1 PM to 1 AM.  On a few weekends, we went around the clock.

My first shift began at 2:30 AM on a Sunday morning.  Yes, 34 years later, I'm still doing weekend mornings.  I was terrified.  It's not as easy as it looks.  An upper classman guided me through.  Thank you, Mary Jo.

That brings us to modern times.  WVMW is a first class facility.  The radio station was on auto pilot when I visited.  The station was deserted, but on the air.  Music and announcer breaks are loaded on to a hard drive.  I understand this is the only way to do it because the department isn't large enough for live and local around the clock.

Sad.

The station sounds great.  It's perfect and polished.  However, I've long contended that's 180 degrees from its intended purpose.  Go live.  Learn how to do it.  Make mistakes.  Practice.  Get better.  Develop a since of timing.  Understand what it means to think on your feet.   I can get a lot of people to program a computer.  I see very few interns and graduates these days who can handle a live microphone.

I was disappointed WVMW did its weeks of Christmas music last month.  It's supposed to be different, an alternative.  The Christmas stunt was just giving you the same tired material you can hear in dozens of other places.

I will fully admit I'm a dinosaur.  Internet and satellite music stations are gaining in popularity, and they are certainly not live and local.  It could be the skills I'd like to see young people acquire really aren't needed.

Again, it's sad.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Cold

I've been trying to avoid part of the "OMG!  It's so cold outside!" chorus, but the time has come to chime in.

First, calm down.  This is Pennsylvania.  It gets cold.  It's been colder

I turned off the TV for a while because I got tired of seeing silly cable news reporter and Weather Channel personnel doing wacky cold weather stunts.  The same goes for the channels that aired home videos of people doing stupid things.

This isn't rocket science.  Check on the young, the old, and animals.  Dress appropriately for the weather.  Limit your exposure.

I have mixed feelings on the school cancellations.  City and small town schools could have toughed it out.  Rural districts are another story.  Some children have long rides to school, waiting for buses out in the middle of nowhere.

Can we stop calling it "global warming?"  It's climate change.  We might not be getting warmer, but patterns clearly are different.  Whether it's man made or something the planet does from time to time is up for debate.

Here's one thing that really concerns me:  power companies said the grid was maxed out Tuesday night.  Customers were urged to conserve, a good idea in any weather.  As noted above, we've had bigger cold snaps in this country.  It makes you wonder how reliable our electric system is, if there was a real national emergency.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Big

I hope it's not a sign of things to come.

Monday's Scranton  mayoral inauguration was held in a cramped city hall staircase and hallway.  It was crowded.  It was uncomfortable.  The sight lines were awful.  It's a staircase-- not a site for special events.

I've been at mayoral inaugurations on the front steps.  I've been at another, off site, in the comfortable auditorium at Lackawanna College.

In its very first day, the new administration failed to think big, and it showed.

Scranton is begging for new ideas and solutions.  Why not inaugurate the mayor at the Nay Aug bandshell?  I know it's winter.  If an outdoor inauguration is good enough for the president of the United States, it should be good enough for a mayor.

Center court at the Mall at Steamtown would have worked.

Move the inauguration to one of the schools.  I'm sure the kids would enjoy seeing democracy in action.  It might even inspire one of the leaders of tomorrow.

Any additional costs would have been minimal.

Jim McNulty held his inaugural ball in the then-vacant Oppenheim building because he wanted to show Al Boscov what the building looked like when it was filled with people.  McNulty desperately wanted Boscov's in Scranton.

Say what you want about Jim McNulty, but you can't argue the point that he liked to do things differently.

We need different.  We need big.

What we got was a cramped hallway, filled with the usual suspects.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Christmas Wrap

Today, several issues left over from the holiday season...

For the first time in many, many years, I didn't work Christmas morning or New Year's Eve/morning.  Christmas isn't Christmas any more.  It's just another night filled with mayhem, violence and crime.  Sorry for the cynicism.  The same goes for the start of the new year, but throw in rampant alcohol abuse and rowdyism.  I needed a break this year.

Having said all that, I tried to avoid being the "let's get the holidays over with already" guy.  While I was eager to move things along, I, for the most part, kept my mouth shut.

The shopping thing was totally out of hand this year.  People shop on Thanksgiving.  The toothpaste is out of that tube, and it's not going back.  On a positive note, some small business owners tell me they had an awesome Small Business Saturday in November.

Bryant Gumbel and Jane Pauley guest anchored the Today show on NBC 12/30.  Pauley was a lttle tentative.  Gumbel was as sharp as ever.  I hope Matt Lauer learned something.

I spent a few mornings in downtown Scranton just before and after Christmas.  Other than Courthouse Square and the immediate area, I found it to be a dark and dreary place.  Lackawanna and Wyoming Avenues were especially dark.  No Christmas cheer.  None.

