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Thursday, July 31, 2014

PS Thursday


Revisiting some earlier topics...

I've been a LinkedIn member for quite some time, and I have yet to understand its value.  Something strange happened  recently.  I already had a ton of "contacts."  The number shot up when I replaced a simple "A" logo in my profile with a screen capture of me doing my thing on one of our weekend morning broadcasts.

I mean no disrespect to anyone involved, but nothing good happens when you get in a boat on a dark lake after midnight.

I am continually amazed at the crowd a casino can draw, even in the wee hours of the morning.

Jay Paterno, in a new book, says his father, Joe, committed no crime.  While that may be legally true, considerable evidence points to the fact that Joe had the power to stop a pedophile and did nothing.  According to the book, the elder Paterno didn't realize something was wrong until a grand jury investigated.  Please.  Stop now.

Updates on a couple of my habitual whines...

There's a spot in Luzerne County where Wendy's, McDonalds's and Burger King are on the same commercial strip.  Wendy's and McDonald's are 24 hour operations.  BK is not.  While stopped at a red light on a recent morning, I watched cars stream into the 24 hour joints, while BK was dark.  It can easily have a big slice of that pie.  By the way, I avoided them all.

While I was on vacation, I listened to a lot of the all news efforts on KYW in Philadelpia and WNEW in Washington/Baltimore.  Both kept the news going, even early on a Sunday morning.  Stations around here can barely fill a fraction of the day.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Glory Days



I was cleaning out a desk drawer the other day, and I stumbled upon this-- my Globe credit card.

As you can see, I acquired it in May of 1985.

It's not good for anything now, except a lot of memories.  It was the pre-mall place for back to school clothes.  It was the place where you visited Santa.  Later on, suits and ties-- and it was good stuff.

It was sad to see the Globe end the way it did.  The doors were suddenly locked, followed by a long and painful going out of business sale.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Silly Season

I don't want to diminish the sadness of the recent air tragedies.  However, one of TV networks took it too far.  The network expressed outrage over the rash of incidents, man made and accidental.

Let's examine the numbers.  According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, airlines here in the U.S. handled more than 640 million passengers last year.  That doesn't count foreign flights!

As long as you stay in safe areas of the world, you'll be fine.  The statistics are far in your favor, and it was irresponsible for the TV network to push the panic button.

And, then there is the Good Housekeeping survey that shows people in our area are among the unhappiest in the country.  Yes, we've had some crime issues, coupled with political corruption, long winters, and a horrible economy.  NewsFlash for the people surveyed and who complained:  You don't know how good you have it.  There are worse places out there, a lot worse.

Many years ago, it seemed there was always a survey showing our area was a good one in which to do business.  We would do a story.  A few months later, another survey would come out, from a different organization, showing this was a lousy place to set up an operation.  You didn't know who to believe, and you know what happened?  We stopped doing stories on surveys like that.   It was pointless.

If you're happy, I applaud you.  If you're not, it might be time to re-assess.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Coaches and Managers

Tony LaRussa went in to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY yesterday.

LaRussa racked up an impressive record as manager of the White Sox, Athletics, and Cardinals from 1979 to 2011, but as I've always said, it's the Hall of Fame, not the Hall of Numbers.

LaRussa managed his share of performance enhancing drug users.  Those people shouldn't be in the Hall, and they probably won't be.  All pile up anemic numbers in the yearly voting.  The same should be true for their manager.  How did LaRussa NOT see what was going on?

Below is what LaRussa said in an ESPN interview last week:

"I know that there's people that have accused me because of some of the guys that helped us win in Oakland and St. Louis, so the only thing I can say is I know 100 percent that our program was absolutely clean for everything that we could control," he said.

Are you kidding me?

The Hall of Fame retains some integrity because it has so far kept out admitted liar and gambler Pete Rose, but its credibility really took a hit yesterday when LaRussa was enshrined.

And that brings us to former NFL head coach Tony Dungy.

Dungy almost became one of those coaches famous for running decent teams, but failing to win the big one.  He can thank the ineptitude of the Chicago Bears in 2007 for saving him from that.

Last week, Dungy said he wouldn't have drafted Michael Sam because of the distraction an alternative lifestyle player would cause for the rest of the team.

Dungy is clearly entitled to his opinion when it comes to religion and the way it views these matters.  No one is arguing with that.

