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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Andy's Angles: Deserted

Here's something you rarely see-- a deserted West Market Street in downtown Wilkes-Barre.  In the distance, the Market Street Bridge over the Susquehanna River, and the entrance to Kingston.

There's a reason for the lack of activity.  The shot was taken during a recent sunrise.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Andy's Angles: Hidden Gem

It's a photo from Public Square in downtown Wilkes-Barre today.  For decades, this was Pomeroy's department store and the mgnificent facade was hidden by hideously ugly green panels.

Pomeroy's is long gone.  So is the green.

Inside, a series of offices, including Luzerne County Community College.

The building is not only one of my favorites on the square, but in the entire city.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Guess Work

I'm guessing that drama king, Jim Cantore, is sitting in an Atlanta TV studio and frowning right now.

The federal government has released its annual hurricane season prediction.  The season begins June 1.

The way the forecasters see it, there will be 6 to 11 named storms.  3 to 6 will become hurricanes, with 0 to 2 becoming major hurricanes.  It all translates into a quieter than normal season.

Sorry, Jim.

Federal forecasters say their outlook is 70 per cent accurate.

100 per cent of me laughs.

The hurricane season projection accuracy rate, in recent years, isn't very good.

Any forecast longer than a few days is little more than a guess.  Forecasters look for trends, but weather patterns change every few weeks.

I know we all went more and better forecasts, with long range reliability.  I'm sorry.  The planet just doesn't work that way.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Music Note

When it rains, it pours...  Another "old school" story warrants attention today.

Anthony Angeli died a few days ago.  For many years, he was band director in the Mid Valley School District.

I joined the band in 5th grade.  We were a rag tag bunch way back then, without any support from the district.  We didn't even have uniforms.  White shirts.  Blue pants.  That was it.  The ranks were thin.  So thin, Angeli had to supplement our efforts by playing his own trumpet, along with us, at football games.

In most school districts, a 5th grader couldn't get into the "big band."  At MV, so few students got involved, we were all in one small sized unit.  Speaking of small, I must have been quite the sight back in 5th grade.  I didn't hit my growth spurt til my sophomore year, so I was dwarfed by the trombone I played.  Getting it on and off the school bus was a major endeavor.

What do I remember about those early days?  We played a lot of the traditional stuff, the college songs, the marches, the patriotic tunes.  It was supplemented by pop hits.  Even though I'm not a Neil Diamond fan, I thought we did a decent job on "Sweet Caroline."  We tried Sammy Davis Jr.'s "Candy Man."  Hideous.  Beyond awful.  Plus, trombone played harmony, not melody.  We didn't get to do the good stuff.

Angeli stepped aside two years into my run.  He tried his best.  It never quite came together.  Angeli was also the junior high music teacher.  I'll always remember the way he announced my name during roll call.  Pa-loooooom-bo.  When I tried to correct him, I got a lecture on the proper pronunciation of Italian names.  I gave up trying to change him after that.

The new guy came in and saw our limitations.  He peeled us back to a bunch of college fight songs.  Boring, but within our talents and grasp.  He eventually built up the program from there, and I understand the unit became rather good.

I stayed in the band for two years after Angeli left.  I never really should have joined in the first place.  It was fun for a while, but music was never really my thing, and I was never really any good at it.

My opening, my way out, came during my freshman year.  I became more interested in academics than music.  Band practice called, and I was constantly getting yanked out of a science class I liked.   I protested to the new band director.  He just didn't get it.  To him, there was only one thing, and that was the band. That was enough.  It was time to go.  No regrets.  Science was more important than music in my book.  I was at the time in my school life where I was deciding what I wanted and what I liked.  Band required so much time and effort.  I didn't want to go in that direction.  It was no one's fault.  A five year run was much longer than I expected.

Anthony Angeli will be remembered as a man with passion for music, and a man who did the best he could with what he had to work with.  I'm glad I knew him.  My condolences to family and friends.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

PS

The PS refers to a revisiting of some recent blog topics.

A few people have commented on my "Old School" blog from a few weeks ago.  They thought I was a bit harsh.  I disagree.  I wasn't harsh enough.  You had to be there.