Outside of First Night Scranton, there really aren't a lot of community activities on New Year's Eve in the metro area.  If you're not in to the bar scene, and you want to avoid Scranton, you're out of luck.  Kudos to the small communities like Tamaqua who know how to have a little home town fun.  I'd like to see Dunmore's Buck Drop return.  Drop a crown in Olyphant, the Queen City.  Carbondale is big enough for a little celebration in the park

Happy New Year to the woman who got really snippy with me over the phone on New Year's Eve because we weren't forecasting snowfall totals yet.  I agree with the station's philosophy:  go with the numbers when you are reasonably sure.  To all those predictors of two feet, how did that work out for you?

There was a funny moment on New Year's Eve morning.  Photographer Corey and I were kicking around story ideas.  We were at the gas station and looked around.  We were surrounded by cars with out of state license plates, so a travel story, it was.  We found a few people with interesting stories, racing the clock to get home by midnight.  I hope they all made it safely.

Can we avoid the Russian Christmas, Orthodox Christmas, Julian calendar Christmas argument this year?  People call it different things.  They're all OK in my book.  No one is trying to insult you or your heritage.

Thanks to the viewer who sent me an awesome railroad calendar.  It's outstanding.  All the Christmas and birthday cards were cool, too.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Icy Example

Today, a perfect example of how the city of Scranton is stuck in the dark ages. 

The photos you will see today were taken after a recent snow storm.  Curb to curb plowing, and alternate side of the parking are concepts that have yet to reach the Electric City.

It costs more to park at meters than ever before.  Yet, this is what you get for your money.  Snow.  Ice.  A dangerous mess.
In the cases you see today.  It snowed, followed by a cold snap.  What you see here isn't slush.  It's rock solid.

The snow plowing behavior, or lack of it, is anti business, anti shopper, and anti downtown worker.  For a city that needs to attract people downtown, it's doing a lousy job.

I've known business owners who've hired heavy equipment to come in and do the job the city was supposed to do, and I'm told it's even worse in the neighborhoods.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Andy's Angles: Carbondale

There are certain structures I'm drawn toward, like a moth to a light bulb, and this is one of them.  It's Carbondale's City Hall.

The city has made strides in recent years-- a new hotel, fairs and festivals that attract visitors, etc.  However, more work needs to be done.  A bridge or two needs to be replaced, and there are dilapidated structures, like the one to the left of and behind City Hall in this photo, that need to be torn down.

Our area can't prosper if the small cities and towns aren't in good shape.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Andy's Angles: Once a Year

Now that Black Friday has bled over to Thanksgiving, this is a sight you'll see only once a year.

I took this picture of a deserted Viewmont Mall in Dickson City just after noon on Christmas day.

I'm a believer in free enterprise, capitalism, and freedom of choice.  However, I'll never be able to wrap my head around a Thanksgiving shopping frenzy.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Surprised?

Raise your hand if you're surprised Bill O'Brien is bailing out of Penn State?

I didn't think I'd see many hands.

The days of Bear Bryant and Joe Paterno "coaches for life" are over.  The stakes are high.  There's too much money out there.  We don't tolerate losing as well as we once did.  If you have a few bad seasons, you're out.  If you're viewed as the hot coach of the moment, back up the Brinks truck because you're going to get rich.

I don't totally blame O'Brien for taking the Houston NFL job.  How do you say no to millions of dollars and financial stability?  However, I am disappointed O'Brien left so quickly.  A lot of student athletes and their parents put faith in him when the smart and easy thing would have been to transfer after the PSU scandal.  Bill O'Brien owed Penn State and the kids more than two years.

Credit where it is due:  Bill O'Brien restored respectability and normalcy to a program that had none.  Even when Paterno was there, he was out of touch with what was happening around him.  JoePa hung around far too long.  O'Brien won more games than anyone reasonably expected.

In a Harrisburg Patriot story, O'Brien lashed out at the "Paterno people" for their interference in his program.  More than one party in this whole episode needs to move on.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

About the Cover

It's back to the cupolas for the first blog header of 2014.

Blog headers are usually reserved and held to things secular.  However, there is the occasional exception.

This is the United Methodist Church in Scott Township, Lackawanna County.  It's a pretty building, in a nice country setting.

January is the longest, coldest month of the year.  Winter has its charm, but I'll be happy when it's over.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014

Even though things rarely go as planned, I've been lucky beyond belief.

The turning of a calendar page really doesn't much, but if it gives you reason for hope and optimism, go for it.

It should be yet another interesting year (they all are).  The governor is up for reelection.  House and senate races, a possible new form of government for Lackawanna County, Scranton's continued finalcial problems, Wilkes-Barre's crime issues...  The list goes on and on.

I hope you have a happy and safe 2014, and thank you for reading the blog.