It should also be noted that this is the same guy who offered to help admitted dog killer Michael Vick return to the NFL.

I really enjoyed how ESPN's Keith Olbermann used Dungy's own words to lay him out.

It sounds like Coach Dungy needs a lesson in compassion and common sense.

And finally, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.  He suspended Ray Rice two games for knocking his fiance, now wife, out cold in an elevator.  TWO GAMES!  Others have received stiffer penalties for doing less.


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Andy's Angles: College Construction Weekend

If there's ever a project that inspires mixed feelings, this is it.

My alma mater, Marywood, is building a new library.  No one will argue that there's a need.  The current library is functional, but it's old and needs an update.  It needs to reflect new technology.  Below is Marywood's answer, The Learning Commons.
The library will be in the center of campus, as it should be.  A good library is the heart and soul of any college or university.

My concern is the look.  It's a modern glass and steel building in the middle of a cluster of brick.  It doesn't look like it fits.  We'll see if the finished project blends, or obtrusively sticks out.  Completion is set for fall of '15.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Andy's Angles: College Construction Weekend

The University of Scranton's new physical therapy building is going up at the corner of Linden and Jefferson.

The U fought to tear down Leahy Hall-- a building that had outlived its usefulness.  While it had some history, it was small and old.  It was neither architecturally unique or outstanding.  Getting rid of it didn't seem like a bad idea.  The University of Scranton is perhaps the only entity actually drawing people and money to the city.


I saw the plan and the sketches.  It's a lot different in person.  Opponents feared the U's new building would overwhelm the neighborhood.  They could have a point.  We'll have to wait and see how the new building integrates into this part of the city.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Vacation!

It's time for a break.  I'm taking a few days off.  Bill Wadell has the pleasure of manning the weekend morning desk.  Treat him well.

As for my week off, I'll still be here to offer a word or two.  Like most of my vacations, there are no plans, other than to catch up on some sleep and relax by doing absolutely nothing.  I'll probably do a bit of wandering, and some photography if the weather allows.

Really looking forward to that sleep.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lowering the Bar

What happened to pizza around here?

I've been noticing an increasing number of pizzerias getting away from traditional and tasty mozzarella cheese and using a blend of off tasting junk.

I know most Old Forge style pizzas never had mozzarella and never will.  For the most part, the pizzas in question here are what I favor-- round, New York style, thin and crispy crust.

I don't think it's a matter of taste preference on the part of pizzerias.  It's cost.  Dairy products are expensive, and the best stuff costs even more.  Save a buck by throwing some awful mixture of the cheap stuff on the pie.

Note to pizzerias:  loyal customers will pay a little more for quality.

A pizza isn't the same without mozzarella, and I hope pizzerias that are cheaping out have the guts to tell you, on the menu, what type of cheese they use.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Must We?

Any time there's a "name the team" contest here in our area, "Miners" comes up.  And, as I always say, the mines closed a long time ago, leaving scarred earth and workers with coal dust filled lungs.  It's a throw back to the bad old days, and it reinforces every negative stereotype of our area-- that we're a bunch of coal crackers stuck in the 1940's.
Well, here we go again.  The mining mentality phenomenon is rearing its ugly head. The Moonshine Theater on Adams Avenue in Scranton is looking for a new name.  It's between The Anthracite and The Leonard.  You already know how I feel about the Anthracite.  The Leonard comes from the hardware store that used to occupy the first floor here. I made several trips here while I worked for the old channel 22.  Our operations manager loved the place.  Workers here were capable of duplicating any key you would ever want.  I frequently volunteered to take a walk over from the Lackawanna Avenue office to help out the ops manager.  It was a fun place to visit.
I'm not a member of Scranton's artsy crowd and I severely doubt I'll ever set foot inside to see a show.  I'm sure it will be great stuff, but it's not for me.  If Anthracite is chosen, the sun will still rise tomorrow.

If we're going to choose a name from the past, let's make sure it's the right one.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Unfinished Business

I hope you never lose a job.  Having been through it a few times, you become a lot more sensitive when you learn about what other people are going through.  When several Arby's around here closed, most people thought "Where am I going to get my curly fries?"  I saw the faces of people who showed up for work, and who were met with silence from their bosses, along with locked doors.  You might say that they are only fast food jobs, they don't pay well, and there are a lot of them out there.  Maybe so, but any job is a good job when you really need one.