I spent a lot of that blog post commenting on decrepit buildings and backward ideas.  It's just a scratch of the surface.  I could write volumes on the awful library, the lack of help getting in to college, and the failure to do anything above the bare minimum.  The one man guidance department was laughable.  My typing teacher helped me the most.

And then, there's David Letterman.  As I said here, the last show didn't blow me away.  I watched it again, thinking that maybe I had missed something.  Nope.  It was a by the numbers broadcast.

Self deprecating opening monologue.  Check.
Wish successor well.  Check.
Classic clips.  Check.
Thank band.  Check.
Show appreciation for network and boss.  Check.
Closing song.  Check.
Photo/video montage.  Check.
Farewell speech.  Check.

Don't get me wrong.  Letterman's last show was fine.  He was the funniest guy to every hit late night.  I just thought it was missing something.  Craig Ferguson's last show back in December showed a lot more creativity and imagination.  Stephen Colbert's last show, also in December, was outstanding.

It just seemed to me Letterman wanted to do it and get it over with.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sweating it Out

I owed the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania money.  I always do.  No complaints.  It shows my investments are doing well.

My income tax return was completed months ago.  The state had its palm out.  I mailed a check March 13.

I kept checking my bank account web site every few days.  The check wasn't clearing.  Panic was setting in.

I e-mailed the Department of Revenue a couple of weeks ago.  There was no record of my return or my payment.  The reply from the state also said I shouldn't be overly concerned.  It often takes ten weeks or more to get everything settled.

10 weeks or more!?!?  Are you kidding me.  What are they doing in Harrisburg?  They could have filled a lot of pot holes if they used my money earlier.

The check finally cleared May 20.

I'm relieved the state has my money and I won't be going to jail.

However, it just makes you wonder about efficiency.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

I know it's the unofficial start of the summer season, a day for picnics, barbecues and friends.  A day off, a day to relax.

I get that, and all those things are important, but please, take a moment to remember what Memorial Day is all about.

Marywood University does a field of flags thing every fall.  I took this photo a few years ago.  There is one flag here for every soldier killed since 9/11.  The new library is in this space now.  Last year, the flag display was moved to a field adjacent to North Washington Avenue.

As I've noted here before, Memorial Day is a tough one in the TV news business.  Every town and city has an observance.  We get to as many as we can.  It's impossible tovisit them all.  Please, don't be offended.

Memorial Day is to honor our war dead, but I don't think it hurts to thank a soldier or veteran-- and their family.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Andy's Angles: Rust

It's a shame there isn't enough time, money, and manpower to restore every rusting piece sitting at the Steamtown National Historis Site in Scranton.

You have to wonder how glorious this engine was as it was traveling about the country.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Andy's Angles: New and Old

Today, the new, sort of...  It's a collection of diesels, near Steamtown, on a recent Sunday morning.
As I've noted before, diesels fascinate me-- the colors, the models, how they're often taken for granted, in spite of the work they do.  They might not be glamorous, but I still like them.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Green Ridge

I'm sure it's true about a lot of places, but one of the neat things about Scranton is it's a collection of small neighborhoods rather than one big city.

There was a big fire in Green Ridge Saturday afternoon.  Flames destroyed a building on East Market Street.  Two businesses gone.  Nine people lost their homes, in the apartments above.

I've always had a soft spot for Green Ridge, and it's come a long way in recent years.  There are businesses here.  My dentist is here.  I remember mom and dad taking me to a variety store on Boulevard Avenue for various and sundry things, including comic books, as a kid.  When my kid days were over, and I was working elsewhere, co-workers and I were regulars at happy hour in a Sanderson Avenue watering hole.  I used to get hair cuts at a place on Sanderson Avenue and another one on East Market.  There were pizzas and sandwiches from restaurants and take out joints in the neighborhood.  Sports related gear and Christmas gifts came from a clothing store on one of the corners.

There's now a hole on East Market Street.  The fire damaged building could not be saved.  I'm sure the neighborhood can survive the loss, and it's possible something new and interesting will be built in the space.  Still, it wasn't easy to watch a decent neighborhood take a hit.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dave

David Letterman did his last show last night, and television will never be the same.

I first remember Letterman from some late 70's game show appearances.  Witty chap.  Nothing really blew me away.

Then, several appearances on Johnny Carson's Tonight show, and I realized there was more than what we saw on the $ 20,000 Pyramid.

More guest appearances.  Guest hosting.  It was some fresh and funny stuff.

A daytime show followed in June 1980.  It was a 90 minute show (shortened to 60), and it became must see tv.  I remember some college classmates tried to arrange their fall schedules to see it.

The morning show was inventive and funny, and something really different for daytime tv.  It was cancelled in October because it was inventive and funny and really different for daytime tv.  I was sorry to see it go.  However, one of the replacement game shows, Blockbusters, became one of my favorites.

Late Night followed in 1982.  Again, more fresh and funny.  It really took off.  Unfortunately, our friends down the street dumped Dave for Thicke of the Night in 1983.  Alan Thicke started awful and it got worse from there.  After several months, our friends realized their horrible error and returned Dave to 12:30 AM.

I'll have to admit Letterman had some rough spots.  The early interviews weren't very good.  He was way too smart alecky.  Eventually, Letterman settled in to a nice groove.  He should have been Carson's replacement.  There was a great line in this morning's New York Times:  Leno won the ratings, but Letterman won the legacy.

Letterman rocked when he moved to CBS.  The show stayed in New York, and he made best use of his Broadway neighborhood.  Letterman kept the edge, and was a nice alternative to the smarmy, showbizzy Leno.

Eventually, Letterman morphed into the cranky old man mode.  For a long time, the show wasn't a lot of fun to watch, but it was still better than Leno.  Not to mention, Letterman had a better house band and attracted better musical guests.

I noticed it after Letterman announced his retirement last year, and Rolling Stone said the same thing in a cover story this week.  Letterman became more relaxed after he announced he was quitting.  Relaxed equals fun.  The last few months of shows, especially the last few weeks of shows have been simply a joy to watch.  Good laughs.  Good memories.  Great music.  Letterman kept his wit and sarcasm, but it mellowed.  The nasty edge was gone, and it was an absolute delight to watch.

As for the last show, I have to level with you.  I wasn't blown away.  CBS wisely gave Letterman an extra 20 minutes.  The show had all the requisite elements, big on flashbacks.  I loved the "behind the scenes" piece, even though Letterman looked very old and tired in it.

Here's where I found fault.  Letterman held his emotions in check.  You could tell he was holding back.  Letterman is outstanding when he's emotional, whether it's angry or sad.  It looked like he was just trying to make it to the end, like the last tenth of a mile by a marathon runner.

The Foo Fighters provided the last musical number.  Not a fan.  Yes, I'm in the minority.

Television is better now because David Letterman made it better.  With Letterman and Craig Ferguson out of the picture, late night TV has lost a lot of its bite.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Vote 15: The Morning After

Another election is in the books.  Let's take a look at the numbers, who won, and why...

I'll confine the analysis to my back yard.

I have to admit I'm a bit surprised Jerry Notarianni wound up as top voter on the Democratic side, in the Lackawanna County Commissioner's race.  I give Notarianni credit for running a good campaign, touching on THE hot button issue of the campaign-- landfill expansion.  Notarianni is against it.  The odd man out, Jim Wansacz didn't take a stand, and it was revealed he took campaign donations from the landfill's owner.

Party hopper Pat O'Malley came in second.  I believed the party hopping would have a negative impact.  Maybe it did, but not enough to deny him the possibility of another term.

The bottom line on this one-- I thought the power of incumbency, name recognition and money would propel Wansacz and O'Malley to the top.  I was half right.

Tony George wins the Democratic nomination for Wilkes-Barre mayor.  No major surprise.  Wilkes-Barre has a crime problem.  George is a former cop.  Do the math.  He also ran a good campaign.

Tom Leighton's endorsed candidate, George Brown, had the credentials.  He didn't appear to have the fire.  It was a passionless campaign.  It's also likely the Leighton endorsement hurt more than helped.