Due to the 45th anniversary of the first moon landing, I've been thinking about the space program.  If you haven't seen it, go to YouTube and look at Will McAvoy's speech from the opening episode of HBO's "The Newsroom."  He goes off on how America is no longer the world's greatest country because times have changed.  Said McAvoy, "We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe...."  The Saturn V rocket was a big thing.  Going to the moon was a big thing.  Do we do anything big these days?  We tried to free Iraq and Afghanistan.  I guess that was big.  Health care?  You can debate that one for months.  iPhone6?  Shampoo and conditioner in the same bottle?  AM Crunch Wrap?  We stopped going to the moon in 1972. The space shuttle was neat, and the same goes for the International Space Station.  It's fascinating that probes launched years ago still work from the outer fringes of the solar system.  Is it big?  Are we expanding our reach?  The jury is out.

I've expressed my affection for David Letterman's "Late Show" in this space in the past.  I hope you saw Monday night's show.  It started with a funny talk with Jeff Daniels.  It was followed by a sometimes serious, sometimes humorous chat with Norah O'Donnell of "CBS This Morning."  The show ended with Will Lee and a stage full of musicians performing "MacArthur Park."  It was a full orchestra, and it must have cost a fortune.  One of Letterman's best shows ever.

I produce WNEP's weekend morning newscasts, and I do try to be family sensitive by keeping dead animals and bodies at an absolute minimum.  We have a war in the Middle East and a jet crash in Ukraine.  Some of the images have been disturbing at any hour, especially the morning.  Keep in mind, we don't want to sanitize the horror, but we do want to make sure people, especially kids, aren't terrified by what they see on television.

Death by train:  a man took his own life by going under a train in Danville Saturday.  Police tell us it was the same man who wanted to jump off a bridge, into Interstate 81 traffic a couple of weeks ago.  I know it's a free country, and involuntary commitments can only go so far.  You cannot help those who don't want to be helped.  It doesn't lessen the tragedy.

Monday, July 21, 2014

11 + 45

So many of the "Where were you when..." events are tragedies.  Today, we celebrate a good one.

Neil Armstrong walked on the moon 45 years ago today.  I remember exactly where I was-- on the foot of my parents' bed, watching Walter Cronkite on a GE black and white portable television.  It had a blue plastic case.  I can still see it.

Consider the feat-- from Orville and Wilbur in 1903 to walking on the moon in less than 70 years. Wow!

It was a great time, a fascinating time to be a kid, a news good, a TV geek and a science aficionado.   Every second of the Apollo 11 mission was dissected during endless television coverage.  I was a member of a Cronkite family.  You can see what all three networks did back then, courtesy of YouTube.  Looking back, it was striking to see how big a cheerleader Cronkite was.  Maybe it was too much.  The other networks were solid, albeit a bit dry.

Even as a kid, I knew this was about more than science.  There were fresh woulds from Vietnam, the Kennedy assassinations, civil rights, MLK, etc.  We needed a "win."  America needed something good. NASA and three astronauts provided it.  The country was united again for one week in the summer of 1969.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Andy's Angles: City Hall

I've had a lot of Scranton assignments yesterday, so that explains the recent flurry of Scranton photos here recently.

I snapped this one of City Hall a few weeks ago.  It was built in 1888, and there have been a lot of renovations here over the years.  It's still in need of some tender, loving care.

In spite of the decisions or indecision made inside, it is still one of our area's most beautiful buildings.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Andy's Angles: The Samters Mystery

What happened here?

The Samters building, at Penn and Lackawanna in downtown Scranton was part of the mall development package.  At one time, it was filled with state offices.  Most, if not all, quietly left for other downtown buildings.

Yes, in spite of the 90's renovations, this is still a very old building.  It's filled with potential, but you know the story.  It needs work.  Money is scarce, and I'll probably be here one day soon to watch it get bulldozed.

Friday, July 18, 2014

One Small Step

I don't remember the exact date, but I do know it was 35 years ago, around this time of year.

Let me back up for a moment.  I pride myself on being a wise consumer.  I research potential purchases and decisions endlessly.  That's why my actions 35 years ago strike me as totally bizarre.