In Hazleton, Joseph Yanuzzi lost the Republican mayoral nomination to Jeffrey Cusat.  Yanuzzi had the misfortune of following a very popular Lou Barletta in the mayor's office.  Like Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton has some crime issues, plus budget problems.    Yanuzzi paid the price.

Correale Stevens will not be returning to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  A strong legal mind, Stevens didn't have a strong statewide base.  Being from the Hazleton area hurt.  Big city candidates usually do well in statewide court races.

Mauri Kelley won a hotly contested race for Clerk of Judicial Records in Lackawanna County, on the Democratic side.  Former state representative Kevin Haggerty came in a close second.  Big money in a county row office race is not surprising.  Winning one election is equivalent to a lifetime gig.   Row office jobs rarely open up, especially in Lackawanna County.

As of this writing, Kelly Gaughan leads Ray Tonkin in the race for the Republican nomination for Pike County district attorney.  Tonkin caught a little heat for using accused cop killer Eric Frein in a mailer.  Even before that, the Fraternal Order of Police jumped ship and endorsed Tonkin's opponent, Kelly Gaughan.    Tonkin has a 100 per cent success rate in homicide cases, and that had to strike a chord with voters.   I'm betting on a recount.  I'm also betting Tonkin regrets the Frein mailer.

Turnout yesterday was fairly weak.  That's unfortunate.  I'm always unable to process why people fail to exercise their right and privilege to cast a ballot.

And, once again, Luzerne County numbers trickled in.  It's 2015.  You deserve better.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Municipal Election

Most people call it the primary election.  The real name is "municipal election."  If this blog is available in the afterlife, Kevin Jordan is smiling right now.  He was a stickler about things like that.

It was standard procedure.  I wrote some preview stories last week.  They were tweaked over the weekend and the audio recorded.  Photographer Bonnie matched the words to the pictures and we're good to go today.

Barring breaking news, it's a look at the big races for Newswatch 16 This Morning, followed by an election update for our noon broadcast.

After that, it's home.  Lunch.  Nap.  Evening of watching the numbers come in on WNEP2 and WNEP.com.

Notice, I left something out.  Voting.  May elections are to select party nominees for the November election.  I don't belong to any party, so I have to sit this one out.  I can vote on ballot questions, but there are none in my area this time around.

I'll try to get a few updates here as the day rolls along, and possibly a Tweet or two.

I have some ideas on who wins and why.  Post election analysis will be shared in this space tomorrow.

Off year elections usually have low turnout, and that's unfortunate.  I've always believed your local offices-- mayor, council, school board are more important than president, house and senate.  The people we elect today control the taxes, the city services, police, fire, schools, etc.

Do yourself and your community a favor today.  Vote.

>>> 11:00 AM UPDATE:  Noon piece is edited and is good to go.  We're live at noon with the latest.

>>> 10:00 AM UPDATE:  Sorry it's been five hours between updates, but I got busy.  Some Wilkes-Barre precincts had a large voter turnout early.  In Scranton, mixed.  A couple of precincts were dead at mid morning.  Some others were a little busier.  Looks like the Lackawanna County Commissioner's race and Scranton School Board are bringing people out.

My noon story has been approved and is ready to go.  I'm about to record the audio and get rolling.

>>> 5:00 AM UPDATE:  Live at a polling place along Coal Street in Wilkes-Barre.  Nice location.  Plenty of parking, lots of room to run lights, cables, and wires.  Thankfully, the rain has stopped, but there's the potential for more.  Conventional wisdom has rain keeping casual voters home.  That has to worry some candidates.  Polls open in two hours.

>>> 3:30 AM UPDATE:  Finished fast food spicy chicken sandwich and fries for breakfast.  I considered changing election morning meals because service and quality at the only fast food outlet that sells that stuff overnights has gone downhill.  I decided to give it one more try.  It's improved, just a little.  After arriving at work, it was like a pre flight check.  Scripts and video look good.  It was a couple of other duties, and it's just about time to get on the road.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Yearly Fear

This time of year frightens me, and let me tell you why.

It's prom and graduation season.  Young people are on the move, and they always don't make the best choices.  It seems like there's a party related fatality every year.