I applied to, and was accepted at Marywood College, now Marywood University.  I had never set foot on campus before the application.  I never toured the place.  I never spoke to anyone there.  Nothing.  My high school guidance counselor seemed to focus on the two people in my graduating class he thought would succeed, and the rest of us could go to hell.  I had no idea what to do.

My grades were good.  The same goes for the SAT's.  The application and acceptance process seemed to be a breeze.  Marywood fit my criteria-- close and affordable.  The radio and tv department, back then, had a good reputation.

And then, reality set in.  It was time for my first visit as a soon-to-be Marywood student.
The admissions office is on the first floor of the Liberal Arts Building.  It's still in the same place-- beyond those double doors in the lower middle of the photo above.  To get there, you had to pass through the rotunda, that magnificent rotunda.
I looked up, stood in awe, and thought to myself  "I'm a kid from a public high school, and a bad one at that.  I will not survive here.  I will not last here.  I will not fit in here."

I swallowed hard, put one front of the other, walked in to the admissions office, and picked up a packet of information and material freshmen needed to know at the admissions office.  I went home and looked it over.  Overwhelming emotion:  fear.  I thought to myself that I really wanted to do this radio and TV thing, and I had to go to college.  It was too late to back out now.

Well, four years later, I was walking out of there with my degree in hand, runner up for a medal for distinction in communication arts.  I might not have fit in, totally, but I made it.   I've disagreed with many decisions Marywood has made over the years, especially when it comes to the operation of the radio and TV stations, and its fondness for naming buildings after felons.

I do not regret going there, and there are times, like yesterday, while I was walking around campus, that I really miss it.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Taken for a Ride

I'll preface this by saying I have no standing here.  I neither live nor work in the city of Scranton.

City council plans to introduce a commuter tax at tonight's meeting.  It's a tax on people who work in the city, but who live elsewhere.  It's an effort to help dig the city out of its massive and ineptitude induced debt.

Proponents claim commuters place a burden on city resources and services.  Our friends at the Times~Tribune nailed it when they said, in an editorial, that services are geared toward residents.  Employers already help the city by paying business and real estate taxes.  Commuters are the ones eating at city restaurants and shopping at city stores (the few stores left).

I paid the last commuter tax when I was working in Scranton.  I would have smiled and have been happy to help at the time, but I just had this overwhelming feeling that my money was being thrown down a black hole.  I was right.  Scranton was financially distressed way back then.  Nothing has changed.  In fact, it's even worse now.

In a move dripping in benevolence, city council will amend its own rules tonight by allowing commuters to speak at its meeting.  Thanks.  Why?  It seems like council has already made up its mind.  Have people yell at you for an hour, vote yes anyway, and walk away with a clean conscience.  Commuters can't vote for or against you.

The way I see it, the commuter tax violates a basic principle, and one Scranton has avoided for decades:  You made this mess.  You fix it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Mauled

I honestly don't know what to do.

The Mall at Steamtown in Scranton fell in to foreclosure in March.  The mall couldn't pay its bills.  The mall was sold to the mortgage holder for $ 37.2 million dollars at a sheriff's sale yesterday morning in Lackawanna County court.

Department store owner Al Boscov, who fought a seven year battle to do the project way back in the 80's and early 90's says he wants his department store, a money maker to stay here.  He'll consider buying the mall if the price is right and he wants to re-fill the empty spaces-- about half the mall, and that's a conservative estimate.

I've interviewed Al Boscov dozens of times over the years.  He might be in his mid 80's but the old buck can still charm your socks off.  Yesterday was no exception.  Unfortunately charm can't pay the bills.

He's trying to save something the American consumer no longer wants-- an urban shopping mall.  Good luck.

There are a lot of suggestions to de-mall the whole thing.  Put stores at both ends, with an open air plaza, including retail in the middle.  It might work, and it would open up the view to the Steamtown National Historic Site-- something that's sorely needed.  The visitor number would skyrocket if people could actually see what's going in there, without maneuvering through a maze.  Boscov seemed to acknowledge that yesterday, but he added paperwork, deeds, loans, covenants, etc. stipulate there has to be a "mall."  Define "mall."  Sounds  like it's up to interpretation.

Scranton is ripe with rumors Lackawanna County will lease the second floor for offices.  Retail would remain on the first.  Sounds like a plan.  If there are courts in the building, defendants can stop for a soft hot pretzel on their way to jail.  Now, that's a bit extreme, but it will be interesting to see if government and retail can mix to keep a shopping center that once held so much promise from going to the grave.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Half

The Major League Baseball All Star Game is tonight in Minneapolis, and it seems as good a time as any to offer up some baseball thoughts as the season hits its half way mark.

Please, spare me the discussion of who belongs in the game and who does not.  The fans vote.  It's the fan's game.  While the All Star Game decides home field advantage in the World Series, it's supposed to be a fun exhibition, and let's keep it as that.

In the days before inter-league play, and dozens of games a week on television, the All Star Game used to be one of the summer's highlights.  If I was still a night time guy, I'd watch.  The game has lost some of its luster, but it's still a good view.

Thankfully, MLB Network has resisted falling in to ESPN style schtick.  Its morning highlight show is among the better sports TV offerings.  As noted here earlier, I love how they use the local radio and TV calls rather than the studio announcers for the voice overs.

Some of my best friends are Yankees fans.  Yet, I do enjoy watching them lose.

It's nice to see the Athletics, Orioles, Nationals and Royals doing well.

Locally, there are 14 teams in the International League.  The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Railriders are 11th in attendance.  I know things don't get rolling here until the weather warms up and the kids are out of school, so the first couple months of the season traditionally see attendance issues.  Still, things should be better.  The team promotes, and we have a nice ballpark.  I don't get it.

By the way, there are only 25 home games left in the 2014 season.

Lehigh Valley averages nearly 9,000 a game, and it's one of the International League's success stories.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gee, Our Diocese?

Even though it's been thirty years, and even though the circumstances are vastly different, the word giardiasis still makes me cringe.

Now, it's a small community water system in Stockton that's pumping allegedly contaminated water through its pipes.  Back then, it was a big water company that dropped the ball in protecting its customers, and we all got sick, in more ways than one.

The contaminated resevoir thing in the early 80's started small, and then it really took off.  I vividly remember the news conference to announce the water in the Scranton area was bad.  It was held at the Wilkes-Barre office of what was called the Department of Environmental Resources back then-- upper floor of the Thomas building at Union and Pennsylvania.

I remember being momentarily torn.  Who do I call first?  My radio station or my family?  I knew the family usually listened when I was out reporting, so I called the WARM newsroom first, and then my family to make sure.  DON'T DRINK THE WATER!

I was fortunate to work for a solid organization that knew the value of news and community service.  WARM took the ball and ran with it.  I don't think anyone came close to getting as much information out there so quickly.  I was on the road.  The great Terry McNulty was in the studio, and he knew just the right notes to hit.

What was called the Pennsylvania Gas and Water Company skated by for years without filtration plants.  Tests showed the water contained giardia cysts, and you could get violently ill from drinking it.  It was THE dominant story for months as fingers were pointed, hearings were held, lawsuits were filed, etc.

The company claimed development near its watershed put, I kid you not, put beavers under stress, and the beaver droppings were more toxic than normal.  Yep, blame development rather than take responsibility for not having filtration plants, even though PG&W was warned.  Valuable lesson:  stressed beavers have more bad stuff in their doo doo.  They never taught me that at Marywood.

The state's remedy?  Force PG&W to build filtration plants, and give them the OK to bill customers for it.  Yes, the company faced sanctions and fines, but consumers were the ones who ultimately paid the price.  On top of that, PG&W still charged us for water you couldn't use.  A Public Utility Commissioner fought that.  In a radio interview with me, he posed the question "How much would you pay for a gallon of contaminated water?"  Of course, the answer was nothing.  Unfortunately, the rest of the PUC didn't see that way.

Eventually, the filtration plants were built.  Water rates went up.  PG&W was sold and a lot of people walked away fat and happy.

The neglect of PG&W management could have killed someone.  The behavior was as much criminal as it was civil, but it never got that far.  Not even close.  There was a class action lawsuit.  Some people who were sickened got money.  Lawyers got money.

Even though the current and 1980's situations are very different, it shows, in many ways, we still haven't learned.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Andy's Angles: The Stones

Parking lots are parking lots.  We need them.  There's really not a whole lot you can do to make them pretty.