The first, and hopefully the last, was early Saturday morning, north of Lock Haven.  A woman and her date were killed in a crash, not long after leaving her high school ball.  She wasn't driving.  State Police say speed was a factor.  Translation:  This didn't have to happen.

You're young only once, and you should enjoy every second.  Don't drink.  Don't speed.  Don't do anything stupid.

The other half of this is fire.  When it gets hot, people have this awful habit of running big air conditioners off dollar store extension cords, or overwhelming their electrical systems.

We had a big fire in Scranton Saturday afternoon, and "electrical" was the first thought that entered my head.  As it turns out, an overturned candle sparked the fire.  That doesn't lessen the tragedy, but it does explain it.
 
Bad things happen to good people.  That's just the way it goes, sometimes.  However, you can take steps to lessen the risk.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Andy's Angles: BBC

I racked my brain, and I can't remember ever visiting Baptist Bible College in Clarks Summit.

That came to an end on a recent morning.  BBC changed its name to Summit University.  I guess they want to show it's not just a Baptist bible college.  I can't say I'm thrilled with Summit University.  It sounds rather generic.

The campus is dominated by Jackson Hall, seen above.

Another building caught my eye, Buckingham Hall.  It looks like a building you'd see in the southwest, and I like it.

And, how can you not love a campus that has a pond, complete with ducks, at its entrance?

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Andy's Angles: College Weekend

I had some free time on a recent morning, so I set out to photograph some different places.

Misericordia University in Dallas had been on my radar for a while.  It's one of the nicer campuses in the area-- set on a hill, plenty of green space, a majestic entrance, shown above.
I love campuses with a "signature building."  Here at Misericordia, it's Mercy Hall.  It dates back to 1924, and recently underwent renovations.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Train Wreck

Reguylar blog readers know I like trains, so I was especially sickened by what happened in Philadelphia Tuesday night.  An Amtrak train crashed.  Eight died.  Dozens hurt.

As I write this, the official cause is unknown, but we do know the train was traveling at 106 MPH in an area where 50 is the max.

As I was watching network reports of the incident and the follow ups, it was appalling to learn how little we spend on rail in this country.  Rail can't meet all of our transportation and commerce needs, but it's clear it can do a lot more.

A better rail system takes strain off airports and highways-- and that makes them safer.  Rail can be an exceptionally efficient way of getting people and material around.

I have a sinking feeling we'll learn human error caused the deadly crash Tuesday night, but the whole episode really makes note of the infrastructure problems this country has.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Gone

FOX has announced the upcoming season of American Idol will be the last.  Declining ratings did it in after 15 seasons.  It's been reported the ratings peaked during season 5, and there's been steady erosion ever since.

While the show produced some solid talent, I was never a fan.  It seemed to be just a vehicle for Simon Cowell to say mean things about people.  I don't need that.  People watched for the insults rather than the music.

Rest easy, Idol fans.  You know how television works.  It will be off the air for a few years, then brought back in some form.  Television was good at recycling, long before the first Earth Day in 1970.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

First Person: Waste

A text message came in around 1 AM yesterday.  Producer Thomas wanted me in early.  There was a homicide in Williamsport.  Another one.

I got to the office a half hour later, reviewed some video and information sent in by one of our central Pennsylvania crews, wrote some stories, jumped in a satellite truck with photographer Jason and headed for Anthony Street in Williamsport.  There were 12 live shots during Newswatch 16 This Morning and our Good Morning America updates.

I spoke with some neighbors, put together a piece for noon, and went back to the main office in Moosic.  Kristina Papa introduced my story, along with the latest information, live from the scene.

It was another review of the facts upon arrival early yesterday morning, plus a live look at the scene and the neighborhood.

One word kept running through my head.  Over and over and over.  Waste.
A 21 year old man was shot to death.  A child is without a father.  A woman is without a son.  Waste of a life.

When the killer is caught, that person will likely go to prison for a very long time, possibly life.  More waste.

The "waste" was cemented in my mind when the Williamsport fire truck showed up.  A couple of firefighters sprayed some sort of disinfectant on the pool of blood in the middle of Anthony Street.  They turned on the hose and washed the blood away.  I watched it flow down the curb and into the storm sewer.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Status Report

Montage Mountain Interstate 81 exit lights:  still out.  They've been out for months.