It looks like some effort was made at Lackawanna and Franklin in downtown Scranton.  Some rather large pieces of stone have been placed at the back edge of a relatively new lot.
The lot occupies the space where the famed Quint's Army/Navy once stood.  I wonder if the stones came from the old Quint's building.  Unfortunately, there is nothing here to note their significance, and no one was around when I had camera in hand.

I'll do some questioning next time I'm in the neighborhood.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Andy's Angles: Franklin Avenue

As has been noted here many times before, I'm always tickled when old buildings are repurposed.  This block of Franklin Avenue is on its way back.

The three taller buildings here all have retail, office space, or a bar on the first floor with apartments above.  I hear the living spaces are all rather nice.

If I have one complaint, this part of the city is rather dark at night.  They could sink a few bucks into the lighting.

Friday, July 11, 2014

It Makes Me Sad

There are many reasons I got in to broadcasting.  WABC is on the list.

I "got in to" WABC in the 70's, and it was the perfect radio station-- music, disc jockeys, jingles, news...  and it was all wrapped up in an outstanding presentation.  Tight.  Consistent.  Always entertaining.  Never dull.  It was the radio station other radio stations copied, but they could never pull it off quite right.

WABC, like a lot of AM radio stations, dropped music for talk in the early 80's and things were never the same.  Rush Limbaugh was the only thing drawing people to WABC in recent years, and his syndicator took took Rush to another New York station at the beginning of the year.

The news came out Tuesday evening-- WABC had the lowest ratings in its history during the month of June.  Think about that for a second.  At one time, it was one of America's great radio stations.  It's signal, at 770, booms through the NY/NJ/CT/PA area during the daytime, and even more people can hear it at night.

This shouldn't happen!

I know the glory days are gone, and they're never coming back.  However, there's no reason the once mighty WABC should be an embarrassment.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Un Taj Mahal

A recent state budget story had me stationed in front of the Scranton State Office Building on Lackawanna Avenue.

Like most people, I've been involved in a mental tug of war with public buildings.  You want them to be beautiful, interesting and to make a statement.  You also don't want a Taj Mahal of extravagance built at taxpayers expense.

The Scranton State Office Building fails on most levels.  Yes, it's functional.  On the other hand, it's a long, brown brick shoe box with windows that does nothing for the area it was plopped down in to in the 70's.

It reminds me of a prison, without the charm.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wednesday Scrapple

Hurricane Arthur caused plenty of problems last week, but we've seen worse.

Thankfully, the World Cup is nearly over, and we can stop pretending we care about soccer for another four years.

The Major League Baseball All Star Game is set for next week.  I like baseball on TV, but they fact you can see a half dozen games a night, and that's without the super sports cable package, has made the All Star Game less special.

I seemed to notice it a little more this year.  Independence Day has become Independence week.  It continues the trend of milking the last ounce out of every holiday.  You expect it at Christmas.

I know the bridge reconstruction project along Interstate 81 at Dickson City is extensive, but it seems like it's taking forever, and I really dread having to maneuver through that stretch of highway.

It's time for Back to School sales!

I don't care where Melo and LeBron sign.

You really notice the number of pavement cuts when you ride a bike through a small town.

Is there anything better than burgers and dogs on the grill, on a summer afternoon?

Why does anyone care what Joan River has to say?

I think I've been TGIFridays about four times in my life, yet the "endless appetizers" promotion intrigues me.

My latest addiction:  watching network TV 60's and 70's election night coverage on YouTube.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Survey Says...

Some polls and surveys these days seem downright silly.

Quinnipiac University came out with a dandy last week.  It showed Barack Obama is the worst president since World War II.  Are you kidding me?  Yes, Obama's popularity is in the tank.  His administration has been marked by scandals at the IRS and VA.  The employment picture is improving, but it still isn't where it should be.  Benghazi.  Iraq.  Iran.  Syria.  Russia/Ukraine.  There have been several foreign policy mis-steps.

Worst since WWII?  Wow!

Submitted for your approval, a brief review of presidents since I've been a resident of the planet.

JFK:  severe moral issues
LBJ:  Vietnam
Nixon:  Watergate
Ford:  uncontrolled inflation
Carter:  Iran hostages
Reagan:  Iran-Contra
Bush:  recession, "no new taxes"
Clinton:  severe moral issues, impeachment
Bush:  another recession, Hurricane Katrina, weapons of mass destruction
Obama:  see above

While it is fair to say Obama is an unpopular president, saying he's the worst president in 60 years is a stretch.  I wonder how many of the respondents were around at the time.