AM 1640 Weather/Travel Advisory Radio:  still off the air.  It's been that way for more than a week.

O'Neill Highway, Dunmore street lights:  a couple have been out for several months, possibly more than a year.

Potholes on interstates, state roads, and local roads:  abundant, even though there are extensive milling and paving operations underway.

And, those in government why they get a bad rap, and people have lost faith.

Shifting gears, the NFL has suspended New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady for 4 games.  Sources told FOX Sports the team was preparing for a 6 to 8 game suspension.  4 seems about right.  Most people expect an appeal, and the league will knock it down to 2 games.  An investigation shows its likely Brady played a role in deflating footballs used in the AFC championship game in January.  I applaud the NFL commissioner for acting to preserve the integrity of the game.  It's been reported the commissioner took News England's cheating past into consideration when doling out the punishment.  The Patriots also lose two draft choices and have been fined $ 1 million.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Caught Again

A National Football League investigation shows significant evidence the New England Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady used deliberately underinflated footballs in January's AFC championship game.

Any other team would get a pass, but not the Patriots.  The team has a history of cheating, and the NFL should drop the hammer.

It's an integrity of the game issue, even though the underinflated footballs apparently didn't have an impact on the outcome of the AFC championship game.  However, statistics show the Patriots fumbled less with the doctored footballs.

Fines mean nothing to multi millionaires.  Tom Brady needs to sit for a few games.  Full disclosure:  I'm a Steelers fan.  The Steelers first game this year is with New England, and I'd like to see Pittsburgh play a weakened New England team.

It shows who really runs the league, or what runs the league:  TV and money.  The New England/Pittsburgh game is the season opener on NBC.  There's some speculation Brady gets a pass, pardon the pun, because NBC pays a ton of money for its marquee match-ups.

Still, integrity is more important.

Brady repeatedly said he did nothing wrong.  The evidence indicates he lied.  He smugly sidestepped the issue last week.  Tom Brady did not sound like an innocent man.

The Patriots need to be punished.  The NFL needs to tighten its procedures.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Andy's Angles: On the Square

It's another photo from Public Square in downtown Wilkes-Barre today.  This time, the view looking east.

You can see the very early morning sunshine reflected off the Luzerne Bank building on the right.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Andy's Angles: In Bloom

Wilkes-Barre has a lot of problems, but it does have some things going for it.  One of them is a lot of neat things on Public Square.

The cherry trees were in bloom when I stopped by Monday morning.  That's the old hotel, now a newly renovated King's College building, in the background.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Class Ring

It was one of the more interesting stories to come down the pike in quite a while.

A young man lost his Wilkes College class ring in the Agnes flood of 1972.  It was recently found during a burglary investigation and returned to its owner.

Newswatch 16's Alicia Nieves did the story and hit it out of the park.

It got me thinking about my one and only class ring.  High school.  I bought one, against my better judgement.  I wore it all of once-- the night I graduated.  It hasn't been on my finger since.  I know exactly where it is right now.  First, other than a watch, I'm not a jewelry guy, and I only wear the watch when I'm at work.  Secondly, I didn't see a class ring as a big thing.  Just about everyone buys one because, back in my day, just about everyone graduated.

I briefly, very briefly, considered getting a class ring as my Marywood days were nearing an end.  I didn't.  They were too expensive, and as I noted earlier, I'm not a jewelry guy.  I took a heavy class load my first two years.  Plus, I always took summer courses.  By the time my senior year arrived, I was barely there.  If that isn't enough, I had been working in my field for two years when I received my diploma.  Graduation was an anti climax.

I always envied those people who develop a real connection with their schools.  It just never happened for me.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Philadelphia Freedom

Two items in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer caught my eye.

The first was a push to rename Philadelphia's airport to honor Benjamin Franklin.

I've always been a big Franklin fan.  My first elementary school book report was on a Franklin biography.  Yes, he wasn't perfect, but he was a great guy-- inventor, statesman, scientist, writer, postman...

Having said that, I really don't like naming things after people.  We've been burned too many times.  Someone gets an honor.  Then, we discover a sordid episode from the recent past or present.  The house of cards tumbles.

Ben Franklin died 225 years ago.  I doubt we'll find any new skeletons in his closet.  Naming the airport after him is a safe bet.

Still, the people of Philadelphia paid for that airport.  Keep it Philadelphia International Airport.

The other Philadelphia item deals with Comcast.  The cable and internet giant has its headquarters there.

Comcast knows it has a terrible rating when it comes to customer service, so it's hiring 5,500 customer service workers and technicians.  The Inquirer says the workers will be hired "in the United States" and that's a good thing.  It's always nice to be able to understand the person on the other end of the phone, if you get my drift.

Knock wood, but I've always had decent luck with Comcast.  It has the channels I want and its internet service is reliable.  The few times when I did need a technician to install someone, it was always done well and fast.  I do wish it didn't cost so much.  That's the only black mark.

It's a smart move.  Comcast has an image problem.  This could be the beginning of a fix.

By the way, today's graphic is the logo of the old Philadelphia Bell of the 1970's World Football League.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

First Person: Selinsgrove Fire

I didn't turn on my air conditioner Monday night, and that was a mistake, but it all worked out.

Sleep came in fits and bursts due to the heat.  I was up for the CBS Letterman prime time special, with I really enjoyed.  It was back to sleep for a little while, and up again around midnight.

I was checking my email, reading about the Christ United Methodist Church fire in Selinsgrove when a text arrived on my phone, asking me to come in early, so I could go to the Christ United Methodist Church fire in Selinsgrove.

I arrived at the office a little after 1 AM.  Photographer Joe was on his way back from the scene.  Photographer Jason and I had to get going in order to be there for the 4:30 AM broadcast.

Producer Thomas told me what elements I'd have to work with, and we were on the road.

There was a phone conference to get exact details.  We got the satellite truck in position, hit the bird, established communication with the satellite company and home base in Moosic, and we were on the air for the next four hours.

Between live reports, photographer Jason and I gathered more information, video and interviews.  We were both pulling overnighters, so we headed back to the main office at 8:30, handing off to Nikki Krize and photographer Tom.

I prepared a report for Newswatch 16 at Noon.  Nikki introduced it live from Selinsgrove and added what had happened since I departed and she arrived.  Team coverage.  It works.

Of course, producers, managers, assignment editors and engineers coordinated everything smoothed out the potential rough spots.

The people at the church were more than willing to share their story.  Bottom line:  down, but not out.  They showed a great deal of spirit and class under adversity.  I have no doubt the congregation will make a comeback.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Old School

Joseph Klapatch has written a history of the Mid Valley School district.  It's called "The Old School" and you can find it at www.thebookpatch.com.  I couldn't wait to get my hands on it, and I devoured it quickly.

To get you up to speed, Mid Valley is comprised of the old Dickson City, Olyphant, and Throop school districts.  It was formed during the wave of consolidations that took place in the late 60's and early 70's.

As I told Joseph, his book brought back a lot of memories, most of them bad.

Mid Valley was the last of the consolidated Lackawanna County school districts to build a new school, and it only did so when it was backed in to a corner.  Two of its old buildings were condemned because they were fire traps.  The state ordered the doors shut.  It was right.  I was there.  One of the condemned buildings was half elementary school/half high school in Olyphant, and I can honestly say I hated every second I was there.  My first experience with that dump was 6th grade.  Our playground was an alley.  No cafeteria.  Lunch was bad sandwiches in heat lamped cellophane bags.  The teacher used the same methods on his last day in the classroom as he did on his first.  It was stifling physically, intellectually, and emotionally.

The sad part about the whole thing was administrators and the apparent majority of people in the district thought those old barns were just fine.  They're lucky the buildings didn't catch fire, and cause the deaths of dozens of students.  The floors were soaked with oil.  Wooden, open stairwells.  No sprinklers.

Joseph's book also brought back memories of the worst lavatories known to man.  They were used only as a last resort, when you couldn't hold it until you got home.  Once again, the people in charge thought they were just fine.