I'm usually a Consumer Reports fan, but the current issue leaves me scratching my head.  Consumer Reports tested, sampled, and surveyed fast food.

McDonald's came in dead last in the burger category.  Huh?  America's most successful fast food chain at the bottom?  Come on.  It has to be doing something right.  Burger King is third from the bottom.

Among chains here in our area, Five Guys is close to the top.  I won't dispute that.  The food is good, but expensive.  Consumer Reports says Five Guys succeeds by making only a few things, and doing them well.  I think that's where McDonald's and BK lost their way.  The menus grew too large.

It all comes down to location and what you can afford.  Kudos to Consumer Reports for attempting to put concrete ratings on something so subjective, although some of it seems pointless.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Another One

Scranton is joining Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton, and Potsville, and getting an intermodal transportation center.  It's a place where buses, local and long distance, plus taxis and trains (yeah, right) all come together.

Ground breaking is set for next month, but some preliminary work is underway.

I've passed by the one in Pottsville.  I haven't been to the one in Hazleton.  Wilkes-Barre's is on South Washington Street, with a parking garage above and quick access to Public Square.

And, that's what troubles me about the one in Scranton.  It's on Lackawanna Avenue, blocks away from any place someone would want to visit, like professional offices, the courthouse and the mall.  Proponents say bus riders will stay warm and dry.  They're not saying anything about getting cold and wet, walking several blocks to your destination.

The intermodal center will be built on a parking lot next to the state office building.  An auto dealer and a bus station across the street will be torn down to replace the lost parking.

Like many things here in our area, the Scranton intermodal center seems to be a solution in search of a problem.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Andy's Angles: The Park

It's another one from Frances Slocum State Park in Luzerne County to close out the long holiday weekend.

Trees, grass, water...  what's not to like.

Hope your holiday weekend was a good one.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Andy's Angles: Frances Slocum

Some park pictures would be nice for a holiday weekend.  I took these at Frances Slocum State Park in Kingston Township early Tuesday morning.

State government screws up a lot of things, but the state park system is one area where it gets things right.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Tradition

Independence Day is like every other holiday-- full of tradition.

For many years, if it fell on one of my days off, I'd grab a big soda, grab a spot in the Wyoming Valley Mall parking lot, and watch the Kirby Park fireworks from a distance.  You got a good look at the show, without all the traffic.  If you timed it right, you could also look off to the right and see the Pocono Downs fireworks.  I'm a morning person now, so anything after dusk is pretty much out of the picture.  Independence Day is a "work night" this year, anyway.

Tradition then moves to earlier in the day, with burgers and dogs on the grill.  Interesting reading the other day-- one of the fastest growing burger toppings these days is olives.  I don't dislike olives.  I always get them on my Subway turkey and swiss.  I don't object to them in a salad, green or black.  On a burger?  Sorry.  I'm not there yet.  I'm a standards guy-- any combination of ketchup, lettuce, tomato, and onion.  Occasionally, barbecue sauce or steak sauce, which really isn't that different from ketchup.

No matter how you choose to celebrate today, tonight, and this weekend, please be safe.  Leave the fireworks to the experts.  Don't speed, swim without a buddy, boat without a PFD, over do the alcohol, etc.

As I always say, remember what the day is all about, and I'll see you on TV tomorrow morning.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Harrisburg

Many of the things going on in Harrisburg these days defy analysis, but that's really nothing new.

The budget is front and center.

It was passed by the house and senate Monday night.  It's not a great budget.  There's no tax on gas drillers, something the majority of Pennsylvanians seem to favor.  The state is still in the liquor business, something the majority of Pennsylvanians oppose.  Casino money, which was supposed to go toward property tax relief, is now plugging holes in the general fund-- a broken promise.

When the budget got to the governor's desk, he decided not to sign it and went home.  The governor, locked in a reelection battle, wanted pension fund contribution reform.  It's not there.  His own party refused to give it to him.