A school is more than a building.  I found a lot of the faculty uninspired, and dare I say, just plain lazy.  Bad buildings was a convenient target.  Too easy to blame.  I did have a few teachers who made the best of a lousy situation.  I enjoyed their classes.  Learning was a delight, not a chore.  Unfortunately, they were few and far between.

The book contains a lot of history, things I never knew about the hallways I wandered.  In great detail, Klapatch explains how the local individual school districts came to be, the way the new district worked (or didn't), the struggle to deal with the condemnations, too many students, too little space, the the fight to build a new school.

You had to be there to "get" a lot of what was in the book, and I think that's OK.  Klapatch's book doesn't seem to be intended for the mass audience.  It's well researched, as you will see from his notes.  I did learn a lot of new things and developed a new understanding of the way it all worked.  Yes, some of that new information is maddening.  It didn't have to be that way.

The history of the Mid Valley School District was a story that needed to be told, and I'm glad someone did it.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Media Notes

Don Imus says he's ending his association with the FOX Business Network at the end of month, and he will become "radio only" once again.  Not a fan.  He's not a nice man.  I do pause on the show from time to time, and it's difficult to watch.  It's very choppy and disjointed with a rather large commercial load.

Atlanta is considering naming a street after Ted Turner.  Great move!  He revolutionized television, cable and the news business.  The man is a true pioneer.

I've done a turnaround on CBS Late Late Show host James Corden.  I still think he's a charming, delightful and talented individual.  However, his comedy bits often miss the mark and the show is too Leno-esque and showbizzy smarmy.  I really miss the Craig Ferguson edge, and Ferguson was a much better interviewer.

Speaking of Craig Ferguson, he won the Emmy for Best Game Show Host a couple of weeks ago.  Ferguson's Celebrity Name Game is in its first season and it's been renewed for a second.

71 year old Geraldo Rivera was right in the middle of the FOX News Channel coverage of the Baltimore riots.  I pray I have as much energy and enthusiasm when I'm 71.

Overall, I thought Baltimore coverage was OK.  Not exceptional.  Not awful.  Sit back and let the pictures tell the story.

MLB Network's "Quick Pitch" is one of the best sports programs on TV.  Scores.  Highlights.  News.  No schtick, and excellent production values.  One of the things I like about MLB Network is it often celebrates defense, which, in my view, is more entertaining than a grand slam home run.

There's a little non-commercial AM radio station in the Scranton area.  AM 1640.  It broadcasts travel advisories and National Weather Service radio.  It's been off the air for nearly two weeks.  I like it because it's tough to get a forecast out of the commercial radio stations around here these days.  I'm not sure who has the responsibility to fix it.  I'm assuming it's PennDOT.  No matter.  JUST FIX IT!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Andy's Angles: New Bridge

The crane you see in the middle of the photo is part of the new Harrison Avenue bridge project in Scranton.

The photo looks off to the south and west.

No one will argue that the Harrison Avenue bridge needs to be replaced.  I question how it was allowed to deteriorate so badly over the years.  The experts will say all bridges have a finite life, and Harrison Avenue's time has come.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Andy's Angles: Skyline Weekend

I don't have a drone, and there are no plans to purchase one.  Flight, even low level radio controlled flight, is best done by the experts.

However, for the earthbound, there is the next best thing.  This is the view from one of Geisinger Community Medical Center's parking garages.

Okay, Scranton doesn't have the greatest of skylines.  It's a city of neighborhoods, with a compact little downtown.

The Radisson is at the upper middle.  General Dynamics is at its left.  The University of Scranton is off to the right.

The photo was taken on a spring morning a couple of weeks ago, just before the leaves started to appear.

Friday, May 1, 2015

About the Cover

What a miserable winter it has been!

I set out with my camera, wandering about Nay Aug Park in Scranton, looking for something "springy."

Signs of the new season were few and far between.  Some flowering trees, and that was about it.

On my way out, I noticed how the sun was illuminating Dr. Isaiah Everhart, at the entrance to the museum that bears his name.

A couple of clicks later, and here we are.

I wonder if I can find signs of summer next month.