Yes, abandoned by his own party.  I learned a long time ago to never bet against an incumbent, but there are some exceptions.  Everyone knew Jimmy Carter didn't stand a chance against Ronald Reagan in 1980.  Bush the 41st looked out of touch, and his loss to Bill Clinton came as no surprise in 1992.  Rick Santorum's brand of politics was overwhelmed by Bob Casey in that senate race of 2006.  Jimmy Connors, Arlen Specter and Paul Kanjorski all stayed at the party too long.  Jackie Musto Carroll did nothing as second in command in the district attorneys office while THOUSANDS of kids were going before Mark Ciavarella without legal representation.  Don Sherwood made some bad decisions in his personal life.  Frank Harrison was enjoying a Latin American trip when thousands of his constituents were boiling their drinking water.  Tom McGroarty couldn't get along with people, and mayors need to do that.  I can write a book on the foibles of local state representatives.

You might have to add Tom Corbett's name to the endangered species list.  A new poll shows him losing ground to Tom Wolf, at a time when he should be gaining momentum.

Even Corbett supporters would probably admit this isn't their man's finest hour.  He didn't look in command during remarks delivered Sunday night.  He released a statement Monday night, and didn't go in front of the cameras, as his Democratic counterparts did.  Corbett doesn't appear to "owning" this moment.  It took the governor's public relations/press staff until Tuesday afternoon to explain what a refusal to sign the budget meant.  Included was a reassurance state government would continue to function, which should have come at 12:01 AM 7/1, not 14 hours later.  Either they were surprised by their boss's action or they need to be schooled on their jobs.  It's a crisis. Get in front of it.

And, there is Attorney General Kathleen Kane...  The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association slammed Kane for her apparently politically motivated examination of the way her predecessor handled the Jerry Sandusky investigation.  During the campaign, Kane strongly suggested that Tom Corbett slowed the investigation into the former Penn State assistant football coach for political gain.  She was wrong, and a report proved that.  Full disclosure:  the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association is controlled by Republicans, including Kane's opponent for the job in the last campaign.  Still, it has to make you stop and think.  Even the local newspaper, where Kane enjoys most favored nation status, published a column last weekend, suggesting she needs to "find her footing right now."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hot

It looks like some really hot weather is here, followed by a brush with the remnants of a tropical storm.

Relax, and welcome to summer in northeastern and central Pennsylvania.

I love how many of us react as if it's never been hot before.  You know the common sense rules.  Drink water.  Avoid prolonged exposure to the heat.  Check on the elderly.  Keep an eye on the pets.  We'll be fine.

By the way, I took the above picture behind a Lackawanna Avenue, Scranton building the other morning.  The air conditioning system might look over done, but it's a big building.

Stay cool. Stay dry, and have a good holiday week.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

About the Cover


This month's blog header features the Scranton Cultural Center on North Washington Avenue.

Those of us who have been around for a while still call it the Masonic Temple.

Kudos to the person who came up with the idea of colored lights for the front.

Below are a few paragraphs lifted from the SCC web site.



The Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple is housed in one of the most glorious pieces of architecture to be found in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Originally built as the Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral, the building is significant as an example of the work of Raymond M. Hood (1881-1934), a prominent architect of the 1920's and early 1930's, and as a unique example of Neo-Gothic architecture in Scranton.
Raymond Hood's productive career spanned from 1922, when he and a collaborator won the Chicago Tribune design competition, to his untimely death at 53 in 1934. Hood became a nationally prominent architect trained in the Beaux Arts tradition and proficient with historic styles. During those 12 years, Hood was the principle designer or primary collaborator in a number of high-profile progressive skyscraper designs, mainly in New York City, where he designed the Daily News Building and the McGraw-Hill Building in mid-town Manhattan, and was part of the team that designed Radio City Music Hall. His best known work being Rockefeller Center.
The Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral is located at 420 North Washington Avenue in downtown Scranton. The 1930 Temple-cathedral is a highly stylized Neo-Gothic and Romanesque pastiche executed by Hood. The design of the building was to be a monument to Masonry. Masonic lodges in Scranton for years felt the need for a suitable home or temple, and prior to the construction of this building they used an old armory. Bids for construction were taken in January, 1927.
The Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral was inaugurated on January 2, 1930 when the first meeting was held in the building. The rectangular plan building is clad in coursed ashlars of Indiana limestone supported by a structural steel framework. At approximately 180,000 square feet, the building houses 2 theatres, meeting rooms, a grand ballroom as well as numerous other rooms and areas.